Labour Monthly

The Position In Palestine and
the Path to Peace

I Rennap

Source : Labour Monthly May 1939, No. 5. pp.305-313
Publisher : The Labour Publishing Company Ltd., London.
Transcription/HTML : Salil Sen
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2010). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit "Marxists Internet Archive" as your source.

In the March issue of the German "National-Socialist" monthly journal there appeared an article by Herr Rosenberg, spiritual leader of the German Nazis, which was written on the day of the opening of the recent Arab Jewish Conferences in London. He declared that Germany had a direct interest in Palestine, and that it was the duty of all Germans to concern themselves with the Palestine problem because this problem is closely interlinked with the most important life interests of the Reich; and in the solution of this problem consideration has to be taken of these interests.

What important interests has Nazi Germany in Palestine? The reply is hinted at in the Annual Report of the German General Staff for 1939. Plans are given there for an attack on the British Empire. According to these plans it is essential for Nazi Germany to support every freedom movement anywhere in the British Empire as one of the means to cut off Britain from her Colonies and Dominions.

Here we have the reason for Nazism's interest in Palestine and its "support" for the liberation and self-determination of the Palestine Arabs. Nazism, which has destroyed every vestige of freedom in Germany and the new territories it has conquered in Europe, demands national "freedom" for the Palestine Arabs, because "sympathy" and "support" for the national independence struggles of the colonial peoples against Imperialism is now part of Fascism's war strategy against the democracies.

Fascism has to-day placed on the order of the day a redivision of the globe in its favour. Its objective is not merely a return of former colonies and a redivision of the Versailles Treaty. Fascism aims at the destruction of the democracies, and at world domination. The conquest of Austria and Czechoslovakia has begun the repartition of Europe itself, with Fascism getting nearer to the colonial national liberation movements of the Near and Middle East. Fascism's colonial aims are merely part of its general war aims against the democracies so that it can gain important strategic positions and strengthen itself economically and militarily (food, raw materials and man power). One of the methods Fascism uses to gain a footing in the colonial countries is by pretending to support the existing colonial liberation movements, so that it can gain a foothold inside them to divert and harness them to its war chariot. The Arabian lands in the Near East are of great strategic importance within the British Imperialist lines of communica¬tion. Palestine, particularly, occupies a vitally important position as the gateway and "half-way house" to the Middle East and India. Here an Arab liberation movement has been fighting against British Imperialism for national independence for the last two decades. Therefore, Fascism has concentrated large forces in Palestine and the Near East with a view to gaining an important strategic base in the Near East. About a year ago, at a meeting in Jerusalem, German and Italian agents, as well as correspondents of Fascist newspapers, came to an agreement on joint action in the Arabian lands. Their activities have already borne fruit. Fascism has made serious inroads into the Arab liberation movement in Palestine.


For nearly 20 years the Palestine Arabs have been struggling against British Imperialism. In so far as this struggle is waged for democratic rights and independence from Imperialism, it is a national revolutionary and progressive struggle. The driving forces of the Arab movement come from the peasants, workers, and urban middle classes; while the leadership is to-day in the hands of clerical, feudal landowning and bourgeois elements at whose head stands the clerical Grand Mufti, Haj Amin el Husseini. Socially, these elements are the most reactionary in Palestine. They could never be regarded, in view of their social position, as those who would lead the liberation struggle to its final conclusion. In the past they have tended to compromise with British Imperialism and dampen down and deflect the anti-Imperialist struggle. The Jewish settlers, who came into Palestine under Zionist auspices, fulfilled for these reactionary Arab leaders, in the early years of the Mandate, the role of a "lightning conductor." It was against these settlers, with the use of anti-Jewish chauvinism, that discontent and anti-Imperialist feeling were deflected. But the deep-seated and widespread character of the 1936 revolt forced these Arab leaders into leading the anti-Imperialist struggle if they were to retain their hold on the movement and turn away discontent from themselves. Thus, at that historic moment, these Arab leaders were fulfilling a progressive function. Anti-Jewish excesses were isolated and sporadic by-products of a definitely anti-Imperialist uprising (admitted as such by Zionist leaders and the Peel Commission). This is an indication of the higher political level of the uprising as compared with the one of 1929, which, as a result of the chauvinistic incitement of Arab leaders, took the form of pogroms against the Jews.

In 1937, the Peel Commission proposed the partitioning of Palestine. In principle, this was accepted by the British Government. This led to the revolt flaring up anew. Partition was uncompromisingly resisted by the Arab masses, led by the Arab Higher Committee at whose head was the Grand Mufti. This opposition led to the forcible dissolution of the Arab Higher Committee by the Palestine administration. In so far as the Grand Mufti and his associates were still leading the anti-Imperialist struggle by fighting partition, they were still fulfilling a progressive function. At that time Fascist influence and activity in Palestine were relatively small. The open invasion and enslavement of politically independent States in Europe by Fascism, with its con¬comitant increasing penetration into the colonial countries for strategic bases to facilitate further conquests, had not yet begun.

Fascism's offensive in the early period of 1938 (conquest of Austria), was accompanied by intensified activity of Fascist agents in the colonial countries. This activity became further accelerated after the Munich betrayal. In the Near East, the headquarters of the Nazi central propa¬ganda agency was set up in Cairo. "Culture clubs" for Arabs have been set up in the principal town of the Arabian lands. These, together with the German consulates and German business houses, have become clearing houses for Fascist propaganda material, as well as arms and material which are smuggled into Palestine.

In Palestine the beheading of the Arab movement and the use of troops and repressive measures (as well as the Arab Jewish antagonism created by British Imperialism and Zionist policy) facilitated tremen¬dously the task of the Fascist agents. Fascism's most powerful weapon in Palestine (as well as in the neighbouring Arabian lands) is Britain's spearhead against the Palestine Arabs, the Zionist movement. Radio stations from Italy and Germany broadcast in Arabic the most rabidly anti-Jewish and anti-British incitement which inflames to the highest degree existing anti-Jewish feeling. Leaflets and all kinds of propaganda material are widely distributed, inciting Arabs against Jews.

All this has been going on with the knowledge and approval of the Grand Mufti and his clique. The Arab Nationalist leaders, who were never to be trusted and who might once again have come to terms with Britain, have accepted the active "support" and "sympathy" which the Fascist axis is lavishing upon national liberation movements to further its war aims. With the Grand Mufti's approval, German officers and "instructors" are organising and leading his partisan groups. Ischak Dervase, nephew of the Grand Mufti and his right hand man, stated at a gathering of Mufti supporters in Damascus, that large sums of money and shipments of arms were being received from Germany. The Grand Mufti's paper, Al Lahab, is openly financed by Fascist agents and propagates the vilest anti-Jewish incitements while hailing the Grand Mufti as the Arab "Fuehrer." According to Reynolds of April 2, 1939, the Nazi Government "has decided to convert 25,000 Nazis into Mohammedans! They were to be organised in a newly-formed Muslim association, Jamait-e-Muslimin, which already has an understanding with the Mufti." These 25,000 "converts" are to be sent "to various Moslem countries as trade and political missionaries," while young Arabs are being trained in Italy and Germany for the same purpose, namely, to be Fascism's paid agents among the Arabs.

Fascism, in the name of "self-determination," has obtained a foothold in the Arab movement. This has reflected itself in increasing acts of violent terrorism against Jews (the massacre of Jewish women and children in Tiberias last November) as a result of anti-Jewish incitement stirred up by Fascist agents; on the other hand, the Fascist Revisionists (extreme Right wing of the Zionist movement) have been responsible for bomb outrages against Arabs (July, 1938 and February, 1939) in which scores of Arabs lost their lives. It is said that the Revisionists have contact with the Italian Fascists. Arab Jewish hostility and communal conflicts among the Arabs (terrorism by Mufti supporters against Arab anti-Muftiites, and counter terror by anti-Muftiites) have greatly increased. This is precisely what Fascism aims at: to divert and complicate the Arab struggle from an anti-Imperialist struggle, which would further the liberation struggle of the Arabs, into an increasingly inner communal and anti-Jewish conflict which can only retard the struggle for national liberation and consolidate Fascism's influence whereby it can entrench itself in the Near East.

The responsibility for this Fascist influence and its impeding of the Arab anti-Imperialist struggle lies with the Grand Mufti and his clique. By accepting Fascist "support" which has polluted the Arab movement, he and his satellites are undermining the Arab struggle for democratic rights and helping to strengthen Fascism. The Mufti, who was never to be trusted and who might once again have sold out to Britain, has now sold out to the Fascist axis instead.

On the other hand, British Imperialism also has its agents and allies in Palestine. Its main ally is the Zionist leadership which has as its aim the establishment of a Jewish majority in Palestine. Britain has used the Zionist movement as a buffer against Arab aspirations: and this has driven the Arabs into armed revolt. The other ally of Britain is the Nashashibi group of "moderate" Arabs, who represent that section of Arab landlords and capitalists who have become enriched by Zionist penetration under British rule through land sales to the Jews, and have, therefore, more than any other section of the Arabs, always sought the path of compromise with British Imperialism and Zionist penetration. The Nashashibi group will betray the Arab independence struggle at the earliest opportunity.

Thus the struggle in Palestine to-day, viewed on a broad perspective of the present international situation, with Fascism seeking strategic and economic bases in the colonial countries at the expense of the democracies, has ceased to be a struggle purely of the Arab masses against British Imperialism and Zionist penetration. This struggle has now become complicated and influenced by the war aims of the Fascist axis at the cost of the peoples in Palestine.

The Arab people, supported by the progressive elements within Palestine Jewry, must wage an uncompromising struggle against the Grand Mufti and his associates. True, these leaders are demanding national independence for Palestine. But those reactionary nationalist leaders in Slovakia who have always demanded independence fox Slovakia also had Nazi "support." Last March, in the Slovakian Diet, they proclaimed the independence of Slovakia. Two days later Slovakia was gobbled up by Nazi Germany. Therefore, every democrat who supports the national rights of the Arab people, must make it clear to them that the Grand Mufti's entanglement with Fascism can ultimately bring the Palestine Arabs, bad and oppressive as their lot is under British rule, the infinitely worse oppression and exploitation which their brethren in Tripoli under Mussolini are undergoing. The Palestine Arabs must cleanse their movement of its traitors and wreckers, in their struggle for democratic rights.

At the same time the Jews in Palestine and elsewhere must realize that the present Zionist leaders, with their policy of a Jewish majority which is opposed by the Arabs, bear, with Britain, a considerable share of the responsibility for Fascist penetration into Palestine, and, thereby, for strengthening of Jewry's mortal foe. To persist in this policy is ob¬jectively to assist in the undermining of Palestine Jewry and Jewry the world over.

The menace of Fascist penetration makes it imperative for the progressive forces among the Jews and Arabs in Palestine to come to¬gether for a unified struggle against the Fascist axis and its agents in the Arab and Jewish camps. Both sides must effectively within their own ranks stamp out acts of terrorism which can only divide the Palestine peoples and open the gates to Fascist penetration. And alongside this struggle with the support of the world Labour and democratic movement, must be waged the struggle against British rule for democratic rights for all peoples in Palestine. The smashing of Fascist influence in Palestine and in the Arab movement will facilitate and advance the struggle for democratic institutions.

The progressive elements among Arabs and Jews must, through their democratically elected representatives, reach agreement on all the problems of Palestine, such as democratic government, immigration, agrarian reforms, land sales, etc., which would erect a barrier to the penetration of Fascism. Such an agreement, however, will never be reached so long as Weizman and Ben Gurion represent the Jews, and the Mufti, the hireling of the Fascist axis, represents the Arabs, with British Imperialism acting as a "mediator" and trying to effect a "rapprochement." The failure of the recent Arab Jewish Conferences is another clear proof of this.


The Arab Jewish Conferences have ended in a complete deadlock. The British Government's plan for a solution of the problem has been rejected by both sides.

In an attempt to placate the Palestine Arabs, some concessions have been made to them at the expense of the Zionists. Fear of Fascist penetration, as well as the deep-seated character of the revolt, has made the National Government abandon its firm stand for the con¬tinuation of the Mandate even in a modified form. To dispel the fear among the Arabs of Jewish domination, the Balfour Declaration (i.e., the war promise made to the Zionists that Britain would help in creating in Palestine a Jewish National Home: taken by the Zionists to mean a Jewish majority and ultimately a Jewish State) has been blatantly repudiated. Finding Zionism and Zionist policy no longer able to serve her purpose, Britain has cynically thrown aside its faithful servants, the Zionist leaders. But while doing this, Britain has by no means given way on the basic demand of the Arabs, namely, Palestine to become a democratic State linked by Treaty with Britain on the lines of Iraq and Egypt. A plan has been worked out where ostensibly a Palestine State linked with Britain will come into existence -- but in stages, through an interim period, and contingent upon Arab Jewish co-opera¬tion. Jewish immigration will be drastically restricted so that the total number of Jews in Palestine should always be, roughly, about one-third of the population. Arabs and Jews will be co-opted to the Administration during the interim period, thus giving the appearance that Britain is seriously attempting to draw together the Arabs and Jews to run their own country. Actually, the plan in practice would achieve nothing of the sort. Under a façade of an Arab-Jewish-British administration, Britain's grip will still be on Palestine with supreme authority (through the power to veto any law or act) vested in the High Commissioner. Britain, who has no intention of relaxing her grip, will, as in the past, put every obstacle in the path of any real Arab Jewish co-operation. And since a sovereign Palestine State is, in the last resort, contingent on their co-operation, Britain will piously declare: We have tried to make Arabs and Jews work harmoniously; but both are stiff-necked and will not co-operate. Therefore we must still rule in Palestine to "keep the peace."

This in essence is the British plan. The Palestine Arabs rejected the plan because the basic Arab demand was fobbed off (with the exception of the Nashashibis who were prepared to accept and co-oper¬ate with Britain). The Zionists rejected it because the Balfour Declara¬tion was repudiated. And Britain has her excuse for the necessity for still "keeping the peace" in Palestine! The Arab press shouts loudly about another British betrayal of the Arabs and associates with this the Jews. Clearly, in such circumstances, Fascism's penetration can only increase while the Mufti and his satellites will become more and more the slaves of Berlin-Rome at the cost of the Arab liberation movement. It becomes imperative therefore for some minimum programme to be advanced which can be acceptable to both Arabs and Jews as a basis on which agreement can be reached over the heads of Weizman, the Mufti and the "mediators" in Whitehall.


The Conferences have ended a chapter in the history of Zionism which began with the Balfour Declaration of 1917. Britain's war promise to, support the creation of a Jewish State made it appear that the sincere but utopian aspiration for national Statehood, which exists among sections of Jewry, could be realised and made a concrete reality with British help. The Zionist leaders therefore took as their starting point that Britain must be their main and most important ally, implicitly believing that Britain would ultimately fulfil her pledge.

But British Imperialism was only concerned with fulfilling her pledges to the degree that they did not conflict with her Imperialist aims. Britain, after the war, needed a faithful watchdog to guard her strategic military bases in Palestine, and also a buffer against Arab national aspirations, the Balfour Declaration being Britain's excuse for withholding even formal independence from the Arabs, thus frustrating their national aspirations.

The dominant Zionist leaders appeared to be completely blind to the real motive of Britain in regard to the Jewish National Home. They therefore made no real attempt to understand the national aspirations of the Palestine Arabs, who, after all, were their neighbours with whom they had to live side by side. They never troubled to understand what effect, economically and psychologically, the aim of creating a Jewish State in Palestine would have on them. They never made any real attempt (in spite of much lip service) to explore possibilities of reaching an understanding with their Arab neighbours. They stood rigidly by their demand for the 100 per cent. fulfilment of the Balfour Declaration with British bayonets if necessary, and completely ignored the fierce opposition of the Arabs to a Jewish majority. They also imbued thou¬sands of Jews (and non-Jews) with that same implicit trust in British Imperialism's good faith. Now they have been miserably discarded after being used by Britain. Therefore, the American Liberal journal, the Nation of March 4, 1939, is quite right when it says: "The Zionist leaders must also shoulder part of the blame for the present debacle. Instead of trying to come to terms with their Arab neighbours from the very beginning they hitched their waggon to the British Imperialist kite."

"They hitched their waggon to the Imperialist kite instead of trying to come to terms with their Arab neighbours." Herein lies the lesson which we have continually pointed out, and which the Yishuv (Palestine Jewry) must learn.

The present Zionist policy, the Weizman-Ben Gurion policy, is bankrupt because these leaders tried to create something which is im¬possible (a Jewish majority and State in Palestine) relying wholly on a treacherous ally who assured them that this was possible. For the Yishuv to continue to follow and still demand the fulfilment of this policy is to court disaster and help Fascism to entrench itself further in Pales¬tine. The Yishuv's only path to-day is "to come to terms with their Arab neighbours." This would not, of course, mean coming to the Arabs as supplicants, cap in hand. The Yishuv, numbering 450,000 Jews, is to-day a strong economic and political force in Palestine. It can play an important and progressive role in Palestine's future develop¬ment. It can be of great benefit to the Arabs, economically and culturally, which the Arabs would not be slow to recognise. Therefore, the Yishuv's immediate task is to follow the lead of those Jewish leaders who have long advocated a rapprochement with the progressive Arabs, over the heads of British Imperialism and the reactionary leaders of both sides.

Who are these Jewish leaders? First, there is Dr. Judah Magness, President of the Hebrew University in Palestine and a member of the Jewish Agency, whose plan for an. Arab Jewish rapprochement is based on a simple, self-evident truth, namely, that a minority in any country cannot, against the wishes of the existing majority, become a majority, in spite of so-called "historic rights" and "solemn pledges", etc. Therefore, a rapprochement can only be effected on the basis of the existing situation and present realities in Palestine. The Jews in Palestine are a minority, although an important and very powerful one. The main lines of his plan are that an understanding (if only for a given period) should be reached on the present existing ratio of Jews to the non-Jewish population (roughly 40 per cent Jews to non-Jews) in a democratic Palestine with guaranteed rights for all peoples. This plan, in the main, has the support in Palestine of progressive Liberals, Socialists and Communists alike. This plan is based on a sober estima¬tion of the situation, free from chauvinism and aggressive idealism and what is highly important is that the Arabs are favourably inclined towards it. It could form the basis of an agreement between Jews and Arabs in Palestine, without the "help" of the National Government, the Weizmans and the Muftis. Furthermore, there are left wing elements in the Palestine Jewish Labour Movement (Hashomair Hazair) who are for reaching a genuine understanding with the Arabs. There is S. Kaplanski, a veteran Labour Zionist leader who was removed from the Histadrut (Palestine Federation of Labour) leader¬ship because of his bitter opposition to Partition, who warned the Zionist leaders that the Conferences in London would turn out to be a Jewish Munich, and urged on them the necessity of negotiating a peace pact with the Arabs and abandoning their close co-operation with British Imperialism.

The Jews in Palestine, like their Arab neighbours, want peace and freedom from conflict and strife. Large numbers are not concerned with the "diplomacy" of the present Zionist leaders. They desire to reach an understanding with their Arab neighbours and to live in peace with them. But the powerful Zionist bureaucracy suppresses, to a large extent, opinion which is opposed to official Zionist policy. In the Histadrut, opposition to Partition was autocratically muzzled. Further, the Palestine Review of March 10, 1939 complains "that the present Jewish National Council (Vaad Leumi) was elected eight years ago ... while in the interim period 250,000 Jews have settled in the country. Thus, half the present Jewish population is unrepresented." It must be noted that the majority of these later immigrants are not Zionists, but refugees from Fascism. Many oppose the official Zionist bureaucracy.

Therefore, it is imperative to-day, through its democratically elected representatives, for the Yishuv to express its willingness to negotiate a settlement with the Arabs on the basis of the Magness plan. This would be met with a favourable response from the Arabs. Such a move would help to undermine the position of the present reactionary Arab leaders. These have been able to entrench themselves, to a not inconsiderable extent, as a result of the chauvinistic, pro-Imperialist policy of the official Zionist leaders. Large numbers of Arab workers and peasants, who might have been won with a correct policy for bi-national labour unity, have been driven by official Zionist policy into the arms of the Mufti. Such a move would help to strengthen the position of such young progressive Arab leaders like Raif N. Kuri who, in an article in the New York World, declared the fierce hatred of the progressive Arabs and the mass of the Arab population to Fascism, stating that the Arab people desire a democratic Palestine, representative of all the peoples with guaranteed rights for all and with the fullest autonomy for the Yishuv. Further, the Histadrut must show its willing¬ness to abandon its present policy which divides Arab and Jewish workers, and to replace it with one of making the Histadrut the basis of a united bi-national Labour movement. Palestine Jewry must also do its utmost to encourage the setting up of bi-national farmers' and peasant' organisations and co-operatives.

The unity and co-operation of the Arab and Jewish labouring people, together with the great cultural and economic benefits the more developed Yishuv can bring to the Arabs, would be a cast-iron guarantee safeguarding the rights and liberties of the Yishuv. Arab Jewish workers' unity would rally round itself all the progressive forces among Jews and Arabs in the spirit of world unity against Fascism and for a democratic Palestine with equal rights for all. This would create possibilities for further Jewish immigration, not only into Palestine, but also into neighbouring Arab lands. A concrete example of the contribution these lands can indeed make towards relieving the terrible Jewish suffering created by Fascist barbarism is the offer made by Iraq which is prepared to take in 300,000 Jewish immigrants, provided a settlement is reached in Palestine.

The initiative for achieving peace in Palestine lies with the Yishuv. World Jewry, together with the Labour and progressive movements, must see that it takes it immediately.