Israel’s decades of aggression against the Palestinian people reached a tipping point in the past week, sparking an almighty blowback. As could have been expected, this was met with brutal reprisals by Israel, which has been bombing Gaza savagely and indiscriminately for almost a week. As it prepares for a likely ground invasion of Gaza, Israel has ordered one million people to flee south—an impossible task, as there is nowhere in the world’s largest open-air prison to go.
This is the consequence of decades of oppression and humiliation of the Palestinian people by Israeli occupiers. All communists and anyone who supports the oppressed and exploited must stand in firm defense of Gaza and the cause of the Palestinians.
But the capitalist politicians and media in this country would like us to believe a very different story. The barrage of war propaganda since last Friday has been overwhelming. The present generation of young communists has possibly never before witnessed this scale of mobilization to control public opinion. Capitalist media outlets from right to “left” are frantically at work, seeking to deceive, manipulate, and confuse Americans about the real nature of this war.
As Malcolm X aptly put it, “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
The ruling class is lying through its teeth
Joe Biden has called the attack on Israel an act of “pure, unadulterated evil,” and would like us to believe that Hamas’s attack was completely unprovoked. But let us look at some of the facts, and discern whether Biden and his class have the right to make such a statement.
The broader context is that Palestinians have endured over 75 years of unending oppression, exploitation, and humiliation. The balance of forces between Israel and Palestine is enormously unequal, both in military terms and in living conditions, going back many decades. On the one hand, there is the most advanced military power in the region, which has been bankrolled by US imperialism for decades, and on the other, an impoverished and oppressed people who have been denied a homeland and denied basic democratic rights for generations.
Between 2008 and September of this year, at least 6,407 Palestinians were killed as a direct result of this conflict, as opposed to 308 in Israel, a ratio of nearly 21 to 1. During this same period, some 152,560 Palestinians were injured, compared to 6,307 Israelis, a ratio of 24 to 1. Palestinians cannot move freely, and are unable to gain Israeli citizenship, even through marriage. Israel controls 85% of the water sources used by Palestinans, whose access to this vital resource is far below the UN recommended level. On the other side of the divide, Israelis consume at least four times as much water as the Palestinians. To add an abhorrent insult to injury, a video released in July showed Israeli forces literally pouring concrete into a Palestinian well.
Israeli army personnel have been filmed pouring cement into a water source which supplies Palestinians near the city of Hebron ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/Ol9vBpNhIt— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) July 27, 2023
The Israeli state is now indiscriminately killing hundreds of Palestinians. Hospitals, schools, mosques, families, and residential apartment buildings are being bombed without any warning. In one case, Palestinians in Beit Hanoun were instructed by Israeli forces to leave their homes and head for the city center, which was then deliberately targeted hours later.
I witnessed the unprecedented airstrikes that caused this destruction. This neighborhood is 300 meters away from my house, pic.twitter.com/vYOPb1t9ps— Rushdi Abualouf (@Rushdibbc) October 12, 2023
This bombing campaign includes the use of white phosphorus in one of the world’s most densely populated urban areas, which is guaranteed to cause brutal civilian injuries and death. As a Human Rights Watch official explained, “Any time that white phosphorus is used in crowded civilian areas, it poses a high risk of excruciating burns and lifelong suffering,” explaining that the chemical can “burn people, thermally and chemically, down to the bone.”
Israel, which has a blockade on Gaza, has shut off water, electricity, and gas to all of Gaza’s 2.3 million men, women, and children, with thousands of people at risk of perishing in the coming days as a consequence. The Israeli Defense Minister has said this was appropriate because Israel is fighting “human animals.” Meanwhile, Netanyahu demanded that the people of Gaza “leave now”—as if they have anywhere to go.
Some Gazans who still have fuel for electricity-producing generators, have posted videos online showing the scenes of destruction all around them:
Life in Gaza. pic.twitter.com/CfbaBws6sT— Muhammad Smiry 🇵🇸 (@MuhammadSmiry) October 12, 2023
These are the actions of the “enlightened democracy” and “ally of the United States” which Biden, the Democrats, and the Republicans are drumming up support for. Never mind that in this “democracy,” Arab Israelis are second-class citizens, and that as of 2018, the Jewish nature of the Israeli nation-state has been written into the country’s Basic Law.
“If there wasn’t an Israel, the United States would have to invent an Israel”
Biden has famously said, on several occasions, that if there weren’t already an Israel, the United States would have to “invent” an Israel. In a recent instance of this “line,” which he has said he’d repeat “5,000 times” if needed, he explained his reasoning. It is because of the “simply unbreakable” friendship, based on shared principles, shared ideas, and shared values. This goes along with the classic talking point that Israel is “the only democracy in the region,” and so on and so forth.
In 1986, he was a bit more even blunt about the real foundation of this “special relationship,” saying the US needs Israel: “to protect her interests in the region.” In other words, the US has long funded Israeli imperialism, not due to any “shared democratic values,” but purely as a bulwark for US imperialist interests in the Middle East.
That is the real reason the US is so “friendly” with Israel. The US capitalists and their state have had no problem engaging in similarly friendly relations with not-so-democratic regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Indonesia, to name just a few. They had no issue funding the Afghan mujahideen groups which later developed into the Taliban.
It certainly has nothing to do with American bourgeois democracy being a “friend of the Jewish people.” Let’s not forget that hundreds of thousands of Jews fleeing persecution in Hitler’s Europe were callously denied entry into the US due to its racist, antisemitic immigration laws—and that many of them ended up in Nazi concentration camps.
As they decry the brutality of Hamas and the scale of the civilian deaths in Israel, the cynicism and dishonesty coming from the mouthpieces of US imperialism defies words. The US ruling class had no problem dropping nuclear weapons on hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese civilians at the end of World War II, although the country was already on its knees. Nor did it balk at issuing orders to kill “anything that moves” during the Vietnam War, with hundreds of thousands of civilians maimed, tortured, and killed by US forces. It directly backed the 1953 coup in Iran, as well as the brutal Pinochet regime in Chile, which overthrew the democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende, and subsequently murdered thousands of people.
And let us just look at the more recent history of US “foreign policy.” The Watson Institute at Brown University, which studies the cost of war, explains:
The US post-9/11 wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, and Pakistan have taken a tremendous human toll on those countries. As of September 2021, an estimated 432,093 civilians in these countries have died violent deaths as a result of the wars. As of May 2023, an estimated 3.6–3.8 million people have died indirectly in post-9/11 war zones. The total death toll in these war zones could be at least 4.5–4.7 million and counting, though the precise mortality figure remains unknown. Civilian deaths have also resulted from US post-9/11 military operations in Somalia and other countries.
Furthermore, US imperialism sends billions of dollars in “aid” to Israel every year, has expedited the transfer of additional ammunition and other military supplies for use in its pending invasion of Gaza, and has sent its most advanced aircraft carrier group to operate off the coast of Gaza.
Joe Biden and his bipartisan collaborators are, therefore, the very last people on earth who have the right to raise a hue and cry over “evil,” “violence,” and “brutality.” Compare their cynical denunciations of the Hamas attack with the White House’s sympathetic response to Israel’s order for the evacuation of northern Gaza. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby described the appalling crime as “a tall order,” and said, “we understand what they’re trying to do.” The blood of the tens of thousands of Palestinians killed by Israel and the countless more who will die in the weeks to come is on their hands.
Failure of the “left”
Significantly, despite years of anti-Palestine propaganda, more and more US workers and youth have come to support the Palestinian cause. TIME reported this summer that “sympathy toward Palestinians among US adults is at a new high of 31%, while the proportion not favoring either side is at a new low of 15%.” It observed the “remarkable shift from only a decade ago, when sympathy toward Palestinians stood at just 12%. During that same period, sympathy toward Israelis has declined from 64% to 54%.”
Among politicians and the mainstream media, of course, anyone who expresses sympathy with the plight of the Palestinians is considered “antisemitic.” Class-conscious workers and youth can only shrug their shoulders at this ridiculous slander. It is clear that being anti-Zionist, anti-Israeli state, anti-imperialist, and anti-occupation is not the same as being antisemitic, and that this accusation is used as a fig leaf to justify the very real oppression suffered by the Palestinian people. Millions around the world, including increasing numbers of Jewish youth, are against Netanyahu and his reactionary cronies, not because they are Jewish, but because they are imperialist oppressors and exploiters.
Unfortunately, what passes for the “left” in this country has taken no principled approach whatsoever on this question. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders have more or less fallen in line with their capitalist Democratic Party, “condemning the attack,” and providing no explanation whatsoever of the long-simmering origins of the present conflict.
Sanders, who has endorsed the US support for Israel, called on the “international community” to focus on reducing suffering—as if such pious wishes have had any impact whatsoever in the decades leading up to this. At the same time, he insists on “restraint” from Israeli forces. This is like insisting that a tiger eat only lettuce.
More disgustingly, Ocasio-Cortez, who has impotently called for a cease-fire, even smeared a pro-Palestianian rights rally in New York City as an example of “hatred and antisemitism.” In this, she is a direct participant in a pro-imperialist slander campaign against the cause of the Palestinians, placing her firmly in the camp of reaction.
Worldwide intifada until victory!
In a battle between a nationally oppressed David and an imperialist Goliath, we stand with those using slingshots—while understanding that true liberation can only come from a generalized revolutionary conflagration that overthrows the putrid capitalist system across the region and the world, including Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia—and the United States.
This is why communists must study these events closely, publicize the horrific facts about the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and understand the class dynamics of the unfolding conflict in Palestine. We must firmly explain that US imperialism and the Israeli imperialism it props up are 100% responsible for the present crisis in the region. We must explain that Democrats and Republicans alike are equally to blame. And if we want the US government to cut all ties with the Israeli state, we must fight for the overthrow of US capitalism and the establishment of a workers’ government, which alone can make this a reality.
The rapidly radicalizing workers and youth of the US deserve a principled, class-struggle leadership that can stand firm in the face of these attacks and defend the cause of the Palestinians. Such a leadership will not drop from the sky, but must be built now. That is the task which the comrades of the International Marxist Tendency have set for ourselves.