The fight against COVID-19 and the unprecedented economic crisis require an new paradigm of Israeli-Palestinian partnership

A contribution by WAC MAAN to the discussion on strategy that trade unions and progressive movements all over the world are engaged in while fighting the Pandemic and its implications […]

A contribution by WAC MAAN to the discussion on strategy that trade unions and progressive movements all over the world are engaged in while fighting the Pandemic and its implications

(This document was originally presented as a discussion paper to the 2020 Global Trade Union Assembly – July 2020 and is published here with minor modifications)

The COVID-19 pandemic represents a global earthquake that shook politics, the economy and society. The pre-COVID-19 conventions that governed our lives are now unacceptable. The pandemic, together with its attendant economic crisis, are changing reality for both Israelis and Palestinians. The way many have perceived the path to peace over the past decades now requires a fundamental change. The severe crisis mandates that WAC-MAAN (hence WAC) adjust and re-articulate its economic and social vision. WAC sees itself as an ally and partner to every progressive movement and organization in Palestine and Israel, striving to build a shared society based on a green and progressive economy while ensuring a life of dignity for all.

WAC outlines a way to build a workers’ union possessing a social and political perspective that sees Israel and Palestine as one geographical, political, economic and public health unit. There is no way to fight the epidemic in Israel while it spreads in the Palestinian territories, and vice versa. The economic crisis also points to the close connection between the two societies, which live in one economic framework, with one currency and under one tax and customs regime.

An unprecedented global crisis

  1. The State of Israel, which prides itself on being a leading technological “start-up” nation, was exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic as unable to guarantee even the lives of its inhabitants. Following adoption of neoliberal capitalism in the mid-1980s, Israeli governments have criminally neglected health, education, infrastructure, public transportation and welfare, favoring tycoons and the demands of capital.
  2. The absence of planning and long-term thinking in Israel is reflected in a complete reliance on fossil energy sources. It did not deal with the implications of the climate crisis, nor did it adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The current crisis is just the tip of the iceberg of a historic failure.
  3. The unemployment rate exceeds 25 percent of the labor force during this COVID-19 period. More than one million workers have been laid off, while hundreds of thousands of self-employed and small business owners were left without a source of livelihood or assistance. The bloated government of Netanyahu and Gantz continues its neoliberal drive to cut government service budgets for its citizens.
  4. COVID-19 has exposed the Palestinian Authority (PA) as incapable of protecting its citizens and their well-being. The Fatah regime in the West Bank and Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip lack the necessary foundations to build an independent political and economic regime, and are completely subordinate to Israel. The annual gross domestic product in Israel exceeds $40,000, while in the Palestinian GDP is $ 4,000.
  5. The Palestinian working class, which constitutes the vast majority of West Bank and Gaza residents, remained in an intolerable situation during the March-May 2020 COVID-19 lockdown. The PA is devoid of any independent income sources, and thus left hundreds of thousands of people locked down in their homes without financial compensation or assistance. In addition, the PA falsely blamed 150,000 Palestinian workers employed in Israel, whose income represents 13 percent of the Palestinian gross domestic product, for “spreading the virus”.
  6. While there was no alternative to closures and preventing the activities and movement of residents in the first phase of COVID-19, halting economic and civilian activity in the medium and long term is a recipe for complete disaster. In both Israel and Palestine, a renewed outbreak of the epidemic in early July 2020 revealed the urgent need for planning and creation of infrastructures for the health and livelihood of all residents in the wake of this continuing crisis.

Campaign against nationalism and the Israeli apartheid regime

  • The alternative to the Israeli apartheid regime that institutionalizes discrimination against Palestinians will be based on equality of all human beings, on a Palestinian-Israeli partnership, and on a political regime that guarantees economic security and human dignity for every woman and man, without discrimination on the basis of nationality, religion or gender.
  • To achieve this revolutionary change, Israelis and Palestinians must fight against isolationism and protect freedom of thought, expression and association. Netanyahu’s incitement against the justice system and media, together with his anti Arab racist campaign, presents a mirror image of what is occurring in the United States, where Trump conducts an unrestrained campaign against his opponents, defined as traitors and terrorists. Netanyahu is part of the global right-wing camp that includes Putin, Johnson, Erdogan, Orban and others, and his West Bank annexation program expresses the nature of his adventurous and destructive leadership. Netanyahu aims to eliminate opposition to his policies by mobilizing populism and delegitimizing the Arab political parties in Israel.  
  • Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza control their residents by suppressing and silencing dissidents. They prevent open discourse by the public and in the media, and arrest opponents such as activists from bidna neish (“we want to live”) in Gaza, who were tortured in prison after organizing non-violent demonstrations against the Hamas regime, or activists from Al Hirak Al Falastini Al muwahad (United Palestinian Movement) who were detained due to opposition to PA policy. Both Fatah and Hamas enjoy the fact that elections have not been held for 14 years.

A new economic-political paradigm based on Israeli-Palestinian partnership

  1. WAC-MAAN unites Israeli and Palestinian workers, and is committed to advancing the debate and struggle to implement a new paradigm based on equality and partnership, instead of the old and now irrelevant notion of separation.
  2. The world economy is undergoing changes due to the technological revolution, thus necessitating that workers’ organizations change their ways of thinking and working. AI and the robotics information revolution is leading to a situation where numerous jobs in traditional industries no longer exist. The global market has been taken over by information platform companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and Google, which use their monopolistic status to impose their terms on countries. These companies receive exaggerated tax deductions and essentially set the rules of the global economy.
  3. Globalization and the information revolution greatly debilitated the power of the workers’ movement in the West. Trade unions that formed the social basis of the left for 150 years were weakened when millions of workers feel that the neo-liberal economy has run them over. Against this backdrop came the support of sections of the working class in the US for Trump or for Brexit in the UK.
  4. Netanyahu drew strength from the rise of the populist right in the world. His ossified thinking is reflected both politically and economically. The long term handling of the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the failure of this path. Israel refuses to recognize the rights of the Palestinians, wages a baseless war against Iran and continues to invest tremendous resources in building a formidable army that only perpetuates war. Even today Netanyahu continues to adhere to the bankrupt neoliberal capitalism.
  5. The great challenge facing governments in Israel, Palestine and around the world is the creation of sustainable jobs. Instead of pouring money into the stock market and padding monopolies with grants and zero-interest loans, massive investment is required in transportation and communication infrastructure, in the renovation and construction of schools and hospitals, and in creating humane solutions for the growing elderly population, as well as for the disabled and mentally ill. Additionally, a system of government-funded vocational training is needed, which will create millions of integration pathways into the new economy, ensuring young people a meaningful future.
  6. A sharp shift is needed from reliance on fossil energy to renewable energies, especially distributive solar energy which transforms consumers into producers. This transition will lead to a dramatic increase in productivity and halt climate destruction.
  7. The COVID-19 pandemic represents a wake-up call to all of humanity. It has shown that unrestricted use of natural resources and the destruction of wildlife result in the transfer of infections from animals to humans. The climate crisis is the most tangible danger facing all of humanity. We must change our way of life, stop wasteful consumption and protect the earth.
  8. A democratic regime that guarantees civil rights without discrimination requires the integration of Israeli and Palestinian societies. After 27 years, the time has come to put an end to the failing Oslo Accords, which formed the legal and administrative basis for establishment of the Palestinian Authority, and buried the Palestinian hope for independence within a two-state framework. Fatah’s Palestinian Authority and Hamas rule in Gaza failed to build foundations for an independent and democratic state.
  9. WAC-MAAN joins all those Palestinian, Israeli and International voices calling for construction of a shared society, free of nationalist and religious extremism on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. This a goal worth living in and fighting for.

אודות Wac-Maan