Palestine: Origin and Debates of the Current Conflict

Palestina: orígenes y debates sobre el actual conflicto

By Pablo Vasco

The current conflict began in April, with the Israeli offensive to evict Palestinian families from Sheik Jarrah, in East Jerusalem. In this article we address the current situation, the debates that resurface, and our political proposals about Palestine, Israel and the Middle East.

Sheik Jarrah is a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, about two kilometers north of the historic center or Old City, which in turn is divided into four sectors. In the Muslim sector is the Al Aqsa Compound (see map), which includes the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third most sacred site of the Islamic religion. This was the initial scene of the conflict.

Sheik Jarrah’s neighbors are descendants of Palestinian refugees who were expelled from their original neighborhood, Talbiya. Just as Israel forcibly evicted the inhabitants of Talbiya – among many others – when it was founded in 1948, Israeli courts now persecute their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren with ploys to take away their homes and hand them over to Zionist settlers.

The Israeli head state, right-wing Prime Minister Netanyahu, sought to rush the evictions. Prosecuted in corruption trials that could cost him up to 10 years in prison, facing a crisis in his ruling coalition and on the verge of having to leave office, he sought to divert political attention with his anti-Palestinian maneuver. What Netanyahu did not foresee was that tens of thousands of Palestinians and Arabs would take to the streets and stop the evictions.

In retaliation, he launched a series of provocations and attacks on the Palestinians, right at the beginning of the month of Ramadan, the main Islamic holiday. He first tried to block the entrances to the Al Aqsa Compound, where thousands of Muslims pray every evening during Ramadan. There were two weeks of clashes and the Israeli police had to back down.

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A miscalculated provocation

However, from May 7 to 9, the police again attacked the families that were praying in the Compound. They wanted to evict them from there anyway, so that on Monday the 10th – anniversary of the 1967 Israeli invasion of Jerusalem, when each year the Zionist right parades through all the Arab areas of the city shouting “death to the Arabs” – that march could enter the Compound.

As Netanyahu was unable evict them, Israeli police unleashed a new viciously repression on the very morning of the 10th: they broke into the holy mosque of Al Aqsa firing shots and gases, and injured more than 300 Palestinians. Even so, it was unable to overcome the resolve of the Palestinian Arabs and the Zionist march had to be diverted.

From Gaza, under pressure by the massive outrage at the Zionist repression, Hamas responded firing a few missiles. That same night Israel began its barrage of bombardments, in a brutal confrontation that lasted eleven days, until a ceasefire was agreed on Thursday the 20th. Israel´s missiles were aimed against the Palestinian civilian population and destroyed entire buildings, including the headquarters of the Associated Press (U.S.) and Al Jazeera (Arabia) international networks.

The death toll confirms the tremendous disparity of forces between the State of Israel and Palestine: 12 Israelis died (including 2 children) and 150 were wounded, while Palestinians suffered 232 deaths (including 65 children) and over 1,700 were wounded. But the high cost in lives does not reflect the Palestinian reality as a whole. Just as Netanyahu did not foresee that his eviction plan in Sheik Jarrah would provoke a response, the Israeli bombing of Gaza unleashed a wave of resistance throughout Palestine.

Massive marches took place on a daily basis in Gaza, the West Bank and all the “mixed” cities within the territory occupied by Israel. In some of them, groups of pacifist Israelis participated. The Palestinian uprising included a general strike on May 18, which was completely adhered to. This affected Israel itself, since two of its nine million inhabitants are Arab, over a million of them Palestinians. At the same time, there were actions of solidarity with Palestine all over the world.

Truce, Israeli doubts and Palestinian celebrations

With international pressure that even included Biden and the mediation of the Egyptian government, a “provisional and unconditional” truce was signed on Thursday the 20th between the Netanyahu government and the Gaza Strip Hamas government. Of course, this impasse is highly unstable.

In this context, it is interesting to analyze how each side reacted the next day after the ceasefire, especially the mood of both populations. According to long-time CNN Middle East correspondent José Levy, of Jewish origin, there is “skepticism” on the Israeli side and “celebration” on the Palestinian side. In Gaza, the West Bank-East Jerusalem and many cities in Israeli territory, tens of thousands of Palestinians and Arabs came out to sing, dance and reaffirm their slogans of struggle. The Zionist aggressor was stopped, which weakens it, while the Palestinian people and its youth come out stronger.

The Palestinian government administered by Al Fatah, a moderate sector of the PLO (1) that has abandoned the historic struggle to destroy the State of Israel and regain all of Palestine since 1993. Since the Oslo Accords, the PLO has recognized Israel, under the fictitious two-state solution. In recent years, Al Fatah has retreated even further and merely demands rights for Palestinians within a single state: Israel. In addition, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has postponed elections since 2005, fueling popular discontent.

After the betrayal of the PLO, its radical wing, the PFLP (2), was first strengthened. But, as this front later became more ambiguous towards Israel, sympathy grew for Hamas (3), a Palestinian nationalist and Islamist party that supported the struggle for all of Palestine when it emerged in 1988. However, since 2017, though not recognizing Israel, it has accepted the Palestinian-Israeli borders of 1967: that is, it also backed down to the two-state proposal.

In short, while the Palestinian political leadership increasingly moves away from its historical banners of struggle, the Palestinian people and their new militant youth vanguard maintain the Intifada, their legitimate rebellion against Zionist domination and for the liberation of all Palestine. The radicalization of the new Palestinian generations and its spread to all the Arab masses in the region is what Israel and its allies, including the treacherous Arab bourgeoisies, fear.

Anti-Zionism has nothing to do with anti-Semitism

The first accusation against any criticism of Israel is that of anti-Semitism. It immediately generates a logical rejection, since it evokes the Nazi horror during the Holocaust, which we always reject. But to use that genocidal persecution against the Jews to justify Israel’s anti-Palestinian policy is a humongous farce.

In the first place, Semitic peoples, a category that is not racial but linguistic, are not only those who speak Hebrew, whether of Jewish religion or not, but also the 400 million Arabs, including Palestinians, who speak Arabic, and broad Sectors of Ethiopians that speak Amharic and Tigrinya, also Semitic languages. Therefore, an anti-Semite is one who hates any of those peoples.

Something entirely different is to be anti-Zionist, as are we who reject Zionism, the political movement that upholds the superiority of the Jewish community over the rights of the indigenous population of Palestine, which is mostly Arab and Muslim (4). The occupation of Palestine and the persecution of its people by the Israeli state are based on this supremacist ideology of apartheid or racial segregation, which is similar to Nazism.

Cynically, in 2016 Zionism expanded its definition of anti-Semitism. According to the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance), “It is a certain perception of Jews that can be expressed as hatred of Jews. The physical and rhetorical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed at Jewish or non-Jewish persons and / or their property, the institutions of the Jewish communities and their places of worship” (5). Since then, it has pushed the parliaments of all countries to approve this misrepresentation. Crystal clear: since the definition includes institutions, any criticism of the State of Israel and / or its bodies is manipulated and presented as anti-Semitic.

Two evils, two states, two fallacies

Faced with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Biden and all imperialisms are aligned with Israel. Argentinian president Alberto Fernández and other governments that consider themselves progressive, beyond any nuance, criticized both sides. But this position aims to equate oppressors and oppressed, just as in Argentina the nefarious theory of the two evils equates the state terrorism of the last military dictatorship with the mistaken actions of guerrilla groups. In Palestine, there is only one state terrorist: Israel.

In the same sense, the supposed two-state solution, one Israeli and the other Palestinian coexisting in peace, has proven not only tricky but unfeasible. One only has to look at the changes on the map since Israel was founded to verify its relentless advance over the shrinking Palestinian areas. With the unwavering political and military backing of Yankee imperialism and NATO, Israel has breached more than 30 UN resolutions and has never respected any border.

Israel controls the water, electricity, roads, supplies and airspace of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Gaza is a large open-air refugee camp and the West Bank is increasingly fragmented; both are surrounded by walls and Israeli military checkpoints. It also tries to expel the Palestinians from East Jerusalem and replace them with Zionist settlers, in a limitless expansionism.

Thus, the two-state solution and the policy of two evils are both fallacies that serve Israel´s interests.

Can there be a democratic Israel?

If already in 1948 Israel was born as a theocratic state, the “Jewish homeland”, expelling native Palestinians, in 2018 it hardened even more. On July 19 of that year, the Israeli parliament (Knesset) approved a Basic Law, of constitutional rank, that defines Israel as the national state of the Jewish people, imposes Hebrew as the only official language, excluding Arabic, recognizes the right of self-determination only for Jews, considers illegal Zionist settlements in Palestinian areas of national interest, encouraging their further extension, and claims all of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

That measure even violated even the historic UN criteria of at least considering the eastern part of the city Palestinian. Shortly before the law, in May 2018, while Israel was attacking Gaza, Trump moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, encouraging the Zionists.

The right-wing MP that authored the law, Avi Dichter, left no doubts about its objective: “Today we are enshrining this important bill as law to avoid even the slightest thought, much less the attempt, to transform Israel into a country for all its citizens.” (6) A true officialization of the Zionist anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab policy of ethnic cleansing policy that continues today.

There is no expectation that any real “democracy” is possible in the State of Israel, in which everyone could enjoy equal rights and freedoms. Its legislation legalizes discrimination (7).

For this reason, for example, the campaign to contrast the rights of sexual diversity in Israel with Islamic obscurantism (not extensive to all of its branches) present in several Arab countries, is hypocritical. As is well pointed out by the Argentine LGBT Federation, “as LGBTI + people we denounce the pinkwashing of the oppressive and pro-imperialist state of Israel to hide its policy of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and genocide against the Palestinian people. No people that oppresses another is free or democratic.” (8)

It is therefore impossible to dream of “democratizing” a state like Israel, oppressive by its genesis and its nature.

With Israel there is and will be no peace

The struggle for the effective liberation of Palestine and the return of all refugees to their ancestral territories implies the no lesser task of completely dismantling the Israeli colonialist state. If not, there will never be genuine peace in the Middle East.

But the heroism of the Palestinian youth against such a powerful enemy requires a revolutionary advance by the Arab workers and peoples of the entire region. For this reason, we understand the struggle for Palestinian self-determination and its recovery as an independent nation (9) as a transitional step in the context of a regional revolutionary strategy against imperialism and capitalism: a free and socialist federation of the Middle East. There, the various peoples and religions will be able to coexist in peace, also free from all the Arab monarchies and bourgeois governments.

As the May 12 declaration of our International Socialist League (ISL), points out: “We repudiate this new criminal aggression by Israel and we call for the broadest international mobilization and solidarity in support of the Palestinian people.

Once again it is demonstrated that no solution is possible without the destruction of the genocidal State of Israel. Until Israel collapses and imperialism and its collaborators, the local despots, are defeated, neither the workers nor oppressed nations like the Palestinians can be liberated.

The International Socialist League defends the right to a single, democratic, secular and non-racist Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital. The only reassurance for the oppressed peoples is socialism.

That is why we have to light the fire of revolution in the Middle East and around the world. If workers, the youth, women and oppressed peoples unite and fight against imperialist capitalism, then we can enjoy a free, happy and equal life.

Long live the heroic resistance of the Palestinian people!”

Report on the foundation of the state of Israel and the history of the struggle for the liberation of Palestine.

1. Palestine Liberation Organization.
2. Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
3. Islamic Resistance Movement.
4. According to an Ottoman census of 1878, Palestine had a population of 500.000: 87% was Arab,10% Christian and 3% Jewish.
7. Law of Return (1950): Anw Jew in the world can emmigrate to Israel and obtain citizenship. But Palestinian refugees born in their historic territory before the foundation of Israel in 1948 and their decendants are forbiden from returning to their place of origin.
Law of Lands (1960): Prohibits the transfer of property that the state of Israel occupies -95% of the total- which are only rented or administered by Jews. Arab Israelis represent 21% of the population of Israel but only possess 3.4% of the land.
Law of Citizenship and Entry (2003), “Emergency” law that has been extended to date: bans spouses of Israeli citizens -including Israeli Arabs- from obtaining residency or citizenship if they come from Palestinian territories, Iran, Lebanon, Siria or Iraq.
Admission Committees Law (2011): In many communities or municipalities such committees are authorized, and have the power, to accept or reject those who seek to reside there. Thus, Arab applicants are discriminated against for “not being fit to live in such a community.”
Nakba Law (2011): Allows the removal of public funds from any entity -university, school, theater- that commemorates May 15 as a day of Palestinian mourning. In 1948, on the other Israeli “independence day”, the Palestinian expulsion or nakba (disaster, in Arabic) began.

8. Statement of the Secularism Secretariat of the Argentine LGTB Federation (05/18/21).
9. As Kurdish, Catalan, Basque and other oppressed peoples also demand.
10. ISL Declaration: The Zionist State will be destroyed and a socialist Middle East will rise from its ashes, 05/12/2021 at