Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza is reaching a pivotal stage. The horrifying images of butchered civilians have provoked a wave of revulsion across the world. Thousands have taken to the streets in capitals throughout the Middle East, demanding action in support of Gaza, while hundreds of thousands of people in the West have protested the complicity of their governments in Israel’s crimes.
The IMT wholeheartedly supports this movement and stands in complete solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people for national liberation and freedom from imperialist oppression. But the question immediately arises, how is Palestinian freedom to be achieved? And this question requires a clear answer.
Many left-wing parties and workers’ organisations have called for an immediate ceasefire and a peace plan, holding out the prospect of an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
The World Federation of Trade Unions, for example, has demanded an end to “Israeli occupation and settlement in the occupied Arab territories, as provided for in the UN resolutions”, and the establishment of “an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and guarantee the right of return of Palestinian refugees”.
Communist Parties around the world have released similar statements, with the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) calling for “the implementation of a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders establishing an independent Palestinian state.”
But aside from the sentiment of support, what does this really offer the Palestinian masses?
The first duty of any communist is to tell the truth, and the most elementary truth in the whole situation is that nothing could be of less assistance to the people of Palestine than the impotent resolutions of the UN and the intrigues of the ‘international community’.
To begin with, the pre-1967 borders were established by the ethnic cleansing of 700,000 Palestinians between 1947 and 1949, known as the Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic), which was carried out by Zionist militias with the backing of US imperialism.
By the end of 1949 Israel had seized 78 percent of Palestine. What was the response of the ‘international community’? It recognised this bloody fait accompli as the ‘Green Line’, the very border that the CPB and others would now like to return to.
Israel breached the Green Line in 1967 when it overran the whole of Palestine during the Six Day War. The UN’s response was to pass Resolution 242, which remains unenforced to this day. Therefore we must ask, if the UN has been completely unable (and unwilling) to enforce its own limp resolutions since 1947, then who will?
A rotten peace
What is always lacking from calls for a ‘two-state’ solution is any proposal for how this is to be achieved. When organisations call for a peace deal, it is necessary to ask, what deal, negotiated by whom and enforced by whom?
Palestine has some experience of peace deals. In fact, the present crisis is the product of the complete failure of the ‘two-state’ solution, as laid down in the Oslo Accords of 1993 and 1995.
Under the terms of this deal, negotiated behind the backs of the Palestinian people, Israel agreed to partially withdraw from the occupied territories and a Palestinian semi-state, called the Palestinian Authority (PA), was established. The problem, however, was that 60 percent of the West Bank would remain entirely under Israeli control.
In return, Yasser Arafat and the PLO agreed to recognise the state of Israel and abandon its demand for the right of Palestinians displaced during the Nakba to return to their homes. Instead, the Palestinian leadership agreed to work towards the restoration of the pre-1967 borders, as recognised in the UN’s Resolution 242 – precisely the terms demanded by the official Communist Parties today.
Further, the parties agreed “to lay the groundwork for strengthening the economic base of the Palestinian side”. But this was to be achieved by incorporating Palestine into a customs union with Israel. Palestine would also use the same currency, the Israeli Shekel.
Finally, a Palestinian police force was established, but the Israeli state retained “all the powers” to safeguard “internal security and order”. Israel also retained exclusive control of Palestine’s borders and airspace.
What has been the result of this ‘peace’? Thirty years on, living conditions in Palestine have worsened. Unemployment in Gaza and the West Bank was 7 percent in 1993; today it is 24 percent. Youth unemployment stands at almost 37 percent. The latest figure for unemployment in Gaza is even worse, standing at 45 percent, and higher for young people. That was prior to Israel’s bombardment. The entire Palestinian economy is held in a state of colonial dependence on Israel, which provides 58 percent of its imports and receives around 86 percent of its exports.
The PA and the ruling party Fatah have become nothing but a corrupt clique, who remain in power solely because they serve as a useful puppet regime for the Israeli state. And this is precisely how they are seen by most Palestinians. The shooting of Palestinian protesters in Nablus by the PA’s security forces last week is a graphic illustration of this fact.
When mass hostility to Fatah gave victory to Hamas in the 2006 legislative elections, Israel, the EU and the US refused to recognise the result and put pressure on Fatah not to hand over power. As a result, Palestine was split by a civil war that left Gaza under Hamas’ control and the West Bank under Fatah’s control. There have been no elections since.
The so-called ‘two-state’ solution has succeeded in creating two Palestines, or rather, two miserable reserves in which Palestinians are held as prisoners in their own country. Meanwhile, the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank has continued under every single Israeli government since the Accords were signed.
Palestine has never been further from independence than it is now. Its economy has been systematically strangled and the so-called Palestinian Authority has no authority at all. Pious resolutions that simply call for a return to pre-1967 borders and “an independent Palestinian state” in the abstract completely overlook this inconvenient fact.
Advocates of a ‘two-state’ solution might protest that the problem is that right-wing Israeli governments, and Benjamin Netanyahu in particular, have acted in bad faith and deliberately undermined the path to peace. This is all true, of course, but then we must ask: what Israeli government would be either willing or able to abandon the whole of the West Bank? Further, what Israeli government would be prepared to effectively pay for the development of a viable and independent Palestinian economy on its border?
Israel is a capitalist state with imperialist interests that it has developed across the region. And the domination of the whole of Palestine is an absolute necessity for the pursuit of those interests. This fact was recognised by the founders of Israel and it has determined the policy of every Israeli government since 1948.
The proliferation of illegal settlements in the West Bank has continued since 1967, and accelerated since 1993. There are now more than 700,000 Jewish settlers living illegally in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, exploiting the labour of Palestinians who work in slave-like conditions. And the settlements have become a powerful political force that no government in Israel is able to ignore.
It was not Likud or Netanyahu, but the Israeli Labour Party of Yitzhak ‘Bonebreaker’ Rabin that negotiated the Oslo Accords, with their insistence on the economic ‘integration’ of the Israeli and Palestinian economies. And when Labour’s ‘One Israel’ alliance came to power in 1999, it neither reversed nor even paused the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Under imperialism, peace is simply the continuation of war by other means. The only difference between liberal and right-wing Zionism is that the former prefers to quietly place its boot on the necks of the Palestinians and choke them unconscious, whereas the latter kicks them repeatedly in the face.
What the liberal wing of the Israeli ruling class object to is not the monstrous oppression of the Palestinians but the prospect that the provocations of the right could result in another revolt of the Palestinian masses. And their fears are being borne out by events.
In reality, there is no viable Palestinian state and there will never be one so long as Israeli capitalism continues to exist. Solidarity with Palestine must proceed from this unavoidable fact, which is already understood by the majority in Palestine.
In a September poll, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), 64 percent said the situation was worse today then before Oslo, 71 percent said it was wrong for the PLO to sign the agreement in the first place, and 53 percent said that armed struggle was the best way forward for the Palestinian liberation struggle.
The demand of a new peace plan along the same lines as Oslo under the present conditions is at best a distraction and at worst a deception. This is precisely why the United States intervened and brokered the Oslo Accords in 1993, and why a string of US presidents have endorsed the so-called ‘two-state’ solution ever since. This is also why much of the Palestinian youth have rightly rejected it.
An honest rejection of war and destruction is completely understandable, but in the conflict between oppressor and oppressed, the best pacifism can achieve is to preach passivity to the masses, and divert the struggle into a blind alley.
For a revolutionary solution
There is no reformist road to Palestinian freedom. International pressure and ‘peace’ deals can only preserve the already intolerable status quo. The Palestinian masses can only rely on their own strength, supported by the solidarity of the worldwide working class.
A new uprising throughout the whole of Palestine, basing itself first and foremost on the revolutionary youth, could shake not only the Israeli regime but the entire region.
Mobilised around a socialist programme, the movement could reach beyond the artificial borders of Palestine to Arab workers living on the Israeli side of the Green Line; to the workers and poor of the neighbouring Arab states who burn with indignation at their own ruling class’ complicity in the crimes of Zionism; and could begin to stoke class struggle and break down the national unity between Israeli workers and bosses, which is vital for the rule of the latter.
But for such an all-powerful movement to halt at the establishment of a weak capitalist Palestine side-by-side with some ‘democratic’ version of the present capitalist Israeli state, would be utterly self-defeating. In fact, such an outcome would be impossible. The Israeli ruling class, if its rule was merely shaken rather than smashed, would come back seeking revenge. It would revert to something even more nightmarish than the present setup. The reactionary Zionist establishment needs to be completely dismantled, the ruling class expropriated, and the land and monopolies must be placed under the control of the working class.
Only a regime of workers’ democracy can replace the present state of Israel, end the occupation, resolve the essential question of the land, and respect the democratic rights of both Jews and Arabs. In short, we are not for a sham peace; we are for revolution.
But what is required is a revolution that respects neither capitalist ‘democracy’ nor national boundaries; that does not stop until Israeli imperialism and its puppets in Palestine have been completely smashed; and that satisfies the crying needs of the Palestinian people, for land, work, housing and a dignified existence for all. That means the revolution must be socialist, which is the only way of removing the material base upon which the Zionist ruling elite rests.
That is why we say: Intifada until victory!