U.S. and World Politics

Zionism: A Roadmap to Unending Conflict

By Charles Rachlis

“The working class and the employing class have nothing in common.” — IWW founding congress opening statement.

Having been raised in a Zionist household, going to Hebrew school, buying memorial trees in Israel as a youth for my grandparents as they passed away, being taught that the whole world hates us and that Israel is our only safe refuge, being hated as a Jew-boy by my catholic hometown co-youth for “killing their lord,” being finally accepted in 1967 when Israel showed it “had some balls”—meaning mine must also be hanging to the floor. I have experience with anti-Semitism in the concrete form of boots in the ribs and a metal lunch box smashed against this “faggot-Jew-boy’s” face; so the Zionist claim that Israel was our last refuge and that the world hates us was my experience as a youth. I have seen and fought with American flag waving swastika wearing jackbooted Nazi thugs in the streets of San Francisco, Walnut Creek and Berkeley, so I know in a way only bruised knuckles and the taste of blood can teach one of what I speak.

A seminal part of my training as a Zionist youth was that Israel was “a land without people-for a people without land.” We could point to Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) who visited the area and claimed it empty barren, unclean and uninhabited. So why shouldn’t it be ours? My father this last weekend just again reminded me of Mark Twains observations as we listened to the Prime Minister tongue lash Obama to bring him into line.

The Israeli hero in 1967 was General Moshe Dyan, a man of impeccable Zionist credentials. Lets hear what he has to say about how Israel was settled.

”Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either.”

Well that contradicts the rhetoric (and the Zionist youth training received at Hebrew school and Hebrew summer camp where we sang the Hatikva); so there were people there? Who the hell were they what were they doing there? How did we get rid of them? Could this be true? Not possible. We are the dispossessed coming home, not them. So I found the book Righteous Victims by Benny Morris a highly regarded Zionist historian.

Morris draws his own subjective pro-Israel conclusions but his book is full of powerful historic observations:

pg. 41 “Most of the settlers who came in the First and Second Aliyot lived, at least for a time, as illegal residents. They entered as tourists or pilgrims and overstayed their permits, or they entered illegally.”

pg. 42 “’A land without people for a people without a land’ was the Zionist slogan-originating, curiously, not with Herzl or one of the forebears, but in Lord Shaftebury’s memoirs, in 1854, and recycled by the Zionist writer Israel Zangwill in an article in 1901. Ahad Ha’Am, a leading Eastern European essayist, opened many Jewish eyes when he wrote in 1891, after a three month visit to Palestine: ‘We abroad are used to believing that Eretz Yisrael is now almost totally desolate, a desert that is not sowed....But in truth that is not the case. Throughout the country it is difficult to find fields that are not sowed. Only sand dunes and stony mountains...are not cultivated.’”

But the arriving Jews had multiple problems as the Zionist project commenced. Yitzhak Epsteine, a Palestinian Jew, came to Basel to address a Zionist gathering in 1905:

“He had been troubled by the eviction of the Druze tenant farmers at Metulla in 1896. For the time, he said, there was no ‘Arab movement in the national or political sense in Palestine,’ but, he implied, one might develop in the not-so-distant future: ‘Among the difficult questions connected to the idea of the renaissance of our people on its soil there is one which is equal to all others: the question of our relations with the Arabs... We have forgotten one small matter: There is in our beloved land an entire nation, which has occupied it for hundreds of years and has never thought to leave it’” (pg. 57 Morris)

How did the newly arriving Jews (the olim) see the local population?

“ primitive, dishonest, fatalistic, lazy, savage—much as European colonists viewed the natives elsewhere in Asia or Africa.” (pg. 43 Morris)

Not to belabor the point, but even today’s historians of Zionism cannot deny the primary source documentation. The founding of Israel was based on a lie sold to Jews across Europe who were being persecuted and the land of milk and honey sounded like heaven in the face of pogroms of the East and the Nazi onslaught and genocide that would follow.

Were there people there? Yes. The book, The Population of Palestine, by Justin McCarthy (Columbia U. press 1990) showed the non-Jewish population in 1877 to have been 426,908 or 97 percent of the population at the time. 13,942 or three percent, were Jewish by 1946. Sixty some odd years after the Zionist project began there were 1,339,763 non-Jewish Palestinians or 69 percent of the population and 602,586 or 31 percent were Jews.

Who owned the land? At first the Jewish National Fund bought up land from the Ottoman landlords from whom the local Palestinians rented, eking out a serf like existence. Of course some land was wholly owned by the locals. But we know that land ownership is really just a question of power relations over property distribution. The Ottoman Empire had no more right to the land of the local people whom they controlled than say the Tsar had to the land on which the serfs worked or the Southern slave plantation owners had to “their” land. Those working the land and dispossessed are the fountain from which the democratic revolution for land redistribution springs. Just as it upset the ancient regime across Europe the land question is the national question and it had yet to be resolved in the land, which the Zionists were buying from the landlord empire, which (if it were to remain) would have faced the wrath of the rising Arab national revolution. Instead the Jewish National Fund bought the problem. The unresolved tasks of the democratic revolution in Palestine would be directed at whoever got left holding the bag. The Ottomans were defeated. The English knew when it was time to release the hot potato. And the Zionist project outpaced the advance of the nationalist consciousness and organization of the Arabs. Thus the juggernaut!

Remember Epstein at the Basal meeting in 1905? He “...took the Zionists severely to task for purchasing land from effendis and then pushing out the poor tenants. And he asserted, provocatively, that Palestine, in fact, belonged to both peoples:

“We are making a great psychological error with regard to a great, assertive and jealous people. While we feel a deep love for the land and our forefathers, we forget that the nation who lives in it today has a sensitive heart and a loving soul. The Arab, like every man, is tied to his native land with strong bonds.” (Morris pg. 57)

Either this was a “land without people for a people without land,” or as the numbers and the land transfer records show, the land was colonized by many illegal immigrants who then found a way to bring in their families and friends buying up land from the landlord class of a dying and soon to be vanquished empire. You can’t have it both ways.

The record will show that in the early years the Jewish immigrants were not fit or capable of doing the strenuous work in the land they came to own. Even on the early socialist kibbutz much of the manual work would be done for hire to the very Arab workers who had lost their land. Has it occurred to the Zionist that the modern conflict between the Jew and the Arab in historic Palestine/Erez Yisrael has a material basis in the dispossession of the land, first by purchase, then by driving a people off their land. Of course not, it is impossible for one who derives the benefit of an oppressive act of annexation and subjugation to see it as anything other than justified.

What the Zionists did not want to see is the universal truth that when an entire people progressively lose their land; are changed from a self sustaining farming people into a class of workers for hire with nothing to sell but their labor power; when their families are driven apart and half are forced into refugee status for generations; human beings will resist, fight back, and will continue to do so until they are treated justly or you can terrorize them into total submission. These are the objective facts. One can go into subjective apoplexy reading this but all rational people agree on what the historic record is. Over sixty years ago some 600-700,000 Palestinians, by no fault of their own, became refugees, lost their land, and as General Dyan reminded us, their villages were bulldozed right off the map. Historic maps with demarcated Jewish and Palestinian Territories are exactly what Dyan wanted to erase from history.1 I guarantee if you went to Hebrew school like I did you never were shown maps like these.

Which brings us to the question of the occupied territory. For Zionists like my father there are no Palestinians, the land was empty when “we” arrived. There is already a Palestinian State, which is Jordan. The early Jewish fighters were not illegal immigrants and terrorists illegally attacking the British mandate, they were freedom fighters. If there are refugees it is the fault of the other Arab nations for goading the refugees into voluntarily fleeing. We bought the land fair and square. And when they attacked us, we created defensive boarders. (It just happens that we control the water, and have cut up the Palestinian contiguous areas into Bantustans). The wall is necessary and when they stop sending over bombers there will be no need for it and all the defensive border checks, roadblocks and such. That these population control mechanisms take place all over the West Bank cannot be denied yet the true Zionist denies that this is an occupation.

So the question is who is actually terrorizing whom? What are the real consequences of the armed conflict between the occupied and the occupier?

Looking at statistics on the death of civilians, the numbers from B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group and Remember These Children2, examining fatal violence between the Palestinians and the Israelis has shown it has been disproportional. Since September 29, 2000 until October 2010 at least 6,430 Palestinians and 1,084 Israelis have been killed. Among children 124 killed were Israeli while 1,452 were Palestinian. Of the civilians killed 731 are Israeli while 3,535-plus are cited as Palestinian dead. Where did the people die? 54.1 percent of the Israelis killed were killed on their own territory while 98.9 percent of the Palestinians killed were killed in their own area, the occupied territories. Conversely 45.9 percent of the Israelis who were killed were killed on others’ land while 1.1 percent of the Palestinians killed were killed on others’ land. These numbers are reveling of the nature of the conflict and the brutality under which the Palestinian people suffer and other innocents suffer. Until the rights of the Palestinian people are attained there can be no peace. You cannot dispossess a people and keep them in refuges on your borders, oppressed, exploited and expect there to be peace.

A solution

After saying all this, to close without pointing to a solution would be disrespectful to the reader. So although that is a major discussion in and of itself, what follows is the short version.

There can be no peace while historic Palestine is occupied and the refugees are denied the right of return. Democracy cannot exist for the Jews in the area and be denied the Arabs. The Zionist state is a dependent state and sub-imperialist acting as a foothold in the Middle East for Western/U.S./UK imperialism. It is not the much-touted “Democracy” that we (U.S. Imperialism) love. It is the real estate as it applies to military security in particular of oil routes. The entire power of imperialism is thus arrayed at keeping the Palestinian subjugated, hence the annual billions of tax funding going to the Zionist military.

Behind the Palestinian conundrum is what is facing imperialism today across the Near and Middle East. The unresolved tasks of the national revolution of the Arab people, issues of national independence from imperialist (IMF/World Bank, JP Morgan) control, land distribution, democracy, freedom, the right to a job, and other economic rights are today inspiring the Arab people more than Al-Queda ever could. But the national capitalist class of these countries, and in Palestine, are too weak and too dependent on imperialism’s finance and market to carry out the tasks which, in Europe and North America, were carried out by an emerging and growing capitalist class between the 1680’s and the 1880’s. Therefore the tasks of the Democratic-Bourgeois revolution will fall to the working class to resolve.

It is the workers’ revolution, which can secure freedom for Palestine and insure the Jewish workers and the Jewish people safety within an integrated and multi-ethnic secular democratic workers’ state. Jews who accept the Palestinians’ right to return and who join with them in making the workers’ revolution will build a democratic workers’ state which recognizes the cultural and religious rights of all while providing just economic planning by the working classes to assure economic justice, which is the only way to end the bloodshed between the sons and daughters of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael—a family broken asunder, first by slave relations, then Roman imperialism, and ultimately by today’s super-power U.S. imperialism. If the Jewish workers in historic Palestine cannot break from their capitalist overlords and ally themselves with the Palestinian right to self-determination and fight for a democratic workers state, they allow the continuation of the siege mentality of Zionist colonialism, and peace will not be possible.