In a calculated provocation on the opening day of the Gaza bombings, thousands of ultra-right wingers, including Kahanist Ittamar Ben Gvir, ascended the Haram al-Sharif (the site of the Temple Mount) escorted by Israeli police (the minister of police is a Labour Party member, Omer Bar-Lev). The Haram Al-Sharif contains the Al-Asqua mosque – the third holiest site in Islam. A section of ultra-right-wing Jewish fanatics advocates the destruction of the Al-Aqsa mosque and the rebuilding of the Jewish temple on the site.
Joe Biden had previously condemned Putin’s attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine. But he supported similar Israeli Defence Force attacks: “The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist groups that have taken the lives of innocent civilians in Israel.”
In Britain, Tory party leader candidate, Liz Truss, issued a statement: “The UK stands by Israel and its right to defend itself. We condemn terrorist groups firing at civilians and violence which has resulted in casualties on both sides.”
Israeli journalist, Amira Hass, described the Gaza strip as a “huge concentration camp.” The Strip is home to two million Palestinians. All movement of people and goods into this tiny 25-mile long and 7-mile wide enclave is controlled by the Israeli and Egyptian regimes. Very few people are allowed to enter or leave. Israeli restrictions on the import of cement mean that the ruins of the 2,200 homes reduced to rubble by Israeli bombs in the May 2022 war have still not been repaired. The population are effectively trapped in a war zone, with two out of three teenagers suffering from PTSD. Ninety-five per cent of Gazans lack access to clean water. Eighty per cent of the population is dependent on humanitarian relief for their survival. Half the population do not have enough food, with 60% of children suffering from anaemia, and many suffering from stunted growth due to malnutrition.
Israeli Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, claimed that the bombings were a “pre-emptive strike” to prevent Islamic Jihad’s plans to fire rockets at Israel. But he faces elections on 1st November – the 5th Israeli election in four years. And Israeli governments often use military adventures against Palestinians to prove their toughness in the run-up to elections.
Lapid became prime minister only five weeks ago, when his coalition lost its majority after the Palestinian MP, Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, resigned from the coalition in protest at the assignation of Palestinian journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, and at the brutal attacks on her funeral by the Israeli police.
The government was set up just one year ago – a wall-to-wall coalition including far-right settler parties, Yair Lapid’s “There is a future” party, the remnants of the Israeli Labour Party, the supposedly liberal anti-occupation Meretz Party and the Islamist United Arab list. The government was held together by opposition to the right-populist Trump-like Netanyahu who was prime minister during the previous 12 years.
The Israeli capitalist class had become increasingly irritated by Netanyahu’s method of bolstering his support by stirring up the conflict with the Palestinians, which added to the instability of the region and threatened to undermine their profits. But they lacked a reliable party which could represent their interests. This role was in the past played by the Israeli Labour Party, which was the permanent party of government until 1977, with over 40 seats in the Knesset. But Labour’s neo-liberal policies and its discrimination against the predominantly working-class Mizrachi Jews and its later championing of neo-liberal attacks against the working class led to its demise (Labour now has only seven seats in the Knesset, and sits in the current government with one of its MPs, Omer Bar-Lev, serving as minister of police).
Israeli capitalists have attempted repeatedly to set up new political vehicles – various ‘centre’ parties often headed by white-knight generals parachuted into politics (like Benny Ganz’s Blue White Party), or by media personalities (like Yair Lapid’s, ‘Yesh Atid’ party).
Massive weekly protests
2020 and 2021 saw massive weekly demonstrations against Netanyahu over his corruption scandals. These protests were backed by sections of the ruling class. Large sections of Israeli youth who had been pauperised by the covid lockdowns defied demonstration bans and police repression in order to demonstrate. This movement had a single demand “Lech!”(meaning “Go”) – that Netanyahu should go – and be replaced by an “anybody but Netanyahu”.
However Netanyahu was not the source of the crisis in Israeli society, but its product. Netanyahu and his supporters failed to win a majority in the 2021 elections. Netanyahu launched 11 days of deadly bombardment in Gaza, killing 280 Palestinians, including 60 children, which spilt over into inter-communal civil war between Jewish and Palestinian neighbours in some of Israel’s mixed cities.
Netanyahu did this in order to ratchet up the national conflict and prevent the setting up of a government including Arabs and “lefts”. But this failed to prevent the government of the “Coalition of Change” – a coalition of anti-Netanyahu parties, initially headed by millionaire settler leader, Naftali Bennet. Yet without anything to offer Israeli workers, the new coalition government found it had no other way of building a base of support other than continuing Netanyahu’s pandering to Israeli nationalism and to the right-wing settlers. Members of the coalition – including the remnants of the Israeli Labour Party, Meretz party, and Monsur Abas’s Islamist United Arab list – failed to issue even verbal criticism of the most recent atrocities in Gaza. The leader of the Labour Party, Merav Michaeli, issued a tweet which turned reality on its head: “The residents of Israel deserve to live in security. No sovereign state would accept a siege on its residents by a terror organization”.
Meretz leader Nizan Horowitz has been silent on the “operation”, though Mertz leadership candidate Zahava Galon has condemned it.
Israeli military atrocities in Gaza have become a regular fixture of Israeli election campaigns, allowing the incumbent prime minister to demonstrate anti-Palestinian toughness and rally the voters as a war-time leader. It remains to be seen whether this will be sufficient to prevent the return of Netanyahu in the 1 November elections.
But it is clear that these elections will not solve the chronic instability of Israeli society – which stems from the inability of capitalism to provide Israelis and Palestinians with peace, security and a decent life.
All the main Israeli parties accept the slaughter of children and innocent civilians in Gaza as a small price to pay for demonstrating their ability to “stand up to terror”. The capitalist powers internationally, and the UN, have, once again, not raised a finger to stop the slaughter. And neither has Hamas, nor the Islamic Jihad – both right-wing organisations – any viable strategy to defend the Palestinians.
Both in Israel and in the Palestinian territories, the situation is crying out for workers’ parties – in Israel one which unites Israeli and Palestinian workers and fights for their common interests, and in the territories, one which can unite Palestinian workers across the West Bank and Gaza – with both offering an alternative to the horrors of capitalism.