Israel/Palestine: there is another way!

Submitted by Matthew on 9 February, 2011 - 11:54

I found Sean Matgamna’s article (“The Guardian goes ultra-left”) in Solidarity 3/191 problematically one-sided. We clearly differ on how much attention to pay to the opinions of the Guardian, but even setting that disagreement aside, the article presented a view of the refugee question that began at the admittedly very unpleasant realities of bourgeois diplomacy and didn’t go much further.

To pose as an ultimatistic demand the “right” for all the Palestinian refugees and their descendants to displace the current inhabitants of the homes (or land) from which they (or their ancestors) were once displaced is either utopian or reactionary, and amounts to a “demand” for history to be rewound. But Sean’s article extrapolates from this reality and appears to conclude that any attempt to fight for a settlement that goes beyond the token numbers of returning refugees that the Israeli ruling-class is currently prepared to accept is similarly utopian. I disagree.

As Sean points out “nations and national identities are powerful things”; just as the Israeli-Jews are unlikely, in the immediate or medium terms, to want to give up the “Jewish” character of their state, so the Palestinian people are unlikely to give up their demands for far more substantial level of “return”. Nor should they. There are options other than the measly numbers talked about in the leaked document or the utopian-reactionary fantasy scenario.

Any democratic two-states settlement would involve open negotiations on these questions, and others, that go far beyond the boundaries of bourgeois diplomacy. Of course, we should not be disdainful or contemptuous of any potential progress within those boundaries that might help ease off the vice-like pressure of Israeli’s oppression of the Palestinians; even “token thousands” would clearly be better than none at all. But Sean’s article was too ready to de-emphasise our own positive programme in order to strike a blow against the utopian-reactionary ultimatists of the left. Critiquing them is important, but we shouldn’t let them determine the terrain of the debate.

Add new comment

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.