Brutal Israeli-state offensive continues, threat of regional spread grows

Devastation in Gaza, the aftermath of Israeli army rocket fire. Photo: WAFA/APAIMAGES/CC

Over 2 million Palestinians in Gaza are suffering a horrific situation on a daily basis, with nowhere safe to go. Bombing continues and Israeli ground operations continue in the south – the area where people were once told to flee to safety.

Almost the entire population is going hungry. Famine could result within the next six months, according to the UN. Refugee camps already levelled by Israeli bombardment have suffered flooding with devastated sewage infrastructure failing. Disease is spreading. The Israeli state attacks have ruined hospitals and healthcare. The death toll now exceeds 23,000, with thousands more missing presumed dead.

The Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari told the US press on 8 January it has begun a new, less intensive phase in its war on Gaza, just as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was set to arrive in the Middle East for the fifth time since the start of the war. But bombs still rain down on Gaza and in the West Bank.

The same day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant made a statement to Israeli media to say that the war “will continue for many months”.

Increasing instability

US imperialism, for its own geopolitical interests, gives strong support to Israeli capitalism, but at the same time it has been pushing for some military restraint by Israel to try to prevent an escalation into regional war. Primarily because this would have a major impact on economies and stability worldwide.

Yemeni Houthis have been attacking ships in the Red Sea shipping route that accounts for about 12% of global trade. Already, major shipping companies Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd are avoiding the route – adding 10 days and around £1 million to the cost of a typical voyage. This already has wider economic implications, and more the longer it continues.

US Navy helicopters have sunk three Houthi vessels, killing the crews, UK defence secretary Grant Shapps has also threatened ‘direct action’ to protect shipping lanes, and Iran has sent a warship to the Red Sea to support the Houthis.

Already in the first days of 2024, as well as an intensification of the Houthis’ attacks on shipping there have been targeted Israeli missile strikes that killed a Hamas deputy leader and five others in South Beirut, a Hezbollah commander in southern Lebanon and an Iran-backed military commander in Iraq; and there was a terrible bombing attack claimed by Islamic State killing nearly 100 in Iran.

The Beirut missile was described by Hezbollah leader Nasrallah as “the first time something like this has happened since 2006”, referring to the 34-day war that year between Israel and right-wing Islamist organisation Hezbollah in Lebanon, a Hamas ally.

The Hezbollah leadership declared it would have to retaliate. An escalation of the military conflict with Hezbollah would be welcome to some of the right-wing government ministers in Israel. The Israeli defence minister argued in favour of a pre-emptive strike against Hezbollah in the immediate aftermath of the 7 October Hamas-led attack and Benny Gantz, another member of the Israeli war cabinet, said in December: “If the world doesn’t get Hezbollah away from the border, Israel will do it”.

‘The day after’?

The Israeli government has not outlined its plans for ‘the day after’, in fact it is split over them. In advance of a war cabinet meeting to discuss the issue, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant released his own document. In it, he outlines his vision for Israeli “occupational freedom of action” in Gaza, with governance involving the Israeli state, Palestinians, Egypt and a US-led multinational force charged with ‘reconstruction’. In other words, continued military occupation backed by US imperialism.

The US talks up the possible role of a ‘revitalised’ Palestinian Authority, a body completely discredited in the eyes of most Palestinians for its role colluding with Israeli state oppression and presiding over mass poverty.

It is the view of a number of right-wing Israeli ministers, as well as sections of the Israeli military and other state forces, that Palestinians must be driven from Gaza, to make way for Israeli settlers. This threatens a new ‘Nakba’ (catastrophe), echoing the events of 76 years ago when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven from their land.

Far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has said: “What needs to be done in the Gaza Strip is to encourage emigration. … If there are 100,000 or 200,000 Arabs in Gaza and not two million Arabs, the entire discussion on the day after will be totally different.”

Mass, democratic, socialist struggle

The Socialist Party and the Committee for a Workers’ International stand for an immediate withdrawal of all Israeli troops from Gaza, an end to the wars on Gaza and blockade, the right to national self-determination for the Palestinians, and a socialist solution to the conflict.

30 years since the world capitalist powers supported the Oslo Accords as a step towards a capitalist Palestinian state, they have long proven to be a dead end. An armed, competing, Palestinian capitalist state would be intolerable for the ruling Israeli capitalist class, which has made every effort to prevent it from ever coming into existence.

Palestinian national self-determination can only be achieved by a mass struggle of the Palestinians themselves – a third ‘intifada’ – this time democratically organised and based on socialist ideas. Democratic structures would need to be built by such a movement and would be the basis for a new working-class based political party to challenge the pro-capitalist parties in Gaza and the West Bank.

Such a movement would be a beacon to workers and poor people across the region facing oppression and poverty. A direct appeal to workers in Israel to struggle for decent living standards and services, and against their own right-wing, capitalist government, would be necessary too.

No capitalist solution is possible. Only a socialist programme based on public ownership of the main corporations and democratically decided economic planning offers the way forward. On that basis, resources could be used and developed to meet the needs of all people across Israel-Palestine.

Trade union lead

For campaigners in Britain, the best way to struggle is to continue to build working-class pressure in opposition to the war, including student walkouts and the mass demos that Netanyahu has been forced to notice. Socialist Party members will be building for the biggest-possible turnout for the ant-war demos, beginning with the demo in London on 13 January, and fights for the trade unions, which represent over 6 million workers in Britain, to mobilise their members too.

Discussions in the unions should be initiated between workplace trade union members and representatives in the arms, logistics and transport industries over what workers’ action can be taken against the war. Dockers in Unite the Union at an Ellesmere Port refinery refused to unload Russian oil from a tanker in 2022 in opposition to the war on Ukraine, for example.

Who can I vote for?

In an election year, a pressing question for thousands on the anti-war demos, who have watched Tory and Labour politicians stand behind the Israeli onslaught on Gaza, is: ‘Who can I vote for?’ The same question was asked by thousands on strike for decent pay deals in the last 18 months too as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told shadow ministers that they shouldn’t be on picket lines.

The answer is, we need a new mass party, based on the working class and trade unions, that fights to end the cost-of-living crisis and stands in solidarity with the struggles of working-class people internationally, including against the war on Gaza.

As a step towards that, the Socialist Party is preparing with others in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition to stand candidates in the next general and local elections. Anti-war campaigners, trade unionists, community campaigners, students, socialists, coming together to put forward a socialist alternative.

The Socialist Party is fighting for:

  • End the siege – for the immediate permanent withdrawal of the Israeli military from the occupied territories
  • For a mass struggle of the Palestinians, under their own democratic control, to fight for liberation
  • For the building of independent workers’ parties in Palestine and Israel and links between them
  • For an independent, socialist Palestinian state, alongside a socialist Israel, with guaranteed rights for all minorities, as part of the struggle for a socialist Middle East
  • No trust in the capitalist politicians, internationally or in Britain. Fight to build a workers’ party in Britain that fights for socialism and internationalism
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