Discussion Corner on Palestine Issue, Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 12, 22 March 1948, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
The basic fact in the Palestinian situation is that approximately seven hundred thousand Jews constituting a nation are threatened with expulsion from their homeland and even with possible extermination. Like any other people, the Jews of Palestine have a right to defend themselves against any attempt by any group to deprive them of their homeland. All the crimes of the Zionist leadership – past, present and future – cannot take that right away from them.
An attack upon the Jews in Palestine could be justified only if one could prove that they are imperialist exploiters or agents of imperialist exploiters, oppressing a backward people. No one in his right senses would make such an assertion, let alone try to prove it.
A group of Arabs organized and led by the most reactionary elements of the Arab states surrounding Palestine have launched an attack against the Jews. There are of course Palestinian Arabs who are fighting the Jews, but the dominant group under the leadership of which the struggle is being waged is composed of feudalistic reactionaries from the various Arab states.
The probable consequences of a victory of this group will be the expulsion from Palestine of hundreds of thousands of Jews, if not their actual extermination. The probable consequences of the victory of the Jews will not be the expulsion or extermination of the Arabs but the assurance, for a short period at least, of a tiny homeland for the Jews. To defend the right of a nation to whatever homeland it has is the duty
of every socialist. This means that we must give material aid to the Jews fighting for their right to live in Palestine. We must of course do our utmost to show we have nothing in common with the Zionist leadership; we must continue the sharpest criticisrn of that leadership – its policies and its despicable methods of waging indiscriminate war against all Arabs. But so long as there are Arabs attacking the Jews with arms in order to expel or exterminate the Jews of Palestine, so long must we give material aid to the Jews.
One cannot solve the problem confronting us in Palestine by finding a formula in Lenin’s writings, where the conditions of a progressive
nationalist struggle are enumerated. One needs only to recognize the facl that a group of Arabs, organized by reactionary feudalists, have launched an attack on the Jews with the minimum objective of compelling the Jews to submit to the will of the Arab leaders. And from this fact one must conclude that a socialist must furnish material aid to the Jews.
It may be that tomorrow the Irgunists or some other extremist nationalist group among the Jews will try to drive the Arabs from sections of Palestine occupied by them. In that event we shall have to defend the Arabs against the Jews. Right now this is not the case.
To ask both sides to “cease fire” is very nice. No one can seriously object. But if the attacking Arabs do not choose to listen to us and continue their fire, shall we stand on the sidelines and persist in imploring them to “cease fire” and do nothing else? Shall we refuse to lift a finger to help prevent the expulsion or extermination of the Jews?
Such a position befits pacifist souls who wring their hands in anguish at the wickedness of the world. It does not befit socialists who fight any attempt by anybody to destroy the homeland of a people.
To call the war in Palestine fratricidal does not help us a bit. Alas, all wars, just and unjust, are fratricidal.
Nor does it help any by pointing out that the Jews are not in the position of a minority fighting against oppression by any imperialist power. Is it not sufficient that the Jews at the present moment are fighting for their very existence in Palestine? To call upon them to “cease fire” when attacked is a little thoughtless.
Must we be for partition because we defend the right of the Jews to live in Palestine, against armed aggression by a group of Arabs organized and led by reactionary feudalists? Not in the least. We should be against partition now just as we were against partition before. We should continue our agitation for a united, democratic Palestine with the right of Jews to immigrate and the right, – the democratic right – of a minority to a separate existence if that minority wants such an existence.
We should make clear that we are only for the right to a separate existence and not for the exercise of that right. We are absolutely against secession or partition. But if a national minority, contrary to our advice, sets up its own state and the majority by force attempts to prevent it, then we defend the minority against the majority.
If we are against partition, does this not mean we should join the Arabs in the struggle against partition? In Comrade Judd’s article dealing with the question of the struggle in Palestime there seems to be such an intimation. Such a conclusion can be the result only of the most formalistic thinking. As if we and the Arab reactionary leaders are fighting against some abstract principle of partition.
Our motives in opposing partition are altogether different from the motives of the Arab leaders. We are against partition because we deem it to be against the interests of the Jewish and the Arab masses. The feudal leaders of the Arab states are against partition because they do not want to see the Jews have a homeland in Palestine. They are not fighting against the Jews for fear the Arab masses will suffer as a result of partition but because they would be deprived of an opportunity to rule all of Palestine.
Our position against partition is one thing; our fight to save the Jews from expulsion or extermination is another thing.
It is clearly the duty of Jewish and Arab socialists in Palestine to agitate against partition and for a democratic Palestine; it is also their duty to defend the Jews against any armed attack organized by any group.
For reasons of their own, the imperialist nations, working through the United Nations, may send troops to enforce partition. Later on the struggle in Palestine may become part of an imperialist war. When and if that should happen we may have to change our position. But so long as the dominant character of the struggle in Palestine remains the attempt of the Arab leaders to exterminate or expel the Jews, so long must we give material aid to the Jews. Neither the crimes of the Zionist leaders nor the crimes of the imperialists justify any other course.
Last updated: 23 December 2015