After 19 people were killed in Israel: Stop the bloodshed! End the Occupation! Hands off Syria!

The recent suicide bombing in Haifa which killed 19 people and wounded 45 has been used by the Sharon government as an excuse to hit Syria with an air strike. In spite of the fact that Syria closed Hamas and Jihad bases in an attempt to appease US imperialism, the Israeli government has carried out this provocative attack. Obviously Sharon has his own agenda. Yossi Schwartz in Israel analyses what this new development implies and offers a socialist perspective and solution to the conflict.

The Israeli government used a bloody terrorist attack carried out on Saturday in the city of Haifa, as an excuse to hit Syria with an air strike. In this latest terrorist attack, 19 people were killed and 45 wounded when a woman suicide bomber blew herself up in a restaurant in the northern city of Haifa on Saturday. A number of children were among the dead. Israeli Radio reported that the dead included three children, a baby girl, three members of the same family and four Arabs.

The Israeli press reported that Israeli Air Force warplanes attacked a training camp which they said was being used by a number of Islamic and militant resistance factions on the Syrian-Lebanon border. In a statement reporting the raid, the IDF said air forces carried out the attack "deep inside Syrian territory." The IDF statement said "the army has started operating against those behind the attack, those who support (terror) and those who use the strategy of terror in order to harm citizens of Israel."

The army statement added that, "The Islamic Jihad, like other terror organizations ... enjoys the support and backing of countries in the region – foremost Iran and Syria. Syria is a country that sponsors terror and constantly tries to sabotage any attempt to achieve quiet and stability in the region. Israel will not accept the rules of the game that the terrorists are trying to dictate, and will act with determination against all who harm its citizens, in accordance with the right to self defence and defence of the state."

The daily Haaretz reported, "Palestinian sources in Beirut said Israeli warplanes raided a facility belonging to Ahmed Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), injuring one man. In addition to PFLP members, terrorists from Islamic Jihad, Hamas and al-Qaeda also utilized the camp for training. Among the buildings hit in the raid was a weapons workshop used by Islamic Jihad.

A senior commander for the Stalinist Damascus-based “Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command” told the Associated Press in Damascus that the camp was one of their deserted bases, not an Islamic Jihad camp. A civilian guard was injured in the attack, the commander said.

However, the truth is that Syria closed the offices of both Hamas and Islamic Jihad after the US invasion of Iraq out of fear it could be the next country to be targeted by the United States.

It is not surprising therefore that Syrian commentators expressed surprise at the Israeli strike, since Damascus has repeatedly claimed that it does not have any Islamic Jihad training bases on it soil. According to the Syrians, the camp was populated by civilians unconnected to any terror group. Syrian sources say that Israel is “playing with fire” and that the situation could rapidly deteriorate into a regional conflict.

Abu Emad El-Refaei, an Islamic Jihad spokesman in Beirut, Lebanon, denied that there were any Islamic Jihad bases in Syria. "We do not have any training camps or bases in Syria or any other country," he said. “All our bases are inside the Palestinian occupied territories”.

The Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak condemned the strike on Sunday, and visiting German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said it was "not acceptable." Mubarak in a joint news conference with Schroeder stated that, "We condemn what happened today concerning the aggression against a brotherly state under the pretext that some organizations exist there."

The suicide bombing that led to the Israeli attack on Syria, took place in the Maxim Restaurant, which was packed at the time and is owned by Israeli Arabs. Islamic Jihad later claimed responsibility for the attack, identifying the bomber as 27-year-old Hanadi Jaradat, a trainee lawyer from the West Bank city of Jenin. Her brother Salah and a cousin, both Islamic Jihad militants, were killed in June by IDF troops. One of the organization's leaders called the bombing, "a natural Palestinian response to the daily crimes carried out by the Israeli occupation against the Palestinians."

Thus, considering the measures taken by Syria against Hamas and Jihad, it is reasonable to ask why Israel attacked Syria in a move that clearly poses the danger of a new war in the Middle East? It is clear that the Road map has been torn to pieces by the explosive events which have erupted in the Middle East with severe ferocity. Even the US imperialists are now becoming aware of the situation that has been created, and are terrified of the consequences of their own adventure in Iraq and the effects it could have on the surrounding shaky Arab regimes.

The crisis is so deep that it is clear for many that the imperialist machinations, from Oslo to the Road Map cannot solve the underlying cause of this conflict - the historical crisis of a decaying system.

To make things worse for the Israeli government, the Histadrut in spite of the will of its “misleaders” may be forced to call a general strike against Sharon. Strong elements of the class struggle are emerging even within this atmosphere of religious and nationalist frenzy. Sharon and his bloodthirsty gang are basing themselves on the history of the Israel in its previous wars, like the war of 1967, that turned an economic crisis into years of stability. They believe that now the only viable option for them is another war.

Syria has been for a long time on the list of countries the US condemn as terrorists, by which the rulers of the US mean countries that do not toe the line. It is true that the US at the moment has its hands tied with its war against the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. For this reason it would prefer not to open a third front. The rulers of Israel however have different concerns, and they may find some support for their adventure amongst the most reactionary wing of the American capitalists. Furthermore Sharon is well aware of Bush’s statement - reflecting the decline of his popularity - that the US will not intervene in the next period in the "peace process". In any case Sharon believes that a war with Syria is a great opportunity to divert the attention of the Israeli working class away from their immediate economic and social problems and that it would also give him the chance to remove Arafat.

Individual terrorism – a dead-end

The explosion in Haifa marks the end of a three-week period of relative quiet inside Israel and is the first attack since September 10, when 15 people were killed in two suicide bombings just hours apart - the first, outside an IDF base in Tzrifin, in the centre of the country, left eight people dead; and hours later, a second terrorist detonated his explosives in the crowded Hillel Cafe on Emek Refaim Street in Jerusalem, killing seven. The attacks were later claimed by the Hamas movement.

The daily Haaretz reported, "The Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told US Secretary of State Colin Powell in a recent telephone conversation that, according to intelligence gathered by Israel, Arafat is continuing to funnel money to terrorist organizations. Speaking shortly after the suicide bombing, Health Minister Dani Naveh said Israel should 'seize this opportunity to get rid of Arafat.' The attack, Naveh added, was further evidence to those arguing over whether the Palestinian Authority chairman's presence in the region or his expulsion would cause greater damage, that Arafat's 'presence is far more damaging’."

However, the behaviour of Arafat contradicts this attempt to portray him as being responsible for the terrorist attack. Arafat and Prime Minister Qureia phoned the mayor of an Arab village in Galilee on Saturday evening to offer their condolences for the "deaths of Jews and Arabs" in the Haifa suicide bombing. Two of the people killed in the attack apparently came from that village.

The Palestinian Authority's Prime Minister, Ahmed Qureia (Abu-Ala), called the Mayor of Haifa, Yona Yahav to express his sorrow over the bombing and to condemn it. He issued a statement condemning the bombing and also called on militant Palestinian groups to cease attacks on Israeli civilians. "Mr. Qureia urged the Palestinian people and all its national and Islamic factions to practice self restraint and to fully halt these actions that target civilians and harm our legitimate and just national struggle," his office said in a statement.

In his statement, Qureia also called on Israel to end the oppression of the Palestinian people and to cease its efforts to strike at the leaders of the various Palestinian groups. Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat condemned the attack and appealed to the Quartet of international mediators - the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations - "to exert every possible effort in order to ensure de-escalation, and to maintain the road map" peace plan.

We agree with a Palestinian Authority source who said it was obvious that Saturday's deadly terrorist bombing did not have the blessing of Arafat, since he knew that Israel was likely to take measures against him. "If the Israelis kill Yasser Arafat the whole thing (peace process) is over and God help us all - Israelis and Palestinians... that would mean the end of moderation and the rise of fanaticism", Erekat warned.

The terror and the occupation: a capitalist-nationalist hell

While we condemn Israel’s attack on Syria, the In Defense of Marxism circle in Israel/Palestine also denounces the murderous suicide bombing in Haifa that took the lives of 19 Israelis, among them women and children, and caused the injury of many innocents. This terrorist operation reflects the nationalist and dangerous character of the fundamentalist Palestinian leadership – the Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – which is playing a macabre game with the fate of the Palestinian people and the Arab masses.

This insane terrorist operation, which not only doesn't help the Palestinian national struggle, but actually weakens it, reflects the fact that the current leadership is incapable of ending the Israeli occupation and bringing about Palestinian national independence. Such terrorist acts are leading the Palestinian people to a direct military confrontation with imperialism and the Zionist state machine. The US, the greatest superpower in the world is backing Israel, which has the most powerful army in the Middle East, and it will not hesitate to use such actions as an excuse to crush the Palestinian resistance and to create another national Nakba (catastrophe).

The wanton and murderous behaviour of the terrorist Muslim groups, reflects their attempt to prevent the creation of revolutionary alternative, a class alternative, emerging among the Palestinian workers, which could put to one side the current leaders and carry out a workers' revolution. It is despicable that they are prepared to use the "bravery" of these suicide bombers to kill women, children and elders. This "bravery" is presented as genuine and effective resistance to the occupation. It is nothing of the kind. It wastes the lives of Palestinians (justifiably angered by what they have experienced at the hands of the Israeli military) to attack innocent Israeli civilians. The organisers of the suicide bombings do not even care that they also hit Israeli Arabs, i.e. Palestinians. The fact that Palestinian Arabs – Israeli citizens – were injured and killed as a result of this operation reflects the cruelty of this horrible form of terrorism.

A big responsibility for all this lies on the shoulders of Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, and his government, who continue to oppress the Palestinians. They continue to kill innocent civilians, building the Apartheid Fence, expropriating Palestinian land, and abusing the Palestinians within Israel’s borders. An even bigger responsibility however, lies on the shoulders of the American President, George W. Bush, who provides full backing and legitimacy to Sharon in his building of the Apartheid Fence.

This latest terrorist attack testifies to the fact that the imperialist-Zionist “Road Map” is dead. It was a political proposal that did not win any significant support among the masses. This action - followed by the attack on Syria - was a slap in the face for the Zionist left which asked to return to the days of the Oslo Accords and to the doubtful deals between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. In addition, this terrorist operation is also a slap in the face for the different ultra-left sects; those sectarian outfits that have refused to denounce the Palestinian terror by arguing that it is a "legitimate resistance to the occupation", i.e., that it is right to kill innocent Israelis. They were a little embarrassed at seeing that this time Palestinian Arabs were among the victims.

As we have written before, Israel is raising once again the idea of attacking, expelling or even killing the long-time Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat. We oppose and condemn any such insane attempt to remove Arafat by the butcher Sharon. It will just add to the crisis of the Middle East and help Sharon to ignite a new war. Any attempt to kill or deport Arafat will only provoke further killings and the Middle East will be drowned in blood.

In these conditions it would not be surprising if some begin to dream of removing Sharon through some bombing or assassination attempt. However, as Marxists, we must understand that this would not serve either the Palestinian masses or the workers of Israel. From a hated butcher he would be transformed into a martyr of Zionism. Sharon should be removed by a movement of the working class, both Israeli and Palestinian. If anyone has the right to put the entire present Israeli leadership on trial this would be an Israeli-Palestinian workers' state. Any physical assault against Sharon would not solve the current problems. It would not serve to raise the consciousness of the masses to tasks posed by history. Individual terrorism against politicians does not change the policies but only deepens the national or the class oppression.

Of course, on the other side of the divide, we cannot ignore the role played by Yasser Arafat in selling out the Palestinian Revolution over many years now. This is what has created the basis on which the Islamic factions have been able to win support among the masses. Arafat, as the leader of the Palestinian bourgeoisie, has de facto betrayed the Palestinian struggle for national liberation. During the years of the Oslo Accords, he crushed the Islamic resistance, abiding by the requests of Israel and the US, but when the Palestinian masses refused to gave him any further legitimacy to sell out their national interests, and thus the Intifada erupted, he lost control and the resistance moved into the hands of the Islamic fundamentalists.

However, the task of removing Arafat does not belong to the Israeli state. An attack on the part of Israel against Arafat would be an attack on the Palestinian people. Therefore we would oppose it. The task of removing Arafat belongs to the Palestinian masses. What is lacking is a genuine party of the working class, both among the Israeli workers and among the Palestinian masses. The workers of Israel and Palestine have more in common than many may think.

Sharon, while he continues his onslaught on the Palestinian people is also carrying out an internal war against the Israeli workers. The strikes in Israel in these days are eloquent witness to this fact. Arafat, while he was able to keep the Palestinian Authority on his feet, used the opportunity to allow a small layer of Palestinian bourgeois to enrich themselves at the expense of the Palestinian people. There was a de facto collaboration between the Arafat leadership and the Zionist leadership in Israel. Thus, while there has been a national conflict between the two peoples, within both peoples there has been a simmering class conflict. It is our task to highlight this positive development.

The workers of Israel and Palestine need an Israeli-Palestinian revolutionary vanguard party, a Leninist workers' party in power. Such a party would lead the Israeli workers in a struggle against Sharon and all the capitalist politicians. On the Palestinian side it would build up a class alternative to Arafat and his clique. This would be the only way of removing the ground upon which individual terrorism breeds.

Leon Trotsky, the co-leader of the Russian Revolution, the founder and the martyr of our movement, stressed at every opportunity he had his opposition to individual terrorism. We recommend a reading of his significant Why Marxists Oppose Individual Terrorism,  As Marxists and Trotskyists, we are calling on to the Jewish and Arab masses to remove their “misleadership”, first and foremost Sharon's nationalist government as well as the militant Islamic terrorist factions.

The Palestinian Arab people have their right of self-determination and we fully support this. However, in the last 54 years we have seen of all kinds of "attempts" to solve the Palestinian national question, which have led to nowhere. These years have shown that only the working class, at the head of the oppressed nations, can win this right once it has taken power. The national question can be resolved only through a genuine internationalist programme. Such a programme would be a federated Israeli-Palestinian socialist republic, within the framework of a socialist Federation of the Middle East, in which the Israeli-Jewish people and the Palestinian Arab people would have their national-territorial autonomies where they would be able to develop their languages and their progressive cultures.

The present bloodshed is part of the crisis of the capitalist system. The death agony of capitalism on a world scale brings the imperialist countries, including Israel, to wage brutal wars and cruel occupations in order to extend the capacity of Western capitalism to survive by taking control of markets in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South America and Eastern Europe. Thus while the United States tries to save its collapsing economy by robbing Iraq's wealth and establishing a "free region" of capitalist trade in which no social gains and workers' rights will continue to exist, Israel wants to do the same not only to the Palestinians but to Syria as well.

Hands Off Syria!

Syria is the only deformed workers' state in the Middle East where the major means of production are nationalized and run according to a plan (albeit under an oppressive state bureaucracy). The socialist Ba'ath party nationalized the means of production long ago and this has provided the Syrian Arab masses with important social gains. This has been possible because capitalism was eliminated in Syria. The state in Syria rests upon having carried out a social transformation. Nevertheless it is not the working class that is in power, but a bureaucratic caste of senior Ba'athist leaders who prevent the Syrian economy and the state from developing into genuine socialism. Karl Marx defined the workers' state in its initial stages as a "bourgeois state without the bourgeoisie". A deformed workers' state is a temporary formation where without the workers taking power into the hands, instead of moving forward to genuine socialism the whole system can revert back to capitalism. In Syria the lack of any form of workers' democracy and workers' councils (genuine Soviets) is putting the gains of the social transformation in permanent danger. We saw this in Eastern Europe and the former USSR, and we can see this in China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam etc., today.

The Israeli drive to attack Syria is connected with the imperialists’ attempt to present the Asad regime as a "terrorist" (“rogue”) state in order to encourage a forced change of the regime. The US does not want to stop in Iraq - although the resistance to the occupation is growing on a daily basis. Its next target could be Syria (and even Iran). The US wants to undermine the nationalised, planned economy of Syria and rob it of its wealth. The US-backed liberal tendencies in Syria wish to sell the country's property and wealth to a layer of privileged petit bourgeois that enjoy the support of the capitalist West. But they cannot do so unless the West crushes the Ba'athist regime. Israel, the US’s strongest ally in the Middle East, would like to achieve this by opening up a war against Syria.

The US may hesitate, as it is busy on two other fronts already, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and may not like to begin such a war at this moment. It will put on the pressure to avoid such a war breaking out. Sharon however has his own agenda and he has been pushing insistently for such a war.

In the event of such a war breaking out, Marxists would defend Syria and the gains of its working class against any Zionist-imperialist aggression. Any self-defensive move by the Syrian bureaucracy to defend the country and its economy would be justified. Any death and destruction that would ensue from such a war would be exclusively the responsibility of the Zionist aggressors and their imperialist backers.

United Front – NOW!

The In Defense of Marxism circle calls on all the leftist organizations and parties to initiate immediately an emergency meeting of an organizing committee which will build a united front under the following slogans:

* Stop the drive to a war now! Israel out of the Occupied Territories!
* Down with Israeli state-terrorism! No to individual terror!

The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, the political front of the Communist Party of Israel, must take the lead and play a significant role in organizing a mass protest movement to stop Israeli state-terrorism as well as the Palestinian individual terrorism. We will provide our political support to this drive.