Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

March 13, 2009

Anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism, anti-Dogmatism

Filed under: Jewish question,zionism — louisproyect @ 6:41 pm

Ever since a pro-Palestinian movement began to take shape in the late 1960s, there has always been the false claim that anti-Zionism is just another form of anti-Semitism. Generally speaking, the approach has been to characterize opposition to Israel as the “new anti-Semitism”.

Apparently, the first attempt to make such an amalgam was made by French philosopher Pierre-André Taguieff in 1967. In a 2005 interview, he described anti-Zionism as a kind of communist conspiracy:

We are today in a convulsive context marked by two anti-Jewish configurations, which, since the autumn of 2000, through intolerable violence against Jewish institutions and individuals perceived as Jewish, feed the observable wave of Judeophobia in France as in other European countries. I specified two configurations. One is persistent, and well known: old anti-Semitism inherent to the extreme right, or xenophobic nationalism. The other is an emergent – and expanding one, whose main vectors are the propaganda of the radical Islamist networks and the demagogy of the new leftists: neo-Communists and neo-leftists, altermondialists [a French term that usually describes anti-globalizationists – Tr], Trotskyites and anarchists, all massively exploiting “the Palestinian cause”, celebrated as a “universal cause” by the extreme left. One can see there the new expression of the support of the Third World and revolutionary ideology. The Palestinian martyr replaces the proletarian struggle for a communist society.

So in other words, the “new anti-Semitism” (Taguieff prefers the word Judeophobia) boils down to anti-imperialist opposition to Israel. One can hardly imagine what form of solidarity with Palestinians would not invite this charge. Perhaps the only way to avoid it is to march in the Israeli day parades and join Hadassah.

Judeophobia, of course, is another way to refer to Jew-hatred, a term that is a bit hard to figure out. Let’s allow our friends in the American SWP to fill us in. In a May 15, 2006 Militant article titled “More middle-class radicals promote Jew-hatred”, we learn that blaming the Israeli lobby for American support for Israel is Jew-hatred. They single out Walt/ Mearsheimer and James Petras as prime examples but in a subsequent article the following are tarred with the “Jew-hatred” brush for simply entertaining the possibility that Walt/Mearsheimer were raising valid points, even if they overemphasized the role of the Israeli lobby: the CPUSA, the ISO, In these Times (a social democratic magazine) and Noam Chomsky. In other words, practically the entire left.

All this being said, there are manifestations of Judeophobia (a term I actually find more useful than either Jew-hatred or anti-Semitism) on the left broadly speaking. For example, Hamas did speak favorably of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in their founding statement. And James Petras, despite my admiration for much of what he writes about Latin America despite ultraleftist tendencies, does make me cringe when he uses the terms “Zionist lobby” and “Jewish lobby” interchangeably.

And then there’s good old Alexander Cockburn. I resubscribed to Counterpunch not long ago after noticing an absence of global warming denial articles by the co-editor. In a print article on the origins of the Federal Reserve, Cockburn referred favorably to a book titled “The Secrets of the Federal Reserve” by one Eustace Mullins. You can actually read this book online at cephas-library.com, a virtual treasure trove of anti-Semitic screeds. Cockburn casually mentions the fact that Mullins was commissioned to write the book by Ezra Pound who was in the loony bin at this point but did not connect the dots between Pound’s virulent anti-Semitism and Mullins’s ulterior motives. In an interview with the rancid rense.com website, Mullins disavows being an anti-Semite. His proof of this does not inspire confidence:

In 1810, the Rothschilds began to push for a country for the Jews, so they created a new brand of Judaism called Reform Judaism which would establish a new Jewish country, which is now Israel. Only the Rothschilds could do that because to create a worldwide movement costs a lot of money.

Theodor Herzl’s The Jewish State was originally called Address to the Rothschilds

They financed Karl Marx and the League of Just Men, too. They financed Judaism, Communism and Nazism. Their goal has been constant, and you can’t succeed unless you have goals.

Even though this sort of thing makes my flesh crawl, it seems quite unlikely that it is symptomatic of an anti-Semitic movement. Missing entirely from the SWP’s analysis is any engagement with the social and economic forces that led to the persecution of Jews in Czarist Russia or in Nazi Germany. Jews served the role of scapegoat in societies that were being torn apart by the contradictions of capitalism. As the crisis of capitalism is gathering steam today, it is abundantly clear that the role of scapegoat has been assigned in advance to immigrant workers, not the Jews. If you need any proof of that, just take a look what a genuine fascist group is saying about the Jews:

Belgium: Far-right party calls for Jewish support

One of the most successful extreme-Right leaders in Europe, Filip Dewinter, recently called on the Jewish public to join his campaign against radical Islam and support his party.

Dewinter heads Belgium’s Vlaams Belang party, which advocates strict limits on immigration and has been denounced as xenophobic.

The politician called Antwerp’s large Jewish community a natural partner “against the main enemy of the moment, radical Islamic fundamentalism,” according to a report in The Independent.

Vlaams Belang is expected to win at least one-third of the votes in regional elections in Belgium, which take place on Sunday. The expected success at the ballot box will make it the largest party in Antwerp, a city plagued by racial tensions and which has experienced race-related riots and murders this year. Antwerp has large Jewish and Muslim populations living side by side.

Dewinter rose to power by advocating strict limits on immigration, including the deportation of immigrants who fail to integrate. Recently he called for radical Islam to be denied official recognition and for its supporters to be denied Belgian nationality and possibly social security payments, according to The Independent.

Recently the SWP has taken things a step further. In an article in the edition dated March 2, 2009, party leader Norton Sandler stated:

Class-conscious workers should drop the term Zionism. There is no Zionist movement today. The reality is, it has become an epithet, not a scientific description; a synonym for ‘Jew’ that helps fuel Jew-hatred, which will rise as the capitalist crisis deepens.

This rather startling claim must be understood as the natural outgrowth of their obsession with “Jew-hatred”. If calling attention to the role of the Israeli lobby, even if on the mistaken basis that it is stronger than it actually is, is a form of anti-Semitism, then why not describe calling attention to the movement upon which the state of Israel is premised-Zionism-a form of anti-Semitism as well.

It is probably an exercise in futility to try to figure out how the SWP arrives at such peculiar ideas since it would involve getting inside the mind of cult leader Jack Barnes in the fashion of that movie “Being John Malkovich”. But you can find the same mindset at work when the Militant denounced protestors in Great Britain as “anti-American”. This tendency to draw a sharp distinction between less-than-perfect manifestations of anti-imperialism such as the kind mounted by Walt/Mearsheimer and a fully adumbrated Marxism was rejected by Lenin in a polemic with both Trotsky and Karl Radek.

On Easter Monday in 1916, 1200 members of the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army seized the General Post Office and other sites in Dublin in the hopes of sparking a general uprising.

The British crushed the rebellion. Nevertheless, it send a shiver of fear through the ruling classes of Europe who were in bloody midcourse of W.W.I. W.W.I was supported by most labor and socialist leaders and the Easter rebellion was a warning signal that the class-struggle would soon confront the imperialist warmakers and their socialist collaborators.

During W.W.I, the class-struggle left-wing of the socialist movement was debating issues of national self-determination. The issues raised by the Eastern rebellion became part of this debate. There were broadly speaking 3 positions within this left-wing grouping. One position as put forward by the Polish revolutionary Karl Radek maintained that “the right of self-determination…is a petty-bourgeois formula that has nothing in common with Marxism.” At the other pole was the position held by Lenin who argued that socialism was inconceivable “without revolts by small nations in the colonies and in Europe.” Trotsky held a position somewhere in the center between Radek and Lenin, stating that “the historical basis for a national revolution has disappeared even in backward Ireland.” Lenin took the position that the movement was progressive despite its “prejudices”:

On May 9, 1916, there appeared, in Berner Tagwacht, the organ of the Zimmerwald group, including some of the Leftists, an article on the Irish rebellion entitled “Their Song is Over” and signed with the initials K.R. [Karl Radek]. It described the Irish rebellion as being nothing more nor less than a “putsch”, for, as the author argued, “the Irish question was an agrarian one”, the peasants had been pacified by reforms, and the nationalist movement remained only a “purely urban, petty-bourgeois movement, which, notwithstanding the sensation it caused, had not much social backing…”

To imagine that social revolution is conceivable without revolts by small nations in the colonies and in Europe, without revolutionary outbursts by a section of the petty bourgeoisie without all its prejudices, without a movement of the politically non-conscious proletarian and semi-proletarian masses against oppression by the landowners, the church, and the monarchy, against national oppression, etc.–to imagine all this is to repudiate social revolution. So one army lines up in one place and says, “We are for socialism”, and another, somewhere else and says, “We are for imperialism”, and that will be a social revolution! Only those who hold such a ridiculously pedantic view would vilify the Irish rebellion by calling it a “putsch”.

Once upon a time, the SWP would have understood this. When Malcolm X first emerged as a spokesman of the Nation of Islam, the party did not allow the NOI’s prejudices stand in the way of recognizing Malcolm’s importance. Even after he broke with the NOI, he was still saying things that did not quite pass muster in terms of Marxist dialectics:

The number one weapon of 20th century imperialism is Zionist dollarism, and one of the main bases for this weapon is Zionist Israel. The ever-scheming European imperialists wisely placed Israel where she could geographically divide the Arab world, infiltrate and sow the seed of dissension among African leaders and also divide the Africans against the Asians.

If Walt/Mearsheimer were to be damned for exaggerating the role of the Israeli lobby, what are we then to make of Malcolm’s claim that the “number one weapon” of imperialism is Zionist dollarism? Obviously, unlike the SWP, most of us still have a grasp of reality and so we can answer this question with no difficulty. Both Walt/Mearsheimer and Malcolm X were correct to single out Zionism, but both lacked a fully developed Marxist analysis that would allow them to put it into the proper context. Malcolm might have arrived at this understanding if he had not been shot down in cold blood. Of course, the fact that he was evolving toward such an understanding is the very reason he was killed.


  1. And James Petras, despite my admiration for much of what he writes about Latin America despite ultraleftist tendencies, does make me cringe when he uses the terms “Zionist lobby” and “Jewish lobby” interchangeably.
    Finkelstein also speaks of a Jewish lobby, and says it is dishonest not to call it so; because, he says, mostly, the Israel lobby is Jewish, Christian fundamentalists notwithstanding.

    Comment by littlehorn — March 13, 2009 @ 7:31 pm

  2. This rather about the filosemitic tendencies within the left of germany, barabaric to say the least


    Comment by sebastian — March 13, 2009 @ 7:32 pm

  3. Just because Norman Finkelstein uses the term “Jewish lobby”, that does not help things. In general, we should avoid all amalgams between the Jews as a people and the state of Israel particularly in light of the following:

    Study: US Jews distance themselves from Israel

    Feelings of attachment to Israel declining among non-Orthodox American Jews, and are replaced by indifference and even alienation, study finds. Only 48% think Israel’s destruction would be a personal tragedy for them, only 54% ‘comfortable with the idea of a Jewish state’

    Young non-Orthodox US Jews are becoming increasingly lukewarm if not alienated in their support for Israel in a trend that is not likely to be reversed, according to a study released on Thursday.

    Blending into US society, including marriage to non-Jews and a tendency to look on Judaism more in religious terms than ethnic ones, is part of what’s happening, the study found.

    “For our parent’s generation, the question that mattered was, how do we regard Israel? For Generation Y (born after 1976) the question is indeed, why should we regard Israel?” said Roger Bennett, a vice president of The Andrea and Charles Bronfman philanthropies, which sponsored the study.

    “Until people recognize that a healthy and animated dialogue about Israel is the first step to a meaningful connection, the ‘Israel debate’ that takes place in America is liable to become moot well before Israel celebrates its 100th birthday,” he added.

    US support backed by a vocal and politically powerful Jewish lobby has been a key feature of the Jewish state’s success since its founding in 1948, an event that is widely backed by US Jews and non-Jews.

    But the study found that “feelings of attachment may well be changing as warmth gives way to indifference, and indifference gives way even to downright alienation.”

    The study found only 48% of US Jews under age 35 believe that Israel’s destruction would be a personal tragedy for them, compared to 77% of those 65 and older.

    In addition, only 54% of those under the age of 35 are “comfortable with the idea of a Jewish State” as opposed to 81% of those 65 and older.

    full: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3446492,00.html

    Comment by louisproyect — March 13, 2009 @ 7:40 pm

  4. That doesn’t sound right about Finkelstein; I’ve heard him speak a couple of times and have not heard reference to a Jewish Lobby. Petras et al are disappointed in him for his not lining up on the Lobby question. He would, of course, note its membership groups in relative terms, but only for the sake of precision.

    Comment by jp — March 13, 2009 @ 10:21 pm

  5. There is no such thing as a “Jewish lobby” or an “Israeli lobby” within the U.S ruling circles. Foreign policy, including relations with Israel, is based soley on the needs of capital. To speak of a “Jewish lobby” is a capitulation to anti-semitism, similar to like assertions that their is a “Jewish lobby” within the banking system and a “Jewish Lobby” within the mass media. It represents a retreat from the class-struggle perspective, in favor of a conspiracy theory-like assessment of current events. Finally, I do not believe the American SWP is “fixated” on Jew-hatred. Scapegoating of tje Jewish people is a certain reality, has always been a certain reality and will become even more of a certain reality as capitalism runs out of democratic options.


    Comment by dave — March 13, 2009 @ 11:20 pm

  6. Correct me if I’m wrong about this, but doesn’t the argument about the Zionist lobby concern the extent of their influence ON US ruling circles rather than within them? Surely no-one doubts the existence (and influence) of groups like AIPAC, particularly during major elections. After all, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama went out of their way to grovel before them last year…just as they both went on bent knees to the Gusano lobby’s get-together as well. However, due to America’s undemocratic electoral college, both groups can help determine election results in key “swing” states such as Florida. While Egypt and Saudi Arabia are certainly key allies of US imperialism in the Arab world, capitalist politicians don’t seem to think that the residents of Dearborn or Atlantic Avenue are going to play the same role in their respective states.

    Of course American imperialism’s staunch support of Israel stems from the role that the latter plays in the Middle East as a “watchdog” for its interests. No amount of votes, one way or the other, is going to alter that. Malcolm X was pretty much on the mark about Israel “divid(ing) the Africans against the Asians.” Darfur is a textbook example of that, only in Sudan they’re trying to divide the Africans against the Arabs, just as they’ve played a role in helping the US divide the Kurds from the Arabs in Iraq.

    And speaking of Iraq, the US invaded that country to steal its oil and to have a base to better dominate the region from, not because the Israeli tail pushed the US dog into it as some have actually asserted. That doesn’t mean that there are never differences between the two. The US, has, on occasion, even differed with the UK, as over Suez in 1956. There appears to be not a few red, white and blue America-first radicals who think that a bunch of foreigners has highjacked US foreign policy from Uncle Sam just as they thought that a small clique of :”neo-cons” had done the same under Bush and that, therefore, the best interests of the empire are not being taken into account.

    Comment by MN Roy — March 14, 2009 @ 12:30 am

  7. Certainly there are Jewish lobbyists, or lobbyists who are Jewish, but there is no “Jewish lobby” that exists apart, above and seperate from the capitalist class as a whole. There is no “Jewish lobby” that dictates to the sixty families whom to have friendly relations with and whom to go to war with. They would drop Israel like a hot potato if they thought there was money to be made, and would be more than happy to whip up anti-semitic propaganda campaign to go along with the change in overseas policy.

    Comment by dave — March 14, 2009 @ 12:52 am

  8. Re: comment No. 7:

    Surely you’re not saying that there is no Zionist lobby a la AIPAC whose reason d’etre is to influence US policy in a pro-Israeli direction. To acknowledge that this entity exists is not to imply that they “dictate” to the US ruling class who to support in the Middle East (or elsewhere) or what country to bomb or invade. To date US and Israeli ruling class interests have been pretty harmonious for the most part so we haven’t seen a real conflict between the two that would pit the Zionist lobby against the American capitalist class “as a whole.”

    Comment by MN Roy — March 14, 2009 @ 1:21 am

  9. Dave’s Marxism is pretty crude. Of course the interests of capital matter a great deal, but there are diverging interests within the bourgeoisie and their state is not some kind of computer that can calculate nothing other than the interests of a monolithic entity that is Big Money. Israel is not simply a Middle Eastern base of the American Empire, it is both an asset and liability to U.S. foreign policy and it has a complex and sometimes troubled relationship with the so-called realists in the State Dept. bureaucracy.

    Politicians do actually have deeply felt ideas that are (gasp!) independent of the immediate directives of capital, and it just so happens that a powerful idea in the American elite is that Israel is almost always right and reasonable and Palestinians are almost always wrong and irrational. The Ultra-Zionist lobby AKA the Baruch Goldstein Memorial Circle Jerk, reinforces that belief with its money, its GOTV and its media outreach.

    The same is true of the Miami Lobby. Do you think corporate America really gives a rat’s ass about Cuba policy? Not unless you believe Cuba is an ember of revolution that will someday ignite a world-wide rebellion of the working class…which you probably DO believe, but that’s another story.

    The bottom line is that anti-Semites will quite naturally take advantage of the I-P conflict because anti-Semites hate Jews and Zionism is a Jewish movement. The solution is to topple and bury anti-Semitism, thereby forever disentangling it from our righteous advocacy of the Palestinian cause.

    Comment by AJ — March 14, 2009 @ 4:31 am

  10. Just because Norman Finkelstein uses the term “Jewish lobby”, that does not help things. In general, we should avoid all amalgams between the Jews as a people and the state of Israel particularly in light of the following:

    By this standard, One should avoid referring to Christian Fundamentalist groups because there are plenty of christians who disagree with these rightwing nitwits.

    Just because one uses term Jewish Lobby is not the sign that one is an anti semite. I know Finkelstein refers to this lobby as Jewish Lobby, or Zionist Lobby or Israel Lobby. One can use a generalized term like Jewish Lobby without meaning that all Jews are united in pushing through a certain set of policies.

    The so called Jewish Lobby or Israel Lobby is just one faction of US Ruling Class. Unlike British Empire at it’s Commercial and Imperial acme there is no mechanism in US Ruling Classes that a certain broad consensus exist on how to run empire. What you have is various factions vie for power, influence in pushing through certain sets of policies. Other factions don’t care much unless one particular policy is harming them and threatening them.

    This is the reason why US still goes along with Israel on the question of Settlements. No major US Imperial interest is served by supporting Israel while it gradually steals palestinian lands. But US Still supports this . This is solely because of Lobby.

    The british ruling class was different from this in the sense that the ruling class there was quite homogeneous. Doug Henwood recently said something like this.

    Comment by Ajit — March 14, 2009 @ 5:40 am

  11. Israel is the tail (or one of many tails), not the dog. The left’s fixation with Israel assumes otherwise. Israel is a tiny state that is under the domination of U.S. capital interests as much as Saudi Arabia.

    I have no use for people who discuss Israel as an arbiter of US foreign policy. It is concept straight from the Elders of Zion, and such nonsense.

    The U.S. ruling class finds Israel useful, for now. That’s all.

    Comment by purple — March 14, 2009 @ 8:46 am

  12. That doesn’t sound right about Finkelstein; I’ve heard him speak a couple of times and have not heard reference to a Jewish Lobby.

    I know. That’s why I remember it so well. It sounded so weird that it would come from Mister Finkelstein, aka Mister Let’s Keep Our Cool and Not Use Propaganda Terms like IOF.

    Just to make sure I haven’t dreamt when I heard this, I searched “Jewish Lobby” on NormanFinkelstein.com. Here’s one result that is emblematic. This is Uri Avnery writing:
    The findings of the two professors are right to the last detail. Every Senator and Congressman knows that criticizing the Israeli government is political suicide. Two of them, a Senator and a Congressman, tried – and were politically executed. The Jewish lobby was fully mobilized against them and hounded them out of office. This was done openly, to set a public example. If the Israeli government wanted a law tomorrow annulling the Ten Commandments, 95 Senators (at least) would sign the bill forthwith.

    Again, the Jewish lobby.

    I do think that ‘Jewish lobby’ is a dangerous and equivocal denomination, and requires clarification; hence, Louis thought I meant all Jews support that lobby; but I only referred to Finkelstein to show that it’s not just Petras using the term. I agree that it’s clumsy.

    “It represents a retreat from the class-struggle perspective, in favor of a conspiracy theory-like assessment of current events.”

    There is a reality to Jews favoring Jews over non-Jews, and that might explain why people fall for conspiracy theories. To simply say that it’s not worthy of us will not make that reality go away. You need to adress and condemn it first. Here’s an old post from someone you might know:
    In a letter to Rabbi Shim’on Weiser, an Israeli soldier asked, “In one of the discussions in our group, there was a debate about the ‘purity of weapons’ and we discussed whether it was permissible to kill unarmed men — or women and children?” The Rabbi replied:

    The non-Jewish nations have a custom according to which war has its own rules, like those of a game, like the rules of football or basketball. But according to the sayings of our sages, of blessed memory, … war for us is not a game but a vital necessity, and only by this standard must we decide how to wage it. On the one hand … we seem to learn that if a Jew murders a Gentile, he is regarded as a murderer and, except for the fact that no court has the right to punish him, the gravity of the deed is like that of any other murder. But we find in the very same authorities in another place … that Rabbi Shim’on used to say: ‘The best of Gentiles — kill him; the best of snakes — dash out its brains.’

    The Halakhah declares that sexual intercourse between a married Jewish woman and any man other than her husband is a capital offense for both parties, and one of the most heinous sins. The Halakhah views all Gentiles as promiscuous and declares that the verse “whose flesh is as the flesh of asses, and whose issue [semen] is like the issue of horses” accurately describes them.

    The Halakhah, which of course predates the formation of the state of Israel, had laws which fit neatly into the exclusionary policies of the Jewish state. It states:

    When the Jews are more powerful than the Gentiles we are forbidden to let an idolator among us; even a temporary resident or itinerant trader shall not be allowed to pass through our land unless he accepts the seven Noahide precepts, for it is written: they shall not dwell in thy land, that is, even temporarily.

    Jewish ideology is not emancipatory. It is shot through with strictures such as the ones above. When Jews were poor and powerless living in the shtetls of Eastern Europe, the Halakhah had little impact on the conduct of their daily lives of Gentiles. In Israel today, the Jewish state has a modern army and air force and is backed to the hilt by US imperialism and can put the poisonous strictures of the Halakhah into practice.

    Comment by littlehorn — March 14, 2009 @ 11:53 am

  13. There is a responsibility for the Zionists, the Jewish, the Israelis and the German/European Jews to clarify who they are so they can be held responsible for the blacklisting of those who would question the right of anyone to inflict inhumane conditions on civilian populations while denying, at the same time, the existence of a situation desperately requiring humanitarian aid.

    Some say that to be against disproportionate violence makes one an anti-Semite or anti-American for that matter.

    Comment by Glenn — March 15, 2009 @ 12:13 am

  14. I thought you overall made some good points.

    I also cringe when someone says Jewish Lobby.

    I have trouble with some leftys, who view Israel as a monolith, free of dialectics.

    The SWP also opposes the EFCA (Employee Free Choice Act), because it’s a conspiracy to collect union dues.

    Comment by Renegade Eye — March 15, 2009 @ 4:05 am

  15. what the hell happened to the SWP?

    Comment by SGuy — March 15, 2009 @ 7:39 am

  16. Louis,

    “The Jewish Lobby” is an odious and mistaken term, born in part of a too-quick inversion of Zionism’s equation of itself with true Jewishness; cf. “the Jewish state.” Using “The Jewish Lobby” as a pejorative is simultaneous racist and a ceding of ground to the Zionists—nasty and stupid on both counts. It’s interesting to think about what the response must be from “the Zionist lobby”: “But that’s anti-Semitic! we lobby for Israel, not for all Jews, and to equate Israel with all Jews is rank bigotry! Uh, wait a minute, let me get back to you.”

    Using the term “Jewish Lobby” is something like calling Zionists “Nazis,” as if Naziism were, for all time, the transcendent definition of evil, without which we can’t even begin to make a moral and political argument. This makes for an easy Zionist riposte: anything short of Auschwitz (say, the Gaza Massacre) becomes A-OK.

    Louis, your prosecution of Alexander Cockburn here leaves something to be desired: because he referred to Eustace Mullins, and Mullins was a Jew-hater, Cockburn is therefore a Jew hater, or a fellow traveler? If this logic holds, you should probably avoid referring to Marx in the future, given his reference to Jews as blackheads caught in the festering pores of capitalism. Your argument is particularly slippery, since Cockburn takes care to note Mullins’s Jew-Hating:

    “Jekyll Island was where the ultimate bankers’ plot, the Federal Reserve, was hatched. Almost exactly 98 years before my visit, on the night of November 22, 1910, “a group of newspaper reporters stood disconsolately in the railway sta¬tion at Hoboken, New Jersey. They had just watched a delegation of the nation’s leading financiers leave the station on a secret mission.” Thus began the dra¬matic account by Eustace Mullins, whose book Secrets of the Federal Reserve, was commissioned by the poet Ezra Pound in 1948, when he was confined as a po¬litical prisoner at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Washington, D.C. (a federal mad¬house) for making broadcasts in favor of Mussolini during the war. Before the war FDR himelf had been a keen admirer of Il Duce, corresponding with him amiably. Mullins held the foolish belief that the Rothschilds controlled everything, but he also put together plenty of useful information in a very entertaining way.” (Counterpunch, print edition, 16.1).

    Comment by Jim Holstun — March 15, 2009 @ 3:03 pm

  17. I didn’t mention this in the article above, but I also found Alexander’s reference to Paul Warburg’s “grating” accent more than a bit off-putting. I personally like the sound of a Yiddish accent.

    In any case, I have been concerned about a certain insensitivity toward “the Jewish question” on Counterpunch in the past. Some years ago there was an article by Alan Cabal that appeared in the print edition that described Ernest Zundel as a victim of a witch-hunt without mentioning his neo-Nazi politics. You can read it here: http://www.historiansbehindbars.com/amspress.html

    Then, there is this item by Tony Greenstein that should be noted:


    Comment by louisproyect — March 15, 2009 @ 3:16 pm

  18. To littlehorn’s comment above @ #12:

    Cynthia McKinney & Earl Hilliard are democratic examples of what happens when you defy the existing regime. Jim Moran is another who apologized and barely kept his job; only imo because he is a pro-business, inside the beltway, DLC democrat unlike the previous two.

    Comment by m.c. — March 15, 2009 @ 8:50 pm

  19. When Jews identify as Jews in pursuit of self-perceived Jewish interests, and when this pursuit causes and justifies abominations, ought not this behavior be addressed on its own terms? Israeli behavior is the single great wellspring of 21st century anti-semitism. Whatever mitigates Israeli behavior serves to mitigate anti-semitism. Whatever inhibits American support for Israeli impunity serves to mitigate anti-semitism. From my perspective, that includes calling the lobby what it is. Certainly not exclusively Jewish. But certainly Jewish enough.

    Comment by J. Marlin — March 16, 2009 @ 5:01 pm

  20. J. Marlin, I’m sorry but your view is bullshit. Are black people “responsible” for racism against them because some of them commit violence against others?

    Louis, regardless of theoretical issues about what anti-Zionism means, the fact remains that there is a significant amount of anti-Semitism in the left. This is much worse in Europe, and I was shocked to see it going on during a recent trip abroad. Typical op-eds in the Guardian and other left-wing newspapers in Britain were completely one-sided in their view of Israel, with all condemnation going to Israel and none to Hamas — and often these pieces were accompanied by openly anti-Semitic drawings equating the Star of David with a Nazi swastika or similar things. These same op-eds often railed against the “Israel lobby” and evil neo-cons and such in the U.S., which made me wonder — why no similar animus towards the “Arab lobby” (or whatever) in Europe, which is certainly far stronger there than any “Israel lobby”, and not any prettier in what it advocates for?

    As long as the left continues to heap up strident and one-sided criticism of Israel, anti-Semitism will surely follow in its wake. By logic, the more strident your criticism is of any matter whatsoever, the *greater* should be your concern about potential unintended racism you may be committing and about misappropriation of your views by others for racist ends. This should apply all the more given the left’s self-appointed position as the vanguard against racism. Yet what I am seeing on the left is very little self-examination of all the anti-Israel criticism and a strong tendency to claim in response to any accusation of anti-Semitism that the accusant is merely trying to suppress one’s freedom of speech.

    Comment by benw — March 17, 2009 @ 4:09 am

  21. benw,

    your post is intelligent and insightful. Modern anti-Semitism has its own genealogy and antecedents (medieval religious hatred of Jews, etc.), but I think ultimately it is expressive of a truncated critique of capitalism.

    In his critique of political economy – his towering achievement – Marx analyzed modern society as characterized by the mediation of social life by abstract forms, rather than displaying the personal relations of domination and power characteristic of previous class societies. Capitalism is the first mode of production in which class relations are mediated impersonally – through the form of value, the state, socially constructed forms of identity such as race and gender – rather than personally.

    Ideologies such as anti-Semitism are ultimately attempts to find “guilty parties” for the ills of capitalism. Anti-Zionism (as opposed to Non-Zionism, a distinction that Moshe Zuckermann makes that I find very useful) represents the transference of this personalization onto a geopolitical level. It’s ultimately a moralistic attempt to divide the world into “good” states and “bad” states.

    We need less moralism (Petras, Finkelstein, et al.) and more Marxism.

    Comment by negative potential — March 17, 2009 @ 8:46 am

  22. This is much worse in Europe, and I was shocked to see it going on during a recent trip abroad. Typical op-eds in the Guardian and other left-wing newspapers in Britain were completely one-sided in their view of Israel, with all condemnation going to Israel and none to Hamas — and often these pieces were accompanied by openly anti-Semitic drawings equating the Star of David with a Nazi swastika or similar things.

    Really ? I don’t know where you have been, in Europe. I live in France, and the media coverage was just like you wanted: “balanced”, half half, no taking of sides. As for the equating of the Star of David with a Nazi swastika, I again would like to see in which newspaper you’ve seen this. This certainly appeared in demonstrations, of that I am sure. But on newspapers, I don’t remember having heard anything like this.

    More importantly, Israel has launched this offensive all on its own, against a truce proposal by the Hamas just a few days prior to that. Israel had attacked Hamas on november 6th, and thereafter the rocket barrage resumed, killing no one. Israel had drawn up plans for this invasion more than 6 months before; one Israeli Knesset Member, Yuval Steiniz, said eight to nine months. In other words, the whole thing was Israel’s choosing. It is therefore Israel that is to blame, entirely. Not Hamas, not Fatah, Israel.

    Here’s a comment from a guy nicknamed Aaron, on why we are so fixated on Israel:

    Hi Nutella,

    In answer to your question, I think there are three reasons why (some) people focus on Israel.

    (1) A hypothesis about causation. If Palestinians’ rights weren’t being violated–meaning practically, if they weren’t being forced to live in squalor with high rates of malnutrition–by Israelit security and economic policy, then they wouldn’t be lobbing rockets. Partisans of Israel tend to respond that they would be lobbing rockets betcause Hamas/Arabs are intrinsically anti-Semitic, i.e. they “want to kill Jews.” I guess one just has to decide which model is more plausible. They’re not mutually exclusive, but the causal inference in the first case implies that Israel has the power to alter the situation. Leading us to…

    (2) Power. While it is certainly true that both a king an a pauper can both be morally corrupt, most people agree that a corrupt king is worse. When rulers sinned in classical literature, their divine punishment was visited on the whole city. By inference this should mean that the more powerful party to a conflict has greater ability, thus responsibility to resolve it. Israel lifting its siege and abandoning its settlement policy would significantly increase the caloric intake of the Palestinian poulation (those west bank settlements are generally built on Palestinian farmland). Plausible argument to be made that this would have an impact on rocket launches. Consider for example that they are manufactured in foundries that might otherwise be turning out actual industrial goods or consumer products if Gaza’s economy weren’t destroyed by the Israeli siege.

    (3) Israel was created by the suffrance of the international community, in part because the Jews successfully argued that a great wrong had been done to them by European powers (who bankrolled the first few decades of its existence). This is an extraordinary circumstance for the creation of a state, and while any lasting responsibility to the rule of law between nations is a bit ambiguous, it does seem suggestive that the very transnational ethical system that Zionists appealed to back when it suited their interests has been systematically ignored or even scoffed at by them since 1967. This strikes some people as hypocritical.

    Comment by littlehorn — March 17, 2009 @ 5:54 pm

  23. These same op-eds often railed against the “Israel lobby” and evil neo-cons and such in the U.S., which made me wonder — why no similar animus towards the “Arab lobby” (or whatever) in Europe, which is certainly far stronger there than any “Israel lobby”, and not any prettier in what it advocates for?

    Again, this is weird. There are certainly organizations for Palestinian self-determination, and these work through peaceful means to oppose Israel; at least as far I know, and I’ve been looking for quite a while. But to claim that there is an Arab lobby that is stronger than the Zionist one, that takes balls, huge balls.

    As long as the left continues to heap up strident and one-sided criticism of Israel, anti-Semitism will surely follow in its wake. By logic, the more strident your criticism is of any matter whatsoever, the *greater* should be your concern about potential unintended racism you may be committing and about misappropriation of your views by others for racist ends.

    “A potential unintended racism you may be committing.”

    This leaves Zionists in charge of “determining” whether their political opponents have antisemitic thoughts. Shouldn’t we circumscribe ourselves to the actual content of everyone’s public position and statements, rather than the mind-reading you’re advocating ?

    Comment by littlehorn — March 17, 2009 @ 6:48 pm

  24. littlehorn writes:

    “Shouldn’t we circumscribe ourselves to the actual content of everyone’s public position and statements”

    Good idea. Let’s start with the Hamas charter:

    “For a long time, the enemies have been planning, skillfully and with precision, for the achievement of what they have attained…. With their money, they took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world… They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money they formed secret societies, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests.”

    Not only an anti-Semitic organization, but anti-communist as well.

    Communists seek the abolition of the commodity-form and the state. Hamas seeks to organize and maintain commodity production and a state on a particular patch of land. Israel as a rival nationalism maintains its own state sovereignty and commodity production on the same patch of land. What exists is a conflict between two rival nationalisms, with the civilian population on both sides as cannon fodder. One of the rival nationalisms has the fortune of being assisted by the global capitalist superpower, while the other nationalism can only rely upon regional powers for support, and hence the conflict is asymmetrical, tending to produce more civilian casualties on one side.

    The task of communists is, on the basis of the critique of political economy and the crtique of other reified forms of social mediation, to explain things in these terms. The task of communists is *not* to play the game of state with the territorial claims of aspiring or existing national collectives.

    Comment by negative potential — March 18, 2009 @ 1:16 am

  25. Just happens to…. what a remarkably glib way of describing the situation, and you dont use the term Zionism once! This isn’t communism your spouting this is the typical ‘everyones to blame’ political critique which the not so political seem to think is so sophisticated.

    Comment by SGuy — March 18, 2009 @ 4:16 am

  26. If I don’t use the term Zionism, then that is because it has become a swear word among bourgeois moralists such as yourself. The nation-state is the political-territorial form concomitant to generalized commodity production. Only anti-communists like yourself divide the world into “good” and “bad” nationalism.

    Comment by negative potential — March 18, 2009 @ 8:30 am

  27. The task of communists is, on the basis of the critique of political economy and the crtique of other reified forms of social mediation, to explain things in these terms. The task of communists is *not* to play the game of state with the territorial claims of aspiring or existing national collectives.
    If I don’t use the term Zionism, then that is because it has become a swear word among bourgeois moralists such as yourself. The nation-state is the political-territorial form concomitant to generalized commodity production. Only anti-communists like yourself divide the world into “good” and “bad” nationalism.

    So Hamas is anti-communist. What is your point ? Do we have to side against it, because they don’t like us ? Because we’re not 100% in agreement ? Certainly, you know that Hamas has done a lot more for the people of Palestine, through their resistance and their social efforts, than the comparatively more left-wing, well-off and corrupt, collaborating Fatah. I say that so long as there’s an occupation, all questions of ideology are to be put aside. I see Palestine getting a State, even if Hamas is in charge, only as a first step. As Immortal Technique said of the poor in America, in the song Poverty of Philosophy:
    Most of my Latino and black people who are struggling to get food, clothes and shelter in the hood are so concerned with that, that philosophising about freedom and socialist democracy is usually unfortunately beyond their rationale.

    So it is with Palestinians.

    Comment by littlehorn — March 18, 2009 @ 9:31 am

  28. A swear word? …. yes rather then deal with an important issue just make a slur then run away. Good one negpo, by the way familair at all with lenin and self determination? I wonder if you think Lenin was an anti-communist.

    Comment by SGuy — March 18, 2009 @ 10:42 am

  29. The aim deserving our primary focus is the complete and final end of the occupation, successive invasions, and related impositions. The key to that outcome seems to me to reside here, rather than there. As long as American middle east policy is captive to the Israeli interest, the lock is jammed. Therefore, Americans who place Israeli interests above American interests by facilitating the occupation and the invasions should be inhibited in this activity by all legal and ethical means. Their behavior must be accurately identified as objectively at-odds with our shared obligation to the protection American life and national wellbeing. Should the success of such efforts cause Israeli advocates to fear a surge of anti-militarism, or anti-Evangelical fervor, okay by me. Should such people worry about a rising tide of popular anti-Zionism, so much the better. Under these circumstances, those equating Jewish identify with Zionism might be seen as provoking American anti-semitism. To the extent that Jews repudiate historic Israeli policies and methods – out of conscience or caution – a decent resolution may become possible. Until then the lock will surely remain jammed.

    Comment by J. Marlin — March 18, 2009 @ 10:30 pm

  30. Marlin above says that the hijacking of US policy by Zionisits is “at odds with our shared obligation to the protection American life and national wellbeing….” but I don’t even know what that means?

    Like a Jack Barnes sermon bordering on a bizzare form of disgusting patriotism it sounds like a cross between Michael Moore’s F911 movie wondering why there’s not more cops protecting Oregon’s coastline & the indignation over the wasted lives of “our troops” in a Militant article insisting that it’s just finally “NOW” time to demand the withdrawal of all US Troops from Iraq.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — March 31, 2009 @ 4:54 am

  31. On this debate about lobbies. I’ve always thought that one feature of US politics has been the importance of ethnic lobbies within the domestic political system (the irish, the italians etc). This importance was given new prominance during the cold war because of the US ruling class seeing advantages in allowing off-sure organising centre both for reactionary regimes and reactionary exile groups (the cubans for example). Its within this larger picture that something like a Jewish Lobby exists and, I think, been the subject of perfectly mainstream uncontroversial studies of the workings of the domestic political system. I don’t think Anti-semitic tendencies can be identified on the basis of the use of terms like “Jewish” or “Zionist” or “Lobby” particularly not when in other contexts these are actually self-descriptions. Surely its the context in which these words are used that matters. Sticking to precise organisations and actual policies pursued is reasonable I would have thought. But I’ve always believed that the relationship between the US State and the Cuban lobby is a good parrallel. Some might argue that the Cuban lobby represents policies inimicable to the interests of the US. Others might think this involves confusions about the goals and basis of US foreign policy. I don’t think the argument is in principle different. Lobbies tend to be as influential as they’re allowed to be. I think the US State has many good reasons to allow lobbies supportive of the most Hawk-like policies some prominance. Of course this general interest can sometimes be contradicted by particular situations, producing controversy inside the ruling class (its no co-incidence to me that Mearsheimer’s book came out in the midst of disasters produced by hawkish policies).

    Comment by johng — March 31, 2009 @ 4:26 pm

  32. sorry thats off-shore organising centres.

    Comment by johng — March 31, 2009 @ 4:27 pm

  33. Today in the State of Israel and among Jewish around the world, even previously secular Jewish are found turning away from the egregious policies and actions of the Zionist government. Even among soldiers of rank in the Zionist-gov, there are growing numbers calling themselves “Breaking the Silence” that will no longer serve or become involved in the immoral and illegal acts against common Palestinians.

    I encourage everyone, no longer fall into the Zionist trap, the trap of confusing Zionist error with the true and peaceful Jewish, especially those obedient to G_d and Torah. No longer be fooled by Zionism trying to associate themselves with the Biblical Jewish. Let Zionist error suffer from Zionist error, but no longer say that Zionist error is Jewish error. Thank the Jewish of peace such as those that have lived in Palestine since 70AD, living in peace with their Arab/Muslim neighbor’s. Thank the true Jewish around the world for their G_d given talents and contributions.

    These are not the egregious Zionists, so place blame for error where it belongs, and leave the good name of Jewish out of discussions about Zionism.

    Comment by DeWayne — April 4, 2009 @ 8:43 pm

  34. What is Zionism and Anti-Semitism?

    1. Could you please define and distinguish who are the Semites?
    2. Generally speaking where do these Semites reside i.e. countries or territories?
    3. Under what law, moral or what authority gives or makes the Semites more superior to non-Semites?
    4. Why is “anti-Semitism” the most condemned sin of the century?
    5. Why is anti-Arabism, anti-Islamism not also equally condemned as the sin of the century like “anti-Semitism” is, as has been mentioned above?

    Comment by Cheri Clements — January 20, 2012 @ 2:42 pm

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