International Committee of the Fourth International
Fourth International Vol. 15 No. 3-4 (July-December 1988)

Palestinian Struggle Betrayed

Arafat Bows to Imperialism and Zionism

The opening of formal talks between US imperialism and the Palestine Liberation Organization marks a historic betrayal of the long and heroic struggle of the Palestinian people against imperialism and Zionism.

Far from being the road to “peace” proclaimed by the capitalist media and the imperialist politicians, this acceptance by Yassir Arafat and the bourgeois nationalist leadership of the PLO of the conditions dictated by Washington will only open the door to an intensified assault on the oppressed masses of Palestine and throughout the Middle East.

The rapprochement between the PLO and Washington truly marks the end of an era. The period of bogus “national independence,” which began with the partition of India in 1947 and then passed through the imperialist-orchestrated end to direct colonial rule in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, now finds its culmination in the betrayal of the Palestinian national struggle.

National self-determination of an oppressed people cannot be won under the leadership of the national bourgeoisie. In this epoch, the achievement of these democratic tasks depends upon the victory of the socialist revolution, the establishment of a proletarian dictatorship and the creation of a workers’ state.

In a December 14 statement, which was literally dictated by the US State Department, Arafat guaranteed the security of Israel and accepted the anti-Palestinian UN Resolutions 181, 242, and 338. He declared that a peace settlement with Israel was a “strategy and not an interim tactic” and renounced “all forms of terrorism, including individual, group and state terrorism.”

The Reagan administration had only the day before rejected Arafat’s speech before the UN General Assembly because of some alleged deviation from the US-dictated text. What it demanded was an unequivocal declaration of the PLO’s acceptance of US imperialist hegemony in the Middle East, embodied in its support for the client state of Israel.

Asked at the news conference Wednesday to declare his acceptance of Israel yet again with a simple yes or no answer, Arafat briefly gave vent to his humiliation at the hands of Washington: “What do you want? Do you want me to do a striptease? It would be unseemly.” How the mighty have fallen!

Arafat’s statement amounts to a repudiation of even the basic bourgeois nationalist goals with which the PLO has been identified for the last quarter century.

The recognition of the state of Israel legitimizes the Palestinian people’s transformation into refugees at the mercy of imperialism. It abandons the Palestinians’ claim to the homeland which was forcibly seized from them in 1948 and accepts US imperialism and its client state as the arbiters of the destiny of the Palestinians and all the peoples of the Middle East. It renounces the armed struggle for liberation and accepts the confinement of the Palestinian people to an unviable and imperialist-dominated Bantustan in the tiny and divided territories of Gaza and the West Bank.

Such agreements have never brought “peace” or national liberation for the working class and the oppressed in the former colonial countries. They have only served to disarm the masses and pave the way for new imperialist barbarism.

Marxists implacably reject such accords and combat every pacifist illusion generated by the petty-bourgeois agencies of imperialism that “peace talks” can put an end to war and oppression. Marxists advance instead the program of class war to put an end to imperialism. Apologists for such deals only reveal their own uncritical acceptance of the whole imperialist world order.

Arafat’s renunciation of “terrorism” on orders from Washington comes within days of the latest Israeli terror bombings and hit squad raids against Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. It follows one year of shootings, beatings, round-the-clock curfews, deportations and the coldblooded execution of school children in the West Bank and Gaza. And it comes barely eight months after the terrorist assassination of PLO leader Abu Jihad in Tunisia by Israeli Mossad agents.

As is well-known, “terrorism,” in the jargon of imperialist diplomacy, refers to none of these atrocities and acts of state murder. Rather, it is a word used exclusively to describe the resistance of the oppressed to imperialism’s use of such methods against them.

US Secretary of State Shultz hastened to emphasize that “US commitment to the security of Israel remains unflinching,” meaning that the over $3 billion in military and economic aid poured into Israel every year will continue to finance the Zionist state’s murder of Palestinian workers and youth in the occupied territories and its aggression throughout the Middle East.

Claims that the PLO’s capitulation to imperialism represents some tactical maneuver forced upon it by the “hopelessness” of the Palestinian cause represent a combination of cowardice and deceit. No one can seriously suggest that the strength of imperialist reaction today is greater than it was, for example, in 1982, when the PLO had to singlehandedly resist the US-backed invasion of Lebanon. The Middle East has since seen the forced withdrawal of the Israeli troops from most of Lebanon and the debacle of US imperialism’s intervention in that country.

Most important of all is the yearlong intifada, or uprising, of the Palestinian workers and youth in the Israeli-occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This revolt has shaken Zionist rule like nothing before in history, cutting deeply into the Israeli economy and shaking the ideological grip of Zionism over broad sections of Jewish workers and middle class people.

For its part, the Zionist regime finds itself stricken by crisis, incapable of halting the uprising in the occupied territories and still unable to patch together a ruling parliamentary coalition six weeks after national elections.

What has driven the PLO leadership to renounce its own democratic program and embrace imperialism is precisely the desperate fear of the Palestinian bourgeoisie that the revolutionary movement of the masses will escalate out of control. It is ironic that the most intransigent liberation fighters of yesterday are renouncing armed struggle precisely at the moment in which hundreds of thousands of young Palestinians in the occupied territories are defying the armed might of the Zionist state on a daily basis.

These events cannot be understood outside of a class analysis of the PLO. Its past adherence to the armed struggle and the heroism of its members notwithstanding, it is and always has been a bourgeois national movement. Its nationalism is that of the bourgeoisie which seeks to create the best possible conditions for the exploitation of its “own” working class. The failure of this bourgeoisie to establish its own state has in no way mitigated this drive. In exile, Palestinian capitalists have amassed considerable assets which they are anxious to secure and expand through the exploitation of wage labor guaranteed by their own capitalist state apparatus.

The intifada poses a greater threat to this striving than do imperialism and Zionism themselves. It has brought to the fore the class question in the Palestinian struggle. The symbol of resistance to imperialist domination and Zionist rule has been transformed from the Palestinian guerrilla to the Palestinian worker. And this struggle increasingly points to proletarian revolution as the only means of realizing genuine national liberation.

This development of the world crisis is systematically verifying the basic truths established by Marxism against all the petty-bourgeois theories which were so recently in vogue. The attempt to counterpose the “armed struggle” as some sort of supra-class alternative to the revolutionary mobilization of the proletariat, independently of the bourgeoisie, has again been unmasked as a reactionary fraud.

Moreover, this movement of the Palestinian workers and youth threatens to ignite a revolutionary movement of the working class throughout the Middle East. Barely two months ago, the working class of Algeria rose up against the pro-imperialist policies of the government, directly inspired by the youth of the West Bank and Gaza. There is little wonder, therefore, that the US-PLO accord is backed by virtually all the reactionary Arab bourgeois regimes.

As Arafat himself stated candidly on Wednesday: “Let it be absolutely clear that neither Arafat, nor anyone for that matter, can stop the intifada, the uprising. The intifada will come to an end only when practical and tangible steps have been taken toward the achievement of our national aims and establishment of our independent Palestinian state.”

Were the bourgeois nationalist leadership of the PLO to succeed in the establishment of a ghetto state under the auspices of US imperialism in the territories currently occupied by the Zionists, there is no doubt that the first task of such a regime would be precisely the repression of the intifada. Such a state would rapidly emerge as an enemy of the struggle of the Palestinian people. Its purpose would be not the liberation of these masses from capitalist exploitation and imperialist oppression, but rather the securing of the property rights of the Palestinian bourgeoisie to continue and intensify this exploitation.

The heroism of the Palestinian people has long been matched by the perfidy of the Arab capitalists. The Camp David peace accord sponsored by the Carter administration in 1977 marked a turn not only by Egypt’s Anwar Sadat, but by the entire Arab bourgeoisie to the abandonment of any opposition to imperialist domination of the Middle East, as well as any support for the Palestinian struggle. Achieved under the direct supervision of imperialism, this “peace” accord led directly to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the savage intensification of Zionist oppression in the occupied territories.

Arafat is only the last of these bourgeois leaders to take the road to Camp David. The result will be no different.

The so-called peace initiative sponsored by US imperialism in the Middle East is only the latest such plan to be introduced internationally. The past year and a half has seen the implementation of the Indo-Lankan Accord, the Arias plan in Central America, the Iran-Iraq settlement and, most recently, the Namibia agreement between Angola, Cuba and South Africa. All of them have led not to peace, but to a betrayal of the struggle for self-determination.

The Indo-Lankan Accord has resulted in a reign of terror by the Indian Army against the oppressed Tamils in the North of Sri Lanka and virtual civil war conditions in the South. The Arias accord has been followed by the economic bankrupting of Nicaragua and virtually all of Central America and the continuing intensification of civil war conditions. And the Iran-Iraq “peace” has been followed by the genocidal massacre of the Iraqi Kurds and the mass executions of thousands upon thousands of Iranian political prisoners. The latest agreements in the Middle East and southern Africa will lead to similar results.

The Soviet Stalinist bureaucracy has acted as a full partner in each of these counterrevolutionary agreements, just as it has played a key role in the PLO’s capitulation. Moscow has engaged in a feverish drive to eliminate “regional tensions” as part of its strategy of accommodation with US imperialism and integration into the world capitalist market. In point of fact, it is not “regional” conflicts the bureaucracy is concerned with, but rather the class struggle. Stalinism, imperialism and the bourgeois nationalists are all being driven together by the explosive development of the world capitalist crisis and the common threat which they all share from the world proletariat.

The absolutely reactionary role of Stalinism was underscored by the Communist Party of Israel’s praise for the November 15 decision of the Palestine National Council to recognize Israel and embrace the 1947-48 partition of Palestine. This action, the Israeli Stalinists declared, “made good the mistake of the former reactionary Palestinian leadership which in 1947-48 rejected the UN Resolution 181” which partitioned Palestine.

This resistance to the postwar settlement based on imperialist domination and racial and religious divisions was precisely what imparted the profound revolutionary character to the Palestinian struggle.

The national democratic tasks of self-determination can only be achieved through the socialist revolution and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This requires the construction of independent proletarian parties, based on the strategy of permanent revolution, leading the working class at the head of all the oppressed. This is the only force which is capable of resolving the tasks of the democratic revolution through its own methods, that of workers’ power and the international socialist revolution.

The struggle of the Palestinian masses will be advanced not by deals with imperialism, Zionism, Stalinism and the Arab bourgeoisie, but rather through a revolutionary appeal to the workers inside Israel as well as those of Egypt, .Lebanon and the entire Middle East, based on a common struggle against imperialist oppression and capitalist exploitation.

The American and world working class must take action to defend the Palestinian people against the state terrorism of the Zionists and US imperialists. They must lend their aid to the uniting of both the Palestinian and the Jewish workers in the struggle for the destruction of the reactionary and racist Zionist state which upholds the interests of imperialism in the Middle East. This struggle requires the establishment of a socialist state of Palestine, as part of a United Socialist States of the Middle East, through the tearing down of the anachronistic capitalist state boundaries which divide the Middle East and which block economic development and perpetuate bloody conflicts.

To carry out this struggle, proletarian revolutionary parties, armed with the program of permanent revolution, must be built in Israel, the occupied territories and throughout the Middle East as sections of the world Trotskyist movement, the International Committee of the Fourth International.