U.S. president Barack Obama’s remarks that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” as a starting point for negotiations sparked a public clash with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Despite the prominence given to it by the media, the dispute has nothing to do with resolving the Palestinian struggle for national rights or with the interests of working people—Jewish and Arab alike—in Israel…
“Israel must be able to defend itself,” Obama emphasized at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee convention a few days after the controversy broke out. “The ultimate goal is two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people.”
When Israel was created in 1948, and during the war that followed, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes and farms or fled. In the 1967 war, the Israeli army occupied Syria’s Golan Heights, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip, and the West Bank of Jordan. In 1979, after Cairo and Tel Aviv signed a peace treaty, the Sinai was returned to Egyptian rule.
The Israeli rulers’ dreams of a greater Israel, however, foundered. Beginning in late 1987, the Palestinian Intifada (uprising) spread throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Tens of thousands of Israelis, no longer seeing Israel as the “promised land,” left the country, often heading to the United States.
Today more than 4 million Palestinians live in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza, denied the right to freely travel inside Israel. Another 1.6 million Palestinians, some 20 percent of Israel’s population, are Israeli citizens. They face discrimination in housing, jobs, land, language, education, health care, and other public services.
Palestinians fight discrimination
The Palestinian citizens of Israel refuse to accept second-class status. Over the last two years, Palestinians forced Israel Railways Company to halt the firing of 130 Arab railway workers; Arab egg farmers won subsidies for producing 6 million eggs a year (subsidies that previously had been awarded to Jewish farmers only); and Palestinian rights groups forced the Israeli government to allow Palestinian political prisoners to embrace their children during jail visits.
As part of the working class in Israel, Palestinians have joined struggles with Jewish and immigrant co-workers for higher wages, better work conditions, and against plant closings.
In the West Bank Palestinian workers and farmers have fought against land confiscations, the denial of water rights, and the building of a wall blocking them off from large parts of the territory. In both the West Bank and Gaza, they have opposed arbitrary border closings by the Israeli regime.
In the West Bank the number of Israeli citizens living in settlements scattered throughout the territory has doubled from 142,000 in 1996 to more than 300,000 today, usurping Palestinian land rights and acting as provocation against the Palestinian majority.
Those in the ruling classes in Tel Aviv and Washington who put forward a “swap” of Jewish enclaves in the West Bank with predominantly Arab areas of Israel hope to hold on to a Jewish majority in Israel. They also worry that the rebellions in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, and other parts of the Middle East will deepen the isolation of Israel and could leave Washington and Tel Aviv with few allies in the region.
In face of the political difficulties for imperialism, the bourgeois nationalist leaderships of the Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah offer no way forward to mobilize Palestinians in their national interests, or to advance the fight of toilers in the occupied territories and those within Israel’s borders.
A democratic secular Palestine
“What the Israeli rulers are seeking to impose in order to consolidate Israel within borders of their own choosing is not a ‘peace process,’” Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, pointed out in a June 2006 report to the party’s convention. “It’s the consolidation of an Israel still based on the forcible expulsion of the Palestinian majority, together with the ‘right of return’ of those of Jewish parentage.”
“Tel Aviv intends to hold onto East Jerusalem and selected large suburban Jewish settlements in the West Bank, as well as strategic military locations along the Jordanian border,” he added.
The Palestinian people need to forge a revolutionary leadership that will fight for a democratic secular Palestine, Barnes said. Inside Israel, this will include a substantial Jewish component. It will come out of working people and youth fighting “for land; for water rights; for freedom of movement, freedom to travel; for jobs, decent wages, and union protection; for the release of political prisoners; for women’s equality” and against the brutal operations of Tel Aviv’s cops, troops, and commandos.
While saying no timetables are possible, Barnes emphasized, “A communist leadership of Jewish and Arab workers and farmers—dedicated to the fight for a democratic secular Palestine, and for socialist revolution—can and will be built… as growing numbers of toilers come to understand that if this task is not achieved in time, there will be little left of that part of the world.”
The Militant Vol. 75/No. 22
June 6, 2011