The Third International after Lenin

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Arab National Movement in Palestine between the Two World Wars

Reading notes from Chapter 9. The Arab National Movement in Palestine between the Two World Wars

....The Revolt began after the murder of two Jews by Arab brigands on April 15th, 1936.

....Zionism turned out to be a powerful stimulus to nationalism in the area. The practical goals of the strike were to paralyse economic life and the means of communication. It was accompanied by a boycott of the Jewish community. Once again it can be seen that Palestinian nationalism was unable to rid itself entirely of its chauvinistic aspect. the absence of a working-class political leadership, the band was not transformed into a stable form of revolutionary peasant organisation: it did not become a real guerrilla movement. [55] This form of struggle reflected precisely the mutation of Palestinian Arab society, on the way to capitalism but still firmly anchored in its traditional rural past.

....Drastic measures were decreed as early as April 15th, involving, in particular, the principle of the collective responsibility of Arab villages and districts for the actions of unidentified inhabitants, the obligation to lodge punitive police detachments, martial law, the destruction of houses in which rebels were sheltered, and administrative detention.

....The escalation of repression continued, according to the familiar Black-and-Tan techniques the Palestinians had already been subjected to after the 1921 riots. Military courts punished the carrying of firearms with the death penalty, while the masses suffered a renewed outbreak of British terror in the villages and the Air Force was used in operations against the maquisards.

....From December 1938 onwards (reconquest of the Old City of Jerusalem), the British regained the upper hand. The offensive, conducted by 17 infantry battalions, was accompanied by the hanging of arrested partisans, collective punishments inflicted on the fellahin, the large-scale demolition of dwellings, the arrest of some 2,500 Arabs and the bombing of insurgent villages by the Air Force. This bloody repression smashed the rebellion, already weakened by internal dissensions and the extreme poverty of the villagers. In the long run, the unemployment, the destruction, the guerrilla campaign and the mutual Arab-Jewish boycott inevitably caused severe damage to the Arab economy. Meanwhile, in May and July 1938, the Irgun, initiated its terror campaign against Palestinian civilians (Haifa fruit market outrage: 74 Arabs killed and 129 wounded).

....At the beginning, the 1936 rising had been an alliance of the big landowners, the middle class and the intellectuals, supported by part of the working class but guided by the religious and quasi-feudal conceptions of the effendis. [67] The “feudal” and bourgeois leadership of the movement had led the insurrection to defeat. The Palestinian cause had been betrayed by the 1936 armistice, the fighting fellahin abandoned by the urban middle class. The antiimperialist struggle had been diverted into an inter-communal conflict and deformed into a venture in support of fascism. (The Mufti had grown closer and closer to the Nazis.) Seen in this light, the evolution of the Arab Revolt
appears as a negative confirmation of the theory of permanent revolution. “With regard to countries with a belated bourgeois development, especially in colonial and semi-colonial countries, the theory of the permanent revolution signifies that the complete and genuine solution of their tasks of achieving democracy and national emancipation is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat as leaders of the subjugated nation, above all of its peasant masses”, writes Trotsky. [68] We shall see later that to a certain extent the working-class vanguard bore the responsibility for the continued leadership of the national struggle by the big landowners and the bourgeoisie. But here again what was involved, ultimately, were the effects of Zionist colonisation: the Arab proletariat was still too weak to assert its leading role in the national struggle.

....As the Mufti succeeded in taking the national movement fully in hand again, he injected a blatantly antiSemitic content, directly inspired by Hitler’s Germany, into the press and his propaganda (during the World War he recruited Moslem regiments for the Axis in Yugoslavia).

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