Dan Katz compares the Socialist Worker Party′s position on the Livingstone anti-semitism row to what we say.
SWP: Anti-Zionism and anti-semitism are not the same thing.
AWL: Not necessarily the same; but quite often they are. The anti-Zionists who carry placards equating Israel with Nazi Germany are anti-semitic. The anti-Zionists who oppose Israel by picketing “Jewish” shops like Marks and Spencers are anti-semitic. The anti-Zionists who complain about Zionist-led media are anti-semitic. And the anti-Zionists who pick on Israeli Jews — uniquely — as a people without the right to a state are a species of anti-semite.
SWP: Livingstone’s comments that “Hitler was supporting Zionism” before the Holocaust played into the right’s hands, but he is not racist or anti-Semitic.
AWL: The SWP say Livingstone’s comments were tactically inadvisable. They should say Livingstone’s comments were wrong and shameful. As the SWP knows, Livingstone has a long and unpleasant record of “Zionist”-baiting. In 2006 he compared a Jewish journalist to a Nazi concentration camp guard and asked him if he was a Nazi war criminal. As London Mayor Livingstone welcomed the Islamist preacher Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi to the UK. Al-Qaradawi had, amongst other things, advocated suicide bombings against Israeli Jews. The SWP is not bothered because it shares Livingstone’s hostility to “Zionists”.
SWP: John Mann MP, who berated Livingstone on live TV, did not confront David Cameron or Phillip Hammond as racists when they branded Calais refugees a “swarm”.
AWL: Just because John Mann is a right-wing Labour hack doesn’t mean he isn’t right on this issue (and Mann would be right even if we were sure he was making a fuss for opportunistic reasons of internal Labour politicking). To avoid the point Mann was making — denouncing Livingstone because Livingstone declared Hitler supported Zionism — by changing the subject to the refugees in Calais convinces no-one. It is pathetic.
SWP: Opposing a state that’s built on systematic Palestinian oppression is not anti-semitic — it is anti-racist.
AWL: The oppression of the Palestinian people is not necessary to the existence of Israel, any more than the oppression of the Indian people was necessary to the existence of the UK. Israel should settle with the Palestinians and allow the creation of an independent Palestinian state. What is anti-semitic is the systematic denigration of all things Israeli, the singling out of Israel as a specially oppressive and racist entity, and the demand for the destruction of Israel. These ideas are not anti-racist, they are a type of anti-semitism. The AWL is opposed to the oppression of the Palestinians and we advocate two states for the two peoples to end that oppression and lay the basis for workers’ unity. Why would any socialist political group — like the SWP — want to attempt to replace the oppression of the Palestinians with the destruction of Israel and the driving out and repression of the Israeli Jews? What else is this, if not anti-semitic?