In the debate between Sean Matgamna and Jim Higgins (Workers’ Liberty June 1996; July 1996; September 1996; February/March 1997) both sides have, in passing, invoked Hal Draper in their defence.
From Workers' Liberty 49. Workers' Liberty 50-51 carried a reply by Sean Matgamna.
Here, I will assess Hal Draper’s thought as it evolved from 1948 to 1990 in the organs of third camp revolutionary Marxism - Labor Action, The New International and New Politics. I will summarise the writings and speeches of Hal Draper on this question, using his own words as much as possible. What emerges is a Marxist approach to Israel-Palestine which avoids both pro-Zionist apologetics and Arab chauvinism of the “destroy Israel” kind, in favour of consistent democracy as a basis for accommodation between the two peoples, clearing the decks for the class struggle.
1948: Marxists and the state of Israel
In 1948 Hal Draper was a member of the Political Committee of the Workers Party and editor of the party’s theoretical journal New International. He worked out the party policy to the new state of Israel in an unsigned editorial “War of Independence or Expansion?” in Labor Action, May 24 and 31, 1948, and in the July 1948 New International article, “How to Defend Israel”. He wrote:
“Before partition, the road to a basic solution lay only in joint struggle by the socialist workers of the Jewish community together with the oppressed Arab peasantry to throw off the yoke of their common oppressor - British imperialism, based on the two ruling classes, Arab landlords and Zionist capitalists; and such Arab-Jewish co-operation from below could have forged a united Palestine in the fire of anti-imperialist struggle. Now that partition is virtually an accomplished fact, this basic road can only take a different form.”
There were two elements to this “basic road” in Draper’s 1948 articles. It is important not to lose sight of either. The first element was “the defense of Israel’s right of self-determination against a reactionary war of invasion”, on the grounds that:
”As Marxist socialists - that is, as the only consistent democrats – we believe in and accept the democratic right of all peoples (including the Palestinian Jews) to self-determination...even while advising against the exercise of this right to the point of separation [which] we are more firmly than ever of the opinion...was a mistake and a set-back for the only long-range solution.”
It will surprise many on the contemporary far left that Draper and the Workers Party opposed the “Pan-Arab war” against the new state, writing that, “the imposition of “unity” upon Palestine by Abdullah, the Mufti or the Arab League would be a reactionary solution.” He registered that Israel was established, “in the teeth of opposition... of the imperialist capitals,” and that “the attack upon the Jews right to self-determination comes from a deeply reactionary class – the Arab lords.” The Workers Party demanded the US government recognise Israel and was for, “the lifting of the imperialist embargo on arms to the new Jewish state.”
The second element of the Workers Party position was the warning that to defend Israel against reactionary Arab invasion was, “not the end of the question but only the beginning.” For with the establishment of the state of Israel a crossroads had been reached. Two roads lay open: "a war of nationalist expansion, or a revolutionary war for the reunification of Palestine from below against both the Jewish and Arab ruling classes.” The war was, “a war of defense in the immediate circumstances,” but, “tomorrow their struggle will inescapably be transformed into one or the other!” Israel could not “go it alone”. In a sea of Arab hatred Israel’s Zionist leaders would, Draper predicted, “look for aid and comfort only towards the imperialists,” and seek, “to act as an imperialist outpost in the Middle East.” Down this road “Israel cannot exist as a splinter state quivering in the flesh of the Arab Middle East without constant war-skirmishing or imperialist entanglements or both.”
The progressive democratic alternative, the, “only road that can save the Jews from subservience to imperialism or destruction by the Arabs,” was, “a course directed toward the reunification of Palestine on a basis which will permit the two peoples to live together in fraternal harmony.” This alternative road lay through “struggle from below” by Jewish workers and Arab peasants. The duty of socialists in Israel, while, “opposing any attempt by the Arab landlord regimes to overthrow the Jewish state and impose their own reactionary sway,” was to fight for this alternative road by fighting for the transformation of the war of defense into a “social war - not Jew against Arab, but a war of classes,” a war waged with the Arab people against both the Zionist ruling class and the Arab lords. And the “key to such a program” was “right at hand”. Thirty to forty per cent of Israel was Arab, and, “Israel’s future will be determined in the first place by how it acts towards them.” Israel must demonstrate it opposes only the, “Arab dynasts and landlords who are also the oppressors of the Arab people,” and not the Arab people themselves, by its treatment of the Arab minority within Israel. Socialists should campaign for:
“reversing the whole Zionist policy toward the Arab people - accepting them as equals and collaborating in the building up, not of a Jewish state, but of a bi-national state. We use the term ‘bi-national’ to designate merely the aim of a state which is the home of two peoples and comports itself as such, the forms to be worked out in common agreement.”
Equal rights for Arabs within the state of Israel, no Jim Crow in the trade unions, no boycott of Arab goods, end the ousting of Arab labour, the ”constitutional guarantee of the Arabs fully recognised status as a national people” - this was the program of action Draper proposed in 1948.
“A ‘deal’ with the discontented masses, that is, of a revolutionary approach to them - from below... [A] road leads from unity with the Arab population at home to the implementation of a binational approach to drive a class wedge inside the encircling Arab states.”
A line of march: defend Israel by, “transforming the war of defence into a social war... a revolutionary war against the Arab feudal masters - and... the perpetrators of Deir Yassin massacres who call for Jewish expansion against the Arab people.” A prediction: if Israel does not move in this direction then it will become, “a death trap of the peoples and a happy hunting ground of revived imperialist influence.”
When it was put to the 1949 ISL convention it was rejected and the ISL, “temporarily reeling under the wave of Jewish-nationalist sentiment unleashed by the establishment of Israel,” “teetered on the brink of endorsing an essentially Zionist view of Israel.” Shachtman abstained on the vote. But by 1951 Draper’s position was endorsed unanimously and the ISL, “never staggered again.”
The destruction of the Palestinian nation
Draper published two long articles in The New International, “Israel’s Arab Minority” (Summer 1956) and “The Great Land Robbery” (Winter, 1957). He examined the expulsion/flight of Palestinians in 1948, the robbery of their land from 1948-1957, and the role of Zionist ideology in both crimes. From 1949 Draper had been reading on Zionism and the position of Israel’s Arab minority, helped by non-Stalinist critics of Zionism in Israel such as J Artusky, the Polish Bundist, and M Stein, who was fighting the regime’s war on Yiddish. Their reports were published in Labor Action. He was also helped by his relationship, in New York, “as a friend and mentor,” with William Zuckerman, editor and publisher of the Jewish Newsletter. Twenty years older than Draper, a mild social democrat but vastly knowledgeable, Zuckerman was “a basic recourse” for Draper from 1949 to 1957. In 1955 Draper received an article on the treatment of the Arab minority in Israel but refused to print it. Concerned about its accuracy he researched the question himself, in great depth, over the next two months, using the Zionist library in New York. The result was the two major articles for The New International. He also used Don Peretz’s dissertation, “a magnificent job of research and at that time the sole honest-scholarly inquiry into the question.” He limited himself to Zionist or pro-Jewish sources to, “neutralise the typical Zionist reflex.” Writing in 1990, Draper claimed that, “most of the material has not yet been superseded. This is shocking and betokens the extent to which the facts about Israel have been long suppressed.” Even a wave of books published in 1986 and 1987, by Segev, Flapen and Morris, while presenting new, previously secret material, did not give the publicly available facts Draper pulled together in The New International in 1956 and 1957.
The politics of the articles were a development of the 1948 position. By now it was clear which of the two roads set out in 1948 had been followed by Israel and with what consequences. The Arab minority and its treatment by Israel remained “the key” to the transformation of the war of defense into a “social war”. So the appalling facts of systematic discrimination against, and brutal dispossession of, the Palestinian Arabs, must be registered and fought against as a matter of absolute principle by all socialists. And, as Draper saw it, the Zionist politics from which this flowed must be understood. Looking back in 1968 he wrote, “Especially from the vantage point of 1968, we have to discuss the political reality. The political reality is: to set the aim of establishing a Jewish state in a land inhabited by an Arab nation is to set out to destroy that nation. And that is exactly what happened.”
The role of Zionist forces in the flight of Palestinian Arabs in 1947-8
During the 1948 Arab-Israeli war around 570,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were pushed out. By the end of the war only 170,000 were left. The subsequent Zionist theft of Palestinian land was justified by Israel’s leaders with the pretext that the Arabs had fled in enthusiastic answer to the call of Israel’s enemies. They were fifth-columnists expecting the booty from a quick Arab victory. This “old tale” Draper argued, provided, “the moral and even juridical justification for three aspects of Israel policy”:
“(1) Israel claims little responsibility for or to the hundreds of thousands of Arab refugees from its territory who are now living across its borders in misery and seething hatred.
(2) The government used the Arab flight to justify a series of laws which have stripped these refugees, as well as many Arabs who never left Israel, of their lands, groves and property.
(3) The version of the Arab flight is also... the justification for the maintenance of military-government rule over the large majority of Arabs still in Israel... [and justifies the land-grab].”
In fact, before the land grab began, Ben-Gurion [Prime Minister, 1948-53] said, “Arab villages have in their overwhelming majority kept aloof.” Only later, after the land-grab began did the other “official” version appear, the version which justified treating Israeli Arabs as a fifth column. In truth, their flight, argues Draper, was not a heeding of the call of the Mufti or the Arab armies except in the case of the Arab upper class, who did flee of their own free will, before the start of heavy fighting, guided by Arab armies’ strategy. In truth, the Palestinian masses fled in the face of three things: the Arab states invasion and the normal fear of war; the actions of the Zionist forces, regular and irregular, including the Deir Yassin massacre; and the character of the British departure, in havoc-creating bitterness. In toto the facts refute the official Zionist version and the legitimation for the land-grab and the treatment of Israel’s Arab minority.
The role of the Zionist forces has caused most controversy. Draper’s view: “The Zionist-Israeli forces themselves played a prominent role in causing and intensifying the flight,” and, “The Zionist rulers utilised the attack by the foreign Arab states to run Palestinian Arabs off their land.” The most extreme Zionists had the policy of Arabrrein (Arab-free Israel) and used the war to achieve that objective. The official Zionists - and this is the dominant pattern of Zionism’s history, argues Draper - uneasily drifted to the same end. The massacre of 250 Arabs at a village, Deir Yassin, by the Irgun, a Zionist guerrilla group, happened on April 9 1948. Draper shows that Deir Yassin was chosen by the Irgun because it was friendly to Jews. To show that, “even a record of friendship to Jews was no protection, no insurance. It was after this that the Arab flight became general.” After official Zionist condemnations of the massacre the Irgun released a text of a Haganah communique showing that the official Zionist army agreed to a military assault (though not a massacre) on the village. After Deir Yassin, Irgun-Haganah relations grew closer. An agreement of co-operation was reached in April, the very month of Deir Yassin. The other official Zionist armed force, Palmach, was at the village and gave covering fire to wounded Irgunists. Moreover, “Within three months after Deir Yassin, the official Haganah forces themselves were driving the Palestinian Arab population out of their native villages, towns and cities like cattle.” When Ramleh and Lydda fell on 13 July 60,000 were expelled, “simply driven out, to make the towns Arabrrein and provide property for incoming Jews to expand into... This was done by the Haganah, not by Irgun.” Draper quotes The New York Herald Tribune’s war correspondent, Kenneth Bilby:
“At dusk one evening an Israeli jeep column took off from the Lydda airport and raced into Lydda, with rifles, Stens and submachine guns blazing. It coursed through the main streets, blasting at everything that moved. The town toppled in panic. I went into Lydda the following day with major Yeruham Cohen, brigade intelligence officer. The corpses of Arab men, women and children were strewn about the streets in the wake of this ruthlessly brilliant charge. Civilians who had been trapped by the Jewish encirclement cowered behind shuttered windows; white flags were draped from every home.”
Draper caustically points out that these civilians, “driven into the open road,” would be punished for becoming “absentees” by laws which stripped them of their “abandoned” property. He did not deny that, ”the invaders had their Deir Yassins too.” That ranking of atrocities was not his concern. The political point was that:
“Many Arab peasants against whom the lootings and atrocities were committed, and who were driven out or who fled in fright, were later robbed of property and land and had a military government imposed over them because they had fled were driven out - i.e., because they left their habitations as a result of or in fear of such atrocities - and this was done not by Haganah soldiers but by the parliament and government of Israel. This was the real atrocity.”
In other words the land-grab began during the war. Draper quotes the leading Israeli paper, Haarertz: “Every piece of land which had been abandoned for any reason whatever - whether in the whirl of war, or during the truces, or soon after the Israeli occupation - was at once seized b by the nearby [Jewish] settlement or settlements and attached to their estates.” This land-grab was, says Draper, “organised and stimulated by Zionist authorities for Zionist aims.” He quotes Don Peretz: “The Jewish Agency was directing the flow of new immigrants toward the vacant Arab settlements.”
The political point of retelling this story, for Hal Draper? Not to establish that the historical clock should be reversed. Not even to suggest that a simple “return” of the land in toto is a viable solution. But Draper is establishing why Zionism cannot form the framework for a political solution. Accommodation between the peoples can never be based on pro-Zionist apologetics about the flight of the Palestinians or on Zionist ideology. Draper was establishing the ground of a non-revanchist socialist anti-Zionism. He wrote:
“The moral indignation should not be visited in the first place against the miserable, harassed, driven Jewish [D]isplaced [P}ersons who, in their fear and need were used as pawns to grab the land and property of the dispossessed Arabs. They were steered and pushed into this position by those who knew what they were doing - Zionist arms like the Jewish Agency, Zionist authorities in the armed forces and government, both by design and by toleration. Zionism - the ideology of Jewish chauvinism - showed that it was and is one of the deeply reactionary conceptions of the political world. The child of anti-semitism, it became the father of another form of ethnic oppression; if genocide means the murder of people as such, then there should be such a word for the robbery of a people as such. What Zionism created in Palestine in 1948 was the first act of the tragedy.”
The scale and meaning of the robbery of land from the Palestinians in 1948 to 1957
The land-grab in war was one thing. What came next was “of a different order”: “The robbery of a people carried through in planned, deliberate ‘legal’ action by the formal action of the Israel government over a period of years and not in the heat or turmoil of war.” The cultivable land taken from the Arabs equalled one-fifth of the total area of the country. 80 per cent of Israel’s total area was land “abandoned” by Arab refugees. 38 per cent of the villages, one-quarter of all buildings, 10,000 shops, businesses and stores, 52 quarries, and four million Palestinian pounds in Arab bank accounts blocked in Israel (the latter released in 1956). The theft was not only from those who fled or were driven out but also from those who stayed. Forty per cent of the land owned by legal Arab residents of Israel was taken.
Draper examined in great detail how this was done stage by stage between 1948 and 1957, and how not a single Jewish deputy had opposed it. Indeed the “socialist” thieves like Mapai and Mapam got so much land they ended up renting it back out to the very Arabs who rightfully owned it. Draper quotes Moshe Keren writing in Haaretz: “It was precisely those groups who presume to establish a new society free from injustice and exploitation - the kibbutzim, in other words - who marched in the vanguard of the seizure campaign, and foremost among them were... Mapam...”
Draper argued that the scale and the meaning of the land-grab had not been understood. It meant, for the Palestinians, “literally, destroying their way of life.” In 1957 Draper warned that the land-grab was not over because, “what governs the real policy of the government is an ethnic chauvinism derived from the Zionist ideology.” Guilt does not lie with “the Jewish people” says Draper but “the Zionist authorities, the Zionist movement and the Zionist government.”
Zionism and the “race against catastrophe”
After his 1956-7 articles Draper’s position can be summed up by his phrase, “race against catastrophe.” Israel, in choosing to build a “Jewish state” as an imperialist outpost in the region, was creating a “state wide ghetto” for Jews and was doomed to sink in a sea of Arab hatred. But Draper did not, for one second, from 1948 to his death in 1990, give an inch to the idea of the destruction of the state of Israel”, which he saw as the, “hallmark of Arab chauvinism.” He continued to urge a political solution based on mutual recognition and accommodation. To admit being against the “destruction of the state of Israel” on today’s far left is to invite being roundly denounced as a “Zionist” and probably a racist. Yet Hal Draper, recognised on the American left in the 1960s as a fierce anti-Zionist, never felt it had any part of a socialist, anti-Zionist politics. In 1990 he wrote in these terms of the spread of this “program” to the left itself:
“Politically there is one all-important difference in the situation... [the] preoccupation of Arab socialist elements with the “militant” line of crushing Israel out of existence, rather than changing its policies. We Independent Socialists refrained from giving political support to any of the Palestinian political groups, precisely because their official policies were formulated in terms of ‘destroying Israel’.”
Draper celebrated the “great Intifada” and the PLO’s change of line, in 1990:
“We can now say, and with great satisfaction, that the general line being followed by the PLO leadership under Arafat and by the Palestinian movement of rebellion is essentially the line that we advocated among both Jewish-Zionist and Arab-nationalist socialists. This is simply a matter of “pointing with pride,” you understand, since there is no claim about influencing events; but the pride involved bears on the general nature of our Independent Socialist and ‘third camp’ politics as a guide to an era.”
The critique of Zionism
”As a Marxist I held a dim view of Zionism, as negative then as it is now,” wrote Draper in 1990. Why was he so fiercely critical of Zionism, without let-up, from 1948 to 1990? In 1967 in New Politics, he argued Zionist ideology was a composite of three elements. First, a mystical blood-tribalism which, “asserts that Jews are inevitably aliens everywhere... just as the anti-semites say.” Second, the idea of Eretz Israel: a state, in Palestine, all of Palestine, and no less. Third, the idea of the, “ingathering of the exiles”: all Jews are to live in Eretz Israel. Draper was convinced that US Zionists played a bad role in US policy not to open up immigration to Jews, “in my eyes one of the basest crimes committed by the Zionist leadership.” The generation of Zionists who established the state of Israel were, he thought, “a curse.” But in establishing that state they precipitated a crisis in Zionist ideology. Zionism became pared down to its “heart and soul,” its essence, which is the “ingathering of the exiles.” Draper argued that when Ben-Gurion visited the USA and rounded on American Jewry with “You are Exiles!” he had all consistency on his side, as a Zionist. America must be Galuth (Exile) to a Zionist. Zionism, warned Draper, was once an “ism” to be propagandised for. After Israel was established Zionism became simply...“Israelism”. In other words Zionism was reduced to defending the state of Israel. Not just the existence of the state but the expansionism and the oppression of the Palestinians.
Who has national rights in Palestine?
While Draper supported the national rights of the Palestinian Jews, the Yishuv, he rejected the idea that “Jews” per se had national rights in Palestine. In 1951 he wrote:
“The view that the Jews of the world, and not merely the Jewish yishuv in Palestine, constitute a nation in the Zionist usage is a view which can only have a mystical basis.” (154.)
[This] “mystical concept which is at the heart and soul of Zionism...of tribal blood solidarity...collides with class solidarity [for] the working class...it is an alien and corruptive element in any attempt to build a consistent, genuine, socialist movement. It collides with the solidarity of internationalism... ... it collides with the need for a policy of equality, toleration and peace with the Arab peoples. Scientifically, ideologically, philosophically, if you wish, it does not have much to recommend it above the ‘Aryan’ theories of the Nazi theoreticians.”
In 1952 Draper opposed the Nationality Act which wrote Zionist theory into the basic law of the state. In 1953, in an article in Labor Action titled Thou Shalt Not Criticise Israel, Draper summed up his objections to writing “the Jewish state” idea of Zionism into law:
“It is a view which (1) implicitly makes all non-Jews, especially the Arab Israelis, aliens and interlopers in the land, the short or long term objective being to drive them out; (2) makes the perspective of Israel expansionist, no matter what diplomatic declarations on that score are put out for occasional world consumption by its leaders; and (3) poses the question of dual national allegiance for all Jews in the world as the Israelis see them, regardless of the fact that only a small minority of Jews are made happy thereby”.
In 1954, in Labor Action, he summed up the ISL position on the “Jewish state”:
“[The ISL] oppose, above all, the basic aim of Zionism of building a “Jewish state”. The idea, the concept-aim of a “Jewish state”, and all that it implies is central to the Zionist ideology. As long as the people and government of Israel, following the Zionist road, continue to try and build Israel as a “Jewish state”, there can be no peace between Jew and Arab. So we believe.”
Israel and the “burning ground” of Europe
But Draper did not reduce the creation of the state of Israel to the machinations of Zionism. He understood that Israel was created because, “for the Jewish remnant Europe represented burning ground: they had to get out - somehow, somewhere, anywhere.” He argued, in 1954, with an Arab socialist, Maksoud:
“At the side of the Zionists reactionary aspirations there also developed a different, a new, an accompanying factor which did not owe its motive force and impact to Zionism. Our comrade Maksoud sees only the impact of Zionism. We would like to call his attention to this other explosive development. This was the exterminationist fate which loomed before a whole people in Europe, the Jewish people.”
No country opened its doors to the Jews. The ISL campaigned for the US to open its doors to Jewish refugees and for the right of “untrammelled free emigration and immigration”:
“We believe it was the duty of socialists to support the right of Jews to immigrate to Palestine. In our view, as in Maksoud’s, it was a misfortune that the Jewish exodus was channelised into Palestine to the extent that it was. That is one of the crimes for which world capitalism and imperialism ought to answer some day. But it was a fact, and not a Zionist plot. The Zionists were able to take advantage of this anti-semitic windfall...but the problem that was created...could not be faced merely by yelling against Zionism.”
The clock could not be reversed. A political solution was necessary. Draper replied to Maksoud’s program for the “destruction of Israel” in these terms:
“Partition was no solution. The setting up of Israel was no solution, your program to destroy Israel would be no solution. The problem is to bring together the Jewish and Arab peoples on a revolutionary democratic basis, and this problem had to be dealt with on the basis of conditions that exist. Israel is a fact. Nothing will be gained by an Arab war against it... The problem that we [the ISL] see is not whether Israel has a ‘right’ to exist, but how all of the people of the region can live together. Israel may have a ‘right’ to exist but its existence will be a hell for the Jews and a thorn in the flesh of the Arabs as long as it insists on being a Jewish ghetto in an Arab world. Before Israel can find a modus vivendi with its neighbours, it must overcome its Zionist illusions and policies... the country must be built as a bi-national state, with cultural autonomy and full equal political and social rights for both peoples. Zionist expansionism must be repudiated. Its anti-Arab measures must be reversed. All this requires an internal revolutionary rejection of Zionism’s specific politics, whether it consciously takes the form of a repudiation of Zionism or (perhaps more likely) takes the form of a gradual abandonment of all of Zionism’s conclusions. A movement towards this objective can we believe be built in Israel... but what will never be built in Israel is any movement or even grouplet which will advocate giving up the country’s independence. The ‘emasculation’ of Israel’s independence and sovereignty can be accomplished only by war, and then only perpetuated by armed force and terror.”
The Israeli Jews had national rights. Draper supported the rights of, “the specific Jewish community situated in a certain territory in Palestine... not as ‘Jews’ in general but as a certain community in the land.” He warned: “Marxists do not impose our schema about ‘who constitutes a nation’ upon facts. It is sheer doctrinairism to counterpose some theory about nationhood against the fact that the Palestinian Jewish community has acted exactly as if it were a national people.” Reactionary though Israeli nationalism tends to be it remains, “a historical event which a Marxist has reason to keep in mind in renovating his theory.” Were the Jews not just interlopers, even invaders? No. They were, “a whole people, settled in a land, and not merely as military garrison.” For sure the, “wound is rawer,” for the Palestinians. It is a “hellishly difficult dilemma.” But, “we can see no other socialist standpoint possible.”
De-Zionisation: a political solution
On December 17, 1968 Draper took part in an Arab Students conference. The hand-written notes of his speech on the Arab-Israeli conflict indicate a continuing rejection, here in the face of radical Arab public opinion, of the program of the “destruction of the state of Israel” and his continuing support for a positive political solution of consistent democracy:
“’Military solution’ is no solution.
“There is only limited value in arguing simply in terms of ‘who’s right/wrong’. Even when one has decided that a great wrong had been done to the Palestinian Arab people, this does not automatically provide a solution (i.e., reverse what has happened by military means). Let justice be done but the only possible road is the road of a political solution... there is no solution in merely turning the clock back (especially with guns). Hence the program of ‘destroying Israel as a state’ is a myth empty of any real content, but if accomplished its consequences would be reactionary both for Arabs and Israelis... it would merely mean the continuation of the present impasse (irredentist bitterness and civil war) with better organised Israelis substituting for Pales[tinian] guerrilla forces. At worst it would mean [the] transformation of Middle East limited war into world war... A political solution entails not the destruction of any state but a (revolutionary) transformation of Israel, and also therefore of the present Arab states. There is no quick easy route - except the illusory route of military destruction... I am talking about a transformation far more basic and therefore long -term, over the long pull as is true of any genuinely social-revolutionary movement. As far as Israel is concerned the practical aim is: De-Zionisation. The political perspective of the Israeli left: (first of all - them):
(a) Not a ‘Jewish state’ but a ‘bi-national state’ in concept and law. [Another Middle Eastern country.]
(b) Complete equality in rights and privileges for Arab population in Israel, and program to integrate them fully in every area of economy and politics. [Details easy.]
(c) The land development program in Israel to be directed for the benefit of the Arab refugees not of immigrant world Jewry. [Plus compensation and compromise as promised in past.]
(d) The aim of integrating Israel and its neighbours into a Middle East federation [not based on blood but on econ[omic] and geopolitical realities].
(e) Within the framework of a federation perspective, the right to self-determination (in Israel as in Arab world) for any religious people [to self-determine as a unit in federations].
(f) This will require a social and political revolution in Israel, but also: such a program has to be complemented by a social revolutionary movement in the Arab countries... and I do not mean the present regimes which call themselves revolutionary but a rev[olutionary] movement against them.”
In 1967, in exchanges in New Politics, Draper argued the Arab-Israeli war was a “clash of chauvinisms” but with its roots in the brute fact of, “a nation that has been destroyed.” He argued for the same broad position he had developed for the Workers Party in 1948:
“The de-Zionisation of Israel will mean the abolition of the ‘Jewish State’ concept, in favour of the view of Israel as a bi-national state, the home of two peoples. This is the basic socialist orientation. It is only such an Israel that can live in peace in the midst of the Arab world... My analysis points to the basic aim of ‘de-Zionisation’, this is concretised politically in the program for a genuine bi-national state; this in turn provides the framework for a series of detailed proposals.
[The] best place to start, in revolutionising the relations of this beleaguered Israel with the Arab world, is not by appeasing Nassers but by appeasing the Arabs of Israel itself - that is, according them justice - and the Arabs of the Palestinian nation.”
(NP 6/2 1967)
This program was not aimed, he insisted, at the, “bleeding heart left-Zionists of the Mapam bureaucracy,” but at, “the only hope for Israel... a new revolutionary generation which will rebel against the dead-weight of the ‘Jewish state’ ideology, which will see itself not as an ingathering of the ‘exiles’, but as a Middle Eastern people living as a nation as a harmonious part of the Middle East, not as a thorn in its side.” By 1967 his hopes in the Jewish working class were quite sober. He saw a, “miasma of chauvinist feeling which lies over [Israel] like a chilling fog,” and, “no one really knows how much opinion escapes it”. But he never lost hope in that minority, representatives of the, “current of Jewish humanism which was one of the glories of the Jewish people,” and whose voice was seldom heard. Certainly, for Draper it was, “the only Israel with whom one can identify.”
But this program had profound implications for the “destroy Israel” position. In sharp words addressed to Arab socialists, but which speak powerfully to much of today’s far left, champions of the “anti-imperialist” credentials of the murderous sub-imperialisms of the region, to the extent that they threaten to destroy Israel, Draper warned:
“Only insofar as you show fight against the reactionary and chauvinist aims of the Arab governments can you expect to awake and enflame courage and heart among Jewish socialists who want to break out of the Zionist trap! The responsibility is yours too. It belongs to the genuine socialists on both sides of the line.” (134.)
The “race against catastrophe” came down to this:
“Whether such a revolutionary generation will arise and take over from the old Zionist reactionaries before the other reactionary chauvinism (that of the Arab ruling classes) manages to get sufficiently modernised so as to use its crushing weight of encircling population to destroy Israel as a state altogether as the end result of escalating hatred...Israel needs its revolution as a matter of life and death.”
A socialist anti-Zionist
Hal Draper opposed Zionism not in the name of “the destruction of the state of Israel”, but in the name of a consistently democratic politics able to unite Jews and Arabs in struggle against all chauvinist and reactionary ideologies. He criticised both those on the Arab left who passed off anti-semitism as anti-Zionism and those Zionists who, “use and abuse the cry of anti-semitism as a means of intimidating or discrediting any critics of Zionism or Israeli policy.” He warned that the “destroy Israel” school was pushing Jews into the arms of Zionism and, oddly, had the same framework as the Zionists:
“It is not: For Israel or Against Israel - this is only the way Zionists inside and outside Israel see it. It is: For or Against the Zionist Program and ideology for Israel.”
My guess is Draper would have had a debate with Matgamna, as Marxists sharing a common framework, about the merits of “two states” as against a “bi-national Palestine”, the agreed division rather than the reunification of Palestine. Certainly he applauded the PLO adoption of the “two peoples, two states” position in 1988, towards the end of his life. Had he lived he would have condemned as criminal Israel’s refusal to cede an independent state to the Palestinians after 1988 - even in the one-fifth of historic Palestine the PLO now aspires to. He would have laid that crime at the door of Zionism. Maybe Draper would have warned Matgamna that a few Zionist myths had found their way into his long and necessary campaign against the “destroy Israel” school. He would have shared Jim Higgins hostility to Zionism, and some of his facts, such as the Zionists role in the flight of Palestinians in 1948, but he would have said to Higgins what he said to the radical Arab students in 1968: “The program of destroying Israel as a state is a myth empty of any real content...reactionary both for Jews and Arabs.”
A collection of Draper’s writings on the Middle East has been published by Center for Socialist History, 1250 Addison St., Suite 101, Berkeley CA 94702. “Zionism, Israel, and the Arabs. Notes on the Historical Background of the Middle East Tragedy”, Hal Draper, Berkeley, Center for Socialist History, 1997, pp. 215. The CSH has a website: www.gn.apc.org/csh