T. Cliff

The Problem of the Middle East

<p. 162>

Part V

Chapter XIX

I. The Social Roots of Zionism

The social roots of Zionism are fundamentally different to those of other national movements, which makes it questionable if this may be termed a national movement at all. The national state which rose in the sixteenth–eighteenth centuries expressed the rise of the productive powers and their overgrowing the narrow limits of the feudal baronies. And even though today the productive powers on a world scale overgrow the limits of the national state, in many countries – namely the colonies – the national struggle is progressive as it is directed against imperialism which is the stumbling block on the path of the building up of a world socialist order, and against feudal particularism which is preserved and strengthened by imperialism. Zionism is not the expression of the growth of the productive powers which make feudal baronies obsolete, but of the obsoleteness of the national state itself. Zionism became a mass movement in Europe not at the time of the rise of capitalism but during its decline.

In the period of rising capitalism the Jews in the developed countries of Europe became interwoven and assimilated in the economy, society and culture of the nations among whom they dwelt. A field of activity was found for Jewish capital. The hated ‘Jewish’ professions – moneylending, trade, speculation, etc. – were now also being dealt in by wider layers of gentiles, and were ceasing to be the ‘despised right’ of the Jews, which put an end to the seclusiveness of the Jews. Thus the rising bourgeoisie did not know racial and religious hatred; it was liberal.

At this period, of course, it did not enter the heads of the Jews to leave their places of habitation, emigrate and build a national state of their own. But immediately with the victory of capitalism over feudalism new social and national contradictions peculiar to capitalism began to arise and, with the passage of years, to deepen. Capitalism could not give a complete solution to the Jewish problem and abolish anti-Semitism once and for all, for the following reasons. Firstly, capitalist industrial development was limited to a small number of countries – Western and Central Europe and USA, in Eastern Europe, especially Tsarist Russia, where feudal relations prevailed and capitalism was weak, the ghetto of the Middle Ages was not yet to any real extent destroyed. Secondly, capitalism is based on competition and inevitably from time to time brings a sharpening of the contradictions within itself which explode in crises bringing national competition in their wake. The sting of this national competition is felt most keenly by the petty bourgeoisie. Hence already at the end of the last century teachers, lawyers, doctors and students in Germany were joining the anti-Semitic movement of George von Schönerer, and in Austria the Christian Socialist movement of Karl Luger. Thirdly, although the bourgeois republic is the most suitable form of state for capitalist rule in its rise, from time to time the bourgeoisie, or some sections of it found this form of government, even during the rise of capitalism, too weak to check the working class. Hence the monarchist and Bonapartist movements which not infrequently used anti-Semitism as a weapon for achieving ‘national unity’ (e.g. the Dreyfus affair).

In the same way as bourgeois democracy is only a formal democracy and civic equality only a formal equality, as they are based on foundations of economic inequality, so also the equality of the different national and religious communities under capitalism can be only formal. Nevertheless during the period of rising capitalism anti-Semitism was relatively limited. And even though Jews in Poland, Russia and Rumania were persecuted by anti-Semitic pressure expressed in its extreme form in pogroms which recurred every few years, they solved this immediate problem by emigration to America. Thus in the years 1900–1914 150 to 160 thousand Jews emigrated annually to America. At this time the idea arose in the minds of a handful of Jews to combine emigration with the prevailing idea of the national state, and the Zionist movement thus arose. But only very few Jews emigrated to Palestine in these years, their numbers not reaching beyond a thousand or so a year.

The stage of declining world capitalism, i.e. the stage in which capitalist <p. 163> property relations and the national state became obsolete, made a mass movement out of Zionism which strives to build a capitalist society and a national state.

The decline of world capitalism strengthens the antagonism between the vital interests of the masses and finance capital. The need of big capital to bring about a galvanization of national unity through finding a scapegoat, increases. Anti-Semitism is a tool in its hand for the creation of a popular base for itself, at a time when its unpopularity reaches its climax. Thus arises fascism’s mad hatred for the Jews.

In the countries of Easter Europe the economy never once after the First World War came out of a state of chronic depression, firstly because capitalism in these countries came late, and so a great part of the burdens of the decline of world capitalism was laid upon them, secondly because feudal foundations were still strong, and thirdly because their boundaries, those of Lilliputian national states, were a fetter on economic development. All these factors mutually influenced one another. anti-Semitism came, too, and prevailed in these countries before coming as a mass phenomenon to the Western countries. The intervention of the state came to push the Jews out of their economic positions. Anti-Semitic propaganda increased in strength. Rumania and Poland, which were late in their capitalist development were pioneers in Jew-baiting.

But they were forced to give up their supremacy in favour of Germany. At the time of the great economic crisis of 1929-32 Germany was revealed as the weakest link in the chain of world capitalism. She became the centre of world history, standing before the alternatives either of the victory of the socialist revolution or of the fascist counter-revolution. The counter-revolution which conquered was confronted with the necessity of galvanising national unity in a people torn by contradictions much deeper than the agrarian countries of Easter Europe had ever known. Maidanek and Oswiecim were therefore very much more frightful than the ‘dry pogroms’ of the Rumanian anti-Semites or the Polish Endeks.

World capitalism is in decline, but the rate decline differs in the different countries. Because of this the extent of the annulment of liberalism has been different in the different countries. English and American capitalism which are based on an abundance of reserves of riches can yet, by denying democracy to millions of colonial toilers, preserve formal democracy at home. If German capitalism condemned millions of Jews to bloody Oswiecim, Anglo Saxon ‘democracy’ on its part acted more ‘humanely’ by closing its doors in the faces of the Jews trying to escape from there. While between 1881 and 1914 an average of 100,000 Jews migrated annually to the USA, now the granting of refuge to a thousand Jews in the USA is considered a unique act of mercy.

There are basic differences between the pogroms in the days of primitive accumulation and the persecution of the Jews today.

Then the persecution accompanied a transitional period from feudal barbarism to a higher stage in the development of society. Primitive accumulation was a stage prior to the advance of capitalist accumulation proper, which brought in its wake many revolutionary changes. anti-Semitism today is an accompaniment of the decline of society which holds the constant threat of the precipitation of humanity into the abyss of barbarism.

Then, also, the pogroms did not take place everywhere at the same time. Thus, when the Jews were expelled from the Rhineland, the way was open for them to migrate to Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia, and when pogroms took place there, the way was open to other more backward regions – Poland and Ukraine. Today, however, world economy is united, as is revealed in the world character of the economic crisis, in the decline of the entire world capitalist economy – and in the universality of the Jewish tragedy.

As the Manifesto of the Fourth International on the Imperialist War and the Proletarian Revolution (1940) says:

‘The world of decaying capitalism is overcrowded. The question of admitting a hundred extra refugees becomes a major problem for such a world power as the United States. In an era of aviation, telegraph, telephone, radio and television, travel from country to country is paralysed by passports and visas. The period of the wasting away of foreign trade and the decline of domestic trade is at the same time the <p. 164> monstrous intensification of chauvinism and especially of anti-Semitism. In the epoch of its rise, capitalism took the Jewish people out of the ghetto and utilized them as an instrument in its commercial expansion. Today decaying capitalist society is striving to squeeze the Jewish people from all its pores; seventeen million individuals out of the two billion populating the globe, that is, less than one percent, can no longer find a place on our planet! Amid the vast expanses of land and the marvels of technology, which has also conquered the skies for men as well as the earth, the bourgeoisie has managed to convert our planet into a foul prison.’

This objective background brings to the fore two possibilities of approach to the Jewish question. The one discloses the social roots of anti-Semitism and strives for the only possible solution for the liberation of Jewish and gentile toilers alike from this cancer – the international socialist revolution. The other – Zionism – turns its head away from the real source of anti-Semitism and sinks into a reactionary utopia which tries to turn the wheels of history backwards. Here we feel obliged to make an analogy between Zionism and another reactionary movement, fascism, also the product declining capitalism which despite the great differences between them, have important features in common.

Fascism builds popular support for finance capital which is in abysmal antagonism to the interests of the masses of people. This it does by diverting the anti-capitalist ire of the masses of petty bourgeoisie who have lost their positions under pressure of the capitalist crisis, into a mistaken side-channel. The fascist demagogues conceal the simple truth from the masses that in our epoch there is no asylum from the rule of cartels, the banks and departmental stores, the fascist demagogues put to the fore the slogans of liquidation of the Jewish banks, the Jewish departmental stores etc. The success of the fascist demagogues was the result of the fact that the proletariat, misguided by its leaders, did not rise to the tasks posed by the epoch. The anti-capitalist ire of the petty bourgeois masses, not seeing a socialist way out, flowed into other channels.

The Jewish question – the fact that in the rich and capitalist world there is no place for some millions of Jews – can lead one to draw one of two conclusions, each the extreme opposite of the other. One is the struggle against the existing order, raising the Jewish question to be an added level for deepening the hatred of the gentile and Jewish masses towards the bestial capitalist regime. The other is the attempt to run away from fascism and imperialism, from the atrocities of the capitalist order which destroy the weak – and there are none weaker than the Jewish masses – by building a national state.

That Zionism is completely utopian and illusory is abundantly clear. If the source of the Jewish tragedy is the capitalist order, how can this same order suddenly make the solution of the Jewish question possible? How, in a world dominated by Maidanek and the atomic bomb can one think of building a homeland for the Jewish masses who are the most unfortunate victims of this order? Is it not clear that this very order which drives the Jewish masses from their positions and bloodily persecutes them will also determine the channel and the scale of their ‘salvation’ in the new ‘homeland’?

The Jewish big bourgeoisie who have closely interwoven with the economy of the highly developed capitalist countries are not directly affected by anti-Semitism as long as it is restricted to boycotting, window smashing, etc. Why then, are they Zionist? There are three main reasons for this. Firstly they do not want their undesired poor relatives to come to England where they might accelerate the rise of a popular anti-Semitic movement which would affect them too; secondly they hope to invest part of their capital in profitable businesses in Palestine; and thirdly and most importantly, they see in Zionism a support for British imperialism, the representative of the interests of Britain’s finance capitalists, Jewish included. Only an overwhelming victory of fascism would be able to turn them from Zionists ‘for others’ into Zionists ‘for themselves’.

The position of the petty and middle Jewish bourgeoisie is very <p. 165> different. Even at a time when anti-Semitism in its most extreme form had not yet prevailed, they were being progressively ousted from their positions. This was the result of general factors in capitalism which pauperize the middle classes especially in capitalism’s decline (with the victory of the big capitalists, with economic crises etc.) and also the result of factors specific to the Jews (anti-Semitic boycotts, intervention of the state to the disadvantage of Jewish shopkeepers and artisans etc.). The Jewish middle and petty bourgeois, particularly the latter, in Central and Eastern Europe, therefore, turned Zionist, beginning already in the first years after the First World War.

As far as the Jewish proletariat is concerned, in general, as long as the European proletariat constituted a serous anti-capitalist power, and pushed back the attacks of fascist anti-Semitic reaction, the Jewish workers in all countries of the world were completely alien to Zionism in all of the countries where the majority of the Jewish working class was concentrated – in Tsarist Russia, Poland, Romania, Lithuania and Latvia – Zionists had almost no influence whatsoever over the Jewish workers until the Second World War. The Jewish workers in USA too were non-Zionist, if not anti-Zionist. Only the long series of catastrophic defeats of the international working class succeeded in turning Zionism into a broad popular movement having an influence over the majority of the Jewish people.

It is clear that if Zionism reveals the world wide character of the decline of the capitalist order and the misguidedness and weakness of the international working class, any decisive turn in the development of the working class which would use the world crisis to its advantage will undermine the popular bases of Zionism.

II. Zionism Seeks for Allies among the Reaction

In view of the fact that Zionism is the product of anti-Semitism, as long as anti-Semitism did not take on an extreme form, the Zionist leaders welcomed it.

Thus Theodore Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, writes:

‘Anti-Semitism, which is a strong force rooted, concealed in the large masses of the people, does the Jews no harm. In my opinion this movement is likely to be of use to the Jewish character.’ (Diary, Vol. I, Hebrew, p. 10)

‘The anti-Semites will be our most faithful friends, the anti-Semitic countries will be our allies.’ (Ibid., p. 82)

‘When our society becomes famous in the world, the anti-Semites will make propaganda for it among the governments, the parliaments, at meetings and in the press.’ (Ibid., p. 150)

And in his opinion the victory of Zionism is the victory of anti-Semitism:

‘The anti-Semites have won because they were justified. They could not succumb to our rule in the army, in the law, in all the movements of life, as a return for their good-heartedness in letting us leave the ghetto. Let us never forget this good-heartedness of the civilized countries.’ (Ibid., p. 182)

Is this not a pure repetition of the words of the anti-Semites, that the Jews ‘rule in the army, in the law, in all the movements of life’, and that the giving of equal rights to all citizens, Jews included, and the destruction of the ghetto was but ‘good-heartedness’ for which they should be thankful?

An even clearer expression of the same trend of thought is given by Dr A. Ruppin, a Zionist leader:

‘The decline of anti-Semitism will bring in its wake the decline of Zionism … Anti-Semitism is the strongest agitator for Zionism.’ (Die Juden der Gegenwart, 1904, 1920 edition, p. 246)

The most poignant expression of this attitude is given by Jakob Klatzkin:

‘It is better to have Jews without equal rights, than equal rights without Jews.’ (Probleme des Judentums, 1930, p. 48)

And his fear for the fall of anti-Semitism, which would take the ground from under the feet of Zionism, is so deeply rooted that he is not at all pleased that the October Revolution abolished the inequality of the Jews under the Tsar, doing away with the most oppressive law of discrimination against them – the limitation of the right of Jewish settlement to within a certain pale. He writes:

‘I do not like to say it, and I must not conceal it: I am afraid the abolition of the Jewish pale of settlement in the centre of the Galuth will mean also the abolition of our last national concentration, of our last national district.’ (Ibid., p. 51)

The same ideas brought the Hapoel Hatzair, the official paper of the Mapai, which is the largest Zionist Socialist party, to write:

‘I venture <p. 166> to say wholeheartedly that we are interested in the sharpening of the Jewish question in Europe which will hasten the day of redemption of the masses of our brethren.’ (5/7/45)

In accordance with these views the Zionist leaders always sought support among the most anti-Semitic politicians. Thus shortly after the Kishinev pogroms in 1902, Herzl applied to Plehve, the Tsarist minister who had organized the pogroms, and by harping on their common hatred of socialism attempted to win his heart. In a letter of 19th May 1903 he wrote:

‘The grievous events of Kishinev oblige me to lift up my pen – but not in order to cry over the past. I hear from authentic sources that desperation is beginning to overcome the Jews of Russia … Youths of fifteen or sixteen who do not in the least understand the revolutionary madness they are preached are carried away by theories of violence.

‘In past years it was the pride of the Zionist movement that it gave all these unfortunates a higher ideal which brought them consolation and calm. His Excellency surely knows about this.’

Following this letter a secret agreement was made, according to which the Zionist movement was to be used as a lever against the Jewish socialists, in return for which Plehve was to use his influence with the Sultan to obtain a charter for Zionism on Palestine.

Not only did Herzl agree to help the Tsar but also the Sultan. At the time of the Turkish massacre of the Armenians, he was asked to help suppress this fact in the Austrian press. He complied readily, as he hoped that this might further his plans. (See Diary, Vol. II, May 7–July 8, 1896)

In order to find support for his plans Herzl appealed to each and every imperialist power. In a letter dated 10 July, 1898, to the Grand Duke of Baden, for instance, he wrote:

‘It is clear that the settlement of a neutral people on the shortest road to the East can be of immense importance for the German Orient policy. And what people is meant by that? That people which par la force des choses is compelled nearly everywhere to join the revolutionary parties.’ (Diary, Vol. III, p. 75)

On another occasion he said to the same duke:

‘With the Jews a German cultural element will enter the East. The fact that the Zionist movement is headed by German writers, even though of Jewish origin can serve as proof of this. The Congress language is German. The great majority of the Jews belong to the German culture.

‘We need protection. German protection is therefore the best for us; we alone cannot do this.’ (Ibid., pp. 93/94.)

Of course these words did not prevent Herzl from writing similar flattering letters to British politicians (see, for example, his letter of 24 October 1902 to Lord Lansdowne, Diary, Vol. VI, p. 18.) All the documents showing Zionism’s connection with world reaction would fill volumes.

III. What do the Zionists Say on Their Relation to the Arabs and British Imperialism?

Throughout the years Zionist propaganda has been based on double-entry bookkeeping. On the one hand promises have been made to the Arabs that Zionism would be a faithful servant to it. Some quotations from the works of Zionist leaders will clearly illustrate these two sides of Zionist propaganda.

Ben Gurion, leader of Mapai and head of the Executive Committee of the Jewish Agency, wrote in 1915:

‘Under no circumstances must the rights of these inhabitants (i.e. the Arabs) be touched. Only “Ghetto-dreamers” like Zangwill could imagine that Palestine can be given to the Jews in addition to the right to drive the non-Jews out of the country. No state will agree to this. Even if it seemed that this right might be given to us… the Jews have no justification and no possibility of exercising it. It is not the task of Zionism to drive the present inhabitants out of Palestine; if it had this aim it would merely be a dangerous Utopia, a harmful and reactionary Fata Morgana.’ (From We and Our Neighbours, Speeches and Essays, Tel Aviv 1931, Hebrew.)

About the fellah and his land, Ben Gurion wrote in 1920 in New York as <p. 167> follows:

‘Under no circumstances must the land be touched which belongs to the fellah and which he tills. Those who live from their hands’ toil must not be torn away from their soil, not even for financial compensation.’ (Ibid.)

‘The fate of the Jewish worker is tied up with that of the Arab one. They will rise together and fall together’ he said in 1924 (Ibid.). Later on, in 1926, he said:

‘The Arab population is an organic insoluble part of Palestine. It is rooted here, it works here and will stay here. Though it is not impossible at the present time to expel great masses of people from a country with the aid of physical force, only lunatics or political quacks could accuse the Jewish people of harbouring such a desire.’(Ibid.)

Dr. Weizmann, President of the World Zionist Organization, said in a speech in London on December 11, 1929: ‘Up till now there has been no case – and I hope there will be none in the future – where an Arab has been ousted from his land, either directly or indirectly.’

If such declarations are of any value, we could even cite Jabotinsky, the representative of the most extreme and greedy Zionist wing – the Revisionists – who once declared one of his fundamental principles to be:

‘Equality of all citizens,

1. Equal rights must be maintained of all citizens regardless of race, religion, language, and class, in all walks of the public life of the country.

2. In every Cabinet where a Jew is Prime Minister, an Arab will be his deputy and vice versa’, etc. (The War Front of the Jewish People, Hebrew)

These were the lullabies sung by Zionism to the Arab population of the country.

As regards the second side of Zionist propaganda, the parallelism of interests of Zionism and imperialism, the following quotations will sufficiently illustrate this.

Lord Melchett wrote in 1937:

‘The advantages to the British Empire are obvious. The points at issue are no less than the defence of the Suez Canal, of air stations essential to imperial communications, and the outlet of the oil pipe line in Haifa; and the harbour at Haifa (and later the harbour which is necessary at Tel-Aviv) have become vital to our naval strategy in the Mediterranean. The security of this complex of imperial interests can be better assured by a large European population than by the few battalions that can be spared.’ (Letter to the Daily Telegraph, June 14th, 1937, quoted from I. Rennap, Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Question, London 1942, p. 78)

In Melchett’s book this was emphasized:

‘The presence of three million Jews would remove for ever the possibility of a successful armed rising to destroy the effects of the mandatory policy.’ (Thy Neighbour, 1936, pp. 201/2, quoted from Rennap, Ibid., p. 78)

M. Ussishkin, one of the veteran Zionist leaders wrote:

‘A Palestine which is wholly Arab means that sooner or later Great Britain will be forced to leave, just as it is gradually leaving Egypt. A Palestine which is largely Jewish means a political alliance cordiale … between the Jewish people and the English.’ (Palestine Review, July 3rd, 1936, quoted from Rennap, Ibid., p. 78)

Ben Gurion put the matter most succinctly when declaring at the 19th Zionist Congress in 1935: ‘Whoever betrays Great Britain betrays Zionism.’

The Zionist leaders are quite right when they say that Zionism serves imperialism. Their words to the Arabs are pure lies.

IV. The Place of Zionism in the Defence System of Imperialism

Zionism occupies a special place in imperialist fortifications. It plays a double role, firstly, directly as an important pillar of imperialism, giving it active support and opposing the liberatory struggle of the Arab nation, and secondly as a passive servant behind which imperialism can hide and towards which it can direct the ire of the Arab masses.

If in Tel Aviv which has 250,000 inhabitants there is not one Arab worker, if a rumour that there are three Arabs working in a Jewish café is enough to bring a crowd of thousands to the spot to smash the windows and break the furniture, if an Arab fellah who dared before the war to come and sell his <p. 168> products in the Jewish market was subjected to beatings, spoliation of his products etc. (during the war such occurrences were not customary nor are so today as there was and still is a scarcity of products), if at one stroke twenty villages in the Valley of Jezreel were wiped out when the land was bought from a Syrian banker, Sursuk, if thousands of evicted peasants were prohibited from looking for work as wage labourers on the land on which their families had toiled for generations, if there were constant ‘purges’ of Arabs from the economy, so strongly reminiscent of the ‘purges’ carried out by the Nazis against the Jews from 1933–39, if from such ‘innocent’ acts the Zionists pass over to speaking about making Palestine a Jewish State and expelling all the Arabs from the country – then is there any wonder that the Arabs oppose Zionism to the very death?

Zionism frees imperialism from the responsibility for every act of spoliation and oppression. Let us look at a few examples. An English Electric Company which builds an enterprise in Palestine nominates a Jew as general manager. The result is that while in every colony a struggle having an anti-imperialist character is being conducted – with strikes, demonstrations and boycotts – against the foreign concessionary companies, in Palestine the boycott declared by the Arabs against the Palestine Electric Company wears another guise – that of a demonstration against the Jews. In this way the Zionists, who for propaganda’s sake declare the key positions of the economy to be in their hands although they are merely junior partners or even only managers, help imperialism to suck the blood from the country.

Another example will make this even clearer. While in Syria and Lebanon there were demonstrations, sometimes bloody, which were crowned with victory, against the establishment of the truck company Steel Bros there, in Palestine the ‘Socialist’ Zionists, the General Federation of Jewish Labour (Histadrut) put themselves, for some petty recompense, at the service of Steel Bros and assured the company’s firmly planting itself in the country.

In Palestine, as we have seen, there is one policeman or Ghaffir (special policeman) for every 100 inhabitants as compared with one for every 676 in England. The police budget in Palestine accounted for 27 per cent of the 1941–2 budget (excluding public works undertaken for police purposes, such as the building of police stations etc.), as compared with 0.3 per cent in England in 1942–3. Such a tremendous police force is not – God forbid! – intended to serve imperialism. No, it was Zionism which for years insisted on increasing the police force, insisted on the reign of law and order and a strong hand against the Arabs!

If the health and education budgets together do not make up 3/12ths of the police budget (in England they are five times larger than the latter) then the Zionists by no means protest against this but instead make a great ado about the fact that the government distributes the education budget to Jews and Arabs proportionally to the number of children in the two communities. Instead they demand that the government give a greater part of the budget to the Jews as they pay more taxes (obviously, being richer). This is demanded even by those Zionists who call themselves Socialist! Imperialism is thus freed from the responsibility for the widespread illiteracy and bad health conditions prevailing in the country.

Imperialism does not have to shoulder the responsibility for the fact that the big foreign companies and the big capitalists and landowners, Jewish or Arab, practically do not pay taxes. All the Zionists, from right to extreme ‘left’ oppose income tax, as this will harm Zionist construction.

In Palestine there are no even minimal laws for the protection of tenants. Neither Arab landowners nor the government need take responsibility for this either. On the contrary, the government from time to time, in order to appear the benefactor, declares a desire for laws for the protection of tenants and even maps out schemes for agricultural development. Again it is the Zionists who oppose any such laws and schemes, on the grounds that it will harm Zionist colonization.

If in Palestine there is a completely autocratic regime, without any parliament or even any elected representative body, imperialism again evades all responsibility very easily: the Zionists oppose the setting up of any democratic institution, again as it will hinder Zionist expansion.

<p. 169> If the British army during the years 1936–38 killed thousands of Arab partisans (in the same way as Italians killed Abyssinians, or the Japanese, Dutch and British the Javanese recently) it did not do so in order to maintain its position – God forbid! – but to protect the Jews!

It is a tragedy that the sons of the very people which has been persecuted and massacred in such a bestial fashion, and which today is the unprovoking victim of national hatred – of fascism, the highest form of imperialism – should itself be driven into a chauvinistic, militaristic fervour, and become the blind tool of imperialism in subjugating the Arab masses. In the same way that the existing social order is to be blamed for the calamity of the Jews, so is it to be blamed for the exploitation of their catastrophe for reactionary, oppressive aims.

Zionism does not redeem Jewry from suffering. On the contrary, it imperils them with a new danger, that of being a buffer between imperialism and the national and social liberatory struggle of the Arab masses.

V. Can Zionism be anti-Imperialist?

Acts of terrorism carried out by Zionist groups against British institutions and individuals are fairly frequent occurrences in Palestine today, which at first sight may appear to cast the above estimation of the relation between Zionism and imperialism into doubt. If the Zionists struggle today against the British government, is it not proof that they follow an anti-imperialist policy?

Zionism and imperialism have both common and antagonistic interests. Zionism wants to build a strong Jewish capitalist state. Imperialism is indeed interested in the existence of a capitalist Jewish society enveloped by the hatred of colonial masses, but it is not interested that Zionism should become too strong a factor. As far as this is concerned, it is ready to prove its fairness towards the Arabs, and its readiness to give in to their just demands at the expense of Zionism. In order to gain the service of the Zionists as direct supporters in any anti-imperialist insurrection, and what is even more important, as a buffer, imperialism does not necessarily have to let Zionism flourish. A Zionist population of 600 thousand can satisfactorily enough fulfil such a task. Imperialism can safely draw its plans either to widen the bounds for Zionist development or restrict them, but it need suffer no doubt about one thing: that whatever happens during an uprising of the people of the East against imperialism, Zionism will not go over to the revolutionary side. This is clearly revealed in all the activities and declarations of the most active terroristic organization in Palestine – the National Military Organization. In one of its pamphlets called In Memory of D. Raziel (Hebrew) it wrote:

‘We must take them off the arena as a political factor. This struggle against the Arabs will encourage the diaspora and consolidate it. It will draw the attention of the nations of the world which will be compelled to honour the people which struggles with its arms. And an ally will be found which will support the people’s army in its struggle.’ (May 1943)

It is true that the Zionists are not satisfied with the fact that it is not they who fix the limits for co-operation between Zionism and imperialism but the latter who does so. Nevertheless even in the days of the greatest strain in the relations between them and the British government they never stopped saying that the interests of Zionism do not go against the interests of imperialism. Thus, for instance, one of the members of the Jewish Agency wrote a few days before the great terrorist acts of November 2 (the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration) 1945:

‘One of the bad principles of the traditional system (of British policy – T.C.) is that the British authorities compromise only with the one who knows how to disturb and to break their peace, while a faithful, patient and peaceful ally these authorities are accustomed to treat lightly and to betray. 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 this one-sided alliance in the place of a mutual alliance. The Yishuv (Jewish population in Palestine – T.C.) 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.’ (Dr. M. Sneh, Concerning the Essence of the Crisis, Ha’aretz, 26/10/45)

<p. 170> The same theme is harped on interminably day after day. It is interesting that even when imperialism reveals its great desire to use the Jews as scapegoats, the theme does not change. The arms trials of the last two years have been clear proof of the provocative intentions of imperialism. For many years now thousands of Arabs have been arrested without trial, and every Arab found with arms during the national uprising of 1936–39 was condemned to death or at least to long imprisonment. To this the Zionists did utter not a word of protest so that the ire of the oppressed Arab masses was vented against the Jews. Then an attempt was made to complete the provocation: Jews in possession of arms were publicly tried. In the whole East the Arab papers began to write that the Zionists were arming against the Arabs and England was the protector of the Arabs. But of course the Zionists did not say that the arms trials of the last two years were only a link in the chain of the imperialist policy of divide and rule. Even at this point they did everything to prove that they were not the enemies of imperialism but on the contrary its allies. Thus for instance, in the arms trial that took place on 28/11/44, Epstein, a member of Hashomer Hatzair, the ‘Revolutionary Socialist’ Zionist party, said to the judges:

‘You who come from England surely know how to appreciate the difficulties and dangers in development and colonization undertakings in backwards countries. No colonizatory undertakings in the history of mankind have taken place without being met by the hatred of the natives. Years, and sometimes generations pass till these men (the natives – T.C.) become capable of appreciating and understanding the blessing inherent in the undertaking also for their future. But the British people did not recoil from developing these backward countries (imperialist conquest – that is development – T.C.) knowing that by doing so you were fulfilling an historical and humanitarian mission. The best of your sons you sacrificed on the altar of progress (what did the petroleum companies get for this? – T.C.) but you did not hold back. As the Bible says: “With one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other held a weapon.”’

If the Zionists are not anti-imperialist (and of course to be against the Arab people and imperialism at one and the same time is impossible) then why all these terroristic acts? The answer is simple. The Zionists have come into a blind alley. The victory of the proletariat of the West and the masses of the East will put an end to Zionist dreams. But the continuation of the existing social regime turns every little people into a puppet in the hands of big imperialist powers. This is especially true as regards the Jews of Palestine whose relations with their neighbours are very strained. If imperialism continues to rule over the world, then whatever the Jews do they are doomed. If the world revolutionary wave reaches a height, then all the weak peoples, including world Jewry, will be saved. But the Jews of Palestine in their special position can be saved only if they cease to be buffers between the national and social liberatory struggle of the Arab masses and imperialism. The Jewish capitalists of Palestine as a class are doomed whatever happens. They are therefore incapable of anything except blind adventurism based on a belief in miracles, or at best a struggle to hold out a little longer.

The best prospect the Zionists can hope for is that Britain will give them a Jewish state, even though a pocket state in a small part of tiny Palestine. They think that the partition plan for Palestine can suit the interests of British imperialism under certain conditions. Such a plan will ensure the existence of two irredentist movements, a sharp Zionist struggle for every place of work and foot of ground in the Jewish state, and economic weakness of the mutilated Arab state. These are the pros of the plan from the standpoint of imperialism. The Zionists base their calculations on this factor and on another: it is true that the position of Zionism in the struggle between the different imperialist powers is not predetermined. Ben Gurion and Weizmann can be American agents with the same enthusiasm as they have been British agents for nearly thirty years. Zionist terror is intended to threaten Britain with the possibility of a Zionist switchover to America, and at the same time to make it easier for the British politicians, if they so desire, to permit the construction of a Jewish state in spite of Arab opposition. (They would be able to say to the Arabs that there was a material and moral necessity to give in somewhat to the Zionists.)

Even if this solution is arrived at – which is far from being certain – it will be only a temporary, short-lived postponement of Zionism’s burial. The Jews of Palestine and the Arabs will only be involved by this plan in terrible sacrifices, clashes and bloodshed. The only real solution for the Jewish workers of Palestine is to bridge the gulf between themselves and the tens of millions of Eastern peoples by renouncing Zionist dreams of domination.

<p. 171> The last terroristic acts of November 1945 – the blowing up of the railways done with the full collaboration of all the Zionist military organizations (Hagana, National Military Organization and Stern group) – in reality did not harm imperialism but instead served it very well. They intended to ‘compel’ the British government to open the gates of Palestine to Zionist immigration and colonization despite the opposition of the Arab inhabitants of the country and those of neighbouring countries (the former having discovered the true face of Zionism from first hand, and the latter learning from them). They therefore only added fuel to the fire of Arab-Jewish hatred. The bombardment of the railways on the eve of November 2 was an excellent weapon in the hands of British agents for the organization of pogroms in Cairo, Alexandria and Tripoli.

VI. The Attitude of the Zionist Socialists to the Arab Worker

In the struggle for the conquest of labour, the keenest fighters among all Zionists are the Zionist Socialists, who more enthusiastically than any drive out those Arab workers who have managed to break through the boycott and enter the Jewish economy. Ben Gurion, leader of Mapai, and today head of the Jewish Agency, said in the Elected Assembly of the Jews of Palestine in March 1932:

‘Nobody must think that we have become reconciled to the existence of non-Jewish labour in the villages. We will not forgo, I say we will not forgo, one place of work in the country. I say to you with full responsibility that it is less shameful to establish a brothel than to evict the Jews from their work on the land of Palestine.’

Do not think that these are mere idle words. Tel Aviv’s numerous brothels can hold their own with the best of them, but there is not a single Arab worker in the town.

The ‘revolutionary socialists’ of Hashomer Hatzair did not lag behind in the struggle for the conquest of labour, and there is no doubt that Bentov, one of their leaders, was right in saying

‘Mapai hasn’t the monopoly over the demand for Jewish labour. We are for maximal expansion of Jewish labour and for its control in the Jewish economy. (Jewish Labour, a collection of articles and speeches published by the Histadrut, Tel Aviv 1935, p. 53, Hebrew)

And indeed in all the many instances of picketing against Arab labour, there is not a single instance when Hashomer Hatzair did not participate or at least support the pickets.

The antagonism of the Zionist Socialists to the entrance of Arab workers into the Jewish economy reaches such proportions that even when there is a shortage of Jewish working hands in the villages and there are no Jewish unemployed, the struggle against the employment of Arab workers goes on. Thus in the years of ‘prosperity’ 1933-35, when Jewish workers from the villages began migrating to the towns where wages were much higher than in agriculture, the Zionist Socialist leaders were driven to devise different plans to prevent the entrance of Arab workers into the economy, being compelled even to discard the usual face of anxiety for the Jewish worker. Thus one of the leaders of Mapai, J. Baratz, wrote:

‘If we lack workers today we must mobilize all the apparatus of the Yishuv for work: the pupils of religious colleges in Jerusalem, Safed and Tiberias, the members of the Eastern Jewish communities, the cloistered youth who came to Palestine and are still living in the houses of their parents, youths who are seeking posts in town, and in particular the youth organizations … All at this hour are called to work.’ (Ibid., p. 100)

It is better apparently that pupils of religious colleges, the cloistered youth etc. who do not need work, should be recruited for it than that the hungry Arab worker who needs it badly, should enter into the Jewish economy! This plan did not remain on paper, and thousands of young boys and girls were indeed recruited from their studies to go and ‘save’ the Jewish economy. All schools closed a month early so that the pupils could dedicate a month to agricultural work; and today no one is permitted to enter schools of higher study unless he has completed a year’s agricultural or other work in the ‘service of the nation’.

The justification for this plan, and the many others invented for the same purpose was put in a nutshell by H. Frumkin, Mapai’s economist:

‘Every new industry is a blessing only if Jewish labour dominates. Otherwise it is a calamity for Yishuv.’ (Ibid., p. 113)

Of course the same Zionist motives drive the Zionist Socialists (who pay only lip service to Socialism) to oppose any agrarian reform. M. Assaf, Mapai’s expert for Arab affairs and editor of Hakikat-al-Amar, <p. 172> the Arabic paper of the Histadrut, expressed clearly in an article (Davar, 19/2/36) intended for Jewish consumption (and of course not translated into Arabic) his opposition to the question of agrarian reform, i.e. the transference of lands belonging to landowners to the hands of their present cultivators, his main reason being:

‘The fellah complains that he has not money to undertake intensive cultivation (is this not true under the present system? – T.C.) and would demand large areas of land which today (with the Negev still unexplored) is the only reserve for Jewish colonization.’

Such a transference, as Assaf well understands, would put an immediate stop to Zionist expansion, which is fundamentally in opposition to the fellah’s basic strivings.

VII. The Protagonists of ‘Bi-Nationalism’ among the Zionists

There is a wing in Zionism whose avowed aim is peace with the Arabs and which opposes a Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine. Instead it advocates the ‘bi-national’ state. This wing is composed of two main parts: on the one hand the movement of Hashomer Hatzair, supported by approximately 20,000 electors, and on the other, a small groups of bourgeois-liberals like Dr Magnes and Kalvariasky.

Against the official Zionist programme for a Jewish state, of which Mapai is one of the most active protagonists, Hashomer Hatzair puts forward its demands:

  1. To open the doors of Palestine for Jewish immigration.
  2. To establish in Palestine a political regime under international control which will give the Jewish Agency the right to carry out Jewish immigration according to the full economic absorptive capacity of the country and taking into consideration the extent of the plight of the Jews in other countries at the end of the war.
  3. To grant the Jewish Agency the necessary authority for the development and building up of the country, including settlement of all government-owned lands and uninhabited spaces, in the interest of the two sectors of the population, which will make dense Jewish colonization possible, and the development of the Arab economy.
  4. To establish in Palestine after the war a regime based on the political equality of both peoples, which will enable Zionism to realize its aims undisturbed and will advance Palestine towards political independence in the frame of bi-nationalism. (Against the Stream, Collection of articles and speeches, Tel Aviv 1943, Hebrew)

The basis on which Hashomer Hatzair intends to establish Jewish-Arab collaboration is therefore the taking over of all matters of immigration and settlement by the Jewish Agency, which will be concerned – as it has been concerned until today with the ‘development of the Arab economy.’

Of course Hashomer Hatzair is ready to co-operate with the Arabs on this basis. They only forget one small question: will the Arab masses accept this as a basis for collaboration? Is not control of immigration and colonization in such a country as Palestine control over the most important functions of the state? Does the programme of Hashomer Hatzair differ from the Jewish State programme in anything other than a greater dose of hypocrisy.

But if any doubt remains as to the extreme Zionism of Hashomer Hatzair, its leaders entirely dispel that when they explain its bi-national programme:

‘We aspire to the concentration of the majority of Jews in Palestine and the neighbouring countries.’

‘The problem we are all concerned with is what is the way most to the purpose to cease being a minority in the country.’

‘Ben Gurion claims that Zionism is not conditioned by the agreement of the Arabs; our position has always been the same.’

‘Without agreement with the Arabs too, we will continue the Zionist undertaking.’ (From the speeches of M. Yaari and Y. Chazan in the Inner Zionist Council, 15th October and 10th November 1942)

What is the basis for agreement with the Arabs? Hashomer Hatzair gives a clear answer:

‘A primary precondition for any negotiation will be a declaration and common agreement that negotiations will be carried on only on the basis of the Mandate, and the unshakeable recognition of Jewish immigration into Palestine.’ (On the Wall, 1/1/39)

<p. 173> Are not Hashomer Hatzair really enthusiastic about fraternity with the Arabs? After all, all they ask of them is consent to only two ‘small’ points – imperialist domination and Zionism.

What is the political programme of Dr. Magnes and his group called ‘Ihud’? In his letter to the editor of the Economist dated 31/1/44, Dr. Magnes said:

‘The Ihud Association is an ardent advocate of the union of these four territories (Palestine, Transjordan, Syria and the Lebanon), not only because such a Union is historically sound, and perhaps inevitable, but also and primarily because we think such a Union can be of decisive help to the generous answer to the Palestine problem might be given. If there be this Union, which would bring together an Arab population of perhaps five millions, the Arabs of Palestine need no longer fear, as they do today, being swamped by a large Jewish immigration.

‘Palestine has over 500,000 Jews and over a million Arabs. What the Ihud Association advocated is, that the Jewish population be permitted through immigration to catch up with the Arab population, that is, that another 500,000 Jews have the opportunity of entering Palestine.’

But Dr. Magnes still owes an answer to the following questions:

  1. Assuming his plan be carried out, what will then prevent the Zionists from saying that they are afraid of the big majority of Arabs within the Federation?
  2. What grounds has Dr. Magnes for the belief that Zionism, which created an abyss between the two communities by its economic, social and political boycott, will suddenly change its policy when the number of Jews in Palestine increases?
  3. If the Zionists really want the Arabs not to be afraid of them, then there is a very simple way: to liquidate all national boycott, to support the demand for democratic political institutions in the country, etc. – briefly, to become an organic part of the country, just as the Jews in Egypt are an integral part of Egyptian life.

On the basis of a closed Zionist citadel, no Arab will agree to the additional entry of 500,000 Jews to the country. If, on the other hand, the walls of this citadel should crumble, then the Zionist idea will die a natural death.

Not only is the programme of Magnes, Kalvarisky & Co. utopian, but it is also openly pro-imperialist, because only imperialism can balance the scale between Zionism and Arab national aspirations.

In a memorandum written in 1930 by the British Shalom Society (the name of the group at that time) on an Arab policy for the Jewish Agency, they propose the following as one of the fundamentals for mutual understanding:

‘What the political status of the Mandatory Power in the county should be such as would ensure stability in the relations between the two peoples living in the country, maintain its public security, protect its frontiers and guard the specific interests, both British and International, of the Mandatory Power in Palestine.’

They add:

‘At present, it is quite impossible to transfer from the Mandatory, responsible to the League of Nations, the responsibility for the government of the country and the enforcement of the Mandate, and place it upon a local representative government.’

And so, against imperialist provocation which is designed for using the Jews as a scapegoat, as a means of diverting the Arab masses from the anti-imperialist struggle, the protagonists of bi-nationalisms proffer only good intentions. But the way to hell is paved with good intentions. Three powers participate in the sanguinary provocation – imperialism, Zionism and the Arab feudal and bourgeois reaction. Only a struggle against these three <p. 174> powers will save both the Arab and Jewish masses of Palestine and the other Arab countries from the abyss yawning before them.

VIII. Zionism and the Jewish Workers of Palestine

Almost all the Jewish workers in Palestine are Zionist. Why? Firstly, living with a closed Zionist economy and society, they enjoy certain privileges over the Arab workers. The wage of a Jewish labourer is twice or thrice as much as that of his Arab fellow worker. Secondly, the indifference of the Allied governments towards the plight of the Jews in Europe makes the Jews here believe that there is no other refuge but Palestine. Thirdly, Zionism immediately met with strong enmity from the Arab population. Clever minds tried to direct this into the channel of hatred against the whole Jewish people. Instead of drawing the correct conclusion, namely that they should give up their ideas of Zionist conquest, the Jewish Workers followed their Zionist leaders who declare that the strengthening of Zionism is a safeguard against the Arab danger.

Nevertheless the Jewish population of Palestine does not constitute a united unbroken front. The class struggle among the Jews is growing in intensity and it will grow much more intense when the burdens following in the wake of the economic difficulties in the world and the country itself (the cessation of military works, military orders from industry, etc.) are multiplied on the shoulders of the Jewish workers, and when the political-economic obstacles which the Jewish economy will find in its way are increased.

But till now only a very tiny minority of the Jewish workers have drawn the full political conclusions from the economic class struggle. The feeling that the Jewish population of Palestine constitutes a vanguard of the Jewish people which is in need of emigration to Palestine, a feeling which is a product of the world-wide character of the Jewish problem, will not be eradicated root and branch until the complete solution of the Jewish problem, that is until the socialist revolution. The defence front of the closed Jewish economy which promises certain privileges to the Jewish worker which the Arab worker is not accorded will be broken by the Jewish worker when they see in the Arab masses a power struggling for far-reaching social changes which will in a revolutionary manner raise the economic and cultural standard of the masses, Arab and Jewish alike. The Jewish national front will be entirely broken when the Arab worker wholly frees himself from the feudal and bourgeois leadership which strives to divert this national liberatory struggle into anti-Jewish channels.

Even for the workers of other countries who find themselves in less complicated situations the transition from an economic, partial class struggle to a political all-embracing class struggle is very difficult. It is much easier for a worker to see the class antagonism between himself and his employer than to see that between himself and the state, which seems to him to be above classes. And it is much easier for him to understand the class character of the activity of the state in domestic affairs (the position of the state in a time of strikes, in housing and health questions, etc.) than in matters of foreign policy, which involve far-off countries on whom the state can roll the responsibility. At the same time therefore as millions of American workers strike against their employers, very few of the workers stand for an independent workers’ policy even in domestic affairs, let alone foreign policy. Only through a very slow, molecular process can the workers overcome this inconsistency. The class struggle of the Jewish workers in Palestine is beset by much greater difficulties than these, as so long as the American worker does not understand that it is his duty to struggle for the right of entry of refugees (which he will do only at a more advanced stage of the class struggle, when he knows how to ensure himself against crises, unemployment, etc. – by workers’ control of production, a workers’ government, and so forth) it will be difficult, nay almost impossible, for the Jewish worker to shake free of Zionist influence. The facts too, that there is a considerable difference between the standard of life of Jewish and Arab workers, and that the former constitute a very small minority in the East, bring it about that only at a relatively advanced stage of the class struggle of the Arab workers will the Jewish workers break the national segregation.

Till then the class struggle of the Jewish workers in Palestine will necessarily confine itself to economic struggles alone. The class struggle does not receive anti-Zionist and anti-imperialist expression but is confined within the Zionist framework to a struggle among the different wings of the Zionist camp, which does not overgrow the limits of unity against the national and social liberatory struggle of the Arabs. But decisive changes in the position of the workers’ movement in the world and the Middle East will open up, for the revolutionary party, wide possibilities of mobilizing the Jewish workers for a struggle against the Jewish bourgeoisie against Zionism and against imperialism.

Last updated on 28.5.2011