The discussion piece in the last Solidarity (3/136), "What if Israel bombs Iran?" provoked an explosion of website hysteria from a coalition of self-righteous people who, most of them, themselves support the Iranian mullahs having nuclear bombs, and who deny Israel's right to exist.
The mind of the "Left" on the Middle East is typically the confused mix we have had on the AWL web-site: selective, one-sided, pacifism, deep hostility to Israel and an absolute "anti-imperialism" that leads them to back some of the most regressive political forces on the planet.
In the event of an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, that "left", some explicitly, some implicitly, will defend the "right" of the clerical-fascist, "absolute anti-Zionist" regime in Iran to have nuclear weapons.
Is there any issue other than Israel that would have generated anything like the outcry which our "discussion piece" triggered for daring to say that Israel has good reason to fear, and react to, an Iranian nuclear bomb?
In face of the political hysteria, it will be worthwhile for us to restate where we stand on the contentious and emotion-loaded issues around Israel, and about debate and discussion on the left.
- Issues such as those raised in the "discussion-piece", including a candid assessment of the Israeli case for an attack on Iran's nuclear installations, can, should and will be discussed openly and frankly on the serious left, and in Solidarity, without heresy-baiting and attempts to stifle rational discussion by uproar.
- The serious left should and will stand implacably against Iran having nuclear weapons. "Solidarity" with Iran has already led the "left" to the idea that Iran's right to "self-determination" must include a right to develop nuclear weapons. International socialists should have no truck with that. See our statement "No to the mullahs' bomb", above.
- We will oppose any response to an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear installations that implicitly defends the "right" of Iran to develop nuclear weapons. We will oppose the duff "anti-imperialism", pretend, one-sided, pacifism and hysterical appeals to "international law" and "the UN", which will be the response of the pseudo-left to an Israeli attack.
- Of course, we do not advocate, nor will we endorse or take political responsibility for, an Israeli attack on Iran: we are against such an action.
- Israel has the right to exist and, therefore, the right to defend itself. We condemn the absolute Anti-Zionist "left" which rejects that.
- The only just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is two sovereign states, each in contiguous territory, Palestine side by side with Israel — and, to the point, Israel side by side with Palestine.
- We oppose and fight the demonisation of Israel and "Zionism" on the "left", and the de-facto anti-semitism that flows from it — comprehensive hostility to the Zionist identity which the terrible events of the twentieth century stamped on Jews. That originates with Stalinism, but is now the special badge of honour of professed "Trotskyists". It is normally expressed with the special animosity and vehemence spewed out in our website "discussion".
- The best interests of the Palestinians lie in achieving a peaceful two states settlement with Israel — and as soon as possible.
- The real friends of the Palestinian people are those who want that, not those who try to make the destruction of Israel and its replacement by an Arab state in all of pre-1948 Palestine the pre-condition for a settlement of the Palestinian question.
- Those "anti-imperialists" who pose as friends of the Palestinians while expressing their fixed animosity to Israel and "Zionism" in a rejection of any solution that does not involve Israel's destruction, who are concerned more to see Israel destroyed than to see the Palestinians able to reconstruct their lives, are no friends of the Palestinian people.
- Most of the kitsch left's "anti-imperialist" rhetoric, in general and about the Palestinians in particular, is empty and stupid bombast. It lines them up with out-and-out reactionaries — here, with Islamic clerical fascists— and turns them into ventriloquists' dummies for reactionary right wing politics. They are "reactionary anti-imperialists". All proportions guarded, and changing what needs to be changed, that "left" now has more than a little in common with the "Red-Brown" bloc between "communists" and fascist nationalists that emerged in post-Stalinist Russia. The "anti-imperialists" who think Islamic clerical fascism can be progressive anti-imperialism — the strange socialists (socialists!) who saw progress in the victory of Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian elections, and want victory everywhere it is active for "militant" "anti-imperialist" Islamic clerical fascism — have lost the political plot: they have lost their way. Theirs, we think, is an "anti-imperialism of idiots." To believe that the foul ditch-waters of Islamic clerical fascism and reactionary anti-imperialism can turn into the socialist wine of progress and liberation is, we think, self-evident nonsense.
We asked in the last issue of Solidarity for a rational discussion of the still probable Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear installations, and what attitude socialists should take to that and to Iran having nuclear weapons. What we got was a chorus of spluttering abuse. (And from the hard-pressed poor loons who control the Weekly Worker, the charge that the author of the discussion piece, Sean Matgamna, "excused" — you are meant to read: "justified", "advocated" — an Israeli nuclear strike at Iran!)
We got the concentrated eruption of anti-Israel hysteria that we'd hoped to avoid by discussing it in advance — extravagant loathing, violent abuse and Stalinist-vintage demands that the writer of the "discussion piece" be silenced. In short, we got a noxious stream of the "absolute anti-Zionism" and vicarious Arab and Islamic chauvinism in which the left is drowning; we got an exhibition-bout of the "anti-Zionist" moral, political and emotional black-jacking that for a long time now has made real discussion of these questions on the "left" difficult to the point of impossibility.
And what we "got" was, of course, only what young Jews in the colleges get, and have been getting for a very long time wherever the kitsch-left is strong enough to dish it out (youngsters who, unlike us, have not become hardened to it).
The picture of the Left that emerges from this episode is a true likeness of the political confusion, brute intolerance of dissent, and rampaging moral imbecility of what passes for a revolutionary left in Britain in the first decade of the twenty-first century!
We have also in the outcry had a pretty good ad hoc approximation to the "internal regimes" and the atmosphere inside and "around" the typical kitsch-left group.
So then, we should conclude that it is simply not possible on the "left" to have a rational discussion about Israel and the Middle East, or of specific problems like the Iranian regime's probable or possible drive for nuclear weapons? That, even after 60 years, it is not possible to discuss the proposition that Israel has a right to exist — and therefore an inalienable right to defend itself — without the "socialist" friends and "anti-imperialist" champions of Islamic clerical-fascism howling down anyone who disagrees with them? Can we get discussion without scenes as when, at the European Social Forum in October 2004, such people shouted down Subhi al Mashadani, General Secretary of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, because he wasn't ‘anti-imperialist’ enough for them?
The howl-fest we have had on the AWL website seems to answer unequivocally: "No!"
But that is not the only answer or the final one. Another answer is given by the AWL's determination to raise such questions as forcefully and as often as necessary: Yes, it is. Yes!
One of the preconditions for the revival of a serious revolutionary socialist left, as distinct from the frequently disgusting comedy of the grotesque that passes for one now, is the restoration of the habit of rational discussion and honest examination of political positions and experiences.
The AWL, within our limitations, will continue to practice and to defend that approach.