Israel's pogrom

All socialists, all defenders of the rights of the oppressed, must stand unconditionally with the Palestinian people of the West Bank and Gaza strip, and their co-nationals in Israel proper, against the murderous ethnic terror of the Israeli state. Socialists should demand, as a starting point, the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from the occupied territories, and the disarming and repatriation of the gangs of armed Jewish settlers that have encamped in these territories, whose very presence constitutes a violation of Palestinian sovereignty.

All socialists, all defenders of the rights of the oppressed, must stand unconditionally with the Palestinian people of the West Bank and Gaza strip, and their co-nationals in Israel proper, against the murderous ethnic terror of the Israeli state. Socialists should demand, as a starting point, the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from the occupied territories, and the disarming and repatriation of the gangs of armed Jewish settlers that have encamped in these territories, whose very presence constitutes a violation of Palestinian sovereignty.

The workers' movement should take up the cause of the Palestinians as its own - this is a people who have been not only deprived of their homeland by a forcible migration of another people, but are now being subjected to a lethal onslaught in order to prevent them even achieving a viable state alongside the tremendously powerful nation-state of the people who ousted them.

The Palestinian struggle for a sovereign statelet in the West Bank and Gaza is in itself not an adequate solution to the democratic questions posed by the expropriation of Arab land and resources at the very foundation of Israel. But it is nevertheless a minimal step towards democracy, towards freedom for this oppressed people. We must demand that the city of Jerusalem, east and west, be put under joint and equal sovereignty of both Israel and a Palestinian state free of Israeli troops and 'settler' irregulars, in order to protect the inviolability of the holy sites of both Islam and Judaism and the freedom of religious practice without fear for all people.

Real peace and social, economic and political equality between the Jewish and Arab peoples - both of Israel/Palestine and the Arab world more generally - is unlikely to be achieved on a permanent basis until the rule of capital is overthrown in the whole region. But that does not mean that we can afford to fold our arms and say, 'Wait till the revolution - that will solve everything'. On the contrary - without finding a way to dissipate the national hatreds that have been built up over generations in the Middle East, there will be no revolution. That means that democracy must be fought for in the here and now - and a programme implemented that can advance the Palestinian Arab people's material standard of life and national self-respect, while at the time dissipating the historically derived, hysterical and therefore murderously dangerous fears of the Jewish population of an Arab 'holocaust' in revenge for past Zionist atrocities. It is these fears that lie behind the alternation between the twin poles of fin de siècle Israeli politics - repression, followed by attempts to trade 'land for peace', followed by more repression as soon as Palestinian hopes and therefore aspirations begin to be raised.

The recent escalation of conflict appeared to reach the brink of an all-out war, that could under popular pressure draw in Israel's Arab neighbours. If such a war were to take place, the outcome would be extremely difficult to predict. Israel is known to have a sizeable nuclear arsenal, as was revealed Mordechai Vanunu as long ago as 1986.

Last weekend's ceasefire, brokered by Bill Clinton in Egypt, is very tenuous, to say the least. Both Palestinian militants and Israeli extremists are denouncing it as a sellout. The danger of escalation remains. Israel receives massive aid, both military and economic - mainly from the United States, but also from Europe and elsewhere. As a result, Israel has gained a standard of living that is comparable to that of the advanced capitalist world.

Imperialism promoted the formation of a greater Israel in the first place because it offered the potential to be a very useful ally in a region of the world that contained the planet's richest oil reserves. In 1956 Britain and France connived with Israeli expansionism. Opinion makers exploited the tragic history of the Jewish people, from their mythologised origins in the Palestine of three millennia ago, to their modern-day persecution in Nazi Europe, to import a novel means of 'divide and rule'.

The Jewish people were the unfortunate dupes of this process - despite the socialist promises of the Zionist founders of Israel. Those who connive in the oppression of another nation can never be free. One of the most penetrating of Trotsky's insights in the 1930s was that by allowing themselves in desperation to be fooled into stealing Arab land and brutalising Arabs, and thereby provoking the hostility of the Arab peoples, the Jewish people were being led by the imperialists into a deadly trap. The noose of that deadly trap is, in reality, still around the neck of both peoples and threatens to strangle the entire region, leaving democracy and proletarian socialism a corpse.

Most Arab countries languish under corrupt dictatorships. The left is marginalised. Muslim fundamentalism offers a counterrevolutionary solution to the masses. Israel and the US are fanatically hated in a reactionary way. In Israel itself lining up against Palestinians and Arabs has robbed the working class of any independence.

US imperialism regards Israeli sub-imperialism as an invaluable asset. But it is also aware of the contradictions and dangers of the situation. Israel has become a Frankenstein's monster that the Americans often have great difficulty in controlling. The US ruling class is aware that Israel overreached itself in its simultaneous occupations of Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, the Golan Heights and earlier the Sinai peninsula. These 'conquests', far from increasing the prestige and influence of Israel in the world at large, have greatly magnified the loathing for Israel among the Arab peoples, and in terms of their arrogant trampling on Muslim holy sites, among Muslim peoples around the world. They have also had a destabilising effect on Israel itself.

Thus the US ruling class has tended to favour a 'leaner, fitter' Israel, trading land for a peace process with the Arabs. It hopes that in this way Israel will free itself from superfluous entanglement and be able to act as a dependable and effective outpost in the event of any threat to its favoured oil states in the Gulf for instance. Thus, the US ruling class generally favours the Labour Party in Israeli politics, and considerable efforts have been expended trying to promote the kind of restabilisation strategy exemplified by Rabin and now Barak. But things have not tended to go according to plan.

The state of Israeli politics over the past decades hardly inspires confidence that this is a stable capitalist society. On the contrary; if there is anywhere in the world where bourgeois democratic politics is riven with antagonisms, which all too easily escalate to the point of intra-bourgeois fratricide, it is Israel. This was symbolised by the assassination of the then Labour prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, for attempting to do a deal with the Palestine Liberation Organisation. This killing happened with the obvious approval and probably connivance of the opposition party, Likud, who then proceeded to wage a vicious ultra-chauvinist election campaign against his successor, Peres, narrowly defeating him in the subsequent election and installing the corrupt, murderous oaf, Netanyahu, in his place.

The fact that the 'Labour' Zionists, in their domination during the earlier period of the Israeli state, were as vehement enforcers of the Zionist programme of expropriation and oppression of the Palestinian people as anyone in Israel made no difference to the Zionist right wing. They are prepared to risk civil war to sabotage even the most minimal programme of 'land for peace'.

The provocative appearance of the current Likud leader, Ariel Sharon, at the disputed Temple Mount in Jerusalem was yet another example of the same phenomenon. Sharon, of course, was the organiser of the SS-style mass killing of thousands of Palestinian men, women and children in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila near Beirut in 1982, part of a previous Israeli attempt at a 'final solution' of the Palestinian 'problem' through a bloody invasion to wipe out the PLO's positions in Lebanon. And just as with the assassination of Rabin by the Zionist right, they have succeeded again in derailing the tentative attempts of the Labour Party to make a deal with the Palestinians. Barak is now a prisoner of Likud, and indeed has moved to stabilise his shaky grip on office by suggesting a grand coalition.

The detailed coverage in the western media of the killing of three disguised Israeli soldiers has contrasted sharply with the reporting of most Palestinian casualties. The three agents claimed to have 'got lost' in Ramallah while obviously on some sort of undercover military action against the Palestinian statelet, and were summarily despatched by an angry crowd after falling into the hands of Palestinian police. The sensationalism, the interviews with relatives of these armed state terrorists were entirely different from the anonymity of most of the 130 or so Palestinian victims of the rampages of the Israeli army.

It appears that, particularly in circumstances of a mass Palestinian uprising against Israeli terror, against the Israelis who many bourgeois commentators still regard as being on 'our' side in the world at large, the lives of Palestinian Arabs count for considerably less than three professionally trained killers.

The allegation that this spontaneous action of angry civilians meant the end of 'peace' is sheer imperialist arrogance - the Israeli troops were on land that is allegedly internationally recognised as being illegally occupied - even according to UN resolutions these troops had no right to be there. Any 'peace' worthy of the name would see them banished from the site for good. In reality, their very presence and actions were proof that 'peace' had already broken down.

For a genuine resolution of the national question in the Middle East, the rights of all peoples must be recognised. The Israelis, now settled in the region for two or three generations, have the right to exist and to have their own separate nation-state. The results of the Zionist colonisation of Palestine in the early-mid 20th century are irreversible - as irreversible, in fact, as the European colonisation of the Americas.

But there must be genuine justice and social/economic and national equality for the Arab peoples also. Indeed, the advanced economy and infrastructure of Israel could be a crucial resource and material means of raising the standards of life of the mainly Arab poor of the entire region - provided it is torn out of the hands of the H-bomb-toting, irrational ruling class that currently monopolises these productive forces. There must be a massive redivision of land and resources in the whole of the former territory of Palestine, including present-day Israel, in order to allow full social and economic equality to the Arab people.

By fighting for democracy for both nations, socialists can make a start on the necessary task of exploding the Zionist fortress from within, of laying the basis for a working class-centred struggle for socialism, for a genuinely voluntary federation of the peoples, that alone can banish for good the kinds of national hatreds that dominate today.

Ian Donovan

Picket the Israeli embassy Kensington High Street, every Saturday afternoon, 3pm-6pm. Organised by the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition