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Israeli Ship Continues to be Successfully Blocked at the Port of Oakland
The call for this strike action originally came from the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) which has asked workers around the world to refuse to handle Israeli goods.
Israeli Ship Continues to be Successfully Blocked at the Port of Oakland
Down With the Israeli Apartheid State!
By Steven Argue
On the afternoon of Saturday, August 16th, 5,000 people marched on the Port of Oakland to stop the unloading of Israeli cargo. That cargo was scheduled to arrive in a boat from the Israeli Zim Integrated Shipping Services. Protests Saturday kept the boat from landing. The first picket action was set for 5AM, but was postponed to 3 PM due to the fact that the boat was sitting off the coast of Santa Cruz. By three in the afternoon it still had not landed as scheduled and protesters declared victory.
In the following days ILWU members have honored the picket lines and the boat still has not been unloaded. On Sunday evening of August 17th the boat did dock. Hundreds of protesters gathered at the terminal to picket it. The longshore workers of ILWU Local 10 declared the presence of so many police and protesters a health and safety concern and on that legally defensible basis would not cross the picket line. On Monday August 18th the day and night shift terminal operators tried to unload the boat, but once again could not secure enough labor to work the boat. As this article goes to posting on Tuesday morning, August 19th, pickets have once again prevented work on the Zim ship on the day shift for the fourth straight day in a row.
The call for this strike action originally came from the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) which has asked workers around the world to refuse to handle Israeli goods. To get involved with the ongoing Oakland action or to find out about one scheduled in Seattle and Tacoma on Wednesday, take a look at the links at the end of this article.
These protests were initiated due to outrage over the Israel’s discrimination, theft, economic blockade, and mass murder directed at the Palestinian people by the Israeli Jewish supremacist state. Since the birth of Israel in 1948, millions of Palestinians have been driven from their homes in a massive ethnic cleansing campaign carried out by the Israeli government. Many who have not been murdered or driven form Palestine / Israel completely are now held by the Israeli government in the walled ghetto of Gaza. In this giant open air prison of 1.8 million people, Israel economically blockades the population and periodically carries out massacres of the imprisoned people.
It is the walled nature of the captivity of Palestinians in Gaza that makes Israel’s dropping of warning flyers before bombing such a cruel joke. Palestinians cannot escape the bombing. Even those who sought shelter in UN schools were bombed by Israel, despite repeated warnings from the UN that these schools contained only civilians seeking refuge.
The latest Israeli massacre in Gaza has now surpassed a month of Israeli violence. This is the third major massacre that every Gazan child at the age of seven has experienced. So far in this latest attack, 2,016 Palestinians have been murdered in Gaza. An additional 10,200 people have been injured, many with missing limbs or otherwise disabled for life. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says that 400,000 children in Gaza are in immediate need of psychological help. Even Human Rights Watch, a group that often has strong pro-U.S. bias, admits that U.S. backed Israel is purposely targeting civilians for death in Gaza. These acts constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Gaza is a small strip of land that contains 1.8 million people. Most of these people were driven from their homes by the Israeli Army’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948. With the birth of Israel, a new homeland was created for one people by removing the original inhabitants through force and violence. Palestinians who were forced to flee are not given the right to return to their homeland. Meanwhile, Jews from any country in the world are automatically given citizenship to Israel.
Gaza was seized by Israel in 1968, putting refugees from Israel once again under Israeli occupation. In 2005, the Palestinians of Gaza gained formal independence. Yet, the area to which Palestinians have been confined by Israel has no economic basis for independence. Imports, exports, and travel are also all controlled by Israel.
Ever since 2006, Israel, with the help of the U.S. backed dictatorships in Egypt, has choked off Gaza from needed imports, electricity, exports, and fuel. As a result, the people of Gaza suffer unemployment, malnutrition, problems with the water supply, and poverty. Before Israel’s latest attack, 80% of the people were dependant on humanitarian aid for survival, unemployment in Gaza was 40.8%. In addition, fifty percent of children under the age of 2 were suffering from iron deficiency anemia. These problems have been worsened by Israel’s recent attacks that have destroyed infrastructure including Gaza’s only electrical plant. This has cut off water pumps and refrigeration across Gaza creating a much larger humanitarian crisis where most people lack clean drinking water and sanitation as well as refrigeration to protect food, prevent malnutrition, and prevent food poisoning.
In addition to destroying Gaza’s electrical supply, Israel has bombed Gaza’s few factories and destroyed huge numbers of people’s homes, schools, universities, hospitals, offices, and mosques. Tunnels, which are an important tool in breaking the economic blockade have also been destroyed by Israel.
The continued economic blockade during Israel’s latest terrorist attacks is now about to escalate into a larger humanitarian crisis. Hamas, whatever one thinks of their pathetic defense tactic of sending comparatively harmless rockets into Israel, is offering a cease fire if Israel lifts the economic blockade. This is a reasonable demand on simple humanitarian grounds that would be a no brainer if Israel were to take responsibility for an entire people that, despite recent steps towards a formal independence, remain under Israeli control. Instead, Israel demands that Hamas disarm (i.e. unconditional surrender) as a condition for a cease fire and began bombing Gaza again this Tuesday as this article goes to posting.
At the Block the Boat action on Saturday, third generation Longshoreman and former secretary treasurer of the Oakland longshoreman’s union (ILWU Local 10), Clarence Thomas, spoke out against this economic blockade saying, "Isn't it ironic that a ship from Zim can come here to be unloaded, but it has been four years since a ship has been unloaded in Gaza? This [blocking of the boat] must be repeated elsewhere."
Correction Clarence Thomas, thanks to the solidarity of Oakland’s longshore workers and human rights activists, Zim presently cannot come to Oakland and be unloaded.
On the way to the port protesters Saturday chanted, “We’re gonna block the boat, Block, block the boat.” Upon reaching the port, the people were met with a line of cops. Protesters responded with their hands in the air chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” This is a chant that started with protesters in Ferguson Missouri after Michael Brown, 18, was shot and murdered by the police while his hands were in the air. Michael Brown was two days away from starting college. Protests against this police murder have spread to over 70 cities as people have grown more and more fed up with American police murdering with impunity across the United States. In addition, despite militarized police attacking protests in Ferguson, the protests there have not stopped as of this writing on August 19th, 10 days after Michael Brown was murdered. Last night two Ferguson protesters were shot and 31 people were arrested.
At the Block the Boat action on Saturday, longshoreman Clarence Thomas declared, "The people in Ferguson are now related to people in Gaza".
Mohamed Shehk of the group Critical Resistance made this point as well saying “On Twitter, we’ve seen people in Gaza tweet to protesters in Ferguson how to cope with teargas." Further linking this to the police epidemic of murdering Black people, he said, “They’re saying things like, ‘as Palestinians, we know what it’s like to be targeted and killed for being of the wrong ethnicity’.”
Block the boat protests and protests against the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson share another similarity. Our actions are being censored by Facebook, Inc. Pages about the murder of Michael Brown have been widely deleted by the Facebook, Inc. Likewise, this author saw his widely shared notice of the Block the Boat protests deleted by Facebook a day before the event took place and my account was shut down for a day. This also prevented me from sending out important updates from the Revolutionary Tendency page to the over 150 people who had shared the protest flyer from that page where it was deleted.
Facebook, Inc. claimed that the Block the Boat flyer violated Facebook “community standards”. This is a bold faced lie. Instead, what Facebook, Inc. did was violate the free speech rights of all of its members by not allowing them to see something Facebook, Inc. is in disagreement with. In addition, they did their best to sabotage an important action in solidarity with the people of Palestine. To further try to censor me, Facebook, Inc. told me my entire account could be shut down if similar posts are found on the Revolutionary Tendency page. Under this threat, they then invited me to go to that page to delete anything else Facebook, Inc. might find offensive. My response is that I will not censor myself or the Revolutionary Tendency based on these threats.
The censorship currently being exercised by Facebook. Inc. shows a fundamental problem with private ownership of the public commons. Mark Zuckerberg should not be allowed to make obscene wealth or inflict his personal views on the public commons just because he privately owns a major medium used for public discussion. There are First Amendment rulings that declare free speech rights apply to public spaces, even if they are privately owned. While I have little confidence in the capitalist courts, I would welcome any attorney to take up my lawsuit attempting to defend free speech rights on Facebook, Inc. Further more, I will suggest that Facebbok, Inc should be nationalized, expropriated from Zuckerberg without compensation and run as a public institution under workers democratic control.
The current blocking the Israeli Zim ship in solidarity with the Palestinian people is not without precedent. In 2010, ILWU Local 10 members honored a similar picket against the Israeli Zim shipping line that was set-up in protest of Israel’s massacre of human rights activists on the Mavi Marmara. The Mavi Marmara was a boat that was part of a humanitarian flotilla from Turkey that was attempting to break Israel’s economic blockade of Gaza. Israel’s military attack on that boat murdered nine people on board.
Besides standing up to Israeli Apartheid, the Oakland Longshoremen have a long history of other actions for racial equality. These include strikes against unloading cargo from racist Apartheid South African in 1986. It also includes a 2011 strike demanding the jailing of the killer cop from the Oakland BART police who shot and killed Oscar Grant while in handcuffs.
Oscar Grant was clearly shown in video being handcuffed and executed by Oakland’s BART Police. Yet, to jail the guilty cop took a mass movement that included protests and a strike by the Oakland Longshore union shutting the Port of Oakland down. The killer of Oscar Grant got off easy with a conviction on a manslaughter charge, but the case was unusual in the fact that the cop did any time at all for his crime. The fact that the killer cop did face some consequences, however, including losing his job, does send an important message to other cops.
In 1986 the Oakland longshore workers refused to work a ship from racist South Africa for eleven days. This was in protest of the police from the racist apartheid system gunning down striking gold miners in cold blood. After being freed from prison, Nelson Mandela praised ILWU Local 10 for this action that he said reverberated in South Africa all the way to Robin Island where he was imprisoned. That action was initiated by union members and opposed by the ILWU leadership. An essential central organizer was Howard Keylor, a longshoreman working in the local and a Leninist-Trotskyist. After that action, ships with South African cargo stayed away from the Port of Oakland.
The 1986 ILWU anti-Apartheid strike played a role in bringing down an evil South African Apartheid system of racist segregation, exploitation, and violence that has a number of similarities to the Jewish supremacist state of Israel. Unfortunately, Nelson Mandela’s ANC had no program for the overthrow of the capitalist system that was the cause of many of South Africa’s problems of black poverty and repression. As administrators of the capitalist state, the ANC now carries out repression against South African workers on behalf of the South African capitalist class. This includes the ANC’s massacre of 34 striking platinum miners on behalf of the Lonmin mining company in the Marikana Massacre of 2012.
Marikana is an important lesson in the negative. Merely eliminating the Jewish supremacist state of Israel will not be sufficient. It will take a sweeping socialist revolution to meet the needs of Palestinian workers, Hebrew speaking workers, and the newly arrived super-exploited non-Jewish immigrant workers of Israel. Yet, as in South Africa with the deficiencies of the leadership of the oppressed black majority in the Apartheid era, the oppressed Palestinian people must similarly be supported regardless of the deficiencies of the current Palestinian leadership. This can be done without giving any political support for Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, just as Leninist-Trotskyists supported the South African anti-Apartheid struggle without giving political support to the ANC. We work towards developing a new leadership, but that is not a precondition for supporting the Palestinian people’s just cause for liberation.
Part of why these actions happen in Oakland lies in the union’s current left wing and large Black composition. In addition, these stands are rooted in the union’s communist leadership of the past. One of the leaders who brought the union to victory in the 1934 San Francisco General Strike was Communist Party member Harry Bridges. Much of how he did this was both by standing up to the police and National Guard, but also standing up to the union bureaucracy with their stale sell-out strategies of defeat. Harry Bridges was in the vanguard on the question of race as well. At a time when much of American labor was segregated, often under threat of violence, Harry Bridges pointed out that “discrimination is a tool of the bosses.” Harry Bridges wrote an article called “The Economics of Prejudice” that was published in the ILWU’s newspaper, the Dispatcher, on February 15, 1938. In that article he pointed out, “Prejudice means profit for the Boss. … For the worker—Black and White—it means lower living standards, humiliation, violence, often death.”
The strong anti-racist stands and actions of the Oakland ILWU cut against the grain of business unionism which has led American labor into the miserable hell of one union defeat after another over the past few decades. It is due in part to these defeats that there is an ever widening canyon between rich and poor in the United States.
Another important component for why the ILWU generally honors picket lines can be found in the ILWU’s “Ten Guiding Principles” which was adopted in the 1950s during McCarthy’s anti-communist campaign of repression. Across the United States the labor movement was greatly weakened as communists were removed from leadership positions in unions. “The Ten Guiding Principles” were adopted in an attempt to combat government attacks on the ILWU and prepare the union to survive the potential imprisonment or deportation of its leaders. The fourth principle states:
“…Unions have to accept the fact that the solidarity of labor stands above all else, including even the so-called sanctity of the contract. We can not adopt for ourselves the policies of union leaders who insist that because they have a contract, their members are compelled to perform work even behind a picket line. Every picket line must be respected as if it were our own.”
It is on these principles that, despite a deterioration of the quality of the ILWU leadership over the decades, ILWU workers generally refuse to cross picket lines. In addition, contract provisions allow ILWU members to not cross picket lines in the presence of protesters and intimidating police, out of health and safety concerns. The fact that these dangers posed by police are real can be seen in the fact that one ILWU member was shot by police with so-called “non-lethal” ammunition during a picket against the Iraq war.
Presently, West Coast ILWU members have been working without a contract since July 1st. The bosses have their eye on forcing concessions down the throat of workers after they were able to impose a substandard contract on ILWU members at the EGT Longview facility. This may seem strange given the potential strength of the ILWU to shut down large swaths of the U.S. economy by shutting down ports, but EGT was a classic case of the union bureaucracy snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Whatever happens in the current contract negotiations, it is important to stand with our brothers and sisters of the ILWU for many reasons including the fact that they have stood so forcefully on the side of social justice.
The current inability of the working class of the United States to effectively fight back against the bosses and their government lies largely in a crisis of leadership. The privileged union bureaucracy with their strategy of reliance on the Democrat Party while shunning effective action in the streets is a cause for much of this problem. We could do much in bridging that crisis of leadership by reading and applying lessons on how workers effectively fought back and won in the past. One critical book on learning these lessons is “The Big Strike” by Mike Quin which tells the story of how Harry Bridges led the longshore workers to victory in 1934. Another is “Teamster Rebellion” by Farrell Dobbs which tells of how Leninist-Trotskyists led the Teamsters to victory in the 1934 Minneapolis General Strike.
The Democrat Party, while sheltering killer cops from prosecution and shoving austerity down the throats of the working class at home, is also a major supporter of Israeli genocide against the Palestinian people. They consistently vote with the Republican Party in sending 3.1 billion dollars in military aid to Israel no matter how much discrimination Palestinians face and no matter how many crimes against humanity are committed by Israel. While the Obama Administration has given some lip service to concern about Israel’s attacks on civilians, its real policy can be seen in Obama’s stated goal of increasing U.S. military aid Israel to $4 billion per year and numerous statements about Israel’s “right to defend itself” in the current crisis, as if Israel was the victim.
The war against the people of Gaza is not a defensive action by Israel; it is a continuation of Israel’s policy, since its birth in 1948, to inflict death, terror, and misery on the native people in order to establish a nation ruled by one ethnicity and one religion. Yet, despite all of this, lies are being fed to the American people by the corporate media, and the Democrat and Republican parties trying to justify Israeli war crimes and collective punishment of an entire people.
U.S. and Israeli propaganda would have us believe that the Israeli government is the victim. This is absurd. Ever since the formation of Israel, the original inhabitants, the Palestinians, have been terrorized and robbed of their land, water, crops, and homes. Much is made of the terrible crime of Israeli teenagers being kidnapped and killed, but little is said of how the Israeli government, before these latest Israeli attacks that have murdered 450 children, murdered an average of one child every three days over the past ten years.
It was on the pretext of this kidnapping, for which there is no evidence that the leadership of the Gazan ruling party, Hamas, was responsible, that Israel began to carry out collective punishment against the entire people of Gaza. For 18 days the Netanyahu regime carried out one provocation after another against the Palestinian people as it pretended to look for the teenagers. It was later revealed that Netanyahu and Israeli security forces knew within a day that the boys were dead and who had carried out the kidnapping and executions. Evidence in their possession included a phone call where one can here the boys being shot and their killers bragging about it. It also included the location of the site where the murders happened, a crime scene complete with bullets and blood. To whip the Israeli people up into a racist frenzy, the Israeli government preferred to make it look as if the boys were still alive to and “justify” a fake, but frantic search for the boys. In addition, a gag order was placed by the Israeli government on the Israeli media, not allowing the media to report that the boys were almost certainly dead and not allowed to reveal the identities of the known killers.
Unlike any authentic search, the identities of the kidnappers were also hidden. A motive for this was to make it seem as if the entire Hamas organization was responsible. This helped make it look as if there were legitimate targets everywhere among Palestinians. Yet, those who carried out the kidnappings and murders were two identified Hamas members who have a history of carrying out actions that are against the orders of the leadership of the organization. Instead of targeting the known criminals, the Israeli government hid information to justify a racist anti-Palestinian frenzy that culminated in the kidnapping of a Palestinian boy by Zionist extremists who burned the boy alive. In addition, a cousin of that boy was beaten severely by Israeli security forces when he attended the funeral.
The hatred that has been whipped up is extreme and has played a role in public opinion in Israel now being 95% in favor of the assault on Gaza. Fascistic Israelis picnic and cheer as they look over Gaza and watch the horror of bombs being dropped on people. Palestinian “citizens” of Israel are afraid to say anything inside of Israel proper about the slaughter in Gaza. In addition, Israel’s far right is physically attacking antiwar protests as they chant “Death to Arabs!” and “Death to Leftists”. When security forces don’t stop antiwar demonstrators with violence themselves, they allow these fascists to do their work for them.
Before the bombing attacks and ground invasion of Gaza, it was the pretext of this “search” for the kidnapped boys that the Israeli government used to kill 6 Palestinians, ransack homes and universities, and abduct at least 560 people (200 of whom are still being held without charges). Showing that the leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA) has fully sold out to their Israeli masters, their security personal participated with Israeli forces in these raids. In Ramallah this June, the collaboration between the PA and Israeli government brought Palestinian protesters to the PA police station, which they stoned after joint PA and Israeli operations killed a local Palestinian.
It is within this context of the Israeli government’s unprovoked aggression that rocket attacks on Israel were launched from Gaza. Nobody was killed in these attacks. In response, Israel further escalated its aggression with fighter jets and drones slaughtering civilians and Hamas leaders alike. The rockets of the Hamas al-Qassam Brigades and Islamic Jihad, while used as a justification for Israel’s mass murder are, however, relatively harmless in comparison to the fire power used against the Palestinian people. It was only after Israel began their ground assault within Gaza itself that Israel began to suffer significant losses, and these were of legitimate military targets, soldiers of the Israeli military attacking Gaza. The first casualty of rocket attacks was in fact an aggressor Israeli who was on the front lines aiding the Israeli military attack on Gaza.
The rocket attacks on Israel are generally a pathetic attempt at retaliation by some organizations that have emerged out of an oppressed nationality facing discrimination and mass murder. Unfortunately, the leadership of the Palestinian people today is presently largely composed of Hamas, a capitalist, fanatically religious, anti-woman, anti-Christian, and anti-Jewish party. Leninist-Trotskyists, while fully supporting the rights of the oppressed Palestinian people, give no political support to Hamas. Yet, the leadership of Hamas no more justifies Israeli attacks on the Palestinian people than the blood crazed imperialist Presidency of George W. Bush justified the September 11th attacks on the American people.
It must be understood that it is the Israeli Jewish supremacist state that oppresses the Palestinian people far more than Hamas does. That state started its genocide against the Palestinian people long before there was a Hamas as well. Hamas emerged as a product of that oppression. Yet, Hamas, with its violent anti-Semitism directed not just against the Jewish supremacist state, but also against the Hebrew speaking people in general, plays an essential role in producing the fear and hatred among the Jewish people that the Jewish supremacist state feeds on to survive.
Hamas is an anti-Semitic fundamentalist religious organization that has a long history of murderous attacks on the Jewish population. Between 1994 and 1998 the group killed 150 Israeli civilians through suicide bombings alone. Israel now works more closely with the Palestinian Authority (formerly the PLO). Yet, at one time before the PLO fully sold out to Israel, Hamas was used by Israel against the PLO.
Israel has used the religious fundamentalists of Hamas as a club against the socialist and secular nationalist movements in Palestine that Hamas has violently opposed. It is those secular and socialist movements that Israel has seen as more of a threat in terms of winning the masses of people, including Hebrew speakers, over to positions of sympathy and solidarity with the Palestinians. Hamas's suicide bombers against civilians instead serve Zionist interests in driving a larger wedge between Palestinians and Hebrew speakers, further bolstering and “justifying” the inhumanity of the Jewish supremacist capitalist state against the Palestinian people.
The Mujama movement was the Islamic forerunner that established Hamas. Early Israeli support for Hamas included in 1978 the granting of Mujama charitable status in Gaza while other organizations, especially political organizations as Mujama was, could not get such status. In 1979, Israeli collusion with the Mujama movement set up the Islamic University of Gaza, whose anti-PLO and anti-socialist slogan was: "How can uncovered women and men with Beatle haircuts liberate our holy places?" Students who did not tow the Islamic line were disciplined through brutal beatings and sometimes had acid thrown in their faces. In addition, Mujama mobs were allowed to violently attack and burn down PLO controlled institutions at a time when other street demonstrations were not allowed or tightly controlled by the Israeli authorities.
In 1979 the Mujama movement burned the Palestinian Red Crescent Society's (PRC) building to the ground. In response, the PRC issued the following statement:
"The tacit approval of the [Israeli] authorities, if not their actual connivance in what happened, was displayed in their attitude of non-interference. While they usually display great alertness to combating even peaceful demonstrations of young students within schools, here they stood indifferently watching a violently destructive demonstration march to its objectives."
In 1988 Hamas was formed out of Mujama. While PLO supporters were organizing mass demonstrations in the streets, Hamas was instead focusing on shooting Israeli soldiers. Despite this fact, Hamas had top-level meetings with the Israeli government while that same government would not even meet with the PLO. Milton Edwards in "Islamic Politics In Palestine" noted the relationship:
"The relationship between Hamas and the Israeli authorities was, however, at the strongest during the second year of the Intifada. The Israelis had been quick to extend legitimacy status to Hamas in an attempt to marginalize the PLO. Leaders of Hamas were regularly filmed at meetings with top-level Israeli officials and the message the Israelis were sending out was that they regarded Hamas as the type of people with whom they could work…
"In addition the Israelis continued turning a blind eye to large amounts of money coming into the country destined for Hamas coffers, while at the same time stopping the flow of PLO funds in support of the Intifada."
In 1994, Hamas began its indiscriminate attacks on Hebrew speaking people through suicide bombings. Those suicide bombings had been stepped up by Hamas in the beginnings of the Intifada 2 uprising in September 2000, but then ended due to an agreement between Arafat's Palestinian Authority and Hamas. While this agreement was in effect world attention became focused on the gunning down of Palestinian children by Israeli sharp shooters on the West Bank. For the Zionist government this was becoming a public relations disaster.
Israeli Prime Minister Sharon needed a new provocation he could use as propaganda to escalate the war against the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority (PA). To create this provocation he took action to end the truce between the PA and Hamas on ending the suicide bombings of civilians. On November 23rd Israeli security forces assassinated Hamas leader Mahmud Abu Hunud. On November 25th, 2001 right-wing Israeli journalist Alex Fishman accurately observed in the "Yediot Achronot", "Whoever gave the green light to this act of liquidation knew full well that he is thereby shattering in one blow the gentleman's agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority; under that agreement, Hamas was to avoid in the near future suicide bombings inside the Green Line."
Of course no one but Prime Minister Sharon could have given the green light for such an important operation. Sharon's provocation against the Hamas anti-Semites had its intended affect. Within days Hamas resumed attacks against Israeli civilians. In March a Hamas bomber killed 25 civilians in the Passover attack that was then used at that time by Sharon as his excuse to attack the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank while leaving the Hamas stronghold of Gaza untouched.
Today, the Palestinian Authority has switched sides and become collaborators with Israel, even participating in joint military operations with Israel against the Palestinian people. The evolution of the PLO from secular nationalist revolutionaries to collaborators with Israel and U.S. imperialism was a natural one. They never adopted a revolutionary socialist program that would seek unity between the Palestinian and Hebrew speaking working class to overthrow the Israeli capitalist state. Instead, they sought outside support from bourgeois nationalists and the USSR to establish a Palestinian state. When that aid dried up with the counterrevolution in the USSR, they then signed onto the imperialist sponsored Oslo agreements which allowed the PLO to become the new rulers of Palestinian Bantustans in Gaza and the West Bank.
The PLO’s agreement to the Oslo two state “solution” was done at the price of making it appear that a solution was achieved for the Palestinian people when in fact nothing was accomplished. The pieces of land turned over to “Palestinian rule” were small and not viable pieces of land for a separate state, they continue to contain ever larger encroachments of Israeli settlers stealing Palestinian lands and water in the West Bank, they include massive dissections like the atrocity of roads for Jews only, Palestinians have no independent control of foreign trade, and the agreements didn’t give Palestinians a meaningful fraction of the wealth that has been produced through the exploitation of Palestinian labor and the confiscation of Palestinian land, water, crops, and housing.
As Palestinians continue to be expropriated and sent to walled ghettoes, their cheap labor under the Israeli capitalist system has largely been replaced by non-Jewish immigrants. These immigrants from Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe face brutal racism, hatred, exploitation, and repression. Meanwhile, the replacement of the Palestinian working class frees the Israeli ruling capitalist class up to turn up the ethnic cleansing a few notches and move towards a “final solution” to their Palestinian problem. This position is being openly advocated by Israeli politicians like Ayelet Shaked who declared at the beginning of the assault on Gaza that Palestinian mothers must die saying, “They have to die and their houses should be demolished so that they cannot bear any more terrorists… They are all enemy combatants.” Israel’s indiscriminant slaughter of men, women, and children in Gaza certainly reflects this attitude. It also makes the military defense of Gaza from Israeli attack a life and death imperative where much of the heroic resistance of Hamas’s al-Qassam brigades on the ground should be praised.
While Leninists-Trotskyists are not blood thirsty, we understand that the high casualty rate of invading Israeli soldiers slows the advance of genocidal forces and opens more possibilities of resistance to the war from the Israeli people. Within this context, demands by Iran for the Arab regimes to help arm the Palestinian people should be supported. If nothing else, these demands help expose the fact that almost all of the Arab regimes are puppets of U.S. imperialism and cannot even stand up for basic human rights in Gaza.
Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are however, both capitalist parties fundamentally incapable of resolving the problem of Palestinian oppression. In fact, both parties united just before Israel’s latest round of mass murder. This unity government is largely a result of the weakening of Hamas in the international arena. The bloody military coup in Egypt against the Islamic Brotherhood’s government of Mohamed Morsi eliminated one ally of Hamas. In addition, Hamas’s backing of the imperialist sponsored Islamic rebels in Syria has cut Hamas off from key support it was receiving from the Assad regime in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and support from Iran.
For three years the Obama administration has backed genocidal Islamic rebels in Syria with military aid. Some of that military aid remains direct and open. The rest is indirect through the U.S. allies of Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. The genocidal Islamist forces they are aiding include the so-called Free Syria Army (FSA), Al –Nusra, and the Islamic State (ISIL). These three Sunni Islamic organizations have all participated in genocide and other crimes against Christians, Alawites, Shi’ites, Kurds, and other religious and national minorities. Last year Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron even planned on escalating their military aid to these forces to the point of bombing Syria, a campaign that may well have brought these forces to power. This would have been carried out under the unsubstantiated assertion that the Assad government carried out poison gas attacks on the Syrian population when there was in fact no credible evidence that this was the case or that those attacks were not instead carried out by the rebels themselves.
Thankfully, opposition to another direct U.S. war in the Near East was so strong that both the British and U.S. governments backed down. Obama’s unsubstantiated claims at that time could have played a devastating role in bringing genocidal Islamist forces like the FSA, Al-Nusra, and the ISIL to power. Three years of U.S., Saudi Arabian, Turkish, Israeli, and Qatari aid to these rebels have now put the ISIL in a position of power in wide swaths of land across Syria and Iraq. Like U.S. and Saudi Arabian aid to the murderous mujahideen in Afghanistan that eventually gave birth to Taliban power, the U.S. backed genocidal Islamic terrorists of the Free Syria Army (FSA) largely helped give birth to the ISIL’s murderous rampage.
Now those who hate Arabs and support Israel point to the ISIL’s genocide against Christians, Kurds, and others in Iraq. Missing was their condemnation of the FSA, Al-Nusra, and the ISIL when they were carrying out the same crimes in Syria. Also missing is their understanding of how U.S. imperialism and Israel helped back these forces against the government of Syria as well as against the legitimate rebel government of the Kurdish people inside of Syria. Taking this a step further, last week, U.S. State Department spokesperson, Marie Harf went so far as to blame the ISIL fighting in Iraq on the Assad government in Syria. In fact, it is the Assad government that has been battling the ISIL while the U.S. and Israel helped create it.
This isn’t the first time Hamas has sided with U.S. imperialism in backing genocidal Islamic crazies either. In Afghanistan, they joined with the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and
Pakistan in their war drive to destroy the left progressive PDPA government that held power in Afghanistan from 1978 to 1992. This was a war where the U.S. government and Saudi Arabia gave billions of dollars of military aid to Osama Bin Laden and the Islamic fundamentalists of the mujahedin who were waging a holy war against the advances in women's rights, including women's literacy, that were occurring under the PDPA government. Tactics of the mujahedin included throwing acid in the faces of women liberated from the veil and murdering women for teaching little girls how to read and write. Fearing a mujahedin government right on its border, and defending the PDPA government from U.S. aggression, the Soviet Union sent troops into Afghanistan in 1979. Although these Soviet troops were invited by the Afghan PDPA, after U.S. intervention had already started, U.S. propaganda still calls this a “Soviet invasion”.
An estimated 100,000 of the Islamic fundamentalists who fought in Afghanistan were recruited by the CIA outside of Afghanistan. Hamas participated in this activity. As John Cooley from ABC news pointed out on March 13th, 1996 in the International Herald Tribune:
"A key Hamas organizer was Abdallah Azzam. He was a tough, brilliant and charismatic Palestinian from Jordan. He supervised training for the CIA's Afghan guerrillas in Peshawar, Pakistan, where a car bomb killed him in 1989. In the earlier 1980s he toured the United States, recruiting Arab-Americans for the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan."
Just as the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Hamas helped bring the woman hating genocidal terrorists of the Taliban to power, they have played a similar role in bringing about the strength of the similar forces of the FSA, Al-Nusra, and ISIL in Syria and Iraq. In working with U.S. imperialism on these project, there is no question that there is terrible blood on the hands of Hamas.
Just as this author opposes U.S. aid to Israel's genocidal Jewish extremist government, I have also long opposed U.S. imperialist aid the Islamic extremists in Libya that overthrew Qaddafi, U.S. aid to the mujahideen in Afghanistan that overthrew the left nationalist and woman friendly PDPA government and gave birth to the Taliban, U.S. aid to genocidal religious extremist rebels in Syria that gave birth to the ISIL, billions of dollars in military aid that the U.S. spends to prop up the dictatorship in Egypt, and billions of arms sales the U.S. ships to Saudi Arabia, the most repressive government on Earth. U.S. imperialism uses religion and the most reactionary forces in the Near East as a club against secular socialist and left nationalist forces that prefer the U.S. imperialists stop looting the natural resources of the region.
Without giving political support to the Palestinian Authority, Islamic Jihad, or Hamas, Leninist-Trotskyists support the military defense the West Bank and Gaza from murderous Israeli attacks and call for an end to the economic blockade of Gaza by Israel and by Egypt. As opposed to the capitalist sell-outs of the Palestinian Authority who brought the Oslo agreement upon the Palestinian people; and as opposed to the capitalist repressive religious fanatics of Hamas; we call for the separation of Mosque and state, the overthrow of capitalism, and for active work to unify the Hebrew speaking working class with the Palestinian cause and the cause of socialist revolution to overthrow the Israeli government. To do so will take the building of a revolutionary working class party that functions as a tribune of the people, fighting for all of the most oppressed in society, including recent non-Jewish immigrants.
In the United States, the Democrat and Republican Parties are united in their support for genocide against the Palestinian people including three billion dollars in U.S. military aid to Israel every year. The Green Party is also a problem. In the last election they actually ran a candidate that called for economic sanctions against both Israel and the Palestinian people if certain demands weren’t met. As if equal signs could be drawn! And as if U.S. imperialism ever plays anything but a negative role in the world! Such illusions must be combated while at the same time taking real proletarian actions of solidarity with the oppressed Palestinian people such as the Block the Boat campaign. The capitalist Republican, Democrat, and Green parties offer no solutions. Revolutionary workers parties must be built both in the Near East and in the United States to end imperialism, capitalism, and social chauvinism through socialist proletarian revolution.
-Steven Argue is a former member of the ILWU and a member of the Revolutionary Tendency
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For more related articles by this author see:
Afghanistan: Misogynistic Hell Hole Made in the U.S.A.
Syria: As Rebels Escalate Genocide Against Kurds, Obama Prepares Air Strikes to Bring Them to Power
Egypt: No Support to the Military, No Support to the Muslim Brotherhood
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