Palestine: a New Round of Factional Warfare

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On June 16, 2007 Hamas’ routing of Fatah-led security forces in Gaza made the headlines. The event was described as a ‘coup’, a violent and bloody take-over that made all the ‘democratic’ and ‘peace loving’ factions of the local and international ruling class shake in indignation. They all lifted their eyebrows, pointed their finger, and cried, “Criminals, criminals!” By portraying Hamas as the ‘bad guy’, the untrustworthy and violent Palestinian faction by virtue of its affiliation with radical Islam and ‘terrorism’, the Israeli, Abbas’ faction in Palestine, Fatah, and the US bourgeoisies have cast themselves in the light of the ‘good guys’, the ones that supposedly are ‘really’ looking for ways to establish ‘peace’ in the area.

Without taking away from Hamas the honor of being a cut-throat power-seeking bunch of gangsters, their ambition and brutality merely rivals that of our ‘pro-West’ ‘peace-lovers’. If we were to believe their sincerity, we would have to conclude that it was certainly a sense of righteousness, and not brash hypocrisy, that made Ehud Olmert, Israel’s Prime Minister, find the nerve to say, “ The residents of the West Bank will feel that choosing the path of no terror or violence, the way of peace and dialogue will bring a better , more comfortable, more peaceful life.” But he is not the only one who feels self-rigthous. The soon-to-be peace ambassador to the Middle East is no less a person than Tony Blair, that other accomplice of Mr. Bush in the imperialist butchery going on in Iraq.

Of course, the working class has learned that when the ruling class talks about ‘peace’, they only mean “the peace of the tombs”, as a closer look at what’s happening right now in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank sadly and tragically confirms. Or can the working class expect these leaders to be able to accomplish what they promise? If the ruling class cannot make peace in the Middle East --or anywhere else on the planet--, what prevents them from doing so? Is there any other force in society that can lead humanity out of the infernal chaos of irrational barbarism we have spiraled into?

No, there will not be any peace in the Middle East. Any respite from open fight has been and will continue to be a moment for the imperialist gangsters of any stripes and size to ‘sharpen their knives’ in view of even more brutal and bloodier confrontations which every state and more and more even the various factions within it wage in order to either gain or maintain a position of dominance. This has been the tendency in the period following the collapse of the Eastern bloc, and it has aggravated to the point where there are genuine examples of loss of control by the faction who seemingly had the upper hand or was working toward that goal. This, in fact, is what has just happened in Gaza. We do not live in a world divided into ‘reasonable’, ‘equitable’, ‘law-abiding’ nations on the one hand, and ‘backward fanatics’ and ‘terrorists’ on the other. We live under a capitalist regime that has no more room to expand without doing so at another nation’s (or would-be nation) expense.

The US and Israel have made deals with Abbas and the Palestinian faction he supports ---Fatah-- since Fatah’s opposing faction --Hamas—won the elections in 2006. This is because it would be an embarrassment for the US to have to make deals with a political organization that has links with the ‘terrorists’ the US vows to liberate the planet of. Of course, this stance would not be different if the opposition to the US/Israel domination in the area had a different ideology or affiliation. The point is that the US or Israel cannot tolerate contenders in the area. On the ideological level, the US/Israel opposition to Hamas aims to show that there are advantages in cooperating with Israel, which promises to be so ‘humanitarian’ when such cooperation takes place, as the talk about unfreezing the 100 million dollars it had frozen at the time of Hamas’ victory, part of a blockade against Hamas, is supposed to confirm. However, the right-wing factions in Olmert’s government have not supported his policy of openness toward Fatah, and have pressured Olmert to renew the policy of settling Israelis in Gaza and destroying Palestinian homes in Jerusalem. The impossibility to reach any agreement was clearly seen when Israel authorized Egypt to deliver weapons to Fatah so that they could be used against Hamas and in its renewal of air raids on the Gaza strip and operations in the West Bank.

In fact, the US and Israel had set out to destroy Hamas, notwithstanding the US’ claims that it wants to ‘spread democracy’ throughout the ‘undemocratic world’. Well, Hamas raised to power precisely through democratic elections, but because of all the reasons described above, it could not be tolerated. The US itself handed weapons to Fatah to accomplish the destruction of Hamas.

To add insult to injury, Abbas declared he wanted to hold elections in Gaza, a real provocation for Hamas, who, of course, has not been just sitting around waiting to see what would happen. It was quite inevitable that Hamas would try and get Fatah’s security forces out of its air. In fact, such are the tension and chaos that if Hamas hadn’t struck, Fatah would have. This, however, was not what the US wanted. As in many other instances when the US has wanted to push its ‘democratic’ agenda in areas where historically bourgeois democracy has not developed, the result has been further chaos, and, as in the case in Gaza, loss of control, whereby the US’ original design came back to haunt it.

Now, Fatah gunmen are taking revenge. Hamas will certainly follow suit, as the whole area will spin into an orgy of violence and madness. Organizations that have supported either Palestinian faction and have now turned mostly to armed robbery, extortion, and car theft rings, will join in the mayhem and further the spread of instability. The entire situation is in fact so fragile and critical that it is very likely that Hamas will open its arms to Al-Qaida, who has been trying to get its own foothold in the area. This is the perspective for the area, not a ‘re-opening’ of the ‘peace process’.

But it was in the midst of this uncontrollable chaos, and as a direct result of the blockade imposed on Hamas, that in March 170,000 civil servants in Gaza and the West Bank went on strike, seeing that they hadn’t been paid their salaries for months. The Israeli civil servants followed suit. It is true that Hamas and Fatah, blaming each other for the situation, exploited it to try and recruit angered Palestinians, including children 10-15 year old, mesmerized by the idea of a warrior’s death, who continue to take revenge on Israeli civilians, while Israel continued its raids into the West Bank and Gaza. It is certain that the Palestinian and Israeli working class have not waged their struggle in unison and with the consciousness of belonging to the same international working class, however, it is in their struggle that we can glimpse the only perspective for humanity. It is the struggle of the working class against exploitation that has the potential of going beyond the nationalist, ethnic, religious differences and divisions that mire the population in an endless spiral of irrational mayhem. It is because by showing what is universal in the human condition of the proletariat – its exploitation – the working class struggle unveils the root cause of the contradictions that are ripping society apart, while at the same time it also points to the way out.

What will save the population in the Middle East and lay the basis for a total resolution of the area’s decades-long conflict will not be any ‘re-start’ of any ‘peace process’, but the unified, international struggle of the working class leading to the taking of political power and the destruction of the moribund capitalist state. Ana, 7/1/07