Zionism, Jews and the National Question - Derya Koca

Zionism, Jews and the National Question - Derya Koca

72nd anniversary of foundation of the Zionist Israel State has passed. Since its inception, the Israeli state has served as the outpost of imperialism in the Middle East. Its task was not only the organization of military aggression, the expulsion of Palestinians from the territory and the occupation and blood. At the same time, in the Middle East, where the poor are extremely open to radicalism, Israel has a mission to dominate its far-right ethnic and sectarian policies in the region. By creating a blood river between the Jewish people and the Arabic people, it built huge obstacles to fraternity and class unity. Once, Jewish people were only a minority in Palestine but now, by terror and fear, the Israeli state destroyed Palestinian lands and gave everything to Zionist settlers.

For the Marxists, it has become a task to separate the Jewish people and Zionism, but to organize an uncompromising struggle against the Israeli state.


Jewish People


Jewish people are mostly deprived of their rights such as residence, travel, working in public, military service, voting, possession, choosing the profession they wish. Therefore, they worked in fields such as small businesses, banking, trade or science. The Jewish people who have been oppressed due to these dynamics have brought many bright names to world history. Even the greatest pioneers of Marxism such as Marx, Trotsky, and Rosa Luxemburg. But most Jewish intellectuals positioned themselves not by their Jewish identity but by their opposition to injustice and inequality. Isaac Deutscher, who is also a Jew summarizes this "Non-Jewish Jew" characters of Marx, Rosa, and Trotsky as follows:

“All these great revolutionaries were extremely vulnerable. They were, as Jews, rootless, in a sense; but they were so only in some respects, for they had the deepest roots in intellectual tradition and in the noblest aspirations of their times. Yet whenever religious intolerance or nationalist emotion was on the ascendant, whenever dogmatic narrow-mindedness and fanaticism triumphed, they were the first victims. They were excommunicated by Jewish rabbis; they were persecuted by Christian priests; they were hunted down by the gendarmes of absolute rulers and by the soldateska; they were hated by pseudo-democratic philistines; and they were expelled by their own parties. Nearly all of them were exiled from their countries; and the writings of all were burned at the stake at one time or another.[1]

Nevertheless, many conspiracy theories were produced about the Jewish minority most of which are poor people in every country. Anti-Semitist ideas were used, against Jewish people by the ruling classes in order to organize massacres, dividing laborers, and the creating “the inner enemy". And the most vulnerable to these racist massacres were the poor Jewish people.


The Jewish people, scattered all over the world, and became active members of the class struggle (not of a national movement) in every country they located. Because building up a national movement necessitates at least a regional majority. Therefore, the demand for equality of the Jews was not a national movement. As a result, Jewish organizations, which were founded as an expression of oppression, never became hegemonic among the Jews and could not reach a serious power. This dynamic was experienced vividly in the process leading up to the October Revolution in Russia.

The Russian revolutionaries, who defended the Jewish people against systematic pogroms by the Black Hundred gangs in Russia, were the main founder of a struggle based on equality and fraternity. Lenin[2] (p. 152) explained the quality of the support for oppressed peoples in the following words:


“The policy of oppressing nationalities is one of dividing nations.  At the same time it is a policy of systematic corruption of the people s minds. The Black Hundreds’ plans are designed to foment  antagonism among the different nations, to poison the minds of the  ignorant and downtrodden masses. Pick up any Black-Hundred newspaper and you will find that the persecution of non-Russians, the sowing of mutual distrust between the Russian peasant, the Russian petty bourgeois and the Russian artisan on the one hand, and the Jewish, Finnish, Polish, Georgian and Ukrainian peasants, petty bourgeois and artisans on the other, is meat and drink to the  whole of this Black-Hundred gang.”


The Jewish Bund, which exists within the RSDWP, with the desire to be the sole representative of the Jewish people by proposing an autonomous cultural perspective. Bund was thinking apart from the perspective of uniting all the oppressed peoples and identities rights in the class struggle. Jewish revolutionary leaders, like Trotsky, were the first to oppose this approach. Because the Bund's desire to be the sole authority on the Jews would practically divide the class-consciousness of the Russian workers on a cultural basis and prevent all the oppressed peoples from uniting on the revolutionary basis. The Bund left the party after contradicting the program with these discussions. The poor Jewish people supported the struggles of national character rather than the class as Lenin expressed[3]:


“More than ten years’ experience gained by the R.S.D.L.P. confirms the correctness of the above thesis. The Party was founded in 1898 as a party of all Russia, that is, a party of the proletariat of all the nationalities of Russia. The Party remained “Russian” when the Bund seceded in 1903, after the Party Congress had rejected the demand to consider the Bund the only representative of the Jewish proletariat. In 1906 and 1907 events showed convincingly that there were no grounds for this demand, a large number of Jewish proletarians continued to co-operate in the common Social-Democratic work in many local organisations, and the Bund re-entered the Party.”


It is an important historical point that the Jewish people were the actors of class struggle raising the revolutionary consciousness of the Russian workers against oppression. It turned out that Jewish people, who were a minority and oppressed everywhere, could not be persuaded on the basis of nationalism. Likewise, the Jewish bourgeoisie was seeking to increase its capital without going through any adventure; they continued their life as a peaceful part of that country's national ruling class. However, Zionism, rising from the most intimate and right-wing of the Jewish would open the door to the process leading to the establishment of the state of Israel, in line with the plans of British imperialism.




Zionism has never defined itself as a national liberation movement. Zionism was based on banishing the Palestinian people from their lands, seizing their homes, and slaughtering them. Establishing a state from the very beginning on the lands where Jews are only a small minority could not be succeeded by only a few fanatical bourgeoisie without any imperialist support. The great imperialist powers provided money, weapons, and ideological support, and the Zionists called the official name of the occupation in Palestinian territory “Israel” in 1948.


Zionists were used as fascist forces against the imperialist resistance and working-class movements in the region before the Israeli state was established. Zionists- in the Palestinian lands controlled by Britain in the 1920s and 30s- were used extensively to suppress the anti-colonial movement. 1917 Balfour Declaration announced that Jewish settlers will be supported by imperialism to control the region. Thereupon, the Zionists acted as the cornerstone of all the reactionary attacks of imperialism. The Labor Zionists- who supported the colonial forces to suppress Palestinians who rose up against British rule in 1936- played an important role in breaking the general.


Until the 1930s, however, the Zionist forces were still small and ineffective. Jews from all over the world did not volunteer for leaving their established lives, integrated lives. When you excluded Jews from cultural development in Europe, there would be a poor history: Jewish people had serious roots in their lands. Therefore, even after Zionism supported by imperialism, there was no unified nationalist movement for the Jewish people. Jewish nationalism, which developed in opposition to the oppression of Jews, may have cores, but there is no basis for the claim that this is a powerful movement. In fact, during the First Imperialist War, the Jewish people went to the front and fought for the German state, which later killed the Jews. Jews were people of their class and integrated into German chauvinism as part of the working class of the time. The situation was no different for Jews out of Germany as well. The main carriers of Jewish nationalism and Zionism were the great bourgeois leaderships that knocked the doors of imperialist states in order to establish their nation-state.


The First Zionism Congress convened in Basel, Switzerland. In 1896, the book "Der Judenstaat” (Jewish State)- which is written by the Jewish journalist of Viennese, Theodor Herzl- was discussed. This Jewish state was previously thought of even on the lands of Uganda and Argentina. However, the reason for making a decision in Palestine is that both conservative Judaism and the interests of the British state match perfectly. The main reason for this initiative was the longing to establish a big bourgeois state but it has always been told that it was because of the oppression of the Jews and anti-Semitism.

 The Zionists who migrated to the region until 1903 were a minority of 25,000 inhabitants living with half a million Arab populations, and most of them came from Eastern Europe, which was constantly oppressed between Tsarism and European powers. By 1922, the Jewish population corresponded to 11 percent of the 750,000 population[4].


The Jewish bourgeoisie, which forms the first cores of its own idea of ​​nationalization in the process of the establishment of nation-states, has developed a mutual benefit that would be operated on the Palestinian land with the support of imperialism. If there would not be imperialist support, there could not be an Israeli state. And if there would not be a Zionist Israeli state, it would not be so easy for the imperialists to intervene in the region,where Arab nationalism was strong, to seize the oil resources. But there was a problem: The Jewish people around the world did not seem attracted by this far-right Zionist "great return" story. At this point, Hitler helped them a lot.


Hitler and Zionists


After the WWI  defeat, the German state ,which fell behind in the imperialist rivalry, needed a second war to catch up with the great imperialist powers. The German bourgeoisie, defeated by the first war and unable to cope with the two major revolutionary uprisings. That’s why they invoked fascism to put out a revolutionary fire inside. Unfortunately, the people, which were filled with the energy of the October Revolution in 1917, lacked leadership in Germany; Rosa and Karl's late and unsuccessful attempts costed their lives. The defeat of the revolution meant that the Jewish people were also defenseless against fascism. The revolution was dying. In times of war and famine, the masses who ran to the frontline of the revolution were now hopeless. The fear of revolution of the great bourgeoisie would only be overcome by a terrible war machine. For this, the masses should be deeply divided and class radicalism must be crushed on the street. Fascists, organizing despair, would later scapegoat the Jews. Anti-Semitist thoughts, which originated from the idea of ​​the church in ancient times, has sprinkled because this idea showed Jewish people as a simple target and prevented the masses from fighting against their ruling classes which was the main enemy. Trotsky[5] explained the modern basis for the anti-Semitic ideas of the 1920s:


“Nationalism in economy comes down in practice to impotent though savage outbursts of anti-Semitism. The Nazis abstract usurious or banking capital from the modern economic system because it is of the spirit of evil: and, as is well known, it is precisely in this sphere that the Jewish bourgeoisie occupies an important position. Bowing down before capitalism as a whole, the petty bourgeois declares war against the evil spirit of gain in the guise of a Polish Jew in a long-skirted caftan, and usually without a cent in his pocket. The pogrom becomes the supreme evidence of racial superiority.”


Fascism, which came to power in Europe in the 30s, played a cornerstone in the establishment of Israel. The killing and genocide of 6 million Jews caused serious pains that are still being used to legitimize the state of Israel. The first leader warned that the massacre of the Jewish people would turn into an unprecedented genocide was the Marxist leader Trotsky, who put forward the theory of fascism most accurately in history. In 1938 he writes[6]:


“Thus, it was ‘possible to imagine without difficulty what await[ed] the Jews at the mere outbreak of the future world war. But even without war the next development of world reaction signifie(d) with certainty the physical extermination of the Jews’ ” 


While the Jewish people were being slaughtered, the Zionist leaders were writing letters to Hitler and proposing cooperation. These hypocrites used the sufferings and the destruction of the Jewish people for their imperialist project, and they are still using the holocaust card. Deutscher[7] exposes the true face of Zionist leaders such as Theodor Herzl, who marketed a story of "resurrection" based on the ashes and corpses of 6 million Jews:


“It is a tragic and macabre truth that the greatest ‘re-definer’ of the Jewish identity has been Hitler; and this is one of his minor posthumous triumphs. Auschwitz was the terrible cradle of the new Jewish consciousness and of the new Jewish nation. We, who have rejected the religious tradition, now belong to the negative community of those, who have, so many times in history, even so recently and tragically, been singled out for persecution and extermination. For those who have always stressed Jewishness and its continuity, it is strange and bitter to think that the extermination of six million Jews should have given such a new lease of life to Jewry. I would have preferred the six million men, women, and children, to survive and Jewry to perish. It was from the ashes of six million Jews that the phoenix of Jewry has risen. What a resurrection!”


The goal of the Zionists was never to end the oppression of the Jewish people. Every way to achieve their goals was appropriate for them. Hitler's fascism was an invaluable opportunity for the Zionists' immigration to Palestine. For this purpose, they even made an alliance with Hitler.

Because Hitler's dream of a German empire free from Jews and the Zionists' dream of creating new settlements with Jews who fled to Palestine was a perfect match.

“After Hitler came to power, the leading German Zionist organization wrote a memo to Hitler that expressed Zionism’s hope for the “collaboration even of a government hostile to Jews,” on the assumption that its aims (separation of Jews from gentiles) were similar to theirs. Hitler shut down socialist, labor, and Jewish resistance organizations, but permitted the Zionists to continue to operate. An agent of Haganah, the Zionist militia operating in Palestine seeking Nazi assistance, told SS leader Adolf Eichmann in 1937 that Zionists were pleased with Germany persecution of the Jews because it increased the strength of the “Jewish population.” When asked in 1938 if he was interested in saving all Jewish children in Germany, Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion remarked that if it were possible to save them all by sending them to Britain, or only half by sending them to Israel, he would prefer the latter.[8]


The Establishment of Israel: The Great Disaster (Nakba)

The foundation of Israel in 1948 was a historical tragedy for the Palestinian people. Meanwhile, the Jewish people had only a third of the population and 6 percent of the land; but this so-called new state gave 55 percent of Palestinian land to them. This project started with a war that resulted in the destruction of 50,000 Palestinians in its first place. Clashes were happening in which hundreds of civilians were massacred in one day: Palestinians organized such a legitimate and strong resistance that their cause brought support and sympathy to their struggle from all over the world. During the ‘60s and ‘70s, revolutionaries from Turkey, went to Palestine to fight shoulder to shoulder with the PFLP that many of them lost their lives in this fight against imperialism. These years were also the years of a leftist-socialist awakening of the Arab peoples and the rise of Arab nationalist powers. That’s why the settlement of far-right Zionism was very beneficial for imperialism in many aspects.

The Zionist state was founded entirely on motivation for war. Israel "won" many wars, such as 1948, 6-Day wars, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1982 Lebanese Invasion, the suppression of the 1987-93 Intifada, and settled in the imperialist system. It would be appropriate to state that bourgeois liberal leaderships, such as Yasser Arafat, who accepted the two-state agreement in the Oslo Process (which is now seen that was only a pile of rubbish), also have an important share in the defeat.

By 2020, more than 6 million Palestinian refugees were scattered around the world. In Palestine, a point has been reached where Palestinians live in the shadow of weapons and under immense poverty in many pockets divided between the West Bank and Gaza. The agreement Trump and Netanyahu put on the table as the "Agreement of the Century" is the complete destruction of the Palestinian state; it means declaring the victory of imperialism in the region. Before the announcement of the "Agreement of the Century", which aims to destroy all the Palestinian right to sovereignty, the USA declared in 2017 that it unilaterally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. If you look at Israel's role in the wars in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Libya, the reasons for this great ambition of US imperialism to complete this project will become clearer.

The only source of the legitimacy of Zionism is the imperialist aggression and war since 1948 and the US imperialism, which has replaced Britain. This project was implemented not only in Palestine but also throughout the Middle East. Imperialism promotes immigration to Palestine by bringing Israel to prosperity like a Northern European country with huge funds, and countless organizations to transfer money and settlers. Large sums of money are flowing to Israel every year from the US budget, and military aid is the main item of this amount. Alongside the poor Palestinians without electricity, water, road, education, and health, a Western type of attraction zone is being established in Israeli cities. This brutal to buy lands, increase the Jewish population, drive Palestinians from each village, break their resistance and make Israel to be governed by right-wing powers with limitless war motivation.

The real face of Zionism is to genocide Palestinians. Jewish settlements and the state of Israel are not legitimate in the Palestinian territories, where the Jewish population is dominated by an illegitimate influx of immigrants. The two-state solution is a simple lie! For us, there is no such thing as two states: we only recognize the Palestinian sovereignty. For the imperialists, there is no such thing as two states also: they only recognize and support the sovereignty of Zionism whose main motivation is to destroy Palestinian people. But the Palestinian people were not betrayed only by their bourgeois leadership: The so-called Arab Nationalist rulers turned into reconciliation with imperialism each time. Following the decline of British imperialism in the region, the USSR became the first state to recognize Israel after the USA in order to win new allies in the region. Islamist's corporates with Israel to trade the Palestinian oil which is seized by Israel just to make money … The only real friend of the Palestinian people is the revolutionary socialists.


Free Palestine


The state of Israel must be unconditionally rejected; moreover, Israel must be demolished. However, our hostility towards Israel radically differs from the anti-Jewish/anti-Semitist right-wing ideas. For Marxists, the problem is not with the Jewish identity of the Israeli state but its imperialist, racist, oppressor and exploiter fanatic Zionist character.


The question of how to build a free Palestine is hidden in our answer to how to defeat imperialism in the region. The only way against imperialism in the Middle East is the United Middle East Federation struggle, which will lead the Palestinian cause to victory.


[1] Isaac Deutscher, The Non-Jewısh Jew and Other Essays, Verso Book, page 33,  2017.

[2] Lenin, Ulusal Sorun ve Ulusal Kurtuluş Savaşları, Sol Yayınları, 1993, page 152

[3] Lenin, p. 86

[4] 1799’dan günümüze Filistin tarihi ve Orta Doğu sorunu https://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler-dunya-44128837

[5] Inside Enzo Traveso Marxists and the Jewish Question, Yazın Yayıncılık,page  260

[6] Inside: Traverso p.262-263

[7] Deutscher, p 44-45

[8] Paul D’Amato, The Meaning of Marxism, Ayrıtı Yayıları, sf 392-393, 2016.