The Only Way Is Self-Defense


By Yossi Schwartz, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency, 29 October 2019,




The violence committed by organized, as well as street crime, in the Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel communites, is a very seroius problem. According to a police report published on October 3rd, 2019, there have been more than 70 killings this year, nearly as many as in the past two years combined and more than half of all murder victims nationwide.


There are a few questions to ask: why is there organized crime in the Arab communities? Why have these gangs been allowed to accumulate so many weapons and kill so many? Does the police have an interest in ending organized crime in the Arab communities? And assuming for a moment that the police wants to eliminate organized crime, is it even capable of disarming gangs? How to protect communities against such criminals?


Organized crime has always been an alternative way to accumulate wealth in a poverty stricken society. The poverty rate for Arab families increased to 49.2% in 2017 from 47.1% in 2016. [1] Since very few Palestinian citizens of Israel have been able to become mainstreame capitalists by exploiting workers legally, crime became the answer.


The Arab middle class in Israel is, however, somewhat growing, but so is poverty. Prof. Haidar of the Hebrew University says: “The rate (of the middle class) has grown from 17% [of the Arab population] two decades ago to 27% today. There are still not a lot of wealthy people, only 3% fit that category, and the majority is still in the lower income brackets, but without a doubt it’s a growing segment among the young, educated professionals.” [2]


Thus while the Arab middle class may have illusions that the police will defend them, it is easy for the organized crime to recruit young poor people.


Until recently, most killing of Arabs by Arabs was ignored by the mass media. “If an Arab kills another Arab, the police don’t care, it’s only when the weapons make their way out of our communities does anyone pay attention,” said Renin Oudeh Shawana, the director of the “Mustaqbal,” or “Future,” a youth program in Jaljuliya. Her relative was one of the two victims in 2007 of killings in the village following a disagreement between two gangs. After the shootings, police came to look for evidence, but never returned to follow up.” [3]


Gun-Free Kitchen Tables Campaign, a coalition of women’s organizations working to eliminate gun violence says: “most illegal firearms in Israel are actually registered to the army. According to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, 90 percent of illegal firearms in the north of Israel can be traced back to the military. According to Irshaid, there are around 300,000 registered firearms in Israel, and they are mostly owned by law enforcement and Jewish citizens.


In 2013, police estimated around 400,000 unlicensed guns in Israel, and that most of them are owned by Palestinians citizens. The problem is that Israeli authorities treat violence in Arab communities as an internal Arab problem. All it would take is a single gunshot in a Jewish neighborhood of Tel Aviv and police would do everything in their power to find the perpetrator.


The state is directly responsible for the violence. Based on the organization’s research, in addition to weapons stolen or illegally purchased from the army, the primary source of weapons in the Arab community in Israel are those smuggled from Jordan, guns that were once legally licensed in Israel, and guns that were manufactured in the occupied territories. [4]


Since most of the weapons in the hands of the gangsters come from the army, we should ask how it is possible that the army does such a poor job of guarding its own weapons. Is it possible that the army allows this theft so Arabs kill Arabs? In addition, is it more than possible that the police collaborate with gangs as it was proven in other countries?


Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List, says that the racist government has neglected the Arbs and the police have abandoned the Arab neighborhoods to gangs and criminals. He demands more and effective policing.


The police reject the allegations of indifference and claim that the police are doing everything they can to stem the violence. However, to succeed in disarming the gangs, the police says, local leaders need to do more to cooperate with police and prevent violence.


In other words, the police are blaming the Arab citizens of Israel for the gang violence. Erdan, the Public Security Minister, decided to allocate 620 additional police officers to the Arab communities. A decision was also made to transfer responsibility for handing organized crime among Israeli Arabs to the Lahav 433 Major Crimes Unit.


It is the same unit that a former top police corruption investigator was convicted of failing to report an attempted bribe offered to him by a well-known rabbi. Former police deputy commissioner Menashe Arviv, who headed the national police force’s top corruption and fraud investigative body Lahav 433, was convicted of the relatively minor crime of “failure to carry out an official duty.” The conviction comes as part of a plea bargain that saw fraud and breach of trust charges excised from the indictment. [5] This is not the first nor the last time that the police are involved in criminal activity.


Ayman Odeh is right when he says that racist policy of the government is responsible for the problem. So what makes him think that under popular pressure, all of a sudden, the police will change its policy and start defending the Arabs?!


In reality calling for more policing of the Arabs citizens of Israel will just open the door to more police violence against Arabs. It is a dangerous reformist illusion to believe that the Zionist Police will eliminate Arab organized crime.


The Israeli police force has a long history of using excessive and even murderous violence against Arab citizens of Israel. To give but a few examples: the 1956 Kafr Qasim massacre, the 1973 “Land Day” massacre and the October 2000 massacre. We ask Odeh: what has changed? Do you believe that demonstrations of 20,000 Arabs will change the nature of the Zionist Police?


This attempt to pressure the Zionist police to defend the Palestinian citizens of Israel is a continuation of the line of recommending that the Blue and White party should form the new government. This party is led by general Gantz who was in charge of massacring 2000 Palestinian in Gaza during “Operation Pillar of Defense” in 2012.


This position reflects the illusion of the Arab middle class that it is possible to be integrated into the Zionist society. Similar illusion Odeh and Tibby shared with the leadership of the Kurds that they can rely on US imperialism and now when they were deserted by Trump they join the army of Assad the butcher and Russian imperialism.


The police is a very important element of the state apparatus. Contrary to the bourgeois propaganda that the state was formed to create a peaceful social order for the citizens, the police is a brutal force created to defend the ruling class against the working class and the oppressed.


Yet reformists, centrists and petit bourgeois nationalists tell the exploited and the oppressed that they can trust the police to protect them from criminal gangs and facist thugs. According to libral and reformist theories the police is in a contradictory position. Under the pressures of the ruling class on one hand and the working class and oppressed on the other, it may act sometimes to protect the ruling class but in other times to protect the oppressed.


To give two examples: Prior to the Nazis taking power in Germany the SPD (German Social Democrats) refused to mobilize the youth movement against the Nazi Huligans because they trusted that the state would defend them. This of course did not happen. Instead they were sent to concentration camps. Prior to the Nazis taking over Austria and Germany, sections of the police considered themselves “socialists”. However, when the fascists in Austria were ready to seize power by a coup, the police joined them and attacked the workers. In Germany, they joined the storm troopers.


Following Trump’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), agents have been dragging undocumented immigrants to deportation centers. Kshama Sawant, a leading member of the right wing centrist CWI and a member of Seattle’s city council, at a rally against the deportations on February 17, 2017 stated:


I’m urging Mayor Murray – if this is a sanctuary city – do not use Seattle police against peaceful protesters. Deploy Seattle police to block ICE from seizing immigrants.” [6]


Spreading illusions in the police is the opposite position to Marx, Lenin or Trotsky.


On this question Lenin wrote: ”On the one hand, the bourgeois, and particularly the petty-bourgeois, ideologists, compelled under the weight of indisputable historical facts to admit that the state only exists where there are class antagonisms and a class struggle, “correct” Marx in such a way as to make it appear that the state is an organ for the reconciliation of classes. According to Marx, the state could neither have arisen nor maintained itself had it been possible to reconcile classes. From what the petty-bourgeois and philistine professors and publicists say, with quite frequent and benevolent references to Marx, it appears that the state does reconcile classes. According to Marx, the state is an organ of class rule, an organ for the oppression of one class by another; it is the creation of “order”, which legalizes and perpetuates this oppression by moderating the conflict between classes. In the opinion of the petty-bourgeois politicians, however, order means the reconciliation of classes, and not the oppression of one class by another; to alleviate the conflict means reconciling classes and not depriving the oppressed classes of definite means and methods of struggle to overthrow the oppressors”. [7]


You do not have to be a revolutionary Communist to understand the class nature of the police. You have only to look with open eyes at the role of the police.


In the US police officers kill every year at least 1000 people, especially people of color. According to a 2016 study published in Injury Prevention, the police killed or injured over 55,000 people in 2012; the police-brutality monitoring website Mapping Police Violence reports that over 1,000 people have been killed by police in 2017. Previous studies have found that the police disproportionately use excessive force, search, and kill people of color, particularly black people”.


…”In 1983, City University of New York School of Law professor Sidney L. Harring published Policing a Class Society: The Experience of American Cities 1895–1915, which addresses the history of working-class repression by the police. In Policing a Class Society, Harring argues that police have not historically "served and protected" the general population, but rather violently divided the working class and protected the interests of the upper classes. Harring uses Milwaukee and Chicago as case studies to illustrate repressive tactics of the police during the late 19th century and turn of the 20th century.


Upon the release of his book's second edition, Pacific Standard interviewed Harring about the relationship between class, race, and the police; working-class resistance to police repression; and the role of pop culture in signaling messages about the police.


“Looking at the trajectory of policing in working-class communities from the early 1800s until today, does it seem that policing is getting worse for working people, or has its relationship to the community remained steady?


“I think in general it's worse. Partly it's because there are more guns, more technology, and better police databases. It's more technocratic and militaristic. And as far as strikes, if we even have strikes, they're pervasively policed.“ [8]


The only way to fight organized crime is self-defense by the Palestinians themselves. But for this it is necessary to form a revolutionary Palestinian leadership.




Some Examples of Self Defense




There are examples of workers and oppressed nationalities who came to realize that they cannot rely on the police to defend them, so they organized self defense.


When the Tzar’s government in Russia organized pogroms from the end of the 19th century against the Jews, the most known was in Kishinev in 1903, the revolutionary socialist worker movement together with the Bund and Po’ale Zion Left organized self defence against the black hundreds and repealed them.


In 1905 a pogroms was organized against the Jews in Odessa. This time the hooligans faced organized self defense. Just before Easter the National Committee of Jewish Self-Defense urged all Jews to join self-defense brigades and prepare to counter any attack on Jews and their property. Men were told to arm themselves with guns, knives, clubs, and whips, and women were encouraged to prepare solutions of sulfuric acid. Bundists, Bolsheviks, and Mensheviks joined in these efforts


On this Lenin wrote in 1905: “There can be no doubt that the experiment will be further extended. The laurels won by some of the Black Hundreds will give the others no rest until they too will have put their strength to the test. Where there is revolution there is counter-revolution too, and, therefore, Borisoglebsk must also be prepared to experience the organizing skill of the eminent representatives of the Black-Hundred trend. We have reason to expect also in Borisoglebsk pogroms against the Jews, against the workers, and against the intellectuals; therefore, in preparation for proper resistance to the ’illegal measures’ which the government has adopted to suppress the revolutionary movement, the Borisoglebsk group is starting a subscription for the organization of armed self-defense, and invites all those whose sympathies do not lie with the government and the Black Hundreds to help in the organization of self-defense groups with money and arms.” [9]


Another example of self defense is the civil rights movement in the US. According to the myth the movement was pacifist. However, this is not true, as Charles E. Cobb Jr., who participated in the movement, proved in his book, This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible.


He wrote that the nonviolent organizers in the deep South were often protected by armed farmers and workers. In Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and other states run by white supremacists who used terrorism to impose their domination, guns were not an option but a necessity for African Americans. [10]


The black Panther party that was established in 1966 was famous for self defense against police brutality. They grew to a size of 5,000 full time party workers, organized in 45 branches across America. At their peak, they sold 250,000 papers every week. Opinion polls of the day showed the Panthers to have 90% support amongst Blacks in the major cities.


Of course the US capitalist state at the end won because the struggle of the oppressed did not end with a socialist revolution, but they left a legacy. For example the Black Women's Defense League, a Dallas-based organization that teach women to use arms to fight against white racism. The idea of black self- defense is, today, on the rise again.


In South Mexico the native population organized self-defense against organized crime and corrupt police. For example, in March 2013 a force of 1500, armed with rifles entered the Mexican town of Tierra Colorada, which sits on the highway from Mexico City down to the Pacific coast. They seized at gunpoint 12 police officers and a local security official, whom they believed responsible for the murder of their commander. The men were members of a self-defense group, one of a growing number of organizations aiming to restore order to Mexican communities. “ [11]


In April this year an association of shopkeepers in Mexico City’s historic center has sent a letter to the Attorney General’s Office demanding action from authorities against the Unión de Tepito, one of the most powerful criminal groups in the capital. The letter says they have been the victims of extortion, torture, kidnappings and even killings at the hands of the group, El Universal reported.


“They must understand that everything has a limit … [and] don’t be surprised by the emergence of self-defense groups … given the slowness and inaction of the authorities in charge of security and law enforcement [in Mexico City],” said the letter signed by around 240 vendors, including some that have closed up shop due to the costs of extortion”. [12]


As this article is being written we hear that during the Sukkot holiday not only Arabs but Jews were killed by the gangs. If the police cannot prevent the killing of Jews there is no chance they will stop the killing of the Palestinian citizens of Israel by organized crime.


However, more policing will allow the police to terrorize communities even more. If you want to know how the Zionist police enforce a colonialist racial hierarchy, you can ask the Ethiopian Jews suffering from police brutality. How the police protect Arabs you can ask the Palestinians in the West Bank. According to the human rights organization B’Tselem:


“Violence by settlers (and sometimes by other Israeli civilians) toward Palestinians has long since become part of daily life under occupation in the West Bank. These actions range from blocking roads, throwing stones at cars and houses, raiding villages and farmland, torching fields and olive groves, and damaging crops and property to physical assault, sometimes to the point of hurling Molotov cocktails or using live fire. Over the years, this widespread violence toward Palestinians has resulted in injuries to life and limb, as well as damage to property and land.


Under international law, Israel has a duty to protect Palestinians in the West Bank from this conduct. However, Israeli authorities routinely shirk this responsibility, even when the violent actions can be anticipated. Thousands of testimonies, videos and reports, as well as many years of close monitoring by B’Tselem and other organizations, reveal that Israeli security forces not only allow settlers to harm Palestinians and their property as a matter of course – they often provide the perpetrators escort and back-up”. [13]




Army of occupation in oppressed communities




In the Black and Brown communities, the police play the role of a foreign occupation army and practice a form of cruelty and brutality which differs only in degree from the U.S. occupation army in Vietnam or Cambodia.


As a token of the high esteem and affection in which these communities hold the police, they have coined the word “pig” as synonym for cop and this word has passed into the universal language of the oppressed.


Every cent paid to the police comes out of the hides of the workers. Every cent they get is at the expense of welfare, housing, schools, and other facilities and services that are needed by the people and is responsible for reducing crime and domestic violence.


Unlike workers, when police go out on strike [or engage in job negotiations], they are not trying to retrieve money withheld from them for useful work done on behalf of society. Their services are solely and exclusively in the interests of one class of society only: the ruling class.


Clarity on this point is absolutely indispensable. If the police find themselves in a controversy with the ruling class over the amount of money they should get as mercenaries, the workers should treat this as an internal struggle in the camp of the enemy and not confuse it with a struggle of their own class.


Of course, there are exceptional cases where police strikers, in a struggle with the capitalist state, have no alternative but to turn for support to the workers. These cases are rare indeed, such as the Boston police strike of 1919, which Calvin Coolidge, then governor of Massachusetts, broke. In such cases, it is the duty of the workers’ leaders to adroitly intervene in the struggle.


In doing so, they must make clear that their intervention is not motivated by any class solidarity with the police (who on the morrow of their victory will again proceed to club the heads of striking workers) but out of motives of working-class expedience — that is, to help the police undermine the capitalist state structure. The longer a police strike lasts, the more it undermines capitalist law and order. In that task, a revolutionary worker should help, while helping even more to build workers’ self-defense groups.


The various parasitic elements which constitute the capitalist state are always in conflict with each other on how to divide among themselves the juiciest portions of the city, state and federal treasuries. Like thieves, they are invariably at each other’s throats, each seeking a greater share of the loot.


These parasitic elements comprise of the police, detectives, prison officials, executioners, various state and local anti-subversive squads, and the judicial bureaucracies. These are not to be compared to firefighters, sanitation workers or other workers who have been co-opted by the government into the capitalist state apparatus so as to keep their wages in check. These workers perform useful tasks and will continue to do so even in the highest form of socialist society.




Will there be cops when classes are gone?




One way for a Marxist to judge whether a specific social group in the present capitalist state setup is parasitic or really performs socially necessary and useful work is to ask whether such groupings would be needed in a socialist system after the abolition of all class divisions.


Clearly police will not be needed. With the abolition and disappearance of all vestiges of class privilege, the need for a coercive special force, even a workers’ militia, becomes superfluous.


However, men and women who work to make a more sanitary social environment and make it free from all sorts of hazards, such as fire, will of course be needed. If even in a socialist society the need for a coercive force such as police continually diminishes as the socialist system develops to a higher and higher form, then all the less do we need police in a capitalist society.


Here its fundamental function is to suppress the working class and in particular use the most brutal violence against the Black, Chicanx and Puerto Rican people.


It is to be noted that the current wave of police insurgency comes after a considerable period when they have been engaged in actual civil war against the Black and Brown communities.


The ruling class has felt itself more and more indebted to the police precisely because of this. Having been highly flattered for their brutal role in the recent period, the police are now demanding extra privileges and remuneration for their stormtrooper role in those communities and on college campuses as well as in the recent strike struggles throughout the whole country.


The police have also become more vociferous in denouncing the so-called lenient judges and demanding that the government “take the handcuffs off the police.” This cry is nothing but a fascist demand for the right to unrestricted use of force and violence against the civil population. It is in this context that we must view the police strikes [and job negotiations] as well as the general historical role that they play in the class struggle.




Paris Commune dispelled cops — and crime




That the working class needs no capitalist police to secure and defend them, was never more clearly demonstrated than in the first great proletarian revolution, more than a hundred years ago — during the Paris Commune.


Scarcely had the Paris Commune been established (the first truly working class government had just begun to survey the tasks ahead of it) when the world had its first vision since the dawn of class society of what would happen to the entire capitalist police establishment on the day of the proletarian revolution.


“No more corpses at the morgue, no nocturnal burglaries, scarcely any robberies,” says Karl Marx about the Paris Commune in his celebrated book, “The Civil War in France.”


“In fact, for the first time since the days of February 1848,” he remarks, “the streets of Paris were safe and without police of any kind.”


Is there a capitalist government anywhere in the world that can make such a claim even for one day? Is there any large city anywhere in the capitalist world which is free even for a single day of any crime and could do without any police of any kind as was the case with the Paris Commune?


Merely to ask the question is to answer it. To put an end to crime it is first of all necessary to put an end to the thoroughly criminal rule of the bourgeoisie. It is their very existence which breeds not only crime and corruption but virulent racism, imperialist war and genocide.


To infuse the working class with a revolutionary attitude toward the police is at the same time ideological preparation for the overthrow of the capitalist class.












[1] Einhorn A. (December 31, 2018). 21.2% Of Israeli Population Lives Below the Poverty Line - New Report. Jerusalem Post.


[2] Arlosoroff M. (June 13, 2017). Arabs Are Israel's New Yuppies. Haaretz.


[3] Rubin S. (April 13, 2017). The Arab Gangsters of Israel. Daily Beast.


[4] Younis R. (December 19, 2018). Israeli authorities treat gun violence in our community as an Arab problem. +972 Magazine.


[5] Times of Israel Staff. February 22, 2018). Former top graft investigator convicted of failing to report bribery attempts. Times of Israel.


[6] Flakin N. (March 2, 2017). Can the Police Stop Deportations? A Debate with Kshama Sawant. Left Voice.


[7] Lenin V.I. (1917). Class Society and the State. The State and Revolution.


[8] King E. (November 27, 2017). Revisiting a History of Police and the Working Class. City Lab


[9] Lenin V.I. (August 29, 1905). The Black Hundreds and the Organisation of an Uprising. Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 9, pages 200-204.


[10] Miah M. (January/February, 2015). African-American Self-Defense. Solidarity-US.


[11] Asfura-Heim P. and Espach R.H. (July/August 2013). The Rise of Mexico’s Self-Defense Forces. Foreign Affairs.


[12] Asmann P. (April 22, 2019.) Will Self-Defense Groups Form in Mexico City?. InSight Crime.


[13] B’Tselem. (November 11, 2017). Settler Violence: Absence of Law Enforcement.