[Marxism] Israel, South Africa and the single-state non-solution

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jul 28 20:49:49 MDT 2010

James Holstun wrote:
> And if you reject the one-state solution, and see the two-state
> solution as "another chimera," what model do you favor instead, and
> what historical tendencies do you see towards its realization?

I am totally opposed to a single Jewish state that would give the 
Palestinians in the West Bank the same "rights" that Palestinian 
citizens in Israel supposedly "enjoy". That is exactly what Moshe Arens 
is proposing. And Ali Abunimah, Virginia Tilley and Jonathan Cook are 
wrong to see anything more than this in the rightwing Israeli proposals 
for a single state.

I am for a secular and democratic Palestine. I know that this is not the 
position of either the PLO or Hamas, but that is the only thing I can 


A democratic, secular Palestine

Usually, struggles for national self-determination take the form of the 
oppressed nation demanding the right to separate from the oppressor 
nation and form its own independent state, as today in Puerto Rico, 
Quebec or British-occupied Ireland.

Palestine presents a different variant. There, national oppression was 
carried out by the establishment of a colonial-settler state through the 
forcible partition of the country and the expulsion of much of its 
indigenous population.

The demand for a democratic, secular Palestine arose out of this 
specific history. It flows from the reality that the Israeli state is 
anti-democratic, since it denies the rights of the majority of the 
country's indigenous inhabitants and prevents them from returning or 
even participating in its future.

The PLO calls for a secular state in opposition to the sate of Israel 
where Jews, by virtue of their religion, are granted rights that are 
denied to Christians and Muslims. Jewish religious law bears down 
heavily on Israeli life, regulating everything from marriage to public 
transportation. The fight for separation of church and state has been a 
part of the program of democratic revolutions for more than 200 years.

Finally, the demand for a unitary Palestinian state addresses the 
forcible partition of "an indivisible homeland".

Much of the Israeli left and many Jewish leftists around the world are 
imbued with the contradiction of supporting the existence of Israel and 
an end to the national oppression of Palestinians. But the national 
oppression of the Palestinians cannot be ended as long as the Israeli 
state is maintained. Self-determination for the Palestinian Arab nation 
means the dismantling of the Israeli state and its racist, colonialist 
institutions. How can the Palestinians exercise their right to national 
self-determination if they are not allowed to return to their country? 
Yet if the Palestinian Arabs do return, and are accorded their full 
rights, then, as the Zionists themselves point out, it would mean the 
end of Israel as a separate Jewish state.

To demand self-determination for the oppressor nation robs the concept 
of national self-determination of its democratic content. It gives the 
oppressor nation — in this case the Israeli Jews — a veto f the 
oppressed nation and thus guts the demand for self-determination of the 
oppressed nation.

At the moment the majority of the Hebrew-speaking workers in Israel 
support the maintenance of the Jewish state. This support helps keep 
them ideologically enslaved to the Israeli capitalist ruling class, 
blocking them from fighting for their own class interests. Unless and 
until the Israeli Jewish working class ends its support for the Israeli 
state and supports the demand of the Palestinian Arabs for a united, 
democratic, secular Palestine, it will remain the "cat's paw" of Zionist 

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