Document 7. Socialist Appeal June 1939: The anti-Jewish terrorism of the CP of Palestine

In 1936 the Communist Party of the USA sent the editor, Malech Epstein, of its Yiddish language paper, Freiheit, to Palestine to report on the Arab-Jewish conflict there. When Epstein broke with the Communist Party a couple of years later, he published an account of his experience in Palestine. He found that the Communist Party of Palestine supported, and sent some of it's members, Jewish as well as Arab, to participate in terrorist attacks on Jews. This summary of his report appeared in the paper of the SWP USA, Socialist Appeal, in june 1939. It was unsigned, but was most likely written by either the editor of the Appeal, Max Shachtman or Felix Morrow. SM

When Epstein arrived in Palestine in the spring of 1936, a prominent figure in the Communist movement, he found himself greeted with open hostility by the Arab secretary of the Palestinian party. “Who sent for you, who needs your advice?” this man said to Epstein, “We get our advice from Moscow, and you stop interfering.”

As a result of his encounters with this man and his investigation of the actual conduct of the Stalinists in Palestine, Epstein was driven to the conclusion that “the general secretary of the Communist Party of Palestine is a bitter enemy of the Jews.”

Moscow’s appointee as chieftain of the Palestinian Stalinists worked on the basis of the outlook which he expressed to Epstein, that all Jewish Communists were actually secret sympathisers of the Zionist movement. As a result he took measures to drive most of the Jewish Communists out of the organisation.

In accordance with Moscow’s line of refusing to distinguish between the genuine aspirations of the Arab masses and the corrupt and unprincipled games played by the Mufti and his terrorists, the Palestinian Stalinist organisation not only defended the bombings and assassinations carried on by the Mufti’s gangsters, but actually itself engaged in such bombings, Epstein discovered.

Jewish Communists were singled out for the horrible task of throwing these bombs. In cases where Arabs were assigned, the Jews were required to manufacture the bombs.

Epstein had a meeting with a group of Jewish Communists who had been driven out of the organisation, and learned further corroborating details along the same line. Since then, these dissidents have organised around the paper published in both Arabic and Hebrew, Haor-El Nour, on a programme of Arab-Jewish workers’ and peasants’ unity. Epstein learned of the assignment of two young Jewish Communists to throw a bomb at a Jewish meeting in Tel Aviv. He sought out those assigned and prevailed upon them to abandon the project.

Horrified by what he had seen in Palestine, Epstein went to Spain and there saw the chieftain of the colonial department of the Communist International. The latter, when appealed to by Epstein, told him that his only recourse was to secure the aid of the Central Committee of the American party.

The foregoing facts were reported by Epstein to a select meeting of members of the Jewish Buro of the CP and editorial associates on the Freiheit. Weber was at this meeting, and the terrible facts reported by Epstein and the failure of the Stalinist leadership to do anything about them led him finally to break with Stalinism.

Epstein never succeeded in bringing the matter to the point of discussion in the Central Committee. He was merely called before a sub-committee and confronted with a ready made resolution supporting the policy of the Comintern in Palestine. A bureaucrat without much courage, Epstein soon enough capitulated. His sole act of resistance was to refuse to write an article at the time defending the line of the Central Committee’s resolution.

The jackals around him took advantage of the weakening of Epstein’s position as the result of his raising the Palestine question, and after a period of defending himself, Epstein was finally forced to resign his post as editor, and go into exile for two years at the other end of the country.

Weber’s story provides a minor link in the broader story which requires no revelations at all, but is known to the Jewish workers and Arab workers and peasants of Palestine. The Stalinists have sought to win the good will of the Arab landowners and bourgeoisie in preference to the Palestinian masses. Having no faith in the colonial revolution which is indicated for the Near East, the Stalinists prefer to link themselves with the Arab exploiters and to use them as a form of pressure upon Britain on behalf of Stalin’s diplomatic moves. The Stalinists never criticise the Arab exploiters, and have discouraged all moves to organise the Arab workers as an independent force. This is the basic policy lying behind the anti-Jewish orientation of the Palestinian Stalinist organisation.

Publications: 

Marxist Theory and History: