The Left Returns to Zion
The Left Organisations
It would be surprising if the anti-semitism which flourished within the English socialist tradition at its formation had simply disappeared. False consciousness has to be challenged—and there was little opposition to the socialism of fools. Today, however, it has assumed a very different form. Rather than the caricature of the Jew as all-powerful capitalist, there is now the frequent equation of zionism with world domination and of all Jews being zionists, or at least responsible for zionism. This equation can be found in an explicit form within the Stalinist tradition. A classic case was the intended show trial, cancelled in the wake of Stalin’s death, of the five ‘Jewish doctors’ from the Kremlin’s own hospital, who were accused in 1953 of attempting, under ‘zionist influence’, to poison Stalin and most of the communist hierarchy. Similarly, in Poland today, the regime has attacked both Solidarity and K.O.R. (the intellectual group influential with Solidarity) as being controlled by a ‘zionist clique’. Two articles by Zbigniew Kot in the paper of the Polish communist party—described K.O.R. as having the:
“Pseudo-left programme of the Trotskyite International which is inspired by zionist circles”
“K.O.R. openly confesses to having sympathies for free-masonry and for the cosmopolitan fatherland-negating concepts promoted in the West by zionist and free-thinking circles”. (Trybuna Ludu, 22/23.12.81 quoted in Research Report of the Institute of Jewish Affairs May 1982)
Anti-semitism posing as anti-zionism is particularly frightening within Stalinism, as Stalinism has state power in many countries. It occurs sometimes in a confused and sometimes in an unambiguous way, in the new Left groups consolidated since the 1960’s in this country. Attitudes within the Labour Party are far more complex for various reasons. Firstly, given the coalition of interests within the Labour Party, there is no guarantee that the leadership ever reflects the will of the Party. Secondly, the commonly-held belief that historically the Labour leadership has been pro-zionist, does itself need serious revision.
It is undoubtedly the case that the Labour Party has made many outspoken statements of sympathy for zionism. As early as December 1917, at a special conference of the Labour Party and the T.U.C. to draw up a ‘war aims memorandum’, it was acknowledged that Palestine was a land “to which such of the Jewish people as desired to do so may return and work out their salvation”.
In the following years numerous similar resolutions were passed. (See documents collected in British Labour Policy on Palestine, edited by Levenberg). Indeed Poale Zion, the pro-zionist Jewish workers party, has long been affiliated to the Labour Party, but it is simply a myth to regard the Labour leadership as having a genuine commitment to zionism. Ultimately, its position on the Middle East was, and is, guided by purely diplomatic considerations—that is by considerations of imperialism.
The Labour government of 1945 emulated the Tories in relation to Palestine as in India, by playing off the conflicting communal groups through false promises to both. Again, it was the same Labour government which mobilised the British army to prevent Jewish refugees fleeing to Palestine. Indeed in 1947, Labour ordered two destroyers to intercept the refugee boat Exodus on its way to Palestine with over 4000 Jews on board and forced it to divert to Germany. The rationale was that Germany was the
“only territory under British jurisdiction outside of Cyprus where such large numbers of people can be housed and fed at such short notice”. (Palestine Post, 21.8.47)
The Hamburg docks saw the survivors of Nazism being dragged by British soldiers back onto German soil.
Since the creation of Israel, Labour’s politics have been determined solely by the need for imperialism to secure a base within the Middle East, and rationalised by a typically social democratic confusion that Israel is in some way a socialist state. At no time has the politics of the Labour Party ever been motivated by genuine commitment to the freedom of either the Jewish or the Arab masses. In a very real sense this is anti-semitism by default: there is no consideration of either the relationship, or lack of it, between zionism and Jewish liberation in Labour’s attitude towards zionism.
The emphasis of the rest of this chapter is on the Trotskyist and neo-Trotskyist groups which constitute the New Left. Some of these, or at least their individual members, have in fact virtually dissolved themselves into the Labour Party. Of course such organisations are extremely small, but they represent a significant continuation of socialist politics following the degeneration of Stalinism. The New Left groups of today claim to be preserving the traditions of revolutionary socialism. This claim is in many positive ways justified. However, much of their purported anti-zionism rests on a tradition which, whatever the revolutionary rhetoric, has always been anti-semitic.
Any attempt at even a discussion of the relationship between anti-semitism and anti-zionism is normally calculated to cause apoplexy on the Left. This is no reason to censor the discussion, it is a reason for clarity and several points need to be clarified:
(1) It would be patently absurd to regard all socialist writings antagonistic to zionism as being based on anti-semitism. The present book is not about zionism—but it is certainly hostile to it. Nathan Weinstock’s book, Zionism the False Messiah, is a brilliant communist work. There are others. Anti-semitism is a relative not an absolute phenomenon on the Left.
(2) It is not only absurd but reactionary to make a direct equation between anti-zionism and anti-semitism, on a theoretical level. The two are obviously not identical. Indeed it is grossly insulting to define the struggle of the Palestinians for liberation as being in any way intrinsically anti-semitic. It is similarly insulting to condemn as anti-semitic any solidarity with that struggle. It is a tragedy there is not more solidarity—there cannot be enough.
(3) It is equally tragic that much of what passes for ‘anti-zionism’ on the Left is profoundly anti-semitic. It is a debatable point as to whether or not this is the dominant view on the Left. All that matters is that anti-semitism is now an important and legitimate tendency within the Left. It is the existence of this tendency which allows the zionist leadership to condemn all Left critiques of zionism as being anti-Jewish. It feeds the anti-communism of this reactionary leadership. The Left claims it makes a rigorous distinction between anti-zionism and anti-semitism yet it is manifestly not rigorous in practice. In practice, any condemnation by Jewish people of anti-semitism is somehow seen as an attempt to justify zionism.
(4) It is insufficient and unserious merely to assert that some, but not other, ‘anti-zionist’ politics are anti-semitic without distinguishing between a principled anti-zionism and anti-semitism. Without a scientific definition of anti-semitism the whole debate becomes useless and painful. In fact, anti-semitism in this context, as in every other context is rooted in a variant of the world Jewish conspiracy. This has two linked aspects in relation to notions of ‘zionism’: (a) the concept of zionism is expanded to equate it with world domination; (b) the entire Jewish experience is reduced to ‘zionism’—and likewise all Jews are held to be responsible for zionism. This is the concept of collective guilt which is intrinsic to theories of the world conspiracy. It is the presence of these ideas which distinguishes anti-semitism from genuine anti-zionism.
(5) The distinction between anti-zionism and anti-semitism is absolute. Methodologically, there is no question of anti-zionism ‘merging into’ or ‘becoming’ anti-semitism. We are talking about two completely different phenomena. If an analysis is anti-semitic then it is anti-semitic in its origins and absolutely so—it does not become so. There is no such concept as anti-zionism ‘tinged’ with anti-semitism. To take an example, Fascist organisations in this country are consistently anti-Israel. Issue number 15 of Nationalism Today (a National Front magazine) had an article attacking Israel and concluding with the exhortation—”Anti-zionists of the world unite and fight!” The September, 1982 issue of Spearhead (the private magazine of John Tyndall) had a three page supplement on “The Jewish rape of Lebanon”. The National Front even tried to infiltrate the first anniversary commemoration demonstration for the Sabra-Chatilla massacres. They had ‘anti-zionist’ leaflets. It would be grotesque to characterise groups like the National Front as ‘anti-zionist’. They are anti-semitic plain and simple.
The starting point for genuine anti-zionism is full support for the Palestinian people in their struggle for liberation. This inevitably involves some analysis of the penetration of imperialism into the Middle East and the undoubted role of Israel in furthering this. It also has to involve a recognition of the fact that zionism is itself an attempt by Jews to escape the scourge of anti-semitism, in a world where no other escape routes have become apparent. Conversely, the starting point for anti-semitism is the blaming of everything on Jews collectively and internationally—especially whatever happens in the Middle East. This is also its finishing point. The examples given below are not about solidarity with the Palestinians, but are about Jews—Jews everywhere. The attempt to expropriate the language of anti-zionism does not disguise the deep anti-semitism. These examples concern themselves not with zionism, but with Jews.
Zionism and the Theory of World Domination
The equation of zionism with world domination shares a similar incoherence with the notion of the Jewish world conspiracy. It is unclear whether zionism is already supposed to have international power or whether it is still trying to achieve it via the Israeli state. The section that follows contains many examples.
A glaring example occurred in the paper of the Workers Revolutionary Party (Newsline, 8.12.79). This managed to combine the long-standing belief in international Jewish financial power with modern political zionism. The paper quoted with approval a member of the National Union of Mineworkers who said: “It was Britain who sold the Palestinian people out to Zionist money power”. The reference here is presumably to the period before 1948 when Britain was the Mandate authority ruling Palestine. One would have thought that a supposedly Marxist journal would at least have commented that Britain “sold out” the Palestinians because of Britain’s imperialist interests. However, the quotation continues without comment as though it were from Der Stürmer (propaganda newspaper of the Nazi party in Germany), “Many promises were made to the Palestinians but none were delivered for fear of upsetting the Jewish ‘£’ sign”. In fact, the sentiments behind this are remarkably similar to the “explanation” given by the National Front as to why the United States government allowed Israel to invade the Lebanon—“because America’s economy, mass media and political system is totally dominated by the Zionist-Jewish Money Power” (National Front News, August 1982).
Newsline has in fact managed to reproduce the notion of the media as under zionist influence—a typical instance of the conspiracy theory. In March 1983, the B.B.C. “Money Programme” purported to show that the W.R.P. was financed by the Libyan regime. One response to this by Newsline was an editorial which claimed that the programme was “zionist sponsored” (9.4.83). The same editorial then pointed out that Stuart Young had recently been appointed chairman of the B.B.C. Young was described as being a director of the Jewish Chronicle. No explanation was given of the politics of the Jewish Chronicle to the readers of Newsline—most of whom had probably never before heard of the newspaper. The implication was that the B.B.C. was under the influence of, or controlled by, zionists. Newsline also gave the irrelevant information that Young was a director of British Caledonian Airways. It is difficult to draw from this any other conclusion than that not only is the media zionist controlled but that zionism itself, a movement of the Jewish masses, was in fact created by Jewish capitalists. The National Front has also emphasised that the B.B.C. is chaired by a “leading zionist” (Nationalism Today, number 17). Fortunately for the credibility of communism this outburst from the W.R.P. was condemned by at least one other organisation as coming straight out of the Protocols of Zion (Socialist Organiser, 18.11.82).
The Socialist Workers Party has also articulated its own variant of the conspiracy theory—making the fantastic allegation about zionism that:
“It’s essence is that a ‘chosen people’, the Jews, are superior to everyone else and should trample on the rights of other peoples” (20.10.73).
This is incredible. A Marxist approach to the ‘essence’ of zionism would look at its social roots—which manifestly lay in the reaction of the Jewish masses to the pogroms of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and to Nazism. It seems that Socialist Worker imagines that zionism emanates from a mysterious plot in which Jews see themselves as the “chosen people”—a biblical reference which is seemingly equivalent to modern ‘master race’ theories and in which Jews believe themselves ‘superior to everyone else’. The S.W.P. has substituted, at least on this occasion, a materialist analysis of zionism for an idealistic one—and one that is completely anti-semitic.
The logic of these politics within the S.W.P. was shown several years later (31.5.80) when it printed a letter from a certain Anthony Jones. Its ostensible purpose was to argue that the T.V. film “Death of a Princess” (which portrayed some of the more reactionary aspects of life in Saudi Arabia) somehow gave support to zionism. In reality the letter was grossly anti-semitic and was full of innuendos about Jewish control of the media. To quote:
“Such is zionist influence in Britain-particularly in the media (‘Lord’ Lew Grade, ‘Lord’ Bernstein) -that this film was bound to be shown and therefore used to stir up anti-Arab feeling”.
Anthony Jones was, in fact, one of the organisers of the National Front in Tameside. Even if the S.W.P. did not know this then the nature of the letter should have alerted them. However, Socialist Worker was seen to be quite unable to distinguish anti-zionism from blatant anti-semitism.
The attempt to invoke biblical images of the ‘chosen people’ to explain zionism as the latest example of Jewish power-seeking, is in fact found in diverse political sources. The unifying theme is that the Judaic religion is viewed as both the basis of zionism and as a faith which preaches genocide and the enslavement of gentiles.
Spearhead (December 1982) claimed that zionism was based on the belief by Jews that they were “God’s chosen people”. The Stalinist soviet academic Kichko has written in his book Judaism and Zionism that:
“Judaism teaches that Jews should force the subjugated people in the invaded lands to work for them as a people of priests”.
The Stalinist Vladimir Begun similarly wrote in his Creeping Counter Revolution that:
“Zionist gangsterism … has its ideological roots in the scrolls of the Torah and the precepts of the Talmud” (‘Anti-zionism in the USSR’ in The Left Against Zion, ed. Wistrich, in which both the above books are quoted).
Even a revolutionary socialist magazine on the Middle East claims that the politics of zionism come from the Talmud. (Israel Shahak, ‘The Jewish Religion and its Attitude to Non-Jews’, Khamsin, issue 8, 1983). Actually, this particular article has a certain uniqueness amongst Left conspiracy theories, in that its author makes the claim, remarkable in a revolutionary socialist journal that:
“An examination of radical, socialist and communist parties can provide many examples of disguised Jewish chauvinists and racists who joined these parties merely for reasons of ‘Jewish interest’ and are, in this region, in favour of ‘anti-gentile’ legislation”.
In other words, just as the Right claim that Jews enter communist groups in order to subvert capitalism so now a member of the Left claims that they enter such groups in order to subvert communism!
In 1982, Labour Herald (produced by several people prominent on the left of the Labour Party) published a book review and letter by H.C. Mullin (March 19th and May 28th respectively). In his letter, Mullin said:
“I assert that the Zionists use the lie that the Western democratic forces made no attempt to rescue Europe’s Jews from the Nazi terror to instil guilt in the members of Western society. The reason being, of course, that guilty persons are easily manipulated in the services of zionism”.
In accomplishing this manipulation Zionists are allegedly able to control “the right wing propaganda organs”—in other words, the media. This really is ‘revisionist’ history of a major order.
Far from being a lie that the “democratic” forces made no attempt to rescue Europe’s Jews, it is a patently obvious fact. Indeed for six years after the Nazis came to power, the Allies remained silent, attempting a policy of appeasement and an alliance with Nazism against the Soviet Union. At the same time, all the major imperialist countries imposed rigid immigration controls against Jewish refugees which continued to exist throughout the war, both in this country and in the U.S.A. For instance in 1942, the Vichy regime in France agreed to hand over 19,000 Jews to the Germans for slave labour and then extermination in Poland. Appeals were made to the British Foreign Office to take these Jews into the U.K., to which one official replied:
“We cannot turn our country into a sponge for Europe”.
Those Jews who did manage to get here before the war were put into internment camps as ‘enemy aliens’. Many were deported to Canada or Australia—a ship-load of deported Jews was sunk when the Arandora Star was torpedoed in July 1940. For many years even the exitence of the concentration camps was denied or minimised on the grounds that (quoting another Foreign Office official):
“As a general rule, the Jews are inclined to magnify their persecution”.
Throughout the war Jewish organisations made repeated requests to the Allies to bomb the gas chambers and incinerators at Auschwitz. They were told that such pin-point bombing was impossible. However, in September 1944 the U.S. airforce was able to bomb the I.G. Farben industrial complex which was immediately adjacent to Auschwitz. All these facts are well known to the survivors and have been documented in such books as Britain and the Jews of Europe by Bernard Wasserstein (from which the above quotations have been taken).
Mullin’s writings mirror the attempt by Nazi ‘revisionist’ historians to deny the murder of six million Jews. This is part of a similar attempt to portray Jews as manipulators of historical truth. As has been said in previous chapters, the Left has accused Zionists of exploiting “the natural hatred of the labour movement for anti-semitism”. It is also a Nazi ploy, as seen in a fascist magazine Holocaust News, to accuse Jews of ‘exploiting’ and exaggerating the holocaust. The opening line of its first editorial stated:
“The Zionists used the ‘Holocaust’ myth to create a smoke screen of international public sympathy”.
As a socialist paper, Labour Herald’s printing of Mullin’s letter without comment, must be seen as complicity in the perpetration of anti-semitic myths. Furthermore, the real lie peddled by the Western bourgeoisie—namely that the last war was somehow a war against ‘fascism and anti-semitism—remains unchallenged. The reality was that it was a war between two rival imperialisms, British and German—a rivalry that was perceived as too great to permit a joint alliance against the U.S.S.R. The fascistic and anti-semitic nature of the Nazi regime was absolutely irrelevant to Britain and the U.S.A., as neither declared war until their imperialist interests were threatened.
Equating Zionism With Imperialism: Anti-Zionism Without Zion
The Left, or a section of it, obviously considers zionism a pretty powerful force. It controls the media. It finances British diplomacy. It rewrites history—and it also runs British Caledonian Airways. This is not merely reminiscent of the world conspiracy theory—it also has an uncanny resemblance to the hyperbole of that theory. It sounds very similar to Arnold White’s belief, already seen, that Jews have done everything from ‘baffling the Pharaohs to undermining the Third French Republic’.
In fact, the Left’s conspiracy views are not just anti-semitic, they are also explicitly anti-Marxist. Thus zionism is not seen as merely furthering the interests of imperialism in the Middle East-which nowadays it undoubtedly does. Rather it is seen as in some way being the same as imperialism with the same international power. In other words the Left has not only an anti-semitic analysis of zionism but, in common with all other adherents of the conspiracy theory, it has an anti-semitic analysis of the world. Indeed at times, zionism is portrayed as a form of world domination that is on an even higher level than imperialism itself, and is actually pictured as controlling imperialism. Thus Newsline (9.4.83) speaks of a zionist power “stretching through Downing Street channels right into the White House”. Newsline has obviously discovered a new law of the world’s development. Lenin was presumably wrong when he analysed imperialism as being the highest form of capitalism: zionism is apparently even higher, as it is able to control the two main nerve centres of imperialism! This method of analysis has more in common with Stalinism than with revolutionary socialism. For instance Pravda (4.10.67) claimed that the United States—the most powerful state ever known to history—was itself a “Zionist colony” (quoted in Wistrich). This is truly looking at reality upside down.
This form of ‘anti-zionism’ transcends anything done by the Israeli state—or even the very existence of that state. It could just as easily exist without Israel, without zion and even without zionism. A ‘socialism’ which perceives zionist influence throughout the world, from Downing Street to the White House, stopping off at the B.B.C., is no different from the classic anti-semitic imagery of Jews being ‘rootless cosmopolitans’, without a state of their own, feeling no loyalty to any particular state but only to themselves. This imagery was much in vogue before the creation of the state of Israel. Stalinists still use it today—as in the Polish government’s condemnation of K.O.R.¹ The imagery is the same, the existence of Israel is quite irrelevant. Anti-zionism without Zion has the same transcendental qualities as anti-semitism without Jews; it has no necessary relationship to anything a real zionist, or real Jew is doing. It exists in the air quite apart from material reality—except for the reality it creates for Itself. Thus Newsline is full of imagery about ‘links’ and ‘channels’ and ‘connections’ that zionism is making between Caledonian Airways, the White House, the B.B.C. and the Jewish Chronicle. It also manages to make another ‘zionist connection’—with the Manpower Services Commission whose chairperson happens to be the brother of the omnipotent Stuart Young. In exactly the same way, Arnold White in his book The Modern Jew talks of a Jewish “subterranean and invisible influence” and of the existence of a “complex and mysterious power denied to any other living race”.
The Collective Guilt Of All Jews For Zionism
The elevation of zionism to the equivalent of world imperialism and beyond is just one half of the conspiracy theory. The other half is the reduction of all Jews and all Jewish history to the zionist experience. There is a systematic tendency on the Left to define Jewish identity simply in terms of zionism. The natural corollary of this is to hold all Jews, wherever in the world, responsible for zionism, irrespective of what they actually believe. This is the theory of collective responsibility. In addition to all the examples given above, here are others which relate directly to the perceptions of collective guilt:-
A bizarre example, important not in its own right but for what it indicates, was the conversion in 1979 of Bob Dylan from the Jewish religion to Christianity. Socialist Challenge (the paper of the then International Marxist Group, now renamed the Socialist League) did not respond to this by any Marxist critique of the Christian religion or the Christian church. Rather it denounced Dylan as a zionist. In fact it denounced him as a millionaire zionist (27.9.79). This incidentally was just over a year after the paper had been raffling Dylan concert tickets!
Far more serious was the response by the Left to the Paris synagogue bombing on the Rue Copernic in October 1980. This was an openly fascist attack and was condemned by the entire Left, but this condemnation was equivocal. Most of the commentary actually concentrated on the “opportunity” the bombing presented to zionism! Socialist Challenge proclaimed that:
“The Israeli government is doing its best to exploit the bombing” (October 9th).
Its editor Geoff Sheridan, in a letter to the paper, stated that:
“The Israeli government is quite cynical about the benefits it hopes to accrue from the fascist attacks in the diaspora” (November 27th).
It is incredible that the significance which ‘socialist’ organisations accord to fascist attacks on Jews is mainly in relation to the reaction on the Israeli government. The Left in this instance reduced the experience of even dead Jews, murdered by anti-semites, as being nothing more than tools of zionist propaganda. Is the main criticism of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust now to be that it provided the “opportunity” for zionism? In fact, the National Front takes this to its logical conclusion by claiming that “everybody in France knows” that the Rue Copernic Shul was actually bombed by “zionist terrorists”—just as it claims the Holocaust was itself a zionist invention (National Front News, November 1982).
Equally significant was the Left’s response to the machine gun and grenade attack on the synagogue in Vienna in August 1981, resulting in yet more deaths. Unlike the Paris bombing this met with virtual silence. There only can be one explanation for this: responsibility for the attack was claimed by a Palestinian splinter group. So it seems that all Jews are seen as legitimate targets because all Jews are somehow responsible for zionism. It is interesting to note that when this was raised with two of the larger Left papers they both denied such motives and claimed they did not have the ‘space’ to report such attacks (Socialist Challenge, 17.9.81; Socialist Worker, 26.9.81). The excuse of ‘we haven’t the space’ has almost been developed into a scientific theory by the Left whenever outrages are committed against Jews. In the case of the Vienna attack, it would be farcical, if it were not tragic, and it is dishonest given the coverage of the openly fascist bombing a year previously.
The Lebanon Invasion and the theory of Jewish collective responsibility
The Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 was quite obviously an action that all socialists should have energetically condemned. However, it brought to the surface the ways in which the Left ascribes collective guilt to all Jews—for zionism in general and the Israeli government in particular. This was perhaps seen most clearly in the newspaper Big Flame—precisely because it was prepared to respond openly to criticisms made of its editorial policy.
Big Flame in its editorial of October 1982 stated that the massacres at Sabra and Chatilla “cannot fail to spark off acts of revenge through-out the world”. By “acts of revenge” is meant, presumably, the bombings and other attacks on Jewish institutions and individuals that occurred throughout the diaspora, following the invasion. What is remarkable is that Big Flame seems to think that these are ‘natural’ or ‘inevitable’. The paper seems to consider that Jews who were bombed in, for example, Sydney Australia were legitimate targets—as if by being Jewish they were somehow responsible for what was happening in the Lebanon. It would be interesting to know why Big Flame doesn’t think that acts of revenge were inevitable against Christians—given that the Phalangists were at least as responsible as the Israeli government for the massacre. It does explain, however, the complete silence of Big Flame in response to the actual attacks made on diaspora Jewry—they were never mentioned.
Once Jews everywhere are assigned a particular responsibility for what happened in the Lebanon, then other horrific assumptions follow. In particular, it is assumed both that Jews are under a greater moral obligation than anyone else to speak out against the invasion and also that we have to speak out against it explicitly ‘as Jews’. Why should we be obliged to speak out ‘as Jews’ about what is happening in the Middle East any more, for example, than Italians should speak out ‘as Italians’? To be accepted as ‘good’ Jews apparently, the onus is on us to make public disavowals of zionism. Occasionally another hypocrisy creeps in; Jews ‘of all people’ should know better because of the history of our own oppression (Big Flame editorial, Sept. 1982). This is the ultimate double-standard. Jews are now expected to be on a higher level of morality than anyone else because of the oppression inflicted on us; but if we act immorally, or if any one Jew misbehaves, then we also have to apologise more than anyone else and make public penance. In fact, the theory that our own suffering should have cleansed our souls owes more to the gospels than to Marxism. What our suffering points to is the need to combat anti-semitism. It is no advertisement for the purity of our morals.
The entire Left described the Lebanon invasion by invoking the language of the ‘holocaust’ and the ‘final solution’. This use of language is itself anti-semitic. This is not because the invasion was not murderous. It was. It is not because the slaughter of the Palestinians has not reached the number of Jewish people massacred by the Nazis—numbers are irrelevant. There is no scale of injustice as far as murder is concerned. The reason why the use of language such as ‘holocaust’ and ‘final solution’, when applied to zionism, is anti-Jewish is because these words are no longer neutral or objective. They have a particular political significance. They refer to Jewish people. In fact they refer to all Jewish people—because it was the genocide of all Jewish people that was contemplated in the final solution.
It is because these words have this precise political significance, a significance well understood by Jews, that they reinforce the idea all Jewish people everywhere are responsible for the invasion and the massacres. Words used to describe the collective predicament of Jews now prescribe the collective guilt of Jews. The September Big Flame in responding to criticism, said that in describing bloody events
“One’s language can all too easily become looser, using terms that fall into the hands of the oppressor. With Israel this is particularly the case”.
It is difficult to know whether this is meant as an apology. It doesn’t even begin to explain why the actions of the Israeli government should “particularly” reduce the Left to anti-semitism. Should we now expect a racist analysis the next time a government of black Africa operates in an oppressive way?
It is seen later that the ultimate trap placed in front of Jews by the Left is that Jews themselves are responsible for anti-semitism. The anti-semites are correct—everything is our own fault! This is the destination to which the theory of collective responsibility leads. Sometimes it is expressed quite explicitly. Big Flame (October, 1982) stated that:
“zionism is the monster that is doing most to fuel anti-semitism in the modern world”.
This stands reality on its head. The crime of Begin, Sharon and the rest of the Israeli government was the attempted destruction of the Palestinians as a nation. This is why they are to be condemned—and not for any consequences their actions may have had on diaspora Jewry (namely ‘revenge’ which Big Flame seems to see as rational). Neither Begin nor any other Jew, zionist or otherwise, is responsible for anti-semitism. This is solely the responsibility of anti-semites. Big Flame did apologise for this statement in its following issue, but attitudes such as this are not simply ‘mistakes’. They are intrinsic to the way sections of the Left hold the entire international Jewish community responsible for the actions of one, or some, or many, Jews.
Zionism’s Dominant Position Within Jewry
The fact that within certain Jewish communities, particularly those in Europe and the U.S.A., zionism holds a hegemonic position, does not render the notion of ‘collective responsibility’ for zionism any less anti-semitic. This is not simply because, even within these communities, there are countless Jews who are not zionists. More important is the fact that the anti-semitism of the ‘collective guilt of Jews’ is based on the bizarre premise that non-Jews cannot be zionists or supporters of zionism. Indeed in a political sense, Jewish people are the least significant, the least powerful, advocates of zionism, since zionism is hegemonic throughout the body politic of all Western imperialism. There is no major political party which does not provide it with its backing.
The creation of Israel was naturally impossible without Jewish struggle within Palestine, irrespective of outside help (which if anywhere came from Eastern Europe). However, the continued existence of Israel is due neither to its own resources nor to the help of diaspora Jewry. It is due to the political, economic and military support of the U.S.A. and its allies. There is a supreme historical irony present here. For two millennia Jewish people have been held collectively accountable for the action of any one Jew. This is simply one consequence of the theory of the world Jewish conspiracy to which zionism was a political response. Yet it is the hegemonic position of zionism within some Jewish communities which is today being invoked in order to ‘prove’ the conspiracy theory and to hold all Jews collectively liable. A frequent example is the way in which the full spectrum of political opinion refers to the ‘Jewish lobby’ in the U.S.A. as somehow controlling the foreign policy of the most powerful country in the world.
The Distortion Of The Jewish Predicament
The Left does not simply have a perception of zionism as part of a Jewish conspiracy. Rather it grossly minimises the anti-semitism which gave rise to zionism, and completely distorts the Jewish response to anti-semitism. In spite of all its pretensions to the contrary, the Left provides no socialist or revolutionary alternatives to zionism. In essence, it wrongly portrays European Jewish communities as entirely passive in the face of anti-semitism, which is seen as invincible and unavoidable. Instead of struggling against anti-semitism, the Jew allegedly attempts to escape it by colonising Palestine and oppressing the Palestinians. This is the scenario of the Jew as passive victim or homicidal maniac. It has as much to do with political reality as Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde has to do with the reality of schizophrenia. It substitutes impressionism for serious analysis. This sort of approach has a long historical pedigree throughout the Left. Here are some examples:
The classic Marxist critique of zionism was Karl Kautsky’s Are The Jews A Race? It is interesting, in the light of later criticisms of zionism, that Kautsky hardly refers to the national rights of the Palestinians. In fact he only mentions them as being an obstacle to the zionist enterprise. His objection is wholly on the grounds that zionism is a retreat from, a passive refusal to fight, anti-semitism. Thus he wrote:
“It is not in Palestine but in Eastern Europe that the destinies of the suffering and oppressed portion of Jewry are being fought out. Not for a few thousand Jews or at most a few hundred thousand but for a population of between eight and ten millions. Emigration abroad cannot help them no matter whither it may be turned. Their destiny is intimately connected with the revolution in their own country”.
Similarly, Big Flame talks of the establishment of the Jewish state as being an “accommodation with the oppressor” (Sept. 82).
It is, of course, a principled and correct socialist position to try and struggle, as long as is practicable, against oppression wherever it is found—though it hardly seems correct to put moral blame on the victim for fleeing from it. This book is definitely in favour of Jews staying as long as possible in this country to create a socialist revolution and, hopefully, to defeat anti-semitism. However, most socialists have adopted a position whereby Jews are expected to struggle in impossible situations, to become martyrs, rather than go to Palestine/Israel. Kautsky wrote the above in 1921. By 1939 it had become ironic.
The ‘logic’ of the statement by Big Flame that the creation of Israel was an “accommodation with the oppressor” is that Jews in Europe should have stayed around before (and during?) the war or returned later to fight anti-semitism. The truth is that no-one put up a serious fight against anti-semitism until it was too late. Germany itself is a classic example—as neither the parties of Stalinism nor of social democracy put up any effective resistance to the Nazis, in spite of the desires of many of their members. In this situation what would Big Flame have expected German Jews to have done (given that every major country imposed restrictions on their entry) other than have tried to get into Palestine? What does Big Flame think of Isaac Deutscher, the renowned Marxist intellectual and life-long opponent of Stalinism, who wondered in 1954:
“If instead of arguing against zionism in the 1920’s and 1930’s I had urged European Jews to go to Palestine, I might have helped some of the lives that were later extinguished in Hitler’s gas chambers” (‘Israel’s Spiritual Climate’ in his collected essays The Non-Jewish Jew).
It is no wonder that many, maybe the majority of Jews, still see Israel as a place of ‘last resort’ even if they do not consider themselves as zionists.
The Left does not only consider that Jews should martyr themselves, in the face of fascism. It also assumes that zionists will, in any event, martyr themselves by abdicating from the fight against anti-semitism. Thus Kautsky described zionism as something “which amounts practically to a desertion of the colours”.
In like manner, Big Flame argues that zionism “means giving up the battle against anti-semitism” (Sept. 1982). The assumption appears to be that Jews are self-ordained victims who will go meekly to their deaths without struggle—or else will lapse physically or metaphysically, into the ‘escapism’ of the false Jerusalem of Israel. The myth that six million went to their graves like sheep is still prevalent everywhere.
It is actually inconceivable that the Jews could have waged a successful resistance, given their total isolation in the night of the holocaust. It does however, require a profound ignorance to be unaware that much anti-Nazi struggle, both before and during the war, was led by a combination of Bundists (Jewish socialists) and Left zionists. The Warsaw Ghetto uprising, the first major civil uprising of the war, is just one notable example. There were many others. It is also a complete distortion of the position of zionists in other periods to imply that they simply submitted to anti-semitism. It is the caricature of the Jew as a masochist with an insatiable death wish.
At a time when major sections of the Left in this country were advocating the Aliens Act many zionists actively opposed it, Poale Zion (the workers’ zionist movement) for one. At one of their meetings in Whitechapel a resolution was passed:
“This mass meeting declares that Jews must continue to work for their economic and political freedom in the lands of their sojourn” (Jewish Chronicle, 26.5.1905).
The main opposition to immigration control came from Jewish socialists who were anti-zionists. However, it is simply a lie to claim that zionists have a perspective of never resisting anti-semitism. Again, in the 1935 general election a policy statement was issued by the Central Committee of Poale Zion emphasising the need for the Labour Party to join with Poale Zion in the struggle against fascism and anti-semitism (see essay by Knowles in collection of pieces on Racism edited by Robert Miles).
Finally, Big Flame criticises zionists, particularly Theodor Herzl (one of the founders of political zionism) as regarding anti-semitism as timeless and ‘inevitable’. Some zionists do certainly think in this way. The Left escapes its responsibility, however, avoiding the critical question of why anti-semitism does appear inevitable to so many Jews. An answer to this would require a more complete analysis of the persistence of anti-semitism throughout different historical epochs and social formations. This has not yet been done by the Left. All that is forthcoming is the repetition of vacuous rhetoric. When reassessing the East European Jewish community of his youth, Isaac Deutscher wrote:
“The anti-zionist urged the Jews to trust their gentile environment, to help the ‘progressive forces’ in that environment to come to the top and so hope that those forces would effectively defend the Jews against anti-semitism. ‘Social revolution will give the Jews equality and freedom. They therefore have no need for a Zionist Messiah’—this was the stock argument of generations of Jewish Left wingers. The zionists on the other hand dwelt on the deep seated hatred of non-Jews and urged the Jews to trust their future to nobody except their own state. In this controversy zionism has scored a terrible victory, one which it could neither wish nor expect; six million Jews had to perish in Hitler’s gas chambers in order that Israel should come to life” (Deutscher, ‘Israel’s Spiritual Climate’, The Non-Jewish Jew p.91).
In other words, it is only realistic that the onus should be on us as socialists to prove that anti-semitism is neither inevitable nor invincible.
The Alternative To Zionism
Zionism has seen the expropriation, colonisation and dispersion of the Palestinian people. This obviously has to be opposed. One such necessary form of opposition is solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. However, it is wilful blindness to imagine that this will, in any way, undermine the social roots of zionism, because zionism was an attempted liberation struggle by the Jewish people. It was an attempt by Jews to free themselves from the noose of anti-semitism, at a time when no other way was apparently possible. Deutscher has written that:
“for the remnants of European Jewry (is it only for them?) the Jewish state has become an historic necessity” (Deutscher The Non Jewish Jew).
For zionists to believe that such a state is no longer necessary, it is vital to attack that which necessitated it—namely anti-semitism. When confronted by the spectacle of an arsonist firing a person’s home, it is not morally justifiable for a passive observer to blame that person for jumping—even if s/he lands on a complete stranger. Certainly the stranger may be justifiably aggrieved—and with equal certainty cannot be expected to take responsibility for a fire they did not create. However, if no other homes are to be burned then the arsonist must be stopped. Moreover, isolated householders cannot be expected to do this unaided. As long as passers-by remain observers then the sorry saga will continue. The analogy with the triangle of the anti-semite, the Jew and the Palestinian is obvious. The onus for resisting anti-semitism cannot be on Jews alone. Wherever there is anti-semitism the socialist and labour movements have to oppose it. Unfortunately these movements have, all too often, been either passive or complicit.