Once again the Israeli military machine has carried out another
extra-judicial execution. This time, the IAF blew up Hamas military
leader Ahmed Jabari in a helicopter attack, along with a number of
civilians whose only “crime” was that of living in “the world’s largest
open-air prison”. Why is this happening now?
Once again the Israeli military
machine has carried out another extra-judicial execution. This time, the
IAF blew up Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari in a helicopter attack,
along with a number of civilians whose only “crime” was that of living
in “the world’s largest open-air prison”[i]. Why is this happening now?
responded with rocket attacks on the poor working-class Israeli towns
that border the Gaza strip, killing three in Kiryat Malachi[ii].
Israel’s bloody attacks, along with subsequent military actions, have
killed scores of Palestinians so far; this has naturally sparked fear
and rage amongst Gaza’s embattled population, who fear a repeat of the
murderous Operation Cast Lead in 2006 in which over 1300 Palestinians
The usual pro-Israel mouthpieces in the US defended the attacks in the
name of “fighting terrorism” and “defending Israel citizens”[iv].
On the flip-side, many poor and working-class Israelis living in the
relatively-unprotected towns in southern Israel fear the consequence of
another escalation; some of them must be wondering what Israel’s latest
assassination can possibly achieve towards securing their safety, given
the cycle of attacks and retaliations stretches back to Israel’s
foundation in 1948.
Suffering in Gaza
The situation for the Palestinians of Gaza is utterly desperate.
Despite Israel’s unilateral “withdrawal” in 2005, the Israeli military
maintains complete control over the borders, airspace and coastline[v]. As we explained in a previous article:
“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 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.”[vi]
Meanwhile, Gaza’s rulers Hamas have imposed a near-totalitarian
regime on the territory, whilst failing to address the dire situation
for Gaza’s residents, particularly those living in the refugee camps.
Protests have been completely banned – for example, a demonstration of
around 500 demanding the overthrow of Hamas, after a three-year-old boy
perished in a fire in one of the camps, was broken up by Hamas police[vii].
Trade-unionists have also been repeatedly harassed, both by Hamas and
Israeli forces. As the following statement from the British TUC
“When Hamas took control of Gaza in June, the headquarters of the
Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) was seized by
Hamas gunmen and the staff were told to attend a meeting to discuss how
unions should operate under Hamas rule – they refused. Since the start
of the year, PGFTU Deputy General Secretary Rasem Al Bayari has suffered
a rocket attack on his home (30 January) and the bombing of his office
(2 February), all emanating from Hamas. The TUC has protested to former
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, insisting that PGFTU property be
returned to its control, and that the trade union movement be allowed to
go about its business free from harassment and violence.
“Last week, on Wednesday 4 July, an Israeli army unit broke into the
PGFTU branch office in Ramallah at 2am. They destroyed the main door,
the entrance to the headquarters where they broke the internal doors to
the offices, as well as filing cabinets and computers, searching for an
excuse to justify the raid. The Ramallah office was the venue for the
bilateral between the PGFTU and a TUC delegation in January this year.”[viii]
The kidnapping of BBC journalist Alan Johnston in 2007, and his
subsequent release, shone a light on the nature of Hamas’ rule in Gaza.
Hamas negotiated with, bribed and fought rival gangs, securing the
unfortunate man’s release as a means of stamping their authority on
Protecting Israeli citizens?
The Israeli regime and its apologists justify this brutality by
claiming they are defending their citizens against an enemy which seeks
to annihilate them, and with whom peace is impossible. Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu has made a political career out of peddling this line
(along with carrying out ruthless attack on Israel’s workers and poor
in the form of cuts and privatisations[x]).
In order to evaluate this claim, it is worth examining the facts in a
little more detail. Israel’s policy towards Hamas and other Palestinian
groups closely mirrors the approach taken by British and US imperialism
in their respective domains; that is, Israel buys off Palestinian
leaders and groups, and uses them to police the occupied territories and
Up until the late 1980s, Hamas was a largely-insignificant Islamic
group; Israel’s main opposition was the PLO, an umbrella organisation
whose constituent groups ranged from Stalinists to right-wing
nationalists (the largest of which, Fatah, leads the Palestinian
Authority today). Israel began to covertly channel funds into Hamas, who
they hoped would act as a “counterweight” to the PLO and the growing
militancy of Palestinian youth[xi]. How and why this was done is explained by the Wall Street Journal in a 2009 article, How Israel Helped to Spawn Hamas. Like
the Taliban, however, Hamas eventually turned on its original
benefactors, as it aligned itself with other reactionary forces in the
region such as Syria, Iran and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.
Like the Taliban, Hamas have no fundamental conflict with
imperialism. They represent not the revolutionary workers and youth, but
the semi-feudal landlords, pre-feudal warlords and corrupt clergy. This
is the pattern of combined and uneven development common to many
undeveloped countries, where a modern bourgeoisie never took power. Just
as the Taliban collaborate with British and US imperialism in
there is a high degree of cooperation between Hamas’ military wing and
the Israeli army. Haaretz columnist Aluf Benn explains the relationship
between Israel and Ahmed Jabari:
"Ahmed Jabari was a subcontractor, in charge of maintaining Israel’s
security in Gaza. This title will no doubt sound absurd to anyone who in
the past several hours has heard Jabari described as "an
arch-terrorist," "the terror chief of staff" or "our Bin Laden."
"But that was the reality for the past five and a half years. Israel
demanded of Hamas that it observe the truce in the south and enforce it
on the multiplicity of armed organizations in the Gaza Strip. The man
responsible for carrying out this policy was Ahmed Jabari.
"In return for enforcing the quiet, which was never perfect, Israel
funded the Hamas regime through the flow of shekels in armoured trucks
to banks in Gaza, and continued to supply infrastructure and medical
services to the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip. Jabari was also Israel’s
partner in the negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit; it was he
who ensured the captive soldier’s welfare and safety, and it was he who
saw to Shalit’s return home last fall."[xiii]
So, why did Israel kill the man they worked so closely with? Benn continues:
"Now Israel is saying that its subcontractor did not do his part and
did not maintain the promised quiet on the southern border. The repeated
complaint against him was that Hamas did not succeed in controlling the
other organizations, even though it is not interested in escalation.
After Jabari was warned openly (Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff reported
here at the beginning of this week that the assassination of top Hamas
people would be renewed), he was executed on Wednesday in a public
assassination action, for which Israel hastened to take responsibility.
The message was simple and clear: You failed – you’re dead."
Not the actions, then, of a state protecting its citizens from a
ruthless enemy; rather, an occupier disposing of a local quisling for
whom they no longer had a use.
Israeli elections and the crisis of the regime
Netanyahu would have us believe that the timing of this escalation
(with elections to the Knesset, or Israeli parliament, scheduled for
January next year) is purely coincidental. Given Israel’s history of
engaging in armed conflict shortly before elections, we find this
difficult to swallow. We return to Aluf Benn’s analysis:
"The assassination of Jabari will go down in history as another showy
military action initiated by an outgoing government on the eve of an
"This is what researcher Prof. Yagil Levy has called ‘fanning the
conflict as an intra-state control strategy’. The external conflict
helps a government strengthen its standing domestically because the
public unites behind the army, and social and economic problems are
edged off the national agenda.
"This recipe is familiar from 1955, when David Ben-Gurion returned
from his exile in Sde Boker and led the Israel Defence Forces to a
retaliatory action in Gaza, and his party, Mapai, to victory in the
election. (Barak recalled this period with nostalgia, when he spoke last
week at a memorial for Moshe Dayan). Ever since, whenever the ruling
party feels threatened at the ballot box, it puts its finger on the
trigger. The examples are common knowledge: the launch of the Shavit 2
missile in the summer of 1961, in the midst of the Lavon affair; the
bombing of the Iraqi reactor in 1981; Operation Grapes of Wrath in
Lebanon in 1996, and Operation Cast Lead in Gaza on the eve of the 2009
election. In the two latter cases, the military action turned into a
defeat in the election."
Two things stand out here. Firstly, Prof. Levy’s observation that
wars are used to edge social and economic problems off the national
agenda is particularly prescient, given the enormous wave of
demonstrations that rocked Israel last year. Hundreds of thousands of
Jews and Arabs massed in the streets, demanding affordable housing and
an end to cuts and price hikes[xiv]. Some were beginning to understand the link between the occupation of Palestine and the dire social conditions in Israel. As Socialist Appeal
explained at the time, the crisis of world capitalism has hit Israel
especially hard, and the radicalisation of workers and youth is
expressing itself here too. Shorn of all legitimacy and deeply
unpopular, Netanyahu’s regime falls back on military adventures in a
desperate attempt to hold his government together and stay in office.
Secondly, Benn notes that, "In the two latter cases, the military
action turned into a defeat in the election." In other words, this
tactic has its limits – a regime can only defy gravity for so long. The
unfolding struggle will eventually sweep aside the jingoism of the past
and create the conditions for unity between workers and youth in a
common struggle against imperialism and its local agents, whether Jewish
Against imperialism and nationalism – for a socialist Middle East!
The Islamic fundamentalists and the Israeli state may seem implacable
enemies, but looks can be deceiving. We quote at length an article we
produced about a similar escalation that took place shortly after the
social protests in Israel last year; the relevance of the analysis shows
how the fundamental questions remain the same:
"This recent escalation is like manna from heaven for the Israeli
ruling class, keen to cut across the radical feeling in Israel and once
more fool Israel’s poor into uniting with its millionaires in the face
of the ‘external threat’. Marxists are not conspiracy theorists, and we
do not suggest that Israel somehow staged these terrorist acts to create
an excuse for military action; instead, we understand that the
interests of Hamas and the fundamentalists mirror those of the Israeli
"Hamas and the Israeli state have one thing in common: they are
opposed to any movement that unites workers and youth across the ethnic
divide. The reason is very clear: a united movement of the workers and
poor would be a threat to both the Zionist ruling class in Israel and
the corrupt leaders of the Palestinians…
"The corrupt rule of Hamas has nothing to offer the people of Gaza,
except poverty and violence. It can only retain a semblance of loyalty
and respect in the eyes of the Palestinians by posing as the ‘liberation
army’ standing up to the occupier, fighting for freedom. Without the
occupation of Palestine and oppression by the Israeli state, Hamas would
"The same of course applies to the Israeli ruling class. As we have
explained previously, the serious crisis of Israeli capitalism has left
government, politicians and “tycoons” alike loathed by the masses. The
seemingly implacable enemies, the Israeli State and the Fundamentalists,
have the same interest – maintaining the divisions between Jewish and
Arab workers and poor. The fact that many Israeli Arabs were beginning
to participate in the movement in Israel, with obvious repercussions
amongst the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, made an escalation
of violence and division a temporary way out for both the Israeli ruling
class and Hamas."[xv]
As Marx explained long ago, there exists only one force on Earth that
can defeat imperialism, capitalism and gangsterism – the organised
working class. The magnificent wave of struggle sweeping the region, now
encompassing neighbouring Jordan, has the potential to link Arab and
Jewish workers in a united struggle against their reactionary
For this to happen, organised labour must take the leading role. The
entrance on the scene of the Histadrut trade union federation in Israel
would, for instance, be a major blow to the forces of reaction inside
and outside Israel. But for this to happen the Histadrut itself would
have to be transformed into a genuine fighting workers’ organisation.
The conditions for such a transformation would be created by a rising
wave of class struggle inside Israel itself. We had a glimpse of what
is possible last year when mass protests shook Israeli society [see for
example Israeli workers and youth join the revolutionary wave , August 1, 2011].
In fact, the underlying social and class tensions within Israeli
society are a major factor in pushing the Israeli ruling class into
whipping up anti-Palestinian feelings among the Israeli population.
Cynically, Netanyahu sees the inevitable escalation of violence, with
rockets launched in retaliation from the Gaza Strip falling on Israeli
working class neighbourhoods, as a useful tool in his political armoury.
He is hoping in this way to steer the country further to the right as
he prepares for the early elections he has called for the first months
of next year.
Given the lack of an alternative, Netanyahu seems to be doing well in
recent opinion polls. However, it is also true that Israel’s economy is
expected to slow down further in the coming year and that is why
Netanyahu wants to get the elections out of the way now and not go to
the polls in the midst of an economic slowdown in which he would
probably lose much support. Already, small anti-war demos have broken
out in Tel Aviv[xvi]. If the violence drags on, these will only get bigger.
In these conditions the collapse of the Israeli Labour Party and
general lack of political opposition has opened the door for the Israeli
Communist Party, which, despite its Stalinist past, has been growing in
the recent period; for example, it won over a third of the vote in the
Tel Aviv municipal elections in 2006[xvii].
However, despite their principled stand on issues from the housing
crisis to the occupation, the leadership of this party restrict
themselves to criticism of the current system, without offering a clear
programme for an alternative. In these conditions, the need for a
revolutionary Marxist tendency in Israel and Palestine which can offer
such an alternative has never been greater.
- Oppose Israeli aggression! The Israeli labour movement must demand and fight for an immediate ceasefire!
- nd the starvation blockade of Gaza! For a full withdrawal of Israeli forces and settlers from occupied Palestinian land!
- No to attacks on working-class Israeli towns! For the unity of Arab
and Jewish workers across the Middle East against imperialism and
- For a workers’ Israel/Palestine as part of a socialist federation of the Middle East!
[i]. Israeli air strike kills Hamas military chief Jabari, BBC
[ii]. Three Israelis killed by Gaza rocket as violence escalates, BBC
[iii]. Operation Cast Lead, globalsecurity.org
[iv]. ADL Expresses Support For Targeted Military Action In Gaza , adl.org
[v]. Disengagement Plan of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon – Revised, Knesset
[vi]. Flotilla massacre exposes criminal blockade of Gaza, marxist.com
[vii]. Boy’s death ignites rare anti-Hamas protests in Gaza, Reuters
[viii]. TUC condemns attacks on Palestinian trade unions, TUC
[ix]. Alan Johnston: My kidnap ordeal, BBC
[x]. How Netanyahu Went from Idealism to Pragmatism on Economic Policy/, Wharton
[xi]. Analysis: Hamas history tied to Israel, upi.com, and How Israel Helped to Spawn Hamas, Wall Street Journal.
[xii]. Taliban ‘prepared to work with US on security in Afghanistan’, Telegraph
[xiii]. Israel killed its subcontractor in Gaza, Haaretz
[xiv]. Arab revolution reaches Israel – next step, a general strike!, marxist.com
[xv]. Israel: Capitalists and fundamentalists won’t succeed in derailing revolutionary movement, marxist.com
[xvi]. Solidarity protests for Gaza at Israeli universities, Bikyamasr.com
[xvii]. Israel: Tel Aviv municipal elections – a Pyrrhic victory for the Right, marxist.com