Anti-semitism amongst the left and anarchists

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madashell
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Jan 5 2009 10:48

Does anybody else find it a little bit creepy and weird that anarkismo's mods have not only edited the article, but removed all references to exactly what the original problem was?

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Jan 5 2009 10:58
Anarkismo wrote:
The statement originally published contained a grave error in wording and, while it was a minor part of the statement as a whole, gave rise to some controversy. This error has now been rectified.

Nestor McNab
for FdCA International Relations

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Jan 5 2009 10:59
Django wrote:
the "structural anti-semitism" argument would have been a good one if it hadn't been ruined by the antics of the anti-germans.

this is why i'm often reluctant to use the term without being explicit what i mean by it. but it is useful to describe a lot of the crap that passes for analysis on the left (like people claiming suicide bombings are all done by mossad, or that israel and/or rich israeli capitalists caused the south ossetia war etc).

Django wrote:
I'm going to react differently to a sincere comrade who believes the "Israel lobby" argument because they haven't looked into the area in much depth, or been exposed to the wrong stuff, or are working out their ideas

i think this is sensible

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Jan 5 2009 11:04
Jack wrote:
Is it word for word the same but with pro-israeli instead of jewish economic?

Pretty much, they've also changed "has a strong influence on" to "is strong enough to have an influence on".

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Jan 5 2009 11:11
Jack wrote:
Is it word for word the same but with pro-israeli instead of jewish economic?

it looks like it sad

first version wrote:
As far as the USA is concerned, there is no doubt. Apart from the important strategic and territorial alliance that Israel represents for American imperialism in the Middle East, it also has to deal with the powerful US Jewish economic lobby, which is strong enough to bring about a stong influence on US foreign policy. And what is happening today comes across as a clear warning to the president-elect, Obama.

(archived here)

amended version wrote:
Apart from the important strategic and territorial alliance that Israel represents for American imperialism in the Middle East, it also has to deal with the powerful US pro-Israel lobby, which is strong enough to bring about an influence on US foreign policy. And what is happening today comes across as a clear warning to the president-elect, Obama.

i haven't gone through the whole thing to see if there are any other changes, and i know the offending bit is a only a fraction of the total word count, which is hardly the point.

this does suggest the authors don't actually see what's problematic with their argument, but have simply learned it isn't PC to blame the jews so they're blaming a euphemism instead, leaving the argument intact (mirroring much far-right and islamist anti-semitism). i am somewhat dismayed by this.

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Jan 5 2009 11:14

Just want to add my support to what Joseph and Django have said on this page - exactly what I was thinking and worded far better than I've had the time/energy to do myself!

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Jan 5 2009 11:22
madashell wrote:
Does anybody else find it a little bit creepy and weird that anarkismo's mods have not only edited the article, but removed all references to exactly what the original problem was?

it's their site, they'll moderate it as they please. it's unsurprising they've hidden the critical comments since some of the anarkismo mods reflexively went into attack mode and then subsequently admitted there was in fact a problem that needed addressing. this could be construed as embarassing. as it happens, the amendment raises more questions than it answers in terms of replacing 'jewish' with a euphemism rather than addressing the problems with the whole tail-wagging-the-dog line of argument.

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Jan 5 2009 11:55

I would like to comment on another part of that leaflet:

FdCA wrote:
The only real prospect for emancipation that we can glimpse in the near future is a growth and
spread of the sort of self-organisation that many Palestinian villages practise, encouraged by the
solidarity between Palestinian popular committees and initiatives such as Anarchists Against the
Wall, involving internationalists from all over the world and anti-Zionist Israelis, who fight the
arrogance of the Israeli settler colonists and the army that supports them using prevalently
peaceful resistance. And it is not by chance that in these villages another road has been chosen
and not the militarism of Hamas.

I think that the final sentence here is not really very true. Of course it is not 'by chance'. There has since before the wall was begun been a tendency towards Islamicism and HAMAS in Gaza whereas Fatah was always stronger on the West Bank. The wall is on the West Bank therefore it is unsurprising that HAMAS doesn't dominate there.

The statement seems to imply that this strategy has triumphed against the strategy of HAMAS. I think it is more by geog-political circumstance, or if you want to call it so 'chance'.

Devrim

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Jan 5 2009 12:39
joselito wrote:
Might you articulate how the interests behind the recent invasion of Gaza, the invasions of Lebanon in 78, 82, and 2006, or the annihilation of the Palestinians in general 'align with those of US imperialism'.

That's simple: although US imperialism doesn't have an interest in regard to the West Bank and Gaza, it has a strong interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continuing indefinitely. Because it is this conflict which makes Israel highly dependent on US support, making it into a loyal subordinate ally, and which forces Israel to have such a militarised society. The value of Israel as the local US attack dog increases through occasional displays of its ferocity.

Django wrote:
But theres still the question of why this argument has so much traction amongst otherwise right thinking people

There are several different explanations for why people might believe that The Lobby is shaping US Middle East policy, and all of these contribute to this belief:
* the traditional European anti-semitic conspiracy theories as JK described.
* most people believe that policy is shaped by powerful economic interests through lobbies, so at the face of it it seems consistent to assume that the pro-Israel lobby influences foreign policy towards Israel in the same way the arms industry influences military spending and the oil industry influences environmental policy. This is of course a very superficial understanding of how the state comes to represent bourgeois interests that neglects that that various lobbies will often conflict and differ in how powerful they are.
* blaming The Lobby for the bloody US ME policy absolves the US state from responsibility and allows people to continue identifying with it.
* The Lobby is often very visible because it is pretty active, annoyingly fanatic, and at times effective. Of course it is only effective when its actions overlap with wider elite interests.

To give some examples on the latter point, just think of Norman Finkelstein getting sacked after a behind-the-scenes campaign by Alan Dershowitz's (following the dispute between them). Then there's things like the ADL systematically tracking Chomsky and others to demonstrate their supposed anti-semitism, or Horowitz's CampusWatch. There's all sorts of things like this, also recently an attempt to influence Wikipedia in a pretty conspiratorial way. As far as I remember, AIPAC also played a role in stopping Cynthia McKinney from getting re-elected, who had stopped singing from the hymn sheet and was doing all sorts of embarrassing things. So I think The Lobby does a great job in silencing trenchent critics of Israel, but this is because they are doing a useful service for the US elites that would be much more difficult for them to do themselves, because all these people are also trenchant critics of US elites. Think of it as outsourcing.

Incidentally, this isn't all that different from how the European ruling class historically used Jews to carry out some unpopular functions and then demonised Jews for that.

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Jan 5 2009 12:54
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I think that the final sentence here is not really very true. Of course it is not 'by chance'. There has since before the wall was begun been a tendency towards Islamicism and HAMAS in Gaza whereas Fatah was always stronger on the West Bank. The wall is on the West Bank therefore it is unsurprising that HAMAS doesn't dominate there.

The statement seems to imply that this strategy has triumphed against the strategy of HAMAS. I think it is more by geog-political circumstance, or if you want to call it so 'chance'.

There are "Hamas" and "Fatah" villages in the West Bank. For example Saffa, the closest neighbour to Bil'in, is basically a Hamas village with the green flags flying and all (Bil'in is a PLO village, though after Arafat died they're not as gung ho about them anymore). A lot of villages are split down the middle as well.

Hamas won the elections in the West Bank, mostly because of the corruption of the PLO, winning the mayor and majorities in local assemblies and etc. With the putsch in Gaza the PLO moved on Hamas and more or less drove them under ground.

However, I also believe that the statement is incorrect to some degree. Why counterpose the local struggles with only Hamas? Why not Fatah/al-Aqsa as well? It's just sloppy the way in which it is written.

What is important to note is that these struggles are largely autonomous from the organized Palestinians groups and are typically led by village committees. These villages committees know that violence cannot be used, and they have on certain protests even sought to curb stone throwing (which is seen as mostly a PR problem).

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Jan 5 2009 13:01

No1 - claiming that there is a pro-Israel lobby which harasses critics of Israeli policy isn't that controversial. The point is that "the lobby" doesn't have any meaningful influence over US foreign policy. And one could point out that as the Israeli state interests which the lobby supports are those of the US (as they usually don't bother when they are at odds and Israel backs down), they're as much a lobby for US interests as they are Israeli ones.

Lets not forget the shit-flinging that Chomsky for instance has been subjected to over his writing on the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, or Cambodia, or Indonesia. None of those attacks are construed as the work of a 'lobby'.

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Jan 5 2009 13:03

I think there is a problem with anti semitism on the left and among anarchists. Sorry if I offend anybody but it usually manifests itself as anti Zionism - even anti capitalist anti Zionism. First let me point out that the concept of countries, Israel, Palestine, France, the UK, wherever is not particularly of interest to me. Ok, that being out the way, countries do exist, at least in peoples minds and the borders they create, and, that being so, Israel has no less a right to exist than any other country. Why is there not such anti capitalist fury against Pakistan or Russia as there is against Israel? Part of the answer is 'anti Zionism' but the other part is antisemitism and the propoganda that underpins it. Theres quite a fair and interesting history of pre 1948 Palestine here http://www.mideastweb.org/palpop.htm the shock for many 'anti Zionists' would be the second major conclusion of the study. If anyone can find a flaw to the information in that site, could you please point it out to me. Have you read the Hamas charter? Its here: http://www.mideastweb.org/hamas.htm You can read the whole charter if you scroll down and I recommend you do. You could easily get the impression that people on the left and some 'anarchists' support and admire them. I don't think Israel should bomb them, not now - other than perhaps with verses from the Koran. Theres quite an interesting article from a Zionist Muslim scholar here which contains Zionist verses from the Koran, theres more verses if you scroll down: http://www.templemount.org/quranland.html It appears that Hamas have swapped the Koran with a verse from a Hadith (the verse about killing all the Jews which Hamas use in their charter is not in the Koran) and the Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion.
I could, and probably will, give you passages from Adolf Hitler regarding the Jewish homeland in Palestine which, the odd word tweaked just a little, would have people like George Galloway and, sadly possibly some of you, nodding heads in sage agreement.
I was disappointed to read an otherwise good article from Class War about I think it was the the arms fair, which singled out, as a tasty morsel, that Israelis would be there to show off weapons they had used in Lebanon. Britain, the US, Russia, Pakistan, doubtless other countries too had used weapons between the bombardment in Lebanon and time of writing of the article, yet Israel was singled out. I'm not saying Israel should be excused. I'm saying it was clear Israel had been singled out to jump on the anti semetic, sorry, 'anti Zionist' bandwagon. Its not a good wagon to jump on. If you don't like the concept of countries, fine - but don't single out just one, or at least question yourself if you do.

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Jan 5 2009 13:10

Khawaga,
Yes, of course not all of the West Bank is 100% Fatah etc. Developments on the West Bank and in Gaza have been different though, and I think there are deeper causes of this that AATW.

Personally, I think it is about trying to have somebody to 'be in solidarity' with. It is an important 'international issue' and I think people feel a need to support some group.

Devrim

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Jan 5 2009 13:16
=James Cameron wrote:
It appears that Hamas have swapped the Koran with a verse from a Hadith (the verse about killing all the Jews which Hamas use in their charter is not in the Koran) and the Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion.

Just on a technical point, it is not a verse from a hadith, hadith unlike the Koran, where a verse is referred to as a sura, are not in verse.

Devrim

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Jan 5 2009 13:21
Quote:
Personally, I think it is about trying to have somebody to 'be in solidarity' with. It is an important 'international issue' and I think people feel a need to support some group.

I agree.

What FdCA writes about the local struggles I have no problem with, apart from what I mentioned above. These struggles can and should be supported as they are one of the few spaces in which Palestinians and Israelis actually do something together.

But it is fantasy if FdCA believes that something similar can be done in Gaza now.

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Jan 5 2009 13:36
no1 wrote:
Incidentally, this isn't all that different from how the European ruling class historically used Jews to carry out some unpopular functions and then demonised Jews for that.

This is a potentially interesting point...I'll ponder it overnight (about to go to bed, 2:40am here) and write a reply tomorrow hopefully, but I definitely think it's worth expanding on.

no1
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Jan 5 2009 13:51
Django wrote:
No1 - claiming that there is a pro-Israel lobby which harasses critics of Israeli policy isn't that controversial. The point is that "the lobby" doesn't have any meaningful influence over US foreign policy. And one could point out that as the Israeli state interests which the lobby supports are those of the US (as they usually don't bother when they are at odds and Israel backs down), they're as much a lobby for US interests as they are Israeli ones.

Lets not forget the shit-flinging that Chomsky for instance has been subjected to over his writing on the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, or Cambodia, or Indonesia. None of those attacks are construed as the work of a 'lobby'.

Exactly. My point is that when people come out with statements that look like antisemitic shit, it is often the result of political confusion or a superficial understanding of imperialism. So, unless these people are far-right conspiracy theorists, the most effective way of dealing with them is not hysterical denunciation but providing better explanations based on a deeper class-based, materialist analysis.

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Jan 5 2009 13:58
Asher wrote:
no1 wrote:
Incidentally, this isn't all that different from how the European ruling class historically used Jews to carry out some unpopular functions and then demonised Jews for that.

This is a potentially interesting point...I'll ponder it overnight (about to go to bed, 2:40am here) and write a reply tomorrow hopefully, but I definitely think it's worth expanding on.

this is an interesting discussion, i'm probably going to knock a blog together to synthesise some of the more interesting bits and preserve them when this discussion fades into somewhere in the archives.

no1 wrote:
Exactly. My point is that when people come out with statements that look like antisemitic shit, it is often the result of political confusion or a superficial understanding of imperialism. So, unless these people are far-right conspiracy theorists, the most effective way of dealing with them is not hysterical denunciation but providing better explanations based on a deeper class-based, materialist analysis.

i agree, hysterical denunciation achieves nothing, or is even counter-productive. reasoned criticism on the other hand is absolutely necessary.

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Jan 5 2009 14:00
Joseph K. wrote:
i agree, hysterical denunciation achieves nothing, or is even counter-productive. reasoned criticism on the other hand is absolutely necessary.

...and was responded to by hysterical denunciation on Anarkismo.

Devrim

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Jan 5 2009 14:46

true, and unfortunate.

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Jan 5 2009 14:52
Joseph K. wrote:
true, and unfortunate.

I don't think that it is unfortunate at all. I think that it is very typical of the way that the 'Platformist' current responds to any criticism, and was completely expectable.

Devrim

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Jan 5 2009 15:11

i think that state of affairs is unfortunate, and unbecoming of a current professing the desire to be a leadership of anarchist-communist ideas.

yoshomon
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Jan 5 2009 17:24

Clearly the Platformist current is not communist and is at odds with a communist approach, on pretty much every level. They are Trotskyists who call themselves anarchists and should be treated as such.

(Also, I thought this was a non-flaming forum - can all of the personal attacks on me be deleted?)

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Jan 5 2009 17:30
Devrim wrote:
Joseph K. wrote:
i agree, hysterical denunciation achieves nothing, or is even counter-productive. reasoned criticism on the other hand is absolutely necessary.

...and was responded to by hysterical denunciation on Anarkismo.

Devrim

On reflection I'm less concerned about the denunciations of 'sectarianism' (which seemed to be more to do with the attitude of Anarkismo admins), insults and attempts to claim the statement wasn't saying what it was than the posts which attempted to rationalise it and argue that rich Jews really are pulling the strings. I'm presuming some of the posters who shared the criticism of the statement on there were platformists too.

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Jan 5 2009 17:27
Django wrote:
the posts which attempted to rationalise it and argue that rich Jews really are pulling the strings.

which have now been erased from the record, and 'jewish economic lobby' been replaced with a more PC term. move along please, nothing to see here.

Angelus Novus
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Jan 5 2009 18:33
Django wrote:
So the "structural anti-semitism" argument would have been a good one if it hadn't been ruined by the antics of the anti-germans.

FWIW, the phrase "structural anti-semitism" did not originate with the ADs but rather with Robert Kurz and Krisis.

Gerhard Hanloser, formerly of Wildcat, had a pretty decent article in the newspaper Analyse & Kritik a few years ago about why the concept of "structural anti-semitism" is fairly useless analytically. One can have discussions about whether Anti-Zionism, "Jewish lobby" talk etc. are anti-semitic or merely reproduce anti-semitic ways of thinking, but the phrase "structural anti-semitism" has a far more specific meaning: it basically means any truncated criticism of financial capital that does not criticize capital as a relationship of production.

While I agree that truncated criticism of finance capital contains an anti-semitic potential, to call it "anti-semitism", even qualified by the adjective "structural", is to trivialize real anti-semitism.

P.S. Platformists are Trotskyists who circle their As. tongue

Angelus Novus
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Jan 5 2009 18:37
Joseph K. wrote:
this is why i'm often reluctant to use the term without being explicit what i mean by it. but it is useful to describe a lot of the crap that passes for analysis on the left (like people claiming suicide bombings are all done by mossad, or that israel and/or rich israeli capitalists caused the south ossetia war etc).

But the examples you give aren't what people who use the phrase "structural anti-semitism" mean by the term (see post above); the examples you give are examples of plain old anti-semitism.

The problem is that defensive leftists basically think that anyone who doesn't openly advocate gassing Jews can't possibly be making anti-semitic arguments. Maybe it would be useful to separate between actual anti-semites (a noun) versus people who don't want to be anti-semites but who still make anti-semitic statements and reproduce anti-semitic argumentative figures.

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Jan 5 2009 18:49

Thanks for the comments Angelus - the concept hasn't really been circulated at all in the english speaking milieu, and my German is poor, so my understanding of it is on the basis of whats been said here and similar resources. I wasn't suggesting that the anti-germans invented the term, but most of my encounters with it have been on the basis on 'look at these mentalists' type articles about them.

Still, what Joseph K outlines seems a more useful concept than just a critique of truncated analysis focusing on financial capital and avoiding addressing capital/the commodity as a social relation, which can be a stage of undeveloped/developing analysis rather than a position.

Angelus Novus
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Jan 5 2009 19:01
Django wrote:
Still, what Joseph K outlines seems a more useful concept

Sure, I guess one could give the term a new content, but I'm not sure it's really necessary. I think manifestations of anti-semitism can be described as such without necessarily implying that everyone who makes an anti-semitic statement is a willful anti-semite. This happens all the time with sexist or racist comments on the left: when called on it, people correct themselves and that's that. But when called on anti-semitic comments, people act like their honor has been impugned. Maybe it's understandable; after Auschwitz, nobody reasonable wants to ever be associated with anti-semitism, and so the reaction is overly defensive.

Quote:
than just a critique of truncated analysis focusing on financial capital and avoiding addressing capital/the commodity as a social relation, which can be a stage of undeveloped/developing analysis rather than a position.

Exactly, which is why the phrase "structural anti-semitism" to refer to such truncated analysis is superfluous and needlessly antagonizing (not to mention trivializing of real anti-semitism).

Irony of ironies: in my subjective experience, members of ATTAC, which is the organization par excellence of truncated critiques of finance capital, tend to be the least anti-semitic people on the reformist left! It could be that they're well aware of the problematic connotations and go out of their way to avoid verbal lapses of any sort. ATTAC Germany also won't touch the Israel/Palestine issue with a ten foot pole, which is probably why the local IST franchise got so frustrated and decided to take their Trot anti-Zionism into the Linkspartei.

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Jan 5 2009 19:02
Django wrote:
Yeah, thats quite convincing. It would certainly explain why the posters on Anarkismo, who I certainly don't think are anti-semites, went through the process of substituting "Jewish economic lobby" for "Zionist" or "pro-Israel" and treated them as synonyms. I don't think they are actual anti-semites either, but ended up working through a thought process which is pretty indistinguishable on face value alone from classical anti-semitism.

I'm not sure I agree with this. Clearly Jewish Economic Lobby reproduces classical anti-semitism. I also object to substituting Zionist as it feeds into an anti-semitic mindset when critiquing Israeli aggression but as a jew I'm less offended by the latter. I generally find their inclusion of fundamentalist to be worrisome as well. Trying to mirror the right wings marginalization of Arabs is a mistake. But I have no problem whatsoever with pro-Israel. Thats similar to any other critique of nationalist supporters of any country anywhere.