Anti-semitism amongst the left and anarchists

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 5 2009 19:10
Angelus Novus wrote:
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).

i agree. but i do think the term has use to apply to e.g. conspiracy theories that make no reference to jews explicitly, but draw on the resonances of classical anti-semitism. i'm aware this is a partial redefinition of the term, but i think it actually makes more sense since it refers to arguments which have the structure of anti-semitism without the content of anti-jewish racism; whereas a truncated critique of capital focussing on finance may be just that, if anything an expression of commodity fetishism, a critique of capital that takes its most obvious form of appearance - money - as the root of all evil, so to speak. no necessary relation to anti-semitism at all.

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888
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Jan 5 2009 19:19
Joseph K. wrote:
i agree, hysterical denunciation achieves nothing, or is even counter-productive. reasoned criticism on the other hand is absolutely necessary.

Yes, but if you present reasoned criticism in a more diplomatic manner, it has a greater chance of getting through. Saying you're appaled, it's anti-semitic, and it's equivalent to far right propaganda is bound to be interpreted as an attack, especially given the tension between anarkismo and libcom. It all depends on whether you're content with being right or actually want to change people's minds.

no1
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Jan 5 2009 19:22

This thing about people with different politics saying similar things is a thorny issue. Or has Ehud Olmert become a communist supporting the Palestinian working class:

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As Israel launched the first air strikes, outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: "You - the citizens of Gaza - are not our enemies. Hamas, Jihad and the other terrorist organisations are your enemies, as they are our enemies."
tsi
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Jan 5 2009 19:55

I'm not trying to stir the pot, but even given the changes to the FdCA article it still contains some pretty bad politics. I'm not trying to say that the authors themselves are closet anti-semites, but the insinuation that a "Pro-Israel" lobby is shaping US foreign policy still clearly reproduces the logic of classical antisemitism.

I agree that it's easy to over-react on this issue, and I don't want to contribute to any hysteria, but I think that it would be a good idea for someone, hopefully more eloquent than myself, to issue a response statement if we are going to try to fix crap politics within anarchist circles. ToJ's statement is a good beginning to this process.

Also, the rest of the statement contains some very national-liberation/third-worldist stuff:

Quote:
As class-struggle anarchists and libertarians we will continue to denounce Zionist settler colonialismm as we denounce all forms of imperialism and fundamentalism that oppress the liberty and dignity of every people.

To be fair, there are definitely seeds of a sensible critique in parts of the article, but they're so buried in muddled politics along with populist and conspiracist reasoning and rhetoric, that it's near impossible to get any insight at all from it.

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Jan 5 2009 20:11
Angelus Novus wrote:
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.

I largely agree, except that this defensive reaction is by no means limited to anti-semitism, calling people on sexism or racism of any kind can lead to that person resorting to defensiveness and personal abuse rather than acknowledging that they might have unknowingly said something racist or sexist. I've seen this first hand and it can make it almost impossible to discuss problems with unconcious racism or sexism within a group.

capricorn
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Jan 5 2009 20:59

If we can't be anti-Zionist are we allowed to be Islamophobic? They certainly scare me.

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Jan 5 2009 21:00
888 wrote:
Joseph K. wrote:
i agree, hysterical denunciation achieves nothing, or is even counter-productive. reasoned criticism on the other hand is absolutely necessary.

Yes, but if you present reasoned criticism in a more diplomatic manner, it has a greater chance of getting through. Saying you're appaled, it's anti-semitic, and it's equivalent to far right propaganda is bound to be interpreted as an attack, especially given the tension between anarkismo and libcom. It all depends on whether you're content with being right or actually want to change people's minds.

To be honest this FdCA statement is the most extreme example of anti-semitic comments amongst anarchists I've ever seen (if you exclude the classical anarchists). So to react strongly to it isn't unreasonable, nor is it undiplomatic to call something appalling when it very clearly is. Like I said above, even the far right wouldn't say something like this because so many people, rightly would be repulsed by it. So I think pretending something isn't what it is in this case is more unreasonable than being overly tolerant of the intolerable out of "anti-sectarianism" or something. And if people want to let petty internet politics determine their judgment, well thats their problem.

I mean, do you think that the idea that the "Jewish economic lobby" drives US policy isn't anti-semitic? This isn't the same as saying FdCA are anti-semites, for the reasons Angelus has laid out above.

Angelus Novus
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Jan 5 2009 21:29
capricorn wrote:
If we can't be anti-Zionist are we allowed to be Islamophobic? They certainly scare me.

Sorry, but communists can't be Islamophobic either. That's not to say anything against a critique of religion that includes a critique of Islam, but Islamophobia is something else entirely.

I translated an article by a comrade of mine that frames the issue well:

Quote:

So it makes sense to narrow down concepts related to the study of prejudice within the context of real conflicts and debates, so as to set limits to arbitrary and denunciatory usage. According to the definition of the Runnymede Trust, Islamophobia is present, inter alia, if (1) Islam is conceived as a monolithic bloc which is static and resistant to change; (2) it is viewed as separate and "other," sharing no common values with other cultures, and without being influenced by these or influencing these; (3) it is construed as inferior to the West, barbaric, irrational, and sexist; and (4) it is perceived exclusively as violent, aggressive, threatening, terroristic, and engaged in a cultural conflict.

[...]

For Islamophobes, hatred for Muslims is apparently a substitute for anti-Semitism. They make use of similar mechanisms of conspiracy theory which are traditionally operative in antipathy towards Jews, first of all what Horkheimer and Adorno called "pathic projection": a phenomenon such as rape is picked out, systematically ethnicized, and finally on the basis of Koran citations and the imputation of an Arabic collective psyche interpreted either as a dastardly, methodical procedure for conquering Europe or as an essentialist expression of a "culture" which cannot be reconciled with the West. The demands in consequence are deportation, social exclusion, the denial of fundamental rights, and the tightening of immigration laws -- as for example the Islamophobic author Horst Pankow was allowed to demand in the "leftist" journal Konkret (3/2006). Sometimes, even open pogrom fantasies are brought into play, such as when Oriana Fallaci speaks in her book The Rage and the Pride about her threat to police to set refugee tents of African Muslims on fire because they deliberately pissed in a baptistery in Florence. For this she received the acclaim of the Freudian-Marxist Uli Krug (Bahamas No. 39, 2002).

This has fundamentally nothing to do with the critique of religion, even if that's the initial pretext advanced by representatives of the Islamophobic scene. But by now even the cover of Bahamas (No. 51, 2006) is graced with a resplendent photo of the fundamentalist Catholic Joseph Ratzinger, who is celebrated there as a hero in the struggle against the "Islamic invasion." And even a newspaper such as Jungle World reports on the occasion of Benedict XVI's observations on Islam by noting the "astounding similarity between Critical Theory and papal philosophy"5 -- which, one could polemically point out, can also be observed on the basis of the homophobia common to both.6

Source: http://monthlyreview.org/mrzine/klauda121107.html

I'm also translating an article by the Gruppe Soziale Kämpfe that nicely situates Islamophobia within the context of a neo-liberal "culturalisation of the social question", that is to say, a culturalist displacement of class struggle. I'll post a link when I'm done.

James Cameron
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Jan 6 2009 00:17

This is an interesting forum with some interesting, intelligent and calmly put views but the words are too big for me and the phrases too complicated to get my head around. I think I'd better go swallow a dictionary, an encyclopedia and the Dave Spart book of terminology. Only teasing with the Dave Spart folks, but the 'context of a neo-liberal "culturalisation of the social question"' is somewhat beyond me. I think I better go to The Sun forum where I can understand what they say. Serious point though - do remember at times to try to speak in language people can understand as then they might be able to agree with you.

joselito
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Jan 6 2009 00:44

I would never argue that the lobby is the sole determiner of US policy in the middle east, but to reject its influence totally seems to be just ideological. It may not fit neatly into one's conception of the state, but policy objectives and goals have to be framed by someone. Though I don't think it is the whole picture, in the case of Israel, those working in and around the lobby have been relatively successful at casting Israeli interests in terms of US interests.

joseph k. wrote:
israel is a nation-state with interests of its own, yet it is heavily dependent on US aid

While this may have once been true, Israel is anything but a dependent state. It enjoys favored nation status with the European Union, its largest trading partner, and its arms industry, is one of the world’s largest and competes with that of the US on the world market. Israel is hardly hostage to US demands, being among other things one of the major centers of the domestic high tech industry.

joseph k. wrote:
and has frequently been reigned in when its pursuit of its self-interest clashes with US interests

What are you referring to here? arm sales to China? I suspect that that continues while the US turns a blind eye.
As far as US 'interests' goes, every president since Nixon has pursued a two state solution, at least on paper.

joseph k. wrote:
however this doesn't lead leftists to cry 'cui bono' and imagine a 'muslim economic lobby' 'strongly influencing' Israeli state policy against its own interests

For this analogy to mean anything, Hezbollah would have to be a heavily dependent ally of Israels.

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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.

exactly, doesn't this apply then to the state of Israel itself?

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Jan 6 2009 00:46
Django wrote:
I mean, do you think that the idea that the "Jewish economic lobby" drives US policy isn't anti-semitic? This isn't the same as saying FdCA are anti-semites, for the reasons Angelus has laid out above.

Yes I think it's anti semitic (although I still don't actually know what is meant by "economic lobby"). However I don't think that thinking that there are some US Jewish lobby groups that influence (not control) US policy in favour of Israel is the same as thinking there is a shadowy Jewish Cabal that runs the world behind the scenes. Both are wrong but they are not equivalent. Anyway, I've had enough of this, all I want to know is what "Jewish economic lobby" is suppposed to mean.

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Jan 6 2009 01:03
joselito wrote:
While this may have once been true, Israel is anything but a dependent state. It enjoys favored nation status with the European Union, its largest trading partner, and its arms industry, is one of the world’s largest and competes with that of the US on the world market. Israel is hardly hostage to US demands, being among other things one of the major centers of the domestic high tech industry.

see the Chomsky links earlier in the thread, he talks about the US scuppering an Israeli arms deal to China because it was counter to US interests. and i think israel is still the number one recipient of US military aid.

joselito wrote:
What are you referring to here? arm sales to China? I suspect that that continues while the US turns a blind eye.

there's a string of things, non-support over the Suez debacle springs to mind. the pressure to end the Lebanon intervention when it became clear it was strengthening not weakening Hamas is another. Chomsky's far more well read than me on these things. if your suspicions aren't backed by any evidence then they're no more valid than any other claims concocted according to ideological fancy, which is precisely what is at issue with the FdCA statement.

joselito wrote:
For this analogy to mean anything, Hezbollah would have to be a heavily dependent ally of Israels.

literally you're right, but my point is that you need evidence for such claims, you can't just suppose a lobby has a certain influence because it fits some just-so story.

888 wrote:
Anyway, I've had enough of this, all I want to know is what "Jewish economic lobby" is suppposed to mean.

i suspect we'll never know now the phrase has been retracted. apparently the synonym is 'pro-israel lobby' according to the amendment. i suspect the 'economic' related to the wealth of the lobby, since it's not like there's massive pro-israel trade unions flexing their industrial muscles to influence US policy in favour of Israel (unless i've seriously missed something!).

capricorn
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Jan 6 2009 07:26
Angelus Novus wrote:
I translated an article by a comrade of mine that frames the issue well:
Quote:
(3) it is construed as inferior to the West, barbaric, irrational, and sexist;

Surely "Western" secularism, of which we socialists, communists and anarchists are a product and a part, is better (as it is to catholicism which is also irrational and sexist and used to be barbaric too till secularists faced it down) and that it is politically incorrect to deny this? Or are you one of those relativists who say that cannibalism is a matter of taste?

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Jan 6 2009 10:53
capricorn wrote:
Surely "Western" secularism, of which we socialists, communists and anarchists are a product and a part, is better (as it is to catholicism which is also irrational and sexist and used to be barbaric too till secularists faced it down) and that it is politically incorrect to deny this? Or are you one of those relativists who say that cannibalism is a matter of taste?

Religious barbarism is by no means non-existant in Western countries, you try walking past loony Christians who're picketting an abortion clinic in the US or being gay in a small community with a strong, conservative Christian tendancy within it.

Secularism is not exclusive to the West, nor is the West necessarily secular, to acknowledge this is not cultural relativism.

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Jan 6 2009 11:15

also, secular states are not immune to barbarism. sure, they don't tend to stone adulterers and gays, but they do have cluster bombs and guantanamo bay (this is not relativism, but realism). the 'Othering' of islam has to be understood as part of a critique of religion and states per se. of course religious - and specifically islamic - barbarism is real, whatever anti-islamophobic leftists building electoral alliances claim, although its singling out is enmeshed in ideological agendas. that said i'm not convinced the british state really does this, 'the muslim community' is in large part a product of the new labour project and thus ministers are at pains to point out islamists are not like the 'majority of peaceful, law abiding muslims' etc. i think a lot of the cries of 'islamphobia' originate from trots pandering to nick the votes of 'the muslim community' from labour, but clealy racism does also take the form of attacks on muslims (as a psuedo-ethnic group, not a bunch of irrationalist spiritualists), like Kilroy's 'what have the arabs (sic) ever done for us?' gaffe.

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Jan 6 2009 17:31
James Cameron wrote:
This is an interesting forum with some interesting, intelligent and calmly put views but the words are too big for me and the phrases too complicated to get my head around. I think I'd better go swallow a dictionary, an encyclopedia and the Dave Spart book of terminology. Only teasing with the Dave Spart folks, but the 'context of a neo-liberal "culturalisation of the social question"' is somewhat beyond me. I think I better go to The Sun forum where I can understand what they say. Serious point though - do remember at times to try to speak in language people can understand as then they might be able to agree with you.

Yeah, thats fair enough. I mean, I use different terms when discussing politics on here that I would talking to co-workers, etc. Thats at least in part to avoid being associated with the worst lefty politics (of the Dave Spart sort) that using certain words with people unfamiliar with the ideas could bring about, 'working class' being understood as being about factories, flat caps and whippets etc. On the other hand, if you want definitions, you have the entire internets and the dictionaries and wikis it contains to find them wink.

Joselito wrote:
What are you referring to here? arm sales to China? I suspect that that continues while the US turns a blind eye.

Off the top of my head theres two instances of arms sales to China being embarrassingly reigned in without a peep from the lobby (in one case including sanctions and the demand of a public apology from Israel), Bush vetoing Israel's planned strike on Iran's nuclear facilities last year, a cancelled satellite technology deal with North Korea, the Rabin government being forced to enter peace talks, and Israel's activities in the Lebannon being reigned in when they backfired. Chomsky's written about all these and more, and Stephen Zunes who is a high-profile leftist international relations scholar has debunked the lobby argument in great detail - I linked to a couple of articles of his earlier in the thread. He's worth looking at.

Dave B
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Jan 6 2009 19:46
Django wrote:
James Cameron wrote:
This is an interesting forum with some interesting, intelligent and calmly put views but the words are too big for me and the phrases too complicated to get my head around. I think I'd better go swallow a dictionary, an encyclopedia and the Dave Spart book of terminology. Only teasing with the Dave Spart folks, but the 'context of a neo-liberal "culturalisation of the social question"' is somewhat beyond me. I think I better go to The Sun forum where I can understand what they say. Serious point though - do remember at times to try to speak in language people can understand as then they might be able to agree with you.

Engels to Otto Von Boenigk, In Breslau

August 21, 1890

Quote:
The patronizing and errant lecturing of our so-called intellectuals seems to me a far greater impediment. We are still in need of technicians, agronomists, engineers, chemists, architects, etc., ……………..But apart from the specialists, among whom I also include schoolteachers, we can get along perfectly well without the other "intellectuals". The present influx of literati and students into the party, for example, may be quite damaging if these gentlemen are not properly check.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1890/letters/90_08_21.htm

Dave B
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Jan 6 2009 19:51

cut and paste error corrected!

The present influx of literati and students into the party, for example, may be quite damaging if these gentlemen are not properly kept in check.

Angelus Novus
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Jan 6 2009 21:45

Right, because like, you know, workers can't possibly also be literati. I'm grateful that a capitalist like Engels was around to tell me that it's quite impossible for me, as a child of trade unionists, to have an interest in critical theory. Football and horse races are more my habitus. Thanks for putting me in my place!

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888
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Jan 7 2009 03:09

why are chemists in bold in that Engels quote? is it because they are great? proletaire, ta meilleure amie, c'est la chimie!

mikus
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Jan 7 2009 08:32
Angelus Novus wrote:
Right, because like, you know, workers can't possibly also be literati. I'm grateful that a capitalist like Engels was around to tell me that it's quite impossible for me, as a child of trade unionists, to have an interest in critical theory. Football and horse races are more my habitus. Thanks for putting me in my place!

Where does Engels say that it's impossible for you to have an interest in critical theory? Your trade unionist parents should have spent more time teaching you how to read.

Angelus Novus
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Jan 7 2009 08:39
mikus wrote:
Where exactly does Engels say that it's impossible for you to have an interest in critical theory.

Engels obviously regards "literati" as an alien element within a workers party. The notion that workers themselves might develop such dangerously fluffy interests is simply inconceivable.

In the 19th century, the division between laborers and intellectuals might have been exacerbated by the nearly complete lack of access to higher education for the former. But given that's the case, it's probably best to regard statements like Engels' as situated in a specific historical context, rather than quoting them as if they have relevance for today as Dave B did.

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Jan 7 2009 09:30

In no way is that obvious.

from the text quoted

Angelus Novus
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Jan 7 2009 09:48

Oh no, of course not, it's in no way obvious in the way that Engels speaks of the "damaging" effects of the "influx" of such elements... roll eyes

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Jan 7 2009 11:03

It is in no way obvious from the quoted text that Engels thought that workers could not have the capacity for intellectual pursuits, or that they were only capable of vulgar pastimes. Your posts don't have continuity, because you are wrong and trying to hide it through obfuscation.

Why did you even go on this tangent?

Angelus Novus
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Jan 7 2009 11:45
Tarwater wrote:
Why did you even go on this tangent?

Um, have you actually followed the last two pages of this thread? The Engels quotation doesn't exist in a vacuum. It was posted to make a point: the poster named James Cameron made some populist observations concerning the allegedly rarefied language used in my post concerning Islamophobia. Dave then posted the Engels quotation.

Unless you're implying that Dave's post is truly a non sequitur and is not intended to relate to anything previous in the thread, it's quite obvious that he intended it as an intervention concerning "intellectualism".

yoshomon
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Jan 7 2009 14:44

Let's get back on subject.

A question that was raised in discussing the Anarkismo article was whether the "Jewish economic lobby" paragraph was misguided and unfortunate - but incidental - or something more fundamental to the 'logic' of their argument.

the original paragraph again:

Quote:
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 strong influence on US foreign policy. And what is happening today comes across as a clear warning to the president-elect, Obama.

What ddid they proposed here? They write that the USA has to "deal with" the "Jewish economic lobby" - this implies conflict. So not only do they argue that "powerful US Jew(s)" has "strong influence on US foreign policy", they argue that this influence is exerted against the interests of the US state.

All of this is deeply irrational. By what means does this "Jewish economic lobby" boss around the most powerful nation on the planet? If one actually believes this, I cannot imagine it is merely incidental poor wording. Several supporters of the statement responded to criticism by saying "oh no! it's not anti-semitism - because the jewish lobby really does control things!!!" So, it seems that the anti-semitism in this case is more deeply rooted.

Of course, anti-semitism is just one of the problems with that article. Even without that paragraph, it puts forward a nationalist position on the war and falls into the regular line of leftist populism. I'm sure many others on the Left have published much worse about the current conflict, and one cannot really expect Left groups to do any different.

yoshomon
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Jan 8 2009 14:12

This poster is featured prominently in coverage of the Oscar Grant protest/riot in Oakland, CA. There are actually a bunch of anti-zionist posters and banners at the rallies.

Why? Zionism has nothing to do with the situation in Oakland.

What's disturbing to me is the use of the star of David, not even the Israeli flag. The first image does not even say Israel.

sphinx
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Jan 8 2009 14:19

WOW. That is fucked up.

tigersiskillers
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Jan 8 2009 14:33

Is that slant coming from the RCP Yoshomon? I heard they were muscling in on the Oscar Grant protests...