On the strategy and tactics of the Palestinian liberation struggle

Statement of the Central Leadership of the Communist Organization of 24 December 2023, revised on March 10, 2024

English translation of the statement, for the German version go here

  1. Introduction

The genocide committed by Israel in Gaza, the deliberate slaughter of a people and the almost complete destruction of a city of millions, the complicity of all Western imperialists in this crime have once again put the question of the liberation of Palestine on the agenda with brutal urgency. This almost automatically raises questions about the character of the Palestinian liberation struggle and what the right strategy and tactics of this struggle can be. In the communist movement, there are very different assessments of many of these questions. Even forces (in Germany and internationally) that are close to us and our analyses have come to different positions regarding the assessment of the Palestinian liberation struggle and the role of communists in it. We, in turn, believe that some of these conclusions are misguided and may weaken both the internationalist position in the world communist movement in general and support for the Palestinian people in particular. The purpose of this text is to address these misconceptions – which concern, for example, the fundamental assessment of the war, the strategic goals of the liberation struggle and the relationship to bourgeois forces such as Hamas. Our hope is to contribute to an objective discussion of these issues and the correction of some errors.

  • Imperialism and national liberation

For communists, the question of national liberation has always been inextricably linked to the analysis of oppressive conditions under imperialism and the strategy of socialist revolution.

For example, the Communist International wrote very clearly in its 1929 program: “The international proletarian revolution represents a combination of processes which vary in time and character; purely proletarian revolutions; revolutions of a bourgeois-democratic type which grow into proletarian revolutions; wars for national liberation; colonial revolutions. The world dictatorship of the proletariat comes only as the final result of the revolutionary process”. With regard to “national wars and colonial rebellions”, it is stated that “although not in themselves revolutionary proletarian socialist movements, [they] are nevertheless, objectively, in so far as they undermine the domination of imperialism, constituent parts of the world proletarian revolution”[1]. The developments of the world communist movement in recent years show that it is particularly important to develop a correct understanding of national liberation – after all, this term, which historically had some significance for the strategy of the communist movement, is today often used in a falsified and misleading way.

Today, more than ever, imperialism is a global system in which all countries are integrated in their own specific way, depending on their respective historical development. In most countries, monopoly capitalism has emerged as the economic essence of imperialism. Colonialism, which subjugated huge parts of the planet even after the Second World War, is largely consigned to history, as almost all former colonies have successfully liberated themselves, sometimes in the fiercest military confrontation with the colonial powers, sometimes in agreement with them.

The struggle for national liberation took on different forms in the last and penultimate century – as a struggle against multinational “prisons of peoples” such as the Russian Tsarist Empire, the Ottoman Empire or Austria-Hungary, culminating in the creation of new bourgeois nation states (Poland, Serbia, Hungary, Greece, Bulgaria, etc.) or, in the case of Russia, in the unification of a Socialist republic; or as a struggle for liberation from the yoke of colonialism and semi-colonialism (for example in the case of China or Persia), which also resulted in the creation of new states that were bourgeois or, in a few cases, socialist in character. The task of national liberation, which consisted of emancipation from racist, oppressive and exploitative conditions to which entire nations were subjected, has essentially been completed since then.

  1. Right and left deviations on the issue of national liberation

The idea, also widespread in the communist movement, that the goal of national liberation is not only political independence but also some kind of “economic sovereignty” is a dead end. For it is true, of course, that the economic life of a nation integrated into the capitalist world market is always subject to external dependencies. Under capitalist conditions, however, these dependencies can only be weakened in one way, namely by rising within the imperialist hierarchy, by strengthening one’s own bourgeoisie in relation to others. Such an understanding of “national liberation” thus simply means subordinating the interests of the working class to the requirements of capital accumulation. This has nothing to do with national liberation in the proper sense; it is simply the policy in the interests of the bourgeoisie pursued by the governments of all bourgeois states.

It is therefore very important to distinguish the situation of a colony from other forms of dependency. We can speak of a colonial system when, firstly, a country has no state structures of its own (or only limited ones in the case of a semi-colony), but only an administrative and repressive apparatus imposed by and dependent on a foreign power; and, secondly, when the inhabitants of this country do not enjoy the same civil rights as the inhabitants of the colonial power. For this reason, the Basque Country, for example, is not a colony, because the Basques do not have a citizenship that is different from that of the other citizens of the Spanish State. Palestine, on the other hand, is a colony because Palestinians not only do not have a state of their own, but are also subject to a strict apartheid regime that denies them basic rights.

Settler colonialism is a particular form of colonialism: It involves not only taking possession of another country or territory, but also systematically settling a ‘master race’ with the aim of living there permanently and building a society. The indigenous population is always seen as a problem that stands in the way of the colonial rulers’ unrestricted appropriation of the land. Settler colonial systems have historically existed in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Algeria and South Africa, for example, and have led to the oppression or widespread extermination of indigenous peoples.

Does the essentially completed decolonisation of the world mean that there are no national liberation struggles today, or that the working class has no longer anything to gain from such struggles? In the world communist movement, but also in Germany, some comrades seem to think so. Within the Marxist-Leninist movement, the assessment of the Palestinian liberation struggle is very diverse. A number of parties and organisations that are close to us in terms of content, and with some of which we have close relations, recognise in the abstract that a national liberation struggle is necessary in Palestine, but shy away from supporting it in concrete terms. This is also true, to varying degrees, of some revolutionary forces in Germany that adopt a sort of equidistance, i.e. a position of equal distance from Israel and Hamas.

This position is particularly problematic precisely because it is often held by communists who have a fundamentally correct analysis of imperialism, but then tend to use it as an abstract template to be applied equally to every concrete case, without analysing the development concretely. It is so problematic because the opportunists have repeatedly leveled precisely this accusation against the proponents of a Leninist analysis of imperialism: Our view of imperialism as a world system is a “one size fits all” logic, which in fact equates all countries with each other and leaves no room for grasping the huge differences that do exist between the various countries in concrete terms. At this point, we have to say quite clearly that if we were to ignore the real differences between countries – differences in economic or military power, cultural influence, dependency mechanisms such as the CFA franc in West Africa or the ongoing (and very different) occupations of Palestine, Western Sahara, Northern Cyprus, etc. – then this would indeed be subject to criticism.

But this is not the case. The realisation that the decolonisation of the world is by and large complete cannot hide the fact that Palestine remains under a settler-colonial regime and barbaric national oppression. The fact that we have to discard the national liberation struggle as part of the revolutionary strategy as obsolete for the vast majority of countries today, does not change the fact that it is anything but obsolete in Palestine, but rather represents an urgent task that we as a world communist movement cannot avoid.

In the last two years, we, as KO, have strongly argued that the war in Ukraine must be understood as a clash between two imperialist blocs, as a war for the redivision of the world. Such a war, fought over the capitalists’ spheres of influence, market shares, raw materials and transport routes, cannot be in the interests of the broad masses of the people, the working class. For communists, it necessarily follows that neither side in such a war should be supported – which does not necessarily mean that we have to treat both sides exactly the same in our agitation and propaganda. But the position of social chauvinism, which solidarises with the ruling class of one side or the other and is prepared to send our class brothers and sisters to their deaths for the profits of the capitalists, must be fought, its influence on the communist movement pushed back and eliminated.

Does the war in Palestine have the same character as the war in Ukraine? Is it necessary to evaluate and condemn the actions of both sides in the same way? Unfortunately, there is such a position in “our camp” of the communist movement, i.e. in the groups, organisations and parties in Germany and internationally, which fundamentally adopt a Marxist-Leninist point of view, which, for example, assess the war in Ukraine from an internationalist perspective and reject the false conceptions of imperialism that reduce imperialism to a handful of Western states. We want to argue here against this position, which mechanically transfers the analysis of the war in Ukraine to the context of Palestine. Because there is much at stake in this question: the attitude with which the communists in Palestine and Israel must approach the question of the national liberation of the Palestinian people; but for us it is also a question of justifying the Marxist-Leninist analysis of imperialism and our conception of a revolutionary strategy against a left deviation that ultimately harms the communist movement. If the anti-revisionist section of the communist movement does not succeed in correctly embedding the question of national liberation in the revolutionary strategy where it actually still arises, right-wing opportunism will inevitably profit from this. A de facto dissociation from the Palestinian liberation struggle leads to leaving this struggle in Palestine to the Islamic and bourgeois nationalist forces and to strengthening those forces in the world communist movement that want to lead “national liberation struggles” all over the world, even if this has nothing to do with the actual conditions and struggles on the ground.

The view, sometimes encountered in Germany, that the “Middle East conflict” “will not be solved by us in Germany” and that it is therefore not important for communists in Germany to take a position on it should also be vehemently rejected. The working class is as international as the communist movement. The colonisation of Palestine and the oppression of the Palestinian people is objectively a problem of the global working class, including that in Israel, and not just one of the Palestinians. To deny that the occupation of Palestine is a problem of the working class of the whole world is ultimately to deny that there are any common interests of the world working class at all, and thus to reject proletarian internationalism altogether. There is no basis for “excluding” the working class of certain countries from the commonality of class interests. To do so is to weaken the fighting power of the class, which is based precisely on its unity across all borders.

For German imperialism, taking part in the colonial oppression of Palestine is also crucial and helps to stabilise its rule: First, by allowing the German ruling class to present its support for Israel as a lesson from the Holocaust and as reparations for Nazi crimes. This deliberately creates the impression that those in power have “learned from the past”, even though after 1945 a conscious decision was made not to touch the capitalist property relations that gave rise to fascism. Second, under the ideological guise of “coming to terms with guilt”, German companies are doing lucrative business with Israel, including arms sales. Thirdly, Israel plays the role of spearhead of the “West” in the region for the USA and the EU, asserting the interests of the European and US bourgeoisies against rival powers such as Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. Fourthly, the German state uses the issue to criminalise and repress communists and anyone who takes a stand against occupation and colonialism with the help of a grotesquely distorted concept of anti-Semitism. This is another reason why we in Germany cannot avoid dealing with the Palestinian liberation struggle.

Therefore, it should be stated from the beginning: A national and anti-colonial liberation struggle is taking place in Palestine, which must be supported by the communists of the whole world. Internationalism proves itself in practice – and this is especially true where, as in Germany, solidarity with the Palestinian people is exposed to a veritable storm of right-wing agitation by the government, the media and the bourgeois parties.

  • What are we dealing with in Palestine?

The different conclusions about the character of the war in Palestine may also be partly due to the fact that there is no common understanding in the communist movement about how to characterise the conditions in Palestine. So let’s try to get some clarity first:

Israel is not an “ordinary” nation-state like Germany or Italy. Nor can it be equated with multi-ethnic bourgeois states in which forms of national discrimination persist, such as Turkey or Spain. Israel is the state implementation of the idea of Zionism, which can be summarised as follows: According to Zionism, the Jews are not only a religious community but also a nation; the Jews can only live in freedom if they create their own Jewish state, which offers a “protected space” for potentially all Jews in the world. The alleged need for this state is justified by the persecution and discrimination to which Jews have been subjected for centuries and, of course, since the Holocaust, by the monstrous crimes of fascism, especially German fascism.

What makes Zionism particularly reactionary is not only the fact that many of its leaders expressed racist views against other ethnic groups, especially the Palestinians, from the very beginning, because such manifestations also existed in other nationalist movements. Zionism is particularly reactionary because of the configuration in which it operates: Jewish people live scattered all over the world, and in the formative phase of Zionist ideology at the end of the 19th century, there was no land that was not already occupied by other peoples. However, Zionism did not simply propagate that there must be places where members of Judaism could live in peace – of course such a goal would have been correct and worthy of support, and was always shared by the Communists. Zionism was, and is, of the opinion that such a country must be populated either exclusively or at least predominantly by Jews, and that the state to be created must be a state of the Jews. The fact that the Zionists wanted to establish their state in what was then the British colony of Palestine was solely for religious reasons – because ancient Israel was to be recreated as the home of the Jews, and all Jews were supposed to have a “birthright” to live in this land because of the religious valuation of the land as the “Holy Land”, in contrast to the indigenous population of Palestine, who were not granted such a right. In the end, the secular currents of Zionism also made religion their frame of reference – as they had to, since Judaism is in reality a ethnic-religious group, not a nation.[2] From the point of view of British imperialism, which at the time controlled Palestine as the “Mandate”, there were of course material interests at stake: A Zionist state, which would become the “natural enemy” of the surrounding Arab countries by displacing the Arab population, promised to be a very useful ally for the enforcement of British interests throughout the region. Zionism thus sought to create a state for the Jews, but in a land where Jews had been a relatively small minority for centuries. According to a 1921 British government report on its then Mandate of Palestine: “The Jewish element of the population numbers 76,000. Almost all have entered Palestine during the last 40 years.  Prior to 1850 there were in the country only a handful of Jews.”[3]. The total population of Palestine is given in the report as “barely 700,000 people”, so according to this source the Jewish population was about 11% after decades of Jewish immigration to Palestine. According to demographic data from the Jewish Virtual Library, there were 24,000 Jews in Palestine in 1882 (8% of the population), 60,000 in 1922 (11% of the population) and 630,000 in 1947 630.000 (32%)[4]. Even the massive influx of Jewish immigrants to Palestine in the 20th century (even before the fascist takeover in Germany) could not create a Jewish majority in Palestine. There was no other way to achieve this goal than to expel the Palestinians, i.e. to ethnically cleanse the country.[5] And so it happened: during the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1947 and 1948, which took place before, during and after the creation of the Israeli state, some 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their land and thousands were murdered in various massacres.[6] The Nakba was not, as is often claimed, a reaction to the Arab states’ war against Israel, but the implementation of plans that Zionist groups in Palestine had been pursuing for a long time and had tried to realise through terrorist attacks against Palestinian civilians long before.

In addition to the expulsion and murder of Palestinians, which continues to this day and is implemented in the form of the destruction of Palestinian homes and agriculture, as well as the continued construction of settlements under all Israeli governments, a strict apartheid system has been established and intensified for decades. The “Nation-State Law” adopted in 2018, which has constitutional and immutable status (Art. 11), describes Israel as the “nation-state of the Jewish people”, explicitly not as the state of all its citizens (Art. 1). It also provides for the annexation of East Jerusalem (“The capital of Israel shall be the whole and united Jerusalem”, Art. 3) and Zionist settlement construction, i.e. the continued expulsion of Palestinians (“The State of Israel regards the expansion of Jewish settlement as a national value. It shall endeavour to encourage and promote the establishment and consolidation of Jewish settlement”, Art. 7).[7] Thus, the system of apartheid and expulsion, which systematically denies Palestinians the rights to which Israeli citizens are entitled (and also systematically discriminates against Arab citizens of Israel), is enshrined in the Israeli constitution.

The aim of building settlements in the West Bank is obviously to eventually incorporate this land into the Zionist state project and make a two-state solution impossible (see below). The state of Israel has still not defined its borders, so there is no end in sight to Israel’s escalating territorial claims. The genocidal war that Israel unleashed in Gaza in October is also just one consequence of the Zionist project of continuous land theft, which regards the Palestinian people as a “foreign body” on their own land and ultimately sees the solution to this “problem” only in the expulsion or physical annihilation of this people, as many leading Israeli politicians have clearly stated. The President of Israel, Yitzhak Herzog, for example: “An entire people is responsible. This rhetoric about civilians not being involved is absolutely untrue (…) and we will fight until we break their backs”. Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari: “We are dropping hundreds of tonnes of bombs on Gaza. The focus is on destruction, not accuracy”[8]. Amichai Eliyahu, the fascist Minister of Heritage, spoke in a radio interview about the “possibility” of dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza, which Netanyahu criticised[9]. But Prime Minister Netanyahu himself addressed the Israelis: “You must remember what Amalek did to you, our holy Bible says”. In Jewish tradition, Amalek is the name given to a people who were considered the archenemy of the Jewish people in biblical times. The Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) calls for the destruction of their men and women, their children, infants and livestock[10] – and it is this consequence that Netanyahu is clearly alluding to. A host of other quotes from leading Israeli politicians could be cited here, proving beyond doubt the regime’s genocidal intent.

It is crucial to understand that ethnic cleansing and apartheid, and ultimately the outright genocide we are now witnessing in Gaza, are rooted in the very foundations of settler colonialism. The indigenous peoples of North America, like the Aborigines of Australia or the Herero and Nama of Namibia, were systematically confined, dehumanised and ultimately murdered by white settlers. An ideology that, like Zionism from its inception, sees the land it claims as a “land without a people”, i.e. simply does not see the indigenous population as a “people” and not as human beings, carries the seeds of apartheid and genocide.

The struggle for the liberation of the Palestinian people is therefore not simply a struggle between different interests or ideologies, and certainly not a “religious conflict”. It is a struggle for survival, a struggle against the gradual, now accelerated, expulsion and annihilation, and against the apartheid that oppresses and disempowers the Palestinian people. The struggle of the Palestinian people against colonisation, apartheid and their own expulsion or annihilation is an objective necessity – as objectively necessary as the struggle between the working class and the bourgeoisie, which always breaks out. Unlike in other cases of national oppression (e.g. the Kurds, at least in western Turkey), the Palestinians do not have the option of escaping the atrocities of the ruling class by assimilating into the state nation. Zionism is therefore a national blood-and-soil ideology that leaves the Palestinians with only the choice of resistance or destruction. Under these conditions, any people would choose resistance, and rightly so.

3. On the strategic orientation of the national liberation struggle

Without a victory of the Palestinian liberation movement, neither the world-historical struggle of the peoples against the barbaric system of colonialism nor the victory over apartheid in South Africa and the USA is complete. Therefore, we must emphasise with all clarity: The Palestinian liberation struggle is a just struggle and it is objectively in the interest of the working class all over the world to support it.

However, this does not answer the question of what the goals of the struggle should be, and which forces can be counted on as allies, and in what form. Let us begin with the question of the goals of the liberation struggle.

The goal of the class struggle of the working class is socialism-communism, i.e. the overthrow of capitalist class society, the seizure of political power by the working class and the socialisation of the means of production with central planning of all production. There has long been a widespread view in the communist movement that socialism should not be the immediate goal of the class struggle, but can only be achieved through an intermediate stage, which, depending on the country, is called “anti-monopoly democracy” or “national liberation”, “economic sovereignty”, and in the Maoist variant also “new democratic revolution”, and is conceived differently in each case. Such a strategy based on intermediate stages always implies that for some reason the socialisation of the means of production is not yet possible and therefore a stage of development is necessary in which the rule of the bourgeoisie or a section of it continues to exist, possibly in “alliance” with the working class and other layers and classes. But the interests of the working class and the bourgeoisie are diametrically opposed. There can be no joint rule of the working class and the capitalists, and certainly no bourgeois state that acts in the interests of the working class and somehow prepares the transition to socialism. The essence of the rule of the bourgeoisie is to organise the accumulation of capital, i.e. the exploitation of labour. The essence of the rule of the working class is to wrest the means of production from the bourgeoisie and socialise them. There can be no compromise or middle ground between these two poles. This realisation is one of the fundamental principles of Marxism and applies to all bourgeois states.

But what about Palestine, where the task of national liberation is still unfinished? It is often said that the liberation of Palestine from colonial oppression must first be fought for, and only then can the struggle for socialism be waged. This view must be opposed: Capitalist conditions also exist in Palestine, and class differences also exist in Palestine. It is true that the Palestinian bourgeoisie is also hampered in its development by the Israeli occupation and repeated wars. But the Palestinian bourgeoisie, like any other, is also trying to consolidate its rule over the broad working masses.

Sometimes the very existence of a Palestinian bourgeoisie is questioned. Indeed, the Palestinian economy is very fragmented, consisting largely of petty-bourgeois and petty-capitalist economic units. However, Palestinian society has not escaped the natural development of capitalism into monopoly capitalism. In addition to the influence of foreign monopolies, which of course also sell their products in the Palestinian territories, there are also a handful of larger Palestinian companies that occupy a monopoly position within the small Palestinian market. Examples include the telecommunications company Paltel, with assets equivalent to US$740 million and 2630 employees[11], the leading Palestinian financial institution Bank of Palestine (around US$6.5 billion and 1800 employees, as of 2022)[12] and the investment company PADICO (US$815 million and 4300 employees, as of 2021)[13]. Not many figures can be found on class relations and the bourgeoisie in Gaza, but there are a few that give a picture: A 2020 GPGFTU (​​Gaza Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions) statement talks about 2000 factories in different sectors.[14] The general strike in Gaza in 2014 involved 40,000 public sector workers.[15] According to various reports, which are difficult to verify, some Hamas leaders such as Ismail Haniyeh live abroad, while properties in Gaza are registered in the names of their children.[16] In addition to financial support from other states, they invest their capital abroad, for example in companies in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, often in the construction sector.[17] The US sanctions against individual companies and investors in Qatar and Turkey, among others, also indicate the existence of these money flows, which the US government estimates to be worth 500 million dollars.[18]

Palestinian capitalists have a contradictory relationship with the liberation struggle: on the one hand, they have an interest in a Palestinian state, since the lack of sovereignty of the Palestinian Authority (e.g. no tax collection and therefore total financial dependence on Israel), its limited control over infrastructure and the constant instability and repeated wars are major obstacles to the accumulation of Palestinian capital. On the other hand, armed resistance to the occupation is also a threat to their profits, especially major operations that can lead to massive Israeli attacks and further restrictions on their economic space. Politically, this ambivalence is expressed in the division of the Palestinian bourgeois leadership into a collaborationist wing (Fatah) and an armed resistance wing (Hamas, PIJ).

What would a Palestine liberated from occupation under the leadership of the bourgeoisie look like?

Let’s take a look at the neighbouring Arab countries for comparison: the fact that colonial rule was shaken off in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon was a historic step forward. However, the masses in these countries continue to live in misery and are still controlled by corrupt and repressive governments that serve the exploiting classes. It is precisely the independent strategies and interests of the bourgeoisies in these countries that seek their own accumulation of capital and condemn the working class to a life of deprivation and misery. However, the fact that national liberation in these countries led to new bourgeois states was not inevitable, but was due to the lack of strength and, in some cases, the strategic errors of the communists – in particular their inability to combine national liberation with socialist revolution in their strategy.

The national liberation struggle, where it still has an objective basis as in Palestine, is a struggle in which the communists can and must prove their role as the most consistent champions of the working class and the masses of the people. In Palestine, the people suffer both from national oppression by the Zionist state, which arbitrarily arrests and beats them because of their nationality, expels them from their land, harasses them at checkpoints, destroys their houses and murders their families, as well as under their oppression as the working class and by far the poorest section of society, who have long been living in the most degrading conditions in the Gaza Strip, with barely usable drinking water, malnutrition and catastrophic housing conditions, and who are also struggling to survive in abject poverty in the West Bank. National and class oppression are closely linked: Although there is an Israeli working class, the situation of Palestinians is on average far worse. Not only are they racially oppressed by Israel, they are also kept in poverty and exploited as cheap labour for the Israeli capitalists. A liberation that abolishes the apartheid system and daily state terror would undoubtedly be a step forward and to be welcomed per se, but for the vast majority of the Palestinian people it would only be half a liberation (but at least that!) if their exploiters merely changed nationality or if the bourgeoisie, which also exists in Palestine, became the new ruling class.

The struggle of communists should therefore be directed against the settler-colonial apartheid state as a particularly reactionary, despicable form of capitalist oppression, while not losing sight of the capitalist basis of this oppression and striving not for a capitalist but for a socialist Palestine. There is no objective reason why national liberation should be understood as an intermediate stage rather than an elementary strategic goal of socialist strategy. Of course, this does not mean that in cases of doubt national liberation under bourgeois auspices should not be welcomed and supported, in order to then take up the struggle against the new bourgeois state. But this is not the same as the communists envisaging in their own strategy the necessity of national liberation as a separate step that must necessarily precede the socialist revolution. Such a view means that the communist party no longer sets itself the task of using the national liberation struggle to gather forces for the socialist revolution, with the aim that the new power created as a result of this struggle will create the conditions for moving as directly as possible to socialism.

The organic connection between the two strategic goals – liberation from colonialism and liberation from the rule of the bourgeoisie – does not only mean the connection of abstract slogans and goals that lie in the distant future. Above all, it also means that in the daily struggle of the Palestinian people, which is not only directed against the military occupation but also includes economic struggles, the communists must learn and master all fields and forms of this struggle and fight for a vanguard role in all these areas. This means that in Palestine too, the organisation of the working class for the solution of all its problems must be advanced, i.e. in the factories and neighbourhoods, against the Zionist occupation, but also against the Palestinian Authority collaborating with it, for free education and health care, freedom of organisation, housing, and so on. Since the occupation causes or aggravates most of these problems, the struggle is necessarily and automatically always directed against the occupying power.

3.1. The role of the working class in Israel

Sometimes we hear the argument that the working class or people in Israel are so closely associated with and benefit so much from settler colonialism that it is impossible to win them over to support the Palestinian liberation struggle. On the surface, there seems to be some evidence to support this view: There are probably few countries where such a large proportion of the population openly and shamelessly espouses fascist views, and where the chauvinist, racist incitement of the population in general is so advanced. In Israel, there is a trend on social media of influencers making fun of dying civilians in Gaza. There are videos of celebrating Israelis cheering the deaths of Palestinian children, banners in Tel Aviv explicitly calling for genocide, and an Israeli government openly and repeatedly declaring its genocidal intentions without fear of outcry from Israeli society. There is, of course, a material basis for the chauvinist involvement of the Israeli working class: they live on land that was once forcibly stolen from the Palestinians. Some of them live in West Bank settlements where, thanks to state subsidies, life is considerably cheaper than in Israel itself.

But can we stop there? Can we label all or almost all Israelis as fascists and therefore enemies of the international working class? Of course not. First of all, this approach is very superficial. It is based on a snapshot of the state of consciousness instead of determining the objective class interests of the Israeli working class and deriving strategic orientations from them.

After all, the criterion for the development of strategy for communists is never the current balance of power or the level of consciousness of the working class, but the lawful development of social relations and the objective interests of the classes living in these relations. So what is the objective interest of the Israeli working class?

Israel is a colonial and apartheid state, but it is also a capitalist class society. The Israeli working class enjoys massive privileges over the Palestinians, but at the same time, and this is its most essential characteristic, it is an exploited class that, like workers all over the world, has to sell its labour power every day to increase the capitalists’ profits. Israeli society is characterised by extreme social inequality, comparable to that in the USA. The poorer half of the population, including both Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel, earn an average of less than $1,000 a month in purchasing power, while there are over 157,000 millionaires in the country.[19] In the supposed “sanctuary of Jewish life”, as Zionist propagandists refer to the state of Israel, millions of Jews also live in degrading and poor conditions. This is true, for example, of the many Jews from Arab countries who were brought into the country under false promises and who live in poverty in Israel and are subject to great racist discrimination. In any case, there is no doubt that capitalism has nothing to offer the Israeli working class; it too needs socialism. But does it have an objective interest in the Palestinian liberation struggle? Objectively, the Israeli working class has a special interest. For it pays for the land gains and privileges it has received from the colonial system with the strengthening of the class rule of its exploiters. This exploiter, the class enemy of the Israeli working class, is the Israeli bourgeoisie, which rules with a terrorist state apparatus armed to the teeth and which lets the Israeli people die in this war in its various forms (in war, as a result of attacks by Palestinian groups, etc.). 7 October 2023 has also shown this: Nowhere is the life of Jews more insecure, nowhere is the likelihood of violent death for Jews higher than in the supposed “safe space” of Israel, which ultimately uses its population as cannon fodder for its constant colonial wars.

The Israeli bourgeoisie uses the state of war, which it has created and keeps alive, to stir up a chauvinist climate, first against the Palestinians in the occupied territories, then against the Palestinian citizens of Israel, then against the Ethiopian and Arab Jews, etc., until the whole working class is divided and set against each other along ethnic and religious lines. Not only the division into Jews and Palestinians is relevant, but also the division of the Jews among themselves into Central and Eastern Europeans (Ashkenazim), Orientals (Mizrahim), Southern Europeans (Sephardim), Ethiopians, etc., as well as the division of the Palestinians into the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. The main victims of this effective strategy of domination are, of course, the Palestinians, but the Jewish working class also has an interest in overcoming the division and fragmentation of the class and fighting for the common class interest. This is why, for the Israeli working class, “the national emancipation of Ireland is not a question of abstract justice or humanitarian sentiment but the first condition of their own social emancipation“. Did we say Ireland? Sorry, we meant to say Palestine. Only it is not we who are speaking here, but Karl Marx in his letter of 1870 to Meyer and Vogt on the tasks of the International in the Irish question.[20] So if it was in the vital interest of the British working class to free itself from the chauvinism that justified the oppression of the Irish people, it is in the interest of the Israeli working class to fight and overcome the oppression of the Palestinian people – only then can it free itself. For this reason, not only is the Israeli working class not an enemy of the Palestinian liberation struggle, it is objectively an ally. Winning the Israeli working class to this alliance is first and foremost the task of the communists in Israel. Conversely, however, it is also crucial for the strategy of the Palestinian liberation struggle to win over at least a larger section of the Israeli working class. As long as the Israeli people are almost unanimously behind the terrorist occupation regime (even if many turn a blind eye to its crimes rather than explicitly endorse them), victory is hardly possible. If the struggle is waged purely militarily, without a strategy of political alliances, the Palestinians will probably always be defeated.

3.2 One- or two-state solution?

So what do we mean when we talk about the national liberation of Palestine? The discussion about the exact form of the national liberation of Palestine, i.e. whether a one-state or a two-state solution should be sought, is important, but it is not the most important discussion. First of all, it is crucial to reach an agreement within the communist movement that the Palestinian liberation struggle should be supported; that it should be supported even if we disagree on crucial points with the forces playing a leading role in it; that the criticism of the bourgeois forces in the Palestinian liberation struggle is correct and legitimate, but that the condemnation of these forces and the “dissociation” constantly demanded by the imperialist media is wrong, because it serves the distortions and lies of the imperialists; that the liberation struggle is a struggle for national and social liberation, i.e. liberation from capitalism, and that the communists must fight for a leading role in it by supporting the liberation struggle more consistently than the bourgeois forces can.

The ultimate goal of this struggle must be the abolition of all national oppression and, as a consequence, the overcoming of the division between the Israeli and Palestinian working classes. This can only be achieved through full equality and equal rights for both peoples, full reparations for Israeli crimes against the Palestinians, a right of return or at least equal compensation for all Palestinian refugees and, finally, punishment for the crimes of the Israeli politicians and military responsible. But how do we get there?

To this day, most communist parties call for a two-state solution within the 1967 borders, i.e. before the Six-Day War (in which Israel militarily conquered Gaza and the West Bank, among other places), with East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state. Surely such a plan, if it resulted in a truly independent Palestinian state and not another Israeli puppet government on Palestinian territory, would be a step forward for the Palestinian people. A two-state solution in this form, with defined borders of Palestine and Israel, would mean concretely: An end to the Israeli army’s starvation blockade of Gaza; an end to Israeli settlement building, the ongoing territorial expansion of Zionism and the displacement of Palestinians; an end to the military checkpoints in the West Bank and the apartheid road system that prevents Palestinians from using most of their own roads; and above all, an end to Israel’s periodic wars against the Palestinian people. If such an option had a chance of becoming a reality, it should certainly be supported.

But first, it would not be the final answer to the national question of the Palestinian people: it does not answer what should happen to the millions of Palestinian refugees who have been living for decades in refugee camps in Palestine and neighbouring countries. Should they all find a place in the densely populated West Bank and give up their right to return to their homes or to compensation for their looted and destroyed homes? Nor is the question of reconstruction settled when large parts of the Palestinian territories, especially Gaza, have been rendered uninhabitable by Israel’s wars and blockade. Secondly, there is the question of the feasibility of this solution: about 10% of Israel’s population, 700,000 people, live as settlers in the West Bank. On the one hand, it is absolutely clear that a two-state solution is impossible without the evacuation of all settlers and the transfer of the settlements to the Palestinian state. Without the end of the settlements, there would be no contiguous Palestinian territory, but an unviable patchwork interrupted every few kilometres by the Israeli military. And this is the main reason why the state of Israel, under all its governments, has continued to build settlements: To make a two-state solution impossible. On the other hand, which Israeli government would be prepared to remove 700,000 settlers from the West Bank? Since the majority of these settlers are far-right fanatics, organised and armed in paramilitary formations and convinced that they are doing God’s work by stealing land, such a decision would be hard to imagine without an internal Israeli civil war.

It is clear that no Zionist government, even one following a “liberal” variant of Zionism, would take such a step. A two-state solution would therefore only be possible if it were either forced upon the Zionists, in other words after a decisive military defeat of Israel, or if political forces came to power in Israel that were prepared not only to break with the goal of constant territorial expansion, but also to use considerable coercion against the extreme right of their own society, even if this meant that Israel would stop supplying and militarily protecting the settlements. Not only does the first option seem unrealistic – none of the surrounding Arab states seems interested in a major military conflict with Israel – but it also seems highly questionable whether communists can aspire to such a war, which would be fought mainly between bourgeois states and could potentially escalate into a major war in the region, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives. The first option means a major military conflict between the surrounding Arab states and Israel, in which none of the Arab states seem to be interested, at least at the moment. It means a war that would be fought mainly between bourgeois states, which would possibly escalate into a major war in the region and in which potentially hundreds of thousands could lose their lives, in which communists must not side with the capitalist states, because the latter would not be fighting for the liberation of Palestine, but for the redivision of the world. Apart from that, it is only speculation whether a military defeat would really put an end to Zionism – past wars with Israel tend to prove that this is wishful thinking.

There is therefore little alternative but to defeat Zionism politically and to bring to power forces that are prepared to do everything necessary to secure a lasting and just peace. In order for such a consciousness to gain a foothold among the people of Israel, the price of continued occupation and colonisation must be driven ever higher through determined resistance – the resistance of the Palestinians in its various forms, the solidarity of the labour and anti-war movements around the world, the sympathy of the Arab and Muslim peoples, but ultimately also the support of the bourgeois states motivated by their own interests – so that occupation and apartheid are no longer worthwhile for Israel’s ruling class.

Only when the Zionist regime suffers a mixture of political and military defeats will this lead to a rethink in Israel’s settler-colonial society. Conversely, in times when the resistance was so weak that the illusion of an ideal world of well-maintained parks, clean playgrounds and successful start-ups in Israel could be maintained, there was no reason even for those Israelis who are not convinced racists to think about the occupation and conditions on the other side of the fence – and that is why the fascisation of Israeli society has continued unchecked for many years, while the anti-war movement has remained on the defensive. So, without an organised, effective and sacrificial Palestinian resistance struggle, there will be no progress.

But if the end of Zionism is in any case a prerequisite for a reasonably peaceful coexistence of Jews and Palestinians in Palestine, then the question arises: once this condition, which today seems infinitely distant but is nevertheless inevitable, has been fulfilled, would it not be right to strive from the outset for a common state for all the people living in Palestine?

Such a one-state solution would mean the end of the Zionist project once and for all, that there would no longer be a “Jewish state” but a state in which Jewish Israelis and Palestinians would live side by side and as equals, in which the bloody past would be dealt with and decades of injustice to the Palestinians would be rectified. It would certainly only be possible as the result of a longer process in which the foundations would have to be laid not only for peace but also for coexistence. Of course, the Israelis in particular would have to prove that they want peace and that there will be no return to chauvinism and racism. The right-wing scaremongering that in a joint state it would be the Jews who would be expelled and deprived of their rights has little basis in fact. Similar claims were made about the end of apartheid in South Africa, and there were no pogroms against whites there either, even though they were a much smaller minority than the Jews in Palestine. As a result of a genuine peace process, there would simply be no need for this, and historically there are numerous examples of peaceful coexistence between Jewish and Arab-Muslim populations – including in Palestine itself.

But the one-state solution is also the right goal because it would get to the root of the problem – the existence of a state that regards all of Palestine (and parts of neighbouring countries) as its potential territory and the Palestinians as a foreign body on that land. It would also make it possible to realise the right of return of displaced persons and to achieve peaceful coexistence between the two peoples rather than mere neighbourliness. Some form of two-state solution could, of course, be a first step that could later evolve into a kind of confederation and then a common state.

3.3 The relationship to bourgeois forces in the resistance

A key question of the differences in the communist movement over the Palestinian liberation struggle is what relationship communists should have with the bourgeois forces of the Palestinian resistance. On the one hand, there is the position that communists should actively distance themselves from forces that advocate a reactionary ideology. Others argue that distinguishing between different forces of the Palestinian resistance and criticising the Islamic groups divides the resistance and distracts from the only relevant goal, which is the struggle against Zionism.

The fact that we cannot share the second position is already clear from our strategic orientation. Linking the national liberation struggle with the revolutionary struggle for socialism and rejecting a two-stage strategy for Palestine naturally means that bourgeois groups such as Hamas or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) are competitors within the liberation movement whose influence the communists must fight and roll back. Not only will such forces not be able to win a socialist revolution, they are likely to one day act as its mortal enemies and do everything in their power to prevent it.

Secondly, the separation of the national question from the class question, as practised by the bourgeois resistance forces, means a weakening of the national liberation struggle. Only the communists are in a position to consistently link the daily struggle of the masses for bread, housing and decent living conditions with the struggle against occupation and apartheid; only they can really tap all the energies, all the fighting reserves of the people and mobilise them for the struggle for liberation.

Thirdly, only a strategy aimed at organising the class struggle offers the prospect of appealing to the class interests of the proletariat on the other side of the border. In this respect, the dominance of Hamas in the Palestinian liberation movement is actually favourable from the Zionist point of view, at least compared to a scenario in which revolutionary forces would actually lead the liberation movement.

For the communists, however, the predominance of Islamic-conservative forces in the liberation movement is definitely a problem for the reasons mentioned above. Their influence must be pushed back and the communists must also (and above all) take the lead in this struggle.

But how do we get to this point? First of all, we should be aware of how Hamas has managed to become the almost undisputed leader of the Palestinian resistance. There are several reasons for this: first, the failure, indeed the betrayal, of the secular forces in the form of the PLO, which signed the so-called Oslo ‘peace agreement’. In Oslo, the PLO recognised Israel, but without receiving a clear guarantee of a Palestinian state. On the contrary, the occupation of the West Bank was enshrined by dividing the land into three zones, the majority of which were either under Israeli control alone or under joint administration by Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Far from being a step towards the liberation of Palestine, the newly established PA is an Israeli instrument for maintaining the occupation of the West Bank with a kind of Palestinian auxiliary police force and for suppressing Palestinian resistance. In the eyes of many Palestinians, the Oslo Accords were therefore a one-sided capitulation to Israel. Hamas, on the other hand, was able to distinguish itself as a force of consistent resistance that rejected Oslo and submission to Israel. It benefited from the fact that for years the Israeli state had not bothered or even supported it in order to weaken Israel’s main enemy at the time, the PLO, through the rise of internal Palestinian competition.[21] The fact that Hamas has a lasting influence on the Palestinian masses in Gaza is certainly less due to its programmatic goal of establishing an Islamic state than to its actual leadership role in the armed resistance. In order to challenge Hamas for this leadership, there is no other way for communists than to be at the forefront of the resistance against the occupation. This way does not function through criticism from outside, but only through the struggle within the resistance movement, taking care that the objective competition between different forces within the resistance movement does not weaken the resistance as a whole and thus only benefit the occupiers. If this were the case, it would discredit the communist programme in the eyes of the people.

It is at this crucial point that part of the communist movement in Germany and the world has derailed. From various quarters we hear arguments such as Hamas is reactionary; that we have learned from the Iranian experience; that an alliance with the Islamists will only lead to the communists being massacred in the end; that Hamas wants to create either a feudal state or a regime along the lines of IS or the Taliban, or even to wipe out the Jews in Israel.

We do not want to go into too much detail about all these claims. The problem with Hamas is not that it is “feudal” – because there can be no return to feudalism – but that it is bourgeois, that it wants to create a capitalist state and not a state of the working class. The equation of Hamas with IS is simply a repetition of Israeli war propaganda, which deliberately tries to convey precisely this image. It has little to do with reality, because not only are the methods very different, but ideologically Hamas has more in common with the AKP and Erdogan than with IS. While IS systematically murdered “infidels” and publicly celebrated its acts of violence, religious minorities live relatively unmolested under Hamas. And where Hamas does take repressive action against competing political forces, it is certainly no match for the open state terror to which all Palestinian resistance groups are subjected by Israel. The accusation of ” exterminatory anti-Semitism” is often heard, especially in Germany, and misses the point entirely. What drives Hamas is not the desire to exterminate as many Jews as possible, but the struggle against Zionism and its state. It follows from the logic of this struggle that Hamas fighters sometimes kill Israeli civilians – but not because they are Jews per se, but because they are citizens of the state with which Hamas is at war. By contrast, Hamas’s 2017 charter (unlike its outdated 1988 charter) makes an effort to distinguish the struggle against Zionism from the struggle against Judaism, and also explicitly rejects anti-Semitism.[22] There is no plausible argument for dismissing these formulations as pure duplicity. In the past, Hamas has even clearly signalled that it would accept the state of Israel if Israel were prepared to make concessions to the Palestinians. In 2007, the leader of Hamas’ armed wing, Khaled Meshal, said: “As a Palestinian, I speak today of a Palestinian and Arab demand for a state within the 1967 borders. It is true that in reality there will be an entity or a state called Israel on the rest of the Palestinian land. This is a reality, but I will not deal with it by recognising or allowing it”.[23] Ahmed Yusuf, adviser to political leader Ismail Haniya, expressed similar views.

Even the actions of Hamas – its repeated offers over the years for a ceasefire with Israel, the humane treatment of prisoners, according to the testimony of released hostages, etc. – do not prove the “anti-Semitic extermination mania” of which the dominant propaganda, but also the German left, obviously under the influence of this propaganda, try to accuse it.

In Germany, but not only there, there is a very problematic fixation on Hamas as an enemy on the “left”, even on the communist spectrum. It is problematic not because Hamas actually deserves our sympathy, but because it completely distorts the nature of the matter. What is happening in Palestine is not a war between two sides, both of which are to be rejected, and it is certainly not a “religious conflict” between Jews and Muslims, but a colonial war over land, an ethnic cleansing of the country and a genocide. In a genocide there are no “two sides”, there are perpetrators and victims. If communists accept the condition dictated by the ruling class that the condemnation of Hamas as “anti-Semitic” is a prerequisite for any discussion and cautious criticism of Israel’s policies, then they are handing the capitalists an instrument of power that should be knocked out of their hands. If it is accepted that the root of the problem is not the colonial relationship of domination, but the alleged anti-Semitism of the Palestinians, then it becomes impossible to come closer to a solution to the conflict.

The problem, however, does not only begin where communists fall for and repeat the propaganda of the class enemy. Rather, we see here fundamentally problematic conceptions of the strategy of the national liberation struggle. Comrades who recognise “dissociation” from Hamas as a precondition for any statement ultimately fail to understand what a national and anti-colonial liberation struggle is. They do not understand that the phrase “the main enemy is in one’s own country” applies to all capitalist states, but not to an actually colonised people; that Israel, or rather the Israeli monopoly bourgeoisie, is the main enemy of the Palestinian working class and people, and that in the struggle against this astronomically superior opponent, all the forces of the liberation movement are compelled to direct their weak forces against this enemy; that the fact that a national liberation movement is led by forces that will fight the communists in the future is not a reason to turn away from the liberation movement, but must spur it on to push it forward all the more consistently. Under these conditions, even a consistently communist force is compelled to cooperate on some points with other resistance organisations under these conditions.

In saying that communists in Palestine must fight to lead the resistance (instead of separating from it because it is currently led by Hamas), we can also talk concretely about what this means. It means not subordinating ourselves to Hamas and developing our own programme, our own struggles and our own demands. It means fighting for economic reforms in the interests of the working class even where Hamas is in power, fighting for concessions for the impoverished masses, thereby spreading the idea of socialism and educating the masses. Hamas is, of course, an opponent in these struggles. In the case of military action against the occupying power, on the other hand, communists should examine whether or not the action serves the goal of liberating the people and decide on this basis whether or not to take part. Of course, different standards apply to communists than to bourgeois forces, for example in the sense that one should try to avoid civilian casualties. This follows not only from moral considerations, but above all from the fact that the Israeli working class is not the enemy, but should be won as an ally. However, all this also means that a certain degree of cooperation with Hamas is possible and should be sought in certain cases – and at the same time Hamas should be denounced and exposed to the extent that its actions harm the resistance and the armed struggle. Such a relationship with the bourgeois resistance forces does not sacrifice the socialist revolution in the name of national liberation, but on the contrary strengthens the prospects of the socialist revolution precisely by directing all forces towards national liberation. Dividing the resistance on the basis of ideological differences, despite the unity in the strategic goal of shaking off colonial oppression, is sectarianism and only benefits the rulers who will do everything to promote and deepen such divisions.

The strategic line of the national liberation struggle outlined here is by no means new. It is basically the line that communist parties have always followed in national liberation struggles, be it in China, where the CP cooperated with the bourgeois-nationalist Kuomintang in certain situations and fought against it in others, be it Che Guevara’s cooperation with non-communist revolutionaries in the Cuban liberation struggle, the national liberation movements in Vietnam or in the Balkans during the Second World War – everywhere the communists won the leadership of this resistance struggle by fighting together with other forces against the main enemy, gaining the lead in this struggle and, if necessary, as in the case of China or Greece, also taking up the fight against the bourgeois forces where and when it became necessary. Tactical mistakes were certainly made (some of them very serious), but the mistake was not to enter into joint agreements, selective cooperation and occasional alliances with non-communist forces in a national liberation struggle.

How is the case of Palestine different from all these examples? Some respond by saying that Hamas is an Islamist, fundamentalist organisation and that we, as communists, defend secularism. Both are true, and both miss the point entirely. The core of a conflict lies not in its ideological superstructure, but in its material basis. It therefore makes no sense at all to equate the chauvinism of Palestinian groups with Israeli chauvinism. In the abstract, both may be “bad”, but Marxism teaches us not to look for the essence of the matter in speeches, slogans and ideas, but to look at what the ideology is an expression of. On the one hand, there is a chauvinism that justifies Israeli colonialism, the apartheid system that inevitably results from it, and much of the genocide; on the other hand, there is a chauvinism that is a false ideological cover for a struggle against oppression that is justified in itself.

Resistance to colonisation is the essence of Hamas nationalism, or at least the material basis of its success. And it is another tragic irony of history that the only ideology that has succeeded on the ground today in becoming the vehicle of the Palestinian masses’ desire for liberation is the Islamist one, the one that Israel and the CIA (e.g. in Afghanistan) have funded and fomented to fight secular resistance or communism.

That this is the case should not surprise us too much, if it is true that religion is nothing but the “halo” of the “vale of tears”, as Marx describes the oppressive and inhuman conditions of class societies.[24] Political Islam has provided the oppressed in Palestine with an ideology that not only seems compatible with their national identity and denounces, albeit in an idealistically distorted form, the “vale of tears” of earthly life under capitalism, but also seems to make bearable the martyrdom that represents the inevitable end of their struggle for so many sons and daughters of the Palestinian people in the face of the immense imbalance of power. As we struggle for leadership in the liberation struggle, we must also struggle to drive the harmful ideology out of the minds of the Palestinians. If we want to convince the masses of socialism and of the correctness of our strategy and tactics, this means pushing back religion. In doing so, however, we must be aware of the cause of its success and also approach the ideological struggle in a tactically clever way so as not to isolate the masses from us. If communists in this concrete historical situation believe that the main enemy is political Islam, it means that they have confused the essence with the appearance of things.

A peculiar manifestation of this deviation is when communists find the worst condemnations for Hamas, but treat their main rival, Fatah, with kid gloves. The reason for this is obviously again an idealistic approach that ignores the role these forces actually play: In the case of Fatah, the role of administrator of a Bantustan[25] for the colonial masters and, not least, the role of repressive force for Israel. Despite everything that is problematic and worthy of criticism about Hamas, Fatah is by far the bigger problem for the Palestinian liberation struggle.

4. The international context

One aspect of the Marxist method of approaching conflicts is that every conflict must be seen as part of a larger, global context, that the interaction with the contradictions of imperialism on a world scale must always be considered. This, of course, also applies to the war in Palestine. It has been explained above that the war is a colonial war from the Israeli side on the one hand and a war of national liberation from the Palestinian side on the other. Therefore, it is not essentially a conflict between the imperialists over the redivision of the world.

Of course, this does not mean that imperialist interests other than Israel’s do not play a role. Let us look first at the interests of the main imperialist centres: Firstly, there are the interests of the USA, for which the region of “Middle East” (West Asia) continues to have a special geostrategic importance because of its oil reserves, but also because of the activities of the opposing powers Russia and Iran, and therefore they remain Israel’s most important supporters and indeed a necessary condition for the continuation of the Zionist colonial project. On the other hand, there are also the interests of the main capitalist powers of the EU, some of which also have close economic relations with Israel, supply it with weapons systems and for which Israel also has the character of an outpost in this region, which is also of strategic importance for the EU.

Russia’s position is more complicated: on the one hand, the Russian bourgeoisie has long had close relations with Israel and, conversely, Israel did not support the sanctions against Russia after the Russian invasion began. On the other hand, Moscow is also allied with Iran and Syria, two arch-enemies of Israel, and is struggling for influence in the Arab world.

Turkey has historically had good relations with Israel, which continued into the early years of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s presidency. Since around 2008-2010, Turkey has been repositioning itself, particularly following the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2008/2009 (“Operation Cast Lead”) and the attack on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara in 2010, which was on its way to Gaza with aid supplies. The real background is Turkey’s reorientation under the ACP towards closer relations with non-NATO states and the Arab world. This serves its efforts to play a more independent role as a major regional power independent of NATO and to present itself as a representative of the interests of all Muslims. The Turkish government is also helped by the AKP’s ideological proximity to Hamas, which Turkey describes as a legitimate resistance movement and supports politically. However, Erdoğan’s repeated criticism of Israeli crimes should not deceive anyone: the Turkish state, which is pursuing its own war policy in its own south-east, in northern Syria, in Armenia/Azerbaijan and against Greece, is obviously not interested in saving innocent lives but in using the Palestinian issue to advance its own interests.

China has had diplomatic relations with Israel since 1992, and they have been expanding ever since. This is primarily driven by the profit interests of the Chinese bourgeoisie: between 2015 and 2018, Israel was the largest recipient of Chinese capital exports in the region. Since the announcement of the Belt and Road Initiative, many billions of US dollars have been invested in Israeli infrastructure projects (although Israel, as a US ally, has never signed up to the BRI). Second, China is investing heavily in Israel’s high-tech sector, such as electronics, medical instruments and telecommunications. The fact that the Chinese government at least cautiously criticises Israel’s genocidal war in words (and thus differs from countries such as the US or Germany) does not detract from the flourishing business.[26] This position of China serves then both the interest in continuing business with Israel and the orientation towards close relations with Iran and some Arab countries. China is also benefiting from the attacks by Hamas without having to clearly side with them: China can now gain influence in the region, now that Israel’s normalization policy and thus the planned US trade route (as a competitor to the new Silk Road) between Saudi Arabia and Israel have been halted for the time being. The ports of Ashdod and Haifa, which are dominated by Chinese monopolies, are still in operation[27], while operations in the port of Ashkelon and Israel’s second largest gas field, Tamar,[28] which are largely dominated by American companies, have been suspended. The trade routes on the water, via the Suez Canal and also via the Red Sea, are increasingly controlled by the BRICS, where China plays a leading role.[29] The Chinese government’s plans are also being advanced on land: the construction of an oil and gas pipeline from southern Iran to the Mediterranean through the territory of Iraq, Syria and Libya now has a better chance of being realized.

Why are we going into so much detail about China when the Western states are much more likely to support Israel? The reason is that some communists have recently put forward the theory that the war in Palestine is ultimately an expression of the global conflict between the US/NATO alliance on the one hand and the bloc around Russia and China on the other.

This thesis is put forward in a particularly extreme form by the Russian organisation “Politsturm”, which writes: “Reactionary forces are involved in the conflict on both sides, playing off the working citizens of Israel and Palestine against each other and pursuing the goal of establishing their own dominance in the region. Behind each of the rival parties are imperialist powers with interests in the region. Israel is supported by American and European capital; it is a pillar of NATO in the region. Hamas and Palestine are supported by Iranian, Turkish and Chinese capital, which wants to strengthen its own position by weakening Israel. The Russian Federation is also interested in weakening the positions of Israel and Western capital”. Therefore: “Neither side can be supported by the workers and communists”.[30] The devastating conclusion is therefore: the Palestinian liberation struggle is not our cause, or at most it is abstract in the sense of general declarations.

It is one thing to say that the main imperialist conflicts are reflected in every single conflict. It is quite another to claim that these global lines of conflict constitute the essence of a local war or conflict (as is undoubtedly the case in Ukraine or Taiwan, for example), or even to degrade the warring parties to mere puppets of the major imperialist centres. Such an interpretation is simply absurd: Israel is not a puppet of the USA, but an independent capitalist state with its own bourgeoisie, despite close relations of dependency. And the Palestinian resistance groups are certainly not puppets of China or Russia in their conflict with NATO and the USA, especially as it is not at all the case that China, Russia and the USA are clearly on opposite sides with regard to Palestine.

The Palestinian resistance – and not only the Islamic forces, but also to some extent the secular forces – is supported mainly by Iran, Qatar and to some extent Turkey. Of course, none of these states are acting out of altruistic motives or out of compassion for the Palestinians. It is well known how all three states oppress their own working class.

Can a struggle that is supported by capitalist countries still be a just struggle that benefits the cause of socialism? Of course, if this were not possible, then the matter would be settled: there will always be some capitalist country (actually fewer and fewer) that will support the Palestinian cause and the bourgeois forces leading it for their own interests. On the other hand, this is the case with any national liberation movement, where it is natural for a bourgeois leadership to seek allies and even potential future economic partners. Even a communist leadership of the liberation struggle could hardly do without the support of bourgeois states if it were offered – except that it would be much less likely to be offered in the first place. If it were wrong to accept capitalist help in any case, then we would also have to condemn the Bolsheviks for Lenin boarding the train to Petrograd with German support in 1917. Such an approach would allow us to be proud of our unblemished moral and political purity, but in reality we would have failed to change the world.

If a national liberation struggle is a just cause, then it can and must intervene in international politics and try to exploit inter-imperialist contradictions even before taking power. The problem is to understand the limits within which this can happen. Because, of course, the dependence of the resistance on the support of Iran or Qatar is also a problem, although an unavoidable one.

Of course we want a viable and ultimately socialist Palestine that is not dependent on other states. But even a Palestinian state that is dependent on other countries would be a historic step forward for the Palestinians – just as decolonisation in Africa was a step forward despite the continued dependency of the countries there. The Palestinian people have been fighting for independence for 75 years. It is not only devaluing the sacrificial Palestinian liberation struggle, but it is also not in keeping with reality to turn its victims into mere pawns in the plans of other powers.

Was it the case in this specific case, in “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood”, that Hamas acted on behalf of or as an objective agent of foreign powers?

As mentioned above, we believe it is wrong not to see Hamas as an independent actor. Neither the US nor Germany, which would certainly have a strong interest in portraying the attack as Iranian-orchestrated, have made such claims, but have had to admit that there is no evidence to support them. And the facts speak against it: If Iran were the secret mastermind behind the action, wouldn’t it be likely that Hezbollah from Lebanon would have attacked from the north at the same time and in coordination with Hamas? So far, however, Hezbollah’s only involvement in the war has been rhetorical (and with a few rather symbolic rocket launches). Ansarollah in Yemen, which is also backed by Iran, has also imposed a blockade on Israeli ships, but this does not prove that a joint action was prepared from the outset. Nevertheless, Iran is profiting from the war as it is going on without having to get its hands dirty. The Palestinian people have to bleed, while the Iranian government only supplies weapons to Hamas and militias in the region. In this way, Iran’s rulers do not have to send soldiers into the battlefield and do not run the risk of escalating into an open war with Israel. The normalization agreements are also on hold, without Iran having to take any major risks.

The tactical problem of Hamas and other armed groups is precisely that they have few powerful international allies. Their problem in recent years has been that some elements of the international situation have shifted to their disadvantage, in particular the rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and other Arab states and Israel. And this was one of the main motives of Hamas for the ‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’. Paola Caridi, an international expert on Hamas, writes: “The second message is to those countries in the region that are among the players trying to redress the balance. This includes Iran. Indeed, no one in the region has forgotten the resumption of relations between the two great enemies, Iran and Saudi Arabia, blessed by China a few months ago. And Hamas may have felt crushed by a regional policy that tended to sacrifice Gaza.”.[31]

In other words, the operation was not an expression of the current pattern of global division between the imperialist powers, but aimed at breaking this pattern and changing the international balance of power to Israel’s disadvantage. As a result of the Israeli genocide, Saudi Arabia actually put its rapprochement with Israel on hold.

We do not want to evaluate this action from a tactical point of view for the liberation struggle, to what extent it has benefited it or not. It is in the interest of the Palestinian people and their liberation struggle not to become more isolated and suffocated by the plans of others (such as the Abraham Accords)[32]. The bourgeoisies of almost all the Arab countries have long betrayed the Palestinian liberation struggle, but they face the problem that the popular masses in all the Arab countries without exception (and in the Muslim world in general) strongly sympathise with the Palestinian struggle – and this is a starting point for the Palestinian national liberation movement to thwart the plans of the Arab bourgeoisies and force them to support the Palestinians, however inconsistently. The fact that the Palestinian movement is turning to the capitalist states of the region and trying to influence their foreign policy in the Palestinian interest is something that we as communists cannot condemn. To condemn it and thus sabotage the national liberation struggle, while we ourselves live in a country whose national question was resolved a long time ago, would indeed be an expression of a chauvinist attitude.

It is clear that such calculations are always a dangerous game, in which the entry of other actors could turn the local conflict into a regional conflict and even lead to a world war. But as communists we cannot appeal to the Palestinians, the most brutally oppressed people in the whole region, to stop their struggle for liberation. Because for them there was and is no peace. Any ceasefire is at best a pause for breath, and not even that, as Israel’s settlements, expulsions, raids and targeted killings continue. Demanding that the Palestinians cease their armed struggle is not only chauvinistic and politically incorrect, it is also completely unrealistic, precisely because the Palestinians have no choice but to fight or perish.

5 Conclusion

What are the key conclusions to be drawn from all this?

First of all, the Palestinian struggle for liberation is legitimate. Period. Secondly, the working class of the whole world, and therefore of course the communists of all countries, have not only the interest but also the duty to support this struggle – to support it not only in the abstract but also concretely by defending the right of the Palestinians to this struggle and by attacking the complicity of the bourgeoisies of most countries with Israel. Thirdly, the fundamental relationship of communists to this struggle does not depend on whether it is currently led by bourgeois or proletarian forces. Fourthly, the position of the communists towards this liberation struggle cannot be the same as that of the bourgeois forces. They must understand this liberation struggle as an integral part of the struggle for the liberation of the working class, linking the national question with the social question and national liberation with socialism.

Zionism and the mendacious accusation of anti-Semitism levelled against anyone who criticises Israel are, especially in Germany, a powerful weapon of the capitalists and the reaction (including the “Left Party”) against the working class, an instrument to abolish democratic rights and to slander, intimidate, repress and ban revolutionaries. Zionism and the instrumentalisation of the accusation of anti-Semitism go together – without it it would be impossible for Zionism to generate the level of international support that has kept it alive. Those who misuse the accusation of anti-Semitism in Germany are members of the same ruling class that incited the masses against the Jews not only during the Nazi regime, but long before, throwing the Jews into the pogroms and using anti-Semitism as a weapon against allegedly “Jewish” Marxism. However repugnant it may be, the fact remains: the denunciation of the greatest crime of the last century, in which the entire imperialist bourgeoisie is complicit (because it committed similar crimes in its own colonies, because it supported Hitler’s rise as an anti-communist function, because it has always and constantly fomented anti-Semitism, etc.), has become the tool of the Western imperialist bourgeoisie to justify one of the greatest crimes of this century. The rulers commit this crime first of all against the Palestinians, whose oppression and murder are thus justified; but they also commit it against the Jews – against the murdered Jews, whose memory they disgrace, and against the living Jews, whose safety they endanger by equating Judaism with Zionism, i.e. with oppression and racism, and thus further fomenting anti-Semitism in society. For Jews around the world and their legitimate need to live in safety and without discrimination, the constant equation of Judaism with Israel’s crimes is a major problem. By associating Jews with the State of Israel, even though there are millions of Jews who are not Israelis and often not Zionists, the prevailing propaganda in Germany and elsewhere contributes to the fact that rejection of Israel and its policies can actually turn against Judaism.

The struggle for the unity of the working class in our country, against the division caused by racism in all its forms (whether anti-Palestinian or anti-Jewish), against the war policy of the rulers, therefore obliges us to put solidarity with the Palestinian people on the political agenda in our own interest, without fear of being defamed by the ruling propaganda or the repression of the state.

[1] Programme of the Communist International, 1929, online: https://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/6th-congress/index.htm

[2] Judaism is not a nation because it lacks almost all the characteristics of a nation: A common language, a common historical area of settlement, etc. Modern Hebrew was therefore reintroduced in Israel as an updated form of Old Hebrew, which had previously been used only as a liturgical language. Until then, the Jews had spoken various specifically Jewish languages (Yiddish, Ladino) or the languages of their home countries.

[3] Mandate for Palestine – Interim report of the Mandatory to the League of Nations/Balfour Declaration text (30 July 1921), online: https://www.un.org/unispal/document/auto-insert-204267/

[4] Jewish Virtual Library, online: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jewish-and-non-jewish-population-of-israel-palestine-1517-present?utm_content=cmp-true

[5] Ilan Pappé 2007: The ethnic cleansing of Palestine, Oneworld Publications, London.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Translated from the german versione. “Grundgesetz: Israel – Nationalstaat des jüdischen Volkes”, online: https://www.swp-berlin.org/publications/products/sonstiges/2018A50_Anhang_IsraelNationalstaatsgesetz.pdf

[8] „Schwerter aus Eisen“ – ein Völkermord in Gaza, online: https://www.nachdenkseiten.de/?p=106148

[9]  Israels Ultrarechte im Krieg, 21.11.2023, online: https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/rechtsextreme-krieg-nahost-israel-gaza-hamas-100.html

[10] New York Times: “Erase Gaza”: War Unleashes Incendiary Rhetoric in Israel, 15.11.2023, online: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/15/world/middleeast/israel-gaza-war-rhetoric.html

[11] https://www.investing.com/equities/pal-telecomms-company-profile

[12] https://bankofpalestine.com/en/investor-relations/factsheet/facts

[13] https://www.padico.com/en/padico-holdings-profits-12-8-million-for-the-first-half-of-2021 ; https://www.padico.com/en/home/

[14] https://web.archive.org/web/20230530134752/http://ithadpal.ps/wp/?p=3487, abgerufen 05.02.2024.

[15] https://www.aa.com.tr/en/gaza/gaza-civil-servants-stage-general-strike/104871

[16] https://english.aawsat.com/home/article/3414056/8-hamas-islamic-jihad-leaders-leave-gaza-live-abroad, https://apnews.com/article/hamas-gaza-israel-persian-gulf-istanbul-317bba74211a70a4d09db127992bd847 

[17] https://www.capital.de/wirtschaft-politik/die-hamas-fuehrer-leben-im-luxus—woher-stammt-das-geld–34173120.html,


[18] https://www.handelsblatt.com/meinung/kolumnen/eu-kolumne-wie-die-eu-und-die-usa-die-geldstroeme-der-hamas-kappen-wollen/29472032.html

[19] Adva Center 2021: Social Report 2021 – Corona: Epidemic of Inequality, https://adva.org/en/socialreport2021/

[20] https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1870/letters/70_04_09.htm

[21] Ishaan Tharoor 2014: How Israel helped create Hamas, The Washington Post, 30.7.2014, online: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2014/07/30/how-israel-helped-create-hamas/

[22] Charters of Hamas, in: Contemporary Review of the Middle East 4(4), S. 393-418.

[23] Conal Urquhart 2007: Hamas official accepts Israel but stops short of recognition, The Guardian, 11.1.2007, online: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/jan/11/israel

[24] Karl Marx 1843: A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Introduction. Online: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm

[25] That is, a “reserve” in which the colonial rulers continue to allow the colonized to exist in misery.

[26] Bai Peng: How China-Israel Economic Ties Factor Into Beijing’s Approach to the Gaza War, The Diplomat, 24.10.2023, online: https://thediplomat.com/2023/10/how-china-israel-economic-ties-factor-into-beijings-approach-to-the-gaza-war/

[27] https://maritimeindia.org/chinas-belt-and-road-initiatives-contours-implications-and-alternatives/https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/19370679.2016.12023285

[28] https://www.reuters.com/markets/commodities/israels-port-ashkelon-oil-terminal-shut-wake-conflict-sources-2023-10-09/,  https://www.timesofisrael.com/amid-heavy-rocket-fire-israel-shuts-down-tamar-offshore-natural-gas-field/

[29] https://www.silkroadbriefing.com/news/2023/10/11/sudans-iranian-rapprochement-gives-control-of-the-red-sea-to-brics/, https://www.china-briefing.com/news/the-china-iran-25-year-cooperation-agreement-what-is-it-and-should-regional-investors-traders-pay-attention

[30] Politsturm 2023: The War in the Middle East, online: https://us.politsturm.com/the-war-in-the-middle-east

[31] Paola Caridi: Attacco di Hamas a Israele: è solo l’inizio di qualcosa di inedito che va al di là della dimensione interna israeliana e palestinese, 8.10.2023, online: https://www.valigiablu.it/attacco-hamas-israele-palestina-conflitto/

[32] A treaty to normalize relations between Israel on the one hand and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on the other.