People across the world are watching with horror as we approach the third week of the extreme escalation in the Middle East. Mass protests have erupted globally in solidarity with the Palestinian masses as they face heavy bombardment by the Israeli regime. The major plan for a ground military invasion into Gaza is threatening to raise new levels of destruction, not seen in decades. Over a million Palestinians were forced to leave their homes in Northern Gaza with no place to go as the Rafah gate on the Egyptian border is closed.
As of now, over 4,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli attack, the highest number of casualties in at least 15 years. This includes over 1,000 children. The indiscriminate attack by Hamas on October 7 has left more than 1,400 Israelis dead, the highest number of casualties in Israel’s history. Over 150 Israeli hostages are still held in Gaza by Hamas.
Many are wondering how far the Israeli regime will go. The delay in the ground invasion can be explained by disagreements on strategy within the “emergency national-unity” government, as well as concerns by US imperialism of a prolonged and regionally expanding crisis.
While far-right forces within the government are putting forward a far-reaching occupation of Gaza, the longer-term strategists of Israeli capitalism are not interested in going down that path. This is not due to any sympathy with the Palestinian masses, but rather from the understanding that such a move will place a heavy price on their regime, both in terms of high number of casualties on the ground, which will ultimately cause mass anger in Israeli society, and in terms of mass popular response around the world and the impact it can have on the regime’s imperialist allies. The reaction to the Gaza hospital explosion shows the complications they face.
The longer the war stretches out, the chances that the Israeli hostages will be killed increases, which the regime will likely pay a political price for. At this stage there is no military outcome for the crisis. Hamas is still able to draw significant popular support, based on the rejection of the occupation and also Fatah’s collaborationist relations with Israel. Therefore, despite questions raised in the capitalist press, the Israeli regime is limited in how far it can go, despite the mass destruction that it has and will continue to inflict on the Palestinian population.
The war has spread to the border between Israel and Lebanon with daily skirmishes between the Israeli military and Hizballah. A ground invasion into Gaza can easily trigger full intervention by Hizballah who can’t afford politically to stand aside. This can expand into regional powers such as Iran, followed by direct U.S. intervention. Already, missiles and drones fired from Yemen by Iranian backed Houhi militants — potentially towards Israel — were shot down by U.S. warships.
The Broader Context Of The New Cold War
The war in Gaza is the latest flash point in the global capitalist crisis and is fueled by Cold War dynamics.
Joe Biden has become the first US President to visit Israel during a war. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak are following his steps. A summit in Amman between Biden, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Jordan’s Abdullah bin Al-Hussein, and Mahmoud Abbas has been cancelled following the horrific Gaza hospital explosion and the mass protests in Arab countries which stood as a major pressure on regional leaders. Jordan’s king warned that “the Middle East is on the brink of falling into the abyss.”
Biden’s visit to Israel had a dual character: On the one hand, it aimed at advancing US interests in the region. This was shown by US imperialism moving battleships and Marine forces to intervene, alongside unprecedented levels of military aid to the Israeli regime. This certainly stimulated the Israeli regime’s aggression. On the other hand, the visit was anticipating the potential damage and undermining of the US position in the region, including out of the consequences of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s actions. For that reason, the US aims to restrain the more militaristic elements in the Israeli regime. In an attempt to reduce the boiling situation, Biden boasted about negotiating the apparent entry of some necessity goods such as food and medicine into Gaza.
Chinese imperialism has been cynically acting as a neutral regional peace-maker. The CCP hopes that this can create a crisis for US imperialism and further Chinese interests in the Middle-East, as well as distract from Russia’s war in Ukraine. But this is unlikely to take place in the immediate period because of the danger this war has on the balance of forces which China is trying to maintain, including the talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, aside from being a major debt-holder in the region, the Chinese regime holds important ties with the Israeli regime. This, however, can turn more complicated if Iran and other regional imperialist forces intervene more directly in the war.
The Russian regime has proposed a ceasefire to the U.N. Security Council, cynically condemning violence against civilians as it wages a massive war in Ukraine. The resolution was rejected by the council.
Both Russian and Chinese regimes pose as a counter-weight to US imperialism in the region and are concerned about how the flammable developments might impact their own imperialist interests.
Saudi Arabia has publicly claimed to freeze “normalization” talks with Israel and Turkey’s Erdogan, who has worked to mend his relations with Netanyahu, again poses as a defender of Palestinian rights. The role of the Egyptian regime is also exposed. It could have canceled its relations with Israel and so could Jordan. At the most important demonstration in Cairo since Sisi came to power, demonstrators shouted “where are the Arab armies?” and “there are the zionists!” when police attacked them with teargas. The Egyptian regime has collaborated with Israel in maintaining the blockade. It argues now that it keeps the Rafah gate closed as a way to avoid a new Nakba which would chase the Gaza population from their land into permanent refugee camps in the Sinai peninsula. But the Sisi regime also does so for fear of future clashes with the presence of millions of Palestinians strengthening the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
Gaza Hospital Explosion
The explosion at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza was a massive tragedy, with 500 Palestinian deaths, many of them people who were looking for shelter from Israeli bombings.
The Israeli regime has cynically distanced itself from any responsibility. Military bombardment has already been equivalent to a full year of US bombings in Afghanistan. There isn’t enough evidence yet to suggest whether the explosion was caused by an Israeli bomb or a faulting Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) missile, but one thing is clear: massive bombardment of crowded residential neighborhoods has and will continue to cause such tragedies and regardless of the immediate cause, Israeli fighter jets have been bombing the vicinity of the hospital. Whether or not this was caused by a PIJ missile, we also unequivocally oppose the methods of indiscriminate missile firing against civilian population.
The explosion has increased the focus and anger against the war. Morocco saw the largest protests since the Moroccan leaders have signed the “normalization” agreement with Israel. These protests also highlight the opposition to the Moroccan monarchy, raising the potential for further instability of its rule.
Protests in the West Bank were repressed by the Palestinian Authority, which has played the role of a police force collaborating with Israeli interests in undermining opposition to its occupation. Protestors, angry with Fatah’s role, chanted “the people want the fall of the President”, referring to Mahmoud Abbas who has lost a large base of support over the years for his collaboration with the Israeli regime. The same slogan was echoed in protests in Amman. Boiling anger from below is again a major concern for the survival of regional regimes.
Renewed focus towards popular actions among Palestinians and the masses in the region is an important positive change which highlights the role of the masses in ridding themselves from corrupted and oppressive regimes.
International Solidarity And Government Crackdown
Protests have erupted across the Middle East and throughout the world in opposition to Israeli aggression. Aside from those already mentioned, Tunisia saw the largest protests since the Presidents’ power grab over two years ago. In Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt, among other countries, mass protests have made their solidarity with the Palestinian masses clear.
Western capitalist countries have seen large protests as well, mostly led by young people. Governments in France, Germany, England, and other countries have taken measures to either suppress or ban them altogether. This includes threats of deportations against migrants in Germany who join protests. In the US, “progressive” Democrats and media outlets rushed to attack protests and in several countries police have cracked down violently.
The rapid reaction by capitalist governments is a reflection of their need to clarify where they stand in this era of changing global relations.
Students have faced repressive measures, including physical violence, on campuses in several countries. International Socialist Alternative has taken part in protests around the globe and have organized to take action against the suppression of democratic rights.
We are also witnessing the dangerous rise in nationalist, Islamophobic, and antisemitic actions. In the US, a six year old Palestinian boy was stabbed multiple times by his family’s landlord and in Egypt two Israelis were shot to death. These are only two examples of the many incidents taking place.
Why Socialists Oppose Indiscriminate Terrorism
Protests in country after country have shown genuine solidarity and oppose the criminal Israeli war machine.
However, revolutionary socialists have a responsibility of clarifying disagreements with those sections of the movement who are taking an uncritical position towards the massacre that Hamas carried out against Israeli workers. Socialists fight side by side with working people against the capitalist system of oppression and war. Taking a genuine internationalist position means that we oppose the attack on workers wherever they live. The events of October 7 displayed a horrific assault against Jewish, Palestinian, and migrant workers.
Many of those out on the streets are asking how can the Palestinian masses win real liberation. The actions of indiscriminate terrorism deny the masses from playing a collective role in the struggle and is therefore a reactionary tactic. Instead, they assert for themselves the role of a “liberator”. No accountability, democratic decision-making, or input is made by the struggling masses. Some on the left have even suggested that this tactic is an unavoidable step in the road towards decolonization and that it shouldn’t be criticized. In reality, however, indiscriminate terror, as those we witnessed on October 7, have given the Israeli regime the momentum it wanted to make the lives of the Palestinian masses a living hell.
We counterpose this approach to the right for struggle, including armed struggle, to defend against military invasion, backed by elected committees of struggle in the Palestinian communities. This is exemplified by the tactics of the mass Palestinian uprising of 1987 and the “Dignity Strike” of 2021.
Our position also opposes the nationalist idea that the masses and “their” leaders are one and the same. This idea rejects the basic class division between workers and bosses in a capitalist society. It is also used by some on both the right and the left to blur the lines between Israeli workers and the ruling capitalist elite.
Hamas is a right-wing pro-capitalist force which has functioned as the ruling party in Gaza over the past 17 years. It plays the role of police in suppressing workers’ strikes and women and LGBTQ rights. We should not confuse Hamas for the Palestinian masses. Hamas is inherently an anti-worker organization.
Indiscriminate terrorism is diametrically opposed to international workers’ solidarity and is alien to the class struggle.
The Mood Within Israeli Society
The surprise attack of October 7 has caused mass shock and revulsion within Israeli society. It undermined the Zionist idea of providing security for the Jewish population in Israel, as well as exposing the failure of the right-wing strategy of oppression against Palestinians over decades which was said to be needed to defend Jewish lives.
The right-wing government has moved to attack Palestinians within Israel and others who have stood up against the war. In a disgusting fashion, far-right jingoists have even attacked vigils and family members of hostages, calling them “left-wing traitors”.
Socialist Struggle Movement (ISA in Israel-Palestine) is organizing against attacks on students blacklisted by the far-right for being insufficiently supportive of the war on Gaza and stands for the democratic right to oppose the actions of the government.
At the same time, the failure of the right-wing to fulfill its promise of security after decades of occupation is causing a popular element of distrust in the government on a higher level than previously.
The government has already been extremely unpopular before the Hamas attack, seen in the polarization and historic mass protests against it since January of this year. Now, Israeli right-wing ministers are being driven away one after another as they attempt to visit communities who survived the Hamas massacre. The mood against the government is also directly antagonistic to the far-right. A 19 year old survivor, in a long monologue, put herself in the shoes of those in Gaza, saying that while she was able to leave her wrecked community, people in Gaza, only a few kilometers away, have nowhere to go. She put 100% of the blame on Netanyahu’s actions in creating this crisis.
The political crisis in Israel is highlighted by the potential developing recession. The class antagonism continues to evolve with anger against the banks who, despite record profits, have only made small donations to survivors and against supermarket chains who, during a time of war, have increased their prices.
The head of the Shin Bet (Israeli internal security service) admitted failure. Other Israeli officials appear to take responsibility as well. Netanyahu, however, did not take that road. While promising to get rid of Hamas, his demise is likely near as attention on his failure increases.
Aside from small actions which stand against physical threat and isolation, a broader anti-war movement is not likely at the moment, but can develop alongside growing anger and other developments. The mood to reject political “extremes” in Israel and a movement to the “center” does not represent trust in political institutions. In this political landscape there is no room for a political center. This shift can therefore be expressed in left-wing developments.
The war is the latest dramatic event that reflects a new period of global capitalist crisis. This is a significant link in the chain of wars and conflicts. From Ukraine, to the Sahel and Nagorno-Karabakh, capitalism exposes itself as a system of ongoing misery, poverty, and war.
Global powers respond by attempting to save their own interests in the region. This highlights, again, the role of the working class in fighting for an alternative on a global scale. We stand in solidarity with all victims of war and terror, and join those who are standing up and fighting back.