Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Zionism and Palestine

A reader's comment to Chomsky and Democracy raised the question of Zionism. SOYMB thought a fuller response and a separate post may be of benefit.

Israel was set up by colonists from Europe on the basis of fables recounted in a book supposedly emanating from a god, and has been armed and financed by the United States as its only reliable ally and over the years it has acted as America’s policeman in the region. Sections of the Arab ruling classes have identified Israel for what it is and have sought to destroy it and have been able to win considerable popular support. The rulers of Israel have their own agenda and can, and often do, act independently of their protector. But that’s a price the US has to pay to avoid sending its own troops to fight and die there. The US would like some sort of compromise solution between Israel and local Arab elites but in the meantime it gives Israel a virtual free hand, only issuing ritual 'slap acros the wrist' appeals to it to exercise restraint.

Many organisations and movements have clamoured for the allegiance of the workers during the twentieth century, all claiming some panacea. The Zionist Movement claimed that the problems of Jewry could only be solved by the establishment of one single homeland for Jews, a Jewish state. Socialists and Zionists have been opponents since the beginning. Inevitably, as they represented two incompatible views as to the solution workers of Jewish background should seek to the problem of anti-semitism. The Socialist attitude was expressed early on by Karl Marx. Jewish people should seek emancipation, not as Jews, but as human beings. To do this they should abandon their religion - just as Christians should abandon theirs - and become members of a secular human community in which money and the state should be abolished, i.e. Socialism. The Zionist movement propounded the opposite view: that the Jews were a separate nation and that as such they were entitled to their own state, in Palestine. People of Jewish background should not seek emancipation as human beings, but as Jews. Neither should they seek integration within the political states in which they found themselves, but separation in a state of their own.

The battles lines were thus drawn and throughout Europe and America socialists and Zionists vied for the support of workers of Jewish background. Socialists argued against the idea that the Jews were a nation or a race; most Jews were workers and should join with other workers to achieve socialism which would mean “the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex”. Even though many Zionists were not religious, all they had to go on to justify Palestine as the place for their Jewish State was an irrational belief, the religious myth set out in some holy book that the Jewish God had given Palestine to the Jews to be their homeland. Zionist extremists practised what is now called “ethnic cleansing” and hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish inhabitants of the Israeli part of Palestine were driven from their homes. Those who remained suffered the same fate the Zionists sought to free Jews from: being a minority in someone else’s “nation-State”.

The establishment of Israel did not end anti-semitism. In fact it caused it to spread to where it had never existed before - to the Arab-speaking parts of the world. The history of the region is well documented and known. For centuries Jews had lived in peace and security, integrated and speaking Arabic, in these parts of the world. Now, as a direct result of the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine, they came to suffer the same persecution that the European Jews had.( Gaza has now been compared to the Warsaw Ghetto. ). The result was that centuries of integration was undone in decades. Today there are virtually no Jews living in Arab countries: most Arab Jews are now in Israel where they form an underprivileged group.

Our opposition to Zionism does not mean that we support the PLO. Unlike some, we don’t single out Jewish nationalism for special condemnation. We condemn all nationalisms equally. The “Palestinian nation” is just as much a myth as the “Jewish nation”. (as an aside, it may be worth noting that Arabs are also supposed to be descended from Noah's son Shem hence the term Semite.) Israel and the surrounding Arab states are not run on socialist lines, nor would a Palestine state, if successful. Through such organizations as the PLO, Hamas and Hezbollah, an aspirant Palestinian capitalist class have been able to invoke nationalism and religious fervour to keep a steady flow of recruits to send to the front lines. "Anti-imperialism" is the slogan of local elites who wish to dominate the region in place of the US, a situation which would still leave the mass of the population there exploited and oppressed. Socialists believe that workers have no country, only a common interest with all other workers of the world and religious promises of paradises when you die are not compatible with historical materialism nor finding human-made solutions to the world's problems. Thus, we roundly condemn the state terror of Israel, backed by the US and others, but equally, we condemn the above-mentioned organisations, too. Both sides are quite content to murder fellow workers in the name of nationalism and religion. In the insane world of capitalist politics the real winners are never the oppressed or their alleged champions, but the powerful who direct affairs from afar.

The sole fruit of the decades of struggle and strife which Zionists have known has been the establishment of yet another capitalist state. Which is an achievement the workers of the world could well have done without. While the workers in the region remain prey to the manipulations of their respective master classes who are vieing for control of the land, and continue to see their own interests lying in the suppression of one another, rather than in the destruction of those murderous armed elites that promote the war, both sides can only lose their lives and liberty. We support both Jewish and Arab workers in their class struggle to overthrow the capitalist system that is responsible for the many conflicts and blights that affect humanity. Only when the Arab and Jewish workers realize that their struggle is not based on national or religious lines but on the class struggle between worker and capitalist, and, along with other workers of the world, they unite to create a cooperative, democratic world will wars such as this one be relegated to the annals of human history. Poverty and misery in the Middle East, as elsewhere, could be ended once and for all. The waste of arms and the horrors of war would disappear.

for more info see:- - Zionism Myth and Reality - Zionism and Anti-Semitism - Chapter V Anti-semitism, Present Mis-conceptions and Chapter VI Zionism - Palestine - a contemporary 1948 article on the creation of the state of Israel.

1 comment:

Deadbeat said...

I appreciate the response. As a socialist I too want a workers revolution but that won't happen if racism is not confronted. Racism causes alliances that crosses conflicting class lines and tends toward identity politics. This retards the idea of class alliances that's needed for workers to identify as a class.