Editor’s note: We present as a discussion article this piece by Luis M. Saenz, which appeared in the Spanish journal Trasversales, no. 64, November 2023. The Spanish original is at http://trasversales.net/t65lmsalto.htm.
As I write, on a day of “truce,” the first of four planned, Israeli soldiers have reportedly killed a Palestinian farmer today, and wounded another, in the Maghazi refugee camp in the center of the Gaza Strip. In any case, the State of Israel has almost completely destroyed Gaza City, also bombing the rest of the Strip, including the southern area to which it ordered the displacement of the population from the northern area. Netanyahu promised to continue his work of destruction. In this destructive “work,” counting only since Oct. 7, it has murdered thousands of girls and boys (around 40% of the deaths), as well as, as of Nov. 14, 2023, thousands of civilians, and 108 unarmed workers for UNRWA (the UN agency for Palestine refugees). They also bomb UNRWA schools where tens of thousands of people are taking refuge. All accompanied by attacks, murders and expulsions in East Jerusalem and the West Bank at the hands of soldiers and settlers forcibly installed in the “occupied Palestinian territories,” violating international legality and several UN resolutions. Likewise, following the attacks and crimes by Hamas on Oct. 7, there are mass dismissals of Palestinian workers, even among those who have Israeli citizenship, and bans on entry into Israel for workers who work there but live in the occupied zone.
Like any country arbitrarily and unjustly invaded, the Palestinian people have the right to resistance, even armed resistance, and it is up to them alone to decide which means to use. However, on Oct. 7, Hamas went much further, with its crimes against civilian homes and against attendees at a peace concert. That in no way favored the Palestinian cause; I do not classify these war crimes as “terrorist” because it would minimize their significance, since Hamas is not just another terrorist group, like Al Qaeda, but rather a “parastate” due to its control over the Gaza Strip. One could speak of a “terrorist State,” but that would also be applicable to the State of Israel, the Russian State, etc., it being better not to lose the conceptual nuance between “terrorist” terror and the even worse “State terror.”
It is not just about the obvious “excessiveness” and criminality of the acts of Hamas and Netanyahu, nor about a quantitative difference between them, even if it is obvious. This war is not a “punishment operation” against Hamas, it is a war by Netanyahu and his allies against Gaza and against the Palestinian people on the basis of a basic inequality: the State of Israel has long been an occupier of the Palestinian territories, and for a long time the Palestinian population has been harassed, repressed, surrounded or discriminated against throughout the territory of historical Palestine. The offensive launched by Netanyahu with the unfortunate support of the president of the United States, Biden, and European leaders such as Macron and Scholz, or Feijóo in Spain, is not a response to the attacks of Oct. 7 nor is it done “for the victims ” of the 7th.
We are not facing a war between Israel and Hamas, but rather a brutal operation by the Netanyahu government against the entire population of Gaza. One of the factors that may have influenced this decision was the difficult situation in which it found itself in the face of the massive mobilizations in Israel against its internal plans to evade judicial controls, since in this way it has managed to make them disappear in the face of a push towards “national unity.” However, above all, this operation represents an opportunistic acceleration of a permanent project of definitive integration of the entire territory—not the population—of historical Palestine into the State of Israel, with a good part of the Palestinian population expelled and a remnant left as a manual labor force kept in subalternity, although the Israeli State prefers to carry out a policy of massive hiring of non-Palestinian labor from abroad, as in the recent agreement with Sri Lanka for the hiring of 10,000 agricultural workers; Netanyahu’s dream is not so much the colonial exploitation of the Palestinian population, but rather ethnic cleansing, an Israel occupying the entirety of historical Palestine with as few Palestinians as possible.
Under these conditions, it is not the time to speculate about which would be the “best solution,” whether a single binational, secular or democratic State, or two neighboring States in peace and coexistence, either of which would be much better than what exists. And this is not the time because “the best” must also have a horizon of possibility and because ultimately those who populate that land would have to decide on that, not those of us who are foreign to it. And now the conditions do not exist for any of those options. It does not even seem feasible to start a negotiation on this, since the State of Israel never stops establishing settlements throughout the West Bank, expelling the Palestinian population, evicting Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem, etc. The only single state conceivable today—but terrible—”from the river to the sea,” would be the one that Netanyahu wants, in which the remaining Palestinian population would be small and discriminated against, while the formation of two viable states would require an Israeli exit from Gaza, peace between both nations and the decolonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which the current State of Israel will not accept, when it refuses even to renounce installing more and more settlements and could occupy the entire Strip, or at least half. What we can say is that any vision in which there were no Palestinians, or no Israelis, left in historical Palestine is a reactionary vision only achievable with blood and fire.
The only hope for the Palestinian people to have a country that they feel is their own and the only hope for the Israeli people to live in peace and without fear of the Palestinian responses to the occupation involves a profound change in the relationship of forces, both within both nations, the Israeli and the Palestinian, as well as between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people. In particular, there is no hope as long as Israeli society is led by a racist and colonialist extreme right, and there is no considerable rise of political forces and population willing to coexist with the Palestinian nation. On the other hand, as long as Hamas or similar forces have a dominant influence similar to that achieved in Gaza (there have been no elections since 2006, although the bureaucratized Palestinian Authority is also to blame for that), the Palestinian people will not have democracy and freedom, and it will be more difficult for movements for peace and coexistence to progress in Israel. But it is also difficult for almost the entire Palestinian population to repudiate Hamas while the priority task is to free themselves from the occupation and domination of the State of Israel and all of them suffer from that oppression.
The only possibility of getting out of this “deadlock” is to break this scenario and this relationship of forces in favor of the Palestinian people as a whole, first of all, and of the most democratic fringes in each of the two nations, the Israeli and the Palestinian. There is no magic formula for this, among other things because “The idea that the Palestinian people can achieve their national emancipation through a military defeat of the Israeli State, a State with overwhelming military superiority, is an illusion” (statement of the International Committee of the Fourth International). The illusion that an internationalization of the conflict in the region could benefit the Palestinian people lacks any foundation, since in the framework of a war in which Iran, Hezbollah and others defeated Israel—which would be difficult—the Palestinian people would obtain nothing and would become fodder for several wolves, since it has never obtained anything from the governments of neighboring countries, as illustrated by the “black September” of 1970, when the Jordanian State massacred a large Palestinian population, although that does not negate the Palestinian people’s right to take advantage of any help wherever it comes from.
But there are paths. Firstly, the struggle and resistance of the Palestinian people itself, in the (possibly diverse) terms that that same population chooses, which must be supported without accepting or failing to condemn criminal acts such as the attacks on civilians on Oct. 7, but also without ever forgetting that there is an occupying State and an occupied nation with the full right to defend itself.
Secondly, international solidarity from below. Naturally, that which may occur among the Arab peoples, who should not be confused with their governments. The very important solidarity, although for now scarce, that they can receive from Israeli society itself, just as it is very valuable that the Ukrainian resistance receives it from within Russian society. The mobilization and solidarity protests taking place in the U.S. are extremely important, since Biden’s support for Netanyahu and the offensive against Gaza is by far the main support that this criminal policy has—a support that greatly harms the Palestinian people but that also harms the people of the United States and can favor Trump, since it will possibly lead to the Democratic Party losing many votes among the population of Arab origin, quite a few among the Black population and some among the Latino population or “white” population who have a sense of human solidarity. In Spain, which had been “frugal” for quite some time in terms of active and mobilized solidarity with other peoples under attack or suffering extreme oppression, there have also been significant mobilizations, among which those arising very much from below seem especially significant to me, such as those that occurred in schools in Madrid. Also worth highlighting is the explicit support for Palestine given by Ukrainian citizens who are part of the resistance to the Russian invasion, thus distancing themselves from Zelensky’s position, which does nothing to help the world population understand that both resistances, the Ukrainian and the Palestinian, are just and must be supported.
Thirdly, this solidarity from below must have among its objectives pressure on “national” or international institutions so that they in turn take immediate measures against the offensive against Gaza and put pressure against the occupation of the Palestinian territories. The EU seems committed to playing an insignificant role in this conflict as well as in many others, moving from the initial unconditional support given to Netanyahu by Von der Leyen to the more critical positions of commissioners Lenarcic and Josep Borrell. Something similar has happened at the state level, from the unconditional support for the offensive given by Germany or France—despite both having a large population of Arab origin—to the more advanced position of Spain and Belgium, which has tended to improve over time, as Spanish society mobilized from below against the massacre in Gaza and in response to the aggressiveness shown by the Israeli government after the visit of Pedro Sánchez. At the UN level, the effort, limited by the impotent UN institutional framework, of António Guterres, its Portuguese, Catholic and social democratic secretary general, deserves to be acknowledged, as does, without qualification, the effort made by the staff of entities such as UNRWA or Doctors Without Borders. However, both Guterres’ efforts and the resolutions of the UN General Assembly collide time and again with the veto power that Russia and the United States have in the Security Council, which neutralize proposals favorable to Ukraine or Palestine.
We may not achieve it, but, in addition to demanding an immediate and lasting ceasefire and the release of Palestinian prisoners and hostages taken by Hamas, we must insist that Netanyahu needs to be hauled before the International Criminal Court, which must suspend all sales of weapons or war material to Israel, and Spain’s diplomacy must maintain clear and firm positions in international institutions, especially in the EU. Welcome the Palestinian refugee population that arrives in Spain or requests it. Continue sending and increasing humanitarian aid, along with a firm stance towards the State of Israel, demanding that this aid be allowed to enter and be distributed in the Gaza Strip and denouncing international institutions if they prevent it. It is also necessary to demand that Israel compensate the cost of rebuilding everything they have destroyed in the Gaza Strip that was built with Spanish or international contributions. This would be only part of an objective that, although it does not seem immediate now, is going to have strategic importance: Gaza must be rebuilt so that the people who are still there among the ruins can live with dignity there, as well as the many more who lived there a few days ago, preventing a reconstruction commanded by the State of Israel and designed to expand the occupation and colonize the area with a new population.
It is time for solidarity. There may be different opinions on the path to peace. But it is clear that destroying the Gaza Strip and expanding the occupation with new evictions and new settlements does not lead to peace. Solidarity with the Palestinian population—which is not solidarity with Hamas, a very reactionary force in its entire conception—is a duty of decency.
PALESTINE IS URGENT!
Epilogue: It is not acceptable to intoxicate the world population by portraying every denunciation of what the State of Israel does as anti-Semitism. It has no more value than the statement that those who opposed Nazism were anti-German, or that opposing Franco was anti-Spanish. The best way to repudiate anti-Semitism and honor the Jewish people who suffered the Holocaust and systematic persecutions for centuries in Europe and other places in the world is to keep alive the memory of those atrocities and maintain a commitment of unwavering solidarity with those who suffer conquest, oppression, discrimination and persecution. Which is what people of Jewish origin do who around the world demand an end to the Gaza massacre, thus honoring the victims of the Warsaw Ghetto, much closer to the Gazan population than to Netanyahu. Of course, all my contempt for true anti-Semites, who exist and act, and all my rejection of attacks on people for being of Jewish origin, or on synagogues, properties, etc., for the same reason. The same contempt towards those who carry out similar acts against the population of Arab origin.
—Luis M. Saenz (translated by Franklin Dmitryev)