May 15th, 2018, referred to as Nakba Day by the Palestinian people, marked the 70th anniversary of the ethnic cleansing of over 700,000 Palestinians from their homeland by what would become the State of Israel. In demonstration against Israel’s ongoing theft of land and systematic genocide of the Palestinian people, the Great March of Return that began on March 30th served as a testament to the native Palestinian peoples’ striving for a future without occupation, a future in which they can determine their own destiny. Israel responded by gunning down hundreds of demonstrators.
This crackdown on the Great March of Return generated international protest, most notably from the football star, Lionel Messi, who refused to compete in an exhibition match with Israel set to take place in a stadium that was built on top of a demolished Palestinian village. However, the violence of Israel was also met with overwhelming support from the United States. On May 14th, as children were being slaughtered by the Israeli state, the United States initiated the move of its embassy to Jerusalem, bringing to fruition the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which recognized the ancient city as the State of Israel’s capital and set aside funds for the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The Palestine Solidarity Movement: Pitfalls and Potential
In light of the United States’ key role in support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the Palestine solidarity movement in America has immense potential. Its young organizers possess the determination needed to wage a struggle against the causes of war and poverty, and the moral courage to stand with the world’s oppressed and exploited masses.
However, the movement all too often has divorced itself from the global struggle for peace and, to its own detriment, has yet to confront Zionism for its pivotal role in securing the interests of U.S. imperialism beyond Palestine. We observed this when the non-profit driven sector of the Palestine solidarity movement aligned with the interests of Israel and threw its support behind Western intervention to overthrow the Syrian government. This came at a moment when the United States was threatening to implement a no-fly zoneover Syria, which aimed to provoke war with Russia and had the potential to result in a nuclear catastrophe.
Ending the occupation is often reduced to a question of national liberation. However, this conception of Palestine as an issue separate from the need for a world movement for peace fails to confront the foundations of Israel and its role in imperialism. Thus, it does not have the capacity to truly free Palestine and humanity as a whole, both of which are threatened daily with extinction by the American war machine.
The creation of Israel was not simply an effort to subordinate Arabs to Jews in Palestine, but, most importantly, it was a strategic move of Western imperialism against the civilizations of Pan-Africa and Pan-Asia. Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism, states clearly in his 1896 pamphlet, “The Jewish State”:
Supposing His Majesty the Sultan were to give us Palestine, we could in return undertake to regulate the whole finances of Turkey. We should there form a portion of the rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilisation as opposed to barbarism. We should, as a neutral State, remain in contact with all Europe, which would have to guarantee our existence.
Herzl even accepted a British government proposal to settle Jews in Uganda in 1903, which was one of a number of locations—along with North Africa and Angola—that the World Zionist Organization considered for a Jewish state. After Israel was formed in Palestine, it served as “the northern flank against African liberation movements, and as a base against Soviet support to these struggles.”
Zionism serves the ruling class’ interest in partitioning the continents of Africa and Asia for the exploitation of their people and theft of their resources. For 70 years Israel has been the biggest purveyor of war and chaos in what colonizers termed as the “Middle East.”
Although ambitious campaigns have recently been launched in America in the name of Black and Palestinian solidarity, none have unveiled the true nature of the State of Israel and Palestine’s connection with the struggle of oppressed people worldwide. For this young movement to advance to a stage where it can truly threaten Israel’s foundation, it must understand Zionism for what it is—an attack on the unity of the civilizations of Asia and Africa in the interests of capitalist gain.
Operating from within the center of the global war machine, the Palestine solidarity movement in America must build principled unity with Black America and the immigrant and white working class in order to expose the lies of imperialist propaganda. By building a united front that recognizes the centrality of ideological struggle on the question of war and peace inside and outside of Palestine, the Palestine solidarity movement in America will develop a greater understanding of the world in order to change it.
Ideological Clarity in the Anti-Imperialist Struggle for Peace
Political education is central in our struggle for freedom. George Habash, the founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), highlighted the importance of raising the Arab world’s consciousness in order to wage a united struggle against Zionism. The PFLP, a Marxist-Leninist organization, was founded in 1967 in the wake of the Six-Day War in which Israel captured the West Bank in Palestine, the Golan Heights in Syria, and the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.
The PFLP stands today as the most ideologically clear organization in the Palestinian liberation movement. This clarity is exemplified in its rejection of the concessions made by the Arab misleadership class, which has supported so-called “peace” agreements with Israel. These agreements have allowed the forces of occupation to extend deeper into Palestine and diminished the chances of Palestinian liberation.
In his 2000 article, “Palestine Between Dreams and Reality,” Habash identified the partitioning of Asia and Africa as the driving motive behind the creation of Israel: “A Zionist state would serve colonial interests by acting as a wall dividing the Arab East on the Asian continent from the Arab west in Africa, and as a police station securing the passage to India, the pearl in the British crown.”
The PFLP’s historical materialist analysis of Israel identifies the partitioning of the Arab world as a key maneuver in the larger imperialist division scheme of Asian and African civilizations. This method of analysis also allows the organization to deliver a critique of those who obscure the reality of class contradictions within Palestine and the complicity of Palestinians who sell out their own people to Zionism. Habash and the PFLP have understood that the enemies of the people are not defined by color or nationality, but, rather, by where they stand in relation to imperialism.
Imperialism cannot be understood today without reference to what Ghanaian revolutionary Kwame Nkrumah called neo-colonialism, or imperialism’s desperate effort to “export the social conflicts of capitalist countries” to the formerly colonized world, which is now symbolically free but enslaved in reality. Neo-colonialism trades direct domination for an illusion of sovereignty while maintaining economic dominance over the world’s majority. This last and most dangerous stage of imperialism manifests itself in the form of constant warfare which aims to partition “former” colonies in order to make them subservient to the Western world. These wars have the grave potential to escalate into catastrophic war between nuclear powers.
Building on Lenin’s analysis of imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism characterized by war, economic depression, and the formation of a rich oligarchy that exerts its dominance over the economies of the non-Western world, Nkrumah traces the root of neo-colonialism to the partitioning of Asia and Africa into small states entirely dependent on the capital and resources of neo-colonial economies.
By keeping the majority of humanity partitioned into superficially independent states, European and American imperialists are able to extract surplus profits from the working people of Asia and Africa. To ideologically fortify this imperial project after the second World War, this stolen value has been used to buy off various pockets of the working class in the form of the welfare state. While these workers are themselves dominated by capitalists, they become more likely to strike a compromise with the bosses when bribed with the fruits of imperialist profits.
Israel is a Neo-Colonial Force Inside and Outside Palestine
By understanding Lenin’s concept of stages of capitalism, we can trace capitalism’s transformation into imperialism and imperialism’s transition to neo-colonialism as its last and most insidious stage. Created at the demise of the colonial era, Israel—itself a creation of the colonial powers—was able to leech off the legacy of colonialism and develop into a neo-colonial force in its own right.
Since its formation, Israel has taken up the task of dividing Western Asia and Northern Africa by fueling wars within the region in order to put more money into the pockets of imperialists. After Britain’s massive post-World War II debt and defeat by the Indian independence movement in 1947, the State of Israel was founded the following year in 1948. This was an attempt by the ruling class to re-consolidate colonial power after a devastating loss in India, Britain’s most prized possession. The 1949 Armistice Agreement and the Tripartite Declaration of 1950 gave the West Bank and Gaza to the British-aligned Egyptian and Jordanian governments, and allowed Palestine’s natural resources to flow freely into the hands of Israel and Europe.
Israel’s footprints of terror can be seen all over Africa and Asia. In North Africa, Israel played a key role in partitioning Sudan and encouraging Christians and Muslims to murder each other while Israeli firms smuggled gold and uranium to the occupied territories. This adds to Israel’s ongoing robbery in Africa, which was also carried out in the diamond mines of the Congo and Angola.
In addition, Israel fuels wars throughout Western Asia and Northern Africa, and pushes the world toward a nuclear war by threatening to overthrow the government of Iran. The divide and conquer strategy of Israel is evident in its alliance with Saudi Arabia and wars against Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Lebanon. All of these actions highlight Israel’s role as a weapon of neo-colonialism, the last stage of imperialism.
George Habash stated that the true enemy of the Palestinians is not just the State of Israel, but American imperialism, whose interests are protected by Zionism. Israel’s development into a neo-colonial apparatus was exemplified in 1993 by the signing of the Oslo Accords, which created the Palestinian Authority, a crypto-Zionist front—with an Arab face—whose purpose is to carry out the work of Israel. The Oslo Accords were signed two years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the biggest supporter of the Palestinian liberation movement and, in Nkrumah’s words, the force that made it impossible for the imperialists to “enforce the full rigour of the neo-colonialist system.”
Just like neo-colonialism strengthens its ideological counterrevolution by propping up Black leaders in Africa and the United States, Israel does the same with Arab figureheads in Palestine and the Palestine solidarity movement, a move that has diminished the cohesion of the resistance among the representation-intoxicated American left. Israel directly profits from a Palestinian labor force that is maintained with the help of the Arab misleadership class. This use of identity politics allows Israel to disguise its neocolonial violence with the illusion of Arab sovereignty.
Identifying the Enemy: The Struggle for Unity Across the Color Line & the Collapse of Empire
In the United States today, we see the effects of neo-colonialism in the exploitation of immigrants as a cheap labor force. Immigrant labor is converted into profits and used to further gentrify and police poor and historically working class Black communities, such as those of North and West Philadelphia.
The use of one group of oppressed people as a weapon against another is a strategy that is implemented throughout neo-colonial states and is also used to burn bridges between the multi-racial working class in America. In Palestine, this strategy can be seen in Israel’s policy of recruiting Ethiopian migrants to fuel the occupation by joining the Israel Defense Forces.
Many immigrants flee countries whose politics and economy have been all but destroyed by imperialism and come to the United States in search of a more stable living situation. However, the anti-blackness indoctrinated into immigrants by ruling class propaganda prevents them from seeing their connection with the Black working class, the descendants of enslaved Africans whom W.E.B. Du Bois called the “foundation stone” of global capitalism. This keeps the masses fighting amongst each other and lets the capitalists who exploit both groups off the hook. Thus, the struggle of uniting across the color line to defeat racism becomes one with the struggle to defeat imperialism, whose effects are visible not only in Africa and Asia, but also in the streets of America’s collapsing Empire.
In his forthcoming introduction to the French translation of Huey P. Newton’s Revolutionary Suicide, Ahmad Sa’adat, the incarcerated Secretary General of the PFLP, writes:
Today, when we look at the Black Liberation movement or the Indigenous and Native struggle in the United States and Canada, we are talking about the same camp of enemy that we confront in occupied Palestine. The bullets that assassinated Malcolm X or Fred Hampton could have been used to kill Ghassan Kanafani or Khaled Nazzal or Mahmoud Hamshari, and today we see the same tear gas and bullets shipped around the world for use against the people.
This is not just a metaphor, but a testament to the material connection between Israel and imperialism. The wealth of the imperial powers is built on the starvation of the darker peoples of the world, including the dark poor and working class in the United States. It is no coincidence that within the same time frame of Operation Cast Lead and Operation Protective Edge, during which Israel used the world’s most advanced military weapons to murder Palestinians by the thousands, the rate of child hunger in Black North Philadelphia rose by over 300 percent. What ties humanity together in a single garment of destiny is the responsibility we have to defeat our common enemy in the struggle to free humanity as a whole.
Neo-colonialism’s search for new, more insidious ways to exploit indicates a dying system. In his 1947 book The World and Africa, Du Bois predicted that the collapse of European civilization would create the conditions for the freedom of humanity. With the chaos among European nations today, exemplified by Britain’s exit from the European Union, and the crisis facing United States imperialism under Trump, Europe’s collapse and the rise of humanity is closer than ever.
A Vision Forward: The World and Palestine, Palestine and the World
The paramount task of the Palestine solidarity movement is to unite the people under the common objective of defeating imperialism to attain world peace, which is characterized not by the absence of tension, but the presence of justice. It is about identifying the main cause of human suffering so that we can know the correct path of struggle, rather than attacking a symptom of the system at the cost of coming to a correct analysis of its root cause.
In prioritizing political education, it is also crucial to understand the purpose of miseducation: to make the people believe that their enemies are their friends, and their friends are their enemies. To accurately grasp the stage of history we are situated in today is to know our enemies and their weak points, and to know who our allies are so that we can forge a clear path forward in our struggle against the ruling class.
Ignoring Israel’s direct role in carrying out the work of the U.S. war machine will come at the cost of separating the Palestine solidarity movement from its connection with the complete liberation of humanity from imperialism. Rather than a surface-level solidarity based on an oppressed identity, we must build a unity of humankind against the forces of imperialism that seek to destroy the world’s civilizations for wealth and power.
Immigrants in the United States who are taught to abandon their own anti-colonial struggles for assimilation into the white world must reject the illusion of the “American Dream” and side with Black America against the capitalists who exploit them both. By doing so, they will break the psychological chains of white supremacy and overturn the system that creates the ideological conditions for Israeli neo-colonialism to thrive in America and Palestine. To do this, we cannot see Palestine as an issue unto itself. We must strive to develop a dialectical understanding of Palestine and the world, and the world and Palestine.
We can begin by anchoring ourselves in the tradition of resistance put forth by George Habash, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Kwame Nkrumah, who all asserted that the future of humanity ultimately rests in the hands of the darker peoples of the world. It is a tradition that exposes the propaganda of the ruling class that teaches young people they are powerless against the war-machine, and that their only “way out” is to exploit their brothers and sisters in the name of the “American Dream” rather than struggle to change society. It is the cure for the pessimism that permeates Western culture and poisons movements fighting to build a vision for humanity to overcome the “triple evils” of poverty, racism, and war. This heroic spirit of the Palestinian and Black Radical Traditions lives on in everyday people, and we struggle to keep it alive by following their example.
By embracing our shared destiny with Black America and those living under the degradation of imperialism worldwide, the Palestine solidarity movement in the United States will say that a free Palestine is possible, and that with struggle, we can restore humanity back to its rightful place, where the civilizations of the world are once again united and no longer living under the threat of invasion, partitioning, and mass exploitation.
This tradition instills within our souls a great sense of humility and revolutionary sacrifice that is born out of an unconditional love for the people—a love that understands why people are the way they are but also realizes the potential of who they can become. We must strive to lead humanity out of the darkness of imperialism until not one child remains hungry, until not one child has to endure another war, whether that child be in North Philadelphia or Palestine.
This article originally appeared on Orchestrated Pulse.
Brandon Do is an organizer in Temple Students for Justice in Palestine and The Saturday Free School for Philosophy and Black Liberation based in North Philadelphia. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.