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Middle East Near You

Palestine: A Socialist Introduction

Book Editor(s) :
Sumaya Awad, Brian Bean
Published Date :
August 2021
Publisher :
Haymarket Books
Paperback :
250 pages
ISBN-13 :
9781642592764

At a time when Palestine is becoming increasingly isolated, and the Palestinian struggle for liberation is being smothered under the normalisation agreements, the importance of internationalist solidarity cannot be overstated. Edited by Sumaya Awad and Brian Bean, Palestine: A Socialist Introduction places the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle within a regional and international context, discussed from a Marxist perspective, one that tries to shed the various interpretations and governmental doctrines to move closer to a more direct viewpoint.

"The future of Palestine is woven into this fabric of despair and resistance," they write. "The liberation of Palestine is bound to the struggle against the global capitalist system; its local governments, states and imperialist forces." With capitalism as the root of inequalities, the aim of social movements should be to expand solidarity.

The book is in three sections and provides a critique against a backdrop of Palestinian history and its anti-colonial struggle, the latter giving way to diplomacy at a leadership level as Israel strengthens its imperialist links. By giving importance to the subaltern, this edited collection of 12 essays advocates for an international socialist movement to liberate Palestine.

"In a period characterised by independence and decolonisation across the global South, Israel was founded as a settler-colonial state on occupied land," say Awad and Annie Levin. Of particular note, something which is often overlooked, is the authors' reminder that the 1947 UN Partition Plan legitimised Zionist claims to the land, while Zionism exploited the Holocaust to legitimise colonisation, despite the fact that Zionist leaders applied discriminatory measures against Jewish people to take only the best suited for setting up the colonial state, leaving the old and vulnerable to their fate under Nazism.

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Post-1967, when the US made its first overt commitment to Israel in terms of military aid under President John F. Kennedy, the occupation state played a major role in global imperialism, notably through supplying weapons to US-backed dictatorships when the US itself thought it prudent to take a step back and not compromise its veneer of concern for human rights. At the same time, the Middle East became a site of global imperialist rivalry, while Israel furthered its security narrative which emerged fully on the scene post-9/11 when, as Shireen Akram Boshar writes, the collective US-Israeli security narrative was adopted worldwide.

As regional and international imperialist interference expanded, Palestine underwent its own transition from revolution to diplomacy. Mostafa Omer traces the origins of the Palestinian nationalist movement and how Palestinian resistance was eventually compromised by Arab allies, leading to Yasser Arafat's recognition of Israel in 1974 and the shift from anti-colonial struggle to diplomacy.

The book's second section deals with Israel's class society and how its brand of settler-colonialism exploits the Israeli working class to eliminate and replace Palestinians. Drawing upon Patrick Wolfe's writings, Daphna Thier notes the correlation between Israel's extreme right and the working class as "a battle for Palestine's resources".

Toufic Haddad's essay explores the terms of the Oslo Accords, which he describes as a "peace process mythology" and how this ushered in the neoliberal agenda against the Palestinian people. "The Oslo Accords were to be interpreted according to US and Israel prerogatives and not according to international law or UN resolutions," he writes. With the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) having no leverage over the Accords' implementation, it sought to ensure its own survival and, in turn, the fragmentation and control of the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle.

With the book focusing on internationalist solidarity, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement is discussed in detail. As Omar Barghouti clarifies, "BDS alone can never achieve Palestinian liberation, but its most important contribution to this process is its creative and strategic linking between internal popular resistance and external solidarity."

The concept of external solidarity is the subject of another chapter which focuses on Operation Protective Edge and the Black Lives Matter movement, which erupted simultaneously. Two besieged populations, the Palestinians in Gaza facing Israel's military violence and Black people in the US threatened by police aggression were (and remain) victims of imperialist violence, and they supported each other and exhibited, in a practical manner, what internationalist solidarity can be about. Besides the long history of Black-Palestinian solidarity within the decolonisation context, the 2014 movement provided insight into the workings of two powerful countries that call themselves democracies, engaging in normalised cycles of undemocratic violence.

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Creating the illusion that violations faced by populations around the world are entirely disconnected events has strengthened imperialist violence. This illusion has created a dissonance where military powers are expected to organise and embark upon strategies, while the oppressed people are tethered to waiting, without taking action.

This book dispels such reasoning, as seen in its concluding chapters. Its accessible, historical narratives provide the foundations from which to access questions regarding the shaping of the Palestinian movement's future, which must not remain isolated, particularly as the US abandonment of its veneer of neutrality through the Trump administration has ushered in the ramifications of de-facto annexation. Palestinians have faced political rejection and betrayal, notably by the Arab League. An internationalist struggle based on activism and expanding through networks which also feel the brunt of capitalism can provide the way forward for Palestine. It's a strategy which creates awareness that Palestinian anti-colonial resistance is part of a wider global struggle against colonialism, capitalism and imperialism.

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