War in the Middle East: another step towards barbarism and global chaos

Printer-friendly version

On 7 October, with a hail of rockets, a horde of Islamists unleashed terror on Israeli towns neighbouring the Gaza Strip. In the name of "just revenge" against "the crimes of the occupation", in the name of "Muslims the world over" against the "Zionist regime", Hamas and its allies sent thousands of fanatical "fighters" to commit the worst atrocities against defenceless civilians, women, the elderly and even children. Hamas' savagery knew no bounds: murder, rape, torture, kidnappings, targeted schools, innocent people chased from their homes, thousands hurt...

No sooner had the vile atrocities of Hamas been repelled than the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) unleashed its full murderous might on the Gaza Strip in the name of the fight for "light" against "darkness". At the time of writing, the Israeli air force is relentlessly bombing the overcrowded enclave over which Hamas reigns, indiscriminately wiping out civilians and terrorists alike, while the IDF has just cut the Gaza Strip in two and encircled its capital. By "raining hellfire on Hamas", Netanyahu's government is indiscriminately razing homes to the ground and taking thousands of innocent victims to their graves, including thousands of children.

A totally irrational conflict

The attack of Hamas stunned the whole world. Israel, a State whose bourgeoisie cultivates in its population day after day, year after year, a fortress mentality, a state with intelligence services, Mossad and Shin Bet, among the most renowned in the world, a state that has long been an ally of the United States and its arsenal of surveillance... Israel apparently saw nothing coming: neither suspicious Hamas exercises, nor the concentration of thousands of rockets and men. Nor did the Israeli State heed the many warnings, particularly those from neighbouring Egypt.

There are several possible explanations for this surprise:

- Netanyahu and his clique are so divided and stupid, marked by the weight of populism and the worst religious delusions, focused on defending their small immediate interests and obsessed by control of the West Bank and the "reconquest of the promised land", that they may have underestimated the imminence of the attack by concentrating IDF forces in this region.

- Opposed by parts of the Israeli bourgeoisie, the army and the secret services, it is also possible that Netanyahu deliberately ignored the warnings in an attempt to regain control of the political situation in Israel by attempting "national unity". Just as it is entirely possible that part of the state apparatus failed to inform the government of the imminent attack in order to weaken it further.

What is certain, in any case, is that before 7 October, Netanyahu did everything he could to strengthen the power and resources of Hamas insofar as this organisation was, like him and the whole of the Israeli right, totally opposed to the 1993 Oslo Accords[1] which envisaged Palestinian autonomy. It was "Bibi" himself who claimed responsibility for this policy: “Anyone who wants to combat the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support the strengthening of Hamas and transferring money to Hamas. This is part of our strategy". These words were spoken by Netanyahu on 11 March 2019 to Likud MPs (reported by the major Israeli daily Haaretz on 9 October).

For the moment, it is difficult to determine the causes of this fiasco on the part of the Israeli security forces. But each of the two hypotheses, like the dynamic into which the Middle East is sinking, reveals the growing chaos that reigns in the political apparatus of the Israeli bourgeoisie: the instability of government coalitions, massive corruption, trials for fraud, legislative wheeling and dealing, controversial judicial reform that poorly conceals the settling of scores within the state apparatus, the supremacist ravings of the ultra-orthodox... All this against a backdrop of rising inflation and a real explosion in poverty.

As for the so-called Hamas "resistance", the very presence of this organisation, which competes with a PLO rotten to the core, at the head of the Gaza Strip is a caricature of the chaos and irrationality into which the Palestinian bourgeoisie has plunged. When Hamas is not bloodily suppressing demonstrations against the soaring cost of living, as it did in March 2019 (which gives a good indication of the fate of the "Palestinian people" once they are "liberated" from "Zionist colonialism"...), when its mafia-like leaders are not gorging themselves on international aid (Hamas is one of the richest terrorist organisations on the planet), when it is not fomenting terrorist attacks, this bloodthirsty group is preaching a most obscurantist, racist and delusional ideology.

The state of Israel and Hamas, at different times and with different means, have followed the lowest of policies that have led to today's massacres. In the end, this will not benefit either of the two belligerents, but will spread destruction and barbarism even further.

Accelerating global chaos

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is clearly not a strictly local one. Less than two years after the outbreak of war in Ukraine, at a time when a whole series of conflicts are being rekindled in the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Sahel, this bloody conflagration is not just another episode in a conflict that has been going on for decades. On the contrary, it represents a significant new stage in the acceleration of global chaos.

In the near future, the possibility that Israel will be forced to wage a war on three fronts against Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran cannot be ruled out. An extension of the conflict would have major global repercussions, starting with a huge influx of refugees from Gaza and the West Bank and destabilising the countries neighbouring Israel. It would also have particularly devastating immediate consequences for the global economy as a whole, given the importance of the Middle East in oil production.

The spread of the conflict to Europe, with a series of deadly attacks, should also not be underestimated. An attack claimed by Islamic State has already been carried out in Belgium. A teacher was also brutally murdered in France on 13 October by a young Islamist, less than a week after the Hamas offensive.

But it is not enough to wait for the conflict to spread to gauge its immediate international dimension.[2] The scale of the Hamas attack and the level of preparation it required leave little doubt about the involvement of Iran, which is clearly ready to set the whole region ablaze in defence of its immediate strategic interests and in an attempt to break out of its isolation. The Islamic Republic has set a real trap for Netanyahu. It is also the reason why Teheran and its allies have stepped up their provocations, with Hezbollah and the Houthis (Yemen) firing missiles at Israeli positions. Russia has also undoubtedly played a role in the Hamas offensive, which it hopes will weaken US and European support for Ukraine.

Even if the violence does not spread to the whole of the Middle East in the immediate future, the dynamic of destabilisation is inescapable. In this respect, the situation can only worry China: not only would it weaken its oil supplies, but it would also represent a considerable obstacle to the construction of its "Silk Roads" with their gigantic port, rail and oil infrastructures. However, China, which finds itself in an ambivalent position here, could also contribute to the chaos by ending up openly supporting Iran, in the hope of easing American pressure in the Pacific.

This conflict shows the extent to which each state is increasingly applying a "scorched earth" policy to defend its interests, seeking not to gain influence or conquer interests, but to sow chaos and destruction among its rivals.

This tendency towards strategic irrationality, short-sightedness, unstable alliances, and each against all is not an arbitrary policy of this or that state, nor the product of the sheer stupidity of this or that bourgeois faction in power. It is the consequence of the historical conditions, those of the decomposition of capitalism, in which all states confront each other.[3] With the outbreak of war in Ukraine, this historical tendency and the weight of militarism on society have profoundly worsened. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict confirms the extent to which imperialist war is now the main destabilising factor in capitalist society. The product of the contradictions of capitalism, the winds of war in turn feed the fire of these same contradictions, increasing, through the weight of militarism, the economic crisis, the environmental catastrophe, the dismemberment of society... This dynamic tends to rot all parts of society, to weaken all nations, starting with the first among them: the United States.

The irreversible weakening of American leadership

Western heads of state rushed to Israel's bedside, initially with some trepidation and doubts about how best to handle the situation. The French President, for once, made a fool of himself in a diplomatic stand-off, calling for the coalition created in 2014 against the Islamic State to be mobilised against Hamas, before pathetically backtracking in the evening.

By rushing to Tel Aviv and Israel's neighbours, the European powers are seeking to take advantage of the situation to regain a foothold in the region. But it was still Biden who set the tone by trying to put pressure on Israel to avoid too much bloodshed in Gaza. He also sent two aircraft carriers to the area to send a message of resolve to Hezbollah and Iran.

When the United States made its "strategic pivot" towards Asia under Obama (a policy pursued by Trump and Biden), it did not abandon its influence in the Middle East. Washington worked, notably through the Abraham Accords, to establish a system of alliances between Israel and several Arab countries, in particular Saudi Arabia, to contain Iran's imperialist aspirations, delegating responsibility for maintaining order to the Israeli state.

But this was without taking into account the growing instability of alliances and the deep-seated tendency to go it alone. The Israeli bourgeoisie has never ceased to put its own imperialist interests ahead of those of the United States. While Washington favours a two-state "solution", Netanyahu has increased the number of annexations in the West Bank, risking setting the region on fire, while counting on American military and diplomatic support if the conflict escalates. The United States now finds itself backed into a corner by Israel, forced to support Netanyahu's irresponsible policy.

Biden's reaction, shows how little confidence the US administration has in Netanyahu's clique and how worried it is about the prospect of a catastrophic conflagration in the Middle East. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict puts further pressure on US imperialist policy, which could prove calamitous if expanded. Washington would then have to assume a considerable military presence and support for Israel, which could only weigh heavily, not only on the US economy, but also on its support for Ukraine and, even more so, on its strategy to contain China's expansion.

The pro-Palestinian rhetoric of Turkey, an "incurable" member of NATO, will also contribute to weakening the United States in the region, just as the tensions between Israel and several Latin American countries will no doubt accentuate tensions with its North American sponsor. Washington is therefore trying to prevent the situation from getting out of hand... a perfectly illusory ambition in the long term, given the disastrous dynamic into which the Middle East is sinking.

The impact of the war on the working class

The images of the atrocities committed by Hamas and the IDF have travelled around the world and, everywhere, the bourgeoisie has called on us to choose sides. On all the television channels and in all the newspapers, on the left and on the right, foul war propaganda, often crude, sometimes more subtle, is unleashed, telling everyone to choose between "Palestinian resistance" and "Israeli democracy", as if there was no other choice but to support one or the other of these bloodthirsty bourgeois cliques.

Parts of the bourgeoisie, particularly in Europe and North America, are unleashing a ferocious campaign to legitimise the war and the atrocities of the Israeli army: “We defend the right of Israel to exist, to defend itself, and guarantee security for its people. And we perfectly understand that terrorism has to be fought" (Italian Prime Minister Meloni). Of course, the bourgeoisie will cover itself in humanitarian virtues as they hypocritically deplore the civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip. But rest assured, German Chancellor Scholz is certain: “Israel is a democratic state with very humanitarian principles that guide it and we can therefore be sure that the Israeli army will respect the rules of international law in what it does ".

The bourgeoisie can also rely on its left-wing parties to feed its dirty nationalist propaganda. Almost all of them advocate the defence of Palestine. Their rhetoric ranges from the supposed defence of the Palestinian people who have been bombed to shameless support for the barbarians of Hamas. Gigantic pro-Palestinian demonstrations have been organised in London and Berlin, exploiting the legitimate disgust aroused by the bombing of Gaza.

It is true that the working class is not today in a position to directly oppose the war and its horrors. But choosing one imperialist camp against another is a fatal trap. Because it means accepting the logic of war, which is "hatred, fractures and divisions between human beings, death for death's sake, the institutionalisation of torture, submission, power struggles, as the only logic of social evolution".[4] Because it means taking at face value the shameless lies that the bourgeoisie repeats at every conflict: "After this war, peace will return". Because, above all, it means siding with the interests of the bourgeoisie (defending national capital at all costs, even if it means driving humanity into the grave) and abandoning the fight for the only perspective really capable of putting an end to the murderous dynamic of capitalism: the fight to defend the historic interests of the proletariat, the fight for communism.

The vast majority of workers in Israel and Palestine have let themselves be drawn onto the terrain of nationalism and war. However, through the unprecedented series of struggles in many countries, in Britain, France and the United States in particular, the working class has shown that it is capable of fighting, if not against war and militarism themselves, then against the economic consequences of war, against the sacrifices demanded by the bourgeoisie to fuel its war economy. This is a fundamental stage in the development of combativeness and, ultimately, of class consciousness.[5] The war in the Middle East, with the deepening of the crisis and the additional armament requirements it will generate in the four corners of the planet, will only increase the objective conditions for this break.

But this war carries with it as yet unforeseeable dangers for the working class. If the massacres continue to worsen or spread, the feeling of powerlessness and the divisions within the working class are likely to constitute a significant obstacle to the development efforts towards combativity and reflection. As shown by the pro-Palestinian demonstrations, the conflict in the Middle East is likely to have a very negative impact on the working class, particularly in France, the United Kingdom and Germany, where the presence of large numbers of Jews and Muslims, combined with the inflammatory rhetoric of governments, makes the situation more than explosive.

The Israeli-Palestinian war is undoubtedly causing a feeling of powerlessness and serious divisions within the working class. But the immensity of the dangers and the task ahead must not lead us to fatalism. If today the ruling class is filling workers’ heads with nationalist and war propaganda, the crisis into which capitalism is sinking is also creating the conditions for massive struggles to erupt and for a process of reflection to emerge, first among revolutionary minorities and then within the working class as a whole.

EG, 6 November 2023


[1] Signed by Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the PLO, and Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel

[2] The shameless lies of leftists and Stalinists of all stripes, who distort the Bolsheviks' position on national liberation struggles (already wrong at the time) to justify their cynical support for the "Palestinian cause" in the name of the struggle of an "oppressed people" against "Zionist colonialism", is pure hypocrisy. It is more than obvious that Hamas is a pawn in the great international imperialist chessboard, largely supported and armed by Iran and, to a lesser extent, Russia.

[3] On this subject, we invite our readers to consult two of our texts on the subject:

- the update of " Militarism and Decomposition (May 2022) ", International Review no. 168 (2022);

- Third Manifesto of the ICC: "Capitalism leads to the destruction of humanity... Only the world revolution of the proletariat can put an end to it" (2022).

[4] Third Manifesto of the ICC

[5] To encourage reflection on the reality of the rupture currently taking place within the working class: “The struggle is ahead of us!", World Revolution no. 398 (2023).



Neither Israel nor Palestine