Israel and Palestine: The only way out

The general crisis of capitalism is expressing itself as a general instability everywhere. Nowhere has this had more destabilising effects than the Middle East. This instability is being fuelled and exacerbated by US imperialism, which has decided that it is free to intervene anywhere it likes under the pretext of the so-called war against terrorism. Ariel Sharon is calling his new military campaign a war against terror. And while it is self-evident that Bush gave him the green light to launch his attack on the Palestinian Authority, Washington is now becoming alarmed at the consequences.

The general crisis of capitalism is expressing itself as a general instability everywhere. Nowhere has this had more destabilising effects than the Middle East, as we see from the events in the West Bank and Gaza.

This instability is being fuelled and exacerbated by US imperialism, which has decided that it is free to intervene anywhere it likes under the pretext of the so-called war against terrorism. Ariel Sharon calls his new military campaign in Palestine a war against terror. America agrees with him. It is a self-evident fact that Bush gave Sharon the green light to launch his attack on the Palestinian Authority, although Washington is now becoming alarmed at the consequences.

The noisy protests against terrorism leaves out of account the horrors inflicted by state terrorism. Taking his cue from George W Bush and his "anti-terrorism" campaign, Sharon has sent the tanks rolling into Palestinian towns and villages, spreading murder and mayhem of unimaginable proportions. They attacked Ramallah, where Yasser Arafat remains a prisoner in all but name, smashing anything in their path - buildings or people.

The unbridled violence displayed by the Israeli army has few parallels even in the blood-soaked history of Palestine. No distinction is made between combatants and non-combatants. Most of the victims are civilians, including men, women and children. Wounded people have been left to bleed to death in the street. The Palestinians have been prevented from burying their dead. The population is deprived of food, water and electricity. Palestinian women have had to give birth in the road, prevented by Israeli roadblocks from getting to a hospital; some have died as a result.

The Israeli army is deepening its conquest over six Palestinian cities and a dozen or so villages. They are shooting at anything that moves, killing and maiming men, women and children. On April 8, the Israeli army extended its operations in the West Bank, combing through villages in search of Palestinian militia fighters and arms. In Bethlehem battles flared in the refugee camps and around the Church of Nativity, where an bloody stand-off continued between 200 Palestinian militiamen, clergymen and civilians trapped in the sanctuary and Israeli soldiers and tanks. This called forth a protest from the Pope. The Israelis took no notice. After all, to quote Stalin, how many divisions does the Pope have?

But the worst carnage took place in Jenin refugee camp and in the Old City of Nablus - both strongholds of the Palestinian militias. In Jenin, Israeli army bulldozers ploughed through ramshackle buildings in pursuit of Palestinian fighters; helicopters fired rocket after rocket into mosques; and Israeli and Palestinian machinegun fire raked a camp that is home to 13,000 refugees. The Palestinian militias have fought back with great courage. In one ambush, 13 Israeli soldiers lost their lives.

A white-faced Sharon reported to the Knesset that the resistance in Jenin had been far heavier than expected. This reactionary hypocrite publicly lamented the loss of young Israelis whom he has sent to their death in an unjust cause. Yes, the Israeli army is taking some casualties. But this is nothing compared to the losses suffered by the other side. How many Palestinian have been killed, no one knows. A doctor at Jenin hospital, interviewed by The Economist could not be sure, because his ambulances are fired on when they try to cover the 200 metres to the camp. It is the same in Nablus, as soldiers and fighters fight house-to-house - and sometimes hand-to-hand - through the Old City's warren of cobbled streets.

Suicide bombing

The excuse for this brutal display of naked militaristic power was the suicide bombing of a dining-roomful of elderly Jews at their Passover supper in Netanya, which killed 26 people. This was horrific, but not isolated. Over the past two years, there have been scores of atrocities on both sides. The slaughter continues with mounting intensity with every day that passes. One act of violence leads inexorably to another. In response to the brutality of the Israelis more Palestinian "martyrs" will be sent out from the West Bank to wage a campaign of terror against Israeli civilians

The campaign of suicide bombings has shocked Israeli society, because it underlined the vulnerable situation in which ordinary Israelis now find themselves. Pacifists wring their hands. European governments issue pious declarations about violence. Yes, violence is abhorrent to all thinking people. But such pious declarations do not get us very far. It is necessary to ask the question: where does this violence come from? In order to cure a disease, an accurate diagnosis is the first prerequisite..

George Bush, who is quite prepared to bomb and kill people when it suits him, issues stern warnings to both sides to "end the violence". There is a little detail which he has apparently failed to notice, namely that the Intifada is a war against Israel's occupation of the Palestinian lands. Therefore, on the part of the Palestinians, it is a just war, whereas on the part of Israel, this is a war to occupy someone else's land and to perpetuate the oppression of one people by another. To try to place both sides on the same level is pure hypocrisy and in practice aids the oppressor against the oppressed.

That is the substance of the matter, its real content. But after content comes form. What is held up is the methods used by the Palestinians in their fight against Israeli imperialism. And it is true that some of the methods used, involving the indiscriminate killing of Israeli civilians, are appalling. They are terrible. They are shocking. But the question that needs to be asked is: what could drive an 18-year old girl to blow herself up in a supermarket?

The position of Marxism on individual terrorism is clear. We utterly condemned the terrorist attacks of September 11 as a mindless act of mass murder, which only aided reaction and imperialism on a world scale. What has occurred since September 11 has shown that what we wrote then was one hundred per cent correct.

However, it is not at all correct to equate every act of violence with the monstrosity of September 11. Nor, as the Germans say, can one excuse one act of swinery by pointing to another. We cannot believe that a young girl would willingly destroy her own life and that of others like herself out of a mere caprice. Nor is this a case of religious fanaticism or the kind of ruthless mentality displayed by the terrorists who deliberately smashed planes full of innocent people into the World Center on September 11.

In the struggle between the Palestinians and the Israeli occupiers, the latter have all the advantages. The Israeli military machine is one of the most powerful in the world, and certainly has no equal in the Middle East. The Israeli soldiers enter the towns and villages of the West Bank inside armoured vehicles and tanks and blast everything that gets in their way. They have inflicted terrible casualties on the civilian population and Palestinian fighters. True, the Palestinian militias have fought back, but the conflict is completely uneven. By comparison, the Israeli losses have been almost insignificant.

Since the reactionary ruling circle in Israel is fond of quoting the Bible to justify their actions, let us recall the story of David and Goliath, which they may have forgotten. In the far-off days when the Israelites were a poor tribe of shepherds, they found themselves fighting an unequal war against the military might of the Philistines, a more advanced, urban-based people with a powerful army. The shepherd boy David, when confronted by the gigantic Goliath, covered in protective armour from head to foot, made use of the only weapon at his disposal- the shepherd's sling.

The tactics used by the Palestinian suicide bombers are said to be brutal and inhumane. We agree, and these are not the tactic we advocate for the liberation struggle. But in the first place, the Palestinians are fighting a defensive war - a war of national liberation against a foreign occupying force. In the second place, terrorism in a national liberation struggle is the weapon of the weak against the strong. In this struggle, all our sympathies are with the weak against the strong, the oppressed against the oppressor, David against Goliath.

Yes, some of the methods used are brutal and inhumane. But they are also the tactics of desperation. And what has driven the Palestinians to desperation? Only the brutal and inhumane conduct of the Israeli imperialists who have forcibly occupied Palestinian lands and who are holding onto them by terror. Desperation has given a new and terrible cutting edge to the conflict between Jew and Arab, locked in a bloody hand-to-hand struggle. The balance of terror has been modified, although it is the Palestinians who still suffer the overwhelming majority of casualties. In the last Intifada, the killing ratio was approximately 25 Palestinians fore every Israeli. At the start of the present uprising, it was 12:1. It is now 2:1. The odds are shortening. Both sides are suffering. But the principal victims remain the people of Palestine

Sharon's delusions

Sharon, as usual, is breathing fire and brimstone. Yet it is becoming clear that he has no clear strategy or perspective. Having a very primitive grasp of politics, he is often guided by his soldier's instincts. And all his instincts are to hold onto the West Bank and Jerusalem, and use the bullet, fist and army boot to do it. Unfortunately for him, these policies, far from ending the Palestinian uprising, are having the opposite effect.

Actually, nobody can be sure of Mr Sharon's true war aims. He is quite capable of saying one thing to his cabinet, another to the Americans, and implementing a third policy on the ground. In reality, he has no clear idea of where he is going. He is not dictating to events, but only reacting to them in the only way he knows how. As defence minister in 1982, he was the architect of Israel's calamitous war in Lebanon, which ended in a terrible massacre of Palestinians. Sharon now says that his only regret was not to have killed Arafat then. Only external pressure has prevented him from fulfilling his wish now.

Sharon has miscalculated. The merciless Israeli onslaught has not weakened Arafat. It has strengthened him by turning him into a national hero and a rallying point. Nor will it have the effect of forcing the Palestinian leadership to soften its stance and accept a compromise. The killing of Palestinian civilians will only force him to harden his conditions for accepting a ceasefire. By systematically pulverising the weak apparatus of the Palestine Authority, Sharon makes it impossible for the latter to clamp down on the militants.

Moreover, the idea that the application of overwhelming force would intimidate the Palestinians is groundless. Hitler's terror bombing of London and other British cities did not break the resolve of the British people. And so far in this intifada, the Palestinians have endured extraordinary hardships, including the loss of lives and jobs, without weakening. Instead of breaking the spirit of the Palestinians, the Israeli attack has only increased the mood of anger and bitterness, sowing the seeds of new and desperate acts of revenge.

Sharon's actions are therefore entirely self-defeating. He demands a complete cessation of all violence as a prior condition for ending his offensive, but Arafat cannot easily risk calling a stop with nothing to show for all his people's sacrifices. The prospect of peace is thus further away than ever.

Arafat cornered

Sharon blames Arafat for all his problems. If it were not so tragic, it would be funny. In reality, Sharon's arguments are nonsense. Arafat did not plan the intifada. And it was not possible for his policemen to stop every suicide bombing, even if they wanted to. After Sharon's provocations, they have not even tried. But before that, Arafat tried to clamp down on the Palestine militants, many of whom he arrested.

Unable to control the militants, Arafat is posing as a champion of the national liberation struggle. He is playing both ends against the middle, appealing to the Americans and Europeans to intervene to save him, while simultaneously dropping hints to the revolutionary youth of Palestine that he is "really on their side". In reality, he is trying to use the mass movement as a bargaining chip in his negotiations with imperialism and the "moderate" Arab regimes

Now, with the noose tightening around his neck, Arafat calls for "a million martyrs" to liberate Jerusalem. This is just demagogy. For thirty years Arafat and the PLO leaders have shown that they are organically incapable of waging a serious liberation war against Israel. By signing the Oslo agreement, he in effect abdicated the fight for real Palestinian self-determination. He is largely responsible for the present bloody mess. No trust whatsoever can be placed on these people.

The Palestinian leaders are still looking to the imperialists to pull the hot chestnuts out of the fire for them. Arafat is hoping that the orgy of violence will bring about outside intervention. He thus places all his hopes on a change of heart by America. He dreams that international peacekeepers will save him and put pressure on Israel to agree to a settlement, possibly on the lines of the plan put forward by Saudi Arabia. This would offer Israel peace in exchange for withdrawing all the way back to its pre-1967 borders.

Washington, to be sure, would have nothing against such a deal. After all, it is not their territory, so they can afford to be generous. They are worried about the effects of the conflict in the Middle East and particularly about the future of pro-US Arab regimes like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. But Sharon has other ideas. This rabid reactionary has set his face firmly against compromise. His motto is: what we have, we hold.

America and Israel

The present occupant of the White House - never a model of coherence - has distinguished himself on this occasion by giving out the most confused and confusing signals. However, on this occasion, the intellectual limitations of George W Bush cannot be held entirely responsible for the confusion.

America is faced with a serious dilemma in the Middle East. On the one hand, Israel is their only really firm point of support in the region. On the other hand, the brutal actions of the Israelis against the Palestinians threaten to destabilise the whole region, where the USA has vital economic and strategic interests. No wonder poor George is even more incoherent than usual!

America sent General Anthony Zinni to negotiate a ceasefire. But diplomacy always has a relative weight in the relations between states. The paper language of diplomats is always subordinate to the weightier argument of bombs and high explosive shells. Having starting their offensive, the Israeli generals are reluctant to call it off before it has dealt a shattering blow (as they hope) against the Palestinian militias.

Not for the first time, the interests of Washington and Tel Aviv are contradictory. But Sharon knows he holds an ace card in his sleeve. The USA dare not break their relationship with Israel. The US General cuts a pathetic figure as he treads his weary path from one Tel Aviv office to another, and is fobbed off with diplomatic assurances: Peace? Certainly! But look what the other side is doing! Let them declare a ceasefire first! In the polite language of diplomacy, this means: go jump in the Dead Sea!

In a speech on April 4, George Bush signalled a deeper engagement with the crisis, saying that Colin Powell, the secretary of state, would travel to the region. The president also restated calls for Israeli restraint - while at the same time affirming Israel's "right to defend itself". Of the Palestinians' right to defend themselves against a foreign invader, nothing is said.

The Americans, and the so-called Labour Party which is at present a member of Sharon's "unity" cabinet, while fearful of the consequences of Sharon's policies, have been tacitly supporting him, at least up till now. There is an element of cynical calculation in the conduct of the Americans. Together with their stooges in the leadership of the Israeli Labour Party, they are probably hoping that Israeli military pressure will persuade Arafat to accept the ceasefire terms he has so far refused from General Zinni; and that this will in turn lead, via America's Tenet (security) and Mitchell (confidence-building) plans to the path of negotiation.

They hope that this war will force the Palestinians back to a ceasefire and peace talks. "Let Sharon kick them around for a while," they reason. "Then when they have been sufficiently softened up, we can step in as defenders of the peace, and push through a compromise plan." That is why Powell is taking his time. He plans to visit Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan before coming to Israel. While pleading for peace, Bush is giving Mr Sharon a few more days to press home his assault. But he would like to place a limit on the Israeli offensive, for fear of the repercussions in other Arab countries. And Sharon is not listening.

This has put Mr Bush in a deep dilemma. Faced with Israel's open defiance, the White House is dithering. George W Bush is intent on the pursuit of his "global war" on terrorism. He now has his sights set on Iraq. But Sadam Hussein has skilfully used the crushing of the Palestinians to build bridges with the Saudis and other "moderate" Arab regimes. The anti-terrorist coalition so painfully put together by Bush after September 11 is already in ruins. If he goes ahead with his plan to attack Iraq, not a single Arab regime could afford to back him.

In an attempt to calm Arab public opinion, Washington now says it supports a Palestinian state. Arafat is clinging to this like a drowning man clutching at a straw. But this is a self-evident deception. Any such state could only come into existence with the permission of the Israelis, who would make sure that it was under their control.

The Americans' calculations have immediately come up against a series of obstacles. On the Palestinian side, the bloodshed and violence has produced a hardening of attitudes, not the reverse. As for Sharon, he is a champion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank who hates even the Oslo agreement. He has ignored the reiterated warnings of George Bush to end the incursion and open a "pathway to peace". Instead, he has merely stepped up the violence. His troops have even fired on the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, as we have pointed out. The Bible informs us that the Almighty once showed his backside to Moses. Sharon is now doing the same to the West. However, he will not remain for long in this undignified posture.

The danger of a wider conflict

Napoleon pointed out that the bloody equation of war is the most complicated of all. Israel's latest military adventure will have unlooked-for consequences. The Economist (April 6) warns:

"It could set alight Israel's border with Lebanon and destabilise Arab countries, such as Egypt and especially Jordan, that have made peace with the Jewish state. It could cause the permanent withdrawal of the peace offer extended at the Beirut summit. And it has already confounded America's hope of Arab support for a renewed attempt to unseat Saddam Hussein.

"Beyond this, 'Operation Defensive Wall' will almost certainly fail to achieve its declared aims. One is to uproot the Palestinians' terrorist 'infrastructure'. But this consists in the main of a supply of bitter men and women willing to kill and be killed on Palestine's behalf; and the bitterness can only grow after Israel's onslaught. Another declared aim is to 'isolate' Mr Arafat. But the deadly comedy which Mr Sharon has staged around his old adversary's Ramallah headquarters has had the opposite result. Having lost much lustre for his incompetent administration of the embryonic Palestine, Mr Arafat is suddenly again the beleaguered symbol of his people's aspirations. Whatever Mr Sharon may say, the rest of the world continues to deem him Israel's indispensable interlocutor."

The more far-sighted representatives of Capital understand things as well from their class point of view as the Marxists do from ours. Far from "defeating terrorism", the actions of Sharon will only serve to inflame the situation even more. He will become the most efficient recruiting sergeant for new volunteers for suicide bombings. Even young children are now queuing up to join the ranks of the "martyrs". Such is the fruit of Israel's aggressive actions against the Palestinian people.

By its actions, Israel is destabilising the whole region. Already, Tel Aviv has announced a limited call-up of reserves in the north of the country after a broad rocket and mortar barrage, mounted by Hizbullah, the Lebanon-based Shi'ite militia, on April 7, in which seven Israeli soldiers were wounded. This suggests the imminent opening up of a second front in Israel's war with the Palestinians. And matters may not end there. Because of its involvement in Lebanon, Syria might be drawn into the conflict. Already Israel has appealed to Washington and the United Nations over the weekend to urge Syria and Lebanon to rein in Hizbullah, warning them that it could lead to what Mr Sharon called "a very large outbreak of hostilities".

In the same breath, Sharon blamed Iran for the deployment of katyushas in south Lebanon, alleging that Iranian Revolutionary Guards were active in the region, and accused Syria of providing help "without which the shooting could not occur". This is an ill-concealed attempt to bring about a collision between the USA and Iran, which has been described as a "terrorist state" by Washington.

The road to peace in the Middle East is therefore blocked by insurmountable obstacles. The whole situation is spiralling downwards, out of control. It is by no means excluded that it could end in a general war. The Arab regimes fear such a prospect as the devil fears holy water. But with every passing day, the sight of massacres and mayhem in Palestine increases the indignation of the Arab masses. There is not a single stable regime in the whole of the region. There have been demonstrations in one Arab country after another. In Amman, several Jordanian cabinet ministers were compelled to join the demonstration out of self-preservation. The Economist warned:

"The rich Gulf rulers are secure on their thrones, but Mr. Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah rely on American aid to prop up their regimes. They are now squeezed between the Bush administration and their own people's fury. The discomfort is specially acute in Jordan. Two-thirds of its people are of Palestinian origin, and most are in daily contact with relatives in Israeli-occupied territories, who are now besieged in their homes. Egyptians have less emotional attachments to Palestine, but some analysts fear that the country's dire economic problems have sapped public confidence in the government to the point where one serious incident could spark widespread rioting."

This puts matters very clearly.

A dialogue of the deaf

The Bush administration - fearful of a general conflagration in the Middle East, is now urging Israel to announce an immediate freeze on settlement building, as a way to increase prospects of a ceasefire. But with the present composition of the coalition in Tel Aviv there is no prospect of even negotiating over the Jewish settlements - without which no solution is possible.

Sharon has pushed his coalition government even further to the right, bringing in the National Religious Party (NRP) and the small Gesher Party. The intention is to reduce his dependence on the Labour Party, which, as the mouthpiece of Washington, cannot always be relied upon to support Sharon's belligerent policy. The leader of the NRP, Effi Eitam, opposes any Palestinian sovereignty west of the River Jordan and predicts the eventual "migration" of the Palestinians out of the country. He speaks of the mosques on the Temple Mount as "a blight of universal proportions".

The Labour Party leaders are now under mounting rank-and-file pressure to split from the coalition. This could provoke a government crisis, since the NRP and Gesher would give Sharon and his other right-of-centre allies 59 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. However, a third rightist party, the National Union-Israel our Homeland, is expected to join soon, too, and that would provide Sharon with a hard-line majority. It would also out-manoeuvre Sharon's archrival, Binyamin Netanyahu, who has been attacking him from the right.

Speaking in parliament on April 8th the Israeli prime minister, held out no hope of immediate relief, arguing Israel has no choice but to act with all its might. But sooner or later the Israeli army will have to be withdrawn. Probably the arrival of Colin Powell, the American secretary of state, will serve as the signal for this. The question is: what then?

Palestine has been reduced to a smoking ruin. The people on the West Bank are living through a nightmare. The economy has been shattered, and what remained of its governmental structures is in tatters. The Israeli assault has demolished the PA's governing and security institutions. In Jenin, for example, a local Palestinian says there is no longer a single PA police post left standing.

Sharon has spoken of the establishment of Israeli-controlled buffer zones that will envelop the Palestinian cities. In the meantime, he awaits a "responsible" Palestinian leadership. This is short-sighted in the extreme. Whoever replaces Arafat is not likely to be a more moderate option.

What next?

If the question is posed in purely military terms, neither side can win a decisive victory. The present bloody mess can continue, with ebbs and flows, for years and decades. A political solution is necessary. But who can believe in a peace brokered by the likes of Bush and Blair, or for that matter, Mubarak and king Abdullah? This would only be a new edition of the Oslo accord, probably with a few more concessions for the Palestinians. It would solve nothing and merely be the prelude to new and even more destructive conflicts and wars. If a lasting solution is to be found, the fundamental issues must be addressed.

Trotsky warned that the establishment of the state of Israel in Palestine would be a cruel trap for the Jews. This prediction has been shown to be correct. The Marxists were opposed to the setting up of the state of Israel in the first place. But now, over half a century later, the course of history cannot be reversed. The state of Israel exists and cannot be wished away. The people of Israel have their right to exist just like anyone else. But they have no right to conquer and oppress other people, as they are doing. Such conduct can only lead to more and more bloodshed, which in the end can lead to a terrible catastrophe for all the contending parties. Even if Israel presently enjoys military superiority, how long can this last? Not indefinitely, for sure. And by accumulating so much hatred, anger and bitterness, the lives of the future generations will be put at terrible risk.

The suicide attacks - involving just a handful of determined individuals - have already sown terror and destroyed normal life in the Jewish state. Ordinary Israelis begin to ask themselves: where is the security that Sharon promised when he was elected? When the state of Israel was established, it was supposed to offer a safe haven for the Jewish people after the horrors of the Holocaust. Half a century later, the Zionist dream has been exposed as a reactionary utopia. There is neither peace nor security for the people of Israel, or for anybody else in this troubled part of the world.

If there is war in the Middle East, it will end in defeat for the Arabs yet again. That is why the bourgeois regimes in Egypt and Jordan are desperately trying to avoid a war. But it may not be possible for them to resist the tremendous pressure of what has become known as "the Arab street", that is, the masses. On the other hand, the provocative conduct of the Israelis seems to indicate that at least one section of the ruling clique in Tel Aviv has drawn the conclusion that, since war with the Arabs is inevitable, better give them a bloody lesson sooner rather than later.

Defeat in war will create explosive conditions throughout the Middle East, preparing the overthrow of one pro-Western regime after another. This is a nightmare scenario for American imperialism. Yet Bush and Blair- who have displayed their complete inability to understand anything- are apparently still planning to attack Iraq - in the middle of all this! Truly, as the German poet put it "against stupidity the very gods strive in vain".

The immediate objective is to force the Israeli army to withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank. The fight against occupation must have the unconditional support and solidarity of the world working class movement. Withdraw the troops! For the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people! This is ABC for every conscious worker. But after ABC there are more letters in the alphabet.

What is required is a social revolution that will sweep away both the reactionary Arab regimes and the monstrous regime of Israeli imperialism. This perspective now seems very far away. Reaction seems firmly in the saddle and has unleashed the dogs of war. The position seems hopeless. But this is not the first time we have seen situations that were apparently hopeless, but which in fact were only seething cauldrons that eventually erupted into revolutionary developments.

In 1915, Lenin was completely isolated. Europe was being torn apart by war. The workers of different countries were slaughtering each other under the black banner of imperialism. In this carnival of reaction, the voice of the proletarian internationalists was drowned out by the din of chauvinism that taught the British and French workers to hate the German "Huns", and vice-versa. It seemed impossible that things could ever change. Even Lenin, that irrepressible optimist, thought that he would never live to see the socialist revolution.

Wars in the Middle East will solve nothing, but will merely prepare the basis for new wars. But the general instability that is both the cause of wars and their consequence will create the conditions for a revolutionary movement of the masses in the next period. If this movement is led by a conscious Marxist - that is, internationalist, tendency, it can slice through the tangled knot of seemingly insoluble contradictions and point to the only possible lasting solution: the Socialist Federation of the Middle East.

We must look beyond the present situation and see the fundamental processes. In the whole of the Middle East, conditions are slowly ripening for revolutionary developments. The present wars and bloody convulsions are a graphic expression of the fact that the old society is no longer capable of resolving the terrible contradictions that are tearing it apart. That is the essential explanation for the present madness. But the storm will eventually blow itself out. And in the cold light of day, the workers and youth of both sides will begin to ask questions and find the answers.

Only a federation, that gives full autonomy to Jews and Arabs, Druzes and Copts, Armenians and Kurds, can solve the national question once and for all. Each people would have the right to live in peace in its own designated territory, the boundaries of which must be amicably settled between them. The refugees would have the right to return. The economic potential of the region would be realised to the full in a common socialist plan of production. Unemployment and poverty would be a thing of the past. On that basis alone, the old national and religious hatreds could be overcome. They would be like the memory of a bad dream.

Is this a utopian vision? If utopian means something that is not possible, then it is precisely the present situation that answers to this description. For more than two generations Jews and Arabs have been killing themselves. The situation has gone from bad to worse. National hatred is increasing and taking on an ever more murderous hue, where women, young children and old men are regarded as fair targets. Barbarism flourishes. The whole life of the Middle East has been poisoned and blighted by this fratricidal conflict. The so-called "realistic" solutions advanced by the bourgeois and petty bourgeois nationalists have solved nothing. The situation is deteriorating all the time, threatening to produce a catastrophe for all the peoples of the region.

A heavy responsibility lies on the shoulders of the Left Wing in both Israel and Palestine. The present situation is extremely difficult, but it is absolutely necessary to fight against the stream, to combat chauvinism and fight for the unity of Jewish and Arab workers. The Israeli Marxists will fight with all their power against the monstrous occupation of Palestine. For their part, the Palestinians must understand that, unless they succeed in joining hands with the working people of Israel in a common struggle against capitalism and imperialism, their cause is a hopeless one.

Towards the end of his life, sickened by the horrors of the Peninsular Wars and the civil strife that followed, the great Spanish artist Goya painted a picture of two men locked in single combat, mercilessly flaying each other with clubs, while both are slowly sinking into a swamp. This painting accurately conveys the madness that now reigns supreme in the land of Palestine. On a capitalist basis, no solution is possible. Only a fundamental change in the class relations in the Middle East - leading to the overthrow of landlordism and capitalism - can offer a way out.