Left anti-semitism and ultra-left purism by Jay Knott (11/25/08) ⇌ (The Mass Psychology Pamphlet)
A letter to Communicating Vessels
19 November 2008
Dear Communicating Vessels,
I read with interest the article Are We All Hamas and Hezbollah? - A Critical Look at the Left's Flirtation with Islamic Fundamentalism in issue 19 of your magazine.
I enclose my new pamphlet The Mass Psychology of Anti-Fascism, which comes to conclusions diametrically opposed to yours. Instead of dismissing Mearsheimer and Walt's 2007 bestseller The Israel Lobby as a 'conspiracy theory', as you do, I rely on it to explain US Middle East policy. In truth, they do not describe the Lobby as a conspiracy. In fact, the Lobby is mostly legal and fairly open. When you state that Mearsheimer and Walt's viewpoint is 'fragmentary', you are just using a piece of ultra-left jargon to avoid the issue. Whether you believe the US political system is supposed to serve capitalist interests, or the interests of 'the people' as Mearsheimer and Walt believe, the Israel Lobby's power is a separate question.
You do have a point when you say that America would still bomb other countries without the influence of the Lobby. But understanding the Lobby is key to understanding why America bombs particular countries and not others. If US Middle East policy is not driven by US capitalist interests, but by Israel's, we have some chance of changing it, rather than complaining about how fragmentary it is.
Worse, you give various hints in your article that you buy the idea that critics of the Israel Lobby are closet anti-semites. 'By monomanically focusing on Israel, Saudi Arabia and America are taken off the hook'. In my pamphlet, I parody the 'taken off the hook' argument, and demolish the followers of Noam Chomsky, whose love of Israel and hatred of America is so pathological they claim that in 2006, the USA 'goaded' Israel into attacking Lebanon in order to stir up hatred against itself and take the heat off Uncle Sam. You endorse this perspective at the end of your article when you recommend the Zionist magazine Tikkun's 'rebuttal' of The Israel Lobby.
In issue 20, you uncritically published a letter from the anarchists of The Fifth Estate claiming that there is such a thing as 'left anti-semitism'. This how Zionists smear critics of Israel. In the USA, the left is pro-semitic. America's support for Israel is itself pro-Jewish racism (contrast its sanctions against South Africa) and its political atmosphere, including the left, anarchists and the ultra-left, is permeated by that form of racism. Mention the Lobby and watch the accusations fly.
Like you, I attended the demonstrations against the Lebanon war, but reached opposite conclusions about what was wrong with them. The protests in Portland and Seattle were smaller than usual. The rent-a-mob anarchists who usually show up at anti-war demos were missing. These protests consisted mostly of well-dressed Lebanese families, unsupported by Americans, politely complaining about cluster-bombs raining on their homeland. There was very little of the traditional leftist tail-ending of 'anti-imperialist' movements. Like you, I reject anti-imperialism - in a nutshell, because poor people have no interest in fighting and dying for these movements, who only end up exploiting them. I also agree with your criticism of Islamic martyrdom – but doesn't it miss the point – what would make someone want to be a suicide bomber? However, I disagree with you about American leftists supporting Islamic fundamentalism. They do not support Hezbollah, even verbally, the way some of them supported the Viet Cong. This is not a positive development – the grip of Zionism is so strong, the left daren't follow the logic of its own position! Telling leftists not to support anti-imperialist fighters is a waste of time, like telling the Pope not to be a Catholic – unless those fighters are fighting Israel.
The only form of overt racism tolerated, and actively promoted, by the USA, and all other Western countries today, is Zionism. This is true both in the Middle East and at home. The question of Israel and its influence cannot be avoided by mixing left communist truisms with Zionist fiction.
More about the 'Communicating Vessels' article can be found on this ultra-left website
along with a standard knee-jerk description of Israel as a US 'client state'.
Ultra-leftists spend a lot of their efforts trying to correct the left's habit of supporting anything which moves. In the sixties, some leftists shouted 'Victory to the NLF', the ruling party of North Vietnam. Ultra-leftists rightly point out that this was a mistake. Just because a movement opposes US imperialism doesn't mean it's any good. Today, the equivalent would be to cheer on Hamas and Hezbollah (no leftists are quite brave, consistent and stupid enough to support the forces fighting the Americans in Afghanistan!). Ultra-leftists rightly point out that the poor oppressed proletarians of the world have no interest in fighting for any of their bosses.
So far, so good. But the ultra-left can make the opposite mistake to the left, supporting the powers that be instead of their opponents. An apposite example is the rapid degeneration of the long-standing anarchist collective who produce the magazine The Fifth Estate. During the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, they were so determined not to be tainted with the left's sympathy for Serbia, they effectively supported the other side, uncritically repeating the International Criminal Court's charges against Serbian politicians. Anyone who doubted these charges they denounced as holocaust deniers. Later, the headman of this egalitarian anarchist collective campaigned for the Democrats in the 2000 general election, and more recently, some of its lesser souls have expressed their concern about 'left anti-semitism'.
The logic is clear: when the world capitalist system commits some particularly gruesome crime, like melting Palestinian babies with phosphorus bombs, there is a great temptation to put aside one's differences with whomever opposes the party dropping the phosphorus bombs. In this case, there is a danger of compromising with Islamic fundamentalism. This is what the left do, and ultra-leftists have a duty to point out that all capitalist forces are the same. While the left point to the crimes of the Jewish state of Israel, the ultra-left warn of the danger of anti-semitism.
The most coherent example I've seen can be found here:
The authors try to distinguish their critique of left anti-semitism from that of the powerful Zionist pressure group the Anti-Defamation League. The difference is, they claim, that the ADL attempt to paint all criticism of Israel as anti-semitic, and thus silence all dissent. The ultra-lefties, on the other hand, only attempt to paint any concern with the issue of the Israel Lobby as anti-semitic, and thus silence some dissent. The article explains how they persuaded some contributors to amend their articles so they no longer referred to 'the powerful US Jewish economic lobby', and 'as moderators of this forum we've had to unpublish comments...'.
Now, suppose contributors, instead of referring to the Jewish economic lobby, complained about the powerful traditional White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, who, according to some lefty types, run the USA. I bet the moderators would not react in the same way. They would say something along the lines of 'capitalism has a history of white racism, and the WASP elite is a reality, however, it is not particularly important; what really matters is for workers to unite as a class against the capitalists of all colors and creeds'. In other words, a reasonable answer to a reasonable argument. But substitute Jews for WASPs, and reason goes out the window.
Yet the USA does have a powerful wealthy Jewish elite. It has no history of anti-semitism (can anyone name a single lynching of a Jew in the whole history of America?).
So the concept of a Jewish elite should be treated the same way as the concept of a white elite. One may argue that it is not particularly important, but getting hysterical about it and suppressing debate is inappropriate and does the dirty work of the Anti-Defamation League. Why the disparity? Why treat one reasonable argument about a powerful ethnic minority differently to another such argument? This is discrimination - pro-Jewish racism. This is what paralyzes opposition to Israeli apartheid. Most of the ultra-left, with a few noble exceptions, can't see this; it is worse than useless:
'Every qassam rocket and IDF shell brings neither safety nor community nor freedom'
I hope I don't need to spell out why this plaintive lamentation makes me heave.
It is not left anti-semitism which killed the children of Gaza - it is pro-semitism, the powerful sympathy for the Jews which permeates Western society.
Scratch an anarchist...
Well, there I was, in the middle of a debate on the web forum libcom.org, arguing that racism in Israel is much worse than racism in other Western countries, when I was banned, on the grounds that I am an apologist for neo-Nazis.
After banning me from contributing, one of the libcom hacks claimed that I don't really believe in freedom of speech, we just use the 'strategy' of presenting both sides of an issue as a way of making it look like we believe in free speech.
I thought I'd parodied that argument to death in 'The Mass Psychology of Anti-Fascism':
'Playing into the hands of people who hide behind freedom of speech to preach intolerance'
But there's no parody like an unconscious parody. The libcommisars believe that people who defend and practice freedom of speech are closet totalitarians, whereas those who ban people from replying to their arguments, and delete entire websites containing twenty-five years of revolutionary content - http://f.acetio.us/wildcat - are the real freedom-lovers. Eat your heart out, George Orwell!
It's not just anarchists who make the mistake of buying into a self-confirming theory. A scientific theory, in other words, a statement which might be true, is in principle open to being proven false. If you always interpret arguments against your theory in terms of that theory, you have fallen into a trap. For example, some religious people believe the evidence for evolution was put there by the Devil to lead us away from the Bible. For anti-fascists, if I, and other defenders of logic, truth and freedom, put forward reasonable arguments against anti-fascism, they think I'm just using a 'strategy' to cover up my fascist leanings. Any evidence against their beliefs can be explained away as part of a conspiracy to discredit them. Smarter readers, such as Marxists, will probably detect the influence of Karl Popper - they too can fall into the trap - for example, by dismissing his argument as 'bourgeois' and so on. The scientific method also implies that holocaust revisionism should not be dismissed out of hand. Few have the brains to see this; fewer have the balls to say it.
The libcommies pressurized an ultra-leftist webmaster to remove the contents of Wildcat, a revolutionary journal, from a website he runs, because I wrote some of the articles in it.
'I think that apologizing for people who apologize for neo-nazis is "no more or less idiotic" than... apologizing for neo-nazis' - libcom.org/forums/organise/israel-29122008?page=12#comment-315538
Taken to its logical conclusion, this means that any doubt about anti-fascism at all leads to fascism. But illogical though it may be, it worked. The webmaster in question hurriedly removed Wildcat from his site, though it contains nothing which would offend the pc wankers to whom he has pledged his allegiance.
Americans are particularly prone to kissing Israeli ass. Recently, Massachusets saw the first student occupation in the USA for a boycott of Israel. It's a long way behind other countries, but its something. A Zionist lawyer deluged the students with slander, and the administration replied with one of the most nauseatingly sycophantic examples of American subordination to Zionism I have read:
Of course, it would be going too far to claim there is any sort of connection between the use of excessive fear of anti-semitism in lefty circles to police debate, and the same thing in the American establishment. When anarchists swallow whole the Zionist fiction that there is such a thing as 'left anti-semitism' and spread it around, it is not like the campaign of Alan Dershowitz to slander Hampshire College students as anti-semitic in an attempt to snuff out the beginnings of a campaign for sanctions against Israel in the USA. It would be superficial to note the similarity between Zionist slanders and the attacks on me on libcom.org demanding that all my output for the last quarter-century, on any subject, regardless of its political position, should be ruthlessly suppressed.
It would be absurd to mention that this description of the Israel Lobby's approach, by a conservative diplomat, exactly fits the behavior of the anarchist mob toward me:
"The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth"
just because he and I have both identified the source of this behavior in
'the substitution of political correctness for analysis'.
One of my motives in writing 'The Mass Psychology of Anti-Fascism'
was to defend the anti-Zionist ex-Jew Gilad Atzmon against slanders, which sound very similar to the attacks of American Zionists and the anarchists mentioned above, by 'Jews Against Zionism', a group with which I once had a brief flirtation: http://f.acetio.us/wildcat/jagainstz.html
Defending Atzmon is SOLIDARITY. Ultra-leftists seem incapable of understanding this. In truth, I do not conflate 'Jews, Zionists, the Israel Lobby...' as my critics allege. I deal with the complex question of the relationship between Jews and Zionism by quoting Jeffrey Blankfort:
'The distinction that we are always careful to make between being Jewish and being Zionist is essentially deceptive and that while all Jews are not Zionists, the organized Jewish communities throughout the world, despite whatever differences they may have, are totally behind the Zionist project.'
I then comment as follows: "Do I agree? I DON'T KNOW".
That's not good enough for the anti-fascists. Saying you DON'T KNOW exactly what the relationship is between Jews and Zionism gets you condemned as a Nazi apologist.
Sometimes, the anarchos are worse than the Zios. During the Hannukah massacre, some protestors held up signs calling for a nuclear attack on Tel Aviv. The leading Zionist organization, the Anti-Defamation League, objected:
'Freedom of speech is not just a right, it is also a responsibility... comparisons of Israel to the Nazis are a deeply cynical perversion of history, an attempt to turn the tragedy that befell the Jewish people into a bludgeon against Israel.' - http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1052901.html
The ADL's response to extremely violent rhetoric was civil and measured. Contrast this with the anti-fascist backlash against my recent writings, which contain no advocacy of hatred or violence:
This article, by a comrade in Britain who has independently arrived at similar conclusions to my own, answers this last question better than I can:
I noticed the same phenomenon myself. If you say 'The Americans bombed Vietnam', no-one points out that it wasn't all Americans. No American says they are offended by this generalization. But if you say the Jews are killing Palestinian babies, they are offended.
Perhaps we should stop making such generalizations. But why did it take generalizing about Jews to make us think about it? Why this specific generalization? We want to protect Jews against the danger of generalization more than others. This is discrimination.
A 'troll' is someone who posts on internet sites pretending they believe one thing when in fact they believe something else. According to the libcommisars, I'm an fascist troll pretending to be a communist. But how do they know it's not the other way round? The moderators barred me, and instead give voice to such exemplars of reasoned argument as this: 'he fucking cites David Irving!!'. Why doesn't the author cite the citation from Irving which I fucking cite on my fucking site? Because there isn't one, that's why.
I did, however, paraphrase some of what Irving said last summer in Eugene. I openly declared that he said some highly offensive things in the midst of his generally useful talk, and far from hiding or apologizing for them, I said I disagree with them.
What offends the anarcho-zionists is not Irving's research into Nazi war crimes, but into Allied ones. The myth that Irving is a holocaust denier comes from a judgement in a court case in London, which was decided in favor of the Zionist academic Deborah Lipstadt. The anarchists who peddle this lie get their information from a pro-Israel judge! Their anti-state credentials are skin-deep, and people like Irving are useful for exposing this. Outside the meeting, the left and the Jewish supremacists, the rabbis and the rabble, united in opposition to truth. '
'¡No pasaran!' they shouted. But we did.
This post is getting too long. It started as a letter to the journal 'Communicating Vessels', which gets its politics from ultra-leftism and its sense of humor from feminism. If nothing else, breaking from ultra-leftism enables you to have a laugh:
Organizations referred to in this article:
International Criminal Court
International Communist Current
International Cricket Council
Note: the picture accompanying this post, a Hezbollah hottie on the streets of Beirut, is only here to illustrate that not all supporters of Islamic groups in the Middle East are fanatical puritans, in order to counter stereotypes, and not at all to make this site look good.