By Jean Shaoul
28 March 2006
The present economic, social and political conditions in Israel and Palestine are an indictment of the Zionist project and the nation state as the solution to the oppression of the Jews. The Zionist state was conceived as the answer to the problem of the European persecution of the Jews—a state where the Jews would find a safe haven, social justice and equality.
It was realised in the form of a capitalist state created by the dispossession of another people and maintained through war and repression, and social inequality at home. Indeed, it is impossible when presenting this report, to avoid pointing out that the Jewish people, sections of whom have a long history in every progressive movement, not least the international socialist movement, are now themselves widely regarded as oppressors with blood on their hands.
The Fourth International and Palestine 1948
I think it is pertinent to recall what the Fourth International said about Palestine in 1947-48. One cannot but be struck when reading its statement,Against the Stream, written nearly 60 years, how extraordinarily prescient its warning was. It insisted that Zionism was both utopian and reactionary and denounced the 1947 UN decision to partition Palestine into two tiny states.
“By partition a wedge is driven between the Arab and Jewish worker. The Zionist state with its provocative lines of demarcation will bring about the blossoming forth of irredentist (revenge) movements on either side. There will be fighting for an ‘Arab Palestine’ and for a ‘Jewish state’ within the historic frontiers of Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel). As a result, the chauvinistic atmosphere thus created will poison the Arab world in the Middle East and throttle the anti-imperialist fight of the masses, while Zionists and Arab feudalists will vie for imperialist favours.”
The Fourth International said: “The Jewish state, this gift of Truman’s and Bevin’s, gives the capitalist economy of the Zionists a respite. This economy rests on very flimsy foundations. Its products cannot compete on the world market. Its only hope is the inner market from which the Arab goods are debarred…. The continuous flow of Jewish immigrants, who would come with the remnants of their possessions, is apt to increase the circulation of goods. It will allow the bourgeois producers to dispose of their expensive wares. Mass immigration would also be a very useful means of forcing down wages which ‘weigh so heavily’ on Jewish industry. A state engaged in inevitable military conflicts would mean orders from the Hebrew Army, a source of Hebrew profits not to be underrated at all. A state would mean thousands of snug berths for Zionist veteran functionaries.”
Jewish workers would have to bear the cost in the form of high prices and heavy taxes. Separated from their Arab brothers and sisters and prevented from fighting as a united class, they would be at the mercy of their class enemies, imperialism and the Zionist bourgeoisie. As Chaim Weitzmann, who was to become the first president of the new state, said, “The Jewish state will stem the communist influence.”
In answer to the question, “And what promises does the Jewish state hold out? Does it really mean a step forward towards the solution of the Jewish problem?” the Fourth International warned, “The partition was not meant to solve Jewish misery nor is it ever likely to do so. This dwarf of a state, which is too small to absorb the Jewish masses, cannot even solve the problems of its citizens. The Hebrew state can only infest the Arab East with anti-Semitism and may well turn out—as Trotsky said—a bloody trap for hundreds of thousands of Jews.”
For the Arab feudal leaders, the UN vote for a Zionist state was a godsend, enabling them to divert the attention of the masses away from a united class struggle and any possibility of international class solidarity, with a declaration of war on the newly formed Zionist state. The military conflict and ensuing bloodshed—all in the name of anti-imperialism—also served to break up the workers’ movements in both camps, thereby weakening the working class and strengthening imperialism.
The Fourth International stressed that Zionism was a reactionary and utopian movement. It was utopian to believe that:
1. A harmonious development within an isolated and closed economy in the midst of a capitalist world is possible. Without the expansion of the economy, millions of Jewish immigrants could not be absorbed.
2. A Jewish state could exist amid the open hostility of tens of millions of Arabs, and in the face of an Arab population growing at least as fast as Jewish immigration.
3. That Israel could manoeuvre successfully between the rival imperialist powers, all of which were using Israel to further their own strategic interests in the region.
4. That anti-Semitism could be eradicated simply by granting nationality to the Jews, ignoring its social, historical and ideological roots.
It was reactionary because Zionism:
1. Serves as a support for imperialist domination by giving it the fig leaf of acting as arbiter between the Jews and the Arabs.
2. Produces a nationalist reaction on the part of the Arab masses thereby creating a racial division of the international working class, and strengthening the national “unity” of both the Jews and the Arabs.
3. As a nationalist force, acts as a break on the participation of Jewish workers in the class struggle in the rest of the world, separates them from the world proletariat, gives them their own and different goals to strive for, and above all creates illusions in the possibility of improving their lot within the framework of capitalism.
The Fourth International warned that war on neither side in the Arab-Zionist conflict bore a progressive character: it served only to obscure the class antagonisms and open the gates for nationalist excesses, weakening the proletariat and strengthening imperialism in both camps. It called on the workers of the two peoples to unite in a common front against imperialism and its agents. It warned Jewish workers that they would not be free and safe as long as they had not done away with national discrimination, isolationalism and imperialist loyalty