USC Students for Justice in Palestine

history, analysis, news, and event updates on the struggle for justice in palestine

Roots of Israel’s violence by Tony Cliff (1982)

Posted by uscsjp on August 13, 2007

Looking back on my own experience in Palestine I can see how today’s horror grew from small beginnings. Zionism, Jewish separateness and the belief in a Jewish homeland, have developed into state violence. My parents were pioneering Zionists, leaving Russia for Palestine in 1902 to join a total Zionist population of a few thousand.

I grew up a Zionist, but Zionism didn’t have the ugly face we see today. However, there was always a fundamental crack between the Zionists and the Arabs. This same crack split Zionists from ordinary people in their countries of origin.

If you look to 19th century Russia it’s clear. In 1891 Tsar Alexander II was assassinated. The next year Russia’s extreme right organised a pogrom against the Jews. “Kill a Jew and save Russia,” they said. Socialists reacted by calling for unity in fighting Tsarism and the right. But there was a second reaction — Zionism. The Zionists argued, “Jews can’t rely on anyone but ourselves,” and the first of them left Russia for Palestine. Each further pogrom produced the same two reactions. Some joined the general revolutionary movement — others chose separation.

When the Zionists came to Palestine they continued to emphasise their separateness. Zionists took over Arab land, often evicting the occupiers. And the Zionists systematically discriminated against the thousands of Arab unemployed. Although Arabs were at least 80 percent of the population, not one came to my school.

My parents were extreme Zionists, and my father told me, “The only way to look at an Arab is through the sight of a gun.” I never shared a house with an Arab.

The Zionists organised their own trade union, the Histadrut, which raised two political funds. One was called “the defence of Hebrew Labour”, the other “the defence of Hebrew products”. These funds were used to organise pickets to prevent Arabs working in Jewish enterprises and to stop Arab produce coming into Jewish markets. They did nothing to damage Zionist businesses…

Back in Palestine Zionist outrages were developing. The state of Israel, declared in 1948, was accomplished by a terror campaign which drove hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes. The state was born with the “limited” massacre of 240 civilians in the village of Deir Yassin.

Men, women and children were slaughtered, some thrown alive down the village well. It was a place I knew well, just a few miles from my home. The Arabs aren’t the only ones to pay since then. Israel’s constant search for allies has made it increasingly a supplier of military equipment to the world’s most reactionary regimes.

Moshe Dayan, Israel’s defence minister, spent two months in South Vietnam in 1966 advising the American puppet government. Israel supplied arms to Chile, to Ian Smith’s Rhodesia, and to all the countries upon which US president Carter placed an arms embargo for human rights violations.

Israel’s security police advised the Shah of Iran, while its scientists developed nuclear weapons with South Africa. Some people argue oppression always leads to progress. The Jews were horribly oppressed but it didn’t guarantee they became progressive or revolutionary. Indeed, oppression associated with lack of power leads to reaction. When the core of Zionism meant separation from all progressive forces, from the revolutionary forces in Russia to the anti-imperialist forces in the Middle East, the rest of the tale followed naturally.

Now Israel is collaborating with the Phalangists in Lebanon, an openly fascist organisation. I’m not surprised. I remember the 1930s when Begin’s (now Israel’s prime minister) organisation, the Irgun, used the Hitler salute and wore the brown shirts.

In 1935 I would never have believed Zionists would murder civilians — they discriminated against the Arabs, that’s all. But in today’s harsh world any crack expands and the crack of Jewish separateness leads to the horrors we’ve seen in Lebanon. Those monstrosities are the logic of Zionism. Indeed, I fear we’ll see much worse from the Zionists in the future. (complete article)

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