The Internationalist  
June 2010  

For International Workers Solidarity Action –
Defeat Israeli/U.S. War on Palestinians!

Israel’s Gaza Flotilla Massacre:
Bloody War Provocation

Israeli killer commandos of the Shayetet 13 squad assault the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara carrying
humanitarian supplies to Gaza, May 31. The Israelis killed at least nine passengers in cold blood.
(Photo: DHA via AP)

In the early morning hours of May 31, Israeli commandos seized a flotilla of ships in the Mediterranean carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza, the Palestinian territory devastated by the Israeli military a year and a half ago. The Israel “Defense” Force sent an armada of navy gun ships to stop the Gaza Freedom Flotilla which had set sail from Cyprus with over 700 unarmed anti-occupation activists and some 10,000 tons of supplies including medical supplies, used clothing, toys, milk powder, as well as building materials – all excluded by the Israeli blockade which has sealed off the Gaza Strip for over three years. At least nine of the passengers were killed by the commandos, while 57 were wounded. Israeli authorities grotesquely claimed its killers engaged in “self-defense” against “lynching” by passengers armed with “life-threatening means,” including “deck furniture.” But IDF commandos confirm that the Israeli forces opened fire even before they hit the deck, and photos show that wounded Israeli soldiers were cared for by ship doctors. All but one of the dead were shot at close range, their bodies riddled with bullets. These were executions, and the Israeli ship seizure was state terrorism.

All this took place in international waters, at least 60 miles from Gaza. The Zionist state of Israel carried out a clear act of piracy on the high seas. The slaughter touched off an outpouring of anger around the globe. Since the aid flotilla was organized in Turkey and the dead were Turkish, tens of thousands converged on Taksim Square in Istanbul to protest the Israeli outrage. There were huge protests as well in Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt, in Pakistan, Malaysia and other largely Muslim countries. In London, thousands demonstrated outside the Israeli embassy; thousands more protested in Paris and elsewhere across Europe. In New York, over 1,500 showed up in Times Square on a few hours notice on May 31, while hundreds came out in cities from Chicago to San Francisco and Los Angeles. The protests brought together Turks, Arabs, leftists, and many Jewish demonstrators (including in Israel) outraged over the massacre. The Internationalist Group joined the NYC protest with signs proclaiming, “Gaza Supply Ship Massacre = Bloody Israeli War Provocation,” “Israel Out of Gaza and the West Bank – Defend the Palestinian People!” and “Defend Gaza – Defeat Israeli-U.S. War on Palestinians!”

Imperialist rulers felt obliged to issue mild criticisms of the Israeli government’s brazen actions. German chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “shocked” at the deaths and that Israel’s blockade of Gaza was “not helpful.” French president Nicholas Sarkozy criticized Israel’s “disproportionate” use of force. U.S. president Barack Obama’s reference to the deaths on the Gaza flotilla as “tragic” set off a torrent of vituperation from right-wingers and hard-line Zionists. But Washington mainly concentrated on making sure a United Nations Security Council resolution didn’t explicitly criticize Israel. The diplomatic tut-tutting was followed by a feigned dispute over who was to carry out an “impartial investigation” of events, the U.N. or Israel! Aside from the absurdity of the Zionist mass murderers investigating themselves and the notion that the imperialist powers that dominate the U.N. could possibly be “impartial,” what’s to investigate? Whether the Israelis shot before or after meeting resistance is irrelevant. Any and all efforts to repel the marauding Zionist killers were utterly justified. We salute the activists who heroically sought to defend the ship and its passengers against the Israeli terrorists.

The Internationalist Group and League for the Fourth International call to break the murderous Israeli blockade of Gaza! We warn against illusions that the imperialists will somehow come to the aid of the beleaguered Palestinian population. Particularly for the U.S., of which Israel has for decades been a “strategic ally,” but also for the other imperialist powers, the Zionist state serves the role of a gendarme to police a vital region against the semi-colonial peoples of Asia and Africa (as well as a supplier of paramilitary mercenaries in Latin America). It is to the world working class that we look to defend Gaza and the Palestinian masses, both in the Occupied Territories and in Israel itself. In the face of this latest bloody crime we call on the workers movement to boycott cargo, ships and planes to and from Israel while fighting for Arab-Hebrew workers revolution in Palestine and a socialist federation of the Middle East.

For International Workers Solidarity Action to Defend the Palestinians

IG at May 31 protest in New York City's Times Square
against Israeli massacre.
(Internationalist photo)

In response to the December 2008 Israeli assault on Gaza, the IG and LFI issued a “call for action by the international working class in defense of Gaza and the Palestinian people, including efforts to break the siege.” We added:

“Impotent consumer boycotts of Israeli goods or Israeli academics do not target the Zionist rulers or their imperialist backers, whereas a refusal by transport workers to unload Israeli ships or planes is the kind of class action that could send a powerful message to the racist rulers.”
–“Zionist Mass Murder: Break the Siege, Defend Gaza!” (31 December 2008), reprinted in The Internationalist No. 28, March-April 2009

In fact, in February 2009 dock workers in Durban, South Africa carried out such an exemplary action, boycotting the Israeli ship Johanna Russ. In response to the recent Israeli massacre of the Gaza aid flotilla, the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) instructed its members “not to allow any Israeli ship to dock or unload in any South African port.” This call was taken up by a dozen Palestinian labor organizations who called on dock workers unions worldwide to block Israeli maritime trade, demanding an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

At the same time, the Swedish Port Workers Union issued a notice that it would blockade all Israeli ships and cargo to and from Israel for a period now set for the week of June 22-29. The Swedish dockers earlier played a leading role in boycotting cargo to and from apartheid South Africa and the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. On June 9, the Norwegian Transport Workers Federation went further and called for a two-week blockade of the country’s ports to Israeli ships and cargo beginning June 15. Similar actions are under discussion by dock workers federations and local unions elsewhere in Europe and the U.S., posing the possibility of wider internationally linked workers boycott action. In line with this, on June 20 a picket of an Israeli Zim line ship has been called for the Port of Oakland, California.

Trotskyists look to independent working-class action that has the power to combat Israeli crimes and point the way to bringing down the murderous Zionist regime through proletarian revolution. Reformist leftists, in contrast, almost unanimously call for action by the imperialist governments, as if they could somehow become potential allies of the oppressed Arab masses.

In the United States, Socialist Action (S.A.) circulated a statement by the United Secretariat (USec), with which it is fraternally related and which falsely claims to be the continuity of Trotsky’s Fourth International. The June 1 USec statement declares that “Everywhere where the solidarity movement is not yet strong enough to compel governments to break in practice with the Israeli state, people should take matters into their own hands with massive boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns.” The International Socialist Organization (ISO), approvingly quotes an organizer of the Free Gaza Movement saying, “The U.S. government has to be put under pressure to act in a responsible manner and stop the double standard it always applies to Israel” (Socialist Worker, 1 June). The ISO also pushes the boycott-divestment-sanctions campaign:

“The BDS movement is a people's initiative, based upon both consumer and worker-end boycotts of Israeli goods and services, while asking people to deprive Israel of the immunity it has enjoyed while committing its crimes. It consciously models itself upon the same movement which helped defeat apartheid in South Africa.”

Protester in Barcelona calls to boycott Israel, May 31.
Josep Lago/AFP

The movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Against Israel arose in response to a 2005 call by a number of Palestinian “civil society organizations.” Pressed to the wall by relentless Zionist repression, many in occupied Palestine desperately call for any and all solidarity action. In the imperialist countries, particularly on university campuses, campaigns for “BDS” have sometimes become a referendum on opposition to vs. support for Zionist Israel and its crimes.1 The boycott campaign in the West is an expression of moral outrage, but at bottom it is aimed at enlisting imperialist rulers. “BDS” activists hope that the Gaza flotilla massacre could be the event, as Ali Abunimah wrote on the website Electronic Intifada (4 June), “spurring governments to follow the lead of their people and take unprecedented action to check Israel's growing lawlessness.” This perspective is deeply disorienting, in several ways, to a real struggle against the oppression of the Palestinian people.

For one thing, “BDS” implies that the supposedly democratic imperialist countries are less culpable than Zionist Israel. Yet the victims of U.S. imperialism number in the many millions (3-4 million dead in Korea, 2-3 million in Indochina, close to 1 million killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and counting), vastly outnumbering the numbers slaughtered by the Israeli military and paramilitary settlers in Palestine. So why not refuse to buy any products made in the United States, refuse to hire American faculty, call for U.N. and European Union sanctions against the U.S., etc.? “BDS” also implies that a “mass movement” could pressure the imperialists into defending the Palestinian Arab people. This is an illusion, particularly in the case of the United States, whose alliance with Israel is strategic. Israel is a key element in Western domination of the Middle East, including vital oil supplies and trade routes, which also benefit the European imperialists. No amount of popular pressure will change that.

If Washington pushes that Tel Aviv to lighten up on the repression, it will only be a slight modification at most. The Palestinians will still be caught in a Zionist vise. Consumer boycotts notoriously have little effectand who buys Israeli matzo or chocolate anyway? Moreover, 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. Getting a few pension funds and imperialist corporations not to invest in Israel won’t starve Israeli businesses of funds. But even if by some miracle they did, and Israel became an international pariah, this won’t stop the Zionist butchers. They are junior partners and allies of imperialism, but Israel’s capitalist rulers have their own reactionary interests and agenda. They are perfectly capable of turning on their patrons in Washington, like when Israeli jets and gunboats napalmed and torpedoed the U.S.S. Liberty, evidently out of pique over U.S. neutrality in the 1967 war.

The boycott, sanctions and divestment campaign also distorts what happened in South Africa. That effort was launched by the African National Congress, which calculated that pressure from U.S. and European imperialists would get South Africa’s racist rulers to make democratic reforms. It didn’t happen. The apartheid regime couldn’t be reformed, and it was not brought down by Americans refusing to buy krugerrands or Citibank not investing in South Africa. In fact, as Trotskyists warned at the time, to the extent that sanctions and boycotts had an effect, it was to increase the exploitation and weaken the South African black proletariat, particularly miners and metal workers, whose militant strikes were a key factor in ending apartheid. The other principal factor was that, as a result of the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union, the South African Communist Party (which played a dominant role in the ANC and the black workers unions) was deemed less of a threat. So the Western imperialists and South African capitalists decided to cut a deal with Nelson Mandela.

Moreover, while the end of apartheid brought formal democratic gains (“one person, one vote”) and put in office a black majority government, the class oppression of black and colored working people in South Africa has not only not diminished, it has actually increased the inequality and poverty. Who has benefited is a tiny layer of black professionals who climbed aboard the capitalist gravy train. Should a Palestinian pseudo-state come about as the result of imperialist pressure, the beneficiaries will not be the impoverished masses living in the giant slum of Gaza or in West Bank ghettos like Ramallah, but a gaggle of Palestinian capitalists who will exploit Palestinian labor on behalf of Israeli capital. Palestinian refugees will still be unable to return to their homes and lands stolen by the Zionists in 1948 and since. And the corruption of legendary proportions that infused the Palestinian Authority under Yasir Arafat and his successor as P.A. president Mahmoud Abbas is only a foretaste.

Trotskyists do not call for consumer boycotts, capitalist divestment and imperialist sanctions against Zionist Israel, nor did we against Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile in the 1970s, apartheid South Africa in the ’80s or Haiti under the military junta in the ’90s, for the same reason we do not call today for U.S. aid to earthquake-ravaged Haiti: imperialism is not a policy but a system – it cannot be pressured into aiding the oppressed, it must be overthrown. We demand an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza and defend efforts to break it. Likewise, we demand an end to all U.S. aid to Israel, some $7 million a day. We demand that the Israeli army (and U.S. military advisers) get out of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, that the Zionist settlements be dispersed, that all Palestinian refugees have the right to return, that Palestinian prisoners be released. But the key to freeing Palestinians from a century of Western imperialist and Zionist domination is to mobilize the international working class (including Palestinian Arab and Hebrew-speaking workers in Israel) which alone has the power to sweep away the Zionist rulers and their imperialist overlords.

1 At the University of California-Berkeley this past April there was a hotly contested vote by the student senate to override an executive veto of a student body resolution calling for divestment of UC funds from General Electric and United Technologies. Although a large majority of the student senate supported the resolution, both the right-wing Zionist American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the liberal Zionist J Street lobby teamed up to defeat the measure by getting a few student senators to change their vote. In such a situation, particularly as the targets were two U.S. military contractors, it would have been correct to critically support the divestment motion.

See also: The Blockade of Gaza and Zionist Plans for “Transfer”
                Zionists Gearing Up for War on Iran
                For an Arab-Hebrew Palestinian Workers State in a Socialist Federation of the Near East
                Egypt: Mubarak Regime Tottering

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