Their Fight is Our Fight: Palestinian Liberation and the Struggle for Socialism 

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This piece is intended as the formal motivation for the resolution: Toward an Anti-Zionist Seattle DSA.

Collaboratively Written by: Carl T, Shiloh B, and Sean C

This piece is intended as the formal motivation for the resolution: Toward an Anti-Zionist Seattle DSA.

The Palestinian people, the global status quo, and our socialist movement all find themselves on a knife’s edge. In October, the Israeli settler-colonial regime unleashed the most intense phase of the genocide against Palestinians since the slaughter and expulsion of 80 percent of Palestine’s Arab population in the Nakba of 1948. Since then, the Israeli army has murdered more than 30,000 Palestinians and driven 2 million people out of their homes under a rain of bombs and bullets — weapons often designed and built right here in the Puget Sound region. When 80 percent of the global population facing acute famine conditions live in Gaza, an area the size of Seattle, there can be no uncertainty: This is a genocide.  

But as bad as things are now, if we don’t build a powerful movement to shut down the war machine, we could end up somewhere much darker. The leadership of both capitalist parties in the US have made it clear that they are in full support of this campaign of ethnic cleansing. That’s why, even after the International Court of Justice determined grounds to investigate Israel for genocide, the Biden administration continues to push for $14 billion in “aid” for the Israeli regime. The US uses their UN Security Council veto to block further international condemnation of Israel. The imperial US state and major US corporations like Boeing and Raytheon don’t just actively support the war on Palestine by providing arms and aid: these big capitalists and their political lap dogs lead the charge in widening this war as the US and Israel recklessly and murderously bomb Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

Although to many people in the US and across the globe these evil and dangerous actions seem completely irrational, as socialists we understand that capitalism creates and relies on imperialism and war. Not only do war profiteers buy off our politicians at home — like our very own Congressman Adam Smith — but the global capitalist system only functions because imperialist states like the US and Israel enforce conditions of exploitation and oppression onto the vast majority of the planet. The opulence of the international capitalist class flows from the export of capital, military conquest, and the seizure of land–all dynamics playing out right now in occupied Palestine!

As socialists, we know this genocide is not merely a moral issue. The weapons manufacturers who fund politicians like Adam Smith do so because those politicians propel the US war machine. As Smith fights and votes for ever-increasing military budgets, his buddies at Boeing and Raytheon rake in money from those budgets — money that comes from our tax dollars. Meanwhile, working people in the US suffer from a housing crisis, crumbling infrastructure, an expensive and inaccessible healthcare system, and a spiraling climate emergency.

The vast riches of this system are poured right back into the war machine which perpetuates this system all over again. It is a vicious feedback loop of violence and subjugation designed to concentrate all wealth and power into the hands of capital. It does this by exploiting its workers. It does this by parasitically extracting value from the Global South. It does this by waging war and genocide against the people of Palestine. It is the same system that crushes us all, and the same struggle which will free us all!

But socialists know another world is possible. If poor and working people organize, we can build this world. We can build the power to scream a collective ‘hell no!’ If we don’t cooperate, the whole militarist system crumbles. We must build a mass socialist anti-imperialist movement that recognizes the shared interests of the people in Palestine, in the US, and throughout the world. Solidarity is not just some abstract ideal of support: It is a recognition that their fight is our fight, and that the people united will never be defeated.

As part of that organized struggle we applaud the leadership of Rashida Tlaib and Cori Bush, both DSA members in Congress. In the face of fierce opposition from both major political parties, the mainstream media, and the powerful Zionist lobby, they’ve called for a ceasefire in the Israeli state’s US-backed war on Gaza from the beginning of the siege. Their courage in fighting for Palestinian liberation is exactly the standard we should hold for all DSA electeds! Rank-and-file DSA members have been showing up in the streets for Palestinian liberation for months, from New York to the Bay Area. Many are spearheading displays of solidarity, and in their struggle, are building a version of DSA that is anti-Zionist in its actions.

But if we are to be a principled anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist organization, today’s DSA must recognize its own historical complicity with the Zionist project. DSA’s main predecessor, the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC), was founded in a spirit of profound anti-imperialism sparked by the horror and injustice of America’s war against Vietnam. In 1973, a group of socialists led by Michael Harrington split from the Socialist Party of America because of the latter’s failure to endorse an immediate US military withdrawal from Vietnam. Paradoxically, despite anti-imperialism being its reason for existing, DSOC and then DSA were originally led by supporters of the Zionist project of an exclusionary ethno-religious state in Palestine.

How could this be? In the 1970s, the racist image of Israel as a heroic underdog fighting against the barbaric hordes was firmly fixed in the Western imagination. As a socialist, Harrington cited his belief in every people’s right to national self-determination as reason to support Israel, despite this being inherently contradictory with the rights of the Palestinians living in the region. Israel’s founder and first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, was a self-identified socialist who led the the primary Jewish labor federation in Palestine, Histadrut, from 1921-1935. The most famous “pioneers” of the early Zionist settler-colonial movement were socialists who lived in collective farms while holding all property in common. All this made Zionism an enticing prospect for anti-Communist socialists like Harrington and his comrades.

In other words, Harrington believed that the liberation and self-determination of the Palestinian people was something which could be sacrificed in order to establish a type of socialist project. But we have seen the last 75 years of history unfold, and it is more obvious than ever: The Zionist project is not a socialist one, and it never could have been a socialist one while also participating in the ethnic cleansing and mass deportation of the people indigenous to the region. Any socialist project which treats the principles of anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism as something to be compromised on can never succeed at building socialism.

Instead, it leads to what we see today: A Nakba which has been ongoing for over 75 years. The Israeli regime expelled almost 300,000 more Palestinians from the Occupied Territories in 1967 and has expelled thousands of Palestinians from their homes every year since. Since 1973, the US military-industrial complex has been Israel’s primary source of military hardware and technology. Since the end of the Cold War, the security of Israel has been the driving motivation behind America’s support for dictatorships like Egypt and Saudi Arabia and their success in crushing democratic movements in the region. Israel teaches surveillance, crowd control, and torture techniques to US police officers so they can unleash them on the domestic population. That’s why we as socialists truly mean what we say: None of us are free until Palestine is free.

It is a necessity, then, that we do not compromise on our support for anti-Zionism within DSA. When DSA has compromised, and when DSA members in Congress and the national DSA leadership have opportunistically caved into electoral pressures, it hasn’t brought us power. Instead, these compromises have weakened our membership, caused division in our movement, and damaged our relationships with Palestinian organizations. When electeds like U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, U.S. Rep. Greg Casar, and Nithya Raman take stances that are unaligned with our principles — whether it be condemning BDS, accepting endorsements from Zionist lobbies, or voting in favor of military funding to Israel — it is critical that we speak out and take concrete action to bring them back in line with our anti-Zionist commitments.

If our electeds choose to continue behaving in a manner unbefitting a socialist in office, then they do not represent us and must be unendorsed and unequivocally condemned. To do otherwise is to say that anti-Zionism is a lesser priority, something that can be compromised on in order to advance towards socialism at a local level. But we know that no socialism can be built on the back of the rejection of socialist principles! It could not be done by the settler-colonial Zionist project in Palestine, and it cannot be done here either. DSA has struggled with this issue and has failed several times. It has failed with Bowman. It has failed with Raman. But these failures do not have to be the end of the matter.

Despite DSA’s stumblings, anti-Zionism is a principle which we are committed to following. Our 2019 national convention passed several resolutions reaffirming that as an organization, we are anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist, anti-Zionist, and that we stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine. Simply affirming these stances will never be enough, but these resolutions are a guiding light: When DSA is at its best, we will find ourselves fully aligned in action with anti-imperialism, anti-colonialism, and anti-Zionism. Where we do not find ourselves aligned, we know with certainty that such unalignment is a failure we must rectify.

Seattle DSA holds these principles to be central: where DSA nationally faltered, our chapter did not. In 2022 the NPC at the time illegitimately and anti-democratically dissolved the national BDS Working Group. Seattle DSA condemned the NPC’s actions, resolved to continue working with the BDS Working Group, and firmly declared that standing in support of Palestinian liberation and anti-Zionism must be a non-negotiable red line for our electeds.

This brings us to the present. We write this text as an accompaniment to the first resolution which we plan to pass as part of concretely aligning ourselves with anti-Zionism. It is by the actions that we take that we demonstrate exactly where we stand: With the people of Palestine and with oppressed and colonized peoples around the world. Here in Seattle, DSA members have been a visible and active presence in the local anti-war movement. We’ve marched, we’ve protested, and we’ve been arrested. And we’ve been escalating our involvement further, from participating to organizing. Just last month, Seattle DSA’s Palestine Solidarity Working Group organized a successful sit-in in Congressman Adam Smith’s office, calling on Smith to commit to three demands: sign onto Cori Bush’s ceasefire bill, block military aid to Israel, and oppose any escalation by the US in the Middle East.

This is just the beginning. We are in this for the long haul. Even if a ceasefire is called today, we cannot rest until Palestine is free. So it is critical that we build solidarity and coalition across the Seattle area, across Washington state, and across the United States to fight the war machine. When we fight together, we win! But we cannot win standing alone.

It’s imperative that DSA chapters across the country continue to build the anti-war movement, and bring our socialist, anti-imperialist politics into the movement in order to strengthen it. We call on DSA’s national leadership to deepen our engagement in Palestine solidarity work and provide chapters with the resources needed to accomplish this work. We must treat this like the priority it is.

We are in dire times. Each day, it seems more and more as if the central contradictions of the era of capitalism and imperialism are clearer than they have ever before been. It is in times like these, where everyone sees the mask of decency fall off of the liberal-capitalist project, that we often have the greatest opportunities for change. It is more apparent by the day that barbarism is here, and that socialism is the only solution.

This presents a strong opportunity for successful socialist electoral projects which can demonstrate the thorough brokenness of our current state of affairs and the severe need for something better. But with this opportunity comes the struggles we have seen take place throughout DSA: How do we interact with our electeds? How do we hold them accountable and ensure that they are in line with our principles and our platform? Where should our red lines be?

We do not have all the answers yet to these questions. But with this resolution, the ones following it, and the open discussion in-between, we hope to make one thing clear: We will never abandon our solidarity with the fight for Palestinian liberation. Compromising on our principles to achieve a victory is no victory at all in the final analysis, for we cannot build a socialist project nor a socialist future if we abandon that which makes us socialist. So we are resolved: We will stand by the people of Palestine against the Zionist project, and we will stay in this fight until one day Palestine is finally free!