By ANDREW POLLACK
When a ceasefire agreement ended (for no-one knows how long) Israel’s latest murderous assault on Gaza, Palestinians in the besieged area poured into the streets to celebrate their victory. But how could this be, after at least 160 Palestinians had been murdered, at least 40 of them women and children, and a thousand injured?
How could it be when everyone knew the clause in the ceasefire agreement about loosening restrictions on movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza only provided for discussions of the issue, discussions almost guaranteed to go nowhere? How could it be when everyone knew that Israel was guaranteed to break this ceasefire as it had all others in the past, unilaterally and without provocation (except for the provocations arranged by Israel itself)?
The celebrations came because Palestinians knew that they had proven once again to the entire world that no attack by Israel, however murderous, no government and media campaign of lies, no attempt to force psychological submission could stifle their almost century-long resistance to Zionist colonization.
And this time around, that word “resistance” was key. Despite attempts to portray Palestinian missiles as the cause of Operation Pillar of Cloud, more and more people around the world had come to learn that Israel’s siege, its repeated unprovoked assassinations, and its 65-year-old campaign of ethnic cleansing are at the root of the endless series of wars launched by Israel.
What’s more, just as education during the 2008-9 aggression (“Operation Cast Lead”) convinced many in antiwar and solidarity movements that the right of return of refugees must be supported and that a two-state “solution” was a farce, now exposure of the roots of Operation Pillar of Cloud in Israel’s policies, indeed its very nature as a colonial state, has convinced wider circles that they must uphold the right to resist of the Palestinian people.
During the attacks, many progressive activists and authors refuted official claims about the timetable of who attacked whom when, and about whether the attacks were “disproportionate.” More importantly, this refutation opened the door to a discussion about the non-equivalence between the actions of the oppressed and the oppressor, between those resisting and those ruling. The very attempt to assess “proportionality” is ludicrous, as the right to self-defense cannot be measured in the same scales as violence committed to maintain an illegitimate regime built on a century of theft and murder.
By the same token, the reappearance in the media of pictures of murdered infants and children, parents, and grandparents was an occasion to point out that not just civilians, but anyone killed while exercising their legitimate right to resist, including by force of arms, must be considered a victim of aggression.
Such discussions of course led to deepened education about the inherently murderous and expansionary nature of the settler colonialist regime, which owes its origin to the first violent and illegal seizures of land decades before 1948. An admission of that was stated by David Ben-Gurion in 1948 when he said, “[we must] strike mercilessly, women and children included. Otherwise the reaction is inefficient.”
Other crucial facts exposed have been the desperate poverty and malnutrition and the resulting stunting of children’s growth in Gaza imposed by the Zionist siege; the falseness of its claims to have “disengaged” when Israel in fact maintains control over the land and population, making it the world’s largest open-air prison; and the billions of aid given by the U.S. to Israel every year to buy weapons.
What’s more, the discussion about these underlying causes led away from superficial analyses which saw behind the latest attack such factors such as the upcoming Israeli elections, the need to test the U.S.-funded anti-missile “Iron Dome” apparatus, the desire to send a warning signal to Hezbollah and Iran, or to halt Abbas’s farcical UN “recognition” bid.
And this attack, coming after the regional Arab uprising, was an occasion for Palestinian revolutionaries around the world to educate about the role of Palestinian liberation within the broader Arab revolution (and the debt owed the former by the latter), and about the role of that revolution in the growing global battle between imperialism and its victims.
In these new circumstances it is instructive to look at the contrasting role during the attack on Gaza of Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi and of that country’s workers and youth. Morsi used his newfound diplomatic maneuvering room to work with the U.S. to get a ceasefire agreement in place before an imminent Zionist ground invasion—but took no serious steps during the assault to side with those under attack in Gaza. Having worked previously with Israel to maintain the siege, to destroy tunnels through which life-saving food and medicine flow, Morsi—desperate to maintain billions in U.S. funds and IMF loans—never even threatened to abrogate the peace treaty with the Zionist entity which allows such massacres to occur, much less threaten Tel Aviv with entry into the war on the Palestinian side. Revolutionaries in Egypt in contrast organized a delegation of over 500 to visit Gaza while the bombs were dropping, as well as groups of medical volunteers.
Rallies around the world were called almost as soon as Israel’s first bombs dropped to demand an end to the aggression. Widespread protests broke out in the West Bank and among Palestinian students at universities in pre-1967 Israel. The organizers of these rallies called for increased efforts to end U.S. and other imperialist aid to Israel, and for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against all Israeli institutions and any institution supporting them.
Most significantly, which brings us back to the question posed at the beginning, solidarity actions increasingly raised the call to support Palestinian resistance in all its forms—from hunger strikes to BDS to popular mobilizations to armed struggle – on its own terms. For instance, a statement endorsed by a broad spectrum of Arab and solidarity groups in the New York region declared that “international law guarantees all people, including Palestinians, the right to resist.” Signers included groups who previously would have insisted on referring only to “nonviolent” forms of resistance.
By the same token, the very first sentence of a statement by the United National Antiwar Coalition declared that “UNAC supports the Palestinians’ right to resist tyranny.” This resistance will be tested again and again. Palestinians know it’s only a matter of time before the ceasefire is broken by Israel—as promised by racist politicians who talk of “mowing the lawn” every few years.
While such murderous rhetoric has been a staple of Zionist politicians from before 1948 (see again the quote above from Ben-Gurion), the daily, casual issuance of such barbarous sentiments has come to define mainstream Israeli rhetoric. For example, writing in the Jerusalem Post during the attack, Gilad Sharon declared that “we need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima—the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki too.” Israel shouldn’t worry about innocent civilians in Gaza, he said, because there are no innocent civilians in Gaza: “They elected Hamas … they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences.”
Palestinians know that in between this ceasefire and the next war, more Palestinians will be shot down. Nearly 3000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel since 2006, as against 47 Israelis by Palestinian fire.
And they know a new war is inevitable, because however limited and hypocritical was the Zionist easing of control over Gaza in 2005, any sign of self-governance on the part of Palestinians in Gaza was seen as a mortal threat to the colonial-settler regime as a whole, because of the example it set of truly liberated Palestinian land. The sight of Palestinians with guns staffing entry and exit sites in Gaza, instead of Zionist thugs, sent shivers up Tel Aviv’s spine for fear of the example it set. Similarly, the elections won by Hamas tore apart the notion that Israel can impose with impunity its own regime or puppets beholden to it.
They know also that because the overwhelming majority of Palestinians will not rest until their land is free from the river to the sea, until every Palestinian who wants to return to their original home can do so, Israel is bound to continually launch new wars to maintain its existence as an apartheid state that functions as the long arm of U.S. imperialism in the region.
As we go to press a little over a week after the ceasefire began, there have been no serious talks on the border-crossing question raised in the agreement. Meanwhile, Israel has resumed shooting Palestinians who approach the “no-go zone” established by Israel on the Palestinian side of the border and at boats who approach the arbitrarily imposed and illegal Israeli limit on sea travel.
Just three days after signing the ceasefire agreement, Israeli soldiers killed one Palestinian and wounded more than 19 for approaching the “no-go zone” on the Gaza side of the Israeli fence. And hardly had the ceasefire come into effect before Israel raided the West Bank to round up more than 50 Hamas supporters, while Netanyahu warned that Israel “might be compelled to embark on a much harsher military operation.”
Knowing that another attack is inevitable—whether on Gaza, on Iran, on Sudan or elsewhere—the renewed self-confidence of the Palestinians will inspire preparation for it as well as deepening opposition to Abbas’ quisling regime. Supporters of Palestinian liberation must use the precious time before the next attack to organize ongoing solidarity and to mobilize against aid to the Zionist regime.
Egypt: Morsi Decree Brings Millions Back to Streets
The day after the ceasefire in Gaza went into effect, Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi, the key link in the diplomatic chain which forged the agreement, issued a decree granting himself virtually unlimited power without recourse to challenge by anyone, including especially the country’s judges. Justified as a move to get around the mostly-Mubarak appointed judiciary, which—with his own connivance—has failed to bring to justice those responsible for killings and torture before, during and after the revolution, Morsi’s moves were immediately recognized as a brazen attempt to maintain power for the Muslim Brotherhood and the capitalist forces behind it.
The decrees included new means to stack elections in “official” trade unions, and are a warning to independent unions to quiet their dissent over the Morsi regime’s failure to take any measures to improve conditions for the country’s workers and peasants. Stifling such working-class dissent is also key to maintaining U.S. aid, imperialist investment, and IMF loans. In fact, right after the decree was issued, IMF officials said explicitly that their loans were contingent only on Morsi’s keeping his promise to guarantee repayment through austerity programs, and that the IMF had no interest in the means, democratic or not, by which Morsi imposed such programs.
Nor did Obama issue a word of criticism of Morsi’s moves. This was a given, considering how Morsi had just finished working so diligently with the U.S. and Israel to broker a ceasefire in the Zionist attack on Gaza, a ceasefire unlikely to last long and addressing none of the demands of Palestinians in a serious way.
But the reaction of the Egyptian masses was swift and massive. Millions poured into the central squares of Cairo, Alexandria, and many other cities and towns, in numbers rivaling some of the largest protests against Mubarak. Thousands have stayed around the clock. The Muslim Brotherhood threatened to call its own rally in Cairo’s Tahrir Square for Saturday, Dec. 1, sparking fears of civil war, but in the face of such huge numbers already filling the square against Morsi, the Brotherhood backed down and announced they would choose an alternate location for their rally.
Revolutionaries in Egypt, while denouncing Morsi’s decree, made clear that opposition to it could not include the “feloul,” the supporters of the Mubarak regime. The Revolutionary Socialists for instance declared that “we will not accept remnants of the old regime returning to the revolutionary scene under the pretext that ‘we are all against the Brotherhood.’ We will not work with anyone who worked hand in glove with the deposed dictator. … We call on our comrades in the revolutionary march to step back from this game of shuffling the decks of cards. We call on people to come out into the streets with the slogans: bread, freedom, social justice.”
Supporters of the Egyptian Revolution must be ready to stand by the masses who have returned to the squares to advance their cause.
Photo: Tony Savino / Socialist Action