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The Internationalist
May 2021

Biden, Sanders, Democrats Arm Zionist Butchers

Defend the Palestinians
Against Israeli War

For Arab-Hebrew Workers Revolution!

Destroyed buildings in Beit Hanoun, Gaza, after an Israeli air strike on May 14. Israel is targeting residential areas, leaving tens of thousands of Palestinians homeless.  (Photo: Hosam Salem for The New York Times)

MAY 18 – The storming of the al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem by hundreds of Israeli police on Monday, May 10 was the opening shot of renewed Zionist war on the Palestinian Arab people. While the imperialist media talk of military conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist governing party in the besieged enclave of Gaza, the reality is a one-sided slaughter of Palestinians by the Israeli war machine. The death toll tells the story: over 220 Arabs killed so far, more than 60 of them children, compared to 6 Israeli Jewish civilian dead.

In addition, due to Israeli bombing electrical power lines have been knocked out while fuel for the sole power plant is running out and blackouts in Gaza are up to 16 hours a day. At least 800,000 people are without access to fresh water and sewage is spilling into the streets. More than 700 housing units have been destroyed, including 76 high-rise apartment buildings. Schools and hospitals have been hit by Israel’s precision bombs and a news media tower was deliberately destroyed. The United Nations reports that at least 58,000 residents of the narrow Gaza strip have been displaced from their homes, with 47,000 of them crammed into U.N. schools.

Added to this is the terror unleashed by Zionist-fascist vigilantes against Palestinians in Israeli cities of mixed Arab and Jewish population. In the occupied West Bank, Israeli military forces have fired on protest demonstrations while ultra-rightist settlers have attacked Palestinians. The rightist Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who launched the war in order to stay in office, and the military that is pounding Gaza residential areas with artillery and bombs, vow to continue until they are finished with their lengthy target list. Yet the Zionists have failed to break the will of the Palestinians to resist.

The horrific images – of apartment buildings flattened by bombs, of a father staring at his dead children in a morgue, of an Arab being lynched by Jewish pogromists – have set off protests of tens of thousands worldwide. In Europe, imperialist rulers have tried to smear protesters as anti-Semites, breaking up and banning demonstrations against the Zionist bloodbath. In the United States, Democratic president Joe Biden has emphatically backed Israeli military action against “terrorist groups in Gaza,” when the real terrorists are the Israeli military and Zionist lynch mobs rampaging in the streets.

A White House readout of a May 17 call with Netanyahu says that Biden “expressed his support for a cease-fire,” but added that the two “discussed progress in Israel’s military operations” in Gaza. Meanwhile, the administration informed the U.S. Congress that it has approved the sale of $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel. Against all those who called to put the Biden regime in office, don’t forget how, yet again, the Democratic Party of U.S. imperialism has provided the weapons Israel uses to rain death on the Palestinian people, like those U.S.-built F-16 jets that are terror-bombing Gaza.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, youth are rising up, and as the destruction of Gaza goes on relentlessly, there is talk of a third intifada, or uprising, following the rebellions of 1987-1993, and from 2000-2004 (the latter triggered by the butcher Ariel Sharon’s invasion of the al Aqsa compound by 1,000 police). Today a “general strike and day of action” was called by Arab labor and community groups in Israel for all of historic Palestine to protest the attacks on Gaza and on Palestinians in East Jerusalem and Israel. Hundreds of thousands stopped work, shutting down worksites, stores and other businesses, both in Israel and the West Bank, where there were clashes with the Israeli military. Initiated by the High Follow-Up Committee of Palestinians in Israel, led by Mohammad Barakeh, a former member of the Knesset (parliament) for the leftist Hadash party, the action’s endorsers extended even to the discredited Palestinian Authority.

In the face of the new outbreak of the unending Zionist war, the Internationalist Group and League for the Fourth International call to defend the oppressed Palestinian people against their oppressors, in the first instance the Israeli militarists and pogromists, backed up by U.S. and European imperialism. We call to defend Gaza, the new Warsaw Ghetto, against the Israeli mass murderers; to break the Israeli-Egyptian siege that has turned this barren land of refugees into an open-air prison, to be bombed to smithereens every few years; and to drive the Israeli army and all Zionist settlers out of occupied Palestinian territory.

In this war, we understand that the launching of rockets from Gaza is a desperate attempt to stand up to and retaliate against the Israeli attackers, while we give no political support to the Islamist1 forces who are mortal enemies of communism, from Iran and Syria to Palestine (where Hamas was first sponsored by Israel). Yet the fact is that Palestinians are massively outgunned by the murderous Israeli military. The Zionist citadel will not be brought down by homemade rockets – that will take revolutionary class struggle inside Israel, and internationally.

With the imperialists near unanimous in backing Israel, and opportunist leftists tailing after Palestinian nationalism and Islamism, the LFI uniquely stands for proletarian internationalism. We urgently call for labor action against the Zionist/imperialist war on Palestinians, including boycotting Israeli air and sea cargo. Italian dock workers in the port of Livorno declared that they would not handle Israeli military cargo. Now the International Dockworkers Council has called on port workers to refuse to handle war material bound for Israel. This should be implemented immediately by port unions in the U.S. (ILA and ILWU) and worldwide.

In calling to stop Zionist “ethnic cleansing” from 1948 on and to defend the Palestinians’ right to return, we emphasize that this requires common struggle by Arab and Jewish working people leading to Arab-Hebrew workers revolution. Palestine is a case of interpenetrated peoples. With two nations – Palestinian Arabs and the Hebrew-speaking people – inhabiting the same narrow strip of land, the only way to achieve equitable access to vital resources (such as water) is in an Arab-Hebrew Palestinian workers state, as part of a region-wide socialist federation of the Near East, with the powerful Egyptian and Turkish working classes as the anchor.

Electoral Ploy Leads to Zionist Mass Murder

Palestinians carrying the bodies of children killed in May 16 Israeli raid in Gaza. The next day, 42 people were killed in Gaza air strikes, 10 of them children. (Photo: Hosam Salem for The New York Times)

The current one-sided war being waged against the Palestinian Arabs began with a cynical provocation. The liberal media are wringing their hands about a situation that has “gotten out of hand,” that is supposedly being driven by “extremists” on both sides, Hamas on the one hand, Netanyahu on the other. Nonsense. The war was deliberately set off by the Israeli prime minister, who is on trial for corruption and after the last election has not been able to form a new coalition government, yet is still running things as head of a “caretaker” government. Netanyahu decided on an old trick: launch a war and then people will have to rally ’round the leadership. Specifically, he got his “public security” minister, Amir Ohana, a Netanyahu flunkey, to launch a series of unprovoked attacks on Palestinians. It began on the first night of Ramadan, April 13, when police invaded the al Aqsa mosque and cut off the speakers broadcasting evening prayers.

Shortly after, the police banned gatherings at the Damascus Gate where Arab youth gather in the evening during Ramadan. This led to nightly clashes between young Palestinian men and the police. On April 21, several hundred members of a Zionist-fascist group, Lehava, marched through central Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs” and attacking Palestinian passers-by. While this was going on, Palestinians were demonstrating daily in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, where settlers have been trying to evict Arab families, with a court decision due on May 10. Police regularly beat demonstrators, including a Jewish member of the Knesset who is part of the predominantly Arab Joint List. Jerusalem deputy mayor Aryeh King, a leader of the ultra-Zionist settlers, declared that, “of course,” the evictions were part of a strategy to insert “layers of Jews” into East Jerusalem. In other words, “ethnic cleansing” by pushing Arabs out.

Then, on Friday, May 7, police attacked a group of worshippers at the al Aqsa mosque, using stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets inside the prayer hall of the third-holiest site of Islam, injuring over 200 as youths fought back. And on May 10, when rightist and fascist Zionists provocatively march through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City heading to the Temple Mount (also the location of the al Aqsa mosque) on “Jerusalem Day,” celebrating the seizure of Arab East Jerusalem in the 1967 war, only at the very last minute did police reroute the march. At the same time, hundreds of police raided the mosque for the second time in three days, on the pretext that Muslims were stockpiling stones (to protect al Aqsa from attack by the police and the rightists). This produced a toll of over 330 wounded, sending 250 to the hospital. It was crystal clear that this would set off massive protests by Arabs and the launching of missiles by Hamas.

Netanyahu wanted this war, he wanted the chaos it set off, it had the effect he sought, and he’s now on a murder mission in Gaza. This slaughter is being carried out by the military led by the defense minister, retired general Benny Gantz, the supposedly “moderate” Zionist candidate for prime minister in the 2020 and March 2021 elections. Gantz is a war criminal who as chief of staff of the Israeli armed forces ordered the terror-bombing of Gaza in the 2014 war, killing over 2,200 Palestinians. So all wings of the Zionists have their hands dripping with Arab blood. Netanyahu also wanted the pogroms being carried out by Zionist religious fanatics and settlers in Israeli cities with mixed Arab and Jewish populations, particularly Haifa, Acre, Jaffa, Ramla and Lod, or more properly Lydda, its name before the 1948 massacre when Zionists killed hundreds and drove out thousands of Arabs in the Lydda Death March. Now, ultra-rightist Zionists are out to “finish the job.”

“Ethnic Cleansing” of Arabs Would Be Cataclysmic

Protest in the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Jaffa, outside Tel Aviv, against Israeli bombing and shelling of Gaza and occupation of the West Bank.  May 15 marked the 73rd anniversary of the Nakba (catastrophe), the mass expulsion of Palestinian Arabs at the foundation of Israel. (Photo: Corinna Kern for The New York Times)

For many decades, these cities have had between one-sixth and one-third Arab population, with Jews and Arabs often living in the same neighborhoods and even the same buildings. Many Jews in those cities were proud of living with Arabs. However, in recent years, rightist Zionists have sought to ghettoize the Arab residents and drown them out in a flood of new Jewish residents of these cities, particularly Lydda. Since May 11, hundreds of Zionist-fascist thugs, many of them armed, have been marching through the mixed cities threatening and mercilessly beating Arab residents, some of which has been caught on videotape. These are pogroms, like those carried out by the tsarist Black Hundreds who attacked Jewish quarters in Russia before the Revolution, or racist lynch mobs in the Jim Crow South in the U.S. At least three different fascist organizations2 are involved, some of them offshoots of Meir Kahane’s Kach party, which was banned. Kahane was the founder of the ultra-right terrorist Jewish Defense League in New York.

Netanyahu is angling for a coalition with these fascists, who repeatedly assaulted Arabs in East Jerusalem in April. In Lod, the pretext was “riots” by Arab youth enraged by the attack on al Aqsa and the torching of synagogues provocatively placed in Arab neighborhoods. Netanyahu claimed that Jews were the victims of “lynchers” and vowed to use an “iron fist” to crush the Arabs, while defense minister Gantz declared a state of emergency and locked down the city. The public security minister Ohana, fascistic settler, specifically endorsed the armed ultra-rightist vigilantes roaming the streets. What is taking place inside Israel is state-sponsored, Zionist-fascist terror against the Arab population. The mobs are thirsting to drive out the Arab population and implement longstanding plans of ultra-rightists, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud as well as some “moderate” Zionists, to formally annex much of the West Bank to Israel.

This is in line with the grotesque Middle East “peace plan” of Donald Trump, unveiled last year, which sought to push hundreds of thousands of West Bank Arabs into Jordan and lop off Arab-majority regions around Umm Al-Fahm in northern Israel.3 This area was formerly a stronghold of the Palestinian Communist Party, which gave rise to the Israeli CP (Maki). A portrait of Lenin once hung in the city hall of Nazareth, where the CP held the mayoralty for decades until 2014. The Zionist racists seek to get rid of these Arabs as well. The mixed population cities are in the center of coastal Israel, which is why Lydda was a particular target of massacres and “population transfer” in 1948 (led by Yigal Allon and Yitzhak Rabin, members of the Palmach militia linked to the self-styled “Marxist-Zionist” Mapam party). Lod, 14 miles from Tel Aviv, is the site of Israel’s international airport and astride the highway to Jerusalem.

So it is possible that there will be a push to drive out the Arabs from Lod/Lydda, but if so it would be a cataclysm. It would certainly go hand in hand with the drive to expel Arab residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Such a racist purge would not just be an action by the fascist lynch mobs – “ethnic cleansing” almost always requires the backing of the armed force of a state power. And it would almost certainly be met with bitter resistance, for everyone remembers that the Arabs that the Zionists forced out in 1948, in order to establish the state of Israel, were never to return.4 So if they launch a serious attempt at driving out the Arabs today, it would likely be a bloodbath of massive proportions, provoking an explosive reaction throughout the Near East and the world. One can imagine the impact in Brooklyn, where Palestinians and ultra-Orthodox Jews live in adjacent areas of Bay Ridge and Borough Park.

The Nature of Zionist Oppression

Demonstrators march in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, during Palestinian general strike, May 18. (Photo: Nasser Nasser / Associated Press)

Revolutionary Marxists oppose the very existence of a “Jewish state,” just as we oppose the “Islamic Republic” of Iran or self-designated Christian states like Franco’s Spain, all of which are inherently undemocratic. We defend the oppressed Palestinian people against the Zionist oppressors. But what is to become of the two peoples now occupying historical Palestine? Palestinian nationalists chant, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free!” Various left groups, after long tailing Yasir Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization and its support for a “two-state solution,” have lately taken up the call for a “one-state solution” in a “democratic secular Palestine.”

For liberals and leftists, these programs are democratic illusions, while many Palestinian nationalists and Islamists, having endured decades of Zionist torture and murder, dream of simply kicking Israeli Jews out. Today there are approximately 6.8 million Jews and 6.8 million Arabs in historic Palestine (plus millions more Palestinian refugees who were pushed into other countries, including Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere). But under capitalism, the stronger power will prevail, and today that power is the Zionists, so that one state or two, Palestinian Arabs lose.

Many on the left refer to Israel as a “colonial-settler state,” as if it were some kind of colony of a country that the Israeli Jews could go back to if things got rough, like the Algerian colonists who went to France, or the Rhodesian whites who went back to Britain after independence. Note that in Algeria the French colonists, known as pieds noirs, were 10% of the population; in British Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), the white settlers were about 8% of the population. In comparison, the Hebrew-speaking Jewish population constitutes about three-quarters of Israel’s population.5

Although the establishment of Israel was a colonial project, facilitated by British imperialism after the 1917 Balfour Declaration, Israel is not a colony – it is a regional power and a bellicose imperialist client, particularly of U.S. imperialism. Were full-scale war to break out, while many might take off for South Florida, overall the Israeli Jewish population isn’t going anywhere. No real program for defeating Zionism can be based on such illusions. The Hebrew-speaking population must be split, along class lines.

Israel is also not an “apartheid state” like South Africa, another favorite comparison. Liberals and reformists interpret “apartheid” to mean very repressive or very racist, as in the recent (27 April) report by Human Rights Watch, “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution.”6 It is understandable that outrage against the horrendous crimes of Israel against the Palestinian people would lead some activists to reach for an evocative comparison. But rather than describing the material reality of the Zionist state, this term is an expression of liberal despair.

It’s also connected to a program, in the case of Israel, like South Africa, of “BDS” – that is, “boycott, divestment and sanctions.” But refusing to buy Sabra brand hummus will not stop the war on Palestinian Arabs, any more than boycotting Krugerrand coins led to the fall of South African apartheid. And who exactly is supposed to divest and sanction? This is a call on capitalist multinationals and U.S. imperialism, which is guilty of far greater crimes against oppressed peoples than even the kill-crazed Zionists. And anyone who thinks the Pentagon will stop buying Israeli software for its computers or stop hiring Israeli mercenaries to train its paramilitary death squads in Latin America is dreaming.

But, beyond its programmatic implications, the term is not historically accurate. As Marxists we understand that the apartheid regime did not just consist of legal measures such as passbooks, but is a particular brand of capitalist wage slavery based on super-exploitation of black African workers forcibly segregated in townships and “bantustans.” And in apartheid South Africa, whites were about 15% of the population. One can say that the Israeli-occupied West Bank is subject to apartheid-like rule, where the Palestinian Arab population is carved up into little cantons, and some Israeli employers wring super-profits from the super-exploited labor of their Arab workers. But in Israel itself, the Arab and Hebrew-speaking population is still interpenetrated, and the hardline Zionists aren’t mainly interested in super-exploiting Palestinian labor, but instead would like to expel the Arabs altogether.

That is why we have written about the danger of a Zionist “final solution,” describing Gaza and the West Bank enclaves envisioned by the annexation plans as giant concentration camps for Palestinians. It should not be forgotten that the Zionists – both “Labor” Zionists like David Ben Gurion and the “Revisionist” Zionists led by Ze’ev Jabotinsky – cooperated with the Hitler regime and opposed the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.7 The “solution” that Netanyahu and Kahane’s heirs yearn for is much closer to Nazi Germany than apartheid South Africa and could ultimately be genocidal, literally. As we wrote in 2014:

“In rejecting the characterization of Israel proper as a ‘colonial-settler state’ or ‘apartheid state,’ we in no way diminish the monstrous nature of the Zionist crimes. On the contrary, what Israeli rulers are prepared to do to the Palestinians is potentially much worse than what the Rhodesian or South African racists did.”
–“Defend Gaza and the Palestinian People – For Arab-Hebrew Workers Revolution!” (July 2014), in The Internationalist No. 38, October-November 2014.

What will result from the current barbaric war on the Palestinians? Yet another ceasefire? The Palestinians will still be caught in a Zionist vise. Regional war, mass “population transfer” as the Zionist founders euphemistically called it? To all these terrible outcomes, the answer must be to fight for Arab-Hebrew workers revolution. This path is difficult, but it is the only real way out.

Smash Zionism and Imperialism with International Socialist Revolution

Internationalist Group at Los Angeles protest against Israeli war on Palestinians, May 15. (Internationalist photo)

The ceaseless attacks on the Palestinian population will eventually lead to an explosion. It is vital that the Zionist fortress be breached from within. Israel, after all, has hundreds of nuclear weapons, and a leadership crazy enough to use them, against Iran or anyone else. Until a few years ago, recruits to the Israeli tank corps were taken to the top of the Masada escarpment in the Judaean Desert to swear their oath of allegiance. That is where close to 1,000 Zealots were said to have committed mass suicide when surrounded by Roman legions in the year 74. That was the end of the Zealots, but today their self-styled heirs have their finger on the nuclear trigger. There is a whole layer of the Israeli ruling stratum of some thousands of pathological killers that no humane society could tolerate. But it is important that they be brought to justice by the Hebrew-speaking working class and revolutionaries, as part of putting an end to the endless cycle of nationalist slaughter.

Internationalist Group at New York City protest against Israeli war on Palestinians, May 15. (Internationalist photo)

The situation facing the embattled Palestinian Arab people today is grim, as it has been for the past three-quarters of a century of Zionist ascendance, and before that British colonialism and the Ottoman empire. But not all Israeli Jews want to live forever in a garrison state, and plenty are opposed to the fascist settlers and ultra-rightist religious zealots now marauding in the streets. Leon Trotsky long ago warned that the Zionist enterprise would be a death trap for Jews. There are fault lines in Israeli society, but it will take a huge shock to break the Zionist hammerlock. The only road to liberation lies through united class struggle by workers and the oppressed, both in Palestine, throughout the region and internationally. Labor actions against the Israeli militarists can point the way. Revolutionary workers struggles to bring down the Arab bourgeois rulers, particularly in Egypt and Turkey, would shake the Zionist entity.

Grupo Internacionalista, Mexican section of the LFI, in Mexico City protest against Israeli war on Palestinians, May 15. (Photo: Revolución Permanente)

In Europe, where the rulers lyingly label any and all opposition to Israel anti-Semitic, the fight against Zionist militarism is against the bourgeoisies and social democrats. In the United States, where even the most left-posing Democrats go no further than criticizing unconditional U.S. aid to the Zionist butchers (and Bernie Sanders has regularly voted to send millions to finance the Iron Dome anti-missile system and other parts of the Israeli war machine),8 a fight to stop all U.S. aid to Israel, and to break with the Democrats and all capitalist parties would have an impact. Without the backing of its imperialist overlords, Israel is a very small country in an Arab sea. But ultimately, victory over Zionism and imperialism (and the other imperialist clients and bourgeois satrapies throughout the area) can only come about through international socialist revolution. The League for the Fourth International seeks to forge the nucleus of the Leninist-Trotskyist communist party that is indispensable to lead that revolution. ■

Internationalistische Gruppe, German section of the LFI, in Berlin protest against Israeli war on Palestinians, May 15. (Photo: Janis Garnet)

  1. 1. Islamism, or political Islam, is a doctrine holding that Islamic law (sharia) should govern society. For Islamists there is no separation of mosque and state. While there are different Islamist currents, and sharp differences between Islamists of the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam, all call for a theocratic, inherently undemocratic regime in which religious doctrine and authority are supreme.
  2. 2. These include Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power), Lehava (Flame) and the religious Zionist Tkuma movements.
  3. 3. See “No to Trump/Israel West Bank Annexation Plan!The Internationalist No. 58, Winter 2020.
  4. 4. See “1948: The Year of the Naqba (Catastrophe)” in The Internationalist No. 9 (special issue on Palestine), January-February 2001.
  5. 5. Opposing the Zionist claim that Israel is “the state of the Jewish people,” revolutionary Trotskyists use the term “Hebrew-speaking people” to refer to the population that became the dominant nation in Israel with the formation of the Zionist state.
  6. 6. HRW is an imperialist agency that has typically produced war propaganda about human rights abuses by regimes or movements that U.S. rulers oppose or want to overthrow, although occasionally (as now) it may be out of step with the powers that be in Washington.
  7. 7. See “Zionism. Imperialism and Anti-Semitism” and “Zionist Complicity in the Destruction of Hungarian Jewry” and other articles in The Internationalist No. 9, January-February 2001.
  8. 8. The Vermont senator and Democratic primary candidate for president who calls himself a “democratic socialist” says he is “pro-Israel” and joined his Senate colleagues last year in giving unanimous consent – twice! – to appropriating $3.3 billion to Israel under the “Foreign Military Financing Program.” Today Sanders only calls for Biden to take a “hard look” at Israel’s use of U.S. military aid, to “consider” reducing it and making it conditional on good behavior. This is in stark contrast to the demand that all aid be cut off immediately.