PALESTINE, ISRAEL, IMPERIALISM: WAR, THE DANGER OF EVEN GREATER WAR—AND REVOLUTION
BASIC ORIENTATION, COMPELLING AGITATION AND MOVING MASSES
by Bob Avakian
October 23, 2023
Editors’ note: This piece from Bob Avakian was written for the ranks of the revcoms, but—given its urgency—it was decided it would be important to share with a broader audience. Excerpts of this are available for mass distribution at revcom.us
With Biden openly and forcefully backing Israeli genocide against the Palestinian people, and at the same time aggressively pushing for escalation of the U.S. proxy war against Russia in Ukraine, and further preparations for war with China—all of which greatly heightens the prospect not only of greatly magnified and horrific suffering for the Palestinian people but also the danger of nuclear war that could wipe out human existence as we know it… with all this, it is crucially important that we be clear on what is fundamentally involved and the profound stakes, so as to be firmly oriented and actively prepared to speak to and move masses of people in determined opposition to all this, and to advance things toward the only real solution to all this: the revolution that is needed, with increasing urgency, and is more possible in this “rare time.”
In this situation, it is all the more acutely necessary and of decisive importance to expose the imperialist actions and nature of this system and to sharply bring to light the fact that Biden, and the whole ruling class he represents, are (as Malcolm X so powerfully put it) “bloody-jawed wolves,” with the blood streaming out of their mouths while they hypocritically speak of “freedom,” and “rights” and even dare to talk about “peace!” As one part of this, it will be important to expose the hypocrisy of Biden and the rest in denouncing Putin as a war criminal for the killing of civilians in Ukraine while Biden and the whole ruling class of this country fully support and provide yet more means for Israel to carry out the genocidal slaughter of Palestinian civilians. And it is very important to continue to hammer at what is the unifying element in all this: What motivates Biden and the rest—what they mean by the “national interests” and the “security interests” of this country—is not concern for the lives or the rights of people, anywhere, but the murderously oppressive interests of the blood-soaked U.S. empire, which they are prepared to enforce with genocidal violence and even with the danger of wiping out human existence.
Some of what follows here has been posted at revcom.us and included in The RNL Show, along with other exposure and analysis of these important questions. But I felt it would be important to put together, in one place, essential points of orientation for our own understanding and as the basis for agitation to move—and as necessary struggle with—broad masses of people. At the same time, people should continue to look to revcom.us and The RNL Show for ongoing analysis and orientation as things continue to develop and almost certainly intensify.
First, Some Basic Truth About Palestine and Israel
Israel, backed by “western” imperialists—and above all, the U.S.—is the dominant and oppressive force in its relation with the Palestinian people. Israel was founded, 75 years ago, on the basis of massive terror against masses of Palestinian people, and has carried out repeated atrocities against the Palestinian people ever since. This is a matter of historical fact.
Hamas is not revolutionary and its goals are not emancipating—it is not a force for liberation, but is itself an oppressive force. The atrocities committed by Hamas against Israeli civilians flow out of the reactionary nature, objectives and methods of Hamas as religious (Islamic) fundamentalist fanatics. These atrocities should be condemned. But this is not some kind of “new Holocaust” involving genocide against Jewish people—and it is nowhere close to the horrific suffering that Israel has imposed for generations on the Palestinian people. Already now, the number of Palestinian civilians, including children, that Israel has killed since this Hamas attack is far greater than Israeli civilians killed in that attack—and that is on top of the thousands more that Israel has slaughtered just since 2008.
This is not the 1930s and World War 2, when the Nazis, as the ruling power in Germany, carried out horrific atrocities against and mass murder of millions of Jews. The situation today is not one where Palestinians are herding helpless Jews into concentration camps and subjecting them to genocide. The actual situation is the opposite of that.
Israel is a nuclear-armed military power, heavily supplied and supported by the dominant imperialist power in the world, the U.S. Israel has, for generations, imposed apartheid oppression on the Palestinians, denying them basic rights. And, especially with regard to the more than two million Palestinians in Gaza, half of them children, Israel has denied them even the means to live beyond the most minimal and desperate existence.
To once again emphasize some basic and crucial facts: Israel is a country that, with the backing of major imperialist powers, was founded as a racist, Jewish supremacist state, 75 years ago, on the basis of horrific ethnic cleansing—with mass killing, rape, and destruction of whole villages of the Palestinians, driving masses of Palestinians off of their lands and incorporating that land into the expanding territory into what became the state of Israel (which had never existed before Word War 2). And now Israel, with the full backing of the U.S. imperialists, is openly carrying out genocide against the Palestinians.
This is the truth. It describes the essential reality of this situation and its history. This truth is not “anti-Semitic”—it is just the truth.
Another Important Truth
Why is Biden, and basically the entire government and ruling class of the U.S., supporting Israel in carrying out genocide against the Palestinian people, before the whole world? This is not because of “the power of the Jewish lobby”—or because of some ignorant, ridiculous and outrageous notion that “Jews are controlling everything.” It is because Israel plays a “special role” as a heavily armed bastion of support for U.S. imperialism in a strategically important part of the world (the “Middle East”). And Israel has been a key force in the commission of atrocities which have helped to maintain the oppressive rule of U.S. imperialism in many other parts of the world.
This—maintaining and enforcing the murderously oppressive domination of U.S. imperialism—is the same motivation for why Biden is pushing to further escalate the proxy war the U.S. is waging against Russia in Ukraine, as well as further preparation for war with China, even at the cost of risking the very existence of humanity.
All this is basic truth about essential reality. And it sharply highlights once more the profound importance of my statement that We, the people of the world, can no longer afford to allow these imperialists to continue to dominate the world and determine the destiny of humanity. They need to be overthrown as quickly as possible. And it is a scientific fact that we do not have to live this way.
More Important Facts, and the Twisted Logic of Zionist Supporters of Israel
To get clear on a very important fact: Zionism is not the same thing as Judaism.
Judaism is a religion, a culture and a people sharing that culture.
Zionism is a racist, Jewish-supremacist political doctrine and ideology. Zionism is the ideological basis on which the state of Israel was founded, and which it continues to perpetuate as the rationalization for its existence, and its oppression and destruction of the Palestinian people.
And here is the twisted “logic” of Zionist supporters of Israel whose position amounts to this:
“I can’t understand it. When we Jews were the victims of genocide, decent people everywhere condemned those committing that genocide. But now, when we are committing genocide against the Palestinians, decent people are condemning us. I just can’t understand it. It must be anti-Semitism.”
No—it is not anti-Semitism—it is consistent and righteous opposition to atrocity, whoever is committing that atrocity.
Some Further Points for Basic Understanding and Approach Regarding Palestine and Israel
We need to keep doing sharp and compelling analysis and exposure of this conflict in Palestine/Israel, and the role of different forces as things continue to unfold, and undoubtedly become even more horrific, in terms of what the Israelis and their backers are doing (most of all, the government/ruling class of this country). And we will need to continue doing very sharp, hard-hitting analysis and exposure of what is represented by the various forces involved—analysis and exposure proceeding from, and continually bring to light, the fundamental interests of the masses of people—in the immediate conflict, in that part of the world (the “Middle East”), in the U.S., and overall in the world. This will need to involve following events closely and, among other things, conducting very sharp and compelling polemics against wrong stands and lines put forward by various forces, including (but not limited to) powerful and influential forces and people, in the ruling class, among celebrities, and so on.
While the actions of Hamas involving the slaughter of old people and of children (and allegedly the rape and other sexual abuse of women) cannot in any way be justified, it is sickening that not only the ruling class and its media, but also many celebrities and others in this country, seem to only notice, or care about, the slaughter of innocent people, and in particular children, when it is Israelis (or more generally those whom these Americans are conditioned to think of as “our friends and allies,” like the people in Ukraine) and not people like the Palestinians. Although there are significant opposing and more positive trends among the people in this country, it really does come across that Palestinians don’t really count, are invisible—or even that they are not actually considered human—by far too many people, beyond just the monstrously criminal ruling class, in this country. And this is all the more outrageous when the number of Palestinian children killed, even in this current situation, is already greater than the number of Israeli children—and taking into account the past 15 years or so, it is far, far, far greater, on top of all the other ways in which the Palestinian people have, for generations, been brutally oppressed and suppressed by Israel, with the full backing of the U.S. and its political representatives and functionaries, of both ruling class parties (Democrat as well as Republican).
Among other things, the graph (on our website) showing the great difference between the deaths of Palestinians and the very small number of deaths of Israelis over the past 15 or so years (before October 7 of this year) is very important. (This does call to mind the great disparity between the number of Black and Latino people killed by police in this country, numbering in the thousands, vs. the number of cops killed by Black people and Latinos, which is very little.) This graph (of Palestinian vs. Israeli deaths) should continue to be prominently displayed and made use of, even as it is continually updated, to include the Israeli deaths since the events beginning on October 7, and at the same time the continually expanding Palestinian deaths that are bound to far exceed the number of Israeli deaths, since October 7. (The number of Palestinians killed in Gaza since October 7 has already far exceeded what Israel is reporting as the number of Israeli deaths resulting from the Hamas attack of October 7. The number of Palestinians killed is bound to increase, very likely greatly increase, as things continue to develop. And among those Palestinian deaths, a huge number will be children, far outnumbering the Israeli children killed by Hamas.)
As things continue to unfold, it would be important to make use of an ongoing graphic representation of the total number of Palestinian and Israeli deaths (arising out of the basic conflict between the two sides) since 2008, as well as the total number, on each side, just since the events of October 7. And it would be good to have at least some large-size posters with the graph of such deaths (of Palestinians vis-a-vis Israelis) to wield in public settings, especially assuming this conflict—or increasingly one-sided slaughter—will continue to intensify, with the death count mounting, which will almost certainly be the case.
As things with this conflict develop and intensify (and it perhaps spreads to involve others in that part of the world), we will need to be relating, in the best way possible, to protests opposing the slaughter by Israel and upholding the fundamental rights (and lives) of the Palestinian people, while we consistently and vigorously bring forward, compellingly, our scientific understanding of this conflict, the fundamental causes of it, and the fundamental solution to all this—real revolution—and contrast this with non-solutions and wrong approaches. (In relating to any protests, it will be very important to emphasize the importance of drawing the dividing lines correctly—which, as one important aspect, must include not supporting Hamas and the real atrocities it carried out in its recent attack.) In any case, in all circumstances and overall, we need to be consistently and vigorously bringing forward sharply our own scientific understanding of this conflict, the fundamental causes of it, and the fundamental solution to this: how all this relates to the revolution that is urgently needed, and more possible now in this “rare time,” right within this “belly of the beast.”
As the Israeli government has made clear, this is only the beginning of what will be more protracted and horrific events, driven largely by Israel (once again with the full backing of the U.S. and its “allies”). To emphasize it again: We will need to pay ongoing and systematic attention to, and act in various ways in relation to, this—while consistently doing so from our fundamental revolutionary strategic orientation, particularly in the acute, and continually intensifying, circumstances of this “rare time” (including events like those happening now, which, as a leading comrade has put it, “come out of nowhere, but do not come out of nothing”). It is also necessary to take into account that, as things continue to unfold, and almost certainly escalate, particularly in terms of the actions and atrocities carried out by Israel (backed by the U.S. and its “allies”) there will very likely continue to be opposing demonstrations, etc.: some by people supporting what Israel is doing—in the name of its right to “defend itself”!—and others by people opposed to this, in various ways and from various perspectives. So, again, we will need to continue to relate to this, in various dimensions, from our strategic revolutionary understanding and approach, and we will need to boldly put forward this understanding and approach, and fiercely struggle for it, against all kinds of wrong viewpoints.
Keeping in mind how people generally know very little (and are kept in the dark) about big things, about important history, and so on, it will be important to continue to drive home the role of Israel, not just as an oppressive force, murderously enforcing an apartheid state of existence, with all the extreme suffering this causes for the Palestinian people, but also the role of Israel as a key link (and playing a kind of special role) in the service of U.S. domination in that crucial region (of the “Middle East”), and in the service of U.S. imperialism’s dominant position—and its increasingly dangerous moves to maintain that dominant position—in the world as a whole.
Another important thing for people to have is an understanding, in basic terms, of why and how Hamas (which is obviously not a positive force) has increasingly come to be the “face” of Palestinian resistance—including the role of Israel in this and the consequences of Israel’s actions, as well as the role of the “Palestinian Authority” as in effect a tool of Israel—at the same time as continuing to expose the whole history and present reality of Israeli atrocities, since the founding of (and in the process of the founding of) the state of Israel, the essential apartheid nature of the oppression of the Palestinians, and the reality that here are all these imperialist jackals expressing aggressive support for a brutal apartheid state, Israel, whose actions are now truly reaching the dimensions of genocide—deliberately killing off large numbers of a whole people (the Palestinians).
In this connection, a statement by a group—obviously coming from a “woke” perspective—shines a light on tendencies that need to be combated, while standing firmly with the Palestinian people. This “woke” statement said that the group issuing it stands with the colonized (meaning, in this case, the Palestinian people) in resisting their oppression by whatever means “they” seek to carry out that resistance. Here again is the important point that there is no (uniform) “they”: There are the Palestinian people, with different classes, social formations and organized forces among them. And the decisive question is: What is in the fundamental interests of the masses of Palestinian people, and what is the basic approach, and what are the means, that can lead to ending their oppression and contribute to ending all oppression? (It is not that there is any “easy answer” to how to achieve the liberation of the Palestinian people, but these are the kinds of questions that need to be grappled with—as opposed to the position that whatever “they” decide is the right means and is what should be supported.) The kind of “woke” statement I have cited here—and others expressing essentially the same viewpoint—distract from this decisive question and actually aid the oppressors of the Palestinian people in casting all resistance in the same camp as Hamas, with its fundamentally negative outlook, program, and approach, thereby contributing to discrediting any resistance and justifying the horrific oppression, and outright slaughter, to which the Palestinian people have been continually subjected for generations (even before the terrible events unfolding now).
At the same time, it has to be said, even with the distinction that needs to be made between righteous resistance and the real atrocities that Hamas has carried out (which cannot be justified), the clear distinction must also be made, and continually driven home, between Israel and its imperialist backers, most of all the U.S., which are the oppressor nation and force, and on the other hand the oppressed nation, the Palestinians. Yes, it is the case, as supporters of Israel continually insist, that there can be no “equivalence” between Israel and the Palestinians—but the reality is the reverse of what these supporters of Israel insist: There is no equivalence between the oppressor nation Israel, and the oppressed nation, Palestine; and the actions of the Israelis are far worse, in a whole different category, than even the atrocities committed by Hamas, because Israel is in a much more powerful position to carry out, and does carry out, such atrocities on a far greater scale and much more frequent basis!
The essential reality in all this is that the Israeli state (again, with the full backing of the U.S.) has created, and forcefully/viciously/murderously maintains, the apartheid and overall oppressive conditions in which the Palestinian people are effectively enslaved and forced to suffer terribly, on an ongoing basis. This is the fundamental source of the conflict—and no just resolution of this conflict can be achieved without a recognition of, and acting to overcome and uproot, this essential oppressive reality.
At the same time, we do have to clearly denounce and actively combat any manifestations or expressions of anti-Semitism, while also very strongly making the point that being opposed to Israel and what Israel represents and does—when this opposition is on the right basis and the right terms—is most emphatically NOT anti-Semitism. (Here a clear, concise statement about the horrific oppression of the Jewish people historically, as concentrated in the Holocaust, is important. And, again, my comments about the two different, and fundamentally opposed, meanings of “never again,” coupled with my statement that after the Holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to Jewish people is the state of Israel—is definitely relevant and important. Along with this, once again, the point needs to be made that founding a Zionist state, on the basis of the “ethnic cleansing” of the people—masses of Palestinian people—living in that territory, and then continuing to subject them to apartheid oppression and murderous repression, is not, and could not be, a justified and just answer to the terrible atrocities to which the Jewish people have been historically subjected.)
A very important factor in this situation is the presence and actions of literally thousands of Jews in this country in denouncing and opposing the genocidal actions of Israel, and demanding an end to U.S. support for this. Particular attention should be paid to recognizing, amplifying, and where possible reaching out to, Jewish organizations and individuals that are publicly denouncing the apartheid policies of the Israeli state and the genocidal reprisals being taken by Israel against the Palestinian civilians in Gaza (and elsewhere). Such Jewish voices and forces can play an important role in going against the tide of knee-jerk support for Israel, countering the view that any denunciations of Israel constitute anti-Semitism, and helping to clarify the history of what has been done through the decades of Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Another very important point: All this, with what Israel is now doing and how the U.S. government is acting in relation to/in support of this, constitutes very important circumstances (and further “openings”) to do especially hard-hitting and compelling exposure of Biden/the Democrats—particularly as there is bound to be alienation from Biden/the Democrats among people who care about justice for the Palestinians, in some basic way—and there are more than a few such people. This should also include sharp exposure of the way the “western democracies” (for example, France and Germany) are moving to suppress, and in some cases outright outlaw, not just statements and actions that might actually be in support of Hamas but statements and peaceful actions which are pro-Palestinian in general. (This is another telling illustration that bourgeois democracy is actual bourgeois dictatorship, which becomes more blatant in circumstances where the ruling class feels that its interests are being sharply challenged in one way or another.)
We need to really “clamp down hard” on this and not let go—keep hammering at it and driving it home: compelling exposure of the functionaries of this monstrous system (Biden/the Democrats, and for that matter the U.S. ruling class as a whole) in not only supporting generations of apartheid oppression and murderous repression of Palestinians, but now loudly and aggressively supporting what must be accurately described as the genocidal statements, and actions, of the Israeli government (involving overt and unapologetic “collective punishment” of the already locked down Palestinian people in Gaza, struggling to survive in conditions of desperate deprivation, half of them children, the wanton slaughter of Palestinian civilians by Israel—again, large numbers of children—and overall massive war crimes and crimes against humanity, justified with statements like “we [the Israelis] are fighting ‘human animals’” and open declarations that not just Hamas but all the Palestinian people in Gaza are legitimate targets of Israeli attacks).
The point also needs to be made, as exposure of the whole system, that this is an issue around which basically the entire ruling class of this country is essentially united—sharply revealing once again the truly monstrous nature of this ruling class and this system—but, at the same time, this won’t “heal the divisions” within the ruling class, which will continue to sharpen overall.
A Final, Fundamental Point
We need to be compellingly making these points while driving home the fact that all this, once again, points to the urgent need—and the greater possibility than in “normal times”—for the actual solution: a real revolution.
All of this—everything that is happening with the developing situation involving Palestine and Israel, along with Biden’s push to heighten the danger of war with Russia and China, and how this further shines a light on the very nature of U.S. capitalist imperialism—highlights once more the crucial truth of my statement that We, the people of the world, can no longer afford to allow these imperialists to continue to dominate the world and determine the destiny of humanity. They need to be overthrown as quickly as possible. And it is a scientific fact that we do not have to live this way.
And the fact that the Israeli genocide against the Palestinians is an issue around which basically the entire ruling class of this country is essentially united—sharply revealing once again the truly monstrous nature of this ruling class and this system—while at the same this won’t “heal the divisions” within the ruling class, which will continue to sharpen overall: This brings home again and powerfully illustrates the reality of this “rare time” when revolution is urgently necessary and more possible.
It is up to us to act boldly—on the firm foundation of the new communism and its scientific method and analysis of these world-shaking events—to move growing numbers of people to awaken to the urgent need and the possibility of this revolution, and to act decisively to make this a reality.