Two years after
the Israeli ‘Defence’ Forces indiscriminately slaughtered over a
thousand Lebanese civilians in the quaintly-titled Operation Just
Reward, Israel has turned its attention to Gaza, in the form of
Operation Cast Lead. Stripped of its innocuous-sounding name, this
operation becomes a lot less palatable: according to Palestinian medical
sources, nearly 300 Palestinians have been killed, including numerous
women and children. Israel’s targets have included police stations
(which are unsurprisingly situated in densely-populated areas), the
headquarters of a Hamas-owned satellite television channel, and the
Islamic University, Gaza’s only higher education institution.
witnesses, hospitals are overwhelmed with the injured and the bodies
of the dead are piling up in the morgues. BBC correspondent and Gaza
resident Hamada Abu Qammar describes a typical grisly scene:
one woman who was screaming ‘my son, my son’ as she searched the
they located him, a young man was in his twenties. The staff would not
let her see the body, but I saw it. It didn’t have a head and there
was no stomach. She fainted on top of the remains of her son, which
were covered with a white sheet.”
‘ceasefire’ and the complicity of the Arab world
have come as a six-month ceasefire between Israel and Hamas elapsed.
However, even when this ceasefire was in place, this did not mean the
people of Gaza were free of problems. Israel has instigated a crippling
blockade of Gaza that has starved its people of food, fuel and even
medical supplies. As John Ging, head of operations of the United Nations
agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), said in an interview with
The Electronic Intifada in November, “there was five months of
a ceasefire in the last couple of months, where the people of Gaza did
not benefit; they did not have any restoration of a dignified existence.
We in fact at the UN, our supplies were also restricted during the period
of the ceasefire, to the point where we were left in a very vulnerable
and precarious position and with a few days of closure we ran out of
Israel alone be held responsible. Whilst Israel was instigating these
brutal attacks, Egypt was playing host to Israeli foreign minister Tzipi
Livni. According to the BBC, “[a]s jets pounded the southern Gaza
Strip, hundreds of Palestinians stormed over a fence on the Gaza-Egypt
border, but Egyptian security forces fired shots to prevent them entering.”.
In fact, Egypt has consistently participated in the blockade of Gaza,
time and again doing Israel’s dirty work, caging Palestinians like
animals and denying them essential supplies. Arab states called for
an ‘emergency’ session of the Arab League, but Egypt opposed this
and Saudi Arabia expressed ‘reservations’.
Why has Egypt
done this? Well, firstly, as the world’s second largest recipient
of US military aid (no prizes for guessing the first largest), Egypt
is a ‘key regional ally’ (i.e. pawn) of the United States, and as
such, will carry out US policy. Writing in Haaretz, the liberal Israeli
newspaper, Zvi Barel argues that “Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which view
Hamas as an Iranian ally whose goal is to increase Tehran’s regional
influence at their expense, prefer to wait a bit in the hopes that Israel’s
military operation will strip Hamas of its ability to dictate terms.”
In other words, the Egyptian and Saudi regimes (and their US puppet-masters)
are hoping Israel succeeds in destroying the Hamas government and replacing
it with something more pliant. They are prepared to see Gaza’s streets
drenched with Palestinian blood to make this happen.
The masses rally
the pusillanimous collaboration by the Arab states has not been matched
by its people. In Egypt and Lebanon, rallies of tens of thousands have
taken place in support of the Palestinians. Large rallies have also
taken place in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Jordan. Revulsion at the complicity
of the Arab states was evident: left-wing Lebanese television station
Aljadeed (New TV) showed demonstrators outside the Egyptian embassy,
some waving red flags and one sporting a Ché Guevara t-shirt.
Even in Israel
itself, where the population is subjected to a relentless propaganda
machine in support of the state, a rally of over a thousand people assembled
spontaneously in Tel-Aviv, attended by organisations from “Gush
shalom and the Women’s Coalition for Peace to the Anarchists
Against the Wall and Hadash [with whom the Israeli Communist
Party are involved]”.
also took place in London outside the Israeli embassy. According to
police reports, 700 people attended the stormy demonstration, blockading
the road outside the embassy and bringing traffic to a standstill. Clashes
between protesters and the police broke out when a group of protesters
tried to storm the barrier that was penning them in.
The futility of
terrorism and the bankruptcy of the fundamentalists
So what is
Hamas, the supposed leader of Palestinian resistance to Israel, doing
to defend the Palestinians? Unfortunately, their ‘resistance’ strategy
is based on futile terrorist attacks on Israeli civilian targets. Since
taking control of Gaza, the Islamic movement has fired hundreds of homemade
rockets at the Israeli border town of Sderot. Whilst these attacks have
rarely been deadly (less than 20 Israelis have been killed in such attacks
since Israel removed its settlers from Gaza), they have made life miserable
for the inhabitants of this poor, working-class town.
do nothing to militarily damage the regional superpower; they do however
serve to harden Israeli public opinion, particularly amongst the poor
workers of Sderot, who should be the Palestinians’ natural allies.
Such attacks help to create a fortress mentality within Israel, encouraging
its workers and poor (themselves heavily exploited by Israeli capitalism)
to support ‘their’ state in its attacks against ‘the enemy’.
The Israeli military can then take advantage of favourable Israeli public
opinion to launch an attack. Its aim is to destroy or severely weaken
Hamas, and see it replaced by something more pliant.
For its part,
Hamas is primarily interested in gaining power over its own stretch
of territory. The terrorist attacks on Israel are aimed at strengthening
its position at the negotiating table; Hamas has already shown its willingness
to accede to Israel’s demands (even going so far as to aid the Egyptian
security forces in preventing Palestinians from entering Egypt via Gaza),
but its support base forces it to drive a harder bargain than Fatah.
This is a problem for Israel, whose dominant economic and political
position will be threatened if it concedes too much.
Is there an alternative?
If Hamas were
serious about organising a resistance against Israel’s occupation,
it would base its strategy not on futile acts of terrorism by small
bands of ‘heroes’, but on arming the Palestinian masses. It would
organise regional defence committees in every city, town and village,
democratically controlled by the workers, peasants and refugees, and
composed of every able-bodied man and woman. Such a force would have
a genuine mass base, and, conducting a campaign of guerrilla street-fighting,
would be a formidable foe for the Israeli occupation forces. But such
a force would threaten the power of Hamas (and of the powerful, semi-feudal
clans that dominate Palestinian politics). One of Hamas’ first actions
upon taking control of Gaza was to raid the offices of the Palestinian
Trade Union Federation, in an attempt to stifle any independent organisation
of Palestinian workers.
For its part,
the Israeli labour movement has a moral duty to oppose Israel’s barbarous
actions. The Histadrut (Israeli Trade Union Federation) should refuse
to cooperate with the ‘war effort’, calling strikes amongst workers
involved in the handling of military supplies, and, if necessary, an
anti-war general strike. The workers and poor of Israel are the natural
allies of the Palestinian masses of Gaza and elsewhere. This war will
not benefit them – it will mean more curtailing of civil liberties
by the state (Israeli police already have unprecedented powers to search
people’s homes without even informing them), more cuts in public spending,
and more threats of terrorism as Hamas or Hezbollah retaliate.
we are under no illusions that the Israeli labour movement is about
to take such actions – even more than in Britain, Israeli trade union
leaders are very much integrated into the state machine. But some rank-and-file
members, Israeli workers, will start to ask awkward questions at union
meetings, demanding that their leaders take action.
- An immediate cessation
of hostilities by the Israeli military against the population of Gaza
- An immediate lifting
of the crippling economic blockade, to allow free movement of goods
and people in and out of Gaza
- An end to the futile
terrorist attacks on the civilian population of Sderot; the leadership
of the resistance must arm the Palestinian masses and organise regional
defence committees in every city, town and village
- Support for the
suffering masses of Gaza by the Israeli labour movement – no cooperation
with the Israeli war machine
- For a Socialist Federation of the Middle East