Israel’s War against the Palestinians

by Yossi Schwartz, Internationalist Socialist League (RCIT-Section in Israel/Occupied Palestine), 23.7.2014, and

Israel’s barbaric war in Gaza is not merely against Hamas, but rather is the latest round of violence used by the Zionist project to create, fortify, and defend a colonialist settlement state for “the Jewish people” at the expense of the displaced indigenous population of Palestine. In this war, as in all colonial wars, it is the interest of the international working class to call for the victory of the oppressed over the oppressor, specifically, the Palestinians over Israel. Until now, more than 600 Palestinians, including many women and children, have been killed during the fighting in Gaza. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, in Shuja’iya alone, located in the eastern part of the city of Gaza, more than sixty people were killed by heavy artillery and tank fire during the twenty-four hours between last Saturday and Sunday.

“Palestinian witnesses and officials said at least 62 Palestinians were killed in shelling of a Gaza neighborhood that left bodies strewn in the streets and thousands fleeing for shelter.” (1)

“… tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Gazans have been forced to flee their homes, more than 2,400 [have been] wounded, the Palestinian health ministry said. About 75 percent of the casualties have been civilians, according to a United Nations count” (2)

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the military actions which have resulted in the killing of tens of Palestinians, mostly civilians, in Gaza’s Shujaiyeh neighborhood, maintaining that Hamas blocked residents in the area from fleeing so it could use them as human shields. Netanyahu made this cynical statement on BBC’s Arabic Service as part of a round of interviews in major international media.

The massacre in Shujaiyeh brings to mind the terrible bloodshed in the West Bank city of Jenin in 2002. During the Shujaiyeh massacre, Hamas fighters killed thirteen Israeli soldiers and wounded another fifteen, four of them seriously. As of Monday evening, 22 July, twenty-nine Israeli soldiers and two civilians have been killed since the Israeli military began its ground offensive last week.

“Israel spokesman Peter Lerner told TIME that Israel sustained relatively heavy losses because Hamas militants were intent on trying to defend what was far from a regular neighborhood.” (3)

As the number of Israeli soldiers killed grows, the atmosphere in Israel will undoubtedly become uglier with more attacks on Palestinians citizens of Israel and against so called “leftists.”

Netanyahu claims that Hamas does not want a cease fire. However, Hamas’ conditions for a cease fire are totally justified. They include a pullback of Israeli tanks; lifting of the Israeli seven-year long blockade on the Gaza Strip; opening air, sea, and land entries to Gaza under supervision of the United Nations and other countries; and the release of prisoners detained last month. (4)

While we support these Hamas demands, we do not support Hamas politically, as sooner or later this bourgeois led reactionary organization will betray the Palestinian struggle, and come to an accommodation with Israel. Neither do we support the killing of Israeli civilians. However, it is impossible to compare the Israeli’s state terror against Palestinian civilians with Hamas’ largely ineffective missile barrages upon Israel which, so far, have killed two civilians – in light of sophisticated Israel’s air defense system. Israel is a highly developed imperialist state while Hamas is the democratically-elected government of the colonized Palestinians, who are the only ones that can decide who will be their government.

The War of the Tunnels

Without doubt, as these lines are being written, the discovery and destruction of Hamas’ tunnels into Israel have become the focus of Israel’s campaign. Prior to this, Israel, together with a great deal of Egyptian cooperation, saw to the destruction of hundreds of tunnels which led from Egyptian Sinai into the Gaza Strip, tunnels which were prepared and used, particularly during Morsi’s regime between June 2012 to June 2013, not only to smuggle food and other necessary materials into Gaza under siege, but weapons for self defense as well. The Palestinians have the right to defend themselves against Israel which is equipped with the most modern and sophisticated killing technology. Hamas itself is limited in the amount of sophisticated weapons they have, as the Arab states that denounce Israel have not helped them defend themselves, while Egypt under al-Sisi is working with Israel, as we noted above. Al-Sisi’s cooperation with Israel is also manifested by the ridiculous terms for a cease fire which he suggested, terms immediately accepted by Israel, which entirely ignored all the demands of Hamas and allowed Israel to continue its seven-year siege on Gaza.

Israel’s Aims

After starting its military operation with the stated goal of ceasing the firing of rockets on its population, Israel now claims that its aim is to destroy a network of tunnels which Hamas militants dug to carry out cross-border raids. These relatively limited military goals – when compared with its intentions during the 2008-2009 Cast Lead operation of toppling the Hamas regime in Gaza and destroying the organization reflect Israel’s realization that it cannot destroy Hamas, and even if it could, Hamas would be replaced by more radical Islamists. Israel claimed that its attack on Shujaiyeh was targeting Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure. Whether this is the case or not, we should be aware that in the mind of the Israeli government all Palestinians including children – so many of whom died as collateral damage in the course of this attack – are terrorists, or future terrorists. Like during the war against Lebanon in 2006, the real aim of this operation is something far beyond returning the people of Gaza to the Stone Age (see below). As the Jewish historian Ilan Pappe writes:

“The Zionist strategy of branding its brutal policies as an ad hoc response to this or that Palestinian action is as old as the Zionist presence in Palestine itself. It was used repeatedly as a justification for implementing the Zionist vision of a future Palestine that has in it very few, if any, native Palestinians. The means for achieving this goal changed with the years, but the formula has remained the same: whatever the Zionist vision of a Jewish State might be, it can only materialize without any significant number of Palestinians in it. And nowadays the vision is of an Israel stretching over almost the whole of historic Palestine where millions of Palestinians still live” (5)

“Return Gaza to the Stone Age”

Sheldon Adelson’s right-wing Israel Today, the newspaper with the highest circulation in Israel – in no small part because of it’s given away for free – and which is recognized as the organ reflecting the opinions and policies of Netanyahu, has called for Gaza to be returned to the Stone Age:

“The Gaza Strip must be returned to the Stone Age. Not in the sense of destroying every home and all the infrastructure, which would leave Gaza residents wandering among ruins. Rather, Israel should eliminate every rocket, bomb and gun in Gaza. In other words, get rid of the arsenal Hamas has accumulated over the past 10 years. The snake must be defanged, leaving Hamas without rockets. The most it would have left would be stones.” (6)

Such demands echo similar calls during early attacks upon Gaza. For example, during the last Gaza war in November 2012, Interior Minister Eli Yishai called for Gaza to be consigned “to the Middle Ages.”

“Interior Minister Eli Yishai said Operation Pillar of Defense would continue and likely be expanded, a reference to the possibility that a ground offensive has already been given the go-ahead. The war in Gaza‘must be so painful and difficult that the terror groups will not think twice but a hundred times before they fire missiles against Israel again,’ it was reported in The Israel National News. “Destroy and damage infrastructure, public buildings and government buildings. We must make sure that Hamas will be spending many years rebuilding Gaza, and not attacking Israel,” he continued. “A few days ago he said, ‘The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages, only then will Israel be calm for the next 40 years.’ His words were relatively mild compared to some of the comments that have been coming out of Israel in recent days. Journalist, Gilad Sharon, the son of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in an editorial in the Jerusalem Post on Sunday called for Gaza to be flattened like the US flattened the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945 with an atomic bomb. ‘We need to flatten all of Gaza. The American’s didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough – so they hit Nagasaki too. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire,’ ranted Sharon.” (7)

Regardless how many Palestinians Israel kills this time around, politically it will have failed. This most recent military operation can only further isolate Israel internationally and strengthen the resolve of the Palestinians to struggle against the oppression. The influence of Hamas among the Palestinians and the Arab masses continues to grow while the collaborating Palestinian Authority will lose the little influence it had. Israel cannot rule Gaza directly, and for this reason it had to pull out from Gaza in 2005. If Israel is now planning to replace Hamas with the PA, this amounts to no more than wishful thinking. The fate of this ploy will be similar to what events in Iraq have illustrated, where the corrupt and oppressive pro-American regime is now disintegrating.

The Nature of the Israeli State

The current round of massacres will end in a few days or weeks, but sooner or later the killing will be resumed because Israel is committed to removing most of the Palestinians from their country, as it did in 1948. These cycles of violence will end either when Israel will be militarily defeated or when the struggle for liberation leading to a socialist revolution will win. Those who speak about a two-state solution, whether capitalists, socialist reformists (the Communist Party of Israel), or those like centrist Maavak Socialisti (CWI) who call for two “socialist states,” all take as given that the existing imperialist order is permanent and, at the same time, entirely ignore the nature of the Israeli apartheid .There is no way, at one and the same time, to support both the right of self-determination for the Palestinians and the right of self-determination for Israeli’s since by definition the state of Israel must act to oppress, kill, and otherwise remove the Palestinians from the entire country. And there can be no other Israel.

What does Maavak Socialisti mean when they call for two “socialists states”? It is essentially their recognition of the right of the settler colonialist oppressors to self-determination. Indirectly, such recognition is a rejection of the right of return of the Palestinians refugees. For, if the refugees will be allowed to return to what is today Israel, the Palestinians will constitute the demographic majority of the state. Why, then, will there be a need for two states with a Palestinian majority rather than a single socialist state where they will be the majority and those Israelis who accept this new reality will not be discriminated against? Why, indeed, if in such a state, where the Israeli workers who will participate in the socialist revolution will be part of the new ruling class, until classes will entirely disappear and with them the state itself?

Trotsky on the Right of Self-Determination

Trotsky rejected the notion of self-determination for the whites in South Africa. There, of course, it is true that the ratio of whites to blacks was overwhelmingly on the side of the black masses. By contrast, the ratio between the Israelis and the Palestinians is virtually equal, if we look at the entire population of all what was Mandatory Palestine. But even if we would grant Israelis the edge, looking at this question from the perspective of Israel alone rather than from the perspective of the region in which the Israelis constitute a small minority is both misleading and a hallmark of a reformist perspective. This is because, in the final analysis the future of the Palestinians will be determined by the regional socialist revolution and the world socialist revolution, and not by what the Israelis want. Furthermore, the support that revolutionary socialists give to the right of self-determination depends on whether the nation in question is an oppressor nation or a colonized and oppressed one. Israel is unquestionably an oppressive and imperialist political entity. We revolutionary socialists only support the right of self-determination for oppressed nations, as an alliance between the working class and the oppressed nations against imperialism. Self-determination is not an absolute right but a bourgeois democratic right that is subordinated to the world socialist revolution. Marx and Engels supported the North against the South in the American civil war, even though the South claimed that it had the right of self-determination. This was during the age in which capitalism was still progressive. Today we live in the epoch of the decay of capitalism and socialism is the next progressive stage of history.

On this Trotsky wrote: “We do not only recognize, but we also give full support to the principle of self-determination, wherever it is directed against feudal, capitalist and imperialist states. But wherever the fiction of self-determination, in the hands of the bourgeoisie, becomes a weapon directed against the proletarian revolution, we have no occasion to treat this fiction differently from the other ‘principles’ of democracy perverted by capitalism.” (8)

In 1939, Trotsky supported the right of self-determination for the black minority in the US black belt, even in places where they were a minority, if they should demand this right. He viewed this question not from the perspective of what the white workers want but what the black oppressed minority wants. Thus, for him, it was not the number that was decisive but the struggle of the oppressed. He wrote: “Comrade Johnson used three verbs: ‘support’, ‘advocate’ and ‘inject’ the idea of self-determination. I do not propose for the party to advocate, I do not propose to inject, but only to proclaim our obligation to support the struggle for self-determination if the Negroes themselves want it. It is not a question of our Negro comrades. It is a question of 13 or 14 million Negroes.” (9)

Jews, Zionism and Anti-Semitism

Is there a question of whether the oppressed Palestinians actually demand the right of return? No. But, at the same time, Hadash and Maavak Socialsiti tell them: “You cannot demand the actualization of the right of return because the Israeli chauvinist workers oppose it. Israel is stronger and, therefore, you must accept an Israeli state. In reality, on the ground, the Oslo accords which led the PLO to recognize Israel have not resulted in the foundation of a mini-Palestinian state, because the Zionist want the entire country for themselves, and the PA serves Israel. It is impossible to equate the demand of self-determination for the Palestinians and the Israelis. The Palestinian struggle for national liberation is an anti-imperialist struggle, while support for Israel and the right of self-determination for Israelis is a defense of imperialism. Therefore, it is a grave mistake to assume that the economic struggles of the Israeli workers and poor can lead to socialist revolution. This was proven when the Israeli protest movement rose and collapsed in a matter of months in 2011, and the protestors took up the slogan of equal responsibility for military service. Most Israelis, as settler colonialists in all the parts of Palestine, whether occupied in 1948 or 1967, the very same people who protested three years ago today support the criminal war against the Palestinians. This is because they see the Israeli state as a defender of their relative privileges. They reside in towns like Sderot, Ashkelon, or Tel-Aviv/Jaffa, the original populations of which today live as refugees in Gaza. Some Israelis, who do not agree with the war, remain silent. Unfortunately, many Jews around the world still support Israel, even though this support is declining, as is illustrated by the fact that only a few Jews abroad demonstrate for Israel. Regardless, this support has become a breeding ground for authentic Anti-Semitism among some sections of the world’s population. Thus, Israel’s criminal oppression and massacres not only make life in this country an inevitable death trap for Israelis, but contribute significantly to the rise of real Anti-Semitism around the world.

The leaders of Israel are, to a certain extent, pleased with this growth of Jew-hatred, as they reckon that it may lead to more Jewish immigration to Israel, and thereby augment the forces which oppress the Palestinians. At the same time, these same leaders exploit the political incorrectness of Anti-Semitism, and claim that opposition to Zionism is Anti-Semitic, disingenuously making no distinction between the hate of Israel’s crimes and Anti-Semitism against individuals and communities of Jews, simply because they are Jews; hatred which is manifested in attacks on synagogues or the denial of the holocaust.

Many people deny that Israel is similar to South Africa during the Apartheid regime, and they are right to do so. In fact, Israel is not the same but worse. In South Africa, the white settler colonialists needed the blacks to accumulate capital, and thus turned the blacks into a source of cheap labor. Israel does not need the Palestinians as cheap labor. It wants them out of Palestine.

While we reject the notion that it is possible to compare the hideous crimes of Nazi Germany against the Jews to the crimes of Israel against the Palestinians, we should bear in mind that the Final Solution was decided upon after Hitler realized that he did not need the Jews as slave laborers, because he found plenty of cheap labor in occupied East Europe.

The Imperialists Back Israel

To this point the imperialists are backing Israel. France’s social democratic government banned a pro-Palestinian demonstration last Saturday. The British Prime Minister has reassured Israel of Britain’s support in the ongoing conflict between the Jewish state and Hamas in Gaza. (10)

US President Barak Obama, who initially defended Israel’s attack on Gaza, saying that Israel has the right to defend itself, told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a telephone conversation on Sunday that the United States wants to achieve an immediate cease fire between Hamas and Israel, along the lines of the understandings that ended Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012. In other words, Obama is backing Egyptian President al-Sisi’s cease fire plan that serves Israel.

Massive Support around the World for the Palestinians

Around the world, many demonstrations against Israel’s barbaric war are taking place these days. Up to 100,000 people demonstrated in London on Saturday in one of the biggest anti-war demonstrations in years. 20.000 people marched in Vienna in solidarity with Gaza. The most militant demonstration took place in Turkey where thousands of protesters attacked the Israeli consulate in Ankara. This demonstration called for the Turkish government to end diplomatic relations with Israel. But governments which hypocritically denounce Israel’s barbaric war nevertheless maintain their diplomatic relations with Israel and buy weapons from it to oppress their own people.

Demonstrations in Israel

Not all Israelis agree with the Israel’s murderous war. A few demonstrations have taken place in Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem, where rightwing counter-demonstrators have attacked those critical of the war, while shouting “Death to the Arabs!” The police have either done little to stop the attacks on the peace demonstrations, or actually participated in the attacks.

In one of peace demonstration in Tel Aviv, hundreds demonstrated under the slogans: “End the Massacre in Gaza – Enough Attacks on the Palestinian people!”, “The Occupation Will Kill Us All,” and “Liberate Gaza!” Fascists broke the police barriers at the site, screaming “Death to Arabs,” but were repelled. In Haifa, rather than having a single united-front demonstration, two different rallies took place last Saturday, one organized by Hadash, the peace front of Communist Party of Israel (CPI), the other by the Palestinian liberal party, Balad. According to Hadash, a joint demonstration could not be arranged because the two parties could not reach agreement on the slogans. In Haifa, during the Hadash demonstration, at least 800 rightwing nationalist protestors attacked 350 peace activists, who demonstrated under the main slogans prepared by the CPI: “The people demand a ceasefire!” (although it wasn’t clear which people and which ceasefire were implied here); “In Gaza and Sderot children want to live!”; “Gaza Don’t Worry, We Will End the Occupation!”; “Fascism Will Not Pass!”; “Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies!”; “Stop the War!”; and “Stop Killing Civilians!

Ironically a decorated bus from Jerusalem tried to reach Gaza in solidarity with the Gazans, but was attacked in Sderot. It is true that in Sderot and in Gaza children want to live, but in Gaza children die.

At Hadash’s demonstration in Haifa, large stones and water bottles were hurled at the demonstrators, while the police protected the Zionist rightwing hooligans. The latter trapped the peace demonstrators in a confined area, making them sitting ducks for the barrage of stones, glass bottles, and eggs being hurled. Our of our ISL members was injured by a stone which hit his shoulder. Several Palestinians were arrested by the Police for crossing some imaginary line.

Under a great deal of pressure, the Palestinian leadership in Israel called for a joint demonstration which was held on Monday, July 21 in Nazareth with thousands attending. Eighteen demonstrators were arrested.

These attacks by the rightwing and the ineffectual performance of the police demonstrate the need for the organization of self-defense, not only for demonstrations, but in general for the Palestinians and their Jewish supporters everywhere. For this to happen, in every city and village where Palestinians live, a self-defense committee must be formed. These committees should be coordinated nationally and the leadership, both on the local and national level, must be democratically elected from the most able militants.

The Solution

The heroic struggle of the Palestinians in Gaza may yet reignite the revolutionary struggle of the Arabs in countries like Egypt, living under an oppressive military dictatorship which clearly supports Israel.

As long as the Israeli apartheid state will continue to exist as an ethnically-based discriminatory regime which oppresses the Palestinians, such wars will continue. The only solution is the founding of a single democratic state for the Palestinians and Jews, something which can only be achieved by a workers’ revolution. By themselves, the Palestinians cannot defeat Israel. The workers’ revolution in Palestine must be part of a socialist revolution throughout the region, one which will establish a socialist federation that will include all of Palestine from the river to the sea.

Defeat Israel’s barbaric war!

For a general strike of the Palestinians in Israel!

Self defense for the Palestinians and the Jewish supporters!

For free, red Palestine from the river to the sea!


(1) Reuters: Arab League calls Israeli attack in Gaza “war crime” 20 July 2014,

(2) Anne Barnard And Jodi Rudoren: Despite Israeli Push in Gaza, Hamas Fighters Slip Through Tunnels, July 19, 2014,

(3) Ilene Prusher and Hazem Balousha: Israel Prepares for Long War in Gaza as Both Sides Suffer Most Yet Casualties, TIME, July 20, 2014,

(4) Jewish Telegraphic Agency: Hamas lists cease-fire demands, July 16 2014,

(5) Ilan Pappe: Israel’s incremental genocide in the Gaza ghetto, The Electronic Intifada, 13 July 2014,

(6) Amos Regev: Return Gaza to the Stone Age by Amos Regev 9 July 2014,

(7) Russia Today: Bloodlust in Israel: ‘Flatten Gaza, send it back to Middle Ages, they need to die!”, November 19, 2012,

(8) Leon Trotsky: Social Democracy and the Wars of Intervention in Russia 1918-1921 (Between Red and White) (1922), London 1975, p. 94

(9) Leon Trotsky: Self-Determination for the American Negroes (1939), in: Leon Trotsky: On Black Nationalism and Self-Determination, pp. 45-46

(10) ITV: Prime Minister: UK ‘staunchly supports’ Israel, 22 July 2014, 21

For more ISL and RCIT analyses and statements of the present war in Gaza sees:

Joint Statement: Israel Starts Ground Offensive: Defend Gaza! Defeat Israel’s War! Support the Palestinian Resistance! For a Workers’ and Popular International Campaign to Boycott Israel! Down with the Regimes which Collaborate with Israel! For a Free, Red Palestine! Joint Statement of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency, Internationalist Socialist League (RCIT-Section in Israel / Occupied Palestine), the Communist Left of Australia and the Editor of the Blog (Sweden), 22.7.2014,

RCIT and ISL: Palestine: Forward to the Third Intifada! Organize the Uprising in Workers, Peasant, and Youth Popular Committees! Revitalize the Arab Revolution! Smash the Imperialist Apartheid State Israel! 7.7.2014,

Boris Hammerschlag: Fascists Attack Pro-Gaza Demonstration in Haifa, 21.7.2014,

Yossi Schwartz: Down with Israel’s New War! 9.7.2014,

Yossi Schwartz: Palestine: Masses Rise Up after the Killing by Burning Alive of Palestinian Youth, 6.7.2014,

RKOB: Austria: Tens of Thousands march in Solidarity with Palestine, 21.7.2014,

RKOB: Austria: Rally in Solidarity with Gaza on 13.7.2014

RKOB: Austria: Rally in Solidarity with Gaza on 9.7.2014,

For more ISL and RCIT historical analyses of Israel as a Zionist apartheid state and the revolutionary program for the Palestinian liberation struggle in numerous documents and articles, see among others:

Internationalist Socialist League: Summary of the ISL-Program, February 2014,

Yossi Schwartz: Israel’s War of 1948 and the Degeneration of the Fourth International, in: Revolutionary Communism, Special Issue on Palestine, No. 10, June 2013,

Yossi Schwartz: Israel’s Six-Day War of 1967. On the Character of the War, the Marxist Analysis and the Position of the Israeli Left, in: Revolutionary Communism, No. 12, July/August 2013,

Michael Pröbsting: On some Questions of the Zionist Oppression and the Permanent Revolution in Palestine, in: Revolutionary Communism, Special Issue on Palestine, No. 10, June 2013,

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