Nothing is accomplished with an abstract support of Palestine when it’s convenient. It is when the empire’s ideological apparatuses are pumping out atrocity propaganda to dehumanize Palestinian anti-colonial resistance that support for Palestinian freedom struggles count.
The recent events have shown who is willing to stand for Palestine in the concrete, when the people grab arms to throw off their occupying force. “Decolonization,” as the great Frantz Fanon noted, “is always a violent phenomenon.”
If your purity fetish requests a bloodless anti-colonial revolution, you’ll be doomed to always condemning freedom movements of colonized peoples. You’ll be chained to playing the role of the defenders of empire from the ‘left’. Your ‘siding’ with the oppressed will always be conditioned by their being oppressed; you’ll be with them only insofar as they’re the victim, but never when they fight back and become an emancipatory force.
The Western left’s treatment of violence, like everything else, is abstract. It is unable to distinguish between particular forms of violence, between the ever-present violence of the oppressor, and the emancipatory violence of the oppressed. As Maximillien Robespierre noted, to equate the violence of the people’s struggle for freedom to the violence of their exploitative and oppressive rulers is as folly and empty as saying that “the sword that gleams in the hands of the heroes of liberty resembles that with which the henchmen of tyranny are armed.”
The key issue here is violence by whom, against whom, and towards what ends. The Palestinian uprising is a legitimate, self-defensive, violence of a people against an apartheid occupational state. It is the violence of the colonized, against the colonizers, for freedom. It is a violence that has been taken up as the last resort in a long struggle against Zionist colonialism. It is the only route the colonizers have left for Palestinians to fight for their freedom. Violence, as Fidel Castro noted, is the route the oppressors force on the people, it is taken up when all other means of struggle have been exhausted. We must remember the words of Paulo Frieri, “Never in history has violence been initiated by the oppressed.”
But their struggle for freedom is not limited to Palestinians. A defeat of Israel, the US empire’s outpost in the so-called Middle East – the “baby child of imperialism in the Middle East” as Kwame Ture said – would be a victory for all of humanity.
A defeat of empire in any corner of the earth, as Che Guevara noted, must be celebrated cheerfully by every communist, every person driven by a deep love of humanity. The imperialists hate humanity; their capitalist system undermines, as Marx had noted, the “original sources of all wealth – the soil and the worker.” The Palestinian struggle against the racist Israeli colonial US-outpost is a struggle for humanity – for the exploited and oppressed across the earth. It is a struggle for life, a struggle against the Israeli imperialist death machine.
Paradoxically, a Palestinian victory would be the conditions for the possibility of current Israeli settlers experiencing real freedom. As the Peruvian indigenous politician Dionisio Yupanqui says in his 1810 speech to the Cortes de Cádiz, “a people that oppresses another cannot be free.” The Israeli settlers cannot be free, cannot experience genuine human autonomy, insofar as their existence necessitates the oppression and extermination of Palestinian people. In their oppression of the Palestinian they stifle their capacity to live fully human lives. As Plato had long ago noted, injustice against an other corrupts the soul; the worst evil we can be inflicted with is that which we do to ourselves when we harm others. A society predicated on such disdain and obliteration of its “other” destroys itself from within. Like Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, Israel’s sins against the Palestinians are making a monstrosity out of the soul of its people.
Palestinian freedom must be acquired, in the words of Malcolm X, “by any means necessary.” A victorious Palestinian struggle is in the interests of all of humanity – of all working and oppressed peoples of the world.
US socialists must stand, as some comrades have been doing, with the Palestinian struggle for freedom. We must push back against Zionist genocidal efforts, and those echoed by our morally hollow capitalist politicians.
It is difficult to imagine that Israeli intelligence was truly caught by surprise. It is plausible to suspect that they have allowing events to play out so that they may intensify their genocidal war against Palestine while using atrocity propaganda to legitimize their efforts.
This does not change, however, the fact that Palestinians are up in arms fighting for their freedom. Neither does it change the fact that, like all hubris-filled Goliaths, this apartheid-colonial state – as we currently know it – may fall.
Humanity sees itself in the struggle of the Palestinians.
Because this great humanity has said: Enough! and has started walking. And their march of giants will no longer stop until they achieve true independence, for which they have already died more than once in vain. Now, in any case, those who will die, will die like those of Cuba, those of Playa Girón, will die for their only, true, inalienable independence! – Che Guevara
Carlos L. Garrido is a philosophy teacher at Southern Illinois University, Director at the Midwestern Marx Institute, and author of The Purity Fetish and the Crisis of Western Marxism (2023), Marxism and the Dialectical Materialist Worldview (2022), and Hegel, Marxism, and Dialectics (Forthcoming 2024).