Israel/Palestine,  Trots

Our Trots are smarter than your Trots

Or at least some American Trotskyists are somewhat smarter than some British Trotskyists– sometimes.

(First, a word of explanation: one Trotskyist groupuscule, the US Socialist Workers Party, publishes a newspaper called The Militant. The slightly more significant International Socialist Organization [ISO] publishes a website called, um, Socialist Worker.)

During its convention this year the US SWP conducted a number of classes, including one on “World Capitalist Crisis, Israel, and the Roots of Jew Hatred.” This session “took up the need for a multinational, working-class leadership to fight for a democratic, secular Palestine… Conference participants discussed how the call for a boycott of Israeli products is not a road toward winning self-determination for the Palestinians, but a dangerous concession to anti-Semitism.”

In fact The Militant has been quite outspoken in opposing Israel-related boycotts, in rejecting comparisons of Israel to apartheid South Africa and in recognizing the reactionary nature of Hamas.

Jew-hatred and anti-Semitism, a centuries old form of racism, has been used by ruling classes throughout history when their system faced a crisis. Modern anti-Semitism often comes draped in an anticapitalist and even socialist cloak. The real exploiters—the billionaire ruling families, whose great majority is non-Jewish—are replaced by a racist conspiracy that paints the Jews as the source of society’s problems.

The notion that Washington is a pawn of the Israeli lobby is a modern form of this anti-Jewish conspiracy theory. And those who promote it often use the term “Zionist movement” as a substitute for “Jew.”
The anti-Israel boycott campaign paints all Israelis as being the enemies of the Palestinian people. But that is false. The capitalist regime in Israel is the enemy of the Palestinian people, but it is also the enemy of Israel’s working people, Jewish and Palestinian…

Only a political program that appeals for a common struggle of all the oppressed and exploited—regardless of their national origin, or religious belief—can point the way forward. At the heart of that course is the call for a democratic, secular Palestine in which both Palestinians and Jews can live without state-supported religious restrictions.
There are sweeping differences between the apartheid regime in South Africa and the capitalist regime in Israel—in terms of organization of labor, the character of the regimes, and the historical conditions under which they emerged. The attempt to paint them as the same simply obfuscates the real social and class relations in Israel and the tasks facing the toilers there to chart a revolutionary course forward. Applied to Israel the term “apartheid” is simply an epithet, rather than a scientific description of a social structure.
Support for the anti-Israel boycott effort among radicals—like the members of the Workers World Party and the ISO—often goes along with increasingly open support for Hamas. As ISO leader [Lichi] D’Amelio said of Khaled Meshal, the Hamas political bureau leader in Damascus, “There is little in what he says that I disagree with.”

The Hamas covenant, written in 1988, outlines the aims of that organization.

Speaking of the Jewish people, the document states, “With their money, they took control of the world media… . [T]hey stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution… . With their money they formed secret societies… . They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, making financial gains and controlling resources.”
In the absence of any revolutionary perspective, campaigns such as the anti-Israel boycott can appear to be a radical substitute. But, as the crisis of capitalism deepens, the “anti-Israel” character of these campaigns is simply a modern form of Jew-hatred. All who genuinely support the battle for Palestinian national rights must oppose it.

Now there is much here to disagree with and ultimately reject. But like the little boy who saw that the Emperor had no clothes, these Trots are at least capable of perceiving some basic truths that others on the anti-Zionist Left cannot or will not.

As for the rival ISO, their position on Israel is closer to that of the UK’s Socialist Workers Party– that is, pro-boycott, supportive of Hamas and labeling the country as “apartheid.” But at least it didn’t take them as long as it did the UK SWP to figure out the disgusting nature of the jazz saxophonist Gilad Atzmon.

Their newspaper recently apologized for publishing an interview with Atzmon:

After the interview’s publication, we learned of many allegations that Atzmon has made not just highly inflammatory, but anti-Semitic statements about Jews, be they supporters or opponents of the state of Israel–and that he has associations with deniers of the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews. The evidence for these serious charges is damning.

We knew that Atzmon was a controversial figure among opponents of Israel when we ran our article, but not the full extent of these allegations. Needless to say, there was no trace of such ideas in his interview with, or it never would have been published.

Nevertheless, we believe that our Web site, which is committed to the liberation of the Palestinian people and to the struggle against anti-Semitism, should not have published the interview without any reference to the controversy over someone who could make the comments and advance the ideas that he has–whatever his motives or reasoning. We therefore withdrew the article from our site.

Now consider by contrast the British SWP’s relationship with Atzmon.

His antisemitic beliefs were on the record at least as far back as 2005. And yet Atzmon was a featured performer/speaker at the SWP’s Marxisim 2005.

The SWP published a mealy-mouthed defense of his appearance (since removed from their site but archived here). He later appeared at an SWP fundraiser in 2006 at Marxism 2007.

Although the SWP apparently has since broken off relations with Atzmon, they have never acknowledged doing so; nor have they ever apologized for featuring him long after his Jew-hatred was obvious.

(Hat tip: Judeosphere)