Founding member of the Communist Party of Palestine Joseph Berger reports on the land grab by Zionists in the mid-1920s.
‘Zionist Terror in Palestine’ by Joseph Berger (Jerusalem) from International Press Correspondence. Vol. 5 No. 5. January 15, 1925.
For some time past the Zionist organisation in Palestine has been enjoying a condition of “prosperity” In consequence of the sharp anti-Arabian policy which the English imperialists have been following in the last months, far-reaching concessions have been granted to the Zionists, particularly in regard to the immigration of a great number of Jewish immigrants and as to various political privileges in preference tothe native population; and now the Zionist organisation considers the moment to have arrived to realise Zionism quickly and thoroughly.
The realisation of Zionism means however, before all the transference of further areas of land from Arabian into Jewish hands. Realisation of Zionism means buying land – this is the slogan with which Zionist missionaries travel from country to country, collecting money for the national funds for the purchase of land, of forming land purchasing societies and seeking to interest various capitalist groups in the purchase of further tracts of land in Palestine.
But at present the arable land in Palestine (and this is what the Zionists seek in the first place, as they wish to avoid the great costs of irrigating and rendering the sterile soil fit for agriculture) is for the greater part in the hands of rich Arabian big landowners whose estates often embrace thousands of square kilometers. The land of these rich “Effendis” is cultivated by peasants, who rent little plots and in return must give to the landowners a considerable portion of the yield. These peasants live in indescribable poverty. As in addition to this they have to bear heavy burdens of taxation and have not long since recovered from the devastation caused by the war, these peasants must again and again have recourse to rich usurers, out of whose hands they can never escape. If one considers on the other hand that the towns, in view of the great unemployment, do not offer the peasants any better prospects, one can understand that for hm the soil is the most precious thing, to which he clings in spite of the greatest poverty.
The Zionists are buying the land from the Effendi – but with vacant possession. The pioneers of the renascent Jewish people must be settled on the soil, therefore the poor, miserable ”Fellach” must make room for them. The driving of the Arabs from the soil, which follows upon every big purchase of land, is one of the most tragic things in the history of the “cultivation of the country”. Whilst in the camp of the young immigrants expression is given to wildest nationalist enthusiasm with dancing and song, a few steps further on the evicted peasants is packing together his humble possessions to wander forth with wife and child to the city, where starvation and misery are awaiting him.
It often happens, however, that the Arabian peasant will not allow himself to be driven from the soil without resistance. All attempts at persuasion and even bribery avail nothing; the peasant lays himself at full strength upon the ground and prevents the stranger from taking possession of his land, to which the latter has no other right than that which is based on the bargain between the capitalist and the big landowner. Fights sometimes occur between: the peasants and the colonists, in which there are killed and wounded, the English police intervene and carry out arrests among the resisters, the peasant is driven away by force —- and on the next day the land, is in the sure possession of the settler’ for the realisation of the sublime ideals of Zionism.
In this colonising activity of the Zionist organisation, it is especially regrettable that the Jewish immigrants, who are themselves workers for the greater part, allow themselves to be employed as bailiffs against the Arabian peasants. As, however, the Arabs are much more numerous in Palestine than the Jews, it continually happens that, as, a reaction to the Zionist robber policy against the Arabs, there occur elementary outbreaks of the Arabs against the Jews, the victims of which again are Jewish workers. England then plays the role of judge and preserver of public law and order. The pogroms which irresponsible elements of Jewish nationality arrange against Arab villages for the sake of Zionist capitalist ambitions, are also fatal in their results for the Jews themselves: they incite in tum pogroms against the Jews.
The Communist Party of Palestine sees through the plot, by means of which English imperialism, the Jewish Zionist bourgeoisie and the Arabian big landowners are entangling the working masses of Palestine. It is opposing nationalistic madness (which leads to the enrichment of the Arabian big landowner, to the increase of the power of the Jewish capitalist and their institutions, but before all to the consolidation of imperialist rule in Palestine) with the 6ilogans: fraternisation of the Jewish workers with the Arabian peasants; the soil for those who till it; no worker shall help to evict Arab peasants; no Arab peasant shall leave the soil which belongs to him by his labour.
This attitude of the Communists is regarded by the Zionists as “national betrayal”. The Zionis1s know very well that the truth as to the Zionist colonisation of Palestine, which exposes the cruelties of the evictions of the Arabs, means a moral death sentence for Zionism which is still concealed behind idealistic phrases. In this respect they are demanding the national united front, behind which they wish to conceal their rascally conduct. The Jewish Communists, who have the courage to break away from this united front and to expose the class character of Zionism, are therefore regarded as the most dangerous enemies. by the Jewish bourgeoisie and by the leaders of the social traitorous Parties which are in their service (before all of the Ahduth Haavodah); as there is no other means of silencing the Communists, the Zionists are resorting to terror.
American Zionists have recently purchased land in the neighborhood of Afuleh. The Arabian village, consisting of poor peasant families, was to be evicted. The Communists very energetically opposed the brutal acts of the Zionists, and before all called upon the Jewish workers not to take part in the evictions. But there were still national heroes to be found who took on the job of conquest. At the end of November, when the newly acquired land was to ploughed for the first time by the new settlers, a fight broke out between the latter and the Arab peasants, which resulted in one dead (on the Arabian side) and many wounded on both sides. The police intervened and the evictions of the Arabs were carried out.
The C.P. of Palestine again appealed to the Jewish and Arabian working masses by reproaching the Zionists and English imperialists with the responsibility for the fresh bloodshed, and concluded with a fresh summons to set up a united international class front against the nationalist incitement.
This appeal was the signal for an unprecedented anti-communist campaign. The Ahduth Haavodah organised bands, armed with clubs which attacked and beat communist workers in the streets. Communists were refused admission to the workers refreshment rooms. Members of the Ahduth Haaoodah made the round of Jewish employers who employed workers suspected of communism and called upon them immediately to dismiss the “traitors”. Finally, the help of the police was called in and the police patrolled the streets accompanied by leaders of the Ahduth Haavodah and arrested communists on the basis of evidence given by the latter.
In Tel-Aviv (near Joppa) 13 comrades were arrested on one day and terribly mishandled in prison: they were beaten and tortured by the police officers, and were forced to be in damp cellars along with ordinary criminals; they were not even allowed a blanket. Some days afterwards the trial of the arrested took place before a Zionist judge, which resulted- although it was impossible to bring any charge against them than that of agitating against Zionist brutality – in their receiving sentences from one week to a year’s imprisonment as well as deportation. At the same time the workers clubs were closed.
But even this was not sufficient for the Zionists. The so called labour councils, in which the Ahduth Haavodah and the Paole Zion have the majority, adopted special resolutions declaring a boycott against all workers who are in any way connected with the Communist Party; it was further decided to refuse to admit communists to the workers refreshment rooms, to the labour exchanges, to workers’ meetings, and even letters addressed to communist workers, which arrive at the labour institutions are not to be handed over to the addressee.
The Communist Party has not been daunted either by the fascist terror or the violent acts of the police. Jewish and Arabian members of the Party are united in the struggle against nationalistic incitement; and among the Jewish working class itself the number of those is increasing who are turning away in disgust from the terrorist methods of the Zionists and are endorsing the Communist standpoint.
International Press Correspondence, widely known as”Inprecor” was published by the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI) regularly in German and English, occasionally in many other languages, beginning in 1921 and lasting in English until 1938. Inprecor’s role was to supply translated articles to the English-speaking press of the International from the Comintern’s different sections, as well as news and statements from the ECCI. Many ‘Daily Worker’ and ‘Communist’ articles originated in Inprecor, and it also published articles by American comrades for use in other countries. It was published at least weekly, and often thrice weekly. The ECCI also published the magazine ‘Communist International’ edited by Zinoviev and Karl Radek from 1919 until 1926 monthly in German, French, Russian, and English. Unlike, Inprecor, CI contained long-form articles by the leading figures of the International as well as proceedings, statements, and notices of the Comintern. No complete run of Communist International is available in English. Both were largely published outside of Soviet territory, with Communist International printed in London, to facilitate distribution and both were major contributors to the Communist press in the U.S. Communist International and Inprecor are an invaluable English-language source on the history of the Communist International and its sections.
PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/inprecor/1925/v05n05-jan-15-1925-inprecor.pdf