NEWS & LETTERS, April 2002 

From the Writings of Raya Dunayevskaya: Marxist-Humanist Archives

Stop the slaughter of the Palestinians!

Editor's note

The escalating violence in the Middle East, prompted by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's effort to destroy any hopes for a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, makes this an important moment to revisit Israel's invasion of Lebanon of 1982-when Sharon presided over a massacre of hundreds of Palestinians. The following is excerpts of Raya Dunayevskaya's "The Need for a Total Uprooting: Down with the Perpetrators of the Palestinian Slaughter," which appeared in the October 1982 issue of NEWS & LETTERS. The piece included material first delivered as part of a Perspectives Report by Dunayevskaya to the 1982 national convention of News and Letters Committees. Note is by the editors.

* * *

September 19, 1982

The crocodile tears of Ronald Reagan-and even any genuine outrage he may have felt at the slaughter of the Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps-will not wash the blood from Begin-Sharon, who paved the way for the butchers of Saad Haddad's private army and the breakaway Phalangists.* Nor can they clear Reagan of responsibility for the neo-fascistic acts perpetrated in Lebanon. Nor can they excuse the whole Western imperialist camp which so hurriedly pulled out its so-called international peace-keeping force the minute the PLO guerrillas and their leaders were safely out of west Beirut. The truth is that a solemn pledge was given to the PLO for the safety of the unarmed civilians, which included women and infants as well as men. In varying degrees all of them bear responsibility for the fact that the so-called "law and order" they brought to Lebanon was a form of holocaust, instead.

The only serious opposition to the barbarism is seen in the mass demonstrations within Israel, demanding the removal of the Begin-Sharon government. But that, too, is only a beginning. Even if the Labor and peace parties gain power, that will not change the state-capitalist nature of Israel which resulted in the neo-fascistic Begin-Sharon regime. Nor can we forget that the reason he gained a clear majority was due to the support of Guela Cohen's extreme Right party, Tehiya. In exchange for its three votes, Tehiya was guaranteed several thousand new homes in the occupied region; seven new settlements on the West Bank; and Sharon's sponsorship of the idea of settling the West Bank as if it were part of Israel.

It was precisely for that aim of annexing the West Bank that the latest imperialist venture into Lebanon was taken. It is not just the PLO Begin-Sharon are out to destroy, but the very idea of Palestinian national self-determination. The whole talk of so-called autonomy in the Camp David Peace Treaty was a sham and a snare. This is not the time for any "half-way houses." The Begin-Sharon government must be overthrown!

The events are moving so fast that we no sooner confront one horror than we are confronted with a worse atrocity. Thus, the latest atrocities came only three days after Israel's invasion of west Beirut that immediately followed the assassination of the President-elect, Bashir Gemayel. Far from its claim that its mission was "the restoration of law and order" in the "sovereign state of

Lebanon," Israel's goal was the same as in its first invasion of Lebanon in June-not the "sovereignty"' of Lebanon, but the establishment of a puppet regime there, under the illusion that its army could destroy the idea of freedom...

Did Israel think that the invasion of Beirut could accomplish its aim of totally destroying the PLO? Even that Great Delusion-which matches the Grand Illusion that an insignificant puppet like Haddad could be installed as ruler over the whole of Lebanon-did not seem to exhaust General Sharon's schema for the Middle East.

The fantastic lengths to which Begin-Sharon were willing to go included entering the Soviet Embassy itself, and risking nothing short of a confrontation between the two superpowers. Even if that proves to have been only a symbolic gesture with which they wished to threaten the U.S., does Israel wish to imitate the Nazis and translate "Deutschland über alles" as "Eretz Israel über alles"?


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 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.

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, i.e. 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), 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 Lebanon.

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....

WHY BEING AGAINST WHAT IS, IS INCOMPLETE without stating what one is for History warns us of other 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 Il.

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 opposite, state-capitalism.

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 do I mean only outright nuclear holocaust. Rather, the immediate crises of today are both in the "Love Canals" of the world and at the point of production.


We cannot satisfy ourselves with detailing only what we are against or with enlarging atrocity stories...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. neofascist, 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." (And even, it should now be added, as Khomeini now refers to the U.S. and Israel as the Great Satan.)

"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 is not that class is the sole characteristic of national liberation movements that revolutionaries 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 revolution."

* * *

As has now become painfully clear, Begin-Sharon, bent on the mad delusion that an army can kill the idea of freedom, were not stopped even though their invasion of west Beirut assured a clear road for the massacre of hundreds upon hundreds of Palestinians by Major Haddad and the breakaway Phalangists. Just as the Polish masses never forgave Russia during World War II for staying outside the gates of Warsaw in 1944, waiting for the Nazis to complete their destruction before they moved in to "save" them, so the masses of the world will never forgive Begin's Israel for the Lebanon massacre.

What is necessary is to see that the opposition to this horror does not stop with being against Begin-Sharon. It must demonstrate what it is for-which can only be the total uprooting of the state-private capitalism that brought this horror into being, and the unfolding of the kind of "revolution in permanence" that Marx projected, and will not stop until we have truly human relations.


*The Phalange was a far-right wing grouping in Lebanon's Christian community, which was allied with Israel during and after the invasion. Saad Haddad was a Christian rightist who led an Israeli-controlled militia in Southern Lebanon, until Israel's withdrawal several years ago.-Editor

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