Conflict within the Israeli bourgeoisie: no camp for workers to choose!

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This article was first published in April 2023, following a series a massive demonstrations against the proposals of the Netanyahu government to “reform” the Supreme Court, which it sees as an obstacle to its policies, in particular the open annexation of the occupied territories, ditching any form of “two-state” solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Since then, we have seen an escalation of military raids and settler pogroms in the West Bank, and a series of responses by Palestinian terrorist groups or sympathisers inside Israel. In July, in the Israeli parliament, the government coalition pushed through its law on the Supreme Court, and the street demonstrations against the government have resumed with full force. In sum, the Israeli bourgeoisie is facing a full-blown political crisis, confirming the article’s general analysis. And in our view, the main political stance adopted by the article – the rejection both of the Netanyahu regime and the “democratic” nationalist opposition mobilised in the demonstrations – remains valid.


In the terminal phase of its long decline, the ruling class is becoming increasingly mired in corruption and irrationality, less and less able to control its own political machinery, more and more torn apart by factional rivalries.

Political life in the state of Israel expresses all these tendencies in a concentrated form.

The present government is led by Benjamin Netanyahu, who has long been overshadowed by charges of bribery and corruption. One of the motivations for his government’s attempt to reduce the authority of the Supreme Court is to ensure that he is spared from criminal charges against him. Like Trump in the USA, he is more than willing to use his office for blatant personal gain.

In addition, the government led by Netanyahu’s Likud party can only survive because it is supported by ultra-religious groups and the neo-fascist Jewish Power party, who are united behind a drive to openly annex the territories occupied in 1967, justified by appeals to the Torah. The attitudes of these organisations towards the position of women, gays, and the Palestinian Arabs express – very much like their hated Islamist enemies – an accelerating descent into irrationality and obscurantism.

The plan of the Netanyahu government to muzzle the Supreme Court is thus also driven by an explicit abandonment of any “two state” solution for the Israel-Palestine problem and the creation of a purely Jewish state from the Jordan to the Sea – necessarily involving the subjugation and perhaps the massive deportation of the Palestinian population.

However, these proposals have provoked weeks of massive and sustained demonstrations which have obliged Netanyahu to pause the plan, compromising with his even more right-wing supporters in the government by granting Jewish Power a number of positions in the future government. Most controversially this has included the formation of a kind of private militia under the direct control of the Jewish Power leader Itamar Ben-Gvir. It would be responsible for policing the West Bank - in practice, acting as a cover for the accomplished facts established by armed settlers (a role already being played by the established military and police forces, but no doubt provoking all kinds of dissensions between the different arms of the state in the implementation of this policy).

A conflict within the bourgeoisie

The protest movement has recently included strikes by airport, hospital, municipal and other workers. But this is not a movement of the working class against capitalist exploitation. In most cases the strikes were more like lock-outs, supported by the employers. High-ups in the political, military and intelligence apparatus have strongly supported the demonstrations, which is always festooned with Israeli flags and denounces the government’s assault on the Supreme Court as an attack on democracy, even as “anti-Zionist”. Israeli and Palestinian Arabs, who already have first-hand knowledge of the delights of the existing Israeli democracy, have largely stayed away from the demonstrations. No doubt many of the protestors are giving vent to real fears about their future under the new political regime, but this is a movement entirely dominated by the clash between rival bourgeois forces.

The fact that this is a conflict inside the bourgeoisie is further emphasised by the criticism of the government’s plans by US President Biden and other western leaders. The provocative policies of the Netanyahu government towards the occupied territories do not accord with current US foreign policy, which aims to present itself as a force for peace and reconciliation in the region, and still adheres, verbally at any rate, to the two-state solution. Netanyahu has replied by insisting that the friendship between the US and Israel is unbreakable, but that no foreign power can tell Israel what to do. In sum, he is expressing the general tendency towards every man for himself in international politics. Already the government’s overt support for de facto expansion via the settlers has provoked a fresh round of armed confrontations on the West Bank and fears of a new “intifada”

Illusions in the forces of Israel’s democracy

The left and liberal forces of the ruling class who are backing the demonstrations and demanding a return to Israel’s true democracy have never shied from working hand in hand with the forces of the right when it came to defending the interests of the Zionist state. A well-known example: in the 1948 war, it was the right- wing Irgun commanded by Begin, and the Lehi group or Stern gang, that were most directly involved in the atrocious massacre of Palestinian Arabs at Deir Yassin in April 1948, when scores, even hundreds, of civilians were killed in cold blood. The armed force controlled by “Labour Zionism”, the Haganah, and the newly independent state it established by force of arms, officially condemned the massacre, but this had not prevented cooperation with the Haganah’s elite forces at Deir Yassin. More important, not only were the official forces involved in the destruction of other villages, they did not hesitate to reap advantages from the terror used against the Palestinian Arabs, which drove them to quit Palestine in their hundreds of thousands, thus solving the problem of establishing a “democratic” Jewish majority. These refugees were left to languish in camps for decades and were never allowed back – no less oppressed by the Arab states which used them as a permanent casus bello against Israel. And as for the more radical Zionist left organised in Hashomair Hatzair and the kibbutz movement, far from establishing a socialist enclave in Israel, their collective farms operated as the most efficient military bases in the formation of the new state.

Since the 1970s, if the Zionist right (Begin, Sharon, Netanyahu) etc have increasingly dominated Israeli politics, it’s because they tend to represent the most brutally “honest” solution to the problem of Israel’s relationship to Palestine as a whole: naked force, a permanent military camp, apartheid laws. But this was always the inner logic of Zionism, with its original false promise of “a land without people for a people without land”.

The hypocrisy of the “anti-Zionist” left

 It’s therefore not hard for “anti-Zionist” bourgeois factions, such as the Trotskyists and supporters of the “Palestinian national struggle”, to prove that the Zionist project could only succeed as a form of colonialism -  backed, moreover, by one or other of the great imperialist powers – initially the British with their duplicitous divide and rule policies in Palestine[1], then the USA with its efforts to dislodge the British from the region, and even the Stalinist USSR at the time of the 1948 war.

But the leftists who supported first the Palestinian liberation groups (PLO, PFLP, PDFLP, etc) then the Islamists of Hamas and Hezbollah don’t tell us the other side of the story: that like all nationalisms in the epoch of capitalist decadence, Palestinian nationalism too was always dependent on imperialism, from the links established by the Mufti of Jerusalem with German and Italian imperialism in the 30s to the backing of the PLO by the regional Arab regimes as well as Russia and China,  and the support for the Islamist gangs by Iran, Qatar and others. And with their support for the “oppressed nations”, they act as apologists for the fact that nationalist opposition to Zionism has always taken the form of anti-Jewish pogroms and terrorist outrages, from the first reactions to the Balfour Declaration in the early 20s and the 1936 “general strike” against Jewish immigration into Palestine, to the violent assaults against Jewish civilians (whether by knife, gun, or missile) still being perpetrated by agents or supporters of Hamas and other Islamist groups.

Mouthpieces of the ruling class who spread illusions in peace in the Middle East often denounce the “spiral of violence” which endlessly pits Jew against Arab in the region. But this spiral of hatred and revenge is an integral part of all national conflicts, when the “enemy” is defined as an entire population. There is only one path leading out of this deadly trap: the path pointed out by the Italian communist left in the 1930s: “For real revolutionaries, naturally, there is no ‘Palestinian’ question, but solely the struggle of all the exploited of the Near-East, Arabs and Jews included, which is part of a more general struggle of all the exploited of the entire world for the communist revolution”.

But nearly a century later, the never-ending wars and massacres in the region have shown the immense obstacles in the way of developing a class unity between Jewish and Arab proletarians, fighting in defence of their living conditions, and opening the perspective of struggling for a new society where exploitation and the state no longer exist. More than ever, such a perspective can only be developed in the central countries of capitalism, where the working class has a far greater potential for overcoming the divisions imposed on it by capital, and thus for raising the banner of revolution for the workers of the entire world.

Amos, April 22, 2023



                        See the analysis of these imperialist manoeuvres in the organ of the Italian Communist left, Bilan, in 1936:


Middle East