Photos by Mie Inouye and Bill Irwin from demonstrations in Poughkeepsie and Kingston, outside Congressman Pat Ryan's office, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Photos by Mie Inouye and Bill Irwin from demonstrations in Poughkeepsie and Kingston, outside Congressman Pat Ryan's office, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
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The Israel-Hamas conflict: is there a solution to the cycle of violence?

Por Duane Stilwel
December 2023
Since October 7, we have witnessed acts of cruelty that defy all human sensitivity. Hamas' lightning incursion into Israel, whose 1,200 victims were mostly defenseless civilians of all ages, mostly Israelis, but also foreign workers, cannot be defended morally or politically. The drastic events that have unfolded since then have captured the attention of the entire world, eclipsing the bloody war in Ukraine. Now, we witness the collective punishment of the Palestinian people by the mighty Israeli army, which has been carried out in a manner so savage and cruel that it may well alter the course of history. The siege and destruction, the large number of civilian deaths, the displacement of hundreds of thousands, and the attack on hospitals and other basic infrastructure in the Gaza Strip reached genocidal proportions, and cannot be justified either morally or politically.
The hurricane of news in the news media prevents, in this space, outlining the details of the conflict. My intent is to offer an analysis that has, as its starting point, the interests of the working people of the whole world.

It is not easy to elucidate the truth starting from "parachute journalism", which presents news without context and without a reliable political or historical analysis. There are two reasons: the first is that, as a world power, the United States is automatically part of the conflict because of its political and economic support of Israel, and because of the economic interests it has always defended in the Middle East no matter how much blood is shed; and the second is that, today, the political scene is so vitiated and polarized that it is almost impossible to express an opinion without being subjected to accusations of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, or having a reprehensible political bias.

It is important to recognize the historical facts of this conflict, and the key role played in the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 by two imperialist powers: Great Britain and the United States. After the Holocaust-when six million Jews were murdered in the space of five years in the first act of genocide on an industrial scale-both the United States and Britain closed their borders to those who managed to escape the Nazis, in part to force them to emigrate to Palestine.

To understand the political complexity of this conflict, it is also crucial to recognize the historical and political role of anti-Jewish hatred and anti-Semitism, which for centuries cruelly oppressed and persecuted the Jewish diaspora and violently and successively expelled them from various places. The bloody history of the pogroms in Czarist Russia and other European countries, such as Poland, where thousands of Jews were murdered with the complicity of those governments, must be added.

It is worth remembering that, of all the defeats suffered by the working people of the world since the Industrial Revolution, the history of Germany shows us how the poison of anti-Semitism has been used as a wedge to divide and defeat the workers' movement. Fascism and anti-Semitism in Europe were the political instruments that rescued the ruling classes in Germany and Italy who, faced with the acute crisis of the capitalist system, were threatened by revolutionary movements inspired by the Russian Revolution of 1917.

It is essential not to lose sight, moreover, that since its foundation the State of Israel has been based on the forced displacement of the Palestinian people from the lands they occupied, a colonial project that occurred late in the historical scenario, when many anti-colonial struggles had already triumphed in the rest of the world. It is this Zionist project that drives the policy of the current government. Due to peculiar political characteristics, a coalition of right-wing parties heads the Israeli government today, although it only represents a minority of the population. The policy of constant territorial expansion, perennial violence by right-wing settlers against Palestinian villages, and an apartheid that enshrines Palestinians in Israel as second-class citizens, have so far blocked rational and peaceful solutions to the conflict.

Hamas, on the other hand, is a religious, violent, reactionary, and anti-Semitic organization whose top leaders live in Qatar. Since ascending to power in 2007, after the last legitimate elections in 2006, they have violently repressed all internal opposition and have ruled the Gaza Strip for 17 years in an undemocratic and dictatorial manner. In no way do they represent the aspirations of the Palestinian people.

That is why it is important to clarify what the opposing sides really are. News broadcasts insist that the contest is between Hamas, on the one hand, and the Israeli army and government on the other. Presenting the conflict in this way ignores both the Israeli and Palestinian working people as historical actors, relegating them to the role of spectators. The truth is otherwise: the just aspirations of the Palestinian people for self-determination and peace are intertwined with the right of the Jewish people to live in peace and security. There will never be a just and lasting peace without the active involvement of both peoples, who at heart have the same interests and who for hundreds of years have lived in peace.

The example of the African National Congress
It is not true that fighting for a better world requires abandoning moral clarity, no matter how unequal the opposing forces may be. One example, among many, is provided by the African National Congress (ANC), which fought for decades against the hated apartheid system in South Africa. Imposed by European settlers, the racist apartheid system subjugated several African peoples and condemned them to live in Bantustans as a super-exploited and disenfranchised labor force. Umkhonto we Siswe, the ANC armed group that for years carried out military operations against apartheid, generally attacked electrical installations and other economic targets, avoiding causing casualties of defenseless civilians. Following the election of Nelson Mandela as president of South Africa, the ANC convened a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that involved all sectors of the country, seeking full and restorative justice and national unity. The commission was headed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who stated his motto: "Without forgiveness, there is no future, but without confession, there can be no forgiveness". The first thing that was discussed in that commission, before dealing with the crimes of apartheid, was the deaths of approximately 50 civilians caused by the liberation struggle.

Civilian deaths in the Gaza Strip continue to rise and the situation is becoming increasingly desperate. This dynamic has led, according to Reuters on November 13, to 3,761 demonstrations worldwide, some massive, in solidarity with the Palestinian people; 529 pro-Israel demonstrations; and 95 neutral demonstrations calling for peace. The absolute monarchies of the Middle East-Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the seven United Arab Emirates--have always seen the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people as a dangerous political factor that could undermine their regimes. The other surrounding countries, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey-none of them examples of democracy-could also become involved in a regional war. And the U.S. has sent naval forces into the region, exchanging fire with Hezbollah and Iranian forces in Syria. The danger of a wider conflagration increases daily.

Alarming, too, has been the rise in anti-Semitic attacks around the world, targeting synagogues, individuals, and embassies. Five weeks after the outbreak of the conflict, incidents of anti-Semitism in the United States were reported to have increased by 316%, while acts of anti-Arab violence increased by 216%. The Zionist project will never give the Israeli people the secure life it has promised them.

What sadly does not exist, either in Israel or in the Palestinian territories, is a genuinely revolutionary leadership with the moral clarity, political vision, and wisdom to lead their respective peoples to forge a lasting solution based on our common humanity and our just yearnings for peace and justice.

Write to us at [email protected] with your comments, suggestions, and opinions, and make your voice heard!

* Translated from Spanish by Adriana Parada Campos and revised by Karen Ruiz León and Nohan Meza.
* The opinions expressed in this note are the property of the editor and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of La Voz magazine.

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