Slaughter in Palestine: Who offers a road to peace?
05 December 2023
US president Joe Biden with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The standard question from the media in the early days of the current Israeli onslaught was: "do you condemn Hamas?" If you said yes, you were accepting that the conflict had begun with their breakout from Gaza, that it was an out-of-control massacre that did not involve the IDF killing their own civilians and that there was no need to reference decades of Israeli oppression or the growth in ethnic cleansing under the Netanyahu government. If you said no, you were a terrorist who could be immediately dismissed.
Of course, the answer is: "What do you expect?" The Hamas outbreak was the inevitable result of the unending siege of Gaza. Once we accept that, we can examine the goals. The immediate goal was to humiliate the IDF. The second was to collect hostages with the aim of releasing the thousands of hostages held by Israel and the third goal was to blow up the Abraham Accords that allowed Arab and Muslim states to make peace with Israel and bury the possibility of a Palestinian state.
On all these points Hamas has been successful. However, they are unable to offer a solution. Their alternative to Zionist oppression is Islamic rule. Hamas’ weakness is the weakness of nationalists everywhere i.e. they discount class and appeal to Arab capitalism. The fact that many regimes signed the Abraham Accords and that they continued to supply oil to Israel shows that they have no interest in Palestinian freedom. Their posture today is directly linked to containing the burning anger amongst the Arab masses.
If we are to understand the Netanyahu government's response, the starting point is the recognition that Israel's aim has never been so poor as to concentrate its fire on Hamas. It openly proclaims and carries out ethnic cleansing. The government is committed to expelling the Palestinian population in a second Nakba involving the destruction of Gaza and the ethnic cleansing of the West Bank and Jerusalem. In this it is supported by western governments led by the US, and the western press.
The task of the unremitting Israeli propaganda machine is to distract. For example, the killing of up to 500 people outside Al-Ahli Arab Hospital was claimed to be a misfired rocket from Islamic Jihad. This was far-fetched, but whilst the media argued the toss, all the hospitals in Gaza were demolished by the IDF, as were many schools and mosques providing shelter to the dispossessed. The elimination of over 40 journalists and members of their families went unremarked, as did the murder of nearly 100 UN employees.
The final fantasy of the IDF was the supposed command centre under Al-Shifa hospital. Detailed diagrams were replaced by haversacks with a few weapons. Eventually the hospital was forced to evacuate and the director arrested so that he could be interrogated about the missing centre.
The whole charade was presented without question by western governments and media. Let's forget about what Israel says and look at what they do. The equivalent of two Hiroshima bombs have exploded over Gaza. The damage to Hamas appears to be limited while the damage to the majority of housing and infrastructure is immense with over 12000 civilian deaths including almost 5000 children. The aim of ethnic cleansing is clear. The killings and pogroms on the West Bank continued even during the truce in Gaza. International experts do not agree on the issue of genocide. Most agree that the inclination to genocide is built into the Israeli campaign.
Plan A was to force the population into Egypt. This required a level of cooperation from the Egyptian regime that proved impossible given the outrage amongst the Arab working class.
Plan B involves the partition of Gaza - a second Nakba forcing the population into the south and squeezing them further to the west. This has been partially achieved but leads immediately to Plan C. Who will garrison the emptied areas of Gaza? No-one will volunteer. The US floated the idea of the Palestinian Authority, led by Abbas but this corrupt quisling is unlikely to survive. What's left is permanent Israeli occupation, but this is the status quo prior to the IDF leaving Gaza and is a recipe for a permanent war. The truth is that the Israeli massacre has exposed a growing weakness of their US backer, unable to simply order support from the Arab world and also exposes an inherent instability in the Zionist regime.
That regime has always known that their tactics would lead to revulsion and that they have a limited time frame to carry on their campaign. By holding out, Hamas have won a limited victory. US leadership has suffered a humiliation and the Israeli cabinet is split. It is clear that Biden and company realise they have suffered a setback and the pressure for a truce comes from them. However, the US has no immediate alternative to global military threats and likewise no alternative to Zionist aggression for the Israeli elites. The US mutters about a two-state solution and Israel rejects that absolutely. Neither party has a solution that does not involve continued repression of the Palestinians.
Another suggested resolution to the Palestinian repression is the growing influence of China, Russia and the BRICS nations in the region. It is suggested that they can counterbalance the US and force a settlement. In reality both Russia and China have close ties with both Israel and reactionary Arab regimes. Their proposal, for a two state solution, is one that Israel has just shown to be impossible.
It is true that the growth of the influence of Russia and China shows the emergence of a multipolar world. This creates more room for working class action but does not by itself supply that action. A revolutionary upsurge by the working class in Egypt would transform the situation, but the level of repression makes that difficult.
Can the movement in the West offer a solution? The spontaneous movement has exerted pressure on the imperialist states, but it has many weaknesses. It has not set out a common goal for the movement. The goal has to be a single unitary democratic state on the historic land of Palestine.
As part of its programme it must lay out a mechanism for achieving that goal. That can only involve and appeal to the working class and a challenge to the limitations of support from trade unions and radical parliamentary parties. BDS is a useful tactic, but we must not forget that collaboration is focused in the top companies and in the western governments and we must attack these directly.
We must also remember that solidarity is not fellow feeling but rather common interest. The war is coming home, with widespread censorship, illegalisation of thought and protest through hate speech legislation and a growing militarisation of society. Fighting these is an immediate task for a solidarity movement. We have seen Sir Kier Starmer damaged by his Zionism and crushing internal dissent. We have seen Sinn Féin spin like a top in order to placate its members while also placating the US and the Dublin elites. Those events help make the argument that workers need a party of their own rather than relying on parties tied to capitalism.
Finally, we must set a global context. The West that supports an utterly brutal occupation and invasion in Palestine is the same West that justified an utterly brutal war in Ukraine that has expended the youth of the country on the false grounds that the Russian action was unjustified and that Russia was an imperialist state marching towards Berlin. In reality the Minsk accords offered a peaceful solution that the West vetoed.
Joe Biden has spelt out the agenda. War in Palestine. War in Europe and finally war with China. This is the reality of modern US imperialism and thus what we must organise to fight.