March 2001 

For an Arab-Hebrew Workers Republic!
For a Socialist Federation of the Near East!

Behind all the talk of non-existent cease-fires, the sudden trips by top U.S. officials to the Near East and Israeli calls to “remove” (assassinate) Yasir Arafat lies the fact that the Zionist leaders are systematically gearing up to launch a full-scale attack on Arafat’s Palestinian Authority (PA). The PA was the make-believe government set up in the Occupied Territories by the 1993 Oslo “peace” accord in order to police the Arab masses and put an end to the first intifada (uprising), that had lasted from 1988. With the outbreak of the second intifada last September, the Israeli rulers of all parties concluded that there was little point in maintaining the charade of Palestinian autonomy. With the Oslo “peace process” dead, many asked, what is to replace it? The answer is: war, more specifically an expansionist war to carve up “the Territories,” definitively incorporating large chunks of “Judea and Samaria,” and to dismantle the PA, which has “outlived its usefulness” to the Zionists.

For this move toward realizing Greater Israel they elected war criminal Ariel Sharon, the general whose specialty is “creating facts on the ground.” “King Arik,” as his supporters call him, was certainly not brought in to negotiate anything. The attacks on the Arab population have steadily escalated as the Israeli “Defense” Force locks down every Palestinian city and town, ringing them with barbed wire and tanks. Attacks by fascistic settlers have grown increasingly brazen as they set up scores of “advance posts” on hilltops throughout the West Bank. The Zionist “peace bloc” has dwindled to the point of disappearance, and the cries for war from Sharon’s nearly all-party war cabinet have been growing louder. The Israeli press is full of references to a “second war of independence,” among other things to solidify the loyalties of large numbers of Russian immigrants who missed out on the first one in 1948. But for all the Israeli muscle-flexing, the consequences of such a war are unpredictable.

Class-conscious working people around the world must defend the oppressed Palestinian people against the Zionist oppressors, all the more so in an outright war. It is necessary to prepare now to mobilize working-class power against Israel’s imperialist allies. The idea that the NATO chiefs who bombed Belgrade and Baghdad could or would somehow pressure Israeli warmongers into making concessions is a dangerous illusion. Calls for United Nations or European Union “observers” are worse than useless: they will duly observe Israeli expansion, as UN “blue helmets” and EU police have done in Lebanon and in Hebron. While European “statesmen” and Bushwhackers in Washington may take exception to this or that provocation by Sharon’s gang, they are all complicit in the subjugation of the Palestinians through the phony “peace process” – as well as supplying billions of dollars worth of weaponry used to mutilate and murder unarmed Arab protesters, mainly children. Nor are the Arab rulers – oil sheiks, imperialist-created monarchs and nationalist colonels – any friends of the Palestinians. Long before King Hussein’s 1970 Black September slaughter in Jordan and the 1980s war on refugee camps in Lebanon, already in 1948 the Arab League participated in the carving up of Palestine.

The political bankruptcy of Arab nationalism and liberal/reformist pressure politics has been demonstrated through decades of suffering at the hands of the Zionist butchers. The fight to defend the beleaguered Palestinian population requires internationalist struggle against all the capitalist governments, both the “democratic” imperialists and their semicolonial satraps. Centrally, what’s needed is a struggle to shatter Israel from within, by winning Hebrew working people to break from Zionism and join with their Palestinian class brothers and sisters in a common struggle for proletarian revolution. So long as capitalism remains, the intractable national conflicts between two peoples occupying the same territory, sandwiched into a tiny corner of the Near East with few resources, can only lead to endless slaughter. Communist revolutionaries fight for an Arab-Hebrew workers republic, insisting that a just resolution of the right to self-determination of all the peoples of the region can only come about through a socialist federation of the Near East.

Israeli Provocation Sets Off Explosion of Palestinian Anger

The way the events in Palestine are presented in the Western bourgeois media is insidiously slanted toward the Zionists, even when even-handedly talking of an “Arab-Israeli conflict” as if it’s a matter of a neighborhood quarrel when in fact the Israeli army is an occupying force suppressing the Arab population. Arafat is accused of fostering terrorism while the Israeli armed forces are engaged in a systematic program of assassinating Palestinian militants (called “directed killing” in the Zionist double-speak). Palestinian youth are accused of “breaking the cease-fire” for throwing stones and firing a few rounds at the tanks that come crashing into their towns, destroying homes and killing kids.

In reality, the recent chain of events has been set off by Israeli provocations. First, then prime minister Ehud Barak of the thoroughly bourgeois “Labor” Party broke off the Camp David negotiations, demanding that the Palestinians agree to give up all of Jerusalem as the “eternal capital” of Israel and the incorporation into the Zionist state of huge blocs of settlements that would carve up the West Bank to pieces, making a mockery of a Palestinian statelet. Then, blaming Arafat for the breakdown of talks, Barak authorized the provocatively staged “visit” of Sharon, the butcher of the Palestinian refugee camps Sabra and Shatila, to stride across the Islamic holy site of Haram al-Sharif in the company of the entire leadership of the right-wing Likud party and guarded by an army more than 3,000 Israel troops and cops. The result: Intifada 2.

Now Sharon and his gang of “hawks” are in office, vowing to undo the entire framework of a “negotiated settlement.” Never having supported the Oslo accords in the first place, they want to get rid of any hint of “restraint” on Zionist power. Deliberately assassinating scores of Palestinian leaders, using anti-personnel bombs in populated areas, firing tank shells into apartment buildings, razing Palestinian homes in Jerusalem and sharply expanding the West Bank and Gaza “settlements” (in reality, military outposts populated by fascistic ultra-Zionists), they are gearing up for an all-out assault on the territories. Newspapers publish the order of battle, listing the locations, personnel and armament of the different PA police forces.

The head of Israeli military intelligence, General Amos Malka, and other top officials have made it clear that they are going after Arafat. The chairman of the Palestinian Authority has “completed his historic mission,” said Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor), reports the liberal daily Ha’aretz (8 June), and even if Arafat “has not (at least for the time being) been targeted” for “removal” they are preparing the groundwork. In the same issue, the paper’s military expert Ze’ev Schiff complains that the “attrition ratio” is going against Israel, having fallen from ten Palestinian deaths for every Israeli killed at the beginning of the intifada to only 4:1 in May. Columnist Doron Rosenblum writes:

“The fact is there is general agreement here that a massive terrorist attack, perpetrated by a lone individual – on the scale of the Dolphi-Disco massacre – constitutes an almost automatic cause for activating the Air Force and moving masses of armored and infantry units for the conquest of territories: in short, of a war that could become a general regional conflagration.”

A writer in Yedioth Ahronoth (8 June) said that the barrage of threats “is to prepare public opinion, in Israel and around the world, for a large-scale military operation that will topple the Palestinian Authority and lead to Arafat’s expulsion.”

The right-wingers in Sharon’s cabinet are most vociferously calling to “unleash” the military, but they aren’t the ones. Reputed Labor Party “dove” Shimon Peres, who in the 1970s oversaw the beginning of the West Bank settlements, approved the use of American-supplied F-16 fighter jets to bomb PA installations in the wake of the June 1 suicide bombing. Washington heard the war drums and hurriedly dispatched CIA chief George Tenet and U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell to cool things out. But the “cease-fire” lasted “about as long as the secretary of state’s return flight to Washington on June 30th,” as the London Economist (5 July) noted. The very next day Israeli troops shot two leaders of the Islamic group Hamas in an ambush, while a rocket attack by an Israeli helicopter killed two members of Islamic Jihad. In reality, Israeli leaders shot down the cease-fire with this provocation. The response came quickly, in the form of a new car bombing inside Israel.

The issue of the “settlers” in the Occupied Territories is a key question. For decades after Israel conquered the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights in the 1967 “Six-Day War,” the U.S., UN and virtually every international body formally considered the settlements illegal. but the signature of the Oslo accords by Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization in effect legalized these military outposts, and the number of settlers doubled (going from 100,000 to 200,000 during the seven-year “peace process”). The report by former U.S. Democratic senator George Mitchell called only for a halt to new settlement construction as part of a plan to stop Palestinian protests. Israel, the PA and the Bush admin­istration in Washington have all formally endorsed the Mitchell Report. But Sharon thumbed his nose even at this empty gesture by authorizing 700 new housing units on the West Bank, in addition to the 6,000 already under construction. Rather than these diplomatic sops, it’s necessary to demand all Israeli forces (including troops and “settlers”) out of the Occupied Territories.

The settlers should be driven out by militant action of the oppressed Palestinian population. This could gain considerable support from Hebrew working people in Israel, who widely despise the Uzi-toting religious fanatics and racist terrorists. The bomb attack on the Dolfinarium randomly cut down Israeli youths dancing at the disco club, expressing the outlook of the Islamic fundamentalists for whom any Jew is a military target and an enemy to be expelled from Palestine. Secular Palestinian nationalists have also engaged in indiscriminate bomb attacks, and driven to desperation by the occupation a large percentage of the Arab population approves of “martyrs’ actions.” Such actions against non-military targets help the Israeli rulers’ drive to produce monolithic Zionist “national unity.” But those who would win Israeli workers, both Hebrew and Arab, to defend the Palestinian people seek to drive a wedge to split Zionist Israel along its numerous fault lines, putting forward a program of internationalist class struggle.

For many Israelis, the settlers represent a future as a perpetual garrison state doomed to be forever at war with its neighbors and subject populations. There was no outpouring of sympathy when Benjamin Kahane, leader of the fascist Kach group and son of Meir Kahane, and his wife were killed by a sniper squad in the West Bank. Good riddance, many rightly felt. Meanwhile, underground Zionist terrorist groups are growing, with tacit support and sometimes direct participation by the state. Almost all the fascistic clots are members of the military reserves, receiving training and weapons from the army and police. Fascistic settler groups have carried out numerous attacks on Palestinians, including in Hebron last month. Watching Zionist toughs throwing stones at the Hassan Bek mosque in the wake of the disco bombing, one of their ilk expressed their Hitlerite mentality, “The terrorists have to be destroyed, just like the Nazis did to the Jews.” Such murderous scum should be swept off the streets by teams of anti-Zionist Hebrew and Arab workers and youths.

For Proletarian Internationalism!

With the Israeli military machine revving its engines, just about anything could become the causus belli, an incident that becomes the ostensible cause for a war, just as the murder of an Israeli diplomat in London (possibly with Mossad involvement) served as the pretext for Menachem Begin’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon commanded by Sharon. A gruesome fascist attack on Arabs like the 1994 slaughter of 29 Muslim worshippers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron by Kahane disciple Baruch Goldstein, of the ultra-rightist Kiryat Arba settlement, could set off a chain reaction. But at present, fascistic elements see no need for a new Jewish terrorist underground as in the 1980s because the Israeli army with its assassination squads is carrying out their dirty work. Yet the army is having difficulties. The number of reservists failing to report for duty in the Occupied Territories has reached record numbers. Meanwhile, the New York Times (6 June) reports that the intifada together with the U.S. recession have sent Israel’s economy into a tailspin. Industrial production is at a standstill, hotels are closing, airline bookings have cratered, leading to hundreds of layoffs. Banks reported steep losses and the gross domestic product plummeted by 12 percent in the fourth quarter of 2000.

Israel is not a monolith, contrary to the view of both Zionist and Arab nationalists, but a class society with deep divisions. Many mizrahim (Jews of eastern origin) are still beset by low wages and relegated to miserable “development towns”; Russian immigrants (some Jews, many not) are routinely assigned to West Bank settlements, constantly fearing Palestinian attacks; the large secular majority and Orthodox religious communities are often at each others’ throats. Moreover, one-fifth of the population of the “Jewish state” is Arab, and tens of thousands of foreign workers have been brought in from Romania, Sri Lanka and elsewhere as the supply of Palestinian labor has been cut off by the military lockdown on the Occupied Territories. But it may take external events to crack Zionist domination, including a drawn-out military hemorrhaging as in Lebanon. The Zionists, like the German imperialists in two world wars, like Blitzkriegs, lightning strikes that are over in a week and let the soldiers brag about their exploits for decades afterwards. Long-term attrition as in Lebanon and the two intifadas is decidedly less popular in this country.

Palestinian Arabs and Israeli peace groups, most of them led by liberal Zionists, are acutely aware of the impact of international events on Israel. Their focus, however, is on pressuring the imperialists to pressure Israel. It was widely noted that as Israeli tanks were slicing through Gaza in May, with the army chief of staff vowing to stay indefinitely, a word from the Pentagon was sufficient to turn them around in an hour. But the U.S. and European imperialists are closely allied with the Zionists, particularly through the liberal Democratic Israel lobby in Washington and the social-democratic Second International, of which the Israeli “Labor” party is a part. In fact, the Bush regime may have already given the go-ahead for an attack, just as Ronald Reagan and Alexander Haig gave a green light to the Lebanon invasion. Liberal nationalist pressure politics will not save the Palestinians, and could make their situation worse. After months of appealing for European intervention to balance the pro-Israeli Americans, Arafat recently met with Germany’s foreign minister Joseph Fischer of the environmentalist Greens. The former New Left street fighter proceeded to give the PA chief a tongue-lashing.

Various reformists and Palestine solidarity groups are currently pushing a campaign to try Sharon in a European court for war cimes, particularly over the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre. They even got a Belgian court to take up the case. Many have illusions that he could be extradited to stand trial, as a Spanish court attempted with Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. At a recent demonstration in New York City when Sharon attended a fund-raising event at the Hotel Pierre, protesters chanted “Indict Sharon!” Some also chanted “shame on the U.S.” for hosting a war criminal and even called on the New York Police Department to “Arrest Sharon!” Rudy Giuliani’s racist killer cops and the butchers of Vietnam and Korea are not about to arrest or indict Sharon, and calls on them to do so will only serve to legitimize the imperialists’ fraudulent posture as “human rights” defenders as they try their former allies like Serbia’s Milosevic and Panama’s Noriega in order to justify their own wars and invasions.

Trotskyists look instead to the international working class to defend the Palestinian Arab people whose rights and lives have been trampled on by the Zionists’ jackboot. The whole Oslo “peace” fraud was a product of the U.S.-dominated New World Order in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Defeats for imperialism around the world will have a direct impact in the area. A proletarian upheaval against the decrepit Arab regimes anywhere in the Near East would directly threaten both the Zionists and the Arab puppets of imperialism. Even modest examples of joint Arab-Hebrew workers action in support of the besieged Palestinians could have a tremendous effect throughout the region. The key is to build a revolutionary leadership, with multinational Leninist-Trotskyist parties in Israel, the Occupied Territories and throughout the Near East, in the struggle to reforge the Fourth International as the world party of socialist revolution. n

To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: internationalistgroup@msn.com