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Israel: The Hijack State

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Book Review by Beccy Reese

 

Review of 'The Myths of Zionism', John Rose

(www.)"you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.socialistreview.com.uk/article.php?articlenumber=9133"]you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.socialistreview.com.uk/article....iclenumber=9133[/url]

 

There is little argument today against the idea that to be a Palestinian is to be oppressed on a daily basis. This is in sharp contrast with the once popular view on the left that the state of israel could be seen in a socialist light due to the collectivist kibbutz settlements. There is, however, a profound need for clear theoretical analyses of the current situation and the history that led us to this bloody position.

 

There can be no even-handed response in a conflict that pits a military state armed to the teeth by the US against stone-throwing Palestinian teenagers. Yet many still try to reconcile justice for the Palestinians with a belief that a Jewish state in Palestine is justifiable.

 

John Rose has selected ten myths used in defence of Zionism. He explains why and how each is used, and then cites an overwhelming number of sources to prove that they have no authenticity. The book's bibliography is perhaps the most comprehensive list of resources on the subject, reflecting the author's lifelong practice of fighting and arguing against Zionism. Following this path leads to only one possible conclusion - that it is Zionism that is the problem, and without its removal there can be no peace in the Middle East, no reconciliation between Jew and Arab.

 

John Rose also consciously negotiates the possible traps that can accompany an anti-Zionist stand. For example, in arguing that israel has been a protégé of the Great Powers (first Britain and then the US), the idea that there is a Jewish lobby in the US is tackled head-on. Most recently the 'Jewish lobby' theory has surfaced in the idea that the Jewish neoconservatives at the heart of the Bush administration dictate policy towards israel - or in the more extreme conspiracy theory that 9/11 was orchestrated by Jewish fanatics. But Washington's policy in the Middle East is dictated by US, not israeli, strategic needs. In fact President Nixon 'delighted in telling associates and visitors that the "Jewish lobby" had no effect on him'.

 

There is a spark of hope in the past, in hidden histories. Jews have enjoyed a long history of cohabitation with Christians and Muslims in the Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa. In israel today over 1 million Jews come from Muslim countries - indeed, Baghdad was considered as a Jewish spiritual centre for many years, before the European Jewish communities reached their numerical height.

 

Forgotten documents written by Jewish merchants, scholars, craftsmen and others found in an 11th century synagogue in Cairo describe the lives of Jews in the Islamic Arab world. These documents tell us of houses and shops held in partnership by people of different religions. Maimonides, the most famous Jewish philosopher of the Muslim world, noted his legal approval of this situation, advising that the gains made on Fridays go to the Jews, and those on Saturday to the Muslims.

 

John Rose has provided the movement with an excellent book to undermine the foundations of the conflict in Palestine.

 

=======================

 

 

israel: The Hijack State

America’s Watchdog in the Middle East

 

By: John Rose

==========

 

Acknowledgements

 

Many people have helped in preparing this pamphlet. Thanks to Alex Callinicos, Tony Cliff, Pete Green, Chris Harman, Pete Marsden, Phil Marshall, Maryam Poya, Sabby Sagall, Mike Simons and Andy Strouthous. Several authors have been exhaustively quoted throughout. Interestingly enough they are mostly Jewish anti-Zionists. They include Abram Leon, Nathan Weinstock, Lenni Brenner and Noam Chomsky.

 

Contemporary information from israel’s Hebrew press is given from selected English language translations in the israeli Mirror published fortnightly in London: From their own mouths do they most damn themselves.

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Introduction

 

 

Why israel?

 

The bombing of Libya by the United States in April 1986 provoked a storm of public protest across Europe and the Middle East. Even in Britain there was outrage, despite Mrs Thatcher’s lapdog support for President Reagan. Only one country in the world gave wholehearted and enthusiastic support to the USA. And that country was israel.

 

The symbolic significance of the bombing raid was immense. It came shortly after a massive fall in oil prices had raised concern in the West about instability and social unrest in the oil-producing countries of the Middle East and their dependents. This in turn had led to concern about future access to Middle East oil – still by far the world’s most important supply line.

 

It was also the first American bombing raid on a foreign country since Vietnam. Was the US now free of the “Vietnam Syndrome”? Since its humiliating defeat in Vietnam more than a decade earlier, the US had steered clear of direct military intervention when it needed to protect its global interests. Instead it had relied on covert operations by the CIA intelligence agency, or “regional strongmen” such as the Shah of Iran or President Pinochet of Chile. But this policy had not been a great success. CIA covert operations failed to prevent the overthrow of the Somoza regime in Nicaragua, and massive aid for the “Contras” had since failed to undermine the Sandinistas. Other regional strongmen, ranging from the Shah himself to President Marcos in the Phillipines and the tinpot “Baby Doc” in Haiti, had been overthrown by popular uprisings.

 

The fall of the Shah was particularly devastating. In March 1979 the US magazine Business Week published a special issue on The Decline of American Power. It stressed the Middle East: “The military retreat which began in a place that held no natural resources or markets [Vietnam] now threatens to undermine the nation’s ability to protect the vital oil supply and energy base of the global economy.”

 

The same point had been made several years earlier by Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State and President Nixon’s “roving troubleshooter” for the Middle East: “If we cannot manage Central America it will become impossible to convince threatened nations in the Persian Gulf and in other places that we know how to manage the global equilibrium.”

 

It was to re-assert American power, and American military management of the “global equilibrium”, that Ronald Reagan was elected US president in 1980. But it cannot be said that Reagan has been a great success either. True, he succeeded in the invasion of the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada, but any prospects of a direct military intervention in the Middle East disappeared when 250 US marines were killed by one massive bomb in the Lebanon in 1983. As Time magazine put it: “American boys should not be seen dying on the nightly news ...”

 

So Reagan too has found himself heavily dependent on surrogates. And the main surrogate in the Middle East is israel ...

 

israel was ecstatic at the bombing of Libya. Its entire history has been spent convincing America that it alone serves US interests best. The israeli press was full of celebration of the bombing raid – and israel’s involvement. As the influential paper Ha’aretz reported:

 

israel was provided with an up-to-the-minute report about the progress of the us attack ... The report was presented by the military simultaneously in the United States and israel. In exchange, israel supplied the United States with intelligence data ... about Libya. A joint study of the lessons of the attack, taking into account the functioning of the weapons’ systems, and the communications and the command structure, will be undertaken soon. [1]

 

In another article Ha’aretz pointed to the deepening of israel’s links with the US military:

 

The United States will be expanding its purchases from israel to a level worth a further 400 million dollars. What the Americans are going to buy in israel are goods and services for their forces stationed in Europe. By doing so, the us Administration will be complying with the request made by Prime Minister Peres during his recent visit to Washington.

 

But the most interesting article was by the paper’s top policy analyst, Yoel Marcus, headlined Welcome to the Club. Marcus pointed out that the USA had now committed itself firmly to the fight against “terrorism” – opposition to Libya’s “support for terrorism” had been the main reason given for the bombing raid. The article continued:

 

Suddenly, we are hearing familiar noises. Here people talked about the “two-legged animal” [former israeli Prime Minister Begin’s description of the Palestinians]. Over there in Washington they now talk about the “mad dog”. Here people used to say that the Arabs only understand one language, over there they say they dealt with Gadaffi in the only language he understands, that of force ...

 

The club they are joining is so exclusive that israel was for ages its only member. This is not because only few countries suffer from terrorism, but because no country wanted to dirty its hands by aggressively defending itself against it. [2]

 

Thus, argued the paper, israel and America together will rid the world of terrorism in a heroic display of superior force, both morally and physically.

 

Many people, otherwise unsympathetic to the aims of America in trying to reassert its power in the world, may be taken in by this argument. After all, israel retains a great deal of support in the West because of the Holocaust, when six million Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis during the Second World War. israel’s “struggle against terrorism” has been presented as a heroic struggle by a previously persecuted people against evil-eyed assassins and bloodthirsty fanatics hellbent on murderous destruction of the israeli state.

 

However, the history of israel suggests the opposite interpretation. The state of israel was founded upon just those principles of terror: for at its foundation israel expelled three-quarters of a million Palestinians through assassination and murderous destruction. The “terrorists” that israel and the US want put to death are often the sons and daughters of those same dispossessed Palestinians.

 

israel’s evolution has seen the increasing use of state terror on a monumental scale. This, combined with American backing for the militarisation of its economy, has turned israel into a ruthless outpost for Western domination of the Middle East. The pious noises about “terrorism”, from israel, America and indeed Britain, conceal this deeper motivation.

 

 

Notes

 

1. The influential israeli daily paper Ha’aretz, 18 April 1986.

 

2. English language translations of the Hebrew press in israel are published fortnightly in Britain by the israeli Mirror (available from 21 Collingham Road, London SW5).

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Oil and Imperialism

 

 

How Britain and America took control of the cheapest oil in the world

 

The American bombing of Libya, backed only by Britain and israel, raised once again the spectre of US imperialism and its allies’ control of the Middle East.

 

Imperialism in this part of the world has always meant oil, and who controls it. While it is true that the US is relatively less dependent on Middle East oil than it used to be, this is only temporary. By the year 2000 the US will again depend for its energy needs on the huge oil potential of the Middle East, which still contains more than half the world’s untapped reserves. As Time magazine put it on 14 April 1986: “The US can ill afford to give up reserves since it holds only 4 per cent of the world’s known supply, in contrast to about 55 per cent in the Middle East.” The Financial Times translated this into the terms of world power:

 

The stakes are immensely high. Not just for the stability of the region but for Western interests for the remainder of the century. Social and political turmoil in the next few years could, at worst, bring to power governments which would more ruthlessly exploit the renewed importance of Middle East oil expected in the 1990s. [1]

 

This vital connection between Western “interests” and oil is often ignored or misunderstood. Hence it is important to trace its evolution this century, and observe how this is mirrored and coincides with the evolution of Zionism.

 

The great imperialist war of 1914-18 made all Western governments only too painfully aware of the importance of oil. Their dependence on oil for survival became obvious as the war developed – not only were airplanes and tanks fuelled exclusively by petrol or oil, but all transport, including warships and supply ships, was increasingly switching from horse-drawn and steam power to oil. “The allies,” said Lord Curzon, the British foreign secretary, “floated to victory on a wave of oil.” [2]

 

Oil was so important to Britain that just before the outbreak of the war Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty and therefore responsible for the naval protection of Britain’s colonies around the world, insisted that the British government take control of the privately-owned Anglo-Persian Oil Company. Churchill perceived that Britain’s imperialist needs were more important than the free-enterprise ethic. As he put it: “We must become owners, or at any rate the controllers at the source ... of supply ... of oil.” [3]

 

The British government acquired a 51 per cent stake in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (which much later became known as BP). It had just recently signed a “concession”, as the action which cheated local rulers out of the true value of their oil was diplomatically titled, to start drilling for oil in Persia (now Iran). The concession covered nearly 500,000 square miles – an area twice the size of Texas – in exchange for £20,000 cash and 16 per cent of the profits.

 

The era of cheap Middle East oil had begun.

 

This concession meant that the supply of oil for the British Navy was not only plentiful but also the cheapest in the world. It also meant that every time the company declared its handsome dividends, the Treasury, as Churchill never tired of boasting, would collect its half-share.

 

The discovery of oil in Iran quickly led to the realisation that a great deal more might be lying under the deserts of the Middle East, then largely ruled by the disintegrating Turkish Ottoman Empire. There followed a scramble between the Western powers to grab parts of the region, and Turkey was made to pay for its defeat in the war by having its dwindling possessions carved up between Britain and France. As Anthony Sampson puts it in his book on the oil companies, The Seven Sisters:

 

Both countries, while pretending that oil was not foremost in their minds, were specially concerned with two regions along the river Tigris in Mesopotamia (soon to become Iraq), the regions of Baghdad and Mosul which were suspected of containing huge oil reserves. [4]

 

Britain in fact drew the boundaries of the new country to be called Iraq, making certain they included the crucial oil areas under British control. “Curzon, while hardly mentioning the squalid word oil, came near to threatening war over the issue.” [5]

 

The cheapest and most plentiful supply of oil was indeed lying beneath the sands of lands inhabited by Arab peoples, most of whom were still living in 11th-century conditions. And Britain controlled most of it.

 

The US government was furious. It too was in desperate need of new oil supplies. As Britain’s staunchest ally in the “Great War”, it insisted that its oil companies too be let in on the oil bonanza in Iraq. The British government could hardly say no. It is interesting to note that the major US oil companies, which so often boast of their pioneering independent spirit, had to be dragged into the Middle East by their own government. A new consortium was put together, mostly of US and British oil companies. Called the Iraq Petroleum Company, it would serve as a “model” for all future operations in the region.

 

This was the turning point for British and increasingly American domination of Middle East oil. In 1928 the Red Line Agreement was signed. This amazing agreement gave the Iraq Petroleum Company oil-drilling rights in every part of the old Ottoman Empire – hence excluding outsiders. Since no one was quite sure what area this covered, a red line was simply drawn on the map. This enclosed all future oil-producing areas except Iran and Kuwait and stretched from Turkey down through modern Jordan, Syria and Iraq to the southern tip of Saudi Arabia.

 

For “allowing” this oil-rush on “its” land, the new British-controlled puppet government of Iraq (it was part of the British Empire until 1932) was granted just “four gold shillings” per ton of oil. Some idea of the super-profits that were creamed off is indicated from the accounts of Exxon, one of the main US oil companies. Between 1934 and 1939 Exxon made a profit of 52 cents per barrel of oil, more than twice the sum they paid the Iraqi government. For an investment in Iraq of 14 million dollars in 1932, Exxon’s share in the Iraq Petroleum Company in 1937 was reckoned to be worth 130 million dollars.

 

An even greater supply of cheap oil soon came on tap in the desert kingdom of Saudi Arabia, “that stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history”, as it was described in a US State Department analysis in 1945. [6]

 

That year, at the end of the Second World War, this posed a special problem for the American government. The Saudi kings, inbred in their ancient conservatism, were content to be comfortably parasitic off the US oil enterprises which had already begun operations. But at the same time they were extremely hostile to the state of israel, which emerged in 1948 and was backed to the hilt by the Americans. The Americans were determined to gain a much larger and decisive stake in Saudi oil and aid israel at the same time. They devised a simple solution to the dilemma.

 

The US government, having pushed their major oil companies into Saudi Arabia, left them alone to pursue their own relationship with the Saudi government. Hence ARAMCO – the Arabian-American Oil Company – which was a consortium dominated by three US and one British oil company, was left deliberately “free” to be as “pro-Arab” as it wished.

 

This strategy and its relation to israel was made clear in recently declassifled State Department documents which stated categorically: “Certain advantages flowed from this separation of identity, particularly during the early days of the development of israel.” [7]

 

The Saudi king was further placated by the agreement that ARAMCO would pay tax to him rather than to the US government in Washington. This “Golden Gimmick”, as it became known (it was secret for several years), may well have deprived the US Treasury of millions of dollars but it was considered an effective way of buying off the Saudi opposition to US support for israel.

 

After the Second World War the United States replaced Britain as the world’s dominant imperialist power. US ownership and control of oil supplies increasingly replaced British control. Simultaneously, the US became israel’s primary sponsor when the British mandate crumbled in Palestine.

 

The turning point in the control of oil came in Iran. In 1951 a militant nationalist, Dr Mossadeq, took power and nationalised BP’s oilfields. The British government fumed, but was wary of military intervention. Instead it proposed a boycott of Iran’s nationalised oil – to which the American government and the oil companies agreed. Meanwhile the American CIA prepared a coup and in 1953 overthrew Mossadeq and replaced him with the Shah. Once again, the American government had to twist the arms of the reluctant oil companies to take a stake, alongside the much-weakened BP, and regain control of Iranian oil for the West.

 

Hence on three critical occasions: Iraq in 1928, Saudi Arabia in 1948, and now Iran in 1953, the US oil giants had to be led to the oil by their government.

 

Britain certainly did not do too badly out of the new arrangements. By 1956 BP and the joint British-Dutch company Shell were reckoned to be responsible for more than half of Britain’s receipts from all overseas investments.

 

This renewed buoyancy from oil may explain why Britain risked a twilight imperialist adventure in the same year by bombing Egypt and invading to seize Suez and Port Said, with the support of France and israel, when Egypt’s leader, Nasser, nationalised the Suez Canal. Two-thirds of the traffic through the canal was oil. As the British historian Hugh Thomas wrote of Suez: “Ever since Churchill converted the navy to the use of oil in 1911, British politicians have seemed to have a feeling about oil supplies comparable to the fear of castration.” [8]

 

For fifty years the cheap oil flowed to Britain, America and the rest of Western Europe and Japan. The Seven Sisters made super-profits and plenty of smaller oil companies made a hefty killing. Although the Seven Sisters have kept their profits a closely guarded secret, the US Department of Commerce estimate in 1970 of the net assets of the petroleum industry in the Middle East came to 1.5 billion dollars, yielding profits of 1.2 billion dollars, a return on investment of 79 per cent. This compares with only 13.5 per cent return from smelting and mining industries in other third world countries. [9]

 

Meanwhile the vast majority of the region’s approximately one hundred million Arabs continued to suffer abject poverty. For hundreds of years they had been oppressed by one foreign power after another. Now, as unimaginable fortunes literally gushed out of their deserts, their rulers simply lined their own pockets and continued to allow foreign powers to take advantage of their resources. Added to this, first the British and then the Americans had established a foreign enclave, israel, in their midst. israel had not only expelled nearly a million fellow Arabs from their native land of Palestine, but was maintained by the US as an armed camp in the Middle East. This brought war – in 1948, in 1956, and in 1967.

 

In 1973 an event occurred which appeared to overturn this scenario. The oil-producing countries, which had come together in the 1960s to form the OPEC cartel, now demanded both a better deal from the West in return for their oil – so that the proceeds could be used for the development of their own countries – and some restraint of israel. OPEC backed this demand by threatening to cut off oil supplies to the West. When the demand went unheeded they put this oil-boycott into action.

 

The most vocal exponent of the use of the oil-boycott as a strategy against Western imperialism was the ruler of Libya, Colonel Gadaffi, which partly explains why he has been made such a hate figure in the West. Gadaffi had triggered the first oil price rise in 1970 after he had topped King Idris of Libya the previous year. He cleverly played off the independent oil companies against the Seven Sisters – threatening them in turn with a shutdown of Libyan oil supplies. As Anthony Sampson put it:

 

“The wild men of Libya” dispelled the mystique of the Sisters and revived the whole confidence of OPEC. [10]

 

However, the oil-boycott was successful only because it temporarily united the most radical of the oil-producing countries with the most reactionary – including the two most decisive and pro-American, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

 

This was clearly the most serious challenge to Western control of Middle Eastern oilfields ever undertaken. What’s more, its impact was increased because it coincided with the onset of a world-wide economic recession, while the Americans were still reeling from their defeat in Vietnam and Washington was racked by the Watergate scandal.

 

Furthermore, the fusing together of the two demands, for an oil price rise and for restraint on israel, graphically illustrated a perceived connection between American access to cheap oil and American support for israel. Even the oil companies pleaded with Washington to stop supporting israel, taking full-page advertisements in the American press to call for a Middle East settlement.

 

The two-pronged strategy of the US government – allowing or encouraging the US oil companies to be pro-Arab while itself maintaining a pro-israeli foreign policy – was in danger of collapse. The then US president, Nixon, was very much the oil companies’ candidate. The Seven Sisters contributed heavily to the Republican Party – including making massive “illegal” contributions at the time of Watergate. The “oil” contributions to Nixon’s 1972 campaign are estimated to have been at least 2.7 million dollars. [11] Nixon had in fact boasted to the oil-men that he was an American president not at all indebted to the American Jewish vote. [12] (An old accusation, wrongly assumed to explain American backing for israel.)

 

Yet when it came to the crunch, with the 1973 israeli-Arab war combined with the implementation of the oil-boycott, Nixon and his Middle East advisor, Kissinger, ignored both the oil companies and the pro-American OPEC countries. In other words, faced with the seemingly stark choice between israel or oil, America supported israel.

 

In fact there was no hesitation. The OPEC threat and the 1973 war made support for israel even more imperative, as Kissinger himself later made clear:

 

The United States saved israel from collapse at the end of the first week by our arms supply ... Some have claimed it was American strategy to produce a stalemate in the 1973 war. This is absolutely wrong. What we wanted was the most massive Arab defeat possible. [13]

 

The military defeat, by severely weakening the Arab countries, would also weaken OPEC. Kissinger again:

 

What was our strategy in 73? First, we sought to break up the Arab united front ...

 

And this is exactly what happened. The West learnt to live with the quadrupling of oil prices. As indeed did the oil companies. Exxon’s profits for the third quarter of 1973 were up 80 per cent on the previous year. Gulfs were up 91 per cent. Exxon’s profits for the whole year turned out to be an all-time record for any corporation, anywhere, at any time: a total 2.5 billion dollars. [14]

 

After the 1973 war and the ending of the oil boycott, America resumed the initiative in the Middle East. First, both the Saudi King and the Shah of Iran came begging for arms with all their newly acquired oil-dollars. They were happily accommodated. The Shah spent no less than four billion dollars on US military equipment in 1974. Second, Kissinger renewed the Middle East “peace process” which furthered the aim of breaking up the Arab united front by detaching Egypt altogether and preparing the way for the Camp David Accords, Egypt’s “peace” agreement with israel.

 

Thus the structures of American-israeli military power in the Middle East ensured at the height of the oil crisis that American power – though weakened by OPEC – was maintained. The fall of the Shah of Iran before the end of the decade made this structure even more important to the US.

 

Early in 1986 oil prices collapsed. Paradoxically, far from bringing cheers at the weakening of OPEC, it sent shivers down the spine of the US administration, with fear of impending chaos, both in the oil-producing countries and those that depend on them for vital oil revenues, US Secretary of State George Schultz referred to the mass exodus from the Persian Gulf of thousands of migrant workers – mainly Egyptians, Palestinians and Pakistanis, laid-off because of falling oil revenues – and how this could over-burden their native lands “and stir political unrest”:

 

History teaches US that nations in deep economic distress are more vulnerable to political instability, to the simplistic appeals to demagogues who preach siren songs of war and confrontation as a diversion from home. [15]

 

Appropriately, Schultz was speaking at a luncheon in honour of israeli prime minister Shimon Perez. He might have added that history has also taught successive American governments the vital importance of its military watchdog in the Middle East, israel.

 

 

 

Top of the page

 

 

Notes

 

1. Quoted in Socialist Worker, 26 April 1986.

 

2. Quoted in Anthony Sampson, The Seven Sisters (London 1975) p.77.

 

3. Sampson, p.72.

 

4. Sampson, p.82. The “Seven Sisters” are the seven major oil multinationals: the US-owned Exxon, Texaco, Gulf, Chevron and Mobil, British-owned BP, and the joint British-Dutch Shell. Exxon is the world’s largest corporation and the other six rank among the top eleven. They control the lion’s share of Middle East oil.

 

5. Sampson, p.83.

 

6. Cited in Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle: The United States, israel and the Palestinians (London 1983) p.17.

 

7. Sampson, p.142.

 

8. Sampson, p.151.

 

9. Sampson, p.245.

 

10. Sampson, p.259.

 

11. Sampson, p.224.

 

12. Sampson, p.218.

 

13. The Kissinger Memorandum: An interview with US Jewish leaders (The Klutznik Group), quoted in MERIP Report, May 1981.

 

14. Sampson, pp.278-9.

 

15. Time magazine, 14 April 1986.

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The Arming of israel

 

 

The arming of israel 1948-1986

 

In 1982, the year that israel invaded Lebanon, israel boasted it was the third most powerful military force in the world. [1]

 

Delusions of grandeur? Perhaps they were. But in the same year the eminently respectable International Institute for Strategic Studies ranked israel fourth in the world’s military league, beneath only the USA, the USSR and China. [2] Certainly militarism has become a cornerstone of israeli society. Arms exports long ago replaced oranges and grapes as israel’s main export earner.

 

However the point is that israel’s undoubted military capability only makes sense if seen directly as an extension of the United States’ military capability. In 1982 the publicly-available figures suggested US aid to israel was worth 1,000 dollars per israeli citizen, the highest anywhere in the world. In fact a report to the US Congress that same year suggested that the aid may well be 60 per cent higher. [3] But even the public figures are astounding. Between 1978 and 1982 israel received 48 per cent of all US military aid world-wide and 35 per cent of all US economic aid. For the year 1983 Reagan suggested 2.5 billion dollars for israel out of a total US aid bill of 8.1 billion dollars. In addition there is a regular pattern of loans, and weapons at special discount prices, not to mention tax deductible “charitable” contributions for US corporations and citizens.

 

And this was before the invasion of Lebanon. Since then the aid budget has tripled. As these figures from the Jerusalem Post [4] make clear:

 

 

 

TOTAL AID (in millions of dollars)

1981

1982

1983

1984

1985

Grant

1,425

1,260

1,620

2,270

3,915

Less payment on

 

outstanding loans

685

770

930

1,040

1,210

Net grant

740

490

690

1,230

2,705

 

At the press conference after his first election as president in 1980, Ronald Reagan explained the American government’s enthusiasm for israel:

 

israel was, he said, “combat-ready” and has a “combat-experienced military ... a force in the Middle East that is actually of benefit to US. If there was no israel with that force, we’d have to supply that with our own.” [5]

 

But withdraw that US aid and nothing is left. israel’s economy is in an indescribable mess. The israeli state would simply not survive if the American dollar was withdrawn. In the same year that israel was boasting of its military prowess a report published by the international banks ranked 114 countries in order of potential economic instability and dependency on foreign aid. Only 22 were considered more unstable than israel. [6] Here israel found itself in the same league as Angola, Haiti and El Salvador, but with one difference. israel’s citizens expect a Western-style standard of living, not that of a third world’ country.

 

As long as American aid lasts, israel will continue to be its military arm in the Middle East. How, then, has this military combination come about?

 

In April 1986, the month of the bombing of Libya, the Jerusalem Post commented:

 

... the years have shown the US that other so-called strategic assets in the region have been only temporary: from the days of Libya’s King Idris to the present regimes of Iran, Ethiopia or even indecisive Greece. [7]

 

The reference to Greece is apposite. The US strategy for the region immediately after the Second World War was preoccupied with the defeat of left-wing insurgents in Greece. In March 1947 US president Truman, announcing what became known as “the Truman Doctrine”, observed that it was “necessary only to glance at the map” to see that if Greece should fall to the rebels, “confusion and disorder might well spread throughout the entire Middle East.” [8]

 

A CIA report the next year warned that in the event of a left-wing victory in Greece, the US would face “the possible loss of petroleum resources of the Middle East (comprising 40 per cent of the world reserves).” [9] The CIA foresaw the need for a military alliance in the region which could guarantee US interests.

 

israel was desperate to play a crucial part in such an alliance. In 1951, the year that Mossadeq nationalised oil in Iran, the influential israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz spelled out israel’s watchdog role in defence of US and British interests:

 

The feudal regimes in the Middle East have had to make such concessions to the nationalist movements ... that they become more and more reluctant to supply Britain and the United States with their natural resources and military bases ... Strengthening israel helps the Western powers maintain equilibrium ... in the Middle East.

 

israel is to become the watchdog. There is no fear that israel will undertake any aggressive policy towards the Arab states when this would explicitly contradict the wishes of the US and Britain. But if for any reasons the western powers should sometimes prefer to close their eyes, israel could be relied upon to punish one or several neighbouring states whose discourtesy to the west went beyond the bounds of the permissible. [10]

 

Here was the direct offer to smash down precisely that brand of Arab nationalism which might seize power in any of the Arab countries, nationalising US or British oil interests on the one hand and stirring up Arab hostility to the West on the other.

 

The exact military links between the US and israel at this time have remained a closely guarded secret. But a US National Security Council memorandum of 1958 noted that a “logical corollary” of opposition to radical Arab nationalism “would be to support israel as the only strong pro-west power left in the near East”. [11] Meanwhile in the mid-1950s israel concluded a pact with the region’s most viciously right-wing dictators, Ethiopia, Turkey and the Shah in Iran. The biographer of Ben-Gurion, israel’s first prime minister, recalled that this “periphery pact” was encouraged by John Foster Dulles, the US Secretary of State. [12]

 

The new watchdog could hardly wait to bare its teeth. When the Middle East’s most prominent Arab nationalist leader, Gamel Abdel Nasser, who had seized power in Egypt in 1952, nationalised the Suez Canal four years later, israel invaded the Egyptian Sinai and the Gaza Strip, while British and French planes bombed Egypt itself. The Americans, at that time, saw the move as counter-productive and had to restrain israel.

 

It was the 1967 war between israel and her Arab neighbours that most convinced the USA that it had in israel an utterly dependable ally. Undoubtedly the main aim of the war was to bring Arab nationalism to heel once and for all. Humiliation of its principal regime, Nasser’s Egypt, was the first glittering prize. The handsome second prize for israel was the seizure of a huge area of new territory, which included the West Bank of the River Jordan. The US made plain its glowing appreciation of israel’s role in a memorandum from the State Department:

 

israel has probably done more for the US in the Middle East in relation to money and effort invested than any of our so-called allies and friends elsewhere around the world since the end of the Second World War. In the Far East, we can get almost nobody to help US in Vietnam. Here, the israelis won the war singlehandedly, have taken US off the hook, and have served our interests as well as theirs. [13]

 

The reference to America’s sense of isolation in Vietnam is also not without interest in this context. General Moshe Dayan, who commanded israel’s forces in the 1967 war, had recently toured Vietnam as a guest of the US Forces. He was extremely impressed with this new aggressive arm of US imperialism. He noted that the strategy was identical to that employed by the israelis, so anticipating the 1982 invasion of Lebanon:

 

The US and israel employ almost identical language in speaking of reprisal actions. The formula employed is that the cost in aiding the enemy ... must be made so high that those involved will no longer be able to pay for it. [14]

 

After 1967 the US sent israel a flood of sophisticated weapons, including Phantom jets. In the four years following the war israel would receive 1.5 billion dollars worth of arms from the US – ten times the amount sent in the previous twenty years. This period, of course, coincides with the growing strength of OPEC – especially after Gadaffi seized power in Libya in 1969.

 

israel’s dependence on US military assistance has also encouraged the US to use israel as a “test-bed” for untried weaponry. Just after the Lebanon war in 1982, the Washington Post carried a long article arguing that the US Defence Department and the weapons manufacturing industries were now the most powerful pro-israeli pressure group operating on Reagan’s administration. Reagan was under some alternative pressure to bring minor sanctions against israel following the world outcry against the senseless loss of life in Lebanon. But the US military would have none of it. The Washington Post survey showed that the Pentagon had received detailed information from israel on the performance of American-made weapons, some of which had never been used in combat by US forces.

 

It cited the use of the Hawkeye E2C electronic reconnaissance aircraft used during the early stages of the Lebanon war, and the israeli raid in 1981 against the Iraqi nuclear reactor in which F15 and F16 war aircraft were used in military strikes for the first time.

 

In fact israeli prime minister Begin actually boasted that israelis were testing secret weapons made in israel on behalf of the Americans. Such a weapon, he told an audience in America, had enabled israeli jet aircraft to knock out 23 Russian-made Sam-6 and Sam-8 missile batteries in Syria without losing a single aircraft. [15]

 

israel also assists America by itself arming some of the world’s most bloody dictatorships – dictatorships which even America has sometimes felt too embarrassed to equip herself. These include regimes known to harbour ex-Nazis in South America and, in the case of South Africa, a regime whose ruling Nationalist Party was openly pro-Nazi during the Second World War.

 

In 1976 South Africa’s premier, John Vorster, paid a week-long visit to israel. Vorster had been interned as a Nazi during the Second World War. A decade earlier israel had executed the notorious Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann and israel’s secret services were boasting their ability to capture further ex-Nazis. Now the israeli government was publicly welcoming a former leading Nazi as an important guest.

 

Vorster had arrived to deepen links between the countries’ two defence industries. While in israel he purchased a quantity of fighter-bombers. Two years earlier South Africa had bought a shipment of Gabriel surface-tosurface missiles from israel. These are similar to the French Exocet missiles used by Argentina during the Falklands War. In 1978 the United Nations imposed a mandatory embargo on the sale of arms to South Africa, which israel has repeatedly evaded. By 1980 no less than 35 per cent of israel’s arms exports were going to South Africa. As the head of South African military industry said in 1982, israeli “technological assistance permits South Africa to evade the arms embargo imposed upon it because of its racial policies.” [16]

 

In 1979 the TV documentary programme World in Action carried a detailed account of a nuclear test explosion in the South Atlantic which claimed that the warhead used was an israeli-South African developed nuclear shell. [17]

 

On America’s behalf, israel also evaded the trade boycott of the illegal white racist regime in Rhodesia before its fall. The American paper, the Boston Globe, reported in May 1982: “American-made helicopters and spare parts went from israel to Rhodesia despite a trade embargo during the bitter war against the guerrillas, the Commerce Department has disclosed.”

 

israel’s relations with the cut-throat regimes of Central America make grim reading too. Shortly after the Lebanon invasion, israeli Defence Minister Ariel Sharon visited Honduras, a stronghold in the US campaign of subversion against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. israeli radio reported that israel had helped Honduras acquire what is regarded as the strongest air force in Central America and noted that “the Sharon trip raised the question of whether israel might act as an American proxy in Honduras.” [18]

 

In fact israel was already doing just that, as the government’s economic co-ordination minister, Ya’acov Meridor, confirmed when he said that israel was ready to be Washington’s surrogate whenever political considerations prevented the US from providing military assistance. [19] The link with Honduras involved israeli advisors giving on-the-spot training to Honducan pilots. The new israeli-Honduras agreement involved sophisticated jet fighters, tanks, and Galil assault rifles (a specifically anti-guerrilla weapon). Sharon’s entourage during his visit included the head of the israeli Air Force and the Director-General of the Defence Ministry. A Honduras government spokesman said that Sharon’s visit was more positive than an earlier one from President Reagan since Sharon “sold US arms” while “Reagan only uttered platitudes, explaining that Congress was preventing him doing more.” [20]

 

In neighbouring Guatemala an even more bloody dictator, General Rios Montt, actually boasted to an ABC television reporter that the coup which brought him to power had been so successful, “because many of our soldiers were trained by the israelis.” [21] In the summer of 1982, as Sharon was slaughtering Palestinians in Lebanon, Montt was slaughtering 5,000 Indians in the Guatemalan countryside as part of a “counter-insurgency” campaign – aided and abetted with israeli weaponry and israeli-trained expertise. [22]

 

israel has also given military aid to the military juntas of Pinochet in Chile and Galtieri in Argentina (before his downfall). The aid to Argentina is particularly shocking, not only because Argentina harbours ex-Nazis but because the Galtieri regime was itself notoriously anti-semitic. The israeli journal Haolam Haze exposed this obscenity, commenting: “The israeli Foreign Minister last week extended a warm handshake to the Generals in Buenos Aires who had murdered about 1,000 Jews in Argentina.” The journal also interviewed the Argentinian Jewish journalist Jacob Timerman, who told them: “I saw with my own eyes how Argentinian jailers tortured Jews in prison while the israeli government requested the Jewish community there to remain silent.” [23]

 

israel’s “periphery pact” with the Shah of Iran, cemented by the Americans in the 1950s, is also of great interest. Relations between the two countries have always been close. When the Shah was toppled, the israeli ambassador in Iran revealed that the entire upper echelon of the israeli leadership’ had visited the Shah over the years, including four former prime ministers – Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Itzhak Rabin and Menachem Begin – and former Chief of Defence Moshe Dayan. The Shah’s secret police SAVAK, notorious for their use of torture, arranged these visits. [24] The links between SAVAK and the israeli secret service MOSSAD were very close. A former head of MOSSAD, Jacob Nimrodi, “the israeli closest to the Shah” [25], spent time in Iran as an israeli military attache. SAVAK and MOSSAD had co-operated since the 1950s.

 

According to one author, who based his information on discussions with the Shah, “virtually every general officer in the Shah’s army has visited israel and hundreds of junior officers have undergone some aspects of israeli training.” [26]

 

Finally israel’s backing for the Christian Phalange in Lebanon must be mentioned. The Phalange were founded by Pierre Gemayel in the 1930s. It was a fanatically right-wing armed militia, self-consciously modelled on the fascists. (Phalange means fascist. Gemayel visited Berlin in 1936 and met Hitler.) Gemayel’s son Bashir rose to prominence in the Phalange in the 1970s and then in the wider Christian movement in Lebanon. Bashir Gemayel, also a fascist, came to dominate Christian forces in Lebanon by the simple expedient of murdering all his opponents.

 

Gemayel’s faction was enthusiastically, if secretly at first, welcomed in Haifa in 1976 by the then israeli Labour government. [27] The contacts were cultivated and israel began arming Gemayel. In August 1982, the month when hundreds of Palestinian refugees were massacred in the Lebanese camps at Sabra and Shatila, Bashir Gemayel was “elected” Lebanon’s president as israeli guns and tanks stood by.

 

 

 

Top of the page

 

 

Notes

 

1. Cited in Chomsky, p.7 fn.

 

2. Cited in Chomsky, p.7 fn.

 

3. Chomsky, p.10.

 

4. Jerusalem Post, 19 April 1986.

 

5. Mideast Observer, February 1981.

 

6. From an interesting article by Yoran Pen, former advisor to israeli premier Rabin and a specialist in civic-military relations inside israel, published in the israeli Labour Party journal Davar, cited in Chomsky, p.463.

 

7. Jerusalem Post, 19 April 1986.

 

8. Cited in Chomsky, p.19.

 

9. Chomsky, p.19.

 

10. Ha’aretz, 30 September 1951.

 

11. Chomsky, p.19.

 

12. Chomsky, p.19.

 

13. US News and World Report, 19 June 1967, cited in Our Roots are Still Alive (New York 1981) p.116.

 

14. Our Roots, p.103.

 

15. Washington Post, 6 August 1982.

 

16. Davar, 17 December 1982, cited in Chomsky, p.21 fn.

 

17. The information on israeli arms supplies to South Africa is to be found in Middle East Magazine, May 1983.

 

18. Quoted in the New York Times, 6 December 1982, cited in Chomsky, p.24.

 

19. Middle East International, 23 December 1982.

 

20. Cited in Chomsky, p.24.

 

21. Middle East International, 23 December 1982.

 

22. The Economist, 13 November 1982, cited in Chomsky, p.110.

 

23. Interview with Haolem Haze, 22 December 1982, cited in Chomsky, p.110.

 

24. Cited in Chomsky, p.457 fn.

 

25. Cited in Chomsky, p.458.

 

26. The author was E.A. Bayne, quoted in Fred Halliday, Iran: Dictatorship and Development (Harmondsworth 1979) p.279.

 

27. Reported by Chaim Margalit in the Labour paper Hotam, who quotes Amos Eran, manager of Premier Rabin’s office, as his source. Cited in Chomsky, p.185.

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The Terrorist State

 

 

The israeli invasion of Lebanon 1982

 

In my childhood I have suffered fear, hunger and humiliation when I passed from the Warsaw Ghetto, through labour camps, to Buchenwald. Today, as a citizen of israel, I cannot accept the systematic destruction of cities, towns and refugee camps. I cannot accept the technocratic cruelty of the bombing, destroying and killing of human beings.

 

I hear too many familiar sounds today, sounds which are being amplified by the war. I hear “dirty Arabs” and I remember “dirty Jews”. I hear about “closed areas” and I remember ghettos and camps. I hear “two-legged beasts” and I remember “Untermenschen” (subhumans). I hear about tightening the siege, clearing the area, pounding the city into submission and I remember suffering, destruction, death, blood and murder ... Too many things in israel remind me of too many things from my childhood.

 

These words are from a letter written by Dr Shlomo Shmelzman, a survivor of the Holocaust, to the press in israel announcing his courageous hunger strike at the height of the bombing of West Beirut in Lebanon in August 1982. [1]

 

The bombing of unarmed civilians and killing and maiming of children in response to alleged acts of “terrorism” has deep roots in the history of the israeli state. Here is an entry dated 1 January 1948 from the Independence War Diary of David Ben-Gurion, one of the most famous of the founding-fathers of Zionism and a one-time prime minister of israel:

 

There is no question as to whether a reaction is necessary or not ... Blowing up a house is not enough. What is necessary is cruel and strong reactions. We need precision in time, place and casualties. If we know the family, strike mercilessly, women and children included. Otherwise the reaction is inefficient. At the place of action there is no need to distinguish between guilty and innocent. Where there was no attack – we should not strike. [2]

 

“Cruel and strong reaction” reached new and ever more bloody heights in the summer of 1982. israel bombed the living daylights out of West Beirut after launching a full-scale military invasion of Lebanon, slaughtering tens of thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese. The climax to this came in the chilling and systematic murder, one by one, of unarmed Palestinian men, women and children at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. This “cruel and strong reaction” was in response to the attempted assassination of Shlomo Argov, the israeli ambassador to London.

 

In fact this invasion had long been anticipated in israel. Three months earlier, in March 1982, the israeli paper Ha’aretz had written:

 

Behind the official excuse of we shall not tolerate shelling or terrorist reactions’ lies a strategic view which holds that the physical annihilation of the PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organisation] has to be achieved. That is, not only must its fingers and hands in the West Bank be amputated (as is now being done with an iron fist), but its heart and head in Beirut must be dealt with. As israel does not want the PLO as a partner for talks or as an interlocutor for any solution in the West Bank, the supporters of confrontation with the PLO hold that the logical continuation of the struggle with the PLO in the territories is in Lebanon. With the loss of its physical strength, in their opinion, the PLO will lose not only its hold over the territories but also its growing international status. [3]

 

The US government backed israel to the hilt. Immediately before the invasion, General Ariel Sharon, the israeli Defence Minister and the man most responsible for the prosecution of the war in Lebanon, visited Washington where he informed US Defence Secretary Casper Weinberger that israel must act in Lebanon. Pentagon figures reveal a massive surges of military supplies from the United States to israel in the first three months of 1982. Delivery of military goods was almost 50 per cent greater than in the preceding year.

 

These deliveries continued through June, and included “smart bombs” which were used with devastating effect in Beirut. One such bomb caused the instant destruction of an entire building, killing 100 people in an apparent effort to kill PLO leader Yasser Arafat, who was thought to be there.

 

(This has an uncanny similarity with the futile but nevertheless bloody US attempt in 1986 to bomb the building in Tripoli where allegedly Libyan leader Colonel Gadaffi was sheltering. The bomb succeeded only in killing one of his children and maiming others.)

 

The invasion of Lebanon had one other very useful side-effect for israel too. While the bombing of Beirut was at its height, the israeli military industries (Ta’as) came out with an extensive publicity campaign in the international press (Aviation Week etc) to extend the scope of sales of its bombs. The main feature was a display showing a jetplane dropping bombs with the heading: “Bombs you can count on to do what they’re supposed to do.” [4]

 

The first target of the invasion was the Palestinian camp of Rashidiyeh, south of Tyre, much of which was in rubble by the second day of the invasion. There was ineffectual resistance, but as an officer of the United Nations peacekeeping force, which was swept aside in the israeli invasion, later remarked: “It was like shooting sparrows with cannon.” The nine thousand people of the camp either fled or were herded to the beach by the israeli forces, where they could watch the destruction of much of what remained. All the teenage and adult males were blindfolded and bound, and taken to internment camps. [5]

 

This is typical of what happened throughout Southern Lebanon. The Palestinian camps were demolished, largely bulldozed to the ground if not destroyed by bombardment; the population was dispersed; its men imprisoned. Reporters were barred but there were occasional accounts. David Shipler of the New York Times asked an israeli army officer why bulldozers knocked down houses in the camps where women and children were still living. “They’re all terrorists,” he was informed. [6]

 

Tom Segev of Ha’aretz “toured Lebanon after the conquest” in mid-June. He saw “refugees wandering amidst swarms of flies, dressed in rags, their faces expressing terror and their eyes bewilderment ... the women wailing and the children sobbing”. Here and there people were walking “as in a nightmare”. “A terrible smell filled the air” – of decomposing bodies, he learned ... “This is what the cities of Germany looked like at the end of the Second World War.” He saw “mounds of ruins”, tens of thousands of people at the shore where they remained for days, women driven away by soldiers when they attempted to flee.

 

The Lebanese government casualty figures are based on police records, which in turn are based on actual counts in hospitals, clinics and civil defence centres. These figures do “not include people buried in mass graves in areas where Lebanese authorities were not informed.” [7] The figures, including the figure 19,000 dead and over 30,000 wounded, hence underestimate the real degree of bloodletting.

 

In the first bombing of Beirut in June, a children’s hospital in the Sabra refugee camp was hit and the Gaza Hospital near the camps was reported hit. [8] “There is nothing unusual” in the story told by an operating room assistant who lost both hands in the attack. “That the target of the air strike was a hospital, whether by design or accident, is not unique either,” reported William Branigan in the Washington Post. [9] The Acre Hospital was again hit on 24 June, along with the Gaza Hospital and the Islamic Home for Invalids where “the corridors were streaked with blood”.

 

By mid-August, the Islamic Home had been repeatedly shelled, only 15 of 200 staff members remained and “several retarded children died of starvation for lack of someone to feed them properly.” [10] Most of this was before the bombing escalated in August. By 4 August eight out of nine Homes of Orphans had been destroyed, attacked by cluster and phosphorous bombs. When Beirut mental hospital was hit, “800 patients varying in condition from senile dementia to violent schizophrenia were released into the streets of Beirut.” [11]

 

Chris Giannou was a Canadian surgeon working in Lebanon at the time of the israeli invasion. His testimony later to the United States Congress makes grim reading.

 

He reported that “he was witness to four prisoners who were beaten to death.” That he witnessed “the total devastation of residential areas and the blind, savage, indiscriminate destruction of refugee camps by simultaneous shelling and carpet bombing from aircraft, gunboats, tanks and artillery,” leaving only “large blackened craters filled with rubble and debris, broken concrete slabs and twisted iron bars and corpses”; “hospitals being shelled”, one shell killing 40-50 people ... He saw “the entire male staff” of the hospital being taken into custody, leaving patients unattended, and “savage and indiscriminate beatings” of prisoners with fists, sticks, ropes with nuts and bolts tied to them. He saw a Palestinian doctor hung by his hands from a tree and beaten and an Iraqi surgeon “beaten by several guards viciously, and left to lie in the sun with his face buried in the sand” – all in the presence of an israeli Colonel who did nothing about it. He watched prisoners “being rehearsed by an israeli officer to shout ‘Long Live Begin’.” [12]

 

A Norwegian doctor and social worker confirmed this story, saying that they had seen at least ten people beaten to death, including an old man who was crazed by lack of water and intense heat as the prisoners were forced to sit for hours in the sun; he was beaten by four or five soldiers who then tied him with his wrists to his ankles and let him lie in the sun until he died. [13]

 

The sustained eleven-hour bombing of Beirut on 12 August finally evoked world-wide condemnation, even from the US, and the direct attack was halted:

 

To many people, in fact, the siege of Beirut seemed gratuitous brutality ... The arsenal of weapons, unleashed in a way that has not been seen since the Vietnam War, clearly horrified those who saw the results first hand and through film and news reports from a distance. The use of cluster bombs and white phosphorus shells, a vicious weapon, was widespread.

 

In the end ... israel created in West Beirut a whole set of facts that no amount of packaging could disguise. In the last hours of the last air attack on Beirut, israeli planes carpet-bombed Borj el Brajne (a Palestinian refugee camp). There were no fighting men left, only the damaged homes of Palestinian families, who once again would have to leave and find another place to live. All of West Beirut, finally, was living in wreckage and garbage and loss.

 

But the PLO was leaving. Somewhere the taste of victory must have been sweet. [14]

 

As the battering of Beirut reached new heights of savagery, the popularity of israeli prime minister Menachem Begin soared to record heights. A mid- August poll showed that 80 per cent of israelis supported the invasion of Lebanon (it was supported by the Labour opposition in the israeli parliament) and 64 per cent approved the decision to go beyond the 25-mile zone – at which the early propaganda had said the israelis would stop.

 

Of course there were brave souls in israel who opposed the invasion of Lebanon and who even tried to protest about it, like Dr Shmelzman quoted at the start of this chapter. But it was the giant pro-government demonstration that caught the attention of the foreign press, with its ominous sign standing out from the others in red letters and in many copies: “One people, one Army, one Government”. A Hebrew-speaking journalist from a German television company “immediately translated it to her friends, pointing out its similarity to the Nazi slogan: ‘Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer’.” [15]

 

The israeli opposition Labour Party did nothing to stop the invasion of Lebanon. With just two exceptions, Labour voted with the ruling Likud party to support the invasion. This fitted exactly the mood of Labour supporters, 91 per cent of whom backed the war. [16] As the scale of killing became known, the “Peace Now” movement, reluctantly supported by the Labour opposition, did call a large 400,000-strong demonstration. But this was very much a one-off affair.

 

Despite the apparent “victory” by the israelis in forcing the expulsion of the PLO from Beirut, the bloodletting was by no means finished. On Thursday 16 September, truckloads of Christian Lebanese Phalange and Haddad troops, the Christian militia, armed to the teeth by the israelis, entered the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps. The camps had been “sealed off” by the israeli Defence Forces so that “no one could move in or out.” They were under direct observation from nearby command posts. [17]

 

The massacre, which would shock the entire world, was about to commence. Noam Chomsky writes:

 

Throughout Thursday night israeli flares lighted the camps while the militias went about their work, methodically slaughtering the inhabitants. The massacre continued until Saturday, under the observation of the israeli military a few hundred yards away. Bulldozers were used to scoop up bodies and cart them away or bury them under the rubble.

 

israeli troops “stationed less than a hundred yards away, had not responded to the sound of constant gunfire or the sight of truckloads of bodies being taken away from the camps.” (Los Angeles Times, 20 September.)

 

On Friday afternoon Chief of Staff Eitan and Generals Drori and Yaron met with the Phalangist command. Eitan congratulated them on having carried out good work, offered them a bulldozer with IDF [israeli Defence Forces] markers removed and authorised them to remain in the camps for another 12 hours. The killing continued. At 5 a.m. Saturday morning the murderers began to leave the camps and, after 36 hours, the slaughter ended. [18]

 

The israeli government at first tried to claim it knew nothing about the massacre. But the journalists knew. They reported the massacre as it was happening:

 

As rifle fire cracked inside the camp, James Pringle of Newsweek asked one of Haddad’s men what was going on. “We’re slaughtering them,” the militiaman replied cheerfully. [19]

 

Loren Jenkins of the Washington Post stood over a mass grave looking up at the israeli army main observation post,

 

a place where before their own advance into the city, they had set up giant telescopes for spotting snipers. And as I stood there Saturday morning looking up, there were six israelis looking straight down at me. They stood and watched throughout this whole horrible tragedy as people were brought here, shot, dumped in this grave and packed up. This was basically an undefended civilian camp. [20]

 

What was the scale of the massacre? The israeli army said that between 700 and 800 had been killed. The Lebanese government said that 762 bodies were actually recovered and that 1,200 more were buried privately by relatives. Most of the Palestinians who were killed (at least a quarter were Lebanese Shiite Moslems) had come as refugees from israel’s Upper Galilee and Jaffa in 1948.

 

The israeli government was up to its neck in the massacre. But how much did the US government know? The US stood alone with israel at the United Nations in refusing to condemn the massacre. But US perfidy went deeper.

 

In the period immediately following the bombing of Beirut on 12 August, the United States government became heavily involved in the arrangements concerning the evacuation of the PLO from the city. An American peacekeeping force was sent in with the dual responsibility of overseeing the departure of the PLO and safeguarding the remaining civilian Palestinian population.

 

The Governments of Lebanon and the United States will provide appropriate guarantees of safety ... of law-abiding Palestinian non-combatants left in Beirut, including the families of those who departed. [21]

 

These are the words of the agreement.

 

But the peace-keeping force withdrew after the PLO fighters had gone, two weeks before its original mandate ran out, effectively ending the multinational commitment to protect Palestinian civilians. Shortly after this, the israeli Defence Forces moved into Beirut and the massacre of Sabra and Shatila began ... The American government, like Begin and Sharon, did not actually have their fingers on the triggers of the guns, but their complicity cannot be in doubt. As the israeli writer Amos Elon put it:

 

A man who puts a snake into a child’s bed and says: “I’m sorry, I told the snake not to bite. I didn’t know snakes were so dangerous.” It’s impossible to understand. This man’s a war criminal. [22]

 

 

 

Top of the page

 

 

Notes

 

1. Chomsky, p.257.

 

2. Chomsky, p.182 fn.

 

3. Yoel Marcus, The war is inevitable, in Ha’aretz, 26 March 1982.

 

4. Cited in the israeli publication Ma’ariv, 20 August 1982.

 

5. Ingela Bendt and James Dowling, We shall return. Bendt and Dowling are freelance journalists who spent several months at the camp talking to refugees. There is ample independent verification cited in Chomsky, p.217. This chapter draws heavily on Chomsky’s book.

 

6. New York Times, 3 July 1982.

 

7. Police spokesman quoted in The Times, 13 July 1982.

 

8. Boston Globe, 5 June 1982.

 

9. Washington Post, 27 June 1982.

 

10. Christian Science Monitor, 13 August 1982.

 

11. Financial Times, 9 July 1982.

 

12. Chomsky, pages 229-230.

 

13. The Guardian, 24 June 1982.

 

14. Charles Powers, reporting in the Los Angeles Times, 29 August 1982.

 

15. Reported in Davar, 19 July 1982.

 

16. Survey cited by Chomsky.

 

17. T.L. Friedman, New York Times, 26 September 1982.

 

18. Chomsky, pages 364-S.

 

19. Newsweek, 27 September 1982.

 

20. Washington Post, quoted in Chomsky, p.367.

 

21. Chomsky, p.389.

 

22. Quoted in Chomsky, p.392.

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The Origins of Zionism

 

israel’s political philosophy is usually described as “Zionism”. This is a partly religious and partly historical idea that the world’s Jewish population has a claim on part of that territory of the Middle East that had been occupied by Palestinian Arabs for well over a thousand years. It was an idea of no significance whatsoever, until sustained outbreaks of anti-semitism (organised anti-Jewish feeling) in Europe in the late nineteenth century.

 

The religious origin of the idea is rooted in a series of Biblical myths that the Jews are God’s chosen people, that their dispersal at the time of the Roman Empire would only be temporary, and that the arrival of the Messiah (a role denied in Judaism to either Christ or Mohammed) would signal the regrouping of the Jews in Palestine, the land of their forefathers.

 

However powerful the myths might have been, at no time over the centuries have the Jews shown the slightest inclination to uproot themselves and return to the land of their religion’s founders. This is true notwithstanding the occasional pilgrimage to the “Holy City” of Jerusalem and the continuous restatement of the myths in the form of prayer.

 

In fact by the time the Zionist idea began to take shape as a modern movement of Jewish political conquest of Palestine in the 1880s and 1890s, no less than 90 per cent of the world’s entire Jewish population lived in Europe and Russia, and had been settled there as communities for centuries. In other words, they were distinctly European in both culture and physical appearance, and, of course, had made important contributions to European culture in the arts, in literature and in science.

 

Yet throughout this period the Jews often found themselves the victims of hatred and persecution. This was not simply a religious difference – though it often took a religious form. At bottom it was economic. The Jews were always a trading community, with their own religion and culture, which had developed in major towns of the Roman Empire and which persisted into feudal Europe. They played a role somewhat similar to the Chinese in South East Asia or the Asian communities in East Africa. And like these other ethnic groups, they were a convenient scapegoat for rulers wanting to divert popular hatred from themselves. So it was in medieval Europe that Jews were excluded from agriculture, the guild occupations and the professions and forced to act as moneylenders and “middlemen” – typically, in Poland, the richer Jews became managers of estates for absentee landlords, the poorer Jews became tinkers and petty traders – and both were regularly subject to the wrath of an oppressed peasantry. [1]

 

At the time of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century, and especially after the French Revolution, the Jews were progressively released from all these restrictions and began to play a full part at every level of society. However in Poland and in Russia, where a majority of the Jews were concentrated, all the backward features of feudal Europe clung on, despite deep convulsions for social change. Soon the deep revolutionary changes that had transformed the rest of feudal Europe would catch up with these countries. But the outdated rulers resisted this in any way they could. And one way was to make the Jews take the blame for the plight of the masses, for keeping them in fourteenth-century conditions. The Russian Czars, in particular, became expert at this. The pogrom, inciting the poor and wretched to massacre the Jews, became the standard mechanism used by the landlords and the Tsars of Russia for diverting hostility away from themselves.

 

A mass Jewish exodus began which would carry on into the twentieth century. The land of opportunity – indeed the promised land not only for the Jews but for millions of others fleeing persecution in Europe – was traditionally America. By the late 1920s more than three million Jews had quit Eastern Europe and Russia for America, over a 40-year period. Nearly half a million fled to Western Europe. By comparison, the 120,000 Jews who had arrived in Palestine by 1930 were a small minority.

 

However the unfortunate Jewish immigrants who arrived in Germany, France and Britain in the late nineteenth century confronted a new kind of crisis. This was the heyday of imperialism for these countries, when Britain’s grip on a great part of the world was about to be challenged by Germany.

 

The imperialist mentality had divided the world into “races” both at home and abroad. This ideological device both served to avoid a crisis of conscience in the European attitude to the “dark races” who, living outside Europe and lacking “civilisation”, could thus be exploited and abused in an entirely uncivilised way. It also offered an alternative picture of the world to that of Karl Marx, who had all too accurately identified a world divided into social classes, not races, and whose ideas were rapidly inspiring the growing workers’ movements in these industrialised countries to challenge the imperialist ruling classes and to demand a classless, hence equal, society.

 

The imperialist rulers used the idea of “race” and “nation” to divide the working-class movements. By selling the idea that there was something “special” about being “British” or “French” or “German” they could bind their populations behind patriotic flag-waving in the face of adversity. This could take the pressure off the ruling classes at times of economic crises, when cuts in living standards had to be ordered, by identifying an enemy whether at home or abroad.

 

“Foreigners“ were the enemy abroad and “foreigners” arriving as immigrants became a useful enemy at home. Jewish foreigners were particularly useful as scapegoats because dim memories of the role they had been forced to play as moneylenders, centuries before, could be successfully stirred up.

 

Western Europe’s already well-established Jewish communities looked on with mounting concern as their poorer brethren arrived in their countries, often sparking waves of anti-semitism. They had known nothing like it before and many recognised that some form of political intervention was essential. Some recognised anti-semitism for what it was, a cruel mechanism of social control which protected the status quo and divided the opposition. Hence, both they and many of the new immigrants joined socialist movements as the best way of fighting this divisive form of racism.

 

But others drew very different conclusions. Some – like the principal architect of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl – came to the conclusion that anti-semitism was inevitable and that the Jews should withdraw from Europe altogether and find their “own” homeland.

 

Herzl was an Austrian Jewish journalist who covered the famous Dreyfus trial in France in 1895. The trial provoked an outburst of anti-semitism in France. Shortly afterwards Herzl began to formulate his theories. His argument seemed to concede the anti-semitic case. In an infamous passage, he wrote:

 

In Paris ... I achieved a freer attitude towards anti-semitism, which I began to understand historically and pardon. Above all, I recognised the emptiness and futility of trying to combat anti-semitism. [2]

 

This bleak and pessimistic perspective would effectively provide a justification for not only “pardoning” anti-semitism but even collaborating with it, since anti-semites would themselves later prove willing cynically to promote the Zionist cause.

 

Herzl was not particularly religious – in fact he was not particularly concerned at first even to make Palestine the target area for the new Jewish “homeland”. He considered Argentina at one stage. However it soon became obvious that the Jewish Biblical myths were a potent source of inspiration for developing an exclusivist and highly nationalistic Jewish identity.

 

And again, while Herzl was not the first person in this period to formulate the “Zionist solution” to anti-semitism, he was the first to link it deliberately to European imperialism, of which he was a great admirer, as the only means of withdrawing the Jews from Europe.

 

Hence he set about seeking assistance from the great imperialists of his day. He wrote to Cecil Rhodes, the founder of Rhodesia (today’s Zimbabwe) whom he thought of as a “visionary”. Rhodes had become identified with the mass white settlements in central Africa after countless bloody battles with the African population. Herzl wrote to Rhodes:

 

You are being invited to help make history. This cannot frighten you ... it does not involve Africa but a piece of Asia Minor, not Englishmen but Jews ... I turn to you ... because it is something colonial ... [3]

 

Interestingly enough, Rhodes also recognised the role imperialism could play in drawing off an “unwanted” portion of the population who might otherwise become a source of instability:

 

I was in the East End of London (a working-class quarter) yesterday and attended a meeting of the unemployed. I listened to the wild speeches which were just a cry for “bread”, “bread”! ... I pondered ... and became more and more convinced of the importance of imperialism ... In order to save the 40 million inhabitants of the United Kingdom from bloody civil war we colonial statesmen must acquire new lands to settle the surplus population, to provide new markets for the goods produced in the factories and the mines. The Empire, as I have always said, is a bread and butter question. If you want to avoid civil war, you must become imperialists. [4]

 

Herzl regarded the previous efforts to gain entry into Palestine as hopeless. He argued the only guarantee of an eventual Jewish state would be one based on what he called “assured supremacy”. This meant obtaining imperialist backing. He recognised the ultimate importance of Britain:

 

England with her possessions in Asia should be most interested in Zionism, for the shortest route to India is by way of Palestine. England’s great politicians were the first to recognise the need for colonial expansion ... And so I believe in England the idea of Zionism, which is a colonial idea, should be easily understood. [5]

 

Meanwhile the deepening crisis in pre-revolutionary Russia gave its own momentum to the new Zionist cause. In 1903, two years before the first mass revolutionary uprising in Russia, the Tsar, sensing the impending threat to his rule, ordered a new wave of pogroms. His Interior Minister, the notorious anti-semite Wenzel von Plehve, made the necessary arrangements.

 

On 6 April 1903, Tsarist police stood by with folded arms while a mob attacked Jewish homes and stores in the town of Kishenev. The mob was inflamed by articles in the province’s only newspaper, which was funded by Von Plehve. In two days of rioting hundreds of Jews were killed, wounded or crippled. There were stories of Jews being torn in two and babies beaten in the street. News of the outrage spread far and wide. There were large protest demonstrations across America. By 1900 already almost one million Jews had settled in America.

 

(There is a macabre comparison between the massacre at Kishenev in 1903 and the massacre at Sabra and Shatila in Beirut in 1982. In both cases the authorities looked on as the murders took place.) [6]

 

Yiddish was the most widely-spoken language among Russia’s Jews. All Yiddish publications were banned in the Kishenev region – except one. Just before the pogrom Von Plehve had given his blessing to a Yiddish Zionist paper which portrayed Jews as “aliens” in Russia and called for a mass Jewish exodus to the ancient “homeland”. All other voices opposing anti-semitism were hounded by the Tsarist police, particularly the revolutionaries who played a leading role in organising the underground resistance to Tsarism in all its forms.

 

As Lenin, who became the leader of the Bolsheviks, put it:

 

The Tsarist police, in alliance with the landowners and the capitalists, organised pogroms against the Jews. [They] try and divert the hatred of the workers and the peasants against the Jews ... It is not the Jews who are the enemies of working people. Their enemies are the capitalists of all countries. [7]

 

In fact the revolutionary movement attracted an increasing number of Russian Jews. In 1903 Chaim Weizmann, a leading Zionist, sent a report to Herzl: “The Zionist movement has not succeeded in attracting the best of Jewish youth ... Almost the entire Jewish student body stands firmly behind the revolutionary camp.” [8]

 

A month after the Kishenev pogrom, in May 1903, Herzl went to Russia as a representative of what was now the World Zionist Organisation. He met Von Plehve. But he did not demand that Von Plehve condemn the pogrom. Rather, he pleaded his help in persuading the Tsar to intervene with the Sultan of Turkey – at this time Turkey controlled the Ottoman Empire, which included the land of Palestine. The Sultan had slowed Zionist emigration to Palestine. If the Tsar did intervene then Herzl would return the favour: he would cut out any attacks on the Tsar at the forthcoming Zionist Congress. Herzl recorded in his diary:

 

Von Plehve attached much importance to the forthcoming Zionist Congress, obviously because he saw that the Kishenev business was bound to come up there for a frank hearing. When this happens, I could be in the position of doing him a service by cutting the thing short. [9]

 

After the First World War Britain took control of Palestine after stimulating an Arab revolt against Turkey. Chaim Weizmann, who replaced Herzl after his death as the most prominent Zionist leader, had anticipated this probable outcome. In a letter to the Manchester Guardian in 1914, Weizmann wrote:

 

Should Palestine fall within the British sphere of influence and should [they] encourage Jewish settlement ... [we could] develop the country, bring back civilisation and form a very effective guard for the Suez Canal. [10]

 

In 1917, before the British had assumed control of the area, Weizmann was invited to secret discussions with the British government. These led to the famous “Balfour Declaration”, which both expressed British support for Zionist settlement in Palestine and Zionist acceptance of British control of Palestine. The Declaration promised a “national home for the Jewish people”. Winston Churchill understood the significance of a “national home for the Jewish people” only too well.

 

... a Jewish state under the protection of the British Crown, which might comprise three or four million Jews ... would from every point of view be beneficial and would be especially in harmony with the truest interests of the British Empire. [11]

 

The shadow of anti-semitism as a partner of Zionism rather than its polar opposite, as the Zionists would claim it to be, hung over the Balfour Declaration. Lord Balfour, the British minister in whose name the declaration was signed, had enthusiastically campaigned for the introduction of the British Aliens Act in 1905 – which aimed deliberately at stemming further Jewish immigration into Britain.

 

Meanwhile, Arab resistance to British control in the Middle East was half-hearted. The Arab leadership, made up largely of feudal sheikhs and kings, was in awe of the British and incapable of challenging them (though there was and would continue to be mass loathing and rebellion by the region’s poor, the vast majority). By 1920 Palestinian leaders had accepted the inevitability of British rule. However at their first all-Palestinian congress in December 1920 at Haifa they formulated three demands which remained constant throughout the period: for an end to British support for Zionism; an end to Jewish immigration; and the formation of a representative national government.

 

There were 56,000 Jews and about a million Palestinians in Palestine at the end of the First World War. It doesn’t take mathematical genius to calculate which national group had the natural majority. Even though Jewish immigration more than doubled in the next five years, they were still a tiny minority. Yet the Arabs felt threatened by the jews and cheated by the British, who had always promised them that their demands would be taken seriously.

 

Arab fears were more than justified. As Lord Balfour put it in a confidential memorandum in 1919:

 

In Palestine we do not propose to even go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants ... The Four Powers are committed to Zionism. [12]

 

And as a young Zionist settler from America and future israeli prime minister, Golda Meir, wrote in a letter in 1921:

 

If we dig in here, England will come to our aid. It is not the Arabs who the English will pick to ... colonise Palestine, it is we. [13]

 

From the start, the leaders of the Jewish community set out to exclude Palestinians from as many areas of life as possible. The leaders of “Labour Zionism” founded the exclusively Jewish trade union, the Histadrut, in 1920. It rapidly became the spearhead of anti-Palestinian activity.

 

The Histadrut called its programme “socialist”. It said that the Jewish state had to be built by the toil of Jewish workers. In lofty statements, the Histadrut insisted that Jews should not exploit native Palestinians by hiring them to work in fields or factories. Histadrut leaders coined three slogans to guide the Jewish colony: “Jewish Land, Jewish Labour, Jewish Produce”. Following these slogans, Zionist agencies leased land only to Jews; Jewish agricultural settlements and industries hired only Jews; and Jews boycotted fruits and vegetables from non-Jewish farms. Thus Palestinians were excluded from the Jewish sector of the economy.

 

Jewish businesses, tempted by cheap Palestinian labour, sometimes violated the “Jewish Labour” principle. But the Histadrut programme appealed to the large numbers of new settlers who often arrived penniless from Europe and anxious to find work. Only exclusive Jewish control over the sale of labour would guarantee reasonable wages. This fused with feelings of European superiority and the Zionist “mission” of returning “home” into a potent and fanatical movement.

 

Members of the Histadrut would picket and stand guard at Jewish orchards to prevent Arab workers from getting jobs. Squads of activists stormed through market places, pouring kerosene on tomatoes grown in Arab gardens or smashing eggs that Jewish housewives might buy from Arab merchants. The Jewish National Fund gave its agents large sums of money to buy land from rich absentee landowners or to pressure small farmers who were deeply in debt to sell their land. Zionists would then evict the Arab peasants who lived on the newly-purchased land.

 

Increasingly, the leaders of the Histadrut became leaders of the Zionist movement. Three future prime ministers came from the ranks of this “trade union”. In fact the Histadrut more and more became the infrastructure of the future state. Of particular importance were the developing kibbutzim, the agricultural communes. An outward show of equality and freedom for its Jewish members concealed the fact that Arabs were excluded (the same is of course true today) and that each kibbutz was also a small military base of the Haganah, the Zionist militia, founded in 1923.

 

And of course each kibbutz stood on land that had been farmed by Palestinians for a thousand years.

 

 

 

Top of the page

 

 

Notes

 

1. This argument forms part of the basis for Abram Leon, The Jewish Question (New York 1970).

 

2. The Diaries of Theodor Herzl, p.6, cited in Our Roots, p.21.

 

3. Cited in Our Roots, p.24.

 

4. Quoted in Our Roots, p.24.

 

5. Herzl, quoted in Our Roots, pages 25-6.

 

6. For a detailed comparison, see Chomsky.

 

7. Lenin, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, p.94.

 

8. Quoted in Our Roots, p.20.

 

9. Quoted in Our Roots, p.20.

 

10. Manchester Guardian, November 1914, quoted in Our Roots, p.29.

 

11. Winston Churchill, Zionism versus Bolshevism, in Illustrated Sunday Herald, 8 February 1920.

 

12. Memorandum by Lord Balfour, Foreign Office document FO: 371/4183/2117/132187, cited in Our Roots, p.29.

 

13. Quoted in Our Roots, p.38.

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The Holocaust

 

 

The strongest case for Zionism?

 

Jewish children the world over, growing up after the Second World War in the shadow of the Holocaust, had a double image permanently burned into their earliest memories. Craven skeletal human wrecks, barely alive, hovering in front of barbed wire at Auschwitz, in those loathsome pyjama suits with yellow stars stitched or painted on them. And israel, Glorious israel, the Saviour of the Jews, the Guarantee backed by God’s Word that never, but never, would such a deluge of death ever again afflict the Jewish people.

 

The fusion of two images into one was so powerful that the merest hint that there was anything wrong would automatically revive the fear of Nazism. All challenges would carry the deepest suspicions that they were anti-semitic in intention. To interpret this only as a victory for Zionist propaganda is, in a way, to belittle Jewish sensitivities. The problem was that the world after 1945 did actually appear to confirm the Herzl prognosis.

 

No-one really wanted the Jews. Germany had killed most of those who lived in Europe. The Allies in the war, Britain, America and France, had hardly gone out of their way to throw open their doors to the tragic survivors of the Holocaust. And Stalin’s earlier willingness to countenance a pact with Hitler combined with persistent rumours about anti-semitism in the Soviet Union to make any country that accepted Russian-style Communism a dubious alternative.

 

However, this begs three crucial questions. Did the world really have to look like this in 1945? What efforts did the Allies make to open up secure routes to the West for Jewish refugees just before and during the war itself, especially as the news of the slaughter of the Jews became known? And what efforts did the Zionists make? After all, the standard pattern of Jewish emigration away from persecution had been steadily westwards for three generations. The vast majority had settled in the West. Only a tiny minority had gone to Palestine.

 

At the outbreak of hostilities in 1939 the majority of the world’s Jewish population was non-Zionist. The Zionists were a minority cult among the Jews. Hardly any left the security of the West for Palestine.

 

What, then, did the Allied governments do during the war to bring Jewish refugees out of Nazi-occupied Europe?

 

The attitude of the United States was crucial. This had been, truly, the promised land for Jewish immigrants. Millions had already settled. Yet the United States had been refusing Jewish refugees, and indeed thousands of other immigrants, since 1924 when it introduced its so-called Quota Act.

 

An indication of the us government’s attitude, as news of the Holocaust grew, was its refusal to allow the us Air Force, despite repeated pleas from Jewish leaders, to bomb the railway lines leading to the Auschwitz concentration camp. [1] The British government took the same view.

 

In 1943, as the Nazi extermination of European Jewry was reaching its height, the us government allowed in just 4,705 Jews as immigrants.

 

A crucial question, rarely asked because the answer is wrongly assumed to be obvious, is where would the Jewish refugees themselves wish to settle. These were not only the Jews fleeing for their lives from Nazi terror. By the end of the war, these were Jews who may have seen their entire families, grandparents, parents, children, brothers, sisters, slowly mutilated before their very eyes. They may themselves have been close to death by torture.

 

“Of course, they would want to go to a Jewish Homeland” became the standard Zionist cry, and indeed the perfectly understandable reaction, in the shadow of the Holocaust, of Jewish people throughout the world.

 

Yet surprisingly the truth is not so obvious. There has been very little serious historical analysis of this critical aspect of the heartrending tragedy.

 

After the war, the pro-Zionist Jewish Agency demanded that Britain grant one hundred thousand immigration certificates for European Jews to go to Palestine. Bricha, the organisation responsible for illegal immigration to Palestine, sent organisers into the Displaced Persons camps. Obviously they would affect the mood of the refugees, and in the absence of any realistic alternative, would find a receptive response for the boarding of rickety ships en route for the shores of Palestine.

 

However despite this intense and powerfully emotional campaign, a later report to the American Jewish Congress by a Zionist organiser, Chaplain Klausner, stated that most of the refugees wanted to go to the United States. In fact Klausner’s own attitude revealed the inhuman face of Zionism. He concluded: “I am convinced that the people must be forced to go to Palestine.” [2]

 

This is not an isolated reaction. On point of principle the Zionists encouraged the Allies not to accept Jewish immigrants.

 

In 1938 a British scheme was floated to at least allow entry to Britain of several thousand German Jewish children. (Ironically, this scheme owed its origins to the magnificent Palestinian revolt in 1936. It was seen as a means of taking pressure off renewed Jewish emigration to Palestine as a short-term concession to the Arabs.) Ben-Gurion opposed the plan, revealing only too clearly the obscenity at the heart of the Zionist enterprise. He said:

 

If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England, and only half of them to Eretz Yisrael [“israel”], then I would opt for the second alternative. For we must weigh not only the life of these children but also the history of the people of israel. [3]

 

In other words, establishing the state of israel took priority over saving Jewish lives, whenever the latter contradicted the former. This tears apart the post-war image of israel as the saviour of the Jews. It beckons the question of what kind of morality really lay behind the Zionist land-grab in Palestine.

 

Rabbi Stephen Wise, a leading Zionist in the USA, adopted an attitude similar to that of Ben-Gurion when it came to the question of Jewish children entering the USA in 1939. He was worried about the effect of their entry on the US immigration laws, saying:

 

Our country comes first ... if these children cannot be helped, then they cannot be helped. [4]

 

But the biggest crime must surely be the attitude of the Zionists to the Nazis themselves. Weizmann, president of the World Zionist Organisation, had, much earlier, set the scene for his attitude to German anti-semitism in a keynote speech in Berlin in 1912 when he said:

 

Each country can only absorb a limited number of Jews, if she doesn’t want disorders in her stomach. Germany has already too many Jews. [5]

 

Hitler himself could not have put it better.

 

In fact when Hitler seized power in 1933 he discovered in the Zionist Federation of Germany, the main Zionist organisation there, a kindred spirit as warped as his own. They sent Hitler the following memorandum which would shape the Zionists’ relations with the Nazis throughout this dreadful era all the way to the gas chambers and which requires no further comment:

 

May we therefore be permitted to present our views, which, in our opinion, make possible a solution in keeping with the principles of the new German State of National Awakening and which at the same time might signify for Jews a new ordering of the conditions of their existence ... Zionism has no illusions about the difficulty of the Jewish condition, which consists above all in an abnormal occupational pattern and in the fault of an intellectual and moral posture not rooted in one’s own tradition ...

 

... an answer to the Jewish question truly satisfying to the national state can be brought about only with the collaboration of the Jewish movement that aims at a social, cultural, and moral renewal of Jewry ... a rebirth of national life, such as is occurring in German life through adhesion to Christian and national values, must also take place in the Jewish national group. For the Jew, too, origin, religion, community of fate and group consciousness must be of decisive significance in the shaping of his life ...

 

On the foundation of the new 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 ... Our acknowledgement of Jewish nationality provides for a clear and sincere relationship to the German people and its national and racial realities. Precisely because we do not wish to falsify these fundamentals, because we, too, are against mixed marriage and are for maintaining the purity of the Jewish group ...

 

For its practical aims, Zionism hopes to be able to win the collaboration even of a government fundamentally hostile to Jews, because in dealing with the Jewish question no sentimentalities are involved but a real problem whose solution interests all peoples, and at the present moment especially the German people.

 

The realisation of Zionism could only be hurt by resentment of Jews abroad against the German development. Boycott propaganda – such as is currently being carried on against Germany in many ways – is in essence un-Zionist, because Zionism wants not to do battle but to convince and to build ... [6]

 

The last paragraph refers to the anti-Nazi boycott of German goods, which was organised principally in the United States, and which the Zionists opposed.

 

Of course, the Zionists’ terrible attitude to the Nazis must never be allowed to hide or disfigure the tremendous courage shown by Jewish resistance fighters against the Nazis. They had to contend, not only with the Nazis, but also with what amounted to a Zionist “fifth column” in their own ranks, whispering “do not fight, you cannot fight, the German Nazis are right, you are not welcome in Europe. You do not belong here.”

 

In 1943, in the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland, Jewish fighters rose up against the Nazis. They fought for six months, hiding in bombed-out buildings and the maze of sewer tunnels beneath the city. German commanders recorded: “Over and over we observed that Jews, despite the dangers of being burned alive, preferred to return to the flames rather than be caught by us.” [7] They also noticed that the women in particular, when surrounded, came out with their guns blazing rather than surrender. Against impossible odds, Warsaw Jews fought to the end.

 

Uri Avinery, a former member of the Stern Gang, one of several armed Zionist organisations in Palestine during the war, and which numbered among its members Itzhak Shamir, who was to become israel’s deputy prime minister, has commented:

 

Throughout the war, nothing much was done by the Zionist leadership to help the Jews ... Many think things could have been done: hundreds of Haganah and Irgun fighters [other armed Zionist organisations] could have been parachuted into Europe ... [8]

 

But this was not the way the Zionists saw it. In the same year as the Warsaw uprising, Itzhak Greenbaum, head of the Zionist Jewish Rescue Committee, declared:

 

If I am asked could you give from the [united Jewish Appeal] money to rescue Jews? I say, “No, and again no.” In my opinion, we have to resist that wave which puts Zionist activities in the second line. [9]

 

 

 

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Notes

 

1. The Politics of Rescue: The Roosevelt Administration and the Holocaust 1938-45, p.141, cited in Our Roots, p.56.

 

2. Alfred Lilienthal, What price israel?, cited in Our Roots, p.62.

 

3. Quoted in Lenni Brenner, Zionism in the Age of the Dictators (Beckenham, Kent, 1983) p.149.

 

4. Quoted in Our Roots, p.55.

 

5. Brenner, p.34.

 

6. Brenner, pages 48-9.

 

7. Sachar, The Course of Modern Jewish History (1958) p.452.

 

8. Uri Avinery, israel without Zionism (1971) p.106, cited in Our Roots, p.57.

 

9. Ben Hecht, Perfidy (New York 1961) p.50, cited in Our Roots, p.57.

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Hijack!

 

 

How the Zionists seized Palestine

 

The Second World War effectively broke the back of Britain’s ability to control its empire. Its will to resolve the bloody conflict that it had itself helped to create between the Zionist settlement and the indigenous population of Palestine had been sapped. The USA, the country least exhausted by the war effort, had emerged as the power in the world. And the Middle East was of vital importance to it. The region’s cheap and ever-expanding supplies of oil were now essential not only for the USA’s own domestic supplies but also the key role the US intended to play in investing in Europe’s post-war reconstruction.

 

So the prospect of a Jewish state, completely dependent for its survival upon American patronage and therefore inevitably devoted to US interests in the region, was extremely attractive to President Truman’s administration. Particularly at a time when there was no other reliable guarantor of US interests in the area.

 

Then in June 1946 the Zionists blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, killing more than 80 British, Arabs and Jews. The action exposed the bankruptcy of British policy in the area and the Palestine question was passed hurriedly to the United Nations.

 

The United States was the most powerful voice at the United Nations. Its plans for Palestine could easily be manoeuvred through that flimsily-based organisation. A semblance of “fairness” to both sides was proposed in the US-backed UN scheme for partition.

 

Close inspection, however, immediately shatters any first impression of fairness. The partition plan granted 55 per cent of Palestine to the Jews who were 30 per cent of the population but owned only 6 per cent of the land (and this land, it should always be remembered, had been purchased before the war from Arab landlords by Zionists who then evicted the peasant farmers). Nearly 400,000 Arabs, a number nearly equal to the number of Jews, were to live in the area assigned to the Jewish state. The Arab state was to include 10,000 Jews and 725,000 Arabs in the remaining 45% of Palestine.

 

The plan for partition was approved with ease. All European governments approved. The Soviet Union approved. But only three African and Asian states agreed (under massive pressure from the USA).

 

And, of course, no Arab state agreed. Within days Syrian demonstrators attacked Western embassies. Thousands of Egyptians poured into the streets of Cairo, fighting the police and stoning the British consulate. Lebanese and Iraqis attacked American properties. As a Palestinian leader aptly put it: “We are fighting an advance guard of America.” [1]

 

In fact the partition agreement, signed in November 1947, was the legal figleaf which immediately triggered the Zionist hijack of Palestine. Partition signalled the end of British rule. Who, then, would oppose the Zionists’ military plans – which had been an open secret for years? Obviously not the Americans. The Arab governments? No, their half-hearted opposition was as spineless and corrupt as it had been since the earliest days of British rule.

 

The Palestinians were left to fight alone. They had neither the military machine nor, more importantly, the kind of leadership that could match the ruthless training of the Zionists. Nonetheless, as in 1936, many thousands of Palestinians fought back as courageously as they could.

 

At the heart of the Zionists scheme lay terror on a monumental scale. They would bounce the Palestinians out of their own country by creating such a climate of bloodletting and violence that a fever of fear would sweep the land.

 

On 9 April 1948, soldiers of the Irgun, a particularly fanatical Zionist militia commanded by Menachem Begin, who was to be israeli prime minister at the time of the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, entered the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin and told residents that they had 15 minutes to abandon their homes. Then the soldiers attacked. In a few hours the Irgun, in scenes which would be repeated at Shatila and Sabra in Beirut 24 years later, murdered between two and three hundred men, women and children in cold blood. Jacques de Reynier of the International Red Cross went to the village shortly afterwards:

 

The first room was dark, everything was in disorder, but there was no-one. In the second, amid disembowelled furniture and all sorts of debris, I found some bodies cold. Here the cleaning up’ had been done with machine guns, then hand grenades. It had been finished off with knives, anyone could see that. The same thing in the next room but as I was about to leave, I heard something like a sigh. I looked everywhere, turned over all the bodies, and eventually found a little foot, still warm. It was a little girl of ten, mutilated by a hand grenade, but still alive; everywhere it was the same horrible sight ... there had been 400 people in this village; about fifty had escaped. All the rest had been deliberately massacred in cold blood for, as I observed for myself, this gang was admirably disciplined and acted only under orders. [2]

 

Begin himself has described the consequences:

 

Arabs throughout the country, induced to believe wild tales of “Irgun butchery”, were seized with limitless panic and started to flee for their lives. This mass flight soon developed into a maddened uncontrollable stampede ... The political and economic significance can hardly be overestimated. [3]

 

Two weeks later British troops were withdrawn from Haifa. At sundown on 21 April the Zionists hurled sixty pounds of explosives about 300 yards into the crowded Arab quarter. Barrel bombs, which were casks filled with gasoline and dynamite, rolled down the narrow alleys and crashed, creating an inferno of flames and explosions. Loudspeakers of the Haganah, the mainstream Zionist militia, broadcast “horror recordings” that filled the air with shrieks and anguished moans of Arab women, interrupted by a booming sorrowful voice that called out in Arabic, “Flee for your lives! The Jews are using poison gas and atomic weapons!” As the Palestinians fled Haifa only one phrase trembled on their lips: “Deir Yassin, Deir Yassin”. [4]

 

Within a week the same psychological blitz emptied the port of Jaffa, a city designated as part of the Arab state. From the fertile fields of Galilee to the fortress city of Acre, Palestinians fled their homes, their villages, their lands.

 

The above account of events, and particularly the account of the massacre at Deir Yassin, is well-established knowledge amongst Palestinians, and throughout the Arab world. For 40 years the israeli state denied it. The official Zionist version claims that the Arab countries called on the Palestinians to leave in order to justify a subsequent invasion of the Jewish state by the Arab countries.

 

Early in 1986, however, an israeli historian, Benny Morris, published a secret israeli army intelligence report dated June 1948 that totally confirms the Palestinian version of these events. In an analysis of the intelligence document, Morris writes:

 

Rather than suggesting israeli blamelessness in the creation of the refugee problem, the Intelligence Branch assessment is written in blunt factual and analytical terms and, if anything, contains more than a hint of “advice” as to how to precipitate further Palestinian flight by indirect methods, without having recourse to direct politically and morally embarrassing expulsion orders ...

 

On the eve of the UN Partition Plan Resolution of 29 November 1947, according to the report, there were 219 Arab villages and four Arab, or partly Arab, towns in the areas earmarked for Jewish statehood – with a total Arab population of 342,000. By 1 June, 180 of these villages and towns had been evacuated, with 239,000 Arabs fleeing the areas of the Jewish state. A further 152,000 Arabs, from 70 villages and three towns (Jaffa, Jenin and Acre) had fled their homes in the areas earmarked for Palestinian Arab statehood in the Partition Resolution, and from the Jerusalem area. By 1 June, therefore, according to the report, the refugee total was 391,000, give or take about 10-15 per cent.

 

The Intelligence Branch then gives a detailed breakdown and explanation of these factors, stressing that “without doubt, hostile [Haganah/israeli Defence Forces] operations were the main cause of the movement of population”.

 

The wave of emigration in each district, explains the report, followed hard upon “the increase and expansion of our [Haganah/IDF] operations in that district”. May brought a major increase in large-scale Jewish operations; so it also witnessed the widespread mass emigration of Arabs. “The departure of the British ... of course helped the [Arab] evacuation, but it appears that the British withdrawal freed our hands for action more than it influenced the [Arab] emigration directly.”

 

The Intelligence Branch notes that it was not always the dimensions of a Jewish attack which counted: it was “mainly the psychological” factors which affected the rate of emigration. The report cites “surprise”, protracted artillery barrages and use of loudspeakers broadcasting threatening messages as factors which had a strong influence in precipitating flight.

 

An attack on one village or town often affected its neighbours. “The evacuation of a certain village because of an attack by us prompted in its wake many neighbouring villages [to flee]”, states the report. This was especially true of the fall of large villages or towns. “The fall of Tiberias, Safad, Samakh, Jaffa, Haifa and Acre engendered in their wake many waves of emigrants.”The psychological motive force in operation here was “im ba’arazim nafla shal-hevet” (“If the cedars caught fire ...”, a paraphrase of Kings I, 5/13).

 

Intelligence Branch cites the “special effect” of the dissident operation in Deir Yassin and of the “abduction [at the end of March 1948] of the five [Arab] notables at Sheik Muwannis [north of Tel Aviv]”.

 

“The action at Deir Yassin, especially, greatly affected the thinking of the Arab; not a little of the immediate flight during our [Haganah/IDF] attacks, especially in the central and southern areas, caused panic flights because of this factor, which can be described as a decisive accelerating factor.”

 

The report ends with a look at the manner in which the refugees (by June 1948) had been absorbed in the host countries or areas. The wealthier Arabs, by and large, had no absorption problems. But most of the emigrants were poor; most had left without the bulk of their belongings, and this had led to “severe absorption problems”, says the report ...

 

Some israelis feared that the embittered refugees might be turned into soldiers who would return to fight against israel. The Intelligence Branch analysis dismissed this danger: “The Arab emigrant did not turn into a fighter, his only interest now is in collecting money [philanthropy]. He has resigned himself to the lowest form of life, preferring it to mobilising for battle.” [5]

 

In a book to be published in israel later in 1986, a former commander of the intelligence services confirms that israeli Defence Forces were informed about the Irgun’s intentions to attack the villagers at Deir Yassin, who had in fact signed a peace pact with the local Jewish settlement. The author, Y Levi, requested permission from his superior officer to forewarn the villagers. This was refused. [6]

 

Could the surrounding Arab countries not have done more? Certainly they went through all the motions of declaring “war”. And the day after Ben-Gurion proclaimed the birth of the State of israel on 14 May 1948, the Arab countries bound together through the Arab League “invaded”.

 

But it was a totally unreal exercise. There were military clashes – but key Arab governments were already in negotiations with the israelis. The Arab League was still dominated by the British, who remained a decisive influence.

 

In any case the ruling feudal families had no stomach for a fight. King Abdullah of Trans-Jordan received Golda Meir as soon as the “war” began. His negotiations with her and later Moshe Dayan soon revealed his true intentions. [7] He was more than content to aid the Zionist sabotage of the UN partition agreement by grabbing the West Bank of the Jordan for himself. Abdullah’s army was the best-trained in the Arab League. His equivocation at the outset undermined morale for the rest.

 

The sheer depth of incompetence, incomprehension and paralysis in the Arab capitals at the time became only too clear to Musa Alami, a Palestinian leader who went to find out for himself what kind of support his people might expect:

 

“I am happy to tell you,” the Syrian president assured him, “that our army and its equipment are of the highest order and well able to deal with a few Jews, and I can tell you in confidence that we even have an atomic bomb”; and seeing Musa’s expression of incredulity, he went on, “yes, it was made locally; we fortunately found a very clever fellow, a tinsmith ...” Elsewhere he found equal complacency, and ignorance a little less crass. In Iraq he was told by the prime minister that all that was needed was a “few brooms” to drive the Jews into the sea: by confidants of Ibn Saud in Cairo that “once we get the green light from the British we can easily throw out the Jews”. [8]

 

Zionist propaganda has made much of the fact that 600,000 Jews were pitted against 40 million Arabs in the 1948 “War of Independence”. The facts, however, suggest a rather different interpretation. Arab League armed forces, representing five Arab countries, mustered a grand total of 15,000 men; their heaviest armour consisted of 22 light tanks and ten Spitfire aircraft. The Zionists had 30,000 fully-mobilised regular troops, at least 32,000 second-line troops, plus 15,000 settlement police and a “homeguard” of 32,000. In addition there were between 3,000 and 5,000 in the Irgun.

 

If there was any doubt about who would win a war between the Zionists and the Arab armies, the British colonial authorities certainly did not share it. Two years earlier, General D’Arcy, commander of British forces in Palestine, had summed up the position:

 

“If you were to withdraw British forces, the Haganah would take over all Palestine tomorrow,” he said flatly. But could the Haganah hold Palestine under such circumstances? “Certainly,” he replied. “They could hold it against the entire Arab world.” [9]

 

In the end the United Nations sent a mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte, to try to enforce the partition plan. He arrived to witness the stealing of Arab houses, Arab shops and Arab land on a spectacular scale: 80 per cent of the land, 50 per cent of the citrus groves, 90 per cent of the olive groves, ten thousand shops. Bernadotte did, in fact, try to stem the Palestinian exit. He documented some of the atrocities and challenged some of the Zionist propaganda. The Zionists rewarded him for his efforts. On 17 September he was assassinated by members of the Stern Gang, of which the current deputy prime minister of israel, Itzhak Shamir, was then a member.

 

The assassination forced world-wide protest and this brought pressure on israel to accept a ceasefire in January 1949. It was a little late. israel now occupied 80 per cent of Palestine. As Weizmann said of the Palestinian exodus, it was “a miraculous simplification of our tasks.” [10]

 

That is to say, the expulsion of more than three-quarters of a million Palestinians formed the basis of the state of israel.

 

 

 

Top of the page

 

 

Notes

 

1. Our Roots, p.66.

 

2. De Reynier’s observations are quoted at length in David Hurst, The Gun and the Olive Branch (London 1977) p.128.

 

3. Cited in Hurst, p.129.

 

4. Deir Yassin was partof “Plan Dalet”, a master-plan for the seizure of the whole or most of Palestine, see Hurst, p.138.

 

5. The full analysis appeared in Middle Eastern Studies, 21:1, January 1986.

 

6. See The Guardian, 26 May 1986.

 

7. A fuller account can be found in Nathan Weinstock, Zionism: The False Messiah (London 1979) pp.237-41.

 

8. Hurst, p.135.

 

9. Hurst, p.134.

 

10. Quoted in Our Roots, p.74.

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The Struggle to Liberate Palestine

 

Zionist mythology has it that the land of Palestine, whilst it may have been inhabited by a few Arab nomads, was mostly desert. One of the great feats of Zionist enterprise, it is claimed, has been to turn that desert green. israeli exports of grapes and oranges around the world, grown on the kibbutzim, are proof indeed, if proof be needed.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth. The Jaffa Orange which has come to symbolise israeli agricultural endeavour actually confirms the opposite: that the orange groves and the vineyards were stolen from the Palestinian peasants who had tilled the soil for centuries. The orange groves of Jaffa go back at least until the beginning of the eighteenth century. By 1880, when the orange groves were entirely in Arab hands, they included 765,000 trees. Thirty million oranges were harvested there and many were exported to Europe. [1]

 

The Palestinian peasantry had a history – and a proud one. They resented the Zionist interloper from the beginning. This is not to say they resented a Jewish presence. Small Jewish communities were scattered throughout the Arab countries and had been for centuries. The resentment started when Britain offered “protection” to the Jewish minority in the early nineteenth century as a way of obtaining a toehold inside the Ottoman Empire – the so-called “Eastern Question”. [2] For the Zionist interlopers were seen for what they were – unwelcome visitors imposed on the Palestinians by their new rulers, the British Empire.

 

There were periodic clashes both between Palestinians and Zionists and Palestinians and the British authorities throughout the 1920s. The Palestinians resented the restriction of their rights both from British rule and from the continuous expansion of the Zionist settlements at Palestinian expense. Violence flared continuously. If the Jewish rate of immigration of the 1920s were to continue, then in 15 or 20 years, the Palestinians would soon have been a minority in their own land. Particularly fierce fighting erupted between Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem in 1929 leaving over a hundred Arabs and a hundred Jews dead. Most of the Arabs were killed by British soldiers.

 

But, without doubt, the most important single event which occurred during the period of the British Mandate was the Palestinian General Strike in 1936.

 

This was nothing less than a revolt against British rule. The main slogan was “Independence for Palestine!” And the revolt involved the entire Palestinian nation. Every town, city and village had some form of organisation supporting the strike. Arab workers went on strike. Arab shops, businesses and markets closed down. Transport and communication ground to a halt.

 

The British authorities were taken aback. They made a series of mass arrests of local leaders, but the strike deepened. In Jaffa, where the strike was rock-solid, its organising centre was the ancient walled city. The British army sealed off the quarter and used a tactic that was gleefully borrowed later by the Zionists, the dynamiting of hundreds of houses.

 

By June the British High Commissioner reported that Palestine was in “a state of incipient revolution”. There was, he reported, “little control of lawless elements outside principal towns, main roads and railways”. [3] More than 2,500 Palestinians had been arrested. Over a thousand had been killed.

 

In July, backed by the Zionists, the British placed Palestine under martial law and rushed more troops out from Britain. More than 20,000 British soldiers now patrolled Palestine. Ships arrived loaded with tanks and machine-guns. The Royal Air Force began strafing the countryside. The British formed Zionist settlers into “night squads” to attack Palestinian villages. The Haganah, the Zionist army, were given their first taste of war.

 

The British approached King Abdullah of Trans-Jordan and King Faisal of Iraq to intervene. Despite demonstration against the kings’ interference, the tactic worked. The Palestinian leadership was drawn from the same kind of feudal strata as the kings – in particular the Mufti, the religious leader of Jerusalem. They had no stomach for a full-scale national war of independence.

 

As so often in the history of the Palestinian revolution, its turning points, victories or defeats, have been commemorated in poetry. The Palestinian poet Abu Salma wrote of the kings:

 

Shame to such kings, if kings are so low.

By God, their crowns are not fit to sole shoes.

We are the ones who will protect our homeland and heal its wounds. [4]

 

But the struggle was by no means over. Although the general strike ended (it had lasted six months, the longest general strike anywhere), the mood of resistance persisted. It was given added impetus by the British announcement in 1937 that Palestine would be partitioned under British control.

 

By the summer of 1937 guerrilla warfare had spread to the hills and rebellion engulfed most of the country. Most of the fighters were peasants. The British began arresting anyone in town wearing a keffiyah, the traditional peasant scarf. The level of unrest in the urban areas was such that a British general reported that “civil administration and control of the country was, to all practical purposes, non-existent.” [5]

 

In a four-month period the British dynamited 5,000 houses, added a thousand more prisoners to the 3,000 already in jail, and executed 148 prisoners in Acre prison alone.

 

This was the high point in the Palestinian struggle to throw British imperialism out of their country. It also underlined in blood how the Zionist settlement was an extension of the British Empire. The Zionists fought alongside the British in efforts to break the Palestinian will.

 

But this was not ultimately a struggle between “Arabs” and “Jews”. It was a struggle by the British to keep their grip on a strategically crucial centre of the Middle East. As the Second World War approached the British authorities were compelled to make temporary concessions to the Palestinians. A ceiling was imposed on Jewish immigration and vague pledges were made about Palestinian independence. Cynical as such concessions were, they were a tribute to the Palestinian struggle, as indeed was the simple fact that no less than one-third of all the troops of the British Empire had been needed to “restore order” in Palestine.

 

By 1939 20,000 Palestinians had been killed or wounded and thousands jailed or deported. Many of the best fighters and organised workers had been shot. The British did finally break the back of the movement – but its spirit lived on. 1936 would become a symbol of the Palestinian revolution.

 

The struggle was renewed after the Second World War on an entirely different plane. Now the USA had a vested interest in promoting Zionist territorial ambitions. The British were running scared and the Arab states would not support the Palestinians. The Zionists could mobilise world public opinion – and, more specifically, funds for arms – because of the shock of the Holocaust. America, which could easily have absorbed the Holocaust survivors, refused. Instead it recognised, as the British had recognised fifty years earlier, the advantages of transforming the tragic victims of European anti-semitism into aggressive defenders of Western imperialist interests in Arab lands. America’s doors remained firmly locked.

 

The Palestinians were left isolated and their sad exodus began.

 

Ghassan Kanafani, an exiled Palestinian writer, described the flight of his family from Jaffa in a story titled The Land of Sad Oranges. He recalled:

 

the long queues of lorries, leaving the land of oranges far behind and spreading out over the winding roads of Lebanon. Then I began to weep, howling with tears. As for my mother, she eyed the oranges silently and all the orange trees my father had left behind to the Jews were reflected in his eyes ... and glistened through the tears he could not check ... We arrived in Sidon that afternoon, we were homeless. [6]

 

The destruction of Palestine and the forcible expulsion of Palestinians quickly became the “refugee problem” in the eyes of the West. Stories of the “refugees” starving to death finally hit the headlines of the Western press. The needs of three-quarters of a million displaced people – 460,000 in Jordan, 200,000 in Gaza, 100,000 in Lebanon, 85,000 in Syria – were staggering. These Arab countries were desperately poor and the Arab cities were already swollen with people looking for work. Despite Zionist propaganda, it was hardly the responsibility of the Arab countries to absorb “the refugees”.

 

Finally in 1949 the United Nations made a gesture. It set up the United Nations Relief and Works Administration (UNRWA) to take over the running of sixty refugee camps from voluntary agencies. It kept people alive, but only just. Refugees who qualified for aid received roughly 37 dollars a year. Identification cards branded each person as a permanent refugee.

 

But the refugee status and the humiliation at the hands of the Zionists could not erase the memory of revolt that lingered on. As the Palestinian poet Fawaz Turki has written:

 

The people outside the camps (not to mention the Western tourists with their blessed sympathy ...) seeing our tattered rags hanging on us like white flags of surrender ... did not know what we had. A feeling inside us. Growing. Hope. [7]

 

In makeshift classrooms teachers encountered the most eager students “like ones possessed”. [8] Worn newspapers and leaflets telling of resistance to israel were passed from tent to tent. Palestinians were preparing for one thing only – to return home. Life Magazine reported in 1951:

 

The refugees don’t want to be compensated for their lost lands. They want to go home ... “I will never change this idea,” says Said Kewash, a lean-faced man who comes from Mayroon, near the Lebanese border (inside israel). Maud Saleem agrees. He says he has the key to his home in his pocket and he has told his son that if he dies, the key is to buried with him. [8]

 

A year earlier, 25,000 refugees had gone on hunger strike against UNRWA, saying they would rather starve than settle outside Palestine.

 

Where Palestinians had settled in Arab cities they joined in the growing Arab radical nationalist movements which were organising demonstrations against US involvement in the Middle East. Hatred for the puppet Arab leaders, such as King Abdullah, who had collaborated with israel, grew as their true role in 1948 and afterwards was exposed. There were demonstrations against Abdullah in Jordan in 1951. In the same year a Palestinian tailor shot and killed him.

 

Throughout the 1950s Arab national consciousness grew and developed. British and French imperialism met defeat after defeat at the hands of mass-based armed national liberation movements throughout Africa and Asia. The mood spread like wildfire through the Arab countries of the Middle East, which, though nominally independent, were governed by feudal puppets of the West. The fate of Mossadeq in Iran in 1951 exposed the real face of US foreign policy for the region. American backing for israel was identified as a further example of the US mailed fist.

 

The most important expression of the new independent Arab nationalism was Egypt, the most populated country in the Middle East and traditionally the country where radical and left-wing ideas were most widespread. In 1952 a radical army officer, Nasser, had seized power and toppled the feudal monarch. He made fierce speeches attacking the West and israel. When in 1956 he nationalised the Suez Canal, he became the symbol of anti-imperialism throughout the region. The whole area was a tinderbox, with civil war erupting in Lebanon and British paratroopers flying to Amman, the capital of Jordan, to prop up King Hussein, Abdullah’s heir and grandson.

 

But Nasser’s defeat by israel in the 1956 war set limits on his radical nationalism as repeated attempts to unite the Arab world behind his leadership failed. And although Nasser had become too the symbol of Palestinian resistance to Zionism, his repeated calls for unremitting war against the Zionist foe began to sound more and more hollow.

 

The Palestinians certainly appreciated that they were the victims of Western imperialism and saw their struggle as part of the wider Arab national revolution. But they came to question whether reliance on other Arab leaders would, in the end, bring salvation.

 

“Self-reliance” became the watchword as a new secret magazine, Falasteen, the voice of Fatah (“victory” in Arabic), was passed around the refugee camps and the Palestinian slums in Arab cities. Fawaz Turki has described the new mood:

 

At home there were tense scenes where I would argue with my father ... or in desperation rip Nasser’s picture off the wall and spit on it. I did not give the unhappy man the chance to hold on to that symbol of hope ... [9]

 

The 15 April 1963 edition of Falasteen summed up the new position:

 

The Palestinian alone is determined to refuse all colonialist plans . . . He is firmly convinced that armed struggle is the one and only means for the return to Palestine ... He refuses to allow the Arab governments to represent him in their lethargy, diplomacy and defeatism. As soon as he is able to tear away the fetters with which they had bound him he shall return to being what he was, a fedayeen [fighter]. [10]

 

Fatah became the largest of several armed guerrilla organisations. They recruited in the refugee camps and in the Arab cities. There was no shortage of volunteers as the new mood for independent armed struggle against israel gripped the entire dispersed Palestinian nation. The political ideas were a confusing brew of Marx and Lenin and Mao, Che Guevara, Ho Chi Minh. Probably the idea of “Peoples War”, an idea most associated with Mao in China, Che in Cuba and Ho in Vietnam was the most powerful.

 

Nasser and the other Arab leaders, worried that they would lose control of the new Palestinian movement, called a summit meeting in 1964. They formed a new organisation, the Palestine Liberation Organisation, to control the guerrilla groups. Nevertheless this conservative influence could not hold back the new movement. On 1 January 1965 a Fatah armed unit launched its first attack on israel.

 

The Arab refugee was becoming a Palestinian once again. For years the Zionists tried to deny it. As late as 1969 Golda Meir told The Times newspaper:

 

There were no such things as Palestinians. It was not as though there were a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist. [11]

 

But the Palestinian guerrilla struggle shattered this mythology. After the second catastrophic defeat of the Arab countries at the hands of israel in 1967 and the seizure of yet more Arab land, estimated at three times the size of israel’s pre-1967 borders, the Palestinian armed struggle became the spearhead that transformed Palestinian awareness. For the first time the guerrilla organisations established mass support. The original leadership imposed on the Palestine Liberation Organisation was shaken off and the Fedayeen organisations took it over. By the 1970s the entire world had heard of the Palestinians. The Zionists could no longer pretend they did not exist.

 

In March 1968, 200 Palestinian guerrillas fought a twelve-hour battle against the israeli army at the small Jordanian town of Karameh. Overnight the Fedayeen became heroes throughout the Arab world. Pictures of burned-out israeli tanks appeared in the Arab press. Even King Hussein was forced to declare: “We are all fedayeen now!” [12] The guerrilla groups blossomed as fresh recruits poured in. But the Jordanian king’s solidarity they could have done without ...

 

Before Hussein’s eyes, the seeds of a new society were sprouting and threatening his rule. Jordanian officials watched as goods “For the Palestinian Nation” arrived in Amman. Aid from liberation movements such as that in Vietnam flowed into Jordan. In Amman, the guerrillas maintained their own military checkpoints, newspapers and offices.

 

Hussein knew that the Palestinians would like to see him overthrown. After all, the British had artificially carved Jordan from historic Palestine after the First World War and his grandfather had annexed the West Bank in 1948. Most of Jordan’s population were Palestinian.

 

In November 1968 Hussein’s army opened fire on Palestinian offices in Amman and on three refugee camps. Several camp-dwellers were killed but the fedayeen repulsed the attack. Nasser in Egypt refused to condemn Hussein, claiming that he could not violate Jordanian “sovereignty”.

 

The incident and the role of the Arab states sparked a debate amongst the guerrilla organisations on the role of Arab governments in the Palestinian struggle. Fatah, the largest group, argued that the revolution could not publicly challenge the internal structure of the Arab states without losing its base of operations against israel. The two smaller and more left-wing organisations, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front (DFLP), argued that they had no choice but to challenge the Arab regimes (though the PFLP fudged the question of relations with progressive’ Arab regimes). Fatah, effectively, won the argument but the debate anticipated the major flaw in PLO strategy which would haunt it for the next fifteen years.

 

Meanwhile Hussein was preparing to smash the Palestinian guerrillas in Jordan. Nasser had already stabbed the Palestinians in the back by agreeing to the American “Rogers Plan”, which would give Egypt back territory it had lost to israel in the 1967 war, in return for Egyptian recognition of israel’s pre-1967 borders.

 

Then in September 1970 Hussein launched an all-out attack on the Palestinians. With much better weapons and dropping US-manufactured napalm from the skies, Hussein was able to subdue them. Not for the first time, the Palestinians found themselves at war with an Arab government.

 

Hussein was victorious but at a terrible price. Thousands of Palestinians were killed in the fighting, which dragged on for over a year. [13] Although Hussein destroyed their base in Jordan he by no means destroyed their organisation. But the scars would go very deep.

 

A new desperation penetrated the thinking of many of the young Palestinians. The range of forces marshalled against them encouraged the belief that even more extreme and even more heroic military actions would be necessary. Many Palestinians named the month of Hussein’s attack “Black September”. And a few formed a new organisation of that name dedicated to revenge – whatever the price. Assassinations, hijackings and hostage-taking became their hallmark.

 

While many of their actions may have done little to further the cause of Palestine and, indeed, contributed to the labelling of the Palestinians as “Terrorists” in the West, the fact remained that most Palestinians understood only too well what motivated the Black September group. They understood, too, that the scale of “terror” used by Palestinians could never match the terror used by the Zionists to hijack their entire country.

 

The Palestinian movement appeared to receive a massive boost from the oil boycott of 1973. The boycott shook the West and forced the Americans to again go through the motions of searching for a “peace settlement”. In 1974 Yasser Arafat, leader of the PLO, made his famous debut at the United Nations with a gun in one hand and an olive branch in the other. But this, while it may have symbolised world-wide recognition of the Palestinian case, by no means led to any concessions. The American “peace process” led to the Camp David Accords which, by bringing Egypt much closer to israel, considerably weakened the Palestinians yet further.

 

Meanwhile the real battleground had switched to the Lebanon. The story of the Lebanon is complex, but what concerns us here is how the Palestinians were again betrayed by an Arab power – this time Syria’s leader, Assad. Syria was by now presenting itself as the leader of radical Arab nationalism. In addition, Syria had past historical claims on the land of Lebanon and saw itself as the power-broker there.

 

In 1975 civil war raged between the Christian rightist forces, who had traditionally ruled Lebanon and the Lebanese Moslem Left.

 

The Palestinian guerrilla movement had moved its base to Lebanon in the early 1970s after Black September. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians had lived in Lebanon since their expulsion from israel – so it was a natural base. At first the Palestinians were not fully involved in the fighting. But soon they were forced to be.

 

A combination of the Lebanese left and the Palestinians proved very powerful. So powerful in fact that there was the prospect, as in Jordan six years earlier, of the Palestinians actually being part of a takeover of the country. Then in June 1976 Assad intervened. Tens of thousands of Syrian troops and hundreds of tanks poured across the border. Assad was no more willing to countenance a takeover in Lebanon than Hussein had been in Jordan.

 

The key battle was for the Palestinian camp at Tal al Zaatar. For 53 days the Syrian army joined the Christian Right in laying siege to the camp. [14] Yet again thousands of Palestinians were killed. “Black June” would join Black September as a further deadly confirmation that, in the end, the Arab regimes, Right or “Left”, would leave the Palestinians to fight alone, or worse would turn on them ferociously if they became too strong.

 

By 1982 Lebanon had become the arena for israel’s attempt to smash the Palestinians once and for all. At no time during israel’s invasion of Lebanon did a single Arab government provide sustained military assistance to the PLO.

 

 

 

Top of the page

 

 

Notes

 

1. Cited in Maxime Rodinson, israel and the Arabs (London 1982) p.338.

 

2. Cited in Weinstock, p.53.

 

3. Cited in Our Roots, p.47. The rest of this chapter draws heavily on this book.

 

4. Our Roots, p.48.

 

5. Our Roots, p.49.

 

6. Our Roots, p.75.

 

7. Our Roots, pp.80-81.

 

8. Our Roots, p.82.

 

9. Our Roots, p.101.

 

10. Our Roots, p.101.

 

11. The Times, 15 June 1969.

 

12. Our Roots, p.122.

 

13. Our Roots, pp.129-35.

 

14. Our Roots, pp.160-66.

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Zionism rules OK?

 

 

Life under the Conqueror on the West Bank and Gaza

 

During the 1967 war israel seized additional territories including the West Bank of the River Jordan and the Gaza Strip on the edge of the Mediterranean. It has now controlled these two areas for nearly twenty years. Some idea of what life is like for the Palestinians in what has become known as the occupied territories’ is given in vivid descriptions in Noam Chomsky’s The Fateful Triangle. [1] Some extracts are reproduced here:

 

The religious settlers in the West Bank, operating freely with army support, take pride in creating a pogrom-like atmosphere among the Arabs, who must be trained not to “raise their heads”, this being the only way to treat Arabs, who “adore power” and will live in peace with the Jews only when “we show him that we are strong”. How? “We enter a village, shoot a bit at windows, warn the villagers and return to the settlement. We don’t kidnap people, but it can happen that we catch a boy who had been throwing stones, take him back with us, beat him a bit and give him over to the Army to finish the job.” The same West Bank settler also explains how official investigators act to protect Jews who shoot to hit and kill (including firing at children) ...

 

The settlers are quite open about the measures they take towards Arabs and the justification for them, which they find in the religious law and the writings of the sages. In the journal of the religious West Bank settlers we find, for example, an article with the heading “Those among us who call for a humanistic attitude towards our [Arab] neighbours are reading the Halacha [religious law] selectively and are avoiding specific commandments”. The scholarly author cites passages from the Talmud explaining that God is sorry he created the Ishmaelites, and that Gentiles are “a people like a donkey”. The law concerning “conquered” peoples is explicit, he argues, quoting Maimonides on how they must “serve” their Jewish conquerors and be “degraded and low” and “must not raise their heads in israel but must be conquered beneath their hand ... with complete submission.” Only then may the conquerors treat them in a humane manner.

 

“There is no relation,” he claims, “between the law of israel [Torat Yisrael] and the atheistic modern humanism,” citing again Maimonides, who holds “that in a divinely-commanded war [milhemet mitzvah] one must destroy, kill and eliminate men, women and children” (the rabbinate has defined the Lebanon war as such a war). “The eternal principles do not change“, and “there is no place for any ‘humanistic’ considerations“’ We return to a further examination of this phenomenon, which has its counterparts throughout the Middle East region.

 

A recent device for protecting settlers who attack Arabs is to transfer all investigation of the illegal use of arms by settlers from police to the military. Settlers simply refuse to cooperate with police, who do not “dare question or arrest Jewish suspects”, even one “seen on television shooting directly into a crowd of demonstrating Arabs while soldiers stood behind him and were holding their fire” (the head of the district council of a Jewish settlement near Ramallah, in this case).

 

When Palestinians are beaten or detained by settlers, Arab policemen are afraid to intervene. “Palestinian lawyers say: the settlements are so formidable that the Arab police and courts never dare to serve a summons or make a search, leaving settlers beyond the law when it comes to conflicts with Arabs.” The general character of the occupation is indicated by an incident in an Arab village in March 1982. Four settlers claimed that a stone was thrown at their car in this village. They fired “into the air”, shooting one boy in the arm. Another boy was kidnapped, beaten, locked in the trunk of the car, taken to a Jewish settlement and locked in a room where he was beaten “on and off during most of the day”, then taken to the military government compound in Ramallah, where the boy was held while the settlers went on their way.

 

A standard bit of black humour in the occupied territories is that Arabs should stop flying and begin walking on the ground so they won’t be shot so often when settlers fire into the air.

 

Children and teenagers are often the main victims, since they are generally the ones involved in protests and demonstrations. Danny Tsidkoni reports from Gaza that informants in an Arab village told him that several very young children threw stones at a car driven by armed settlers, who broke the leg of one boy and the hand of one girl in “retaliation”. A soldier reports that 30 12-13 year-old children were lined up facing a wall with their hands up for five hours in Hebron one very cold night, kicked if they moved. He justified the punishment because they are not “all innocent lambs as they look now, with their hands up and their eyes asking pity ... They burn and they throw stones and participate in demonstrations, and they are not less harmful than their parents.”

 

The aged are also not spared. “For five days an elderly Arab woman has lain unconscious in a Jerusalem hospital after being brutally beaten in the small flat in which she lives with her husband in the Muslim quarter of the Old City.” She was attacked by religious Jews from a nearby Yeshiva (religious school) while her 85-year-old husband was praying in the Al Aqsa Masjid. He heard that Jewish settlers had killed his wife, rushed home, but could not enter his apartment because, he said, “the Jews were on the roof of our building hurling bricks and bottles”.

 

An Arab youth who tried to save the woman was also brutally beaten, and lies next door in the hospital. He “identifies his attackers as the Jewish zealots from the Yeshiva”. They “scarcely bothered to deny the attack”. When questioned about it, “an American zealot blandly talked of the need to cleanse the area of ‘terrorists’.”

 

The group “is known to the police as ‘the blessing of Abraham’, a Yeshiva comprised mostly of European and American-born Jews who have returned to their faith with a burning desire to reclaim land lost to the Arabs”. Several years ago they established the Yeshiva in an old Arab area; eighteen Arab families had since moved out, and this couple was the only one remaining as the “Jewish zealots” sought “to ‘redeem’ property that had once been inhabited by Jews as long ago as the 16th century“. The couple had rejected cash offers which were followed by threats of violence; “there is no doubt that those threats were carried out this week.”

 

The police arrested a few of the Jewish extremists but they are to be charged only with “riotous behaviour”. “The assault on Mrs Mayalleh and the fact that she and her husband are now homeless seemed to be accepted as a fait accompli by the police,” which is typical of the “indulgent attitude by authorities”. “The vicious attack scarcely rated a mention in the local press.”

 

The extensive reports of torture by Arab prisoners have generally been dismissed in the us, just as little notice is taken of reports of Palestinian refugees, or in general, of the travail and concerns of the Palestinians. Reports by prisoners or refugees of course have to be carefully evaluated; in particular, the conditions of transmission must be carefully considered, as well as the fact that they may have a stake in exaggerating or falsifying, or in suppressing the truth out of fear of their interrogators or guards. But surely such reports should be taken seriously. These remarks are truisms, characteristically disregarded in two cases: where refugees or prisoners have a tale to tell that is useful for ideological or propaganda purposes (e.g. atrocity reports about some enemy), in which case all caution is thrown to the winds; or where their stories reflect badly on some revered state, in which case they are disregarded.

 

In the case of Palestinian prisoners in israel, particular care has been taken to ensure that little is known here [in the US], though it has become more difficult over the years to meet this requirement. One interesting example was the unusually careful study conducted by the London Sunday Times Insight team which, after a lengthy investigation, found evidence of torture so widespread and systematic that “it appears to be sanctioned at some level as deliberate police”, perhaps “to persuade Arabs in occupied territories that it is least painful to behave passively”. The study was offered to the New York Times and Washington Post but rejected for publication and barely reported.

 

A study by the Swiss League for the Rights of Man (June 1977), presenting similar material, received no notice here. The same is true of the reports of torture by israeli journalists. Various israeli rebuttals were published though not, to my knowledge, the devastating Sunday Times response.

 

Amnesty International, incidentally, is not very popular in israel, at least since it published a rather mild and understated report on treatment of suspects and prisoners in 1979. An editorial in Ha’aretz, entitled Amnesty is at it again, commented that the organisation had “turned itself into a tool of Arab propaganda by publishing the document”, criticising among other things its reliance on the “distorted and malicious report” in the London Sunday Times.

 

The left-wing Mapam journal took a different tack. An editorial observed the “Experience tells us that it is extremely difficult to effectively defend oneself against terrorists or even ordinary criminals without bringing great pressure to bear on the suspects, in order to eventually bring them to trial at all,” and recommended that “constant vigilance” be exercised to determine that there are no “excesses” in the use of the required “great pressure”.

 

 

Notes

 

1. Chomsky, pp.123-32.

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Zionism or Socialism?

 

israel’s left-wing supporters in the West continue to insist that all israel wants is peace and recognition by its Arab neighbours. They might agree that something called Palestinian “national rights” do exist and even that a Palestine state on the israeli-occupied West Bank of the Jordan is “acceptable” – though under some form of “israeli-Jordanian” supervision. However in this they are woefully out of date and out of touch. The israeli leadership (Labour or Likud) has not the slightest intention of conceding even this inadequate “compromise”.

 

In fact it is doubtful whether “peaceful coexistence” with their Arab neighbours was ever the intention of the Zionist leadership. How could it be, when the very foundation of the israeli state rested upon stolen Arab land?

 

Maxime Rodinson, in his classic study israel and the Arabs, has given an evocative account from the 1950s of which this is so. Such a settlement, he argues, “would have been the end of Zionism”.

 

An israel recognised ... admitting a certain number of Arab refugees to her breast, abandoning some of her conquests, conforming to the decisions of the UN ... would have meant the extinction of a proud dream of reviving the kingdom of David and Solomon, bridgehead of the Jewish Diaspora, able to call on the aid of the whole of the world Jewry for its defence and ultimate victory. The “normal” progress of events was fatal for Zionist israel ... Once the external danger disappeared, Messianic fervour would decline. The pioneer spirit was in jeopardy ...

 

Zionist israel throve on a bellicose atmosphere and the threat of danger. [1]

 

These sentiments are enshrined in israel’s Law of Return which endows automatic israeli citizenship upon any Jew from any country who wants to live in israel. All non-Jews are excluded – especially the former Palestinian inhabitants. (It’s worth adding that the vast majority of the world’s Jewish community has chosen not to take up the offer. The Jewish population of New York State alone is larger than israel’s entire Jewish population.)

 

Menon Benvenisti, a former deputy Mayor of Jerusalem and a widely recognised authority inside israel on the fate of the occupied West Bank, has argued conclusively in a number of reports that israel has not the slightest intention of withdrawing to pre-1967 borders. His studies have found that the government, under various ruses, has already taken over half the territory, outside Jerusalem, for planned Jewish settlements. Under the Labour-Likud coalition government the rate of settlement has increased.

 

In his book Heritage: Civilisation and the Jews, Abba Eban, a leading Labour politician in israel, has included a map with the title israel Today – which shows the West Bank already integrated into the israeli state.

 

Furthermore us and israeli university surveys of israeli opinion confirm that more than half the israeli population welcome Zionist settlement on the West Bank. Perhaps most strikingly of all, only I per cent favour a political settlement with the Palestinians by withdrawal to pre-1967 borders. [2]

 

This implies the existence of a colon mentality amongst the mass of israelis – not dissimilar to that of White Rhodesians “under siege” from black Zimbabweans in the 1970s, the French in Algeria “under siege” from Algerian Arabs in the 1960s, the Afrikaaners “under siege” from blacks in South Africa today. A damning indictment of this mentality was revealed by Yoel Marcus in Ha’aretz shortly after the blood-letting in Lebanon:

 

In the matter of Sabra and Shatila – a large part of the community, perhaps a majority, is not at all troubled by the massacre itself. Killing of Arabs in general, and Palestinians in particular, is quite popular, or at least “doesn’t bother anyone”, in the words of the youth these days. Ever since the massacre I have been surprised more than once to hear from educated, enlightened people, “the conscience of Tel Aviv”, the view that the massacre itself, as a step towards removing the remaining Palestinians from Lebanon, is not terrible. It is just too bad that we were in the neighbourhood. [3]

 

Yoran Peri, once adviser to former Labour prime minister Rabin, pronounced peaceful coexistence well and truly dead in October 1982 after the Lebanon invasion, in an important article in the Labour paper Davar entitled From Co-existence to Hegemony. [4] As the title implies, Peri argued that the destruction of the PLO in Lebanon was about asserting Zionist hegemony in the region and nothing less.

 

Everyone knows that the PLO carry the support of the overwhelming majority of Palestinians, both on the West Bank and throughout the Middle East. The israelis have no intention of negotiating with the PLO. They want it wiped off the face of the earth.

 

But today the PLO have a tremendous problem. Their strategy of “the Gun and the Olive Branch” is in ruins. “The Gun” – armed struggle by the Palestinians alone – cannot defeat israel and, more important, is useless in the hands of all of the Arab states put together. They can neither “diplomatically” deal with israel, and they don’t have the will for a military struggle.

 

The old argument in the Fedayeen guerrilla camps of Jordan in the late 1960s was resolved in the wrong direction. The present Arab regimes do block the Palestinian revolution. It cannot succeed until they too have been overthrown.

 

It is israel’s claim for hegemony in the region that points to an alternative strategy. Certainly, armed revolution remains the key. But only an armed revolution that involves the mass of the Arab population, workers and peasants, across that region, rising against Zionism and against the rotten regimes in their own countries, holds any serious prospects of success.

 

Such a vision is by no means far-fetched. As US Secretary of State Schultz remarked in April 1986: “History teaches us that nations in deep economic distress are more vulnerable to political instability ...” The ruling classes of the world know the dangers of rising expectations first stimulated by the oil revenues, then dashed by their subsequent demise. It was just such a revolution of rising expectations that brought the Shah of Iran tumbling down – although there the Left, by failing to relate to the workers in that revolution, allowed the religious fundamentalists to take it over.

 

The countries of the Middle East are far from stable, as this account from Egypt early in 1986 shows:

 

“We are waiting for something every day,” says a student in the left-wing Tagammu alliance, “it could start with food riots, with a strike, with protests over housing, transport – anything. But we are sure it will come like a great explosion.”

 

The economic crisis is so profound that President Mubarak must feel he is in the middle of a nightmare. In the past three months the four pillars of Egypt’s economy have shown signs of collapse.

 

Oil: The fall in the oil price means that earnings this year will decline by at least 50 per cent.

 

Tourism: The police riots which destroyed the hotels of Cairo in February, plus the effects of the “anti-terror”, “anti-Arab” campaign in the West, means that tourist bookings will fall.

 

Suez Canal: The recession in the oil economies of the Gulf means less traffic through the canal and a 50 per cent drop in receipts.

 

Remittances: The contracting Gulf economies are no longer providing work for millions of Egyptians, and workers’ remittances – recently Egypt’s biggest source of foreign currency – may fall 75 per cent.

 

By 1982 it was estimated that there were between three and four million Egyptians abroad ... Since the mid-1970s, almost every Egyptian family has sent some of its male members abroad. There is scarcely a village in the whole country which does not boast the new red brick houses, Peugeot taxis or East European tractors bought with money earned abroad.

 

So frustrated Egyptians ... return to a country in which there is deep resentment of the corruption, privilege and conspicuous consumption of the elite.

 

In 1977 strikes and demonstrations were successful in removing price rises within hours. There are signs today that Egypt’s workers are regaining their self-confidence. [5]

 

The American bombing of Libya, and the complicity in this of Britain and israel, are signs of the weakness of the world economic and political order rather than strength. American power has waned in the world. Many of its tin-pot dictatorships have been overthrown. Even the apartheid regime of South Africa knows it cannot now rely on US support – because the strength of black resistance is so powerful. Apart from Britain, Europe’s rulers opposed the Libyan adventure – because it might inflame the Middle East rather than suppress it.

 

Indeed it might. Egypt’s police riot may be the signal of much deeper convulsions in a country which had traditionally served as the spearhead for the Arab national liberation movement. Oil money has changed the face of the Middle East. It is now a much more industrialised region. There are more workers in Arab countries than ever before. Their expectations have been aroused. The recession, combined with us aggression and the bloody posturing of the Zionist state, may indeed awaken powerful new social and political forces which seek to complete the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist revolutions of the past – but a movement which can only succeed if a new working-class socialist politics can find a voice.

 

Meanwhile Zionism will continue to exploit those fears of anti-semitism which are its life-blood and which have so successfully divided the Left in the West. By so doing, it will prove itself even more durable as America’s military watchdog.

 

Abram Leon was a Jewish leader of the illegal revolutionary socialist movement in Belgium during the wartime Nazi occupation. On the eve of the war he completed researches and wrote The Jewish Question – a manuscript attempting the first thorough Marxist analysis of Jewish history. Leon was to pay the price for being both a Jew and a socialist. On both counts he was a target for the Nazis. He was arrested by the Gestapo and gassed to death in Auschwitz.

 

Leon’s book is today recognised as the authority on the Jewish question by both Jewish and non-Jewish opponents of Zionism. His analysis is sharpened by his own previously deeply-held Zionist commitment and his personal struggle to understand and overcome it. His analysis brilliantly anticipated, and warned against, the role of Jews transformed into Zionists and then “brokers” for British and American imperialism in the Middle East: “Using the Jews as a counterweight to the Arab threat”, as he put it. [6]

 

As Leon points out, it was exactly the Jewish role of broker or “middleman” in nineteenth-century Poland and Russia that provides the key to understanding the roots of modern anti-semitism.

 

But there is nothing inevitable about the Jews playing this role in the Middle East. In a famous passage Karl Marx described how circumstances trap human beings in conditions not of their own making – but how human beings also have the capacity to transform those conditions. The global crisis of imperialism that has put Arab and Jew in their respective positions is historical in origin. It can be resolved only by destroying the economic basis of imperialism itself.

 

And that means socialist revolution – led in the Middle East by the Arab working class, liberating Palestine, creating a socialist republic with full rights for Jews and all national minorities.

 

Would such a society genuinely welcome the Jews? It would surely be a much safer place than modern israel, which, far from providing a haven, is the only area in the world where Jews have to surround themselves with barbed wire and machine-guns.

 

An older Jewish political tradition once drew strength and inspiration from their past; from their faith it drew a sense of universality and respect for learning; from their history as a dispersed people it drew an internationalist outlook; from their history as a persecuted people it drew a respect and sensitivity for all other oppressed peoples. That tradition has survived despite Zionism’s efforts to suffocate it. And that tradition would indeed be welcome in a socialist Palestine.

 

 

Notes

 

1. Rodinson, p.62.

 

2. Chomsky, p.454.

 

3. Quoted in Chomsky, p.395.

 

4. Davar, 1 October 1982.

 

5. Phil Marshall, writing in Socialist Worker Review, June 1986.

 

6. Abram Leon, The Jewish Question (New York 1970), p.251.

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israeli Propaganda & The Truth

 

Courtesy Of: (you are not allowed to post links yet)"you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_you are not allowed to post links yetjerusalemites(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/articles/english/5.htm"]Jerusalemites[/url]

 

The following is an israeli propaganda leaflet. It was distributed in Europe in waiting rooms

in hospitals, doctor clinics, train stations and places where people can read.

 

Here you have the truth!!

 

Facts about israel and Palestinians

 

1. Nationhood and Jerusalem. israel became a nation in 1312 B.C.E., two thousand years

before the rise of Islam.

 

TRUTH: Palestine was a nation 3,000 B.C.E, i.e. two thousand years before the habirus

(israeli wanderers infiltrated into parts of Palestine, the land of Canaan, the land of milk and

honey with Jerusalem ( Uru-salem) as the capital of the Jebsites who founded it 5000 years

ago and gave it its name. It is the eternal capital of the Palestinian people and has been so,

throughout the ages until the Zionist invasions of 1947-48 and 1967.

 

If any proof is needed, all you have to do is to read the Bible and it will tell you exactly what

we stated above. We revere David the Prophet as Muslims and Christians even more than

do the Jews who regard him as a King-warrior. But even then, the Bible itself will tell you

that David invaded militarily Jebusite Jerusalem, and with utmost difficulty was able to

occupy a hill in Jerusalem near the present David tower. The seat of the city remained

Jebusite-Canaanite and Palestine.

 

2. Arab refugees in israel began identifying themselves as part of a Palestinian people in

1967, two decades after the establishment of the Modern State of israel

 

TRUTH: Arab refugees are the Palestinian people, the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine

since time immemorial, who were forcibly expelled from their homeland in Palestine, at the

point of the bayonet in 1947-1948. The israeli terrorist organization-the Hagana, the Irgun

Zvai Leuni and Stern committed acts of unspeakable massacres, Deer Yassain village

being only one in scores who were put to the sword. The Jewish State as exists today sits on

the ruins of 450 Palestinian villages destroyed, scores of towns and cities usurped

including West Jerusalem, Jaffa, Lod, Ramleh, Safad, Acre, Ashkalon, Beer Sheba and

many others. There are today in refugee camps in Palestine and throughout the Middle

East four million Palestinians whose inalienable right of return to Palestine is recognized

by the United Nations and the whole world.

 

3. Since the Jewish conquest in 1272 B.C.E. the Jews have had dominion over the land for

one thousand years with a continuous presence in the land for the past 3,300 years.

TRUTH: For the past 2000 years and not before the beginning of the 20th century, no Jews

lived in Palestine after their expulsion by the Romans. It is a flagrant lie to claim as the

israelis do, that they had a continuous presence in Palestine over the past 2000 years.

Because none existed

 

4. The only Arab dominion since the conquest in 635 C.E. lasted no more than 22 years.

 

TRUTH: Arab domination in Palestine has been for 5000 years and not 22 years as the

israelis unabashedly claim under various names and denominations. Beginning with the

Canaanites, they continued uninterruptedly to be the inhabitants of Palestine as part of the

great Syriac civilization in which the Jewish presence was a mere fossil, as professor

Toybee attests. The Arab conquest of 635 a.d was but one chapter followed by five Arab

and Islamic Empires, the Umayyad, the Abbassid, the Fatimid, the Ayubid, the Mameluk,

the Ottoman and lastly the British 1917-1948. Throughout all those continues Palestine was

Palestinian Arab- both Muslim and Christian with a mere handful of Jews not exceeding a

few hundred

 

5. For over 3,300 years, Jerusalem has been the Jewish capital.

 

TRUTH: For over 5000 years Jerusalem has been the capital of Palestine within larger

Arab-Islamic conglomerates, but no Jewish presence until 1947-1948.

It was the capital of British mandated Palestine with its overwhelming Palestinian majority

until 1948, when the Jews usurped the land.

 

6- Jerusalem has never been the capital of any Arab or Muslim entity. Even when the

Jordanians occupied Jerusalem, they never sought to make it their capital, and Arab

leaders never came to visit Jerusalem as a place of worship.

TRUTH: Jerusalem, in the Arab, Islamic and Christian heritage has been for too important

spiritually to be a mere capital. Even then, it was the great caliphs of Islam, foremost of

whom was the great Caliph Omar 14 centuries ago.

 

7- Jerusalem is mentioned over 700 times in Tanach, the Jewish Holy Scriptures.

Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Koran.

 

TRUTH: Jerusalem is mentioned in the Quran as the abode of the Aqsa Masjid and the

Dome of the Rock. It was the first Qibla in Islam to which the Muslim faithful turned then

faces in prayer even before Mecca. It was also the spot from which the Prophet Muhammad

made his natural journey to Heaven, to pray with all the other Prophets of God, in one of the

greatest ecumenical episodes in the history of mankind. And of course it is the most

revered to the Christian Palestinians who share with their Muslim brethren the eternal love

for Jerusalem and Palestine and a determination to return to their usurped homes and

homeland.

 

8- Arab and Jewish Refugees :In 1948 the Arab refugees were encouraged to leave israel

by Arab leaders promising purge the land of Jews. Sixty-eight percent left without ever

seeing an israeli soldier.

TRUTH: It is acknowledged by the whole world that the Palestinian refugees were expelled

from their ancestral homeland, by israeli acts of genocide, of which the Deer Yassin massacre

was but one. It is a blatant lie to suggest that they left at the urging of Arab governments.

 

On the other hand, the Jewish agency conspired to terrorize the Jewish communities to

leave their homelands in Arab countries by all means possible, fair and foul.

Today, the Arab countries are telling their former Jewish citizens that they are welcomed

back anytime.

 

The israeli authorities are denying the repatriation of a single Palestinian refugee.

 

9- The Jewish refugees were forced to flee from Arab lands due to Arab brutality,

persecution and pogroms.

 

TRUTH: The Jewish refugees themselves would not want to integrate in any country other than

their own for wanting to return to their Terra Santa?

 

10- The Arab-israeli Conflict: The Arabs are represented by eight separate nations, not

including the Palestinians. There is only one Jewish nation. The Arab nations initiated all

five wars and lost. israel defended itself each time and won

TRUTH: Concerning the Arab israeli conflict. The Arabs are 22 countries and one nation

numbering (300) million people. The Jews are not a nation but a religion. Would an

American Jew, a British Jew, a French Jew and other Jews accept to be called a Jewish

nation? Are they willing to renounce their presents nationalities? Will they accept to live in

a Jewish theocracy? Let us ask them!

 

The Arab nations did not initiate any of the five wars. They were their victims. In 1947-48 the

Jewish terrorist organizations drove the Palestinian people by terror from their homeland.

Arab countries belatedly sent small contingents to save their remnants in the West Bank and

Gaza Strip.

 

In 1956, israel invaded Egypt in collusion with the then British and French governments.

 

On June 5, 1967 israel launched an air attack on Egypt followed by an invasion in the

course of which it occupied the West Bank including Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and

Sinai. 1973 was the only war that Egypt and Syria launched, in order to liberate their

occupied territories in Sinai and the Golan Heights.

 

The Palestinian people have been struggling for decades to liberate their occupied

Palestinian territories including occupied Jerusalem.

 

In 1978 and 1982 israeli forces invaded Lebanon and remained in occupation of its south

for 22 years when they were forced to withdraw by the brave resistance of the Lebanese

people.

 

11- The PLO’s Charter still calls for the destruction of the State of israel. israel has given the

Palestinians most of the West Bank land, autonomy under the Palestinian Authority, and

has supplied them with weapons.

TRUTH: The Palestinian authority has agreed to a two-state solution: a Palestinian state

and an israeli state, with Jerusalem as the capital of both. The present onslaught on the

Palestinian people and authority is Sharon’s genocidal response to this solution. Palestine

is entitled to sovereign independence not tutelage under israel; and the whole of the

territories occupied in 1967 and not part of, or most of. Occupation must never be

rewarded.

 

12- Of the 690 General Assembly resolutions voted on before 1990, 429 were directed

against israel.

 

TRUTH: UN records are replete with security council resolutions (243) up to this date,

against israel because of its aggressions, occupations and violations of human rights.

Similarly the close to 700 general assembly resolutions. israel never complied with a single

one of them. Is it above the law?

 

13- The U.N. was silent, while the Jordanians destroyed 58 Synagogues in Jerusalem.

TRUTH: Jordan never destroyed “58†synagogues in Jerusalem because they never existed

except for two: the big synagogue and the small one, which were damaged in the fighting

when israel attacked Arab Jerusalem on May 15, 1948, as were many churches and

Masjids including Al-Aqsa Masjid.

 

14- The U.N. was silent while the Jordanians systematically desecrated the ancient Jewish

cemetery on the Mount of Olives.

TRUTH: It is totally untrue to claim, as the israeli's do, that the Jordanian's systematically

desecrated the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives. Some citizens in the area

may have taken some stones without the knowledge or consent of government. But the

cemetery remained up to this day in tact.

 

This is so while israeli authorities between 1948 and today have completely destroyed and

not simply desecrated hundreds of ancient Muslim and Christian cemeteries throughout

Palestine.

 

Incidentally the Mount of Olives cemetery is an Islamic Waqf land leased to the israelis 100

years ago. The lease has lapsed.

 

15- The U.N. was silent while the Jordanians enforced an apartheid-like policy of preventing

Jews from visiting the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.

TRUTH: The Jordanians prevented the Jews from visiting the wailing wall only because the

israelis in spite of the armistice agreement of 1949 refused to repatriate the citizens of

Jerusalem to their homes in west Jerusalem, a mere few hundred yards. The israelis also

refused to reopen the Jerusalem Bethlehem road, refused to restore water and electricity

to the remaining Arab quarters and adamantly resisted the will of the international

community. They continue to resist it today as the occupation of Palestinian cities shows

and the massacre of thousands of Palestinians, while the world watches in horror.

 

Wassalam,

Yasnov

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