By JAMES MARKIN
As Nakba Day came around again on May 15, Israel’s most recent campaign of terror in Gaza was put on hold after the imposition of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire. Before Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) agreed to the ceasefire, Israeli attacks had caused the death of 33 Palestinians. The justification is retaliation for missiles launched by a Palestinian armed group, this time killing an Israeli and a Palestinian guest worker.
By launching his campaign of death against Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu once again made use of missile barrages from Gaza to unify the Zionist parties in Knesset (Parliament) and strengthen his hand against the protest movement he has faced since trying to pass laws that would weaken the power of Israel’s judiciary.
As has happened many times before, in Knesset, “anti-Bibi” parties of both the right and the left have tripped over themselves to clarify that they support “Operation Arrow and Shield” (https://www.timesofisrael.com/gaza-op-gets-broad-political-support-as-some-trade-barbs-over-ben-gvir/). This support has included the centrist liberal leader of the opposition, Yair Lapid, as well as all of the parties of the Zionist center “left.” Once again, the parliamentary Zionist parties have shown that their opposition to Netanyahu will evaporate if he carries out military attacks against Palestinians.
Netanyahu defended the carnage caused by Israeli air-raids, describing them as “targeted strikes” designed to “minimize civilian casualties.” On social media the IDF spokesman, Richard Hecht bragged about the supposed “precision” of Israeli strikes, claiming that they only focused on “kingpin terrorists.” However, there is no such thing as an airstrike without collateral damage. According to the Gazan Health Ministry, at least 10 of the dead were civilian, and among that number there were at least six children. Furthermore, in the case of the “targeted” assassinations, the air raids had no military goal beyond killing people sleeping in their beds. It is a cruel joke for the Israeli state to brand all of its opponents as terrorists when they regularly carry out these kinds of targeted killings against their opponents and their families.
Unsurprisingly, the United States has offered only the lightest criticism of the butchery in Gaza. A U.S. embassy spokesperson told the Jerusalem Post that the U.S. support for Israel is “ironclad,” before saying that the deaths were “tragic” and calling for “de-escalation.” This statement is a clear contrast to statements made by the U.S. condemning very similar collateral damage from bombing and missile attacks made by Russia in Ukraine. When U.S. imperialist interests happened to coincide with the fate of an oppressed nation, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had no trouble condemning the Russian invaders for targeting apartment blocks in Mariupol. Yet, given the U.S. imperialists’ reliance on Israel as a junior partner in the Middle East, Blinken offered no similar condemnation when Israel targeted apartment blocks in Gaza that house hundreds of people. Time and time again, the U.S. reveals that it has one standard for its enemies and another for its friends.
The reality is that it would be hypocritical for the U.S. to denounce Israel’s “targeted” terror bombing campaigns since it was the U.S. itself that pioneered this tactic with its famous targeted killing program. Since 2001, the U.S. has killed thousands of people in so-called “targeted bombings.” The dead in these bombings included 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki under Obama and his eight-year-old sister Nawar al-Awlaki under Trump, both of whom were U.S. citizens. As the U.S. carried out these actions, it gave the green light to its subordinate imperialist partners such as Israel to replicate them—with bloody consequences.
Khader Adnan and administrative detention
The use of targeted bombings is not the only case by which the brutal actions of U.S. imperialism parallel those of its junior power in Israel. The U.S. and Israel both have a long track record of abandoning the due process rights that they claim to champion. Israel’s denial of these due process rights to Palestinians was one of the key causes of missile launches out of Gaza.
In the past, Israel has provoked rocket attacks from Gaza by threatening the sacred religious site of the Al Aqsa Mosque. However, this most recent Israeli campaign was not justified by a response to provocations at Al Aqsa but instead by the death of Khader Adnan. Adnan was the spokesperson for the Palestinian militant group known as Islamic Jihad who died on hunger strike while in Israeli custody. Israel had never accused Khader Adnan, who ran a bakery near the West Bank city of Jenin, of any kind of violent or terrorist act. However, in February, because of his role in Islamic Jihad, he was charged with incitement to violence. This was the first time that Israel had charged Adnan with anything at all. Adnan had been arrested 12 times by Israel and imprisoned for eight years, all without any charge. Israel routinely uses this process of administrative detention to imprison Palestinians indefinitely without charge.
Adnan’s death on hunger strike, after Israel refused to transfer him to a hospital, has brought new attention to the issue of administrative detention, along with international outrage. According to the UN Commission on Human rights, Israel currently is holding over a thousand Palestinians in administrative detention. This makes up a full fifth of all Palestinians in Israeli prisons. Israel also uses administrative detention to imprison Palestinian children. All of this happens without producing any evidence, or indeed without ever charging anyone with a crime. While many supporters of Israel tout the line that it is “the only democracy in the Middle East,” Israel ignores due process rights when it is convenient for it to do so—as with all bourgeois democracies.
Civil detention in the U.S.
Just as with the practice of “targeted bombings,” administrative detention is yet another way that Israel takes after the imperialist hegemon, the U.S.A. While the U.S. claims to be a bastion of due process rights, pointing to the Bill of Rights, in reality it too is just as willing as Israel to bend the rules. There is no better example of this than the civil etention process used in the US immigration system. Just as in Israel, the U.S. imprisons thousands of people without ever charging them with a crime. However, instead of using it for Palestinians like Israel, the U.S. civil detention system is reserved for immigrants who are presumed to be in the country illegally.
As in Israel, the civil detainees being held without charge have decided to fight back, using similar tactics. At the Mesa Verde and Golden State Annex detention facilities in Bakersfield and MacFarland, Calif., detainees launched a strike last year. The strikers demanded fair pay for in-facility labor, humane conditions—and ultimately, release. Earlier this year, they escalated the strike to a hunger strike, which was met with the utmost brutality. The guards at these privately run prison facilities beat the strikers and force fed them without medical oversight. They also transferred a few “instigators” to a different facility in Texas. Despite this repression, the resolve of the detainees is unbroken, and they continue their fight for fair treatment and release.
The similarities between the fight of Palestinian administrative detainees and immigrant civil detainees in the U.S. show how the struggle of the Palestinian people is connected to struggles by workers and the oppressed all over the globe. Those inside these cruel facilities and their supporters need to learn from each other in order to fight against the conditions that they face. The more that workers and the oppressed unify across borders against a common imperialist enemy, the more powerful they will be. Together the movement for Palestinian liberation and the movement for dignity for immigrants are much stronger than they are each on their own. It is up to the working class as a whole to engage with and support these movements and push on for victory.
Photo: Palestinians in Gaza inspect damage by Israeli airstrikes in August 2022. (Quds News Network)