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Fourth International, October 1946


Review of the Month

Zionism and the Jewish Question
in the Near East


From Fourth International, October 1946, Vol.7 No.10, pp.293-294.
Transcribed, edited & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.


The Bankruptcy Of Zionism

The present outrages of British imperialism against the Jews in Palestine emphasize again the bankruptcy of Zionism as a program of solving the Jewish problem. After so many years of untold sacrifice, after the expenditure of so many millions of dollars, after the Jewish section in Palestine was built up brick by brick with such painful effort, the tiny Jewish community there finds itself helplessly entrapped, the victim of British tyranny and rapacity. Furthermore, the Palestinian Jews find themselves isolated, feared, despised and hated by the peoples of the Near East – the Arabs.

We Marxists, that is, scientific socialists, understand that Palestine is an integral part of the Near East; that the fundamental social force in the Near East is the 35-odd million Arabs, who are weighed down under the double oppression of their semi-feudal rulers and the British overlords. The Arab countries are semi-colonies of British imperialism. Their struggle for national freedom, for the expulsion of the British, is therefore doubly progressive: It clears the ground for the industrial growth and cultural advancement of these backward countries, and it shakes to its very foundations the British Empire, the imperialist system – the main foe of mankind on a world scale, the main obstacle to its Socialist advance.

Zionism is a reactionary philosophy because it seeks to achieve the salvation of the tortured Jewish peoples by forging an alliance with British imperialism – against its victims, the Arabs. But Zionism is not only reactionary; it is also utopian. The present events have demonstrated – so that even the blind should be able to see – that the British imperialists make use of the Jews only as a pawn of their own imperial strategy of “divide and conquer.” Thus thirty years after the Balfour declaration, the Palestinian Jews find themselves hunted down, like wild beasts, by the British soldiery, in their own “homeland,” while the whole Arab world is up in arms against the Jews.

Arab Opposition to the Jews

The source of the suspicions and Opposition fears of the Arabs is not difficult to understand. The Arabs cannot help but view the Jewish community – under present Zionist domination – as a tool of British imperialism against their own national aspirations. The Zionists keep this Arab fear at white heat by their demonstrative pro-imperialist policy, by their cooperation with and reliance upon British and US imperialism. Thus the Arab community views and must view Jewish immigration, not as a humanitarian project to relieve the plight of helpless, persecuted people, but as a Jewish invasion, designed to wrest Palestine from Arab hands and impose Jewish sovereignty.

Marxists have pointed out for many years that the only solution for Palestine is a decisive break with Zionism and a policy of forging Arab-Jewish unity for joint struggle to oust the British overlords. Once the Jews abandon the mirage of a Jewish state in Palestine, once Arab fears are dispelled concerning the Jews’ predatory intentions, the way would be paved for the establishment of Arab-Jewish unity, and the whole question of Jewish immigration into Palestine could be decided amicably, by agreement between the Jews and Arabs.

Zionists, however, have scoffed at this policy as a “fantasy” emanating from the brains of “socialist dreamers.” In contrast to this “fantastic” policy, they were pursuing a “realistic” course. The present tragic events in Palestine are convincing proof of just how realistic Zionism really is! There existed a considerable difficulty in the past, however, in explaining just how the Arab-Jewish national animosities could be eliminated and unity achieved. The Zionists correctly pointed out that the Arabs were backward, ignorant and under the thumb of the efendi rulers; that the Arab feudal princes stood in deadly fear of the Western culture brought in by the Jews and would be opposed to Arab-Jewish cooperation. This factor, while no argument for Zionism, may have had a certain superficial validity in the twenties. But it has absolutely no validity today. The Arab Near East today is not the Near East of twenty years ago, with its populations of backward, downtrodden felaheen, exploited and oppressed by reactionary landlord princes.

All these countries have experienced considerable industrialization in recent years, and this process has received a further, mighty impetus in the war. With the growth of industry has come the growth of the working class, the emergence of trade unions, of socialist organizations, of working class newspapers. The old feudal princes, trembling before this new working class spectre, have flung themselves into the arms of the British “protectors.” Thus the new times have brought new developments. The old struggles are receding in the Near East and giving way to the struggle of the working masses against the British imperialists and their native landlord and capitalist allies. This is a fact of towering importance and it is incumbent on the Jews, as wise people, to recognize the changed conditions and to shape their policies accordingly.

A New Factor In Middle East

Signs of the newworking class awakening can be seen everywhere. Egypt, for the past three months, has been convulsed by strikes of all kinds, of railroad workers, telephone workers, etc. In Iraq, the Kirkuk Petroleum workers have been on strike. In Persia, the May strike at the new Agha Pani field was followed soon afterward by a general strike in the fields of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Lebanon has seen a prolonged railway strike, etc., etc. The unions and working class parties are everywhere growing apace. In Transjordan, the new King Abdullah finds his royal prerogatives challenged by demands for greater democratization. In Iraq, Communism is growing by leaps and bounds. Four Communist daily newspapers and one Kurdish Communist daily circulate, while the party has a large following among railwaymen, teachers, officials and even in the army. (It is not clear from the reports whether all these papers are Stalinist-controlled.)

In Egypt the working class opposition is growing so strong, that the King has responded by mass arrests, terror and the like.

Even in Palestine, the Arab newspaper El Hurrieh, published in Jaffa, enjoys a striking success by giving chief prominence to social questions and attacking the old gangs of all the old parties and cliques. The London Economist reports that “earlier this year when Jamal el Husseini, the Palestine Arab leader, returned from exile, communist, trade union and socialist ideas had made striking headway among Palestine Arabs, and he found it necessary first to give attention to this domestic development.” But, the Economist concludes, “though his headquarters were in Jericho, he could not stay the rising sun.”

Such then is the new movement that has arisen throughout the Middle East and has thrust fear into the hearts of the feudal princelings and their British imperialist allies. The problem of achieving unity with the Arabs, does not involve today the reaching of agreements with the Arab effendis. The policy of Arab-Jewish unity means holding out the hand of solidarity and brotherhood to the Arab working classes, and the latter will surely respond. Arab-Jewish unity today can be forged, if the Jewish people break with Zionism and embark on a joint struggle with the Arab masses against the imperialists and their native tools.

Such unity would signify the dawning of a new day in the emancipator struggles of both the Arab masses and the Jews. It points the only way toward a solution of the Jewish problem in the Near East.

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