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Vol. 74/No. 28      July 26, 2010

The fight for a democratic,
secular Palestine
The following is an excerpt from a piece that appeared in the Sept. 11, 2006 issue of the Militant under the title “For a Democratic, Secular Palestine: International Capitalism in Crisis—a Death Trap for the Jews.” It is based on a report by Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, that was approved by the party’s national committee in January 2006. It was adopted as part of a larger a platform by the SWP national convention in June of that year.

The Militant is running this excerpt as a contribution to the discussion of what road forward for the Palestinian people and their supporters in the fight for a democratic, secular Palestine. It helps shed light on the type of leadership that will be needed, including inside Israel itself, to build a revolutionary international movement that can unite Jewish and Arab workers and farmers and join the worldwide fight against exploitation and oppression.

The prospect of a “Greater Israel,” stretching from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, has ended for a decisive majority of the ruling class there. The United States, not Israel, has turned out to be the “promised land” for the Jews. This is reflected even in gross statistics. Of the world’s 13 to 14 million Jews, 6.2 million make their home in the United States, while 5.3 million live in Israel. As of a few months ago, the number of Israelis leaving the country since 2003 outpaced immigration by some 70,000 people.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian population in the territories under Tel Aviv’s control has grown to 5 million. That’s just shy of a majority… .

Of course, the imperialist United States will not be “the promised land” for Jews forever. The next great social crisis will settle that for those who live on hope rather than proletarian politics. But for several generations it has and continues to seem that way. The big majority of Jews who emigrated from Europe to the United States in the last half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th became workers in this country, many of them considering themselves socialists or communists of some variety. But the class composition of the Jewish population has changed dramatically over the past half century, with a majority of the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren of these immigrants moving into better-off layers of “rent” collectors among the middle classes and professionals.1

According to a study last year by the American Jewish Committee, the per capita income of Jews in the United States today is almost twice that of the rest of the population on average, while 61 percent of Jews had at least a four-year college degree versus 22 percent of the overall population….

So long as the imperialist system prevails, however, neither the United States nor anywhere else will be a “promised land” for the Jews for a long period in history. For Jews in this country, the consequences of the long hot winter world capitalism has entered will bring more—and much worse—than the mounting economic instability and insecurity that will hit widening layers of the middle classes. It will bring in its wake a new rise of fascist organizations that will target not just the labor movement, Blacks, women, and others among the oppressed and exploited, but will also lace their radical anticapitalist demagogy and conspiracy mania with Jew-hating filth and carry out physical assaults on Jews.

The U.S. bourgeoisie and their petty-bourgeois spokespersons—including many who are Jewish—promote comfortable assurances that “it can’t happen here.” But such delusions offer no greater protection to Jews in the imperialist United States (or Europe) than it did to those convinced in the 1920s and 1930s that they had fully “assimilated” into capitalist society in enlightened Germany… .

[T]he stakes continue to mount for the Palestinian people in forging a leadership adequate to the tasks before them, which remains the fight for a democratic, secular Palestine. The bourgeoisification and political retreat of the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization, described in “The Opening Guns of World War III” some 15 years ago,2 has proceeded apace. The PLO long ago exhausted its capacity to lead forward the Palestinian toilers in fighting for national liberation.

The bourgeois-nationalist opposition, Hamas, with its origins in the Muslim Brotherhood, neither has any alternative program or strategy to advance the struggle, nor offers more space to the proletariat to organize and act in the interests of the toiling majority of the Palestinian people.  
A road forward
A road forward out of this political morass can only—and will—come out of the response of new generations of working people and youth as the struggle continues on many fronts: fights for land; for water rights; for freedom of movement, freedom to travel; for jobs, decent wages, and union protection; for the release of political prisoners; for women’s equality; against the brutal operations of Tel Aviv’s cops, troops, and commandos; against war threats and mounting prospects for devastating military blows against sections of Israel itself; and many others. Neither we nor anyone else has a script or a timetable of how the forging of such a leadership, a communist leadership, will unfold in Palestine, or anywhere else in the world.

As for Israel itself, a revolutionary leadership that is proletarian internationalist to its core must be built there too—a secular, multinational leadership, with a substantial Jewish component in its makeup. This is a difficult task under the social, political, and military conditions prevailing in Israel. It won’t happen rapidly. And the Palestinian people will not wait, and cannot be asked to wait, for class divisions and conflicts to deepen enough inside Israel for such a process to take place.

Once again, no timetables. A communist leadership of Jewish and Arab workers and farmers—dedicated to the fight for a democratic secular Palestine, and for socialist revolution—can and will be built, however. It will be built as growing numbers of toilers come to understand that if this task is not achieved in time, there will be little left of that part of the world.

1. The high incomes of those in betteroff middle class and professional layers are accounted for by the fact that on top of any payment they may receive for the sale of their labor power (comparable to workers’ wages), their relatively privileged position in bourgeois society allows them to skim off a portion of the surplus value extracted by the capitalist class from the exploitation of workers. These excess sources of income, substantial for the individuals concerned, are called “rents.”

2. For more on the political evolution of the PLO see “Washington’s Assault on Iraq: The Opening Guns of World War III,” by Jack Barnes, in New International no. 7 (1991), pp. 105-109 (sixth printing, 2006).

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