Bastion of Enlightenment… or Enforcer for Imperialism:

The Case of ISRAEL
Part Three

The Case of Israel – Bastion of Enlightenment or Enforcer for Imperialism?”

What is the history of the Israeli State?

What role does Israel play in today’s world?

What is the true history of the Palestinian people, and their dispossession from a land they had lived in for centuries?

What is the relationship between the U.S. and Israel?

In the past few weeks, courageous protests of Palestinian people in Gaza have been viciously suppressed by heavily armed Israeli forces. At least 30 people have been killed, and over 2,500 wounded. The protests continue, and are building towards May 15, the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel through the violent uprooting of three-fourths of the Palestinian population and the theft of their land. Palestinians mark May 15 as the Nakba – the “Catastrophe”.

In the context of these protests, two weeks ago Revolution began a serialization of a special issue from 2010, “The Case of Israel – Bastion of Enlightenment or Enforcer for Imperialism?” (Part One, Part Two) The questions it addresses are more important than ever.

After the Holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to Jewish people is the state of Israel.

Bob Avakian, BAsics 5:12


The Outcome of World War 2 and the Establishment of Israel

In the aftermath of World War 2, the U.S. emerged at the top of the imperialist world order, in a position to dictate terms to both defeated rivals (like Germany and Japan), and allies (like Britain and France). Around the world, the U.S. moved to supplant old colonial powers and swallow up or encompass their spheres of influence.

But other important forces also emerged out of World War 2. For a short time, the Soviet Union and China formed a socialist camp that confronted the imperialist world. And another major factor on the post-war political stage was a powerful wave of national liberation struggles throughout especially Asia and Africa against the weakened colonial powers of Europe and Japan.

These two, related challenges to capitalism-imperialism in the wake of World War 2 had much to do with the way the U.S. rehabilitated Japan and West Germany (Germany was divided after World War 2, and the east became a separate country aligned with the Soviet Union).

These developments—and the conflicts within them—all played out in maneuvering and contending of the imperialist powers in the Middle East against national liberation struggles, and against each other. For different and conflicting reasons, and to different degrees, the U.S. and its rivals all saw their interests served by establishing, and gaining influence within, a Zionist state of Israel.

In 1947, United Nations Resolution 181 allotted the Zionists 56 percent of Palestine, even though population figures—setting aside the legitimacy of British sponsored Zionist settlement—were 650,000 Jews living among 1,350,000 Palestinians.6 The UN partition was unjust, and was sponsored by all the powers contending for control of the Middle East.7

The Nakba: The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

During the period from World War 1 up until the establishment of Israel, the British colonial authorities had essentially facilitated initial waves of Zionist ethnic cleansing waged against the inhabitants of Palestine. This erupted in an orgy of terrorist violence in the years after World War 2. By December 1947, the Zionists began mass expulsions of Palestinians. This wave of terror, know as The Nakba (from the Arabic word meaning catastrophe), continued into the early months of 1949.

During the Nakba almost a million Palestinians were brutally forced from their land, villages and homes, fleeing with only the possessions they could carry. Many were raped, tortured and killed.8 To ensure that there would be nothing for the Palestinians to return to, their villages and even many olive and orange trees were thoroughly destroyed. When the Nakba ended, there had been 31 documented massacres—and probably others.

Activists have worked to unearth the physical remains of these villages. Historians have studied the diaries and notebooks of Zionist leaders. The stories of the inhabitants of these villages have been collected in oral histories. Through this process, lists of destroyed Palestinian villages have been compiled that range from 400 to 500—constituting over half of all Palestinian villages. These villages served as centers of political and economic life for the largely rural Palestinian population and their destruction was accompanied by the dispossession of Palestinian farmlands.9

Former Arabic village and road names were given Hebrew names. Ancient mosques and Christian churches were destroyed. Theme parks, pine forests (trees not native to the region) and Israeli settlements sit atop many of the old Palestinian villages. Visitors from the U.S., including idealistic youth who spent summers working on Israeli so-called "socialist" kibbutzes (cooperative farms) were told that nearby demolished buildings were "ancient ruins." All this was to wipe out any physical evidence that the land belonged to Palestinians and give finality to the Nakba.

The Nakba—terrorist ethnic cleansing—was foundational and essential in the establishment of the state of Israel. It created the conditions, and set the stage, for other initiatives like the purchase of Palestinian land, and diplomatic initiatives.

The systematic destruction of Palestinian villages was, all along, the agenda of key Zionist leaders. The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine makes a carefully argued case that the dispossession of the Palestinian people meets the legal definition of ethnic cleansing, and that it was the conscious plan of key Zionist leaders. The book draws on primary sources from the Israeli military archives, including the diary of David Ben-Gurion who played a key political and military role in the founding of Israel.10

One important strategic project guided by Ben-Gurion was the "village project" of mapping all of Palestine. Through the use of aerial photography and other means, details of every Palestinian village were recorded: its access routes, quality of land, water springs, main sources of income, sociopolitical composition, religious affiliations, names of its mukhtars (traditional village heads), relationship with other villages, the age of individual men and an index of "hostility" toward the Zionist project measured by involvement in a major 1938 revolt against the British policy of allowing increased immigration of Jews into Palestine (including those who may have killed Jews).

Blatant Israeli Terrorism

Along with the systematic destruction of Palestinian rural society, the Zionists used terrorist ethnic cleansing to clear the major cities of Palestinians. After the 1948 UN resolution dividing Israel and Palestine, the Zionists publicly proclaimed to uphold the resolution. But inside the country they began to implement their own plans. The morning after the UN resolution, the Hagana (the main military group that would become the Israeli army) and the Irgun (an early split from the Hagana, led by future prime minister Menachem Begin, which also later became part of the army) unleashed a campaign of terror on the 75,000 Palestinian residents of Haifa.11

Jewish settlers who had come in the 1920s and lived in the hills around the city took part in these attacks alongside Zionist military units. Frequent shelling and sniping was rained down on the Palestinian population of Haifa. Oil mixed with fuel was poured down the roads and ignited. Barrels full of explosives were rolled down into the Palestinian areas. When panic-stricken Palestinians came  to put out the fires they were sprayed with machine-gun fire. Jews who passed as Palestinians brought cars stuffed with explosives to be repaired at Palestinian garages and the cars were then detonated. In a refinery plant in Haifa, Jews and Arabs worked shoulder to shoulder and had a long history of solidarity in their fight for better labor conditions against their British employers. The Irgun, which specialized in bomb throwing into Arab crowds, did so at this refinery. Palestinian workers reacted by killing 39 Jewish workers, one of the worst and also one of the last retaliatory skirmishes in that period.12

By March 1948, Ben-Gurion commented to the Jewish Agency Executive, "I believe the majority of the Palestinian masses accept the partition as a fait accompli and do not believe it is possible to overcome or reject it... The decisive majority of them do not want to fight us."

The armies of several Arab countries intervened in 1948 on behalf of the Palestinians. They were no match for well-equipped Zionist military units, with wide-ranging connections to modern weapons and munitions, modern military training, and a tightly organized army. Arab irregulars (small, non-centralized military units) ambushed Israeli convoys but refrained from attacking the settlements. Much of the organized Palestinian military capacity, as well as civilian governmental leadership, had been decimated by the British in the course of ruthlessly suppressing Palestinian independence struggles after World War 1.

Ben-Gurion Orders "Occupation, Destruction and Expulsion"

Ben-Gurion used the Arab world's intervention to frame the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians as one of a tiny Jewish homeland besieged by hostile Arabs. Until March 1948, the Zionist leadership still portrayed their activities as retaliation to hostile Arab actions. Then, two months before the British were to leave, they openly declared that they would take over the land and expel the indigenous population by force. Ruthless expulsion went into high gear and the word retaliation was no longer used to describe what the Israeli military forces were doing. According to Ben-Gurion, there was no longer any need to distinguish between the "innocent" and the "guilty." Pre-emptive strikes and collateral damage became acceptable and necessary. According to an associate, Ben-Gurion ordered that "Every attack has to end with occupation, destruction and expulsion."13

On a hill to the west of Jerusalem lay the town of Deir Yassin. The massacre there reflected the systematic nature of Plan D14 as applied to hundreds of villages throughout Palestine. On April 9, 1948, Jewish soldiers burst into the village and sprayed the houses with machine-gun fire, killing many. Pappé writes, "The remaining villagers were then gathered in one place and murdered in cold blood, their bodies abused while a number of women were raped and then killed. Fahim Zaydan, who was twelve years old at the time, recalled how he saw his family murdered in front of his eyes: 'They took us out one after the other; shot an old man and when one of his daughters cried, she was shot too. Then they called my brother Muhammad, and shot him in front of us, and when my mother yelled, bending over him—carrying my little sister Hudra in her hands, still breast-feeding her—they shot her too.'"

On the blood and bones of such massacres, the state of Israel was built. And such terror is not "ancient" or even just "modern history." It frames the daily life of every Palestinian, today.

Here a terrible irony must be noted: Many in the military core of Zionists who carried out the Nakba —the terrorist ethnic cleansing of Palestine—were battle-hardened veterans of guerilla warfare against the Nazis in Europe in World War 2. This enlistment of people who had in great numbers fought against some of the most barbaric crimes of capitalism-imperialism, into an army of perpetrators of terrible crimes against other oppressed people—in service of the same criminal system responsible for the Holocaust—is emblematic of the birth of Israel as an outrageous crime of world imperialism.


6. "Special Report: What Will Israel Do as the Arab Demographic Tide Rises in Palestine?" by Andrew I. Killgore (Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July/August 1998). [back]

7. While the Soviet Union mainly supported national liberation struggles during the time it was socialist, it also made a series of very serious errors in subordinating the revolutionary struggles and just causes of people in other countries to what they perceived to be the state interests of the Soviet Union, often to disastrous effect—as in this case. [back]

8. The role of rape of women by Zionist forces in the ferocious ethnic cleansing of Palestine is documented in The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappé. Pappé (Oneworld Publications, 2006) draws on and cites reports from the UN and the Red Cross, along with first hand Israeli military sources, and Palestinian accounts; see especially pages 208-211. [back]

9. Khalidi, Walid (ed.): All that Remains. The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948. Washington, D.C: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992, App. IV, pp. xix, 585–586; and Sitta, Salman Abu: The Palestinian Nakba 1948. London: The Palestinian Return Centre, 2000. [back]

10. Much of the characterization of, and citations from, Pappé's book in this section of this article is taken from "The Nakba: Ethnic cleansing and the birth of Israel," distributed by A World to Win News Service, December 10, 2006. That article summarizes and analyzes Pappé's important work, and includes insights on limitations of Pappé's perspective and political analysis. Pappé himself has been forced to leave Israel. [back]

11. The Hagana (also spelled Haganah) was the main, and "mainstream" Zionist military force. The Irgun, ostensibly a "split off" of the Hagana, sometimes carried out particularly gruesome and odious operations that the Irgun required some distance from. The Stern Gang in turn was a split-off from the Irgun, and operated with even more freedom from international scrutiny. These Zionist armed forces and others worked in concert, if not in perfect synchronization, and all were later integrated into the Israeli army with the establishment of the state of Israel. Many of the key founding fathers of the state of Israel came from the Irgun and Stern Gang and openly invoked / invoke their association with particularly egregious atrocities against the Palestinians as defining their credibility to be major players in Israeli politics. [back]

12. Pappé, page 58. [back]

13. Pappé, page 64. [back]

14. Plan D was the terminology the Zionist leaders of the Nakba used to reference their master plan. [back]

Bringing Forward Another Way cover 600


Bringing Foward Another Way is an edited version of a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, to a group of Party supporters, in 2006. It is must reading for a serious understanding of what the U.S. "war on terror" is really about and how to bring forward a positive force in the world in opposition to both Western imperialism and Islamic Jihad.

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For background on the nature and role of Israel see the special Revolution/ issue: The Case of Israel: Bastion of Enlightenment or Enforcer for Imperialism?

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