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Workers’ International News, August 1938


Palestine the Pawn


From Workers’ International News, Vol.1 No.8, August 1938, p.6-7.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Bombing, rioting, sniping, incendiarism have cost hundreds of lives in Palestine since the beginning of this year. In this bloody and violent form the unfinished battles of the Great War are being continued and the secret diplomacy of the war years still produces its harvest of human lives.

In the first months of the Great War secret negotiations were opened between Sir Henry McMahon, High Commissioner in Egypt and Hassein, Sherif and Emir of Mecca and leader of the Palestinian Arabs. With a view to inducing the Arabs to enter the war on Britain’s side they were promised the independence of Arab territories including Palestine. The Germans made a similar offer and the Arab nationalists after bargaining finally threw in their lot with the British and in June 1916, the Sherif declared war against the Turks. It was in this way that Palestine was sold to the Arabs.

Simultaneously the British Government entered into negotiations with the Zionists principally with a view to obtaining the sympathy of American Jewry in influencing America to enter the war on Britain’s side. The well-known “Balfour Declaration” was the result and in this way Palestine was sold to the Jews.

The German Government for its part also made the attempt to win over the Zionists by offering them the same Palestine that they had been offering the Arabs but before the negotiations could be completed Palestine was in General Allenby’s hands. British Imperialism had decidedly come out best in the horse deal. Mr. Lloyd George afterwards stated that the launching of the Balfour Declaration was “due to propagandist reasons”. That it was by no means taken seriously by British Imperialism, was startlingly revealed when the Bolsheviks took power in November 1917.

Leon Trotsky became the first Commissar for foreign affairs but as he was still busy at the Smolny with the general work of the revolution he called in Nikolai Markin, a sailor in the Baltic Navy, a gunner and a Bolshevik, to handle the department.

“So for a time Markin became an unofficial minister of foreign affairs. He learned the mechanism of the commissariat quickly, carried on the weeding-out of the high-born and thieving diplomats with a firm hand, reorganised the office, confiscated for the benefit of the homeless the contraband which was still coming through from abroad in the valises of diplomats, extracted the more instructive secret documents from the archives, and published them on his own responsibility and with his own commentaries, in separate pamphlets. Markin had no academic degree, and his writing was not free from grammatical errors. His comments were sometimes quite unexpected. But, on the whole, he drove the diplomatic nails in firmly, and at the very points where they were most needed. Baron von Kühlmann and Count Czernin read Markin’s yellow pamphlets at Brest-Litovsk eagerly.”

Among the secret treaties published by this ruthless Bolshevik sailor was the Sykes-Picot Agreement in which the relevant clause is as follows:

“... Palestine, with the Holy Places is to be separated from Turkish territory and subjected to a special regime to be determined by agreement between Russia, France and Great Britain.”

In other words, whatever ideas the Arabs and the Jews might have entertained about the position of Palestine it was clearly understood among the imperialist bandits that the titbit was to be divided up among themselves. By the time the Arabs and the Jews woke up to the fact that their nationalist movements had been dexterously exploited by British Imperialism, America had entered the war and Palestine was in the hands of the British army.

The present position in Palestine is the outcome of the secret diplomacy of those years. Great Britain holding the mandate is now able to play off the one claimant against the other. Under the classic principle of divide and rule, Arab is pitted against Jew in a bitter war of mutual extermination while British Imperialism utilises the deadlock in order that the Iraq pipeline may be guarded and the Suez Canal protected.

And at this very moment negotiations are going on, no doubt, behind the scenes between the Arab nationalist leaders and the ravenous wolves of imperialism. The Arab fellaheen, burdened by primitive methods of agriculture, suffering repeated droughts and bad harvests live even in times of prosperity on the verge of starvation. World slump bringing a universal fall of agricultural prices plunges the Arabs into destitution. The nationalist movement sustained by the Arab landowners seeks to exploit peasant discontent for its own ends and its treacherous leaders are just as ready to-day to bargain with rival imperialisms as they were in the war years. And on the other hand the reactionary Jewish nationalist continues to take a hand in the game of power politics. Both Arab and Jewish masses arc pawns and thrown one against the other.

The common enemy, British imperialism manoeuvring behind the scenes enters into negotiations and yields concessions to the nationalists with a view to furthering British war aims. Only the publication by a Bolshevik Markin of the Fourth International will reveal the nature of the deals when the secret archives are opened by the revolutionary workers. No doubt they will tell the same story of treachery and cynicism as was revealed in October 1917.

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