Tony Cliff

Terrorism in Palestine

Are the Terrorists

(December 1946)

From Socialist Appeal, December 1946.
Transcribed by Mike Pearn.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Terrorist activity in Palestine has been revived on a larger scale than formerly, calling the attention of the entire press to the organisations of the Hagana, the Irgun Zvai Leumi, the Stern Gang and their activities.

Socialist internationalists must answer the question: what is the character of these organisations? Are they an anti-imperialist factor in the liberatory struggles of the colonial peoples?

Stern Gang

The answer to this question is clear: the liberation of Palestine from the imperialist yoke cannot be realised without the liberation of the whole East from imperialism. There are tens of millions of Arab workers and peasants in the Middle East, and any organisation which does not drive towards unity with these masses can objectively, not be anti-imperialist.

All the Zionist terror organisations, however, daily declare that their objective is to turn Palestine into a Jewish state. Their leaders are the main organisers of the boycott of the Arabs, which casts Arab workers out of industries owned by Jews, and prevents Arab peasants from selling their products to Jewish customers, etc.

As regards their relation to imperialism, there is somewhat of a difference between the HAGANA and the other terrorist organisations, but this difference is in reality only verbal.

The Hagana

Dr Sneh, head of the Hagana declared:

“One of the bad principles of the traditional system (of British policy) is that the British authorities compromise only with the one who knows how to disturb and to break their peace, but are accustomed to treat lightly and betray a faithful, peaceful and patient ally. If this is the way to win the alliance of Britain, we cannot avoid trying to follow this path, as we are very interested in Britain’s alliance with us. We cannot long maintain the present one-sided alliance in place of mutual alliance. The Jewish population in Palestine does not intend to expel the British from the country and be their heirs. We do not see any contradiction whatsoever between mass immigration, a Jewish state, and wide and strong British bases in this country. On the contrary, we shall look upon it very favourably.”
The essence of the Crisis, Ha’aretz, October 26, 1945.

Stern Gang and Irgun Zvai Leumi

The other two organisations, the Stern Gang and Irgun Zvai Leumi, demagogically declare that they stand for the full freedom of Palestine from imperialism in order to establish a Jewish state. They declare:

The British to the sea, the Arabs to the desert.”

The leaders, knowing the incompatibility of the two parts of this slogan, choose the second.

Do these organisations serve the interests of the Jewish masses of Palestine and the world, as they claim to do? Of course not.

Aims of British Imperialism

For more than 20 years, British imperialism has been interested in building a citadel inside the Middle east, shut in economically, socially and politically from the Arab masses, a citadel which, in its isolation will support an imperialist oppressive policy. British imperialism has accordingly allowed the Zionist leaders to settle tens of thousands of Jews in Palestine with this object: to use them as a buffer between itself and the Arab masses. The imperialists know that whatever the complaint of the Zionist against their master, in no case will they join with the Arab masses.

Sure of this, imperialism can use the Zionist movements, as it has done in the past and will do in the future, whenever there is an Arab anti-imperialist uprising in the Middle East. They will use the Zionists as a direct supporter; but they will also use them as scapegoats.

Anti-Semitism In The Middle East

The stronger the activity of the Zionist terror organisations, the greater the isolation of the Jewish toilers from their Arab brethren. Every bomb thrown for the Jewish state, deepens the abyss between the Jewish and Arab masses and increases the danger threatening them.

The Zionist leaders, who say the solution of the Jewish question lies in Palestine, really precipitate a terrible new Jewish tragedy. The situation of the Jews in the Middle East is one of isolation in the midst of a hostile population. This is the result of the criminal imperialist policy of goading the Jewish minority to struggle for a Jewish State, of helping them to erect a closed Zionist economy which turns the anti-imperialist ire of the Arab masses against the Jews.

It is impossible for the Palestinian Jews to save the displaced Jews in Europe by bringing them to Palestine. Their task will be to save themselves from the abyss into which they are being driven. This can be done only by their renunciation of Zionism, by breaking down their isolation in the Middle East, and by extending their hand to the Arab masses who fight against imperialism.

The Jewish terror movements in Palestine are antagonistic to the interests of the Jews and Arabs alike. Objectively they help the interests of imperialism; help the policy of divvied and rule, and justify the concentration of big armies in Palestine under the guise of protecting the Arabs from the Jews, while really fortifying the imperialist position in preparation for future uprisings in the Middle East.

Division Between Jews and Arabs

It is imperialism which is responsible for the cul-de-sac into which the Jewish masses of Palestine are being driven. It did all it could to maintain the differences in the standard of life of Jews and Arabs. While Jewish workers work mainly in the closed Jewish economy, based to a large extent on Zionist subsidies, the Arab workers are mainly employed by the Government and foreign enterprises.

Imperialist policy was first to pay the Arab workers wages which are far lower than those received by the Jews in the Jewish economy; insofar as it employed Jewish workers, it paid them higher wages.

The reactionary anti-Labour legislation, the police suppression of strikes, etc, harmed the Arab workers with their weak organisations and lower cultural level, much more than the Jewish workers, whose Labour organisation Histadruth is on the whole supported by the Jewish capitalists. This organisation serves mainly not the class struggle, but the boycott of the Arabs. There is no trade union where Palestine Jews participate with Arabs in equal terms; there is no common school or hospital; there is no political party in which Jews and Arabs are united (Trotskyists apart) – even the Jewish and Arab Stalinists operate separately.

The fact that the Health and Education budgets together do not amount to 65% of the Police Budget (in England they are five times larger than the latter), causes the standard of life of the Arabs to be dragged down much lower than that of the Jews, who have higher wages and receive large sums from the world Zionist movement for health and education.

British imperialism tries its best to keep the Jewish and Arab toilers in different compartments of the same train speeding towards destruction. The Zionists act in this as the tools of imperialism.

The Fate of the Country Must Rest in the Hands of Its Inhabitants

The main leaders of the Zionist movement demand a Jewish state. The Left Zionists, Hashomer Hatzair, demand the control of the Jewish Agency over immigration, colonisation and the development of the country. These demands cannot be realised without the support of British imperialism against the Arab masses.

The Arab feudal leaders also base themselves on the hope of receiving support from imperialism against Zionism. Thus Jamal El Husseini, the relative of the Mufti and his right hand, declared in 1937; “We agree that Palestine will be an eternal crown colony on one condition only, that Jewish immigration and colonisation will be stopped.” the Arab feudal leaders try to cover their crimes against the interests of the masses by diverting the fear of the Arab masses of Zionism – a justified fear – into reactionary channels of anti-Jewish bating. The Zionist colonisation evicted 3 to 4 thousand Arab tenants. The Arab feudalists try to cover the fact of their role in suppressing tens of thousands of Arab tenants and peasants by the cry: stop colonisation. The Zionist leaders help the Arab feudal leaders in this job by opposing any agrarian reform, knowing that until now 90% of the land bought by the Zionists was bought from Arab landowners with huge estates while the masses of peasants did not show any inclination to sell their land.

The Arab feudal lords are no more interested in the real independence of Palestine by the action of the masses, than are the Zionists.

The Jewish masses of Palestine can fulfil only one of two roles: either they will be the buffer between imperialism and the desires of millions of Arab masses in the East, or they can be the allies of the latter. Jewish and Arab unity in Palestine must be based on abolishing those causes which keep them apart. First of all the expropriation of imperialist enterprises which hold the key positions of the economy (there-quarters of the industrial and transport capital in the country), the abolition of the feudal estates and their transference to the committees of peasants and agricultural workers. This will give tremendous economic possibilities of raising the material and cultural level of the masses – Arab and Jew alike. The equality between the Arab and Jewish masses cannot be realised so long as feudalism and imperialism and Zionism continue to exist.

When Palestine will become a province in the Federated Arab workers and peasants Republic of the east, the Jews of Palestine being equal and free, will receive their right of territorial and national autonomy in the places and the regions where they are now concentrated.

The tasks of the Palestinian working class are clear:

Last updated on 20.10.2006