Response by Anti-War Committees in Solidarity with the Struggles for Self-Determination

3 March 2024

We have read your document with interest and welcome your call for the necessary task of “renewal and transformation” on the Left. We agree that the atrocities committed by Hamas should neither be defended nor celebrated and we share your characterization that Hamas is a reactionary leadership. Without attempting to engage all of the arguments you put forth in your document, we accept your conclusion that the expressions of support for Hamas and the defense of the atrocities committed on October 7th by Hamas reveal a deep political crisis in the Left. We would like to discuss the issues you raise.

While we support the initiative you have taken, we cannot sign onto the statement. Our fundamental objection is that you do not raise the demand for a secular democratic Palestine. Much has transpired since you published the statement last December, so it would be inappropriate to attempt to engage your document point-by-point. Nonetheless, and in the spirit of constructive discussion, we offer the following arguments for your consideration.

The demand for a secular democratic Palestine is essential to the struggle to build a principled and practical alternative to occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing, the only policies Palestinians have known and can ever expect from Zionism. Israel is an ethnic Jewish state built on territory seized through the systematic expulsion of the indigenous Palestinian population. Israel’s history, the bloody history of colonial-settler policies, is its own condemnation of Israel. Exposing the hidden history of Zionism is not anti-semitic; on the contrary, by imprisoning Jews in a permanent state of conflict with their Arab neighbors, Zionist policies endanger the Jewish people and their culture.

The on-going destruction of Gaza and declared genocidal intentions by Israeli heads of state are not disproportionate responses to the atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7th; these constitute a conscious policy taken in pursuit of the preservation and construction of an ethnic Jewish state through terror and ethnic cleansing.

The war on Gaza is also a key component of attempts by the far-right in Israel to censure and control the Jewish democratic opposition (of which currently only a small section opposes Zionist policies). The much praised “democracy” of Israel, an apartheid democracy, is threatened by the Zionist policies touted as necessary to protect Jews and Jewish culture.

At the same time, the demand for a secular democratic Palestine is a challenge to Hamas, whose program is reactionary in regards to the struggle against Israel precisely because it is anti-semitic. Hamas’ program is also reactionary in regards the struggle for the rights of Palestinian women and for Palestinian LGBTQ youth, so we share your general characterization that the organization is reactionary. However, we believe it is essential to specifically make the point that Hamas’ anti-semitism compromises the struggle to free Palestine, is reactionary poison for the struggle against Zionism.

Many on the Left seem to confuse condemnation of Hamas’ atrocities with pacifism or a rejection of the right of the oppressed to armed self-defense and struggle. We can and should clearly distinguish between the right of the oppressed to armed resistance and the mass murder of non-combattants, understood and defined as unarmed people irregardless of their status as members of the Israeli military (the execution of prisoners is a war-crime). The crimes committed on October 7th do not compromise the just struggle of the Palestinian people for their right to live freely in their homeland. Apologies for those crimes by leading voices in the solidarity movement, however, do weaken the essential fight to win moral authority.

The solidarity movement we need, the only movement that may be able to mobilize the many millions necessary to demand US imperialism stop arming Israel can only be built with the moral authority that our struggle is truly for the peaceful coexistence of both peoples in a secular democratic Palestine. This authority cannot be built upon apologies for atrocities nor turning a blind-eye to anti-semitism.

To clarify, we are not proposing a tit-for-tat parity of blame, many examples of which also abound in the US political landscape. Patronizing demands by media talking-heads that Palestinians prove their virtue before they are allowed to address the ongoing slaughter of tens of thousands of noncombatants by Israel’s military are clearly intended to sow confusion and demobilize support for solidarity with Gaza. For decades politicians and the main-stream media in the US have blithely dismissed the Palestinian struggle for self-determination as part of the “history” of conflicts between Jews and Arabs. Remarkably, we are now told that the atrocities of October 7th were as surprising as a lightning bolt in a clear, blue sky. Such ridiculous contortions only add insult to injury. History has neither been an eternal struggle between Jew and Arab for the Holy Land nor did it begin on October 7th.

Zionism has intentionally sown the seeds of anger and despair that Hamas cultivates into anti-semitic hatred through decades of mass incarceration and brutalization of Palestinian youth, and through its determined policy to delay and crush any expression of a Palestinian self-determination.

To those on the Left who wish to drape laurels on Hamas, it is clear that Netanyahu welcomed and took full advantage of the opportunity presented by atrocities on October 7th to launch a murderous assault on Gaza, and along the way to strike a decisive and definitive blow against US imperialism’s diplomatic goal of a two-state “solution”, and last but not least, to bring to heal opposition forces within Israeli society. Hamas took hostage hundreds of non-combattants, including migrant laborers, ostensibly to exchange for thousands of palestinian political prisoners and presumably as protection against reprisals, but Netanyahu has cynically used these same hostages in an attempt to discipline the opposition in Israel into support for genocide. Apologies for inexcusable atrocities, praise of reckless adventurism and turning a blind eye to the poison of anti-semitism do not follow from the defense of the abstract right to armed resistance against armed repression.

We should not and cannot ignore serious questions about who did what on October 7th. Lies and deceit are fundamental to Israeli propaganda, but the sheer amount of eye-witness testimony to atrocities committed is overwhelming. We consider reasonable proposals for an international truth commission to investigate the accusations made, but here we note that the first and foremost obstacle to such a commission is and will be Israel. Thus justice, real justice, for the Jewish victims of the crimes committed on October 7th is also denied by Israel.

Today, the historic land of Palestine, upon which the ethnic Jewish state of Israel is built, is home to Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs; the peaceful coexistence of these two peoples is by definition the goal of a struggle against war, colonialism, ethnic cleansing and genocide. Again by definition, anti-semitism cannot advance this struggle. The complex issues of how to share this land, of how to honor the right of return of expelled Palestinians, of how to accommodate pastoral land-use and the cultivation of olive trees, and how to protect and encourage the enrichment of the Palestinian culture built through centuries of these activities can only be solved through cooperation between the two peoples. The protection and flourishing of Jewish culture is likewise tied to the peaceful coexistence of Arabs and Jews. The construction of a truly democratic regime is incompatible with a perpetually militarized ethnic state. These are the fundamental arguments for a secular democratic Palestine.

Obviously this is a very complex discussion; far more has been left out than has been addressed. A big part of the challenge we face is that this discussion should not be for the Left alone. As the discussion is how to advance the struggle for the peaceful coexistence of two peoples, who as a result of history now share the same land, and because the war on Gaza now threatens to open a wider regional war, in the context of inter-imperialist conflicts that could themselves explode into war, this is a discussion that involves Palestinians, Jews, and all the peoples of the world–in a word, humanity.

The declared intentions of genocide, the horrendous suffering being imposed upon the Palestinian people, however, makes urgent unequivocal condemnation of Israel’s war on Gaza. Nearly five months of slaughter have passed since the atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7th, and Netanyahu has repeatedly announced that the Israeli military is preparing a murderous assault on Raffa. Millions of young people around the world have responded to the urgent need to demand a cease fire and stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Gaza’s fight is humanity’s fight. We cannot stand on the sidelines, we must also act. We must participate even as we carry our challenge to the Left leaderships into these actions. How do we do this? This is an extremely important question. We are sure you share our appreciation of the importance and difficulty of this task. We would welcome an opportunity to discuss practical collaboration on agreements of principle.

I wish to emphasize that we offer these arguments for your consideration in the sincere hope that we can open a discussion.

As we are probably unknown to you, we will indulge your patience and present ourselves. Our collective, the Anti-War Committees in Solidarity with the Struggles for Self-Determination was formed in 2014 to challenge the leadership of the anti-war organizations and coalitions (e.g., ANSWER, UNAC and Code Pink) that slandered the Syrian democratic revolution, making a mockery of principled political action for peace and justice by apologizing for the murderous crimes of the Assad regime, Iran and Russia against the Syrian people.

We maintain that the struggle against imperialism and against imperialist wars, both colonialist and inter-imperialist conflicts, can only be advanced through solidarity with the popular struggles for self-determination. We do not build solidarity with repressive dictatorships; we do not present the theocratic dictatorship of Iran, Putin’s fascist state or the dictatorship of the Chinese Communist Party as alternatives for humanity. These regimes only challenge US imperialism to build their own regional and global empires.

In the current political context, we recognize the right of the oppressed to appeal for aid and support in defense of their human rights, even if this appeal is to US imperialism for arms or for the protection of a No Fly Zone. We are not convinced by arguments that attempt to deny the oppressed their right to appeal for support from US imperialism based on the history and intentions of US interventions, or the practical impossibility of humanitarian interventions. Simply put, it is clear to us that the Syrian people had nowhere else to turn, nor today do the Ukrainian people.

Contrary to Putin’s propaganda (thoughtlessly accepted by so many on the Left), US imperialism is abandoning Ukraine in a most desperate moment, just as it abandoned the Syrian people. This abandonment by US imperialism of these and other democratic struggles for self-determination drives home the urgent need for an international solidarity movement. Building an international alternative to which oppressed peoples can turn for support and solidarity is an urgent task, a task which will require and will be central to the renewal of the Left, as you have framed the issue. We agree with your formulation: it would indeed be a renewal, a rediscovery of internationalism.

Anti-War Committees in Solidarity with the Struggles for Self-Determination