Israel/Palestine: No more slaughter in Gaza!

Stop Israeli state terror!

A ceasefire, starting on Wednesday night, 21 November, has been announced eight days after the Israeli military started to bombard Gaza. While this is a great relief to many, further outbreaks of bloodshed are tragically inevitable until there is an end to the national oppression of Palestinians and fundamental system change in the interests of all working class people across the region.

Men, women and children from one end of the Gaza strip to the other have been subjected to abject terror as bombs hit this narrow piece of land from the air and sea.

Over 1,350 "targets" have been struck, killing over 100, injuring over 800 and traumatising the entire 1.7 million population.

Not just suspected militias and their equipment have been targeted, but also the Gazan government headquarters, police buildings and television stations.

No matter if children are in the way; eleven members of one family – including four children – were horrifically blown apart in a single house.

Most Palestinians in Gaza have no bomb shelters; nowhere to feel safe. The main hospital has run out of many essential drugs and is desperately short of generator fuel, intensive care beds and basic equipment.

Much of the capitalist media in Britain and internationally blame rockets fired by Palestinians into Israel for Israel’s ’justifiable’ action.

They echo politicians like US President Barack Obama, and UK Prime Minister David Cameron – themselves responsible for atrocities in Afghanistan – who have blamed Gaza’s Hamas leaders for the Israeli regime’s slaughter and have barely criticised Israel’s leaders.

What is rarely said and reported is that the Israeli military machine has been almost constantly inflicting brutal repression on Palestinians in the occupied territories over a long period of time.

In the few years in between its three-week 2008-09 "operation cast lead" onslaught on Gaza in which 1,400 Palestinians died, and the start of the latest offensive, 319 Palestinians were killed.

Although every loss of life is tragic, the numbers of Israeli Jews killed by Palestinians were far fewer: 13 during ’cast lead’ and 20 in the period in between offensives.

Even during the week before Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to escalate the brutality on 14 November, the Palestinians were bearing a heavy toll.

Seven died at the hands of the Israeli forces that week and 52 civilians were injured.

Then a shockingly brutal offensive unfolded that has been a nightmare for the Gazans and will bring no peace and security for the Israeli people.

It was partly fuelled by the power hungry desire of Netanyahu and his fellow ministers to do well in the forthcoming Israeli general election. The 2008-09 invasion was also prior to a general election.

The Socialist Struggle Movement in Israel/Palestine (part of the CWI – Committee for a Workers’ International, to which the Socialist Party is also affiliated) has been participating in anti-war demonstrations in Israel and has called for an immediate end to the bloodshed and for the removal of the present right-wing Israeli government "of big business and the settlements".

  • No more slaughter in Gaza! Escalate the demonstrations!
  • End the blockade of Gaza. Open the Gaza-Egypt border
  • For the immediate withdrawal of the Israeli army from the Palestinian territories
  • For a mass struggle of the Palestinians, under their own democratic control, to fight for genuine national liberation
  • For independent workers’ organisations in Palestine and Israel
  • For a struggle for governments of representatives of workers and the poor that will end oppression, defend democratic rights for all – including minorities, and break with capitalism and imperialism
  • For democratic socialism in Palestine, Israel and throughout the Middle East

Editorial of the Socialist:

Israel’s leaders inflict carnage and terror to suit their own interests

"There’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders", argued US president Obama, when supporting the Israeli military’s bombing of Gaza.

These words deliberately and disgracefully distorted the reality, because Gaza is effectively under brutal occupation by the Israeli regime.

The situation is worse in many ways than the word ’occupation’ suggests, because the Israeli state isn’t providing anything approaching a tolerable life to the Palestinians in Gaza.

Gaza has absolutely no control over its borders or outside trade; the entire strip has been condemned to terrible poverty by being blockaded by the Israeli army and navy for six years.

It has been subjected to regular military incursions, with large numbers of Palestinians being killed, injured and imprisoned.

In the rest of the occupied territories the Israeli government has pursued a policy of bulldozing Palestinian homes and destroying their orchards to make way for Jewish settlers and Israeli state infrastructure, ’facts on the ground’ against the creation of a Palestinian state.

While Palestinian militias in Gaza are estimated to encompass around 35,000 fighters with their smuggled-in guns and rockets, Israel has a conscript army numbering 175,000, reserves of 450,000, and highly sophisticated military jets, helicopters, drones, tanks, guns and bombs at its disposal.

The Israeli military also has ’Iron Dome’ rocket-interceptors, which are identifying and destroying mid-air most of the Palestinian-fired rockets that could possibly do damage.

The Socialist doesn’t condone the indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel. They sometimes cause injuries and occasionally deaths of innocent people – they killed three Israeli civilians last week – and they do nothing to advance the Palestinians’ cause. A few have nearly reached the built-up areas of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

But for those rockets to be used to justify large-scale slaughter of Gazans using the latest high-tech weaponry, is an attempt to hide the real agenda of the Israeli leaders and their friends in the ruling classes internationally.

Gaza city, 21 November

Ceasefire talks

At the time of writing, "operation pillar of defence" has been inflicting death and terror across Gaza for seven days and 75,000 Israeli army reservists have been called up in order to threaten a "significant expansion" of the onslaught.

This is a much larger mobilisation of reserves than in ’operation cast lead’ in 2008-09. Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman chillingly explained that ’this time’ a ground invasion would have to be seen ’through to the very end’, contrary to cast lead.

However there are attempts underway by the world and regional powers to apply pressure for a ceasefire to prevent a ground invasion, notwithstanding Obama feebly just saying that it would "preferable" if it’s avoided.

It is still possible that this even worse scenario will be carried out. If Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu decides not to though, it may be less a response to international pressure and more to do with an opinion poll in Israel indicating that while 84% support the air missiles, only 30% support a ground invasion.

The Israeli government argues that it has to stop the rocket attacks from Gaza. That was also the declared aim of the onslaught in 2008-09, but it failed to stop them, as will this offensive too.

No amount of force will prevent the masses in Gaza from resisting the occupation and struggling to make their lives more tolerable.

As well as the military brutality failing to be any solution, if it continues, the Israeli death toll will increase which will lead to growing questioning and opposition to the war inside Israel.

Also anger and condemnation of the slaughter from ordinary people across the Middle East and globally will escalate as the Palestinian death toll rises.

Some western strategists fear that another consequence could be that the Israeli leaders’ desire to destroy Hamas will aid other Palestinian militias, such as Islamic Jihad, which is the Iranian regime’s preferred partner in Gaza.

In fact, while Hamas periodically carries out phases of rocket attacks on Israel and is doing so now, it has at times tried to enforce a ceasefire on its own militias and others, to try to consolidate its control of the Gaza strip by negotiating with Israel some respite from the acute repression and deprivation.

Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, 20 November

Netanyahu’s fears and aims

Shortly before the Israeli missiles started falling on 14 November, killing the Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari in one of the initial strikes, a ceasefire deal had been agreed by Jabari. But Netanyahu and Co had other plans.

This is not to say that Netanyahu’s strategy is welcomed by all at the top of Israeli society, there have been many warnings and differences.

For instance Efraim Halevy, a former head of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, distanced himself from it and wrote: "It is imperative that Israel contributes to an Egyptian-crafted and American-supported formula for the region".

But Netanyahu has been long preparing the way for a possible military attack on Iran and has now deliberately ratcheted up the national conflict at home: seeming madness, but with his take on the cold-blooded interests of the Israeli capitalist class at heart.

They are alarmed about Hamas having new points of support in the region following the Muslim Brotherhood victories in Egypt and Tunisia and also increased support from Turkey.

A few weeks ago the emir of Qatar visited Gaza and pledged $400 million of investment, which boosted Hamas.

The elite in Qatar is trying to develop its own regional influence partly by leaning on the plight of the Palestinians.

This was helped by the leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, removing himself from the patronage of Assad’s Syrian regime where he was based, to install himself in Doha, Qatar.

Egypt’s Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi does not want to openly confront the Egyptian elite and wants to retain support from the US and EU and avoid conflict with Israel, so he has cooperated with Israeli security agencies over the blockade of Gaza and in Sinai.

But he is coming under huge pressure to help the Gazans from an outraged Egyptian population.

The Israeli leaders are very alarmed about other events in the region as well, particularly the plight of Assad in Syria and how this will affect Lebanon.

As well, there are presently strikes, demonstrations and riots against the Jordanian regime which is another neighbour of Israel; the Israeli capitalists don’t want that rebellion and the previous uprisings across the Arab countries to inspire Palestinians in the occupied territories or inside Israel to fight back en masse, or the Israeli working class.

Moreover, the re-election of Obama in the US was not good news for Netanyahu, as he doesn’t want any pressure from that direction towards resuming peace talks with the Palestinians.

Furthermore, an irritant for the Israeli regime is the Palestinian Authority’s revival of pursuing its bid for recognition by the United Nations.

The most likely key issue in relation to the timing of this attack on Gaza is that Israel has a general election in January – if it isn’t postponed.

The two right wing parties led by Netanyahu and Lieberman want to increase their number of seats in the Knesset (parliament).

With this in mind the two parties have recently joined forces, but polls before the attack on Gaza were not showing the level of support they were hoping for.

So their attack on Gaza fits in with their electioneering, by distracting the attention of Israelis away from cuts in services and living standards and giving an impression of boosting defence.

The Israeli population is subjected to a barrage of propaganda that it’s the only way to improve security.

However there is a significant minority who recognise that military force will not safeguard security, with some participating in anti-war demonstrations.

Workers’ organisations

A ceasefire, while bringing relief to many, and any further ’peace’ negotiations, will not lead to the Palestinians’ aspirations being met.

The pro-capitalist political leaders on both sides of the national divide have no programme for doing this and no solutions to end the cycles of bloodshed.

Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, 20 November

For the Palestinians, neither the right-wing Islamist Hamas nor the Fatah-led authority in the West Bank has a viable strategy for defeating the occupation or for providing decent living standards.

Instead, the Palestinian masses need to build their own organisations that can democratically organise defence and take offensive initiatives based on mass struggle – such as against the blockade and land seizures.

In Israel, following the unprecedented social movement involving hundreds of thousands of people in 2011, a new workers’ party is needed to concretely advance the aspirations of that movement – for decent housing, services, pay etc.

It will be through the building of new mass workers’ parties in the region that the pro-big business agendas of the capitalist parties can be challenged and thrown out, and socialist ideas can start to take hold.

That will be the route to building two socialist states – a socialist Palestine and a socialist Israel as part of a socialist confederation of the Middle East, to lay the basis for a future free of war, terror and poverty.

See for reports of protests and demonstrations against the slaughter in Gaza.

An article explaining the Socialist Party’s programme on a two-state solution will be published in early 2013

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November 2012