Facts Against Fictions – The ISL Responds to CWI Charges that it Lied about their Israeli Group

Below is a response by the Internationalist Socialist League to accusations made regarding their statement on the Israeli protest movement which we posted on The Red Badger on August 14th. 

Facts Against Fictions –

The ISL Responds to CWI Charges that it Lied about their Israeli Group

In our recent statement on the Israeli housing price protest movement, [1] the ISL made some serious criticisms of the role played by the Maavak Sozialisti group (MS), the Israeli section of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI). “Maavak,” we alleged, “has capitulated to the movement’s dominant “social justice for Israelis” chauvinism.” In response, supporters of the CWI rallied to their comrades’ defense, accusing us of spreading “utterly despicable” “out and out lies” [2] about their comrades.

 It’s understandable that the CWI comrades were so anxious to attack our statement. Comrades should defend one another from attacks, especially when they think they’ve been the target of dishonest criticism. And CWIers are understandably sensitive to the charge that their Israeli comrades have capitulated to Zionist chauvinism – after all, the Palestinian masses’ courageous struggles against their oppression has won them a place in the heart of every revolutionary around the world. But the defense of one’s comrades should be based on confirmed facts and in this case we will show, with complete and graphic evidence, that the facts are on our side. Our criticisms of Maavak Sozialisti were perfectly truthful.

However in refuting their charge that we lied, we won’t rush to judge the CWI comrades too harshly: they could perhaps be excused for believing that their comrades in MS are more consistent defenders of the Palestinians than they really are. After all, statements by MS expressing unflinching solidarity with the Palestinians against Zionism have appeared on the CWI’s English-language international website, so it would be reasonable for CWI comrades to assume that the same statements appear on MS’s Israeli website, and if they don’t read Hebrew or Arabic, how could English-speaking comrades check? Below, we’ll do the checking for them and expose the truth. Furthermore, even comrades proficient in Arabic inside Israel/Palestine could also be forgiven for thinking that MS comrades are more uncompromising champions of Palestinian liberation than they really are if they haven’t also checked Maavak’s statements. Again, we’ll do the checking for them and expose the truth.

But first, did the ISL tell “out and out lies” about MS?

This is what we wrote:

“Maavak has capitulated to the movement’s dominant “social justice for Israelis” chauvinism, never once criticizing the movement’s failure to defend the Palestinians. Its statements on the struggle use vague calls for opposition to racist legislation to avoid taking a specific stand against any particular attack on Palestinians and their rights … Indeed, while finding space in the special edition of its newspaper for a whole page of discussion about the protests concerning the high price Israelis must pay for cottage cheese, it found no room for a single article devoted to the concerns of Palestinians.”

No CWIer has produced a quote from their comrades where they criticize the movement for not defending the Palestinians. None have even suggested that such a criticism exists.

So, what of the special newspaper that Maavak Socialitzi published for the housing price protest? We reproduce images of its 8 pages below. Readers can download it here: http://maavak.org.il/maavak/pdf/201107.SSM.Tents.pdf. And indeed in the paper’s 8 pages, while there is on page 3 a full page article on the price of cottage cheese in Israel, including a statement of concern for Israeli capitalist farmers and their need to be protected from foreign competition, there is not a single article devoted to the concerns of Palestinians. Shame!

In fact, our original criticisms of MS’s special Tent City publication could have gone a lot further. For example, we did not point out that starting on page 4, there is a two-page article entitled “From Tunisia to Syria, the Struggle Against the Dictatorships Continues.” There, one can read about the Tunisian masses rising up against their dictators; about the Egyptian masses rising up against their dictators; and about the Syrian masses rising up against their dictators; but nowhere is there any mention of the Palestinian masses’ struggle against the Israeli dictatorship! Seriously! The lengths MS went to avoid offending the Zionist sensibilities of the Tent City protesters are at once funny in their incompetence as well as disgusting.

But let us repeat, for the sake of clarity: in an 8 page newspaper published especially for a protest movement focused on housing in Israel, MS did not, even once, mention the Zionists’ ongoing campaign of evictions, house demolitions and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians taking place in Jaffa, Sheikh Jarrah, the Galilee and the Negev. NOT ONCE!

Perhaps MS was worried that the up-beat feel of their newspaper would be ruined if they had an article focused on the plight of the Palestinians. After all, instead of the cute tent graphic that appears on every paper of their newspaper, they would have to place a picture of a home being demolished by an armor-plated bulldozer, the blood of Palestinians pooling around it. Perhaps MS were worried about ruining their readers’ appetite for cottage cheese?

Now, we in the ISL don’t engage in the petty competition that sees some left groups unable to acknowledge when others do good work. For example, despite our political differences with anarchists, we don’t hesitate to hail the courageous acts of solidarity with the Palestinians that the Anarchists Against the Wall group performed in the Tent City in Tel Aviv from its very beginning. They raised their banner against the Zionists’ apartheid wall, only to have it immediately torn down.[3] They put up a photographic exhibit of the Palestinians’ plight, only to have it destroyed. When ‘Tent 1948’ was set up to disseminate information about the Palestinians’ oppression, the occupants were beaten up![4] We salute these courageous comrades!

More recently, to Maavak’s credit, at a demonstration in Tel Aviv on the 20th of August, Maavak refused the Tent City leadership’s demand that they remain silent in honor of those who died in recent clashes between Palestinian militants and the IDF. They raised chants like “In Israel and the Territories, the People Demand Social Justice,” “the Answer to the War – R-E-V-O-L-U-T-I-ON,” “No to the War that Will End the Protest,” “No Peace, No Welfare – Overthrow the Government”, for which they were denounced and even physically attacked.

We applaud their courage in doing this and condemn the attacks, but must note that this episode exposes their perspective that the working class in Israel can be won over to the socialist revolution as a whole – and even worse, that this can be done on an economist basis – is utterly detached from reality and leaves them unguarded against such dangers.

We have never doubted that many MS members have a sincere concern for the Palestinians. That concern in fact points MS members toward joining with the Palestinians’ struggle for liberation. But MS’s leaders and program act as a barrier to the realization of that potential. That they have not broken from Zionism in principle is clear from MS’s insistence on the right of a “socialist Israel” to exist on land stolen from the Palestinians. That this leads to the sort of capitulations to Zionist chauvinism like MS’s disgraceful publication for the Tent City protests is undeniable.

At the same time, MS could not exist as a group with socialist pretensions if it did not raise some opposition to some aspects of the Palestinian people’s oppression some of the time. Indeed in several places in Tent City publications, MS did call for opposition to racism and for an end to “the occupation.” But they never got specific about what forms of racism they are opposed to and just what occupation they want to end or how. Since this allowed the Israeli reader to fill in the missing specifics with a content of their own choosing, it is crucial to understand current Israeli views on such issues.

For example, one must recognize that many of the current Israeli protesters want the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank to end, not primarily out of concern for the Palestinians, but rather, because they think that the occupation is too expensive and they want the money spent on Israelis at home. That is not a pro-Palestinian position; it is an almost-pathological Zionist selfishness wrapped in Palestinian-friendly garb. Similarly, many of the protesters think that Israel should settle for the land it had stolen from the Palestinians by the time of the 1967 war. That is also not a pro-Palestinian position; it is the position of colonialists who have grown tired of fighting. Maavak Sozialisti’s call for an end to the occupation and for a “socialist Israel” merely lends these positions an energetic militancy and a “socialist” cover.

Likewise, most Zionists will agree to oppose racism and racist laws so long as the question is posed abstractly. Most Israelis can certainly be expected to oppose racist policies that target Jews, like the segregation of Orthodox Sephardic (Southern European and Middle Eastern) Jews enforced by Ashkenazi (Northern and Eastern European) Orthodox Rabbis in schooling. Also, some will oppose the current racist proposals to make Israel an officially Jewish state – so long as other laws ensure that non-Jews are stopped from becoming a majority.

But what about the racist laws which are the very foundation of the state of Israel? Zionists will swear that they are opposed to racism while they defend the perfectly racist, anti-Palestinian “Law of Return” upon which the State of Israel is founded and which gives Jews from across the world the right to Palestinian land, even if they are a tribal people from Peru recently converted to Judaism (yes, this has happened).[5] And Zionists will swear that they are not racists while denying the right-of-return to the Palestinians and their descendants who were ethnically cleansed from their homeland when the state of Israel was created. In other words, Zionists can be expected to declare themselves opposed to all sorts of racism so long as they remain willfully blind to the essentially racist nature of the very idea of the state of Israel.

Tragically, Maavak Sozialisti’s comrades remain trapped in this Zionist worldview. Thus, while MS do not say so in their program,[6] they do occasionally admit that they are for Palestinians’ right-of-return. At the same time, however, they maintain that Israel has a right to exist and ignore the fact that if the Palestinians and their descendents who were driven from their homeland by the Zionists’ founding of Israel gain their right of return, they will be the overwhelming majority, from the river to the sea, in all of “Mandatory Palestine”. This means that Israel could only continue to exist by means of apartheid minority rule. Some sellout reformist organizations like the Israeli Communist Party’s front-group Hadash at least recognize this contradiction, and try to hint that while they recognize the right of return in “principle”, they will be willing to sell it out in practice.[7] MS don’t take the Palestinian people’s demands nearly so seriously. Instead, their leaders play hide-and-seek with the rights and struggles of the Palestinians.

Indeed, as we foreshadowed in our introductory remarks, Maavak Sozialisti’s game of hide-and-seek regarding the Palestinian people’s struggles extends to their international audience and could explain their CWI comrades’ passionate, if mistaken, defense against our criticisms. For example, consider MS’s coverage of the Palestinians’ Nakbah Day protests this year on the CWI’s international website.

Commemorating and protesting the expropriation and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the course of the establishment of the state of Israel, Nakbah Day is one of the most important days on the Palestinian political calendar. This year, Palestinians marched on Israel’s borders from Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, only to be murderously attacked with tear gas and live ammunition. The ISL’s leaflet for this year’s Nakbah Day events, in Arabic, Hebrew and English can be read on our website[8] and a report on our participation by the ISL’s Yossi Schwartz is available on the League for the Revolutionary Party’s website at http://lrp-cofi.org/statements/yossi_nakba_day_2011.html.  Those events are also well-described in an article by Maavak Sozialisti’s Shahar Ben-Khorin and the CWI’s Jan Kowalski entitled “Nakbah Day sparks mass protests,” that appears on the CWI’s English-language website.[9] While the article ends with MS and the CWI’s miserable call for a two-state solution, it forthrightly advocates the Palestinians’ demand for the right of return and condemns the Zionist “Law of Return.” Illustrated by many excellent photos of Palestinians fighting the Zionist state, the article even goes so far as asserting the Palestinians’ “right to self-defense and armed struggle”!

Now consider the coverage of Palestinians’ massive protests on Nakbah Day that appear on Maavak Sozialisti’s website in Israel:

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 That’s right, neither in Hebrew nor in Arabic, did MS say a word about the Nakbah Day protests.

Shame!

Comrades of the CWI, perhaps you will believe us now when we tell you that your comrades in MS play hide-and-seek with the Palestinian struggle? Perhaps you will even conclude that their game is more hide than seek!

It is difficult to imagine any explanation for such a discrepancy between what MS publishes in Israel and what they have published in their name on the CWI’s international website, other than a conscious attempt by CWI leaders to defraud the international left-wing public. The CWI’s leaders have been caught engaged in worse acts of fraud in the past.[10] Indeed we in Israel are used to going to demonstrations and finding MS members handing one leaflet in Arabic to Palestinians, and a very different, less stridently pro-Palestinian leaflet in Hebrew to Jews. But it should be easy for Maavak Sozialisti to cast a little doubt on our interpretation: immediately translate your English-language article on Nakbah Day into Hebrew and Arabic and feature it on your homepage and in your next newspaper or magazine!

But CWI comrades may honestly object: OK, our comrades’ failure to publish an article on Nakbah Day on their website is a bad mistake, and their publication for the Tent City was lousy, but that doesn’t mean that MS hasn’t taken a stand for the Palestinians! For example, there is a video on youtube of a CWI comrade giving a speech as part of the Israeli housing price protest movement in which she opposes discrimination against Palestinians and the demolition of their houses, as well as the occupation. You can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNXJb8X6xQU&feature=player_embedded.

Indeed, to the extent that MS has started to speak out for the Palestinians in the movement, we support them for this and encourage them to go further. But it is important to note that this does not contradict what we said of their initial approach to the movement, which was to be uncritical of its dominant “social justice for Israelis” chauvinism: MS’s turn to raising some Palestinian concerns is consistent with tailing the leadership of the Tent City movement. As our statement explained, “After weeks of refusing to say anything about Palestinians, the Tent City leadership started to become embarrassed by the movement’s obvious racism” and so it began to invite moderately pro-Palestinian speakers onto their platforms. Thus it invited Uda Basharat of Hadash to speak to its massive Tel Aviv protest and then a week later invited MS’s Suheir Daksa to speak to a protest in Haifa, where protests were not as strongly dominated by mainstream Zionists as in Tel Aviv. There, the MS’s comrade did raise the question of housing demolitions and discrimination against Palestinians as well as the need to oppose “the occupation.” But then to make clear that she was not threatening the Zionist project, but speaking as its left wing, she absurdly ended her speech with a patriotic declaration that Israel “is a state of workers, not of slaves. We will not be slaves! We will lead this state, we will solve the conflict!” – although she did not mention the apartheid wall, the starvation blockade of Gaza or the refugees’ right of return.

That Daksa followed statements of concern for the Palestinians with a ridiculous vision of the Zionist state of Israel being ruled by workers only shows the mess of contradictions MS can get themselves into when they start addressing the concerns of Palestinians. No wonder they so often avoid addressing the question of Palestinian oppression. Indeed, as if to show how little we have to search for evidence of the way Maavak Sozialisti plays hide-and-seek with the Palestinian struggle and their own program, consider recent written statements by Daksa. When the Palestinians of Umm al-Fahm started pitching tents to join the movement, she went on their Facebook page and posted messages in both Arabic and Hebrew (click the quote to see a screenshot). Writing in Arabic, she declared:

“Real unity of the workers is social and political and with it the legitimacy of this state will be void of content and our program as a movement for establishing a new socialist society in this land from the river to the sea!”

Palestinian readers of this posting’s description of “a new socialist society in this land from the river to the sea” would no doubt have been shocked to read Daksa expressing herself very differently when writing in Hebrew on the same page, referring to a federation of future socialist states between the river and the sea, including an Israeli one:

“MS does believe in a socialist federation in the Middle East and we do believe in the return of the refugees! The solution of an independent democratic socialist Palestine next to a democratic socialist – and not Jewish socialist –Israel, are a situation behind a federation…”

At least this time, the support for the right of return is made explicit. But a passing reference to that support on a Facebook post is still miles away from any sort of consistent defense of Palestinian rights. And how an Israeli state could exist democratically while having a majority-Palestinian population after the refugees’ return remains unanswered because it is inexplicable.

We have given the CWI comrades the benefit of the doubt concerning their mistaken impression that their comrades in Maavak Sozialisti are consistent defenders of the Palestinians. So too, we can empathize with Comrade Daksa: it would be difficult to speak to Palestinians and not want to offer a perspective in which they win their full liberation from Zionist oppression, from the river to the sea. But if she thinks that compromising on that struggle has anything to do with Marxism and the Trotskyist tradition, she is mistaken.

The genuine tradition of Marx and Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, contends that working-class unity across lines of national and racial division can only be forged by an uncompromising insistence on the rights of the oppressed. The ISL seeks to stand in that tradition. In the case of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians, we do not recognize Israel’s right to exist because to do so can only mean perpetuating the Palestinian people’s oppression. We fight for a Palestinian workers’ state from the river to the sea in which Jews will have the right to live free of any form of ethnic or religious oppression. Unlike Maavak Sozialisti and the CWI’s “two states” perspective, our unhesitating advocacy of a state in which the oppressed masses will realize their unimpeded democratic and national aspirations is the genuine Trotskyist tradition. As Trotsky said of the very similar South African colonial settler state:

“Three-quarters of the population of South Africa(almost six million of almost eight million) is composed of non-Europeans. A victorious revolution is unthinkable without the awakening of the native masses; in its turn it will give them what they are so lacking today, con­fi­dence in their strength, a heightened personal conscious­ness, a cultural growth. Under these conditions the South African Republic will emerge first of all as a “black” Republic; this does not exclude, of course, either full equality for whites or brotherly relations between the two races (which depends mainly upon the conduct of the whites). But it is entirely obvious that the predominant majority of the population, liberated from slavish dependence, will put a certain imprint on the State.

”Insofar as a victorious revolution will radically change not only the relation between the classes, but also between the races, and will assure to the blacks that place in the State which corresponds to their numbers, so far will the Social Revolution in South Africa also have a national character. We do not have the slightest reason to close our eyes to this side of the question or to diminish its significance. On the contrary the proletarian party should in words and in deeds openly and boldly take the solution of the national (racial) problem in its hands.”[11]

To comrades of the CWI, we say: it is not too late to join this genuine revolutionary tradition of Trotskyism, whose program is the unqualified liberation of the oppressed, and whose watchwords are: say what is, tell the truth to the working class!

You have nothing to lose but your chains.

Sincerely,

The Internationalist Socialist League

Footnotes: 

[1] “Israelis Demand Social Justice – But What of the Palestinians?” http://www.the-isleague.com/social-justice-israel-english.php.

[2] https://theredbadger17.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/israelis-demand-social-justice-but-what-of-the-palestinians/#comment-2.

[3] See the informative article “Tahrir Envy: An Anti-Occupation Activist’s First Thoughts on the Tent Protests in Israel,” http://pulsemedia.org/2011/08/05/tahrir-envy-an-anti-occupation-activists-first-thoughts-on-the-tent-protests-in-israel/#more-33342.
[4]See Abir Kopty, “Tent 1948,” http://mondoweiss.net/2011/08/tent-1948.html.
[5] See Israel Shahak, Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of a Thousand Years, Chapter 1, http://www.ifamericansknew.org/cur_sit/shahak.html#1.
[6] See MS’s program, and its scandalous silence on some of the Palestinian people’s most basic demands like the right-of-return at http://maavak.org.il/maavak/?content=10 (English), http://maavak.org.il/maavak/?content=23 (Hebrew).
[7] Dov Khenin: “There is a basic recognition of rights on the one hand, and there is a practical political solution based on agreement between the political leaderships of the two peoples on the other hand.” “Israel: And Interview with Hadash MP and communist Dov Khenin”,  http://links.org.au/node/968.
[8] See “For the Return of all the Palestinian Refugees to their Lands and Homes! Socialist Revolution is the Only Solution!” at http://www.the-isleague.com/nakbah-day-2011-english.php (English), http://www.the-isleague.com/nakbah-day-2011-arabic.php and http://www.the-isleague.com/nakbah-day-2011-hebrew.php.
[10] Consider the example of the CWI’s Ukrainian section, whose leading figures posed as members of other left-wing organizations for the purpose of defrauding the international left. For full documentation of this shocking case, see the LRP’s coverage at http://lrp-cofi.org/archive/RWO.html, http://lrp-cofi.org/PR/uafraudPR69.html, http://lrp-cofi.org/PR/CWIPR69.html#photos and http://lrp-cofi.org/PR/CWIPR69.html#letter.

[11] Leon Trotsky, “Remarks on the Draft Theses of the Workers Party of South Africa,” http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1935/04/wpsa.htm.

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15 Comments

Filed under Committee for a Workers' International, Internationalist Socialist League, Israel/Occupied Palestine

15 responses to “Facts Against Fictions – The ISL Responds to CWI Charges that it Lied about their Israeli Group

  1. Eddie

    Interesting post.

    While I’d like to say it’s a good effort and has clarified the ‘facts’ from the ‘fiction’, and to a certain extent it has, the fact remains that nothing (not one thing) that I or anybody else from the CWI said on the comments thread of the last ISL statement on this blog, has been disproven by this long winded and contradictory statement. As far as the political issues involved, it adds nothing.

    I must point out that the subtitle of the post – “The ISL Responds to CWI Charges that it Lied about their Israeli Group” – is inaccurate, in that it these are not CWI charges at all. Don’t flatter yourself. The CWI or CWI in Israel does not respond to irrelevant sects in ‘debates’ about frivolous issues, like what was or wasn’t said in a particular issue of a paper. I’m reluctant to engage myself, at the risk of adding some sort of credibility to the ISL’s politics, however unintentionally.

    It is interesting though, that one of the ISL’s five or six members spent the better part of a week replying to members of the CWI in Ireland, on a blog. Surely, surely there are more pressing things for a revolutionary Marxist in Israel to be doing at the moment? But then, not for the revolutionaries in the ISL, who have nothing to say to the thousands of Israeli’s engaging in political activity – in some of the most significant events and developments in Israeli society for decades – other than the plight of the Palestinian people. Which while not exactly the same, is a bit like the ISL / LRP or whoever, going to intervene into the mass movements of workers in Wisconsin and only raising the plight of the masses in Afghanistan – and then criticising the CWI members who intervened raising demands that connected with the workers and their immediate struggle and criticising them for the absence of an article in their paper dealing with the occupation of Afghanistan.

    Genuine revolutionary Marxists on the other hand, understand the complexities involved in the struggle now taking place and therefore the need to develop a programme and a method that can engage with the movements in Israel and skillfully raise socialist ideas (including opposition to Zionism and the oppression of Palestinians) and the consciousness of the participants. How else can we attempt to win Israeli workers to the cause of the Palestinian masses and the struggle for socialism? Which is of course is absolutely necessary. International class unity of workers from the oppressed nations and workers from the oppressing nations, as the only road to socialism and self-determination has been the position of Marxists from the beginning.

    To quote Lenin:

    “The proletariat of the oppressing nations cannot confine itself to the general hackneyed phrases against annexations and for the equal rights of nations in general, that may be repeated by any pacifist bourgeois. The proletariat cannot evade the question that is particularly “unpleasant” for the imperialist bourgeoisie, namely, the question of the frontiers of a state that is based on national oppression. The proletariat cannot but fight against the forcible retention of the oppressed nations within the boundaries of a given state, and this is exactly what the struggle for the right of self-determination means. The proletariat must demand the right of political secession for the colonies and for the nations that “its own” nation oppresses. Unless it does this, proletarian internationalism will remain a meaningless phrase; mutual confidence and class solidarity between the workers of the oppressing and oppressed nations will be impossible; the hypocrisy of the reformist and Kautskyan advocates of self-determination who maintain silence about the nations which are oppressed by “their” nation and forcibly retained within “their” state will remain unexposed.

    The Socialists of the oppressed nations, on the other hand, must particularly fight for and maintain complete, absolute unity (also organizational) between the workers of the oppressed nation and the workers of the oppressing nation. Without such unity it will be impossible to maintain an independent proletarian policy and class solidarity with the proletariat of other countries in the face of all the subterfuge, treachery and trickery of the bourgeoisie” – VI Lenin, The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination.

    This is a basic starting point for all socialist revolutionaries and is absolutely consistant with the position of the CWI.

    Now as far as facts go lets be clear about this much: When theredbadger17 accused me of being mistaken and the CWI comrades of lying about explicitly calling for an end to the occupation and oppression of Palestinians in the publication in question, saying; “If they told you that publication mentions the Palestinians then I’m afraid they are [lying].”
    You were wrong and I was right – that’s a fact. Which means you were repeatedly mislead by the comrades in the ISL or that you’re just delusional. Probably both.

    In fact, I will now re-post what exactly I said the ISL had lied about, because the points are as valid now as they were before the ISL produced this latest response:

    QUOTE Eddie:
    “”If that is what your Israeli comrades are telling you then they are lying.
    No. They are not.

    “What are the other “lies”?”
    For the fifth time now, this statement: “Maavak has capitulated to the movement’s dominant “social justice for Israelis” chauvinism, never once criticizing the movement’s failure to defend the Palestinians.” is a lie.
    “Its statements on the struggle use vague calls for opposition to racist legislation to avoid taking a specific stand against any particular attack on Palestinians and their rights.”
    This is also a lie.

    “Insultingly to Palestinians, whose expropriation is the foundation of the Israeli state, their paper buries opposition to racism amidst a list of other injustices it opposes, like discrimination against people with mental disabilities.”
    This is not technically a lie because what “buries” means is open to interpretation, although it is untrue to say that there’s anything insulting to Palestinians in our publications, but I suppose that’s also open to interpretation. But making such vague criticisms is an indication of the political (dis)honesty of the ISL.

    “Indeed, while finding space in the special edition of its newspaper for a whole page of discussion about the protests concerning the high price Israelis must pay for cottage cheese, it found no room for a single article devoted to the concerns of Palestinians. Even worse, in their cottage protest articles, Maavak actually calls for protectionism of the Israeli dairy industry against Nethanyahu’s proposal to open the market to imports – showing that Maavak can muster up a defense of specific Israeli capitalists much more easily than it can make such an effort on the part of the Palestinians![ii]”
    This is a cynical distortion of the approach of the CWI in Israel/ Palestine, nothing more. It could only be put forward by an organisation who has nothing to say about the issues that are fueling the mass movements of Israelis Jews against the Israeli government. Which is surely not the way a revolutionary Marxist organisation should operate. If socialists fail to engage with these movements; address the concerns of the participants, offering clear alternatives to the right-wing and socialist policies that can take the movement forward – while consistently raising the issue of the national question and the oppression of the Palestinians – there is the obvious danger of other forces taking the movement in a direction that does not benefit the working class in Israel or the Palestinian people. Of course the movement should be challenged to take up the national question etc, but the ISL go to the other extreme of only raising the national question.

    “We are reminded of a bus ride back from a Nakba Day demonstration at which Maavak members had advocated their “socialist” two-state solution. On the way home, we almost felt sorry for the Maavak members as Palestinians took the opportunity to quite correctly condemn them as “apartheid socialists.””
    There’s no reason to believe that this tale is not a complete fabrication.

    “While we are certain that the Maavak members subjectively abhor apartheid and racism, their capitulation to Zionism, instead of helping them build a “united anti-racist struggle,” only isolates them from the Palestinian masses – the vanguard of any socialist revolution that could ever take place in this land.”
    Again, as I’ve already explained this nothing more than wishful thinking on the part of the ISL.””

    None of this has been refuted.

    Now as for the political issues, Cillian in his comment on the previous post, outlined the basics of a Marxist analysis and solution to the national question in Israel / Palestine. Again, apart from stating the ISL’s position and distorting the position of the CWI, none of these points were dealt with. So I’ll re post it here again:

    QUOTE Cillian Gillespie:
    “”Tragically many of the Palestinian villages, where Palestinians were expelled from, have now been destroyed and new towns and houses have been built where Israeli Jews now live. They have done so in some cases for three or four generations. Where those Palestinians refugees live and reside poses two important questions. Firstly and most importantly it requires the socialist transformation of society, by equally sharing and utilising the resources of the region on a planned basis to build these new houses and the services such as free health and education. This would completely transform the question of ‘right of return’.

    Secondly, where Palestinians and Jews live and where the borders are drawn of these two socialist states has to be democratically decided on the basis of discussion and compromise. It is not something that I can decide sitting here in Dublin in 2011 and it’s something that is not easy. On a socialist basis and on the basis of democratic agreement, a solution would be arrived at that certainly would not involve expulsions or ethnic cleansing. Fundamentally we have faith in the common sense of working people ( both Jewish and Arab) and believe that they can arrive at such a solution based on respecting the rights of both nationalities.

    Given that our position means free and open borders, with no restrictions on the right to travel and the rights of either a Palestinian or Jewish minority being guaranteed we think that both Israeli and Arab workers can be won to this position.

    We do not preclude that in the future – on the basis of a socialist transformation of society in the region – you may see the creation of one state where Israeli and Palestinians would live which is what you call for, if this were the desire of both groups. Our position is not an exact blueprint and is open to change if consciousness changes on this issue.

    But you have to recognise that this is not the wish of Israeli Jews, or for that matter Palestinians, at the moment. The latter are undoubtedly suspicious of being part of one state with Jews, given the legacy of the last 60 years. Neither Jews nor Palestinians can be coerced into accepting something that contradicts their national aspirations.

    A key to the fundamental social and national liberation of Palestinian people will be its ability to win over important sections of the Israeli working class to its struggle, by exploiting the very real class divisions within Israeli society. We do not place this as a condition for Palestinians to engage in an immediate struggle for their liberation and we recognise that their are prejudices that exist amongst Jewish workers against Palestinians that have to be challenged (which the CWI in Israel/Palestine skillfully does).

    Like Protestant workers in Northern Ireland most of the left have dismissed Israeli workers as being hopelessly reactionary. But the events of the last weeks show that have they have been affected by the Arab revolutions and some sections of the tent movement have taken up the demands relating to Palestinian rights (http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/housing-activists-add-israeli-arab-concerns-to-list-of-demands-1.376834). This gives a rudimentary illustration of how Israeli Jews can be won to the struggle for socialism in the Middle East.

    The Israeli ruling class rests its power on its ability to create a “siege mentality” amongst Israeli Jews, because of the legacy of the holocaust as well as other factors. If a national liberation movement amongst Palestinians – combined with the Arab working class in the Middle East – can make a class appeal to Israeli workers, by guaranteeing their security and national rights, the Israeli capitalist Zionist state that oppresses Palestinians can be defeated.””

    Now if the comrades from theredbadger17 have any points to make about this explanation of the CWI’s position on the national question I’d be interested in hearing them, or you can wait another week for the ISL to come up with some sort of a response, which is also fine I suppose.

    • Much like your comrade Mark below, you haven’t really addressed the content of the statement. It would seem that you don’t have a problem with the fact that the ISL has demonstrated that your sister organisation in Israel is saying one thing in Hebrew and another in Arabic and English. You’re either ignoring that out of embarrassment or you think opportunism and political dishonesty are acceptable if they yield results for your organisation in terms of growth etc.

      I couldn’t help but laugh at your “Afghanistan and Wisconsin” analogy. It’s as ridiculous and disgusting as the Spartacists comparing the Palestinians’ national aspirations to those of American Indians.

      You have some neck quoting Lenin on the national question given your organisation’s atrocious record. If you actually believe that “the proletariat cannot but fight against the forcible retention of the oppressed nations within the boundaries of a given state, and this is exactly what the struggle for the right of self-determination means” then you would advocate Irish self-determination instead of whinging about cops and soldiers being killed by Republicans. Similarly in the Middle East, if CWI were a Leninist organisation and not one of the more right-wing centrist groups currently plaguing the international socialist movement it would (at all times and in all languages) unreservedly advocate Palestinian self-determination.

      By all means dismiss me as “delusional” or a “Spartoid”, like that clown Mark, if it makes you feel better. We’ll continue to strive for political clarity and honesty while you keep flinging muck that doesn’t stick.

  2. Eddie

    Brilliant.

  3. On Thursday evening , challenged by members of the ISL in downtown Haifa ( wadi Nisnas) Maavak Socialisti explained their position on the Palestinian struggle . They explained that it is necessary to consider the consciousness of the Jewish workers who oppose one state. Therefor,considering the animosity between the Palestinians and the Israelis, two socialist states are a necessary stage. As to the question of the Palestinian refugees, they said, they trust , that the question of the refugees will be settled in a democratic way by the population of the israeli socialist democratic state” .

    The argument that the hostility between the Israeli Jews and the Palestinians is a reason for two states is an old rational for justification for the creation of the Israel state. No other than Andrie Gromyko- Stalin representative to the UN advanced it in 1947 as justification for the creation of the Zionist state.

    Gromyko said: “The USSR had supported a one state solution, and favored a two-state partition only if the one-state solution was impossible. See UN Debate on Palestine – Remarks of Soviet Representative Andrei Gromyko, May 14, 1947.

    When the question of the future of Palestine wasThen he continued :”   the Government of the USSR pointed to the two most acceptable solutions of this question. The first was the creation of a single democratic Arab-Jewish State in which Arabs and Jews would enjoy equal rights. In case that solution were to prove unworkable because of Arab and Jewish insistence that, in view of the deterioration in Arab-Jewish relations, they would be unable to live together, the Government of the USSR through its delegation at the Assembly, pointed to the second solution, which was to partition Palestine into two free, independent and democratic States— an Arab and a Jewish one.
    Sound to me that the argument put forward by some members of the CWI is very similar position of Gromyko.
    The formulation regarding the right of the return of the refugees leave open the possibility that not the refugees themselves will decide whether to return , but that the Israeli Jews in so called “socialistic” Israel will decide that they do not want the refugees back. It is not only possible but even inevitable that the majority of the Israeli Jews will oppose the return of most refuges in order to maintain a socialist” state with a jewish majority. Now comrades of the CWI you have to make up your mind what is the nature of the Israeli society. Is it similar to Egypt or Greece or more similar to South Africa during the Apartheid regime? The white workers in South did struggled in different periods to improve their conditions, but they opposed equal rights and certainly a black workers state’ in the same way most Israeli oppose equal rights for the Palestinians and of course a large part of the Israelis will continue to oppose the return of the refugees.

    The protest movement in Israel published last week its demands and even though they are aware of the oppression of the Palestinians, they totally ignored the rights and the demands of the Palestinians. Thus we see that most Israelis can struggle like the Afrikaners for their rights without developing any better anti racist consciousness.

    For this reason the revolutionary perspective is to split the best part of the Israeli Jewish workers and poor and help them to understand the need to join the Palestinian struggle with a perspective of a workers revolution in the region that will form a socialist federation of the Middle East that will include a Palestinian workers state from the river to the sea, where the Israeli Jewish workers who will participate in this revolutionary struggle will be part of the workers ruling class.

    The illusion that you are spreading is that some how the majority of the Jewish workers and poor by struggling for better conditions will become internationalists while we are saying that only a minority and let us hope a large minority will join the revolutionary struggle .For this however it is necessary to tel them the truth , that the Israelis cannot have a separate state because it will be at the expense of the oppressed Palestinians. This position was true in 1947 and it is true today, The fact that the Israelis are living in a Zions state foe over 60 years does not change this issue. The Afrikaners have been living longer in South Africa, and the European in French Algeria lived there for 130 years.

    This is an old issue in this country. We have seen other movements in the past that struggled for the rights of the Israelis only and disappeared for the same reason-their loyalty to the Zionist state.
    Yossi

    • Eddie

      Yossi, while I’m sure that the comrades in Maavak Socialisti have a far superior understanding of this question than I have, and if they’ve not convinced you of a genuine Marxist position then I won’t, I’ll just make some points on your comment here anyway.

      From what I can gather so far, these are some of the political conclusions of the ISL:

      1) It was not necessary to win over Afrikaners in South Africa in the struggle against the apartheid regime; therefore it is not necessary to win Israelis workers in the struggle against the Israeli state and imperialism.

      2) Only a minority of Israeli workers can be won to the idea of socialism, despite the increasing class tensions in Israeli society and the impact of the revolutionary movements in the region.

      3) Marxists have no role to play in winning Israeli workers to the idea of socialism, other than explaining that they must give up their own national aspirations and fall in behind the struggle for Palestinian self-determination.

      4) Despite the fact that a majority of the Israeli working class will always be opposed to the struggle of the Palestinian people and socialism, a solution is somehow possible on the basis of a Palestinian workers state.

      You may not phrase it like that, but that’s really what you’re saying. Of course we in the CWI totally disagree with the above and I’ll briefly state why, although much has already been answered in my previous comment.

      Your comparison with the struggle against apartheid in South Africa is mistaken and the conclusions you draw certainly don’t apply in this case. The obvious points being that whites in SA made up only 5-10% of the population and were a far more homogeneous and privileged block than the class divided Israelis – who are being radicalised on a scale that is not comparable with anything in white SA. But crucially, the capitalist class in SA relied entirely on the labour of the black working class, meaning they were the key power to defeating the apartheid system. This is not the case with the Israeli capitalist class, who don’t rely on the exploitation of Palestinian labour for their profits, but rather on Jewish and Arab labour in Israel. In this sense, the struggle in SA and the role of the social forces involved are worlds apart from the situation in Israel / Palestine.

      You say: “The protest movement in Israel published last week its demands and even though they are aware of the oppression of the Palestinians, they totally ignored the rights and the demands of the Palestinians. Thus we see that most Israelis can struggle like the Afrikaners for their rights without developing any better anti racist consciousness.”

      Of course this can happen! In fact it’s most likely that this will happen in the first instance – but does that mean that this will always happen, forever, regardless of how the crisis in Israel and movement develops? Of course not! People’s consciousness reflects the society they live in. In the case of Israel, a society dominated by Zionism and the conscious attempt by the ruling class of creating a “siege mentality” in order to keep Israeli Jews isolated and in fear. This will not change overnight, as you expect it to – but it will change. The question is, what role can socialists play in the process?

      The struggles taking place in Israel now are absolutely link to the struggle of the Palestinians. It is the duty of socialists to raise the demands for an end to the occupation and oppression of the Palestinians and in whatever way we can; to ensure that the movements take up these critical demands. However, a basic rule for how socialists intervene into movements (but one which ultra-lefts of all descriptions seem to be wilfully ignorant of), is to engage with consciousness where it’s at now – by addressing the concerns of the movement, offering concrete suggestions for how the movement can be successful (relying generally on the independent strength of the movement itself and the working class as a whole) – and to link the struggle to the capitalist system that is the root of the problem and the need for socialism. Only by engaging and winning the respect of workers will socialists get an echo for the ideas we raise, including the need for self-determination for Palestine.

      Unfortunately, many on the left see Israeli society as one undifferentiated, reactionary mass. This however, is a profoundly mistaken view. I don’t know if this is your view, but judging by your programmatic positions it might as well be. As far as you’re concerned, a minority of Israeli workers will draw certain conclusions about their society at a certain stage and will join the struggle for Palestinian self-determination.

      You say: “For this reason the revolutionary perspective is to split the best part of the Israeli Jewish workers and poor and help them to understand the need to join the Palestinian struggle with a perspective of a workers revolution in the region that will form a socialist federation of the Middle East that will include a Palestinian workers state from the river to the sea, where the Israeli Jewish workers who will participate in this revolutionary struggle will be part of the workers ruling class.”

      The first obvious question is, what is your plan for the millions of Israeli workers who don’t participate in the struggle for a Palestinian workers’ state?

      But there are two very large problems with this position as far I can see. One being that Israel is a class society, with a history of bitter class struggle. Inequality, poverty and unemployment are fuelling mass movements – yes significant developments, but most likely only a glimpse of what is to come. Class antagonisms in Israel will worsen as a result of further attacks on living standards and the revolutionary movements in the region will no doubt continue to make an impact on Israeli society. How any Marxist can see nothing in these developments – in terms of the potential for socialist ideas to get an echo from large sections of Israeli society, particularly the working class – is astounding.

      The second problem is that a while we don’t rule out the possibility of a one-state socialist Palestine as part of a socialist federation of the region (as mentioned in previous comment) if that was the desire of the people themselves. However, a ‘Palestinian workers state from the river to the sea’ that does not have the support of a majority of Israeli workers would inevitably be met with fierce opposition from those millions of Israeli workers. On the basis of capitalism, they would be forced into the arms of the ruling class in Israel and backed by imperialism would fight to defend what they consider to be their ‘homeland’. And let’s be clear here, we’re talking about a nuclear power – that could be used against the Palestinian workers’ state. In fact winning over the Israeli working class is the only real act that could prevent such a catastrophic event from taking place.

      Of course your programme is not conducive to winning Jewish workers over to seriously challenging the Israeli ruling class – it’s not meant to. Yes it is true that Israeli Jews have fears at the idea of becoming a discriminated-against minority in a Palestinian state. We take this into account when we develop our programme and demands. It is completely removed from reality to suggest that nothing has change in the last 60 years. Whether you acknowledge it or not, the fact remains that the Jewish population have developed a national consciousness. To force them into a state against their will would actually be a violation of the right to self-determination.

      Now obviously it is vital that all Marxists support the right of self-determination for any oppressed population. However, it’s worth making the point that “self-determination” is not and end in itself, from a Marxist point of view. The end is socialist revolution, with workers’ unity at the core of any attempt to overthrow capitalism and imperialism. Supporting the struggle for self-determination is ultimately about bring us closer to socialism by winning national minorities to the cause.

      You say: “Sound to me that the argument put forward by some members of the CWI is very similar position of Gromyko.”
      Well you’re wrong, in general, but on one fairly important point. We don’t advocate a two-state solution. We advocate socialism. Our programme is designed to win Israeli and Palestinian workers to a socialist revolution. Given the consciousness of the both groups we maintain that an independent socialist Palestine and a socialist Israel as part of a wider voluntary socialist confederation in the region, is the only practical solution.
      On the basis of socialism; resources being equally shared, as part of a planned economy, controlled and run by the working class, the overthrow of the rotten capitalist regimes and the coming to power of democratic workers’ governments would create the basis for genuine negotiations between the two peoples. It would be possible to begin to negotiate a solution to even the most difficult problems, including the right of return. We have the utmost confidence that this is possible.

      Theory is grey Yossi, but green is the tree of life.

      You should remember these words when endeavour to analyse the situation in Israel / Palestine and crucially search for a solution. A fundamental feature of Marxism is an understanding of the potential for the working class, on the basis of struggle and solidarity and revolutionary movements, to overcome any and all obstacles to a society of socialist equality and democracy. If you dispute this potential, then you dispute the possibility for socialism to ever be achieved.

  4. Yehuda Stern

    Eddie,
    Your reading of what Yossi and the rest of us wrote is incredibly dishonest. Of the four “political conclusions” you cite, 1 and 3 are an obvious fiction – we constantly write of the need to win over Jewish workers to the Palestinian struggle (we have done so quite extensively in both our original statement as well as this reply to CWI accusations), and of the role of revolutionaries in that context. So this is just a straw man argument that anyone can see through.

    You claim that the comparison to SA is invalid because in Israel the capitalists are employing Jewish Israeli workers and not Palestinian workers. All analogies, of course, have their limitations – this doesn’t mean that they are always invalid, but just that one has to be careful with them. One doesn’t have to limit oneself to the example of SA though – take any colonialist settler state, like Algeria or Rhodesia.

    The fact is that the settler working class in all these states remained supportive of its ruling class. The theoretical explanation is that the privileges given to these workers by their ruling class prevent them from becoming revolutionaries – they are very much unlike other workers who have “nothing to lose but their chains”. This is what’s behind the comparison to SA, not the relative part of Jews in the Israeli population.

    You ask what we plan to do with Jewish workers who don’t participate in the revolution. You may as well ask what Marxists plan to do in general with workers who don’t participate in the revolution. There’s no a-priori need to “do” anything. So this is just another distraction. But let’s turn to a real question now:

    Assume that after the revolution, all Palestinian refugees want to return to Palestine. I do not want to debate how likely this is (I think it’s highly likely that at least most of them will) – it’s a question of principle. It is clear that when they do, Palestinians will be a majority in all of historic Palestine. How, then, do you propose to maintain a Jewish state in any part of Palestine? Do you

    1. Suggest that Palestinians be prevented from returning to certain areas, i.e. deny them the right of return?
    2. Suggest that Palestinians are made to move to other parts of the country, AKA ethnic cleansing?
    3. Suggest that Jewish rule is written into the law, AKA apartheid?

    Here are your choices for your “Israeli socialist state” fantasy – denial of Palestinian rights, ethnic cleansing and/or apartheid. Please answer that instead of giving us dull sugary speeches about your “Marxism”.

    • Eddie

      Yossi and Yehuda,

      You say: “The CWI is confusing militancy with revolutionary struggle.”

      What a ridiculous notion. In fact, this could be said of any working class that has not seen revolutionary movements in the last 60 years – Ireland or Britain for example. We’ve seen militancy but no revolutionary struggle. Will we ever see revolutionary struggle? Yes we will, but if a cynic was so inclined, he could come up with a bogus theory like the one you give to explain why it will never happen.

      “The theoretical explanation is that the privileges given to these workers by their ruling class prevent them from becoming revolutionaries”

      Your theory is wrong in the case of Israel. The only evidence you have, is that Israeli workers have not yet drawn revolutionary conclusions – so what! Israeli workers are the exploited majority on which the Israeli capitalist class base themselves and make their profits. Thave no interest in maintaining the oppression of Palestinians – decreasing living standards, war and insecurity and huge inequality is what get have to look forward to. Hence, we should appeal on a class basis to win over these workers – which you are now paying lip service to. But again, there are two problems with this as far as I can see.

      One being that the whole point of your South African comparison and bogus theory is to justify writing off Israeli Jews because you don’t think they are necessary allies in defeating the Israeli state and bringing about a socialist solution. We on the other hand, think that they are a key potential ally in the struggle.

      You say: “Pessimally in Israel while the Israeli masses can protest and struggle to improve its the history of all of these movement shows that they are unable to break with the Zionist state they see as their protection against the Arab masses.”

      So in this statement you’ve come close to the heart of the matter, but once again you’ve drawn the wrong conclusion. Yes the Zionist state creates the fear in the Israeli Jewish population that they are surrounded by hostile forces on every side. This is ultimately where their power rests. So if the Arab masses surrounding Israel and the Palestinian movement were to make a class appeal to the working class in Israel, by guaranteeing their security and national rights, the power of the Israeli ruling class would be broken and they could be smashed. What you are doing in reality, is making no distinction between the Israeli state and the working class.

      I said that I did not know if it was your view that Israeli society was, “one undifferentiated, reactionary mass”. What I said was – it might as well be, given your programmatic conclusions.

      This brings me to the second problem; which is that you are clearly not serious about winning over Israeli workers. In your interventions you dismiss the demands of the protest movement – including mocking them on the cottage issue – and limit yourself to only raising the national question. This is certainly not the method of a Marxist cadre organisation, who should be on top of all the issues and concerns of working class people.

      However any attempt to win over Israeli workers that follows this line of argument:

      “For this however it is necessary to tel them the truth , that the Israelis cannot have a separate state because it will be at the expense of the oppressed Palestinians.”

      Is doomed to failure – no wonder you’ve concluded that Israeli workers cannot be won to socialism and the Palestinian cause! The development over decades of a national consciousness amongst the Jewish population of Israel is a concrete fact that has to be taken into account. So when you say:

      “You may as well ask what Marxists plan to do in general with workers who don’t participate in the revolution. You may as well ask what Marxists plan to do in general with workers who don’t participate in the revolution.”

      You are ignoring the right to self-determination. Of course we want to win a majority of all working class people to the socialist revolution, and in theory those who don’t support the revolution itself will eventually be won over by increase in living standards and other benefits that come from a socialist planned economy and democratic society. Included in that however, is democratic national rights for all minorities. In a Palestinian workers state this would mean the millions Israeli Jews.

      Can you tell me how you plan to defeat the nuclear power that is the Israeli state, without winning over the working class on which their power rests entirely?

      Your question:

      “Assume that after the revolution, all Palestinian refugees want to return to Palestine. I do not want to debate how likely this is (I think it’s highly likely that at least most of them will) – it’s a question of principle. It is clear that when they do, Palestinians will be a majority in all of historic Palestine. How, then, do you propose to maintain a Jewish state in any part of Palestine?”

      Has already been answered, but I’ll repost it here for the third time for your benefit:

      “Tragically many of the Palestinian villages, where Palestinians were expelled from, have now been destroyed and new towns and houses have been built where Israeli Jews now live. They have done so in some cases for three or four generations. Where those Palestinians refugees live and reside poses two important questions. Firstly and most importantly it requires the socialist transformation of society, by equally sharing and utilising the resources of the region on a planned basis to build these new houses and the services such as free health and education. This would completely transform the question of ‘right of return’.

      Secondly, where Palestinians and Jews live and where the borders are drawn of these two socialist states has to be democratically decided on the basis of discussion and compromise. It is not something that I can decide sitting here in Dublin in 2011 and it’s something that is not easy. On a socialist basis and on the basis of democratic agreement, a solution would be arrived at that certainly would not involve expulsions or ethnic cleansing. Fundamentally we have faith in the common sense of working people ( both Jewish and Arab) and believe that they can arrive at such a solution based on respecting the rights of both nationalities.

      Given that our position means free and open borders, with no restrictions on the right to travel and the rights of either a Palestinian or Jewish minority being guaranteed we think that both Israeli and Arab workers can be won to this position.

      We do not preclude that in the future – on the basis of a socialist transformation of society in the region – you may see the creation of one state where Israeli and Palestinians would live which is what you call for, if this were the desire of both groups. Our position is not an exact blueprint and is open to change if consciousness changes on this issue.

      But you have to recognise that this is not the wish of Israeli Jews, or for that matter Palestinians, at the moment. The latter are undoubtedly suspicious of being part of one state with Jews, given the legacy of the last 60 years. Neither Jews nor Palestinians can be coerced into accepting something that contradicts their national aspirations.”

      If you don’t agree that such a solution is possible, then I can only assume that you don’t think working class people, on the basis of socialism, are capable of genuine negotiation, compromise and coming to agreement. If your view of working class people cannot project itself beyond the prejudices of the rotten capitalist system then you will continue down this blind path no doubt. We don’t agree.

  5. Yehuda Stern

    Another point on your “not a two-state solution”: if you were honest about uniting Jewish and Palestinian workers in struggle and disagreeing with the one-state solution for internationalist reasons, you would have had a Jewish-Palestinian bi-national state position like that IBT chap from the other thread. He’s dead wrong, but he’s honest about that sort of unity. The national separation you suggest is just a thinly-veiled capitulation to Zionism.

    • I’m interested in why you think the “bi-national workers state” slogan is so clearly inferior to that of a “Palestinian workers state”.

      Now of course such distinctions between slogans are primarily of propaganda value and I can see the advantage of “Palestinian workers state” in that it draws a sharp line against the Zionism that infects so much of the Jewish Israeli working class.

      While it is clear that if a right to return was exercised there would be a Palestinian majority in the territory of the new workers state it is far from clear whether this would be overwhleming – the Jewish Israeli minority could well be in the region of 30-40% of the population.

      You say you agree that it is important to win over Jewish Israelis to proletarian internationalism and presumably you want to maximise that number – just as you do among the Arab population.

      Recognising the reality that the population of the new workers state will be comprised of two main national groupings is embodied more accurately in “bi-national workers state”.

      Surely you can therefore see that that there are advantages in being more algebraic as regards the national characteristics of the workers state created on the territory of Palestine-Israel in terms of mobilising the maximum number of workers, on both sides of the national divide, for the socialist revolution.

      That being said I do think this is a secondary question within a common framework of support for a unitary workers state as part of a Socialist Federation in the region.

      I don’t really want to get drawn into the argument about what proportion of the Jewish Israeli working class can be won to a proletarian internationalist position however your position that this is necessarily only possible for a small minority is troubling and at the same time seems important to your analysis.

      Your examples of similar situations doesn’t really hold much weight for me as none of them are in any way analogous to the struggle to create a workers state in the terrritory of Palestine-Israel as part of a region-wide struggle for a Socialist Federation, occurring alongside the development of a mass Leninist-Trotskyist international party contending for leadership of the workers movement across the globe.

      In that context I would be more confident than you appear to be regarding the potential to win over a substantial number of the Jewish Israeli working class to proletarian internationalism. And even if you are right and that number remains disappointly low our perspective is surely to have a programme, and slogans, which point towards maximising that number – without of course doing so in a manner like the CWI who through their capitulation to the existing consciousness with the two-state solution end up reinforcing that false consciousness. I would suggest that stating in advance that the vast majority of Jewish Israelis are not capable of being won to prolaterian internationalism in any circumstance is not a wise tactic.

      • Comrade RP,

        Israel, as has already been stated, is a colonial-settler state and an imperialist power. Leninists/Trotskyists do not recognise the national rights of oppressor nations as being equal to those of oppressed nations, especially when the ‘rights’ of the oppressor are asserted at the expense of the oppressed, as is the case in Palestine.

        The reality is that the Israeli working class will not lead any revolutionary struggle within the region and I see no problem with the ISL stating that openly. Instead of tailoring our work to ‘soften the blow’ for the backward Israeli workers, “Leninist-Trotskyist” internationalists should be focusing on winning the much larger and much more significant (from the point of view of socialist revolution) Arab working class and impoverished masses to our programme.

        Central to that programme is the defeat of imperialism’s infrastructure in the region, the linchpin of which is the Israeli colonial-settler state.

        The argument put forward by Eddie on this thread that we ‘need’ to win the majority of the Israeli working class because of the Israeli state’s nuclear arsenal is bogus to say the least. By that dubious logic socialist revolutions could only occur (or survive rather) if the working classes of each nuclear power had first secured their respective arsenals.

      • I’ve never been entirely sure what that “colonial-settler state” term means but certainly Israel is not an “imperialist power” in the sense I understand the term. Though it is certainly a willing junior partner of US imperialism.

        I agree that there is no equality of national rights in situations of national oppression and that there can be no viable solution to the oppression of the Palestinian people without the destruction of the Zionist Israeli state and its replacement by a workers state as part of a Socialist Federation in the region.

        I also agree that revolutionary Marxists on the ground would have their focus on the Arab working class as the most likely source for creating a revolutionary socialist movement. But focus does not mean exclusivity and I fail to see how a programme calling for the destruction of the Zionist Israeli state and its replacement by a bi-national workers state with right of return and equal rights for all workers and oppressed regardless of nationality represents any “softening of the blow” for anybody.

        As regards the likelihood of any section of the proletariat in any part of the globe being in the front ranks of the socialist revolution I am cautious about making definitive statements when we stand so far away from that goal.

        I really don’t see what possible use it is to write off, in advance, millions of workers as never being able to transcend their existing false consciousness. While on the other hand I can see potential negatives in it with regards to winning over Israeli workers and combating the influence of bourgeois nationalism among the Palestinians.

        But as I have said I think this falls within the remit of tactics rather than principle. Why do you think making this pronouncement helps with spreading revolutionary socialist consciousness among the workers in the region?

        The CWI’s arguments are just attempts at left-cover for their general reformist methodology of reluctance to challenge workers existing false consciousness that plays out in this context by their effective silence on the Palestinian’s oppression, presumably for fear of being “isolated” in the current protest movement in Israel – as you have decisively nailed them on.

  6. In addition I want to relate to one point on revolutionary perspective and this relates to what happened in SA?

    1) It was not necessary to win over Afrikaners in South Africa in the struggle against the apartheid regime; therefore it is not necessary to win Israelis workers in the struggle against the Israeli state and imperialism.

    We did not say it was not necessary to win Israeli workers to the socialist revolution, so please argue on what do we say. Our analysis is that Israel like South Africa , or French Algeria is a settler colonialist society . In the case of Israel , since the middle 1950s it has become an imperialist state. Being settlers colonialists, the working class in such a society is not only racist but has material interest in keeping the privileges they have in opposition to the native population and first of all the land they sit on that was stolen from the Palestinians , like the land stolen by the Europeans in South Africa during the Apartheid regime .
    South Africa, French Algeria and Israel are at the same time capitalist states and the privileged workers have struggled against the ruling class. In Algeria for Example the European workers and the Arabs and berbers were in the same trade union federation that after WWII was dominated by the Algerian Communist party that until 1958 opposed the right of the Algerians to self determination. When it changed its line and supported the self determination of the Algerians it lost its European base.

    In South Africa the structure of the working class created serious tensions within its ranks. On the one the white working class was divided between artisans, such as the miners, organized into craft unions, and a large local “poor white” layer drawn from Afrikaners proletariansed by the stratification within their rural society and by the wartime devastation of their farms. Many of this under-employed layer were resident in Johannesburg’s multi-racial slums, On the other hand, the working class was divided by race and skill, categories that strongly overlapped. White miners typically were privileged compared to the Black workers mainly unskilled workers.
    In the 1900s for all workers – although most especially Africans – conditions were shocking. Living costs were high, housing poor and in short supply, and the ravages of silicosis on African and white miners severe: in the first decade of the 1900s, their average working life was twenty-eight years shorter than that of the average male population. Illnesses such as pneumonia also took their toll: in 1903, nearly 5,000 African miners died of this illness. Labour repression was applied to both African and white workers in the first two decades of the twentieth-century. Strikes and desertion by African workers were generally forcibly suppressed, yet even the white trade unionists who organised general strikes in 1913, 1914 and 1922 found themselves facing the guns of imperial and local troops.
    White labour, however militant, it was not revolutionary and was unable to develop a revolutionary consciousness based on the economic demands//. It was dominated by a chauvinist “white laborite” similar to the the Israeli working class and the history of the Histadruth Trade Unions in Israel.
    The CWI is confusing militancy with revolutionary struggle. The militancy of the white working class in South Africa did not bring most of white workers to fight for a socialist revolution but the stood with the racist regime. The mass struggle of the black workers toppled the Apartheid , not the Black and whitthe workers joint struggle. Lacking a revolutionary leadership the ANC and the CPSA were able to block the revolution.
    The question to ask why the CWI affiliated section in South Africa did not become a revolutionary leadership of the working class . The reason was opportunism.

    In South Africa, The militant group acted as as a “tendency” of the African National Congress. This was a laborite tendency inside a bourgeois party. The Marxist Workers Tendency of the ANC made deep entryism until expelled by the leadership of the ANC in 1979 and then again in 1985 .Any one who is familiar with Trotsky criticism of Stalin politics in China 1925-1927 is familiar with this anti revolutionary perceptive that bottom line reflects the reformist two stage theory .
    Why to make a deep entryism into a bourgeois party against Trotsky’s perspective of the Permanent revolution? Because the assumption is that such a party can lead a democratic revolution Even the historical record at least of the Middle East and Africa shows that this is impossibility.
    Pessimally in Israel while the Israeli masses can protest and struggle to improve its the history of all of these movement shows that they are unable to break with the Zionist state they see as their protection against the Arab masses. That is why we want to split t as many as possible Israeli workers class from the state while the CWI believes that somehow the entire Israeli working class will make a socialist revolution.

  7. et us examine what is the nature of Israel. It is not only an imperialist state but it is a society of settler colonialists. What do we mean by it? The Israelis are not colonialists of an imperialist mother land nut like the Afikaners they escaped persecution in Europe and settled another country and have stolen the land and have oppressed the native people-the Palestinians.

    This is precisely the reason we compare it to South Africa and French Algeria. There is a good argument to make that the Afrikaners are a nation. They have all the attributes of a nation. So we ask those who support the right of self determination of the Israelis why don’t you call for a Bi-national workers state in South Africa in the framework of a socialist federation of Africa? It would be as easy to get the support of the white workers in South Africa for a bi-national workers state in South Africa as the support of the Israelis for a Bi national workers state. In reality there is no way to win the majority of the Israelis to a workers state in any form or shape. Nor to get them to agree willingly to the return of the refugees

    Israel as its leaders have stated many time is a strategic asset of the West in the region. Israel is the main military force for the imperialist order . Most Israelis know it and the agree to it. The analogy if we have to use an analogy is with the Kozaks of the Don and their service to the Russian Tzar. It is possible under certain conditions to split the Israelis and bring a portion to the side of the socialist revolution. However it is unthinkable of supporting the right of self determination for an imperialist oppressive nation.

    There are some comrades who consider themselves revolutionary Marxists and argue that Marxists support the right of self determination for all nations. This was never the position of Marx,Lenin or Trotsky. I will bring in two examples.
    The Southern confederation argued for the right of self determination -their right to separate while maintaining slavery. Did marx support this right in the civil war?

    As you know Imperialist france was occupied by Germany in WWIII , While it was correct to fight for socialist revolution it was wrong to support the right of self determination for Imperialist France, as some French Trotskyists did.

    Speaking about the Kosaks.
    After the October revolution many Kozaks placed themselves on the side of the counter revolution.
    While a section of the Kozaks the “red” Kozaks joined the revolution, a larger portion joined the , “White Russians.” A great number of the active opponents of the Bolsheviks fled to the Kozaks and fought against the Reds, using Kozak territories as their base, and the Kozaks as their allies. In addition to filling the ranks of the fighting units of the armies of Admiral Kolchak, Generals Ivanov, Udenich, Denikin, Wrangel and others, the Kozaks put into the field their own
    .armies, commanded by their Hetman and Atamans.
    ,
    After three years of a civil war many Kozaks preferred to live in other countries. They escaped to the Balkans, Turkey, Persia, Poland and China, as organized army units. Together with them went their atamans, their State regalia, battle flags and archives. By far the greatest part of this group eventually settled in the Balkan countries and there,. Another part went farther, to Czechoslovakia and France; of this group many young men acquired a higher education and became professional men, also achieving considerable prosperity and renown. They retained their “Governments in Exile.,” published periodicals and books relating to the Kozak “glories” of the past, and encouraged their sons to wait for the coming hour of the counter revolution.
    We certainly hope that a significant minority of the Israelis will prefer to stay and join the Arab workers revolution . It will make the workers revolution much easier However for this we have to tell them the truth that they can live secure life in a Palestinians worker state that those who will join the revolution will be part of the new ruling class of the workers state.

    • While there are similarities between Israel-Palestine and South Africa there is are some important difference that makes the bi-national workers state slogan not so useful there. Primarily there is the vastly larger differential in size between the main national groupings which make something like “black-centered workers state” or similar more appropriate in South Africa.

      I must confess I am surprised at your description of Israel as an imperialist power – we seem to be using that term differently it would seem. That being said I am not sure that it makes any real difference in our understanding of the tasks concerning its destruction.

      Regarding the right to self-determination in the abstract it is pretty clear that all national groupings have that bourgeois democratic right. What we are concerned about is situations where that right is being denied. It is hardly an issue for nations who are already exercising that right. Where one nation state is denying another national grouping the right to their own state then, all other things being equal, we have a side in that fight with the oppressed national grouping.

      But the bourgeois democratic right of nations to self-determination is not an absolute right that transcends all other considerations – as we can see in your two examples.

      As regards the Cossacks the Bolshevik approach would seem to be nicely summed up by the following short piece by Trotsky – http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1920/military/ch104.htm – and indeed there were important detachments of Bolshevik-Cossacks who fought in the civil war. I am not aware of the Bolsheviks making any pronouncements on the chances of winning Cossacks to the side of the revolution that are anything like what you feel has to be said about Jewish Israelis.

      I am glad that you agree we want to maximise the number of Jewish Israeli workers who are won to the banner of socialist revolution – though it is unclear to me why you feel necessary to prefix this revolution with a particularly ethnicity as if all non-Arabs had to disown their ethnicity to participate.

  8. Yehuda Stern

    To sum up the debate with the CWIers:

    1. They don’t even try to prove their claims about us lying. In fact, it seems that they have accepted that all we said was true, and their only response is “so what” and other nonsense about the ISL being a small group. I must admit to not being very worried about that – if the case of the Militant is any indication, coupled with the CWI’s method of party-building and political dishonesty, I think it too will be a much smaller organization too soon enough. At any rate, this must be repeated – any and all claims by CWIers that we lied were and are baseless. Their political conduct in the protest movement in Israel remains a shameful sellout of whatever commitment they imagine to have to the Palestinian struggle.

    2. Eddie’s answer to what will happen if Palestinians outnumber Israelis in his “socialist” Israel is simple – both sides need to compromise, meaning that in the choice offered above between apartheid and ethnic cleansing, Eddie will opt for the latter.

    If a thief breaks into Eddie’s apartment and tries to kick him out, I assume he will try to reach a compromise with him over which rooms he gets to keep – that is the only morally consistent thing to do here. Palestinians cannot afford to be that generous. Finding another apartment is possible, but as the years 1970 and 1982 (among others) show, finding another homeland is somewhat more tricky (or perhaps Eddie wants Palestinians refugees to wait for the socialist revolution in Jordan and Lebanon so they can stop making demands on Palestine?). So Palestinians are probably going to decline Eddie’s offer to have a “socialist” Israel to rob them of their rights – the Israel they know today is already doing that, and at least doesn’t claim to not be Zionist.