Prêcheurs de Haine (Preachers of Hatred), by Pierre-André Taguieff, is a large scale, French-language study of “left-wing” “judeophobia”.
Its publication in 2004 was an event of major importance. Taguieff is not himself a leftist, but his observations and analysis of the left are not necessarily invalidated by that. Much that he says about the mainstream “revolutionary left” and its attitude to Israel and to Jews who support Israel has long been said in this country by Solidarity, Workers’ Liberty and our predecessor Socialist Organiser. (See for example, the pamphlet Two Nations, Two States.)
In the first part of the review below (printed in Solidarity 3/81), Stan Crooke presents a straight exposition of Taguieff’s arguments without comment. Then he critically examine Taguieff’s material and his assessments (second part, to be published in Solidarity 3/82).
After that we will open an extended discussion on Taguieff’s book, on “left-wing” judeophobia in general, and on what is happening to the “revolutionary left” of which we consider ourselves a part. We invite contributions to that discussion.
Precheurs de Haine – Traversee de la Judéophobie Planetaire, Pierre-Andre Taguieff, Mille et Une Nuits, 2004.
Pierre-Andre Taguieff’s Precheurs de Haine (Preachers of Hatred) is a polemic. It is vicious. Not infrequently, it is venomous. And its target is the Left.
Taguieff makes sweeping generalisations. His criticisms sometimes border on burlesque caricature. His attacks on individuals are often personalised and abusive. And Taguieff’s own politics are certainly not particularly left-wing.
But, despite such qualifications, and many other equally necessary reservations, the political arguments at the core of Taguieff are, on one level, essentially correct. Not in relation to the Left as a whole, but certainly in relation to specific, and in some countries dominant, currents within the Left.
(Taguieff’s specific target is the French far Left. Ironically, his arguments are far more applicable to the British Left, or at least that section of it in and around the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). It would not be much of an exaggeration to say of Taguieff’s book: right arguments – wrong country.)
Preachers of Hatred runs to over 950 pages. There are around two thousand footnotes. On some pages there are more footnotes than text (page 268: 3 lines of text, and a 52- line footnote continued from the previous page; pages 368/9: 13 lines of text, and 92 lines of footnotes; page 915: 6 lines of text, and 50 lines of footnotes).
There is enough material in the footnotes for a separate book. In fact, given that Taguieff’s most vituperative and personal attacks are usually reserved for the footnotes, it might have been better if the footnotes had been hived off into another book.
Preachers of Hatred is a collection of conference papers reworked into essays. As a consequence, there is no linear development of Taguieff’s chain of argument. Between the different essays there is overlap and repetition. At the same time, given the lack of continuity between the different essays, there are arguably missing links in the book’s overall arguments.
The coherence of Taguieff’s arguments is further disrupted by the staccato of his polemical denunciations, and by the burden imposed on the reader of virtually having to simultaneously read two books (the text itself; and the material in the footnotes).
The easiest way to ‘get one’s head around’ Preachers of Hatred is to separate out and summarise Taguieff’s basic analytical arguments before attempting to pass verdict on them.
The admitted drawback of such an approach, however, is that it focuses on the book’s strengths (Taguieff’s core arguments) and pushes into the background the book’s weaknesses (the specific yet sweeping political conclusions and judgements which Taguieff draws from those arguments).
In the second chapter of the book Taguieff summarises the history of Jew-hatred – judeophobia.
(The expression ‘judeophobia’ was first used by Leo Pinsker, one of the ‘founding fathers’ of the Zionist project. Taguieff’s use of that expression, rather then ‘anti-semitism’, flows naturally and justifiably out of his historical analysis of Jew-hatred.)
In times of Antiquity judeophobia was a “specific form of xenophobia.” The Jew was regarded as “the enemy of mankind (Tacitus: ‘odium humani generis’), an anti-social being animated by a relentless hatred towards other peoples.”
In Christian Western Europe, through to the end of the Middle Ages, judeophobia took on a “theological-religious form.” The Jews had been guilty of deicide (killing a god). The Jew was “the son of the Devil” and “the enemy of Christ.” In the latter part of this period this form of judeophobia incorporated the themes of Jews as ‘plotters’ and of Jewish ‘ritual murder’.
In the centuries following the Renaissance and the Reformation judeophobia remained essentially theological-religious but also incorporated more ‘modernist’ themes.
Martin Luther denounced Jews not only as “children of the devil” but also as “unscrupulous money-lenders” and “alien parasites” who had no place in Christian society. As capitalism developed, the unscrupulous Jewish money-lender evolved into the plutocratic Jewish banker.
Philosophers of the Enlightenment such as Voltaire denounced Jews as “the most abominable people on earth.” Jews were not only incapable of benefiting from the Enlightenment but, because of their “obscurantism”, were a positive obstacle to it.
A number of the early pioneers of socialism also attacked Jews as the embodiment of capitalist values and, consequently, the enemies of the emerging socialist movement.
From around the middle or end of the nineteenth century until the mid-twentieth century judeophobia re-emerged in the form of anti-semitism. The term ‘anti-semitism’, Taguieff points out, is itself judeophobic: it rests on a world-view in which ‘racial conflict’ is the driving force and, in an echo of the judeophobia of Antiqity, the ‘semitic race’ (i.e. Jews) is “the enemy of mankind.”
Thus, according to the French anti-semite Kimon: “The semitic spirit has been designed by Nature to deceive and to take by surprise. … Semitism is the mentality of the lie. … In every epoch semitism has excelled in constructing machinery to wage war, … organised so as to break and destroy, and spreading around itself submission and terror.”
The Aryan race was involved in a life-and-death struggle against the semitic race. There was an international conspiracy by the Jews to take control of the world. This was ‘proven’ by the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. These were supposedly the record of a series of meetings in which the Elders of Zion plotted to achieve world domination. In reality, they were a product of the Tsarist police.
If a Jew might escape the theological-religious form of judeophobia by abandoning Judaism, there was no escape from ‘racially based’ anti-semitism. “Confronted with the ‘Jewish question’,” Taguieff writes, “racist judeophobia could see no other solution than segregation, expulsion, or extermination.”
But anti-semitism was just one phase in the history of judeophobia, As Taguieff puts it, adapting a slogan of the anti-globalisation movement for which he has nothing but contempt: “Another anti-semitism is possible.” And the contemporary form of judeophobia goes under the name of anti-Zionism.
Taguieff distinguishes between two forms of anti-Zionism.
There is the anti-Zionism which refers to “any form of criticism of the policies pursued by this or that government of the state of Israel.” This anti-Zionism involves “legitimate criticisms of the policies of the state of Israel, or even of the Zionist project as a whole.” For anyone committed to the defence of pluralist democracy, such criticism is “legitimate, and even necessary.”
But there is another anti-Zionism: absolute, or unconditional, anti-Zionism. This consists of “all forms of questioning the right of Israel to exist, with the various means of de-legitimising the Jewish state culminating in the achievement of an objective which is revealed only by the radical Islamists: the destruction of Israel.”
This anti-Zionism is “inseparable from a method of demonising the ‘Zionist’ enemy, based on a polemical amalgam of ‘Zionism’, ‘nazism’, ‘racism’, or a system of ‘apartheid’ (which legitimises the assimilation of Israel to racist South Africa). In this manner, the total dehumanisation of Israel, a means of rendering ideologically acceptable its destruction, is achieved.”
Between those two forms of anti-Zionism there is “a vast zone of ambiguity.” Advocates of the former version, even when acting in good faith, can slide over into the latter version. Advocates of the latter version, when faced with legitimate criticism, can pass themselves off, or at least attempt to do so, as ‘really’ only advocates of the former version.
This new judeophobia which goes under the name of anti-Zionism treats Israel and its Jewish population in a way in which no other state and its people in the world are treated.
The state of Israel is “one state too many on the planet.” Jews are “the only people who are denied the right to a state. … The state of Israel is the only nation-state in the world of which the right to exist is challenged, or the current existence of which is regarded as an anomaly, or even a monstrosity, which must be eliminated as quickly as possible.”
One nationalism, and one nationalism alone, is denounced as inherently racist, colonialist, or even fascistic: Zionism: “Far from being a respectable nationalism, like Palestinian nationalism, ‘Zionism’ is a ‘colonialism’, an ‘imperialism’ and a ‘racism’.” The logical conclusion of the equation of Zionism and racism is “the call for the destruction of the state in which the Zionist project was realised.”
Not only are the Jewish state and Jewish nationalism unique. So too is its (Jewish) population: “Only in the case of the Israeli nation is there a rejection of the very principle of a distinction between the army and the civilian population. It follows from this that every Israeli can and must be legitimately considered to be a military target.” Civilians are therefore legitimate targets for suicide bombers in Tel Aviv but not in, say, London.
Echoing the denunciation of anti-semitism by the nineteenth-century German socialist August Bebel as “the socialism of fools”, Taguieff denounces this new judeophobia, especially in the light of its ramifications for issues of international politics, as “the anti-imperialism of fools.”
The target of this anti-Zionism is not simply the Jewish population of Israel but, like other forms of judeophobia, Jews in general: “Based on a demonisation and criminalisation of Israel, absolute anti-Zionism, through a series of concentric circles, applies to all Jews, suspected of being more or less covert ‘Zionists’, and therefore ‘imperialists’ and ‘racists’ (and, of course, ‘plotters’).”
Absolute anti-Zionism combines traditional themes of judeophobia with more recent ‘innovations’: “The ‘anti-Zionist’ caricature … recycles old themes of anti-Jewish accusation (the Jew-God-killer, the vampire, the murderer of children, the plotter, the exploiter, and the dominator) with the new amalgams of demonisation (Israel-Nazism-Zionism-racism-apartheid-genocide).”
But, in one respect, anti-Zionism distinguishes itself from all previous forms of judeophobia. By equating Zionism with racism, racist anti-Zionism defines itself as a form of anti-racism: “The new anti-Jewish ideology … presents itself as, and declares itself to be, an anti-racism which accuses the ‘Jew-Zionists’ of being racists.”
This new form of judeophobia denies its own existence as a form of judeophobia: it claims not to be hostile to Jews per se, just to ‘Zionists’. And it denies its own existence as a form of racism: it equates its own ‘anti-Zionism’ with anti-racism.
Taguieff analyses the judeophobia of the Left as a historical phenomenon.
In the years 1830-1850, argues Taguieff, a new strand of judeophobia emerged, It based itself on traditional judeophobic themes, but adapted them to the emerging capitalist world. And it was propagated in particular by the early socialists: hostility towards capitalism embraced hostility towards Jews (who, allegedly, exemplified the capitalist mentality).
The word “socialism” was first coined by Pierre Leroux. The same Pierre Leroux wrote “The Jews – Kings of the Epoch”, in which he argued: “When we speak of the Jews, we mean the Jewish mentality … in a word, the mentality of the banker. … There is a necessary link between the bank and the people (i.e. the Jewish people collectively) who invented it, have constantly practised it, and have perfected it.”
Georges Dairnvaell, another of the early French socialists, wrote “The Edifying and Curious History of Rothschild the First, King of the Jews”. The main thrust of the work was summed up in its title. Dairnvaell criticised Jews for “their insolence, born of being the slaves of yesteryear” and their “unquenchable need to accumulate wealth and power.”
Similar ideas were expressed by other French socialists of that period: Blanqui (“ … universal suffrage means … the final coronation of the Rothschilds, the arrival of the Jews …”), Auguste Chirac (author of “The Kings of the Republic: A History of Jewries”), Gustave Tridon (“… the semites are the shadow in the picture of civilisation, the evil genius on earth …”) and Proudhon (“… the Jew is the enemy of the human race, this race must be despatched to Asia, or exterminated.”)
In the pages of the “Northern Star” Engels reviewed Dairnvaell’s book in positive terms: “The success of this pamphlet (it has now gone through some twenty editions) shows how much this was an attack in the right direction.”
Taguieff quotes Marx’s essay “On the Jewish Question” (“… What is the profane cult of the Jew? Trafficking. What is his profane God? Money. … Money is the jealous god of Israel, before whom no other god is allowed …”) and derogatory anti-Jewish comments to be found in Marx’s correspondence, especially about “that Negro-Jew Lassalle.”
Lassalle himself, a German socialist contemporary of Marx, did not conceal his own hostility towards Jews: “I do not like Jews at all, in fact I generally detest them.” On another occasion Lassalle wrote: “I hate Jews and I hate journalists. Unfortunately, I am both one and the other.”
This strand of judeophobia “rooted itself on the Left of the political spectrum, or, more exactly, on the far Left, in all varieties of the revolutionary milieus. Following the Biblical image, Jews were accused of worshipping the Fleece of Gold and of being skilled in the ways of ‘mammonism’, or even of being the representatives par excellence of the ‘bankocracy’.”
Modern left judeophobia is, in part, the continuation of this older ‘anti-capitalist’ judeophobia: “In the revolutionary milieus this positive evaluation of anti-capitalist judeophobia continued through the whole of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century. But the mythical power of the accusation (that Jews are ‘masters of the world’) can still be found at the beginning of the twenty-first century.”
A second source of contemporary left judeophobia is to be found in the Stalinist (Taguieff uses the term: Soviet) ‘anti-cosmopolitan’ campaign of the late 1940s and early 1950s, and the Stalinist ‘anti-Zionist’ campaign following the Six Days War of 1967.
In the late 1940s “cosmopolitan” was defined in official Soviet publications in thinly veiled traditional judeophobic terms.
A “cosmopolitan” was “an individual devoid of patriotic sentiments, detached from the interests of his motherland, foreign to its people, and disdainful in his attitude towards its culture.” “Cosmopolitanism” itself was defined as “a reactionary ideology of American imperialism … attempting to achieve world domination in the interests of monopoly capitalism.”
“Cosmopolitanism” quickly came to be equated (or re-defined) as “Zionism”, beginning with an article by Ehrenburg published in Pravda in September of 1948. Zionism was “the Trojan Horse of the United States”, and a “threat to peace between the peoples.”
“Cosmopolitanism” and “Zionism” were added to the list of the enemies of “socialism” (i.e. Stalinism). Pierre Herve, one of the leaders of the French Communist Party in the early 1950s, listed the enemies of “the socialist camp” in the following terms: “Trotskyists, Titoites, Zionists, cosmopolitan bourgeois nationalists, and war criminals … all united by this same chain of gold under the harness of the dollar.”
It was in the period 1948 to 1953 that “an arsenal of anti-Jewish arguments euphemised as ‘anti-Zionist’ positions was constructed in communist ideology. This mixture of ‘pacificism’, americophobe anti-imperialism, and radical anti-Zionism would play an important role in Soviet propaganda after the Six Days War.”
After Israel’s military victory in 1967 an ‘anti-Zionist’ campaign was launched by Moscow compared with which the earlier campaign of 1948-53 was a mere shadow.
Zionism was “an ideology impregnated with racism and militarism.” There was a “clear resemblance” between Zionism and Nazism. “The spirits of the Zionists and those of the Nazis” were “related.” Zionists had always been the “spiritual brothers and supporters of the fascists and racists.” Zionism was “an integral part of the financial and industrial oligarchy of the USA.”
International Zionism was a “constituent part of modern imperialism.” The Zionist leaders were “the instruments of imperialist aggression against the Arab countries, and the instruments of neo-colonialism.” They inspired “new racial laws” which echoed the Nuremberg laws of Hitler’s Reich.” The Zionists had “proclaimed their intention of achieving world domination around the first decade of the next century.”
This absolute anti-Zionism has now become an integral part of what passes for being ‘politically correct’ (which Taguieff uses as a term of abuse) and ‘progressive’: “In the supposedly ‘progressive’ milieus one recognises the clichés, slogans, and (hollow) formulae of the propaganda forged and massively diffused, at first by the Soviet Union and the Arab countries, before being taken up, from the beginning of the 1990s, … by the new far Left and Islamist networks.”
Taken together, the older ‘anti-capitalist’ judeophobic tradition (which focused on the financial power of the ‘Jewish plutocracy’, supposedly epitomised by the Rothschilds) and the more recent ‘anti-Zionist’ judeophobia (which focuses on the political power of the ‘Zionists’, supposedly epitomised by the existence of Israel) result in an essentially judeophobic Left (or far Left):
“Once Zionism is defined as ‘racism’ and ‘colonialism’, and Israel is defined as an ‘imperialist state’, then judeophobia is again placed at the disposal of militants of the Left and far Left, and of ‘progressive’, ‘anti-globalisation’ or ‘anti-racist’ militants. … The anti-liberal left, or, more precisely, the far Left which preaches revolutionary anti-capitalism, has not become anti-Jewish. In certain of its political movements, it has become it again.” (Emphasis added.)
Apart from Islamist networks, the principal medium through which absolute anti-Zionism is propagated is “the demagogy of the new leftists (neo-Communists, anti-globalisation activists, Trotskyists and anarchists).”
Absolute anti-Zionism “has become the ideological cement of all varieties of the far Left, both old and new. The Trotskyist movements (or those which claim to be such) today occupy, along with the anarchists (‘libertarians’), an important space in the nebula of ‘anti-Zionism’. The Trotskyists have replaced the Stalinists in the ‘anti-Zionist’ militancy of the far Left.”
Taguieff goes so far as to raise the question of whether judeophobia has been an integral part of the revolutionary-socialist historical tradition: “Might hatred of Jews be a logical implication of socialist/revolutionary engagement in the nineteenth century? One of its psychological presuppositions? One of its most effective means of mobilisation? These questions force themselves on us today.”
The far Left is not the only source of the new judeophobia. The other source is Islamism. Indeed, writes Taguieff, Islamist networks are now the principal medium through which absolute anti-Zionism is propagated.
“Judeophobia as an international phenomenon is principally the offshoot of the ‘anti-Zionist’ propaganda of the Arab countries (with some exceptions) and the theological anti-Judaism of the Islamist milieus of all colorations. … Islamism is the principal international mechanism for the spread of anti-Jewish stereotypes.”
(By “Islamism” Taguieff means a political movement. He does not mean the religion Islam. As the above quote indicates, Islamist judeophobia took over themes previously the property of Arab governments (who, in turn, had adopted them from Stalinist ‘anti-Zionism’). The main themes of Islamist judeophobia can therefore be found not just in the statements of Islamists themselves. They are also to be found in the ideological output of certain Arab governments.)
Islamist judeophobia has both a religious component and a political component: “The main source of judeophobia today, and increasingly so for the past thirty years, is the Arab-Muslim world. This judeophobia is simultaneously political (‘anti-Zionism’) and theological-religious (anti-Judaism) and is currently being exported throughout the world by the propagandists, professional or otherwise, of the Islamist vision of History.”
The religious ‘component’ of this judeophobia is evidenced by a speech by Syrian President Bashar El-Assad in May of 2001, in which the themes of Jewish deicide and Jewish ‘pride’ were linked to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land:
“Territories in the Lebanon, the Golan Heights and Palestine have been occupied by those who killed the very principle of equality when they claimed that God had created a people superior to all other peoples. … They try to kill all the principles of the divine faiths with the same mentality which made them betray and torture Jesus Christ, and in the same way that they tried to betray the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him).”
Hassan al-Kashef, General Director of the Ministry of Information of the Palestinian Authority, made the same linkage in a speech of July 1997: “The soldiers of the Talmudic offensive do not hesitate to openly call for revenge against the Christianity which persecuted the Jews of Europe. … We know that Jesus was the victim of the activities of the Talmudic extremism which today brandishes a national flag and carries the weaponry of a national army.”
The traditional judeophobic themes of Jewish ritual murder and blood sacrifice also find expression in modern Islamist judeophobia. According to “Matzo of Zion”, a best-seller in the Arab world, written in 1983 by the Syrian Minister of Defence (and later deputy Prime Minister) Mustapha Tlass:
“… The West has known several similar crimes (Jewish ritual murders), and Tsarist Russia as well. … In the twentieth century the Zionists committed these crimes on a large scale in Palestine and the Lebanon. … But the financial, media and political influence of the Zionists always managed to defuse the situation and allow the crimes to go unremembered … In publishing this book I intend to shed some light on certain secrets of the Jewish religion, by describing the actions of Jews, their blind and repugnant fanaticism about their beliefs, and the implementation of Talmudic precepts compiled in the Diaspora by their rabbis.”
Tlass’s book is neither an isolated nor an unrepresentative example: “The presence of these themes of accusation in the ‘anti-Zionist’ caricature in the Arab-Muslim world is attested by Joel and Dan Kotek’s ‘In the Name of Anti-Zionism’, which demonstrates the recent massive exploitation in the Arab-Muslim world of the fiction of the ‘ritual crime’, incorporating phantasies about ‘Jewish vampirism’ or ‘Zionist vampirism’.”
The political (‘anti-Zionist’) ‘component’ of Islamist judeophobia is borrowed in part from Stalinist ‘anti-Zionism’. Taguieff illustrates this by reference to the language of the Palestinian National Charter, first adopted in 1964 and subsequently amended in 1968:
”Zionism is a political movement organically linked to international imperialism and hostile to every act of liberation and to every progressive movement in the world. It is racist and fanatical by nature, aggressive, expansionist and colonialist in its goals, and fascist in its methods. Israel is the instrument of the Zionist movement and the geographical base of world imperialism, strategically placed in the very heart of the Arab nation.”
Nazi ideologues of anti-semitism also contributed to the shaping of the political ‘component’ of Islamist judeophobia:
“Johann von Leers joined the National-Socialists in 1929. He immediately became the editor-in-chief of the Nazi review ‘Will and Way’. Alfred Rosenberg created for him a chair at Jena University. He was above all a fanatical anti-semite who published several anti-Jewish works based on a racist conception of the world. In 1936 he met in Berlin the Chief Mufti of Jerusalem, whose friend he became. …
“[After having escaped from Germany in 1945] von Leers established himself in Cairo in 1955 in order to organise, along with the former collaborator Georges Oltramare, the anti-semitic (‘anti-Zionist’) propaganda of the Nasser regime. … Until his death in 1965 he took an active part, along with other former Nazis (who ran, for example, the radio station ‘The Voice of the Arabs’), in ‘anti-Zionist’ propaganda. Nasser also appointed him to run his Institute for the Study of Zionism.”
Central to the political ‘component’ of Islamist judeophobia, however, is the adaptation of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” to a specifically ‘anti-Zionist’ theme:
“In the course of the last third of the twentieth century the principal source of the international diffusion of the ‘Protocols’ shifted from the Christian West to the Arab-Islamic world, and then to the Muslim world as a whole. … Since the 1990s the international Islamist networks have been the main medium for the international diffusion of the ‘Protocols’.”
According to the introduction to the 1951 edition published in Cairo: “This book is the most dangerous ever published in the world. … Only then [by having read the ‘Protocols’] is it possible to understand the infernal plot carried out by the Jews in order to corrupt the world and to submit it in its entirety to the service of their exclusive interests.”
Further editions were published in Cairo in 1957, 1959, 1968 and 1994. The introduction to the 1968 edition was written by Nasser’s brother: “The book you have in front of you is an extremely rare book throughout the world, as the Jews threaten to kill or horribly punish any person who translates it, publishes it, or circulates it. … Their aim is to buy back the book and to try to recuperate every edition as soon as it has been printed, so that it does not reach the readers.”
According to the introduction to the 1967 edition published in Beirut, subtitled “The Truth about Israel, its Plans, and its Goals, Revealed by an Israelite Document”:
“In 1967 the people of Zion confirmed for the first time in their history the authenticity of a document first published in 1905 (i.e. the ‘Protocols’). … In launching their campaign of territorial expansion, an expansion based on a breach of all norms of morality and law, the sons of Zion have provided material proof that they have never forgotten the ‘Protocols’ of their Elders … and their dreams: world domination.”
The following year 300,000 copies of the ‘Protocols’ were printed by the Islamic Institute of Beirut in French, Italian, Spanish, and Arabic. Other editions of the ‘Protocols’ were published in Amman in 1984, and in Beirut in 1988,1990 and 2000.
In November 2002 Egyptian television broadcast the 41-part series “A Horseless Rider”. The series was also broadcast by Iraqi television, Al-Manar (the Hizbollah TV station), and “Dream” satellite television. The series purported to be a history of the Middle East from 1855 to 1917.
In fact, it was a dramatisation of the ‘Protocols’ and was welcomed as such in Egyptian reviews: “For the first time, the author of the series courageously takes up the 24 ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’, revealing them, and showing that they represent, through to the present day, the politics of Israel, the origins of its political aspirations, and of its racism.”
In November 2003 Al-Manar broadcast a 31-part series entitled “Diaspora”. Although its producers denied any connection between the series and the ‘Protocols’, “Diaspora” recycled the central theme of the ‘Protocols’ i.e. the striving of the Jews for world domination. According to the introduction to the series:
“2000 years ago Jewish Elders installed a world government with the goal of directing the world, submitting it to the precepts of the Talmud, and completely separating Jews from other peoples. Then the Jews undertook to provoke wars and civil strife, resulting in them being condemned by different countries. … At the beginning of the nineteenth century the world Jewish government decided to pursue its plotting more vigorously. It was dissolved and replaced by a new secret Jewish world government, headed by Amschel Rothschild.”
(Through the Eutelsat satellite the Al Manar station also broadcasts in Europe. It has an audience of over two and a half million households in France, and growing popularity in Arab neighbourhoods in Germany. The “Diaspora” series was included in Al Manar’s European output.)
The ‘Protocols’ are also endorsed by the “Charter of Allah” (the founding charter of Hamas, published in 1988): “The Zionist conspiracy has no limits, and after Palestine it will want to spread from the Nile to the Euphrates. … Their project has been announced in ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’, and their current conduct is the best proof of this. … We have no alternative but to unite all our forces and energies in order to confront this contemptible Nazi-Tartar invasion.”
This Islamist judeophobia thus combines elements of theological-religious judeophobia with ‘anti-Zionist’ judeophobia, and elements of Stalinis judeophobia with elements of Nazi judeophobia. And it is an essentially eliminatory form of judeophobia:
“The new judeophobia, in its Islamist-jihad version, is explicitly one of extermination. Its fanatical supporters define their struggle as an undertaking to totally eliminate the figures of the absolute enemy, amalgamated in the expression ‘Jew-Crusaders’.”
The eliminatory nature of Islamist judeophobia is dictated by its constituent elements. Nazi anti-semitism was eliminatory. Stalinist ‘anti-Zionism’ was eliminatory. (Had Stalin not died in 1953, mass Nazi-style deportations of Soviet Jews would have been initiated.) And the ‘Protocols’ are eliminatory: the world Jewish conspiracy can be defeated only by the elimination of the enemy.
THE LEFT-ISLAMIST RAPPROCHEMENT:
Vladimir Ilyich Ramirez Sanchez (more commonly known as “Carlos”) was one of the most prominent terrorists of the late twentieth century. A Venezualan Communist, he saw his activities of bombings, kidnappings and aeroplane hi-jackings as part of the communist struggle against world imperialism. Today, Sanchez has found a new form of anti-capitalism:
”All those who fight the enemies of humanity – the imperialism of the USA, the Zionists, and their allies and agents – are my comrades. … I converted to Islam in October 1975 and I remain a communist. … In radical Islamism one finds the best and the worst: from jihad movements to misogynous reactionaries who are the enemies of freedom.”
“The true jihadis attack the Yankee monster and demand the liberation of the three holy sites: Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem. I felt a profound feeling of relief in seeing the heroic sacrifices of 11th September. I understood that my sacrifice in Khartoum had not been in vain. Sheik Ossama bin Laden is the model of the mudjahedin. He is a living martyr, one of the Pure.”
In 2001 Sanchez declared that the Taliban were “defending the world revolution”, that “revolutionary Islamism has taken over from communism (as) the vanguard of the world anti-imperialist struggle”, and that “the jihad movement is the vanguard of the anti-imperialist movement.”
In doing so, Sanchez considered himself loyal to his political tradition: “I am and remain a revolutionary fighter. And today the Revolution is above all Islamic. … I am and remain a professional revolutionary, a soldier, a fighter, in the purest Leninist tradition.”
Taguieff does not suggest that Sanchez is representative of the Left, neither in his terrorist phase nor now. But, for Taguieff, Sanchez’s reconciling of Islamism, the Taliban, revolutionary anti-imperialism, and Leninism is merely “the most explicit and the most provocative theorisation” of a world-view which permeates (sections of) the Left and the far Left (and, by extension, the anti-globalisation movement, and the ‘conventional wisdoms’ of left-liberal consensus).
Taguieff does not argue that there already exists some kind of formal and mutually agreed alliance between the far Left and radical Islamists. Rather, there is a process of one-sided political assimilation under way, with sections of the far Left looking forward to a more formal alliance with radical Islamism:
“In the very heart of the Trotskyist movement the malaise has revealed itself in the light of day, with certain militants no longer being able to conceal their amazement at the surreptitious slide from ‘dialogue’ to an alliance between ‘revolutionaries’ and Muslim fundamentalists.”
Tariq Ramadan’s presence at the European Social Forum of 2003 epitomised the convergence of the far Left and Islamism: “The ‘dialogue’, which involved an element of fusion, between the Islamist preacher Tariq Ramadan and his disciples, the representatives of various anti-globalisation movements and communists and ‘revolutionary’ militants (Trotskyists), symbolised the convergences and confluences of Islamic fundamentalism and the neo-communist configuration now under construction.”
At the core of this far-Left/Islamist rapprochement is judephobia, although, writes Taguieff, this is not the only factor which draws together what ought to be the polar opposites of the political spectrum:
“Radical anti-Zionism is linked, in the imaginary world of the enemies of ‘neo-liberal globalisation’ to all good revolutionary struggles. For the Trotsykists of the (French) LCR (Revolutionary Communist League) and SPEB (“Socialism from Below”, the French offshoot of the British SWP) the struggle against ‘Zionism’ is inseparable from the struggles against capitalism and imperialism. … ‘Take Action Against the War’, in the organisation of which SPEB played a determining role, created a bridge between leftists and Islamists.”
The absolute anti-Zionism of Islamism exercises a seductive influence on the far Left: “Throughout the world judeophobia has been Islamisised since the 1990s, after having slowly been Arabised. … Since 2000 it has become evident that they (Islamist milieus) can count on the support of a not insignificant fringe of the new leftists, enemies of the democratic and liberal West as much as of ‘Zionism’ (not real Zionism, but the demonised entity, a complete fiction, to which they give this name).”
Where the absolute anti-Zionism of Islamists surpasses that of the far Left (Taguieff gives the example of physical attacks on Jews in the course of pro-Palestine demonstrations), the latter turns a blind eye: “The struggle against the common enemy (‘Zionists’ and ‘American imperialists’) leads a number of neo-leftists to disregard the judeophobic ‘excesses’ of their conjunctural allies. By covering their ears or willingly closing their eyes.”
But the bonds between the far Left (or “a not insignificant fringe” thereof – it is not always clear how broadly Taguieff defines his target) involve more than a shared absolute anti-Zionism. The far Left/Islamist rapprochement has seen the former re-define the Muslim religion and blind itself to the reactionary nature of radical Islamism.
Islam has been “ideologically reconstructed as the religion of the poor of the Third World and of the ‘immigrants’ in Western countries, in short: as the religion of ‘those who have no voice.’ This means, at least implicitly, attributing to it a ‘revolutionary’ value, or regarding it as a form of challenge to the ‘domination of the West over the rest of the world.’ … Islam is ‘the religion of the poor’ (the oppressed, the excluded, the desperate).”
Islamism, including, and above all, its most murderous forms, has become a potential and progressive ally: “Militant Islamism, even criminal Islamism, is not seen by them (the militants of the new radical Left) as the face of the enemy. Rather, it is seen as an objective ally in the ‘struggle against imperialism.’ … A configuration is being born which one would have thought highly improbable: the Islamist-progressive configuration, or, more exactly, the Islamist-leftist configuration.”
Trotskyist organisations initiated this new configuration: “It is in the Trotskyist milieus, on the one hand in Great Britain, and, on the other hand, in France, that there appeared the thesis according to which Islamism represented a revolutionary force or a revolutionary capacity, in that it mobilised those abandoned by capitalism and was not primarily directed against workers organisations.’”
In France SPEB adopted the most extreme version of this thesis: “In early 2003 when the ‘anti-war’ campaign was entering a highly intense phase, the SPEB paper published on its front page a photo of two Islamists, one of whom was a veiled woman, with the headline: ‘We Are All Muslims’.”
(It is not clear how Taguieff could have known from the photograph that the two persons featured were of a particular political persuasion (Islamism). But this is secondary to the principal political point he is making.)
Not even the events of 11th September could shake this belief in the ‘objectively progressive’ role of Islamism: “Even after 11th September 2001 the blindness to the threatening reality of Islamism, the main international medium for the diffusion of anti-Jewish stereotypes, of a large part of the milieus of the Third-Worldist and anti-globalisation far Left, and also of a section of the Left (above all Greens and communists), did not come to an end.”
Taguieff has nothing but contempt for those of the far Left (or any other part of the political spectrum) who delude themselves into believing that Islamism is a progressive political force and a potential ally.
They are “the fellow travellers and the ‘useful idiots’ of the Islamist-jihad enterprise.” They are the embodiment of a “Stalinist-Trotskyist synthesis”, the “bag-carriers of ‘Palestinian progressivism’”, and the “fellow travellers or great legitimisers of ‘revolutionary’ Islamism.” It is “mainly in the milieus of the new leftism (where Third-Worldist Christians, Trotskyists and communists meet up)” that “the ’useful idiots’ of Islamism are recruited.”
Taguieff appeals to the readers of his book to share that contempt:
“Those persons – irrespective of whether they are cynical demagogues, fanatical partisans, European-neutralists, or naïve Third-Wordlists – who legitimise the call for jihad against the West and Israel, against Americans and Jews, and find ideological excuses for terrorism in the name of an ‘anti-imperialism’ of Stalinist origins, are the accomplices of the new international barbarians. And it is only appropriate to treat them, intellectually and politically, as such.”
ISRAEL, IRAQ AND ANTI-GLOBALISATION:
The anti-Zionist form of judeophobia and the new Left-Islamist configuration are reflected, argues Tagueiff, in the issue of Israel/Palestine, the war against Iraq, and the anti-globalisation movement.
Israel/Palestine is a central issue in the Left-Islamist rapprochement. The “driving force” of this rapprochement is “the total engagement in favour of the ‘Palestinian cause’, a symbol for some of the cause of Arabs or of Muslims, and for others a symbol of the cause of ‘the poor’, ‘the deprived’, the ‘peoples of the South’, or even of ‘the proletarians of all countries’. … Blindly, the side of the Palestinians is taken, and they are accorded an absolute right to ‘resistance’, that is to say, terrorism. … Sharon (on the other hand) is the incarnation of ‘Zionism’.”
Just as Islamism has been reconstructed as a new revolutionary creed, so too the Palestinians now play the role previously reserved for the proletariat: “The new international judeophobia … massively exploits the ‘Palestinian cause’, the latest substitute to date for the ‘proletarian cause’, and an affective-imaginary source of the new Third-Worldism.”
In “certain milieus of the far Left” – especially in the anti-globalisation movement, which Taguieff describes as “the main form of the recycling of the communist project and of ‘anti-imperialist’ mythology” – “the Palestinian has replaced the Proletarian.” Revolutionary engagement “tends to reduce itself to an unconditional engagement in favour of the ‘Palestinian camp’.”
The ‘useful idiots’ of Islamism are recruited “through this pro-Palestinian engagement, (in which) once again, in the name of the ‘poor’, the oppressed or the victims, a discourse of hatred is propagated and targeted chiefly at Israel, treated as one state too many.”
Since the year 2000 (the beginning of the second intifada), therefore, “Islamists (particularly those of Hizbollah) preaching jihad against ‘the Jews’, regularly walk side by side with … representatives of the parties of the Left (French Communist Party, Greens) and of the Trotskyist far Left (LCR and LO (Workers Fight)), violent anarchists (CNT), ‘anti-globalisation militants (Attac) and the leaderships of certain supposedly ‘anti-racist’ organisations (MRAP, and the League for Human Rights). Confusion or collusion?”
Thus, on a pro-Palestinian demonstration held in Paris in October of 2000, “called by numerous organisations and political parties (the Greens, the LCR) demonstrators shouted ‘Death to Jews’ and ‘Jews – Murderers’ in the context of a frenetic Nazification of Israel, of Israelis, and of Jews in general. One placard read: ‘Stop the Jewish Hitlerian Terror! One Palestinian dead = 1,000 dead inhumans (Jews).’”
On another pro-Palestinian demonstration, held in Paris in March of 2002, “attended by … a delegation from the LCR, militants of LO, and others from the CNT (anarchists), the flag of Hizbollah (an unambiguous symbol of radical Islamism) was unfurled by certain demonstrators, and on several occasions the crowd took up the ‘Allahu Akhbar’ chanted over a megaphone by a young Islamist perched on a lorry. Trotskyists and Islamists – One Struggle! The struggle ‘against Zionism’ and for the ‘liberation of Palestine’ …”
Demonstrations against the invasion of Iraq are cited by Taguieff as further evidence of a far Left/Islamist collaboration. These demonstrations, writes Taguieff, “which took place in 2002 and 2003, which were supposedly ‘anti-war’ and ‘pacifist’, and in which the various neo-left, pro-Palestinian and Islamist movements were strongly represented … allow us to measure the degeneration over the past 35 years of the far Left, in France and in other Western nations.”
These “‘anti-war’ demonstrations became ever more clearly the expression of all the variants of the ‘anti-Zionism’ which has been propagated in French public opinion for the last 30 years. … They were exploited by the Left and above all by the far Left, but also by all Palestine support groups, plus also a certain number of agents of Arab countries, notably Iraqi ones, and Islamist agitators.”
On these demonstrations which “united neo-leftists, pro-Palestinians, and Islamists (not to mention the Iraqi agents and the representatives of numerous non-European ‘revolutionary’ groups), one could see people shouting out ‘Allahu Akhbar!’ or ‘Peace in Palestine’, ‘Zionists – Assassins’, and ‘Iraq Will Win, Palestine Will Live’, surrounded by the yellow flags of Hizbollah or jihad placards of Hamas, plus portraits of Saddam Hussein.”
Taguieff lists various of the slogans raised on the demonstrations: “Against this war which the Zionists want”, “Israelis are war criminals installed by the Americans in Palestine, an Arab country”, “American-Zionist plot: 11th September in New York, Afghanistan, Iraq … Whose turn tomorrow?”, “Death to Jews”, “Death to Israel”, “Jews to the gas chambers”.
The linkage between Iraq and Palestine which such slogans reflected was no accident. The linkage was explicit in the demands of the Paris anti-war demonstration of September 2002 (initiated by, amongst others, the LCR and SPEB): “No Attack on Iraq – Justice in Palestine.” According to the mobilising statement for the demonstration, the march would “contribute to the development of a broad opposition movement to the war in Iraq and for justice in Palestine.”
The linkage of the pending war in Iraq to the Israel/Palestine conflict was based, at least for some of the demonstrations’ organisers and participants, on the argument that Israel was behind the pending Iraqi war. This judeophobic view of the war was an expression of absolute anti-Zionism.
In the summer and autumn of 2002 a new accusation began to circulate, writes Taguieff, “in the Middle East, to be sure, but also in the United States and Europe: that of a war against Iraq which was wanted – according to a well-known gradation – by Sharon, Israel, ‘the Zionists’ or ‘the Jews’.”
In the resulting “anti-war discourse” (i.e. how the war was understood), “the judeophobic representation of the war was as follows: a war wanted by the Jews, and which would be to the profit of the Jews. … Above all the Israelis, and, more generally, the representatives of a mythical ‘world Zionism’, were accused of being responsible for the new ‘Iraq war. Lists of advisers of the American president – ‘Jews’, ‘Zionists’, or ‘close to Likhud’ – circulated on the internet (and) in the press.”
This was also the official Iraqi government line on the reasons for the war. Saddam Hussein denounced Bush as “the servant of Sharon” and, in his open letter to the UN, wrote that peace and security could be achieved if “America freed itself from its fateful alliance with Zionism, which has never stopped its plotting to exploit the world and plunge it into blood and darkness, using America and certain Western countries for this purpose.”
And it was the Islamist line. Taguieff quotes a leading Jordanian Islamist: “The aggression against Iraq has been organised by the American Jews. The Israelis await the victory of the United States in order to deport all the Palestinians.” The theme of an America controlled by Jews was also taken up al-Zawahiri, an Al Qaida commander: “America today is totally controlled by the Jews, as are its media, its elections, its economy, and its politics.”
This judeophobic representation of the Iraq war invoked traditional themes of the anti-semitism of the first half of the last century: Jewish control of the White House, and Jews as being responsible for all wars. Such themes were integral to Nazi anti-Semitism and to the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’.
According to Goebbels, for example: “The Jew is responsible for the current war, and directs it from behind the scenes.” According to Hitler: “The Jews who manoeuvre the psychopath in the White House have managed to drag one people after another into the war.”
“In the context of the new war in Iraq,” writes Taguieff, “the Rothschild myth was simultaneously ‘Zionised’ and Americanised, metamorphosing into the Sharon-Perle-Wolfowitz myth.”
The demonstrations of 2002/2003 in opposition to an invasion of Iraq were therefore not only occasions when the far Left and Islamists physically mobilised together. Politically, they were also an occasion when the far Left and Islamists both linked war in Iraq to the occupation of Palestine, thereby giving succour, albeit to differing degrees, to a judeophobic interpretation of the war.
A third example cited by Taguieff of the “Islamist-leftist axis” is the anti-globalisation movement. Taguieff describes it as a rallying point for the far Left (and others) and Islamists, presenting Islamism as a politically progressive force, and promoting an absolute anti-Zionist approach to the Israel/Palestine conflict.
The ideology of the anti-globalisation movement is “inseparably Islamophile (and openly so) and judeophobic (in a more or less concealed manner, playing on the ambiguities of ‘anti-Zionism’). The thesis of the unconditional legitimacy of Islam (cultural and political) and that of the absolute illegitimacy of ‘Zionism’ function in tandem. Is not ‘Zionism’ a ‘form of racism’? (And must not every Jew be considered a ‘Zionist’ until the contrary is proved?) And is not Islam the ‘religion of the poor’?”
The new judeophobia (absolute anti-Zionism) has found a home for itself in “the new anti-capitalist space.” And so too has the “alliance between Islamists and communists” which has been “extolled by numerous Marxist and Third-Worldist groups since the Al-Aqsa intifada and 11th September 2001.”
Central to the ideology of the anti-globalisation movement is a “populisme miserabiliste” of which the principal component is the belief: “They are better than us (than all others) because they suffer more than us (than all others).” This leads to a Manichean view (i.e. one which understands the world solely in terms of Good and Bad) of the Middle East conflict: “How can one not defend the ‘victims’ against their ‘executioners’. The Palestinians-victims against the Israelis-executioners?”
Palestine is central to the anti-globalisation movement because the latter conceptualises “’the people’ not as a community of citizens but as a community of the poor, the humiliated, and the excluded. And in the ultra-narrow field of vision of the Trotskyist-anarchist-Third-Worldist anti-globalisation activist of today, what is more poor-humiliated-excluded than a ‘Palestinian-in-struggle’?”
Or, in the words of LCR leader Christian Picquet and one of the leaders of “Co-ordination Palestine”: “The situation of the Palestinians is exemplary of the fate reserved to the peoples in the new world order. That is why it occupies a central place in the mobilisation of those who want a different world.”
For Taguieff, the judeophobia of the anti-globalisation movement is personified, though not exclusively so, by Jose Bove (“the most media-friendly of the demagogues of the anti-globalisation movement”), the French farmer who was jailed for campaigning against McDonalds in France.
For Bove the struggle against neo-liberalism goes hand-in-hand with the struggle for Palestine: ”Israel is an advance guard of liberal colonisation. This struggle must be part of the great struggle against the domination of the world by liberal ideology. The struggle for the rights of the Palestinian people is integral to the struggle against financial globalisation.”
According to Bove, “Israel is in the process of carrying out a war of ethnic cleansing in the Palestinian territories.” And “if Israel is a democracy, then Zionism has invented the concept of ‘totalitarian democracy’: a selective democracy in a system of organised apartheid.”
Commenting on a wave of judeophobic violence in France, Bove argued: “You have to ask who benefits from the crime? I denounce all acts targeting places of worship. But I believe that the Israeli government and its secret services have an interest in creating a certain psychosis, in making people believe that an anti-semitic climate has installed itself in France, in order to better be able to divert attention.” (Bove later apologised for this analysis.)
The accommodation of the anti-globalisation movement to Islamism is summed up for Taguieff by its invitation to Tariq Ramadan (“a professional of double-speak and calculated ambiguities”, the “Geneva preacher with a Siren song”, the “favourite Muslim preacher of the tender souls of the Left”) to speak at the 2003 European Social Forum in Paris:
“On the occasion of the 2003 European Social Forum Tariq Ramadan was warmly welcomed by the patented ‘anti-globalisation’ activists (Jose Bove, Daniel Mermet, etc.) as well as by the representatives of an ‘anti-racism’ of the far Left which has wed itself to the ‘anti-Zionist’ cause, and has not hesitated to ally itself with certain Islamist milieus to defend wearing the Islamic veil in school (the MRAP) (a French anti-racist campaign).”
Ramadan was “saluted and feted by a number of Trotskyist and ‘anti-globalisation’ leaders (not to forget the General Secretary of the MRAP)” on that occasion because of their embrace of the ideological postulate that Islam is “supposedly the ‘religion of the poor’ and the ‘religion of the oppressed’.” The consequence of that postulate of the anti-globalisation movement is an uncritical attitude towards Islamism:
“The preacher-strategists of political Islam, as skilled demagogues, know how to exploit this great accepted idea, which leads the self-proclaimed partisans of the revolt of the ‘wretched of the earth’ to form alliances with Islamist preachers, perceived as the representatives of the ‘religion of the oppressed’. Neo-leftists and Islamists – do they not have the same enemies: capitalism or ‘neo-liberalism ‘, ‘imperialism’ (always American!), and ‘Zionism’?”
Taguieff gives over some 40 pages to an analysis of Ramadan’s politics, often better reflected in passing comments (“I have said often enough that I am a man of dialogue, against all violence, except in Palestine”) than in his public pronouncements, his links to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists, and his article of October 2003, “A Critique of the (New) Communalist Intellectuals”.
(In the latter article Ramadan attacked a number of French Jewish intellectuals for their positions on Israel. Taguieff’s name headed the list. But Taguieff is not Jewish. Ramadan’s logic was a purely racist one: “Ramadan reduces my academic analyses and intellectual positions to an expression of my supposed ethnic origins. This is a form of reasoning currently and justifiably denounced as ‘racist’.”)
“After the ‘Ramadanisation’ of the youth in certain suburbs (Lyon, Lille, Paris, etc.),” Taguieff concludes, “a ‘Ramadanisation of the anti-globalisation spirits is now under way.” But for Taguieff there can be no dialogue with “the so-called ‘moderate Islamists’”: “You may as well dream of ‘Nazis of dialogue’ or ‘Hitlerians with a human face’. … Two ineparable faces of the Islamist combat: Tariq Ramadan the preacher and Osama bin Laden the warrior.”
Taguieff is right to point to the changing form – but, by definition, constant target – of judeophobia over the centuries. And he is right to argue that the current dominant form of judeophobia is anti-Zionism.
But there is a problem in Taguieff’s distinction between legitimate anti-Zionism (legitimate criticism of Israeli policies, or even of the Zionist project as a whole) and the absolute and unconditional anti-Zionism which advocates the destruction of Israel. Or, more exactly, there is a problem in where Taguieff draws a line between the two.
Taguieff stresses the need for “the historian of the present, the political scientist, or the sociologist to demonstrate prudence in their decoding of positions adopted (in relation to Israel).” There is a “vast zone of ambiguity between the two poles (of anti-Zionism) which sometimes renders interpretation of the positions adopted extremely difficult.”
Such prudence is not apparent in Taguieff’s own work. Thus, calls by some on the Left (e.g. Michael Warschawski) for a single bi-national state for Israelis and Palestinians – based on the idea that such a framework would allow state rights to both populations, and would also allow for national reconciliation – are denounced with the same virulence as are jihadi calls to destroy ‘the Zionist entity’.
And although Taguieff writes that “the action of Sharon or his government can be judged a disaster without thereby being anti-Jewish,” one cannot help feeling that Taguieff’s understanding of what he calls “the least Israeli reaction of legitimate defence” is a particularly generous one.
Thus, for example, the wall currently under construction between Israel and the West Bank (and within the territories of the West Bank as well) is described by Taguieff as “a measure of self-protection, of which the effectiveness is certainly debatable, but certainly not the legitimacy (even if the path of its construction poses a problem in that it does not correspond to the Green Line.”
Having said that, one should not confuse the ‘softness’ of Taguieff’s attitude towards Israel with the validity of his analysis of judeophobia and absolute anti-Zionism. The idea that the pre-condition of a legitimate denunciation of judeophobia is a ‘politically correct’ denunciation of Israel’s policies, if not a call for the state’s destruction, is itself a form of judeophobia.
(And given that Taguieff’s book is about judeophobia, not Israel, it is hardly surprising that he does not dwell on his criticisms of Israel’s policies.)
Taguieff is also correct to point to a certain judeophobic tradition located in the socialist movement over the last two centuries, and now to be found in the contemporary far Left. But this tradition is insufficiently described and excessively generalised by Tagueiff.
Taguieff gives some examples of a judeophobia emerging on the Left from about 1830 onwards. In fact, though, there is far more which he could cite in support of his arguments.
There were the debates at the congresses of the Second International about the ‘Jewish question’ and the circumstances under which it would be resolved (i.e. for some of its affiliates: through the disappearance of the Jews), for example, and the accommodation after the 1914-8 war of the German Social Democrats and Communists to anti-Semitism. This culminated in the Communist Party slogan of “Crush the Jewish capitalists! Hang them from the lampposts! Destroy them!”
More recently, in the late 1960s the emergence of an inchoate new Left, part of which drifted off into ‘urban guerrilla warfare’ witnessed an explosion of ‘anti-imperialist’ judeophobia, distinguishable from more recent forms of judeophobia on the Left by its unbridled virulence and by its eventual merger with the ‘armed struggle strategy’.
In Germany at least, this militant judeophobia was experienced by its partisans as a necessary demonstration that the emerging Left was free of any feelings of guilt about the Nazi Holocaust: the fact that German fascism had murdered Jews was no reason for the new Left to refrain from fighting ‘the Zionists’ to the death. Not to be an absolute anti-Zionist was to capitulate to a guilt-stricken sentimentality about the Holocaust.
On the other hand, on the basis of the examples which he does cite, Taguieff makes some sweeping generalisations, most clearly reflected in his rhetorical question as to whether judeophobia was a precondition of socialist engagement in the nineteenth century.
Clearly, it was not. Taguieff himself cites Saint-Simon as an example of a socialist pioneer who had no truck with judeophobia. At the time of the Dreyfus affair, as Taguieff himself points out, the French Left lined up against the anti-semites (although their leader, Jaures, had previously seen anti-semitism as a progressive force). And the debates in the Second International about the ‘Jewish question’ point to the existence of sharply differing views within the socialist movement.
On far from the only occasion in his book, Taguieff takes specific examples of judeophobic statements and argues, or at least implies, that they represent a coherent tradition, and one representative of this or that political movement as a whole.
But one cannot, for example, seriously present Marx’s essay on the Jewish question, published in 1844, as emblematic of the world outlook which he subsequently developed. Nor should it be overlooked that the early socialist movement at the time of its origins had a range of peculiar ideas (e.g. it was frequently pro-abstinence as a matter of principle), even if, admittedly, none of them were as threatening as the notion of the ‘Jewish plutocracy’.
And if, as Taguieff implicitly suggests, the revolutionary Left is a natural home of judeophobia, where is the judeophobia in Lenin’s writings? None of the Bolsheviks regarded the Black Hundreds as a misdirected expression of proletarian revolt. As one learns from Taguieff, it was Tsarism, not Bolshevism, which published 14 million copies of 3,000 anti-semitic works between 1905 and 1916. And in the revolutionary-socialist tradition Lenin counts for rather more than Leroux, Dairnvaell, Blanqui, Tridon and Chirac.
In relation to the contemporary far Left, Taguieff is guilty of equally sweeping generalisations. In Taguieff’s book “the far Left” is the label for what appears to be a single, monolithic bloc, a fixed entity of which the politics are set in stone. Taguieff’s “far Left”, in its totality, is guilty of judeophobia and well on its way to a subservient alliance with Islamism.
There is no small sleight of hand here. The far Left, especially in Europe, is a myriad of competing forces. Not a few of them are diametrically opposed to the judeophobia and pro-Islamism which Taguieff attributes to “the far Left” in general. But there is scarcely a word of this far Left in Taguieff’s book.
And insofar as it does receive even a passing mention, then only in footnotes. Tucked away in a footnote at page 506 is a reference to an article in the Dutch publication “De Fabel van de illegaal”, translated and circulated in France by the “Ni Patrie ni Frontieres” group. 70 pages later on another footnote refers to the works of the Italian Enzo Traverso (“himself a Trotskyist, but honest and competent”). But the international Trotskyist current to which Traverso belongs is that to which the French LCR (one of Taguieff’s main targets) also belongs!
Taguieff is right in his condemnation of Islamist judeophobia and in his condemnation of Islamism as a reactionary political movement.
But there is a curious omission in the book’s treatment of Islamist judeophobia, presumably flowing out of the fact that the book is a collection of essays rather than something written as a single chain of argument.
Only in the course of a single footnote – one referring to the role of Johann von Leers – does Taguieff make any reference to the fertilisation of Arab/Islamist judeophobia by German fascism in the 1930s and early 1940s. But, and this certainly strengthens Taguieff’s overall argument on this point, Arab/Islamist judeophobia originated specifically in the transfer of a European, fascist form of judeophobia to the Arab world. A description of this crucial ‘exportation’ is absent from Taguieff’s book.
Taguieff shows no restraint in his denunciation of Islamism. It is the “third totalitarianism” (after fascism and communism). It is “a threat to democratic liberties everywhere.” The democratic countries “must exercise their non-negotiable right to defend themselves against this threat, especially by preventive measures.” There is a simple but harsh truth: “We are at war. … The Third World War has begun.”
And, measured even against his own not immodest standards, Taguieff surpasses himself in his polemical denunciation of the perceived allies of this Islamism:
“This war also has, to the right just as to the left, its ‘collaborators’, it auxiliaries, its reinforcements – the pseudo-anti-racists who have become professional judeophobes, the intellectuals of Jewish origin who have surreptitiously gone over to the anti-Jewish camp, the Third-Worldist Christians prone to reminisces about anti-Judaism, the revolutionaries without a proletariat or a revolution in sight but who find in the ‘Palestinian cause’ a substitute for their ideological passion, the imaginary anti-fascists in search of undiscoverable ‘fascists’.”
“Auxiliaries worthy of pity, or collaborators of the third totalitarianism worthy of hate, naïve fellow-travellers of ‘green fascism’: the conquering Islamism, proclaimed enemy of constitutional and pluralist democracies. Writers who serve Islamist-Palestinian terror. Useful idiots and useless collaborators gifted with an immaculately pure conscience, the fine souls of predictable political causes, of which the number never ceases to increase.”
But what is the force that Taguieff counterposes to Islamism in this apocalyptic struggle? Not that of the victims of Islamism in those countries where it holds sway. And not that of the organised Left or the broader labour movements. For Taguieff, the Left is part of the problem, not the solution. And his aversion to class-analysis precludes any role for the labour movement in this Manichean clash.
Taguieff is left with the armed force of the Western states. Taguieff is not in the least shamefaced about this. However partially and however problematically, “the democratic idea … has been put into practice in the West. … The superiority of the democratic/pluralist system is certainly reflected in the fact that it guarantees individual liberties, but also in the fact that it is the only perfectible political system, capable of self-correction without recourse to violence.”
Taguieff thus ends up as a supporter of the invasion of Iraq, presumably one of the “preventive measures” which the West has the right to take in its war against Islamism. The Iraq war was (is) “a war undertaken in the name of democratic values.”
The war had (has) a political and geo-strategic perspective: “respond to terrorism by eliminating a despotic regime which constituted one of the main military powers in the region, isolate Saudi Arabia as the main source of Islamist terrorism and its ideology, re-model the Middle East in order to make possible an Israeli-Arab peace, and thereby guarantee a certain stability in the region.”
To expose and denounce the judeophobic, pro-Islamist and pro-Saddam idiocies of sections of the anti-war movement is one thing. To spin fantasies about the driving forces behind the war, and the likely outcomes of the war, is quite another.
But it is in his attacks on the French far Left that Taguieff is at his weakest. (Had he directed his attacks at the British far Left, specifically the SWP, then it would have been a different story – see below.)
The French far Left is largely absent from Taguieff’s book – in the sense that the endless denunciations of French communists, neo-communists, Trotskyists, new leftists and neo-leftists, etc., etc. are not backed up by hard evidence and the ‘naming of names’.
The ‘Lambertists’, the third largest Trotskyist organisation in France, are simply absent from the book. (Other than two passing and irrelevant references to a former Lambertist and a current Lambertist in two footnotes a third of the way through the book.)
LO, the largest French Trotskyist organisation, is likewise virtually absent from the book. There is the odd reference to its involvement in this or that demonstration. Laguiller, its best-known leading figure, is mentioned twice. (Once in passing, and once as an example of the “proletarian and sectarian” face of Trotskyism.) Olivia Zemor is denounced as an LO member “known for her pathological hatred of Israel”, albeit in the absence of any explanation. There are just eight entries for LO in the index of this 950-page book.
The LCR fares slightly better, with 36 entries in the book’s index. But these are largely passing references to its members or, not infrequently, former members or sympathisers.
If the organisations of the French far Left are largely absent from the book, then their publications are entirely absent. Nowhere in the book does Taguieff actually quote from the press, or websites, of the organisations of the French far Left. It is noticeable that when Taguieff does quote a member of the French far Left, then the source for the quote almost invariably turns out to be the mainstream press and media.
To denounce the French far Left for judeophobia and for accommodation to Islamism but to fail to substantiate those denunciations with quotes or hard examples (other than a few examples of its members attending demonstrations which also attracted Islamists) is a serious omission. The lack of ‘hard evidence’ does not necessarily prove that Taguieff’s allegations are wrong. But it certainly leaves a gaping hole in his chain of argument.
(The only, partial, exception to the above criticisms is that Taguieff does, albeit only occasionally, focus his attacks on SPEB. But SPEB is far from being as politically significant in France as the SWP is in this country.)
Taguieff often gives the impression of knowing little or nothing about the positions adopted by the main organisations of the French far Left. He denounces them, for example, for judeophobia, of which a defining theme is the ‘smash Israel’ variety of ‘anti-Zionism’. But neither LO nor the LCR advocate the destruction of Israel.
And he denounces them for allying with Islamists against the banning of the wearing of the veil in French schools. But both the LCR and LO took a very different position from the Islamists: they supported the right of women not to wear the veil, but questioned the idea of a ‘state ban’ – because of their understanding of the role of the state, not because they had a pro-veil position. (And, in any case, LO was not overly hostile to a state ban.)
Having said that, there is certainly room for argument about how sections of the French far Left have, for example, intervened in Palestinian solidarity campaigning, or campaigning against the war in Iraq, or the broader anti-globalisation movement. But discussion and criticism about how such issues have been approached are quite a different matter from Taguieff’s across-the-board criticisms of the French far Left as a whole and at the level of basic political principles.
Insofar as Taguieff does give specific examples in his book – and, significantly, they all relate to the LCR, not to LO – they generally do give rise to legitimate questioning.
Why, for example, did the LCR support the invitation given to Ramadan to speak at the 2003 European Social Forum? Why did the LCR call, with others, for an anti-war demonstration which linked Iraq to Palestine, but which did not raise the slogan of opposition to Saddam? Why does the LCR youth wing circulate material reminiscent of Stalinist ‘anti-Zionism’? And what is the LCR doing to challenge the virulent judeophobia in sections of Palestine-solidarity campaigning in France (see below)?
To say that Taguieff has singularly failed to ‘pin the charges’ on the French far Left is not to say that his basic arguments about the degeneration of the far Left are entirely wrong. At the level of general analysis his arguments are right (with the proviso that they apply only to certain sections of the far Left, not the far Left in its entirety). Taguieff’s mistake was to pick the wrong country.
His arguments fit the British SWP like a glove. Absolute anti-Zionism? The SWP stands for the destruction of the ‘hijack state’ of Israel. Soft on Islamist terrorism? For the SWP, Islamist terror is the ‘violence of the oppressed’, from the Twin Towers of New York to the Shia mosques of Baghdad. Heading for an alliance with Islamic fundamentalism? With the grossly misnamed ‘Stop the War Coalition’ and the ‘Respect Unity Coalition’ the SWP has got there already. Useful idiots or useless collaborators? The jury is still out on that one.
Although the degeneration of the SWP has reached an advanced stage, the SWP is not unique in its self-imposed political re-orientation. It is a reflection of a broader current on the Left internationally, one which is treading the same political path as the SWP, albeit lagging behind the ‘vanguard party’. It would therefore be unfair to suggest that Taguieff’s criticisms apply only to the SWP and its co-‘thinkers’.
Taguieff did not write Preachers of Hatred to pull the far Left back into line. On the contrary, Taguieff believes that the far Left and the far Right must be fought “without weakness”. Taguieff is not, and does not pretend to be, a friend of the far Left (which, he argues in one of the book’s undercurrents, has now become indistinguishable from the far Right on international issues in particular).
And yet, despite the overarching political standpoint from which Taguieff wrote Preachers of Hatred, the book should serve as a wake-up call to the Left. Thanks to the SWP, an Islamist-leftist alliance has become scandalous reality in the UK. In this country that alliance needs to be defeated. In other countries the Left needs to make sure that such an alliance never gets off the ground.
Taguieff states that he was driven to write Preachers of Hatred by anger at the upsurge of judeophobic attacks in France, specific examples of a broader upsurge of judeophobia. And that judeophobia, Taguieff argues in his book, is particularly prevalent in French Palestine-solidarity campaigns.
Whether Taguieff was justified in his anger and in his targeting of Palestine solidarity-campaigning can be measured against the following extracts of a review of Preachers of Hatred on the website of the Nord Pas-de-Calais branch of the AFPS (French Palestine Solidarity Campaign):
“Even if Taguieff has swapped the term ‘anti-semitism’ for ‘judeophobia’, … there is little chance that his arguments will be taken seriously by the public. People are not that stupid!”
“If the exploitation of ‘anti-semitism’ functioned fairly well until now, today it no longer always a box-office draw. All the more so given that in 2004 a series of revelations allowed the police to establish that acts attributed too hastily to ‘rampant anti-semitism’ were, in reality, acts fabricated by the very people who cried out about the ‘persecution of the Jews’, fomented by pyromaniac firefighters closely linked to Jewish organisations.”
“Today all the world should know that in recent years, while organisations such as the CRIF (a Jewish community organisation) hounded the French political class about ‘anti-semitism’, Israel was perpetrating in Palestine the worst war crimes in its history. All these campaigns which waved the spectre of ‘anti-semitism’ were ideological. They served political objectives. And they became ever louder when Israel carried out bloody operations against Palestinians. It was a matter of providing a diversion.”
“How much longer will France put up with, and not react to, these provocateurs and manipulators in the pay of Israel – who, at the end of the day, feel themselves more Israeli than French – who continue to foment trouble in order to divide its citizens?”
“Whatever Israel does, it can always count on allies who support it and diffuse its propaganda. … Taguieff is not the most active of these unconditional supporters of Israel who misinform us on a daily basis. He is only the smallest link in a chain of ‘masters of discourse’ who occupy the entire field of the media, who weigh down on French politics, and who participate in this process of dehumanising the Arab and the Muslim, which comforts the interests of Israel.”
“To give ones support to a state which denies Palestinians the right to exist is not a defensible position. But what does that matter! For the Taguieffs of this world it is a question of giving a helping hand to Israel at a time when … its image as a ‘civilised and democratic country’ is crumbling. You cannot fool the world indefinitely. To give to anti-semitism – or judeophobia – an importance which it does not have is to serve the cause of Israel; it does not serve the cause of France.”
Taguieff’s book is full of bile and venom? That’s hardly surprising.