By John Leslie, Left Voice, September 13, 2016
Jack Barnes, Socialist Workers Party National Secretary
Editor's note: For much of my political life, I viewed the U.S. Socialist Workers Party (SWP) as the leading revolutionary socialist current squarely based on the revolutionary legacy of the short-lived Russian socialist revolution. Unfortunately, the SWP leadership centered around Jack Barnes has been on a retreat from its revolutionary socialist heritage since the early 1980s. For some time now, the SWP has become an insular sect while calling itself the "communist current" and all others "petty bourgeois." At the same time, it has been subject to the pressures from the capitalist class offensive and the rot of the labor movement and the socialist movement in the United States and much of the world. One of the latest manifestation of this retreat is the SWP's accommodation to the U.S. imperialist government and "liberal" Zionist position that favors "a two state solution" to the "Palestinian problem."
When Yasser Arafat signed the so-called peace accords with Yatzhik Rabin on September 13, 1993, the SWP saw it as consummation of the process bourgeoisfication of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. And until recently, the SWP continued its call for a democratic secular Palestine where Palestinians and immigrant Jews can live as a nation. The idea of the democratic secular Palestine originated from the fifth national council of the PLO in 1969. It is still supported by a small sector of Palestinians, Jews and others.
In its July 25, 2014 the Militant ran an editorial that suddenly broke with its decades old support for a democratic secular Palestine and instead opted for the two-state "solution" urged by the U.S. government and the liberal Zionist groups that worry about the demographic dynamics that would place the Jewish population in a minority should Israel annex the rest of Palestine. The editors called for:
❖ Recognition of a Palestinian state, as it is today, as a stepping stone to fight for a single, viable geographical homeland for the Palestinian people.
❖ Recognition of Israel, as it is today, both a Jewish and increasingly multinational secular state. This includes the right of return for the Jews, which will become increasingly relevant as the world crisis of capitalism kindles Jew hatred as a reactionary bludgeon against fighting labor.
Notice that The Militant editorial comes in the middle of Israeli war against the 1.8 million Palestinians squeezed into less than 141 square miles who have no army or air force to defend themselves against the most modern and powerful air force, navy and army in the Middle East courtesy of U.S. imperialism. More than 2,100 Palestinian, the great majority civilians including hundreds of children were killed by the Israeli army during the war. Only 66 military and 7 civilians were killed on the Israeli side. Yet, the editorial place the primary responsibility on the Hamas: "Hamas terrorism and murderous retaliation of Tel Aviv’s armed forces." Thus, the Militant editors turn the victim into the criminal--in another twist of historical facts, they air the Israeli government;s claim that it was Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel and that forced them into waging a genocidal war. Thus, the Militant editorial position anticipated self-identified Zionist politician Senator Sanders' depiction of the Gaza War--that it was in retaliation against "Hamas' terrorism" but the Israeli government "overreacted."
The Militant editors call for the "right of return" for Jews citing the world crisis but not the right of return for Palestinians which has been a central demand of the Palestinians and the SWP's historical position. But the entire idea of a supposed "right of return" for Jews to Palestine was cooked up by the Zionist colonial-settler movement after it gave up plans for creating a "Jewish Homeland" somewhere else after reaching an agreement with British imperialism after World War I to carve up Palestine for a Jewish State. There is no other basis for any "right of return" of Jews to Palestine. Jews have lived for a very long time in many countries of the world and they are from various races and ethnic groups just as Muslims and Christians. But the Palestinians were forced from their home and homeland in millions by the Zionist colonial-settler terrorism and war by the Zionist colonizers. The poorest are still living in refugee camps in the Middle East. Those in the West Bank in effect live under military occupation and their land is gradually being taken from them for new Zionist settlements. Those in the Gaza Strip are even worse off even though the Israeli army dismantled settlement and withdrew in 2005 because the Zionist State has imposed a harsh land and sea blockade and has waged three murderous wars against its population since 2005. The Gaza Strip is in reality the largest open air prison in the world. The Palestinians who still remain inside Israel have been second class citizens subject to ongoing racism--how else can life be for non-Jews in the Jewish State? So, what happened to the Palestinian right of return? The SWP that now recognizes the colonial-settler Jewish State as legitimate cannot possibly accept the right of return of the Palestinians because many of them were expelled from their homes inside the territory of the Jewish State. Finally, the Militant editorial concerns about the safety and security of Jews given the deteriorating world situation seems a bit bizarre. What happened to the concern for war against "terror" waged by American imperialism that has targeted Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians? Is not rightwing backlash in the U.S. causing Islamophobia? Are not African-Americans being targeted in their churches and home and streets by outright racists and the Police? Are not Latinos being deported en mass and being threatened by one of the two main Presidential candidates? If fact, while Jews certainly face anti-Semitism from the same neo-fascists and rightwing forces in the U.S. and in Europe, they are not the main target of the imperialist and capitalist offensive.
The U.S. and Israel just concluded an agreement for the highest level of military aid in Israeli history: $38 billion over the next ten years. Here is what President Obama said about the military aid and U.S. policy towards Israel:
"As I have emphasized previously, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine. Ultimately, both this MOU and efforts to advance the two-state solution are motivated by the same core U.S. objective of ensuring that Israelis can live alongside their neighbors in peace and security." (Haaretz, September 14, 2016)
Does it not sound like the Militant editors call for the two-state solution? Meanwhile the offensive to stifle any criticism of the colonial-settler Jewish State continues. Just two days ago, the administration of the University of California, Berkeley, suspended the Ethnic Studies course "Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis" because it critically examines the history of Zionism (see the students protest letter here). In March the Regents of the University of California passed a resolution that equated anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism and aimed to ban it (see, here for a report). This campaign has been spearheaded by the rightist Israeli government to stop the increasingly successful Boycott Divest, Sanction (BDS) Movement popular among the youth and on campuses. Of course, there is a world of difference between Zionism as the colonial-settler movement that established the racist Jewish State and anti-Semitism. While Anti-Semitism as anti-Jewish prejudice has a long and horrific history mostly in Europe and it must be opposed by all, it is a fraud to equate anti-Zionism and opposition to the colonial-settler Jewish State as Anti-Semitism. The same logic would make the Black Lives Movement into an anti-White racist movement.
The SWP has caved in to this type of pressure imposed by American imperialism and Israeli government. The following article documents the SWP's retreat from unconditional defense of the Palestinian right to self-determination citing its historical positions that are still the best guide for those who wish to unite the working people on the basis of unconditional defense of the Palestinian right to self-determination and by fighting anti-Semitism to achieve peace in the Middle East. KN
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