Zionism, Anti-Semitism and the Colonial Revolution
by Nat Weinstein
If ever there was a case that exemplified the complex, contradictory character of nationalism, it is the current deadly conflict in the Middle East between the nationalism of the Israeli Zionist oppressor and that of its Palestinian victims. The dynamics of this conflict apply with equal force to the global struggle by all the captive neo-colonial nations under the heel of world imperialism.
The first thing that needs to be said is that the nationalism of oppressor nations, like the settler state of Israel, is reactionary, while the nationalism of oppressed nations like Palestine is progressive and deserves the full support of all who are opposed to any manifestation of social, economic or political injustice. But the second and most important side of this conflict is that all oppression is based on the exploitation of the vast majority of the human race by the small minority of the worlds capitalists.
Nationalism is progressive, however, only to the extent that it unites the oppressed nation for a more effective struggle against oppression. But as a strategy for liberation, nationalism is less than adequate since it serves to obstruct the unification of all oppressed nations against capitalist exploitation and oppression. And worse, it turns into its opposite when oppressed nations oppress other smaller and/or weaker nationsa phenomenon inspired and fostered by the divide and conquer tactics and strategy of world capitalist imperialism.
Unfortunately, history is rife with instances in which oppressed nations transform themselves into oppressors.
A good example of this historic law, strangely enough, is the United States, which is today the most powerful and wide-ranging of the worlds imperialist nations. Born in the fires of a revolutionary national struggle against the oppressive rule of Great Britain, the American Revolution stood for over a century as a symbol of the right of oppressed nations to self-determinationeven while it was committing genocide against Americas indigenous peoples and Africans it kidnapped into slavery.
But in 1898, driven by its national interests as a rapidly industrializing capitalist country, America declared war on Spain with the aim of replacing Spain as the exploiter and oppressor of colonial Cuba and the Philippines. The land of the free and the home of the brave entered the epoch of capitalist imperialism in the name of fighting for the freedom of Spanish colonies. Thus today, as the undisputed leader of the so-called free world the United States has become the chief enforcer of imperialist domination of the neo-colonial world.
Neither is it unusual for oppressed nations to oppress their own national minorities at the same time that they are fighting against another, more powerful oppressor.
Zionist justification for its crime against Palestine
The Zionist leaders of the Israeli settler state justify their crime against the indigenous people of Palestine because of the long history of oppression of Jews by non-Jews. Thus, the Jewish state is based on the false notion that gentiles are by nature anti-Semitic. The Zionist/nationalist case for this cynical assessment of human nature, however, gained enormous support as a result of two main factors: First, the horrific impact of Hitlers solution of the Jewish Questionthe slaughter of six million European Jews. And second, the propaganda campaign by the American, British, and French opponents of Germany during the second imperialist world war. They demonized the German people as being by nature, anti-Semitic and thus no less responsible for German capitalisms crimes against the Jewish people than Hitlers Nazis.
History, however, shows that rather than the German people, it was the so-called democratic, freedom-loving imperialist countries like England, France, the United States and othersas well as Germanys own capitalist ruling classthat had financed the rise to power of the Nazi partys anti-Semitic fascist gangs and bore equal responsibility for the horrors of the Second World War and the Holocaust.
Germanys imperialist adversaries gave aid and assistance to Hitlers counter-revolutionary fascist movement. They correctly believed it to be the only force that could crush the revolutionary-minded German working class and save capitalism from socialist revolution. The imperialist victors of World War I also allowed Hitler to reconstruct a powerful German military force as a bulwark against the Soviet Union and the spread of socialist revolution throughout Europe.
Zionisms quest for an alliance with Hitlers government
Even the Zionist movement in Germany made a small contribution to the legitimacy of Hitlers rise to power. The following account of Zionisms stance toward Hitler and his Nazi government appears in, The Hidden History of Zionism. The author, Ralph Schoenman, describes the strategy of German Zionists immediately before and after Hitlers conquest of state power in Germany. He explains that Zionist policy at the time was to enlist Europes virulent Jew-haters as financial and military patrons of a Zionist colony in Palestine. He cites and documents the evidence of the Zionist quest for an unholy alliance with Hitler in his important little book.
A revealing extract follows:
The Zionist Federation of Germany sent a memorandum of support to the Nazi Party on June 21, 1933. In it the Federation noted: a rebirth of national life such as is occurring in German life must also take place in the Jewish national group. On the foundation of the new [Nazi] state which has established the principle of race, we wish so to fit our community into the total structure so that for us, too, in the sphere assigned to us, fruitful activity for the Fatherland is possible
Far from repudiating this policy, the World Zionist Organization Congress in 1933 defeated a resolution calling for action against Hitler by a vote of 240 to 43.
During this very Congress, Hitler announced a trade agreement with the WZOs Anglo Palestine Bank, breaking, thereby, the Jewish boycott of the Nazi regime at a time when the German economy was extremely vulnerable. It was the height of the Depression and people were wheeling barrels full of worthless German Marks. The World Zionist Organization broke the Jewish boycott and became the principal distributor of Nazi goods throughout the Middle East and Northern Europe. They established the Haavara, which was a bank in Palestine designed to receive monies from the German-Jewish bourgeoisie, with which sums of Nazi goods were purchased in very substantial quantity. 1
Historic tendency of Jews to identify with all oppressed
But the most reactionary phase of Jewish nationalism by far, began when the Zionists were given a franchise by the imperialist-controlled United Nations to establish a Jewish state in the homeland of the indigenous people of Palestine in 1948.
Its very important to know that before this imposition of a clerical Jewish statethat is a state whose official religion was Judaismon the helpless non-Jewish majority of Palestine, the Jewish people of Europe and America had until then generally tended to identify with the struggles of the oppressed, especially the working class. Their empathy with other oppressed peoples was a natural consequence of the centuries of oppression suffered by Jews in Western Europe. And those Jews that immigrated to America brought their sense of identity with the oppressed with them.
This tendency was reinforced by the simple fact that the great majority of Jews, especially in the advanced industrial countries of Europe and the United States, were and are working people with experiences common to all workers in capitalist society. Consequently, they tend to see the world with the same eyes as workers and other victims of capitalist injustice
This played a key role in Adolph Hitlers fascist ideology because in addition to his claim that there was a conspiracy of international Jewish bankers and financiers against the German people, he also claimed that Jewish communists were an integral part of this conspiracy. (The typical rationale for anti-Semitism is that Jews are extremists who are usually either capitalists or communists.)
This reflected fascisms pseudo-anti-capitalist strategya key characteristic distinguishing it from other reactionary capitalist ideologies and movements. It is this quality, together with fascisms reliance on extra-legal armed gangs to break strikes, break up union meetings and beat up and terrorize members of working-class political and economic organizations, that points to its real reason for existence: History testifies to the role of fascism as the last resort of the capitalist ruling class when faced with proletarian revolution.
Thus, the Jews served Hitlers fascists to divert attention away from good German national capitalists towards an alleged international Jewish capitalist conspiracy. This diversion was designed to appeal to the most backward sectors of the German petty bourgeoisie who were ruined by hyperinflation and economic collapse. Anti-Semitism also appealed to the lumpen proletariat, the demoralized elements that had dropped out of the working class. Meanwhile, Nazi Brown Shirts and Storm Troopers recruited from the lumpen proletariat and declassed middle class, went about the dirty business of saving capitalism from the wrath of the masses and socialist revolution by beating and murdering Jews, trade unionists, socialists and communists.
Hitlers first political act after taking power in Germany was to outlaw and exterminate the workers political parties and unions and then sweep hundreds of thousands of communist, socialist and other anti-fascist leaders and activists into Germanys mass prisons, known as concentration camps.
Also a part of its pseudo-anti-capitalism was fascisms harangue against Germanys rival British, French and other imperialists. Hitlers propaganda assault against the imperialist victors of World War I had great mass appeal among the German people because of the latters role in imposing the Treaty of Versailles on Germany after its defeat. The Treaty had exacted draconic reparations that bankrupted Germany, destroyed its economy, impoverished workers, ruined the middle classes and laid the basis for historys most destructive hyper-inflationary crisis that ended with the German mark having become, for all practical purposes, worthless.
But German fascism in power revived the German economy by pouring billions of newly re-stabilized marks into German rearmament. Germanys militarization further reduced unemployment by drafting millions of German workers and farmers into the construction of a formidable military machine. Germanys military capabilities were even more powerful than the one that held off the combined military power of England, France, Russia and America for four long bitter years of trench warfare during World War I. And it was only after an uprising by German soldiers and workers in 1918, that the balance was tilted toward the defeat of German imperialism.
Massive rearmament also served to prepare German imperialism for another war. Germanys imperialist adversaries were uneasy, but failed to implement the Versailles Treatys terms, which barred German rearmament, because they had hoped and wanted to believe that it would only be used against the Soviet Union.
German fascisms pseudo-anti-capitalism and the twisted logic that went along with their partys namei.e., the National Socialist German Workers Partyled to many other absurdities beyond their claim to being an anti-socialist Socialist party. The most absurd of these incredible inconsistencies being the Nazi claim that an international conspiracy led by Jewish capitalists and financiers had bankrolled and master minded the Russian socialist revolution!
Incredible or not it completed the Nazi amalgam of such an unlikely combination of entities as Jewish capitalists, communists, and Anglo-French imperialists that was the hallmark of German fascisms propaganda.
Israel: an imperialist fortress aimed at the Arab Revolution
The historic events that set the stage for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine readily show that the notion that imperialism created Israel to serve as a sanctuary from anti-Semitic oppression for Jewish refugees is without substance. Rather, it was created to serve as an advance outpost for American-led world imperialism.
Palestine had been selected for this role because it is strategically positioned in the heart of the Arab world. Like white settlers that colonized Africa, Zionist settlers had been given a powerful economic reason to fight and die if necessary to defend the land stolen from indigenous Palestinians. This is what made a Jewish settler state such a solid foundation for launching imperialist-backed air and ground assaults against any potential rebellion in the region.
Furthermore, as recent events in Afghanistan have shown, Israel, like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Turkey or any number of other countries in the region are all potential bases aimed at the colonial revolution in the Middle East and beyond.
Zionism transforms an oppressed people into an oppressor
Prior to World War II, most Jews rejected Zionism and the formation of a Jewish state as a sanctuary against anti-Semitism. Jewish opinion began to be turned around at the end of World War II, when the worlds movie houses played newsreels showing the mountains of corpses and emaciated survivors of the gas chambers of Auschwitz and other Nazi extermination camps. These scenes of horror set the stage for a propaganda campaign launched by the worlds major imperialist powers to make the Zionist project a reality.
Imperialism managed to turn Jewish public opinion in Europe, America, and elsewhere toward accepting the establishment of a Jewish settler statealthough those fully committed are still a small minority of the Jewish people. Support among most of the worlds Jews for Israel, has never been more than a belief that its okay for those who want to live there, but its not for them.
Thus, although the Zionist state at the outset mounted a vigorous and ambitious campaign to recruit settlers, they now know, if they didnt before, that they cannot recruit enough Jews to settle in Israel to constitute a majority. Consequently, from the first, they carried out a ruthless campaign to become a majority by systematically evicting Palestinians from their homes and homeland by any means necessary.2
The creation of the Zionist state in 1948 has transformed the image of the Jewish people from an oppressed people into an oppressor. The Zionist role as imperialisms storm troopers leading the assault on Palestine will serve capitalism when another great economic catastrophe breaks out, as it inevitably will. And when capitalism needs the services of fascism, the role of Zionistsa tiny minority of the Jewish peoplewill have facilitated the revival of this deadly anti-working-class social disease by providing grist for fascisms anti-Semitic mill. And as has happened at least once before, fascists are certainly capable of turning reality upside down by portraying American and other leaders of world imperialism as the innocent dupes of avaricious Jews.
There is an old proverb that should have stood as a warning to those unwary Jews around the world sucked into the Zionist project of settling in Palestine in order to establish a homeland for Jews. Its the one that gives the very good advice to the effect that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. And the Jewish people that have been stoned so many times before for crimes they did not commit should not be surprised if it happens again.
Which way forward for the victims of capitalist injustice
But this analysis is not designed to make the case that people of Jewish descent are merely getting what they deservesuch logic is just as fatally flawed, as it would be to blame the victims of September 11 for the crimes of American imperialism, or to blame the great majority of workers everywhere for not having worked more forcefully and consistently against capitalist social, economic and political injustice and its unjust wars.
Thats why it is indispensable for those of us who want to make a better world to always keep an eye on history and its lessons in order to find our way through the maze of pitfalls and traps set along the road to freedom by the enemy class and its agents inside the workers movement. But just as workers in the centers of world imperialism have been blocked by their reformist leaders from making a clear and unqualified break with their capitalists, the reformist leaders of workers and peasants in the colonial world have also blocked their constituents from making a decisive break with their capitalists as well.
However, in some ways the problem for workers in the colonial world is more difficult than it is for those of us in the imperialist heartland because the colonial capitalists are also victimized by imperialism. Consequently, class-conscious workers are more vulnerable to arguments from those inside and outside their ranks who argue for an alliance with capitalists as a practical necessity in what is presented as a broad multi-class united front against imperialism.
The problem that arises is not over whether it can be useful to make temporary agreements with capitalists in oppressed nations for joint action against imperialist violations of the right to self-determination. Such temporary agreements are justified so long as they are for action around specific demands at given times and places. But longer-term agreements with capitalists over a range of programmatic demands are always harmful to the class interests of workers and peasants. The problem with such programmatic agreements with anti-imperialist capitalists and landlords is that they will only agree to such a program if it does not transgress their right to private ownership and control of the means of production.
That means that the demand of landless peasants for land cannot be realized if private ownership of the land must remain inviolable. It also means that neither can the demand of workers for a living wage be realized if the right to a profit also remains sacrosanct. History teaches that such multi-class anti-imperialist united fronts inevitably lead to defeat and the demoralizing sense that imperialism is omnipotent and that resistance is hopeless.
Socialism can begin in one or more backward countries, but cannot be completed there
History, moreover, provides ample proof that imperialism is not omnipotent and that imperialist rule can be overthrown in colonial and semi-colonial countries. But all successful revolutions, (and there have been many, ranging from the Russian Socialist Revolution almost 85 years ago, to Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, Cuba and Vietnam) were not merely revolutions against imperialist exploitation and oppression, but also against the indigenous capitalists and landlords in the colonial and neo-colonial countries of the world. These were all socialist revolutions, although in every case they combined the democratic revolutionwhose fundamental task is the nationalization of the land and its division among the landless peasantswith the overthrow of capitalism.
But the socialist revolution cannot be completed without the help of at least one or more advanced industrial countries as a first step toward a world socialist society. Thats why the first great socialist revolution in Czarist Russia in October 1917 degenerated, which contributed to the degeneration of all the otherswith the single exception of Cubaand socialism appears further away today than it appeared one hundred years ago.
However, there is another side to the seeming failure of socialist revolutions to achieve the ultimate goal of a society that can and does distribute the product of human labor according to the socialist principle: from each according to his ability and to each according to his needs. The other side of the picture is that we are closer to an overthrow of capitalism today than ever before. But we are closer only in this sense: while progress toward socialism has indeed been halted and reversed, world capitalist imperialism has been locked in a permanent struggle against internal destabilization and disintegration. It has endured a century of what can only be described as a permanent state of warfare.
Aside from the perpetual war between classes in each capitalist nation, there is an equally irreconcilable conflict between opposing imperialist camps on one side, and between the imperialist and colonial worlds on the other.
The only missing component in the hundred-year-long death agony of capitalism, is the failure of the world working class to solve the subjective problem of revolutionary leadership. One that has absorbed the lessons of the history of class struggle and has thus been armed to avoid the traps and pitfalls set in the road to revolution by capitalism and its agents inside the workers movement.
The construction of a revolutionary proletarian leadership is an unending process in which there have been great leaps forward as well as the inevitable backsliding that occurs as each step forward fails to go all the way. Its a historical law that every gain made by workers in struggle in those moments when the class relation of forces favor workers, are taken back by the enemy class when the relation of class forces shifts in favor of the latter.
Only the overthrow of world capitalism and the reconstitution of the world order on a socialist foundation can bring a final end to capitalist social, economic, and political injustice.
2 The article by Professor Edward Said, Occupation is the Atrocity, that appears elsewhere in this issue is a powerful, fully documented, indictment of the criminal role of Zionist Israel. However, we must take note of his dating of what he calls, The appallingly unbroken history of Israels 34-year-old [emphasis added] military occupation (the second-longest in modern history) of illegally conquered Palestinian land That is, Said evidently accepts the official military occupation of Palestine in 1948 as legal because it was legalized by the action of the United Nations in 1948. But this legalization is an unmitigated violation of the will of the indigenous people of Palestine and their fundamental human and democratic right to self-determination.
The facts, however, are to the contrary: the eviction of Palestinians from Palestine by Zionist gangs armed by the imperialist powers began in Nov. 1947before the UNs infamous legalization of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948. And by the end of that year 1.2 million Palestinians had been driven off their land and out of their country by Zionist methods that can only be characterized as sheer terrorism!
Moreover, until Zionist-occupied Palestine was baptized Israel in 1948, its non-Jewish poplulation constituted an overwhelming majority in that country.