Stop the War in Gaza
Opposing the Gaza slaughter from within Israel
Around the world there has been shock and anger at the barbaric brutality of the Israeli government’s onslaught on the Gaza strip and horror at the impact of the random missile attacks on Israeli civilians. As in the Lebanon in 2006 the Israeli air assault is wiping out whole families in the name of “peace”.
Already it is clear that the Israeli government’s aim of overthrowing Hamas rule in Gaza by a combination of bombing and allowing a small increase of supplies into Gaza is failing and its assault has strengthened Hamas for now. This is preparing the way for possibly more desperate measures by the Israeli government, like a ground invasion, that could widen the conflict into a wider war.
In opposing this assault socialists do not give political support to Hamas which has, despite its anti-imperialist and anti-corruption rhetoric, reactionary theocratic policies which ultimately will set back the struggle for Palestinian liberation. Its present support is because many Palestinians see the Hamas leaders as much less corrupt than their PLO counterparts and more militant in their language against Israeli aggression. The hypocrisy of the Israeli’s government demonization of Hamas is that originally the Israeli secret services supported Hamas’s foundation in order to undermine its stronger rival at the time, the secular PLO.
Palestinians have the right to defend themselves, through armed action if necessary. However this defensive action should be under the democratic direction of the wider population, organised through grassroots committees, rather than by secretive militia that often degenerate into criminal extortion and that can be infiltrated by the Israeli security services. But Hamas’s policy of regularly supporting of rocket attacks and suicide bombings against Israeli citizens, methods the CWI opposes, cannot defend Palestinians and has helped increased support amongst Jewish workers for their ruling elite.
Protests are taking placing around the world to immediately demand an end to this fighting. Obviously, at present, the Israeli government’s attack is being supported by Bush, and silently by Obama. While eventually fears of the conflict spiralling outwards may result in the big powers pressing the Israeli government to call a halt to this military campaign, it is clear that the US and other imperialist governments care little about the plight of the mass of Palestinians. At the same time the Arab League leaders are generally silent or, as with Egypt, complicit in the attack. The United Nations has once again shown it can do nothing that opposes the policies of the big powers, especially US imperialism.
Protests against this assault need to stepped up urgently to secure an end to this war in Gaza. At the same time socialists in the CWI will be arguing that only a workers’ movement, with socialist policies, can show a way out of this morass and end the seemingly endless series of wars. This means bringing together Palestinian and Israeli working people in joint action so that they can themselves resolve the issues that face them as part of a struggle against oppression and capitalism.
Below is a translation of a Hebrew language statement published at the beginning of the war in Gaza on December 30, 2008, by Socialist Struggle Movement (Tnu`at Maavak Sotzyalisti / Harakat Nidal Eshteraki – CWI in Israel). This statement is being publicly distributed in Israel against a background of a very strong reactionary wave of militarism and nationalism among Israeli-Jews.
Hundreds of dead, thousands of wounded, and still no real security or future for Israelis or Palestinians
The hundreds killed in the past few days will not bring peace, but will bring more rage and killing. Tnu`at Maavak Sozialisti (Harakat Nidal Eshteraki/ Socialist Struggle Movement) always opposed the firing of Qassam missiles and also attacks on the families of workers and poor in Israel, in the Palestinian territories and in the Middle East. The current offensive is in no way a defensive action and not aimed to bring quiet to the residents of southern Israel. Like the second Lebanese war, which we also opposed, we are not only talking about no solution, we are talking about an intensification of the problem on the ground. The present government is responsible now for the escalation and its consequences. This attack not only does not lead to a solution, but the attack and its consequences demonstrate once again that the biggest danger to the security of the residents of Israel and the region is the elitist rule in Israel.
More than 365 Palestinian dead, 1,600 injured, and 4 Israeli Jews and Arabs killed, as a consequence of the broadest airborne attacks there has ever been in the Palestinian territories. Just in the first hours tens of fighter planes dropping tens of tons of explosives. The government and army knew very well that the firing of projectiles, only some of which are really missiles, would increase the response to the attack. They even estimated that the number of projectile attacks would rise to 100 per day during the course of the operation. As expected, the attack ignites the whole region and intensifies the national polarisation between Jews and Arabs.
The real aim of the attack is not to gain calm, just as this was not the aim of operation "Hot Winter" in February 2008 or in the previous Gaza war (operation "Summer Rains"), that was conducted in parallel with the second Lebanon war in 2006. We also opposed those attacks which led to 550 deaths. Now, as then, the war is a continuation of the government’s political policy by military means. The aim of the attack is not an end to the projectile attacks, but to damage the Hamas government in the Gaza strip, along with an attempt to create the impression that the government is making efforts to find a solution to those attacks. As far as the Israeli elite is concerned, its games of prestige in relation to Hamas are more important than the security of the residents of southern Israel, who they are using as hostages. This extravagant move is being carried out under cover of the election period in Israel and the period of transition between governments in the US. It is also intended to erase the image of defeat which has been sticking to this government since the second Lebanon War, as well as to signify its readiness for another bloody confrontation with Iran and Hezbollah.
War before elections is a classic tactical spin used by failing governments. This government was responsible for the disaster of the second Lebanon War, and also for some other particularly bloody and extravagant military operations. But now it presents another military move that is designed to rescue the “Kadima” and “`Avodah” parties from their collapse in the polls by compromising the security of the residents of the Gaza strip, Sderot, Ashkelon, Netivot, and the other towns in the area.
The millionaire Security Minister Barak has already announced that he is halting his election campaign, and that is not surprising, because he also understands that the military campaign is, in itself, his own election campaign. All the establishment parties are profiting in the short term from the dazzling effect of this military initiative that is also being exploited to divert attention from the world economic crisis. None of the establishment parties, who all support capitalism, have a solution that can defend job security and standards of living, just as they have no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the problems that it creates.
In its best tradition, the military operation was given a sick and cynical name – ’Cast Lead’ (from a Hanukah song) – as a reminder that there are elements amongst Israeli’s rulers who see the whole operation as not much more than a game or an adventure. This military adventure has already cost a huge price in blood – already in the first hours the number of dead has risen sharply to several times the number of Israelis killed from all the missiles that have been fired up till today from the Gaza strip.
Unfortunately, this adventure has not ended, the government is boastfully refusing a ceasefire, and on the cards are land incursions and also the opening up of an additional front against the Hezbollah in Lebanon. Already thousands of reserve soldiers have been conscripted by emergency decrees. The attack is certainly likely to get entangled and ignite even more difficult events in the Middle East in the coming weeks, as Barak announced: “It won’t be easy and it won’t be short.”
The government sabotaged the “Calm”
The Israeli government refused to strengthen the “Calm” (Tahadiya / Regi`a) and turn it into a genuine ceasefire. This would have at least improved the daily lives of Israelis and Palestinians, even without the taking of any real steps towards ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the opposite – during all the months of “Calm”, the government continued its provocative and violating actions – like for example on November 4th, election day in the US, which was used for air bombings. As Barak tells us now, the military operation was planned in detail during those same months. In the West Bank and on the edges of the Gaza strip, routine military operations continued. The government refused to carry out a complete prisoner exchange, which could have also returned the captive soldier Gil`ad Shalit to his family.
Crucially, during the period of “Calm”, the economic and military siege of the Gaza strip continued, with the collaboration of the big powers, of Egypt, of the Fateh movement, and of the rest of the Arab League regimes, most of whom are now hypocritically protesting the killing. Abbas (Abu-Mazen) and Mubarak’s dictatorial rule in Egypt, have even surpassed the rest, when they gave implicit support to the attack in an even more pronounced way than some of the Arab rulers had done on the start of the second Lebanon war. Foreign affairs minister, Livni, was invited on a special visit to Cairo two days before the war.
This collaboration has enraged the Arab masses in the Middle East. It increases the hatred of the corrupt regimes in the Arab League, which like the corrupt regime in Israel, do not act in order to serve the wide public of working people and poor, but in order to exploit and repress it. The rage which is now exploding could cut short the rule of the weakening regime of Mubarak in Egypt, and is expected to weaken Abbas even more as he is seen as a puppet of the Israeli Government.
The new situation further ridicules the "Annapolis Talks", which have been suspended as a result of the war, and which were from the outset correctly dismissed as a joke in Israel, the Palestinian territories and the rest of the world.
Since the withdrawal of the settlements and army from the Gaza strip in 2005, Israeli rule has continued in practice to dominate the territory like a giant prison. After the victory of Hamas in the January 2006 elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Israeli government, with the backing of the big powers, escalated attacks on Gaza residents. Hamas had won the 2006 elections as a result of a protest vote against the corrupt Fateh movement leaders, and against the background of the bankruptcy of the Palestinian organisations, which once called themselves “socialist”.
Hamas is, of course, far from being a socialist movement and is also a barrier in the struggle of the Palestinian masses for national liberation. It does not put forward a strategy for a serious solution of the problems facing the Palestinian masses, and of course, Hamas is incapable of building support amongst the Israeli workers and poor whom it harms. Nevertheless Hamas is being strengthened as a result of the corruption and treachery of Fateh, and the actions of the Israeli government. This is despite the fact that the majority of the Palestinian street, like on the Israeli street, has had enough of the big political parties currently existing and there’s a thirst for an alternative.
Immediately before the war, the Israeli government made a cynical use of the humanitarian crisis which was its responsibility, and temporarily opened the border crossings to limited imports of food and medicine supplies. After the commencement of the attack, government officials admitted that this was intended to increase the surprise effect to the maximum. The Generals and politicians from all the establishment parties justify the policy of collective punishment against the residents of the Gaza Strip, as a response to the painful firing of projectiles on Israeli residents in the towns around the Gaza Strip. This is a hypocrite self-justification. The same government and military officials cynically play on the fears, worries and distress of the residents of the Western Negev, and propose only a worsening of the problem and a deepening of the conflict.
The price of the conflict is ultimately paid by the mass of families of Israeli and Palestinian workers and poor, and not by the elitist decision makers, who mostly make political capital out of the national conflict. The firing of projectiles is just a symptom of a situation, that Israeli rule is chiefly responsible for, even if Foreign Ministry officials and IDF spokesperson are working around the clock to blur this fact. The balance of victims each year testifies how the conflict on ground is far from being symmetrical.
Governmental policy for years has been enforcing an occupation and systematic oppression of the Palestinian masses by countless means including demolitions, starvation and mass killing. Also in the recent months, the government has chosen to starve the inhabitants of the Strip, so that the vast majority of them suffer extreme poverty, especially lacking livelihood, food, medicine and electricity. Of course this situation breeds resistance. Today’s military onslaught will naturally run into resistance when Palestinians attempt to defend themselves. Self-defence is justified, but it is important to make clear that socialists oppose the indiscriminate firing of projectiles that harm civilians and also thereby provide the Israeli government with more arguments to justify and mobilise support for its actions. As long as there is national oppression, the national conflict and bloodshed will continue.
The conflict is ultimately a social problem
There are right wing religious Palestinian organizations, such as Hamas, who try to compete in killing civilians, even if at a much lower scale than is conducted by the Israeli government, in order to give the impression that they are leading a struggle against its attacks. In reality, the firing of projectiles is merely a method of revenge, which in a reality of despair and hunger also gets sometimes Palestinian public support. The firing is certainly incapable of breaking the policy of siege (unlike the mass breakout on the Egyptian border) or to harm the military oppression, but merely harms civilians around the borders of the Gaza strip; by that it is being used as a political gift to the Israeli capitalist establishment, who traditionally uses the conflict and the question of “security” as a means of increasing its support. The same support is being chronically undermined as a result of their continual economic attacks on the workers and poor in Israel, and the resulting burning social problems.
This is also the reason that why the establishment propaganda makes an effort in creating an artificial separation between social problems and security problems. But the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is also a burning social problem, and one must not rely on the same parties who run or support the economic war against the majority of the Israeli public, to care about the interests of this same public when it comes to the questions of security. None of the establishment parties has a solution to the conflict and the problems that it creates.
This is also why the establishment parties hug each other during wartime, and do not put forward any alternative. The same parties who are in the so-called opposition become a widened coalition, just as they do in a more hidden manner on economic matters. So it was possible to see Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu] from the Likud and Jumas [Haim Oron] from Meretz speaking in the same voice. The establishment press also forms a chorus praising the attack, and emphasises its role as a watchdog of the capitalist establishment and its wars.
Meretz, which describes itself as part of what is called "The Peace Camp", called for an action in Gaza even before the war, in the same way as it supported the second Lebanon war; it even received prior notice from the government about the attack. In an attempt to win votes from the Labour party, Meretz continues to fulfill its historic role, of an effort to prettify a governmental policy which is destructive and harmful towards Jews and Arabs as one.
A Socialist Alternative
The security of the Jewish–Israeli public will never be achieved at the expense of the security of the other peoples of the region. The Jewish and Palestinian workers and poor share the same interest in real security and peace. In order to end the projectiles fire as well as all the methods of oppression used against the Palestinian masses, there is a need of a broad social movement on the ground to fight for it, and to put forward an alternative to the permanent war and unending bloodletting. Workers’ unions, including the General Histadrut, should support building such a movement, in the interests of workers.
The lack of such a movement, a strong workers’ movement, a big socialist movement composed of Jewish and Arab working people, in Israel and in the Palestinian territories, makes the mass of families of workers and poor here victims of events they have no control over. Currently the working class is not really organised. If people were organised in that way, then the majority of the Jewish-Israeli public would not be desperate enough to accept the so-called security proposals of the government. The fact that a majority does is because they do not find an answer to the question of “what is possible to do now in order to improve the situation?” The government, as been said, could have done many other things, but chose the attack.
If there was a large organised socialist movement, it would have been possible to force the government to institute a real cease-fire, to end the siege and oppression of the Palestinian population, and to carry out a full captive exchange. A wide socialist movement could work both in the Palestinian territories and in Israel, in order to provide an alternative to the existing big political parties, and for the implementation of such measures, including a struggle to end the projectiles fire and ending all acts of aggression of the Israeli government against the Palestinian masses.
Without a wide socialist movement of Jews and Arabs in Israel and in the Palestinian territories, other political forces that offer only an intensification of the conflict will be strengthened, as has happened in recent years. But there are urgent steps which can and need to be taken now, in order to provide the basis for such a movement. The anti-war movement must be broadened, around the message of an alternative solution, which will provide real peace and security to both Israelis and Palestinians, as one. The joint demonstrations of Jews and Arabs against the war need to be strengthened, with opposition to any repression of any protest and demonstrations against the war, with a support of the right to self defence of for attacked demonstrators, and opposition to provocateurs and other forces who try to divert the struggle as against residents.
Another step towards building a wide movement is organizing a discussion on the attack and its consequences in any workers’ organization, students’ organization, a community organization, or any formation which struggles for a social change and for defending working people and poor – and this includes “City for all of us” in Tel Aviv and the “Power to the workers” organization. It is important that in these meetings a discussion will be held between Jewish and Arab workers and activists, which will aim for a joint analysis of the current situation, for finding joint solutions, for organizing a widening of the protest against the war, and as much as possible to publish a public condemnation [of the war].
The group "Kol Akher" (Other Voice) which was set up by tens of Israeli and Palestinian residents of the Western Negev and Gaza Strip shows what else residents can do, even before a wide social movement is established, and in fact what can be done to build such a movement. The group is now campaigning for a new Calm and against the war, and hundreds of residents of Southern Israel have already signed their petition. The group organises direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians, which is especially significant given the level of incitation in the institutionalized news channels.
The aim of the direct talks is to reach an understanding of the common interests, and find a sane solution. The group "Fighters for Peace" (former combat soldiers and Palestinians who have taken part in the fight against the occupation), also organise similar dialogue meetings. A broad socialist movement could advance dialogue on a much broader level, in the framework of peace and reconciliation committees, and could open formal discussions about the questions of security and the "core issues" of the conflict.
Both in Israel and in the Palestinian Territories, there is a need for big socialist parties of the working people and poor, which will lead such a movement, as part of the struggle to bring down capitalism in Israel, the Palestinian Territories and in the Middle East, and for a socialist Israel alongside an independent socialist Palestine, as part of a democratic socialist federation of the region.
Demonstrations against the war under heavy repression
Many demonstrations against the war have been held in many towns in Israel, the West Bank and in the Middle East, some with mass participation. In the Gaza strip, demonstrators once again managed to breach the border with Egypt, in a justified attempt to break the siege, but were met by gunfire from the Egyptian border guards. The Arab Supreme Monitoring Committee in Israel declared a commercial strike, and a similar strike was declared in the West Bank. Demonstrations in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem were forcibly repressed. Under cover of war the police and the military are increasing their means of repression: for instance in the village Ni`lin in the West Bank two demonstrators were shot dead. In all of the Israeli universities demonstrations were dispersed by the riot police.
The repression of the demonstrations is accompanied by intensive anti-Arab incitation in the establishment media, which back up the repression and describe anti-war protests as “disturbances of public order”. The entire establishment is enlisted in order to silence opposition and protest and to fan the flames of incitation. The extreme right is raising its head and with it the racist calls to restrict the democratic rights of Palestinian citizens in Israel.
Against the background of the super-militarist atmosphere, a pressure is also exerted on workers’ struggles to retreat. The workers committee at the Israeli Electric Corporation, for example, suspended the workers’ struggle against planned redundancies, following the outbreak of the war. This suspension was cancelled after management announced that they for their part will not be suspending the planned redundancies, and the workers’ representatives discovered the attempt to deceive them.
In Tel-Aviv on Saturday night, hundreds of Jewish and Arab activists – including members of Tnu`at Maavak Sotzyalisti – demonstrated opposite the Ministry of Security. Our members raised slogans such as “Barak: minister of Security, you will not buy the rule with blood”, “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies”, “Blood is being spilled for the sake of the prestige of the government ministers”, “No peace, no security, dismantle the Rule of Capital”, “Money for education and jobs, not for war and occupation”, “The government has created a disaster in Gaza and in Ashkelon”, “In Gaza and Sderot, children want to live”, “no more walls and shelters – talks between residents”, and more.
The “Socialism Conference 2008”, which was organized by us a day before the attack, was attended by tens of participants, including residents of the Western Negev as well as key leaders of recent workers’ struggles. At the meeting we warned of the dangers of the “security” policy of the government and establishment parties, and warned that one cannot trust the parties which do not provide with economic security, to provide with security from war and terror – the Rule of Capital will not bring real peace or security. In the meeting, the organization expressed solidarity with the Jewish and Arab families who are harmed by the situation, in Sderot, Ashkelon, the Gaza strip and the other towns in the vicinity.
Newspapers already report growing anger of people in the Western Negev regarding the poor condition of many shelters. Similar to the mood on the ground during the second Lebanon War, the nationalist wave will subside, as more and more people see that they are being deceived. But without a broad Socialist movement which can provide a political alternative, there is also the chance that right wing populists such as Lieberman will succeed in exploiting the anger against the elite, and be strengthened. This is, of course, a real danger, and this is another reason that the need of building a socialist movement is a critical need.
The Socialist Struggle Movement calls for:
- An immediate end of the bombings and the rest of the military operations in the Gaza strip, and a full money compensation by the Israeli government to the families of victims on both sides of the fence.
- An immediate and full cease-fire, including an end to the economic and military siege on the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, and ending military operations in the Palestinian areas; Stop the firing of projectiles at the residents of the Southern Israel.
- Continue the joint demonstrations of Jews and Arabs against the war in Gaza, the National Separation Wall, the conflict, and the extreme rightwing.
- End the military and police repression of the right to demonstrate, and end the institutionalized nationalist-racist incitation against Arabs.
- End the playing on the fears of the public in Israel by the Capitalist establishment, end the use of the lives of residents for the sake of elections and the use of soldiers as cannon fodder.
- End the military adventures of the ruling elite and its attempts to bury political and social problems in this manner.
- A complete prisoner exchange which will include the release of the soldier Gilad Shalit.
- Direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian residents, and strengthening of the ties between working people and social organisations form both sides of the national divide.
- Build large socialist parties composed of working people, both in Israel and in the Palestinian areas, which will lead a struggle to solve the burning social issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
- Take the army out of the Palestinian territories and remove all measures of oppression and occupation, which have been imposed on the Palestinian masses, including the checkpoints, roadblocks, separation barrier, and settlements. No to land annexations – land swaps only on the basis of complete and democratic agreement between the Israeli and Palestinian workers and poor.
- Real security and peace – end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and an end to the political, economic and military interventions and dictates carried out by the big powers on the masses of the Middle East and carried out by the Israeli government in the Palestinian territories and in the neighbouring states.
- A struggle for a Socialist Israel alongside an independent Socialist Palestine, with borders which will be determined democratically by direct discussion between residents’ representatives, with guaranteed full freedom of movement; A struggle for Jerusalem to be the joint capital of the two socialist states, with autonomous rule of the two sides of the city.
- A united struggle of the masses of the Middle East for Livelihood, Peace and Socialism; For a Socialist and democratic Middle East within which the rights of all groups and minorities would be guaranteed.