The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched “Operation Protective Edge” against the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on 8 July, placing the Palestinian population in Gaza under brutal military assault and occupation. Ostensibly designed to neutralize Hamas militants’ ability to fire rockets into Israel, the military campaign launched by the Zionist apartheid state quickly expanded into a ground-invasion force of tens of thousands of troops aiming to destroy Gaza’s network of underground tunnels. The result was mass civilian casualties on the Palestinian side, with the IDF ruthlessly targeting homes and schools.
Tel Aviv’s imperialist patron in Washington distanced itself from these war crimes by feigning concern for the Palestinian victims and asking Israel to tone things down, while liberals called for fact-finding investigations by the UN and the “international community.” Several ceasefires collapsed into renewed fighting until an Egyptian-brokered deal eventually brought this latest episode of Zionist military aggression to a conclusion after seven weeks. Gaza now lies in waste, and Israel’s racist rulers have asserted their right to renew hostilities at any point, while continuing non-military aggression by appropriating 400 hectares of Palestinian land on the West Bank
The situation today is desperate. Since withdrawing its occupation army in 2005, Israel has isolated and controlled Gaza with a crippling air, sea and land blockade designed to make daily life unbearable. Before this most recent assault, unemployment stood at 40 percent and more than 80 percent of Gaza’s 1.6 million people relied on international aid of some sort to merely survive. Almost 1 million Gazans are UN-registered refugees, the current slaughter displacing a fourth of Gaza’s population. Over 2,000 have been killed and 11,000 wounded, approximately 70 percent of them civilians.
While the bourgeois press poses the issue as one of “Israel’s right to defend itself” against Hamas “terrorists,” the reality is a crushing one-sided victory for the Zionists, the largely ineffective home-made rockets fired from within Gaza proving no match for the IDF’s “Iron Dome,” F-16 fighter jets and 175,000 active personnel. Yet the Zionist war machine is not invincible and ran into some effective resistance from Hamas fighters on the ground who managed to kill 64 Israeli soldiers, mainly in house-to-house fighting.
The Israeli rulers’ wanton brutality has provoked growing opposition to Zionist crimes around the world. Over the past few years one of the most prominent expressions of this sentiment is the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) campaign, which has managed to focus attention on Israeli apartheid, challenge the bogus claim that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East” and animate an important layer of solidarity activists. However, as we noted in “Strategies for Palestinian Liberation: On the ’Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions’ Campaign” (1917 No.33, 2011), this approach tends to “express and reinforce the debilitating illusion that the institutions of monopoly capitalism and global imperialism can be employed as tools of liberation for the oppressed.” The key to effective international solidarity is to pursue a strategy with the main axis focussed on labor action rather than consumer boycotts and appeals for imperialist sanctions:
“the logic of workers’ solidarity actions is in fact counterposed to a strategy premised on the illusion that opponents of Israeli apartheid can find allies in corporate boardrooms and among the Zionists’ imperialist patrons. The reason that the international workers’ movement is a potentially powerful ally of the Palestinians is that it can deal tangible blows to the oppressors by paralyzing the means of production, communication and transportation.”
On 16 August, at the Port of Oakland in the San Francisco Bay Area, the IBT participated in a five-day community picket initiated by pro-Palestinian and labor militants that successfully prevented the unloading of the Israeli container ship Zim Piraeus – the longest ever blockade of an Israeli vessel (see the video “Picketlines Past and Present: Israel to South Africa” featuring IBT supporter Howard Keylor). Although carried out by external activists rather than members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), the action would not have been successful without the support of port workers who for several days refused to cross the community picket lines.
Defense of Gaza against the Zionist oppressors is an issue of vital importance to the entire international workers’ movement and can become a focus for militant labor action by class-conscious union militants. The Palestinians have every right to self-defense – in any military confrontation between Palestinian forces and the IDF, workers and the oppressed unconditionally side with the Palestinians and should be prepared to take action to defeat the imperialist-backed Zionist war machine. But a class-struggle approach needs to go beyond simple solidarity. The Marxist framework for solving the seemingly intractable problems in present-day Israel-Palestine is: not Jew against Arab, but class against class!
“The Zionist behemoth can only be destroyed through proletarian revolution from the inside. This requires the construction of a bi-national Leninist-Trotskyist party in Israel-Palestine, intransigently committed to the defense of Palestinian national rights. A revolutionary workers’ party would side militarily with any Palestinian resistance to Zionist repression, while opposing indiscriminate attacks on Jewish civilians and making no political concessions to bourgeois-nationalist, Islamist or other petty-bourgeois misleaders.
“It is a profound mistake to view the Jewish working class as one large undifferentiated reactionary mass. There has always been a layer of Jewish Israelis who have had the courage to oppose the crimes of their rulers. While mercilessly combating all variants of Zionism as inherently reactionary and anti-working class, Marxists must seek to develop connections with the more advanced elements of the Jewish proletariat and find ways to intervene in their conflicts with the Zionist master class.
“The struggle to build a vanguard party rooted in both communities that is committed to the creation of a bi-national workers’ state within a Socialist Federation of the Middle East will be an extremely difficult one. But there is no other historically progressive solution to the poisonous morass that imperialism and Zionism have created. Only a perspective of joint class struggle by Jewish and Palestinian workers against Zionist tyranny can lay the basis for the equitable resolution of the deep-seated national antagonisms and open the road to social emancipation for all the exploited and oppressed peoples of the region.”
(“Israeli Apartheid & Palestinian Oppression,” 1917, No. 33, 2011)