Today, nine days into a campaign of extermination by Israel, the Gaza strip is the largest open-air prison camp the world has seen. Commentators the world over are outraged by the carnage of the 1.5-million Gazans and the complicity of bourgeois governments in the West. True to form, the US vetoed a UNSC resolution condemning the ground offensive of yesterday, but no one should expect anything different. The UN is the pocket toy of the US, serving its interests. What is needed, amidst the condemnation of Israel’s aggression and the West’s (the EU and US) support for it, complicity of the Arab bourgeoisie and the pressure-politics of Hamas, is a political perspective that can carry the working class in the Middle East beyond the nationalist and religious concoctions on offer. First, however, we need to take a look at the argument justifying the Israeli state’s campaign of terror in Gaza.
There is one single view (the rest are mere regurgitations of the same thing) in support of Israel’s butchery in Gaza. Israel acts in self-defence, the view holds. It (Israel, it is) had no choice but to respond to the rocket attacks of Hamas on its population in southern Israel. Hamas, it says, broke the peace agreement by firing rockets into Israel and Israel exhibited great restraint by clutching the last fragile semblances of peace. Rubbish! There is nothing peaceful in a policy of lebensraum and starving a population to death through apartheid walls and unremitting incursions. An oppressed people have an inviolable right to free themselves from their oppressors by any means necessary, with their own organisations and methods of struggle. Going from one military adventure to another, now Lebanon, now Gaza, destroying entire civil societies are hardly actions of peace.
It is correct to defend Hamas against Israel’s state violence and the assassination of its leaders. But Hamas’ political outlook is a trap for the people it defends. It (Hamas) does not base its actions on the building of working class organs and a considered linking up with the working class across the Arab world. The call for the creation of some sort of state in Gaza de-linked from another mini-state in the West Bank is exactly the sort of balkanisation the working class and its allies in the Middle East can ill afford. It fuels the bankrupt policies of the Zionist regime, for the Israeli state yearns for the solution to expel the million odd Arabs living in its cities. This so-called “two-state phase” will be a fundamental step back for the struggling Palestinian people.
It is unlikely that Hamas will embrace an outlook basing its resistance against the US-Israeli violence on politics that transcend the national boundaries of Gaza and Israel, but this is exactly what is necessary. There must be a sustained effort to link the struggles of the working class of Gaza with the struggles of Israeli workers. Israel is a society based on tremendous inequality and the political reawakening of working class struggles in the Middle East, marked by the last few days’ popular outbursts against Israel and the rotten bourgeois Arab governments, is proof of an objective basis for a consistently working class policy of struggle in the region. No other process will bring lasting peace to Gaza, let alone the region.
The current unleashing of violence by Israel on Gaza is aimed at installing some government acceptable to the diktats of Israel — a sort of Middle East regime change. No doubt, beneath this all lies the incessant rivalry between the dollar and the euro. There is no need to justify the methods of struggle of the people of Gaza and their organisations. What is necessary is to measure these with the interests of the working class, refashion the tools of struggle and drive Israel and all bourgeois interests out with the hammer of mass working class action and the anvil of Gazan and Israeli worker solidarity.