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Once more Israel failed to crush the Palestinian resistance in Gaza!

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The Israeli onslaught in the Gaza strip has ended, after weeks of heroic resistance from the Palestinians and massive protests and demonstrations across the world. Despite the death and destruction the Hamas movement has not been defeated. The International Secretariat publishes this statement to evaluate the political results and what steps the solidarity movement must take next

Statement of the League for the Fifth International on the ceasefire in Gaza, 20 January 2009

1. After 22 days of barbaric terror against the Palestinian people, Israel has announced a ceasefire and has pulled its troops out of Gaza. What was achieved? That the Israeli army, armed and financed by the US, could wreak destruction on defenceless Gaza was never in doubt. That it was [i]prepared[/i] to do it shows that the physical destruction of the basis of social life for the Palestinians was a conscious goal. Over 20,000 homes along with eight hospitals, many community centres, schools and food centres and large parts of the Islamic university of Gaza were blown to pieces. The most staggering single atrocity was the killing of dozens of refugees in the United Nations al-Falluj school in the Jabaliya refugee camp. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to abandon their homes and 100,000 left homeless. The Israelis also succeeded in murdering at least 1,400 Palestinians - among them only 95 fighters from Hamas according to Human Rights groups - and wounding more than 5,500. As bodies are recovered from the rubble of collapsed buildings these tolls will undoubtedly rise. It is now becoming clear too that Israeli Occupation Forces used white phosphorous bombs, whose effects are to continue burning down through skin and muscle to the bone, causing eventual cardiac arrest and Dime bombs that send minute metal filaments into the bloodstream which lacerate internal organs. These atrocities, by any definition, are brazen violations of international law - especially those against collective punishment. Yet only a few states, like Venezuela, have dared to say so. International law is without any impartial agency of enforcement, the crimes go unpunished. Worse ?the world?s policeman? had armed the criminal and was actively encouraging the crime. The perpetrators of this mass terrorising of an entire people are still feted and complimented by the leaders of Europe and North America, whereas the elected representatives and defenders of the Palestinian people attacked are shunned as ?terrorists.?

2. The sheer scale and calculated viciousness of the destruction indicates that Israel?s war aim was not just to weaken or smash Hamas and other resistance movements but to break the will of the Palestinian people, in Gaza and beyond, to continue to resist the fate Israel has in store for them - a collections of disarmed and isolated Bantustans on the South African model. It was, in short, a component of the ?slow genocide? planned for the Palestinian people, to prevent them from establishing any permanent socio-political institutions which could form a sovereign state. In every decade since its foundations in 1948 the Zionist colonising state has launched such actions aimed at driving more and more Palestinians from their own land, replacing them with Zionist settlers. The onslaught on Gaza was another step in Israel?s war to destroy the Palestinians as a nation capable of independence.

3. However, if Israel achieved many of its most barbaric goals, its leaders have achieved few clear political goals. Far from being smashed, all indications suggest that Hamas has retained not only most of its fighters but also much of its military capacity. Up to the day of the ceasefire, rockets were still being fired into Israel. Instead of breaking Hamas? control over Gaza and bringing back Mahmoud Abbas as its stooge ruler of Gaza, Israel has succeeded in cementing Hamas as the legitimate political leadership. The thousands celebrating with Hamas flags in the ruins of Gaza city after the Israeli withdrawal make this clear. Today, Abbas is weaker not only in Gaza but in the West Bank too. Moreover, the unceasing bombardment of Gaza, the depravity of Israel?s tactics, has stripped away what was left of Israel?s international image as a ?peaceful, western democracy? confronted by ?fanatical terrorist enemies.? Just as in the war against Hizbollah in Lebanon, Israel?s failure to smash Hamas militarily, its inability to impose any advantageous political settlement and its loss of international standing combine to make Gaza another defeat for Zionist policy. Although at a terrible cost, it is the Palestinians who have won the admiration and the solidarity of millions. Morally and politically, [i]they are the victors[/i].

4. What defeated Israel? Firstly it was the heroism of the Palestinian people and their resistance movements - above all, Hamas. Their struggle against the Zionist invaders, their steadfastness against all the sufferings and losses is an inspiration to all people fighting for freedom. Neither the treacherous role of the Fatah leadership around Abbas and its scarcely hidden collaboration with the USA and Israel, nor the identical collusion of the cowardly leaders of the Arab League, could undermine the resistance- so firmly was this rooted in the will of the Gazan masses to fight back against all odds. Thus, while it was easy for the Israeli army to enter the less densely populated areas, they soon realised what would face them if they tried to enter the main centres of the Palestinian population and its resistance: Gaza-City, Rafah or Khan Yunus. Unlike the Palestinians, Israeli society and its warring political cliques could not sustain heavy casualties.

5. The other major contributing factor for Israel?s failure was the huge international movement against Israel?s Gaza onslaught. That Israel ?lost the propaganda war? as most observers admit, is, given the enormous influence of imperialism and Zionism over the major media outlets, nearly as miraculous as the ability of the Hamas fighters to hold the Israelis at bay for 22 days. And it is for the same reason. It received massive support from the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim Diaspora, in virtually all states where rudimentary democratic rights exited where they could militantly expressed their views. To these forces were added the revolutionary left, the antiwar movement and university and school students. Daily militant pickets outside Israeli embassies, weekly mass demonstrations, plus the fact that certain media channels, like Al-Jazeera, and courageous Arab and Palestinian journalists inside Gaza kept the images of the carnage before the eyes of the world, quickly led to the moral isolation of Israel and it branding as a war criminal. A recent development is the occupations of a number of universities, especially in Britain in solidarity with Gaza.

6 . This movement was even bigger than the solidarity movement at the time of the Lebanon war in 2006 or the Afghanistan war in 2001. It reached huge numbers in the Muslim world but also in Western Europe, with hundreds of thousands demonstrating in Madrid and Barcelona, London and Paris and proportionately equivalent numbers German centres and in many other cities. At one point - on 9th and 10th January - 1? million people around the world showed their solidarity with the Palestinian people on the street. In Europe, the movement consisted to a high degree of migrants but contained also sectors of the workers? movement and progressive youth. These movements expressed the sentiments of the majority of the population who - in opposition to the pro-Israeli or, ?balanced? mass reporting - were clearly against the Israeli massacres. It is no accident that Israel?s foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, was the first inside the government to advocate a ceasefire by the Israeli army and to warn of the increasing isolation of Israel in ?world public opinion.? Of course, she presented this as rising tide of ?anti-Semitism.? But now millions upon millions can see through this cynical use of peoples naturally concern over the historic crimes against Jewish people and who oppose continued use of such terms by the far-right. In fact, Israel?s loss of its privileged status, especially in the West, can have important implications in the future. What also characterised the solidarity movement was that, unlike the widespread pacifist tendencies of anti-war movements in the past, increasing support for the armed resistance of the oppressed was manifested.

7. The impact of this dramatic growth of support for the Palestinians was clearest to the European Union which tried to utilise the war to increase its profile and its role as a Great Power in the Middle East by pushing itself forward as a mediator - not of course with Hamas who it regards as terrorists but with the Arab leaders who had tacitly given the Zionists the go-ahead. After 22 days, which witnessed demonstrations in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world in which the names of Hosni Mubarak and the Saudi King were held up for criticism, they too were forced to condemn the sheer destruction and call for a halt. In fact they were embarrassed the scale and publicity of the Zionist criminal actions, disappointed that they did not succeed in destroying Hamas and alarmed at how compromised their own position began to look. They had tried to blame Hamas for the Israeli onslaught. Not just the people of Gaza but their own citizens were blaming them for having colluded in the attacks. European Union intervention was welcomed by them and indeed finally by Israel, trying to get out of a potential quagmire. Although, of course, the EU leaders fundamentally sided with Israel?s objectives, the pressure from the mobilisations back home encouraged them to use its increasing power and the declining power of US imperialism to increase their influence in the region. This too could be significant in future.

8. The Gaza war has taught three important lessons: first, a cruelly oppressed people are not forced to accept oppression but can successfully fight back against the oppressor. This experience - like Hizbollah?s victory in 2006 - will be an important inspiration for the liberation struggle of the Palestinian people but also to many other oppressed people around the world. Secondly, the enormous pressure that the solidarity movement could put on governments demonstrated the importance of the international class struggle in fighting against imperialist wars and occupations. A strong global movement can put pressure even on a country with the fifth largest army in the world if it succeeds in endangering the political and economic interests of the oppressor?s ruling class and threatens the economic and military support on which Israel ultimately depends. Third, the war has shown that many ?progressive? forces, such as the social democrats and post-Stalinists in the imperialist world and the leaders of the Arab nations, crucially, in Egypt, are progressive only in words. Faced with Zionism?s genocidal war, they effectively took a neutral and passive position. In the West, the migrant workers and youth on the street have been much more progressive than those routinist leftists and liberals who in one way or another succumbed to the pressures of imperialism and Zionism. Using the excuse that Hamas were Islamic terrorists, if not clerical-fascists, these moral invertebrates failed to respond like the most basic sincere democrat should have done. In fact there is more than an element of arrogant, first world, imperialist racism in such attitudes. Similarly, across the Arab world, angry demonstrations, often viciously repressed, made clear not only who the real allies of the Palestinians are but the need to overthrow the collaborationist regimes who turn their backs on Gaza and their police on the masses.

9. Where next?

• We must have no illusions about the ceasefire. Israel has threatened to ?respond with devastating force? if any missile is fired into Israel. The solidarity movement must continue its activity.

• Gaza remains under siege and to its former misery has been added the terrible 'degradation' of its most basic infrastructure. Huge amounts of aid, food, medical and other health volunteers must, whole hospitals must be set up without any bars on the participation of Hamas.

• The solidarity movement must continue to mobilise to demand the lifting of every element of the blockade, the unconditional opening of all the borders both with Israel and with Egypt.

• Whilst the evidence is still fresh and undeniable, commissions of investigation into Israel's war crimes, consisting of antiwar campaigners, trade unionists, politicians, journalists, filmmakers, must go to Gaza and record the facts and the stories of the people. The women's movement could play an important role. A campaign for denouncing Israel's war crimes - on the model of the Russell Vietnam War Crimes tribunals in the late 1960s - would be a step forward.

• A ?peace plan? is already afoot to gain for Israel by secret diplomacy and hypocritical international resolutions what it could not win on the battlefield; the destruction of Hamas within Gaza. Having destroyed so much of the social infrastructure built up by Hamas and its associated charitable institutions over decades, the plan will insist on their rebuilding solely under the control of pro-US Arab regimes or Palestinian National Authority, doubtless under Israeli inspection. This, they imagine, will uproot Hamas socially.

• Gaza's borders with the outside world might be handed over to a 'peace keeping force' (under the EU, the UN) or by Abbas - lackeys who have no democratic legitimacy amongst the Gaza people.

• We need an international solidarity campaign to strategically isolate Israel as a racist apartheid state. No Israeli goods must be sold. A huge campaign to force divestment in Israel by governments, educational institutions, corporations must be launched. Those who refuse must be named and shamed. Their brands 'contaminated' on the web, in the high streets with the innocent blood they have shed. The Zionist butchers must feel an iron ring of hatred and contempt closing inexorably around them. Even less than South Africa is Israel able to live on its own, independent of the vast subsidies which keep it afloat. At the same time, we need to build strong relations with the consistent anti-war and anti-occupation forces in Israel itself to help them fight their ruling class.

10. Finally, the solidarity movement needs to start a discussion about the reasons for the war and its lessons. The first is the power of the oppressed - even in a tiny area and facing the most overwhelming odds - to resist and win where others with far greater resources give up. Second, the lesson is that international class struggle works (and anti-imperialist and national liberation struggles are part of the class struggle) it plays an important, even vital role. Now revolutionaries and anti-imperialist face a difficult but indispensable task to stimulate the eruption of this struggle across the Arab world, linking it to class struggles, such as those of the Egyptian workers, Down with the collaborators with imperialism and Zionism. Another key lessons is that the Gaza war is just one symptom of a whole system that rests on exploitation and oppression, i.e. of imperialist capitalism. That is why any consistent struggle against wars like this one must be combined with a long-term struggle to overthrow capitalism around the globe and to ensure the abolition of exploitation and oppression once and for all. This needs the coming together and organising of all those forces that share a consistent revolutionary programme and strategy for this struggle. This is why the League for the Fifth International played an active role from the beginning in the solidarity movement and why we connect this struggle with our struggle for an international socialist revolution. This is why we are fighting for the formation of the Fifth International!

International Secretariat of the League for the Fifth International