David Ben-Gurion proclaiming Israeli independence in 1948 under the watchful portrait of Zionism’s founding father, Theodor Hertzl

Breaking the grip of Zionism

There is a way out of the hell into which the Palestinian masses have been consigned by Israeli settler‑colonialism. Jack Conrad presents the communist solution

Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, has not been destroyed by Israel, that despite an eight-month military onslaught on the Gaza Strip. Though well over 36,000 Palestinians have been killed - doubtless including many Hamas leaders, cadre and rank and file militants - its standing is probably higher than ever. Recruits are flocking to join and not only in Gaza but on the West Bank too … and, revealingly, fighting keeps erupting in parts of Gaza supposedly cleared of Hamas fighters.

Does that mean Israel is losing its war as claimed by various opposition MPs in the Knesset?1 Or that Israel “cannot win”?2 That would be true if the war aims of Benjamin Netanyahu, his war cabinet and his Likud-led coalition were really about destroying Hamas militarily and bringing home all its war captives. However, in truth, that was never the intention.

Netanyahu is many things. But he is no fool. His war aims were never about destroying Hamas, not even militarily. Its social roots are far too deep for that. Certainly the war captives are little more than a nuisance for Netanyahu when it comes to Israel’s domestic politics. He knows it and so do their tens of thousands of relatives, friends and supporters who took to the streets of Tel Aviv on June 1 … and many times before that.

If you really want the war captives back from the tunnels, tents and bomb shelters of Gaza, then negotiations with Hamas would be an absolute priority. And destroying Hamas and negotiating with Hamas are, to put it mildly, mutually incompatible.

No, the real war aim of Netanyahu, his war cabinet and his Likud-led coalition is to uproot the entire Palestinian population in Gaza in what is yet another ghastly step towards realising the Zionist dream of a Greater Israel. That means, when the opportunity arises, expelling as many Palestinians as possible, a second Nakba, the obvious route being a forced exodus into Egypt’s Sinai. Israel now, of course, controls the Philadelphi Corridor.

As for those who refuse to countenance the prospect of life in the Sinai desert as an impoverished refugee, well the Netanyahu government, not least its Bezalel Smotrich (National Religious Party) and Itamar Ben-Gvir (Otzma Yehudit) components, are more than prepared to preside over a genocide by omission: denying food, water, medicines and basic sanitation facilities.

Seen in that context it is clear that while Israel has not achieved it real war aims, it has taken them forward and to some considerable degree at that. Indeed what holds Israel back from pressing home its overwhelming military advantage is less Hamas resistance fighters, more geostrategic considerations, not least public opinion in the Arab world, in the United States and globally.

A second Nakba certainly risks the destabilisation of regimes such as in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. Indeed a second Nakba could easily see Genocide Joe losing in November as Arab-Americans and progressive Americans in general refuse to come out and vote for him. Hence, the recently announced Biden plan for peace in Gaza, has, surely, more to do with the possible outcome of this year’s presidential race than with delivering a workable end to the Israel-Gaza war.

And despite Netanyahu’s occasional bluster, the entire spectrum of Zionist opinion in Israel is acutely aware that US support is vital: it could easily, at a stroke, stop the delivery of artillery shells, bombs, missiles and the stream of replacement parts needed for tanks and fighter aircraft - if they are to be kept fit for purpose. Of course, the US will not do that. Biden fervently supports Israel, not out of sentiment, but because of US state interests in having a reliable attack dog in the Middle East … but he doesn’t want it ‘going too far’ and creating total chaos, including unleashing an unplanned war with Iran, which would, surely, have all sorts of unintended consequences.

Trump is another matter. He wants Israel to ‘finish the job’ in Gaza. He wants more annexations on the West Bank. He wants Iran much reduced, preferably shattered into national fragments … and denuclearised. Of course, Israeli hawks, including Netanyahu himself, noisily clamour for a ‘pre-emptive’ strike. But while Netanyahu undoubtably prays on his knees every night for a Trump victory, today he has to deal with the reality of the Biden administration … and its restraints.

It appears to be true that the part desperate, part audacious, October 7 attack caught Israel completely unawares. An intelligence failure of monumental proportions … not surprisingly leading to speculation that Netanyahu and his cronies were in some way complicit in allowing the whole thing to happen. It was, after all, a year in the preparation. Yet warnings were consistently ignored. Hamas military commanders were themselves certainly surprised by the ability of their fighters to go way beyond what had been originally planned as a suicide operation. Expectations were of something like an 80% casualty rate. Military targets, IDF outposts, police stations, thereby gave way to a random, totally pointless, killing of innocent civilians … and baseless stories of beheading babies and mass rapes.

October 7 did, though, provide the political cover needed to excuse an onslaught on Gaza (and upping settler and IDF violence in the West Bank). True, Israeli public opinion has been deeply divided between what we might call the peace party and the war party. Nonetheless, the war party commands a Knesset majority and Netanyahu himself has every reason to keep the war going on all the way up to Tuesday November 5 and way beyond that. He wants to keep his coalition together, he wants to stay out of jail, he wants a Greater Israel.

Zionists, and not only the far-right nationalist and religious, envisage a Greater Israel incorporating both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Some even hanker after a greater Greater Israel - based on various biblical passages: Genesis, Numbers, Ezekiel. At its largest extent their Eretz Israel stretches from the Nile to the Euphrates.3 Of course, any such an Israel would come with a poisoned chalice. An oppressed Arab majority. The Zionist conquistadors would have to permanently deny them elementary democratic rights. That or the newly acquired Arab population would have to be driven out in their many millions.

Present-day Israel results from and is predicated on expansion. The aliyah (in Hebrew ‘ascent’ - or migration to Israel) constitutes a fundamental part of the Zionist project and is enshrined in Israel’s ‘law of return’ (enacted by the Knesset in July 1950). Any Jew, no matter where they live, no matter how dubious their Jewish antecedents, has the legal right to assisted settlement in Israel, as well as automatic citizenship.

A heterogeneous mixture of the genuinely desperate, the cruelly duped, secular dreamers, religious fanatics and cheap adventurers have come to the promised land over the years. Between 1948 and 1992 Israel took in 2,242,500 Jewish migrants. The bulk from eastern Europe - displaced by Word War II - the centres of Jewry in the Arab world and the Soviet Union. Nowadays, however, the flow of migrants has reduced to a mere trickle: mainly they come from the former Soviet Union, North America and Ethiopia.4

Interestingly, some 85% of Ethiopia’s Jewish population, the Falasha or Habashim, have gone to Israel under the law of return. Today there are 160,000 Israelis of Ethiopian origin. Though many bitterly complain of discrimination and that amongst Jews they occupy the lowest economic position, there can be no doubt that since 1985 the Israeli state has gone to extraordinary lengths to facilitate their migration and subsequent assimilation. In 1984-85 alone 10,000 Ethiopian Jews, victims of famine, were airlifted to Israel via Sudan in Operation Moses.

Israel needs people. Or, put more accurately, Israel needs Jewish people. Even a little Israel goes hand in hand with Jewish immigration and conflict with the indigenous Palestinian population. All keenly felt and bitterly resented throughout the Arab world.

There are today some 5.9 million UN-registered Palestinian refugees - in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.5 There is also a Palestinian diaspora living in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, the US, Britain, Germany, Chile, Argentina and many more countries besides. Meanwhile, Israel’s remaining 2.08 million Palestinian Arabs are treated as second-class citizens in what is rightly regarded as an apartheid state. Officially, after all, Israel was founded as and continues to be a Jewish state for Jewish people.

American arms

Following the 1967 Six Day War Israel’s main arms supplier has been the US. Before that it was France. Not that there was an instant love affair between the two countries. George Marshall, president Harry S Truman’s secretary of state, was more than cool about recognising Israel in May 1948. Nor was John Foster Dulles, Dwight Eisenhower’s secretary of state, pro-Israel. It was the rise of Arab nationalism and the turn towards the Soviet Union instigated by Egypt’s Gamal Abdul Nasser, that led to a US shift. From 1958 the US-Israel alliance slowly expanded in scope and took its present form after the Yom Kippur War of 1973.6 Noam Chomsky dates US support for the Greater Israel position to 1970 when Henry Kissinger succeeded in “taking over Middle East affairs.”7

US economic and military aid to Israel has been considerable. In the 1946-2024 period it amounted to well over $310 billion (in constant 2022 dollars). Today Washington’s largess mainly goes to support Israel’s already potent military machine: Israel is on a short list of “major non-Nato allies” and has privileged access to the most advanced US military platforms and technologies. There is an agreement to supply it with a military package worth some $3.8 billion annually till 2028.8 In return for imperial sponsorship, Israel acts as a US “strategic asset” in the Middle East (a region which not insignificantly possesses something like 50% of the world’s readily accessible oil reserves).9

There were those on the left who foolishly welcomed the election of Barack Obama in 2008 - the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain, George Galloway, Stop the War Coalition - because they hoped he would chart a fundamentally different, peaceful, more even-handed course in the Middle East. As we predicted at the time, they were bound to be “sadly disappointed”.10 Whatever the skin colour of the president, America is in relative decline and that means that national antagonisms become ever more acute. Indeed, Obama and his secretary of state, Hilary Clinton, undertook the “pivot to Asia” in 2016: the main aim clearly being to block the rise of China, a policy seamlessly continued by the Trump and then the Biden administrations.11

As for Israel there has, of course, been no change: unwavering US support is combined with a prolonged economic and diplomatic campaign to reduce, to hem in, Iran and stop it acquiring nuclear weapons. This makes Israel the regional superpower in the Middle East. Even without the ‘special relationship’, Israel has repeatedly fought, invaded and defeated its Arab neighbours: 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973. Its armed forces are vastly superior, compared with any Arab country or any conceivable combination of them. Armchair generals rank Israel as militarily amongst the most powerful states on the face of the planet. Underlining the point, Israel reportedly possesses between 90 and 400 nuclear warheads … and certainly has the means of delivering them from land, sea and air.


Territorially, economically and politically Palestine is cleaved between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah on the West Bank. Two statelets for one people. Uncompromisingly, the 1988 Hamas charter demands an end to the Zionist state of Israel and its replacement by a single Islamic state of Palestine. True, though Hamas doggedly refuses to recognise Israel, it has offered a “long-term truce” in return for Israel withdrawing from all territories it has occupied since 1967: in effect an Israel-Palestine two state ‘solution’.

Though Israel encouraged the formation and growth of Hamas from the mid-1980s onwards in order to weaken Fatah, after its landslide victory in the January 2006 elections and the Fatah June coup in the West Bank, Israel imposed its asphyxiating blockade on Gaza.

That said, since 2018 Netanyahu’s government allowed Hamas to receive “infusions” of Qatari cash and granted tens of thousands of work permits to Gazan residents. The idea was to keep the Palestinians divided and thereby render any Israel-Palestine two state ‘solution’ practically inoperable. Hence the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank was treated as a “burden” while Hamas was treated as an “asset”.12 That is until October 7 2023 and what has been called Israel’s Pearl Harbour.

Leaders of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation - dominated by Fatah - preside over a series of disconnected Arab reservations on the West Bank called the Palestinian Authority. Its president, Mahmoud Abbas, pleads for an Israel-Palestine two state ‘solution’ and roundly condemns Israel’s invasion of Gaza. He is, however, to all intents and purposes a creature of Israel, a collaborator, a quisling.

The PLO’s present line dates back to 1988, when the demand for a return to the status quo ante 1948 was formally abandoned. Fatah had been steadily moving in this direction since the mid-70s; however, the final turning point was the US-brokered Oslo accord, signed in August 1993 by PLO chair Yasser Arafat and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. The PLO effectively conceded Israeli hegemony over the whole of mandate Palestine in return for local self-government in Gaza and the West Bank. Abject surrender. The vital questions of Jewish settlements on the West Bank and the right of Palestinians to return to their lands were put aside. A diplomatic coup for the US and Israel.

As for Israeli politics they are notoriously fragmented. At least a dozen blocs - many with multiple components - are represented in the Knesset. But virtually the entire Israeli-Jewish political spectrum unitedly oppose any kind of democratic settlement with the Palestinians. The nationalist and religious hard right, including Likud, has absolutely no truck with Palestinian statehood. Centrists and liberals pay lip service. Only the left, which relies on Israeli-Arab votes, seems serious about a Israel-Palestine two-state ‘solution’: and that means Palestinians getting the West Bank and Gaza, and nothing more.

Note, working class politics in Israel, that is Israeli-Jewish working class politics, hardly exists, at least at this moment in time, as an effective collectivity. Historically there has been a remorseless shift from the Labor Party to voting for parties of the right in an attempt to reinforce national privileges. The Jewish-Israeli working class being a labour aristocracy that has seen its social power substantially eroded by years of neo-liberalism.13 In 1983 membership of the trade union federation, Histadrut, stood at 1.6 million, today it is around 570,000. Histadrut, once the spearhead of Zionist colonisation, has also been shorn of its role in health, banking and as a very substantial employer in its own right of masses of workers.

Histadrut needs to be put into the context of colonisation. Marxists have distinguished between various types of colonies: plantation colonies, exploitation colonies, colonies properly so-called, etc. Broadly the colonisation of the India, Congo, South Africa type saw the exploiters enslave people, including by importing captives from abroad, gaining a fat profit from the traditional native work force, including peasant farmers, through all manner of barely concealed forms of robbery, cheating and double dealing. That went hand-in-hand with staffing an army officer corps, running a bureaucracy and managing railroads, docks, etc. The colonisers therefore constituted a relatively narrow caste who often maintained close ties with the imperial homeland (to which they often returned having made their fortunes).

Nonetheless, it must be understood that in terms of political economy Israel is what Karl Kautsky called a “work colony”14 or what Moshe Machover prefers to call an “exclusion colony”.15 Instead of constituting themselves as a narrow, often highly privileged, caste, the colonisers make up the full spectrum of classes: bourgeoisie, petty bourgeoisie, small farmers, workers, unemployed reserve labour. Instead of relying on the labour of the indigenous population, they are either replaced, marginalised or driven to the point of extinction. Examples: USA, Canada, Australia.

Israel is most certainly an exclusion colony. Despite present-day claims, Zionism was never a national liberation movement. It was always, as it first presented itself, crucially in Theodor Herzl’s foundational Der Judenstaat (1896), a colonial-settler project that would rely on its own labour. Hence, whatever the socialistic pretentions of Labor Zionism, from the beginning Israel owed far more to the blood and soil ideology of late 19th century European reaction than anything remotely progressive.

What marked out Israel, however, was not that to begin with the settler-colonists were a minority of the population in Ottoman and then mandate Palestine. No, the Zionist project relied on propertyless migrants coming from all manner of different countries, while exercising “no coercive power over the indigenous population”.16 At first the Zionists were substantially dependent on external sources of capital, had to purchase land from wealthy native owners and most certainly relied on the good will of an imperial sponsor (to begin with Britain, which agreed the Balfour declaration in November 1917 in the expectation of carving out for itself a “Jewish Ulster” in the midst of a hostile Middle East).

Histadrut played a determining role. It organised Jewish workers and forced the Jewish capitalist class to grant all manner of concessions, not least barring indigenous, cheaper, Arab labour from whole sectors of the economy (relaxed somewhat after statehood). Histadrut also provided Labor Zionism with the money, the votes and the organisation needed to make it the dominant force politically from the mid-1930s till the late 1970s. So it was far removed from being a trade union federation of the type normally seen in the so-called west.

Brit left

Historically, what passed for the mainstream left in Britain held a sympathetic attitude towards Zionism. Poale Zion - now the Jewish Labour Movement - affiliated to the Labour Party in 1920. Successive Labour conferences voted in favour of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine. Echoing Soviet foreign policy the ‘official communist’ MP, Willie Gallacher, welcomed the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948. After 2,000 years of supposed uninterrupted persecution the Jewish people had liberated themselves at last. Tony Benn was proud to be counted amongst the Labour Friends of Israel. He routinely cited the kibbutz as a brave socialist experiment.

Little or nothing of that now remains. Israel nowadays counts amongst those countries dominated by the hard right. True, there is still a pro-Zionist left. But it is, thankfully, widely despised: the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty comes to mind, so does the CPB’s resident Zionist, Mary Davis.

That does not mean that the left has lighted upon a correct programmatic orientation. Instead we are presented with, on the one hand, a socialistic version of the current PLO’s Israel-Palestine two state ‘solution’ - the Socialist Party in England and Wales being perhaps the most prominent advocate. It calls for a ‘socialist’ Israel alongside a ‘socialist’ West Bank, Gaza Strip Palestine. Israel, it should be noted is treated as a ‘normal’ country: the idea of it remaining a “settler state” is dismissed out of hand.17 That despite the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Gaza and the 720,000 Jewish settlers planted on the West Bank (including east Jerusalem).

Anyway, why on earth two such states would remain separate, especially given substantial population cross over, is something of a mystery. More to the point, the means of achieving such an outcome relies almost entirely on trade union politics - primarily wages and conditions. But such economism, because it is inevitably sectional, merely reproduces the division of the working class. On the one side privileged labour aristocrats, and a marginalised underclass on the other. There is no socialist circuit breaker.

Then there is the left version of the old PLO single Palestine ‘solution’: the Socialist Workers Party being the quintessential example. Ignoring the history, power, connections and wishes of the Israeli-Jewish population, there is the call for the abolition, the dismantling, of Israel and in its place “one secular, democratic [capitalist - JC] state built on the principle of equal rights for all citizens, including Israeli Jews.”18

However, the Israeli-Jewish working class is entirely incapable of playing any positive role here. Israeli-Jews, most of whom consider themselves secular, will paradoxically be allowed individual religious freedom, but not collective national rights under the SWP’s ‘solution’. As a matter of doctrine Israeli-Jews are often defined as a non-nation, but even when it is admitted that they do constitute a nation, they are classified as an oppressive, a counterrevolutionary nation, which should thereby be denied the right to self-determination, presumably in perpetuity.19

There are some 7.2 million Israeli-Jews (settlements included). About 10-11 million Palestinians worldwide; but only 6-7 million of them live in Israel, the occupied territories, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. It is fair to say, then, that any projected single Palestinian state would include roughly equivalent numbers of Israeli-Jews and Palestinian-Arabs. Assuming, that is, no forcible movement of peoples. No attempt to drive the Israeli-Jews into the sea. No closure of refugee camps and dumping of Palestinians over the other side of the Jordan river. No round-up and expulsion of Palestinian workers in Saudi Arabia, etc. Therefore what is being proposed is unity where one half of the population gets no say in the matter. Impractical and in strategic terms really dumb.

After all the Israeli-Jewish working class has everything to lose and nothing to gain from such a single capitalist state ‘solution’ that is more or less guaranteed to be neither secular nor democratic. They are, therefore, likely to resist any such outcome. The whole of the 20th century since 1933, but especially the 1943-45 holocaust, tells us that. Without military conquest - a highly unlikely and in and of itself an unwelcome outcome - the immediate demand for a single-state solution is entirely illusory. Translated into the ‘Palestine shall be free from the river to the sea’ slogan, it goes down well on street demonstrations, but offers zilch in terms of bringing about a rapprochement between the two peoples in Israel-Palestine and advancing common working class interests.

The call for a single Palestinian state “may seem completely utopian”, owns up the SWP’s Alex Callinicos. He also correctly states: “For over 30 years the Palestinian movement, supported by much of the left and progressive opinion worldwide, has had an official policy” for two states. He rightly claims, however, that there is “very clear evidence that the two-state solution cannot work”. Crucially, there exists, he says, the “massive imbalance of power between the two sides. Israel is one of the greatest military powers in the world, backed and subsidised by the US”.20 Right again.

Hence it is pertinent to ask exactly who is going to establish the SWP’s single Palestinian state. In other words, we come to the vital matter of agency. After all, once again according to comrade Callinicos himself, the Palestinians are incapable of achieving any kind of viable state alongside Israel by their efforts alone. Perhaps what the SWP therefore envisages is a combination of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood governments in Egypt, Syria and Jordan acting together against Israel.

An anti-working class agency if ever there was one. Such a pan-Islamic alliance, leave aside the Shia and Sunni divisions, would, though, hardly produce a secular Palestinian state. Nor would it produce a democratic Palestinian state. True, if such an unlikely combination were to come together - and, just as unlikely, achieve military victory over Israel - it might conceivably lead to a mass exodus of Jews (to who knows where - there is no single mother country). But if that did not happen, the Jewish-Israeli population would have to be subject to extraordinarily harsh measures to crush the inevitable resistance. The poles of national oppression would thereby be reversed. Not something any genuine Marxist would countenance.

No democratic solution can be won without the consent of Israeli Jews - that is, a clearly expressed majority of them. Yet the fact is, despite the warnings, pained outrage and courage of Israeli-Jewish socialists, anti-Zionists and pacifists, the Israeli-Jewish population at large consistently, often overwhelmingly, supports the wars of their elected politicians, generals and capitalist masters, irrespective of the hatred of Israel that this inevitably engenders. Why? Israel is a colonial-settler state and all such states face a fundamental problem. What to do with the people whose land has been robbed? During the wars of 1947-49 and 1967 well over a million Palestinians fled or were forcibly driven out. Palestinians in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank are therefore unfinished business.

Both the Palestinian enemy within and the Palestinian enemy without engender a permanent state of insecurity. Israeli-Jews know they are resented, know they are hated. When it comes to worst-paid labour the Palestinians willingly undercut them. Then there are the Hamas rockets, suicide bombers and the October 7 spectacular. Understandably, the Israeli-Jewish population feels under constant threat and therefore - frightened, vengeful, maddened - willingly supports, urges on Israeli aggression, oppression and even genocide. The hope is to crush or finally remove the Palestinians. An oppressor’s peace.

Does it follow that Israelis cannot make peace with Palestinians? That any Israeli settlement with the Palestinians is bound to be a sham? There can certainly be no democratic settlement with Israel as a Zionist state - any more than there can be with an Islamic Palestine.

Zionism is, arguably, a nationalism sui generis. While it now boasts a homeland, Zionism claims purchase over the loyalty of all Jews world-wide, that despite most Jews do not live in Israel and do not speak Hebrew (around 40% of the world’s Jewish population lives in the US, roughly the same as in Israel). No less to the point, the Zionist state is committed to expansion and denying elementary rights to a good portion of the population it rules over (ie, the Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories).

Nevertheless, the Israeli-Jewish people, the Hebrew nation, is a real, living entity and cannot be dismissed or discounted, just because Israel began and continues as a settler colonial state. Israel emerged out of the last phase of the British empire, in the midst of a terroristic civil war and unforgivable crimes that no-one should forget. That said, there is no reason for refusing to recognise the definite, historically constituted Hebrew nation which took state form with the May 14 1948 declaration of Israeli independence.

And since then millions of Jews have migrated to Israel, learnt Hebrew, intermarried, had children, assimilated and made and remade the Israeli-Jewish nation. Today some 75% are Sabras - Israel born - and mostly second or third generation. Hence, the Israeli-Jewish nation not only inhabits a common territory and shares a common language. It is historically constituted.

Of course, most, if not all, the world’s states came into existence by way of ghastly oppression. But, while fully taking into account history, any consistently democratic programme must be squarely based on contemporary realities - crucially human facts on the ground. Abolition of Zionist Israel, legal equality for all, secularism, halting expansionism and withdrawing from the occupied territories are basic (minimal) programmatic demands. None of that, however, should be taken as synonymous with an eviscerating reconstruction of the pre-1948 situation. One might just as well call for the abolition of the US, Canada, Australia, etc, and a return of lands to the enfeebled remnants of the aboriginal populations.

The only realistic, progressive and humane programme must be based on a mutual recognition by both Palestinians and Israeli-Jews of each other’s national rights. Needless to say, it would be an excellent thing if both nations chose to happily live side by side, or, even better, to slowly merge together into a single nation. No rational human being would want to oppose either such outcome. The question is, though, how to arrive at such a happy outcome? Given where we are situated today, our discussion must necessarily include process as well as agency.

Arab nation

No democratic solution for the Israel/Palestine conflict can be achieved in isolation. Objective circumstances simply do not permit it. That is as certain as anything can be certain in this uncertain world.

By themselves the Palestinians - debilitatingly split between Hamas and Fatah - palpably lack the ability to achieve anything beyond abject surrender or hopeless resistance. Certainly not a single Palestinian state where Israeli-Jews have “full” religious rights but no national rights. There is, however, a way to cut through the Gordian knot. Widen the strategic front. There are nearly 300 million Arabs in a contiguous territory that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean, across north Africa, down the Nile to north Sudan, and all the way to the Persian Gulf and up to the Caspian Sea.

Though studded here and there with national minorities - Kurds, Assyrians, Turks, Armenians, Berbers, etc - there is a definite Arab or Arabised community. Despite being separated into 25 different states and divided by religion and religious sect - Sunni, Shite, Alaouite, Ismaili, Druze, Orthodox Christian, Catholic Christian, Maronite, Nestorian, etc - they share a living bond of pan-Arab consciousness, born not only of a common language, but of a closely related history.

Arabs are binational. There are Moroccans, Yemenis, Egyptians, Jordanians, etc. But there is also a wider Arab identity which has its origins going back to the Muslim conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries. The most well known candidate for Arab unifier was Nasser. This uncrowned Bonaparte led the Free Officers’ revolution in 1952, which overthrew the pro-British monarchy of Farouk I. Nasser then oversaw a radical agrarian reform programme, nationalised the Suez canal, allied Egypt with the Soviet Union and put his country on the course of state-capitalist development. This went hand in hand with crushing both the Muslim Brotherhood and the working class movement.

Nasser called it ‘Arab socialism’. Especially with his success in the 1956 crisis - an Israeli invasion followed by a pre-planned joint French and British intervention and then an unexpected American veto - Nasser’s popularity soared throughout the Arab world. Pro-Nasser Arab socialist parties, groups and conspiracies were sponsored or established themselves. His name became almost synonymous with pan-Arabism.

Nasser demanded that natural resources be used for the benefit of all Arabs. Hugely popular with those below. Everyone knew he meant oil. Of course, the house of Saud instantly became an implacable enemy. Yet because of mass pressure the Ba’athist authorities in Syria sought a merger. Despite the repression suffered by their co-thinkers in Egypt, the ‘official communists’ and the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood likewise favoured unity.

The United Arab Republic was formed on February 1 1958. Nasser was appointed president and Cairo became the capital. Yet the UAR proved fleeting. Syrian capitalists did not gain access to the Egyptian market and Egyptian administrative personnel were painted by Syrian officers, bureaucrats and top politicians as acting like colonial officials. The union ignominiously collapsed in 1961. Opposition came from the Damascus street. However, from then onwards the UAR became a hollow pretence. It united no other country apart from Egypt.

The 1967 Six Day war with Israel proved to be the final straw for Nasserism. Israel’s blitzkrieg destroyed the airforces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan on the ground and by the end of the short-lived hostilities Israel occupied the Sinai, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. Nasser was humiliated and died soon afterwards a broken man.

Evidently, Arab reunification remains a burning, but unfulfilled task. The fact that Nasser’s short-lived UAR saw the light of day is testimony to mass support for Arab unity. What was a potent sentiment in the 1950s and well into the 1970s needs to be revived in the 21st century and given a new democratic and class content.

Communists need to take the lead in the fight for pan-Arab unity. A task inseparable from the struggle for socialist revolution and the formation of a mass Communist Party - first in each Arab country and then throughout the Arab world. A Communist Party of Arabia.

What of reconciliation between Israeli-Jews and the Palestinians? This can only happen in the context of sweeping away the House of Saud, the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan and the petty Gulf sheikdoms, ending the military dictatorship in Egypt and the creation of an Arab republic led by and under the domination of the working class.

Only from such a salient, even if it is in the process of realisation, can the Israeli-Jewish working class be prised away from the clutches of Zionism and formed into a positivity. Even if it is, to start with, confined to the Mashriq, an Arab socialist republic could offer Israel federal status with the confident expectation that such an invitation would receive an overwhelmingly positive response from below. Instead of being an oppressed class subject to capitalist exploitation - that today has to content itself with the much diminished crumbs that come with being a labour aristocracy - the Israeli-Jewish working class would have everything to gain from a de-Zionised socialist Israel federated to a socialist Arabia. They would be part of the ruling class. Now that would something to be.

  1. Eg, Ofer Cassif of the ‘official communist’ Hadash party and Ram Ben-Barak of the ‘centrist’ Yash Atid.↩︎

  2. See S Squire ‘Six months of slaughter, six months of resistance’ Socialist Worker April 3 2024.↩︎

  3. “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, the Kadomites, the Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and the Jebusites” (Genesis xv, 18-1).↩︎

  4. www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/total-immigration-to-israel-by-country-per-year.↩︎

  5. www.unrwa.org/palestine-refugees.↩︎

  6. See A Ben-Zvi Decade of transition: Eisenhower, Kennedy and the origins of the American- Israeli alliance New York NY 1998.↩︎

  7. N Chomsky The fateful triangle: the United States, Israel and the Palestinians London 1983, p43.↩︎

  8. www.cfr.org/article/us-aid-israel-four-charts.↩︎

  9. www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/israel-strategic-asset-united-states-0.↩︎

  10. J Conrad Weekly Worker January 22 2009 - weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/753/zionist-imperatives-and-the-arab-solution.↩︎

  11. H Clinton Foreign Policy ‘America’s Pacific century’ November 2011.↩︎

  12. The Times of Israel October 8 2023.↩︎

  13. The thesis of the Jewish-Israel working class being a labour aristocracy is closely associated with Maxime Rodinson, see his Israel: a colonial settler state? New York NY 1973.↩︎

  14. See M Macnair (intro) Karl Kautsky: on colonialism London 2013.↩︎

  15. ‘Colonialism and the natives’ Weekly Worker December 17 2015 - weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1087/colonialism-and-the-natives.↩︎

  16. M Shalev The labour movement in Israel: ideology and political economy Westview CO 1996, p1.↩︎

  17. J Horton Socialism Today February 2 2024.↩︎

  18. SWP pamphlet Palestine, resistance, revolution and the struggle for freedom London 2023, p28.↩︎

  19. Tony Greenstein has repeatedly defended this position in these pages. For his most recent article see ‘They are all Palestinians’ Weekly Worker May 23 2024 - weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1492/they-are-all-palestinians.↩︎

  20. Socialist Worker August 5 2006.↩︎