(Translation of the editorial of the March 1969 Matzpen, organ of the Israeli Socialist Organization, published in Israel.) [In fact, this was an article by Ilan Albert, later known as Ilan Halevi]
The so-called Israeli-Arab conflict has declaredly become the main concern of the Great Powers. The danger of a new explosion which is inherent in the present situation in the Middle East has become completely clear. The Great Powers declared wish to find a “peaceful and just solution” results in their lukewarm support for the Security Council Resolution of 22.11.67. Each of them gives it a different interpretation but they all agree that if the Resolution is carried out (how?) the dangers of the conflict may be neutralized.
The Security Council Resolution (as well as the Great Powers policy) is characterized by its lack of any total view of the problem and by an acceptance of Israel as it existed before the June 1967 war. What they want is a settlement between states. More precisely they want a re-affirmation of the existence – legitimate in their eyes – of all the states in the Middle East, states which were created by colonialist history and which have preserved their form during imperialist history.
The primary dimension of the conflict – the Zionist character of the State of Israel which is the root of the expropriation and oppression of the Palestinian Arab people even before the conquests of 1967 – is ignored by the above view. According to the various interpretations of the Security Council Resolution, the refugee problem is to be solved as a specific human, social and economic problem but its solution would not be part of the more general solution of the Palestinian national problem; but it is clear that to deal with the Palestinian national problem is to raise the problem of the unification of the Middle East and the existence of Israel.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the Palestinian organizations emphatically reject the Security Council Resolution, which, because it ignores them cannot bind them. In what sense does the above-mentioned Resolution ignore the Palestinian organizations? The answer is clear: the June 1967 war and the activity of Israeli annexationism have enabled these organizations to raise the question of Palestine as a whole, once more; and these organizations see part of their aim in the political and territorial unification of the refugees and the population of the occupied territories, and possibly also the Israeli Arabs.
The heads of the Arab states, who try to appear anti-imperialists, but who are really captives of public opinion in their countries, are forced to bow to the Palestinians and allow then to organize. They can only try to control them through the aid which they offer them. This aid can be of help to the Arab rulers by winning back the confidence of the masses which was undermined by the last war. Against this background one realizes that the Israeli demand that the Arab Governments should restrain the Palestinians is either dishonest or extremely naïve.
For how can one want Hussein, for instance, to restrain the Palestinians in his Kingdom? The new wave of refugees and the Israeli attacks have made him into a captive in his own capital, a king who depends on the goodwill of the Palestinians. Outside his capital Amman, some services usually under the jurisdiction of the state (like health services, education and even police) are now in the hands of the Palestinian organizations who are preparing not for a victory march over Israel but for popular guerrilla war. In the meantime, the continued Israeli occupation, despite all intimidation and suppressions, pushes whole strata of the population to the road of mass resistance.
Is it really possible for Hussein to restrain the Palestinian organizations under such “inconvenient” conditions?
This does not mean, of course, that the Palestinian organizations are near to achieving their aims. To the extent that their success depends on a revolutionary awakening, they are still quite far from their goal. Against this background these organizations’ isolated and demonstrative actions should be examined, like the Athens’ plane attack. The Athens incident was a calculated provocation designed to cause an Israeli reprisal. The reprisal in fact was quick to come, in the form of an Israeli attack on Beirut airport. For the Zionists this attack was logical and heroic, but for the Great Powers it was a cause for concern and strengthened the determination to prevent an escalation of the conflict. For the Palestinians the Athens incident was a kind of catalyst, whose effects have not yet been completely manifested.
In this atmosphere the Iraqi government, whose hands have always been stained with the blood of many revolutionaries, decided to try in secret and to hang in public 14 Iraqis accused of spying for the U.S. and Israel. Nine of the hanged men were Jews.
The outcry with which the West reacted enables us to gauge the degree of pro-Israeli sensitivity of the European and American public. In Israel itself the reaction was an uninhibited chauvinistic outcry which completely ignored the “unimportant” detail that some of the hanged men were Arabs. “You see”, the official and unofficial Israeli propaganda media cried, “the behaviour of the Bagdad murderers unmask the Arabs!” Some demanded revenge, others demanded American intervention. Several weeks later the blood-stained Iraqi government staged further executions, but this time Israel was silent because all the hanged men were Arabs. Israel accused Iraq of barbarism; the Iraqi government replied with disingenuous and hypercritical excuses. The accusation together with the excuses revealed both the duplicity of the Israeli government and the counter-revolutionary character of the Iraqi Baathist regime. Nobody mentioned the colonialist barbarity of the French and the British, in this context, the barbarities of American Imperialism, the genocide in Vietnam, the murder-policy of the C.I.A., the method of collective punishment and punitive house demolitions in the occupied territories etc. – all that is of course very civilised.
It is noteworthy that even before the news about the second wave of public hangings Hasenin Heikal, who is Nasserism’s mouthpiece, denounced the way the hangings were exploited by the Iraqi regime. “An execution is not a festival”, he said in one of his articles. At the same time severe accusations against Iraq were voiced from Syria, all of which shows that the Baath party is disintegrating and proves that the class struggle is raging in the very midst of petty bourgeois Arab socialism.
Among the various Palestinian organizations there are also differences of opinion, and at least three organizations compete for the national leadership. An important aspect of this inter-organizational struggle has recently been manifested in the formulation of theses, solutions, and struggle-strategies expressed in a clear political language, and in the kind of terminology which is used all over the world (except in Israel). This is a phenomenon of the last two years; its non-existence in the past was a mark of the weakness of the Palestinian organizations.
It is interesting to recall in this connection that at the Arab People’s Solidarity Conference, held in Cairo towards the end of January. Dr. Ibrahim Machus, chief of the Syrian delegation and ex-Foreign Minister, moved to delete the greetings to the progressive Israelis which was supposed to be included in the resolution. “A progressive Israeli is only he who leaves Israel for good”, he claimed. Then a representative of El-Fatah got up and, amidst applause, declared El-Fatah’s complete solidarity with Jews in Israel and other places who are fighting for the defeat of the racialist and imperialist Zionist regime of Israel” (Le Monde, 30.1.69.)
In the meantime, the so-called Israeli-Arab conflict continued to develop. Mass demonstrations, strikes, shootings and bombs in the West Bank and in Gaza; new military operations in the Golan Heights and in Sinai; exchange of fire across the Suez Canal; clashes along the river Jordan; a new attack on an Israeli plane, this time in Zurich; an explosion in the British Consulate; arrests; discovery and capture of underground cells.
Terrorism – like any other not-so-selective use of violence – is of course immoral. But very often in history it has proved to be most useful, as for example the veterans of Etzel (A right-wing [Zionist] organization involved in terrorist activities in the last years of the British Mandate – translator’s note) know from their own experience. The same opinion is evidently shared by those who attack Israeli planes; for them there exists a great temptation to attack more Israeli planes abroad, because the international repercussions of these actions are out of all proportion to the actions themselves, thanks to Israel’s reactions.
Israel, for its part, cannot but react, and by its reaction the Palestinians score more points in the international game of diplomacy and propaganda. The Great Powers become more and more concerned and determined to intervene before it is too late, i.e. before the revolutionary radicalization of the Middle-East conflict reaches a point of no return.
[The next article: The Struggle of the Ashdod Port Workers]