Demonstrating for calm and coexistence at the Oranim junction in south Jerusalem, May 13, 2021. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)

Appeal to Arab and Jewish workers in Palestine and Israel

Arbeidersstemmen (‘Worker’s Voices’), Amsterdam, May 25, 2021.

With hope and expectation, workers around the world have received the news on the joint demonstrations on bridges and traffic junctions of Arab and Israeli speakers. During the mutual bombings and pogroms back and forth, they protested hand in hand, as neighbors and fellow workers against terror and war.

After the armistice, by their participation in mass peace demonstrations, they expressed the fear that the powers on both sides of the borders speak of peace, but in reality are already preparing the next war. War preparations that require further intensification of the exploitation of all workers: border-crossing labor, digging tunnels, building missiles, surplus labor for the development and purchase of weapons systems. All this in addition to passing the costs of war and reconstruction on to the working and poor. Both the State of Israel, the PLO State in the West Bank and the Hamas State in Gaza feel empowered in their war efforts by the massive support of “their” populations blinded by nationalism. Without exception, these three states will continue to direct the terror of extremist militias and gangs against any resistance to the war preparations and intensified exploitation, even if this resistance invokes the “peace” and the “right of self-determination” as articulated by the leaders of the peace movement.

This year marked the 80th anniversary of the mass strike by workers in Amsterdam against the persecution of their Jewish fellow workers, neighbors and relatives by the Nazi-German occupiers of the Netherlands. Is it possible that now Jewish workers in Israel are expressing solidarity with Arab-speaking Israelis, with border-crossing workers from the West Bank, with the proletarians who are sighing in the open prison called Gaza? From far-off Amsterdam, it is difficult to see whether that is a real possibility. What is clear, however, is that it would send a signal that the current divisions of the working class by passport, by language, religion, type of labor contract, and so on can be overcome by independent workers’ struggle. It would also force the ruling and exploiting class of Israel, West Bank and Gaza to step back from the road to war and concede to just demands for wages, working conditions, social and health services.

The obstacles to solidarity between Arab and Jewish speaking workers are many. Some important ones:

  • Organizations that claim to represent workers, in fact state unions, such as Histadruth and the New Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions organize workers and strikes by nation, like the “Palestinian” strike during the war, which prevented Jewish workers from joining the strike.

  • Existing political parties and movements, including various groups fighting for “peace”, invoke the right of states, such as the right of “self-defense” and “self-determination of peoples”. Let’s see what this means through statements made by leaders of the peace movement at Saturday’s May 22 rally in Tel Aviv.

David Grossman:

We Israelis still refuse to realize that the time is over in which our power can force a reality that is convenient for us and only for us, for our needs and interests.” (Source: Haaretz, May 22, 2021)

By speaking of “we, Israelis”, Grossman lumps workers, capitalists and bourgeois politicians together and segregates Israeli workers from their class brothers with different passports or languages. Workers do not have the power of the state or over the state, and thus have no interest in identifying with it.

Ayman Odeh:

I hear politicians and security officials talking about another round of fighting in a few months or years, while being blind to the 7 million Palestinians living between the [Jordan] River and the [Mediterranean] Sea”. (…) there are two peoples living here and both deserve the right for self-determination.” (Source: Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2021)

The two-state solution advocated by Odeh, now more remote than ever, if realized, will only reinforce the division of the working class according to state and “people”, and will lead to a continuation of border-crossing labor or, on the contrary, to an importation of new migrants as well, thus increasing pressure on Israeli workers even more, if they are not capable of solidarity struggle together with the “newcomers”.

As mentioned, from far away Amsterdam it is difficult to assess the situation in the Middle East. It is especially up to workers in Israel and the occupied territories, regardless of their mother tongue, to reflect on the threats in the current uncertain situation and the opportunities to be in solidarity as workers.

To the proletarians in the Middle East

In multiple waves of proletarian struggle, you have defied your “own” exploiters and oppressors in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, etc. Now the possibility exists of such a proletarian struggle against the exploiters and oppressors in the state of Israel, the PLO state in the West Bank and in the Hamas state in Gaza. This would mean setting in motion an important focal point of tensions between regional imperialisms (Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc.) through workers’ struggles, which are awaiting your solidarity as well.

To the global working class

The Middle East with its rich energy resources is a major focal point in the struggle to redistribute the imperialist spheres of influence between the United States on one side and the China-Russia Axis on the other. What happens in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza also determines your fate. Either aggravation of capitalist barbarism or rise of the world working class and establishment of a society without war and exploitation.

F.C., May 25, 2021


Source: Oproep aan Arabische en Joodse arbeiders in Palestina en Israël, Arbeidersstemmen (“Workers’ Voices”), May 25, 2021.

Enhanced version of the English translation at ‘Left-wing Communism’, accorded by the author.

Photograph: Demonstrating for calm and coexistence at the Oranim junction in south Jerusalem, May 13, 2021. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)