Five Labour Party members have written an article ‘The AWL, Zionism and the struggle for equal rights in Israel/Palestine’ (bit.ly/20ma0WX) in which they accuse the AWL of being a “Zionist front organisation” outside the Palestinian solidarity movement (defined as being the PSC, BDS campaigns, Jewish Voice for Labour etc).
They accuse us of “justifying settler colonialism” and justifying “apartheid”. They accuse “powerful” organisations such as Labour Friends of Israel as organising a witch-hunt in the Labour Party.
These writers oppose a two-state settlement and seem to be for a single, democratic state — but the authors are coy, or confused, and don’t use this phrase, directly, to express their own views. They use these words: “universal exercise of full civil and political rights, as the basis for the freely expressed, democratic self-determination of both Jewish Israeli and Palestinian communities.”
Their document is a demagogic, self-righteous mess.
Where we stand
The Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL) is a revolutionary Marxist organisation. We say the Palestinian people are oppressed and that oppression must be opposed and ended.
The AWL is for a two states settlement between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples as the best possible, most democratic solution to the conflict. The Palestinian people have the right to a state alongside Israel, with the same rights as Israel. We have the same position as the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, the PLO/Fatah and the Israeli peace movement. Amongst the international trade unions and parties of the Second International the big majority are for Two States.
The AWL wants the Israeli and Palestinian workers to unite in the struggle for socialism and democracy, and considers mutual recognition of national rights to be the only basis for such unity.
Despite the right-wing governments in Israel and the US — hostile to the Palestinians — and the demoralisation created by the lack of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, the latest poll of West Bank public opinion (PSR, April 2018) still shows support for the Two State settlement at 48% (the One State solution has 28% support).
The Two States position is the popular, mainstream position, including among the Palestinian people.
It is not the AWL who is on the fringe of this debate in the international labour movement, it is our Single State critics.
All “solidarity” is good solidarity?
It is true, of course, that amongst the “Smash Israel” far left, the Morning Star Stalinists, and that broad swathe of left public opinion that these groups have mis-educated, Workers’ Liberty is often in a minority.
We favour solidarity with the Palestinians, of course. But that solidarity must be compatible with — not contradict — our overall aims. And, for the same reasons, we will not support any and all forms of Palestinian resistance.
For example, we oppose Hamas rocket attacks and Islamist suicide bombings. Such attacks are carried out by groups who want to destroy Israel and who have no interest in Palestinian-Israeli dialogue and reconciliation.
We, however, want workers’ unity and Hamas rocket attacks simply help the Israeli right to persuade Israeli workers that there is no chance of a peace settlement with the Palestinians.
Our critics object to describing Hamas as clerical fascist. They have not been paying attention. Or perhaps our radical critics think it impolite to define the nature of an “organisation of the oppressed” — something that really shouldn’t be mentioned at a South London dinner party.
Hamas toppled the PLO in Gaza using their own militias, a movement on the streets similar to a fascist movement. When Hamas came to power they purged Fatah and secular activists, killing some and driving others out of Gaza. They purged teachers, for example, and now to be a teacher in Gaza means being vetted by a Hamas mosque. At the same time they introduced stricter dress codes for school girls in a segregated education system.
Hamas also attacked the trade unions — the journalists’ and heath workers’ unions, for example — in Gaza. And Hamas used violence against opposition protests — for example, shooting at a demonstration held in memory of Yasser Arafat, killing several marchers.
The police, judiciary and other repressive institutions are entirely creations of Hamas, responsible to Hamas alone. Hamas have created a single-party, clerical, police state.
Hamas are clerical fascists. So in Gaza we not only oppose Israeli policy, but Hamas too. We defend the trade unions and workers in Gaza against Hamas. We defend secularism. We don’t forget we are Marxists.
We are not, in principle, against all boycott campaigns and we have been in favour of some targeted sanction campaigns against Israel. There is good reason, for example, to support a future Labour government introducing an arms boycott to pressure Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians.
BDS, as an overall strategy for Palestinian liberation, though, is counterproductive. The academic boycott, for example, is particularly stupid. Why should left wing British academics not travel to conferences in Israel, when their presence might well be useful, politically?
And why shouldn’t an Israeli microbiologist write for a European science journal?
This apolitical (without even any consideration of an Israeli academics politics, and without recognising that many in Israeli academia favour peace with the Palestinians) picking out of Israeli Jewish academics highlights how easy it is for BDS initiatives to slip into hunts for Jews.
Our alternative to BDS is direct links between the British labour movement and Palestinian and Israeli working class and peace organisations. In other words we have a positive, constructive alternative to BDS: don’t break links, make links for solidarity.
It is also to the point that our critics have no interest in the labour movement – Palestinian, Israeli or British. They do not write about the unions or labour movements. The AWL is Marxist and this is to the centre of our concerns.
Jeremy Corbyn has a position on boycotts of Israel which is similar to ours. Corbyn is also against a blanket boycott of Israel (without getting the idiotic abuse we receive).
Antisemitism on the left
In a particularly idiotic statement the critics condemn us for giving ourselves the right “to determine what and who is antisemitic, based on their own ideological criteria.” Yes, indeed, we are guilty of having our own ideas and using them systematically.
The AWL has a very long record of opposing antisemitism on the left. And, yes, we think we understand contemporary antisemitism.
The current — justified — furore in and against the Labour Party against critics of Israel who deny the right of the Israeli Jews to self-determination must be utterly mystifying for our radical critics.
How many states?
Our critics argue that Israel, the West Bank and Gaza have been governed as a single unit since 1967. That must be news to the people of Gaza who have been cut off and hemmed in by the Israeli state.
And finally, to deal with our critics’ version of a single, democratic (but not secular, apparently) state: “universal exercise of full civil and political rights, as the basis for the freely expressed, democratic self-determination of both Jewish Israeli and Palestinian communities.”
If this means anything they expect “good sense” will prevail, delivered by some mechanism as yet unknown to history. Let us assume magic is involved. Some unknown fairy will descend and, waving the fairy wand will persuade the Israeli Jews to do what no other people have done before. Despite the Holocaust, the experience of living among hostile states which would destroy them given half a chance, they would dismantle their state and blend into a society with an Arab majority.
Ta-da! Problem solved!
It would nice to be able to believe that the Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews – hostile enemies for decades — could fold themselves peacefully into a single state, without borders separating each side from the other. But, of course, the notion is a fantasy. Nonsense.
Given the scope, intensity and scale of the Arab-Israeli conflict no other solution is possible other than formal separation. Living in separate states for a long period of peace could ease the tensions and hostilities between the two peoples and lay the basis for reducing barriers and borders in the future.
And nowhere else is such a thing proposed. Would our critics suggest removing the border between, say, France and Germany, who have been at peace since 1945? No, the borders remain and peaceful cooperation within the framework of the EU has helped to bring the peoples closer together.
• Further reading, AWL pamphlet Two Nations, Two States bit.ly/2M75r0c