8 March 2019

The Alliance for Workers Liberty’s Alliance with Tom Watson and Labour’s Right

Support for Zionism and racism abroad has led to support for the Witchhunt at home

The AWL’s guru and founder, Sean Matgamna, has just penned an Open Letter to Jeremy Corbyn which marks the final break of the AWL with the Left. In it Matgamna both justifies and supports the Labour Party’s Witchhunt. He openly calls for the expulsion of anti-Zionists. If there are any socialists left in the AWL then they should get out. Matgamna has aligned the AWL with Tom Watson, Jon Lansman and Jonathan Freedland, to say nothing of the Tory press
More Jews want to expel Israel's Arabs than Oppose it - this is the reality of Israel today
Matgamna declares that anti-Zionism, including support for the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees ‘should not be tolerated in a healthy labour movement’ and should be made ‘incompatible with membership of the Labour Party’. Only a died-in-the-wool racist could suggest that advocating a multi-racial society should be an offence. This is the politics of Enoch Powell not Karl Marx.
AWL campaign against BDS
Matgamna attacks the Corbyn left as anti-Semitic. He states that the Corbyn surge was also an antisemitic purge.’ This is the language of the Daily Mail.
Matgamna describes the hundreds of thousands who joined the Labour Party in the wake of Corbyn’s victory as having brought their political baggage’ i.e. anti-Semitism with them. Most of those who joined Labour in the wake of Corbyn’s victry had never belonged to any political party and were motivated above all by disgust at the re-election of the Tories and the austerity politics of New Labour. Matgamna displays utter contempt for the movement that brought Corbyn to victory in the leadership elections of 2015 and 2016.
Praise for Matgamna by JLM's Adam Langleben - a vehemently opponent of Corbyn who secretly recorded Jackie Walker - he resigned from the Labour Party with TIG
Matgamna begins with an innocent question: ‘How has the crisis that grips the new, new Labour Party on antisemitism come about? How has it come to be the major scandal it is now?’
The answer is of course obvious. Even before Corbyn was elected he was accused of anti-Semitism. False allegations were made in the Daily Mail and Jewish Chronicle that Corbyn was an associate of a holocaust denier, Paul Eisen. Attacking Corbyn for ‘anti-Semitism’ was somewhat easier than denouncing him for opposing privatisation of the NHS, but that is amongst the real reasons.
One crook supporting another
The reasons for the vicious and never ending campaign against Corbyn and the Left are not difficult to understand. Corbyn was seen as a threat to the political and economic interests of the Establishment. He was anti-nuclear, anti-NATO, pro-Palestinian and anti- imperialist. He was an ally of workers in struggle. To have him as the leader of the second major party of the US’s closest ally in Europe was unacceptable – not only to the Israeli but to the US and British states. The ‘anti-Semitism’ smears were their answer.
AWL's all-White delegation to Israel
For over 30 years, the AWL (Socialist Organiser) was unique for its theory of ‘left anti-Semitism’. AWL refused to accept the most obvious reason for socialists’ hostility to the Israeli state, namely that most people don’t like Apartheid.
You don’t have to be a socialist to understand that anti-Zionism is not about antagonism to Jews but opposition to racism and colonialism. Israel is a state where a plurality of Israeli Jews support the deportation of Israeli Arabs and where 79% believe that Jews should be given preferential treatment over Arabs. Israel is a state where the Right marches to the drumbeat of Death to the Arabs’ and where Arab villages are demolished in order to make way for Jewish towns.
This is the reality of the Jewish supremacist nature of the Israeli state
Israel is the only state in the world where Donald Trump is popular. A recent  survey by the Pew Research Center found that 94% of Jewish Israelis have a favourable view of the US in general (83% overall).
The AWL’s obsessions with Israel have been humoured by the rest of the Left, treated much as one treats a dotty aunt. However what in previous times was a quaint oddity has become unacceptable. Where once the AWL’s support for imperialism was passed over in awkward silence today we have to call a spade a spade and say that the AWL has become a scab organisation in the service of the Right. It is not the first group to have taken this path, e.g. the Revolutionary Communist Party.
anti-Corbyn member from Hove Tom Gray  can't praise Matgamna's racist article enough
The AWL's politics have come full circle. What were reactionary politics externally have infected its domestic politics. Marxism teaches that in time theory and practice align with each other. Nowhere was this truer than with the socialist Zionists who, when they began the colonisation of Palestine, abandoned their socialism as it was incompatible with their day to day relations with the natives. Instead they chose ‘constructivism’, the building up of the proto Jewish state with the capital of the Jewish bourgeoisie.
In the words of David Ha’Cohen, an important figure in Labour Zionism:
‘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.’ [David Hirst, The Gun and the Olive Branch, p.185, Faber, 2003 citing Ha’aretz 15.11.69.
The Histadrut’s policy of Jewish Labour, Kibbush Ha’avodah meant a Boycott of Arab Labour. Labour Zionism opposed solidarity between Arab and Jewish workers in favour of unity with Jewish employers.
Those socialist Zionists who chose socialism over Zionism were a minority. Those who prioritised work with the Arab working class formed the Palestine Communist Party MOPSI and became anti-Zionists. This resulted in them coming into conflict with both the British colonial forces, who deported many of them with the active connivance of Histadrut and the Zionist leadership.
So it is with the AWL. Over 30 years ago they abandoned anti-Zionism and support for a democratic, secular state in Palestine in favour of a two state solution. This meant giving positive support to Israel as a Jewish state. AWL became a Zionist organisation yet for reason of nostalgia still called itself Trotskyist despite its support for the occupation of Iraq, the CIA backed Mojahedeen and America’s war in Afghanistan and Partition in Ireland. [See Hoist By Their Own Petard - The Zionist Alliance for Workers Liberty and Siding with Labour right
The AWL has consistently opposed any solidarity with the Palestinians.  In the trade unions they vehemently opposed BDS in UNISON and the UCU amongst other unions.
Life has not been easy for the AWL ever since Corbyn was elected as Leader. On the one hand they could hardly be seen to oppose him or the movement that brought him to power but on the other hand they found support for the Palestinians and opposition to Zionism galling. This led to an uneasy tension. In Momentum the AWL supported Jon Lansman’s removal of Jackie Walker, an anti-Zionist, as Vice-Chair only for Lansman to then turn on them.
The AWL also found itself the target of the witchhunt under Iain McNicol. This reached farcical proportions in 2016 when Owen Smith denounced the AWL’s ‘anti-Semitism’! Quite understandably the AWL were furious. After having done their best to ingratiate themselves with the Right over Zionism they had become a victim of the ‘anti-Semitism’ attacks on the crude basis that Left=Anti-Semitic!
Soon after Corbyn’s victory against Smith I debated with Daniel Randall of the Alliance for Workers Liberty. Randall had himself just been expelled for ‘anti-Semitism’. Randall conceded 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.... 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. ‘
Israel – an oasis of democracy
To the AWL Israel is synonymous with being Jewish. They have a fantasy of Israel as a democratic oasis, an island of toleration and civilisation in a barbarous Middle East. It is Reagan’s City on the Hill transplanted to Tel Aviv. The AWL are engaged in a love-in with a mythical Israel.
Of course there is another Israel. It is the Israel of Geoff Halper’s War Against the People a militarised state that trained the Guatemalan army of Rios Montt as it  murdered up to 200,000 Mayan Indians. It is the Israel which today is supplying weapons to the genocidal army of Myanamar in its war against the Rohinga people. It is the state which was the closest ally of Apartheid South Africa and the death squad regimes of Central and South America. This is the AWL’s golden state. As Dr Verwoerd, the South African Premier acknowledged,
"The Jews took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived there for a thousand years. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state,"
None of this penetrates the minds of the AWL. Matgamna isn’t ignorant he is indifferent. Like the colonists that Ahad Ha'am warned against in The Truth from the Land of Israel (1891) Matgamna cannot see the Palestinians. They are invisible, caricature Muslims and Islamic fanatics (he ignores Palestinian Christians). Matgamna offers instead a sop: ‘There is an element of supporting the Palestinians, championing their rights which Israel often tramples on...’
Palestinian oppression is merely incidental to the AWL. What matters is the survival of the Israeli state. Matgamna concedes that ‘There is a lot to criticise and condemn in Israeli policy’ but his only example is Israel’s ‘opposition to a Palestinian state’. Israel’s racist treatment of the Palestinians is irrelevant.
Israel is historical recompense for the Nazi genocide. No matter that Zionist colonisation predated the Holocaust and that it was the Nazis not the Palestinians who were responsible for the Holocaust .
Matgamna calls himself a socialist and he is probably sincere after all Ramsey MacDonald also believed he was a socialist What is clear is that Matgamna is Islamaphobic since the only alternative he can contemplate to a two state solution is an Arab Islamic state. Arabs being incapable of democratic politics, that is reserved for Europeans. The AWL is in a long line of pro-imperialist ‘socialist’ groups.
A Jewish State is a Racist State
The French Revolution of 1789 marked a break from the ethno-religious state. The French revolution held that the nation state consisted of all of those who lived in it. Henceforth religion and state were separate. Religion was irrelevant to one’s civil and political rights. In the words of Clermont Tonnerre, a Deputy in the Constituent Assembly ‘To the Jews as a nation nothing, to the Jews as individuals everything.’ France was the first state to grant Jewish Emancipation. Zionism began from a hatred of Emancipation for whom it signalled assimilation. It took Britain a further 69 years before Jewish Emancipation allowed Lionel de Rothschilds to take his seat in Parliament.
Israel is a throwback to the Europe of the 1930’s. The objection to the Israeli state is not this or that act of discrimination but to a state, not of its own citizens but of Jews wherever they live in the world. That is why there is no Israeli nationality. As the recently passed Jewish Nation State Law makes clear only Jews have national rights in Israel. Its non-Jewish inhabitants are resident aliens. Even within Israel Arabs are tolerated guests which is why half the Arab villages are unrecognised i.e. liable to be demolished at any time.
Because Israel is a Jewish state the Chief  Rabbi of Safed, a paid state official, can issue an edict forbidding the renting of apartments to Arabs and be backed up by dozens of rabbis. It is why hundreds of Jewish residents of Afula can demonstrate for days in protest at the sale of a single home to an Arab. In Israel there are hundreds of Jewish communities where Arabs are barred and the Admissions Committee Law gives them the right to keep Arabs out.
Yet to Matgamna Israel as a Jewish state is entitled to treat non-Jews as aliens. He has no complaint about discrimination against Arabs. His only concern is with what he calls ‘absolute anti-Zionism’ which is ‘barely distinguishable from antisemitism.’ I confess I was absolutely opposed to Apartheid in South Africa but that didn’t make me anti-White.
Matgamna doesn’t pretend that ‘anti-Semitism’ is not about Israel. During the past 3 years the Labour Right has run with false ‘anti-Semitism’ and if you questioned their claims then that was proof of your ‘anti-Semitism’. An Orwellian Catch-22.
AWL support a definition of antisemitism that equates anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism
When the Zionists and the Labour Right demanded that the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism be accepted (promising that this would mean an end to the false anti-Semitism campaign) they conceded that ‘anti-Semitism’ meant opposition to Israel, the ‘racist endeavour.’ 
Luciana Berger MP’s Constituency Labour Party wanted to deselect her. She was a Blairite parachuted into a working class Liverpool seat. It had nothing to do with her being Jewish. Tom Watson called it ‘worst day of shame in party’s 120-year history’ presumably more shameful than the war in Iraq, the deportation of asylum seekers, the 1968 Kenyan Asian Immigration Act etc. Matgamna agreed:
Nobody who watched and listened to Luciana Berger's speech explaining why she left the Labour Party will doubt the sincerity of her account of the antisemitism that has driven her and the others, or most of them, out of the Party.’
Matgamna and the AWL’s parroting of Watson’s lies is shameful. There isn’t the slightest evidence that Berger was the subject of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. The AWL’s theory of ‘left anti-Semitism’ has led it into supporting the Blairite Right.
The person who has been the recipient of most racial abuse is not Luciana Berger but Dianne Abbot. Yet whereas 6 people have been charged for abusing Luciana no one has ever been arrested for abusing Dianne. Yes there is institutional racism but it is in the Metropolitan Police not the Labour Party.
Matgamna’s ‘solution’, a two state solution is both reactionary and impossible. In the words of Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotoveli “This land is ours. All of it is ours. We did not come here to apologise for that.”
Matgamna’s article rests entirely on assertion. It consists of windy rhetoric, bile and frothing at the mouth. A Marxist or class analysis it is not.  Evidence is conspicuous by its absence. Matgamna asserts:
There is a long tradition in much of the Jewish community of support and involvement with the Labour Party. To the leaders of the Jewish community, and many Jews... the "left" in the Party, or some of it, must appear as possible future anti-Jewish pogromists, as has much of the would-be "revolutionary" left for a long time now.
Anyone who considers themselves a socialist would ask which sections of the Jewish community is Matgamna referring to? Matgamna treats the whole Jewish community as one.
The scurrilous allegation of socialists being ‘future anti-Jewish pogromists’ is the product of Matgamna’s fetid imagination. It is venom masquerading as an antidote. Any Marxist worth their salt would ask why the ‘long tradition’ of Jewish involvement in the labour movement, has come to an end and when. They would ask what are the sociological changes in British Jewry.
Matgamna inability to make a serious case comes from a tradition of ‘left’ denunciations that has more to do with Stalinism and the Workers Revolutionary Party.  which regularly denounced their opponents as spies and agents.
Any serious analysis would begin by asking when the decline in Jewish support for the Labour Party began. As far back as 2014 the Telegraph ran with a story about Ed Miliband ‘losing the Jewish vote.’ The class composition of the Jewish community had changed and so had its involvement in the labour movement. A Marxist would ask what political effect has the growing socio-economic prosperity of the Jewish population had on its political allegiances? Matgamna is the poor man’s Nick Cohen.
Before the 1960’s the majority of the Jewish population in London lived in the East End. I remember as a child going for a meal in Blooms, a popular kosher restaurant and waiting in a long queue. In 1996 the restaurant closed. Why? Becausefrom the 1960s onwards, Whitechapel’s Jewish population declined as people made their money and moved out to the suburbs of Golders Green and Ilford.’
William Rubinstein, a past President of the Jewish Historical Society, wrote [The Right, Left and the Jews, p. 51, 1982]:
the rise of Western Jewry to unparalleled affluence and high status has led to the near disappearance of a Jewish proletariat of any size: indeed the Jews may become the first ethnic group in history without a working class of any size. .. it has made Marxism, and other radical doctrines, irrelevant to the socio-economic bases of Western Jewry, and increasingly unattractive to most Jews.
Dr Geoffrey Alderman, a Jewish academic wrote that
By 1961, over 40% of Anglo-Jewry was located in the upper 2 social classes, whereas these categories accounted for less than 20% of the general population.[Jewish Community in British Politics, p. 137]
Alderman charted the political shift in British Jewry. In 1945 Phil Piratin became the only Communist MP ever elected in England from the heavily Jewish constituency of Mile End. By the 1960’s Jews were becoming strong supporters of the Conservative Party. Class not Israel explained the shift in Jewish voting patterns.

Matgamna refers to the ‘Jewish leaders’. As Audrey Gillan noted

The Jewish Board of Deputies advised Jews to stay away. The Jewish Chronicle warned: "Jews are urgently warned to keep away from the route of the Blackshirt march and from their meetings."

 These self-same leaders in the Board of Deputies are though happy to fight the ‘anti-Semitism’ i.e. anti-Zionism of the Left.

Magamna asserts that anti-Zionism derives from Stalinist anti-Semitism. On the contrary it derived from the new Left’s rejection of Stalinism in the wake of support for the Vietnam War and wars of liberation.
As part of his racist demonisation of the Palestinians Matgamna echoes Zionist propaganda that ‘Only a small fraction of those six million are refugees.’ Matgamna joins hands with Trump and Netanyahu in denying the existence of the Palestinian refugees.
Matgamna justifies the Nakba, the expulsion of the Palestinians by comparing them with ethnic German refugees expelled from Eastern Europe at the end of the war. There is no comparison. The Palestinian refugees were the victims of Zionist settler colonialism which sought to create a racially exclusive Jewish majority state.
The Sudeten Germans acted as a fifth column for the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938. In 1935 the pro-Nazi Sudeten German Party won over 60% of the vote. The expulsion of ethnic Germans from Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia was understandable given the role a majority of these communities had played in the Nazi occupation and in the Volksbund militias which worked with the Nazi occupation forces in helping deport the Jews and fight the resistance. Nonetheless socialists would have opposed the deportation of Germans en masse.
Matgamna claims that ‘The Jewish nation that won independence in 1948 was built up around Jews indigenous to the area.’ In other words he subscribes to the racial myth that Jewish settlers are ‘returning’ to Israel rather than dispossessing the indigenous population. Jews constituted a fraction of the original population of Palestine. It is true that in Jerusalem by the mid-19th century there were a majority of ultra-Orthodox Jews from Eastern Europe. However these Jews were anti-Zionist. They were known as the Old Yishuv. Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s first President wrote disparagingly about them in his autobiography Trial and Error (pp. 225-9)
As part of his justification for the Nakba, Matgamna refers to the myth that the Arabs aimed to "Drive the Jews into the sea". As Ilan Pappe documented the only people thrown into the sea were the Palestinians of Haifa in their panic to flee the shelling.
What marks the writings of Matgamna concerning Palestine is his sheer ignorance. AWL’s support for Israel and Zionism relies on nothing more than Israeli hasbarah (propaganda). Matgamna caricatures supporters of Palestine, saying that ‘Arab and Islamic states that want to put it out of existence should be supported.’ The reality is that Israel is surrounded by a belt of reactionary Arab states – from Egypt to Saudi Arabia -  with which it has friendly relations. Just as opponents of Apartheid in South Africa had no illusions in the surrounding Black states, so no supporter of the Palestinians seriously believes that Zionism will end as a result of the Arab armies. The corrupt pro-American Arab states are also a product of imperialism.
Referring to the Ken Livingstone affair Matgamna mentions ‘the nonsense.... about Zionist-Nazi affinity’ What he doesn’t do is explain why. Zionist historian David Cesarani cites how ‘The efforts of the Gestapo are oriented to promoting Zionism as much as possible.... Zionists saw the [Nazi] pressure towards segregation as the fulfilment of their assertion that the Jews were a separate nation with no place in Germany.’ [Final Solution, pp. 96, 102, 2016]
AWL’s rhetoric about a progressive imperialism disguises its superficial understanding of Zionism and Israel. Nothing Matgamna writes contributes to our understanding of neo-colonialism and imperialism today. Matgamna is no Frantz Fanon.
Israel is a Jewish state  representing the ‘Jewish nation’ both inside and outside Israel. Matgamna can only see the liberation of Palestine as leading to the creation of an Arab- Islamic state. This is part of his racist Orientalist perspective in which the Arabs are backward and infested with religion unlike a ‘Jewish’ state which alone amongst western nations forbids civil marriage.
Today the AWL’s domestic politics have caught up with their imperialist politics and the result is that they have joined hands with Tom Watson and Luciana Berger. We should recognise them as such and shun them as we would other members of the Labour Right.
Tony Greenstein

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