Israel’s roadmap to genocide

Issue: 181

Rob Ferguson

At the time of writing, the Israeli war machine is pounding Gaza.1 Hospitals and medical care have collapsed. Fuel, water, power and food supplies have been cut. Almost half of Gaza’s homes have been destroyed or damaged.2 Around 1.6 ­million people, 70 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million population, have been displaced. Half the population has been ordered to move south through ­post-apocalyptic landscapes and the free-fire zones of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

There is no sanctuary. No “safe” zones or shelter. Over 11,000 have been killed, two-thirds of them women and children.3 Doctors, journalists and even United Nations Relief and Works Agency aid workers are all targets. Attacks on hospitals and medical staff have become a grotesque symbol of Israel’s war on the civilian population. As of 17 November, 75 percent of Gaza’s hospitals are no longer operational. Less than half of hospital beds are left available.4

The slaughter has been accompanied by a rising drumbeat of racist and ­genocidal rhetoric across the political spectrum. By the hour, reports in real time bear witness to Israeli war crimes to millions across the globe. Mass movements have erupted across the world, crucially in the Middle East but also in the heart of empire—Britain, Europe and the United States. These protest movements have put the question of solidarity with Palestine at the centre of global politics, posing a challenge to ruling classes for whom defence of Israel is inseparable from their own imperialist interests.

The Israeli war on Gaza, in all its horror, exemplifies a fundamental feature of the Zionist project: the unrelenting compulsion to crush all Palestinian resistance. The targeting of the civilian population is not simply a paroxysm of rage, but rather a deliberate strategy aimed at crushing the Palestinian spirit of resistance and ­enforcing total submission. Yet, despite the horror, and the might of the Israeli state, this war also reflects a crisis of the Zionist project—and, with it, a threat to the imperial order in the Middle East.

Rise of the Zionist far right

The November 2022 elections to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, shifted the far right from the margins of the electoral map into the mainstream, making it a key force in prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition. Bezalel Smotrich, head of the National Religious Party-Religious Zionism organisation, and Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of the Jewish-supremacist Otzma Yehudit (“Jewish Power”), now serve as finance minister and national security minister. Both advocate full ­annexation of the West Bank and abolition of the Palestinian Authority. They criticise Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and lend their support to the most extreme and murderous wing of the settler movement.5 They are, in effect, pogromists, who not only advocate deadly attacks on Palestinians by the IDF but actively incite terror and pogroms by armed settlers. They regard the “Nakba” (“catastrophe”)—the bloody expulsion of around 750,000 Palestinians from Israel in 1948—as unfinished business. According to Smotrich, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, who presided over the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948, “didn’t finish the job”.6 Smotrich proudly declares himself a “fascist homophobe”.7

Ben-Gvir’s party bears the legacy of the Kach terror movement, founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane and banned by Israel in 1994. Before standing for election, Ben-Gvir had a portrait of terrorist Baruch Goldstein on display in his living room—Goldstein massacred 29 Muslim worshippers at the Ibrahimi Mosque (known to Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hebron in 1994.8 When Palestinian residents protested against evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, in 2021, rallying other Palestinians to their cause, Ben-Gvir turned up with supporters, toting his gun and demanding soldiers shoot at children throwing stones.9 During the 2022 election, his rallies echoed to chants of “Death to the Arabs”.10

Israel’s religious right has a growing mass base. It has not only sought to ­establish itself as a force within the structures of the Israeli state, but also ­mobilised mass violence by settlers, IDF soldiers and the wider population. Their election success has fuelled a sense of impunity within the ranks of the army and ­encouraged the most extreme elements of the armed settler ­movement. In the wake of the elections, waves of pogroms swept the West Bank; armed ­settlers, often in their hundreds, descended on Palestinian villages, ­setting fire to dozens of houses and vehicles and shooting into Palestinian homes. Meanwhile, ­Ben-Gvir referred to the “Hilltop Youth”, young settlers who torched Palestinian villages in pogroms in June 2023, as “sweet boys”.11

Even before Hamas’s attack on Israel on 7 October, 2023 was already the ­deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since the UN began recording in 2005, equating to an average of one child killed every week.12 However, this merely underlined a longer trend. Killings in the West Bank the previous year, under the so-called “centrist-left” coalition, were also then at a record high—82 percent higher than the previous year and nearly 500 percent higher than 2020.13

A settler population divided: the Israeli protests of 2023

As the entire Zionist state unifies behind the war on the Palestinians, the sound and fury of the mass protests against the Netanyahu coalition, which grabbed world headlines through much of 2023, now seem to signify very little, echoing like distant noises.

Yet, they do warrant attention. From January to October, Jewish Israelis engaged in weekly mass demonstrations, sometimes in their hundreds of thousands, against Netanyahu’s ruling coalition and in opposition to legislation designed to bring Israel’s Supreme Court under direct political control. In July, hundreds of reservists, many elite combat pilots or members of special forces units, threatened to refuse to volunteer their service (though these same reservists eagerly volunteered to join the war on Palestinians after 7 October).

The vitriol exchanged between the rival Zionist camps was intense. Leading figures of the opposition parties took to stages in front of tens of thousands of Israelis, denouncing the government and its ministers as “fascist”. In response, the ruling coalition cast the opposition as “terrorists” and enemies of the state.

However, these demonstrations had a peculiar feature. Strikingly, they were led by key figures of the Zionist establishment: former ministers of defence and ministers of justice who had been at the forefront of maintaining the systematic oppression of the Palestinians. When small numbers of radical protestors carried Palestinian flags onto the protests, they were ripped from their hands. It is small wonder that the demonstrations were devoid of Palestinians.

The narrative promoted by the opposition and its liberal supporters in Europe and the US was that the government coalition represented a break with Israel’s “democratic values” and founding principles, claiming that the ­legislation to limit the Supreme Court’s powers was a direct attack on a pillar of Israel’s “democracy”. This is hardly a description any Palestinian would recognise. In reality, Supreme Court judgements have been vital to maintaining a regime of apartheid, illegal occupation and settlement. The court has sanctioned house demolitions, military detention of children without trial and targeted assassinations.

The Supreme Court also upheld the Nation State Law, passed in 2018, which enshrines the racist principles of Israel’s constitution, denying non-Jews the right to self-determination. Here we face a brutal truth. Every Jewish Israeli citizen lives on land taken from Palestinians. Many live in homes built on the ruins of Palestinian villages and in the homes of those driven out in 1948. This is not a matter of the past. Citizenship of Israel rests on the continued exclusion and dispossession of the Palestinians who remain within historic Palestine and the denial of the right of Palestinian refugees to return. The Israeli state seeks to continually renew its settler population and, by the same token, fix the process of Palestinian dispossession as a permanent feature of the state.

The divisions that erupted within Israeli settler society have two main roots. The first is the structure of Israel’s settler society itself. Since its foundation, Israel has drawn in waves of settlers to colonise Palestine and provide an armed force against the threat of the Palestinian resistance and its foes among the Arab states. The first main wave of settlement was made up of Ashkenazi Jews from Europe seeking refuge from antisemitism before and after the Holocaust. Among these European Jews, it was the forces of secular Labour Zionism that laid the state’s foundations.

This initial wave was followed by waves of Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews from North Africa and the Middle East during the 1940s and 1950s. These Jews faced discrimination and contempt from Israel’s Ashkenazi elite; yet, as settlers, they shared a common virulent hostility towards Palestinians. Other waves of settlement followed. The most important of these was the huge waves of ­settlement by secular Jews from Russia in the late 1980s and 1990s.

However, each new settler population generated competing claims within the settler-colonial society. This has given rise to an array of political parties in the Knesset, each seeking to assert specific interests and to extract concessions and privileges. These are divided along religious, secular and political lines, with tensions erupting over LGBT+ issues and women’s rights, over secular versus religious debates, and even over what specific ancestry entitles one to claim Jewish identity. These political battles are not incidental; they reflect divisions rooted in Israel’s settler social structure. So, Israel’s school system is split between secular, national-religious and ultra-Orthodox communities (as well as, of course, the Arabs). Students live in separate neighbourhoods, learn ­different curricula and grow up in isolation from each other.

Settler society and the rise of the right

The second root of the turmoil in Israel is a right-wing trajectory within Israeli ­society, mapping an increasingly open and explicit expression of racism, ­apartheid and violence. This is a long-term trend, rooted in reaction to, on the one hand, Palestinian resistance and, on the other hand, perceived external threats.

After three decades of Labour Zionist government, the Revisionist Zionists of the Likud party won the election of 1977, riding a wave of resentment among Mizrahi Jews, shock at the surprise Arab offensive of the 1973 war and anger at continuing Palestinian resistance, which was being directed by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

National Religious Zionism emerged even further to the right as a response to the First Intifada at the end of the 1980s, and it strengthened its position after the Second Intifada in the 2000s and the collapse of the Oslo Accords. These forces finally broke through from the margins of Israeli politics after the Palestinian ­uprising of 2021—the so-called Unity Intifada—winning success the following year at the 2022 elections. Labour Zionism, which had dominated every ­Israeli government for three decades after 1948, won a mere 4 percent of the vote. Meretz, the wing of Labour Zionism most associated with a “two-state ­solution”, failed to win a single seat in the Knesset. It is telling that Smotrich and ­Ben-Gvir won their strongest support from young Israelis, who have yelled ­loudest the chants “Death to the Arabs!” and “May Your Village Burn!” at ­right-wing ­demonstrations and rallies. The most right-wing elements within Israeli ­society are aged between 18 and 24; only 20 percent of Jewish Israelis aged 18 to 34 ­support a two-state ­solution, and 68 percent oppose it.14

The Zionist project in crisis

Beneath the rightward trajectory of settler society lies a crisis of the Zionist project itself. That project was founded upon the dispossession of the Palestinians. However, dispossession is not a finished historic act that was completed in 1948. In an important sense, the Nakba is ongoing, permanent. There is an ongoing process of dispossession and exclusion of the Palestinians living in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza—as well as the 7 million Palestinians in refugee camps around the Middle East and across the diaspora, whose right of return remains an inalienable condition of Palestinian freedom.

For two decades after 1948, it appeared that Palestinians were subdued. In 1969, Israeli prime minister Golda Meir notoriously declared:

There was no such thing as Palestinians… It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.15

However, the reality of Palestinian resistance gave the lie to Meir’s racist ­declaration. In the wake of the defeat of the Arab states by Israel in the so-called Six-Day War of 1967, this resistance took shape as an armed struggle by the PLO. The PLO were finally crushed in the Lebanon war of 1982, with its leadership exiled to languish in Tunis. However, “victory” over the Palestinians had hardly been achieved when the First Intifada erupted five years later, mobilising the mass of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Oslo Accords of the early 1990s were in large part an attempt to quell mass resistance and prevent a future intifada, holding out the false promise of a future Palestinian state and harnessing the PLO leadership into collaboration while undertaking a massive expansion of settlements in the West Bank. Yet, this only sowed the seeds of the Second Intifada of the early 2000s as well as the rise of Hamas and its election victory of 2006.

In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, successive Israeli governments sought collaboration with the Palestinian Authority, with massive settlement ­expansion and military occupation designed to fragment and quell the Palestinians. Gaza faced periodic military onslaughts and blockade, turning it into an open-air prison. Palestinian citizens of “1948” (those within the State of Israel’s formal ­borders) were held in third-class status and subject to state, legal and social repression.

Israel believed it could successfully divide and isolate the different sections of Palestinian society. This strategy was put to the fire with the eruption of the Unity Intifada, which reached across the entirety of historic Palestine in May 2021. Finally, the attack by Hamas on 7 October 2023 shattered any illusions within the state and the settler population that the Palestinians had been “contained” or subdued.

A crisis of imperialism

Israel thus faces unending military occupation and resistance. This is of vital ­significance not only for the Israeli state, but also for the US, which arms and funds it. Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of US military aid since 1945—US aid obligations issued to Israel from 1946-2023 are estimated at around $260 billion.16

It is true that the US also relies on its allies among the Arab regimes. Still, Israel can be relied on in a way these neighbouring regimes can never be. Again and again, pillars of US imperialism have been deposed by the masses of the region, threatening the hold of US imperialism. Examples include the ­overthrow of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, by the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and the ousting of Hosni Mubarak by the Egyptian Revolution in 2011. Indeed, the Arab revolutions of 2010-11 continue to hang over the Middle Eastern and North African regimes, threatening to erupt in new forms and shake the ­imperialist order.

In this context, Israel has a key distinguishing feature. No settler-colonial state in history has dissolved itself. This makes Israel a uniquely vital fortress of imperialist interests in the Middle East. Every aspect of the Israeli state—its economy, military, society and politics—is shaped by its ties to US imperialism.

The pattern of US military aid to Israel is revealing. In 1967, the Six-Day War saw the US surpass France as Israel’s main military donor, with Israel proving itself a powerful force in the Middle East. However, it was later events that led the US to provide the most unprecedented levels of military aid (see figure 1). The first massive increase came after Jordan’s “Black September” in 1970, when the Jordanian monarchy faced a revolt by the Palestinian refugee population and its own people, with Israel effectively coming to the aid of the regime by fending off Syria. Another massive rise in US military aid came in the wake of the Yom Kippur War of October 1973 when, though victorious, Israel suddenly appeared militarily vulnerable. High levels of military aid have been sustained ever since, financing the US policy of guaranteeing Israel’s “Qualitative Military Edge”—a qualitative superiority of military power over the Arab states, which was later enshrined in US law during the presidency of Barack Obama. The biggest historic increase in military aid came with the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the fall of the US-backed Shah, which coincided with the Camp David Accords, the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. From this point, Egypt also became a major recipient of US aid.

Figure 1: US annual military aid to Israel in current US$ (millions)

Source: US government Green Book data and
The data has been converted to current dollars for comparison. The aid involves both loans and grants. However, loans are typically waived before maturity. The data excludes missile defence funding.

The Palestinian resistance and struggle for freedom are intertwined with the struggles of the Arab masses against their own regimes. The Palestinian struggle was continually invoked during the revolutions in the Arab world in 2010-11. On “Nakba Day” in May 2011, thousands of protestors attempted to approach or breach the Israeli border from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Jordan. In September 2011, a mass protest laid siege to the Israeli Embassy in Cairo. Thousands broke down the ­security wall, occupying and ransacking the embassy for two days. The embassy staff had to be rescued, and the ambassador and 85 diplomats fled to Tel Aviv. It is no surprise that Netanyahu declared the Arab revolutions a greater threat to Israel and Western interests than even that from hostile regimes such as Syria.

This explains why the Abraham Accords between Israel and the US’s allies in the Middle East are of such significance. One consequence of the Hamas attack and Israel’s war on Gaza has been to wreck the attempt to extend these to a deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel. The Arab states have instead been forced to distance themselves from Israel for fear of their own masses.

The potential for the Palestinian struggle to detonate wider revolt also explains tensions that can develop between “Fortress Israel” and the US. For Israel, ­suppressing Palestinian resistance becomes the overriding imperative at certain ­critical moments. The continued waves of resistance—despite all of Israel’s military power, its apartheid wall, the blockade of Gaza and the collaboration of the Palestinian Authority—has fuelled the rise of the National Religious Zionists and the secular far right. Of course, the US, Britain and the European powers will always defend Israel as a stronghold for their imperialist interests, regardless of the regime in power and regardless of its war crimes and human rights abuses. However, they do have a problem: how to prevent the Palestinian struggle acting as a detonator of wider anti-imperialist revolt. Although the focus of the ­settler-colonial state is to crush the Palestinians by any means necessary, the imperialist powers fear for the stability of the Arab regimes and the imperialist order in the Middle East. That tension may yet play out in unpredictable ways.17

Whose solution?

Genuine liberation can only be won on the basis of national freedom for all Palestinians across historic Palestine and the Palestinian diaspora. The two-state solution has always been a mirage. No Israeli government has ever ­countenanced an independent Palestinian state—or even the pretence of one. Since 1967, every ­government has presided over settlement expansion, ethnic cleansing and the strengthening of apartheid in the West Bank. No Israeli government will cede control of the West Bank, East Jerusalem or Gaza. There is one settler-colonial regime from the river to the sea: a single system of domination. This entails a state of permanent conflict and military occupation, temporary only in name. For the settler regime, the very existence of the Palestinians is an ever-present threat—one that has proved impossible to resolve.

The far right have a solution to this dilemma. In 2017, Smotrich, then a member of the far-right Jewish Home Party, authored what he called a “Decisive Plan”. Smotrich set out his premises:

The contradiction between the existence of the Jewish state and the national Palestinian aspiration is inherent… The Palestinian national movement is a negative mirror image of Zionism. As such, it cannot make peace with it.

The only path to “peace”, Smotrich insisted, was to declare permanent ownership of all Palestinian land and establish new cities and settlements deep inside the West Bank. Palestinians would be given the “option” of ­accepting a Greater Israel that denied them equal rights, being paid to leave—or being killed. Israel would no longer take instructions from the US and the “international community”. Instead, the world would have to accept the new reality.18

Smotrich went to considerable lengths in this document to insist that, although he believed that “Greater Israel” was ordained by God as the state of the Jews, the “Decisive Plan” was not informed by religious ideology. Instead, it was supposedly a practical plan to resolve the impasse between Jewish and Palestinian national aspirations. This framing reflects a growing alliance between the Religious Zionists and the secular far right.

National Religious Zionism has an increasingly large mass base, and it is seeking to establish itself as a force within state structures. However, it will also resist being constrained by these structures, mobilising mass violence from below among the settler ­movement, the ranks of the army and the wider population. During the wave of pogroms in June 2023, Ben-Gvir commanded settlers to “run to the hilltops”, a reference to the most violent settlers, the Hilltop Youth: “We should settle the Land of Israel, take down buildings and eliminate terrorists. Not just one or two, but dozens and hundreds—and, if needed, thousands”.19

These forces no longer accept the current status quo. This explains the vitriol between, on the one hand, figures such as Ben-Gvir and Smotrich and their ­supporters, and, on the other, some of the chiefs of staff of the IDF and police. In summer 2023, we beheld the bizarre sight of the IDF and Israeli Police issuing a joint statement declaring that violent attacks carried out by Israelis on Palestinian civilians “contradict every moral and Jewish value” and constitute “national terrorism”.

At some level, this was not just window dressing—it reflected a division within the ranks of the Zionist project on how the dispossession of the Palestinians should be pursued. The IDF supported settler violence against the Palestinians, but it wanted to maintain political control. The Israeli establishment and the US have a strategic interest in maintaining Palestinian Authority control over parts of the West Bank, acting as a restraint on the Palestinians. So, in June 2023, Netanyahu told the Knesset’s foreign affairs and security committee, “Where it succeeds in operating, the Palestinian Authority does the job for us, and we have no interest in it falling”.20

The Zionist establishment and the IDF generals still want to keep a weak and ­compromised Palestinian Authority—and perhaps even use it to replace Hamas in Gaza. By contrast, Smotrich and Ben-Gvir want to dispense with the Palestinian Authority, annex the West Bank and effectively declare Israel an unashamed model of racist supremacy from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea, dispensing with the pretence of any distinction between a Palestinian living in Tel Aviv, Gaza City or Jenin.

After 7 October

In July 2023, I argued:

Israel is turning to ever greater violence and open racism in the face of a failure to subdue the Palestinians. The status quo is increasingly seen as a compromise that leaves the Jewish state open to challenge… Nonetheless, the religious ideology that acts as a vehicle for a claim to the entirety of historic Palestine threatens to destabilise the imperialist order, and it fuels deep antagonisms within the settler population itself.21

The two points made above remain important. The allusion to “ever greater ­violence” hardly needs elaboration, given Israel’s genocidal response to the 7 October attack by Hamas. We have to tear aside the narrative that Netanyahu’s coalition and its far-right ministers represent a break with the founding values of the Israeli state. They are no aberration, but rather both a product and a motor of the Zionist project itself.

In the wake of the 7 October attacks, genocidal rhetoric has become a common feature across the political spectrum in Israel. Ben-Gvir’s response to the call for humanitarian aid supplies to Gaza was to declare, “The only thing that needs to enter Gaza are hundreds of tons of explosives from the air force—not an ounce of humanitarian aid”.22 Another minister from Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power party told an interviewer that dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza was “one of the possibilities”.23 Smotrich’s solution was to call for “the voluntary emigration of Gazan Arabs to countries around the world… This is the right humanitarian solution for the residents of Gaza and for the entire region after 75 years of refugees, poverty and danger”.24 Obviously, the notion of such an emigration taking place “voluntarily” is a sick joke.

Genocidal rhetoric was by no means confined to the Religious Zionists of the far right. Yoav Gallant, the defence minister from Netanyahu’s Likud, stated, “We are fighting human animals… We will eliminate everything”.25 Yair Lapid, former prime minister and current leader of the “centrist” opposition, was one of the stars of the anti-government protests; when asked for his response to the slaughter of 12,000 civilians in Gaza, he replied, “The majority of people who were killed were Hamas terrorists… Good riddance!26 Isaac Herzog, the president of Israel and a prominent Labour Zionist, declared, “It is an entire nation out there that is responsible… This rhetoric about civilians not being aware, not involved—it’s absolutely not true.”

There is a distorted recognition of reality behind these murderous ­pronouncements. Palestinian resistance is generated from within by the very fact of dispossession and oppression. In a recent poll, 89 percent of Palestinians said they believed the 7 October attacks were carried out in response to contemporary and historic repression. In addition, 75 percent supported the ­Hamas-led attacks carried out by Palestinian factions, and only 13 percent expressed opposition. Support for the attacks was highest in the West Bank.27

Israel’s strategy of containment, suppression and securing deals with the Arab rulers had come to nought. This has evoked a genocidal dynamic within Israel’s settler ideology. Every Palestinian is “Hamas”. It may not be that this logic is carried to a conclusion, but that is the dynamic driving Israel’s attack, and it should fill us with horror.

The Israeli regime

The rise to power of the far right in the 2022 elections raises the question of the nature of the Israeli regime. It is perfectly understandable why many see the regime as “fascist”—and this view is all the more understandable when held by Palestinians. However, it is mistaken on several counts. Not least, it lets the settler-colonial character of Israel, which runs through the entire society, off the hook. It is no ­coincidence that the “opposition” to Netanyahu used the label “fascist” ubiquitously (as did liberal supporters of Israel in other parts of the world), since this enabled them to disavow the far right as an organic feature of the Zionist regime itself.

However, a fascist regime is characterised by the mobilisation of mass ­violence against its own population and its own working class. Settler ­colonialism has a ­different dynamic, albeit one perfectly capable of ethnic cleansing and genocide, as history has shown. To reject labelling the Zionist regime as “fascist” does not in any way diminish the racism, violence and ethnic cleansing that the Palestinian people have been subjected to over 75 years. Nor does it deny the genocidal ­elements of Zionist ideology. We are facing a ­settler-colonial state, supported by imperialism, and settler colonialism has a long and very bloody history.

The second point cited in my passage above remains important. Despite the united Zionist response to Hamas’s attacks on 7 October, divisions and tensions within the Israeli state remain. For the US, other Western imperialist powers and the rulers of the Middle East, the situation is full of peril. The potential of a return of the Arab revolutions haunts the capitals of imperialism. This is why the international mass protest movements and demonstrations are so important. This is also why US president Joe Biden is insisting upon the role of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank being preserved and perhaps even extended to Gaza. This is also why he insists Israel should refrain from occupying Gaza ­permanently and from expelling the Palestinian population. The US fears the threat to ­stability across the region, and it still aims to maintain the fictions that Israel is a ­“democracy” and that the US is committed to Palestinian statehood.

Our support for the Palestinian struggle and hopes for the victory of the resistance is a basic question of international solidarity. Yet, it is also more. The cause of Palestinian freedom is inseparable from the fight against the imperialist order in the Middle East and the wider revolutionary struggle for ­liberation and socialism. This is a struggle for a world free of imperialism, war, racism, ­apartheid and national oppression—a world in which Palestine will be free from the river to the sea.

Rob Ferguson is an anti-war and anti-racist activist, a member of the Socialist Workers Party and sits on the national steering committee of the Stop the War Coalition. He has written on Ukraine and Russia for this journal and other publications. He has been involved in the campaign to protect free expression on Palestine and is the author of Antisemitism: The Far Right, Zionism and the Left (Bookmarks, 2018).


1 Up until a few weeks before writing, I would have resisted applying the specific term “genocide” to Israel and Palestine for reasons similar to the position formerly held by others, including the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. As I hope becomes clear in this article, I do not use the term here as an “emotive” reaction to the situation. Rather, it is now the category that best describes the intentions and ideology driving Israel’s attacks on Gaza.

2 Cited in Palestine Chronicle, 2023.

3 United Nations News, 2023a.

4 United Nations News, 2023b.

5 Times of Israel, 2019.

6 Shpigel, 2021.

7 Haaretz, 2023.

8 Kingsley, 2023.

9 Times of Israel, 2022.

10 Haaretz, 2022.

11 Jerusalem Post, 2023.

12 ReliefWeb, 2023; Shakir, 2023.

13 Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, 2023.

14 Robbins, 2023.

15 Soussi, 2019.

16 Congressional Research Service, 2023.

17 See Anne Alexander’s piece elsewhere in this issue for more detail.

18 Smotrich, 2017.

19 Shezaf, 2023. The “Land of Israel” is a concept used by Zionists to denote the entirety of historic Palestine. Thus includes the West Bank, which Israeli authorities refer to by its supposed “biblical” name of “Judea and Samaria”.

20 Jewish Chronicle, 2023.

21 Notes of a meeting at Marxism Festival 2023.

22 Al Jazeera, 2023.

23 Camut, 2023.

24 Reuters, 2023.

25 Nereim, Rubin and Ward, 2023.

26 See

27 Arab World for Research and Development, 2023.


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Arab World for Research and Development, 2023, “Wartime Poll: Results of an Opinion Poll Among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip” (17 November),

Camut, Nicholas, 2023, “Israel Minister Suspended After Calling Nuking Gaza an Option”, Politico (5 November),

Congressional Research Service, 2023, “US Foreign Aid to Israel”, Project on Government Secrecy (1 March),

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