By Tuvaal Klein, Socialist Struggle Movement (ISA Israel-Palestine)
Since 2023 began, Israeli armed forces have killed dozens of Palestinians, including children, in the West Bank. On average, in the first two months of 2023, one Palestinian was killed a day. This is a continuation of the escalation initiated by the previous government, without Netanyahu, whose brutal armed forces’ attacks turned 2022 into the deadliest year in the West Bank since 2005.
Tensions rose towards the month of Ramadan, during which tens of thousands attend Al-Aqsa mosque to pray. The 31 March police killing of Mohammad El-Asibi, a 26 year old medical doctor from within 1948 territories, provoked widespread anger. In protest, a general strike was organised on 2 April, demanding an independent investigation to prevent a police cover up (as has occurred in previous similar cases).
Anger was already seething at the beginning of April, when fanatic right-wing Jewish settlers attempted to sacrifice a Passover offering in the Temple Mount: a direct religious nationalist provocation against Muslims (a practice condemned by the majority of religious Jewish authorities). In response, Palestinians praying in Al-Qibli Mosque stayed overnight to protect it. Israeli armed forces raided the mosque and attacked the worshippers. Around 200 were injured and more than 400 arrested. Horrific videos of the brutal attacks circulated online, causing mass anger in the region. The next evening, thousands demonstrated in the Gaza strip, in 1948 territories and the West Bank. In the following days, tens of thousands demonstrated in solidarity in Turkey, Pakistan, Germany, the US, the UK, among others.
The aim of the Israeli government and its armed forces is to show ‘governance’ in Al-Aqsa and occupied East Jerusalem, as it is slowly but surely changing the status quo. There are serious fears of an increased takeover of Al-Aqsa, and reduction of prayer times for Muslims, as has already happened in Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron.
Mass movement erupts
The Netanyahu-far-right alliance government is trying to present itself as strong. However, it is facing a deep crisis of legitimacy. Its attacks on the Israeli court system provoked an unprecedented mass movement against it, still ongoing, which significantly weakened it. Broad layers in Israeli society reject the ‘judicial coup’, understood as a reactionary power grab. There is a strong opposition not only to the attempts to subdue the court system, but also to the broader agenda of the government and especially its far right elements. This occurred despite the hijacking of the leadership of the movement by finance capital, former military generals and establishment ‘centre’ parties, who promote an utterly reactionary “patriotism contest” with the Israeli government, flooding the protests with Israeli flags and inciting against the waving of Palestinian flags. However, protesters are expressing a broader opposition towards oppression by waving gay and trans pride flags. Importantly, following the settler pogrom in Huwara, backed by the Israeli armed forces, during which they set fire to dozens of homes and terrorised entire families, thousands chanted in the anti government protests “Where were you in Huwara?” – a message voiced by leftleaning speakers even on the main stage. In response to recent events, this chant changed to “where were you in Al-Aqsa?”
The government’s weakened state means gains can and are being made by Palestinian resistance as well – since the government is hoping to avoid new fronts of struggle. For example, when Itamar Ben Gvir (Netanyahu’s “National Security” Minister and head of the racist farright ‘Jewish Power’ party) attempted to further attack the living conditions of Palestinian political prisoners, they threatened a mass hunger strike, which forced him to back down.
The government fears mass demonstrations and workers strikes. It wants to avoid a repeat of the elements of mass, united struggle which took place in May 2021 when Palestinian youth and workers from both sides of the Green Line (the pre-1967 border between the Israeli state and the occupied territories) rebelled against Israeli police provocations in the Damascus Gate and the Al-Aqsa compound, as well as against the ethnic cleansing in Sheikh Jarrah. The uprising reached a highpoint with the ‘Strike of Honour.’
The way forward
In response to the attack on Al-Aqsa, militias in the Gaza Strip and in Lebanon fired rockets, with one person injured and one house hit, and the Israeli army launched bombardments in retaliation. Ben Gvir called to “remove heads” in Gaza, pushing for a wider military attack.
The government is also afraid of the spread of the Palestinian resistance movement into 1948 territories, as previously occurred in May 2021. Police have attacked and arrested protesters and political activists in places like Haifa, Nazareth, Sakhin and East Jerusalem. These attacks are part of the broader mass arrests in Al-Aqsa and the violent police brutality directed at Palestinian demonstrations in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Politically, the government prefers confrontation with the Palestinian militias rather than a development of mass, organised struggle. In the face of the state terrorism of the Israeli occupation regime, such a mass organised struggle is necessary, including armed self-defence. However, firing rockets at civilians does not threaten the occupation, but has been used by the government and the right to cynically stir up Jewish-Israeli fears of rockets to change the political agenda and gain support for attacks on Gaza and Lebanon.
Establishing committees in neighbourhoods, schools and workplaces could help widen the demonstrations, defend against the attacks from the police, army and Jewish far right, and plan the next steps in the struggle. In mixed workplaces within the 1948 borders, where Jewish and Palestinian people work together, these committees could help initiate discussions with Jewish workers as well, to expose the lies of the Israeli establishment media and the Israeli regime about the reality of Palestinians and the depth of their oppression.
The same government responsible for attacks on Al-Aqsa, Gaza and Lebanon, is deepening the crises of cost of living, poverty, and inequality on both sides of the Green Line. This is a weak government whose support among the Israeli public is at an unprecedented low. The prospect of bringing it down is on the table – as the historic political general strike against its ‘judicial coup’ has proven.
Socialist Struggle Movement (ISA in Israel/ Palestine) advocates the need to build the struggle against the government’s attacks, but also a cross-community working-class political alternative, that can link between the struggle against the occupation and national oppression of Palestinians and between the most radical layers in the mass struggle against the government’s ‘judicial coup’. With an independent class approach, an alternative to the reactionary coalition parties – and also to the pro-capitalist centrist opposition – can appeal to mass layers of workers, poor and oppressed layers of society. Armed with a socialist programme, this could be a huge step towards the toppling of the occupation regime, exploitation and poverty.