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[A response to Seumas Milne’s article in the Guardian: “Slur of Anti-Semitism Used to Defend Repression.”[1]This slur of anti-semitism is used to defend repression.

“ Ending Israel’s occupation will benefit Jews and Muslims in Europe,” Seumas Milne

[Thursday May 9, 2002] The Guardian:

Since the French revolution, the fates of the Jewish people and the left have been closely intertwined. The left’s appeal to social justice and universal rights created a natural bond with a people long persecuted and excluded by the Christian European establishment. From the time of Marx, Jews played a central role across all shades of the left. They were heavily represented among the leaders of the Russian revolution – hence Hitler’s denunciation of communism as a “Judaeo-Bolshevik conspiracy” – and the left-led underground resistance to the Nazis. It was the Red Army which liberated the Auschwitz death camp. In Britain, it was the left which fought to defend the Jewish East End of London from fascists in the 1930s. In the Arab world, Jews were crucial to the building of political parties of the left. And despite the changed class balance of many Jewish communities, Jews remain disproportionately active in progressive political movements – including Palestinian solidarity groups – throughout the world.

But now the left stands accused of anti-semitism because of its opposition to Israel’s military occupation and continuing dispossession of the Palestinians. As the Palestinian intifada and Israeli repression rage on, rightwing commentators and religious leaders have claimed the left is guilty of “anti-Jewish prejudice,” double standards towards Israel and even aping the anti-semitic “blood libels” of the Middle Ages with the ferocity of its charges of Israeli massacres. Britain’s chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, has widened the attack to the media and equated any questioning of Israel’s legitimacy with “calling into question the Jewish people’s right to exist collectively.” In the US, the denunciation of the left over Israel has been extended to include the whole mainstream European political system. A two-state settlement is now the only possible way to secure peace in the forseeable future.

I

In civilised New York, a girl eager to brush-off an insistent admirer does not have to be rude. She slips him a phone number to call, and there a recorded message informs him, “The person you are calling does not wish to remain in contact with you. If you want to listen to a sad poem, press ONE, if you want to cling to unrealistic dream of reunion, press TWO, if you want to have counselling and advice, press THREE.”

The important article by the Guardian editor Mr. Seumas Milne is a rejected lover’s complaint. Apparently, he can’t overcome his rejection by the Daughter of Zion. He laments the glorious days of their alliance: “Since the French revolution, the fates of the Jewish people and the Left have been closely intertwined. From the time of Marx, Jews played a central role across all shades of the left.” Mr Milne and the Left are in need of some advice and counselling (press THREE).

Everything that has a beginning, Mr. Milne, has an end as well. Before the French Revolution, the Jewish people supported despotism against the aristocracy, and the Magna Carta was signed by King John despite their opposition. After Napoleon, the Jewish people had had a long alliance with the Left. It was long, but not everlasting. This alliance was severed in the aftermath of the failed 1968 revolution. Since that time the Jewish People have built a new alliance, with Globalisation forces. One saw the new alliance in action when it supported the victory of Margaret Thatcher, the shift to the Right of Labour under Lord Levy’s protégé Tony Blair, and in the US, the programme of Globalisation and World War Three (‘clash of civilisation’).

Give it a thought, Mr. Milne: if the Daughter of Zion could ally herself with the Left, why could she not change her partners? Should she be considered a permanently beneficial force, next to God Almighty? Jewish leadership benefited from the union with the Left while it was an aspiring force, struggling with the traditional upper classes. After their aspirations were satisfied, they had no more interest in such an ally.

For thirty years this major and obvious fact of the Jewish people’s re-alignment was not sufficiently discussed by the Left. Like a ditched boyfriend, the Left hoped to re-forge the union of old. One ground for this hope was advanced sentimentally by Mr. Milne: “The Left’s appeal to social justice and universal rights created a natural bond with a people long persecuted and excluded by the Christian European establishment.”

Why should one describe as a ‘natural bond’ rather than a ‘marriage of convenience’ this relationship with the rich Jewish bankers and newspaper owners who had supported the Left? It was quite an unnatural bond, formed against the obvious class interests of the involved sides, and its collapse was inevitable. The Left accepted the help of rich Jews, disregarding their motives. It paid a heavy price: alienation from the working classes who had had a long and painful history of Jew-Gentile relations, alienation from the Church, and the uncompromising hostility of the upper classes. The Jews used the energy of the Left until it ran out, and then ditched it. Now, the Left can dial a phone number in New York and listen to the pre-recorded message.

II

ORDER IT NOW

Mr. Milne objects to Jews calling the Left ‘anti-Semitic’. He thinks the Left does not deserve it. But it is mainly a point of definition. In the eyes of Mr Milne, “anti-Semitism is an anti-Jewish racism,” and its use, “a slur.” In the Jewish eyes, ‘anti-Semitism’ is a policy counteracting the policy of the Jewish people. Thus, until 1968 the Right was ‘anti-Semitic’ by definition, as “the fates of the Jewish people and the Left have been closely intertwined.” After 1968, as time moved on, the anti-globalisation Left (and Right), and environmentalist groups have become ‘anti-Semitic’ by definition. In 1953 McCarthy’s Committee for anti-American activities was ‘anti-Semitic’, but in 2002 ‘anti-American’ means ‘anti-Semitic’, according to Commentary, the main ideological Jewish American magazine.

In Russia of the 1990s, which I covered for the daily Haaretz, any movement against ‘market forces’, for socialism or for the preservation of the Soviet Union was considered ‘anti-Semitic’. Anti-globalisation is ‘anti-Semitic’ as is objection to Zionist policies. Thus, the anti-Semitic labelling is not a slur but a definition of every policy at deviance with the present ideas of the Jewish People.

If you are NOT called an anti-Semite you should immediately reconsider your writing, Mr. Milne. But if you ARE called an anti-Semite it does not mean too much: even Wolfowitz, the Jewish Zionist bigot hawk and supporter of Sharon, was booed as an anti-Semite by more fervent American Jews. Even Ariel Sharon, the mass murderer of Sabra and Shatila, of Qibya and Jenin, was relegated to the ranks of the ‘anti-Semite lefties’ by the bloody-minded supporters of Benjamin Netanyahu.

That is why there is no reason to incessantly apologise for offending sensibilities. The Left can accept the offered definition and to reply with a shrug while being called ‘anti-Semitic’, as it would certainly respond to accusations of ‘anti-British’ or ‘anti-aristocratic’ behaviour. The Jews are not Les Misérables any more; since the 1960s, they occupy (in the US and Europe) a position similar to that of the Brahmans in India. The Left should try to undo their supremacy, while preserving and using their talents and abilities.

Even more important, it should overcome its rejected-lover syndrome and reassess its positions vis-à-vis the Jews in the light of Marxist teachings. Karl Marx (certainly not a biological Jew-hater) rejected his ties with the Jews and called for the emancipation of the world from Jews. Later, the Left chose to forget these words of Marx, but they can be brought back.

Mr. Milne writes, “Jews remain disproportionately active in progressive political movements–including Palestinian solidarity groups–throughout the world.” There is a big difference between Marx and many politically active Jews. Marx and Trotsky were descendents of Jews who embraced the cause of the working people and rejected that of the Jews. Certainly there are descendents of Jews who emulate their behaviour, for instance in the al-Awdah movement. But there are other Jews who act as Jewish emissaries “in the progressive political movements–including Palestinian solidarity groups.” Their contribution is but damage limitation. The war in Palestine caused these emissaries to reveal their hidden agenda and gave the Left a chance to reassert its cause.

The Left, free of its emotional entanglement with the Jewish people, should offer the Jews the same deal it offered after the French Revolution; namely, equality everywhere, including Palestine. Equality, not privilege. The Left’s fight against the aristocracy and other traditional ruling classes was not for Jewish privilege.

Mr. Milne writes, “A two-state settlement (in the Middle East) is now the only possible way to secure peace in the foreseeable future.” Au contraire, it is an impossible and unjust way, and it will never take place. The condition of equality means deconstruction of the exclusivist Jewish State and its transformation into a state of all its citizens, like other states. That is the way to peace, to justice and to a new rise of the Left in Europe and the world.

Notes

[1] This slur of anti-semitism is used to defend repression.

“ Ending Israel’s occupation will benefit Jews and Muslims in Europe,” Seumas Milne

[Thursday May 9, 2002] The Guardian:

Since the French revolution, the fates of the Jewish people and the left have been closely intertwined. The left’s appeal to social justice and universal rights created a natural bond with a people long persecuted and excluded by the Christian European establishment. From the time of Marx, Jews played a central role across all shades of the left. They were heavily represented among the leaders of the Russian revolution – hence Hitler’s denunciation of communism as a “Judaeo-Bolshevik conspiracy” – and the left-led underground resistance to the Nazis. It was the Red Army which liberated the Auschwitz death camp. In Britain, it was the left which fought to defend the Jewish East End of London from fascists in the 1930s. In the Arab world, Jews were crucial to the building of political parties of the left. And despite the changed class balance of many Jewish communities, Jews remain disproportionately active in progressive political movements – including Palestinian solidarity groups – throughout the world.

But now the left stands accused of anti-semitism because of its opposition to Israel’s military occupation and continuing dispossession of the Palestinians. As the Palestinian intifada and Israeli repression rage on, rightwing commentators and religious leaders have claimed the left is guilty of “anti-Jewish prejudice,” double standards towards Israel and even aping the anti-semitic “blood libels” of the Middle Ages with the ferocity of its charges of Israeli massacres. Britain’s chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, has widened the attack to the media and equated any questioning of Israel’s legitimacy with “calling into question the Jewish people’s right to exist collectively.” In the US, the denunciation of the left over Israel has been extended to include the whole mainstream European political system. A two-state settlement is now the only possible way to secure peace in the forseeable future.

 
• Category: History, Ideology • Tags: Anti-Semitism, Jews, The Left 
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