Young Haredi Jews: different language, different religion, different economy

They are all Palestinians

We should invest our hopes in national uprisings, not working class unity and socialism. Tony Greenstein replies to Moshé Machover

Moshé Machover’s article, ‘One-state, two-state illusions’,1 interesting though it is, is entirely abstract and has no relationship to what goals the solidarity movement with the Palestinians should be campaigning around.

I also disagree with Moshé’s analysis of the different modes of colonisation, which he termed, after Kautsky, “work colonies” and “exploitation colonies”. In my view, the main division was between old exploitation colonies - for example, India, Nigeria, Malaya and Iraq - and settler colonies, such as South Africa, Australia, Canada, Palestine and Algeria.

In the former the colonial power, sooner or later, ceded political independence to the indigenous elites, who became a comprador ruling class in alliance with foreign economic interests - often the former colonial power. This was neo-colonialism.

It is the settler-colonial countries that can be divided into exploitation and what I would call exclusionary or exterminationary colonies. Palestine and the Zionist project was very much of the exclusionary kind and this is playing out today both in Gaza and the West Bank.

Moshé says that Israel is different, in that both the settlers and the colonised have formed their own nations unlike other settler-colonial states. But, of course, in the United States, Australia, etc, the settlers have formed their own nations, of sorts, but only with the complete vanquishing of the indigenous population.

It is this - the complete defeat and expulsion of the Palestinians - that has not taken place and it is this that the Zionist state is presently embarking on with support from all wings of Zionism. If Israel does indeed manage to expel the Palestinians from ‘Greater Israel’ then it is possible that an Israeli nation will form. At the moment it is, at best, a settler nation and as such has no right to national self-determination, because it is the oppressor, not the oppressed.

What holds the so-called Israeli Jewish nation together is not its language or any other cultural or religious attributes, but its common antagonism to the Palestinians. Indeed it is very possible that but for the Palestinians, the Israeli Jewish collective would already be engaged in a civil war, because Israel as a Jewish state is an inherently unstable political formation. If I am correct, then it is one of life’s ironies that the only thing holding the Israeli state together is the Palestinians!

Half of Israel is primarily secular and sees being Israeli as its main attribute, with being Jewish a way of defining their supremacist status. The other half - the orthodox and religious nationalists - see being Jewish first and would happily swap civil law for Jewish religious law (halacha).


Moshé begins his article by saying that “Winning the Hebrew working class in Israel is vital; so is wider regional change.” I agree with the second part, but I disagree with the first. Unfortunately Moshé reverts to a mechanical and economistic form of Marxism, which sees the working class in all situations as potentially revolutionary.

Historically a settler working class has never been even a progressive, let alone a revolutionary, force. This was true of the white working class in South Africa, in the deep south of the US, in Algeria and in the north of Ireland with the Protestant working class.

The settler working class in this situation becomes the most reactionary class. If it had been left up to the white workers of South Africa, apartheid would still be here today. The Protestant working class of Northern Ireland are the ‘bitter enders’ - so too in Australia, Canada and the United States. There are reasons why the western working class has been unable to fulfil the historic role that Marx and Engels set out for them in The communist manifesto as the grave-diggers of capitalism.

Imperialism, reformism, the mystification of class relations and the domination of the mass media have resulted, more often than not, in a depoliticisation of the working class. But at least British and European workers have created their own independent trade unions.

Even this was not possible for Israeli Jewish workers, whose trade union, Histadrut, was set up in opposition to existing joint Arab-Israeli unions. It was, at one and the same time, the state’s second largest employer (until its enterprises went bankrupt in the late 80s!). Israeli Jewish workers have never created their own political party, such as the now hopelessly deformed British Labour Party.

The idea that in the right circumstances a working class which is on the right of Israel’s far-right politics and where socialist ideas are almost absent will become part of anti-Zionist change is simply wishful thinking. Whatever they are offered, they will demand more. What then are our tasks?

As I said at the beginning, this should not be a paper or abstract exercise. We should start from what should be the demands of the solidarity movement. What happens in Palestine and the Arab east itself is largely beyond our control, except in so far as we can put enough pressure on our own ruling classes to stop funding, arming and supporting the Israeli state and its genocidaires.

Two or one?

There is nothing I disagree with in what Moshé says about the so-called two-state solution other than that it is an apartheid, neo-colonial ‘solution’. It simply aims to solve the Palestinian question by having Palestinians repress other Palestinians. That was the Oslo ‘solution’ too, but now Israel feels no need to sustain even the quisling Palestinian Authority.

About the one-state solution we do disagree. About how it is to be achieved and what form it will take are secondary questions, albeit very important. But, given that we have limited agency in respect of this and because solidarity with the oppressed is our main concern, it is important that we are clear on why it is important for the solidarity movement in the west to make this their primary concern in all their propaganda.

Quite simply our main purpose in the west is to go beyond the human-rights narrative, important though that is, of course. For all the liberal and reformist supporters of the Palestinians the question of human rights is the question, but to socialists and anti-Zionists it is secondary.

Our task is, above all, to delegitimise Israel as a ‘Jewish state’. We should assert that any ethno-religious state will, by definition, be a racist, apartheid state. It can be no other. If you define the national collective in terms of religion, then anyone not part of that collective will be, by definition, not even a second-class citizen. They will be a guest, there on sufferance.

It is no accident that Israel specifically forbids Palestinians converting to Judaism because, if Palestinians could change their status as the Untermenschen, then it might catch on.2 It would be too easy for the oppressed to join the ranks of the oppressor. There is no religious basis for excluding any group of people from converting to Judaism: it is a product of Zionist racism and Jewish racial supremacy.

We should be very clear in our slogans that we stand for a democratic state, not a Jewish state. If anti-Zionism means anything, it means opposing a Jewish supremacist state and supporting one secular and democratic state.

Of course, there will then be arguments over what exactly this means and I agree with Moshé that there must be equal rights for all, including equal personal rights. Where we disagree is over Moshé’s formulation that “secondly and importantly”, there must be “equal national rights for both groups involved”. This would allow the reintroduction through the back door of Jewish supremacy and Zionism. It would be a recipe for future conflict, not a resolution of the question.

Moshé has difficulty in reconciling the conflicting elements of his own analysis. On the one hand, he says correctly that the conflict at heart was not a national conflict between Jews and Arabs, but a question of settler-colonialism; and then he says that recognition of the national rights of Israeli Jews is a precondition for any solution. The two do not add up (although today they are relatively unimportant). Yes, of course, there should be recognition of Hebrew as a language equal in status to Arabic. Freedom of religion, which does not exist today in Israel, should be guaranteed, but nothing that could lead to the reestablishment of Zionism and Jewish supremacy should form part of a resolution of the national question, because at heart Israeli Jews are, whether they like it or not, Jewish Palestinians. That is the price that South African whites had to pay when they finally gave up on apartheid. They too had to join the indigenous population.

Beginning of end

Of course, this is all in the future. However, that future may not be as far off as some people imagine. Even by its own standards Zionism is becoming so overtly racist and genocidal that politically it is becoming more and more difficult for the west to support it.

How the end will come about can only be a matter of speculation. What is clear is that the myth of Israeli invincibility is gone. October 7 proved that. The surprise attack that sliced through Israeli defences like a knife through butter was a real shock to the Israeli psyche. The horror stories that came after were part of the healing process. After all, the Palestinians were only savages.

The moving of two American aircraft carriers into the Mediterranean as a warning to Hezbollah emphasised that Israel was having to rely on the United States, as is the case with the resupply of weaponry to Israeli forces in Gaza. So too the provision of intelligence by Britain and the US and the fact that Britain, France and the US also have special forces on the ground.

Hezbollah has also conducted its own border war against Israel without the kind of reaction that might have been expected 20 years ago, despite the fact that the northern settlements have had to be abandoned. Clearly Israel is deterred by the threat of Hezbollah’s arsenal of missiles.

Above all, Israel has become bogged down in Gaza itself. Despite the genocide and the horrific attacks on civilian infrastructure, Israel’s military have not been able to defeat Hamas and the resistance, which has conducted a classic guerrilla-style war. Israel has clearly suffered far more casualties, both in Gaza and in the conflict with Hezbollah, than they are admitting. That much became clear when Ha’aretz investigated casualties in each of Israel’s hospitals and found the number of wounded at just one hospital had exceeded the total number that the Israel Defence Forces had released overall.3 It is clear that the fighting is a lot more intense than the western media reports and that casualties are a lot higher.4

The geopolitical equation is changing and not to Israel’s advantage. The fact is that, despite the sanctions and isolation of Iran, it has grown stronger, with proxies like the Houthis in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Normalisation and the Abraham Accords were meant to change that, but they have not. Despite the abject capitulation and treachery by the US client regimes in the Gulf and elsewhere, the Israeli state is still unable to establish the hegemony it desires.

Moshé states that the overthrow of Zionism “cannot possibly be resolved under capitalism”, but he also says, “I think this is unlikely” - betraying a certain element of doubt. The fact is that capitalism has not been abolished anywhere in the world. Are we saying that the liberation of the Palestinians has to wait until the ends of time?

Although I have no crystal ball, I do have faith that, where the Arab Spring failed, future national uprisings may well sweep away the autocrats and dictators in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other states. Zionism, whose whole purpose is to act as a watchdog in the Middle East, may find itself drawn into battles that it cannot win and which drain its strength. It is perfectly possible that, weakened from the inside as well as the outside, the Zionist regime will give way and, as the political price of supporting it increases, western states too will distance themselves.

The strong always seem strong when we are on our knees. The United States today also seems invincible, but if I were on its National Security Council I would be worried. Israel, the unsinkable aircraft carrier, needed our support. China has not been isolated despite Aukus. The dollar is under permanent threat because of the spiralling deficit. Within the United States democratic movements, such as the students and Black Lives Matter, challenge the legitimacy of the state. In Ukraine, despite billions of dollars being poured into Nato’s proxy war, Russia is increasingly winning.

That is why I agree with Ilan Pappe that what we are seeing is the beginning of the end of Zionism and not the end of the beginning.

  1. Weekly Worker May 2: weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1489/one-state-two-state-illusions.↩︎

  2. www.jpost.com/arab-israeli-conflict/palestinian-requests-to-convert-to-judaism-rejected-automatically-449987.↩︎

  3. haaretz.com/israel-news/2023-12-10/ty-article/.premium/idf-reports-1-593-wounded-since-october-7-but-hospital-data-is-much-higher/0000018c-552d-df4b-a78e-d52f47ac0000.↩︎

  4. haaretz.com/israel-news/2024-05-04/ty-article-magazine/.highlight/suddenly-i-realize-that-im-burning-israelis-who-fought-in-gaza-share-what-they-saw/0000018f-3fe6-d91a-a5af-bff7ce220000.↩︎