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News :: Politics
Mass. Senator Elizabeth Warren Finally Speaks on Israel/Gaza, Sounds Like Netanyahu - By Glenn Greenwald
29 Aug 2014
The last time Elizabeth Warren was asked about her views on the Israeli attack on Gaza – on July 17 – she, as Rania Khalek put it, “literally ran away” without answering. But last week, the liberal Senator appeared for one of her regularly scheduled “office hours” with her Massachusetts constituents, this one in Hyannis, and, as a local paper reported, she had nowhere to run.
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One voter who identified himself as a Warren supporter, John Bangert, stood up and objected to her recent vote, in the middle of the horrific attack on Gaza, to send yet another $225 million of American taxpayer money to Israel for its “Iron Dome” system. Banger told his Senator: “We are disagreeing with Israel using their guns against innocents. It’s true in Ferguson, Missouri, and it’s true in Israel . . . The vote was wrong, I believe.” To crowd applause, Bangert told Warren that the money “could have been spent on infrastructure or helping immigrants fleeing Central America.”

But Warren steadfastly defended her “pro-Israel” vote, invoking the politician’s platitude: “We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one.” According to the account in the Cape Cod Times by reporter C. Ryan Barber, flagged by Zaid Jilani, Warren was also asked about her Israel position by other voters who were at the gathering, and she went on to explain:

“I think the vote was right, and I’ll tell you why I think the vote was right. America has a very special relationship with Israel. Israel lives in a very dangerous part of the world, and a part of the world where there aren’t many liberal democracies and democracies that are controlled by the rule of law. And we very much need an ally in that part of the world.”

Warren said Hamas has attacked Israel “indiscriminately,” but with the Iron Dome defense system, the missiles have “not had the terrorist effect Hamas hoped for.” When pressed by another member of the crowd about civilian casualties from Israel’s attacks, Warren said she believes those casualties are the “last thing Israel wants.”

“But when Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they’re using their civilian population to protect their military assets. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself,” Warren said, drawing applause.

Warren even rejected a different voter’s suggestion that the U.S. force Israel to at least cease building illegal settlements by withholding further aid: “Noreen Thompsen, of Eastham, proposed that Israel should be prevented from building any more settlements as a condition of future U.S. funding, but Warren said, ‘I think there’s a question of whether we should go that far.’”

In her defense, Warren has long been clear that this is what she would do. Her Senate campaign website still contains statements such as “it is a moral imperative to support and defend Israel” and ”as a United States Senator, I will work to ensure Israel’s security and success.”

During her time in the national spotlight, Warren has focused overwhelmingly on domestic issues, rarely venturing into foreign policy discussions. Many of those domestic views, particularly her strident-for-D.C. opposition to banks, have been admirable, elevating her to hero status for many progressives.

But when Warren has spoken on national security, she has invariably spouted warmed-over, banal Democratic hawk tripe of the kind that she just recited about Israel and Gaza. During her Senate campaign, for instance, she issued wildly militaristic – and in some cases clearly false – statements about Iran and its nuclear program that would have been comfortable on the pages of The Weekly Standard.

Even as conservative Democratic Senate candidates from red states such as Nebraska’s Bob Kerrey were vehemently condemning the threat of war against Iran during their campaigns, Warren was claiming (contrary to the U.S. Government’s own assessment) that “Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons”, adding: “I support strong sanctions against Iran and believe that the United States must also continue to take a leadership role in pushing other countries to implement strong sanctions as well.” Those claims about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons remained her position even after she was told that they squarely contradict the U.S. intelligence community’s clear assessment of Iran’s actions.

In related news, the British newspaper The Telegraph yesterday published the names of all 504 children who were killed in Gaza over the last 50 days by Israel. In the last week, Israel deliberately destroyed an entire large residential apartment building after giving its residents less than an hour to vacate, leaving more than 40 families homeless, and also destroyed a seven-story office building and two-story shopping center (the video of the apartment building destruction is online and ugly to watch).

Echoing Benjamin Nentayahu (and Hillary Clinton), Elizabeth Warren’s clear position is that Israel bears none of the blame for any of this. Or, to use her words, “when Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they’re using their civilian population to protect their military assets. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself.” Such carnage is the ”last thing Israel wants.” The last thing. That, ladies and gentlemen, is your inspiring left-wing icon of the Democratic Party.
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Liberals' darling Elizabeth Warren defends Israeli attacks on Gaza schools and hospitals
29 Aug 2014
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Israel has the right to shell Palestinian hospitals and schools out of self defense as long as Hamas stores rocket launchers next to them, US Sen. Elizabeth Warren said during a town hall meeting in Massachusetts this week.

Warren, darling du jour of American liberals, defended her vote to send more defense funding to Israel in the middle of its recent fierce offensive on Gaza, saying she believes civilian casualties are the “last thing Israel wants,” according to the Cape Cod Times.

"But when Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they're using their civilian population to protect their military assets. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself," she said.

Israel and Palestinian authorities reached a long-term ceasefire agreement this week after Israel started its campaign in Gaza on July 8. The death toll from the Gaza conflict has reached at least 2,120 people, of which 577 are children, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

During the conflict, Israel targeted schools and hospitals in Gaza, claiming that rockets and militant fighters were nearby. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency criticized both Hamas for storing rockets in two schools and Israel for attacks on separate schools.

Attacks on hospitals are prohibited by the Geneva Convention’s Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War "unless they are used to commit, outside their humanitarian duties, acts harmful to the enemy." Even then, civilian hospitals can only be targeted "after due warning has been given, naming, in all appropriate cases, a reasonable time limit and after such warning has remained unheeded."

Warren said Hamas has attacked Israel "indiscriminately.” Thanks to Israel’s vaunted Iron Dome defense system, though, those rockets have "not had the terrorist effect Hamas hoped for."

Warren supported Israel’s military aggression, justifying its use of force based on America’s “very special relationship with Israel.”

"Israel lives in a very dangerous part of the world, and a part of the world where there aren't many liberal democracies and democracies that are controlled by the rule of law,” she said. “And we very much need an ally in that part of the world."

Warren also expressed unease with conditioning future US funding for Israel on the cessation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

"I think there's a question of whether we should go that far," Warren said.

Last month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said Israel may have committed war crimes in Gaza. Navi Pillay said house demolitions and the killing of children raise the “strong possibility” that Israel is violating international law.

More than 17,000 homes in Gaza were destroyed or damaged beyond repair, making around 100,000 Palestinians homeless, since the war began, according to UN estimates.

According to a senior UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) official, 373,000 Palestinian children are in need of “immediate psychosocial first aid” due to the onslaught of Israeli strikes.

“The impact has truly been vast, both at a very physical level, in terms of casualties, injuries, the infrastructure that's been damaged, but also importantly, emotionally and psychologically in terms of the destabilizing impact that not knowing, not truly feeling like there is anywhere safe place to go in Gaza,” Pernilla Ironside said last week.

UNICEF estimated that at least 219 schools have been damaged by Israeli airstrikes, while 22 were completely destroyed.

To demonstrate the extent of the damage in Gaza, Ironside estimated that it could take up to 18 years to rebuild the 17,000 housing units that were damaged in the conflict and in light of the ongoing blockade of the region limiting the movement of goods and people.

Israel has also barred major human rights organizations from entering Gaza territory.

Meanwhile, back in the United States, US Sen. Bernie Sanders, American liberals’ other favorite among establishment progressive politicians, has also defended US funding and arms for Israel. At a recent tense town hall in his native Vermont, Sanders condemned Israeli targeting of civilians, but then defended Israel “in a situation where Hamas is sending missiles into Israel” sent from “populated areas.”

"This is a very depressing and difficult issue. This has gone on for 60 bloody years," he said. "If you're asking me, do I have a magical solution? I don't. And you know what, I doubt very much that you do."
Warren Finally Speaks on Israel/Gaza
31 Aug 2014
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Israel killed 504 children in Gaza. Warren claims the US has 'a moral obligation to support Israel.'
The War for Nothing
31 Aug 2014
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After 50 days, the war is over. Hallelujah.

On the Israeli side: 71 dead, among them 66 soldiers, 1 child.

On the Palestinian side: 2,143 dead, 577 of them children, 263 women, 102 elderly. 11,230 injured. 10,800 buildings destroyed. 8,000 partially destroyed. About 40,000 damaged homes. Among the damaged buildings: 277 schools, 10 hospitals, 70 mosques, 2 churches. Also, 12 West Bank demonstrators, mostly children, who were shot.

So what was it all about?

The honest answer is: About nothing.

Neither side wanted it. Neither side started it. It just so happened.

Let us recapitulate the events, before they are forgotten.

Two young Arab men kidnapped three young Israeli religious students near the West Bank town of Hebron. The kidnappers belonged to the Hamas movement, but acted on their own. Their purpose was to exchange their captives for Palestinian prisoners. Liberating prisoners is now the highest ambition of every Palestinian militant.

The kidnappers were amateurs, and their plan miscarried from the beginning. They panicked when one student used his mobile phone and then they shot the hostages. All of Israel was in an uproar. The kidnappers have not yet been found.

The Israeli security forces used the opportunity to implement a prepared plan. All known Hamas activists in the West Bank were arrested, as well as all the former prisoners who were released as part of the deal to free the Israeli hostage Gilad Shalit. For Hamas this was the violation of an agreement.

The Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip could not keep quiet while their comrades in the West Bank were being imprisoned. It reacted by launching rockets at Israeli towns and villages.

The Israeli government could not keep quiet while its towns and villages were bombarded. It responded with a heavy bombardment of the Gaza strip from the air.

From there on, it was just an endless festival of death and destruction. The war was crying out for a purpose.

Hamas then did something that was, in my opinion, a cardinal mistake. It used some of the clandestine tunnels which it had built under the border fence to attack Israeli targets. Israelis suddenly became aware of this danger that the army had belittled. The purposeless war acquired a purpose: It became the War Against the “Terror-Tunnels". The infantry was sent into the Gaza Strip to search out and destroy them.

Eighty thousand soldiers entered Strip. After destroying all the known tunnels, they had nothing to do except stand around and act as targets.

The next logical step would have been to move forward and conquer the entire Gaza Strip, some 45 km long and an average of 6 km wide, with 1.8 million inhabitants. Four times larger than Manhattan island with about the same population.

But the Israeli army detested the idea of conquering the Strip for the third time (after 1956 and 1967). The last time it left, the soldiers sang "Goodbye Gaza, and not to see you again!" Predictions of military casualties were high, many more than Israeli society was ready to suffer, in spite of all the patriotic hyperbole.

The war deteriorated into an orgy of killing and destroying, with both sides "dancing on the blood", blessing every bomb and missile, completely oblivious to the suffering caused to the human beings on the other side. And still without any realizable aim.

If Clausewitz was right about war being but a continuation of policy by other means, then every war must have a clear political aim.

For Hamas, the aim was clear and simple: Lift the blockade on Gaza.

For Israel there was none. Binyamin Netanyahu defined his aim as "Calm in return for Calm". But we had that before it all started.

Some of his cabinet colleagues demanded to "go to the end" and occupy the entire strip. The army command objected, and one cannot fight a war against the wishes of the army command. So everyone stood around waiting for Godot.

What brought about the final ceasefire agreement?

Both sides were exhausted. On the Israeli side, the feather that broke the camel’s back was the plight of the settlement around the Gaza Strip, called the "Gaza envelope". Under the unceasing barrage of short-range rockets and – even worse – mortar shells that cost next to nothing, the inhabitants, mostly kibbutz members, started to move quitetly to safer regions.

That was almost sacrilege. One of the founding myths of Israel was that in the 1948 war, in which the state was born, Arab villagers and townspeople ran away when they were shot at, while our settlements stood firm even in the midst of hell.

That was not entirely so. Several kibbutzim were evacuated by order of the army when their defense became impossible. In several others, women and children were sent away, while men were ordered to stay on and fight with the soldiers. But on the whole, Israeli settlements stood fast and fought.

But 1948 was an ethnic war for territory. Land evacuated was lost forever (or at least until the next war). This time, the whole rationale was different.

Life in the "envelope" became impossible. Sirens sounded several times within the hour, and everybody had 15 seconds to find shelter. The clamor for evacuation became open and loud. Hundreds of families moved away. The myth was abandoned and the government was compelled to organize a mass movement. That did not look like victory.

The Palestinian side underwent a terrible ordeal. About 400 thousand people had to leave their homes. Whole families found shelter in UN buildings, several families in a room or in a corner of the courtyard, without electricity and with very little water, mothers with 6, 7 or 8 children.

(Imagine what that means: A family, poor or wealthy, has to leave its home within minutes, unable to take anything, no clothes, no money, no family albums, just to gather the children and run, while behind them the home collapses. A whole life’s work and memories destroyed in seconds. The young men were long gone, living in secret underground tunnels, preparing for the crucial fight.)

It is almost a wonder that under these conditions, the Hamas government and command structure did function. Orders passed from hidden leaders to hidden cells, contacts were maintained with leaders abroad and between different organizations, while spy drones circled overhead and killed any civil leader or commander who showed his face.

After the action to kill the Hamas military Commander in Chief, Mohammad Deif (which succeeded or failed, we don’t know), Hamas started to shoot the informers without whom such actions are impossible. (In my days as a junior terrorist, we did the same.)

But with all their remarkable ingenuity, Hamas could not go on forever. Their large stocks of rockets and mortar shells were being depleted. They also needed an end.

The result? Clearly a draw. But, as I have said before, if a small resistance organization achieves a draw against one of the mightiest military machines in the world, it has cause to celebrate – as it indeed did, last Monday, the 50th day of the War for Nothing.

What did the two sides lose?

The Palestinians sustained huge material losses. Thousand of homes were destroyed in order to break their spirit, some with some slim pretext, others without any. In the last days, the Air Force systematically brought down the luxurious high-rise buildings in the center of Gaza.

Palestinian human losses were also enormous. Israelis did not shed any tears.

On the Israeli side, human and material losses where comparatively light. Economic losses were significant, but bearable. It is the unseen losses that count.

The delegitimization of Israel throughout the world is accelerating. Millions of people have seen the daily pictures coming out of Gaza, and, consciously or unconsciously, their image of Israel has changed. For many, the brave little country has turned into a brutal monster.

Anti-Semitism, we are told, is dangerously on the rise. Israel claims to be the Nation-State of the Jewish People, and most Jews defend Israel and identify with it. The new rage against Israel sometimes looks like old-time anti-Semitism, and sometimes is.

We don’t know how many Jews will be driven by anti-Semitism to Israel. Nor do we know how many Israelis will be driven by the eternal war from Israel to Germany, the US or Canada.

One tends to overlook the most dangerous aspect. A huge mass of hatred has been created in Gaza. How many of the children we saw running with their mothers from their homes will become the "terrorists" of tomorrow?

Millions of children throughout the Arab world have seen the pictures beamed daily into their homes by Aljazeera, and become bitter haters of Israel. Aljazeera is a world power. While its English-language edition tried to be moderate, the Arab edition had no brakes – hour after hour its reports showed the heartbreaking pictures from Gaza, the children killed, the homes destroyed.

On the other side, the generations-old enmity of Arab governments towards Israel has been broken. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and all the Gulf States (except Qatar) are openly collaborating now with Israel.

Can this bear political fruit in the future? It could, if our government were really interested in peace.

In Israel itself, fascism, vile and unmistakable, has raised its ugly head. "Death to the Arabs" and "Death to the Leftists" have become legitimate battle-cries. Some of this foul wave will hopefully recede, but some may remain and become a regular feature.

Netanyahu’s personal fortunes are clouded. During the war his popularity ratings rose sharply. Now they are in a free fall. It is not enough to make speeches about victory. Victory must be seen. If possible, without a microscope.

War is a matter of power. The reality created on the battlefield is generally reflected in the political results. If the battle ends in a draw, the political result will also be a draw.

Celebrating a similar triumph long ago, Pyrrhus, King of Epirus, remarked: “Another such victory and we will be lost!”
Hamas vs Likud
31 Aug 2014
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Hamas executes people they call 'spies.'
31 Aug 2014
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Two women, ten men - summary execution.
Zionist Bloodbath in Gaza
31 Aug 2014
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Down With U.S. Aid to Israel!

AUGUST 5—“They have to die and their houses should be demolished so that they cannot bear any more terrorists.... They are all enemy combatants.” This screed by Israeli politician Ayelet Shaked, posted on the eve of “Operation Protective Edge,” is a genocidal expression of a cold Zionist ideology that views the Palestinian people as untermenschen (“subhumans”) to be killed with impunity. “One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail” was how a notorious right-wing Israeli rabbi baldly put it some 20 years ago. Today, this is reasserted through the wholesale slaughter of more than 1,800 largely defenseless Palestinians, with another 9,400 wounded, by the U.S.-armed Israeli war machine, carried out under the pretext of responding to Hamas’s largely ineffectual rocket attacks.

As we go to press, it appears that Israel is withdrawing its forces from Gaza. At the same time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened to renew the massacres under the pretense of going after Hamas’s rockets and tunnels. In the face of Israel’s barbarity, we take a side militarily in defense of Hamas against Israel, without giving an iota of political support to that reactionary Islamic fundamentalist outfit. Defend the Palestinian people!

For the last month, the already devastated population of the Gaza Strip has been under a relentless barrage of Zionist state terror, with missiles raining down from the skies above and from the sea, while people are being shelled by artillery in an 86,000-strong ground invasion. The overwhelming majority of the dead are civilians, including at least 400 children. The streets are strewn with decomposing limbs and bodies. Whole blocks are flattened. Whole families are exterminated. Scenes abound of women and children fleeing on foot from missiles and shells.

Gaza lies in ruin upon ruin. The skyline of Gaza City and other towns in one of the most densely populated places on earth is a ragged outline of shattered buildings and torn minarets. Gaza’s meager infrastructure is devastated, many of its few factories destroyed, its one power plant in flames. A population that has had to live on four hours of electricity a day will now be forced to subsist with neither electricity nor treated water nor a sewage system, while overwhelmed hospitals lose electrical power even just to keep blood and medicines refrigerated.

The sordid bourgeois media in the U.S. presents the carnage in Gaza as a “war” between two equal sides. CNN’s contemptible anchor Wolf Blitzer airs lurid stories about “terrorists” using the tunnels in Gaza. The New York Times runs stories about Hamas using Palestinians in the Gaza ghetto as “civilian shields.” The underlying message is clear: Israel is to be absolved for any amount of murder of Palestinians, who, in turn, have no right to defend themselves. The leaflets that Israel drops telling Palestinians to flee are a cruel reminder that Gaza’s residents have nowhere to flee from what is a concentration camp surrounded by an electrified fence, a sealed border with Egypt and a Mediterranean shoreline patrolled by the Israeli navy.

There is no refuge for Gazans. UN schools—which have been sheltering more than 200,000 people, over 10 percent of Gaza’s population—have been bombed repeatedly. On August 3, one such school in Rafah was hit by Israel, killing 10 people—this after UN administrators at the school had communicated to the Israeli military no less than 33 times its precise coordinates and the fact that it was housing some 3,000 refugees. This was the seventh such Israeli bombing of UN shelters. On July 30, after announcing a four-hour “humanitarian pause” in the bombing, Israel struck a market in Shejaya where desperate people were trying to get food. The brutal bombardment killed at least 17 people and wounded over 200.

The scale of Israel’s current onslaught in Gaza has already surpassed that of its 2008-09 terror campaign, called “Operation Cast Lead,” in which some 1,400 Palestinians were slaughtered. Whereas during the first (1987-93) and second (2000-05) Intifadas (uprisings) it took months and years for thousands of Palestinians to be killed, today such numbers are reached in days and weeks. This is the new “normal” that has been established by the war criminals in Tel Aviv.

Behind the Israeli terror machine stands the far more powerful and deadly terror machine of U.S. imperialism. National Security Advisor Susan Rice declares, “Here is one thing you never have to worry about: America’s support for the state of Israel.” For his part, Secretary of State John Kerry reiterates that Israel “has every right in the world to defend itself.” The U.S. arms Israel to the tune of more than $3 billion a year in military and other aid. And the U.S. has announced that it will allow Israel to tap into U.S. stockpiles of grenades and mortar rounds inside Israel. On August 1 the House voted 395 to 8 to approve another $225 million for Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defense system, which the U.S. helped to create; the measure passed unanimously in the Senate. Down with U.S. aid to Israel! Down with U.S. imperialism!

The European imperialist powers are not far behind the Americans in consigning the Palestinian people to whatever fate the Zionists have in store. The French head of state, François Hollande, proclaimed on July 9: “The government of Israel has the prerogative to take all measures to protect its people in the face of danger.” The “Socialist”-led government has banned demonstrations against the Zionists’ atrocities and its cops have arrested dozens at protests in Paris and other cities.

In the Near East, most of the venal Arab bourgeois regimes, with Egypt taking the lead, have effectively stood with Israel against Hamas. Even the empty declarations of solidarity with the Palestinians have been dispensed with this time. Al-Sisi’s regime in Egypt came to power last year through a bloody coup that overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi. To the current Egyptian government, Hamas, a close ally of the Brotherhood, is far more of an enemy than Israel. The Egyptian media retails accusations against Hamas—blaming it for provoking Israel’s current onslaught—to such an extent that Israel has been broadcasting Egyptian talk shows into Gaza. More significantly, the U.S.-armed Egyptian military has sealed its border with Gaza, refusing to allow goods into the Strip or Palestinian refugees into Sinai. Down with U.S. aid to Egypt!

There have been protests in many cities against the bloodbath in Gaza. The Spartacist League/U.S. and other national sections of the International Communist League have intervened to express our solidarity with the Palestinian masses and to put forward the only perspective—international socialist revolution—that can put an end to Palestinian national oppression. Here in the belly of the beast we emphasize our class-struggle opposition to U.S. imperialism. In the Near East, there is no hope of peace or a decent life for the myriad peoples of the region until the proletariat overthrows bourgeois rule through a series of socialist revolutions.

Zionist Lies and Disinformation

The premise for Israel’s current savagery in Gaza is built upon the sort of lies that would win the admiration of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. The bourgeois media dutifully prates that Israelis live in terror of Hamas attacks. In fact in all of 2013, a total of six Israelis were killed—three of them soldiers and all but one in the occupied West Bank, where hundreds of thousands of Zionist settlers, backed up by troops, routinely terrorize Palestinian residents. As for the Hamas rockets and mortars, the number of attacks in 2013 dropped by 97 percent from the previous year according to the Israeli government’s own statistics. In fact, some fascistic elements have taken to picnicking in the hilltops near Gaza—within range of Hamas’s rockets. They bring with them lawn chairs, snacks, sodas and beers as they watch the bombardment of Gaza, taking thumbs-up selfies in front of black plumes of smoke and roaring with approval as Israeli missiles and shells hit their targets.

The supposed impetus for the pummeling of Gaza this time around was the kidnapping and killing of three yeshiva students in the West Bank in June. With no evidence whatsoever, Israel immediately declared Hamas guilty, ignoring the latter’s denial. It has since come out that the Netanyahu regime knew virtually from the moment they were kidnapped that the yeshiva students were dead. But for 18 days, the government maintained the lie of searching for them in order to build up the hysteria in the country and abroad against Hamas. As calculated, a round of fascistic terror was unleashed against Palestinians, capped by the torture and murder of a 16-year-old East Jerusalem youth: kidnapped by ultra-Zionists on July 2, he was found burned to death.

During those 18 days, Israel carried out a large-scale crackdown against Hamas in the West Bank, destroying homes, carrying out raids that killed ten Palestinians and arresting several hundred senior Hamas leaders, including many of those recently freed under the terms of a prisoner exchange. It was in response to this that Hamas intensified its feeble rocket attacks.

The actual background to the current onslaught is the increasing isolation of Hamas. Having backed the Sunni fundamentalist insurgents in the brutal Syrian civil war against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, Hamas lost support from the Syrian regime as well as its backers, Hezbollah and Iran. At the same time, the overthrow of Morsi in Egypt resulted in the loss of a key ally right on the border of Gaza.

In this situation, Hamas entered into a “unity government” agreement with the Palestinian Authority (PA), the dominant organization in the West Bank. The PA had been the ruling force in Gaza until it was soundly defeated in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections by Hamas, which dislodged it from Gaza in a factional conflagration in 2007 that took hundreds of lives. As noted by foreign policy analyst Nathan Thrall in a July 17 New York Times op-ed piece, “Israel immediately sought to undermine the reconciliation agreement by preventing Hamas leaders and Gaza residents from obtaining the two most essential benefits of the deal: the payment of salaries to 43,000 civil servants who worked for the Hamas government and continue to administer Gaza under the new one, and the easing of the suffocating border closures imposed by Israel and Egypt.” Israel then went in for the kill. Israeli policy in recent decades has been to separate Gaza from the West Bank, to fragment and treat them as two separate entities.

Before this recent onslaught, Gaza was already a hellhole. Blockaded by Israel and Egypt since 2007, Gaza has been starved for years. Unemployment stood at 40.8 percent. More than 80 percent of the population had been dependent on UN and other international aid for survival. About 50 percent of infants and children under two were suffering from iron deficiency anemia. The populations of Gaza City, Rafah and Jabalya in Gaza received fresh water only once every four days, for six to eight hours at a time. Down with the blockade of Gaza!

Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the Palestinian population has been sealed off by an apartheid wall and subjected to a deadly Israeli military occupation, including the shooting of demonstrators protesting the rampage in Gaza. Surrounded by over 600,000 Zionist settlers who are backed up by thousands more troops, Palestinians are subjected to a series of military checkpoints and “Jewish only” roads that cut farmers off from their own fields and make travel between towns virtually impossible. All Zionist troops and settlers out of the West Bank and East Jerusalem!

For a Socialist Federation of the Near East!

For well over 65 years, the Palestinian masses have suffered under the jackboot of the Israeli state—an oppression that has only intensified since the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92. The collapse of the USSR, which had acted as a counterweight to U.S. imperialism, deprived the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) of crucial diplomatic and financial support, paving the way for the 1993 U.S.-sponsored Oslo accords, which established the Palestinian Authority as Israel’s police auxiliaries in the Occupied Territories.

Far from bringing “peace” or the easing of poverty and national oppression, Oslo and the various later “peace” accords deepened the Palestinians’ desperation. At the time of the Oslo agreement, the land seized by Zionist settlements was estimated at over 55 percent of the total land area of the Occupied Territories; in the West Bank, Israel was taking about 80 percent of the water for settlements and for use in Israel proper. The Oslo accords ignored the question of water resources while “postponing” any adjustment of land claims. In the subsequent two decades, the settlements have expanded virtually unchecked.

Relative freedom of movement within the territories and between Gaza and the West Bank has all but been eliminated. With Oslo, Israel dramatically accelerated the process of expelling Palestinians from the low-wage jobs they were able to hold within Israel, replacing them with migrant workers from Africa, Asia and East Europe, who today face brutal exploitation and repression.

It was the political bankruptcy of the secular-nationalist PLO that paved the way for the rise of reactionary, anti-woman, anti-Christian and anti-Jewish outfits like Hamas, which in the 1970s and ’80s was promoted by Israel as a counterweight to the PLO and more left-wing Palestinian groups. Oslo and subsequent “peace” deals were the logical culmination of the PLO’s nationalist program. When 2,000 Palestinians, mainly elderly people and children, were being slaughtered at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982 at the behest of the Israeli army, PLO leaders were abroad being feted as statesmen (without a state) and rubbing elbows in Cairo cafes with other left-talking nationalists from throughout the Third World. The basis of Palestinian nationalism, like all nationalism, is to preach the unity of the downtrodden and exploited with their “own” exploiters and would-be exploiters. In this view, the Palestinians’ allies are to be sought not among the proletariat of the region, but rather among Arab rulers, and, failing that, the imperialists.

The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is one of interpenetrated peoples, where two antagonistic populations lay claim to the same piece of land. This means that under capitalism, the exercise of national self-determination by one will necessarily be at the expense of the other. Only in a socialist federation of the Near East can the competing claims to land and resources be equitably resolved.

Some 50 percent of the Palestinian population lives outside the Occupied Territories. This underlines that the national emancipation of the Palestinians—including the right of all refugees and their descendants to return to their homeland—necessarily entails workers revolutions not only to shatter the Zionist state from within but also to sweep away the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Syrian Ba’athist bonapartists and the capitalist rulers of Lebanon—countries that all have sizable and oppressed Palestinian populations.

Genuine Marxists recognize the right of the Israeli Jews as well as the Palestinians to national self-determination. The historical fact of Israel’s origins as a Zionist settler state founded on the mass expulsion of Arab inhabitants has no bearing on the right of their descendants—like all peoples—to exist. We reject the notion that there are any “progressive” or “reactionary” peoples; it is the ruling classes in power and not whole nations which are responsible for hideous crimes against humanity past and present, whether committed by German Nazis, Israeli Zionists or American imperialists.

We struggle to win the Israeli Jewish working class away from their Zionist rulers to see that their class allies are the working people of the Arab countries and to champion the national rights of the Palestinians. To be sure, such a perspective seems very remote. Over the last several decades, Israeli society has moved very sharply to the right. While 130 courageous teenagers have refused to be drafted into the army out of opposition to the occupation of Palestinian territories, a recent poll indicates that some 95 percent of Israeli Jews support the Israeli onslaught against Gaza.

The liberal demonstrations in cities like Haifa and Tel Aviv against the assault have been small, emboldening fascistic counterdemonstrators who attack the protesters with rocks and lead pipes while chanting “Death to Arabs!” and “Death to leftists!” Where the cops have not simply repressed the liberal demonstrations, they have penned protesters up where they could be easily assaulted, or simply left the scene. Meanwhile, Palestinian “citizens” of Israel have faced brutal harassment and violence for their opposition to the bombardment and invasion of Gaza.

Nonetheless, Israel is a class-divided society, with a proletariat made up of not only Jewish workers but also Palestinians (as well as a growing sector of foreign migrant workers). More than 25 percent of its citizens live in poverty and income disparities are higher than in even Egypt or Jordan. Palestinians constitute about 20 percent of Israel’s population, second-class citizens who are consigned to segregated, impoverished areas and to low-paid labor or unemployment. Sephardic Jews, though overwhelmingly under the sway of right-wing and religious parties, suffer widespread discrimination and poverty. An even worse situation confronts Israeli Jews of Ethiopian descent.

It is only the working class of Israel that has the capacity and historic interest to destroy the Zionist state from within. It is the false consciousness of Zionist nationalism, religion and racism that binds the Israeli Jewish proletariat to its capitalist ruling-class enemy. The fact that Israel is surrounded by pervasive anti-Jewish bigotry in the Arab countries allows the Israeli ruling class to more easily sell the lie that the Zionist state “protects” Israeli Jews. Hamas (and other Palestinian groups) have no qualms about targeting Israeli civilians for suicide bombings in the cities. Such acts are criminal from the standpoint of the international proletariat and serve only to cement the loyalty of Israeli Jews to Zionism.

Grotesque, even by the lights of “socialists” who will tail anything, is the Socialist Struggle Movement, the Israeli affiliate of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), whose American group is Socialist Alternative. Socialist Struggle issued a July 29 statement, “Gaza in Crisis,” which amounts to a left-Zionist critique of Israel’s assault. While condemning the bombings, not once does the piece state the elementary position of the need to defend the Palestinians, much less take a side militarily with Hamas’s forces. While complaining that Netanyahu’s “right-wing security strategy has proved a complete failure” because it did not succeed in toppling Hamas and instead “sowed more desperation, bereavement, death and destruction” (as though this were not conscious Israeli policy), the CWI laments the death of Israeli soldiers in the assault, writing that they “needlessly died.”

Unlike the 2008-09 Gaza invasion, in which only ten Israeli soldiers were killed (four of them by “friendly fire”), Hamas this time around has inflicted some casualties against Israeli soldiers, killing 64. Marxists are not bloodthirsty, but we understand that if large numbers of Israeli soldiers started coming back in body bags, there would be potential for rifts to develop within Israeli society over the government’s terror war on the Palestinians. As Marxists, we do not equate the violence of the oppressed with the violence of the oppressor.

What is vital is to forge revolutionary Marxist parties throughout the Near East to unite the proletariat—Arab, Persian and Kurdish; Sunni and Shi’ite; Muslim, Christian and Jewish—in struggle against imperialism and all the capitalist rulers of the region. The conquest of power by the proletariat in the Near East will not complete the socialist revolution, but only paves the way by changing the direction of social development. But that social development can be consolidated only through the international extension of the revolution, particularly to the advanced, industrialized imperialist centers.

Defense of those subjugated by the imperialists around the globe demands the pursuit of class struggle in the U.S. and other imperialist centers, pointing toward a proletarian struggle for power. The Spartacist League is committed to the fight to forge a revolutionary workers party to lead the multiracial proletariat in the struggle to sweep away U.S. imperialism through socialist revolution.

BDS and Illusions in Imperialism

In recent years, given the utterly desperate situation, many have turned to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as a way to “do something” on behalf of the Palestinians. This liberal movement appeals to “international civil society organizations and people of conscience” to implement boycott and divestment campaigns against Israel. It also calls on its supporters to pressure their governments to implement embargoes and sanctions against Israel. The stated goal of the campaign is to force Israel to comply with “international law” and recognize the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

Whatever the intentions of the committed young activists in BDS, the fundamental premise of the movement is to appeal to the imperialist forces that are up to their necks in the subjugation of the Palestinian people. This was made clear by the reformist International Socialist Organization (ISO), which staunchly supports BDS. The ISO succinctly described that the aim of the divestment and sanctions is “to bring sufficient pressure to ‘ensure a change in Zionist strategic calculations’ that would make a democratic state an acceptable option” (, 13 March).

There is a vast difference between negative demands on the imperialists, like “down with U.S. aid to Israel,” and positive calls on them to act humanely on behalf of the oppressed. To seek to pressure the capitalist rulers to make more “socially responsible” or “ethical” investments is to build dangerous illusions in the supposed benign nature of the imperialists—whose class interests are fundamentally counterposed to those of the workers and the oppressed all over the world—as being somehow better than Israel. The U.S. imperialist ruling class will pursue its interests in as merciless a manner as it needs to regardless of what “people of conscience” have to say. The U.S. supports Israel because Israel serves U.S. imperialism’s interests in the region. Any change in that regard (unlikely though that is) would not be the result of “grassroots pressure” but rather the product of a shift in American foreign policy, which would be no less oppressive, violent and predatory.

Likewise, the BDS’s appeals to the UN to enforce “international law” reinforce dangerous illusions in “democratic” imperialism. Opponents of Zionist terror must place no reliance on this imperialist den of thieves and their victims. Time and again, the UN has acted to reinforce Palestinian oppression. The UN presided over the 1947 partition of Palestine. United Nations “peacekeepers” disarmed Palestinian fighters in Lebanon in 1982, setting up the Sabra and Shatila massacre. Imperialism itself lies at the root of the national dismemberment and resulting deadly antagonisms that have written the history of the Near East in blood. And all the treacherous nationalist leaders whose politics today boil down to seeking advantage at the expense of other peoples only reinforce the prostration of the region before the might of imperialism.

It is precisely the liberal-bourgeois political outlook promoted by the likes of BDS and others—working within a capitalist framework, seeking to pressure one capitalist force or another—that ensured that upheavals like the early 2011 uprising in Egypt, taking place amid massive waves of labor strikes, never developed into a challenge to capitalist rule in that country. This was most clearly expressed by the ISO’s fraternal group in Egypt, the Revolutionary Socialists, which in 2012 called for a vote to the reactionary Muslim Brotherhood only to support the coup carried out by the blood-soaked military a year later. The tragedy of Egypt today, where in place of the struggle for proletarian power military rule has only become more deeply entrenched, is also the tragedy of the Palestinian people.

As we wrote in “‘Boycott Israel’ Campaign and Illusions in Democratic Imperialism” (WV No. 1045, 2 May):

“The current grim situation underlines that there is no easy road to the liberation of the Palestinian people, which requires the revolutionary overthrow of capitalist rule in nuclear-armed Israel and the surrounding Arab states. This perspective demands the forging of revolutionary Marxist parties committed to the struggle for working-class power and tempered through the most uncompromising struggle against all forms of nationalism and religious reaction. There is no other way.”
Anti-Semitism and the Left
31 Aug 2014
gaza protest baby.jpg
25 Aug 2014 - I FOUND myself disagreeing with quite a lot in Paul Pryse's recent letter to


("A pass for anti-Semitism?"

SOCIALISTWORKER.ORG HAS been too quick to dismiss the allegations against Steven Salaita, the academic fired from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We should take the accusation of anti-Semitism seriously.

In one pair of tweets, Salaita implies that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu controls the Republican Party. He writes, "Republicans are such tough guys, eager to kill 4 God and country. #Israel slaps around the US of A, though, and all they do is ask for more," and "Rednecks need a new slogan. Instead of 'kick their ass and take their gas,' how about" #Gaza is a disaster but Netanyahu is my master." This is disturbing rhetoric that alludes to the anti-Semitic myth of Jews secretly controlling governments.

In another tweet, Salaita says "Zionists are partly responsible" for anti-Semitism. This is a rationalization of racism that unfortunately has become a commonplace in the Palestine solidarity movement. Israel says it is a Jewish state, the argument goes, therefore anti-Semites must be pardoned since they are merely reacting to Israel's crimes against the Palestinians.

If someone on the left were to try to pin responsibility for Islamaphobia on right-wing Muslims, we would immediately reject this. Our approach to oppression has always been that responsibility for racism never belongs to the oppressed group, regardless of their behavior. There should be no exception for Jews.

Another variation of this argument points out that Zionism is predicated on accepting anti-Semitism as immutable. In his diaries, Theodore Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, described how he resigned to the idea of fighting anti-Semitism. This resignation towards curbing anti-Semitism led many Zionists to collaborating with anti-Semites who shared their goal of increasing Jewish emigration from Europe. For this capitulation, the argument goes, Israel must accept blame for world anti-Semitism.

However, compare these actions to those of right-wing Black nationalists in this country. Marcus Garvey espoused the idea that blacks would never be equal in white America. Complacent toward white racism, he met with the Ku Klux Klan, and told the Klan that they shared the goals of separate nations for blacks and whites. In its heyday, the Nation of Islam preached that whites could not be turned from racism, and organized rallies alongside the American Nazi Party whom they considered the honest whites.

People deal with oppression in a number of ways, and sometimes, their responses are conservative and nationalist. However, these forms of resistance are always the result of oppression, never its cause.

These fine points of the relationship between Zionism and anti-Semitism matter. There is a danger of the Palestine solidarity movement becoming desensitized to any claims of anti-Semitism.

The career of Gilad Atzmon is an instructive case. Atzmon is an Israeli-born Jew and musician turned Palestine activist. His writings on Zionism contain venomous attacks on Jews, including the argument that Israel's attacks on the Palestinians are not a product of imperialism but represent something wrong with Jews. Atzmon calls the accusation of anti-Semitism "a common Zionist silencing apparatus."

In spite of this, a number of Left institutions have excused or rationalized Atzmon's bile. For a few years, Atzmon regularly performed at the British Socialist Workers Party's annual conference, before he was quietly dropped without an explanation or apology from the SWP's leadership. Atzmon's writings still appear in Counterpunch, perhaps the most widely read online publication on the American left. Finally, Zero Books, a British publisher that has published authors like Richard Seymour and Laurie Penny, published a treatise on Jewish identity by Atzmon which is still available through their website.

Another example is "leftist" academic James Petras, whose articles on Jewish control of the media and government still appear on Dissident Voice and in Counterpunch. A single pass for someone like Atzmon or Petras is a case of bad judgment. Multiple passes represent a pattern of unwillingness or inability by the left to address anti-Semitism.

Instead of an instinct to show solidarity with Jews, the pro-Palestine left has developed an instinctive skepticism towards reports of anti-Semitism, which makes the movement more open to real Jew-haters.

Paul Pryse, Madison, Wis. )


But one aspect I thought was particularly in need of response was the allegation that the contemporary left is becoming desensitized to anti-Semitism and is providing space for bigots to organize. As someone who has been involved in Palestinian solidarity actions for the last decade, I simply cannot recognize any aspect of the movement in this description.

Before turning to the substance of the argument, however, I feel the need to note the incongruity of a claim that the left fails to react to anti-Semitism coming just weeks after Gaza has been devastated and pro-Palestine academics are being witch-hunted out of their jobs. Meanwhile, the largest left party in Germany can't even take a position against the massacre, because some currents feel that to do so might be anti-Semitic. In this atmosphere, a discussion of the Left's supposed softness on the question of anti-Semitism seems perverse.

Nonetheless, the substance of the charges made must be addressed. Paul puts forward two examples of contemporary anti-Semities who have found a home in the Palestinian solidarity movement: the Israeli-born writer Gilad Atzmon and the U.S. academic James Petras.

Atzmon is unquestionably a vile racist. Reading Paul's letter, however, you would never know that he has been denounced as such by leading voices for Palestinian liberation across the Western left. A few years back, Electronic Intifada published an open letter signed by such movement luminaries as Ali Abunimah, Joseph Massad and Rafeef Ziadah, condemning Atzmon's racism and pronouncing it utterly unwelcome in the movement.

Paul notes that Atzmon's book was published by Zero Books, which also publishes well-known leftist voices like Laurie Penny and Richard Seymour. Once again, however, an important part of the story is missing. In response to Zero Books' decision, a number of authors signed a petition condemning Atzmon in no uncertain terms and calling on the publisher to distance itself from any association with him.

Four years ago, itself ran an interview with Atzmon. After being alerted to his sordid history, the editors pulled the interview and published a statement condemning Atzmon's racism.

In short, far from proving that anti-Semitism is tolerated on the left, Atzmon's career demonstrates the exact opposite point. The most influential voices in the movement have, quite properly, attempted to drive him out of it entirely.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

JAMES PETRAS is a less extreme example, and less prone than Atzmon to toxic fulminations about Judeo-Bolshevism. His focus on what he calls "the Jewish lobby," however, and his contention that Jews are the most powerful ethnic group in the country, are quite nasty and have no place on the left. The same as with Atzmon, however, Petras has not gotten a free pass. The International Socialist Review criticized his book when it came out, as did Solidarity's journal Against the Current. A quick Google search reveals they were hardly alone on the left in doing so.

It's true that both have been published by websites like CounterPunch, but the weight of this fact is unimpressive. CounterPunch runs a lot of useful material, to be sure, but a website that regularly prints someone like Reagan administration Treasury official Paul Craig Roberts can hardly be held as indicative of the general editorial line of the left.

In short, I don't see any evidence for the claim that the left is becoming desensitized to anti-Semitism or giving bigots a pass. On the contrary, the dramatic growth of the Palestinian solidarity movement over the last few years has only helped generalize the left's commitment to a universalistic conception of justice as applying to all people everywhere. For decades, on the Western left at least, this conception seemed to apply everywhere except between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean.

With the advance of Palestinian solidarity to the forefront of leftist consciousness, however, the left is today more universalist than it has ever been. It is an accomplishment we should take pride in, and not allow to be tarnished with baseless accusations.