The horrific bombing of the Gaza Strip has continued relentlessly, inflicting terrible and unprecedented suffering on the trapped, blockaded population. The death toll has increased daily – over 8,300 at the time of writing – with more than 20,000 injured. Nowhere in the Strip is safe, so Gazans are in deep trauma, not knowing where the next missiles will land, and lacking electricity, fuel, water, food and medical supplies.
Israel’s spokespeople dismiss the death toll as exaggerated by the Hamas-led Gaza authority, but the pictures of housing turned into rubble and the reports from foreign journalists and aid workers in Gaza – who are also being killed – indicate its massive scale.
Referring to the recently started ground invasion, Amir Avivi, a former Israeli military deputy division commander, confirmed the lack of differentiation between military and civilian targets when he said: “When our soldiers are manoeuvring we are doing this with massive artillery, with 50 aeroplanes overhead destroying anything that moves.” The intensive bombing has also shown that the fates of the Israeli hostages held in Gaza are only of secondary importance in the Israeli war cabinet’s strategy.
Its declared aim is to wipe out Hamas, but that will be not be possible, and the devastating bloodshed will not prevent more bloodshed in the future. The ground invasion appears to have been calibrated as piecemeal stages in a drawn-out war rather than as a full-scale invasion with stronger impact. This is probably with the aim of minimising casualties of Israeli troops but also to try to avoid a sudden shock effect across the Middle East and internationally which would increase the chance of the war spreading.
But outrage across the masses of the Middle East and beyond is so great that regional forces such as Hezbollah in Lebanon have come under pressure to open up other fronts, and might do so as this war develops further.
In this volatile situation Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu inflamed the situation further by describing the war on Gaza as Israel’s “second war of independence”. The first was the war before and after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 when up to a million Palestinians were forced from their homes, becoming refugees. So Netanyahu’s words caused immense fear among Palestinians in the occupied territories and inside Israel on where the war is heading. He posed the war as existential for Israel, clearly hoping to come across as a leading saviour for Israeli Jews and turn the tide on his sinking popularity.
Already in this war over a million Palestinians have been displaced inside Gaza and hundreds in the West Bank, due to the orders and incitement of Israel’s ministers, some of whom make no secret of wanting more ‘facts on the ground’ regarding enlarging Israeli territory. US imperialism and other Western powers, while staunchly supporting Israel, are at the same time trying to exert some pressure on Israel’s leaders to limit their war objectives. This is not out of concern for the Palestinians, but rather due to worry over the potential for massive disruption to the world economy and other instability if the war spreads – including fear that mass fury can turn on the capitalist ruling classes, especially in the Middle East.
The Palestinians can place no trust in the world’s capitalist powers. In the occupied territories they will need to turn back to the mass struggle they engaged in during the first intifada, only this time organised under the democratic control of elected popular committees of struggle. This would mean challenging the Palestinian pro-capitalist parties – whether Fatah, Hamas or others – that have no way of ending their national oppression or of providing decent living standards for all. The Palestinian masses need to build their own political party armed with a socialist programme for taking into public ownership the main companies and resources in society, and running them democratically in the interests of all.
Turmoil in Israel
In Israel, following the callous killing of 1,400 Israelis and immigrant workers by Hamas on 7 October, most Israeli Jews support the military onslaught on Gaza. That support is likely to lessen though as the death toll of Israeli soldiers rises, along with questioning on where the heavy use of firepower will lead.
Also, a majority in Israel strongly blame the Netanyahu government for not preventing the Hamas offensive, anger that will be added to by recently repeated reports in the media on how, for years, Netanyahu encouraged the funding of Hamas from Qatar. He saw keeping Hamas afloat as helpful, so that he and other Israeli leaders could point to its hostility towards Israel and the separation of its rule in Gaza from Fatah’s in the West Bank to argue there has been no united Palestinian leadership to negotiate with and nothing to be gained from talks with Hamas. That was part of a strategy against any talks taking place about a future Palestinian state.
Now, however, the war has brought back lip service from Biden’s US administration, the Arab elites and others for the idea of a Palestinian state. This isn’t out of support for the right of the Palestinians to self-determination. Rather, having no solutions to the Israel-Palestine conflict, they can only try to end rounds of bloodshed by sponsoring façades of talks that won’t achieve an independent, genuine Palestinian state, because there is no prospect of one under capitalism. Israel’s capitalist ruling class regards the idea of such a state as a threat to its interests and won’t allow it. Also, that ruling class benefits from a ‘divide-and-rule’ approach, including fostering a heavy smokescreen of racism and security concerns in Israel to draw Israeli Jews behind capitalist interests.
But the interests of Israel’s working class and middle class are another matter. They have an enormous amount to gain from an end to the conflict, as well as from ending Israeli capitalism with all its exploitation both within and beyond the country’s borders. Israel’s myriad of pro-capitalist parties have shown again and again a complete inability to offer any way out of the cycles of war, or to end the poverty and massive inequality in Israeli society. So the building of a new mass workers’ party with a socialist programme is needed in Israel.
Only the development of socialist forces on both sides of the divide can start to counter the distrust and division and indicate the way forward towards an alternative system, free of war and oppression.
On a socialist basis, it will be fully realisable for both sides to have their own state if they so wish, while fully respecting the rights of minorities within those states, and linking them together in a voluntary socialist confederation. Capitalism is so rotten across the Middle East – as well as the whole world – that the taking up of socialist ideas on a mass basis in any country would very quickly become enormously attractive in neighbouring countries, laying the basis for a socialist confederation of the entire region, in which cooperation would replace conflict.