“For the... Arab-chauvinist logic, we need look no further than the [second] main ‘world Trotskyist’ group, the International Workers’ League. They want a ‘democratic, secular and non-racist Palestine’ — but with no rights for Jews!
“An article by... Nahuel Moreno argues against the slogan of a constituent assembly even after the destruction of Israel. ‘[This] is precisely the shameful manner to support the Zionists and justify their presence, giving a ‘democratic’ veneer to their fascist usurpation. If you want to insinuate that this assembly would be made with non-Zionist Jews... these imaginary inhabitants do not exist’ (Correo Internacional, March 1988).
“Moreno puts forward the slogan, consequently of unambiguous meaning, ‘Zionists out of Israel’, and goes on to say: ‘Tomorrow [we will also oppose] Arab racism. But tomorrow, not today. Because today Arab racism against Israel is progressive’.” – Clive Bradley, Workers’ Liberty 10, May 1988
In June 1967 Israel occupied that part of pre-1948 Palestine which the United Nations partition plan of 1947 had designated for an independent Palestinian state, to exist side by side with Israel. That Palestinian territory had been occupied and annexed in 1948-9 by Jordan and Egypt, and a small part of it by Israel. Now all of pre-war Palestine and Gaza was under Israeli control. Various Israeli offers to vacate the newly conquered territories in return for peace and recognition by the Arab states were rejected.
Israel’s occupation of that Palestinian-majority territory has so far lasted half a century. It has turned Israel into a regional imperialist power (in the sense that Marxists had called the pre-World-War-Two Czechoslovakian, Polish, and Yugoslav states imperialist: they ruled over minority peoples repressed to various degrees by the Poles, Czechs, Serbs). Israel has been a grubby and brutal imperialist power in its treatment of the Palestinians. As with any other imperialist occupation,
Marxists have demanded that the occupying power, Israel, get out of the Arab-majority territories and allow the Palestinians to have their own state there. That there were special problems is not to be denied, but those cannot justify Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians. Israel is a regional imperialist power, allied to the USA since 1967. To the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza it is a vicious imperialist power in its own right. The only consistent democratic response to that is to demand that Israel vacate the Palestinian-majority territory and allow the Palestinians to set up a sovereign independent state alongside Israel; to support the Palestinians in their demand for a state of their own; and, politically, to judge everything by how it relates to those principles. But that is not how it is seen on the ostensible left.
Israel has a singular and tragic history. Its power to evoke obsessional hostility is one of the most remarkable things in late 20th century and early 21st century politics. In its strength and duration it is unique. Most of the ostensible left is in the grip of anti-Israeli hysteria. For decades, from Israel’s June 1967 Six Day War and with renewed energy after the 1973 Yom Kippur Israeli-Egyptian war, hostility to Israel has been a major, and seemingly ever-intensifying, force in the labour movement.
Some of that is a proper hostility to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. But there is more than that. In fact, in the denunciation of Israel there is often indifference to the living Palestinians, for whom an independent state of their own alongside Israel would be a tremendous liberation. There is often a blatant antisemitism. Israel is seen as the world’s hyper-imperialist power, Israeli nationalism as pure racism, Zionism as akin to Nazism. Israel is put in the same foul category as Hitler’s Germany. Zionism is depicted as a near-demonic force in history, a force that, in its time, was able to control and use Hitler’s massacres of Jews in order to further its political goals. Israel is a historically illegitimate state: nothing less than the destruction of this state, and the forcible removal from the Hebrew nation in Palestine of the right to have a state of their own, will suffice to rectify history’s mistake in creating Israel.
Destruction of Israel is the dominant policy on the addled left. That policy is pursued even at great cost to the Palestinians, postponing any redress for them until after Israel has been destroyed.
Palestine was for centuries a mere sub-section of the province of Syria within the Ottoman (Turkish) empire. The territory always had a Jewish minority. The notion of restoring or recreating, after so many centuries, a Jewish state in Palestine was developed in the late 19th century by Theodor Herzl in a Europe rank with competing nationalisms, and in direct response to the Dreyfus case. That was a startling eruption of mass antisemitism in the country which had emancipated Jews to common French citizenship during the great revolution of 1789-94.
A Jewish army officer, Alfred Dreyfus, was wrongly convicted of spying for Germany, and, as that became widely known, France divided for and against admitting that the army had made a gruesome mistake and releasing Dreyfus from his prison on Devil’s Island. This left-vs-right, egalitarian-vs-antisemitic division of France would continue into the time when Vichy France would round up Jewish children, women, and men and deport them to the Nazi murder-camps. Herzl concluded that Jews would never be accepted as common citizens in a world where they had no state of their own.
Thus the idea of creating a Jewish state in Palestine took shape as a modern idea. In November 1917, a few days before the Bolshevik revolution on the eve of the British conquest of Palestine from the Turks, Arthur Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, wrote a letter to Walter Rothschild, a prominent Jewish banker, declaring that a victorious Britain would look favourably at the project of creating a “national home for the Jewish people”. (Balfour did not write of a Jewish state in Palestine).
To a degree that letter was a by-product of the Russian Revolution of February 1917, an attempt to win the sympathy of Jews in Russia, and also of Jews in the USA, for Britain in the war. Strangely, Balfour seems to have thought that the declaration would endear Britain to the socialists of Jewish background in the ranks of the anti-Zionist Russian revolutionaries and maybe incline them to help Britain in the war. Zionism evolved as a practical project of persuading and organising Jews to go to Palestine under the whips and spurs and goads of 20th century European antisemitism, and then of the Nazi-created ghettoes and death camps.
A big migration of Jews from Poland in the 1920s, fleeing severe ill-treatment there; another from Nazi Germany in the 1930s; and then an influx of survivors of Nazi genocide from all over Europe in the 1940s, created a Jewish nation in Palestine. Some hundreds of thousands of refugees driven out of Arab countries in the late 1940s, the 50s, and the 60s went to Israel. A benign British attitude to Jewish migration to Palestine lasted no more than a decade, and then began to change under Arab pressure. By 1930 Britain was restricting Jewish landownership and moving to limit Jewish migration.
Palestine had been a backwater economically and socially, and sparsely populated (about 700,000 people in 1917, about 8% Jewish, 11% Christian, 80% Muslim). Jewish immigration changed that. The economy quickened and grew. Much waste land was reclaimed by the Zionists and put to use.
One consequence of the quickening economy was Arab migration into Palestine (at least 40,000 between 1922 and 1945), in parallel with the Jewish incomers. Arab peasants in Palestine were evicted after Jewish land purchases. All such things are hurtful. But the numbers were smaller than those of peasant evictions in many “normal” cases of capitalist market-forces – “several thousand families were displaced... between the 1880s and the 1930s”, that is, in 50 years. Chronic conflict between Jews and Arabs soon became a feature of the changing Palestine. Jews had been tolerated for centuries, but as inferior beings, despised non-Muslims, paying a special tax (as Christians also did).
Jews coming into a territory in which Britain under a League of Nations mandate now ruled over both Jews and Arabs, and Muslims no longer ruled over Jews, attracted cultural, religious, and then political hostility. The basic units of effective Jewish colonisation at that time were the kibbutzim, agricultural entities run as collective socialistic enterprises. On principle they did not hire and exploit Arab labour: they were instruments of Jewish national settlement. They practised strict equality, including equality between men and women. The women of the Jewish communities, dressing for convenience in shorts and shirts, were especially offensive and resented. The incomers’ way of life outraged the watching Muslims.
This clash of cultures and of ways of living was and would be a major factor in the evolving Jewish-Arab conflict. And then there was political opposition to the Zionist project of building up a Jewish nation, especially on the part of the Palestinian Arab elite. Jewish-Arab clashes started as early as 1919. In 1929 a strong surge of Arab attacks on Jews set the alarm bells ringing in London. It was a pogrom movement. It was not focused on British rule: one of the mobilising slogans was “the British are with us”.
The minority Labour government, in the person of Lord Passfield, the Fabian socialist Sidney Webb, set up a Commission of Enquiry, and Britain then began moves that by the end of the 1930s, on the eve of the World War and the Holocaust, amounted to rescinding the Balfour Declaration. With war looming in 1939, Britain turned to placating the Arabs. The Jews were not going to side with Hitler’s Germany; the Arabs might, and most politically aware Arabs did. Britain resolved to end all Jewish immigration within five years, and to limit it to a total of 75,000 over those five years, i.e. about 15,000 a year. Nonetheless it failed to win over the Arab leaders.
The main Palestinian Arab leader, Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem appointed by the British, went to Germany and in the war organised a force of Bosnian Muslims to fight for Germany. In the traditional judgement of international socialists and consistent democrats, revolutionary nationalists have in principle a right to use their immediate enemy’s enemy to help win their own freedom. This was more than that. It was an alliance based on a common murderous hostility to the Jews and a desire to destroy them.
Husseini had close links with leading Nazis such as Adolf Eichmann and very likely knew all about the Nazi death camps. Had Germany occupied Palestine, even temporarily, during the war, the Arabs whom Husseini influenced would have helped the Germans kill all the Jews, as did antisemites in European countries such as France. Those – Trotsky, for instance – who rejected the Zionist project as an answer to the threat that Nazism posed for the Jews of Europe had argued that Palestine could turn into a giant ghetto for the Palestinian Jews in which they would be trapped. That “ghetto”, had the Nazis and Husseini won control of Palestine, would then have been emptied straight into Nazi death camps, as were the Jews penned in the Nazi-imposed ghettoes of Europe.
Two of every three Jews in Europe died at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators in occupied countries, approximately six million people, between June 1941 and April 1945. At the end the Allies ignored requests that they bomb the railways to Auschwitz. For all the time the great slaughter of Jews was going on, the British patrolled and blocked the sea-paths of entry into Palestine for Jewish refugees from Europe. Shiploads of Jewish refugees sank in the Mediterranean, as shiploads of “illegal” migrants to Europe sink now. The British rounded up Jews who landed “illegally” and put them in internment camps in Cyprus.
The “Revisionist” Zionists inspired by Zeev Jabotinsky – unashamedly nationalist, anti-Arab, and anti-socialist – in 1944 started a small guerrilla war against the British in Palestine. After the World War, Britain continued to exclude all but a small quota of Jews from Palestine. More than 250,000 Jewish survivors of the death camps were now living as stateless “Displaced Persons” in camps in Europe. Jews going back to where they came from were victims of a pogrom in Poland and antisemitic riots in Paris. In Britain, in 1947, during the British-Jewish conflict in Palestine, anti-Jewish pogromist riots fomented by the Mosleyite fascists erupted in Liverpool, Leeds, and Manchester.
In the Jewish part of Manchester, Cheetham Hill, windows were smashed and mobs attacked people in the streets. Conflict between the British and the Jews in Palestine, and between Jews and Arabs, escalated steadily. In February 1947 Britain announced that it would withdraw in 1948, and on 29 November 1947 the United Nations resolved to partition Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. Russia voted for that. Desultory inter-communal guerrilla war escalated into a simmering Jewish-Arab war, priming for the struggle after British withdrawal.
On 14 May 1948 Britain officially relinquished its League of Nations mandate in Palestine, and the Jewish community declared Israel a sovereign, independent state in the part of Palestine allocated to them in the UN plan of partition. Europe’s “Displaced Person” Jews now came to Palestine: for them, the declaration of the Jewish state in far-away Palestine spelt liberation. Immediately, Egypt, Jordan (Transjordan), Syria, Lebanon and Iraq invaded Israel. Azzam Pasha, secretary of the Arab League, declared: “It does not matter how many Jews there are. We will sweep them into the sea”.
The Arab armies of Jordan and Iraq were in part officered by British soldiers. The Israelis lacked both weapons and enough fully-trained professional soldiers, though some of them had served in the British or US armies during World War Two. The widespread anticipation was that the Jews could not defend themselves, and that Britain would go back in and resume control as “peace-keeper” between Arabs and Jews. In fact the Jewish citizen army, the Haganah, defeated the invading armies and the local Palestinian-Arab armed forces which, naturally, had rallied to the invading armies.
Peace in the form of an uneasy truce was established in 1949. No Arab state or entity recognised Israel, and to this day, in 2017, only two of them do, Egypt and Jordan. In the course of the war between Israel on one side, and the Arab forces on the other, some 750,000 Palestinian Arabs fled. Some were driven out, some chose to flee. The Revisionist-Zionist Irgun militia had slaughtered some 254 men, women, and children in the Palestinian Arab village of Deir Yassin on 9 April 1948, as a way of terrorising Palestinians to flee. Five days later some 78 people from a contingent of Jewish medical staff and their escorts were slaughtered. In the next years and decades about 600,000 Jews in Arab countries fled or were driven out to Israel, their property seized.
In the 1948 war, the territory allocated by the UN for an independent Palestinian state was incorporated into Jordan, and small parts of it into Egypt and into Israel. Both the USA and Russia stood godfather to the new Jewish state.
Stalin wanted to make trouble for Britain in the Middle East, where, though declining, it was still the chief foreign power. This was a sharp turn for Russia. Stalin had backed the Arabs both in 1929 and in 1936. The Communist International first defined the 1929 rising as an anti-Jewish pogrom – which it was, or was primarily – and then decided that it had been a great manifestation of anti-imperialist rebellion. In 1936 and after the members of the Communist Party of Palestine, Jews and Arabs, were instructed to participate in terrorist acts against the Jews. The international Stalinist organisations began a world-wide and typically Stalinist propaganda campaign against Jews in Palestine.
Yet in 1947 Russia voted at the United Nations for partition of Palestine and for a Jewish state. More than that, Russia, by way of its satellite Czechoslovakia, provided guns for the Haganah, breaking an international arms embargo which in practice worked against Israel, since the Arab states already had guns, as states do. Soon after that, Stalin switched again. He launched a great campaign against “Zionism”.
Old Communist Party leaders in Russia’s satellite states of Jewish background were tried, jailed or hanged, and denounced, as part of an international Zionist conspiracy. The world Stalinist press ran a full-scale “anti-Zionist” campaign. It was in that campaign that the now-common stories and constructions about the collaboration and inner affinity between Zionists and Nazis were put into world circulation and began to gain wide acceptance. After the Stalinist fashion, these ideas became dogmas, articles of faith, in the Stalinist world. And much of what the Trotskisant left now says against “Zionism” was elaborated in that anti-Zionist campaign by the Stalinists. When Stalin died in 1953, preparations were being made for an “anti-Zionist” show trial in which the main defendants would have been the Jewish doctors who had looked after the health of the residents in the Kremlin.
That trial would have been the signal for deporting Russian Jews to Siberia and for the slaughter of unknowable numbers of them, in a smaller version of the Great Terror of 1934-8, but now focused on Jews. That Stalin might have completed Hitler’s work must be judged a serious possibility. After his death, Stalin’s successors cancelled the trial.For two decades after the declaration of Israeli independence, the Trotskyist press had little to say about Israel.
The Stalinist campaign against Zionism petered out in 1953, with Stalin’s death. Israel’s right to existence was not questioned on the left. No-one on the left openly advocated that Israel be abolished and destroyed. Not even the Stalinists did. The pronouncements of Ahmed Shukeiri, head of the then Egyptian-controlled Palestine Liberation Organisation, who stuck to the old slogan, “drive the Jews into the sea”, were seen as an embarrassment, and as something entirely alien to the left.
The left was aware of the plight of the Palestinian refugees, but no-one put the sole blame for that on Israel. Israel said that “the Palestinian state” was Jordan, which had seized almost all the territory allocated to the Arabs by the UN in 1947. That was true, except that the Palestinians did not rule in Jordan and would suffer mass slaughter there in “Black September” 1970. Outside of Arab countries, there was no talk of reversing the 1948 “settlement” in Israel-Palestine, not until in 1967 Israel acquired control of the whole of pre-1948 Palestine. Then, demands for Israel to withdraw from the territories occupied in 1967 were subsumed in the new Palestine Liberation Organisation policy, declared in 1969, of a “secular democratic” Arab state (with religious rights for Jews) in all of pre-1948 Palestine.
That slogan won widespread support on the left. As has been said, its immediate political effect was to delegitimise Israel, defining it as a state which should never have come into existence and therefore had no right to go on existing. It delegitimised Israeli nationalism, which was redefined as “anti-Arab racism”. The old Stalinist equation of Zionism with Nazism was there in the repertoire to be dug up and put front-stage, and it was. Indignation at Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza gave autonomous life to the “nice”, “secular democratic state”, version of abolishing Israel, that is, in practical terms, conquering it.
After 1967, Stalinist states, notably Poland, revived their old “anti-Zionist” themes from 1949-53. A forerunner of AWL commented: “One of the worst signs of the regression in Poland... has been a very thinly disguised eruption of antisemitism... Under the banner of anti-Zionism the Partisans [harder-Stalinist faction] play the anti-Jew tune blatantly, playing also the Polish nationalist tune – in this country which saw its millions of Jews leave few survivors as they vanished into Auschwitz only a generation ago”.
Indignation over Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 helped generate the strange idea that Israel is the hyper-imperialism, the epitome of imperialism, the imperialism of imperialisms. Left-wing campaigners came, more and more, to pillory “Zionism” not as one of the competing nationalisms in the Middle East but as an absolute evil. Picking up on the shameless Stalinist obscenity of the late 1940s and early 50s, they branded Zionism as a sibling of Nazism. For form’s sake, the Stalinists had said that not all Jews were Zionists – that there were many socialist (Stalinist) Jews. But the 20th century experience of the Jews of Europe had meshed Jewish identity with Israel and with Zionism.
The equation of Zionism and Nazism, branding Israeli nationalism as racism, and Zionism as pure evil, as the epitome of imperialism, the most extreme reaction, the most virulent racism – that could not but imply a comprehensive hostility to the big majority of Jews who to one degree or another, critically or fondly, support Israel. The Trotskyists had resisted the demonisation of “Zionism” (as distinct from political opposition to it) from its first appearance in 1929. Max Shachtman, speaking for the whole US Trotskyist movement, published an article in The Militant (1 October 1929), which declared that: “Not every movement led by spokesmen of an oppressed nationality is a revolutionary movement. It is a lamentable fact that at the present time the Arab movement is directed by unconcealed reactionaries... They are against all Jews as Jews. They set up the reactionary demand for the ‘restriction of the Jewish immigration into Palestine’...”
It denounced the way in which for the Stalinists “the magic wand of the ‘Third Period’” had transmuted this reactionary movement into a “national revolutionary uprising against British imperialism”. The American and other Trotskyists continued during the war to advocate an open door in Palestine (and in America, of course) for Jewish refugees.
After the war, some Trotskyists backed the Jewish guerrillas against the British, defining their struggle as an anti-imperialist movement (Felix Morrow in the USA, some in France). The Shachtmanite Workers Party USA backed Israel’s right to independence and its right to defend itself, though they also deplored the partition of Palestine, a political entity which had existed for a mere 30 years. It would have been impossible for the Trotskyists of that period to see Israel as a representative, surrogate, or tool of “imperialism”.
As we’ve seen, arms supplies to it were embargoed by all the big powers except Russia, and certainly it was not a tool of Russian imperialism (which in any case the Orthodox Trotskyists did not recognise as an imperialism). The Trotskyist press had denounced the Stalinists’ antisemitic campaign in 1949-53. In the mid-1950s, when Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin, there was widespread further comment in the Trotskyist press about Stalinist antisemitism, and this around the time when Israel invaded Egypt in alliance with the British and French, as part of a British-French operation to reclaim the Suez Canal.
The kitsch-left way of seeing the problem, like the Islamist clerical-fascist way, is not only anti-Jewish, but also anti-Palestinian. It rules out any redress for the Palestinians this side of the destruction of Israel, and the setting up of an Arab or Islamic state in all of pre-1948 Palestine, including what is now Israel.
That left routinely equates Israel with apartheid South Africa, an equation that does not stand up. The Jewish population of Palestine has never depended on the exploitation of Arab labour, and the treatment of Palestinians in Israel has never been remotely like that of black and “coloured” people in apartheid South Africa. There is, however, a “parallel” between Israel and South Africa that the serious left would do well to remember.
Britain seized the Cape of South Africa during the Napoleonic wars, and began to put pressure on the Boers who had been there since the 17th century. Starting in 1835, many of the Boers went off inland and founded new states. Eventually British expansion from the Cape caught up with them. The Boer War of 1899-1902 followed. Everywhere Britain was disliked. People backed the Boers. So did socialists. There was mass opposition to the war in Britain, from the socialist left, from Liberals and even from future Prime Minister Lloyd George. Britain’s war was denounced by much of the anti-war “movement” as “a Jewish war” – a war for the interests of “Jewish financiers” and on behalf of Jewish settlers in South Africa. Though it is now half-forgotten, that was a large component of the case against the war made in Britain – and perhaps elsewhere: I don’t know – by the anti-war campaign, and it was a big, vigorous, raucous campaign.
The Boer republics had denied equal political rights to new settlers, and that fact was used as an ideological weapon to justify Britain’s war. What settlers? “Jews”, said much of the anti-war movement. (Including some leaders of the British Marxist organisation, the SDF, Henry Hyndman and Harry Quelch. Hyndman’s use of antisemitism in anti-war agitation was part of the bill of indictment which the British followers of Daniel De Leon, and James Connolly, who split from the SDF in 1903 to form the Socialist Labour Party, drew up against him. Hyndman was far from being alone in the SDF on that). Such people as the Liberal J A Hobson, whose study of imperialism Lenin would draw upon during World War One, also denounced the war as one for Jewish settlers and for international Jewish finance.
The “Jewish settlers” were the “Israelis” in the war; “international Jewish finance” was the world Jewish (or, today, “Zionist”) conspiracy or quasi-conspiracy, and, for some, hegemony; and Britain was what the USA is today, the chief backer of “the Jews”. The campaign against the “Jewish settlers” and Britain was a campaign on behalf of the Boers – who were the foulest anti-black racists. Hebrew nation At the beginning of the 20th century, those who fulminated against “the Jews”, unlike the kitsch left today, had no inkling that they were feeding a fire that would engulf two out of every three of Europe’s Jews.
The policy of eliminating Israel – not of stopping Israel ill-treating the Palestinians, and of winning for the Palestinians their own state, on the land where they are the majority or were the majority in 1967, but of conquering the Hebrew nation in Israel, depriving them of self-determination, killing an incalculable proportion of them – that policy is, in and of itself, a fully tooled-up species of aggressive antisemitism. The attitude of wanting to eliminate an entire nation is, on the left, unique to Israel. Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians naturally and justly provokes hostility and condemnation, and sharpens the desire to help the Palestinians.
The desire to see the Hebrew nation conquered and destroyed, coupled with positive support for any and all forces attacking Israel, ranging from suicide-murder bombers from the clerical-fascist Hamas to any Arab or Islamic state committed to destroying Israel – that is a form of self-generating and self-sustaining antisemitism. In the real world it is not an expression of concern for the Palestinians, though of course most of those who go along with it think it is. It is hostile to the needs and interests of the Palestinians on whom it battens. By making any redress for the Palestinians dependent on the conquest and destruction of Israel, it rules out redress in the calculable future. A Palestinian state, however, is still not unachievable. It could be and should be imposed on Israel by international pressure and coercion.
Tardiness in setting up such a Palestinian state is allowing the Israeli chauvinists to work towards making it impossible by way of the expansion of settlements on Arab-majority land. One segment of Israeli leaders is, it seems, reconciled to the program of an Israeli state, covering all pre-1948 Palestine, within which there will be a vast hostile Palestinian minority at odds with the Jewish Israelis and therefore subject to “preventive” ill-treatment as now for an indefinite span of history.
Such a one-state “solution” would continually reproduce a hellish situation for both Palestinians and Israeli Jews, as would its mirror-image, an Arab-Islamic state in all Palestine with conquered Jews as a minority. Those who advocate or pursue a one-state policy serve neither Jewish Israelis nor Palestinians. Leaving aside whether it is right or wrong, justified or unjustified, for practical purposes the demand that the Palestinians renounce self-determination in their own territory, until the destruction of Israel at some indeterminate but far distant date, is an anti-Palestinian policy too. The pseudo-left advocates of this policy are in the grip either of “anti-imperialist” fantasies which see Israel as the world’s hyper-imperialism, as the metaphysical essence of imperialism, or of God-will-find-a-way, other-worldly Islamists in whose picture of realities and likely future realities, the Palestinians as living human beings matter not at all.
The Palestinians are not well-served by their kitsch left champions and advocates, who follow their own agendas and fantasies, not the needs of the Palestinians or the possibilities of serving them. The kitsch left in Britain votes down Palestinian-serving two-states propositions at meetings. The basic fact is that both the Islamic clerical-fascists and the “anti-imperialist” left, though they make full use in propaganda of Israeli’s ill-treatment of the Palestinians and sometimes exaggerate it, are much more hostile to Israel than they are friendly to the Palestinians. Fundamentally, they are anti-Israelis, not pro-Palestinians. In practical politics their obsession with destroying Israel makes them poisonously anti-Palestinian, too. On the level of policy and advocacy of policy, the candid answer of properly self-aware absolute anti-Zionists to the charge that they are antisemitic is: “so what? Our attitude is justified. It is antisemitic, but what of it?” Hostility to Israeli policy and Israeli actions against the Palestinians is just and necessary.
Many Israelis disagree with their government’s policies and actions. Is hostility to those Israelis, too, justified? Yes, would answer the candid absolute anti-Zionists: those people too are Israelis, they do not support the abolition of Israel, they are Zionists. Not their political opinions, but their existence is their offence, and the warrant for treating them as enemies to be disarmed and made helpless, destroyed, or driven out. And what of Jews across the world who back Israel’s right to go on existing? Zionists, too. The “anti-imperialist” hostility to “Zionists” – who, if “Zionism” is support for Israel’s right to go on existing, include most Jews alive – is on some levels as strange as the old antisemitism was when it identified Jews with money. It was not that there were no rich Jews, no Jewish financiers, as rapacious as other financiers, no Jewish small-scale gouging money-lenders.
The poisonous twist was the identification of all Jews with usurious wealth. So now there is Israeli colonial imperialism in the Palestinian-majority territories. To go from that to identifying all Israeli Jews, and all Jews across the world who have affinity with Israel, with “imperialism”, is the strange thing. Israel becomes the super-imperialism. Imperialism must be wiped out, and Israel is the epitome of imperialism, the imperialism of imperialisms, as Jewish capitalists were the money-capitalists of money-capitalism. There is imperialism. That is where imperialism lives – in Israel. On one level this attitude is possible only to people who no longer see imperialism as primarily a system of state actions, but rather as an “essence” which they track to its worldly lair. Israel has all the real and alleged sins of all imperialism, and of advanced capitalism, loaded on to it, and all the hostility to imperialism focused against it.
As gold is the universal equivalent commodity in which the values of all other commodities are expressed, so Israel is the universal equivalent of imperialism. It is not far along that trajectory to the idea of Jews everywhere being the embodiment of imperialism because of their typical identification with Israel. The article on Paul Foot and Tam Dalyell in The Left in Dissarray records a rare public example of the workings of the mind of one who knowingly substitutes “Zionist” for “Jew” to rationalise hostility to Jews. Confronting the old antisemitism which identified capitalism with Jews and Jews with capitalism, the German Marxist August Bebel famously said that it was “the socialism of fools”. Wipe-out-Israel “anti-imperialism” is the anti-imperialism of the fools.