Yossi Schwartz


The Danger of a New War in the Middle East

(March 22, 2001)

This document is to the best of our knowledge published here for the first time.
Transcribed by Daniel Rubinstein.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for REDS – Die Roten.

The election of Ariel Sharon as Prime Minister of Israel symbolizes the failure of the Oslo Agreements, which were based on the US belief that they could impose a Pax Americana on the Middle East. The implementation of the Agreements in Palestine meant the creation of a series of Bantustans controlled indirectly by the Israeli state, which continues to play the role of regional cop for imperialism. The Israeli bourgeoisie was ready to give up part of the territories conquered in 1967 in exchange for the opening up of the Arab markets. The Palestinian Authority was ready to play the role assigned to it by imperialism, by betraying the main demand of its program (the establishment of a secular democratic republic in the whole territory of historic Palestine) as did most other radical petty-bourgeois movements in the last decade, from the ANC in South Africa to Ochalan in Kurdistan. The bankruptcy of the PLO shows the incapacity of the radical petty-bourgeois nationalist movements to carry out the democratic revolution: in periods of retreat in the revolutionary struggle of the working class, these movements turn to imperialism and are ready to become their servants. But contemporary imperialism – defined by Lenin as “moribund capitalism” – is incapable to provide a solution to the unresolved democratic problems and to satisfy the minimal material needs of the masses in the semi-colonial states, comprising more than 90% of the world’s population.

The main objective of the Oslo Agreements was clearly defined by the late Nobel Peace Prize Yitzhak Rabin, who declared in an interview that the PA would be able to repress the Palestinians “without appeals to the Supreme Court and without human rights’ organizations”. Their failure was due to the opposition of the Palestinian people to accept the renunciation of the right of return for the four million Palestinian refugees, the dismantling of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, and sovereignty over West Jerusalem. Barak, in turn, was unable to accept these minimal demands – which in themselves do not represent by any means the granting of the right of self-determination to the Palestinians – not only because of the opposition of the right-wing settlers, but because of the character of Zionist ideology, whose ultimate objective was and remains the ethnic cleansing of all Arabs and gentiles from Biblical Eretz Israel. The failure of the faked “peace process” based on the repression of the national liberation aspirations of the Palestinians, in turn, led to a wave of chauvinism in the Jewish public and to the election of war criminal Ariel Sharon as Israeli Prime Minister.

Since Sharon’s election the IDF have implemented a “strong hand” policy in the North (against Hezbollah) and especially in the occupied territories, including the assassination of Arafat’s personal bodyguards using rockets fired from helicopters. The consequent increase in acts of personal terrorism on the Palestinian side was employed as an excuse to decree the closure of the territories with the aim of bringing the Palestinians to their knees by starvation. This brutal policy, which has been correctly described in the mass media as a war crime, has only temporarily been reversed as a result of the pressure of European imperialism.

On the political side, the Sharon government has repeatedly declared its opposition to the dismantling of settlements and to the acceptance of even a formally independent Palestinian statelet. Arafat has been branded a terrorist and any negotiation rejected “as long as warfare continues”. The Labor Party’s participation in the “national unity” government was opposed by parts of the Israeli bourgeoisie, because it increases the alienation of the Palestinian public and of sections of the Jewish public from the Zionist parties, and led to the split of some prominent leaders from the party. Nevertheless, the party’s Central Committee decided to take part in the same government with Rehavam Zeevi (who called Arafat “Hitler”) and with Avigdor Liberman (who called for the bombing of Egypt and Iran) and has fully endorsed Sharon’s demagogic and criminal policy.

There have been open talks in Israel about the Arafat’s capability to effectively repress the Palestinian masses, and the possibility of military re-occupying the territories. Under the pressure of the popular uprising and the Israeli repression, the PA is undergoing a process of “Lebanonization”, as a result of which different armed groups appear within the PA’s apparatus having only a partial allegiance to Arafat. There is a growing alienation of the Palestinian masses from the PA, which has still not completely undermined Arafat’s leadership because of his Bonapartist role between the insurrectionary masses, the Zionist state, and American and European imperialism.

The developments in Israel and the territories are closely linked to the political changes in the United States. The Bush administration is the naked representatives of big capitalists, especially of the oil companies with large interests in the Middle East, which are exerting pressure to bring Saddam Hussein down by military means. The world economic crisis will also enhance competition between the different imperialist powers, and as a consequence there will be a growing imperialist intervention in the region to assure control of the oil resources.

The recent visit of Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Middle East, aimed at increasing pressure on the Iraqi regime, took place ten years after the imperialist slaughter known as “Desert Storm”. But unlike ten years ago, Europe (excepting Great Britain) and the Arab countries are no longer ready to wage war against Iraq, because it would hurt their own economic interests. Besides, the outbreak of a new imperialist war in the midst of a Palestinian Intifada would threaten the stability of the puppet Arab regimes in the region. Nevertheless, the war hawks within the Bush administration (especially Vice-President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld) are putting pressure to wage a new war against Iraq and finish the job of liquidating Hussein’s regime – a job which was left unfinished ten years ago in order to avoid the break-up of Iraq into Shiite, Sunnite and Kurdish regions, which threatened the stability of the region and especially of the Turkish regime of national oppression.

The last elections, where close to 40% of the electorate either abstained or put a blank ballot, led to the appearance of a political vacuum in Israel. As a result of this alienation from the traditional parties, a number of “left-wing” Zionist politicians from the Labor Party and Meretz, such as Yossi Beilin and Yossi Sarid, have been advancing the idea of creating a new social-democratic party. But both the organizations and the politicians who stand at the front of this initiative have been responsible for the massacre of the Palestinians during the last Intifada and for the implementation of policies destined to dismantle the welfare state and to abolish labor legislation. Their lack of credibility enhances the counter-revolutionary role of the petty-bourgeois radical organizations, both the local Pabloites and the radical NGOs, which are calling for the intervention of European imperialism in the region.

Against all the currents which directly or indirectly serve the interests of Zionism and imperialism in Palestine and the Middle East, the position of the revolutionaries is:

  1. Towards the Palestinian Authority: The Palestinian masses have to be organized in order to bring Arafat and the PA down, but at the same time both must be defended against Zionism aggression, without giving them the least political support. The Marxist position towards the PA is identical to Trotsky’s position towards the Popular Front government in Spain: it must be brought down by a social revolution and at the same time defended against the attacks of fascism.
  2. Towards Iraq: Iraq has to be defended from imperialism without giving the least political support to Saddam Hussein’s regime. Only through a social revolution of the workers and peasants can the Iraqi people successfully repel the imperialist aggression.
  3. Towards European intervention: The call for European imperialism to intervene in the Middle East must be condemned as a legitimization of the repression of the Palestinian struggle. The intervention of any imperialist power in Palestine means that it will cooperate with the Palestinian Authority and Israel to put down the Palestinian popular uprising. The only real protection of the Palestinian people, as well as the only way of insure the success of their fight for self-determination, is the joint struggle of the Arab and Jewish workers against the local bourgeoisie and imperialist intervention in the Middle East.


Last updated on 4.8.2001