Real far Left opposition to antisemitism
23 September 2009
The British far Left comprises many diverse groups, bitterly divided by ideological detail and factionism. There are, however, certain things upon which they all agree. And one of the things upon which they all agree: is that they all oppose antisemitism.
But wait, catch your breath and hold those hoots of derisive laughter for just one second...because there is actually one far Left group that consistently analyses the issue of antisemitism from a real world perspective. That group is Workers Liberty.
Workers Liberty understands antisemitism as a living, breathing, kicking phenomenon in which Jews - including Zionist and Israeli Jews - are real people, with real rights, and real fears. This does not prevent Workers Liberty from expressing solidarity with Palestinians. (And CST does not question its right to do so). Crucially, nor does it prevent Workers Liberty from regarding Zionists and Israelis as real human beings, rather than perverse dehumanised hate targets plucked straight from a Stalinist show trial.
The reaction of Workers Liberty to the growing anti-Israel boycott movement within the Trades Unions Congress displays its usual clarity on the contentious issues of antisemitism and its inbred cousin, anti-Zionism. The article as a whole may be read here. It includes the following:
...The bottom-line argument is that if a boycott gains real momentum, then - whatever the intentions of many of the trade unionists now voting for boycotts - it cannot fail to become a movement to target, shun, and penalise conspicuous Israel-linked people and pro-Israelis in Britain, i.e. Jews.
It cannot fail to boost the occasional pickets now mounted by anti-Israel enthusiasts against Marks and Spencer shops. The "official" reason for these pickets is links between Marks and Spencer bosses and Israel. In fact what singles out Marks and Spencer among High Street chains is that it is the one well known to have been founded by Jewish businessmen.
It cannot fail to revive the mood on university campuses which for many years, from the mid-1980s, led to student unions banning student Jewish societies on the grounds that they would not foreswear all links with Israel...
...The boycott proposal, by presenting the Israeli Jews as a "bad people", an illegitimate nation, a community to be shunned in a blanket fashion, functions as the thin end of the wedge for the idea that the Israeli Jews have no right of national self-determination, and that the Jews across the world who feel instinctive (though often critical) solidarity with Israel should be denounced as "Zionists". The term "Zionist" in this context bears the same emotional charge as "fascist" or "racist".
The TUC General Council statement overrode the FBU motion's demand for a consumer boycott of all Israeli goods, substituting a consumer boycott of goods from the Occupied Territories... But neither the TUC leaders' move to reduce it all to vague but safe impracticality, nor "Zionist"-baiting, is an answer.
What we need, and what would best help the Palestinians, is a difference [sic] campaign. One which makes the unions' two-states policy an active guide to solidarity - on the lines tentatively started by RMT in 2008-9 - rather than an abstract preamble to motions which go on to recommend nothing but vague lobbying of the Government and individual consumer choices. And one which decisively rejects the "Zionist"-baiters.