Imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism are locked in combat. Imperialist powers are the source of the problem. Islamism would not have the power it now enjoys in the world without the imperialist system. Both must be opposed
The British columnist Robert Fisk recently wrote that if people wanted to "address ‘the underlying issues' of the Israel/Palestinian war", as U.S. President Barack Obama's Secretary of State John Kerry advised, they should ask themselves why the Palestinians are in Gaza. The answer is not what Kerry had in mind.
Two-thirds of Gaza's people are refugees. Israeli forces deported people to Gaza because it was outside the land they wanted in 1948, when the Zionist army violently drove out 90 percent of the Arab population to make way for what became Israel that year. Their homes were destroyed and Jewish settlers were brought from abroad to fill the new towns built on the ruins. Then Israel seized Gaza in 1967, first trying to fill it with more Jewish settlers and then turning it into a prison. Now it is starving and shooting the prisoners – in the name of protecting southern Israeli towns like Ashkelon and Sderot where so many Gazans came from.
The even bigger "underlying question" is why the U.S. and other Western governments arm, finance and politically support Israel, and even send more colonists. Why do they declare that their military might will always stand behind Israel's "right to defend itself", despite occasional friction? It is because what they are defending is the U.S.'s principal reliable military outpost in the Middle East, a pillar of imperialist domination of the region and its peoples. The so-called "Jewish lobby" is not what motivates U.S. support for Israel, it just helps create public opinion to justify that. Israel's indispensable role for the U.S. is the fundamental reason for the Zionists' unending aggression, proud brutality and limitless arrogance.
The basic "underlying issue" is oppression. This is the point of view from which we should look at Hamas. It cannot be supported because it does not represent liberation from oppression. Its political, social and ideological programme is reactionary, contrary to interests of the vast majority of Palestinians and world's people. It stands for an obscurantist outlook, religious rule and the subjugation of women.
Instead of wringing hands or being paralysed by this complexity, a correct understanding of the underlying issues should make it possible and irresistible to take political action, especially to oppose Israeli aggression, which can never, under any circumstances, be justified as "self defence". With the understanding that Zionism is not only racism but an essential imperialist tool, we can expose and denounce the U.S. and European hands that hold up the Israeli state founded on ethnic cleansing and that allow these murderers to massacre unarmed Palestinians again and again, whether they be children and youth shot dead at demonstrations in the West Bank or whole families killed in Gaza.
And further, with this understanding, we should support the demand to lift the blockade of Gaza – a common demand of the Palestinian people – as an elementary question of justice and solidarity with Gazans and all Palestinians.
The "underlying issue" in Iraq, to continue with the same method, is also imperialism. How can Obama talk about delivering "humanitarian aid" to Yazidis, Kurds or anyone else when the U.S. made possible the humanitarian disaster in Gaza (not to mention Afghanistan, Libya, Haiti and everywhere the U.S. has intervened)? The American blockade, bombings, invasion and occupation created the mess that is Iraq, and now Obama and his cohorts in the UK and France want to bomb and maraud some more. This has to be opposed.
As for the religious and ethnic divisions in Iraq that the West claims require their intervention, ever since the Sykes-Picot agreement during WWI when France and Great Britain divided up the region between them, the imperialists have done their best to set up colonial and neocolonial regimes based on ethnic and religious divisions in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, allying with reactionary elites in power to this day.
The rise of Islamic fundamentalism is the result of a confluence of factors, including economic and social changes produced by the globalization of the imperialist economy, a disgust with the hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy behind the values promoted by the Western imperialists and their local flunkies and crooks, the inability of the past Arab nationalist movements to conceive a thorough break with the imperialist world market, the slander that is all most people know of the Russian and Chinese socialist revolutions, and the years the U.S. and other powers spent supporting Islamist groups for their own immediate interests (such as the passive and sometimes active aid the Israeli secret services gave Hamas to counter the secular national liberation movement in Palestine). While Islamist currents have gotten out of control and their actions have become a real problem for these powers today, Islamism's widespread influence among the oppressed is also a problem from the point of view of the liberation of the peoples of the Middle East and the world.
What is now called the Islamic State (formerly called ISIS or Da'ash) is an affliction on the peoples of Iraq and Syria, and anyone who argues anything else would have to explain how cutting off heads to impose religious terror, ethnic cleansing and patriarchal rule could unite the peoples of the Middle East to fight their real enemies. At the same time, the imperialists with their hi-tech weapons have ended many times more lives than anyone with swords, despite the "democratic" and "civilised" discourse they use to justify their murder. This situation is an extreme example of a basic truth: Islamic fundamentalism and Western imperialism are locked in a real battle, but if you support either of them you end up supporting both.
We have to expose the imperialist powers and the system that is the source of the problem, build resistance to more of their bloody interventions that did so much to bring the Middle East to where it is today, and also expose and oppose Islamism (and religious rule in general), which would not have the power it now enjoys in the world without the workings and crimes of the imperialist system.
It is especially important for people to grapple with the facts to understand the situation as it really is, and for those who have some understanding to act in a way that can begin to reach out and move people very broadly and become a rallying point for resistance and a source of hope in an otherwise dark situation. Further, it is very needed for people to raise banners of revolution in opposition to both imperialism and the religious forces that seek only to modify the world's oppressive order to their advantage and outlook and not change it in any liberating way. The emergence of real, living, growing movements determined to overthrow the old order and build a new state power, and a vision for radically new, totally liberating societies where people everywhere would want to live, could make it possible to begin to seize the initiative from the people's enemies.
* Samuel Albert writes for the A World To Win News Service
* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR/S AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM
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