The Arab-Israeli conflict
AFTER THE FALL of the Jewish state of Palestine in the year 70, up to the fateful year of 1948 only two Jewish states were ever formed. One was in the Yemen in the sixth century and the other was on the Lower Volga and lasted for three centuries until 1000. During the Middle Ages Jews had formed tight, closely knit communities. But in the nineteenth century the movement towards cultural assimilation became much greater. Then in 1879 a tragic event took place. Bismarck for completely pragmatic reasons found it necessary to launch a campaign of anti-Semitism. This cynical use of pogroms by rulers was to continue in Austria, France and Russia. Thus in a century in which bourgeois nationalism developed all over Europe rulers exorcised many of the class hatreds and tensions by forcing a new political identity on international Jewry.
A Jewish reaction to anti-Semitism was the nationalist and socialist ideology of the Bund, the Jewish Socialist Party of the Russian Empire, founded in 1897. Another reaction was that of Theodor Herzl. He wrote A Jewish State in 1896. In this he formulated the theory of a homeland which would be a refuge for the migratory Jew. Palestine was the obvious centre for this new homeland. This was still .part of the rapidly disintegrating 'Ottoman Empire.
Small Jewish colonies
Small Jewish colonies still existed in Palestine where in 1880 there were 24,000 Jews. This number was to grow with the increase of antiSemitism, particularly in Tsarist Russia. Most Jews emigrated westwards to the U.S.A. often staying for a pcriod in Western Europe to pay for their passage. But some went to Palestine. By 1914 Jews comprised 85,000 out of an indigenous population of 739,000.
Then in the same year the huge, shaky, bureaucratically inept Ottoman Empire entered the World \Var on the side of Germany. A new stage had opened.
The Empire collapsed. Many Arab States demanded independence. But in May, 1919, the Colonial Allied powers characteristically ignoring the claims of the indigenous population announced a different decision. They decided to bestow" mandates," which was a hypocritical formula for a colonial territorial extension, on the victorious capitalist powers. Syria and Lebanon were taken by the French, and Iraq and Palestine by the British.
The colonising powers, facing constant smouldering revolt, used the policy of divide and rule. They gave special privilege to a racial minority which would thus be loyal.This created a state which had an efficient bureaucracy and which remained loyal to the colonial power without openly infringing on the mandate status of the country. Britain thus encouraged Jewish emigration to Palestine. Between 1919 and 1931 another 117,000 Jews entered Palestine.
Hitler's organised pogroms unleashed further waves which the British encouraged under the guise of an anti-fascist policy. Between 1932 and 1938 217,000 Jews entered Palestine. By 1939 Jews numbered 429,605 oUt of a population of about 1,500,000 or about 28 per cent.
The Arab reaction to this was extremely hostile. They saw a privileged class being deliberately created by Britain. Jews controlled nearly all of Palestine capital; were autonomous and self-governing and had a powerful purely Jewish Histradruth or Trade Union Congress which fulfilled the functions of insurance, banking and social security for the Jews. This Histradruth was the source of the peculiarly capitalist Labour Party in Israel. The Arabs used strikes, demonstrations and terrorism in an attempt to save their territory. The British used an army of 10,000 to crush these revolts and organised a force which was to finally hurt the British themselves. This was the Haganah, a vicious brutal, secret Jewish army.
In 1945 when all the world's attention was being transfixed by the horrors discovered during the allied armies' liberation of the concentration camps in Germany, war broke out again in Palestine. The Jewish racialists in Palestine now had powerful allies. They had the sympathy of a quiescent, guilty European people, the organised influence of many Jewish capitalists in the U.S.A. and their own well-equipped army.
In 1947 Britain pulled out and handed the problem they had cynically created to the United Nations. The U.N. decreed the partition of the state into a Jewish and Arab sector. Guerrilla warfare raged in Palestine. The Jews accepted their allotment of territory and immediately used it as a base for expansion into the Arab sector.
A Jewish state
The Zionists had achieved their desires. They had a Jewish state. Numerical superiority was achieved by driving out 580,000 Arabs who still remain in refugee camps. Before 1967 they numbered 922,000 due to their high birth rate. Jews were encouraged to " return to Israel." Arabs to qualify for citizenship had to swear an Oath of Loyalty to the State of Israel. Between 1948 and 1951, 687,000 new Jewish immigrants arrived mainly from Eastern Europe. 330,000 of these were Asian and African Jews. These were to create an intense racial and ideological crisis in Israel which in some ways is an explanation of the 1967 war. By 1956 there were 1,667,500 Jews and only 200,000 Arabs in Palestine.
The Arabs refused to recognise this European diktat or to recognise the easy assimilation of migrants fleeing the social problems created by Europe's economic crises which had spawned fascism. This colonial amputation had been imposed on them.
Israel's attack on Arab national consciousness was paralleled by the rise of Arab socialism. In 1952 Nasser overthrew the monarchy in Egypt. In Syria the Ba'ath Socialist Party achieved power in 1956. Regimes which were totally dependent on the pro-Israeli West to prop themselves up such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and the Yemen, were less anti-Zionist. In Egypt, Syria and Iraq the move to anti-Zionism was concomitant with a form of socialism.
The Arab masses of the anti-colonial states saw the overthrow of Zionism and of European colonialism as a similar struggle. Left-wing military regimes survived by bartering their neutrality between the Soviet Union and the pro-Israel U.S.A. Thus in. many Arab States desire for land reform, a free market for natural resources and anti-Zionism were all linked.
Trouble for the militarists
The 1960's saw significant changes. Israel began to become less strident in its Zionism.Racial tensions in the country between Western middle-class Jews and illiterate numerically equal non-European Jews softened its monolithic seige-community mentality. NonEuropean Jews were less imbued with militarist Zionist notions and sought only a stable existence. In 1965 the elections saw a crushing defeat for the Rafi. This Party was associated with the Zionist fathers of Israel, Ben Gurion and Peres. and with the sinister Dayan. It won only 10 seats out of 120. Premier Eshkol won 49 seats (including 4 Arab deputies). Eshkol used this victory to replace the hardline Zionist Golda Meir with Abba Eban who was violently against Ben Gurion's " adventurist " foreign policy of vicious armcd raids on Arab States. Thus Israel was developing a normal wealthy burgeoisie and racial problems. Emigration had almost stopped. In 1966 it had become a mere 15,000. Emigration, the prime source of manpower for the militarists and of social disruption leading to extreme Zionism, had ceased to be a significant factor.
The Arab States were changing also. They were becoming wealthier. The Arabs had never been militarily capable of conquering Israel. Israel had a well equipped army using U.S. weapons. It had a skilled technology. But the Arab States remained hostile to Zionism. They had a much larger, more articulate educated class than . hitherto. This class was created by the revolutions in the fifties and saw the destruction of Israel as essential for the overthrow of imperialism.
This meant that Arab states remained strident in their criticism of Israel and in their criticism of the Arab feudal puppet regimes dependent on Western Imperialism. It meant also that well armed articulate socialist guerrilla movements developed in the Arab States.
All this was especially true of Syria. This country had a revolutionary Ba'ath regime. It had nationalised all the means of production, opened relations with China, and continuously criticised backsliding, socialist pragmatists such as Nasser. It was from Syria that the AI-Fath group operated. This group made constant attacks on Israel. These were courageously supported by Syria. This gave the militarist group in Israel what they saw as their last chance to stop Israel becoming a normal bourgeois democracy.
In January, 1967, Peres said that "the Syrians were the only ones who have not felt any real blow from the Israelis.Perhaps the time has now
come to teach them a good lesson."
It is in this context that the tragedies of the last three years must be seen.
Eshkol was constantly threatened from the right for weakness and finally outflanked by the militarists.
Israel strikes again
This group, using Nasser's seizure of the Straits of Tiran which was a purely symbolic gesture with no economic significance, attacked the Arab States. In this they utili sed Western incomprehension of Nasser's bombastic threats to falsify what was essentially merely territorial aggrandisement.
Jordan suffered worst from this war. Reactionary and revolutionary Arab States have thus drawn together. All Arab States, even the formerly warring Yemen and Egypt, now stand united. In Israel the militarists stand supreme. Golda Meir and Peres rule. And Moshe Dayan, an open advocate of war, has come close to seizing power and only remains in the cabinet to ensure its constant shift to the Right and his constantly growing control of the armed forces.
Arab terrorist groups have mushroomed and operate all over the world. AI-Fath even operates from the territory of the reactionary King Hussein of
Jordan. The militarists in Israel cannot relinquish any of their territorial gains because they thrive on war tension. Jerusalem has become a temple to Zionist military victory.
President Nixon continues to supply arms to the Israeli forces which remain capable of crushing any Arab army. At the same time the Arabs cannot back down. The million refugees from Zionism have become nearly two million. Clearly until Zionist militarism is checked the Arab social revolution will remain subordinate to the needs of defence. And national unity will triumph over the need for class struggle. Thus Syria and Iraq have to fight. And Egypt, Algeria and Morocco have been forced to face a similar position. The reactionary Arab states now fear a further expansion of Israel with half of Jordan under Israel control.
It is difficult to see how this problem can be solved except militarily, so long as the U.S.A. acquiesces in arming Israel and the USSR refuses to supply similar arms to the Arabs.
The danger of a coup by Moshe Dayan remains the most ominious portent for the future. He has already received a petition signed by 250,000 calling for him to be Premier. He has the backing of 20 Deputies in the Knesset and the complete allegiance of the armed forces. If he comes to power the Middle East will be plunged into what might be the beginning of a World War.