- Created: Friday, 06 May 2016 15:20
- Written by Robert Clough
In the run-up to the May local and mayoral elections, right-wing pro-Zionist Labour MPs intensified their assault on Jeremy Corbyn’s position as Labour Party leader. They accused him of being too slow in dealing with what they claimed to be widespread anti-Semitism within the Party. They wanted to use a poor performance by Labour in the elections to unseat him. The fact that Labour did better than anticipated may stay their hand for the moment. However, these reactionaries will continue to cynically abuse the history of the Holocaust, and ruthlessly manipulate any pro-Palestine statement, tweet or Facebook posting by any Labour Party member to ‘prove’ the existence of a left-wing anti-Jewish hate campaign. That the key figures involved are, with few exceptions, members of the pro-Zionist Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) should be no surprise. The Zionists are arguing that any criticism of Israel is motivated by anti-Semitism and they are invoking the Holocaust in their support. Yet far from being a force fighting racism, Zionism was founded on the premise that anti-Semitism could never be defeated, and from its establishment counterposed an equally racist ideology. Robert Clough reports.
The pro-Zionists have already claimed two major scalps: that of Naz Shah, MP for Bradford West, and that of former London mayor Ken Livingstone, both of whom have been suspended from the Labour Party. In a major concession to the overwhelmingly spurious LFI claims, Corbyn has announced an inquiry into the extent of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, to be led by former head of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti, who is not a Labour Party member. Apart from Livingstone and Shah, the claims of ‘widespread’ anti-Semitism relate to tweets or Facebook postings from just 16 Labour Party members over a five-year period, several selectively quoted or even deliberately misquoted. There are also unsupported allegations about anti-Semitism in Oxford University Labour Club made by a known pro-Zionist following its decision to support Israeli Apartheid Week.
Shah’s principal ‘crime’ was to post a map of Israel super-imposed on a map of the US on her Facebook and facetiously suggest that Israel should be ‘relocated to the US’ as a solution to the problem of the Middle East. She did so during the summer 2014 Israeli onslaught on Gaza which resulted in the deaths of over 2,000 Palestinians. It now transpires that the meme was reposted from the Facebook of Norman Finkelstein, a prominent Jewish anti-Zionist in the US. Finkelstein has condemned as ‘obscene’ and ‘sick’ a suggestion by pro-Zionist Labour MP John Mann that Shah should be compared to Nazi Adolf Eichmann. Shah also compared the Zionist colonisers to the Nazis, which Finkelstein has dismissed as a weak historical analogy rather than a statement of anti-Semitism. In the face of massive pressure, Shah has backtracked completely, offering a grovelling apology to the House of Commons, in a move which seems motivated only by the need to protect her career. However, she remains suspended from the Labour Party.
Livingstone’s ‘crime’ was to argue that Shah was not guilty of anti-Semitism, and then that Hitler had at one time supported Zionism. Asked for his opinion on Shah’s suspension in a TV interview on 28 April, Livingstone said that her position was '...completely over the top but it’s not anti-Semitism’, continuing:
‘Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism – this before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews. The simple fact in all of this is that Naz made these comments at a time when there was another brutal Israeli attack on the Palestinians and there’s one stark fact that virtually no one in the British media ever reports, in almost all these conflicts the death toll is usually between 60 and 100 Palestinians killed for every Israeli. Now, any other country doing that would be accused of war crimes but it’s like we have a double standard about the policies of the Israeli government.’
Labour’s Zionist rent-a-mob went into overdrive. MP John Mann chased Livingstone along London streets and up a BBC stairwell, calling him a 'Nazi apologist' and a 'disgusting racist', in a confrontation that was repeatedly broadcast throughout the day. LFI MPs John Woodcock, Rachel Reeves, Louise Ellman and Luciana Berger weighed in, as did London mayoral candidate and inveterate opportunist Sadiq Khan, who demanded Livingstone's expulsion, saying his comments were 'appalling and unhelpful'. The supposedly radical journalist Owen Jones echoed the call for suspension while Jon Lansman, chair of the left Labour pressure group Momentum, went further and tweeted that 'A period of silence from Ken Livingstone is overdue, especially on anti-Semitism, racism and Zionism. It’s time he left politics altogether.'
Zionist collaboration with fascism
Livingstone has continued to maintain that it is 'historical fact' that Hitler's fascist regime collaborated with the Zionist movement's colonisation of Palestine in the 1930s. There is a lot of evidence for this, especially in the early years of the Nazi regime. For instance, on June 21 1933 the German Zionist Federation told the Nazis:
'For its practical aims, Zionism hopes to be able to win the collaboration even of a government fundamentally hostile to Jews…. Boycott propaganda – such as is currently being carried on against Germany in many ways – is in essence un-Zionist, because Zionism wants not to do battle but to convince and to build.'
(Cited in Lenni Brenner, Zionism in the age of dictators, Counterpunch February 2014)
The culmination of this policy was the Haavara (Transfer) Agreement between Nazi Germany and the German Zionist leadership on 25 August 1933 to work together for the emigration of Jews to Palestine. The agreement set up co-operation between the Nazis and Zionist business institutions, with the Nazis claiming a 'tax' for enabling the transfer of capital and property from Germany to the Zionist settlements on Palestinian land. The Nazi Ministry for Economic Affairs decreed that it would work 'with the Jewish bodies concerned' for the purpose of:
'promoting Jewish emigration to Palestine by releasing the necessary sums without putting excessive strain upon the foreign currency funds of the Reichsbank, and at the same time for increasing German exports to Palestine.'
That the policy was abandoned by the Nazi regime in the late 1930s, to be replaced by one which would lead to the Holocaust does not mean that it did not happen. Of perhaps greater historical significance was the collaboration between Zionist ‘revisionist’ Vladimir Jabotinsky and Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini. Jabotinsky’s ‘Iron Wall’ doctrine which he promulgated in the 1920s was initially dismissed by mainstream Zionism; he argued that Palestinians would not be bribed into surrendering their land to Zionist immigrants – it would have to be taken and held by force. Mussolini allowed him to establish the Betar naval force in Italy in the 1930s. His followers in the Irgun and the Stern Gang were responsible for many of the most notorious crimes of the 1948 Nakhba catastrophe including the Deir Yassin massacre. By this time, his standpoint had become the Zionist mainstream; his ‘revisionism’ became the ideological foundation for the dominant Likud party within Israel, led by the current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Zionism – colonialism and racism
The capacity of Zionism to collaborate with fascist forces lies in its separatist and colonialist ideology. Zionism was founded in opposition to social democracy. As an impoverished and racially oppressed section of the working class, Jewish workers throughout Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries saw that a future free of racial oppression necessitated a struggle for socialism. They became a bedrock of socialist and later communist organisations. Zionism had a different class origin. It represented the aspirations of a Jewish petit bourgeoisie which feared the loss of its privileged position vis-a-vis the Jewish working class and saw no future in societies characterised by the gross anti-Semitism of the day. Rather than confront this racism, Zionist views involved an acceptance that racism could never be defeated, and that the only alternative was escape – to Palestine.
From the outset, Zionism’s early ideologues sought to collaborate with imperialist forces to achieve their aims, whether they were Tsarist Russian governments or British imperialists. The founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, wrote to the settler-colonialist Cecil Rhodes in 1902 requesting his help in colonising historic Palestine, saying:
‘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.’
Zionism remained a minor political force until its aims coincided with the strategic requirements of British imperialism as it mapped out the re-division of the world that would follow the First World War. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 agreeing to the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine was opposed by almost all contemporary Jewish opinion, but the anti-Semitic Balfour was concerned about how British imperialism could take advantage of the break-up of the Ottoman Empire. Herzl himself had argued ‘For Europe we shall create there in Palestine an outpost against Asia, we shall be the vanguard of the civilised world against barbarism’, explaining 'England with her possessions in Asia should be most interested in Zionism... The shortest route to India is by way of Palestine. And so we believe in England that the idea of Zionism, which is a colonial idea, should easily be understood.'
Zionism sought to establish that Jewish people constituted a nation, and that this nation’s identity was passed on through a ‘blood line’, a resort to the pseudoscience of eugenics. In the words of Vladimir Jabotinsky, ‘It is physically impossible for a Jew descended from several generations of pure, unmixed Jewish blood to adopt the mental state of a German or a Frenchman, just as it is impossible for a Negro to cease to be a Negro.’ An appeal to ‘blood purity’ underpinned the Nazi notion of an Aryan race, or of the broader notions of white supremacy. Both rest on the same crude biological determinism. The affinity of Zionism to racism was evident in apartheid South Africa where Zionist organisations were without exception white supremacist supporters of the regime although many Jewish people were engaged in the liberation struggle including its leadership.
Zionism and the Labour Party
Contrary to any impression put about by the Zionists of today, the Labour Party has been a pro-Zionist organisation since its early years. It speedily endorsed the Balfour Declaration in its ‘War Aims’ Memorandum’ adopted in December 1917. In 1920, Poale Zion (now the Jewish Labour Movement), the British section of the International Organisation of Socialist Zionists, affiliated to the Labour Party, and from the early 1920s, the Zionist current in the Labour Party grew rapidly. After initial opposition, the 1929-31 Labour Government supported accelerated Zionist immigration to Palestine. At no time were the views of the Palestinian people taken into account.
In December 1944, the annual Labour Party Conference passed its strongest pro-Zionist motion to date, proposing the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people:
‘there is surely neither hope nor meaning in a “Jewish National Home”, unless, we are prepared to let Jews, if they wish, enter this tiny land [Palestine] in such numbers as to become a majority. There was a strong case for this before the war ... Here, too, in Palestine surely is a case, on human grounds and to promote a stable settlement, for transfer of population. Let the Arabs be encouraged to … move out as the Jews move in.’
The racism behind this motion was made clear by its drafter, Hugh Dalton, later Labour Chancellor: ‘In Palestine we should lean, much more than hitherto, towards the dynamic Jew, less towards the static Arab.’
Since 1957 Labour Party support for Israel has been organised primarily through Labour Friends of Israel (LFI). Although it pretends to be in favour of a two-state solution, this is just window-dressing for the gullible. It is an uncritical pro-Zionist outfit. An example of its concern is a parliamentary question put in January 2016 by LFI vice-chair Louise Ellman, the Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, asking whether the government ‘had made representations about the current Palestinian campaign of inciting violence, which has led to 40 young Palestinians committing acts of terrorism, including shootings and stabbings of Israeli civilians on the streets of Israel?’ The summary executions of wounded Palestinians and the more than 200 Palestinian dead since October 2015 are of no concern to her. On the same day Livingstone was suspended, a pregnant Palestinian woman was shot 15 times and murdered by the Zionist army along with her 16-year-old brother at Qalandiya checkpoint near Jerusalem. There was no comment from Ellman or the Labour Zionists on this incident of Zionist terror.
LFI members include the core of those Labour MPs organising against Corbyn. John Mann may be an exception, but he is a friend of North West Friends of Israel which includes supporters of the neo-fascist Betar organisation. In December 2014, months after the savage Israeli onslaught on Gaza which killed over 2,000 Palestinians, Mann, who is also chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on tackling anti-Semitism, tweeted:
‘line into anti-Semitism crossed this summer. Most Jews are Zionist & demonising of Zionists is demonizing Jews & is racist.’
The day after Livingstone was suspended, obscure Labour backbencher Wes Sweeting was given a kid-gloves interview on anti-Semitism by BBC Newsnight and wrote a column the next day in The I. Neither mentioned his Zionist background and that as a student leader he was described by the Zionist Jewish Chronicle in 2009 as ‘Our friend in the NUS’.
Behind the LFI lies the Zionist state itself, and its outpost in Britain, the Israeli embassy, where the new ambassador since August last year is Mark Regev. Regev was the public face of the Israeli government, appearing in front of the cameras as chief spokesman for prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Netanyahu from the 2006 assault on Lebanon through the 2008/09 Cast Lead and the 2014 onslaughts on Gaza. In this role he attempted to justify every Zionist war crime in military campaigns which cost thousands of civilian lives. Tweeting about Livingstone, he said 'Not sure which is worse, deliberately distorting Hitler's goals or accusing his Jewish victims of being his partners.' His appointment as Israeli ambassador was a clearly political move to counteract the growing support for the Palestinian people.
Pro-Zionist forces are central to the campaign to oust Corbyn from the Labour Party leadership. They have to be challenged for their support for a racist, colonial-settler regime. That they try to defend Zionist terror by charging their opponents with anti-Semitism cannot deter us. We recognise that this concern about anti-Semitism by a racist media and the most reactionary sections of a racist Labour Party is entirely false: there is no let up in the vilification of migrants as part of the battle over the EU referendum. It has one purpose only: to get rid of Corbyn. His response, backtracking on his previous support for the Palestinian people, has been cowardly. Such behaviour will only encourage the open reactionaries within the Labour Party as will that of Momentum’s Jon Lansman with his willingness to hang Livingstone out to dry. The recently-elected NUS President Malia Bouattia has vigorously defended her pro-Palestinian position after being attacked for her opposition to the 'Zionist-led media' and her description of the University of Birmingham as a 'Zionist outpost'. If Livingstone also chooses to fight, socialists should support him, best of all by building a movement out on the streets in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Victory to the Palestinian people!
Zionism is racism! Boycott Israel!
Rolling picket of London's Oxford Street to mark Nakba Day
Saturday 14 May, 12pm
M&S, 458 Oxford St, (Marble Arch end) London W1C 1AP
All anti-racists are welcome to speak.
Readers who want to look in greater depth at the reactionary character of Zionism or the way it has been supported by the Labour Party can refer to these articles published in Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!