Tag Archives: Israel

B’nai B’rith Smear Campaign Protest (Aug 29, Toronto)

My name is Elizabeth Byce.  I am the federal treasurer of the NDP Socialist Caucus.  For thirty years I was an active member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.  At the national convention of the CUPW in 1998 I was the delegate who moved the motion to have CUPW endorse the global campaign in solidarity with the people of Palestine and for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Zionist apartheid state.  That motion was adopted almost unanimously by the 700 delegates present.  It was an act of internationalism.  It was an act of working class solidarity against racism, occupation and murder.  The BDS campaign is global.  It is much stronger than it was 20 years ago, and it is growing fast on every continent.  That is why Israel and its Zionist apologists are desperate to portray BDS as anti-Semitic.  That claim is a lie which cannot conceal the crimes of Zionism.  Nor can it divert us from our duty of solidarity with the victims of occupation, the Palestinian people.

Recently, B’nai B’rith Canada launched a smear campaign against the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. As a result, CUPW has become the latest victim in a long list of smear campaigns launched by B’nai Brith Canada to silence human rights defenders who expose Israeli violations of international law.  But as you can see, we shall not be silenced, and we shall not be moved.  We will win the NDP and more unions to a principled stand against Israeli apartheid.  “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

My name is Barry Weisleder and I am pleased to speak on behalf of Socialist Action in solidarity with the CUPW and against deplorable smear tactics.  History is full of ironies.  The so-called Jewish Defense League, which is shouting threats at us today and that calls CUPW and Palestinians terrorists, is itself banned in Israel and the USA as a terrorist organization.  I want to mention one more irony.

B’nai B’rith was founded in New York‘s Lower East Side in 1843, by 12 German Jewish immigrants. It was a working class movement that organized Jews of the local community to confront what Isaac Rosenbourg, one of the founders, called “the deplorable condition of Jews in this, our newly adopted country”. It performed the traditional functions of Jewish societies in Europe: “Visiting and attending the sick” and “protecting and assisting the widow and the orphan.”  B’nai B’rith, which means “sons of the covenant”, established a Lodge in Toronto in 1875.  But with the discovery of oil in the Middle East, and with the backing of the Zionist project by British and French imperialism, and later by American imperialism, B’nai B’rith became a cheerleader for the Occupation of Palestine and for ethnic cleansing.  Bourgeois Jewish organizations continue this regression into mouthpieces for an Apartheid state.  In 2011 the Canadian Jewish Congress dissolved into the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs.  In an ugly irony of history, the Jewish establishment and imperialism have turned the Palestinians into the Jews of the Middle East.  As Leon Trotsky explained in the 1930s, Zionism creates a death trap for the Jews, fostering anti-Semitism worldwide.  Increasingly, the Zionists are out of touch with their own supposed base.  A fast-growing minority of Jews are non-Zionist, or anti-Zionist.  This new political reality is the cause of desperation in the ranks of the reactionaries, so they lash out against great organizations, like the CUPW, which had the courage to be among the first supporters of the global boycott campaign.  The labels ‘terrorism’ and racism apply to Israel, not to CUPW.  A new feature of the constitution of Israel proves this again.

The “Jewish Nation-State Law”, adopted by the Knesset just weeks ago, declares Israel to be the “nation-state of the Jewish people”.  It enshrines Hebrew as the only official language.  It permits the creation and protection of “Jewish only communities’, and it directs the Supreme Court to refer to “Jewish tradition’ in rendering some decisions.  Non-Jews are officially relegated to second class status.  Apartheid practices are entrenched in Israel’s Basic Law, which since 1951 is the constitution of the Zionist state.  If any further proof of the racist character of the colonial settler state was required, this is it.

Socialists are here, not only to defend CUPW, but to support BDS, to demand the Right of Return of all refugees, to end the siege of Gaza, to tear down the Apartheid wall, and to advance the only solution to the present crisis, a Democratic and Secular Palestine.  “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Israel out of Gaza! Justice for Palestine!

Aug. 2014 Gaza

By MICHAEL SCHREIBER

As we go to press on July 17, Israel has undertaken a ground invasion of the beleaguered Palestinian enclave of Gaza. Naval gunships, drones, helicopters, and F-16 fighters have kept up a constant bombardment of the territory to accompany the assault by infantry and tanks. Israel has called up at least 50,000 soldiers for the operation.

Three days earlier, Israel had dropped thousands of leaflets on some parts of Gaza, warning residents to evacuate since an attack was imminent. But few people left the area; they had nowhere to go.

Airstrikes at the start of the land invasion killed at least four Palestinian children playing on a rooftop, while several nurses were injured when Israeli tanks barraged the al-Wafa rehabilitation hospital. The hospital had also been hit by airstrikes a week earlier, destroying the holding tanks that supply water to patients.

Since July 8, when Israel began air and missile strikes on Gaza, numerous incidents have taken place that demonstrate the Zionist government’s wanton disregard for civilian casualties. On July 9, for example, a popular seaside café was bombed, killing nine Palestinian men who were watching a World Cup match on television. Nearby on the same day, eight members of a family were killed when their house was bombed. Also on July 9, a Palestinian journalist, Hamed Shebab, was mangled and burned to death when an Israeli missile struck his vehicle—clearly marked “TV” in large red letters.

Israeli officials have admitted targeting mosques, schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings with air strikes. Although such atrocities can never be morally justified, Israel has arrogantly claimed that it has a “right” to destroy civilian facilities when it believes that members of Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, are hiding there.

Especially egregious has been Israel’s policy of employing collective punishment against families of people whom it suspects of having a political connection to Hamas or other Islamic groups. In this way, several families have seen their homes destroyed and many of their loved ones murdered. The Kaware family, for example, got a phone call from the Israelis warning that their house would be bombed. A number of neighbors stood on the roof of the building with them, in a clear signal to Israeli airplanes that it was full of civilians. Nevertheless, the jets struck—killing eight people, including six children under 13 years old. Twenty-five others were injured.

Immediately prior to the Israeli land invasion, health officials in Gaza reported that over 1500 Palestinians had been injured in the conflict and at least 233 killed. A few days earlier, a Human Rights Watch report cited UN data showing that close to 80 percent of the deaths were civilians. In addition, said the report, about 7500 residents of Gaza had been displaced or rendered homeless because of Israel’s demolition of 1255 houses.

These statistics registering death and destruction will undoubtedly escalate as a consequence of the Israeli ground assault. Gaza is one of the most densely populated territories in the world; many civilians will be unable to escape the volleys from tanks, artillery, and aircraft—let alone the crossfire of close fighting in the streets.

The Israeli government cynically chose the very day that it invaded Gaza, July 17, to indict three Israeli settlers who had tortured and murdered a Palestinian teenager, Mohammed Abu Khdeir. The accused people (one adult and two minors) had acted in retaliation for the earlier kidnapping and murder of three young Israelis. The Israeli government blamed the earlier incident on Hamas—although no evidence of a culprit has yet come to light—and initiated a drive in which hundreds of alleged Hamas members were arrested.

Simultaneously, Israeli authorities and the press whipped up a campaign of mass hysteria against Palestinians, a witch-hunting atmosphere that was geared for incidents like the murder of young Abu Khdeir to take place. Protests by Palestinians were attacked by Israeli police, which in turn helped provoke rocket attacks by Hamas and led to the massive Israeli bombing campaign and ground invasion.

It must be remembered, of course, that although the kidnappings and deaths of the youths provided a spark for the current conflict, Israel has systematically repressed the Palestinian people for generations, jailing or killing anyone who resists. Palestinians—those who are not refugees living in other countries—have been relegated to apartheid conditions, while Israel seizes more and more Palestinian land for its settlements.

In particular, Israel has reduced Gaza into a poverty-stricken prison house, in which it has carried out bombings and assassinations with impunity. After Hamas came to power in Gaza, the Zionist regime tightened its economic blockade of the territory, which it had first imposed following the capture of an Israeli soldier. The Israelis hoped that the descent into utter poverty and degradation would force Gazans to reject Hamas in favor of a regime that might be more apt to accept onerous concessions. More recently, the accession to power of the military-backed al-Sisi regime in Egypt, which is hostile to Hamas, has meant that even the small lifeline of smuggling through tunnels straddling the Egyptian border has been blocked.

Israel has undertaken the current war against Gaza with the expectation that it will, as always, be backed to the hilt by the United States—which gives $3.15 billion a year to prop up the Zionist state. While Obama has affirmed that he is “heartbroken by the violence,” he also piously declared, “Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks.” The fact that Israel has been the prime aggressor in the region, and that its sham claims of “defense” have resulted in untold death and suffering for civilian populations in Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon, obviously does not bother Obama sufficiently for him to cease support of Israel’s military—let alone to back the cause of self-determination for the Palestinian people.

People around the world who care about justice for oppressed peoples and the continuing plight of the Palestinians should join the growing campaign for BDS—boycott, divestment, and sanctions on Israel. A mass BDS campaign can be instrumental in forcing the Israeli government to desist from its murderous policies.

At the same time, it is essential that antiwar and social justice forces pour into the streets to protest Israeli aggression and U.S. support for the Zionist regime. The United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) is calling for mass street protests throughout the United States. Even before the land invasion of Gaza, Israel’s bombing attacks sparked outrage around the world. Protests took place in many U.S. cities—including 1500 people who rallied in San Francisco and 1000 in Chicago.

We must demand an end to the slaughter! Israel: Withdraw all troops from Gaza! Stop the bombing! End the blockade of Gaza! No U.S. aid to apartheid Israel! Free Palestine!

Hands Off SAIA! Defend Free Speech! Support the BDS Campaign!

York University’s administration punished Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) for holding a rally on March 27 to demand divestment from Israeli Apartheid. York U Security also asked an alumnus and member of SAIA to leave the protest at Vari Hall and threatened to arrest him if he didn’t. In addition, SAIA’s club status “has been revoked until January 2014 following the Vari Hall demonstration in March” as reported in Excalibur, York University’s community newspaper.

In response to these sanctions, Youth for Socialist Action (YSA) joins The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), and the Ontario Civil Liberties Association (OCLA), which have all condemned the York University administration. We call on the administration to amend University policies which pose a threat to free speech, particularly the Senate Policy on Disruptive and/or Harassing Behaviour in Academic Situations, the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, and the Temporary Use of University Space policy.

YSA is a firm supporter of the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Apartheid Israel. We demand that York University stop investing in repression, occupation and war crimes, and to stop violating freedom of expression on campus.

As a socialist and internationalist organization, YSA affirms that socialists have a further responsibility to present a cogent analysis of the current situation in its global context, and to advance a programme in the strategic interests of all working people. In this sense, the starting point for a programme for peace with social justice in the Middle East is the end of the apartheid Zionist state, and the revolutionary transformation of all the Arab regimes. For the Palestinians, the proposed “two state solution” is simply a call for an old-style South Africa Bantustan-type arrangement – consisting of large, impoverished, concentration camps of Palestinians surrounded by powerful Zionist armed forces. We support the right of Palestinians to establish a state on any part of their territory, whatever its limitations, and to continue the fight for full national emancipation. This is a basic, democratic stance, without which social progress is impossible.

We further seek to

  • Educate and mobilize public opinion to oppose Israel’s military aggression against the Palestinians. Confront and expose the myths about Zionism offering a safe haven for world Jewry. Refuse to submit to intimidation by pro-Zionist organizations and business media. Conduct seminars and teach-ins, and seek opportunities to speak to labour, NDP and community organizations.
  • Challenge the partnership of the Canadian government and big business with the Israeli state and economy. Ottawa’s policy is now the most blatantly pro-Zionist in the world. Challenge Canada’s complicity with United States’ domination of the Middle East.
  • Demand implementation of an immediate international embargo on investment, trade and arms shipments to Israel – to be lifted only when the Zionist state ends its occupation of the Palestinian territories, dismantles the Apartheid wall and the Zionist settlements, halts its military aggression, recognizes the right of return of all Palestinian refugees, pays reparations to refugees and victims of Israeli state violence, ends discrimination against non-Jews inside Israel, and recognizes the right of the Palestinians to self-determination and an independent state.
  • Organize a broadly based, mass action-oriented, democratic alliance of all groups and individuals willing to fight for peace with social justice in Palestine. Action must include solidarity with the mass protest movement of the victims of Zionist aggression. It is wrong to subordinate the freedom struggle of the Palestinians to the so-called ‘unity’ of the Israeli working class, much of which is imbued with chauvinist prejudice. In recent years Israeli unions hold general strikes against social cutbacks and the lack of housing, but include right wing settler groups and refuse to discuss the plight of Palestinians. We insist it is wrong to oppose the global BDS campaign on the claim that it is ‘divisive’, as some ‘leftist’ groups argue. Unity in action for social justice should be based on a concrete programme of democratic demands, including the ones stated above. On this basis, a broad movement for justice and solidarity can be built, reaching out beyond the Canadian Arab and Jewish communities, and mobilizing allies in the unions and the organizations of feminists, seniors, environmentalists, students, immigrants, civil libertarians, visible minorities and international solidarity activists.

Unity in action of Palestinian and Israeli workers – against national oppression – is a prerequisite to a Democratic, Secular Palestine, which is likewise a precondition to ending the bloodshed, repression and injustice that torment the peoples of the region. Unity in solidarity action with the Palestinian people, across the Canadian state and around the world, is a critical step towards that goal.

Youth for Socialist Action
for more information: http://www.socialistaction.ca/ysa

Origins of Zionism, and Why Israel is a Major Obstacle to Social Justice

by Barry Weisleder

Why does the Left pick on Israel? Why do socialists target Israel for so much criticism given the abundance of reactionary and undemocratic regimes in the Middle East and around the world? Isn’t Israel a reliable barrier against fanaticism and terrorism? And what is so abhorrent about the relationship between the Zionist state and the United States of America, or between Israel and the Canadian state for that matter?

There is a battery of arguments in support of this line of questioning. Here are the main ones:

1. Israel was “a land without people for a people without land”.

The problem with this assertion is that it completely denies Palestinian identity, nationhood and any Palestinian historical claim to the land they did occupy for centuries.

2. “Israel is a democracy”, the only real democracy in the Middle East.

For Palestinians, Israel is about as ‘democratic’ as Apartheid South Africa was for non-whites. Less so, says Archbishop Desmond Tutu. And this is to say nothing of the weakness of civil rights and labour liberties for Israeli Jews in their ‘own’ state. Nor does it address the intimate connection between the repressive Arab regimes and the domination of the region by the U.S. and its imperialist allies.

3. “Security is the motor force of Israeli foreign policy.”

Setting aside the often-expanded borders of the state, Israel is the fourth largest military power in the world. It is a nuclear weapons possessing regime, facing a circle of weak, less developed, even crippled Arab countries whose armies and police are employed chiefly to repress their own insurgent masses.

4. “Zionism is the moral agency of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust in Europe.”

Ironically, the Zionist movement collaborated with anti-Semitic regimes, including the Nazis. Over the last sixty-five years it has turned Palestinians into the Jews of the Middle East.

Zionist Objectives

To understand the roots of the present conflict it is necessary to examine the origins of the Israeli state, and the ideological and political foundations of the movement that spawned it.

Unlike other colonialist movements, Zionism set out not only to colonize Palestine, but to expel and replace its indigenous population. From its inception in the late 19th century, through the first four decades of the 20th century, Zionism was a minority movement among Diaspora Jews. Socialism, including revolutionary Marxism, was the dominant political tendency among European Jewry.

(For the purpose of this talk, I am setting aside the Christian fundamentalist origins of Zionism some 300 years ago. To learn more about that, read “Canada and Israel, Building Apartheid” by Yves Engler.)

Zionism needed, and sought, imperial sponsors for the bloody enterprise of colonization, and dispersal of the Palestinians.

European colonial powers, for their part, sought to exploit cheap labour and natural resources everywhere, including in the Middle East. Zionist leaders met with the rulers of Imperial Germany, Britain, France, Czarist Russia, and even the Ottoman Empire, offering to act as their agents in Palestine, and as a conduit of Jews out of eastern Europe and other countries whose regimes wanted rid of them.

Labour Zionists, the so-called socialist Zionists, played a particularly insidious role in this period. Aaron David Gordon, founder of Ha’Poel Ha Tzair (the Young Worker), and a supporter of Poale Zion (Workers of Zion), coined the slogan “conquest of labour” (kibbush avodah). This idea animated the campaign to displace Palestinian workers. It called upon Jewish capitalists, including the Rothschild plantation managers (who got land from absentee Turkish landlords, over the heads of the Palestinian people) “to hire Jews and only Jews”. The Zionist movement organized boycotts against non-compliant Jewish bosses.

In the early 1800s, Palestine was a thriving society. There were over a thousand Palestinian villages, known from afar for their crafts, textiles and diverse trade. Terraced hills and a widespread irrigation system reflected a developed agricultural base.

Palestinians welcomed Jewish immigrants – also the Armenians fleeing genocide in Turkey in 1915. Right wing Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky, on the other hand, supported the Turkish regime and drew lessons from its conduct to apply against the Palestinians.

There was no organized Jew-hatred in Palestine in those years, in marked contrast to the situation in Russia, Poland, and other east European countries, whose anti-Jewish leaders were courted by the Zionists.

In 1896, Theodor Herzl, an Austrian writer and founder of Zionism, proposed to the Ottoman Empire that it grant Palestine directly to the Zionist movement. Herzl pledged to make the colony “an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism”.

In 1905, the 7th World Zionist Congress recognized the threat posed by emerging Palestinian nationalism, and offered to defend the Sultan’s rule against it. When Germany made an alliance with Turkey, the Zionists appealed to Germany for support. By 1914, the World Zionist Organization moved to enlist the British Empire, which aimed to break up the Ottoman Empire and seize control of the Middle East, including its invaluable fuel assets. Chaim Weizman said Jewish settlement would civilize Palestine and guard the Suez Canal for Britain.

In the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, Britain proclaimed its support for “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine.

At the time, Zionist claims were utterly contradictory. On the one hand, Palestine was portrayed as a wasteland. On the other hand, Zionists argued that Palestinians should be prevented, by force, from cultivating the soil on which they had laboured for countless generations.

None of this mattered. Britain used Zionist colonization of Palestine as an instrument for political control of the region – for as long as it could.

Weizman’s ally, General Jan Smuts of South Africa, architect of Apartheid, pushed for the Balfour Declaration in the Empire War Cabinet. Herzl was a big admirer of Sir Cecil Rhodes, the arch British imperialist who carved up east Africa. South African capitalists established Africa-Israel Investments to buy land in Palestine. The company still exists; its assets are held by Israel’s Bank Leumi.

Vladimir Jabotinsky, founder of Revisionist Zionism, was more explicit about the Zionist aim to expel and/or repress the Palestinians. He compared the latter to the Aztec and Sioux aboriginal peoples, noting that their resistence to colonization is inevitable, but futile in the face of superior technology. In his book, “The Iron Wall”, Jabotinsky espouses the doctrine of “pure blood”, which he says must guide the Jewish people. Even liberal pro-Zionist philosophers like Martin Buber testify that “our being is determined by blood”, a notion quite compatible with standard European racist doctrine of the day. Ideologically, Zionism is steeped in anti-scientific, racist assumptions.

By 1931, some 20,000 peasant families had been evicted by Zionist agents. The governing British Mandate awarded 90% of all state concessions in Palestine to Jewish capitalists. This included roads, Dead Sea minerals, electricity, ports and other public sector projects. By 1935, Zionists controlled 872 of 1212 industrial firms in Palestine.

Many Intifadas

This major loss of land, enterprises, and jobs, and increasing political repression, fueled a Palestinian uprising that lasted from 1936 through 1939. The British imposed martial law (the infamous British Emergency Regulations, which still constitute the basis of Israeli law). They made widespread arrests and attacks on Palestinians, including the destruction of thousands of Palestinian homes. In the city of Jaffa alone, 6,000 people were left homeless as a result of this policy.

Britain also moved to create a Zionist quasi-police force, the infamous “Colony Police”, which grew to 14,000 by 1939.

The British authorities were sufficiently disturbed by the revolt of the Palestinians that they mandated a Royal Commission to study its causes. The Peel Report frankly attributed the uprising to the “…rise of Arab nationalism, increasing Jewish immigration and land purchases”.

While the masses protested and fought, religious leaders (including the Mufti) and feudal landowners and the newly emerging Palestinian bourgeoisie failed to support the revolt. Their hostility to the rebellion assisted the British and Zionist forces in eventually crushing it.

But this is nothing new, in a dual sense. The Palestinian struggle, in one form or another, has been almost continuous since 1918. It is marked by civil disobedience, general strikes, boycotts, non-payment of taxes, and mass demonstrations. And like other national liberation struggles in the 20th century, the Palestinian struggle demonstrates that the national bourgeoisie has no independent or progressive role to play in the national emancipation drama; it is tied to world imperialism and/or to its reactionary, neo-colonial regimes locally.

Only the working class, with the support of the poor peasantry, is ready, willing and able to fight all the way for national freedom. Only through socialist revolution can this fight mobilize the majority of the masses and realize their aspirations. This, in essence, is the strategy of Permanent Revolution, formulated by Leon Trotsky in 1905. It is counter-posed to the false concept of the two stage revolution. The ‘stages’ idea involves reliance on the bourgeois nationalists, and in the Palestinian case it takes the form of the tragically mistaken two-state solution.

State Terrorism

The United Nations partitioned Palestine in 1947. Jews were 31% of the population. The western powers, with their temporary ally Joseph Stalin of the USSR, voted at the U.N. to give 54% of the fertile land of Palestine to the Zionists. But before the Israeli state was established, the Irgun and the Haganah (pre-state Zionist armed forces) seized three-quarters of the land and expelled almost all the inhabitants. Three hundred and eighty-five of four hundred and seventy-five Palestinian towns were razed to the ground. Before May 1947, 250,000 Arabs were expelled. By May 15, 1948, 750,000 Palestinians were driven out of their land!

How? By openly terrorist methods. Massacres were conducted….at Deir-Yasin, where future Prime Minister Menachem Begin was in charge of the assault…..then at Dueima…..then in the refugee camps in Gaza in the 1950s……then at Kibya in October 1953, where another future P.M., Ariel Sharon was the butcher in charge…..then at Kafr Qasim in October 1956…..

On the basis of terrorism and expulsion, an Apartheid state was consolidated. Its ‘principles’ included: only Jewish labour; no leasing of land to non-Jews; the imposition of religious laws governing marriage and other civil matters; and the “right of return” (aliya) for Jews only. This “right of return” gives a man born to a Jewish mother in Brooklyn, New York or in Toronto, a greater right to live and work in Israel than a person born in Palestine, the descendent of scores of generations who lived there before Israel or even before the first Zionist settlement existed.

Ninety-three per cent of the land in Israel is owned by the Jewish National Fund, which will not sell or lease land to an Arab. The Kibbutzim, reputed to be islands of socialist cooperation that made the desert bloom, are in fact among the most ethnically exclusive organizations in Israel. They are a bulwark of militarism, both in terms of policing the perimeter of the state, and acting as a recruitment base for the elite of the armed forces.

Collaboration with Fascism

Many Zionists would be shocked to learn how much Zionism and fascism have had in common. It’s not a matter of superficial similarities, like the fact that the Revisionist Zionist youth, Betar, wore black shirts, or brown shirts (Menachem Begin’s preference), and used the fascist salute. More fundamentally, what the fascists wanted was the Jews out of Europe — and so did the Zionists.

These organizations had more than just a mutual understanding; they had fraternal relations. The Zionist Federation of Germany sent a message of support to the Nazi Party in June 1933. The World Zionist Organization (WZO) defeated a resolution calling for action against Hitler in 1933; the vote was 240 to 43. The WZO’s Anglo-Palestine Bank broke an international boycott of the Nazi regime, facilitating the purchase of Nazi goods and their import into Palestine. Joseph Goebbels praised Zionism in a major report he issued in 1934. Adolph Eichmann was invited to Palestine as a guest of the Haganah.

The Zionist movement was willing to sacrifice anything and anyone for the colonization of Palestine. As late as 1943, while the Jews of Europe were being exterminated in their millions, Rabbi Stephen Wise, leader of the American Jewish Congress opposed any change in United States immigration laws to enable Jews to find refuge from Nazism.

Dr. Rudolph Kastner of the Jewish Agency Rescue Committee in Budapest signed a secret pact with Adolph Eichmann to “settle the Jewish question” in Hungary. The pact consisted of sending 600 prominent Hungarian Jews to Palestine, in exchange for the Jewish Agency’s silence during the extermination of 800,000 Hungarian Jews.

On January 11, 1941 Yitzhak Shamir, who became Israeli Prime Minister in the 1980s, proposed a formal military pact between the Irgun and the Nazi Third Reich.

Zionism’s betrayal of the victims of the Holocaust was the culmination of its attempt to identify the interests of the Jews with those of the established order.

Today, the Zionists join their state to the enforcement arm of U.S. imperialism – from death squads in Africa and Latin America, to the covert operations of the CIA on all continents. Instead of seeking social change, and fighting the ruling classes which cultivate anti-semitism and the persecution of the Jews, the Zionists curried favour from them.

The great Marxist of Russian-Jewish origin, Leon Trotsky explained that the emancipation of the Jews is completely bound up with the fate of the world socialist revolution. Trotsky also warned that the Zionist state would be a death trap for the Jews. When the oil reserves of the Middle East are exhausted in twenty or thirty years, will Washington’s multi-billion dollar annual subsidy for Israel likewise dry up? What will be Israel’s relationship to the region and its neighbours then?

The legacy of Israel does not augur well for its future relations with the Arab people. The history of the Zionist state is one of successive waves of expansionism. Israel’s borders were extended by force in 1956, 1967 and 1974. This was followed by the invasion and occupation of Lebanon in 1982, during which the Israeli military under the command of Ariel Sharon supervised the massacre of Palestinians at Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps by its Phalange client forces. Israel maintained control of southern Lebanon, a wide military buffer zone, up til May 2000 when years of guerrilla warfare forced it to exit, abandoning its right wing allies. It invaded again in the summer of 2006, the fifth Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

Arab regimes have been complicit with the Zionist state in its persecution and dispossession of the Palestinians. The most egregious example of such complicity was the slaughter of the insurgent Jordanian working class, including Palestinian rebels, in 1970 by the armed forces of the Hashemite monarchy. A number of Jordanian cities and towns rose up against King Hussein. In Irbid was established the rule of workers’ councils. But they were all drowned in blood during what became known as Black September — while Israeli troops massed at the border, ready to complete the job.

The legacy of Zionism also includes its widespread and ongoing practice of repression: the prevalence of torture in Israeli prisons (sanctioned by its courts); the famous case of Mordechi Vanunu, former nuclear industry worker jailed for decades for exposing the fact that Israel possesses nuclear bombs; the fierce killings and reprisals during the first Intifada; the horrendous invasion of Gaza in December 2008 in which the IDF killed 1,400 Palestinians; and the daily brutality of military patrols, bulldozing of the homes of Palestinians (who cannot get building permits), the willful destruction of olive groves, the construction of the Wall…..and the shootings, maiming, strafing and bombing against Palestinian residential areas and civilians – including today’s bombing of Gaza.

Palestinian Israeli citizens face discrimination in education and jobs. There are whole sectors of the economy in which Arab labor is banned for “security” reasons. Poverty inside Israel for Arabs is 52 percent, while it is 16 percent for Jewish Israelis.

Oslo and El Fateh

The Oslo Accord and the emergence of the Palestinian Authority (PA) did not in any way constitute a break with Zionist policy, much less alter the character of the state, or its integral relationship with U.S. imperialism.

Oslo was part of a strategy of containment, and attempted co-optation of the Palestinian revolution. Mahmoud Abbas’ regime is a key part of that equation. It’s job is to police the Palestinians masses, in exchange for petty subsidies and privileges it passes on to its loyal operatives. The PA is completely powerless and subordinate to Israel and to U.S. imperialism. That is precisely why it must be so thoroughly corrupt, anti-democratic, and repressive.

El Fateh, the conservative-nationalist party headed by Abbas, and previously led by Yassir Arafat, is increasingly isolated and disliked by poor and working class Palestinians. Even if Fateh could gain control of a part of Jerusalem, one of the Oslo stumbling blocks, and to which Ariel Sharon’s September 28, 2000 visit to Al-Haram Al-Sharif (the Temple Mount) issued a loud ‘never’, the Palestine Question would remain largely unresolved.

Islamic fundamentalist movements like Hamas and Hezbollah have gained popularity simply by filling a social and political vacuum created by Fateh’s capitulation to Washington and Tel Aviv, and fostered by the disappearance of left nationalist groups once subsidized by the former USSR, Syria and Iraq. In a desperate bid to avoid losing all youths to the Islamic organizations, Fateh leaders permitted, for a time, the mobilization of the Tanzim, young street fighters from Fateh ranks. The absence of a militant, class struggle, secular alternative in the occupied territories unfortunately reduces the political choices to these.

This brings us to the question: Why focus on Israel in a world rife with injustice?

How many of you watched the last televised debate between Barak Obama and Mit Romney? Can you guess how many times they mentioned Israel? More specifically, how many times did they each use the expression “America’s closest ally, Israel”?

Why didn’t the main contenders for the imperial presidency refer to the U.S.-backed ‘security state’ in Colombia in that way? Or Nigeria? Or Saudi Arabia? Why Israel?

It is because the Zionist state is a uniquely valuable tool of imperial rule in a volatile, resource-rich region. Israel is Wall Street’s most reliable tool because it was created, built-up, and maintained as a loyal fortress of the west in a sea of oppressed Arabs. Richard Nixon called it “America’s biggest air craft carrier in the Mediterranean.” Israel is not like its neighbours. It is a first world economy in a third world region. It is socially, culturally, economically and politically a rampart of Europe and North America in the Middle East. What are the facts to support this claim?

Since the 1970s, Israel has been one of the top recipients of U.S. foreign aid. In 2007, the United States increased its military aid to Israel by over 25% to an average of $3 billion per year for the following ten year period. Israel was the largest annual recipient of American aid from 1976 to 2004 and is the largest cumulative recipient of aid since World War II. The United States ended economic aid to Israel due to Israel’s highly developed and growing economy. Israel is considered one of the most advanced countries in Southwest Asia in economic and industrial development. In 2010, it joined the OECD. The country is ranked 3rd in the region on the World Bank‘s Ease of Doing Business Index as well as in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report. It has the second-largest number of startup companies in the world (after the United States) and the largest number of NASDAQ -listed companies outside North America.

In 2010, Israel ranked 17th among of the world’s most economically developed nations, according to the International Institute of Management Development.

The Bank of Israel was ranked first among central banks for its efficient functioning, up from the 8th place in 2009. The Bank of Israel holds $78 billion of foreign-exchange reserves.

Despite limited natural resources, intensive development of the agricultural and industrial sectors over the past decades has made Israel largely self-sufficient in food production, apart from grains and beef. Other major imports to Israel, totaling $47.8 billion in 2006, include fossil fuels, raw materials, and military equipment. Leading exports include electronics, software, computerized systems, communications technology, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals , fruits, chemicals, military technology, and cut diamonds ; in 2006, Israeli exports reached $42.86 billion, and by 2010 they had reached $80.5 billion a year.

Israel is a leading country in the development of cutting-edge technologies in software, communications and the life sciences. It evokes comparisons with Silicon Valley. According to the OECD, Israel is also ranked 1st in the world in expenditure on Research and Development (R&D) as a percentage of GDP. Intel and Microsoft built their first overseas research and development centers in Israel, and other high-tech multi-national corporations, such asIBMCisco Systems, and Motorola, have opened facilities in the country. In July 2007, U.S. billionaire Warren Buffett‘sBerkshire Hathaway bought an Israeli company Iscar, its first non-U.S. acquisition, for $4 billion. Since the 1970s, Israel has received military aid from the United States, as well as economic assistance in the form of loan guarantees, which now account for roughly half of Israel’s external debt. Israel has one of the lowest external debts in the developed world, and is a net lender in terms of net external debt (the total value of assets vs. liabilities in debt instruments owed abroad), which as of 2011 stood at a surplus of US$58.7 billion.

In terms of gross domestic product, Israel’s GDP per capita of $31,000 is five times the rate for Egypt (which has a population of 84 million, compared to Israel’s 7.6 million). Look at a country with a population size closer to Israel’s, its neighbour Jordan, with 6.4 million people. Jordan has a GDP per capita one-sixth that of the Zionist state.

Back to military relationships: the United States maintains six war reserve stocks inside Israel, and maintains some $300 million in military equipment at these sites. The equipment is owned by the United States and is for use by American forces in the Middle East, but can also be transferred to Israeli use in a time of crisis. The United States also keeps fighter and bomber aircraft at these sites, and one of the bases is said to contain a 500-bed hospital for U.S. Marines and Special Forces.

The Dimona Radar Facility is an American radar facility in the Negev desert of Israel, located near Dimona. The facility has two 400-foot radar towers designed to track ballistic missiles through space and provide ground-based missiles with the targeting data needed to intercept them. It can detect missiles up to 1,500 miles away. The facility is owned and operated by the U.S. military, and provides only second-hand intelligence to Israel. The towers of the facility are the tallest radar towers in the world.

The main point here is not that Israel has a highly developed economy. Billions of dollars of investment, over the course of generations, can make any desert bloom. But why in Israel, which has almost no natural resources, did this happen? The answer is its strategic location and its total integration into the system of imperial rule. The Zionist state is the linch-pin of imperial rule in its region. Starve it of funds, shut it down, and the system of western domination is a big step closer to collapse.

That, in essence, is why the Left and progressive forces around the world put opposition to Zionism at the forefront. It is not due to an obsession with Israel per se. It is a legitimate preoccupation with imperialism. It is a recognition, not only that despite its ‘democratic’ pretensions Israel is an apartheid state, not only that it is a death-trap for the Jews there and a fomenter of Jew-hatred globally, but that Israel is a key prop for all the reactionary regimes in the Middle East. It fuels Islamic fundamentalists who argue that Jews are the problem, not the Arab and Muslim neo-colonial bourgeoisie and feudal remnants.

Israel is the first line of military defense of imperialism in the Mid-East. It is a big nuclear weapons power. The Israeli and US rulers constitute the gravest threat to humanity’s future. Severing the umbilical cord that joins them, and dismantling the Zionist state, are absolutely critical to human survival, let alone the fight for social justice.

Reactionaries argue that human nature is the main obstacle to equality and social justice. Scientific socialists, materialists, and humanists argue that capitalism/imperialism is the overall obstacle to social progress, and because Israel is a bulwark of imperial rule, the Zionist state constitutes a major block in the path of social justice.

A Democratic and Socialist Perspective

Clearly, Palestinian resistence will continue. The Arab Spring, which toppled reactionary regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, continues too, with freedom for Palestine high on its banners. This poses questions of programme and a number of solidarity tasks for workers and socialists worldwide. So, what is to be done?

1. Educate and mobilize public opinion to oppose Israel’s military aggression against the Palestinians. Confront and expose the myths about Zionism. Do not submit to intimidation by pro-Zionist organizations and media. Conduct seminars and teach-ins, and seek opportunities to speak to labour, NDP and community organizations.

2. Challenge the partnership of the Canadian government and big business with the Israeli state and economy. Ottawa’s policy is now the most blatantly pro-Zionist in the world. Challenge Canada’s complicity with United States’ domination of the Middle East. Demand implementation of an immediate international embargo on investment, trade and arms shipments to Israel – to be lifted only when the Zionist state ends its occupation of the Palestinian territories, dismantles the Apartheid wall and the Zionist settlements, halts its military aggression, recognizes the right of return of all Palestinian refugees, pays reparations to refugees and victims of Israeli state violence, ends discrimination against non-Jews inside Israel, and recognizes the right of the Palestinians to self-determination and an independent state.

United Nations’ resolutions which condemn Israeli aggression and declare Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem to be illegal, but which impose no sanctions on the aggressor, are clearly inadequate. But simply to vote against the resolutions, as the Harper Conservative government did, is worse than inadequate: it shows imperialist contempt for the oppressed. It is on a par with the supreme hypocrisy and posturing perpetrated by the preceding Jean Chretien and Paul Martin Liberal regimes.

We could debate which is worse: is it the subsequent back-tracking by Chretien, his obsequious apologies to the rabidly Zionist Canadian Jewish Congress (now called the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs)? Or is it the criminal silence of the labour-based New Democratic Party on the second Intifada, on the Israeli occupation, or on repeated efforts to break the siege of Gaza. Don’t forget NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair’s criticism of MP Libby Davies for telling the truth: that the dispossession of Palestinians began in 1947, not 1967. Either way, there’s much work to be done. Grassroots educational work and political protest actions can further shift the relationship of forces on this issue, and raise the political price to be paid for silence and complicity with oppression.

3. Organize a broadly based, mass action-oriented, democratic alliance of all groups and individuals willing to fight for peace with social justice in Palestine. The purpose must include solidarity with the mass protest movement of the victims of Zionist aggression. It is wrong to subordinate the freedom struggle of the Palestinians to the so-called ‘unity’ of the chauvinist Israeli working class, which holds general strikes against social cutbacks and the lack of housing, but which includes right wing settler groups and refuses to discuss the plight of Palestinians. It is wrong to oppose the global BDS campaign on the claim that it is ‘divisive’, as do leftist groups like Fightback. Unity in action for social justice should be based on a concrete programme of democratic demands, including the ones stated above. On this basis, a broad movement for justice and solidarity can be built, reaching out beyond the Canadian Arab and Jewish communities, and mobilizing allies in the unions and the organizations of feminists, seniors, environmentalists, students, immigrants, civil libertarians, visible minorities and international solidarity activists.

For a broad action-oriented movement to be effective it must focus on the mobilization of working people and our allies, and not rely on government or the business elite. Needed is a movement which is pluralistic, internally democratic and open.

For a Democratic, Secular Palestine

Socialists have a further responsibility to present a cogent and coherent analysis of the current situation in its global context, and to advance a programme in the strategic interests of all working people.

In this sense, the starting point for a programme for peace with social justice in the Middle East is the end of the apartheid Zionist state, and the revolutionary transformation of all the Arab regimes.

For the Palestinians, the proposed “two state solution” is nothing more than a call for an old-style South Africa Bantustan arrangement – for large, impoverished, concentration camps of Palestinians surrounded by Zionist armed forces. And as the Palestine Authority already sadly demonstrates, the weaker a Bantustan is in relation to its master state, the more internally repressive, anti-democratic and corrupt it is bound to be.

On principle, socialists uphold the right of oppressed nations to obtain any degree of autonomy or sovereignty possible, as part of the ongoing struggle for self-determination. We support the right of Palestinians to establish a state on any part of their territory, whatever its limitations, and to continue the fight for full national emancipation. This is a basic, democratic stance, without which social progress is impossible.

But to transcend imperialist domination and its partner apartheid regime in the region, to overcome those forces which fundamentally block emancipation across the entire Arab East, a more radical programme is needed – one which seeks to unite the working classes of Israel and Palestine in a common struggle to end oppression and exploitation.

Such a programme must focus on the need to break the masses on both sides from allegiance to their capitalists, to free them from political subordination to religious authorities and discriminatory institutions, and to project a new democratic state which excludes none of the peoples who call Palestine home.

This idea is best expressed by the slogan For a Democratic and Secular Palestine. Unlike the proposed prison-like, two state solution, or a bi-national state (which defies definition), a Democratic and Secular Palestine embraces the hope (and necessity) that Jews and Arabs can live together in equality and peace. It opens the road to genuine majority rule, irrespective of religion or culture — it opens the road to workers’ power and socialism.

Unity in action of Palestinian and Israeli workers – against national oppression – is a prerequisite to a Democratic, Secular Palestine, which is likewise a precondition to ending the bloodshed, repression and injustice that torment the peoples of the region. Unity in solidarity action with the Palestinian people, across the Canadian state and around the world, is a critical step towards that goal.

Unlike the reactionary utopia of Zionism, it is a perspective worth fighting for.

United Church votes for Israeli boycott

     The general council of the United Church of Canada, the country’s largest Protestant denomination, voted in mid-August to support a boycott of goods produced in Israeli settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.
     The 350 delegates to the United Church council, which according to Statistics Canada represents nearly three million Canadians who identify with the church, spent close to six hours debating the boycott recommended by an internal report that named the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory as a major obstacle to a two-state settlement of the conflict.
     Increasingly, a one-state solution is seen as the only just and effective path by Palestinian, labour and human rights bodies. But the boycott idea itself is enough to raise the ire of pro-occupation forces and to expose the growing isolation of the Zionist apartheid state.
     In the months preceding the council vote, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (the ultra-conservative body that displaced the former Canadian Jewish Congress), and a group of nine Canadian Liberal and Conservative senators, heavily lobbied U.C. members against “taking sides” on the issue. But after hearing long arguments on all sides of the controversy, the church council voted to take a side, against the occupation.