Why Jews wanted Israel

Submitted by AWL on 7 March, 2019 - 10:56

These are the concluding sections of an article on “The Jewish Problem After Hitler”, by Albert Glotzer (writing as Albert Gates), in the “Third Camp” Trotskyist journal The New International of September 1947 (eight months before the creation of Israel). The article was written in response to an article on the same subject of July 1946 by Ernest Mandel, who would become the main writer of “Orthodox Trotskyism” over decades until his death in 1995. Picture is of people grieving for those killed in 1946 pogrom against Jews in Kielce, Poland.

"For decades [before Hitler] the conditions of the Jews in Europe had steadily improved. Centuries of oppression, persecution, discrimination and ghetto life seemed to disappear in the advance of capitalism and the expansion of its modern industrial system. While the position of the Jews had improved everywhere, it reached its height in the advanced capitalist countries. In those nations, assimilation of Jews went on uninterruptedly. So deep-going was this process that many Jews came to believe that the days of great trial for their people had ended. Only in the most backward nation, Czarist Russia, did the Jews still face the problems of another age.

There the putrescent nobility and its camarilla still employed the “pogrom” as an instrument of state policy for the purpose of preserving their rule. But even the capitalist world was aghast at the treatment of the Jews in Russia. For the most part, the Marxist movement regarded the occurrences in Czarist Russia as an “aberration” not characteristic of world capitalism...

Persecution of the Jews had, in any case, ceased to be an international practice, or, if it had not ceased entirely, at least the tendency was unmistakably toward an end of such persecution and for assimilation of large and ever-increasing numbers of Jews in the general national patterns of the countries in which they lived. Given this general objective situation, one could understand the validity of the old Marxist position, most forcefully expressed in the old Russian and Polish revolutionary parties, the Bolsheviks as well as the Mensheviks, in favour of “assimilation” and against the revival, or survival of Jewish nationalism, which sought to reverse the process of history.

In the eastern European movement, the Jewish Bund remained the strongest force which fought for the maintenance of “Jewish integrity,” a Jewish national life, and a Jewish national culture. Lenin, for example, opposed this part of the program of the Bund as reactionary, as an attempt to move backward on the Jewish question, at a time when everything pointed toward a progressive solution of the problem, particularly in view of the rise of the revolutionary socialist movement, the imminence of the revolution in Russia and the prospect of a not-too-distant world socialist victory. The Jewish problem today is so different qualitatively from the past, that it is almost entirely a new one demanding new solutions.

This much was already indicated by Trotsky shortly before his death when he forecast the extermination of the Jews during the war. Trotsky’s prediction was nearly realised in the tragic extermination of from five to six million Jews in Europe. As a measure of the difference of the modern Jewish problem, consider the tremendous revulsion of the whole world to the Czarist pogroms in the 1905 period and the relative indifference of a world accustomed to mass destruction of wealth and peoples to the scientific mass murder of the Jews in the Hitler era. Then the world was horror-stricken; yes, even the bourgeois world was aghast at the cruel slaughter and persecution of the Russian Jews. Cruel slaughter and persecution! Lenin recorded the depth of these pogroms when he wrote: “It is calculated that in 100 cities at that time 4,000 were killed and 10,000 were mutilated”.

But the Jews could flee Russia to havens of safety. There was the United States with free immigration [until 1921] and its vast areas of land. There was western Europe – the centre of modern capitalist civilization. As a result, there was no mass movement to Palestine in those days and no amount of Zionist agitation could create one. The Jews as a whole did not seek “national survival,” a “Jewish state,” a “homeland.” They were content to be permitted to reside in the countries of their choice and to become full citizens of those lands on a free and equal basis with other inhabitants. Is that era comparable to the present?

All one has to do is to examine the real world of today to see how clearly different it is, how completely insecure is the position of the Jews now. Is it an exaggeration to say, after more than ten years of Hitlerism in a decaying world characteristic for its social degeneration, that the existence of the Jews is as perilous in 1947 as it was in 1940? The virus of antisemitism has spread to all borders and has infected nations and peoples whose relative tolerance was conspicuous in former years. The truth is that the Jews have no place in Europe to live. They cannot return to their old homes and resume their former occupations. They are for the most part, the few hundred thousand European Jews who are left, inhabitants of former concentration camps in an atmosphere polluted with the stink of crematories, dungeons and fresh-dug graves.

A person would have to be thick-skinned indeed not to feel the depths of despair which have seized hold of the Jewish population of the world, especially those who remain in Europe today. Out of the cemetery in which the remnants of European Jews now temporarily reside has come a mass desire for emigration to Palestine, a desire which took almost spontaneous form. Why Palestine? Why not the United States, Australia, South America, England or France? The principal reason, as [Mandel] himself admits, is that none of these countries will permit the entry of Jews or other displaced persons. In these circumstances, the Jews have, in fact, only one place to turn to that offers them some realistic prospect of salvation, namely, Palestine.

Without going into a discussion now as to all the reasons why emigration to Palestine is justifiable, let me cite an important reason for it. More than one-third of the population of Palestine, who are Jews, want their fellow nationals to come there. The weight of persecution has created a deep bond of solidarity between the European and Palestinian Jews. Palestine can absorb these several hundred thousand European Jews and offer them a haven in a world whose doors are closed to them. In a way it is an answer to the disgusting, hypocritical sympathies expressed for the Jews by the United States, Great Britain, Russia and the leading powers of the UN who are using the Jewish question as a political football in the new imperialist struggle for world domination.

To recognize the validity of these national aspirations for survival among Europe’s Jews is not a violation of Marxist principles. On the contrary, to deny them would reveal not only an obstinate misunderstanding of everything that Lenin wrote on the national question, but a failure to understand what has happened in Europe in the past twenty-five years."

Israel after 1948

This is an abridged extract from a resolution on “The Jewish Question and Israel” adopted by the Third Camp Trotskyist Independent Socialist League in 1951.

"The politics from which the war in Palestine flowed, therefore, was – on the side of the Jews – their exercise of their right to self-determination; and – on the side of the Arab states – their aim of depriving the Jews of this right by force of arms.

The war itself was necessarily fought by the Jews independently of the UN and of any of the imperialists because of the policies of the latter. The Marxist position on this war was summed up as follows: Defence of Israel against the Arab states’ attack – military, material and moral support to its war but no political support to Zionism or the government. This pro-war position necessarily entailed also opposition to any intervention in the war by the big imperialist powers, and the demand in the US for no embargo on arms to Israel and for recognition.

The victory in war of the splinter state of Israel ensured its national existence and independence for this period but did not solve its problems. Without at all derogating the fact of Israel’s independent status, it is still important to understand the following: Merely military victory – especially with the maintenance of a Zionist-nationalist and implicitly expansionist perspective, on the one hand, and on the other hand the demands in some Arab circles for a “second round” of fighting for the overthrow of Israeli independence – can only result in a permanent state of Near Eastern “cold war” between Jews and Arabs, chronic national tensions, border incidents, and permanent national hatred.

Under these conditions, for a splinter state whose economic life is intertwined with that of its Arab neighbours, its future can only be that of a state-wide ghetto in an Arab world. The leaders of Israel can make this future bearable only by dependence, and ever-increasing dependence, on one or the other of the predatory imperialisms, by becoming its outpost in its section of the world. Both Russia and the US bloc seek to dominate Israel in this way, but in today’s situation the strongest imperialist force operating to subjugate Israel and break it into this role is US imperialism, operating both through the general economic power of US wealth and specifically through control of the purse strings of Israel by Jewish capitalist elements in the US.

In the longer run, the only alternative for Israel, as against a chronic nightmare existence and becoming a puppet of outside imperialism, is the perspective of the integration of Israel into an Independent Near Eastern Union of States, genuinely free from all imperialist subordination and control. As long as Jewish capital and Arab landlordism remain in control of these states this aim is not a practical possibility; the fight for its realisation requires the building of a revolutionary socialist movement in Israel and of revolutionary workers’ and peasants’ movements in the Arab countries.

It is the particular duty of the Israeli socialist movement to develop a program making for an alliance between Israel’s working class and the Arab masses against their own exploiters and ruling classes. The establishment of peace between Israel and the Arab countries is a vital necessity for the economic well-being and development of all the Middle Eastern countries. The road toward achieving such peace requires such an Israeli policy toward the Arab peoples as will create popular sentiment for peace among those peoples. This is a necessary first step toward any permanent solution. "

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