Hamas’s attack on Israel yesterday (Saturday, Oct. 7) came as a shock, taking the Israeli Intelligence and military establishment by surprise, but it should not surprise us in the least. It is the direct consequence of the escalating violent suppression of the Palestinians promoted by Netanyahu, who is leading the most right-wing reactionary government in Israel’s history.
The attack saw thousands of rockets launched from Gaza, with dozens breaking through the Israeli “Iron Dome” anti-missile defence system, while hundreds of Hamas fighters crashed through the most-guarded border fence in the world, to attack border towns and military bases on Israeli soil. This resulted in hundreds of Israeli casualties (350 killed and 2,000 injured at the time of writing).
The fighting is still ongoing more than 24 hours after the initial attack in at least eight out of the 22 targets taken over by the Palestinian commandos. New commandos are entering Israel from Gaza, with dozens of Israeli soldiers and civilians taken prisoner and brought to Gaza. Hamas fighters have overrun a military base, destroyed Israeli tanks and other military equipment, and seized military vehicles, capturing Israeli military commanders, allegedly including Nimrod Aloni, a major-general of the IDF. This is unprecedented.
The Israeli state has been humiliated and its response will be brutal. Netanyahu has declared a “State of War”, and is carrying out retaliatory bombings, which have already killed more than 300 Palestinians and injured 1,600. Israel immediately cut off the electricity supply to the Gaza Strip, with severe consequences for the 2.1 million Palestinian civilian population living there, and undermining the already fragile infrastructure and the healthcare system, which are already close to collapsing.
The hypocrisy of Western imperialist governments
The leaders of Western imperialist governments are now talking about the “right of Israel to defend itself”. Biden, Macron and reformist leaders like Starmer in Britain, in a hypocritical chorus, have condemned the attack on Israel, but conveniently remained silent for decades in the face of Israeli brutality.
They all ignore the fact that, under Netanyahu’s cynical watch, violence by far-right Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem against Palestinian neighbourhoods have escalated exponentially, encouraged by guaranteed impunity and the open or covert complicity of the Israeli security forces. The attempts by Palestinian youth to resist the occupation have been met with disproportionate and systematic deadly violence by the IDF, with an endless string of attacks and targeted assassinations, culminating in the brutal onslaught against the Jenin refugee camp in July. All this, while armed settlers menace the Palestinian population. Thousands of Palestinian youth, many of them minors, from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and from within Israel itself, have been arrested and are languishing in prison without a trial. And yet, how many of the settlers responsible for these crimes have been arrested?
Israel has been in a political deadlock since the beginning of 2023, shaken by the massive protests by hundreds of thousands against Netanyahu’s judicial reforms and the deep divisions within the Zionist ruling class itself. Netanyahu’s last stand for his own political survival has provided an unprecedented opportunity to the Jewish supremacist, extreme right wing of Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, to come out of the woodwork and rise to positions of power within the Israeli state. Their programme is to provoke a “new Nakba” (emulating the massive ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population that led to the proclamation of Israel in 1948), by annexing the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and Gaza and driving out the whole of the Palestinian population.
It is Netanyahu—and the supporters of the Zionist dystopia in which an entire people are suppressed and ethnically cleansed from their own land, while attempting to insulate Israel from the consequences of its ferocious regime of occupation—that are to blame for the present escalation. You cannot continue to deny a whole people its basic democratic rights, squeeze and oppress them, take more and more of their land and houses, shoot at them, arrest them, torture them, render them poorer and poorer, without sooner or later provoking an almighty backlash.
The storming, just a few days ago, of the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem by a mob of hundreds of Jewish supremacists, whose declared aim is to raze the mosque and replace it with a Jewish Temple, was a conscious provocation. The Al-Aqsa mosque is considered the third-holiest religious site in Islam, and therefore to have extreme supremacist Zionists taking it over is an open affront. This action was aided and protected by Israeli police forces. The desecration of the holy site provided the immediate justification for the present attack, launched a few days later by Hamas. This was intentionally obscured by international media in an attempt to focus the blame on “crazy Palestinian violence”.
It is interesting to note the coverage of the BBC, for example, which announced the rocket attack by Hamas without explaining the background, including the constant provocations that the Palestinian people have had to put up with. They also give far less coverage to the physical attacks on Palestinians by settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and prefer to sweep under the carpet the fact that, before the events of the past two days, over 200 Palestinians had been killed this year alone.
Those who talk about “Palestinian terrorism” would do well to remember that, when the Palestinians launched a peaceful movement of mass resistance in 2018, known as the Great March of Return, the Israeli state answered by opening fire with live ammunition, killing hundreds of unarmed protesters, 46 of them minors. The same people who talk today about “terrorism” remained silent during “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008-09, when Israel killed 1,391 Palestinians, including 318 minors, destroyed more than 3,500 homes, leaving tens of thousands without shelter, and wreaked havoc upon other structures and key infrastructure facilities in Gaza. They remained silent during “Operation Protective Edge” in 2014, in which Israel killed 2,203 Palestinians, 1,372 of whom did not participate in the hostilities, including 528 minors, and destroyed or severely damaged more than 18,000 homes, leaving more than 100,000 Palestinians homeless. This is just to mention some recent examples.
This reminds us of what Karl Marx wrote in The Civil War in France:
“All the chorus of calumny, which the Party of Order never fail, in their orgies of blood, to raise against their victims, only proves that the bourgeois of our days considers himself the legitimate successor to the baron of old, who thought every weapon in his own hand fair against the plebeian, while in the hands of the plebeian a weapon of any kind constituted in itself a crime.”
They present the situation as if it were a struggle between two equivalent forces. This is entirely false. It is the struggle between a powerful and aggressive imperialist state and a weak and oppressed people, fighting to defend itself and assert its right to exist as a nation.
The Israeli ruling clique attempts to defend its oppressive actions under the guise of “self-defence”. They quote the Bible: “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life.” But it is never a question of a life for a life. The Israelis respond to the death of one of their citizens by the slaughter of hundreds of Palestinians. This will also be the case in the present conflict. The Israelis will extract the most bloody revenge for their recent humiliation. The slaughter has only just begun.
The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) are amassing tens of thousands of troops around the Gaza border in the attempt to clear out the commandos, and regain control. However, this is proving to be more difficult than expected. Netanyahu has threatened a “mighty revenge” and to reduce Gaza to a deserted island. This could well lead to an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza in an attempt to destroy Hamas, which would result in thousands more civilian casualties. Israel’s response to the failure of its brutal clampdown on the Palestinians is: more of the same!
On the northern Israeli border with Lebanon, the possibility that Hezbollah opens a second front is worrying the Israeli military strategists. Hezbollah launched rockets on the Shebaa Farms area, which is contested by Lebanon and Israel and occupied by Israel. Israel’s measured retaliation was designed not to escalate the situation further, and Hezbollah doesn’t seem to be prepared to go beyond symbolic gestures of defiance. Hezbollah may be forced to change its attitude if the Israeli army invades Gaza with boots on the ground.
One thing can be said, however. While it is certainly possible for Israel to bomb, strangle, invade and reduce Gaza to rubble, as they have done many times in the past, it will prove impossible for them to hold it under occupation. The decision of Ariel Sharon to withdraw from Gaza, carried out in 2005, and Israel’s disastrous invasion of Gaza in 2014, proved the impossibility of suppressing and subduing more than two million people for long with purely military means.
This present conflict also proves that the establishment of the Palestinian Authority after the Oslo Accords of 1993 was a complete travesty designed to turn the former Palestinian resistance, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), into a force that guaranteed Israel’s “peace” by policing their own people. It is grotesque to see today Palestinian president Abbas arguing that Israel is responsible for creating the present crisis, while at the same time his Palestinian Authority is in a partnership with Israel to police and suppress the Palestinian youth who are rising against the occupation in the West Bank.
Within Israel itself, the present show of unity between Netanyahu and the opposition in the face of such an unprecedented attack—which may even see Netanyahu’s arch-enemies Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz join an emergency national government—cannot paper over the cracks that are dividing the Israeli ruling class. Such a show of unity is going to inevitably fall apart under the hammer blow of events. However, the opposition’s capitulation shows that the differences between the Zionist right and the Zionist “left” are of a secondary character when it comes down to what attitude they should adopt towards the Palestinian national struggle and the occupation.
U.S. imperialism and Zionists equally culpable
U.S. president Biden has come out firmly in support of Israel, offering “all appropriate means of support”, adding that his,“…Administration’s support for Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering.” Of course, he made no mention of the Palestinians’ right to oppose Israeli oppression. Biden is navigating troubled waters, with support for Zionism and Israel severely undermined in the United States as a result of the Jewish supremacist direction taken by Netanyahu. However, nothing else could be expected from Biden, considering that the U.S. is subsidizing Israel’s military to the tune of $3.6bn per year. For U.S. imperialism, Israel is its only truly guaranteed ally in the Middle East, and it will always side with the Zionists when the chips are down, no matter how many words of criticism may be uttered here or there.
U.S. imperialism is as responsible as the Zionists and Netanyahu for the present situation, by persistently defending Israel as a bastion of “democracy” (meaning an important asset for U.S. imperialism in the Middle East).
Biden’s mildly critical tone towards Netanyahu in recent years was because Netanyahu’s crazy policies were threatening to undermine the stability in the region and international support for Israel. This threat has now become a reality for everyone to see.
This latest escalation will completely undermine Biden’s attempt to broker a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Saudi monarchy. Such a deal, as well as the Abraham Accords and the idea of “normalization” between the Arab states and Israel, has been scuppered for the foreseeable future. Even the cynical Saudi rulers have to take into account the massive hatred towards Israel that has accumulated among the mass of the Saudi population, as well as in the rest of the Arab world.
However, the prospect of an Israeli invasion of Gaza, the likely collapse of the Palestinian Authority, and consequently the full occupation by Israel of the West Bank, setting the whole of the Middle East on fire, must worry the most serious imperialist strategists in Washington. This situation is a harbinger for revolutionary convulsions and social instability.
The determination and organization displayed by the Palestinian youth, who over the past two years have established a new generation of Palestinian resistance against the occupation in the West Bank, have exposed the fragility of any delusional “peace” settlement for Palestine, and the Middle East that does not include full recognition of the rights of the Palestinians.
Hamas’s attack may have been the trigger for a deeper crisis, but this crisis was already in the making. In fact, Hamas’s tactic of going for a direct military confrontation with Israel is clearly appealing to the growing defiant mood of resistance developing among the Palestinian youth. The youth want action and not words, or deals that only serve to weaken their cause and strengthen the grip of the Zionists. At the same time, the Zionist state, with Netanyahu at the helm, is also regrouping and using the present scenario to whip up a national frenzy against the Palestinians, in an attempt to strengthen its social base of support, using this to draw behind it even those layers that had previously mobilized massively against the right.
The Israeli population has been dragged once again into supporting the Zionist state and the occupation. The movement against the government’s judicial reform has been immediately suspended. The anti-Netanyahu veteran group, who previously refused to serve as reservists, Achim le’Neshek (Brothers and Sisters in Arms) has declared: “Brothers and Sisters in Arms call on everyone who is required to stand up for the defence of Israel without hesitation and immediately.”
However, there are a few critical voices taking courageous positions and denouncing the government’s responsibility in this crisis. Another Israeli veterans’ organization “Breaking the Silence”, while condemning Hamas, highlighted: “how our Jewish-supremacist government brought us to this point”. Ofer Cassif, Israeli MP for the left-wing Hadash, has stated: “I will continue to tell the truth: turn off the brutal, criminal siege of Gaza and the regime of Jewish supremacy, they are responsible for the bloodshed and only their end will bring us all security, peace and a better future.”
Mere words of condemnation, however, are not enough. Only the revolutionary initiative of the Palestinian masses themselves, in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, as well as in Gaza and within Israel itself, holds the key for a qualitative leap in a successful struggle against the occupation. The Arab masses in the neighbouring countries must also play a key role. Supporting the struggle for Palestinian national liberation means first of all overthrowing the reactionary pro-imperialist regimes in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, etc. All these bourgeois regimes, in one way or another, accept the present status quo and have no wish to see a revolutionary conflagration sweep them from power. So, while making verbal gestures of solidarity, they do nothing concrete to aid the Palestinian people.
International solidarity of the youth and working-class movement is also crucial in determining the outcome of this crisis, provided that it is not based on abstract appeals for “peace” and “de-escalation of tensions”. Decades of UN resolutions and international agreements have not advanced the cause of the national liberation of the Palestinian one millimetre. In fact, the opposite is the case, they have allowed the Israeli state to occupy an ever increasing share of Palestinian land. The movement must be clear on the following:
- No to the invasion and bombing of Gaza.
- No to imperialist meddling. Imperialist ‘peace’ and the Oslo accords have failed the Palestinians.
- For a mass uprising against the occupation, on both sides of the green line.
- End the occupation.
- Release all political prisoners.
- End and reverse the Zionist settlement land grab.
- No to oppression, and for equal rights for all peoples, regardless of ethnicity or religion.
- For a socialist federation of the whole of Palestine, as part of a socialist federation of the Middle East.
- Intifada until victory!