Ralph Schoenman


The Hidden History of Zionism


Chapter 13
A Strategy for Revolution

12. Strategy for Conquest   |   Map: Zionist Vision of Eretz Israel


There are over five million settlers of European origin in South Africa. The Afrikaaner population and those of British descent have lived in South Africa for many generations. Yet very few people, let alone those purporting to be advocates of self-determination for Blacks in South Africa, propose two states - a European white state with guaranteed security alongside a demilitarized African state.

In fact, it is precisely the existence of such an arrangement in the form of the Bantustans in South Africa which has rendered utterly indefensible this cover for the preservation of racist rule.

Similarly, in colonial Algeria and in Northern and Southern Rhodesia, the large European settler populations - many of them descendants of generations of settlers - were not accorded a separate status, let alone a settler state on usurped land of the oppressed.

On the contrary, in South Africa - as in Algeria, Zambia or Zimbabwe - it is understood that self-determination of a colonized people cannot be equated with a settler state. It is sleight of hand to suggest that, having dispossessed the population by force, the settlers now have an equivalent claim to the conquered territory.

If this is universally understood elsewhere, why this indecent exceptionalism when it comes to Israel?

Those who would foist upon the Palestinian people the demand that they recognize an apartheid Israeli state know full well that the national rights of a colonized people do not extend to their colonizers.

In Israel, no less than in South Africa, minimum justice requires dismantling the apartheid state and replacing it with a democratic secular Palestine, where citizenship and rights are not determined by ethnic criteria.

In reality, the supposed supporters of Palestinian human rights who urge acceptance and recognition of the Israeli state are, however disguised, acting as lawyers for the colonial state in Palestine. Their advocacy carries the pseudo-left cover of self-determination for "both" peoples, but this specious employment of the principle of self-determination translates into a covert call for amnesty for Israel.

Many so-called realists argue that Palestinian acknowledgment of the "right" of apartheid Israel to exist will hasten the day when a Palestinian state would be permitted by the Zionists to come into being. But this rationalization does not carry much conviction. The Zionists do not depend upon verbal acceptance for their state, but upon armed force.

For Palestinians to accept, recognize and thereby legitimize the murderous conquest of their land would merely permit the Zionists to contend that forty years of intransigence on the part of the oppressed are responsible for their suffering. It would sanction the claim that Israel was a legitimate construct from the start.

Rather than acting as a bridge toward the establishment of a unitary Palestine, as some in the P.L.O. leadership contend today, the establishment of a "mini-state" on the West Bank - and the recognition of the Zionist state, which is a pre-condition for its creation - would represent a giant obstacle in its path.

Recognition of the Israeli state would invalidate retroactively the right of resistance of the oppressed and would provide cover for the Zionist demand that only Palestinians who had capitulated and sanctioned Israel in the past, accepting its legitimacy, have the right to negotiate with Israel. When you dance with the Devil, your speech reveals his breath.

What of the Palestinians who live inside the 1967 borders, and what of the Jews themselves? Would apartheid end in South Africa, or the state be transformed by recognizing its right to exist? Would we serve the interests of the people of Paraguay or Chile by accepting the claims to legitimacy of Stroessner or Pinochet, or by providing sanction for the states they have constructed?


International Peace Conference

Despite the obvious answers to all these questions, there are, nonetheless, an increasing number of people who, today, are actively pushing for an international peace conference on the Middle East with the goal of establishing a Palestinian "mini-state" alongside the Israeli state.

On January 10, 1988, for example, Al-Fajr, a Jerusalem Palestinian weekly, published a statement signed by prominent Jews and Arabs which called for "a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict" that would "ensure both Israeli and Palestinian national rights".

In an interview with the Reuters press service on January 18, Hanna Siniora, editor of Al Fajr, specified how Israeli and Palestinian "national rights" might be ensured at such an international peace conference. Siniora called for "an association among Israel, Jordan, and a Palestinian state like that of the Benelux countries – with a demilitarized West Bank as the Luxemburg".

"Palestinians, including Arafat, would accept autonomy as an interim step toward independence," Siniora said. "Autonomy is a step that would lead eventually to negotiations between the state of Israel and the P.L.O., ending in a Palestinian state emerging as a result of those negotiations."

Siniora met with Secretary of State George Shultz in Washington on January 28 to discuss this proposal. Siniora’s meeting occurred only days after P.L.O. Chairman Yasir Arafat had announced that he was interested in making a deal with Israel and the United States. A dispatch from Associated Press on January 17 explained Arafat’s overtures: "Arafat says that if those countries [Israel and the United States] agree to an international conference on Middle East peace, he will recognize Israel’s right to exist. The White House says this could be an encouraging sign ..."


A "Rump" Palestinian State

George Ball, who served as Under Secretary of State under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, spelled out how the United States and Israel should approach an international peace conference. Ball’s article, which is titled Peace for Israel hinges on a state for Palestinians, states the following:

Israel’s security worries could be largely met by writing stringent, enforceable safeguards into a formal treaty, denying the new [Palestinian] state any armed force of its own and limiting the numbers and kinds of weapons available to its police.

As a further safeguard, the settlement could require installation of surveillance posts larger and more numerous and effective than those now functioning in the Sinai under Israel’s peace agreement with Egypt. [186a]

Ball explains that the establishment of what he openly admits would be a "rump Palestinian state in the West Bank" is a matter of urgency. "If the United States does not seriously seek to bring the parties together," Ball warns, "the ... warfare in the Holyland will spread and intensify. Sooner or later, the neighboring Arab states - even Egypt - will be dragged into the maelstrom."

The "maelstrom" that this imperialist spokesperson so strongly fears is the emancipation of the Arab masses of the region from the Israeli colonial-settler state; from the feudal sheiks of the Gulf and Arabian peninsula; and from the Egyptian regime, which has reduced the workers and peasants of Egypt to a level of poverty unknown even under King Farouk.

An international conference designed to legitimize the security interests of apartheid Israel in exchange for a Palestinian "Bantustan" can never be viable except if a Palestinian leadership were to provide this plan with protective coloration. Such an outcome will merely hand to the P.L.O. the unenviable task of policing the Palestinian people and of converting self-determination into another sad replica of the country-selling regimes which plague the Arab masses - from Jordan to Syria and from Egypt to the Gulf.

It was but a few years ago that no Palestinian nationalist would dare associate him or herself with so blatant an effort to betray the long years of struggle for Palestinian self-determination and emancipation, let alone translate the Palestinian cause into a plea for a role in preserving the status quo in the region - with its grinding poverty and relentless exploitation and subordination to U.S. imperialist control.

Those who argue that it is practical to propose a two-state solution because this plan is more likely to be accepted are guilty, decency aside, of what C. Wright Mills called "crackpot realism".

There has never been any component of the Zionist movement - from its nominal "right" to its self-designated "left" - which has accepted Palestinian statehood in any form compatible with self-determination.

A revealing example of the dangers for the Palestinian revolution of a "mini-state" proposal comes from the pen of Jerome M. Segal, a research scholar at the University of Maryland and a founder of the Jewish Committee for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

Segal, who represents the "left" wing of the Zionist movement, writes the following in a February 16, 1988, Los Angeles Times article titled, A Palestinian state serves interests of Israelis, too:

Ironically, of all the alternatives an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza is the one solution that best serves Israeli security ...

A Palestinian state would be the fullest possible satisfaction of the demands of Palestinian nationalism ... It would win the support of the P.L.O. and is the only likely basis on which the P.L.O. would formally abandon the right to return to the land and villages lost in 1948. As the recognized embodiment of the Palestinian cause, only the P.L.O. can compromise in the name of the Palestinians ...

A Palestinian state would be a demilitarized mini-state. It would be completely enclosed by Israel on one side and Jordan on the other. No military supplies or forces could reach it without passing through Israel or Jordan.

The foreign policy of such a mini-state would be dominated by its links to the Israeli economy and by its national-security realities. In the event of a war, its very existence would be in jeopardy ... Israel would not be seriously threatened if hostilities broke out ...

For Israel, a Palestinian state is not a charming prospect. It is simply better than the alternatives.

Segal’s call for what amounts to a "rump Palestinian state in the West Bank" is a mockery of Palestinian self-determination.

Indeed, far from being willing to relinquish control of the West Bank and Gaza, the Zionists - as Ben Gurion, Dayan and Oded Yinon make clear - are too busy plotting the conquest of Kuwait.

The day that African or Palestinian rights are secured with the sanction of apartheid South Africa or by Zionist Israel under U.S. control will be the day we learn that Caligula was a disciple of Jesus, Hitler embraced Marx, and Bull Conner, eyes rolled to Heaven, chanted, "We shall overcome".

Meanwhile, the tortured, the dying, the oppressed cannot afford the fantasies of their "practical" reformist friends; the price of such illusions is paid in blood. The "rump Palestinian state" of George Ball’s vision will be operated for the privileged on the backs of the Palestinian poor. Those Palestinian leaders who embrace this concocted entity - modelled on the inspiring examples of the dependent sheikdoms of the Gulf and the Bantustans of South Africa - will become the Chiang Kai-sheks, Tshombes, and King Husseins of suffering Palestine. The rights of the Palestinian people can never be advanced in this way.


For a Democratic Secular Palestine

In 1968, twenty years after the colonial-settler state of Israel was established, the Palestinian resistance movement formulated its demand for self-determination in the call for the replacement of the Israeli state with an independent, unitary Palestine.

The majority wing of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Fatah, set forth the program for the establishment of a "democratic, secular Palestine". This slogan called for the dismantling of the Zionist Israeli state and the establishment of a new state in Palestine in which Jews, Christians, and Arabs would live as equals without discrimination.

What was notable about this brave proposal was that (1) it categorically rejected any accommodation with or recognition of the Zionist state; and (2) it rejected the proposal for a Palestinian "mini-state" on the West Bank and Gaza.

P.L.O. Chairman Yasir Arafat described his proposal as follows in a remarkable biography written by journalist Alan Hart:

We were saying “no” to the Zionist state, but we were saying “yes” to the Jewish people of Palestine. To them we were saying, “You are welcome to live in our land, but on one condition - You must be prepared to live among us as equals, not as dominators.”

I myself have always said that there is only one guarantee for the safety and security of the Jewish people in Palestine and that is the friendship of the Arabs among whom they live. [187]

A document submitted by Arafat’s Fatah organization to the Second World Congress on Palestine in September 1970 spells out the profile of a democratic and secular Palestine even more clearly. The 1970 Fatah document states:

Pre-1948 Palestine - as defined during the British mandate - is the territory to be liberated ... It should be quite obvious at this stage that the new Palestine discussed here is not the occupied West Bank or the Gaza Strip or both. These are areas occupied by the Israelis since June 1967. The homeland of the Palestinians usurped and colonized in 1948 is no less dear or important than the part occupied in 1967.

Besides, the very existence of the racist oppressor state of Israel, based on the expulsion and forced exile of part of its citizens, even from one tiny village, is unacceptable to the revolution. Any arrangement accommodating the aggressor settler state is unacceptable and temporary ...

All the Jews, Moslems, and Christians living in Palestine or forcibly exiled from it will have the right to Palestinian citizenship ... This means that all Jewish Palestinians - at the present Israelis - have the same rights provided, of course, that they reject Zionist racist chauvinism and fully agree to live as Palestinians in the new Palestine ... It is the belief of the revolution that the majority of the present Israeli Jews will change their attitudes and will subscribe to the new Palestine, especially after the oligarchic state machinery, economy, and military establishment are destroyed. [188]


Role of Soviet Bureaucracy

The Soviet bureaucracy reacted sharply to Fatah’s attempt to transform the P.L.O. into a revolutionary movement with a program and strategy aimed at mobilizing the masses and winning them for a revolutionary transformation of a settler regime.

According to Alan Hart, whose biography of Arafat was "written in cooperation with Yasir Arafat and the top leadership of the P.L.O., "the Soviet leaders told Arafat that they were fully committed to the existence of the state of Israel and that they had not the slightest intention of supporting or encouraging Palestinian militance or military capacity." [189]

Two of Fatah’s principal leaders, Khalid al-Hassan and Khalil al Wazir (Abu Jihad), went to Moscow to explain Fatah’s program. They left Moscow, to cite Khalid al-Hassan, "With the clear impression that the Palestinians would not receive Soviet support for their cause until they were ready to accept Israel’s existence inside the borders as they were on the eve of the [June 1967] Six Day War." [190]

"Because we were ourselves beginning to be educated about the reality of international politics," reflects Hani al-Hassan, Khalid’s brother, "we realized that we couldn’t expect to advance our cause without the support of at least one of two superpowers. We had knocked on the door of the United States and its Western allies and we had received no answer, so we wanted to try with the Soviets. We had no choice." [191]


Retreat to "Mini-State" Position

Fatah’s leaders soon lost all confidence in the possibility of sustaining the political program which they had once proclaimed - that of a democratic and secular Palestine for which they had planned to struggle by mobilizing the Palestinian and Jewish masses.

In February 1974, a P.L.O. working paper was formulated which retreated from this program. The paper proposed "To establish a national authority on any lands that can be wrested from Zionist occupation". [192]

Arafat and the majority of his Fatah colleagues were now committed to working for a negotiated "settlement" which required the Palestinian people to accept the loss "for all time" of 70% of their original homeland in exchange for a "mini-state" on the West Bank and Gaza.

Arafat openly acknowledged that the entire Palestinian people were opposed to this policy. Alan Hart writes:

Arafat and most of his senior colleagues in the leadership knew they needed time to sell it to the rank and file of the liberation movement. If, in 1974, Arafat and his colleagues had openly admitted the true extent of the compromise they were prepared to make, they would have been repudiated and rejected by an easy majority of the Palestinians. [193] [emphasis added]

Arafat was now embarked upon a course in which he could not tell the truth to his own people about the political line which he and his colleagues had taken. The words are those of Yasir Arafat:

Our tragedy at the time was that the world refused to understand there were two aspects, two sides, to the question of what was possible. First, there was the question of what it was possible for the Palestinians to achieve in practical terms - given the fact that the two [emphasis added] superpowers were committed to Israel’s existence ...

But there was also the question of what it was possible for the Palestinian leadership to persuade its people to accept. When a people is claiming the return of 100% of its land, it’s not so easy for leadership to say, “No, you can take only 30%.” [194]

The disparity between the public posture and the private practice became the touchstone of P.L.O. political practice in this period, with considerable confusion and demoralization among the masses arising from it. Arafat is frank about this:

You say to me and you are right, that our public position on the compromise we were prepared to make was ambiguous for many years while we were educating our people about the need for compromise. But I must also tell you that our real position was always known to the governments of the world, including the government of Israel.

How? From 1974, even from the end of 1973, certain of our people were officially authorized to maintain secret contacts with Israelis and with important people in the West. Their responsibility was to say in secret what at the time we could not say in public. [195] [emphasis added]

This clandestine policy was carried out for five years, from 1974 to 1979, with neither awareness nor endorsement by the elected members of the Palestine National Council. It required diplomatic maneuvering and lobbying.

It also required, to quote Alan Hart, "out-maneuvering and outwitting those [in the P.L.O. ‘left’] who were opposed to the ‘ministate’." Hart explains:

If he had been put to the test of actual negotiations by Israel between 1974 and 1979 ... Arafat could not have delivered peace on the basis of the “mini-state” formula without splitting the P.L.O. [196]

But inducing the "left" to acquiesce proved to be like pushing on an open door. And by the time of the 1979 Palestine National Congress, George Habash and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) had endorsed the "mini-state" plan. Indeed, by 1979, all components of the P.L.O. had adopted the call for a "mini-state" on the West Bank and Gaza. From 1974 on, all wings of the P.L.O. had demonstrated they were incapable of formulating an independent, revolutionary strategy for the Palestinian struggle.


Addressing the Jewish Working Class

As the 1970 Fatah document correctly noted, the future of the struggle of the Palestinian people is tied up with a political strategy which addresses itself to Israeli Jews and which calls upon them to join with the Palestinians in a struggle for a democratic and secular Palestine.

Indeed, within the Zionist state, 68% of the settler population is made up of Oriental (mainly Sephardic) Jews. They come from countries which are impoverished, many of them often with retrograde regimes.

The great mass of Oriental Jews are poor. So the means which are used to keep them down economically and politically, are the same used in any ghetto, barrio or working-class neighborhood across the United States or anywhere else.

The Oriental Jews do have the same rights under Israeli law - in formal terms. Here’s the problem: In Israel, after the 9th grade, there are special charges which make a high-school education very costly. This means, in practice, that only a tiny percentage of Oriental Jews go on to obtain a higher education. Oriental Jews comprise 10% of university students and 3% of university graduates. This follows from economic exploitation.

Their political representation does not reflect their proportion of the population. Oriental Jews hold only one sixth of the seats in the Knesset [Israel’s Parliament]. Elie Eliachar, a prominent leader of the Oriental community and a former member of the Knesset, explained that even this representation is nominal. In effect, the Oriental deputies represent "all-Ashkenazi political parties to which they owe sole allegiance rather than the Sephardi-Oriental community". "This," he writes, "makes Israeli democracy a mere caricature."[197]

There should, however, be no misunderstanding. The Oriental Jews are very often Zionist. It would be misleading to talk about them without making it clear that the Israelis, like all imperialist and colonial powers, have used the divide-and-rule approach in handling them.

The Oriental Jews have a very precarious socio-economic status in Israel. They are but slightly better off than the Palestinians themselves. A Jew from Iraq, Morocco, or Yemen, moreover, is an Arab of Jewish religious origins. In mores, manner, custom, and appearance, they are as their Moslem and Christian brothers and sisters. They also suffer discrimination. The Zionists continually attempt to instil racist hatred in the Oriental Jews for the Palestinian masses.

When young Oriental Jews are sent to fight in Lebanon or to the West Bank and Gaza, their eyes are opened to Israel’s war policies. They come back to the same miserable economic and social position they endured before they left. This was what had led in years past to the development of a Black Panther movement in the Sephardic slums and to the beginnings of a radicalization among the Sephardim. There is a rage barely beneath the surface, and one of these days the explosion will happen within the Sephardic community. This is inevitable.

When the Palestinian people begin to mobilize it cannot but speak to the condition of the Jewish working class. It behooves a Palestinian revolutionary leadership to address the Jews with a vision of a democratic-secular Palestine. In time, the Jewish workers will respond to Palestinian mobilization. The first step is to think, "If they can do it, so can we." The second is to look around for allies. That is the road to an anti-Zionist revolutionary movement.


Crisis of Revolutionary Leadership

Despite the tremendous revolutionary opportunities over the past several years, the leadership of the P.L.O. has shown itself unable to develop a strategy for the mobilization in Palestine of the Palestinian and Jewish masses against the Zionist state.

Neither the "moderate" leadership of Yasir Arafat, the "progressive" leadership of the Popular and Democratic Fronts, nor the "disident" Fatah rebels have formulated a strategy for the Palestinian people independent of the rotten capitalist regimes of the region.

The P.L.O. leaders at one moment curry favor with imperialism and its agents, the country-selling regimes of the Arab East, and at another indulge in random acts of force. Each course is designed, misguidedly, to induce imperialism to endorse the establishment of a Palestinian "mini-state".

But these regimes - from Syria to Jordan to Egypt - regard the Palestinian revolution as a clear and present danger. They understand that the extraordinary struggle of the Palestinian nation - even under the nationalist P.L.O. leadership - is a reminder to their own suffering people of what is to be done and who is in the way.

A revolutionary Palestinian leadership should struggle, as many do, for the dismantlement of the Israeli state.

The assassination of Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad) on April 17, 1988, was a clear message to the Fatah wing of the P.L.O. and to the Arab governments. It is virtually impossible, now, for this leadership to project plausibly a "settlement" with Israel. Their expectations of negotiations which could result in some limited form of Palestinian self-determination have been shown to be illusory. The Israeli intent was to prompt an armed response from within the uprising; indeed, a staged provocation by Israeli intelligence in the name of the Intifadeh is not precluded. For the basic Zionist agenda is to depopulate Palestine, and the cover of war is needed to effect yet again a mass expulsion of Palestinians.

The Israeli press unanimously ascribed the murder operation to Israeli Navy commando units and the Mossad, an assault involving thirty people. Davar reported on April 18 that the decision to assassinate Abu Jihad was approved at the cabinet level while Secretary of State George Shultz was in Jerusalem and proceeded after receiving a green light from the United States.

The Davar editorial confirms that the assassination is to be "credited to ministers Shamir, Rabin and Peres". [198] Davar reported that Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir "leapt with joy" upon hearing the news and sent congratulatory telegrams to each of the perpetrators. Shamir had carried out such murders of his own in the past, notably of United Nations mediator Count Folke Bernadotte on September 17, 1948. Such an operation, with all its implications, could not occur without U.S. sanction. It reveals the real nature of the Shultz "peace" proposals. They are a cover for preparations to crush the uprising and for a new war.

The tragic death of Abu Jihad is particularly instructive in its timing. The Mossad has had the ability to murder major figures, such as Abu Jihad, in the past. His killing is the equivalent of a declaration of war. It underlines, once again, the necessity for a new strategy on the part of a revolutionary Palestinian leadership, one based on a political program directed to the Palestinian and Jewish masses for the replacement of the Zionist state.


The Way Forward

The Palestinian masses are in motion. The extraordinary will to struggle on the part of the entire population has shown that there is no going back. The Intifadeh needs to focus on specific features of oppression and to challenge them by reclaiming the land, planting forbidden crops, sinking wells and withholding labor in the course of demanding unconditional Israeli withdrawal.

A revolutionary Palestinian leadership will need to devise a program for inside the Green Line which addresses the Jews within Israel as well as the Moslems and Christians. In short, what is necessary is a blueprint for a post-Zionist society which inspires people and associates the inequities of their lives with the Zionist state.

As the Zionist state is at once a species of capitalist class rule and an extension of U.S. imperial power in the region, the struggle against Zionism becomes, programmatically, a struggle for a socialist Palestine and, as the dawn follows the long night, a struggle for a socialist Arab East - from the Mediterranean to the Gulf.

A P.L.O. faithful to its promise of a democratic-secular Palestine would include in its leadership those anti-Zionist Jews who have fought the colonial-settler state. In this way, the Jewish masses themselves would be able to see who really speaks for them, and who offers them a way out of perpetual war, insecurity, and deprivation.

A clear call for a democratic and secular Palestine is essential to uniting mass social forces capable of dismantling the Zionist state and replacing it with a humane society dedicated to the ending of class and national oppression.

The Palestinian revolutionary movement can only advance by hammering out a new strategy based on combining the Palestinian national struggle with the struggle of the workers and peasants of the whole Middle East for liberation from both capitalist and imperialist domination - for a socialist Middle East.

There is no short cut to liberation, as the century-old ordeal of the Palestinian people has shown. The road to victory will only be shortened when a leadership arises which knows its direction and proposes the path in a language which enlists the people, mobilizes them in their own behalf, and exposes fearlessly the false leaders dangerously in the way.

The Palestinian answer to the Zionist and imperialist schemes can be found in the stone-throwing children of Jabaliya, the Beach Camp, Balata and Dheisheh. For this, as Jabotinsky was obliged by them to acknowledge, is a people, a living people - not a rabble, but a conscious people fighting with stones and sling shots against the fourth largest military power in the world.

We owe them, at the very least, fidelity to their revolutionary struggle, which can never be complete until it extends from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, from the Brook of Egypt to the Euphrates - and, as their Zionist oppressors forever proclaim, "and beyond".



186a. Los Angeles Times, January 17, 1988.

187. Cited in Alan Hart, Arafat: Terrorist or Peacemaker (Sidgwick and Jackson, revised edition), p.275.

188. Cited in Documents of the Palestinian Resistance Movement (New York: Merit pamphlet, Pathfinder Press, 1971 ). The full statement by Fatah was also printed in the October 16, 1970, issue of The Militant newspaper.

189. Hart, p.279.

190. Ibid., p.277.

191. Ibid., p.278.

192. Ibid., p.379.

193. Ibid., p.379.

194. Ibid., p.379.

195. Ibid., p.379.

196. Ibid., p.379.

197. Naseer H. Aruri, The Oriental Jews of Israel, Zionism and Racism, p.113.

198. New York Times, April 18, 1988.


Last updated on 4.8.2001