England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

How can peace and Palestinian liberation be won?

There are no words to describe the horrors taking place. Gaza is collapsing under conditions of ‘full siege’, with acute shortages of water, fuel, electricity, medicine and food. Carpet bombing and carnage are taking place with the encouragement of imperialist powers such as the US, Britain and the EU, justifying this barbarism. Socialist Alternative sends solidarity and condolences to all those affected by the murderous bombardment and onslaught on Gaza and to all those losing their loved ones in massacres and indiscriminate attacks on civilians, on both sides of the fence.

Already before the escalation, the residents of Gaza had been living under brutal siege for almost 17 years, which means the Israeli state was already making all decisions about movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza. The Israeli state also has full control over the supply of electricity and water after bombing key infrastructure over the years. The Gaza strip is one of the most densely populated areas in the world with 2.3 million living in 365 square kilometres and is often referred to as the “biggest open-air prison in the world”.

Within a week after 7 October, over a million Palestinians had been displaced and thousands were brutally slaughtered – the majority being women and children. The scale of destruction is unprecedented. This is the most brutal onslaught yet, involving genocidal attacks while referring to Palestinians as “human animals”. At the time of writing, there is still the threat of a full scale ground invasion.

In Israel the numbers have been unprecedented, with 1,400 Israeli and Arab Palestinians killed, mostly civilians, including women, children and the elderly. We strongly oppose the brutal massacres, kidnapping and indiscriminate rocket firing. These are the opposite of the methods of struggle needed for liberation.

Imperialist powers

The attacks on Israeli civilians are now being cynically used to legitimise the war crimes and strengthen state terror against the Palestinians. World powers such as the US, UK and EU have all called for the ‘right of Israel to defend itself’, ignoring the context of siege, occupation and dispossession of millions. These policies of Israeli capitalism, alongside annexation through the colonial settlement project and denying millions of Palestinians their most basic rights, including the right to self-determination, are the main causes that sparked this nightmare.

The events mark a major turning point which will have repercussions for many years to come. There is a very concrete danger of a full regional war. This is inflamed by the involvement of world and regional powers sending weapons and even troops (in the case of the US). There have also been calls from Tehran for opening new fronts. These are dangerous interventions that we should fully oppose. We have no trust in either US imperialism nor any of the dictatorships across the Middle East. They don’t represent the interests of ordinary people, but only their narrow interests of influence and power.

We support the appeal issued by Palestinian trade unions calling for international trade union mobilisation, and for workers to refuse to build and transport weapons destined for use in the atrocities against Palestinians. The appeal also calls to build pressure to stop all military trade and funding and to ‘take action against complicit companies involved in implementing Israel’s brutal and illegal siege’. An international workers’ boycott, as part of international mobilisations and strikes, can show the way forward.

What led to 7 October?

The unprecedented attack launched by Hamas on 7 October was received in complete shock by ordinary Israelis. Over 1,400 were brutally massacred – mostly civilians – at a music festival and in towns close to the Gaza fence. Over 200 are reported to have been kidnapped and held as hostages by Hamas, including women, children and the elderly. A handful have been released, as of the time of writing.

The attack didn’t happen in a vacuum, but in the context of the status quo enforced by Israeli capitalism for decades. In recent years, under the current Netanyahu-Ben Gvir government and the previous so-called ‘government of change’, there has been an increase in the level of repression against the Palestinian people. This is reflected in almostdaily military raids in the occupied West Bank into refugee camps, killing more than 300 this year alone – the highest death toll in two decades. There have been record numbers of house demolitions and constant nationalist provocations at Al Aqsa mosque and East Jerusalem more generally.

This is one of the most far-right governments in Israel’s history and it is in deep crisis on many fronts. It has faced a historic ten-month long protest movement in Israel this year against attacks on democratic rights, also known as ‘the ‘judicial coup’.

Another factor is the regional situation and the ‘normalisation’ of the occupation that was taking place preceding the war. With the background of strengthening ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran in March this year, championed by Beijing, there have been so-called ‘peace’ talks between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Reports indicated the Palestinian Authority might support this, exposing once again its full bankruptcy. This was perceived as a historic defeat and the abandonment of even the lip-service support given for Palestinian liberation amongst the Arab regimes in the Middle East. For now the talks are off the table. The huge demonstrations across the Middle East and North Africa show how the talks were in complete contrast to the mood of the masses in the region.

The fight for Palestinian liberation

We support the right of Palestinians to defend themselves, including by arms when facing attacks from the far right settlers, the occupation forces, and fighting back against military raids and invasion. The struggle for liberation should be primarily a political struggle of the masses, with armed self-defence as an auxiliary and under democratic control by elected defence committees.

Building a mass struggle across the region and more broadly in the Middle East is key. So is building the international anti-war movement to support such struggle and supporting international working class action. The protests that took place in response to the massive deadly explosion at the Al-Ahli hospital is what the Israeli regime fears the most – the prospect of a popular uprising to take place, a new intifada.

The Dignity Strike in response to the war on Gaza in 2021 underlined the potential for a working class-led Palestinian liberation struggle. It was an extraordinary all-Palestinian general strike, shutting down construction sites, disrupting food production and other industries that predominantly involve Palestinian workers. This kind of struggle poses a more fundamental risk for the regime than rounds of military confrontation, especially as the Israeli army is one of the biggest armies in the world and has nuclear weapons.

Organising self-defence is key. The far right in Israel is gaining strength after the atrocities taking place in Gaza and feels confident attacking Palestinians living in the West Bank. Establishing defence committees to ward off settlers can be the start of organising the broader fight for liberation. These can be a forum to discuss and democratically decide next steps and coordinate the work among the different committees.

Lessons from the First Intifada

A mass movement can also win support from working class people on a global level and even reach out to workers and young Israeli Jewish people. The example of the first Intifada of 1987 demonstrates such potential. It involved all sections of the working class and the oppressed; from women to students, workers and peasants.

It included actions such as strikes, mass marches, civil disobedience and forming popular coordination committees that had to organise in a clandestine way.

To some extent there was also coordination with Israeli anti-occupation and feminist activists that reflected an expression of support growing also within Jewish society.

The uprising was significant. It forced the Israeli regime to recognise that there is such a thing as the Palestinian people for the first time. It also forced the Israeli regime to make some concessions – for example the withdrawal of the direct military occupation at the heart of Palestinian cities.

Unfortunately the grassroots leadership of the intifada was excluded from the negotiations that were taking place between the Israeli government and the exiled PLO leadership. As a result, the full demands of the intifada were not fulfilled. However, it shows the potential of a mass struggle to obtain concessions, even against one of the biggest military forces in the world.

This example is in complete contrast with Hamas’ programme, strategy and tactics. It is a sectarian rightwing, anti-women and LGBTQ+ rights, anti-worker organisation, and implements religious coercion. It is not seeking to mobilise the Palestinian masses but aims to cut across mass action. Hamas was actually originally formed as a counter force to the left in the first intifada with the encouragement of the Israeli regime at the time.

Building opposition in Israel-Palestine

At the moment, many working class Israeli Jewish people are influenced by the lies told by Israeli governments over the years that the onslaughts on Gaza are done for the protection of ordinary people. The Israeli ruling class cynically takes advantage of the traumas of the Holocaust and antisemitism to foster the lie that any criticism of the Israeli capitalist and racist regime is antisemitic.

While Palestinians suffer the most brutal repression by the Israeli government, the Israeli state also economically exploits the Israeli working class in order to maintain the capitalist system. It inflames nationalist division as an attempt to stop struggle. The Israeli state is not only racist towards Arab Palestinians but also against Jewish people who originally emigrated from the Middle East, North Africa and Ethiopia.

This in itself sparked significant movements over the years such as the Black Panthers movement (initiated by Jewish-Israeli people originally from the Middle East and North Africa) in the 1970s and protests against police brutality towards Jewish Ethiopians more recently. In both examples, there has also been a small layer that, based on their experience of state violence, have started to adopt a more principled approach against the oppression of the Palestinians and question the lies of the state.

We need to expose the lie that the Israeli ruling class has any interest in providing security for ordinary people and stop its ability to mobilise ordinary Israelis in fighting their wars. Our sister organisation in Israel-Palestine, Socialist Struggle Movement, argues that there can be no peace in the context of capitalism and imperialism, not least under the current status quo of occupation, siege, dispossession and the denial of most basic rights from the Palestinian people, including the right for self-determination.

As socialists we aim to unite working class people to fight ‘divide and rule’ and build a powerful, united working class movement that rejects all forms of oppression and exploitation, including national chauvinism and war.

We aim to break this false sense of ‘national unity’ and to expose the difference between the interests of the Israeli ruling class and the Israeli working class. The first seeks to stabilise and enforce the status quo of extreme national oppression of the Palestinian and exploitation of workers from both national groups, the second wants to live in peace and safety, which will never be achieved under the current status quo.

In response, our members are facing an atrocious witchhunt attempting to silence any opposition. ISA members in Israel-Palestine are involved in building campaigns with the involvement of workers, trade unionists and student initiatives. This can be the basis to build broader opposition against the atrocities taking place in Gaza, fighting the ‘divide and rule’ tactics by the Israeli regime, and the fight for profound change in the reality of life, including the end of the occupation and siege.

Way forward

As the example of the First Intifada demonstrated, building a mass struggle for liberation led by the Palestinian masses, is key. It can achieve substantial gains as a part of the fight for national and social liberation.

We think genuine independence requires a revolutionary movement to fight for socialist change and the overthrowing of capitalism and imperialism across the Middle East. This means having full control over the resources and wealth in the region, to be run in the interests of ordinary and working-class people – not warmongers and capitalists. This can also counter dependence on any imperialist or regional power like the US or Iran. We would argue for a genuinely-independent socialist Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, as part of a voluntary socialist confederation of the Middle East.

Such mass struggle can inspire Israeli workers to build a struggle for socialist transformation, which could lay the basis for working class agreements on borders and the right of return of the Palestinian refugees. Each agreement would require guaranteeing genuine equality with full rights for minorities. This means ending Israeli military supremacy and the situation where Israeli capitalism has full control over land, essential resources and infrastructure that are denied to the Palestinian people.

The struggle for liberation and peace is part of the global struggle against capitalism and imperialism. The choice humanity faces is either socialism or barbarism – join us


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