In the middle of the night of the 31st of May, 64 km off the coast,
Israeli commandos rappelled down from helicopters onto the 6 ship
flotilla. Activists say they boarded the ships firing. The Israeli
government decided to use deadly force to maintain their blockade of
the Gaza strip, provoking waves of protest. These events have exposed
the policy of Israeli imperialism to the masses everywhere: Gaza is a
ghetto, kept in starvation conditions, and no one may interfere. This
will have effects across the world, even in Israel itself.
Gaza – A Prison Camp
In order to understand what happened on the ships, it is important to understand the conditions that exist in Gaza.
Since 2007, when Hamas was elected with a majority, the Israeli
state has maintained a complete blockade of the strip. Nothing comes in
or out without army approval. No one is allowed to enter or leave.
Food, medical supplies, and even construction materials are severely
The situation is desperate, as a Financial Times article shows:
Outrageous as this behaviour was, the true outrage is the illegal
blockade of Gaza that it enforced. Since the January 2009 Gaza war,
which exposed Israel’s determination to destroy Hamas’s capabilities
regardless of the cost to innocent Palestinians, Israel and Egypt have
colluded to prevent the enclave’s reconstruction. According to the
United Nations, three-quarters of the damage has not been repaired and
60 per cent of homes do not have enough food.
The reasoning for the blockade given by Israeli imperialism, and
approved by US imperialism, has been to prevent Hamas from building
rockets. It just so happens that the material they are so worried could
be used for rockets is essential for rebuilding the homes destroyed in
2009: cement. It is completely banned.
Blockade helps Hamas
This blockade has only served to reinforce Hamas, which has been
getting a hefty cut from lucrative smuggling operations through
clandestine tunnels into Egypt. The World Bank estimates that 80
percent of Gaza’s imports come through the tunnels. In 2008,
Palestinians broke a hole through the border with Egypt, and the UN
estimated that half of the 1.5 million population of the Gaza strip
poured through to get gas, cooking oil and other everyday items before
the border was sealed again by the Egyptian army
This shows just how explosive the situation was even then. Since
then, it has only gotten worse, as the Egyptian government began
building a steel barrier underground in an attempt to block the
tunnels. Furthermore, without legal trade, particularly into Israel,
Gaza’s economy has collapsed. The CIA World Factbook estimates that the
unemployment rate in 2009 was 40%. 44% of the population are youth 14
or under. What future can they expect to have? It is these conditions
that ensure that when they reach working age, they have nowhere to go
and are easy prey for recruitment by reactionary organizations like
This is the situation in Gaza, an entire people kept in an open-air prison.
The Gaza Freedom Flotilla Attacked
It is these conditions that the army acted to “defend” on Monday.
A group of solidarity organizations organized to break the blockade.
6 ships were prepared, the lead ship from Turkey, carrying 10,000 tons
of prefabricated houses, building materials, medical supplies and
essentials, and left port from Cyprus in an attempt to provide relief.
The 700 passengers set out in the direction of Gaza, as a protest
against the blockade.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed the army acted
in self-defence, but the night raid on the ships occurred in
international waters. As the soldiers first boarded the Mavi Marmara,
the lead ship, they came under attack with sticks. The Israeli army
claims that the first soldiers were armed only with paintball guns, and
live guns were only deployed after they came under gunfire on the ship.
But the IDF’s own reports of the seized ships show that no guns were
found, except those brought on board by the IDF. In other words, either
the activists seized their guns, in which case the IDF soldiers were
armed from the beginning, or this is simply untrue. Furthermore, the
IDF has posted videos with activists using chairs and sticks, but no
video of gunfire has been shown.
Another Financial Times article points out that the IDF
moved quickly to isolate the activists once they were on shore, posting
armed guards at the hospitals with instructions that they were not to
speak to the media, in an attempt to prevent them from questioning the
story being presented by the government. When they were finally
contacted, this is what some of them had to say:
However, the few accounts to have emerged from the other side paint
a different picture. Greta Berlin, a representative of the Free Gaza
Movement, said that she and her fellow activists were watching the live
stream from the Mavi Marmara when the assault took place. “We saw them
come off the helicopter, we saw them turn around, look at each other
and then shoot. We were speechless watching this,” she said.
Hanin Zoabi, an Arab-Israeli member of the Israeli parliament, was
aboard the Mavi Marmara. He said: “It was clear from the size of the
force that boarded the ship that the purpose was not only to stop this
[voyage] but to cause the largest possible number of fatalities in
order to stop such initiatives in the future.” (Furious debate over moment of attack, FT, June 1, 2010)
Either way, Israeli imperialism sent commandos to board the ships in
the middle of the night, in order to prevent the breaking of the
blockade, and at least 9 people are now dead as a result. Other reports
put the figure at 19. Dozens have been injured, and around 600
activists remain in prisons across Israel, being interrogated. A full
list of the names of those dead or injured has yet to be released,
although some information has come out.
Israeli Imperialism Becomes a Burden to its Allies
This incident is too much for the allies of Israeli capitalism, who
have come under pressure and been forced to come out with condemnations
one after another.
The interests of the different capitalist classes coincide with, but
are not identical to the interests of the Israeli ruling class. Turkey,
previously one of the closest regional allies, has recalled its
ambassador from Tel Aviv. 3 out of the 6 ships were Turkish, and the
largest contingent of the passengers was Turkish, some of whom are
among the dead. The protest in Ankara was enormous.
The Egyptian ruling class, another close ally, was charged with
being the other side of the vice squeezing the Gaza strip. When the
border was broken open in 2008, the order was given to the Egyptian
army to open fire on the crowds and reseal it. Protests shook the
country then, and even larger ones in 2009 during the bombing of Gaza.
Their complicity in the oppression of the Palestinian people has added
to the widespread hatred for Mubarak and his regime amongst the working
masses in Egypt. Now they’ve decided continuing it would be too
dangerous. As of today, the Rafah crossing has been reopened in a
limited capacity, though it’s unclear for how long.
The EU has issued condemnations, but the most important effect will be felt in Washington.
The US was attempting to manoeuvre for more sanctions against Iran
in recent weeks, this has made that all but impossible. This follows
several similar embarrassing incidents for Obama. As we reported
previously, the Gaza war was undertaken without consultation with
Obama, and with very bad timing from his point of view. American
imperialism was losing the war in Iraq, and was attempting to come to
some sort of arrangement with the Syrian and Iranian ruling classes,
without whom a pullout would become a fiasco.
a deal with imperialism would for these elites require something
tangible that could justify the 180 degree turn, and hence the
importance of at least the image of a solution to the question of
Palestine. That war was a warning from Israel to Obama: “we will not
toe the line in any deal done without us”.
Obama’s calls for a halt to illegal settlement building resulted in
similar embarrassment. Vice-President Joe Biden had to cut short his
visit to Israel and return to Washington when more buildings were
announced while he was on an official trip to the region. This could
not have been accidental, it was a calculated insult expressing anger
at criticism of the settlements.
Even layers within the Israeli ruling class are beginning to see the writing on the wall:
"Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a
burden," said Dagan, speaking before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and
Defense Committee, according to Haaretz.
Crocodile Tears and International Law
But the chorus of condemnation from western governments is simple
hypocrisy. None of the powers did anything to stop the blockade for the
past few years, and their protests against "violations of international
law" mean nothing. International law is no different than any other
bourgeois law: it is the law of the ruling class.
Many honest activists are raising the cry against the illegality of
boarding ships in international waters, the illegality of
disproportionate use of force, and the illegality of collective
punishment inflicted on the Palestinian masses in the form of the
blockade. This all may be true, but it misses the point. These laws are
meaningless for the powerful. Imperialist powers only apply them when
they suit their interests; otherwise they simply call for inquiries
without teeth and cry crocodile tears about "impunity".
There is no hope of the bourgeois UN doing more than writing a
resolution. Ban-Ki Moon will continue to "urge", Obama will continue to
"regret", and Netanyahu will continue to ignore. We must look to our
own class for a solution, not to the den of thieves.
Obama, who was supposed to represent change, didn’t even condemn the attack, only saying that he wants an "impartial inquiry".
In contrast to the stale and hypocritical remarks of the bourgeois,
the response of the masses across the world came like a breath of fresh
For a labour boycott campaign
Those who organized the flotilla showed great personal courage. They
knew what they were facing and several paid the ultimate price for
their convictions. We fully share their burning indignation at the
brutal injustices committed every day against the men, women and
children of Gaza by the Israeli aggressors. But we point out that
humanitarian aid cannot solve a problem that is of a political
We are convinced that it would be more effective to create a
worldwide movement against Israeli occupation. Such a movement, if it
is to succeed, must be based in the international working class
organisations. Instead of the kind of campaigns that have been tried
(and failed) in the past to boycott Israeli oranges, it would be far
better to commit the trade unions to an international boycott of Israel
until it has lifted its criminal blockade of Gaza and granted the just
demands of the Palestinian people.
Such a labour boycott should be accompanied by an international
campaign of mass meetings to explain to the world what is happening in
Palestine and mobilize the public opinion of the workers of the world.
Such a campaign would have far more effect inside Israel than a million
resolutions from the Security Council in New York or a hundred
hypocritical speeches by Hillary Clinton.
Mass working class action the only solution
Despite short notice, protesters responded to the call for action
across the world. There were protests in Cairo, Montreal, Madrid,
Athens, Rome, Paris, London, Dublin, Sydney, just to name a few cities.
Most important of all was the demonstration in Tel Aviv. Tellingly,
the protest in Tel Aviv drew 3000 people, and Israeli Arabs have called
a general strike against the attack and the blockade. Reports say the
strike, called by the Higher Arab Monitoring committee, had close to
100% participation. Shops were closed and quiet ruled in Dir al-Hana,
Arabeh, Sakhnin, Kafr Kana and Nazareth. This is only the beginning.
Another two ships which were delayed and couldn’t keep up with the
flotilla have decided to continue the trip, and are expected to enter
Gaza’s waters on Friday. Others are also planned in the weeks ahead. If
the Israeli regime is serious about maintaining the blockade, they will
board these ships as well, which will mean the possibility of more
deaths and injuries, which will in turn mean an intensification of
The biggest danger for the Israeli ruling class is at home. It is
the danger that another explosion could occur amongst the
million-strong Israeli Arab population, who make up 20% of the total
population of the country. Even more dangerous is the response amongst
Jewish Israelis, many of whom participated in the protest in Tel Aviv.
A general strike by the Israeli Arab workers could raise this issue in
a serious way within Israel, and the regime will be scrambling to
ensure the protests do not spread to the Jewish working class.
at the end of the day, it is the Jewish workers who are always being
asked to send their sons and daughters off to die in Lebanon, the West
Bank, Gaza, and now at sea. The dangerous question is now becoming: for
what? To prevent the rebuilding of homes in Gaza? To prevent a group of
activists from bringing medical supplies to the strip?
This event will leave its mark on the region, and the Israeli
masses. Already, Zionism is losing its grip on the youth, the future.
In the Tel Aviv municipal elections – as we reported previously – the
Israeli Communist Party candidate received a level of support which
must have been shocking to the Israeli ruling class, considering that
their platform includes the right of return and that this is a party
that unites Israeli Arabs and Jews. An interview with Knesset member
Dov Khenin makes clear that this is only the tip of the iceberg:
The interesting phenomenon was that we succeeded with the ‘City for
All’ movement to achieve nearly 35% of the vote for the mayorship in
Tel Aviv. 35% of the votes, well of course not enough to win the
mayorship, but it was a very big success for a local movement which ran
for the elections without money at all, with the support only of the
enthusiasm of volunteers; we had approximately 2,500 volunteers working
for us all around the city, which in Israeli terms is a very very big
number. And the most interesting phenomenon was that we got the votes of about 75% of young people below 35. (Ending the vicious circle of hate and blood: an interview with Israeli Knesset member Dov Khenin, our emphasis)
It is this reality that Palestinian solidarity activists should keep
in mind. Zionism is losing ground amongst the future workers of Israel.
In the final analysis, this means the death of Israeli imperialism, and
the most urgent task is to build the unity needed to achieve it.
The Israeli Communist Party needs to back the call for a general
strike against the blockade, and call on Jewish workers to join it. The
masses in Gaza need the Israeli working class, and the workers across
the world, now more than ever.
It is time for the Israeli workers to break with their ruling class.
This bourgeoisie is exposing the Jewish workers to wars and asking them
to bleed for the fatherland. But whose fatherland is it really? Finance
Minister Yuval Steinitz answers this question best:
"The fact that the Israeli economy is controlled by 30 families does
not constitute corruption. But it does cause economic problems and
damages competition," Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said this weekend
during an interview with the Channel 2 television program "Friday
"We must find ways to reduce centralization without harming the
economy," Steinitz said. He noted that he objects to the high salaries
among Israeli executives, but also any attempts to rein in oversized
wages through legislation.
"Throughout the world, including the United States and Europe, there
is great opposition to unduly high salaries, but throughout the world
there is also opposition to passing laws against this practice,"
Steinitz said. "Even President Barack Obama backed down from plans to
impose legislation in the United States against high pay for
In Israel, the finance minister continued, there are people whose
salaries are so scandalous and unjustified they are essentially robbing
their companies’ shareholders – "but in business the rule is ‘don’t be
right, be smart.’" Steinitz did not provide any details of his, or his
ministry’s, plan to fight these exaggerated salaries or whether such a
plan even exists. (Finance Minister: Israel’s economy being controlled by 30 families is a problem, Haaretz, May 5, 2010
This is the government and the ruling class working Israelis are
being asked to uphold through the pact between the classes – Zionism.
A fatherland where 30 families control the entire economy. A
fatherland where 23.6% of the population is below the poverty line:
living on less than $7.30 a day. Zionism cannot put food on the table
for working class families. It is nothing but a mirage, a national myth
that there are common interests between Jewish worker and boss and the
enemy is in the Gaza strip and the West Bank. What shared interests can
there be between the top 30 capitalist families, who hold the lives and
futures of the millions of Israelis as well as the Palestinians in
their hands like playthings, and the Israeli working masses who will be
expected to pay for the effects of the global economic crisis?
Already in 2009, Israeli businessmen began to abandon their workers
and go into hiding, leaving them with months of unpaid wages and
nothing but a store to loot:
The two-day spree shocked and puzzled Israelis, who assume that the
rule of law prevails in their society. Yet this and other recent cases
of looting have coincided with news that the economy, flattened late
last year after half a decade of enviable growth, had slid into
The outbreaks are isolated and few, but labor activists and social commentators warn that many Israelis are becoming desperate.
"What we’re seeing are small stories about collapsing businesses and
layoffs that threaten their livelihoods," said Dafna Cohen, a
spokeswoman for the Histadrut, Israel’s trade union federation. "These
small stories are the beginning of a big fire." (In Israel, recession pressures boil over into looting, LA Times, March 19, 2009)
Class struggle is not abolished by Zionism, it has only been hidden
beneath the nationalism. But there are signs it is seething beneath the
surface. Another dip, or even a decision to break trade relations by
Turkey, where hundreds of Israeli companies operate, could bring these
divisions to the surface again. Then a big fire is exactly what we
In the meantime, Israeli imperialism continues to blunder, spending
the political capital amassed by Zionism over the past 62 years. This
is can’t go on forever.
What is to be done?
After decades, the struggle for national liberation of the
Palestinians, this goal has not been advanced one millimetre. This is a
hard thing to say, but it is the truth. It is essential that the most
advanced elements of the Palestinian youth should think seriously about
what is to be done. The recipes of the past have all failed to bring a
solution any nearer.
Neither the endless talks between the leaders, nor the endless
stream of meaningless UN Resolutions have brought any tangible result.
But the firing of rockets into Israel, the suicide bombings and the
deaths of many martyrs have proved equally futile. Even worse, they
have been counterproductive. They have served to push the Israeli
population even more firmly behind the reactionary Zionist regime.
World public opinion has been shocked at this latest act of
barbarism by Israeli forces. It has rekindled the instinctive sympathy
of the workers of the world for an oppressed people. This must serve as
the starting point for a worldwide movement. The Marxists will
participate energetically in the organizing of a mass struggle against
the occupation develops worldwide. But if the understandable
frustration of the Palestinians leads to the strengthening of terrorist
tendencies amongst the youth, it will undermine all that has been
There can never be any possibility of victory for the Palestinian
people unless a wedge is driven between the Zionist reactionaries and
the Israeli masses. Among a sizeable section of the Israeli workers and
youth there is war-weariness. They are tired of an endless and
senseless struggle that has destroyed many lives and never leads to a
solution. But they can see no way out of this vicious circle of
There must be many people among the Palestinians who are equally
discontented with the role of both the Fatah and Hamas leaderships, but
can see no alternative. In the rank and file of the PLO, and especially
in the ranks of the PFLP there must be militants who are seeking a
revolutionary socialist alternative to the old leaderships.
The road to solving the problems of the working masses of Israel
passes through the overthrow of the top 30 families, the
nationalization of their economic assets, and the organization of the
economy into a democratic plan administered by the working class as a
whole. It just so happens this elite also owns the corporations where
Israeli Arabs work. Here we find a real common enemy.
Not to mention the fact that walls, bombs, settlements, guns: all
are produced by enormous corporations owned by these same fat cat
The working masses, be they Palestinian, Israeli Arab or Israeli
Jew, cannot win any lasting improvement to their conditions without a
common movement for the overthrow of capitalism itself.
The fault line that goes through every capitalist society is present
in Israel as well, and the awakening of the Israeli workers and youth
would bring the foundations of Israeli imperialism crashing down. A
mass movement against Zionist capitalism, bringing together Israeli
Arabs and Jews, would be a powerful force. Upon winning power, the
Israeli working class would be the only force that could truly
immediately abolish the virtually genocidal conditions Palestinians
masses are subjected to, offering them a voluntary socialist federation
of both peoples.
A revolutionary movement in Israel would also have reverberations in
Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and across the region, where not one regime
is stable and all collude with imperialism while crying crododile tears
for the Palestinians.
A socialist federation of the Middle East would open a real golden
age for the masses of the region, freeing them from the bloody chains
of Islamism, Zionism and Imperialism. A revolution in life and culture
would ensue, focusing the world’s attention on the region not because
of the blood spilt by today’s ruling classes, but because of the
enormous achievements and the beacon of hope such a federation would
This is the only solution.