Saturday, 3 April 2021

Marxism, Zionism and the National Question - Israel and Palestine

Marxism, Zionism and the National Question

Israel and Palestine

On the basis of this concrete analysis of existing material conditions, rather than an idealistic schema of how history should have unfolded that owes more to moralism than Marxism, it can also be seen that, whilst Marxists could never have supported the reactionary, nationalist agenda of Zionism, or the creation of a confessional Jewish state in Israel, the fact of its being created, and its current existence, creates a wholly different circumstance. Trying to reverse the situation to that before its existence would be entirely reactionary. For one thing, it would require a war in which thousands, if not millions, of lives would be lost.

The question that Marxists have to address, today, is how the workers of Israel and Palestine, and the wider Middle-East and North Africa can move forward. That Jewish socialists should emphasise the rights of Palestinians to self-determination is obvious from what has been stated above. However, the question is, how is that to be achieved given the fact that the geographical basis for a separate Palestinian state has been effectively destroyed, as a result of the separation of Gaza and the West Bank, and the continued settlement of the West Bank by Zionists.

In a world of global super states, and of multinational economic blocs, it is utopian to believe that a tiny, fragmented Palestinian state could exist as anything but a vassal of larger powers. Moreover, given the degree of enmity created between communities, how would it be possible to create two such states, without them becoming just an unstable arrangement between two heavily armed camps, essentially just freezing the existing sectarian antagonism, with larger global powers standing behind them, at any time threatening to plunge the world into global conflict? A look at Israel's relation to surrounding Arab states, such as Syria and Lebanon demonstrates that. Under such conditions, both Israel and Palestine, as with Marx and Engels description of small vassal states, would become entire reactionary nations standing in the path of further social development, in the region. In fact, they already occupy such a position, as a result of the current search after an ever distant two-state solution.

Using Marxism as a method of political and historical analysis, rather than as a mantra, requires that each instance has to be considered in its specific concrete and historical reality. The recognition of the abstract right of nations to self-determination cannot mean support for the exercise of such a right in any or every instance. The demand for a Palestinian state in place of the existing Israeli state cannot be supported, simply on the basis of a recognition of the abstract bourgeois-democratic right of self-determination, because the consequences of that would be catastrophic and reactionary in terms of building working-class unity, and the requirements for building socialism.

“What is the lesson to be drawn from this concrete example which must he analysed concretely if there is any desire to be true to Marxism? Only this: (1) that the interests of the liberation of a number of big and very big nations in Europe rate higher than the interests of the movement for liberation of small nations; (2) that the demand for democracy must not be considered in isolation but on a European—today we should say a world—scale.”

We cannot support a demand for the state of Israel to be destroyed, simply on the basis of some petty-bourgeois moral argument that it should not have been created, and that it did so on the basis of oppression and subordination of the existing Palestinian population, even though all of that is perfectly true. Nor can we justify it on the basis that flowing from the inherently racist and colonialist nature of Zionism, and so of the state it created, the existing state has no right to exist. On that basis, all nation states, have no right to exist, because they are all inherently racist, and many have been colonialist and expansionist. Socialists wish to see the state of Israel disappear only in the same way we wish to see all states disappear, as a consequence of further social development, of the superseding of capitalism by Socialism, of the disappearance of all borders, as part of the voluntary association of workers across all nations.

But, as part of that struggle, it is quite clear that, even in respect of a demand for the creation of a separate Palestinian state, a struggle, here and now, for Palestinian political rights is required, waged by both Palestinian and Jewish workers, inside Israel and across the occupied territories. Until such time as any such proposed two-state solution was created, how can any consistent democrat, let alone socialist, deny the Palestinians the same democratic rights that citizens of any other state enjoy? How can they deny them the same rights as Jews in the rest of Israel? Other wise, the two-state solution demand becomes merely a semantic formulation used to continue the oppression of Palestinians and denial of their basic democratic right and freedoms.  It is just a form of words in which "self-determination" for Israel is code for "defence of the fatherland", and the continued denial of rights to Palestinians.

Even those proposing a two-state solution cannot deny the need, in the intervening period, for a series of democratic reforms that address the immediate question of the denial of rights and freedoms to Palestinians within Israel and the occupied territories. Such reforms are always the starting point, as Lenin says, for the achievement of the ultimate goal, be that goal a two-state solution, or a secular democratic federal state of Israel and Palestine. The idea that the existing, racist, Zionist state is immutable, is anti-Marxist. The apartheid state in South Africa gave way to the current multiracial state; the Catholic Confessional State in Ireland, has become a modern secular, democratic state; and in the North of Ireland, the old Protestant Ascendancy has disappeared, even if only to be replaced by a state that freezes sectarian divides, into two hostile and opposing camps, sharing governmental office. In fact, the unstable nature of that arrangement is a parallel for what would exist as a consequence of any two-state solution in Israel-Palestine.

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