Support Palestinian rights, oppose antisemitism

Submitted by AWL on 25 May, 2021 - 5:58 Author: Matt Cooper
Palestine protest in London

On 15 and 22 May London saw large demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinians.

The anger at the bombing of Gaza and the Israeli government’s disregard for Palestinian rights is fully justified. But as I talked with young people on the demonstrations, it became clear that some have picked up reactionary ideas: that Jews should be driven out of the Middle East, that they are Europe’s “problem”, and that the Holocaust is exaggerated by Israeli Jews in their own interests. Many of these ideas are promoted by various shades of political Islamism, expressed on the demo by the very common chanting of “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” (sometimes without the implications of the slogan having been thought through) and the fairly common chanting of “Allahu Akbar”.

In the run up to the 22 May demonstration, one of the organisers, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), made a public appeal against expressions of antisemitism on the march. PSC specified that this meant no targeting of Jews, only Israel, and no comparisons of Israel with Nazi Germany. As far as I could see, there were certainly fewer egregiously antisemitic placards on these marches than on similar ones in the past, although there were some. “Zionism=Nazism” and similar slogans have become less common.

Any move to combat antisemitism within the Palestine solidarity movement is welcome. The PSC’s moves are, however, limited. They focus only on antisemitism defined as “the hatred of Jews because they are Jews”, stating: “Our anger should be directed at Israel, not British Jews or those from anywhere else.”

This leaves much antisemitism untouched, particularly that targeting Jewish Israelis as being undeserving of the right to national self-determination despite the Jewish Israeli nation being formed by refugees from genocide and persecution, and then targeting “Zionists” (Jews outside Israel who feel empathy with Israel) as guilty by association. The demand for boycotts of Israel as “the apartheid state” remains central to PSC’s approach, as does the highly ambiguous demand for a “Free Palestine”. (Does it mean an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel? Or “freeing” the territory of British Mandate Palestine of Israeli and Jewish presence?)

The PSC needed to counter media reports of increased antisemitic attacks after the 15 May London demonstration (including reports of a convoy of cars decked out in Palestine flags driving through Jewish areas with shouts of “Fuck the Jews and rape their daughters”).

However, Tariq Ali’s speech on the 22 May platform effectively relegated the clean-up operation to a shallow public relations exercise. He said:

“The Zionist governments of Israel” and “settlers from Brooklyn… who are semi-fascist… have learnt nothing from what happened to them in Europe. Nothing”. The most generous interpretation of this is that Israeli Jews are now doing to the Palestinians what was inflicted upon them in Nazi Germany, exactly the comparison the PSC claimed was unwelcome on the demonstration.

He continued: “Every time they bomb Gaza, every time they attack Jerusalem — that is what creates antisemitism. Stop the occupation, stop the bombing, and casual antisemitism will soon disappear.”

Ali said similar at a 2018 Palestine demonstration: “The purveyors of antisemitism today, those who have encouraged antisemitism, are the Israeli government. Killing Palestinians the way that they do it, targeting children as they have done, this is what produces a crude form of antisemitism. And the support given to this by right-wing Zionist organisations in Europe and America doesn’t help challenging antisemitism either.”

Ali claims antisemitism is the fault of the Israeli government and of Zionists (that is, Jews who feel empathy with Israel) in Europe and America. He need not denounce the antisemites, or examine his own attitudes: just by denouncing Israel he has done all he needs to against antisemitism.

Ali forgets two principles. First, the responsibility for antisemitism lies not with any Jewish person, but with antisemites. Second, if people are encouraged to look at the Israel-Palestine conflict through an antisemitic lens, they will come to see more of the world through that lens. Socialists should counter that vision — patiently but firmly — with the ideas of working-class solidarity based on the mutual recognition of rights, as against sectarian delegitimation of Jewish Israelis as undeserving of rights.

Antisemitism must be opposed in all its forms and wherever it is found. As long as Palestinian solidarity protests are tainted with antisemitism, they will fail to help build pressure for a just peace.

Comments

Submitted by H (not verified) on Sun, 30/05/2021 - 12:30

CBA to critique your whole "article", but one sentence stood out, showing you are lacking even the most basic conceptual understanding.

This is your definition of Zionist:

“Zionists” (Jews outside Israel who feel empathy with Israel)

So YOU are saying Zionists are all Jews... Ignoring Christian Zionists, political atheist Zionism (both hugely documented, do your research)

You do realise pinpointing Jews as the only possible Zionists makes you.....................An antisemite

 

Couldn't make it up

 

Submitted by tony greenstein (not verified) on Sat, 05/06/2021 - 05:35

Israel was not formed by Jews from the Holocaust.  That is simply a lie and for a so-called Trotskyist organisation to peddle that lie is disgraceful.

In the late 1940s and early 1950’s the Holocaust was barely mentioned in Israel.  In a 220 page history text book published in 1948, just one page was devoted to the Holocaust compared to 10 pages on the Napoleonic wars.[1]  The survivors were considered an embarrassment and Israelis described them as sapon (soap).[2]  Hanzi Brand wrote of how, when she settled on Kibbutz Gvata Haim, the other members ‘talked about their war to avoid hearing about hers.  They were ashamed of the Holocaust.’ [3]  Amos Elon describes how Zionism’s national poet, Hayyim Nahman Bialik, spoke of the ‘disgraceful shame and cowardice’ of the Jewish victims of the 1903 Kishinev pogrom. [4]   

National self-determination applies to nations. Israeli Jews are not a nation NOR DO THEY CLAIM TO BE.  Zionist folklore describes Israeli Jews as part of the overall Jewish nation. In any event self determination applies to the oppressed not oppressor - simple logic.

Nor is there anything anti-Semitic about comparing Israel's actions to the Nazis.  It might be exaggerated or unfair but it's not antisemitic.  Numerous holocaust survivors, Ze'ev Sternhell, Yehuda Elkana, Hajo Meyer etc. have done just that.  Are you calling them antisemitic?  If so you are a bunch of racists.

When Israeli Jews march to the chant of 'Death to the Jews' the exact slogan of anti-semites in the 30s the parallels are close between Israel today and Nazi Germany in the pre-holocaust era.

But I notice you don't comment on the real racism which was on the pro-Israeli demonstration. Not only did Tommy Robinson turn up to a hero's welcome but there was chanting, in Hebrew of the 2nd most popular slogan of Israeli racists.  'May your villages burn'.  Something the settlers are trying to bring about.

Your covering for this racism is disgusting.  AWL have left the left.  You are hand in glove with the Labour Right and the Tories in using the smear of 'antisemitism' to attack the Palestinians.  Those of us who are Jewish know who the real anti-Semites are and ironically it is people like you who believe that all Jews in the diaspora are Zionists

 

[1]           Edith Zertal, p.94, Israel’s Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood, Cambridge University Press, 2011.

[2]           Tom Segev, The Seventh Million.  Based on the widespread myth that the Nazis used the fat from those murdered to produce soap.  No evidence of this has ever materialised.  See also Amos Elon, The Israelis-Founders and Sons, Weidenfeld, 1971. p. 209.

[3]           Segev, p. 471.

[4]           Amos Elon, Israel: Founders & Sons, p. 209, Weidenfeld, 1971.

Submitted by AWL on Fri, 11/06/2021 - 12:51

It's hard to know where to start with Tony's dismal rant. As almost every word of it is either wrong or politically obscene, a comprehensive critique would take more time than anyone with anything better to do (going to work, eating, washing one's hair) should have time for.

Some brief comments, however:

- Self-determination is either "for nations", or only for "the oppressed". Which is it? It can't be both. If it's a democratic principle it has to be applied universally.

- The Israeli Jews are clearly a nation by any operable definition of the concept (they inhabit a discrete territory, they speak a shared language, they have a shared national/cultural memory and experience, they have national consciousness). The fact they may also consider themselves to be part of a diasporic Jewish "nation" does not change that fact.

- The fact that the Holocaust was little mentioned in one particular book you cite doesn't change the fact that significant numbers of refugees from Nazism sought refuge in Israel in the 1940s, that struggles over immigration policy (against British colonial obstruction of Jewish immigration) was an element of national formation, and that the experiences of European antisemitism are what forged Zionism. You can choose to ignore it if you like. As the Lebanese-French socialist Gilbert Achcar, whose assessment on these matters I trust rather more than Tony Greenstein's puts it: "It is indisputable that eastern European Zionism emerged in reaction to an unbearable form of racist oppression that, ultimately, defined the Jews as a race and culminated in the Nazi genocide.”

- The implication that we defend Tommy Robinson, or are "covering" for the racism of Israel's settler movement, is risible and beneath contempt, and I won't comment on it further except to call attention to Tony's ludicrous method of argument - to ignore the actual issues raised in the article, raise other issues, and then claim we're supportive of or "covering for" them. I'll leave it to readers' own judgment to determine whether this is a reasonable approach to political discourse and whether Tony's claims have merit.

- There was explicit antisemitism on recent Palestine solidarity demonstrations - some from presumably marginal cranks in the crowd, but some broadcast from the platform of the rally (like Tariq Ali's comments, or the speaker at a Manchester demo who said that because leading "BBC executives" are "Jewish" - he said "Jewish", not "Zionists" - the media is biased in favour of Israel). Tony doesn't care. We do. That's the difference here.

--

DR

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