Socialist Worker

Zionism: what it is and where it leads

by Henry Maitles
Issue No. 1895

The cruel and brutal actions of Israeli governments, armies and sections of the population since the formation of the state of Israel in 1948 have been well documented. The recent brutality against the Palestinian uprising and horrors in the Occupied Territories now show how Israeli policy has been characterised by fierce and unrelenting reaction.

It comes as no surprise that Israel has a racist 'Law of Return' offering citizenship to all Jews in the world but refusing to allow back Palestinian refugees whose families lived in the area for generations and who fled in 1948. The Zionists who set up Israel argued for 'a land without people for a people without a land'.

But there was a people there, the Palestinian Arabs. It was they who were ethnically cleansed in 1947-8 to ensure a Jewish majority in the new state. The US supports Israel because of its need for a force in the area capable of upholding Western oil and military interests in the Arab world. It needs a force capable of punishing Arab rulers or populations who may want to challenge these interests.

An influential Israeli newspaper saw this as the role of a 'watchdog' in the Arab world. There was the added dimension of the Holocaust, the Nazis' attempted genocide of European Jewry, and the failure of both Western and Eastern blocs to prevent it. This gave the Zionists the propaganda tool of a moral and ethical case for a homeland, which they insisted had to be in Palestine.

But Zionism has at every juncture seen its role as collaborating and allying itself with reactionary forces in its goal of the exclusively Jewish state. Zionism was, and is, a specific response to anti-Semitism, the hatred of Jews. It argues that anti-Semitism is endemic to the non-Jewish population. Therefore it is futile trying to combat it, and the only choice is for Jews to have their own state, arm it to the teeth and put up shutters against a hostile world.

Zionism was not just a theory. From its beginnings in 1895 it had practical implications. The Zionist leaders saw their role as negotiating with and compromising with the most vicious regimes.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries this was the Tsarist empire in Russia, which organised as a matter of policy both regular pogroms and anti-Semitic laws. Consequently many Jews were involved in the socialist movement who were completely opposed to Zionism.

Zionism is a policy of despair and isolation that ensures that, armed to the teeth and racist towards the Palestinians, Israel is the most dangerous place in the world for both Palestinians and Jews.

The New Intifada: Israel, Imperialism and Palestinian Resistance by Anne Alexander, £1 from Bookmarks. Phone 020 7637 1848 or go to

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Sat 3 Apr 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1895
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