“You remind me of the young men who supported the Nazis or communists not out of cowardice but out of an excess of intelligence. For nothing requires greater effort of thought than arguments to justify the rule of non-thought. I experienced it with my own eyes and ears after the war, when intellectuals and artists rushed like a herd of cattle into the Communist Party, which soon proceeded to liquidate them systematically and with great pleasure. You are doing the same. You are the brilliant ally of your own gravediggers.”
Immortality, Milan Kundera.
In recent times, anti-Zionism – the dismantling of Israel as a Jewish state – has become a mainstream topic of discussion. Despite the woes of the general public in the UK, the leadership of the Labour Party have deemed this important, but why?
In 1967, Israel fought and won the Six-Day War against Egypt, Jordan and Syria. At the time, the leader of Egypt was Gen. Nasser. He received false information from the Soviets that Israel was amassing armies on the border ready for invasion. UN agencies were expelled and war soon occurred. However, Israel was not massing troops nor had any intention of doing so. The information supplied was irredeemably faulty.
The Soviet Union had a troubled relationship with Israel. Initially supportive of what was seen as an anti-imperialist movement for self-determination, a view not coincidentally shared by the ruling power of the time, the British Empire. Israel gained no material help from any Western power in the 1948 War of Independence and was very much shunned by the West. Even following WWII, the British were still turning back sea vessels from Germany filled with Holocaust survivors, looking for sanctuary away from a Europe who had turned their backs on the persecution and industrial murder. The Stern Gang and Irgun were outlawed as terrorists by the British mandate and regularly executed when caught.
This relationship was soured by Stalin’s views on Jews (‘rootless cosmopolitans’) and the campaigns of anti-Semitism closely following canards from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a known anti-Semitic forgery. In 1949 Stalin began purging Jews from the intelligentsia. Following the Israeli victory in 1967 and Israel’s normalisation of relations with the old and new Western imperial powers, a propaganda bureau was created in 1983 tasked with turning the public tide against Israel. Soviet anti-Zionism was born; a bastardised early post-colonialist/anti-imperialist dogma interspersed with select pickings from the aforementioned book.
Soviet anti-Zionism was wrapped around communist ideology; that Zionism was a form of racism and not dissimilar to Nazi ideology. Rallying around the old anti-Semitism of Jewish capitalists exploiting the workers, with its roots in Christian persecution of Jews through the Middle Ages. Zionism itself is an expedient form of nationalism; due to persecution and genocide there are minorities who can only offer themselves protection from the whims of the societies they are part of. Jews are not unique in this need, the Roma and the Kurds are also in need of protection in a very similar manner. The Soviets pursued their revisionist view of Zionism all the way to the UN, gaining a resolution decrying Zionism as racism, since rescinded.
Yuri Ivanov’s Beware Zion became a go to manual for propagandists. Written in 1969, it defines Zionism as:
“Modern Zionism is the ideology, a ramified system of organisations and the practical politics of the wealthy Jewish bourgeoisie which has closely allied itself with monopoly circles in the USA and other imperialist countries. The main content of Zionism is bellicose chauvinism and anti-communism.”
A clearly identifiable enemy in a sea of pro-Soviet countries built on the back of Jewish wealth and power. Such anti-Semitic canards can be found in the Protocols. Israel was no longer a tiny country fighting for independence and they could not have defeated the combined armies so easily in 1967, therefore there had to be a conspiracy. This conspiracy became defined as a threat to the entire world in the typically dramatic style of anti-imperialists.
Refuseniks, such as Natan Sharansky attempted to make aliyah to Israel and were refused by Soviet authorities. They were harassed and ultimately sent to forced labour camps, the gulags of Stalinist Russia. An internal exile, not free to spread their pernicious propaganda, nor living as a citizen. They were deemed an internal threat, a part of the Jewish conspiracies taken almost verbatim from the Protocols.
In 1983, Pravda ran the following front page article:
“…By its nature, Zionism concentrates ultra-nationalism, chauvinism and racial intolerance, excuse for territorial occupation and annexation, military opportunism, cult of political promiscuousness and irresponsibility, demagogy and ideological diversion, dirty tactics and perfidy… Absurd are attempts of Zionist ideologists to present criticizing them, or condemning the aggressive politics of the Israel‘s ruling circles, as antisemitic… We call on all Soviet citizens: workers, peasants, representatives of intelligentsia: take active part in exposing Zionism, strongly rebuke its endeavors; social scientists: activate scientific research to criticize reactionary core of that ideology and aggressive character of its political practice; writers, artists, journalists: fuller expose anti-populace and anti-humane diversionary character of propaganda and politics of Zionism…”
In modern times this view of Israel was lost to all but a few die-hard Soviet enthusiasts and the far-right wing after perestroika and the break up of the Soviet bloc. Following Edward Said’s Orientalism; there became a schism in academia, post-colonialism and Marxist revisionism became fashionable and a progressive viewpoint. Alternate views could be shouted down in an orgy of cultural relativism. Israel was revised as a colonial endeavour. Ostensibly ‘white’ Jews from Europe were colonising the area, the natives were Palestinians, with no recourse to any action other than violent protest – a patronising view shared both by cultural relativist post-colonialists and the old condescending Arabists in the British Empire. With no regard to the genetic roots of Ashkenazi Jews, conspiracies about Khazarian origins became more prevalent. Ashkenazi’s were not native; Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews were completed ignored, even as they were expelled from the surrounding Arab and North African countries following 1948.
This post-colonialist view simplifies communications; if it is from a Western source, it is one eyed and self-interested, nothing more than imperialist propaganda. If it is from the weak, un-empowered, or oppressed it is Truth. Such purity can be found in non-mainstream media sources such as Russia Today, Press TV and other extremely dubious propaganda channels of the corrupt ruling establishments.
If Israel had been created anywhere else in the world, Zionism may well have been considered colonialist; however, Jews of all kinds are native to the area and have been since the inception of the religion and even prior in the pre-religious phase. That they were forcibly dispersed repeatedly in what became known as the Diaspora; becoming lighter skinned in the colder climates of Europe, this was clearly not at the behest of the Jews.
The view in Western academia started to reflect the propaganda put out by the Soviet agency deigned to delegitimise Israel and continue to persecute the Jews, in the old manner of European anti-Semitism as espoused in the Protocols. This view was exported to the Middle East. Close relations with Ba’athist leaders and Pan Arab Nationalists such as Nasser during the Cold War gained a new audience for the oldest of anti-Semitic hatreds. Mahmoud Abbas, the now leader of the Palestinian Authority studied in Moscow in 1984, writing a dissertation describing how the Nazis and Zionists were inexplicably linked via the Haavara agreement (1933); itself nothing more than an idea on how to collect and contain Jews within a ghetto in preparation for extermination, as described in Mein Kampf in 1924. An idea that came to nothing and the slaughter was contained in Europe. Any opportunity for Zionists to save European Jews from Nazi brutality came to nought.
Abbas also went on to question the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust, revising the figure closer to 1 million and doubted the existence of the gas chambers. He considered Zionists as collaborators with the Nazis who were both working to the same ends. Well, to quote Ken Livingstone, until Hitler went mad and killed 6 million.
Anti-Semitism is prevalent throughout the Middle East. Most countries, apart from a small population in Iran, have persecuted and/or expelled their Jewish populations. Anti-Semitism is resurgent in the West. There is a concerted effort to make this view mainstream. In Malmo, Sweden, the populist mayor when told of the attacks and abuse Jews were facing from the new immigrants from the Middle East, they were told it was not his problem. In France there have been repeated attacks and murders of Jews, in the name of Israeli oppression. Jews living in Europe are citizens of their countries, they do not have a say in internal Israeli politics and you’ll often find disagreement with the direction Netanyahu is taking the country. You’ll find huge disagreement in Israel itself, as shown by the fragility of Netanyahu’s coalitions and internal protests.
In the UK, the Labour Party has voted in Jeremy Corbyn, an old activist from the Cold War unilateralism days. He has shared platforms with some of the most virulent racists and homophobes with the intention of opening doors for peace in Israel and Palestine. However, he does not share the views of the Israeli Labor Party, who are pro-peace, ‘two staters’ and prefers the company of unapologetic pro-Soviets such as Seumas Milne.
Milne, who set up the Comment Is Free section of the Guardian online newspaper, has a long back catalogue of post-colonialist and Marxist revisionist articles. In the unusual situation of having an audience, there has been a long drip of anti-Israel, anti-West and pro-Russia propaganda, building a rapport with some, but generally contempt with most outside of the far-left. Leaving the Guardian, he has taken up a position in the Labour leadership team in charge of communications. So what has been communicated since Corbyn’s inception as leader of the Labour Party? It has not been the policies and ideas that seemed to capture the imagination of Labour Party members with regards the rejuvenation of the UK, but rather a singular focus on issues not regarded as mainstream politics. Unilateral disarmament, open immigration (yet Corbyn is personally anti-EU) and now anti-Zionism – repackaged for a new generation – the old anti-Semitic Soviet arguments against Jewish self-determination. Cue excuses ranging from right-wing media, to internal revolts to lies, propaganda, conspiracy and stabs in the back.
The Labour Party is in disarray. With Tony Blair’s leadership, all opposition to leadership diktat was suppressed by Alistair Campbell, aside from the occasional maverick to provoke discussion, but nothing more. Stonewalling very much became the norm. The remnants of the Labour Party in Parliament are lightweight politicians, revelling in their new found freedom to rebel against the leadership, floating on the zeitgeist in an attempt to remain credible and relevant. Their opposition to the direction of the Labour Party is decried by members as treason; that opposing such outdated and racist views should be forever undermined and their authority to question removed.
In the meantime, Labour Party members who do not identify with the far-left or old Soviet propaganda are finding themselves defending anti-Semitic comments and attacking Israel, rather than enthusing on the new plans and the supposed new politics of the leader. Was this what they voted for?