I am posting this important analysis of Israel’s Communist Party (Maki) by a veteran Israeli anti-Zionist Tikva Honig-Parnass. The Israeli Communist Party, in the form of its electoral front Hadash, has 5 out of the 13 seats of the Jewish-Arab Joint List in the Knesset.
This is an important article because Maki is a major component within the Joint List. It has traditionally been the largest party representing the Arab sector in the Knesset although not an Arab party. Maki is not, contrary to many peoples' beliefs, an anti-Zionist party. It is wedded to the two state formula, which means that it accepts the existence of a Jewish state. It also means it accepts an imperialist settlement of the conflict in Israel/Palestine which it defines as a conflict of two nationalities rather than seeing it as the outcome of a settler colonial movement which established a state which continued to colonise and settle the land, treating the indigenous population as tolerated guests at best. Although undoubtedly Maki has fought a brave fight against the attacks of Zionism against Israel's Arab population and has stood alone in this for many years, especially under the Labour Zionist governments up till 1977, it has never rejected Zionism per se.
The Israeli Communist Party (Maki):
DESIGNATING A STRATEGY FOR CHANGE WITHOUT CHALLENGING ZIONISM
By Tikva Honig-ParnassThe Israeli Communist Party, Maki, which is represented by Hadash in the Arab-Jewish Joint List in the Knesset and which has 5 out of the 13 seats that the Joint List holds, has had a chequered history. Its leader in 1948 Meir Vilner signed the Israeli Declaration of Independence and it followed Stalin in Moscow in recognising the Zionist state. In 1965 Maki split and the Jewish section led by Moshe Sneh moved off in a Zionist direction. The largely Arab part went on to form Rakah which became with the alliance with other small groups like the Black Panthers, Hadash.
Tikva Honig-Parnass was raised in the Jewish community of pre-state Palestine, fought in the 1948 war and served as the secretary of the then Radical Left Zionist Party of Mapam (The Unified Workers Party) in the Knesset ( 1951-1954). In '60 she definitively broke with Zionism and joined the ranks of the Israeli Socialist Organization, known as "Matzpen". Since then she has played an active role in the movement against the '67 occupation as well as in the struggle for the Palestinian national rights. She co-edited Between the Lines with Toufic Haddad
|Uri Avneri at Hadash Demonstration Against the Lebanon War 1982|
At the Marx Conference which took place on November 27, MK Dov Khenin, a leader of the Israeli Communist Party(Maki) gave a lecture named :"But the point is to change it" (Published in Hagada Hasmalit , November 28, where the entire sentence from the Theses on Feuerbach was posted: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it") The struggle against Zionism and its embodiment in the settler colonial state of Israel is fundamental to any strategy aiming at a thorough change of Israel and the entire region.
However, Dov Khenin presents his suggested road to change without uttering the word Zionism nor relating to the need to dismantle the Zionist colonial state as a necessary condition to his strategy for change.
Some would argue against my going back to the "original sin" of the old Stalinist Maki of 1948* for tracing today's Khenin and his Party's political positions. I refer to the old Maki ( The Israeli Communist Party) which was a signatory (through its leader Meir Vilner) of the infamous "Declaration of Independence". It took place on May 14 ,1948 when occupations of Palestinian towns and villages and the and brutal expulsions of their residents were already in full volume. Maki trailed the Soviet Union support for the 1947 UN Partition Plan which recognized a Jewish state and confirmed the Zionist claim for historic rights in Palestine, as emphasized in the Declaration.
|Judaism & Communism|
Indeed the Israeli Communist Party of (Maki) of today is not the same as the 1948 Maki from which it split during the '60 and later assumed its name. The present Maki heads the political alliance known as Hadash- actually, the heiress of Rakah- formed after split between a largely Jewish faction led by Moshe Sneh. Still, I mention the 1948 signature because the Israeli Communist Party , until this day has not made a true criticism of its conduct during all the years of Soviet rule nor has it examined its traditional position on the partition plan or its present form of 2 states solution .The different suggested border does not change the essence of this solution which in the long run does recognize a Bantustan state alongside a Jewish state.
** Thus, even if the present positions of Maki don’t derive directly from the 48' Stalinist pro-Zionist stance, the latter still echoes in Maki's lack of explicit self criticism and its self definition as "non Zionist ".
Maki's continued support for it's main faults of the past, is reflected in Dov Khenin's article: He Ignores the colonialist nature of Israel as a central characteristic that should be the starting point and base of any analysis of Israel's political regime and its class struggle. Hence, Maki's claim of adhering to Marxism-Leninism for designing its "strategy for change", appears to be but somewhat empty words as long as its political positions are not placed within the framework of Israel as a settler colonial state.
Dov Khanin presents the fronts and blocks which workers' parties created in the October and Chinese Revolutions ( as well as Gramsci's writings) as models on which "the class project should be based" :"The common denominator of these examples" he says, "is that revolutionaries' seek to see in their societies the " actual lines of collisions and thus create a power that can advance the revolutionary change."
This is how Khenin applies these examples to in his analysis of Israeli society today and the strategy for its change: Israel is prey to one of Late Capitalism characteristics, namely the way in which it "dismantles social structures with the aid of Globalization and its economic and ideological hegemony." Hence, "We should do today what Marx[ists?] did then- to trace the subjects for change in our society. Of course the working class is such a subject. But the Israeli working class is complex and weak. It is very large but fragmented.[..]
The challenge is to crystallize a new historic block in which "the working class is significant but not exclusive." This Block should include all the oppressed groups in Israeli society which " more than any other society in the world suffers from a lot of deep and true wounds beyond the class dimension."
These wounds include : "THE NATIONAL wound of the Palestinians, and also of the Jews, the ETHNIC [MIZRAHI] wound which stems from the melting pot[The false declared policy aimed at creating one homogeneous people out of the variety of immigrant Jews) that erased traditions and cultures, GENDER wounds which stems from a patriarchal society, etc."
The Task of Maki is to understand the concrete political role of these wounds which are exploited as a mechanisms for preserving the system". Khenin presents the "Mizrahi wound" as an example: "[It} has been formed against the establishment elites of the labor movement' and thus became "the base for the historic block which keeps the rule of the Right."
According to Khenin another essential problem of "this land" [in addition to its "wounds "] is the weakness of the class struggle. The labor movement (Mapai and Labor) is historically responsible for it, since "Like any other Social Democracy it evaporated the idea of class struggle."
The use of the term the "national" wound which Khenin uses for "Palestinians and also Israelis", echoes the Zionist left conception of a "national conflict" between two peoples who have right one land, rather than seeing the conflict as that between colonizers and colonized. Hence, Khenin is carefyl not to point to the source from which the "national wound" stems as he does for the other two- the Mizrahi and gender wounds. Further, The national issue is reduced to just one of the many "identity wounds" which characterize Israel as if it is just another Nation-state which the examples of the October or China revolutions rather than the anti colonial liberation movements apply to it.
Elaborating on the "national wound" would have required Khenin to explicitly express his position towards Zionism and Israel as a settlers colonial state and society which dictates the nature of its class struggle and the real strategy for its revolutionary change - dismantling the Zionist apartheid state.
Furthermore, in accord with Maki's traditional support of 2 states solution Khenin ignores the fact that Israel already rules the entire historic Palestine and would continue ruling it for many years to come. No doubt this is an additional factor which necessitates a re-thinking of the nature of the class struggle out side the box of pre '67 Israel to which Khenin limits his analysis. To be on the safe side he does not mention even the '67 occupation and focuses his proposal for political strategy on 'Israel proper' alone.***
All in all the communist Party in Israel has not passed through a significant radical change towards an anti Zionist stance which derives from a solid Marxist, anti Imperialist and class perspective. The need of such a revolutionary party is at present acute more than ever.
* Maki was a descendant of the Palestinian Communist Party (PCP), which changed its name to MAKEI (the Communist Party of Eretz Yisrael) after endorsing partition in 1947, and then to Maki. Members of the National Liberation League, an Arab party that had split off from the PCP in 1944, rejoined Maki in October 1948, giving the party both Jewish and Israeli Arab members
** Israel Poterman: The Soviet Union Support for the Partition Plan- vision and Reality, Hagada Hasmalit January 31 2004).
*** Ill spare the reader from a detailed report on Khenin's pathetic self appraisal experience in creating the right block in "A Town For Us" – a list which ran in the elections to Tel Aviv municipality in 2008 and 2013.( It yielded 5 and 3 out of 31 members in the Tel-Aviv Municipality Council, respectively.)