In the late Spring of 2017, a group of DSA members around the country came together to create the Democratic Socialists for Justice in Palestine. Our aim is to make explicit DSA’s commitment to standing in solidarity with Palestinians and their struggle to end the occupation and siege of the West Bank and Gaza. We want to see the end of the system of apartheid Palestinians are daily subject to, the immediate ending to settlement construction, as well as the full right of return for all displaced Palestinians.
One of the first steps we see in this work is creating a resolution to endorse the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions which will be submitted for debate to DSA’s national convention in August.
Our future work
After the national convention, the work of DSJP will shift to issuing statements on the ongoing occupation and orienting interested members in DSA chapters across the country toward Palestine solidarity and BDS work.
We see the DSA as having the potential to grow into a mass socialist organization and party. Such an organization could further lend its support and resources to the BDS movement and any other coordinated national and global actions in support of Palestinian liberation.
Socialists and the liberation of the oppressed
Solidarity with Palestinians and their struggle for liberation is fundamental to our principles as socialists. Socialists understand that if any group around the world is under systemic oppression, there can be no true justice until all groups are liberated, their chains broken, their suffering ended, and their full self-determination realized.
Historically, socialists have always joined other activists in liberation movements, notably the South African anti-apartheid movement, which uprooted an entrenched system of racist oppression. The struggle of Palestinians both in the occupied territories (West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza) and those living in Israel demand our energy and dedication.
One of the central pillars of the occupation is an infrastructure of siege – rapid construction and expansion of settlements designed in a way that magnifies the oppression Palestinians face.
All of the policies that oppress Palestinians are designed to maximize territory for Israeli settlers and force Palestinians into ever-shrinking spaces. For instance, in the city of Jericho in the Jordan Valley, the Palestinian population numbered around 300,000 about 40 years ago. Today, that number stands at 40,000, and the entire area is filled with settlements. What this amounts to is incremental ethnic cleansing, designed to be slow enough to not rouse [compelling] international attention.
Compounding the situation is how Israel carries out its settlement expansion. Settlements aren’t placed just anywhere. Initial settlement sites are strategically chosen in order to economically and materially starve the Palestinians out and force them to move. This is done, for instance, by building settlements on water aquifers and land that Palestinians use to harvest crops.
The Occupation of Palestine and US Mideast Imperialism
The Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestine is central to US imperialism in the Middle East. It’s no coincidence that Israel is the top recipient of US foreign military aid. With this financing, Israel is able to militarily threaten and intimidate countries hostile to the interests of US imperialism.
US military aid has a powerful practical and ideological use. Israel’s aggression is largely tolerated because of its success in convincing the international community that it’s constantly under existential threat. So, when Israel continues its daily occupation of Palestinian land, its occasional bombing campaigns in Gaza, and military threats against some regional countries, there may be international condemnation, but there are never any real steps taken to stop and dismantle Israel’s ability to basically do what it wants. In this way, Israel relieves the US of having to use far more military resources than it currently does in the Middle East.
But the US can also use the existential threat narrative to threaten nearby countries hostile to Israel’s interests. So, too, can Israel use this narrative to justify its occupation and bombing campaigns. We can now see how the occupation of Palestine and US imperialism in the Middle East intersect and run off each other.
How liberation can be won in Palestine
The movement to end apartheid
The South African anti-apartheid movement took the form of organized worker strikes during the 1970s and 80s; mass democratic movement alliances between organizations, parties, and unions; mass demonstrations and marches in South Africa and around the world; sports, cultural, school, and rent boycotts; international sanctions and divestment campaigns and other strategies.
Global pressure eventually proved enough to cause supporting governments to pull crucial support from the South African apartheid regime. Within the country, the regime was further destabilized by the massive movement until the apartheid system finally collapsed.
However, the character of South African apartheid and the occupation of Palestine are different. One crucial difference is the fact that while the South African government depended on Black labor, Israeli society doesn’t depend on Palestinian labor to the same degree.
This makes a global anti-occupation/apartheid and BDS movement all the more important for Palestinian liberation. The character and comprehensiveness of the occupation means Palestinians cannot be alone in overthrowing this occupation. The international community must build even bigger movements – with all of the elements of the global movement against apartheid in the 1970s and 80s – than what took out the South African regime.
Regional Pro-democracy movements
The massive pro-democracy protests during the early weeks and months of the 2011 Arab Spring which toppled some long-time dictators and threatened others provided a glimpse of what it would take to threaten US Mideast imperialism, and by extension, Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Israel depends on the complicity and cooperation of governments like the one in Egypt to continue its brutal occupation and siege of Palestine.
Successful pro-democracy revolutions throughout the Middle East would not only greatly impact Israel’s ability to continue its occupation because of the lack of support from some regional governments, but it would also likely mark the end of US imperialism in the region. If US imperialism in the region is ended by a massive pro-democracy revolutionary wave in the future, Israel’s usefulness for the US in the region becomes close to obsolete. In such a case, the Israeli occupation could be left without crucial material support and left vulnerable.
Palestinian Resistance Movement
Nonviolent Palestinian resistance has taken many forms since the beginning of the occupation in the mid-twentieth century, through the first and second intifadas, to present day. Palestinians have engaged in massive protests, local boycotts, strikes, and even everyday individual acts of resistance to the occupation to form an overall culture of resistance.
Palestinian life is defined by this resistance and any future overthrow of the occupation will require that the current level of resistance is raised even further, possibly to an unprecedented level.
Resistance within Israel
Palestinian solidarity work within Israeli society is woefully inadequate because of an anti-Palestinian ideology which permeates almost everything and continuously crushes whatever pro-Palestinian political left there is.
The tiny left in Israel is, at times, almost reduced to operating underground. Certain conditions within Israel and outside of it would have to change substantially in order for any type of viable Palestinian solidarity left to emerge and have some influence within Israeli society.
An influential Israeli left would need enormous and crucial support from the outside in order to be sustained. However, such an Israeli left is one of the required elements in order to end the current regime and rebuild a truly democratic society enjoyed by both Palestinians and Israelis, living together in peace.