Imperialism Israel Middle East National Question Palestine

Singular, secular, non-racist, democratic and socialist. Palestine: what is the ultimate solution?

By Pablo Vasco

Of course, the urgency is to stop the Zionist genocide in Gaza and beyond. But one of the big questions on millions of minds around the world is how to resolve the conflict fairly and definitively. The brute force of the facts discards the servile variant of “an Israel with rights for the Palestinians”, as proposed by some sectors of the PLO that directs the Palestinian Authority. But since that doesn’t work, can two states coexist, as the UN, many governments and political currents insist? Or would it be possible to achieve a free and democratic Palestine, simply? Or will only be truly free if it’s socialist? And in what context of the Middle East? We address here these strategic debates, which are of interest in general and even more so for revolutionaries.

Until before the current conflict, leaders and officials of Al Fatah, the party that leads the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and in turn, the Palestinian National Authority -which governs the West Bank- had already backed away from the UN’s deceitful “two-state” position. Not only did they renounce the human right of self-determination of their own people, but they accepted the Zionist State and its expansion over the entirety of the increasingly shrinking Palestinian territory.

Mahmoud Abbas has been the president of the PLO and the West Bank since the 2005 elections, which were the last, given that he postponed them since then for fear of losing. Accused of corruption, his police collaborate with Israeli forces to persecute Palestinian activism and stop the popular struggle. In fact, Fatah’s only plea to Israel is not to be second-class citizens…

It is the orientation, now openly indefensible given the Zionist genocide, of a political bureaucracy adapted to the domination of the oppressive State. It is equal to or worse than the Arab bourgeois governments that recognize and agree with Israel against the Palestinians and the masses of the Arab world. This capitulation of the leadership of Abbas and Fatah is clearly functional to the far-right Israeli president Netanyahu, who at a UN session last month showed his map of the “new Middle East”… with expanded Israel and not a single Palestinian square centimeter!

Expansionism and the “two states” lie

After the Second World War, imperialist hegemony changed: the US displaced Great Britain. To prevent the Jewish victims of Nazi horror from turning to the left and, above all, to establish an allied colonial enclave in the strategic Middle East, the US encouraged the Zionist political movement to occupy Palestine, then a British protectorate. Thus, in 1947 the United Nations, with the support of all powers including the Stalinist USSR, proposed dividing Palestine into two States and with Jerusalem under international guardianship[1]. But…

When it was founded in 1948, the State of Israel razed hundreds of Palestinian villages, murdered thousands, expelled hundreds of thousands, and stole their land, including 20% beyond partition. In addition to this genocide, the Nakba for the Arabs never accepted the return of Palestinian refugees.

In 1967, after the Six Day War against several Arab countries, Israel occupied Gaza and the West Bank, the Egyptian Sinai, the Syrian Golan and all of “neutral” Jerusalem. For example, Zionist politician Meron Benvenisti declared: “We conquer, so what? Why should we feel guilty for winning?” Due to these facts, the International Court in The Hague, the UN General Assembly and its Security Council consider Israel an occupying power.

Since then, the West Bank has remained under military occupation. Israel surrounded it with a barrier of walls, fences and barbed wire and installed 175 checkpoints and Zionist settlers in more than 250 settlements that fragment the entire territory and violate the Palestinian population daily. The barrier was condemned by The Hague Court. According to international treaties, settlements in occupied territories are war crimes. And in 2017, even the Israeli Supreme Court itself annulled the law that sought to legalize them.

In 1973, after the Yom Kippur War, Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt. In exchange, this was the first Arab country to recognize the Zionist State, all mediated by the US in the Camp David agreements in 1978.

In 1978, Israel invades southern Lebanon, where many refugees from the Palestinian exodus live. It repeated it in 1982 and in 2000, then returned a part of the occupied areas, retaining some still today[1].

In 1980, Israel annexed East Jerusalem to its territory and in 1981 almost all the Golan, violating UN resolutions Nº 478 and 497 that demand their nullity. To date, Israel has installed 230,000 settlers in East Jerusalem and 20,000 in the Golan. If in 1999 there were a total of 130,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory, today there are more than 700,000.

In 2018, Israel worsened one of its so-called basic laws, with a constitutional function: it defined itself as the national state of the Jewish people, imposed Hebrew as the only official language -previously Arabic was also the same-, recognized the right to self-determination only for Jews, granted national interest to Zionist settlements in Palestinian areas, and designated entire Jerusalem as capital, violating the UN status of it being shared with Palestine. As an example of this discrimination in all times and places, if a Palestinian child throws a stone at a settler or a Jewish police officer, he is tried by a military court, but if a Jewish child attacks a Palestinian in the same way, he is tried by a civil court.

In short, because it is a theocratic State, it is called the promised land for the chosen people or the homeland of the Jews; for being founded on the theft and expulsion of the native population: for applying for 75 years a policy of apartheid or ethnic cleansing, that is, Zionist supremacism and anti-Palestinian racism; and for exercising unlimited colonialism and expansionism as confirmed by the mere evolution of the map, by its very nature Israel will not stop, if it is not defeated, until it completes its genocide and erases Palestine from the face of the earth. The “two states” policy is a lie and a resounding failure that has been going on for 75 years.

If we add to this its role as a pro-North American regional gendarme, it is evident that there is and will not be a peaceful coexistence possible between two neighbors if one is the oppressor and the other the oppressed. And we say neighbors because at this point it is already childish to talk about “two States”: Israel has one of the greatest military powers in the world and on the other hand, Palestine is divided in two, year after year smaller, impoverished and now moreover with that open air prison called Gaza blocked, bombed and massacred without mercy.

The great betrayal of the PLO and its consequences

Born in 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organization brought together several nationalist and left-wing political movements, the main one Al Fatah, and had a militia. Its banner was the fight for the destruction of the State of Israel, the return of refugees and the creation of a secular and democratic Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Thus, it gained weight as the recognized and hegemonic leadership of the Palestinian movement. For almost a decade it has maintained that progressive slogan, which our political current has supported.

But starting in 1973, when Egypt, the political and material support of the PLO, recognized Israel, the leadership led by Yasser Arafat adapted to lowering its program, accepting Israel and proposing “two states” as a solution. That is why it is no coincidence that in 1974 the Arab League recognized the PLO as the “only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people” and the UN integrated it as an observer member.

This qualitative shift in the PLO’s line towards the Zionist State was accompanied by greater control and bureaucratic restraint towards the struggles of the Palestinian people, which caused increasing wear and tear. At the end of 1987, the first Intifada (uprising, in Arabic) broke out. Faced with the murders of Palestinians at the hands of Zionist patrols, hundreds of young people in Gaza and then in the West Bank came out to throw stones at them, which were responded by bullets. This spontaneous youth rebellion became widespread, overflowed the Fatah apparatus and, with ups and downs, lasted more than five years and impacted the world. In this process of struggle, which at the same time radicalized its methods, in parallel with the political decline of the PLO, Hamas was strengthened: an armed jihadist organization whose strategy is to put an end to the State of Israel, the founding flag that had definitively abandoned Arafat’s leadership.

The continuity of the Intifada pushed the PLO and Israel to negotiate a “peace solution.” Of course: always under the tutelage of North American imperialism, just as Egypt had done at Camp David 15 years ago. Thus, in September 1993, Bill Clinton, Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin agreed to the Oslo Accords. In essence, the PLO recognized the Zionist state, and it accepted some transition towards a Palestinian “provisional autonomous government” in Gaza and the West Bank. With all imperialism satisfied, Arafat, Rabin and former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres received the Nobel Peace Prize… This historic betrayal of the PLO with the Palestinian cause, plus the subsequent Israeli violation of the precarious Oslo agreements, did not stop the struggle for Palestine and gave more encouragement to Hamas.

This jihadist group emerged in the early 1980s in Gaza, first as a Palestinian branch of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. What Zionism, its political accomplices and media suckers now hide is that Israel itself financed Hamas for more than a decade to use it against the PLO. All these cynics call Hamas a terrorist, but they omit the terrorism of the State of Israel, which yesterday fed its enemy today, just as the US provided money and weapons to the Taliban to counter Russian interference in Afghanistan. Israeli General Yitzhak Segev, former governor of Gaza, acknowledged this in a report in The New York Times in 1981: “The government of Israel gave me a budget and I sent it to the mosques,” where Hamas organized its militants and even combatants. And Avner Cohen, Israeli head of religious affairs in Gaza, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal admitted: “Hamas, to my regret, is a creation of Israel. It was a huge and stupid mistake[2]”.

In 2006, Hamas reaped popular anger with the PLO and the Oslo agreements, won the legislative elections with 44% of the votes, broke its co-government with Abbas and formed its own government in Gaza. Israel immediately blocked Gaza. There was a second Intifada in 2000 due to Zionist provocations at the sacred Al Aqsa Mosque and a third in 2017 when Trump recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, where he later moved his embassy. In all those years, the Israeli offensive continued, especially against Gaza, with several military operations, clashes and hundreds of Palestinian deaths per year, and the Palestinian resistance against the occupier also continued.

What a project for Palestine

While the PLO supported the fight against the State of Israel and for a secular and democratic Palestine, it was correct to support that fight and that objective from revolutionary socialism, understanding them in a transitional sense towards a worker and socialist State. It was also difficult to sustain it for a certain time after the PLO renounced it, since it was deeply rooted in large sectors of the Palestinian masses. But over the years, this panorama has changed substantially and our policy and program cannot be an immovable dogma but rather reflect those changes.

The PLO ended up capitulating, accepting Israel and moving back from “two states” to “Israel with rights for the Palestinians”, so now it is silent about the situation. And Hamas maintains its fight against Israel, but irreconcilable differences of political project separate us. Its objective is to establish a Palestinian State that is also theocratic, Islamic in this case, where Sharia governs, which we consider deeply reactionary. What’s more: a sector of the Hamas leadership would even accept the borders before the 1967 war, with the irresolvable contradiction of coexisting with Israel. At the same time, Hamas maintains authoritarian control over the Gazan population and has repressed wage strikes and protests against corruption and clientelism. To then build an alternative revolutionary leadership, a task that is of course not easy, there will be political disputes with these projects.

In this different local and regional context, the consistent struggle for Palestinian national liberation initially includes the link with the struggles of the Arab masses in the region and anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist and socialist tasks. There are no separate stages between national liberation against the oppressor and social liberation, of class, against the exploiters. For example, a revolutionary government will have to dismantle the Zionist State of Israel and its entire repressive apparatus; recover and expropriate land to guarantee housing for any returning resident or refugee; recover and expropriate lands to ensure that every peasant can cultivate and produce; nationalize under social control every imperialist or Zionist company and bank; democratically plan the entire economy at the service and under the control of the working people. Furthermore, there is no freedom, democracy or worker and popular self-organization under the repressive fundamentalism of theocratic states and regimes such as Qatar or Iran, whose governments manipulate the Palestinian issue according to their circumstantial power interests while daily repressing and oppressing their own towns.

A Palestine that recovers all the territory before 1948, that is secular, non-racist and democratic, will not be achieved within the framework of capitalism, but rather in a break with it and as part of a local and regional socialist revolution. There can be true equality of rights and peaceful coexistence for all its inhabitants, regardless of their origin or religious belief. This fundamental departure also seeks to include every non-Zionist Israeli worker and youth, as there are among those who are mobilizing in thousands against Netanyahu, yesterday against his judicial reform and now against his genocidal aggression in Gaza.

At the same time, the question of the right of return of refugees to Palestine, today distributed in camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, already marks the essential need to coordinate and unite in a single torrent the struggles of the Palestinian and Arab masses of those and other neighboring countries. This process involves confronting Arab capitalist governments, generally allies of Israel, the US or other imperialist powers. Palestine can only move towards emancipatory and revolutionary change as part of the push for socialist revolution throughout the Middle East, with the strategy of building a free federation of socialist republics there. As confirmed by the wave of contagion during the first and second Arab Spring, the communicating vessels are many. What is needed is a revolutionary leadership so that these popular rebellions do not stagnate and retreat, but rather advance towards the true and definitive Arab Spring: a socialist Palestine and Middle East.

Courtesy International Socialist League