Although only in his 50s, Eric is an old-fashioned socialist-Zionist. He made aliya from the US about 25 years ago to live in a socialist community, residing most of these years as a member of Kibbutz Ein Dor. He has lived for the last few years in London, England, where he directs “Labour Start
I totally agree with his view that Israel’s cause in this war is just, but I have strong reservations about Israel’s strategy and tactics. Israel’s stated goal on both the Gaza and Lebanon fronts is to compel the appropriate authorities, among both Palestinians and Lebanese, to disarm terror groups and to end rocket and other cross-border attacks on Israel’s internationally recognized territory. Israel is attacking all of Lebanon and widely within Gaza, causing wholesale damage and wide civilian suffering in pursuit of these aims.
A similar strategy — to force the PA to act against Hamas and Islamic Jihad — failed utterly when Ariel Sharon virtually demolished the Palestinian Authority’s administrative structure and security forces several years ago. As then, I prefer a more carefully calibrated and narrowly targeted military campaign against the aggressors — Hezbollah and the Palestinian terror groups who have attacked Israel. — R. Seliger
No socialist group in Britain is saying what needs to be said today about the crisis in the Middle East. All the groups on the organized Left are busy denouncing Israel for its “aggression” against Gaza and Lebanon. Many are expressing their solidarity with the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples. None are saying that Israel needs and deserves the support of the Left. But that is exactly what they should be saying.
One doesn’t have to go back decades, as is the tradition in articles of this sort, to explain. Let’s just go back to the dawn of the twenty-first century. In Israel, the far Right has been defeated in elections. A coalition government including the Left is in power, and is committed to ending the conflict with the Arab world. In 2000, as a first step, it completely withdraws all Israeli forces from every last inch of Lebanese soil. Even the United Nations admits that the Israeli withdrawal is complete, and conforms with all UN resolutions. The Lebanese government is obligated to move its army up to the international border. It does not do so.
Now fast-forward five years. It’s 2005 and the Israeli government decides to withdraw from Gaza after 38 years of occupation. Every single Israeli settlement is closed, despite a massive campaign of civil disobedience by settlers and their supporters. The country is torn apart by angry debate, the Right implodes, but in the end, every last Israeli soldier is withdrawn from every inch of the Gaza strip.
Israel still occupies the Golan Heights and West Bank, and those of us on the Left legitimately call for the Israeli government to negotiate the return of those territories. [But] let’s not forget that those territories were seized in a war of self-defence in June 1967.
If there had been a violent uprising among Palestinians in the West Bank, or among the Druze living in the Golan, one might have understood. After all, their Arab brethren in Lebanon and Gaza were now free of Israeli soldiers and their hated roadblocks and searches and arrests.
But while the West Bank remained relatively calm, and the Golan completely quiet, Israel suddenly found itself under attack from precisely those territories which it had evacuated. Let’s be absolutely clear about the nature of the attack. It was not the case that some Palestinian “militants” (as the BBC calls them) seized one Israeli soldier near Gaza. Those same terrorists (let us call things by their right names), having interpreted the 2005 withdrawal as a sign of Israeli weakness, have been bombarding the western Negev desert for months with their Qassam missiles. And at the first opportunity, the Palestinians voted out the regime which had recognised the right of the Jewish state to exist and replaced it with the Islamo-fascist Hamas, which aims to create an Islamist state from the Jordan river to the sea.
The Islamo-fascists of Hezbollah joined in the fun shortly thereafter with a massive rocket barrage attacking Israeli towns, cities and kibbutzim from the shores of the Mediterranean to the foothills of the Golan, destroying homes and killing and wounding innocent civilians. Under cover of that barrage, they launched a raid to kill and capture Israeli soldiers on Israeli soil.
Israel is under attack — unprovoked, brutal attack. Attack by forces such as Hamas and Hezbollah with which socialists have nothing in common.
And Israel is responding in the way that any state, even a state with a workers’ government, even an ideal socialist state, would respond. It is hitting back with all the firepower at its disposal, but doing so in a way to minimize civilian casualties. That is why it decided to flatten Hamas’ foreign ministry building at 2:00 in the morning, when it was unoccupied. Or used targetted aerial bombardment to create craters in the runways of Beirut airport, rather than bombing terminals crammed with people. (Either way, they would have shut down the airport — but they chose a way that saved innocent lives.)
At the present time, Israel has more powerful and more effective weapons than their opponents. Their situation today is a bit like that facing the Allies near the end of the second world war. By that time, Germany and Japan were severely weakened. Did that lead the Soviet Union, which was doing the bulk of the fighting, and its western allies to let up? To give the Nazi regime a break? Not at all. They took advantage of their superiority and hit harder — to bring the war to and end as quickly as possible.
Israel’s military should use all its power to defend the country and decisively defeat its enemies — while taking every precaution to reduce the number of innocent civilian casualties on both sides to an absolute minimum.
The real question for socialists when a war like this breaks out is to look at what will happen if either side wins. Let us imagine that Israel wins — meaning that the captured soldiers are returned and the rocket attacks from Gaza and Lebanon end. The result will not only be good for Israel, but good for the Palestinians and Lebanese as well. The Islamo-fascists will be weakened. Democratic and secular forces will be strengthened. Socialists should cheer this on.
Now image what happens if Hamas and Hezbollah win. They over-run the Jewish state, slaughtering and expelling its several million Jewish inhabitants. They create a reactionary theocratic dictatorship along the lines of their benefactor, Iran. No one benefits — not the Jews, not the Arabs. This a result that only fascists could applaud.
Some socialists are pacifists and oppose all wars. But most of us understand that sometimes a country has to fight. And sometimes two peoples go to war against each other, and we have to take sides. We look at the reasons behind the fighting and more important — we look at the consequences of victory for one side or the other.
Looking at the war taking place today in the Middle East, it is clear to me that the position taken by the Left in Britain and elsewhere is wrong. We should be giving our full support to Israel, while of course insisting that the Israeli military behave according to international law and keep civilian casualties to a minimum. We should insist that at the end of the fighting, Israeli forces be pulled back to the international border with Lebanon, and withdrawn from Gaza. And we should support a renewal of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians leading to a withdrawal from the West Bank.
Our view as socialists of Hamas and Hezbollah should be absolutely clear: these are the enemy. We have nothing in common with Islamo-fascism and look forward to it suffering a crushing defeat in battle.
As I write these words, I realize that many friends and comrades will disagree with me. I invite them to respond, to engage in debate, and above all to listen and try to understand. In the end, the important thing is not to say what is popular, what wins friends and gets applause. Our job as socialists is above all to tell the truth. And that is what I have done here.