[This article was published in Hebrew, in Matzpen no. 43, July 1968. Its English translation was published in International Socialism no. 32, Spring 1968; and republished later by the New England Free Press in Boston, Massachusetts, in an undated pamphlet. An edited version of it appeared in the book “The Other Israel”, 1972]
The relations between Israel and imperialism are unique and merit a special analysis. Many people of various currents on the left agree that Israeli policies are linked with those of (today) US imperialism, and condemn these links. Few, however, realise the origin or the internal mechanism of these relations. Can Israel ever align itself with the anti-imperialist forces in the Middle East? Did Israel not fight against British imperialism in Palestine in 1948? In the following we attempt to answer these and similar questions through an analysis of the origin and logic of the five stages of development of these relations.
An Illuminating Prelude to Political Zionism
Modern Jewish colonization of Palestine was not started by the Zionists, but by a French organisation, sponsored and financed by Baron Edmund de Rothschild, 27 years before the Zionist movement had its founding Congress (Basle 1897). The Rothschild movement (named Alliance Israelite Universelle ‒ AIU), was hostile to Zionism until the late 1930s.
What Rothschild had in mind was to provide the Jews who fled from the pogroms in Tsarist Russia with land in Palestine and colonise it along the lines of the contemporary French colonisation of Algeria. He never subscribed to the fundamental Zionist idea of a Jewish nation-state but opposed it. He was a financial pillar of French Capitalism and thought in terms of increasing France’s influence overseas. Being a Jew he sympathised with the persecuted Russian Jews. Combining his sympathies with French interests, he sponsord the AIU anf financed it (although he knew that little, if any, economic profit would come out of it).
The Rothschild settlers had some conflicts in Palestine with the Arab peasants who refused to give up the land which their feudal landlords sold the AIU for enormous sums (in contemporary terms). Later the peasants became hired farm hands in the AIU settlements. The AIU never got into a political conflict with the Palestinian Arabs because it never aspired to achieve political independence As for relations with imperialism – the Rothschild colonisation was part of the French colonial system, so that the question of an alliance between two seperate parties did not exist. It is precisely this absence of policy towards imperialism that illuminates the meaning of the existence of such a policy in the Zionist movement. The AIU did not aspire to create an independent state, to achieve political power, therefore its choice of a foreign policy was limited to one possibility: that of French imperialism. With the Zionist movement it was different; from the very beginning – even before the Zionist immigrants reached Palestine – its main aim was to establish a politically independent Jewish nation-state in Palestine (for tactical reasons, this aim was veiled by the formulation “to achieve a Jewish homeland in Palestine”). Possessing this independent political aim Zionism had to consider how to achieve it. It had to have a foreign policy/ Some Zionists immediately recognized that their fundamental aim implied a foreign policy which prescribed not only their allies but also their inevital enemies.
1897–1917: In Search of International Recognition
The history and nature of the Zionist movement differ significantly from those of all other political movements. It is the case, as someone put it, of “a government which acquired a state.” What this hints is the following: after its founding congress, convened by the Viennese lawyer Herzl, the Zionists had a government (the Zionist executive committee) though no state to govern. They had a House of Representatives (the Zionist Congress) with a left and a right wings, moderates and extremists, progressives and conservatives, religious and secular parties, yet no population (their followers up to the second World War were a monority of world Jewry). They collected annual taxes (the Zionist shekel, whose payment granted the right to vote in the elections to the Zionist Congress) yet they had no citizens. The Congress was a federation of differing political parties which shared one common objective – to achieve a Jewish state in Palestine – yet quarreled on almost every other issue, including the means to achieve this common objective. All this activity was taking place in Europe while the Jewish population in Palestine was less than 10 per cent of the Arab population, and had nothing to do with the Zionist movement. Zionism originated in Europe and was a European phenomenon. Its mainsprings were:
1 – The severe persecution and pogroms against the Jews in Tsarist Russia in the second half of the last century. Not only the livelihood of the Russian Jews were in constant danger, but also theor lives.
2 – The obstacles facing Jews in Western Europe, where their economic conditions were much better, in becoming integrated into non-Jewish society (exemplified by the Dreyfus Affair converted Herzl from an assimilationist into a Zionist). Using a present-day concept, one might say that Zionism was, essentialy, the movement of “Jewish Power”.
3 – Ideologically, Zionism was shaped under the impact of nineteenth-century European nationalism, which was the emerging ideology of a wide group of people living in the belt between the Baltic and the Adriatic.
4 – Emotionally, it was deeply influenced by the Jewish religion, which is inherently nationalistic and has preached, for milleniae, the resurrection of Jewish independence in Palestine as the end of the suffering of the Jews.
Herzl himself underestimated the strength of the Jewish sentiment toward Palestine (coming from an assimilationist home, he was unaware of the emotional-political power of the Jewish religion). He suggested to the Congress that the Jewish state be created in Uganda, and was surprised to meet fierce opposition from the majority which refused to accept any substitute (not even as a temporary measure) to Palestine. The Zionists considered their rights in Palestine to be incontestable, but they realised that they must either achieve recognition of these rights by some world power or else convince those who happened to be ruling Palestine that the creation of a Jewish state there would be to their benefit. Although Palestine was at that time populated by some 700,000 Arabs, the Zionists never bothered to consult their opinion on the idea of a Jewish state. First, they could hardly expect the Palestinian Arabs – who had their own aspiration to independence – to accept the idea of a Jewish state there, especially at a time when Jews constituted less than 10 per cent of the population. Second, Zionism wa a product of its period, and like any other colonising movement, it never considered the indigenous population of the colonised country as a political factor to be reckoned with. Its political and diplomatic efforts were directed entirely at existing powers, not towards emerging, potential, forces. Max Nordau, Herzl’s deputy, formulated the principle of Zionist foreign policy thus: “Our aspirations point to Palestine as a compass points to the north, therefore we must orient ourselves towards those Powers under whose influence Palestine happens to be.” Considering the circumstances and the nature of a nationalist movement bent on a colonising policy (be the reasons for this whatever they may) one can hardly see an alternative to this policy.” Thus, during the first phase of its existence (from 1897 to 1914), political Zionism was oriented towards Turkey (which ruled Palestine) and its closest ally, Germany. Herzl courted the Sultan and the Kaiser, attempting to achieve their consent to the idea of a Jewish state in Palestine. He tried hard to prove to them that the existence of such a state would be in their own interest. During World War I this orientation was switched to Britain, precisely because it became clear that it would be the next ruler of Palestine.
The first period in the evolution of Zionist foreign policy came to an end on November 2, 1917, when the British Government published the Balfour Declaration. This declaration recognised the right of the Zionists to establish a Jewish state in Palestine and made a vague promise to support its realisation. The basic right (and joint interest) being recognised, the first goal of the Zionist foreigh policy was achieved. It is evident, already at this early stage, that the pro-imperialist orientation of the Zionist foreign policy was inherent in its aims. Whether we like it or not, Zionism could not begin to carry out its plan if the ruler of Palestine did not approve of it. It is not some wickedness, but its own internal logic, that drove Zionism into the imperialist camp. It simply had no choice. The aim, and the existing circumstances, prescribed the allies.
1917‒1948: In Search of Majority and Land Ownership
Once the claim of the Zionist movement to re-establish Jewish independence in Palestine has been recognized, the next task was to implement it. This necessitated two things: a mass immigration of Jews into Palestine and mass acquisition of land by Jews in Palestine.
The Palestinian Arabs, awakened to political life under the impact of World War I, taunted by hints of independence from the British during the war (to gain their co-operation against the Turks), immediately opposed the Zionist aim as well as the Zionist immigration and land politics. They had no wish to become a minority in their own country, nor to be citizens in an essential Jewish state (i.e., to suffer national discrimination). Moreover, they themselves aspired to achieve political independence in Palestine. To this end they had to rid themselves of the foreign rulers of the country, and hence found their political interests contradicting those of the British.
As for the Zionists, they realised that if Arab nationalism in Palestine (with which they had not reckoned during the earlier period) achieved independence before the Jews constituted a majority, the main Zionist aim would have been defeated. Thus their interest was to support British rule in Palestine, gradually to build build up their numbers and buy more of the land, until they formed a majority over a considerable and continuous part of the territory, and only then to start the struggle for their own independence. Thus their interests prescribed not only their allies, but also their enemies. Again, it was not some wickedness that caused the Zionists to oppose Arab nationalism and any other anti-imperialist policies in Palestine; this toowas a direct consequence ot the aim and the circumstances.
In their opposition to Arab independence in Palestine the Zionists naturally found their interests coinciding, once more, with those of imperialism (in this case, with the British rulers). Many Zionists were unhappy about this coincidence. But whenever a Zionist underwent a conflict between his anti-imperialist attitudes and his Zionism, it was always the latter which had the upper hand in the end. Those who put anti-imperialism before Zionism ceased to be Zionists. “Gewish Power”, like “Black Power”, was a product of imperialism, not only socially but also ideologically, but, unlike the latter which is forced by circumstances to align itself politically against imperialism, the former was always aligned with imperialism.
1948‒1950: In Search of Recognition of Armistice Lines as International Borders
In the thirty years from 1918 and 1948, the Jewish population of Palestine increased from 50,000 to some 600,000, mostly through Zionist immigration. Funds collected regularly from Jews throughout world Jewry helped to build an all-Jewish economy (which never was, nor aimed to be, economically profitable). Implementing the slogans of “Jewish labor”, “Buy Jewish”, and “redeem the land” gradually brought into existence a closed, self-governing, Gewish community in Palestine. Despite some friction with the British (who on the eve of World War II started to court the Arab side, curtailing immigration quotas, etc.), the basic alliance of interests remained. Both parties opposed the efforts of the Palestinians to get rid of the British.
During the period 1936-39 the Palestinians carried through a major rebellion which, at times, tied down 50 per cent of the entire British army. However, this rebellion was defeated by theBritish in a major field battle. This defeat meant the departure of the Palestinians from power politics in Palestine, leaving in the arena the British and the Zionists.
During World War II, friction started to build up between these two parties. This friction turned into an armed conflict in the years 1945‒47. The main reason was the refusal of the British to allow mass immigration of Jewish refugees from Europe. There were also economic reasons: during the war, local industry (mostly in Jewish hands) became the main supplier to the British Army in the area. When the war was over, economic prosperity was over too, and British competitive goods once more enjoyed preference. The Jewish community in Palestine started (often against the wish of its leaders) to clamour for independence. This clamour developed into an armed struggle based mostly on urban guerrilla warfare. A number of reasons helped the to defeat the British: favorable public opinion throughout the world because of the massacre of 6 million Jews by the nazis; weakening of British imperialism as a result of the War; strengthening of US imperialism (towards which Zionism started tom orientate itself); demoralisation of Arab nationalism which hoped for a defeat of the British [in the War], sometimes actively supporting the Axis.
All this culminated in a resolution passed by a 2/3rds majority in the General Assembly ot the United Nations on 29 November 1947, calling for the establishment of two states in the partitioned territory of Palestine, one for the Jews and one for the Arabs. To defeat this resolurion British imperialism organised an invasion by the regular armies of Farouk, Nuri Said, Abdullah, and Husni Zaim, into Palestine. The outcome of this war was that Ben Gurion and Abdullah (who negotiated secretly during the war) each annexed half of the territory allotted by the UN to the Palestinian Arabs. The 1948 war itself was a case of a colonising community aspiring to political independence, thus coming into conflict with the imperial power under whose wings it grew. For the colonisers themselves it was a war of independence, for the indigenous population ‒ a chnage from a foreign ruler who departed, to a local ruler who had nowhere to go, from a ruler who only wanted to exploit the country to one who made it his own home. Politically the Palestinian Arabs were better off before 1948 than at any time after it.
By annexing territory alloted to the Palestinians by the UN Ben-Gurion forefeited international recignition of Israeli borders. The territory ruled by the Zionists was now larger, but no international authority agreed that it was theirs. The major task of the Israeli foreign policy became the need to achieve recognition by some world power, or authority, that the teritory they annexed at the expense of the Palestinians was theirs. The United States, Britain and France provided for this in their Tripartite resolution of 1950 wherein they sanctioned the 1949 armistice lines (yet without recognising their finality, nor declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel).
Once more Zionist foreign policy became dependent on imperialism, this time in order to ensure the territorial integrity of Hsraek by sanctioning the annexation of territoty alloted by the UN to the Palestinians. Was ther another possibility? Theoretically there was. Had Ben-Gurion kept to the UN partition lines and refused the temptations of territorial aggrandisemrnt in 1948 there would have been no territorial issue (although the political conglict would have continued for some time), and no need to depend on imperialism to sanction annexations. Actually, it was impossible for a Zionist leader to resist the temptation of territorial aggrandesement in Palestine. Moreover, the economic and political links between the Israeli leadership (who, from the establishment of an independent Jewish state, became the de facto, though not de jure, leaders of the Zionists) and both United States Jewry and Government were already too strong to permit a neutral, let alone anti-imperialist, foreign policy. When the war with Korea broke out in 1950, the Israeli Government aligned itself openly with the United States, putting an end to a brief period of non-alignment. . This signaled a certain transformation in the pro-imperialist attitudes of the Israeli leadership: from the previous co-alignment of interests on the local, Palestinian issue, suddenly sprang a co-alignment of interests on global, distant issues. The price of relying on imperialist support at home is support of the imperialist system throughout the world.
1950‒1957: Attempts to Force the Arabs to Recognise the Status Quo
By 1950 political Zionism had succeeded in accomplishing four tasks: its claims in Palestine were recognized, it had created a Jewish majority, it had achieved political independence in (part of) Palestine, and it had achieved imperialist recognition of its territorial integrity. There was one flaw in this series of successes – the Arabs refused to recognise them or to accept them as final. This is hardly surprising, as they were all imposed upon the Palestinians as accomplished facts sustained by force. The Palestinians’ aspirations to independence were defeated, many of them beca,e refugees and lost all they had, including self resprct. The Israelis were well aware of this. From the moment they concluded the secret agreement (endorsed by the British Foreign Office) with Abdullah in 1949, Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Levi Eshkol, Moshe Dayan and the rest of the Israeli leadership scrupulously refrained from any mention of the Palestinians. They were willing to conclude peace with the rulers of any Arab state, to enter negotiations with them “anywhere and anytime”, but they insisted that the Palestinians were, politically, non-existent. It is an irony of history that through their victory in the 1967 war, these leaders were forced to recognise and deal once again with the same Palestinians they conjured away in their imaginations nineteen years earlier.
In 1950, Ben-Gurion expected that within a year King Abdulla of Trans-Jordan would conclude a peace treaty with Israel, thereby bringing to an end the Israeli-Arab conflict. Abdullah was shot soon afterwards by a Palestinian, and Dayan later admitted that “he was politically dead (because of hisn secret agreement with Ben-Gurion) even before he was shot”. Suddenly peace seemed further away than ever. It is not clear what exactly the Israeli leadership meant by “peace”; Ben-Gurion expressed morethan once the view that lack of normal relations with the Arabs and their hostile attitudes towards Israel had a unifying effect on the heterogenous Jewish comunity in Israel. He saw the greatest role for the Israeli army as a melting pot of a new nation. There is reason to believe that, once outside hostility ceased, strong internal contradictions between oriental and European Jews in Israel (coinciding with class divisions) would put an end to “jewish unity”.
Yet in spite of all this, there is little doubt that the Israeli leadership was intent on achieving overt, de jure recognition, as well as the covert, de facto acceptance of the 1949 territorial and demographic status quo, by the Arab states. Since the Arab states refused to grant this recognition and all direct Israeli approaches had failed, Ben-Gurion decided to use indirect means.
At this time (1953-55), the United States was surrounding the USSR with a network of bases as well as anti-Soviet pacts. Numerous attempts to draw the Middle Eastern states into joint anti-Soviet pacts were made at the time, especially by John Foster Dulles. Israel was always eager to join, not so much because of fear or hatred of the Soviet Union (which was the staunchest political and military supporter of Israel in 1948), but because of the possibility that a paragraph concerning “mutual respect for territorial integrity” or the like could always be introduced into such a treaty, thereby causing any Arab signatory to recognize, indirectly, the accomplished fact. Most Arab leaders, excluding veteran pro-imperialist politicians like Nuri Sa’id of Iraq, refused to sign. Not because of Israel, but because they were suspicious that these treaties were directed not so much against the Soviet Union (with which they had no conflict) as against their own interests. They believed that these treaties constituted a veiled attempt by the United States to replace the British imperialist presence in the Middle East.
Ever since the end of the Second World War anti-imperialist movements throughout the Arab world were on the increase, they exerted direct and indirect pressure on every ruler and politician in the area. Gradually these movements came to power. This situation worried the Israeli leadership. For exampe, when it became clear in 1954, that the British intend to evacuate the Suez Canal, the Israeli Government made frantic efforts to make them stay. One of these was the calculated provocation of sending a ship flying the Israeli flag into the Canal and using its detention as a propaganda move proving that “Egypt cannot be relied upon to ensure free navigation to all nations”. The truth was that during the period that the British ruled the Canal, no Israeli ship passed eigher through. Egypt was not ready to grant passage to Israeli ships before a settlement of the whole Palestine problem. The significant point from this article’s viewpoint is that whereas up to 1948 the Zionists had no conflict with Egypt, they now found themselves up against the anti-imperialist policies of the new regime in Egypt (which was not responsible for the 1948 invasion of Palestine), with a stake in the continuation of British presence in the Canal.
Once again the alliance with imperialism in local affairs had prescribed distant consequences. Yet all the indirect methods,though they became more numerous and sophisticated, failed to achieve rheir aim. The Arab world stubbornly refused to accept as final the facts which the Zionists had imposed on the Palestinians. When this failure became clear to Ben-Gurion (who between 1949 and 1959 was the sole authority on defense and foreign policy in Israel), the method gradually changed to one of attampting to force the Arab states into a recognition of the status quo. The instrument of this policy were the “retaliation” raids of the Israeli Army into Arab territory. As the name implies, these were allegedly retaliations for the small-scale armed infiltration and sabotage acts carried out inside Israel by various Arab states or organisations. Politically, there was a different motive behind them (a motive of which few Israelis were aware). When a serious Israeli raid occured, the usual reaction of the involved Arab government was to rush to the US ambassador and ask for arms. The answer invariably was, “join an anti-Soviet pact and you’ll get all the arms you want”. This was exactly what Ben-Gurion wanted.
However, this technique backfired un quite an unexpected way. When, after a major Israeli raid on Gaza on February 28, 1955, Nasser approached H. Bayrod, the US ambassador, with a request for arms, he got the usual answer, he decided to turn to the USSR for help. The USSR agreed and the Egyptian-Czechoslovak arms deal was signed. The political implications of this move undermined the foundation of Ben-Gurion’s foreign policy, because the USSR was not a signatory of the tri-partite declaration, and refused to sanction the status quo. Whereas up to 1955 the West was all powerful in the Middle East, not only because of its economic grip or direct military presence, but also because it had a monopoly of arms supply to this area, it was now forced to compete with the Soviet Union for the favors of local rulers.
Nasser made much use of this competition. But Ben-Gurion was unable to exploit it, for two reasons: first, he was already too dependent economically on the United States; second, the USSR refused to recognise the status quo as final, and kept insisting on the rights of the Palestinians. Thus the Israeli leadership, which during its anti-British struggle in 1948 found in Stalin’s power politics its stanchest supporter, now encountered a direct conflict of interests with the Soviet Union over the Palestine issue.
From 1955 onward, the Israeli leadership had its own vested interest in diminishing Soviet influence in the Middle East. The culmination of these policies was the Suez war of 1956. Israel was not lured into this collusion by France, certainly not by Britain. There is good reason to believe that it was the other way around. Realising that France, because of its involvement in Algeria, had an interest in defeating the anti-imperialist movement in the area, particularly in overthrowing Nasser, who symbolized these movement, the Israelis started to tempt French imperialism into a joint military strike on Egypt. Once the bargain was struck, Britain was lured into it. First the Israeli and French defence secretaries presented their own governments (espaecially their foreign ministers) with the accomplished fact of a military partnership, and then the two governments presented the British with their joint plan. It was as usual the “hawks” who took the initiative, but once they presented the “doves” with the accomplished fact, the latter were unable to resist the temptation and, however reluctantly, endorsed it.
The Suez war, which the United States opposed, demonstrated one important aspect of the nature of the links between Israel and imperialism, namely – that Israel is not an obedient servant of US or British (and certainly not French) imperialism. Rather it is more than ready to present any of them with a fait accompli which will, in case og success, receive their post factum blessing but not necessarily their a priori approval. The failure of the Suez war, in spite of the Israeli military victory, to force the Arab states into a recognition of the status quo, terminated the forth stage in the development of Zionist foreign policy. It became clear to the Israeli leadership that there is no way of making the Arabs accept a Zionist state in Palestine. They can be made to endure it, they cannot be made to endorse it.
1957–1967: Impasse and the Emergence of the Policy of Self-Reliance
After Suez it became clear to the Israeli leadership that they were in for a long period when little could be done to make the Arabs accept the facts imposed on them by Zionism. The situation was aggravated by the clear split in the Arab world between anti- and pro-imperialist regimes, which deepened during the Suez war. Pro-imperialists like, say, Nuri Sa’id or Hussein who, like Israel, were interested in preserving imperialist influence in the Middle East, were under constant pressure from anti-imperialist attitudes of the masses, supported by the anti-imperialist governments. To counter this pressure the pro-imperialistsy turned to racial, anti-Jewish propaganda, blaming the anti-imperialists for their reluctance to “throw all the Jews into the sea”. Instead of empty words about fighting imperialism, they said, let us join ranks in the fight against the Jews. The fact that the Arab governments were no longer united in their attitude toward imperialism, and that it was precisely the pro-imperialists who resorted to the strongest anti-Israel propaganda, frustrated the Israeli leadership. Moreover, the fact that British, French and US imperialism continued to court Nasser because of their economic interests in the area, yet remained cool toward Israel so as not to antagonise the Arabs (and because they knew that it had no possibility of turning against them), gradually brought into being the policy of self-reliance. This means simply that Israel cannot trust the governments of the US, Britain or France to safeguard its existence or security and must rely almost exclusively on its own resources and those of the Jews elsewhere. One consequence of this was the aspiration to build an independent nuclear deterrent. Ben-Gurion and his disciples, Dayan and Peres, insisted on this policy. The moderate Zionists, like Eshkol and Meir, wavered; they disliked the idea of antagonising the United States, which insists on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Ben-Gurion built a secret atomic pile without the knowledge of the United States (which donated a smaller one over which it had absolute control). When Washington finally learned about this, it was furious because of the obvious, local and global, implications. American pressure was one of the factors that contributed to the ousting of Ben-Gurion and his replacement by Eshkol.
One of Eshkol’s first moves [as premier] was to delay the construction of an independent Israeli nuclear deterrent. In return he received a very definite American military commitment to safeguard the territorial status quo. However, when Nasser imposed the naval blockage in Tiran in June 1967, President Johnson refused to intervene militarily. He already had a war on his hands in Vietnam and refused to antagonise the entire Arab world by siding openly with Israel. It was only after the CIA and the Israeli leadership assured him that there would be no need for “American boys to die for Israel” that he accepted the possibility of a military conflict. For the Israeli leadership, however, Washington’s refusal to honour its commitment was a shock; Ben-Gurion’s arguments for self-reliance were vindicated.
A colonisers’ State which, because of the way in which it came into existence, is an integral part of the imperialist power structure cannot always rely on active support from the major imperialist powers. It must reckon with the possibility that, because of their own imperialist interests, these powers will be ready to sacrifice it or, at least, to make concessions on its behalf for their own benefit. Whether this possibility will actually materialise is another problem. Its apparent existence forces governments of states like South Africa, Rhodesia, and Israel to prepare themselves for the worst. They cannot entrust their existence to the goodwill or interests of the big imperialist powers. As their very existence is threatened by the victory of the anti-imperialist movement these states are much more desperate than the imperialist powers themselves. Since they are small, they feel no responsibility for the rest of the world. Should their existence be threatened (as in the present, lsraeli, case) they will not hesitate to safeguard it by independent nuclear weapons. Even a threat to, or blackmail of, a big world power is not impossible. There are enough Israeli politicians who will not hesitate, in the case of an Israeli military defeat, to pull a considerable portion of humanity down with them. The chances are that they will, probably, have the means within a few years.
Jewish power and Jewish unity
Thus, the “Jewish Power” movement, aiming to re-establish Jewish independence by means of colonisation in Palestine, was forced ‒ by its own aims and means ‒ into a partnership with British colonialism based on joint local interests in Palestine. As this interest was to oppose the anti-British struggle of the Palestinians, the Zionists were forced to oppose anti-British struggles elsewhere, throughout the Middle East and, gradually, to support imperialism in Algeria, Yemen, etc. Fifty years ago the adversaries of the Zionists were the Palestinian Arabs and the issue was: whose State will Palestine be? Today the adversary of the Israeli leadership is not only the entire population of the Arab world, but the entire anti-imperialist movement, including leaders like Castro, Ho Chi Minh. Today it is not the geographical affinity, but the political one, that matters. As long as Israeli policies run parallel to those of imperialism it cannot have peace with the anti-imperialist movement.
It is interesting to compare, however briefly, the State of Israel with South Africa, Rhodesia, or the French in Algeria (it was Ben-Gurion himself who pointed out to De Gaulle, in 1958, the similarity between the Algerian problem and the Palestine problem). The common factor in all these cases is the existence of a colonising society, aspiring to independence, and having achieved it, becoming an opponent of anti-imperialist movements, especially the ones in its neighbourhood. In all these cases the colonisers uphold measures of segregation against the indigenous population. The latter struggles not for integration but for undoing the entire institutionalised supremacist establishment. This struggle merges with the struggle against the US and British or French imperialism. There are, however, significant differences between the case of Israel and, say, South Africa. The first is the fact that the Zionists did not come to exploit the riches of Palestine (as the Boers in South Africa) but to achieve independence. In economic terms the Zionist enterprise was never profitable, neither to the Zionists, nor to the Jews elsewhere. On the contrary, preserving Jewish independence is a luxury which costs some £150 million annually (since 1949). This factor greatly increases the dependence of Israel on the West.
As for segregationst policies ‒ in Israel they are based on nationality, not race, and do not coincide with the class divisions as in South Africa. The Zionist ideology does not consider the Arabs as inferior; rather, it tries to ignore them, especially the Palestinians, as a political entity. Moreover many oriental Jews (comprising nowadays more than 50 per cent of the Israeli population) have more in common with the Arabs (in culture, tradition, and language) than with the European jews; nothing consolidates this heterogenous population more than a threat from outside to its political (and physical) existence. Although tbe Israeli population is tired of a constant state of belligerency and armed hostilities with the Arabs, and the leadership certainly seeks Arab recognition and acceptance of the facts which it has imposed upon them, it is worried by the possibility that a full normalisation of relations with the Arab world will, eventually, undo the “Jewish unity” of the Israeli population. The insistence on Zionist (ie, segregationist, anti-Arab) policies necessitates the dependence on imperialism (for economic, political, and military aid). Since Zionism is based on emotions, not profits, it is much harder to perpetuate, especially as it causes continuous hardships to the Israeli population.
There are several anti-Zionist organisations inside Israel, and their membership (up to the 1967 war) was on the increase. This war has caused a setback to these forces but there are signs that the tendency to increase will persist. It is typical that all the different anti-Zionists (be they nationalists or internationalists, of the Right or the Left) call for an anti-imperialist foreign policy, of actively supporting the struggle of the Arab masses throughout the Middle East for political, social, and economic liberation. This demonstrates the possibility that once Israel sheds its Zionism, it will be able to break off its alliance with imperialism; whether this possibility will be realised is a different problem. One thing is certain: as long as the Israeli policies remain motivated by Zionist considerations its alliance with, and dependence on, imperialism, cannot be undone.
[The first article of this paphlet: The Palestine Problem]