Colin Shindler and the Self-Abasement of the Zionist ‘Left’

Colin Shindler and the Self-Abasement of the Zionist ‘Left’









Meir Yaari – one of the leaders of Mapam – well versed in the dialectics of colonialism

Shindler’s Bleat in the Socialist New York Times
Colin Shindler
How ‘Socialist Zionism’ Ended Up Supporting the Zionist Right & Lieberman

Colin Shindler who, for some reason, is a professor at the School of Oriental & African Studies, is virtually the sole remaining survivor of Mapam in the UK.  Mapam are or rather were, ‘Marxist’ Zionists who believed you could reconcile internationalism and workers solidarity with Zionism.  To them socialism and imperialism were bedfellows.  It has to be said that Colin is not a particularly bright fellow and he refers talking in shallow Zionist soundbites as a substitute for any deeper analysis of the issues.  But one has to take people as one finds them and it has to be admitted that it would take a genius to reconcile Zionism and socialism today.

In 1949 Mapam was the second largest party in Israel’s Knesset, with 19 out of 120 seats. See Israel’s Elections – The Death of 2 States and the Zionist LeftToday Mapam has disappeared into Meretz, the Civil Rights Party, which had a total of 3 seats in the 2009 Israeli elections.  You might have thought Colin, being a professor, might have done some hard and innovative thinking about why it is that Yisrael Beteinu, party of the fascist Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman (who has now joined Netanyahu’s Likud) got 5 times as many seats as the rump party of Meretz at the last general election and which gained more even than the Israeli Labour Party (13), which until 1977 had formed every single Israeli government.

Mapam on May Day Parade – socialism once a year

Not a bit of it.  Instead the trite and shallow Shindler wrote an Opinion Piece for the New York Times The European Left and Its Trouble With Jews.  The NYT has just appointed ex-BBC head Mark Thompson, who is not only a Zionist rogue who prevented the Disaster Emergency Committee from making an appeal for the children and victims of Israel’s bombing of Gaza in 2009, but is in it up to his neck in the Jimmy Savile cover-up.  Indeed NYT journalists are starting to call for Thompson’s head before he even takes up his post in order that the NYT avoids being tarnished by the cover up of  child abuse in which Thompson is believed to have engaged.  However I digress.

In his Opinion piece Shindler falsely claimed that the European left is reluctant to take a stance where anti-Zionism ‘spills over’ into anti-Semitism.  He gave no examples nor could he.  Instead he mentioned a few examples in France of where Islamists had targeted Jewish synagogues and schools.  All reprehensible and all brought about by those such as Shindler who claim that Israel’s barbarous treatment of the Palestinians is carried out on behalf of all Jews, wherever they live.  Unfortunately there are Muslim fools as well as Jewish racists who get taken in by this nonsense.  However what it has to do with the Left beats me.

It would of course have been more honest if Shindler had declared his own cards and explained that he used to be a UK representative of Mapam, a ‘Marxist-Zionist’ party that found the contradictions between socialism and Zionism  too difficult to reconcile and decided to choose nationalism and Zionism rather than socialism.

child pioneers – the image of a country without its indigenous populace

Shindler could have explained how the ‘shooting and crying’ philosophy of Mapam didn’t prevent Mapam from forming the core of the Palmach shock-troops in the 1947-8 Nakba and how they were prime amongst those who massacred and expelled.  How Mapam’s Kibbutz Ha’artzi Federation was also Jewish only and how Mapam’s Kibbutzim were the most eager to confiscate Arab land.  The most notable case being Kibbutz Baram, which was established when the villagers of the Arab village of Birim were persuaded to vacate their lands during the fighting and promised they would be allowed back after the fighting ended.  In the meantime Mapam’s ‘socialists’ took the land over and refused to relinquish it.  Even Menachem Begin, the Likud leader, supported the Arab villagers!

Mapam May Day Rally

Or Shindler could have explained why, when Israel attacked Egypt during the Suez War and Ben-Gurion was forced to withdraw his troops, Mapam stated a demonstration against withdrawal.  Hardly the actions of socialist internationalists!

I know no one on the Left who has any problem at all in denouncing bomb attacks against European Jews.  The real problem is that most far-right and neo-Nazi groups in Europe support Israel and Zionism!  In the UK, the fascist English Defence League march with Israeli flags as they attack ‘Muslims’.  A phenomenon that Shindler ‘forgot’ to mention.  Just as he forgot to mention the meetings between Ron Prossor, Israel’s UN Ambassador and Marine Le Pen, who is equally hostile to Muslims.

Shindler is equally wrong to suggest that European leftists identify with Political Islam.  We all know it is a reactionary political current.  But we also recognise that it was western imperialism – be it in Saudia Arabia, Afghanistan or indeed the Gaza Strip in the 1980’s, where the USA and Israel itself which backed Islamists against their secular opponents.  Indeed it was the Israeli government under Netanyahu in the 1980’s which helped create the very Hamas they decry today.

The suggestion Shindler makes, that there is any divorce between the Left’s hatred of Nazi Germany and its anti-colonial tradition is absurd.  Socialists have always opposed Apartheid in South Africa and the colonisation of Africa and the Middle East.  The Left was unanimously opposed to the Suez War and likewise Jean Paul Sartre, who Shindler quotes, was vehemently opposed, unlike Israeli ‘socialist’ Zionists, to the French colonisation of Algeria.  Of course there was a generation of the European Left who were so traumatised by the Nazi genocide of the Jews that they supported a Jewish state in Palestine not realising that one wrong could not undo another.  But they have long since recognised the error of their ways – people like Tony Benn and even Gerald Kaufmann.

But perhaps Shindler has forgotten what Marx wrote in respect of Ireland and the British working class.  ‘A nation that oppresses another nation shall not itself be free.’

What Shindler cannot and will not understand is that a ‘Jewish’ state in the context of support by western imperialism, cannot be other than one in which being Jewish means being privileged.  That is demonstrated in the Ha’aretz opinion poll of 23rd October in which 59 percent, supported preference for Jews over Arabs in admission to government jobs, 49 percent wanted the state to treat Jewish citizens better than Arab ones and 42 percent didn’t want to live in the same building with Arabs and 42 percent don’t want their children in the same class with Arab children.

This is the ugly reality that Professor Colin Shindler, in his berating of the European left chooses to ignore.  Unfortunately the idea of Jewish jobs and Jewish land were not inventions of the right-wing Zionists but his socialist Zionist compatriots.  It was not Likud who campaigned in the 1920s and 1930s for Jewish Labour, Land and Produce but the Labour Zionists, Hashomer Hatzair (Mapam’s forerunners) included.

The real story that Shindler doesn’t tell is that ‘socialist’ Zionism only came about as an attempt to reconcile the irreconcileable.  Zionism began by rejecting the fight against anti-Semitism.  However the Jewish masses of the Russian Pale of Settlement first and foremost had to defend themselves against the pogromists.   It was impossible, if Zionism was to achieve any base, for them to abstain entirely from the fight against the anti-Semites.  Socialist Zionism was always a hybrid creature.  In Russia,  Poalei Zion collapsed into the Bolsheviks and in Warsaw in the fight against the Nazis, Left Poalei Zion (there was also a Right PZ), which the historian Emanuel Ringelblum of Oneg Shabbat was a member of, joined forces with the anti-Zionist Bund and was virtually an anti-Zionist group itself by the end.

Socialist Zionism was always a miserable creature and it is better that Zionism has come out in its true colours.  However there are still one or two left-overs from the ‘socialist’ Zionists, like Colin Shindler, who have learnt nothing from their abject defeat.

Tony Greenstein

The European Left and Its Trouble With Jews

 LAST week, Twitter shut down a popular account for posting anti-Semitic messages in France. This came soon after the firing of blanks at a synagogue near Paris, the discovery of a network of radical Islamists who had thrown a hand grenade into a kosher restaurant, and the killing of a teacher and young pupils at a Jewish school in Toulouse earlier this year. The attacks were part of an escalating campaign of violence against Jews in France.

Today, a sizable section of the European left has been reluctant to take a clear stand when anti-Zionism spills over into anti-Semitism. Beginning in the 1990s, many on the European left began to view the growing Muslim minorities in their countries as a new proletariat and the Palestinian cause as a recruiting mechanism. The issue of Palestine was particularly seductive for the children of immigrants, marooned between identities.

Capitalism was depicted as undermining a perfect Islamic society while cultural imperialism corrupted Islam. The tactic has a distinguished revolutionary pedigree. Indeed, the cry, “Long live Soviet power, long live the Shariah,” was heard in Central Asia during the 1920s after Lenin tried to cultivate Muslim nationalists in the Soviet East once his attempt to spread revolution to Europe had failed. But the question remains: why do today’s European socialists identify with Islamists whose worldview is light-years removed from their own?

In recent years, there has been an increased blurring of the distinction between Jew, Zionist and Israeli. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the militant group Hezbollah, famously commented: “If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice I do not say the Israeli.”
Whereas historically Islam has often been benevolent toward Jews, compared to Christianity, many contemporary Islamists have evoked the idea of “the eternal Jew.” For example, the Battle of Khaybar in 629, fought by the Prophet Muhammad against the Jewish tribes, is recalled in victory chants at Hezbollah rallies: “Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews, the army of Muhammad will return,” and the name Khaybar sometimes graces Hezbollah rockets aimed at Israel.

Many contemporary Islamists see little difference between the Jewish opponents of the prophet in seventh-century Arabia and Jews today. Importing old symbols of European anti-Semitism — depictions of Jews as enemies of God or proclamations of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy — has helped cement such imagery. If there is a distinction between Islamic anti-Judaism and modern anti-Semitism, it has been lost on French Islamists.

The fear of Jewish domination of the Middle East has become a repetitive theme in the Islamist media — which has become more influential as religious parties have gained ground in the wake of the Arab Spring. This is a factor in the general refusal of the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas to publicly meet members of the Israeli peace camp — a far cry from when Palestinian nationalists willingly negotiated with dovish Israelis before the 1993 handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat on the White House lawn.

The old left in Europe was forged in the struggle against local fascists in the 1930s. Most of Europe experienced a brutal Nazi occupation and bore witness to the atrocities of the Holocaust. The European left strongly identified with Jewish suffering and therefore welcomed the birth of the state of Israel in 1948. Some viewed the struggle for Israel in the same light as the fight for freedom in the Spanish Civil War.

But the succeeding generation of the European left did not see things this way. Its frame of reference was the anticolonial struggle — in Vietnam, South Africa, Rhodesia and a host of other places. Its hallowed icon was not the soldier of the International Brigades who fought against Franco in Spain, but Che Guevara — whose image adorned countless student bedrooms. Anticolonialism further influenced myriad causes, from America’s Black Panthers in the 1960s to Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela today.

It began with Israel’s exclusion from the ranks of the nonaligned nations more than 50 years ago, when Arab states refused to attend a 1955 nonaligned conference in Indonesia if an Israeli delegate was present. The Jewish state was snubbed in favor of such feudal kingdoms as Saudi Arabia, Libya and Yemen. And Israel’s collusion with imperial powers like Britain and France during the Suez crisis the following year cemented its ostracism.

Given the deep remorse for the misdeeds of colonialism, it was easier for the New Left of the 1960s to identify with the emerging Palestinian national movement than with the already established social democratic Israel. This deepening hostility toward Israel was present in Europe before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and before the rush to build settlements on the West Bank.

AMID this rising hostility toward Israel, the French philosopher and political activist Jean-Paul Sartre advocated a different way forward. He was scarred by the memory of what had happened to France’s Jews during World War II — the discrimination, betrayals, deportations and exterminations. He understood the legitimacy of Israel’s war for independence and later commented that the establishment of the state of Israel was one of the few events “that allows us to preserve hope.” Yet Sartre also strongly supported Algeria’s fight for independence from France.

This double legacy of supporting Israel and the Algerian struggle symbolized the predicament of the entire postwar European left. Sartre argued that the left shouldn’t choose between two moral causes and that it was up to the Jews and the Arabs to resolve their conflict through discussion and negotiation. Sartre tried to create a space for a dialogue, lending his name and prestige to private and public meetings between the two sides such as the Comité Israël-Palestine in the 1970s. His approach reached its apogee with the many quiet meetings between Israelis and Palestinians in Europe that eventually led to the Oslo accords. But Sartre’s vision was stymied as Israeli settlements proliferated after 1977, strengthening the left’s caricature of Israel as an imperialist power and a settler-colonial enterprise. Some prominent voices on the European left have mouthed time-honored anti-Semitic tropes in their desire to appear supportive of the Palestinian cause. Ken Livingstone, a former newspaper editor and mayor of London, has a long history of insensitive remarks about Jews — from publishing a cartoon in 1982 of Menachem Begin, then Israel’s prime minister, in Gestapo uniform atop a pile of Palestinian skulls to likening a known Jewish reporter to “a concentration camp guard” 20 years later. Today, he contributes to Press TV, the English-language outlet for the Iranian government.

Sometimes the left distinguishes between vulnerable European Jews who have been persecuted and latter-day “Prussians” in Israel. Yet it is often forgotten that a majority of Israelis just happen to be Jews, who fear therefore that what begins with the delegitimization of the state will end with the delegitimization of the people.

Such Israelophobia, enunciated by sections of the European left, dovetailed neatly with the rise of Islamism among Palestinians and throughout the Arab world. The Islamist obfuscation of “the Jew” mirrored the blindness of many a European Marxist. Despite the well-intentioned efforts of many Jews and Muslims to put aside their differing perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the offensive imagery of “the Jew” has persisted in many immigrant communities in Western Europe. Islamists were willing to share platforms with socialists and atheists, but not with Zionists.
The New Left’s profound opposition to American power, and the convergence of reactionary Islamists and unquestioning leftists was reflected in the million-strong London protest against the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It was organized by the Muslim Association of Britain, the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party and the Stalinist Communist Party of Britain. When some Muslims voiced apprehension about participating in the protest with non-Muslims, the M.A.B. leadership decreed that it was religiously permissible if halal food was provided and men and women were given separate areas. Such displays of “reactionary clericalism,” as the early Bolsheviks would have called it, were happily glossed over.

Sartre understood that the conflict was not simply between Israelis and Palestinians, but between those advocating peace on both sides and their rejectionists. This conflict within the conflict is something that many on Europe’s left, as they ally themselves with unsavory forces, still fail to comprehend.

Instead, the swallowing up of both the Israeli and Palestinian peace camps by political polarization has accelerated the closing of the progressive mind. And static fatalism has allowed the assailant of synagogue congregants and the killer of young children to fill the vacuum.

Colin Shindler is an emeritus professor at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and the author of “Israel and the European Left: Between Solidarity and Delegitimization.”This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: October 28, 2012
An earlier version of this article misstated the city in France where a teacher and pupils at a Jewish school were killed earlier this year. It was Toulouse, not Strasbourg. 
In addition, the biographical note misstated the name of the institution where the writer, Colin Shindler, is a professor. It is the School of Oriental and African Studies —   not the School of African and Oriental Studies — at the University of London.





  1. conchovor

    'He gave no examples nor could he.'

    a) it was a newspaper, not an academic, article, try reading his book; and he refers directly to the alliance of some leftists with some antisemitic anti-Israeli Islamists

    b) the way many persons fell over themselves to 'prove' his Nasrallah quote was a 'fabrication' e.g. Max Blumenthal and Philip Weiss, were good examples.

    c) 'Colin Shindler who, for some reason, is a professor at the School of Oriental & African Studies'

    Oh dear, bitchy. Bit jealous, are you?

  2. Tony Greenstein

    Even a newspaper article should try and stick to the truth. It would be at least honest if he were to refer to the proven alliance between Zionist and far-Right forces in Europe – the Kaminskis, the Robert Ziles, the visiting delegations of approving neo-Nazis to Yad Vashem or our own home grown EDL flying the (Israeli) flag.

    I suspect the Nasrallah quote is fabricated since Zionists are quite good at this. But even if it weren't is it any worse than some of the things that Zionists have said about Jews? People like Pinhas Rosenbluth who described Palestine as an 'institute for the fumigation of Jewish vermin'?

    Or how about the friendly visit of Arthur Ruppin to Prof. Hans Gunther, who was the key race scientist and Himmler's ideological mentor, in August 1933 at Jenna?

    No I'm not in the slightest bit jealous of the fact that either Colin Shindler or Han GUnther are or were professors. It just shows how debased the currency is.

  3. Mooser

    "the way many persons fell over themselves to 'prove' his Nasrallah quote was a 'fabrication' e.g. Max Blumenthal and Philip Weiss, were good examples."

    So, "conchover" would you like to give us the definitive citation for the "Nasrallah quote"? Why not put the controversy to rest right here, right now?

  4. Tony Greenstein


    this is bordering on anti-Semitism asking Conchover to provide a definitive definition of the Nasrallah quote. Next thing you will be asking him and that 'Jewish Guy' to tell the truth.

    If this happens again I shall have to moderate you!!!

  5. C. Bendavid

    Part 1
    Well, in a previous exchange I had with you, I did not argue on the imperialist or colonialist nature of Zionism.
    I felt that exposing the fact that you deny the Jewish people's right to self-determination, and that you are willing to do the same with the Spaniards if the Arabs decide to ''exercise their right of return in Spain'' was more important.

    As for the nature of Zionism, I know you believe that Zionism has always been colonialist, but once again, your arguments are moot.
    First of all, Mapam was the main proponent of a binational solution back then, so I can hardly see how they could be called colonialist.
    I've never seen colonialists wanting to create a binational state with the people they wanted to oppress and dispossess!

    Still, there is not one single element that can prove unequivocally that Zionism was colonialist after the first aliya (the first aliya was certainly colonialist, but not the subsequent ones).
    The fact that around 50% of Israeli Jews are racist doesn't prove anything.
    70% of the Turks are anti-Semitic and in Arab countries more than 90% of the population is openly antisemitic.
    Everyone understands that Turkish and Arab antisemitism is largely due to the tensions with Israel.
    Why wouldn't be different for Israel?
    Saying that Israeli racism stems from ''colonialism'' is sheer nonsense.
    Anyone who has ever set foot in Israel knows that anti-Arab racism is prevalent mostly among Oriental Jews and the Haredim, not among European Jews.
    Even if anti-Arab does exist among Ashkenazi Jews, being openly anti-Arab is taboo amongst them, unlike for the Boers in South Africa during the Apartheid era.

    As for the fact that Zionism collaborated with imperialism and that without the help of the British government it would've been impossible for the Jews to establish themselves in Palestine, the same thing can be said for the Arabs.
    They were the first ones who solicited the Brits, and without the UK, the Middle East would have remained under Ottoman rule.
    So, the independence of Arab states in the Middle East is as much ''artificial'' as Israeli independence.

    As for the fact that there was ''Eurocentrism'' and prejudice against Arabs (and Oriental Jews) by European settlers who created the Yichuv, let me remind you that the General De Gaulle was known for his antisemitic, anti-Arab and anti-Black statements. And yet, he is the one who restored the civil rights of the Jews and who put and end to French colonialism.
    So, racism or ethnocentrism cannot be used as an proof that Zionism was colonialist, especially since Arab nationalism was quite racist and chauvinistic as well (the Kurds, the Berbers and the Assyrians can tell you about it).

    Another argument invoked by those who call Zionism colonialist, is the fact that the ''Transfer'' idea was very popular in the Zionist movement, especially during the 1930's.
    True, but comparing this to colonialism or ''ethnic cleansing'' is completely anachronistic.
    Remember that every time the Zionist movement promoted the transfer idea, it was by referring to the Lausanne Treaty and the exchange of population between Greece and Turkey.
    Thus, population transfers were legal under to international law, and forceful displacement of populations took place in Europe proper, until the late 1940's.
    Furthermore, it was practised mostly in Europe, not in the colonies.
    By the way, among the many different transfer scenarios that were envisioned by the Zionist leadership, and many of them planned a mutual transfer of populations between Palestinian Arabs and Middle Eastern Jews. Thus, it was not a unilateral expulsion that they had in mind, but a genuine exchange of populations between sovereign nations.

  6. C. Bendavid

    Part 2
    Another ''evidence'' invoked by anti-Zionists to prove that Zionism was colonialist is the fact that the Jewish settlers who moved to Palestine, referred to Jewish immigration into this territory as ''colonization'' and they referred to the moshavim as ''colonies''.
    This argument was popularized by Nathan Weinstock in his famous book ''Zionism: False Messiah'', but after repudiating his anti-Zionism, he recognized himself that at the beginning of the 20th Century, ''colonization'' was not necessarily a synonym for colonialism.
    The term ''colony'' was used to refer to the Italian community of New York and the Jewish community of Buenos Aires.
    Would anyone dare say that the Jewish presence in Argentina was imperialist because the Jewish community in Argentina was once called ''colony''?

    However, the Zionist movement always insisted to make a clear distinction between colonization and colonialism.
    The Poale Zion manifesto clearly stresses that difference an rejects unequivocally imperialism. Berl Katznelson also stressed the difference between colonization and colonialism.
    And he wanted to make sure that when it comes to Zionism, colonization has nothing to do with oppression and dispossession (in spite of the fact that in the 1920's, even among leftists being colonialist was not something evil).
    Furthermore, the Poale Zion called for an alliance with the Arabs. These elements can hardly be considered colonialist.

    Other anti-Zionists, such as Gabi Piterberg (a well known anti-Zionist historian) say that Zionist leaders such as Jabotinsky and Arlozoroff did not hesitate to compare the Jewish colonization of Palestine to the European colonization of the New world.
    Right, but if you read ''The Ethics of the Iron Wall'' which was written right after ''the Iron Wall'', you can see that Jabotinsky clearly explained in what respect Jewish colonization of Palestine differed from European colonialism.
    He justified the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine (even though a Native population already lived there), by saying that the Arabs have a huge territory, whereas the Jews had no other territory on which they could establish their homeland.
    Thus, according to him, the Arabs would not be dispossessed by the creation of a Jewish state.
    He also said that refusing to the Jewish people the right to have a country because the Arabs refused to renounce to less than 1% of their territory is a conception of morality than can only be accepted by cannibals.
    He added in this article that every nation, including the most primitive ones, should have the right to have s state. That can hardly be considered colonialist.
    Furthermore, the American section of the Revisionist movement, the Bergson group was highly involved in the fight against segregation in the US.

    In the same logic, Berl Katznelson added that opposing the Jewish people's right to have a state because the Arabs refused to accept such a minor territorial compromise, proved that Arab nationalism could not pretend to be anti-Imperialist.
    I don't think he was right.
    Arabs had a strong case to oppose Zionism.
    Regardless of the size of Palestine, it was a meaningful part of the Arab patrimony.
    This is why I don't think that it's a conflict between good and evil, but rather a Greek tragedy.
    Isaac Deutscher compared the creation of Israel to a man jumping from a burning building who lands on someone walking down the street and brakes his leg.
    It's a pretty good metaphor.
    No one is to blamed in this kind of incident.

    However, it is true that Arab nationalism was no better than Zionism in terms of chauvinism.
    The founding father of contemporary socialist Arab nationalism, Michel Aflak, said that there was no room in the Arab world for minorities and that they must assimilate.
    Unfortunately, it is exactly what happened to the Berbers, the Kurds and the Assyrians under Arab rule.

  7. C. Bendavid

    Part 3
    Therefore, I think Albert Memmi was right. Zionism was just as much reactionary and chauvinistic as any other nationalist movement.
    However, there is not one element in Zionism that can be prove unequivocally that Zionism corresponds to colonialism.

    The fact that the Jews came from Europe, that they had a superiority complex or that they passed an alliance with British imperialism is not sufficient.
    In order to be considered colonialist, there has to be a clear intention of dispossessing the Natives.
    This is why Derek Penslar says that in spite of the fact that Zionism contains some features of European colonialism, it lacks the the most important one, Zionists didn't wish to dispossess, dominate or harm the Arabs.
    It's rather the opposite. The Zionist movement sent a delegation to the first Arab nationalist Congress held in Paris in 1913 and offered Arab nationalists an alliance based on their common Semitic origin.
    The Poale Zion manifesto says basically the same thing, and the representatives of the Zionist organization in Constantinople, Victor Jacobson and Sami Hochberg held talks with members of the Arab Decentralization Party, in order to forge an alliance with Arab nationalists.
    Ben Gurion went further. He offered the creation of a ''Semitic federation'' and he went as far as offering to help the Arabs gain their independence.

    As far as I can say, the French never offered to help the Algerians against the Turks when they invaded Algeria, and the Boers in South Africa did not offer to help Blacks gain their independence in exchange for their support against the British occupation.

    So there can be only one good argument to oppose Zionism, the fact that Palestine was already occupied by another people.
    Right, but you guys seem to forget that the Jews had no other territory on which they could establish their state.
    They were a homeless nation trying to achieve its independence.
    Whenever I hear anti-Zionists making fun of us by saying that if the Jews have the right to recover Palestine because they owned the country 2,000 years ago, the Arabs should then have the right to reconquer Spain, and the Greeks should be allowed to do the same with Anatolia, I'm speechless.
    A homeless nation trying to acquire a territory on which it could exercise it's self-determination right is not the same as a sovereign state expanding it's borders for irredentist purposes.

    Finally let me remind you that Zionism supported national liberation movements in Africa and Asia. Anti-Zionists like to repeat that Israel was the least state to support South Africa during the apartheid era, but they fail to mention that there was no diplomatic relations between the two countries until the 1970's.
    Before that, Israel was quite hostile to South Africa, especially since the National party supported the Nazis during WWII.
    Before the 1970's however, Israel had close ties with most African countries. So much that Nasser said in 1962, that in the struggle against Israel, the Arabs were losing the support of the Black continent.
    Furthermore, in Asia, the Burmese president, U Thant became one of Ben Gurion's closest friends.
    Cuba was also one of the closest allies Israel had in the early 1960's.
    When President Ben Tzvi died, the castrist regime declared three days of national mourning.
    Last but not least, in 1946, Ho Chi Minh the icon of anti-colonialism offered the Zionist movement to establish a government in exile in Vietnam.
    Ben Gurion refused because he knew how damageable the absence of a strong leadership on the ground could be (the Arab Palestinian leadership was decapitated after the 1936 revolt with the consequences we know).
    However, had Ben Gurion accepted this offer, all the radicals of the New Left who came to hate Israel in the late 1960's, would have refused to assimilate Zionism to colonialism, since Ho Chi Minh was a living God for you guys.

  8. C. Bendavid

    Part 4
    Still, you are right on one thing.
    Marxist Zionism is dead.
    When Mapam was confronted to make a choice between Zionism and nationalism, it clearly chose Zionism (the same thing can be said for Arab nationalism as well).
    The only leading figure of Mapam who couldn't stand the rupture between Zionism and Marxism, is Moshe Sneh. He decided to chose communism, but when he realized that the USSR was defending chauvinistic and antisemitic leaders such as Nasser, he came back to the fold, as a lone wolf.
    He was rejected by the global communist movement (except by Ceasescu) and not fully accepted by the Zionist establishment.
    Nonetheless, Sneh's tortuous path just proves one thing.
    There is definitely a Jewish left, distinct and isolated from the global left.
    Unfortunately, I don't think that our generation will succeed in repairing this relationship between the Jewish left and the global one.
    With this new generation of leftists who have no memories of the former alliance between the left and Zionism, and who don't even know what a Kibbutz is, I guess Jews will no longer be able to find a home in far left-wing parties anymore.
    I still remember when young militants of the Hashomer Hatzair were assaulted in 2003, in Paris.
    They were participating to a demonstration against the Iraq invasion.
    I saw many young people on the left who were so shocked to discover that there was a real youth movement that was socialist, Zionist and pro-Palestinian at the same.
    I just didn't fit their Manichean vision of Zionism, and they did everything they could to forget the existence of this group.
    After all, It's much more pleasant for Israel haters to ignore the complexities of this issue and to assume that all Zionists look like Lieberman or Netanyahu!

    Don't worry, I have no intention of getting into another debate with you.
    I just wanted to express my opinion, and I don't think I have anything more to add.

  9. Tony Greenstein

    Zionism is a settler colonial movement for more reasons than it called itself a colonial movement and its settlements colonies.

    It came to another land, bought and then expropriated that land, made the peasants landless and refused even to reemploy them because it was exclusionary and drove them off the land and out of the country. In the meantime it campaigned for Jewish labour i.e. no Arab labour.

    And if you read any of the early Zionists, people like Cecil Rhodes were their heroes. The Zionist movement sought and established an alliance with British imperialism to set up its colonial state. Its only opponent in the Lloyd George cabinet was Sir Edwin Montagu, its only Jewish member. Who was its main supporters? People like that well known socialist Jan Smuts ex- of the Boer Republics.

    Fool yourself as much as you want to. Mapam spoke of binationalism but it did exactly the same. Its ideology came from Europe and adapted to existing reality, hence why they were in the forefront of the expulsions and played a prominent part in Palmach. Today there is no need for pretence and people in Israel don't wish to pretend that socialism is compatible with Zionism.

  10. C. Bendavid

    Part 1
    As I said, I have no intention in getting into another debate with you, and I would also like to thank you for having remained polite with me. Unfortunately, in these kinds of discussions, people tend to say things they will regret afterwards.

    But I would just like to add one comment.
    You talked about early Zionists who were clearly colonialist, but I did not dispute that. What I said is that there has been a shift with the Second aliya.
    However, I would just like to emphasize that Herzl and many of his companions were very progressive for people of their time.
    He was in favour of giving access to citizenship to the Arabs who would have remained in the Jewish state. He was also a pacifist, he believed women should have the right to vote. He was also favourable to the concept of welfare state.
    All these things did not exist in Europe back then. By the way, he was also appalled by the way Blacks were treated back then, and he hoped to assist in the liberation of the Blacks as well, not only the liberation of the Jewish people.
    So, even though he was a colonialist, Herzl was way ahead of his time.

    Nonetheless, you stressed a very important point here, the Avoda Ivrit (Jewish Labour) policy and the displacement of Arab peasants.
    I expected you to invoke this policy to make your point and to prove that Zionism was reactionary and racist.
    It would be too long to elaborate here, but I would just like to let people understand what was the rationale behind this policy.
    This exclusionary practice caused a real debate in the Zionist movement and many Zionists (especially from the Kibbutz movement) felt uncomfortable with it.
    However, this policy was adopted because Arab workers accepted to work for very low wages, which brought salaries down in the Jewish economy, and there was no sign whatsoever that a strong class consciousness was developing in the Arab community.
    Even when the Histadrut tries to subsidize Arab strikes, it did not garner real support.

    Another argument invoked by Zionists is that Jews to enrich themselves by exploiting Arab labour.
    Therefore, the Yichuv decided to force Jewish entrepreneurs to hire Jews only, in order to avoid the exploitation of Arabs and to stop salaries to diminish because of a large pool of Arab workers willing to work for low wages.
    For many, even today, the Avoda Ivrit policy was a way to fight ''social dumping'' (as we say in French!), the same way as Unions in the West call for protectionist policies to protect manufacture workers against Chinese cheap labour.
    But as you know, this was just an excuse to adopt a protectionist policy.
    It would have been possible for the Histadrut run business, to hire Arabs as well and to pay them correctly.
    It is true that the Avoda Ivrit policy may have not been avoidable in private industries, but much of the Jewish economy was public, not private.
    Thus, if Jews kept excluding Arabs from every single sector of the Jewish economy, it is because they wanted to keep all available jobs in the Jewish economy for Jews, and to make sure that Jewish immigrants would not be unemployed once they move to Palestine (otherwise Palestine would have become a very unattractive place for diaspora Jews).

  11. C. Bendavid

    Part 2
    So you are right if you believe that the Avoda Ivrit policy was chauvinistic and regressive.
    Nonetheless, comparing this to colonialism is once again shaky.
    Protectionism, chauvinism and exclusionary practices is not necessarily colonialist.
    As for the fact that Arabs were displaced when Jews purchased land, don't forget that they were compensated (they received about a year and a half of salary in compensation).
    By the way, this policy of compensating Arab tenants prevented the Jews to by more land, since they were running out of funds, as Kenneth Stein showed it.
    And in most cases, those peasants preferred to be compensated with money rather than getting another tract of land.
    As you know, even anti-Zionist historians like Joel Beinin or Anthony Lockman have acknowledged that there was a rural flight throughout the Middle East back then, and the peasants whose land was bought by the Jews had the advantage of leaving the countryside with more money in their pockets which was not the case for those who just left their villages for better economic opportunities in the city.
    Moreover, the Jews did not purchase all the land from absentee Arab landlords who didn't care about the fellahin working on their land.
    Ever since the 1930's most of land purchased by the Zionists was sold by Arab peasants living in their land, not feudal masters living in Damascus or Beirut.
    And this policy of compensating Arab peasants who were displaced, and of buying the land sold by indebted Arab peasants has succeed in stopping a phenomenon which began at the end of the 19th Century, the growing emigration of Palestinian Arabs. I don't want to exaggerate the benefits of Jewish colonization (I'm no fan of Joan Peters!), but it is true however that because of Jewish immigration in Palestine, the proportion of Arabs who could not make a living in Palestine and who were leaving the country decreased.

    Finally, the Avoda Ivrit policy was not meant to force the Arabs out of the country.
    it was a temporary policy that was supposed to be lifted once the Jews would have become independent and could decide to change the rules of the local economy.
    Moreover, Moshe Beinilson a prominent figure of the Jewish agency, laid out an agrarian reform plan aiming to redistribute the land from Arab landlords to Arab peasants, after the Jewish state would be establish.
    Also, the Yichuv's healthcare system that was financed exclusively by the Jews opened its doors to the Arabs. So Zionists were not exclusionary for racist reasons. They have adopted this attitude sporadically and it was not meant to last.

    Therefore, it is very difficult to talk about colonialism in this context.
    Yes, the Jews were Zionist first and socialist after, but the ''raison d'Etat'' prevailed during the Yichuv period at the expense of the noble principles of the Zionist ideology (as Zeev Sternhell showed it marvellously).

    Thus, even though the attitude of the Zionist movement has been quite reprehensible during this period, I don't think that the comparison with colonialism stands.
    Once again, I prefer Albert Memmi's depiction of Zionism as a typical nationalist movement (with all its evil and nasty characteristics), but the accusation of colonialism doesn't fit the context.
    It is an ideological accusation, which necessitates to ignore many elements which are in complete contradiction with this theory (like the alliance proposed by the Zionists to the Arabs for example or Mapam's binational program).

  12. C. Bendavid

    Part 3
    As for the role played by the Palmach in the expulsion of the Palestinians, you raise a very important point here, but I don't think that Mapam elements which dominated the Palmach wanted to dispossess the Arabs before being attacked.
    Members of the Mishmar Haemek kibbutz for example, which was in favour of a binational state asked the IDF to destroy a neighbouring Arab village that attacked the Kibbutz a few hours before.
    Uri Avnery himself said that in 1948, average Israelis, really felt that they were facing a new holocaust. That may not have been true for the Zionist leadership, but for average Israelis it was indeed the case, and many atrocities can be perpetrated when people fear for their lives.
    There are no comrades in war time, just enemies.
    Just as the conflict in the Balkans showed it, in war time, people are pushed to do things they would never do in peace time.
    By the way, in every region of Palestine where Arab armies won battles against the Jews, every single Jew was either expelled or slaughtered.
    I don't think it would be fair to use this to demonize Arab or Palestinian nationalism.
    Unfortunately, the left doesn't follow the same rules when it comes to Zionism and the Nakba (which took place in a very specific context, the Arabs were trying to destroy Israel).
    Also, the treatment of the Jews in Arab countries changed dramatically after the creation of Israel.
    I doubt pretty much that most Arabs would've ostracized their Jewish neighbours without the Arab- Israeli conflict.
    I know the theory about perrenial Islamic antisemitism, propagated by right wing Zionists, but Arab societies changed dramatically between the 19th and the 20th Century.
    I don't think that without the Arab-Israeli conflict, this medieval antisemitism would have remained prevalent among the Arabs, although Arab nationalism has yet to prove that in can treat minorities correctly.
    Once again, judging people in war time as if it were peace time is a big mistake in my opinion.

    Nonetheless, imagine that Mapam had dominated the Zionist movement in 1947-48 (instead of being the second political force in the Yichuv).
    You can't deny that there would've be no partition of Palestine and the Zionist movement itself would've put a binational offer on the table (although I don't necessarily oppose partition).
    Unfortunately, I doubt pretty much that it would have succeeded, since the Arabs refused to contemplate anything short of an exclusive Arab sovereignty in Palestine, but that is another topic.
    Anyway, you know already that the behaviour of Israel during the first Arab-Israeli war disturbed many sincere (mainstream) Zionists such as Aharon Cizling, Simha Flapan or Aharon Cohen.
    So, trying to essentialize Zionism as you are doing, is ideological and out of touch with the diversity and the complexity of the Zionist movement.


    Thank for not complaining about my English

    Also, I would like to correct a mistake.
    I said in a previous message that whenever Mapam had to chose between nationalism and Zionism, it chose Zionism.
    I should have written socialism instead of nationalism.

  13. Tony Greenstein

    I am happy to be polite to someone with whom I debate. Unfortunately much of the stuff I get from Zionists is so full of hatred and sometimes virulently anti-Semitic (pity you didn't die in Auschwit – the fascists usually deny it exists – plus personal abuse that it is rare to have such debates).

    Herzl wasn't at all progressive if you read his Diaries and I've read all 3 volumes plus both Altneuland and Der Judenstaat. He was a believer in an aristocratic republic not democracy but believed in top down paternalism of the type you mention, very common among authoritarians (e.g. Bismark who also introduced the kind of reform you mention).

    But you judge people by their actiosn not words. He travelled with particularly reactionary christian supporters, who believed in the 'return' of the Jews i.e. getting rid of them where they were. More importantly his whole strategy was seeking an alliance with an existing imperial power, hence why colonisation was inevitable.

    His first port of call was the Grand Duke of Baden who thoroughly supported him but was worried that if he came out in support of Zionism he'd be accused of anti-Semitism, because Zionism was seen as exactly that – a thinly disguised form of anti-Semitism.

    A good example in this country was the President of the anti-Semitic British Brothers League, William Stanley Shaw, who explained:

    ‘I am a firm believer in the Zionist movement, which the British Brothers League will do much incidentally to foster. The return of the Jews to Palestine is one of the most striking signs of the times…. All students of prophecy are watching the manifold signs of the times with almost breathless interest…’ (Jewish Chronicle 8.11.01.)

    Herzl parleyed with the German Kaiser, ministers of the Czarist government (von Plehve and Count Witte – both heavily involved in organising pogroms against Jews and which even Weizmann was forced to disown), the Ottoman Sultan, King Victor of Hungary and of course Joseph Chamberlain who offered him the white Highlands in Kenya – the Uganda Project.

    Herzl's praise of Cecil Rhodes was therefore one of a piece. He saw, like most of his kind, colonialism as progressive, as did the early Zionists. Socialist Zionism only came about because of the contradictions between fighting where you were and aspiring to a colony somewhere else.

    Herzl's attitude to the Dreyfuss Affair, the stuff of legends, was not at all hostile. He perfectly understood it ('In Paris I began to understand and to pardon anti-Semitism – p.8 Diaries). His attitude to anti-Semitism was that it was something to be used, to be channelled like steam in an engine (The Jewish State). But he didn't merely see a coincidence of interests – bad enough as that is and which the Zionists too use as a justification for their attitude to the Nazis between 1933-39). He went out of his way to court them, in particular the leader of the anti-Dreyfusards Eduard Drumont, editor of La Libre Parole. He sought and obtained a favourable review of his pamphlet Der Judenstaat in this anti-Semitic rag that was busy agitating against the Jews.

    These were the circles he mixed in and that was the reason that Bernard Lazarre, who wrote Anti-semitism, its History and Causes. Lazarre was vehemently opposed to anti-Semitism and to the persecution by the Ottomans of the Armenians, unlike Herzl who offered to whitewash what was happening to them in exchange for the support of the Sultan. Very very similar incidentally to how Israel behaved half a century later. Lazarre resigned about 1898 from the Zionist Actions Committee.

  14. Tony Greenstein

    As for colonialism. The first Aliyah is without dispute colonialist, traditional planter type. Where Ben Gurion and Labour Zionism fell out with them was that the Labour Zionists were not happy to reemploy the arab labour on the land they had been displaced from. they wanted them excluded altogether. That was a different model of colonisation, the American or Australian, not Southern African one – exclusionary and potentially genocidal. It was far worse in many ways.

    Compensation only happened after a campaign by the Palestinians. it didn't happen originally with e.g. the Sursuk displacement in the Jezreel Valley where 5,000 peasants were expelled.

    Mapam and Hashomer Hatzair were over represented in Palmach, the elite shock troops who carried out the worst atrocities, having been trained by Orde Wingate, a christian British officer originally. Their ideology and practice merely co-existed without ever meeting up. In fact Mapam was born of continually sacrificing the socialist for the nationalist elements starting with Ben Gurion's war against the socialist Gdud Avodah work brigades based on the northern Kibbutzim in the 1920s. Zeev Sternhall goes into this in some depths in his unsurpassed Founding Myths of Israel. Sternhell is a Zionist but also an anti-fascist, a holocaust survivor who has been the target of a bomb attack by the settlers.

    Even if Mapam had dominated the Zionist movement there would have been no binational state because their position was no different at the end of the day, it's just their ideology took longer to catch up. But of course they didn't dominate it precisely because they didn't openly advocate an alliance with US imperialism, unlike Ben Gurion.

    Socialist Zionism was a contradiction. That contradiction has long been resolved in favour of imperialism and Mapam have disappeared. So has the Zionist left as there is no need for it. instead we see Israel receiving the support of the most racist and nationalist elements in Europe and the US – the holocaust denying Christian Fundamentalists who would happily see all Jews die in the fires of Armageddon or the far-right and neo-Nazi parties of Europe. And I'm not even talking about the policy of the SS during the 1930's to favour the Zionist elements in Jewish society in Germany as they were the 'racial jews'. If you don't believe me see Lucy Dawidowicz's War Against the jews. She was no left-wing Zionist by the way.

    Zionism was always wrong and its creation of a Jewish state in the context of colonialism was inevitably racist. A Jewish state in Europe may have been a different thing because Jews there were a national minority, although it's not a solution I would have agreed with.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share This