Imperialism in the Middle East
In order to make sense of what goes on in the Middle East, we need to understand that today’s world is dominated by a handful of superrich countries, which have become wealthy by looting resources and exploiting people all over the world.
Britain, the first country to develop capitalism was also the first to grab a modern empire.
In the 19th century, Arabia was dismissed as being a barren wasteland, but in the early 20th century, vast oil deposits were discovered under the desert – just around the time that oil was becoming the fuel of choice for many modern machines (including warships!) and industries.
Suddenly, the rush to secure plentiful and cheap supplies of ‘black gold’ became a key strategic imperative for all imperialists, leading to a cut-throat competition for control of the region.
Zionism and Palestine
Seeing their chance, the early zionists asked Britain’s rulers to let them set up a jewish state in Palestine in exchange for helping to keep the region under British domination.
With Arab nationalism on the rise, the imperialists accepted the offer, looking forward to the creation of a “loyal jewish Ulster in a sea of potentially hostile Arabism”.
And, although British masters were later pushed aside by American ones, a ‘loyal jewish Ulster’ is exactly what Israel has remained to this day.
The zionist stooges who destroy Palestinian homes, drop bombs on Palestinian schools, plough up Palestinian crops and poison Palestinian water are bribed by US and British governments and corporations to do imperialism’s dirty work.
In return for helping corporations like BP and Texaco to carry on looting the oil and dominating the people of the whole Middle East, the zionists are given military support and hardware, financial aid, diplomatic immunity, and a campaign of lies and disinformation in the imperialist-controlled media.
Israel was established in an orgy of ethnic cleansing, and has been illegally occupying further Palestinian lands and displacing and wiping out Palestinian families ever since.
War crimes are a daily event in this, the most militarised state in the world. In fact, rather than viewing Israel as a state with a huge military, it is more helpful to realise that Israel is in fact a massive army base that also happens to have some schools, Israeli children are brought up to be Nazi-like stormtroopers, ther heads filled with supremacist hatred of all Arab peoples.
The imperialists made one serious miscalculation, though. It was assumed that in the face of Israel’s might, Palestinians would accept underclass status or leave, but the days when colonialists could evict a people from their land and get away with it were over.
In a century of socialist revolution and national liberation, the racist dismissal of local peoples as ‘uncivilised barbarians’ or merely ‘irrelevant’ was no longer possible.
Instead of politely disappearing, the Palestinians stood their ground – refusing to submit no matter how barbarous their oppressors became. Instead of passively joining the long list of imperialist victims, the Palestinians became a beacon of resistance and an inspiration to oppressed people globally.
Gradually, the wellspring of sympathy that Israel shamelessly exploited following the Nazis’ mass extermination of jews in WW2 has run dry. As every agreement and concession on the part of Palestinians is greeted with fresh Israeli crimes, it has become clear to all that it is the zionists, and not the Palestinians, who stand in the way of peace.
So brazen has its war machine become that, today, Israel is the number one creator of anti-jewish feeling in the world.
Solidarity and resistance
So what has all this got to do with workers in Britain?
We need to recognise that the same ruling class that is waging war on our living standards (trying to force us to pay the price of the economic crisis of capitalism) gains much of its power from looting the world. Since oil is such a vital resource, the British state is still one of Israel’s main backers.
If Israel was defeated, British and US imperialism’s ability to grab the region’s oil would be fatally undermined – and with that wealth would go some of the ruling class’s ability to keep us in our ‘place’.
So it’s in our interest to support the Palestinians against imperialism and zionism. But if we want to give effective solidarity to their struggle, we need to learn from past experience.
A consumer boycott is certainly causing embarrassment to Israel, but no such boycott has ever brought down a state that had such powerful military, financial and diplomatic backers as Israel does.
British workers can actually do a lot more, if we are prepared to use our collective power over the country’s economy. The ruling class might give orders, but it is we who are expected to carry them out. If we all refuse, there is not that much they can do.
Neither the capitalists themselves, nor their careerist spivs in Whitehall are about to send their own kids to work in arms factories, to drive trains, to crew cargo ships, to enlist as cannon fodder, or even to print and broadcast their pro-Israel propaganda.
A striking example of such solidarity in action is the case of the Jolly George, a ship that was supposed to be taking arms and soldiers to Russia in 1918, when the new socialist republic was facing attack by 14 capitalist powers. Dockers in east London refused to load the ship, undermining the war effort and setting an infectious example to workers elsewhere.
In 1920, pushed by the ‘Hands off Russia’ campaign, the TUC threatened a general strike if Britain persisted in its criminal warmongering. Lloyd George’s government had to pull out and the war of intervention collapsed.
The ruling class emerged weaker and the working class stronger from this confrontation.
Today, we are part of the same battle against British imperialism on whose front line the Palestinians have been fighting so heroically for 65 years.
Today, they are joined by the Syrian and Iranian anti-imperialist governments and the Lebanese resistance movement Hizbollah – all forces that have refused to reach any accommodation with Israel; have refused to accept the imperialists’ right to dictate how they should live; and have refused to allow imperialist corporations to loot their resources at will.
Recognising their common struggle, Syria and Iran have consistently supported each other, and given money, arms, refugee asylum and diplomatic support to both the Palestinian struggle and the Lebanese resistance movement. A defeat for any of these forces would give a massive boost to imperialism and its zionist stooges and would be a major set-back for the cause of freedom in the Middle East – and especially to the cause of the Palestinian people.
British workers need to join this axis of resistance and give full support to all parts of it, taking their place in the unifying and indivisible struggle against imperialism.