Mike Walker, PFLP Solidarity Campaign co-coordinator
First Published in The Spark July 2010
and on www.workersparty.org.nz
On the 31st of May commandos from the Israeli Defence Force stormed a boat carrying aid and activists to the besieged Gaza strip, opening fire and killing 9 people on board. In a typical official Israeli response, Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon accused the flotilla’s organisers of `having ties to Hamas and al-Qaeda terror organisations’. This has been followed by so-called `universal condemnation’ of the attack by the `International Community’ and calls for an end to the siege. In practical terms this means allowing more goods into the Gaza Strip. What it doesn’t mean is an end to Israeli control of the borders, the airspace, the coastal waters and literally every aspect of Palestinian life.
The seeds of the modern day conflict between the Zionist state of Israel and Arab resistance were firmly planted not in 1948, but with early Jewish settlers. Ahad Ha’Am (Asher Ginsberg) was a Russian Jew and Zionist, and a very prominent pre-state Zionist thinker, who visited Palestine from 1891 onwards. He explained that the Jewish settlers “treat the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, rob them of their rights in a dishonest way, hurt them without reason and then pride themselves on such actions.” He concluded that “no one attacks this despicable and dangerous tendency…” Why this aggression against the indigenous population of Palestine? The answer to this question lies in what Zionists are attempting to do in Palestine which was summarised by David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of the Israeli state, in the introduction to `The History of the Haganah’. He wrote:
“At the present time we speak of colonisation, and only of colonisation. It is our short-term objective. But it is clear that England belongs to the English, Egypt to the Egyptians and Judea to the Jews. We will say to the Arabs: `Move Over’; if they are not in agreement, if they resist, we will push them by force.”
The Israeli state is the modern manifestation of the Zionist colonial project that early Jewish settlers spearheaded in the late 1800s. Its actions throughout its history, the continuing oppression of Palestinians and the outlandish attack on solidarity activists should not be seen in isolation from Zionist goals in the Middle East.
Imperialist domination Prior to WWI
Chaim Weizmann, an early Zionist political leader, recognised that for the Zionist project to succeed in Palestine it would require, an `intermediary stage’ during which the `fair country of Palestine will be protected by such a Mighty and just Power as Great Britain.’ He explained that `under the wing of this power, Jews will be able to develop, and to set up the administrative machinery which…would enable us to carry out the Zionist scheme.’ Under the British mandate in Palestine and with the protection and political support of British imperialism the foundation of the Zionist state was firmly laid. In fact Zionism’s expulsion of three quarters of a million Palestinians, al-nakba, and declaration of statehood in 1948 could not have been achieved without the British quashing of a Palestinian revolt, which had lasted from 1936 until 1939.
The post-WWII balance of world power shifted and Zionism proved to be politically dynamic, as it was able to realign itself with the new dominant imperial power, the United States. The US State Department noted in 1945 that oil reserves in the Middle East constitute “a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.” In 1973 Senator Henry Jackson exposed American reliance on Israel to defend these interests, stating that its job was to “inhibit and contain those irresponsible and radical elements in certain Arab States….who, were they free to do so, would pose a grave threat indeed to our principal sources of petroleum in the Persian Gulf”. Today the United States provides $US three billion in military aid every year to Israel, and has helped Israel to build one of the most powerful militaries in the world. In exchange Israel was, and continues to be, America’s “attack dog” in the Middle East and protector of American interests. Imperialist backers also provide political cover. Barack Obama’s administration recently blocked a Security Council resolution to have the flotilla raid impartially investigated, suggesting instead that Israel investigate itself.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly seized on this opportunity to clear Israel of wrong-doing and announced a commission featuring three elders of the Israeli state and two international observers, one of whom recently joined the `Friends of Israel’ in Britain. The United States hailed the decision and released a statement saying that “Israel has a military justice system that meets international standards and is capable of conducting a serious and credible investigation.” A fair investigation by Israel into the events leading to the deaths of nine activists and into the legality of the siege of Gaza, is highly unlikely. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine called the Israeli commission a “transparent attempt to justify murder and piracy”. Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, ran an article which surmised that the intention was to “placate the world…especially the United States.”
Investigating the raid on the freedom flotilla
Calls for `investigations’ though, regardless of who conducts them, expose a blatant and recurring amnesia in the West in terms of Israeli violations of Palestinian rights. In September 2009 a UN fact finding mission presented its findings to the Council of Human Rights in Geneva, after impartially investigating Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead”. Known as the Goldstone Report it concluded that “The tactics used by Israeli military armed forces in the Gaza offensive are consistent with previous practice”, which was described as the “application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations.” This was unacceptable to the United States so the House of Representatives passed a resolution stating that “the report [was] irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy.” The US pledged to “stand by Israel in the fight against the Goldstone Report“, and the reach of American influence was visible when the Palestinian Authority also deferred endorsing the report’s findings. Any investigation that condemns Israeli actions will realistically be ostracised by the US, Israel and its allies rendering it impotent.
A complete end to Israel’s brutality?
While we should condemn the killing of the flotilla activists, we should also remember that Palestinians face this kind of oppression and brutality every day of their lives at the hands of the Israeli state, as it continues its expansionist project that is funded and politically supported by the world’s imperialist powers. It is time to start concentrating on the real causes of their oppression and the means by which Israel’s domination is maintained in the Middle East.