What do the new accords in the Mideast mean for working people?

By Seth Galinsky
October 5, 2020

Three years ago Socialist Workers Party National Secretary Jack Barnes released a statement pointing to the “necessity for the Israeli and Arab governments and leaderships of Palestinian organizations to begin immediate talks to recognize both Israel and an independent Palestinian state.”

The establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the governments of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kosova, along with Tel Aviv’s agreement to freeze settlements in the West Bank, confirms the necessity for working people to champion that course.

The accords register the exhaustion of policies pursued for decades by Arab governments that refused publicly to have relations of any kind with Israel and have treated it as a pariah since its founding. These agreements also increase pressure on the Israeli rulers to recognize a contiguous Palestinian state. As the SWP statement says, “It is along this road that working people of all national backgrounds, religious beliefs and political allegiances in Israel and Palestine can use and defend their space to speak, organize and begin redressing the blood-drenched legacy of imperialist domination and capitalist exploitation.”

Israel was founded in 1948 in the wake of World War II and the murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazis, 40% of the world’s 16.6 million Jews. Imperialist governments, including in Washington, had turned away boatloads of Jews fleeing the Nazis, who then had little choice but to look to Palestine as a refuge.

In the face of the global rise in acts of Jew-hatred today, talks are needed that “must recognize the right of Jews everywhere to take refuge in Israel,” the SWP statement said, “as well as the unconditional right of the dispossessed Palestinian people to a contiguous, sovereign homeland,” including East Jerusalem.

The establishment of Israel was met by war. The Arab armies that attacked the nascent state were led by reactionary semifeudal and capitalist forces that whipped up Jew-hatred, while Israel’s capitalist rulers sought to terrorize and expel as many Arabs as possible.

The new state emerged victorious at a tremendous cost — with massacres committed by both sides. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven from the land and left without a homeland. But there was no peace.

In 1967 the Israeli army seized the Sinai Peninsula, including the Gaza Strip, from Egypt, the West Bank from Jordan, and Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War. The bloodshed continued, including the 1973 Yom Kippur War; the Israeli invasions of Lebanon in 1982 and 2006 and fierce battles between the Israeli army and Hamas in Gaza in 2012 and 2014. Skirmishes there continue today.

The occupation of the West Bank and Gaza sparked resistance from Palestinian youth during two uprisings in 1987 and 2000, winning solidarity inside Israel.

Arab governments across the Middle East refused to accept the existence of the Jewish state and won support from within the United Nations and the European Union for their boycott of Israel.

Even in Jordan and Egypt, after governments there signed peace treaties with Tel Aviv, unions and academic and cultural groups refused to have anything to do with their Israeli counterparts.

The agreements brokered by the Donald Trump administration have deepened a behind-the-scenes shift begun over the last 15 years, with unofficial trade, security and diplomatic collaboration between the Israeli government and the Sunni-led capitalist regimes in the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Those ties were driven by their rulers’ seeking room amid the deepening world capitalist economic crisis and by their common opposition to the rise of the Iranian rulers’ military and political power.

Palestinian misleaderships’ course

But the Palestinian misleaderships’ course of refusing to recognize the existence of Israel, while enriching themselves with funds from international aid, is a dead end for the Palestinian people. Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are more discredited then ever.

A “Day of Rage,” backed by the Palestinian Authority to protest the accords between the governments of the UAE, Bahrain and Israel, fell flat, Haaretz reported Sept. 16.

Some 20% of Israeli citizens are Arabs. While facing discrimination in jobs, housing and education, they work side by side with Jewish citizens and join together in battles for unions and better wages and work conditions. Speaking both Hebrew and Arabic, many Palestinian citizens of Israel are positioned to play key roles as trade expands with the UAE, Bahrain and other Arab countries.

In myriad small but significant ways, Palestinians in the West Bank and in Gaza have been showing their desire for a course different from Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank have been crossing into Israel, bypassing checkpoints through holes in the border fence — with the tacit approval of Israeli officials. They’re picked up by relatives or friends who are Israeli citizens to go to the beaches near Tel Aviv or visit the zoo and other attractions.

Currently thousands of Gaza residents have permits that allow them to travel to work in Israel every week. Despite calling for the destruction of Israel, the Islamist group Hamas, seeking to quell discontent in Gaza, is trying to convince the Israeli government to grant 100,000 more permits.

“It is incumbent on the Palestinian Authority leadership to transcend whatever feelings and to see if an opportunity has risen,” Sari Nusseibeh, a professor who once served as the Palestine Liberation Organization’s representative in Jerusalem, said. “Why not ask, for instance, the UAE to push for the kind of solution that the Palestinians have always asked for.”

The starting point for working people, the Socialist Workers Party 2017 statement noted, must be “the class interests and solidarity of workers and toiling farmers across the Middle East — be they Palestinian, Jewish, Arab, Kurdish, Turkish, Persian or otherwise, and whatever their religious or other beliefs — as well as working people in the United States and around the world.”

That’s even more true today as “working people organize and act together to advance our demands and struggles against capitalist governments and ruling classes that exploit and oppress us.”