In a recent post – my first on the Israeli’s attacks on Gaza – I mentioned my reluctance to get into the debate because of the tendency of defenders of the State (and territorial borders) of Israel to equate any criticism with anti-semitism.
This is just nonsense, but it strikes a chord because the Zionist propaganda machine has done a good job of guilting us into soft-shoeing criticism of Israel lest we be seen to be being racist, or religiously intolerant.
First of all being Jewish is not a racial thing, secondly not all Jews are Zionists and not all Zionists are Jewish. Third what part of the phrase “war crime” don’t these people understand?
The logic of the “attacking Zionism is anti-semitic” position is that if you are against the existence of Israel as a geographic and political entity in the Middle East you are of the same political ilk as the Nazis.
I copped some of this from an old friend of mine who, over the last 15 years, has morphed from being a Trot-sympathiser into a radical and orthodox true-believer who doesn’t answer his phone on the Sabbath.
Here’s an example of what he wrote on my Facebook page yesterday:
Nah, you didn’t deface my page Martin but you did confirm just how impoverished Leftist analysis is. Thanks for doing my job for me.
Comparing body counts is simplistic and childish, treating what is a tragic situation to some kind of morbid playground game.[EM: this from someone who's keeping "score" of the Qassam hits on his Facebook page, for fuck'sake] But such reductio ad absurdum is typical of the radical Left. Do you remember the first Gulf War, how you and your Trotskyite pals came up with the marvellous idea that the best way to oppose the war was to support Saddam Hussein?
[EM: this is actually a distortion - calling for a military victory against imperialists is not the same as backing vile dictators politically, also remember Saddam was a creature of the Americans in their war against Iran. We didn't make him, they did]
My friend continues:
And that’s why I left radicalism behind me. The Comrades cosy up to any old murderer, antisemite, genocidal loon, liar or thief – as long as they’re anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-West, or anti-capitalist. Neither Washington nor Moscow nor any sense of integrity.
I try to steer clear of politicians, no matter what their party, ideology, nationality, ethnicity or religion – don’t trust ‘em…
I should explain that I had earlier written on my friend’s page – he was posting a “rocket count” each time a Qassam landed in Israel. I thought this was rather vulgar and totally missed the point that while the Palestinian resistance (NOT NECESSARILY HAMAS) had fired a handful of rockets, the Israelis had pounded Gaza with more than 60 air strikes, including the use of chemical weapons.
I was angry and took it out on my friend’s page with a cheeky and joking comment that of course, he found “despicable”:
So you won’t get me jumping up and down in defence of the Israeli government just because it’s the Israeli government. I owe the Israeli government no loyalty.
[EM, well actually friend, you are totally loyal and go to reductio ad absurdum lengths to prove your fealty, such as the Qassam count bollix]
But I do know the difference between right and wrong and that’s why I support the current attempt to crush Hamas. Like every Israeli I’ve spoken to (and I’ve been speaking to quite a few in . recent days who live within Hamas rocket range), I am saddened by the loss of innocent lives. But, in general, the ultimate responsibility lies squarely at Hamas’s door.
Your comment about firing Qassams at Golders Green is despicable. Again, typical of the antisemitic rhetoric that is now so common in Leftist circles. The good thing about all this is that the anti-Jewish bile that has always existed in the heart of Marxist ideology (and spare me the stuff about Marx being Jewish etc) is now out in the open. The sad thing is that so many people in mainstream society absorb these sentiments thinking they’re kosher because their diet of Hollywood history has led them to associate antisemitism with the Nazis…
And because the Nazis are generally associated with the Right, with Fascists, and the Left is traditionally associated with anti-Fascism so the logic goes that the Left must be anti-antisemitism. WRONG! Go far enough to the Left and you end up on the Right. All just a bunch of power hungry thugs, keen to destroy and utterly incapable of being constructive. All of them squeezing the square peg of reality up the round holes of their respective ideologies. It’s a shame all that energy going to waste.
So Marx was a Jew-hating Jew? It actually wasn’t, and never has been Marxists who have attacked Jews. As my friend well knows it was Jewish communists who actually protected Jewish communities from pogroms while their more conservative and Zionist leaders tacitly supported them as a way of fulfilling a reductio ad absurdum destinty to return every Jew to the promised land. Fuck me for religious idiocy!
It is my friend’s religious bigotry that blinds him to the honourable history of Jewish socialists. For example the General Jewish Labour Union which was secular and opposed Zionism and the takeover of Palestine. Perhaps my friend wouldn’t think they were not Jewish enough.
My friend’s rant is very typical of the way pro-Israel zealots attack their opponents. No real appeal to reason, just emotive and highly charged language. But my friend is not alone in employing this rhetoric, rather than facing up to the facts.
There’s a whole slab of the Interwebs devoted to helping foster the myth that anti-Zionism as the same as anti-semitism. See for example The hidden history of anti-Zionism, which starts with this tortured gem:
Anti-Zionism is opposition in principle to the idea that the Jews are a people, or opposition in principle to the idea that the Jewish people deserve a state.
Sort of, but it is actually political opposition to the formation of the modern state of Israel on stolen land that forms the basis of anti-Zionism. Just as Zionism is a political movement dedicated to the formation and defence of modern Israel.
The Jews are a people in the same way that Mormons are a “people”, but no one’s suggesting we given them Utah.
The state of Israel has nothing to do with Jewishness, except as an excuse, a blind, a cover for theft and thuggery.
This commentary by Irfan Usuf in New Matilda takes issue with a neo-con Australian journalist Paul Sheehan whose written anti-Muslim screeds for many years and admits to being a “friend of Israel”.
If you didn’t know that civilians were being killed in Gaza, and think that all criticism of Israel is simply about hating Jews, it may be that you’ve just read a Paul Sheehan article. [Not fit to print]
I’ve linked to the Sheehan piece too, it’s important to read stuff for yourself, not just rely on bloggers with an axe to grind (of which I am one). I actually think the Sheehan piece is just rubbish, it’s hardly worth noticing or commenting on, but it does rely on the lie that if you’re anti-Israel you are, by definition anti-Jewish.
This is the conflation of historical and religious discourses as away of cleansing history of the real hard truth.
Israel is occupied Palestine. Israel only exists because of the terrorist acts of its founding fathers. Israel is not the promised land of some mythic religous “race”. Jewishess is not race, Jewishness is not an ethnicity. Jewishness is a religion like Catholicism and, like Catholicism, it has blood on its hands, it is reactionary, steeped in mysticism and very bad for children.
No one would ever consider a Methodist or an Anglican to have any special claim to The United Kingdom.
What the Zionists have to realise is that, like Muslims, Jews come in all shapes and sizes and they only have a “right” to live in Israel because of the military strength the Israeli State gains from its close relationship with the world’s leading imperialist power – the USA.
Opposing Israel’s military action in Gaza, or illegal occupation of Palestinian land, is not anti-semitic, nor is it racist, or anti-Jewish.
Nor does it make one automatically an uncritical supporter of Hamas. I have as little time for Muslim fundamentalism as I do Zionist fundamentalism. However, I’m also clear that I support the military resistance of the Palestinians in the occupied territories. If this means throwing stones, Qassam rockets or suicide bombings, so be it.
I do not support suicide bombings, nor indiscriminate attacks on civilians as a general poltical method, but in the occupied territories the settlers there have taken a political decision to be part of a military push to squeeze the remaining Palestinians off their land.
They are heavily armed – not for defence – in order to instil fear into local Palestinians and to enforce their illegal occupation. They should not be there. The Palestinians want them out.
As Malcolm X used to say: “By any means necessary”
I support the socialist position on Israel:
Self-righteous sermons about Israel’s “right to exist” are among the most common attacks made on defenders of the Palestinians. But a state based on systematic racism and dispossession has no such right.
The militant spirit that animates the millions who follow Hezbollah and Hamas is wholly positive. It embodies the defiant anti-imperialist determination to resist that has dogged the imperial overlords of the Middle East for almost 100 years.
But in terms of a strategy to defeat imperialism, Islamism is sorely lacking.
So this poses the question: could the Arab working class, if freed from the shackles of class-collaborationist politics, lead a struggle to defeat imperialism and Zionism in the Middle East?
There need be no equivocation in answering “yes”. Contrary to some Western conceptions, the Arab world is no un-industrialised rural backwater. You just need to list some of the major cities to get a sense of this. Alexandria has 5 million people, Damascus 6 million, Aleppo 4.5 million, Casablanca 3 million, Amman 2 million. And of course there is Cairo with its staggering 17 million people – almost the whole population of Australia. It is in such huge metropolises that the great social revolutions of the 21st century will be fought out. Not only is the social power of the core sections of the industrial working class centred in and around these cities, but their sheer concentration of people makes it possible for workers to lead the masses of the oppressed, particularly the urban poor, behind them.
As the world economic crisis deepens, the class struggle will come ever more to the fore around the world, not least in the Middle East. But for the Palestinian struggle and the broader anti-imperialist and working class struggle in the Arab world to win, organisations will have to be built that champion an independent workers’ movement that fights not only around economic issues, but determines to lead the resistance against imperialist domination that for so long has had its enormous potential derailed by the politics of class collaboration and compromise.