We live in a time reminiscent of the 1930s: a deep crisis of world capitalism, which forces humanity to face the historic alternative: socialism or barbarism. In many countries, mass movements are breaking out today, seeking a way out of the dead end of the decaying imperialist system.
Israel is no exception to capitalism’s crisis, with poverty rising and opportunities for young people diminishing. Of course, for the Palestinian people who are the Israeli state’s dispossessed and terrorized victims, the effects of capitalism’s crisis are not only so much worse, but they are also inseparable from Zionist colonial rule. Indeed to even compare the two experiences of deprivation seems an injustice to the Palestinians.
Last summer’s Israeli protest movement for “social justice” initially shocked the country’s rulers with its power, but it subsided and then disappeared without winning any demands. We in the Internationalist Socialist League (ISL) believe that this confirms our warning that struggles by Israeli Jews against capitalism’s worsening economic injustice are doomed unless they break from Zionist chauvinism, take up demands in defense of the Palestinians against worsening Zionist oppression, and come to see the Palestinians as the great force for revolution against capitalism, from the river to the sea.
The fact is that the Israeli state is itself a capitalist injustice ... to the Palestinians, whom it rules with ever-worse apartheid discrimination inside Israel, to the refugees and their descendants who were ethnically cleansed from their homeland by the Zionists and condemned to life in refugee camps, to the Gazans whose “peaceful” suffering under Israel’s blockade is regularly interrupted by murderous Israeli missile attacks and military incursions, to the Palestinians of the West Bank who lose ever more of their territory to Zionist settlers while the Palestinian Authority represses them on behalf of the Zionists.
For as long as the racist, colonialist foundations of the Zionist state go unchallenged, its capitalist rulers will maintain control. If struggles inside Israel do not break the limits of Zionism and support the Palestinians’ leading role in the fight for social justice, the deepening capitalist crisis will spur the intensification of the Zionist state’s logic of victimization and oppression. The pogroms faced by Israel’s communities of African immigrants are only the latest example of this. But as Israel’s rulers run out of victims to blame, they will find new ways to target working-class and poor Israeli Jews too.
This reality does not stop reformists in Israel from promoting the idea of a welfare state as an alternative to the country’s supposed “extreme capitalism”. But the capitalists can no longer afford the welfare-state policies that “labor-” and “socialist-Zionism” once promised Israeli Jews at the expense of Palestinians. It is no coincidence that this year’s attempts to revive the Israeli “social justice” protest movement have met with violent police repression from the beginning: not only can the Israeli ruling class not afford to make serious economic concessions to the protesters, but they know that they can rely on the support of masses of more committed Zionists to accept the need to put the strength and stability of the Zionist state before concerns of rising poverty and injustice among Israeli Jews.
The repression began with the violent arrest of the activist who started last year’s protest movement, Daphni Leef, as well as others on June 22, during which Leef suffered serious injuries. The next day, thousands protested in Tel-Aviv against the violence, under the slogan “police state”. Several protesters broke into two banks in the Rabin Square area and broke windows. Afterwards, protesters also blocked roads. Large police and Yasam (riot squad) forces arrived, confronted protesters and arrested 85 of them, claiming that protestors did not have the appropriate permits. But there is no doubt that the police was waiting for an opportunity for such a crackdown. Yonathan Levi, one of the leaders of the social protest, said that among activists “there is a strong feeling that the police received orders from the highest ranks in the Israeli political system that the protest will not take place this summer ... people arrived calm and happy to the protest last night – like in all the previous protests, and faced unprecedented violence from the police”.
Of course, we in the ISL recognize that most Israeli working-class and poor people, and perhaps most of today’s Israeli Jewish protesters, will not accept a perspective that places the concerns and struggles of Palestinians first and foremost when it comes to the struggle for “social justice”. But an important number of protesters can at least be won to fighting against today’s ongoing Zionist attacks on Palestinians, with basic demands like:
Stop the Theft and Destruction of Palestinian Homes!
Stop the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, Jaffa, Al-Ludd and the Negev!
Stop the Settlements! Down with the Wall!
Down with Discrimination Against the Palestinians in Housing, Employment and Social Service!
Down with the Blockade of Gaza!
The fight to adopt such demands will run into the resistance of right-wing Zionists among the leaders of the protest movement. Last year, the leaders of the movement used the cover of opposing politics in order to build the broadest possible front (including the political right) to refuse to defend the Palestinians. But this perspective divides the protesters from the Palestinians and reinforces Zionist chauvinism. A perspective that builds unity with the Palestinians and a defense of them against new attacks as well as protesting the economic injustices that Israelis face would be far better, even if it mobilized smaller protests. It could bring much needed support to Palestinians and by taking a stand in defense of the poorest and most oppressed victims of the Israeli state, it would make it more difficult for the protest leaders to neglect the economic demands of the poorest Israeli Jews as well, which was another feature of last year’s movement.
Such a movement, even if smaller, would represent a real threat to the Israeli ruling class and would thus be more likely to win concessions. Importantly, it would open the way to a real solidarity with the broader Arab revolutionary struggles that continue to rock the region and challenge the states that have been so important in enforcing imperialism’s interests in the region.
We in the Internationalist Socialist League believe that the wave of revolutions that have rocked the Arab world in the last eighteen months has only just begun. Starting as popular uprisings of all classes of people demanding democracy, we believe that the working class and poor people will increasingly come to the fore of the mass struggle and learn that their democratic freedoms can only be secured with the overthrow of capitalism. We believe the state of Israel will prove to be no exception.
In our pamphlet Can Israeli Protests Aid Palestinian Liberation?, as well as in articles on our website, we explain at greater length how we stand for an uncompromising struggle for the rights of the Palestinian people, including the full right of return for all Palestinian refugees. We recognize that this demand alone dooms Zionism’s racist project of a Jewish state in Palestine. We celebrate the perspective of a Palestinian state from the river to the sea, in which Jews will have the right to live, free from any form of religious or ethnic discrimination, but without any special rights to claim territory, property or political power at the Palestinians’ expense. But we are convinced that such a perspective of freedom and justice is incompatible with imperialist capitalism. It will only be achieved by revolutions of the system’s primary victims, the working class and poor. In Israel’s case, this will be achieved primarily by the masses of Palestinian working-class and poor people, along with their allies among Israeli Jews.
We are dedicated to building a revolutionary party of the most class-conscious working-class and poor people to lead this struggle. We urge everyone who is interested in learning more about our ideas to contact us.