Socialist Worker

Middle East’s ‘pillar of democracy’ was a racist endeavour from the start

by Sam Ord
Issue No. 2755

Fighting for Palestines freedom

Fighting for Palestine's freedom (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Israel is often described as a pillar of democracy, maintaining peace in the Middle East. The truth is entirely different. Israel has been a brutal, racist, colonial state since its creation in Palestine.

Palestine had been fought over by competing powers before Israel was formed. It was captured by the Ottoman Empire in 1516 and was under Ottoman rule until Egypt took over in 1832.

Britain intervened eight years later to hand Palestine back to the Ottomans.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a political movement—Zionism—was becoming popular. It said that antisemitism could not be fully eradicated and therefore Jews needed to live in a separate state.

This was a despairing and wrong reaction to the vicious antisemitism pushed by rulers in many countries across Europe.

Powers

Zionist leaders sought to enlist the help of the most powerful world powers. In particular they hoped for the backing of the British Empire.

Liberal prime minister David Lloyd George supported Zionism when he became prime minister in 1916. A year later the Balfour Declaration solidified the support of Britain for the “creation of a national home for the Jewish people”.

Britain calculated that a Jewish state in the Middle East could become an outpost of pro-Western interests.

Following the First World War, the Ottoman Empire collapsed and Britain took control of Palestine.

Continued antisemitism, Nazi occupation and Holocaust in Europe forced many more Jewish people to flee. Zionism became much more popular.

Applied to Palestine, such a Jewish state inevitably meant the expulsion of the existing Palestinian population. It was from the start a racist endeavour.

In 1947 the United Nations (UN) approved a racist partition plan to divide Palestinian land into two states. Palestine was for the Arabs and Israel for Jews, while the city of Jerusalem would be classified as an international zone.

This plan was rightly opposed by Palestinians. Zionists were able to establish Israel due to the repression of Palestinians, with the backing of Western imperialism.

History of Lydd and Ramle, cities at the heart of Palestinian revolt
History of Lydd and Ramle, cities at the heart of Palestinian revolt
  Read More

British rule ended in May 1948 and Israel declared independence. This sparked a coalition of neighbouring Arab nations to fight against Israeli occupation and Western imperialism.

Israel occupied much more Palestinian land than was originally given to it by the UN.

Palestinians name this period the Nakba or “catastrophe”. Some 80 percent of Palestinian Arabs were expelled from their homes.

Historian Ilan Pappe said, “In a matter of seven months, five hundred and thirty one villages were destroyed and eleven urban neighbourhoods emptied.

“The mass expulsion was accompanied by massacres, rape and imprisonment of men.”

In 1967 Israel annexed more land in six days of war. Israel seized control of Gaza and the West Bank, including Jerusalem, as well as the Golan Heights in Syria and the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.

The Israeli military’s success convinced the US that it would be a useful watchdog in the region. The aid and arms supplies began to flow in great quantities.

In 1993 “peace talks” in Oslo took place between the PLO and Israel. This resulted in the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority (PA) which sought to run parts of the West Bank and Gaza.

It was seen as a victory by some Palestinians. But it was another trap.

Pappe said, “The negative aspect of PLO participation was the fact that a unilateral Israeli policy of incremental annexation and partition of the occupied territories now received legitimacy from an agreement that the PLO leadership had signed.”


Palestine—A long history of resistance

Following the annexation of land and Israeli independence, Palestinians were forced into neighbouring nations’ refugee camps. These camps are where a liberation movement was slowly formed.

In Kuwait, 1959 a small group founded the liberation organisation, Fatah. They became the dominant faction within the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)—the official representative body of Palestinians.

In 1987 an uprising or Intifada began in the occupied territories.

Stone-throwing and militant action was accompanied by mass protests and strikes. People started organising education and healthcare themselves.

That revolt pushed Israel and the US towards the Oslo peace deal in 1993 as a way of containing the resistance.

People felt betrayed in the years after the 1993 Oslo Accords and sought an alternative resistance. Some joined the Islamic resistance movement, Hamas.

The First Intifada—30 years since Palestinians rose up against Israel
The First Intifada—30 years since Palestinians rose up against Israel
  Read More

The second intifada was sparked in September 2000 as Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon visited Temple Mount in East Jerusalem.

Israel responded to protesters throwing stones with live ammunition, killing seven Palestinians. Several other protests across Gaza and the West Bank followed.

In the first five days, 47 Palestinians were killed, and 1,885 were wounded. The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) shot approximately 1.3 million bullets.

In retaliation, Hamas launched a military offensive against the IDF using guerrilla-style tactics to bring war to the heart of Israel.

In 2006, Hamas was elected to govern Gaza and took authority from the PA following a Western-backed coup attempt.

Resistance and occupation continued. In 2018 the Great March of Return attracted tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians to march towards the Gaza border just to be met with extreme violence.

This resulted in 183 dead Palestinians and aid workers. 6,106 protesters were injured by Israeli snipers.


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