The Mass Psychology of Anti-Fascism
First We Take Manhattan


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Defenders of Israel routinely try to disarm its critics by accusing them of anti-semitism. But most critics of Israel are simply opposed to the crimes of this state, not to the ethno-religious group to which many of its inhabitants belong. It is like saying that the movement against apartheid was motivated by prejudice against the Afrikaaners, the Dutch-speaking white South Africans who supported it. One of the main motives for opposing Israel or Israel's behavior is opposition to racism, since it is as clear as day that one of the main characteristics of the state of Israel is its racism – it favors Jews over Palestinians, to put it mildly. But the US government has consistently opposed the characterization of Zionism as a form of racism on the international stage – the opposite of its behavior regarding racial segregation in South Africa. Yet, in contrast to Israel, the USA had an interest in supporting the South African apartheid regime, which fought Russia's allies in Africa. This divergence cannot be explained by calling it 'capitalism' – why is the USA so supportive of Israeli capitalism, when it was so critical of apartheid capitalism? All the 'materialist' explanations of the West's support for Israel amount to circular arguments, and should not be taken seriously: behind the absence of logic is a lack of valor.

The problem is emotional and psychological. Even when allegations of anti-semitism are ridiculous, we tend to take them seriously, because of the pro-Jewish racism which is embedded in our culture. As a result, pro-Palestinian activists make an effort to deny that they are anti-Jewish.

There are some important exceptions, who have consciously rejected being concerned about the danger of anti-semitism in the Palestinian solidarity movement. One example is Gilad Atzmon, an ex-soldier from Israel, and a major jazz musician. In a witty and provocative way, he says we tend to be more concerned about the false issue of anti-semitism than we are about the real issue of Jewish racism. Furthermore, he argues that it is impossible to be an anti-Zionist, non-religious Jew. He says there are three kinds of people in the world who identify themselves as Jewish -

  1. Zionists
  2. Religious Jews who oppose Zionism for theological reasons
  3. Secular Jews who claim to be against Zionism but aren't really

Not surprisingly, this hypothesis was unwelcome to groups like Jews Against Zionism, who denounce Atzmon around the Palestine solidarity movement as 'a notorious anti-semite'. Frequent 'demands' are made that he be banned from this meeting or that website, because he criticizes Jewish identity as such, not just its most successful product, apartheid in Palestine. Just as the Israel Lobby proves its power by suppressing those who criticize its power, so Atzmon's opponents show their chutzpah by censoring those who criticize their hypocrisy.

Another good example in support of Atzmon's thesis about the vacuity of Jewish anti-Zionism is the case of Lenni Brenner, whose Zionism in the Age of the Dictators is available on a German website, Brenner shows how Zionists, far from being defenders of the Jewish people, collaborated with their worst enemies, the Nazis. Particularly gruesome is the example of Hungarian Zionists, led by Rezso Kasztner, arranging to have 600 Jews saved, to travel to Palestine, in return for abandoning 450,000 to their deaths. The Zionists were more concerned about creating a Jewish state than they were about saving Jewish lives. Brenner's aim is to turn Jews against Zionism on the grounds that it sometimes goes against their interests. This won't wash. In the first place, Zionists could answer, 'yes, we did collaborate with the Nazis during World War II, but we have learned since then never to give an inch to our enemies (the Palestinians, the Iranians, the goyim)'. But more importantly, Brenner's argument amounts to saying 'Don't support the Zionist gang of ethnic cleansers, murderers and promoters of a nuclear holocaust – they collaborated with the enemies of the Jews!'. Which implies that, if these ethnic cleansers, murderers, and holocaust-mongers didn't collaborate with Jews' enemies, they wouldn't be so bad. Brenner's argument is tactical: Zionism was a bad tactic from the viewpoint of Jews. He tries to persuade Jews not to support apartheid because it doesn't work. Brenner showed his true colors when he joined the ranks of those 'demanding' the suppression of Atzmon's articles, to protect you and I from his treif thoughts.

In a similar sleight of hand, Noam Chomsky claims that the 'apartheid wall' which Israel constructed in the West Bank is designed to steal Palestinian land and water, not for Israel's security, as the government claims. He employs the logical fallacy known as a 'false dichotomy' to do this – pretending that the wall is either for security or for robbing the Palestinians. In fact, it does both, but its primary purpose, in which it has been highly successful, is to defend Israelis against suicide bombers. Chomsky can't admit it is for Israel's security, and condemn it too. Some of his adherents criticize Israel's policies of murder, torture and so on, on the grounds that they are bad for its security. In other words, if they were good for Israel's security, they would support them.

Like Atzmon, Jeffrey Blankfort, one of America's brave critics of Israel, argues that it is very difficult to have a Jewish identity separate from Zionism:

    '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.'

Do I agree? I don't know – but I'm not going to allow fake anti-Zionists to prevent me from finding out by blackmailing me with fear of anti-semitism. It is this irrational fear which holds us back from effectively challenging Zionism.

URL of Duke

The following quotation typifies the apologetic attitude to Israel which I believe has been a major obstacle to the success of Palestinian solidarity:

    'Unfortunately, groups that assert Palestinian human rights and criticize Israel often attract and can be co-opted by people holding anti-Semitic and other racist viewpoints... That allows legitimate and necessary criticism of Israel’s policies to be dismissed as anti-Semitic by Israel apologists, denying Israel the corrective feedback that might save it from the worldwide disrespect it now suffers and the self-degrading and ultimately self-destructive path it has pursued from its beginnings...'

This is from a letter to an Oregon newspaper. You can find variants of it all over the place. It argues that the Palestinian solidarity movement needs to demonstrate its moral purity to the ethnic cleansers of Palestine. Israel's supporters have already successfully labeled its critics as anti-semitic and rendered sympathy for the Palestinians completely ineffective throughout the Western world. How could the solidarity movement be less effective if it were less concerned about anti-semitism?

An academic in Britain was suspended from her union after posting a link to an article on a fascist website, which she found by googling the phrase 'humanitarian disaster in Gaza'. She didn't know it was run by fascists – she just read the one article, and it contained nothing offensive. Zionists and leftists in the union saw her link and went ballistic, and she apologized – but they didn't reinstate her – an example of the futility of kowtowing to these people. A better approach would be to insist on her right to link to whomever she likes. Is it her fault if some opponents of Israeli influence are fascists? The union, the Universities and Colleges Union, was the first to call for a boycott of Israel, but it lacks the courage to stand firm against the predictable chorus of 'anti-semitism'. The union gives Zionists the message that it will try hard to satisfy their complaints. Almost all of Palestinian solidarity waves the same white flag.

Suppose you found a coherent article by a fascist containing valid arguments about the Israel/Palestine issue? Are you worried that you will accept everything fascists say if you accept anything they say? Or are you really afraid of what people might think? I know I am – of course Zionists and their friends would distort what I am saying, would use my reference to a fascist article to try to claim that I am a fascist myself. But that is going to happen anyway. I have already been accused of anti-semitism by more than one ex-comrade. I don't waste time trying to placate Zionists and their poodles.

Mearsheimer and Walt cringe when critics point out that their The Israel Lobby was well-received among fascists, but they should stand their ground. Instead of apologizing and backtracking, we should oppose the Zionists as provocatively as possible. It's not just what you say, it's how you say it – we should make clear our contempt for Israel's fifth column in the tone as well as in the content of our message.

A play about Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist killed by the Israeli army, was called off in several North American cities out of concern for the sensitivities of Jewish groups. For those who would like to see the play, there are two possible responses. One is to argue rationally:

    'Theaters gave in to Zionist pressure, not Jewish sensitivity – many Jews are deeply concerned about Israeli atrocities...'

The more effective approach is to become insensitive.

An admirable example of a step in the right direction is the response of the anti-war discussion group 'Pacifica Forum' at the University of Oregon to Zionist critics who labeled it anti-semitic in the local media. The Forum invited holocaust revisionists – historians who question aspects of the official holocaust narrative - to talk about the Israel Lobby and freedom of speech. As a result, the Southern Poverty Law Center has added the Pacifica Forum to its list of 'hate groups'. When the SPLC, one of the Lobby's poisonous snakes, crawled out of the swamps of Alabama and slithered in our direction, we felt shivers of both revulsion and excitement. How different from the situation at the same university four years earlier, when a professor was accused of anti-semitism, and ended up signing an agreement repeating the lies of anti-fascism, expressing

    '...his horror at the wave of anti-Semitic events around the world in recent years'

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign in Britain showed the same paralyzing deference to the feelings of sensitive Jewish princesses by wasting valuable time discussing whether to invite Gilad Atzmon to its conference, because it took the allegations of anti-semitism seriously. Indymedia deleted an article by me, because I argued that anti-semitism is no big deal, which they interpreted as promoting it. The editors of this site are so pro-semitic they interpret indifference as antipathy.

Palestinians too suffer from sensitivity. For example, Yasser `Arafat said

    'Zionism is an ideology that is imperialist, colonialist, racist; it is profoundly reactionary and discriminatory; it is united with antisemitism in its retrograde tenets and is, when all is said and done, another side of the same base coin'

How fair-minded this sounds in comparison to the lies Israel heaped on `Arafat's head. How balanced and objective. How warm and fuzzy. And how wrong! One problem with this approach is its lack of proportion. Zionism and anti-semitism are not two sides of the same coin – Zionism is much worse than anti-semitism. Anti-semitism today doesn't result in gas chambers, as it did sixty-five years ago, but Zionism is killing people right now, with bullets, bombs, starvation and disease, and suppressing our ability to stop it, with censorship and blackmail.

The idea that anti-semitism and Zionism are on the same side is only true in the sense that all violently opposed forces reinforce each other. Of course Zionism helps encourage anti-semitism, and benefits from it – but its main products are murder, dispossession and forcing children to grow up in a concentration camp, the Gaza strip, and in similar conditions in the West Bank and in refugee camps in neighboring countries. The fact that some of the children who survive this experience grow up with an attitude toward Jews is hardly the main problem. It is an inconvenient truth that for a section of the Western public, an increase in anti-semitism would lead to a decrease in support for Israel, so Zionism and anti-semitism are sometimes on opposite sides of the fence, rather than two sides of the same coin. It follows that it is impossible to be equally opposed to Zionism and to anti-semitism. To oppose the influence of Israel, to undermine support for ethnic cleansing and war in the Middle East, it is necessary to abandon anti-fascism and everything that goes with it.