Solidarity, Not Bourgeoisie Interests, Will Lead to Peace in Israel/Palestine

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

In her recent article on the new cabinet of Israel Ariel Gold excellently dispels the myth of a possible path that may be taken by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, especially with regards to the condition of the Palestinian people. The new cabinet is likely to continue with the established hostility towards any peaceful settlement with Palestinians, occasional battles with Hezbollah, blackmailing of the pliant Arab states surrounding it, and provocative propaganda against Iran.

For Al Jazeera’s Marwan Bishara, “in a confident and prosperous Israel, personal ambition trumps politics, and politicking outweighs ideology.” Thus, as he (Bishara) put it in a separate interview, Benjamin Netanyahu’s ousting was a ‘family feud’, not a signifier of any ideological shift. Indeed, most of the key figures in the new government served as ministers in the right-wing Likud-led government of Netanyahu.

It is reasonable to assert that the prospects of any changes that may be brought about by the new Israeli government are almost nil. As Bishara concludes: “Netanyahu may be finished, but short of a miracle, Netanyahu’s Netanyahus are here to stay.” The key concern for activists around the world therefore should be how the struggle for the liberation of the Palestinian people should continue to be prosecuted.

The successive governments of Israel have survived on the back of four planks. First, a ‘captive’ Israeli citizenry that may still believe that their government represents the interests of the Jewish people. The illogical conclusion of this fallacy is that, to avoid the painful history of the holocaust, Jewish people need a strong Zionist government to ‘protect them’.

Second, the  successive Israel governments have always relied on the support, both political and financial, from Western governments and big business, particularly the United States. But as Normal Finkelstein argues, the United States benefits financially through the exploitation of the memory of the holocaust.

Third, the monarchies and dictatorships that are the Arab States neighbouring Israel lack the political rectitude to apply pressure that is necessary in a geopolitical sense to extract concessions from the Israeli government. Pressure from neighbouring countries is always, as the case of apartheid South Africa showed, the best bet in forcing a belligerent regime into a political settlement.

In addition to their lack of political rectitude, which Israel always uses by always claiming that it is the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’ (another fallacy), the class interests of the oligarchs in the Arab states, which are in turn tied to the dominant country in the world currently, the United States, means that they will always be reluctant to exert any meaningful pressure on Israel.

Fourth, the lack of unity amongst the different Palestinian sections, especially between the PLO on the one hand and the mix of radical Islamists, notably Hamas, and other secular parties, has meant that the Palestinian people fail to speak in one voice. This absence of unity has led to the West insisting on the PLO being the ‘only and legitimate representative’ of the Palestinian people, resulting in violent episodes between different sections.

To counter and neutralise these strongholds of Israeli power certain conditions need to be fulfilled, or cultivated, for any form of liberation for the Palestinian people to be achieved.

In his short 1915 text on what should happen for a revolutionary situation to arise Lenin outlines three conditions: that the ruling classes must be unable to maintain their rule without conceding to changes; that the suffering of the oppressed should have reached an unbearable state, and they should no longer be willing to be oppressed; and, that the masses should be mobilised and engage in activities aimed at challenging their oppression.

Drawing from the above and setting out his own postulations James DeFronzo outlines five factors that must prevail for a revolutionary condition to arise. These are: widespread frustration that is expressed through mass protests against the regime; divisions within the ruling class, with elites rising against other elites; a common interest for liberation that unites all social classes; crisis within the machinery of the state, such that the regime should no longer be able to govern as before; and, non-interference by world powers to contain the revolution in support of the crumbling regime.

It is again clear that these conditions do not yet fully exist within both Israel and the occupied territories of Gaza and West Bank. But why talk about a revolution when the situation in Israel/Palestine is what some call occupation or settler colonialism?

Irrespective of the stance that one may take in regards the current situation, and the desired solution, whether a One State Solution or a Two States Solution, what is unavoidable is that the Israeli state as it stands now would have to be weakened for it to agree to any form of settlement. Thus, the lasting interventions must come from inside Israel/Palestine itself, of course not in a liberal sense that Western leaders and commentators assert, where a powerful regime is pitted against an oppressed people and expects them to hold meaningful negotiations.

Before attempting to articulate what may be done, let us consider the prospects, challenges, and limitations of some of the interventions that are currently being undertaken.

The Boycott, Disinvest, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against the state of Israel has been in full swing for several years. Drawing mainly on the successes of the campaign of a similar approach against apartheid South Africa, some of the efforts aimed at isolating Israel have led to remarkable positive impact.

Diplomatic efforts to put pressure on Israel through the United Nations systems, with the last being an investigation into the May conflict, have helped focus the spotlight on the excesses of the state. The limitation however has always been the fact that the US has always blocked any adverse resolution against Israel at the Security Council.

The few successes and continuous frustrations at the behest of the US mean that other approaches must be examined to accelerate the liberation of Palestine. In the first instance, the government of Israel will only be weakened once the ordinary people of Israel themselves begin to question their own government.

One of the weakest links in the Israel/Palestine struggle is the lack of a strong working-class movement that can resolutely expose the lie of the state of Israel to being the custodian of the Jewish people. The emergence of such a move will lead to a massive shift in how we understand and approach the Israel/Palestine situation, and how it may be resolved. As Franz Rieger and Francesco Merli point out:

What is needed in Israel-Palestine is a genuinely revolutionary Marxist organisation that can offer a concrete perspective for the revolutionary overthrow of the Israeli capitalist state and the establishment of the Socialist Federation of the Middle East, within which both the Israeli Jews and the Palestinian people could live peacefully along with all the other peoples of the region. Such an organisation has yet to be forged. Accomplishing this is the pressing task of the most progressive and radical workers and youth in the whole of historical Palestine.

Such a movement must rally both the Israeli and Palestinian workers for a common platform of their liberation from varied bourgeoisie interests that define the lack of resolution to the current situation. In addition, and for Jewish activists in particular, the ‘Not in Our Name’ campaign must be spread as wide and as deep within communities all over the world as possible.

In the absence of any divisions within the ruling classes within Israel and with the ‘new Netanyahus’ being in power, to use Bishara’s words, the best bet for the working class of Israel/Palestine is for those divisions to occur amongst the ranks of the Western states that support Israel.

What Israel/Palestinian working-class activists need to invest more in is the isolation of the United States among the league of its current pro-Israel allies. This will be a long haul, but it worked in the case of apartheid South Africa. Whereas the United States remained a strong supporter of the apartheid regime until the middle 1980s, it found itself isolated and with no choice but to abandon its friend. But this will not come easy.

The success of the BDS movement against apartheid South Africa and the eventual abandonment by the United States only happened due to relentless mass organisation inside the country, forcing the regime to request for negotiations with the liberation movement.

Arab states must also be forced by their own citizens to take a firm, not liberal, stance against the Israeli government. With these states under monarchies and dictatorships, corresponding working-class struggles must still be waged to force democratic reforms. The lessons from the Arab Spring revolutions must be applied, to avoid the containment of the revolution and it being hijacked by ruling class interests in places like Egypt and Tunisia.

Without doubt, the solution to the ongoing Israel/Palestine problem does not lie with the change of government, from one right-wing Prime Minister to another. The change lies in working-class solidarity between the Jews and Arabs of Israel/Palestine, working together to defeat the bourgeoisie interests that inhibit peace and prosperity.

Lekgantshi Console Tleane works for the University of South Africa. He can be reached at