At the end of June the misery of life for people living in the Gaza Strip got worse than ever as Israeli armed forces struck again. Already suffering from shortages, and no strangers to sieges, bombings, blockades and incursions, they were invaded by Israel, supposedly in an attempt to rescue 19-year-old Corporal Gilad Shalit, kidnapped by the armed wing of Hamas.
In a major escalation of the situation, Israel’s offensive involved the bombing of major roads, bridges, and the area’s only power plant. The attack on the latter not only brought power cuts but severely affected water supplies and sewerage that are dependent on electricity. Repairs will take six months. Gaza was sealed off: no food, bottled water or fuel allowed in. The navy has been patrolling the coast and preventing fishing boats from going out.
Israeli planes jetting across the territory create sonic booms that sound like explosions. 180 miles away they buzzed one of Syrian President Assad’s palaces. Meanwhile they’ve arrested 8 Hamas cabinet ministers, 64 MPs and dozens of officials while bombing other targets such as the Palestinian interior ministry, training camps, arms storage facilities and sites used to fire rockets at Israel.
Internationally Israel has been condemned for its ‘excessive’ response. In Britain an initial official statement condemned the attacks as examples of collective punishment, that is to say, in terms of the Geneva Convention, as war crimes. Even US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice went as far as calling for “restraint”. Some think it’s understandable that Israel would want to ‘stand up to terrorism’, while others caution Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, that he doesn’t have to prove that he can be as brutal as his predecessor Ariel Sharon.
The UN warn about the dangers of a humanitarian crisis, but it is just another of the bodies that has been an accomplice in the permanent crisis that has convulsed the Middle East throughout the last 90 years.
With the exception of the Hamas figures that have been detained, the victims of Israel’s attacks are the 1.4 million people (800,000 living in eight refugee camps) in the Gaza Strip. They are people that have been driven from their homes in a series of wars that go as far back as the mass expulsions that accompanied the establishment of Israel in 1948. After Cpl Gilad’s kidnap the Rafah crossing with Egypt, in southern Gaza was closed. A hole was blown in the border wall, but Palestinian forces prevented people from escaping. Gaza is one big prison camp, its warders the Palestinian Authority, Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and all the rest of the nationalists mobilised for imperialist war and social peace.
The way out of this hell-hole
Many people will be suspicious of the sympathy from leading figures in the US state, as American imperialism’s support for Israel is well known. Major European powers such as Britain, France and Germany are quicker to condemn Israel, but this is rather transparently in defence of their own imperialist strategies in the Middle East. But, even if it’s possible to see the corruption of Fatah and the terrorism of Hamas, some people still reason that it’s necessary to ‘support the oppressed’ against Israel, the US or whatever imperialist power stands in the way of Palestinian ‘national liberation’. It’s like the situation in Iraq. Sure, it’s reasoned, suicide bombing and random attacks on civilians are out of the question (except for the more bloodthirsty leftists who say that suicide bombings are the only weapons the dispossessed have), but isn’t there something positive in supporting the Iraqi ‘resistance’?
The only way to get an answer to such questions is to understand the forces at play. Why, to start with, does Israel respond in such a brutal way on the flimsy pretext of caring for a young soldier? The recently-revealed possibility that Hamas might be prepared to ‘recognise’ Israel at some future time is not what Israel wanted to hear. They are agreed to a ‘two state’ solution in the area, but only if the other state is subordinate to them and in no way a potential threat. Hamas, at present, only sees ‘two states’ as a step to one unified Palestinian state. There is no way that Israel could accept any steps down that road. The invasion of Gaza is partly to intimidate and partly to debilitate Hamas. It’s also a severe attack on the Palestinian population, demonstrating what will happen if there is continuing support for Hamas.
But why the intensity of antagonism between the Israeli state and the Palestinian proto state? That can only be understood in the framework of nation states worldwide. Every capitalist state is not just in economic competition with every other but needs to ensure that it has the military means to defend its interests. Every state is imperialist because no country can act outside of the context of a constricted world market. In that international context it comes up against other powers big and small. In the Middle East in particular there are not just rival neighbours and the various guerrilla forces that they sponsor, but also the highly interested intervention of the major powers. No state can feel comfortable in the face of its neighbours’ and others’ ambitions.
It might be a cliché to see Israel as a small (if well-armed) country surrounded by deadly rivals, but that’s basically the situation for every national capital. In the case of the various Palestinian factions their ambition is to establish their own capitalist state, and that too would be imperialist. This has nothing to do with the struggle of the oppressed. No national struggle can escape capitalism’s global framework. Nationalism is the terrain of the oppressor, not the oppressed. The struggles for Palestinian ‘liberation’ or the Iraqi ‘resistance’ are as imperialist as the foreign policies of the US, Germany, France or Britain.
At present, for all its economic and military strength, the position of US imperialism is weakening. Where once it could impose the order of a Pax Americana, it is now faced with growing military chaos. It’s clear, for example, that it wants to confront Iran, but given the mess in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is currently unable to open up yet another theatre of war. Those who argue in favour of supporting the ‘resistance’ groups in Palestine and Iraq say that this proves that their activities are weakening imperialism. But if US domination is growing weaker, its imperialist rivals can only benefit. Furthermore, the very demise of US power will oblige it to strike back even more savagely in future.
It is impossible to oppose imperialism without confronting its roots in the global capitalist system. And capitalism can only be uprooted by the struggle of the working class in all countries. Car 30/6/6