Gaza: Why so Much Violence?

The Israeli commando operation off the Gaza coast could have been carried out in a thousand different ways. Instead the Netanyahu Government decided on a show of force to the extent where nine activists are dead. They were on a small fleet of 6 ships with 600 participants in a mission to carry humanitarian aid to the inhabitants of Gaza which has been under a unilaterally-declared blockade by the Tel Aviv Government. All this took place in international waters far from both the Gaza and Israeli coasts.

Going beyond the differing versions of what actually happened, what took place in that area of the sea was not just an accident due to the “inopportune” Turkish provocation (the ships belonged to a Turkish company and had set out from the Turkish port of Antalya with the blessing of the Turkish Government) or to the “excessive” determination of the Israeli special forces to maintain the blockade around Gaza. Rather, it finalised the rupture between the two states after a long process of deteriorating relations which found the occasion to explode in this serious episode.

The old alliance dating from 1996, the year in which the two governments sealed a series of agreements on trade, water rights and military cooperation was instantly shattered. The Ankara Government has withdrawn its ambassador, formally requested a resolution of condemnation at the UN and completely torn up all previous agreements. These were agreements, which the USA earnestly desired as part of an attempt to construct an oil terminal on the Mediterranean which would have collected, and then distributed, the energy resources coming from the Caspian. Turkey and Israel would have been the geographic hub of the operation as well as its armed policeman, strategically placed against the ambitions of Russia and Iran, with all the economic and political advantages which that would have brought.

But things have not gone according to Washington's plan. Despite the massive deployment of hardware and investment, American imperialism is suddenly faced with a striking series of political and military setbacks. These have led it into the blind alley of two wars, the first in Iraq, the second in Afghanistan, without gaining the slightest advantage. On the other hand, first Russia, and then China are guaranteed to win the energy race in the region by establishing a series of alliances with the major oil and natural gas producers of Central Asia to which we can strategically add Iran and Syria. The declining weight of US imperialism, the increasing role of Russia in the energy field has gradually changed the balance of power even in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Sensing what is in the air, the Ankara Government has gradually shifted the axis of its alignment towards Russia, and its two peripheral allies, Syria and Iran, establishing agreements on political, commercial and energy issues, rendering the old alliance with Israel meaningless. Not only that but the new orientation in the direction of the sworn enemies of Israel has made the various Israeli governments furious, not least that of Netanyahu. The central fulcrum of Turkey's new policy is to make it the principal connecting pivot for a series of pipelines for oil and gas which would give it a stake in geographic and/or energy resources of the area. To achieve this, the political impulse of Turkey's mini-imperialism is inevitably to establish a series of good relations with neighbours who count for something, who present themselves as trustworthy, and above all, who pursue policies which give Turkey “no problems” around its own borders.

In this context the old Israeli alliance had more problems than it had advantages. The perennial tension stemming from the Palestinian issue, the confrontation with Hamas, and Operation “Cast Lead” two years ago. The latest tensions unleashed by the embargo on the Gaza Strip was the last straw, and created conditions in which a rupture between the two countries was only a matter of time.

In January of this year the Turkish Government had already been held responsible for another diplomatic incident against Israel. Its state TV transmitted a film in which Mossad agents could be seen killing Palestinian children, in a sort of open denunciation of the kind of atrocity Israel is capable of in a bid to safeguard its political and territorial integrity. The Turkish provocation literally enraged the Israeli Government, giving rise to a political crisis between the two governments and the subsequent clarifications of the Deputy Foreign Minister, Ayalon, and the Turkish ambassador, Celikkol, neither healed the sore nor diminished the tension. This is also because Prime Minister Erdogan, has, on various occasions, expressed the view that Hamas cannot be considered a terrorist group thus lining himself alongside the sworn enemy of Israel.

In rapid succession, the move away from Israel and the continuing approach to Iran and its international mentors, was formalised in the proposal by Ankara to enrich Iranian uranium, to support its nuclear project, and thus made it enemy number one of Israel, previously its closest ally. As if this wasn't enough, Turkey formalised an agreement with Moscow on nuclear cooperation which potentially could reinforce the Russian imperialist alliance in an area which goes from the southern Mediterranean to Central Asia, to the detriment of the USA-Israel axis. This is why the episode of the pacifist ships embarking from the Turkish port of Antalya, with the blessing of Erdogan was interpreted by Israel as the nth unbearable provocation. Hence the violent and hysterical reactions of the Israeli commandos with devastating consequences for their nine civilian victims.

The world crisis of capitalism is redefining the international imperialist balance of power, making national bourgeosies more aggressive, accelerating the process of cornering the market in raw materials, especially of gas and oil, whilst the speculators continue unperturbed with their perverse game on the international financial markets. What happened in Gaza was no accident, serious though it was. It was a settling of accounts between two mini-imperialisms against the backdrop of the violent arrangement of a new balance of power on the part of the greater imperialists. A small, tragic game of great strategic significance has been played out with the lives of these unsuspecting pacifists.