Israel-Gaza war and communist strategy
Theses agreed by January 21 aggregate of CPGB members, including the two agreed amendments
1.Democratic opinion throughout the world is justifiably outraged by the Israeli assault on Gaza. In what is a blatant act of ethnic cleansing almost the entire population has been uprooted. Getting “our hostages back” provides the Israeli war cabinet with a smokescreen for a second Nakba. Ongoing military operations, combined with denial of food, clean drinking water, shelter, fuel, sanitation, medicine and the rapid spread of infectious diseases, could easily lead to death on a scale that amounts to genocide. Note, genocide is legally defined as acting with the intent to “destroy in whole or part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such”.
2. Israel seems quite content to let the majority of the Gazan population starve to death or die from disease, but its actions - not least packing huge numbers of people next to the Rafah crossing - show a clear intention of creating the conditions needed to trigger a mass exodus into Egypt. Some Israeli government ministers have been quite explicit about wanting another Nakba.
3. Calling for a ceasefire is not enough. We must demand that Israel immediately withdraws its forces, stops the bombing and lifts its siege of Gaza. The occupation of the West Bank must be ended too. Zionist settlers, with the active connivance of the Israeli Defence Forces, are bent on driving out as many Palestinians as possible through a vicious campaign of murder, intimidation and land grabs. As for the so-called Palestinian Authority, it acts as a police force for Israel in what is, in fact, a series of ‘Indian reservations’. Not surprisingly Mahmoud Abbas is massively unpopular. He is a quisling.
4. It is incumbent upon the left in the west, crucially in the US, to fight for the ending of all military supplies to Israel. This is a demand to expose government collaboration in a potential genocide, but also a demand to be agitated for in terms of action from below. Those engaged in the transport industry - road, rail, docks, sea and air - could play a leading role in imposing workers’ sanctions against Israel. The boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign launched by Palestinian organisations also deserves support, because it provides a way for the wider working class to express its opposition to the Israeli regime and can lead to more militant action, if given an anti-imperialist edge.
5. Israel claims to be acting in self-defence after the audacious October 7 attack from Gaza. However, as a colonial-settler state whose origins lie in mass expulsions, which treats Gaza as a giant prison, has annexed the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, militarily occupies the West Bank and has planted nearly 400,000 illegal settlers, it has no such right. Israel is engaged in an unjust, not a just, war.
6. Whatever the atrocities, real and alleged, October 7 was a desperate act of resistance. Presumably the idea was to set the whole region ablaze. There can be no drawing an equivalence between the Israeli government and Hamas. True, it is a reactionary, Islamic, organisation, but, whereas the likes of al-Qa’eda, Islamic State and Boko Haram have no serious mass base, that cannot be said of Hamas. It is deeply implanted in the Palestinian population. According to a recent, post-October 7 poll, Hamas is supported by 44% in Gaza and 42% on the West Bank.
7. It is right to demand the overthrow of the Israeli Zionist regime. Zionism is a blood-and-soil ideology that necessarily involves discrimination, dispossession and expansionism. From the start Zionism aimed to establish Israel as a work colony; that means, if Israel is to be a democracy, expelling or at the very least marginalising, denying rights to, the indigenous Palestinian population.
8. The Palestinian right of return must be championed. This is a right of habitation decided upon individually, or by family group. It is not, as is alleged by social-imperialist apologists for Zionism, a demand for an impossible Volk movement of the entire diaspora - which now inhabits not just Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, etc, but the US and many countries in western Europe too.
9. While communists oppose Zionism, we recognise that since 1948 a definite Israeli-Jewish nation has come into existence. Israeli Jews speak the same Hebrew language, inhabit the same territory, have a common culture and sense of identity. To call for the abolition of this - or any other nation for that matter - is thoroughly unMarxist. Such a call is either naive, utopian or downright murderous. The Israeli Jewish nation is a historically constituted reality that has to be recognised and dealt with in a civilised, not a barbarous, manner.
10. No democratic solution to the Israel-Palestine question can be won without the consent of the Israeli people. Yet, the fact is that, despite the courage of a tiny minority of leftwingers and peace activists, the Israeli population has consistently - often overwhelmingly - supported the wars of their governments, irrespective of the death, suffering and repression that this involves.
11. The 1948 war, which followed the declaration of Israeli independence, then the 1967 Six-Day War, had well over a million Palestinians flee or being forcibly driven from their homes. The ‘Arab citizens of Israel’, subjected to arbitrary martial law which only ended in 1966, and now constituting some 20% of its population, still suffer from systemic oppression (which, according to Amnesty International, amounts to apartheid). Nearly six million Palestinians are officially registered as refugees by the UN. However, both the colonial subjects within and those without continue to resist using whatever means they have at their disposal.
12. Amongst Israeli Jews this engenders a permanent sense of insecurity. Israeli politics therefore moves ever further to the right in the vain attempt to crush Palestinian resistance. Expecting, or relying upon, Israel’s so-called democracy movement - in reality a movement which favours constitutional checks and balances against democracy - to fight for the national rights of the Palestinians is delusional. The same goes for Histadrut. It primarily seeks to advance the sectional terms, conditions and interests of Jewish Israeli workers.
13. The two-state solution hypocritically promoted by the US, its Nato allies and Labor Zionists (and naively promoted by ‘official’ communists, Palestinian collaborators and the Labour Party soft left) effectively falls at the same hurdle as the single-state solution. We cannot expect Israel, as presently constituted, to concede the territory necessary to create a viable Palestinian state. Without a serious transformation of the regional, and indeed global, balance of forces, any such solution will simply not happen. Benjamin Netanyahu has the virtue of making that abundantly clear.
14. The Palestinian national resistance movement cannot win by its own efforts alone. The balance of forces simply precludes any such possibility. However, the Palestinians are an integral part of the wider Arab nation - total population around 460 million - and this commonality represents both a source of tremendous strength and a threat to the reactionary regimes in Cairo, Amman, Riyadh, etc. Solidarity with the Palestinians easily spills over into demands for radical economic, political and social change. Solving the Israel-Palestine question is feasible therefore if the working class can put itself in a position whereby it leads the struggle for democracy and Arab unification.
15. Only such a strategy can hope to win over a majority of the Israeli Jewish working class. A single Palestinian capitalist state is not only unfeasible: it offers nothing to the majority of the Israeli Jewish population - except perhaps a reversal of the poles of oppression and therefore a denial of elementary national rights. Israeli Jews will not accept any such solution: collective memory, especially since 1933, militates against such an outcome. Israeli Jews would desperately fight ... and at huge cost in terms of loss of life. After all, Israel is fanatically nationalistic, is strategically backed by US imperialism and is militarily very strong. Some armchair generals militarily rank it as the fourth or fifth most powerful state in the world. Nor should we forget its arsenal of nuclear weapons.
16. A socialist solution involving not only the Arab nation, but other neighbouring peoples too, would be another matter entirely. Israeli Jewish workers would lose their nationally privileged position, true, but liberate themselves from capitalism and become an integral part of the new ruling regime. Towards that end it is more than advisable to offer the Israeli Jewish, the Hebrew nation, full national rights: ie, the right to join an Arab socialist republic and the right to self-determination up to and including the right to go it alone.
17. Communists would, of course, advocate the unity of Arabs and Jews in a single state, but voluntary unity is vital. Military conquest of Israel is imaginable, but we advocate rapprochement, assimilation and eventual merger.
18. Protests against Israel’s assault on Gaza almost instantly assumed mass proportions. London has seen some of the biggest demonstrations in British history. Inevitably the establishment, including the Sir Keir Starmer leadership of the Labour Party, has hit back. There has been a concerted attempt to smear the pro-Palestine movement as anti-Semitic and therefore motivated by intolerance, bigotry and hatred. Eg, the slogan, ‘Palestine shall be free from the river to the sea’, is condemned as a call for the mass extermination of Jews in Israel. A big lie.
19. The claim that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism is now a tried and tested weapon in the class war that was used with considerable effect against the Jeremy Corbyn leadership of the Labour Party. As we predicted, this weapon was bound to find wider application in combating opposition to Israel and unstinting US support for what is its most important and most reliable ally in the Middle East. Those on the ‘left’ who failed to actively combat the ‘anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ campaign in the Labour Party have revealed themselves to be charlatans of the first order.
20. All major parties in the UK are fully, unquestioningly, committed to the ‘special relationship’ with the US and therefore to the defence of Israel and therefore to the promotion of the ‘anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ big lie.
21. It would, of course, be amazing if there were not a rise in real, not fake, incidents of anti-Semitism (the same goes, albeit because of different reasons, for anti-Muslim incidents). Israel claims to be the state of all Jews, claims to represent them and act on their behalf, no matter where they live in the world. A few, politically backward, supporters of Palestine, will inevitably fall for this falsehood. Thankfully, the mass pro-Palestinian demonstrations have been notable for the presence of large numbers of Jews who militantly oppose Zionism. This has doubtless contributed to the almost complete absence of anything that genuinely smacks of anti-Semitism.
22. Clearly basic democratic rights are under attack. There have been calls from on high for banning demonstrations and ever more restrictions are imposed by the police. People have been arrested for the most ludicrous reasons, but mainly because of their opposition to the Israeli state, under legislation supposedly designed to protect ethnic and religious minorities.
23. The main lesson to draw from this is the correctness of upholding the unrestricted right of free speech and assembly. That must include reactionaries and fascists too: “you cannot pluck the rose without its thorns” (Marx). By supporting restrictions, including no-platforming in universities, sections of the left have unintentionally legitimised laws that are not only turned against the left, but, on this occasion, against the entire pro-Palestine movement.