Imagine There Was a Left…
Reading the blogs and the op-ed pages of the newspaper, with the defenders of Israel on one side and the dupes of/supporters of Hamas on the other, it is hard to avoid wondering what the political situation in the Middle … Read More
Reading the blogs and the op-ed pages of the newspaper, with the defenders of Israel on one side and the dupes of/supporters of Hamas on the other, it is hard to avoid wondering what the political situation in the Middle East and in the discourse and street politics in the West would look like if there was actually something resembling an active and principled left-wing still in existence.
By that I mean, a left which is social-democratic, liberal, humanist, anti-fascist, secular, internationalist and having some real links with an effective labour movement. I am talking about an idealised left, of course, untainted by Leninism or nationalism and which would find the current alliance between Trotskyist-Stalinist groups and Islamists to be unthinkable.
This is, sadly, a fantasy, but one which hopefully illustrates some of the elements that are sorely missing in these depressing times. If there was a left in Palestine: 1. It would, of course, support the key national demands of the Palestinians – for Israel to return to the borders of 1967, for a two state solution, a negotiated agreement on Jerusalem etc – for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. 2. In doing so it would oppose the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist groups and instead seek support with those it share common ground with in Israel and the rest of the world. 3. It would have been agitating for the authorities in the Palestinian territories to develop the local economy and essential social services such as schools and hospitals. 4. It would be campaigning for labour rights in the Palestinian territories and strongly protesting the union busting harassment of Hamas. 5. It would seek to work together with Israeli trade unions to build positive links between workers in both states. 6. It would insist on the labour movement being part of any negotiations about the future of the region. 7. It would oppose any attempts to turn Gaza or any other part of the future Palestinian state into an Islamist entity, promote a secular political system and promote and defend basic liberties. 8. It would seek the support of the international labour movement for its goals – work with international bodies such as the European Union to promote investment in the region and support for the infrastructures of a nascent state. 9. It would draw on the concrete experience of national democratic movements, in South Africa, Spain, Ireland and so on, who have managed to put behind bitter hatreds and built functioning democratic societies, making peace with their erstwhile enemies. 10. Through its political activity it would create a generation of leaders capable of becoming future statesman of a new, free and independent Palestine. If there was a left in Israel: 1. It would also support the key national demands of the Palestinians. 2. It would stridently oppose terrorism and defend Israel’s right to peaceful existence in the 1967 borders. 3. It would promote means to support the development of economic prosperity in both Israel and Palestine. 4. It would offer solidarity to the Palestinian labour movement as well as fight for the rights of Israeli labor. 5. It would make clear that it is in the interests, material and otherwise, of ordinary Israelis for there to be a successful Palestinian democracy as neighbour. 6. It would insist on trade union rights being part of any settlement for Palestine. 7. It would promote the full integration and full rights of Arabs in Israel. 8. It would be a full part of the international labour movement, promoting engagement of trade unions and labour parties with the peace process. 9. It would oppose all manifestations of chauvinism, religious sectarianism and racism. 10. Through this process it would create a generation of left-wing politicians, capable of entering into genuine peace negotiations and recreating the original democratic socialist spirit of Israel. If there was a left in the rest of the world. 1. It would use all its power to support those in Palestine and Israel who seek a peaceful, two-state solution. 2. It would give solidarity to both the left in Palestine and the left in Israel and the trade union movement in both states. 3. It would diplomatically and politically use its power to oppose the attempts of ultra-nationalists and religious fanatics, operating in the west, to undermine any peace plan. 4. It would make clear the democratic left’s opposition to military solutions and to terrorist actions and in favour of peaceful political solutions. 5. It would make the case for a ‘Marshall Plan’ style mass investment in both Palestine and Israel to boost the economic and social structures needed for a sustainable peace and reject boycotts and calls for isolating either state. 6. It would use its influence in bodies such as the European Union and United Nations to support such a plan and the main demands of its comrades in the Middle East. 7. It would make clear that racism of any kind, is always inexcusable and to be opposed. 8. If the peace process came to a halt or was derailed, it would take to the streets to urge support for those working for peace and to oppose those resuming or seeking to resume hostilities. 9. It would use its influence, where in government, to support those states in the region playing a part in the peace process and to isolate rejectionists. 10. Through economic and social initiatives it would seek to break down barriers between Israel and other countries in the Middle East. This is pipe-dreaming of course; idealistic, I know; but isn’t that the tragedy of the state of both the Middle East conflict and the left in the world, that such a list of, what would once have been considered standard positions, seems nothing more than wishful thinking? Instead we have a world of Hamas and Likud and of an international left which marches with anti-semites, glorifies terrorism and declares its solidarity with Islamism – the main obstacle to peace.