By Dave Stockton
On 7 October, at 6.30am local time, the Gaza-based Palestinian resistance movements; Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP and DFLP, launched a full scale offensive, with a barrage of missiles into Israel, some reaching Tel Aviv, 40 miles away. At the same time, their fighters, taking the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) by surprise, broke through the fortified “Gaza Fence” and attacked the cities of Sderot and Ashkelon. Hamas also claims to have captured hundreds of Israelis, including soldiers, whom it intends to hold as hostages for the release of Palestinian prisoners.
The scale and effectiveness of the offensive was remarkable, given Israel’s surveillance system, and the land, air and sea siege since 2007. Given the scale, too, of the casualties immediately suffered by Israel, 700 killed, and more than 2,000 injured, the reprisals from the IDF are certain to involve casualties many times these figures. Within hours, dozens of Israeli fighter jets were pounding military and civilian targets in the Gaza Strip in an operation the IDF calls ‘Swords of Iron’. Within five hours, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded: ‘Citizens of Israel, we are at war and we will win. The enemy will pay a price like they have never known before.’
Hamas’ success in penetrating Israel’s unmatched defence systems means the promised “revenge” is almost certain to include an invasion of Gaza. Israel’s Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, announcing the call up of hundreds of thousands of reservists, said a “complete siege” was being imposed on the territory. “No electricity, no food, no water, no gas – it’s all closed, adding, “we are fighting animals and are acting accordingly”. Netanyahu has promised to remove Hamas from power and destroy its civil, as well as its military, infrastructure.
As might have been expected, the Western world’s media are parroting Netanyahu’s claim that it is Hamas that has “declared war on Israel” totally ignoring the fact that Israel has been waging war on the people of Gaza, since it withdrew its occupying forces and especially since Hamas came to power there in 2007. It has been a war in which we have seen several huge bombing campaigns, killing thousands of civilians. This has been combined with the blockade which keeps essential supplies from entering Gaza to a minimum, including building material to repair the homes, schools and hospitals they wrecked.
The Gaza Strip is 22 miles long and between four and seven miles wide, into which is crammed a population of over 2 million. Its high-rise buildings and hospitals have been pounded into rubble many times, the most notable being ‘Operation Cast Lead’ in 2008-09 and ‘Protective Edge’ in 2014. Conditions there are truly intolerable.
The Gaza fighters can expect little or no support from the Arab and Muslim states they appealed to when launching their campaign. Even Hezbollah in Lebanon have only exchanged rocket fire with the IDF, while Saudi Arabia and Egypt in particular have condemned Hamas. Meanwhile, Israel’s Western Allies have rushed to its “defence”. Germany, France and Britain were quick off the mark to denounce “terrorism” and give “unconditional solidarity” to the historic aggressors.
But the biggest support, naturally, comes from Joe Biden and the United States, for whom the Zionist state performs an essential role in its domination of the Middle East, dividing and overawing the Arab states and threatening Iran. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin immediately ordered the USS Gerald R Ford, the US Navy’s newest, largest and most technologically advanced aircraft carrier, to the eastern Mediterranean, accompanied by a cruiser and four destroyers.
Although it is unlikely the US wishes to ignite a war with Iran, or with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel’s actions could make this more likely, especially since the whole world situation is in a state of high tension thanks to the war in Ukraine and the rivalry between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ imperialist powers and friction between the regional powers.
The mobilisation for all-out war, and a sufficiently cruel “revenge”, will help Netanyahu out of his difficult domestic situation. For the whole year and well into September hundreds of thousands of Israelis, including IDF reservists, protested weekly against his attempt to undermine the power of the Supreme Court to veto government laws. However, apart from small contingents of leftists, these demonstrations remained resolutely loyal to the Zionist state and reservists made clear that they would serve if war broke out.
Netanyahu had also come in for cautious criticism from the US administration for his threatened breaches of democracy (for Israeli citizens alone, of course). Now, Biden has rushed to denounce Hamas’ ‘terrorism’, and assured Israel it will get all the ammunition it needs.
In fact, Israel is already one of the most highly armed states in the world and needs little extra weaponry from the USA. The ‘Western Democracies’ are wilfully blind to the fact that Israel’s democracy does not extend equal rights even for its own Palestinian citizens, let alone to the voteless and rightless inhabitants of the West Bank and the open-air prison camp of Gaza.
Hamas can point to provocations by Netanyahu’s right wing government outside of Gaza, such as the incursions in recent days into the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem by Israeli settlers, who have also been engaged with state support in ethnically cleansing East Jerusalem of its Palestinian inhabitants. Hence, they have named their Gaza offensive ‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’. This year has also seen the IDF raids into the huge refugee camp in Jenin, killing and injuring Palestinians and bulldozing their homes. Hundreds of civilians and the fedayeen of the ‘Lions’ Den’ battalion were killed. In other West Bank cities, too, notably Nablus and Hawarra, settlers launched pogroms and have driven villagers from their land, with support from government ministers.
All this is ignored by the Western media when they present the Zionist state as ‘the only democracy’ in the Middle East and effectively as a European or North American state. This is hardly surprising, since it is a settler state that could never have come into being except within the framework of the British Mandate, which encouraged Zionist settlement and refused self-determination to the indigenous Palestinian population. In 1948, British troops did nothing to halt Israel’s seizure of 78% of the Mandate territory by driving out over half of the Palestinian population: a process repeated now under US patronage by the seizure of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Yet, despite 75 years of occupation, ethnic cleansing and repeated betrayals by the surrounding Arab states, the Palestinians have never recognised the Zionist state or abandoned the struggle for the restoration of their state and the return of their refugees. However ineffective the strategies pursued by the leaderships of the resistance – Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad – revolutionary socialists around the world have always defended their struggle.
Whilst revolutionary socialists support the fight by Hamas and the other organisations against the Israelis’ decades long blockade and regular bombings of Gaza, we reject their Islamist politics and their repressive rule against their political opponents within the Gaza population. We also criticise their strategy and tactics in the war, not least for the catastrophic consequences they will draw down on the population of Gaza and the West Bank. At the same time, however, we completely understand the rage of the population in Gaza and Palestine as a whole and the desire to strike back against their tormentors, whatever the consequences and we recognise the courage of all the fighters based there.
We support the armed resistance without hesitation, but we criticise the deliberate massacre of 260 Israeli civilians at a music festival because it can only provide ammunition for Netanyahu to unify the Israeli population behind him. This, at a time when major fractures had occurred amongst Israeli citizens and amongst its supporters in Europe and North America. Justified as it is to strike back against the Zionists, we believe that the real road to liberation must include building of a mass working class and social movement against the apartheid state by the Palestinians of the West Bank, Israel and Gaza; one that that can draw to its side anti Zionist Jewish workers and youth. Such a mass movement can attract increasing numbers in North America and Europe who condemn the “apartheid state” and its racist atrocities .
Increasingly, the ‘two state solution’ promoted at Oslo 30 years ago is showing itself to be bankrupt, not because of the Palestinian leadership’s reluctance to compromise but because the Zionist movement would never and will never abandon its objective of seizing the whole of Palestine, depriving its people of their homeland. We reject with contempt the charge that opposing a settler, colonial, self-proclaimed ‘Jewish’ state is a form of antisemitism. This promotion of the idea that there is a ‘new antisemitism’ of the far left distracts attention from the real antisemitism that can be seen in the far right in Europe and the USA today, many of whom are pro-Israel.
A single Palestinian state ‘from the river to the sea’ can include people of both Palestinian and Israeli nationality, providing there is no question of privileges for either. Moreover, if Palestine were to become a socialist state, where the land and the workplaces are held in common, then this historic wrong may be overcome. It falls to the working class of both peoples, indeed of the whole surrounding region, to bring this about. This includes a struggle against the imperialist powers who have so long divided and exploited the region.
Until then, the entire world working class and progressive movement share the duty to support the struggle of the Palestinians and stand in solidarity with them, including in the struggle underway today.