By David Sole
I was born just eight days before “Al Nakba” – the Palestinian Catastrophe of May 15, 1948. I was born in New York City, a child of Hungarian Jewish immigrants who had come to the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. I was raised knowing nothing of Palestine in a household and culture that supported Zionism and the israeli entity.
They say that timing is everything and my formative early teenage years coincided with the powerful Civil Rights movement which influenced my older sister and me. My very first protest was to participate in shutting down my high school as part of a citywide action to oppose racist, unequal funding in the New York City school system. That was February 1964.
Vietnam War protests started as a small demonstration in Times Square in 1962. But I wasn’t really conscious of this issue until a wider anti-Vietnam War movement arose in 1965 during my first year in Queens College, City University of New York. A captive of the pro-war propaganda of the day, I supported the war against “communism” and even considered enlisting in the army. I wasn’t comfortable taking a student deferment while others were fighting overseas.
I wasn’t eighteen yet and in those critical two years I met many committed anti-war activists on campus who patiently explained and documented why the Vietnam War was wrong. I came to understand that Vietnam was part of a long history of United States military, political and economic domination around the world. It was the system of imperialism – what V.I. Lenin called “The Highest Stage of Capitalism.”
We weren’t taught any of this in school and there was no internet. But the examples abounded. The CIA overthrew President Mosaddegh in Iran in 1953 after he nationalized that country’s oil. In 1954 the CIA overthrew President Arbenz of Guatemala when United Fruit Company’s holdings were nationalized. In 1961 the CIA was behind the murder of Congo’s popular first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba. U.S. President Johnson sent 23,000 troops in an invasion of the Dominican Republic in April 1965, to stop a popular uprising and to protect U.S. corporate investments.
It was only a short step to see how racism and national oppression right here in the U.S. also grew out of the capitalist system. The attacks on unions and all workers were also tied in. As a biology and chemistry major this world view made sense of much of what otherwise might appear to be chaos and confusion. Biology had the theory of evolution and natural selection; Chemistry had quantum mechanics; and Marxism gave the tools to understand history and political/social developments.
It took a bit longer, but understanding U.S. imperialism forced me to confront my upbringing and family about Zionism and the israeli entity. The Palestinian liberation struggle had once more burst onto the world stage and could not be ignored. The heroic resistance of the Palestinian people against all obstacles, repression and brutality commanded growing respect and admiration of all progressive people around the world.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964. Who can forget when Palestinian freedom fighters hijacked TWA flight 840 on its way from Rome to Tel Aviv in 1969? Among them was the legendary Leila Khaled with her kaffiyeh and AK-47. Other hijackings followed.
In September 1970 Jordan’s King Hussein launched a full scale war against the Palestinians who were living in camps, having been driven out of Palestine in the Nakba decades ago. It was later revealed that King Hussein was on the payroll of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and that “Black September” was certainly coordinated by the United States. It is also known that paratroopers from the United States Army were in the air flying across the Atlantic Ocean ready to join the attack on the Palestinians. Only when the tide turned in favor of the Jordanian Army did the planes turn around and return to base.
In retaliation for Black September a militant group inside the PLO took israeli athletes hostage in Munich, Germany during the 1972 Summer Olympics. The “official story” spread by the news media was that the Palestinian fighters killed eleven of the athletes before being gunned down themselves. Many believe, however, that the German security forces with the approval of israel stormed in to end the standoff with no regard for the lives of the hostages.
In Detroit in November 1973 the Zionist B’nai B’rith International organization held a dinner at Cobo Hall to honor United Auto Workers International President Leonard Woodcock as “Humanitarian of the Year.” The UAW was known to have over $1 million in israei Bonds in its portfolio. Over 2,000 Arab workers at the old Dodge Main Chrysler Plant walked off the job on November 28. I was a UAW-General Motors worker and joined over 1,000 demonstrators in downtown Detroit to protest this farce and to demand the UAW sell off its investments in bloody Zionism.
The wildcat walkout (unauthorized strike) shut down Dodge Main. It is a rare example of a political strike in U.S. labor history. This was just one of many pro-Palestine, anti-Zionism actions in southeast Michigan over the past decades that I helped organize or joined in.
The struggle of the Palestinian people has taken many twists and turns. Uprisings and resistance has continued in response to unrelenting Zionist aggressions and encroachments. It has been a long and difficult path for the Palestinians.
The israeli entity was created by the Western imperialist powers to serve as a military base against the tide of Arab nationalism that swept the Middle East following World War II. As such it has been propped up with billions of dollars in weapons, economic and political support for 74 years by the entire ruling class of the United States and its allies.
Those who stand up against U.S. imperialism know how long and brutal that path can be. The Vietnamese people fought for decades against French colonialism, then Japanese occupation, then again against the French. When they finally defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and thought independence was within their grasp, the United States came in to battle them for another 18 years until they, too, were defeated.
The predecessor of the African National Congress (ANC) was founded in South Africa to oppose settler colonialism in 1912. For decades all forms of struggle were used in an attempt to gain basic rights for African and mixed-race people. In March 1960 police opened fire on a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville killing at least 69 and wounding hundreds more. The ANC was outlawed. The U.S. CIA provided the racist apartheid regime of South Africa with the information used to locate and seize Nelson Mandela, leader of the armed wing of the ANC. The very first political button I wore was in 1965. It simply said “Chase Manhattan – Partner in Apartheid.” The Rockefeller bank, Chase Manhattan, had given a huge loan to prop up the South African government which was near collapse from international sanctions following the Sharpeville Massacre.
Thirty years later, after unrelenting protests in South Africa and around the world, apartheid ended. Nelson Mandela stepped out of prison and was elected president of South Africa.
Those of us who support Palestine and oppose Zionism and the israei entity should not expect the struggle to be easy. We do it because it is right and necessary. We also work to link together all the struggles around the world and right here at home. Some may get weary or demoralized. But the worldwide fight against capitalism and imperialism will not stop until victory is won.