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Imperialism, Palestinian resistance and the Arab Spring

Jesse McLaren

November 26, 2012


For decades, Western imperialism has used Israeli Apartheid and Arab dictatorships to control the oil-rich region. But the heroic Palestinian resistance has inspired the Arab Spring, whose strikes against Arab dictators can combine to free Palestine.   
In its imperial rivalry with Europe and China, the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003–which was supposed to be quickly followed by “regime change” in Syria, Iran and beyond. But resistance to these two occupations–including Afghan and Iraqi resistance, a global anti-war movement and the emergence of war resisters–created a quagmire for Western imperialism that prevented it from advancing. So instead, the US launched tow proxy wars in 2006–the Israeli assault on Lebanon and the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia.
But these were resisted militarily, while political resistance brought electoral gains for forces hostile to imperialism: the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, and growing influence of Iran. As a result the US had extended its occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, launched another proxy war with the 2009 war on Gaza, and has been trying to build a campaign against Iran. But these only provoked more resistance, inspired by Palestine.
Egypt and Israeli apartheid 
South African apartheid was overthrown by the black working-class, whose centrality to the economy meant mass strikes could shut it down. Palestinians are excluded from the Israeli economy–with unemployment in Gaza as high as 80 per cent–robbing Palestinians of the weapon of mass strikes. But Israeli apartheid is sustained by the complicity of Arab dictatorships–especially Egypt, which keeps the Rafah border closed. As a result, the mass strikes at the heart of the Arab Spring, inspired by Palestinian resistance, are challenging these complicity regimes and opening another front in the struggle to free Palestine.
The roots of the Egyptian revolution date back to 2002, when the Palestinian intifada sparked mass protests against Egypt’s dictator Mubarak and his complicity with Israeli apartheid. In 2003 the global movement against war on Iraq included a mass occupation of Tahrir Square, with protesters condemning the Iraq War, the occupation of Palestine, and US imperialism responsible for both. The anti-war movement inspired a wave of workers revolts over the next few years–which brought growing confidence to challenge the Egyptian regime. During mass strikes workers raised their own economic demands, but also raised funds for Palestine.
Arab Spring
The Arab Spring exploded last year, combining economic resistance to austerity, political resistance to dictatorships, and solidarity with Palestine. The working class played a key role: it was the general strike by Tunisian workers that finally drove Ben Ali out, and mass strikes across Egypt (including at the Suez Canal, a major artery of the capitalist economy) that drove out Mubarak.
Ongoing demands to raise minimum wage, nationalize companies and grant civil liberties have paralleled ongoing solidarity with Palestine–from the storming of the Israeli embassy in Cairo last year, to the break through the Rafah border by Egyptian activists during the current war.
The Arab Spring has exposed forces that have claimed to be anti-imperialist. In Syria, the government of Assad has used rhetoric against the US and Israel to mask his support for neoliberal policies. When the people of Syria demanded economic and political justice, Assad resorted to brutal attacks, using armed forces that haven’t dare challenge Israel. In Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood has claimed to oppose Mubarak and support Palestine. But now that it’s in power it is imposing the same neoliberalism, attacks on workers, and complicity with Israeli apartheid.
The ongoing revolution in Egypt is exposing the contradictions of the Brotherhood–between the leadership that wants peace with Israel in order to gain the support of the US, and the youth base that has been part of the revolution. The potential for the latest war to undermine his credibility and to advance revolutionary ideas in Egypt is very real.
International working-class
The role of workers in the Arab world and beyond is critical. Mass strikes quickly drove dictators out of Tunisia and Egypt and remain central to the ongoing revolutions there. But where the working class has been smaller, or had less traditions and experience of strikes, the Arab Spring has lagged and allowed imperialism to intervene–in Libya and Syria.
The working-class is also key to challenging the Western powers that arm Israel and Arab dictators and impose austerity. On November 14, the day Israel launched its massacre, workers across Southern Europe united in a general strike, and Greek workers marched on the Israeli consulate in solidarity with Palestine.
We need to take inspiration from Palestine, Egypt and Greece, and build working class resistance to austerity–combining the political radicalization against Israel with economic resistance against its imperial masters.


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