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Labour and the Jews: from ethnic cleansing to truth and reconciliation

97i/16/huty/6851/17Who is responsible for the Middle East conflict? And how do we help resolve it? We can do no worse than to begin by looking at Labour’s own history.

On this day in 1944, Labour’s annual conference was taking place in London. A week before D-Day and two weeks before V1s started hitting London, the Allies were making progress through Italy and were bombing targets in France in preparation for the invasion. And amidst all that, Labour delegates were focussed on “The International Post-War Settlement“, on how to build a post-war world.

They knew about the Holocaust though they had not yet really understood its magnitude. And in building a new world, they were prepared to contemplate some drastic measures. I recently purchased a copy of the NEC statement which was agreed at the conference. It included, in a section headed “Palestine”, the words I found profoundly shocking when I first read them:

There is surely neither hope nor meaning in a “Jewish National Home”, unless, we are prepared to let Jews, if they wish, enter this tiny land [Palestine] in such numbers as to become a majority. There was a strong case for this before the War. There is an irresistible case now, after the unspeakable atrocities of the cold and calculated German Nazi plan to kill all Jews in Europe. Here, too, in Palestine surely is a case, on human grounds and to promote a stable settlement, for transfer of population. Let the Arabs be encouraged to move out as the Jews move in. Let them be compensated handsomely for their land and let their settlement elsewhere be carefully organised and generously financed. The Arabs have many wide territories of their own; they must not claim to exclude the Jews from this small area of Palestine, , less than the size of Wales. Indeed we should re-examine the possibility of extending the present Palestinian boundaries, by agreement with Egypt, Syria or Transjordan.”

And so, without opposition, Labour’s conference committed itself to not only ethnic cleansing, but to a Greater Israel extending even beyond the boundaries that it currently occupies in 2016. It did so not because it was persuaded by the “Zionist lobby”, not in order to serve British imperial interests (which had been the only objective of the Balfour declaration in 1917), but because of the Holocaust, and the refugee problem that they expected.

This nevertheless shocking commitment to ethnic cleansing should be seen in the context of an earlier section of the report in a section headed “Frontiers“:

All Germans left outside the the post-War German frontiers, unless they are willing to become loyal subjects of the state in which they find themselves, claiming no special privileges, should go back to Germany. Indeed they will be well advised to do so in their own interests, for, in the early post-War years at any rate, there will be a depth of hatred against Germans in the occupied countries, which it is impossible for us or for Americans to realise.

Germans in many of those areas may have to face the choice between migration and massacre.

The organised transfer of population, in the immediate post-War period, may, indeed, be one of the foundations of better international relations in a later phase. Nor would this be a new departure. Between the Wars the transfer of population between Greece and Turkey was an undoubted success.

In any case, there will be a vast problem of repatriation and resettlement in Europe, when tens of millions of refugees, slave labourers and prisoners of war return to freedom and their own homes. Compared with this, the transfer even of substantial national minorites, German and other, to the right side of the post-War frontiers will be a small affair. “

Shocking as it may be to those of us who observe from a safe distance the fall-out from the ethnic cleansing that did in fact take place in 1947 in Palestine and the conflict that followed, it was seen as a relatively “small affair” in the context of the end of World War II. Ethnic cleansing had allegedly been an “undoubted success” in Greece and Turkey in spite of the deaths from epidemics in transit and the resulting poverty and hardship on arrival.

Churchill who had promisedthat we British will never seek to take vengeance by wholesale mass reprisals against the general body of the German people” – with the backing of Labour’s leaders and conference – agreed with Allied leaders to back the ethnic cleansing of 12-14million Germans across central and eastern Europe after the war.

The largest forced migration in history” was “accomplished largely by state-sponsored violence and terror” including being herded into camps including former Nazi concentration camps like Auschwitz or Theresienstadt, victims being subjected to beatings, rapes of female inmates, gruelling forced labour and starvation diets.

Estimates of those who died in transit vary upwards from 500,000 though the German government clings to earlier estimates of 2million. This included those who died of disease or malnutrition which included a high proportion of children and the elderly. What’s more, other minorities were expelled on the back of this forced migration: Hungarians from Romania, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, Romanians by the USSR. And that is on top of the forced repatriation of Soviet POWs.

Labour was right to expect massacres from populations that had suffered German brutality under occupation. And the League of Nations and post-World War I treaties had utterly failed to protect ethnic minorities subjected to the racism of right-wing nationalist governments right across central Europe in the new ethno-centered nation states Western leaders had created in the dismemberment of the old empires. On the altar of “self-determination”, Allied leaders had handed multicultural cities and towns across Europe to be ruled by strident ethnic nationalists.

By 1944, they didn’t want to make the same mistake again. Not in Europe, and not with the Jews. And so it was they that created Israel. Of the Allied leaders, it is true that both Bevin and Attlee were persuaded by the complexities of managing inter-communal conflict in the Mandate of British Palestine (rather than by Ernie Bevin’s antisemitic prejudices though he had them) to abstain on Israel’s creation. In addition to the pressure of US diplomats on countries like Haiti, Philipines and Liberia, it was the three votes controlled by Stalin (cast on behalf of the USSR, Ukraine and Belarus) which ensured that the two-thirds majority for resolution 181 was achieved.

And so what of the role of Zionism? For all the diplomacy and organisation of the World Zionist Organisation for half a century, it was not that which led to the creation of Israel. It was the Holocaust, the plight of the survivors seeking safe refuge, and the guilt of the American, British and other Allied leaders who did not wish to take them in (though many would have been satisfied with that).

So they did for the Jews what they were not prepared to do for the Kurds, nor for the Roma. And the Jews, a majority of whom in almost all countries had not supported Zionism prior to the War, rejoiced at the prospect of a safe place to live. And who with the knowledge of their circumstances cannot understand that?

And the Palestinians understandably saw and still see the loss of their land as a catastrophe. The Nakba. And who that reflects on their circumstances and what they have experienced since cannot understand that?

If there is to be peace, justice, democracy and equality in Israel/Palestine, both of those realities need to be acknowledged. Only truth can bring reconciliation.

49 Comments

  1. alana moralen says:

    Why is this surprising? In 1916 the British and French agreed to divide the Middle East with Sykes Picot.
    Labour was being disengenous, they knew as did the Conservatives that the reason for moving the Jews to Palestine was a strategic move to give a European foothold in the area to give access to the oil. Solving the European Jewish question was a bonus excuse. If you look back a little further, you will find that the British negotiated with the Nazis to buy and otherwise move Jews out of Europe to Palestine. The end of the war gave added momentum to an intensely racist policy.
    The anti semitism often quoted as existing in the Labour Party is in fact an objection to the 1944 and other pro Israel policies; Israel is not and should not be sinonymous with Judaism.
    The British and French notion of a Jewish state goes back to the early 1900s, political events in Europe gave it momentum and has allowed various groups to rewrite history as giving the extremist Jews a right to occupy Palestinian and Arab territory.
    Early post 1945 historians (now out of print) warned of the dangers of extremists hijacking the Jewish religion to create an religious state and create a land as described in the Torah.
    Livingstone was reprimanded for making a stupid remark but people who have not researched the subject are ignoring the fact that the Nazis found extremist Jews who thought the European religion was corrupted and needed cleansing (similar to ISIS etc). These extremists survived the war and helped shape the future of Israel and the links with Europe and the USA.
    The West teaches that Israel is justified because of the Holocaust and this suits Israel, the historical narrative is nowhere near this version of events.

  2. Jim Denham says:

    A very fair and balanced piece, setting matters in their correct historical context and debunking myths of “Zionist influence” leading to the creation of Israel. All serious socialists who claim to care about the rights of both Jews and Palestinians in the Middle East, would do well to read and then think long and hard about Jon’s article.

    1. Sue says:

      But having read it, and agreed with it, where now? The power balance in Palestine is with the Israelis. Palestine is an occupied country. As socialists how do we set about trying to resolve this? Because in the mean time many Palestinians are really suffering and there has been a huge injustice here.

  3. Lyn Eynon says:

    The creation of Israel has to be understood in the context of the Holocaust and widespread post-war ethnic cleansing. But from the 1944 resolution you quote “Let the Arabs be encouraged to move out as the Jews move in. Let them be compensated handsomely for their land and let their settlement elsewhere be carefully organised and generously financed.” This is a long way from the realities of Nakba, occupation and blockade.

    1. Sue says:

      Exactly.

  4. David Pavett says:

    An informative piece which lays bare the crudity and superficiality of Labour thinking on Palestine in 1944. What would be interesting would be to put this in the broader context of Labour foreign policies in general and Labour stances on the British empire and its colonies. I think that if we did that we would find that the dominant right-wing of the Party had a range of views just as shocking as the 1944 resolution advocating the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

    From Ramsey McDonald’s 1907 book on Empire which celebrated the way in the Empire had spread the ideas of “British justice” and “British honour” across the world to Fabian support for empire the Labour Party and the wider Labour movement Empire was seen as something beyond politics. An amazing illustration of this was provided by a delegate of the British Socialist Party to the 2nd Congress of the Communist International in 1920. In the commision on the national and colonial question the delegate from the British Socialist Party said “The average English worker would consider it treason to render assistance to the dependent countries against the English authorities.”

    It would be instructive to follow this pro-imperialst thinking in the labour movement and the Labour Party through to WWII and beyond. That would give a context to the thinking about Palestine. It would also help us all, and new Labour Party members in particular, to see the extent that “getting back to true Labour principles” is a desire to return to a Labour Party that never existed. Such an exercise of exploring the roots of Labour policies should also be extended to other areas such as education, and economic policy where it would reveal attitudes which are often shockingly reactionary. This would, among other things, lead to an unpacking of “The spirit of ’45” the result of which might convince many of the bareness of activism which is not accompanied by theoretical and policy developments.

    1. Lyn Eynon says:

      I agree that the labour movement’s history is far more ambiguous than a naïve reading suggests. The stance, until quite recently, of many unions to women workers is another example. Labour’s relationship to British imperialism was always questionable, including during the Attlee government, which continued military operations against the Greek left until the money ran out, abandoned rather than assisted India, built Britain’s atom bomb, etc. This has carried through to the continuing difficulties in defining a progressive foreign policy.

    2. John Penney says:

      Excellent article from Jon, and a good post, David.

      History is a bloody harsh mistress, and many, many past crimes and injustices cannot be entirely , or even in some cases, partially “put right”, ie, rewinding the metaphorical “video of history” and taking a different turning at key historic crossroads.

      So , western modern Poland undoubtedly sits physical on key areas of ancestral German territory, and the millions of post 1945 ethnically cleansed Germans from this area, and what was Czechoslovakia, can realistically never return. The native American aboriginal peoples can never recover the vast bulk of the lands seized from them by European white settlers by genocide and trickery and general brutality. The millions of Greeks ethnically cleansed from modern Turkey after their failed post 1918 invasion and defeat, can never return to ,or recover, these lands. The Australian Aboriginal peoples can never recover the bulk of the lands stolen from them by brutality and genocide by the British settlers.

      And on it goes — pretty much endlessly. The Holocaust that was definitely the sole motivator that drove most (previously completely non Zionist), European Jewry to Palestineafter 1945 cannot be uninvented (just forgotten or ignored apparently, by the Far Left “anti-Zionist” enthusiasts).

      So the “timestream of history” only runs one way – whatever cynical Arab regimes which have kept the Palestionian diaspora in impoverished refugee camps ever since 1948 , with the now obviously unachievable promise of “an unlimited right of return”, as the excuse, may claim. This tragic history also simply cannot be scrolled back to a pre-Israeli state condition, for Palestine or the Palestinians. A unique Israeli nation, largely composed of Hebrew speaking Jews (plus a very pro-Israeli Druze minority , and other minority Christian and Muslim groups) now exists in the Middle East. It cannot be uninvented , or “driven into the sea”. It has to be negotiated with for a just settlement with the Palestinians – under huge international pressure – just as with Apartheid South Africa.

      This position of course, for the tiny ultraleft , defines, anyone who holds it, to be a “Zionist”. so nearly all of the labour party, and the UK population are by this daft definition “Zionists” too. Not a very useful method of analysis. time for the ultraleft “anti-Zionists” to modify their counter-productive analytical framework – which simpy leaves them allied all to often with genuine anti-semites, and discredits the Left in which they spout their unhelpful nonsense.

      The tiny, but highly vociferous Far Left “Israel must be destroyed and replaced by a single , democratic Palestinian state of all ethnic groups” lobby – that so often segues so toxically in its loose rhetoric, with the openly genuine and apologetic anti-Jewish hatreds of the fundamentalist Islamic clerico-fascists of Daesh, etc, needs to finally !wake up and smell the coffee” reality, and join with nearly ALL of the Labour Party and, most of the UK population, and the PLO, UN, etc, in calling for a negotiated settlement of the Palestinian v Israeli tragedy via a viable, defensible Two states solution – enforced by the international community – particularly the USA. Everything else, particularly the empty, impotent, rhetoric from the Far Left , is pure impossibilist posturing.

      1. Lyn Eynon says:

        The “we won, you lost, tough” tone of this comment is misjudged and the assumption that “the ‘timestream of history’ only runs one way” dangerous. That’s what the European colonial powers once believed, before the post-war decolonisation wave proved that the empires were not invincible after all. The oppression of the Palestinians does not guarantee Israel’s future security.

        The two-state proposal cuts both ways. It can only justify the existence of a Jewish state by simultaneously justifying the existence of a Palestinian state, in other words it must acknowledge that Israel as it actually exists is a one-state reality that must be dismantled. A negotiated solution, whether two national states or one secular state or something in between, can only be achieved by acknowledging the claims of both Jews and Palestinians and seeking to reconcile those, with outside assistance and – as the 1944 resolution recognised – generous compensation for those whose initial claims cannot be met.

        I see no evidence that the current Israeli government has any interest in a two-state or any other negotiated solution. Indeed, the settlement programme seems designed to make it as hard as possible to create a viable Palestinian state. Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions can create pressure for meaningful negotiations.

        1. Jim Denham says:

          It’s true that the present Israeli government has little or no serious interest in a two state solution – but that doesn’t change the fact that two states *is* the only just and achievable solution. Israel will not be destroyed, nor will it do something that no other nation in history has ever done (or been asked to do): voluntarily dissolve itself. So talk of Israel being “dismantled” is nonsense (or code for all-out war in the Middle East, with the aim of conquering Israel).

          Two states, based upon pre-1967 borders is the *only* possible programme for a just solution. The central problem with campaigns like BDS is that, (as none other than Norman Finkelstein has recognised) by clear implication they advocate the total destruction (sometimes euphemistically called “dismantling”) of Israel – ie all-out war in the Middle East.

          The only possible, and only just, solution is some variation of two states.

          1. There already is one state between the river and the and that isn’t going to change, no matter how much everyone waffles about the Two State Delusion. The task is to democratise, it.

          2. Lyn Eynon says:

            Jim, at no point did I advocate or imply “all-out war in the Middle East, with the intention of conquering Israel” and you have no right to suggest that I did. I explicitly argued for a negotiated solution. I did state “Israel as it actually exists is a one-state reality that must be dismantled” and I stand by that in the same way that I would have stated prior to 1994 that “South Africa as it actually exists is an apartheid state that must be dismantled”, which it was.

            You acknowledge that “the present Israeli government has little or no serious interest in a two state solution” but you insist on that as the only possible option with no indication of how you intend to bring that government back to the negotiating table. “Two state solution” is now being used far too often to hide a defence of the one state reality. I trust that’s not your position. I’m open-minded on a solution, provided it recognises the civil, political, national and religious rights of all concerned and has sufficient support to give some prospect of durability.

      2. psssttt John people don’t live in history they live in situations

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          Jim, Lyn’s right. She didn’t advocate ‘all-out war’ against Israel.

          To advocate the ‘dismantling of the current reality’ – a reality in which Israel currently controls the West Bank as well as the area of its own pre-1967 borders – could just as well be taken to mean an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

          And an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank is a position which you’ve repeatedly said you yourself advocate.

          Perhaps an apology to Lyn might be in order here?

  5. Bazza says:

    The late, great Palestinian writer Edward Siad eventually came to the conclusion that a one state solution was probably the answer.
    Led by left wing democratic socialists on both ‘sides’ perhaps this potentially peaceful way forward could be explored?
    Can’t diverse people in this region ever live together?
    I pose the question and am not certain but hopefully people in the area will work out a peace.

    1. Jim Denham says:

      Veteran Israeli socialist and peace campaigner Uri Avnery debates Israel-hater IIan Pappe on “two states or one state” in 2007. Well worth reading:

      http://www.countercurrents.org/pappe110607.htm

      1. Avnery’s big mistake is to ask whether one state is possible, and then to declare that it isn’t.

        There is an entirely empirical response to that. Of course it is possible because it is what we have..

        You may as well ask if summer rain is possible.

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          When you say the reality is that there’s one state, I assume you mean that the whole of pre-1967 Israel plus the West Bank is under the rule of Israel?

          That’s strictly true, yes, so do you not see any possibility that the West Bank could be a separate state?

          And when you say the task is to democratise this area that’s under the rule of Israel, what specific measures do you mean by that?

          What I’m getting at is how would this be different from what advocates of a ‘Greater Israel’ want?

          Because they would say that Israel is already democratic and that the West Bank should be formally annexed to Israel.

          1. Well for so long as its deemed to be “occupied” territory there is no requirement to democratise it. That is why it is important to stop talking about ” occupation”, and start talking about democratising the de facto one state.

            This would involve universal suffrage, and freedom of movement and expression ( though not now in the Labour Party ). All the things we commonly associate with modern democracies.

            All the talk of ” occupation”, and ” settlements” and ” peace” and the two state delusion is designed to distract people and prevent their minds from wandering in the direction of the true state of affairs. Hilary Aked is brilliantly incisive on this point in her work on BICOM.

            Whether you ” support the two state delusion” is held out as the litmus test of whether you are a ” moderate” ( virtue being assumed to always be found in the centre of a continuum ) or whether you are a rabid anti-Semite.

            Hilariously the Bored of Deputies ( deliberate mistake ) is always throwing out this red herring. Yet they themselves voted down a commitment to the two state delusion in 2011 on the grounds that they couldn’t commit to ” the well being of all the people in the region”. This has not been reversed. On the contrary Vivian Wineman and Jonathan ” export peace don’t import conflict” Arkush explicitly ruled out any possibility that it might be revisited.

          2. It is in this sense that I never think of myself as an anti Zionist. Rather I am of the opinion that Zionism, to the extent that that implies a state with a Jewish majority, had its chance and blew it. Annex away I say

          3. Karl Stewart says:

            Reply to Stephen Bellamy:

            So your point is that the current situation which is neither full annexation nor a separate state is actually worse for the Palestinian people than full-blown annexation into Israel would be?

            Do you think this position would be acceptable to the Palestinian people?

            And, what would your response be to Israelis (not my view, but the view of Israelis) who would claim that their state is already democratic, and already claims to offer your key democratic demands of universal suffrage and freedom of movement and expression?

          4. Karl, nothing would please me more than Israel “formally” annexing the West Bank because they would then have to democratise it. Which is why they won’t do it.

            To Israelis that claimed the state was already democratic I would ask how many non Jewish residents of Nablus, Hebron, Jericho etc got to vote in the last elections.

            As for whether this would be acceptable to the Palestinians, I don’t think its a very good question. They don’t have any choice. The State of Israel controls their land and their lives. That isn’t going to change and increasingly they are realising it. Great numbers of them hate the PA more than they hate Israelis.

            Anyone that doubts this should spend some time in the Jordan Valley. That wonderful group, Jordan Valley Solidarity Campaign could organise it I am sure.

          5. Karl Stewart says:

            (Reply to Stephen Bellamy 6.33pm)

            I don’t agree. What prevents Israel being a democratic nation is its oppression of the Palestinians and the denial of their rights.

            I just don’t see ‘one state’ being anything other than a formalisation of Israel’s occupation.

            The Palestinians, in my opinion, need a nation state of their own. They’re not Jordanians as many Israelis claim, and they’re not Syrians, Lebanese or Egyptian.

            They’re Palestinians and they should have their own nation. My view is this nation should be based on the original UN partition plan, two states side by side, Israel and Palestine – but adjusted to ensure a continuous territory.

            And then the world community should enforce this settlement, militarily if necessary.

        2. Karl you are telling me what you would like to be. I am merely pointing out what is and what will continue to be.

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            I appreciate that ‘one state’ is the current reality, but should we shrug our shoulders and say: “Oh well, that’s the way it is and it can’t change.” or should we try to persuade people in order to try to effect positive change.

            That isn’t meant to sound dismissive of your view, but that is essentially your position.

            Your argument for accepting the current one-state reality and then arguing for a democratisation of Israel would be met with the response from Israelis that they think their state is already democratic.

            Your key democratic demands you stated as universal suffrage and freedom of movement and expression would be claimed by Israelis as already achieved.

            Where would you go from there? You’d still, in my opinion, come back to the oppression of the Palestinians and the denial of their nationhood and historical and cultural identity.

            I fully accept that a fair settlement based on the original UN partition plan, with a state of Israel alongside a state of Palestine will be extremely difficult to achieve, it’s a long was away, and yes it might never be achieved.

            But it’s still the right objective to aim for – isn’t it?

            One could argue the same about socialism – it’s a long way away, it’s extremely difficult to achieve, and we might never get there. But it’s still in our opinion the right objective to aim for and we should try as hard as we can.

      2. The stupidity of Denham’s contributions can be understood in his Daily Mail style characterisation of Professor Ilan Papper as an Israel hater. He is no such thing. He is, unlike Avnery, a socialist Israeli who was forced into leaving Israel because of his support for the Palestinians.

        He is one of the post-Zionist historians who helped uncover the truth of the Nakba that Jon Lansman deals with so glibly, thus overturning the Zionist fable of a voluntary migration of Palestinians from their lands in 1947-8.

        When I grew up in a Zionist household I was taught that the Arabs left Palestine under the orders of the Arab countries so that they could then invade. This was of course a carefully constructed myth.

        Denham’s tabloid style is maybe fitting for the tabloid article of Jon Lansman.

  6. Chris says:

    Nothing can excuse the way foreign powers imposed partition on the Palestinians against their will. At least Britain abstained on the UN vote. Shameful that the victors of World War 2 weren’t prepared to take Jewish refugees into their own countries.

  7. Richard Tiffin says:

    I’m not really sure of the point of the article above. Is to show the blood on the hands of some in the Labour Party; to show that some in the Party were promoters of colonisation and ‘stable states’; is it to state the desensitisation of people after the war made the decision to create Israel acceptable or is it to reduce the role and consequent responsibility of Zionists in the creation of the state of Israel? It seems to me the article attempts to do all four things.

    Well I for one am not surprised that some in the NEC have blood on their hands, they have an illustrious history of that. We need only go back to Blairs adventure in Iraq to find plenty of blood. The left have frequently battled with the right as the right side with the ruling classes in imperialism, usually we lost. You make it clear that conference accepted the NEC statement but not what the left said about it or if there was other dissent.

    The Labour Party also has a filthy history in terms of colonisation, go look at just how little the first two Labour governments did to assist the oppressed peoples of the worlds, British colonies were simply facts to be managed, despite our membership of the International. Post WW II Labour governments have slightly cleaner hands, but they are still drenched in blood, go and read about Aden as a starting point.

    In terms of the reason the state of Israel was created we have something of a chicken and egg situation here.

    Clearly, some in the NEC of the Labour Party supported the creation of a Jewish state, though not Atlee and Bevan, but they didn’t do so in a vacuum. The state was created on the urging of the Zionists, it was why the NEC chose Palestine and not some other part of the world. It was the half a century of the activism of the Zionists that led to the creation of Israel, without that activity then there would have been no decision for the NEC to make.

    Obviously the decision had to be made by the Britsh government, they were the colonial power under the Palestinian mandate. Clearly, the decision was rationalised in the document you are in possession of on the basis of the holocaust. Some form of misguided action out of understandable sympathy for what the German governmment had done to the Jews of Europe. Though quite why the Palestinian people had to pay for the actions of the German government is not made clear in the exerts of the document you reproduce here. How the murder of so many Jews meant that it was correct for the NEC of the Labour Party to take part in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine is still unclear and in my view unjustifiable.

    Mostly though what I am struggling to understand is why this article appears here now that the furore has abated? My guess is that the effort by some on the left to alter the position of the left vis a vis Palestine and BDS continues apace. Is this a softening up campaign?

    1. Jim Denham says:

      Yes, as far as I’m concerned it most certainly is an attempt to get the left to think seriously about the issues, commit to two states, stop demonising Israel and to stop using the word “Zionism”/”Zionist” pejoratively. Oh, yes: and to recognise the existence of the “Socialism of fools.”

      1. Lyn Eynon says:

        Why should the left commit to two states when Israel itself will not?

        1. John P Reid says:

          Because the other side want all the Jews of Israel wiped off the planet

          1. Lyn Eynon says:

            Who, exactly, are “the other side” here?

        2. The Board of Deputies, that extension of the Israeli Embassy, won’t even commit to the 2 State Delusion, it just demands that everyone else does. It positively commits against it.

      2. Richard Tiffin says:

        Not once did I use the term Zionist in a pejorative sense as you seem to imply. Also, I don’t need to demonise the Aparthied state of Israel, they are doing a fine job of that themselves, despite the efforts of apologists pretending all is well in the state of Denmark. This two part article was upheld in various forums, despite the best efforts of the government of Israel. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/feb/06/southafrica.israel

  8. Joe in Australia says:

    It’s extraordinary that nobody here has pointed out that the UK did not create Israel; that it rather did everything in its power to create it; that (the non-binding, and never implemented) UNGA Resolution 181 did not create Israel either, but rather proposed the creation of two states, one of which was to be Jewish; that Israel in fact was created through the resolution of its citizens and their force of arms.

    No Arab state was destroyed in the creation of Israel; there was not even a provisional Arab government ready to take power. The Arab powers – trained and supplied by Britain – swiftly snapped up any bits of Palestine they could grasp and expelled their Jewish residents.

    How much better everybody would be today if Britain had executed its Mandate faithfully and had in fact created a Jewish National Home in then-Palestine. That’s the real tragedy here: that Arab colonialist, imperialist, reactionary forces were allowed to prevent the flourishing of a free, Socialist and democratic society in the whole of the Mandate, rather than the corner of it that is Israel today.

    1. Lyn Eynon says:

      So you wish Israel had gone further in its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians?

    2. pseud in Oz says:

      During the 1948 hostilities in Palestine when, Joe in Australia, did Israel forces ever fight Arab armies inside the borders that Israel agreed to to be acknowledged as a state by the United Nations?

  9. Lyn Eynon says:

    (Reply to Stephen and Karl)

    As someone on the British left, not directly involved in the conflict, I’m hesitant about insisting on any particular solution. Any resolution must provide rights and justice with sufficient support for a lasting peace, but we should be open and pragmatic about what exactly this might be.

    If a two state solution could be implemented that met such criteria, then fine, but I’m increasingly doubtful. It looks further away now than when the Oslo accords were signed over 20 years ago. Its ‘window of opportunity’ closes a little more every time the Israeli state expels a Palestinian family from its home or farm to make way for settlers, and it could well vanish in the near future given the further rightward shift in the Israeli government.

    Annexation with citizenship but without resolving disputes such as refugees, land rights or security is unlikely to be stable. Civil war would be more likely than peaceful democracy unless the structure and provisions of the reformed state had been negotiated and widely accepted.

    We should be rigorous in denouncing oppression and abuses, actively campaign for rights and push for meaningful negotiations without constraining preconditions. But there are no easy answers and we should recognise that.

  10. Bazza says:

    Absolutely Lyn.
    If you see my post I am uncertain from thousands of miles away whillst some seem so certain from thousands of miles away.
    But the words of an elderly Palestinian man in a BBC TV report a while back resonate in my ears: “We need to learn how to live together.”
    Yours in peace.

  11. This article wasn’t written as some abstract theoretical musings about the situation in Israel and the dilemmas. It is another attempt by Jon Lansman to placate those who are leading the ‘anti-Semitism’ witch hunt in the Labour Party.

    Momentum, of which he is Chair, did nothing to oppose this witch hunt until his own vice chair, Vicki Walker, was suspended. We are seeing daily suspensions of members, taken by Labour’s Blairite civil service, on the basis of anonymous allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’. Instead of leading a campaign against this nonsense, whose target is Corbyn, Jon Lansman is conceding that there is an anti-semitism problem in the LP and now is trying to re write history.

    Yes Labour’s conference in 1944 passed a policy which outrageously supported transfer. That was never considered a serious proposal by the Attlee government.

    Israel was not created as a result of the holocaust, but the Zionist movement, which failed indeed refused to help save Jewish refugees in Europe utilised the holocaust and used the displaced persons after the war in order to open up the gates of Palestine to unlimited Jewish immigration.

    In the process they fought like a tiger to prevent the USA opening its doors as they did in the 1970’s in respect of Soviet Jewish immigration to the USA.

    There is no equivalence between the population exchanges between Greece and Turkey in the early 1920’s which was arguably a conflict of two nations.

    The expulsion of the Palestinians was a case of a settler colonial state in the making expelling 3/4 million Arabs in order to ensure that there was a large Jewish majority in the Israel state. In other words the same racial purification that the Nazis had as their project. The fact that they only massacred a few thousand and drove the rest out rather than exterminating them is irrelevant.

    There was no population exchange. The Palestinians were expelled in order to make way for Jews who, for the most part, did not want to come to Palestine in the first place.

    This article is a disgrace and shows to me the accommodation of Jon Lansman to the imperialist logic of Labour’s policy makers in the 20th century. Labour was as much a party of the Empire as the Conservatives and during the Attlee government it exploited the Empire arguably more intensively than the Tories had done to pay for their reforms.

    Lansman’s suggestion that ‘both Bevin and Attlee were persuaded by the complexities of managing inter-communal conflict in the Mandate of British Palestine (rather than by Ernie Bevin’s antisemitic prejudices…’ is absurd.

    What a lovely phrase ‘the complexities of managing inter-communal conflict’. T hus Lansman demonstrates that whatever he is when it comes to the question of Empire, he is no socialist rather a social imperialist. Britain didn’t manage inter communal conflict. As any dunce might realise it created those conflicts, from the communal electorates of India through to the creation of Apartheid in South Africa and the divide and rule policy in Palestine.

    Or as Ronald Storres, the military governor of Jerusalem post 1920 put it, British policy was about creating a little loyal Jewish Ulster in a sea of hostile pan Arabism. Ulster and Ireland provided the model and Britain considered the Zionists as no different to the Ulster Protestants.

    But of course the Fabian tradition that Lansman adheres to saw the Empire as one of trusteeship, managing the different countries until the Black savages could be acquainted with the norms of British civilisation and taught how to hold a knife and fork.

    It is just racist rubbish. Israel was created as a state of Jewish racial supremacy, not out of a tragic conflict. Labour Zionism sought to exclude from the very start the Arab population from the economy and then the land altogether. This wasn’t in 1947 but in 1920, long before the Holocaust.

    Israel today is a consequence of its creation. There can never be a 2 state solution. It is impossible. Zionism does not allow for shared sovereignty over an inch of territory. Its dilemma is that it intends to retain the West Bank whilst not allowing the Arabs any measure of civil or political rights. Israel is already an apartheid state in reality, leaving aside the deteriorating position of Israel’s own Palestinian citizens, who are barely tolerated.

    This is just a post-hoc justification of all that Israel is doing today. In case Lansman and his sidekick Denham hadn’t noticed, Israel has just appointed a fascist Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman who had expressed his desire to behead Israel’s own Arab citizens as well as drown Palestinian prisoners in the Dead Sea. To Netanyahu the Palestinians and Arabs generally are beasts. The level of racism in Israel is intense with a plurality wanting to forcibly expel Palestinians from Israel, never mind the West Bank.

    The problem is how Israel can be de Zionised and made into a state of its own citizens, not how to fiddle around with borders or engage in semantic justifications of 1947-8.

    Lansman’s analogies are absurd. To compare the Volks Deutsche in WW2 to the Palestinians is outrageous.

    Everywhere in Europe Germans acted as a fifth column. Everywhere they were most ardent Nazis. In Hungary it was the Swabian Germans who made up the legionnaires who carried out the round ups and guarding of the brick yards prior to deportation.

    In the Warthegau, annexed Poland, German settlers were used to displace Poles and Jews. Thus most of the Poles in Oswieciem the town next to Auschwitz were deported and German settlers put in their place. Escapees from the camps had to be careful not to fall into the hands of these people as a result and the Polish Resistance was careful to ensure that people did not stop to ask for help in the vicinity of Auschwitz for this reason.

    We all know what happened with the Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia. Although one can’t condone the brutality that accompanied the displacement of Germans in these countries there is simply no comparison with the position of the Palestinians and it is a disgusting comparison to make in the first place.

    Thousands of Palestinians served in the allied armies and thousands more Arabs served in the same armies. There is no comparison with Nazified German settlers, who are more comparable with the Zionist settlers than the Palestinians.

  12. Karl Stewart says:

    I agree with some of your points – and I don’t have anything like your knowledge of this subject – but with respect, I do disagree with your point that “Israel was not created as a result of the holocaust.”

    My understanding is that the ‘zionist’ viewpoint was a very small minority view within the jewish community before WWII and that it was the holocaust that completely changed this.

  13. Israel was created by the Zionist movement, in alliance with first British then American imperialism. The holocaust gave it a massive boost of course and more to the point, the Zionist movement utilised and exploited the holocaust in order to achieve statehood. But, just like the White Dominions, the Israeli state would have been granted independence if there had been no holocaust and no world war. Probably about the time that the first African countries gained their independence, around 1957 in the case of Ghana.

    The attitude of the Zionist movement to the holocaust was quite clear. In the words of Ben Gurion’s biographer, Shabtai Teveth, BG

    ‘did not put the rescue effort above Zionist politics., and he did not regard it as a principal task demanding his personal leadership; he never saw fit to explain why, then or later.’ (p.848 The Burning Ground) and he goes on to say that for BG ‘it was imperative to “turn a disaster… into a productive force and asserted that “distress” could also serve as “political leverage.” ‘He told the JAE [Jewish Agency Executive] “The harsher the affliction, the greater the strength of Zionism.” and concluded that ‘If there was a line in BG’s mind between the beneficial disaster and an all-destroying catastrophe, it must have been a very fine one.” pp. 850-1]

    The Zionist movement was a political movement, not a movement to save or rescue Jews. Rescue was not for Zionism but other organisations according to Ben Gurion. Rescue had to be channelled via Palestine or not at all and Zionist organisations actively undermined any and all rescue attempts that would divert Jews to other countries. Hence why they opposed the Kindertransport to England that saved 10,000 Jewish children.

    This cannot be underestimated. Jewish people who sought to find safe havens for Jewish refugees had to confront non-Jewish anti-Semites, the followers of Father Coughlin in the USA, the anti-Semites of different stripes, but what was worse that Zionism acted as a fifth column which the non-Jews used and exploited. Just as Zionism torpedoed the anti-Nazi boycott because Hitler could and did point to the fact that whilst non-Jews were boycotting Germany, the Jews were profiting from it.

    Israel saved no Jews. It couldn’t even save Argentinian Jews when confronted with the world’s only neo-Nazi regime post war. In the words of Meretz MK Yossi Sarid, Israel preferred its military relationship with the Junta, supplying over a billion dollars of weapons to the saving of left-wing anti-fascist Jews. The wrong sort of Jews.

    Lansman’s attempt to suggest that the Nakba was historically understandable is contemptible.

  14. Israel was created by the Zionist movement, in alliance with first British then American imperialism. The holocaust gave it a massive boost of course and more to the point, the Zionist movement utilised and exploited the holocaust in order to achieve statehood. But, just like the White Dominions, the Israeli state would have been granted independence if there had been no holocaust and no world war. Probably about the time that the first African countries gained their independence, around 1957 in the case of Ghana.

    The attitude of the Zionist movement to the holocaust was quite clear. In the words of Ben Gurion’s biographer, Shabtai Teveth, BG

    ‘did not put the rescue effort above Zionist politics., and he did not regard it as a principal task demanding his personal leadership; he never saw fit to explain why, then or later.’ (p.848 The Burning Ground) and he goes on to say that for BG ‘it was imperative to “turn a disaster… into a productive force and asserted that “distress” could also serve as “political leverage.” ‘He told the JAE [Jewish Agency Executive] “The harsher the affliction, the greater the strength of Zionism.” and concluded that ‘If there was a line in BG’s mind between the beneficial disaster and an all-destroying catastrophe, it must have been a very fine one.” pp. 850-1]

    The Zionist movement was a political movement, not a movement to save or rescue Jews. Rescue was not for Zionism but other organisations according to Ben Gurion. Rescue had to be channelled via Palestine or not at all and Zionist organisations actively undermined any and all rescue attempts that would divert Jews to other countries. Hence why they opposed the Kindertransport to England that saved 10,000 Jewish children.

    This cannot be underestimated. Jewish people who sought to find safe havens for Jewish refugees had to confront non-Jewish anti-Semites, the followers of Father Coughlin in the USA, the anti-Semites of different stripes, but what was worse that Zionism acted as a fifth column which the non-Jews used and exploited. Just as Zionism torpedoed the anti-Nazi boycott because Hitler could and did point to the fact that whilst non-Jews were boycotting Germany, the Jews were profiting from it.

    Israel saved no Jews. It couldn’t even save Argentinian Jews when confronted with the world’s only neo-Nazi regime post war. In the words of Meretz MK Yossi Sarid, Israel preferred its military relationship with the Junta, supplying over a billion dollars of weapons to the saving of left-wing anti-fascist Jews. The wrong sort of Jews.

    Lansman’s attempt to suggest that the Nakba was historically understandable is contemptible. There is no comparison whatsoever between the events in Europe and that in Palestine. If populations in Europe needed to be transferred or moved to accommodate Jews it should have been in Germany or central Europe (not that I am advocating such a solution for a moment). The expulsion of the Palestinians, who bore no responsibility for the holocaust, despite the attempts of Netanyahu last year to suggest that they, not Hitler, bore the primary responsibility for the final solution, is indefensible on any level.

    Lansman’s talk of ‘truth and reconciliation’ is negated by what he wrote, which was anything but truthful and involves the Palestinians accepting their lot. Settler colonialism has never engaged in reconciliation when it is strong enough to resist. The bearers of privilege have never given up their privileges voluntarily. That was the lesson Martin Luther King imparted over 50 years ago in a Letter from an Alabama Gaol.

    I suggest that Lansman reads it before pontificating about things he knows nothing about.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      But if I can ask you, if such a thing is possible, to imagine that the holocaust had not happened, that the nazis had not come to power, do you really think that the state of Israel would still have been created?

      1. Yes of course Israel would have been created, holocaust or no holocaust. Under the Britain’s protection, the Zionist movement had built up their state in the making in Palestine over a period of 30 years. By the beginning of the war 1939 the Jewish population of Palestine war about 445,000. It had already reached a critical mass. In 1933 before the ascent of Hitler it was about 233,000. There is no doubt whatsoever that the Israeli settler state, just like the South African state, where the population imbalance against the Whites was far more adverse, would have attained independence post-war. Possibly in the 1950s rather than 1948, but it is inconceivable that the Zionists would not have sought independence.

        In 1942 the Zionists held their Biltmore conference where they first demanded a Jewish state (openly that is, internally that had always been the goal). At a time when the Zionists were denying that there was a holocaust or extermination, something they played down throughout the war, they concentrate their efforts on achieving statehood. The holocaust was a powerful ideological support for statehood but as Ben Gurion made clear, the need for a state was not dependent on the plight of the Jews. When given the choice between saving Jews and building the state the Zionists chose the latter. That is a fact. Anyone who disputes this should read the official biography of Ben Gurion ‘The Burning Ground 1886-1948) the Chapter on the Holocaust, Disaster Means Strength.

  15. Brian Robinson says:

    I hesitate to take issue with Tony who knows vastly more about this subject than I do (and more than many Zionists do) but why can’t we credit Ben Gurion with “greater good” intentions in respect of Jews and the lachrymose Jewish history? We can look back on the 1940s through the lens of all that we know now, but in the 1940s themselves (not all that long in historical terms after Dreyfuss, after the Cossacks and all that) things looked very different. Saving “only half the children” (the famous, or notorious if preferred, comment attributed to BG) sounds cruel, heartless, wicked — but in terms of some longer view, must have made perfect sense. For the record and since no-one knows me here, I used to consider myself a Zionist, but I’m now completely antizionist. I think Israel is bad for the Jews and I think it’s shocking that the present chief rabbi (echoed by his predecessor) identifies antizionism with antisemitism, and seems to be saying with all the authority of his office that support for Israel is now part of Judaism. I now believe that Zionism is inherently violent in its nature, and its racism evident for all to see (if they haven’t developed elective visual agnosia). But in the 1940s it looked all so different (although not to all Jews as that letter in the Times showed, and that Jewish cabinet minister said so presciently).

  16. The most worrying thing here is Jon’s complicity in the witch hunts.

  17. James Carrey says:

    “The Australian Aboriginal peoples can never recover the bulk of the lands stolen from them by brutality and genocide by the British settlers.”

    An utterly dishonest comparison. Jon knows full well that Australia formally (and I emphasise the word formally) abandoned the White Australia Policy and its apartheid policy towards the Aboriginal population somewhere in the late 1960s and early 1970s. To wit, there are no laws in Australia which state that Australia a nation of “white Christians” or “British settlers” or any such, or which (legally) restrict the rights of aboriginal people to purchase property, marry any other Australian citizen, etc. In other words, notwithstanding the fact that it is a colonial settler state, Aboriginal Australians (formally) enjoy most of the same legal rights as non-indigenous Australian citizens.

    However culturally and politically backward Australia remains today, we no longer hear Australian politicians publicly refer to Aboriginal Australians as “roaches who ought to be kept drugged in a bottle” or “two legged vermin” or other such language which the leading representatives of the Israeli State and Zionist movement regularly apply to their own indigenous population.

    Jon also knows that among the colonial settler states of USA, Australia, Canada, Rhodesia, the Kenya Colony, South Africa and Israel, the Zionist state is the only one which formally continues with a policy of colonial expansion or maintains a legal regime that formally treats the indigenous population as second class citizens or denies its indigenous population citizenship rights altogether.

    The Jon Landsman has no shame in being a mealy-mouthed apologist for the only remaining active and ongoing settler colonial and apartheid project in the world today.

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