On October 28, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the start of the “second phase” of the war in the Gaza Strip. His announcement invoked the biblical command to exterminate the Amalekites, an enemy people of the ancient Israelites whom the vengeful god of the Old Testament literally calls to annihilate so that nothing is left: men, women, children, cows, sheep, houses, and more.
From a military point of view, in this new phase of the war, the Israeli army has made a ground invasion, dividing the Gaza Strip in two and maintaining a double tactic of siege and fire against the Palestinian people, in addition to the ongoing aerial bombardments. Bombs, missiles and white phosphorus abound, while there is no food, water, energy, fuel, or medical supplies, nor safe shelter in hospitals or schools. The entire civilian infrastructure is a “legitimate” target in the Israeli crusade to “eradicate Hamas.”
In the first four weeks of Israel’s military attacks, the Zionist state has killed more than 11,000 Palestinians, including about 4,800 children, in addition to 100 aid workers. These numbers, which increase daily, give an idea of the magnitude of Israel’s many war crimes. The ones of greatest impact are the deliberate attack on the Jabalia refugee camp on October 31 — the most densely populated and poorest in Gaza — and the bombing of an ambulance convoy in front of Al Shifa hospital on November 3. According to a report by Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, between October 7 and 31 Israel dropped 25,000 tons of explosives — the equivalent of two nuclear bombs — on the Gaza Strip.
The paramilitary attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank perpetrated by Zionist settlers — armed and guarded by the Israeli army — have killed more than 100 people. These attacks, along with the racist persecution against the 20 percent of the population which is of Arab origin in Israel, show the openly colonial character of the Israeli war against the Palestinian people. The October 7 Hamas attack is only a pretext to legitimize this war.
The more than 11,000 Palestinian deaths are neither “excesses” nor “collateral damage.” Israeli Holocaust historian Raz Segal defines it as a “textbook case of genocide unfolding in front of our eyes.” Israel is perpetrating this genocide with the complicity of its long-time allies: the United States, France, Great Britain, and Germany. It’s a new chapter in what Ilan Pappé calls “incremental genocide,” set in motion by the 1948 ethnic cleansing referred to as the Nakba. It continues in its colonial expansion and the Netanyahu government’s unabashed plans to annex the Gaza Strip (and the West Bank) and expel the local population to Egypt once the current slaughter is over. This extreme right-wing government — an alliance between Netanyahu’s Likud party, the religious right, and settlers — blatantly states that expulsion of the Palestinian people is necessary to “guarantee the security of the State of Israel” in the face of the failure of the apartheid regime in the Palestinian territories, as revealed by the October 7 offensive.
The goal set by Netanyahu’s emergency unity government to eradicate Hamas forever does not seem realistic. Since Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, and particularly since Hamas’s 2006 electoral victory, the Zionist state has been pursuing a strategy to “contain” Gaza in a precarious “unstable equilibrium” that its military euphemistically calls “mowing the lawn.” That is, attacking to weaken Hamas as much as possible, destroying its infrastructure, and withdrawing, with the aim of increasing “deterrence” capability. Military land occupation is another matter.
Several analysts have been pointing out the dire consequences for the State of Israel of a prolonged urban war in Gaza, which would act as a “great equalizer” in the sense of relativizing Israeli military superiority vis-à-vis the advantages of the local opposition (for example, the network of tunnels known as the “Gaza metro“). This is why Israel is carrying out a “scorched earth” policy before entering. This is where the hostage crisis comes into play: Hamas is holding more than 200 hostages, including Americans, French, Argentinians, in addition to Israeli citizens, and who are perhaps Hamas’s main bargaining chip.
The Netanyahu government is in the midst of a long crisis. Although the Hamas attack galvanized Israeli national unity and enabled the formation of an emergency unity government integrating Benny Gantz, the second leading opposition figure, Netanyahu and his far-right ministers remain deeply unpopular. The hostage crisis is putting pressure on that national unity, mostly from the families of hostages that are pushing for negotiations. To a lesser extent, there are also the war crimes that Israel is committing in Gaza and the West Bank, and the persecutions against Arabs in Israel, which are rejected by minority pacifist sectors.
The United States, Israel’s main ally, has been obscenely covering up the crimes of the State of Israel, not only with speeches and vetoes at the United Nations. The United States’ most important contribution is the tons of ammunition and armaments; the dispatch of the main U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and fighter planes to the region; military advisors and commanders, billions of dollars, and diplomacy. The U.S. administration — helmed by Biden, a self-described Zionist — continues to espouse a Middle East policy along the lines of the “Abraham Accords” promoted by Donald Trump to normalize relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors — at the expense of Palestinians — with the aim of building an “anti-Iran axis.” This reactionary geopolitical scheme, which Saudi Arabia was about to join, went into crisis. U.S. policy is to support Israel’s war in Gaza but to prevent it from spilling over into a regional war involving Iran, in which the U.S. could not refrain from sending troops.
The Israeli war against Gaza highlighted the weakness of U.S. imperialism, which had regained international standing with the war in Ukraine by unifying the European powers behind its leadership in NATO, with an eye on its strategic dispute with China. For the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States is facing an organized opposition to its leadership (by the so-called “Global South”). This is demonstrated by the alliance between China and Russia (and to a lesser extent Iran) and the emergence of “middle powers,” such as Turkey, which manage their “multiple alignments” without breaking ties, but also without blindly complying with Washington’s dictates.
This relative weakness of the main imperialist power was made explicit in the United Nations vote in which the United States voted with 13 other countries against a tepid humanitarian pause in Gaza, approved by 120 votes in favor and 45 abstentions. Although these votes have no practical effect, symbolically, they have shown the limits of U.S. influence. And domestically, the Biden administration is facing an increasingly radicalized Trumpist Republican opposition — which oscillates between isolationism and warmongering — that is doubling down on its support for Israel and seeking to put an end to U.S. economic aid to Ukraine in the proxy war against Russia.
So far, neither the United States nor Iran and its allied militias seem willing to enter into a regional war, beyond some occasional military skirmishes. This was made clear in the predictable message from Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who expressed his solidarity but made it clear that the Hamas attack on Israel was “100 percent Palestinian,” disassociating Iran. He maintained the de rigueur phrase that “all options are on the table,” but without committing his militia (or Lebanon) to a new war against Israel.
In recent days, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has tried unsuccessfully to get Netanyahu to agree to a “humanitarian pause” to allow international aid to enter the Gaza Strip. Biden seems to be beginning to pay a political cost for his unconditional support to the right-wing Israeli regime in his slaughter of Palestinians. The war has opened an internal crisis with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. And according to recent polls, his openly pro-Israel position is causing him to lose a lot of support in the Arab-Muslim electorate, which he will need in order to win the 2024 elections. To distance himself, if only rhetorically, from the more extreme policies of the Netanyahu government, President Biden refloated the failed two-state solution — a deception that has long since ceased to work because it showed that all it has to offer is an apartheid regime.
The brutality of the Israeli attacks against Gaza caused mass mobilizations all over the world. Not only in Arab and Muslim countries, but also in Latin America and the imperialist countries, particularly Great Britain, the Spanish State, France, the United States (and Germany, to a lesser extent). These mobilizations in the imperialist countries defy the repressive policies of governments that persecute and criminalize all those who show solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people, in many cases accusing protesters of being apologists for terrorism. In addition to the protests on the campuses of elite universities and the protests of Jewish anti-Zionist organizations (such as Jewish Voice for Peace), some vanguard actions of the labor movement are also beginning to appear, such as blockades by transport workers’ unions in Belgium and Barcelona to prevent the shipment of arms to Israel.
We are at the beginning of the emergence of an anti-war movement taking up the Palestinian cause — a just, anti-colonial, and anti-imperialist cause — and breaking the reactionary militarist consensus that the imperialist governments had tried to establish with the Russian and Ukrainian/NATO war. This burgeoning movement is reminiscent of the movement against the Vietnam War and, more recently, the Iraq War. The development of this movement and its political radicalization in the face of war and repression, together with the resistance of the Palestinian masses, is what can defeat the Zionist state and its accomplices, put an end to the apartheid regime, and open the road to win a secular and socialist Palestine in all its historical territory — the only guarantee for the peaceful coexistence of Arabs and Jews.
Originally published in Spanish on November 5 in La Izquierda Diario.
Translation by Molly Rosenzweig