The following statement was agreed and signed by an Arab and an Israeli organizations two days before war broke out. The statement analyses the entire problem, and both signatory parties stand firm by their analysis and principled solution irrespective of the outcome of the military campaign. The signatory parties are opposed to the official policies of their nationalist leaders, and are not favoured by current public opinion among their own peoples. But their existence proves that nor everyone in the Middle East is sick with the nationalist fever.
The Israeli Socialist Organization is an Israeli group, with a Jewish-Arab membership, operating legally in Israel and publishing a small newspaper. The Palestinian Democratic Front is a clandestine group of Palestinians operating inside Jordan. The groups have had contact in the past few years, and decided to publish this statement openly at this time, so that the bridges of understanding between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East will not be irreparably damaged by the present crisis.
This statement was made possible by the Bertrand Russel Peace Foundation, and was published in The Times on June 8, 1967, and in duplicated form by the Bertrand Russel Peace Foundation, on June 3, 1967.
The situation in the Middle East is explosive. A cruel war is breaking out. There is no doubt that this war will destroy many lives, but little hope that it will bring a political solution any nearer.
In the last minutes before the Middle East is drowned in its third bloodbath in 20 years, we, Jews and Arabs, representing two political organizations, Israeli and Palestinian, met under the auspices of the Bertrand Russel Peace Foundation, discussed the present crisis, analysed its history, propose a solution and make the following declaration.
The new generation all over the world is fed up with racist and nationalist ideologies, politics and strife. Too many times in recent years these policies have drenched whole areas of the world in futile, bloody wars, demonstrating to a disgusted humanity their inherent inability to solve the problem which their very existence creates. India and Pakistan, Greece and Turkey, Iraq and Kurdistan, Israel and the Arab states all provide examples of conflict situations which, however differing in political background, have one thing in common: the underlying political realities are swamped in a torrent of competing nationalisms. The only result such policies ever achieve is to turn persecutor into persecuted, oppressor into oppressed.
This new generation struggles to free itself from institutions and ideas imposed on it by a bloody past. It aspires to rid itself once and for all from policies and systems that have outlived their time, are unable to cope with the realities of the space age, and create a torture chamber for mankind. It watches with disgust the hysterical racialism and nationalism that is manipulated by the propaganda machines of all parties in the Middle East.
The present crisis is a phase in one of the most complex political problems of our times. Apart from its complexity, it is a situation where the heritage of the past greatly influences the present issues. Nevertheless the historical realities are being ignored by those who stand to gain most from the crisis. An analysis of the history of the situation will expose the gigantic hoax which the emotion manipulators and moral blackmailers are trying to impose on their own people and on the world.
The Israeli-Arab conflict is the continuation in a new form of the “Palestine problem“. The “Palestine problem” is the conflict between political Zionism and the Palestinian Arabs. It is the result of the dispossession of the indigenous population of Palestine by Zionist colonisation. It has nothing to do with the age old problem of anti-Semitism, except that Zionism was a product of European anti-Semitism. Anti-Jewish attitudes were virtually unknown in the Arab world, where large Jewish communities prospered for centuries.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the Jews were driven to desperation by persecution in Europe. Political Zionism, accepting anti-Semitism as a natural, eternal quality in human nature, proposed to solve the problem by creating a national state for the Jews in Palestine. But Palestine was already populated by 700,000 Palestinians, some probably descendants of the ancient Hebrews. In 1900 the Jews constituted less than 10 per cent of the population and owned less than 10 per cent of the land in Palestine. The Palestinians too aspired to political independence in their homeland.
The struggle of the Palestinians was naturally directed against their foreign rulers, first the Ottoman Empire, then the British. The Zionist leaders, realising they could not achieve their objective if Palestine became independent before it had a Jewish majority, chose to further their interests by aligning themselves with the foreign rulers. Between the two World Wars, the British supported whichever side could contribute most to their interests. Political Zionism gradually developed a closed Jewish society and economy in Palestine, excluding ‒ on principle ‒ the Palestinian Arabs. The Palestinian socio-economic structure became deformed. The Arab peasants lost their land because their feudal landlords sold it for artificially high prices to the Zionist institutions. The disinherited and unemployed masses fell prey to corrupted religious leaders like Haj Amin el Husseini, who spent the [second world] war with Hitler.
In the thirties, the rise of fascism in Europe brought new waves of Jewish immigrants into Palestine. Then, in 1936, the general strike or the Palestinian Arabs sparked off the Palestinian rebellion, which was cheated by the Arab rulers and finally defeated by the British Army in 1939. As a result of this defeat, political Zionism and British imperialism were left as the only two combatants in the arena.
The Nazi regime introduced a totally new factor into the situation. The planned, industrialized, racial extermination of 6,000,000 Jews shocked many people all over the world, who were unaware of the realities in Palestine, into the conclusion that the Jews must be granted political independence in Palestine. At the end of the war the Jewish community in Palestine, strengthened morally by world sympathy and militarily by participation in the fight against fascism, began its own struggle against the British.
All this culminated in the Palestine Partition resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations, on 29 November, 1947. Two states were to be established ‒ one for the Palestinian Arabs, the other for the Jewish community in Palestine.
The British “Labour” Government of the day tried to create chaos in Palestine so as to invalidate the resolution. In a secret meeting in Bludan (Syria) Major I. C. Clayton, the liaison officer between the Arab League and the Foreign Office, planned and organised the invasion of Palestine by the armies of Farouk, Nuri-Said and Abdallah. The Jews were forced to fight not just for independence, but for survival. President Nasser was an officer in this war. In his book “The Philosophy of the Revolution” he describes how he felt the war to be an imperialist plot, designed to subdue the struggle against the Farouk and Nuri-Said regimes and, at the same time, to bring the British back into Palestine in the role of pacifier. President Nasser had friendly talks with Israeli soldiers, such as Yigal Allon, inquiring how they managed to get rid of British imperialism. The U.S.S.R., probably because of its anti-imperialist policy, supported the partition resolution. Czechoslovakia supplied the arms with which imperialism was defeated. It was not “the Arabs” who were defeated in 1948, but the policies of British imperialism manipulating the armies of the feudal monarchies of Farouk, Abdallah and Abd el-Ilah.
But the 1948 war was turned from a defensive act into an aggressive one when Ben-Gurion, after secret negotiations through Colonel Dayan and Golda Meir, approved by the British Foreign Office, concluded a secret agreement with King Abdallah of Trans-Jordan in 1949, by which each of them annexed half of the territory allotted to the Palestinian Arabs by the U.N. The U.N. resolution was thus violated not only by the British government and its Arab puppets, but also by the Ben-Gurion government. The Palestinian Arabs became the real victims of a war in which they hardly participated. They lost their land, property, honour and independence. They were dispersed into the Gaza strip, Jordan and Israel. Ever since they have lived a wretched life as refugees in camps around Israel, as second rate citizens inside Israel, as betrayed people in Jordan, refusing to give up hope, victims of the plot compounded by the British, the Israeli leaders and the Arab monarchies to rob them of their rights.
Having forsaken U.N. recognition of their borders, Ben-Gurion and Abdallah looked for some international power to sanctify the accomplished tact of carving up Arab Palestine. Sure enough, Britain, France and the U.S. gave their blessing to this new situation, henceforth to be known as the “status quo”, in the Tri-Partite Declaration of 26 May, 1950. This declaration, explicitly sanctifying a violation of a U.N. resolution, was never recognised by any Arab government. Its authority rests entirely on imperialist power. Through this declaration, the “friendly enemies” Ben-Gurion and Abdallah, became dependent on the Western Powers for their territorial integrity. This state of affairs persists to this very day and underlines the whole problem and the present crisis.
The first Arab leader to recognise the Partition Resolution of the U.N. was President Nasser himself. It was he who formulated the Palestine Resolution at the historic Conference of Afro-Asian states in Bandung, in April 1955, which states:
“Owing to the tension in the Middle Fast, which results from the Palestine problem, and the fact that this situation endangers world peace, the Conference of the Afro-Asian States expresses its full support for the rights of the Palestinian Arabs, and calls for the implementation of the U.N. resolutions on Palestine, demanding a solution by peaceful means.”
Ben-Gurion rejected this offer publicly because it contradicted the territorial annexations. His policy then and since was founded on principle of accomplished facts sustained by force. Later, through co-operation with J.F. Dulles’s pact making policies in the area, he tried to force acceptance of the “status quo” on the Arab states. Moreover, a state practising Jewish superiority in Palestine was boycotted by, and isolated from, the entire Arab world. Being economically unviable it became completely dependent on Western economic and political support. On the eve of the Suez campaign, President Nasser, sensing what awaited him, tacitly agreed to accept the “status quo”, after secret contacts in Malta and Rome. But Ben-Gurion preferred to spearhead the Eden-Mollet aggression, and supply the pretext for the “peacemaking” role of the Anglo-French invasion.
After this invasion even tacit agreement with Ben-Gurion became impossible.
Two weeks ago, President Nasser, undoing the last remnant of the Suez aggression, an accomplished fact which Ben-Gurion and US imperial power imposed on him for ten years, implemented his legal rights in the straits of Tiran. This caused an uproar in Israel, not so much because of the economic aspect, but because this deed undermines the entire philosophy of the “accomplished fact” policy. If one such fact can be undone, what about the others? What about the territorial status quo itself? Especially now, when [British prime minister] Wilson and [French president] de Gaulle consider their commitments under the Tri-Partite Declaration of 1950 no longer binding; and [US president] Johnson refuses to sacrifice his interests for the sake of a government which, by its own internal logic, cannot choose to serve anyone but him. Are accomplished facts, implemented by force, preferable to mutual agreement?
The Palestinians, whom Ben-Gurion and Hussein consigned to oblivion, saw their hope to become free people in their land nearer to realisation through Egyptian military power. They expected Nasser, the recognised leader of the anti-imperialist struggle in the Arab world, to topple the weakened Hussein, their arch oppressor and betrayer, and take up their cause. Until 29 May, Nasser, Cairo Radio and all the Egyptian propaganda apparatus viciously attacked Hussein, denounced his Premier as a C.l.A. agent and led the Palestinians to believe that they would re-establish their independence in Palestine. The corrupt Palestinian nationalist politician, Shukairy, declared: “Hussein is a puppet of world imperialism, in order to liberate Palestine we must first overthrow Hussein.”
Then, in a sudden and dramatic betrayal of the Palestinians, Nasser signed a pact with Hussein, gave “his Arab brother” a kiss of life in front of the T.V. cameras, and saved this feudal monarch and imperialist puppet in the most dangerous moment of his career. This racialist Shukairy, who only a few days earlier had screamed: “There will be no Jewish survivors in the Holy War of liberating Palestine”, was a party to this opportunist pact. Simultaneously, Nasser offered a similar deal to Faisal, the well known pro-imperialist feudal ruler of Saudi Arabia. In the past it was always Ben-Gurion and the British who saved Hussein’s throne: suddenly it is Nasser.
Just as the official Israeli policies offer no salvation to the Jews of Israel, Nasser’s and Shukairy’s policies offer no salvation to the Palestinian Arabs. Once again national leaders have shown how cynically they exploit the interests of the people for their own purposes, but sell them out in their power deals. The present crisis illuminates in harsh light the futility of the nationalists of both sides. The Israeli leadership refuses to realise that the days of “accomplished facts” are over. As for the nationalist leadership of the Palestinians, their kiss of life to Hussein is a kiss of death to themselves. The present leaders of both sides cannot bury the issue because it is too much alive, and they cannot solve it because they suffer incurably from nineteenth century nationalism, because they are emotionally conditioned by territorial and national issues and majority-minority complexes. In Palestine it is not territory which must be liberated or defended: but the minds of the people which must be liberated from racialism and defended against nationalism. Only when the people liberate their minds from their own prejudices and misconceptions will they liberate themselves from the grip of rulers who drag them from one nationalist war to the next.
The Palestine problem has two fundamental political aspects: that of re-establishing the rights of the Palestinian Arabs; and that of integrating the Israelis into the political structure of the Middle East. These hard political issues have for years been submerged by nationalism. The Arab nationalist leaders pretend to have a solution to the first aspect; they do not even claim one for the second. But even their “solution” to the first problem is based not on political concepts but on policies of war, subjugation, and racial extermination. The shallowness of their policies is now being disguised by a hysterical outburst of racialist emotion, which is as dangerous to those that feel it as to those against whom it is directed.
Moreover, since no human being with dignity can tolerate a policy of wiping out an entire population, as Nasser and Shukairy have recently declared, Wilson and Johnson can enshrine their interventionist policies with an aura of righteousness, and rally to their support even those who oppose their Vietnam policies. Even worse, this racialist propaganda provides the leaders of Israel with their most powerful moral weapon, silencing every internal criticism, consolidating the entire population behind the “national leadership”, and mobilising the support of multitudes of honest people all over the world to their side. The incontrovertible moral rightness of the cause of the Palestinian Arabs has been sacrificed once more, this time on the altar of racialist mumbo-jumbo, and the unholy “alliance” between the nationalists and the feudalists. Faced with the present crisis and the mass hysteria with which it has been invested, we say to the present leaders of both sides:
To the Israeli leaders: Do not take military initiative against any Arab state. Even a decisive military victory will not solve your problem but only aggravate it and postpone any possible solution. It is not the Arab armies which you have to face but the entire population of the Arab world. If you want free passage through the straits of Tiran ‒ negotiate with Egypt and not with the U.S.A.
No military or political power can ensure, for long, free passage in Tiran if an Egyptian government refuses to grant it. No government will surrender such rights under threats of force. It is Ben-Gurion, and his Suez policy, not Nasser, that you should blame for this fiasco.
Instead of threatening “to go it alone” militarily, try a policy of political independence from the U.S.A. Show readiness to re-discuss the Palestine problem, the “status-quo”, and the refugee issue. In the historical context of the Middle East it is Israel that must take the initiative in making concessions to the Palestinians, and not the other way round. State that you recognise in principle the human and political rights of the Palestinian Arabs. Recognise that Zionism has outlived its declared purpose, that Israel has become not a refuge but the most dangerous place in the world for Jews to live in.
To President Nasser: Show by words and acts that you are ready to negotiate innocent passage in Tiran if Israel shows readiness to re-discuss its policies towards the Palestinians, the Western powers and the Arab states. Stop immediately all racialist propaganda, all talk of “destroying Israel” and “total war to liberate Palestine”. Suggest a political solution to the Palestine problem that recognises the political rights of the Israelis in Palestine.
If a war with Israel will aim to destroy the people or their state as a political entity, all Israelis will fight for survival, and every person with human dignity in the world, whatever his views on the wrongs which political Zionism has inflicted on the Palestinians, will actively oppose such destruction and such declared aims. The world cannot tolerate rulers who wish to destroy entire states.
Moreover, the struggle of the Israeli population to preserve its political identity will continue even after an Arab victory, just as the struggle of the Palestinian population to preserve its political identity will continue after an Israeli victory.
The steps mentioned above can be taken by those who are in power now to cool the crisis before it breaks into another war. They will not solve the underlying political problems. As we have said, the Palestine problem has two main political aspects:
That of re-establishing the rights of the Palestinians, and that of integrating the Israelis into the Arab-East. The Arab nationalist leaders pretend to have a solution to the first (“Liberation of Palestine”), they do not even claim a solution to the second. The Zionist leaders of Israel pretend to have a solution to the second (“preserve the status-quo”), they do not even claim one for the first.
However, only a solution which simultaneously resolves both aspects of the problem can provide a viable, stable solution.
We herewith state our solution, which satisfies this fundamental requirement:
- Israel must undergo a deep, revolutionary, transformation and become a normal state of its own inhabitants. The Zionist power structure and all elements of Jewish supremacy must be abolished totally. This must be achieved only through internal joint struggle of all non-Zionists inside Israel who wish to integrate this state in the Middle East.
- This, non-Zionist Israel will repatriate the Palestinian refugees who wish to return, and fully compensate those who prefer not to return for their property, land and suffering. It will declare its readiness to make territorial concessions to the Palestinians, and help them to establish an independent Palestinian state should they wish to do so.
- Whether the Palestinians establish their state or, for the sake of unity, do not, the new, transformed, non-Zionist Israel will pursue a policy of merging the Israelis and Palestinians in a federal, non-nationalist, socialist state, wherein Jews and Arabs will enjoy full civil rights and cultural freedom.
- This federal state will participate in the process of political and economic unification of the entire Middle East.
The implementation of these principles will necessarily depend on actual circumstances, but we herewith solemnly declare that under no circumstances shall we allow measures of national discrimination or racial supremacy to be re-introduced.
Frankly, we do not expect these changes can be brought about by the nationalist parties any more than by the feudal monarchies. Even socialist parties will fail while they are still enslaved by nationalist attitudes. If Nasser’s union with Syria collapsed, if the Ba’ath failed to unify Syria and Iraq, how can they be expected to tackle the much more complicated task of unifying Jews and Arabs in Palestine? It is not by accident that only we, socialists freed from the shackles of nationalism, can work together and jointly propose a solution. It is because our loyalty is not to this or that nation, but to humanity as a political entity, and to its only possible mode of existence ‒ socialism.
We say to all chauvinist, nationalist and racialist Israeli and Arab leaders: for 19 years you have failed to move one inch towards agreement. You have had two wars, and now you are preparing a third which will bring no salvation but death.
We, Israeli and Arab socialists, have produced our joint solution to the problem. We challenge you to produce yours ‒ now. If you fail to do so you will go down in history not with your self-assumed moral aura of martyrs or liberators, anti-imperialists or patriots, but as victims of your own propaganda, prisoners of fossilised ideologies, and slaves or self-created emotionalism. Why can we reach mutual agreement, in full awareness of the intricacies of the problem, and you cannot? Is it because we speak, first and foremost as members of humanity, and only then as members of this or that nation, whereas with you it is the other way round?
We herewith re-assert our human dignity by firmly rejecting any racialist and nationalist solution to the political problems of people.
More than once in this century nationalist leaders were thought of as saviours, and millions of blind followers’ bodies paved their road to hell.
The Israeli Socialist Organisation
The Palestinian Democratic Front
3rd June, 1967
We call upon individuals, organizations and parties, who approve of the spirit of this declaration to endorse it.
Because of the war it was impossible for the representatives of l.S.O. and D.F.P. in Europe to contact their parties in the Middle East and consult them over formulations. It should be assumed, therefore, that under normal conditions certain formulations would have been different. However, apart from minor reservations concerning some formulations no group withdraws its signature, or support’ of the joint statement.
[This statement was published by Matzpen shortly after the June 67′ war, in Hebrew].