We continue our discussion the issue of “left-wing anti-semitism”. For articles from Solidarity on this subject see:
Solidarity should be congratulated for tackling a once festering, now blossoming problem on the left. I can vividly remember during the first Gulf War the Israeli anti-war/anti-occupation group, Women in Black, being jeered as “Zionist whores” at a Washington anti-war rally as Iraqi scuds were being hurled at Israel.
Then, such sentiments could be dismissed perhaps as the voice of sectarian “crazies”. Now it simply no longer suffices to dismiss the charge of socialist anti-semitism as a political non-sequitur as if the profession of left allegiances themselves inoculate the movement against this contagion. The placard of a Jewish star being equated with a swastika which adorns most anti-occupation protests simply won’t permit such comforting dismissals.
Solidarity’s open letter to Tony Benn on the defence of Tariq Aziz, which exposes a disturbing drift in the interstices of sectarian politics, towards a left/far right populist alliance, is a fitting and timely warning as to where this can lead.
This problem is altogether different from the anti-Jewish utterances of the old socialist movement. One must cringe, for instance, at Marx’s anti-Jewish utterances, without forgetting that his political program was dedicated to liberating the Jewish community of Germany from its feudal political restrictions.
And when “friends” of socialism such as Werner Sombart advised the Jews to be “intelligent and tactful enough not to demand a full exercise of this equality of rights at every point and to the fullest possible extent“, it was Karl Kautsky who brought down the full authority of Marxism against him.
Contemporary leftist Judeo-phobia has been brewing since the 1967 war. But those with a long enough memory can recall a germinating distinction that began to arise between bad genocides and anti-imperialist, presumably, good genocides which paved the way toward this. Didn’t a significant part of the left dismiss all talk of a Biafran genocide, because Biafran independence might have led to a fragmentation of the Nigerian federation, and therefore to a re-balkanization of Africa which would have “objectively” served the cause of imperialism?
Didn’t Daniel Guerin, for one, dismiss those who “whimper(ed) over Biafra”? And wasn’t it this same Guerin, with roots incidentally in the Trotskyist tradition, who intoned that “as to genocide, and despite all the feelings of horror that it arouses in us, I do not see why, once Hitlerism had been defeated and dislocated, it was necessary to bring new Jewish contingents to the lands where the Jews were already too numerous, and whence they had already expelled many Arabs”?
Once “good nations” whose cause is made an instrumentality in the fight against imperialism are distinguished from those “bad nations” who are allied with imperialism, the stage was set for this new anti-semitism.
Think back. Is it hard to find “leftists” who found the Cambodian genocide “overstated” or who minimised the slaughter of Kosovars for fear that such an admission would enhance the cause of imperialism? Didn’t the self-styled American revolutionary Ward Churchill dismiss the 9/11 slaughter as analogous to the murder of Nazi collaborators?
How long will it take for sections of the left to begin to distance themselves from the Kurds or from the southern Sudanese Blacks? And doesn’t this reasoning provide a convenient omnibus alibi to dismiss any and all slaughters of Israelis or Jews as understandable responses of good, stout anti-imperialists — regrettable perhaps, tactically unsound sometimes — but not acts really worth socialists whimpering about?
And is it not these very case-hardened anti-imperialists who similarly take such high umbrage at the mere suggestion that Al Qaeda and its allies are Islamo-fascists? Why the very suggestion of such “smacks” such stalwarts as anti-Arab racism!
There is much that has been said and much which remains to be said against the Israeli lobby’s misuse of the Holocaust and of the Stalinoid-like fealty with which huge chunks of the Jewish community, especially in the US, rally around every criminal activity of the Israeli state.
But the left has only itself to blame if it travels the course of anti-imperialism blindly to converge with the far right’s road of national purity — at the intersection of anti-semitism and moral oblivion.
On the Israel Gaza border a pregnant Jewish woman was driving four very young children home from nursery school when her car was stopped by Hamas gunmen. They murdered all four children before killing the woman, then shot her dead body in the stomch to make sure the unborn child was dead.
The response of the editor of one left wing paper, “They were absolutely right. They were fighting for their land.”
Some left publications are so vitriolic in their “anti-Zionism” that if the words “Zionist” and “Israeli” were replaced with the word “Jew” what they say would not be out of place in Der Sturmer.
Many left publications have regular featues attacking Israel yet hardly ever a word of criticism of far more brutal Arab regiems. Despite their commitment to the trade unions, they never mention Israel is the only country in the region (except, marginally, Lebanon) which allows free trade unions.
Many repeatdedly refer to the despicable massacre of Palestinians by the Irgun at Deir Yassin, but never once have any of them mentioned the equally despicable massacre of Jews by Palestinians at Kfar Etzion.
Left politics is supposedly predicated on a class analysis, but for the Middle East the class analysis is abandoned in favour of “good peoples and bad peoples.” Israel bad, Palestinians good”.
When Israelis kill Palestinians it is always a Zionist atrocity, even when the Palestinians killed are armed gunmen attacking schools or teenage discos. When Palestinians kill Israelis, it is always justified as part of a struggle for freedom, even when little children or school buses are targetted.
The PLO is the legitimate voice of the Palestinian people. It rejects the programme of Hamas, and Hamas has referred to the PLO (including at one time Yasser Arafat) as “Zionist traitors”. Yet much of the left supports both and draws little or no distinction between the two.
Hamas are virulently racist, anti-gay, anti-trade union, anti-democratic and anti-socialist. Yet here is no word of criticism of them in most of the left press.
Hamas say “all Jews are soldiers” i.e. all Jews are legitimate targets to be killed. Hamas say they will take “their” land back, meaning not just the West Bank and Gaza but all the land currently forming the state of Israel. Their programme is to kill Jews and keep on killing Jewish until Israel is destroyed.
It is a programme for mass murder, yet many of the left support Hamas slogan — [a Palestinian state] “from the river to the see” without thinking through precisely what that means.
The left is not anti-Jewish, but their lack of objectivity, lack of class analysis and most of all lack of historical accuracy, combined with their support for all Palestinian political organisations, drives many of them into unwittingly supporting virulent anti-semitism.