By ERWIN FREED
On Thursday, May 20, Hamas and the Israeli government agreed to a ceasefire, which began at 2 a.m. the next morning. Portions of the Israeli and world press are hailing the agreement as a product of international diplomacy. However, the major force that affected the change was the mass movement of Palestinians and their supporters, which brought millions into the streets around the world before the bombing campaign started and after its conclusion. Despite the formal ceasefire, the Israeli state and right-wing Israeli citizens continue to enact repression and violence against Palestinians.
Zionist terror on both sides of the Green Line
Over the 11 days of IDF terror against Gaza, at least 260 people were killed, including 65 children and four pregnant women. Israeli missiles specifically targeted health-care infrastructure, destroying the strip’s only COVID testing clinic, roads leading to hospitals, and medical facilities.
At least 50 manufacturing plants in Gaza were destroyed by the Israelis. Ramy Abdoul, chairman of Euro-Mediterranean (Euro-Med) Human Rights Monitor, reported in a Tweet that “after targeting the largest plumbing and infrastructure factory today—Siksik—Israel targeted almost every other large factory left operating in Gaza.” Euro-Med’s Gaza facilities were also affected by the bombing campaign.
Settlers, soldiers, and police set out to attack Palestinian people and property in the West Bank and within the Green Line demarcating Israel. As protests grow in cities that have historically been “outside” of the conflict, so has repression. The Israeli state was quick to throw the blanket charge of “terrorism” on Palestinian protesters. In reality, the violence is coming overwhelmingly from Zionist lynch mobs, shouting “Death to Arabs” as they roam the streets of cities like Lydda (Lod). Members of one group infamously stated in internal Telegram discussion,“ Today we are Nazis.” There is a long history of the most reactionary elements of the Zionist movement aligning themselves with anti-Semitic fascists.
From protests to general strike: Palestinians resist
In the face of extreme repression from Israeli settlers and their state, Palestinians have stood resolutely for justice. The mass protests in defense of Al Aqsa mosque, against ethnic cleansing in the Sheik Jarrah district of East Jerusalem, and to end the bombing in Gaza have become a unified movement with the deepest penetration into Israeli territory since at least the Second Intifada (2000 until 2005).
Even before the upsurge was generalized, rage against Israeli encroachment burned within the 1948 borders. One flashpoint has been Jaffa, an ancient port city that was formerly mainly Palestinian, which is today a suburb of Tel Aviv. Weeks before the beginning of the national protests, confrontations between Palestinian residents and far-right Israelis carrying out state-sponsored ethnic cleansing. The project is simultaneously one of gentrification, as Jewish speculators are buying up public housing units, whose vast majority of residents are poor Palestinians. As is often the case in historic Palestine, profit-making doubles as a process of “Judaification.” At the same time, housing prices in Israel are generally skyrocketing, with many young Jews also protesting unaffordable living costs.
One of the most significant developments from this movement was the use of the strike tactic as a weapon for national liberation. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian workers in Israel, Jerusalem, and the West Bank carried out a general strike with high participation on May 18. Support for the strike cut across organizational lines within the Palestinian movement. The extreme popularity of the call pushed leaders from virtually every faction to endorse the day of action. Despite the Zionist goal of replacing Palestinian labor with purely Jewish labor, the general strike cost Israeli capitalists tens of millions of dollars over just one day. Even before the official strike call, Palestinian workers in critical industries where they make up the majority—including construction—were skipping work in protest of the attacks on Gaza. Fear of an extension of the strike, and the international ruling class’s understanding the inspirational effect it would have for workers everywhere, was likely a major reason Netanyahu agreed to a cease-fire two days later.
#WeAreAllPalestinian: International solidarity with Gaza
The power of the Palestinian struggle for national liberation and self-determination was demonstrated by over two weeks of mass mobilizations all over the world. Amidst a flood of Tweets, interviews, and other first-person activist coverage of Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people went into the streets all over the world to demand justice for Palestine.
In the first days of fighting there were historic mobilizations in dozens of major cities. Many converged on May 15,the first weekend day during the escalation which happened to also be Nakba Day. Over 100,000 demonstrated in the streets of London. Despite Macron’s declaration that pro-Palestine protests were illegal and police repression, tens of thousands marched in Paris.
For the first time in generations, thousands of Palestinian refugees and supporters in Jordan breached the border with the West Bank, marking a historic escalation in the fight for the right to return. Solidarity slogans emerged all over the world, including in Kashmir with a mural stating, “We are Palestine.” Yemeni and Iraqi workers, both suffering under their own military occupations, came out in their thousands in inspirational examples of resilience and militancy. These are only a small fraction of the movement that forced Israel into an embarrassing military and political defeat.
Cities and towns in the United States saw completely unprecedented demonstrations for the Palestinian cause over since May 10. For decades, Palestine constituted a proverbially “third rail” in U.S. politics. The expression “progressive except Palestine” described the social movements. However, in the wake of years of resolute debates by anti-Zionists within the Black, immigrant, and labor movements, as well as constant struggle by groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, the silence around Palestine appears to be over for good.
Paralleling the dynamic that took hold during the Justice for George Floyd upsurge last summer, emergency demonstrations were quickly organized all over the United States. Often these were the largest—or even the first major actions—to have ever taken place in those areas. Palestinian youth led important Muslim organizations like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and anti-Zionist Jewish groups in planning energetic mass marches on both coasts and many places in between.
Organic support from communities all over the country boiled over into growing daily actions for the entirety of the military campaign. Even after the ceasefire was called, demonstrations continued to demand ending U.S aid to Israel and self-determination for Palestine.
Significantly, labor organizations have come out in support of Palestine and Boycott, Divestment, Sanction (BDS) campaigns. At their May 19 delegates assembly, teachers with United Educators of San Francisco became the first educators union to endorse BDS. The Graduate Employees Organization, United Auto Workers Local 3550, at the University of Michigan also passed a resolution in support of Palestine, as well as participating as a contingent in local demonstrations.
Biden blues: Democratic Party against Palestine
Joe Biden was posed by many as the “lesser evil” in the 2020 election. His unabashed support for Israel is yet another example of how deeply flawed that perspective was. Biden is a representative of U.S. imperialism, and U.S. foreign policy is fundamentally dependent on maintaining the existence of Israel as a close ally in the Middle East.
Biden is well aware and supportive of this relationship. In 2013, he told a J Street conference “If there were not an Israel, [the U.S.] would have to invent one to make sure our interests were preserved.” He was also a part of the Obama administration when it made the single largest pledge of aid from the United States to the Israeli state, $38 billion over 10 years. According to a research report by the Congressional Research Service, the aid is broken up into “$33 billion in Foreign Military Financing grants, plus $5 billion in defense appropriations for missile defense programs.”
A division over the level of support that the U.S. should be giving to Israel has developed within the Democratic Party. Functioning in its role of giving left-wing legitimacy to the governing party of U.S. imperialism, the party’s left flank has introduced two main pieces of legislation that begin to buck the trend of unconditional U.S. military aid to Israel. Those are HR 2590 and resolutions to block the authorization of $735 million in weapons sales signed by Biden on May 17.
HR 2590 has no text as of yet but is descriptively titled “To promote and protect the human rights of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation and to ensure that United States taxpayer funds are not used by the Government of Israel to support the military detention of Palestinian children, the unlawful seizure, appropriation, and destruction of Palestinian property and forcible transfer of civilians in the West Bank, or further annexation of Palestinian land in violation of international law.” While the actual scope of that bill is currently unclear, at least 31 Connecticut groups have endorsed it, including Teamsters Locals 191, 443, 677, and 1150; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 90; Ironworkers Local 15; and multiple local churches.
Democratic Party critics of Israel reflect the sea change in public opinion on the one hand, and the new international situation of inter-imperialist competition on the other. The former is a product of the best parts of the Black Lives Matter movement, the experiences of millions fighting for racial and Indigenous justice over the last decade, and tireless organizing by Palestinian activists and supporters.
The factor of inter-imperialist competition is a product of the new reality in which China is quickly becoming a major economic and diplomatic presence in the Middle East. Declining U.S. influence in the region, coupled with the singleminded U.S. support of Israel, leaves an opening to be exploited by China as a negotiator and investor in both Israel and Palestine.
Ceasefire not enough
A “ceasefire” in a military occupation is an impossibility. Instead of an end to confrontation, Friday’s truce is completely false. Israel still controls all of historic Palestine and the Golan Heights through an apartheid system upheld by military violence and police dictatorship. As hundreds of thousands have chanted over the last weeks, “There is no peace on stolen land.”
In the days since frontal military actions ended, Israel has gone on a political offensive against Palestinians, arresting dozens in Jerusalem, Lydda, and the occupied territories. Only 10 hours after the ceasefire was declared, Israeli police attacked worshippers and journalists at the Al Aqsa mosque. Violence against Muslims at Al Aqsa was one of the main catalysts leading to the most recent uprising.
As a reckoning against the lack of clear victory from the terror bombings in Gaza, the Israeli government has announced its intention to carry out mass arrests of Palestinians in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Israel. In a statement on the new campaign, which involves thousands of officers, the Israeli police admit that the mass arrests are “a direct continuation of the activity of the Israel Police in the past two weeks, in which more than 1,550 arrests [virtually all Palestinian—EF] were made and about 150 indictments were filed.”
“The massive arrest campaign announced by Israeli police last night is a militarized war against Palestinian citizens of Israel,” Hassan Jabareen, the general director of Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, said in a statement. “This is a war against Palestinian demonstrators, political activists, and minors, employing massive Israeli police forces to raid the homes of Palestinian citizens.”
Along with the mass arrests, occupying forces are clamping down on Palestinians with Israeli citizenship all over the country. Jaffa is a case in point. Israeli police and far-right vigilantes have descended on the city to violently harrass Palestinian workers and community members. Refusal of the Israeli press to cover the ongoing attacks against Palestinians in Jaffa led to journalist Asaf Ronel’s resignation from Haaretz after almost 15 years reporting for the publication. City police have set up checkpoints and roadblocks specifically targeting Palestinian residents and neighborhoods, mirroring the apartheid system in the West Bank.
The existence of Israel directly depends on displacement and oppression of Palestinians. Every serious Zionist thinker has understood this fundamental condition. The original “partition plan” for Palestine, drawn up by imperialist powers and imposed by the United Nations, gave the planned Jewish state 56% of Palestine’s land. At the time of the plan, 1947, the demographics of the undivided British Mandate of Palestine were about 69% Arab and 31% Jewish settlers. Zionists owned only about 6% of the pre-partition land.
While the partition boundaries were specifically carved to create areas of clear majority/minority between Zionists and Arabs, the “demographic problem” was and will always be an unsolvable question for Israel. David Ben-Gurion, a founder of the Israeli state, expressed this dilemma in a speech at the Central Committee of the Histadrut on Dec, 30, 1947: “The total population of the Jewish State at the time of its establishment will be about one million, including almost 40% non-Jews. Such a [population] composition does not provide a stable basis for a Jewish State. This [demographic] fact must be viewed in all its clarity and acuteness. With such a [population] composition, there cannot even be absolute certainty that control will remain in the hands of the Jewish majority. … There can be no stable and strong Jewish state so long as it has a Jewish majority of only 60%.”
These ongoing population contradictions and Zionist concern for military-strategic outposts, the best farmland, most coastline, and other economic factors mean that the basic laws of motion of Israeli existence is that of an expansionist, settler-colonial state. The Israeli Jewish nation exists firmly as an apparatus of national oppression against Palestinians of all religious denominations and even Mizrahi Jews.
The state of Israel was founded by an act of simultaneous land theft and ethnic cleansing, what is called by Israelis the “War of Independence” and Palestinians the “Nakba,” or “Catastrophe.” In just the two years of 1947-1948, over 700,000 indigenous Palestinans were violently expelled from their homes in order to have a more decisive Jewish majority in Israel. Those expelled and their families comprise a refugee population of currently around 6 million people, about two-thirds of the total population of Israel.
Israel’s existence as a Jewish state depends on refusing the right of return to these refugees and a legal apartheid system that grants different rights to Jewish and non-Jewish “citizens” of Israel. The apartheid system in Israel itself is bolstered by increasing settlements, checkpoints, and racially separated infrastructure in the West Bank. All of these are unavoidable indications of the fundamental inability for Israel and Palestine to peacefully exist “side by side.”
At the same time, the “two-state solution” is exactly what everyone from Biden to “realist” Zionists are proposing. Even more strange is the call of various socialist groups for a “socialist” Israel next to an independent Palestine. Socialist Struggle Movement, International Socialist Alternative’s Israel/Palestine section, exemplifies this backward position. In a recent programmatic statement leading up to the ceasefire, and in many other contexts, SSM concludes with: “Yes to an independent, socialist, Palestine, with its capital in East Jerusalem. Yes to a socialist change in Israel and in the region.”
Not only does this perspective build illusions in the possibility for Israel to undergo a “socialist change” while maintaining its existence as a military outpost on stolen Palestinian land, but it even rolls back the general movement’s call for Palestine’s capital to be Jerusalem. Instead, the ISA envisions two states with a shared capital in Jerusalem. Of course Trump’s decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was seen as an affront to Palestinian self-determination by even the bourgeois international community, putting the International Socialist Alternative to the right of mainstream capitalist political analysts.
The only possible method of realizing self-determination for Palestinians is the abolition of Israel and construction of a single, united, democratic, secular Palestine over the entire land of the British Mandate. This also means returning the Golan Heights, currently occupied by Israel, to Syria. And at the same time, revolutionaries raise the call for a united socialist Middle East.
There is only one solution! Intifada! Revolution!
No ruling class is capable of securing justice for Palestine. The road forward is shown by the massive demonstrations that have exploded all over the entire world, led by Palestinians and oppressed people. In connection with other movements for justice and self-determination, the struggle for Palestine is fundamentally international. In the United States, workers have a special duty in fighting for an end to all U.S. support to Israel.
The general strike in Palestine and solidarity strikes around the world, including in South Africa and Pakistan, are important examples to follow as the movement develops its strategies for Palestinian liberation. Pushing for pro-Palestine resolutions is an essential duty for militant rank-and-file trade unionists and sympathetic union officials. Broad, honest discussion on the situation in Palestine and how to end the occupation will win even more support from working and oppressed people everywhere.
Ultimately, as long as capitalism rules in Palestine, the Middle East, and the world, Palestinian workers will need to fight alongside all working and oppressed peoples for control over their land and lives. This will require working for the goal of worldwide socialist revolution. The struggle for an unified, secular, and democratic Palestine “from the river to the sea” is an essential step in this international revolutionary process.
Photo: Palestinian solidarity protest in Dallas, Texas. (CNN)