Introduction to Behind the Palestinian/Israeli Crisis

THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT was written by Solidarity in December, 2000. As severe as the crisis in Palestine/Israel was at that time, it is more acute today, and constantly worsening. We’re posting our statement as written six years ago, because its presentation of the principles remains valid and – sadly – the basic facts have not changed much.  Since September 11, 2001, however, this crisis is now part of a larger imperialist war – with the United States bogged down in Iraq, with Afghanistan unraveling, with another failed Israeli invasion of Lebanon in summer 2006, and with threats of an even wider explosion.

In November 2006, the U.S. electorate repudiated the Iraq war and the administration which produced that disaster. As the Democrats prepare to take majority control in the new Congress, debates will rage over “phased redeployment” and other proposals. But it’s important to remember that the Congressional Democrats, including opponents of the Iraq war, with a few exceptions, have signed on as endorsers of the Israeli attempt to crush the Palestinian nation.

The few examples we cite below are barely an overview of the horrors confronting the occupied Palestinian territories today. But if one point stands out even more clearly than six years ago, it is the murderous futility of attempting to “transform the Middle East” through the application of massive, overwhelming Israeli and U.S. military firepower – the so-called “shock and awe” strategy.

In 2003, the United States launched a preemptive war, on false pretenses, for “regime change” in Iraq. The result has been, as everyone knows, a disastrously failed occupation, Iraq’s slide toward sectarian civil war and national dissolution, a death trap for American soldiers and a slaughterhouse for Iraqi civilians. In the summer of 2006, Israel launched a massive bombing campaign followed by a ground invasion intended to destroy Hezbollah, the nationalist and Shia resistance movement in Lebanon, and to prepare the way for yet another “regime change” war — against Iran.

Although supposedly a defensive reaction to the capture of Israeli soldiers, this operation, as Israeli military analyst Gerald Steinberg boasted to the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE (July 21, 2006), had been long planned by Israeli and U.S. strategists. Steinberg called it “the best-prepared war in Israel’s history.” Some preparation it turned out to be! A failure for U.S. and Israeli aims, the war has nonetheless left Lebanon in ruins – wiping out 20 years of reconstruction efforts – while Hezbollah and the Iranian regime emerged politically stronger.

Prior to the November election, well-documented U.S. preparations were underway to bomb Iran, possibly to be followed by an invasion. Such a course of action, promoted by factions in the Bush administration against the judgment of the military and every sane political analyst, would dwarf the disasters we’ve seen up to now.

Although voters in the United States have overwhelmingly rejected this insanity, Democratic politicians have been virulent in their own rhetoric about the Iranian “threat.” Whether a war with Iran is imminent, or will have to go on the back burner for lack of popular support for it, depends in part on the strength shown by the organized antiwar movement in this country. That movement needs to be advocating Bring the Troops Home Now – from Iraq and Afghanistan – but also, Stop the War Drive Against Iran!

The Assault on Palestine

Sometimes hidden by the flurry of headlines on Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, the Israeli war on Palestine – which is more accurately called the Israeli-American war on Palestine – has become continually more intense and brutal, with over 3000 Palestinians killed by Israeli firepower since the Second Intifadah began in late 2000. In the year 2006, following the victory of the Islamist movement HAMAS in the Palestinian election, the war has become an outright siege, aimed at reducing the population to absolute misery and the point of starvation.

Not only has Israel confiscated $60 million every month in tax revenues it legally owes to the Palestinian Authority, but the U.S. Congress has adopted legislation, enthusiastically backed by both imperialist parties, that blocks aid to Palestine and attempts to choke off all international funding. So much for respecting the Palestinian people’s democratic vote! In addition to this:

* Israel has expanded its dual-purpose Wall, designed both for annexation and apartheid. Built deep inside the occupied West Bank, the Wall has ruined Palestinian agriculture and commerce, cutting the territory into disconnected outdoor prisons and putting the critical water reservoirs under Israeli control. If this Wall stands, the hope for a “two-state solution” based on establishing a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel will be gone.

* Nearly half of the elected Palestinian government has been kidnapped and imprisoned by the Israeli military. Thousands of ordinary Palestinians, including children, remain in detention.

* The ostensible Israeli “withdrawal” from Gaza was, in reality, a withdrawal of settlers who were too expensive to protect. Gaza has become a prison for its population and a free-fire zone for Israeli incursions, bombardment and death squads. The rubble and toxic waste from settler homes and businesses have been left behind with no provisions for cleanup. The water supply in Gaza is full of salt and chemical poisons, while in the West Bank Palestinian wells run dry as Israeli settlements enjoy unlimited supplies.

This U.S. and Israeli war aims at the humiliation and emotional, as well as physical, destruction of a nation. More than ever before, it is the expression of the arrogance of an empire drunk with power, believing it can have its way with a people who have no military option at all, let alone parity. Despite everything, however, resistance continues.

As this Introduction was being written, Israel’s assault escalated with the horrific massacres at a mosque and a home in Beit Hanoun, Gaza. The Palestinian resistance, however, may also have reached a new level. When the Israeli Air Force phoned a family’s home to tell them that the house would be bombed, instead of fleeing the family called for support – and the neighborhood flocked to the home, standing on the roof and in the courtyard, forcing the military to back off. If this kind of popular heroic action can be sustained – and if world public opinion responds to it – the struggle for Palestinian self-determination may realize a new and unexpected breakthrough.

While Palestinians continue their resistance with whatever means they have, the international outcry against this genocidal war is of critical importance. Rallying under the general banner of “stopping Israeli apartheid,” a number of campaigns are growing for various forms of divestment, sanctions and boycott based on the example of the South Africa solidarity movement.

For example, activists are demanding divestment from Caterpillar, which makes the giant bulldozers that crush Palestinian homes, sometimes with people still inside, and from other U.S. corporations doing business with the Israeli military and settlements. It was a Caterpillar machine that murdered the U.S. activist Rachel Corrie as she blocked its path to protect a Gaza family’s home.

Developing on campuses and within churches in the United States, these various campaigns are important ways to educate an American public that is generally blocked from learning the truth about the deepening crisis in Israel/Palestine and its global implications.

Solidarity promotes and supports these efforts. We also reaffirm our support for the democratic right of return of Palestinians expelled from their homeland, the struggles inside Israel for equal rights for all its citizens, and for the broad U.S. antiwar and global justice movements to find effective ways of including peace and justice for Palestine in their own programs.

–November 2006