The Zionist Left and the Palestinian Resistance

10 February 1972

in A Critique of Zionist Ideology, Articles, The Other Israel

This is an edited version of an article by A. Orr and Moshé Machover. (עברית)

 

The official Mapam publication, Al Hamishmar, has been forced into the position of having 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. Having lost the last vestiges of its ideological individuality and having finally capitulated to the chauvinist policy of its senior partners in power, Mapam now is quickly losing its ability to conduct a dialogue with those left-wing circles. Under these circumstances Mapam is irritated more than ever by Matzpen’s existence 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? 1, reflect this new development. Merhav is head of Mapam’s international department (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 Merhav implies that the ISO’s members are warmongers), we are not going to repay Mapam members with their own coin and claim that we think they are warmongers. They do have a tradition of trailing after their senior partners in the Zionist camp whenever the latter decide to make war, and thus might be said to bear a large part of the 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, therefore, 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. Many of his “facts”, are inaccurate, and the rest are completely misrepresented – intentionally, it seems. The ideological-polemical part of the article also suffers from serious inaccuracies. Merhav does not quote from the original ISO article, which he condemns. He attempts to formulate our position in his own .words, and the result is necessarily quite bungled.

An example: 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-termimmediate and unconditioned withdrawal from all the occupied territories. In order to dodge the term “occupied territories,” Merhav is compelled to wriggle with “populated by Arabs and now held by the IDF.”

Another example: Our demand for the de-Zionization of Israel is interpreted by 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 he get such a strange definition? Certainly not from Matzpen. According to our position, the question is not whether Israel should have no “aspirations and ties overseas,” butwhat kind of aspirations, and ties with whom? Ties with Cohn-Bendit or with Rothschild? Affinity with Karl Marx or Neiman-Marcus? In our revolutionary spirit, Matzpen’s affinities are quite clear.

We are not against ties overseas. We are only against certain ties such as those of the Mapam coalition 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 than a Palestinian Arab who was born there (whether he is now a refugee or 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 rights in the country, whereas the Palestinian Arab is entitled to 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 provides 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. This is no ordinary national-territorial conflict of the kind that sometimes breaks out between nations existing 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.

Merhav prefers not to enter into a discussion of the roots of Israeli-Arab conflict. He merely 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 el Husseini to the June 1967 war and his disciples in Al-Fateh.” This was exactly the claim of hypocritical 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 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, Merhav avoids 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 argument They are not looking for a way to end the conflict, but for a formula which would be acceptable to the majority of the Israeli public. In our view this kind ofrealpolitik suffers not only from, opportunism but from short-sightedness and a misunderstanding of basic reality. 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. 2 At present no military clash exists between South Africa and the neighboring African states; nevertheless, there is a historic conflict between a settlers’ society and the African population. There is only one solution: to abolish the racist 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 at present It is well known that this solution is categorically rejected by the majority of the white population who regard it as abandoning the raison d’être of their state. Does the revolutionary movement in South Africa therefore have to seek other solutions?

When Merhav turns to discuss Matzpen’s attitude to Al-Fateh, he again carefully refrains from directly quoting us. He reformulates our position in his own words – and, as usual, it does not come out well It is characteristic of those who cannot present a principled position in an argument to put their opponents’ ideas into their own words in a bungled form. They then find it quite easy to fight the scarecrow they have set up.

Let us repeat Matzpen’s position. We distinguish between the resistance to occupation of the Palestinian Arabs as a group and the specific policy of this or that organization within the resistance movement We recognize the right and the duty of every conquered and oppressed people to resist occupation and to struggle for freedom. Our position concerning various organizations within the resistance movement is determined primarily according to their individual political programs. 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.

Our position – we repeat – is determined by a political program. Our political criticism of the dominant currents of the Palestinian resistance movement 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 rather 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 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, 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.

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 problems of the region, including the Israeli-Arab problem.

Merhav summarizes his own position as follows:

The problem is how to reach an understanding, agreement and peace between the two neighboring 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 favorable 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.” 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 seventy years of the Middle East history also shows that what 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 while 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 dominate their national collective.

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 subordinate to it.

This is typical Zionist thinking. Zionism does not speak of 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 Israeli-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 that are favorable to it and of realizing its goals. In each stage of partial realization, it wants only one thing: that the Arabs acquiesce in the facts that it has created. From the point of view of Zionism no political or social problem exists, 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 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, not all of them. To return all the occupied territories would be too high a price to pay for peace, even from the socialist point of view of Merhav. If all the territories were to be returned, it would seem that Zionism did not really advance, as a result of the June 1967 war, to the full realization of its aim. This would not be a worthwhile price for peace. In Zionist terminology, “peace” does not necessarily mean the opposite of war. When the Zionists demand peace, what they really mean is that the Arabs should peacefully accept the accomplished facts that Zionism has 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. 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 which we totally reject. A Zionist Israel can never achieve peace and 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 that are based on discrimination against the indigenous population, on its exploitation or expulsion, and that are tied by an umbilical cord to the global imperialist alignment. In this respect Israel does not differ from South Africa or Rhodesia.

The only path to take is that of the struggle to abolish the Zionist nature of Israel, to set up a new society through active collaboration with revolutionary forces throughout the region. Whoever refuses to recognize this thereby sentences himself to a future of permanent warfare, of permanent militarization 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 Phantom jets. This is absolutely inescapable.

Up to this point we have been discussing principles. But we cannot end the discussion without stressing that Mapam members themselves do not take their own principles seriously; in fact, the whole history of Mapam is the history of surrendering one principle after another. Let us mention theirkibbutzim – e.g., Bar’am – which are found on lands confiscated from Arab peasants, Israeli citizens who nevertheless 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 organize 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.” In Israel there has never been a single instance of Mapam voting against a decision taken by its senior partners on matters of Zionist policy or on military questions.

The latest item on the list of surrenders exposes once more Mapam’s role in the Zionist camp. The Israeli daily Ha’aretz of September 12, 1969, reports that the Alignment (a bloc of all Zionist workers’ parties led by the Labor 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 colonization in the occupied territories. Ha’aretz goes on to say that Mapam was against this point and at first insisted that its objection be mentioned in the platform itself; but Moshe Dayan announced that he would not allow such a thing. Finally, there was found what Ha’aretz rather amusingly calls “an honorable way out”: The point in support of colonization 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, was given permission (with the consent of Mr. Dayan) to speak in public against that particular point

The division of labor is quite clear. Mapam will continue to participate in the ruling alignment which supports and actually carries out the colonization 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 colonization policy but – with the consent of Dayan – will continue to make noises against that policy, in particular when speaking to the left abroad.

  1. Al Hamishmar, Aug. 29, 1969.
  2. Even though the two cases are by no means similar in all respects.

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