“Terrified, starving, traumatized, thirsty, desperate,” was how the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in the Palestinian territories described the Gazan people. The death toll is approaching 1,000, a third of them children. Around 4,000 are injured, many with appalling blast injuries such as loss of limbs, that will be life-long. Doctors are treating burns from phosphorus bombs and have said that new types of lethal weaponry must be behind some of the injuries.
Under international pressure, Israeli officials eventually blamed the killing of over 40 civilians who were seeking refuge in a UN school on a stray Israeli shell, having originally claimed there was firing from within the school. The Israeli army has not even abided by the daily three hour humanitarian ceasefire it had declared. The UN reported that one of its humanitarian workers was killed by a tank shell while driving a clearly marked aid truck during the three hour period.
As well as the appalling deaths and injuries and the lack of food and water, many Gazans who were refugees even before this terrible invasion are now refugees again, as their homes have been shelled or bulldozed.
Psychological torture has also been used in the form of leaflet drops and phone calls to homes in Gaza saying that the onslaught will be escalated and warning civilians to keep away from Hamas fighters. But civilians and fighters alike have nowhere to flee to.
Outrageously, defenders of the Israeli regime’s brutality propagandize that the Israeli army ‘stands in front of women and children’ while Hamas fighters ‘hide behind them’. This is while the densely populated Gaza strip is being battered and terrorized with high tech missiles, with Hamas having no weaponry that could even remotely be a match.
Step up mass pressure
No trust can be placed in the imperialist powers of the world, or in the UN, to end this terrible conflict. The Israel regime’s staunchest supporter, the US Bush government, abstained rather than voting in favour of a ceasefire resolution that otherwise would have been unanimous in the UN security council.
However, all those capitalist governments that do support UN ceasefire resolutions, vote in the knowledge that the Israeli regime can ignore their resolutions as it has done over decades. These governments worldwide could stop the onslaught on Gaza by exerting pressure on their Israeli big business friends if they chose to do so. But they have refused to do this, viewing it as not in their economic and political interests.
Meanwhile, Tony Blair, the Middle East envoy for the UN, US, EU and Russia is concentrating on taking holidays and on ‘earning’ £15 million in just two years. He hasn’t even addressed the UN council on his progress since he started as its envoy, nor has he set foot in Gaza.
The only force that can definitely end this war before the Israeli leaders decide to end it themselves, is working class people worldwide. There have been magnificant anti-war demonstrations across the globe. In Israel, Jewish people and Israeli Palestinians have jointly demonstrated against the war, despite them having a minority standpoint in Israel at this stage. Norwegian rail workers briefly stopped all trains in Norway in a political strike against the war. If mass demonstrations are escalated internationally and workers’ actions such as in Norway are initiated and stepped up, governments can be forced to act.
Desire to punish the Israeli regime for its terrible aggression can fuel calls for a consumer boycott of Israeli goods and institutions. The example of the international boycott of the South African apartheid regime is sometimes given.
However, it was a mass movement of black South African workers that ended apartheid and not the boycott. Neither is a boycott aimed at Israel likely to have a decisive impact, for a variety of reasons, including that Israeli big business operates in the Middle East and across the globe through many subsidiary companies, often deliberately to hide Israeli identity, especially when doing deals with Arab or Muslim companies.
Also such boycotts play into the hands of the Israeli ruling class; it can use them to alienate Israeli workers from workers internationally, and draw Israeli workers behind its right-wing agenda. Boycott calls often originate from organisations that oppose the existence of Israel, which aids the propaganda of Israeli capitalism.
More effective would be for workers internationally to prevent the export to Israel of the arms, aircraft and bulldozers that are being used in the occupied territories. This should be coupled with support for Israeli workers’ struggles against attacks on their living standards, because the route to removing the Israeli ruling class and its successive governments that repress the Palestinians, is through the development of the Israeli workers’ movement.
The Israeli government is strong militarily but has been mired in corruption and division and is very weak in its social base; no Israeli political party has solid, wide reaching support. A new workers’ party is urgently needed in Israel that can put forward a socialist programme in the interests of working class Israeli Jews and Palestinians.
Signs of division over whether to continue or end the Gaza invasion have emerged at the top of Israeli society. The main decision-makers disagree with each other on how far to go and on what the next steps should be.
They cannot wipe out Hamas but they would like to remove it from power, which they could do militarily. However, who will then run Gaza in the short term? An Israeli occupation authority, at huge expense and constant loss of Israeli life? An imposed Palestinian Fatah regime, which would be viewed by many Gazans as collaborating with the Israeli state?
It is possible that the Israeli leaders can stage-manage an end to the onslaught in the short term without losing support in the Israeli Jewish population for the war and the government and army’s handling of it. So far the Israeli death toll – 13 deaths – is much less than the 164 who died in the 2006 war on Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Such an exit, with a claim to have seriously damaged Hamas, would give foreign minister Livni and defence minister Barak a further boost in the run-up to the Israeli general election on 10 February. However, this outcome is not certain. Eventualities such as a sharp increase in Israeli loss of life, or a significant resurgence of rocket fire from Gaza, or a failure to execute a viable end strategy, could lead to growing anger and opposition. This would in turn lead to a strengthening of politicians who are further to the right of Livni, Barak and out-going prime minister Olmert, such as Likud party leader Binyamin Netanyahu, and Avigdor Lieberman of the party Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Our Home).
Whatever the outcome of the election, for Israel, this war will have served to worsen the national conflict and the prospect of security for Israeli Jews. Whoever is in power in Gaza, Palestinian militias will still launch attacks into Israel and at any imposed Gazan authority. Rockets have been fired into Israel this year by Islamic Jihad and by Fatah-affiliated activists in the Al-aqsa martyrs brigades as well as by Hamas. Worse than rockets, deadly suicide missions could resume, fueled anew by the experience of watching friends and family being slaughtered by the Israeli army.
Yet, as The Independent recognized in its editorial on 10 January: “There exists broad agreement between mainstream Israeli and Palestinian society on the parameters for an enduring peace deal”. The ‘mainstream’ referred to here is most working and middle class people on both sides of the national divide, who support the idea of a Palestinian state on pre-1967 war Palestinian land.
However The Independent then departed from reality by blaming the conflict between Palestinian parties Hamas and Fatah for lack of progress towards a Palestinian state. Hostility between these parties does not help the Palestinian’s cause, but the unfortunate fact is that neither Hamas nor Fatah has a viable strategy for advancing this cause. And with far greater blame is the Israeli ruling class, that brutally represses the Palestinians and does everything it can to avoid the prospect of a genuine Palestinian state on its doorstep.
At root the blame lies with the capitalist system, that elevates the drive for profit and prestige of the ruling classes and elites above all else. So achieving an end to the bloodshed is inseparable from the struggle for socialism. It is only by removing the capitalist profit-based system throughout the Middle East and raising living standards for workers on both sides of the Israel-Palestine national divide that the basis for conflict will be removed once and for all.
- Stop the onslaught now! End the occupation
- Escalate the protests and workers’ actions
- For mass action of Palestinians and of Egyptian workers to break the blockade
- For democratic committees of Palestinians to organize armed self defense and aid in Gaza; No to rockets aimed at Israeli civilians
- For independent mass workers’ organizations in Israel and Palestine
- A socialist Palestine alongside a socialist Israel, as part of a voluntary socialist confederation of the Middle East