Positions of ISp on Palestine

The international conference of ISp took place between the 9th and 13th of March in Athens and had very extensive and fruitful discussions on the geopolitical situation; class struggles internationally; the rise of the Far Right; developments in Latin America, Asia and Africa; as well as on internal issues, like building the forces of revolutionary socialism, the statutes, relations with other organisations etc.

As from today we start publishing the documents agreed at the conference, after the amendments presented and the discussion that took place were taken into consideration.

We start with the positions of ISp on Palestine, which was the first section of the document “Geopolitics in the 2020s“.

The rest of the documents will be presented over the next days and couple of weeks.


  1. The most important geopolitical development in the recent period has been the war in the Palestinian occupied territories. After the attack led by Hamas, on 07.10.2023, by an estimated 2,500 Palestinian fighters, and about 1,200 Israeli Jews dead and 240 hostages, Israel launched a massive genocidal attack against Gaza, with the proclaimed aim of exterminating Hamas. We have written extensively on the war on Palestine (read articles here, here and here) so no new attempt will be made here to repeat our analysis in detail. We will only point to some central aspects of the recent developments and to our main programmatical demands.  
  2. In short, the Palestinian problem is one of the most acute national problems on the planet – one that can have no solution on a capitalist basis. The creation of the Israeli state was orchestrated by the major powers, particularly the British, from the first decades of the 20th century, with the aim of establishing a puppet state in the Middle East to defend Western interests against the rise of the colonial revolution in the Arab world, particularly in the era that was opened by the Russian revolution of 1917. In the events that led to the recognition of the Israeli state by the UN in 1948 about 60% of the Palestinian population were displaced from their homes. In the wars in the decades that followed, millions more were displaced, raising the total number of Palestinian refugees today to between 6 and 7 million. In the same period hundreds of thousands were killed or crippled by the Israeli military (IDF) and the armed settlers who continually expand their presence in Palestinian territories. The Palestinian problem is thus one of war and occupation (by the Israeli ruling class and state) and of expulsion of the local Palestinian population from its homes and land. The Palestinian people have the right to fight for their homes, land and freedom and against the continuous Israeli aggression and colonization; for their national, democratic and human rights; for the return of the refugees to their homes; and of course, they have the right to arm themselves to fight against the mighty Israeli military machine.
  3. The defense of such basic rights of the Palestinian people is described by the Western ruling classes and media, as “anti-Semitism”. The endless war of the Israeli state against the Palestinian people, including the cold-blooded murder of unarmed protesters in the whole history of the Palestinian problem, is described by the West as “legitimate defense”; and the demands of the Palestinian people for a just solution as an act of aggression against Israel. It is a complete reversal of truth and of the facts of history, presenting the victim as the perpetrator and the Israeli hawks and state as the victims.
  4. Defending the rights of the Palestinian people, however, does not mean defending the ideology, the policies and the practices of the Palestinian ruling class, its governing bodies and the leadership of the organisations that speak in the name of the Palestinian struggle.
  5. The war by Israel on Gaza, after the attack led by Hamas, is nothing short of a genocidal massacre, consciously aiming at ethnic cleansing. In the first six weeks of this war (at the time the present document is being drafted) more civilians were killed than in nearly two years of the war in Ukraine. According to the UN, by November 21st the toll in Ukraine was around 10,000 dead civilians whereas in Gaza it was over 13,000. This is something to which the hypocritical governments of the West turn a blind eye, but this is not the case with the popular masses around the globe. There is a powerful and angry antiwar mood and movement internationally, despite the nauseating attempts of the Western ruling classes and media to assign anti-Semitism to every act of solidarity with the Palestinian people and even arrest people for just wearing a Palestinian scarf. Millions have come out, not just in Arab or Islamic countries but also in the West, numerous youth protests including school strikes, politicization of music concerts, football matches and other sports, despite threats and repression by the establishment.
  6. This is the opposite of what we saw in the case of Ukraine where no real mass anti-war movement developed despite the repeated attempts of Western ruling classes and media. Having said this we ought to also indicate that this anti-war movement is not something uniform – it has class and anti-imperialist elements but also religious and national ones, sometimes clearly differentiated but often intertwined. In addition, it can lead to “popular front” approaches, among sections of the Left.
  7. The main point that needs to be stressed in this document is the fact that capitalism is incapable of solving the Israel-Palestine problem. Neither a “two-state” nor a “one-state” solution are possible under capitalism; in fact, no solution is possible at all. 
  8. The Israeli ruling class and its Western allies will never accept a unified state (“one-state solution”) because this will end the supremacy of the Israeli capitalists, built over decades of military occupation and wars. This is shown by the whole history of the Palestinian problem, but also by the logic and the dynamics of the situation as it is today. The idea that the Israeli ruling class could ever accept a unified state in which to allow the Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza to co-exist together with the Israeli Jews and thus be the majority of the population, must be ruled out as entirely unrealistic. Because in such a case the character of the Israeli capitalist state as a Jewish state would vanish – the Israeli ruling class would not only be conceding power to a Palestinian ruling class, but it would lose its state apparatus, it would no longer have a state to defend and serve its interests. This is something that no ruling class could ever accept; this could only be imposed on it by war. 
  9. What should also be clear however is that the demand raised by many Palestinian and Arab groups but also states in the area (e.g., Iran), to destroy the Israeli state and create a Palestinian state in its place is equally unrealistic. Israel cannot be defeated on the military plane, there is no military force that can impose such a kind of defeat on the Israeli ruling class, especially because the Western powers will defend Israel to the very end.
  10. In a sense, Israel’s ruling class is actually following a one-state-solution policy, but with the opposite meaning attached to it, i.e., it is aiming at one Jewish state, through genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in the occupied territories. But even if this attempt was successful, it still would never lead to a solution to the problem! Even if all the Palestinians are driven out of Palestine, they will still continue to demand their right to their homeland – as their history has already shown, but as is also proved by the history of all similar national questions (e.g., the Kurdish problem). 
  11. Equally impossible under capitalism however is a two-state solution. Over 30 years ago the Palestinians accepted a “two-state solution” in Oslo. All that the Zionist ruling class has done since the Oslo agreements is to seize more Palestinian land, brutalize the masses and undermine the foundations for a viable state. Crucially, Israel has repeatedly ruled out recognizing the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their land.
  12. Most governments and institutions internationally, the imperialists included, in one way or another, propose a “two-state solution”. But the fact is that the Israeli ruling class rejects this position persistently and its imperialist allies will not to force it to accept it. The essential reason behind this is that a Palestinian state next to the Israeli state, today, would mean that what organizations like Hamas are doing secretly and underground, i.e, arming and training forces, digging underground tunnels, etc., they will be able to do more openly and officially in the name of their “independent state”. Such a Palestinian state would continue to demand the “return to the motherland” and pile up arms. Israel and its allies would not want to take such risks.
  13. In theory, in the future, a “two-state agreement” (an “agreement” does not mean a solution) might be conceded by the Israeli ruling class. But the core condition for this would be that this state is a puppet state – i.e., the Palestinians are isolated in a small piece of land, they are policed by hundreds of thousands of armed settlers, they are not granted basic rights like the right of the refugees to return to their homes, and the governing bodies of the Palestinian “state” are essentially controlled by the Israeli state (i.e., they are obedient stooges).
  14. If we assume that this is theoretically possible in the future, we should also know that, again, this would not be a solution to the Palestinian problem, it will only change its character.
  15. The key to the solution of the Palestinian problem, therefore, is the class approach. That is, the understanding that the capitalist representatives cannot solve the problem and that the working class, on both sides, needs to take initiatives to discuss and fight for a solution that satisfies to the best possible degree the needs and interests of both Palestinian and Israeli masses – with the support of course of the working class internationally. Palestinian and Israeli workers could start from the fundamentals: they need to live in peace, to enjoy a respectable standard of living, and the only way to achieve this is to live together or side by side, in a way that satisfies the needs and interests of both.  
  16. This struggle is by definition a struggle against the Israeli ruling class and, also, against the corrupt capitalist Palestinian leaders. It can only develop on the basis of the common class interests and of the struggle for a socialist future – not only for the Israeli and Palestinian workers but also for the whole region, with the aim of a socialist federation of the Middle East.
  17. The factor that is missing from this equation is the existence of mass revolutionary socialist parties. Not only from the area but also internationally. A vital step therefore, in the direction of a future solution of the Palestinian problem is the creation of revolutionary socialist parties. This is a task not only for the Israeli, Palestinian and Arab masses, but also for Marxists internationally.
  18. In the context of Israeli and Palestinian workers fighting together for a future socialist solution to the national problem, some issues are of particular importance. First, Palestinian refugees should have the freedom to return to the areas where they have been pushed out from. And second Israeli workers should feel that they can live without threats to their lives. In other words, the right of the Israeli people to have a national state of their own, if they so wish, is of particular importance in the effort to build a united struggle between the Palestinian and Israeli workers. Ultimately, only the workers in the Middle East can guarantee the rights of Palestinian and Jewish workers, in the context of a socialist federation of the countries of the region. 
  19. The “destruction of the state of Israel” is a demand launched by many Palestinian and Arab groups, by states like that of Iran but also by left groups internationally. This is a demand/slogan that cannot be adopted by Marxists. Because it means a refusal to acknowledge the right of the Israeli/Jewish people to have a homeland. Marxists need not only distance themselves from such slogans, but energetically oppose them.
  20. Refusing the right of the Israeli people to have their own national state means that they can never and will never join hands and struggle with the Palestinian people and the working classes of the region. No people on the planet could ever align and fight together with the working class of any other nation, if the latter refuse to recognize their right to have their own national state.  
  21. On the other hand, some left groups/activists raise the idea of “dismantling of the Zionist Israeli state”. This would mean the destruction of the “Zionist”, or “authoritarian” or “capitalist” character of the Israeli state. This is something that Marxists can adhere too, on condition that it is well explained so that it is not misunderstood as meaning the rejection of the right of the Israeli people to have a national state.
  22. There is an ongoing debate within left organisations on the issue of the “one-” or “two-state” solution. We need to clarify the substance behind this debate. As developed above, under capitalism neither a “one-” nor the “two-state” solution is possible. On the other hand, within the context of the socialist transformation of Palestine-Israel and of a socialist federation of the Middle East, the issue of a one or two state solution is an entirely secondary issue.
  23. Prejudices, fear, worries, etc can continue to exist even under conditions of heightened common struggle between Arab and Jewish workers in the area. The far right and religious fanatics will also be there, on both sides, trying to capitalize on such feelings. The idea of borders cannot disappear by magic, even in conditions of a socialist revolution. But under conditions of workers’ power, the existence of such borders does not present a real problem as long as the rights of the working classes are respected; and they will in any case play a transitional role to the full unification at a later stage. In any case, it is not a matter of principle, and therefore it is not up to Marxists to decide the precise structure under which Palestinian and Israeli-Jewish workers will chose to live, i.e., either in one unified or in two independent, federal workers’ states, side by side.
  24. The main responsibility for the development of common struggle on class lines, for the solution of the national problem, lies with the Israeli working class because of its position as part of the “suppressor nation”. In this they will have to break all links with their ruling class. Of course, the Palestinian workers also need to search for ways to approach Israeli workers on a class basis. In this they will have to stand against and expose the practices (and ideas) of Islamic fundamentalist organisations, like Hamas, as well as those of the corrupt and servile to the Western powers Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
  25. Hamas is now seen by big sections of the Palestinian and Arab people as heroic. This is understandable but it is also a result of the desperation of the Palestinian masses. Hamas’ approach is that salvation lies with God, acts of individual terrorism are entirely justified, those who lose their lives in fighting the enemy are “martyrs” who will thus win paradise, etc. By their methods they undermine any possibility for the creation of a united struggle on a class basis between Israeli and Palestinian workers. Given the support for Hamas among the Palestinian masses in the present conjuncture, criticism of Hamas is not of course easy. But it has to be made, as a condition to develop the forces for socialism among Palestinian workers and youth and to be able to approach on a class basis the Israeli masses and also the workers internationally.  
  26. Our basic demands in relation to the present war against Gaza, developed extensively in the articles on our website, can be summarized in the following points:

  • Fight against the war; build a mass anti-war movement; exert maximum pressure on the Western allies of the Israeli state.
  • Defend the right of the Palestinian people to have their own state – the “right of self-determination”.
  • Defend the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.
  • Expose the nauseating hypocrisy of the West and the attempts on their part to suppress the democratic right to protest against Israel’s genocidal ethnic cleansing, labelling all protests as “anti-Semitism”.
  • Mobilize trade unions to block export and transfer of military equipment in support of Israel’s offensive.
  • Call for a selective and targeted boycott against Israeli or multinational corporations that are involved in Israel’s military machine, finance the war or exploit the occupied territories, in the context the of the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanction) movement; but have no illusions that it can lead to the end of the war and a just solution to the Palestinian problem, as (at least some of) its instigators believe.
  • Encourage Israeli citizens to refuse serving their mandatory military service, becoming conscientious objectors. Encourage Israeli citizens already enrolled in the IDF to refuse participation in military activities in Gaza and the West Bank.
  • Fight against anti-Semitism wherever it is encountered in order to show that Israel is not the only “safe haven” for the Jewish people as per the Zionist propaganda.
  • Reverse the policy of expanding Israeli settlements, i.e., of expanding Israeli settlements, now numbering 700,000, in the occupied territories (considered as a war crime by the Fourth Geneva Convention).
  • Defend, at the same time, the right of the Israeli people to have their own homeland.

  1. The key factor in being successful in the struggle for the above, is the united struggle between Palestinian and Israeli-Jewish workers – i.e. a class approach to the national problem.
  2. This means that by necessity both Israeli and Palestinian workers will need to fight against their ruling classes, for the overthrow of capitalism and the socialist transformation of their societies.
  3. Israeli Jews and Palestinians can live side by side in peace, either in a single workers’ state with full rights for minorities, or in a socialist federation/confederation of two separate entities – this is something for Jewish and Palestinian workers to decide.
  4. A class approach to the Palestinian problem will have big wider impact in the whole region – Marxists should fight for the socialist federation/confederation of the countries of the region.
  5. This necessitates the development of mass revolutionary parties in Israel, Palestine and the neighbouring countries. This is a process that can be immensely facilitated by the building of mass socialist revolutionary parties internationally.
  6. A final point on the Palestine-Israel conflict is the need to bring out the real facts behind the conflict and its current character. As mentioned above the Western governments and media are presenting Israel as the victim of Palestinian aggression and anybody who declares support to the rights of the Palestinian people or who protests against the ethnic cleansing taking place in Gaza, is labelled “antisemitic”. People are fired or arrested for protesting against the mass slaughter. The new generations are not aware of the history of Palestine and Marxists (and the Left in general) need to attend to an educational role as well.
  7. Until the 1920s, Jews represented about 5% of the inhabitants of Palestine. Jews played a prominent role in the working class and socialist movement of the country – as was the case in every country where Jews were in sizeable numbers. The state of Israel was created by the Western Imperialists, in a very conscious effort to establish an outpost of their imperialist interests, after WWII, having encouraged (and armed) Jews from Europe and elsewhere to move to Palestine. The aggressor is the Israeli ruling class with the support of Western Imperialism and the victim is the Palestinian masses, not vice versa.  
  8. Another important aspect is the history of the Palestinian resistance and of the Palestinian Left. From the point of view of the Left internationally, it is important to understand why and how Hamas, which was virtually non-existent a few decades ago, has acquired such mass forces. The fact is, Hamas and Islamic Fundamentalism acquired their present strength mainly because of the failure of the Left in the region (and, of course, internationally).Pro-Soviet left parties were extremely strong in the whole of the Middle East in the decades after WWII. Capitalism was losing ground, with pro-Soviet regimes in Syria, Libya and Iraq.  Egypt, after the 1967 “6-day war” applied to join the Soviet bloc, but the Soviet Union refused. The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), which until the 1970s and 1980s had the support of up to 90% of the Palestinian population was a left, radical formation, friendly to the Soviet Union. In other words, the Left had massive forces in the region, but they were of a Stalinist character. Because of this Stalinist character, they utterly failed to apply a class approach towards the Israeli masses, they ended up in “left nationalism”, and the conception that Israel would be defeated through unity of the Arab states. This created a blind alley and a political vacuum that became even greater after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. This vacuum was gradually filled by Islamic Fundamentalism which spread into a massive force in the whole region. A key factor in this was the degeneration of the “Palestinian Authority” particularly under Mahmoud Abbas, into the status of a comprador bourgeoisie of Western powers. It should of course be noted that Israel promoted and financed what is now Hamas as “a counterweight to the nationalists of the Palestine Liberation Organization” in the 1970s and 1980s (see How Israel Helped to Spawn Hamas, Wall Street Journal, 24 January 2009).
  9. Apart from its “local” character, the war in Palestine has also a geopolitical dimension as it involves the major powers. Even on a formal, government level, Western imperialism is losing ground because of its stand on the war in Gaza. In the UN, contrary to the Ukraine issue, the US and Israel were in a small minority in October 2023 – even the EU countries abstained in their majority.  
  10. China and Russia are presenting themselves as defenders of international justice, essentially defending Palestinian demands and the creation of a Palestinian state (a “two-stage solution”) trying at the same time not to completely isolate themselves from Israel. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) at their Johannesburg summit of last August produced a declaration calling for direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine on the basis of international law and the Arab Peace Initiative, and for the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state next to Israel. A few months earlier there was fraternization between Saudi Arabia and Iran after a Chinese initiative and in June Mahmud Abbas (leader of Palestinian Authority in the West Bank) visited Beijing to sign a declaration of “strategic collaboration” between China and Palestine. After the October 7 attack, a delegation of Hamas visited Russia and met with Putin. The turmoil caused by the war on Gaza in Arab and Moslem countries is, naturally, utilized by China and Russia to strengthen their international relations and economic bonds. 

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