War and Economic Crisis in Israel

The Israeli ruling class were disappointed with the political results of the September 11 terrorist act. Contrary to their hopes, the American government did not include any Palestinian group on their list of "main terrorist organisations". Just two days after the terror attack in the USA, the Israeli military launched a brutal attack against the Palestinians. This was closely followed by the assassination of an Israeli minister, Rachavam Zeevi. Our correspondent reports on the situation.

The Israeli ruling class have been disappointed at the political results of the September 11 terrorist act. Contrary to its expectations, the American government has not included any Palestinian group on its list of the "main terrorist organisations". Just two days after the terror attack in the USA, the Israeli military launched an attack against the Palestinians, deploying unlimited military power. After that, the US State Department sent a message to the Israeli authorities, warning them that any escalation of the conflict in the Middle East would be undesirable. This reaction from the USA caused a wave of anger on the part of the Israeli right wing. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon even drew a parallel between Czechoslovakia in 1938 and Israel today. This speech did not exactly help improve US-Israeli relations!

Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian administration tried to play its own game, making use of the disagreements between Israel and the USA. On the one hand, Arafat demonstrated his total solidarity with the USA's "war against terror". Pro-Taliban demonstrations in the Gaza Strip were brutally crushed. A few people were killed by the Palestinian police. The Palestinian administration even asked Israel to send riot equipment! This request was granted. These steps were intended to help to Arafat improve relations with Israel. But he failed utterly.

The killing of the Israeli minister of tourism, Rachavam Zeevi (Gandi), marked a turning point in the situation in Palestine. Zeevi was an odious figure, hated even in Israel. He was leader of the fascist party "Moledet" ("Motherland") and his main political plank was the deportation of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza to neighbouring Arab countries. But his death consolidated all the Zionist parties from "left" to "right". "Gandi's assassination for us is just like the S11 tragedy for the USA," was the line taken by Israeli officials. This demagogy was used to excuse the Israeli military invasion of the Palestinian-controlled areas.

Arafat did everything in his power to conciliate the aggressors. He declared the PFLP outside the law, something which he never did in the case of Hamas or any other Muslim organisation. He even arrested the political leaders of this organisation. But for the Israeli ruling class, this was not enough and so the tanks rolled into Palestinian towns and villages, causing death and havoc. As a result of all his recent actions, Arafat has lost support among the masses of the Muslim community as well as among left-oriented people. He is trying to manoeuvre between different groups, but his only close ally now is Washington. Most of the serious resistance comes not from the Palestinian police, but from the people's organisations like "Tanzim" whose members confront the Israeli army with old guns and antiquated equipment.

The Israeli action has been greeted by extremely sharp criticism from the Americans. Israeli commentators are describing it as the most serious crisis in relations between the two countries in the course of the last ten years. Israel's withdrawal from Palestinian areas was the result of direct American pressure, which shows how much Israel depends on its master.

Inside Israel people do not see any alternative, and therefore there has been a movement of public opinion towards the right - and partly as a result of the assassination, there was even a growth in sympathy for the right-wing extremists. However, recently six Palestinian civilians were killed and many more wounded as a result of attacks made by the Jewish settlers' terror groups. The foreign media totally ignored these terrorist acts. Meanwhile, 53% of the Jewish population of Israel now support the "voluntary" transfer of the Arab population to the West Bank and Gaza.

All this is connected to the growing crisis in the Israeli economy. Israel's hi-tech industry is totally dependent upon the American market, and any negative movement on the NASDAQ index means hundreds of jobless in Tel Aviv. The number of visitors staying in Israeli hotels has fallen by 80 percent in comparison to 2000. In some places, it has fallen by 98 percent! Every day there are reports of the closure of old factories in the poor southern part of Israel. Unemployment has now risen to 250,000 - a very high figure for Israel. Economic analysts have described this as the most serious economic crisis in Israel since the 1950s.

So far, the resistance to all these processes in Israel is still weak. There have been a few small anti-war demonstrations in Tel Aviv, of a pacifist character. The Israeli left also marked the anniversary of the Al-Aksa Intifada. But these actions have not had a great influence on Israeli public opinion. The Zionist left are bankrupt, and have moved to the right, while the Anti-Zionist left still have to overcome their isolation and establish a firm base within Israeli society.

The only real hope for the Israeli and Palestinian people lies in the beginning of a struggle of the Israeli working class. Last month hundreds of military and air industry workers came to Jerusalem to demonstrate against future privatisation in their sectors. There has also been a dock strike. In the south of Israel, where in some towns unemployment is close to thirteen percent, workers are organising to fight against factory closures.

This winter the Israel Communist Party is holding its 24th congress. The present situation presents the Israeli communists with a real chance to channel the anger that exists in Israeli society. This is only possible if the ICP moves away from its reformist orientation back to revolutionary Marxism, and gives a real lead to the Israeli working class.