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Labor Action, 24 May 1948 1948


An Editorial on the Situation in Palestine

War of Independence or Expansion?


From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 21, 24 May 1948, pp. 1& 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


All UN roads lead to war. This is again being demonstrated in Palestine.

The UN, set up with fanfare to bring peace to the world, is again showing that it cannot prevent or halt war even by fifth-rate powers, such as the states of the Middle East – let alone war by the major war makers who control its deliberations.

Cannot? The Anglo-American leadership of the UN has proved that it has no wish to do so. If the U.S. and Britain had deliberately set out to fan the flames of Jewish-Arab hostility, they need not have acted differently.

Compelled by the falling apart of the British Empire to recognize the independence of Palestine on paper, the UN drew a braided line through that tortured country of mingled nationality, erecting a state-boundary wall between already suspicious and jealous peoples. The Jews were assured of a state of their own – a state completely outfitted with salients, corridors, enclaves and angles sticking into the sides of the surrounding Arab world, with military lines athwart each other and commercial routes interpenetrating. The Jews cheered.

Then Washington ran out on its own partition plan, and the Arab leaders in turn were encouraged to proceed with their plans to enforce a Pan-Arab Palestine by force of arms in the interests of reactionary Arab landlordism. When this had already gone virtually to the point of invasion, the White House flip-flopped, backtracked and reversed gear again in a precipitous recognition of the new Jewish state of Israel, again encouraging the Jews.

If meanwhile the British line was more consistent, it was more consistently directed toward fomenting the Pan-Arab reaction against the partition.

Together – Against Imperialists!

As long as the two peoples can thus be “sicced” against each other, the shadow of imperialist domination does not leave the scene. This is the end of UN policy.

If there is to be peace at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, and if the Jews and Arabs are to live in fraternal unity, no one can look toward the United Nations or to American and British imperialism to bring this about. If there is to be peace, it has to be made by the peoples.

Labor Action has made clear its belief that the partition of Palestine into two non-viable states was not calculated to achieve any real solution of the Palestine question, and cannot. We have reiterated that, before partition, the road to a basic solution lay only in the joint struggle by the socialist workers of the Jewish community together with the oppressed peasant masses of the Arabs to throw off the yoke of their common oppressor – BRITISH IMPERIALISM, based on the two ruling classes, Arab landlords and Zionist capitalists; and such Arab-Jewish cooperation from below COULD HAVE forged a united Palestine in the fire of anti-imperialist struggle.

Now that partition is virtually an accomplished fact, this basic road only takes a different form.

There is a war on – not yet full-scale war as this is written, but not far from it. The socialist working class of the Jewish territory has chosen to follow its Zionist leadership in achieving a separate state. As Marxist socialists – that is, as the only consistent democrats – we believe in and accept the democratic RIGHT of all peoples (including the Palestinian Jews) to self-determination, to work out their own destiny as they see fit. We said this even while advising against the EXERCISE of this right to the point of separation.

The politics from which the Pan-Arab war and threats of invasion flow is perfectly clear – the aim of depriving the Jews precisely of this RIGHT TO SELF-DETERMINATION. There is therefore not the slightest iota of common ground between the Arab landlords’ opposition to partition and our own. While we are more firmly than ever of the opinion that the Jews’ choice of separatism was a mistake and a setback for the only long-range solution, we believe that the imposition of “unity” upon Palestine by Abdullah, the Mufti or the Arab League would be a reactionary solution even more disastrous in its consequences AND A VIOLATION OF THE DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS OF PEOPLES.

Struggle Enters a New Stage

To recognize the RIGHT of the Jews to self-determination, if it is not merely to be a pious obeisance to a formula, requires socialists also to recognize the right of the Jews to DEFEND their choice of separate national existence against any and all reactionary attempts to deprive them of that right, whether by Arab feudal lords or UN imperialism. That is why we demanded recognition of Israel by the government, and why our British comrades particularly must demand similar action by the Labor government – as the concretization of the demand that the imperialists keep out. That is why we demand the lifting of the imperialist embargo on arms to the new Jewish state.

But the defense of Israel’s right of self-determination against a reactionary war of invasion is only one side of the picture. Surely even the Zionist leaders do not believe that the “Palestine question” will be over if only Abdullah stops short of Israel’s borders! On the contrary, it only enters a new stage. On the one hand, the Jews face the possibility of permanent guerrilla warfare, unending “border incidents,” and above all, such permanent national hostility with the Arab world as would make national existence a nightmare for the Jewish splinter state. On the other hand, the unreproved demands by the Irgun and Stern gang for the conquest of all of Palestine raises the same question of future relations. For the socialist working class of Palestine that question is posed in terms of the present struggle as follows:


Today their struggle is a war of defense in the immediate circumstances. But tomorrow their struggle will inescapably be transformed into one or the other! It is to this question – what kind of policy do we advocate now for the Jews in Palestine in order to bring about the reunification of the country – that we recur next week.

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