Israel is a Zionist state: Zionism is its official ideology and policy. But Zionism is not confined, in time or in space, to Israel. Political Zionism as a movement was founded at the turn of the century, and soon started to take active diplomatic and organization steps towards colonizing Palestine, which was then part of the Turkish empire.
Zionist colonizatory activity in Palestine became intensive after the first world war, when that country was occupied by Britain, who continued to rule it for about 30 years under a “mandate” granted by the League of Nations. So Zionism was busily colonizing Palestine long before the State of Israel was founded (May, 1948).
But Zionist activity is not confined to Palestine. All over the world, the Zionist movement and agencies of the Israeli government are extremely active in mobilizing Jews for immigration to Israel (in order to continue the colonization of Palestine) and for supporting the State of Israel politically and financially. Part of the money collected by the Zionist movement is not sent to Israel, but used to subsidize the activity of those Jewish organizations – social and cultural bodies, student unions etc – which agree to toe the Zionist line.
Since the Zionist movement and the Israeli government have an extremely efficient fund-raising machinery, collecting money not only from individuals but also, and even mainly, from the US and other western governments, Zionist domination of those organizations does not have to rely on ideological arguments alone. Finally, Zionists are very active in lobbying western governments to continue their support and subsidy, without which Israel would be unable to operate.
Thus the struggle against Zionism is not just about something taking place far away in the Middle East; it is also a struggle against Zionist activity and ideology right here in Britain. Progressive people Jewish and non-Jewish alike – who have been misled, misinformed and confused by the efficient Zionist propaganda machine – must be shown the ugly realities of Zionism, and must be won over and mobilized to struggle against it.
Zionism – A false reaction to Antisemitism
Undoubtedly, Zionism came into being in response to antisemitism, the virulent persecution of Jews, which was mounting in various countries, especially in eastern and central Europe. But was it the right kind of response?
Progressive people (and in particular socialists) believe that antisemitism, like all other forms of persecution of racial and religious minorities, is not something inherent in human nature; it is the result of specific historical circumstances – economic, social and political. Therefore the struggle against antisemitism (and against racism in general) is not only necessary but also possible. It is part of the general fight for progress, for a better world; a fight against those economic, social and political circumstances that give rise to racism and other forms of inhumanity.
Racists and reactionaries believe just the opposite. According to them, a multi-racial society is against “human nature”. Wherever there is a minority which is racially or ethnically different from the majority, trouble is inevitable, and “rivers of blood will flow”. No amount of struggle for progress and for better race relations is able to change this. The only way to prevent trouble is to get rid of the minority, to send its members away “where they belong” and where they can live “among their own kind”.
Occasionally it happens that some members of a persecuted minority capitulate to the racist ideas of their oppressors, give up the struggle against racism as “pointless” and seek to solve their problem by segregation, exactly as the racists recommend. Zionism is a case in point.
Leo Pinsker, a precursor of political Zionism, came to the conclusion that antisemitism is a manifestation of a mental disease, “Judophobia”, which is hereditary among the gentiles:
“Judophobia is then a mental disease; and as a mental disease it is hereditary; and having been inherited for 2000 years, it is incurable”.1
Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, became converted to this way of thinking in 1894, when – as a journalist for a Viennese paper – he was covering the notorious Dreyfus trial in Paris. (Dreyfus, a French army officer of Jewish origin, was tried for “treason”. The trial was a travesty, and conducted amid a wave of antisemitic hysteria.) In his diary Herzl summed up his reactions:
“In Paris… I achieved a freer attitude to antisemitism, which I now began to understand historically, and to pardon (!). Above all, I recognized the emptiness and futility of trying to ‘combat’ anti-semitism”.2
Since then, the same idea has echoed and re-echoed in Zionist literature. For example, the Zionist writer Y. Bar-Yossef tells us in 1968:
“The minority must realize that human nature is basically evil, that inherent traits of human psychology and biology (!) are such that a stronger majority will always treat the minority according to its whims. Occasional waves of liberalism have only a temporary character… No education, progress, liberalism, humanism can save the minority when the terrible hour strikes”.3
And the Zionist historian Yigal Elam writes:
“Zionism has not regarded antisemitism as an abnormal, absurd, deformed and marginal phenomenon. It has regarded antisemitism as a natural phenomenon, something given and normal in the attitude of gentiles to the presence of Jews in their midst… a normal, almost rational reaction of the gentiles to the abnormal, absurd and deformed situation of the Jewish people in the diaspora”. And he therefore has to admit that in this sense there is an uneasy and bizarre convergence between Zionist and antisemitic thinking.4
Indeed, if you believe that Jews can and should live in freedom and dignity among non-Jews in this country (and elsewhere), that antisemitism can be fought and beaten – then you are thinking as a progressive person. But if you believe that Jews can have no place here, that they should not waste their time fighting against antisemitism, but go away “where they belong”, to live “among their own kind”, then you are thinking as an anti-Semite – or a Zionist.
Zionist propaganda often claims that Zionism is “the national liberation movement of the Jewish people”. This is absolutely false, not only because the Jews around the world do not constitute one national entity, but also and mainly – because a liberation movement of any group of people is a movement that fights their oppressors; whereas Zionism does not organize the Jews for the struggle against antisemitism, but for emigration to Israel. According to Zionism, rather than waste their time in a futile fight against antisemitism, Jews should go to colonize Palestine.
Zionist propaganda always claims that extermination of millions of Jews by the Nazis in the second world war “proves” the correctness of the Zionist position and the need for the Jews to live in a country which is exclusively their own. This argument is not valid. In fact, many more Jews were saved from the Nazi gas chambers by escaping to the depths of Russia, or to the US, or to this country, than by going to Palestine. Does this “prove” that the Jewish problem should be solved by all the Jews going to Russia, or America, or Britain?
Furthermore, it is an accident of history that the Nazi armies were stopped before reaching Palestine. Had they not been stopped in time and had they overrun Palestine, the fate of the Jews there would have been the same as in Poland. The simple fact is that Jews were exterminated wherever the Nazis reached, and were saved where the Nazis were not allowed to reach. What this proves is that the fate of the Jews (as of other persecuted groups) is inseparable from the fight against Nazism, fascism and reaction.
It should now be pointed out that even by its own admission, Zionism was involved in saving the lives of Jews only insofar as this meant bringing them over to Palestine as settlers. In the late 1930s, under the pressure of public opinion, various projects were proposed by the American, British and other governments for saving the Jews of central and eastern Europe by organizing a large-scale emergency migration to places other than Palestine. The Zionist movement refused to co-operate, and helped to shelve these projects. As Ben-Gurion (who later became Israel’s first Prime Minister) pointed out, such projects would necessarily compete with the Zionist project of colonizing Palestine, and must therefore be nipped in the bud.5 His second-in-command Moshe Sharett (who was later to become the first foreign minister and then second Prime Minister of Israel) put it like this:
“The fate of Zionism is to be sometimes cruel towards the Jewish diaspora; that is, when the building up of this country requires it”.6
In a recently published book, the Zionist historian S.B. Beit-Zvi concludes sadly:
“Narrow-mindedness and the fear of ‘the territorialist danger’ (ie, migration of Jews to countries other than Palestine) led the Zionist movement to act in a number of cases against the efforts of others, Jews and non-Jews, to save Jewish lives”.7
Finally, it must be pointed out that while there are still places where Jews are victims of persecution and discrimination, there is only one place where according to the Zionists themselves, that Jews are presently facing a serious danger. That place is Israel, which was supposed to be “the safe heaven” for the Jews. The reason for this is, of course, the fact that the Zionist colonization of Palestine has inevitably led to a deep conflict between the settlers and the indigenous inhabitants of that country – the Palestinian Arabs. This is what we must discuss next.
Zionism as a colonizatory project
As explained above, Zionism proposed to “solve” the Jewish problem by removing the Jews from among the “gentiles” and concentrating them in a country exclusively their own. At the time when Zionism was founded, there was no country in which the Jews were the majority of the population, so the only way to achieve the Zionist goal was to colonize some “uninhabited” country. We have to recall that Zionism came into being in the heyday of European colonial expansion, when “colonization” was not regarded as a dirty word – certainly not in the European middle-class circles in which Zionist leaders like Herzl moved. A country whose population was not European was regarded as “uninhabited” and “a land without a people”.
At first, Herzl favoured what was then the eastern province of Uganda (which later, after a British “re-arrangement” of the map of Africa, became the western province of Kenya) as the territory for Zionist colonization. But it soon transpired that the only serious candidate was Palestine, chiefly due to the deep religious attachment that the Jews had for it.
What was to become of the indigenous people of the country? In the many places colonized by Europeans the “natives” were used as a source of cheap and super-exploited labour power in the service of the settlers. The Zionist leaders did not want to follow this practice which would result not in a predominantly Jewish country but in a country in which the Jewish settlers would form only the upper classes, and the indigenous people – forming the working classes – would still be the majority.
The Zionist leaders were farsighted enough to realize that in the long term it would be dangerous, or even impossible, to rely on minority rule. They therefore decided that the indigenous people must not be exploited as labour-power, but expelled. In 1895, when he was sketching the outline of the Zionist programme, Herzel wrote in his diary:
“The poorer section of the population we shall try to transfer across the border, without creating too much fuss, by giving them employment in the transit countries; but in our own country we shall deny them all work”.8
This was, in essence, the plan which Zionist colonization actually followed. The Zionist movement began to buy lands in Palestine, mostly large estates owned by big, often absentee, landlords. The tenant peasant farmers were then evicted to make room for Jewish settlements. Later, following serious peasant “unrest”, the British authorities enacted a regulation forbidding the eviction of tenants following a sale of estate lands, but the Zionists soon found a way round this. The tenants were usually deep in debt to their usurious landlords, and were almost totally at their mercy. It was both easy (and legal) for the big landlord to evict his own tenants before selling the land to the Zionists.
This is precisely what the latter now demanded: they wanted to buy only “empty” land, without tenants. The rich Arab landlords duly complied. Whilst mounting anti-Zionist slogans to appease the angry masses, they proceeded to evict the peasants and sell the land to the Zionists third parties, in order to hide what they were up to. Thus the Palestinian Arab ruling class colluded with the Zionists in the destruction of their own people.
But this process was far too slow for the Zionists. By about 1940 they had begun to make more far-reaching plans. From the diaries of Joseph Weitz, an important official in the Zionist machine (and member of MAPAI, the Zionist “Labour” party), we learn what the Zionist leaders’ plan was:
“Between ourselves it should be clear that in this country there is no room for both peoples together… With the Arabs, we shall not achieve our aims to be an independent nation in this small country. The only solution is Palestine, or at least western Palestine (ie, the area west of the Jordan river, including what later became Israel and the West Bank of Jordan) without Arabs… and there is no other way but to transfer all the Arabs from here to the neighbouring countries. To transfer all of them; not one village, not one tribe should be left behind… For this purpose money, plenty of money, can be found. And only after such a transfer will the country be able to absorb millions of our brethren”.9
The opportunity presented itself eight years later. In the 1948-49 war, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian peasants fled from the areas of battle in fear of Israeli atrocities (just as thirty years later, in 1978, the peasants of south Lebanon were to flee from the invading Israeli army). The newly formed Zionist state seized the lands of these refugees, and prevented their return. As for the Palestinians who stayed behind, inside Israel, most of their lands were also confiscated by the Israeli government by chicanery and legal robbery.
In order to facilitate this robbery, and preserve the “Jewish character” of Israel – that is, Jewish supremacy in it – various racist and discriminatory laws, regulations and practices were introduced. In this sense it is correct to say that Zionism is racist. It is not so much a question of the Zionists regarding the Arabs as inherently inferior to Jews (although many Zionists do have such views, there are some who don’t). Rather, the point is that in practice, in order to implement the aims of Zionism, it was necessary to dispossess the Palestinians and to violate not only their national rights as a people but also their human and civil rights as individuals.
But the Zionists were far from satisfied with the territory they captured in 1948-49. They wanted to capture the whole of the “Promised Land”, which according to the Bible stretches far beyond Israel’s 1949 borders. They were waiting for the chance for further expansion. The right moment seemed to arrive in October 1956, when Israel, France and Britain were planning their joint attack on Egypt, following the nationalization of the Suez Canal. In a secret meeting of leaders of these three countries, Israel’s prime minister David Ben-Gurion demanded that Israel be allowed to occupy and annex not only the Sinai peninsula, but also Jordan’s West Bank, and the south of Lebanon up to the Litani river.10
France, and even more so Britain, did not agree to this, because they were only interested in a war against Egypt and did not feel strong enough to rearrange the whole map of the Middle East. Israel had to be satisfied with Sinai. In the event, the Anglo-French-Israeli war was not a success. The Americans had other plans at that time and were not prepared to tolerate insubordination. Finally Israel was forced to withdraw even from Sinai.
The real chance came in 1967. This time, with tacit American approval, Israel invaded Sinai, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Syrian Golan Heights. Soon Zionist colonization started to spread into all these territories. Next, in March 1978, Israel invaded the south of Lebanon up to the Litani river (just as Ben-Gurion had demanded in 1956). It is certain that, given half a chance, the Zionist state will try to colonize and annex that territory as well. And since it has not been allowed to do so now, it will wait for another chance.
Zionist propaganda often claims that the Zionist settlers came to an empty and desolate country to “make the desert bloom”. This is a lie. The eminent Jewish writer Ahad Ha’am (who was a “spiritual” rather than political Zionist, hoping to establish in Palestine not a Zionist political entity but a spiritual and cultural Jewish centre) wrote after visiting Palestine in 1891:
“We, abroad, are used to believing that Palestine is now almost entirely desolate, an uncultivated desert, in which anyone who wants to buy land can do so at will. But this is not so. In the whole country it is difficult to find arable land that is not already cultivated”.11
Later, in 1936, the Zionist leader Arthur Ruppin had to admit that “on every site where we purchase land and settle people, the present cultivators will inevitably be dispossessed”.12 And Moshe Dayan, in one of his brutally honest moments, confessed that “there is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population”.13 Again, in 1973, Dayan said:
“The State of Israel has been established at the expense of the Arabs and in their place… We settle Jews in places formerly inhabited by Arabs. We are turning an Arab country into a Jewish one”.14
And yet, the same Dayan also said in 1968:
“During the last hundred years our people are in the process of building up this country and this nation, of expansion, of getting more Jews and more settlements to expand the borders here. Let no Jew say that this is the end of the process; let no Jew say that we are near the end of the road“.15
According to the Zionist leaders, Israel is not merely the result of Zionist colonization, but also an instrument for its further continuation and expansion. Zionist propaganda often claims that the conflict between Israel and the Arabs is due to the bloody-mindedness of the latter. Instead of welcoming the Zionist settlers, who came to cultivate the land in peace, the Palestinian Arabs brutally attacked them, as all gentiles like to do to Jews. In this the Zionists are merely repeating an argument which all colonizers use: it is always the fault of the bloody natives.
Similar things were said by the South African and Rhodesian settlers, by the French in Algeria and by the European settlers in North America. We have all seen those old-fashioned Western films, in which it is always the savage Indians who attack the peaceful white farmers.
But the Zionists could not have implemented their plans in Palestine without support from outside, from the imperialist powers. We shall now turn to explain why this support was given.
Zionism – a watchdog of imperialism in the Middle East
From the start it was clear to Herzl and the other Zionist leaders that in order to colonize Palestine they would need the backing and support of the big imperialist powers. Accordingly, they worked hard in order to obtain from these powers a “charter” for colonizing Palestine. But it takes two to make a deal. Obviously, Zionism had to offer something in exchange for such a charter.
In his programmatic book “The Jewish State” Herzl explains what that “something” would be:
“For Europe we shall serve there as part of the rampart against Asia, and function as the vanguard of civilization against the barbarians… We shall keep our times with all the European nations, who will guarantee our existence there”.16
Since at that time Palestine was part of the Turkish Empire, which in turn was under the thumb of German imperialism, Herzl first tried to approach the German Kaiser for the coveted charter. But he did not get very far. The real chance came quite a few years after Herzl’s death. Towards the end of the first world war, when it became clear that Britain was going to dominate the Middle East, and following long negotiations between the British government and the Zionists (led by Chaim Weizman, who was later to become Israel’s first president) the long sought-after charter was granted to the Zionists by the British. It is long known as the Balfour Declaration. (Lord Balfour was foreign secretary at the time.)
Sir Ronald Storrs, who was involved in arranging the deal, and who later became the first British governor of Jerusalem, explains in his memoirs that the Zionist project was to be “one that blessed him that gave [i.e., British imperialism] as well as him that took, by forming for England, ‘a little loyal Jewish Ulster’ in a sea of hostile Arabism”.17
Thus Zionist colonization started to develop and thrive under the protecting wings of British imperialism. However, the interests of the two parties to the deal were not identical. The Zionists wanted to colonize Palestine as quickly as possible in order to form a sovereign Jewish state there (although they did not mind if that state remained part of the Commonwealth). The British government on the other hand, wanted to use the Zionist project as part of the rampart against growing Arab nationalism; but they realized that if the Zionists were allowed to go too far or too fast, that would only antagonize the Arabs and push them further into nationalism and opposition to Britain.
So Britain tried to put various curbs on the Zionists, and a conflict gradually developed. Zionist propaganda often tries to present this conflict between Zionism and Britain as an “anti-imperialist struggle” by Zionism. This is almost as absurd as saying that Rhodesia’s Ian Smith is an anti-imperialist just because he had some differences with Britain.
As a matter of fact, Zionism only switched its allegiance from British to American imperialism, which now began to dominate the Middle East. The role of Zionism as a “vanguard of civilisation against the barbarians” did not change. As Israel’s respectable middle class daily Ha’Aretz explained, “Israel has been assigned the role of a kind of watchdog. It is not to be feared that she would apply an aggressive policy towards the Arab states if that would be clearly against the wishes of America and Britain. (This was written in 1951, when Britain still had some muscle in the Middle East.) But if the western powers will at some time prefer, for one reason or another, to shut their eyes, Israel can be relied upon to punish properly one or several of her Arab neighbours whose lack of manner towards the west has gone beyond permissible limits”.18 And in 1977 a well-known American analyst explained:
“A strong and confident Israel is a vital factor in any programme to protect our own legitimate interests and those of Europe, Japan and many other countries in the independence and openness and stability in the region”.19 (By “independence” he means dependence on the west; “openness” is being open to western investment and exploitation; and “stability” here means the stability of reactionary and corrupt regimes.)20
In exchange for services rendered, Israel receives from the US (and other western governments) not only solid military aid and political support, but also massive financial subsidies. The current deficit in Israel’s balance of payments is now about 3.5 billion dollars per annum. This is covered by various forms of grants, loans and donations from the US (and other countries, including Britain). This subsidy works out at about £1.50 per Israeli person (man, woman or child) per day!
Most of this money comes directly from the American government. But part is collected as “personal donations” by the Zionist fund-raising machine, in the US, Britain, and other western countries. Since these are defined as “charitable donations”, they are income-tax-deductible; so that in fact they are in part a disguised subsidy to Israel from the treasuries of these countries.
We can now sum up. Zionism is a false solution to the Jewish problem and is based on a capitulation to antisemitic arguments. It is a project for establishing, maintaining and expanding an exclusivist state in which racist laws, regulations and practices are enforced. It is a colonizing enterprise at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian people. And it is a staunch ally and instrument of imperialist domination in the Middle East.
- Leo Pinsker, Autoemancipation, (German), p.5. ↩
- The Diaries of Theodore Herzl, p.6 (Gollancz, London 1958. ↩
- Y. Bar Yossef, in Yediot Aharonot, 12 Jan 1968. ↩
- Yigal Elam, New Assumptions to the same Zionism (Hebrew), in Ot, 1967. ↩
- Quoted in The Other Israel, p.171 (Doubleday, New York 1972). ↩
- Quoted in Yigal Elam, An Introduction to Zionist History (Hebrew), p 122. ↩
- S.B. Seit-Zvi, Post-Ugandan Zionism in the Crucible of the Holocaust (Hebrew), p. 458 (Bronfman, Tel-Aviv, 1977). ↩
- Th. Herzl, Selected Works (Hebrew), diary entry of 12 June 1895. ↩
- Quoted by the author in Davar 29 Sept 1967. ↩
- Bar-Zohar, Ben-Gurion (Hebrew) vol. 3, pp 1234-5 (Am Oved, Tel-Aviv, 1977). ↩
- Ahad Ha’am, Collected Works (Hebrew), p. 23 (Tel-Aviv, 1947). ↩
- Quoted in The Jerusalem Post Weekly, 30 Sept. 1968. ↩
- Quoted in Ha’aretz, 4 Apr. 1969. ↩
- Quoted in Yediot Aharonot, 10 May 1973. ↩
- Quoted in Ma’ariv, 7 Jul. 1968. ↩
- Th. Herzl, The Jewish State (Hebrew Trans) p.30. ↩
- Sir Ronald Storrs, Orientations, p.414 (1933 edition). ↩
- Ha’aretz, 30 Sept 1951. ↩
- Eugen V. Rostow, The American State in Israel in Commentary, April 1977. ↩
- Expression used in this connection by Prof. Milton Friedman; quoted in Ha’aretz, overseas edition, 8 Jul 1977. ↩