Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

From the antisemitism controversy to a new language?

with 5 comments

Opportunism, loud-mouths, and more than distasteful allegations have marked the anti-semitism controversy embroiling the British left, and the Labour Party in particular,  in recent days.

Some say, with justification, that the issue is being used as a stick with which to beat Jeremy Corbyn.

In our view Corbyn has responded with measured dignity, and John McDonnell has expressed the wishes of many.

For those – and there are great numbers of us – who follow what’s happening in Syria and Iraq, there’s a lot happening which is causing us burning concern.

It’s hard not to feel that with millions of refugees in the Middle East, many of whom are desperately trying to enter Europe, with Islamists from ISIS committing real genocide, with mass killings by the Assad regime, with murders by the Shariah enforcing A-Nusra Front, religious sectarian hatred involving the wholesale religious cleansing of the region, that this British row is irrelevant in the face of events  that really matter.

There are, nevertheless some deeply thought-out reflections on the controversy.

Ross Wolfe’s Reflections on Left antisemitism, towers over many analyses.

Bob makes the point about the famous ‘Brenner’ book: Lenni Brenner says Ken’s wrong. He links to an interview (IB Times) with David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialists’ Group  who states, “”badly written and with poor scholarship – a piece of tabloid journalism glued together with selective facts and lots of conjecture”.

This is worth – critically – thinking about: The Livingstone Formulation – David Hirsh

Significantly for left as a whole Jon Lansman has just published an important piece on Left Futures which is headed, Why the Left must stop talking about ‘Zionism’

I would argue that it is time for the Left to start talking in a new language – one that expresses our views about Israel, about the policies and actions of its government and about the rights of Palestinians without alienating any of those who might agree with us. It is not necessary to abandon any non-racist criticisms of Israel, however robust they may be, in order to do so.

Clearly if need there were this is a case in point: “Normal service to be resumed as the UKs Zionist political class push the country towards the 19th century.

But it is not just language but politics which are at stake.

A serious argument is that, as John Rees argues, there is a case for a “secular, democratic state across historic Palestine (which)  has nothing in common with anti-semitism.” (Counterfire)

What the revolutionaries wanted was a democratic, free, non-oppressive and non-exploitative society. The Palestinian revolution is no different. It does not want to ‘drive the Jews into the sea’. In the founding statutes of the Palestine Liberation Organisation demanded a democratic, secular state in which Jews and Arabs could live in peace in the historic land of Palestine, as they did before the forcible exclusion of the Arab population that was the necessary precondition of the establishment of a religiously exclusivist state in 1948. The exclusivity of that state is nowhere more obvious than in the fundamental ‘law of return’ in which a Jew from any part of the globe, no matter if they have never had the remotest contact with the Middle East in their lives, can migrate to Israel and become a citizen, but no Palestinian refugee forced from their home can exercise a legal right to return.

That state, its extensions and colonial conquests, its racist laws, checkpoints, walls and settlements will have to be completely overthrown before that vision of a homeland for both Palestinians and Jews can be realised.

The often toted alternative, a two state solution now sadly and disastrously accepted by the PLO leaders, is actually a retreat in the face of the argument that Arabs and Jews must have racially exclusive states because they cannot live together. That is wrong, and so unworkable. It would, indeed it has, perpetuated war in the region, and will not abolish it.

It would be important, for this to be more widely accepted, for those who accept Ress’ view to clarify how they see the role of Hamas and Hizbollah in this overthrow. and the creation of a democratic secular state.

Socialist Worker published this, August the 5th 2014 which puts forward one position.

(This is an edited version of an article by Egyptian Revolutionary Socialist Mostafa Omar. Read the full version at global.revsoc.me/2014/07/towards-a-revolutionary-perspective-on-hamas)

We consider Islamist movements such as Isis in Syria and Iraq as reactionary to the core. Its racism wipes out the idea that the unity of the oppressed is fundamental to resisting dictatorship and colonialism.

We differentiate between such utterly reactionary Islamist movements, and Islamist movements such as Hamas and Hizbollah. The latter two movements came into existence to resist imperialism.

We consider Hamas to be a resistance movement against Zionism and imperialism.

From this perspective we unconditionally support Hamas when it is engaged in military or non-military struggles against Israel. This is because it weakens the Zionist state and terrifies the Arab regimes and the US.

It therefore strengthens the potential for class struggle in the Arab states against this imperialist system.

Our unconditional support for Hamas is not uncritical. Hamas’ strategy is to associate itself with regimes which are reactionary and conspire constantly to repress their people and suppress the Palestinian struggle.

Secondly Hamas adopts an elitist approach to dealing with the Palestinian masses. This weakens the capacities of mass resistance in the long term.

Like all colonised peoples, the Palestinians alone have the right to decide their destiny.

But our support is critical because the fate of revolutionary change in the Arab world and the fate of the Palestinian Resistance are organically connected to each other.

This is the rub: very very few people have the slightest confidence, let alone belief, that Hamas (a key actor on the ground in any future settlement, rather than the Lebanese Hezbollah), are committed to a “secular, democratic state”.

To say the least.

Yet those who use the language of a “resistance”  have locked Hamas into a fight with “Zionism” and “Imperialism” with their “unconditional” but not “uncritical” support.

Perhaps one of the many reasons why people look to the Two State position is that they cannot possibly see any democratic way out of the conflict which involves Hamas playing the determining role that Mostafa Omar supports. 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 3, 2016 at 11:21 am

5 Responses

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  1. No one on the socialist left that I know of has ever argued for two racially exclusive states.

    There would be an Arab minority in Israel with full citizenship rights. There would probably be a Hebrew-speaking minority in an independent Palestinian state with full citizenship rights.

    Rees and his ilk pay no attention to what leftist two-state advocates really advocate.


    May 3, 2016 at 8:21 pm

  2. In fairness, that’s because Rees and his ilk are complete tools who are doing their best to destroy what remains of the politically organised left.


    May 3, 2016 at 8:30 pm

  3. watch and weap!


    May 3, 2016 at 11:29 pm

  4. Thanks for that jschulman, it makes Rees’ claim look even more look like an attempt to ward off criticism of his position.

    Andrew Coates

    May 4, 2016 at 12:45 pm

  5. I hate the way the modern left talks about Palestine and the Palestinians, and why they’re putting all their eggs in one basket with a one-state solution.

    What no one wants to say is, a OSS isn’t going to give the Palestinians any kind of justice without a massive land reform or wealth redistribution. Think about it: you’d have millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendents returning to Haifa, Safad, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and elsewhere with very little, all while you have Israeli millionaires who would maintain their lavish lifestyles. Not to mention the settlements would be kept in place, effectively giving Jewish Israelis control over the majority of territory. So, what happens? We can look at South Africa today and see how in some contexts its as if Apartheid never ended, with rich whites living in the hills outside Cape Town and plenty of black ghettos. Would Palestine not be the same way with rich Ashkenazim in Tel Aviv and dirt poor Palestinians shoved into industrial housing?

    The thing is, in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, whites were never more than 6% of the population, hence why a land reform was even an option to begin with (and despite all of this, we know how messy it turned out). In a one democratic state of Palestine, about half the population between the river and the sea would be Jews. Try doing a land reform where half the population is forced to give up their kibbutzim, housing units, and whatnot. And to make things worse, there are plenty of towns in Israel where the majority of the population are very insular ultra-orthodox Jews (Safad and Beit Shemesh come to mind). How does one go about tampering with their communities without facing some kind of resistance?

    The left should just go back to protesting the occupation. If the settlers want to continue living in the West Bank, they can feel free to, but they must live under the flag of Palestine and not the flag of Israel.

    Fed Up

    May 8, 2016 at 9:55 am

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