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More than 870 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began its wholesale bombing of Gaza on 8 July. 80 per cent of them are non-combatants, including a large number of children.
Israel’s most recent atrocity killing at least 15 people and wounding 200 others in the Ashraf al-Qidra school on Thursday shocked the world but it is only the tip of the iceberg. At least five were killed in a direct attack on al-Aqsa Hospital at the beginning of the week.
According to the United Nations humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, by 22 July at least 117,000 Gaza inhabitants (5 per cent of the total population) have been driven from their homes and are taking shelter in UN schools, 90 schools and 18 health facilities have been damaged, 2,655 housing units have been rendered uninhabitable, another 3,175 housing units damaged and 1.2 million people have no or very limited access to water or sanitation. 80 per cent of people only receive four hours of electricity per day.
This massive collective punishment, in open violation of international law, if carried out by any other state besides Israel, would attract the most violent condemnation. But because Israel is protected by the United States, and by most states in the European Union, to even summon the UN Security Council into session would be futile since the USA would veto even the slightest criticism of Israel, let alone impose any sanctions.
Nevertheless the great majority of ordinary people around the world are horrified and furious at what is going on in Gaza furious and with the smug hypocrites like John Kerry, Barack Obama or David Cameron, who claim to represent world opinion, continue to excuse and justify Israel’s crimes and its long term attempt to destroy the Palestinian people and drive them out of their land.
Even the world leaders who condemn Israel’s actions – the third such bombardment in six years, the cruel blockade of Gaza, the Apartheid Wall and the myriad checkpoints, the continued occupation and expansion of settlements on the West Bank – they do little or nothing.
The demonstrations in London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Istanbul, Washington, Sydney, and may other cities indicate the enormous support the Palestinian cause has from ordinary people. And this mobilisation of people is not just a matter of sympathy for suffering, it is support for the struggle of the people of Gaza and the West Bank and admiration for resistance.
A third Intifada
Palestinian leaders say this is the start of the “uprising of freedom and independence”- a “new Intifada”. On Thursday night on the West Bank ten thousand people marched in the face of vicious repression from the outskirts of Ramallah towards the Qalandia checkpoint on the road to Jerusalem. Since the murder of teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir by vigilante settlers, there have been demonstrations almost every day in many East Jerusalem neighbourhoods. On Thursday night two Palestinians were killed there in clashes between thousands of demonstrators and Israeli police. These have been the largest demonstrations in the West Bank for over a decade
They could indeed mean the beginning of a new Intifada. But this uprising needs to be joined by people across the world exerting the maximum pressure of the streets on their rulers.
As we write thee is a 12-hour “humanitarian ceasefire” but Israel has made it clear that it wishes to resume the attack to give more time to the troops and tanks of the IDF to carve out a buffer zone inside the Gaza frontier. To establish this, they have driven tens of thousands of Palestinians out of their homes and away from the border.
It is plain that they not only have no intention of agreeing to a permanent cessation of their attacks but also that they will not put an end to the stranglehold their blockade puts on the people of Gaza, nor the daily obstruction and humiliation that the network of the checkpoints like Qalandia put on everyday life in the West Bank. The Palestinian population in pre-1967 Israel – treated as second-class citizens, discriminated against and insulted – is another sector that could join the struggle.
To this we must add the huge population in the refugee camps inside and across the borders of Palestine. A Third Intifada must set as its goal the destruction of this entire apparatus of oppression.
The two state illusion
It is now plain that the so-called “two state solution”, supported by the Fatah leadership and the US-EU, still peddled by the official labour movement in the West, is an illusion. Israel will never grant a truly independent and sovereign state for the Palestinians.
Israel’s own character as a state built on colonisation, a project as yet uncompleted according to the Zionist ideology, effectively excludes this outcome. Israel continually adds outrageous new demands every time a new peace deal is rumoured.
In March, Netanyahu addressed Abbas with the demand that “the Palestinians must abandon the fantasy of flooding Israel with refugees” and be prepared to “recognise Israel as a Jewish state”.
Thus, the Palestinians are offered “peace” on the basis of abandoning the right of return for the refugees driven off their land by repeated waves of Zionist settlers. And what would recognition of a “Jewish state” mean for Israel’s non-Jewish citizens?
Any contiguous sovereign Palestinian state with its own armed forces would close off the expansion of Jewish settlements, a process that today provides Israel with a safety valve for its own internal class, ethnic and religious contradictions. It would also undermine the Zionist ideology that is used to justify not only the continuing theft of land in the post-1967 Occupied Territories, but the very foundation of the state itself, with its mass expulsion and dispossession of between 750,000 and 900,000 Palestinians between 1947 and 1950.
Far from being a realistic short-term goal that might provide the Palestinians with a breathing space, “two states” is simply a mirage towards which they have been led by Abbas and Fatah whilst Israel carried on with their national extinction.
But Israel’s actions have inflamed the hatred of millions of people worldwide who increasingly recognise it as a racist state, waging a terror war for the destruction the Palestinian people.
We need to build on today’s massive outpouring of people to create a movement that forces governments, businesses worldwide to stop all arms supplies, all oil and gas supplies, in fact all trade of logistical value to Israel’s war effort. We need to combat the support that the media, both state owned and that of the billionaire press barons, demanding an uncensored voice for the Palestinians and the representatives of the mass movement in their support. We need to expose and confront the Israel Lobby in academia. We need to support demands for:
- The immediate, unconditional and total withdrawal of the IDF from Gaza
- The ending of the siege of Gaza by land sea and air and the right of its people to travel to the West Bank, Israel, and abroad
- The ending of the entire checkpoint and the demolition of the infamous Apartheid Wall
- The withdrawal of all the illegal settlements and their armed settlers from Palestinian land in Jerusalem and the West Bank
- The payment of full reparations to all those in Gaza whose houses have been destroyed or damaged and the restoration of all
schools, hospitals and infrastructure
- The recognition of the right of return for all those expelled from their homes since the foundation of the settler state
But the idea that Palestine can ever be free as long as this state exists is itself an illusion. The current inherently racist state must be utterly destroyed and replaced with a united and socialist Palestine; a land for Arabic and Hebrew speakers, for Muslims, Jews, Christians, Druze etc. to live and work in.
It must be a secular state with no privileges for, or discrimination against, any part of its population. It must be socialist so that workers of all national and linguistic backgrounds can work together for the common good, so that disputes over who owns the land or the factories and offices can be solved collectively.
Such a solution must be part of a liberation of the entire Middle East from outside imperialist powers and from the corrupt monarchies and military dictatorships that infest it today. And the only social force that can lead this struggle is the working class of the region: the goal it needs to aim for is the creation of workers’ states, and their unification in a Socialist Federation of the Middle East.