The Leftists who Support Israel
Most of those who claim to support socialism, democracy and freedom also support Palestinian Liberation. There are some, however, who cannot get with the program, and end up supporting Israel.
You can find almost any belief on the left these days. What passes as such is nothing sacred or worth defending. Instead, we should acknowledge that among us are those who will betray us, history shows us that this is much more reasonable. In this moment, you can count on at least some of the left completely dropping the ball and supporting Israel.
The American-led section of a recent split from the Trotskyist Committee for a Workers International, Socialist Alternative, releases the most subtle of Liberal Zionist propaganda with a red veil. Their distortions are amongst the worst and most dangerous, because they manage to say enough of the “right things” which allow to be present and peddle their snake oil at Palestinian solidarity rallies in the US. Upon reading their propaganda, it can be easy to see why this kind of liberal Zionism manages to gain a following.
In Socialist Alternative’s recent articles and literature about Israel and Palestine, a few things might pop out at you:
They never once mention Zionism, either as the enemy or as something they support. This silence speaks volumes.
They make many references to the legitimacy of the State of Israel and do not condemn its fundamental existence, but rather Israeli occupation, Israeli war crimes, Israeli capitalist rule, etc.
They do not make it clear that their regional section they promote, Socialist Struggle, is based primarily in Israeli citizens, which does not make them incorrect on its own, but rather is disingenuous.
They issue subtle condemnations against the Palestinian resistance and solidarity with Israel, with all too familiar “both sides”-ism: “Solidarity with residents from both national communities in Israel that cope with indiscriminate rocket fire”
The kicker is explicit support for a two-state solution without ever arguing for it: “For an independent socialist Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem, for a socialist change in Israel and in the whole region”
The question raised by Socialist Alternative for us should be, can Two Staters ever be genuine? Not likely if you’re living in this century, or believe in the right to return. It is impossible to be consistently antizionist and defend Israel’s right to exist. Socialist Alternative is rather unabashedly opportunist, this can be seen in the way they chase news-cycles, whatever is happening, they are after collecting as many emails as they can. I think in this context they are dangerous and wolves in sheep clothing, even if they are usually harmless standard grifters. If you see them attempting to show solidarity with Palestine, challenge them on the above. The movement has spoken that Palestine should not have to accept borders as a solution to a problem they did not create, and every inch from the river to the sea is stolen.
20 minutes into a panel at the Red May conference, Swedish eco-Marxist Andreas Malm attempts to frame the current Palestinian Intifada within the context of the topic, which was about struggles against the state and climate change during the COVID-19 era. He is, however, repeatedly interrupted by another panelist-turned-disrupter, Anselm Jappe, a German critical theorist of the Wertkritick tendency and stanch supporter of Israel. “You’re German, right?” Malm responds. Some might not have understood the question from Malm, but those who are familiar with developments in the last 30 years in the German Left, the question went right for the elephant in the room (which Jappe ended up leaving in rage).
German left philosemitism, exemplified by the group known as “antideusche”, might represent the loudest and most influential leftist Zionism. Throughout Central Europe, the small group punches well above its weight, making discussions of a free Palestine taboo at best, and forcibly repressed at worst. It is often pointed out that the group itself no longer exists in its previous form, and many have moved on to softer and more critical versions. However, the influence is wide, from antifascist activism to the ivory-tower based capital-T Theory left (which explains Jappe’s adherence) and even nightclubs (where keffiyeh are banned). It has American sympathizers in the Platypus Affiliated Society. It follows any discussion of the German Left, without which any discussion of it would be incomplete.
A full scale criticism of the wild ideology of antideuschers is something we unfortunately do not have the space for, however know as much as this:
You cannot reconcile national consciousness from a national guilt, and that makes them German nationalists, whom I believe history has had enough of, regardless of this strange “anti-” variety. When all other arguments fail, antideuschers will tell you “you just do not understand how evil Germans are”. After all, their theory revolves around the idea of a exceptionalism of German identity, even if the attitude is pessimistic.
Alternatively, their philosemitism, like all philosemitism, is an antisemitism through their exceptionalism and fanaticism about the Jewish people. Like the philosemitism of their American Evangelical Christian counterparts, they do not profess a genuine love for the Jewish people, but rather a fetish. Jews are the object of their politics, Germans the subject.
These politics are not simply bad on paper, they have serious consequences for a country that has probably the longest and deepest history of a mass left in the west, and is also the new home to millions of refugees and migrants. Their positions on antisemitism are completely in-step with the modern German state as well. This kind of unity with the worst ruling class hegemony’s and national consciousness isn’t “radical”, it’s reactionary.
However, they are not the only people with great geopolitical delusions from the European Left.
Left communists, the followers of an anti-Stalinist ideology that originated in a faction of the Italian Communist Party around the period of the Russian Revolution, are known for their “anti-national” sentiments. One of the torch-bearers of this tendency is a sect known as the Internationalist Communist Tendency (henceforth, ICT). For many years, the ICT and other left communists have sloganeered various controversial condemnations of Palestine (albeit, alongside that of Israel). The ICT makes no difference between the powerful nationalism of the Zionist movement, who are able to conduct ethnic cleansing campaigns, and the nationalism of some Palestinians, who are certainly waging a struggle against their national oppression.
Some marked differences between “national conflict” and the Palestinian struggle which complicate the ICT analysis:
They represent the Palestinian struggle as simply revanchist and homogenous. They overstate the influence of Hamas and leave Fatah entirely to the side, as well as other “legitimate” leadership of Palestine. There is very little discussion of Palestinian politics at all, or how this spread across national boundaries to the Palestinian citizens of Israel outside the West Bank and Gaza (except to say it means nothing), or changes in thinking about the “national” character of the struggle itself. This leaves their analysis rather impoverished (which they call “deja vu”, or “told you so by telling you nothing useful”).
The ICT proposes “no war but class war” but is somehow blind to the internationalism and class struggle contained within the Intifada has been nothing short of class war, there is no other historical nexus by which they will be struggling against their ruling class in the meantime, it is hard to tell what the ICT is waiting on. There is no discussion of the general strike (again, except to say it means nothing), the actions of dockworkers from Italy to South Africa, or generally the activity that the Palestinian working class is actually taking up and how they are inspiring the world.
The ICT is no different than the Stalinists and Trotskyists they decry for favoring a side in “inter-imperialist conflicts”, as altogether this kind of leftist geopolitical masturbation all views people struggling for their very survival as the proxies for our aspirations as such. It is all left chauvinism to me, in one form or another. The ICT does geopolitics too, whether they like it or not, and with half the rigor of the Stalinists they detest ever so.
They say “now there are pogroms on both sides”, however there is only evidence of this by Zionists. Nothing from the Palestinian side in the form of a pogrom. Hard to know what they are referencing, but simply stated not all violence is pogroms. In general, their critique of Palestinian liberation seems to depend on a “blood and soil” element that is hardly visible and already vastly overplayed by the Israel aligned media.
When we rally under the banner of “Neither Israel, Nor Palestine”, Israel wins and Palestine loses. The poverty of their research itself is chauvinist. This is a well read circle of communists, no doubt, however they view history from an a priori lens from the “invariant” vantage point of a century ago, where world revolution really seemed like it could defeat a wave of imperialist wars and revanchist nationalisms all at once, which happened to be the only time they were historically relevant. This kind of left communism, to me, does not pass for theory but rather dogmatic mysticism.
Left communism can’t offer a solution to the Palestinian working class (or really, any variably oppressed section of the working class) because they have an allergy to struggles for democracy and freedom. I think the class vitally needs these to struggle, and yes they can also be the domain of bourgeoise, but throughout history the working class has also struggled and fought for its freedom and its democracy, and any attack on its freedom and democracy is an attack on its ability to fight. Regardless of what I think, the ICT inherit this allergy from Amadeo Bordiga, the old leader of the Italian Communist Party and founder of their tendency, but ICT is unique in having their origins from split with him over a list of issues, which included his support for national liberation.
Bordiga, in his polemics against who would become the first ICT guru, Onorato Damen, puts into perspective how little the ICT have changed and how correct he was at the time:
It is already very daring (in the struggle against the terrible competition of misinformation in which the West and East compete) to “politically” say to the Stalinists: take care, you won’t beat America this way, we the defenders of the class will beat it, it can only be beaten by the world proletariat on an autonomous class basis with no relation even to you.
It is a useless bluff just to say: We put you both on the same level, one not a millimetre above the other and in one go we'll make you both fall like ninepins with the same ball.
The Left must defend itself from the stupid accusation of not being able to make sense of history and of mumbling abstract theses: they must prove that it is the others who have not understood history.
What is the difference between the Internationalist Communist Tendency and the positions of Socialist Alternative? In reality, not much. That is why they are included here. Whether you want to say “both sides are good and just need socialism” or “both sides are bad and just need socialism”, it means very little, because contrary to the ICT states, the struggle for a Free Palestine is immediate and present before our eyes. The dimensions of class war and internationalism in the Intifada fit into the ICT’s Cold War geopolitics (however “abstentionist” they may be) like square peg fits into a round hole. Whatever the ICT envisions is not going to drop from the sky, nor can we wait for our own political visions to reveal themselves in the Palestinian struggle.
It is quite simple for me, I do not want solidarity with the “socialist movement”, if it includes these people, from two-state distortionists, to the guilty Germans, to the empty sloganeers, the dustbins of history are for these people. Workers of the world, unite! Hurriya!