Imperialism cannot be relegated to a single issue like Palestine or Syria. Its defeat is a strategic necessity for the liberation of humanity.
Many in the United States have a hard time seeing beyond single issues or individuals. The ruling class has taken full advantage by relegating the blame for the problems of US imperialism on Trump, Russia, or some combination of the two. This is a uniquely US phenomenon. It is an outgrowth of the US empire’s roots in classical, capitalist liberalism and the vulgar idealism attached to it. The imperatives of race-based slavery and class oppression have made it difficult for workers in the US to see themselves as a collective instead of a diverse set of individuals, each with their own grievances and investments with the US empire.
Recent events worldwide point to the urgent need for the struggling masses in the US to defeat empire, not invest in it. Too often are the particularities of US imperialism, such as the plight of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli settler state, viewed as separate, unrelated issues. The same goes for US provocations toward Syria, Iran, or Russia. Yet none of these strategic priorities for US imperialism stand alone on the world stage. They are all deeply interconnected and point to the common enemy that all oppressed people share both in the US and all over the planet.
The current Israeli assault on Palestinians in Gaza is a case in point. On the day that the US embassy in Jerusalem was opened and just one day before Palestinians mourned the anniversary of the “Nakba,” Israeli snipers killed over sixty Palestinians and injured thousands more. The mass murder of Palestinians on the colonial border of the Gaza strip was part and parcel of a larger series of violent responses to the Great March of Return that has been going over a month prior to the US embassy’s move to Jerusalem. Palestinian resistance has once again placed a spotlight on Israel’s colonial genocide of the Palestinian people. The Trump Administration has looked away from the carnage due to its strained relationship with much of the world. Only Trump’s advisor Jared Kushner has made a definitive statement on the matter, calling the protesters “part of the problem” for “provoking violence.”
Kushner speaks fluidly in the language of the colonizer. Colonial powers throughout history have used the language of criminality and unruliness of the native population to justify the violent suppression of anti-colonial resistance. Israel is no different. The Zionist settler state has repeatedly criminalized Palestinians as “Hamas terrorists” over the last several years, rendering the population as unworthy of land or life. Lacking allies in the European imperialist camp, Trump has leaned heavily on strengthening relations with two countries that can always be counted on to fulfill US interests: Israel and Saudi Arabia. Israel and Saudi Arabia want nothing more than a weakened Palestine as part of their broader policy to keep the region under imperialist domination
Israel’s latest massacre of the Palestinian people has engendered legitimate anger across the world. The sheer cruelty of the massacre has been difficult to hide despite the best efforts of the corporate media. The New York Times and the BBC, for example, have whitewashed Israel’s crimes as “clashes” and described Palestinians as having “died” because of them. According to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), “Israel has killed 11 Palestinian children, two journalists, one person on crutches and three persons with disabilities.” FAIR adds that “to this point, the only Israeli casualty during the entire cycle of demonstrations has been one “lightly wounded ” soldier, considerable space in coverage of the massacres is devoted to blaming Palestinians for their own slaughter.” In contrast to the distortions of the media, complete silence over the massacre reigns in Washington. Silence protects the politicians or capitalists in control of US policy, all of which possess a vested interest in maintaining cordial relations with last remaining settler state in the Middle East.
US imperialism bears the most responsibility for Israel’s immunity on the world stage. The United States provides nearly four billion dollars per year in military aid alone to Israel, a historic expenditure made possible by the Obama Administration. Trump has shouldered the blame for officially moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, a site many see as the heartland of Palestine. But it was under the Clinton Administration that the US officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This has been affirmed by the Bush and Obama Administrations in a number of speeches to Zionist audiences such as American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Only by taking the issue of Palestine out of the narrow confines of single-issue politics and into the struggle against US imperialism can we answer the real question as to why such unanimous support for Israel exists in Washington.
Washington has a nearly a half century long history in keeping the Zionist settler state immune from popular resistance or international accountability. While Israel is a creation of Western imperialism, the settler state receives over ten million USD per day in military equipment to fulfill US objectives in the region. Israel returns the favor by showering US political officials with campaign donations through its slush-fund, AIPAC . The US-Israeli partnership is not always one of consensus, as proven by Israel’s attack on theUSS Liberty during the Six Day War or Netanyahu’s steadfast opposition to President Obama’s signature “Iran deal,” recently nixed by Trump. When it comes to their strategic interests in the Middle East, however, there is little that the US and Israel disagree upon.
Washington’s inaction toward Israeli atrocities is about more than a lack of concern for the lives of Palestinians. The demand for Washington to sanction Israel or withdraw military support is fruitless unless Palestine is placed in the larger context of imperialist aggression. Washington arms Israel to the teeth because, as imperialist powers, they share a common vision for the region and the world. What foremost unites them is the aim to suppress and destroy Arab nationalism, the anti-colonial movement that has always placed Palestine at the front and center of its political activities. US imperialism has long charted a course to destabilize any independent nation in the Middle East that ascribes to some version of nationalism, whether the Arab nationalism of the Libyan and Syrian states or the Islamic nationalism of the Iranian state. Anti-colonial nationalism is the antithesis of US imperial rule, which is predicated to the unmitigated corporate and military plunder of the planet.
Israel is heavily dependent on US imperialism but not to the extent where the settler regime is devoid of its own interests. The settler state not only wants to erase the Palestinian population from existence, but also sees the erasure of all sovereign and independent formations in the region as a prerequisite to its own expansionist dreams. Israel called for the removal of Saddam Hussein in the Clean Break policy document authored in 1996. Israel has also provided aid to jihadists operating in Syria since the very beginning of the foreign-backed insurgency against the Syrian government led by Bashar Al-Assad. The Syrian Constitution codifies the Syrian state as the antithesis of Zionist rule in the region. President Assad has made numerous statements in support of Palestine. It is a myth that Palestinians live in a friendless Middle East. Palestine stands at the center of a broader struggle for national liberation that many falsely assumed had come to an end in the late 20thcentury.
If the struggle for national liberation has indeed ended, then why does US imperialism militarily occupy part of Northeast Syria to complement Israel’s occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights? Why does US imperialism occupy Afghanistan and incessantly pressure the Iraqi government to give up its alliance with Syria and Iran? Why is Israel so concerned about Hezbollah’s growing influence in Lebanon or Iran’s growing influence in the region, generally? The answer is because the Syria-Hezbollah-Iraq-Iran alliance is holding on to dear life to prevent the complete collapse of the region to US and Israeli rule.
In the struggle against imperialism, national liberation is a matter of survival. It is a life or death struggle, a class struggle. Either the national liberation struggles that bore the fruits of independence in Syria and Iran prevail or the boot of the US and its imperial allies suffocates the masses of people in the region. Israel’s massacre of Palestinians is possible because US imperialism has waged endless war on the region, beginning with Afghanistan in 1979 and moving one by one to Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Iran. This has placed the struggle for national liberation in Asia and Africa in a state of siege and underdevelopment. What Palestine needs most is for this state of siege to end.
However, the imperialist siege on national liberation movements has poisoned the politics of what passes as the “left” in the US imperialist orbit. Israelis, like their American brethren, are racist to the core and unable to acknowledge the humanity of the people in Iraq, Syria, or Palestine. The “left” in the imperialist orbit is fully committed to regime change and war as long as it targets “authoritarian regimes”—a euphemism for a nation that the US or Israel doesn’t like. US imperialism is not a system to the left. US imperialism has become a single issue, with many leftists choosing to express solidarity with Palestinians but not for Syrians, Iranians, or Iraqis. Palestine is a worthy cause mainly because Palestinians can be stripped of their class character in the face of an overwhelming enemy in Israel. The Arab and Islamic nationalist sentiments of Syria or Iran pose a real, existing challenge to imperial rule and are thus not afforded any solidarity at all despite the unwavering support that organizations like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) give to them.
Of course, this is not to say that solidarity with Palestine should be abandoned. Rather, it should be expanded. Yes, only the people of the United States can truly stop the Zionist state of Israel’s genocide of the Palestinian people. The question is, how? The US imperial war on the poor, especially the Black and Native poor inside of its own borders, cannot be ignored. Anti-imperialism must also mean anti-system. It is a unity of struggles against the oppressor class, against class society itself. Imperialism thus cannot be relegated to a single issue. Its defeat is a strategic necessity for the liberation of humanity.
Top Photo: Image by Daniel Haiphong.
Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He is currently writing a book with Roberto Sirvent entitled American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: Essays on Race, Empire, and Historical Memory. He can be reached at [email protected]