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New International, January 1948


Al Findley

What’s Ahead for Palestine?

Arab-Jewish War or Voluntary Union


From The New International, Vol. XIV No. 1, January 1948, pp. 18–20.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The tragedy of Palestine lies not only in the fratricidal warfare that has sprung up, with its death toll of over 475 people in the first month following the UN vote in favor of partition. It lies also in the fact that the two working classes involved, Jewish and Arab, failed to break through the national antagonisms and achieve a solution of their own.

This outcome has not done away with the elements out of which could have been fashioned a solution which guaranteed a united free Palestine and the national rights of both peoples. These elements were and are: the antagonistic interests of Jewish workers and Jewish bourgeoisie, the antagonistic interests of Arab peasants and Arab feudal landlords; and the existence of a real common ground for a joint class struggle of the Jewish and Arab toilers against the exploiting classes of both sectors of Palestine.

Before partition, this meant that only such unity of the nationalities from below could have achieved independence without the imperialist splitting up of Palestine. After partition, it means that only the same national-class unity can achieve a re-unification of the suffering country without outside imperialist domination. Partition, even insofar as it is to be regarded as an accomplished fact, docs not change the lines of the only lasting solution.

Unfortunately, the semi-feudal Arab leaders and the bourgeois Jewish leaders helped the British to divide the two peoples and prevented a joint anti-imperialist struggle. As usual in such cases, since no solution came from the workers or the oppressed peoples concerned, the imperialists imposed their own solution – a solution that is guaranteed to keep the country in turmoil and bloodshed for at least a year and in economic bondage for at least ten years.

The present set-up is indeed a great incentive to violence. The UN creates such an incentive by the fact that its plan is only a recommendation, and by the fact that it provides for a dangerous transition period under the British to be followed by an interim period under the UN.

In this way the imperialists first lay out a wall (state boundaries) between the two peoples and then, after thus intensifying the existing national antagonisms, refuse to release their hold on both. As long as the wall is not actually cemented in place, as long as the transition period of continued imperialist control lasts, the Arab leaders can hope to upset the entire plan for their own reactionary ends and by their own reactionary means – by utilizing force, bloodshed and diplomatic blackmail.

Cease Fire!

At the same time that we oppose the fratricidal warfare already created by partition, we must demand that both the British and the UN pull out of Palestine immediately. Their continued meddling in the seething pot will not moderate the situation they have created, nor will it be intended to do so. Neither will the forcible suppression of the Arabs by “outside” UN troops, as demanded by many Jewish leaders, serve to convince any Arab peasants (not to speak of their leaders) that the Jews are in Palestine to do them any good.

In addition to this, it is necessary for the Jewish and Arab workers to raise the demand of “Cease fire!” and to mobilize all sections of both Jews and Arabs, the majority of whom – while they do not as yet see eye to eye on the political future of the country – are passionately against a war between the Jews and Arabs. Every attempt must be made to isolate the groups, such as the Mufti’s organized “People’s Army,” led by Kawukze among the Arabs, and the Irgun and Stern groups among the Jews, which fan the flames of fratricidal war.


The establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine does not eliminate the necessity for Arab-Jewish rapprochement and unity. The small country of Palestine is divided into eight parts. In addition there is the free city of Jerusalem, with an almost equal population of Jews and Arabs, and the industrial city of Jaffa, which is to be an Arab enclave within the Jewish state. If for no other reason, the braided borders of the partition make the independence of the two states not a divorce from each other but a condition that calls for work in the common interests of the two peoples.

Economic conditions also dictate a policy of building Jewish-Arab unity. Neither the Jewish nor the Arab section of Palestine can exist without the other, if the present living standards of both Arabs and Jews are to be maintained, or if the country is to be able to absorb large-scale immigration. The Arab area, which is primarily agricultural, will have a huge deficit if it does not share in the tariff revenue of the industrial section of Palestine, which will be part of the Jewish state. The Jewish state needs grain from Arab agriculture to feed its population and also needs the Arab agricultural areas as part of its “internal” market. Both the Jews and the Arabs need large-scale irrigation projects like the Jordan Valley Authority to raise the productive level of the country and to increase its ability to absorb immigration.

Economic union can be made to serve as a real bridge between the two countries. Characteristically, the UN plan provides for foreign economic rule for at least ten years. Continued foreign economic rule via the UN will result not in Arab-Jewish cooperation but only in the subordination of the economy to foreign imperialist interests, with a resultant stifling of the economic development of the country.

Thus, economically too, the immediate interests of Palestine demand complete economic freedom from foreign control now to really make the economic union a bridge to the cooperation of both peoples.

Once having established free independent states that are so intertwined geographically and so interdependent economically, the next step for the Palestinian nations can only be to work for a voluntary union of the two states. In this day and age of “great power politics” it seems unnecessary to have to point out that there can be no real independence for small states, let alone splinter states like a partitioned Palestine. Voluntary union is the only way of maintaining Palestinian freedom from outside imperialist coercion and intervention.


The Arab state has before it the tremendous problem of agrarian reform and democratization of political and social life. The present feudal leadership of the Arabs, i.e., the Arab Higher Committee, was never democratically elected by the masses and represents primarily the powerful feudal families. The Mufti and the Husseini family have established a near monopoly on political power by use of the religious authority of the Mufti, by feudal family connections, and by political terrorism against political opponents. In many cases they have moved in and taken control of trade unions.

The main victims of the Mufti terror have been Arab advocates of Arab-Jewish cooperation and especially labor leaders advocating such a position. The outstanding case is that of Sami Tahai, who resigned from the Stalinist-controlled “Workers Assembly” to form the Workers Socialist Party and who was liquidated for his efforts.

The problem of democratization of Arab political life will not only necessitate fighting the feudal Mufti elements but also the Stalinists. The Stalinists claim control of a majority of the Arab trade unions and are attempting to assume totalitarian control of all labor unions. The Stalinists have suffered little from the Mufti, because they have been supporting him and his Arab Higher Committee, while seeking representation on the Arab Higher Committee and total control over labor unions.

The Russian position in favor of partition has as yet not changed the political stand of the Arab Stalinists. They continue to oppose partition, although it has cost them a great deal of support.

Agrarian reform is vital for the future welfare of the Arab State. The overwhelming majority of the country will be fellaheen (peasant). A large proportion of the land is in the hands of the effendis (landlords) and even the “landed” peasant has hardly enough land to produce more than a bare subsistence with primitive agricultural methods. While the usurer, who constituted the greatest single millstone around the neck of the peasant, has temporarily receded into the background as a result of war prosperity, he will reappear soon if land is not distributed and the state does not offer free or low cost credit for the modernization of Arab agriculture.

Above all, the Arabs must avoid the path of “irridentism.” That could lead to nothing but communal war, economic dislocation, and the triumph of the most reactionary forces in Arab social life. The peace of all Palestine depends on Arab labor accepting the Jews as a nationality in Palestine and, even on the basis of two separate states, taking steps toward re-unification.

While the Arab state will have very few Jews, the Jewish state will in fact be a state inhabited by two nations. The problems of bi-nationalism have not been eliminated. The proposed Jewish state will have approximately 550,000 Jews and approximately 400,000 Arabs. Even granting that large-scale Jewish immigration will change the ratio, the Arabs will remain a large cohesive and different national entity within the Jewish state.

The problem here is to prevent the crystalization of two rigid “national blocs” opposing each other. How is this to be accomplished? Obviously it cannot be accomplished by giving the Jews special privileges as Jews. Complete social, economic and political equality of both peoples is an absolute necessity. This must include the right of an Arab to be elected to any office, including the presidency or its equivalent, and to have the same legal right to immigration.

The establishment of fixed ratios of representation – even equality – will only make for national polarization, since it will require separate national electoral colleges or curia, and voting will necessarily take place on a nationalist level. Personal and individual civil rights are not enough. The “national” question must be taken out of daily politics by guaranteeing in advance, and scrupulously observing, the national rights of the Arabs in the Jewish state. The emphasis in Palestine must be on the inclusive character of the new independent country and not on its exclusive features.

For United Trade Unions!

The only way to prevent national blocs is to cut across national lines by class action. This means the creation of united Arab and Jewish working-class organizations from trade unions to political parties.

The old Zionist and Labor Zionist policy of Kibbush Avodah (the policy of employing only Jewish labor in order to make jobs available for Jewish immigrants) and the policy of exclusive trade unions, both of which were wrong in the past, can be actual dynamite in the future. It is the job of the revolutionary socialists and of the left-wing Zionist groups like the Achduth Avodah and Hashomer Hatzair to lead the way. It is not sufficient to be for Arab-Jewish unity in the state apparatus. The organization of federated parallel unions of Arabs and Jews (Irgun Mesutaf) is no substitute for a single united trade union. The need in Palestine today is for a single class-struggle trade-union organization and, above all, for mixed political parties of Jewish and Arab workers.


Economically, Jewish Palestine is capitalist. In industry and trade the “socialist” sector of the economy (cooperatives, etc.) represents about three to five per cent, according to Revusky’s book, Jews in Palestine. In agriculture, where the Kibutzim, Kvutzat (collectives) and cooperatives are strongest, they represent about ten per cent of the cultivated land and about the same proportion of the Jews engaged in agriculture.

The Jewish bourgeoisie is at present engaged in an attempt to destroy the basis for this “socialist” economy. They propose the abolition of the national ownership of land via the Jewish National Fund and the stopping of all subsidies to collectives and cooperatives. They argue that the public enterprises were necessary when it was difficult and unprofitable to do any job, but that now “free enterprise” will do a better job. “The Moor has done his work, the Moor may go.”

Politically, the Mapai (the reformist labor party) is in office in the “government within a government” which exists in Palestine. But Jewish Palestine faces a real struggle between the labor movement and the Jewish capitalist class which has tolerated it up to now.

The bourgeois mayor of Tel-Aviv and the mayors of all other major towns in Palestine have demanded a re-organization of the governmental set-up which would give them control. They have established a “committee of the Right” to rally all the forces of the bourgeoisie. Together with the Union of Industrialists they are giving aid to the strike-breaking, anti-Marxist, black union set up by the Revisionists – the Federation of National Labor. They have the support of the semi-fascist Revisionists, who polled 24,500 votes in the last election, about ten per cent of the total.

In the future the Revisionist party as such will take a back seal. It will work through the Irgun, which has announced that it will transform itself into a legal party. The Revisionists will attempt to enforce their hated domestic policies under the cloak of the Irgun’s prestige as an anti-British resistance force. Together with the clericalists of the Misrachi (5,000), Agudah (5,000) and possibly the Paole Hamisrachi (24,000), plus a possible 10,000 for the Paole Agudath Israel, the right-wing forces can perhaps muster fifty per cent of the vote. What is more important, by grace of the reformist labor leaders they now control the municipalities and the police, to which will be added the military power of the Irgun and the economic power of the Union of Industrialists.

Danger of Civil War

The danger of armed civil war fomented by the fascists is increased, no decreased, by the recent agreement between the Haganah and the Irgun. This agreement provides among other things that, once the Jewish state is established, the Irgun will be absorbed into the official militia of the state.

While they will be “absorbed” to the extent of being subject to the same top command, they will be allowed to keep their identity and their own closely knit organization. This will enable them to throw their military strength into the political struggle. The armed bands of the Right are preparing for struggle while the labor leaders take no steps to crystalize independent workers’ detachments, relying only on the “national” militia, the Haganah. The reformist leaders of the Mapai have offered to capitulate and form a broad coalition government including the Revisionists. Like all social democrats they are willing to cede important beach-heads to the reactionaries and hope that the liberal bourgeoisie will do the job of containing them. A false illusion! The job can only lie clone by the workers and by bold and vigorous leadership.

There is a regrouping of forces taking place in the Jewish labor movement. During the last year a left wing of the Mapai broke off and, together with the left Poale Zion, formed the Achduth Avodah Party. The Hashomer Hatzair, too, appeared for the first time as an independent political party in the last elections. Each group received 24,000 votes as compared to the 40,000 votes for the Mapai.

On January 10, 1948, these two groups will have a unity conference. No concrete unified program will result, but a vague general manifesto will be issued. The main aim of this unity is to form a bloc to bargain for governmental posts, to shift the center of gravity of the coalition to the left, and to stop the Mapai from capitulating too much to the right. The actual program will be worked out later, mostly in practice. The Hashomer Hatzair will drop its slogan of a bi-national state and the Achduth Avodah will drop its slogan for a Jewish socialist state in all of Palestine. Both are pro-Russian but the Hashomer Hatzair, in practical politics, supports the Anglophile Dr. Weitzman, while the Achduth advocates an active anti-British policy. In relation to the Arab question, the conference will come out for an Arab-Jewish rapprochement. In Jewish Palestine the united organization will probably not favor a single united trade union of Jewish and Arab workers, but rather federated (Irgun Meshutoff) separate Jewish and Arab unions. The manifesto will not demand immediate independence of Palestine but will call for strengthening of the UN supervision of Palestine.

Whatever anyone may say about partition and the establishment of a Jewish state (that for the first time it gives recognition to Jewish national aspirations, etc.) one thing is certain: the existence of the Jewish state in a partitioned Palestine will not solve the Jewish problem. Small states can never solve any major social problem.

The overwhelming bulk of the Jewish people will remain outside of Palestine. The same force – capitalism – that gave rise to modern exterminationist anti-Semitism still exists. For all Jews, workers and middle class alike, must realize that the continued existence of capitalism means the extermination of the Jews. Their only hope for survival is in the destruction of the breeder of fascist barbarism. For Jews, socialism is not merely a question of “ideals,” socialism is not only a question of something “for the common good,” but a stark national and personal necessity. The statement “socialism or barbarism” has a special and ghastly meaning to the Jews. To them it means: “socialism or extermination.”

The establishment of a Jewish state opens a new era for socialist-Zionist Jews. The Zionist goal has been realized, but the Jewish problem remains. A Jewish state will exist in Palestine, but the danger of extermination still faces ten million Jews, who will not or cannot be absorbed by Palestine. For socialist-Zionist Jews to be consistent, there can be only one answer to the new situation – a shift to greater unity with the revolutionary party throughout the world.

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