Americas Imperialism Israel Middle East National Question

Jerusalem: Trump Stokes Conflagration

By Lal Khan

Donald Trump’s reckless move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s historic and eternal capital exposes the deep divisions in the US state and society. With the escalating and unrelenting economic crisis and failure of US capitalism to halt the socioeconomic decline has exacerbated the predicament of the American people. Cracks within the Trump administration have opened up. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis were both opposed to Trump’s move. But they have been relegated by the ultra-Zionist trio of Jason Greenblatt US President’s diplomatic advisor, David Friedman, American ambassador to Israel and Ivanka Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, who are now calling the shots and are sponsoring Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land. If there were any doubts about the Israeli tail wagging the US dog, these should have been dispelled. The frustrations emanating from the military defeats in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the recent years have added to this turmoil. But above all this insanity is a manifestation of the terminal decay of US imperialism— the largest economic and military empire in history.

It is also a manoeuvre by Trump to distract the threat of his impeachment. He had called his close regional allies, the kings and despots in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan etc. a day earlier. Those phone call would have been a blow for these rulers whose regimes are already quivering from the unrests beneath them. Faced with social unrests their increased reliance on US imperialism has turned out to be a dangerous survival strategy. These Arab and Muslim rulers have for decades used verbal support for the Palestinian struggle as an external cover, while they have crushed internal dissent. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. Trump’s rash move can further flare up the conflagration in the Middle East.

The incapacity of Arab and Moslem rulers to stand up to the US imperialists and their inability to take any bold steps against Israeli occupation and repression of the Palestinians will make them vulnerable in the pulsating outrage and revolts that may now erupt in their countries. The Economist writes, “Mr Trump has based much of his Middle East policy on building a closer alliance with Saudi Arabia. The Saudis, along with America’s other Arab allies, publicly opposed the recognition of Jerusalem. But it is unlikely that Mr Trump would have gone ahead if they had not privately assured him that they had bigger things to worry about.” Trump’s move again exposed the artificiality and impotence of institutions like the UN, OIC, GCC and the Arab League. The so-called ‘international community’ is a club of capitalist rulers who have manipulated issues through hypocritical gestures in order to diffuse mass revolts.

Several hours before the announcement by Trump, protests had already broken out in the Palestinian territories in response to the expected move. The Palestinians call for  ‘three days of rage’ is already beginning to spill on the streets of Palestine, Middle East and far beyond. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the ‘Palestinian Authority’ (PA), has been radical only in words, while in practice he has been craven in his approach to Israel and to the US over the years. The PA, to ordinary Palestinians, is a by-word of corruption, nepotism and graft. Not surprisingly, Abbas has not much credibility left.

Similar condemnations from the leaders of various regimes in the Muslin world are more from the fear of a mass revulsion against Trump that would make them the targets, due to their ties with the US. US recognition also lays bare the impossibility of a ‘negotiated settlement’ of the Palestinian–Israeli conflict under the auspices of the big capitalist powers and within the confines of the capitalist system. Even Pope Francis had to oppose this move: “the status quo that governs Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque compound should be respected.” France’s President Macron’s criticism is the expression of the hypocritical nature of the European imperialists diplomacy.

The 1947 UN Partition Plan, agreed by the world imperialist powers and ironically by Stalin’s Russia, was meant to divide historical Palestine between Jewish and Arab states, and under this plan Jerusalem was granted special status to be placed theoretically under ‘international sovereignty and control’. The special status was based on Jerusalem’s ‘religious importance’ to the three Abrahamic religions. In the 1948 war the Zionist forces took control of the western half of the city and declared the territory to be a part of Israel. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the Israeli army occupied the ‘Palestinian West Bank’, including East Jerusalem and declared the city as its “eternal, undivided” capital. In 1968, the then Mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek, described the annexation strategy of the regime: “The object is to ensure that all of Jerusalem remains forever a part of Israel. If this city is to be our capital, then we have to make it an integral part of our country, and we need Jewish inhabitants to do that.”

In 1980, Israel formalised its annexation of the eastern half of the city when it passed the Jerusalem Law, claiming: “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel”. All the departments of the Israeli government institutions, including the parliament, or Knesset, and the Supreme Court were now located in Jerusalem. Successive Israeli regimes have been carrying out crusades of massive land grabs, rapid construction of Jewish settlements, and the imposition of a repressive system on Palestinians designed to stifle their daily lives and push them out of the city.

Today, 86 percent of East Jerusalem is under direct control of the Israeli authorities and Jewish settlers. Around 200,000 settlers live in settlements that have been mostly built on Palestinian land. The separation wall, which Israel started building in 2002, snakes through the West Bank territory, dividing villages, encircling towns and splitting families from each other. It has disconnected 140,000 Palestinians living in Jerusalem neighbourhoods from the rest of the city, basic services and infrastructure. In the last ten years, more than 2,600 people have been rendered homeless after their houses were demolished.

Only 56 percent of Jerusalem’s 324,000 Palestinians are connected to the city’s official water grid. In East Jerusalem the lack of access to water and other services, including public transportation, was exacerbated due to the planning freeze since 1967, while population has been growing over the years. The ‘Arnona municipal tax’ is an instrument of discrimination affecting the Palestinians, exceeding the annual rent of low-income families. Israel is following an open policy of ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem.

Palestinian inhabitants of Jerusalem are essentially stateless, stuck in legal limbo. They are not citizens of Israel, but nor are they citizens of Jordan or the Palestine Authority. Israeli regime treats these Palestinians in East Jerusalem as foreign immigrants who live there as a ‘favour granted to them by the state’ and not by right, despite having been born there. They live in a constant fear of having their residency revoked.

The partition of these lands and the creation of Israel dates back to The Balfour Declaration, a public pledge by Britain in 1917 stating that it was Britain’s aim to establish “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. This declaration promised a state to foreign Jews in a land where the native Palestinians made up more than 90 percent of the population. It was inscribed in form of a letter from Britain’s then foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour addressed to Lionel Walter Rothschild, a figurehead of the British Jewish community.

It was part of the plot to carve out artificial countries from the Provinces of the defeated Ottoman Empire divided as war booty between the victorious imperialist powers, mainly France and Britain—a renewed neo-colonial hegemony. In practise it meant that the Palestinian Arabs who lived there would not gain independence. After the Second World War the well-armed Jewish militias occupied Palestine with imperialists’ support and this Zionist state was formed.

Ever since the establishment of the state in 1948, Israel has been a Middle Eastern outpost for American imperialism in the region. The strategists of imperialism have been able to use wars and conflicts in the region to bolster their policy of ‘divide and rule’ based on religious, ethnic, nationalistic and sectarian prejudices. It was designed to sustain their plunder of Middle East’s resources and maintain strategic control.

Benjamin Netanyahu and other reactionary Zionist leaders are intoxicated with the euphoria of their endorsement by Trump, but they will soon have to face the wrath of perhaps another Intifada in the occupied Palestinian territories. The first intifada was spontaneous and was a genuine mass movement that took the Palestinian leadership by surprise. It had such a mass appeal among Arabs that it had a big effect among Israeli masses too, along with ‘Israeli Arab’ protestors in the streets of Israeli cities. The current leadership of the Palestinians – both Hamas in the Gaza, and Fatah/PA in the West Bank – are terrified of any genuine mass movement of Palestinian masses, for all their bluster about a new intifada. But another spontaneous upsurge of Palestinians – despite and not because of their ‘leaders’ – may yet take place.

Such is the traumatic tragedy of these imperialist partitions in the Middle East that for seventy years it has not only been the Palestinian masses who have suffered but the oppressed classes of every national, ethnic and religious community have been traumatised.

To these we might also add the Israeli workers and the poor who have been brought to Israel from across the world and have had to live in the constant fear of an encircled population beset by the fear of war and conflict. Israel is also a class society and the toiling classes face capitalist exploitation. It is through this concocted fear of siege, inoculated in their mass psychology by the elite intelligentsia and the state that makes their class oppression cumbersome. Rather than being a ‘safe haven’ for Jews worldwide, Israeli has been beset by one war after another – and that insecurity has not changed.

Those Palestinian ‘leaders’ like those in Hamas – supported by the leaders of states like Iran – who still call for the destruction of Israel, play into the hands of  Israeli right like Netanyahu, far from strengthening the Palestinian struggle, weaken it and divert it at every step. The Zionist regimes have also used these ‘threats’ to impose their despotic grip upon the Israeli workers and society.

Leon Trotsky warned of such a dreadful life for Jews migrating to their ‘ancestral homeland’. He wrote on December 22, 1938, “The attempt to solve the Jewish question through the migration of Jews to Palestine can now be seen for what it is, a tragic mockery of the Jewish people.” On the other hand, peace and security for Israeli workers can never be achieved on the basis of the denial of the national and social rights of the Palestinian masses.

In the last seventy years, three Arab-Israeli wars, protracted armed struggles including acts of individual terror and decades of negotiations have failed to achieve for the Palestinians their right to freedom. It was only the mass militant uprisings of Intifadas’ of 1987 and 2000 that shook the Zionist state and they were forced to concede some cursory demands. The hard reality is that the road to Palestinian emancipation passes through the streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and other Israeli cities where ordinary Israelis’ are suffering from socioeconomic and psychological distress. They also yearn for an end to this nightmare of fear and despair.

The most significant aspect of the 2011 Arab revolutionary upheaval was the entrance of the Israeli masses into the arena of revolt in solidarity of their class brothers and sisters in the Arab world and against their despotic regime. The outrage and turmoil in the region that can erupt will also engulf Israel. The heavily armed Israeli Zionist state and its imperialist backers will fail to suppress a new uprising where the masses come out into the streets to end this violence, exploitation and oppression. A new revolutionary situation will spread across the Middle East that could break the shackles of imperialist slavery, smash the Zionist state and the overthrow the reactionary Arab regimes that have pulverised the region. US imperialism’s Nero will face the vengeance of history’s retribution.