Israel's Future Foretold

— Hal Draper

[The following text is taken from Hal Draper’s article in the July, 1948 issue of the U.S. revolutionary socialist journal New International, “How to Defend Israel: A Political Program for Israeli Socialists.” It proposes a democratic and revolutionary approach to defending the right of self-determination of the Jewish nation that had emerged in Palestine.

An excerpt was reprinted in the 1967 Independent Socialist Clippingbook Zionism, Israel and the Arabs and more recently in a collection of the same name from the Center for Socialist History (www.csh.gn.apc.org,mlipow@pacbell,net, or P.O. Box 626, Alameda CA 94501). The full article is archived at www.marxists.org/archive/draper/1948/07/israel.htm.

[The article obviously reflects the time and moment of its writing, a truce in the 1948 war prior to the crushing Israeli victory. Draper and his political organization of the time, the Workers Party, held a perspective that the Jewish working class, “socialists in their majority,” could spearhead a joint struggle of Jews and Arabs in Palestine against Zionist chauvinism, Arab landlords and imperialist meddling.

[The crushing of that hope, however utopian it may now appear, should not cause us to lose sight of the vision that inspired it. Further, the question of equality for Israel’s Arab citizens remains enormously relevant today, when the state’s security services openly speak of prosecuting activities in support of that demand, even when they are legal! — The editors]

A NEW STATE has been set up. A people have declared that they want to live under their own government and determine their own national destiny. They have taken a blank check made out to the Right of Self-Determination and have signed their name to it: “Israel”…

(T)he decision to set up a new national state in the world of today is no light matter. It may be a wise decision or a mistaken one, quite regardless of the fact that one has the right to make the decision. We have explained (especially in the columns of Labor Action [the Workers Party’s weekly paper — ed.]) why, in our opinion, the decision was a mistaken one. This we did both before and after partition; and insofar as the question has significance now, after the accomplished fact, we consider that the course of events since partition has been proving that that opinion was correct.

We advocated a different course, a socialist plan to achieve a viable life for the peoples of Palestine, Jewish and Arab, and one which could not but meet with the opposition of the rulers of both peoples, the Zionist capitalists and the Arab effendis. We advocated that the workers, land workers and peasants of both communities, joining their strength from below in common struggle, launch a united struggle for independence from their then common master, British imperialism; and that they fight for the creation of a free, democratic Palestine based on universal suffrage and a fully democratic constituent assembly.

The national antagonisms between Jew and Arab do not exist only at the top — today more than ever is this true, unfortunately! — but they stem, not from the interests of the exploited masses, but from the interests of the top rulers. In such a joint struggle for national liberation, the already strong tendencies toward Arab-Jewish cooperation from below could flower…

After Partition and Statehood

The present situation in Palestine — the fruit of partition and the end product of Zionist policy toward the Arabs — can only continue to inflame national hostility and chauvinism on both sides.

On the one hand, there is the disgraceful portent of the Deir Yassin massacre of Arab women and children by the Irgun, unpunished by the official Israeli leadership and therefore, in the eyes of the Arabs, endorsed. On the other hand, there is the godsent opportunity for the effendis to inflame the antagonism of the mass of Arab peasantry toward the Jews as such…

Under these conditions, with all its economic life intertwined with its Arab neighbors, with its supply lines and commercial routes interpenetrating, with its national life economically dependent and helpless, what can be the future of a splinter country separated from the world on all sides and surrounded by a wall of hatred?
Only a chronic nightmare existence, a new horror of the twentieth century, a state-wide ghetto, a death trap for the Jews!

This is the direction in which the present rightist bourgeois government of Israel is heading. And along these lines, its only avenue of escape — no, not escape, but its only possibility of even alleviating that nightmare — is complete capitulation to one of the predatory imperialisms; to become its outpost in the Middle East, the harlot Jerusalem.

This is not a chimera conjured up. This is a reality of Israel’s adventure into statehood. From these vicious alternatives of destruction, imperialist overlordship or permanent nightmare in a Balkanized Middle East, the Israeli people can escape only by relying on the only other force that they can seek to lean on: the mass of Arab workers and peasants who are exploited and oppressed by the very same rulers who invade Palestine.

Program for Israeli Socialists

The key is right at hand. It is the 30-40 per cent of Israel which is now Arab. Israel’s future will be determined in the first place by how it acts toward them. [This was written before the completion of the full-fledged ethnic cleansing of the Arab population, which would leave only 150,000 or so Arabs as second-class citizens of the Israeli state — ed.]

It is not enough to “leave them be.” The Israelis must demonstrate that they seek the alliance of the Arab masses, that they are carrying on a social war not Jew against Arab, but a war of classes. (They) must seek to integrate the Arabs into the country on a completely equal basis with the Jews:

1) An end to the Jim-Crow trade unions by which those Arab workers who are organized are kept in “parallel” unions.

2) Stamp out the policy of kibbush avoda — the ousting of Arab labor — in every sphere.

3) Stamp out the policy of boycotting Arab goods.

4) An end to every other form of economic nationalism.

5) Organize the state as the home of both peoples with equal national status: in schools, in the government, in the use and teaching of both languages, in every aspect of national life.

6) State aid to the Arab peasants, as to the Jewish colonists.

7) Distribution to the Arab peasants of all lands vacated by Arab landlords and under Israeli control.

8) The formation of a binational army and police. This outcome can be made possible by the successful prosecution of the other steps.

Such a program, we are perfectly aware, means a complete overturn of the policy of the Jewish leaders. But only such a program, of which the above points represent not the whole but a beginning and a token …can prepare for the reunification of the splintered land into a community where Jew and Arab can live in fraternity.

ATC 128, May-June 2007