Saturday, August 9, 2014

Workers must condemn attacks on Jews in the wake of Gaza Attack.

Paris: There have been numerous attacks on Jewish businesses
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

"The struggle which is now beginning between Zionist and Bolshevik Jews is little less than the struggle for the soul of the Jewish people." Winston Churchill

I have published a lot of material on this blog about the horrific assault the Zionist regime in Israel has waged against the civilian population of Gaza, one of the world’s largest outdoor prisons.  I have not hidden my views that I am clearly on the side of the Palestinian population of Gaza and in opposition to the theft of their land by mostly European and American colonists. I reject the Zionist and Jewish religious extremists claim that they have the right to take the homes, land and farms of people that have occupied them for thousands of years because a supernatural being promised it to them according to ancient scripts.

This does not mean that Jews have no right to live there.  Middle Eastern Jews  (Arab Jews) have done so for thousands of years also and have a right to live there in peace and without fear.

I have been reading about the anti-Semitic attacks that took place in France over the last week or so which must be unconditionally condemned.  This blog condemns anti-Semitism in any form. But I also do not think that anger toward Jews in light of the actions of the Zionists and Israeli Apartheid is the same as the traditional European anti-Semitism.  Antony Lerman on his blog, publishes a letter from a Dr Steven Beller raising the same point: Is anti-Semitism the right term for this hostility toward Jews in this case? Aren’t the root causes of it different?  

There is no doubt that anti-Semites will use the demonstrations against the Zionist regime’s assault on Gaza as an excuse to cause violence and attack Jews and Jewish businesses. And it would be absurd to think the actions of Israel against Palestinians would not be met with anger and at times outright hatred of Jews by Palestinians.  But it is not ruled out either that Zionist agent provocateurs wouldn’t provoke anti-Semitic actions either.  Zionism thrives on attacks on Jews.

Norman Finkelstein, on BBC’s “Hard Talk” a couple of years ago (see here and scroll down for video) pointed out that there has over the past 15 to 20 years been a waning of support for Israel’s actions among many American Jews, what he refers to as the “periphery” of Jewish support. This periphery, he says, consists of a large number of Jews in influential places, politics and the media for example. 

Most importantly, Finkelstein argues that the Israeli lobby or AIPAC would have less influence on US government policy would, “Have less sway, less power, if the periphery begins to distance itself from Israel.”  Having the backing of the US is crucial to the Zionists. We just saw how the IDF were running low on the ammunition and hardware needed to crush Gaza so the US offered fresh supplies. “It is because of the American veto and American power that Israel gets to carry on the way it does.” Finkelstein adds.

Jews are only a small percent of the US population and in my life as a Blue Collar worker I never met many of them. But beyond the “influential” Jews of Finkelstein’s periphery, there is a periphery among white-collar workers, teachers, social workers, administrators and in the arts etc. There are also many Jews among the ranks of the non-profits, and social justice organizations as Finkelstein says.  However, while Jews were not numerous in my work environment, as a socialist and trade union activist I have come to know and work with many of them in my political life. As they have throughout history, they have been the most outspoken when the issue of social justice and human rights are concerned.  They have been the most ardent campaigners for Palestinian rights and against the racism of the Zionist regime and for workers rights in the workplace.

I went to a rally here in Oakland recently and one American Jew talked of being born in Palestine and how her parents were given the home of a Palestinian.  Another Israeli woman talked of the horrific situation in Gaza. There were many left wing Jews at this rally.

But it is the periphery, the one Finkelstein is referring to and those I am referring to, that must distance themselves from Israel.  It took me a while and it was Jews that actually helped me reach the decision, but I came to distance myself from the English/British role in Northern Ireland. It is the white worker’s role to distance ourselves from racists.  No normal black person holds a white worker responsible for the institutionalized racism in US society as soon as we openly recognize it exists and condemn it.

I am equally confident that the way to head off anti-Semitism or anger that might be directed at Jews is for Jews, not just socialist Jews, to be in the forefront of the condemnation of Zionism.  It is also important to stress that not all Jews are Zionists. Marek Edelman, the last surviving leader of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising and a member of the Jewish Anti Zionist Socialist Bund died last week at the age of 90. He expressed solidarity with the Palestinian cause and resented Israel’s “claim on the Warsaw Ghetto uprising as asymbol of Jewish liberation.” Saying that this now belonged to the Palestinians. *

But there is a much larger group that can help here. That is the non-Jews, the Christian and non-Jewish workers---the Gentiles to use an old term.

While Jews have done very well in the US and have integrated fully, from what I understand with my limited knowledge of the subject, the Jews of Germany were in a similar position. They were German first, Jews second.  Not only that, Jews throughout Europe fought for their rights as Poles, Germans, Russians etc.  Zionism did not appeal to them.  The Germans especially thought they were safe. The Jewish Bund, the organization of Jewish workers, not Zionist organizations, was what the Eastern European Jewish workers belonged to,

Paul Mason describes the town of Brzeziny in Poland, a Jewish community rich in culture. It was destroyed by the Nazis: “They rounded up every Jewish child and sent them to be gassed. Neither crying nor begging nor asking for mercy helped……The lament and the wails of the unfortunate parents while their children were torn from them and taken in trucks to the death camps to be annihilated, was something that words are too inadequate to describe.”

Mason goes on:
“The next day, all the old people were rounded up. Before sending them to the gas chambers the Nazi’s ordered them to strip naked for a medical examination:
‘They packed them in to a small room. Then the German doctors made jokes about our elderly.  They pricked and tugged at the breasts of the women and the sexual organs of the men. The behavior of the doctors was the behavior of loathsome, odious sex maniacs.’ “ **

The treatment up to this point of Palestinians in the occupied territories and at the check-points is not unlike this (view Checkpoint Syndrome here) . Three days after this the entire town was deported and most died either murdered along the way or in Auschwitz.

Jews forced to ride each other for the amusement of Nazis.
This is not so long ago.  As I read the accounts of this I imagined how it might affect me were I Jewish.  The Nazi camps followed centuries of European anti-Semitism and the pogroms of the Russian empire.  Like the history of British oppression in Ireland recalled by the great grandchildren of Irish immigrants in America, the history was handed down through generations.  They are aware of the brutality and the history of Ireland’s fate and the famine despite hardly being able to point to the place on a map. Many young Jews will have heard the same stories about the fate of relatives long gone.  This is true of all specially oppressed groups including the working class as a whole which is why working class history is hidden or grossly distorted.

So while many Jews are appalled at the Zionists actions, they are reluctant to distance themselves entirely. But this is changing. Jews are a minority when it comes to numbers and there is no guarantee the US ruling class will be so accommodating.  Socialists, trade unionists and all workers must openly condemn anti-Semitism and act on it when it rises its ugly head.  Jews must see clearly that they will not face the Jew haters alone.

Aside from the Christian Zionists who support Israel on the basis of Jesus making a second visit, the US capitalist class has only political and economical interests in Israel and the Jews. If the need arose, they would whip up anti-Semitism in the US in a moment.. It is an argument we have heard before, and one that has failed us in the past, but that does not change its correctness; it it is only working class unity that can ensure we all have a future free of violence and want.  Neither Israel nor US capitalism, nor the French government with their bans on protests can be relied on to fight racism, sexism and religious intolerance in all their forms. Zionism is not only a catastrophe for the Palestinians; it is also a catastrophe for Jews, the entire Middle East and for working class people everywhere.***

* Marek Edelman: Lastsurviving leader of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising against the Nazis
** Live Working or Die Fighting, Paul Mason. Mason quotes from a book written in 1961 based on local accounts.
*** For a detailed account of the Zionist's exploitation of the Nazi's slaughter of Jews read Norman Finkelstein's, The Holocaust Industry.

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