Al Hamishmar, the organ of the Mapam wing of the ruling alignment, has been forced to engage in a rear-guard battle of ideas against the ISO.
Mapam’s traditional role has been to “sell” Zionism to left-wing circles around the world. Now, having lost the last vestiges of its ideological individuality and having finally capitulated to the chauvinist policy of its senior partners in power, Mapam is quickly losing the capability of conducting a dialogue with those left-wing circles. Under these circumstances Mapam is irritated more than ever the existence of Matzpen’s and by the support which Matzpen has won among the revolutionary left throughout the world.
At first Mapam tried to ignore Matzpen; then it joined the national orchestra of anti-Matzpen calumnies and vilifications. Now it has been compelled to try to contend with Matzpen by using arguments which are almost to the point.
Both the title and contents of Peretz Merhav’s article, Fighters for Peace or Warmongers? (Al Hamishmar, August 29, 1969), reflect this development. Mr. Merhav is head of Mapam’s international department [i.e., the department which deals with Mapam’s foreign contacts] and according to an editorial comment in Al Hamishmar, his article illustrates Mapam’s propaganda abroad.
As for the title [in which Mr. Merhav implies that the ISO’s members are warmongers] – we are not going to pay Mapam members with their own coin; we do not think that they are warmongers. But they do have a tradition of trailing after their senior partners in the Zionist camp whenever the latter decide to make war. Thus Mapam bears full responsibility not only for the decision to start the 1967 war, but also for the decision made in 1956 to start the Suez war. [In both cases Mapam was part of the Cabinet.] They have no right to call Matzpen members “warmongers”. He who has partaken of a feast in which the dove of peace was served roasted must not be allowed to sport her white feathers!
Mr. Merhav begins his article with a “factual survey” on Matzpen and its history. In order not to side-track the discussion we shall not enter here into a detailed refutation of that false account. We simply state that some of Mr. Merhav’s “facts” are inaccurate, and the rest are completely misrepresented – intentionally, it seems.
The ideological-polemical part of the article also suffers from inaccuracies. Mr. Merhav does not quote from the original: in his whole article there is not noe quotation from the publications of the ISO. He attempts to formulate our position in his own words, and the result is necessarily quite bungled.
A tiny example: Mr. Merhav writes that Matzpen demands “withdrawal from all the territories populated by Arabs and now held by the Israel Defence Force, without exception”. This is a translation of our principled position into the devious language typical of Mapam. We raise a demand for the short-term immediate and unconditioned withdrawal from all the occupied territories. In order to dodge the term “occupied territories” Mr. Merhav is compelled to wriggle with “populated by Arabs and now held by the IDF”. Do you find it unpleasant, Mr. Merhav, to call a spade a spade?
Another example: Our demand for the de-Zionization of Israel is interpreted by Mr. Merhav as calling for “severing it from the Jewish people and turning it into an exclusive ‘local state’, without aspirations and ties overseas”. Wherever did Mr. Merhav get such a strange definition? Certainly not from us. Whenever did we demand that Israel should be “exclusive” or have no “aspirations and ties overseas”? In our opinion, the question is what kind of aspirations, and ties with whom? Ties with Cohn-Bendit or with Rothschild? Affinity with Karl Marx or with Marx and Spencer?
You, gentlemen of Mapam, feel a Zionist affinity with the Rothschilds and with Marx and Spencer who belong to the summit of capitalism in the West. We, on the other hand, have an affinity with the ideas of Karl Marx and with the revolutionary ardour of Cohn-Bendit; of course, their being Jewish is neither here nor there, as far as we are concerned.
We are not against “ties overseas”. We are only against certain ties with such as those of your government with American imperialism, which are merely a continuation of the traditional and natural ties of Zionism with imperialism.
De-Zionization means the abolition of Jewish exclusiveness (which is inherent, e.g., in the Law of Return) whereby a Jew living in Brooklyn gets more civil and political rights in Israel and over Israel than a Palestinian Arab who was born there (whether he is now a refugee or even an Israeli citizen). In our view, the fact that the Brooklyn Jew feels an emotional tie to the Holy Land does not entitle him to have any political right over it; whereas the Palestinian Arab is entitled to have in it full civil and political rights.
The aim of Zionism – to use Mapam’s own formulation – is “to concentrate the majority of the Jewish people in a whole and undivided Palestine”. This aim is the guide according to which the Zionist establishment in Israel decides on each political, economic, social or cultural step. Even today the state of Israel is, from Zionism’s viewpoint, not a finished product but only an intermediate stage and an instrument in achieving the full aim of Zionism.
The Zionist aim puts those who uphold its doctrine into an inevitable and inescapable conflict with the Arab world, in whose midst – and at whose expense – this aim is realized. The fundamental essence of the conflict has not changed from the beginning of Zionist colonization to the [present] days of the Dayan-Begin-Barzilai cabinet [Begin is the leader of the fascistoid Herut party; Barzilai is a leader of Mapam. both are ministers in the Israeli cabinet.].
This is no ordinary national-territorial conflict of the kind that sometimes breaks out between nations who live in a historically stable proximity. It is a conflict between a movement of colonization – which according to its own declarations has not yet achieved its full aim – and the indigenous population of the area which is being colonized.
Mr. Merhav prefers not to enter into a discussion of the roots of Israeli-Arab conflict. He just alleges that Zionism is not to blame for “the extension of the borders of Israel and the tragedy of the wandering and suffering of Arab refugees”. The blame, in his opinion, is that of “the blind, violent and military resistance to Zionism from the time of the Mufti Haj Amin Al-Husseini to the June 1967 war and his disciples in Al-Fateh”. This was exactly the claim of hypocrite-colonizers everywhere: “It is not our fault, but that of the natives, who refuse to accept our colonization with love”. This kind of hypocrisy is espacially typical of Zionism’s left wing, torn in an attempt to find a compromise between Zionist practice and socialist conscience. Dayan, in contrast, is not afraid to admit openly that the Arabs’ resistance is a natural and necessary result of Zionist colonization.
As mentioned above, Mr. Merhav avoids a serious discussion of the origins of the conflict. His main argument is that the de-Zionization formula is simply not realistic because it is “the idea least acceptable to the Israelis… since de-Zionization and severance from the Jewish people is in the eyes of every Israeli giving up the very raison d’être of the state of Israel …”
This, too, is a typical Mapam opportunistic argument. They are not looking for a way to uproot the conflict, but for a formula which would be acceptable to the majority of the Israeli public. In our view this kind of real-politik suffers not only from opportunism but also from short-sightedness and lack of true realism. For every arrangement that does not include de-Zionization will be only imaginary and temporary: The basic problem will continue to exist.
Let us illustrate this by an extreme example – that of South Africa. (The fact that we use thus example does not mean that we consider the two cases to be similar in all respects.) At present there does not exist a military clash exists between South Africa and the neighboring African states; nevertheless, there exists a historic conflict between a settlers’ society and the African population. There is only one solution: to abolish the racialist nature of the Republic of South Africa, which is not only the historical source of the conflict but also the factor that re-creates it every moment at the present time. It is well known that this solution is categorically rejected by the majority of the white population who regard it as tantamount to giving up the raison d’être of their state. Does the revolutionary movement in South Africa therefore have to seek other solutions?
When Mr. Merhav turns to discuss Matzpen’s attitude to Al-Fateh, he again carefully refrains from quoting us. He formulates our position in his own words – and it does not come out well. This, by the way, is a method frequently used by people who cannot present a principled position in an argument. They first put their opponents’ ideas in their own words in a bungled form – and then find it quite easy to fight the scarecrow they have set up. [The following four paragraphs were banned by the Israeli censor.]
Let us repeat our position. We distinguish between the resistance of the Palestinian Arabs as a whole against occupation, and the specific policy of this or that organization within the resistance movement.
As for the popular resistance as a whole, we recognize the right and duty of every conquered and oppressed people to resist occupation and to struggle for its freedom.
As for our position concerning this or that organization within the resistance movement – it is determined primarily according to its political programme. In this we differ from those who reject these organizations because of the very fact that they are struggling against occupation, or because of the means that they use in the struggle.
We reject the positions of both Al-Fateh under the leadership of Yasser Arafat, and the Popular Front, led by George Habash. But we make it quite clear that out rejection of their positions dpes not derive from the fact that they are struggling against Israeli occupation. In our opinion resistance to occupation is natural and legitimate, and no “loyalty toa national collective” will ever budge us from this principle. As for the means used in the struggle – even if we do not approve of them, they do not constitute the main criterion by which we determine our position.
Our position – we repeat – is determined by the political programme. Our rejection of the policies of Al-Fateh and the Popular Front is based on two main points. First, they do not regard social and political revolution throughout the region as a condition and framework for the solution of the Palestinian problem, but they defer all struggles within the Arab world and subject them to the Palestinian cause. They believe in a national unity which is “above classes” – and therefore false. The solution which they propose refers to an artificial political entity – Palestine within the borders of the British Mandate – instead of the region as a whole.
Second, they do not accept the principle that the victorious revolution in the region, which will defeat the existing regimes there – including the Zionist regime in Israel – will grant the right of self-determination to the non-Arab national entities living inside the Arab world, including the Israeli people.
We reject the idea which is upheld both by the leaders of Al-Fateh and the leaders of Mapam, that the national struggle is prior to the revolutionary struggle for socialism. This means that as long as a national struggle is being waged, one should not, in their opinion, start a revolutionary struggle which may undermine the unity of “the national collective”. Only when the national problem dusappears – so they think – will the time come for passing to the stage of revolutionary social struggle. This was always the view of nationalists who claimed to be socialists. “Struggle for socialism?… Yes, of course – but not now; now we have more ergent problems”. This is the Theory of Stages of Meir Ya’ary [the leader of Mapam] and of Yasser Arafat.
We totally reject this idea, thereby differing from both Al-Fateh and Mapam. In our view there is only one struggle – the revolutionary struggle for a new society in the Middle East, including Israel. Only within the framework of such a revolution will it be possible to solve the main problems of the region, including the Israeli-Arab problem.
Mr. Merhav summarises his own position as follows:
“The problem is how to reach an understanding, agreement and peace between the two neighbouring and rival national collectives (or between the decisive majority of each of them), that is, between the Arab countries and the Palestinians who inscribe on their flag the idea of Arab nationalism, revival and unity, and the State of Israel that inscribes on her flag the idea of nationalism, revival, unity of the Jewish people and the gathering of its exiles in the historic homeland. To the challenge of creating contacts and an atmosphere favourable to conducting a friendly, purposive and constructive dialogue between these two real national collectives as they are now our efforts are dedicated”.
This is a classic formulation of the nationalist trend in the socialist movement: it kneels down before “the national collective as it is now”. Mr. Merhav is seeking understanding, agreement and peace between the Arab world and Arab nationalism as they are now, and Israel and Zionism as they are now.
In our opinion, this approach must be discarded as a matter of principle; but the experience of the last 70 years of Middle East history also shows that what Mr. Merhav says he is seeking cannot be achieved. Even if the Israeli-Arab conflict did not exist, we would oppose the regimes that now exist in Israel and the Arab countries. All the more reason for this, since we know that the conflict cannot be solved so long as they remain “as they are now”.
In fact, those who claim that the solution should be found through agreement between “the two national collectives as they are now”, make no contribution to solving the problem but only seal their own fate: perpetually to tail behind the powers that be that dominate their “national collective”.
Incidentally, the representation of loyalty to the “national collective” as a socialist principle is the most wretched and shameful fraud in the whole of Mr. Merhav’s argumentation. What “national collective” commanded the loyalty of Marx, Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, Trotsky or Karl Liebnecht?
Mr. Merhav denounces us as “a group of seceders from their-national collective”. We are proud of this. It is not our secession that is vile, but the toadying of Mr. Merhav & Co.
Mr. Merhav states, quite correctly, that we regard the struggle for a new society as the central and dominant issue, to which all other matters are subject and from which they are derived. He, in contrast, puts forward a different principle: activity for peace between Israel as it is now and the Arab world as it is now. This, he asserts, is of paramount importance, and all other matters must be subjected to it.
This is a typical bit of Zionist thinking. Zionism does not speak about the solution of the Israeli-Arab problem, because as far as it is concerned no such problem exists; it does not even like to speak of solving the Isrraeli-Arab conflict. As far as Zionism is concerned, everything can be summed up in one word: peace. It is not difficult to understand why: Zionism is engaged in a process of creating facts which are favourable to it and of realising its goals. In each stage of partial realisation, it wants only one thing: that the Arabs acquiesce in the facts that it has created at their expense. From its point of view there does not exist a political and social problem, but only the problem of Arab psychology. Therefore the Zionist demand is “peace”, not “a solution to the problem”.
Of course, this does not mean that Zionism is particularly peace-loving; it is not prepared to have peace at any price but only on its own terms. Even Mr. Merhav writes that “we are prepared, in the event of peace, to return most of the territories now held by” the Israeli army.
“Most of the territories”, mark you, not all the occupied territories. To return all the occupied territories would be too high a price to pay for peace, even from the socialist point of view of Mr. Merhav. If all the territories were to be returned, it would seem that Zionism did not advance, as a result of the June 1967 war, to the full realisation of its aim; and this would not be a price which it considers worthwhile paying for peace.
In Zionist terminology “peace” does not necessarily mean opposition to war: when the Zionists demand “peace”, what they really mean is that the Arabs should peacefully accept the accomplished facts that Zionism created at their expense, that they should peacefully accept Zionism.
A public discussion is currently taking place in Israel on the relation between “peace” and “security”. It is a debate between those like Mapam – who think that the Arab world may ultimately accept Zionism – and those who have inferred from the historical experience of Zionism that it will never be accepted by the Arabs and must therefore impose itself by military superiority alone. Mr. Merhav states, quite correctly, that Matzpen is taking no part whatever in this national discussion on “peace or security”. For it is a sterile discussion within the Zionist camp which we completely and totally reject. A Zionist Israel can never achieve peace and it can never achieve security. In this sense it will share the fate of all other settlers’ regimes that are trying to exist in the midst of the third world, regimes which are based on discrimination against the indigenous population, on its exploitation or expulsion, and which are tied by an umbilical cord to the global imperialist alignment.
In this respect Israel does not differ from South Africa or Rhodesia.
The road to peace is that of the struggle to abolish the Zionist nature of Israel, to set up a new society through active collaboration with the revolutionary forces throughout the region. Whoever refuses to recognise this is thereby sentencing himself to a future of permanent warfare, of permanent militarisation in all fields of social life and in all aspects of culture, morals and science. Whoever adheres to Zionism sentences himself to perpetual war against the Arab world and to perpetual dependence on the suppliers of Phantoms. This is absolutely inescapable.
Up to this point we have been discussing principles. But we cannot end the discussion without stressing that Mapam themselves do not take their own nice principles seriously; in fact, the entire history of Mapam is the history of surrendering one principle after another. Let us mention their kibbutzim – e.g. Bar’am – which are founded on lands confiscated from Arab peasants, who although being Israeli citizens, were dispossessed to make room for these Zionist settlements. Let us recall Mapam’s participation in the coalition government that decided to start the Suez war of 1956; let us recall that in 1957 Mapam helped to organise mass demonstrations against Israeli withdrawal from Sinai. Let us remember that they are part of the Dayan-Begin government, that they voted for the annexation of East Jerusalem to Israel (what has this got to do with peace or security?) and continue to support further annexations.
In short, Mapam’s “principles” exist only for the sake of “the propaganda activity of our party abroad”; but in Israel there has never been a single instance of Mapam voting against a decision taken by their senior partners on matters of Zionist policy or on military questions. (This is a challenge to Mr. Merhav: let him refute our assertion!)
The latest item on the list of surrenders exposes once more Mapam’s role in the Zionist camp. The Israeli daily Haaretz of September 12 1969 reports that the Alignment [a block of all Zionist “workers’ parties” led by the Labour party formerly called Mapai, and including Mapam] adopted a platform for the general elections which were to be held on the following month. One of the points in this platform was support for Zionist colonisation in the occupied territories. Haaretz goes on to say that Mapam was against this point and at first insisted that its objection be mentioned in the platform itself; but Mr. Moshe Dayan announced that he would not allow such a thing. Finally there was found what Haaretz rather amusingly calls “an honourable way out”: the point in support of colonisation would be included in the platform without any reservation and all partners in the Alignment – including Mapam – would be bound by it. However, Mapam, while being bound by the platform, were given permission (with the consent of Mr. Dayan) to appear in public and speak against that particular point.
The division of labour is quite clear. Mapam will continue to participate in the ruling alignment which supports and actually carries out the colonisation of the occupied territories; at the same time, this policy contradicts Mapam’s declared principles, and Mapam will go on declaring those principles. So Mapam will in fact support the colonisation policy, but with the consent of Mr. Dayan, will continue to make noises against that policy, in particular when speaking to the left abroad.