What sort of Palestine?

According to its organisers, around 30,000 people answered the call of the Muslim Association of Britain to demonstrate against the Israeli onslaught on the West Bank on April 13 (if anything an underestimate). First Hyde Park and then Trafalgar Square were packed with people waving Palestinian flags. The mood was distinctly militant. Although the mobilisation was supported by the Stop the War Coalition, the organisations of the British left made up a very small proportion of the demonstrators. For example, despite the London members of the Socialist Workers Party being under 'all out' discipline, they were simply lost in the muslim sea. This was without doubt a demonstration of political islam. Hundreds knelt down to pray before and after the march. Many women wore veils. Reflecting the strength of fundamentalism in the Middle East, the majority were clearly influenced by the reactionary politics of Hamas or similar groupings. There were countless chants of "Jihad" (holy war) and "Allaho-Akber" (Allah is great) and ritual burnings of the Israeli flag. Whole sections of the march repeatedly took up the call to "destroy Israel". Unfortunately, most of the British left is totally impotent in the face of such a phenomena. The thinking seems to be: if it shouts, is against imperialism and organises pro-Palestinian demonstrations, it must entirely positive. Let's follow it! SWP comrades especially seem to be easily seduced. Incredibly, the SWP is attempting to present this protest as being politically akin to those in Italy and Spain: "London and Glasgow are not yet Rome and Barcelona. But Britain is not immune from the mood of resistance. Last Saturday saw the spirit of the recent mass demonstrations in Europe" expressed on the streets of London. "One hundred thousand people [sic] marched in support of the Palestinians. It was a huge, angry and united show of anger at Israel, imperialism and oppression. Just like the demos in Rome and Barcelona, the massive turnout surpassed everyone's expectations." "This is the second 100,000-strong [sic] march in London in the last five months, following last November's anti-war demonstration. This growing anti-capitalist movement is injecting a new spirit and vibrancy into the battles we face in Britain" (Socialist Worker April 17). The mobilisation of thousands onto the streets is certainly significant. But surely there is a big difference between a mass demonstration of the Italian working class under the leadership of communists and militant trade unionists, on the one hand, and a muslim march under the hegemony of reactionary fundamentalists, on the other. Sometimes the latter are "anti-capitalist". But what do groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad actually fight for? While communists and revolutionary socialists support the struggle of the Palestinians for their own state - a democratic, secular Palestine to stand alongside a democratic, secular Israel - we cannot support those wanting to establish a religious, fundamentalist state - whatever methods they employ. Hamas not only refuses to recognise the right of the Israeli nation to exist, but would mercilessly repress the working class and keep women imprisoned as third-class citizens. The first is progressive. The other is reactionary. Not only would such a 'one-state solution' simply not work (unless you eliminate all the Israeli jews); it betrays those people in Israel who are fighting for Palestinian rights. Under the leadership of reactionary fundamentalists like Hamas, the Palestinians can offer their Israeli neighbours nothing but the prospect of the poles of oppression being reversed: this time with a reactionary Palestinian administration suppressing the Israelis jews. We engage and talk with this section of society. This is why we attended the April 13 demonstration. But not to act as leftist cheerleaders. We engage in the battle of ideas in order to win people from reactionary misleaders and to the programme of secularism, revolutionary democracy and communism. Indeed nearly A healthy numbers of the Weekly Worker were sold and many thousands of CPGB leaflets were distributed. Many debates and passionate exchanges took place. There was a healthy willingness to argue"¦and listenon both sides. Tina Becker