A fragile ceasefire has been agreed after the worst cycle of violence in Gaza since the 2014 war. Over 230 Palestinians were killed by Israeli airstrikes, almost a third of them children. Twelve people in Israel, including children, were killed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad rockets. Two of those who died were Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and three were migrant workers. Israeli missiles destroyed hundreds of homes in Gaza, causing massive destruction and trauma in an area already facing unbearable living conditions.
The fragility of the ceasefire is shown with the Israeli government already reengaging in police violence against worshipers at the al-Aqsa mosque and the repression of Palestinian protesters.
Protests Continue, Israeli Regime Exposed
Protests have continued across the country with a heavy police crackdown and mass arrests of Palestinians who rallied against Israeli repression. Israeli police have announced hundreds of arrests as part of “Operation Law and Order.” This is a continuation of the mass arrests of the last few weeks where, according to the police, 1,550 have been arrested. In Tel Aviv, thousands of Jews and Palestinians protested, with 1,500 blocking traffic on their way to the protest.
Despite the Israeli regime claiming victory, a growing rejection of Israeli policies can be seen around the world and within the region, with millions protesting the horrific killing and leveling of buildings in Gaza, the ongoing displacement of Palestinians and land-theft, and the increased police violence against Palestinian citizens of Israel. The brutal reality of the far-right settler gangs terrorizing Palestinians was exposed to the world. The sheer scale of military barbarism from the Israeli state demonstrated the cynical and false use of their argument of “self-defense.”
Indeed, the pressure has reached the halls of the U.S. Congress, with Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and others going after Biden for his support for the right-wing Israeli government. This posed a historical division within the Democratic Party which was followed by attempts to block a $735 arms deal with Israel.
While these efforts are commendable, and mark a significant departure compared to the the 2014 war on Gaza when there was no opposition in Congress, these progressives should go even further. A recent statement by Socialist Alternative Seattle city councilmember Kshama Sawant highlights the role of mass protests in the U.S., solidarity from labor unions, and the importance of exposing the real interests of U.S. imperialism in the Middle East.
Joe Biden, preferring to take a “hands-off” approach, was forced to react. Protests in the U.S. and internationally successfully exposed that “hands-off” is impossible when the U.S. spends more money arming Israel than it does on fighting climate change. With the oil-rich Middle-East’s historical importance for U.S. corporate interests, the government has poured resources into defending “friendly” regimes. For Biden to come out against arming Israel, the most loyal regime in the Middle East, would mean going against the interests of U.S. corporations and therefore is not in the cards. “Peace” as it is seen by the U.S. ruling class, is a status quo of national repression and free rein for U.S. companies to increase their business interests. This “peace” goes directly against the interests of the masses who seek good paying jobs, security, and peace.
Role of Solidarity from U.S. Workers and Youth
The recent assault highlighted the rejection by growing numbers of Jewish-Americans of Israel’s occupation and blockade of the West Bank and Gaza. Much of this is connected to a new generation that is inspired by the anti-racist movements in the U.S. and globally. The Trump administration’s support for Israel against the Palestinians also highlighted that beyond the “traditional” establishment support for the Israeli state, more right-wing Christian-Evangelist forces are leading the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. For many Jewish-Americans, the images of the atrocities from Gaza are arousing absolute revulsion and a clear sense of solidarity with the Palestinian masses against the brutal Israeli occupation. It’s not only more difficult for them to be on the same side as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and the far-right messianic settlers, but also with anti-women, anti-LGBTQ, racist, pro-Trump religious extremists. As the neo-fascist settler gangs are backed by the Israeli government, the Israeli government is backed by the U.S. government.
As an alternative to the destructive anti-working class policies of the right-wing, young people in the U.S., inspired by the Palestinian struggle, can and are taking up demands based on international solidarity.
The impressive international solidarity mobilizations, which saw millions around the world flood the streets, can and should be further built. U.S. organized labor needs to go beyond solidarity statements and develop real action, beginning with mobilizing for demonstrations. Italian port workers have gone on a short protest strike, inspiring more workers internationally. While several Israeli trade unions have come out against the racist divisions in the country, the Histadrut (Israeli trade-union federation) right-wing bureaucracy has historically supported military aggression. International labor solidarity should make it clear that the occupation, siege, and military assault on the Palestinians are profoundly anti-worker and should put pressure on Israeli unions to actively oppose them.
Crisis in Palestinian Leadership
While Israel has claimed victory and “long-term harm to Hamas,” in reality Hamas was able to relatively strengthen its support among Palestinians. The corrupt Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank enclaves has been weak in mobilizing resistance to the Israeli war machine, and for many years has collaborated with the occupation, resulting in a significant loss of support.
On the other side, since Israel pulled settlements and military forces from Gaza in 2006, Hamas has become the local ruling party (while the Israeli regime continues to be the main power controlling the strip) and has played a wholly reactionary, anti-worker role. They have been responsible for dispersing popular protests, breaking strikes, and jailing opposition. As a pro-capitalist, right-wing organization, Hamas has failed to put forward a strategy for the Palestinian liberation movement against the blockade and occupation, which has caused a vacuum in leadership for Palestinians.
It has been young and largely unaffiliated Palestinians who have pioneered a return to the approach of mass popular actions as a way to fight the Israeli regime. Inspired by the 2011 revolutions in the Middle East, Palestinian youth have stood up time and time again to organize protests and reject both Hamas and Fatah.
Recognizing the popular uprising of Palestinian youth last month, and in an attempt to gain back support, Hamas intervened militaritly, firing rockets aimed at Israeli civilians. The Palestinians have a right to self-defense, including armed resistance. However, Hamas’ tactic of indiscriminate attacks can’t effectively weaken the massive aggression against the Palestinians. Furthermore, this tactic is used by the right-wing Israeli regime to mobilize the Jewish population against the Palestinians. Despite these serious issues, Hamas was unfortunately seen by many as the only force standing against Israeli aggression.
Occupation and Repression of Palestinians Continues
While millions in the region are breathing a sigh of relief as the massive bombings have paused, no real gains were made against the blockade and oppression of the Palestinians, no lasting solution was posed, and the conditions for a new escalation are already set in place. There is no going back to “normal.” This latest bloody escalation has opened up a new phase in the struggle for Palestinian liberation with growing numbers fighting back in the region and around the world.
Palestinian citizens of Israel, in Gaza, the West Bank, and the diaspora have come out with a strengthened feeling of common national identity and struggle. Regional regimes who have made moves to “normalize” relations with Israel have come under pressure from the masses. And in the U.S., the historic support by U.S. imperialism to Israeli capitalism and occupation is challenged by hundreds of thousands of Americans.
Returning to “normality,” where the Israeli regime controls the Gaza border, sea, and sky; where free-for-all land theft is the reality in East Jerusalem; and where checkpoints and military occupation control the lives of civilians in the West Bank, is now put under greater challenge.
On top of that, Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, who have been subjected to massive racist propaganda and repression, are fighting back against their discrimination and treatment as second-class citizens. This has been a qualitatively new phase in the fight against Israeli oppression and there is no turning back.
End the Occupation, Poverty, and Capitalism
Members of Socialist Struggle Movement (ISA in Israel/Palestine) have been on the streets fighting alongside Jewish and Palestinian protestors in Tel-Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem, including in Sheikh Jarrah. Against the divisive media propaganda, they and others have put forward the slogans “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies,” and “No peace without struggle against the occupation, poverty and capitalism.”
This crisis is interwoven with the political crisis of the Israeli government. After two years and four election cycles, the main political parties are still not able to form a government. Fearing the serious corruption charges against him, Netanyahu is correctly viewed as holding onto power by any means necessary, including stoking national tensions and putting the lives of millions of Israelis in danger.
Throughout his administration, and previously as a treasury minister, Netanyahu has pushed forward a right-wing neoliberal policy of privatizations and austerity. Israeli society today has one of the highest poverty rates and is one of the most unequal countries in the OECD, with more than half of Palestinian families in Israel living below the poverty line. Under Netanyahu, healthcare and housing crises have worsened, while GDP has doubled. Natural resources are handed out to the richest families to profit from, while working people struggle.
This is the reality that the right-wing Netanyahu government is trying to divert attention from by ramping up national tensions. There is a real sense among many Israelis that the persistent Israeli escalation during April and May were partially an attempt to sabotage the creation of an alternative (right-wing) government of the rival “bloc of change,” and prevent a situation that can lead to Netanyahu’s prosecution and potential imprisonment.
Time and again, the Israeli regime has used Hamas’ tactics to undermine social struggles and the potential of developing opposition. It is clear that ordinary working-class Israelis don’t have anything to gain from the ongoing repression of the Palestinian masses.
Socialists firmly stand for the right of Palestinians to self-determination while guaranteeing national rights for millions of Israelis. However, a reality where two states exist side by side in a relationship of capitalist exploitation will not solve the underlying issues. Capitalism is a system rooted in exploitation and inequality and in this case will maintain national oppression. This is why Socialist Alternative and the ISA call for a socialist Palestine alongside a socialist Israel with two capitals in Jerusalem. Only in a regional socialist context can the right of Palestinians to return with national rights for all be guaranteed. Such a struggle requires a majority support of workers in the region, which means that Israeli workers have an interest in fighting the capitalist Israeli regime alongside Palestinians as the only way to achieve real solidarity and end the violence.
The general strike, called on May 18, united Palestinians in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank in a historic show of solidarity. This effort, the result of pressure from below, shows the potential that the working class has to change society. To build up solidarity against the occupation, siege, and national oppression, workers’ actions should be expanded. The organized working class within Israel, of both national communities, needs to challenge the corrupt Israeli regime and Israeli capitalism itself. This means that a struggle against the current bureaucratic leaderships in the unions must be taken up and new, militant, and democratic leaderships should act for the common interests of all workers in the region, including reversing all anti-worker policies under Netanyahu and before that.
All “peace” agreements in the last several decades were made by and for corrupt elites. Labor strikes in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank all met opposition from the ruling parties. Mass popular movements, from young Palestinians against the occupation and Israelis fighting against deteriorating living standards and government corruption, show a glimpse of what is possible.
New revolutionary struggles are erupting around the world. From Myanmar to Colombia, from Hong Kong to the Middle East, workers and young people are fighting oppression wherever it raises its head. The struggle for Palestinian liberation is part of this phenomenon with the new generation re-discovering the approach of mass mobilizations, protests, and strikes. Out of these movements, new organizations, unions, and political parties should set themselves the task of developing a socialist alternative to the Palestinian leadership that can truly challenge Israeli aggression.
Only the working masses in the region have the power to free themselves from oppression and fight for a real alternative based on solidarity, security, and socialism.