More “problematic cliches” about Nazi Israel at the Guardian

Mark Gardner from the CST discusses a change made in a recent Comment Is Free piece. Changes have been made before,such as when a piece originally titled “McCain’s pander to Jewish voters”, by Richard Silverstein was changed to “McCain’s play for pro-Israel voters”.

More “problematic cliches” about Nazi Israel at the Guardian
Mark Gardner

It is neither CST’s role nor wish to enter the often overheated debate as to whether or not criticism of Israel in the Guardian – and its highly successful online variant, Comment is Free (CiF) – is fair, balanced or proportionate.
Nevertheless, there are far too many occasions when the anti-Israel sentiment of Guardian and CiF contributors comes to our attention: this is not so much because the content might be misconstrued as explicitly antisemitic, but rather because it employs loose, crass and offensive langauge that should have no place in as influential an institution as the Guardian. (An institution, moreover, that claims to uphold the highest of moral and editorial values).
There are numerous examples of Guardian and CiF excesses in CST’s latest antisemitic discourse report, and another depressing example occurred on 18 August in an article by Slavoj Zizek that featured in both the print edition of the Guardian, and online at CiF. Zizek’s article accused Israel of taking over Palestinian territory: and in its original CiF version, stated that the land would be “Palestinian-frei”. Two days later, on 20 August, CiF amended this to read “Palestinian-free”, just as the actual print copy had read in the Guardian.
To some, this may appear a moot difference, but “Palestinian-free” is not the Nazi-themed term that “Palestinian-frei” is. After all, the Nazi Holocaust was designed to leave Europe “Juden-frei”, and the gate at Auschwitz read “Arbeit Macht Frei”. This is not to say that the Guardian and CiF should be accusing Israel of ‘ethnic cleansing’, far from it, but in this world of very small mercies, “frei” is clearly a Nazi slander, whereas “free” has no particular Jewish connotation.
CiF has tried hard in recent years to improve its moderation policies regarding comments upon the site, and in particular against the upsetting and hateful screeds that so often follow Israel and Jewish related articles. Their attitude to the accuracy and content of actual articles (rather than comments) has not always been so apparent, but CiF has explained their welcome decision to alter “frei” to “free” (see the foot of Zizek’s article) as:
“Due to an error, an edit to the print version of this article was not made to the online version. In print, the term “Palestinian-frei” was changed to read “Palestinian-free”. This edit has now been applied to the online version, as of 20 August 2009.”
It is not 100% clear from this explanation whether or not “Palestinian-frei” originated from Zizek’s original transcript, but this seems by far the most logical reading of the sentence. So, CiF’s alteration is certainly a welcome one and it leaves the article not quite as gratuitously offensive as it originally appeared to be.
I say ‘not quite as gratuitously offensive’, because the actual paragraph in which “Palestinian-frei” originally appeared is itself quite disgraceful. The paragraph is shown below (in its original “frei” form):
“Palestinians often use the problematic cliché of the Gaza strip as “the greatest concentration camp in the world”. However, in the past year, this designation has come dangerously close to truth. This is the fundamental reality that makes all abstract “prayers for peace” obscene and hypocritical. The state of Israel is clearly engaged in a slow, invisible process, ignored by the media; one day, the world will awake and discover that there is no more Palestinian West Bank, that the land is Palestinian-frei, and that we must accept the fact. The map of the Palestinian West Bank already looks like a fragmented archipelago.”
So, according to Zizek, the Palestinians’ “problematic cliche” of Gaza being “the greatest concentration camp in the world” is “dangerously close to the truth”. Israel, one presumes, is becoming the new Nazi Germany, and Palestinians are becoming the new Jews. Furthermore, this moral and historical perversion of Holocaust imagery is nothing more than a “problematic cliche” that is, anyway, now coming to fruition.
Zizek’s assertion that “one day, the world will wake up and discover that there is no more Palestinian West Bank, that the land is Palestinian-frei…” is not so much immoral as simply ludicrous. Are we to believe that one morning, the world will wake up and suddenly realise that Nablus, Hebron, Jericho, Bethlehem and countless other places have no population remaining? How will this occur? Will a Guardian journalist call room service in their Ramallah hotel one morning and receive no breakfast? And if so, will this journalist also fall prey to the extraordinary phenomenon whereby this enforced mass depopulation was somehow an “invisible process, ignored by the media”?
There is more than one “problematic cliche” in Zizek’s article, and in its publication by the Guardian and CiF. The most egregious part of one of those has been belatedly taken care of, but how many more “problematic cliches” will the Guardian stable keep chucking at us?

When blood libel becomes part of ‘kultur’

Petra Marquardt-Bigman reflects on the appearance (about which we posted previously) of an old libel in the Kultur section of a Swedish newspaper, and considers thinkers and writers who try to make the Israel-Nazi comparison respectable.

“It was doubtless a coincidence that on two consecutive days, two major publications in two European countries gave out the message that Israel deserves to be compared to the Nazis – but it was arguably a revealing coincidence.”

Read it all.

Update: David T discusses on the origins of the organ theft story and, despite being unfounded, observes it taking hold.

Scapegoating Muslims for the heroin trade

Attributing a pestilence or catastrophe of the day to a social group is one of the most common forms of bigotry, and a point of overlap between antisemitism and Islamophobia. Blaming Jews for the financial crisis is one example. Another is the leaflets accusing Muslims of crimes against humanity which were circulated in Preston, Lancashire.

Viewing phenomena through a prism is prejudiced, and most of us are prejudiced. Prejudice is a precondition for making sense of the world; if you don’t have a prism then you experience the world as an undifferentiated barrage of happenings between which you’re unable to prioritise. But if that prism is religion, ethnicity or nationality (not to mention sex, sexual orientation, age, and other immutable aspects of identity) it is bigoted. If you’re also looking for a group on which to lay the blame, you are looking for a scapegoat. None of these ways of thinking are against the law. The incitement to hatred kicks in if you publicly castigate your scapegoat and attempt to persuade others to see things your way. At that stage you have stepped outside the law.

None of this is obvious or to be taken for granted, as the thought-out incomprehension on Stormfront about the islamophobic heroin leaflets shows.

Blood libel in mainstream Swedish newspapers

Top Swedish Newspaper Aftonbladet says IDF Kills Palestinians for their organs. The original article is here.

Below is a guest piece on EISCA by Arieh Kovler of the Fair Play Campaign Group. Since this piece was written, the editor of Aftonbladet has fallen back on the Livingstone Manoeuvre saying that anybody who criticizes Israel risks being accused of antisemitism.

Recycling Old Libels. By Arieh Kovler.

The Blood Libel is one of the oldest antisemitic charges against Jews: the accusation that Jewish people conspire to kill non-Jews for nefarious purposes. The most common formulation of this lie is that Jews kill a Christian boy in order to use their blood for a ritual of some kind. But many of the earliest recorded blood libels level a slightly different accusation.

In 1909, Prof Hermann Strack of Berlin University wrote The Jew and Human Sacrifice – the first serious scholarly work devoted to exposing the Blood Libel as a dangerous historical lie. It is, unfortunately, still relevant today. Talking about the earliest Blood Libels, he notes (p174):

“In several cases, always assuming the credibility of the tradition, it would be a matter of popular -medical belief … According to the Marbach annals, the Jews of Fulda (when tortured, of course), confess in December, 1235, that they had murdered the miller’s children, ut ex eis sanguinem ad suum remedium elicerent – in order to obtain their blood for medical use“

Strack also highlights the account of Thomas Cantipratanus, a monk writing in about 1270. Thomas claims that all Jews were inflicted with some sort of hidden medical condition as a punishment for killing Jesus:

“A very learned Jew, who in our day has been converted to the [Christian] faith, informs us that one enjoying the reputation of a prophet among them … made the following prediction: ‘Be assured that relief from this secret ailment, to which you are exposed, can be obtained through Christian blood alone’. This suggestion was followed by the ever-blind and impious Jews, who instituted the custom of annually shedding Christian blood in every province, in order that they might recover from their malady.”

In these early Blood Libels, the Jews were accused of killing non-Jewish children to use their bodies for medical reasons.

750 years later, this particular varient of the Blood Libel lives on. On the 17th of August, Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet published an article by Donald Boström under the title “Palestinians accuse the Israeli army of stealing body parts from its victims”. The article strongly suggested that Israel has been stealing organs from Palestinians and both using them to supply Israeli transplant patients and selling them internationally.

The piece presents lots of facts: Many sick people in Israel need organ transplants. In 1992, then-health Minister Ehud Olmert led a drive to encourage Israelis to become organ donors. Some New Jersey Jews are being investigated for their role in an organised crime syndicate, which allegedly includes the buying of human organs from voluntary donors. Palestinians who are killed by the IDF are often autopsied.

From these facts, Boström suggests a massive and macabre international conspiracy in which Israelis and Jews harvest organs from Palestinian victims for gain and profit.

This is an incredibly serious and sickening charge to make. Not only does it recall the blood libels of the past, but it is also a form of the Nazi Card. The dehumanization of Jews by the Nazis was one of the worst features of the Holocaust; The Nazis treated Jews as raw materials rather than people, to be worked, killed or experimented on. The accusation that Israel would use the Palestinian as living organ banks is an inversion of this aspect of the Holocaust thrown back at Jews.

So it’s surprising that David Boström – like the accusers in the Blood Libels 0f old – doesn’t even pretend to offer any real evidence for his claim. Speaking to Israel Radio, he said:

“It concerns me to the extent that I want it to be investigated. But whether it’s true or not – I have no idea, I have no clue.”

Donald Boström is not the first to revive this contemporary twist on the old Blood Libel. He claims rumours of organ theft are common among Palestinians. Perhaps one reason for these rumours is the Iranian TV series Zahra’s Blue Eyes, broadcast in late 2004 and later dubbed for an Arabic audience. The plot involves the IDF conspiring to harvest Palestinians’ eyes for transplant into blind Israelis.

But Aftonbladet is a mainstream left-wing newspaper, not an Iranian propaganda outlet. It has the largest daily circulation of any paper in the Nordic Countries. Nearly one in six of the Swedish population reads it. It is majority-owned by the Swedish Trade Union Confederation, which has input into its editorial line. The paper’s editorial staff read this article, and felt that it was appropriate to run it anyway. Asa Linderborg, an editor on the relevant section of Aftonblade, told Ha’aretz that the newspaper “stands behind the demand for an international inquiry” of Boström’s claims. She also said:

“We had many discussions on whether to publish the article or not, and to the best of my knowledge, there are no facts there that are incorrect.”

And so a major European national newspaper ran a story that is extremely similar in both form and content to a medieval antisemitic slander.

In support of the Jerusalem Quartet performance

After reading Gene’s reminder “Equally, boycott opponents have a right, and a duty, to express themselves as well”, I just sent this (which I’ve tweaked a bit since sending) to BBC and Cadogan Hall addresses listed on PACBI’s ‘call to action against the Jerusalem Quartet’s Proms Appearance’. I hope the links make it through their spam filter.

***

info at cadoganhall dot com
proms at bbc dot co dot uk
and the Quartet.

Hello,

I understand you are coming under pressure from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel to cancel the performance of the Jerusalem Quartet on August 29th.

Hopefully cancellation is out of the question, but given the intensity of PACBI’s campaign, I thought I should contact you with some reasons to go ahead.

If you look at the boycott, divestment and sanction calls PACBI references, it is clear that PACBI and other boycott campaigners such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign are not interested in establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Rather, they are interested in eliminating Israel. This was made clear when PACBI successfully cancelled joint simultaneous peace concerts in Israel and the West Bank. PACBI and the PSC cannot tolerate peace work and move to sabotage it.

http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1479
http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1547

Some Israeli political groups and human rights and peace-making NGOs draw a distinction between boycotting the occupation on the one hand, which they view as appropriate, and boycotting Israel in its entirety on the other hand, which they recognise as eliminationist. PACBI and other groups pursue the latter – the entire social, cultural and economic exclusion of Israel. PACBI seeks, indiscriminately, to break links between medical institutions and cultural ones alike. Nothing less than the total pariahdom of Israel will suffice. PACBI is attempting to end Israel’s existence.

Unlike the boycott of South Africa, to which the boycott of Israel is frequently compared, hardly any Israelis call for a boycott. Those who oppose boycott include the Israeli socialist party Hadash and peace-making NGOs such as Gisha (legal centre for freedom of movement), the Abraham Fund for coexistence, and Peace Now (for an end to the occupation). The boycott is widely seen by peace-makers on the ground as counterproductive to peace. It is inarticulate, it causes more of the difference and division which are exascerbating the conflict, and it abandons Israeli peace activists.

http://links.org.au/node/968
http://www.peacenow.org.il/site/en/peace.asp?pi=69&docid=3303&pos=0
http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1715
https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/07/09/a-cringe-making-boycott-letter/

Israeli authorities have attempted to disrupt Palestinian cultural and academic affairs; I and other anti-boycotters have spoken out against these politically-motivated acts, as I do here.

https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/05/26/protesting-the-israeli-security-forces-disruption-of-palfest/
http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1940
http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1029
https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/05/29/student-protester-arrested-on-israeli-campus/

Meanwhile even joint anti-war Jewish and Palestinian Israeli productions such as Plonter are prevented from staging performances in Israel’s neighbouring states; performances are held to ransom as if they could lever peace. And even joint Israeli and Palestinian Israeli relationships are the focus of PACBI’s ongoing attempts to drive a wedge into co-existence between Israel’s Jewish and non-Jewish citizens. Wafa Younis’s life was in danger after she took her youth orchestra, Strings of Freedom, to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day.

https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/03/11/pacbi-drives-a-wedge-into-coexistence-inside-israel/
https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/03/28/good-things/

This is the nature of the cultural boycott.

Israel is unlike South Africa in a crucial way: its neighbours have only recently formally accepted its existence, this acceptance cannot be taken for granted, and there are enduring armed movements which hope to eliminate Israel. In South Africa anti-apartheid activists sought majority rule. In Israel there is majority rule. Israel is the world’s sole Jewish state, which came into existence after the attempted genocide of the world’s Jews. Hamas, Hesbollah and other factions continually preach hatred of Jews, and call this resistance to Israel. Beyond Israel antisemitism is a regional norm.

A total boycott of Israel – the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions of which PACBI’s cultural boycott is part – assists Hamas and other eliminationists by posing an obstacle to peace-making. In short, Israel is not and never has been the sole aggressor in this conflict, nor does it act capriciously or sadistically, as you might think if you were to read only PACBI’s, or only the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s, narrative of the conflict. The settlers must leave the occupied land, reparations must be made to refugees, occupation must end, resources must be equitably distributed, infrastructure must not be used to control and subdue, and Israel’s neighbours must permit Israel to live in peace. In Israel and the occupied territories violence feeds on violence, extremism on extremism. The reason the conflict is intractable is because the causes endure, not because Israel is a brutal state.

Anti-Israel politics are frequently expressed as hostility to Jews. PACBI has been complicit in this, and seeks to diminish concerns about this.

https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/hamas-threatens-to-kill-jewish-children-anywhere-in-the-world/
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/feb/04/gaza-jewish-community

Boycotters will insist otherwise, but hosting an Israeli orchestra does not amount to acceptance of the decisions and actions of the Israeli government. Nor does it amount to a solution to the conflict.

But societies in conflict are vulnerable to the prejudice, demonisation, dehumanisation and despair which haunts conflicts, and without cultural and social exchange there can be no coexistence. And yet cultural exchanges are under attack not from peace-makers but from those who wish to prolong division.

The last time the Jerusalem Quartet was targeted in the name of Palestine solidarity, the protesters were charged with a racially aggravated offence. Separately, protest leader Mick Napier of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign uses far right antisemitic materials in his arguments on behalf of Palestinians. He is part of a current of thinking that perceives anti-Jewish words and acts as a legitimate part of Palestine solidarity.

http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1752

The attempt he led to disrupt the concert was met with boos from the large audience at the Queens Hall in Edinburgh.

http://www.edinburghguide.com/festival/2008/edinburghinternationalfestival/jerusalemquartet

I could think of many more reasons not to cancel the Jerusalem Quartet. Some of them would be to do with cultural exchange and some of them would be to do with art.  None of them would be to do with discrediting solidarity with Palestinians under occupation. Israel is engaged in a violent occupation and ongoing settlement of Palestinian lands beyond its own borders. Israel has demonstrated it is willing to turn large parts of Gaza to rubble and make security for ordinary Gazans meaningless in the name of protecting its own security. But the cultural boycott of Israel will not help end the occupation nor the violence – if anything it will exacerbate the division. Additionally I think (unlike boycotters) that the best way for international community to end the occupation is to learn about the conflict, represent it accurately, and demand and take action which addresses the causes of the conflict. The best way for artistic bodies in Britain to reach out to Palestinians living under occupation is to invite Palestinian artists and performers to this country and pursue their travel permits with the Israeli authorities. I would be more than happy to play a part here, should such an initiative arise.

Thanks for reading and best wishes,

Mira

PS.
https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/05/22/tali-shalom-ezer-won’t-do-ken-loach’s-work-for-him/
https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/05/05/msu-jewish-studies-welcomes-honour-to-tutu-but-calls-on-him-to-renounce-israel-boycott/
https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/05/01/boycotters-target-leonard-cohen-as-a-bhuddist-jonathan-freedland/

Protest Against Neo-Nazis Converging On Budapest.

An Engage reader has sent us this.

Citizens Against the Far Right (Civilek a Szélsőjobb Ellen Mozgalom)
International Day of Peaceful Protest Against the Far Right

Saturday 15 August 2009, 5.30-10 pm
Budapest (5th district), Városház park

The Citizens Against the Far Right movement was born when the Hungarian Leftwing Feminist Network held a peaceful demonstration on 15 August 2000.
To date, 54 civic groups, including anti-Fascists, Jewish organizations, Roma organizations, gay rights groups, green organizations and humanists, have come together under the umbrella of Citizens against the Far Right, to protest against the racism and anti-Semitism that is increasingly widespread in Hungarian society.
The two pressing reasons for our demonstration now are the following:
First, neo-Nazi groups from across Europe plan to come in their thousands to Hungary on 15 August 2009 to commemorate the death of Rudolph Hess (Hitler’s deputy). Numerous neo-Nazi organizations and their supporters plan to occupy popular public squares across Budapest.
Second, in the past few days, Hungary has witnessed yet another racially-motivated fatal shooting of a 45-year-old Roma woman, and the critical wounding of her 13-year-old daughter, now in a medically-induced coma to help her survive her gunshot wounds. Racially-motivated violent crimes have become an everyday occurrence from the smallest village to the streets of the capital city.
Citizens Against the Far Right welcomes all those who reject hatred, homophobia, anti-Semitism, who want to fight against national fundamentalist, national socialist ideas, who reject exclusion, racism and violence to take part in an International Day of Peaceful Protest Against the Far Right, on Saturday, 15 August 2009, in Budapest (5th district), Városház park (City Hall Park, near Deák tér Metro), from 5.30 to 10 pm.
An anti-democratic, anti-Semitic, and racist minority that openly advocates political terrorism is running rampant in Hungary today.
They openly proclaim their violent nationalist-fundamentalist, militant, hateful slogans, favoring discrimination against ethnic groups and alternative lifestyles. The results of the 2009 European Parliamentary elections show that Hungarian society is not willing to accept cultural differences, nor to accept that all ethnic groups have an equal place in contemporary Hungary.
Radical Far Right groups are offering easy solutions to that layer of Hungarian society which is frustrated with the political culture, and seeks security in the face of economic crisis. They use twisted logic and historical falsification to mislead the frustrated masses with the promise of a ‘better future’. We can see through their efforts to glorify the perpetrators of crimes against humanity in twentieth-century Europe. Their actions are destroying the international reputation of our country, and creating fear in the hearts and minds of our democratic citizens.
Under these circumstances, we, the Citizens Against the Far Right – with the support of international democratic forces – are committed to fighting against the violent politics and program of the Far Right.
We can only fight barbarism with humanism!
Local politicians have not been invited to lead the demonstration; rather, we have invited a number of prominent public figures to speak, including the philosopher Miklós Gáspár Tamás, poet András Simon, writer Ákos Kertész, and feminist historian Andrea Alföldi. The demonstration will also welcome a number of musicians and groups on stage.
International communities and activists are standing together to fight the recent rise of the Far Right.

Citizens Against the Far Right (Civilek a Szélsőjobb Ellen Mozgalom)
antiracismmovement@gmail.com

Dressing chauvinistic hatred up as ‘class warfare’ or ‘anti-imperialism’ does not make it a good thing.

This is a guest post by Marko Attila Hoare, Reader at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Kingston University, and European Neighbourhood Section Director for the Henry Jackson Society. Marko blogs at Greater Surbiton.

One of the most insidious things about the radical left-wing discourse of class warfare and imperialism is the way in which it is increasingly providing a cover under which the worst forms of bigotry, even murderous or genocidal bigotry, can masquerade as something ‘progressive’. So effective is this propaganda technique that today it is increasingly being adopted by members of the right and far right as well. Indeed, right-wing and left-wing opponents of our contemporary, cosmopolitan, global civilisation are increasingly resembling each other, dressing up anti-Semitism and other forms of racism as resistance to imperialism or capitalism.

Take the example of anti-immigrant racism. The BNP regularly presents its racism in class-warfare terms: ‘The only political party in Britain that is opposed to the immigration racket and its devastating effect on British jobs is the British National Party. We are poised to throw the entire weight of our campaigning machinery into action in support of striking British workers. We, unlike the unions and Lib-Lab-Con, will stand by our own people no matter what the cost. For decades we have had a simple slogan explaining our position: BRITISH JOBS FOR BRITISH WORKERS!’

But even less crude opponents of immigration are ready to play the class-warfare card. In the words of Jeff Randall, writing a couple of years ago in the Daily Telegraph: ‘By lowering wages, migrants enable the middle classes to hire more home-caterers, dog-walkers, house-cleaners and hedge-trimmers for less cost than before. Very nice, if you’re an investment banker in Kensington. Not so hot, if the last job you had was polishing his Bentley.’ Of course, working-class families might also benefit from Polish plumbers charging less than British plumbers, but this particular Telegraph columnist has learned the value of dressing up his right-wing viewpoint in quasi-Marxist clothes.

He is far from alone. Writing in the Yorkshire Post, Bernard Dinneen complains that in permitting mass immigration, ‘Labour politicians were the culprits; they betrayed the working class. ’[] Sue Reid, in the Daily Mail, wrote an article entitled ‘The great white backlash: Working class turns on Labour over immigration and housing’. She argued that in light of increasing ‘white working-class’ receptivity toward the BNP, ‘Perhaps this should serve as a timely warning to Hazel Blears and the rest of the New Labour hierarchy, who many feel have let down the ordinary people who put them in power.’

The problem is not that the language of the left is being cynically misused by racists and right-wingers, but that the links between left-wing discourse of ‘class warfare’ and ‘anti-imperialism’ on the one hand, and racism and anti-Semitism on the other, are much deeper than leftists are often ready to admit. When Ukrainian peasants rebelled against their Polish aristocratic landlords in 1648, their ‘class warfare’ was directed in particular against the landlords’ Jewish estate-managers; in practice against Jews in general, tens of thousands of whom were slaughtered. I hope it is unnecessary to point out that anti-Semitic slaughter of this kind does not become acceptable simply because it is an expression of ‘class struggle’.

For modern socialists and anarchists, hostility to capitalism frequently went hand in hand with hostility to Jews, as evidenced by the anti-Semitism of Proudhon, Fourier, Bakunin and others, including Marx himself. Fascism itself had radical socialist origins, as the brilliant historian of fascism Zeev Sternhell has demonstrated. Early fascists replaced the class struggle with the national struggle as the weapon for attacking liberalism and democracy; they believed redistribution of wealth and power should occur between nations, rather than – or in addition to – between social classes.

The most radical ‘national socialist’ experiment was, of course the one undertaken by Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers Party. As Hitler said: ‘We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions.’ Hitler saw the task of his National Socialists as freeing the German workers from the influence of ‘Jewish’ international socialism, and of freeing the German economy from the control of ‘Jewish’ international capital. In power, the Nazis expropriated the wealth of Jews and of other nations, redistributing it in favour of Germany and German ‘Aryans’.

Yet genocidal impulses are scarcely an aberration in the revolutionary left’s tradition. Notoriously, Marx and Engels believed in the existence of ‘counter-revolutionary nations’ fit only to be exterminated. In 1849 Engels called for a ‘war of annihilation of the Germans against the Czechs’ as the ‘only possible solution’; he described the Croats as a ‘naturally counter-revolutionary nation’ and looked forward to the day when the Germans and Hungarians would ‘annihilate all these small pig-headed nations even to their very names.’

Left-wing radicals, unrestrained by any belief in the virtues of moderation and restraint, will frequently slip down the slope from aggressive radicalism into outright chauvinistic hatred, with their radical ideology simply a means by which their inner rage against particular groups of people can find socially acceptable expression. And in recent years, the more the prospect of revolutionary social change in the direction of socialism has receded in the advanced capitalist world, the more radical leftists and their fellow travellers have been ready to descend into the gutter of chauvinism directed against ‘counter-revolutionary nations’.

During the Wars of Yugoslav Succession of the 1990s, a considerable portion of left-wing opinion in the West made it abundantly clear that it did not respect the right of ‘counter-revolutionary nations’ such as the Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo Albanians even to exist, let alone to receive solidarity in their struggles for national survival. The genocidal campaigns of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic were invested with an ‘anti-imperialist’ content, so had to be defended against ‘Western media bias’ and ‘demonisation’. What was chilling at the time was that, once the nations in question had been marked as ‘pro-imperialist’, their only legitimate option – as far as the ‘anti-imperialists’ were concerned – was to lie down and die. Any attempt at resistance to their national destruction on their part was condemned as a crime equivalent to – indeed worse than – the original Serbian assault on them, while any expression of solidarity for them by others in the West was condemned as ‘support for Western intervention’.

The Western leftists who defended Milosevic’s genocidal campaigns internalised the Serb-nationalist ethnic stereotypes of Croats as ‘Ustashas’, Bosnian Muslims as ‘fundamentalists’ and Kosovo Albanians as ‘criminals and drug smugglers’. There were plenty of ironies in the sort of arguments used to deny the right of these peoples to national existence. Opportunistic anti-Semitic statements made by Croatian president Franjo Tudjman in his book Wastelands of Historical Truth were cited to tar the entire Croat nation with the brush of fascism by leftists who have consistently turned a blind eye to – if not actively apologised for – the far more extreme and integral anti-Semitism of groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah or of the Iranian and other Muslim regimes. The Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic, who never expressed any chauvinism toward Christians or Jews and who presided over a secular state, was condemned as a reactionary Muslim by leftists who would soon be supporting ‘resistance’ to ‘imperialism’ and ‘Zionism’ in Israel, Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan on the part of genuine murderous Islamists, or uniting with British Islamists to form the ‘Respect’ party.
Leftist stereotyping of Kosovo Albanians as drug smugglers and criminals is simply the same stereotyping as that employed by the BNP against Albanians and other immigrants or ethnic minorities. Thus, the Socialist Unity website cited popular left-wing blogger ‘Splintered Sunrise’ to back up its own opposition to Kosovo’s independence, quoting him as saying ‘I’m opposed to independence for Kosovo because the place is run by a bunch of mafiosi, its economy is based on the trafficking of drugs, arms and women, and giving this basket case the attributes of statehood will make a bad situation worse.’ The BNP, too, opposes Kosovo’s independence on similar grounds, arguing
‘Albanians are spread all over Europe and especially in the criminal underworld. They are notorious for their effectiveness, unpredictability and incredible cruelty. Their main advantage to the other organized crime [sic] is the fact that they speak language [sic] nobody understands, their organization is based on family ties and if someone dares to speak out that person is being brutally murdered. In Europe, today the Albanian mafia is the main engine of traffic of drugs and humans, theft and falsification of passports, weapons and human organs trade, abductions, extortions and executions. In London these people control the entire network of prostitution, in Italy and Greece they deal with weapons and drugs’ smuggling. There are entire towns in Italy where the business is controlled by Albanians.’
However, ‘Splintered Sunrise’ attributed the BNP’s support for Serbia over Kosovo not to anti-Albanian racism, but to the Albanians’ own alleged sins: ‘the new BNP position has its roots in Londoners’ fear and loathing of violent Albanian gangsters’.

What is horrifying is not that the leftists in question are accusing Croatian, Bosnian and Kosovar leaders of things they are often not guilty of, or that the leftists in question are inconsistent or hypocritical. It is that such accusations are simply so many pretexts to support the destruction of the nations in question. These leftists do not want to give solidarity to progressive Croats who oppose anti-Semitism, or progressive Bosnian Muslims who support secularism, or progressive Albanians who oppose organised crime, with the goal of making Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo better places. On the contrary, the leftists are seeking to provide ammunition to those who would like to wipe these countries off the map altogether.

But for all the venom directed by ‘anti-imperialist’ leftists at the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, there is one state that they hate even more. Israel, in their eyes, is the ‘counter-revolutionary nation’ par excellence; its Jewish majority citizens condemned as ‘settlers’ (unlike immigrants in the West, who are not so condemned); its academics boycotted. Such leftists will line up with the most murderous and bigoted elements in the Muslim world against even the most progressive nationally conscious Jews on an ‘anti-Zionist’ basis; their need to deny Israel’s legitimacy as a nation and state trumping any opposition to anti-Semitism, fundamentalism, misogyny or homophobia they might be expected to have. Once again, they oppose Israel’s settlement building in the West Bank or discrimination against its Arab citizens not because they wish to align themselves with progressive Israelis who also oppose these things, but because they would, fundamentally, like to see Israel destroyed altogether.

The pretext for this left-wing hatred of Israel is that it is a ‘hijack state’ based upon the dispossession of most of the Palestinians who lived there until the 1940s. But this ignores the fact that other states are based upon similar or even larger-scale dispossessions of national groups, without their right to exist being called into question. For example, the Czech Republic’s relative ethnic homogeneity stems from the Czechs’ expulsion, following World War II, of two and a half million ethnic Germans from what was then Czechoslovakia. Likewise, modern Turkey is founded upon the extermination of a million Armenians and hundreds of thousands of Greeks during the 1910s and 1920s, and the expulsion and dispossession of hundreds of thousands more. But nobody claims the Czech Republic or Turkey is an illegitimate nation-state. It is Israel alone which is deemed to have forfeited its legitimacy as a nation on account of its leaders’ crimes of decades ago.

In each of the examples presented here, extremists try to dress up their bigoted hatred of whole ethnic groups or nations in radically progressive clothes. So the BNP will present its hatred of immigrants in terms of ‘supporting the British working class’, and radical leftists justify their hatred of ‘counter-revolutionary nations’ on the basis of ‘anti-imperialism’. Chauvinistic hatred does not become progressive simply because it is dressed in progressive clothes, and it is always worth looking beyond the window dressing to see what the agendas of such groups and individuals really are. Equally, it is time to acknowledge the problematic nature of such radical left-wing concepts as ‘class warfare’ and ‘anti-imperialism’, and the reasons they lend themselves so readily to abuse. When they are increasingly becoming the justification for the most extreme reactionary politics, something is very wrong.

Live dangerous – shop at Marks and Spencers. A poem by Steve Cohen.

In comments to an earlier post, Richard Gold drew attention to this poem by independent socialist Steve Cohen.

He wrote it after finding out that the weekly picket of the “Zionist” Marks and Spencer in Manchester had begun to carry pro-Hesballah placards.

Live dangerous – shop at Marks and Spencers

I don’t want to be a court jew
A court jew kneeling before the throne of the idiot anti-zionist
The court jew in the palace of the stupid anti-imperialist
Martin Buber where are you now
You who refused to kneel before the ultimate socialism of fools – anti-semitism.
You who abstained from being the house nigger
From being an Uncle Tevye

I don’t want to shout out “not in my name”
(and my name is Y’Israel Zev ben David)
Instead I want to scream out “Jews don’t need to disassociate themselves from collective guilt cos there is no collective guilt”

I wanna be a dangerous Jew, a frightening Jew, a threatening Jew, a communist Jew, a revolutionary Jew
I don’t wanna be an easy protest Jew
And today the easy protest is to demand the blood-stained might of Israel , gets out of Lebanon, gets out of Gaza, turns back on the road to Damascus, ceases its recreation of armeggedon
You don’t have to be a socialist to demand this, you don’t have to be a Trotskyist to demand this
You don’t have to be a Cohen or a Levy or a Gluckstein to demand this
Or a Y’Israel zev ben David to demand this
You just have to be sane
And in the name of sanity demand it!

Being a dangerous Jew, a frightening Jew, a threatening Jew, a communist Jew, a revolutionary Jew means living on a different planet
The planet of Truth
As Trotsky said “Only the truth is revolutionary”
And the truth is that Hizbollah are not the Sandanistas, are not the ANC, are not the IRA, are not Gueverrists, are not anti-colonialists, are not Spanish Republicans, Sparticists or Bolsheviks
Are not a fitting emblem for our tee shirts

The truth is that they are fascists, neo-fascists , proto fascists
They are feudalists, medievalists,obscurantists
Theocratic collectivists
Seeking to re-establish the Caliphate
A thousand years too late
Without the science, the medicine, the mathamatics, the poetry, the philosophy
Just the Protocols of Zion

Concealing these simple truths
Is not part of any honest anti-war movement
It is part of a dishonest anti-war movement
It is part of a pro-war movement
It is the 1930s. And it is the 1940s.
It is the same movement which saw the red flags of the Israeli Communist Party unfurled in solidarity with Haj Amin al-Husseini
The Mufti of Jerusalem
Idiot anti Zionist
Idiot collaborator with Adolf Hitler

I wanna stand between the anti-zionist picket of Marks and Spencers
And the Zionist picket of the anti-zionist picket of Marks and Spencers
Denouncing the massacres
Wearing the mascara
Being camp
The third camp
Asking do you want to buy a picket or two.

Asking do you enjoy kids’ games.
So let’s play Spot The Difference
A Palestinian child in a two foot coffin
An Israeli child in a two foot coffin
Lids closed
Where do you put your Stop The War flags?
Your Hizbullah flags?
Your Zionist flags?
Your red flags?
Let me tell your where to put them.

I hate this poem
Rather I hate writing this poem
Rather I hate the truths behind this poem
Where sticking simply to the easy protest
Would be an easier way to win friends
But not to influence people

Because the enemy of your enemy can also be another of your enemies
And the friend of your friend can be a bastard reactionary
So don’t dance with the boy who danced with the girl who danced with the prince of darkness
It’s just an accident of geography and sperm direction that Jews weren’t born Muslims
And vice versa
It can get worser
So fight for workers unity
Cut out the communalists
The Board of Deputies and the Muslim Association
So fight for workers unity
Cut out the opiates
The synagogues and the mosques
So fight for workers unity
Sling out the middlemen
The Jihadists and the Israeli leadership
So fight for workers unity

Get a new tee shirt
In my name

Antony Lerman is misrepresenting the views of UK Jews – again

From Simon Rocker on the JC blog:

In yesterday’s Guardian Antony Lerman had a crack at Israel’s controversial Foreign Minister and leader of the nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, Avigdor Lieberman.

Among other things, he wrote: “In the UK, Jewish leaders have been silent on the dangers he represents. Have we heard a peep out of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks on the subject?”

Without much difficulty Simon Rocker demonstrates that Lerman’s central claim is just wrong.  Read on.

For the last time Lerman mistrepresented the views of UK Jews, follow this link.

“Jew-Wise” Ingrams

In the 1920’s and 1930’s there were those who regarded themselves as “Jew-Wise”. They thought they knew what was going on , they thought they’d worked out what Jews were up to and thought they understood how Jews operated. They knew about the “Hidden Hand”. They thought they knew about the Jews and war. Infact Hillaire Beloc re-issued his 1922 book “The Jews” in 1937 to include a chapter on “The Spanish Civil Wall”. They knew how to spot Jews. Well they weren’t wise and neither is Richard Ingrams.

“Jew-Wise” Ingrams on the Iraq War Inquiry :

“After all, there had been a great deal of scepticism in the press, and more than a few MPs had expressed doubts about the composition of the panel – no military or legal experts, two Jewish historians thought to have been in favour of the war and a token woman, Baroness Prashar, whom few people had hitherto heard of.”

Ingrams has been “Jew-Wise” for a while now, especially with regard to Jews and war :

“The professors demonstrate that the American invasion in 2003 not only had the support of Israel but also that the overriding aim of those (mostly Jewish) neocons who were urging Bush to invade was to assist Israel by getting rid of its menacing neighbour Saddam Hussein.”

Hat Tip to Norm.

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