Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The dead end of anti-Semitism

Over at indymedia a couple of readers have objected to my criticisms of the anti-Semitism of Hizbollah's leadership. They seem to believe that it is inappropriate to discuss the issue at a time like this, when Hizbollah is contending with the might of an invading army.

But Hizbollah's anti-Semitism is a key part of the strategy it is using to resist Israel. Instead of looking to unite the ordinary people of Lebanon and Israel, Hizbollah says that working class Jews are part of the problem, not the solution, and therefore have to defeated along with the Israeli ruling class. The problem is that it is impossible for Hizbollah's few thousand fighters, heroic as they are, to defeat the might of the Israeli army without help from inside Israel. And when Jewish workers hear Hizbollah leaders saying that the Holocaust never happened, that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a real historical text, that all the Jews in Israel have to be driven into the sea, and so on, then they are driven further into the camp of the Israeli ruling class, which naturally tries to demonise Israel's Arab neighbours to justify its wars. Hizbollah's leaders play right into the hands of the Zionists.

One of my critics argues that:

Pouring petrol on the Zionist spark about Hizbollah is a dangerous game. Also appeals to the Israeli working class are a bit rich- did the CWG appeal to the white working class of South Africa to overthrow apartheid?

The Israeli working class live on stolen land and benifit from the subsidies the US gives to them. A minority of Israelis oppose Zionism, but the vast majority do not.

I don't think you can compare the Israeli working class with the Afrikaaner working class in apartheid South Africa for two reasons.

In the first place, the Israeli working class includes the vast majority of the country's population, not a tiny minority living indirectly off the exploitation of the majority as was the case with the Afrikaaners in South Africa.

In the second place, the Israeli working class includes numerous ethnic/cultural strata, and the lower strata are oppressed in various ways because of their ethnicity/culture. Right at the bottom of society you have the Arab Israelis, but the Beta (black) Jews are not much higher up. Nor are the Yemeni Jews and many of the immigrants from Russia. All of these groups have been subject to varying degress of discrimination, and many of their members are not only workers but low-paid workers. To compare such people to the tiny labour aristocracy that was the Afrikaaner working class in apartheid South Africa seems unfair, to say the least.

(It is notable that Reuven Abarjel, a founder and leader of the Israeli Black Panther movement that thrived amongst oppressed Israeli Jews in the 1970s, has come out in favour of recent union sanctions against Israel. Abarjel complains of continuing discrimination against Israeli Jews from Africa and the Middle East.)

A glance at the latest message page on the large Marxmail e list suggests that this is a debate that is being repeated around the world. Here's a thought from Argentina, which has the largest Jewish population outside Israel and the United States.


Blogger Mark K said...

Grouping all Zionists together is not anti-Semitism. An overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews of all classes and backgrounds support the oppression, disapprpriation and murder of Arabs in the name of the state of Israel. Most Israeli Jews do military service. For these reasons, and not because they are Jews, they are the enemies of the Arab people.

5:23 pm  
Blogger maps said...

But one might almost as easily say that the American people are the enemies of the Iraqi people (alright, they don't have compulsory military service in the US, but they do have a big army and it is even more overwhelmingly working class than Israel's).

The question is: how do you relate to these people? Do you tell your supporters to treat them as eternal enemies who have to wiped off the face of the earth, or do you try to win them to your side, or at least away from the other side, by making them see that their real interests don't lie in paying for and maybe taking a bullet for the wars waged by their ruling class? I presume you wouldn't regard the US working class as inherently reactionary, even though it overwhelmingly supports two reactionary parties as well as a slew of reactionary and imperialist policies, and that you wouldn't object to attempts to convince US troops to refuse service? Is there a fundamnetal difference where Israel is involved?

All of the arguments could be made respect to the Aussie and Kiwi working classes too, of course.

5:35 pm  
Anonymous Jason S. said...

Thank you for writing this.

6:26 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Ideally it is correct to make these fine distinctions - but there have been so many attacks on Lebanon and the Palestinians (since at least 1947) that people from Israel and Lebanon etc are understandably conflicting anti-Isreal thoughts with anti-Semitism -only the enlightned few - actually probably not the working class - they are often the most reactionary (or we would have had more revolutions) - (they SHOULD see that workers of the world need to unite but that will only appear very abstract to most people - true as it still is)

I want to see Israel defeated and at least two states set up there... (it wont mean that particululalry progressive states will be created in that area - it will mean Lebanon and Israel can get on with life though)) and the Hezollah are de facto a people's party/army -they are not saints - saints don't win wars - and the endless wars and oppressions has psychoticised the people of that area -

But if we were able to be objective - and indeed there is evidence that Hezbollah have discussed working with more liberal elements in Lebanon -they are are indeed seen as heroes - as at the moment and they are - and work has to be done to attempt to change this away from anti-Semitsim and denial of the Holocaust. Yes - we can criticise but we need also to back them.

Now is and isn't the time - I can understand the Hezbollahs' feelings and if they are to be strong fihgters they at most are required to be at least a bit fanatical - as do any army - but Molemsic ideas and Zionist ideas etc are all pretty crazy - religion is more than an opiate -it is very problematic - but religion is the ideology and it fuels their energy - de facto as I say they are a democratic people's army*. (BUT They fight away from where "ordinary" people are - contrary to Israeli propaganda - that is why they are more successful than the Palestinians or the Hamas - but they are ultimately based in the base of the people of Lebanon and areas around there.

* This critcism of them being anti-Semitic is good - even if it will have small effect - and when the war is ended they may cease to be particularly "democratic" - or "progresive" or "peoples". They themselves just need to win for now.

2:53 pm  

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