July 2006   
Defend the Palestinian People and Lebanese Shiites!

Largely Shiite areas of southern Beirut, Lebanon were bombed to rubble by Israeli warplanes.
(Photo: Tyler Hicks/New York Times)

Drive the Zionists Out of the Occupied Territories!
Drive the U.S. Imperialists Out of Iraq and All the Near East!

The following article is expanded from a July 18 leaflet issued by the Internationalist Group, U.S. section of the League for the Fourth International.

On July 14, Israel began a full-scale assault on Lebanon, bombing targets, military and civilian, throughout the country. First on the list was Beirut’s airport, followed by blowing up 55 bridges and all highways leading out of the country. Tens of thousands of Lebanese managed to rush to the Syrian border before the main roads were destroyed, but now the entire Lebanese population is trapped. Westerners are being evacuated by sea, and many Lebanese are worried that Israel will escalate its bombing as soon as they are gone. Having blockaded the country, the Zionist militarists are proceeding to pulverize the southern part of the capital, flattening whole city blocks, as well as attacking cities and Palestinian refugee camps from north to south. To date (July 21) over 350 Lebanese have been killed in the massive and indiscriminate Israeli bombing. Meanwhile, over the past month Israeli tanks have returned to Gaza, cutting the narrow territory in half, blocking deliveries of food and fuel and killing over 100 Palestinian Arabs.

Working people the world over must vigorously denounce and fight against the two-pronged Israeli attack, which along with the U.S. imperialist occupation of Iraq threatens to engulf the entire Near East in war.

Particularly hard-hit in the Israeli onslaught against Lebanon have been the Shiite Muslim communities where the Islamic organization Hezbollah is strong. There, the Israeli air force is massacring the civilian population, including many children, killing whole families in their homes, trucks carrying medical supplies, United Nations “peacekeepers,” milk processing plants, even Lebanese army barracks. Hezbollah responded by firing waves of Katyusha rockets into northern Israel. They hit the port city of Haifa for the first time ever, and a missile or drone took out an Israeli warship. The Israeli army made an initial foray into southern Lebanon, but pulled back after meeting stiff resistance. Nevertheless, the air attack has manifestly failed to “degrade” Hezbollah’s military capacity. So Israel has mobilized its army reserves, which exacts a tremendous economic cost, indicating a full-scale ground invasion is in the offing.

Leaders of the Zionist state portray their assault as “retaliation” for Hezbollah’s July 12 stunning attack on Israeli military forces on the border, in which eight soldiers were killed and two captured. This effective action left the Israeli army smarting, but what followed is far more than a reprisal. It was “a wonderful option to do something the army was already prepared to do, with a well-constructed operational plan on the shelf,” commented the head of an Israeli “peace” center. War minister Amir Peretz, head of the Zionist “Labor” Party, declared that “we shall not allow Hezbollah forces to remain any further on the borders of the state of Israel.” The only way that can be accomplished is by an occupation by Israel or some “international” force doing its bidding. The last time Israel tried this, in 1982, it was bogged down in southern Lebanon for 18 years and was ultimately forced out by Hezbollah guerrillas.

Whatever the pretext used by Israel to justify its aggression, the international workers movement must stand squarely for defense of the Palestinian people and Lebanese Shiite population under attack, and for the defeat of the Israeli assault. The current invasion of Lebanon is part of an overall plan by the Zionist expansionists to unilaterally redraw the borders of the Near East and impose their military dominance on the Arab peoples. Having declared the bogus “peace process” dead, they intend to fence in the  Palestinians and confine them to giant prisons in Gaza and the West Bank, Zionist settlements will fill in huge swaths of the Occupied Territories, and the stage will be set for a future mass expulsion, euphemistically known in Zionist circles as “transfer.” This “final solution” to the “Palestinian problem” today is openly avowed only by Zionist hardliners, but it is the logic of the decades-old policy of “creating facts on the ground.”

There is no “equivalence” between the blows struck by the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah and Palestinian groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and various secular nationalist resistance forces on the one hand, and the Zionist military juggernaut on the other. The Zionists and imperialists brand Hezbollah as “terrorist,”  when they are the biggest state terrorists of all. Contrary to the hysteria trumpeted by the bourgeois press in the West, the existence of the Hebrew-speaking population of Israel is in no way threatened today, whereas the Palestinian Arabs and Lebanese Shiites are very much in danger of being decimated and driven out of their lands. Proletarian internationalists stand with those resisting Zionist occupation. The League for the Fourth International calls to drive the Zionists out of all the territories conquered by Israel in the 1967 war, including East Jerusalem, as well as from Lebanon. All the West Bank settlements are military outposts for the subjugation of the Palestinians.

The deliberate targeting of the civilian population in Lebanon by Israeli commanders has led even that pliant imperialist tool, U.N. commissioner for human rights Louise Arbour, to talk of war crimes. These are empty words, of course; nothing will be done against the war criminals in Tel Aviv, or the U.S. political and military commanders who have slaughtered over 100,000 Iraqis. While noting that Israeli attacks on Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank are far deadlier, massacring whole villages and neighborhoods, deliberately bombing refugee columns, communists oppose indiscriminate attacks on the general population of Israel such as suicide bombings of non-military targets. A Hezbollah rocket recently struck a railway repair shop in Haifa, which has a large Arab population, killing eight workers. Another barrage hit the Arab town of Nazareth in northern Israel, killing two Palestinian children at play.

Revolutionary Marxists recognize the right of self-determination of both the Palestinian Arab and Hebrew-speaking peoples, that is, their right to national existence in the area. The creation of the state of Israel, a theocratic Jewish state which is inherently oppressive to the Palestinians, was a historic crime by the Western imperialists, coming on top of the monstrous annihilation of 6 million European Jews in the Nazi Holocaust. Instead of accepting the Jewish refugees from the fascist slaughter, the “democratic” imperialists pushed them into Palestine. But the fact is that there is now a Hebrew-speaking nation in the same area as the Palestinian Arab population, and proletarian revolutionaries defend the democratic rights of both. At the same time, we warn that the conflicting national rights can only be equitably resolved through workers revolution.

Imperialists Trumpet “Peace” and “Democracy”
While Delivering Death and Destruction

The phony Near East “peace” process collapsed with the Camp David talks in 2000, when U.S. president Bill Clinton demanded Palestinians submit to the carving up of the West Bank. This was driven home by the subsequent provocation staged by Ariel Sharon at the Al Aksa Mosque with the full cooperation of the “Labor” Zionist government of Ehud Barak. Since then many Palestinian secular nationalists and Israeli leftists have abandoned their earlier support for a Palestinian “mini-state” and call for a democratic, secular Palestine, the original program of the Palestine Liberation Organization. However, there is no way that under capitalism there can be a democratic solution to the conflict between two competing claims to national self-determination on the same territory. How would water rights be divided between Israel and Palestine, for example? What about the undeniable right to return of the Palestinian refugees forced from their homes in 1948?

War fever: Israeli girls write messages on artillery shells (Kiryat Shmona, July 17).  “To Hezbollah with ... from Israel.”
(Photo: Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

U.S. imperialist warmonger in chief George W. Bush claims to be fighting for “democracy” in Iraq and throughout the Near East, except when people make the “wrong” choice. The current round of fighting began with the Israeli army returning to Gaza to punish the population for voting for the Islamist Hamas. In addition to cutting off the flow of funds in order to strangle the Palestinians economically, Israel has bombed Palestinian Authority offices, arrested one-third of the PA cabinet members and targeted Hamas leaders for assassination. For good measure, the Israeli military blew up the main power plant in Gaza and murdered an entire Arab family on the beach. But in all their frenzy against Hamas, Zionist propagandists leave out that Israel helped set up the organization, funneling substantial sums to it, to serve as a counterweight to the Palestinian nationalist Fatah.

Many pseudo-socialists today give political support (“critical,” of course) to the Islamist Hamas, just as yesterday they tailed after Fatah and its leader Yasir Arafat, on the grounds that they are opposed by the Zionists. Yet both Arab nationalists and Islamists are more than prepared to do a deal with imperialism, if only they could. In contrast, the Trotskyists of the Internationalist Group and LFI, defend the Palestinian people while opposing all religiously based states, whether a Jewish state of Israel or an Islamic state in Iran or U.S.-occupied Iraq. We hold that in the case of historically intermingled or interpenetrated peoples, the only possible framework for a just solution to national rights is under proletarian rule, when the working people of all nationalities, peoples and minorities can resolve democratic questions through their common efforts in a collective economy.

“The child whose dead body lies like a rag doll beside the cars which were supposedly taking her and her family to safety is a symbol of the latest Lebanon war” (Robert Fisk). Name unknown, her parents were also killed in Israeli attack on refugee column outside Ter Harfa, Lebanon, July 15. 
(Photo: Nasser Nasser/AP)

In the present case, while recognizing the right of national self-determination on behalf of both the Palestinian Arab and Hebrew-speaking peoples, we fight for an Arab-Hebrew workers state in a socialist federation of the Near East. This can only be achieved by joint struggle of the working people against their Zionist, Islamic fundamentalist and Arab nationalist rulers.

In Lebanon, as well, the imperialists and Zionists claimed to be supporting “democracy.” Last year they stage-managed a “Cedar Revolution,” forcing Syrian forces to leave the country and setting up a puppet government in Beirut. The gilded youth of the Christian and Sunni Muslim Lebanese bourgeoisie – hip young men in their BMW sports cars, sleek young women with their Armani accessories – provided TV images of mass support. Many of these are now bitter that the reward for their efforts is renewed destruction of a country still being rebuilt three decades after a ruinous civil war and after two decades of Israeli occupation in the south. Impoverished Shiites, on the other hand, participated in pro-Syrian demonstrations that were not televised. While giving no political support to the Syrian regime, Marxists point out that Lebanon was carved out of Syria after World War I by the French colonialists as an artificial state, then dominated by pro-Western Christian forces, in order to hold Arab nationalism in check. As demonstrated in the civil war of 1975-90, Lebanon is a checkerboard of communalist enclaves, which under capitalist rule will always be oppressive to one minority or another (Shiites, Christians, Alawites, Druzes, etc.)

There are similarities between the latest attack and the 1982 invasion, when the Israeli army rolled up to Beirut and oversaw a massacre of Palestinians by the fascistic Christian Falange in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. But the today{s attack comes in a new context, of U.S.-led imperialist invasions and colonial occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Moreover, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon is clearly being done in conjunction with its patrons in the White House and the Pentagon, where a powerful pro-Israel camarilla has given a green light to the Zionist expansionists. Palestinian “president” Mahmoud Abbas, a figurehead without a state or a government, warned that the attack on Lebanon could lead to a regional war. In fact, Israel has already launched the war. The Zionists are counting on the Saudi, Egyptian and other reactionary Arab regimes to do nothing, and is calling for the Lebanese government to control Hezbollah, which it will not and cannot do. As a result, many European imperialists in the Group of 8 meeting in the tsarist palaces of St. Petersburg, Russia, have called for United Nations intervention. But U.N. “blue helmets” will only serve as mercenary border police on behalf of Israel and U.S. imperialism.

Israeli and Western imperialist spokesmen are portraying the present conflict as a “proxy war” with Iran, a main sponsor of the Hezbollah. While there is no evidence that Tehran had anything to do with the capture of a couple of Israeli soldiers on the Lebanese border, it is clear that the Zionists and their supporters in the U.S. have been pushing for a showdown with the Persian ruling mullahs for years. A Zionist hawk writing in the New York “neoconservative” City Journal (Spring 2006) recently called for an attack on Iran of “swift, massive, devastating force that decapitates the regime – but no occupation.” An attack on Iran would be the height of folly for the U.S. military, already bogged down in Iraq. But that may not deter the warmongers in the White House, the Pentagon and the U.S. Congress, on both sides of the aisle, from “unleashing” the Israelis who have an arsenal of hundreds of atomic bombs, the means to deliver them and a leadership insane enough to set off a conflagration that could end up consuming Israel.

A military attack on Iran, however demented and improbable, is the ultima ratio, the final “argument” of the imperialist hue and cry over Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear power, fully within its rights under the U.S.-imposed “non-proliferation” treaties. As Trotskyists who never gave political support to the Islamic “Iranian Revolution,” and who call for workers revolution to bring down the reactionary rule of the mullahs and imams, the IG and LFI defend semi-colonial Iran and its right to obtain nuclear weapons for self-defense against the nuclear-armed imperialists and Zionists. Similarly, even under the anti-Communist butcher Saddam Hussein, revolutionary Marxists defended Iraq and its right to develop any weapons needed for defense against  the imperialist mass murderers who have since laid waste to the country with a Hitler-style Blitzkrieg and ruinous colonial occupation. Trotskyists also unconditionally defend the North Korean bureaucratically deformed workers state against imperialism, while fighting for political revolution to replace the nationalist Stalinist bureaucracy with a proletarian internationalist leadership.

Hezbollah and Hamas may have grievously misjudged the Israeli government in figuring it would agree to an exchange of three Israeli soldiers for some of the estimated 9,000 Palestinians (and an unknown number of Lebanese) being held in Israel’s jails. But the Israeli rulers may have made a far greater miscalculation in figuring that they could launch a new war and keep it within strict limits. Even the Wall Street Journal (20 July), normally a big backer of any and every Israeli adventure or atrocity, worries: “But escalating the conflict is risky for Israel. The casualties would likely be far greater than the Israeli military has experienced so far. The operation could fail, dealing a devastating blow to Israel's reputation in the region.” While many opportunist leftists who habitually tail after “Third World” nationalists consider Israel as nothing but an imperialist outpost, the real relationship between the Zionists and the imperialists is more complex. Strategic Forecasting, a corporate military analysis outfit, recently noted:

“Israel has national security requirements that outstrip its manpower base. It can field a sufficient army, but its industrial base cannot supply all of the weapons needed to fight high-intensity conflicts. This means it is always dependent on an outside source for its industrial base and must align its policies with that source…. It was after 1967 that it entered into a patron-client relationship with the United States. This relationship is its strength and its weakness. It gives the Israelis the systems they need for national security, but since U.S. and Israeli interests diverge, the relationship constrains Israel’s range of action.”

–Stratfor, Mideast Crisis: Backgrounder (14 July 2006)

Socialism or Barbarism

For U.S. imperialism, control of the Near East is key to its exercise of world domination, not so much to supply its own energy needs but to be able to turn the oil spigot on and off, and thereby to have the whip hand over imperialist rivals. Already, the Israeli attack sent the oil price soaring to a record $78 per barrel. Washington has sought to impose a Pax Americana on the strategic region for decades, particularly since the 1989-92 East European counterrevolution that brought down the Soviet Union and whetted U.S. appetites for a New World Order, with it as the “sole superpower.” The Zionists, of course, have always sought to sell their services to imperialism, going back to when they got a British foreign minister to issue the famous Balfour Declaration in 1917 by offering to act as gendarmes for Britain astride the vital Suez Canal. But the interests of the Zionists and the imperialists are not identical. Indeed, rabid Israeli right-wingers are prepared to blow up the world in pursuit of their messianic expansionist plans.

As bombs fell on Beirut, Democrats and Republicans alike rushed to defend Israeli aggression, with war hawk Hillary Clinton taking the lead in missile-rattling. For now, U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and U.N. ambassador John Bolton have beaten down  calls for United Nations action to impose a ceasefire or send a “peacekeeping” force. After a couple more weeks of Israeli bombing and ground incursions in which Israel will try to “clear” the population south of the Litani River, turning it into a “free-fire” zone, military “experts” say, Washington will seek to organize a “multinational” force, perhaps like the NATO expeditionary force in Afghanistan, to police southern Lebanon and enforce a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for disarming Hezbollah. But, as the Wall Street Journal (17 July) noted, peacekeeping presumes the parties want to make peace. If Hezbollah, with wide backing in the local Shiite population, refuses to be disarmed and undertakes guerrilla war, it won’t be “peacekeeping” or even “stabilization” but counterinsurgency, at which Israel already failed to “prevail” in Lebanon during 1982-2000, and the Americans aren’t doing so hot in Iraq either. If Israel should strike at Syria or Iran, it would reverberate throughout the region. And if one of the decrepit conservative Arab regimes were to topple in the face of mass protest over the war, the example could spread like an oil slick.

Recently a mainstream pro-Zionist columnist, Michael Goodwin, declared that “World War III has begun,” and that the key is “The U.S. must prevail” – along with Israel of course (New York Daily News, 16 July). “Prevailing” in a nuclear war – against what adversary, and how? This is not just the ravings of a pundit gone haywire but official U.S. doctrine. In the Clinton administration excerpts from a classified “Defense Planning Guidance for the Fiscal Years 1994-1999” were leaked which set the goal of “precluding the emergence of any potential future global competitor,” like the U.S.’ NATO allies. In the Bush II administration, war secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s Quadrennial Defense Review called to “prevail against current threats” and to “dissuade potential adversaries.” like the U.S.’ NATO allies. With the Cold War deterrent strategy of “mutually assured destruction” (MAD) gone, has some evil genius in the Pentagon dreamt up a new strategic doctrine of “nuclear unilateral total slaughter” (NUTS)? That is clearly the direction that the “Bush doctrine” of preemptive war points.

At the St. Petersburg Group of 8 summit, U.S. president Bush remarked at a private dinner to Russian president Vladimir Putin that he desired to “promote institutional change in parts of the world like Iraq – where there is a free press and free religion” (!) and he hoped that “Russia would do the same thing.” When Putin icily replied that “we certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy as they have in Iraq,” Bush retorted, “Just wait” (New York Times, 16 July). This kind of off-hand remark from the leader of the world’s most powerful imperialist power – who declared that he was “driven with a mission from god” to invade Afghanistan and Iraq and who is pursuing a Manichean battle against an “axis of evil” – isn’t likely to endear the U.S. to “potential future global competitors” that it wants to “dissuade.” As inter-imperialist squabbles over Iraq, Israel and other world conflicts multiply, trade wars such as between European and U.S. airplane manufacturing rivals Airbus and Boeing or the fight over the Russian oil company Yukos, can escalate to other forms of competition. And Russia still has the military wherewithal to annihilate the U.S. several times over.

To note that Israel’s invasion of Lebanon is on a course toward an inter-imperialist World War III is not to say that it is about to break out tomorrow. Rather, we are in a period of clashes building up to the main event, such as the Balkan Wars that preceded World War I, or the 1930s Japanese invasion of China and the Spanish Civil War prior to World War II. The timing is not pre-determined and events such as the current Israeli attack in the midst of a raging civil war in Iraq can have unforeseen consequences. Clearly, the Israeli general staff didn’t count on Hezbollah having and using missiles that could hit Haifa and possibly Tel Aviv, or that could take out Israeli warships, any more than the Pentagon war planners prepared for an extended and deepening insurgency in Iraq. Israeli and U.S. generals may suffer setbacks on the battlefield, but what is key is how these colonial wars intersect the class struggle worldwide.

It is on the home front that the imperialists and Zionists are ultimately vulnerable. Today, the Israeli public may be solidly lined up behind Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s invasion. But let guerrilla attacks drag on endlessly with a steady drain of casualties and Israeli support for war will dissipate, as it already has in the U.S. It is then that the potential for sharp workers struggle against the war will increase. Israeli society is rent by a class divide, as are all the Arab countries, and the interests of the Hebrew-speaking workers (including many who came from elsewhere in the Near East and are native Arab-speakers) are not identical with those of their Zionist masters. Military reverses and sharp internal clashes (for example, over clericalism) can break the regimentation of a besieged fortress, and the mass of the Israeli population cannot wish to live forever in a garrison state. What will be required is a revolutionary leadership, a Trotskyist party, to make use of such contradictions to open the road to united class struggle of Arab and Hebrew working people.

The League for the Fourth International has called for, and sought to initiate where possible, class struggles against the imperialist war, including “hot cargoing” (refusing to handle) war material by transportation workers, and workers’ strikes against the war. Recent motions passed by the San Francisco/Oakland Local 10 of the West Coast International Longshore and Warehouse Union calling for the organization of a one-day labor strike against the war in Iraq point, and for union action against anti-immigrant vigilantes, although they were turned down by the ILWU bureaucracy, point in the right direction. The same program of class war against the imperialist war is valid in the Israeli attack on Lebanon and the Palestinian Arab population. Impotent boycotts of Israeli academics are ultimately appeals to U.S. imperialism (why not call for U.S. universities to refuse to hire American professors, since the U.S. is guilty of far greater war crimes than Israel?). Pious calls for U.N. intervention will only aid Israel. Instead of these dead-ends,  far more powerful would be action by European and American dock workers refusing to load or unload ships carrying war cargo to Israel and Iraq.

At the time of World War I, the German communist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg declared that the choice facing mankind was barbarism or socialism. Certainly, the Zionist rulers of Israel and the imperialist warmongers in Washington show the ugly face of barbarism as they rape and pillage their way through Iraq and dismember the Palestinian people. We call on the workers of the world to unite in class struggle to drive the imperialists from Iraq and Afghanistan, to defeat the colonial occupation and the “war on terror” which is actually a drive to terrorize the world into submission, as well as to drive the Zionists from all the occupied territories, from Gaza to the West Bank to Lebanon. Above all, the struggle against imperialist war is a political fight. Against the bipartisan capitalist-imperialist war party, we seek to forge a  revolutionary workers party, in the U.S. and elsewhere. Ultimately, to put an end to the imperialist chamber of horrors, from the carnage of World War I to the Nazi holocaust (and U.S. atom bombing of Japan) in World War II, to the torture and murder camps of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo today, it is necessary to sweep away the capitalist system through international socialist revolution. n

For an Arab-Hebrew Workers State in a Socialist Federation of the Near East!
Smash Imperialism Through International Socialist Revolution!

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