Moroccan Marxists interview Yossi Schwartz in Israel

The idea that Israel is a class divided society like any other is not often discussed within the left in the Arab world. Here the Moroccan Marxists have interviewed an Israeli Marxist on the situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories, who explains the need for a socialist perspective and the struggle for internationalism and working class unity across borders.

The idea that Israel is a class divided society like any other is not often discussed within the left in the Arab world. Here the Moroccan Marxists have interviewed an Israeli Marxist on the situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories, who explains the need for a socialist perspective and the struggle for internationalism and working class unity across borders.

1) Could you give some information to our Arabic readers about you, about your group and your program?

I was born in Palestine during the British occupation and have been a left-wing activist since I was 19. At that time I joined the Communist Party. The party split in 1965 and I remained with the wing supported by the Soviet bureaucracy. I left the Communist party in 1967 in opposition to its support to the Israeli ruling class.

After I left I was one of the founders of the New Left in Israel, a left wing petit bourgeois movement but later I realized that only the working class can change society and since then I have considered myself a Trotskyist.

We have a very small group in Israel with a few sympathisers. Our main task today is to spread the ideas of genuine Marxism within the Israeli working class and youth and to build a Marxist Tendency within the Israeli labour movement. Now, for the first time in many years, I can see a window opening for us.

Israeli society has changed very much in recent years. There was a time when Israel was able to guarantee full employment and improving livings standards to the people living here. Now unemployment has shot over the 10% mark. The government is constantly cutting back on social spending. It has attacked pensions, education, healthcare and so on. We now see beggars on the streets of Israel! There is a growing divide between rich and poor.

Like in any other country, Israel is a class society. There is a working class, a Jewish and Arab working class. There is also a ruling class. And there is class conflict as the many strikes testify.

We believe the working class will be forced to move against its own oppressors. Sooner or later this will come. We base ourselves on this perspective. Through the class struggle things will become clearer.

The national question enormously complicates our task here. While the working class in Israel is oppressed by its own ruling class, Israel as a state oppresses a whole people, the Palestinians. So long as the Palestinians are oppressed there will be no genuine freedom for the Israeli workers. Part and parcel of the struggle of the Israeli workers for their own emancipation is the struggle for the rights of the Palestinians.

Our programme is for a workers' federated state where the Israeli nation and the Palestinian nation each will have their own territorial autonomy as part of a wider Socialist Federation of the whole of the Middle East. This can only be achieved in the long run as part of the world socialist revolution.

2) How do you see the situation in Gaza now? What is the reaction in Israel itself?

The situation in Gaza is terrible. The people there are forced to live in atrocious conditions. Gaza is like one massive open prison. The people of Gaza are being punished because they have refused to be taken in by the manoeuvres of Israeli and US imperialism. They voted out the corrupt administration of Fatah and voted massively for Hamas. They saw Hamas as being more of an alternative. This is tragic because the Palestinians always had a lay and progressive tradition. Hamas cannot solve the problems of the Palestinian people, but the Palestinian people have a right to vote for whomever they wish. Israeli propaganda goes on about Israel being "the only true democracy in the Middle East" but as soon as the Palestinians vote for someone they don't like they bomb them. Where is the democracy in this?

It is clear that the Israeli ruling class was merely looking for an excuse to reinvade the Gaza Strip. They were constantly provoking the Palestinians. Let us not forget the tragic case of that family destroyed by Israeli missiles while enjoying a day on the beach, and all the other provocations. The aggressor is clearly Israel. We shouldn't fall into the childish game of looking for "who started it".

The mood in Israel is contradictory and changing with each event. But one thing is clear: the majority of the people of Israel welcomed the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza last year. They want peace. They supported Kadima and this coalition government because they saw it as bringing peace. Instead they get war and insecurity.

Had the Israeli government wanted to they could have negotiated, released some Palestinian prisoners and the kidnapped soldier would have been released. But they wanted to go to war.

They were also looking for an excuse to go to war in the Lebanon. What they are doing to the Lebanese people is barbaric. More than 200 Lebanese, overwhelmingly civilians, have been killed, while a little over 20 Israelis have been killed. These are all tragic and unnecessary deaths, but you can see the disproportion in the deaths on both sides. Surely that is enough to show who is the real and main aggressor!

Now that Hizbollah have launched rockets quite far into Israel and killed several civilians, the mood in Israel has been affected. People now live in fear. Some are demanding to hit back whatever it may cost; others are fleeing from the danger zones. The fact that rockets have hit far inside Israel is a new development, which is causing confusion among the population. They no longer feel safe. One thing is clear, because of all the contradictory messages sent out by the government and the military, the people don't trust what is being said by the authorities.

This war is costing Israel a lot of money, billions of dollars. Once it is over they will make the ordinary people pay. They will make more cuts in social spending and tell the people that this is a necessary "sacrifice". How much longer will the people be able to take al this? Sooner or later the class contradictions will resurface.

For a more detailed account of what is happening in Israel now I would suggest you read the recent article we have published on Marxist.com.

3) What are according to you the tasks of the revolutionary left and youth from both sides?

To understand that we have a common enemy: imperialism, the ruling class of Israel and all the rulers of the Arab states that collaborate with imperialism and the Israeli ruling class in order to keep their power against the workers and the youth. While we must fight the Israeli occupation our task is to raise the perspective of not a war of nation against nation but a war of class against class.

In the midst of all this conflict and bloodletting it is not always easy to defend a class perspective, but we must do it. It is not possible to solve any of the problems of the peoples of the Middle East on the basis of capitalism. The only class that can overthrow capitalism is the working class. And the Israeli working class must find its place in this perspective. It has an important role to play. We must drive home the message that internationalism and working class unity across the borders is the only way.

4) What are the perspectives for the movement? How do you see the conflict developing?

The situation in Gaza is a turning point in the history of Israel. Many Israelis are beginning to understand that they are living in a death trap. The system is in crisis and this crisis of the system will open the doors to the class struggle in Israel. For years we have been predicting this crisis and many are familiar with our perspective. Once the workers are on the move the working class will be open to our ideas.

In recent years we have seen several important strikes in Israel. These strikes have given us a glimpse of what the future will be like. The Israeli ruling class has no other option but to keep attacking all the social gains of the workers in this country. The workers have already reacted, such as on the issue of pensions. There will be ebbs and flows. There will be moments of deep reaction. The ruling class is constantly trying to imbue the workers with the idea that "all Jews must unite against the common enemy". But at the same time it attacks the Israeli workers. Thus from reaction we will move to revolutionary developments. It is inevitable. And it gives the Marxists a historical opportunity to present the only real viable alternative to the present mess. Either we do this or the future will be a horrendous for the workers and peoples of all countries in the Middle East.

Haifa, July 18, 2006