Sunday, 9 December 2012

Are Israel's Days Numbered?

The Muslim Brotherhood have assumed political power in Egypt. Their figurehead President Morsi has assumed dictatorial powers greater than those of his predecessor Mubarak. Large scale protests against that have eventually led to him reversing the decree under which he assumed them, but the Muslim Brotherhood's proposed Constitution, which will enshrine their dictatorship in law, is still to be forced to a referendum, next week, leaving no real time, for a proper public debate over its contents to take place, or for political opposition to it to be mounted. In the meantime, western TV has begun to report that women who took a prominent part in the revolutionary movement – weeks before the Muslim Brotherhood began to take part – are now facing daily sexual assaults on the streets, as part of a deliberate political strategy to deprive them of a voice.

Islamists have also assumed political power in Tunisia. In both countries, even more extreme Islamist forces continue to press for the establishment of a clerical-fascist regime. In Libya, that has already effectively happened. The Liberals of the TNC may superficially form the government, but real political power rests with the Sunni Jihadists in the streets. It is they, and their militias, which exercise the monopoly of violence.

Having established themselves in Libya, the jihadists have also established themselves in Mali. Now, the weapons accrued by the Libyan jihadists, both those taken over from Gaddafi, and those provided by the US, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to fight Gaddafi, are being funnelled into Syria, along with even more of the latest weapons provided by those latter sources. In addition, to all of these weapons, which make the comments by the US and UK, that they are thinking about supplying the rebels with weapons, rather laughable, tens of thousands of an almost endless supply of jihadists are also entering Syria.

As I pointed out several months ago. The combination of these latest weapons, together with an almost limitless supply of money, and of jihadists means that the ultimate fate of Assad's regime is sealed. Imperialism has found in the jihadis, a ready made mercenary army that can fight their common enemy, without Imperialism, having to put boots on the ground. But, the consequence for Syria, is that the bloody Civil War that Imperialism and the Jihadis have waged, will result in tens of thousands of deaths, and the physical destruction of much of Syria. Its reminiscent of what Trotsky said in relation to such a war for freedom ion the Balkans in 1912-23.

'Free'! And to whom, pray, are the Macedonians to pay the costs of their 'liberation'? And exactly how much do these costs amount to? How easily people operate with words, and now with living concepts, when they are not involved themselves! You, Ivan Kirillovich, say that peace is not an end in itself and so on, but you are letting your vision of reality be obscured. 'Free'! Have you any idea what the areas that were recently the theatre of war have been turned into? All through those places a terrible tornado has raged, which has torn up, broken, mangled, reduced to ashes everything that man's labour had created, has maimed and crushed man himself, and mortally laid low the young generation, down to the baby at the breast and even further to the foetus in the mother's womb. The Turks burned and massacre as they fled. The local Christians, where they had the advantage, burned and slaughtered as the allied armies drew near. The soldiers finished off the wounded, and ate up or carried off everything they could lay their hands on. The partisans, following at their heels, plundered, violated, burned. And, finally, along with the armies, epidemics of typhus and cholera advanced across the 'liberated' land.” (The War Correspondence of Leon Trotsky, The Balkan Wars 1912-13, p 330)

To speak of the 'liberation' of Macedonia, laid waste, ravaged, infected with disease from end to end, means either to mock reality or to mock oneself. Before our eyes a splendid peninsula, richly endowed by nature, which in the last few decades has made great cultural progress, is being hurled back with blood and iron into the dark age of famine and cruel barbarism. All the accumulations of culture are perishing, the work of fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers is being reduced to dust, cities are being laid waste, villages are going up in flames, and no end can yet be seen to this frenzy of destruction...Face to face with such reversions to barbarism it is hard to believe that 'man' is a proud sounding word. But at least the 'doctrinaires' have one consolation, and it is not small: they can with a clear conscience say, 'Neither by deed nor word nor thought are we guilty of this blood'” (p 332)

The same is true today in Syria. The blame for the bloodshed, the misery and destruction rests with the Assad regime. But it also rests Imperialism, and its associates in the Feudal Gulf Monarchies, that fermented this war against the Assad regime, for their own regional, strategic interests. It rests also with those on the Left, who in the same way as was the case with the Russian Liberals during the Balkan Wars, not only failed to oppose the intervention of their own Imperialism, but encouraged the view that the uprising would bring such an intervention. The bloodshed also rests with all those jihadists, acting as agents of Imperialism, and of the Gulf States, who have hijacked the original peaceful protests of the Syrian people for their own sectarian interests.

The Assad regime, will undoubtedly, eventually fall given the forces ranged against it, but perhaps not until even more death, destruction and misery has been inflicted upon the blighted country and its people. And, given the facts, the replacement for that regime, will be, as in Libya, another group of blood thirsty, mediaevalist, clerical-fascists. That is hardly, a result that a Marxist should have desired. And, for that reason, Marxists should have been extremely circumspect in who they were acting as cheer leaders for. As Trotsky, says, those of us “doctrinaires” who saw no reason to support the ambitions of Imperialism, of the Gulf Monarchies, and of the jihadists, simply because they might have been some kind of “lesser-evil” - though that itself is unlikely – to the vile Assad regime, can at least “have one consolation, and it is not small: they can with a clear conscience say, 'Neither by deed nor word nor thought are we guilty of this blood'”. Some on the left, certainly can have no such clear conscience.

Some of those, like the AWL, have all the more reason to consider that their Burnhamite-Schachtmanite method of “practical politics” has again back fired on them. That method, based on syllogistic rather than dialectical logic, sees history as made up of a series of discrete events. On this basis they believe that they can treat each such event as self contained, having no connection to other future or concurrent events. But, the events in Libya and Syria, together with the coming to power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Tunisia, and the establishment of jihadist regimes in Mali and elsewhere, and the increasing power of Turkey, as a dominant Islamist economic and military power in the region, now begins to pose a very real threat to the AWL's other cause celebre – Israel.

In the past, Israel confronted rather weak-kneed nationalist regimes in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere. Those regimes had no real stomach for military confrontation with Israel. Most of them were as frightened of the Palestinians, and the unrest that their struggle caused, as were the Israelis. That is no longer the case. Hamas is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. The jihadists now in power in Libya, Mali, and probably soon in Syria, heavily armed, and militarily and financially supplied by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, thrive on that unrest, and unlike the old State capitalist ruling classes, they have an ideological commitment to the Palestinian struggle, and to destroying Israel.

The US, and European Imperialist powers, and their feudal Gulf allies, no doubt see the next target after Syria to be Iran. The Imperialist powers see Iran as a potential regional power, a sub-imperialist power, that threatens their unquestioned writ across the region. The Feudal Gulf Monarchies, see it as a threat for similar reasons, and because it provides support for the Shia Minorities in those Gulf States, thereby threatening their stability, and the continuation of the Monarchies. For Imperialism, Iran poses a wider strategic threat, because behind it stands Russia and China, rising economic and military powers on the global stage, that threaten the hegemony of western Imperialism already in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. For so long as Imperialism, and particularly US Imperialism, is dependent upon stable supplies of Gulf Oil, it cannot risk losing influence in that region. Not because, its unlikely to be able to continue to buy oil from whatever regime is in power, but because should some global conflict arise, it would be quickly brought to its knees, by the cutting off of its lifeblood. That happened, of course, during the 1970's.

For Imperialism, the Gulf States are now far more important than is Israel. Those States, provide it with cheap oil. Gulf money is now far more important on Wall Street, than is that which stands behind the so called Jewish Lobby. Those States, provide the gateway through which Imperialist arms are channelled to the Islamist fighters that act as the mercenaries of imperialism, in opposing those that pose a challenge to its writ, like Gaddafi, Assad, Iran. That is why they have continued to back the development, funding and arming of these jihadist forces, even though they know that ultimately those forces will turn their attention and their weapons against their main enemy – Israel.

There is another reason why Imperialism is likely to leave Israel to its fate. For several decades now, Imperialism has pressured Israel to agree to a “Two State Solution”. Its clear that Israel has never had any intention to agreeing to it, and for most of that time, Imperialism was not going to press it too much to do so, even when Israel continued to flout international law by building on Palestinian land, and so on. But, increasingly, Imperialism has needed some kind of solution to the Palestinian question in order to establish some kind of stability in the region, which is fundamental to creating the optimum conditions for maximising profits. It also needs it for meeting the demands of its Gulf Allies. But, Israel, particularly under Netanyahu, has simply thumbed its nose at Imperialism, believing that it is a very small tail that has the power to wag a very large dog. That was manifest in Netanyahu's open support for Romney during the US Presidential Election.

About 25 years ago, as a member of the WSL, I wrote opposing the organisation's support for the Two State solution. That didn't mean I supported the reactionary position of those like the SWP, who basically seek the destruction of Israel either. My position was based on the Internationalist positions developed by Lenin and the Comintern, on how to deal with the National Question, and Nation States containing different nationalities. My basic argument was for the establishment of a Federal Republic of Israel and Palestine, that gave the maximum possible rights, and autonomy to minorities within that State. That was the position Lenin advocated for the national minorities within Russia. Lenin and the Comintern argued that Marxists should not support the creation of any new bourgeois states, except in exceptional conditions. A Two State solution would create such a new bourgeois state, whilst also acting to divide the workers across both communities.

My argument was also that a Two State solution could not possibly work. A new Palestinian State could only be established by Imperialism, because the Palestinians are too weak to create a viable state from their own resources in the face of Israeli opposition. Consequently, any such Palestinian State would essentially be a vassal state dependent upon Imperialism for its continuance. The State apparatus in such a state would have to act as border guards for Imperialism, suppressing the continued struggle of those elements that refused to accept the existence of Israel, or who acted every time some new oppression occurred of Palestinians living in Israel itself.

In fact, there has been a Two State solution in Israel and Palestine now for some time, and all of that has come to pass. For all intents and purposes Gaza is a Palestinian State. It is a heavily constrained State, which suffers economic and military blockade, but other states, such as Cuba, or Iran have suffered the same. The consequences have been exactly as I depicted. In Gaza, the State under PLO control acted as a prison house trying to constrain the militants. The result was that its inhabitants rebelled and installed Hamas. The State was used by Hamas, to build up its military power – such as it is – the better to continue its attacks on Israel, whose existence it continues to reject. That provides the Israeli Right with the justification to continue the blockade of Gaza, and when it chooses to launch military attacks against it. The consequence is that a further wedge between Palestinian and Jewish Israeli workers is driven in.

At the same time, something along the lines of the solution I proposed, but in a bastardised form was created in the West Bank. The consequences despite its limited and bastardised form have been much better. On the West Bank the economy has been more closely integrated with that of Israel itself. The establishment of any State always begins with closer economic integration. On the back of that the West Bank economy has developed quite steadily, and that in turn creates better conditions for social stability. That can be seen in Northern Ireland.

In Northern Ireland, not an insignificant part in bringing about more stable conditions was played by improved economic conditions. Part of that was the commencement of the new Long Wave Boom that started in 1999, but another part was that inside that Boom, following the visit of Clinton, the US and others began to invest quite significantly in the Irish economy, North and South of the border. They did so, in high value, and therefore, high wage, technology production. When more and more people have jobs, especially better paying jobs, they are more likely to feel they have a vested interest in social stability than where the majority or a large percentage do not, and where even the obtaining of low paying jobs, on the basis of apparent discrimination is bound to lead to sectarian division.

It was accompanied also by significant public investment by the Blair Government, which moved Government departments there etc. That the economic crisis caused by the Liberal-Tory austerian economic policies, and especially there attacks on the Public sector, upon which Northern Ireland depended disproportionately, has been accompanied by an increase in sectarian divisions, is no coincidence.

Of course, the West Bank is not politically integrated into Israel. The Palestinians living there, do not enjoy the same political rights even of Palestinians living in Israel itself. Moreover, Israel continues to build on Palestinian land within the West Bank, and as now, imposes punishments on it, by withholding tax payments etc. whenever the PLO administration acts in a way it dislikes. But, those things could, in fact, be remedied precisely by the establishment of a single Federal State. Palestinians living in the West Bank would then be able to elect representatives to the Knesset. Unfair measures imposed by a Federal Government could be opposed on a political rather than a sectarian basis, thereby facilitating a common struggle by workers, socialists and Liberals across the national divide.

But, instead, Israel has continued to act in an arrogant and oppressive manner that cuts against any such solution. In doing so, it also creates problems for Imperialism, seeking some stable solution.

When Israel launched its attack on Gaza recently, it looked as though it was only a matter of time before it launched a ground invasion. It pulled back. The reason given for that has been the mediating role performed by Morsi. But, standing behind the not insignificant military power of Egypt – which Morsi cannot rely on – stands the much more significant military power of Turkey. Turkey has the second largest military in NATO, only behind the US. Its Islamist Government has increasingly set itself the target of becoming the representative of Muslims in the region, and to an extent recreating the Ottoman Empire in modern garb. It has gone from being an ally of Israel to an opponent. In order to fulfil its objectives Turkey will have to act as defender of the Palestinians, and other Muslims in the region, and undermine the position of Israel.

The demand by Turkey, as a member of NATO, for Patriot Missiles to be stationed on its border has nothing to do with a fear of attack by a dying Assad regime. It is to assert its right to defence, and to act as the representative of NATO in the area. Assad is unlikely to launch missiles carrying chemical weapons against Turkey, but an incoming jihadist regime in Syria, might having obtained control of those weapons decide to launch them against Israel, especially should Israel launch another attack on Gaza. Under those conditions, all the Muslim States, might feel the need to make common cause, leaving Turkey open to attack by Israel's large stock of nuclear and chemical warheads. The patriot Missiles are there to shoot them down, in that eventuality.

The potential for such a development will not have escaped the US and other Imperialist powers, who would then be placed in a difficult position having to defend NATO member Turkey against Israel. It is under those conditions that Hilary Clinton no doubt made the position clear to Israel, which then led to Israel stopping its attacks on Gaza.

But, as happened in the past, when Imperialism created Bin Laden to do its fighting against the USSR in Afghanistan, having opened the Pandora's Box, of Islamic Jihad in Libya and Syria, Imperialism is likely to find it is not so easy to close it. In the same way that the advanced weapons supplied to the jihadists in Libya have found their way to Syria, so once Assad is removed, will they find their way to Jihadists attacking Israel. The strategy developed in Libya and Syria is just as likely to be effective in Israel. Asymmetrical warfare with chemical weapons deployed by suicide bombers is going to be difficult for Israel to respond to. Any attempt to do so, by some kind of widespread strike against neighbouring states, will lead to a bloodbath, and almost inevitably the involvement of Turkey, as well as the Gulf States. It would spell the death knell of Israel.

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