As Palestinians in West Bank calls for a general strike today, against the ongoing US-supported Israeli pogrom killing and mutilating hundreds of innocent Palestinians including children, Amit Jugnu writes about the possibilities of the international working class rising against the Israeli occupation.
At a time when the world is reeling under a pandemic for the second straight year, Israel government has once again intensified its violence and genocidal campaign against the Palestinians in the occupied lands. This is something Israel does periodically. We saw it happening in 2008, 2012, 2015 and now. However this time, a new dimension has been added: they have turned their violence also against the Arab Minority in Israel, who have been resisting their eviction especially in East Jerusalem. While the news reports might discuss about rocket attacks from Gaza and ‘retaliation’ by Israel, the truth is that it all began when Israel, as part of its long drawn out strategy, attempted to evict Palestinian families from East Jerusalem, which still remains part of Palestine and is not under Israel’s jurisdiction. For over a week through the holy month of Ramadan, the Israeli forces that illegally occupy East Jerusalem have been preventing Palestinian Muslims from praying at the Al Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest shrines of Islam. This has triggered protests by the Palestinians and violent response from the Israeli soldiers. Soon it spiraled across the region giving Israel the pretext to bomb Gaza, arrest Palestinians and inflict extreme brutality on them.
Systematic Aggression Against Palestine
For nearly 75 years now, the Palestinian lands have been systematically occupied by Israel. Against all international law and human rights, Israel has deprived Palestine of land, resources and political freedom. As per the racist historians in Israel, Al Aqsa mosque stands on the so-called Temple Mount of the mythical kingdom of David. With the Israeli Supreme Court (that is usually at the forefront of many of the racist policies and laws) refusing to let them demolish the mosque, Israel government employed other tactics to ensure that the mosque remained inaccessible to even its own Muslim citizens. Five years ago, it started restricting entry of Muslims into the mosque, whereas Israeli settlers, who lived in Palestine illegally under colonial control, could go and pray in the compound of the mosque unrestricted. This led to resistance by Muslims in Israel and protests by Palestinians, and was used as an excuse by Israel defense forces to shoot unarmed protestors in Palestine and further take away their lands . There are larger dimensions to this “Al-Aqsa mosque demolition program” neatly fitting into the settler colonial project of Israel.
Indians may notice an uncanny similarity between this and with what has been happening in India. The RSS and its family of organizations had long claimed that the Babri mosque stood on the birthplace of lord Rama and their mobs even destroyed and vandalized it. The Indian Supreme Court finally relented to this mob hysteria and gave the land to the ‘legal guardians of lord Ram’.
Hindutva and Zionism: Justifying Violence and Occupation in the Name of Religion
The idea of Hindu Rashtra draws its “living inspiration” from the state of Israel which is constitutionally defined as a Jewish state. The BJP government and its mentor RSS have learnt many a tricks from the Zionist movement and racist policies of Israel. Amit Shah’s chronology of CAA and then NRC with its devious aims to degrade Muslims to second class citizens is only a leaf out of the Israeli constitution where there are over fifty different laws which discriminate Muslim citizens of Israel. While India keeps Kashmir under military force, even stripping them of statehood, Israel owes its existence to the conquering and colonization of state of Palestine.
Politics of both — the Zionist state of Israel and the “in preparation” Hindu Rashtra — are built around othering of religious minorities — primarily Muslims. There are also striking similarities in some of the lunatic myths propagated by RSS and Sangh Parivar over last five decades and the myth propagated by Zionist historians and right wing organizations in Israel. One of these myths surrounds the historic Al Aqsa mosque in Israel, just like the (now demolished) Babri Masjid in India.
The mosque is situated in East Jerusalem which is outside the jurisdiction of Israel and still belongs to Palestine. The area is largely populated by Muslims. Since 1972 the settler community of Israel, whose primary role in the Israeli society is to live on lands appropriated from Palestinians, have been fighting a case in Israel SC claiming that Jerusalem is the holy site for Jews and all Muslims must be evicted from it. If this effort was successful, whether the mosque remained intact or not, it would have remained inaccessible to Muslims in Israel and Palestine forever.
This has been a ticking time bomb for decades and there have been explosions in the past like in 2015 around this issue. But in the first week of May, Israel police and government illegally evicted six families from the area known as Sheikh Jarrah surrounding the mosque. This was nothing but a blatant violation of fundamental rights of Palestinian citizens, which would be considered a criminal act in any international court of laws. Alas, against the US Imperialism and its allies, such international courts have no power. This led to massive protests by both Palestinians and Arab citizens of Israel. In many cities in Israel, the Jewish gangs (much like Bajrang Dal and other militias of Sangh Parivar) in active conjunction with Israel police started attacking Muslims, lynching them and destroying their homes with stones.
As it did in 2012 and 2014, Israel is using this opportunity to carpet bomb Gaza. One of the most densely populated regions in the world whose citizens have been slowly suffocated by decades of economic blockade by Israel, US and Europe. It serves multiple aims for them, none of which have anything to do with removing Hamas. Direct eradication of Palestinian citizens is a most simple solution for appropriating their lands and establishing a racist ethnic state. As the population of Gaza is young, mostly consisting of children and youth, the bombing can perhaps go a long way in ensuring that there is no next generation of Palestinians. Nothing else could explain the timing chosen by the Israel air-force in 2012 to drop bombs on streets of Gaza. It was in the morning, coinciding with the times when primary schools end and secondary schools begin, so that the maximum number of children are on the road. Today, the world is a witness to a genocide yet again, as hundreds of children in Gaza are being killed by the terrorist bombing campaign of Israeli air force.
A question often arises that in such a situation, where there are communal pogroms carried by religious majority on a persecuted minority, and when the army bombs civilians and children indiscriminately, what role can the working class play? What can Palestinian and Israeli working class do to resolve the crisis borne out by settler colonial project of Israel. How should the international working class react?
An Anti Colonial Struggle
As articulated beautifully by Israeli comrades and trade unionists and members of Matzpen (An Israeli socialist organization, working against the idea of a Jewish state) in the 70s:
Israeli working class trail behind the ruling class when it comes to the question of Palestine. In spite of the contradictions Jewish working class faces among themselves (Asian immigrant Jewish workers have always been discriminated against and remain on contractual basis more and get far less benefits. They have, over decades, even occasionally revolted against repressive conditions). An Israeli Jewish worker identifies first with the settler colonial project. Even an exploited immigrant Jewish worker identifies more with Israeli State than with Muslim and Arab workers. Israeli trade unions and working class have always benefited from the character of the state as a watchdog of US imperialism in the region and thanks to this US support, the lives of Israeli workers are subsidized in many ways.
Those who live in settler colonies get free housing and thanks to generous aid from the US and countries like Germany, there are strong unemployment benefits for Jewish workers. Histadrut, the largest trade union in Israel and which has always played an active role in conceptualizing Israel as a ethnic Jewish state, do not have Arab working class members anymore. A few radical unions which opposed the first Intifada in the 80s are completely extinct and we are now left with Israeli workers unions who view the existence of an ethnic state as an unequivocal condition for their existence.
Palestinians who were employed on contractual basis in Israel and had “discriminatory membership” in some of the unions are all increasingly forbidden from working in the organized sector inside Israel even on a contractual basis. It holds a mirror to our society where majority of Hindu workers – even in radical unions like Maruti workers’ union – identity more with the conception of Hindu Rashtra than with their fellow Muslim comrades, when it comes to equal citizenship rights. Palestinian workers are barred from getting membership in Hidsadrut or any of its affiliated unions anymore – thus crystalizing the racist policies of Israel into racist politics of the union.
The Palestine working class is highly fragmented, informal and resembles the informal sector in India. As there is no real industrialization, there is no real trade union movement and as the working class in a colonized country, its primary fight is against colonization. Even Palestinian pesantry in West Bank has always been subjugated by the rulers and has never been an organized force against Israeli occupation. The onus has historically been on left Israeli trade union movement and politically conscious Israeli workers to take a primary role in establishing unity of Muslim and Jewish workers. But it has never been done.
In fact even in the 1920s, when Muslim and Jewish workers were working together in British ruled Palestine and organizing under a common banner, the Israeli trade union activists wanted to have a separate Jewish workers charter, something which was never accepted by Arab workers. So Zionist trade union movement has historically worked with a primary objective of (1) state of Israel first and (2) antagonism with Israeli ruling class later. This has been the politics of their trade union movement for a century – a reality unlikely to change as long as Israel remains a major beneficiary of US Imperialism.
The workers of the world need to come out and oppose Israel’s genocidal campaign by all means possible. And it is only the workers, who can do it, by being a direct thorn in Israel’s export based economics.
International working class must play a critical role in supporting the anti imperialist movement in Palestine and put pressure on their own governments to stop supporting the genocidal project of Israel – an established violation of all international laws. Recently, the Italian port workers prevented the loading of arms to Israel. Similar actions have been taken even before. The working class movements in the rest of the world, especially US, Europe and India can take the role of advocating against the continuation of this occupation. They can support the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel and force their own governments to restrict ties to this Zionist regime.
For decades, the centrist governments in India had taken an anti colonial stand against Israel and supported the Palestinian cause. However with the emergence of the nationalist right wing in India, our government has moved very close to Israel and has chosen to rather directly support its violence and occupation. The Indian workers could justifiably organize against this betrayal of anti colonial principles. If Israel is forced to suffer Indian boycott on defense and technology, it will have a significant impact economically and diplomatically. Such a mobilization by the Indian workers will also prevent the religious bigots in India from dividing us on religious lines and thus keep us enslaved to capitalism. The working class in India, fragmented, depoliticized (thanks to reformist trade unions) have long given up standing for rights of persecuted minorities. For example, it never protested against recolonization of Kashmir, and by and large the workers of automobile belt in the NCR stayed silent during and after the Delhi pogroms of last year. Can they start making up for these errors by standing in solidarity with Palestinians?
But primarily, as argued by Moschever and Achiva Orr, in their article on Class Character of Israeli Society, a working class revolution in the Arab world will change the story, as democratically elected socialist governments will fight the colonization wars against Israel and US. Therefore, it is the working class of Arab and other nations, when they emerge victorious in their own countries, must stand with Palestinian workers (and in the process) and also with Jewish workers.
Occupation and exploitation anywhere are threats to our freedom. It is only through class solidarity can we gain true political freedom even in our domestic spaces. The ruling class has vested interests in seeking tricks and technologies for further exploitations. It is in our interest therefore, to end this exploitative regime and prevent the export of such a culture of occupation, oppression and discrimination.
Opinions are author’s own.