The British ruling class has been upset by a number of events beyond its control. The huge surge in those demanding Scottish independence and those who voted for Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party have opened up politics beyond of the safe Conservative/Lib-Dem/New Labour pro-imperial, pro-Israel and pro-neoliberal consensus. This is the context in which the ‘antisemitism’ smears directed against a number of people either on the Left or from a Muslim background are being pushed by the Conservatives, Labour Right and various Zionist organisations. These are being used in an attempt to close down political opposition to austerity, privatisation, war in the Middle East and the continued repression of Palestinians. This is an issue of much wider concern than Labour Party members. We are posting four articles, one a letter to The National, written by Sarah Glynn of RISE, two from Tony Greenstein. and one from Moshe Machover, both socialists, anti-Zionists and antiracists. Tony has a blog dedicated to these ideas (http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk) (also see http://freespeechonisrael.org.uk/). Moshe has recently spoken at the London Communist Forum and the Republican Socialist Alliance meeting in London.
1. A LETTER FROM SARAH GLYNN TO THE NATIONAL
CONTRARY to the impression given in much of the media, many British Jews are extremely concerned at the on-going political manipulation of charges of anti-Semitism. This is a blatant and cynical attempt to tarnish Jeremy Corbyn and bring Labour back into the neo-liberal fold, and is part of an alarming growth in political exploitation of the “race card” more generally.
In addition these charges deliberately blur the distinction between criticising Israel and speaking against Jews as Jews. It is not anti-Semitic to criticise the Israeli government or, even to argue against the fundamental principle of a state that favours any one ethnicity or religion. Indeed the assumption that all Jews must be pro-Israel is itself anti-Semitic.
I am a Jew. I argue against the Israeli Government and against Zionism. I am not anti-Semitic.
Sarah Glynn, Broughty Ferry, 30.4.16
2. BRITAIN’S COINTELPRO – HOW THE ISRAELI EMBASSY AND GUIDO FAWKES DESTABILISED THE LABOUR PARTY
The late Phil Agee revealed in his book Inside the Company how the CIA went around Latin America destabilising governments and parties it didn’t like. In American domestic politics there was a similar programme aimed at dissident and radical organisations known as Cointelpro, a series of covert projects conducted by the FBI that infiltrated, surveilled and disrupted domestic political organizations.
For the past few months the Labour Party has been subject to a similar programme of destabilisation. A programme in which the Zionist movement played and is still playing a major role.
From July 2015 onwards, when it became increasingly clear that Corbyn would win the leadership election, we had a campaign, initiated by the Daily Mail –“EXCLUSIVE: Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘long-standing links’ with notorious Holocaust denier and his ‘anti-Semitic’ organisation revealed“ and fronted by the Jewish Chronicle under Stephen Pollard, its far-right editor and member of the Henry Jackson Society, “The key questions Jeremy Corbyn must answer“. The aim of the campaign was to paint Corbyn as a ‘friend’ of ‘terrorists’ – Hamas and Hezbollah and an associate of holocaust deniers.
When Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party, the campaign shifted to an attack on Gerald Kaufmann for having said at a meeting that it was ‘Jewish money’ that was responsible for the pro-Israel policy of the Conservative government. Groups such as the misnamed Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, an overtly Zionist political organisation masquerading as a charity [see “EXCLUSIVE – Lifting the Lid on the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism The Bogus Charity that Campaigns Against Corbyn, Muslims and Palestinians“] waged a prolonged campaign against Kaufman as if he was the most notorious anti-Semite since Adolf Eichmann.
When I searched the Jewish Chronicle’s database for ‘Jewish money’ I turned up no less than 590 occurences of this phrase! It is a phrase commonly used in the Jewish community. As an example of Zionist hypocrisy, on May 1st a former prominent Jewish funder of the Labour Party, Michael Foster, was given nearly 10 minutes of airtime on BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme to explain why Jewish people weren’t going to be funding the Labour Party whilst Corbyn was leader. Of course ‘Jewish money’ is only anti-Semitic when used by opponents of the State of Israel.
Jewish Chronicle columnist Geoffrey Alderman called for Kaufman’s excommunication from the Jewish community despite having used the very same term twice in the same article.
Despite his outburst against Kaufman, Alderman was remarkably tolerant in respect of David Whelan, the former owner of Wigan Athletic football club, who stated that “there is nothing like a Jew who sees money slipping through his fingers” and when challenged by the Guardian responded that, “I think they [Jews] are very shrewd people…. I think Jewish people do chase money more than everybody else. I don’t think that’s offensive at all.” To most people this would count as anti-Semitism.See ‘The Witchunt of Gerald Kaufman – Crucified for Supporting the Palestinians
Alderman’s take was that ‘“It was ‘a sad and miserable tale of political correctness taken to new depths of absurdity.” This football fuss is a bit rich 5.12.14. Despite ‘shrewd’ being used in the sense of canny or mean, i.e. a stereotypical comment about Jews and money, Alderman’s comment was “who reading this column could take umbrage at that?” And as for Jews chasing money, Alderman believed that “as far as I’m aware no serious research has been done on this subject. But it’s certainly true that the Jewish view of money differs considerably from that of Christianity”.
Pollard himself was more than willing to excuse anti-Semites when they were pro-Israel. Michal Kaminski, the Conservative’s new partner, in the European and Conservative Reform group in the European Parliament, was ‘the best friend of the Jews’ despite being anti-Semitic. [see ‘Poland’s Kaminski is not an anti-Semite: he’s a friend to Jews’: and Weapon of Choice.
The reason why Kaminski could not possibly be anti-Semitic, despite being a member of a former neo-Nazi party and opposing a Polish apology for Jedwabne, when up to 900 Jews were burnt alive in a barn, was that “Far from being an antisemite, Mr Kaminski is about as pro-Israel an MEP as exists.” David Miliband’s insult to Michal Kaminski is contemptible, Jewish Chronicle 1.10.09.
Other incidents of ‘anti-Semitism’
In February there began the new phase in the ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign. It centred on Oxford University Labour Club whose co-chairman Alex Chalmers resigned claiming that his fellow Labour Club members were anti-Semitic . The occasion of this resignation was the decision of the Club to support Oxford’s Israel Apartheid Week. Oxford University Labour Club co-chair, Alex Chalmers, resigns amid anti-Semitism row.
Since then we have had the case of Vicky Kirby, an ex-Bradford Mayor who tweeted that 6 million Zionists died in the holocaust when complaining that even greater acts of genocide didn’t receive the same attention as the Jewish genocide and now of course Ken Livingstone’s reference to Hitler’s support for the Zionist solution to German anti-Semitism.
In what is the first comprehensive investigation of these allegations of anti-Semitism by Electronic Intifada researcher and journalist Asa Winstanley it becomes clear that these allegations are not what they seem. How Israel lobby manufactured UK Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis.
Alex Chalmers was an intern with BICOM the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre, which despite describing itself as an ‘an independent research centre’ is an Israeli propaganda group.
The case of Vicky Kirby which was one of the worst examples of ‘anti-Semitism’ presented turns out to be a case of someone quite innocent fitted up. “Her ‘big noses’ comment was nothing more than quoting from a play the 2010 comedy film The Infidel. The information had been taken from the far-right Conservative web site Guido Fawkes which had cropped a screenshot of a tweet to make it appear that these were her own words”. In other words the usual Tory dirty tricks. The article analyses the role of New Labour MP and ex-NUS President Wes Streeting who attended a key anti-BDS Conference in Tel-Aviv. Streeting, who learnt the tricks of the trade in NUS, is almost certainly working with the Israeli embassy and no doubt has other intelligence links.
On April 28th in an interview with BBC Radio London’s Vanessa Hotler Feltz, Ken Livingstone, in the course of defending suspended MP Naz Shah from accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’ remarked that:
“Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism – this before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews“. Labour antisemitism row: Ken Livingstone interview transcipts in full. These remarks can be best understood in the context of Hitler supporting the Zionist solution to German Jewry i.e. expulsion, though even this is not strictly accurate. Ken Livingstone says Labour should reinstate him because everything he said about Jewish people “was true”
There is no doubt that Ken made a number of minor mistakes. Israel didn’t exist in 1933, the area was called Palestine, it was a British Mandate territory. Secondly Hitler didn’t win any election in 1932, on the contrary his vote in the November election compared to July dropped by 2 million to 11.74 million (33.09%) compared to 13.,23 million (37.3%) for the KPD and SPD. Hitler was put into power on January 30 1933 by reactionary political and military forces who sought the destruction of the German labour movement. Thirdly the final solution was not a product of Hitler’s madness. Even without Hitler the final solution would have taken place. It was the product of war imperialism and the fanatical anti-Semitism of a section of the Nazi Party. The final solution had a logic and momentum of its own. When the expulsion of Jews was no longer an option after 1939 the countdown to the destruction of European Jewry had begun. It began in June 1941 with Operation Barbarossa.
Livingstone’s comments weren’t the wisest thing to have made in the course of an ‘anti-Semitism’ witch hunt. However in essence they are correct. The Nazi movement singled out the Zionist movement as their favourite Jews.
For example on 28 January 1935 Heydrich, the ‘“real engineer of the final solution” [Gerald Reitlinger, The Final Solution, p.13.] issued a directive to the Bavarian Gestapo that “The activity of the Zionist-oriented youth organisations…. lies in the interests of the National Socialist state’s leadership…. (they) are not to be treated with that strictness that it is necessary to apply to the members of the so-called German-Jewish (assimilationists).” Lucy Dawidowicz, War Against the Jews, p.118, citing Hans Mommsen, ‘Der nationalsozialistische Polizeistaat’ pp. 78-9.
The Zionists were allowed to organise, hold meetings, fly flags, have newspapers whereas the ‘assimilationists’ were repressed. The Zionists used their patronage by the Nazis to encroach on the position of the majority of the Jewish community demanding parity in the Reichsvertretung, the Jewish communal organisation in 1935. Indeed they took over all the positions on the Reichsvereinigung, which was established in 1939 after Krystalnacht.
The Zionist policy was that Jews should flee to Palestine or nowhere. Their twisted logic was that if other countries could solve the crisis of anti-Semitism in Germany and Europe then Palestine would be made redundant. In any case anti-Semitism, being a disease, would simply spread to other countries. Only Palestine could provide a long-term solution to anti-Semitism. It was a racial concept of humanity. The Zionists therefore lobbied the Gestapo not to allow Jews to emigrate to countries other than Palestine. It was a consistent Zionist policy to oppose the emigration of Jewish refugees to countries other than Palestine such as Santo Domingo which had offered to take 100,000 refugees as a result of the Evian Conference.
In a memo to the Jewish Agency Executive after Krystalnacht, Ben-Gurion wrote, “If the Jews are faced with a choice between the refugee problem and rescuing Jews from concentration camps on the one hand, and aid for the national museum in Palestine on the other, the Jewish sense of pity will prevail and our people’s entire strength will be directed at aid for the refugees in the various countries. Zionism will vanish from the agenda and indeed not only world public opinion in England and America but also from Jewish public opinion. We are risking Zionism’s very existence if we allow the refugee problem to be separated from the Palestine problem.” [Y. Elam, Introduction to Zionist history, Tel Aviv 1972, pp.125-26( See also Ot, paper of youth).
It is essential that socialists defend Livingstone. The suspension of a National Executive member, a former MP and London Mayor and a figurehead of the Labour Left for the last 30 years marks a new stage in the witchhunt. According to reports, Corbyn was extremely reluctant to suspend Ken but he was bullied into it. After a staged confrontation with the boorish bully John Mann MP, Livingstone was suspended. Popular opinion holds that it is Mann, not Livingstone, who should have been suspended. Mann is Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on anti-Semitism which devotes its time to opposing BDS and support for Palestinians.
Tweets and comments made even before Naz Shah was an MP were dug up and she was dismissed as John McDonnell’s PPS. Naz Shah suspended by Labour party amid antisemitism row. One tweet, issued in the middle of Israel’s genocidal Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, when 2,200 people in Gaza were murdered by Israel, including 551 children, was to joke that Israel should be relocated inside the United States as this would save the US the trouble and expense of maintaining the Israeli state and preserve Palestinian life. She displayed a map showing Israel as the 51st state of the USA. It turns out that this was produced by Norman Finkelstein, a Jewish American academic and anti-Zionist who is the son of two holocaust survivors. There was nothing anti-Semitic about this map. It was a twitter type fantasy solution to the problem of Israel’s barbarism.
To the humourless and vindictive squad of Progress MPs such as Mann and Streeting, Naz Shah was the next worst thing to Eva Braun and she was forced to resign her position. She was suspended from the Labour Party and forced to make a humiliating apology like a prisoner in a Stalinist re-education camp. When Vanessa Feltz asked me why she would confess to anti-Semitism if she wasn’t guilty I explained that there have been many false confessions in history, such as the defendants in Stalin’s purge trials. It’s not difficult to persuade someone that they are guilty if you apply enough psychological pressure and you see your career disappearing before you.
The media, the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland in particular have played a despicable role in the witch hunt. see for example Labour and the left have an antisemitism problem Freedland, a ‘liberal’ Zionist berates the left in particular for not accepting the Israeli state. My plea to the left: treat Jews the same way you’d treat any other minority.
What if, he asked, Israel were the only Black state in the world. Would we oppose it then. Professor Kamel Hawwesh of Birmingham University answered yes, Palestinians would reject any coloniser, whatever their colour. A Palestinian view on the antisemitism row. Freedland demonstrates both his ignorance and his malevolence when he compares a Jewish Israel to a Christian Britain. In Britain Christianity is an adornment. It doesn’t entitle you to special privileges. It doesn’t mean that your planning application in the Jewish town of Afula will be rejected because you are Palestinian. Israel’s Virulent Housing Bias Runs Deep — and It’s Not Only Aimed at Arabs.
The BBC has also lived up to its reputation. It has afforded the Labour Right every opportunity to air their allegations whilst denying anti-Zionists a platform. There has been an almost one-sided media barrage. One of the only exceptions was the BBC Big Questions programme on Sunday May 1st at 10 am when there are relatively few viewers. Moshe Machover, Daphne Baram and myself were widely considered, even by Zionists, to have trounced those who alleged that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are one and the same thing. I also did an interview with Vanessa Feltz, BBC London’s Zionist interviewer where I refused to be diverted from explaining why Israel is an apartheid society, but these are very much the exception.
One of the most egregious examples of BBC bias was that of Andrew Neil’s Sunday Politics show on March 18th which gave MPs West Streeting and John Mann opportunity to wax at length about Labour’s ‘anti-Semitism’ problem. Neil himself is a former Murdoch editor and Conservative Party research assistant. James Schneider, a supporter of Corbyn was given just 25 seconds whereas Streeting had 45 seconds and Mann was allowed 6 minutes and 4 seconds.
Andrew Neil, rather than subjecting his claims to cross-examination, urged Mann on to greater excesses. Take for example this penetrating question: ‘‘Why has it [anti-Semitism] come back?’ Note that Neil assumes the very thing he is asking.
Corbyn has shown not only spinelessness throughout this affair but a culpable failure to understand what is at stake. He has continuously rowed back from the positions he adopted in previous years. Alongside MPs such as the late Joan Maynard he was a sponsor of the Labour Committee on Palestine and the Labour Movement Campaign on Palestine, both of which I chaired. These organisations supported a democratic, secular state solution in Palestine. We opposed a 2 state solution which at that time was supported by George Galloway’s Middle East Council! George has now come round to our way of thinking!
If Livingstone is expelled from the Labour Party Corbyn will not last long as leader. John McDonnell has taken an even worse position. He backed off last September from his comments over Ireland. Now he has added Palestine to his retreat from the Left. Rather than sacking Naz Shah he should have backed her. Instead with his ‘out, out, out’ remarks about alleged anti-Semites he has encouraged those making false allegations to greater efforts.
Momentum under Jon Lansman has been equally abysmal. Lansman has held secret talks with Labour Friends of Israel and the so-called Jewish Labour Movement, the British branch of the racist Israeli Labour Party in order to reach some form of agreement. It’s like the chicken negotiating for a safe pass from a fox. Lansman openly criticised Livingstone and supported his suspension.
In Left Futures, Why the Left must stop talking about ‘Zionism’ Lansman argues that we should drop all mention of Zionism. The movement that founded the racist settler colonial state of Israel should not be mentioned even though the World Zionist Organisation is alive and kicking, funding the settlement of the Palestinian territories. Netanyahu proclaims that in the name of Zionism he cannot admit refugees to Israel, because it would undermine the national identity of the Jewish state. Israel PM: illegal African immigrants threaten identity of Jewish state. Binyamin Netanyahu reignites row over fate of thousands of African migrants in Israel Harriet Sharwood, The Guardian, 20.5.12. Lansman argues that if we pretend there is no such thing as Zionism then all the cries about anti-Semitism will go away. Such is the craven attitude of left social democrats when they come under any pressure.
Owen Jones, the Guardian’s token left commentator, has demonstrated that he is both politically and intellectually a light weight. For the last 3 years he has written an annual article deprecating ‘anti-Semitism’. Two of them even begin with the same fatuous phrase “anti-Semitism is a menace”. He is incapable of understanding that when Israel is killing Palestinians, Zionists cry ‘anti-Semitism’.
It is not necessary to defend everything that Ken Livingstone said in order to oppose his suspension. Defending Livingstone goes hand in hand with opposing the new McCarthyist witch hunt. Whereas Joe McCarthy was an anti-Semite, his disciples come in the guise of opponents of anti-Semitism.
3. SLURS, LIES, INNUENDOS
Defend Malia Bouattia and Naz Shah
You might think that the election of the first black woman president of the National Union of Students would be a cause for celebration. After all, it is evidence of Britain’s anti-racist society.
Instead Malia Bouattia, a refugee from Algeria and a secular Muslim, has been subject to the usual vicious lies of Britain’s tabloid press. The Daily Mail, the paper which supported Hitler and warned against the evils of Jewish immigration from Nazi Germany, reported Malia’s election thus: “NUS elects president who refuses to condemn Isis and calls Birmingham University a ‘Zionist outpost’.” (1)
Malia’s real crime is her support of the Palestinians and her opposition to Zionism. As the NUS’s black student officer for two years, she has been a consistent anti-imperialist. The lie that Malia supports Islamic State has been repeated ad nauseum by the gutter press, yet, as she explained,
“I delayed a national executive council motion condemning Isis – but that was because of its wording, not because of its intent. Its language appeared to condemn all Muslims, not just the terror group. Once it was worded correctly, I proposed and wholly supported the motion. Yet newspaper reports this week still depict me as a young Muslim who supports Isis. This is simply not true.” (2)
The other lie is to accuse Malia of anti-Semitism. This is just part and parcel of the anti-Muslim racism of the media and the Zionist lobby, which holds that to be a Muslim is to be anti-Semitic. This campaign aligns very neatly with the Zionist and rightwing attack on Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party – also on the grounds of alleged ‘anti-Semitism’.
Malia’s main crime is to have described Birmingham University, with its large Jewish Society, as a “Zionist outpost”. This is apparently anti-Semitic. Of course, if you believe that being a Zionist is no different from being Jewish, then you have a point. It is a standard anti-Semitic trope that Jews and Zionists are one and the same. When fascists use the term ‘Zionist’ they usually mean ‘Jew’. Likewise it is a Zionist axiom that Zionism is an integral part of being Jewish. It is another example of how Zionism and anti-Semitism can converge ideologically.
It is clear that Malia was not using the term ‘Zionist’ in any other way than its actual dictionary definition. Zionism is a political movement which aimed at creating a Jewish settler colonial state, based on Jewish racial supremacy and the expulsion of the indigenous population. To therefore refer to such a university as a Zionist outpost is no different from referring to Cambridge as a Tory outpost. It is a political, not a religious or racial, reference.
At the same time as Zionist propagandists argue that blaming Jews for the actions of Israel is anti-Semitic, they are busy claiming that Israel represents and acts on behalf of all Jews! It is a classic example of cognitive dissonance – the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in one’s head at the same time.
The attacks on Malia have been led by the Union of Jewish Students. The UJS is not a Jewish student organisation that is open and welcoming to all Jews, but, as an affiliate to the Zionist Federation, is specifically Zionist. Non-Zionist or anti-Zionist Jewish students have no place in it. University Jewish societies wishing to affiliate to the UJS are required to have advocacy for Israel written into their rules and objectives. When Jewish students at Edinburgh and elsewhere have tried to remove this requirement, leaving advocacy for Israel to a separate Israel Society, they have been threatened with disaffiliation and withdrawal of funding. (3)
The latest smears are part of an overall campaign being waged by Zionist groups, the Tories and the Labour right. We see this most clearly in the Labour Party, where I (and one other person I know of) have been suspended over allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’.
Every day there are new charges and only this week Naz Shah was forced to resign as John McDonnell’s aide because of a 2014 post she forwarded about Israel’s attack on Gaza during ‘Operation Protective Edge’, when over 2,000 Palestinians, including 550 children were killed. The post, suggesting that Israel’s Jews be transferred to the United States, was certainly written in jest – although no doubt it reflected the anger of many at the attack on Gaza, supported by around 95% of Israel’s settler Jews. There is nothing anti-Semitic in this.
In contrast to the feeble reaction of the Labour left around Momentum to the smear campaign, the Jewish anti-Zionist left has been active. This week a letter from an ad hoc group was published in The Independent (4) while Mike Cushman of Jews for Boycotting Israeli and myself had letters in The Guardian (5). During the summer a number of similar letters were published in the Guardian, Independent and Jewish Chronicle by Jewish groups in defence of Jeremy Corbyn (6).
But Momentum is marked by its silence – indeed by its inability to even comprehend what is happening. I have had a long conversation and increasingly acerbic correspondence with Jon Lansman, Momentum’s chair. Jon is a member of the non-Zionist Jewish Socialists Group. Yet his reaction to the allegations that anti-Semitism is rife in the Labour Party is not to challenge this Zionist narrative, but to accept it wholesale.
In what is a truly pathetic acceptance of such slurs, Lansman writes that anti Semitism has “always been there at least in a latent form, but it has been exposed by a pro-Tory campaign and we cannot ignore it or deny its existence”. What does this mean in practice? That there is an organised anti-Semitic faction within the Labour Party? Hardly. That some people may harbour anti-Semitic prejudices? Possibly. It would not be surprising, given the deliberate conflation of Zionism and Jewishness, if some people therefore blame Jews for the barbarism of the Israeli state.
To those like Lansman, however, racism is not about power relations in society and economic deprivation: it is about words and prejudice. Lansman told me: “I do not understand why you think the Labour Party should be immune from genuine anti-Semitism, which exists in British civil society – albeit at a lower level than in most of the last century.” This encapsulates the problem of liberal social democrats. For them racism is a virus – a disease which spreads, regardless of the social, economic or political climate. And for some it is endemic in non-Jews, which suggests it cannot be cured. This is really a variant of the Zionist myth of eternal anti-Semitism, which itself is a mirror image of the Nazi view of the ‘eternal Jew’.
Racism is not words or imagery disconnected from reality. Racism means economic exploitation of a section of the working class, such as the Irish, which is particularly oppressed. It means physical attacks by racist hoodlums and the scapegoating of a particular group as an exploiter. Jews in Britain suffer from none of this. Jews are not economically exploited, they are not subject to the attentions of fascist gangs, they are not at the mercy of a racist police force or the object of institutionalised state racism. In short, Jews are not oppressed.
Groups like the Zionist Community Security Trust earn their living by playing to the fears of Jews about a past era of anti-Semitic violence. When pro-Zionist students speak about anti-Semitism, it is often because they are uncomfortable that their identity is being challenged. Giving offence, however, is not the same as anti-Semitism. While Zionism in British society and on campuses poses a direct threat to freedom of speech, in general this is an age in which ‘anti-Semitism’ has to be manufactured.
William Rubinstein, the former president of the Jewish Historical Society, wrote of “the rise of western Jewry to unparalleled affluence and high status”, which “has led to the near-disappearance of a Jewish proletariat of any size; indeed, the Jews may become the first ethnic group in history without a working class of any size” (7).
It is because of the lack of anti-Semitism that the Zionists are forced to manufacture it.
The silly comments of a Vicki Kirby about “Jewish noses” do not hurt a single Jew, unlike the bricks and bottles of Moseley’s British Union of Fascists. I have written extensively on Gilad Atzmon, the anti-Semitic jazz musician, but Atzmon does not pose a threat to the safety of a single British Jew (8). In so far as anti-Semitism exists at all, it is because of the actions of the Israeli state against the Palestinians. When people hear that 12-year-old children are jailed and subject to beatings and worse, then they are understandably angry; and, when British Jewish organisations proudly take responsibility for these outrages, it is no wonder that some people take them at their word.
When the fascists were on the march in the East End of London, the advice of the Board of Deputies and British Zionism was for Jews to stay indoors and ignore all provocations. Jewish people in 1936 preferred to ignore the advice of the Zionists and Jewish bourgeoisie at the Battle of Cable Street. When Jews were predominantly working class they voted overwhelmingly for the Labour Party. Indeed in 1945 one of only two communist MPs elected was Phil Piratin in the constituency of Mile End in London’s East End. It is estimated that half of his vote came from British Jews. The decline in Jewish support for the Labour Party today has nothing to do with Israel and everything to do with the economic position of British Jewry.
- Thanks to Stephen Marks (email April 2016).
- See, for example, www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/aug/20/jeremy-corbyn-and-antisemitism-claims
- WD Rubinstein The left, the right and the Jews London 1982, p51.
- See ‘The seamy side of solidarity’: www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/feb/19/greenstein
4. DON’T APOLOGISE – ATTACK
Everyone is familiar with the current orchestrated witch-hunt and artificially whipped-up hysteria around ‘anti-Semitism’ on the left and in the Labour Party. It is, of course, directed against Jeremy Corbyn and in fact is part of a larger picture.
From my reading of the Israeli press, what is happening is a coming together of two distinct offensives. The first has been going on before anyone thought of Corbyn becoming leader of the Labour Party. For those coordinating pro-Israel, pro-Zionist propaganda, a few cracks had started to appear in the edifice. This is noticeable mainly, but not only, in the United States – which is, of course, the main arena for the pro-Zionists – but here in Britain too. There has been a shift in public opinion regarding Israeli policy and the conflict in the Middle East and the legitimation or otherwise of Israel as a Zionist, colonising state.
Take, for example, the current primary campaign for US president. One of the remarkable things about it is that, of all the serious candidates, the one who is attracting the most support amongst the broad left – especially among young people, including and especially among young Jewish people – happens to be Jewish. And he is the only one who refused an invitation to address the main pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac).
Apart from calling himself a socialist and getting support despite this, Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who has talked about the rights of the Palestinian people. He has not gone as far as we would like, but in the context of the United States it is still remarkable. Various opinion polls show he has gained support among both Muslims and Jews, especially the young. This represents a shift.
One focus of this shift has been the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions. When the BDS campaign was very young there was some discussion about whether it could actually overthrow the Zionist regime – just as some people thought a boycott of South Africa could overthrow apartheid. Of course, all analogies between South Africa and Israel are misleading, because they represent two different models of colonisation. But, leaving that aside, while sanctions may help to produce favourable conditions, those who think they are going to overthrow the regime in this way are deluding themselves.
The BDS campaign has, however, been a mobiliser of public opinion. Its advantage is that in various trade unions and professional organisations, in every college and university, there is a group of people campaigning, and this has provoked a very useful debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What is remarkable is that among the BDS activists there is an overrepresentation of young Jewish people.
That is very worrying for the Zionists and if you read the Israeli press it is clear that there is a determination to take measures to halt this erosion of support and the attack on the legitimacy of the Zionist state by discrediting the other side. This was the situation before there was even a hint that Jeremy Corbyn could become Labour leader. Of course, his election is an added worry, because for the first time ever a leader of the main opposition party in Britain is someone who has supported the Palestinian struggle.
And so the Zionists and all their allies decided to target Corbyn. Accidentally or not, the current Israeli ambassador to London is a certain Mark Regev, who has in the past justified genocide. Regev is hardly a normal diplomat – he is a propagandist by trade. This campaign has merged with the efforts of those who have no particular pro-Israel sentiments, but are looking for ways to attack the left of the Labour Party.
So there is now a coalition between, on the one side, people worried about the rise in support for the Palestinian cause and would like to discredit Corbyn and the Labour left for that reason; and, on the other, people like the vile blogger, Guido Fawkes, whose real name is Paul Staines – a rightwinger who would do anything to discredit Corbyn and the Labour left. He is using ‘anti-Semitism’ smears for opportunistic reasons, not because he really cares one way or the other about Israel/Palestine.
So what have they come up with in regard to the accusations of anti-Semitism? A few essentially trivial examples and some non-examples. Most of what has been publicised in the press fall into the latter category. Let me mention the four most prominent, that have been widely publicised in the media.
First there is Naz Shah, one of the new Labour MPs, who some years ago shared an image of Israel superimposed on the United States, with the ironic comment that the Israel-Palestine conflict would be resolved if Israel could be relocated to the USA. This image originated in the States and was meant as a satirical comment on US support for Israel – Norman Finkelstein, the renowned anti-Zionist professor, gave it prominence. And this was supposed to be anti-Semitic? Anybody who thinks that this was anything but a piece of satire should have their head examined.
Obviously nobody was seriously suggesting that Israel, or the Israeli people, should be physically relocated to the United States. But, it was claimed, the implication was that the Israelis should be ‘transported’ to the US, just as the Jews had been transported to Auschwitz, so the image must be anti-Semitic! In fact this is the sort of joke that is very popular in Israel, as well as in the US, because it says a lot about the relationship between the two states.
Then there is Jackie Walker, a black Jewish activist, who is actually prominent in Momentum. Like Naz Shah she has been suspended, under a process that is completely opaque, for saying that there was not only a Jewish holocaust, but a black African one too (she is a descendant of both groups). Moreover, she remarked that some Jews had been involved in the slave trade – an historical fact. Would it be anti-Christian to say that some people of that religion had been involved? Or anti-British to say that some people from this island had been too? In fact is you go further back, ironically one of the best examples of collaboration between Jews and Arabs was during the slave trade in east Africa. There are perpetrators as well as victims amongst all ethnic groups.
Next there is an example – not from the Labour Party, but from the left more generally – of the president of the National Union of Students, Malia Bouattia, who remarked that Birmingham is “something of a Zionist outpost”. If I said, rightly or wrongly, that University College London is ‘something of a Trotskyist outpost’, so what? Of course, if you believe that ‘Zionist’ is a synonym for ‘Jewish’, then perhaps that does not sound so good. But this is a Zionist conflation and there is no indication that this is what Malia Bouattia meant – her whole history contradicts such an assumption.
Finally there is Ken Livingstone, who said that Hitler “supported Zionism until he went mad”. This is certainly inaccurate and Livingstone would have been well advised not to make such a statement on that occasion, but the point he was making is basically correct, as I shall demonstrate.
Of course, he got the date wrong, when he said that the Nazi change of policy occurred in 1932, when Hitler was not yet in power. It was also wrong to personalise the shift in policy, but this stems from a general misunderstanding on the left. You see, we speak about Stalinism, but not ‘Hitlerism’, and there is a good reason for this. Stalin was a micro-manager. He slept very few hours at night and personally went through all the relevant papers, so that what went on in the Soviet Union was very much under Stalin’s personal control. But Hitler was an indolent bastard, who spent most of his evenings watching westerns! He certainly did not micro-manage the Nazi regime. He relied on his staff and trusted associates, whom he actually treated much better than Stalin treated those around him.
I mention this because the two are frequently compared, but they had very different ways of conducting their affairs. In Germany there were no great purges after the massacre of the SA, the paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party. Hitler’s close collaborators remained in place until the end. However, as I will demonstrate below, the essence of what Ken Livingstone said was basically correct – perhaps more correct than he realised and certainly than most people realised.
Don’t mention Zionism
How should the left react under such circumstances? A good friend of mine, who is on the left and has been a co-signatory of some of the statements we have been issuing, said to me that maybe we should not talk too much about Zionism, because people do not understand it and can get confused. Maybe we should just concentrate on the actual evils carried out by Israel.
You will not be surprised to learn that this person belongs to that part of the left which is happy to talk about austerity, but does not want to mention capitalism. Everyone understands austerity and it is good to organise demonstrations against it, but ‘capitalism’ is too much of a political word.
I fail to see how dropping mention of Zionism can work. Even the Zionists acknowledge that it is acceptable to criticise Israeli policy and would not be too concerned if we criticised, say, Israel’s continuing colonisation – building settlements on the West Bank and so on. But I ask a question: why does Israel persist in this? It is a policy which earns it the most criticism, even in the United States. Barack Obama and John Kerry have criticised it directly and the British government’s official policy is that these settlements are ‘illegal’ – they are an ‘obstacle to peace’, etc. So why does Israel do it? How can you explain it?
It can be explained by the fact that it is an essential part of Zionist policy. In carrying out this policy Israel is, if you like, following an imperative of Zionism from the very beginning. Once you accept that this is an integral part of Zionism, then you realise it would be strange if Israel did not attempt to implement it. It is not as if it were a policy specific to the current government of Binyamin Netanyahu. It has been carried out by all Israeli governments since 1967 and it took place within the former borders – the so-called ‘green line’ – before 1967. It has been an ongoing policy of Zionist colonisation from the very beginning.
You cannot explain why Israel is continuing with a policy that is not winning it any friends without mentioning Zionism. On the contrary, I think what we should do is not apologise – I am not a member of the Labour Party, so I will not directly advise Corbyn – but instead go onto the offensive and be aggressive: directly attack Zionism.
And you can also attack Zionism precisely because of its collusion and collaboration with anti-Semitism, including up to a point with Nazi Germany. We should not respond to the attacks by saying, ‘We are against anti-Semitism, as we are against all racism’, which is to accept that anti-Semitism is actually a problem on the left. While of course we oppose such racism, the fact is that its proponents within the left and the Labour Party account for a minuscule proportion. We can deal with anti-Semitism if it shows its head, but we should not make gestures as a kind of apology in the face of the current assault. The handful of people on the left who propagate a version of the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ carry no weight and are without any intellectual foundation.
The Protocols contained claims of both capitalist and working class conspiracy: Jews were ‘overrepresented’ among capitalists, but they were also ‘overrepresented’ in the revolutionary movement. The anti-Semitic slogan in revolutionary Russia was: “Sugar – Brodsky, tea – Vissotsky, Russia – Trotsky” – the first two were magnates and all three were Jews. We can deal with similar nonsense on the left in our own time, but not as an apology in response to the anti-Corbyn attacks. On the contrary, we need to go on the counteroffensive.
We should take the side of the Board of Deputies of British Jews – not the current one, but the Board of Deputies of 100 years ago! It put out some very pertinent statements about Zionism and its connection with anti-Semitism. When the negotiations on the 1917 Balfour Declaration were taking place, a prominent member of the Board of Deputies, Lucien Wolf, wrote:
“I understand … that the Zionists do not merely propose to form and establish a Jewish nationality in Palestine, but that they claim all the Jews as forming at the present moment a separate and dispossessed nationality, for which it is necessary to find an organic political centre, because they are and must always be aliens in the lands in which they now dwell, and, more especially, because it is “an absolute self-delusion” to believe that any Jew can be at once “English by nationality and Jewish by faith”.
“I have spent most of my life in combating these very doctrines, when presented to me in the form of anti-Semitism, and I can only regard them as the more dangerous when they come to me in the guise of Zionism. They constitute a capitulation to our enemies, which has absolutely no justification in history, ethnology or the facts of everyday life, and if they were admitted by the Jewish people as a whole, the result would only be that the terrible situation of our co-religionists in Russia and Romania would become the common lot of Jewry throughout the world.” (1)
About the same time, Alexander Montefiore, president of the Board of Deputies, and Claude, his brother, who was president of the closely associated Anglo-Jewish Association, wrote a letter to The Times. They stated that the “establishment of a Jewish nationality in Palestine, founded on the theory of Jewish homelessness, must have the effect throughout the world of stamping the Jews as strangers in their native lands and of undermining their hard-won positions as citizens and nationals of those lands”. (2)
They pointed out that the theories of political Zionism undermined the religious basis of Jewry, to which the only alternative would be “a secular Jewish nationality, recruited on some loose and obscure principle of race and of ethnographic peculiarity”.
They went on:
“But this would not be Jewish in any spiritual sense, and its establishment in Palestine would be a denial of all the ideals and hopes by which the survival of Jewish life in that country commends itself to the Jewish conscience and Jewish sympathy. On these grounds the Conjoint Committee of the Board of Deputies and the Anglo-Jewish Association deprecates earnestly the national proposals of the Zionists.
The second part in the Zionist programme which has aroused the misgivings of the Conjoint Committee is the proposal to invest the Jewish settlers [in Palestine] with certain special rights in excess of those enjoyed by the rest of the population…
In all the countries in which Jews live the principle of equal rights for all religious denominations is vital to them. Were they to set an example in Palestine of disregarding this principle, they would convict themselves of having appealed to it for purely selfish motives. In the countries in which they are still struggling for equal rights they would find themselves hopelessly compromised … The proposal is the more inadmissible because the Jews are and probably long will remain a minority of the population of Palestine, and might involve them in the bitterest feuds with their neighbours of other races and religions, which would severely retard their progress and find deplorable echoes throughout the orient.” (3)
This turned out to be highly prophetic.
Let us turn now to the Zionist-Nazi connection. In fact it sounds more shocking than it is, because we are talking about the early days of the Nazi regime. Today the holocaust is taught in schools, so people may know when the policy of extermination of Jews actually started officially – in January 1942, when a Nazi conference was convened in Wannsee under the chairmanship of Reinhard Heydrich. Heydrich was second in command to Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS.
The minutes of this conference are actually online and in them a change in policy towards the Jews, ratified by the Führer, was declared. Although it is phrased euphemistically, it is clear that what was being talked about was both deportation to the east and extermination.
This change occurred following the attack on the Soviet Union, when the Nazis felt they had to find different ways of dealing with the ‘Jewish problem’. Until that time the official policy was for the exclusion of the Jews from political and civic life, for separation and for emigration. Quite naturally the Zionist leadership thought this set of policies was similar to those of other anti-Semitic regimes – which it was – and the Zionist approach was not peculiar to the Nazi regime. The founder of political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, had pointed out that anti-Semitic regimes would be allies, because they wanted to get rid of the Jews, while the Zionists wanted to rid them of the Jews. That was the common interest.
In 1934 the German rabbi, Joachim Prinz, published a book entitled Wir Juden (‘We, the Jews’), in which he welcomed the Nazi regime. That regime wanted to separate Jews from non-Jews and prevent assimilation – as did the Zionists. Philip Roth’s novel, The plot against America, is based on actual people, including Prinz, who emigrated to America and became a leader of the US Jewish community – the fact that he was a Zionist is not mentioned.
Anyway, the Zionists made overtures to the Nazi regime, so how did the Nazis respond? Here are two relevant quotations. The first is from the introduction to the Nuremberg laws, the racist legislation introduced in Nazi Germany in 1935. This extract was still present in the 1939 edition, from which I am quoting:
If the Jews had a state of their own, in which the bulk of their people were at home, the Jewish question could already be considered solved today … The ardent Zionists of all people have objected least of all to the basic ideas of the Nuremberg laws, because they know that these laws are the only correct solution for the Jewish people too … (4)
Heydrich himself wrote the following in an article for the SS house journal Das Schwarze Korps in September 1935:
“National socialism has no intention of attacking the Jewish people in any way. On the contrary, the recognition of Jewry as a racial community based on blood, and not as a religious one, leads the German government to guarantee the racial separateness of this community without any limitations. The government finds itself in complete agreement with the great spiritual movement within Jewry itself, so-called Zionism, with its recognition of the solidarity of Jewry throughout the world and the rejection of all assimilationist ideas. On this basis, Germany undertakes measures that will surely play a significant role in the future in the handling of the Jewish problem around the world.” (5)
In other words, a friendly mention of Zionism, indicating an area of basic agreement it shared with Nazism.
Of course, looking back at all this, it seems all the more sinister, since we know that the story ended with the gas chambers a few years later. This overlap is an indictment of Zionism, but the actual collaboration between the two was not such an exceptional thing, when you accept that the Zionists were faced with the reality of an anti-Semitic regime.
By the way, half of what Ken Livingstone said is not very far from the caricature uttered by Netanyahu last year during an address to delegates at the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem. According to Netanyahu, “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews” until he met the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, in 1941. Netanyahu claimed that “Al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here’.”
Of course, the allegation that the idea of extermination originated with the grand mufti has been rejected with contempt by serious historians, but Netanyahu was at least correct in saying that emigration, not extermination, was indeed Nazi policy until the winter of 1941-42.
Let me repeat: we must go on the counterattack against the current slurs. It is correct to expose Zionism as a movement based on both colonisation and collusion with anti-Semitism. Don’t apologise for saying this. If you throw the sharks bloodied meat, they will only come back for more. At the moment the left is apologising too much, in the hope that the right will let up.
They will not do so, until they succeed in their aim of deposing Jeremy Corbyn.
- Reproduced in B Destani (ed) The Zionist movement and the foundation of Israel 1839-1972 Cambridge 2004, Vol 1, p727.
- The Times May 24 1917.
- See www.godlikeproductions.com/forum1/message55570/pg1.
- See M Machover and M Offenberg Zionism and its scarecrows London 1978, p38, which directly quotes Die Nurnberger Gesetze. See also F Nicosia The Third Reich and the Palestine question London 1985, p53; and FR Nicosia Zionism and anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany Cambridge 2008, p108. The latter cites a 1935 article by Bernhard Lohsener in the Nazi journal. Reichsverwaltungsblatt.
- Das Schwarze Korps September 26 1935.
This article was first posted at: http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1107/dont-apologise-attack/