Palestine: the threat of a second Nakba

The brutal bombing of Gaza City, with the huge numbers killed – well over 11,000 officially recorded so far, with a further 3,000 missing – and the massive destruction of infrastructure, the bombing of hospitals, schools, refugee camps, the targeting of ambulances and medical staff, all highlight the barbarism of the Israeli army’s onslaught on the Palestinian people. 

While the nightmare continues in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians living in the West Bank are seeing growing attacks from Israeli soldiers and settlers. This had already started before 7 October, but since then it has massively been stepped up, with close to 200 Palestinians killed. In some areas, whole communities have been forced to move under threat of being killed.

This conflict is not of recent making, but has deep historical roots going back to when the Zionist project of building a Jewish state in Historic Palestine first started. The only way that state could be built in 1948 was by expelling a whole people from their homeland. Thus, a crime was committed against the Palestinian people, which is at the heart of an inter-ethnic conflict that remains unresolved to this day.

The events of 7 October have brought this conflict once more to the attention of the world. Those dramatic events, followed by the ongoing relentless massacre of the people of Gaza, have opened a new chapter in the terrible plight of the Palestinian people.

These events are not, however, a bolt of lightning from a clear blue sky. We must look, in particular, at the continuing expropriation of Palestinians living in the West Bank over many decades, both before and after the 1993 Oslo Accords that led to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.

Ramping up of settlements

Back in June of this year, months before the present escalation of the conflict, the Netanyahu government – the most right-wing in Israel’s history – significantly ramped up its programme of settlement expansion in the West Bank. That is, in the very territory of the Palestinian Authority, where Palestinians had decades ago hoped they might be able to achieve self-government as an initial step towards genuine statehood. That hope has been dashed many times over, and this was just one more step in killing off that option.

In the first six months of this year alone, the government had approved a further 7,000 new housing units on the West Bank. The change in the law in June, however, allowed for a further acceleration of this programme. The latest figures indicate that the number of Israeli settlers on occupied Palestinian land has already reached close to 750,000 across 250 settlements. Around 250,000 settlers live in East Jerusalem and the rest are spread across the West Bank.

Each settlement is supported by the overwhelming force of the Israeli military, the IDF. They are supplied with abundant water and first class services, and accessed through a network of dedicated roads, fortified by fences and barbed wire. This is designed to cut off as much Palestinian land as possible from Palestinian access and strangle the livelihood of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, preparing for further land-grabbing around the existing settlements and the establishment of new ones. 

Netanyahu has assembled, for his own self-preservation, a motley coalition of the extreme Jewish supremacist far-right. This includes Bezalel Smotrich, the Finance Minister (who is in charge of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank), and Itamar Ben-Gvir, the National Security Minister, who had been refused service in the IDF for his extreme racist views. Both are prominent exponents of the settlers’ movement. These individuals have gone from being far-right, fanatical racists on the fringes of Israeli politics, to holding key ministries at the heart of the Netanyahu government. Their programme is to provoke a new Nakba and expel the Palestinians from the entire territory of historic Palestine.

Previous governments have all backed the settlements, which have expanded enormously since the Palestinian Authority was established. However, the present government is pushing the confrontation to an unprecedented level. That explains why back in June, Smotrich was given sweeping powers to bypass long-established procedures that governed the granting of building permits. In effect, it placed full control of the illegal colonisation of the West Bank in the hands of a fanatic. Let us not forget that this is the same minister who is on record, in March of this year, after settlers had rampaged through the Palestinian village of Huwara in the West Bank, killing one and injuring more than 100, as saying that the whole of “Huwara needs to be wiped out.” And that the “State of Israel should do it.”

Settlers and guns Image Friends123 Wikimedia CommonsThe settlers are fully backed by the Israeli army and government / Image: Friends123, Wikimedia Commons

In June, when the new powers were granted to Smotrich, Hamas warned that this would only lead to a further escalation of tensions. In hindsight, one can see that the writing was on the wall! As a Washington Post article on 28 February pointed out: “With a new far-right government in power, the settlers believe that the moment to push for operational annexation of the land they see as their biblical birthright has finally arrived.”

In the aftermath of the 7 October attack by Hamas in southern Israel, while all the attention has been focused on the ongoing massacre unleashed by Israel against the civilian population of Gaza, the settlers in the West Bank have ratcheted up their attacks on village after village, forcing Palestinians off their land and out of their houses. They are fully backed by the Israeli army and government. After the attack, Ben-Gvir immediately announced the distribution of thousands of assault rifles to the settlers. Even before this measure was announced, thousands of settlers were armed.

Attacks by settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank have more than doubled from a daily average of three to seven, with a total of over 200 such attacks taking place since 7 October. This year alone (up to 9 November), 378 Palestinians across the whole of the West Bank have been killed, mainly by the Israeli military, and some of these by settlers, whose actions are met with complete impunity. Almost half of these, 170, have been killed since 7 October.

An article from 3 November in Al Jazeera (‘“Unsafe in own home’: Israeli settlers spread terror in South Hebron Hills”’) gives an idea of what is going on:

“Settlers usually come in the night, destroying water tanks, piping and electrical systems; breaking windows and cars. Most alarming to Khirbet Zanuta residents was when armed settlers began entering homes to beat Palestinian shepherds. On October 27, settlers told residents that if they did not leave in 24 hours, they would be killed.”

The same article goes on to explain: 

“According to the latest figures provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), at least 864 Palestinians, including 333 children, have been forcibly displaced as a result of attacks from Israeli settlers in this period, with 11 communities fully displaced and another 11 communities at least partially forcibly transferred. Almost half of at least 186 violent settler incidents resulting in casualties or property damage have been in the presence of, or supported by, Israeli forces. Settlers have used weapons in almost a third of these incidents.”

As another Al Jazeera article explains:

“‘Settlers have been committing crimes in the occupied West Bank well before October 7. It is as though, however, they got a green light after October 7 to carry out more crimes,’ Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian Authority official monitoring settler activity told Al Jazeera.

“On October 28, a Palestinian farmer harvesting olives was shot dead by settlers in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus. ‘We are now during the olive harvest season – people have not been able to reach 60 percent of olive trees in the Nablus area because of settler attacks,’ said Daghlas.

“Bedouin village of Wadi as-Seeq village in the occupied West Bank was emptied out of its 200 residents on October 12 following threats from settlers.”

In East Jerusalem we have a systematic expropriation of Palestinians, who suddenly find their property is being fenced in by Jewish settlers. They find themselves having to prove they are the owners in the face of “eviction orders” provided “legally” by Israeli courts.

So-called “charitable organisations” in the United States have been providing funding that is being used to transfer land to Jewish hands. There are videos that show American Jews brazenly attempting to evict Palestinians from their homes in the presence of Knesset (parliament) members, and even government ministers such as Ben-Gvir.

What is being described here is the breaking up of whole communities, and their expulsion – ethnic cleansing – at times under threat of death.

No room for two states in the Zionist project

Now, we can ask the question: is all this a consequence of the 7 October attacks? Clearly not. As we have seen, the present Netanyahu government is responsible for an acceleration and expansion of the settler project. But, again, this did not start with this government either. The truth is that the plan to annex the West Bank goes back many decades, indeed to the very founding of Israel, when the Zionists had very clear ideas.

For them, the original Zionist project did not envisage a partitioning of Palestine, with a Jewish and Palestinian territory. Their aim was to create a Jewish state in the whole of Palestine for Jews only and to remove the Palestinian inhabitants. This was stated clearly by the founding figures of Israel, in particular David Ben-Gurion, who is on record as saying that he saw the acceptance of the UN partition proposal of 1947 as a mere tactical step towards eventually taking the whole of Palestine.

As far back as 1937 Ben-Gurion, speaking to the Zionist Executive, said, “The debate has not been for or against the divisibility of Eretz Israel. No Zionist can forego the smallest portion of Eretz Israel. The debate was over which of two routes would lead more quickly to the common goal. After the formation of a large army in the wake of the establishment of the state, we will abolish partition and expand to the whole of Palestine.” (My emphasis. Quoted in The Birth of Israel, by Simha Flapan, New York: Pantheon, 1987, page 22)

One cannot accuse Ben-Gurion of being ambiguous. At the time, the Zionist ruling class was compelled by the balance of forces (the pressure of the major powers, the desire to avoid an all-out war with the neighbouring Arab countries, the still unfavourable ethnic balance, with the Palestinians still the majority) to limit themselves to establishing the state of Israel only over a part of Palestine. But their intention was clear: to build up a powerful state apparatus, starting with the military, and then prepare to take the rest.

The Zionist ruling class of Israel never had any intention of conceding to the ‘two-state solution’ being advocated by some as Israel was being created. Instead, in 1947 they made a secret deal with Abdullah I, then King of Jordan, in which he agreed not to attack Israeli territory in exchange for being tacitly allowed to annex the West Bank to Jordan. That explains why Abdullah I was assassinated by a Palestinian nationalist in 1951 as retribution for his betrayal of the Palestinian cause in the Nakba.

And this is how things played out when war broke out in 1948. According to the thinking of the Zionist ruling class, this was better than seeing an independent Palestinian state established in the West Bank and Gaza. In effect, they left the West Bank under Jordanian management until they were in a position to make their move and take it militarily.

In the 1948 war, the Israelis took more territory than the UN partition plan had foreseen. They carried out attacks on Palestinians, murdering thousands, terrorising them and forcing them to flee in their hundreds of thousands (750,000 were permanently displaced in 1948 according to the UN refugee agency), creating the refugee problem that remains unresolved to this day. The major powers then recognised the new borders that Israel had conquered with arms in hand.

Two State Image Palestine Solidarity CampaignIn the 1948 war, the Israelis took more territory than the UN partition plan had foreseen / Image: Palestine Solidarity Campaign

The UN then passed resolution 194 (1948), one of many that were destined to be completely ignored by Israel. It stated that: “…refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date…”

Israel’s acceptance as a member of the UN was partly dependent on it agreeing to apply this resolution. Israel formally agreed, but once allowed into the UN it promptly reneged on this. As Ben-Gurion stated: “Their return must be prevented… at all costs.”

Shortly afterwards, in 1950, Israel passed a very different ‘Law of Return’, one that allowed all Jews from around the world to settle in Israel as citizens. Thus began the policy of immigration into Israel of large numbers of Jews from other countries. This was required by the Zionists to massively shift the ethnic balance and provide the large numbers required to settle the land that had been won in war. By the middle of 1951, around 650,000 Jews had immigrated into Israel from Germany/Austria (50,000), Eastern Europe (200,000), from the surrounding Islamic countries (250,000), and other parts of the world.

It required time to assimilate this flood of migrants. Around 200,000 took over houses left empty by the fleeing Palestinians, but there were also around 100,000 living in tents. The oriental (Mizrahi) Jews faced unemployment and poverty, living in squalor, to the point where those who could leave Israel did so. But gradually, infrastructure was built up and Israel was consolidated as a solid state, with a powerful military.

The years immediately after the creation of Israel saw constant skirmishes, bombings, invasion of neighbouring territory, and the killing of many Arabs. According to the UN there were more than 17 Israeli military raids on Egyptian territory between 1949 and 1956, as well as several other such actions in other neighbouring countries. In 1956, during the Suez Canal crisis, Israel occupied the Sinai peninsula, but was later forced to pull out.

The Israeli historian Avi Shlaim points out what the thinking of the hardline Zionists was in his book, Collusion across the Jordan. Moshe Dayan was one of these hardliners, a military leader very much in tune with the thinking of Ben-Gurion. He “developed the theory that the [1948] War of Independence was not yet over and that several further large-scale operations were required to bring it to a more favourable conclusion. Various proposals were floated by Dayan for the capture of the Gaza Strip, Mount Hebron, and the West Bank…” (Collusion across the Jordan, by Avi Shlaim, New York: Columbia University Press, 1988)

Accompanying this policy, the government massively increased military spending. Between 1952 and 1966 the military budget grew 16 times over, reaching the incredible figure of more than one third of gross national product. They were clearly preparing a very powerful army, in readiness for future wars.

After the Six-Day War

From here we can fast forward to 1967 and the infamous Six-Day War, which unfolded between 5-10 June of that year. Israel emerged from the six days of fighting with control over the Golan Heights (part of Syria), the Sinai Peninsula (part of Egypt), the until-then Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In the process, a further 300,000 or so Palestinians were removed from the West Bank. The entire western strip of the Jordan Valley was almost emptied out. Subsequently, the Sinai was handed back to Egypt, but Israel remained as an occupying force in the other territories it had taken. Ben-Gurion’s long term plans were finally being acted upon. 

It was after these events that a gradual colonisation of these territories began with the establishment of Jewish settlements. The Zionist ruling class posed the question as to whether they should simply annex these territories outright to Israel proper. But there was a problem with this: doing so would mean tripling the number of Palestinian Arabs living within Israel’s borders as citizens in one go. There was also the added problem that the birth rate among Palestinians was higher than that of Jews in Israel, and therefore they risked a scenario whereby Palestinians might emerge as a majority of the population at a certain point.

This explains the policy they have adopted ever since. By not formally annexing the territories, Palestinians remain “foreigners” in their own land, subject to a “military-civil” administration and a regime of martial law, while Jewish settlers, although living outside the internationally recognised borders of Israel, are treated as Israeli citizens that can vote in Israel’s elections and have all the rights of citizenship. The plan of the hardline Zionists was clear: gradually take more and more land from the Palestinians, displace them, and eventually find a way of removing them altogether.

How was all this to be achieved? To simply go to war and physically expel all the Palestinians in one sweep would be a huge provocation to all the Arab peoples of the Middle East, and would also provoke revulsion and anger far beyond the region itself. Better to adopt a more gradual approach – what, in effect, amounts to a slow-motion second Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic, referring to the initial mass expulsion of 1948).

In September 1967, the first settlement was built in Hebron. In the first few years of Israeli occupation, however, there was relatively little civil resistance. The mood began to change significantly among Palestinians in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as by then, Israel had begun massively stepping up its settlement programme. This was accompanied by land requisitions, and expropriation of buildings from their Palestinian owners, many of whom had either fled during the fighting in 1948 or later during the 1967 war.

A key turning point in this situation came with the May 1977 elections, in which the Likud party, headed by Menachem Begin, won by a huge landslide vote, making it the biggest party in the Knesset, although without an absolute majority. It was during Begin’s administration (1977-83), that the number of Jewish settlements in occupied territories, until then limited to a few thousands, began to significantly increase.

In order to legally justify what amounted to blatant theft of Palestinian land, the government of Israel claimed the right to manage land in the West Bank that was either uncultivated or had no legal owner present. Depending on the criteria used, this meant that anything between 30 and 70 percent of land in the West Bank could be taken over by Israel.

This made it abundantly clear that the Israeli authorities were working towards a de facto annexation of Palestinian territories. Menachem Begin made a trip through the West Bank in February 1981, visiting the early settlements. Back then settlements in the West Bank numbered 72, with around 20,000 settlers, up from the 3,200 when he was first elected four years earlier. On the site of the original, and symbolic, Elon Moreh settlement, he vowed that “there will be many more Elon Morehs.”

General Ariel Sharon, then-Minister of Agriculture, was the main architect of the Begin government’s settlement programme. And he was very clear about what the government was doing. These are his words, as reported in the New York Times on 19 February 1981:

“Israel will not allow the establishment of a Palestinian state in Samaria, Judea and the Gaza district. I believe we managed to avoid the possibility of a Palestinian state; a second Palestinian state, second to Jordan.” (Note how he couldn’t even bring himself to use the name West Bank, but used the biblical names for the regions that cover that land today.)

Six day war Image public domainIn the process of the Six-Day War, a further 300,000 or so Palestinians were removed from the West Bank / Image: public domain

The same article explained that Israel had plans to establish three different categories of land ownership in the West Bank: “…privately-owned, which would be under the local Palestinian authority; publicly-owned, without a usage designation, to be administered jointly by Israel and the Palestinians, and state-owned for military or settlement purposes, whose disposition would be exclusively in Israeli hands.” This is extremely significant, because it was to become the basis for how the future Palestinian Authority would be divided up into three different areas.

The Israeli authorities needed some kind of legal cover for what amounted to the theft of Palestinian property. They may have been rabid pro-capitalist reactionaries, defending the principles of ownership and private property, but when it came to the property of Palestinians, they conveniently forgot these principles.

This is not to say that laws were not passed to give a semblance of legal justification for the plunder of Palestinian land. In 1950, Israel had already adopted the ‘Absentee Property Law’, which established the loss of property rights for old owners who were no longer present. The fact that they were ‘absent’ and could not return even if they wished because they had been brutally expelled, and prevented from returning, was, again, conveniently ignored.

This law was applied, for example, along the Jordan Valley. Considered to be of strategic importance, Israeli military commanders could declare tracts of land as falling within ‘closed areas’. This stopped even those Palestinians who were not ‘absent’, but internally displaced in Israel, from returning to their land or cultivating it. The land would then be left long enough to be declared ‘uncultivated’, which allowed for it to be classified as ‘state land’.

Once this little trick had been carried out and the Israeli state had seized the land, it could be handed over to Jewish settlers. Israel has in fact declared about 26 percent of the West Bank as ‘state land’, on which settlements are allowed to be built.

A thorough study of how such legal loopholes and subterfuge were used to acquire more and more land that had previously belonged to Palestinians, is available in a paper produced for a 1981 UN Seminar on the question, Israeli Settlements in Occupied Arab Lands: Conquest to Colony by Janet Abu-Lughod. The paper cites plans drawn up by Zionist figures close to the ruling party.

These plans are remarkable in how closely they correspond to the succeeding development of events. They openly discuss “settlement throughout the entire land of Israel'', including “Samaria and Judea”. They discuss “confiscation of farm land and enclosure of communal pastures, and through the pre-emption of scarce water supplies, without which land is valueless.” 

And she quotes William Wilson Harris’ Taking Root: Israeli Settlement in the West Bank, the Golan and Gaza-Sinai, 1967-1980, that predicted:

“In the longterm the Arab community would be cut into isolated blocks, separated from one another by the Sharon lines [major highways connecting the settlements], from Judea by a Jewish outer ring around Jerusalem and from the outside by the pre-existing Jordan Rift. On a West Bank segmented in this fashion it would be difficult to imagine any genuine self-government beyond the municipal level as a practical possibility.”

Again, this is precisely what was done to the West Bank in subsequent years, and it has continued under the Palestinian Authority since 1993.

Economic strangulation

The problem remained of what was to be done with the Palestinians once they had been expropriated, and what was to be done with those who still owned farms. The answer was found in what Abu-Lughod described as “economic strangulation”.

A central pillar of this policy involved depriving the Palestinians of water for irrigation. Access to water supplies required a licence, leasing rights, etc., which needed to be renewed and could easily be refused by the Israeli authorities. On the other hand, whenever a Jewish settlement applied for the same rights, they were immediately granted.

The aim of all this was, of course, to force growing numbers of Palestinians to emigrate in order to survive, meanwhile exploiting the rest as a source of cheap labour. In fact, in the post-1967 period we see many young Palestinians seeking an individual solution through emigration, which became a widespread phenomenon throughout the 1970s and 1980s. A survey carried out in 1999 by the Institute of Women’s Studies at Birzeit University revealed that 49 percent of those surveyed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip had at least one member working abroad.

None of this, however, was sufficient to remove the mass of the Palestinian population, which continued to grow. Harris (quoted above), concluded back in 1980 that the Israeli authorities were hoping “…the unfavorable trend in the internal demographic balance will be offset by accelerated out-migration from the West Bank, perhaps accentuated by another round of hostilities.” [My emphasis]

He adds these ominous words: 

“In such a round of hostilities, made more rather than less likely by recent cease-fires, the Palestinians in the West Bank are likely to bear the brunt since, under cover of such hostilities, an attempt will undoubtedly be made to drive them finally from their homes. In this scenario, the true meaning of the 127 Jewish settlements now in place or under construction in the occupied areas will become tragically clear. They will constitute the armed forts, placed in and around areas of Palestinian concentration, that will be used to help subdue resistance and herd more Palestinian refugees to the next cease-fire line in Israel's expansionary search for Eretz Israel.” [My emphasis throughout]

Back then, Binyamin Netanyahu was a young man, but the words he issued at a dinner party in Jerusalem in 1977 (recounted by Max Hastings in The Guardian on 9 May 2009) indicate that this idea of exploiting future wars to expel more Palestinians has been a thread running through the whole history of Israel since its foundation:

“I heard a young Israeli talking about the Arabs in terms which chilled my blood. ‘In the next war,’ he said, ‘we've got to get the Palestinians out of the West Bank for good’. (…) that young Israeli whom I heard enthuse about emptying the West Bank of Arabs was Binyamin Netanyahu, today his country's prime minister.”

The sham of the Palestinian Authority

What is striking about all this is that it shows very clearly what the plans of the Zionist ruling class have been all along. They never had any intention of allowing a ‘two-state solution’.

It was inevitable, however, that this constant pressure on Palestinians, would lead to repeated and growing outbursts of protest by the Palestinian people, eventually crystallising into the First Intifada of 1987. This was a mass uprising of the whole of the Palestinian people, with the youth in the vanguard, expressing their immense revolutionary potential.

So powerful was that movement that it eventually forced the Zionist ruling class of Israel to the negotiating table, resulting in the Oslo Accords of 1993 and the setting up of the Palestinian Authority. However, the concessions granted by Yasser Arafat and the PLO leadership were such that the kind of administration that emerged in the West Bank from these Accords was practically photocopied from Sharon’s 1981 plans for dividing up the territory.

This was the first time Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) formally recognised each other. Many at that time believed this was a step in the direction of a genuinely independent Palestinian state. Marxists, however, were not fooled. In the Summer 1988 issue of the Militant International Review (number 37), an article was published under the title ‘West Bank revolt – The masses intervene’. This was several years before the signing of the Oslo Accords, and it explained why “peace talks” between the PLO and the Israeli government would not lead to the end of the occupation:

“…these ideas overlook the fundamental obstacles to a Palestinian homeland, arising from the class interests of any likely participants in such a conference, principally the USA, Israel and Jordan. Their overriding concern is not and never can be the interests of the Palestinian workers. They are worried only about the interests of their own ruling classes. Their main preoccupation is the political stability of the region and the maintenance of the system that guarantees their rent, interest, and profit.”

And it explained that: “…a Palestinian state, roughly corresponding to the area of the West Bank and Gaza, would be completely unviable on the basis of capitalism because the economy could not provide the basic necessities of life for the population…”

Those were truly prophetic words, for the Palestinian Authority that emerged from the Oslo Accords has been shown to be a total sham. It included the 1981 Sharon plan, which was clearly a plan to fragment Palestinian territory, the exact opposite of what the masses were aspiring towards.

West Bank Image TUBS Wikimedia CommonsThe West Bank was divided into three zones / Image: TUBS, Wikimedia Commons

The West Bank was divided into three zones, Areas A, B and C. Area A was to be under Palestinian government, and security would be totally in the hands of the Palestinian Authority. This covered 18 percent of the territory. Area B was to have Palestinian government, but Israeli security control, and covered 22 percent of the territory. The remaining 60 percent was to be under full Israeli control. And all this is criss-crossed by a system of “flyovers”: roads that bypass Palestinian villages. The majority of agricultural land, water and mineral resources are also situated in Area C.

All of this was agreed to by both sides in the Oslo Accords. This was a betrayal of the Palestinian people from the very beginning. The Accords did not establish one continuous land for the Palestinians, and left the bulk of the territory open to further settlements. The only concession made much later by the Israeli side, was the withdrawal of 8,500 settlers from Gaza in 2005 – settlements that were unviable. Instead, they simply concentrated on the West Bank.

Following on from 1993, what we have seen is not a movement towards a genuine Palestinian state, but the very opposite. Israel merely used the Oslo agreement to pacify the Palestinian people, using Palestinians to police Palestinians, while it proceeded with the further expansion of illegal settlements. It has been calculated that around 40 percent of West Bank land is now controlled by settlements.

The settlement plan is central to Israel’s strategy of taking the whole of historical Palestine. But who are the people that are moving to the settlements? There are different layers. Some are ultra-orthodox Jews who have moved for religious reasons, believed to make up about one-third of all settlers. These elements literally believe that Israel is the Promised Land that God gave them, and that it should be restored to the Jewish people. Among these are the most fanatical Zionists, prepared to risk everything for what they see as a holy mission to recreate the ancient state of Israel. They are armed and organise physical attacks on the Palestinian population.

Others are drawn by economic incentives provided by the government. Not finding enough of the ultra-orthodox types, the government of Israel long ago launched a campaign to attract Jews from other countries, emphasising the “quality of life”. This is, in fact, a main driving force in building up the number of settlers.

The government of Israel invests more, proportionally, in the Jewish population of the West Bank than it does in the people living within Israel’s legally-recognised borders. Schools there get better funding. One third of all subsidised housing is in the settlements, even though less than 10 percent of the population is situated there. There is even a subsidised mortgage programme in place for settlers. In 2016, on average the government spent double the amount on each West Bank settler that it spent on the average Israeli.

The plan is clearly to keep bringing in more and more settlers and to squeeze out the Palestinians in the West Bank.

The fate of the Palestinians today

The far-right Zionists have no qualms about stating openly that the Palestinians should be simply expelled. Two Knesset members, Danny Danon of the Likud, and Ram Ben Barak of the Yesh Atid opposition party, recently wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal, ‘The West Should Welcome Gaza Refugees, (13 November). The title says everything! They state the following:

“...countries around the world should offer a haven for Gaza residents who seek relocation. Countries can accomplish this by creating well-structured and internationally coordinated relocation programs. Members of the international community can collaborate to provide one-time financial-support packages to Gazans interested in moving to help with relocation costs and to ease refugees’ acclimation to their new communities.” 

They add that: “Even if countries took in as few as 10,000 people each, it would help alleviate the crisis.” And they conclude that:

“The international community has a moral imperative—and an opportunity—to demonstrate compassion, help the people of Gaza move toward a more prosperous future and work together to achieve greater peace and stability in the Middle East.”

These two individuals are important political figures in Israel. Danny Danon served as ambassador to the UN in 2015-20, while Ram Ben Barak served as a deputy director of the Mossad in 2009-11. They obviously reflect the thinking of an important layer of the Zionist ruling class. They disguise their statement behind words such as “moral imperative” and “compassion”, but what they are suggesting is massive ethnic cleansing of Gaza, using the present barbarism as an excuse for other countries to accommodate refugees.

These two ‘gentlemen’, however, appear as mild pacifists compared to others, such as the Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu, a member of the extreme far-right party Otzma Yehudit, who has stated that one option would be to drop a nuclear bomb on the Gaza Strip. He seems untroubled by the implications for his fellow Israeli citizens living just across the fence! (See Far-right minister: Nuking Gaza is an option, population should ‘go to Ireland or deserts’, in the Times of Israel, 5 November)

Amichai Eliyahu Image יוסי לוגסי פלשמן Wikimedia CommonsAmichai Eliyahu, a member of the extreme far-right party Otzma Yehudit, has stated that one option would be to drop a nuclear bomb on the Gaza Strip / Image: יוסי לוגסי פלשמן Wikimedia Commons

All these statements show that the expulsion of the Palestinians from Gaza is being considered by at least some sections of the Zionist ruling class.

As we have seen many times in the past, war has always been seized upon by Israel as an opportunity to expel more Palestinians from their land. This was done in the 1948 war and again in 1967. What is happening in Gaza today fits very well with this overall plan. They are systematically destroying all the infrastructure that allows for a minimum of a civilised existence.

The whole military operation “to destroy Hamas” is designed to reduce Gaza to rubble: electricity, water supply, sewage, bakeries, schools, hospitals. Nothing is escaping Israel’s wrath. According to analysis of satellite pictures it seems that up to one third of Gaza’s buildings have either been totally or partially destroyed.

The aim is clear. It is to make Gaza City a place that displaced Gazans cannot return to. They have also bombed the southern half of the Gaza Strip. The excuse for all this is that they are at war with Hamas, but in reality it is a war against the whole of the Palestinian people. The aim can only be to force them to seek refuge elsewhere. 

Everything Israel is doing is designed to make the return of the displaced extremely difficult, if not impossible. The internal displacement of Palestinians south of the Gaza Wadi is making the living conditions of the 2.3 million Palestinian inhabitants of Gaza unbearable, and provoking an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. Israel’s bet is that Egypt will be forced to open the Rafah crossing gates to a mass of Gazan refugees to Sinai.

Meanwhile, the fanatical Zionist settlers are setting the West Bank and East Jerusalem on fire, aiming for a “New Nakba”, as they chant, while pillaging the Palestinian villages and neighbourhoods. 

The most serious Zionist strategists understand the possibility of an insurrectionary movement, a new Intifada, developing in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and spreading like wildfire to Jordan, Egypt and all the reactionary Arab regimes that are overseeing the impending disaster, without intervening. They rightly see this as a serious threat to Israel.

The situation fits very well with the plans the Zionists had many decades ago of removing the whole Palestinian population, and wars have always been used towards this aim. However, these plans are becoming clearer as the massacre in Gaza is unfolding. This is already provoking a massive reaction. 

This is the nightmare that the Palestinian people are being faced with. It is a crime of historical proportions that is being carried out before the eyes of the world. In this crime, all the ruling classes of the major imperialist countries, the North Americans, the Europeans, and others, are on one side: that of the Zionist ruling class of Israel. This is exposing the hypocrisy of their condemnation of Russian war crimes in the Ukraine war while they turn a blind eye on Israel carrying out massive retaliations and killing thousands of children and women. 

The victimisation of the entire civilian population of Gaza is clearly nothing else than collective punishment. The stinking hypocrisy of the double standards held by US imperialism and its allies in the west is undermining the powerful propaganda machine set in motion in support of Israel. The workers and youth in the West are turning out in ever-greater numbers to express their solidarity and support for the Palestinians. A clear class divide is being expressed on this question across the world, and especially in the western imperialist nations that have backed Israel to the hilt.

The authorities either ban pro-Palestine demonstrations or attempt to criminalise them. But this is not stopping the movement. This is because the mass of working people in all countries instinctively understand which side they need to stand on. The right of the Palestinians to a homeland has become a focal point for the class struggle internationally. 

For our part, the communists stand for freedom and a dignified existence for the Palestinian people. We have a duty to fight our own imperialist ruling classes, wherever we are, and call on the labour movement to use its collective might to isolate and undermine the Israeli war machine. Ultimately, a free Palestine can only be guaranteed through intifada: a mass revolutionary uprising, sweeping away the oppressive regimes not only in Israel-Palestine, but throughout the Middle East, so all the peoples of the region can live in peace. 

We say:

  • End the occupation!
  • For a workers' boycott of Israel's war!
  • Down with imperialist meddling!
  • For a revolutionary uprising in the whole of the Middle East!
  • For a Socialist Federation of Palestine as part of a Socialist Federation of the Middle East!
  • Intifada until Victory!

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