“Shock” was the first word in ‘The Economist’ article following the Palestinian armed uprising in Gaza and Israel. “Hamas must be made to pay for its atrocities” it exclaimed.
‘The Irish Times’ editorialised about the “appalling atrocities committed by Hamas” while stating that Israel is “not known for being proportionate or well-targeted”, which isn’t actually true. The point of the violence of the Israeli state is complete suppression of the Palestinian population through violence and terror in which routine oppression is merely a background condition. Its actions are proportionate to this objective and its targets are well suited to its aims.
The immediate question for the BBC was ‘how could Israel have let this happen?’ Not ‘How did it make this happen?’ How did its renowned intelligence services fail to predict it? Not, how did they not understand that something like this was almost inevitable?
Immediately the viewer and reader is placed in the shoes of the Israeli citizen with the Palestinians as the ‘other’– one element of the stench of hypocrisy that hangs over Western commentary. No ‘shock’ is ever recorded over the daily humiliation, oppression and murder of Palestinians by the Israeli state. We never hear that ‘Israel must be made to pay for its atrocities’. In reality, the claimed failures of the Israeli security state to be sufficiently on top of the Palestinian people, and the “shock’’ of the “appalling atrocities committed by Hamas”, presage only more not very “proportionate or well-targeted” attacks on the open prison that is Gaza.
All the handwringing and dismay from imperialist politicians and commentators simply lay the ground for another round of Israeli terror, accompanied by sanctimonious and ineffectual declarations of ‘lack of proportionality’ and ‘targeting errors’– by those who have supported the Zionist State and its previous many ‘errors’ and ‘lack of proportion’. The response by this state will be vicious and widespread but the media will not record this as the inevitable intensification of an existing policy that they have previously sanitised, by a state based on sectarian exclusivity and suppression of a whole people that is treated as almost less than human. It will be considered only as unfortunate, not least for the democratic pretensions of the sectarian and racist state itself.
The US sponsor of the Israeli state, and its imperialist policing role in the region, has said it will send a carrier strike group in solidarity. This too is a signal that the Israeli state can take the same response as the US did to what it calls its 9/11 – widespread demonisation of everyone it considers its enemy and inflicting overwhelming power against them.
The disparity of forces between the Israeli state, backed by imperialism, and Hamas and the Palestinian population means that a veritable massacre is inevitable. Whatever about the audacity and bravery of those Palestinians who have joined Hamas and shaken the arrogance of the Israeli state, they cannot win. It has been speculated that the uprising is a result not only of the growing desperation of the Palestinian people faced with increased dispossession and repression, but is also aimed at thwarting the moves to normalise relations between the Israeli state and some Arab regimes, particularly Saudi Arabia.
However, whatever difficulties the uprising will create for this process, Saudi Arabia will not protect the Palestinian people from the Israeli onslaught. Saudi Arabia has interests separate and opposed to the creation of a democratic state, one that could promise an end to the oppression of the Palestinian people and of the deepening sectarian reaction among the Jewish population.
This population must learn that freedom and democracy for the Jewish people cannot be created by a state structured on imprisonment and oppression of the Palestinians. The shift to extreme reaction and racism, including fascist-type figures in the government, is not accidental but the logic of an exclusionary state that will oppress not only those it seeks to exclude but police and repress democratic voices within.
The first task for socialists across the world is to demonstrate against the mounting Israeli pogrom and show solidarity with the Palestinian people. The uprising cannot succeed but its power will ultimately derive not from its temporary military successes but from the confidence given to the Palestinian people, exposure of the causes of the uprising and demonstration of the impossibility of peace or security in the region built upon Palestinian suppression.
This is the task of those seeking democratic advances in the region; not reliance on reactionary Arab regimes that have time and time again revealed themselves to be enemies of their own people never mind also of the Palestinians. At some stage, when Israel has completed its immediate retaliation, the call will go up for negotiations, negotiation’s that have previously covered up for continued implementation of a settler colonial solution.
Solidarity must oppose the continued imposition of this ‘solution’ and argue for a democratic and secular state that can freely include Palestinian and Jewish populations. This can only arise from opposition to Zionism and the Zionist state, which manifest the racist policy that justifies and implements Palestinian oppression. Neither can it come from the reactionary Arab states or from Iran, which promote a politicised Islam in various forms in order to oppress their own people. This is also true for the fundamentalist forces within the Palestinian people themselves: support for the democratic rights of the Palestinian people does not require that we endorse or support reactionary forces within them.
Neither Zionism or Islamism can unite the Jewish and Palestinian people, which cannot be done through the chimera of a separate state for both – the two state solution – but can ultimately only be achieved by the resurgence of a working class movement across the region.
The first step to this is opposition to the repression of the Israeli state, most immediately its mounting all-out war on the population of Gaza. The Jewish population of Israel must be addressed by pointing to the results of years of repression by the Zionist state that has failed to protect them but has become more and more undemocratic within. They cannot oppose the slide to authoritarian rule within the Israeli state while supporting it against the Palestinian people.