2017 11 – Jews OR Zionism?

Zionism as the Abolition of Jews

by Gwydion M. Williams

The existence of Jews as an interesting minority within European culture is something entirely different from the colonisation of Palestine.

Zionists find it convenient to lump the two issues.  They denounce anyone against their current hard-line policies as anti-Semitic.  And in particular to throw hazy accusations against the British Labour Party.

The reality is much more complex.  A summary existing of viewpoints would include:

  1. Against Jewish minorities but willing to tolerate Jews settling in Palestine.
    (Included the Nazis, and also some of the Britons behind the Balfour Declaration [1])
  2. Against Jewish minorities but favouring Jews settling in Palestine.
    (Included some of the other Britons behind the Balfour Declaration. In today’s world, a lot of the Christian Right in the USA.  Also some secular US Republicans, who accept individual Jews sharing their view, but note that most Jews are against them, whereas Israel is increasingly a valued ally.  This view is also shown by some Backwoods Tories, but very few in the Tory leadership.)
  3. Unconcerned about or friendly to Jewish minorities and favouring Jews settled in Palestine.
    (Included yet more of the Britons behind the Balfour Declaration. Some of the secular US Republicans, and most Tories.)
  4. Unconcerned about or friendly to Jewish minorities but against the original idea of Jews settled in Palestine.
    (The mainstream British ruling class position until it was decided that Jewish support was needed to win World War One.)
  5. Unconcerned about or friendly to Jewish minorities but against the continuing expansion of Israel and suppression of Palestine.
    (Most of the world, including the British Labour Party and most of the left globally.)
  6. Members of Jewish minorities against the original idea of Jews settled in Palestine.
    (Many well-integrated Jews, particularly before the rise of the Nazis. Also some religious Jews, for whom it was blasphemous to do this except as a clear Act of God, probably involving the appearance of the Jewish Messiah.)
  7. Members of Jewish minorities against the continuing expansion of Israel.
    (Mostly left-wing Jews, but also some varieties of religious Jews.)
  8. Members of Jewish minorities who wished to end the separate existence of Jewish minorities in favour of a new Israel.
    (Hard-line Zionists.)
  9. Members of Jewish minorities who wished to preserve the separate existence of Jewish minorities, but see Israel as a necessary refuge and a backup.
    (Soft-line Zionists or hazy supporters. Often alarmed by current Israeli policies.  Note that a majority are not religious, or have religious feelings that are not expressed through Judaism.)
  10. Members of Jewish minorities who broadly favoured ending the separate existence of Jewish minorities by merger into larger peoples.
    (This tends not to be a separate political position, but is a vast number of individual choices. Commonly the decisive point is a wish to marry outside Judaism: conversion of the non-Jewish partner can happen but is viewed with suspicion and sometimes rejected by religious hard-liners in Israel.)

There is a big difference between the existence of Israel and the continuous expansion of Israel beyond the generous share of land given to them by the United Nations settlement of 1947.  Some early Zionists even hoped for land east of the River Jordan, where there were indeed Jewish populations in Biblical times.

Myself, I think the Balfour Declaration was a foolish move: a selfish strategy by the British Empire that double-crossed its Arab allies.  It encouraged the idea that Jews belonged in Israel and had no right to be anywhere else.

The creation of Israel after World War Two was understandable – many millions had been killed, many more marked for death.  And there was no certainty then that Jews in Europe would be safe in the long run.

I had been friendly to Israel up to and including the Oslo Agreement, which apparently split the land on terms favourable to Israel but giving the Palestinians a place.  But I was one of the minority who saw Israel as mostly to blame for the breakdown of this agreement.

I was also sure from early on that the attempt to create a pro-Israel Arab world by knocking over secular dictatorships was astonishingly foolish, as well as wicked.[2]  Those dictatorships were the best popular governments that were likely to actually function in fragmented societies where party politics could easily turn into Civil War.

I’m now seeing it as a car-crash in slow motion.  Western efforts successfully replaced secular dictators who might have made peace on sensible terms.  They are being replaced by religious extremists who would be willing and even eager for an all-out war, very probably nuclear.  I see the militancy of the dominant elements within Zionism as suicidal.[3]  I’ve said all this: and as a long-standing Labour Party member, I’d love to see someone try to expel me for antisemitism.

Accusations of antisemitism are used selectively.  President Eisenhower compelled Israel to withdraw to the 1949 Armistice Line after the Suez Crisis of 1956.  You’d assuredly be accused of antisemitism for suggesting that Israel now should withdraw to these lines, mostly called ‘the 1967 borders’.  But I’ve never heard Eisenhower accused.  It is of course relevant that he remains well-remembered by most people in the USA.

Ken Livingstone got his Labour Party membership unfairly suspended for daring to mention that there was some cooperation between the Nazis and certain Zionists.  As I’ve said before, he could have put it more clearly.[4]  Nor did Hitler ‘go mad’: Hitler’s racist views led him to believe that Jews would always be incompatible with the pure ‘Aryan’ race he was determined to rescue.  But there were also limits to what Hitler could do in peacetime, and he was quite happy with the idea of dumping the problem on the Arabs.  Jewish communities trying to conciliate the Nazis were merely applying a strategy that had worked before, at a time when they had few good options.  But nothing that Livingstone said justified his suspension.

Now we have the case of Dr Moshe Machover.  This has been widely misreported, which is probably not an accident.  He was accused of antisemitism; but he was convicted of breaking Labour Party rules on involvement with other left-wing organisations.

The common rule has been that you can’t be a member of any organisation that carries on electoral politics in competition with Labour, which is fair enough.  Loose association with the Communist Party of Great Britain has always been common on the Labour Left, but that party fragmented in 1991, with its dominant Eurocommunists giving up.  Its newspaper The Morning Star, always somewhat independent, has carried on separately and Corbyn regularly contributes.  But Machover was linked to something very different, a small group called the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee).  (There is also a separate Communist Party of Britain formed by a separate substantial anti- Eurocommunists faction and some other smaller groups claiming to continue the Leninist mission.)

With its surviving Blairite influence, the attitude of the Labour Party machine has mostly been Guilty Even If Innocent.  But they did link Moshe Machover to the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee), which still tries to be a functional Leninist Party.  He has published in their newspaper, Weekly Worker.

Removing Machover this way was much safer than trying to get him for antisemitism. He was born a Jew in Tel Aviv in what was then British-ruled Palestine.  Growing up within Israel, he became anti-Zionist and floated the idea of a joint revolutionary movement of Jews and Arabs, which was more feasible then than it would seem now.  He moved to Britain in 1968 but does not seem to have changed his views much.

Leninism was Militarised Socialism.  This was justified in the Tsarist Empire, where a parliament had existed since 1905 but was not in control and had largely been prevented from making moderate reforms.  Leninism was strengthened by the bulk of Europe choosing war in 1914, including big socialist parties that had promised otherwise.

The destructive war continued through to 1917, when the population of Russia big cities overthrew a government they had come to despise.  I do not see the Bolsheviks as mistaken in grabbing power when it became clear that nothing coherent had emerged out of the February 1917 Revolution.  When regular politics had produced only a government determined to carry on with a destructive war, and hesitant about Land Reform.

It was also reasonable in 1917 to see the Soviets as a more democratic alternative: open attitudes were lost after a bitter Civil War which reactionary landowner militarists supported by foreign powers came close to winning.

It was also reasonable to see political pluralism and drift as likely to mean a repeat of Europe’s 1848 revolutions and France in the Paris Commune, when excellent left-wing intentions led to failure and a brutal triumph by reactionary forces.  And there were good ground between 1921 and 1941 in seeing Bolshevism or Fascism as the main alternatives.

What was unreasonable was European Leninism’s failure to demilitarise when it should have.  They still had good grounds to carry on as before when the Cold War began: Europe’s colonial empires still largely existed.  White racism was still the norm in the USA and very strong in Western Europe.  Women in Leninist systems had far more rights and opportunities than in the West.  Back then, Leninist regimes upheld a broadly tolerant and modern attitude about sex (though not including homosexuality).[5]

What was both unreasonable and tragic was the failure of Moscow-orientated Leninism to respond to the massive changes in Western Europe in the 1960s and 1970s.  The potential was there, with the Prague Spring in 1968 and later the highly successful transformation of People’s China after Mao.  But it did not happen.

While he might well be innocent of what he’s been expelled for, I cannot find much fellow-feeling with Machover.  I’d define myself as Post-Leninist – the movement was justified in its day, but that day is long past.  Short of a nuclear war (which currently seems not a wholly absurd possibility) we should not be thinking of going back to harsh militarised methods when other methods work much better.

What concerns me more is Labour still letting itself be bullied on its supposed infestation with antisemitism.  Myself, I found my ideas clarifying to see it as Zionism as the Abolition of Jews.  This disentangles the two issues, Jewish minorities in other societies and Israel as an expansionist state.  States with a religious-sectarian attitude were once fairly normal but have been increasingly abnormalized since 1945.

For me, the main Jewish identity is Jews as a very innovative minority within Western civilisation.  It was mostly external pressures that led them to copy the sectarian nationalism that was developing all around the Jewish communities of Europe, and that was an historic tragedy.

Western Europe’s initial reshaping of itself came entirely from its Latin-Christian majority.  The cultural renewal of the Renaissance was in itself nothing very exceptional: it correctly viewed itself as a recovery of things that had flourished in the Roman Empire and in the Hellenistic kingdoms before that.  Science was part of it and the Catholic Church was quite favourable to it, on the assumption that nothing much would emerge to contradict their theology.  When Galileo showed otherwise, they cracked down and in fact sterilised science in Italy and other territories that they had a firm grip on.

Galileo was a member of an Italian learned society called the Accademia dei Lincei (literally the Academy of the Lynx-Eyed, from that animal’s presumed clear vision).  This and not the 19th century notion of heroic lone geniuses is what made science, and was developing strongly as part of the Renaissance.  Cracking down on Galileo for reporting inconvenient truths could neatly be described as ‘blinding the lynx’.

As it happened, the violent splits within Europe’s Latin-Christian culture meant that ‘blinding the lynx’ failed both in Protestant Europe and in Catholic countries like France that were keen to limit papal power.  Defenders of Catholicism do correctly note that Protestant theologians were even more hostile.  I think it was Hungarian Jew and sometimes Leninist Arthur Koestler who first brought this out clearly: his 1959 book The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe remains much the best account.  But what mattered in history was that the Protestant clerics could do nothing to impose their narrow views, and mostly stopped arguing with scientific truths.  Science proceeded, and created the basis for modern industry.

Science also proceeded without any Jewish input until much later.  Jews were only drawn into Enlightenment culture in the 18th century.  Socialism came out of radical Christianity and was quite well developed when some Jews and most notably Karl Marx were drawn into it.  Jews were not important in science before the second half of the 19th century.  I have been unable to discover any Jews at all involved in the highly radical birth of modern industry, which happened in parts of Britain where there were very few Jews.  Jews were often prominent in spreading the new industrial methods beyond their countries of origin, most notably into the Austrian or Austro-Hungarian Empire, where antisemitism became intense.  But this was hostility based on historic ignorance.

That Jews should be drawn into vast changes happening all around them was unsurprising.  Less expected was these newly integrated Jews becoming a very innovative minority within Western civilisation.  For me, that is the main Jewish identity.  Zionism is a deviation, and one that is less and less justified in a modern multi-cultural world.

The British Labour Party played a major role in creating modern multi-cultural world, whereas Tories were weak or hostile.  It was the Tory-dominated National Government that allowed Hitler’s rise, and showed no concern about open antisemitic policies.  A boycott of the ‘Hitler Games’, the 1936 Berlin Olympics, might have changed history.  But it never happened, though a few left-wingers wanted it.

Labour’s reputation is solid –always welcoming to Jews and if anything influenced by Zionism.  We must not let ourselves be pushed around on the matter.

 

[1] See ‘Taming the Jew’ by Pat Walsh for some British ruling-class attitudes.  Irish Political Review, September 2017.

[2] https://gwydionwilliams.com/politics-various-articles/starting-the-iraq-war-2003/, https://gwydionwilliams.com/46-globalisation/reflections-on-the-start-of-the-iraq-war/

[3] https://gwydionwilliams.com/politics-various-articles/zionisms-suicidal-militancy/

[4] https://gwydionwilliams.com/politics-various-articles/ken-livingstone-not-antisemitic/

[5] See https://gwydionwilliams.com/history-and-philosophy/the-left-redefined-the-normal/ for more on this

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