At present, the fundamental contradiction in the Arab Middle East can be seen as one opposing the Arab peoples—including the Palestinian people—to both Zionist territorial colonialism, represented by the state of Israel, and Western neo-imperialism, represented by the ruling Arab oligarchies. As such it is the condensation of the two contradictions (the national and the class contradictions) into one fundamental one. These two contradictions are:

Imperialism + Zionism vs the Palestinian people + the Arab masses; Imperialism + the Arab oligarchies vs the Arab masses.

Condensed, but by no means abolished, the national and class contradictions alternate in occupying the dominant position within the fundamental contradiction. The phases of the development of the Arab revolution (as the combined anti-Zionist and anti-imperialist struggle) are determined by this displacement of the principal aspects of the fundamental contradiction.

But the leadership of the anti-Zionist struggle is not the same as that of the class struggle. Whereas the Arab oligarchies appear to partake in the leadership of the former, they constitute the direct target, i.e. the internal enemy, of the latter. Once this is established the problematic of the Arab revolution emerges immediately. The central question is: What is the nature of the relation between the national struggle and the class struggle in the Middle East? In other words: How is one to think out the unity, and distinction, of the two interlocked struggles and their mutual interrelation within this unity? A host of related questions of a theoretical and strategic order are bound to follow: How, and to what extent, is the national struggle able to offset, mask, or—on the contrary—detonate and intensify the class struggle (and vice-versa) and in what conditions is the victory of the one a precondition for the victory of the other?

Before attempting a historical analysis of the Palestinian problem, it is essential to define the two related targets of the revolutionary struggle: Zionism, and neo-imperialism.

The basic Zionist aim defined as early as 1897—the establishment of a Jewish nation-state in Palestine—characterizes Zionism as a specific form of foreign domination: territorial colonialism bent on the acquisition of land. The corollary to this aim—the establishment of a decisive Jewish majority on this territory—necessarily implied, at best, the reduction of the native population to a minority: the land colonized should have as few inhabitants as possible. ‘Zionism wanted not simply the resources of Palestine . . . but the country itself to serve for the creation of a new national state. The new nation was to have its own classes, including a working class. The Arabs were, therefore, not to be exploited but totally replaced.’footnote2

The early Zionists knew this only too well.footnote3 As early as 1854, Lord Shaftesbury formulated the slogan: ‘country without a nation, nation without a country’footnote4 later to be transformed by modern Zionists into ‘a land without people for a people without land.’ The present debate inside Israel on what to do with the territories occupied during the June war of 1967 has re-introduced the notion of the ‘Jewish majority’ as the cornerstone of Zionism. Zionist opponents to annexation argue that since the Arab population is endowed with a higher birth-rate than its Israeli counterpart, annexation of the conquered territories, with their million inhabitants, will lead in due course to the Arabs becoming the majority of the population of the enlarged Israel—the very raison d’être of the Zionist state will disappear.footnote5