By John Spritzler

[Part I of this article was written and published (in the September-October 2001 issue of the New Democracy Newsletter) before September 11. In the wake of that terrorist attack, President Bush and Secretary of State Powell made statements that seemed, on the surface, to conflict with the analysis in this article; they seemed to be pressuring Israeli leaders to seek a peaceful "two state" settlement with the Palestinians. On the surface, it appeared that Bush wanted to prevent Palestinian grievances from becoming an obstacle to enlisting Arab support for a U.S.-led war against terrorism. Beneath the surface, however, the U.S. continues to provide the money and weapons that Israel's leaders absolutely depend upon to enforce a cruel apartheid regime calculated to provoke Palestinian anger. This, not public statements by government officials, reveals the true intentions of U.S. leaders in the Middle East. As Part II will discuss, the very idea of a "Palestinian state" and a "Jewish state" is an elite trap.]

More than 600 people have died in the recent clashes between the Israeli military and Palestinian civilians—an uprising that has become known as the Aqsa Intifada. More than 80% of the deaths are of Palestinians living in Israel or in the West Bank and Gaza areas now officially administered by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The fighting is between the professional military forces of the Israeli government—employing tanks, armored cars, and helicopter gunships supplied by the U.S.—and Palestinian civilians armed mainly with stones and some rifles. 

The conflict in the Mideast seems never-ending and insoluble. The mainstream media tell us that Jews and Arabs hate each other, that the best that can be hoped for is to get them to agree to live separately, each in their own state, and that even this seems impossible. U.S. leaders like Clinton and Bush are presented as peacemakers frustrated that Israeli and Palestinian leaders dare not agree because their respective populations are fanatically opposed to compromise.

This depressing view of the Middle East is powerful propaganda for the elite view of the world. It undermines hope that ordinary people can join together to make a better world. Fortunately it is also quite false.

In fact U.S. leaders, along with Israeli and Palestinian officials, deliberately work to keep Jews and Arabs fighting each other as the principal means of maintaining a fragile elite control of working people in all the Middle East nations. The conflict in the Middle East persists not because of any peculiar qualities of Palestinians or Jews but because it serves the purpose of the people in power. Anti-working class governments can maintain themselves in power only with the threat of an enemy against which they can claim to protect people; the more rebellious the working class, the more imminent and dangerous must be the threat. Just as Arab despots control their own people by pointing at Israelis as the real enemy, so Jewish leaders attack and oppress Palestinians as a means of controlling Jewish workers in Israel. The more dangerous the Israeli Jewish working class becomes to Jewish rulers, the more the Israeli rulers must whip up a frenzy of fear and hatred of the Palestinians among Israeli Jews. The more revolutionary and threatening to elite control become Palestinians and other Arab workers, the more must their rulers incite them to hate Israeli Jews. Meanwhile the U.S. presides over the murderous whole, arming the parties in conflict to the teeth while posing as peacemaker. (Israel has long been by far the biggest beneficiary in the world of U.S. military aid, with Egypt second; Egypt has recently been eclipsed as a beneficiary of U.S. peace-making largess, however, by Columbia.)

Continuing conflict in the Middle East is the necessary condition for continued elite rule of the region. There is only one way out of the conflict: the revolutionary overthrow by Arab and Jewish workers of elite power in all these countries and the creation of a classless, democratic society based on values of equality and solidarity, irrespective of nationality, ethnicity, religion or gender.

Is a revolutionary solution possible? To determine this, we must cut through the illusions to see the Middle East in a new way. A revolutionary solution reflects the world most Jews and Arabs really want, which is why their rulers use such drastic measures to control them. Ethnic war is being fomented to prevent workers from winning the class war. Beneath the bombs and tanks and rhetoric of hate lie powerful desires for a new world.


The last thing U.S. leaders like Clinton and Bush want is for popular democratic movements to take power anywhere in the world. Mass movements in the Middle East are particularly troubling. Not only does the region hold the richest oil deposits in the world; it also is home to powerful mass movements which constantly threaten to assume a revolutionary character and overthrow the corrupt and reactionary Arab client regimes which dominate the area. Because much of the workforce in the Middle East countries consists of Palestinians and other migrant workers from the Near East and Africa, an inspiring revolutionary movement there could well engulf a huge and strategic swath of the world. Considering how fiercely the U.S. elite fought a popular revolutionary movement in Vietnam—whose population was relatively isolated from the rest of the world—the attention that the U.S. devotes to controlling the Mideast is not surprising.

Israel's role is to act as a lightning rod for class conflict in the Middle East: when Arab workers rise up, Arab leaders direct their anger at "the Israelis." When Jews rise up, Israeli leaders point to the Arabs as the enemy.

The rebelliousness of Egyptian workers illustrates the Arab elite's need for this Israeli lightning rod. Despite a no-strike law, public sector workers in Cairo and Alexandria staged over ten strikes in the single month of April 1999. Egyptian laws punish strikers with two-year jail sentences and more for "inciting a strike." Nonetheless, in just the months from June to December 1999, there were four sit-down strikes and nine hunger strikes by government workers in Egypt. During the entire year there were a total of 52 work strikes and 32 sit-down strikes.

For the lightning rod to work, Israel must cultivate a reputation as an enemy of Palestinians and other Arabs. It does this by savagely oppressing and provoking them. The present Intifada, for example, began with a deliberate provocation by the Israelis. On September 29, 2000 General Ariel Sharon—Israel's present Prime Minister and the man most responsible for the massacres at the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in 1982—went under armed guard to a site in Jerusalem sacred to Moslems and Jews, in a calculated affront to Palestinians. When Sharon was met by protesters, Israeli troops opened fire, killing six. Israel's security forces then launched days of violent repression, in which they killed nearly 90 Palestinians and injured more than one thousand. With Israeli warplanes flying over Beirut and hundreds of tanks moving north, then-Prime Minister Barak declared that Israel would not hesitate to fight on two fronts and take harsh action against Syria and Lebanon, if three Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah on Israel's northern border were not returned safely. Even before Barak's ultimatum had expired, Israeli security forces had razed to the ground two multi-story apartment blocks bordering an Israeli settlement in the Gaza Strip, used their U.S. supplied attack helicopters to blast hilltop positions near Hebron in the West Bank, and drove Palestinians living near the isolated Zionist settlement of Psagot out of their homes. The army and police then claimed that Arab Israelis were also a threat to security and mounted attacks against them as well.


Terrorism is a key tactic of political domination and division used by Arab and Jewish elites. Arab governments support terrorist organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad to great advantage. By killing innocent Jews with bombs at bus stops and similar acts, the terrorists help to keep Arab workers passive. The terrorist organizations are secretive, "professional," and controlled from above, but their acts are highly visible and dramatic. The terrorists declare the struggle against the Jewish state to consist of their deeds; ordinary Arabs are encouraged to cheer them on, but not to engage as active participants in an open mass struggle themselves. The terror killing of Jewish civilians, more than anything else, defines the struggle as Jew versus Arab, which is exactly what elite rule requires to turn working people against each other in the Middle East. The Intifada, on the other hand, is the opposite of terrorism. It is a mass movement relying on ordinary people standing up against the military forces who are oppressing them; it is not under Yasser Arafat's control and constantly threatens to turn on the PLO leaders themselves.

Terrorist attacks against Jews by Arabs also fill important needs of the Israeli elite. Terrorism enables the Israeli government to present itself to ordinary Israelis as their protector and to justify reprisal attacks on the Palestinian population.

Though the U.S. media have successfully linked the words "Arab" and "terrorist" in people's minds, Israel conducts a vigorous campaign of state-sponsored terrorism and collective punishment against Palestinian civilians—bulldozing 2,000 Palestinian homes, uprooting tens of thousands of olives trees, launching air strikes with F-16s and tanks and missiles against Palestinian villages—more lethal than anything directed at Jewish civilians, helping keep ethnic anger at a fever pitch.


The main threat to Israeli leaders is not Palestinians but Jewish workers, who periodically threaten to break the bonds in which they are contained. For example, from December 3rd through 7th, 1997, 700,000 Israeli workers mounted a general strike against the government. The country was paralyzed, with airports, seaports, banks, government offices, state-owned industries and the national stock exchange effectively shut down. After the first day of the strike, the nation's teachers joined in the walk-out and the national journalists' association declared their support for the strike. The strike was a response to indications that the Treasury was attempting to violate wage and pension agreements signed in 1995 and 1996. Israeli workers were also protesting government privatization plans which would entail large-scale lay-offs. Opposed to the strike were not only the Manufacturers Association, the Israeli Merchants Association, the Banks Association and the national religious party, but also high-ranking Israeli government officials, like Finance Minister Yaakov Neeman, who called the workers "exploding bombs" which were as much a threat as the bombs of terrorist enemies.

The strike was precipitated by the attack of Israeli capitalists on Israeli workers. Israeli capitalists have been attacking Jewish workers in the same ways that U.S. capitalists have been attacking American workers. Starting in the 1990's, privatization of formerly state-owned enterprises began. The health service is in the process of being sold off to private industry. Education, particularly in working class areas, is chronically under-funded. In 1996 the average number of pupils per classroom for Jews was 27 (31 for Arabs), reflecting the diversion of human resources from socially useful activities like education into anti-social military uses. Unemployment is officially around 9%. Working conditions have been savaged. Over 10% of the workforce are now employed by Manpower agencies which hire their workers out to different industries. Manpower workers have no security of tenure and are forbidden to join unions. They do not receive the same conditions as organized workers in the same factories. According to official studies, the inequality of wealth in Israel is greater than in any other advanced industrialized economy, apart from the US, and is growing.

The only time that Israeli capitalists are safe from Israeli workers is when they are at war against the Arabs.

The main thing Israel's leaders offer Jewish workers in exchange for their allegiance is the "Jewishness" of the state. The only way to make a state "Jewish" is to discriminate against non-Jews.

This the Israeli leaders have done with savage relish. They began with the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the land designated by the great powers for Israel in 1948, attacking the men, women, and children who lived there with state terror designed to drive them off the land. The Israelis' brutal campaign succeeded, causing 68% of the former inhabitants to flee. (Four and one-half million Palestinians now live as refugees.)

Israel's elite also knows that, in order to control the Jewish working class, they must ensure that Jewish workers fear Arab workers and look to Jewish leaders for protection. Therefore Jewish leaders must ever more sharply oppress Palestinians to maintain a warlike relation between Jews and Arabs. This they do in many ways–for example, by constantly increasing illegal Jewish settlements in Palestinian lands seized by the Israeli military in the 1967 war; by dividing Palestinian lands on the West Bank and Gaza into small, isolated cantonments linked by roads open only to Jews; and by confining the Palestinian inhabitants of Gaza in what is little more than a very large concentration camp, surrounded by barbed wire and Israeli military outposts.


It is no accident that Israel's rulers use ethnic hatred as a means to attack and control Jewish workers in Israel. Israel was founded on the concept of ethnic division.

Israel is based on the philosophy of Zionism, another name for Jewish nationalism—the idea that Jews need a nation of their own and that they have a God-given right to the land now occupied by Israel.

Nationalism is used by elites everywhere to manage "their own" people and demand allegiance from them; it is always counterrevolutionary. Zionism is no exception; it is the basis on which the Jewish elite control the Jewish working class.

Zionism was begun in the 1890s by Theodore Herzl, and was funded by wealthy Jews for the explicit purpose of winning Jewish workers—who were heavily represented in the trade unions and Socialist and Communist movements of the time—away from revolutionary ideas and revolutionary connections with non-Jewish working people. Zionism proclaimed that all non-Jews are, at bottom, the enemy of all Jews. Thus building a workers' movement for an equal and democratic society in solidarity with non-Jews was a betrayal of the Zionist ideal.

With its counterrevolutionary goals and its belief that Jews and non-Jews have nothing in common, Zionism has a close ideological affinity with Nazism, and at several crucial points this affinity led the Zionists to eager collaboration with the Hitler regime.

During the Holocaust, Zionists were more interested in bringing certain Jews to Palestine than they were in opposing the Nazis and helping the Jewish population in Europe. In 1933 the New York Jewish War Veterans called for a boycott of German goods and got support from trade unions and other organizations around the world; in response, the World Zionist Organization made a deal with the Nazis to break the boycott. In return, wealthy German Jews were allowed to emigrate to Palestine after putting their money in a bank that would only let them use it to purchase German goods.

David Ben Gurion, Israel's first head of State, made Zionist priorities clear when he declared to the Labor Zionists on December 7, 1938 :

"If I knew it was possible to save all the children in Germany by taking them to England, and only half of the children by taking them to Eretz Israel, I would choose the second solution." (Yvon Gelbner, "Zionist policy and the fate of European Jewry.")

When the Nazis deported Hungarian Jews to the Auschwitz death camp, Rudolf Kastner, the vice-president of the Zionist organization, made a deal with Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann. In exchange for Eichmann allowing the departure to Palestine of 1,684 "useful" Jews (capitalists, technicians, soldiers, etc.), Kastner arranged with Jewish "leaders" to produce fake postcards from "re-located Jews" designed to make 460,000 Hungarian Jews believe that they were not being deported to Auschwitz but simply being relocated, so that they could be led more easily to their death.

When these facts emerged in Israel in 1955, Dr. Moshe Keren wrote in "Haaretz" newspaper on 14 July 1955: "Kastner must be tried for collaboration with the Nazis..." But the evening paper, "Yediot Aharonot" (23 June 1955) said No, because "If Kastner is tried, the entire government might collapse before the nation, following what this trial will uncover"—that Kastner had not acted alone but with the agreement of Zionist leaders who were members of the government at the time.

Zionist collaboration with the Nazis even included Zionist leaders proposing a military alliance with Hitler. In 1941 Yitzhak Shamir, a future Israeli Prime Minister, proposed to the Nazis an alliance between the Zionists and the Nazis against Great Britain. Acting for the Zionist National Military Organization which he led, Shamir signed a document addressed to Nazi leaders and delivered in 1941 to the German embassy in Ankara, that read:

"In the matter of concept, we identify with you. So why not collaborate?...The establishment of the historical Jewish State on a national and totalitarian base, linked by a treaty to a German Reich, could contribute to the reinforcement in the future of Germany's position in the Middle East." [David Yisraeli: "Le probleme palestinien dans la politique allemande, de 1889 -1945," appendix 11]

After World War II tens of thousands of Jews died in Displaced Persons camps under terrible conditions. When Congress considered legislation to allow displaced persons to enter the U.S., there was extensive support for it from American Jews, but not from American Zionist organizations. Zionists worried that fewer European Jews would resettle in Israel if the possibility existed of getting to the United States. One Zionist, Rabbi Klaussner, who was in charge of "Displaced persons," presented a report before the Jewish American Conference on May 2 1948:

"I am convinced people must be forced to go to Palestine....We must, instead of providing 'displaced persons' with comfort, create the greatest possible discomfort for them." [Alfred H. Lilienthal in "What Price Israel"]

Later, when Jews were seeking to flee anti-semitism in the former Soviet Union, the Israeli reporter, Bo'az Evron, in the April 4 1991 Yediot Aharonot, exposed how Zionist leaders were prodding nations to deny entry to Jewish refugees. He wrote: "Zionism is interested in seeing to it that the Jews suffer, so that they will leave their homes and come to Israel. This is why each glimmer of anti-Semitism fills the hearts of Zionists with relief."

From New Democracy Newsletter, September-October 2001.

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