Why We Support Palestinian Armed Resistance

Supporters of Palestinian armed resistance have faced criticism from some on the left who moralize about terrorism and civilian deaths or make false accusations of campism and Third Worldism. Firebrand stands firmly with Palestinians in their national liberation struggle, and with those who support them. This position is justified not only by a radicalizing mass movement, but by the best of the Marxist tradition.

by | Jan 2, 2024

In the wake of the events of October 7 and the genocidal aftermath, there is a growing divide on the left between those who unconditionally support the right of Palestinians to fight back against their oppressors, and their critics. Support on the left for resistance has been clarified by a series of articles published at Tempest by our comrades brian bean, Jonah ben Avraham, and Sean Larson. Ben Avraham’s article, entitled “Support Palestinians when they fight, not just when they die” (a headline that has become a slogan and a rallying cry), has proven especially controversial.

The critics have singled out bean and ben Avraham in particular for being too supportive of Hamas’s killing and hostage-taking of Israeli noncombatants, and have argued that by valorizing these actions, they have betrayed leftist humanitarian principles. They also argue that bean and ben Avraham have failed to recognize the devastating cost of October 7 to Palestinian society and to prospects for Palestinian liberation. Some critics have gone so far as to suggest that supporters of armed resistance are contributing to the rising tide of antisemitism.

Firebrand stands firmly with all forms of Palestinian resistance and those who support it — unconditionally, but critically, as we will argue here. As we have previously stated, we support Palestinian liberation by any means necessary. We republished ben Avraham’s commentary for a reason, and we will say it loudly once again: we support Palestinians when they fight, not just when they die.

Our ultimate goal is the defeat and dismantling of the Zionist state, and the creation of a secular, democratic, and socialist Palestine, with equal rights for all, from the river to the sea. We are certainly critical of Hamas as an organization, and we don’t locate prospects for a free and socialist Palestine within its politics. Whether or not the current military effort by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees, and other Palestinian militants can contribute to such a future is debatable — but either way, we believe they deserve our solidarity during this war. We maintain that it is indeed a war, and not just a one-sided slaughter.

We believe the critics are wrong. We believe that in their moralizing about “terrorism,” they are failing to grasp the significance of this moment: the massive rupture of the status quo in apartheid Israel, and the incredible galvanizing of support for Palestinian liberation worldwide. This cannot be overstated. Through the largest mass protest movement at least since the Vietnam era, an entire generation is being radicalized in favor of the Palestinian cause, and they are making connections between the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and other injustices including the legacy of Western colonialism, structural racism, the global economic crisis, the climate emergency, and capitalism itself.

Poll numbers increasingly show that a majority of young people in the United States believe the actions of October 7 were justified due to Israel’s brutal oppression of Palestinians over the past 75 years. Unsurprisingly, Palestinians themselves overwhelmingly support the actions of Hamas and its allies, even in the wake of the horrifying genocide in Gaza in the months since. Leftists who attempt to shame supporters of Palestinian resistance are out of step with a mass movement, and with Palestinians themselves.

Our position in favor of Palestinian armed resistance should not be controversial for revolutionary socialists. It is justified both by the radicalizing mass movement, and by the best of our tradition. Marxists have always supported national liberation struggles, in some cases despite the politics of the actors involved. Marxists have always unconditionally, if critically, supported revolts of the oppressed — prisoners, the enslaved, concentration-camp detainees, and ghetto residents.

Left cover for Zionism

Some of the critics mean well and are simply failing the test of the moment — as discussed in bean’s comradely reply to one of their detractors, fellow Tempest writer Mel Bienenfeld. With an eye on the big picture for revolutionaries today, bean helpfully steers the debate away from moralizing about Hamas: “I don’t think that an analysis of how we understand Hamas is what this debate is about; rather it is about how to talk about, understand, and analyze the events of the Al Aqsa Flood and the current Palestinian resistance.”

Other critics are far more misguided, even dishonest, and are providing left cover for Zionism. This is especially true of the recent statement misleadingly entitled “For a consistently democratic and internationalist left,” written by Ben Gidley, Daniel Mang, and Daniel Randall (the latter a member of UK pseudo-Trotskyist organization Alliance for Workers’ Liberty) under a banner vaguely termed “Left Renewal.”

We would be tempted to simply ignore this frankly racist document had it not been signed by a number of prominent figures, including Slavoj Žižek (himself known for his racist and transphobic takes), and leftists Howie Hawkins, Kavita Krishnan, Dan La Botz, and Stephen R. Shalom. La Botz’s and Shalom’s signatures are especially eye-opening considering they have led the criticism of ben Avraham at Tempest.

We believe the critics are wrong. We believe that in their moralizing about “terrorism,” they are failing to grasp the significance of this moment: the massive rupture of the status quo in apartheid Israel, and the incredible galvanizing of support for Palestinian liberation worldwide. This cannot be overstated. Through the largest mass protest movement at least since the Vietnam era, an entire generation is being radicalized in favor of the Palestinian cause.

The insufferably moralistic “Left Renewal” statement repeats all the talking points of liberal Zionists — terrorism, Israeli “pain,” a fixation on Islamism that congeals into outright Islamophobia — only with more dithering about what the left should be doing in this moment. The snide tone — it laments the left’s “fetishization” of Palestine and describes Palestine as the “morality tale” of our time — is just one aspect that makes it exhausting to read. Worse, it frames the entire discussion in terms of “Israel/Palestine,” revealing its ultimately Zionist stance; and goes to great lengths to smear the global Palestine solidarity movement with antisemitism, red-brown fascism, and conspiracy thinking — inexcusably reifying the witch hunt against anti-Zionists in the mainstream. It also repeats claims of organized sexual violence on the part of the Al Aqsa Flood fighters — claims that are dubious at best, and which have been weaponized by Zionists to dehumanize Palestinians and provide feminist cover for genocide.

Only in passing does the statement mention the history of Israeli apartheid, war crimes, and relentless crushing oppression of Palestinians. Only in passing does it call for Palestinian “rights,” never for liberation or a free Palestine. It does not once mention the word genocide.

Reading this statement, you would think history started on October 7; you would have no idea that Jewish anti-Zionists have been integral to the history of socialism, from the Bund to many of the fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto, from Trotsky to Tony Cliff; or that Jews are now leading the movement against Zionism in the US.

Thankfully, Jewish Voice for Peace and other pro-Palestine Jewish organizations have done a heroic job of dismantling the toxic ideology of Zionism during the current crisis. Their declaration that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism has not only greatly influenced a new generation of Jews along with the entire Palestine solidarity movement — it is in fact swaying mass popular opinion itself.

Why revolutionary socialists support national liberation struggles

The weeks since October 7 have been characterized by harsh repression of the Palestinian solidarity movement. The question “Do you condemn Hamas?” is regularly wielded by Zionists as a weapon against supporters of Palestine. This atmosphere has caused disorientation on the left. Some, like the authors and signatories of “Left Renewal,” have given in to the right wing. Others are more guarded about support for Palestinian resistance, either for fear of being attacked or because of the problematic politics of Hamas.

As revolutionary socialists, unconditional but critical support for Palestinian armed resistance during this time requires being extremely clear about what exactly we support.

Marxists have always supported national liberation struggles, in some cases despite the politics of the actors involved. Marxists have always unconditionally, if critically, supported revolts of the oppressed — prisoners, the enslaved, concentration-camp detainees, and ghetto residents.

We do not support Hamas as a political organization. We agree with socialist historian Vashti Fox’s assessment of Hamas as a deeply compromised organization with leadership drawn from the Palestinian petty bourgeoisie, and funding and support drawn from the regional bourgeoisie in right-wing Islamic monarchies. Despite its proven willingness to fight Israeli occupation forces, Hamas’s vision of a free Palestine has more to do with the growth of Palestinian capitalism and their hopes of becoming players amongst the other Arab ruling classes of the region than it does with the interests of the Palestinian working class and poor, who are often relegated to a passive supporting role in Hamas’s strategies.

As Fox writes in her 2020 book The Story of Palestine: “Ultimately its desire for an independent Palestinian capitalism leaves Hamas on shaky ground when it comes to genuine liberation for the Palestinian masses.” If it ever came down to a struggle between Hamas and the workers of Gaza, there is no question that we, as Marxists, would take the side of the workers.

Despite this, it is not contradictory for socialists to support the military actions of Hamas and its allies in the Al Aqsa Flood offensive and beyond. It is a fundamental principle of international socialism to support national liberation struggles, from Ireland to Algeria, from Vietnam to Palestine. This principle holds even if we criticize the politics of the actors involved. Lenin laid this out clearly in his 1916 defense of the Irish rebellion:

To imagine that social revolution is conceivable without revolts by small nations in the colonies and in Europe, without revolutionary outbursts by a section of the petty bourgeoisie with all its prejudices, without a movement of the politically non-conscious proletarian and semi-proletarian masses against oppression by the landowners, the church, and the monarchy, against national oppression, etc. — to imagine all this is to repudiate social revolution. So one army lines up in one place and says, “We are for socialism,” and another, somewhere else and says, “We are for imperialism,” and that will be a social revolution! Only those who hold such a ridiculously pedantic view could vilify the Irish rebellion by calling it a “putsch.” Whoever expects a “pure” social revolution will never live to see it. Such a person pays lip-service to revolution without understanding what revolution is.

In his 1915 essay “Socialism and War,” Lenin made a similar case:

If tomorrow, Morocco were to declare war on France, India on England, Persia or China on Russia, and so forth, those would be “just” “defensive” wars, irrespective of who attacked first; and every Socialist would sympathize with the victory of the oppressed, dependent, unequal states against the oppressing, slave-owning, predatory “great” powers.

Socialists have historically defended and justified the Vietnamese National Liberation Front’s war against the French and US militaries. The NLF makes for an excellent point of comparison with Hamas because its politics were nightmarishly awful. It was a Stalinist organization that, like others of its kind around the world in that era, engaged in bloody betrayal of the workers’ movement and the left in Vietnam — up to and including the mass murder of Vietnamese Trotskyists.

Yet on principle we will always commemorate their victorious struggle against the imperialist invaders. This is for objective reasons: when an oppressed nation wins a liberation struggle, it weakens imperialism and helps create conditions for international working-class unity.

The analogy with the NLF becomes even more relevant when we compare Al Aqsa Flood to the NLF’s Tet Offensive of 1968. Like Al Aqsa Flood, that offensive was a surprise attack that bloodied the nose of an imperialist invader caught completely off guard. Similarly it was a desperate gambit that resulted in heavy casualties on the ground for the NLF and a loss of military advantage, while conversely fulfilling the goal of a political victory — especially for the way it showed the world that the US was not invulnerable, and that the war would henceforward be a bloody and protracted one. Because of this, it galvanized the antiwar movement worldwide, putting immense pressure on the US government and military. Today, the Tet Offensive is seen as a turning point in the war that ultimately led to the US’s defeat — and is still lauded by socialists for that reason.

Though we do not support Hamas in the big picture, we do not condemn Al Aqsa Flood — in fact we applaud it, and we agree with the majority of American youth that it was justified.

The critics have accused our side of “celebrating” the violent actions of Hamas on October 7. We do celebrate the breakout of Gaza, but we are clear exactly why. Al Aqsa Flood represents a historic shift in the dynamic of Israeli occupation — an unprecedented offensive against a viciously genocidal occupying force, humiliated on the international stage for the first time ever. The images of bulldozers knocking down apartheid fences, of fighters on paragliders and motorcycles winning a victory against one of history’s most fearsome military powers, are indelible and inspiring. In that sense October 7 was heroic. Those who have compared Al Aqsa Flood to Nat Turner’s Rebellion or the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising are correct.

Answering the charges of campism and Third Worldism

In their response to ben Avraham, La Botz and Shalom write that unconditional support for Palestinian resistance “tends toward the campist politics that support uncritically so-called anti-imperialist nations such as China, Russia, and Iran.” This is a false charge and stems from a failure to read the situation in Palestine.

“Campism” is a term derived from Trotskyist debates during the Second World War, encapsulated by the slogan, “Neither Washington nor Moscow, but international socialism.” To identify oneself in the third camp means to oppose, on principle, the military efforts of both sides — that of your own ruling class and the ruling class opposing your own — in any inter-imperialist conflict. It does not apply only to those taking the opposite side. It does not apply to those of us unconditionally supporting the right of the Palestinian people to resist genocide.

The war in Palestine is not an inter-imperialist conflict; it is a settler-colonial exterminatory war of deeply unmatched sides. From the US and its allies flow billions of dollars to fund the Zionist state’s genocidal apparatus. Palestinians, by contrast, get some pennies from regional powers like Iran and Qatar, along with the occasional mealy-mouthed word of support from Russia and China.

The insufferably moralistic “Left Renewal” statement repeats all the talking points of liberal Zionists — terrorism, Israeli “pain,” a fixation on Islamism that congeals into outright Islamophobia — only with more dithering about what the left should be doing in this moment. The snide tone — it laments the left’s “fetishization” of Palestine and describes Palestine as the “morality tale” of our time — is just one aspect that makes it exhausting to read. Worse, it frames the entire discussion in terms of “Israel/Palestine,” revealing its ultimately Zionist stance.

Remember what Palestine is: a desperately poor, geographically divided, brutally occupied series of enclaves with no real self-determination. Gaza itself is essentially an open-air concentration camp, not much bigger than New York City, literally starved by 16 years of blockade, every aspect of its material life from clean water to medicine to electricity choked off by Israel with genocidal intent. This is a crucial point: the genocide did not start on October 8. Context is everything in determining our stance towards the violent actions of Palestinians in resistance to these genocidal policies.

During World War II, the third camp included not only the minuscule Trotskyist movement, but Italian, Yugoslav, and Greek leftist partisans who fought the Axis, as well as Indian, Burmese, and Indonesian nationalists who fought the United Nations. The Palestinian people are today the heroic edge of this indivisible, worldwide third camp — the independent camp of workers and oppressed peoples.

It is laughable to imagine that supporting the desperate breakout of Gaza amounts to the same thing as, say, Assadism, or the typical Third Worldist’s uncritical support for the bourgeois governments of Iran or Venezuela.

It is the critics who are the true campists — only they’ve chosen the first camp of the imperialists and Zionists.

A simple thought exercise: IDF tanks are on the ground in northern Gaza, and Palestinian fighters are shooting back at them. Whose side are you on? Not taking a side in this case means taking the side of genocide.

If socialists can’t support Palestinian armed resistance in this instance, when would they support it? Would socialist supporters of liberation struggles in Algeria or Vietnam have been charged with Third Worldism by the same critics?

By muddying the discussion with these incoherent accusations of campism and Third Worldism, and through their moralism and diffidence, the critics are ceding ground to real campists and Third Worldists, who sadly already dominate some sectors of the left. Their influence will only grow during this radicalizing time without clear theoretical leadership from those of us who uphold the international socialist tradition and socialism from below.

Terrorism, settler colonialism, and “civilian” casualties

It is very important to push back against the moralizing about terror and loss of civilian life, because the fear and panic stoked over these actions forms the political justification for genocide.

To be blunt, the hand-wringing by the leftist critics about the ravers, kibbutz dwellers, and other noncombatants who were killed or taken hostage in Al Aqsa Flood is just another version of the mainstream narrative that Israeli lives are more precious than Palestinian lives. It is simply outrageous to engage in such narratives during a time when thousands of children are being killed in retaliation and we see news of unspeakable atrocities in Gaza every day.

At the same time, we have to be clear why we support armed Palestinian resistance despite the bloodshed of October 7.

In his 1911 essay “Why Marxists Oppose Individual Terrorism,” Trotsky provided our movement with many enduring lessons about the use and misuse of violence in political struggle. A few points are in order: Trotsky makes a sharp distinction between moral and strategic objections to terrorism: “There is no need to belabor the point that Social Democracy has nothing in common with those bought-and-paid-for moralists who, in response to any terrorist act, make solemn declarations about the ‘absolute value’ of human life.”

Trotsky also argues that any actions by the workers’ movement that inspire fear in the ruling class are considered by them to be terrorism. As he wrote, “The only question remaining is whether the bourgeois politicians have the right to pour out their flood of moral indignation about proletarian terrorism when their entire state apparatus with its laws, police and army is nothing but an apparatus for capitalist terror!”

Ben Avraham makes the same point in his essay: any kind of Palestinian intifada, whether peaceful or not, is labelled “terrorism” and subject to fearmongering; while the institutionalized terrorism of the Zionist state typically skates by without comment. The definition of “terrorism” is very subjective, and usually serves the interests of the Zionists and imperialists.

In Terrorism and Communism: A Reply to Karl Kautsky, published in 1920 amidst the horrible bloodshed of the Russian Civil War, Trotsky wrote that “revolution does require of the revolutionary class that it should attain its end by all methods at its disposal — if necessary, by an armed rising: if required, by terrorism.”

By all methods: that sounds very similar to Malcolm X’s “By any means necessary” slogan, which La Botz and Shalom recoil from and suggest should be “retired from our liberatory lexicon.”

In “Their Morals and Ours” (1911), Trotsky seems almost to have anticipated the current debate, as he discusses moral objections to the violence and cruelty of the US Civil War and the Paris Commune:

Lincoln’s significance lies in his not hesitating before the most severe means once they were found to be necessary in achieving a great historic aim posed by the development of a young nation. The question lies not even in which of the warring camps caused or itself suffered the greatest number of victims. History has different yardsticks for the cruelty of the Northerners and the cruelty of the Southerners in the Civil War. A slave-owner who through cunning and violence shackles a slave in chains, and a slave who through cunning or violence breaks the chains — let not the contemptible [ones] tell us that they are equals before a court of morality!

After the Paris Commune had been drowned in blood and the reactionary knaves of the whole world dragged its banner in the filth of vilification and slander, there were not a few democratic Philistines who, adapting themselves to reaction, slandered the Communards for shooting 64 hostages headed by the Paris archbishop. Marx did not hesitate a moment in defending this bloody act of the Commune.

Trotsky writes that Marx’s vigorous defense of the shooting of these hostages “seethes” with the “fiery eruption of lava.” One wonders what today’s moralists who call themselves Marxists would make of Marx’s ruthless polemics in this case! And once again note Trotsky’s phrasing: the most severe means necessary.

The critics accuse our side of inhumanity while refusing to see that there are times when violence is required to advance the cause of humanity. We agree with La Botz and Shalom that “ends and means mutually condition one another.” Smashing the Zionist project is the end and violence is part of the means — where is the contradiction?

It is also important to consider that Israel is unique on the contemporary world stage as an active settler-colonial state currently engaged in a ferocious ethnic-cleansing project. It is a mistake to downplay this, as La Botz and Shalom do.

For this reason we question the characterization of some of the targets of Al Aqsa Flood as mere “civilians.” Instead we agree with those, including ben Avraham, who view them as settlers. We contextualize their deaths in the same way we would the settler deaths in the wars of Native resistance in North America. It is certainly grim to think about Natives killing women and children, as they occasionally did; none of us would celebrate such actions in and of themselves. However, to question the morality of those campaigns would be to side with the settlers, and with centuries of genocidal ethnic cleansing of the continent. Likewise, moralizing about Nat Turner’s bloody and gruesome actions would mean siding with slavery, as Sean Larson argues in his excellent response to La Botz and Shalom at Tempest.

To be clear, we make a distinction between the active settler colony of Israel and former settler colonies like the US and Australia, where social relations are now very different and the multicultural working classes have developed the potential for solidarity that can contest structural racism and the capitalist class. Israel is hopeless by comparison: a malignant colonial ethnostate where Palestinians are separated by checkpoints and apartheid walls, are violently denied basic democratic and human rights, and are still being driven from their homes and farms almost daily.

Trotsky writes that Marx’s vigorous defense of the shooting of these hostages “seethes” with the “fiery eruption of lava.” One wonders what today’s moralists who call themselves Marxists would make of Marx’s ruthless polemics in this case!

The fact that nearly every Israeli Jew joins the IDF in young adulthood and thus takes direct part in the violent oppression of Palestinians; the very real material stake that every Israeli Jew has in the Zionist project, from high rates of social welfare to living on real estate that can often be easily traced to the rightful Palestinian owners; the polls of Israeli Jews that show overwhelming support for the bombing of Gaza; the lingering questions about why anyone would host a rave festival mere miles from a concentration camp — these ought to give clues as to the social fabric of Israel, and condition our view of the conflict.

We see no revolutionary hope or possibility in the Israeli working class. We agree with Daphna Thier, who made this case definitively in her chapter in the anthology Palestine: A Socialist Introduction (co-edited by bean). Thier characterizes the Israeli working class as a “settler working class” and a “colonizing working class”:

If revolution requires the overthrow of the state, but the Israeli working class is invested in the existence of the Zionist state, then it is an obstacle rather than an agent of revolution… It is the nature of a settler working class and its unique relationship to the state that distinguishes the Israeli working class from other working classes… The Palestinian national liberation struggle negates the privileges of, and therefore is opposed by, the colonizing working class.

Leftists who cling to hope that humanity will prevail and that the settler working class will eventually come around to support Palestinians are kidding themselves. As Thier argues, it is only through the actions of the Palestinian liberation movement (both within the occupied territories, and externally in the Arab-majority nations of the region) that the Zionist state can be smashed and Palestine can be free. This is where the real hope in humanity lies.

We do not revel in violence against Israeli noncombatants, but as socialists, we do not condemn it, and we take pains to understand the historic and structural causes of it. Al Aqsa Flood was not only an understandable but a rational response to 16 years of genocidal blockade and bombing, and 75 years of occupation and ethnic cleansing.

More importantly, as bean states so clearly in their response to Bienenfeld, Israel and its Western imperialist backers including the US are entirely to blame for the violence of that day:

The reason is that this kind of violence is a product of the conditions of settler colonialism itself; it should neither surprise nor shock us; we see it as not just expected but reasonable in context, even if we think that strategically military action alone will not liberate Palestine. That the violence of the oppressed reflects the actions of the oppressor should be our simple maxim.

The noncombatants killed on October 7 are in reality victims of Zionism. It is not our role to mourn them, but instead to build support for the heroic resistance to Zionism that will one day free the land from oppression and ethnic division — from the river to the sea.

Debates over the strategy of October 7

The critics say Hamas is not a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people — because they have not faced reelection since 2006, and because of their reactionary beliefs and repression of dissent, among other reasons. In this view, Hamas has ruthlessly commandeered leadership of Gaza for its own ends, and any progress towards Palestinian liberation happens in spite of and not because of Hamas and its military campaigns. The critics want us to surgically separate Hamas from our support for Palestinian resistance: La Botz and Shalom write that “Ben Avraham seems to share with the Israeli government the view that Hamas and the Palestinians are one and the same.”

Ironically it is La Botz and Shalom, and their fellow critics, who are reducing this debate to a discussion about Hamas. They either miss or ignore the fact that Al Aqsa Flood has the support and active participation of other leftist organizations in Gaza, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). More significant is the broad support of Palestinians for Hamas’s actions. According to polling data, 72% of all Palestinians believe the October 7 attack was the correct course of action to take. Admittedly there is a split between the numbers in Gaza, where 57% approve of Al Aqsa Flood, and the West Bank, where a staggering 82% approve.

We can only speculate as to all the reasons for this split. Perhaps it’s understandable that Gazans might have more mixed feelings given they are the ones enduring the brunt of the Zionist state’s bloody vengeance. Nevertheless, despite everything a clear majority in Gaza support Hamas’s actions and that says something.

That the Palestinian Authority — the preferred partner of the imperialists and the governing power of the West Bank — has simultaneously seen its popularity plummet should further illustrate the conviction with which Palestinians are approaching the national liberation movement.

Some on the left, like Jacobin editor Meagan Day, have argued that Hamas’s actions on October 7 cannot be supported because it wasn’t “organized democratic mass politics.” Let’s set aside the question of whether Day and other social democrats only support Palestinian resistance in theory and not in its messy reality. Al Aqsa Flood may not have been a mass movement on par with the 2018 Great March of Return or the 2021 Unity Intifada. Yet it had thousands of participants; it was not the action of a few crazed individuals. More importantly it has fomented a mass movement — as it was probably intended to do — and shifted consciousness worldwide in favor of Palestinian liberation.

Let’s return to Lenin’s polemic on the Irish rebellion:

The term “putsch,” in its scientific sense, may be employed only when the attempt at insurrection has revealed nothing but a circle of conspirators or stupid maniacs, and has aroused no sympathy among the masses. The centuries-old Irish national movement, having passed through various stages and combinations of class interest, manifested itself, in particular, in a mass Irish National Congress in America… which called for Irish independence; it also manifested itself in street fighting conducted by a section of the urban petty bourgeoisie and a section of the workers after a long period of mass agitation, demonstrations, suppression of newspapers, etc. Whoever calls such a rebellion a “putsch” is either a hardened reactionary, or a doctrinaire hopelessly incapable of envisaging a social revolution as a living phenomenon.

The critics also echo the mainstream narrative in their tendency to blame Hamas for the ongoing genocide. In this view, Al Aqsa Flood was a horrible miscalculation, a fool’s errand that triggered a bloodbath. According to La Botz and Shalom, “The planners of this action could not have failed to anticipate the horrendous and criminal Israeli retaliation that is currently slaughtering the people of Gaza.”

It is certainly grim to think about Natives killing women and children, as they occasionally did; none of us would celebrate such actions in and of themselves. However, to question the morality of those campaigns would be to side with the settlers, and with centuries of genocidal ethnic cleansing of the continent. Likewise, moralizing about Nat Turner’s bloody and gruesome actions would mean siding with slavery.

This amounts to victim-blaming, and, despite labelling the genocide “criminal,” falls in line with the Zionists’ and imperialists’ justifications for it. If we followed the logic of this argument, we would conclude that murdering thousands of children is a natural and expected (albeit apparently criminal) response to a terrorist attack. We would deflect blame from the Israeli leadership who have planned and calculated these atrocities for almost three months, and who created the conditions leading to the attack in the first place; and from “Genocide Joe” Biden, who could literally pick up the phone and stop it at any time. We would falsely assume that this is really about Hamas, when Israel has been finding any excuse it could to kill Palestinians since long before Hamas was formed.

Again, look at the poll numbers in the US, which have only strengthened over time in favor of armed resistance. Contrary to the critics’ blaming of Hamas for the genocide — contrary to the assumption that the violence of October 7 would decrease mass support for resistance — we suspect that the longer the genocide goes on, the more the majority of youth begin to understand why those rockets and paragliders were launched in the first place.

In judging the strategy of Al Aqsa Flood, we should consider how desperate the political situation had gotten for Palestinians in the months before October 7, with the Zionist government and society lurching ever more toward the far right; rampant and increasing settler violence in the West Bank not only unchecked but encouraged by the state; and isolation in the region as Arab governments normalized relations with Israel.

October 7 forever shifted that trajectory, for better and worse. Despite the genocide in Gaza, there are a growing number of experts making the case that Israel is losing this war. Al Aqsa Flood and the ensuing war have badly damaged the Israeli economy. The IDF has taken much heavier losses during the ground invasion of Gaza than expected.

More important are the political losses: Israel’s response to the attack has isolated it on the world stage, while Palestinians now have more allies around the world than ever.

Then there is the psychological blow: the Israeli illusion of security, and the belief that the apartheid status quo could continue indefinitely, were washed away like sandcastles by Al Aqsa Flood.

As Tony Karon and Daniel Levy write, “In provoking the Israeli assault, Hamas may be realizing many of its own political objectives… By shattering a status quo that Palestinians find intolerable, Hamas has put politics back on the agenda.”

To say that October 7 may have been a strategic advance is not to downplay the massive death toll in Gaza. It is merely to be objective about the cost to the Zionist state and the opening up of possibilities for the Palestinian liberation struggle. It is also to assert that our support for resistance in whatever form it takes is what solidarity requires, as bean so eloquently put it.

The task of revolutionary socialists in this moment

There is something about the Palestinian liberation struggle that makes it central to everything the left does. A sentiment often seen during this protest movement is that our liberation is bound up with the liberation of Palestine. “Left Renewal” ridicules this concept, engaging in whataboutism by mentioning the left’s relative silence on the Uyghers; while La Botz and Shalom attempt to argue that because other settler states have existed in history, Israel should not be considered a special case.

But we agree that no one is really free until Palestinians are free. For this reason if no other it is important to get these things right.

Just to name one factor: a victory for the Palestinians in their freedom struggle would deal a massive blow to the US, which has poured so much of its military and political power into maintaining this one tiny settler state for decades. It is in the interests of everyone who wishes to see the downfall of US imperialism and capitalism to actively, vehemently, unconditionally support Palestinian resistance.

New fissures have opened up in the political landscape of the US: more and more people are questioning the bourgeois media; more and more people are giving up on “Genocide Joe” and the Democrats; more and more people are willing to take to the streets and challenge the system. It is our task to widen these fissures. It is our task to recruit from among the radicalizing masses and provide them with the weapons of history and theory. It is our task to build solidarity with Palestinians in their struggle.

The fight for Palestine is all-important in its own right, but it is also an integral part of the fight against capitalism. In order to have a hope of overthrowing capitalism, we need to be loud and unequivocal in our support for Palestinian resistance.

Firebrand
is a communist organization in the tradition of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Luxemburg, and Trotsky. We are committed to building working-class revolutionary organization that stands outside of and in opposition to the parties of the ruling class.

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