Zionism and the Bourgeois State

Yossi Schwartz ISL the section of RCIT in Israel/Occupied Palestine, 27.03.2023

The state and bourgeois ideology

The huge demonstrations against Netanyahu’s government with chants of “Democracy” and “No to the dictatorships” raise the questions: What is Democracy? What is the relationship between Democracy and Dictatorship? What do they mean when they chant: “We want Democracy”, while Israel is an apartheid state?

It is even more interesting when we observe that a large part of the big capitalists finance this movement and that generals, internal security service(!), air force pilots, settlers from the West Bank, and different war criminals are leading this crowd.

That Netanyahu’s government is the most right-wing government in the history of Israel is a fact. However, the counter-movement is not much better. Today the Histadrut has joined the protests. However, in spite of the high cost of living it does not raise demands of higher salaries nor of solidarity with the oppressed Palestinians as it would conflict with the support of the capitalists and the generals.

Anyone familiar with Israel knows that Israel does not have a constitution, that Aaron Barak as the president of the Supreme Court declared two basic laws to be elements of a constitution. Also, the government controls the Zionist parliament, and the power of the Supreme Court limits the power of the Parliament (Knesset).

Anyone who watches the demonstrations can observe that the bulk of the demonstrators is middle-class Ashkenazi (Europeans).

The focus of the demonstrations is the demand not to weaken the Supreme Court. Right-wing settler Avigdor Liberman, the leader of “Israel is our home” , demands a constitution. Such a constitution can take into account only the citizens of Israel and declares the entire Palestine a Jewish state and that the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza are not citizens.

According to the bourgeois ideology parliamentary sovereignty refers to a representative democracy where the parliament is ultimately sovereign, with neither the executive power nor the judiciary. This is of course fiction as the government controls Parliament. And indeed, how can Israel be considered to have parliamentary sovereignty when the government controls the Parliament and the Supreme court has the power to declare that laws are illegal?

Another relevant fact is that from the establishment of the Zionist state until today, 7 judges of Eastern origin (Arabs or North African Jews) have served in the Supreme Court, out of a total number of 82 supreme judges. There has never been a Supreme Court president of Eastern origin. In the current composition, out of 15 judges, only one is Eastern.

Until Shai Nitzan there were 12 state prosecutors, all of Ashkenazi origin. In the position of Attorney General, the ratio is 14 Ashkenazim against one Mizrahi, Meni Mazuz, who held the position of Chief Justice.

A close ally of newly returned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Levin presented a planned judicial overhaul that would drastically limit the authority of the High Court of Justice to block legislation and government decisions deemed discriminatory and/or undemocratic, abolish “reasonableness” as a test by which justices can weigh legality, give the government control over judicial selection, and eliminate ministry legal advisers appointed by the attorney general. This reform will increase the number of Eastern Jewish judges in the SC.

While in the abstract reducing the power of the Supreme Court is justified in Parliamentary Democracy, considering the nature of the government it is wrong. On the other hand, considering the political nature of the demonstrations, it is impossible to support them as they demand democracy for European Jews only.

Thus, this is a struggle between two reactionary blocks that cannot be supported. It brings to mind WWII which was a war between two imperialist camps fighting to control and exploit the working and poor people and destroy the forces of production. The U.S. and Britain claimed that the war was for democracy. Revolutionary Marxists were for the revolutionary defeat of both imperialist blocks while defending only Stalinist Russia which was not a capitalist state.

We should always take positions that advance the interests of the international working class, not the illusions and delusions of the ruling class or the middle class.

Class society and class rule

The increase in agricultural production and technological advancements during the Agricultural revolution 10,000-13,000 years ago contributed to unprecedented population growth and new agricultural practices, triggering such phenomena as rural-to-urban migration, the development of a coherent and loosely regulated agricultural market, and the emergence of class society. The first fully developed class society was slave societies that reached their peak in Greece and Rome.

The Britannica defines democracy, as literally, ruled by the people. The term is derived from the Greek dēmokratia, which was coined from dēmos (“people”) and kratos (“rule”) in the middle of the 5th century BCE to denote the political systems then existing in some Greek city-states, notably Athens[1].

But who are the people? In ancient Athens, there were an estimated 60,000–80,000 slaves during the fifth and fourth centuries BC, with each household having an average of three or four enslaved people attached to it[2]. These are not part of the people and for them, the democracy for the masters was a dictatorship.

In the Feudal society the ruling class was the nobility and the peasants tied to the lands were exploited by the Nobles and the Church.

The Feudal system was overthrown by the capitalists beginning in Switzerland, the English capitalists led by Oliver Cromwell in the revolution of 1640, the American war of independence of 1763–1783, and the French revolution of 1789.

The ideologues of the capitalist class associate the separation of power with democracy. They claim that the basis for today’s notion of separation of powers was laid with the functional understanding that democracy and the rule of law require both the division of powers and mutual checks and balances. The main proponents of this idea were John Locke (1632– 1704), Charles Baron de Montesquieu (1689–1755) and James Madison (1751–1836). Namely a state in which political power is restricted in various ways and in which the Constitution serves as the standard for the legitimate exercise of public power. It is interesting that Locke saw the Judicial functioning as part of the executive.

For the ideologues of the capitalists, constitutional restrictions on public power may be both procedural and substantive. The focus of substantive restrictions is an entrenched and justiciable bill of rights and a commitment to certain foundational values, such as the rule of law. The separation of powers falls on the procedural side, although its purpose is related to substantive interests: it is a means to ensure the protection of individual rights by way of the distribution of political power between different institutional roles and includes mechanisms to ensure that such power is not unduly exercised. The idea behind the separation of powers is that a concentration of power will most likely lead to self-interested action and abuse of power for personal gain… Separation of powers is the basis for an institutional, procedural, and structural division of public power to create conditions that so the ideologues claim place human rights at the center of society. The most important right is the protection of private property. Which is the property of the capitalists as the working class has only personal property. Both from an institutional and structural point of view, such a constitutional principle is an essential aspect of promoting and securing the entrenchment of constitutional democracy. Separation of powers — as well as democracy and the rule of law — are therefore claimed to be linked to the constitutional project of creating a society founded on the recognition of human rights, peaceful co-existence, and development opportunities for all. The objective of the separation of powers is to curtail the exercise of political power to prevent its abuse — meaning the violation of human rights. This instrumental function of the separation of powers as an institutional mechanism alleged to protect the human rights of all citizens and residents and supposedly the reason why the combination of these two ideas (separation of powers and human rights) has been called the ‘core of constitutionalism’.

The Smoke Screen

However, the entire argument is no more than a smoke screen hiding the real exploiting ruling class-the capitalist class of the imperialist states. The individual with human rights is capitalist. How do we know it? The basic principle that governed voting in colonial America was that voters should have a “stake in society.” Leading colonists associated democracy with disorder and mob rule, and believed that the vote should be restricted to those who owned property or paid taxes. Only these people, in their view, were committed members of the community and were sufficiently independent to vote. Each of the thirteen colonies required voters either to own a certain amount of land or personal property or to pay a specified amount in taxes.

In Britain in 1884 for the first time, a majority of men (about 60%) could vote. However, not all men had the right to vote until 1918. Only in 1928 all women in Britain were allowed to vote at the age of 21 (the same as men).

The examination of the history of the apartheid in South Africa, the U.S., France and other states, proves that while they are republics with a constitution and separation of powers they have been states with a history of cruel and inhuman oppressive regimes.

On 3 August 1960, the National Party government of South Africa announced a referendum would be held in October of that year so that voters might weigh in on the question of whether the Union of South Africa should become a republic. The vote was restricted to white South Africans. More than 90% of eligible voters participated in the referendum, and 52.3% of votes were in favor of “a Republic” for the Union.

The structure of the government of the Republic under the 1961 constitution was a  system very similar to that of the Union under the South Africa Act of 1909, except that the Queen and the appointed Governor-General were replaced by a State President elected by Parliament.

The history of the U.S shows a similar picture. By 1787, the union between the states was unraveling. Delegates from 12 states met in Philadelphia and, with George Washington presiding, created a new form of government.

The American Constitution was enshrined at a time of slavery. Though the word “slavery” does not appear in the Constitution, the issue was central to the debates over commerce and representation. The “Three-Fifths Compromise” provided that three-fifths (60%) of enslaved people in each state would count toward congressional representation, which greatly increased the number of congressional seats in several states, particularly in the South.

The Convention also debated whether to allow the new federal government to ban the importation of enslaved people from outside of the United States, including directly from Africa. They ultimately agreed to allow Congress to ban it, should it choose, but not before twenty years had passed. Remarkably, it was one of the only clauses of the Constitution that could not be amended. Only in 1808 did the United States formally prohibit the international slave trade [3]. The US constitution also mandates the return of fugitive slaves, as well as the suppression of slave revolts.

The French revolution that was the most advanced bourgeois revolution shows that capitalism, constitution, partition of powers and slavery can go together.

“The French West India Company had tobacco plantations in French colonies. The company had a monopoly on the slave trade from Senegal, which since 1658, belonged to the Company of Cape Verde and Senegal. The slave trade continued under the operation of the Compagnie du Sénégal from 1658 to 1709. The company traded slaves with the Hausa Kingdoms, Mali, and the Moors in Mauritania.

As of 1778, the French were trafficking approximately 13,000 African people as slaves to the French West Indies each year. By 1750, two thirds of the enslaved peoples in New France were indigenous, and by 1834, most enslaved people were black.

In February 1794, slavery was abolished in all French colonies, during the first elected Assembly of the First Republic (1792–1804), under the leadership of Maximilien Robespierre who abolished slavery in law in France and its colonies. The first article of the law stated that “Slavery was abolished” in the French colonies, while the second article stated that “slave-owners would be indemnified” with financial compensation for the value of their slaves. Here we see the full meaning of the so-called human rights under capitalism. The French constitution passed in 1795 included a declaration of the rights of man, which abolishes slavery.

Napoleon reintroduced slavery in sugarcane-growing colonies through the Law of 20 May 1802. It lasted 13 years. In 1818, the slave trade was banned in France. On July 18–19, 1845, the Mackau Laws were passed, which paved the way to end slavery. On April 27, 1848, the Proclamation of the Abolition of Slavery in the French Colonies was made. The effective abolition was enacted with the Decree abolishing Slavery on the same day.” [4]

Thus, there is no reason from the Zionist perspective to enshrine a constitution that annexes the West Bank and Gaza and excludes the Palestinians from being citizens of the Zionist apartheid. What the Zionists cannot do, is write a democratic constitution

based on the assumptions that all men are by nature free and equal and that legitimate governments are those which have the consent of the people. For the Zionists the Palestinians are simply not human.

The Palestinians are “…beasts walking on two legs.” [5]

When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.” [6]

We must expel Arabs and take their places.” [7]

Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both peoples together in this country. We shall not achieve our goal if the Arabs are in this small country. There is no other way than to transfer the Arabs from here to neighboring countries – all of them. Not one village, not one tribe should be left.” [8]

Instead of an imperialist apartheid state the only solution is a Palestinian workers state with equal civil rights for the Jews as part of the Socialist Federation of the Middle East. We turn to Lenin’s State and revolution to explain what is socialist democracy or the dictatorship of the proletariat. Lenin quote Marx:

“The Commune,” Marx wrote, “was to be a working, not a parliamentary, body, executive and legislative at the same time….”Instead of deciding once in three or six years which member of the ruling class was to represent and repress [ver- and zertreten] the people in parliament, universal suffrage was to serve the people constituted in communes, as individual suffrage serves every other employer in the search for workers, foremen and accountants for his business.

Lenin goes on and wrote: “To decide once every few years which members of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people through parliament–this is the real essence of bourgeois parliamentarism, not only in parliamentary- constitutional monarchies, but also in the most democratic republics”….” The way out of parliamentarism is not, of course, the abolition of representative institutions and the elective principle, but the conversion of the representative institutions from talking shops into “working” bodies. “The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary, body, executive and legislative at the same time.”

“A working, not a parliamentary body”–this is a blow straight from the shoulder at the present-day parliamentarian country, from America to Switzerland, from France to Britain, Norway and so forth”…” The Commune substitutes for the venal and rotten parliamentarism of bourgeois society institutions in which freedom of opinion and discussion does not degenerate into deception, for the parliamentarians themselves have to work, have to execute their own laws, have themselves to test the results achieved in reality, and to account directly to their constituents. Representative institutions remain, but there is no parliamentarism here as a special system”… We, the workers, shall organize large-scale production on the basis of what capitalism has already created, relying on our own experience as workers, establishing strict, iron discipline backed up by the state power of the armed workers. We shall reduce the role of state officials to that of simply carrying out our instructions as responsible, revocable, modestly paid “foremen and accountants”… To organize the whole economy on the lines of the postal service so that the technicians, foremen and accountants, as well as all officials, shall receive salaries no higher than “a workman’s wage”, all under the control and leadership of the armed proletariat–that is our immediate aim. This is what will bring about the abolition of parliamentarism and the preservation of representative institutions. This is what will rid the laboring classes of the bourgeoisie’s prostitution of these institutions”…” He (Marx) did not at all oppose the view that the state would disappear when classes disappeared, or that it would be abolished when classes were abolished. What he did oppose was the proposition that the workers should renounce the use of arms, organized violence, that is, the state, which is to serve to “crush the resistance of the bourgeoisie” [8]

To say it in a different way, a system of workers councils and the central committee of the Supreme council is the government that combines executive and legislative functions, including elected judges. All of them paid the salary of an average industrial worker and can be replaced in a very short time if they do not fit.


[1] https://www.britannica.com/topic/democracy

[2] https://www.historyextra.com/period/ancient-greece/slavery-ancient-greece-life-society/

[3] https://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/constitutional-convention/issues-of-the-constitutional-convention/

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_France

[5] Menahim Begin, speech to the Knesset, quoted in Amnon Kapeliouk, ‘Begin and the “Beasts’ ‘, New Statesman, 25 June 1982.

[6] Raphael Eitan, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defence Forces, New York Times, 14 April 1983.

[7] David Ben Gurion, future Prime Minister of Israel, 1937, Ben Gurion and the Palestine Arabs, Oxford University Press, 1985.

[8] Joseph Weitz, head of the Jewish Agency’s Colonization Department in 1940. From “A Solution to the Refugee Problem” Joseph Weitz, Davar, September 29, 1967, cited in Uri Davis and Norton Mevinsky, eds., Documents from Israel, 1967-1973, p.21.

[9] Lenin: The State and Revolution August – September, 1917 Source: Collected Works, Volume 25, p. 381-492

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