The crimes of the Zionist ruling class in Israel against the Palestinian people have been rightly condemned by all progressive and left people around the world. However, there are reactionary right-wing elements that try to exploit this to push an anti-Semitic agenda. Genuine socialists reject both Zionism and anti-Semitism. The solution to ethnic and national conflicts is to be found in the class struggle and socialism. We publish this contribution on the question from a Jewish Marxist living in Israel.
During and after the Israeli massacre in Gaza, the world was flooded by an overwhelming wave of resistance to the Zionist crimes. How could anyone not protest at such a grotesque crime against a whole people, a people that has been without a genuine homeland ever since Israel was created?
However, there is also another side to this situation, an attempt by small Fascist and neo-Nazi groups in Europe to exploit this wonderful display of international solidarity to their own advantage. These forces take advantage of Zionist crimes, such as the bombing and invasion of Gaza a few months back, to promote their own anti-Semitic propaganda. They claim that these crimes and the refusal of the bourgeois governments throughout the world to intervene against them are "proof" of an inherent evil nature of Jews in general. They also use this to spread filth about the supposed desire for “world domination” on the part of the Jews. This is all reminiscent of anti-Jewish Nazi propaganda.
This attempt to divert a progressive and justified struggle along racist lines has produced its effects. Anti-Semitic crimes have risen substantially recently, particularly in Europe. The Gaza massacre gave rise to anti-Semitic incidents, not seen in Europe for quite some time. Surprisingly, the reactionary forces behind these attacks are being aided by the Jewish leaders throughout the world: they were mostly silent in taking a stand against the Zionist massacre. Mostly they collaborated with the Zionist and anti-Semitic lie that portrays Israel as the state of the Jewish people and Zionism as the national movement and sole representative of the Jewish "nation".
The truth is, that ordinary Jews from within, and particularly from without Israel have nothing to do with the massacre. They have nothing to do with Zionism altogether. But as long as they continue to support the Israeli state and the Zionist movement that gave birth to it and its crimes, the anti-Semitism fuelled by the fallacious associations made between Zionist barbarism and the Jewish people as a whole is likely to continue, putting many innocent Jews in jeopardy.
Zionism and anti-Semitism
Zionism cynically regards any criticism, as sounded and justified as it may be, against its crimes, as anti-Semitism. This, in turn, helps to confuse the progressive struggle against Zionism with the reactionary forces behind anti-Semitism. Both Zionism and anti-Semitism benefit from that confusion. It would not be the first time that Zionism and anti-Semitism have collaborated against Jews and other people.
Contrary to Zionist propaganda, Zionism is not the answer to anti-Semitism. It is a form of anti-Semitism itself. Zionism began with the fear of West European petty-bourgeois Jews of a flood of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe. They collaborated with anti-Semites on more than one occasion for a common goal: to cleanse Europe from its Jewish inhabitants (mostly poor workers) and keep them away from collaborating with the growing workers' movement, and particularly with Bolshevism.
Similar to anti-Semitism, Zionism claims that Jews are inherently different from their non-Jewish neighbours and that they cannot and should not integrate with them. So Zionism gives the anti-Semitic answer to the Jewish question: the Jews should be evacuated from Europe to a place far away.
Zionism and imperialism
Zionism in practice meant two things in the past. First of all, it promoted "Jewish" colonialism in Palestine, starting with a group of adventurers who took over Palestinian land in order to build a kind of "White settler" colony on it, and then they imported ordinary Jews as workers and soldiers to be exploited on that same stolen land. Secondly, it also embodies the practice of keeping the local workforce divided along ethnic lines, with “Jews versus Arabs”, fighting each other constantly rather than uniting against their common oppressors. This situation produced a unique opportunity for imperialism, which is the main reason why it survives until today.
After the Israeli state was created, it eventually received recognition and support from imperialism. As the Cold War developed, the Soviet Union (which had originally supported the partition of Palestine and the creation of Israel) threw its weight behind the Arab states, while American imperialism, in particular, came to understand the significance of such a state as Israel for its interests in the Middle East. Such an artificial state, which causes such antagonism amongst its neighbours will be forever dependent on imperialism, and will always need to depend heavily on the supply of arms for its survival. It thus serves as a garrison state in the service of global imperialism against the struggle of the Arab masses. This is the reason why Israel is so supported by the imperialist states. It is not because of some secretive "Jewish domination" over international capital as the anti-Semites claim. It is international capital itself, by its own logic, regardless of who "controls" it, which dictates the need for an artificial, disintegrated, hysterically violent and heavily armed state in the heart of the Arab world.
Why do Jews support Zionism?
How was it that Jews, who had always been at the forefront of the revolutionary forces in Europe, found themselves entangled in the most reactionary and barbaric forces in the world?
Initially, most Jews disregarded Zionism. Many of them loathed it. Only a minority of Jews migrated to Palestine. It took the rise of Nazi-fascism in Europe to radically change the picture. Jews that were being persecuted in Europe, their attempts to seek shelter in other countries being turned down, would go anywhere they could in search of refuge. Most of them still saw Palestine only as a last resort. They mostly fled to Latin America, North Africa, Russia, North America and other places. Only a minority found itself, not always willingly, moving to Palestine. In spite of this, an influx of Jews into Palestine did take place and it was sufficient to provide a solid base for the future Israeli state. After the Holocaust, many of the survivors were also evacuated to Palestine. The European bourgeoisie did not want to deal with the Jewish refugees and preferred their relocation to Palestine. Zionist delegations collaborated with that trend and persuaded the confused survivors to migrate to Palestine.
Today, it can be understood why the Jews who live in Israel support Zionism whether their ancestors wanted to migrate to Palestine or not. It is not just that they are constantly bombarded with Zionist propaganda from early childhood onwards. It is also because of the antagonism that Zionist colonialism has provoked in the surrounding Arab world, which pushes them to support the Zionist state as the only means for their protection.
It is less clear why Jews outside of Israel support Zionism. First of all, they do it to a far lesser extent than the Jews inside Israel. Many of the sharpest critics of Zionism are in fact Jews, and that is hardly surprising. Secondly, those who do support Zionism are doing it out for two reasons.
The first reason is that conservative Jews have come to understand that over time Jews will eventually integrate into the societies they live in. In this sense, Israel is regarded as the only place where Jews are incapable of “integrating” as there cannot be anything else but Jews.
The second reason and the more alarming one, is the vicious circle caused by the fear of anti-Semitism. Jews support Israel because they regard it as a shelter from a possible anti-Semitic resurgence, but that very support fuels anti-Semitism. This vicious circle must be broken if we want to rid the world of anti-Semitism. Zionism is not and cannot be a shelter for persecuted Jews. On the contrary, it is exactly what makes Jews easy victims of persecution. It is a convenient mechanism for keeping them apart from the societies they live in, and as long as they do not denounce this fact, loudly and clearly, it will be much easier for anti-Semitism to taint them with the crimes of Zionism.
There is no Jewish nation
Many Zionists raise what seems to be a legitimate question: don't the Jews deserve the right of self-determination like other nations? The answer to this should be unequivocal: whilst we support the right of Israeli Jews, who after all have been living in Palestine for 60 years now, to self-determination, this self-determination (based on the right of Israeli Jews to their own language and culture in the regions they inhabit) cannot be used as a justification for Zionist expansionism and occupation of another people. Nor can it be a substitute for the struggles of Jews living outside Israel, alongside their class brothers and sisters, against capitalism and racism. The answer to the plight of the Jews should not be sought in national grounds, but on social ones.
Contrary to Zionist propaganda, the Jews around the world have not been a ‘nation’ like the English, the Russian or the German nations for millennia. Jews share no common territory, they do not speak the same language, and they have different histories and different cultures. A Jew that lives in Argentina will have much more in common with his Argentine neighbours than he would have with another Jew, living in France or in Turkey. We reject unequivocally this ‘solution’ to the Jewish question proposed by the Zionists.
This is why any attempt to solve the "Jewish question" on national lines will be fallacious and harmful. The answer to the problems of anti-Semitism should be a social answer, and particularly a class answer. The struggle against anti-Semitism was always intertwined with the class struggles of society. It took the bourgeois revolutions to revoke the anti-Semitic laws and restrictions set up against the Jews in feudal times. It was also the class struggle of the proletariat that involved the fighting together of Jews and non-Jews against their common oppressors, particularly against the fascist elements who tried to no avail to separate the working class via nationalistic and anti-Semitic propaganda. Jews should not be coerced or encouraged to escape to Palestine, because there they will only be protected by the broken reed of the Zionist state, which makes the Jews under its rule more hated and vulnerable than in any other place. The labour movement should encourage Jews to stay in their respective countries, joining forces with the progressive and proletarian elements there, fighting together against any form of reaction.
Denounce Zionism, Move on to socialism!
Concentrating the Jews of the world in a small bracketed and violent state, at the expense of the native population, hated by everyone around them, is a very strange way to fight anti-Semitism. Nowadays it proves to be the main fuel for anti-Semitism in a time where such a phenomenon should have been eradicated long ago. Those Jews, in Israel or outside it, who support Zionism, end up unintentionally supporting the anti-Semitic forces which feed on this situation.
The answer to anti-Semitism is socialism. There is no way to evade that fact. Bourgeois society will always seek to divide the workers, and to lull them with reactionary fairy tails about a "glorious", "eternal" and "united" nation which can only be in conflict with other nations, never within itself. There will always be room for anti-Semitism in such an environment, and the Zionist crimes falsely associated with the Jews as a whole will make sure that this room will be ever larger. This is why we must urge anyone who regards him or herself as Jewish, to stand up against Zionism and to join forces with the progressive and revolutionary elements in his or her society. There is no other way if we desire a world without racism.
That said, socialists recognise that because Israeli Jews have lived in Palestine for over 60 years, and have developed something of a common language and culture, we reject reactionary calls (sadly sometimes seen also on the left) for them to be either ‘thrown into the sea’ or forced to live as second-class citizens in an Arab Palestine. Both the Israeli-Jewish and Palestinian peoples have the right to national, cultural and linguistic autonomy, but this is not something that can be granted by the imperialists and their ‘two-state’ solution (which in practice would mean a small, weak and divided Palestinian state under the iron heel of Israel). Only a single workers’ state of Israel/Palestine, with autonomy for both peoples but with free movement between them, and as part of a socialist federation of the Middle East, can provide these two peoples with what they desperately crave.