The seventh principle of the Social Democrats USA that “We defend Israel.” has been the center of some controversy and negative feedback over the last month. Apparently some persons have taken the SD’s long term support of the right of Israel to exist as a nation state of the Jewish people to be support for the oppression of the Palestinian people. Similarly Zionism has often been interpreted as being solely an ideology in support of the aggressive expansionism of the Israeli state.
Because of this I am posting the full section on Israel from David Hacker’s “Manifesto of the Social Democrats USA” I hope this clears up some of the confusion regarding the SD’s long term support of Jewish people’s right of a state of their own.
7, WE DEFEND THE EXISTENCE OF ISRAEL AS A JEWISH STATE. The fact that we even have to make such a declaration, in our statement of principles, about a independent nation that is a member of the United Nations, is a result of the shameful view in a large percentage of the Left, worldwide that Israel is a product of “racism” or“imperialism,” and therefore illegitimate. We fervently disagree. It is a democratic society, though imperfect, especially in its treatment of Sephardic Jews from Arab countries and the native Arab or Palestinian citizens of Israel. Nevertheless, it should also be pointed out that Arabic is one of the two official languages of Israel and that Israeli Arabs, share the same democratic voting rights of all Israelis and also have representatives in the Israeli Knesset. There are Similar examples of democratic rights being denied to the citizens of most Arab countries in the Middle East. Israel’s (Labour) movement, the Histadrut, is lead by Social Democrats, with the Red Flag of the international Socialist Movement proudly flying above its headquarters. During the first decades of its existence, Israel was founded and governed by a Social Democratic Labour Party. Then, what is the source of the hostility of much of the Left to Israel, in the last several decades, which goes so far as to question its very existence as a sovereign state, rather then focus its criticisms on the action of its government, as it does in the case of every other country in the world?
A little historical background is necessary here. Up to the 1967 war, the Left was generally seen as pro-Israeli. At that time Israel, under the political domination of a socialist party, Mapai, in alignment with an even more Leftist Zionist party with Marxist-Leninist roots, Mapam, plus the Histadrut Labor Federation and the Kibbutzim movement, was viewed as being on the Left and as being in the process of building a true democratic socialist society. The radical, independent pro-Soviet weekly newspaper, The National Guardian, was sympathetic to Israel from its first issue in 1948 till 1967. The CP Sponsored Anniversary Tours would advertise tours to the USSR, Eastern Europe and Israel. In 1948, the most pro-Israel candidate for President was Henry Wallace and the Progressive Party, which called for full de jure recognition of the State of Israel and an end to the arms embargo that the U.S. placed upon it, in its platform. In fact, the champion of Israel and the Zionist cause in the UN from 1947 to 1949 was the USSR and its Eastern European allies. A pre-state book that illustrates how anti Cold War progressives in the immediate post war years were devoted to the cause of Jewish statehood and self determination in Palestine was Behind The Silken Curtain: A Personal Account of Anglo-American Diplomacy in Palestine and The Middle East by Bartley C. Crum. Crum later became the attorney of the Hollywood 10. Even when publications like the National Guardian were critical of Israeli actions, such as in the 1956 Suez War, the critiques were written with sympathy for Israel’s dilemma of being surrounded by hostile Arab nations devoted to its destruction, and without any denouncing of Zionism, much less questioning the very existence of Israel as a Jewish state.
Suddenly, groups like SNCC and the Youth Against War & Fascism attacked Israel, after the 1967 Six Day War, in almost identical language as the racist Right-wing National States Rights Party. They, and the Socialist Workers Party, the Guardian(which purged the original founders of the newspaper and drop the word “National” from its name), and most of the radical or socialist Left, did not merely criticize Israel’s action in the war, but went on to deny its legitimacy as a sovereign state. Zionism became a new epithet on the Left. The exceptions to this anti-Israel position on the left were the Socialist Party and the two Jewish publications that came out of the CPUSA, Jewish Currents and the Morgan Freiheit. Similar reaction occurred in Leftist groups and journals around the world that were outside the social democratic movement. Did the breaking of relations with Israel of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies, with the exception of Rumania, help spark this anti-Israel sentiment on the Left? Certainly, from that time, to the Gorbachev period, the Soviet Union conducted a crude anti-Zionist propaganda campaign, that was actually, pure anti-Semitism, in the state-run media. Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank after the 1967 has been cited, by its critics on the Left, for the hostility toward it. The international dimensions of this campaign became so strong that the United Nations General Assembly, on November 9, 1975, passed a resolution which called “Zionism, a Form of Racism.”
Thus, forgotten was the fact that from 1949 to June 1967, Jews were barred from the Old City of Jerusalem, including the holiest site in Judaism, the Western Wall. Now imagine how Catholics would feel if they were to forbidden to visit Vatican City and Moslems were banned from their sacred cities of Mecca and Medina? Also forgotten were the 100,000 Jews living in the Arab world, many for 1,000 years, who were forced to flee after the establishment of Israel in 1948. When Egypt occupied Gaza from 1949-1967 and Jordan, East Jerusalem and the West Bank, during the same period, there were no calls from anywhere for a Palestinian state to be created in that area. Where were the criticisms of those occupations? In fact, from the late 1950s to the 1967 Six Day War, the call in the Arab world was Pan Arabism, the unification of all the Arab states into one central country. That is why Egypt under Gamal Abdal Nasser was called The United Arab Republic. His plan was for Egypt to be the center of a united Arabia. It was only after 1967, that Palestinian nationalism arose and replaced the cause of Pan-Arabism.
Accordingly, we are unconditional advocates of Israel’s right to exist, and that our support does not depend on its being “nice” in order to deserve our defense. But that doesn’t mean that we are never uncritical of its governmental policies. We oppose the Settlement policy of the Right-wing Likud government. We support Israeli democratic ideals and those who work for them. Whenever those ideals are compromised, we will vigorously protest because we are pro-Israel. Sometimes, being pro-Israel means being critical of the policies of its government. Rather our slogan is Israel is here to stayand also Israel must be saved. But at this time, we could add, Israel must be saved from itself, if we believe that some governmental policy or action that it is engaged in would be detrimental to establishing a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, etc.
Moreover, our support for Israel’s sovereignty does not mean that we are anti-Palestinian. Rather, the question of when a Palestinian national consciousness developed among the Arab population of the West Bank and Gaza, and in the Diaspora, (a name taken from the Jewish experience in exile) doesn’t matter, it has been a reality for the last 40 years. We support a just resolution for the Palestinians that grants their legitimate national aspirations without fatally compromising the legitimate security concerns of the Jewish State.
SDUSA, being a democratic organization, its members will have differing views on how the above can be accomplished, in establishing a two state solution for Israel and the Palestinians. Their opinions range from the right wing of the Israeli Labor party, leftward to Meretz/Yahad, Peace Now and Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc. These differences will be freely debated in our publications and in public meetings. At the same time, we are proud of our fraternal relations with the Israeli Labor party and Meretz/Yahad party, who represent their nation in the Socialist International. We are also allied to organizations and publications of both the Jewish and non-Jewish Left that strongly defend the existence of Israel, no matter how critical they made be of its governmental policies.
Some of our members also come from a pro-Palestinian background. And we welcome members of the Arab-American community. However, all members must agree to the proposition, whatever our difference over how to achieve it, that a just resolution for the Palestinians that grants their legitimate national aspirations can only be accomplished without fatally compromising the legitimate security concerns of the Jewish State. Moreover, many members of the SDUSA view that the final resolution toward a two state solution of Israel living in peace and harmony with a united sovereign state of Palestine, over almost all of the territory that Israel occupied in 1967, while sharing a capital in a united Jerusalem, will only occur when they both have a commitment to a secular, democratic and social democratic future, in their respective states. This means Israel as a Jewish state, that in the words of Rabbi Michael Lerner, is “a state that gives affirmative action in regard to immigration to Jews who have a reasonable claim to fear of persecution where they are currently living-but not a state that is run by Jewish religious law except in the cultural sense that Jewish holidays are given the same official public priority in that state that Christmas is given in the United States.” And a Palestinian state that is govern not by Islamic fundamentalists, such as Hamas, but secular and moderate Palestinians, both Moslem and Christian, which also embraces a pluralistic democratic social and religious policy that respects and defends the holy sites belong to Moslems, Christians and Jews, alike.