The SWP Decision to Welcome Apartheid Zionist Groups to its ‘anti-racist’ march in Glasgow last weekend proves that the SWP’s support for the Palestinians is hot air
On 16 February, in response to an email on behalf of Brighton and Hove Trades Council, Scottish SUTR i.e. the SWP, reassured me that:
SUTR Scotland … has no formal relationship with Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland or any of its local groups. Claims it “works closely” with or “invites” these groups are false. Neither is true that this group has been “welcome” to marches. We have no knowledge of their intention to attend the march in 2023.
Today Glasgow Friends of Israel posted this message on Facebook:
‘a letter of thanks from GFI chair Sammy Stein to Kier McKechnie and Mohammed Asif, organisers of the SUTR march that took place on Saturday, who made sure that GFI and COFIS members were kept safe during the march.
Hi Keir and Mohammad
It was good to see you both at the SUTR march in George Square on Saturday and many thanks for the welcome you gave us.
The Letter of Thanks ends:
‘I will of course post this message on social media so that all the good folk in Scotland will know about your kind and on-going support.’
Many thanks and I look forward to meeting you again in 2024.
chair Glasgow Friends of Israel.
I don’t mind being lied to by the SWP/SUTR. Indeed I expect it. What I do object to is being lied to on behalf of a racist Zionist group by those who dare to call themselves socialists. Especially since they were lying to me in my role as an Executive Member of Brighton & Hove Trades Council.
GFI is a 100% racist outfit. It had room on its Facebook page for a story about ‘A violent Palestinian mob attack on 2 German tourists’ who were attacked when entering Nablus in a vehicle with Israeli license plates and an Israeli flag. The tourists escaped with light injuries thank to the help of other Palestinians.
There has been no mention on GFI’s Facebook page of the reign of terror by settlers and the Israeli army on the West Bank. No condemnation of the call by Bezalel Smotrich, the West Bank’s head of civil administration, to ‘wipe-out’ the town of Huwara. No mention of the pogrom in Huwara in which Israeli soldiers accompanied and defended the settlers whilst attacking their victims, 1 of whom was killed and nearly 100 injured, some seriously. No mention of the Jewish Nazi Ben Gvir who is now Israel’s Police Minister. No mention of the ethnic cleansing of Masafer Yata.
Glasgow Friends of Israel are 100% racist scum yet the SWP welcome them onto its ‘anti-racist’ demonstration. The SWP have demonstrated that there is no principle that they are not prepared to sacrifice, no promise that they are not prepared to break, no ethic that they won’t undermine for the sake of building their party.
Whenever there is a Palestine solidarity march you can be sure that there will be an SWP stall with posters and placards. The impression given is that the SWP is in the forefront of Palestine solidarity.
The reality is somewhat different. The way the SWP works in practice marks it out as an organisation that combines verbal support for the Palestinians with the most shameful appeasement of Zionism and its British supporters.
This contradiction has come to a head again this year on the SWP/Stand Up to Racism march, March 18 in Glasgow. Since 2017 the SWP has welcomed Glasgow Friends of Israel [GFI] and the Confederation of Friends of Israel–Scotland [COFIS] on its marches.
But we are now fighting back against the SWP’s capitulation to Zionism’s far-right supporters. Dundee Trades Council’s refusal to support the SWP’s march was joined this year by Brighton & Hove Trades Council. At Lewisham Trades Council a similar motion of non-support was narrowly defeated. It is to be hoped that next year more trade union branches and Trades Councils will join in saying no to SWP/SUTR’s collaboration with far-Right Zionists.
It is no surprise that the ‘right’ of these Zionist groups to march was vociferously supported by that friend of anti-racism, the Scottish Daily Express! The SWP’s real reason for allowing Zionists to march each year is a fear of being accused of ‘anti-Semitism’, in other words a surrender to the campaign that brought down Corbyn.
On 16 February Scottish SUTR wrote to me saying ‘SUTR has no policy on the Middle East’. However most anti-racist groups do oppose apartheid, today in Israel yesterday in South Africa. Even the SWP used to oppose apartheid.
If an anti-racist Zionist actually exists then no one objects to them marching as an individual. Hopefully they will come to recognise their own cognitive dissonance. The objection is to organised supporters of Israeli Apartheid marching with flags and placards. To Palestinians the Israeli flag is the equivalent of the Confederate flag for Black people or the Swastika to Jews.
The Lies that Justify Ethnic Cleansing from COFIS
As Mick Napier of Scottish PSC said:
“SUTR pretend to be neutral on the issue of of Israeli ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. Bad enough to try to be neutral but in fact they are very partisan. Their absurd claim that “we cannot build a united anti-racist movement if the politics of the Middle East are imported into the movement” is belied by their insisting on the right of Friends of Israel to march with them, ie precisely to import the Politics of the Middle East onto their demonstrations, thereby making them no-go areas for Palestinians”.
When I was a teenager I was a member of the International Socialist group, which pre-dated the SWP. I remember that they took a fierce anti-Zionist position. The first anti-Zionist pamphlet I read was The Class Nature of Israeli Society by Moshe Machover and others.
Today the SWP is proud of the fact that they have the support of the right-wing TUC and trade union bureaucracy. The same people who are calling off the biggest wave of strikes we have seen in 40 years. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to them that this ‘support’ is a way that they can parade their anti-racist credentials without them doing anything.
If the TUC were serious about fighting racism then they would have condemned the statement of Rachel Reeves criticising the Tories for not having deported enough refugees.
It is more than ironic that on an allegedly anti-racist march you have organisations marching whose sole purpose in being there is to support racism.
The leader of GFI, Sammy Stein, was caught fraternising with Max Dunbar, an ex-BNP Treasurer. Stein was pictured on the latest march with an SWP banner! GFI’s main support is from anti-Semitic Christian Fundamentalists.
Although GFI later dissociated themselves from Dunbar, the statement confirming this was from Edward Sutherland, who was reprimanded by the General Teaching Council for sharing an anti-Semitic post online.
In a recent post on Facebook Sammy Stein demonstrates how far to the right he is, even for Zionists, when he cast doubt on the Deir Yassin massacre in April 1948 which he calls ‘disputed’. Zionist militias Irgun and Lehi carried out a savage massacre in the village. Over 100 women, children and elderly died. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister condemned it and the Jewish Agency sent Jordan’s King Abdullah an apology. Holocaust deniers dispute the Nazi Holocaust so shall we have doubts about that too?
Stein also repeated the myth of Palestinian refugees having voluntarily left of their own accord whereas this lie was designed to cover up the ethnic cleansing in 1947-8. Stein even made out that he supported refugees in this country. But not Israel of course where non-Jewish refugees are refused asylum automatically. But since Stein supports the rights of refugees in Britain so much perhaps he will support the Right of Return of the Palestinian refugees to Israel too? I somehow doubt it because he’s wedded to the Jewish supremacist nature of the Israeli state.
That the SWP choose to align themselves with the likes of Sammy Stein demonstrates that they have learnt nothing from the rape scandal that nearly destroyed them in 2012/3. They have also learnt nothing from their association with the anti-Semitic Gilad Atzmon from 2005-2011.
The problem in Scotland is part of a wider problem with the politics of the SWP on Zionism, racism and imperialism. Instead of treating racism as flowing from imperialism and Britain’s role in the world the SWP treats racism and imperialism as separate entities.
On the one hand the SWP will proclaim that Zionism is racist and Israel is an apartheid state, but when it comes to anti-racist work, the issue of Palestine disappears as the SWP allies with these very same racists! The fact that Israel and Zionism is to the fore of Islamaphobia is simply ignored.
On the GFI Facebook page a supporter wrote, after the murder of 50 Muslims in New Zealand that:
‘it’s payback for the attacks that muslims have perpetrated across the globe. perhaps this will curb their appetite for bloodshed.’
It is difficult to think of a more vile racist comment yet the SWP is unconcerned. Imagine that someone had celebrated the murder of 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018 because of the Palestinians murdered by the ‘Jewish’ state. The air would be thick with cries of anti-Semitism, prime amongst them the SWP.
Also on the GFI FB group was a post which talked about Israel ‘euthanasing’ 3 Palestinians. This is language which one would normally expect from neo-Nazis. The SWP supports refugees coming to Britain but it refuses to ask why they come and to integrate this understanding into broader anti-racist struggles.
The SWP confines itself to broad statements of support for Palestine solidarity but rarely discusses the causes of their dispossession and the role of Zionism except once a year at Marxism when anti-Zionism is brought out on display.
At the 2021 Palestine Solidarity Campaign conference, the Executive proposed a new constitution eliminating anti-Zionism. The two SWP members present, Tom Hickey and Rob Ferguson, spoke in support of the Executive’s proposals and against those who wanted PSC to remain an anti-Zionist organisation.
Sammy Stein reveals himself as a far-right Zionist bigot behind all the talk of mutual recognition etc.
The arguments of Hickey and Ferguson were that we should concentrate on activism and not get distracted by Zionism. Except that Zionism, as an ideology and movement, was responsible for the dispossession of the Palestinians. How can you support the Palestinian struggle and have nothing to say about Zionism? This, more than anything, reveals the bankruptcy of SWP politics.
The question of Zionism was a central feature of debates inside the Labour Party. Yet to the SWP what matters is activity for its own sake despite the fact that Israel, unlike South Africa, depends on maintaining political support in the West. Anti-Zionism is not a theoretical luxury but a necessity. We constantly have to win the argument on campuses and in trade unions.
The reluctance of the SWP to argue for anti-Zionist politics is a product of their opportunistic politics. Tony Cliff, their founder did understand Zionism being born in Mandate Palestine but SWP theoreticians today – John Rose and Rob Ferguson – do not have that background.
The SWP and Zionist Relations with the Nazis
In ‘Don’t fall into your opponents’ traps’, John Rose criticised Ken Livingstone for even mentioning the subject:
… the anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian case must be argued effectively and sensitively. Traps must be avoided which favour our opponents. On Thursday Ken Livingstone created then walked into precisely such a trap. The argument about Zionist collaboration with the Nazis has been around for a long time. It is rightly ignored by solidarity activists with Palestine….
It’s true that when Hitler came to power some Zionist leaders stupidly thought that they could do a deal with him that would enable some German Jews to go to Palestine. But Ken should have known that this disgraceful manoeuvre bitterly divided the Zionist movement.
Rose went on to say that ‘there was no coherent, united Zionist leadership in the 1930’s. It was deeply split.’ This is simply untrue, indeed it is a lie. As I show in Zionism During the Holocaust it is also ahistorical nonsense. There was almost complete agreement about the need to create a Jewish State and ‘transfer’ the Palestinians out of it in the 30s and 40s. The differences amongst the Zionist leadership between Weizmann and Ben Gurion were about which imperialist partner they preferred – Britain or the United States. Even the differences between Labour and Revisionist Zionism were tactical.
Nor was there anything ‘stupid’ about negotiating with Nazis from the Zionist perspective. Ha’avara, the Nazi-Zionist trade agreement was not about saving German Jews. What it sought to do was rescue their wealth.
David Ben Gurion was the most important pre-state Zionist figure. A cursory reading of the final chapter, Disaster Means Strength, of his biography by Shabtai Teveth makes it abundantly clear that the Zionist leadership welcomed the rise of the Nazis and Hitler. The very title of the chapter gives us a clue.
On the eve of Hitler becoming Chancellor, in January 1933, Ben-Gurion explained his thinking to the Central Committee of Mapai (Israeli Labour Party) when he warned that
‘Zionism… is not primarily engaged in saving individuals’ and that if there was ‘a conflict of interest between saving individual Jews and the good of the Zionist enterprise, we shall say the enterprise comes first.’
In November 1935, after the passage of the Nuremberg Laws he said:
To the disaster of German Jewry we must offer a Zionist response, namely, we must convert the disaster into a source for the upbuilding of Palestine.
On 15 October 1942, by which time the Zionist leadership was aware of the holocaust, Ben Gurion remarked to the Zionist Executive:
Disaster is strength if channelled to a productive course. The whole trick of Zionism is that it knows how to channel our disaster, not into despondency or degradation, as is the case in the Diaspora, but into a source of creativity and exploitation.
Berl Katznelson, a founder of Mapai and editor of Davar, saw the rise of Hitler as ‘an opportunity to build and flourish like none we have ever had or ever will have.’ Ben-Gurion predicted that ‘The Nazis’ victory would become “a fertile force for Zionism.”
It is to the critical Zionist historian Noah Lucas, not John Rose, that we must turn if we want to understand Zionism’s approach:
‘As the European holocaust erupted, Ben-Gurion saw it as a decisive opportunity for Zionism… In conditions of peace,… Zionism could not move the masses of world Jewry. The forces unleashed by Hitler in all their horror must be harnessed to the advantage of Zionism. … By the end of 1942… the struggle for a Jewish state became the primary concern of the movement.’ [A Modern History of Israel, pp. 187/8].
Rose was also wrong when he said that ‘this disgraceful manoeuvre bitterly divided the Zionist movement’ The Labour Zionists were united in support of Ha’avara. The General Zionists and Religious Zionists of Mizrahi supported it too. Only the Revisionists under Jabotinsky opposed Ha’avara.
Ordinary Zionists bitterly opposed Ha’avara and didn’t understand what was happening but the Zionist movement was not a democratic movement and their voices counted for nothing.
On June 21 1933 the German Zionist Federation voluntarily wrote to Hitler expressing their opposition to the Boycott and their agreement with Nazi fundamentals. They wrote:
On the foundation of the new state, which has established the principle of race… fruitful activity for the fatherland is possible…. Precisely because we don’t wish to falsify these fundamentals, because we too are against mixed marriages and are for maintaining the purity of the Jewish group… The realisation of Zionism could only be hurt by resentment of Jews abroad against the German development. Boycott propaganda… is in essence fundamentally unZionist, because Zionism wants not to do battle but to convince and to build.’[Lucy Dawidowicz, A Holocaust Reader, pp. 150-153].
The Zionist leaders were not stupid. If anyone can claim credit for the founding of Israel it is Hitler. Between 1933 and 1939, as a result of the rose of the Nazis, the Jewish population of Palestine more than doubled from around 215,000 to 449,000, giving the settlers a critical mass. 60% of capital investment in Palestine between 1933 and 1939 came from Nazi Germany.
John Rose was dazzled by meeting the last Commander of the Warsaw Ghetto Resistance, Marek Edelman in 1989. The anti-Zionist Bund, of which Edelman was a member and members of left-Zionist groups such as Hashomer Hatzair and Dror, fought together. But the Zionists fought, not because of their Zionism but despite it.
Mordechai Anielewicz, the first Commander, expressed his regret over the ‘wasted time’ undergoing Zionist educational work. I quote in my book the speech of one of these Zionist fighters, Hayka Klinger, to the Histadrut Executive in March 1944. She described the Judenrate, the Jewish Councils who collaborated with the Nazis thus:
after they began assisting the Nazis to collect gold and furniture from Jewish homes, they had no choice but to go on to help them prepare lists of Jews for labor camps… And precisely because those who stood at the head of most of the communities were Zionists, the psychological effects on most of the Jewish masses vis-à-vis the Zionist idea was devastating, and the hatred towards Zionism grew day by day…
Klinger told the Histadrut Executive that ‘we received an order not to organize any more defence.’ To the Zionist leadership the ghetto fighters were more valuable in Palestine. Klinger observed that
Without a people, a people’s avant-garde is of no value. If rescue it is, then the entire people must be rescued. If it is to be annihilation, then the avante-garde too shall be annihilated.
After the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, a Zionist emissary arrived in Bedzin in July 1943 to persuade Frumka Plotnicka to leave. She replied that ‘I have a responsibility for my brethren… I have lived with them and I will die with them.’ The Zionist youth in Europe, such as Zivia Lubetkin and Plotnicka, refused on principle to leave. One can only admire the bravery and commitment of these young Zionist fighters who, given the choice between the fight against the Nazis in the Diaspora and the Arabs in Palestine, committed what in Zionist eyes, was a mortal sin. They chose the Diaspora.
One of the Zionist emissaries, Yudke Hellman, described how in October and December 1939 he witnessed the return of Plotnicka and Lubetkin to German-occupied Poland and how he had tried and failed to persuade them to leave for Palestine. Frumka stood up and announced that her decision to return to Warsaw was final.
Never was the ethical and moral distinction between the Jewish diaspora and Palestine’s Zionist leaders clearer. Rose failed to perceive that Zionism was established on the basis that anti-Semitism could not be fought and that its principal task lay in the establishment of a Jewish state.
It was the Revisionists who put up the strongest resistance in the Warsaw ghetto because they were armed by their fascist friends. They had an abundance of arms unlike the left-wing Jewish Fighting Organisation (ZOB). So yes, Zionists fought. It was not because they were Zionists but because they were organised in groups. The Zionist parties in Warsaw however were opposed to resistance.
Individual Zionists are not the same as the movement. At times of despair the Jewish masses supported the Zionists and when the fight against anti-Semitism grew, they abandoned Zionism. In the last free elections in 1938 in Warsaw out of 20 Jewish Council seats the Zionists obtained precisely one compared to 17 for the anti-Zionist Bund.
As anti-Semitism grew in Poland Poale Zion split into a right and left in 1919. Left Poale Zion had effectively abandoned Zionism. But these contradictions entirely escape the SWP and its theoreticians.
The Israeli state was extremely hostile to Edelman, who had written an open letter to the Palestinians asking them to enter into peace negotiations. The letter caused outrage because Edelman did not mention the word ‘terrorism.’ Israeli leaders were incensed by its title: ‘Letter to Palestinian partisans’.
When Edelman died on 9 October 2009 he was honoured with a state funeral and a fifteen-gun salute. Not even the lowliest clerk at the Israeli Embassy attended. No official representative of any international Jewish organisation attended either.
Edelman received Poland’s highest honour but he died unrecognised and forgotten in Israel. The President of Poland spoke at his funeral and two thousand people attended the grave-side ceremony.
John Rose has been the SWP’s main theoretician on Zionism since Cliff. He has never understood the internal dynamics and logic of Zionism. Imperialism has used the tragedy of the Holocaust to legitimise its barbarism and to paint anyone opposed to Zionism as ‘anti-Semitic’. Unfortunately Rose and the SWP instead of standing up to this have bowed to it and the winds of chauvinism. In an article critiquing Norman Finkelstein, Rose wrote that:
Even in its most reactionary form, Zionism before the second world war was one of the voices of oppressed Jews facing the growth of violent anti Semitism as a mass movement everywhere.
This statement represents an abandonment of any class politics. Zionism was the voice of the reactionary Jewish petit-bourgeoisie who, given half the chance, would betray working class Jews as Marcel Liebman demonstrated so vividly when describing his experiences as a child seeking refuge in Nazi-occupied Belgium. He described one leader of the Belgian Judenrat, the Association of Jews of Belgium telling a poor Polish Jewish woman:
Well, well! If you ended up in Eastern Europe what would be wrong with that? You are all from Poland anyway! You’d just be going back where you came from!
Another wealthy Zionist member of the AJB, ‘S.V.’ wrote in his diary on 12 December 1942, after the Germans had released a Jew who was married to a non-Jewish woman:
I find it extraordinary that someone should be recompensed for having been unfaithful to his religion.
Two-thirds of the Judenrat, which were hated by poor and working class Jews, were Zionists but Rose saw them as the voice of the oppressed, writing that ‘Zionism was perfectly capable of inspiring resistance to the Nazis’.
Rose went on to say that ‘Zionism later mis-used its genuinely heroic anti-Nazi resistance fighters for cynical ideological ends in Palestine.’ How surprising! The Zionists also misused the Holocaust to justify ethnic cleansing in Palestine. Why? Because historically the Zionists were indifferent to the Holocaust. To many Zionists those who died in the Holocaust brought it upon themselves. Idith Zertal observed that:
This is more than cynicism. It is the exploitation of the Holocaust in the service of imperialism and Israel’s war against the Palestinians.
Rose referred to Hitler’s view of the Jews as a ‘satanic race’.
Hitler didn’t just think that Jews were a distinct race. He also thought that they were a Satanic race, and ultimately, that they were a Satanic race that had to be exterminated.
Rose echoes Zionist holocaust historians such as Yehuda Bauer who attributed anti-Semitism to ‘a political elite that had come to power with pseudo-messianic concepts of saving humanity from the Jews.’
What Bauer was saying was that Nazi anti-Semitism lay outside of history. It was inexplicable. That is also what Rose is saying. That the Holocaust lies outside class politics. This is simply anti-Marxist.
Did the elimination of up to 3 million Polish intelligentsia occur because the Poles were Satanic? Or the Russians or Disabled? The attempt to exterminate the Jews was not unique. Why did Hitler want them gone? Because the Jews were seen as the biological parents of their main enemy, Bolshevism. Hence the term Judeo-Bolshevism.
Rose wrote about the
truly sinister cat and mouse game the Nazis were playing when they appeared to be supporting the Zionist project in Palestine even if did mean some German Jews, by moving to Palestine with Hitler’s agreement, escaped the death camps.
Rose did not understand the Ha’avara agreement (or the Nazis’ Jewish policies) which led to just 20,000 wealthy German Jews moving to Palestine. They had to have £1,000 (today about £85,000). These Jews would have found refuge in other countries.
If anything Ha’avara undermined the position of other Jews wanting to emigrate. Between 1933 and 1939 the Nazis’ policy was expulsion not extermination. There were no death camps to escape from. The first death camp, Chelmno was established in December 1941.
The problem with the SWP is it shouts slogans about Zionism but has never taken the time nor trouble to understand it.