The denunciation of Workers’ Liberty by Alan Davies of Socialist Resistance which we printed in Solidarity 499 has been followed by other comments along the same line on the Socialist Resistance website.
There was no state of Israel before 1948 and the backing of Western Imperialism and the [fact that the] state that formed expanded through systematic ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and this violent expropriation of Palestinian land is more than enough to describe the Israeli state as illegitimate. Slamming a state is not slamming the vast majority of the people who live there, it is slamming the institutions of the ruling class, and if members of the AWL claim Marxist credentials they know this. To view the state of Israel or any state from a perspective other than a working-class perspective is to take a bourgeois perspective, and with this letter the AWL are choosing consciously to side with the national chauvinism of the Israeli ruling class by conflating antisemitism and legitimate left opposition to Israeli nationalism and Zionism. With this bourgeois perspective the AWL is aiding the forces of reaction. But no one on the left with experience of the AWL is surprised. Over many years Marxist observers of the AWL have seen this veering away from a working-class perspective coming.
There is an irony in all this, touched on when [Gerry Downing] writes: “The AWL has a proud thirty-year record of supporting Zionism and attacking anti-Zionist Jews”. Before then, the AWL (or rather its predecessors) supported the call for a single democratic secular state.
As someone who supports the call for two states I repudiate the idea that there is anything intrinsically racist about the demand for a democratic secular state, no matter how wrong I believe it to be. If I did think that I would not be a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which clearly contains many activists who hold that position. Interestingly however, when the forerunner of the AWL used to call for a democratic secular state, I recall that in at least one article this was accompanied with the call for the Arabs to drive the Jews into the sea. And clearly the call for two states when made by the likes of [Sean] Matgamna [of AWL] is aimed at the Palestinians and not the Israeli government. And to be honest the real motivation is expressed not so much in the attack on the democratic secular state formulation but on the right of return.
[Solidarity note: it is true that between about 1969 and 1986 the forerunners of AWL supported the “secular democratic [single] state” formula. But we emphasised that it meant a state with equal rights for Arabs and Jews. Evan Pritchard’s “recall” that “in at least one article” (unspecified) we called for driving the Jews into the sea is at best false memory...]