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Zionist Cops Murder Arab Strikers

For a Socialist Federation of the Near East!


[reprinted from Workers Vanguard #105, 16 April 1976]


APRIL 12--The March 30 general strike in the Galilee, initiated by the Communist Party of Israel (Rakah) to protest Zionist plans for the confiscation of 5,000 acres of Arab land for new Jewish settlements, was viciously repressed. Newspaper headlines around the world announced that six Arabs had been killed, while 50 others were seriously injured and 300 arrested.


One of those murdered was a 15-year-old boy shot dead near Kfar Kana. For no other reason than malicious terrorizing, the home of Zayad Tewflik, the Rakah mayor of Nazareth was ransacked by Israeli troops. (Nazareth is the largest Arab town in Israel.)


To the north, in the town of Sakhnin, three men were murdered. Some 10,000 mourners from 36 villages and towns attended their funeral the following day. With raised fists they chanted, “With spirit and blood, we shall free Galilee!” After ten years of supposed civilian administration, military occupation has now returned to Galilee. The whole world is reminded that Arab Galilee (part of Israel since its birth), just as the Arab West Bank (which was conquered in the 1967 “Six Day War”), is “occupied territory.”


Israeli Settlements on the West Bank


A major caused the protest in Galileo was Zionist confiscation of Arab land (see “Blow-up in the Near East,” WV No. 102, 26 March 1976). In the West Bank this often takes the form of “spontaneous” settlements established by ultra-Orthodox Jews. With consum¬mate hypocrisy--believed by no one--Israel formally disclaims annexationist appetites toward the West Bank and makes token protests about the settlements. However, once a settlement is established, the Israeli government is quite obliging with material and military aid.


The only real difference within the government is whether to absorb the entire West Bank--the position of the National Religious Party (NRP) and defense minister Peres--or simply to annex a strategic strip along the bank of the Jordan River (the 1967 Allon Plan, named after the current foreign minister). The self-proclaimed “left-wing” Zionists of Mapam, who on paper oppose all annexation, threaten to leave the government if the settlements are not removed. The ultra-Orthodox NRP, in turn, threatens to leave the government if the settlements are not fully supported. As usual, the main government party. Mapai, to which both Peres and Alton belong, gives in to the NRP, while the Mapam, also as usual, capitulates to the Mapai. Thus the fragile coalition government survives and the settlements multiply. Already there are a total of 55, with 8,000 inhabitants.


One of the earliest was Kiryat Arba near Hebron. In 1968 a rabbi rented rooms in the area, ostensibly for Passover services. But the rabbi and his followers remained after Passover, defying expulsion orders. After a phony “confrontation” with the Zionist government, they were “temporarily” housed in an army camp and then provided with building materials. Now Kiryat Arba is an established community which numbers 1,500 on the outskirts of Hebron.


Kiryat Arba settlers periodically go into the neighboring Arab town and terrorize its inhabitants, often with weapons supplied by the Israeli army and attack dogs. (To be attacked by dogs is a special humiliation for Muslims.) Consequently, Arab protests have been particularly bitter in Hebron. A recent account by the Jerusalem Post (23 March) highlights the collaboration between settlers and the Israeli army:


“Kiryat Arba settlers went into Hebron, chased Arab stone throwers through alleys, beat them up and handed 50 over to the military government. Army and police commanders had put the settlers in charge of quarters and commanders gave them 3,000 bullets which they still had.”


The same issue of the Jerusalem Post also reported that Kiryat Arba leader rabbi Moshe Levinger went on television to tell the settlers to “shoot to hit” if they were attacked by Arabs while patrolling Hebron.


Ironically, Hebron’s mayor. Sheikh Mohammed Alt Jaabari, is often praised by the Zionists for his subservience to the Israeli military administration. The escalation of Israeli repression took place on the eve of elections for West Bank mayors and town councils on April 12. Even though Arabs are prohibited from forming political organizations or disseminating propaganda which can be given a pro-Communist or pro-nationalist interpretation, many candidates are identified with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) or Rakah. Israeli authorities awarded Sheikh Jaabari for his collaboration by deporting his only opponent, Dr. Ahmad Hamzi, who is associated with pro-PLO and pro-Rakah intellectuals. Yet despite the Zionist terror, partially intended to manipulate the elections, many favorites of the military governors are expected to lose to left-wing candidates.


1929 Riots and 1936 General Strike


The recent rebellion in the West Bank is far from the first time that Arabs and Jews have clashed in this area. The ultra-Orthodox community at Kiryat Arba is motivated in large part by a desire for revenge for the brutal massacre of Jews during 1929 communal riots in Hebron. The fact that the current wave of struggles was set off by a dispute over the Aqsa mosque (which is also Temple Mount, and simultaneously considered a holy place by both Muslims and Jews), reinforces the importance of the 1929 riots in Palestine as an emotional factor in the present clashes. 


The 1929 riots began with a conflict between Orthodox Jews and the British colonial administration over the “Wailing Wall,” a Jewish religious monument allegedly built with stones from the Temple of Solomon and located at the base of the Temple Mount in the predominantly Arab “Old City” of Jerusalem. (The worshippers put up a screen to separate males and females, and the British commissioner, unfamiliar with Jewish custom, ordered troops to remove it.) The Muslim religious leader of Jerusalem, the notorious grand mufti al-Haj Amin al-Husseini, got wind of this tiff and proposed to the receptive British district commissioner that the area in front of the Wailing Wall be made into an open thoroughfare. The extreme right-wing Zionist group Betar then held a provocative march to the wall, where it raised the Zionist flag. The grand mufti, in turn, inflamed the Muslim community by accusing the Zionists of wanting to seize the entire Temple Mount and circulating pictures with the Zionist flag raised over the Aqsa mosque. 


Tension increased between the Muslim and Jewish communities in Jerusalem, and on 23 August 1929 Muslims poured down from Aqsa mosque, attacking Jewish quarters. The communal violence spread throughout Palestine, leaving 133 Jews and 119 Arabs murdered. The most brutal massacre occurred in Hebron:


“There was a Jewish population of over 700 people, an ancient community centered on a Talmudical college. Armed bands intent on slaughter reached Hebron on the 24th [of August]. The police were Arab and they stood passively by while their fellow Moslems moved into town…. There was an inn in town where some Jews had fled for their safety. The Arabs killed and dismembered 23 of them with daggers and axes in an upper room so that according to a witness, blood ran down the stairs and soaked through the ceiling and splashed onto the floor beneath…. In all the Moslems killed 60 Jews including children and wounded as many.”

--Christopher Sykes, Crossroads to Israel, 1973


Behind the 1929 riots was not simply inflamed religious fanaticism, but genuine grievances of the Arab peasantry, or fellahin. Land purchases by the Jewish National Fund dispossessed them and drove the landless Arabs into the cities, where they joined the ranks of the unemployed. The Shaw Commission, conducting an investigation of the causes of the 1929 riots, concluded that, “there is no alternative land to which persons evicted can remove. In consequence a landless and discontented class is being created.... Palestine cannot support a larger agricultural population than it at present carries unless methods of farming undergo radical change” (cited in Abu Lughod, The Transformation of Palestine. 1971).


Of course, in order for the “methods of farming to undergo radical change,” feudalistic Palestinian Arab landlords like the Husseinis would have to be swept away through an agrarian revolution which would directly challenge British colonialism and capitalist property relations.


In 1929 the social discontent of the fellahin was manipulated by their direct oppressors, the Palestinian landlords who, like the grand mufti, were often religious leaders as well and distorted into pogroms and communal violence.


But the six-month-long 1936 general strike and subsequent rebellions and guerrilla warfare which lasted until the fall of 1938, while led by feudal families like the Husseinis, were genuinely anti-imperialist in character and akin to the recent demonstrations and strikes in the West Bank and Galilee. The 1936 strike was launched around three demands: 1) self-government, 2) prohibition of Arab land sales to Jews and 3) immediate cessation of Jewish immigration until the absorptive capacity of the country could be determined and immigration policies established. Since Jews were a minority in mandate Palestine, the Zionists always opposed any step away from British colonial administration toward self-government and independence.


U.S. “Tilts,” Israel Isolated


The stage for the current wave of Arab protests in Israel and the occupied territories was set by the 1947-48 partition of Palestine. In a 27 November 1947 United Nations resolution, the British mandate territory of Palestine (the result of an earlier imperialist partition of the remains of the Ottoman empire, carried out by the U N’s forerun¬ner, the League of Nations) was carved into Jewish and Arab sections. Even though the 600,000 Jewish inhabitants constituted only one third of the population and owned only 6 percent of the land, they received 55 percent of the territory, including the best agricultural districts.


They were also left with a large Arab minority of 400,000. Arab Palestine had been located mainly in the Galilee and the West Bank, the same areas in which mass anti-Zionist demonstrations and strikes have recently taken place. A myth assiduously propagated by Israeli apologists holds that these Arabs have equal rights with Jews. Yet the Arab territory annexed by Israel in 1948 was ruled under a military administration until 1966.


Now once again the “Palestinian Question” has been raised in the United Nations for another impotent debate--this time in the “central committee” of that august den of thieves, the Security Council. This time the “debate” centers around Zionist repression in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. In the past, the Israeli delegate has traditionally relied on the United States to run interference for Israel against the “Third World” majority. In recent years, however, U.S. support for Israel has been far from automatic and unconditional.


The last Security Council debate on the Near East was boycotted by Israel because the PLO had been invited. Israel claimed it could not sit at the same table with the PLO because the latter calls for a “democratic, secular Palestine.” This would entail the destruction of Israel, although denying the national rights of the Hebrew people: the Israeli state is neither democratic nor secular, and was created through the dispersal of the Palestinian people. This time, though, the Israeli delegates are present with the PLO.


In the Security Council debate on the West Bank the U.S. envoy condemned Israeli settlements in the occupied territories: “Indeed, the presence of these settlements is seen by my Govern¬ment as an obstacle to the success of the negotiations for a just and final peace between Israel and its neighbors.” Meanwhile, U.S. television networks have for once given generally accurate coverage of the behavior of the Israeli army during the Galilee general strike, coverage which was therefore highly unfavorable to Israel. Both the diplomats and the capitalist media are preparing U.S. public opinion for demanding concessions from Israel on the West Bank.


It is an important historical fact that the U.S. bourgeoisie did not unconditionally support the outcome of the 1967 war, nor is it now satisfied with the spoils of the Israeli victory: Zionist occupation of the Sinai, Golan Heights and the West Bank. While the United States is the principal patron of Israel, American imperialism is primarily interested in securing safe, cheap and preferably exclusive access to raw materials in general, and Near East oil in particular. The U.S. wants politically stable, pro-imperialist capitalist regimes in the Near East. It cares less whether that political stability is based on Koran-thumping sheiks or radical-sounding Arab nationalist colonels.


The political stability of all the reactionary Arab regimes is interdependent with the survival of a state of cold war with Israel and therefore with the survival of the Zionist state in order to deflect the discontent of the impoverished Arab masses into a jihad (holy war) against Zionism. Likewise, in order to maintain a state of siege mentality, treating any fundamental political opposition as treason, Israeli rulers are dependent upon the reactionary Arab regimes and their occasional threats to “drive the Jews into the sea.”


By discrediting several Arab regimes and bringing more than one million embittered Palestinian Arabs under Israeli military administration, the Six Day War directly threatened this fragile political stability. For example, the large influx of Palestinian refugees following the 1967 war led to major civil wars in Jordan (1970-71) and currently in Lebanon. American policy toward the occupied territories continues to be based on the 1967 Security Council Resolution 242, reaffirmed by the (U.S. secretary of state) Rogers Plan of 1970, which calls for Israel to give up most, if not all, of the occupied territories in exchange for Arab political recognition and a peace treaty.


Since the U.S. cannot simply force an immediate and unilateral Zionist withdrawal from the occupied territories without creating a major political crisis in Israel, Rogers’ successor Henry Kissinger engages in what has become known as the “step by step approach,” in which a “piece of land” is exchanged for a “piece of peace.” Now, especially in the aftermath of major Palestinian Arab strikes and demonstrations, U.S. diplomatic interest has shifted to the West Bank.


Smash Zionist Terror!


Israel is increasingly isolated, but this has had a contradictory impact on Israeli workers. On the one hand, there is a genuine sense of demoralization; for the first time since the 1948 war, many Israelis now question whether the Zionist state can survive. Further, the working population is being subjected to economic pounding from every side: military appropriations continue to rise; in early March the government announced a 25 percent rise in bus fares and the price of many basic foods; taxes have been increased, and the Israeli pound was devalued again.


Economic struggles on the part of the Israeli working class have become frequent. Last month there was a major walkout of civil servants, for instance. Nonetheless, a growing sense of isolation combined with economic discontent will not automatically lead Israeli workers to challenge their Zionist rulers. In the absence of a revolutionary leadership the growing political isolation simply reinforces a besieged fortress mentality, of which the Kiryat Arba settlers are only the most pathological and extreme expression.


Israel has no future in the Near East. As a weak ally of U.S. imperialism it will be sacrificed if Israel’s survival gets in the way of larger American capitalist interests. The U.S. is already busy arming both sides for the next Arab-Israeli war, which may rapidly escalate into a nuclear or even global confrontation.


The Israeli working class has a future only if it places at its head a revolutionary party which champions not only its economic and social grievances, which are many, but also links the economic struggles to the heroic Arab demonstrations and strikes in Galilee and on the West Bank. Such a Marxist party would champion the right to self-determination for the Palestinians, while not denying the national rights of the Hebrew people.


However, if the Israeli working class is to have a future it cannot exercise its national rights at the expense of the Palestinians; it cannot express them through the Zionist state of Israel, even such a Zionist state as would conform to the Rakah/Mapam/PLO dream and accept a Palestinian mini-state in the West Bank and Gaza strip. The right to self-determination for Palestinians and Hebrews can only be democratically resolved within the framework of a bi-national proletarian dictatorship on both sides of the Jordan River, as part of a socialist federation of the Near East.