In a surprise attack last week, Israel’s air force
infiltrated the Gaza Strip and started blasting away. On Saturday, the air
force was accompanied by blasting from the navy and infiltration of tanks and
foot soldiers into the Strip causing death and destruction in horrifying
dimensions. Up to this time, the death toll for Palestinians stands at 526
people, with 2500 injured. Israeli officials, in particular Defense Minister
Ehud Barak, keep reminding us that "this is just the beginning".
Israeli media is overjoyed in stressing the claim that the "majority"
of the victims are Hamas soldiers. We do not exactly know how they define a
"Hamas soldier", but the fact that 107 of the murdered victims were
children, makes it very hard for us to believe such claims. This attack is
overwhelming in nature. It has been reported that since the 1967 war Israel had
never used such a massive air attack.
This attack was preceded by a series of deceptive
manoeuvres on the part of Israel in order to keep Hamas off guard. Israel kept
up the pretence of negotiations on the ceasefire and even allowed goods to
enter the Strip. This deception should not come as a surprise to anyone who
knows Ehud Barak’s tactical mind. Just a short while ago, Barak used the same deceptive
tactics in order to lull some entrenched Rightist Jewish settlers in Hebron
before evacuating them by force.
A statesman in such a high position does not normally
use such tactics unless he is desperate. And Barak’s desperation is what lies
behind such an unprecedented attack. Barak apparently saved the attack for a
special moment in which he could improve his position in the polls for the
upcoming national elections. These polls consistently show that the party under
his leadership will receive its lowest number of votes to date.
For a long time Barak postponed the attack so it would
not seem that he was working under the pressure of his opponents. He wanted the
credit all for himself. Now, the Israeli masses, worked up by the media, got
what the media told them they wanted: revenge. Barak plans to surf on a wave of
Palestinian blood into a position of larger number of seats in parliament.
In many ways, this attack has similarities with the
Lebanese fiasco in 2006. It also is a staggering failure for Israel from the
very moment it was concocted in the twisted minds of Barak and the army
generals. Just as in Lebanon, also here the army has failed to stop the rocket
launching into Israel. Hamas launched hundreds of them uninterruptedly, killing
3 Israelis in one day and wounding several others. It would also not be
surprising if it comes out that the army wanted this result in order to incite
Israelis against the Palestinians and to maintain support for the current
operation. Just as in Lebanon, also here the operation has no concrete purpose.
It is obvious that it cannot destroy Hamas, which will surely rearm itself
within a few months of the operation ending. So it all seems just like an
unleashing of random violence by the army for no obvious reason other than
crude revenge. The difference between the current operation and the Lebanese
one is that now the media is full of praises for the Defense Minister and the
army on the exact level of performance that was shown in Lebanon.
Collaborating democracy with
How do we explain a situation where the Israeli masses
have been whipped up into such a state of mind of a vengeful and shortsighted
focus of their political worldview on "getting back" at the
Palestinians? What should not be underestimated here is the psychological
warfare the Israeli ruling elite has been waging against the Israeli masses.
The media, the military and the politicians have been collaborating to create
the impression that the rocket launching from the Gaza Strip has made the
surrounding Israeli settlements look like a war zone. In actual fact, since
2004 to just before the recent operation began, the number of Israelis killed
by such rockets is less than 15. To put things in perspective, the number of
Israeli workers that died because of accidents in their workplaces during this
period, was over 10 times that number. This number also resembles the number of
Israelis that die in traffic accidents in less than two weeks. So if Barak is
really so eager to protect Israeli lives through military means, he should be
mobilising the air force against the Israeli bourgeoisie and the state
bureaucrats responsible for transport safety rather than against the
The military is making the lives of the Israelis in
the settlements around Gaza as fearful as it can be. It is inducing a feeling
of panic among the public using every means including loud sirens, arbitrary
"defence" measures such as ducking and hiding, and forcing people
into bomb shelters, all in response to rockets that pose a minimal security
threat. All this horror show is designed with one aim in mind: to make ordinary
Israelis support the continuity of Israel’s control over Gaza, and thus to
pressure or to help democratically elected politicians to fall in line with
In the current economic crisis, control over Gaza is
crucial to Israeli imperialism more than ever since the first Palestinian
uprising in 1987. First of all, it satisfies the military’s hunger for state
spending on arms. The military, and the politicians under its influence, have
proven themselves eager to do battle in any period in which their fiscal
prerogatives are at jeopardy.
The most crucial thing for Israeli imperialism,
however, is to maintain stability for the "moderate" PLO in the West
Bank which provide Israel with numerous resources in terms of one of the
cheapest workforces in the world, a captive market that is dependent on
absorbing Israel’s surpluses, and land and water resources that Israel
desperately needs. It requires the "pacifying" of Gaza in order to make sure
that the terrorism it hosts will not slide over into the West Bank and
undermine the PLO regime.
This is not to say that Gaza is meaningless to Israel
in its own right. Despite its massive levels of poverty, the fact that the Gaza
masses depend on goods coming through Israel gives the Israeli capitalists an
advantage in terms of a captive market as well, that is, as a long-term
perspective. This may also explain why the Israeli army has made much more of
an effort to destroy the tunnels that smuggle goods from Egypt than it has to
destroy the rocket launchers which were the formal reason for the operation in
the first place!
What does Hamas want?
Unlike common-sense economic reductionism held by many
on the Left, terrorist groups don’t simply grow out of poverty. Just as the
PLO, Hamas emerged from within the Palestinian petty bourgeoisie. They use the
masses and their plight mostly as a tool to achieve their class interests which
in this context usually include more lucrative jobs and positions. After Israel
co-opted the PLO into collaboration with it in exchange for jobs created
especially for the PLO members (the jobs created under the cloak of the
"Palestinian Authority"), Hamas wanted its peace of the pie as well.
It started to gather support from many frustrated
Palestinians in the face of the PLO’s betrayal using, among other things,
vengeful acts of terrorism against Israelis. In parallel, it used similar
tactics of terrorism in order to lure Israel into negotiating with it, carrying
the risk of Israel’s military, rather than diplomatic, retaliation.
Just like Israel’s ruling class, Hamas also benefits
from the occupation. It uses it in order to gather support by the same populist
means of violent rhetoric and actions used by the Israeli politicians. It also
enjoys political and economic benefits via its control over smuggling
commodities into the Strip: just like Israel, it to can benefit from the
captive market in Gaza.
In such a situation it is puzzling why, some among the
international Left are tempted to take a supportive stance towards Hamas. They
usually state that despite Hamas’ reactionary ideology, it should be supported
because of its "progressive fight against Israeli imperialism". The
folly of such an idea becomes obvious if we look at Hamas from materialistic
lines and ask ourselves what would happen if Hamas were to win this conflict?
Will it weaken Israeli imperialism as the idealistic Leftists assume? A victory
for Hamas could only mean that Israel would be forced to negotiate with it and
give it similar political concessions as it gave to the PLO. The imperial
relation of Israel towards the Palestinians may take a different form, but it
will remain intact. Because under capitalism Palestine cannot be completely cut
off from Israel, and will always be dependent on it, a national liberation
movement that limits itself to struggling within the confines of capitalism
cannot go in any other direction.
Furthermore, bourgeois or petit bourgeois national
liberation leaders have usually tended to push the proletariat in the oppressed
nation into accepting their leadership because they became aware of the
potential power of the workers. Such was the alliance between the South African
workers and the ANC leaders who brought down the apartheid regime. But Here,
Hamas has made very little effort to create an alliance with the Palestinian
workers. Until now it has mostly just harassed their trade unions. Hamas thus
have only the power of terrorism and collisions with the Israeli army to get
concessions from Israel. Relying on this broken reed, its
"anti-imperialist" credentials appear as somewhat exaggerated.
Is there a way out?
We are entering yet another cycle of violence between
Israel’s ruling class and Hamas. Such cycles began with Israel’s opening up to
the PLO in 1994. Each cycle brings Israel to a more violent response. However,
the army has no intention of remaining entangled in the Strip for too long.
This operation may last a bit longer and be much more violent than its
predecessors because Barak’s election campaign has to be taken into
consideration. Although it is also true that once it ends, the operation always
leaves behind the preconditions for the next operation.
The Zionist chauvinism that characterized the first
days of the operation is gradually being replaced by fear of yet another
debacle such as in Lebanon. Journalists are constantly asking political and
military leaders for the actual goals which this operation intends to achieve.
The answers are always vague and illusive, such as "to radically change
the array of deterrence". In that background, the announcement of Barak on
Saturday was especially alarming. He said that the operation would take a long
time and would have numerous victims. With no one knowing what this operation
is for, this holds a puzzling future for the stability of the political system
in Israel: after the chauvinism fades away, the death toll will keep increasing
and many questions will be raised by the masses.
To the dismay of the Israeli ruling class, thousands
of Jews and Palestinians came this Saturday to Tel Aviv for a mass
demonstration against the war (see video below). This is unprecedented. In the Lebanese war it
took two months of bloody entanglement for so many protestors to show up. The
protestors were constantly harassed by Zionist counter-protests which show just
how frightened they are of the emerging protest movement in Israel. Small as it
is now, the Zionists are instinctively aware of the fact that it holds the only
real key to their downfall.
As this website has repeated many times over, there
cannot be a solution within the confines of bourgeois politics to this or any
other major political conflict in the world. However, for the moment Israel and
Palestine are deprived of any other form of politics. As long as this situation
persists, these cycles of violence will continue. We can be sure, though, that
from the impossibility of a solution to the situation under capitalism, new
political forces are bound to emerge on both sides. The nature of these new
forces is impossible to predict at this stage. But if they do not base
themselves on the revolutionary collaboration of Israeli and Palestinian
workers and poor against their mutual oppressors, no progressive change can be
forthcoming from within the Israeli-Palestinian borders.