If we disregard Israel’s story that its brutal Operation Pillar of Cloud is a response to Hamas rockets, the question that arises is: why now?
There is a heated debate in Israel about whether it is attempting too much or too little. Gilad Sharon, son of war criminal and former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, put it starkly in the mainstream Jerusalem Post last weekend.
He argued that Israel must crush the Palestinians with a “decisive victory”. For him there are only two alternatives—a devastating bombardment of Gaza or its reoccupation.
Many Israelis agree with the crude racism of Sharon’s position. But the fanaticism of Israel’s political mainstream is tempered by cold pragmatism. The Israeli state knows who funds it.
US aid to Israel is dependent on how useful it is to US imperial interests, not on some mythical Jewish conspiracy. Israel is a watchdog for US imperialism—even if it occasionally strains at the leash and goes beyond the bounds of what its master demands.
It is no coincidence that this attack comes after the US elections. Israel’s politicians have no desire to embarrass an ally in the run-up to an election.
Once Barak Obama was re-elected it was a good opportunity to make him support Israel’s violence. But the US knows that an invasion of Gaza or an attack on Iran could have a different response today in the era of Arab revolutions.
Another voice in Israel showed the real fears of both the US and the less fanatical parts of the Israeli ruling class.
Efraim Halevy, former head of the Israeli secret service Mossad, wrote an article in the Financial Times on Monday pointing out what has happened to the elements of the Palestinian resistance that work with Israel.
He said, “The situation in the Palestinian Authority is precarious. Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah movement are pathetically irrelevant.”
His real worry is the Arab revolutions. He can foresee the dangers if Israel escalates. “If it spreads and a ground offensive inevitably produces photo opportunities of dead and wounded, the ‘street’ in all the Arab capitals could erupt and unleash wild consequences,” he said.
He added that this could force the new governments in Egypt and elsewhere “to step back and let the chips fly and land wherever. “Regimes and governments can collapse overnight in a second version of the Arab spring. No one can predict the outcome.”
The US is scared that such an outcome would end its influence. But Israel is terrified that a democratic uprising across the region will end the existence of this racist, settler state. This would make a secular home for Arabs and Jews possible.
Opposition to Israel is not racism
Supporters of Israel often dismiss its critics as antisemitic—saying that they campaign against Israel because they hate Jews. And when Jewish people themselves criticise Israel they are denounced as “self-haters”.
Yet those on the left oppose Israel because it is founded on Zionism. This is a political ideology that states that Israel is the rightful home of Jews and no one else.
All Jews have the “right to return” there, even though most have never been while Palestinians are forced to live in refugee camps in surrounding countries.
We oppose Israel because it is based on racism and imperialism. Israel was founded on the expulsion of Arabs from what was then called Palestine. The few Arabs left there today are treated as second class citizens.
The state was founded with the backing of major imperialist powers because they saw that it could help defend their interests across the Middle East. This is the role Israel still plays today.
The ideology of Zionism rests on the pessimistic myth that antisemitism is inevitable. Yet Jews and Arabs lived side by side in Palestine for centuries before Israel was created. And people of different races and religions live side by side all over the world.
Socialists are fighting for a world without racist divisions and should always stand against them.