Israelis and Palestinians: Conflict and Resolution – Book Review

Reviewed by Ludwig Watzal

(Moshe Machover, Israelis and Palestinians: conflict and resolution, Haymarket Books, Chicago 2012, pp327)

This anthology of essays, written by a former Israel activist between 1962 to today, shows the work of Moshe Machover, co-founder of the Socialist Organization in Israel (Matzpen=Compass) and lifelong anti-Zionist.

Covering diverse aspects of Israeli society and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the author places the conflict in its regional context and links the fight for Palestinian liberation with the struggle for socialism throughout the region.

His central hypotheses are: Both peoples can only liberate themselves from the imperialist yoke, when the masses smash the ruling class in Israel and Palestine; and the fight between both peoples is not primarily about territory but rather a social struggle, and only secondarily a national, because the solution of the central question is to answer the national one, i.e. the social revolution requires the solution of the national question.

Matzpen was founded by former members of the Israeli Communist Party (MAKI) that left the party because of its uncritical support of the policies of the Soviet Union. Besides Machover, Akiva Orr, Haim Hanegbi and the Palestinian-Israeli Jabra Nicola, founded the anti-Zionist organization. Matzpen’s central goal was aimed at the creation of a large movement favoring a de-Zionized Israel.

After the victory in the June-war of 1967, Israeli nationalism went out of control. For people like Machover and a few other internationalists, the political situation became unbearable. In 1968, Machover went into exile in the United Kingdom and taught philosophy and mathematics till his retirement at the King’s College in London.

Although the articles of the book were published on different occasions duplications are inevitable, but this does not abort their relevance for the readers today. The accentuation of the colonial character of the conflict is the red thread that runs through all contributions. The articles also show the intellectual development of the organization, which adapted itself to the realities of Zionist power politics. A particular highlight of this collection is the partisanship for the Oriental and African Jews (Mizrahim) against the imposed identity politics of the dominant European Jewish elite (Ashkenasim).

Machover sees the Zionist ideology as the main obstacle to a peaceful solution for the bilateral conflict. He calls for an immediate end of the military occupation. “World public opinion, civil society everywhere, must be mobilized in defense of the Palestinian people, by subjecting Israel to boycotts, disinvestments and sanctions. Socialists have a special role in mobilizing the workers’ movements to lead this campaign.”

But does not just his socialist approach prevent the revolution, which he hoped for? Hasn’t socialism run its course? Don’t the people in Israel and Palestine need revolutionary strategies for the 21st century in order to achieve some change?

The great political value of this anthology lies in the presented ideas for the solution of the Middle East conflict. Today’s activists should continue where Matzpen has stopped and adopt its ideas to the political reality of today. Everything has already been said, the wheel does not need to be reinvented. Whether both peoples are ready for the charming idea of a “socialist union” remains to be seen. The book is a very stimulating read.

– Dr. Ludwig Watzal works as a journalist and editor in Bonn, Germany. He contributed this article to Visit his blog: ‘Between the lines.’

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