This weekend, protests will be taking place across the world to mark the 75th anniversary of the Nakba – the disaster faced by the Palestinian people as part of the creation of Israel. We say: Fight for a Socialist Federation of the Middle East!
15 May marks the Nakba for Palestinians, which means ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic. Each year, it is a day of commemoration and protest against the campaign of terror led by Zionist paramilitaries as part of the proclamation of Israel in 1948.
This resulted in over 700,000 Palestinians being expelled from their land. And it paved the way for the chaos that has engulfed Israel-Palestine ever since.
The creation of Israel was the product of shady dealings amongst the imperialist powers. These opened up a Pandora’s Box of violence and degradation that is still felt today.
75 years later, the horrorshow continues. Wherever you look, there are clear echoes to the brutal methods used by the Zionist forces to establish the Israeli state: from the struggle against forced evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, to the pogroms in Huwara.
Modern Palestinians are having to relive the traumatic experiences of their ancestors. While millions of refugees are denied the right to return, Palestinians inside the Occupied Territories and the Israeli ‘Green Line’ are denied any hope under the iron heel of the imperialist Israeli state.
These horrific conditions have not cowed the Palestinian masses, however. The brute repression that every wing of the Israeli ruling class relies upon has only cemented the determination of the Palestinian masses.
Over the years, the accumulated anger amongst the Palestinian people has repeatedly exploded to the surface. And a mass movement has emerged. Although this has subsided for now, combustible material continues to build beneath the surface.
A much greater conflagration is being prepared – one that will undoubtedly spread like wildfire throughout the whole region.
A new intifada (uprising) is becoming a serious concern for the Israeli ruling class. And rightly so. It is only through mass revolutionary struggle that the Israeli state can be overthrown, and that Zionism can be uprooted.
Such a movement must aim to break down Israel along class lines, on the basis of a revolutionary appeal to workers and youth across the Middle East to do away with capitalism and imperialism.
There will be no progress towards peace on the basis of capitalism – this rotten system that is responsible for creating and maintaining the division between Israelis and Palestinians.
Only a revolutionary programme can provide a genuine antidote to the poison of national oppression, by driving a wedge between the exploited and oppressed and their common enemy: the Zionist state.
The whole history of the region proves that revolutionary struggles can – and will – topple regimes, transform the landscape of society, and shake the foundations upon which the imperialists rest.
The whirlwind of reaction that is destroying the lives of millions can only be brought to an end by new revolutionary upheavals.
So let us emblazon these words on our banner: Free Palestine! Intifada until victory! For a Socialist Federation of the Middle East!
75 years since the Nakba: Israel is facing an unprecedented crisis
On 14 May 1948, the state of Israel was proclaimed. It followed a prolonged terror campaign by the Zionist army against the civilian Palestinian population, killing thousands and expelling 750,000 from their villages and homes.
This day marks the Nakba (catastrophe) for the Palestinians.
Israel has since undergone many wars, combined with a constant suppression of the Palestinian resistance, in order to consolidate its power.
Netanyahu’s judicial reform
Israel is now turning 75 in a state of unprecedented crisis.
Over the past few months, Netanyahu’s government – the most right-wing in Israel’s history – has triggered the biggest, most persistent and polarised wave of protests in decades. For weeks, hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews have taken to the streets against the government’s judicial reform.
The movement has been supported and promoted by decisive sections of the ruling class, the army, the judiciary, and businesses. This is the depth of the crisis. Even the powerful Zionist trade union confederation, the Histadrut, has joined the demonstrations.
On 27 March, a general strike, supported by a bosses’ lockout, tipped the scales, and Netanyahu had to retreat. He announced the ‘suspension’ of the judicial reform, and was also forced to take the humiliating step of reversing the sacking of Yoav Gallant, the minister of Defence.
In an interview, Gallant gave voice to the Israeli establishment’s rising alarm:
“The growing rift in our society is penetrating the IDF and security agencies. This poses a clear, immediate, and tangible threat to the security of the state. I will not lend my hand to it.”
His sacking stirred up a hornets’ nest at the very heart of the Zionist state, and among the Zionist backers of Israel in the USA and internationally.
Here we see how an individual – Netanyahu – can play such a role in upsetting an unstable equilibrium and giving a particular twist to the crisis as it unfolds.
What we see in Israel has some parallels with the phenomenon of Trumpism in the USA. It could eventually create the conditions for its own version of the January 2021 Capitol Hill riots.
Benjamin Netanyahu is not a new figure in Israeli politics. He has been the longest serving prime minister since Israel was created.
For decades he has been navigating turbulent waters and multiple scandals, but has so far always succeeded in outmanoeuvring his enemies. However, he is now inextricably embroiled in numerous corruption scandals. But he is determined to survive or bring his enemies down with him.
The problem for the Israeli ruling class is that they have lost control over the traditional party of right-wing Zionism, the Netanyahu-led Likud.
This is equivalent to a ticking time bomb placed at the heart of the system. For these reasons, the conflict that ensued from the judicial reform has complex ramifications, and cannot be easily resolved.
Jewish supremacist extreme right
The meteoric rise of Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich in mainstream Israeli politics is far from insignificant.
Ben-Gvir, who won his seat at the Knesset in 2021, is the leader of the Jewish National Front, the successor of the Jewish supremacist Kach party.
The Kach was banned as a terrorist organisation in 1994 after Baruch Goldstein, a US Israeli Kach activist, opened fire on 800 Palestinian Muslims who were praying, killing 29 and wounding 125.
He was beaten to death by survivors, but remains a personal hero of Ben-Gvir. Ben-Gvir was indeed removed from his IDF military service due to the extremity of his racist views, and regularly attended armed settlers’ rallies in East Jerusalem.
His rival, Bezalel Smotrich, is leading the Religious Zionist Party (Tkuma). Smotrich is a settler and has always vented his racist views publicly, opposing mixed marriages, and arguing for the segregation of Arab and Jewish women in maternity wards.
In October 2021, he told Arab lawmakers: “You’re here by mistake, it’s a mistake that Ben-Gurion didn’t finish the job and didn’t throw you out in 1948.”
This is in fact the real programme of the Jewish supremacists: to provoke a new Nakba and drive the Palestinians out of the whole of historic Palestine.
A dangerous position
Until October, Netanyahu (as all mainstream Zionists) would not have gone near figures such as Ben-Gvir or Smotrich with a barge pole, nor shared a platform with them.
Now they are Netanyahu’s kingmakers. Ben-Gvir is the minister for national security, and Smotrich is the finance minister, entrusted with the administration of the Israeli occupied West Bank.
So why do the Jewish supremacists’ prominent role in the government and their roots among the settlers represent such a big problem for Israel’s security and the ruling class?
Different brands of Zionism may not agree with the methods of the extreme right, but they agree with the aim of a greater Israel. Palestinian oppression and suppression has always been at the heart of the Zionist movement.
The Israeli capitalists, however, are conscious of Israel’s strategic fragility.
Their power and security depends on support from US imperialism. It also relies on the firm support of the Jewish Israeli population and the Zionist international network. All are being undermined by the rampages of the settlers’ movement and the provocations of the extreme right wing, which are getting out of control.
For obvious reasons, Netanyahu cannot afford to alienate the extreme right, who have been crying betrayal over the judicial reform U-turn.
In one of his usual coups de théâtre, he extracted a rabbit from his hat: the establishment of the national guard, a long-coveted dream of the extreme right.
The guard will be tasked with policing Palestinians within the Green Line (the 1948 borders). Ben-Gvir is demanding it be placed under his personal command.
Netanyahu’s way of wriggling out of one crisis is preparing the ground for an even bigger one.
The head of the police, Kobi Shabtai, has gone on record saying that “a national guard separate from the police will lead to forces firing upon forces”.
The national guard provides a legal cover to violence by the extreme right and it could bear very serious consequences, not least that of provoking a new Palestinian uprising.
Already in early April it came close, when Ramadan, Easter, and the Jewish Passover overlapped, and provocations from the extreme right, Ben-Gvir and the numerous fanatical Temple Mount groups intensified.
For two consecutive nights at midnight, Israeli police broke into the Al-Aqsa Mosque, throwing stun grenades, wielding batons, and using rubber bullets to arrest Palestinians who they claimed ‘barricaded’ themselves behind the mosque’s doors.
As usual, international media joined the chorus inviting ‘both sides’ to stop escalating violence. The videos show a different story.
One thing is abundantly clear. The Israeli ruling class is deeply divided. Events are taking on a momentum that makes it harder for the capitalists to paper over the cracks as they would in the past.
These divisions are reverberating internationally and seriously undermining the unity of the vital world network of Zionist support. A number of US mainstream Zionists have come out with sharp criticisms of the government, even staging boycotts of Smotrich’s visit to the US.
The Jewish youth internationally is likewise increasingly repelled by Israel’s actions. A big shift in the understanding of the nature of Israel as an oppressive regime is taking place.
Elephant in the room for ‘liberal’ Zionism
Engels wrote in 1874 that: “A people which oppresses another cannot emancipate itself. The power which it uses to suppress the other finally always turns against itself.”
These impressive words were true when applied to Russian oppression of the Polish people a hundred and fifty years ago; they are even more fitting for Israel today.
The elephant in the room for liberal Zionism is of course the occupation, and the oppression of the Palestinians. It had a visible impact even on a significant mass movement like the one against judicial reforms.
The Israeli Palestinians saw no point in defending a ‘democracy’ that systemically discriminates against them. The small number who attempted to join the demonstrations, while putting forward their own demands, were firmly discouraged and pushed aside by the Zionist organisers.
The racist and oppressive character of the Israeli state is officially sanctioned by the Jewish Nation-state Law passed by Netanyahu in July 2018, which abandoned the pretence of Israel being secular.
The bourgeois democratic principle of equality before the law is constantly violated to suppress the Palestinians, making it ever harder to defend the Israeli state while keeping the pretence of having nothing to do with Jewish supremacists.
The other elephant in the room is that the occupation affects not only the Palestinians, but also affects the conditions of the Israeli working class. Over the past 30 years Israel has experienced an enormous increase in inequality.
In 1992, the richest 10% of the population pocketed 27% of the national income, while the poorest 10% held 2.8%. Since then, inequality has dramatically increased.
In 2022, the bottom 50% of the population earned 13% of total national income, while the top 10% grabbed a staggering 49%.
The oppression of the Palestinians has provided the most favourable conditions for the capitalists to exploit a divided working class.
30 years after Oslo
It is worth noting that this year is also the 30th anniversary of the Oslo accords of 1993, between the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Yasser Arafat, and Israeli prime minister, Yitzak Rabin.
Their handshake for the cameras at the White House, and the Nobel peace prize they shared, were the cherry on the cake of the ‘New World Order’ of ‘peace’ and ‘prosperity’ ushered in by US imperialism after the collapse of the USSR.
In the unlikely event anyone wanted to celebrate thirty years of the Oslo accords, they would not be very cheerful.
These accords gave birth to the Palestinian Authority (PA). In exchange, the PLO guaranteed the end of the resistance and committed to enforce a regime capable of policing their own people on behalf of Israel.
As the Marxists had warned at the time, the Oslo accords were a vicious trap into which the Palestinian leadership willingly walked.
The PA does not have any territorial continuity. It is split into 165 Palestinian ‘islands’ that are under total or partial civil administration by the PA, and a contiguous area (representing 60% of the territory) that is under direct Israeli occupation.
Israel decides how much electricity, water, and medical supplies are made available, and is constantly strangling any possible development. Israel is even collecting customs revenues on behalf of the PA, but they are refusing to transfer these funds.
The situation of besieged Gaza is even worse. In what is effectively a huge open air prison under Israel and Egypt’s control, 53% of the population lives below the poverty line. Israeli raids and bombings periodically destroy the sparse infrastructure and prevent repairs.
And the PA is bankrupt. Striking workers – including 20,000 teachers – demanding unpaid wages are paralysing already meagre public services, while scarcity exacerbates corruption and abuse in the allocation of the few available resources.
Settlers’ movement on a rampage
Today, the Palestinian Authority is reduced to a moribund rump, under the constant expansion of the illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
At the time of the Oslo accords, the number of settlers was about 250,000, including East Jerusalem. As of February 2023, the total is more than 500,000 settlers in the West Bank, plus 220,000 in East Jerusalem.
Each new outpost brings with it more Israeli soldiers deployed to protect the settlers, while hundreds of checkpoints make the life of the Palestinians hell.
Infrastructure is created to support the settlers, giving them access to twenty times more water, at a lower price, while Palestinians go short. Walls are erected to ‘defend’ these settlements. Adjacent Palestinian properties are razed to the ground for ‘security reasons’. And settlers are intensifying their attacks, feeling empowered by the government.
The settlers’ movement, like Frankenstein’s monster, has acquired a life of its own, building dynamite into Israel’s foundations.
On 26 February, hundreds of settlers stormed the Palestinian village of Huwara in the West Bank, late at night – killing one, injuring 100, and leaving the town ablaze. Smotrich, the de-facto ‘governor’ of the West Bank, applauded the attack.
The IDF is also intensifying the campaign of extrajudicial killings of Palestinian youth fighting the occupation. This includes raids, sniping, executions by plain clothes Israeli commandos, and even planting of explosive devices on vehicles.
In May 2022, a prominent US-Palestinian Al Jazeera reporter, Shireen Abu Akleh, was shot in the head and killed by Israeli snipers while she was covering events in the Jenin refugee camp.
At the funeral, attended by thousands of Palestinians, Israeli police officers attacked those carrying her coffin from the hospital in East Jerusalem. The hospital itself was stormed, with police trampling patients and throwing stun grenades, wounding medical staff.
These are just examples in a much wider pattern of brutal systemic repression by the Israeli forces.
This does not even scratch the surface of the daily humiliations: ID confiscation at checkpoints; stop and searches; killing friends and family of Palestinian fighters; and indefinite and collective detention that can last years without trial.
But the only thing Israel is achieving with all this is to increase the resolve of the youth to fight against a never-ending occupation.
Upsurge of Palestinian resistance
The settler fanatics are determined to conquer, inch by inch, what they see as their land granted to them by the right of God. They have become the shock troops of the extreme Zionist right.
On the other side, the Palestinian youth have nothing left to lose, and are determined not to be intimidated. Some are prepared to pay with their lives – and often do. Tragically, they have been left with no alternative, as the PA leadership is siding with the occupiers.
The PA is in fact doubling down on repression against the resistance, with PA officials boosting surveillance cooperation with Israel and training 5,000 PA security officers in Jordan.
The cynicism towards the PA has become so widespread that in a recent poll 52% of Palestinians declared that the PA’s collapse or dissolution would be in their interest.
The failure of the PLO and Fatah leaderships was exposed by the massive movement against the bombing of Gaza in 2021, which led to the Palestinian general strike of 18 May.
The Unity Uprising saw a unified Palestinian struggle across Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, including Israeli Palestinians.
Since then, Israel has unleashed a wave of repression against the youth, with 7,000 arrests in 2022 alone. In Jenin, of the 136 Palestinians killed in the last decade, 106 were killed in the past 27 months.
Starting from the refugee camps, unified armed defence groups have been set up by the youth, regardless of their political allegiances, to resist the occupation and defend the refugee camps.
The PLO has played no role in all of this. It has been led by the youth.
Fight for revolution
These are just the opening shots of a much bigger crisis – the most severe Israel has faced for decades.
Sharp divisions are opening in the Zionist ruling class, undermining their international support. US imperialism’s priorities are shifting, distracted by Ukraine and growing friction with China.
China’s role in brokering a deal between the arch-enemies Saudi Arabia and Iran is also bound to have an impact on the relationship of forces in the region, forcing the hand of Israel.
Rising inequality and inflation are eroding the living standards of the Israeli workers, revealing the abyss between them and the capitalists.
Crises and revolutionary movements are brewing throughout the Middle East, while a new intifada will expose and shake the foundations of the occupation.
Today, the Israeli state is a reliable ally of the USA; a key pillar of imperialist reaction in the Middle East – though Netanyahu’s incendiary policies are undermining this.
It is a powerful capitalist state, where the rule of the Zionist bourgeoisie is based on the oppression of the Palestinians, backed by the petit-bourgeois administrators of the crumbling Palestinian Authority.
It is this chain of oppression that needs to be broken. This can happen only as part of a wider movement to overthrow capitalism in the region.
Only the establishment of a Socialist Federation of the Middle East – as a first step towards a World Socialist Federation – can overcome the oppression of the Palestinians.
A democratically planned economy could provide the resources to guarantee a better life to all the peoples of the region, and lay the material basis for the real emancipation of the Palestinians, the Jews, and all the peoples of the Middle East, by ending the present imperialist nightmare.