11 June 2016

Momentum - Its Time for Jon Lansman to Go

Jon Lansman asks us to ‘understand’ the Nakba – the expulsion of ¾ million Palestinians

Palestinian refugees fleeing in 1948
Very little in politics happens for no reason.  When Cameron asks us to help defeat ‘terrorism’ we can be sure that what he really means is surveillance and repression at home [PREVENT] and imperialism abroad.  ‘Terrorism’ is never a word applied to our friends, as the Saudis demonstrate daily in Yemen.  Indeed our good friend Saudi Arabia and al-Qaeda in Yemen are virtually partners in the war against the people of Yemen.  [see for example Saudi Arabia and al-Qaeda Unite in Yemen]
Lansman explaining away the Nakba
Likewise when Jon Lansman takes us on a tour of population exchanges and transfers in Europe, before and after the last war we can assume that his purpose is not so much an abstract academic exercise, or a hidden desire to explain the cruelties of ethnic nationalism but as a means of exculpating Zionism from its expulsion of the Palestinians in 1947-8.
Devastation of Palestinian Property in 1948
When someone asks us to ‘understand’ the Nakba, when ¾ million Palestinians were made refugees and thousands were massacred, the first thing to ask is where they are coming from.  In the case of Jon Lansman its quite easy to determine this question.
One of the many massacres in 1948
Lansman’s original response to the ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign of the Right and the Zionists, in the shape of the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel, in the Labour Party was to accept that there was an anti-Semitism problem.  Indeed he was negotiating with the JLM and LF though to what effect no one knows.
Marlene Ellis - the latest Black member to be suspended as  Lansman watches on
It didn’t take a brilliant mind to work out that if Jeremy Corbyn was being attacked last summer for associating with  holocaust deniers then the chances were that the campaign against ‘anti-Semitism’ in Oxford University Labour Club and the subsequent suspensions of mostly Black and Muslim members of the LP had less to do with ‘anti-Semitism’ and more to do with getting rid of Corbyn and attacking those who support the Palestinians.

There has been a non-stop campaign against ‘anti-Semitism’ in the Labour Party since last summer.  When Ken Livingstone mentioned the fact that Hitler supported Zionism, which was in all essentials true, he was suspended amidst the normal hypocritical uproar by the mass media.  What was Lansman’s response?  To join in the calls for Livingstone’s suspension of not expulsion.  He was told his career was over when that is more true of Lansman than anyone.
1948 war
It was only when Lansman’s deputy in Momentum Jackie Walker, was suspended for ‘anti-Semitism’ Labour’s Thought Police claims another victim - Black Jewish activist Jackie Walker that Lansman realised that there might be a problem.  A frenzied witch-hunt is not the way to combat antisemitism or any form of racism.  We saw the Right’s cynicism play out a week ago when Jim Murphy, the man who lost Scotland for Labour at the last General Election, successfully opposed the nomination of Rhea Wolfson for Labour’s National Executive Committee  because she was associated with the ‘anti-Semitic’ Momentum group that Lansman chairs.  Despite the fact that Wolfson is Jewish she is one of those rare creatures, a left-wing Zionist!  Young left-winger blames former Scottish Labour leader for her failed bid to replace Ken Livingstone

Yet Lansman has refused to draw any conclusions.  On the contrary he has demobilised Momentum and turned it into a useless talking shop.  Instead of mobilising nationally against the witch hunt and against those MPs that are trying to bring Corbyn down, it has done absolutely nothing.  There has been no national conference, no national leaflets, no anything.  It is possible that the Right will win out in the NEC elections in October.  If so that is down to the abysmal failure of Momentum to organise nationally and the fact that Lansman has been an utter disaster preferring to appease the Right at a time when they have been gunning for Jeremy Corbyn.  
Labour's Transfer policy in 1944
The witch hunt against anyone speaking out against the witch hunt is proceeding apace with news of the suspension of Marlene Ellis from Black Connexions this week.  Her offence?  Signing an open letter condemning the suspension of Ken Livingstone!  Our witch hunters don’t like opposition and they therefore deemed that opposing the bogus anti-Semitism witch hunt was in itself an act of anti-Semitism!  As the Jewish Chronicle, which has been driving the witch hunt  explained: “Momentum activist Marlene Ellis has been suspended from the Labour Party over a blog which accused Jeremy Corbyn of playing “right into the hands of Zionist criminals” by suspending Ken Livingstone.”
This is an expression of her viewpoint.  There is nothing anti-Semitic in it.  Yet what has been the reaction of Jon Lansman?  Has he spoken out and condemned this attack by the Right on mainly Black, Muslim and left-wing activists?  Has he, as Chair of Momentum, taken a lead in fighting back against the daily suspension of activists?  No, he has maintained complete silence.  Even worse he is now rationalising the politics of those who are conducting the witch-hunt.

Lansman has embarked on rehabilitating Zionism and the State of Israel  This began with an article ‘Why the Left must stop talking about ‘Zionism’ it has now ended up with an attempt to forgive Zionism for the Nakba. Labour and the Jews: from ethnic cleansing to truth and reconciliation.

In the first article he asked us not to mention the word ‘Zionism’ because we might begin asking why there are Jewish only settlements in Israel.  Why hundreds of Rabbis issue edicts calling on Jews to refuse to rent flats or rooms to Arabs.  Why Jewish residents of Afula call the attempt by Arabs to purchase building plots the act of ‘terrorists’.  Why there are pogroms against Black African refugees in Tel-Aviv and the worlds largest detention centre for refugees in Holot in the Negev desert.  Why a book Borderlife depicting a relationship between Arab and Jewish teenagers is banned from the high school syllabus for threatening ‘Jewish national identity’ etc. etc.

Zionism began as a mirror image of anti-Semitism in Europe.  It took to heart its principles but it reversed them.  What the anti-Semites had done to the Jews they were going to do to the native peoples of Palestine.  So today being Jewish in Israel entitles you to land rights, better employment, education, welfare benefits.  Being Jewish is a matter of national and racial pride.  That is why Zionists love to wrap the Israeli flag around themselves in ostentatious displays of nationalist patriotism.  It also expresses itself in the chants of ‘death to the Arabs and in the number of shops who display ‘kosher’ certificates in their windows testifying that they don’t employ Arabs.  Israel is not a state of its own citizens but a state of the Jewish ‘nation’ – which includes not only its Jewish citizens but Jews who are not citizens but part of the Jewish nation, even though living outside the State.

And let us be clear what Lansman is forgiving.  In the Jewish state that was allocated by Resolution 181 of the United Nations, in November 1947 to the Zionists, the number of Palestinians was approximately the same as the number of Jews.  The Zionist goal of an ethno-religious state was not compatible with an equal number of residents being Jews and Arabs.  Israel was not the equivalent of the British state, which is nominally Christian but in which no one really cares how many Christians there are.  In Israel everything revolves around being Jewish.  It is a Jewish supremacist state.  Being Jewish is a national and racial category.

Israel is a settler colonial country.  Its aim is to ‘redeem’ the land for the Jewish nation, much as the Nazis believed in the concept of a mystical attachment by the German Volk, who were connected by blood, to its land. , Likewise Zionism believes that in the attachment of the ‘Jewish People’ to Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel.

In the seminal case of George Tamarin v State of Israel in 1972 (a decision upheld in Uzzi Ornan vs State of Israel in 2013) Tamarin wanted his nationality to be changed from ‘Jewish’ to ‘Israeli’.  Chief Justice Agranat ruled that ‘the desire to create an Israeli nation separate from the Jewish nation is not a legitimate aspiration. A division of the population into Israeli and Jewish nations would … negate the foundation on which the State of Israel was established.’ The court ruled that “There is no Israeli nation separate from the Jewish People. The Jewish People is composed not only of those residing in Israel but also of Diaspora Jewry.” 

And therein lies the problem.  If Israel was a nation of all its citizens then Zionism would not rear its head.  There would be equality between each citizen in so far as this is ever attainable in a class society.  But there is no such thing as an Israeli nation because Israel lays claim to all Jews, the world over.

That is what makes Israel an apartheid state.  But for Lansman it is some kind of national cultural state.  Lansman attempts to equate the population exchanges in Greece and Turkey that took place following the Convention on Exchange of Populations of January 1923 as somehow equivalent to the Nakba.  They couldn’t be more different.  In fact, after a million Greeks had already been massacred, most Greeks fled from Turkey.  The exchanges such as they were occurred on religious not ethnic grounds.  In other words the exchange was largely a myth. 

Another example Lansman gives to justify the expulsion of the Palestinians is the massive repatriation of up to 2 million ethnic Germans, from Eastern and Central Europe to Germany after WW2.  The situation was again completely different from that of the Palestinians.  It was part of Nazi policy to enrol what they termed the Volksdeutsche in a policy of German conquest of Europe.  They were often unwilling to be co-opted but in the atmosphere of the second world war many willingly supported the Nazi party.  In Czechoslovakia, the Sudeten German Party gained a majority of the vote under Henlein and this provided the pretext for the Nazi dismemberment of Czechoslovakia.  In Hungary the Swabian Volksdeutsche made up most of the gendarmes who were responsible for rounding up, torturing and incarcerating the Jews in brick yards prior to deportation.

This is not the time or place to go into the history of the Volksdeutsche but there was clearly very fierce resentment after the war at the fact that large numbers of them had become Nazis and members of the Waffen SS and perpetrated numerous massacres.  They acted as colonists in large parts of Poland, in particular the Warthegau and Silesia.  In many ways their repatriation, bloody as it undoubtedly was, was the expulsion of colonists.

The Palestinians did not massacre Jews in Palestine, they were the subject of massacres.  They were not employed by a foreign imperial power to colonise other peoples’ land they were the ones who were colonised.  To compare the Palestinians to the ethnic Germans in Europe is crass and racist and a justification of a policy of racial exclusion.   The same policy the Nazis employed in Poland and elsewhere.

Lansman quotes from the Labour Party’s 1944 resolution supporting the transfer of the Palestinians out of Palestine to accommodate a Jewish state and sees this as some kind of understandable reaction to the holocaust rather than for what it was.  Labour’s policy through the 20th century had been an imperialist one, in which it had justified the British Empire by comforting itself that it was acting as a ‘trustees’ for the backwards races.  The Tories didn’t bother to justify the Empire, it was their natural right to conquer the savages and to utilise their resources.  Labour preferred to justify the same as helping to the same savages to civilisation.  The Attlee government was one of the most exploitative imperialist governments Britain has seen, conducting a ruthless counter-insurgency war in Malaya against communist guerilllas in 1950-1.  It was responsible for the super-exploitation of the African colonies.  At a time of a chronic balance of payments deficit and having gone cap in hand to the United States in 1945 for a $3 billion loan, British imperialism under Labour had to  ruthlessly exploit its colonies.

Once a Labour government took power it was faced with an entirely different scenario.  They wanted for strategic reasons to hang on to Palestine but the Zionists’ terrorist militias took up arms against them culminating in the Irgun’s bombing of the King David hotel in Jerusalem in 1946, which acted as a headquarters for the British military, in which over 100 people, including many Jews, were killed.  The Stern Gang followed this up in 1948 with the assassination of Count Folk Bernadotte, the Swedish UN mediator who had saved thousands of Jews from the camps at the end of the war by personally interceding with Himmler.

The United States, which wanted to see Britain decolonise (not for altruistic reasons but because it wanted to gain a share of the colonial markets which Britain’s preferential trade system and the sterling pool kept isolated) pressed Britain to admit the Jewish Displaced Persons from the camps in Europe.  As Ernest Bevin remarked of the Americans, they wanted Jews to come to Palestine because they didn’t want them in the United States!  It caused offence but it was true.  There was nothing anti-Semitic about this as Lansman implies.

The USA had extremely rigid anti-Semitic immigration controls post-war, which the Zionists supported to the hilt.  Indeed the Zionists were amongst the most vociferous opponents of lowering the immigration barriers because they didn’t want Jews to go to the USA as opposed to Palestine.  They repeated this in the 1970’s and 1980’s with the emigration of Soviet Jews when they lobbied Reagan and the United States not to admit Soviet Jewish refugees. When Morris Ernst, a non-Zionist Jewish lawyer, was asked by Roosevelt to draw up a post-war resettlement plan for Jewish refugees ‘Jewish leaders decried, sneered and then attacked me as if I were a traitor.  At one dinner party I was openly accused of furthering this plan of freer immigration in order to undermine political Zionism.’ [Robert Silverberg, If I Forget Thee O Jerusalem, p.334, Pyramid Book, New York, 1972.
Lansman argues that it wasn’t the Zionist colonisation up till 1945 but the holocaust which was responsible for founding the Israeli state.  As a matter of simple historical fact this is nonsense.  The Zionist movement began colonisation in Palestine from 1882 with the Biluim and in earnest from the second Labour Zionist aliyah in 1904, that is over 40 years before 1947.  The refugees from the holocaust were directed towards Palestine despite their wish to go to the United States by a combination of American anti-Semitism and Zionism.  The Zionist movement and the Hagannah terrorist group were allowed to operate in the European displaced persons camps and in many cases through violence the refugees were coerced into accepting that their destination was Palestine.  Lansman suggests that the reason Israel was created ‘ was the Holocaust, the plight of the survivors seeking safe refuge.’  Israel certainly didn’t provide a safe refuge.  One-third of those who died in the 1947-8 war were holocaust survivors and that was one reason that the Israeli state wanted them so badly,  They needed conscripts for their militias and new found colonial army.

Lansman argues that ‘only truth can bring reconciliation.’  Unfortunately a deliberate re-writing of history is not the way of achieving that object.  Lansman however isn’t merely engaged in rewriting history but in attempting to lay the basis for Labour’s acceptance of an Israeli state which is to this very day ‘Judaising’ parts of Israel with relatively few Jews such as the Galilee, Negev and Jerusalem.  What Lansman wants is Labour’s endorsement for Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing and colonisation.

For the main left-wing group in the Labour Party, Momentum, to have as its Chairperson a Zionist supporter is absurd.  Zionism is the antithesis of socialism.  It posits not the unity of the working-class but the unity of the Jewish people.  That was why the Labour Zionists ‘trade union’, which was in fact a large colonising agency, the Histadrut, banned Arabs from membership until 1959. 
As David HaCohen, Managing Director of Histadrut’s building company Solel Boneh explained:
‘I had to fight my friends on the issue of Jewish socialism, to defend the fact that I would not accept Arabs in my Trade Union, the Histadrut; to defend preaching to housewives that they should not buy at Arab stores; to defend the fact that we stood guard at orchards to prevent Arab workers from getting jobs there... to pour kerosene on Arab tomatoes; to attack Jewish housewives in the markets and smash Arab eggs they had bought... to buy dozens of dunums from an Arab is permitted but to sell God forbid one Jewish dunum to an Arab is prohibited; to take Rothschild the incarnation of capitalism  as a socialist and to name him the 'benefactor' - to do all that was not easy.’ [Ha’aretz 15.11.69.]

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