The Communist Party-led front, Hadash (The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality), has emerged as a major force among Leftist groups in Israel. In the recently concluded elections for the Knesset, Hadash displaced the exhausted Zionist left bloc of the Labor and Meretz.
Last week Peoples Dispatch talked to Arafat Bdarny, Secretary-General of the YoungCommunist League of Israel (Banki-Shabiba) regarding the relevance of the communist movement in contemporary Israeli politics and the peace process. Following are some excerpts from the long interview.
Peoples Dispatch (PD): What has been the status of the COVID-19 spread in Israel and what has its impact been on the people, especially the working class? How effective has been the government’s response to the crisis?
Arafat Bdarny (AB): The pandemic has hit marginalized communities the hardest due to systemic inequality and endemic cuts to the public health system. Moreover, the social and economic effects of the pandemic are much more devastating, since the neoliberal right-wing government of Netanyahu refused to take any action to help the working people even though so many are now on the brink of disastrous poverty.
PD: The current government in Israel was formed by an agreement which seems to be against the mandate of the people. What is your take on it? How disastrous has Netanyahu’s government been for the Israeli working class and the peace process? Also, what is your view on the performance of the Joint List, particularly Hadash and the Communist Party of Israel (CPI), in the recently held back-to-back polls in Israel? What has been the reason for the drastic decline in support for the Labor/Meretz camp?
AB: The government that has just been sworn in (christened by Trump’s administration), is a betrayal of the people’s mandate because the majority of the people voted for parties that promised to oppose Netanyahu but were betrayed by cowardly politicians. We were very close to toppling Netanyahu and the far-right after the last elections, thanks to the unprecedented achievement of the Communist Party-led Joint List, and the success of our strategy to convince a large portion of the Israeli public that the only way to oppose Netanyahu’s corrupt government is through a broad, democratic and anti-fascist front of Jews and Arabs. Our main achievement from this election is our ability to finally break the political isolation of the Arab Palestinian national minority of Israeli citizens and offer a horizon of a joint Jewish-Arab politics. Whereas the liberal Zionist Left parties (Labor & Meretz) have completed their long declining trajectory and collapsed due to their inability to offer a clear alternative to the Right (by shunning a joint Jewish-Arab struggle as well as class struggle, or even coherent criticism of the Occupation and a vision for peace and democracy), the strategy of the Communist Party has proven successful and puts us as the leaders of the Israeli Left camp as a whole.
PD: What is your take on the political divisions that exist in today’s Israel? Is the country getting more sharply polarized along ethnic lines? What has been the situation on the class front?
AB: Israeli society is very polarized, along with multiple divisions (religion, nationality, and ethnicity). The gap between the rich and poor is among the highest among all industrial countries and a third of all Israeli children live below the poverty line, while the government – that does not have a solution to the social problems – is doing all it can do to incite racial tensions and hatred among the people. Recently, more and more forces have begun to realize that the only way to advance struggles that address the social and economic problems of the people in Israel is through a joint Jewish-Arabic struggle and an end to the Occupation of the Palestinian People.
PD: How do you define the contemporary communist movement in Israel?
AB: The Communist Party of Israel runs in elections as the Arab-Jewish electoral front Hadash (The Democratic Front for Peace & Equality), which is at the head of a wider electoral alliance “The Joint List” representing the entire Arab-Palestinian national minority of Israeli citizens. Our main strength and support base for many years have been the Arab national minority, but we have always been a joint Arab-Jewish party advocating a united class struggle for the interests of both peoples. This year alone, we have roughly doubled our support among the Jewish public and are now in the process of becoming the leaders of most left-wing forces among Israeli Jews, who are finally seeing the necessity of the CPI’s strategy of a joint Jewish-Arab struggle for peace, democracy and social justice.
PD: What is your opinion regarding the foundation of the state of Israel and its ethnic manifestations? Also, what is your position on a solution for the Palestine question?
AB: We are a joint Arab-Jewish, patriotic, anti-Zionist, and internationalist party. The Communist Party supported the creation of the State of Israel in accordance with the UN plan for the independence of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, free from imperialism, and has fought ever since to secure a just peace based on the independence of both peoples. Only when the Palestinian People achieve their self-determination can we have true independence, peace, and security.
PD: What is your take on the state of political affairs in the Palestinian territories? How robust has, your cooperation been with the progressive sections there regarding the peace process.
AB: The Communist Party of Israel maintains very close relations with the left forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, issuing joint statements in opposition to the Occupation and for a just peace for both peoples. The CPI and the Palestinian Peoples Party (as well as the Communist Party of Jordan) originated from the original Communist Party of Palestine. Our position is that the PLO is the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian People and Israel must negotiate with the PLO for a just peace based on an independent Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel. Unfortunately, the current leadership of the Palestinian Authority seems to be subservient to Israel and the US.