Despite reports of United States President Joe Biden pressuring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a ceasefire, the US has thrown its full support behind Israel’s murderous war against the Palestinians.
Israel has been pounding Gaza in a one-sided war against the people, not just the Hamas leadership.
Palestinians in the West Bank mobilised in demonstrations against the war in Gaza and against Israeli forces that control the West Bank. The Israeli army responded with live ammunition, killing many and wounding hundreds. Armed Israeli settlers joined the attacks on Palestinians.
For the first time, Palestinians who are formally citizens within Israel proper — also called “green line” Israel — have risen up to support their brothers and sisters, and have been attacked by Jewish far-right groups, resulting in lynchings of Palestinians.
This uprising is a new stage of Palestinian resistance, largely fueled by a new generation of young people, organising themselves on social media and bypassing the increasingly discredited Palestinian Authority (PA).
News and footage of the conflict spread rapidly, including into neighbouring Arab countries, promoting demonstrations there.
In Jordan, demonstrators demanded the monarchy reject its recognition of and support for Israel.
Lebanese demonstrators gathered at the border with Israel.
A general strike by Palestinians — the first such strike since 1936, when the British ruled Palestine — took place on May 18.
Destruction of Gaza
On three occasions since the war began, Biden blocked the United Nations Security Council from calling for a ceasefire. He called the Israeli bombing and artillery attack on Gaza a “proportionate response” to rockets from Gaza.
The real “proportion” is ten Israeli deaths — including two children — versus more than 200 deaths in Gaza — a large number being children. Very few Israeli homes have been destroyed, but there has been massive destruction of dwellings, large buildings and other infrastructure in Gaza. More than 1000 people have been wounded in Gaza.
The world has seen footage of Israel bombing high-rise residential buildings — usually, but not always — giving residents time to flee.
We have seen Palestinians searching through the rubble, looking for survivors or the remains of those killed. The weeping parents. The bodies of babies. The wounded on stretchers.
The building where many news organisations were located — including Al Jazeera and the Associated Press — was destroyed, in a successful attempt to make reporting on Israeli horrors more difficult.
While journalists and other staff were able to flee, all their records were destroyed.
Al Jazeera was a special target, since it is watched throughout the Arab world.
The people of Gaza, mainly descendants of the Palestinians driven out of their homes and land by Zionists in 1948, have suffered severe repression by Israel.
Their standard of living has been driven down, especially since Israel imposed a blockade of Gaza, controlling everything, including electricity, food and water.
Before the current war, medical facilities were poor in Gaza, and it was struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic (Israel didn’t provide vaccines for Palestinians). With hospitals struggling to take care of hundreds of wounded, the fight against COVID-19 has been all but abandoned.
Israel added insult to injury by taking out the doctor heading up the fight against COVID-19, bombing his home and murdering him and his family.
Israel has cut electricity supply to five hours a day. This disrupts life further. Much of the infrastructure is affected, including water and sewerage. For much of the day no water comes out of pipes and faucets. A desalination plant serving 25% of the population was bombed.
Biden’s cool response is an indication that he knew Israel planned to once again “mow the lawn” in Gaza (a phrase Israeli generals used in past wars).
It is likely Washington knew about Israel’s plan beforehand and approved it. Israel never undertakes such attacks — as well as cyber attacks and assassinations in Iran — without approval from its main sponsor and defender.
Israel is central to the US Empire’s domination of the Middle East. Washington spends billions every year arming Israel. A new bill for another $735 billion for precision-guided weapons for Israel was approved by Congress on May 18.
Moreover, it was the US that helped Israel become the Middle East’s only nuclear power, with a vast but unknown number of nuclear missiles aimed throughout the region. After the 1973 Israeli-Arab War, then-Prime Minister Golda Meir said Israel was ready to wipe out the Arab capitals with nuclear bombs, if it looked like Israel would lose.
And yet, these two nuclear powers say they will use any means to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
How the war developed
The current conflict did not start with Hamas and other groups in Gaza firing rockets into Israel, as the administration claims.
It began 27 days earlier, on April 13, when Israel chose to send a squad of cops into the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, on the first day of Ramadan, the holy month celebrated by Muslims throughout the world.
The timing was deliberate, as was the place. Al Aqsa is the third-holiest site for Muslims.
Prayers at Al Aqsa, on the first night of Ramadan, occurred as Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was making a speech at the nearby Jewish holy site of the Western Wall.
The cops invaded the mosque to cut the cables to the loud speakers, so that the prayers would not drown out Rivlin’s speech, the Israelis claimed.
The police action was a deliberate provocation by the far-right Netanyahu government. “This was the turning point,” said Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the grand mufti of Jerusalem. “Their actions would cause the situation to deteriorate. It was clear to us that the Israeli police wanted to desecrate the Aqsa Mosque and the holy month of Ramadan.”
This incident was followed almost immediately by Israeli police closing off a popular plaza outside the Damascus Gate, one of the main entrances to the Old City of Jerusalem. Young people typically gather there at night during Ramadan.
Palestinian youth began to protest being removed from the Plaza, which led to clashes with the police and organised Jewish groups.
“On April 21, just a week after the police raid [on Al Aqsa, a few hundred members of an extreme-right Jewish group, Lehava, marched through central Jerusalem, chanting ‘Death to Arabs’ and attacking Palestinian passers-by,” the New York Times reported.
“A group of Jews was filmed attacking a Palestinian home and others assaulted drivers who were perceived to be Palestinian…”
The police relented and opened up the Plaza on April 25. But then developments significantly escalated the situation.
“First, was the looming eviction of the six families from Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem,” said the NYT.
“With a final court decision on their case due in the first half of May [since postponed], regular protests were held throughout April — demonstrations that accelerated after Palestinians drew a connection between the events at Damascus Gate and the plight of the residents.
“‘What you see now at Sheikh Jarrah or at Damascus Gate is about pushing us out of Jerusalem,’ said Sala Diab, a community leader in Sheikh Jarrah, whose leg was broken during a recent police raid on his house. ‘My neighbourhood is just the beginning.’”
Footage showing the police violence began to circulate and Sheikh Jarrah became a rallying point for Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, “green line” Israel and among the diaspora, including in the US.
The most dramatic escalation was a police raid on the Al Aqsa Mosque on May 7.
“Police officers armed with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-tipped bullets burst into the mosque compound shortly after 8pm, setting off hours of clashes with stone-throwing protesters in which hundreds [of worshippers] were injured,” reported the NYT.
“The sight of stun grenades and bullets inside the prayer hall of one of the holiest sites in Islam — on the last Friday of Ramadan, one of its holiest nights — was seen as a grievous insult to all Muslims.
“‘This is about the Judaisation of the city of Jerusalem,’ Sheikh Omar al-Kisswani [one of the leaders of the mosque] said in an interview after the raid. ‘It’s about deterring people from going to Al Aqsa’…
“Police officers raided the Aqsa Mosque again early on Monday morning [May 10], after Palestinians stockpiled stones in anticipation of clashes with police and far-right Jews. For the second time in three days, stun grenades and rubber bullets were fired across the compound.”
‘Gaza will burn’
That night, Hamas and other groups fired rockets from Gaza against Israeli targets in solidarity with the Palestinians of Jerusalem. Israel used this as an excuse to unleash its vast US-supplied fire power to crush the Palestinian people in the Strip.
“Gaza will burn!” Netanyahu chortled.
Mass protests, largely by a new generation of Palestinian youth, erupted across the West Bank and Israel proper. This was a development that neither the US nor Israel expected.
What is called “Israel” by the US and others is what was controlled by Israel before the 1967 war. It was bounded by the “green line” drawn on maps.
This “green line” became the “internationally recognised border of Israel”.
However, Israel has never recognised the “green line” or, indeed, any border, because it has never considered the areas won by its various wars as defining its true border.
An amendment to Israel’s Basic Laws in 2018 codified this. This amendment defined Israel as “Eratz Yisrael”, an undefined area usually interpreted as “Biblical Israel”, which could include parts of Egypt, for example.
But, it certainly includes all the area Israel conquered in the 1967 war, including Gaza and the West Bank, with the exception of Sinai, given back to Egypt when it recognised Israel and abandoned the Palestinians.
By this official definition, the State of Israel extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River and from Egypt to Lebanon and Syria. It has one army, one navy, one government, one border and one currency.
The 2018 law also made Hebrew the state’s official language, with Arabic given subordinate status.
It also codified that within Eretz Yisrael, only Jews have the right to self-determination. Palestinians, including the majority that reside in the West Bank and Gaza, are ruled by Israel but have no rights — the definition of an apartheid state.
As the recent uprising by Palestinians in green line Israel demonstrates, they suffer brutal oppression and are “citizens” in name only.
The “two state solution” was a fraud, designed to give cover to Israel’s expansionist agenda — which the US also supports.
Palestinians and their supporters mark May 15 every year as the anniversary of the “Nakba” or “catastrophe”, when about 750,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes and land in 1948.
This year, Al Nakba took on added significance, as thousands of Palestinians and their supporters took to the streets worldwide to denounce Israel’s war.
Protests were held in Paris, Brussels, Berlin, London, Madrid, Cape Town, Australia, in Bagdad and many more.
In the US, Palestinian-led actions took place in about 75 localities. Thousands marched in Washington DC, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco, Pittsburg and points in-between.
A protest was held in Dearborn, Michigan, which has a large Palestinian community as well as an important Ford plant. Biden visited the plant to push his economic agenda on May 18, and demonstrations were organised against his pro-Israel policy.
Significantly, there were contingents of Jewish people in the US actions, some brought by Jewish Voice for Peace, which publicised the demonstrations.
A point made by many speakers was that the Nakba didn’t end in 1948, but continues today with Israel’s war.
Divisions in Democratic Party
Biden’s staunch defence of Israel reflects the historic position of the Democratic Party.
But this has created the largest rift between the party establishment and its activist base since Biden took office.
The NYT wrote that, in contrast to the Biden administration, “the ascendant left views it as a searing racial justice issue … deeply intertwined with the politics of the US.
“For those activists, Palestinian rights and the decades-long conflict over land in the Middle East are linked to causes like police brutality and conditions for migrants at the US-Mexico border.
“Party activists who fight for racial justice now post messages against the ‘colonisation of Palestine’ with the hashtag #Palestinian Lives Matter.
A group of progressive members of Congress gave fiery speeches on the House floor, on May 13, accusing Biden of ignoring the plight of the Palestinians and “taking the side of the occupation”.
A particularly moving speech was made by Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian member of Congress, whose parents emigrated from the West Bank, and whose grandmother still lives there. She challenged members of Congress to see Palestinians as human beings, and condemned “Israel’s apartheid government”.
New York Democratic Party representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez directly challenged Biden, who had asserted that Israel has the right to defend itself.
“Do Palestinians have the right to survive?” she asked. “Do we believe that? And if so, we have a responsibility to do that as well.”
According to the NYT: “Less than 24 hours later, nearly 150 prominent liberal advocacy groups issued a joint statement calling for ‘solidarity with the Palestinian resistance’ and condemning ‘Israeli state violence’ and ‘supremacy’ in Jerusalem.”
“The debate within the party reflects a long-standing divide among American Jews, a mostly Democratic and secular group, who are enmeshed in their own tussle over how to view the Israeli-Palestinian tensions,” the NYT said.
“An older generation sees Israel as a lifeline amid growing global anti-Semitism, while young voters struggle to reconcile the right-wing politics of the Israeli government with their own values.
What should socialists stand for?
The Jewish supremacist apartheid state should be overthrown, and replaced with a secular, democratic state with equal rights for Jews and Palestinians and everyone else within its confines, as the only democratic solution.
As part of this fight for democracy, we should support Palestinian and Jewish workers in struggles against the mainly Jewish ruling capitalist class. Working-class unity can only be won by this combined struggle, a precondition for the future fight for socialism.
[This article was updated on May 21.]