22 April 2017

Is there a Hebrew nation in Israel and does it have the right to self-determination?

The overthrow of Zionism is incompatible with a Hebrew nation

My article in this week's Weekly Worker, is a reply to the article Palestine and Hebrew self-determination by veteran Israeli socialist and anti-Zionist, the founder of Matzpen, Moshe Machover.

It is a debate about something that people rarely debate any more in the Palestine solidarity movement, strategy.  We are so tied up with day to day solidarity that sometimes we don't have time to think just what it is we are fighting for and the arguments we employ.

This article is a work in the making.  It is not my final word on the subject but is part of a debate in which I to am open to being persuaded that my formulations are wrong.  However I do believe that the idea that what we are seeing in Palestine is a national conflict, between two nations, is wrong.  

The situation in Palestine is one of settler colonialism not national conflict.  The oppression of the Palestinians is not because they are a different nationality but because they are not settlers.  Theirs is the fate of all indigenous peoples.  Ask yourself if the colonisation of North America and the USA was a national conflict between the Amerindian peoples and the white Americans?  Or was it in essence what can be defined as the racial oppression and extermination of the other, the inferior races according to the American settlers who saw the Indians as little better than vermin?

Similarly in Palestine the conflict is, in essence, a conflict between the settlers and the indigenous.  It is not between two different nationalities.  It is accepted that when the Zionists came there was no Palestinian nation.  Most Arabs then considered themselves part of their tribe or clan or maybe as Syrian.  The Palestinian Arab nation was formed by the Zionist settlers.

 The conflict with the Arabs occurred because they were not Jewish.  Arab Jews, in particular from Yemen, were brought in by the European Jewish settlers to do the hardest work.  Being a settler in Israel is to be Jewish.  That was the first battle of Zionism.  To convert the 'Old Yishuv', the Jews who had been in Palestine before the Zionist colonisation began in earnest in 1904, to Zionism.

If we look to South Africa then the Whites, who would at the time of Apartheid resisted it bitterly, are White Africans.  It is the fate of the coloniser to eventually be assimilated to the indigenous population as happened naturally in ancient times with the Romans and the Greeks who assimilated to those they conquered.

What are we fighting for? I argue for a singe, unitary and secular state in Palestine and reject  Moshe's idea of a future Hebrew state as unrealistic.  Such an idea is not merely utopian but ignores the process that would lead to the defeat of Zionism.  Any attempts to resurrect or establish a Hebrew state in such circumstances, on the basis of a separate Hebrew nationality, could only be an attempt to rebuild Zionism.  It is the fate of Israeli Jews or Hebrews to become a non-Arab part of the Palestinian people.

tony greenstein

For a Secular, Democratic and Unitary Palestinian State

The overthrow of Zionism is incompatible with a Hebrew nation, argues Tony Greenstein, in this reply to Moshé Machover

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