From the Writings of Raya Dunayevskaya: Marxist-Humanist Archives
Historic Roots of Israel-Palestine conflict
by Raya Dunayevskaya
Israel's brutal attack against "the second Palestinian intifada," which
started after Ariel Sharon made his provocative trip to Harim al-Sharif two
months ago as part of claiming Israel's jurisdiction over Arab East
Jerusalem "in perpetuity," makes this an important moment to revisit the
historic roots of the conflict. We here reproduce two writings by Raya
Dunayevskaya from the 1980s which speak to this. The first is excerpts of
Part 3 of the Perspectives Thesis delivered to the 1980 convention of News
and Letters Committees, entitled "Today and Tomorrow"; the second is
excerpts from the Introduction and Part I of the Perspectives Thesis
delivered to the 1982 convention of News and Letters Committees, entitled
"What to Do: Facing the Depth of Recession and the Myriad Global Political
Crisis as as the Philosophic Void." The latter was written after Sharon
engineered Israel's invasion of Lebanon. The originals can be found in THE
RAYA DUNAYEVSKAYA COLLECTION, 6245 and 7515.
RELIGION IN GENERAL AND JERUSALEM IN PARTICULAR IN THIS STATE-CAPITALIST AGE
Israel has been moving so steadily to the Right that no reactionary action
should surprise anyone. Nevertheless, the world-and this includes President
Carter who is still pretending that the so-called Peace Treaty he
engineered between Egypt and Israel will bring real peace to the whole of
the Middle East-was shocked by the TIMING, if nothing else, of the "sudden"
fiat from the Knesset that Jerusalem, East and West, that is, Arab as well
as Jewish, was "one," was "indivisible," indeed, was the "eternal" capital
of Israel, as if really its order extended into the eons of time.
If, however, we take a second, objective look at that phrase, "if nothing
else," we will see that it is, precisely, the timing, the PROVOCATIVE
timing, which is the logical conclusion to the extremist imperialist moves
ever since Menachem Begin came to power, and that very week visited and
approved a controversial new Jewish settlement in Arab land. It has gone on
and expanded ever since. It is necessary, however, to limit ourselves to
In March 1980 the government of Israel announced it would be taking 1,000
acres of mostly Arab-owned land. It was the first such major expropriation
in a decade, and the second largest ever since the victorious 1967 war.
Indeed, by the mid-1970s, Israel pried 30% of East Jerusalem from Arab
ownership. Could anyone doubt when the biggest war hawk of them all, Geula
Cohen, was chosen to bring in a draft for the new status of Jerusalem that
it would be anything but what it was?....
What is new-and it is by no means limited to Zionism-is the new politicized
form of religion. Nor is it a question of whether you listen to the
money-wise electronic "evangelists," or you follow the Old or New
Testament-or the Koran, and quote Mohammed, who is supposed to have said:
"Whoever goes on a pilgrimage to the Jerusalem sanctuary shall be forgiven
all his sins."
The point, rather, is why this RUSH TO POWER. One need not go abroad to see
it is so. All one has to do is look right here at the New Right, the
Christian Religious Right....
The real point is this: the totality of the crises, especially since
1973-74-and by no means only the Arab-Israeli war, but the economic crisis
that resulted from the oil embargo-has shown that the undercurrent of
revolt may-and in some cases, did-lead to revolution. It is this,
especially as it is evolving in the last year, which has led the capitalist
rulers to flirt with Nazism and occultism all over again.
Occultism has ever been the escape from reality, and since it doesn't have
quite as obnoxious an odor as Nazism, non-taxable dollars are spent on that
electronic miracle to bring the message to the public. In any case, the New
Religious Right, as in Begin's Israel or in Khomeini's Iran, or the
Christian Right here, even when they get masses to follow them, by no means
signifies that what the masses want, and what the leaders are striving
for-power-has the same motivation. Which is why Karl Marx made so sharp a
distinction between the religion of the oppressed and that of the
oppressor. The whole theory of alienation started there.....
ISRAEL'S GENOCIDAL INVASION OF LEBANON: OPPOSITION NEEDED AGAINST BUILDING
ANY HALF-WAY HOUSES
Nothing but horror and utter disgust characterizes the world's reaction to
Israel's gruesome invasion of Lebanon. Each day of the endless string of
Israel's lying excuses for the destruction of that land-from the claim of
securing a "25-mile security zone" for Israel and empty talk of the PLO as
"terrorists" at a moment when, not the PLO, but Begin-Sharon's Israel was
the one committing the atrocities; to the claim of being for Lebanon's
"integrity" as a nation, freed of Syria's and the PLO's invasions-only
heightened and widened the world's opposition to Israel's ghoulish attack.
History will not forget such barbarism. Opposition, and even putting an end
to these uncivilized acts, cannot, however, be sufficient unto the day
without, at one and the same time, showing how it had resulted from a
transformation into opposite of what Israel was at birth in 1947-48, and
what it is today, 1982-83....
How quickly forgotten (if, indeed, Begin or the Irgun ever knew them) are
the true origins of the idea of an "Israeli nationality." The Nazi
holocaust, which they invoke today for reactionary purposes, is the fact of
history that changed the position of Marxists who had always been for
cultural assimilation to the point where nothing deviated from straight
socialist goals. (See Leon Trotsky's articles on why, though still fully
opposed to Zionism, he now-1937-had to be for a "homeland for the Jews."
That was the Marxist position on Israel, on the question of national
self-determination.) The same was true for those who weren't Marxists. A
good essay by a liberal, Alfred Friendly, describes the shock of today,
even of those who still favored Israel in the war of 1967.
In "Israel: Paradise Lost" (MANCHESTER GUARDIAN, July 11, 1982), Alfred
Friendly recalls the 1967 war, when he was for Israel and when the attitude
was how temporary the occupation was: 1) As one Colonel put it, "There
won't be any struggle getting Sinai back to Nasser quickly"; 2) A short
while later, Israel enthusiastically accepted UN Resolution 242; 3) Israel
categorically denied the Arab accusation that the Zionist objective was a
so-called "Eretz Israel," as the Bible expressed it ("a realm extending
from the Nile to the Euphrates"), insisting instead that only the "crazies"
talked about "Eretz Israel" in that Biblical manner. But, in fact, says
Friendly, we were soon to see the "Dayan Plan" which proposed "garrison
settlements," which was followed by the "Allon Plan" which talked of
Biblical Judea and Samaria, and now we have the "Likud-Sharon Plan" or "the
triumph of the Eretz Israel boys." The result is the genocidal invasion of
This transformation of Israel into an imperialist state is a very different
point of departure from what we have always used as proof of the
transformation into opposite when we pointed to the first workers' state
into a state-capitalist society. It is true that this, too, is a
state-capitalist society. It is true, also, that at its birth it certainly
wasn't anywhere as clear a social revolution as was 1917.
Methodologically as well as practically, the point here is that we
could-AND DID-express the contradictions at its birth. We refused to be
silent even when we most enthusiastically supported the establishment of "a
homeland for the Jews," by pointing sharply to the fact that the land
contained the presence-as a minority, it is true, but a presence
nevertheless-of the reactionary Irgun, whose leader was the terrorist,
Begin. What a transformation into opposite of the Israel of "Exodus,"
1947-48, into the imperialistic state-capitalist Israel of 1982-83!....
It is good that a peace movement has arisen in Israel demanding an end to Israel's invasion of Lebanon at once. It is even better that some of that Left
has raised the question of self-determination for Palestinians in
Israel-or, rather, the part Israel occupies illegally. (Indeed, what Israel
is now trying to annex is Palestine.) But that, too, will hardly solve much
if, AT THE SAME TIME, a new banner of genuine liberation is not unfolded.
The immediate, urgent question now is: What kind of regime in Lebanon?
Does anyone doubt that Begin-Sharon wanted that small-time neo-fascist
Bashir Gemayel to become ITS President? What is needed is to see to it that
genuine national liberation is the predominant demand and that none will
stand for any colonization anywhere....
Here, too, philosophy is no abstraction. Its concretization, as
politicization, warns the whole New Left not to stop at half-way houses,
not even when that manifests deep sensitivity to Third World desires for
freedom unless they are willing to transform that desire into an outright
WHY BEING AGAINST 'WHAT IS' IS INCOMPLETE WITHOUT THE COROLLARY, WHAT ONE
Because the economic and political crises wracking the
capitalist-imperialist world are so horrendous...it is all too tempting to
express oneself solely in opposition to what is, without ever specifying
what one is for, so weighted down does one become by all these crises
crying out for an end.
History, however, warns us of other critical periods which give us historic
proof that mere opposition to such monstrous degeneration does not lead to
new societies. On the contrary. It only assures the transformation of that
type of bare opposition into one form or another of a half-way house. That
is true both when we look at the failure of bourgeois democracy and when we
look at fascism. Both brought on World War II. Such a victory over fascism
only laid the ground for the restoration of state-capitalism-Gaullism as
well as Stalinism. Indeed, state-capitalism became a universal.
As we know from World War I, even the magnificent opposition that was
successful-the Russian Revolution-once it didn't spread beyond national
borders, ended in the transformation of the first workers' state into its
Today, we cannot evade asking: What Now? Is the PLO the absolute opposite
of Israel or just one more narrow nationalism? In our age, when a nuclear
war threatens civilization as we have known it, we cannot, must not, accept
half-way houses as the answer....
Nor should our support of the Palestinians for self-determination and the
PLO as a bargaining agent lead us away from reexamining what happens to
aborted revolutions-in this case, specifically Lebanon and specifically as
aided by the PLO in the 1975-76 Civil War there. Which is why we correctly
entitled our Philosophic-Political Letter (August 6, 1976): 'The Test Not
Only of the PLO but of the Whole Left.'"
Because the Left did not meet that challenge but followed the PLO is one
substantial reason for the TOTALITY of the crisis today. Just at the point
when there was a near-success by the indigenous Lebanese Left, and the
outcome of the 1975-76 Civil War hung in the balance, the PLO insisted that
the concentration must be, not on the native ruler-oppressors represented
by the so-called Christian, i.e. neo-fascist, Phalangists, but on Israel
alone, though at the moment Israel was nowhere present in Lebanon and Syria
was all ready to invade. It is Syria the PLO had dubbed "liberators"
instead of a new imperialistic force. The great tragedy was that the whole
Left-indigenous Lebanese under Jumblatt, Stalinists, Trotskyists-followed
the PLO lead. Here is what we wrote in that Political-Philosophic Letter:
"The New Left, born in the 1960s, so disdainful of theory (which it
forever thinks it can pick up 'en route'), has a strange attitude toward
imperialism. It is as if imperialism were not the natural outgrowth of
monopoly capitalism, but was a conspiracy, organized by a single imaginary
center, rather as the Nazis used to refer to the Judeo-Catholic-Masonic
Alliance, or Communists under Stalin to the conspiracy of the Trotskyists
and Rightists in league with the imperialist secret service...
"Evidently nationalism of the so-called Third World is of itself
revolutionary even when it is under the banner of a king, a shah, or the
emirates, or the Syrian Army. Thereby they canonize nationalism, even when
it is void of working class character, as national liberation.
"It isn't that class is the sole characteristic of national liberation
movements that revolution can support. It is that the working class nature
is its essence and it is that the revolutionary and international impact
emerges from masses in motion.
"This does not mean that we give up the struggle for self-determination,
Palestinian especially. It is that we do not narrow our vision of the
revolutionary struggle for a totally different world, on truly new Humanist
foundations, the first necessity of which is the unity of philosophy and