Gaza and the occupation – a view from Nigeria
The essence of the situation is that there are now two nations fighting over the same territory. In the 1948 war the Palestinians lost territory and hundreds of thousands were driven out or forced to flee. They were replaced by Jewish migrants, often fleeing persecution, from Europe and increasingly from other Middle Eastern countries. At that time Marxists warned that the so-called ‘safe haven’ of Palestine could become ‘a bloody trap’ for Jews as many Jewish leaders wanted to push the Palestinians out, thereby creating conflict. While, over time, an Israeli nation developed it was faced with hostility on all sides and within with the result that the fear developed amongst Israelis that if they lost a war they would be “driven into the sea”. This accounts for the fury with which the Israeli military often fights and the threat that it would use nuclear weapons if necessary. At the same time the Israeli ferocity creates both fear and immense anger amongst Palestinians. Thus, we see a continuing and deepening polarisation.
In this situation it is necessary to try to convince at least a section of Israelis that the way to avoid being faced with one war after another and remove the fear of being pushed into the sea is to jointly struggle with Palestinians both against oppression and the capitalist system which cannot meet the needs of either Israelis or Palestinians. On this basis a workers’ movement could show that the rights of both nationalities can be protected and the lives positively transformed by a struggle for a socialist future. Such a development would enable working people to decide the form of state structure that they want to build, whether starting with separate Palestinian and Israeli states or some form of joint state, but all based on the principle of equal rights for all, including minorities, and the idea of building a socialist future.
However, the large scale Israeli civilian casualties resulting from the October 7 action of Hamas has created a wave of anger amongst Israelis and somewhat handed a lifeline, probably temporarily, to the Netanyahu regime which was actually on the brink of collapse. Netanyahu as prime minister has been serially accused of corruption and in an attempt to circumvent the laws his government proposed an authoritarian legal reform that would effectively castrate the country’s judiciary. Early this year, enraged Israelis trooped out in tens of thousands to condemn the terrorism of his government against the judiciary. It was only in July when Israel’s largest trade union – Histadrut – called for a strike that his government temporarily backed down from the idea of giving the parliament the power of veto over judicial decisions.
Anna Foster and Marita Moloney writing for the BBC on March 27, 2023, captured the development as follows: “In unprecedented events, the country’s biggest trade union called a strike, and Israelis watched society close down around them”.
From the main airport to shops and banks – even in hospitals – services were stopped. The coordinated action was designed to push Netanyahu back from the brink of pushing through the reforms by the end of this week.
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid called it the “biggest crisis in the history of the country”. The government, Israel’s most right-wing ever, is seeking to take decisive control over the committee which appoints judges. The reforms would give the parliament authority to override Supreme Court decisions with a basic majority and would make it difficult to declare a prime minister unfit for office and remove them from power.
Mr. Netanyahu said the changes would stop courts over-reaching their powers, but critics said they would help him as he faces an ongoing trial for corruption. He has been on trial facing charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three cases. The prime minister denies any wrongdoing and claims he is the victim of a “witch hunt”.
For such a beleaguered leader, the Hamas assault on military targets and civilians right inside Israeli territory would seem divinely ordained. It not only offered him a menu of diversion from the domestic headache, but instantly presented the excuse to do what he and some previous right wing leaders have always done – decimate the Palestinians to checkmate the demand for a genuinely independent State of Palestine.
That the Israeli people are rallied behind war monger Netanyahu, at least for now, therefore points to a major flaw in the strategy of Hamas whose target, being an extremist group, does not exclude innocent Israeli civilians.
Palestinians make a significant part of the Israeli population. Their support and that of ordinary Israelis, who recent protests have shown that they do not necessarily approve of Netanyahu’s right wing policies, is needed in making the case for a fully independent Palestinian state under the overarching framework of what is often described as two-state (Israel and Palestine).
However, it must be quickly stressed that the Israeli army and defence forces regularly act in worst mindless manner each time they embark on the pursuit of the armed groups of Palestine. Often times, they would indiscriminately bomb schools and hospitals and kill civilians including journalists covering the never ending skirmishes. The conflict is another horrible example of how conflicts over national rights and territory can give rise to brutal ethnic based clashes, something which only can only be prevented by a movement of working people opposing oppression and defending the rights of all.
Yet not the entire pendulum of the law of unintended consequences is currently swinging in the Israeli direction as far as the current conflict is concerned. The Arab world are equally lining up behind Palestine with thousands openly demonstrating in the Middle East that have, as in Egypt, criticised their own regimes. Hundreds of thousands have also demonstrated across the world including Europe and the US against the war on Gaza and continued repression of Palestinian people
With the unresolved question of a genuinely independent viable state of Palestine as against a people without a government but mere authority, the Hamas assault should however not come as a surprise. Unfortunately, it is yet another phase in a deep-seated historical conflict, the complexities of which have shaped the nature and character of the relationship between the Palestinians and the Israeli State.
It has been explained that the essence of the United Nations Resolution 181 of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1947 was that Palestine would be divided into Arab and Jewish states, with the status of Jerusalem to be maintained as a distinct city under international jurisdiction.
If the resolution can be called a bargain, it can be argued that it has only been fulfilled in favour of Israeli. In giving effect to the resolution the colonial power then ruling Palestine, Britain, spearheaded the creation of Israel in 1948. But as soon as Israel declared its independence it faced an angry Arab and Palestinian population who detested the idea of a Jewish state on a land they considered ancestrally and religiously theirs with the third holiest shrine of Islam, the Al Aqsa mosque, for example, located in Jerusalem. Indeed, for the Palestinians, Jerusalem is the future or dream capital of their State.
About 700,000 of Palestinians were uprooted from their homeland by Israel in what is known as Al Nakba (The Catastrophe) in 1948/1949 and about 200,000 found themselves in refugee camps in Lebanon from where they launched their own attacks on Israel. It was in that refugee camp that the Palestine Liberation Organisation with Yasser Arafat as the leader was formed in 1970 as a guerrilla movement to wage armed struggle against Israel and for the establishment of the State of Palestine.
It is the history of the experience of Palestinians in Lebanon that more than anything else reveals that Netanyahu is not the first Israel leader to make the annihilation of Palestinians a state policy.
The PLO in 1982 found itself in the web of a Lebanese civil war. Israel that had always felt threatened by the presence of Palestinians also took side with the right wing Christian Phalangists. The PLO, which had provided some of governance for the Palestinians in the refugee camps was meanwhile under pressure to leave Lebanon. It was the second time the leadership would face expulsion after it had been expelled from Syria. Arafat bowed to pressure and evacuated his forces from Lebanon to relocate to Tunisia.
Shortly after the departure the Israeli Defence Forces took over the area and in September offered cover for the Phalange militia to massacre between 2000 and 3500 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians. The worldwide condemnation that greeted the brutal murder led to the withdrawal of IDF and the sack of Sharon as Israeli defence minister, although he later retuned as prime minister.
Since its victory with the support of the US in the 1967 six-day war with five Arab Nations, Israel has continuously built settlements in the newly captured Palestinian territories in Gaza, the Golan Heights and especially both East Jerusalem and the West Bank seized from Egypt, Syria and Jordan respectively. The expansion and land grabs have continued to fuel anger and conflict. For instance, over 50,000 hectares of Palestinian land in West Bank have been forcefully grabbed for new settlements, agricultural and industrial zones. Tied to this expansion is the profit interest of big companies owned by rich Israelis, Europeans and Americans. In other words, corporate interest is partly behind the ongoing conflict, despite the growing number of deaths and injuries, the construction and military industrial complex are making huge profit and blood money.
Why is this piece of history important
Because, it cannot be ruled that some of the Palestinian children who witnessed different massacres and escaped it are among those who have grown up to become fighters and leaders of various Palestine groups including the likes of Hamas, Al Qasem Brigade, etc.
Certainly, from their ranks would have been drawn the street organisers and mobilisers of the two Palestinian Intifadas (uprisings) between 1987 to 1993 and 2000 to 2005. The symbol of the Intifada was the sight of young Palestinians throwing stones at Israel tanks and soldiers but women were also active participants. Despite the fact they only engaged in stone throwing the Israeli Defence Forces killed at least 1000 of them and imprisoned thousands.
Despite the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3236 of 1974 recognising “the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty in Palestine” and despite the later conferment of Palestine with non-state observer status in the UN, the quest for a fully independent state of Palestine is being resisted by right-wing Israeli government with the backing of the West.
Yes, the Palestinians are nominally in charge of West Bank and Gaza but the Israel State regularly use both military power and economic blockades to make the self-rule impotent. The West Bank remains occupied while power and water supply to it and the Hamas controlled Gaza are in the hands of the Israeli state, which turns both on and off as it suits its fancy. Life in the Palestinian territory is therefore effectively nasty and brutish. At present, Israeli rightwing government has cut off electricity and water, and for many days refused to allow aids into Gaza. Such a condition cannot but be a breeding ground for resentment and anti-Israel radicalism of all shades. And even though the Israeli State may end up killing hundreds if not thousands of Hamas commanders and fighters in the current battle, it won’t completely decimate them.
In few years, thousand others would emerge because the average Palestinian who takes up arms to fight the Israeli army sees it as a matter of sacrifice for the Palestinians’ just demand for its own independent state in the real sense of the word.
Indeed, the initial success of Hamas in infiltrating Israel, seizing military formations and engaging in battles in which lives were lost on both sides is precisely what would inspire future fighters spread across Hamas, Al Qasem Brigade, Hezbollah and many others. However, the approach going forward must be democratically organizing mass struggles based on the interests of workers and the poor and when necessary with armed resistance but subject to democratic control.
When the international capitalist ruling elites talk about two-state solution, it is still Palestine under the domination of Israel with limited concessions to the Palestinians. The current Israeli government does not want even a token Palestinian state fearing that it could become a destabilizing factor, while the far right within this government wants Israel to take over all the West Bank and either remove the Palestinians or ensure they are clearly second class citizens.
However, a Palestine state under the continued domination of Israel is not a long-lasting solution to the conflict. What is needed is a genuine Palestine state free from Israel’s domination and Iranian or other rightwing governments’ influence but one that is democratically run by the working masses having links to workers and poor people of Israel for solidarity and cooperation that could lead to ending poverty and tyranny in Palestine, Israel and the entire Middle East.
To set the struggle on such a path there is need for independent mass working people movement both in Israel and Palestine that put forward a socialist programme that unites working class and the poor in both countries and fight for the liberation of Palestine. However, such a mass struggle has to be combined with the task of overthrowing capitalism both in Palestine and Israel. In other words, the solution lies in the struggle for socialist Palestinian state, alongside a socialist Israel, with two capitals in Jerusalem and guaranteed democratic rights for all minorities, as part of the struggle for a socialist Middle East. This will lay the basis for an end of oppression and war as well as to enable the use of human and material resources to guarantee decent living standards for the vast majority.
In Nigeria, trade unions and pro-masses organisations should organize a series of mass activities to mobilise a non-sectarian support for the cause of Palestinian people. It should be explained that the Israeli-Palestine conflict is not about religion but about the quest for respect of the fundamental rights of Palestinian people to an independent state and an end to Israeli domination, occupation and blockades with the support of Western imperialism.