WHAT DISTINGUISHES OUR PARTY: The political continuity which goes from Marx to Lenin, to the foundation of the Communist Party of Italy (Livorno, 1921); the struggle of the Communist Left against the degeneration of the Communist International, against the theory of „socialism in one country“, against the Stalinist counter-revolution; the rejection of the Popular Fronts and the Resistance Blocs; the difficult task of restoring the revolutionary doctrine and organization in close interrelationship with the working class, against all personal and electoral politics.

In the articles, leaflets and comments we have devoted to the umpteenth massacre being perpetrated for months now in the Gaza Strip by the State of Israel, we have always insisted on using the term proletariat and not “people”: Palestinian or Arab or Middle-Eastern proletariat. This is not a linguistic quirk: “people” refers to all classes; it is an inter-classist term which implies a national vision, whilst our perspective – the one within and for which we have always worked as communists – is one that, particularly in the imperialist phase, centres on a single class, the proletarian class, and which therefore does not identify with the “people”, the “Nation”, the “Fatherland” or the bourgeois State. In fact it opposes all of them and doing so (only by doing so!) prepares our class for its own revolution. These are the terms in which we replied to those who criticised a leaflet of ours in the context of a demonstration, arrogantly and aggressively moreover, because it attacked “the Arab bourgeoisies in the region (including the Palestinian)”, for their long-term betrayal of the proletariat in Gaza and the West Bank. We are not suprised, however: we are well aware that ours is a minority perspective and goes against the current: but there are no other paths and all the presumed shortcuts only lead to disaster and more proletarian blood being uselessly spilled.

But whom are we talking about when we speak of the Palestinian proletariat? To answer this question, we take as our starting point our 1979 article (“The long ordeal transforming the Palestinian peasants into proletarians”), published on nos. 20-21-22 of our Italian newspaper “il programma comunista”, and also – though without necessarily sharing its political evaluations – a study by Alessandro Mantovani published on the website www.rottacomunista.org (“The Palestinian ‘proletariat’. A few figures”), which is, in turn, based on a wide range of different sources. Let’s start at the beginning.


The creation and development of the State of Israel are evoked by mainstream bourgeois ideology as one of those idyllic epics that it so much appreciates: didn’t the desert flourish and blossom thanks to the eternally under-praised virtues of this "little people”? This complacently and widely narrated fairytale acutally conceals the drama in which the peasant population was expropriated. True, all areas of the planet that have opened up, one after the other, to penetration by capitalism have experienced this drama: but in Palestine it has been extended with a degree of cynicism and savagery rarely equalled. Everywhere the bourgeoisie and its ideologists have attempted to simply deny that expropriation ever took place, so as to preserve the philanthropic purity of their actions. In Palestine, they have even denied the existence of the population expropriated: “an unpeopled land for a landless people”. Isn’t that so much simpler?!

“It’s well known that in real history,” wrote Marx, “conquest, subjugation, murder and armed robbery, briefly violence, rule. In the milder field of political economy [...] law and ‘labour’ have always been the only means of getting rich, with the recurring exception, of course, of the ‘current’ year. In reality, the methods of the original accumulation process are anything but idyllic” (1).The "paradise” of the Negev, the flourishing farms of citrus fruits and avocadoes in the coastal areas, just as the industrial boom (albeit on the scale of a tiny country), depend on stripping the Palestinian peasants of all they had. The history of their expropriation is similar to that of the English peasants Marx spoke about: “the history of this expropriation is written in blood and fire in the annals of humankind” (2). Let’s take a look at it.


From the Ottoman code to the great rebellion of 1933-1936

The ordeal of primitive accumulation, or rather the Palestinian version of it, which is certainly the most outrageous act in a drama that affected the whole of the region, dates back to the mid-1800s. More precisely, to 1858, with the institution of the Code of Landed Property by the Ottoman Empire, which Palestine was part of, together with other Middle-Eastern countries. If only for an instant, this ancient empire was able to rival the modern powers of Europe, merely by tightening its hold on the peasant masses. The aim of the Code was to make land-owning individual instead of collective or tribal as it had been until then. Instead of being paid collectively, taxes were now individual, making them the responsibility of the single individual in the case of failure to pay and thus weakening resistence to the growing tax burden.

The peasants who enjoyed the fruits of the land and its use according to village or tribal organisation, reacted in different ways. Some simply refused to apply the law and never registered their land: these were the places where, when the State of Israel was created in 1948, they were thrown off their land under the pretext that they did not possess a deed of property. Others only declared the third part that was cultivated, leaving aside the two thirds that were fallow. Still others registered a smaller surface area than the one farmed, being well aware that the Ottoman State would be unable to check up on everyone. Lastly, numerous villages registered the whole of the land in the name of local dignitaries, who paid fewer taxes or were exonerated: they thus placed their odds on the habit of the empire, hampered by the extent of its territories, of buying up the local dignitaries to avoid them being tempted to head peasant revolts against the central power.

Application of the Code thus resulted in strengthening the role of the local dignitaries: they became the original owners in order to “to lend a hand”, and thus it was inevitable that one day their heirs would try to profit from a deed that no-one had wanted. On the one hand, the State exploited the rules of the Code by which unowned land (in actual fact, fallow land or the part not registered) was considered state-owned (miri), and, by virtue of this right of property, began selling vast areas to Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian and Iranian traders. The latter attempted, more or less successfully acording to the power of resistance of the peasants, to take possession of it; those who didn’t succeed, kept their deeds of property, which they were to sell, years later, to Sionist organisations for a very satisfactory price.

The result of this process was an increase concentration of landed property, although the economic structures had not yet experienced any profound disturbance, since generally speaking the peasants effectively possessed the land, even though they could only partly claim legal property of it. This was the picture at the start of the First World War, at the end of which the Sublime Porte (the Ottoman empire) was forced to surrender everything to Great Britain.

The latter’s interest in Palestine can be explained by its strategic position near the Suez Canal and by the concern to stop the growth of a vast, anti-imperialist movement by introducing a vassal state that would split an area where a unified national spirit was beginning to awaken. In this way, the game of British imperialism coincided with the interests of Sionist capital and a mutual plan came into being, consisting in creating a State that would be both a local gendarme and a colonial enterprise.

If Sionist capital attempted to set up colonies in Palestine even before the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, it was not until the British mandate that a full-scale plan could be implemented, thanks to collaboration in particular from the Rothschild Foundation, this time totally upsetting the modes of production (3). The purchase of the land by the J.C.A. (Jewish Colonization Association), set up for this very purpose, inevitably involved expropriating the Palestinian tenants and sharecroppers. Whilst the deeds of property were in the hands of absent, large-scale land owners, who had no objection to selling the overwhelming majority of them from the very beginning, the actual land these deeds referred to was indispensible for the survival of the Palestinian peasants. Thus, as far as the origin of Jewish landed property according to type of seller is concerned, in the two-year period 1920-22, 75.4% of the land was sold by absent owners, 20.8% that yielded by large-scale resident land owners and 3.8% by fellah (peasants); ten years later, in the three-year period 1933-36 (at the dawn of the first great social uprising), the percentages were respectively 14.9%, 62.7% and 22.5% (3bis). The figures speak clearly: a rapid and radical process of concentration and expropriation was going on.

The expropriated, small, peasant farmer, the fellah, thus became a farm labourer on his own land. The situation of fierce exploitation of local labour by Sionist capital at the beginning of the new century was aggravated by the onset of “Hebrew labour”, used to safeguard the colonialist plans for occupation, whereby the immigrant took the fellah’s jobs, whilst Sionist funds financed the difference in salary in order to allow the use of European labour. The situation could not last without violent clashes occurring, since the expropriated peasants had no choice but to stand by and watch as the colonialists settled in their places. These were the reasons for the social uprisings that were more or less permanetly experienced in 1921, 1925, 1929, 1933, 1936, еtс..

In 1921, three years after the arrival of the English, things had reached the point where a real rebellion broke out all over the country. The regions most affected were Safad in the North, Hebron and Jerusalem in the centre. The peasants’ anger was essentially directed against the Sionists, whose colonies were fiercely attacked. The English army took on the task of re-establishing “peace and calm” (it’s always had a weakness for this sort of mission!). Obviously for... noble reasons, it was obliged to repress the “irresponsible minority”: summary executions, hangings, etc.

These uprisings culminated in that of 1936, which lasted three years and was accompanied by a magnificent general strike in the towns, lasting six months. Its strength lay not in the peasantry or bourgeoisie, but already in an agricultural proletariat stripped of its means of labour and subsistence and the embryo of a working class essentially concentrated in the ports and in the Haifa oil refinery. It should also be pointed out that the movement first caught on in the towns and then rapidly reached the countryside, where direct guerilla action was organised both against the big Palestinian land owners and against the English and Sionist colonisers. Numerous land owners were targeted by the Palestinian revolutionaries for having sold their land to the Sionists: to the depredated peasants it was clear that the cause of their poverty were the big land owners who had grown rich by speculating on the land.

The Stalinist counter-revolution and the absence in Europe of a revolutionary movement able to support the Palestinian revolution left the latter all alone to face the war machinery of British imperialism, which, however, was forced to add the promise of independence and other similar manoeuvres to the use of arms, in order to solve the situation, even asking for help from the Arab land owners and the local rulers in their pay. The latter “fraternally” encouraged the Palestinians to lay down their arms and have confidence in Her Majesty’s goverment’s good intentions. And to help them understand this encouragement better, the borders of Transjordan (where the grandfather of the butcher of Amman reigned – Prince Abdullah, killed in 1952 by a Palestinian) were closed to the guerilla fighters who attempted to escape there or to procure arms or food, as well as to volunteers from the region who tried to join the rebels.

This was when the laws on the collective responsibility of Arab villages and districts came into force, delights of terrorism that semi-barbarian oriental despotism left as its inheritance to highly civilised western capitalism. According to these laws, the inhabitants of the villages are obliged to host police detachments on punitive operations and the population is considered responsible for operations carried out by anyone in the area; the population is then subject to martial law and the houses in which the “rebels” take refuge can be destroyed, or administrative internments are imposed “as an example”. This is how, after an operation to cut a telephone wire in Galillee, three villages were besieged by British troops: all the men were put in line and counted and those who were unlucky enough to be numbers 10, 20 or 30 etc. were shot in front of their fellow villagers.

These are the methods whereby Christian and democratic England determined to put an end to the rebellions of peasants without land, food or work. 30,000 soldiers were allocated to control a population not exceeding 800,000 inhabitants! All strike leaders were imprisoned. The help given to the colonisers by the religious and land-owning dignitaries guiding the movement was decisive: in accordance with the infamous Prince Abdullah, they continued to stab the rebels in the back, taking part with the English in the search for a “way out” of the situation. The British launched a harsh attack, during which the rebel villages were bombed (today the Israelis follow this fine example) and the outcome was 5 000 Palestinian deaths and 2 500 prisoners (4). The heroic spirit of the Palestinian workers and peasants of the time was thus broken. The terrible isolation in which they were trapped by the international situation prevented their horizon from broadening and stopped their struggle from coinciding with that of the exploited masses in the region against the yoke of colonialism and the old ruling classes. It was also paralysed by the weight of social backwardness the country was suffering from and which found expression in the semi-feudal and semi-religious leadership of the movement.

If the working class was unable to play a more important role, this is also due to the fact that the party that claimed to represent it, the Palestinian Communist Party (PCO), was following a completely mistaken path, accentuated, moreover, by an International that was communist in name only. Instead of distancing itself from a religious and reactionary leadership, the PCO, whose membership included not only a majority of Hebrew-Sionist workers, but also an Arab minority, was obliged by the Stalinised International to support the Palestinian mufti, Hadj Amin Husseini, a sort of “ante litteram” Khomeini, if not worse.

This direction completely disoriented the proletarians and encouraged nationalist tendencies on both sides. Seeing their party support the more reactionary wing of the movement, the Arab workers abandoned it in favour of less moderate nationalist organisations; for their part, the Jewish workers were unable to support this position without finding themselves totally defenceless before the hypocritically “anti-feudal” propaganda of Sionism. Here, as elsewhere, the Stalinist counter-revolution completely destroyed the class party, even more so in Palestine, where the proletariat was still in its earliest stages and, above all, terribly divided by the colonial situation.

Though courageous, the 1933-36 rebellion thus ended in total disaster. Despite a momentary withdrawel by Great Britain, obliged for a few years to limit Jewish immigration, the Sionist movement continued to gain strength. The Palestinian movement, instead, plunged into such a state of bitter disappointment that the tragic outcome of the 1948 war can partly be traced back to 1936.


The birth of Israel and the war of expropriation

At the end of the Second World War, the old English empire gave way to the American imperialist colossus. The Sionist movement was therefore in a far better position, since the presence of the English had become inopportune or even unacceptable, even driving many Sionist groups, anxious to create their own state, to form an anti-English terrorist movement (IRGUN in which the future Israeli Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Menachem Begin cut his teeth, with a number of military actions and attacks, resulting in death and injury). Great Britain’s only desire was to get rid of its responsibilities in Palestine and it passed the buck to the UN, the new “den of thieves”, built on the ashes of the defunct League of Nations.

In 1947, preparations for the constitution of a Jewish State led to the Arab-Israeli war. While the delegates of the virtuous bourgeois nations debated in the sumptuous halls of the UN about whether an Arab and a Jew could live together without cutting one another’s throats (“With these orientals, old man, you never do know”…) or whether it would be better to separate them using the cavalry, the State of Israel came into being on 14 May 1948. This was the start of the competition between Truman and Stalin to see who would recognise it first: but, above all, it was the beginning of the hunting season in pursuit of Palestinians.

Up until then history had only revealed a small foretaste of capitalist barbarity: emptying the country of most of its poverty-stricken peasants was not the confessed objective. It was a grander re-enacting of the ordeal of the Scottish peasants described by Robert Somers, which Marx quotes in the previously quoted chapter of Capital: “The owners [in this case the Sionists - ed] thin out and disperse the population as a matter of principle, as a necessity of agriculture, in the very same way in which, in the deserts of America and Australia, trees and bushes are cleared away: and the operation proceeds undisturbed.” (5)

For international, as well as local, reasons Israel could not occupy the whole of Palestine at the time. The process of expropriation was not so far advanced in certain areas as it was in others: and so the Centre, with its more mountainous terrain, was of less interest to the Sionists; in addition, according to the division drawn up and favoured by the UN, the State of Israel was only supposed to be constituted in part of Palestine. The part occupied was actually larger than the plan drawn up: but Transjordan and the Gaza Strip momentarily escaped the Sionist conquest, the former going to Prince Abdallah, promoted for the occasion to King of Jordan by the English, the latter going to Egypt. This time the bourgeoisie ignored the sacred right of property, legality and other smokescreens: it was brute force, terror, slaughter and extermination that were raised to the status of the supreme law on which to base any further legality.

There is little use in describing the miserable conditions in which the Palestinian masses were confined: they were little better than the concentration camps only recently evacuated by the hundreds of thousands of Jews driven to Palestine by the shining vision of Eden that imperialism had blinded them with. This one million of uprooted people, of forced unemployed, were to upset forever the region’s fragile balance and became the epicentre of social rebellion in the Middle East.

Despite the Israeli authorities’ tenacity in expelling as many Palestinians as possible, a minority nonetheless managed to stay: around 170 000 in 1948, within the State of Israel. This population was subjected to unheard-of pressure, which can only be equalled perhaps in the colonial societies of Africa. The Palestinian population had to endure humiliation from an extraordinarily ferocious military régime, with no other “legal” foundation than the famous British decrees dating back to the period of the Mandate, amongst which we should recall the emergency defense regulations promulgated in 1945 to deal with the Jewish resistance against English occupation.

Here are two witness accounts. For the first: “it’s like this: we shall all be subjected to official terror or there will be freedom without trial [...], any appeal is abolished [...] the powers of the authorities to exile anyone, any time, are unlimited [...]. It’s not necessary to commit any sort of irregularity; a decision taken in any old office is quite sufficient”. For the second: “The order established by this legislation is unprecedented in civilised countries. Not even in Nazi Germany did similar laws exist.” (6).

These declarations were made in a meeting of jurists in Tel-Aviv on 7 February 1946 to protest against the… English colonial repression: the first by Bernard (Dov) Joseph, Israel’s future Minister of Justice; the second by J. Shapira, future Prosecutor General of the Israeli Republic. Not even two years had passed before similar “Nazi” barbarity was used by the Sionists against the Palestinians..

But the legislation mentioned was not enough to satisfy the colonial voracity of Israel, this monstruous fruit of the orgasm between Sionism and western capitalism. The terrorist arsenal of the defense regulations had urgently to be perfected and this was done by means of successive laws which, under cover of the war, tended to legalise expropriation.

One of the masterpieces of this legislation was the “Law on the property of absentees”. By its terms, an “absentee” was “anyone who, in the period between 19 November 1947 and 19 May 1948 was the owner of a piece of land situated in Israel and was in the same period a citizen of Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq or Yemen; who resided in these countries or elsewhere, in Palestine outside Israel; or who was a Palestinian citizen who had abandoned his place of residence in Palestine to settle in a region governed by forces that had opposed the formation of the State of Israel.” (7).

This period corresponds to considerable movements of people fleeing from areas where the fighting was harshest: how many peasants, considered to be “absent” when they had merely “moved” a few hundred metres or so, had their land confiscated? Another virtue of this law was to grab the lands and goods belonging to the clergy (around 6%): as much as to say, “God himself is absent”!

Another monument to legality: the famous “Urgency Law”. This made it possible to consider some regions “closed areas”: written permission from the military authorities was therefore needed to access them. According to another regulation, if a village is declared a “security zone”, the inhabitants no longer have the right to live there. More than twelve villages in Galillee had to be abandoned for this reason: this was the law! Other similar measures were also established: one of them makes it possible to declare certain regions “Temporary security zones”, which means that the peasants are prevented from farming their land, whilst another measure authorises the State to confiscate fallow land “for a certain period”. To sum up, nothing escapes the law...

This magnificent legal construction was completed by the 1949 “Ordinances on the state of urgency”, which complete the English “Urgency Laws” of 1945: for reasons of “public safety”, the military authorities are granted the power to search homes and vehicles, issue arrest warrants, hold summary trials behind closed doors and without appeal, limit the right to circulation, assign people to a different address, deport them across borders, whilst article 109 allows the army to forbid anyone to enter the areas it establishes and to impose restrictions regarding production work. One of the secrets of democracy is thus revealed: it can afford to pay for the luxury of covering up open violence linked to class discrimination – aggravated here by racial and nationalist oppression – with a veil of legal hypocrisy. (8)

These, then, are the means by which Sionism, on behalf of capital, cleared the ground of its inhabitants. It can be said that already by the end of the 1970s, the expropriation of the Palestinian peasants was more or less complete in the territories occupied in 1948 (9). The lack of land also extends to the towns and villages to which the population is relegated and where the lots with planning permission are extremely limited in number.

What has become of this population, still essentially a population of farmers in 1948, that has remained in Israel? We can see this in the following table:

Division of Arab labour in main areas of production

(in percentage)

1954 1966 1972

Agriculture 59.9 39.1 19.1

Industry 8.2 14.9 12.5

Building and public services 8.4 19.6 26.6

Other sectors 23.5 26.4 41.8

(Source: Annuaire statistique d'Israël, 1955-1973)


It is of no slight importance to note that in the industrial sector more or less all Arabs are salaried workers. Out of the population active in farming, 58% are proletarians, which means that in 1972 less than 10% of Arab-Israelis still had a link to the land. As to public services, they include the majority of salaried workers, to the extent that in 1970 workers and others already represented 72% of the Arab working population (10). The new generation of Palestinians living in Israel is therefore essentially working class, although they continue to live in rural areas (74% of the population in 1967).

The village where they live has now become a ghetto, in which the State of Israel attempts to imprison them. These workers are exploited, underpaid (in many cases the ratio is one to two for the same work), obliged to travel for hours in crowded lorries to reach their place of work and return from it. These proletarians have endured an ordeal of poverty, war, humiliation and massacres, the memory of which is indelible (11). The emergency régime was suppressed in 1966 but this did not, however, mean that the laws characterising it were also suppressed. The prerogatives of the military authorities were merely transferred to other bodies of civil administration and, in particular, to the police. In reality, “Whatever the rights and freedoms granted by law or by custom to Israel’s inhabitants, issues of security are always ready to call them into question without formally breaking the law!” (12)

The few remaining farmers have again been the recent victims of this possibility of re-establishing with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ the laws on terrorism. Thus, in 1976, 10, 000 hectares were confiscated from the Arab population; this attack on the little that remained to them sparked off mass demonstrations, strikes and clashes with the police and the army. The latter imposed a curfew and invaded many villages; six Arabs were killed and dozens wounded. The episode was baptised Earth Day”. Most importantly, the legislation is used in any protest against the State. And who has more reason to “protest” if not the working class? In contact, after 1967, with the new wave of Palestinian workers, in turn subjected to a régime of occupation in Gaza and the West Bank, their return to the battle is all the more ardent, as the anger has been suppressed for so long.


New wave of expropriation in the war of 1967

Palestine is a tiny country: 27,000 sq. km, more or less like Belgium. One third is desert, farming there is difficult and above all very costly. In 1948 Israel occupied almost 21,000 sq.km. Obviously such small dimensions can never satisfy the appetite of ambitious Sionist capital. In this context, expansion is a necessity, expansionism is a State religion. And so, in 1967, Israel took possession of the West Bank and Gaza, and the 1948 phenomenon repeated itself. In 1967 the Gaza Strip was inhabited by 450,000 Palestinians, of whom over a third were refugees from the fertile plain of Jaffa, which they had been thrown out of in 1948. Over 100,000 inhabitants of Gaza, many of whom fleeing for the second time, were obliged to take refuge in neighbouring countries. The West Bank, where there were around 850,000 inhabitants in 1967, i.e. before the occupation, counted only 650,000 three years later, which means that 200,000 Palestinians had to leave all they had in this region to end up in those enclaves of misery called “refugee camps”. And so, over 300,000 people were obliged, for one reason or another, to abandon their homes and as a consequence became subject to the ban on returning, according to Israeli legislation, designed to create a void. The famous “Law on absentees” worked excellently: 33,000 hectares fell under its blade. 16% of all the land belonging to the State or to the community automatically passed into the hands of the occupiers. Israel also requisitioned over 10,000 homes belonging to “absentees” transformed into refugees in the camps. But this is normal procedure. Other, more refined methods were discovered: this is how, in the village of Akraba in the West Bank, the Sionists destroyed harvests by spraying them with chemical products. Is there any need to add that the State has renovated the whole of its terrorist arsenal? There have been thousands of expulsions, as declared to the Knesset by the ex Defence Minister Simon Peres; 23,000 Palestinians were imprisoned over the years 1967-73; 16,312 homes were destroyed between 1967 and 1971, by virtue of the highly Biblical principle of collective responsibility; several villages, such as Latrun, Amwas, Yllo, Beit Nouba and others, have simply been wiped off the map.

In October 1967 it was possible for colonisation to begin on the land confiscated by these methods of State-organised gang warfare. In 1971, 52 colonies could be counted in the recently occupied territories. Later, new settlements and new projects followed. It is almost superfluous to add that, even more so than in Israel, the Arab population lacks any independent means of expression through unions or independent political associations. The least suspicion of belonging to a subversive organisation has already led to thousands of Palestinians being accommodated for a grand total of several centuries of (such pleasant!) hospitality in Sionist prisons (13).

It is not our intention here to repeat the whole history of this “long ordeal”: the last forty years – those closest to us – have only confirmed these dynamics and thus increased the rate of expropriation and transformation of farmers into proletarians. A new and complex project of data collection for the following decades right up to the present will be developed if our resources permit it. In the meantime, this is enough to show the results obtained by the methodical and unrelenting pillaging of Palestinian farmers and their transformation into proletarians.


A look at the present

If we return for a moment to the figures previously quoted relating to the Division of Arab labour by main areas of production (regarding the population that remained in Israel, still essentially farmers in 1948), we see that whilst the percentage of farmers drops from 59.9 in 1954 to 19.1 in 1972, in the same few years the percentage regarding industry rises from 8.2 to 12.5, the sector regarding building and public services from 8.4 to 26.6 and percentages regarding other sectors from 23.5 to 41.8. The figures we have are only available up until 1972: but it already becomes evident that we are witnessing a process of profound and definitive proletarianisation, which subsequent decades (which can later be worked on to update the figures, resources permitting, extending the study to the specific situation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank) will merely confirm. In fact, the dynamics will certainly not be reversed: indeed, from the outbreak of the structural crisis of capitalism in the mid-1970s (which later deepened and which we are still immersed in, together with all its well-known and disastrous consequences), the situation has merely intensified and worsened.

And so we come to today, with the official figures taken from Mantovani’s study.
And let us start out with a general consideration: the international nature of the proletariat in the whole of the Middle East is a given fact. Limiting our considerations to the so-called petro-monarchies of the Gulf, the figures speak clearly: as well as local proletarians, working in this explosive area in conditions of acute exploitation are 7 million Indians, 3.3 million Bangladeshis, 3.2 million Pakistanis, 1.7 million Indonesians, 1.6 million Filipinos, 1.3 million Nepalese, 1.1 million Srilankans, 650 thousand Sudanese, together with Egyptian, Yemenite, Jordanian and Lebanese proletarians, as well as something like 200-250 thousand Palestinians. If we proceed to look further (always taking account of the difficulty in data collection), we see that throughout the world there are approximately 14.5 million Palestinians, of whom 1.7 million in Israel, 5.48 million in the ‘Occupied Territories’, 6.3 million in the Arab countries and 750 thousand in the rest of the world” (figures from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics) – a striking diaspora.
Remaining in the State of Israel itself, the situation regarding the international composition of the labour force is exactly similar. In particular, there is a community of Arab-Israeli citizens equal to 21% of the overall population (around 2 million – 2019 figures): but only 41% of this community has access to the labour market, whilst the rate of unemployment is the highest (around 15%), the salaries 60% lower than that of Jewish workers, the jobs are unskilled (in particular in the building industry), only 5% of civil servants are Arab-Israelis and only 38% of the female labour force is in employment (as against 82% of its Jewish equivalent). Moreover, the link to the land, a necessary reserve for coping with constant poverty, is increasingly threatened by expropriation and the expansion of the Jewish colonies.
Then there are the Palestinian workers in the occupied territories”. In the West Bank live 3,400,000 Palestinians (adding to the 2,300,000 in the Gaza Strip). Of them at least 2.1 million, so almost 40 % of the population, depend on aid (according to other statistics the figures are double this). “In 2014 around 68% of workers in the West Bank were employed in the private sector, 15.8% in the public sector and 13.8% in Israel. On the other hand, the public sector is the largest employer in the Gaza Strip, with 55% of the total, as against 39% in the private sector. Over the whole of the occupied territories, in 2022 the rate of employment of the labour force was 45.0%. [...] The ratio employment/population reached 34.0%. The overall rate of unemployment came to around 24.4%, for young people 36.1%, for women 40.4” (Mantovani, cit.).
Within this framework there are enormous differences regarding gender and age: in 2022, women’s occupation accounted for 18.6% compared to 70.7% for men; that of young people (between 15 and 24) was 30.8% compared to 51% for adults (over 25). And, although Palestinian labour laws (no.7 of 2000) prohibit child labour under the age of 15, as well as dangerous jobs or long working hours for young people between the ages of 15 and 17, there is also child labour between the ages of 10 and 14, and the numbers here have risen from 6,169 (2021) to 7,321 (2022), whilst the number of young people (aged 15-17) at work has risen from around 12,000 (2021) to almost 17,000 (2022). Here, too, in the field of agriculture the drop in employment is mainly due to the extension of Jewish settlements. It should also be noted that only those working in the public sector (civil servants and members of the security forces), which means 21% of all Palestinians in employment, benefit from social security (14).
As to workers in Gaza, before the slaughter occurring as we write (late February 2024), the situation was already the most disastrous of all, particularly for women and young people, two-thirds of whom were unemployed. The permits issued to work in Israel and in the settlements (only 3% of which were legitimate) regarded no more than 5% of Gaza’s labour force. In all, almost 200 thousand Palestinian workers were employed either in Israel, with salaries an average 2.7 times higher than in the occupied territories, or in the settlements: here mostly underpaid und unregulated work, with women doing unskilled jobs in agriculture and the domestic sector and with constant accusations of child labour, salaries below the legal minimum and sexual harrassment. It should not be forgotten that a large part of Gaza’s population depended either on subsidies from the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for the Palestine Refugees in the Near West (UNRWA, the United Nations Agency for aid and employment of Palestinian refugees, created in 1949 and constantly under attack from Israel, even more so today) or from Hamas’s charitable and welfare associations or from public employment, in turn controlled by Hamas. Tomorrow, what will happen to them? Lastly, it must be borne in mind that since 1948 a Palestinian diaspora has existed, a majority of which formed by proletarians – and thus a diaspora crossed by class lines. We are not interested here in examining the conditions of the Palestian bourgeoisie, active in the fields of finance, trade and the building industry (it will be interesting to do so, if it is possible to recover the necessary data, which is not easy to obtain). We are interested in the fate of the refugees who have fled to Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and so on in order to survive: at the start of 2022, those registered with the UNRWA numbered 5.9 million, of whom 2.4 million in Jordan, 580,000 in Syria and 487,000 in Lebanon. Millions of refugees who add to the “foreign population”, overwhelmingly proletarian, which now represents 1/3 of the population of Saudi Arabia, 44% of that in Oman, 55% in Bahrein, 70% in Kuwait, 88% in Qatar and in the United Arab Emirates, “with an absolute world record in the city of Dubai” (Mantovani, cit.).

We are thus seeing a Palestinian proletariat certainly present in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank, but also more widely spread throughout the Middle East (and, as we have seen, not only here). A diaspora of proletarians fleeing from poverty, hunger, destruction and wars, which – let us remember – mhave always accompanied the story of bloodshed and suffering that are intrinsic in the development of capitalism worldwide. The present slaughter in the Gaza Strip cannot fail to cause all the percentages previously recorded to soar, especially if subsidies from the UNRWA and other organizations, and distributed in Gaza by Hamas and in the West Bank by the ANP, should cease or be cut drastically (15). The widespread destruction perpetrated in and around the Gaza Strip by the State of Israel (a real wasteland, authentic ethnic cleansing, a true genocide) will cause and is already setting off a further mass exodus. The destruction, the physical and psychological damage, the famine and malnutrition, the desperation and the fight for survival, the state of permanent warfare beyond the present bloody chapter, will be dramatic factors in the upheaval to follow in the coming years.


From this picture, which will gradually have to be refined and confirmed, we can already draw some general conclusions, to be developed and substantiated over time. First of all, it should be reiterated that the class identity of the revolutionary proletariat is not of a static nature that can be directly seen as belonging to one working or social situation or another. On the contrary, it has taken shape over two centuries of tremendous political and economic battles, through revolutions, wars and infamous times of peace. And it has consolidated in the theoretical heritage of revolutionary Marxism, elaborated by the founders, passing through all the lessons learned from the Bolshevik school, through to the work of re-ordering and operational and theoretical defence by the Communist Left in the past and right up to today. It is to this consolidated experience that the political assumption of the proletariat’s development belongs: from being a scattered class in itself to an established class for itself. “Either the proletarian is a revolutionary or s/he is nothing”.

And so we stand alongside the Palestinian proletariat, and not with the generic “people” and this position derives from a materialist analysis of the situation in the Middle East and not from an abstract aspiration or pseudo-internationalism made up of romantic slogans and void of content. The Palestinian proletariat exists, albeit scattered and unfortunately paralysed by nationalist-religious perspectives which cage and castrate its revolutionary potential (as also happens in the whole of the Middle East, including Israel) – a potential strengthened by the tremendous suffering and consequent just anger of almost eighty years now, that characterise the condition of Palestinian proletarians. But this enormous potential will not be able to catch fire and become a reality until there is contact with a real return to the class struggle at an international level (and first and foremost in the area of Europe-America), with the active and acknowledged presence in it of the revolutionary party. Since the mid-1920s, the Middle- Eastern proletariat and the Palestinians in particular have been criminally abandoned by the political and union organisations that should have represented and guided them: the Stalinist counter-revolution has meant that revolutionary Russia has retired inside its borders (ideological and political even more than geographical), as well as the complete betrayal of any world revolutionary prospect. This perspective must be recovered and launched again, and only the communist party, firmly anchored to principles, theory, tactics and organization, with an international structure, can do this. It is for this perspective, for its organisation and direction, that we as a party have always worked, inevitably in the minority and obstinately against the tide: not expecting it to happen but working, within the limits of our resources, towards its reactivation and thus to rescue the Palestinian and world proletariat from the infamous trap of nationalism.



(1) Capital, Book 1, chap. XXIV: “So-called original accumulation” (Par.1: “the secret of primitive acumulation”

(2) Ivi.
(3) Cfr. especially Lorand Gaspard, Histoire de la Palestine, Paris, 1978 р. 140.

(3bis) Source: A. Granott, The Land System in Palestine, London 1952.
(4) Cfr. especially Nathan Weinstock, Le sionisme contre Israël, Paris,1969, pp. 179-180.
(5) Capital, I, chap. XXIV, par. 2, note 220.
(6) N. Weinstock, op. cit. p. 392.
(7) Sefer Ha-Khukkim (Special legislation), 37, 1950, pag. 86.
(8) For a complete account of this legislation, cfr. Weinstock, cit., pp.374-399, Gaspard, cit, pp. 187-189, Sabri Geries, Les arabes en Israel, Paris, 1969, pp. 95-116, and no. 199 of Problemes economiques et sociaux of 2-11-1973.

(9) Of the 475 Arab villages to be counted in Israeli-occupied Palestine in 1948, how many remain today?

(10) Cfr. the journal Khamsin, no. 2-1975, pp. 79, 41 and 54.
(11) On 29 October 1956, Israeli soldiers enter the village of Kfar Kassem to impose a curfew and announce to the inhabitants that anyone who is found out of doors half an hour later will be shot. Since many people are still working in the fields at that hour, or on Israeli building sites, it is impossible to warn them. On their return, they are arrested, put in a line and shot. 47 people are killed. The State of Israel opened an enquiry and published sentences. For example, the second-in-command of the officers, recognised as responsible for the massacre, in 1960 was appointed “head of Arab affairs” in the region close to Ramleh...
(12) As in no. 199 di Problèmes économiques et sociaux.
(13) Cfr. L. Gaspard, cit., p. 145, and Le Monde of 8-6-79 and 19-6-79.
(14) “The West Bank is divided into three zones with different jurisdictions: zones A, B and C, as defined in the heinous Oslo Agreement II. Zone A includes urban centres and covers 18% of the West Bank, the only one controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Area B includes small towns and suburban areas [...] and is under Israeli control with regard to security and Palestinian as regards civil administration. Area C covers 61% of the West Bank and is under the exclusive control of Israel. It is off-limits for most Palestinians and, though constituting the greatest part of the territory theoretically foreseen for a phantomatic Palestinian State, it is inhabited by more Israeli settler-colonialists than Palestinians” (Mantovani, cit.).
(15) It should be remembered that “the refugees registered with the l'UNRWA in Palestine and in the diaspora number around 6 million, of whom 39% in Jordan, 25% in the Gaza Strip, 17% in the West Bank, 11% in Syria, 9% in Lebanon. As much as 64% of the total population in the Gaza Strip are refugees, as against 26% in the West Bank. At the end of 2018 in the ocuupied territories, around 41% of the total resident Palestinian population were refugees” (Mantovani, cit.).


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