The right-wing Sharon government’s construction of the ‘security fence’ continues unabated. Despite the ruling of the International Court of Jurists, despite the UN General Assembly’s resolution, despite breaching Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, despite world public opinion, the Zionist state is using the current international balance of forces to maximise its dominance over the Palestinians. For despite token protests that are meant for public consumption, US imperialism is fully backing its closest ally in the world. And all that the other imperialist powers are willing to offer are verbal ‘concerns’ and diplomatic ‘protests’ against the most vicious and aggressive moves of the Israeli state against the defenceless Palestinian masses.
This is because maintaining the strength and superiority of the Zionist state is the central pillar of the Middle East policy of US imperialism and the other imperialist powers. This state is not just imperialism’s number one base in the region, it also serves to bolster all the other reactionary regimes in the Middle East against all workers and exploited and oppressed masses - whether they are Arabs, Jews, Kurds or Turks.
The ‘security fence’ is the latest attempt by the Israeli bourgeoisie to finalise and make permanent the policy of denying the Palestinians their most basic national rights. The main aim of the Zionist state is based on the policy of creating two Bantustans: one in a pacified and tightly controlled Gaza Strip, and the other behind a wall that encloses just 42% of the pre-1967 West Bank. The most ironic aspect of the policies of ‘withdrawal’ (from Gaza) and physically separating the Israelis from the Palestinians (in Gaza and the West Bank) is that these are policies that are not only welcomed by the Israeli ‘left’ but have been championed by them for years.
The preparations for the so-called ‘withdrawal’ from the Gaza Strip have already resulted in the state murder of many Palestinian leaders and activists in Gaza and the bulldozing of dozens of homes near the Egyptian border. Crucially though, after the ‘withdrawal’ the Israeli military will still control Gaza’s airspace, coastal waters and borders! The 1.3 million Palestinians in Gaza, 60 percent of whom are unemployed, and with a total of 80 percent living below the poverty line, will then cease to be Israel’s ‘problem’.
As for the West Bank, the building of the wall has meant the destruction of hundreds of homes and livelihoods, the uprooting of trees, the seizure of land - often the most fertile land - and so on. The wall will make it possible to further entrench and expand Zionist settlements in the West Bank, including the building of 1000 new homes announced on 17 August (The Guardian, 18 August 2004). When the settlements in Gaza are eventually removed then their inhabitants will be re-settled on land seized from the Palestinians in the West Bank. Although the situation in the West Bank is not as acute as in Gaza, the wall will for many people mean being cut off from their own farms, schools, hospitals, wells and so on. The economic and social situation is bound to become drastically worse after the completion of the wall, with the unemployment rate rising far higher than the current 40 percent.
The wall will cut off village from village and family and friends from one another. It will also isolate the two Palestinian enclaves from each other. The walled in (West Bank) and penned in (Gaza) masses trapped behind fences, watch towers and security cameras, will then become ‘citizens’ of the ‘Palestinian Authority’. This corrupt, undemocratic and brutal body will be expected to control the masses and to crack down on them at the slightest sign of protest. The responsibility for the lack of jobs, basic amenities, rights, security and so on will then be off-loaded on to the Palestinian elite. The world will then be shown a devastated land where the plight of the Palestinians will be blamed on themselves and their corrupt and impotent leaders. With the Palestinian masses becoming increasingly impoverished they will then become a large pool of cheap labour and be open to super-exploitation by Israeli capitalists.
The Bantustan policy will also physically separate both Palestinian ‘territories’ from the whole of Jerusalem. The wall will resolve vexed issues like “the permanent status of Jerusalem” and “the Palestinian refugees’ right to return” to Israel. By pursuing this policy of physical separation and ‘separate development’ - i.e., apartheid - the Zionist state and its imperialist allies will not have to shoulder any of the blame for a situation of their own making. They will bury the roots of this question in their historical archives and appear as philanthropists offering jobs and some aid to the poor and hungry Palestinians.
The roots of this question, however, which go back at least 90 years, are crucial to finding the solution. For the masses of the region the Sykes-Picot agreements that dismembered the defeated Ottoman empire and divided it between British and French imperialism, the division of the Arabs among many states (and denying the Kurds a nation-state of their own), the British mandate over Palestine and the Balfour declaration, the 1947 UN vote that rewarded the terrorism and ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the Zionists and sanctioned the creation of a colonial-settler state as the most reliable base for imperialism in the region, are not merely a collection of forgotten and dusty documents. Every day the masses live through the consequences of these imperialist policies. Every day they see the continuing support, above all the military and financial aid, of the imperialists in upholding and strengthening the Zionist state and other reactionary regimes in the region.
The bankruptcy of two nationalisms
The building of the wall will lay bare the total bankruptcy of Palestinian nationalism - and Arab nationalism as a whole - as well as of Jewish nationalism.
For the Jews of Israel, the building of this wall will represent the failure of the propaganda and rhetoric of the Zionist project. The Zionists promised the survivors of the Holocaust a homeland that would be a safe and secure environment to live and work in. This has manifestly not been delivered to their descendents. The Jews feel threatened and therefore periodically end up supporting and voting for ever more extreme leaders and politicians. But the promise of more security wears thin in the face of the reality of occupying, exploiting, oppressing and brutalising millions of people who do not accept their defeat. The ‘left’ Zionists then have to enter the arena with various plans for a ‘peace process’ which seeks to pacify the Palestinians after military means have failed to smash their intifada. Each time this cycle is repeated the Israeli Jews feel no safer than before.
For the Palestinians, as well as all Arabs, the dead-end of the previous ‘armed struggle’ that continued until the expulsion of the PLO from Lebanon in 1982, and the numerous negotiations which never question the borders imposed by the imperialist robbers and looters, has led to more and more brutality, depravation and desperation for the masses. In return, this desperation has spawned the courageous, but highly misguided, and ultimately futile, acts of the new guerrilla movements. The old policy’s bankruptcy is now displayed in starker terms by the suicide bombers who repeat the mistakes of the previous generation in a callous way that wastes their lives without advancing the mass struggle.
The only way forward for all workers and exploited and oppressed masses in the region, be they Arab, Jewish, Kurdish or Turkish, is to fight a joint struggle against the imposed borders of imperialism which artificially separate them. The removal of these borders is bound up with the toppling of the stooges of imperialism, whether sheikhs, kings or ‘hereditary presidents’. Smashing the imperialist yoke weighing down on the region and overthrowing capitalism are part of the same struggle. The ‘road map’ to true peace and the liberation of the workers and exploited masses starts with the establishment of a federation of workers’ states in the region.