I publish below the introduction by Gilad Atzmon to a review of his book The Wandering Who by Norton Mezvinsky, the highly respected Jewish anti-Zionist professor and co-author (with the late Israel Shahak, the celebrated Israeli fighter for Arab rights) of Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel. The review is critical, and attempts to address various perceived problems with Atzmon’s work, all of which helps advance the cause of rational political debate on the questions Atzmon raises about world politics and the Middle East. Indeed it could be regarded in some ways, not as a demolition of Atzmon’s work by any means, but as a much more challenging criticism from a generally politically fraternal perspective than virtually any other progressive critique, including my own modest effort. Mezvinsky is not a Marxist, but on questions connected with Jews and Judaism he really knows of what he speaks. He is undoubtedly one of the most prominent authorities on this particular subject alive today
Category Archives: Imperialism
Growing out of the discussion on Syria in a previous thread, one fellow partisan of the Syrian revolution, using the name Voltairepaine, made series of criticisms of the perspective put forward in my article Imperialist Hands off the Syrian revolution. When composing the reply, I realised that to do the issues justice would require more than just another comment.
For those interested in following the debate, Voltairepaine’s full comment is here.
“Your definition of imperialism is ‘the West’.”
No, imperialism is the form of advanced capitalism that dominates the world today. The productive forces that it gives rise to are international in their social significance, and have a degree of social power that demands that they be subordinated to democratic social control, again on an international level. But in fact they are both largely privately owned and depend on particular very powerful nation states to defend the interests of the ruling classes that command these resources. That is, to defend their predatory interests against political developments in those countries which are its victims, which threaten its interests.
In that regard, Russia as I pointed out is hardly a world player, having a smaller GDP than India. China on the other hand has struggled very hard and by virtue of its natural resources and enormous population together with an state-owned economic system that in some ways has substituted quite effectively for its lack of a cohesive capitalist class (and more recently has been instrumental in developing such a class), appears to be on the verge of joining that exclusive club. But it is not there yet.
Voltairepaine continues his criticism with the following substantial point about Hizbullah and Lebanon:
“Hezbollah was an Iranian project. Funds, arms and training from Iran’s revolutionary Guard corps filtered through to Lebanese Shiaa militants. It was a resistance to an extended Israeli occupation, yes, but equally, it was the empowerment of the Shiaa community and their status as a sect in Lebanon, backed by ‘Al Fakih’ (the Shiaa supreme leader and direct representative of God on earth). Hezbollah was a materialization of Ayatollah Khomeini’s dreams of exporting the Islamic Revolution. On a more grounded level, it was about expanding the re-born Shiaa empire. Lebanese Hezbollah members will tell you this themselves. They’re proud to be part of it. Khomeini’s war with Iraq was also about exporting the Islamic revolution. It failed back then, but Iran’s aims haven’t changed today. This spiritual concept of ‘exporting revolution’ in reality amounts to Iranian military expansion and the securing of a regional status-quo that is protecting the Assad regime.”
At the time of writing, French police are besieging a gunman in a house in Toulouse, South-West France. The gunman is believed to be an Algerian Al Qa’eda supporter, and to be responsible for the murderous attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse that left three children and a rabbi dead, as well as earlier shootings of members of the French armed forces which killed three men.
Jenny Tonge, the Liberal Democrat peer, has been driven out of the party for her outspoken defence of the Palestinians. She was effectively sacked after speaking at a meeting at Middlesex University, where she was quoted as saying the following:”Beware Israel. Israel is not going to be there for ever in its present form… Israel will lose support and then they will reap what they have sown.”
She allegedly went on to say: “One day, the American people are going to say to the Israel lobby in the USA: enough is enough.”
She was immediately denounced by Labour leader Ed Miliband in a tweet where he said: “No place in politics for people who question existence of state of Israel. Nick Clegg must condemn Jenny Tonge’s remark and demand apology”.
Clegg did just what Miliband demanded, but to her great credit she refused to apologise for her opinions. And so the Lib Dems, previously the least Zionist- influenced of the three main parties in British politics, ran up the white flag before the Zionist lobby by purging their most outspoken defender of Palestinian rights.
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.