Editorial from the July 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard
For Socialists the war in the Middle East has no rights or wrongs except the over-riding fact that capitalist wars are not waged for the benefit of the working class or impoverished peasants. In the opening phases the Israeli armies were everywhere victorious but the outcome no matter which armies had won on the battlefield would solve no working-class problem and would bring Socialism no nearer. As in previous wars the Socialist Party of Great Britain takes the opportunity to proclaim its abhorrence of the sordid, callous and mercenary nature of the International, capitalist class and its loyalty to. Socialism.
Having no quarrel with the working-class of any country, we extend to our fellow workers of all lands the expression of our goodwill and Socialist fraternity, and pledge ourselves to work for the overthrow of capitalism and the triumph of Socialism.An extract from the SPGB Statement on the Israeli Arab Conflict published as a special leaflet on June 7th 1967.
The war last month in the Middle East aroused, as war often does, many deep emotions. This was more, perhaps, than an old, familiar theme for the propagandists — poor little Belgium in 1914, poor little Poland in 1939, poor little Israel in 1967. The emotions ran deeper; they were connected with the fact that Israel was established as a refuge for the Jews after centuries of persecution culminating in the mania of the Nazis. One of Israel's basic laws is the Law of Return, which allows any Jew freely to enter the country. It was predictable that Israel under attack would find a lot of sympathy, and not only from Jews living outside Israel.
But there was emotion on the other side as well. Israel was not established out of nothing; large numbers of Arabs had to be expelled to make room for the new state, many of them from settled, fertile places. From this followed the creation of about 700,000 refugees, who have remained as a source of dispute and provocation, who find no sympathy with any of the warring nations and who are in fact cynically used to poison relationships between Israel and her Arab neighbours.
That is why the Arabs also regard the whole situation as one of offended pride and outraged morality. From its inception, Israel has been under attack but in spite of this it has steadily expanded, from the conquest of Galilee and the Negev in 1949 to the latest victory in the Sinai Desert and on the west bank of the Jordan. To the Arabs, this is nothing less than imperialism; Israel is a threat in their midst which cannot be allowed to stay there.
But emotion is only on the surface; the Middle East War must be seen in perspective. Firstly, it is only the latest in a long line of comparatively minor wars since the world was carved up anew by the victorious Allies in 1945. It has been a common feature of most of the so-called settlements which followed the Second World War, that they succeeded only in making new trouble spots, new tensions, new provocations. The creation of Israel is no exception to this.
A war in the Middle East is more, of course, than a number of minor powers in conflict. Always behind the scenes the big power blocs are operating, supporting one side or the other with arms and military advice, with aid and loans, as part of a larger and more menacing clash of interests. Thus the Egyptian army in the latest war was equipped largely with Russian weapons, the Israeli with British and French.
The reasons for this interest by the world powers in the Middle East is clear. The area is vital to them, for its oilfields and its strategic position astride the trade routes to Australia and the Far East. The complexities of the mass feudal sheikdoms which rule over a large part of the area, complicated by the building of modem capitalism in Israel and Egypt have made the task of keeping a diplomatic balance there a very delicate one.
Russia is clearly determined to exploit this situation, both for what she can get out of it and to cause the greatest possible embarrassment to the Western powers. When Israel was established, it was Russian policy (faithfully followed by Communist Parties everywhere) to support it; in the fighting in 1948, the Jewish forces had considerable help from Czechoslovakia. Now, Moscow’s line is exactly the opposite; Russian spokesmen denounce Israel as an aggressor.
One thing that is sure is that the Middle East’s unhappy history of tension and conflict will continue. So will the hypocrisy with which it is all supported. In the recent war, for example, all the big powers expressed their regret at the opening of hostilities, conveniently ignoring the fact that it was their arms shipments which had made the whole thing possible.
Britain, France and America all swore that they would not stand by and see Israel obliterated, conveniently forgetting that all three of them have done their share of obliterating smaller nations, when it suited their interests to do so.
And of course many British newspapers went to great lengths to picture the Israelis as the embodiment of national virtues—a people strong, but tolerant and peace-loving. Little publicity was given to the fact that the Israeli Cabinet included the one-time leader of Irgun Zwei Leumi, the movement which those same newspapers once condemned as “terrorist".
Now that the fighting is over, it is time for yet another round of “peace” talks, in which frontiers, resources and strategic points can be reallocated—and the ground prepared for the next conflict Israel has said that it wants to negotiate alone with the Arabs, but this is unlikely. The world power blocs are already too much involved and will want to impose their wishes.
These talks will have to face certain facts, one of which is that Israel is now the most powerful state in the Middle East This is what Zionism has come to: a nation founded by Jewish refugees fleeing from the memories of pogroms and the horrors of the concentration camps, is the latest exponent of tactics of the blitzkrieg, its people have become virulently nationalistic. Another irony has been written into history.
The Israeli working class were convinced that their interests lay in taking up arms against the Arabs, and in this they were supported by countless Jewish workers abroad. Some of them went even further, attaching great importance to the capture of the ancient shrines and religious symbols of Jerusalem. Here is evidence that the Israeli working class have all the delusions which are so necessary to the continuance of capitalism.
Experience, and a knowledge of capitalism, should have taught them differently. The wars of capitalism are fought to settle the disputes of its ruling classes; no working class interests are at stake in them. The problems of the Israeli workers are the same as those of workers all over the world, and they will not be solved in a war. Their interests are the same as those of the workers of Egypt, and of every other capitalist country—to unite for the overthrow of capitalism and the triumph of Socialism.