The Palestinian tragedy

We are publishing below an article from our sister organisation Battaglia Comunista which they published in the April edition of their paper. Although it is now 6 months since the text was written, it expresses very well the tragedy of the Palestinian proletariat. These months, which have brought further horrible butchery of workers in the area, show the proletariat is being crushed between the forces of US imperialism and Arab nationalism. Since the text was written, its analysis of the forces of imperialism has proved correct. As the US tries to reshape the Middle East, starting with its war against Iraq, Israeli has proved to be its only reliable ally in the area. On the other hand. as the economic crisis inside Israel has intensified. the section of the Israeli population favouring a settlement with the Palestinians, even if this means creating a Palestinian state, has increased in strength. The election of Mittzna, who favours the creation of a Palestinian state and if necessary unilateral withdrawal from the occupied territories, is evidence of this.

American imperialism’s ambiguity on the Palestinian question

The Palestinian tragedy is reaching unbearable levels. The Israeli government acts on the basis of the fiercest repression and ethnic cleansing. The proposed solutions are ambiguous and contradictory. Only the revival of class consciousness among the proletarians of the Middle East can help the Palestinians.

We have often insisted that the Palestinian question, or rather the composite nationalistic tensions which make it up, has long been dependent on American imperialism and the international schemes drawn up by it. The present tragic events confirm this thesis with a single difference. The Bush administration, despite itself, is constrained to perform a sort of contradictory dance. On the one hand, it is forced to consider the birth of a Palestinian state at some undisclosed time in the distant future. On the other hand, it can no longer exercise so much pressure on Israel which is, and is destined to remain, its “true” ally in the area.

In theory, everything is ready. The international image of Sharon and his aggressive government is at a low point. An ever increasing part of internal public opinion is lining up against him. The Israeli citizens who are ready to exchange peace for the occupied territories are numerous. Even in the ranks of the army, desertions and the number declaring that they don’t want to participate in the massacre of the Palestinians is growing. The possibility of the birth of a Palestinian state is no longer irredeemably taboo as it was in earlier times. Europe has lined up in favour of Arafat and against the Israeli Army’s massacres. The Arab League, in its meeting in the Lebanon on 27th March has expressed the necessity for a solution to the conflict, adopting the proposal of the Saudi Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah, which suggests the recognition of the Israeli state’s right to exist by all the Arab countries, in exchange for all the territories conquered in 1967. Even the UN, with American support, has declared itself in favour of the creation of a Palestinian state (Resolution 1397) and has repeatedly condemned Israeli arrogance against Arafat, who is shut up in his Ramallah residence-prison.

Throughout the Arab world, from Egypt to Yemen, from Syria to Jordan, the recent months have seen the multiplication of popular demonstrations of protest against Israel and the United States, and in favour of the Palestinian cause. Even the Arab governments most traditionally allied with America such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan have declared their distance from the Middle Eastern policy of the Bush administration. These are problems of no small import as the American preoccupation has always been to hold the governments and populations of the area under its control, in defence of its interests in the management of oil revenues. Even the Oslo accords, which were to serve to this end, were strongly desired by the preceding Clinton administration, and never renounced by the present one. Even President Bush, in at least two occasions, clearly expressed himself to be in favour of a Palestinian state and has condemned the “excesses” of the Israeli Army, only then to retrace his steps, conceding to Sharon the “right to self-defence” against Palestinian terrorism, defining Arafat as the only possible Palestinian spokesman or as being directly responsible for the terrorism, according to the international imperialist scenario the American administration is dealing with. It is not accidental that the first time that the Bush administration declared itself ready to consider the possible birth of a Palestinian state was just before the military attack on Afghanistan, so as to avoid setting off alarms in the already shaken Arab world. The second time was simultaneous with the intention to take up arms against the regime in Baghdad again. Between the occasions, again and again, the American government had to cope with the arrogant obstinacy of Israel.

Sharon had absolutely no desire to yield. Perhaps he had abandoned his “total project” of deporting all the Palestinians to Jordan, in a kind of definitive ethnic cleansing dear to the hearts of the Israeli right. He certainly has no intention to yield the West Bank, or very much of it, to the Palestinians, not so much because of an obsessive nationalism, but because the territory in question is rich in water, allowing Israeli agriculture to not just be self-sufficient, but also to export crops and exotic fruits to Europe. The West Bank with its colonial settlements represents the backbone of the agricultural economy which Sharon is not disposed to renounce. His present hatred against the Palestinian revolt, his intolerance with international public opinion and even his resistance to American concerns, however contradictory they may be, find their justification within a new project. If something must be yielded, it is well that this be done from a position of strength that only military activity can guarantee. Returning to having a presence in the territories that he was constrained to cede under the form of the Palestinian National Authority’s administrative autonomy, negotiating from this position to yield, if ever, only the Gaza Strip and a few small bits and pieces within the West Bank, so as to not compromise the remainder, settlements included, is Sharon’s strategy, his only possible concession.

American ambiguity is forced to oscillate between two limiting positions. The first is to give a minimum of satisfaction to the Palestinian nationalist demands in order to preserve relations with the Arab world and consequently its strategic interests linked to Gulf oil. The second is avoid penalising Israel, conceding to it every possible attenuation, with the aim of ensuring that its indispensable ally continues to be an ally.

If American imperialist projects need to be realised by launching a second war against Iraq - or against some other target in the area, improbable as this is because of an infinite series of obstacles placed in the way by Europe and America’s Arab allies themselves, but not impossible - the alliance with Israel would become fundamental, re-acquiring the centrality which was partially lost after the Gulf War.

This is how American imperialism, with its ambiguity within a scenario of increasing conflict with Europe and a part of the Arab world, concedes things to its Israeli ally and promotes Palestinian nationalism.

For the Palestinian proletariat, for the disinherited of the refugee camps scattered throughout the Middle East, for the Israeli proletariat itself like all the proletarians of the area, the way imposed by American imperialism is impracticable and politically meaningless. Just as impracticable and politically meaningless are the nationalistic solutions proposed by the Palestinian bourgeoisie supported by the other Arab bourgeoisies. To escape this alternative means re-appropriating the only possible political instruments: anti-imperialism and anti-nationalism as necessary conditions for the struggle against capitalism in all its uniforms. Against that of American marines, against that carrying the badges of the Israeli Army, but also against those of Arab nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism which are all completely unfavourable to a future revolutionary solution for all the proletarians of the area. Rather, every bourgeois solution, partial or total as it may be, any anti-imperialist political attitude which is not at the same time anti-capitalist, undermines any attempt to revive class identity today and to take up again class struggle in a revolutionary sense tomorrow. There is no other solution. It is true that the present situation lacks the political instruments, and a strategy for the area which involves all proletarians, but it is necessary that someone starts to prepare the conditions for filling this serious lacuna. To be indifferent in this area means to consign the Palestinian and Israeli proletariat to the great games of American imperialism or the petty interests of the indigenous bourgeois for all time.

Fabio Damen

Revolutionary Perspectives

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