From International Socialism, No.73, December 1974, pp.31-32.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
How Israel Lost Its Soul
MAXIM GHILAN is an exceptional Israeli in that he recognises and fights against the increasing social and political injustices that the Zionist State perpetrates. Unfortunately, he lacks any political perspective into which he can put any of his criticisms and is thus incapable of developing any political solutions.
This is not to suggest that the book is of no use – on the contrary it should be an eye opener to those who know little of the history of Zionism and who only see Israel as the oppressor of the Palestinian Arabs. Those parts of the book which tell of the struggles of the anti-Zionist Left in Israel contain essential information for anyone concerned with the struggles in the Middle East. The part of the book dealing with the Utopian Socialist origins of Zionism and the subsequent development of Labour Zionism is thrilling reading, though it is a pitiful story of young idealists attempting to fulfil a socialist dream – in isolation and on the grave of another nation.
The trouble with the Israeli radicals such as Maxim Ghilan and his former friend Uri Avneri, who runs the opposition porn paper Haolam Hazeh is that they are totally ethnocentric and egocentric. This leads to a style of politics and writing which concentrates entirely on Israeli history (with superficial references to Arab nationalism) and on the personalities involved in that history. Avneri in his book Israel without Zionists concentrates on the personality traits of the Israeli establishment leaders. We are presented with exciting items such as the fact that Moshe Dyan’s eye socket hurts him behind that famous patch.
Yet despite all this and despite a trivial chapter in which Ghilan extols the wonders of his own ideology based on ‘psychologism’, the book has a lot of revealing detail. The history of the Israeli Communist Party is well documented. The early Palestine Kommunistishe Partei, under the direction of the Comintern, vainly attempted to work with Arab leaders. The result of this movement was ‘a tearing asunder and a precarious sewing together again of the factions identifying themselves with the Pan-Arab and the Jewish-Zionist nationalisms’. After the establishment of the State of Israel, the Israeli Communists totally identified with Zionism. The vacuum in the anti-Zionist Left has been filled by a mainly Arab supported party, Rekah, and the Israel Socialist Organisation better know known as Matzpen. Rekah has played an increasingly important role in recent years in Israel. (In the last elections, after the October War, whilst the Labour Zionist establishment’s share of the poll went down by 4.3 per cent, Rekah increased by 0.7 per cent and gained a new seat in Parliament.) Similarly, Matzpen has had a consistent record of opposition – though Ghilan will insist on praising it merely for the quality of its leading personalities.
Finally Ghilan’s book must be commended for its analysis of the Israeli State today. Through yarns and sensational stories, Ghilan presents a very complete picture of this nation which has degenerated from Utopian Socialist origins to the level of fifth rate banana republic. The racialist nature of the State is epitomised by the story of the non-Jewish soldier who was said to have been posthumously circumcised so as to be allowed to be buried by the side of Jewish soldiers. And there are many other tales to reveal the class nature of the country and Israeli society’s love affair with war.
Last updated on 2.7.2008