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What is Left Anti-semitism

What is Left Anti-semitism

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31/12/09 1:01 PMWhat is left anti-semitism? | Workers' LibertyPage 1 of 17http://www.workersliberty.org/node/5041
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What is left anti-semitism?
Submitted on 21 March, 2007 - 18:04
 
Left anti-semitism Solidarity 3/82,20 October 2005
We have opened a discussion in Solidarity about theimportant issue of “left-wing anti-semitism” or judeophobia. It is worthwhile here to make it clearwhat we are, and are not, talking about.What is “left-wing anti-semitism”? Where is it manifested? What isto be done about it?There are three difficulties, three confusions and obfuscations, thatstand in the way of rational discussion of what we mean by “left-wing anti-semitism”.The first is that left-wing anti-semitism knows itself by another andmore self-righteous name, “anti-Zionism”. Often, your left-winganti-semite sincerely believes that he or she is only an anti-Zionist,only a just if severe critic of Israel.The second is that talk of left-wing anti-semitism to a left-winganti-semite normally evokes indignant, sincere, and just denial - of something else! “No, I'm not a racist! How dare you call me aracist?” No, indeed, apart from a nut here and there, left-wing anti-semitesare not racist. But there was anti-semitism before there was 20th-century anti-Jewish racism. And there is still anti-semitism of different sorts, long after disgust with Hitler-style racism, and overtracism of any sort, became part of the mental and emotionalfurniture of all half-way decent people, and perhaps especially of left-wing people.Left-wingers are people who by instinct and conviction side with theoppressed, the outcasts, those deprived of human rights, theworking class, the labour movement; who naturally side against thepolice, the military, and the powerful capitalist states, including their “own”; who are socially tolerant; who, in contrast to the “hang ‘em,flog ‘em, build more jails” types, look to changingsocial conditions rather than to punishment to deal with crime — people who want tobe Marxists and socialists, or try to be consistent democrats.Confused such people may be, racists they are not. We are notsaying that left-wing anti-semites are racists.The third source of confusion and obfuscation is the objection: “Yousay I’m an anti-semite because I denounce Israel. I’m not anti-Jewish when I denounce Israel, but anti-Zionist”. And sometimes, at
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31/12/09 1:01 PMWhat is left anti-semitism? | Workers' LibertyPage 2 of 17http://www.workersliberty.org/node/5041
this point, you get the addition: “By the way, I am myself Jewish”.The objector continues: Israel deserves criticism. Even the harshestcriticism of Sharon’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza, and of Israel’s long-term treatment of the Palestinians, is pro-Palestinianand anti-Zionist, not anti-semitic. To equate criticism of Israel withanti-semitism is just crude and hysterical Zionist apologetics.No, by “left-wing anti-semitism” we emphatically do not meanpolitical, military, or social criticism of Israel and of the policy of Israeli governments. Certainly, not all left-wing critics of Israel orZionism are anti-semites, even though these days all anti-semites,including the right-wing, old-fashioned, and racist anti-semites, arepaid-up “anti-Zionists”.Israel frequently deserves criticism. Israel’s policy in the OccupiedTerritories and its general treatment of the Palestinians deserveoutright condemnation. The oppressed Palestinians need to bepolitically defended against Israeli governments and the Israelimilitary. The only halfway equitable solution to the Israel-Palestineconflict, a viable, independent Palestinian state in contiguousterritory, side by side with Israel, needs to be argued for andupheld against Israeli power.Solidarity condemns Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Wedefend the Palestinians and champion an independent Palestinianstate side by side with Israel.The difference here between left-wing anti-semites and honestcritics of Israel — a category which includes a very large number of Israeli Jews as well as Israeli Arabs — is a straightforward one of politics, of policy.The left-wing anti-semites do not only criticise Israel. Theycondemn it outright and deny its right to exist. They use legitimatecriticisms, and utilise our natural sympathy with the Palestinians,not to seek redress, not as arguments against an Israeligovernment, an Israeli policy, or anything specifically wrong inIsrael, but as arguments against the right of Israel to exist at all.Any Israel. Any Jewish state in the area. Any Israel, with any policy,even one in which all the specific causes for justly criticisingpresent-day Israel and for supporting the Palestinians against ithave been entirely eliminated.The root problem, say the left-wing anti-semites, is that Israelexists. The root “crime of Zionism” is that it advocated and broughtinto existence “the Zionist state of Israel”.Bitterly, and often justly, criticising specific Israeli policies, actions,and governments, seemingly championing the Palestinians, yourleft-wing anti-semites seek no specific redress in Israel or fromIsrael, demanding only that Israel should cease to exist or be putout of existence.They often oppose measures to alleviate the condition of thePalestinians short of the destruction of Israel. Thus the petitions andchants on demonstrations: “Two states solution, no solution!” A neat illustration of this was provided three years ago when, at ameeting of the council of the SWP-dominated Socialist Alliance, asupporter of this newspaper proposed the slogan “Israel out of the
 
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31/12/09 1:01 PMWhat is left anti-semitism? | Workers' LibertyPage 3 of 17http://www.workersliberty.org/node/5041
Occupied Territories”. It was voted down, and much vaguer ones, “Free Palestine”, “Victory to the intifada”, voted in.Why? “Free Palestine” can be understood in different ways,depending on your definition of “Palestine”. Therefore it canaccommodate those who, without having studied the complexities orthe history of the Jewish-Arab conflict, instinctively side with theoppressed and outmatched Palestinians, and for whom “FreePalestine” means simply that Israel should get out of the OccupiedTerritories. And it can also accommodate those, like the proponentsof the slogan, the political Islamists of the Muslim Association of Britain/ Muslim Brotherhood and others, who define “Palestine” aspre-Israel, pre-1948 Palestine, and by “Free Palestine” mean thedestruction and abolition of Israel, and the elimination in one way oranother of the Jewish population of Israel, or most of them.The political differences spelled out here are easily understood. Butwhy is the drive and the commitment to destroy Israel anti-semitism, and not just anti-Zionism?Because the attitude to the Jewish nation in Israel is unique,different from the left’s attitude to all other nations; and because of the ramifications for attitudes to Jews outside Israel. Apart from afew religious Jews who think the establishment of Israel was arevolt against God, and some Jews who share the views of theleftists whom we are discussing here, those Jews outside Israelinstinctively identify with and support Israel, however critically. Forthe left-wing anti-semite they are therefore “Zionists”, and properand natural targets of the drive to “smash Zionism”.The attitude of the “anti-Zionist” left to Israel brings with it acomprehensive hostility to most Jews everywhere - those whoidentify with Israel and who defend its right to exist. They are not just people with mistaken ideas. They are “Zionists”.In colleges, for example, where the anti-Zionist left exists side byside with Jewish students, this attitude often means a specialantagonism to the “Zionist” Jews. They are identified with Israel.They, especially, are pressured either to denounce Israel, to agreethat it is “racist” and “imperialist” and that its existence is a crimeagainst the Arabs — or else be held directly and personallyresponsible for everything Israel does, has done, or is said to havedone.In such places, where the left “interfaces” with Jews, the logic of theunique attitude to Israel takes on a nasty persecuting quality. In thepast, in the mid 1980s for example, that has taken the form of attempting to ban Jewish student societies. Non-Jews who defendIsrael’s right to exist are not classified in the same category.But is the attitude of the “absolute anti-Zioniststo Israel reallyunique? There are seeming similarities with left attitudes to one ortwo other states — Protestant Northern Ireland, apartheid SouthAfrica, or pre-1980 white-ruled Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) — but theattitude to Israel is unique, because the reality of Israel cannotproperly be identified with Northern Ireland, apartheid South Africa,or white Rhodesia.In apartheid South Africa and white Rhodesia a minority lorded it encourage freediscussion. Log inwith a user name,and you can addcomments to thedebates on thissite. We operateno politicalcensorship, but wereserve the usualeditorial right todelete or cutcomments whichare racist or sexist;advertising;abusive; excessivein volume; orotherwiseinappropriate.
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