All-Arab solution needed for Palestine

What other force can realistically stand up to the might of Israel, sponsored and supported by the US? asks Jim Moody

Yet again the Israeli Defence Force has invaded Gaza using overwhelming force. In their wake they have left well over 100 people dead, of which at least half are non-combatants. Israeli human rights agency Btselem reported that 25 of those killed were minors.

Israel is not primarily concerned by the occasional badly aimed Kassam rocket landing on Ashkelon and the western Negev. Outrage against Islamic Jihad militants is just a front. The government of Ehud Olmert is out to ‘crumble’ the influence of Hamas in Gaza and thus smooth the path to negotiations with al Fatah (though the whole operation could well backfire to the benefit of Hamas).

Defence minister Ehud Barak is actively seeking legal advice about forcibly removing thousands of Gaza residents to locations in the south of the strip “to enable the IDF to attack terror infrastructure without hurting civilians” (www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/960634.html). But such a plan, if it were to be carried out, could only but lead to a massive loss of life. Speaking on Israel Army Radio, deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai therefore warned that the Palestinians risk not only an invasion of Gaza, but a shoah (holocaust). This is believed to be the first time an Israeli spokesperson has used the term in relation to possible action against the Palestinians.

On the basis of recent evidence of its attacks on Gaza, let alone Israel’s record over decades, it seems that each Israeli life lost in the conflict must be atoned for by a dozen or more Palestinian ones.

Israel has been allowed to get away with murder because of its special position as America’s guard dog in the Middle East; and it is fearsomely armed with some of the latest US  weaponry.

Compared with the Israel of 1967, when it fought the combined armed forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria (plus auxiliary troops from Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia) and defeated them in only six days, today’s Israel is far more potent.

Therefore in comparison with Israel’s armaments and potential for destruction, the Kassams are peashooters. Yet the head of the United Nations gang of thieves, secretary general Ban Ki-moon, could only condemn the recent Israeli attacks on Gaza as “disproportionate”, while labelling Islamic Jihad’s rocket attacks “acts of terrorism”. So no suggestion from him that Israel’s strikes were intended to terrorise Gaza’s population - ie, they were examples of state terrorism.

In fact, not only is Israel far and away the dominant power in the region: it is one of the major military powers on the planet. Possession of between 100 and 200 nuclear warheads more than confirms that assessment and US backing gives Israel’s leaders their aggressive chutzpah and explains why it is a likely candidate for a first strike against Iran.

Not that Israel should be thought of as a mere US client. Israel has its own class politics and is quite prepared to act in its own perceived national interests. Hence what Israel does on occasions can run counter to US wishes.

Condoleezza Rice certainly expressed US displeasure at the Gaza invasion on the eve of her arrival in Israel; after all, her visit was intended to boost Palestinian ‘moderates’ like Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank and keep the US-sponsored ‘peace process’ on track. So, temporarily relenting on March 4, Israel partially lifted its seven-week blockade of Gaza. Over 160 trucks carrying aid and medical supplies were allowed in following an appeal by the Palestinian health minister, Fathi Abu Mogli of Fatah.

Hamas, of course, actually won the 2006 elections to the Palestinian legislative council. But this kind of democracy (ie, producing the ‘wrong’ result) was not acceptable to the US or Israel. The 2007 unity government was dissolved and Gaza became the only part of Palestine where Hamas was able to take control. Israel sealed Gaza’s borders and cut off its essential supplies, following up by frequently bombarding its population and making armed forays, as it did over the last week. All designed to show Palestinians that they made a bad choice. Israeli rulers’ collective punishment of the Palestinians becomes all too redolent of the imperialist actions of the British empire, Nazi Germany and the US at different times in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Hamas’s suggested ceasefire agreement was reportedly supported by 64% of Israelis and even some senior Israeli cabinet ministers for their own tactical reasons. But for communists Hamas represents no way forward on the Palestine question that will resolve it in the positive for the overwhelming majority of Gaza, the West Bank and Israel. It is an organisation that is deeply undemocratic, giving credence to the tsarist forgery The protocols of the elders of Zion, for goodness sake! These are deeply reactionary ‘anti-imperialists’. A strategy based on ‘My enemy’s enemy is my friend’ à la SWP is bankrupt and evokes all too easily the leftists who were happy to troop along in the wake of the ‘anti-imperialist’ Khomeini in 1979. Thousands of their comrades in Iran paid with their lives.

Palestine has effectively been divided again in the last couple of years, this time by Israel and the Palestinians, fragmenting into the West Bank (Fatah-controlled) and Gaza (Hamas-controlled). Without a working class solution, the barbarism is going to continue. But where is the working class force to achieve a democratic solution going to come from? Hardly from a fractured Palestine. It is not a question of what Palestinian workers should do. It is much more a question of what Syrian, Iraqi and Egyptian workers, etc should do.

The Arab world as a whole is quite another matter. Around 250 million people are self-identified or defined as Arabs. Living in west Asia and north Africa, a significantly large proportion are proletarians. For example, Cairo’s 20 million population is mostly working class; unfortunately, however, Egypt has no working class party worthy of the name. Even though Egypt has seen numerous important strikes over the last three decades, mostly they were crushed and failed to inject much in the way of long-term benefit to the working class movement.

Communist parties in other Arab-majority countries have, however, had some clout in the past. This is certainly so in Syria (Communist Party of Syria and Lebanon, founded 1924) and in Iraq (CP of Iraq, founded 1934). Unlike its northerly sister party in Egypt, the Sudanese Communist Party (founded 1946) has been almost as influential as the Iraqi Communist Party in its time.

So if we say that the working class must lead the struggle over the Israel-Palestine issue if it is to be resolved democratically, this must realistically be based on the strength of the Arab working class as a whole. This is an eminently practical approach: its ramifications must inevitably include the call for an all-Arab perspective and an all-Arab organisation.

If Marx’s slogan for an all-German approach can inform us now, then surely an all-Arab approach is the coherent focus and way forward for revolutionaries in the region. First and foremost, it is correct in terms of the pressing democratic question of the day in the region, Palestine, and the potential for overall, integrated revolutionary advance that victory on this question holds.

What other force can realistically stand up to the might of Israel, sponsored and supported by the US? Such a force would have no need to fear the Jewish people of Israel. It could champion the prospect of a democratic, secular Palestine within an Arab federation, existing alongside a democratic, secular Israel. We reject utterly the programme of those who wish to ‘push the Jews into the sea’. To achieve the rights of the Palestinians under such conditions would be anathema to any hope of revolutionary advance in the region.

So, mobilising the Arab masses behind a working class party of the whole region does suggest a credible way of breaking the logjam created by an Israeli ruling class that is backed by the world’s superpower. Not only that: only a working class party, a Communist Party, armed with real democratic centralism can possibly provide a solution that could be welcomed by the working class and broad democratic masses in Israel beyond its Arab christian and Arab muslim second class citizens.

The way cannot be mapped out here in detail, but the artificial borders set by imperialism and embraced by the new rulers upon independence are not for us as internationalists of the communist movement: we have a world to win and the barriers between Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco and Libya should be as nothing when it comes to organising our class in the region.