By COOPER BARD
Monday, Aug. 2, saw the Israeli Supreme Court rule that Palestinians (only four families) were allowed to remain in their own neighborhood, Sheikh Jarrah, in East Jerusalem, provided they paid rent to Jewish settlers, for living in their own homes. As expected and understandably, the Palestinians have rejected this “compromise” and will repeal the decision .
It should be clear that appeals to the halls of power won’t bring full justice. So what is really behind Israel’s change of tactics? Merely a few months ago, the Israeli state was spearheading the ethnic cleansing and forced expulsion of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah (with the aid of non-state vigilantes). Have polite legalistic arguments convinced the otherwise hollow moral conscience of a settler population to treat humans with dignity? No they have not. Rather, the Israeli state has changed tact because of the domestic and international pressure of the mass movement in solidarity with Palestine and specifically Sheikh Jarrah.
This mass movement demonstrates the potential power to wreak havoc on the settler state and its allies. And so to quell the movement, Israel is willing to make a small, ultimately meaningless compromise. This is like the U.S. state convicting Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. It was a small concession to lull the masses to sleep while comfortably protecting the dozens of other cop murderers and preserving the system of prison slavery.
Racism at play in Israel
Lower Israeli courts had ruled the expulsions legal on the dubious grounds that Jews owned the land before the current houses were built. Palestinians were ordered to leave their homes and make room for Jewish settlers. At the very least, when Black Americans are pushed out of neighborhoods, it’s thinly justified through the cold apparatus of market forces. “Gentrification,” they call it, but its still racism. Israel’s racism is even more bald faced. The majority of land currently occupied by Israel (including Jerusalem) was once lived in by Palestinians who were forced away, but Israel does not ask Jews to make room for those dispossessed of their land. This is a double standard.
Now, after the mass movement shook the colonialist project up a bit, the racists have a compromise “solution” wherein the current occupants must pay rent to the settler population. This is entirely based on ethnic grounds, and no attempt has been made to justify this by any other means. The current occupants of Sheikh Jarrah are not Jews but Palestinians, and because they are not a member of the specially protected ethnic group, they do not have the right to live in their own homes. What we have is not a just cause, but racism backed by military firepower.
Housing is a human right
The Palestinians have every right to live in their own homes and will fight for it. They will fight until one of two outcomes occurs, their extermination at the hands of Jewish settlers, or their full equality with Jews in the Middle East.
Israel is a settler state, which would prioritize the accumulation of land for the private wealth of Jewish individuals, while subjecting the Palestinian population to severely limited rights and economic opportunities. This is certainly apartheid, or worse. A solution can only be guaranteed by fighting for a united democratic and secular Palestine, with equal rights for all ethnicities, public ownership of the land, and a right to housing for all.
Zionist settlers often try to justify their “entitlement” to seize Palestinian land as a protective measure—pointing to incidents of anti-Semitism worldwide. But it is ineffective to fight bigotry by oppressing another people. Moreover, in virtually every instance where a self-styled “superior” group desires the elimination or removal of another, the target will defend itself, to the death if need be.
It is the same with Indigenous Americans. They have struggled in a centuries-long battle against their extermination at the hands of white settlers in the United States, and are continuing the fight to the very present. The demonstrations against Line 3, in themselves a fight against genocide and ecocide, are a current example of this struggle.
The phrase “land back” and the demand for a right to return resonate with Palestinians and Indigenous Americans alike, for they both experience the same threat of settler violence in two different national contexts. Ultimately, both contexts have the same solution, namely, an end to the private accumulation of wealth in the land, and working-class and small peasant management of the land to secure quality housing, air, and water for all. The solution to racism is not an opposite racism, but socialism.
In the mind of a settler, particularly if brought up in an environment where private ownership of housing or land is considered sacred, the notion of “land back” can only mean the complete removal or extermination of the people occupying it. For in the mind of a settler there is no other alternative. Palestinians will therefore continue to struggle by every means to secure their right to live in freedom. International proletarian solidarity is an important ally in their struggle. This movement has been important in helping “convince” the racists to back down by this little inch in Sheikh Jarrah. Now that Palestinians have the inch, they must struggle for the mile, and all of ’48 with it.
Solidarity with Sheikh Jarrah! Palestinian Lives Matter! Build the international mass movement for Palestinian freedom!
Addendum: On mass action
Some people may object that, to take the example of Black Lives Matter in the United States, “the mass movement was too weak to change anything. Only a single little stooge of the state got put in jail, but the system survives. We should really be thanking the prosecution team at the Chauvin trial.”
People who follow this line of reasoning might not understand how the mass movement represents potential power. The mass movement in the United States, while unable to immediately take state power and change everything (to accomplish a revolution), nonetheless demonstrated that they couldn’t be easily corralled by the police. The masses, now angry, proved to be a power for which the “thin blue line” proved to be too thin. This made the U.S. ruling class blanch, and so, Derek Chauvin had to be their sacrificial lamb.
The mass movement of the summer of 2020 turned out to be the largest in U.S. history and filled the streets with tens of thousands protesting peacefully in every major city. The majority of violence that occurred, by and large, came from the police, vigilantes, or fascist paramilitaries against the BLM movement. But these were tiny paper cuts, rarely setting back the movement.
The simple fact is that the working masses could take government power away from the rulers tomorrow if they wished, and they could probably do so with little resistance and little violence. Unfortunately, the mass movement is still misled by “leaders” who peddle illusions in the current governmental and economic system. So the energy fizzles out.
In the United States this fizzling out is aided and abetted by the Democratic Party, the graveyard of social movements. If anyone wants to find a culprit as to why BLM was unable to achieve the goal of abolishing our racist “justice” system, look no further than the treachery of these scoundrels. Joe Biden, our newest Liar-in-Chief, promised many things, including an end to fracking and fossil fuel extraction, cuts to police budgets, and the release of caged children. He has betrayed all of these promises. Joe Biden, for the record, also supports Israel with millions of dollars and arms.
In truth, the insistence of the self-styled “pragmatists” who beg us to go to the polls and elect capitalist politicians works against our winning progressive aims. The logic is wrong and backwards. You don’t use mass movements to build up the politicians to send to Congress, or to nudge their consciences (which are, anyway, ruled by big money). A major reason for building the mass movements is so that working people become conscious of their own power.
We must think critically and strategically. The movement can help working people come to realize that the powerful do not care about marginalized people, or ending war, or the environment, among many other social issues. Build the mass movement, make them realize their true power, and you will find a more effective tool for changing the world than by working to elect one more Democratic Party Senator.