Felix Morrow

British Overlords Sole Gainers
in Palestine Conference Plan

(March 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 13, 7 March 1939, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

While the Arab world joyously celebrates and Zionists in and out of Palestine cry out against betrayal, the fact of the matter is that the Palestine conference in London has benefited the British government most of all.

What do the Arabs actually have to show, to justify the jubilation in Palestine and the neighboring Arab states? Upon close scrutiny, apart from whatever private promises were made to the Arab delegates and which as so often before will not be carried out, the official British text of “suggestions” as a basis for further discussion provides:

1. A “transition period” in which Britain would continue to rule much as before. The “many questions” which Britain proposes to settle during this period mean that this period will last as long as British diplomatic ingenuity can drag it out.

Guards British Interests

2. The Constitution to govern the “independent Palestine state” which would follow the transition period will be written under the direction of Britain, and must contain “adequate safeguards for British interests.”

The British statement brazenly likens the procedure for working out this constitution to “the way” that the Indian Constitution was worked out – at a time when all India is up in arms against this British-dictated document!

The Arab and Jewish representatives to the “round table” which would work out the constitution would not be elected but would be appointed by the British government, “as in the case of the Indian round-table conference.”

The document contains no commitments concerning provisions for democratic elections of any legislative body, or even for proportional representation according to population which would ensure an Arab majority.

In a word, perfidious Albion has given nothing away that can mean anything to the Arab masses.

Arab Backwardness

That this document is received so joyously by the Arab population, both in Palestine and the neighboring Arab states, testifies to the immature development of the Arab nationalist movement as compared, for example, to the Indian struggle for independence. Whereas the rulers of the native states in India are correctly hated and despised as puppets of British imperialism and receive not the slightest measure of confidence from the Indian masses, the rulers of the Arab kingdoms, whose delegates are working hand in glove with the British in London, are still trusted by the Arab workers and peasants. While in India the native capitalists have lost the leadership of the independence movement to the Congress Socialists, in Palestine a clique of reactionary landowners and capitalists still hold undisputed sway over the mass movement.

It must be said bluntly that the main cause of this backwardness of the Arab nationalist movement is that the struggle, instead of being centered against British imperialism, has been diverted to the conflict with the Zionists.

Want Deal With Britain

The present reactionary leadership of the Arab nationalists have welcomed this diversion. This clique neither desires nor would benefit by independence from Britain. It wants only what the ruling caste in Egypt and Iraq have: a juicy junior partnership with Britain as senior partner, in the common exploitation of the Arab masses. Its basic interests are, therefore, in conflict with those of the Arab workers and peasants, whose miserable living standards can only be bettered by putting an end to Britain’s blood-sucking of the wealth of the Arab world, by putting an end to the monstrous taxes and rents paid for the back-breaking privilege of tilling the soil, etc.

This basic conflict between the Arab leadership and the masses who still follow them has been cleverly obscured by a deliberate policy of turning Arab wrath away from Britain to the Jews. Not British rapacity and the vicious landowning and taxation system, but Jewish immigration and land purchases have been held up by the Arab leaders as the cause of the masses’ misery and poverty.

Zionist “Ulsterites”

This policy could never have fooled the Arab masses so long, however, had it not been facilitated by the insane policy pursued by the Zionists of every hue. Staking everything on proving their usefulness to Britain, the Zionist leaders sought to build a “loyal Jewish Ulster” amid the revolting Arabs, and as a result have brought down upon themselves a hatred among the Arabs as deep as that of the Irish Republicans against the “loyal” – to Britain – Ulstermen. The Arab masses do not discriminate between the Zionist Revisionists, who propose to use “physical force” against the Arabs, and the regular Zionists, bourgeois or “socialist,” who propose to establish a Jewish majority under the protection of British bayonets – and the Arab masses are right, for every wing of Zionism is hostile to Arab freedom from British rule.

The Zionist policy is particularly reprehensible because it has been clear for decades that no amount of servility toward Britain would secure in return a Jewish state in Palestine. The Zionist leaders cry, “We are betrayed,” because the British document proposes to wipe out the League of Nations mandate of 1922 which directed Britain to establish a “Jewish National Home.” But – to mention none of its previous moves against the Zionists – on October 20, 1930, the Passfield White Paper which Zionist leaders then correctly described as a complete annulment of the Balfour Declaration of 1918 pledging England to aid the establishment of a Jewish Homeland. Stephen S. Wise described it as designed “to undo and eventually destroy the Jewish National Home.”

Passfield White Paper Stands At that time, the Zionists declared that withdrawal of the White Paper was the minimum condition of restoring Jewish faith in British intentions. But the paper was never withdrawn. Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald gave the Zionist leaders a face-saving letter, on February 13, 1931, which Weizmann and others hailed as “modifying” the White Paper, but the plain truth was that Zionist fund-raising had collapsed after the issuance of the White Paper and MacDonald’s letter, which he himself declared in Parliament did not modify the Passfield document, was “interpreted” by the Zionists to revive the stream of contributions from American Jewry.

It simply never occurred to the Zionist leaders to reorient away from Britain: “The tragic aspect of our situation is that though a Government has failed us, we dare not court irretrievable failure by failing the British,” wrote a leading Zionist, Gershon Agronsky, then.

But irretrievable failure has come precisely on the road of courting Britain.

Great Opportunity

A magnificent opportunity awaits any section of the Jewish labor movement in Palestine which would, once for all, recognize that collaboration with Britain is hopeless, and turn boldly toward collaboration with the Arab workers and peasants. Such a step would enormously speed up the process of separating the Arab masses from their present reactionary leadership.

Accepting the minority status which the Arabs demand, such a Jewish group could thereupon submit the British proposal to sharp exposure of its imperialist and anti-independence content, and thereby speed the crystallization of an Arab worker-peasant leadership. Only an alliance between the Jewish workers and the Arab masses can save the Jewish community in Palestine.

Last updated on 28 November 2014