[Marxism] FW: Democratic Secular Palestine (Barry Sheppard)

Andrew Pollack acpollack2 at gmail.com
Fri Dec 15 07:20:09 MST 2017

it's also at

On Fri, Dec 15, 2017 at 9:16 AM, Richard Fidler via Marxism <
marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu> wrote:

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> A Democratic, Secular Palestine for All Its Peoples
> By Barry Sheppard
> As Israeli troops violently suppress Palestinian protests, what road
> forward for the Palestinian struggle is again being seriously discussed.
> An article in the December 8 New York Times with a headline “Two State
> Option, a Mideast Keystone, Is Sent Askew,” begins:
> “President Trump, in formally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of
> Israel on Wednesday, declared that the United States still supported a
> two-state solution to settle the conflict between the Israelis and
> Palestinians, provided it was ‘agreed to by both sides.’
> “For the first time in his 26 years as a peacemaker, the chief negotiator
> for the Palestinians did not agree.
> “Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the Palestinian Liberation
> Organization and a steadfast advocate for a Palestinian state, said in an
> interview on Thursday that Mr. Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
> of Israel ‘have managed to destroy that hope.’ He embraced a radical shift
> in the PLO’s goals – to a single state, but with Palestinians enjoying the
> same civil rights as Israelis, including the vote.”
> “ ‘They’ve left us with no option,’ he said. ‘This is the reality. We live
> here. Our struggle should focus on one thing: equal rights.’ “
> To understand how we got here, it is useful to review the historical
> development, beginning with the different approaches to the fight against
> the physical and cultural oppression of Jews in Europe, especially Eastern
> Europe. Zionism was always a generally rightist force within the European
> Jewish movement in the first half of the twentieth century, explicitly
> counter-posed to the socialist movement, including to Jewish socialists who
> outnumbered the Zionists. At times, the most reactionary Zionists even
> sought alliances with anti-Semites, since both sought the removal of Jews
> from Europe, although with opposing arguments. (There is an echo of this
> today, as the right wing of the Christian Evangelicals, who think all Jews,
> including in Israel, should go to Hell unless they convert to the
> Evangelical version of Christianity, yet they support Israel. Anti-Semites
> in the Alt-Right also support Israel.)
> After WWII, in the wake of the Holocaust, the Zionist movement gained
> strength. The British, French and U.S. imperialists threw their support
> behind the creation of a Zionist state in British-controlled Palestine.
> Without this imperialist backing, Israel would not and could not have been
> created. (Stalin backed the West in this endeavor but that’s another story.)
> The creation of Israel meant the dispossession of an estimated 500,000 –
> 700,000 Arab peoples, mainly Muslims and a large Christian minority, that
> had lived for over a millennium in what became Palestine. This created the
> Palestinian diaspora, in what the Palestinians refer to as the Nakba
> (catastrophe), an historical crime.
> Ever since, it has been imperialist political and material support with
> money, arms and imperialist threats against resisting groups and Arab
> states that has kept Israel alive. One example: without the massive
> emergency airlift of heavy weapons by the U.S. to Israel in the 1973
> Israeli-Arab war, Israel would have been defeated. (Then Israeli Prime
> Minister Golda Meir, later admitted that Israel, when it looked like it was
> losing the war, was ready to use nuclear weapons, which would likely have
> triggered Soviet intervention and World War III.)
> The objective of the Arab states involved in the 1973 war was to take back
> the areas Israel conquered in 1967, not to attempt to destroy Israel. That
> the Israeli leaders were ready to use atomic weapons to keep its conquered
> territories is relevant to this discussion about the Israeli reality today.
> What is the present situation? Israel occupied all of Palestine in the
> 1967 war, as well as the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. Later, the Sinai was
> returned to Egypt when Egyptian President Sadat capitulated to Israel, but
> the West Bank remained under Israeli control to the present day. Gaza, a
> heavily populated urban strip of land, is brutally suppressed, its borders
> on land and sea patrolled by Israeli forces.
> The actual borders of Israel have been for 50 years not the pre-1967
> “Green Line,” but the borders the Israeli armed forces defend, from the
> Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, from Egypt to Syria. Within these,
> its real borders, there is one currency, the shekel. There is one foreign
> policy, one army and navy and one government. (The Palestinian Authority is
> not the governmental power in the West Bank – it’s allowed to police the
> area, is responsible for some services, etc., but the real state power is
> the Israeli government.) The same is basically true in Gaza, and Israel
> every few years “mows the lawn” in Gaza to show who’s the boss.
> In short, there is one state already, between Egypt and Syria in one
> direction, and the Mediterranean and the Jordan in the other. The
> “occupation” is not temporary or subject to negotiation – i.e. the West
> Bank and Gaza are not occupied territory but conquered zones incorporated
> into Israel.
> Within this single state there are Arabs, Druse and others who are
> citizens of Israel within the “Green Line.” These are severely oppressed as
> second-class citizens – more accurately as oppressed nationalities -- like
> Blacks in the U.S.
> But Arabs and others in the West Bank and Gaza, who are under Israeli
> state control, are not citizens of Israel and have no rights. This is what
> makes Israel an apartheid state.
> Israel’s policy is to not only preserve the present apartheid state, but
> to reinforce it by continuing to build new settlements that are legally
> part of Israel and defended by the permanent presence of Israeli forces in
> the West Bank. The settlements are connected by roads to Green Line Israel,
> roads which Palestinians are not allowed to use. “No two-state solution”
> while he is Prime Minister, Netanyahu boasted.
> (We should note that there never was a real “two state” solution. Both
> Israel and the U.S. have always insisted that any Palestinian “state” could
> not have its own armed forces, could not control its own borders, nor have
> its own foreign policy – these would be under Israeli jurisdiction. That is
> not a state.)
> The “really existing” Israel is already a single state. The only question
> now is what kind of state – the present semi-theocratic Jewish supremacist,
> apartheid state or a democratic and secular one with equal rights for all
> its people?
> The latter position recognizes that Israeli Jews have become part of
> Palestine, and have been so for many generations. As opposed to all
> conceptions of driving the Jewish people out, a democratic state would
> encompass them as equal citizens. As opposed to a Jewish, Muslim or
> Christian state, a secular state would guarantee religious freedom for all
> and strict separation of religious institutions and the state.
> This is not a new discussion for me. In 1968, as a young leader of the
> Socialist Workers Party, I accompanied the SWP presidential candidate, Fred
> Halstead, in a trip around the world. Fred was a leader of the antiwar
> movement, and our main objective was to go to (south) Vietnam to talk to
> U.S. solders about the war. Among other objectives of our trip, one was to
> go to Cairo to interview people from a new Palestinian fighting
> organization, named Fatah. I did succeed in sitting down in my Cairo hotel
> room with two young leaders of the group who spoke English. It was from
> them that I first heard of the proposal for a democratic, secular
> Palestine. They explained that the leaders of Arab nations had sought to
> “drive the Jews into the sea,” and that this was wrong. The Jews were here
> to stay. Their solution was equal rights for all, in a democratic, secular
> Palestine. They were against Zionism, not Jews, they said. A photo of a
> Fatah slogan painted on a wall read “We fight Israel because it oppresses
> our people.”
> This was discussed in the SWP. In the preparation of our 1971 convention,
> I and Gus Horowitz (who knew a lot about Jewish and Israeli history, much
> more than I, a non-Jew) drafted a resolution on Israel that included
> support for a democratic, secular Palestine. This resolution was adopted by
> the SWP at the convention.
> How the situation on the ground has evolved not only since 1971, but for
> 50 years after the1967 war, with Israel becoming a full-fledged apartheid
> state, has not only made the arguments for a democratic single state more
> glaringly obvious, but a burning necessity.  The only realistic solution,
> as Erekat said, is a single state with equal rights for all. This position
> is gaining ground among Palestinians, as the two-state option fades into
> oblivion.
>  [The text of SWP resolution mentioned above is available on line at
> http://marxistupdate.blogspot.ca/2011/09/for-democratic-
> secular-palestine.html]
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