Searching for solutions

One-state, two-state, federal one-state ‘solutions’ - all constitute a danger when it comes to navigating the way out of the hell that imperialism and Zionist settler-colonialism has created. Jack Conrad presents the communist alternative to economistic Zionism, PLO capitulation and the dead-end of Hamas tailism

Predictably, Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, has not been destroyed by Israel - that despite a nine-month-long military onslaught on the Gaza Strip. Though well over 38,000 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, skirmishes keep erupting in the supposedly Hamas-free ‘bubble zones’ of Gaza.

Does that mean Israel is losing its war, as claimed by various opposition MPs in the Knesset?1 Or that Israel is bogged down in a war it “cannot win”?2 Or that Hamas is conducting such a “clever and tenacious guerrilla” war3 that it has taken the Zionist project to the point where the “collapse of Israel has become foreseeable”?4

All that might be true, if the war aims of Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition government were really about, as they continue to claim, destroying the military and governing capabilities of Hamas and freeing all the war hostages it holds.

Netanyahu is many things, but he is no fool. His war aims were never really about destroying Hamas, not even militarily. Revealingly, this has led to a war of words between Netanyahu and the Israel Defence Forces. Its chosen spokesperson, rear admiral Daniel Hagari, talking on Israel’s Channel 13 News, on June 19, told the truth when he said the “business of destroying Hamas, making Hamas disappear - it’s simply throwing sand in the eye of the public”. “Hamas”, he went on to explain, is a “party.” It is “rooted in the hearts of the people - anyone who thinks we can eliminate Hamas” - ie, Netanyahu - “is wrong”. A bog-standard military assessment. Nonetheless, the prime minister’s office doggedly insists on the ‘Hamas must be eliminated’ narrative and this has forced a tactical IDF retreat. In a subsequent statement the IDF loyally trots out the “destroying Hamas’s governing and military abilities” formula.5

There can be no denying, however, that Hamas has deep social roots and cannot, therefore, be eradicated “as an ideology and an idea” … definitely not by the IDF’s bullets, bombs and missiles. Exactly what Hagari was saying.

Certainly the war captives are little more than a nuisance as far as Netanyahu is concerned, when it comes to Israel’s domestic politics. He knows it and so do their tens of thousands of relatives, friends and supporters who repeatedly take to the streets of Tel Aviv. If you really want the war captives back from the tunnels, tents and cellars of Gaza, then negotiations with Hamas would be an absolute priority. And destroying Hamas’s “governing and military abilities” and negotiating a war-captive deal with Hamas are, to put it mildly, mutually incompatible. Frankly, destroying Hamas’s “governing and military abilities” via air attacks, artillery bombardments and sending in tanks will have killed many, if not most, of the war captives - that, despite undoubted Hamas efforts to keep these valuable ‘human assets’ alive.

No, the immediate war aims of Netanyahu, are twofold.

Firstly, he wants to avoid jail. Note, the recent statement from his lawyers saying he cannot possibly testify in his corruption trial till March 2025 … because he is busy directing the war against Hamas.6 Netanyahu’s case has been ongoing since 2019 and he faces a possible 10-year sentence if found guilty.

Secondly, Netanyahu wants to keep the war going till at least November-January. Especially after CNN’s US presidential debate on June 27 and the Supreme Court’s immunity ruling on July 1, a second-term Donald Trump presidency seems less like an even-odds possibility nowadays - more a low-odds likelihood. Replying to a demented, ghostly Biden, Trump stressed that he would not have “stropped Israel”. We should, I think, take that as meaning that he would have urged Netanyahu to “finish the problem”.7 That is, driving out the majority - perhaps all - Palestinians from Gaza and into the Sinai. If that does not work, the Netanyahu government - not least its Bezalel Smotrich (National Religious Party) and Itamar Ben-Gvir (Otzma Yehudit) components - are certainly more than willing to preside over a genocide by omission: denying food, water, medicines and basic sanitation facilities.

Third reason

There is too a third reason for Netanyahu wanting “endless wars”8: taking further ghastly steps towards realising the Zionist dream of a Greater Israel; an Israel that incorporates the whole of mandate Palestine (and, for the sake of ‘security’, beyond that into Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon). A dream that, of course, dates back to Theodor Herzl, and remains common coin for all strands of Zionism - Labor, Liberal, Revisionist and Religious.

That means, whenever the opportunity arises, expelling as many Palestinians as possible. As a result, there are today some 5.9 million UN-registered Palestinian refugees - in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.9 There is also a Palestinian diaspora living in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, the US, Britain, Germany, Chile, Argentina and many more countries besides. A second Nakba in 2024 could easily see millions more driven out. Israel now, of course, controls the Philadelphi Corridor in southern Gaza and, therefore, could easily engineer a situation where desperate, starving Palestinians flee, or are simply pushed, over the border into Egypt. Meanwhile, Israel’s remaining 2.08 million Palestinian Arabs are second-class citizens in what is widely regarded as an apartheid state. Officially, after all, Israel was founded as and continues to be a Jewish state for Jewish people.

Seen in that context, it is clear that, while Israel has not achieved its real war aims, it has taken them forward - and to some considerable extent at that. However, what holds Israel back from ‘finishing the problem’ and pressing home its overwhelming military advantage is less that Hamas is fighting a “clever and tenacious guerrilla” war: more geostrategic considerations, including 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. Biden’s advisors are also more than aware that a second Nakba could easily see millions of Arab-Americans and progressive Americans alike staying at home on Tuesday November 5. Hence, unveiling Biden’s Gaza peace plan in May had, surely, more to do with the possible outcome of the presidential race than delivering a workable solution 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 IDF by withholding the delivery of artillery shells, bombs, missiles and the stream of replacement parts needed to keep tanks moving and fighter aircraft flying. 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 does not want Israel ‘going too far’ at the moment and creating total chaos, including unleashing an unplanned war with Iran, which would undoubtedly have all sorts of unintended consequences.

Trump is another matter. Not only does he want Israel to “finish the problem” in Gaza. He wants more annexations on the West Bank too. He also 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 on Iran. But, while Netanyahu undoubtedly fervently prays on his knees every night for a Trump victory, today he still 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 … unsurprisingly 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 preparation. Yet warnings were consistently ignored. Hamas military commanders were themselves certainly astonished by the ability of their fighters to go way beyond what had been originally planned as something approaching a suicide mission. Expectations were of 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 subsequently become deeply divided between what we might call the ‘peace party’ and the ‘war party’. Nonetheless, the ‘war party’ commands a Knesset majority and, as already argued, Netanyahu himself has every reason to keep the war going on all the way up to the US presidential election and beyond. So, far from seeing the beginning of the end of Zionism, the ‘war party’ sees the end of the beginning of Zionism ... the realisation of their Greater Israel is within sight at last.

Zionists typically claim that Jews have a right to the whole of mandate Palestine (either because of the approval of the Balfour declaration by the League of Nations in July 1922 or Yahweh’s promise to Abraham in Genesis). True, there are profound differences over the constitutional set-up in this Greater Israel. Liberal, or General, Zionism says it is committed to market capitalism, secularism, democratic values and the rule of law (which can, of course, see unelected judges overrule Knesset votes). Their Greater Israel would, though, continue to treat the indigenous Palestinian population as second-class citizens - that and squeezing them into ever smaller Arab reservations.

However, there are those - ie, the Religious Zionists - who envisage Greater Israel as a theocracy. Fringe elements even want the al-Aqsa mosque demolished and replaced by a Third Temple - the prelude for the second coming of Jesus for messianic Christians. While secular Jews are viewed as heretics, there is a call for non-Jews, the Children of Noah (Bnei Noach), to observe god’s laws and support his chosen people - perhaps a future source for urgently needed new settlers.10 Some Religious Zionists 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.11 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 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 antecedence, 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 chancers have come to the promised land over the years. Between 1948 and 1992 Israel took in 2,242,500 Jewish migrants. The bulk were 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.12 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 and Operation Moses the Israeli state has gone to extraordinary lengths to facilitate their migration and subsequent assimilation.

Israel needs people. Or, put more accurately, Israel needs Jewish people. That is why the exodus of some 470,000 Jews after October 7 is the cause of such concern for the authorities in Jerusalem.13 Even a little Israel relies on long-term net Jewish immigration … net long-term Jewish emigration is a disaster, which, if it happened, if it were sustained, would indeed risk the beginning of the end of the Zionist project in Palestine.


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 1973.14 Noam Chomsky, it should be noted, dates US support for the Greater Israel position to 1970, when Henry Kissinger succeeded in “taking over Middle East affairs”.15

Either way, 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 largesse 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 2028.16 In return for imperial sponsorship, Israel acts as a US “strategic asset” in the Middle East (a region which, it just so happens, possesses something like 50% of the world’s readily accessible oil reserves).17

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”.18 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, Hillary 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.19

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’ with the USA, Israel has repeatedly fought, invaded and defeated its Arab neighbours: 1948, 1956 and 1967. After that there followed the 1973 war with Egypt and Syria, the two wars in Lebanon (1982 and 2006) and now, of course, Gaza.

Israel’s armed forces are vastly superior, compared with any Arab country or any conceivable combination of them. It is not a matter of total numbers under arms or the percentage of GDP spent on arms. Israel’s IDF is better led, better trained and better equipped, that is for sure. Moreover, culturally Israel is a highly militarised society. It is a “nation-in-arms” (Ben-Gurion). Military service - for both sexes - starts in the late teenage years and goes on, in the reserves, well into adulthood (40 for regular soldiers, 45 for officers). That now includes those from the million-strong Haredi community - after a supreme court decision revoking their exemption. Even before being conscripted, there is, from the age of 14, the Gadia (youth brigades). This prepares young people not only in the handling of weapons, but psychologically too … for wars of aggression.

Haim Bresheeth-Žabner calls the IDF “an army like no other”.20 The IDF constitutes the spinal cord of Israel’s national identity. Not country of origin, not religious sect, not political affiliation. The IDF forged the “new Jew” envisaged by Theodor Herzl from the “base elements” coming from middle Europe, the Soviet Union, the Arab countries, Ethiopia and America. Israel has thereby become a modern-day Sparta. Not surprisingly, armchair generals rank the country 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 launching them from land, sea and sky.

Divide and rule

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 in Gaza was treated as an “asset”.21 That is, until October 7 2023 and Operation al-Aqsa Flood - 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 euphemistically called the Palestinian Authority. Its president, Mahmoud Abbas, pleas 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. To put it mildly, he is widely hated.

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 triumph 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 opposes any kind of democratic settlement with the Palestinians. The nationalist and religious hard right, including Likud, has absolutely no truck with Palestinian statehood. General Zionists merely talk the talk. Only the left, which relies on Israeli-Arab votes, seems serious about an Israel-Palestine two-state ‘solution’: and that means Palestinians settling for the West Bank and Gaza, and nothing more.

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 voting for the Labor Party to parties of the right in an attempt to preserve national privileges. The Jewish-Israeli working class being a labour aristocracy that has seen its social power substantially eroded by years of neoliberalism.22 In 1983 membership of the trade union federation, Histadrut, stood at 1.6 million; today it is around 570,000. Histadrut, note, 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.

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, gaining a fat profit from the native workforce, 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”23 or what Moshé Machover prefers to call an “exclusion colony”.24 Instead of the colonisers 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 workers, etc. Instead of relying on the labour of the indigenous population, it is 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 Jewish labour playing a vanguard role: “The poorest will go first to cultivate the soil. In accordance with a preconceived plan, they will construct roads, bridges, railways and telegraph installations; regulate rivers; and build their own dwellings; their labour will create trade, trade will create markets and markets will attract new settlers.”25 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 genuinely socialist.

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”.26 That began to change with the formation of the Haganah militia, but it was poorly armed and could only manage defensive operations till the 1940s. 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.

British left

Historically, mainstream Labourism 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. Labour considered the Israeli Labor Party a fraternal organisation and maintained close contacts throughout the 1967 war. From the early 1960s the TUC was giving Histadrut financial aid for its Afro-Asian Institute - a wonderful means for Israel to spread its diplomatic influence. Trade union tops regularly spoke out against Arab feudalism, backwardness and Nazi ideas.

As for the ‘official’ CPGB in the 1940s, it temporarily abandoned its historic hostility to Zionism. The CPGB formed a National Jewish Committee, which supported Jewish migration into Palestine and land purchases. Stalin rightly saw Zionism as a way to weaken British influence in the Middle East. Hence, in 1948, the ‘official’ CPGB wholeheartedly welcomed the establishment of Israel, greeting the state’s foundation as “a big step toward fulfilment of self-determination of the peoples of Palestine” and “a great sign of the times”.27 After 2,000 years of supposed uninterrupted persecution the Jewish people had liberated themselves at last. In parliament its MPs, Willie Gallacher and Phil Piratin, sponsored an early day motion condemning the Arab states for their 1948 intervention in Palestine, urging the Labour government to recognise Israel and demanding an immediate end to military aid to Arab states.

On the Labour left Edward Short, Jennie Lee and Tony Benn were proud to be counted amongst the Labour Friends of Israel. They routinely cited the kibbutz as a brave socialist experiment. Eric Heffer even defended Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza on the grounds that Israel was “the only genuine democratic and socialist-oriented state in the Middle East”.28

Next to nothing of that now remains on the left. Today Israel counts amongst those countries dominated by the hard right and is therefore regarded as a monstrosity by those who regard themselves in the least bit progressive. True, there is still a pro-Zionist ‘left’. But it is, thankfully, marginal and widely despised: the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty comes to mind, so does the CPB’s resident Zionist, Mary Davis, and her ghastly ‘Anti-Semitism awareness courses’ (as if the Morning Star’s CPB has an anti-Semitism problem, when, in actual fact, it has a pro-Zionism problem).

Does this mean that the left has lighted upon a correct programmatic orientation? Hardly - instead we are presented with a range of positions, all of which are far from adequate.

We have already mentioned the AWL and the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain. Essentially their two-state ‘solution’ echoes the PLO, Fatah, the Israeli Labor Party … and the international bourgeois consensus. It amounts to economistic Zionism.

A little Israel - an Israel returned to its pre-1967 borders - is expected to live peacefully alongside a West Bank and Gaza Strip Palestine. Except, of course, it will not. For the sake of appearances, the Biden administration pays lip service to this touching picture of the wolf lying down with the lamb. But, as we have seen, US imperialism is committed to a Greater Israel (though not quite yet). The same goes for its allies, such as the UK, Germany and Italy. So there is no serious international force that can impose a two-state ‘solution’ on the Israeli government (with or without Netanyahu). There will not, therefore, be a repetition of the early 1990s, when apartheid in South Africa was negotiated away in a US-sponsored deal, which gave black citizens the vote in return for the African National Congress leaving capitalist big business intact.

In Israel-Palestine there is no overwhelming oppressed national majority. There is no threat of a revolutionary explosion. The odds are completely stacked in Israel’s favour. That is why Hamas resorts to desperate suicide missions and the PLO and Fatah are reduced to impotent verbal gestures and pathetic diplomatic pleading (meantime the Palestine Authority is dependent on international largesse and collaborates with the Israeli occupiers). Recognising this, the likes of the AWL, CPB … and various Labour left odds and sods clutch at protests, such as the anti-judicial reform movement and common economic struggles in Israel, which are envisaged as uniting Hebrews and Arabs into a lever for social change.

The “secular federal republic” advocated by Steve Freeman - a former SWPer and now a little England republican socialist - is no more than a variation on the theme. The claim is that the “one state, two nations” formula is opposed to both Zionist/Jewish and Palestinian nationalism. Instead, what is offered is a “minimum programme” of “achievable reforms” within the socio-economic framework of capitalism that will purportedly unite the working class.29 Deludedly, we are told that already Zionism is “building up its own gravedigger in the Israeli-Palestinian working class” … in fact Zionism remains committed to keeping workers inside Israel structurally divided. That means legal, political and material privileges for Israeli-Jewish workers, privileges they will hang onto for dear life … unless there is something much better on offer (Israeli-Jewish workers, especially those at the bottom end of the labour market have no wish to compete with Arab-Israeli/Palestinian worst paid labour as equals, that is for sure).

Incidentally, the claim is made that inspiration comes from the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. A strange reading, not least given that its 1903 programme, written by Georgi Plekhanov and substantially amended by Vladimir Lenin, committed Marxists in Russia to the “most immediate political task”: namely the “overthrow of the tsarist autocracy” and its replacement by a democratic republic, which would then bring about the “universal arming of the people”, “unrestricted freedom of conscience, speech, publication and assembly”, etc, etc. For the RSDLP, in other words, revolution would bring about reforms.30


As a justification for the two-state/federal-state ‘solution’ we are assured that an Israel-Palestine rapprochement would provide the solid, democratic foundations, from where alone the struggle for socialism can begin. In other words, their two-state/federal-state ‘solution’ is based on a combination of a naive wishful thinking and mechanical, stagist, reasoning. Note too, Israel’s January-October 2023 anti-judicial reform movement was pro-supreme court, not pro-Palestinian, nor pro-democracy. Equally to the point, trade union politics - ie, struggles over wages and conditions - always find themselves cut short by the high politics of war, security, national privilege, etc. There have been no Histadrut strikes demanding equal civil rights for Palestinians, ending the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and calling for the right of return. Nor should any such development be expected within the narrow confines of today’s circumstances.

The Socialist Party in England and Wales offers a ‘socialist’ version of the two-state ‘solution’. 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.31 That despite the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Gaza, the recent announcement by Bezalel Smotrich of the legalisation of five more previously illegal Jewish settler ‘outposts’ on the West Bank and the 720,000 settlers already planted there (including east Jerusalem).

Anyway, why on earth two such states would remain separate, especially given the substantial population crossover, is something of a mystery. More to the point, the means of achieving such an outcome once again relies almost entirely on trade union politics, which by its very nature is sectional and confined to the relationship between sellers and buyers of the labour-power commodity. Hence trade union politics as trade union politics do little more than reproduce the division of the working class. On the one side, nationally privileged labour aristocrats and, on the other, a nationally oppressed underclass.

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”.32

Probably, the SWP leadership has long ago given up trying to think through what is and what is not a viable strategy in Israel-Palestine. Certainly, what it is interested in nowadays - especially post-October 7 - is posturing. It wants to present the SWP to the mass demonstrations, not least its Muslim contingents, as the most militant, most implacable opponents of everything Israeli - and thereby sell a few more papers and gain a few more recruits. Politically, though, the result amounts to tailing Hamas.

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

That this would transform the Israeli-Jewish population into an oppressed nationality never seems to occur to left advocates of a single capitalist Palestine. So, for example, the vicarious Palestinian nationalist, Tony Greenstein, writes that in his secular, capitalist Palestine, Israeli-Jews would have “language rights, freedom of worship and the right to their own culture, but political rights? No.”33 Of course, a nation threatened with a denial of political and national rights is likely to fight tooth and claw against any such outcome.

Of course, comrade Greenstein has long given up on working class politics. If he still believes in socialism, he knows it will not come from the Israeli working class … or for that matter the working class in America, Europe or Australasia. The human agency he has in mind when it comes to overthrowing capitalism, therefore, relies on a social nothing, or must come from the outside (third world left nationalism, extraterrestrial little green men?).

But leave socialism aside for the moment. The objective balance of forces are violently against a single-capitalist-state ‘solution’. 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, more than likely to resist any such outcome with all their strength. 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”.34 Right again.

Axis of Resistance

Hence it is pertinent to ask exactly who is going to establish the single Palestinian state. After all, according to comrade Callinicos himself, the Palestinians are incapable of achieving any kind of viable state alongside Israel by their efforts alone. How then can we expect them to establish a single state against the wishes of the global US hegemon and the vast mass of 7.2 million Israeli-Jews? Perhaps what the SWP therefore envisages as its agent of change is the Axis of Resistance - what is today a largely symbolic combination of Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Hamas and Yemen’s Houthis. In the imagination the Axis could be joined by Muslim Brotherhood governments in Egypt, Syria and Jordan.

An anti-working class agency, if ever there was one. However, such a pan-Islamic alliance (leave aside the Shia and Sunni divisions) could, conceivably, defeat Israel, as Saladin’s forces defeated the outremer, crusader, kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187. But that 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 lead to a mass exodus of Jews (to who knows where). 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, yes, thereby be reversed. But, we are told, what does that matter? It would, Insha’Allah, be “national liberation” via the destruction of a settler-colony ... and from the (nuclear?) ashes, hopefully would arise some kind of “communism”. Not something any genuine Marxist would care to countenance.

But, yes, there are those crazies on the ‘left’ who positively relish such an unlikely prospect. Settler-colonialism has to be “destroyed militarily” because the assessment is, rightly, that “Zionists will never allow Zionism to end peacefully”. So in the absence of any other agency we have an expanded, a centrally coordinated, militarily beefed-up Axis of Resistance invading and overseeing the “complete destruction of Israel”.35 Those who object that this would be a theocratic nightmare are dismissed as wanting to impose their secular and democratic values on the Palestinians … as if the Palestinian masses cannot be won to the values of secularism, democracy and socialism.

Though it might be an inconvenient truth, no democratic solution can be won without the consent of Israeli Jews - that is, a clearly expressed majority of them. Those Humpty Dumpties who claim otherwise are coining a contranym, whereby words become their opposite. Democracy is divorced from basic democratic rights. Democracy becomes a denial of basic democratic rights.

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 stolen? 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, even though the majority of the people-religion are not Israeli 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 - Israeli 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 terrible 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 return to the question of 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, Shi’ite, 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.

So we are not talking about reviving Nasserism. Nor are we talking about something akin to the pan-Slavism of Ľudovít Štúr which excused so many of the wars, crimes and intrigues of the late Russian empire. No, communists need to take the lead in the fight for pan-Arab unity - as Marx and Engels and their comrades in the Communist League did in the fight for German unity.

Such a fight, conducted by communists, is, of course, inseparable from the task of building 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 establishment of working class rule and a socialist republic of Arabia.

Only from such a wide 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 confined to the Mashriq, an Arab socialist republic, could offer Israel federal status, with the confident expectation that such an invitation would receive a 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 - Israeli-Jewish workers would have everything to gain from a deZionised, socialist Israel, federated in a socialist Arabia.

They would be part of the ruling class. Now that is something to be.

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

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

  3. T Greenstein, Letters Weekly Worker June 27 2024.↩︎

  4. I Pappé, ‘The collapse of Zionism’ New Left Review June 21 2024.↩︎

  5. theconversation.com/gaza-war-israeli-military-admits-it-cant-win-but-benjamin-netanyahu-isnt-listening-233309.↩︎

  6. www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahus-lawyer-tells-court-pm-can-only-testify-in-corruption-trial-in-march-2025.↩︎

  7. www.middleeastmonitor.com/20240306-trump-calls-on-israel-to-finish-the-problem-in-gaza-suggesting-intensification-of-genocide.↩︎

  8. www.aljazeera.com/program/upfront/2024/3/8/former-israeli-security-agency-chief-netanyahu-wants-an-endless-war.↩︎

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

  10. See R Feldman Messianic Zionism in the digital age: Jews, Noahides and the Third Temple imaginary New Brunswick NJ 2024.↩︎

  11. “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, Rephaims, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and the Jebusites’” (Genesis xv, 18-21).↩︎

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

  13. www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/nearly-half-a-million-people-depart-israel-amid-gaza-war-report/3076116.↩︎

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

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

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

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

  18. J Conrad, ‘Zionist imperatives and the Arab solution’ Weekly Worker January 22 2009: weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/753/zionist-imperatives-and-the-arab-solution.↩︎

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

  20. H Bresheeth-Žabner An army like no other: how the Israeli Defence Force made a nation London 2020, p13.↩︎

  21. The Times of Israel October 8 2023.↩︎

  22. 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.↩︎

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

  24. M Machover, ‘Colonialism and the natives’ Weekly Worker December 17 2015: weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1087/colonialism-and-the-natives.↩︎

  25. www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/25282/pg25282-images.html.↩︎

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

  27. Daily Worker May 15 1948.↩︎

  28. E Heffer, ‘Why Labour should support Israel’ Labour looks at Israel: 1967-1971 London 1971, p31.↩︎

  29. S Freeman, ‘Marching towards what solution?’ Weekly Worker May 16 2024: weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1491/marching-towards-what-solution.↩︎

  30. B Pearce (trans) 1903: second congress of the RSDLP London 1978, p6.↩︎

  31. J Horton Socialism Today February 2 2024.↩︎

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

  33. Letters Weekly Worker June 27 2024.↩︎

  34. Socialist Worker August 5 2006.↩︎

  35. Haoyu Tai, Letters Weekly Worker June 13 2024.↩︎