It is the continuing story of a 70-year-long, slow-motion genocide. They are not battering people to death with spades on the side of the road – as the Ottomans did to the Armenians in 1915. They are not herding people into gas chambers – like the Nazis did to the Jews in 1944. They are not chopping up children with machetes – as the Hutu death squads did in Rwanda in 1994. But they are bit by bit, destroying an entire people.
Not physically liquidating them; not most of them anyway. But dispossessing them of everything – their farms, their jobs, their homes, their schools, their hospitals, their essential infrastructure – until they can no longer exist as a people until they are driven away and die out, until they are dispersed and atomised, until they are erased from history.
This is the inner historical meaning of the events of the last few days in Israel and Palestine. There is a direct line between the Irgun death-squad that killed 250 Palestinians in the little village of Deir Yassin in 1948 and the IDF airstrikes and artillery and tank bombardments destroying tower-blocks in Gaza today. After the 1948 massacre, truckloads of Zionist militia drove through other Arab villages chanting ‘Deir Yassin! Deir Yassin!’ At least 700,000 Palestinians fled before the terror.
In 1967, the Israelis launched a sudden military strike, grabbed the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank from Jordan, and the Sinai Desert (including Gaza) from Egypt. Another 350,000 Palestinians were driven into exile.
Bulldozers and bullets
These are the highlights: the moments of organised violence and mass dispossession under the gaze of the world. But the process is unending. The current crisis has been triggered by Israeli attacks on Palestinian homes in Sheikh Jarrah and the militarisation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem. Triggered, that is, by the latest act in an eternal process of dispossession.
Hundreds of Palestinians are evicted from their homes each year. These are demolished to make way for new Jewish settlements. Who pays for this? Who pays for the bulldozers, the new construction work, and the massive security operation? Especially the security operation.
Israel is a predatory colonial-settler state based on the violent dispossession of the Palestinian people. It is not a static entity, something fixed in its borders in 1948 or 1967 or whenever; it is a process, an ongoing process of eviction and exclusion. And the dispossessed, some still living inside Israel, some herded into modern concentration camps like Gaza, others were driven into exile in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt, they are still present: a permanent threat to the heavily-armed gangsters who have robbed them of everything. Because of this, Israel is probably the most highly militarised society on earth. Who pays for this?
Israel is funded and armed by Western imperialism. More than a quarter of all foreign US military aid is given to Israel: a total of $4 billion a year. Israel is not only a predatory colonial-settler state; it is one that could not have come into existence, could not have endured, and could not exist today, but for the military, economic, and political support of the Western powers. It is the snarling guard-dog of US imperialism in the all-important, oil-rich Middle East. And, it should be said, a source of corporate profit, above all for the arms-dealers, with 75% of US aid money spent on US goods.
Gaza: a mirror on the world
Gaza is a concentration camp. It is 25 miles long and between 3.7 and 7.5 miles wide – 141 square miles in total, about the size of Sheffield. Into this space are crowded two million people, making it the third most densely populated place on the planet. Around 50,000 of these people have permits to work in Israel each day. Another 30,000 or so are estimated to work in Israel illegally. The rest are permanently caged: they exist behind a heavily militarised border, Israeli naval patrols to the west, Israeli soldiers to the north and the east, Egyptian soldiers to the south.
Like all prison camps, Gaza can have no independent economic existence. Some of the inmates are allowed out to work because their guards require their labour. But they earn pittances. What sustains Gaza is foreign aid. It is this that enables a basic economy of garden plots, small factories, construction work, shops and cafes, schools, and hospitals to exist.
The people of Gaza, as far as the lords of capital and their police states are concerned, are ‘surplus’ people. They are dispossessed, displaced, driven outside the world imperialist system, caged and contained because they are unwanted, and a threat. Their experience is extreme, but it lies at the end of a spectrum that involves, one way or another, around a billion of the world’s 7.5 billion people. Because it is estimated that, in total, there are 750 million internally displaced people and 250 million who have become migrants from their countries of origin.
These people must be controlled. So must billions more who, though not displaced, are subsisting in the mega-slums of world capitalism, working precariously when they can, but just as often left to eke out a living on the social margins, as street hawkers or sex workers or petty criminals. Because of these people, these dark menacing masses, the rulers of the world are constructing a ‘Global Police State’.
This does not mean a centralised dictatorship and state apparatus. It means a mesh of militarised power spanning the globe, with shared intelligence and experience, with huge arms contracts, with state elites, united in ideology and programme – a military- industrial-security complex dedicated to the crushing of resistance to keep the world safe for capital.
Palestine: a microcosm of the world social crisis
I doubt the Israelis will launch a full-scale ground invasion of Gaza. I could be wrong, but it would give the urban guerrillas of Hamas and Islamic Jihad an advantage, providing a chance to create a miniature Stalingrad, where they could bog the Israelis down, inflict serious casualties, and light a beacon of resistance before the world. The Israelis do not need to do this. They are the armed vanguard of imperialism, of the Global Police State, deploying awesome firepower capable of reaching every corner of Gaza, directed by state-of-the-art electronic surveillance. They could pound it into rubble without risking a single soldier.
But the resistance is spreading. There have been large-scale clashes in the Occupied West Bank, and also in towns across Israel; and this last is a new development, something not seen in previous intifadas.
Around 20% of the population of Israel is Palestinian, and now a new generation of young Israeli Palestinians are taking to the streets in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank. They face IDF soldiers, Israeli riot police, Shin Bet security agents, armed fascist militias, and ultra-Zionist mobs. The confrontations on the streets of Haifa, Tiberias, Lod, Beersheba, and many other places bear a telling resemblance to those on the streets of US cities last summer: a violent confrontation between the Global Police State and its fascist allies on the one hand and an uprising of the oppressed on the other.
But it has spread beyond Palestine. German Chancellor Angela Merkel may describe the Palestinian resistance as ‘terrorism’. French President Emmanuel Macron may have banned a Palestinian solidarity demonstration in Paris. Johnson’s riot police may have been deployed to protect the Israeli Embassy in London. But they have been answered from the streets. 100,000 in London and hundreds more at local protests in 80 towns across Britain. Thousands clashing with Macron’s police in Paris. Thousands out in cities across the world – in Canada, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Spain, the US, and dozens of other places.
The Palestinians cannot win alone. But their tragedy and anguish now symbolises the human disaster represented by modern neoliberal capitalism and the repressive police states that defend it. And their resistance, their refusal after 70 years of torment to simply crawl away and disappear from history, is a beacon of hope, and inspiration to us all.
Neil Faulkner is the joint author of System Crash: an activist guide to making revolution. He has worked as an archaeologist for three years in the Middle East and is a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.