<h3>Can Terror Against Civilians Be Justified?
Jews, Marxism and the Worker's Movement

Paul Novick

Answering A Slanderous Attack: Can Terror Against Civilians Be Justified?

First Published: Morning Freiheit, April 27, 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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This is the second and final part of Paul Novick’s article “Can Terror Against Civilians Be Justified?” The first part appeared last Sunday. April 20.

* * *

Now what about terror? After pouring out his wrath on “Mr. Paul Novick” and indulging in such epithets as “colonialist,” “chauvinist” and “annexationist” (one wonders why he didn’t resort to his “nazi” insults), Aptheker executes a maneuver and drags in the Negro question. If, however, Aptheker knew about the Jewish question and about Israel even a fraction of what he knows about the Negro question, and if he had as much respect for the Jewish people and for Yiddish culture as he has for the Negro people and their culture, he would, at the least, not speak such banalities or seek to falsify our position. Neither would he engage in maneuvers. What is involved in this dispute is terror – and concretely the terror attacks by Arab terrorists on Jewish communities and kibbutzim, on women and children. Why the attempt to wriggle out of this by dragging in the Negro question?

Aptheker, as we have seen, pretends not to know what I actually said in my speech at Town Hall on November 23, 1974. He also ignores what his own colleague, H. Lumer, wrote on this subject in the magazine Jewish Affairs, unless Aptheker is not over-zealous in paying heed to this publication (and this we can easily understand).

Here is what Lumer wrote in Jewish Affairs in September-December 1974:

“Acts of individual terror directed against innocent civilians must of course be emphatically rejected as a method of struggle, whatever their motivation and regardless of who assumes responsibility for them. And they have in fact been repeatedly condemned by the Communist parties of Israel and the Arab countries, as they have by revolutionary forces generally” (page 12, ibid).

Is “Mr. Aptheker” listening? Revolutionaries – and genuine Marxists, we may add – condemn Acts of terror again;;c innocent civilians regardless of their motivation or who takes responsibility for them!


Why Lumer and Jewish Affairs did not condemn such acts of terror when they occurred, is another matter, of course. Actually, in every recent instance – after Kiryat Shemona, after Ma’alot, after Shamir and Nahariya and Beit Shean, after the hurling of a grenade into the Jewish audience in a movie house in Tel Aviv and now after the raid on Hotel Savoy in Tel Aviv (March 5, 1975) they issued no denunciations of the terrorists. We are not at all certain that these terrorist actions were really condemned in the Arab countries, but we do know that in Israel the RAKACH Communist party did not stand aside from all the other progressive forces in denouncing them. From the podium of the Israeli Knesset the Communist leaders Meir Vilner and Toufiq Toubi condemned these Arab terrorist actions! Are the progressives in Israel, for this reason, also “chauvinists.” “colonialists,” “annexationists” according to Aptheker’s insults?

Of course not! Neither they nor “Mr. Paul Novick.” Where does “Mr. Aptheker” stand in this matter? Not only has he not condemned, but he defended the terror against Jewish civilians, women and children. It is permissible, he tells us. Then he seeks to intimidate others by bringing up the name of the Black slave rebel Nat Turner, though he profanes his name if he turns him into a murderer of women and children, whereas genuine Marxists condemn such actions. What therefore is Aptheker? He is miles away from genuine Marxism and humanism and is smitten by Arab chauvinism.


I had previously stated that Aptheker lifted a few lines from my Town Hall address of November 23, 1974. I do not dissociate myself from those remarks. But it would have been more honest to quote the entire paragraph from which these lines were excerpted.

Previous to my quoted remarks I spoke of the Arab terrorist assault on the Israeli community of Beit Shean four days earlier, on November 19, and the killing there of three Jewish civilians, one man and two women. I then commented on Arafat’s speech at the United Nations Assembly on November 13 and cited his statement that it was England which helped establish Israel in 1948, though everyone remembers that England sabotaged and opposed the founding of the State of Israel. I also cited Arafat’s statement which called for the establishment of the “Democratic state” in all of Palestine, and said this meant the liquidation of the State of Israel and genocide against its people. I then added:

“The United Nations covered itself with shame when it not only failed to reject this big lie (of Israel’s establishment), but its majority strongly applauded the speaker. Arafat spoke supposedly in the name of the Palestinian Arabs ... But one thing must be obvious: No people can liberate itself by destroying another people! However much those who speak in the name of the Palestinian Arabs may pretend they are revolutionaries, even Marxists, they, in fact, desecrate these terms. Whoever takes part in shedding the blood of innocent people, of women and children, is not a revolutionary, but simply a murderer.”

Here the matter is placed somewhat differently and Aptheker’s manipulations appear in an even worse light. In the face of this what sense does it make to drag in the Negro question? The Negro people never sought to liquidate America. They fought for their rights as a minority in this country, against discriminations, torment and slavery! A genuine Marxist must bear in mind: No people can liberate itself by destroying another people!


Lastly, something else in Aptheker’s article which is less serious but illustrates the methods he employs. With great aplomb he stated: “... there are Jews and there are Jews ... Mike Gold was a Jew and Henry Kissinger is a Jew. Rosa Luxemburg was a Jew and Golda Meir is a Jew. Moshe Dayan is a Jew and Hyman Lumer is a Jew.”

Bravo, great applause. But when one thinks this statement over one realizes how shallow it is. Is Kissinger really a Jew? Does he consider himself one? As for Rosa Luxemburg, (their names shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath!), she herself rejected her Jewishness. Her attitude was expressed in her well known statement, “What do you want with your special Jewish sorrows?” Unfortunately, she was a nihilist in the national question and that is why Lenin so strongly fought against her.

Luxemburgism needs to be opposed by Marxist-Leninists. As for H. Lumer, he too suffers from the malady of Luxemburgism and national nihilism. Georgi Dimitrov, true to Leninism, firmly fought against this misfortune.

Our type of Jew, for example, is Itzik Feffer, the Soviet Yiddish poet who wrote the proud, defiant poem “I Am A Jew!” Another example is Moissaye Olgin, the consistent internationalist who for this very reason fought for the interests of the Jewish people, helped build Yiddish culture and the Jewish cultural organizations – the choruses, the Jewish People’s Fraternal Order, the Yiddish children’s schools, the YKUF and he bitterly fought the nihilists and assimilators of the Lumer type, whose sole interest in “Jewish affairs” is to undermine the movement which Olgin helped create, and undermine the Morning Freiheit.


After this article was written (following the publication of the Aptheker speech in Jewish Affairs) we saw the reprint of this disgraceful attack in the Daily World (March 29, 1975) though its version deleted a coarse remark which appeared in the original text.

It cannot be said that the Daily World added to its glory with this accomplishment. As an additional feature the Daily World “decorated” his article with pictures of two maimed Arabs. The newspaper did not indicate when or where these pictures were taken. The public is not such a fool as not to realize that this tendentious “decoration” was included to create a certain attitude.

An attitude for what? For terror according to the Aptheker line? If so the Daily World ought to say whether the Marxists in Israel and in other countries were correct in denouncing Arab terrorism. The Daily World, regrettably, has not denounced and at times it completely ignored such terrorist actions or described them as “incidents.” Thus it appears – Arabs must be spared, and indeed, they must. But what of Jewish men, women and children? The Daily World never printed pictures of Jewish victims of the Arab terrorists. Is Aptheker’s line that terror against them is permissible really right?

These are most serious questions. The Morning Freiheit will not cease to fight against terror directed against Jews, just as it will not cease to fight against “retaliations” which kill Arab civilians. The Morning Freiheit rejected and will reject one-sidedness. It will persist in advocating a truly human, truly Marxist approach in this and in all other problems.

(Transl. by S.R.)