From the debates and discussions of the international communist movement after World War I, to more recent resolutions and talks in Capitalism's World Disorder and New International no. 7, these publications record the political conquests of proletarian parties as they have acted to fight imperialism and advance the Arab revolution, including the battle for Palestinian national self-determination.
Even before the formation of the state of Israel in 1948, the revolutionary socialist movement argued that any such government would be a bulwark of reaction against the Arab masses. Communists have championed the fight for a democratic, secular Palestine, requiring a revolutionary struggle to topple the capitalist regime and forge a new state in the process. That slogan signals a road forward for the peoples of the region, including the Jews, for whom Israel is more and more a death trap.
Following World War I, imperialist Britain, which held Palestine under colonial rule, backed Zionist projects to build Jewish settlements in the Middle East. In response, the Communist International (Comintern) opposed the "creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, where the overwhelming majority of the population is Arab."
The Comintern declaration said the "slogan of the Jewish proletariat, and of every friend of the toiling masses and every fighter for national liberation, must be 'Hands Off Palestine!'" The document is printed in To See the Dawn: Baku, 1920--First Congress of the Peoples of the East. "A privileged Jewish minority is being artificially implanted in the population of Palestine," it said.
The document pointed out that owing to London's policies, "Jews are being provocatively identified as initiators and culprits in parceling out of Arab lands among the victorious powers, including the handing over of Palestine to Britain. This identification serves British imperialism in Palestine and throughout the East as a means to ignite national passions among the working people of the East and to sow hatred between Arabs and Jews."
The revolutionary movement of the period established itself as a militant foe of anti-Semitism and Jew hatred, which were whipped up by reactionary rulers whenever their domination came under challenge. The history and role of such scapegoating in ancient and medieval society, and its continued use by the modern capitalist class, are discussed in the classic Marxist study The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation, written by Abram Leon, a revolutionary who died in Hitler's death camps.
A 'bloody trap' for Jews
With the fascist victory in Germany and the Second World War on the horizon, the "Theses on the Jewish Question," a 1938 resolution included in the Founding of the Socialist Workers Party, warned that a Jewish state in Palestine, "a land already occupied by a hostile people...can be nothing but the catspaw of imperialism."
"The Jews have reached an impasse because capitalism has reached an impasse," stated the resolution. "Only through the class struggle will the Jews find a road to the future."
Two years later Leon Trotsky, an exiled leader of the Russian Revolution and of the Fourth International, described "the attempt to solve the Jewish question through the migration of Jews to Palestine" as a "tragic mockery of the Jewish people."
"The future development of military events," said the Bolshevik leader, whose remarks are included in On the Jewish Question, "may well transform Palestine into a bloody trap for several hundred thousand Jews."
The pamphlet How Can the Jews Survive: A Socialist Answer to Zionism by George Novack stated that "the solution of the Jewish question is indissolubly bound up with the complete emancipation of humanity that can be brought about only along the road of international socialism."
Since its founding in 1948, the state of Israel has been "an imperialist beachhead in the Arab world that serves as the spearhead of imperialism's fight against the Arab revolution," stated "Israel and the Arab Revolution," a 1971 SWP resolution published in an Education for Socialists bulletin of the same name. The document noted that the most significant development following the victory of the Israeli armed forces in the 1967 war with Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, was the subsequent growth of the Palestinian resistance movement. Its advocacy of self-determination "put it into direct conflict with any attempted denial of this right through a settlement between imperialism, Stalinism, the Israeli state, and the bourgeois Arab regimes."
For a democratic, secular Palestine
The Palestinian fight, stated the resolution, "has taken the form of a struggle to destroy the state of Israel. The currently expressed goal of this struggle is the establishment of a democratic, secular Palestine. We give unconditional support to this struggle."
Explaining that Marxists are "the most militant and uncompromising fighters against anti-Semitism and the oppression of Jews," the resolution emphasized that "Zionism is not, as it claims, a national liberation movement.... Within Israel, the Zionists lead the Jewish masses into the trap of opposing the national liberation struggle of the Arab peoples.
"Within the framework of a democratic Palestine," explained the document, revolutionaries "support the right of the Israeli Jews to pursue their national culture." That is different, however, from support for the demand for Jewish self-determination. Revolutionaries support such a slogan for "oppressed nationalities, those that are being denied their democratic rights through national oppression." In contrast to Palestinians, Jews in the Middle East do not form an oppressed nationality.
As the Israeli regime, benefiting from an increased torrent of U.S. funds after 1967, consolidated itself through a succession of wars, the Palestinian struggle underwent further evolution. This period is documented in Israel's War against the Palestinian People by David Frankel and Will Reissner, published following the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and Palestine and the Arabs' Fight for Liberation by Fred Feldman and Georges Sayad. Both pamphlets provide readers with a wealth of historical material.
The PLO leadership's 1982 expulsion from Lebanon, in spite of a hard-fought defensive war, spurred a shift in the forces fighting for Palestinian nationhood. While the official leaders were drawn into closer political dependence on the regimes in the Middle East and North Africa, said Jack Barnes in the "Opening Guns of World War III," published in New International No. 7 in 1991, "more of the leadership of the Palestinian movement has shifted to the occupied West Bank, to Gaza, to Jerusalem, and to inside Israel's pre-1967 borders--especially since the beginning of the intifada more than three years ago."
In 1990-1991, the U.S. rulers' war drive against Iraq was primarily aimed at asserting its hold over Mideast oil and its predominance over its imperialist rivals. "A collateral objective," said Barnes, was to put it "in a stronger position to force a 'solution' to the Palestinian national question." This goal was intertwined with "their long-standing aim of establishing stable, profitable relations with the major capitalist regimes in the region."
This push had ramifications for Washington's alliance with Israel. Tel Aviv came out as "losers" from the Gulf War, said Barnes, "from U.S. imperialism's strengthened alignment with the Egyptian, Saudi, and Syrian regimes." The Israeli rulers' influence with Washington was weakened, although U.S. military and economic aid continued to pour into Tel Aviv.
Despite Washington's carefully laid plans, Barnes said in Capitalism's World Disorder: Working-Class Politics at the Millennium, published in 1999, "the war did nothing to bring the imperialists nearer their goal of imposing a solution denying the right to national self-determination to the Palestinians."
The book describes the Oslo and Wye River accords that established "limited Palestinian self-administration over pockets of land in the West Bank of the Jordan and Gaza (only some 2 percent of the West Bank), with the Israeli government retaining overall sovereignty, control of all borders, and veto power over questions of land and water us age." The Israeli government has refused to abide by even this agreement. Other concessions by the PLO included the removal of clauses from its charter "calling for the overthrow of the Israeli state and establishment of a democratic, secular Palestine."
In the period since the publication of Capitalism's World Disorder, Palestinians have given their answer to the humiliating terms of these agreements. Their irrepressible protests and armed actions have helped to highlight more sharply than ever the character of the Israeli state as a spearhead of imperialism against the Arab masses, making it a bloody death trap for the Jews. The events reinforce the pressing need to replace the Israeli state with a democratic, secular Palestine.
Protests across Mideast condemn Israeli brutality
End all U.S. aid to Israel!
Brisk 'Militant' sales at Palestinian actions
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home