Israel/Palestine: Why Marxists oppose the Road Map

The Road Map for "peace" in the Middle East emerged as part of the shift in the world situation after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The war on Afghanistan and afterwards the war and occupation of Iraq created the conditions in which US imperialism, aided by British imperialism and with the silence of the European Union, was able to intervene in the development of the historic conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arab people.

The Road Map for "peace" in the Middle East emerged as part of the shift in the world situation after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The war on Afghanistan and afterwards the war and occupation of Iraq created the conditions in which US imperialism, aided by British imperialism and with the silence of the European Union, was able to intervene in the development of the historic conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arab people. Guided by the perspective of a new world order, the US president George W Bush announced that the Palestinian leadership headed by Yasser Arafat was no longer relevant and that a “regime change” in the Palestinian National Authority would allow the Israelis and the Palestinians to stop the mutual bloodshed and move toward genuine peace based on the United States' interests in the region.

This perspective created the conditions in which both Sharon and the new Palestinian leader, Mamud Abbas (Abu-Mazen), who was nominated as Prime Minister, could reach an agreement on building a small and cantonised Palestinian entity in the West Bank and Gaza strip and withdrawing Israel's forces from the main towns and cities in the West Bank. More than a year of political and military actions to oust Arafat from the regional and world political arena was required in order to prepare the Palestinian public opinion for this betrayal, all in the name of Palestinian national interests. But this betrayal was not invented by Abu-Mazen and Co. Arafat sold out the Palestinian national interests to Israel on 13 September 1993 - the date of the public ceremony held in the White House, when Israel's then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Arafat signed the Oslo Accords.

Just a few days ago, the Israeli press revealed a strategic analysis made by the political and military leaderships in Israel which argues that Abbas would announce an acceptance of Israel's condition of abandoning the demand for the right of return of the refugees. Abbas, aided by military gangs headed by the Palestinian Minister of Defence, Muhammad Dahlan, and armed with American and Israeli weapons, was exposed during the recent period as a political figure with no support even inside his own party, the bourgeois-nationalist Fatah, and thus resigned from its Central Committee.

The overthrow of the Iraqi nationalist-bourgeois leadership headed by Saddam Hussein was also used as a threat towards the Palestinians in making them see what might be their fate if they did not agree to remove Arafat peacefully in favour of a US-backed Palestinian leadership. Eventually, and after a bitter struggle within the nationalist-bourgeois and Islamic factions, the American drive was accomplished and the Road Map was approved by the Palestinian leadership (most of it nominated by the US and unelected) and the new government of Sharon, composed of right wing neo-liberal MPs and two right wing extremist factions that speaks loudly about transferring the Arabs to foreign countries. But even the ceasefire, that was only recently achieved after the agreement of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaderships, and only under intense American and foreign Arab pressure, exposed one very basic fact: Abbas is backed only by the European and American ruling classes - not by his own people.

The way in which the Road Map was imposed on the Palestinians was just further proof that the Palestinian resistance, the Intifada, was finally crushed by a combination of Israel's military power, the pressures of imperialism and a serious and severe crisis of leadership. The impact of Iraq's occupation by the American and British troops only underlined the well-known fact that was known to all: US imperialism will not hesitate to invade the West Bank and Gaza strip if the armed struggle against Israel is not be halted and stopped immediately in favour of a negotiations and ceasefire. Only recently, before the Hudna was approved, American officials spoke about this possibility quite openly by proposing a special American force to operate in the Territories.

The Intifada, based on small armed groups of Iranian-backed Islamic militants and several infantile military groups of Palestinian fighters, came to an end after the weak leadership that guided it was crushed, assassinated and imprisoned by the Israeli army, with the enthusiastic support of the Americans of course. The fact that no popular committees or any other mass independent proletarian organization emerged (contrary to the first Intifada of 1987) and that the only fight against Israel was directed against Israeli innocents within Israel's territory only made the job easier for Israel - and the United States.

Although most of the non-Zionist left refused to accept the Road Map, the largest Peace Now movement called on Prime Minister Sharon to follow "Yitzhak Rabin's" legacy and work towards the creation of two capitalist states in Israel/Palestine, whilst the smaller Gush Shalom, Peace Block (Israel's radical peacenik movement) continued its support for Arafat and warned that Sharon's drive is nothing but a fraud, while continuing to defend the main concept of the Road Map, i.e. a small Bantustan, so-called "Palestinian state," in the West Bank on less than 20% of Palestine's historic territory.

In his article "Road Map to Nowhere," Uri Avnery, - leader of the Gush Shalom and an Israeli MP in the past - wrote that in spite of his refusal to believe that the plan would materialise, "The objectives are very positive. They are identical with the aims of the Israeli peace movement: an end to the occupation, the establishment of the independent state of Palestine side-by-side with the state of Israel, Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Syrian peace, the integration of Israel in the region. In this respect, the road map goes further than the Oslo agreement. In the Oslo 'Declaration of Principles,' there was a giant hole: it did not spell out what was to come after the long interim stages. Without a clear final aim, the interim stages had no clear purpose. Therefore the Oslo process died with Yitzhak Rabin."

He added, "The road map confirms that there now exists a worldwide consensus about these objectives. This fact will remain even if nothing comes out of it. Those of us who remember that only 35 years ago there were hardly a handful of people in the world who believed in this vision can draw profound satisfaction from this road map. It shows that we have won the struggle for world public opinion. But let's not exaggerate: in this document, too, there is a gaping hole in the definition of the aims. It does not say what the borders of the future Palestinian state should be, neither explicitly nor implicitly. The Green Line is not even mentioned. That by itself is enough to invalidate the whole structure. Ariel Sharon talks about a Palestinian state in 40 per cent of the 'territories' - equivalent to less than 9 per cent of Palestine under the British Mandate. Does anyone believe that this will bring peace?"

The problem with Avnery's approach is not the correct observation based on the written documents that there is a gap between the "declared aims" and the reality. The problem is not with the existence of this gap but with the "declared aims" themselves. Neither the Oslo Accords nor the Road Map are based on the only genuine peace that can be carried out: a peace between the Israeli-Jewish masses and the Palestinian Arab masses, based on a united Jewish-Arab struggle of the proletariat on both sides, inside the "Green Line" and the Occupied Territories. Furthermore, the declared aims of those agreements were based on the assertion that Jews and Arabs can't live together and they must separate in order to achieve peace.

The agreements openly declare that they serve the interests of the national bourgeoisie in Israel, the Palestinian bourgeoisie - and the interests of US imperialism. Moreover, they speak clearly in favour of "globalising the Middle East" by creating trade regions and free capitalist markets. This means cheap, almost slave labour, an all-out attack on the interests of the working classes and a brutal destruction of traditional economic structures by carrying forward mass privatisation alongside the destruction of the social services and the welfare structures. It will make the Arab countries poorer, with mass unemployment, low wages, despicable levels of healthcare, education and welfare services and mass crime on the streets. In Israel the reality will not be any different either.

A peace between the working masses would be based on the creation of regional and local orders in which human need will be central and not the profits of the capitalists. The Oslo and Road Map accords, if carried out, would provide a solid economic basis on which fundamentalist Islamic and nationalist Zionist elements could easily grow and thus no peace would be achieved in a situation where the masses continue to suffer and where the benefits of the new order go into the pockets of a privileged layer of society.

It is important to stress that both agreements were aimed at implementing a political solution that would serve the interests of the US imperialist and the Zionist movement, while not even one single Palestinian national demand would be met. As Avnery wrote, the Israelis and Americans have not tried to satisfy the historic demands of the Palestinian national movement: a Palestinian state on the entire territory of the West Bank and Gaza strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital and the right of return of the Palestinian refugees. But is there any realistic peace-seeker who really thinks that this peace will be achieved within the framework of capitalism and imperialism?

There are several left currents that propose different alternatives to the Road Map. The initiative of regrouping Palestinian leftists, secular nationalists and even "socialists" around the programme of "one democratic and secular state of Palestine" has emerged once again among petty bourgeois Palestinian groups. This is nothing but another illusion that aims to spread misleading conceptions regarding the possibility of resolving the national question within the confines of capitalist society. Every child knows that the establishment of this state would be gained only through a bloody war with Israel's army and the imperialist superpowers that protect Israel's existence as a Zionist state. In such a war, those fighting for such a solution - who would mainly be Arabs - would probably lose. The two decades of guerrilla struggle against Israel in the name of the PLO charter (one democratic and secular state) were summed up in the capitulation of the nationalist bourgeois Palestinian leadership to Israel and the United States.

Because of the nationalist-bourgeois character of its leadership, the Palestinian Liberation Organization cannot lead, either under Yasser Arafat or under Mahmud Abbas, to genuine national liberation. The idea of establishing a bourgeois Palestinian state based upon the basic national demands of the Palestinian national movement is utopian within the framework of the capitalist and imperialist-backed order.

Marxists with any sense of responsibility towards the fate of the Arab proletariat cannot promote this kind of bloody nationalist adventure that can be summed up in mutual terrible bloodshed and national catastrophe for the Palestinians. The illusions spread by pseudo-socialist, and even so-called "Marxist" or "Trotskyist," grouplets and parties who propose unification of the Jews and Arabs on the basis of raising the "democratic and secular state" slogan, deny the bitter lessons of the past. Moreover, a successful struggle will not be possible unless broad layers of the Israeli-Jewish working class are recruited to the struggle. But how can anyone expect Jewish workers and youth to be won over on the basis of nationalist bourgeois demands that were raised long ago by the PLO itself and were not acceptable? A genuine struggle for socialism in Palestine can begin only through a mass proletarian movement of Jews and Arabs committed to ending more than one hundred years of bloodshed and mutual killing by proposing a society in which the workers and youth will play the central role - and not the nationalists, capitalists and clerical fundamentalists.

The Road Map poses serious challenges to Marxists in Israel. Recently, almost two hundred Israelis and Palestinians set up an action group for the implementation of the plan. The leadership of the Communist Party supports this initiative in spite of a deep dispute within its membership over the nature of Bush's Road Map and on which classes it actually serves. In her speech during the meeting which took place in Ramallah, the former Member of Parliament, Tamar Gozanski (of the Communist Party) said, "Sharon and Bush are trying to sell old merchandise in a new packaging. They both know that the great majority even of Israelis is weary of war, occupation and bloodshed. Both of them know that it is impossible even to contemplate a solution without talking of 'creating a Palestinian state.' But their using this concept is emptying it of the original content. Sharon means to create Bantustans and call them a state. We have to start using new language, and take care to be very precise about what we mean and not give up for example on the '67 borders."

Although Gozanski and her friends are totally aware of Sharon and Bush's real intentions, they keep raising the idea of national self-determination for the Palestinian people within the framework of the current social and political order that exists in the Middle East. The illusions that the Palestinian bourgeoisie, even its nationalist wing represented by Yasser Arafat, can gain peace through different agreements with the Zionist movement reflects the historic tragedy of those who refuse to study the bitter lessons of history - mainly that the Stalinist formulation of "two stages", (i.e. first national liberation then later social liberation) has failed over and over again.

Marxists do not strive to destroy Israel as such, but to replace it by building a new socialist united state, a federal socialist state in Palestine, in which national autonomies will be guaranteed to the Israeli and Palestinian proletariats, within the framework of a socialist federation of Middle Eastern workers' states. This is why Israeli Marxists are calling on the workers and youth organized within the Communist Party and around it to push for the party to base itself on a genuine revolutionary communist platform, on a genuine internationalist agenda, and rebuild the party by adopting the only real solution that can provide peace, harmony, security and wealth to the masses: a socialist society in which Arabs and Jews will live equally, peacefully, side by side. The workers' revolutions in Palestine and in any other country will mark a new historic epoch by raising the spotless banner of Marxism in every country.