The developments in Israel-Palestine in the recent period have resurfaced many questions from experienced activists and ordinary working-class people alike. We’ve collected some of those important points to try and make sense of this complicated situation.
Now that a ceasefire is in place, is the onslaught on Gaza over?
Unfortunately, the oppression of Palestinians goes beyond the onslaughts on Gaza as seen in May. For example, the Strip has been under siege since 2007. The Israeli state does not allow the movement of people from Gaza and into it (including family members), restricts its exports and imports, and controls its infrastructure (water and electricity, for example). We’re talking about 141 square miles with a population of over 2 million, all being militarily controlled by a state they do not have citizenship or any rights within.
East Jerusalem and the West Bank are not under direct blockades, but are still occupied territories. Many of the Palestinian residents have no rights, while the Palestinian Authority hasn’t held elections in 15 years. The settlements — areas where Jewish-Israelis who, by government policy, move to ‘Judaise’ — have grown in recent years, with hundreds of thousands in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlers, often with support from the Israeli government, act violently towards Palestinians and hold private security paid for by the state, in an attempt to slowly ‘annexe’ the region.
But that’s not all. Many Palestinians live within the ’48 borders and possess citizenship. However, they are heavily repressed and discriminated against. For example, as the ceasefire was implemented, the Israeli police embarked on a nationwide ‘law and order’ campaign of arresting just under 2,000 Palestinians for bogus ‘crimes’. These ranged from protesting against the war to posting ‘insulting’ videos against the police on social media. So, despite a ceasefire being agreed, we have a lot left to fight against.
Is opposing the Israeli government antisemitic?
We’ve heard over and over again that supporting the Palestinian masses in their plight for liberation is inherently antisemitic. This is an outrageous, right-wing witch hunt to curb the ability of working-class people to practise international solidarity with Palestinians, of left leaders, such as Jeremy Corbyn, to gain power, and of our movement to win any significant victories. In fact, conflating the Israeli state with all Jewish people is, in itself, problematic. Jewish people are not a monolithic entity. The Israeli government’s actions do not represent the opinions of all Jews in Israel, let alone around the world. The Israeli state has seen four elections in the last two years, and countless mass demonstrations that got thousands onto the street to protest against its policies. It is by no means a stable or supported state, by Jews or otherwise. If opposing Israeli state terror is antisemitic, you would have to include a large number of Jews internationally in this definition.
That being said, antisemitism is indeed a real problem that should not be dismissed. However, like all other types of racism, it is embraced far more widely by the right. The same people who cry antisemitism whenever criticism towards the Israeli state is heard, like Boris Johnson or even Benjamin Netanyahu, hypocritically support far-right antisemites like Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. As socialists, we have to fight against the notion that opposition to Israeli capitalism equals antisemitism, and stand strong with the Palestinian working-class as well as the Israeli Jewish working-class, which the Israeli state oppresses too.
Is Bennett, the new Prime Minister, better than Netanyahu?
Unfortunately, after 12 consecutive years of Prime Minister Netanyahu, the newly elected government is nothing to be proud of. The so-called ‘government of change’ delivers nothing but more of the same: more fundamentalism, more capitalist measures, more settlements. They have approved the Flag March to take place in its original route through East Jerusalem, which was postponed due to the struggle of Palestinians in May. At the head of the Government stands Naftali Bennett, a despicable character who calls for the annexation of large parts of the West Bank. He is the richest prime minister in the history of the state, with over £22m in assets, and has already started attacking the unemployed and the public sector.
Although the last few elections were characterised by lesser evilism and the desperation to get rid of Netanyahu, the alternative in the Israeli Parliament is not what the left should look up to. If anything, we’re likely to see Netanyahu getting stronger because of the instability of this new bizarre coalition, consisting of so-called left parties like Meretz and Labor, supposed ‘centrists’ like Yesh Atid and Blue and White, and far-right fundamentalists like Yemina and Israel Beiteinu. This lack of a real alternative has meant the working class is left to choose between two (or in Israel’s case, a dozen) terrible options.
Who benefits from the oppression of Palestinians?
The occupation is often presented as beneficial for all Israelis. However, this is not true. Of course, the conflict is not symmetrical. The Israeli state uses far more violent measures, and the repression against Palestinians — within the ’48 borders, in the West Bank and in Gaza — is brutal: evictions, discrimination in housing and employment, increased violence, not to mention the bombings and siege. The Palestinian population suffer horrific national oppression. At the same time, the Israeli working class do not live in safety and security, due to the actions of the ruling class. The people who benefit from it are the capitalists, particularly in Israel. This is why working-class Israeli Jews have a vested interest in dismantling the occupation, and fighting the divide-and-rule practices the capitalists use.
The repression and oppression of Palestinians has created a layer of super-exploited, low-paid workers from the West Bank, especially in the construction industry. Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are also discriminated against when it comes to housing and employment. Simultaneously, every time a movement emerges, the national question is used to colour it as unpatriotic, while the ruling class attempts to divert attention from the struggle onto the conflict. A corrupt government, decreasing standard of living, and a rising cost of living that puts more than a fifth of all Israeli citizens under the poverty line, are all blamed on the high expenditure for “security”, which is presented as a necessity. This is without mentioning the real dangers to the physical security of Jews in Israel in the form of missiles and recurring warfare thanks to a disgusting policy of occupation and oppression.
Should we support a one or two-state solution in Israel-Paslestine?
Debates around the solution tend to focus on whether there should be one or two states.
The two-state solution, which refers to creating a new Palestinian state according to the 1967 borders, is not a viable answer under capitalism. Gaza and the West Bank are on two sides of the territory with no continuation. What’s more, this solution ignores the 2 million Palestinians with Israeli citizenship who live within the borders of Israel. Under capitalism, any Palestinian ‘state’ would not be viable, and would be politically and economically dominated by both a hostile Israeli state and the neighbouring Arab countries. It would not be a state, but a travesty, resembling the ‘bantustans’ that existed in South Africa.
At the same time, a one state solution under capitalism would mean an abandoning of the fight for a Palestinian state and the right to self determination of both national groups. In Britain, the slogan “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, is often used. However, the region is home to millions of Jewish-Israelis, many of whom fled persecution elsewhere. Such a solution would require restricting their democratic and national rights, which they are unlikely to accept. Years of siege, and siege mentality, has resulted in animosity and mistrust between the communities. The question is how do socialists begin to break that down.
It is clear that the borders of the Middle East, drawn by imperialist forces and occupation campaigns with no regard for the real-life needs of working-class people, are not sufficient. It is also clear that the problems in Israel and Palestine are bigger than just what flag is raised above Parliament — poverty, exploitation and oppression will exist under the capitalist system no matter what the borders are. That is why currently the best solution to put forward is two socialist states, which would respect the right to self-determination of both Palestinians and Israelis, with borders agreed upon by working class communities. This could democratically decide and work out issues like the right of return, as part of a voluntary socialist confederation of the Middle East. That is the only way to liberate the working class in the region.
How can we win peace in the Middle East?
In the latest onslaught on Gaza, we saw some impressive actions. A strike of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship nearly shut down the construction sector. Protests of people on both sides of the national divide against racism and discrimination took place in many areas around the country. Although some of these protests lacked the call to end the attacks, strikes, demonstrations and mass movements are the way forward to defeat the Israeli regime and bring about real peace in the Middle East.
These actions were joined by protests and movements around the globe, protesting to end Israeli state terror. Workers in South Africa reportedly refused to load and unload Israeli ships, in a powerful showing of solidarity with Palestinians. These acts of solidarity are inspiring and will need to be stepped up, amplifying the democratically organised, mass struggle of Palestnians. A third Intifada, in a similar form to the peaceful First Intifada, would be an invaluable progression to the movement. Committees have already been set up by Palestinians, and socialists should support those and point the way forward for a united struggle against Israeli capitalism. We can have no faith in capitalist powers in Israel-Palestine or internationally to bring an end to this conflict — in fact, they created and continue to maintain it.
Socialist Alternative is a section of ISA, an international organisation with members in over 30 countries — including the Socialist Struggle Movement in Israel-Palestine — on every continent, all fighting for liberation for the global working class. Supporting and joining us is the best way to effectively fight for real peace in the Middle East — the struggle for socialism.
“Israel / Palestine Conflict -Spirit of Resistance (July2014)” by Activist Artist – Chris Holden is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0