Hated Victims, Hidden Racism:

Palestinians and the Zionist Enterprise

(Part One of Four)

- by M. Junaid Alam

Go to:  | Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

"We cannot give any compensation for Palestine, neither to the Palestinians nor to other Arabs. Therefore, a voluntary agreement is inconceivable. All colonization, even the most restricted, must continue in defiance of the will of the native population. Therefore, it can continue and develop only under the shield of force which comprises an Iron Wall through which the local population can never break through. This is our Arab policy. To formulate it any other way would be hypocrisy."
--Ze'ev Jabotinsky, Zionist theoretician, 1923*

"Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either…There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population."
"Before their very eyes we are possessing the land and the villages where they, and their ancestors, have lived...We are the generation of colonizers, and without the steel helmet and the gun barrel we cannot plant a tree and build a home."
--Moshe Dayan, Israeli war hero, 1969**


The Israeli-Palestinian conflict represents one of the most explosive and volatile struggles on the sociopolitical plane in the modern world. Every day calls forth a new flare up of violence; stories of death, pain, and suffering pour into the newswires seemingly without end. The booming sound of weapons, accompanied by the inevitable wails and cries of anguish, naturally give way to bellicose rhetoric among leaders and a plethora of commentary among the intelligentsia and assorted pundits. And yet this conflict, which directly affects millions on a daily basis and has the potential to destabilize a region containing a quarter-billion of humanity, stands out as a peculiar one.

For it seems that the entire nature of the problem is well understood among the talking heads from the outset; as if by divine decree, it has been decided that all the violence emanates from one side, and all the suffering on the other, that on one diseased end lie vast swamps of "terrorists" bent on the destruction of a supremely morally good state lying on the enlightened end, which is simply "defending" itself. In other words, in mainstream thought, discourse, dialogue, and media, the edict has been laid down: the Palestinians are a group of senselessly violent savages whereas the Israelis represent civilization and democracy. Given this 'profound' mainstream insight, depicting a clear-cut Manichean setup with an Israeli beacon of light counter-posed to uncivilized Arab darkness, alternative approaches are deemed heretical from the outset.

But the truth of the matter is that heresy-a label which would quite easily be stamped onto the analysis presented here-possesses certain virtues in a world in which the intertwining elements of class and race combine to distort, and indeed, invert the social narratives of man in order to serve the interests of the existing order, that is to say, imperialism. Undoubtedly some will contend that this is nonsense, that we live in a free society flourishing with freedom of thought and expression on the prominent questions of race and class. It must be admitted that, in a sense, this is true-anyone is "free" to say as he pleases, but in a class society, very few are equipped with that rather necessary prerequisite of "freedom" needed to actually engage an audience through printed press, television, radio, and so on--capital.

Certainly today we, as students of sociology or history or politics, are "free" to discuss the fate of the Indians, and express our remorse. But it so happens that this pious act has occurred 400 years too late; the Indian has already been exterminated through the genocide of white settlers, who greedily consumed the land and resources of the natives-natural capital. We may pontificate freely with noble sentiments denouncing this genocide, but where were these sentiments at that precise historical moment when this tragedy had commenced, when Columbus arrived in the 'New World' and noted in his first diary entry the ease and desirability of capturing and enslaving the first natives he encountered?

Today we are also "free" to discuss the historical injustice committed against the Blacks by the white American power structure, but here too it curiously turns out that we are several centuries too late, that the entire basis of American society, which was built up by accumulative capital made possible through slave labor, was long ago laid down. Thus it is fashionable to speak of "racial equality" today in the classroom, but that will not reach the ears of some several million blacks who lived and died as slaves, who heard not fine moral phrases but only the constant clanging of chains, the crack of the slave driver's whip, and the chafing call of, 'Come here, nigger'. More to the point, those who take the brave talk of racial equality and black empowerment outside of the classroom and into the matrix of the class-based and race-tinged American society-into the inner-city slums, into the schools, into the prisons, will clearly be able to discern echoes of those chains even today.

"The ruling ideology of any age is precisely the ideology of the ruling class," Marx once observed. It is with this notion in mind that I contend that the mainstream narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian narrative is replete with myths and falsifications which, along with the Israeli soldiers, settlers, and bulldozers, seek to dehumanize and destroy the Palestinian native, his consciousness, and his existence. It is posited, in general terms, that the Palestinians have been the aggressors, harboring some inexplicable anti-Jewish hatred, insanely blowing themselves apart, deviously devising ways to destroy Israel, sending their children to die-the list does not end. That these views are presented to us, and often accepted as truth, is no guarantee of their actual merit.

These canards must be exposed and disassembled in a systematic fashion. This is no simple task given the underlying and disturbing irony implicit in the following analysis-that a people widely viewed as the historical victims of oppression are themselves oppressors today. However, the previous European history of anti-Semitism is neither justification or explanation for the crimes committed against a people on the Asian continent decades later. Nor is there a fixed and frozen concept of an entire "people" or "race"; the conflict must be addressed not through some grandiose pretentious meta-narrative of "Jews" or "Muslims" but as a struggle between colonizer and colonized, between human beings who exist in a certain set of social relations. Thus one cannot accept the static idea of any people as perpetual victims-or victimizers-for this concept is utterly devoid of any class analysis and understanding of power relations or material conditions, which is always changing. In other words, water does not take the same form in the freezer as it does in the oven.

The evidence will reveal that the Palestinians are victims of a racist, colonialist movement which implemented the destruction and mass expulsion of an indigenous people in order to establish a violent colonial settler-state bent on expansion since its inception. To construct this analysis it is essential to highlight the ideological, geographical, and chronological origins of the movement which gave birth to Israel-Zionism-and illustrate its trajectory as a reactionary movement which designed and implemented grave crimes against humanity in order to achieve its vision. After establishing the impact and methods used to bring about Israel's creation, and thus showing the origins of the Palestinian plight as that of a displaced and ethnically cleansed people, I will use this historically-grounded basis to dispel the myths depicting Palestinians as aggressors and attackers, and place the racist shell of these hollow canards in the relevant social context as the last bastion of colonialism.

Zionism: A European Creation

Anyone who seeks out the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by looking for 'ancient hatreds' or 'historical animosity' will have discovered only that his method is flawed to the core. Indeed, one can find no such source of anatagonism within the pre-existing native population of Palestine; in 1882 approximately 500,000 Muslim and Arab Christians inhabited the area, along with some 13,000 to 20,000 native Jews, all living under imperial Ottoman rule. [1] This established village-based community centered on the feudal mode of production would soon witness a transfer from Ottoman to British colonial rule. But the catalyst for conflict did not lie in the relationship between native Jews and Arabs. For this, we must look northward, outside the region-even outside the continent-to that body which had to come to own and enslave the rest of the world: Europe.

For it was in Europe that the Jewish nationalist movement of Zionism was founded. Its leader, Theodore Herzl, had spelled out the Zionist program in his 1896 pamphlet Der Judenstaat, which called for the creation for a Jewish homeland outside of Europe, to be established with the help of an existing imperial power. Herzl and his followers were disgusted by the latest eruption of Europe's old plague-anti-Semitism-but were themselves ironically enthralled by the racist and colonialist European outlook on the rest of the world. Thus it comes as no surprise that, after briefly pondering the prospect of emigrating to Argentina or Uganda and ultimately settling upon Palestine, the early Zionists declared their mission of creating "a portion of the rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism". [2]

In pursuit of this goal, the Zionist movement tried to ally itself with relevant regional powers, which produced striking and tragic ironies. As a first step, Herzl approached the Russian Count Von Plehve, orchestrator of anti-Semitic pogroms in Tsarist Russia, offering to help crush an uprising against Russia by "noxious and subversive Anarcho-Bolshevik Jews." The Count welcomed this prospect, replying, "We were sympathetic to your Zionist movement as long as it worked toward emigration…You are preaching to a convert." [3]

Zionism, as a European colonialist ideology, naturally sought out its twin version in another white settler movement-South African apartheid. This link can in fact be traced back to the historical bond formed between early white settlers and Zionists. Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism, gushed with praise for Cecil Rhodes, a fervent advocate of South African colonialism: "Naturally, there are big differences between Cecil Rhodes and my humble self, the personal ones very much in my disfavor; the objective ones are greatly in favor of the Zionist movement." After 1914, the Zionist leadership increased ties with the white settlers, traveling back and forth from Palestine to South Africa, creating a Zionist federation in the latter area, and sharing ideas, methods, and finances for colonization.***

Since the British had gained control of Palestine at the conclusion of World War I, Zionists were keenly interested in receiving the support of the empire. Chaim Wiezmann , the president of the Zionist movement, oferred, "A Jewish Palestine would be a safeguard to England, in particular respect to the Suez Canal", which was obviously crucial for British trade. [4] Here we are witnessing the maneuvering not of any 'liberation' movement but that of political opportunists groveling before the big powers in order to create another power in their image, and for imperial benefit. The British would indeed play the key role of the imperialist power towards the establishment of Israel, as it acquired Palestine in the aftermath of World War I and signed the Balfour Declaration in 1917.

This is part one of a four-part, wide-ranging essay on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. M. Junaid Alam is co-editor and webmaster of Left Hook; he can be reached at alam@lefthook.org

* Ze'ev Jabotinsky is the father of Revisionist Zionism and the main inspiration for the Israeli Likud party. Quote: The Iron Wall - "O Zheleznoi Stene" - Rassvet, November 4, 1923.
** Moshe Dayan was a prestigious Israeli war hero, Army Chief of Staff, and Minister of Defence. First quote: Avi Shlaim, Iron Wall, p.101. Second quote: Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Original Sins: Reflections on the History of Zionism
*** (formatting error prevented using as endnote) Source: Herzl quote: Uri Davis, Israel: An Apartheid State (London: Zed Books, 1987, p. 3-4.) For rest, see: Ralph Schoemman, The Hidden History of Zionism, Veritas Press, Santa Barbara (Calif.) 1988. Available online: http://www.marxists.de/middleast/schoenman/ch02.htm
1. Benny Morris, Righteous Victims, New York: Random House, Inc., 2001. p.4 and the essay "Revisiting the Palestinian Exodus", by Benny Morris, contained in The War for Palestine, ed. Eugene L. Rogan and Avi Shlaim, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. p.38
2. Phil Gasper's "Israel: A Colonial Settler-State", in International Socialist Review: Journal of Revolutionary Marxism, December 2000
3. Andre Chouraqui, The Life of Theodor Herzl, Jerusalem: Keter Books, 1970, p.230
4. Quoted in Nathain Weinstock, Zionism False Messiah, London: Pluto Press, 1989, p. 44

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