From Workers’ International News, Vol.6 No.8, August 1946, p.232-236.
Originally from Kol Hamaamad (organ of the Fourth International in Palestine), April 1946.
Translated by D. Tamary.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
WHY is it that little Palestine managed to occupy the minds of the public, to fill up the news on the radio and to take such a prominent position on the front pages of all the newspapers in the Arab East? Why has she been ‘honoured’ by so many commissions which ‘investigated’, heard witnesses, drew up reports, sat at long sessions, and, at last, issued ‘practical’ recommendations, which have not been accepted? Why has little Palestine been given more attention than the larger countries with their more acute problems which deserve no less attention? Is imperialism so anxious about the fate of the remnants of European Jewry? Does imperialism need to base its policy on ‘scientific’ study of the conditions so as to send so many commissions (17 up to now) all of which have been so much publicised? It appears that precisely the publicity given to the commissions is the important thing while the scientific investigation is just a window dressing.
Let us understand the issue: the hatred of Imperialism is growing in the Arab East. The more the proletariat takes active part in the struggle the more acute it becomes. The anti-imperialist struggle of the masses in Java, India and Greece found an echo in the Arab East. The unintentioned support given by British imperialism to the Syrian independence movement – with the purpose of weakening French imperialism – has turned out to be a double-edged sword. British imperialism was forced to evacuate its troops from Syria. In Egypt the students and workers demonstrated demanding, “Out with the imperialist army” and a general strike has been declared. The ferment is increasing daily. One bright day twelve million, peasants and plantation workers are liable to rise under the leadership of the proletariat. This is a serious danger which threatens the existence of the British Empire in this part of the world.
Under these conditions imperialism falls back on its old tactic which appears to it to be safer and more effective than the force of the bayonet; the policy of “divide and rule” – a policy which created a Jewish Zionist body with the aims of expansion and conquest in the midst of the Arab countries. Their aim is simple: to turn the question of the establishment of a “Jewish State” and further immigration of Jews to Palestine into the central question in the Arab East: to turn the ire of the masses from anti-imperialist struggle, so that the demand for its withdrawal will be removed from the order of the day. And behind all this Great Britain fortifies her position and declares: “Prove who is more loyal to me, the Zionist movement or the Arab people.”
And indeed a strange scene takes place: the one who intrigues, incites and stirs up conflicts between nation sends his paid agents, to become the judges – Palestinian Jewry which pretends to represent the interests of the inhabitants comes to ask for ‘justice’ at the hands of this robber and criminal.
Each side has its own reasons and ‘just’ demands: Ben-Gurion (chairman of the Jewish agency) maintains – “we are already forty years connected with the same political line of collaboration with Britain. Already in the years before the Balfour declaration. A collaboration must be reciprocal and not ‘one-sided’.” But the reward for the loyal service of the Zionist is indeed “niggardly and insulting.”
At the same time Jamal Husseinie leading member of the Arab higher committee) maintained: “the Arabs have a long tradition of friendship with Britain and America and if, on question of Palestine, there is no improvement everything is liable to be changed.”
Both of them see in the imperialist robber the “defender of peace”. Their only complaint is that he supports their rivals.
Jamal Husseinie: “We extend a friendly hand to Britain and America but our hand is being rejected ... We do not want to fight the British but we fight them because of their Zionist policy in Palestine.”
Weizman (President of the Zionist movement) demands only a change in administration: “We shall require an Administration which will be sympathetic to the ultimate aim of creating a Jewish state.” And Ben-Gurion emphasises clearly “I have not asked for the withdrawal of the British forces.” Does Ben-Gurion think that the troops are kept in Palestine in the interests defending the Jews? Ben-Gurion replies: “I believe that there are other interests in existence. And maybe these are legitimate (?) interests because of which British troops are held here.” What are these ‘legitimate’ (?) or ‘other’ interests? because of which Ben-Gurion is interested in keeping here the British troops? These are the interests of British imperialism safe-guarding strategical bases and oil centres, and the subjugation of the Arab people.
In spite of some hard phrases against the British policy which were said in the heat of the debate, a short summary of the arguments of the rival parties brings out what is common to both of them. The Zionists complain at the meagre reward that they receive in exchange for the loyal service they render to the Empire. The Arab feudalists complain that their service is being rejected; that their extended hand is being spat upon. Both sides distinguish themselves in their reactionary nationalism. Both are prepared to serve imperialism. But in spite of all this there is a basic difference between the two. This difference would have been difficult to observe unless we leave the hall where the commission sits and walk into the world of reality. The difference is between the assailant and the one being assaulted, between the invader and the one being invaded. The evidence of the Zionist leaders was more moderate, more ‘cleverly’ presented and more “Westernised” than that of the representatives of the Arab Higher Committee, but behind their honeyed words about “extending the hand of peace” there exists a rather different reality. A long tradition of boycott, conquest of labour, programmes for the transfer of Arabs – all these under British protection – this aggressive Zionist programme is presented by “workers’ representatives”, while the demand to put an end to Zionist penetration and the building of a bridgehead in the midst of Arab countries, which is the real interest of the subjugated masses in the Arab East, is brought up by the feudalists themselves, surely enough in it most reactionary nationalist form.
Jamal Husseinie says to the British members of the commission:
“Why do you come to this homogeneous body, the Arab people, to force upon it – to push a wedge – of a new nation in the midst of the Arab people?”
But at once he adds servilely:
“But surely this is against your principles and traditions. You are doing just the opposite in every part of the world (!). Is this your interest? I say it is not.”
And Auni Abdul Hadi declares pathetically that “the Arabs prefer to die from British bayonets than at the hands of the Jews.”
The same confusion is noticeable in the evidence of Semi Haha, representative of the right wing Arab Trade Unions who appeared in the name of the Arab Higher Committee. On the one hand he completely ignores the problem of the Jewish refugees: “All the talk about persecution of the Jews in Europe is an imperialist lie.” On the other hand he attacks imperialism:
“We look to the workers of the world, to UNO, with the demand to free us from imperialism ... We demand nothing but justice ... Zionism is a reactionary bourgeois movement, racial like the Nazis.”
The only correct line which really represented the interests of the population of Palestine was that of the Left wing Arab Trade Unions which refused to appear before the commission. Had this boycott been a general one it would have turned the ‘commission of enquiry’ into a complete defeat for imperialist policies.
But how miserable is the position of the ‘Socialists’ who present the Zionist workers as “The pioneer of progress in the field of Arab feudalism”. While they have no connection whatsoever with the anti-imperialist struggle in the Arab East; while they uphold race discrimination they sell themselves to imperialist interests with the futile hope of being rewarded, and pretend to be ‘revolutionary’ when they are ‘cross’ because the ‘co-operation is not reciprocal.’
The Zionist movement has a peculiar character. On the one hand it bases itself on vast layers of Jews who learnt to hate Fascism, and on the other on acts of conquest and racial discrimination. This explains the hypocritical position revealed by the Jewish agency in its evidence before the commission. Hoffien (the director of the Angle-Palestine Bank) explains what attention is given to the Arab population when he states that it is in the interests of Zionism to raise the standard of living of the Arabs (but for some reason or other the Arabs have not yet noticed it). Horwitz (from the economic department of the Jewish Agency) drew attention to the great benefit the Arab quarries derived from the building industry in Tel Aviv: “Direct employment of Arabs is found in Jewish settlements.” (Really? Have they not yet been removed?).
What amount of seriousness can be attributed to Dr. Magnes’ talk about Jewish-Arab agreement is evident from the answer he gave to Mr. Leggett, a member of the commission. Mr. Leggett pointed out, that there are many young Jews in Europe who come to Palestine to fight and asked: “Would it be correct to bring them here if would cause a war?” Dr. Magnes, the champion of peace with the Arabs answered: “Let it be so!” Even Ben Gurion, who stands for the transfer of the Arabs, appeared as their friend “You (the Arabs) have no greater or more loyal friend in the whole world than the people of Israel.” “That’s politics” say the Zionist leaders but simple people call it hypocrisy.
The representatives of the Arab Higher Committee were less discreet. They did not hide their reactionary longing and dreams for the Turkish rule as a tolerant one. They did not hide their sympathies with the Mufti who collaborated with the German fascists and imperialists. But at the same time they did not lose the opportunity to appear as the defender the peasants and blame the Zionists for their intolerable conditions: “An Arab family cultivates forty dunnmans while the necessary amount of land is a hundred and forty dunmans. The denseness, “said Jamal Husseinie in his evidence, “is the result of Jewish immigration.”
From a social point of view a wide gulf separates the Zionist leadership from the Arab feudal leaders. A wide gulf separates their respective political aims, but at the same time there is a strong resemblance in their political approach. Both have a narrow nationalistic approach. Both try to blur the class struggle. Both offer their services to imperialism on condition that they will be chosen as its chief agents These similarities are by no means accidental. Both positions spring from one common ground. Both positions reciprocate and strengthen each other.
Feudal reaction dominates the Arab masses because of Zionism. The Zionist policy of boycott based on racial discrimination prevents the crystallisation of class consciousness among the Arab workers and turns all the accumulated hate against Arab feudalism into a different channel. This is how the feudal class in Palestine was able to maintain its dominating and leading role, while in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt it is rapidly on the decline. On the other hand the dominating position of the Arab reactionaries helped the Zionist leaders in preventing the Jewish worker from uniting with his class brother – the Arab worker.
This is the vicious circle which saves the British Empire in Palestine. There is no place for talk about anti-imperialist struggle while the powers of Zionism and Feudalism are unbroken.
The CP which pretends to be the party representing the interests of the Palestinian masses does not even raise in its evidence the necessity to fight Zionism and feudalism, the strongholds of reaction. It must be pointed out that among all other evidence that of the CP was the least nationalistic. Imperialism was called by its simple name: imperialism. This is a great advance forward from those days not in the very far past when imperialism was characterised under the title of “progressive humanity” or “anti-fascist democracy” But there is no place here for false pretences. The CP has not advanced one inch in the understanding of what imperialism is and how to fight against it. The only thing that brought about the change is the worsening of relations between the Soviet government and the Anglo-American world. A hint in the Moscow papers, a change in the Stalinist line in England (Stalin demands oil in Persia) and they have already changed the line. In its contribution “to lessen the strain between Jews and Arabs the CP condemns the imperialist policy in words. But it avoids adopting a position on the crux of the problem. According to the CP every Jewish-Arab conflict is nothing but the “fruit of British imperialist incitement and intrigue.” There is not a word in their evidence about the class contradiction on which this incitement is leased and without which British imperialism could never have succeeded in its disgraceful work. There is no sign of the term ‘class’. The word ‘Zionism’ was not even mentioned! And the solution? – very simple:
“We are convinced that a Jewish-Arab agreement is essential and possible (an agreement with whom, Ben Gurion, with the Husseines?) All the problems of our country can and must be solved with Jewish-Arab agreements ...”
A member of the commission asked: “Why is it that the Communists in Palestine do not appear in a United Front ...?” (There is an exclusive Jewish and exclusive Arab Communist Party – Trans.) Mayer Villner a leading Stalinist answers:
“The Jewish and Arab Communists in Palestine agree on all fundamental issues but the organisational question is their own internal problem.”
Was the split between the Arab and Jewish Stalinists an internal question only? Is the attitude towards immigration and a Jewish homeland, which is the bone of contention, a mere internal organisational question? This is a lie and a miserable evasion which the Stalinists offer as a “Communist” Solution to the problem. And in what way does the CP think of reaching a solution? Will it be through a class war of the masses against imperialism? God forbid! “‘the abolition of the British mandate and the immediate transfer of the Palestine problem to the security council of UNO – this is the only road under the present conditions to ensure the independence of our country and prevent the disturbance of peace in it.”
What is the meaning of this? To put UNO instead of Britain – this is nothing less than to divert the anti-imperialist struggle and cause confusion. England has in Palestine very important economic and strategic positions and she will not withdraw out of her own good will. Freedom from the imperialist yoke can come only through the struggle of the subjugated masses themselves.
It is not yet known what will be the recommendation of the Commission of Enquiry. It is not yet known what His Majesty’s Government will decide. But one thing is known in advance; the decision will not serve the interests of the local inhabitants but that of imperialism. It will not calm the national tension but only further inflame it. There will be no end to Jewish Arab complications as long as imperialism is allowed to intervene.
The masses of Palestine must take their fate in their own hands. Through the class struggle international solidarity will be achieved.
The solution for Palestine like the solution of the Jewish problem will not come “from above”. It will come only with the rising of the revolutionary wave in Europe and in the Arab East. But even then only a Revolutionary Communist Party will know how to stand and face imperialist provocations which are aimed at undermining the rising of the masses through a Jewish-Arab conflict, and to turn Palestine into a second Maidenak (one of the extermination camps – Trans.) Only an internationalist party which bases itself on the class interests of the masses, on the necessity of a war of national and social liberation will save Palestine from a blind alley of national hatred.
Last updated on 24.9.2005