Syria, Israel and Palestinians: Free Abdel Qader Altlitha!

Free Abdel Qader Altlitha! Free all Palestinian Political Prisoners!

Palestinians fight on both sides of the civil war in Syria

by Yossi Schwartz, Internationalist Socialist League (RCIT-Section in Israel/Occupied Palestine), 16.2.2014, www.thecommunists.net, www.the-isleague.com

 

On Monday, Feb 10, Lod District Court sentenced Abdel Qader Altlitha, a Palestinian resident of the town of Taibe (inside Israel’s 1967 borders), to 15 months in prison for attempting to join the Syrian rebel forces Nusra Front.

In her ruling, Judge Shira Ben Shlomo noted the danger inherent in Arab Israelis volunteering for jihadist groups in Syria, where they ‘receive ideological and military training which could then be used for carrying out attacks on Israeli targets.’” (1)

No doubt Palestinians who receive military training are in a position to fight the racist state of Israel. Such training can be crucial in a revolutionary situation fomented by armed masses.

This court ruling raises two issues: (a) exactly on which side of the civil war in Syria is Israel? and (b) the hypocrisy of Israel regarding Palestinians not serving in the Israeli army.

Israel prefers Assad to smash the Islamist opposition:

"Israel’s preference is for President Bashar Assad to remain in power rather than see radical Islamist forces take control in Syria, the former military chief of staff is quoted in Wednesday’s edition of the daily tabloid Ma’ariv as saying. Dan Halutz, who served as IDF chief of staff during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, told a gathering in Moscow that the prospect of al-Qaida-affiliated elements ruling Damascus in place of the Assad regime would be more problematic from Jerusalem’s standpoint."(2)

"It’s hard to get a straight answer to those questions in Jerusalem. Direct calls for Assad’s ouster vanished from the Israeli lexicon a few months ago. In 2013, MK (as he was then) Avigdor Lieberman, Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz and then-ambassador to the United States Michael Oren declared that a change of regime was needed in Damascus. But the events of the past few months in Syria, notably the takeover by organizations identified with Al-Qaida of large swaths of opposition activity in the country, changed the Israeli approach, as it did that of Washington and European capitals. At the same time, the Assad regime has clung to power with ferocious tenacity. If the choice is between Assad and Al-Qaida, Israel prefers the continuation of the fighting (while issuing empty statements of empathy for the victims)." (3)

According to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center in Israel, namely an institution that supports Israel state terrorism:

In our assessment, so far about 20 Israeli Arabs have joined the ranks of the rebels in Syria, as well as30 Palestinians from the Gaza Stripanda few from Judea and Samaria. There are alsoseveral dozen Palestinians from the refugee camps in Lebanonwho have joined the rebels (especially from Ein al-Hilweh near Sidon)andPalestinians from Syria and Jordan. Most of them are apparently Salafi-jihadists who join organizations affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the global jihad.” (4)

But while the Amit Center does not mention that some Druze have joined Assad, we learn from other sources: “While it has been known for months that some Israeli Arab men have entered Syria tojoin rebel armies, Walla news is now reporting that several Druze men have infiltrated into Syria as well, to fight alongside President Bashar Assad’s forces.” (5)

In spite of this, there are no reports in the press that Israeli Druze who have joined up with Assad’s forces are facing trials. Israel’s systematic discrimination against the Palestinians is rationalized by Israel.

 

Israel: The Last Remaining Apartheid State

 

Israel, the last remaining apartheid state, denies that Palestinians are discriminated against in Israel, a claim that is no more than an empty, meaningless phrase.

Yet one of the official reasons actually acknowledged by the Zionists for discrimination against Palestinians citizens of Israel is the fact that the Palestinians, especially Muslims, are not conscripted into the Israeli army is because Israel is afraid of Arabs getting military training.

The pro -Israel propagandists Mitchell Bard has written: The sole legal distinction between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel is that the latter are not required to serve in the Israeli army. This was to spare Arab citizens the need to take up arms against their brethren. Nevertheless, many Arabs have volunteered for military duty and the Druze and Circassian communities are subject to the draft.Some economic and social gaps between Israeli Jews and Arabs result from the latter not serving in the military. Veterans qualify for many benefits and jobs not available to non-veterans. Moreover, the army aids in the socialization process. On the other hand, Arabs do have an advantage obtaining some jobs during the years Israelis are in the military. In addition, industries like construction and trucking have come to be dominated by Israeli Arabs.” (6)

It is absolutely untrue that the sole legal distinction between Jewish and Palestinians citizens of Israel is that Arabs are not required to serve in the army. In the ethnically-cleansed Palestinian land now known as “Israel,” there are at least 30 laws that discriminate against non-Jews. Israel is defined by its rulers as a “Jewish and Democratic state.” This is absurd: a Jewish state that rules over the Palestinian nation cannot be democratic. If the US were defined as a Christian Democratic state, the Zionist lobby would raise cries of anti-Semitism, and for very good reasons.

Unfortunately, most Jewish Israeli workers and other sections of the Jewish population support the racist nature of Israel, which they recognize as the defender of their relative privileges compared to the Arabs. So long as these groups will not break politically with Zionism, they will be unable to develop any serious economic or political struggle that will allow them to develop a revolutionary consciousness and fight against this racist, capitalist state. This has been proved time and again in the history of the State of Israel.

The latest event that attests to this is the Jewish Israeli protest movement of 2011 that eventually fell apart because it refused to defend the Palestinian struggle for freedom, and instead accepted the racist propaganda slogan of “sharing the burden,” namely that Arabs and ultra-orthodox Jews must serve the state. In the case of Arabs, the Israeli state is attempting to establish legislation whereby Christian Arabs will serve in the army, while Muslims will have to volunteer for one year national service to prove their loyalty to the state that oppresses them.

 

All Racist States Share the Same Fear: The Oppressed

 

In this respect, Israel is no different than the South African Apartheid State that existed until 1994, where blacks were not conscripted into the army because the racist state feared blacks receiving military training.

“The balance of power in South Africa was massively tilted in favor of the white minority population. They controlled 87% percent of the land and earned more than 10 times the amount that a black worker could expect to earn (Southall 1984). Not only economically, but the political systems was entirely composed of whites and the military was formed with white troops loyal to the government.” (7)

The same was true for blacks in America before the civil war, and changed, only to a certain degree, during the civil war. The reluctant capitalists of the North were afraid of blacks receiving military training:

“In 1862, President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation opened the door for African Americans to enlist in the Union Army. Although many had wanted to join the war effort earlier, they were prohibited from enlisting by a federal law dating back to 1792. President Lincoln had also feared that if he authorized their recruitment, border states would secede from the Union. By the end of the war, approximately 180,000 African-American soldiers had joined the fight.In addition to the problems of war faced by all soldiers, African-American soldiers faced additional difficulties created by racial prejudice. Although many served in the infantry and artillery they served mostly as cooks laborers and teamsters. And they were paid less than the white solders.” (8)

 

The Different Kinds of Discrimination in Israel based on Military Service

 

In Israel, the law for the Absorption of Discharged Soldiers, for example, provides housing and educational grants to former soldiers. Under the law, “a married couple in a poor socio-economic situation, each of whom has completed full military service, receives NIS 124,500 (about $30,000) more towards their home mortgage,” according to Adalah, a human rights organization in Israel, in its 2011 “Inequality Report.” (9)

According to this report, in 2010 Israel announced it would provide rent subsidies and land allocations to career soldiers that relocate with their families to the country’s southern Negev region. The government grants larger budgets to high schools that draft relatively high numbers of students to elite army units, while Israeli universities give preference to former soldiers, or reserve soldiers, when it comes to allocating scholarships and dorm rooms.

Recently, due to the growing tension between the US and Israel, the US State Department has “out of the blue” discovered that Israel practices “institutional discrimination” against its Palestinian citizens, especially with regard to accessing housing and employment:

“Citizens who do not perform military service enjoy fewer societal and economic benefits and are sometimes discriminated against in hiring practices. Citizens generally were ineligible to work in companies with defense contracts or in security-related fields if they had not served in the military,” the Department stated in a report on Israel’s human rights record.” (10)

Yet the real reason for the discrimination of Arabs citizens of Israel is not rooted in the fact that Arabs do not serve in the army or volunteer for national service, but in the inherent nature of Israel as an “ethnically-based” state. The question of the privileges of those serving in the army is merely a manifestation of the racist nature of Israel. We can confirm this from the discrimination of Druze who have actually served in the army.

Mandatory military service for Druze men is the result of a 1956 agreement in which the community’s leaders sought to improve conditions for the tiny minority, while the Israeli government sought to control Palestinians by creating strife between different groups of Palestinians. This, in fact, is the same sectarian policy that prevails in Syria.

However, growing numbers of Druze refuse to serve in the Israeli army because of the discrimination that the Druze, like other Palestinians, encounter in Israel.

’For the most part, we face all the same economic and political barriers as the rest of the Palestinian minority in Israel,’al-Sakleh said. ‘We are mostly poor, and our villages, often shared with Christian and Muslim Palestinians, lack sufficient infrastructure’ as a result of the government’s unwillingness to invest in non-Jewish areas. ‘The state has subjected Druze refuseniks to harsh punishment. Nonetheless, ‘a growing number of us understand that we identify as Palestinians — more than five or ten years ago, for sure,’ said al-Sakleh.” (11)

 

On which Side of the Military Conflict?

 

We in the ISL and RCIT oppose the murderous regime of Assad which is responsible for the death of over 130,000 people, and for the displacement of around two million Syrian refugees. We stand together with the fighting opposition in the military aspect of the civil war, without giving it any political support. The more dangerous enemy at this time is Assad’s army. Those on the left especially the centrist organizations who call themselves “Trotskyists” – like the CWI or the IMT, whose leadership refuses to take the side of the Islamists in the military struggle on the ground – in fact espouse a reactionary positions. We refer them to what Trotsky wrote on the rebellion of Abdel-Krim, also known as the Rif rebellion.

Prior to WWII, Morocco was ruled in part by the French, and in part by Spain. French and Spanish farmers had incomes that were much higher than the average of Moroccan farmers, and they looked upon their Muslim neighbors as racially inferior. In 1920, a rebellion broke out among mountain tribes in that part of Morocco controlled by Spain. The rebellion was led by Mohammed ben Abel Krim. In 1922, Krim announced the creation of an Islamic republic. He received aid from abroad, mostly Muslim volunteers.

During the rebellion, atrocities were committed by both Krim’s forces and the Spanish, including indiscriminate Spanish bombing of the Moroccans. In 1925, Krim’s forces advanced into tribal areas governed by France. A joint French-Spanish force united their large and well-equipped forces against Krim. This included artillery barrages, aerial bombardment, and the use of gasoline bombs from a volunteer air force commanded by an American mechanic, Charles Sweeney. Krim and a party of twenty-seven surrendered to the French in May 1926, and were exiled to French islands in the Indian Ocean.

While, today, reformist Communists claim that Assad is fighting against imperialism and many centrists have refused to back the Syrian rebels, in the 1920s, the Communist International and the early Communist Party of France, which at the time was a truly revolutionary party, stood alongside Krim, and even got him support from the Soviet Union. As the author of Islam and Communism has written:

In 1924-25, the CI encountered its first important ally from the Arab world in the person of Abd el-Krim (c. 1882-1963), the Berber leader of resistance in the Moroccan Rif to Spanish and French imperialism.” (12)

When relating to the Sino-Japanese war, Trotsky wrote:

We do not and never have put all wars on the same plane. Marx and Engels supported the revolutionary struggle of the Irish against Great Britain, of the Poles against the tsar, even though in these two nationalist wars the leaders were, for the most part, members of the bourgeoisie and even at times of the feudal aristocracy . . . at all events, Catholic reactionaries. When Abdel-Krim rose up against France, the democrats and Social Democrats spoke with hate of the struggle of a “savage tyrant” against the “democracy.” The party of Leon Blum supported this point of view. But we, Marxists and Bolsheviks, considered the struggle of the Riffians against imperialist domination as a progressive war. Lenin wrote hundreds of pages demonstrating the primary necessity of distinguishing between imperialist nations and the colonial and semi-colonial nations which comprise the great majority of humanity. To speak of “revolutionary defeatism” in general, without distinguishing between exploiter and exploited countries, is to make a miserable caricature of Bolshevism and to put that caricature at the service of the imperialists.“ (13)

 

Western and Eastern Imperialist Powers

 

The Islamist opposition movement in Syria is not battling against an imperialist state: Syria is a semi-colony. However the armed conflict is result of Assad’s attacks on the unfinished democratic revolution and, at present, cannot be seen as a conflict between two equal evils. During the Palestinian Authority military attack on Hamas in 2007, we in the ISL stood with Hamas against the PA backed by Israel but without giving Hamas any political support. Hamas is a reactionary organization, but the PA is a collaborator with Israel and is therefore more dangerous than Hamas. The very same leftist groups that refuse to side in the military front with the Muslim opposition in Syria refused to stand with Hamas.

Assad is supported by both Russian and Chinese imperialism while Western imperialism supports (mostly only rhetorically) the pro-imperialist opposition groups termed “moderate.” Those groups which claim they represent the moderate opposition have no influence whatsoever on the ground. The actual warfare against Assad is being conducted by Islamist forces whom no imperialists support in any way, shape, or form, as was proven by the failure of Geneva II conference and by the statement of Chuck Hagel, US Secretary of Defense.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the U.S. will continue to support the moderate opposition in Syria, but non-lethal aid will be suspended until the U.S. can get a clear assessment on the status of warehouses of military equipment seized by extremist Islamic militants. Hagel says the seizure is a big problem and the U.S., along with moderate opposition leaders, is going to have to work through it. He says it reflects the unpredictable situation there where it's not “an easy choice between the good guys and the bad guys.” (14)

While without doubt the Islamist opposition is reactionary, Assad is smashing the democratic revolution that cannot be completed without a working class revolution. The latter begins with a democratic struggle, but must ultimately combine the democratic revolution with a socialist revolution to achieve a true victory. This is the application of the working class revolutionary strategy – the permanent revolution – to Syria. At present, the Syrian working-class movement is weak: independent unions are illegal; most of the Syrian so-called “left” (i.e. the Stalinist parties) support Assad, and a revolutionary party does not exist in Syria.

For now, the focus of the revolutionary struggle has shifted to other places, like Bosnia, a struggle that is known as the “Bosnian Spring” after the Arab Spring, in which the multi-ethnic working class is leading the struggle. The urgent tasks in Bosnia are to organize workers’ councils, to lead a general strike, and, most importantly, to found a revolutionary workers’ party. Successful revolutionary victories in Bosnia can have a great influence on the working class in Syria.

 

Release Abdel Qader Altlitha and all political prisoners!

Victory to the permanent revolution in Syria and Bosnia!

 

Footnotes:

(1) AFP: Arab Israeli gets 15 months for training in Syria, 02.11.14, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4487205,00.html

(2) Herb Keinon: Ex-army chief Halutz: Israel prefers Assad over Islamists in Syria, Jerusalem Post, 12.11.2013, http://www.jpost.com/Defense/Ex-army-chief-Halutz-Israel-prefers-Assad-over-Islamists-in-Syria-334644

(3) Amos Harel: Between a ruthless dictator and global jihad, Israel, U.S. prefer Assad, Haaretz, January 23, 2014, http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/week-s-end/.premium-1.570231

(4) Israeli Arabs and Palestinians Join the Ranks of the Rebels in Syria, Mainly Organizations Affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Global Jihad, 19.1.2014, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/article/20613

(5) Maayana Miskin: Revealed: Israeli Druze Joining Assad, Arutz Sheva, 22.10.2013, http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/173100#.UvtC4GJ_s6w

(6) Mitchell Bard: The Status of Arabs in Israel, Jewish Virtual Library, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Society_&_Culture/arabstat.html

(7) Land Degradation and Violence in KwaZulu-Natal. South Africa: A Legacy of Apartheid, ICE Case No. 264 Fall 2011, http://www1.american.edu/ted/ICE/kwazulu.html

(8)Civil war and reconstruction 1861-1877. African American Solders during the civil war, http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/timeline/civilwar/aasoldrs/

(9)Inequality Report: The Palestinian Arab Minority in Israel, http://adalah.org/eng/Articles/1404/Inequality-Report:-The-Palestinian-Arab-Minority

(10)Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - US Department of State http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2011/nea/186429.htm

(11) Patrick O. Strickland: Growing numbers of Druze refuse to serve in Israel’s army, The Electronic Intifada, 20 March 2013, http://electronicintifada.net/content/growing-numbers-druze-refuse-serve-israels-army/12285

(12) Stephen Suleyman Schwartz: Islam and Communism (2009), http://www.islamicpluralism.org/CIPReports/IslamandCommunism4.pdf

(13) Leon Trotsky: On the Sino-Japanese War (1937), Internal Bulletin, Organizing Committee for the Socialist Party Convention (New York), no. 1, October 1937, http://marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1937/10/sino.htm

(14) Lolita C. Baldor: Hagel: US continues support of Syrian moderates, 12.12.2013, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/hagel-us-continues-support-syrian-moderates