At the end of December 2018, the Israeli novelist Amos Oz died at the age of 79. As well as being a distinguished writer of novels that chronicled the troubled history of the modern Israeli state, he was also a consistent critic of its increasingly militarist policies. In 1967, amid the euphoria of victory in the Six Day War, Oz was one of the few who warned of the morally corrupting influence that the occupation would bring to Israeli society. He advocated an immediate end to the occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. This view might have seemed radical at the time, but it was not long before it entered the mainstream, being at the heart of the Camp David accords in 2000.
In the era of unrestrained populism, however, even this moderate proposal seems utterly utopian. The right wing Netanyahu government in Israel , which has done all it can to scupper any progress towards the formation of a Palestinian state, is facing increasing pressure from those even further to the right who openly demand a “Greater Israel” - a one state solution which would certainly involve the mass deportation of Palestinian Arabs. Meanwhile the Palestinian national movement is increasingly dominated by Islamist factions who will settle for nothing less than the military destruction of the Zionist state, a solution which would no doubt demand another mass deportation - that of Israeli Jews.
In this increasingly poisonous atmosphere, we can only welcome the appearance of an article which is one of the rare expressions of a genuinely internationalist standpoint emanating from inside Israel. The author of the article takes up the marxist position that all national struggles and slogans in the epoch of capitalist decline have become reactionary, and does not hesitate to argue that the only way out of the trap created by imperialism in Israel-Palestine is the unification of Israeli and Palestinian workers on a class basis, leading towards a proletarian revolution against all bourgeois states.
The comrade quite rightly calls for the formation of a revolutionary party which would stand for this perspective. We would argue that this is only possible as part of an international development in which the working class, above all in the main centres of world capital, is able to re-appropriate its historical project of communism. By the same token, it is more than probable that any durable unity between Israeli and Palestinian workers will only be possible as part of a world-wide revival of class struggle, of a movement which is able to push back the waves of nationalism and xenophobia that have been growing in strength everywhere in recent years, but which because of its particular history exert an added force in Israel-Palestine.
Nevertheless, the appearance of even a tiny minority advocating a proletarian alternative in the Middle East is a vitally important link to this revolutionary future, which is still possible and more than ever necessary.
The early general elections in Israel, to be held in April 2019, will be marked by the instability of the Zionist state. The decision made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call for early elections represents the dead- end in which the government in Tel Aviv is facing. Besides the expected decision of Israel's attorney-general to accuse Netanyahu of bribery and fraud, a factor that contributed to his decision to initiate early elections, the Zionist regime faces terrible economic and political crises.
In economic terms, the Israeli working class feels an awful deterioration in terms of its living conditions as well as its ability to continue paying the price for decades of military occupation. The healthcare and education system are underfunded, the costs of consumer goods and services are rising, and many layers among the impoverished workers of the country feel incapable of coping with their poor economic situation. Thus, 20 percent of the Israelis live in poverty and the country is one of the most unequal societies in the West.
In political terms, Israel is challenged by the Palestinian armed factions in the West Bank and Gaza that resist the Israeli occupation forces. Its Southern border is unstable due to continued attempts of the Hamas Islamic militants to advance armed resistance near the separation fence; the Islamic militants launch missiles against the Israeli population in the South and dig tunnels in order to attack the Israeli army. In the Northern border, Israel is busy with ongoing military attacks on bases of Iran's Revolutionary Guards in Syria. In addition, the Israeli forces and Hezbollah are closer than ever to another war. Supported by the US administration, Israel is carrying out aggressive policies on its borders in order to bring down the Islamists in Gaza (the enclave faces a terrible humanitarian situation due to the Israeli blockade) and drive the Iranian militias out of Syria (it fears that the latter might aid Hezbollah in a future war).
This situation of the Israeli regime indicates its instability and ongoing crisis. Being an Apartheid state, Israel seeks to maintain a condition in which the working class will pay the price for the occupation and the country's military aggressiveness, and at the same time will accept the capitalist way through which the government runs the economy. The Israeli ruling class, which fights the nationalist Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and is aided by right-populist and fascist leaders abroad, oppresses the masses in order to keep the Zionist colonization project alive. There are many Israeli workers and youth that are not ready anymore to accept the Israeli condition of national oppression and cruel capitalist exploitation. Some of them are already mobilized by the Israeli opposition parties against the Netanyahu government although these parties serve the Israeli bourgeois elite.
The lack of political alternative
The Israeli political system is fragmented and fragile. The political right parties are traditionally organized around the Likud party led by Prime Minister Netanyahu. However, even among the right parties that rule the country there are splits and crises. While the biggest political faction in the Knesset is the Likud, an ultra-chauvinist and neo-liberal formation that was established in 1973, there are other parties, smaller than the Likud, whose policies are far more nationalist and chauvinist. These parties carry forward policies that aim to form the Greater Israel from which the Palestinians will be driven out. The only 'centrist' political faction that joined the Netanyahu coalition was formed by some former Likud members. However, this faction collaborated with Netanyahu and the political right in pushing the country's economy to the capitalist extreme.
The parties that constitute the opposition to Netanyahu are not homogeneous in terms of politics and ideology. Among them there are the Labour party whose opportunistic and social-chauvinist politics are distrusted by most of the Israelis and the small social-democratic and Zionist party Meretz whose political electorate is narrow. The Palestinians in Israel are represented in a joint list of nationalist political parties in which the Stalinist Communist Party of Israel plays a central role. The problem of this Left-Center mishmash block is not just its heterogeneity in political terms but also consists in the fact that none of them propose a way forward to the Israeli and Arab working class. Neither the pseudo-Left Zionist factions nor the anti-Zionist Arab and Communist parties propose a way out of decades of occupation, brutal capitalism, austerity and ongoing social crises.
This situation is regrettable but understandable as Israel as a settler-state continues to colonize the Palestinian masses. The problem of the Israeli occupation plays a central role in the politics of the country. While the political right desires to intensify the occupation and colonization, the political pseudo-left carries forward the already dead Two-State solution in which a small Palestinian Bantustan state will be established alongside Israel. While there is a great desire among the masses to see the end of this bloody conflict, the right prospers as it spreads radical chauvinism and poisonous nationalism in order to split the working class along national lines. The pseudo-left suggests nothing but a solution based on the imperialist order in which the capitalist system will continue to oppress the masses and exploit them. With no genuine alternative to more than 100 years of bloody conflict, nationalism flourishes and chauvinism continues to foil any change to real reconciliation between the Israeli workers and their Palestinian counterparts.
The one-state solution
The new trend among some Leftist circles is the idea of one, bi-national state of Israel/Palestine, a state which will provide 'self-determination' for the two nations. This idea is becoming popular in the radical milieu that express its despair of the prospect to build two independent nation states in Palestine. However, the 'self-determination' slogan is deceiving. In the epoch of imperialism and the decadence of capitalism, the demand for self- determination means the establishment of a bourgeois regime. From the point of view of the working class, the idea of building a bourgeois state is a dead- end in terms of the class struggle. Besides the fact that calling for self- determination within capitalism constitutes a risky illusion in the bourgeois order, it brings about a situation in which the working class is not differentiated from the national bourgeoisie. In this situation, there is a split in the working class along national lines. Revolutionaries in countries in which the proletariat exists and is capable of revolutionary action cannot be satisfied with the call for 'self-determination.'
Furthermore, to support the 'right for self-determination' is to claim that this very right stands in contrast with the interests of the national bourgeoisie. This position contradicts the reality in Palestine as the bourgeoisies can only benefit from a situation of unified capitalist economy in one state. The interest of the Israeli and Palestinian proletariats is their unification along class lines; nationalism and the reactionary call for self- determination constitutes a weapon in the hands of the national bourgeoisie that wish to prevent the working class from achieving socialism. To this we should add the fact that in the epoch of imperialism, the struggle for national independence cannot be successful as capitalism seeks to destroy the nation- states as well as their economies and build a world market through the process of colonization. The radical impulse to return to the age in which it was possible to build truly independent nation-states is utopian and even reactionary.
Thus, the call for the establishment of one state of Palestine within the capitalist order means in fact a call for the bourgeoisie to build another capitalist country in which the working class will be oppressed and incapable of defending its rights against the capitalist ruling class. There is however a tiny minority, mainly Trotskyist groups, that call for the establishment of one socialist state of Palestine, namely a nation-state with socialist characteristics, based on the right for self-determination of the 'oppressed' people, namely the Palestinians. This distinction between 'oppressed' and 'oppressor' contradicts the revolutionary project that aims at empowering the working class; it blurs the class differences between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The unity of the masses will be achieved only upon the basis of proletarian revolution.
Which way forward?
There are calls among these or those Leftists to vote for various parties – liberals, reformists, Stalinists or Trotskyists – in order to save the Israeli bourgeois democracy from being crushed by fascism. However, this call reflects the belief that, in the epoch of imperialism, the bourgeois democracy is a genuine democratic regime and not a sheer illusion. The masses do wish to see a democracy and the fascists do want to destroy the remnants of bourgeois democracy. Nonetheless, the idea that fascism will not triumph if bourgeois-democratic/liberal parties will win the general elections is not only an illusion but also a political strategy that reduces the power of the working class as a revolutionary agent. Fascism is to be defeated by the masses in direct and independent revolutionary action, not by those who support capitalism or defend it.
The current 'Left' parties in the Israeli political system do not differ from other parties across Europe and the US in the sense that they defend the capitalist order and spread illusions regarding the possibility of solving the national question within capitalism. They defend an order in decay, an order that suffers from its death agonies. These parties cannot rally the masses around them as the proletariat despises them and do not trust either their leadership or their programme. The proletariat needs its own revolutionary party that will carry forward the communist programme; however, the game suggested by some reformists and Stalinists, namely, to participate in the bourgeois parliament and thus to wait until the revolution will come from nowhere, is false and deceptive. The mystification of bourgeois democracy stems from a false analysis made by those who firmly believe in notions like 'citizenship'. In fact, in a class society the only true democracy, i.e. the rule of the proletariat, is to be achieved by proletarian revolution. This assertion doesn't mean that the revolution is close or nearing; it requires the conscious intervention of the proletariat. However, with illusions about working in bourgeois parliaments, the workers won't be emancipated.
This analysis is not aimed to call the working class in Israel/Palestine to spoil their ballots but rather to get organized in a unified revolutionary party based on a communist programme. The only way to get rid of capitalism as well as of nationalism and wars passes through revolution. Workers have no fatherland and therefore must be united together to build their future in a communist society.