IST Statement on the New War in the Middle East

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1.     The attacks launched by Hamas and other resistance organisations on 7 October were a warning that there can be no peace in the Middle East until the Palestinian question is solved. But the reaction by the State of Israel and its Western allies, headed by the United States, is to launch a new imperialist war. Already the assault by the Israel Defence Forces on Gaza has caused thousands of civilian deaths and vast devastation and disruption of ordinary people’s lives.

2.     Too many on the liberal and reformist left have been quick follow their governments in condemning Hamas and affirming Israel’s right to self-defence. The flood of media atrocity stories has obscured what actually happened on 7 October. But when oppressor and oppressed clash there can be no neutrality or equivalence. We support the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people and their right to wage armed struggle against the Israeli settler colonial state.

3.     The corrupt far-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu, with the support of the Biden administration, had been driving to ‘normalise’ relations with Saudi Arabia, following the ‘Abraham Accords’ with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in 2020. Netanyahu sought to marginalise the Palestinians by playing Hamas off against the Palestinian Authority while Zionist settlers and the IDF continued to dispossess and expel Palestinians on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

4.     The 7 October attacks have brutally demonstrated that the Palestinians cannot be ignored or marginalised. They have also humiliated the Israeli military and security establishment, which failed to anticipate and was slow to repel the attacks. For the racist rulers of Israel this defeat must be punished by a spectacular revenge.

5.     The Israeli far right, whose influence has vastly increased under Netanyahu, also sees the new war as an opportunity to realise their dream of ‘the transfer’ – the mass expulsion of Palestinians from the Occupied Territories. The IDF’s orders for Palestinians in Gaza to move south towards the border with Egypt are widely seen as a first step towards realising this goal, by driving them into the Sinai desert. The US has tried to pressure the Egyptian government into opening the border and Netanyahu lobbied the EU to do the same. Meanwhile, the settlers have stepped up the expulsions of Bedouin herders from the West Bank. Middle Eastern governments must warn both Israel and the Western powers that a second Nakba will mean a general war in the region.

6.     The US, the European Union, and the leading West European states have all rushed to back up Israel, not only in words, but also with military support – in the case of the US, two aircraft carrier groups, 2000 Marines, and air defence systems. The Biden administration has been strident in linking Hamas and Putin as enemies of ‘democracy’. For the rest of the world this has simply underlined the hypocrisy with which the US and NATO have waged a proxy war with Russia, supporting the Ukrainians’ right to self-defence and denouncing Moscow’s invasion and attacks on civilians and infrastructure, while denying the Palestinians the same right and casting a blind eye at Israel’s atrocities.

7.     In fact, Israel and its Western imperialist backers are in a vulnerable position. If Iran and Hizbollah in Lebanon joined the war, the IDF would find itself hard-pressed. The US is rushing to protect its own troops and bases in the region, though the strikes it is making, for example at targets in Syria and Yemen, could precipitate the wider war it is striving avoid. Washington is also seeking to manage relations with China, whose economic and political influence in the Middle East is rapidly growing. Military escalation in the region could exacerbate the growing inter-imperialist rivalries on a world scale. Hence the growing pressure on Israel from the US and many other governments to take ‘humanitarian’ measures to alleviate civilian suffering in Gaza.

8.     The siege of Gaza has stimulated a huge world-wide movement of solidarity with Palestine, even those countries where repression is intense. This has developed despite the official campaigns, which have intensified in recent years, to brand anti-Zionism as antisemitism, as well as the efforts, especially in Europe, to criminalise solidarity with Palestine.  In some countries, the escalation and the growing solidarity movement with Palestine are accompanied by a new wave of repression and anti-Muslim racism. We oppose the bans on demonstrations and the racist attacks against the Palestinian and Muslim populations in many countries, who are denied the right to demonstrate and accused of antisemitism. The protesters. include increasing numbers of Jewish people around the world who refuse to allow Israel to speak in their name. We in the IS Tendency have been actively involved in building the mass demonstrations and we pledge ourselves to continue. Socialists must be at the centre of the movement for it contains real potential in different countries qualitatively to strengthen the revolutionary left.

9.     The current Palestinian solidarity movement represents an impressive surge of popular internationalism that has given voice to the deep anger against our ruling classes, who have so brazenly sided with Zionism. Putting pressure on our governments is key. The focus will vary from country to country but demands such as that of expelling the Israeli ambassador can provide a concrete means of forcing governments to shift.

10.  Solidarity needs to be expressed not only on the streets. Mass demonstrations must be reinforced by direct and community action and by the assertion of organised working-class power. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement has come under growing state attack in recent years. The effort to build it must be intensified. Solidarity with Palestine within the trade unions is especially important. During the Unity Intifada in 2021, dockers across the world, from Italy to South Africa and the United States, blocked supplies of weapons to Israel. We need to build on this example. Support for Palestinian freedom has re-emerged across universities and militant action in support of BDS can help to rebuild a strong radical student movement.  Activists can also raise BDS in their local areas, for example through calling for Israeli goods to be removed from supermarkets.

11.  There can be no solution to the Palestinian question so long as the Zionist settler colonial state of Israel exists. It is structurally based on the dispossession and oppression of the Palestinians. It cannot co-exist peacefully with them but must either wage perpetual war against the Palestinians or, as the far right demands, exterminate or expel them. The 7 October attacks moreover showed that this state cannot even guarantee the safety of its own Jewish citizens – the historic goal of Zionism. We support the original vision of the Palestinian national movement of a secular democratic state on the territory of Israel and the Occupied Territories where Arabs and Jews, Muslims, Christians and those of no religion can peacefully co-exist with equal rights. We see as very significant the emergence of a new generation of radical militants within Palestine who reject the failed two-statism and corrupt sell-out of the Palestinian Authority and who seek to rebuild the mass resistance of previous intifadas.

12.  Palestinian resistance is an essential condition for the achievement of this state. But the power of the entire Arab world needs to be mobilised to defeat the Western imperialist watchdog that is Israel. The existing Arab regimes, corrupt, oppressive, and closely bound to imperialism, have long proved themselves incapable of waging this struggle. Socialist revolution in the Arab East, where the workers, urban poor, and peasants overturn these regimes, would complete the conditions for victory over Israel. The risings of 2011 and more recently in Algeria and Sudan gave us a glimpse of the potential for revolution in the Middle East and North African region. Not the least of the dangers for Western imperialism created by Israel’s savage war of revenge against the Palestinians is that it is bringing the Arab masses back onto the streets. As Tony Cliff, the founder of our Tendency used to say, the road to Jerusalem is through Cairo.

The Coordination of the International Socialist Tendency

31 October 2023

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