Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem is the official capital of Israel has rightfully been widely condemned. But Kishore Lennon says his actions may also harm American imperialist interests in the long run and says there is much to be achieved from mass mobilisation of the left...
In one fell swoop, Trump has ignited a flame in the Middle East that could haunt the American imperial class for years to come. In doing so, Trump has isolated himself from the rest of the Western elite and invited a wave of Intifada that will stretch well beyond Palestine, across the Middle East. Even Theresa May, who hasn’t a friend in the whole of Europe and held the hand of Trump when she visited him, has distanced herself from this decision, keeping herself in line with the position of Obama and Western imperialists dating back decades.
Although American right wingers may cheer, Trump’s actions show he is unable, if not unwilling, to manage the delicate interests of Western imperialism. The reaction of May and other Western leaders is evidence of a wider recognition that Trump’s biggest decision to date is going to have incredible repercussions, especially given their attempts up until now to soften Trump’s image and welcome him at every opportunity. It’s worth remembering that “retweeting” the Britain First, whose actions arguably stirred a sentiment that led to the murder of an MP last year, was not enough for May to call off Trump’s state visit, yet now she opposes the most significant decision Trump has made so far.
Recognition of the occupied territories of East Jerusalem as being part of Israel smashes any kind of pretence that a two-state solution was ever possible (not to mention any theoretical desire to achieve it). Such decisions only serve to make it clear that Israel is already a state that exists across the entirety of historic Palestine and enforces completely different laws and conditions upon its non-Jewish population, making it an unmistakable apartheid state. Trump’s decision is not only opposed by the Palestinians, but by the Middle East more widely, and indeed by many in the West. The main question will be what kind of resistance will develop in the Middle East over the next three years before a new administration arrives?
The most interesting development so far is the mass mobilisation of people both inside and outside of Palestine. Most notably, there has been widespread protest in Jordan and Turkey about Trump’s action. Rolling back over the centuries, there’s a history of nations being liberated through mass mobilisation rather than insurrectionary means so it’s vital that we don’t simply write off these kinds of actions as futile. It has been recognised within the pro-Palestine movement for some time that no path exists for Palestinian liberation that can be pursued by the Palestinians alone. Mobilisation across the Middle East is very much a welcome development.
There’s no doubt that the current Israeli government is composed of right wing extremists. They surely realise that Trump’s decision is a once in a lifetime opportunity for further, unrestrained land grabs and an intensification of their racist policies against the Palestinians. This only means an intensification of racist politics within Israel.
The government’s policies are causing real misery at home, too. Poverty in Israel has increased dramatically: working class Israelis are increasingly living in an atomised society due to the embedded neo-liberal consensus. These are prime conditions for the kind of racism we can expect Netanyahu to whip up. But the direction of this anger should concern imperialists, if anything.
In his book The Privatisation of Israeli Security, economist Shir Hever breaks down how privatisation of security has led to the army being treated as a profession rather than something integral to the identity and existence of the Israeli state. For America, this disconnect is a problem in itself, but in an increasingly racist climate, this could lead to greater instability within Israel’s internal politics rather than deepening a commitment to a key institution of the Israeli state.
The overriding question is how far Trump’s decision will go in undermining western imperial interests in the middle east. From the perspective of imperialists, it seems entirely possible Trump will do irreparable damage. The next three years will be decisive in whether American colonialists can ‘redeem’ the situation after the Trump saga has come to an end.
And this is important – it’s worth remembering that imperialism is the initial and overriding source of Islamophobia, currently the most dominant form of racism in the West. It will likely become yet more rampant in Scotland because of this decision. Solidarity with the people of Palestine against the encroaching western powers is a vital part of opposing that racism.
This can only happen through struggle. It’s time to abandon the notion that racism is defeated in “the marketplace of ideas”. Racism does not emerge in a void and neither does the opposition to it. The conditions for racism are the battered, disenfranchised, atomised proletariat. It’s this worker who places his hopes in the reactionary ideas of Trump. Those of us who organise and seek to strike back against the tide of austerity and suppression of workers are engaged in a struggle that demands the defeat of racism as a means of fighting our enemies at home.