Two weeks ago, I flew to Turkey to participate in the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza. Unfortunately, I have returned to Europe without having managed to reach Gaza with our vital humanitarian aid – having being thwarted by Israeli actions. The life-threatening sabotage of two boats due to participate in the flotilla and the Greek blockade of its own ports demonstrate the lengths to which the Israeli state and its allies are willing to go to continue its siege of Gaza. This, of course, comes on top of the brutal assault on last year’s Flotilla, where the Israeli Defence Forces killed nine Turkish activists aboard the Mavi Marmara. A United Nations report later concluded that at least six of these were “summarily executed”.
This article originally appeared on the Public Service Europe website.
The blockade of Gaza is now entering its fifth year, having been imposed by the Israeli state as a collective punishment for the people because Hamas won the Palestinian elections. It has had a disastrous impact on the already low living standards of those living in Gaza. This strip of land is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with 1.6 million people crammed into an area of 360 square kilometres. The number of people struggling to survive on less than a $1 a day has tripled to 300,000 and unemployment has shot up to 45 per cent. Some 80 per cent of people are reliant on foreign aid compared to 17 per cent in 2006, and 66 per cent are now “food insecure”.
The local economy has been destroyed as a result of the Israeli siege. Previously, large amounts of flowers and strawberries in particular were exported. Now, more often than not, these goods for export simply rot away. Vital medicines and medical equipment are lacking because of the blockade, with the Palestinian Ministry of Health calculating that hundreds have died because of this suffocation of Gaza. Homes and schools still lie in ruins, without the necessary reconstruction materials since Operation Cast Lead two and a half years ago – when Gaza was mercilessly bombed, with almost 1,500 Palestinians killed and infrastructure destroyed.
The immediate aim of the flotilla was to ease some of this hardship by bringing vital medicines and reconstruction materials and to focus world attention on the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza strip. But, in order to achieve a long term solution to the crisis, break the blockade and end the oppression of the Palestinians – fundamental change is needed in Israel and Palestine.
The revolutionary movements in North Africa and the Middle East have demonstrated the power of mass struggle to achieve change and have given many Palestinians new hope. They inspired big demonstrations in the Arab world, in solidarity with the Palestinians, and also within the Occupied Territories. These movements point towards the possibility of the development of a mass uprising against the oppression of the Israeli state. The first Intifada, in 1987, had that character and forced the Israeli regime into peace negotiations. These unfortunately, though, led down the road to the fraudulent Oslo agreement. That experience underlines the fact that as long as the right-wing establishment rules in Israel, they will not allow a viable sustainable Palestinian state to be created.
At the moment, there is a lot of discussion of a possible declaration of an independent Palestinian state in front of the UN General Assembly, in September. Although, while it is possible that there will be some sort of recognition for the Palestinian cause – it will not meet the aspirations of the Palestinian people. The Israeli regime will not allow the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as a joint capital.
In order to overthrow the right-wing establishment, the Israeli working class is a vital potential ally for the Palestinians. The power of Israeli workers was demonstrated recently by protests against price rises, by important strikes by the social workers, doctors and railway workers and the strike by chemical workers in Haifa. These struggles involve Israeli Jews and Israeli Arab-Palestinians.
The Socialist Party’s sister party in Israel and Palestine – the Socialist Struggle Movement – works to develop a united struggle of the Palestinians, the Arab masses generally and the working class and the poor. A revolutionary movement of these forces could complete the overthrow of the corrupt elites in the Arab world, as well as kick out the right-wing Israeli establishment and fight to create a socialist Palestine – alongside a socialist Israel, as part of a confederation of the Middle East.