Nakba 75 years on – fight for socialist change to end Palestinian oppression

Palestinian Refugees 1948, Israel. Photo: Public Domain

15 May is Nakba Day, marking the creation of the Israeli state in 1948, known also as the ‘Palestinian Catastrophe’. Protests are taking place internationally including last Saturday in London. Below is the text for a leaflet that Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales) members distributed:

The 75 years since Nakba and the creation of the Israeli state have been full of bloody conflict, oppression, insecurity and poverty for the Palestinian masses.

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics puts the number now registered as Palestinian refugees at 6.4 million.

Israeli air strikes on Gaza on 9 May killed 13, three of them children.

Gazans today are under a brutal Israeli-Egyptian imposed blockade. The Israeli government – now in its most aggressive form ever against Palestinians as it includes the far right – continues to encourage and approve expansion of Jewish settlements and destruction of Palestinian homes, atomising Palestinian land in the West Bank. Teenagers armed with just stones are routinely shot by the Israeli state forces. Eleven Palestinians were killed when Israeli troops raided Nablus in the West Bank in February.

Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem also face violence from right-wing Jewish settlers. A recent brutal expression was the pogrom carried out in Huwara in February. Hundreds of settlers attacked Palestinian villages, torching homes and schools, and shooting one man.

The cycles of armed conflict, with military means and ammunition weighted overwhelmingly in favour of the Israeli state, have taken thousands of lives. 260 Palestinian lives were lost in the May 2021 war.

The forces of the Israeli state are divided. The Netanyahu-led coalition government staggers on, shaken by a series of mass protests and a general strike. Even sections of the state apparatus – pilots and military reservists – have refused to carry out duties.

While capitalist politicians at the head of that mass movement try to limit its cause to preventing judicial reforms, workers taking to the streets are motivated by repulsion at the reactionary government and want an end to the rising cost of living.

Mass protests and strikes of the Palestinian people, like the demonstrations and general strike in response to brutal beatings at the Al-Aqsa mosque in April, would help further to build the forces that can grow to challenge the Israeli state.

Coordinated days of strikes and protests, between the Israeli mass movement and that of Palestinians, against a common enemy – the Israeli capitalist state – would be hugely significant.

The pro-capitalist Palestinian organisations, including Fatah and Hamas, have proved themselves incapable of leading a struggle to win liberation and a safe and comfortable life for Palestinians.

The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) is toothless as Israeli state forces override it and impose heavy repression, and millions of Palestinians in the PA areas remain in poverty.

Hamas in Gaza, with its armed resistance, is seen by some as a staunch defender of Palestinian rights. But actions which indiscriminately hit Israeli civilians, whether the rockets of Hamas and other Palestinian militias, or the car rammings carried out in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, do not progress the struggle for liberation. They are expressions of anger, frustration and a desire to strike blows against the occupation, but they push working-class Israeli Jews into the arms of reaction and towards supporting even greater repression and loss of Palestinian life.

Socialists support the right of Palestinians to use arms to defend themselves and fight the occupation. But this should be in the form of mass actions, democratically controlled by their communities and targeted at the occupying forces and infrastructure, rather than by small groups or parties and aimed at Israeli civilians.

The development of democratically run local committees to organise action and defence is an urgent task. Linking these organisations would be an important step towards building a mass Palestinian, independent working class-led party.

In Israel, it is necessary for the working class to assert its leadership of the anti-government mass movement, and to develop a political alternative to the pro-capitalist parties. The building of an Israeli mass workers’ party, independent of capitalist interests, is needed.

This year marks 30 years since the Oslo accords – establishing the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and parts of the West Bank. The ongoing expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and the blockade on Gaza, underlines the failure of those accords.

A Palestinian state was never on offer in them. But any capitalist two-states ‘solution’, Palestinian and Israeli, would mean a continuation of conflict over many issues, because capitalism is a crisis-ridden system that can’t  offer decent living standards to either side.

Achieving the national aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis, and meeting people’s needs on both sides, necessitates a struggle for two democratic, socialist states.

It is also the case that on the basis of capitalism a peaceful co-existence of Israeli Jews and Palestinians in one state is ruled out. The capitalist ruling class of such a state would create continued conflict by using discrimination and repression. Also, present consciousness on both sides is to defend the national right to self-determination.

A coordinated struggle of Palestinians in the occupied territories and the Israeli working class, and the development of mass democratic organisations independent of capitalist interests, would be the basis on which two socialist states could be achieved, and agreements reached on issues such as the sharing of Jerusalem, access to water and other resources, borders, rights for minorities, and so on.

An end to 75 years of Nakba means waging a struggle against capitalism and for socialist change in Palestine, Israel, the Middle East and internationally.

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