We recently received the following article written by an Egyptian Marxist on the events in Israel/Palestine over recent weeks. Although it was written on 18 May – the day of the general strike that united Palestinians, and before the ceasefire – and events have since moved on, we nevertheless believe it will be of general interest to our readers. For further analysis on the unfolding of events since the general strike, click here.
At the time of writing, brutal airstrikes by Israel’s air force against the Gaza Strip have killed over 200 Palestinians, including dozens of children, in full view of the world. The responsibility for this slaughter is borne by the Israeli state, and especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who ignited the conflict in order to cling to power. Fearing imprisonment for corruption if opposition parties were able to form a coalition government and oust him, he decided to commit a massacre in Gaza, which claimed hundreds of victims, to prove to his reactionary base, including settler gangs and a hardcore of fascists, that he is the “strong man” in Israel.
The 220 casualties in Gaza and 25 in the West Bank are not just statistics. These were human beings who had lived their whole lives trapped under Zionist occupation, and who have been killed on the altar of expansionist politics and the personal ambitions of the Israeli ruling class. And this is not to mention the thousands wounded. The Israeli state has committed war crimes in Gaza, including the bombardment of civilian homes and roads leading to hospitals.
These barbaric attacks have displaced about 44,000 people who were forced to flee for their lives from their homes in northern Gaza. They were forced to crowd into UNRWA buildings, where they face high risk of infection from COVID-19. In short, this was an indiscriminate war against the people of Gaza in particular, and the Palestinians in general.
The development of the Palestinian struggle
The interconnected issues facing the Palestinian struggle today have the potential to open the door to revolutionary developments in the coming years. If Marxists in Palestine take advantage of the opportunity, they could change the course of the Palestinian liberation struggle, steering it for the first time away from the path that it has been on since the Nakba, littered as it is with defeats stretching over 73 years.
What we are seeing today is a wave of struggle led by a new generation of youth who are looking for new tactics. They reject the leadership of a subservient Fatah and a reactionary Hamas. The new methods we have seen this new generation deploy are rightly feared by the Israeli state. We have seen the mass resistance by the people of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood against attempts to expel them from their homes; the implementation of ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem through demographic change, and a massive backlash in many cities within the Green Line, such as Haifa, Lod, Nazareth, Umm al-Fahm and Yaffa.
Over several consecutive days, clashes have taken place in many cities in the interior of 1948 Israel between the Palestinian masses on one side, and the Zionist police and the fascist settler gangs on the other. The latter form the core of Netanyahu’s base. The clashes on the streets have left hundreds wounded and more than 1,000 Palestinians arrested. With the help of the Zionist police, far-right gangs stormed several Palestinian homes and attacked their residents. They were searching the streets, in a frenzied campaign, for Palestinians to beat and arrest for the crime of being Arabs.
However, the struggle and heroic steadfastness of the people of Jerusalem and the cities of the interior (inside the Green Line) continued, despite the losses, and the brutal and inhuman repression. We support the right of the Palestinian masses to defend themselves by any means necessary, and we call for the formation of groups to defend Arab neighborhoods in the inner cities. These bodies should be subject to neighborhood councils, and serve to defend the Palestinian masses against the fascist attacks of settlers and the armed forces of the Zionist state. Such bodies have begun to appear in embryonic form in Haifa and other cities. We call for developing and generalising them, and linking these committees together.
The call for a strike inside the Green Line today (Tuesday 18 May) was an important revolutionary development and a return to the right track, in terms of using working-class and mass tactics. In the event that this strike succeeds – and most likely it will – this day will be a pivotal point in the third Palestinian Intifada. The call to strike in occupied West Bank is another important revolutionary development, which must be exploited not only against the occupation but also against the puppet Palestinian Authority (PA). Since its inception, the PA has had no other goal than to coordinate with the occupation, working as a guard dog to suppress Palestinian militants in the West Bank. Our enemy is not just the Israeli state, but also this traitorous misleadership of the Palestinian cause.
This strike must be used in the inner cities to develop an alternative, militant leadership of the Palestinian movement that derives its legitimacy from the strike committees. The strike in the West Bank must also be used to produce such a mass leadership there. This is the most important task for the Marxists and revolutionaries in Palestine to undertake, to derive leadership bodies from the strike both in the occupied territories and the internal cities, and to link them up. Such an alternative leadership could change the course of the Palestinian liberation struggle. The goal now must be for the strike to succeed. It is true that a one-day strike offers very little time for this leadership to emerge. But this is the perspective that Marxists and revolutionaries in Palestine must push for.
Towards building a new Palestinian strategy and leadership
73 years of occupation, sacrifices, and personal and collective tragedies have proven the error and futility of the so-called Palestinian leadership’s tactics, be they Fatah or Hamas. Let there be no misunderstanding: we will never take a ‘neutral’ position on the massacre that is taking place now, nor in the Palestinian liberation struggle as a whole. There is no neutrality on this issue. We, as Marxists, always stand with the oppressed against the oppressor. We support the right of oppressed peoples to resist and defend themselves. But nonetheless, a true friend of the cause must clearly criticise those methods that actually set back the fight for Palestinian freedom. The methods of ‘resistance’ adopted by the Palestinian leadership for the past 73 years have not taken the struggle forward by even so much as an inch. We call for the adoption of a revolutionary solution, which from our point of view is the only way to liberate Palestine and bring down the Israeli state.
Fatah and the Palestinian Authority behind it, which represents the interests of the wealthy businessmen in Palestine – the Palestinian bourgeoisie that is organically and economically linked to the occupation – is a complete puppet of regional and imperialist regimes. It betrayed the Palestinian masses when regional regimes betrayed them, and signed the Oslo agreement. This agreement was a crude betrayal of all the struggles and sacrifices of the Palestinian masses over decades. The leaders of the Fatah movement climbed onto the shoulders of the masses, the youth and Palestinian militants, to reach the seat of authority that the occupation had secured for them. They do the dirty work so the Israeli state does not have to bear the burden of direct control over millions of Palestinians in the West Bank. These traitors accepted these comfortable positions, with the assistance of Arab governments, to escape the fighting and struggle they once led.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the representative of the most prominent left-wing forces in Palestine, adopted sterile guerilla tactics that substituted themselves for the mass struggle. However, experience has shown that guerrilla struggle alone is not enough, especially if it is not linked to the masses and an achievable revolutionary project. We understand the motives for guerrilla operations and do not condemn them from a naive, hypocritical, moral standpoint. Rather, we believe that the armed struggle should be a mass struggle, carried out by committees of the armed people, subject to people’s councils in the neighborhoods, workplaces and camps. This struggle cannot be conducted in a manner that is isolated from the masses.
Despite the noble intentions and the heroic sacrifices of the militants of the Popular Front, experience has shown that substitutionalism is the graveyard of revolutionary action. The truth is that the mistakes of the Popular Front leadership since its inception, and the Maoist tactics represented in the guerrilla war, cost the Palestinian liberation struggle its best young elements: the revolutionary vanguard of Palestine. While the motives of such military operations are understandable, they did not advance the goal of liberating Palestine by a single step.
Furthermore, isolated from the movement in training camps in neighboring countries – in Syria in particular – the movement could be turned into a puppet in the hands of the governments of those countries that sheltered and provided them with necessary funding. This prevented the movement from extending its roots into the heart of the masses in the West Bank, Gaza, the interior cities, and the ordinary communities of neighboring countries. This stemmed from the Maoist ideology that the movement embraced from its inception, which called for a dedicated group of guerilla fighters to inspire the masses through the example of their noble struggle.
The genuine Marxist perspective is completely different. Marxists firmly believe that the liberation of the masses must be the act of the masses themselves. We advocate arming the masses, educating them about their historical tasks, and linking the struggle of the Palestinian masses with that of the whole region in a single liberation movement. This is the task of the Marxists in Palestine – not the formation of an army of loyal fighters who will set out to liberate the masses from without.
Meanwhile, Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, and is supported by a large segment of the Gazan population. We understand the motives for this support. The Palestinian masses in Gaza, who are bombed daily, see no force other than Hamas there to protect them against the Israeli state. In the absence of a revolutionary alternative, Hamas has been able to exploit the betrayals by the leaders of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, and presented itself as the only party capable of confronting the Israeli state. Under these circumstances, it is natural that Hamas would enjoy a certain amount of support among the Palestinian masses. In fact, it has succeeded in gathering support not only in Gaza but also in the West Bank, to the point that the name of the movement’s spokesman, Abu Ubaida, has been chanted in several demonstrations in the West Bank.
But Hamas is a reactionary movement, and its ideology and tactics do not provide any real solution for the Palestinians’ plight. The ideology of Hamas presents the struggle as a religious conflict between Muslims and Jews. This only strengthens the Zionist right wing, which in turn presents the conflict as a religious struggle over the the Promised Land. In this way, reaction on both sides lean on each other.
The last thing that the Israeli state fears are the rockets and propaganda of Hamas. The truth is that the struggle of Sheikh Jarrah’s people and the inner cities is what forced the Zionist state to retreat – even if temporarily – from its settlement plans in East Jerusalem, not the rockets of Hamas. Again, it was the struggle of the masses of Jerusalem that took the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Bab Al-Amoud from the hands of the occupation army, again, not the rockets of Hamas. In fact, the decision by Israel to close the Damascus gate was a direct provocation aimed at involving Hamas in rocket attacks against Israel. They understood that this would firstly cut across the methods of mass struggle being used by the Palestinian youth of Jerusalem and elsewhere, and secondly that by striking terror into the Israeli population it would rally the latter behind Netanyahu’s regime.
The Palestinian liberation movement used to be a left-wing socialist movement. But over the course of many years, Israeli intelligence consciously pursued a strategy of supporting Hamas as a counterweight to the left. Benjamin Netanyahu and the Zionist ruling class could not wish for a more precious gift than having a reactionary movement like Hamas leading the Palestinian struggle. They wanted to divert the focus of the conflict from Jerusalem and the inner cities, which cannot be bombed, to the Gaza Strip. On the back of the arrogant policy of the Zionists and the betrayals of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas sought to take the lead in defending the people of Sheikh Jarrah and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
To be clear, we cannot provide the slightest justification for the brutality, occupation, settlement policies and the one-sided war against the Palestinian people that Israel is perpetrating in the Gaza Strip. But Hamas is a religious fundamentalist movement that divides people on the basis of religion – a movement that receives support from reactionary regimes in the region, such as Iran, Qatar, Egypt and others. It is linked to and dependent on the goals of these regimes. Since the emergence of the movement and its control over the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian liberation struggle has not advanced a single centimeter. The rise of Hamas was a colossal setback for the Palestinian struggle.
The anti-imperialist mask Hamas wears is false. Hamas has received and is still receiving the support of many reactionary governments in the region. It, like Fatah before it, has also sought to conclude agreements with the imperialist powers. It also sought to come to an understanding with Israel under the auspices of the prime mover of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, the Egyptian state. Had it not been for the arrogance of the Zionist ruling class and its need for the presence of Hamas as a convenient enemy, there would have been an agreement struck between Hamas and Israel. The movement’s political manifesto, issued in 2017, acknowledged its acceptance of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. This is evidence that Hamas was eager to show its willingness to negotiate with the imperialist powers and the Israeli state by accepting the so-called two-state solution – a solution which is not a solution but a mirage.
The time has come to build the revolutionary leadership that the militant Palestinian masses deserve. The destiny of the Palestinian people cannot be to remain between the hammer of the puppet Palestinian authority and the anvil of the reactionary Hamas movement.
Marxists in Palestine must build an organisation based on the masses, that can channel the revolutionary exertion of the current uprising, and spare the masses years of difficult struggle. A Marxist prespective on the Palestinian liberation struggle, presented by an organisation organically connected to these major events, even if its numbers were small, would gain a huge echo. The young men and women who lead the struggle in Jerusalem, in the interior cities and the West Bank, are rejecting the status quo leadership and factions. It is here that the future revolutionary leaders of the Palestninian movement are being formed. But in order to fulfill their potential, they must arm themselves with the ideas of revolutionary Marxism and develop a revolutionary programme.
International solidarity and hypocrisy of bourgeois governments
The Palestinian struggle today is a key reference point and an inspiration for the struggles of the masses of the region. The cause of Palestine is inscribed on the banner of every worker and youth fighting imperialism across the world today.
The rising of the Palestinian masses, and the massive wave of international solidarity that has followed, show that the struggle of workers, youth and the masses of the world against the capitalist system is one struggle. The demonstrations of hundreds of thousands from Jordan to Britain, from Lebanon to France, from Iraq to the United States, and Canada and others, all show that the struggle against imperialism has begun to take on a mass character.
This shows several things. First, these struggles are rooted in the global crisis of capitalism and attest to its depth. Secondly, they testify to the depth of support for the Palestinian struggle world wide. Thirdly, they show the growing anti-imperialist sentiment worldwide. All these factors herald a revolutionary period that holds many possibilities. But much depends on the readiness of the Marxist forces to take advantage of the developing situation.
Just as the current Palestinian uprising shows the convergence of the Palestinian struggle for liberation with the interests of workers and youth of the world, so it also shows the convergence of the interests of the Zionist ruling class with the interests of the ruling classes in the region and worldwide.
US imperialism predictably declared Israel’s “right to defend itself,” and overlooked the massacre committed in Gaza and the West Bank. It is typical imperial hypocrisy to portray the conflict as a struggle between two equal powers. While in one breath Democratic president Joe Biden spoke about his pursuit of a ceasefire, and a just solution to the conflict, in the next he agreed to sell precision weapons and missiles to Israel.
As for the ‘civilized’ European governments, they have also given their full backing to Israel. France has banned pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Paris. Germany too expressed its support for Israel in the face of Palestinian ‘terrorism’.
The repercussions of the Palestinian uprising are significant for the countries of the region, especially the neighboring countries. The attempt of the Jordanian masses to storm the border on foot is only the beginning. The more intense the Palestinian uprising, the greater its impact on the masses of the region. For the umpteenth time, the hypocritical nature of the bourgeois regimes in the region was revealed. They all hastened to calm the situation, not out of concern for the lives of Palestinians, but out of fear of the domestic impact of the Palestinian uprising inside these countries, if it continues.
The dictatorial regime in Egypt hurriedly sought a ceasefire in Gaza, and to deny accusations of participating in the crimes of the Israeli state. The regime knows that the Egyptian masses are affected by the struggle of the Palestinian people, and the extent of Egyptian popular sympathy with the Palestinian masses in light of the current massacre. Everyone in Egypt is talking about what is happening in Palestine. The regime knows this well, so it is eager to appear as a defender of Gaza, despite blockading it for all these years.
The regime is desperately trying to appear as if it is supporting the Palestinians, but all of the measures it has taken reveal a completely different picture. Sisi has graciously opened the border to Gaza in order to let out wounded people – who will then have to wait for many hours to cross into Egypt. It is presenting this as the highest form of humanitarianism. But the main question is this: if the regime cares so much for the plight of the Palestinians, why is it not opening the borders for everyone? Why is it still maintaining the blockade on Gaza, giving no room for Palestinians to escape Israeli bombardment? This is the role the Egyptian regime has played for decades. Of course, after all the death and destruction is finished, Sisi will mercifully donate an aid package worth $500m for reconstruction... to be carried out by Egyptian companies! Furthermore, Sisi has been pushing for ceasefire negotiations as a means to push aside the gulf states, who in his eyes have been encroaching on Egypt’s role as the main negotiator with Israel over the destiny of the Palestinians.
The whole thing reeks of cynicism and hypocrisy, and Sisi, like all the other leaders of the region, is co-responsibile for the oppression of the Palestinian masses. What the Egyptian regime fears most is that the movement in Palestine will spill over into Egypt itself, and that demonstrations will erupt in solidarity with the Palestinian uprising. In fact, in the past period it has arrested several people who raised the Palestinian flag or who tried to burn the Israeli flag.
The Jordanian regime, which carried out one of the largest massacres of the Palestinian masses in the events of Black September 1970, is also trying to paint itself as the defender of Jerusalem. The King of Jordan, who revels in his position as the custodian of Islamic and religious sanctity in Jerusalem, is the same character who prevented the Jordanian masses on the border from supporting their brothers and sisters on the other bank of the river.
The Israeli state would not have been able to get away with many of its crimes against the Palestinian masses had it not been for the complicity of these regimes in the region. Our uncompromising opposition to the bourgeois regimes that rule us is no less than our opposition to the Israeli state itself, for these regimes are among the biggest obstacles to liberation of Palestine. To use a phrase made famous by its use historically by the Palestinian left: “The best thing you can do for the Palestinian cause is to struggle against your own reactionary regimes”.
The solution to the Palestinian issue lies in a revolutionary movement of the region as a whole. What must be established is an alliance of all the working people of the Middle East and North Africa against all the reactionary regimes, who in spite of their internal divisions, are uniting in oppressing the workers, poor and the youth everywhere. Of particular importance are the revolutions in the three main countries of the Middle East (Egypt, Turkey and Iran). A socialist revolution in any of these countries would send shockwaves throughout the region including inside Israel.
Already during the Egyptian revolution of 2011 we saw hundreds of thousands of Israelis taking to the streets under slogans such as “Walk like an Egyptian”. A socialist revolution in any of the neighbouring countries would have a far deeper impact and it would significantly undermine the Zionist regime. Under such conditions the workers’ state, with a Marxist revolutionary party at its head, could launch a revolutionary war against the Israeli state, with a programme aimed at dividing Israeli society on class lines, exploiting the contradictions within Israeli society to break the ideological hegemony of Zionism. There is no solution to the Palestinian issue on a capitalist basis. Only with the overthrow of Zionism, and capitalism in the region can everyone live in the land of historic Palestine with equal rights, without repression, occupation or wars.
Towards a new Palestinian uprising!
The days ahead for Palestinian masses will be filled with great struggle on the road to liberation. The use of mass, class-based tactics such as the general strike show the way forward. This battle must be led to its conclusion. The Palestinian masses should only trust their own strength and self-organisation.
Let us work towards the formation of a revolutionary leadership emerging from the heart of the mass uprising, to ensure that this upsurge is not sacrificed on the altar of regional and international geopolitics, or that it falls apart due to internal rivalries.
What the Palestinian uprising needs now is a Marxist organisation. What is happening in the interior cities, Jerusalem, and all of Palestine is without precedent in recent years. It expresses a tremendous revolutionary potential.
Towards a new Palestinian uprising!
Long live the struggle of the Palestinian masses!
Down with the Israeli occupation!
For the unity of the struggle of the workers and youth of the region!
For a Socialist Federation of the Middle East and North Africa!