Saturday, 15 May 2010

Tony Cliff on where Zionism comes from

Today is not only Levellers Day - it is also, rather more grimly, Nakba Day. The Nakba marks the moment in 1948 when Zionist militias launched a war that wiped Palestine off the map. This turned thousands of the region's inhabitants into permanent refugees.

In 1982 the revolutionary activist and writer Tony Cliff wrote a short piece revealing the roots of Israel's brutality towards the Palestinians. He wrote many articles, over a long period of time, on the subject of Palestine. This can partly be explained by personal biography. It is where he grew up, in a Jewish family during the 1920s and 30s, and it was (by his own account) his disgust at the unequal treament of Arab and Jewish children that first radicalised him.

His interest, though, was also sustained by recognition of historic Palestine's pivotal importance in the whole 20th century history of Western imperialism and the Middle East.

Implacable opposition to every manifestation of US imperialism was a cornerstone of Cliff's political outlook. In the aftermath of World War Two America unquestionably became the dominant global power, with the Soviet Union as its only geopolitical rival. Britain, meanwhile, went into decline.

Prior to World War Two, rival imperialisms - led by the British - carved up the Arab world for themselves. After the war it was America that took over the dominant role in this region, and ever since it has ruthlessly sought to preserve its military, polical and economic supremacy in an oil-rich and strategically vital area of the globe.

The founding of Israel in 1948 -dependent on the brutal expulsion of the Palestinian people - suited American imperialist interests perfectly.

For over 60 years, Israel has been a proxy aggressor for US imperialism in the Middle East, a watchdog in the Arab world. A small country reliant on vast US 'aid', it has been utterly reliable in prosecuting the wishes of the world's superpower. Cliff understood this and was an anti-Zionist in conditions much less favourable than today.

Picture: a sculpture depicting Tony Cliff by his lifelong partner Chanie Rosenberg.


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