anti-semitism and the assault on gaza

by Joe Thorne

Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic, and the vast majority of our movement is not anti-Semitic, but it is a terrible reality that some anti-Semitism has been pulled along in its wake [1]. Therefore, we have a duty to acknowledge and oppose this. In fact, if we do not, we renounce the right to say we are true fighters against the brutality in Gaza.

There have been countless placards equating the Star of David to the Nazi swastika. (Some of the people doing this may intend nothing bad by it; but its real meaning is still distasteful, the Star of David is a symbol of the Jewish people, not the state of Israel [2]). I have a Jewish friend who has been beaten, and many others have experienced violence, insults and spitting. On the demonstration of Saturday 10th January, to my disgust, I heard one shout of ‘death to all Jews’ – although the surrounding crowd immediately booed in response.

We should support the Gazans against Israel’s murderous assault, not because they are of any particular faith or background, but because they are people. For the same reason, we must condemn those who few who want to turn a movement against a massacre into a movement for a massacre, or even low-level thuggery. Assaults on Jewish people, Zionists or not, bring disrepute on our movement (just as the assaults by right wing Zionist activists on pro-Palestinian demonstrators have brought shame on the other side). Assaults and insults have nothing to do with liberating Palestine. All they do is harden the sense of isolation experienced by British Jews, and spur the conviction that they must defend themselves at home, and Israel abroad.

Only those who oppose anti-Semitism really support the Palestinians as real, living people, rather than the ‘Palestinians’ as an abstract idea with which to beat Israel, or Jews. Those who really support the Palestinians acknowledge and respect what is human in them; that is the same thing which is human in all of us. And those who see this cannot hate any ethnic group.

There are Israeli citizens who would go to prison rather than serve in the occupation forces of Israel, and others who have been shot by the Israeli army protesting with Palestinians. Some of the best propagandists on behalf of the Palestinian people are Jewish, including Avi Shlaim, Noam Chomsky, Uri Avnery, Adam Keller and Norman Finkelstein – although we may disagree with some of their views. There were many Jews – and at least one Jewish Israeli citizen – in the crowds besieging the embassy gates last weekend. There would have been more if our movement did not contain a real strain of anti-Jewish hatred.

It is real. It is not simply a myth dreamt up by Zionist propagandists, this strain is real. I have seen it, and though it is a minority trend, it is sickening. It is cowardice to ignore it.

There are grey areas. I do not personally think that everyone who waves a Hizbullah flag is necessarily anti-Semitic, because the people who hold these banners do not generally understand, or have not fully considered, the implications of what they are saying. They may take any number of different positions on what the politics of Hizbullah in fact are. When people chant ‘from the river, to the sea’, they could mean many things. Are they, like Hizb ut-Tahrir, in favour of the invading Arab armies crushing Israel? Or are they in favour of a one state settlement based on democratic rights for all? In fact, most people are probably not that sure. There is an ongoing contest for the grounds on which these ideas will be understood. As socialists, I argue we should contend in that.

Many people seem to feel a certain hesitation in speaking out against or confronting anti-Semitism (right there and then, when it is heard or seen), partly because that accusation has been over used by Israeli chauvinists and partly because they are almost shocked into silence. But we must have courage in our convictions. Jews, Israelis, all people, must be part of our movement, but there is no place for racism of any kind. We must offer our solidarity, physical if appropriate, to all Jewish people targeted because of their background; and should continue to argue for a movement based on the international unity of all those under attack by capitalism, nationalism, and war. In Isaac Babel’s words, we should struggle for “the international of good people”, not only in defence of Gaza, but in defence of us all.

On this basis, we must continue to involve ourselves in the movement against occupation and massacre in Gaza.

[1] Technically, Palestinians are ‘Semitic’ too: but ‘anti-Semitism’ is commonly understood to mean hatred of Jewish people, and I use that conventional understanding here.

[2] In any case, the comparison is wrong. In terms of scale, the Nazis killed hundreds of times as many more people. Furthermore, while Jewish Israelis are under the influence of the sort of nationalist chauvinism which is common to most wars, including those fought by this country, they are not, in general, tacitly or otherwise, in support of the extermination of an entire people. To be sure, in a very real way, the Palestinians are dehumanised by many Israelis; and on some level all nationalisms have features in common (including those of Britain, Russia, etc.). But Palestinians have not been dehumanised in an equivalent way to the Jews in Nazi Germany; there is no broad acceptance of a programme for extermination. These are real, and important differences. Slogans such as “Zionism = Nazism”, or similar, are hysterical, absurd, and prevent us reaching out to everyone who is fond of neither hysteria nor absurdity.

22 thoughts on “anti-semitism and the assault on gaza

  1. “The new Tesco Metro supermarket in Stepney’s Commercial Road was targeted at the weekend when several windows were smashed and the words ‘kill Jews’ was daubed in paint.

    The same slogan was daubed on the wall of a children’s playground on Whitechapel’s Chicksand housing estate last week.”

    http://www.eastlondonadvertiser.co.uk/content/towerhamlets/advertiser/news/story.aspx?brand=ELAOnline&category=news&tBrand=northlondon24&tCategory=newsela&itemid=WeED13%20Jan%202009%2020%3A43%3A18%3A030

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  2. Robert Kurz: The War Against the Jews
    13. Januar 2009
    in Allgemein

    Robert Kurz
    The War Against the Jews
    Why the global public is turning against Israel during the economic crisis

    The political reactions to the war in Gaza show that the more threatening the military situation for Israel becomes, the less friends it has. A tectonic shift in the balance of forces is occurring. It was always the case that the Middle East conflict was not just a limited scuffle between regional interests, but rather an exemplary and ideologically loaded proxy conflict. In the era of the Cold War, the conflict between Israel and Palestine was regarded as a paradigm for the antagonism between western imperialism under the leadership of the USA and an “anti-imperialist camp” for whose leadership China and Russia competed. The propaganda of both sides ignored the double character of the state of Israel, which on the one hand was a normal state within the framework of the world market, and on the other hand was an answer by Jews to the eliminatory ideology of exclusion of European and particularly German anti-Semitism. Israel was subsumed to a geopolitical constellation into which it could not be completely absorbed.

    After the collapse of state socialism and the “national liberation movements” that had formulated a program of “belated development” on the basis of the world market, the character of this proxy conflict was altered fundamentally. In place of the secular developmental regime emerged so-called Islamism, which only ostensibly operates as a traditional religious movement. In fact, it is a postmodern culturalist crisis-ideology of a part of the long since westernized elites in the Islamic countries, who represent the authoritarian potential of the postmodern and who have imbibed the completely non-Islamic ideology of European anti-Semitism. The segments of capital in the region that had failed on the world market declared the war against the Jews to be an exemplary struggle against western dominance. Conversely, western crisis-imperialism, with the USA at its head, made Islamism its new main enemy, after pampering it during the Cold War and providing it with weapons.

    This new constellation led to ideological dislocations of unexpected proportions. Neoliberalism, with its capitalist war of world order against the “failed states” of crisis-prone regions and in the Middle East, appeared to identify with Israel. Since then, neo-fascist currents throughout the world have lined up with the anti-semitic Islamist “resistance struggle”, even while simultaneously fomenting racist sentiments against immigrants from Islamic countries. A large part of the global left also began to unconditionally transfer the glorification of the old “anti-imperialism” to Islamic movements and regimes. This can only be described as an act of ideological neglect, since Islamism is opposed to everything for which the left ever stood: it persecutes Marxist thought with merciless oppression and torture, it punishes homosexuality with the death penalty, and treats women as second-class people. Traditional religion is also not responsible for this; rather, it is the result of a capitalist patriarchy in crisis, which can also be felt in other ways in the west. The unholy alliance of the “socialist” caudillismo of Hugo Chavez with Islamism merely constitutes a geopolitical confirmation of this ideological degeneration, which does not contain any emancipatory perspective.

    Since the historically unparalleled financial crash in Autumn of 2008, the global constellation is turning once more. Now it becomes clear that the collapse of state socialism and the national developmental regimes was only the surfacing of a giant crisis of the world market. Neoliberalism is in ruins, and the capitalist wars of world order are no longer financially viable. In this situation, it becomes clear that Israel was never anything more than a pawn on the chessboard of global crisis-imperialism. Already the Bush administration had trivialized the Iranian atomic program. The interests of Israel and the USA are diverging: Obama no longer has any political-military room for maneuver. The Islamic war against the Jews is being accepted. For that reason, the missile attack by Hamas against Israeli civilians appears insignificant; the global public overwhelmingly describes Israel’s counter-attack as “disproportionate”. The Palestinians in Gaza are equated as victims with Hamas, as if this government had not prevailed in a bloody civil war with the secular Fatah.

    Thus the Islamic propaganda concerning a massacre against civilians falls on fertile soil. In fact, Hamas – just like the Lebanese Hezbollah in 2006 – has taken the civilian population hostage, while it converts Mosques into weapons caches and allows its cadres to open fire from schools and hospitals. Global opinion overlooks this, since it has already recognized Hamas as a “force for order” within the social crisis. For this reason, capitalist pragmatism, reaching as far as the liberal bourgeois press, is increasingly turning against Israel’s self-defense. This is actually the secret of the neo-statist turn during the crash of the global economy: the impoverished masses should be pacified in an authoritarian manner; and for that even Islamism is acceptable, provided it has democratic legitimacy. And a left that no longer has any socialist aims, and gloats about the postmodern “loss of all certainties” threatens to be absorbed into the authoritarian crisis management and accept the Islamic war against the Jews as ideological flanking. The proxy conflict has achieved an ideological dimension of global proportions. Against the ideological mainstream, it must be maintained that the elimination of Hamas and Hezbollah is an elementary condition not only for a precarious capitalist peace in Palestine, but also for an improvement in the social conditions. If the chances for this are bad, then the chances are good for global society’s descent into barbarism.

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  3. AUTHOR. Sean Matgamna

    Israel’s offensive in Gaza is in the tradition of the US-British slaughter of Iraqi conscript soldiers retreating from their occupation of Kuwait at the end of the first Gulf war in 1991. An American soldier described that as “like shooting fish in a barrel”. So in Gaza now.

    Israel has immense technical superiority over Hamas. And the Hamas “fish” swim in the “waters” of a densely-packed civilian population. At least a third of the casualties, maybe far more, have, inevitably, been “civilians”.

    The demonstrations all over Britain since the Israeli offensive on Gaza began on 27 December have been heavily fuelled by justified outrage at the human cost to the Palestinians of what Israel is doing.

    The disproportion between the damage being inflicted on Israel’s people and what Israel is doing to the Palestinians of Gaza makes it seem beside the point that this is a two-sided war, that Hamas is waging war on Israel too. The slaughter in Gaza cancels out awareness of everything else.

    The coverage in the press has focused heavily on the slaughter, on the horror, and on the number of civilians being killed in Gaza. So have the nightly images on the TV screens.

    The Guardian and other media have done most of the work in conjuring up the demonstrations; and the “left”, especially the SWP, have done much of the organising for the demonstrations.

    But the politics of the demonstrations have been provided by the Islamic chauvinists. In terms of its politics – support Hamas, support Arab and Islamic war on Israel, conquer and destroy Israel – the big demonstration on 10 January in London was an Arab or Islamic chauvinist, or even a clerical-fascist, demonstration. Their slogans, their politics, their programme, echoed and insisted upon by the kitsch left, have provided the politics of the demonstrations, drowning out everything else.

    The clerical fascists have politically hegemonised the demonstrations to an astonishing degree. These have not been peace demonstration, but pro-war, and war-mongering, demonstrations – for Hamas’s war, and for a general Arab war on Israel.

    Calls for a general Arab war on Israel have been the rhetorical stock-in-trade of George Galloway back as far as the demonstrations against the then-upcoming war on Iraq in 2002-3. On Saturday 10 January in Londo many placards portrayed Arab heads of state, depicting them as traitors for not going to the aid of the Palestinians.

    In their political slogans and chants, the dominant forces on the demonstrations have been not only against what Israel is doing in Gaza now, but against Israel as such, against Israel’s right to exist. Opposition to the Gaza war, and outrage at it, only provide the immediate justification for the settled politics of seeking the root-and-branch extirpation of Israel and “Zionism”.

    Such politics have long been a central theme of “anti-war” demonstrations, but my strong impression is that they are bolder, cruder, and more explicit now than they have ever been.

    On 10 January SWPers on loudhailers chanted: “Destroy Israel”. The chant “From the river to the sea/ Palestine will be free” – demanding an Arab Palestine that includes pre-1967 Israel – was pretty pervasive. Placards called for “Freedom for Palestine”, which, for Arab and Islamic chauvinists and kitsch-left alike, means Arab or Muslim rule over all pre-1948 Palestine. It implies the elimination of the Jewish state, and since that could be done only by first conquering Israel, the killing of a large part of the population of Israel.

    Placards denouncing Arab leaders for not attacking Israel – amidst the chants and other placards – meant more than just attacking Israel to relieve the pressure on the people of Gaza.

    Placards equated Israel with Nazism, and what Israel is doing in Gaza with the factory-organised systematic killing of Jews in Hitler-ruled Europe. Placards about 60 years since the Nakba – though not many of those – complemented the chants about “Palestine… from the river to the sea” and pointed up their meaning.

    The dominant theme, “stop the slaughter in Gaza”, understandable in the circumstances, could not – in the complete absence of any demands that Hamas stop its war – but be for Hamas and Hamas’s rocket-war on Israel. Even the talk of “the massacre” subsumed Hamas into the general population, and was one variant of solidarising with Hamas, its rocket war, and its repressive clerical-fascist rule over the people of Gaza.

    Talk of “genocide” in Gaza implied an absolute equation of the people of Gaza with Hamas, and absolute solidarity with Hamas.

    Even the most visible Jews on the Saturday 10th demonstration – Neturei Karta, a Jewish equivalent of Hamas, who for religious reasons want to put an end to Israel – fitted into the general clerical-fascist politics.

    On the January 3rd demonstration, a group of political Islamists near me, some with faces covered by scarves or balaclavas with only eye and mouth holes, pointedly raised their fists and started to chant Allahu Akhbar (God is great) as we passed the House of Commons.

    Platform speakers on Saturday 10th nonsensically equated Israel – pre-1967 Israel too – with apartheid, and told us that Israel could be eliminated as apartheid white rule was in South Africa.

    The “left” and the ex-left were heavily represented on the platform on Saturday 10th. Andrew Murray of the Communist Party of Britain (chairing), Tariq Ali (the rich “fun revolutionary” of long ago, all suffused in a grey-white tinge as if he had been dug out of the freezer, the ghost of anti-war demonstrations past!), Tony Benn, George Galloway, and Jeremy Corbyn spoke. Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop The War Coalition, wore a vivid red coat, but that was the only thing red about either her or the platform.

    No criticism of or even distancing from the Arab or Islamic chauvinism or Islamic clerical-fascism of so much of the demonstration. Only one-sided anti-war war-mongering – pro-Hamas; demanding, in different degrees of boldness and clarity, the end of Israel. Craig Murray, a former British diplomat, made the most clear-cut demand for the rolling-back of 60 years of history and the elimination of Israel.

    There was no criticism of the Arab and Islamic regimes other than for their “treason” to the Palestinians in not making war on Israel. And no reference whatsoever to the Israeli working class or to the idea that (even if in the not-near future) the Arab and Israeli workers should unite.

    Thus, the “left” was entirely hegemonised by the politics, slogans, and programme of Arab and Islamic chauvinism and, explicitly, of the clerical fascists of political Islam.

    The current demonstrations have had a six to seven year build-up, during which that “left” has promoted the politics of Islamic clerical-fascism, and even its organisations, the British Muslim Initiative and the Muslim-Brotherhood front, Muslim Association of Britain. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    The “left”, from outside the mainly-Muslim communities in Britain – it is still very much outside: the evidence is that the SWP has gained very few recruits from Muslim backgrounds from its half-decade of accommodating to Islam and posing as the best “fighters for Muslims” – has done all it can to push the youth of the Muslim communities behind Islamist political and religious reaction. It has courted and promoted the forces of political, social, and religious reaction within those communities. Instead of organising anti-war movements on the basis of secular, democratic, working-class, socialist politics, it has organised an “anti-war” movement on the basis of the politics listed above.

    Instead of advocating and building working-class unity on ideas and slogans such as “black and white – Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, atheist – unite and fight”, kitsch-leftists have made themselves into communalists, the best “fighters for Muslims”. On the political basis of Muslim communalism, no working-class unity could conceivably be built.

    Instead of helping the secularising, rebellious youth of the Muslim communities to differentiate from their background, instead of using the anti-war demonstrations to give them a focus broader than their starting point, the kitsch-left has “related” to the communities as such, and to the conservative and reactionary elements within them – including clerical-fascists – and that has helped those right-wingers to control, and the political-Islamist organisations to recruit, the youth, including women.

    It has to be said here that the flood-tide of world-wide political Islam has worked and is working against separating large forces of youth from Islamic reaction. The predominant form of “rebelliousness” there seems to be against assimilating, “moderate” forces, and for political-Islamist militancy.

    Even so, much could have been done. Instead the kitsch-left committed political hara-kiri, coloured itself Islamic green – and helped ensure the domination of conservative, reactionary, Islamic-chauvinist politics in the Muslim communities.

    Two seemingly contradictory things dominated the demonstration. The politics of Islamic chauvinism and clerical fascism gave it its political character – an Islamic chauvinist demonstration in which the forces of the kitsch-left sunk their identity, rather as the crazily ultra-left Stalinist German Communist Party in the two or three years before Hitler came to power sunk its own identity into fascist-led concerns with “liberating” Germany from the Treaty of Versailles.

    And… it was a heavily a-political demonstration. A large part of the demonstrators, perhaps the majority, have not sifted through the politics of the Israeli-Arab conflict, considered the options, studied the implications of slogans, and made deliberate choices, but react “raw” to the horrors of the Israeli offensive in Gaza and take the slogans, ideas, and programmes stamped on the demonstrations by the Islamists and their “left” allies as things given.

    For instance, “Freedom for Palestine”, for many of the marchers, does not mean that they understand what the slogan means to those who raise it: Arab rule over all pre-1948 Palestine, slightly encoded. “Free Palestine”, to such people, probably means freedom for the Palestinian-majority areas – Gaza and the West Bank.

    The predominance of clerical-fascism on the demonstrations is in part a result of this political underdevelopment. The precondition for it – for making people who react “raw” into demonstration-fodder for clerical-fascism – is the politics of the kitsch left vis-a-vis political Islam.

    The demonstrations have also been undisguisedly anti-semitic, more so than ever. Placards equating Zionism and Nazism and about Israel’s “Holocaust” all have implications way beyond Israeli politics and Israel itself. Calls for a boycott of Israeli goods, understandable enough on the face of it, were pretty much central. The main argument against such a boycott is that it is an indiscriminate weapon against all Israelis, and that it would quickly become a targeting of Jews everywhere, in Britain too. A small event on 10 January illustrated the point: a Starbucks café was attacked by some of the demonstrators seemingly because some people thought that it is owned by Jews.

    The 10 January demonstration shows that political Islam now has a serious political presence in Britain. Nor can socialists and secularists draw comfort from the experience in the first half of the 20th century when superstition-riddled Jewish communities quickly assimilated and generated large-scale left-wing commitment by secularising Jews. The heavy political-Islamist politicisation of the Muslim communities is not something specific to Britain, nor is it simply a movement of oppressed people.

    The Muslim communities are part of a world-wide movement which includes states and some of the richest people on earth (in Saudi Arabia, etc.) This world-wide movement is, in political terms, very reactionary. It is not likely that it will soon shed its present reactionary character.

    The serious left has to find ways of supporting the Muslim communities against racism, discrimination, and social exclusion, without accommodating politically or socially to their reactionary traits, and without falling into the suicidal idiocy of pandering to Islamic clerical-fascism. Involvement of Muslim workers and youth in the labour movement, combined with militant labour-movement commitment to defending the communities against racism and discrimination, is our chief method here.

    Our keynote politics have to be of the type of “black and white, unite and fight”, not the adaptive Islamic communalism that has reigned on the left for the last decade. Within that general approach we must fight Islamic clerical-fascism and help its opponents in the Muslim communities.

    The kitsch-left has a lot to answer for over the last decade. There is no way of measuring exactly what could have been done to wean sections of Muslim youth away from political Islam, but if the “left” – in the first place the SWP – had maintained a principled working-class socialist, internationalist, secularist stand, and combined that with defending Muslims against racism and discrimination, for sure more people of Muslim background could have been won to socialism. The clerical fascists would not have had the virtually unchallenged political ride they have had, and still have.

    It has to be said here that the flood-tide of world-wide political Islam has worked and is working against separating large forces of youth from Islamic reaction. The predominant form of “rebelliousness” there seems to be against assimilating, “moderate” forces, and for political-Islamist militancy.

    Even so, much could have been done. Instead the kitsch-left committed political hara-kiri, coloured itself Islamic green – and did its best to help ensure the domination of conservative, reactionary, Islamic-chauvinist politics in the Muslim communities.

    It has done everything it can to boost Islamic clerical fascism, promote it, and render it politically respectable in the labour movement. We are probably far from seeing the full consequences of the politicisation of sections of the Muslim communities under clerical-fascist hegemony that has taken place and continues now.

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  4. Hiroshima, if you’re going to post up whole articles – links would be better IMHO – please could you leave us a comment so we know what you think about them, and maybe brief quotations from bits you find useful?

    In my view the Matgamna article is terribly crude (though elements of its general thrust are accurate) and the Kurz article is embarassingly terrible…

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  5. – Hiroshima: what a terrible article! the demos not right wing just because some people there are, nor was smashing up starbucks antisemitic! Do you relate to muslim kids more radical than the mosque and the BMI by standing with them or stand on the sidelines condemning them for not being socialists and selling your own “line”/?

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  6. “[1] Technically, Palestinians are ‘Semitic’ too: but ‘anti-Semitism’ is commonly understood to mean hatred of Jewish people, and I use that conventional understanding here.”

    This is strange. Technically, no one is “semitic.” It is a social construct invented in the era of biological race theory in which the concept of “race” was bound to the idea of natural language communities. Palestinians are not “semitic too,” because there are no “semitic peoples,” not jews either.

    Antisemitism is not “being against semitic peoples” nor “against semitism.” It is a worldview about historical development and power relations and Jews’ role therein. It is a modernization of anti-judaism, but also transcends it in many important ways.

    Why is this important?

    Because your focus on the “conventional understanding of antisemitism” lends itself to the idea that jews monopolize the concept for themselves, and therefore a critique of jews in their relation to their oppression. Whereas, the real focus should be on the social-historical reality of antisemitism, which, founded in Germany to modernize anti-jew hatred, and to “explain” historical developments, power relations and contemporary capitalism.

    Palestinians face very different situation than jews did in late 19th century european countries. Just as they do today. So, a correction would be that: “We use the term antisemitism in its correct form, that is, modern jew-hatred. And we seek to analyze the situation of Palestinians through a variety of analysis, including anti-Muslim racism, colonialism, and occupation.”

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  7. I’m not precious about what I said about anti-Semitism (or antisemitism) in that foot-note. On the other hand, I’m not convinced that the interpretation you offer is the only legitimate one. Someone else picked me up on that before – I did some quick reading and it wasn’t conclusive, but I seem to remember seeing some knowledgeable sources make a similar caveat.

    Originally, semitic isn’t an ethnic term, but a linguistic term, as you say. But sometimes those things are transferrable. The definition of ‘Arabs’, for example, as I understand it, is the descendents of those people who, at a certain point in history (I forget when), spoke Arabic.

    Anyway, I don’t accept this:

    your focus on the “conventional understanding of antisemitism” lends itself to the idea that jews monopolize the concept for themselves, and therefore a critique of jews in their relation to their oppression

    I didn’t say it, but if there is a mis-ascription of ‘anti-semitism’, it’s the fault of Europeans to whom the Jews were the only significant domestic population from anything that could be described as a ‘semitic background’. It’s bad argumentation to use phrases like ‘lends itself to the idea’. Something is either true, or not, or needs to be clarified or qualified in certain ways. I’m not saying no qualification might be order, but I don’t accept that I can be held to have made ‘a critique of Jews in relation to their oppression’.

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  8. I didn’t say it, but if there is a mis-ascription of ‘anti-semitism’, it’s the fault of Europeans to whom the Jews were the only significant domestic population from anything that could be described as a ’semitic background’.

    You´re arguing about words in such a way that doesn´t help you get at the phenomenon. It didn´t matter to Wilhelm Marr and his League of Anti-Semites, as they called themselves, when they coined the term “anti-semitism” and brought it to popular use in their attacks on jews, whether it was a “mis-ascription” or not. It wasn´t a scholarly endeavor. It was a racist project against jews, and the word was coined in order to legitimize that racism.
    The use of the term was an attempt to modernize jew-hatred. That´s why I find the discussion about whether Palestinians are “semitic” or not totally off the point, but the attempt to consider the null point reveals a strange political sentiment, as if jews invented the term “anti-semitism” to describe those who attack them, and as if they try to monopolize the term for themselves.
    You´re decision to “use that conventional understanding” means you think there is some legitimate challenge to the term, as if Arabs are “being excluded,” or something of that kind. But anyone who is not included should be happy. It is only jews who are so often attacked in public with calls for their annihilation. That is not something to play down the differences of (between antisemitism and anti-Muslim racism), nor something to want to be included in. That´s why the playing with such inclusiveness is strange, and dishonest. (The whole, “muslims are the new Jews” argument that many on the left actually believe.)
    It´s a strange ground of trying to change a historical phenomenon through wordplay, psuedo-social science and political correctness that the left should have no part in.

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  9. Assaults on Jewish people, Zionists or not, bring disrepute on our movement

    Is *that* why you oppose violence against jews, because it might make you look bad?

    All they [assaults and insults] do is harden the sense of isolation experienced by British Jews, and spur the conviction that they must defend themselves at home, and Israel abroad.

    Thanks again. It’s not assaults and insults on us that is a problem, but rather our desire to defend ourselves against them that is. Thanks for the support comrade!

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  10. ra – that’s disingenuous. There are plenty of places in the article where antisemitic violence/insults are opposed in their own terms. As ‘distasteful’, ‘terrible’, ‘low-level’, sickening’, for example. The same goes for your second comment. Why, although we oppose antisemitism in its own terms, cannot we not also recognise the manifest fact that it also draws sectarian ethno-religious boundaries, which tend to break class unity? Did you seriously read the above article as an attempt to instrumentalise anti-racism? Given the principled opposition to any ethnic hatred in paragraph four, and the statement of determined, principled opposition in the penultimate paragraph? Come on.

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  11. You´re right. I am being too hard. And I appreciate that you´re writing about this topic. For jewish leftists it is an exhausting and infuriating situation. But I still don´t understand some of the things you are saying, for example, you wrote:

    Why, although we oppose antisemitism in its own terms, cannot we not also recognise the manifest fact that it also draws sectarian ethno-religious boundaries, which tend to break class unity?

    First, are you saying that antisemitism draws sectarian lines that break class unity — or that, opposing it does?

    Second, do you think every “problem” can be resolved by lumping them altogether as the same? That sexism = racism = homophobia = etc. ? Or do you just think it’s a better strategy?

    I think the limitations of lumping “it” all together are shown when one really tries to address the particular form. Especially, when one looks contextually. For example, in Germany, Muslims face job and housing discrimination in ways that many jews don’t face, but then again Muslims don’t face the same kind of violent hostility that Jews face on the street by simply showing their religious symbol. That’s just one very simple example of differences between the way these forms play out. I’m of the belief that we have to dig much deeper into these phenomenon to be able to be effective in combating them. So, yeah, they might “break class unity,” but how do we fight them? By telling protesters “please don’t holler ‘shit jews!’ on the demonstration” (like that which took place before an “anti-war” demo last week)? That’s just a matter of playing with words, not really seeking to change anything, in my opinion.

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  12. I am sorry for the postings. you can delte em. But I wanted to make a point. This Sean guy is right and If you help this crude anti-war movement to win with their aims you ll open a descent into barbarism. I actually think the only right proletarian and emancipative solution to these antisemitic manifstations is to attack them. This is because I know that those radicalised kids are acting within an antisemitic proto-fascist context ( the smashing of Starbucks was an expression of a false anti-capitalism in connection with a demonstration which aimed on the destruction of Israel)(what s their problem with starbucks anyhow?). As Kurz said: Against the ideological mainstream, it must be maintained that the elimination of Hamas and Hezbollah is an elementary condition not only for a precarious capitalist peace in Palestine, but also for an improvement in the social conditions. That´s it.

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  13. Hiya, on those questions:

    1 – definitely I’m saying that racism (etc.) breaks class unity, not that anti-racism does.

    2 – I definitely do not think that “sexism = racism = homophobia = etc.” I guess I didn’t think I was primarily making a strategic point, but a political one, of principle. But perhaps I don’t understand your question; what you mean by ‘lumping it all together’.

    I wouldn’t disagree that the above article doesn’t provide a sufficient strategy for combatting anti-semitism… though I think it is a necessary minimum to challenge any public manifestations of it. Partly because of the views of the people themselves, but more because of the tone of acceptability which not challenging it gives to anti-semitism in the movement as a whole. For similar reasons, we’re publishing this article in our paper, and other groups publish similar articles, to raise it as an issue, say it’s important, cement the view that it’s both present and unnaceptable. I would be open to suggestions for other ways of going about it. I mean, it’s difficult isn’t it, unless you can identify the anti-semites in question, to do much apart from general propaganda?

    About the phrase anti-semitism, and the meaning thereof. As I said above, I’m not precious about the footnote. I don’t have a strong position on the issue that I want to defend against all comers, and I’m prepared to accept that perhaps I used it wrongly. Before using such a formulation again, I will definitely do proper research. However, I certainly was not ‘trying to change a historical phenomenon’, and I don’t think that’s a reasonable intepretation of my words. (And even if the term was indisputedly subject to multiple interpretations – which I understand you’re saying it isn’t – that wouldn’t alter the historical phenomenon, which is not dependent on which word is used to describe it, but on the facts it involves.) I agree that that hatred of Jews and Muslim are historically very different phenomena and I don’t think that even those who would want to say that Arabs (etc.) are semites would want to deny that.

    So I don’t think the point would in any case, wrong as it may have been, to try to say otherwise. To be honest, my motivation was that I have been challenged on using the term in discussions with Arabic people. (I think you can see why Arabic people who feel oppressed by Israeli state apologists’ scattergun accusations of anti-semitism, an accusation that has been directed at me several times, would find the point initially attractive. I think that’s why it comes up alot.) Therefore, and for the same reason that the first sentence of the article is as it is, I added the footnote – i.e. to make sure that people involved in the movement wouldn’t be turned off by the article, so the important points it raises could come across. Perhaps I was wrong. Like I say, I’ll make sure I look into it before using the phrase again!

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  14. “Against the ideological mainstream, it must be maintained that the elimination of Hamas and Hezbollah is an elementary condition not only for a precarious capitalist peace in Palestine, but also for an improvement in the social conditions. That´s it.”

    Elimination of Hamas and Hizbollah by who? The Isreali army? The article you site hardly calls for that, it’s a situationalist piece oposing all ruling classes. They didnt support “democratic” Israel against the Palestinians ort he other way roudn.

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  15. Hamas or Hezbollah can only be eliminated by the Palestinian people themselves. What the IDF can do is to diminish their threat to the Israely citizens. To oppose all ruling classes is the first duty for revolutionaries in order to build communism from below. And I agree with the SI in analysing the metropolitan peace movements as spectacular. The obsession with this particular anti-imperialist struggle overrules all class contradictions you can find in Britain, Israel or in Palestine. What counts here is a straightforward class based perspective which forwards the critique of ideology.

    But there is a difference between the overall objectives and the immediate aims of the situation. As a revolutionary and emancipative situation in this region seems at date rather unlikely, therefore communists have to fight for better living conditions within a capitalist framework. We face another situation than 1967, nowadays the Palestinian struggle is dominated by Islamism which leads the people of Palestine further into the abyss as they ever were.

    To support the working class worldwide in Iran, Palestine, Indonesia, Syria etc. in their struggle against those slaughtering Fascists is a must for the sake of a enlightened humanity, and of course is the precondition to build influential communist movements thereafter. I can identify no such arguments within the current “peace movement”. In contrary, I see a peoples front of weirdos and outright reactionaries united in their hatred against Israel and Coca Cola.

    The SI test is still relevant, no I do not side with any ruling class, but I take a side with those in Israel or Palestine whose life is threatened by the very “palestine resistance” because they are identified as “imperialist Jews” , homosexuals, communists, capitalists, drug users or whatever. Break this cycle of opression and threat, and it is more likely that the progressive forces within Israel will side for a capitalist “peace”. Whatever that means. As a first step to progress within the communist movement its as simple as that. Take up working class solidarity and fight the British class-system.

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  16. and smash starbucks or loot the next wholefood supermarket… but do not sell it as a political act… you smash something because it is available to smash without hurting anyone … living out your anger, you loot because it thrills and you have not enough to money to buy everything you want to. smashing MC s because you think its cultural imperialism, …, bullshit.

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  17. “I do not personally think that everyone who waves a Hizbullah flag is necessarily anti-Semitic, because the people who hold these banners do not generally understand, or have not fully considered, the implications of what they are saying.”

    Yes, same with those Germans and Austrians waving Nazi flags in the 1930s.

    Are you serious?

    Why do you assume you understand the politics of others better than they understand their own political position?

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  18. The question is not whether they or I understand their positions better – but whether you or I do. I think I have some understanding, albeit impressionistic, because I talked to some of the people in question, and talked to others who talked to them.

    I think you do not have that understanding because you live in New York, and hence I suspect it is unlikely that you have talked to any of them.

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  19. Obviously I know what the impressions were of those I talked to – and it was a spectrum. You can keep on asserting all you want, but there’s nothing in your posts to make me to take them seriously.

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