No Religion Deserves A State: A Response to Workers Liberty

The two-state theory in Workers' Liberty is perplexing and lacking in necessary elaboration. Workers Liberty claims that There are "two distinct peoples in the area, the Palestinian Arabs and the Israeli Jews". This is a confusion of culture and religion in the first instance, so if one gets this wrong, everything else that follows will also be wrong. It is little wonder that WL cannot conceive
of "Palestinian Jews" or "Israeli Arabs" (the latter make up 20% of Israel's population). Jews and Arabs are not "distinct peoples" contrary to the claims of Workers' Liberty, as a recent article in the
Journal of Human Immunology showed (1).

What does exist is two distinct ideologies; those that believe in states organised by official language (which could easily mean Arabic and Hebrew) and those that believe in a state bound by a common religion. (2) A modern person of any political persuasion - and not just a socialist - should be axiomatically opposed to to the continued existence of any religious state, whether it is the Vatican, the Taliban in Afghanistan, or in this instance, Israel. To support Israel in its current form is to oppose the universal human right of separation of church and state.

Workers' Liberty also claims "Israel ... was created after the Second World War as a haven for Jewish people after the horrors of the Holocaust". This much is true but it doesn't really explain the
circumstances. Indeed, it is an exercise in historical ignorance, leaving out any consideration of the claims and actions embodied in the Declaration of the First World Zionist Congress (1897), the
McMahon Correspondence (July 1915 to March 1916), the Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916), the Balfour Declaration (1917), the Hogarth Message (1918), the Anglo-French Declaration (1918), the King-Crane Commission (1919), Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, Mandate for Palestine (1922), Churchill Memorandum (1922), Peel Commission (1937), UK White Paper (1939), and the Biltmore Programme (1942).

In November 1947, the UN General Assembly made a recommendation for the three-way partition of Palestine into a Jewish state, an Arab state and international zone that would have included Jerusalem. (3) Not surprisingly the the indigenous Arab population rejected this proposal. They did not see why they had a moral obligation to sacrifice their land to compensate for the crimes committed by Europeans against Jews. Only with the driest of irony do we recall it was an argument of the Nazis that the Jews could not be loyal to their respective nations and therefore required a racially and religiously exclusive state.

Initially claiming to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine to demanding a Jewish State of Palestine (two entirely different things - the latter is a claim to sovereignty) Zionists, in conjunction
British with imperialism, first colonised Palestine economically and industrially in the early twentieth century, and passed discriminatory laws against the largely Arab-speaking workforce. This lead to a
general strike in 1936 which was suppressed with British martial law and Jewish paramilitary groups (Haganah and Irgun) which included mechanised units.

These paramilitary organisations engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing which should horrify WL members and supporters. In 1940, Joseph Weitz, the head of the Jewish Agency's Colonization Department, which was responsible for the actual organization of settlements in Palestine, wrote:

"Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both peoples together in this country. We shall not achieve our goal if the Arabs are in this small country. There is no other way than to
transfer the Arabs from here to neighboring countries - all of them. Not one village, not one tribe should be left." (4)

This policy was put into practise. The world's capitalist powers and Stalin's Soviet Union, supported the proposal to partition Palestine, and form a religious-exclusive state where the overwhelming majority of land and fertile land went to less than 1/3rd the population. But this was insufficient for the Jewish paramilitary groups - they seized 75% of the land, reduced 80% of the Palestinian villages to rubble and expelled or killed non-Jews. Torture, mass slaughter were common (the most well known being in Deir Yasin) and nearly a million Palestinians fled for their lives with only a handful remaining.

Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of the new state of Israel, formulated Zionist strategy very clearly. In May of 1948 he presented his strategic aims to the General Staff:

"We should prepare to go over to the offensive. Our aim is to smash Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, and Syria. The weak point is Lebanon, for the Moslem regime is artificial and easy for us to undermine. We shall establish a Christian state there, and then we will smash the Arab Legion, eliminate Trans-Jordan; Syria will fall to us. We then bomb and move on and take Port Said, Alexandria, and Sinai." (5)

In years to come, Israel would engage in a series of attacks on refugee camps and the few remaining Palestinian-majority villages within Israel. Slaughter was carried out in Dueima in 1948 by the Labor Zionist Israeli Army and the Israeli Defense Forces, in the Gaza refugee camps in the 1950s, in Kibya in 1953 (with slaughter personally commanded by Ariel Sharon), and in Kafr Qasim in 1956. Opposing the Egyptian nationalisation of the Suez canal (which weakened Israel's sea trade to Africa and the Far East) Israel invaded Egypt in 1956 with support of the French and British capitalist government, who likewise opposed the nationalisation of the Suez.

Subsequent invasions followed. In June 1967, Israel launched a strike against the Egyptian Air Force destroying most of it whilst still on the ground with claims that Israel was threatened with
extermination. Israeli Air Force General Ezer Weizmann declared bluntly that "there was never any danger of extermination". Mordechai Bentov, a former Israeli cabinet minister, also dismissed the myth of Israel's imminent annihilation: "All this story about the danger of extermination has been a complete invention and has been blown up a posteriori to justify the annexation of new Arab
territories" (6).

On the Syrian front, Israel had for years attempted to evict the Arabs living on the Golan and annex the demilitarized zone. When the Syrians inevitably responded, Israel attacked Syria seizing the Golan heights and Jordon's West Bank. It is clear that Israel's desire to cut off Jordan's water supply also played a role in the 1967 attack. The invasion completed Israel's encirclement of the headwaters of the Upper Jordan River, the capture of the West Bank and the two aquifers arising there, which currently supply all the groundwater for northern and central Israel. In the first few days of the war, they were so concerned that their plans for attacking Syria would be discovered that they deliberately attacked the USS Liberty, killing 33 American sailors, in an attempt to prevent it from monitoring war preparations.

In 1973 Egypt and Syria attempted to regain territory lost to them from the 1967 war. As has been typical when Israel seized the land off Jordan, Egypt and Syria they began establishing colonial settlements in the occupied territories. By 1973 nearly 100 settlements had been established and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, Syrians and Egyptians had been displaced.

The invasion of Lebanon in 1982 followed a series of raids and invasions in 1968, 1976, 1978 and 1981. On June 6, 1982, intensive aerial bombardment began with the onset of the invasion. The Israelis took Ain El Helweh as a grid, using a saturation-bombing pattern in a series of quadrants. First one quadrant was subjected to carpet-bombing and then the next-methodically and relentlessly, the bombing of each quadrant renewed as the last was levelled. The bombing continued in this manner for ten days and nights. Cluster bombs, concussion bombs, high flaring incendiary bombs and white phosphorus were used.

Prior to the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Ariel Sharon and Bashir Gemayel had declared on separate occasions that they would reduce the Palestinians in Lebanon from 500,000 to 50,000. Twenty thousand Palestinians and Lebanese died, 25,000 were wounded and 400,000 were made homeless during the first months of the 1982 Israeli invasion. The tonnages dropped on Beirut alone surpassed those of the atomic bomb which devastated Hiroshima. Schools and hospitals were particularly targeted as were the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila.

Workers' Liberty states with misplaced pride that it is alone among socialist groups in supporting the PLO's policy of two states. But unlike the PLO, Workers' Liberty describes this as a "solution ... to the Israeli-Palestine conflict". The PLO has no such illusions. The establishment of two-states merely gives Palestinians some authority over land that has been taken off them by force of arms and a temporary peace.

Indeed, the Palestian Authority describes the act as a "historic compromise" and points out that the "compromise" amounts to a mere 22% of the historical Palestine. But there can be no peace without the dismantling of the settlements, the return and compensation of Palestinian refugees and the smashing of those Israeli laws that discriminate on the basis of perceived race and religion. All the Palestinians have is the freedom to police themselves and their own poverty. They become security guards for the settlers, who colonise Palestinian lands for free.

Where Workers' Liberty is truly alone is supporting the "rights" of a religious state which lays claim (7) from the Nile to the Euphrates, the annexation of Jordon and Lebanon, nearly all of Syria, half of Iraq and Kuwait, the top third of Saudi Arabia and the east bank of the Nile. For this is what it means to support the state of Israel in theory and this is what it has and will mean in practise. Taking a theoretical support of the "rights of nations to self-determination" over and above the concrete reality of the brutal and murderous Israeli state is an exercise to make facts fit a theory. It cannot be done and if Workers' Liberty is truly dedicate itself to supporting social democracy and personal freedom for all people then it must be able to differentiate between who is the oppressor and who is the oppressed.

  • 1) http://www.guardian.co.uk/genes/article/0,2763,605806,00.html
  • 2) Anyone who doubts that Israel is a religious state should reconsider their position with an understanding of Israel citizenship, property, land expropriation, taxation and military service laws. For example, some 93% of the land in what is called the state of Israel is controlled by the Israel Lands Administration under the guidelines of the Jewish National Fund.
  • 3) UN General Assembly Resolution on the future government of Palestine (Partition Resolution), General Assembly Resolution 181 (II), 29 November 1947, Official Records of the second session of the General Assembly Resolutions, p 131.
  • 4) Joseph Weitz, A Solution to the Refugee Problem, Davar, September 29, 1967. Cited in Uri Davis and Norton Mezvinsky, eds, Documents from Israel, 1967-1973, p.21.
  • 5) Michael Bar Zohar, Ben Gurion: A Biography (New York: Delacorte, 1978).
  • 6) Ma'ariv, 19 April 1972 and Al Hamishmar, 14 April 1972
  • 7) In his Complete Diaries, Vol.II, Page 711, Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, says that the area of the Jewish state stretches: "From the Brook of Egypt to the Euphrates". Rabbi Fischmann, member of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, declared in his testimony to the U.N. Special Committee of Enquiry on July 9, 1947: "The Promised Land extends from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates. It includes parts of Syria and Lebanon." The land claim is represented by the cross bars on the Israeli flag.

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