On Hal Draper’s Zionism

Against the Current, No. 130, September/October 2007

Ernest Haberkern

I WOULD LIKE to add some more information on the book by Hal Draper, Zionism, Israel and the Arabs, which is the source of the excerpt from his 1948 essay “How to Defend Israel” printed in the May/June 2007 issue of ATC.

The website from which you can order the book is www.socialisthistory.org. You can also go to Amazon.com and enter “Draper, Hal” in the search field. Be sure to go to the “books” section first because Amazon lists all kinds of gadgets, toys, etc. on its main search site and there are an amazing number of people named Draper who have stuff on the site. If you go to the Center site, click on “Publications” and then on “Order online,” you will get a complete list of our titles available from Amazon.

The main point of Draper’s book, and this is something that is not usually made much of, is the argument that the key to Israel’s survival and peace with its Arab neighbors is its treatment of the Palestinian remnant who are citizens of Israel. When Draper was writing on this subject in the 1950s and 1960s this minority amounted to ten percent of the Israeli citizenry.

As Draper pointed out, this was approximately the same percentage of the population that African-Americans made up in the United States. Defining Israel as “a Jewish state” was equivalent to defining the U.S. as “a white man’s country.” Today the Palestinian remnant makes up about 20% of the population and is growing.

What makes this “a burning issue of the day” is that the political representatives of the Israeli Arabs in the Knesset have come forward with a proposal which would make Israel formally a bi-national state. The model they have chosen is Belgium.

At a time when, as a result of the Israeli-American putsch which has armed and financed its own puppet government under Mahmoud Abbas in defiance of the democratic vote of the Palestinian people, the two-state solution appears to be dead, this proposal offers a new start.

Interestingly enough Israeli dissidents, notably Uri Avnery, have expressed some interest in this plan. The Israeli government predictably responded by opening a criminal investigation of Azmi Bishara, the leader of the Israeli Arab bloc in the Knesset. He has been interviewed by the authorities twice and, fearing an imminent arrest warrant, chose not to return to Israel from Egypt where he was meeting with Egyptian authorities. He has resigned from the Knesset. Another peace threat is beaten back.

The importance of this Israeli Arab proposal lies in its appeal to basic democratic values — values which are incompatible with “a Jewish state.” The Zionist movement has always claimed that all citizens of the state are equal. But this is not true. Anyone, living anywhere in the world, who can claim by whatever stretch of the imagination to be Jewish, is automatically eligible for Israeli citizenship.

The most bizarre example of this was the relatively recent immigration of Russian Jews. As a result of persecution by the Nazis and the Stalinist state as well as the normal pressures of the modern world, this community was largely assimilated. There was no way that traditional definitions of what it meant to be Jewish, largely derived from religious precepts, could be applied. As a consequence, the Israeli government was forced to use the criterion enacted into law by the Nazis at Nuremberg: Anybody who had at least one Jewish grandparent was eligible for Israeli citizenship.

At the same time, the Israeli courts have held that marriage to an Israeli citizen (for example the marriage of a West Bank Palestinian to an Israeli Arab) did not automatically result in citizenship. (Such couples are not even allowed to live in Israel — ed.) If this kind of constitutional charade that would be impossible under the proposal put forward by the Arab members of the Knesset.

Israel’s right to exist can only be guaranteed in the long run, not by the military support of whatever Great Power finds the existence of an isolated “Jewish state” convenient, but by coming to terms with the legitimate claims of the Arab population — beginning with that growing proportion of its own citizens who are not Jewish.

from ATC 130 (September/October 2007)