Tumeke’s mildly left-of-centre-ish in a libertarian pro-capital kind of way; Whaleoil is hard-right. Keeping Stock and SSGHML are variants of some weird Christian intermediate thingy which both lean heavily rightwards.
The ostensible reason for the boycott, according to Whaleoil, is that Tumeke host Tim Selwyn is a holocaust denier because he dared to criticise media coverage of the walk-out during a speech by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the UN anti-racism conference in South Africa a few days ago.
Holocaust denial is actually a hard charge to sustain against Tim on any reading of his post. The main thrust of which is to have a go at New Zealand foreign minister Murray McCully for not attending the conference in the first place; to have a go at the soft coverage given to the walk-out and to point out that Zionism is actually a racist ideology.
Nothing wrong with that. Tim does not make any reference to support for the holocaust deniers and he doesn’t offer much defence of Ahmadinejad either. He mainly talks about how New Zealand is too close to the Americans on foreign policy – such as military involvement the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations.
So what’s with the charge of holocaust denial? It’s all premised on the accusation that Ahmadinejad is, himself, a holocaust denier. Well, that bit is probably true. In 2006 the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke and German-Australian denier Frederick Toben were feted guests at an international gathering to refute the holocaust held in Teheran.
In his speech to the Geneva conference a few days ago, Ahmadinejad made many references to the effect that Zionism equals racism – and that’s a political position, not anti-semitism. I made an attempt to explain this in a post earlier this year during Israel’s sustained attack on Hamas and Palestinians in Gaza.
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.
Bullshit! [Why defending Palestinians is not anti-semitic]
However, in the text of Ahmadinejad’s speech there are references that read as being anti-semitic. It seems, according to media reports, that these were not included in the spoken version. Most observers believe they were taken out to appease Iran’s opponents.
The offending pars are:
This is the reference to the holocaust. It’s not the usual vitriolic outburst, but it’s clear that there’s an element of denial here.
The first part is OK in my view, a political attack on Zionism, but in the second part, this turns into an anti-semitic rant about Zionism penetrating banks, etc. This is clearly code for anti-semitic ideology and it’s what makes Ahmadinejad so popular with crazy far-right white supremacists and the Islamic fundamentalists.
[full text of Ahamdinejad's speech]
The other point that Ahamdinejad makes here: the imposition of Zionist ideologies in western nations is also reasonably factual. There is a concerted effort among Zionists to push the line that criticising Zionism, or the Israeli state is the same thing as ant-semitism. It is not.
Anti-semitism is a racist ideology that focuses on Jews and Jewishness.
Anti-Zionism is a political position that supports national liberation struggles against Israeli military occupation in the Middle East and opposes the state of Israel on the grounds that
a) Israel is occupied Palestinian territory – despite the denial lies of those like SSGHML who wrote that it is due to their own “stupidity” that Palestinians don’t have their land any more and that they were “better off” under Israeli occupation
b) it is a client state of American imperialism that continues to destabilise the Middle East and poses a threat to both peace (Israel is a nuclear state) and to the Arab populations of neighbouring countries
c) Israel’s actions are a great recruiting tool for fundamentalist groups on all sides. [Zionism explained]
Anti-Zionism and support for the political struggle of the Palestinians is not the same thing as supporting terrorism. I am more than happy for Hezbollah, Hamas and other Palestinian groups to attack military targets, that is not the same as supporting suicide bombers who target buses and cafes. That does not mean that I support their Islamic state policies.
I draw your attention to an excellent pamphlet by Chris Harman called The Prophet and the Proletariat, which argues a position that I endorse. It concludes:
On some issues we will find ourselves on the same side as the Islamists against imperialism and the state. This was true, for instance, in many countries during the second Gulf War. It should be true in countries like France or Britain when it comes to combating racism. Where the Islamists are in opposition, our rule should be, “with the Islamists sometimes, with the state never”.
But even then we continue to disagree with the Islamists on basic issues. We are for the right to criticise religion as well as the right to practise it. We are for the right not to wear the veil as well as the right of young women in racist countries like France to wear it if they so wish. We are against discrimination against Arab speakers by big business in countries like Algeria – but we are also against discrimination against the Berber speakers and those sections of workers and the lower middle class who have grown up speaking French. Above all, we are against any action which sets one section of the exploited and oppressed against another section on the grounds of religion or ethnic origin. And that means that as well as defending Islamists against the state we will also be involved in defending women, gays, Berbers or Copts against some Islamists.
When we do find ourselves on the same side as the Islamists, part of our job is to argue strongly with them, to challenge them – and not just on their organisations’ attitude to women and minorities, but also on the fundamental question of whether what is needed is charity from the rich or an overthrow of existing class relations.
The left has made two mistakes in relation to the Islamists in the past. The first has been to write them off as fascists, with whom we have nothing in common. The second has been to see them as “progressives” who must not be criticised. These mistakes have jointly played a part in helping the Islamists to grow at the expense of the left in much of the Middle East. The need is for a different approach that sees Islamism as the product of a deep social crisis which it can do nothing to resolve, and which fights to win some of the young people who support it to a very different, independent, revolutionary socialist perspective.
I doubt that Tim Selwyn’s read this pamphlet (apologies Tim if you have), but I support him in this ridiculous blog war because after reading his post I can see that instinctively he’s on the right side on this question.
The existence of Israel is a root cause of terrorism in the Middle East and feeds the Islamic fundamentalism of the Taleban, Al Qaeda and Hamas. Both Zionism and Islamic fundamentalism are a real obstacle in the way of any path to peace in the Middle East.
The combination of Islamic fundamentalism and anti-semitism also help to sustain Ahmadinejad’s position as something of a hero in the eyes of the Iranian and Arab working class, but they do not help the working class to clearly see that its own interests are best served by opposing both Israel and the Iranian regime. Just as in Lebanon and Syria (and Saudi Arabia, the UAE and so on) a genuine and correct hatred of Zionism is confused by its association with Islamic fundamentalism. This is why the rhetoric of leaders like Ahmadinejad does become anti-semitic. By whipping up anti-Jewish hatred, he maintains his own illegitimate hold on power. So too do the leaders in other Middle Eastern countries and so to do Al Qaeda and the Taleban.
By the same methods the Israeli Zionist state also maintains its illegitimate hold on power.
This is a much more nuanced and complex position than that taken by many neo-cons and their fellow travellers. Further, equating anti-Zionism with anti-semitism is handy for the Christian right too. It allows them to attack their political opponents with charges of racism and holocaust denial.
Tumeke’s principals are not holocaust supporters and for Whaleoil to say so is a disingenious cheap shot.
Being critical of the walk-out, which in essence further’s the lie that anti-Zionism is anti-semitic, and making the point that Israel is an illegitimate state founded on racism and stolen land do not equate with holocaust denial and anti-semitism.
The walk-out itself futher perpetuates the myth and highlights the strong politcal support that Israel gets from western nations. It also signifies the demonisation of Iran in its fight with the United States over its nuclear policies.
However, once again – and to fend off the dribblejaws – criticising Israel does not mean that one supports Iran’s government. I am opposed to Iran getting its hands on nuclear weapons, but I am also against Israel’s much more available nuclear arsenal. I’m also against any hint of American aggression against Iran, though the US is too weak now, because of Iraq and Afghanistan, to open another front in the Middle East.
To end, it’s quite clear that the whole exercise of the anti-racism conference in Geneva was a poor joke. Nothing concrete or substantial has been achieved. It is merely an exercise in making the hidden racism of the west look good against the overt stupidity and twisted rantings of the Iranian lunatic.
Neither Washington, nor Tehran, but international socialism. Workers of the Middle East rise up. You have nothing to lose but your Islamic chains.
Down with Zionism. Down with Islamic fundamentalism. Yes to workers’ solidarity.