Israeli expansionism and the Arab impasse

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By LUIZ BERNARDO PERICAS & OSVALDO COGGIOLA*

The “realization of Israel's dream”, in practice, translated into 2,3 million Palestinians packed into just over 400 km2 of territory in Gaza, subjected for decades to endless terror

The antecedents of the so-called “Arab-Israeli wars” go back more than a hundred years. Since the 1852th century, the activities of European Jewish groups interested in the “return” to Palestinian territory had already generated conflicts with the local Arab population. In 11.800, there were only around 1880 Jews in Palestine. This number rose slightly in subsequent decades, reaching, in 24, approximately 500.000 thousand, out of a total population of 1880 inhabitants. From 1914 to XNUMX, however, Jewish migrations across the European continent increased.

After the anti-Semitic wave in Russia (with emphasis on the pogroms czarists) and with restrictive anti-Semitic laws in the countries of Eastern Europe, there began to be greater interest in the establishment of Jewish agricultural colonies in Palestine, which slowly received, at that time, several Jewish groups from these nations; At the same time, there was also a wave of Israeli migration to Western Europe and the United States. This period coincided with the creation of several anti-Semitic leagues and the 1882st International Anti-Semitic Congress in Germany (XNUMX).

The Zionist movement was created in the second half of the 1890s, in Basel (Switzerland), debating Jewish migration out of Europe, and appointing those responsible for organizing the agricultural colonization of Palestine (the establishment of a national home in that territory was not yet consensus within Zionism; its main promoter, Theodor Herzl, even considered the possibility of creating it in Argentina; Cyprus, East Africa and Congo were also considered). The idea of ​​“return”, therefore, was associated, on the one hand, with anti-Semitic prejudices and persecution in Europe, and on the other, with the attempt to build a “home” where Jews could live without being attacked (and which supposedly enabled the construction, subsequently, of a secure and independent national State).

In 1907, a cabinet was set up in Jaffa to structure colonization, which was already being carried out slowly with money from Baron Edmond de Rotschild and the “Jewish National Fund”, established by the Fifth Zionist Congress. When the First World War began, there were already 44 Jewish agricultural colonies in Palestine; In 1917, almost at the end of the conflict in Europe, the Balfour Declaration was released, made by the English government, which guaranteed the colonization of the region by Israelis, who at that time already had approximately 60 thousand inhabitants in that territory.[I]

After the war, the imperialist partition of the Middle East would give England, as zones of influence, Mesopotamia (Iraq), Palestine and Jordan, and for France, Syria and Lebanon. At that time, European industrial and commercial companies began to intervene with greater intensity in the Arab world, interested in controlling the region's oil deposits.

The international Zionist movement was still small and weak in relation to other alternatives, such as the Waist (Jewish socialist labor party of Russia and Lithuania) and emigration to other countries, such as the United States, which is reflected in the numbers of emigration to Palestine at the time. During the administration of the Ottoman Empire, between 1881 and 1917, out of a total emigration of 3.177.000 European Jews, only 60.000 went to Palestine. At the time of British control, after the First World War, in the period from 1919 until the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, out of an emigration of 1.751.000 people, 487.000 moved to the region.[ii]

In practice, it was only after the Nazi persecutions that emigration to the Middle East increased significantly. England had published the White Paper, in 1922, limiting Jewish immigration and avoiding favoring the creation of an Israeli majority in the region. Even so, the issue of Western imperialism's action in Palestine did not go unnoticed.

José Carlos Mariátegui, one of the pioneers of Latin American Marxism, in the article The mission of Israel, published May 3, 1929, he criticized Zionist ambitions and pointed out the problems and dangers of creating an Israeli state: “If any current, modern mission the Jewish people have, it is to serve, through their ecumenical activity, the arrival of a universal civilization. If the Jewish people can believe in their predestination, it must be to act as the international yeast of a new society. This is how, in my opinion, the question arises, first of all. The Jewish people, whom I love, do not speak exclusively Hebrew nor Yiddish; He is polyglot, traveler, supranational. Because he identifies with all races, he possesses the feelings and arts of all of them. His fate merged with that of all the people who did not repudiate him (and also with those who treated him as a hateful guest, whose nationalism owes its character, in large part, to this enclosure). Israel's highest value on a global level lies in its variety, its plurality, its differentiation, gifts par excellence of a cosmopolitan people. Israel is not a race, a nation, a state, a language, a culture; it is the overcoming of all these things at the same time, to become something so modern, so unknown, that yet has no name. Giving a new meaning to this term, we can say that it is a complex. A supranational complex, the elementary, primary, still loose fabric of an ecumenical order. The national bourgeoisies (the British in the first place) wanted to reduce the Jews to a Nation, to a State. This attitude is, perhaps, subconsciously, nothing more than the last persecution of Israel. Hypocritical, diplomatic, parliamentary, sagacious persecution that offers the Jews a new “ghetto”. In the age of the League of Nations and imperialism in a big way, this new “ghetto” it could not be smaller than Palestine; nor could it lack the sentimental prestige of the land of origin. O “ghetto” traditional typically corresponded to the Middle Ages: the age of cities and communes. Loyal nationalists, from people of acute anti-Semitism, have more or less explicitly confessed their hope that Israel's nationalism will liberate their homelands from the Jewish problem. The construction of a Jewish State, even if it does not involve the protection, open or hidden, of any Empire, cannot constitute Israel's ambition today, since its reality is not national, but supranational. The size and objective of this ambition must be much greater. It would be a sign of decadence and fatigue, if one tried to look for it in this era of the Super-State. Jewish patriotism can no longer be resolved into nationalism. And when I say it cannot, I am not referring to a duty, but to an impossibility.”

“Because the danger of the Zionist temptation does not exist except for a part of the Jews. Most Jews can no longer choose their destiny: some are firmly committed to the enterprise of capitalism; others, deeply committed to the enterprise of revolution. Zion, the small state created to reestablish Israel in Asia, in the East, must be nothing more than a cultural home, a land of experimentation. Palestine represents nothing but Israel's past. It does not even represent its tradition, because since the beginning of its ostracism (that is, many centuries ago), Israel's tradition and culture have been made up of many other things. Israel cannot deny Christianity nor renounce the West to close itself, sullenly and rudely, into its native land and its pre-Christian history. Israel, in twenty centuries, linked its destiny to that of the West. And today, when the Western bourgeoisie (like Rome in its decline, renouncing its own myths) seeks its health in exotic ecstasies, Israel is more West than the West itself.”[iii]

José Carlos Mariátegui saw the projected Israeli State as a historical impossibility, as it was backwards. The objectives of the Zionists and of English (and later, North American) imperialism could be different: a Western, modern, capitalist state that could represent the interests of the great powers in the Middle East and guarantee their strategic position in the region. In The problem of Palestine, published on August 30, 1929, José Carlos Mariátegui stated: “The conflict between Arabs and Jews in Palestine, ostensible and manifest since the organization of the Zionist State began, under the auspices of Great Britain, has entered a stage of crisis acute. The Arabs propose, it seems, the destruction of the colonies founded in Palestine by the Jews. The attack was particularly fierce against the new Hebrew city of Tel Aviv. In any case, they reacted violently and barbarously against the reestablishment of the Jews in a territory that was historically theirs, but from which long centuries of ostracism had canceled their material property titles. (…) Jews are, in the territory of Palestine, a national minority. After ten years of Zionist propaganda, only a part of the masses (those most brutally harassed by anti-Semitism in Central Europe) and some groups of students and intellectuals, mystically enamored with the ideal of the resurrection of the Jewish homeland, decided on repatriation. The Arab population invokes its right of ownership, against the traditional titles of the Jewish population that settles in the Palestinian territory. And Great Britain, obliged to provide guarantees for the formation of the Jewish national home (as this territory is under its protectorate), finds itself facing a seriously complicated problem for its colonial policy. The Balfour Declaration committed her beyond her means. An energetic British intervention in favor of the Jews would excite, against British rule, not only the Arabs of Palestine, but the entire Muslim world. Great Britain fears that the Zionist issue will become an additional reason for anti-British agitation among all the Mohammedan peoples who form part of its immense eastern empire. The function of the British protectorate in Palestine must therefore be inspired by the interest of providing guarantees to the Arabs, even when it formally proposes to provide guarantees to the Jews. The interplay of these contradictory interests paralyzes British action. Britain is all too familiar with these antinomies, with these dualities in its politics. The “hypocrisy of blonde Albion” is one of the oldest commonplaces in modern history. But events like those currently unfolding in Palestine reduce the limits of their ability. The official Zionist organization, although unconditionally alienated from British politics – conduct that made it lose all influence over large Jewish masses – found itself forced to formulate demands that demonstrate how artificial the construction of the Israeli national home is. Britain wants to be the fairy godmother of the Zionist state. But it is neither capable of recognizing true national independence for the Jews (an effective sovereignty in the territory of Palestine), nor of protecting them against the Arab reaction, with its imperial authority and power”.[iv]

In the 1930s, problems intensified as a large wave of Jews fleeing Germany arrived in Palestine. In 1931, out of a population of 1.036.000 inhabitants, 175 were Israelis. But Nazism pushed another 200 Jews to that region in the second half of that decade. It was at this time that the activities of the Haganah, the Zionist organization created in 1920, which formed an armed wing with the aim of establishing its own army to protect the interests of its settlers. The Arab landowners were not happy with the constant influx of Europeans into their lands, and tensions between the two populations increased.

At the end of the 1930s, another White Paper, in which a maximum number of 75 thousand Jews who could enter Palestine until 1944 was stipulated, and that, after that period, any immigration must be approved by the Arabs. In practice, this was not what happened. Between 1939 and 1948, approximately 153 Jews went to Palestine, at the same time that clandestine groups, such as the Irgun and the Star, fought the English and the Arabs, with the aim of creating an autonomous national state. The Irgun (Etzel), which operated from 1931 to 1948, would be the political predecessor of the party Herut, which would later give rise to the right-wing party Likud.

With the British withdrawal from the region and the transfer of responsibilities to the United Nations, after the war, a project for sharing and creating a Jewish State began to be designed, without any consultation with the local Arab population. On November 29, 1947, the UN divided the Palestinian territory, with the city of Jerusalem as its neutral zone. The Arabs, who numbered 1.300.000, would have only 11.500 km², while the 700 Jews would gain 14.500 km² of territory. Hostilities exploded. In 1947, a group from Irgun was responsible for the massacre of more than a hundred Palestinians in the village of Deir Yassin (according to new historiographical estimates, around 117; or 254, a number based on original reports), with the clear intention of expelling the region's residents and imposing an exclusively Jewish settlement on the site.

It was not the Zionist leadership's desire to create a state with an Arab minority, nor to defend peaceful coexistence with the Palestinian people. For the Zionist leaders, that was “their” land. Since the founding of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, the myth of “return” and falsifications about the existence and rights of Palestinians have been encouraged and spread throughout the world. The entire Palestinian struggle has been associated with terrorism and brutality. Those who had previously been victims of prejudice and persecution became the executioners and maintained a continuous policy of massacres of Palestinian civilian populations.

The UN resolved the partition of Palestine and the founding of the State of Israel, effectively sanctioning the compulsory expulsion of the Arab peoples who inhabited the territory of the new State (56% of the territory of the British mandate was allocated for the creation of the State of Israel, 43 % of the remaining territory for the “State of Palestine” and 1% for the city of Jerusalem, which would obtain international status). Immediately after its creation, Israel faced a precarious and divided Arab military coalition, defeating it in the so-called “war of independence”, which ended with the Nakbah, displacement militarily of more than 800 thousand original inhabitants of historic Palestine (the overwhelming majority of its indigenous population, who have since found themselves in refugee status).[v]

The “war of independence” showed that the Israeli forces were clearly superior in numbers and weapons to the forces of their adversaries, poorly trained, poorly directed and poorly supplied (their ammunition ran out in a few days). At the height of the conflict there were only a few thousand poorly equipped Palestinian fighters, supported by Arab volunteers from Fawzi Al-Qawuqji's “Liberation Army”. When the Arab States intervened, on May 15, 1948, their contingents were much smaller than those of the Haganah Israeli, which continued to reinforce itself. Arab League armies invaded Palestine in extremis, and certainly unwillingly, not to “destroy the young Jewish State” – something they knew they were incapable of accomplishing – but to prevent Israel and Transjordan, in collusion, from sharing the territory agreed to the Palestinians under the Palestinian division plan. UN.

Historian Ilan Pappé demonstrated that “ethnic purification” was planned, organized and put into practice during the war, to expand the territory of the State of Israel and “Judaize” it. Between 1947 and 1949, 800 Palestinians had to go into exile, while their real estate and furniture were confiscated. The Jewish National Fund seized 300 hectares of Arab land, most of which was given to residents of the kibbutzim.

The Israeli army was responsible for the looting that followed the April 1948 attacks on Jaffa and Haifa; by the bombing of Arab villages and the city of Irbid, in the Jordan; for cleansing the Jordan Valley of its entire population. The territories occupied by Israel at the end of the war constituted almost 78% of Palestine. They became, in fact, the territory of the State of Israel. The range of low mountains in central and southern Palestine, the so-called West Bank, as well as the Gaza Strip, remained outside of it. Jerusalem was divided: the western part of the city outside the walls sided with Israel; the old city and the extramural neighborhood to the north were on the Arab side.

Israel declared Jerusalem its capital, a decision that went against Resolution 181 of the 1947 UN General Assembly, which recommended the internationalization of the city. In December 1948, the UN approved resolution 194, which recognized Palestinian refugees' right to return to their homes or receive compensation, if they so preferred. Israel refused (and continues to refuse) to apply it. By rushing to raze the Palestinian villages that had been emptied of their inhabitants and distributing their land to Jewish immigrants, Israel made it impossible for a large number of refugees to return to their homes.

The overwhelming majority of refugees have crowded into camps in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. In December 1949 the UN created UNRWA (which became operational in May 1950), the international agency that took care of them. On May 11, 1949, the State of Israel was admitted to the UN. In April 1950, the West Bank with the part of Jerusalem under Arab rule was annexed to Transjordan (independent since 1946), which was renamed the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1949. The Gaza Strip came under Egyptian military administration.

Conflicts intensified and war broke out more than once, in 1956 (with the Suez Canal crisis), 1967 and 1973, the most important being the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel incorporated the Sinai peninsula and the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Syrian territory of the Golan Heights and intensified its policy of building settlements for immigrant Jewish settlers. As for the Arab inhabitants of Israel, they were considered second-class citizens, not belonging to the “community”. Around this time, a new generation of Palestinians was growing up in exile, mainly in Cairo and Beirut. Gradually, several political movements emerged, the most important being Fatah, an organization created by Yasser Arafat, which sought to be independent of Arab regimes whose interests were not the same as those of the Palestinians, and which advocated a military confrontation with Israel.

In 1964, with the support of Arab countries, the Palestine Liberation Organization was founded, under Egyptian control, formed from Fatah and now chaired by Arafat. The PLO was basically made up of members of the armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq, and was created during the Arab meeting in Cairo, with the participation of Nasser and Ben Bella, among others. Then the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) also emerged. In other words, a political organization and an armed wing, still closely linked to the Arab regimes in the region. The “Palestinian problem” was then seen as an Arab issue in general. At the Fourth PLO Congress this panel began to change, with the presence of Fatah and Saïka (backed by Syria), groups that began to gain space within the organization. The 33th Congress marks a special moment in this process, with Fatah's political power increasing substantially within the PLO, considering that it won 105 of the XNUMX seats in the Palestinian National Council, while Arafat himself was elected president.

Other groups also emerged. Founded in 1967, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), part of the Arab Nationalist Movement, was initially close to Nasserism. A year after its creation, it began training three thousand guerrillas and joined the PLO, becoming its second largest faction. Its main leaders and ideologues began to define themselves as Marxist-Leninists. George Habache, its leader and founder, defended a single, Arab state throughout the territory that today comprises Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, in which Jews could live as citizens, being respected as a local minority, as well as the return of all Palestinians back to their pre-1948 homes, seeing Palestine as a starting point for something bigger: Arab unification.

The FPLP suffered splits, which led to the constitution, in 1968, of the FPLP – General Command; in 1969, from the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (FDPLP), led by Nayef Hawatmeh and Yasser Abd Rabbo (Maoist organization); and in 1972, from the Popular Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which accused Yasser Arafat's group of being right-wing. Other groups, such as the Popular Organization and the League of the Palestinian Revolutionary Left, were also formed at the time.[vi]

The 1967 war was the decisive turning point. The conquest of Jerusalem and the fact that the holy places for Muslims and Christians were now under Israeli control brought another dimension to the crisis. The Six Day War was justified by the threat posed to the Zionist state by the Arabs. Even so, General Ezer Weizman, at the time the Israeli chief of operations, admitted that Egypt and Syria (seen as initiators of the aggression) never threatened the country. There was never any danger of extermination. Chaim Herzog, general commander and first military governor of the occupied territories of the West Bank, stated that there was no risk of annihilation of the State of Israel. In practice, that war would serve to expand the State's borders.

The conflict changed the balance of forces in the Middle East: Israel was stronger militarily than any alliance between Arab countries, and this altered the relationship between each of them with the outside world. For the Arabs it was a defeat and for the Palestinians it represented a new wave of refugees. The war of Yom kippur (Day of Atonement), 1973, was provoked by Israeli intransigence and was not an attempt to defend itself against military threats from the Arabs against the existence of the State of Israel. As Yitzhak Rabin admitted: “The war of Yom kippur It was not done by Egypt and Syria to threaten the existence of Israel. It was the total use of their military force to achieve a specific political objective. What Sadat (Egyptian Prime Minister at the time) wanted when crossing the channel was to change the political reality and, thus, begin a political (peace) process in a more favorable position for him than the one that previously existed.”

Israeli historian Benny Morris clarified the context of Zionist intransigence, recalling that Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir rejected a reasonable peace offer from Egypt in 1970, thus forcing the Arabs to initiate the October 1973 war. In Lebanon, whose Palestinian refugee camps became PLO bases, systematic attacks by Israel began in the early 1970s.

In 1978, Israel invaded southern Lebanon with an army of 20.000 soldiers. The consequence was the death of thousands of Lebanese and Palestinians and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people to the north of the country. In August 1979, the Lebanese government reported that nearly a thousand civilians had lost their lives in subsequent Israeli attacks. The fundamental strategic reason was that Israel wanted to ensure unlimited control of the water of the Litani River. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia reported that Israel began using water from that river through an 11-mile tunnel, as well as that from the Wazzani.

The UN Security Council, in turn, reacted to that invasion, issuing resolutions 425 and 426, demanding an unequivocal withdrawal of Israeli forces. In the meantime, Israel became the only nuclear power in the Middle East, with dozens (and even hundreds) of nuclear warheads (current estimates range from 75 to 400 of them), the first three produced in 1968 (in 1975, by Through former president Shimon Peres, Israel negotiated a joint military-nuclear project with the apartheid regime in South Africa, to gain access to uranium, which is abundant in the African country).

It is worth remembering that the Israeli scientist and whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu denounced, in 1986, that his government possessed the atomic bomb, handing the newspaper TheSundayTimes, from London, photographs taken inside the Dimona plant (where he had worked for several years) and describing the production processes of nuclear material. Vanunu was arrested and served an 18-year sentence behind bars. Afterwards, he was placed under house arrest, prohibited from contacting any foreign citizen.

Around 600 Israeli companies have become involved in the security sector, with annual revenues of US$4 billion, a quarter of which in exports. According to documents revealed by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, during Richard Nixon's government, the US knew that Israel had developed nuclear weapons, but preferred not to pressure its ally to accept international standards. By not publicly declaring its nuclear warheads, Israel circumvents the existing US ban on financing countries that have weapons of mass destruction: the Zionist State received, in 2022 alone, US$3,3 billion from Washington, in the form of military aid. Since the creation of the State of Israel to date, the country has received between US$120 billion and US$160 billion in military aid from the United States (some sources indicate an amount of more than US$230 billion in combined economic and military aid in the period; only in the last decade the values, with regard to military support, were between US$ 3 billion and US$ 4 billion per year).

Lebanon was attacked again in February 1982, when Yehoshua Saguy, head of Israel's Intelligence Service, met with Pentagon officials and Secretary of Defense Alexander Haig to outline Israeli plans for a larger invasion. After this meeting, Israel imported military equipment from the United States, worth US$217.695.000, and then its media “revealed” that the Palestine Liberation Organization was receiving Soviet rockets and other supplies, allegedly with the aim to threaten Israel.

Israel tried to justify its operation by claiming that the PLO was committed to terrorism in border states. In reality, the border had been calm for eleven months, not counting retaliations for Israeli provocations. Having failed to achieve a defensive response from the PLO that could be exploited to justify the large-scale invasion of Lebanon, Israel simply invented an excuse to carry out its plan: it claimed that that undertaking was a response to an assassination attempt on the Israeli ambassador in London. However, the PLO had nothing to do with this attack, which was, in fact, carried out by Abu Nidal's terrorist organization that had been at war with the PLO for years on end (Nidal did not even have a presence in Lebanon).

In this context, in September 1982, a Christian militia representing the Jewish State in the occupation of Lebanon carried out a massacre in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, killing almost two thousand people in less than three days. The person who opened the camp to the militiamen was Ariel Sharon (later Prime Minister of Israel), under orders from the Prime Minister of the time, Menachen Begin (of the right-wing coalition government). Likud). Sharon, then Defense Minister, promised to occupy 40 km of the country in a war that would last a maximum of 48 hours (the occupation extended to Beirut). He would be found guilty of that massacre.

It was within this framework that the political composition of the Palestinian struggle against Israel changed, with the emergence and growth of political-religious groups, highlighting the Hezbollah (“Party of God”), a Lebanese Shiite organization created in 1982 and supported by the Islamic government of Iran; O Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) created by Palestinians in 1987, when the first Intifada (Palestinian popular uprising against the Israeli occupation) began; and the Islamic Jihad, formed by young Palestinians in 1981.

In December 1987, an Israeli military truck ran over and killed four Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. This incident was the trigger for the start of fighting between young Palestinians and Israeli occupation troops. The episode, known as the “Stone Revolt” (Intifada), lasted six years, resulting in many Palestinian deaths and profound distress for Israel (after all, these were children and teenagers facing the sophisticated weapons of Israeli soldiers with sticks and stones). The Intifada was the first demonstration within the occupied territories to permanently disrupt the routine of the Israeli occupation, which began in 1967.

The PLO leaders and Yasser Arafat began to focus on diplomatic action to create a Palestinian state, with its capital in East Jerusalem. In 1991, the International Peace Conference was held in Madrid, marking the beginning of direct talks between Israel and the Arab countries. Two years later, both sides signed an agreement in Washington that provided for the extension of Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank, with the withdrawal of Israeli troops.

In 1995, Israel and the PLO signed a new treaty, this time with the extension of autonomy to almost the entire West Bank, important for the emergence of a Palestinian state (but, in practice, irrelevant as long as Israel has a monopoly on the use of force in the territories busy). Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak met several times, but without reaching an agreement on the two fundamental issues for the Palestinians: Jerusalem and the right of return.

The vast majority of the four million Palestinian refugees at the time lived scattered across Arab countries in terrible living conditions or in territories occupied by Israel as refugees in their own homeland. Even so, in 1995, the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin took place, carried out by a far-right Jew, outraged by the prospect of an agreement that could recognize minimum rights for Palestinians. According to Shlomo Ben-Ami, former Israeli Foreign Minister, after the Gulf War, the United States managed to impose its unilateral program, represented by the “peace process”, which since Oslo, had as its goal the establishment of neocolonial dependence. permanent presence of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The North American proposal for the Palestinian issue involved keeping the Gaza strip separate from the West Bank and the latter, divided into three separate cantons, with the city of Jerusalem, which has always been the center of Palestinian commercial and cultural life, expanded with Israeli colonies. Meanwhile, the US provided vast economic and military assistance, which allowed Israel to expand its settlements in the occupied territories and imposed a brutal regime, subjecting the Palestinian population to daily humiliation and repression, in a process that intensified throughout the 1990s.

The radicalization of the fight against the Israeli occupation deepened with the Second Intifada (or Al Aqsa Intifada), started on September 29, 2000, following a provocative visit by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the Esplanade of Mosques, when two days later, the Israeli army killed dozens of defenseless Palestinians who were leaving the Al Aqsa Mosque , one of the holy sites of Islam. In the following days Israel used helicopters to attack civilian targets, killing many more civilians in the occupied territories.

The entire “peace process” of the 1990s was, in fact, used as a smokescreen to continue land confiscation, which doubled the number of settlers living in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem – approximately 400.000 – and to implement the policy of permanent closure for the population of the Territories, replaced by foreign workers brought from all over the world. The economic strangulation of workers in the West Bank and Gaza – where, since September 2000, unemployment has grown by 65%, and where 75% of the population lived below the poverty line of two dollars a day per person, was one of the reasons for the collapse of the Oslo Accords.

The State of Israel continues to receive billions of dollars annually from the United States, not counting the money coming from donations from the evangelical right and the American Jewish lobbies.[vii] A large part of the capital received went and goes to the Armed Forces and the Israeli security apparatus, which buy bulldozer and sophisticated military equipment. The country still obtains financial “supplements” from Washington, without counting the rest of the AAFF, including tanks, ships and missiles, largely of Israeli manufacturing and technology.[viii]

The policy of different Israeli governments over the years has been to destroy homes, expel families from their land, increase unemployment rates among Palestinians, create illegal settlements and massacre civilian populations, leading many young people without prospects to commit desperate acts. , such as suicide bombings. A large part of the population was forced to live in refugee camps in Syria, Gaza, Jordan and Lebanon, in precarious conditions. These fields are made up of zinc, stone, brick and cement houses; with rooms measuring 3 to 4 m², in which up to 15 people live daily in a state of complete poverty.

Meanwhile, in the first years of the 150st century alone, Israel promoted 300 illegal settlements in the West Bank, with XNUMX settlers living with government support.[ix] For most Israelis, however, expansionism and systematic aggression did not open up any prospect of peace and stability: in 2008, in the United States alone, there were 500.000 native Israelis living in that country, an unreasonable proportion in relation to the population of Israel.[X]

For British historian Tony Judt, the origin of the problem was, in fact, the 1967 Six-Day War, which concluded the expansion of Israeli territory to an area four and a half times larger than that which had been granted to it by the sharing of 1947: After this lightning war, “no responsible Arab leader would seriously contemplate the military destruction of the Jewish state,” and “the nagging insecurity that characterized the country’s first two decades changed to a self-satisfied arrogance.”[xi] New generations of immigrants then arrived, especially from the USA, but, points out Tony Judt, “these new Zionists did not bring in their luggage the old socialist texts on emancipation, redemption and community life, but a Bible and a map... Their aggressive nationalism was accompanied by a reborn Messianic Judaism, a combination hitherto virtually unknown in Israel. In the wake of the capture of Jerusalem, the army's chief rabbi, Shlomo Goren, proposed that the mosques on the Temple Mount be dynamited.” And he adds that “they (the 'new Zionists') had firm and hostile views towards the Arabs.”

Self-confidence began to be shaken after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, with a view to crushing the PLO and installing Maronite power in Beirut, imposing a decisive defeat on Syrian nationalism. Despite the initial military victory, the long Israeli occupation ended in political defeat, with the decline of Maronite Christian power, the emergence of a new Lebanese resistance and the country's descent into civil war. And it also culminated, as previously mentioned, in the massacre of Sabra and Shatila, committed openly with complicity and by units of the Tsahal, in collusion with Lebanese Christian militias.

With all this, the Israeli army was also shaken. Unprecedented events followed: around four hundred thousand demonstrators protested in the center of Tel-Aviv; five hundred officers and soldiers deserted; the movement of refuseniks took shape, with those who refused to serve in the army, initially in Lebanon, then in the occupied territories. The “purity of arms” that the Jewish State had boasted of since its birth was seriously damaged. Since Lebanon, symptoms of the exhaustion of Jewish youth from the years of war in favor of colonialism began to appear. Action groups were created against the occupation of territories within Israel (Gush Shalom) and soldiers refused to serve in them, guided by groups such as the Yesh Gvul.

The “realization of Israel's dream”, in practice, translated into 2,3 million Palestinians packed into just over 400 km2 of territory in Gaza, without resources, subjected for decades to daily misery and humiliation, bombings and massacres, and endless terror. Not to mention the 3,5 million in the West Bank (in almost equivalent conditions) surrounded by a steel wall;[xii] in the Palestinian refugees spread in neighboring countries and throughout the Middle East; in those forced to seek their livelihood as unskilled labor in distant regions; or even in the so-called “Israeli Arabs”, second (or third) class citizens in the very country in which they were born and raised, restricted from various political and civil rights, not to mention the thousands of Palestinian political prisoners surviving in a subhuman way in Israeli prisons .

A pivotal point in world political history in the second half of the 20th century, the crisis in the Middle East, centered on the Palestinian issue, tests humanity's ability to open a path to survival and social progress for the future of the entire species.

* Luiz Bernardo Pericas He is a professor in the Department of History at USP. Author, among other books, of Caio Prado Júnior: a political biography (boitempo). [https://amzn.to/48drY1q]

*Osvaldo Coggiola He is a professor at the Department of History at USP. Author, among other books, of Marxist economic theory: an introduction (boitempo). [https://amzn.to/3tkGFRo]

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Notes


[I] Leonard Stein. The Balfour Declaration. London: Vallentine and Mitchell, 1961.

[ii] For more information on the historical context of the Palestinian issue, see: Gérard Chaliand. Palestinian resistance. Porto: Editorial Inova, 1970; RE Gabbay. A Political History of the Arab-Jewish Conflict. Geneva: s/e, 1959; Sami Hadawi. Bitter Harvest, Palestine Between 1914-1967. New York: The New York Press, 1967; M. Kerr. The Arab Gold War, A Study of Ideology in Politics. London: Oxford University Press, 1965; and W. Schwartz. The Arabs in Israel. London: Faber and Faber, 1959.

[iii] Israel's mission. In: José Carlos Mariátegui. Figures and Aspects of World Life. Lima: Biblioteca Amauta, 1987, p. 32-33, 35-36.

[iv] See José Carlos Mariátegui, “The Palestine Problem”. In: José Carlos Mariátegui. Figures and Aspects of World Life, p. 62-64.

[v] A skirmish with Arab troops that took place on July 12, 1948, served as a pretext for the Israeli army for a violent repression that cost the lives of 250 people, some of whom were unarmed prisoners, as well as for the expulsion of 70.000 people, several of whom were , refugees. The expulsion order was given by the Prime Minister himself, David Ben Gurion. Galilee was the region of Israel's territory where the most Palestinians remained. The areas with the highest Palestinian population density were under military administration until December 8, 1966.

[vi] For more information on the situation in Palestine and its political organizations until the end of the 1960s, see Morroe Berger. The Arab World Today. New York: Anchor Books, 1964; P. Dodd, and H. Barakat. River Without a Bridge, A Study of the Exodus of the 1967 Palestinian Arab Refugees. Beirut: The Institute for Palestinian Studies, 1968; Martha Gellhorn, “The Arabs of Palestine”, in The Atlantic Monthly, October 1961; and Sylvia Haim. Arab Nationalism, An Anthology. San Francisco: University of California Press, 1962.

[vii] The most visible organization is the American Jewish Zionist Committee, a powerful “pressure group” that remains in the hands of the WASP financial and industrial oligarchy.

[viii] For more information on relations between the United States and Israel, and North American interference in the Middle East, see Luiz Alberto Moniz Bandeira. Formation of the American empire. Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian Civilization, 2005.

[ix] For a critique of the State of Israel's policies towards the Palestinians, see Edward Said. Culture and politics. São Paulo: Boitempo Editorial, 2003; and Ted Conover, “The Checkpoint,” in The Atlantic Monthly, March of 2006.

[X] See Jeffrey Goldberg, “Unforgiven,” in The Atlantic Monthly, May of 2008.

[xi] Tony Judt. Reflections on a Forgotten Century (1901-2000). Rio de Janeiro: Objective, 2008.

[xii] The International Court of Justice ruled that Israel must demolish the illegal wall and provide compensation for the damage caused to the Palestinian victims, a decision adopted by the UN in resolution ES-10/15 (July 20, 2004).


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