In Socialist Worker of the 17 October, Nick Clark turns his attention to the new wave of violence in Israel-Palestine.
Clark writes about the indignity and oppression suffered by the Palestinians forced from their homes in East Jerusalem, starved and bombed in Gaza, harassed and driven off their land in the West Bank. He argues, correctly, that the violence has to be seen in this context.
He notes that there is currently little sign of the Israeli government tolerating the setting up of a Palestinian state. But, in a clumsy non sequitur, he then argues that this means that the “vision of a state of Palestine alongside Israel is no solution”. Indeed, that there can be no solution “while Israel exists”.
Clark’s argument runs like this: it is no good calling for an independent Palestine alongside Israel, because it would be too hard and too unrealistic to get the Israeli state to make the necessary concessions. But what’s the better, supposedly more viable alternative? Force the Israelis into dissolving their state altogether! In the weird and not-so wonderful world of Socialist Worker, we are asked to believe that the Israelis are too strong and intractable to concede territory to Palestine, but not so intractable that they can’t be made to dismantle their state entirely.
The argument is not just illogical, it also has reactionary political implications. If the Israelis are going to surrender their statehood, why will they do it and how will the dismantling be carried out? We know that the Israelis themselves are very unlikely to voluntarily collapse their national entity. Once independent, not many nations willingly forego their right to self-determination, and the Israeli Jews (made up mostly of families who fled European anti-semitism, Stalinist persecution or expulsion from the Arab world) are far less likely than most. So if they won’t do it themselves, who will force them into it?
It might be by armed, far-right Islamist groups in Palestine like Hamas (euphemistically described as a ‘resistance group’ by Clark as if they were a Gaza branch of UK Uncut). Or it might be through military intervention from the surrounding Arab states. The SWP’s traditional policy for a single “democratic, secular state” in all pre-1948 Palestine. But Clark doesn’t mention this. Obviously, today, the likelihood of such a state being set up by Hamas or a conquering neighbour is nil.
Socialist Worker rarely goes into the details, and for good reason. When the position is thought through properly, it starts to look very dodgy, very quickly. It is a recipe not for democracy and working-class unity, but for an ethnic bloodbath.
Workers’ Liberty believes that the viable democratic solution to the conflict is an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, with self-determination for both the Palestinian Arabs and the Israeli Jews. Israel should pay heavy reparations to the new Palestinian state to make it viable and to compensate for the great damage it has inflicted on the Palestinian people.
That is a solution around which both the Palestinian and Israeli working-class can unite against their rulers. The destruction of Israel obviously isn’t.