The soft and not so soft Zionism of the ISA

Yossi Schwartz, ISL the section of the RCIT in Israel/Occupied Palestine, 25.05.2022

While not covering for long weeks the Palestinian struggle against the Zionist oppression on the 74th anniversary of the Nakba, the right-wing centrists – the ISA has published an article that distorts history in order to recruit some naïve pro Palestinians to their pro Zionist program.

This article begins with decent account of the Nakba:

“In November 1947, only about a third of the population of historic Palestine was Jews, who at that time were spread over 14% of the country. When the British mandate ended, as part of imperialism’s “divide and rule” policy, the UN’s Partition Plan stipulated that the Jewish population would receive 55% of the territory. The Arab-Palestinian population in the country understood that such a ‘solution’ would mean the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, and therefore opposed it. Reviews with Palestinian refugees, the documentation of UN observers and evidence such as documents and photographs that have been uncovered in Israeli archives show the reality and the extent of this “catastrophe” for Palestinians. Expulsions took place in most Palestinian villages, with over 500 destroyed as a result of direct attacks by the Zionist paramilitary organizations.  The studies of the historian Benny Morris indicate that 85% of Palestinian villages were emptied of their inhabitants in this way. In many cases, even after the village surrendered, residents were shot to death. The number of victims in each village ranged from 50 to 200 people. The survivors were often forced to flee to nearby locations until they too were attacked. Some residents were loaded onto trucks and expelled to neighboring countries. In total, it is estimated that over 700,000 Palestinians were made refugees through the Nakba.” [i]

But then they equate the Settler colonialists with the native Palestinians and blame only the policy of divide and rule of British imperialism.

“British Imperialism adopted a ‘divide and rule’ strategy, essentially pledging the same, relatively small piece of land to two different peoples, playing both national groups off against each other in order to secure their own interests in the region. However, as was argued by Trotskyists at the time, the right for self-determination cannot be fulfilled through oppression and at the expense of other national groups. Unfortunately, the national tensions were further escalated by the proposed partition plan of 1947”.

Thus, instead of describing the conflict between the Zionist–European settler colonialists and the native people robbed by the Zionists, they turn the conflict to a clash between two equal nationalities manipulated by British imperial interests. At the same time, they recognize that the Zionists established state could not be supported as “the right for self-determination cannot be fulfilled through oppression and at the expense of other national groups”.

After denouncing the partition Plan of 1947 as a bloody trap for ordinary Jews and a disaster for the Arab masses they claim that “We can also see the potential for an alternative that was glimpsed in the period that preceded the war in 1947. At this time, many Jewish and Arab workers identified their common class interests while fighting shared struggles to defend and improve their living conditions. This was especially reflected in a series of joint strikes, culminating in a powerful general strike in 1946 involving 30,000 Jewish and Arab workers. This saw slogans such as “Unity of Jewish and Arab workers is the way to victory!” taken up by the strikers.”

This is a gross distortion of history so typical to centrists. The strike of 1946 was just an exception which affirms the rule: the rule of the priority of the national colonization project over international class solidarity.

To begin with it was a strike of the workers against the British government in Palestine: The clerks in the administration, railways’ workers and the workers in the military camps, not a general strike against the British and the Zionist capitalists. “The few thousands Jewish workers employed by the government were not privileged compared to the Arab workers.”

“Running Palestine as cheaply and with as low a burden on British taxpayers as possible was paramount. In terms of labor policy, that meant preference for employing low-wage Arab workers over Jewish ones in the state sector, which, when compared with the employment structures of the Arab and Jewish sectors, was the largest employer in the country” [ii]

In April 1946, Palestine experienced its largest strike since the beginning of British rule. In terms of the number of strikers, the strike’s length, and its paralyzing effects, it was an unprecedented event. For the first time, the mass of low-grade government civil servants, with an overwhelming Arab majority, used the weapon of a general strike in Palestine’s public sector. Moreover, in contrast to any earlier collective action in either the Jewish or the Arab sector, it combined comprehensive cross-national cooperation with joint action by office and manual workers” [iii] \

As mentioned already, most workers involved were Arabs.

British government employees in Palestine; December 1945 (excluding police)


Source: Based on Reuveni, Mimshal, 236

The Histadruth – the Zionist only Jewish workers organization was not involved in the strike and actually opposed it.

 “Recent research has also exposed the indirect part played by the British authorities in facilitating the attempted closure of the economy of the Jewish community (the Yishuv) and the segmentation strategies of organized Jewish labor (the Histadrut). Consequently, defining the British impact as contextual and indirect has cemented the notion of the hegemony of labor Zionism, whose nationalism affected, almost single-handedly, the absence of cross-national workers’ collective action.  This is evident in particular in the treatment of workers employed in the British sector, which has refrained from naming the government as the key factor in affecting these workers’ militancy and their ability to transcend their national divisions”.

“Arab-Jewish collective action during the Mandate was not an entirely unusual feature of employment relations in the government sector. As a joint workplace, the administration lacked the features that hampered joint action in the Arab and Jewish economics Prominent among these features were the economic separation of these national sectors,Arab opposition to the Jewish labor movement, the Jewish labor movement’s segregationist ideology, and the restraining impact of the Histadrut (the umbrella organization The office-work culture that evolved in the administration, expressed by bureaucratic loyalty to civil service that the British authorities were keen to cultivate, allowed a cross-national co-existence that Arab and Jewish politicians often found suspect and the nationally-oriented labor organizations criticized“.  [iv]

Even clearer is the following passage:

The voices on the margin of Jewish labor that opposed this line and propagated a joint struggle between Jewish and Arab workers were aggressively outcast of mainstream institutions (e.g., the Communist Party and the Left plank of Workers of Zion). An exception to the rule emerged in 1924 in the mixed Palestine Railways Corporation, operated by the British government, where Jews were a minority of a few hundreds among several thousand Arab workers. There was established a joint Arab-Jewish trade union, albeit composed of separate national sections, which included about 20 to 25 percent of the workforce.

Yet the unity could not withhold for more than a few towards their Jewish partners, who despite understandings had continued to put their national interest before that of the joint class interest. And so, since 1925 two separate national unions acted side by side, with only sparse cooperation. The Jewish union denied the legitimacy of the Arab one, and required exclusivity of representation. During the Arab Revolt period, 1936-1939, international cooperation was obviously out of the question. The relatively affluent period around the W.W.II years, 1940-1946, saw the swan song of Arab- Jewish cooperation, and in 1947 Arabs and Jews took to arms. This exemplary case of the railway workers is, in retrospect, just an exception which affirms the rule: the rule of the priority of the national colonization project over international class solidarity” [v]

Thus, instead of a scientific analysis from the perspective of the international working class the ISA provide us with a pro Zionist dogma based on the false claim, that under the existing conditions when the Jewish workers are privileged and have a Zionist consciousness, a revolutionary joint struggle of Arabs and Jewish workers is possible. This is no more than a pie in the sky.

Then to put the cherry on the top of the Zionist cake they demand from the Palestinians to accept the right of self-determination of the Zionists, to accept the stealing of their lands and the denial of the right of return of the Palestinian refugees.

“The ongoing struggle for Palestinian liberation requires a programme to fight for and win justice for all the victims of Israeli capitalism and imperialism, while also pointing towards a genuine solution to the conflict. Facing Israeli capitalism, and its reliance on security and existential fears among millions of the Israelis, there’s also a need to advocate for equal rights for both national groups, including self-determination.” [vi]

It is hard not to understand that the return of the Palestinian refugees to their lands will be the end of Israel as a state with Jewish majority, and that the right of self -determination for the Zionists precludes the right of self-determination of the Palestinians. Or that Marxists support the right of self-determination only of oppressed nations, while Israel like the South African apartheid was a state based on the oppression of the blacks and therefore the white racists did not have the right of self-determination, as Trotsky wrote on south Africa where he called for one free black South Africa like we call for Palestine red and free from the river to the sea:

“The overthrow of the hegemony of British imperialism in South Africa can come about as the result of a military defeat of Great Britain and the disintegration of the Empire. In this case, the South African whites could still for a certain period – hardly a considerable one – retain their domination over the blacks. Another possibility, which in practice could be connected with the first, is a revolution in Great Britain and her possessions. Three-quarters of the population of South Africa (almost six million of the almost eight million totals) is composed of non-Europeans. A victorious revolution is unthinkable without the awakening of the native masses. In its turn, that will give them what they are so lacking today – confidence in their strength, a heightened personal consciousness, and cultural growth. Under these conditions the South African Republic will emerge first of all as a “black” republic; this does not exclude, of course, either full equality for the whites, or brotherly relations between the two races – depending mainly on the conduct of the whites. But it is entirely obvious that the predominant majority of the population, liberated from slavish dependence, will put a certain imprint on the state” [vii]

The ISA is similar to the “London Bureau”, where parties like POUM, the Independent Labor party, the Workers and Peasants’ Socialist Party (PSOP) in France, and the youth wing of Poale Zion-Has homer Hatzair (Mapam) that tried to fuse Marxism and Zionism and ended in 1948 as the biggest land rubber. They are all now in the bottom of historical garbage like many other social imperialists.

Down with the Zionist apartheid state from the river to the sea!

For a Palestine red and Free from the river to the sea!


[i] Israel-Palestine: 74 Years Since the ‘Nakba’

[ii] Ibid

[iii] David De Vries, British rule and Arab Jewish coalescence of interest: the 1946 civil ‘s servants strike in Palestine

[iv] Ibid

[v] Reviewed Work(s): Comrades and Enemies: Arab and Jewish Workers in Palestine, 1906-

1948 by Zachary Lockman Review by: Uri Ram

Source: Israel Studies Bulletin, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Fall 1998), pp. 17-19

[vi] Israel-Palestine: 74 Years Since the ‘Nakba’
[vii] Leon Trotsky Letter to South African Revolutionaries (April 1933)

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