On Wednesday November 4th Moshe Machover, one of the founders of Matzpen, the Socialist Organisation in Israel, and myself will try and answer the question, ‘What is Zionism’.
Why is Zionism important? Why not just focus on Palestine solidarity? In her Report on racism Shami Chakrabarti asked:
‘surely it is better to use the modern universal language of human rights, be it of dispossession, discrimination, segregation, occupation or persecution and to leave Hitler, the Nazis and the Holocaust out of it?
This is an attractive argument but it is also a false one and speaks to nothing more than Chakrabarti’s own abysmal ignorance.
Let us imagine if, in Apartheid South Africa, someone had said that it’s better to concentrate on human rights, discrimination, particular instances of dispossession and exploitation when someone raised the question of Apartheid. They would have been laughed out of court if not branded as an apologist for racism.
Why then the distinction between Israel and South Africa? It is clear that because Israel calls itself a Jewish State that people, bearing in mind the holocaust, are wary of accusing it of behaving as the anti-Semites behaved towards the Jews. Imagine if 200,000 South Africa expatriates had lived in Britain during the apartheid erea and when people campaigned against Apartheid they protested that this was anti-Afrikaaner racism and that Apartheid was part of their identity.
Yet when people oppose Zionism they are told that it is anti-Semitic because the majority of British Jews identify with Israel. Of course British Jews are not expatriates but according to Zionist ideology they are aliens. Israel is the ‘real home’ of Jews. Indeed it is one of the unspoken aims of Zionism to alienate Jews from their surroundings. Zionism has always had as one of its foundational aims the winding up of the accursed Galut (exile), their name for the Jewish diaspora. This was called the Afrikaaner British Jews Galut ‘negation of the diaspora’.
According to David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister:
‘[Zionism] means taking masses of uprooted, impoverished, sterile Jewish masses, living parasitically off the body of an alien, economic body and dependent on others – and introducing them to productive and creative life.’ [Shlomo Avineiri, The Making of Modern Zionism, p.200]
Lucien Wolfe, the Secretary of the Board of Deputies Conjoint Foreign Committee described how:
I have spent most of my life in combating these very doctrines, when presented to me in the form of anti-Semitism, and I can only regard them as the more dangerous when they come to me in the guise of Zionism. They constitute a capitulation to our enemies.’ [B Destani (ed) The Zionist movement and the foundation of Israel 1839-1972 Cambridge 2004, Vol 1, p727].
Moshe Lillienblum, an early Zionist, believed that ‘aliens we are and aliens we shall remain, even if we become full to the brim with culture…’ [Lillienblum, Let Us Not Confuse the Issues, Hertzberg p. 170].
The anti-Semites were grateful for the Zionist acknowledgement that what they said about Jews was true. Heinrich Class, President of the 100,000 strong Pan German League, who was made an honorary member of the Reichstag on Hitler’s assumption of power, wrote that:
“… among the Jews themselves the nationalist movement called Zionism is gaining more and more adherents … They also declare openly that a true assimilation of the Jewish aliens to the host nations would be impossible… the Zionists confirm what the enemies of the Jews… have always asserted…” [If I Were the Kaiser: Daniel Frymman (pseudonym).
When it comes to Israel Zionism, the racist movement and ideology that is responsible for the plight of the Palestinians, is treated as if it’s a badge of ethnic identity. There is a deliberate conflation by Zionist of the categories of Jew and Zionist.
Chakrabarti is a good example of the muddled headed thinking of social democratic apologists for Israel and Zionism: She boasts that
Notwithstanding a vibrant Palestinian solidarity tradition, of all British political parties the Labour Party has the longest and most consistent record of support for Zionism, and the Labour Government quickly moved to recognise the new state of Israel upon its formation in 1948.
The Labour Party has indeed a long and shameful record of supporting Zionism going back to the War Aims Memorandum of August 1917. Why, one might ask, should the Labour Party support Zionism in 1917 when it was a minority cult within the Jewish community and had almost no working class adherents? Zionism then was a middle class affair. Jewish socialists shunned it as a movement of class collaboration. Poalei Zion had just a few hundred members, most of them middle-class Fabian types.
Alec, a fictional character in Simon Blumenfeld’s novel Jew Boy remarked,
I don’t see why I should change one set of exploiters for another because they are Jewish.’ [Brian Klug, Anti-Zionism in London’s Jewish East End, 1890-1948, p.6].
Why did the Labour Party support them? The reason was because Labour was as much a party of the British Empire as the Tories. They particularly supported settler colonialism, which they saw as progressive and not exploitative despite the fact that Zionism was in alliance with the British Empire. The Labour Party sought out the most right-wing Jews and turned its back on the militant Jewish working class of the East End and later the anti-fascist struggle.
The socialist movement has become infected with the politics of identity. So instead of looking critically at the British Jewish community and how it has become embourgeoisified, they are accorded equal status to oppressed Palestinian because in the language of identity politics British Jews too are a minority community and suffer the same of Black people.
Being a ‘minority’ is in itself a virtue according to the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland. So taking this to its logical absurdity a minority of exploiters or bankers or billionaires suddenly take on a progressive hue. The fact that Jewish identification with Israel is reactionary and that British Jews would be the first to protest if they were subject to even a fraction of the discrimination that the Palestinians experience, is considered irrelevant. Class politics have gone out of the window with much of the Left, including the Corbyn left.
Jews in Britain are White. They are privileged socio-economically and the majority define themselves in opposition to the Palestinians, although not as large a majority as the Zionist pretend. According to the survey The Attitude of British Jews Towards Israel 59% of British Jews identify as Zionists and 31%.
The IHRA definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ is based on the supposition that Israel represents Jews collectively. This means accepting that Jews are an alienated part of British society. It is why the definition is anti-Semitic ! If your only method of understanding society is in terms of identity not class politics you have no means of differentiating between persecuting and persecuted minorities, the exploited and the exploiting.
This is why Chakrabarti wittered on about having heard a
‘rich range of self-descriptions of both Jewishness or Zionism, even within the Labour Party.
Not only did Chakrabarti equate Jews with Zionists but she treated Zionism, not as an ideology of Jewish supremacy but as one of many choices in a take away menu. Chakrabarti advised people
to use the term “Zionist” advisedly, carefully and never euphemistically or as part of personal abuse.
What this meant was that one should not call someone a Zionist in a derogatory fashion. Those arguing this, the Jewish Labour Movement believed the term ‘Zionism’ was something to be worn with pride rather than as a badge of shame.
So why is Zionism important?
The reason is simple. If you don’t understand the ideology that led to the creation of the Israeli state and its functioning today you won’t understand why it is an inherently racist and expansionist state.
Zionism is based on the idea that the Jews form a nation, a nation separated by 2,000 years from its birthplace in Palestine. It is a convenient myth but that is all it is. European Jews have no attachment, other than religious, to Palestine. The direct descendants of the Hebrews who lived there at the time of Christ converted first to Christianity and then Islam. If anyone can claim a direct line of descent from the ancient Hebrews it is the Palestinians, as both David Ben Gurion and Yitzhak ben Zvi admitted.
The aim of Zionism has always been to ‘redeem’ the land, that is to alienate it from the indigenous population.
The best description of this process was in the report of the Hope Simpson Inquiry of October 1930 into the causes of bloody riots the preceding year. Chaired by Sir John Simpson it went out to Palestine to investigate for itself and it was appalled by Zionist behaviour.
Chapter 5 ss. (iii) The Effect of the Jewish Settlement on the Arab is still relevant. After describing how leases for property from the Jewish National Fund stipulated that hired labour on land bought from absentee Arab landlords must be Jewish only, the Report said that
‘Attempts are constantly being made to establish the advantage which Jewish settlement has brought to the Arab. The most lofty sentiments are ventilated at public meetings and in Zionist propaganda. At the time of the Zionist Congress in 1921 a resolution was passed which ” solemnly declared the desire of the Jewish people to live with the Arab people in relations of friendship and mutual respect’ … This resolution is frequently quoted in proof of the excellent sentiments which Zionism cherishes towards the people of Palestine.
The Report goes on to note that their actions in dispossessing the natives ‘are not compatible with those sentiments.’ It concludes that:
The effect of the Zionist colonisation policy on the Arab.— Actually the result of the purchase of land in Palestine by the Jewish National Fund has been that land has been extraterritorialised. It ceases to be land from which the Arab can gain any advantage either now or at any time in the future. Not only can he never hope to lease or to cultivate it, but, by the stringent provisions of the lease of the Jewish National Fund, he is deprived for ever from employment on that land. Nor can anyone help him by purchasing the land and restoring it to common use. The land is in mortmain and inalienable. It is for this reason that Arabs discount the professions of friendship and good will on the part of the Zionists in view of the policy which the Zionist Organisation deliberately adopted.
When it asked the Zionist ‘trade union’ Histadrut for the reasons why Arab labour was the subject of a Boycott they were frank:
‘They pointed out that the Jewish colonies were founded and established by Jewish capital, and that the subscriptions of which this capital is composed were given with the intention that Jews should emigrate to Palestine and be settled there—that these subscriptions would never have been given had it been thought that they would be employed to support Arab labourers.’
In other words the Zionists operated a colour bar just as damaging as the colonists did in South Africa except that in this case they objected to any reemployment of Arab labour. The Arabs could go starve.
Why then is Zionism important? Well if the PLO had had an understanding of the nature of Zionism, that the Zionist settlers did not come to Palestine to share the land with the indigenous population but to expel them then they wouldn’t have agreed to the Oslo Accords, the biggest disaster for the Palestinians since the Nakba. If the PLO had understood Zionism then they would have understood that Israel could never voluntarily agree to relinquish its claim to any part of the Occupied Territories. As the new Ambassador to Britain, religious nut Tzipi Hotoveli, then Deputy Foreign Minister, stated:
“We need to return to the basic truth of our rights to this country,” she said. “This land is ours. All of it is ours. We did not come here to apologise for that.”
Various left intellectuals have, as a result of the anti-Semitism campaign, which has become an Establishment narrative, beaten a retreat. Professor David Feldman of the Pears Institute of Anti-Semitism has reversed his position from opposition to the IHRA to supporting the Weaponisation of anti-Semitism.
Another academic is Brian Klug. Brian too has bent with the wind. His attempt to rehabilitate Zionism began with a talkhe gave to the SWP in July 2017.Klug based his critique on a misreading of an article by Aurora Levins Morales, a Puerto Rican feminist in On Antisemitism produced by Jewish Voice for Peace. Aurora referred to “a three-cornered argument” between the Orthodox, Zionists and socialists/communists in her grandmother’s shtetl about the solution to the pogroms. Brian uses this to suggest that Zionism is Janus faced, an ideology of emancipation as well as oppression.
Klug is wrong and tries to rationalise post hoc Zionist colonisation by reaching back in time to a period when it was a sigh of despair of the Jewish petit bourgeoisie when faced with anti-Semitism on the one hand and socialist revolutionaries on the other. Zionism is not ‘Janus faced.’ Zionism is consistent but of course it changed during the flight from the Russian Pale of Settlement to Palestine.
When Zionism first arose it expressed the desire of Jewish intellectuals and the petit-bourgeosie for their own Promised Land, a safe haven where Jews would be free to exploit each other without the interference of the goy. The prayer ‘Next year in Jerusalem’, which is recited each day by the Orthodox, in essence meant, as Bernard Lazare observed, no more than an expression of hope that next year we will be free. The Jewish masses had no more intention of emigrating to Palestine than American Jews do today and of the 2 ½ million Jews who fled the Pale, just 1% went to Palestine. America was their Promised Land.
If Zionism had simply remained a messianic movement like so many before it, it could have been dismissed as a sigh of the oppressed. In much the same way as Marcus Garvey’s Back to Africa movement represented Black reaction, not least in its alliance with the KKK, Zionism would have been a reactionary Jewish separatist movement. Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association also preached racial segregation and racial pride.
Zionism wasn’t just a backward reaction to anti-Semitism. Its aimed to seek an alliance with imperialism and Theodor Herzl, the founder of Political Zionism, spent his whole life seeking out the various rulers of Europe, from the Ottoman Sultan to the German Kaiser.
Zionism as it developed can only be understood in the context of its alliance with British imperialism, consolidated in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and all that flowed from that. Zionism was a junior partner of British imperialism from 1917 to 1945. From 1945 onwards, indeed earlier in the case of the Irgun, Zionism fought the British in just the same way as the Boers had done. It sought independence from its imperialist sponsor.
Hitler of course gave the Zionist project a massive boost and that was why, when the vast majority of Jews instinctively wanted to Boycott Hitler and the Nazis the Zionists fought so strongly against Boycott. Zionism never once fought anti-Semitism although today it seeks to brand everyone and everything who disagree with it as anti-Semitic .
That is one of the ironies of the present day fake ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign. In the United States the Zionists have allied with Trump who fought an openly anti-Semitic campaign in 2016. His final advert in that campaign featured images of prominent Jews: financier George Soros (accompanying the words “those who control the levers of power”), Fed Chair Janet Yellen (with the words “global special interests”) and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein (following the “global power structure” quote). It showed Hillary Clinton saying she partnered “with these people who don’t have your good in mind.”. He has made repeated anti-Semitic comments since such as telling American Jews that their ‘real home’ is in Israel not the USA.
This didn’t stop the Zionist Organisation of America inviting Steve Bannon, Trump’s anti-Semitic Strategic Director and the neo-Nazi Sebastian Gorka, another Trump adviser, as guests of honour at the ZOA’s 2016 and 2017 annual gala dinners.
Just as it doesn’t stop the Israeli state today supplying the Ukrainian neo-Nazi Azov Battalion with weaponry just as it did with the neo-Nazi Argentinian Junta in the 1970s and 1980s.
Zionism was unique among the very many Jewish movements that sprang up in reaction to Czarist anti-Semitism. It accepted that Jews were aliens and therefore incapable of living amongst non-Jews. Indeed it was their very estrangement, living in an alien society that had caused the anti-social behaviour in the first place, which had resulted in anti-Semitism. The anti-Semites told the Jews that they were different and could not expect equal rights. The Zionists agreed.
Many of the things that Zionists said about the Jewish diaspora could have come from the Nazis or anti-Semites. For example Israel’s first Justice Minister, Pinhas Rosenbluth described Palestine as ‘an institute for the fumigation of Jewish vermin’. [Joachim Doron, Classic Zionism and modern anti-Semitism: parallels and influences’, Journal of Israeli Affairs p.169
Jacob Klatzkin, editor of Die Welt and co-founder of Encyclopedia Judaica held that Jews were:
‘a people disfigured in both body and soul – in a word, of a horror… some sort of outlandish creature… in any case, not a pure national type… some sort of oddity among the peoples going by the name of Jew.’ [Arthur Hertzberg, the Zionist Idea, pp. 322/323]
‘Zionism must be vigorously supported in order to encourage a significant number of German Jews to leave for Palestine or other destinations [Francis Nicosia, The Third Reich and the Palestine Question, p.25].
Rosenberg ‘intended to use Zionism as a legal justification for depriving German Jews of their civil rights’. He ‘sanctioned the use of the Zionist movement in the future drive to eliminate Jewish rights, Jewish influence and eventually the Jewish presence in Germany. (Francis Nicosia, The Third Reich and the Palestine Question, pp. 25-26]. Rosenberg who presided over a regime of terror and mass murder in captured Soviet territories was executed as a war criminal at the Nuremburg trials in 1946.
Sir Samuel Montagu, the MP for Whitechapel (1885-1900) asked:
‘Is it not… a suspicious fact that those who have no love for the Jews, and those who are pronounced anti-Semites, all seem to welcome the Zionist proposals and aspiration.?’[Sir Samuel Montagu, The Dangers of Zionism]
Not only did the anti-Semites welcome Zionism but Zionism welcomed them. That was why, in the middle of the Dreyfus Affair Herzl could write in his diaries that
In Paris… I achieved a freer attitude towards anti-Semitism, which I now began to understand historically and to pardon. Above all, I recognise the emptiness and futility of trying to ‘combat’ anti-Semitism.
Today Zionism calls itself a ‘national liberation movement’. Colonialism is no longer in fashion or part of the zeitgeist. But when it was fashionable to be a colonialist then Zionists were open colonists. Herzl wrote on January 11th 1902, to Cecil Rhodes, the Prime Minister of Cape Colony from 1890-1896 and after whom Rhodesia was named, saying:
“You are being invited to help make history…it doesn’t involve Africa, but a piece of Asia Minor; not Englishmen but Jews… How, then, do I happen to turn to you since this is an out-of-the-way matter for you? How indeed? Because it is something colonial… I want you … to put the stamp of your authority on the Zionist plan and to make the following declaration to a few people who swear by you: I, Rhodes have examined this plan and found it correct and practicable. It is a plan full of culture, excellent for the group of people for whom it is directly designed, and quite good for England, for Greater Britain….”
Chakrabarti asked why raise the holocaust and the Nazis. One reason is because Zionism cynically and deliberately exploits the memory of the holocaust in the service of their bloody racist enterprise. It is useful to see what Zionism was actually doing whilst the holocaust was taking place. The comparison by 9 holocaust survivors of Zionist policies with that of Nazi Germany is invaluable.
Rudolph Vrba, one of only 4 Jewish escapees from Auschwitz, wrote that
“The Zionist movement of Europe played a very important role in the mass extermination of Jews. Indeed, I believe that without the cooperation of Zionists it would have been a much more difficult task….
Vrba with Alfred Wetzler escaped from Auschwitz on April 10 1944 with the intention of warning Hungarian Jewry that they were next in line for extermination. Their report, the Auschwitz Protocols was delivered to the Zionist leader from Hungary, Rudolph Kasztner, who promptly suppressed it in order that he could negotiated a separate agreement with the Nazis allowing 1,646, mainly Zionist and bourgeois Jewish leaders to escape from Hungary in a special train. In exchange Kasztner kept secret where the deportation trains were actually heading. Kasztner was accused by survivors of the Hungarian holocaust of complicity in the extermination of Jews in the Kasztner Trial in Israel from 1954-1958. Judge Benjamin Halevi of the Jerusalem District Court ruled in 1955 that Kasztner had sold his soul to the devil. The Israeli government of Moshe Sharrett promptly collapsed because they had defended Kasztner, a member of the Israeli Labor Party Mapai.
Another reason for comparing Zionism and the Nazi is because the blood and soil ideology of Zionism bears a distinct similarity to that of the Nazis. Both were what one might call volkish. Of course Zionism hasn’t exterminated the Palestinians though there are many Zionists now who would like to do so if it were politically feasible. But the genocidal outlook of many Israelis, over half of whom support the expulsion even of Israeli Palestinians from Israel suggests that Zionism’s belief in a Jewish state is no different from the belief of the Nazis in an Aryan ethno nationalist state. Being Jewish has been transformed from a religious into a racial category.
All criticism of Israel is written off as ‘anti-Semitism’. But how else to explain the fact that Israel today arms and equips some of the most right-wing, racist and genocidal regimes like Myanamar.
People should not feel afraid of hurting the feelings of Zionists by making such comparisons. If that is the only way to help them escape their indoctrination then it is all to the good!
Come and hear Moshe and myself on ‘What is Zionism’ and hopefully we can have a good debate afterwards.