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