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Henry Judd

World Politics

P.A. – At It Again

(7 June 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 23, 7 June 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

So long as British imperialism and its Empire are only in a state of decline and disintegration, rather than being put entirely out of their misery, there will be a Perfidious Albion to carry on the long tradition of treachery and cynicism associated with the Empire. His name today is Ernest Bevin and he seems hell bent, over the issue of Palestine, to outdo his numerous predecessors in hypocrisy and fraud. We do not know whether Bevin’s particular vileness is due to his oft-rumored personal anti-Semitism, but we do know that even the original Albion might have shuddered at some of the special sliminess of Bevin.

Britain is waging war, at second hand, against the new born state of Israel. This is the blunt fact of the matter, and all else is concealment. British imperialism holds the key to continuation of the war or a temporary truce and arrangement. Her close ties with the three leading Arab states of Transjordan, Iraq and Egypt are the medium, by way of treaties, by which Britain supplies the arms and equipment for the Arab invaders of Palestine. Britain has built these armies and now maintains them.

Other facts are well known: the supplying of English officers (the Arabs’ strongest and key army, the Legion of King Abdullah, is officered in its highest ranks by Englishmen); an $8 million yearly subsidy goes to Abdullah, the ambitious monarch whom Britain set upon his throne with a gift of a large hunk of the former Palestine Mandate. There is no question that Bevin desires a victory of its Arab armed forces over Israel and the imposition upon the Jewish people in Palestine of a greater Trans-Jordan, absorbing all or most of the present state of Israel and within which the Jews would be a national minority under the rule of Abdullah. This greater Trans-Jordan would then be entirely the product and creature of British imperialism and the bulwark of its Near East strategy, with Abdullah a grateful and obedient Quisling.

Britain Shifts Strategic Positions

An Empire dies hard. The behavior of Britain in this situation is the consequence of its desire to hold on tight to historic positions, while shifting the centers of defense and power. The new, semi-independent status of India, Ceylon, Burma and, to a lesser extent, Malaya, have given new importance to the Near East within what remains of the Empire.

“British diplomacy was striving mightily this week to prevent the British system of Middle East defenses, so laboriously contrived and so painfully defended during the past thirty years, from being shot to pieces over-night in Palestine.” (New York Times, May 29.)

This lies behind the British actions. The physical withdrawal of British troops from Palestine has not changed these strategic interests since, in effect, the Arab Legion is now assigned the role of the very same troops that have been withdrawn! What are these interests? They may be summarized as follows: (1) Protection of the Suez Canal, still the route to the Middle and Far East. (2) Naval domination of the eastern Mediterranean, by holding on to the island of Cyprus [1] with its naval bases. (3) Retaining control over a valuable source of food, raw materials and – above all else – oil; not to mention protection of one of the few remaining areas where British financial investments are still untouched. (4) Control over an important buffer area, to be used as a protection for British colonies in Africa and a defense against possible Russian imperialist advances into the Mediterranean. A system of alliances with the three Arab nations mentioned above has the fulfillment of these strategic purposes as its aim.

Opportunity for British Socialists

The activities of Bevin and his UN representatives have been carried out to place the Arab armies in the best possible position for winning a quick victory over the Jewish state and thus reasserting British power in the Near East. This has been the objective of all the ambiguously worded UN resolutions for “truce” offered by Britain, and all her appeals to American opinion. As a consequence, the clash between American and British imperialism over Palestine has reached new heights. For the moment, America (for a variety of reasons) is backing the Israeli state but in the long run this backing will crumble before a common fear on the part of America and Britain that only Russian imperialism will benefit in the end by a continuation of the present conflict.

Although there is every reason to believe that there is much dissatisfaction with Britain’s vicious role in the Near East in England itself, there have as yet been no open or direct manfestations of this. To our knowledge, there have been no popular demonstrations or meetings held protesting against this criminal policy by the Labor Government and its imperialist Ministers. A splendid opportunity exists, nevertheless, for revolutionary socialists and particularly for the English Trotskyist party to work against this policy and to grow in strength and influence not only by denouncing the imperialist actions of its government, but by championing and supporting the elementary right of the Jewish people in Palestine to national freedom and independence, if they so desire. Will they accept this opportunity, or remain silent as they have in the past on this issue?

Note by ETOL

1. In the printed edition “Cypress”.

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