1947: The Fourth International Against the Partition of Palestine
(reprinted from Issue No. 7 – August 2017 – of The Internationale, the theoretical review of the Organizing Committee for the Reconstitution of the Fourth International / OCRFI)
By Dominique Ferré
Autumn 2017 will mark the 70th anniversary of the partition of Palestine, the tragic consequence of the vote to pass United Nations (UN) Resolution 181(II) dated 29 November 1947. For The Internationale, it is also the occasion to republish two documents issued by the Fourth International at that time. The first, more well-known document is entitled “The Partition of Palestine”, an editorial in the November-December 1947 issue of Quatrième Internationale [Fourth International], the review of the International Secretariat of the Fourth International at the time. The second document, entitled “Against Partition!”, was published shortly before the first, in September 1947. This is an article in Hebrew from the bulletin Kol Ham’amad [The Voice of the Class], which was published and distributed in Palestine by the group that at the time presented itself as “the Palestinian section of the Fourth International”.
Against all odds, the positions set out in these two documents have remained the positions of the Fourth International on the Palestinian question for the last 70 years: rejection of partition and imperialist interference; the Palestinian people’s unconditional right to decide its own fate; and a Constituent Assembly including all of the component parts of a future Palestinian nation in order to establish a single, secular and democratic state covering the whole of the historic territory of Palestine. These have continued to be our positions and we have expressed them at every point in the Palestinian Revolution. Swimming against the current, we maintained them in 1993 when everyone else lined up behind the so-called “peace agreements” signed in Oslo (1) on the backs of the Palestinian people, under the auspices of US imperialism. Pushing the “logic” of partition to its very end, the Oslo Accords set up a Palestinian Authority, an ersatz state with no sovereignty whatsoever over just 22 per cent of Mandatory Palestine (2), which today is divided between the Gaza Strip, strangled by 10 years of blockade, and the bantustans of the West Bank, a confetti patchwork of Palestinian land that is being eaten away, day after day, by new Israeli settlements and military check-points.
To put these two documents in context, we need to recall the conditions in which the partition of Palestine was carried out. The delay of the world proletarian revolution, the epoch of which had been opened by the October Revolution in 1917 – a delay due exclusively to the treachery of the old (social-democratic and Stalinist) leaderships of the working class – had led to the barbarism of the Second World War. Amongst other ways, this barbarism manifested itself in the extermination of six million European Jews by the Nazis. But the gains of October 1917, which lived on in the consciousness of the Soviet masses, led in 1943 to Stalingrad, a first victory of the workers over barbarism. Stalingrad was the starting-point of a revolutionary wave that swept across Europe and then the colonial empires. Basing themselves on the victory at Stalingrad, workers and oppressed peoples sought to free themselves from fascism, but also from what had formed the breeding ground for fascism: capitalist exploitation and the colonial yoke. From India to the Balkans, from Italy and France to North Africa and Indochina, the working classes and oppressed peoples confronted the old world of war, exploitation and fascism.
It took the full weight of the counter-revolutionary unholy alliance between the imperialist powers that emerged victorious from the war (the United States and a severely weakened British Empire) and the Stalinist bureaucracy in power in the USSR to force back the global wave of revolution. In the name of the counter-revolutionary pact reached in Yalta and Potsdam, the national agencies of the Stalinist bureaucracy played a leading role in re-establishing “order”. In France, Communist Party (CP) Secretary General Maurice Thorez, who had just returned from Moscow, demanded the disarming of the patriotic militias in favour of “one state, one army, one police force” – those of the bourgeois state, which needed to be rebuilt, working hand-in-hand with de Gaulle.
Although the revolution was certainly “confiscated” by the apparatuses, with the Stalinist apparatuses in the forefront, in France as in other countries of Western Europe the working class nevertheless won major gains from a bourgeoisie which had narrowly avoided losing one crucial thing: power. In Algeria, which at that time was a French colony, the Stalinists dared to denounce as “Hitler’s agents” the militant activists of the Algerian People’s Party (PPA) who, together with the Algerian masses held demonstrations on 9 May 1945 in Satif and Guelma; the ensuing repression by the colonial forces resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. Although the unholy alliance was unable to prevent a revolution in Yugoslavia, the agreements between Stalin and Churchill led to the bloody repression in Greece of the partisans led by the CP, who in practice controlled most of the country. When William Gallacher, member of parliament and a leader of the British CP, protested in the House of Commons against the crushing of the Greek Communist partisans by His Majesty’s armed forces, Churchill – relying on the guarantees obtained from Stalin – told him half-ironically and half-threateningly to take care, as people who were talking like him at that time in Moscow were being sent to prison.
And what of the colonial possessions of the expiring British Empire, where the peoples were seeking to free themselves from oppression? The Palestinian Trotskyist militant activists wrote in Kol Ham’amad: “In our current period, the period of social revolutions and revolts of the enslaved peoples, imperialism rules by means of two main methods: ruthless and brutal repression (as in Indonesia, Indochina and Greece), or by breaking the class war through national conflicts. The second way is cheaper and more secure, and enables imperialism to remain behind the scenes.” In India, as in Palestine, US imperialism – with the direct help of the Stalinist bureaucracy – rallied behind Britain’s manoeuvres towards partition, thus “holding the hand” of a British Empire in decline. In India, partition in August 1947 divided the former “British Raj” on a religious basis, between majority-Hindu India on the one hand, and two “Muslim” entities a full 1,600 kilometres apart, named West Pakistan (present day Pakistan) and East Pakistan (which became Bangladesh after the national liberation war of 1971). This provoked the forced displacement of 12 million now-rootless people, and one million deaths in pogroms and clashes. The Indian Stalinist apparatus, which had condemned the uprising by the Indian masses in 1942, supported partition. The Fourth International and its Indian section, the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India (BLPI), opposed it.
As highlighted by Quatrième Internationale, in Palestine “as in India, partition has proved itself to be the most effective way to divert, at one and the same time, the struggle of the Arab masses and the discontent of the Jewish working population from an anti-imperialist explosion in the direction of a fratricidal struggle.” In Palestine, imperialism was to make use of the tragedy of the extermination of Europe’s Jews over the course of the war by employing for its own designs a racist and reactionary current which up to that point had only played a secondary role: Zionism. (3) At a time when hundreds of thousands of survivors of the Nazi death-camps sought to flee from Europe, the imperialist powers closed the borders of Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia, using arguments that would not have been rejected by the racist ideologues of Hitler’s Reich.
“Imperialism created the problem of the refugees from the concentration camps when it closed the gates of all countries to them. The fate of refugees is its responsibility”, the Palestinian Trotskyist rightly insisted in their September 1947 document. As recalled by the great writer and Palestinian revolutionary activist Ghassan Kanafani: “If Nazism was responsible for terrorising the Jews and forcing them out of Germany, it was “democratic” capitalism – in collaboration with the Zionist movement – that was responsible for directing comparatively large numbers of Jewish migrants to Palestine, as illustrated by the following: of 2,562,000 Jews that fled Nazi persecution, the USA accepted only 170,000 (6.6%), Britain 50,000 (1.9%), while Palestine received 8.5% and 1,930,000 (75.2%) found refuge in the USSR.” (4) After the war, as pointed out in the Quatrième Internationale editorial, the Fourth International campaigned in the US, Britain and elsewhere for Jewish refugees to be admitted into those countries unconditionally. The imperialist powers refused to do so, in order – with the help of the Zionists – to direct the Jewish migrants towards a single destination: Palestine. Of course, imperialist interference on the principle of “divide et impera” (5) was nothing new in the Near-East, which had already suffered the secret Anglo-French agreement of 1916 (6), the Balfour Declaration in 1917 for the establishment of a so-called “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, and the first plan to partition Palestine envisaged by the British in reaction to the powerful Palestinian general strike of 1936. But it would take the shameful use of the fact that six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis for the Zionists and imperialism to impose partition.
However, one cannot pass the responsibility for partition only onto the imperialist powers and their subsidiary tool, Zionism. Nothing would have been possible without the direct assistance of the Stalinist bureaucracy in power in the USSR (and, secondarily, of the social-democratic leaderships, particularly the leadership of the British Labour P, which played their role of “labour lieutenants of the bourgeoisie” perfectly). In a book that serves as a benchmark (7), the historian Henry Laurens recounts the circumstances of the vote at the UN, which took place after several attempts. “The Great Powers agreed to convene an extraordinary session of the UN General Assembly to consider the question of Palestine. An Arab proposal asking for Palestinian independence to be included in the agenda was rejected (1 May 1947). To general surprise, the Soviet delegation declared itself in favour of a binational state in Palestine, or, if this was not possible, of Palestine to be partitioned. (…) On 31 August 1947, the [UN Special] Committee [on Palestine, or UNSCOP] published its report. It unanimously recommended an end to the Mandate and independence for Palestine. The majority proposed a plan for partition [into an Arab State and a Jewish State] with an economic union and international status for Jerusalem; the minority (India, Iran and Yugoslavia) suggested the creation of a federal state comprising an Arab State and a Jewish State with Jerusalem as the capital of the federation. The Arab Higher Committee (8) immediately rejected both plans. The Zionists supported the plan for partition. The matter was referred back to the UN General Assembly. The United States and the Soviet Union adopted a position in favour of partition, Great Britain announced its intention to abstain and France hesitated: on the one hand, its deep-rooted sympathies lay with Zionism, but on the other, the weight of its Muslim empire (in North Africa first and foremost) pushed it towards abstention. (…) The main debate took place in the UN sub-committees responsible for studying the two proposals from the committee of enquiry, from end-October 1947 onwards. Thanks to especially strong US pressure, several Latin American states changed their voting decision at the last minute, leading to the acceptance of the partition plan on 29 November 1947 (the same applied to France, which after a lot of hesitation voted in favour of partition).”
It was most definitely the support of the Kremlin bureaucracy, maintaining the continuity of the counter-revolutionary Yalta and Potsdam agreements, which was the determining factor. The Palestinian Trotskyists of 1947 were absolutely right to condemn the attitude of the Communist Party of Palestine (i.e. the Stalinist party, which itself was soon to split along ethnic-religious lines over the partition “model”) when they wrote in Kol Ham’amad: “[The CP] apparently is waiting for the “just” UN solution. In any case, it continues to sow illusions regarding the UN, and in this way helps to disguise and implement the plans of imperialism.” Since 1947, how many times have we heard that it should be left to the UN to ensure that the national rights of the Palestinian people are respected? How many times, when it was precisely within the UN framework that the agreement was reached between imperialism and the Stalinist bureaucracy to try to strangle the legitimate national aspirations of the Palestinian people? Let us also point out that since 1947, such calls to leave it up to “the UN Resolutions” have no longer been the monopoly of the Stalinists. They have also been relayed by renegades from Trotskyism (Pabloites, etc.) as well as by the majority of the Palestinian leadership itself. But back then, just like today, leaving it to the UN “helps to disguise and implement the plans of imperialism”.
This article is not the place to recount the story of what followed the UN vote in November 1947: the Nakba (9), exile, national oppression, the wars of 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973, and the so-called “peace plans” up to Oslo (1993). Let us simply say that of the two states foreseen by the UN’s partition plan, only one, the State of Israel, saw the light of day, just as Quatrième Internationale had predicted: “The establishment of an Arab state independent of Palestine is, in fact, highly unlikely.” First and foremost because “King Abdullah of Transjordan, the no.1 pawn of the City of London in the Arab world, could very well succeed in unifying Eastern Palestine to his present kingdom”.
This is indeed what happened. As early as 1947, Quatrième Internationale rightly warned against false allies of the Palestinian people: “the effendis (10) and the imperialist agents, (…) the manoeuvres of the Egyptian and the Syrian bourgeoisie”, or to put it simply: the reactionary Arab regimes. These were prophetic words. Because the fatal illusions regarding the “help” that the region’s Arab regimes (without exception) could offer the Palestinian Revolution were at the root of many of the bloody defeats and betrayals, from “Black September” in Jordan to the Camp David Agreements between Sadat’s Egypt and Israel, via the securing of Israel’s border in the Golan Heights by Assad’s regime in Syria. As for the Palestinian leadership, all of its various fractions ultimately – first in 1988 and finally with the Oslo Accords in 1993 – renounced the Palestinian national Charter, which set the target of liberating the whole of Palestine and establishing one state whose citizens would all have equal rights, whatever their religion.
Every one of the fractions of the Palestinian leadership – not just the PLO – shared in this renunciation of the national Charter, including Hamas which, on 1 May 2017, officially declared itself “ready to support the [Palestinian] state on 1967 borders” (in other words, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip). There is no possible “third way” between a democratic state and a war of extermination. “The only alternative to a two-state solution is one single secular and democratic state with equal rights for everyone, Christians, Muslims and Jews, on all of historic Palestine”, declared Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator on behalf of the Palestinian leadership, in February 2017…only to immediately rule out this “only alternative”, which would presuppose breaking with imperialism, which the Palestinian leadership does not want to do.
But the Palestinian Revolution originates in the Palestinian people’s unceasing will to establish one nation on the historic territory of Palestine. Its driving force is the unwavering will of millions of refugees and their descendants to demand their right to return. Despite the defeats and betrayals, the Palestinian Revolution remains alive because the Palestinian people has not renounced its national rights. And because as early as 1947, it has opposed the high-level agreement between imperialism and the Stalinist bureaucracy, and it has been, is and will remain one of the levers of the world revolution.
As for the State of Israel, it was established in 1948 within the framework of partition. From 1948 to the present day, it has obeyed the “logic” which the Zionist leaders always envisaged: the permanent attempt to expel and exterminate the Palestinian people. This was pointed out as early as 1940 by Joseph Weitz, head of the Jewish Agency’s Colonisation Department in Palestine: “Amongst ourselves it must be clear that there is no room in the country for both peoples. (…) We shall not achieve our goal of being an independent people with the Arabs in this small country. (…) The only solution is a Land of Israel, at least a western Land of Israel [i.e. Palestine], without Arabs. There is no room here for compromises. (…) There is no way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighbouring countries, to transfer all of them, save perhaps for [the Arabs of] Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Old Jerusalem. Not one village must be left, not one tribe.” (11)
But this state, which Quatrième Internationale rightly described as a “miniature state”, a pawn of the big powers in “their power game towards the Arab world”, could not be anything other than a factor of extermination for the Palestinian people, just as it could not be anything other than a “trap” for the Jews. “The trap which Palestine constitutes for the Jews, according to Trotsky’s words, today quite simply has closed”, and Quatrième Internationale noted that “by a bitter irony of history, the establishment of an independent Jewish state, which (…) was definitively to undermine world anti-Semitism, has been the beginning of a savage pogromist outbreak in Aden and a new rise in anti-Semitism throughout the world.”
Zionism succeeded in re-forming the ghetto at a time when the secular democratic struggle of the oppressed Jews called for equal rights as the means for political emancipation. Seventy years later, in reality the “miniature state” only survives through being drip-fed financial and military aid by US imperialism. In 2013, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz estimated (12) that the total amount of military and economic aid given by the United States to the State of Israel since 1948 (adjusted for inflation) was US$233.7 billion! Opening – as early as 1947 – the perspective of a Palestinian Constituent Assembly (including all of the component parts of the future Palestinian nation), Quatrième Internationale, rightly insisted that the precondition for a shared struggle by the Arab masses and the working-class Jewish population in Palestine, was that it “takes up its position, unequivocally, against the partition of the country and the establishment of the Jewish state.” This is the old adage by Marx: “a people which oppresses another people cannot be free”. The Jewish immigrants in Palestine could only hope to become Palestinian citizens in equality with their Arab brothers and sisters if they renounced the status of privileged settlers, in other words if the conditions were created “for wider [Jewish] layers to break from criminal Zionism.”
On the eve of partition, the Nakba and the tragedies that were to befall the region, despite everything we find in this written material the formulation of a positive perspective for the masses. A minority current in the labour movement (and, at that time, physically persecuted by Stalinism in the four corners of the planet), Quatrième Internationale laid claim to stand as “the vanguard of the struggle against partition, for a united, independent Palestine, in which the masses will supremely determine their own destiny for electing a Constituent Assembly.” For the last 70 years, “realists” of every political persuasion have continued to oppose this position with accusations of “utopia” and “lack of realism”.
Let us recall how our comrade Pierre Lambert replied to them in June 1982, in a rally of the Internationalist Communist Party (PCI) in Paris following the Sabra and Shatila massacre: “We say: in order for that Palestinian nation – which is the only path to progress and peace in that part of the world – to come about, we must fight for the Palestinian Constituent Assembly, a Constituent Assembly that will define the equal rights and obligations of each of its component parts, Jews and Arabs, within a single nation. This is why we are against the State of Israel. For years, we have heard the retort: that is utopian. Comrades, where have the realists, all those who have explained to us that our position and our struggle were utopian, where have they led the peoples? Where are they leading that part of the world today, where the shooting, killings and destitution are raging unchecked? No, there is no solution other than the democratic solution, and the democratic solution, which is the only one that can lead to peace in that region, requires the disappearance of the State of Israel, it requires the Palestinian Constituent Assembly, building the Palestinian nation with its two component parts. Comrades, any plan, any solution which does not have this democratic solution as its starting-point is doomed to result in wave after wave of killing.
There was the war of 1948, there was war in 1956, there was war in 1967, there was “Black September” in 1970, that black September which saw the King of Jordan use the forces supplied by US imperialism to crush or attempt to crush the Palestinians. There was war in 1973, there was Tel al-Zaatar (13) in 1976. Maintaining the State of Israel can only lead to war. The realists tell you that the struggle for the Palestinian nation is utopian, but it is the struggle of the international proletariat, the solidarity struggle of the peoples, the only struggle that can offer the prospect of liberation and emancipation, because it is the revolutionary struggle of the peoples of the Middle East, of the peoples of the Near East, of which the Palestinian Revolution is the spearhead. I repeat: because we are internationalists, we support the peoples’ right to self-determination, and because we support the peoples’ right to self-determination, we say: the State of Israel must be eliminated! (…)
We say that the democratic approach not only opens up the only real solution to the questions that are posed in that region of the world, but because it is the democratic solution, it alone can save the age-old democratic traditions of the Jewish people. Israel was born from a negation of the democratic traditions of the Jewish people. Sharon and Begin are their gravediggers. Oppressed for thousands of years, the Jews have acquired and won through struggle a culture and a tradition. The State of Israel, as the oppressor, stands against that culture and those traditions. With the State of Israel comes ignorance, the worst kind of reaction, the use of fascist militias. Begin and Sharon are the gravediggers of those traditions, the State of Israel are their negation. Comrades, to those who – and we understand why – refer to the Holocaust organised by the Nazis, we say: the torn and broken body of a Jewish child in the Warsaw Ghetto cannot be worth more than the torn and broken body of a Palestinian or Lebanese child in Tyre, Saida or Beirut. The crimes of one do not excuse the crimes of others”.
— Dominique Ferré
15 July 2017
(1) See the 1993 statement by the Fourth International.
(2) In other words, Palestine at the time of British colonial rule under the League of Nations’ “Palestine Mandate” (1920-1948).
(3) A tiny minority current among the oppressed Jewish masses of Europe up to the Second World War, Zionism was fought against by every current of the labour movement, especially in Eastern Europe and Russia. The old Bund (full name: General Jewish Labour Bund) was a secular Jewish socialist party active in Poland and the tsarist Empire; at its Fourth Congress in 1901, it explicitly opposed Zionism by stating: “Congress finds that the final goal of political Zionism – the attainment of a territory for the Jewish people – as a matter which does not have great significance and does not solve the ‘Jewish question’”.
(4) Ghassan Kanafani, The 1936-39 Revolt in Palestine, Committee for a Democratic Palestine, New York, 1972.
(5) Latin for “divide and rule”, the slogan of the ruling classes since the Roman Empire.
(6) Usually referred to as the Sykes-Picot Agreement, this act of secret diplomacy was disclosed by the Bolsheviks in Pravda after the October Revolution.
(7) Henry Laurens, Le retour des exilés. La lutte pour la Palestine de 1869 à 1997 [The return of the exiled: the struggle for Palestine from 1869 to 1997], Bouquins, Paris,1998.
(8) A body representing the bourgeoisie and the Palestinian feudal lords.
(9) During the 1948 Nakba, which means “catastrophe” in Arabic, at least 780,000 Palestinians were driven from their land.
(10) A Turkish word dating from the Ottoman occupation describing the representatives of the privileged classes.
(11) Diary entry dated 20 December 1940, quoted in Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949, Cambridge University Press, 1987.
(12) Ora Corend and Nadan Feldman, “U.S. Aid to Israel Totals $233.7b Over Six Decades”, Haaretz, 20 March 2013.
(13) Tel al-Zaatar was a Palestinian refugee camp housing 50,000-60,000 people in northeast Beirut (Lebanon). The Tel al-Zaatar massacre was committed on 12 August 1976 by right-wing Lebanese Christian militias. A six-month blockade was followed by a full-scale military assault during the month of July. The final artillery barrage in August was followed by widespread slaughter as the militias entered the camp. The Syrian regime of Hafez el-Assad, whose troops were nearby, decided not to intervene.
The Partition of Palestine
Editorial in Quatrième Internationale
[Fourth International] (November-December 1947)
The vote at the United Nations was no more than a formality after the “Big Three” had reached agreement, the partition of Palestine was virtually an accomplished fact. British imperialism withdraws in the Near East to a second line of defence, comparable to that which was put in place when India was divided. In the two states, Jewish and Arab, Great Britain retains the whole of its economic and financial positions.
The Arab Legion of the hypothetical Arab state and the Haganah (1) equally will operate in close agreement with the British War Office, as do the armies of the Hindus and the Moslems in India. And, as in India, partition has proved itself to be the most effective way to divert, at one and the same time, the struggle of the Arab masses and the discontent of the Jewish working population from an anti-imperialist explosion in the direction of a fratricidal struggle.
The manoeuvres of British imperialism have been made necessary by its dwindling resources. This obliges the imperialists to reduce its “international commitments”, so as, at one and the same time, to save dollars, manpower and tanks. This is presented under a still more favourable aspect in the specific case of Palestine. The establishment of an Arab state independent of Palestine is, in fact, highly unlikely. For this reason, King Abdullah of Transjordan, the no.1 pawn of the City of London in the Arab world, could very well succeed in unifying Eastern Palestine to his present kingdom, and thereby bring about the first stage towards the formation of the Empire of Greater Syria, the final objective of his dynasty and of the British bourgeoisie in the Near East. London will continue to rule without that costing the British taxpayer a single penny. The only people to suffer from it, of course, will be the masses of Palestine themselves.
For American imperialism, as for the Soviet bureaucracy, to accept partition means above all the liquidation of the British mandate and the opening of a struggle to inherit the abandoned position. The Kremlin welcomes the opening of a period of troubles in the Near East, through which it will do its best to weaken further the British positions and to prepare its own penetration, whether under the cover of a “Mixed Commission of the United Nations” or of a “trusteeship of the Big Three” over Jerusalem.
American imperialism finds itself placed in Palestine, as earlier in Greece, before the problem of seeking a replacement to occupy the positions on the imperialist front which the British ally finds itself obliged to abandon. After the British troops are evacuated, Haganah will be the only military force in possession of modern equipment, a force foreign to the Arab world and which would serve if the occasion arose, to combat a native insurrection or a Russian thrust threatening the sources of oil.
We should not therefore be surprised from now on if American imperialism attempts, whether by the method of financing or by that of forming a “Jewish League”, to become the predominant influence on the leadership of Haganah and to make it an instrument of its own imperialist policy in the near East. However, it remains evident that the minute Jewish state, like the Zionist movement which preceded it, is considered by the great powers merely as a stake in their power game towards the Arab world.
This state, far from receiving open and permanent “protection” from any one of these powers, will never cease to find itself in a precarious, uncertain position, and for its people from now on will open up a period of privations of terror and of terrible tension, which will only become sharper as the forces fighting for emancipation of the Arab world increase.
The partition of Palestine and the clear overthrow of the Zionist positions – including those of most of the extremists – in the face of British imperialism, have struck a mortal blow to all the impressionist theories which bloomed in the light of the bombs of the Irgun. The fundamental solidarity of the Zionist movement, of Haganah and even of the Irgun with imperialism against the Arab masses has revealed itself in the clearest fashion.
The whole crime of Zionism appears clearly in the fact that, thanks to its reactionary function, the first movements of the Arab masses in favour of a united, independent Palestine, are directed against the Jewish population, and not directly against imperialism. The most reactionary leaders of the Arab Committee for Palestine will thus have the opportunity to re-gild their coat of arms by spilling the blood of the unfortunate Jews who are victims of the Zionist deception. The Zionist leaders throughout the world feted the establishment of the miniature state as a great victory. What a miserable mistake: The trap that Palestine constitutes for the Jews, according to Trotsky’s words, today quite simply has closed.
Without a radical reversal of the world situation and of the Zionist tendency of the Jewish workers’ movement in Palestine, the complete extermination of the Jewish people, on the outbreak of the Arab revolution, will be the price paid by the Jewish people for the sad victory won at Lake Success (2). And, by a bitter irony of history, the establishment of an independent Jewish state, which, according to the profound Zionist theoreticians, was definitively to undermine world anti-Semitism, has been the beginning of a savage pogromist outbreak in Aden and a new rise in anti-Semitism throughout the world.
The position of the Fourth International towards the Palestinian problem remains clear and plain as in the past. It will be the vanguard of the struggle against partition, for a united, independent Palestine, in which the masses will supremely determine their own destiny for electing a Constituent Assembly. Against the effendis and the imperialist agents, against the manoeuvres of the Egyptian and the Syrian bourgeoisie, who try to divert the struggle for emancipation of the masses into a struggle against the Jews, it will issue calls for the agricultural revolution, for the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggle, which are essential driving forces of the Arab revolution. But it can only wage this struggle with the possibility of success on condition that it takes up its position, unequivocally, against the partition of the country and the establishment of the Jewish state.
More than ever, it is necessary at the same time to call on the working people of America, Britain, Canada and Australia, the working people of every country, to struggle for the frontiers of their countries to be opened without any discrimination to the refugees, the displaced persons, to all the Jews who wish to emigrate. It is only on condition that we seriously, effectively and successfully carry on this struggle that we can explain to the Jews the reasons for which they should not go into the Palestinian ambush. The terrible experience which awaits the Jewish masses in the “miniature state” will at the same tine create the premises for wider layers to break from criminal Zionism. If this break is not made in time, the “Jewish state” will go down in blood.
(1) A Zionist paramilitary militia created in 1920. In 1948, it formed the framework of the Israeli army.
(2) The status of Palestine was negotiated in 1947 at Lake Success, a small town outside New York which at that time hosted the United Nations.
(Originally published in Hebrew in the review Kol Ham’amad [The Voice of the Class] – September 1947)
The members of the UN Committee showed “understanding” and “did a wonderful job in a very short time”. With these words the Jewish Agency’s representative, Golda Meier, endorsed the partition proposal. Most of the Zionist parties agreed with them, with certain reservations regarding the “form” of the solution. The American Foreign Secretary Marshall also shared this opinion. It is well known, however, that the fate of the persecuted peoples is not usually the main concern of the American Foreign Secretary. So his reaction might cause apprehension among those who believed in the good intentions of the UN Committee.
What does the UN proposal give to the Jews? At first sight, everything: an immigration quota of 150,000 and more; political independence; about two thirds of Palestine; three big ports and almost all the coastline. That is more than what the optimists among the Jewish Agency members dared to ask for. Are not this “understanding” and “friendliness” a bit suspicious? Why did the representatives of Canada, Holland and Sweden, who have close ties with the Anglo-Saxon powers, vote for this proposal?
And why did the representatives of Guatemala, Peru and Uruguay, whose policies are dictated from Washington, vote for it? All the Zionist periodicals, as well as the semi-Zionist ones (the Communist Party of Palestine organs) refused to pose this question. And of course, they did not answer it. But that is precisely the determining question. More important than the contents of the proposal are the motives of those who submitted it.
Let us make no mistake! Behind the – in Marshall’s words – “neutral” countries, stand the powers which have a major interest in this issue. The calculations that produced the partition proposal are precisely the same that brought about the partition of India. What are these calculations? In our current period, the period of social revolutions and revolts of the enslaved peoples, imperialism rules by means of two main methods: ruthless and brutal repression (as in Indonesia, Indochina and Greece), or by breaking the class war through national conflicts.
The second way is cheaper and more secure, and enables imperialism to remain behind the scenes. Imperialism has until now successfully employed “divide and conquer” methods in this country, by using Zionist immigration as divisive factor. In this way, it created national tension, which, to a large extent, allowed the anger caused by imperialism among the Arab masses in Palestine and the Middle East to be directed against the Jews. But lately, this method ceased to produce the desired results. In spite of the national tension, a strong and combative Arab working class developed in the country.
A new chapter in the history of Palestine opened when the Arab and Jewish workers cooperated in large-scale strikes, in order to force the imperialist exploiters to make concessions. And the failure of the latest attempt to force the inhabitants of Palestine into a new whirlpool of mutual bloodshed by means of provocations has taught the imperialists a new lesson. Now they have drawn their conclusions: if you refuse to fight each other, we will put you in such an economic and political position that will force you to do so! That is the real content of the partition proposal. Perhaps the partition proposal will materialise the Jewish people’s dream of political independence?
The “independence” of the Jewish state will boil down to choosing, in a “free” and “independent” way, between two options: to starve or to sell itself to imperialism. Foreign trade – both imports and exports – remains as before under control of imperialism. The key sectors of the economy – oil, electricity and minerals – remain in the hands of foreign monopolies. And the profits will continue to fill the pockets of foreign capitalists.
A Jewish statelet in the heart of the Middle East can be an excellent instrument in the hands of the imperialist states. Isolated from the Arab masses, this state will be defenceless and completely at the mercy of the imperialists. And they will use it in order to fortify their positions, while at the same time lecturing the Arab states about the “Jewish danger” – i.e. the threat represented by the inevitable expansionist tendencies of the tiny Jewish state. And one day, when tension reaches its highest peak, the imperialist “friends” will abandon the Jewish state to its fate.
The Arabs will also receive “political independence.” Partition will bring about the creation of a backward feudal Arab state, a sort of Trans-Jordan west of the Jordan River. In this way, they hope to isolate and paralyse the Arab proletariat in the Haifa area, an important strategic centre with oil refineries, as well as to divide and paralyse the class struggle of all the workers of Palestine.
What about “saving the refugees from the concentration camps”? Imperialism created the problem of the refugees from the concentration camps when it closed the gates of all countries to them. The fate of refugees is its responsibility. Imperialism is not a philanthropic enterprise. If it sends as a “gift” the refugees to Palestine, it will do it for one reason only: to use them for its own purposes.
The partition proposal, apparently so “favourable” to the Jews, contains several aspects that are highly desirable from the point of view of imperialism:
1) The concessions to Zionism will be used as bait in order to get the approval of the Jewish majority;
2) It includes several provocations, such as the incorporation of Jaffa to the Jewish state and the denial of any port to the Arab state, which infuriate the Arabs;
3) These provocations enable Great Britain to appear as a “friend of the Arabs”, which will “struggle” for a second, more just partition. This in turn will help them swallow the bitter pill. In other words, we have here a pre-planned division of the labour movement. To sum up: the proposal of the UN Committee is a solution neither for the Jews nor for the Arabs; it is a solution purely and exclusively for the imperialist countries.
The Zionist policy-makers have avidly seized the bone imperialism threw to them. And the “left-wing” Zionist critics, in the name of exposing the imperialists’ game, half-heartedly attack the partition proposal and call for…a Jewish state in the whole of Palestine! The proposal of a state comprising both nations, according to the Hashomer Hatzair (1), is just a fig-leaf for the right of the Jews to impose on the Arabs – without their consent and against their will – Jewish immigration and Zionist policies. What about the Communist Party of Palestine? It apparently is waiting for the “just” UN solution. In any case, it continues to sow illusions regarding the UN, and in this way helps to disguise and implement the plans of imperialism.
Against all this, we say: Let us not fall into the trap! The solution of the Jewish problem, like the solution of the problems of the country, will not come “from above”, from the UN or any other imperialist institution. No “struggle”, “terror”, or moral “pressure” will make imperialism abandon its vital interests in the region (oil stock gave 60% dividends this year!). In order to solve the Jewish problem, in order to free ourselves from the burden of imperialism, there is only one solution: common class war with our Arab brothers, a war which is an inseparable link of the anti-imperialist war of the oppressed masses in all the Arab East and the entire world. The strength of imperialism lies in partition – our strength in international class unity.
(1) A “left” Zionist organisation.