Workers’ Liberty is one of the few groupings on the revolutionary left which is uncompromising on antisemitism as well as on Israeli racism, chauvenism and the occupation. In Solidarity, their paper, members publish an open letter to Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian in response to last week’s editorial on anti-Zionism and antisemitism.
“The problem with all this is that it is so shot through with understatement that it seriously misrepresents the state of things. The demonstrations on Gaza “included verbal attacks on the so-called ‘Nazi tendencies’ of Israel”? Included? As we reported (www.workersliberty.org/gazademos) the demonstrations were entirely dominated by placards equating the Star of David and the Nazi swastika, Israel with South Africa, Gaza with the Nazi mass murder of Jews, or chants about a “Palestine” stretching “from the river to the sea”.
All the platform speakers, in their varying notes, tones annd degrees, proclaimed the same sort of politics. The one-time British diplomat Craig Murray explicitly called for the abolition of Israel and the rolling-back of Middle East history to before 1948. An SWP organiser on the megaphone at one of the marches was shouting that Israeli Jews should “go back to New York”.
The Guardian says that the left “possibly” subscribes to notions of an all-controlling “Jewish lobby”. Possibly? Moshe Machover came pretty close to saying it outright in the recent exchanges in this paper – and he is one of the most sophisticated of the “absolute anti-Zionists”.
Mr Rusbridger, the core and root of modern anti-Semitism is the denial of Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself. That inexorably leads on to a radical political hostility to most Jews alive.
Of course Jews and Israel are not co-terminous. They could hardly be! It is a fact that all but a few Jews — revolutionary socialists, Neturei Karta, etc. — feel connected with Israel, however critically, and however much they abhor such things as the onslaught on Gaza. How could a people with their history not have such attitudes?”
Update – see also Shiraz Socialist, another place on the left which fights antisemitism. Shiraz’s reading of the letter is that the AWL believe anybody objecting to Israel’s existence is a “de facto antisemite”. I think this is a misreading.I don’t thnk AWL are making “automatic” points – they are responding in a letter and missing out a lot of the qualification which would have been possible in a longer piece. For the AWL to write that “the core and root of modern anti-Semitism is the denial of Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself” seems right in the world of the left, from which most contemporary British antisemitism emanates. “The core” because campaigining about Israel has a vigorous galvanising power, makes headlines, gets people out on the street. “The root” since campaiging for Palestinian emancipation which accepts Israel’s existence does not attract such astonishing antisemitism, does not depend on misrepresenting the conflict as a genocide attempt by Israel, nor misrepresent Zionism as some kind of ethnically exclusive expansionist bid for world domination, nor advance conspiracy theories about Israeli control of the media or Israeli tentacles reaching into British government, nor diminish actual and stated supremacist tendencies of many Palestinian factions, instead touting them as ‘the resistance’, nor stridently insist on a single state solution for ostensibly anti-racist reasons without being involved in or supporting any of the coexistence work necessary to avoid a Jewish minority falling foul of racism against it. Meron Benvenisti’s anti-Zionism is one kind of anti-Zionism to take seriously – it is a kind that AWL don’t mean to refer to – this kind does not “deny” but instead reasons. But there’s something singularly dodgy about unpragmatic, ignorant, unworked out, vituperative anti-Zionism which does not acknowledge the fears of ordinary Israelis. And when was the last time you came across any other kind here in Britain?.