Ceasefire for Whom? The Democrats’ Plot to Destroy Palestine Solidarity

By Coco Smyth

The period of Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza has initiated a breakthrough for support for Palestine within the United States. The U.S. government’s total bipartisan support for Israel, the advocacy of Zionists, and the ratcheting up of Islamophobia in the last two decades of the “War on Terror” has ensured strong and consistent support for Israel as the default in American politics. Beyond Israel’s centrality to U.S. imperial strategy in the whole Middle East region, American politicians have long waxed poetic about Israel’s “civilizing” mission — one that fits squarely within America’s own tradition of “Manifest Destiny”, the genocide of Native Americans and the expropriation of their lands.

For the American working classes, this white supremacist façade has begun to crack. Seeing unfiltered images of the genocide from cameras of Gazans on social media has shown millions what the so-called “Israeli-Palestinian” conflict is really about for the first time. Thanks to the tireless work of tens of thousands of organizers on the campuses, in workplaces, and in communities everywhere in the country, cracks have turned into fissures. Millions have taken to the streets, and the demand for a ceasefire has been taken up by an extraordinary number of unions, organizations, and even city governments.

This huge groundswell of support for Palestine has broken through across society. Superficially, this even seems to be the case within part of the Democratic Party — particularly its “left” flank — who have highlighted the brutality of Israel’s assault on Gaza and at times have picked up the slogan of ceasefire themselves. Now, even Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and key parts of the American state apparatus have started talking about some type of ceasefire. It is important we understand the real significance of these political shifts and how the movement for Palestine should relate to them.

While there have been immense openings for the Palestine solidarity movement since the beginning of the war, there is not a common understanding of the methods necessary to advance and achieve the movement’s goals. Some believe applying pressure to Democratic politicians or convincing them of the popularity and justness of the cause could stop U.S. support for the genocide. Many believe the Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign could exert the pressure necessary. Some think that direct action can stop the war machine. Many more don’t know what the way forward is. Political heterogeneity, a common feature of movements, creates one of their greatest vulnerabilities — the enemies of the movements can use this diversity of tactics and strategies to its advantage.

The dangers facing the pro-Palestine movement are encapsulated within the struggle over this demand for ceasefire which has been at the core of the movement thus far and is reaching new dimensions as the Democratic Party’s rhetoric begins to shift.

Ceasefire for Whom?

When it comes to ceasefire, we see the establishment hard at work today. The Republican and Democratic Parties are constantly competing to show their fealty to Israel and escalate military and financial support for Apartheid and the genocidal war. Both parties are working in the government and in institutions like universities to penalize, criminalize, and repress Palestine solidarity through suspensions/expulsions from school, firings from jobs, and other forms of intimidation. In the meantime, at the local levels where the core of social movement activity is taking place, Democrat-controlled city governments have passed ceasefire resolutions in dozens of cities. These successful resolutions appear to the mainstream of the movement as important breakthroughs, since much of the grassroots movement has oriented towards pressuring local goverments to call for a ceasefire.

We can start to understand the dangers at play right now if we read the language of these ceasefire resolutions and the rhetoric from the politicians who endorse them. When supporters of Palestine call for ceasefire, they usually mean: an immediate end to the bombardment of Gaza and the Israeli ground invasion, the end of the blockade against aid going into Gaza, stopping arms shipments and financial backing for the genocide, and other key commonsense demands we all support. Ceasefire in this view means an immediate end to the genocide and the bloodshed.

Unfortunately, a ceasefire in reality does not inevitably reflect what we would common-sensically believe it to be. Ceasefires, like all aspects of politics and warfare, are the consequence of political realities and the struggles between political actors. When advocates of Palestine say ceasefire, they don’t mean the Israeli military occupying every inch of Gaza and instituting military dictatorship where it decides the future of Palestinians for them. But unfortunately some Democratic politicians do mean this!

A common element we can see across many approved ceasefire resolutions is language calling for the “total destruction of Hamas” and other key Israeli war aims. We have to think through the implications of what statements like these could mean within ceasefire resolutions to understand the dangers the movement currently faces.

Israel’s stated political aims are to eradicate Hamas and free the Israeli hostages. When we look at Israel’s real conduct in the war, we do have to question if these are truly their ultimate war aims. Israel is no closer to eradicating Hamas than it was before October 7, and their bombardment and invasion of Gaza has led to the deaths of many of the hostages they claim to be fighting for, when a ceasefire could have easily secured the release of all the hostages. Israel’s conduct in the war and the statements of its politicians point to other aims. Their real desire is for a solution to the Palestinian problem; namely, to expel or kill the largest numbers of Palestinian to break resistance once and for all and secure total hegemony over all of historic Palestine.

This is why the Israeli state has been so vehement in its opposition to international calls for ceasefire; they are trying to advance their military excursion as far as possible as quickly as possible so that the subsequent “peace” is an Israeli peace. In reality, the Zionist state is attempting to create a situation where there is no hope of a Palestinian state in the aftermath of the war.

With a clear understanding of the Israeli war aims, the question of ceasefire can be appraised in a clearer light. Israel is no closer to eradicating Hamas or any of the Palestinian militant factions than they were before October 7th, which ought to lead us to wonder under what conditions the war will end — as it inevitably will.

We see the first signs of this dynamic at work today in the United States, a state with a uniquely sophisticated and effective apparatus for the suppression of social movements and mass discontent. To understand this threat to the movement, we need to see how the American state handles discontent.

The Democratic Strategy for Subverting Progress

There is a fundamental misunderstanding at the heart of the common view of how liberal democracy operates in America. Supposedly, the electoral system and the political parties exist to represent the American people and the varying ideological currents within American political life. In reality, the political system and its built-in parties have a dual function — firstly, to represent the overlapping, but discrete, interests of the ruling class and cliques within the ruling class. It’s second purpose it to determine how the masses of the American people are to be represented and how they are to think about how they are represented.

In practice, the Republican and Democratic Parties operate in collaboration to implement a dialectical strategy of class rule. The parties present ostensibly distinct ideological programs and strategies of rule and attempt to implement them through winning elections.

Though the exact mechanism of rule that the parties implement to contain progressive and radical social movements is too complicated to explain precisely here, we can use a model to approximate how the parties operate in tandem through the repression-cooptation method. On the surface level, the Republicans present themselves as the enemies of progress who want to crack down on social movements through force and criminalization, while the Democrats act as friends of the movement who aim to implement the “best” (least radical) aspects of the movements’ program. But if we go back to our understanding of the interdependence of the two parties, the real dynamics at play appear much more clearly.

It is true that the Republicans do pursue strategies of repression to break social movements. But that doesn’t make Democrats friends of those social movements. The Democratic Party professes support for progressive social movements in order to defang and then destroy them. They aim to place themselves in front of the movement and bring watered down aspects of the movements’ program into their legislative efforts in order to undercut the radical energy behind the movement and to prevent its real aims from being achieved. And this is setting aside the reality that Democratic Party city governments and liberal operatives in the universities have been centrally responsible for the police brutality and thousands of arrests meted out against the campus encampment movement.

This appearance of two fundamentally antagonistic parties masks the fact that they collaborate constantly to smash all threats to the collective interests of the capitalist class of the United States. The Democratic and Republican parties stand for U.S. imperial domination and keeping working class and oppressed people in their place in this country. The real purpose of these two apparently antagonistic parties is to redirect discontent against the system right back into acceptable channels. In a society based on exploitation and oppression, the most effective strategy of rule is to give the masses the feeling of agency over their political reality while allowing absolutely none. By deflecting social anger into this rigged system, the desire for change is neutralized before it can express itself in ways that are threatening to injustice.

With this logic behind the U.S. system understood, the real significance and meaning of the Democrats’ call for a ceasefire become comprehensible.

Cooptation and the Ceasefire Demand

The Democratic Party has found it necessary to make a rhetorical break with the Israeli war effort. Namely, they have publicly criticized Israel’s plan to start a ground invasion of Rafah and have advocated for an ephemeral ceasefire and hostage deal. In response, the far-right figureheads of the Israeli state have denounced the Democrats for their wavering support of the war. Liberal commentators and talking heads have made this spat out as a serious break between the Netanyahu government and Biden. Biden and company have acted tough and forceful for the cameras on the human rights abuses and destruction that would inevitably follow from Israel invading the last enclave Gazans have in their own land. The Biden administration has even delayed an upcoming arms shipment in the name of the Rafah “redline”. This would seem like a serious spat without any context. But in reality, this whole charade is a sick joke — exposed particularly by the U.S.’ refusal to actually enforce this supposed redline as Israel wantonly bombs the “safezone” they pushed the majority of the Gazan population into and brings in “limited” ground forces.

The U.S. government could stop the war today if it really wanted to. Israel is wholly dependent on the United States to conduct a war like the one it is waging. It needs constant arms shipments and military support, economic support, and political support in a world where nearly every country opposes their genocidal offensive. Delaying one insignificant arms shipment (while other arms shipments continue abated) to make Israel fall back into line is not a threat at all; it is an act to win back flagging political support at home. Millions of Americans are opposed to this war and they constitute a threat to the Israeli war effort and the United States government if they continue to actively fight U.S. imperial interests.

Thus, the Democrats step into their necessary role of co-opting mass discontent without fundamentally changing anything. The pitiful recriminations against violent excesses and the mockery of a “ceasefire” that the Democrats now advocate is a transparent attempt to neutralize opposition, not a real shift in support of Palestinian liberation. Thankfully, the movement still hasn’t fallen for this song and dance for the most part. But we can’t take for granted that this clarity within the movement will continue.

We need to actively expose the real aims of the Democratic Party to every supporter of Palestine and reveal their true program when it comes to the genocide. Beyond that, the movement must develop a program of its own — a clear outlook on what we are fighting for. Without such clarity, the machinations of our ruling class will eventually subdue us as they have time and time again. We need to reject calls for a fake “ceasefire” in favor of clear demands that get to the heart of what we are fighting for — a total end to U.S. support for Israel, the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from Gaza and an end to the campaign of bombing and terror, the release of all Palestinian hostages in Israeli concentration camps, and for total support for Palestinian self-determination.

Without U.S. support, Palestinians can defeat the Israeli war effort and force a situation where the oppressor must accept the end of the Apartheid regime and the ethnic cleansing. A democratic Palestine with equal rights for all from the river to the sea is possible and the American working class can play a key role in making it happen.

Another World is Possible

It is clear that the world before Al-Aqsa Flood is dead and a new world is coming. The only question is what this new world will consist of — will it be built on the top of the rubble and graves of Palestine? The result of this war will decide whether a free Palestine is ever possible. And the outcome will be determined by the Palestinian resistance and the hundreds of millions in every country around the world fighting for justice for Palestine. In America, it is our duty to resist the government and force an end to its funding of the genocide. If we can bring Israel’s primary backer to a halt, we can help change the whole balance of power in this war.

We have to be wary of the demand for a ceasefire in the U.S. today, not because one set of words or another is the driving factor in history, but because the Democratic Party knows how to twist the aims of radical movements to coopt and disorganize them. Their operatives know how to give people what they think they want to stop them from getting what they really want. They will play off the ambiguity in the movement’s call for a ceasefire to try to get us to sign on to a ceasefire which would mean total defeat for all prospects of Palestinian liberation.

Our movement needs to collectively discuss and debate what we are fighting for so we have total clarity and a plan for opening up the path for a free Palestine. All of our efforts depend on us not letting our enemies in the government hijack and destroy our movement just as it reaches unprecedented levels of support. The ruling class knows this escalation of sympathy for Palestine is dangerous to their whole political vision, and they will not rest until they break it down and hollow it out through all the myriad means at their disposal.

Palestinian liberation will not come from whatever ceasefire the United States and Israeli governments advocate — it will come from organizing and mobilizing millions across the world against imperialism and war. We in the United States have an outsized role since Israel could not continue Apartheid forever, let alone win this war, without U.S. imperialism’s unwavering support. The greatest service we can do for Palestine is to organize working class and oppressed people in this country to fight against the ruling class and its representatives in the Republican and Democratic Parties through mass action, demonstrations, strikes, and related methods of class struggle. The path to liberation is through intifada and revolution, not just in Palestine and the Arab world, but in every country. The masses of the international working class can defeat the forces of imperialism and capitalism in Palestine today just as we did in Vietnam and throughout the colonized world. We have more power than the oppressors could dream of if we organize ourselves and seize it!

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About the author

Coco Smyth


Coco is a member of CORS.