The Left's Hatred of Israel (II) '...As Lenin Explains...'

I have been curious about the uniform, virulent hostility to Israel on the part of the Anglo—American and French Left.  The Left's hostility is not limited to the present Israeli government of Ariel Sharon: it routinely identifies the state of Israel from its inception with racism, imperialism, US—based international capitalism, and every other hypothetical scourge of humanity; and it flatly opposes any two state compromise which leaves Israel as one of the two states. What are the roots (or is the correct term the 'root causes'?) of this attitude?

 

First, we can dispense with the self—serving explanations of the congregants themselves.  Is it simply that, paragons of virtue that they are, the leftists are incensed by injustice wherever it occurs? Self—evidently, no.

 

Their indignation has too high a degree of selectivity. It is true that the Palestinians are among many groups which have suffered national injustice (for which a two—state compromise is the only reasonable solution), but they are hardly the only such victims on the planet. Yet no Leftist group, and few of the sentimental Leftists with who I am acquainted, has ever said a single word on behalf of the Tibetans; expressed outrage on behalf of the Chechens; or shed a tear for the Kurds, the Kashmiris, the Nagas, the Uigurs, the southern Sudanese, etc. etc.  And as for the Albanians of Kosovo, well, their claim to national liberation was all a NATO plot, wasn't it?

 

Alternatively, does the Palestinian national movement, and Arab nationalism more generally, have a recognizeable  progressive political content?  It is hard to see how.  The Ba'ath governments in Syria and (formerly) Iraq were personalized police—states, in the case of Iraq, one saturated with a weird and menacing megalomania. Only the barest historical boilerplate linked it to socialism, with the closest variant of socialism being National Socialism, at that. The Palestine Authority is a standard—issue kleptocracy. Neither outfit shows any coherent opposition to the capitalist mode of production. On the contrary, they attempt to skim off some of the profits for the ruling party organization wherever possible.

 

The most comprehensive social experiments in the Middle East, which provide actual alternatives to conventional capitalism, are found not in any Arab state but in Israel:

the  kibbutzim collectives, and the Histadrut labor confederation, which combines the properties of a labor union, a social welfare agency, and a producers' cooperative.

 

However, the Arab revolution does have one characteristic that recommends it to parlor revolutionaries:  it is what is happening now. The luster of Leninism in the former Soviet Union, the former People's Democracies of east Europe, and former Yugoslavia, was a trifle dimmed by the complete collapse of each exemplar. Therefore, acolytes of these brilliant successes imagine that the next chance to repeat them may come through capturing, or at least riding along with, Arab—Islamic movements which use the word "revolution" a lot.

 

This sentiment is expressed with something approaching candor by a London  web magazine [the editors, perhaps embarrassed, have since removed the specific essay]:

                       

The Western—backed genocide of the Palestinian nation in order to complete the handing over of the Palestinian homeland to the Western Zionist—imperialist leadership of world Jewry to build a 'national home' for the faith—linked freemasonry of some of the Western world's most powerful monopoly—capitalist banking and commercial dynasties is one of the most monstrous, sustained acts of official racism in all world history.

 

The West's 'liberals', 'democrats', and 'reformists' can swear hostility to 'racism' in society for all they are worth, but the very existence of the Western way of life is based on its world economic domination, which in turn is totally dependent on the USA's international military—control system for propping up armed stooges like the Zionists  and putting down any local Third World regimes which might challenge the Washington 'New World Order'.

 

... It would be marvellous if there was a Palestinian Viet Cong to give Marxist—Communist leadership to the struggle against Zionist colonisation and. tyranny, but it was precisely the Revisionism and Trotskyism which produced these armchair—revolutionary defeatists in Britain which also buried Leninism without trace in  Palestine too.

 

....  The socialist revolution needs its own independent propaganda in Palestine and its own fighting units, but while marching  separately, they need to strike together with  Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and anyone else willing to topple the Zionist colonisation.

 

Hamas suicide bombing, for all its flaws and  weaknesses both long—term and short—term from a Marxist perspective, is nevertheless WHAT IS HAPPENING on the front line against Zionist—imperialist tyranny. As Lenin explains, the socialist revolution is  abandoning the fight completely by simply  rejecting what Hamas is doing.

 

The only serious critique that will deserve a  hearing is one which gives alternative  anti—Zionist fighting leadership from the front.  All other purely academic carping should be treated with the contempt it deserves as little better than pro—imperialist, class—collaborative defeatism.

 

These lines reveal, with almost novelistic transparency,  the fantasies of a middle—class British poseur who yearns to provide Marxist—Communist fighting leadership to the Palestinian masses from his flat in London,  The fact that this is as likely as his being named Archbishop of Canterbury,  far from attenuating his day—dreams, seems to be what gives them flight.

 

Beyond these Walter Mitty—like reveries, there is a related, strictly opportunistic motivation amongst European Left groupuscules. The British and French Gauchistes undoubtedly seek to appeal to a hoped—for Muslim audience, for which the Israel/Palestine issue provides a convenient hook. The old haranguing match between Stalinist and Trotskyist groupuscules then automatically and steadily raises the rhetorical temperature. American groupuscules, always eager to appear Leftier—than—thou, adopt the same rhetoric copy—cat fashion, even though they are without a significant Muslim audience to pander to.

 

This tendency of rhetorical flourishes to outlive their original meaning is nowhere more obvious than in the Western Left.  Notice, in the lines above, the ritual denunciation of competing sects (" ...the Revisionsim and Trotskyism which produced these armchair revolutionary defeatists..."),  as peevish today as it was in the good old days when it referred to something.  Today, a dozen years after the Soviet collapse, these outbursts have the character of skeletons doing a dance macabre in the graveyard.   But they do tell us something about the emotional state of the dancers.

 

What they tell us is the powerful mood of resentment underlying the whole exercise, sometimes expressed as vituperation of other sects of the Left.  Imagine, then, the powerful unconscious resentment against Israel which must be at work as well.  In Israel, Labour Zionism created the institutions I alluded to above, which helped to build an entire country, which survive (not without difficulties) to this day, and which real people actually live by.

 

The noisy Left groupuscules of the West, in contrast, have produced nothing but 80 years of hot air.  Why, there must be enough unconscious resentment right there to fuel their vendetta against Israel, with a good deal of bile left over for  "liberals", "democrats",  reformists",  and other miscreants of every kind.

 

Jon Gallant is Professor Emeritus, University of Washington, Seattle

I have been curious about the uniform, virulent hostility to Israel on the part of the Anglo—American and French Left.  The Left's hostility is not limited to the present Israeli government of Ariel Sharon: it routinely identifies the state of Israel from its inception with racism, imperialism, US—based international capitalism, and every other hypothetical scourge of humanity; and it flatly opposes any two state compromise which leaves Israel as one of the two states. What are the roots (or is the correct term the 'root causes'?) of this attitude?

 

First, we can dispense with the self—serving explanations of the congregants themselves.  Is it simply that, paragons of virtue that they are, the leftists are incensed by injustice wherever it occurs? Self—evidently, no.

 

Their indignation has too high a degree of selectivity. It is true that the Palestinians are among many groups which have suffered national injustice (for which a two—state compromise is the only reasonable solution), but they are hardly the only such victims on the planet. Yet no Leftist group, and few of the sentimental Leftists with who I am acquainted, has ever said a single word on behalf of the Tibetans; expressed outrage on behalf of the Chechens; or shed a tear for the Kurds, the Kashmiris, the Nagas, the Uigurs, the southern Sudanese, etc. etc.  And as for the Albanians of Kosovo, well, their claim to national liberation was all a NATO plot, wasn't it?

 

Alternatively, does the Palestinian national movement, and Arab nationalism more generally, have a recognizeable  progressive political content?  It is hard to see how.  The Ba'ath governments in Syria and (formerly) Iraq were personalized police—states, in the case of Iraq, one saturated with a weird and menacing megalomania. Only the barest historical boilerplate linked it to socialism, with the closest variant of socialism being National Socialism, at that. The Palestine Authority is a standard—issue kleptocracy. Neither outfit shows any coherent opposition to the capitalist mode of production. On the contrary, they attempt to skim off some of the profits for the ruling party organization wherever possible.

 

The most comprehensive social experiments in the Middle East, which provide actual alternatives to conventional capitalism, are found not in any Arab state but in Israel:

the  kibbutzim collectives, and the Histadrut labor confederation, which combines the properties of a labor union, a social welfare agency, and a producers' cooperative.

 

However, the Arab revolution does have one characteristic that recommends it to parlor revolutionaries:  it is what is happening now. The luster of Leninism in the former Soviet Union, the former People's Democracies of east Europe, and former Yugoslavia, was a trifle dimmed by the complete collapse of each exemplar. Therefore, acolytes of these brilliant successes imagine that the next chance to repeat them may come through capturing, or at least riding along with, Arab—Islamic movements which use the word "revolution" a lot.

 

This sentiment is expressed with something approaching candor by a London  web magazine [the editors, perhaps embarrassed, have since removed the specific essay]:

                       

The Western—backed genocide of the Palestinian nation in order to complete the handing over of the Palestinian homeland to the Western Zionist—imperialist leadership of world Jewry to build a 'national home' for the faith—linked freemasonry of some of the Western world's most powerful monopoly—capitalist banking and commercial dynasties is one of the most monstrous, sustained acts of official racism in all world history.

 

The West's 'liberals', 'democrats', and 'reformists' can swear hostility to 'racism' in society for all they are worth, but the very existence of the Western way of life is based on its world economic domination, which in turn is totally dependent on the USA's international military—control system for propping up armed stooges like the Zionists  and putting down any local Third World regimes which might challenge the Washington 'New World Order'.

 

... It would be marvellous if there was a Palestinian Viet Cong to give Marxist—Communist leadership to the struggle against Zionist colonisation and. tyranny, but it was precisely the Revisionism and Trotskyism which produced these armchair—revolutionary defeatists in Britain which also buried Leninism without trace in  Palestine too.

 

....  The socialist revolution needs its own independent propaganda in Palestine and its own fighting units, but while marching  separately, they need to strike together with  Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and anyone else willing to topple the Zionist colonisation.

 

Hamas suicide bombing, for all its flaws and  weaknesses both long—term and short—term from a Marxist perspective, is nevertheless WHAT IS HAPPENING on the front line against Zionist—imperialist tyranny. As Lenin explains, the socialist revolution is  abandoning the fight completely by simply  rejecting what Hamas is doing.

 

The only serious critique that will deserve a  hearing is one which gives alternative  anti—Zionist fighting leadership from the front.  All other purely academic carping should be treated with the contempt it deserves as little better than pro—imperialist, class—collaborative defeatism.

 

These lines reveal, with almost novelistic transparency,  the fantasies of a middle—class British poseur who yearns to provide Marxist—Communist fighting leadership to the Palestinian masses from his flat in London,  The fact that this is as likely as his being named Archbishop of Canterbury,  far from attenuating his day—dreams, seems to be what gives them flight.

 

Beyond these Walter Mitty—like reveries, there is a related, strictly opportunistic motivation amongst European Left groupuscules. The British and French Gauchistes undoubtedly seek to appeal to a hoped—for Muslim audience, for which the Israel/Palestine issue provides a convenient hook. The old haranguing match between Stalinist and Trotskyist groupuscules then automatically and steadily raises the rhetorical temperature. American groupuscules, always eager to appear Leftier—than—thou, adopt the same rhetoric copy—cat fashion, even though they are without a significant Muslim audience to pander to.

 

This tendency of rhetorical flourishes to outlive their original meaning is nowhere more obvious than in the Western Left.  Notice, in the lines above, the ritual denunciation of competing sects (" ...the Revisionsim and Trotskyism which produced these armchair revolutionary defeatists..."),  as peevish today as it was in the good old days when it referred to something.  Today, a dozen years after the Soviet collapse, these outbursts have the character of skeletons doing a dance macabre in the graveyard.   But they do tell us something about the emotional state of the dancers.

 

What they tell us is the powerful mood of resentment underlying the whole exercise, sometimes expressed as vituperation of other sects of the Left.  Imagine, then, the powerful unconscious resentment against Israel which must be at work as well.  In Israel, Labour Zionism created the institutions I alluded to above, which helped to build an entire country, which survive (not without difficulties) to this day, and which real people actually live by.

 

The noisy Left groupuscules of the West, in contrast, have produced nothing but 80 years of hot air.  Why, there must be enough unconscious resentment right there to fuel their vendetta against Israel, with a good deal of bile left over for  "liberals", "democrats",  reformists",  and other miscreants of every kind.

 

Jon Gallant is Professor Emeritus, University of Washington, Seattle