Opposition by socialists and consistent democrats to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in the occupied territories is proper, just, necessary and good. Many thousands of the new members of the Labour Party will naturally support the weaker side in this conflict, the Palestinians, and see them as the oppressed people that they are. Many who have never before given much thought to the Israel-Palestine conflict will begin to seek explanations, solutions, proposals and slogans to express their gut solidarity with the Palestinians.
Many will be won to what appear to be pro-Palestinian policies, slogans, and ideas that in fact, if you look at them closely, and relate them to Middle East realities, are not pro-Palestinian at all. They are anti-Israel, not pro-Palestinian.
For instance, though the official position of the Palestine Liberation Organisation is for a free and independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, where Palestinians are the majority, or were the majority in 1967, the ostensible left opposes that policy. They insist that Israel should cease to exist and give way to an Arab state in the whole of pre-1948 Palestine.
Since Israel will not agree to abolish itself, that means that Israel must be conquered in war, and forcibly put out of existence. Arab chauvinist and Islamic clerical fascist regimes must make war on Israel and destroy it. “Anti-Zionists” must back them in a war to destroy Israel. Leave aside the rights and wrongs of it. Israel is not going to be destroyed in the calculable future. It is too strong, it has strong allies, the Israelis will fight for survival. A policy that postpones any solution for the Palestinians until after the destruction of Israel is therefore a policy that condemns them to indefinite waiting.
Look closely and you’ll find that of the three sorts of political advocates of destroying Israel — Arab chauvinists, Islamic clerical fascists (far right political Islam) and the “anti-imperialist” left — none of them are all that concerned about the living Palestinian people. All three are far more anti-Israel than they are pro the Palestinians. In meetings, the pseudo left habitually vote down resolutions that demand Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories and the setting up of an independent Palestinian state there. Nothing less than eliminating Israel will do for them.
To all three of them the Palestinians are political tools, ciphers, the “good cause”, but not the real one. It was the Arab states that refused to let the three quarters of a million Palestinian refugees of 1948 work and build new lives for themselves. The great massacres of Palestinians were inflicted on them by Arabs — in Jordan in “Black September” 1970, in Lebanon in 1982. Newcomers to the Labour Party will find the self-proclaimed Left in an advanced state of political hysteria on these questions.
They will find — on internet discussions, for instance — people seemingly thinking of themselves as of the left who deploy the filthiest of old-style antisemitism. They face the danger of being politically and morally poisoned by the politically decaying old left. They will find that the distinction between “anti-Zionism” and antisemitism, is, increasingly, a small one. On some of the pseudo-Left it is ceasing to exist, or already, more or less, has.
New comrades should study the issues before deciding where they stand. This issue of Workers’ Liberty is produced to help them. It consists of part of the new book The Left in Disarray, and some older pieces.