Friday, February 10, 2006

John Rose On Palestine

Last night I saw John Rose – SWP activist and recent author of The Myths of Zionism - speak in Cambridge on the subject Zionism after Sharon. He was extremely good - he didn’t simply stick to the safe subjects of Palestinian sovereignty and Human rights but actually took on Zionism and demonstrated how the idea of a specifically Jewish state in that part f the world was fundamentally flawed.

The discussion was interesting. I asked John if, in the light of Peretz's victory in the labour party, Israeli workers, whose interests run counter to those of the Israeli military industrial complex, could play a progressive role - John responded by giving a history of reactionary stances taken by Israeli labour (something which hardly makes this section of workers unique). It is certainly true that Israeli workers have taken and do in general take an anti-arab stance. But this is not sufficient to remove them from the equation. History has countless examples of social forces that are at one moment reactionary transforming themselves rapidly. Almost by accident an interesting point was raised during this meeting by a zionist who argued that zionism was not colonialism because it did not involve the exploitation of Palestinian labour - a fairly stupid argument. John quite rightly argued that the Israeli policy of exclusion as opposed to exploitation was in many ways worse. That it is. However, It is nonetheless significant when looking at Israeli society, to be aware of the fact that Zionism has been based upon more on exclusion than the super exploitation of Palestinian labour (as took place in South Africa). In the latter case the socio-economic position of white workers was thoroughly warped -a white construction worker would have black servants in his or her house. In Israel - though their is a racial divide in the job market -the exlpoitation of working class israeli jews is not cancelled out in quite the same way. It is essentially because of this that I am unwilling to write off Israeli jewish workers as a potentially progressive social force.

Although I disagree with John on this one point, he is, as i said a real authority on the matter and - perhaps more rarely - a real thinker on the subject of Zionism. I will definitely be buying his book.

If your interested it is available on amazon


Martin Wicks said...

The key issue here is the 'state of the Jews', which Israeli workers generally support. The whole ideology of Zionism rests on this. That is why the (in other circumstances) not very radical demand of equal rights for all citizens takes on revolutionary dimensions in Israel. Unity between Jewish and Arab workers in Israel is impossible without an idelogical break with the 'Jewish' nature of the state, which discriminates is so many ways against Arab Israelis.

AN said...

Unless of course Israeli workers are being subsidised by the USA, as a sort of modern day “super profits of imperialism” . The following ideas are just a sketch of an argument, which would require better empirical evidence to back it up, but I offer it as a suggestion.

The CIA fact file discloses $662 million from US (2003 EST.) But this is a deliberate under reporting. The following information from the “Washington report on middle east affairs” seems on the face of it reliable but I am not an expert to judge:
According to Dr. Zunes, since 1992, the U.S. has offered Israel an additional $2 billion annually in loan guarantees. Congressional researchers have disclosed that between 1974 and 1989, $16.4 billion in U.S. military loans were converted to grants. In addition more than $1.5 billion in private U.S. funds that goes to Israel annually in the form of $1 billion in private tax-deductible donations and $500 million in Israeli bonds.
Since 1949 the U.S. has given Israel a total of $83.205 billion. The interest costs borne by U.S. tax payers on behalf of Israel are $49.937 billion, thus making the total amount of aid given to Israel since 1949 $133.132 billion. This may mean that U.S. government has given more federal aid to the average Israeli citizen in a given year than it has given to the average American citizen.
Richard Curtis claims that the complete total of U.S. grants and loan guarantees to Israel for fiscal 1997 was $5,525,800,000. Add to this the private sector billion dollars.
So hello, Israel benefits by more than $1000 per head per annum in direct aid from the USA. What is more the Israeli economy is highly integrated with the US, with a high technology sector highly reliant on its favoured relationships with US companies – so the real financial benefit is much greater.
It needs more research, but there is a least a prima facie case that Israeli workers are direct financial beneficiaries of American aid to such an extent that it far outweighs any potential common economic interest they have with Arab workers and peasants. Their prosperity depends upon the continued US/Zionist settlement in the Middle East.
So yes there is a class struggle between Israeli bosses and Israeli workers, but this is only partly about the rate of exploitation, and is also partly about the division of the plunder that they both receive as subsidies and economic support from the USA.
If this is the case then Israeli workers as a class will not play a progressive role while the subsidies continue, and it is in their collective and individual interest to fight to preserve Zionism – although some principled individuals may opt out.
Personally I do not think there is any social force in the Middle East that can defeat Zionism unless and until the link between Israel and the USA is broken.

Reuben said...

the us aid is certainly significant. I have seen stats that talk about 3-5 billion (that is around 1000 dollars per head) Yet as far as I know most of it comes in he forms of preferential loans and direct military. I can to imagine the israeli the average israeli benefitting by more than arund a few hundred dollars per head. THis is certainly huge in foreign aid terms. Yetiin a society with a gdp per capita of $20k plus is this aid sufficient fundamentally alter their class position. I would be skeptical,


AN said...

But the scale of US support underpins the whole economy. of course now that there is a significant accumulation of capital iserael also create welth (and exploits workers). But if you were an Israeli owrker would you campiagn aganist the US subsidies, or would you side with Zionism?