On July 31, the “Weekly Worker” appeared with a full page picture of a nuclear explosion on its front page and the words in large white letters against the black of the picture:
“AWL’s Sean Matgamna: excusing an Israeli nuclear attack on Iran”.
Supposedly a reference to a “discussion article” which I published in the last issue of “Solidarity”, the words on WW’s front page were a straightforward lie.
No reasonable (or even unreasonable!) “construction” on what I wrote could license or justify those lying words.
Nor can any “cock-up” in the print-shop explain away the front page and the words as unintentional and a freak happening that was not intended — the picture and the words match exactly.
What appeared was, plainly, exactly what was intended.
“An attack on Iran will most likely lead to great carnage in the Middle East, and beyond, as supporters of Iran resort to suicide-bombings in retaliation. There might well be large scale Iranian civilian 'collateral' casualties. An attack would strengthen the Iranian regime and license a smash down on its critics, including working class critics, inside Iran. It would throw Iraq back into the worst chaos.”
“Yet the plain fact is that nuclear bombs in the hands of a regime which openly declares its desire to destroy Israel are not something Israel will peacefully tolerate. They will act to stop it while it can still be stopped without the risk of a nuclear strike against Israel.
"Unless work on an Iranian nuclear bomb has definitively ended Israel will bomb Iran, with or without the agreement of the USA and NATO. In the last reckoning here, Israel is no state’s puppet. It has pressing concerns of it’s own, and will act on them.
"… Israel will act to stop this Muslim fundamentalist regime acquiring the possiblilty of inflicting nuclear death on the Jewish nation (and the Israeli Arab minority which would also be victims of a nuclear attack)".
I wrote: “The harsh truth is that there is good reason for Israel to make a precipitate strike at Iranian nuclear capacity.”
I also wrote: “We do not advocate an Israeli attack on Iran, nor will we endorse it or take political responsibility for it. But if the Israeli air force attempts to stop Iran developing the capacity to wipe it out with a nuclear bomb, in the name of what alternative would we condemn Israel?”
I asked from what point of view, in principle, could the “Left” condemn action by Israel to stop an Islamic fundamentalist regime, religious lunatics who deny Israel’s right to exist, acquiring the means to make a nuclear strike against it?
My starting point of course was that in principle Israel has a right to defend itself; I was discussing the responses of a “left” which in the main does not accept Israel’s right to exist, let alone defend itself.
I wrote: “ Our point of view is not that of Israeli or any other nationalism. We want Israeli, Palestinian, Iranian and other workers to unite and fight for a socialist Middle East.
"However, least of all should we back Ahmedinejad, or argue, implicitly or openly, that homicidal religious lunatics have a right to arm themselves with nuclear weapons — and that those they say they want to destroy should be condemned for refusing to stand idly by while they arm themselves to do the job.
"The latter, expressed in duff 'anti-imperialism', pretend, one-sided, pacifism and hysterical appeals to 'international law' and 'the UN', will be the response of the kitsch left to an Israeli attack. International socialists should have no truck with it.”
The assertion that I explicitly or implicitly "excused" an Israeli nuclear strike on Iran is doubly and triply nonsensical. Even if I "excused" or advocated a military strike, which I didn't, to assume that I would see no difference between that and a preemptive nuclear war on Iran would be nonsense on stilts.
And where does the idea that Israel might nuclear-bomb Iran come from? It is preposterous to assert that Israel might make a nuclear strike on Iran in any situation other than an "armageddon" in which Israel's existence was under immediate and overwhelming threat: indeed, it is more than a little lunatic. There is no calculable reason I know of to think Israel will do that. The effect of the nonsense though is
a) to demonise Israel just a little further than is common on the anti-Israeli left, and
b) to “excuse” Iran’s drive to acquire nuclear weapons. The Weekly Worker is strangely "soft" on the Iranian clerical-fascist regime...
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, AWL believes that there should be an independent Palestinian state in contiguous territory alongside Israel — the so-named “Two States” solution.
We defend Israel’s right to exist and, logically, its right to defend itself. That does not necessarily mean agreeing with anything specific which the Israeli state does. It does mean utterly rejecting the typical Kitsch-Left automatic rejection of everything Israel does or might do in its own defense.
It means rejecting the prevalent idea on the “left” that Israel is, always was, and in all future situations will be, the source and embodiment of all evil in the middle-East.
We criticize Israel for oppressing the Palestinians, and for not using its present position of strength to reach a settlement with those in the Arab and Islamic world with whom a settlement can be reached, in the first place, the Palestinians.
All this is very much a minority position on the left, which in the main advocates an Arab state in all of pre-1948 Palestine, with religious but not national rights for the Jews of Israel who would be left in the Palestinian state.
Such a thing is inconceivable on any basis other than the conquest and destruction of Israel. We reject and oppose that and fight in our publications against the a-historical demonisation of Israel and Zionism — and in some cases “the Jews” — that goes with it, and on which it is grounded.
The idea of an imminent Israeli nuclear strike against Iran is as bonkers as I'd have to be to think of such a thing with anything except unqualified horror.
Our views are not, to understate it, popular on the left. We ourselves tend to be demonized for it. Much of the hysteria triggered by my article is a direct manifestation of the prevalent mass hysteria on the left about Israel and the Palestinians. We are “Zionists”. “pro-imperialists”, “racists” even.
I have the honour — and that is how I regard it — of being singled out for special abuse and demonisation. (It’s reached the stage that sometimes these days I’m afraid to go into a room alone, lest I perpetrate some “Zionist” atrocity against myself!).
There is a fundamental issue of current politics involved in all this Stalinist dung- pile, into which the WW has pulled AWL and the present writer:
Is it possible to have a rational discussion on the Middle-East and Israel — or on anything? — in the existing “left”? This doesn’t involve only the WWG, which is insignificant in its ideas, size, influence (it is “significant” only as the producer of a “left” gossip sheet). But the WWG gives it a sharp, indeed a loony, expression.
The WWG is a strange political formation with a very strange history and political “practice”. Over nearly 30 years they have produced a paper under three titles — the “Leninist” (!), “Daily Worker” (It wasn’t a daily, anymore than the miniscule WWG is the “CPGB” — and the “Weekly Worker”). Their main asset is that the paper passes for a well-informed source of information amongst those who don’t themselves know much about the affairs of the left.
In fact it’s a highly unreliable and capricious gossip sheet. The front page about my “excusing” [you are meant to read, “advocating”, “supporting”, “backing”] an Israeli nuclear attack on Iran shows anyone interested in having a measure of their reliability, just how reliable their “reports” are — they are spectacularly unreliable. They are capable of startling lies, like the one I'm discussing, when it suits their malice or their calculations of advantage. Or both. [After all an early Stalinist training must count for something!] They lie and invent or make hysterical and maliciously constructions on facts and factoids, and present the result as fact, as the “truth”.
WW’s idiotic libel is motivated immediately by the desire to recruit some young members — in one case re-recruit — from AWL. Their technique is the Stalinist technique of the heresy-hunt and the big — in this case preposterously big — lie.
This libel, when anyone can research the truth by looking up what I wrote, on the internet, shows something important about the 2 or 3 people who make up the hard core of the Weekly Worker Group. Their hysteria. Though they are most of the time very cynical manipulators, able nicely to calculate and control what they do and say, sometimes the underlying nuttiness breaks through. Here, I think they have overreached themselves a little.
I urge readers concerned with truth and with the moral hygiene of the left to circulate the statement and the other relevant documents, all of which are on the internet.
I demand a public and unequivocal apology from the Weekly Worker Group [the “CPGB”] prominently displayed in their paper; I demand the same space as that taken by their libellous fantasy-piece about me, to reply.
I also challenge them to agree to debate with me publicly on the Israel-Palestine question, at a meeting presided over by a commonly agreed Chair.
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