Does ‘left anti-Semitism’ exist or is it a pretext for social imperialism?
Brighton 15th September 2016
Chaired by Mark Sandell – Elected, Deposed & now Expelled Chair, Brighton & Hove District Labour Party
This is a debate which was held in Brighton as to the merits of AWL’s theory of ‘left anti-Semitism’. In essence this theory is just a regurgitation of the old Zionist refrain that anti-Semitism equals anti-Zionism. Except it’s dressed up in pseudo-left rhetoric.
AWL have had considerable problems persuading anyone of the merits of their arguments. They accept that the ‘anti-Semitism’ they are talking about is not a form of racism. This therefore presupposes that there can be a non-racist form of anti-Semitism. To my mind this is a crackpot theory which comes apart at the seams almost as soon as it is road tested.
The debate was chaired by someone who is a supporter of the AWL and although I didn’t want to make a principle out of it, it is the normally accepted convention that the person who goes first in a debate also goes last in the debate. It is also normally accepted that the Chair doesn’t intervene with a question in the middle of a speaker’s summing up!
I therefore have a few things to add to what was a two hour debate.
Firstly this debate doesn’t take place in a vacuum. It comes in the wake of a long and vicious campaign by the Right in the Labour Party together with the Zionists in the form of the so-called Jewish Labour Movement to weaponise anti-Semitism. ‘Anti-Semitism’ is wielded against anyone who disagrees with the Zionist narrative.
It is of course understandable that the Zionists attack their opponents as anti-Semitic. How else would you defend land confiscation, house demolition, crop destruction, torture etc? It is far better to attack your opponents than try to defend the indefensible.
I myself have been a victim of this form of defamation as has Jackie Walker, who was until recently the Vice Chair of Momentum’s Steering Committee until she was removed at the behest of its Chair, Jon Lansman. Because of their social chauvinism and imperialist politics, Lansman was aided in this task by Jill Mountford, the AWL member of Momentum’s SC.
One major component of AWL’s argument in support of Zionism which is almost identical to bourgeois commentators like Jonathan Freeland. In Labour and the left have an antisemitism problem Jonathan Freedland argued that ‘A recent survey found that 93% of British Jews said Israel formed some part of their identity.’ which was exactly Daniel Randall’s argument.
In other words if you oppose an identity, then you are in the case of the Jews anti-Semitic. And if that identity revolves around support for a reactionary apartheid state, you are still anti-Semitic –albeit a non-racist form of anti-Semitism! Logically if you oppose Ulster Loyalism, which is to be found among sections of the Scottish working-class, a bigoted sectarian allegiance, than you are anti-Protestant and also a non-racist racist!
Opposing an identity is never by itself racist. Of course if you attack a religion in order to attack a group of people, demonizing a particular religion, as the far-Right does with Islam, then that is racist because what they are doing is attacking the religion, not because they are atheists but as a cover, a disguise for their racism.
Daniel made heavy weather of the accusation that the anti-Zionism of the Left originates in the anti-Semitism of Stalinist Soviet Union. This again is complete nonsense without an iota of evidence, for example a comparison of written material. The anti-Zionism of the Left originates from the New Left of the post-1968 generation which owed nothing to Stalinism. It was one of the hallmarks of the New Left that they rejected both Stalinism and Washington. This bankrupt theory is one borrowed lock, stock and Zionist barrel from Zionist apologists.
Despite their pretensions, the AWL itself does not seriously care about 2 states. It knows it will never happen. What their concern with is supporting the Israeli state. That is why the AWL have consistently opposed the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. It is a thoroughly chauvinist campaign in support of Jewish settler colonialism.
When I spoke in 2007 and in 2008 at the UNISON national conference for motions supporting BDS, who were amongst the speakers opposing the motion? The AWL. The same happened in the University Colleges Union, the AWL has been consistently hostile to BDS. BDS has been the one thing that has seriously rattled Netanyahu who has set up a Ministry of Strategic Alliances under Gilad Erdan, the Public Security Minister, with a $50 million budget to combat BDS.
Indeed if the AWL seriously supported a 2 state position then they would support BDS because without pressure there is no possibility that Israel will make any concessions. BDS is the one weapon with which to pressurise Israel to do anything yet the AWL has fought it consistently in the unions. In opposing the Palestine solidarity movement on this, despite the request of Palestinians under occupation to support BDS, the AWL confirm that their real agenda is one of support for Zionism using the incoherent ‘left anti-Semitism’ theory to justify their lurch to supporting imperialism in the Middle East.
Finally I did object when Daniel tried to say that I was arguing that the Zionists participated in the holocaust. I said they collaborated on certain occasions, as a petty bourgeois movement but that outside Palestine they obstructed the rescue efforts of others because they saw everything from the perspective of building their future ‘Jewish’ state. Rescue was only acceptable if it was channelled into Palestine. Thus the illegal immigration Aliya B saved about 6,000 people whereas the Soviet Union is estimated to have saved up to 2 million Jews. When it came to saving Jews, Palestine was almost irrelevant, but in so far as Palestine and Zionism broke the Jewish Boycott of Nazi Germany with the Ha'avara trading agreement with Nazi Germany, the movement was rightly called a scab movement. That is the movement that the AWL seek to support.
I have added sources to the quotes I made during the course of the debate so that people can access them for themselves. Any additions are in square brackets.
I also include links to two articles by Professor Moshe Machover, the veteran Israeli Jewish Marxist and anti-Zionist, covering AWL's politics.
I also include links to two articles by Professor Moshe Machover, the veteran Israeli Jewish Marxist and anti-Zionist, covering AWL's politics.
Abominable Warmongering Left
Zionism: propaganda and sordid reality
The debate tonight is about what I consider a crackpot theory, ‘left anti-Semitism’. I don’t accept that there is such a thing. There is certainly anti-Semitism, but I don’t accept that there is a left variant of it. Certainly not today. It was developed some 30 years ago by the guru of the AWL, the Alliance 4 Workers Liberty, Sean Matgamna, it was part of an internal drift within the organisation on imperialism. For example on Ireland the group accepted in essence the Partition of Ireland or on the Falklands/Malvinas War where the AWL took a position which in essence was a pro-British one and then latterly in Iraq where the AWL, alone amongst socialist groups, refused to call for an end to the Occupation and the withdrawal of British troops. So Israel/Palestine is not an isolated example.
The theory of left anti-Semitism itself is useless because it has no explanatory power. It doesn’t help people understand anything. It acts, in essence, as a barrier mechanism within the AWL for its own membership. It’s a way of isolating people within the organisation against outside influences. It’s a brand mark that distinguishes the AWL from other organisations but in terms of helping people to understand anything, ‘left anti-Semitism’ has no value whatsoever.
In so far as I understand it, the theory posits that the opposition of the anti-Zionist left towards Israel is motivated not by what Israel does, what it is and what its role has been historically, but because of some innate and latent anti-Semitism towards a Jewish state.
In reality that is a variant of something called ‘new anti-Semitism’ which was developed, by Abba Eban, the Israeli Foreign Minister, in 1973, who talked about the ‘new anti-Semitism’ of the Left whereby Israel was opposed, not because of what it did or the way it treated the Palestinians, but because of peoples’ hatred towards the Jewish state.
That argument was developed by Irwin Cotler, the former Canadian Minister of Justice in the 1980’s, who termed Israel the ‘new Jew’. In other words opposition to Israel was because it was Jewish. It was the ‘Jew among the nations.’ That was why people were hostile to it.
Of course I fundamentally disagree with that. People are no more opposed to Israel because it is Jewish than they were opposed to Apartheid in South Africa because they were White or opposed to French Algerian colonisation because the colonisers were French. It is a nonsense. It’s because of what that state does, how it is created, how it is structured and how it operates.
I think, in a sense, we have seen the chickens come home to roost in the way that ‘left-anti-Semitism’ has played out in the Labour Party during the last year. The AWL to be fair, to be kind to them, have problems with this! Even before Jeremy Corbyn was elected , when it became apparent that he might be elected, the accusations of anti-Semitism came about.
The first accusations were that Jeremy Corbyn was an associate of holocaust deniers. There was no truth in this. He attended a fund raising concert by a group which was called Deir Yassin Remembered. In fact it wasn’t even organised by them, but a similarly named group, but he was accused of association with a character called Paul Eisen, who is a follower of Gilad Atzmon and is an anti-Semite. Atzmon is not a supporter of the Palestinians. He is an ex-Israeli who is deeply anti-Semitic. Eisen is a constituent of Jeremy Corbyn. From time to time they have met in that capacity, nothing more.
The idea that Jeremy somehow subscribes to holocaust denial or anti-Semitic theories because of this character is an absolute nonsense. It is a typical guilt-by-association technique which originated with McCarthyism in America. You judge someone not by who they are but by their alleged associations.
Although it died down for a time we had this anti-Semitism hype resurface with Gerald Kaufmann, ironically a Jewish MP who made an incautious reference to ‘Jewish money’ and that was held to be another example of ‘left anti-Semitism’ in the Labour Party. In fact Gerald is on the Right of the Labour Party, the last surviving Minister in Harold Wilson’s government. He is certainly no left-winger.
Gerald has developed politically and he has come to oppose many of the things that Israel does and that is why the Zionists had it in for him. As for the term Jewish money I did an experiment. I inserted the phrase into the Jewish Chronicle archives and came up with 590 references to this ‘anti-Semitic’ term! So it’s not so uncommon in the Jewish community.
When you listen to Michael Foster or other Zionists about how Jews will no longer be funding the Labour Party and how all Jewish donors will stop giving, what is that if not a reference to Jewish money? It is a fuss about nothing whatsoever. But then it developed with the affair at Oxford University in January of this year. The Labour Club there decided to support Israel Apartheid Week. Not unnaturally, since Israel is an Apartheid society. Because of that the Chair, Alex Chalmers, resigned. Chalmers later turned out to be someone who had worked for BICOM – the British Israel Media Communications Centre, the main Israeli propaganda organisation in Britain. He was clearly someone attuned to the Zionist consensus.
[8.29] It later turned out that Chalmers campaigned for the disaffiliation of Oxford University from the National Union of Students. Something which was lost by over a thousand votes. He was a right-wing rat in every sense of the term. But according to the narrative, this was evidence of ‘anti-Semitism’. When the Labour Club was investigated by someone who was and is a supporter of Labour Friends of Israel, Baroness Janet Royall, she could not find any evidence of anti-Semitism.
In fact in her blog article for the Jewish Labour Movement, she started off by saying ‘I know you will be disappointed that I couldn’t find any evidence of institutional anti-Semitism.’ [actual quote was ‘‘know that you will share my disappointment and frustration that the main headline coming out of my inquiry is that there is no institutional Antisemitism in Oxford University Labour Club.’
|Times article on my suspension|
What kind of person says that they are disappointed by the fact that they couldn’t find any evidence of anti-Semitism? This is an absurdity. One would have thought she would be over the moon at the fact that she couldn’t find it! But that is the Zionist mentality. They want to find ‘anti-Semitism’ where it doesn’t exist and they ignore it where it does exist. And so the show has gone on.
|Telegraph article based on leaks by the Compliance Unit|
I was suspended in March. They wouldn’t give me the reasons until they were leaked to the Daily Telegraph and The Times. But yes, anti-Semitism was the main charge. Amongst my many other sins I was on record as saying that Israel’s marriage laws were similar to the Nuremberg Laws in Nazi Germany. That was held to be a heinous example of anti-Semitism. Because you must never compare Israel to Nazi Germany unless the people doing it are Zionists. That then is permissible but opponents of Israel, anti-Zionists, must never compare Israel to Nazi Germany.
So I just pointed out in my investigation interview that my quote, my comparison, didn’t originate in my own head it came from the most distinguished political philosopher of the 20th Century, Hannah Arendt, who herself was a refugee from Nazi Germany. Famous for her book, the Origins of Totalitarianism. In her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem – The Banality of Evil, p.7., she said of the Eichmann trial that it was ironic that they were denouncing the Nuremberg Laws and the forbidding of sexual and marriage relations between Jews and non-Jews, since in Israel the legal situation is the same. Someone who is Jewish cannot marry someone who is non-Jewish. But if you tell the truth these days you are going to be accused of anti-Semitism!
|Telegraph Retracts Allegation of anti-Semitism|
[The actual quote from Arendt is as follows: ‘Israeli citizens, religious and nonreligious, seem agreed upon the desirability of having a law which prohibits intermarriage, and it is chiefly for this reason – as Israeli officials outside the courtroom were willing to admit – that they are also agreed upon the undesirability of a written constitution in which such a law would embarrassingly have to be spelled out… there certainly was something breathtaking in the naiveté with which the prosecution denounced the infamous Nuremberg Laws of 1935, which had prohibited intermarriage and sexual intercourse between Jews and Germans. The better informed among the correspondents were well aware of the irony but they did not mention it in their reports.’]
Probably the biggest irony, and I have to confess that I couldn’t stop laughing, was last week. If anyone saw Question Time, the debate between Owen Smith, a despicable character if ever there was one, if he had a personality he would be dangerous, and Jeremy Corbyn. When Smith gave us an example of the anti-Semitic infiltrators into the Labour Party he mentioned the Alliance for Workers Liberty. I thought that this is rich justice. God has a sense of humour. It is well deserved. They have been bitten by the very monster that they helped create! So I didn’t have a terrible sympathy for them! Although of course I oppose the expulsion of Pete Radcliffe from Nottingham AWL as a consequence of those remarks. That is an example of how the Right will define anything on the Left as ‘anti-Semitic’. If you are a leftist you must be anti-Semitic.
[12.25] It’s not original either. In America in the 1980’ when there were big conflicts in the Black ghettos between teachers and Black parents. Being Black or on the Left was considered a form of anti-Semitism because many of the teachers were Jewish.
In Israel today the term ‘leftist’ is a form of abuse. Approximately 8% of Israelis according to the Pew Opinion Survey earlier this year identify as being on the Left. [Israel’s Religiously Divided Society, March 8 2016]
|The Times also retracts its allegation of anti-Semitism|
[13:15] If we look at Zionism as an ideology, then Zionism itself was always seen as a form of Jewish anti-Semitism by Jews. Zionism was formed as a political movement in 1897 when it held its first World Congress in Basel in Switzerland. Most people won’t know this but it was originally intended to be held in Munich in Germany. The Jewish community in Munich rose up as one and said that they didn’t want this Congress to be held there because it was a form of anti-Semitism. They saw it as jeopardising their position. This was because historically, the attitude of Zionism was that Jews do not belong in the Diaspora, the countries they live and were born in, outside Palestine. They held it was an unnatural situation Zionism came to terms with anti-Semitism. They saw it as the rightful reaction of non-Jews to the alien Jewish presence in their midst.
[14:16] This is not something which is historical but pertains to this very day. When Netanyahu visited France in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo bombings, He said to French Jews your rightful place isn’t in France but in Israel. You do not belong here in France. The Jewish Diaspora is an unnatural creature [Jacob Klatzkin, the co-editor of the Zionist weekly Die Welt and a founder of the Encyclopaedia Judaica, summed this up best when he said that the Jews were ‘a people disfigured in both body and soul - in a word, of a horror… some sort of outlandish creature… in any case, not a pure national type.... some sort of oddity among the peoples going by the name of Jew.[ Arthur Herzberg, The Zionist Idea, p. 322/323, Temple, Atheneum, New York 1981]
Let me give you a few examples of the Zionist attitude to anti-Semitism. In his Diaries, Theodor Herzl, who was the founder of Political Zionism and the President of the first six World Zionist Congresses, wrote this at the time of the Dreyfuss Affair. Most people will be aware that Dreyfuss was a Jewish captain in the French army. He was fitted up and convicted of treason and sent to Devil’s Island. There was a massive campaign against what had happened (e.g. Emile Zola’s J'Accuse) which came to symbolise the fight between the Democratic and Republican France and the old Monarchist, Clericalist and Military elements. Herzl said, in relation to the Dreyfuss Affair that ‘In Paris I achieved a freer attitude towards anti-Semitism which I now began to understand historically and to pardon. Above all I recognise the emptiness and futility of trying to ‘combat’ anti-Semitism.’[Diaries of Theodor Herzl, p.8]
[15.48] This was an attitude which isn’t merely historical. It pertained up to the Nazi era. Berl Katznelson, who most people will not know but was second-in-command to David Ben-Gurion, the key figure in pre-state Jewish Palestine and Israel’s first Prime Minister, died in 1941. [He was the founding editor of Davar, the Histadrut newspaper now defunct] Katznelson said of the rise of the Nazis that it was ‘“an opportunity to build and flourish like none we have ever had or ever will have”. [Francis Nicosia, Zionism and Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany, p.91.
What Katznelson said was not exceptional. Herzl summed it up when he said that anti-Semitism
‘probably contains the Divine will to Good, because it forces us to close ranks, unites us through pressure, and through our unity will make us free. [Theodor hr, Complete Diaries, p. 231.
I can remember my father, who was a Jewish rabbi, saying to me that without anti-Semitism there would be no Jewish people. The attitude of Zionism to anti-Semitism is not an unfavourable one and it is reciprocated. Today, who are the most ardent supporters of Israel, apart from the United States and the imperialist powers? They are the fascist, far-Right and Islamaphobic parties. Geert Wilders of Netherland’s Freedom Party, Le Pen in France, Vlaams Belang in Belgium. In Britain it is the British National Party and the English Defence League. There is a picture on my blog of the EDL attacking a Birmingham Palestine Solidarity Campaign stall with an Israeli flag in one hand and giving a Hitler salute with the other.
The far-Right don’t see genuine anti-Semitism and supporting Israel as incompatible. So the idea that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism is one for the birds. The reality is that we oppose Israel because of what it does. Israel was founded on the expulsion of ¾ million Palestinians. Because if you wanted to form a Jewish state, you couldn’t have a Jewish state where, even in the land allocated to it by the United Nations in 1947, half of the population were non-Jewish. The Zionists had to expel them and the state that was created reflected this. The Jewish National Fund owns or controls 93% of the land, to which Israeli Arabs have no access because they are not Jewish nationals.
[18.05] Imagine for a moment if you were in Britain and I was told I couldn’t rent somewhere because was owned by the Christian National Fund, which controlled or owned 93% of Britain. People would rightly say that was anti-Semitic and yet they don’t seem to see that the reverse holds true in Israel.
[18.21] There are many other examples. It came out recently that in Israeli hospitals, in maternity wards, Jewish women had the right to go into a ward where there were no Arabs. [Maternity Ward Segregation (is) Just Tip of the Iceberg in Israel] and Jewish students at the Technion, Israel’s oldest University and probably other universities too, had the right, when sharing residential accommodation, not to have to share with someone who was an Arab. That is racist. Imagine if, in Britain, non-Jewish students were given the opportunity not to have to share with someone who is Jewish. It would rightly be called anti-Semitic.
My disagreement with the AWL stems from their position of ‘2 states for 2 peoples’. It sees something positive in the Jewish state. I understand that some people believe that 2 States is the only thing that will work or is the only thing that will ever take place, but to see something positive in a state that is based on ethnic supremacy and has racism at its core is unacceptable for a socialist organisation.
[19:40] The question therefore is – what is anti-Semitism? It’s quite simple isn’t it? Anti-Semitism is hatred of people because they are Jewish, discrimination, violence against Jews or maybe a belief in the world Jewish conspiracy theory. The idea that Jews somehow control, from a position of power, the levers of power and what happens in the world. That is anti-Semitism.
Historically that is what people understood as anti-Semitism. Today, despite all the nonsense about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, most people if they are asked ‘what is anti-Semitism’ are quite clear about it. You don’t like someone who is Jewish, because they are Jewish. You think they have different qualities, they have something about them, they are mean, canny, manipulative. Most people don’t buy into the idea that if you oppose what Israel does, when it bombs Gaza for example, that that has anything to do with anti-Semitism.
[20.45] That is why this whole nonsense in the Labour Party is completely manufactured and contrived by the Right. Anti-Semitism for the Right in the Labour Party is a weapon to wield against the Left. That is why I disagree so strongly with the AWL, who are on the left and yet who subscribe to this very weapon that is used against them. As I said, it was used against them last week by Owen Smith.
It is utter stupidity and politically bankrupt as well as self defeating to subscribe to the notion of ‘left’ anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism yes should be fought but I have to be honest with you. Anti-Semitism barely exists in this society. It’s a marginal form of prejudice. I’ll give you an example. Philip Green, most of you will know that he bankrupted, almost single handedly British Home Stores when he bled it dry. I haven’t seen one single reference to the fact that Philip Green is Jewish. If this was an anti-Semitic society would that not be highlighted? The fact is that anti-Semitism has all but died in British society. It’s a repository of a tiny fragment of the far-Right. That is why I repeat that this is a wholly contrived argument that somehow the Left is anti-Semitic. That’s why I so fiercely oppose what the AWL say.
Daniel Randall – Alliance for Workers’ Liberty
[22:35] Thanks. Most people here won’t know me so I’ll introduce myself. My name is Daniel Randall and I work on the Underground in London. I’m a rep in the RMT union and a member of Workers Liberty and until last week I was a member of the Labour Party. I’ve since been expelled, again.
Jeremy Corbyn today put out a restatement of his policy position on Israel/Palestine and the Middle East in which he reaffirmed his commitment to a 2 State settlement based on the 1967 borders. That’s the position Workers Liberty shares and I look forward to Tony’s denuncation of Jeremy Corbyn as a Zionist because of that position. People should read Corbyn on that. It’s pretty solid.
What I’m going to try to do in my time is set out in positive terms Workers’ Liberty’s position on the issues under discussion. I think the differences between ourselves and Tony approach are almost innumerable and extend well beyond matters of policy. Given that it is probably easiest to shine a light on them by just setting out our positive case and hopefully our differences will become clear in the course of that.
[24:09] I do want to say from the outset that it is undeniably the case that the issue of anti-Semitism has been instrumentalised and manipulated by some on the Labour Right and their supporters in the press in order to undermine Corbyn and the Left. As Tony mentioned, last week Owen Smith accused us of anti-Semitism on national television, so it is very clear that there is a certain process going on there, a certain instrumentalisation and manipulation of an issue for cynical factional ends. It has to be understood and opposed on its own terms.
However the cynical instrumentalisation of an issue doesn’t mean that that issue isn’t real and contrary to what Tony said it is not our view that anyone who opposes Israeli policy or who opposes Israel’s bombing of Gaza is anti-Semitic. That’s a nonsense which you can clearly see from any number of thousands of words we have written on the topic.
[25:06} It is however our view that sections of the far left, inside and outside the Labour Party, maintain what you might call a political common sense on certain questions, not just Israel and Palestine but aspects of Jewish history and Jewish identity more widely, which we believe has a logic which leads almost inevitably to political hostility to Jews.
Now we can have a semantic argument about whether it is reasonable to call that anti-Semitism and later I am going to talk about the distinction between that and direct racist antipathy to Jews, there is absolutely a distinction. When we talk about a left anti-Semitism, it’s a shorthand for that. For that implied political logic of the common sense which prevails in certain sections of the far-left on some of those questions, which is distinct from racist hostility or fascist or Hitlerite anti-Semitism to Jews and regardless of the machinations of the Right in the Labour Party and elsewhere, the Left has a responsibility to get its own house in order on these questions.
[26:13] I think Tony probably represents an amplified form of some of that common sense which is why we want to have that debate tonight. Tony himself must recognise that anti-Semitism or accommodation to it exists on the left, or within broadly left-wing spaces because he was a strident critic of the SWP’s association with the jazz musician and rabid anti-Semite, Gilad Atzmon and brought no small amount of opprobium upon himself through that criticism.
[26:41] But I would imagine, I don’t want to put words in his mouth, I would imagine that Tony like many others would reduce that sort to a question of averages. Which is to say anti-Semitism and other bigotries exist in society, the left is not hermetically sealed off from society so it is inevitable that those bigotries will manifest in some form on the left, it has nothing to do with any kind of particular logic or prevalent political hegemony that exists on the Left.
We disagree. In our view, as I’ve said, it is possible to identify what we call, as a shorthand, a left anti-Semitism by which we don’t mean a variant of anti-Semitism which is left-wing but rather a political hostility to Jews that exists as a logic, often only implied, of far left common sense that exists on various issues. As I’ve said and I do want to reiterate this, so it is understood, we draw a distinction, a very crucial distinction, between that implied political hostility to Jews and straightforward anti-Jewish racism.
[27:42] Now sometimes they do overlap, but they are distinct phenomenon. That is important. I think this left anti-Semitism manifests itself most clearly in the perspectives of some far-left groups and currents towards Israel-Palestine in particular and that it has identifiable historical roots, which I’ll try and given an explanation of today. I’ll be arguing that the form of anti-Zionism that prevails on much of the far-left today, a form of anti-Zionism which exceptionalises and essentialises Jewish nationalism and which was inherited almost wholesale from Stalinism should be replaced with something closer to the more rational anti-Zionism of the pre-Stalinists and pre-1967 Trotskyist revolutionary left and I’ll go into a bit more of that historical background later.
[28:30] The situation in the Labour Party, which Tony talked about in some detail, is the backdrop to this debate but I don’t intend to dwell in too much detail on that but rather use it as a point of departure. I will however say that the recommendations of the Chakrabarti Inquiry into this issue, which make recommendations for improving due process and procedure around complaints against Labour Party members, as well as some recommendations about language and discourse on some of the questions we are talking about tonight, are very good basically and I hope those recommendations are implemented. I encourage everyone here to read that Report if you haven’t already. However that is only the jumping off point and I want to take a slightly wider historical approach to the issues we are talking about.
[29:09] Anti-Semitism is a historically peculiar form of chauvinism in at least two ways. Firstly, unlike most bigotries, it contends that the target group, Jews, are powerful, cunning and all controlling rather than stupid or lazy. So anti-Black racism for example is almost always based on the idea that Black people are stupid and fit only to perform menial tasks in the service of White people.
Anti-Semitism isn’t like that. On the contrary it contends that the target group are clever, powerful and all controlling. The second way in which anti-Semitism is a historically peculiar form of chauvinism is that it is a prejudice you can escape from by converting. Karl Marx’s father did just that. There is a substantial historical set of examples of that taking place.
[30:07} Anti-Semitism on the left is not new. It’s an interesting historical curio that the term anti-Semitism was first popularised not by a right-winger but by Wilhelm Marr, an 1848 revolutionary and a proto-anarchist of sorts and there is an anti-Semitic element to the writing of mid-19th century leftists like Duhring, Sterner, Bower and others.
Now all of those people thought of themselves as and in a lot of ways were radicals and progressives, but they saw anti-Semitism, political hostility to Jews, as a perfectly compatible part of their left-wing world view. In most cases, precisely because of that trope of Jewish power, the conflation of Jews with Capital. The phenomenon that in the 1890’s August Bebel, the leader of Germany’s revolutionary workers party, the SPD, denounced as the socialism of fools.
Now if nothing else, this shows us that there is a substantial historical precedent for the integration of anti-Semitic discourse and ideology into a world view that sees itself as left-wing. Those tropes of Jewish Power, the conflation of Jews with finance, are still there. If you attend any of the Occupy camps for example which focussed a lot on finance capital and bankers, you find groups like Zeitgeist which are not really part of the Left but which inhabit left-wing spaces making basically anti-Semitic arguments, very thinly veiled anti-Semitic arguments about Jewish finance.
[31:32] I would argue however that contemporary left anti-Semitism has a different or at least an additional set of historical roots. I’ve said already a few times that what Workers Liberty describes as left anti-Semitism exists as an implied logic of far left common sense on certain issues. I want to spell out 4 key elements of what I think that is, although this list is not exhaustive.
The first is the argument or implication that Israel is a uniquely reactionary state and that Jewish nationalism is a uniquely reactionary nationalism. Now it is our view, Tony disagrees with this, that the Hebrew speaking Israeli Jewish nation, however you want to describe that, the Israeli Jewish national group, undeniably constitutes a nation in the Marxist understanding of that term as opposed to for example a narrow, exploiting settler caste like the South African Boers. That’s a very important distinction to us.
However that national group, class differentiated, originating in geographic situ, not solely as the product of a colonial land grab but as the product of a refugee process from an experience of genocide, they are the only national group for which the far-left’s default programme is that their state must be dismantled rather than changed in some way, however radical.
[32:54] The second argument, following on from that, is that the Jewish presence in historic Palestine is entirely and uniformily illegitimate and the product only of a colonial land grab, nothing else and only resolvable either by the Hebrew speaking population agreeing to be subsumed as a religious minority in a wider Arab state or implicitly by their forcible conquest.
A third element is that a Jewish or often a Zionist lobby exerts an essentially controlling influence on either American foreign policy or world affairs or the media or political affairs in general.
And finally is the argument, or the implied demand that Jewish people, uniquely among ethno-cultural groups, make a totalising break from certain aspects of their historically developed identity and experience or risk being considered akin to basically racists. Perhaps the best example of that is the campaign waged by some on the left in the 1980’s to have student unions ban campus Jewish societies which did not explicitly repudiate Zionism or any species of support for Israel.
[34:04] These are the kind of arguments which aggregate to an exceptionalising attitude not just to the State of Israel but to aspects of Jewish history and experience which imply an almost inevitable political hostility to Jews. We think these arguments are an inheritance from Stalinism even though many of their contemporary adherents, I imagine Tony himself, would see themselves as anti-Stalinists.
From the 1950’s onwards the Stalinist states churned out endless anti-Semitic propaganda, purged and executed alleged Jewish dissidents on the basis of their Zionism and sustained a steady flow, an industry really of books and newspapers promoting the argument that Zionism, racism and imperialism were essentially interchangeable and synonymous terms. Stalinism, both directly through the official communist parties and indirectly through a more diffuse ideological hegemony over the left, dominated much left-wing space and its ideas on these things found their way into the blood stream of the far left.
[35:03] The Left took, in short, what began as a Stalinist propaganda trick, confected for reasons of domestic political advantage for the Stalinist ruling classes and elevated it into a key aspect of its world view. Just a note on language at this point. I think the way that many people on the far-left including, having read some of his own writings, Tony Greenstein himself, talks about Zionists and Zionism does very closely mirror that Stalinist discourse, about Zionism being an all powerful, hidden hand behind imperialist policy.
Substituting the word Zionist into discourse that is fundamentally about a conspiracy of Jews controlling American foreign policy does not make that discourse legitimate. To use Zionist as a catch-all term of political abuse in fact prevents rational critique and discussion of Jewish nationalism. Tony seems to have a particularly deep attachment to the word ‘Zio’ in particular and insists on using it, almost as a provocation.
The Chakrabarti Report rightly recommends against the use of this term. Most ordinary Jews, if they encounter this term at all, will have done in far-right discourse in the writings of people like David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. It adds nothing to our analysis and to use it only looks like a wilful attempt to cause offence to ordinary Jews in a way that can’t possibly be challenged whatever political prejudices they might hold but can only alienate them from the Left.
[36:30] I understand that Tony has been promoting tonight’s debate by telling people that he’s been debating a Zionist from the Zionist Alliance for Workers Liberty and as I mentioned at the start of this speech I wonder whether he considers Jeremy Corbyn, who today reaffirmed his agreement with the same policy that we hold towards Israel/Palestine, whether he considers him a Zionist.
As a matter of historical fact the revolutionary socialist tradition with which Workers’ Liberty identifies, was always anti-Zionist but it was a rational materialist anti-Zionism which was accompanied, and in some ways tempered, by an understanding of the material roots of nationalist impulses and which knew and knows that people cannot be broken from romantic, reactionary nationalist ideas, which has responses to periods of violent persecution can and seem to be perfectly rational, simply by denunciation.
The experiences of persecution and genocide which turned Zionism from a marginal political concern into a mass movement are not virtual facts but realities which continue to resonate in Jewish identity. I think it is undeniable that most Jews in the world today do feel some level of affinity with Israel, however critical they are of its government. Now that is not an assessment I like, either as a socialist or as an internationalist Jew. It is a state of affairs that I think that the socialist movement should aspire to change. But it is a state of affairs.
[37:48} So for example research by academics at City University in 2015, which interviewed thousands of British Jews, found that 93% of them felt that Israel forms some part of their identity and 90% support its continuation as a Jewish state. So they are, in other words, Zionists. But 71% of them also support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, that is to say they are not Greater Israel expansionist chauvinists and 75% of them say that the West Bank settlements are a major obstacle to peace. So at the very least there are some complexities in that identity that needs teasing out and I don’t think the Left is ever going to be an agent in helping tease out those complexities if they approach these people by asserting that essentially they are fascists. An analysis that begins and ends with the contention that Zionism is racism and that Israel is nothing but a colonial settler state cannot begin to engage with the complexities of this identity.
It will almost inevitably lead you to write off the progressive potential of most Jews alive. Meaning that the de facto political hostility to Jews as Jews is one’s only remaining option. Now, tangentially is this like saying that because most Jews think a certain thing, to criticise or disagree with that thing must necessarily be anti-Semitic. Obviously that isn’t what I’m saying and isn’t what I think.
[39:02] But if one’s politics towards Jewish history is based on a historical erasure of the experiences that led to the development of existing consciousness, then you are exceptionalising that group of people. Socialists should not be in the business of designating entire peoples as good or bad but rather understanding, in a materialist way, social history and seeking to develop socialist consciousness.
It is perhaps worth saying here, as another aside, while we are talking about issues of consciousness and understanding, that just as we have a duty, as historical materialists, to understand the complex and contradictory history of Zionism, we also have a duty to understand the material basis of the hatred and anger, often violently expressed, towards Israel and Zionism on the part of many Palestinians. A dispossessed people who have been systematically brutalised by the colonial project of the Israeli state. To dismiss their anti-Zionism as merely anti-Semitism would be as much, if not more of a calumny, as the dismissal of the Zionism of most Jews as merely racist. The point is to proceed from a serious analysis of history on all sides and to aspire to a politics based on equality.
[40:14] I’m going to conclude now by talking about what we think should form the basis of that politics and what we posit as an alternative common sense that can tackle the problem of left anti-Semitism. As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, Workers Liberty’s policy on Israel/Palestine is for a 2 state settlement as part of a transition to wider unity and federation. That is not because, contrary to Tony’s claims, we are positively in favour of ethno-chauvinist bases of a national state but because we are consistent about our support for self-determination. The Hebrew speaking Israeli Jewish nation is undeniably a nation in the Marxist sense and therefore, from a Marxist point of view, only consists of approaches that advocate self-determination. Consistently we see both Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews as distinct class differentiated national groups and believe that only a framework that upholds the national rights of both can provide the basis for a solution beyond nationalisms and nationhood.
[41:10] We reject the ahistorical analysis maintained by much of the far left of Zionism as a uniformly racist movement or colonial movement understanding it as a politically variegated nationalist movement given a mass character by an oppressed people convinced by the pressure of experience to seek nationalist, separatist political solutions. Now again that’s not something we historically endorse. The tradition we identify with was always anti-Zionist. But it’s a rational anti-Zionism that understands where the impulse to seek and adhere to those nationalist/separatist political solutions comes from and identifies their historical roots. We uphold the rational internationalism of the pre-Stalinist revolutionary socialist movement which opposed Zionism but understood its context.
We believe that only by rejecting an approach based on seeing the world as divided between good and bad peoples can the problem of left anti-Semitism be ultimately addressed. We seek to replace the far-Left’s existing common sense on Israel/Palestine, Zionism, Jewish identity and history with a new common sense based on consistent democracy and equality. Ideas that were at the very heart of the pre-Stalinist Marxist project and which we believe must be urgently reintegrated. [42:30]
Mark Sandell (Chair) I’m going to ask people to indicate by putting their hands up.
Anne M: It’s really fast and I found it difficult to keep up. Can I just ask on this 2 state solution, how do you think that’s going to come about?
Mike: I’m not a member of the Labour Party but I think that these allegations are almost certainly false because the people making them do not disguise what they mean by them. They are very clear that it is people opposing Zionism who are automatically described as anti-Semitic without any attempt to prove it. The media has uncritically been part of that. I think this is a real danger, not just for the left of the Labour Party but for society more generally because we could be moving to a situation where any person who speaks against Zionism gets arrested. Some years ago, the Sussex Police publicly accused Sussex Action for Peace of being anti-Semitic because they held demonstrations against Israeli military interventions. The way the media have excluded from consideration the idea that it might be racist to oppose an ideology, people are being called racist for criticising an ideology, a belief system. There is a historical context to it. This society, as well as others, is moving in a more authoritarian direction and a big part of that is the gradual erosion of free speech and where free speech is delegitimised by being replaced by other considerations, that take precedence over that, peoples so called right not to be offended, so I think it is important not to be on the wrong side of history.
I think we need to defend the absolute freedom to say what we like about ideologies and belief systems without the word racism being appropriated and perverted into a delegitimisation of criticism of ideology.
Incidentally that also applies to Islam because a lot of the left has been extremely opportunist towards Islam and throws the word Islamaphobia around like confetti in the same way that Zionists throw the word anti-Semitism around. That’s the main thing I want to say for now. It’s got to be a consistent position re racism. If you pick and choose which ones you defend then you are basically undermining freedom of speech.
[46:31] First of all I met him the other night and I told him [Tony Greenstein] that I wasn’t his friend! But I wasn’t his enemy. On the Archers a couple of week ago, John Grundy was talking about the Enclosures. Some would say that’s gone and has no influence yet Grundy can raise it. . So it still has some meaning for people. It still has resonance. So when I was listening to the two of them I found Tony honest and him [Daniel] less honest in that the selection of the history, his was more selective. Recently because of this stuff about whether Israel should exist or not I started looking at it again. So are Jews a nation? Or are they a religion? It feels to me that they are primarily a religion. I know they’ve been organised a long time but equally Protestants in the North of Ireland are Protestants and they are quite clearly distinct ethno-political Northern Irish but they are Protestans as well. It is the ideology of being Protestant that takes them forward and makes them feel that they can occupy a land.
I read a bit, maybe selectively, Shlomo Sand [an Israeli historian who wrote Myth of the Jewish Nation] Most of the Jews who are in Israel now or occupied Palestine as I prefer to call it, most of them were never part of the Diaspora but they came from the Steppes. So it is a religious group that started to consider itself a nation or race, but that is a false proposition. Most of the Jews who considered themselves Jews were still living in Palestine pre-47 as Semites, just like the Palestinians. So taking it forward a bit, do I think there should be a 2 state solution? I don’t because I don’t think it will be a solution I don’t think it will resolve it. The one that keeps coming up, the same thing in Northern Ireland is the Palestinians are fucking away to a majority. Just like the Catholics in Northern Ireland did! It’s actually true and if you listen to some of the political leaders in Israel, that’s the biggest fear. That demographic change will challenge the so-called democratic state. They claim that Israel is a democratic state. Well if it is the Palestinians are going to overwhelm them and that’s what terrifies the Zionists.
[50:04} Becky: Towards the end of your talk you referred to Palestinians who were brutalised. I wanted you to expand a little bit on what you meant
[51.10] Labour Party Member (of American origin!) Mine is more of a statement or a number of statements. I do come from a Jewish background. I was the only Jew in a primary school. I experienced the demands of killing Christ almost every week. Sometimes you have to get out of it. The difficulty I had with what you said was that there was an underlying acceptance that religion is a basis for forming a state. And that does prevail in a large part of the world. Not just Israel. But I think, to me, I’d secularise the lot and separate church and state. Because that’s crucial for how we live together and how we learn to live together. That’s the fundamental basis of a progressive view. This is an important issue. The Guardian and all the liberal press refuse to define what Zionism is. Yes it’s about the formation of the Jewish state the other side to me is how the only place that is home for me is Israel. I find that offensive. I have 3 children, the youngest now is 40. Their mothers were non-Jewish. Hitler would have done them in as well as me but they’re not recognised by Israel. So I find the question of Israel being a democratic state actually very questionable.
I also find that there’s a major difference with South Africa because in terms of colonialism, you actually have people going to South Africa to dominate the Blacks. They therefore learnt how to talk with them, maybe not always the best way, but some of the South Africans I’ve met actually do talk with Blacks. In Israel it was different. It was going there to actually occupy the land and drive people off the land. I find all those things quite offensive on that basis. So I’m really concerned about how we get out in the public a better understanding of Zionism. What is it really on about? Because there are groups within the Labour Party that accept Zionism and don’t question it and I think there’s a religious state there too. So there are other religious states. And we need to bring back the progressive view of how we push for a secular state. That’s what I would like to see.
[54:52] It is interesting, following on from a couple of comments, notwithstanding your historically interestingly nuanced discussion of Zionism, but Corbyn has completely shied away, even in the exchange that one of you mentioned with Owen Smith, from attempting to disentangle these two things, because he must realise that it’s political suicide even though he has done so in the past before his time as leader. It seems as though he can’t do it now, he can’t even mention the fact that it might be necessary to disentangle an anti-Zionist position from an anti-Semitic position. That was the first point and follows on from what you were saying.
[56:00] The second thing I found interesting was that the way neither speaker identified anti-Semitism explicitly with racism. Tony’s definition was hatred of people because they are Jewish which of course begs the question, I don’t want to, I don’t agree with what you are saying respectfully. Daniel’s anti-Semitism was chauvinism, which was an interesting choice of words. I am reminded of Stuart Hall’s Race as a Signifier (indistinct) and in a way the idea of what it is to be Jewish in my understanding is a floating signifier. So accusations of anti-Semitism that are thrown at those who have both defined Jewishness through ethnicity and those who have defined Jewishness through religion in different stages of history.
I suppose what I’m getting about in a roundabout way there’s a lot of pussyfooting around these terms. Surely they need to be faced head on.
Mark Sandell: What I plan to do is to take the speakers back for a bit.
[57:50] Daniel Randall: I’ll take the 2 questions that were asked of me directly and then other peoples’ contributions. You asked how will a 2 state solution come about. Well firstly, unlike Jeremy Corbyn, it might seem like a semantic distinction, I would avoid the term solution. I prefer the term settlement. Because our view is that a 2 state framework is a transitional step that facilitates wider federation and unity. So we’re not talking about 2 states as a solution for all time. That’s the first thing I would say.
How will this come about? Well through struggle essentially. It’s not something which is going to drop out of the sky and it is something which requires enormous cataclysmic upheavals of consciousness on the part of the Israeli Jewish working-class in the first place. Our view is a framework whereby the Israeli state concedes or is forced to concede recognition of a viable independent Palestinian state in contiguous territory and pays to it significant reparations and reaches an accommodation around the refugee question that is something that will require significant social upheaval, across the borders if you like, which is why Workers Liberty in our activity around this question has placed so much emphasis on supporting organisations such as the Workers Advice Centre, which is a trade union centre which organises both Palestinian Arab and Israeli Jewish workers. That’s very much our emphasis on struggles in the here and now which build and develop working-class unity which we see as the political instrument through which this settlement can be achieved.
[59.42] This comrade who’s just delivering the drinks asked what do I mean by Palestinians being brutalised. You can talk about other terms but I use that word to try and express the brutality of what we see as the Israeli colonial project in the occupied Palestinian territories. It is a highly militarised, permanent war of occupation which subjugates and systematically brutalises through a regime of checkpoints and so on the Palestinian population.
I imagine that analysis is uncontentious here. The Palestinians are a subjugated and brutalised people That’s what I meant by it.
Becky: sorry I want to come back to you on that because when you use that phrase, the Palestinians are brutalised it implies that it is the Palestinians themselves who have become brutal through the occupation when in fact it is the brutalisers that are the brutal ones.
Daniel: Ok, maybe I need to go back to a dictionary. My understanding of the word ‘brutalised’ is to be treated brutally.
Becky: Ok that’s absolutely fine and I wanted to ask you what you meant by it because obviously there’s a message in Israel that Palestinians are a brutal people.
Daniel: I hope I’ve clarified that now but my understanding of the word brutalised is to be treated brutally. If that is a wrong understanding I will revise that word in future usage. I wanted to make some comments on other things that people said and were mentioned. This comrade said that neither of us referred to anti-Semitism as racism. Anti-Semitism is not one thing. Historically it has manifested in different ways. Hitlerite racialised anti-Semitism, that is a historical strain which exists. I wouldn’t place quite so much emphasis as Tony on how it has disappeared. It’s certainly more marginal than it was in the past in this country. Hasn’t quite disappeared unfortunately. That is one historical strain but there are others.
Political hostility to Jews on the basis of conflation of Jews with capital and so on. So I think it is important to recognise a kind of multiplicity there.
Questioner: Sorry I would argue that racism isn’t one thing either.
Daniel: That’s also true, race is a construct isn’t it. We’re on shifting semantic terrain there.
[1:03:34] This comrade here. I don’t particularly disagree with anything you said. I’m not sure I would share your emphasis. You said we are possibly moving towards a situation where any person who speaks against Zionism could be arrested for hate speech. I simply don’t think that is a reasonable assessment of the balance of forces or where we are. That we are at a point where anyone making any criticism of Zionism might be arrested and I think to suggest that confers on Zionism a quite undue level of power.
Some of the other comments that were made such as you cannot be racist if you are only criticising an ideology or a belief system. It’s not as simple as that. A lot of people on the left, and the right too, have the view that it’s not possible for anti-Zionism to be anti-Semitic because it is anti-Zionism and Zionism is completely separable from Jewish religion or Jewish ethnicity. In fact it is possible, manifestly possible, to criticise an ideology or belief system in an anti-Semitic way. Just as in fact, although I agree about your critique of Islamaphobia, it is possible to express anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Muslim racism while superficially you are only critiquing the ideology or belief system of Islam. These things can overlap and often do.
On the far Right there is substantial anti-Zionist discourse which is manifestly anti-Semitic. Tony’s claim that people on the far Right who oppose Israel are really marginal now and basically everyone on the far-Right is basically a Zionist is nonsense. Go and read it. Go and read what people like David Duke have to say about Israel and Zionism. The evidence is there.
[1:05:34: Comrade who’s gone, I’m not sure I really understood everything he was saying. I found some of the stuff about who are the real Jews. It sounded pretty problematic to me. I’m not sure I understood it. I do want to pick up on his comment about [we are informed that he is on his way back!] I was saying I didn’t quite understand your comment about who are the real Jews. That sounded to me somewhat problematic. I don’t feel I grasped it to say more than that. One thing I did want to respond to specifically when you talked about historical selectiveness. I’d be interested to know what aspects of my account you found historically selective. I think that there is a huge degree of historical selectiveness at work in the default historical analysis that prevails on the far-left about Zionism and about Israel.
So if you listen to the way Tony and others speak about Zionism it’s a history that erases for example the role of Zionists in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. It’s a history that erases the role of the Zionist detachment in the Red Army in the civil war. It’s an analysis that erases from history, which reduces the foundation of the State of Israel to a matter solely of colonial land grab and erases the history of the experience of the boat people of the 1940’s, refugees from genocide with literally nowhere else to go, the doors of the world literally shut in their face and ended up in Palestine because that was literally the only place they could go. An analysis which writes them out of the picture or worse suggests that what they were engaged in was a process of hawkish colonial land grab I think is obscene.
[1:08:07] Finally the comrade in the corner talked about religion as the basis for forming a state. That is not the issue when we are talking about Israel/Palestine. Historically, actually, a lot of the early Zionists were very secular and opposed, there were a substantial body in early Zionism and contemporary Zionist ideology which sees itself as secular, as modern and so on. So I don’t think the issue is that Israel is a religious state. That is an issue. Certainly I’m in favour of Israel being secular and I’m in favour of any future Israeli state or any binational Israeli Jewish/Arab state being constitutionally secular. But I think that to reduce this to a matter of religion substantially misses the point.
[1:09:14] Tony G: The last point is the only point on which I have some agreement with Daniel on. Zionism is not a question of religion although often Zionists have often pretended it is. Yes, many of the early Zionists were atheists. That is the irony. They based their claim to Palestine on a god whose existence they denied. That was the absurdity. They said that the Jews had a historical, biblical right to the land of Palestine even though the god that gave them that land did not exist! Zionism was, and that was how they saw it, a form of collective assimilation. They would create another nation just like the French, the British etc. That was the idea. Of course it didn’t come to pass because Zionism was not created in historical isolation. It began as a settler, colonial entity. If you read for example the Diaries of Theodor Herzl, the founder of Political Zionism, an excellent passage which I quoted in an open letter to the Chair of the Labour Friends of Israel only a few weeks ago. When Herzl wrote to Cecil Rhodes, after whom Rhodesia was named, who was one of the key architects of white supremacy in southern Africa, Herzl asked ‘how then do I happen to turn to you since this is an out of the way matter for you. How indeed. Because it is something colonial.’ [Diaries of Theodor Herzl, p.1194].
If you look at the early writings of all the Zionists for example David Ben-Gurion who was the key Labour Zionist, he was Chair of the Jewish Agency [the Zionist government in waiting] he was the first and longest Prime Minister of Israel, though I think Netanyahu has now overtaken him, he spoke of the colonies and the colonists. Today Zionism calls itself a Jewish national liberation movement, but this is an adaptation to the zeitgeist of the moment. They never used to call themselves it. When colonialism was the in-thing, when colonialism was seen as a good thing, a way of civilising the backward peoples, then Zionists were colonialists. Of course they formed an alliance with British imperialism under Arthur Balfour [The Balfour Declaration, November 1917].
[1:11:55] I’m accused of giving a selective history of Zionism. Apparently Israel or what has become Israel, was a refugee state for the boat peoples in the 1940s. This is absolutely historically illiterate. When the Jews fled from the pogroms of Czarist Russia between the mid-19th century and 1914, 2.5 million went to Britain or the United States, that’s why the United States has some 5-6 million Jews. You know how many went to Palestine? Less than 50,000. They were the ideologues of the Zionist movement.
They didn’t escape persecution by going to Palestine, they went as part of a specific settler colonial population. The difference between Palestine and South Africa, why Israel is worse than South Africa ever was under Apartheid was that the colonists in South Africa went to exploit the Black labour and people of South Africa. The Zionists had a different idea altogether. They went to exclude the indigenous populace, first from the economy and then from the land altogether. They had no use for them and the model is more akin to Australia and the United States than South Africa, so Israel which is an apartheid state is actually far worse, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu says, than South Africa ever was.
[1:13:30] Again I don’t accept this idea that I’ve falsified the history of Zionism. You made a reference to the Warsaw ghetto. I don’t doubt that some Zionists Mordechai Anielwicz [Hashomer Hatzair] who led the Jewish Fighting Organisation [ZOB] and others from Left Poalei Zion in particular fought against the Nazis. But Anielwicz himself said as quoted in Yisrael Gutman’s book on the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto [The Jews of Warsaw 1939-1943, Harvester Press, Brighton, 1982] that we wasted our time in the Zionist political parties doing absolutely no good [education work, on kibbutzim and farms] when we should have been organising. The Zionists were part of the greater resistance. They were not fighting because they were Zionists but in spite of the fact they were Zionists. Indeed those who controlled Judenrat (Jewish Council) which collaborated with the Nazis were predominantly Zionist, as they were throughout Eastern Europe. Anyone who doubts that should read the most comprehensive book by a Zionist, Isaiah Trunk. Two-thirds of the Jewish Councils were composed of Zionists. Because they were the bourgeois elements.
The major opposition to anti-Semitism in Poland and elsewhere, Poland contained over 3 million Jews, 90% of whom were exterminated in the holocaust, was the Bund which was a Jewish socialist anti-Zionist party. They hated the Zionists. They saw them as anti-Semites in a Jewish guise. In 1938, the last free elections in Poland, the local council elections, in Warsaw itself, out of the 20 Jewish council seats, because seats were reserved for Jews as a national minority, 17 were won by the Bund and just 1 was won by the Zionists. The fact is that the Zionists became extremely unpopular because as Isaac Deutscher said [the non-Jewish Jew & other essays] they seemed to validate everything that the anti-Semites said. The anti-Semites said get out and the Zionists said yes we agree with you. We will get out. Zionism was unique among Jewish movements, whether liberal or communist, in accepting the idea of the anti-Semites that Jews did not belong in those societies. Therefore they posited the solution that the anti-Semites themselves welcomed.
When Herzl wrote the Jewish State [Der Judenstaat] in 1895, he sought out a favourable review from the leader of the anti-Dreyfussards, [Eduord Drumont], who edited La Libre Parole. He sought out a review from this leader of the anti-Dreyfussards because he agreed with Herzl.
As regards two states. Is Corbyn a Zionist? No. But he sometimes tends to have a rubber backbone. He is pushed into a position from which it is hard to escape. If Corbyn had said, at the very beginning of this anti-Semitism nonsense that:
a. I condemn anti-Semitism and
b. I also condemn the use of anti-Semitism as a political weapon and an excuse for attacking those who support the Palestinians he would not face the problems he has now. It is precisely because he accepts and continues to say that he condemns anti-Semitism that he has no effect on his accusers. They are not talking about the same thing. When the Zionists talk about anti-Semitism they mean anti-Zionism they don’t mean anti-Semitism, so it’s a dialogue of the deaf. So it doesn’t surprise me that he has now come out with 2 states. Because anyone
Daniel: He has had that position for months
Tony Greenstein: Look I knew Corbyn 30 odd years ago, he wasn’t a 2 state supporter then. He’s also not a theoretician. So yes, of course he’s supported it for months because its an easy solution to advocate. What I say is that I’m not going to take my position from Corbyn’s muddled headedness on Palestine. 2 states is a guarantee for the continuation of the present apartheid situation. There is no force in Israel that supports 2 states. The Israeli Labour Party doesn’t support 2 states, certainly no one in Likud supports 2 states, the only party which does is Meretz which has now shrunk to 5 members of the Israeli Knesset. Why do I say it is a guarantor of apartheid? Because as long as Israel can hold out the illusion, the fragmentary hope of 2 states they have an excuse to deprive the Palestinians under occupation, something like 4.5 million, of any basic civil, political or human rights. It’s a guaranteed excuse so although Netanyahu said the other day that withdrawing the settlements is akin to ethnic cleansing he pays lip service to the idea of 2 states.
2 States is a guarantee that the Palestinians will exist for the next 50 years in servitude if there is not a change. It is a completely reactionary and bankrupt idea. It is like saying you support the northern Ireland state which is based on sectarian privilege. I hope nobody does that because that because Partition is the root of the problem in Ireland. The root of the problem in Palestine is Zionism, a settler colonial entity.
[1:19:05] As regards the Israeli Jewish people, the primary form of their identity is an antagonism, an opposition to the Palestinian people. That is the main basis of their settler national identity. That is why I say it is inconceivable that you can grant the right of self-determination on that basis. It’s an absurdity because self-determination means the right to be free from national oppression. The Israeli Jewish people are not oppressed nationally so the question simply does not occur.
As regards racism and anti-Semitism Daniel has talked about a non-racist form of anti-Semitism. As Sean Matgamna put it in an article ‘What is left anti-Semitism’ he says ‘apart from a nut here and there left-wing anti-Semites are not racists.’ Well I say anti-Semitism is a form of racism. If you are not a racist you are not an anti-Semite. That’s the whole point of anti-Semitism it is a form of racism. It may be a marginal form of racism, but of course it is. It’s the belief that Jews are somehow have peculiar qualities that are ascribed only to them. That they have certain tendencies such as being all powerful etc. Incidentally they are not the only group in history that has that ascribed to them. For example the Chinese of SE Asia were called the Jews of SE Asia precisely for that reason. Other groups historically were considered the same e.g. the Biafrans were also given certain magical qualities of control and power and were subject to genocidal attempts as a result. Of course racism takes different forms at different times.
Just like Jewish identity takes different forms at different times. The identity of a Jew in the early 20th century was of a radical socialist who hated capitalism who caused immense problems and was a revolutionary. That was the main complaint of the Czarist rulers. Half the people arrested for revolutionary and political subversion were Jewish troublemakers. They were held to hate the society they lived in. That is not true today.
A very good book by Geoffrey Alderman, the Jewish community in British Politics [Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1983] said that in 1961, 40% of Jews, twice the national average, were in social classes A and B . I imagine that it is even higher now. Jews are a prosperous, privileged section of the white community. There’s no racism that I can discern. There’s no state racism. There are no Jewish deaths in police custody. Racism is experienced by Black and Asian people in this society, not Jewish people. That’s why I say that this anti-Semitism in the Labour Party nonsense is a concoction, a media manufactured concoction dreamt up in the Israeli and American Embassies.
[1:22:11] Greg Hadfield: My name is Greg, from Brighton & Hove Suspended District Labour Party. I’m so grateful to see so many friends and comrades here. Who’s not in he Labour Party? (someone – me) I heard that! (I was until last week – Daniel) But you’re not from Brighton! First of all I’m totally aware of my own ignorance on this matter. I’m absolutely certain that it is the litmus test of socialism. I totally admire and respect Tony’s knowledge of the history and the analysis. I thought Daniel was fantastically articulate about an opposing point of view but let’s remember that this is the sort of debate that the Labour Party should be having in the Labour Party not in a pub way from secret filming, Channel 4, all that stuff. Instinctively I have a problem with nation states. So obviously I have a problem with 2 state solutions. I absolutely agree with Tony’s analysis of the weaponisation of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party which is shameful. We should stand up in the Labour Party to defend Tony Greenstein from everything he has had to put up with. And which Mark and I will have to put up with, by the way, in the next few weeks. So that is clear. That is the environment in which this debate takes place. And we are all friends, comrades and socialists. We are all supportive and anti-Zionist etc.
I kind of agree, I could say to Tony, stop it on social media about Zionist scum. I could say to Tony that 2 state solution is only a transition because what’s nation states about. What we want is a democratic, working-class socialist and internationalist solution in the world Not about 2 states, 1 state whatever. What we have to talk about is what we will do.
First of all we must not divide ourselves in public about any of this. We are going to support people under threat. And I really welcome our friends and comrades and I buy their newspaper from the AWL. I totally support Tony as a critical friend. But let’s discuss this in the milieu and the democratic openness of the Labour Party. What that means at the moment is getting Jeremy re-elected and then being a critical friend of him. I agree with both of you. There is stuff that Jeremy said 30 years ago which is the soundtrack of my life and there is stuff that other people have said that isn’t right. But that is what the Labour Party is going to do. That is why we are going to support Mark when he stands again and me. Just saying let’s move forward and discuss this in the environment of a democratically socialist party that is going to have a democratically socialist leader to become Prime Minister and then we can have a serious discussion about our attitude to Zionism and Israel. I have to say intellectually, and I apologise for this, because personally it’s not easy, I agree with Tony! (laughter) I do! Anyway we are all comrades.
[1:26:20] Nick: I want to make 2 points but before I do I’ve got to pick up attacking Zionism for collaborating with the Nazis in the ghettos. I mean if you can’t imaging what existence is like in the ghettos under the daily experience of murder, rape and violence, and people being taken off, knowing they are being taken to the camps, if you can’t imagine that people might take 2 strategies in that situation, one which I would advocate (indistinct) if you can’t imagine that people might try to accommodate in order to preserve their own fucking existence and you call that collaboration and condemn them for it, you are either a bloody idiot, which I don’t suppose you are, or you’ve got a real problem there. That flabergasts me that you can condemn people in that situation when they are attempting to protect their existence.
Dan talked about Israel so I want to make two points. One on Israel/Palestine and one on left-anti-Semitism. On Israel-Palestine Dan talked about Israel undeniably constituting a nation in the Marxist sense. Well I’d like to point out another thing which is that Israel is undeniably a nation in the sense that it exists. I’m for a no states, ok? How we achieve that is a period of transformation, organisation, revolution until we can do away with nation states. To drain the poison of nationalism we have to find consistent democratic solutions. That to me points to two nations. Alternatively if you want to deny the existence of Israel I’m we’ll all agree that the creation of Israel today has resulted in horrific crimes against the Palestinian people. How are we going to address that? How are we going to get rid of Israel? Who thinks it’s going to be achieved without the conquest of Israeli Jews. So if as you say self-determination is the right not to be oppressed how do you do that by forcing the Israeli Jews into the sea? Into a state they don’t want to be in? Where do they go? How can you destroy Israel democratically? You would replace one crime with another.
[1:29:08] On left anti-Semitism Dan had I think missed one point which is the accommodation of the left to the Islamic right so, the Left making dreadful mistakes in the Iranian revolution, being very uncritical of the Ayatollah, more recently, accepting groups like Hizbut Tahrir onto marches uncritically, chanting support for groups like Hamas and inviting the Islamic brotherhood to speak on demonstrations, I’ve seen Jewish blocs on demonstrations supporting the right of Israel to exist being attacked and their banners taken down, hasn’t by the way happened to groups like Hizbut Tahrir, to see placards of the Star of David = the Swastika, we should acknowledge it, [much of this contribution was indistinct!]
[1:35:15] Anne Mitchell: You gave this very good speech about having this debate in the Labour Party. Let me tell you I’m sick to bloody death of having this debate in the Labour Party. The Labour Party has other debates to have. I’m sick of it being raised, I’m sick of it being an issue. And just in response to something you said, a female comrade from the Scottish PSC was actually arrested and charged with a hate crime for saying Viva Palestina in front of an Israeli so yes Daniel these sort of things have started happening. It isn’t helpful for this issue to be raised again and again because it leads to the kind of draconian measures which were taken against this woman in Aberdeen and will be taken against other people on the streets in various cities and towns in the UK. The Left has other things to worry about and raising this spectacle is the most time-wasting issue.
[1:36:24] Greg Hadfield Intervenes: When they weaponise anti-Semitism and they suspend on March 13th someone, the Jewish son of a travelling rabbi, and then doesn’t tell him what he’s been suspended for, and still, on whatever day it is, it’s been along day, we have to stand besides them whether we are Mark Sandell, Daniel or anyone else here in the Labour Party. And we’ll stop it. Because who knows, they came for Tony first, then they’ll come for Mark, then they’ll come for Greg and then they’ll come for Phil. God bless you all anyway and I’ll see you at the next Labour Party meeting if we are allowed.
[1:37:24] I can only I worked in the buses in Glasgow, in Ibrox bus garage which is the heart of the Protestant faith and it was a very mixed garage, with Pakistanis, Bengalis, they used to make a joke, you were either from Donegal or Bengal. It was a very mixed garage and a very antagonistic garage because they were all in their own little factions. When the question of Ireland come up the two soldiers who’d gone to Ireland thought we’d support them. They’d left the army and thought we’d support them. We had an argument. We didn’t do the English or British thing, we actually engaged them in argument. We were challenging their own beliefs and each other. We all came through it and we were changed. The Protestants stopped wearing the white gloves and going on the Orange marches. We ended up with a garage where 60 turned up at a union meeting and we passed a resolution supporting the Vietnamese. It was victory to the Vietcong. It wasn’t a peace settlement. It was victory to the Vietcong we voted for.
So what I’m saying is that we actually can’t have a certain parallel (Indistict) they get very violent and during that time there Pakistan resisted and then West and East Pakistan split. We would have debates and would say this is great news about Bangladesh & they went apeshit because they were from West Pakistan and it was very violent, it wasn’t a debating point. [1:39:09} So what I’m saying is the question of what is happened in Palestine and the Middle East aren’t debating points. If we don’t talk them through in these forums what you’ll end up doing is getting them hijacked by the press or the Zionist agenda.
[1:39:48] Mike: I’m not denying that anti-Semitism and other forms of racism can take the form of opposition to Zionism and Israel but the opposite is also true that a pro-Zionist or Islamic agenda can take the form of anti-racism. So both of these are falsifications. So the idea that opposing Zionism is ipso facto anti-Semitism is false. I’d also like to talk about the presentation you made at the beginning. Everything you said was derived from one little assertion and would collapse without that assertion. It was the view that the Jews of Israel are a nation like all other nations.
Now I’m against all forms of nations but when the Left makes a distinction between overtly racist forms of nationalism (indistinct) I think the way they treat Jews is entirely consistent. I think it is Zionism that is making an exception for Jews. For me it is as simple as this. In Israel it is clear that Jews are an ethnic group and the proof of that is that there are Arab citizens of Israel who are born in Israel, live in Israel but are not accepted as being part of the category of Jew. Being born in Israel does not make them a Jew. In other words a Jew is an ethnic identity. Zionism is ethnic nationalism. I think that all ethnic nationalisms are overtly racist so how can Zionism not be racist?
[1:41:39] I know you’re sick of hearing it but it doesn’t look as if this is going to go away, this weaponisation of anti-Semitism. Tony was absolutely right. If you saw the Commons Home Affairs Committee interview Corbyn, you watched 2 people talking at cross purposes. Vaz was saying you deplore anti-Semitism and Corbyn was saying of course I do, in all its forms. Of course that was not what Vaz and the others were talking about. What they were talking about is criticism of Israel. Until those issues are addressed by the leader of the Labour Party, Corbyn, then this is going to keep coming, it’s not going to go away.
[1:42:55] Actually it’s for us, the membership, to raise those issues and to start pushing those issues more than Corbyn and McDonnell. So to expect them, in a stereotyped version of leadership to actually take it on all in the current context would just be a mistake. Flowing on from that there’s a couple of issues. First I haven’t heard much about the $38 billion over ten years (from the United States). Israel also exists as a military testing ground for the US and we cannot ignore that.
To underline that and to question that may be one way to start shifting things as well. In a way what we need within the Labour Party is, because it’s a broad church, look at the Jewish Labour Movement, you know it is frankly Zionist, close to fundamentalist. I agree totally with that we are silent because we cannot come to terms and talk with each other about some of these very contentious issues and so we don’t develop a way forward. How do we talk to people who are rabid Zionists who are starting to think anew? Until we sort it from the ground up and the media like the Guardian and people like Owen Jones have the courage of their convictions to raise questions about what is Zionism we’re always going to get this confusion between Zionism and anti-Semitism. I’d like to see from the speakers what is the way forward.
[1:45:12] Anne M My point wasn’t that I don’t have the debate. I don’t want to be debating with comrades on the left about left-anti-Semitism I want to be debating with comrades on the left, forming a collective unity about Israeli racism and apartheid because that is what we should be absolutely clear on. And I also want us to be debating the 300% increase in hate crimes against Muslims rather than this peripheral left anti-Semitism. It seems disgraceful that so much time is taken up on something when our focus should be on something far more pressing, far more urgent and far more important.
[1:46:16] Tony Greenstein: As regards the point on Nazi-Zionist collaboration in the ghettos, you referred I think to Hungary in particular, it’s a very good example. Because in Hungary on March 15 1944 the Nazi troops entered the country and occupied it. The first thing they did was to set up a Jewish Council and they worked with the Zionist Relief and Rescue Committee under Rudolf Kasztner. Without going through the history Kasztner basically suppressed the Auschwitz Protocols which laid out the details of Auschwitz which wasn’t known as an extermination camp, it was thought of as a labour camp until then. He reached a deal with Eichmann for a train out of Hungary for 1,684 Jews, primarily Zionists and the Jewish Council and the Zionist Rescue Committee (Vadah) would collaborate in the rounding up, the marking out and identification of Jews who would then be transported to Auschwitz.
That is what happened. After the war allegations of collaboration were made, not by anti-Zionists but by Jewish refugees who had survived Auschwitz who were in Israel. It was called the Kasztner trial. Between 1954 and 1958 Israel was rocked by the revelations in this trial. Kasztner was the representative, the leader of Hungarian Zionism and the representative in Hungary of the Jewish Agency. He went to Nuremberg in 1947 to testify on behalf of 7 leading Nazis, including Hermann Krumey, who was Eichmann’s deputy in Hungary he was the person in charge of organising the deportations which led to the extermination of nearly half a million Hungarian Jews. So that is simply for the record. In the ghettos the Jews hated the Judenrat (Jewish Councils). Rumkowski for example a Zionist who was the Chair of the Judenrat in the Lodz ghetto, the second biggest ghetto in Poland, when he was eventually deported on the trains he wasn’t killed in the gas chambers he was killed by fellow deportees for the role he played in the deportations and in particular of Jewish children.
I make a distinction between the leaders of the Zionist movement primarily outside Europe and individual Zionists. Individual Zionists often played a very heroic and brave role. I have no doubt about that. I mentioned Mordechai Anielwicz. I could mention Moshe Krausz in Budapest for example who did fight hand in hand with the Bund and the Jewish communists but the Zionist movement outside Europe played a completely different role.
You talk about the refugees and the boat people, the Zionist movement fought to close down places where Jews could be rescued in order that they could only go to Palestine. They were used as a battering ram to open the gates of Palestine which had been closed by the British in 1939. Freiland in Australia, Santo Domingo which had offered to take 100,000 Jews at the Evian Conference in 1938. [See Post-Ugandan Zionism on Trial, pp. 218-234, Shabtai beit-Zvi, 1991, Tel Aviv]
The role of the Zionist movement was absolutely despicable. Throughout the Holocaust the Zionist movement denied there was a holocaust. Even when, eventually in November 23 1942 they issued a statement accepting there was a holocaust they almost immediately went back on it and started quoting Nazi papers such as Ostland to the effect that there were 53 ghettos in Poland and the majority of Jews were still alive when in fact the opposite was the case. [Beit Zvi, pp. 79-81]
As regards Israel I am in favour of the destruction of the Israeli state. Because it is a unique state based on the oppression of a particular ethnicity because yes Palestinians are an ethnicity just like Israeli Jews. Does that therefore mean I am in favour of the destruction or the driving into the sea of Israeli Jews? Absolutely not. I was in favour of the destruction of the South African apartheid state. Does that mean I believed that white South Africans should have been driven out and destroyed? Of course not. There’s a difference between a state and the people who live under that state. It’s a very basic and simple concept. Only fascists identify the people of a state with the state itself.
As for how the solution is to be attained, the simple answer is I don’t have a crystal ball. What I do know is that Israel exists primarily today because it is supported by the United States. Not, as Daniel said, because I believe in a powerful Zionist or Jewish lobby in the United States. I don’t subscribe to those theories at all. I don’t believe the reason that the US supports Israel because of the Zionist lobby. The Zionist lobby is a consequence of that support. The United States supports Israel because it is in its material interests to support Israel as the hammer of the Arab nations.
Alexander Haig, Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State said Israel is cheap at the price. It’s an unsinkable aircraft carrier in the most volatile region of the world. $4 billion a year, compared to the US military budget it’s absolutely nothing. And Israel tests and refines those weapons in use against the Palestinians. It’s an ideal situation.
How will revolution occur? Undoubtedly it will have to occur in the Arab states against the Arab regimes which are also the allies of imperialism. It will be revolution in the Arab East which will eventually see the overthrow of the Zionism. It won’t happen in Israel because the Palestinians militarily are not in the same position as Black South Africans.
Other questions. ‘Zio’ that’s simple I only use it on Twitter usually when I’m being accused of being a ‘self hater’ or something like that. But it’s also to make a point. Zionism and Zionists, the racists, will not define my narrative. ‘Zio’ is short for Zionist or Zionism. Zionism is a political ideology. A Zionist is someone who supports that political ideology. The majority of Zionists in the world are probably Christians. 40 million of them are in the USA. Quite how I’m being racist by using the term ‘zio’ I simply don’t understand.
As for identity and Jewish identity today it has changed. The majority of Jews, not 93%, identify with Israel, I accept. In the City University survey you mention Daniel, it’s interesting that 59% of Jews identify as Zionist and 31% said they weren’t Zionists. That actually 59% is down 12% over 5 years. So I think that Zionism does have, or is beginning to have, a bad name even within the Jewish community. [The Attitudes of British Jews towards Israel]
[1:53:30] But if the majority of Jews identify with Israel so what? It’s a reactionary identity. If a whole section of Black or Muslim people identify with FGM do we back off and say that’s fine, it would be racist to oppose you? Of course not. If a section of Islam believes that the Burka is part and parcel of their religious practice, should I therefore say that’s fine. Of course not. You oppose religious rituals that are reactionary. If people identify with a state that is thoroughly racist and reactionary then you oppose that.
MarkSandell asks a question! Would you say destroy Iran, Pakistan, religious states? Smash them. Would you hold my banner and say that?
Tony Greenstein: I wouldn’t hold your banner Mark. There’s a difference and I’ll tell you what the difference is. Iran is a reactionary Islamic state. Likewise Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. But there is a key difference. The Islamic religion is used to oppress other Muslims. It doesn’t grant them privileges, quite the contrary. It provides a rationale for brutal police states. In Israel being Jewish entitles you to privilege. I have the right to go to Israel because I’m Jewish and claim citizenship. A Palestinian who has left Israel cannot go back. They are not allowed to, they have no right to return. There is a complete difference between Israel and the Islamic states. The latter are not settler colonial states. Of course I’m in favour of the destruction of all states but there are some states which are worse than others. Those which are worse, or in a different category are ethno-national/religious nationalist states.
Incidentally I don’t consider Zionism a form of Jewish nationalism. The Bund in Europe was a Jewish nationalist party. The Jews formed a national minority in Eastern Europe. I draw a distinction between a nationalist movement and nationalism. [The Nazis were a German nationalist group, they weren’t representatives of German nationalism]
[1:55:55] As regards anti-Zionism being a product of Stalinism I’m sorry I have never read any of those Stalinist tracts. I completely disagree. My anti-Zionism comes from the Bund and Jewish and Israeli revolutonaries. Not from Stalinism. I agree that Stalinism, like the Slansky trial in Czechoslovakia or the Doctors Plot in Moscow were anti-Semitic. But that was peculiar to those regimes. It has nothing to do with ‘left anti-Semitism’ in this country or anti-Zionism.
[1:56:40] One other thing about anti-Semitism is that anti-Semitism itself has changed. Historically anti-Semitism was feudal anti-Semitism based on or rationalised by Christianity, Jews killed Christ and so on. What transformed it into a murderous, genocidal form of racism was the development of anti-Semitism not as a religious form of racism but a form of racism based on the ‘scientific’ doctrines of race which developed in the last 19th century to justify colonialism. That was the whole point of Hitler’s anti-Semitism. Even if you converted from Judaism to Christianity you were still considered to be Jewish by race – a Christian Jew. That was an entirely new phenomenon. You would still go to the gas chambers. Whereas historically, for people like Martin Luther, once a Jew had converted they were Christian. Their soul had been saved. They were no longer subject to any discrimination because they were Jewish. There should be a sharp distinction. Hitler borrowed the memory of Jews’ role in feudalism and Jews in feudalism often prospered, they were the oppressors of the peasants. That is a different debate. But one has to look at the Jewish Question historically and materially. Jews were not eternally oppressed by anti-Semitism. Sometimes they were, more often they weren’t. They were often the oppressor.
Today there is a majority Jewish identity which is Zionist but there is quite a large and significant Jewish identity, particularly among young Jews which is based on opposition to Zionism. And that is a very health and anti-racist identity. And that is where I intend to leave it. Thank you.
[1:58:35] Daniel Randall I don’t know how many of those young Jews you are directly engaging with Tony but I can pretty confidently assure you that they would not identify with your discourse, your analysis, or your policy positions. Certainly it is true that there is a development away from reflexive support for Israel amongst a layer of young Jews which is very healthy but that is not one which accepts your view, to quote you, you said that Israel is a uniquely reactionary state. [racist – TG] It’s not one which accepts your view that Zionism is a uniquely reactionary form of whatever you call it if its not nationalism.
So it would be some time before your views occupy any kind of hegemony among Jewish communities in this country. I will try and respond to a few of the things that were said in the discussion and in Tony’s summation. It was an incredible sleight of hand you said I accused you of erasing the experiences of the boat people but then went on to talk of refugees from Czarist pogroms. Precisely again doing the very thing I’m accusing you of. The point about the boat people is that Deutscher’s phrase, Israel is the liferaft state. The experience of the boat people shows that the development and the arrival of a significant Jewish population in historic Palestine was not the accumulation of colonial settlers going there over a period of years.
It’s glaring historical illiteracy, to pick up your phrase, to ignore that. That is the origin of a substantial Jewish population in that part of the world. Refugees from the holocaust. That is simply the case. To deny that, to erase that reality from one’s understanding of how Israel came to exist as a state and how it came to occupy the position it occupies in contemporary Jewish identity, to ignore all that, to erase all that, to say it doesn’t exist or is irrelevant again can only lead you into political hostility to most Jews.
You quoted various separatist things that Zionist leaders had said, I mean there’s all sorts of precedents for romantic nationalist separatism in those movements, Garveyite, back to Africa nationalism, the accommodation of various Black nationalists in their attempted entente with various fascists in America, all sorts of precedents exist certainly they’re wrong, certainly they’re reactionary and worthy of condemnation, but to extrapolate from those conclusions to the entirety of a complex, politically variegated movement is wrong and again to say essentially that Zionism collaborated with the holocaust
Tony Greenstein – I didn’t.
Daniel: Ok, I’m speaking in broad brush strokes, is a form of calumnous victim blaming which entirely muddies the historical picture. Though here and there individual Zionists might have played a good role but on the whole the Zionist movement collaborated, that is what you said, is simply not borne out by examining the historical record. The Resistance Council in the Warsaw Ghetto included not just one or two Zionist individuals but included Zionist political parties. An analysis of the history of the movement has to recognise its political variegation.
[2:02:44] You also said that its very important not to identify a state with the people of that state. It seems that’s precisely what your analysis does by erasing entirely from the picture any progressive potential or agency of the Israeli Jewish working-class. Socialists should not be in the business of assigning people, any group of people, with a trans-historical irredeemably reactionary role and it seems like that’s what you do in relation to the Israeli Jewish nation which undeniably has a working-class. That is not a narrow settler caste, like the South Africa Boers. Your whole analysis is predicated on understanding it as basically akin to South Africa but it’s simply not the same. The Israeli Jewish nation is not a narrow settler caste. It is a class differentiated national group.
And to respond to what you were saying, the idea that Jews globally constitute a transnational Jewish nation, that is romantic nationalist nonsense. But in Israel, from a Marxist point of view, in terms of understanding a nation as a people occupying a shared geographical territory, with a common language, common history and common experience and understanding themselves to be a nation, undeniably there is an Israeli Jewish nation.
[2:04:05] Now we might talk about ways that identity can be overcome and certainly I would hope that any future Israeli state that was part of a 2 state settlement would be a bi-national state of both Jews and Arabs. But to get there requires an avoidance of the erasure of the progressive potential of the Israeli Jewish working-class that Tony undertakes.
A couple of people have implied that anti-Semitism is so marginal as to be not worthy of attention. I think this is wrong for two reasons. Firstly you talked about hate crimes against Muslims increasing. Anti-Semitic hate crime is also increasing.
Anne Mitchell – that is not what the CST says.
Daniel: Umm, maybe we are looking at different statistics.
Rebecca: They make the statistics.
Daniel: Firstly the CST aren’t the only people who make the statistics and there are substantial statistical records to show that anti-Semitic hate crimes between 2014, 2015 increased dramatically.
Tony Greenstein: Why? Operation Protective Edge.
Daniel: Of course, it’s their own fault.
Tony Greenstein: That’s what the CST says!
Daniel: So…. That needs to be taken account of as well. Secondly look there’s a question of ideology. The fact that an element of chauvinism or bigotry or racism has become marginal doesn’t mean it’s no longer worthy of discussion or that it can’t reoccur as we’ve agreed anti-Semitism has varied and fluctuated throughout history. The idea that because it is marginal in a particular moment we should stop talking about it or acknowledging it is extremely dangerous.
[2:06:10]: I don’t share Tony’s incredibly generalising view of Jews as a uniformly privileged layer of the white community, I can’t remember the exact phrase, that isn’t straightforwardly true in this country and certainly not true in other countries, so to dismiss anti-Semitism as something not worthy of discussion because it is marginal or because it only happens to rich people, again is something which makes me extremely uncomfortable.
And finally on your point about whether we should have this debate in the Labour Party or at all. If we don’t have this debate these issues are just going to keep coming up again and again. I think Greg is absolutely right that we should be having this debate inside the Labour Party. The Labour Party should be a space where different positions and perspectives on Israel/Palestine and on all of these questions can be debated and discussed openly. I think it is part of the problem on the Right and the Left not that there’s too much debate on these questions but not enough. Actually a debate like this, which tackles these issues head on, you say you are tired of it, is extremely rare. I think that the only way we are going to get anywhere on these issues, me and Tony aren’t going to convince each other but we both aspire to shape a political hegemony in the movement around us and the only way to do that is by having this kind of debate so the problem is, far from there being too much debate the problem is not enough. That is why we wanted to have a debate tonight and why we want to have such debates within the wider movement. [2:07:56]