Tuesday , 24 April 2007
Author: Hyman Lumer. New York: International Publishers, 1973. 152 pages. ISBN 0-7118-0383-X
In the 8th Century, after the exile of Jews from Jerusalem by the Romans, the word “Zion” has been uttered by the Jews to emphasize their longing for the Promised Land: Palestine. Today, the word Zion is being used as a modern term, Zionism which is the name given to the movement of the Jews who are in Diaspora to gather on the land of Palestine again. Zion has become an ideology as Zionism; but it did not serve to the civilization development in the Middle East. Instead Middle East came out to be a deadlock. Is it a deadlock because of pure Zionist intentions or imperialist missions? The American Marxist Hyman Lumer in his book “Zionism Its Role in World Politics” answered this question by defining Zionism as a nationalist movement serving to imperialism and US aims over the oil territories.
It is easy to understand the message that Lumer tries to give from the cover of the book on which there is a shape of world circled by “Zionism”. Lumer’s thesis in his book is that Zionism is not only gathering of Jews in the Promised Land but its support to imperialism which is a big actor in world politics. In the first part of his book, Lumer introduces Zionism by explaining its roots and nature, its contribution to the establishment of Israel, and its socialist side. In the second part, his emphasis is on the purpose of Zionism which is being in the service of imperialism. He supports his arguments by questioning how Zionism got support from imperialist powers, what kind of an expansionist policy it had and its imperialist policies over Africa. In the third part, Lumer elaborates on the Zionist organizations in the US and on the role of monopoly capital. In the next part, he emphasizes that Zionism was a nationalist movement and he explains that Zionism’s reaction was the formation of a fascist organization, the Jewish Defense League. In the fifth part, he points to the Soviet Jews in Israel and in the last part; he emphasizes the reaction of Jews in the US and in Israel to Zionism.
In the first part, Lumer defines political Zionism by the creation and perpetuation of a Jewish state and makes a distinction with its religious definition which is the belief in an eventual return to the Holy Land upon the coming of the Messiah. The two most important forerunners of Zionism were Leon Pinsker and Theodor Herzl who wrote books about it after the development of anti-semitism with the upsurge of imperialism and racism in the 19th Century. According to Lumer, as a political ideology Zionism was based on two points which were that the Jews throughout the world form a nation and that anti-semitism is eternal. He emphasized that Zionism is not only an ideology, but it is also an organized movement which is based on the principle of the establishment of a state which is purely Jewish to escape anti-semitism. However while escaping anti-semitism; Lumer emphasizes that Jews treated Israeli Arabs as second-class citizens.
In the first part, Lumer emphasizes that there were also socialist trends in a nationalist movement like Zionism in the beginning of 1900s. The supporters of socialist Zionists in the tsarist Russia had gathered under organizations like Workers of Zion which supported a socialist Jewish state in Palestine. Moreover Lumer emphasizes that today; there are socialist developments in Israel like kibbutz, which is the communal enterprise whose members in return provided only by the necessities of life. He emphasizes that 58.5 percent of Israel’s economy is private sector which belongs mostly to foreign capital.
In the second part of the book, Lumer is supporting his argument that, Zionism is serving to imperialism because of Israel’s will of all of Palestine, its expansionist policies and its relations with Africa. Israel willed not only to possess their homeland but all of Palestine. Herzl wanted Jews to be backed by imperialist countries such as the Ottoman Empire, Germany, Russia and France for possessing the land of Palestine. Other than these countries Britain and the USA supported Jews for their mission, too. By the Balfour Declaration in 1917, with the invasion of Palestine by Britain, Jews were assisted by Britain. Besides Britain a committee in the USA, American Emergency Committee for Zionist Affairs, was founded for the establishment of a Jewish commonwealth.
Between 1958 and 1966, Israel implemented expansionist policies; forming ties with 39 countries in Africa, 23 in Latin America, 11 in Asia and 8 in Mediterranean. Israel supported French imperialism against the independence movements of Algerians and it joined to Britain’s and France’s invasion of Egypt in 1956. In 1958, after the leadership of an anti-imperialist regime in Iraq, Israel supported Britain and US when their troops landed to protect Jordan and Lebanon from the regime. In 1967, Israel used its expansionist policies by invading Egypt. However its expansionist policies were not only for Arab countries but also for African countries. Israel was basically an associate of South Africa which had an apartheid regime. However, it gave military aid to national liberation fronts in Africa for presenting Israel as a socialist but not communist and more acceptable than imperialist powers.
In the third part, Lumer emphasizes that Zionism is in association with the US by explaining Zionist organizational movements there, US aid to Israel and its dependence on US capital. In the US, Zionism did not have many followers in the beginning of the 19th Century, because the ones who did not support it thought the return to the homeland could only occur by the upcoming of the Messiah. However after the Holocaust and the upsurge of Jewish nationalism, organizations were founded some of which were Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Zionist Organization of America and United Labor Organization of America. Moreover, the US Jews aided Israel’s political parties and the institutions that support their policies since the establishment of Israel, under the umbrella organization called The United Jewish Appeal. Furthermore, Lumer emphasizes that US imperialism shows itself in the Israeli economy, by saying that a vast part of investments are owned by Ford, Motorola and other US companies. Eighty percent of Israel’s foreign debt is also owned by US government which makes Israel dependent on the foreign capital of the US imperialism. Moreover, the main point of the book is given in this part which is that US is trying to use Israel as a weapon against Arab liberation movement and its threat to US oil investments by making it dependent on its capital. Especially after the 1967 war with Egypt Israel became highly dependent on US.
Besides, Lumer’s emphasize on Israel’s dependence on the US capital, in the fourth chapter, he raises the point that Zionism became a reactionary movement and that it supported racism by forming an ultra-racist organization which tried to combat Soviet Russia, blacks and Arabs. According to Lumer, if a country is capitalist it uses racial or nationalist oppression to prevail its exploitation. For the Jewish question, there are Marxist and Zionist views. According to the Marxist point of view Jewish question is based on the recognition of the class roots of anti-semitism and working class unity. On the other hand, the Zionists view anti-semitism as everlasting and a distinctive form of repression. Moreover, he gives the example of the Soviet Russia which resolved the Jewish question by eliminating the capitalist roots of racism. According to Lumer, the incline of Jewish nationalism after the 1967 war caused the establishment of Jewish Defense League (JDL) in 1968. The shift to right among Zionists is being criticized by Lumer. He says that racism fosters the exploitation of workers and anti-semitism only occurs in the societies of class exploitation. According to Lumer, it was a reactionary movement that was founded for protecting Jews from blacks in New York. JDL was found guilty because of the bomb attacks. Some of the targets of the attack were against Soviet News Agency, Soviet Embassy, and Palestinian Liberalization Organization. Moreover, Lumer emphasizes that JDL was used as a tool for CIA’s anti-Soviet operations.
In the fifth part, Lumer singles out the point that the difficulties that Jews came across in the Soviet Union are only lies. The Jews in the Soviet Russia came across with Zionist hostility especially after the 1967 war. The Soviets were accused by implementing discriminatory laws to the Jews like not allowing them leave the country or by forcing them to carry domestic passports to expose Jews to discrimination. In the Soviet Russia, Jews’ religious freedom was restricted, too. However, Lumer emphasizes that the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights invoked the Soviet Jews to immigrate to Israel. However after the immigration Jews wanted to return to Soviet Russia, because it was hard to live in a capitalist system. Moreover, he points out that there is a big lie which claims that the Jews in the Soviet Russia were treated intolerably by the Russians.
In the last part, Lumer is making emphasize on the point that there is a rising opposition to Zionism in the USA and Israeli policies in Israel. There is an incline of peace movements in Israel which are usually against Israeli imperialist policies. The opposition in the US is generally among the young Jews who have leftist political views. It is not only among Jews but also among non-jews, too.
As far as Lumer has Marxist point of views and that he was one of the editors in the Political Affairs Magazine which is a publication of the Communist Party in the USA, it must be considered that a Marxist point of view can not be neutral for criticizing a nationalist movement of the Jews. It must be noted that this book was published in 1973, while the Soviet Union was still alive. So as a Marxist author in a capitalist country, the longing for a communist regime and also criticizing Zionism as a servant of imperialism are both inevitable. However, when the policies of Israel are compared with its current policies, it is noteworthy that Israel is still making attempts to invade its neighbors and it is still a major ally of the US.