Contribution by Dr. Ofer Casif, member of the Political Bureau of the C.C. of the Communist Party of Israel, to the15th International Meeting of Communist and Workers Parties held in Lisbon, Portugal on 8-10 November 2013
Dear Comrades and friends,
The CPI salutes you all – communist and workers’ parties of the world, and convey revolutionary greetings to all the delegates that participate in this distinguished conference. Special greetings to the PCP whose courageous revolutionary history is well known and appraised by all: its continuous struggle under the leadership of comrade Álvaro Cunhal against the authoritarian Estado Novo and its colonialist and fascist tendencies, its role in the Carnation Revolution and the democratization of Portugal – are all celebrated by communists and workers’ movements around the globe. I would also like to take this opportunity and send our greetings to the Lebanese and to the Syrian Communist Party on their 89th anniversary, and salute them on their continuous struggle against imperialist and Zionist intervention, and for free and just Lebanon and Syria.
If I may quote comrade Rosa Luxemburg, it seems that particularly nowadays the world as a whole faces two options only: socialism or barbarism. When capitalism runs amok and destructively tries to invade wherever and however it can; when imperialist powers (primarily USA and EU) are systematically in the offense, when the people’s rights to democracy and social justice, control of natural resources and wellbeing are under vicious attack by imperialism, capitalism, chauvinism and xenophobia – it’s our obligation, not solely right, to join forces and fight back our common enemies, namely capitalists and their allies. If we fail in doing so, thus pave the way to our foes and their malicious master plan, we will be doomed forever. Let us unite and defeat that evil empire of poverty and corruption, violence and exploitation, wars and depression.
The situation in Israel proper as well as in the Palestinian Occupied Territories is grave. As far as the occupation is concerned, Israel colonization of the territories is not only going on under the auspices of USA and its financial and political support, but actually only getting deeper and crueler. Natural resources like water and land are regularly robbed by Israeli Zionist authorities for the sake of Jewish settlers; Palestinians’ freedom of movement, worship and assembly are strictly limited; peaceful demonstrators and non-violent protesters are often arrested, beaten, and occasionally even shot; and trees, fields and other assets owned by Palestinians are burnt and damaged on a daily basis by Jewish settlers, while Israeli soldiers and other officials ignore that fascist vandalism – as if we were talking about KKK in Alabama under George Wallace.
The levels of poverty and unemployment in the Palestinian territories are also significant, primarily due to Israeli blockade on Gaza and the constraints the Israeli government imposes on the Palestinian economy in the West Bank and East Jerusalem (e.g., the massive prevention of Palestinian workers to work within Israel proper). PCBS (Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics) reports that 25.7% of Palestinians live in poverty, and nearly one quarter of Palestinian youth are classified as poor. Poverty rates are higher in the Gaza Strip with 38% living in poverty, compared to 18.3% in the West Bank. Also, about 33% of Palestinian youth are unemployed, with the highest unemployment rate among young people with higher education (nearly half of all graduates are unemployed). Israeli authorities also repeatedly employ arbitrary detentions and house demolitions, and frequently harass human rights organizations (e.g., Addameer).
The brutal colonialist regime that Israeli Zionist governments have been retaining for decades in the Palestinian occupied territories is accompanied by vicious capitalist and racist policies in Israel proper. Israel has one of the highest poverty levels in the OECD, one of the highest levels of inequality, and one of the lowest achievement levels in international school tests.
According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, a third of Israelis are in risk of falling below the poverty line, whereas no less than 40% of Israel’s children are at risk of poverty. The statistic shows a 5% increase during the decade since 2001 – the sharpest rise in comparison to the European Union, aside from Germany and Sweden. Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel found that 21% of the elderly in Israel live below the poverty line even after receiving assistance. A recent report by OECD shows that Israel has become the poorest of all developed countries, as it were, and fifth with regard to rich-poor gap – only after Chile, Mexico, Turkey and USA. In fact, the real situation in Israel is much worse – given that the definitions of poverty, income gaps and alike that are employed by the OECD and the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (e.g., the Gini Coefficient) are rather biased and underrate the genuine facts so as to present a better picture at the service of the ruling classes and their bourgeois governments.
Needless to say, the socioeconomic state of affairs in Israel is a direct by-product of the neo-conservative policy of Israeli governments, at least in the last decade, whose gist is basically one: privatization, privatization, and more privatization. Another result of that policy, apparently an intentional one, is the socioeconomic circumstances of the Arab-Palestinian citizens in Israel, which constitute more than 20% of the overall citizenry. The rates of unemployment and poverty among them is the highest. Thus, according to Adalah report, over half of all Arab families in Israel live in poverty and of the 40 towns in Israel with the highest unemployment rates, 36 are Arab towns.
The most deprived population in Israel is the Arab Palestinian Bedouin of Al Naqab. Not only that that population is the poorest, with the least access to healthcare, education and other social services, but a great part of its communities live in historic villages which the governments of Israel consistently refuse to recognize and supply with elementary goods such as running water and electricity. Furthermore, just a few weeks ago the Israeli parliament (the Knesset) enacted the infamous Prawer Law whose realization is going to confiscate 800,000 dunums of land in Al Naqab and expel over 50,000 Bedouins from their native land and residence. This inhumane plan will also lead to the demolition of 35 historic Arab villages that the governments of Israel continuously refuse to recognize, and will confine 30% of Arab Bedouins in Al Naqab to 1% of the land.
In the last few years, the Zionist capitalist governments of Israel have been waging a war of a fascist character against the remnants of bourgeois democracy that still exist in Israel. A sequence of governmental bills were proposed aiming to abolish the independence of the courts, limit the freedom of the press, simplify the persecution of asylum seekers and refugees (primarily from Africa), repress the right to strike, and to restrict civil society – practically human rights organizations and leftist groups. I would like to draw your attention to two particularly heinous laws, the first would be the “Bill for prevention of damage to the State of Israel through boycott”, which was enacted in July 2011. In this law, “Anyone who publishes a public call for a boycott of the state of Israel and its content, and circumstances may reasonably be expected to lead to a boycott, and the publisher is aware of this possibility – is committing a civil wrong and the law of Tort [new version] shall apply to him/her.”
The other law is the racist “Israel Lands Law (Amendment No. 3)”, from April 2011. The Law dictates that “foreigners” shall not have land rights, i.e., a right of ownership, or a right to lease land for periods that total more than five years. Foreign, says the law, includes those who are not “entitled to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return”, i.e., non-Jews.
As Marxist-Leninists, we know that reality should be analyzed as a totality. Indeed, the abovementioned elements are dialectically interrelated and together constitute one whole: a totality of capitalism interwoven with Zionist colonialism and racism. In the case of Israeli governments and ruling classes, Zionism and politics of fear are regularly used in order to divide the working class and the exploited strata as a whole and rule them by means of panic and intimidation. Thus, instead of directing their rage against their exploiters and oppressors, Israeli masses (especially the Jewish ones) are encouraged by those ruling forces to aim their anger and frustration at Arabs, refugees and other “outsiders”. Incidentally, that is the way we have to analyse Netanyahu’s enthusiasm to describe Iran as the archenemy of humankind: fear serves him and his allies better than any peace or compromise, let alone justice or democracy.
If thus far the picture I depicted was quite gloomy, I would like to conclude with some optimism. The Philosopher Voltaire said that the history of humanity consists of all maladies, crimes, disasters and madness. Voltaire might have been right, but his words depicted only one-half of the picture; the other half would be the struggle against those maladies, crimes, disasters and madness. Led by the Arab-Jewish partnership of the CPI and Hadash (The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality), the aforementioned misconducts and criminalities committed by Zionist governments and their allies always encounter public objection; wherever and whenever there is a misconduct, there we are opposing it with all possible power. On behalf of the CPI, I would like to call you to support our struggle against the occupation, against Zionist racism and injustice, for real democracy and socialism in Israel, and for the establishment of a truly sovereign and independent Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
It is important to bear in mind that fighting capitalism and imperialism necessitates a struggle against their collaborators and associates; in the Middle-East, it means an unequivocal battle against Zionism just as against Arab reactionary regimes and movements.