On October 7, 2023, between 2-3,000 Palestinian fighters from various political factions, including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the DFLP (Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) among others, broke the 16-year-old siege of Gaza. They did so to launch an epic battle in the Southern occupied-territory of historic Palestine in an attempt to ignite a war of liberation from the yoke of the Zionist entity (Israel). We have now entered the eighth day of the war, which has witnessed the immediate and unanimous condemnation of the Palestinians by the collective West, who rushed to protect Israel’s right to defend itself. Singling out Hamas as the only faction leading the battle, the collective Western ruling classes coalesced in labelling this historic operation an Islamic-inspired “terrorist operation”. The portrayal of Palestinians as Islamic terrorists provided the necessary green light for the Israeli government to bomb Gaza incessantly and prepare for a ground invasion. The collective West has shown absolute unity and support to genocidal Israeli calls for “wiping Gaza out” and cutting off their gas, water, and electricity, while the Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, proudly posted on Twitter/X the bombing of a civilian residence in the Gaza Strip.
The drums of war continue, the Palestinian fighters are still engaged in the battle and, as the Palestinian factions in the West Bank have begun to confront the occupation forces, other regional players, such as Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah, might join the war at any moment. In this piece, I attempt to reflect on the scale and significance of the war both regionally and globally, drawing upon the theoretical tools that have often guided people of the Global South to understand their plight and struggles. That is, I believe it is important to go back to the conceptual triad of Imperialism-Zionism-Reactionism to situate this historic battle beyond the mere confines of the open-air prison of Gaza. In doing so, we must draw on these concepts, yet upgrade them to the present times, to understand the dialectical nature of this war in a world that is witnessing the slow (yet steady) decline of U.S.-led imperialism.
Imperialism: the end of the unipolar moment of the U.S.
Imperialism refers to a world system of surplus value extraction,1 where development is apportioned unequally along racial and class lines. It is a set of material relations of exploitation between countries of the Global North and South, which takes place through a process of class collaboration between ruling classes in the core and compradors in the periphery. Accumulation then depends more and more on the degree that imperialist countries oppress and exploit developing countries.2 This entails, for instance, the use of military domination and policies that prevent developing countries from harnessing their internal resources for the purpose of regional or popular development. At the same time, this historically established unequal accumulation of wealth does not only entail the pile of commodities and natural resources, but it is also the mass of ideas corresponding to capital’s encroaching logic. In other words, imperialism as a sociological phenomenon 3 operates as both a material and ideological process.
In the aftermath of WWII, it was the U.S. that consolidated its political and financial leverage worldwide, becoming the major imperialist power. As a creditor to France and Britain during the war, the U.S. attempted to restructure the world system in the wake of the deficit-driven withdrawals of European colonialism from Africa and Asia 4 . This task was predicated on the interrelated realms of trade and military expansion. On matters of trade, the post-war Truman Administration sought to establish an “Open Door,” with “the elimination of trade and financial barriers, exclusive trading blocs, and restrictive policies of every sort.”5 While portraying these new trade arrangements as facilitating a neutral freedom of enterprise and international exchange, they in fact represented an Americanisation of the global system, reflecting U.S. capital’s needs as they existed in the late 1940s. The newly created World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) regulated world trade under a common currency of the U.S. dollar; the post-war economic reconstruction of Western Europe provided U.S. exporters with emergent markets; and military coordination with a declining British imperialism allowed U.S. corporations preferential access to the key resources of the industrialised world, namely oil. Inevitably, it was the mythology of “American exceptionalism” that helped maintain these policies of domination. This political mythology incarnated the missionary and colonial zeal that justified the genocide of the Americas 6 and displayed a religious belief towards the idea that the U.S. has a unique role to play in world history, while other countries would follow.
However, the progressive economic rise of China and two Russian military interventions, respectively in support of the Syrian government in 2015 and against NATO encroachment in Ukraine in 2022, have decisively thrown the U.S. and its allies, Europe and Japan, into a geopolitical nightmare. U.S.-led imperialism has entered an historical phase of political decline. The unipolar moment is crumbling, whereas new political blocs from the Global South, such as the BRICS, are becoming more assertive in shaping an international order that prevents their humiliation, but rather treats them equally. Together with these processes, we also witnessed a wave of military coups in West Africa against French/Western neocolonialism, and the increasing assertiveness of Iran in West Asia and its collaboration with Russia, while Cuba and Venezuela withstood decades of sanctions and U.S.-sponsored coups. The pressure on U.S.-led imperialism and its allies is increasing, and the most immediate reaction to the conscious realisation of their decline has been a renewed wave of blatant fascist rhetoric and ideology. Starting with the 2016 election of Donald Trump in the U.S., the most striking feature of newly fascist Europe has been the complete rehabilitation of Nazism in Ukraine as a form of popular resistance against “dictatorial” Russia. From Giorgia Meloni in Italy to Emmanuel Macron in France, the European ruling classes are ready to sacrifice their people and countries at all costs for the mighty U.S.
Zionism and reactionism: From Arab unity to the Muqawama
In such a context, the Arab region has occupied a unique role in the geostrategy of U.S.-led imperialism since WWII, especially due to its oil wealth. Being a key natural resource for the economies of the imperialist countries, the best means of ensuring this guaranteed access consisted in securing political control of the region.7 To achieve these goals, U.S.-led imperialism operated in close cooperation with two faithful allies—Israel and the reactionary Gulf monarchies.
As per the Zionist entity, this became effectively a U.S. military outpost in the region.8 As Sheila Ryan 9 writes, from 1948 until mid-1973 “Israel had received the staggering sum of over $8 billion in economic assistance from various foreign sources, or $3,500 total for each Israeli—an average of $233 per year per capita in aid. Thus, an average Israeli each year received in aid alone more than double the per capita income of an Egyptian ($102 in 1969).” Between 1943 and 2023, the U.S. has provided Israel with $160 billion in aid (with inflation adjusted reaching about $260 billion),10 without considering the regular loan guarantees extended to the entity that are worth billions. This aid to Israel is an investment in militarism for U.S.-led imperialism. The peculiarity of the Zionist entity lies in it being a settler-colonial formation, as much as the U.S., incubating a mode of consciousness that promotes imperialist values and secures U.S. hegemonic domination in the region. By acquiring nuclear weapons and through its numerous military attacks on and invasions of other countries of the region—i.e., such as Iraq,11 Lebanon, Syria,12 Israel has been the major force behind imperialist capital accumulation and its corollary, Arab de-development. As the Palestinian leftist circles in the 1960s-70s consistently emphasised, Zionism is the spearhead of imperialism in the region. As much as the liberation of Palestine is a struggle against U.S.-led imperialism on whose behalf Israel acts as a gendarme, an attack on Israel is an attempt to undermine directly the core interests of the U.S. and its reactionary allies in the region.
As per the oil-rich Gulf monarchies, the control of the ruling classes of these political formations guaranteed the supremacy of the U.S. dollar at the international level through dollar-denominated oil sales,13 which were then being recycled in the purchase of U.S. treasury bonds and weaponry. In recent years, following the various attacks on the sovereignty of secular Arab republics (Iraq, Libya, and Syria), coordinated with the money and weapons of the Gulf countries, the U.S. has also pushed an agenda of normalisation with Israel. The more Israel is recognised officially in the region, the more secure the interests of U.S.-led imperialism are.
However, two more processes unfolded whichshook the geopolitical equilibrium of the region. First, while 2011 witnessed the success of NATO-led regime change operation in Libya, Russia’s 2015 intervention in Syria—itself spurred in part by its experiences with the Libya invasion—showed that regional and geopolitical balances had changed. Second, the capacity of the Islamic Republic of Iran to withstand decades of sanctions (as Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Venezuela have done) has allowed it to grow into an important political player in the region, becoming the number one enemy of the Zionist entity. Providing support to other socio-political formations in the region, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and Ansar Allah in Yemen, the political and military assertiveness of Iran represents a decisive shift in the nature of the ideological march of the region against Zionism. With the consolidation of the muqawama (Resistance) ideology, both Iran and Hezbollah have largely avoided producing a sectarian, exclusionary, Shia-led vision for the region. In other words, they circumvented the danger of responding with the same medicine to what U.S.-led imperialism had progressively funded—since the times of the Afghan mujahedeen—working hand-in-hand with Sunni reactionary forces. On the contrary, the muqawama has dialectically preserved the historical and ideological continuity of the region, moving from Arab to Muslim unity. It did not reject the past a priori. It has instead combined the past with the present, creating a new ideological order that calls on the Arab, Islamic identity of the region to fight against the material and ideological war unleashed by foreign oppressors on the sovereignty of every state in the region. As Seyed Hassan Nasrallah once remarked:
In the project of American hegemony… it is not permitted for a strong state to exist… a strong state in the sense of an independent state, a state that makes its decisions on its own, a country that takes into account the interests of its people, a country that benefits from and employs its resources and its economy, a state that develops scientifically, technically, culturally and administratively at every level. In the project of American hegemony [such a state] is forbidden.
Witnessing the decline of the unipolar world order, the muqawama incarnates an Axis of Defence that stands firmly to ward off imperialist attacks on the region. It also could create the space for future and unexpected realignments. In fact, while mainstream analyses saturated the Western public with a picture of a Sunni-Shia divide, positing Saudi Arabia against Iran, as defining the region and seemingly having to shape its future, it was the People’s Republic of China that scored an important political move brokering a diplomatic deal between these two countries in 2023. What if Iran and Saudi could shape a common path together in the future for the region?
That said, reactionism is still alive and kicking in the region. The interests of the ruling classes of various comprador regimes continue to be closely connected to U.S.-led imperial capital, especially Jordan, Egypt and UAE. Yet, Al-Aqsa Flood has accelerated these contradictions existing between the reactionary states of the region and their people, as well as within the emerging multipolar order. Whereas the UAE had already normalised with the Zionist entity, Saudi Arabia is now responding by freezing any future discussion around normalisation, while liaising (for the first time) with Iran over the situation. In this regard, Al-Aqsa Flood could become the graveyard of the U.S.-backed transportation corridor, hoping to link India via Saudi Arabia and Israel to the EU. Unsurprisingly, India rushed to support Israel, but far more powerful BRICS members had complete opposite reactions. On a phone call with their Brazilian counterparts, the Chinese Foreign Ministry did not hesitate to highlight how “the crux of the issue lies in the fact that justice has not been done to the Palestinian people.”14 The unfolding of these events is increasingly bad news for the U.S. and its hopes to “withdraw” from the region in order to focus on China. The Palestinians have struck a direct blow to U.S. core interests. They not only opened a new and unexpected military front, but also reminded the Global South that the creation of a new world order must pass through Palestine, unless the power of the U.S. remains unchallenged.
Also, Al-Aqsa Flood has accentuated further the existing gap between the reactionary ruling regimes and their constituencies. Regardless of the interests of the compradors, they do not reflect those of the working masses of the region. As the Jordanian military miserably cordoned the border with Israel, when the Resistance called for major mobilisations across the region, people still flocked to the borders in support of Palestine. What Al-Aqsa Flood has unleashed is a reignition in the region’s working class consciousness of how interconnected their fate is to the struggle against U.S. capital, its military bases, and reactionary allies. This is a process that is slowly unfolding and its shape and intensity remain to be seen. For example, Lebanese protesters’ attack on McDonalds in Saida manifests an early example of mass mobilisation against the ideological and material incarnations of U.S.-led imperialism in the region. In Alexandria, the shooting of two Israeli tourists and the discourse it propagated about Israelis as enemies of the Arab nation is a further blow to the official Egyptian stance on normalisation. This means that the fight is not simply about or in Gaza; rather it is taking place in all Arab capitals—from Cairo to Amman and Baghdad—and for the working masses of the region to organise themselves around Palestine is to regain their future and independence.
Gaza is the world’s hope for a just future
In such a context, there are several elements that we must consider when looking at the Palestinian operation launched on October 7, 2023. First, the operation represents the Palestinians’ way to enter decisively in this historical moment of U.S. decline, launching a war of liberation against the Zionist entity that, like the muqawama, combines the past and present towards the future. Choosing the 50th anniversary of the Arab War on Israel in 1973, the Al-Aqsa Flood Palestinian war of liberation builds on the past Arab Unity yet projects itself toward a future that calls for all Arabs, Muslim and Christians, to fight for and defend the holy sites.15 At the same time, while the nature and scale of Al-Aqsa Flood is undoubtedly historical, its capacity to magnetise and coalesce militarily the Arab masses around the fight for liberation of Palestine is not immediate. A concrete obstacle remains—as mentioned above—due to the reactionary regimes of the region, whose core interests are tied to U.S.-led capital, without forgetting the systematic military destruction that has ravaged the major anti-Zionist republics of the region (Iraq, Libya, and Syria). Yet, the Axis of muqawama cannot lose its allies in Palestine. In fact, Hezbollah has repeatedly warned that it is ready to enter the war, should a ground invasion of Gaza take place. This reveals the cumulative character of history. We cannot approach Al-Aqsa Flood solely as the final road to a war of liberation, but as one of the major steps that—starting with the 2006 military victory of Hezbollah against Israel—will lead to the ploughing of the crops in the liberation field.
Second, the Zionist entity has been taken completely by surprise. The most technologically advanced army of the region has failed to prevent such an attack, and this already represents a major political loss. Crossed by increasing societal contradictions that posit liberal and conservative settlers against each other, Netanyahu hopes to unite the country around what represents Israel the most: the Genocide of Palestinians. For these reasons, numerous Israeli politicians have called openly for a second Nakba, aiming to wipe Gaza off the earth. However, these genocidal calls are a Pyrrhic victory for the Zionists, since they only manifest further to Global South countries the quick descent of the West and its allies into moral and political fascism. At the same time, genocidal calls could also meet another fate. That is, should the West Bank decide to raise up in arms and join the factions in Gaza, or the Axis of muqawama decide to open new military fronts, Israel could find itself completely cornered. A full onslaught of Gaza by the Zionist entity—as explained above—is a reassertion of a declining U.S. power in the region. In other words, it proceeds against historical time, since both Russia, China and the various countries of the Global South are all watching the war, and Palestine represents a test to their new desire to shape an equal global order.
Third, this dialectical movement is incomprehensible for the so-called Western Leftists, who cannot reconcile themselves with the idea that a progressive fight in the region has taken an Islamic-led turn—even while, as described above, the ideologically heterogenous resistance forces in Palestine have embraced strategic coordination and alliances with the likes of Hamas. Blinded by their imperialist arrogance, the collective West has either slid very quickly into fascist and fanatical support for Israel, or found its leftist groups completely disoriented. The latter, in fact, continues to look desperately for the “right” amount or type of violence and, when not present, it rushes to condemn both sides equally. It goes without saying that, after having normalised and supported seven decades of Zionist violence over the Palestinians and successive bombings of the region, the West is failing itself as an ally of Palestine at this historical juncture. To put it interrogatively: has the Western left, despite all its opposition, ever managed to prevent a U.S. or NATO-led bombing in the region? In this critical historical moment, the Western left should be reminded that Gaza and the struggle for Palestine is humanity’s hope for a better world. The past few days have shown how the collective Western civil, educational, and media institutions work hand-in-hand with their military and security apparatuses, all of them deployed to protect the interests of the ruling classes. Time is ripe for the Western Left to mobilise on many fronts, respectively for the short and long term: 1) to counter the unanimous genocidal support that their ruling classes are providing to the Zionist entity; 2) to provide a political alternative that joins the South in creating an alternative and more equitable world order. As Ghassan Kanafani, Palestinian author and leading member of the PFLP, famously wrote: “The Palestinian Cause is not a cause for Palestinians only, but a cause for every revolutionary, wherever he is … a cause of the exploited and oppressed masses.”
Al-Aqsa Flood is a moment that incarnates our historical time. The Palestinian, Arab and Muslim masses have decided to enter the stage and tell the world that they will not be left out of history. They are ready to join the fight for a more equal world for the majority of its inhabitants. Are you?
- ↩ See Arghiri Emmanuel, Unequal Exchange: A Study of the Imperialism of Trade (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972); Samir Amin, Unequal Development: An Essay on the Social Formations of Peripheral Capitalism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1976); Utsa Patnaik and Prabhat Patnaik, A Theory of Imperialism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016)
- ↩ Ali Kadri, Imperialism with Reference to Syria (Singapore: Springer, 2019)
- ↩ Anouar Abdel-Malek, Social Dialectics: Nation and Revolution (Albany: SUNY Press, 1981)
- ↩ Joyce Kolko and Gabriel Kolko, The Limits of Power: The World and United States Foreign Policy, 1945-1954 (New York: Harper & Row, 1972)
- ↩ Joyce Kolko and Gabriel Kolko, The Limits of Power, p. 12.
- ↩ Domenico Losurdo, Il marxismo occidentale. Come nacque, come morì, come può rinascere [Western marxism: How it was born, how it died, how it can be reborn] (Bari: Laterza, 2017)
- ↩ Brandon Wolfe-Hunnicutt, The Paranoid Style in American Diplomacy: Oil and Arab Nationalism in Iraq (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2021)
- ↩ Seif Dana, “The Setback 49: The Dialectic of Neoliberalism and War”, hadfnews, 2016, hadfnews.ps
- ↩ Sheila Ryan, “Israeli Economic Policy in the Occupied Areas: Foundations of a New Imperialism.” MERIP Reports (1974) 24, pp. 3-28, p. 6
- ↩ Congressional Research Service, “US Foreign Aid to Israel”, 2023, chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://sgp.fas.org/crs/mideast/RL33222.pdf
- ↩ Soula Avramidis, ‘Iraq’s Constitution: The Dream of “New Imperialism”’, Monthly Review, 2005, mronline.org
- ↩ Patrick Higgins, “Gunning for Damascus: The U.S. war on the Syrian Arab Republic.” Middle East Critique 32(3)
- ↩ Max Ajl “Robert Vitalis, Oilcraft: The Myths and Scarcity that Haunts U.S. Energy Policy.” Journal of Labor and Society 24(1): 252-260. 2021
- ↩ Yukio Tajima, “China calls lack of justice for Palestinians ‘crux’ of conflict”, Nikkei Asia, 13 October 2023. https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Israel-Hamas-war/China-calls-lack-of-justice-for-Palestinians-crux-of-conflict
- ↩ Hamas, “Statement for the People”, Resistance News Network, 9 October 2023