A Criminal Amalgam: The Limits of anti-Zionism
The Limits of
"A Criminal Amalgam" is the first of four articles published in French by the French socialist Yves
Coleman. The original text in French is here. The articles were published at the height of the Intifada violence and the
accompanying anti-Semitic violence and anti-Zionist propaganda campaign in Europe. The basic premises remain valid, and
the arguments of anti-Zionists remain as they were, though the current issues may be somewhat different. While we may
disagree with some of Coleman's socialist rhetoric about imperialism and nationalism, there is no doubt that he
effectively demolishes the heart of "leftist" anti-Zionist propaganda, and exposes it as anti-Semitism and theorizing
that is divorced from reality. ZIIC.
A Criminal Amalgam: The Limits of anti-Zionism
To understand how we got there, I will approach the "theoretical" base that allowed these slips using an
article published in Socialist Review of July-August 2002, then I will take two significant examples in the French
revolutionary press (Socialisme), and American (Socialist Worker) (2). However, anyone with a computer can find hundreds
of other occurrences of this criminal amalgam, simply by using a search engine on Internet, and typing in the words
"Sharon" and "Hitler." [ZIIC: There are 1.3 million such pages retrieved by Google, though many of those pages argue
against the comparison.]
Let us note that in this field, as in many others today, one can find
solid reasons to fight against an adversary only by comparing him with Hitler. From Bush (who compared Milosevic and Saddam
Hussein with Hitler) to the revolutionaries, one finds a common language and Pavlovian reflexes, indicating a particular
poverty of thought that is not astonishing in the American president, but which must cause worry in the case of
revolutionaries who have, supposedly, a theoretical tradition and a capital consisting of a range of solid
arguments that could be used to fight Le Pen, Milosevic, Saddam Hussein or Sharon.
origins of anti-Semitism
In the July-August issue of of Socialist Review, Sabby Sagal reviews what she
considers the Marxist position concerning the "Jewish question". She describes the history of anti-Semitism in several
periods. Before the industrial revolution, anti-Semitism would be explained, according to her, mainly by the fact
that the Jews were usurers, tax collectors, bankers, tradesmen, in short, intermediaries necessary to the operation
of the small saleable output of then incipient capitalism. This "analysis" takes again an assumption advanced by the Trotskyist Abraham Leon in 1942 in The Marxists and the Jewish question, a book that had merit at the time, because
it was produced under extremely precarious conditions, but which is totally obsolete today. [Leon was a tragic figure. A
to Trotskyism in Nazi occupied France, he proved quite to his utter satisfaction, according to all the rules of
dialectic materialism and historical determinism, that there could never be a Jewish state. He went to his death secure
in his faith in the workers' paradise and the holy writ of Trotskyism. See
of historical research
Indeed, historians have considerably advanced in the last sixty years. It is
enough to scan, for example, the four volumes of
La Société Juive a collection of
contributions published under the direction of Shmuel Trigano by Fayard in 2000.
In Islamic lands of the Middle Ages, the Jews, far from being specialized in trade and finance, exercised
nearly 250 different trades! The is very far from the stereotype of the Jew unable to cultivate the
ground or to work with his hands. The immense majority were hawkers, servants, employees, peasants, companions or
In the medieval Occident, at a time when, in theory, the Jews were confined to certain professions, they in fact
engaged in other trades than those which were allowed to them by the Church. The large traders and the Jewish bankers
did not constitute the majority of the Jewish population, however small the communities were (they varied from a few hundreds to a few thousands of individuals, at the time and were very
dispersed on the European continent).
The tax registers of the twelfth century, for example, show that only a
minority of the 3,000 Jews living in England were saddled with taxes, and that this minority paid for the whole of the
community, much too poor to pay anything. In Germany, in the fourteenth century, of 8,000 families, 2,000 were poor and
depended on alms of their co-religionists. Certain Jews were even so destitute that they joined groups of
marginal and delinquent Germans, which explains why the vocabulary of the underworld German contains a significant
number of Hebrew words! In Moravia, in a community of 50 hearths, in the seventeenth century, 5 families provided 3/5
of the community taxes. In Amsterdam, at the end of the eighteenth century, 4,000 people maintained 18,000 poor. In Frankfurt, in
1870, 25% of the community were without resources. In Warsaw in 1872, the financial, industrial and commercial upper
middle classes represented only 6 % of the Jewish population. These few examples taken in a seven century interval
show well the falseness and the perversity of the "Judaism = religion of money" myth, a myth maintained by the various
religious and political institutions, taken up again ad nauseum by Marx in the Jewish Question and again recently
illustrated by Jacques Attali in his book about the Jews and money (3).
With due respect to the
simplistic Marxists and... to the anti-Semites, the "economic" explanation quite simply does not quite hold
water. Likewise, we should not be astonishing that certain Marxists gather untruths so that their theses do not appear
glaringly wrong. Thus in the Sabby Sagal article already quoted, the author claims that in the Middle Ages the Jews enjoyed "protections
and privileges", that they had a "legal status much better than that of the serfs", assertions which lead one to think that the
majority of the Jews of the time formed part of the privileged classes, which is false. The economic explanation does
not make it possible to understand the reasons for the hostility of the agricultural work force or townspeople to Jews
over the centuries. The religious factor played a great part because all Western societies until the nineteenth century rested on Christian values and these values organized all: political power, justice, teaching, laws,
social life, etc. Moreover, linguistic, ethnic, and national factors had a role: apart from Hebrew, Judeo-Spanish
or Yiddish, the Jews often spoke another language that that about the country where they lived (for example, the
Jews expelled from France to England in 1066, spoke French, before being driven out, in their turn, from England two centuries
later, in 1290; in 1895, 80 % of the Serbian Jews still spoke Judeo-Spanish (Ladino) as did about 96 % of Bulgarian Jews,
etc.) and this characteristic distinguished them and isolated them from the remainder of the population; finally, the
fact that the Jews could read and write (for religious reasons) made them a very distinct minority, in an ocean of
illiteracy and crass ignorance maintained by the dominant Church and classes. The elimination of illiteracy constituted
a very appreciable asset for them
when they were allowed to use their talents, and that could only cause hatred and
However, the fact that Marxists
reduce anti-Semitism to a primarily economic question has one second problematic consequence: it would imply that,
when capitalism disappears, all forms of racism will go up in smoke (4). It is difficult to
imagine a more naive position.
Israel: a "colonial settlement" to the supporters of national liberation
With regard to Zionism, it
has been curious that the British SWP [Socialist Workers Party], which justifiably supports the Palestinian national liberation struggle
after having supported, in a relatively critical way, all movements of national emancipation for half a century,
does not realize that Zionism was also a kind of movement of national liberation, even if it led to creation of a
colonial settlement in the image of the United States, Australia or South Africa (5), which gives it particular and
extremely displeasing characteristics. However, isn't this the case of all the national liberation movements? If the majority
of them were not supported by American imperialism, they profited from the very effective military support of the
Russian imperialism. Where is the difference?
An insuperable theoretical difficulty
Finally, the argument that Zionism requires anti-Semitism to exist
recalls the arguments of those who claim that
if women did not wear revealing miniskirts or low necklines, they would not be raped by men. (Sabby
Sagala goes so far as to write that "where anti-Semitism does not exist, Zionism creates it out of whole cloth.".
She quotes in support of its "thesis" the fact [sic - as in the original - ZIIC] that the Mossad placed a bomb in the Fifties inside a Baghdad
synagogue to create panic among Iraqi Jews) [an unproven and almost certainly false accusation - ZIIC]. It is hard to
believe that only one bomb was enough to put an end to 2000 years of idyllic coexistence! Let us push this "reasoning"
further: isn't it true that if there were no more Jews, there would be no more anti-Semitism? That is, in
any case, the reasoning which Marx
advances in The Jewish Question, when he explains why once
all the people (including the Jews) are relieved of religious alienation, the Jews will disappear (obviously,
Marx did not think of physical elimination, but of total assimilation and disappearance of the cultural, religious, racial, social, etc,
It is obvious that the
existence of the Jewish people poses a problem for the "Marxists", and that they do not manage to define a position
vis-a-vis these millions of men and women who do not fit within their rigid theoretical framework. One feels
irritation and incomprehension when Sabby Sagala explains to us that "most of the peoples of antiquity were
assimilated to the surrounding societies and disappeared as distinct ethnic groups". Ah, those Jews, what
Curiously, the majority of these Marxists lapse into exaltation of Arab nationalism or pan-Arabism,
a phenomenon even vaguer and more complex to comprehend than Jewish nationalism, but it does not matter. There is no
question of being astonished by the lack of
"assimilation"... of the Arabs! Marx did not write a work called The Arab Question or The Moslem Question,
[though the Arabs] also feel the right to launch into all kinds of catastrophic innovations (6).
Jews and Arabs: 2000 years of peace?
In its article, Sabby Sagal also claims
that the Arabs and the Jews lived harmoniously for 2,000 years, and that only the existence of Israel and the
"provocations" of this State, have caused the hostility of the Arab masses to the Jews. There still, the author is
deliberately ignoring reality and does not take account of the historical data.
Whoever opens the Qur\an even for a few moments, could not be unaware
that it is filled with extremely violent and heinous propositions against the Jews. Admittedly, the anti-Jewish
diatribes coexist with more moderate language, but we must note that in fact the most subtle parts of
Qur\an did not have, historically and politically, the most impact (7).
Additionally, it should
be stressed that the Jews were subject to a specific legal status in the Moslem world (that of dhimmi) undoubtedly
better than that which they had under the medieval Christendom, but which did not guarantee total legal equality,
and prohibited them from engaging in certain functions.
Lastly, the author
forgets to say that the situation of the Jews in the Arab countries became more difficult at the twentieth century,
not so much not because of the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, but because of the movements of national
independence which affected all this region and which began at the very start of the
The French of Algeria had to pack their bags, like the Jews of the Arab countries, because these two communities, for
partly different historical reasons, did not show solidarity with the struggles for national independence in the areas where they lived
for centuries, and because they occupied a social position that was
in many respects compared to the
destitute Arab masses, at least in their relationship to the colonial powers. And even if Israel had not been
created in 1948, it is a good bet that the Jews of the Arab countries would have been used as
scapegoats for the local nationalists in any event.
Zionism was born and
thrived historically especially because million men and women, for both religious and historical reasons,
always considered and consider that they have something very much in common, more powerful than their membership in
some other national State. This "something" (this feeling of membership in a people) varies according to
the individuals, the periods, the social groups, and since the existence of the State of Israel it is obviously used by
Zionism. However, it existed well before Shoah [Holocaust] and Zionism. In such political and theoretical confusion,
it is easily understandable how, in daily anti-Zionist propaganda a few doubtful slips can occur. We
will give two such examples.
Trying to prove too much...
Number 3 of Socialisme (p. 8 and
9) presents two photographs side by side, one showing German soldiers during the Second World war and the other
an Israeli soldier. During one of the demonstrations of "solidarity" with Palestine in Denfert-Rochereau, in Paris, the
quarter was covered with anonymous small posters reading: "Hitler has a son: Sharon." To draw a parallel between Sharon and Hitler can only bring
leftists, full of good intentions (but having,
nevertheless a bottom unconscious anti-Semitism), to give free rein to their racist impulses. These two photographs play
the same role as the moronic slogan. The captions under the photographs are still worse: on one side, there is "Nazi
" on the other "Israeli soldier." First of all "Nazi" is not a nationality, as opposed to "Israeli", but a political
affiliation. It it thus acts of a German soldier, and not of a Nazi
(at least the editors of Socialisme do not know anything about the subject). On the other hand, what the German soldiers (Nazis or not) did to the Jews
was not "hazing" as the caption claims: a hazing obliges somebody to run around nude, or
makes him swallow something disgusting, etc., in short what one did in the army 50 years ago or in the preparatory
classes at the large schools or in the faculty of medicine still today. The German soldiers did not "haze" the Jews, they
exterminated them without the least pity. The difference between hazing and the extermination of 6 million people is not a
simple nuance of language.
On the other side, Socialisme presents a photograph of an
Israeli soldier who "threatens" (according to the caption) the Palestinians. Firstly,
this photograph is cut, that is cropped: cropping leads us to believe that the soldier threatens the family with its child,
but it does not show the people who are certainly in the background, and further away. Socialisme does not
specify in what circumstances the photograph was taken, whereas, concerning the photo of the Jews and the German soldier, everyone knows what
occurred during the Second World War. Moreover, the word "to threaten" is much stronger than the word "to
For a weak mind, the conclusion is simple: what Israelis do to the Palestinians is at least as serious (if
not worse) than what the Nazis did to the Jews (8).
The principal political parties of the
Israeli democratic state do not intend to exterminate the Palestinians and never devoted themselves to practices of
massive elimination of thousands of Palestinians. To imply the opposite is irresponsible (9). On the contrary, it is in the
Arab States that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are freely distributed (10) and it is there that a whole bunch of Nazis were
converted after 1945 into Arab political leaders
in political circles. It is in the Arab States that the
newspapers diffuse anti-Semitic propaganda daily. And it is the Arab States that kill or imprison Jews,
simply because they are Jewish. The article in Socialisme does not mention any of this.
Number 3 of Socialisme publishes
extracts of the autobiography of Tony Cliff (11) (A World to win), and an article by Daniel Lartichaux. These two texts
are filled with inaccuracies about anti-Semitism. D. Lartichaux claims that "the only motive" of the "horrible acts"
against the synagogues in France could be "the conflict in the Middle East". He forgets to mention that there exists in
France a long-standing anti-Semitism, in both rightist and extreme rightist circles as in leftist
fringes, and in part of the Maghrebian population and its children. The votes of Le Pen come from both rightists and
leftists; moreover, coexistence between Judaism and the Islamic religion in the Maghreb was not always
without difficulties; that must influence the behavior of those whose parents or grandparents were born in
The extract of
Cliff's autobiography also contains enormous errors. Cliff quietly affirms that the "the economic and intellectual
ghetto disappeared" in connection with Germany of the beginning of the twentieth century. Whoever knows the history of
the Jews of Germany knows that anti-Semitism persisted well after the first unification. Otherwise, Hitler would never have
made it a part of his program in Mein Kampf. Likewise, he could never have easily imposed all the anti-Semitic laws
once he came to power, and certainly not the Final Solution. But obviously that makes it possible to reduce
Nazi anti-Semitism to the need to inventing scapegoats
for the "crisis which destroyed the means of existence of important layers of the lower middle class" (Socialist
Review). Moreover, Cliff "has forgotten" to mention the launching of Scud missiles against Israel and all the speeches and the acts of the Arab leaders against Israel for 50 years. If
the Jews of Israel have not been massacred or at least thrown into the sea since 1948, it is not because the Arab States of the
region did not want to do it, but because the Jews prevented it, and to that purpose, they used all possible
allies. At the time of the 1948 war, Russian imperialism saved the Jews by massive
weapons deliveries via Czechoslovakia, then American imperialism took up the relief much more effectively.
Admittedly, the question of Israel is complex, and one cannot say it
all in two pages, but by establishing a dangerous parallel (and with anti-Semitic connotations, even if it is not
obviously at all the intention of Socialisme) and forgetting to speak about the anti-Semitism of which the
Jews in Germany and France are still victims, the review implies that the Jews
had another immediate and concrete solution. Which? In theory, a world socialist revolution, but there never
was one, and nobody knows if there will be one soon. Faced with very real anti-Semitism, it was
necessary to defended oneself. In the past, hundreds of thousands of Jews tried to follow the way that Socialisme recommends today; they
were involved in all the streams of the workers movement. The least which one can say, is that that protected them
neither from the anti-Semitism of the left, nor from extermination by the Tsar, the Nazis, Pétain and others. Moreover, the "Jewish question" was always underestimated by the left and the extreme left.
How is it possible not to understand that the existence of a State - possessing, in addition, nuclear weapons - seems to the Jews,
since the Holocaust, a guarantee (relative) more certain than a century and half of beautiful speeches against racism?
This policy leads certainly to a total dead end from a historical point of view, but the labor movement has its share of
responsibility in this failure. Again it is necessary to admit it honestly and to seek the causes of the
If Israel did not exist and had
not decided, roughly speaking after the Eichmann lawsuit, to conduct a worldwide campaign against anti-Semitism,
we would not know the hundredth of what we know today about anti-Semitism, the passivity of the majority of the European
populations, and the complicity of the bourgeois states before and during the Second World war. If today Israel partly
uses the Holocaust to justify its
policy in Palestine, it is because, for decades, the left and even the extreme left did not regard
anti-Semitism as a fundamental problem (12).
A dangerous slip
The second example of doubtful
anti-Zionism is that of the Socialist Worker Newspaper, an organ of the International Socialist Organization in the
United States, which compared the progress of Israeli tanks in the streets of Jenin with that of the Germans in the
Warsaw ghetto! ! ! Exploiting the declaration of an Israeli officer who had made this comparison, the American weekly
magazine brings grist to the mill of anti-Semitism while hiding hypocritically behind the
remarks of a Jewish Zionist!
However, it should be pointed
out, there are no concentration camps in Israel/Palestine and the Israeli army does not occupy a "foreign" country (the
situation is much more complex); the Israeli soldiers are not thousands of kilometers from their native ground, and
especially they do not intend absolutely to exterminate the Palestinian population like the Nazis and their Polish
henchmen did. This comparison can only nourish anti-Semitic sentiments which here, in France, brought individuals who
either simpletons or manipulated or both, to try to burn down synagogues, to throw stones and beat up Jews in the
Moreover, this position does not help the Palestinians to be clearly aware of the true objectives of their leaders. It is
thing to favor the existence of a Palestinian State, another to unconditionally support the corrupt
dictatorship of Arafat and his allies.
It is one thing is to support the fight
of the Palestinians for their democratic rights, another to believe (or to make believe) that terrorism is only or
mainly the product of the Israeli expansionist policy. Religious forces (Hamas, Jihad) and non-religious (PLO,
defend martyrdom - which amounts, according to all logic, to massacring Israeli civilians regularly and preventing any
peaceful coexistence between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.
1. It is interesting to note
who was, undoubtedly, the first to show Jews to be accessories to Hitler, even in the time of Hitler Germany. As Tom
Segev recalls, in the Seventh Million, extremely violent political rivalry separated the ancestors of
the members of the Labor Party (Mapai) and Likud stream (Herut), the party of Ariel Sharon. The Jews of Palestine
knew perfectly well what occurred to Germany [nobody knew about the Holocaust in the 1930s, though Jabotisnky predicted
it - ZIIC] and, because of very restrictive clauses concerning immigration in Palestine, they had to make
extremely painful choices from 1930 to1940. But the fact that Zionist
this kind of villainous amalgam to disqualify other Jews
politically and morally
does not in any way justify the use of this tactic by the
extreme left today. [It is a fact that some of the intellectual lights of the Zionist right were admirers of Mussolini,
though not of Hitler. It is also true that the odious "Nazi" epithet is still used by Israeli political rivals - most
recently in the disengagement batte - ZIIC].
Except for some nuances, the three publications cited
above defend the positions of
Socialist Workers Party, the most important organization of the
extreme left in Europe today. Claiming to follow in the tradition of Lenin and Trotsky, this rather lively group
introduced some alternatives into Leninist orthodoxy by denouncing
State capitalism in all the so-called socialist or
and adopted a more critical analysis and attitude to national liberation
movements than the various branches of the Fourth International.
3. This completely
irresponsible intellectual did not hesitate to diffuse his views in the media, explaining that the Jews had the "genius of
money". It is hard to understand why people equipped with so many allegedly hereditary qualities would have
constituted a State perpetually in full financial bankruptcy and why all the Jews of the planet are not billionaires. But it
does not matter to Attali that his absurd theses are grist to the mill of the coarsest anti-Semitism and do not tally
with the facts. Since it gives him publicity, he is happy.
position is found in the propaganda of the revolutionary groups regarding all aspects of current society. It
enables them to neglect the conflicts which divide nations, ethnic groups and races, to take refuge in the happy belief
that the revolution will solve all. To quote another version of this blindness: "It is only when the majority of
the Jews denounce Israel that anti-Semitism will be overcome." (Socialist Review) As if the anti-Semitism did not
exist before 1948 and the Jews were the principal persons in charge! In Yair Auron's book, The Jews of
the Extreme Left in May 68, a militant leftist who visits for a time in the Palestinian camps during the Seventies tells
extremely hostile reaction of his interlocutors when he naively told them that he was Jewish.
5. Cf the article by Yoren [Yaron?]
Iftachel on the Bedouins of Israel, Transeuropéennes N° 22.
6. This is why some seek to
explain why fundamentalist Islamism is a quasi-revolutionary ideology, but we will cover this subject in
7. In the same way, it is the
anti-Jewish (thus anti-Semitic)
of the New Testament which influenced the Christians for 2000 years, and not more balanced interpretations. Even
Catholic Church had to destroy a million copies of a new edition of the Spanish Bible, because it
8. Besides, it includes one of the
arguments in reverse , employed often on the left and the extreme left. "Our good souls are
astonished that people who underwent so much persecution during its history can in its turn carry out a wild
repression in the occupied territories." Firstly, this reasoning begins from a false premise, that of the collective
responsibility: all the Germans were not Nazis (Hitler threw more than one million in the camps) and all the Jews
were not victims (some collaborated with the Nazis, hoping to save their skins; others thought only of themselves,
emigrated in time and were unaware of the fate of their co-religionists; others fought the weapons with their hands, etc).
[Why they are not victims according to Coleman is a mystery - ZIIC].
In the same way, all the Jews of today do not agree with the policy of their government and the demands of the army. And
some of those who live in Israel go so far as to refuse to serve in uniform. Moreover, this reasoning
rests on the naive idea that anyone who was victim of an injustice, oppression, torture (or whose parents or
grandparents were martyred or killed) would automatically have a
moral stature and political clarity . This is close to the idea of a genetically linked superiority, due to
the direct or indirect experience of martyrdom.
In brief, this floats in fantasy land.
9. The Israeli state is carrying
out a dirty war which, like all the modern wars, hurts civilians more than professional soldiers. In any event, in
this particular conflict, the distinction between civilian and military is hardly valid, since any Israeli, man or woman, can be
called up for the military service and any Palestinian can be involved in an organization practicing anti-Jewish terrorism.
10. A forgery manufactured by the Tsarist
police force to support the thesis of an imaginary Jewish plot to dominate the world.
11. Director of British SWP, deceased in 2001, who made his first debut
in Palestine under the British mandate, in the Trotskyite movement, before becoming an activist in England. It in
particular wrote two biographies of Lenin and Trotsky as well as an important book translated into French: State
Capitalism in Russia, EDI.
12. This problem did not begin yesterday, as some can testify; for
example, the attitude of the French Socialists during the Dreyfus affair or that of the resistance during the Second
World war and afterwards, both of which reflect anti-Semitism at second glance.
Translated by Ami Isseroff
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