Sunday, June 06, 2010

Israel is not a nation with the right to self-determination


The outrage of world public opinion towards the IDF attack on the peace flotilla has once again focussed on the extreme behaviour of the colonial settler state of Israel, labelling it a 'rogue' state, or a 'fascist' state. The problem with this reaction is in the assumption that Israel can be a normal, even a democratic state with national rights. Yet Israel's very existence originated in a colonial war against the Palestinian occupants followed by other wars to consolidate and expand its occupation to almost the whole of Palestine. It is a colonial settler state imposed by imperialism with no national rights in Palestine.

Israel cannot be 'democratic' or 'fascist'

The Zionist state of Israel claims to be the only 'democracy' in the Middle East. That is like saying the Greeks discovered democracy by excluding the slave majority. Israel conquered, occupies and defends its stolen territory as a settler colony backed by British, US imperialism and a number of other states. Israeli 'democracy' is reserved for the Zionist settler elite and not extended to non-elite Jews, let alone Palestinians living under the Zionist occupation.

Thus the colonial settler state of Israel has never been a democracy in the bourgeois sense of the word in which all citizens are granted formal political equality - despite actual class inequalities. In Israel the citizen-occupiers are a Jewish elite made up of a bourgeoise, petty bourgeoisie and labor aristocracy who accept the right of the Zionist state to exist in occupied Palestine. Such a setter colony founded by force and defended by an armed garrison has no need of democracy, nor fascism. It has always suppressed, imprisoned, banished or killed any  opposition to its Zionist plans. Fascism understood correctly, is an extreme reaction of the capitalist ruling class to mobilise the middle class to bypass parliament to take direct action against working class revolution. Only if workers who live in the ocupied territory joined the Palestinian struggle would the Israeli state be forced to adopt a fascist regime. And at that point these workers would be fighting for socialism not a fictional Zionist 'democracy'.

So if you say that Israel is 'fascist' then you create a false picture of the Israeli state. You accept implicitly that Israel must exist as a nation, and that it can be a 'democracy'. The bourgeois human rights organisations and pacifist left accept this and want us to put moral pressure on Israel to return to the British imperialist dictated UN Partition plan of 1947 for two states, or to agree to a single 'democratic' state of two peoples. But this is a reactionary utopia, or dystopia, because the very existence of the Zionist colony state of Israeli requires an armed settler regime that cannot allow 'democracy' for its non-citizens inside Israel, let alone the majority of Palestinians behind the wall in the West Bank and Gaza.

Left in the hands of the Zionists

Calling the colonial settler state of Israel a 'rogue' state or even a 'fascist' state plays directly into the hands of the Zionists because they know that behind these charges is the acceptance of the right of the Israeli state to exist as a nation state. It means that the fight for Palestinian self-determination must not be at the expense of right of the colonial settlers to self-determination. So when the state of Israel tries to justify its barbarity as defence of its right to exist as a nation, people judge it only as "disproportionate". This acceptance of what is a Zionist doctrine is a fatal weakness in the workers movement particularly in the imperialist countries. It means that any struggle to defend the Palestinians is subordinated to the Zionist position that the state of Israel has the right to exist as a national state.

The colonial settler state's right to exist as a national state is deeply entrenched in most of the so-called revolutionary left. Here we have a left wing Zionism masquerading as Marxism. The Marxism of Lenin and Trotsky is abandoned with mealy mouthed phrases. Lenin always recognised the right of oppressed nations to self-determination. He supported that right when it became a popular demand in order to demonstrate that only a workers revolution could win independence from the oppressor nation. Trotsky when facing the Jewish Question accepted that Jews had the right as a people to self-determination. But he and the Fourth international rejected the Zionist claim that Israel could be the Jewish homeland at the expense of occupying and oppressing the Palestinians.  Israel was an oppressor state that was a travesty of the right of Jews to self-determination.

Fake Trotskyists lie about the national question

Fake Trotskyist groups like the International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT- part of the Spartacist 'family') abandon Marxism on the national question in Palestine. They say that both the oppressor nation Israel, and oppressed nation Palestine, have national rights. However, not until the oppressor state Israel stops its repression will the IBT support its national rights. This cannot happen without a socialist revolution and the formation of a bi-national workers state. The way to get there is to win over Jewish workers by recognising that they too have national rights in Palestine.(See Defend the Palestinians). Once this socialist utopia is realised both nationalities can then freely determine how to exercise their national rights including the right to separate into a Jewish socialist republic.

But first, allowing that the colonial settler state is an oppressor nation concedes its national right to self-determination. For the IBT this puts a condition on the Palestinian fight for independence. The Palestinians cannot "push the Israeli's into the sea". They must recognise that Jews have a right to self-determination in Palestine, even though the current oppressive Zionist 'nation' of Israel is the result of what Trotsky called a "tragic mockery" of the Jewish Question. For Trotsky the Jewish Question in the epoch of imperialism cannot be solved short of world socialism. Any attempt to build a Zionist state would create a political barrier to unity between Palestinian and Jewish workers bigger than any border. Far from being a road to Jewish/Palestinian working class unity, asserting Jewish national rights in Palestine today projects that border into a future socialist society instead of leaving this question open for future generations to decide.

Second, even if Israel were an oppressor nation, it cannot make its right to self-determination a condition of support for the Palestinian right to self-determination. This is the complete opposite of the revolutionary Marxist position of Lenin and Trotsky. Workers in the oppressor state must abandon any national claim to self-determination on the basis of the oppression of another country. Jewish workers enticed to the Zionist state for work and in the belief that Israel is the "promised land" are living in a reactionary utopia. No country can be free or claim any national rights while it oppresses another.

Therefore the workers in the oppressor Zionist state must unconditionally recognise the right to self-determination of the oppressed Palestinian people. This is the only way to prove that workers who live in the Zionist state have renounced that oppression and can be trusted as class allies of the Palestinian masses. It follows that workers in the colonial settler state must reject the Zionist claim to any Jewish national rights in Palestine even in a future socialist Palestine. Only then can there be working class unity to fight for Palestinian self-determination. Only then can the self-determination of Jews be freely decided in a future socialist republic within a united socialist states of the Middle East and the World.

The BDS campaign and victory over apartheid

The main propaganda task for revolutionaries today is to win workers internationally from the Zionist position that the colonial settler state of Israel has the right to exist. This means challenging the assumption of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), the reformist consumer boycott that tries to pressure the 'rogue' or 'fascist' regime to the left to adopt international human rights standards and 'democracy'. The fact is that such standards do not exist in any of the Western imperialist powers all of which ignore them in their own semi-colonial oppression and refuse to enforce them on Israel. The US is openly two-faced in relation to Israel, talking about restraint, but all the time arming and financing Israel's military adventures. It is a bourgeois liberal delusion to imagine that US imperialism will voluntarily abandon its armed gendarme in the Middle East as its ally in its imperialist war on Terror.

That is exactly why the more radical wing of liberal pacifism has embarked on aid convoys and flotillas. They are frustrated by the inaction of their hypocritical imperialist governments. But direct action of this sort is still pacifist and designed to put popular pressure on Israel on the model of the boycotts against apartheid South Africa. That's why the BDS is endorsed by Bishop Tutu and the SACP who think that boycotts helped to end apartheid and brought 'democracy' to that country. It is a nice story because it reinforces the myth that democratic change can result from peaceful mass protests. Yet despite the end of the race-based apartheid in South Africa,  the multi-racial and multi-class ANC serves as the agent of finance capitalism and that country remains an oppressed semi-colony of imperialism with massive and atagonistic class differences. A model reactionary utopia indeed.

For a Single, Secular, Socialist Palestine
  • Reject the right of Israel to exist in Palestine. Jews as a people have a right to national self-determination, but not in Palestine now or in the immediate future. In a Secular, Socialist Palestine, Jewish cultural, religious and ethnic rights will be protected.
  • We call on Israeli workers to join the Palestinian liberation struggle; break from Histadrut, join the Palestinian unions and fight for equal rights for all workers; refuse conscription into the IDF, or otherwise refuse to follow orders in repressing Palestinians; disarm Israel's nuclear weapons. 
  • Fight for the right of return to the whole of Palestine from the river to the sea.
  • For Palestinian workers to hold their own national assembly for a United, Free, Secular Palestine from the River to the Sea; for the formation of a revolutionary Marxist party based on the workers with a program for a Socialist Palestine and Socialist Middle East.
  • For Egyptian, Jordanian, Lebanise, Syrian, Iraqi, Kurd, Turk and other workers to form military fronts with the Palestinian resistance to break down Israel's borders and end the blockades of Gaza and West Bank. Egyptian workers keep the gate to Gaza open!
  • Take strike action against their reactionary bourgeois regimes, form workers councils and militias and create workers' governments.Build international brigades to defend and patrol Palestine waters: keep the Zionists off the sea!
  • For the workers of the imperialist countries and all those who trade with Israel to take strike action to halt all trade in military, finance and industrial goods and services. Break with the labour bureaucracy and build workers' councils, workers' militias and workers' governments.
  • For the rank and file in the US and NATO military forces to refuse to fight the War on Terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Africa. Form rank and file militias in support of workers' governments.
 For a Socialist Republic of Palestine within a Socialist United States of the Middle East.
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