A Radical Manifesto from Gaza?

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A recent manifesto published in Gaza by a group of eight students has captured the attention of the Western media and gone viral on the internet. Gaza Youth's Manifesto for Change was described as “an incendiary document” by the UK Observer newspaper. Their Facebook page had attracted 5,000,0000 friends before Facebook stopped them from posting on it, and their manifesto has been translated into over twenty languages.
The manifesto itself starts “Fuck Hamas. Fuck Israel. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community!”, and proceeds to denounce the terrorism of the Israeli state, and the dictatorial rule of HAMAS in Gaza. Of course, these are sentiments that all internationalist communists can relate to, and given the situation in Palestine today, the anger which flows from the words of the manifesto is something that can only arouse feelings of solidarity, and respect on a personal level for the bravery of these young people who are obviously putting themselves at risk by these actions.
Nevertheless, when looking more deeply at the document, and surrounding discussions, it seems to us that despite the rejection of HAMAS and Fatah, it is still firmly on the ground of Palestinian nationalism, nor does it even hint at the idea that the only solution to the situation in the Middle east lies in the hands of the working class.
For us this is unsurprising. Over sixty years after the foundation of the state of Israel on ethnic cleansing, the brutality used by Israel in the occupied territories since 1967 and after seven wars, the Palestinian working class is virtually completely tied to the ideology of nationalism. For those in Gaza and on the West Bank, as well as those in the refugee camps of Lebanon, and scattered across the world, the Palestinian national movement seems to offer dignity, and hope for a better future.
Of course these hopes are illusory. Today the goal of a Palestinian state seems further away than ever. Fatah now plays its role as Israel’s policeman on the West Bank, even, according to Wikileaks urging the Israelis to attack HAMAS in Gaza; Gaza itself has been turned into the biggest prison camp in the world, and HAMAS, have taken on the role of the prison guards. This is what GYBO rails against when they talk of being ‘sick of being beaten by HAMAS.
GYBO still places its hopes in the Palestinian national movement though. They write “regarding Israel, it[HAMAS]’s just as it should be and any group fighting Israel has our full support”, and that “we have ONE enemy which is the Zionist Occupier. Hopefully this call will shake our political leaders, wake them up and remind them that they are responsible of us! Hopefully they will realize that what we want is UNITY, and NO MORE DIVISION,”. This is hardly surprising. When looking from the prison that is Gaza, it must seem that there is very little alternative.
The left (ie the left wing of capitalism) often talks about the Palestinian working class being undefeated. For us the working class in Palestine is the most defeated in the region, and is barely capable of asserting its own interests. Of course that doesn’t mean that it is non-existent, or that it doesn’t struggle at all. However, even when it does manage to struggle such as in the teachers’ strike of August 2006, which was joined by many other public sector workers who hadn’t been paid their wages for seven months, the demonstrations ended up turning into gun battles between the rival Palestinian factions. Incidentally HAMAS’ attitude to these strikes was very clear. They firmly denounced them, and called for workers to break the strike, which they said had “no relation to national interests”. This is, of course, a line heard by workers all over the world.
Unlike the Trotskyists, Maoists and others we don’t cheer on the war against Israel from afar. We don’t think that it offers any future for the working class in Palestine except getting them murdered in defence of HAMAS’, or Fatah’s ‘national interests’. For us, we don’t see that there is a solution to the problems within either Palestine or Israel. It is not, for us, a question of endless arguments about whether the Palestinians should be fighting for a one state, or two state solution. The answer lies somewhere else completely.
At the moment there is much talk in the Arabic media of a new Intifada in Tunisia, and not only in Tunisia alone as it seems to be spreading across the border into Algeria. Here we have working class people fighting not for the interests of the nation, but for their own class interests. For us this offers a glimpse of where the solution to the Palestinian question lies, in workers uniting across international boundaries to fight for their own interests, not ‘national interests’. These struggles go beyond just the Arab world and are exactly the same struggles against austerity and job cuts faced by workers everywhere.
D 15/1/11