What is the class nature of Israel?

Refugees In Amman
Circa 1955: Palestinian refugees from Israel form a queue by the food tent in their camp in Amman. (Three Lions / Getty Images)


When considering the tasks ahead for the socialist movement for building the Palestine solidarity movement, it’s important to consider the class nature of the Israeli state. Below are excerpts from three very useful works, one is the 1971 “Resolution on Israel and the Arab Revolution” of the Socialist Workers Party. Second is a document written by two Israeli socialists, Moshe Machover and Akiva Orr, on “The Class Character of Israel.” Finally, we suggest reading “The Hidden History of Zionism” by Ralph Schoenman.

Settler colonialism is defined as “… an ongoing system of power that perpetuates the genocide and repression of indigenous peoples and cultures. Essentially hegemonic in scope, settler colonialism normalizes the continuous settler occupation, exploiting lands and resources to which indigenous peoples have genealogical relationships. Settler colonialism includes interlocking forms of oppression, including racism, white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, and capitalism” (www.oxfordbibliographies.org).

The designation of Israel as a colonial settler state by the Socialist Workers Party, a predecessor organization of Socialist Resurgence, situated the Palestinian national liberation struggle in the context of the larger struggles of the peoples of the Middle East.


 From the 1971 SWP Resolution on Israel and the Arab Revolution:

“Israel is a settler-colonialist and expansionist capitalist state maintained principally by American imperialism, hostile to the surrounding Arab peoples.”

“It is an imperialist beachhead in the Arab world that serves as the spearhead of imperialism’s fight against the Arab revolution. We unconditionally support the struggles of the Arab peoples against the state of Israel.”

Jan. 2020 Palest 1948 (Universal History Archive:UIGviaGetty)
Palestinian refugees in 1948.

“The principal victims of the creation of Israel were the Palestinians–i.e., the Arabs who inhabited the region where Israel was established, who have been driven from their homes or placed in subjugation within Israel and the newly occupied territories. The Palestinians are a part of the Arab peoples, but they also form a distinct national grouping, with its own history of struggle against imperialism. There were Palestinian uprisings in 1921, 1929, and during the 1930s, reaching a high point in 1936-1939.  At the height of the 1936 rebellion, the Palestinians conducted a six-month general strike. Expulsion from their homeland through the creation of Israel greatly intensified national consciousness among the Palestinians. The upsurge of Palestinian nationalism in the recent period, especially after the 1967 war, was particularly marked in the refugee camps and newly occupied territories as a result of the direct oppression these people have suffered at the hands of Israel. The September 1970 civil war in Jordan further intensified Palestinian national consciousness.”

“The struggle of the Palestinian people against their oppression and for self-determination has taken the form of a struggle to destroy the state of Israel. The currently expressed goal of this struggle is the establishment of a democratic, secular Palestine. We give unconditional support to this struggle of the Palestinians for self-determination.”

“An integral part of our program for the Palestinian revolution and the Arab revolution as a whole is support of full civil, cultural, and religious rights for all nationalities in the Mideast, including the Israeli Jews. The major Palestinian liberation organizations also advance this concept and view it as essential to their attempt to win the Israeli Jewish masses away from support to Israel.”

Jan. 2020 Palest fighters 1960s
Palestinian fighters, 1960s.

“Our revolutionary socialist opposition to Zionism and the Israeli state has nothing in common with anti-Semitism, as the pro-Zionist propagandists maliciously and falsely assert. Anti-Semitism is anti-Jewish racism used to justify and reinforce oppression of the Jewish people. Marxists have been and remain the most militant and uncompromising fighters against anti-Semitism and the oppression of Jews.”

“The source of the oppression of the Jewish people in this era is the capitalist system, which in its period of decay carries all forms of racist oppression to the most barbarous extremes. This was horribly illustrated in the holocaust directed against the Jews of Europe by German imperialism under the Nazi regime. Today, anti-Semitism remains widespread in all of the Western imperialist countries. Until the capitalist system is abolished in these countries there is the ever-present danger that a new variety of virulent anti-Semitism can arise.”

“In the Soviet Union and the workers states of Eastern Europe the privileged Stalinist bureaucracies perpetuate and reinforce many forms of racism and national oppression inherited from the previous capitalist era, including anti-Semitism and oppression of Jews.”


“The Class Nature of Israel” was published in 1969 by the Israeli Socialist Organization (ISO). Written by Moshe Machover and Akiva Orr, the article discusses the nature and role of the Israeli working class and the distorting role settler colonialism has on their consciousness as workers.

From The Class Nature of Israel:

“If the uniqueness of the Israeli working class consisted only in the fact that it was composed mainly of immigrants, then it could still be assumed that through time and patient socialist propaganda it would start to play an independent, possibly revolutionary, role. In such a situation, patient educational work would not differ much from similar work elsewhere.”

“However, Israeli society is not merely a society of immigrants; it is one of settlers. This society, including its working class, was shaped through a process of colonization. This process, which has been going on for 80 years, was not carried out in a vacuum but in a country populated by another people. The permanent conflict between the settlers’ society and the indigenous, displaced Palestinian Arabs has never stopped and it has shaped the very structure of Israeli sociology, politics, and economics.”


Finally, in “The Hidden History of Zionism,” Ralph Schoenman explores the origins of Zionism as an ideology and documents the founding of Israel. Schoenman explains the four myths on which Zionism rests to justify the treatment of the Palestinian people.

From The Hidden History of Zionism:

“Four overriding myths have shaped the consciousness of most people in our society about Zionism.”

“The first is that of “A land without a people for a people without a land.” This myth was sedulously cultivated by early Zionists to promote the fiction that Palestine was a remote, desolate place ready for the taking. This claim was quickly followed by denial of Palestinian identity, nationhood or legitimate entitlement to the land in which the Palestinian people have lived throughout their recorded history.”

“The second is the myth of Israeli democracy. Innumerable newspaper stories or television references to the Israeli state are followed by the assertion that it is the only “real” democracy in the Middle East. In fact, Israel is as democratic as the apartheid state of South Africa. Civil liberty, due process and the most basic human rights are by law denied those who do not meet racial, religious criteria.”

“The third myth is that of “security” as the motor force of Israeli foreign policy. Zionists maintain that their state must be the fourth largest military power in the world because Israel has been forced to defend itself against imminent menace from primitive, hate-consumed Arab masses only recently dropped from the trees.”

“The fourth myth is that of Zionism as the moral legatee of the victims of the Holocaust. This is at once the most pervasive and insidious of the myths about Zionism. Ideologues for the Zionist movement have wrapped themselves in the collective shroud of the six million Jews who fell victim to Nazi mass murder. The bitter and cruel irony of this false claim is that the Zionist movement itself actively colluded with Nazism from its inception.”



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