To Liberate Palestine Needs Permanent Revolution
“The-times-they-are-a-changing”: as one well known Palestine Solidarity activist, of Jewish origin, recently said, evoking Bob Dylan in a call for the formation of a new Palestine solidarity movement in Britain. They certainly are! Criticisms of Zionism that were considered taboo just a few short years ago are now becoming so obvious that they will soon be mainstream on the left. That Political Zionism is Jewish supremacism is increasingly becoming common knowledge and entering the left mainstream, this stronger emphasis of many fighters for Palestine on this is to be welcomed. Political Zionism is indeed a Jewish supremacist movement.
The old prejudice that Zionism was simply a tool of Western colonialism, that was by that token not really Jewish at all, and had no independent agency of its own, is being dissipated by the radicalisation that has happened in Britain as a result of the experience of the orchestrated role of Zionism in undermining Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, where Zionist smear campaigns managed to reach where ordinary British imperialist chauvinism was unable to. This radicalisation has now been deepened, and on a world-wide level, by the victory of the Palestinian people in the Saif Al-Quds (Sword of Jerusalem) war of May 2021, which for the first time for decades united the Palestinian people from the River to the Sea in a struggle against Zionism, and forced Israel to make concessions and call a face-saving ceasefire much earlier than planned in the face of such Palestine-wide resistance, which threatened the very stability of the Jewish state.
The activist referred to earlier, Tony Greenstein, gets it almost right when he writes of the comparison between Zionism and the earlier struggle against South African apartheid:
“The campaign against Israel is different in one crucial respect from that against apartheid in South Africa. Whereas the latter had no domestic support base, apart from the capitalists, right-wing Tories and fascists, the Israeli state has a lobby that is strong and powerful.
“Israel has support within the Jewish community. The last survey by Yachad of British Jews in 2015 found that 59% identify as Zionists. However 31% said that they weren’t Zionists. This was down 13% on a similar survey 5 years previously.
“Despite the attempt to label BDS as anti-Semitic, 24% of British Jews support some form of sanctions on Israel. Among secular Jews this rises to 40% and among the under-30s it is 41%. Compare this with the Board of Deputies, which purports to speak for British Jews, which never criticises Israel. Zionist organisations have hijacked the voice of “British Jews”. British Jews are in the words of Barnaby Raine the Establishment’s ‘favourite pets: heroic colonists in the Middle East and successful citizens in the West.’”https://tonygreenstein.com/2021/07/why-we-need-a-genuine-palestine-solidarity-movement/
One important difference between South Africa and the Zionist state is that the latter has a powerful ethnic lobby as its base of support in the West that the Boer/Anglo regime never had, separate and distinct from the run of the mill bourgeois forces that over South Africa, as over Kenya, Malaya, Ireland, you name it, backed the West’s colonial allies in all its more conventional colonial type wars.
This reference to the Zionist Jewish establishment as ‘successful citizens in the West’ can only refer to the Jewish-Zionist bourgeois layers that use the power of their property and wealth to give rise to the ‘strong and powerful’ Israel lobby, which is primarily an ethnocentric lobby or faction within the bourgeoisie. Which is disproportionate in size simply because of the much higher proportion of Jews who have risen into the Western bourgeoisies over a prolonged period, a historical legacy of the social role of the Jews as a class of commodity traders under European feudalism. The younger, more secular Jewish layers who are less enamoured with Zionism’s crimes are obviously outside this bourgeois, ruling-class layer.
But the point about Zionist Jews who are ‘successful citizens’ (i.e. leading figures in the ruling class) being mere ‘pets’ is a misreading: they are much more valuable to the bourgeois establishment than that, a class-conscious reserve, previously mistakenly maligned from the standpoint of the gentile bourgeoisie, now among their most celebrated class brethren.
Israel is more than a Western pet in another sense, as typified by the Israeli arms company Elbit systems, whom Palestine Action’s activists, are organising against with great courage while being maligned by PSC. Elbit is no subsidiary of the West, it epitomises the imperialist nature of Israel and its overseas lobbies as a distinct force within the pantheon of imperialist powers. As we wrote recently:
“This is not some Western arms exporter supplying arms to a client, like Saudi Arabia in Yemen. This is an Israeli arms company that supplies high-tech weaponry to the West and its clients: to the British armed forces, those of the US, France, Italy, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, the Philippines; from military drones to night-vision equipment and other military surveillance equipment. Its military hardware is marketed as tested in action, i.e., against the Palestinian people. Israel is a far tougher nut to crack than any mere colonial outpost, it is an imperialist enemy in its own right. Therefore, you get the contradictory phenomenon where, while Israel sometimes acts like a Western client state, at other times the US and other Western powers act like Israeli client states. The overlapping of the ruling classes means there is an element of truth in both.”https://www.consistent-democrats.org/uncategorized/for-permanent-revolution-to-destroy-zionist-colonialism-and-ethnocracy/
The current scandal involving another Israeli hi-tech company connected with the Israeli military, NSO Group, and its spyware Pegasus, being used to spy on and steal the data of human rights activists, lawyers acting for the victims of political persecution, in numerous countries around the world, including that of Israel’s kindred anti-Muslim persecutor Modi in India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia (Israel’s client), Morocco, Kazakhstan, and Hungary whose right-wing nationalist government both fulminates against alleged ‘subversion’ from prominent Jews like George Soros, and is an Israeli client state. These things might seem incidental, except that they emphasise that Israel is in the vanguard of reaction, a quartermaster to imperialism generally and its repressive clients around the globe, and a danger to democratic rights wherever its operative go.
Zionism is a genocidal project in its own right; it always has been. Right from the beginning its aims were substantially different to movements with which is it often compared, such as the movement led by Marcus Garvey that advocated that the descendants of those Africans kidnapped and used as slaves by early Western capitalism, particularly in the Americas, should return to Africa. These movements were simply both utopian and limited in their aims: basically, to ameliorate the oppression suffered by the descendants of the enslaved by creating Black African states that they could ‘return’ to. Their forcible exile was real, and ‘return’ was no answer to their oppression. The outcome of that movement was the creation of two impoverished neo colonies in Africa, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, that have proved, because of their somewhat artificial nature, more impoverished and unstable than the more traditional African semi-colonial nations that neighbour them, and completely unable to liberate any black people.
The Zionist project was very different from these. Right from the very beginning, far from expressing hostility to imperialism and colonialism in any sense, Zionism modelled itself on colonialism. The effective founder of Zionism as a movement, Theodore Herzl, praised the British arch-coloniser of Africa, Cecil Rhodes, and sought to emulate him. It is now very clear that Zionism did evolve a strategy that indeed was able to liberate the Jews from the historic oppression that began in the late feudal period in Europe and persisted through both the progressive phase of capitalism and the early period of imperialist capitalism, culminating in the obscenity of Hitler’s genocide.
That strategy involved using the social weight that Jews had achieved in the imperialist bourgeoisie despite their frequent oppression and persecution, to create by transplantation an advanced capitalist, imperialist state in the Middle East, that could create the conditions where the bulk of Jews could be liberated from oppression by joining the world’s dominant, oppressor peoples. This strategy has proven highly successful as Israel is now, despite its comparatively small size and population, an imperialist regional superpower in the Middle East, armed with hundreds of nuclear weapons and an advanced, hi-tech computer-derived armaments industry that acts as a quartermaster to many of the most powerful imperialist countries.
However, it was not a universalist strategy that aimed to liberate Jews alongside all other peoples from systematic oppression. It always aimed to liberate Jews at the expense of another people, the Palestinian Arabs, whose population was actively unwanted. Logically the project of Political Zionism could only succeed if the Palestinian Arab population were expelled or otherwise disposed of. But mere expulsion is problematic as it means a large, exiled refugee population exists as a permanent reminder to the world that Israel is built on land taken by force from them, and thus was founded through a massive crime. So, the logic of Zionism can only be genocidal, and that is now becoming widely recognised.
Only Zionist lobbying power can keep the lid on this. The Zionist lobbies are a unique formation based centrally on ethnocentric Jewish chauvinist politics within the Western imperialist ruling classes. They are an alliance of similarly minded but sometimes dissenting factions – they are not monolithic. A Jewish-born capitalist in the West is entitled by right to Israeli citizenship under Israel’s racist ‘Law of Return’, and thus to become part of Israel’s ruling class. Many though not all do. Much of Israel’s power comes from these pro-Israel ruling-class factions overseas. Israel’s ruling class overlaps with the ruling classes of the West, which is why its power is proportionately much greater than its size and population. Without this, Israel’s power would be no greater than that of, say Denmark. But Denmark’s Prime Minister cannot do things like marching into the US Congress to ovations from all sides while denouncing Obama’s Iran deal, as Netanyahu did in 2015. Denmark does not have overseas interests who can do things like sabotaging the Labour Party here, as happened to Corbyn through a torrent of smears and lies.
We must know what we are up against. Otherwise, we will be suckers for the smears about ‘anti-Semitism’ that have driven back the left repeatedly. Israel is a key element of world imperialism and will not be defeated or humanised by liberal pressure tactics or boycotts based on moral disgust. While boycott campaigns like BDS have some value, this is only as a step towards mobilising working-class actions. Mass solidarity demonstrations like the ones in Britain are crucial. But even more the labour actions boycotting Israeli ships and/or arms shipments in San Francisco, Italy and elsewhere. These point the way toward internationally based working-class revolutionary action to inflict major defeats on Zionism, and indeed given Israel’s key role as a quartermaster and a centre of neo-liberalism, on world capitalism itself.
It is crucial, but not enough, to protest and mobilise against Zionism and imperialism’s wars, their crimes against the Palestinians, their threats to Iran, to Syria, and the region. What this points to is the need for a strategy of permanent revolution, of the working class acting as the leader of all the oppressed, with the centrally Arab working class in the Middle East struggling for its own power, overthrowing class and national oppression, liberating both itself and the Jewish population from Zionism which is a key mainstay of capitalist oppression.