The 1967 June war exposed and succinctly expressed fundamental contradictions and processes in the countries of the Middle East.
In Israel, the Zionist character of this state and of its leadership was made more prominent; the propensity for annexation and expansion, half dormant since the Suez war, has now reawakened. The bonds between Israel’s Zionist regime and imperialism have also been manifested and strengthened sevenfold.
In the Arab countries, especially in Egypt, it has become more manifest that the national anti-imperialist revolution in these countries did not go further than halfway.
On the eve of the June war, Israel’s rulers still disclaimed any desire for territorial expansion. But on the morrow all these declarations were forgotten. Appetite was whetted by eating. The truth is that the propensity for annexation and expansion had always been inherent in all the trends of political Zionism – not only in the Herut Party, which openly declared it, but also in the more moderate trends that did not openly admit it, for political and propagandistic reasons, when times did not seem opportune.
Since the June war, Israel controls the whole of the Palestine Mandate territory as well as vast tracts of Egyptian territory and a region in the south of Syria.
In the beginning, the leaders of Israel claimed that in this situation, where “Israel holds all the cards”, they would be able to force a settlement to their liking upon the Arabs, who would have to accept Israel’s terms. But these hopes proved to be false. Victory in the war, far from solving the Israeli-Arab problem, has actually intensified it.
The historical conflict between Zionism and Israel in its present form, on the one hand, and the Arab world on the other, springs from the fact that the “Zionist endeavour” was from its very beginning a planned and deliberate process of colonization by outsiders who settled in this country, displacing its indigenous people; in this, Zionism was backed by imperialism and sided with imperialism against revolutionary developments in the Arab world. One of the main reasons for the Arabs’ refusal to accept the existence of Israel was that it appeared to them not only as the product of the Zionist colonization process but also as an instrument for furthering and expanding that process against them and at their expense.
By its conduct since the war, Israel confirms the Arabs’ worst fears, thereby vastly deepening the historical conflict.
The shortsighted attempt of Zionism to exploit this “opportune moment” for territorial gains and for forcing its own terms upon the Arabs will no doubt boomerang back in the long run on Israel itself.
The belief that Israel’s control over vast territories would improve her current security has also proven mistaken.
Victory in the war has not put an end to guerrilla and sabotage actions. On the contrary, in this new situation they have assumed larger dimensions. But whereas world public opinion before the war largely took exception to such actions, they are now increasingly regarded as natural and legitimate means of resistance of a conquered and subjugated people.
The Palestinian Arab people, the chief and direct victims of Zionist colonization, a people whose greater part was reduced during and after 1948 to the state of pauperized refugees, and another part of which has lived for twenty years in Israel under severe conditions of discrimination and persecution – that people now has become entirely a conquered people. It has been robbed not only of the most elementary political rights, but also of the very prospect for national and human existence. Regarding the fate of that people, the various schemes suggested by Israeli Government circles range from outright annexation to Arab birth rate (“to deal wisely with them lest they multiply,” as Pharaoh had once put it), to the setting up of a Bantustan, a “political corral” in the form of a protectorate camouflaged as a “federation” between Israeli overlord and Arab subject.
It is both the right and duty of every conquered and subjugated people to resist and to struggle for its freedom. The ways, means and methods necessary and appropriate for such struggle must be determined by the people itself and it would be hypocritical for strangers – especially if they belong to the oppressing nation – to preach to it, saying, “Thus shalt thou do, and thus shalt thou not do.”
While recognizing the unconditional right of the conquered to resist occupation, we can support only such organizations which, in addition to resisting occupation, also recognize the right of the Israeli people for self-determination. On such a basis the struggle of the Palestinian people can become combined in a joint struggle of Arabs and Jews in the region for a common future.
One thing is obvious – tightening the yoke of repression, mass collective punishments, blowing up houses, large-scale massacre assaults (like that against Karameh on March 21) – all these are quite incapable of putting an end to resistance.
To those who express their abhorrence and indignation in view of the innocent Israeli victims of sabotage actions we say: Your abhorrence and indignation are perfectly justified. This situation of horrible tragedy must be terminated at once; and the way to terminate it is immediate withdrawal from all the occupied territories. Only from that point will it be possible to advance toward a complete solution of the Israeli-Arab dispute and the Palestine problem.
The collapse of the Egyptian Army in the June war exhibited before the world’s eyes the grave social contradictions rending Egyptian society. These contradictions were only mirrored, and enlarged, in the Army.
The “Free Officers” coup, led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, established in Egypt a petit-bourgeois regime. It was a “halfway revolution.” By its very nature, this regime is ever trying to balance between anti-imperialism and the tendency to compromise with imperialism; between left and right; between the pressure of the masses and the interests of the overprivileged bourgeoisie, bureaucracy and officer caste.
That regime has carried through a series of important reforms, some of them quite far-reaching; it also severed Egypt’s exceeding dependence upon imperialism. But it has not fulfilled the hopes of the masses or realized their interests; it did not go over to a socialist revolution turning the toilers from subjects to masters of the state. The exploiting classes of the ancient regime were battered, not shattered. They have largely continued to exist side by side with a new bureaucratic-military stratum, which is related to them by origin and outlook.
Following the war, the contradictions within the Egyptian regime became more acute. Nasser was forced to oust from positions of power and from military command some of the right-wing elements whose shame had been exposed. He thereby weakened his own right wing, and balancing between left and right became more difficult.
At the same time, the pressure of the masses upon the regime has become stronger. At the end of February, the workers of Egypt went out into the streets, and for the first time in many years, spontaneously raised their demands. In his speech on March 3, the Egyptian President had to retreat under the pressure of the masses, and two weeks later a new cabinet was formed with a more left-wing leaning.
In other Arab countries, too, severe internal struggles are being waged.
This ferment, catalyzed by the outcome of the war, lends greater actuality to the problem of socialist transformations in the Arab world.
We hold that the solution of the main problems of the Middle East, including the Israeli-Arab problem, requires a radical transformation of the regimes throughout the region; a socialist revolution which will bring the working class to power, liberate the immense energies latent in the masses and channel them to actuate social and economic progress. Such a transformation is needed not only in countries now under feudal monarchy, but also in the relatively progressive Arab countries which are now under a petit-bourgeois, self-styled socialist regime. Incidentally, socialist transformations in the Arab countries will no doubt affect the form of struggle of the Palestinian Arab people and lend it a clear left-wing color.
As for Israel, here, a socialist revolution is needed radically to change the character of this state, transforming it from a Zionist state – an instrument for furthering Zionist colonization, a natural ally of imperialism – into a socialist state representing the true interests of the Israeli masses, a state oriented toward the surrounding region and both willing and capable to integrate itself in it.
We hold that the revolutionary socialist solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict remains valid – is, in fact, more valid than ever – in the new situation created after the war. De-Zionization of Israel and its integration in a socialist union with the Arab countries – this is the road for solution.
In place of chauvinism and nationalist hatred which drag the Middle East into endless and futile wars, we offer to both sides, Arabs and Jews, the socialist prospect of economic prosperity, social progress and brotherhood between nations.