People across the world are watching with horror at the extreme escalation in the Middle East. Mass protests have erupted globally in solidarity with the Palestinian masses as they face heavy bombardment and a ground invasion by the Israeli regime, raising new levels of destruction not seen in decades. While portrayed as a war on terrorism, it is in reality collective punishment against the Palestinian people on a vast scale.
As of now, over 9,000 Palestinians, including 4,000 children, have been killed in the Israeli attack. Over a million Palestinians were forced to evacuate their homes in Northern Gaza with no place to go as the Rafah gate on the Egyptian border is closed. Israel’s “full siege” has caused a dire shortage of water, food, fuel, and medicine. Lack of electricity and temporary cut-off of communication have made things worse, putting emergency vehicles and hospitals out of commission.
The justification presented for these war crimes is the indiscriminate massacre by Hamas on October 7, which left more than 1,400 Israelis dead, the highest number of casualties in Israel’s history. At the time of writing, 200 Israeli hostages are still held in Gaza by Hamas.
While far-right forces within the Israeli government would like to see a far-reaching occupation of Gaza and the expulsion of all Palestinians from the Strip, 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 out of fear of paying a heavy price, both in terms of the high number of casualties among hostages and soldiers 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 ability to do business with other capitalist regimes in the region and internationally.
At this stage, there is no military endgame for the crisis. Hamas is still able to draw significant popular support, based on their perception as the key force fighting the occupation and also Fatah’s collaborationist relations with Israel. Therefore, the Israeli regime is limited in how far it can go, despite the shocking scale of destruction that it is inflicting on the Palestinian population.
The war has spread to the border between Israel and Lebanon with daily skirmishes between the Israeli military and the Iranian-linked Hezbollah militia. The ground invasion into Gaza can easily trigger full intervention by Hezbollah, one of the most powerful military entities in the region, who can’t afford politically to stand aside. This can expand into a wider conflict drawing in regional powers such as Iran, followed by direct US intervention. Already, missiles and drones fired from Yemen by Iranian-backed Houthi militants towards Israel were shot down by US warships.
The Broader Context Of The New Cold War
The war in Gaza is the latest link in the global capitalist crisis and is fueled by Cold War dynamics.
Biden’s recent visit to Israel aimed at advancing US interests in the region. This was shown by US imperialism moving two aircraft carrier strike groups into the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf, as well as preparing thousands of Marines to deploy, alongside unprecedented levels of military aid to the Israeli regime. This certainly helped fuel the Israeli regime’s aggression. At the same time, the visit anticipated the potential damage and undermining of the US position in the region that could result from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s actions. For that reason, the US aims to restrain the more militaristic elements in the Israeli regime. This resulted in the deal to allow a limited entry of some necessary goods such as food and medicine into Gaza under Israeli supervision. Increasingly the public message from the US administration is hand-wringing about the Israeli Defense Forces needing to “follow the rules of war” to limit civilian casualties, something the US has never done in its military interventions.
Chinese and Russian imperialisms have been cynically portraying themselves as neutral regional peace-makers while they pose as the main counterweight to the US. Xi Jinping 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 term because of the danger this war has on the balance of forces that 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.
Several governments, such as Russia and Brazil have also proposed a ceasefire at the UN. While some were outright rejected, the one that passed remains symbolic.
Saudi Arabia has said it is freezing “normalization” talks with Israel, and Turkey’s Erdogan, who has worked to mend his relationship with Netanyahu, is again posing as a defender of Palestinian rights. The role of the Egyptian regime is also exposed in enforcing the blockade on Gaza, as they control the other main access point. At the most important demonstration in Cairo since Abdel el-Sisi came to power a decade ago, demonstrators shouted, “Where are the Arab armies?” and, “There are the Zionists!” as the police attacked them with tear gas.
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 the role of the dominant Fatah group, chanted, “The people want the fall of the president,” referring to Mahmoud Abbas who has lost a large base of support over the years. The same slogan was echoed in protests in Amman. Boiling anger from below is again a major concern for the survival of regional oppressive regimes.
The re-emergence of popular struggle on the streets on the West Bank and across the region is an important positive development that points to how the masses can rid themselves of the rule of corrupt dictatorships.
International Solidarity And Government Crackdown
Morocco and Tunisia saw the largest protests since the former’s “normalization” deal with Israel and the latter’s president staged a power grab over two years ago. In Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon, among other countries, huge protests have made their solidarity with the Palestinian masses clear.
Governments in France, Germany, England, and other Western capitalist countries have taken measures to either suppress or ban large protests altogether. This has included threats of deportations against migrants in Germany who join protests. In several countries, police have cracked down violently. In the US, the political establishment (including supposed “progressives”) and media outlets rushed to attack protests and in several countries, police have cracked down violently.
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 has 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 6-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
Revolutionary socialists have a responsibility to clarify 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 attacks on workers and oppressed people wherever they live. October 7 was a horrific assault against Jewish, Palestinian, and migrant workers, including infants and the elderly.
Many of those out on the streets are asking, how can the Palestinian masses win real liberation? The actions of indiscriminate terrorist organizations acting in the name of the oppressed deny the masses the ability to play a collective role in the struggle and is therefore a reactionary tactic. Instead, small militias 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 the tactics employed by Hamas are an unavoidable step in the road toward decolonization and that it shouldn’t be criticized. In reality, however, indiscriminate terror, as we witnessed on October 7, has given the Israeli regime the excuse to make the lives of the Palestinian masses a living hell and throw the struggle for liberation backwards. Indiscriminate terrorism is diametrically opposed to international workers’ solidarity and is alien to the class struggle.
There were several reasons for Hamas’ attack. First, the attacks aimed to strengthen Hamas’ position among the Palestinian masses in relation to the collaborationist Fatah. This was a reaction to expanding Israeli settlements and increased state terror which Fatah has not challenged. Second, the capturing of dozens of hostages is meant to be used in a prisoners’ swap. Third, undermining the Israeli-Saudi “Abraham Accords”, isolating Israel’s regional interests, and weakening the Saudi monarchy in relation to Iran’s regional imperialist aspirations. Last but not least, the attack was meant to create horror among the Israeli population and in turn destabilize the Israeli government.
The reality is that the reactionary acts of Hamas and the reactionary actions of the Israeli regime, which operate on a far greater scale, fuel one another into what seems to be an endless conflict.
This symbiotic relationship goes back decades. The Israeli regime itself helped Hamas reach its current position by funneling funds into its early projects as a religious welfare organization. Similarly to how the US funded and trained Mujahideen militants against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, helping to spawn both Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the Israeli government has used Hamas as a force to defeat the secular nationalist Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in the revolutionary Palestinian uprising (Intifada) of 1987. It is the combination of Israeli oppression, Hamas’ opposition to the PLO, and the latter’s disastrous sell-out policies during the Oslo Accords that positioned Hamas to weaken and supplant the more historically left-wing elements of Palestinian resistance.
Marxists assert the right of the oppressed masses to struggle, including armed struggle, in defense against endless brutality and military occupation, backed by elected committees of struggle in the Palestinian communities. This was exemplified by the tactics of the mass Palestinian uprising of 1987 and the “Dignity Strike” of 2021.
The call for a mass struggle in the region is not utopian. Jews and Arabs have lived in relative peace in the region for centuries before the rise of nationalist flare-ups that were primarily the result of the intervention of Western imperialism. During major nationalist divisions, mass workers’ organizations in the Middle East were the only places where Jewish and Arab workers could fight side by side against corrupt monarchist regimes and their imperialist backers.
The Iraqi Communist Party, for example, was a pole of attraction for many Jews, partly because of its consistent stance against fascism and Nazism specifically, which had a strong support in Iraq in the 1930s. Jews also played key roles in establishing communist parties in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine. While the workers movement faced real obstacles of nationalist tensions, for many years Jews, Muslims, and Christians fought side-by-side against imperialist occupations and capitalism. Still, today, despite their many weaknesses, the Israeli Communist Party and the trade unions are among the only places where Jews and Arab-Palestinians organize together to fight injustice within Israel itself.
Our position also opposes the nationalist idea that the masses and their leaders are one and the same. The Israeli population is not a unified reactionary mass. 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.
The country’s history is filled with polarization around the political left and right, anti-racist struggles within the Jewish population – exemplified by the Israeli Black Panthers Party, divisions between Jewish immigrants and locals, religious and secular, etc. These divisions are outgrowths of class struggle, which has existed within the Jewish community in Palestine even as far back as the 19th century, and before.
Hamas is a product of the collapse and rightward shift of workers’ organizations and decline of consciousness around mass struggle globally after the fall of the Soviet Union. It 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. It is inherently an anti-worker organization. At the same time, the role it plays won’t meet its end at the hands of the Israeli military, but can only be brought down by the Palestinian masses as part of their struggle for genuine liberation.
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.
Netanyahu’s far-right government was already extremely unpopular before the Hamas attack, as 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 that survived the Hamas massacre. The mood against the government is also directly antagonistic to the far-right.
Aside from small actions, 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 internationally. 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 as the only social force that can offer 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.