The Jewish Question and Racial Oppression today

22 Feb

Jewish Children Liberated from Auschwitz, 1945

Palestinian Prisoners of Israeli Army

One reason why the years-long controversy over Gilad Atzmon has generated such rancour, and why conflicts related to it such as the recent purge of ‘anti-semites’ from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign have been so bitter, is because they threaten to re-open the Jewish question. There was a time when the Jewish question was a matter of considerable debate and public controversy among those seeking greater democracy and social and economic equality. Witness Marx’s celebrated essay The Jewish Question, among many others.

It was of course, also a subject of dispute among those with the opposite aims as well. But since WWII the Jewish question has not really been explored as previously. It is as if the Nazi genocide set a seal on it and made it one of those questions that had been ‘decided’, notwithstanding controversies around Israel which often involved major debates but which were ultimately considered to be something confined to the Middle East region. But now the decline of Israel’s moral authority, and the threat it poses to ‘world peace’, and crucially the nature of its worldwide support, means the Jewish question must be addressed again. 

Re-opening it is not something that can be done lightly; the nature of the Jewish people and its historical role is intertwined with some of the most tragic and barbaric events in human history. It contains a number of paradoxes and subtleties and is complex and not easy to analyse. It has also undergone major, arguably fundamental changes since the Second World War, that have mainly been so far analysed almost exclusively through the narrow prism of looking at Israel and Zionism.

There has tended to be a division in the way that socialists and progressive political thinkers have looked at this. Questions involving Israel come under the heading of ‘colonialism’ and imperialism, whereas the Jewish communities in the advanced countries at least have tended to be looked at one of several ethnic minority communities, mainly as potential targets of racial discrimination and right-wing extremism. The division of the Jewish question into two different ‘compartments’ has however been objectively undermined by the rise to prominence of aggressive, powerful pro-Israel Jewish organisations, particularly in the United States but also in Western Europe, gradually over the past three decades or more. These have acquired considerable power. Politicians go out of their way to appease them, even though the formal electoral base that they represent is actually pretty small in all these countries without exception.

When Oppressed Become Oppressors

Any objective examination of the situation can only come to the conclusion that, in the advanced capitalist countries, the oppression of the Jews is no more. No government, or seriously contending opposition party anywhere in the advanced capitalist world propagates any form of hostility to Jews, and none has done so for a very long time. On the contrary, it is a badge of honour in bourgeois politics today to be vehemently pro-Israel, and to denounce any criticism of Israel from the left as ‘anti-semitic’.

In the United States, the hegemony of Israel’s supporters through such bodies is very strong – it is extremely difficult for any politician critical even of Israel’s most outrageous crimes against Palestinians to maintain a career in the main capitalist parties. Those that make such criticisms face organised and usually successful attempts to force them to grovel in apology if they are lucky, otherwise to unseat them outright. Administrations of both main parties fill many of their leading posts with rabid Zionists, from Rahm Emmanuel as White House Chief of Staff under Obama back to the neo-conservatives of the ‘Project for The New American Century’: the American-Zionist think tank that was the driving force of the Iraq war under the Bush administration.

In the UK we have a Labour Party that in government carried out a vehemently pro-Israel agenda under Blair and his Middle East special envoy and chief fundraiser, Lord Michael Levy, also known as ‘Lord Cashpoint’, a strident Zionist. Labour supported Israel’s bloodthirsty attack on Lebanon in 2006 – refusing even the usual mealy mouthed ceasefire demands – Israel bombed to kill and terrorise civiilans and destroy infrastructure but failed to defeat the Hezbollah fighters and so failed in its war aims.

Under Brown, it wrung its hands pathetically during the one-sided butchery of Gaza Palestinians in 2009’s ‘Operation Cast Lead’. While its chosen Zionist appointee as Director General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, banned an advert from the Disasters Emergency Committee to raise funds for humanitarian relief for Palestinian civilians. Thus the BBC under Labour endorsed Israel’s butchery.

At the base of the Labour Party, there is considerable disquiet with all this and anger at Israeli crimes reflecting, to some extent, changes in the trade unions which have now led to the TUC endorsing calls for a boycott of Israel, as have a number of important unions. There has been something of a growth of the Labour Friends of Palestine as a pale reflection of this change in the unions, though how influential it is in a party still heavily loaded with a neo-liberal, pro-Israel Blair-Brown derived cadre is highly doubtful.

Then there is the current government: Prior to the 2010 election, the Lib Dems were the least Zionist-influenced of the three main parties in Britain. In joining the Tories in government, they have become well-nigh invisible on this (as on so many other things). But 80% of Conservative MPs are sponsors of the Conservative Friends of Israel. The meaning of this is crystal clear for anyone with eyes to see. This is the same Tory party that backed the Smith regime in white-ruled ‘Rhodesia’ till it became unsustainable to continue any longer, that supported apartheid in South Africa to the hilt, whose youth leaders used to wear badges demanding ‘Hang Nelson Mandela’.

The similarity of this to their current infatuation with Israel is striking. Just as is the embrace of Israel by forces further to their right, from the pro-Zionist English Defence League and ‘British Freedom Party’ (currently allied with the Jewish Defence League – Israeli fascist followers of Meir Kahane), to the BNP’s own embrace of Israel and selection in recent years of Jewish candidates to run for council seats. This embrace of Israel by the traditionally imperialist, racist right – and the far right – speaks volumes about the real role of pro-Israeli agitation today. Support for Israel today is more and more a sign of racism and xenophobia, just as in the past was support for white ‘Rhodesia’ and apartheid South Africa.

‘Anti-racist’ racism

Though in today’s changed environment, where racist beliefs are widely discredited and it has rightly become social unacceptable to racially abuse others either individually or collectively, there is a big difference in the way this support for racist tyranny is articulated. The only way that the decades-long suppression of the Palestinian people, a racist political programme similar in degree and closely related, though not identical, to the oppression of black South Africans by the apartheid regime before 1989, can be given ideological legitimacy by the racist right, is by mendacious allegations of racism against Israel’s victims and their sympathisers.

The official reason why the Tory party, the BNP, the EDL, all the way to New Labour’s wretched neo-con cabals can deny that their support of Israeli aparthied is racist, is by a narrative that says that the real problem is the alleged racism of the Arabs. Mendacious allegations of anti-semitism have become the main technique of reactionary bourgeois idelogues who are themselves racists, in excusing the racist oppression of the Palestinian people. This mendacity has two benefits from the point of view of those who propagate it. One is that is provides them with an alibi for racism. And two, the widespread propagation of false accusations of racism spreads cynicism about anti-racism itself, creating a popular perception that any and all form of opposition to racism is just a fraudulent game. Thus again, benefiting those ‘anti-racist’ liars who themselves have a racist agenda.

Roots of racism…

To cut through the nonsense, it is necessary to state some basic facts. One is that the essence of racism is not simply bad ideas in people’s heads. It is not hostility to some ‘other’ for its own sake – it is not mindless. Nor is it the situation where people who are themselves on the receiving end of systematic racial oppression come to hate and stereotype their oppressors. That may be regrettable and counter-productive, but it is not racism. Racism is an ideological weapon to justify the systematic oppression of entire peoples. If it is not that, it is meaningless. If there is no relation of systematic oppression, it becomes something chimerical, a subject of satire, like the various stupid sketches on some comedy shows where people with ginger hair complain about being victims of discrimination.

Racism in this sense is a product of capitalism, which is the first society in human history to create a state form around the concept of a nation, in which there was a partial homogenisation of the population around a (usually) standardised single language and a dominant, ‘national’ identity that in most cases originated in identification with a particular ethnic group, even if it is subsequently broadened. Not only did it create that state form, underpinned by an economic system that generated unprecedented economic dynamism and self-sustaining growth,  but it used that power to enslave the populations of entire, distant continents, again on a scale that the mightiest pre-capitalist ruling class could only dream of.

At the same time as it did this, it gave birth to such concepts as ‘The Rights of Man’, ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” and other supposedly universal values. The contradiction between that, and the manner in which it treated the peoples it enslaved, could only be resolved by creating ideologies that demonised the victims of capitalist imperialism, that portrayed them as in some way unworthy of such rights. The ultimate expression of that was pseudo-scientific racism, that posited some kind of biological difference between ‘races’, that some ‘racial’ groups were sufficiently different in genetic terms to make them qualitatively inferior to the dominant ‘races’, in effect defining them as inferior sub-species.

That was the most consistent form of racist ideology, and found its ultimate expression in the racist theories of German fascism. Jews did not fit easily into this schema, as in general they were not a colonised people or a slave population, but a sometimes persecuted religious minority particularly in Christian Europe. As such they had been coerced, through exclusion from other fields of economic activity, into a characteristic role for practitioners of a ‘foreign’ religion, as bankers, and later usurers, to the kings and aristocracy in the early medieval period. As Abram Leon explained in his important book The Jewish Question – a Marxist Analysis, the Jews were the remnants of a people-class, and the their resistance to assimilation and most of their persecutions in the medieval period were the result of that economic role.

…and roots of genocide

With the rise of capitalism in the West, the Jews’ economic role became obsolete. Large numbers migrated to Eastern Europe and Russia, after being persecuted and driven out of their traditional feudal economic niches in the West by a new financial bourgeoisie. For a period of several centuries, they were again able to prosper, largely as traders rather than financiers until the 19th century brought about the decay of feudalism in the East also. Squeezed out of their economic niches again, the Jews were regarded as a surplus, alien population, and again subjected to persecution, leading to new migrations of many of them, this time back to Western Europe, as well as to North America, and a precarious existence for those who remained. Those that did not find their way into the emerging bourgeoisies themselves – which a layer did in America particularly – became a largely proletarianised or even pauperised section of the population, and the targets of a new form of hatred that drew on the kind of racist conceptions first used to justify slavery.

This was the oppressed stratum of the Jewish proletariat that played a significant role in pre-WWI Social Democracy, and later in the early Communist movement. Radicalised by their double oppression – exploited as workers, and targeted by racism for their Jewish origin, even though in a great many cases they abandoned ‘national’ sentiments entirely and became known for the most fervent internationalism. This is what reactionaries used to mean, more than anything else, when they targetted ‘international Jewry’ as if internationalism was some kind of curse word. From Hitler to Stalin, the worst monsters of the 20th Century ranted against ‘Jew-Bolshevism’ and ‘rootless cosmopolitanism’ respectively, and Hitler in particularly tried to exterminate this social layer without mercy.

In the USSR under Stalin, they were not exterminated, but subjected to arbitrary persecution and executions on the basis of perceived political sympathies, not ‘racial’ characteristics per se. That was the difference on this question between the Hitler and Stalin regimes, in that the Stalinists, while fearful of the internationalist spirit of Jewish workers, did not put it down to ‘racial’ characteristics and instead of wholesale extermination, used a mixture of co-optation, corruption, arbitrary repression and killings to destroy this layer morally and when neccessary, physically.

The upshot of this, however, is that this very important, oppressed layer of Jewish proletarians, whose existence and struggles were pivotal in defining the Jewish communities pre-WWII as an oppressed people, ceased to exist. That destruction is of utmost importance in analysing the Jewish question now, and the role of the Jewish communities today, as opposed to nearly three-quarters of a century ago, in the world order. How are the Jewish people(s) that exist today, as opposed to those that existed then, to be regarded? Are they in the ranks of the oppressed, or do they rank among the world’s oppressor peoples? Or is a more nuanced position that avoids either of those two polarities necessary? In examining it, it is necessary to look at the fate of those who survived, or managed to avoid, the terrible events of WWII.

Jews since the genocide

First of all, there were the relatively small groups of Zionist pioneers who migrated to Palestine from Europe and America before the tumultuous events of the 1930s. It is not necessary to say much about them since they were actually a small and quite isolated minority, who could command a certain degree of financial and political clout, but were short of numbers and mass support. So much so that it is highly likely that their project would have fizzled out, if it were not for the rise to power of Hitler in Germany and the resultant massacre of millions of Jews in Europe. This, and only this, provided them with reinforcements from the hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees – remnants of the murdered Central and East European Jews.

This desperate, easily manipulated population was indispensable in their programme of creating a Jewish state in an Arab-majority country like Palestine. Without that demographic it would have been an impossible task. Without such a terrible event as the Nazi genocide, there is no way that several hundred thousands of Jews could be induced to leave their homes in Europe voluntarily and migrate to the Middle East.

Then there are the Jews who emigrated to the United States. Today there are approximately 6.5 million Jews in the US, around 2% of the population. These have a long history, going back to the early days of the American republic. But large waves of immigration in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and a limited influx post-WWII, increased its numbers to the point that it became, and is still, the largest Jewish population in the world – exceeding that of Israel.

To its shame, the US restricted Jewish immigration quite severely between the wars, on an explicitly racist basis, calculated to deliberately exclude Jews, among others. This was not significantly relaxed even during the Nazi genocide. Indeed influential Zionist luminaries agitated against measures to give Jews fleeing the Nazis  refuge in places like Britain and the US, to try to coerce them to go to Palestine instead. They were largely successful in this.

Jews have at times been targeted by anti-semitism in the US, though to a lesser extent than in Europe. The rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan in 1913 was partly catalysed by the lynching of a Jewish teacher, Leo Frank, in Atlanta, Georgia, after a highly dubious murder case. It grew into a mass movement in the 1920s, and was strongly anti-semitic, though more or less disintegrated by the 1930s. In the 1930s, there were echoes of the anti-semitism in Europe; demagogues like Father Coughlin propagated Nazi-like anti-semitism over the airwaves. But this was limited by the logic of US imperialism’s development, which placed it on a collision course with Hitler’s Germany in what was ultimately a struggle for world domination.

Elements of anti-semitism were also visible to some extent in the McCarthy era, particularly over the execution of the Rosenbergs for spying for Russia in the early 1950s. Indeed, in the 1950s, unlike today, the Nazi genocide was something of a frowned upon subject, and those who made an issue of it were regarded as suspects, as were ‘premature anti-fascists’. Immediately after WWII, the US needed the help of ex-Nazis in a variety of fields, not least in developing its nuclear arsenal, so Nazi crimes tended to be played down.

But this was quite short-lived. The gradual ascent of Israel to be the US’s strategic ally in the Middle East, which was finally sealed in the 1967 Six-Day war, was the final nail in the coffin of any potential that might have existed for Jews to be pushed into a subordinate, oppressed status in the US. Parenthetically one could also add that this is also true in the UK, where however the Jewish population is relatively much smaller that in the US, 0.5% as opposed to 2%.

On most questions, Jews in the United States have tended to be socially liberal. Consistently they have maintained majority support for the Democratic Party since the days of the New Deal, with only slight variations. Jews played a significant role in the Civil Rights movement for black people, against Jim Crow segregation. In the earlier post-WWII period, the condition of Jewish people in America was undoubtedly no more advantageous that many other non-black minorities outside the WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) dominant group.

Changing fortunes

But while American capitalism has undergone both considerable absolute growth over the past few decades, as well as relative decline in its world economic clout, the fortunes of the Jewish population have improved dramatically. Jews are now undoubtedly, per head of population, the most successful minority group in the US by far, in terms of income, in terms of education, and in terms of relative economic power. According to the Israeli source YNetNews, Jews make up “more than 20 per cent of the Forbes 400” which is the list of the wealthiest people in the United States – not bad for 2% of the population. This in contrast to the black population, which is still very much under-represented. This level of economic integration into the most powerful ruling class in the world means that Jews cannot be regarded, in the United States, as an excluded or oppressed population in any way.

The US also tends to set the benchmark for the rest of the advanced capitalist world – so smaller Jewish populations in countries like the UK experience a similar mainstream status, even when they are less numerous and hence possess relatively less power. They are still thoroughly respectable, as evidenced by the normal bourgeois discourse, which pointedly refers to the West as ‘Judeo-Christian civilisation’. There were times, not so long ago, when the ‘Christian’ West was not quite so inclusive.

So Jews today are not an oppressed people. What are they then? Are they an oppressor people?

Not outside Israel, no. In the United States they are (mainly, with a few exceptions) part of white America, but they are also a part that has generally had a more honourable record vis-a-vis the black American population. Jewish participation in the Civil Rights movement was considerable.

This has not always been completely pure, however – one important, relatively recent blemish on this was the mayoralty of Edward Koch in New York, in the 1970s and 80s, a Jewish mayor elected with a considerable Jewish electoral base, who became known for abusive and racist policies towards the black population and managed to provoke some quite serious tensions between blacks and Jews, and some black anti-semitism in response. But this is fairly exceptional, Koch was a maverick, seeking to run at times both as a Democrat and a Republican, and not typical of Jewish politics in America, which tends to be pretty liberal.

Occasionally,you hear, derived from the Middle East conflict, the view that Jews in some way oppress ordinary mainstream Americans by their demands. This particular accusation is sometimes raised by misguided Palestinian supporters looking for allies, as well as remnants of the old anti-semitic right. It is paranoid nonsense. Jews are a tiny percentage of the US population and are not remotely capable of that. This allegation is in fact a vestige of the old anti-semitism, but it is irrelevant and impotent today. The mainstream respectability of the Jews in the US and the West in general is not going to be reversed barring some totally outlandish catastrophe.

Oppression from a distance

In Israel, Jews are clearly an oppressor people. There is no getting away from this, Jews live on land taken by force from the Arabs, they enforce racist laws on citizenship and land ownership, and the majority of the Palestinian Arab population from what is now Israel proper has been driven into exile. Not only that, but Israeli laws extend the right of Israeli citizenship to every Jew that fits the Israeli definition worldwide – even if they have never set eyes on the place, while depriving hundreds of thousands of Arabs refugees who were born there, or whose parents were, of the right to even enter their homeland. There are few clearer examples of one people oppressing another.

This citizenship law, and the existence of very strong and powerful Jewish lobbying groups particularly in the United States, and indeed to some extent in Europe, that exert a great deal of pressure within the politics of the US and its allies for a policy that is strongly pro-Israel, even to the point of being indulgent, give another dimension to the question of whether Jews outside Israel act as an oppressor people or not.

Organisations like AIPAC, and other Jewish organisations of a similar ilk in the US and elsewhere; the lobbying efforts of prominent, powerful Jewish individuals and collectives within established political parties in Western countries (not just the United States); and the mechanism of the Israeli ‘Law of Return’, which in effect (partially) internationalises Israeli citizenship on an ethnic basis; all these things have a crucial importance in characterising the Jewish people today.

All these add up to one important point – while it is clear that the Palestinian people are directly oppressed by the Jewish ethnocratic state of Israel that has deprived them of their homeland, they are also, albeit less directly, oppressed, though the mechanism of the Law of Return and the efforts of Jewish lobbying organisations in the United States and its West European allies. That is, while American and also British Jews are not oppressor peoples in those countries at all, in their international dimension they do act as oppressors of the Palestinians’, albeit from a distance or an one remove.

A false equation

This is a crucial theoretical point in clarifying why hostility to Jews is not limited to the Middle East in current circumstances, and why criticism, and even expressions of hatred, for American and British Jews from Palestinians and their sympathisers, motivated by the Palestinian issue, cannot be equated with the anti-semitism of the past even when in some cases, as with Hamas, it regrettably borrows directly from the latter.

While pre-war anti-semitism was partially driven by a form of class demagogy, using the over-representation of Jews in business and particularly finance (which is most likely the product of cultural one-sidedness and a residue of the Jews’ past as a financial people-class), what really gave pre-war anti-semitism its psychotic character was the reactionary fear of the Jews as a bearer of revolution and subversion of the status quo. That particular delusion has been completely destroyed, by the extermination of the revolutionary Jewish proletarians by the Nazis, and by Zionism, which by its actions associates Jews with reaction, not revolution. The fundamental difference is that pre-war anti-semitism was hatred for an oppressed people by their oppressors, whereas in the current very changed circumstances, hatred of the oppressor by the oppressed is what we see today..

Such hatred still is inimical from the point of view of socialists and internationalists, though it has a very different moral and political content and context from hatred of an oppressed people by a people who oppress them. It is the product of despair and impotence in facing a powerful, unremitting enemy over what is now six-and-a half decades. The demonisation of the Palestinians as racists by Zionism to excuses its crimes has generated its own antithesis, as not only many Palestinians, but even some Jewish sympathisers, now suspect or even affirm point blank that everything that Israel uses to justify its existence, including the fact of the Nazi genocide itself, is a racist lie.

Socialists have, or ought to have, different ways of undercutting misdirected hatreds generated by the oppressed for their oppressors, than when the hatred is the other way round. We have to remember that at this point, the international labour movement is politically disarmed and hardly in a position to anything effective to shift the balance of forces in the Middle East. We have to deliver solidarity, and through fraternal debate and collaboration bring about the kind of change that can transcend the despair that produces this.

Anyone who equates these very different kinds of antipathy is playing a reactionary role, is acting as a chauvinist and, wittingly or unwittingly, as an agent of the oppression of the Palestinians in today’s world, which is very different from the days of Hitler and classical anti-semitism.


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48 responses to “The Jewish Question and Racial Oppression today

  1. Gilad Atzmon

    February 23, 2012 at 1:10 am

    Totally agree, this is what it is all about, we are opening the J question for every available answer to this question as proven either insufficient, non ethical or both..
    I will post this on my site ..

  2. Gilad Atzmon

    February 23, 2012 at 1:17 am

    Very good piece of writing, but can socialists, Marxist or the Left move on? can they empathize with the oppressed? with the Muslim?

  3. redscribe

    February 23, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    Empathy with the oppressed is a very basic thing. However, today’s left is very badly damaged and messed up, it has not come to terms with the defeats of the past century, and the reasons for that, which cannot simply be put down to one oversimplified cause such as Stalinism. The inability to empathise is not some moral failing as such, but a failure of understanding and an inability to analyse reality. And not just regarding this question. The insane fragmentation of the left is also due to a failure of understanding, including about basic things like how to deal with political disagreements over tactical issues. Let alone how to handle principled disagreements in situations that call for some sensitivity.

    Actually, not all of the venom Gilad and others have had directed at them from the left, including the Jewish left, can be explained by the actual differences. Another element is left-wing sectarianism and an ingrained bloody-mindedness that can make it very difficult to reason with people. Coupled with habits of mind that think the world just carries on in the same old way year after year, decade after decade, and nothing really changes, and you get a real inability to analyse a changing world. And if you cannot analyse, you cannot act.

    There needs to be a revolution in political culture on the left in order to change this situation, and a lot of old certainties need to be done away with. In a way, we need a new left, not in the sense of the old 50s-60s ‘new left’ that just thought it only had to proclaim its ‘newness’ and it could start with a completely clean sheet. There needs to be a settling of accounts with all kinds of nonsense on the left in order to allow a genuine new left to be born. New people, and new trends, have to play a big role in that also. Even people with very unconventional views in some ways can provide insights into difficult and complex questions.

    So I would be lying if I were to answer yes to Gilad’s question about much of today’s left. Something very fundamental has to happen before a new socialist/communist movement can emerge, to do the things that need doing. The problem is that as I see it there is no substitute for that, no other way to liberate the oppressed in a truly universal sense. But there are people doing good things to help lay the basis for what we need, and I try to cover those things as much as I can.

  4. nahida the Exiled Palestinian

    February 24, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    One significant element that causes the Left’s inability to empathize with today’s oppressed, the Muslims is the refusal to engage and communicate directly with Muslims, in a meaningful, respectful and effective manner, which would enable the Left to understand Muslims rather than building their understanding on shaky foundation from hostile media.

    In my personal experience, working with pro-Palestinian Left, and after I witnessed their horrified reaction to the election of Hamas in 2006, I wrote a detailed paper addressing this issue. To my shock, I had only but ONE response! ONE and ONLY ONE person showed a sign of willingness to engage in open discussion about what I have written. Another person made it very clear to me that he will NOT read my paper, because such issues are irrelevant and do not interest him!
    How on earth can we begin to empathize when the minimum level of communication that leads to understanding is non-existent.

    The Left, Secularism and Islam

  5. David Ellis

    February 24, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    Nice comment Red.

  6. redscribe

    February 26, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    Regarding Nahida’s comment, I do accept that Islamic sentiment particularly in the Arab and Muslim world is enormous, and a force to be reckoned with. I was not horrified or even particularly surprised by the election of Hamas in 2005, because it was obvious that the whole effect of decades of brutal but secular dictatorships in those countries would likely produce a dynamic of resistance from the mainly Muslim populations that saw Islam as a weapon of resistance. That is true in Palestine, and elsewhere in the Arab world too.

    This is not entirely unknown in Europe either, but not for a few hundred years. Though the social and political context of Cromwell’s Puritans is hugely different from today in Egypt, Syria or Tunisia. One reason for this is that capitalist secularism in the Middle East has not delivered a better life. Things have got considerably worse. And being as the socialist alternative to secular capitalism also gives the appearance at this time of abject failure, then it was always highly likely that religion would fill the vacuum. It did so in Iran, under a particularly brutal pro-Western nominally secular monarchy in 1979.

    You cannot impose anything, even ‘secularism’, on people against their will. In that much I agree with Nahida. However, one point I would make is that no political phenomenon is everlasting. I think Iran today shows that. Within the ranks of the Islamic republic and its supporters, deep divisions have opened up around questions regarding democracy, among others.

    I actually think there is no substitute for democracy and people have the right to change their minds about the form of government that they want as things change, and that means that political democracy must be maintained no matter what. It also means that people with different beliefs, whether religious or non-religious, must have the right to practice their religions and argue for their views as a right, and be able to get a hearing and participate fully in democratic elections and the like.

    So yes, if the mass of the people want to elect religious parties, then they have the right and we should defend their right to do so. But for me this is not about defending the right of religion, but defending the rights of the people, all of them, not just in this situation but always. The key thing is that the people must come first, their freedom of thought, their right to choose their government, must remain absolute. If religious parties can really respect that they should do well. If not, then they will fall prey to the same problems that befell the bourgeois secular parties, the Nasserites and Ba’athists, etc, who once also had enormous support.

  7. leo

    February 28, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Hi to everybody(it seems to be a pretty small forum, I wonder why).
    Gilad,the “real” revolutionary left has been,is and it’ll be on the side of the oppressed.I can give you an example regarding Palestine that you can easily check: please yahoo Daniele Pifano and rockets or Sam missile earth to sky. Pifano was a well known worker from Autonomia Operaia in Rome and he was arrested while transporting “something” to be shipped to a particular group of the “real” revolutionary left.The number of comrades from italy and other countries who did spend time serving in the palestinian camps was relatively high.I can guess that if you consider any particular category (liberals,so called communists,humanists etc etc), we were probably the most supportive one towards the palestinian struggle.And by the way the idea was basically the one state solution.I am taking of the 70thies.
    Of course at the time it was easy for us to relate to palestinian organizations that had a marxist ideology.Obiously the whole thing did not work out; Autonomia was demolished by the attack of the italian state with the full support of the very strong communist party(they have now changed name and support Nato).
    And you know better than me the history of the Plo and its well known corruption to the point that now the PA is playing the role of collaborators with the zionist,
    You also know that the arabs countries have more often than not played a macabre game on the skin of the palestinians.
    So I do not really understand your point about the left being able to stand with the palestinians or the oppressed.Of course we do.
    I have been following you for some time and I do know that you had to cope with a pretty nasty bunch of people who believe to have the solution to almost every problem(already a sign that there is something very wrong).T Greensteein seems to be the classic case, not sure what he is after(a new bund?).I live in Asia so I do not really know much about the SWP and other “parties”.I know that they do not play any significant role and I am not surprised that they work in very sectarian ways and,I guess,tend to split in sub groups.Gilad, this is not the revolutionary left.I can give you the name of two groups I had the chance to work with.The JVP in Sri lanka and the Mir in Chile.The leaders of this organizations paid the ultimate price with thousands of comrades. I guess that the marxists you meet in the Uk and Usa are not exactly on the barricades….
    I know that you consider marxism as a sort of a joke/dead ideology; this is your opinion and there is no need to debate on that.But I am not convinced that your general definition of “humanism” is a real answer.I am an humanist,I am for open debate etc etc; but humanism in its varies forms has good and dark sites.
    To finish this appeal to you(to be more open about the revolutionary left) I have to add that from time to time you are “daydreaming”.
    I do not believe that “the tide has turned”, that “the wandering who” is inflicting much damage to the zionist enemy etc What I see is a good effort on your part of debating things(not that I agree with all of your points). You seem to be pretty clever, but you are isolated. It looks like there is some kind of witch hunting in the PSmov in the Uk (hopefully Redsc will write more about it).
    At the end it may be a good thing to restart something different, but time and energy are lost and who knows how many people just give up in disgust.
    Anyway,Gilad thanks for the time you give to help the palestinian people;but please remember that for us there are many places where the situation is as bad.Almost in every continent. Our support is not for one cause. I hope you can understand it.
    Dear Nahida, I have visited your site from time to time so I know a little bit of your story. I never posted there because I do not like the internet,I have written less than 10 posts in my life,2-3 here because Redscribe seems to be a reasonable guy. And to be honest after reading some the never ending and useless confrontation between Gilad/TG and you and Mary Rizzo I prefer to stay away from the all thing. Few weeks ago I entered some sort of internet cricket game between T green and M Rizzo : it went on and on.I think it may have taken me almost an hour to scroll that insane thing,without even reading anything.
    Nahida, forget those jokers if you can, there are more important things to do.
    But I also want to point some things to you. Look, I live most of my time in non arab muslim countries. I have never paid much attention to religion and I discarded at a very young age the notion of being a christian. By living with muslims I started to appreciate a lot of things, in the sense of “way of life”. Strange enough the fact that the Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) was a well known cat lover was a plus(I am heavily into cat and man-eating tigers, they really know what they are doing).
    Back to reality, you say that the left should…Islam and you are right.There is total ignorance and I am always surprised that people that consider themselves “revolutionaries” happily buy the most incredible nonsense. They are supposed to be freethinkers, they know that the media lie etc etc but they tend to come up with insane definition of Islam and the muslims.
    But there is another side of the story:
    I am sure that when you mention Islam you have your own very clear understanding of it.
    Fine, in theory.But I live in a sunni country and by chance the muslim who basically tutored me in the study of the religion was a sunni who often remarked that the shia had it right(but he told me to keep this as a secret). By chance I read some books where ideas were presented that there are some strong elements of populism if not revolutionary zeal in the defense of the poor in the shia tradition. A sort of nun, I can’t remember the name, was pretty explicit about it. Just 3 weeks ago somebody told me that some big clerics had declared that the shia are not muslims, just heretics. Not that I have any intention to convert,but the division in Islam(as in all other religions) do make things more complicated. Add to this another fact: ok, I am a communist, possibly with strong sympathy with some anarcho communist ideas. The communist party is banned in this part of the world.Not by Islam, it was due to political/military reason. Still, when few years ago Gus Dur (at the time president of Indonesia,and also the leader of the most important muslim group in the country) wanted to open some kind of debate on the extermination of hundred of thousands of indonesian communists by Suharto, well all hell broke lose.The military and almost all muslim organization told Gus Dur to forget about it. Going back to my own story, if I want to have any discussion with the locals I have to present myself as a christian, if I come up with I am a communist, then there would be nothing to say. This is personal, but it may explain that it is not just the leftists who do not understand Islam.We do know that in islamic countries is not exactly easy to be a marxist. This does not justify the silly positions of many comrades, but to have a real debate we have to be honest. Still I think that you have been really hurt by some individuals who I wish would just disappear.It is more a feeling than anything else, because I am too far to undertand things and the internet is the mother of all lies, still my best wishes to you.From a marxist to a muslim….
    Redscribe, thanks for writing about this argument.While I consider anybody who thinks Stalin was a great communist to be out of his mind, I am not sure of why you keep using the term stalinist, even in this debate. Right now I am mentally demolished by writing this and please forgive me for my bad english.
    My last question is this: how do we debate with people like TG. They seem to be unable to accept any position they do not like, I have seen how they manipulate words and label their “enemies”;more important, they seem to have an unlimited amount of time and stamina to spend posting.
    Take care

  8. David Ellis

    March 1, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Disappointingly even the Weekly Worker has come out against the Arab Spring in today’s edition trashing the nature of the Syrian uprising and majoring on the yet to materialise (apart from Russia) imperialist threat. That is a clean sweep of `left’ centrist sects coming out against the Arab Spring in the name of ultra anti-imperialism.

    Even whilst Homs is brutally destroyed by Assad I see Counterfire is ignoring this fact in favour of a Don’t Attack Iran slant. Stalinism and the Stalinised post war Trot sects are once again shown to have decisively abandoned world revolution.

  9. David Ellis

    March 1, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    Sorry I got that on the wrong thread but I did want to say anyway how interesting Leo’s comment is.

  10. Ruth Tenne

    March 2, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    I agree with Redscribe’s assertion that the reason that “conflicts ….. such as the recent purge of ‘anti-semites’ from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign have been so bitter, is because they threaten to re-open the Jewish question”.

    My letters exchange with Tony Greenstein in Weekly Worker is a testimony to the ferocity and fervent zeal I had to encounter in defending the right of PSC members (and others) to open the debate about the narrative of the Holocaust and its symbolic meaning which underpins a false notion of Jewishness that ought to be preserved uniquely in a (biblical ) Jewish state .

    I do not pretend to contribute to Redscrib’s in-depth analysis of the Jewish Question but , nevertheless, I felt that my final letter to TG ( see enclosed ) may offer some insight into the severe ramifications of PSC’s attempts to force alleged Holocaust deniers/anti-Semite out of the movement . I hope my letter exchange with TG would also throw some light on my standing on this issue which is anchored in my personal experience as an Israeli(Jewish) who was born in Mandatory Palestine and witnessed the 1948 Palestinian Naqba which led to the establishment of the of the Jewish state .

    Ruth Tenne

    letter published by Weekly Worker , 1st March (including links to supporting evidence which were not included in the published version for re-production reasons)
    The letter exchange concerning the newly – declared mission statement/aims of PSC has been dragged on for too long- providing a good platform for Tony Greenstein to spout his venom against purported Holocaust deniers – whose main “culprits” are no more, or have never been, members of PSC . I have to admit that I do not completely understand Greenstein’s twisted arguments which equate Holocaust denial (purported or otherwise) with anti-Semitism – especially as a number of the alleged Holocaust deniers/anti-Semites (including myself) belong to the Semite race/ethnic/ cultural group. However, Greenstein seems to have borrowed that false premise from the pro-Zionists who use it for their own political purposes. Thus, I , perhaps , should not be too surprised to have seen this supposition reiterated fallaciously by him.

    Tony seems to ignore my main point concerning the far-reaching repercussions of the divisiveness of PSC mission statement . He has been accusing me of being muddled , confused , stupid and an “idiot Atzmonite ” ( I am baffled by the latter) in the same ferocious way the pro-Zionists have ganged up against me in the past [1] . and present [2] . I decided , therefore, to sum up my main argument – which I believe was clearly made (though not necessarily understood by TG) -in my previous letters to Weekly Worker and in my submission to PSC Executive.[3] :

    By avowing to combat alleged/purported Holocaust denial the PSC Executive and supporting members have unwittingly become a proxy of the Zionists’ attempts to stifle a meaningful debate on the narrative of the Holocaust. Thus, putting into action George Orwell’s renowned
    phrase – “He who controls the present controls the past “. In Israel this aphorism finds its expression in a recent law which denies official funding to outfits that openly commemorate the 1948 Palestinian Naqba ( catastrophe).[4] Is PSC going to tread the same slippery path of banning freedom of expression, and taking action against those who dare ask questions or challenge the narrative of the Holocaust with its all-embracing symbolic and nationalistic meaning? (Re Izkor: Slaves of Memory, an Israeli film by Eyal Sivan. [5] )

    The boundaries between being right and being self-righteous are sometimes very blurred. Sadly, the PSC Executive was misguidedly led to cross those lines -claiming the high moral ground by having declared itself to be a gatekeeper who erects walls around the “sanctified” narrative of the Holocaust .Thus, fervently guarding official version of an historical chronicle which underpins a false notion of Jewishness that has to be uniquely preserved by the unchallenged survival of a biblical Jewish state that practices apartheid and exerts brutal oppression of the Palestinian nation.

    Having recently contributed to a new book entitled Beyond Tribal Loyalties ( Ed Avigail Abarbanel) [6] I sadly feel as if I am still struggling to free myself from the fettered chains of the Tribe. But perhaps I was simply unaware that I was trying to counter , in vain, the last bastion of the Zionist “house of cards”.
    Ruth Tenne
    Camden PSC

  11. redscribe

    March 2, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    I would like to thank Ruth Tenne for her letter and especially the very useful linked material.

    Whatever differences I may have with the political trend that Ruth Tenne is part of, it is quite clear that we are dealing with a very important, left-wing, anti-racist trend. It is utterly futile and totally untenable to continue to pretend that such people represent some kind of racist threat to Jews.

    Indeed, they seem to be composed of some of the most serious and passionate anti-racist Jews.

    Those with very similar aspirations who have mistakenly and unjustly maligned them will sooner or later have to admit their error, or look preposterous.

  12. David Ellis

    March 3, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Congrats to Ruth, Redscribe and the Weekly Worker for giving the issues a thorough airing in the teeth of the Fatah/Zionist/Stalinist inspired pro-two state witch hunters in the PSC.

  13. redscribe

    March 3, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Thanks David. For anyone who has not seen this, both a substantial letter from me, and the published version of Ruth’s letter which she posted above, are here on the CPGB/Weekly Worker website.

  14. Ruth Tenne

    March 3, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Thanks to Redscribe for his insightful writing and staunch stance against PSC’s attempts to stifle any debate on the Holocaust in the name of combating racism and anti-Semitism and to David Ellis for supporting this stance.

    I would like, however, to add a further comment to my published letters in the Weekly Worker and on the website of Red Scribbling.

    The particular wording of the long-winded PSC Executive’s motion 2 which was adopted recently by the AGM (january 2012), refers to combating “attempts to deny or minimise the Holocaust is quite evident that, in fact,the real purpose of the motion is to stifle debate on the Holocaust, but ,being a declared human rights movement with claims to equality and free speech , the PSC Executive concealed its motion’s true motives by substituting debate on the Holocaust for attempts to minimise the Holocaust .However, if the Holocaust is being seen, or addressed to, as an entity/historical event which is liable to be minimised , it follows that it equally could be inflated , or moulded up to purpose. By opting to declare a purge on those who minimise or deny the Holocaust the PSC is , evidently, offering a leeway , or rather freeway to those whose interest is to mould the Holocaust to their own purposes by focusing or emphasizing the enormity of the Holocaust. Thus, misusing it as a sacrosanct symbol in defence of a Jewish state which is based on racist policies and practices .
    (to put it crudely a state which realises the symbolic meaning of Never Again for the Jewish people while advocating “never mind” of the Palestinians )

    Ruth Tenne

  15. sanculottist

    March 6, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Sometimes we we would do well to get back to basics; as early as January 23, 1904 in response to Theodor Herzl’s request for a Jewish state (in Palestine), the Italian King, Victor Emmanuel III, is quoted as saying “Ma è ancora casa di alltri“ (But it is still the home of other people).
    That was almost thirty years before the “Machtergreifung” and it was almost 32 years before the “Nürnberger Gesetze”.

    A year before Emmanuel III’s, ““Ma è ancora casa di alltri“,Joseph Chamberlain’s, the British Colonial Secretary, proposal to give a big chunk of what is now Kenya to the Jewish people was taken so seriously that when Theodore Herzl brought it onto the agenda in 1903 at the sixth meeting of the World Zionist Oranisation’s Zionist Congress in Basle, it actually led to a delegation being sent out to look at the land where the new Jewish state might be. Interestingly, when the three man delegation went out to survey the area under discussion, they were a little bit perturbed not only by the presence of lions in the area but also by the Maasai tribes who didn’t take too kindly to strangers just moving in on them.

    Gilber Achcar in his book ‘The Arabs and the Holocaust’, writes:
    “What authorizes the Jews to announce sorrowfully to the Arabs that a Nazi movement has sprung up among them? Is it the Arabs who have driven the Jews from their land, or is it rather the Jews who are driving Arabs from their homes and persecuting the to the point of depriving them of human beings’ most basic right, the right to life?” (Achcar: 49).

    The point I am making is quite simply that at the end of the day, whether we have persecution and ethnic cleansing of Hutus by Tutsi or Tutsi by Hutus, or Omoro by Tigray, or whatever, what we have is quite simply ethnic cleansing – which contrary to Benny Morris can never be justified morally – of one people by another.

    I live in Munich and if anyone here tried to justify the Holocaust openly they would end up in front of a jury and, most probably, either in prison or in the loony bin. The ethnic cleansing of Palestine was a fact and it is time to sideline anyone who tries to justify it morally, just as we should sideline anti-semtism – although I do agree with the author’s contention that:
    “Any objective examination of the situation can only come to the conclusion that, in the advanced capitalist countries, the oppression of the Jews is no more. No government, or seriously contending opposition party anywhere in the advanced capitalist world propagates any form of hostility to Jews, and none has done so for a very long time. On the contrary, it is a badge of honour in bourgeois politics today to be vehemently pro-Israel, and to denounce any criticism of Israel from the left as ‘anti-semitic’.” However, on that note and while we are talking about facts; the Zionist lobby is also a fact.

  16. David Ellis

    March 6, 2012 at 11:40 am

    I believe the British offered the Zionists their very own apartheid state in Uganda. They obviously saw them as a potential ally against black africa but a threat to their dominion imperial dominion in the Middle East whilst the yanks saw it differently and offered the Zionists Palestine so that they would have a gun ship in the middle of the Arab world, that would break up British influence and that would be a staunch anti-communist ally.

  17. sanculottist

    March 6, 2012 at 11:52 am

    They offered the state in what is now a part of Kenya! See my comment above. The Zionist delegation, who went to inspect the area, were actually annoyed that the Maasai tribes who were there didn’t take too kindly to the project. Suprise, surprise …. and isn’t it interesting that nobody appears to be accusing the Maasai of Holocaust denial!

  18. redscribe

    March 6, 2012 at 11:53 am

    That is the confusion. The ZIonists tend to call that area ‘Uganda’, but it is actually in modern-day Kenya.

  19. sanculottist

    March 6, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Well, their confusing “Uganda” with “Kenya” is hardly surprising. After all, they call the OTs, “Judea and Samaria” and I do believe that their newspeak for the settlements is “neighbourhoods.” Indeed, in a slightly saner world, they might be diagnosed as having a collective psychosis.

  20. redscribe

    March 6, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Apparently the land concerned today overlaps both countries:

  21. David Ellis

    March 6, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Sorry Red didn’t acknowledge your previous raising of the matter. Interesting stuff.

  22. sanculottist

    March 6, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Taken from a post that I wrote some time ago on the “Uganda Proposal”:
    “……we shouldn’t think too much about the fact that at 15,500 km2 (1) the new state would have been substantially smaller than present day Israel, which has 20,770 km2 as I am sure that by now our zany Zionists would be telling all and sundry that there is no Maasai, no Acholi, no Hutu, no Tutsi, no Chagga, no Nyika, no Kamba, no Kikuyu, no ….. anyway, get the picture? We would be hearing some unadultarated drivel to the effect that they are are all Africans, and that Africans already have most of the continent so its alright to establish a Jewish homeland, a bastion of western civilisation, from the Zambezi to the Blue Nile.”
    While it is important for all of us to cross our “tees” and dot our “eyes” in our dealings with the Zionists, the quote above has to be the issue and not the fact that almost all of the 15,500 km2 are in what is today Kenya.
    Moreover, it is something we should always bear in mind when discussing the real issues. Anti-semitism, where it exists, is to be abhorred. However, its misuse and abuse by the Zionist and the current Islamophobia are tools which provide unsustainable arguments for Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. The real issue is quite simply, Palestine was not empty, it was emptied, and the ethnic cleansing that started in 1948 is ongoing.

  23. David Ellis

    March 6, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Good stuff sans.

  24. Ruth Tenne

    March 10, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    I have to agree with Sanctulottist that “sometimes we would do well to get back to basics” . However, I may find it difficult to “get back to basics” as I was fed throughout my youthood with symbol-based Zionist mythos which attempted to justify the creation of the Jewish/Israeli state and re-invent a new Jewish/Israeli identity that both supports the exclusiveness of the Jewish people (“you has chosen us from all nations” – a prayer) while claiming the high moral ground for universal morality and ethics ( “being a light onto nations”).

    In a later period of my life , I learned to recognise and take a stance against that “legendary ” version of Jewish chronicle /narrative and its abuse by the supporters of the Zionist’s supremacy ideology . It hurts me to see that the PSC has adopted a motion which virtually gives a “green light” to those who use the “new Anti-Semitism ” accusations as an ammunition for sheltering r Israel’s atrocities and fending off criticism of Israel.

    To put it crudely the PSC seems happy to support and even collaborate with those who use the weapon of “new anti-semitism ” against Fatah, Hamas, and anti-Zionist Jews and non-Jews .

    Perhaps not much had been changed since I wrote the enclosed article which was published by International Socialism (2006) , though the boundaries between Zionist and anti-Zionist seems to have become completely blurred now .

    Issue: 111
    Posted: 3 July 06
    Ruth Tenne
    Israel’s advocates in the dock

    Ruth Tenne

    A review of Norman Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (Verso, 2005), £16.99

    My advanced computer’s software does not seem to recognise the word Islamophobia. Each time I try to key in the word it is highlighted as an error. Yet the word anti-Semitism is always accepted by my computer. It seems that the concept of Islamophobia has not yet entered the virtual world while anti-Semitism has long penetrated the global conscience—though its meaning may have differed throughout

    Norman Finkelstein’s book Beyond Chutzpah offers a gripping, scholarly account of the extent to which the charge of anti-Semitism has become a weapon readily used by the Israeli lobby to fend off a genuine criticism of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians and to stifle any attempt at forcing Israel to comply with international law. In order to give some intellectual weight to their political expedient the term of ‘new anti-Semitism’ has been invoked by Israel’s apologists who argue that ‘if classical anti-Semitism is anchored in discrimination against the Jewish religion, the new anti-Semitism is anchored in discrimination against the Jews as people and the embodiment of that expression in Israel’ (p33).

    Professor Finkelstein skilfully dissects and demolishes the dominant trope of ‘new anti-Semitism’, claiming that ‘the consequences of the calculated hysteria of a new anti-Semitism have not been just to immunise Israel from legitimate criticism. Its over-arching purpose, like the war against terrorism, has been to deflect criticism of unprecedented assault on international law’ (p45). Following on from his previous book, The Holocaust Industry, Finkelstein argues that ‘a parallel distinction needs to be made between real anti-Semitism and the instrumentalisation of anti-Semitism by American (or other) Jewish elites’. He goes on to say that the ‘evidence of new anti- Semitism comes mostly from organisations directly or indirectly linked to Israel or having a material stake in inflating the findings of anti-Semitism’.

    Having demonstrated and dissected the supporting evidence Finkelstein concludes convincingly that ‘the worst enemies in the struggle against real anti-Semitism are the philo-Semites… By turning a blind eye to Israeli crimes in the name of sensitivity to past Jewish suffering, they enable Israel to continue on a murderous path that foments anti-Semitism, and for that matter, the destruction of Israelis.’

    Finkelstein’s comments regarding the phenomenon of philo-Semitism, which ‘typically arises on the European scene’ are especially disturbing. The recent trial and jail sentence of ‘Holocaust denier’ David Irving under crusading Austrian laws; the suspension of the Mayor of London for his ill-judged, yet unintentional, ‘Nazi jibe’ at a Jewish journalist; the emotionally charged statement by the British Chief
    Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, warning Europe of the tsunami of anti-Semitism which engulfs the world, seem to create a witchhunt atmosphere that is likely to destroy the perilous multi-faith harmony in Britain and Europe.

    Equally perturbing is the decision to set up a Parliamentary All-Party Inquiry into anti-Semitism which singles out religiously-motivated abuses against Jews—implying that similar offences against Muslims (which, according to the police, are three times higher than against Jews) are insignificant.

    The focus on anti-Semitism rather than on the rising incidents of Islamophobia is also noted by Finkelstein, who discusses the findings of a study by the Pew Research Center in the US. This study concluded that ‘favourable ratings of Jews are actually higher now (March 2004) than in 1991’, pointing out that Europeans hold much more negative views of Muslims than of Jews (p76). In consequence, Finkelstein
    argues, ‘a non ideology driven political agenda would rank animus directed at Muslims as a priority concern’.

    Undoubtedly the use of anti-Semitism as a political instrument may carry the danger of self-fulfilling prophecy, whereby the misuse and mislabelling of anti-Semitism may increase real manifestations of anti-
    Semitism. There is a significant difference between institutionalised anti-Semitism, such as in Nazi Germany, and random and fluctuating incidents of racial and religiously-motivated attacks which are given
    to being misused and employed as political weapons. Such concern was echoed recently by the carefully chosen words of the home secretary, Charles Clarke: ‘There is a fundamental difference between anti-Semitism and attacking Jews for race and faith’ (Evening Standard, 7 March). In the same vein, Finkelstein concludes that ‘those Jews committed to the struggle against the real anti-Semitism must in the first instance expose the specious anti-Semitism for the sham of it’ (p84).

    The crux of Finkelstein’s book, however, is the exposure of Israel’s abuse of human rights which is legally defended and justified by Alan Dershowitz’s book, The Case for Israel (2003). Dershowitz, according to Finkelstein, had lifted significant parts of his source material from Joan Peters’ book, From Time Immemorial, which had ‘plagiarised Zionist propaganda tracts’ attempting to prove that Palestine had been virtually empty and barren before the ‘Zionist colonisation’. Finkelstein contends that both Dershowitz and Peters used the same modi operandi where ‘in disguise of scholarly tract each grossly distorts the documentary record’(p90).

    To counter Dershowitz’s claim that Israel’s record on human rights is generally superb, Finkelstein eruditely distilled and analysed thousands of pages from reports issued by Israeli and international human rights bodies. Those documents include horrifying records of torture of minors, indiscriminate killing, unlawful and willing killing of innocent citizens, hostage taking, attacks on ambulances, hospitals and medical personnel, and excess use of lethal force—all of which are carried out by the Israeli military under the blanket approval of Israel’s Supreme Court which ‘rationalised virtually all controversial actions of the Israeli authorities, especially those most problematic under principles of international and humanitarian law’ (Professor Kretzmer, The Hebrew University, 2002). This claim is echoed by the Israeli human rights information centre, B’Tselem, which maintains that ‘what renders Israel’s abuses unique is the relentless efforts to justify what can not be justified’.

    Perhaps the most appalling crime documented in Finkelstein’s book is the indiscriminate, and arguably intentional, killing of children. According to B’Tselem, during the second Intifada (September 2000 to September 2004) 598 Palestinian minors were killed as compared to 110 Israeli minors. ‘It is no wonder that many people term such a wholesale killing of children terror’, concludes an Israeli journalist (G Levy, Ha’aretz, 17 October 2004).

    Norman Finkelstein’s formidable forensic skills and compelling evidence turn Alan Dershowitz’s book, The Case for Israel, into a testimony for the case against Israel.

    Unlike Norman Finkelstein I was brought up on the Zionist ideology by my parents who emigrated to Israel in the early 1930s. As a child I was told that the Jewish people have the right to the biblical land and that my kibbutz—which was built on the the ruins of an ancient Jewish town—is an expression of our national heritage and legitimate claim to the land of Israel. I never saw the ruins of this talmudic ancient Jewish town but I saw the ruins of the three Palestinian villages nearby, which, together with about 400 other Palestinian villages, were razed to the ground in the aftermath of the 1948 ‘War of Independence’. The slow recognition that a nation which claims to ‘rise from the ashes of the Holocaust’ has no moral right
    to trample upon the living soul and national aspirations of another people made me campaign against the injustice inflicted on the Palestinians. Finkelstein’s book, as he hoped, provided me with a solid basis and inspiring impetus ‘to act on the basis of truth’, so as to ‘achieve a just and lasting peace in Israel and Palestine’.


  25. sanculottist

    March 10, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    While not wishing to open up a debate on nature vs nurture, my take on things is that while Marx is right in his hypothesis that , “das gesellschaftliche Sein bestimmt das Bewusstsein”, (our being in society, determines our consciousness), he never saw being in society as something static.

    Therefore, while the evidence would appear to suggest that your own “Werdegang” (personal background but also personal development in this context) represents namely that, “a development”, what we ultimately have someone whose consciousness developed to a point where, on an intellectual level, they can synthesize and, on a moral level, they can empathize. A development that is certainly lost on those of the Benny Morris ilk, who, while accepting that there was an ethnic cleansing of Palestine, appear to view that ethnic cleansing as a necessity.

    In short, without wishing to sound patronizing, you know how to distinguish between right and wrong and as I have stated, time and time again, racism is wrong, xenophobia is wrong, antisemitism is wrong, and ……… ethnic cleansing is wrong, wrong, wrong!

    Finally, a word on Norman Finkelstein, who has to be credited with defending the rights of Palestinians for more than thirty years. His recent interview with the BDS movement, led to me writing a post where my conclusion had to be that while he is, unlike Dershowitz, neither stupid nor immoral, he, nevertheless, remains a “soft Zionist”. Moreover, while nobody rubs their hands more in glee than I do when he destroys the non-arguments of the “hard Zionists” with his, “that is the law …… “, there are certain legal inconsistencies in his own arguments when he argues for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

  26. Ruth Tenne

    March 11, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Just to say that someone (a hacker?) blurs all the comments and it is very difficult to read (and reply to) them. Is there a conspiracy here , or only a technical hitch for which the Hackers are not to blame?

    Anyway ,Sanctulottist, I read your blog’s take on Norman Finkelstein , and I do not fully agree with it. I actually respect and admire Finkelstein for his staunch defence of, and relentless work for advancing Palestinian rights ( I have heard him twice in London and he is one of the most articulate persons I have ever met). I do not think that he could be considered as a Zionist , or a supporter of a Jewish state . But I believe that he ( and Chomsky) is a realist who may have given priority to the “facts on the ground” and to finding a workable solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict rather than stick to an illusionary paradigm of the future which simply escapes reality and promote a dangerous form of inaction.

    I actually do not want to enter into a discussion about Finkelstein , or about the one/two state solution/paradigm . I did write a number of articles about this issue (which were published by Palestinian and pro-Palestinian websites ) and I am quite certain that you or Red Scribe ,for that matter ,would not agree with my analysis and solution for the future .

    However, I , perhaps like Norman Finkelstein, have reached an impasse, or possibly it may be the end of the road for me. My brother in Israel do not want to communicate, or have anything to do with me and my “funny politics”. My ex-colleagues banished me now as I am alleged to be a Holocaust Denier ( or rather I seconded a motion for PSC’s AGM which my former friends/colleagues claim to have been put forward by a Holocaust Denier),
    So, maybe I need to reflect and retreat from activism now – though my commitment to the Palestinian cause is strong as ever

  27. sanculottist

    March 11, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    NF has been confronted with this a number occasions and he has at no time in the past actually brought Israel’s existence as a Jewish state into question. What he has done, however, and we both agree here, is, he has fought against the crimes perpetuated against the Palestinian people and he has brought those crimes to the attention of a wider audience. For this I give him credit and point out that out in my post, while emphasizing that he is also in no way immoral.

    That hypothesis is, of course, itself a conundrum as Zionism is a priori “immoral”. However, in Finkelstein’s case I find myself under pressure, simply because I admire his engagement for the Palestinian people and his intellectual ability when it comes to defending them. Nevertheless, surely he himself must realise that any two state solution that is based on the pre-67 borders is not only unrealistic, in view of the settlements, but also illegal as it would ultimately ignore resolution 194. Moreover, his stance on those Palestinians inside the “Green Line” is also interesting.

    However If the Palestinians and Israelis wished to negotiate his “soft-zionist” solution, and that is a big if considering what I have just said, then it is not a solution I would stand be unable to accept. Still, to reiterate, it is a solution which, considering the evidence on the ground, is unrealistic and it is a solution which contradicts Finkelstein’s own, consistently effective, “that is the law” arguments. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that making the whole of “mandatory Palestine” a state for all of its people, is not only more realistic, but also a solution which would, despite UNGA resolution 181, ultimately be more just than anything so-called two state solution which they are likely to get at the moment and are likely to get, if they adopt, the position that NF is wanting them to take at the moment.

    As I mentioned in my post; the Palestinians have to approach negotiations with as many cards in their hands as possible and these “cards” will be based on their legal case. Resolution 193 is a part of that case.

  28. redscribe

    March 12, 2012 at 8:07 am


    “Just to say that someone (a hacker?) blurs all the comments and it is very difficult to read (and reply to) them. Is there a conspiracy here , or only a technical hitch for which the Hackers are not to blame?!”

    I’m not sure what might cause this. Could it be a problem with a browser?

  29. Ruth Tenne

    March 13, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    Thanks Red Scribe, the problem seemed to have been resolved. As I use a library computer of Camden borough , it may have been a hitch in their own system ( we quite often suffer from technical problems).

    Sanculottist , I have to say that I came across your point of view quite often. I do not wish to enter into a discussion /debate here . I did write an exhaustive article on the question of Palestinian statehood (just before President Abbas made his appeal to the UN), and I am grateful to Middle East online who published it inspite of its “controversial” views, and to the Palestine Return Centre who also posted it on their website .

    Having born and grow up in a mandatory Palestine which was rivited by massacres, murders and ongoing conflict between the British, Jews and Palestinians, I have completely different “take” on one state/two state soloution . I only want to say now that in my view the first step out of the conflict is a Unity Government between Hamas and Fatah- issuing a democratic “bill of Rights” or draft consitution ,and setting up the apparatus for governance and self-setermination (as Marwan Barhaguti – the imprisoned leader of Fatah and the one who had intitated the Hamas and Fatah “prisoners statement/agreement ” which started the negotiation porcess between Hamas and Fatah ), has been advocating.
    I also detailed the steps which has to be followed in my article , but I suspect that quite a few one-staters would not.agree with me.

    Finally one does not wipe out a state just because s/he does not like its regime. the purpose should be , in my biew, to get rid of that regime and introduce a more just regime. Giving the Palestinians a vote, or offering them citizenships would not erase the inequalities and discrimination. by the dominant structure . . There are about 20% Palestinians in Israel and about 25% of them are regarded as internal refugees who have no civic and civil rights (though they have citizenship). Those are the ones for whom the state of Israel should , in the first place, stop discriminating against , in all spheres of life.. (though I doubt those Palestinians would like to see a one-state soloution and I do not think that anyone has ever carried a systematic survey among them). The restoration of the full rights of the 1.3 million Palestinian citizesn of Israel would also be a major step forward towards turning the state to a multi-culture/ethnic group rather than a singular jewish/Zionsit state. this , of course , does not perclude the urgency of just soloution to the Palestinian refugees problem in the West Bank , Gaza, Syria, Jordan , and Lebanon where the “hosting” governments deprive those refugees of the basic human rights (I just have read an bulletin of Medical Aid for Palestinians which touches on this issue – though it is still seems to be a taboo issues among Western and Middle-East/Arab countries to which no one is referring, or addressing apart from charities and releif organisations..

  30. David Ellis

    March 14, 2012 at 10:13 am

    The witch hunt continues. Why don’t you concentrate on fighting Zionism instead of setting yourself up as the gatekeeper of the Palestinian Solidarity Movement?

  31. sanculottist

    March 14, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Gilad does seem to be walking around with a chip on his shoulder, while being as much a prisoner of his Jewish identity as Tony Greenstein and many others.
    In 1991 Gregor Gysi was asked what it meant to be German – Gysi was the first “Chairman” of the PDS, the successor party to the SED’ (Socialist Unity Germany) the ruling party in the German Democratic Republic – . He replied that being German was part of his identity but on a scale of priorities from 1-20 he would rate it about number 20. At the time, I applauded this. Unfortunately, the same Gysi, who is also Jewish, later said; “The concept of imperialism does not apply to Israel,” and that. “Israeli democracy,is a really great achievement, that deserves admiration.”
    It is politcally expedient for Ali Abunimah and others to distance themselves from Atzmon’s rhetoric, and I am sure that Mr Abunimah is neither an anti-Semitic, nor a racist. However the last poster has hit the nail on the head, “Zionism” is the issue here and whatever Gregor Gysi or anyone else might think, it is not a great achievement, that deserves admiration.
    Referring back to Ruth’s comment about “The restoration of the full rights of the 1.3 million Palestinian citizens of Israel”. Those citizens have never had and cannot have “full rights” in a Jewish state. Finkelstein is, at least, right on this point. Moreover, while simply reading Ilan Pappe’s, ‘The Forgotten Palestinians’ will inform us of this, it is Jonathan Cook’s, ‘Blood and Religion’ that, in my opinion, gives us an insight into their future.

  32. sanculottist

    March 14, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Found myself looking back on the initial comments on this post; “Very good piece of writing, but can socialists, Marxist or the Left move on? can they empathize with the oppressed? with the Muslim?” (Atzmon).
    Yes, Muslims are being oppressed and we should identify with the oppressed. However, at least six million have died in the DR Congo alone in the last ten years, Vietnamese children are still suffering from the inherited effects of Agent Orange and, believe it or not, if that “Uganda experiment” had taken roots all those years ago, we would be demonizing the Maasai.

  33. Ruth Tenne

    March 14, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    I saw the Electronic Intifada’s piece as Tony Greenstein has already sent it to me. ( I am still on his e-mail list though he did not send me his “golden piece” entitled Idiot Atzmonite – Ruth Tenne – which is now all over the internet as it keeps rolling on Greenstein’s precious blog).

    I totally agree with Sanctulottist who argues that “It is politically expedient for Ali Abu Nimah and others to distance themselves from Atzmon’s rhetoric”. I believe those Palestinian activists who consider themselves at the vanguard of political activism and resistance against the Zionist regime/state feel that in order to get the full support of the Palestine Solidarity movement, and especially that of BDS and J-BIG, they have to demonstrate that they are “cleaner than white “(sorry for the cliche). They, thus, unwittingly collaborate with the very Zionists of which they are against ( I have already said that in my previous posts on “PSC witchunt” and here . so sorry for repeating myself).

    I agree with Sanctulottist’s observation that Greenstein, Atzmon and others, like myself, carry some chip on their shoulder with regard to their Jewish indentity .The difference is, that while TG and his supporters wish to preserve their Jewish identify and heritage, I feel that I would like to question the essence of my identity and the deep-seated exclusiveness on which it is based.

    I do not wish to be flippant here . I try now to write a personal piece about my experience of the Holocaust narrative – which is still regarded as sacrosanct and is kept alive by Zionist and PSC activists alike. ( I hope my piece would not be regarded as blasphemy, if I ever find a website which agrees to publish/post it )

  34. sanculottist

    March 14, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Not sure what Gild Atzmon is trying to do regarding his Jewish identiy and to be honest, while I find him to be a little bit “obsessed”, sometimes he hits the nail on the head. Although, having said that, the ‘Electronic Intifada’ are right to disown him completely. They would be gobbled up if they didn’t.

    Moreover, with Finkelstein and Chomsky I would be willing to include them in any debate even although they are both “soft zionists”, and not because it is politically expedient to do so but because I actually trust them, know where I am with them, and believe them both to be morally on the same planet as me, with Gilad, at this point in time, I am not too sure, Apologies if I am doing him an injustice and If I am, I would excuse myself by agreeing with the EI’s implied conclusion, that he is, at least, a political liability. Tony Greenstein reminds me of a cross between Gregor Gysi and Arthur Scargill.

    On nationalism, it goes something like this; it went to bed as a sleeping beauty and awoke as an ugly monster. The assumption here is that it went to sleep around about 1848 and when it awoke …… After the “Ausgliech” with Hungary in 1867 the Hapsbourg Empire became the dual monarchy but what about the Czechs, the Croats, the Slovaks, the Poles, etc. etc. and, yes, the Jews. The rise of Pan-Slavism and then Pan-Germanism, with their emphasis on language, race and, to some extent, religion (Germany being an exception) could not ultimately lead to a healthy patriotism as it had to be exclusive. Af best your nation was a “Primus inter pares”, and at worst?

    You didn’t only identify with your “nation”, in a world where your neighbours were something else, you began to see something special in your nation. It is in this context that I see Zionism and to see how ugly the monster can become there is no need to look further than that “Völkisch” ideology that took root in Germany in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and reared its Nazi head in 1933. The consequences of the “deep-seated exclusiveness” you talk about Ruth, is a hideous “Weltanschauung” that splits the planet up into “Übermenschen” and “Untermenschen”. It is on that note I would like to invoke something that the Scottish me can be proud of and quote Robert Burns to you:

    Then let us pray that come it may,
    (As come it will for a’ that,)
    That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
    Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
    For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
    It’s coming yet for a’ that,
    That Man to Man, the world o’er,
    Shall brothers be for a’ that.

    Identity is important but identity changes ….. look at all of those immigrants to the United States who have melted into melting pot and become good and, of course, bad, Americans. Yes, as Burns said; “a man’s a man …..” Nevertheless, I have absolutely no problem with people cultivating an identity as long as they are not harming others while doing so.

    Moreover, nobody has a monopoly on “exclusiveness” even today ….. Andrew J.Bacevich’s book title ‘Washington Rules’ is a play on words, but quite appropriate, in China they go on and on and on about their so-called 5,000 year history, Arab racism vis-a-vis black people can be quite disgusting at times …. and on, and on, and on.

    Finally, apropos the Holocaust. In the 80s I wrote an M.A. dissertaion on Ernst von Weizsäcker and in the epilogue I wrote:
    “Weizsäcker, like the other “Berufsdiplomaten” in the Wilhelmstrasse, defended himself at Nürnberg by saying that he remained in office, “Um Schlimmeres zu verhüten” (to prevent worse happening). The systematic murdering of European Jewry surely epitomises “Das Schlimmste” (the worst)”.

    Weizsäcker was a rogue, a criminal and a hypocrite, but then the evidence would appear to suggest that these are hardly exclusive characteristics.

  35. Ruth Tenne

    March 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Sanctulottist, I am not sure that I understand the enclosed para of your post. Is it addressed to me?

    “You didn’t only identify with your “nation”, in a world where your neighbours were something else, you began to see something special in your nation. It is in this context that I see Zionism and to see how ugly the monster can become there is no need to look further than that “Völkisch” ideology that took root in Germany in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and reared its Nazi head in 1933. The consequences of the “deep-seated exclusiveness” you talk about Ruth, is a hideous “Weltanschauung” that splits the planet up into “Übermenschen” and “Untermenschen”. It is on that note I would like to invoke something that the Scottish me can be proud of and quote Robert Burns to you:”

    I certainly do not identify with my “nation” and its “deep seated exclusiveness” – did you read postings on both “PSC witchunt article by Res Scribe and all my previous posting on the “Jewish Question piece by Red Scribe? as well as well as my letters on The Weekly Worker website ?
    It is quite clear that all my struggle with PSC’s crusade against Holocaust Denial and alleged anti-Semitism is result of the very fact that I do not support the Jewish heritage “deep-seated exclusiveness” and the narrative of jewish chronicle/history on which the Jewish state is based.
    Yes I was born to staunch Zionist parents in a kibbutz, and it is still a continuing struggle for me to deny and combat the ingrained imperatives of Jewish and Zionist identity and for this struggle I pay a very high price of being isolated from my family , friends and being alienated and uprooted from my past.

    Just for factual facts of which you may not be aware of Sanctolottist . I have left Israel at the end of 1969 having received a scholarship to continue my post graduate studies for a second M.A/Ph.D at the LSE. I chose to stay in London and became activist in the PSC. J-BIG and Jews for Justice for Palestinians. I only visited Israel once in 1972 for a family wedding . My Israeli passport has long expired and I never renewed it (I have now a British nationality ,or rather dual nationality as I found the procedures of renouncing my Israeli citizenship quite daunting).
    Those are my “street credentials” , Sanctulottist . You are free to call me nationalist, though you would find yourself in contrast with my Jewish “anti Zionist” ex-colleagues who refer to me as a Holocaust Denier and (latent) anti-Semite.

    The stage is all yours, Sanctulottist ,but I feel that you got the wrong end of the platform.

    Since you quoted (to me?) a poem by Burns let me refer you to my recent poem which is based on my childhood memories of the Naqba. You may find it quite telling. as well as on the website of Palestine News Network (PNN) .


  36. sanculottist

    March 15, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    it wasn’t addressed directly to you ruth, the “you” here is generic, although there are some, albeit indirect, references to your post. the references to nationalism, however, are only to point out that nationalism of any sort is invariably exclusive.

    nevertheless, while it is right to put zionism into a wider context, it is perhaps not always appropriate to try to depersonalize something that can be very personal.
    your piece at the “sentinel quarterly” evoked images of 2006 when i worked at the nahr al-bared camp near tripoli, lebanon, my friends there would show me their keys. and your “I could not break away from my soul-crushing past, even if I sometimes try”, conjures up images of someone who is, at least figuratively, just as trapped as the people who live in that camp.

    however, to reiterate, the “you” is generic and it could be substituted with “they”, “one”, “people” etc.

  37. sanculottist

    March 15, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    it might be better to substitute “spirtitually” for “figuratively”.

  38. Ruth Tenne

    March 15, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Thanks for clearing up the misundersanding, Sanctulottist, I was not sure whether the use of “you” in your posting meant me , but the more I read your posting the more I got convinced that you addressed me personally – so I am glad that it had been resoloved now.

    My poem , actually , was written just before President Abbas made his appeal for stathood to UN . I thought at the time that some decisive resolution and action of the UN security Council (as well as mass reaction of world leaders and civic society) would be followed. However ,nothing seems to have come out of it ( I am aware , Sanctulottist, that you and many others, on the right and the left , may not approve of Abbas’ and the PLO’s appeal for self-deteermination).

    I am sorry to say that I sent the poem to a number of Palestinians and pro-Palestinians websites who published quite a significant number of my writing before, but none of them bothered to respond.,

    Sentinel Literary Quarterly responded positively right away as they published my childhood memoirs before on their website . However, when I discovered the website of Palestine News Network I sent the poem to them as well and the Female Editor of PPN published it the moment she got it ,and asked me to send her more of my writings. So I hope that when I finish my current piece about PSC’s undertaking of a crusade against alleged Holocaust deniers, the Editor of PNN would have the courage to publish/post it on her website.

    (incidently Medical Aid for Palestinians recently published in its Witness bulletin a very gloomy account of the Nhar- al -Bared camp and its past destruction by the Lebanese army)

  39. sanculottist

    March 15, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    It was a British Council project with the UNRWA and we were working on methods with English teachers. Of course, our methods can hardly be applied to classes where you have seventy students. Nevertheless, it was fun for them and fun for me and when Israel attacked in 2006 one of the things that got me angry was that their summer was messed up and so was mine. A little bit selfish, perhaps, but that is what I thought.
    They were great people and many of them are trying ot live normal lives despite their conditions. Those conditions, of course, aren’t helped by a Lebanese government that discriminates against them at every turn.
    On that note, the hypocrisy, divisions, and prejudices, in the Arab world is also quite frightening. However, I did permit myself a giggle today when I read that Bahrain has adivsed its citiizens to leave Damascus “because of worsening security conditons”. Yes, go back to Manama and get beaten up by an Al-Khalifa hired thug…. Oh, and when you hear Saudi’s King Abdullah demanding an end to the bloodshed in Syria ….
    The poem is good …. I originally thought that it was by Primo Levi and then I noticed that only the quote at the top was from him. Ended up doing a little bit of research on him and I am, at the time of writing this, still not sure how he died.

  40. redscribe

    March 17, 2012 at 12:20 am

    Ruth wrote:

    “I totally agree with Sanctulottist who argues that “It is politically expedient for Ali Abu Nimah and others to distance themselves from Atzmon’s rhetoric”. I believe those Palestinian activists who consider themselves at the vanguard of political activism and resistance against the Zionist regime/state feel that in order to get the full support of the Palestine Solidarity movement, and especially that of BDS and J-BIG, they have to demonstrate that they are “cleaner than white “(sorry for the cliche). They, thus, unwittingly collaborate with the very Zionists of which they are against ( I have already said that in my previous posts on “PSC witchunt” and here . so sorry for repeating myself).”

    Yes, this is short-term political expediency, not principle, that is involved here. Which leads to the curious phenomenon of postings by such people being cross-posted on Zionist blogs like Harry’s Place, to applause from supporters of those on the other side of the struggle. This is never a good sign – if your bitterest enemies start giving you even faint praise, it always damns you in the long run.

    That would only not be the case if there were real signs of a genuine opening up to trying to accommodate the demands of the oppressed, but in fact the opposite is the case. The war drums are beating louder and louder – Netanhayu, Peres and co are trying to strong-arm Obama into co-sponoring an attack on Iran, threatening to de-stabilise the presidential election and maybe engineer his defeat if he does not comply. There is a very strong likelihood of some kind of war provocation as we move through the summer, that may be carefully timed to cause the maximum effect and damage. And the war threat in the Middle East is already pushing up oil prices and threatening the Western economies just as Obama was beginning to think things might be turning the corner.

    Being praised by people who are blatantly cheering for such a thing will not be to their credit in the long run, I tend to think. It may become considerably more embarrassing even than being associated with people who are disoriented and alienated enough to react to the Zionist misuse of Nazi genocide to justify this by branding it as just another lie.

    Incidentally, whatever the mistakes of Atzmon or even Eisen, sanscullotist is wrong to talk about them as if there was a ‘moral’ difference between them and ‘soft Zionists’ like Chomsky and Finkelstein. I don’t see the ‘moral’ difference. Even being so outrageously mistaken as is Paul Eisen on the genocide of his own people more than half a century ago is not a moral failing. I have not seen these people advocate killing civilians, or in fact killing anyone, unlike the rulers of Israel and their cheerleaders, who not only advocate it but do it and boast about it.

    There is nothing to be gained by branding people like Chomsky or Finkelstein as Zionists either. Its not even accurate. Only those who support the repressive activities of the Israeli state should be branded Zionists, not those who may have differences how to achieve gains against it. Democracy, and fraternal debate between different progressive trends, is the way to overcome false counterpositions and flawed political understandings among those who are committed to the cause of the oppressed. This should be applied consistently, to all progressive trends. That’s not a pledge of a polemical non-aggression pact by the way, but just a demand for an end to attempts at solving complex political problems by dictat.

  41. sanculottist

    March 17, 2012 at 9:36 am

    i actually don’t think i have referred to elsen, yet, but his article on ali sbunimah and his solidarity career’ was interesting as was laura stuart’s articlet on omar barghouti who, apparently, studies at tel aviv university, while calling for a boycott of israel.

    it is not even clear that i equated atzmon with finkelstein and, as i am just about to have breakfast, i won’t be doing a bottom up reading of my letters and posts to see if i have. nevertheless, i think i said something like “even atzmon”. in written discourse the “even” signfies quite a different reference to “equating with.”

    nevertheless, i agree with you ruth 100%. whatever the nature of the ongoing debate; finkelstein vs the bds, the bds vs atzmon etc. the reality is that nobody here is even advocating violence, never mind pracitcing. moreover, as i have implied time and time again mine is a very, very broad church in which all of those named above would be included.

    your reference to a “non-agression pact” was interesting, if only because it conjured up images of the molotov-rippentrop pact. and got me thinking “history”. that in turn led to me thinking that this infighting among anti-zionists and, even if unwillingly so, soft-zionists, has another parallel that is even more relevant and more disturbing. namely, the break down of the popular front and the subsequent equation of social democracy of course, the slaughter of the poum in spain, by the communists.

    yes. there is most certainly nothing gained by branding people like chomsky or finkelstein and, of course, people like avnery or hass, zionists and there is nothing to be gained by calling atzmon an anti-zionist zionist – bit like a “self hating jew” that one and i genuinely think mike marquesee’s book, “if i am not for myself” is worth a read there. still, apropos “atzmon”, hits the nail on the head time and time again, but when i watched his latest rantings on the book of esther …… mmmm.

    would really like to get back to basics on this one and, once again, what we have is the ethnic cleansing of one people by another ….. and i don’t really care if the ethnically cleansed are tutsi or hutu, and the cleansers are hutu or tutsi …… and if i found a hutu who was willing to help the tutsi, or vice versa i would welcome him on board, even if he had still retained elements of the smug hutu … hope that makes sense.

  42. redscribe

    March 17, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    nevertheless, i agree with you ruth 100%

    Actually that was me, not Ruth. though I can see how the formatting can be confusing 🙂

  43. Ruth Tenne

    March 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Sancturlottist. I enclose a link to a long and detailed article about the circumstances of Primo levi’s death which is still questioned by the Italian authorities and other acquaintances/witnesses (please refer to the Postscriptum). I must say that I was quite surprised to read it as I was brought to believe by world and Jewish commentators that he committed suicide . However, it is quite clear to me that the jewish community used his suicide as another weapon to demonstrate the inedible scars of the Holocaust and use it in defending any “revisionist” attempts to doubt , or raise questions about its sacred narrative

    “A third group, especially in Turin’s Jewish community, said he was greatly upset by the controversy, sparked by revisionist historians in Germany and France, over the uniqueness and real extent of the Holocaust”
    (Please refer to part II of the article).

    The issue of the “uniqueness” of the Holocaust , is indeed one which continues to raise a great controversy , and to which, Sanctulottist, you refer in your comments. I tend to agree with you as I regard the efforts made to differentiate the Holocaust from any and other form of genocides /extermination (be it past or present) as a sheer indication to the way the Holocaust (Soah ) was virtually highjacked by the Jewish people and their supporters . In Britain it is demonstrated in various forms of Holocaust memorial day , Education programme continued reference in the media to the Jewish Holocaust (my local papers are full of it) , not to mention plays , movies reading event and ongoing media publicity.
    It is difficult to express some more controversial opinion in such circumstances as I learned from my own experience .

    I entirely agree with Red Scribe’s comments about the significant difference between the (hardcore) “Zionist brigade” and scholars like Finkelstein or Noam Chomsky whose main purpose , I believe, is to advance and fight for the Palestinian cause. I, however, try to avoid being entangled in a specific discussion about Atzmon, Eisen and others as my main aim in protesting against the PSC’s new mission of crusading against alleged anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers , was to fight for the right of free expression of PSC’s members – even if it may entail challenging the official version of the Holocaust . I do not believe that such acrusade should be part of the PSC’s agenda and it would inevitably diminish its independent campaign for the rights of the Palestinians . ( I am sad to see that those Palestinians who signed the published the “statement” against Gilad Atzmon did not understand , or did not want to understand, the implications of their “honourable” action)

  44. sanculottist

    March 17, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    The “Historikerstreit” here in Germany had implications that were wider than “just” the Holocaust.
    Nolte in his book “the three faces of fascism sees the ” Action Francaise, italian Fascism and National Socialism” as belonging to an “age of fascism”. That is the main thesis. However, it does bring up the question of “uniqueness” and “uniqueness” in terms of a German “Sonderweg” must a priori include the Holocaust.

    My own, and it is my own, conclusion is that while National Socialism might be seen as being just one expression of fascism in an “age of fascism”, it had nevertheless, a “Völkisch” element that at least facilitated the Holocaust.

    However, that in itself should not be enough to for a whole generation of Germans to have to feel guilty for their fathers’ crimes (“Vergangenhietsbewältigung”), although, we should all learn from those crimes, and it most certainly does not give Zionists any right to commit crimes of their own. We need not doubt that the people of Deir Yassin, Sabra, Shatilla, Gaza, Jenin etc. can, if they are still alive, better empathize with the victims of the Nazi death camps, than a Netenyahu, Lieberman, Lipi etc. ever can.

  45. redscribe

    March 17, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    “My own, and it is my own, conclusion is that while National Socialism might be seen as being just one expression of fascism in an “age of fascism”, it had nevertheless, a “Völkisch” element that at least facilitated the Holocaust. “

    I totally agree with this. The Volkisch movement was a key tributary that flowed into fascism in Germany that did not happen in other places, most notably Italy. Which does raise some questions about what is essential in fascism and what comes from other, prior political developments. The role of fascism though is clear, in a major crisis it takes all that is depraved and reactionary in a given society and unifies it into a fighting force to smash the obstacles to the unlimited power of the ruling class – mainly working class organisations. But what happens to other layers, e.g. to minorities such as the Jews, depends also on what other political trends fascism managed to so unify. In Germany, something very nasty indeed was part of the mix, which was not so true in Italy and some other places.

  46. sanculottist

    March 17, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    Yes, of course, the ruling elite did enter willingly into an alliance with the national socialists and yes, the ruling elite will enter into an alliance with anybody and anything, in order to smash any progressive forces which oppose it, but the ruling elite cannot always control the forces it enters into an alliance with and with Hitler combining the offices of President and “Reichskanzler”, after Hindenburg’s death in 1934, an act which went against constitutional law, there can be no doubt who was controlling who.

    Therefore, while the core of your thesis is essentially right, it is the ruling classes who mobilise fascism, and the reactionary forces that accompany it. to smash any progressive forces in society and, as stated above, they cannot always keep control of those reactionary forces.

    Hope this is not going to open up a debate on property relations in Germany from 33-45 and I already feel that I have drifted away from this particular forum.

  47. Ruth Tenne

    March 18, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    You may find quite interesting the e-mail below which was sent by a member of Camden PSC (the very same group which forced its long-standing and devoted secretary down for accusing her of being a Holocaust Denier) to its google group ( I erased any personal identification). My reply to the Google group of Camden PSC was quite predictable , but still valid

    sorry for getting wrong the spelling of Sanculottist in previous postings.

    Subject: RE: Israel’s bogus case for bombing Gaza obscures political motives
    Date: Sat, 17 Mar 2012 14:21:05 +0000


    Yes , as a child in an Israeli school I had to study and respect the bible as
    part of our Jewish heritage which provides the moral justification for an exclusive Jewish state. Sadly, the Bible’s teaching is still used as a moral imperative along with a deeply-seated syndrome of victimisation .


    From: To:
    Subject: RE: Israel’s bogus case for bombing Gaza obscures political motives
    Date: Sat, 17 Mar 2012 11:04:55 +0000

    Dear All;

    Re: the continuous “smiting” being carried on against Gaza, you may find the following verses from Deuteronomy Book 7 verses 1 to 6 interesting;

    1: When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou;

    2: And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them:

    3: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.

    4: For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.

    5: But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire.

    6: For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.

    Presumably the Israelites were simply following the instructions from the LORD to justify the racist behaviour and genocide against the peoples listed above. However, it does not include the Palestinians. the Jordanians, the Egyptians, the Syrians, the Iraqis, the Lebanese or the Iranians in the list – which the Israelis continue to smite and attempt to destroy.

    It will be interesting to see if the BBC Radio 4 programme this evening re: Political Assassination will include the numerous “political” assassinations carried out by Israel.


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