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Submitted by DB on Fri, 17/12/2010 - 14:37

This is a very good report -- thanks for posting it. AWL has always been spot on to promote solidarity between Israeli and Palestinian workers and to oppose the anti-Israeli chauvinism embodied in the politics of reactionary "anti-imperialists" like Hamas and Hizbollah, and their supporters on the UK left. In the tradition of Marxists like Maxime Rodinson (whose work I was pleased to see featured on this site a few months ago) I also think AWL's position of 2 states is a fair one, although not always articulated in the correct way. Part of the problem was that the AWL focussed so much of its attention on defending Israeli self-determination and condemning the Islamists (and their supporters) that its supposedly "Third Camp" position often appeared to have morphed into a "First Camp" pro-Israeli ruling class one, with far more blame apportioned (or influence attributed) to the Islamist-inspired elements of the Palestinian resistance than to the Israeli politicians, military and settlers who provide the main practical barriers to the emergence of a viable Palestinian state. I think Sacha is right to say that it is such issues as these that "we in the AWL have not emphasised enough". I hope there'll be some debate in the AWL as to why this has been the case.

It's interesting that Alan Johnson's overview of Hal Draper's position on Israel/Palestine appears on the front page of the site at the moment. My understanding of Draper's view was that it was similar to Rodinson's, except the latter possibly influenced the former in moving to a more critical stance on the foundation of Israel in line with the leftist zeitgeist of the mid-to-late twentieth century. Rodinson argued (as a European Jew himself) that the creation of Israel was understandable, if not desirable. He was a key figure in convincing left-wing "intellectuals" after 1967 that Israel was a colonial settler state and not necessarily a beacon of progress and civilisation where a more advanced working class would take the first steps to socialist consciousness in the Middle East. But crucially he did argue that the Israeli people now constituted an established nation whose rights to self-determination were unquestionable, therefore advocating cross-national unity between Israeli and Palestinian workers. In spite of this, and like Draper, he still talked "tough" on Israel in a way that I'm sure would offend Sean Matgamna -- he denounced its rulers, its military, its settlers etc. for their dispossession of the Palestinians in 1948 and after, but that didn't lead him into support for the Middle Eastern despotisms which surrounded it, nor the Islamist forces mounting in and around Palestine itself.

Contrast much of this with Sean's response to Johnson's overview of Draper, which seems to me to characterise some of the best but also the very worst of the AWL's general attitude (or at the very least rhetoric) on Israel-Palestine (See it here). The usual scorn and invective is poured upon advocates of a bi-national or a single democratic state resolution to the problem, as Matgamna appears to suggest with complete and utter certainty that advocates of these propositions are essentially arguing in favour of genocide, and that a 2-state resolutiion is the only resolution any true socialist could ever conceivably support, regardless of the situation on the ground: indeed, settlements are not mentioned at all, not even once. He repeatedly reminds us that there can be "no rerunning of this history to get a better result..."

But I think Sacha Ismail's report is a good antidote to this. When you look at a map of Israel-Palestine in 2010, you realise how increasingly difficult a 2-state resolution will be to realise. Obviously, the more things continue as they are now, the more likely a 2-state resolution is to end in the same kind of apocalyptic scenario which the AWL likes to attribute to its opponents on the left. But my point is that even now Israel will have to make big concessions for this to work -- Sasha, for example, suggests the dismantling of a 150,000 population settlement; but is this not a "rerunning of history to get a better result"? How will it work? Who will have the political will to do it? Will the settlers dismantle voluntarily (unlikely given their right-wing political persuasion) or will a future Israeli government have to use coercion? Will it be strong enough? Could it even result in civil war? And what role will the Palestinians then have in this conflict? Given the situation with these settlements, would these kind of concessions and conflicts be any worse than those that would have to come about to achieve (for example) a single bi-national state? I'm not so sure -- I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

Finally, I'm also in agreement with Sacha on the question of boycotts -- they are a tactic, not a principle, and should be carefully targetted if they are to be effective; boycotts of Israeli goods are neither justified nor probably effective, but there's a sound case for saying that boycotts of settler goods probably are.

Thanks again. DB.

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