Is there a Left Alternative to the Middle East question?
by Artem Kirpichenok
Today even the great majority of capitalist politicians and journalists admit that they do not have a program that can resolve the Middle East crisis. Most of them back the continuation of peace negotiations between Arafat and the Israeli government. But it is clear that such negotiations cannot change the present situation in which Palestinian lands are dependent on Israel economically and politically. Neither can negotiations end the old animosity between Israelis and Palestinians. Any talks where the USA acts as the mediator cannot overcome the stumbling blocks of the status of East Jerusalem and the return of Palestinian refugees.
In the epoch of the crushing domination of the world market by imperialism, the poison of nationalismZionism, Arab nationalism and Islamic fundamentalismis another barrier to peace. In the light of these problems, which the politicians repeatedly come up against, many people say, We cannot change anything! However, something can be done. The Marxists understand that We can do something! We know what to do! This is because they are not limited by nationalist mythology or free market utopia. It is Marxism, genuine communism, and the left in general, that can open up new ideas that can lead to the solution of the problems of the Middle East. How can the revolutionary left do it?
Israel is main obstacle to peace
The state of Israel in its modern form is the main obstacle to peace. Israeli Imperialism, and that of its close ally, the United States, is the most reactionary power in the region. In Israel there is no constitution, there are no genuine civil rights. The religious institutions control every aspect of public life. Israel is also one of the strongest proponents of capitalist liberalization and globalization policies in the region. Therefore, it is impossible to move towards peace in the Middle East without a radical change in the structure of the Israeli state.
The starting point in this transformation has to be the evolution from a Zionist state to a multi-national, democratic community. In reality, a multi-national community already exists in Israel, but who in the Israeli Knesset recognizes this fact? Nobody! In Israel today there are 1.5 million Arabs, 400,000 foreign workers, thousands of people registered as Jewish, who are Russian or Polish or Ethiopian, etc. Up until this year ones nationality was indicated in everyones identity card.
Just as in the former Soviet Union, this was used to discriminate against the so-called bad nationalities. But the abolition of this has not meant evolution towards a more humane system. The Zionist ruling class is merely using it to whip up hysteria among Jews about how many non-Jewish people live in Israel. All these national groups, who are being squeezed under the Zionist regime, represent very important, potentially revolutionary resources.
Towards a secular Palestine
The movement towards a secular state will make it possible for the return of thousands of Palestinian refugees to Israel. Although it is an absolutely necessary process, allowing Israel to gain the trust of the Arab people, the return of Palestinian refugees will pose new problems. Here we can learn from the experience of South Africa. Negotiation commissions will need to be created to decide possible disputes that arise between different parts of the population.
However, normal relations between Israel and Palestine will not be possible without changing the economic system. Today Israeli capitalists actively exploit Palestinian lands, while in rich and developed Israel, Palestinian people live in poverty. Only socialist economic changes can offer an alternative.
We must also not ignore the Palestinian component of the Middle East problem. The Arafat administration must be replaced by a revolutionary leadership. The Arab people and the Arab left must fight against extreme nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism. Even now the Palestinian administration has lost control and authority among the masses, who need to build a fighting, socialist leadership that can seek unity with the working people in Israel who are also being oppressed by the Israeli state.
If all these changes become reality we will be entering one of the greatest revolutions of our time. The Arab world, which has great revolutionary energy, will be united with the high level of education and technique that exist in the highly developed Israeli economy. It will be a powerful shock to the hegemony of US imperialism in the world.
The collapse of the Soviet Union started from movements in the satellite, peripheral countries. A similar development today in the Middle East could well lead to the overthrow of capitalism in the USA itself.
In this struggle we, the Marxists and our left allies, can play a very important role. Thousands of Israelis and Palestinians live and study abroad, in Europe and America. We must open up a dialogue with both peoples and must show them who is their real, common enemy, the reactionary Zionist state. We have a real alternative and will gladly explain it.
December 19, 2000. Artem Kirpichenok is a Russian Jew living in Israel.
Editors note: While we agree in large measure with the politics of the above article by Artem Kirpichenok, we disagree with the author when he equates the nationalism of the Israeli oppressor with the nationalism of the Palestinian and other Arab oppressed nations. (See June issue of Socialist Viewpoint for a full explanation of this point.)