Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Anti-Semitism, Jeremy Corbyn and the British "Anti-War" Left

Israel – unlike, say, Isis – is backed by democratic western governments whose foreign policy we can influence. And the Israel-Palestine question, an intractable conflict stretching back decades, has long been the key foreign policy issue for supporters of both Israel and Palestine-  Owen Jones, Anti-Semitism has No Place of the Left, It's Time to Confront it.
Jeremy Corbyn is bound to get flak for 'sharing a platform' with those for Palestinian self determination against Israel. But this is not only because uncritical admirers of Israel want to smear its critics as anti-semites as a means to delegitimise them. It arises out of the failures of Western 'leftist' thinking.

It should be first observed that for most British people, the Israel-Palestine conflict is not something they are as seemingly obsessed by as the British left in particular or a good number of British Muslims and Jews. When the conflict enters the news, a good number of Britons regard it a bore or say 'they are always fighting'.

There is a good reason why. Not only is it a very complicated issue but discussion seems monopolised by fanatics, demagogues and trendy 'Islington' types looking for a conflict that involves 'we' in the West being to blame for so that their crusade to right the wrongs of the world will be 'empowering'.

This points to some flaws in the thinking of the pro-Palestine left in Britain. The injustices the Palestinians suffer mean that no particular attention is paid to the fact that there are many leaping at the opportunity to disguise a hatred of Israel for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with the fate of the Palestinians.

Often the enmity towards Israel on parts of the left is connected to their Anti-Americanism and simplistic view that Israel is a frontier outpost of American global hegemony over the Greater Middle East. For those such as George Galloway, the Palestinians are counters in a geopolitical power game.

The problem with the 'anti-war movement' that stands behind Corbyn is that it was united by that which it was against rather than that which it was for. This meant it was dominated by radical ideologues of the SWP and Islamists back in 2003 who linked opposition to the war on Iraq with the unrelated issue of Palestine.

Jones calls for anti-semitism to be 'recognised, routed out and defeated'. But it is in part a manifestation the paranoid belief that Israel and the lobby was telling the US to invade Iraq and because Iraq was Muslim and the West is an evil imperialist force in league with Zionists. There was no attempt to challenge that.

Having supported the Soviet Union and being in sympathy with Arab secular dictatorships aligned with Moscow, Galloway lauds any force resisting Israel long after 1991 because, as with Seumas Milne, they are still embittered by the collapse of the USSR and the victory of 'the West' in the Cold War.

While Galloway is not anti-semitic, he is anti-Zionist in the 'hard left' sense of regarding all the instabilities in the Middle East that are not caused directly by Israel as part of their covert, almost superhuman cunning plots to destabilise Arab states and pit Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims against each other.

Unfortunately, conspiracy theories predominate among uneducated or semi-educated people In Britain. In Muslim communities paranoid theories are popular among Islamists who see their own victim status and failures as wholly the fault of a dastardly global Western-Zionist alliance or 'them'.

Of course, Israel is backed by EU nations and while this has something to do with European-especially German-guilt over the Holocaust, it also has much to do with the convenient trade benefits they enjoy with Israel and the interest they have in arms deals and the potential for a secure supply of its offshore gas.

It is possible to be opposed to Israel's callous and brutal geostrategy of provoking Hamas into retaliating as a pretext for 'demilitarising' Gaza without lauding Hamas, a force which regularly plays into Israel's hands and allows Israel to justify its attempt to secure Gaza Marine gas and so shore up its regional client.

The geopolitical reality in the Eastern Mediterranean is one of sectarian enmities and wars for resources. It is impossible to have a sane, objective view of the conflict if it acts as a draw for those in Britain fighting a soft version of a proxy conflict in which, by protesting against Israel, they are fighting US 'imperialism'.

The US has different interests to the EU in the region and has actually tried to reduce its commitments there to shift its attention towards China. Israel acts as an independent global power and has built up closer relations with Russia, India, China and Egypt. Israel always has other markets for its sizeable gas reserves.

Turkey is generally supported by Western democracies but there is not that much of a protest by the StWC against the US deal to allow Turkey to bomb Kurdish militias ranged against ISIS. Nor is there that much concern with the Kurds unless they are seen as being 'betrayed'.

The reason for this could also be that Israel backs Kurdish independence and so anything that could possibly fall in with Israel's strategical objectives is bad. After all, Corbyn and his followers are against the break up of Iraq, despite complaining that it was essentially an imperial creation of Britain in the 1920s.

If Owen Jones wants to confront anti-semitism he may well have to confront those who promote a certain form of anti-Zionism no less than he opposes the virulent forms of anti-Arab hatred that exist among radical Israeli nationalists. And that means taking issue with 'anti-war' heavyweights such as Galloway.

The Worldview of the StWC is Inherently Simplistic 

In so far as it conforms to a worldview,  the StWC's task is to 'stop' wars that Britain is responsible for starting. As Britain is generally supportive of Israel, it is regarded as a war in some sense 'started' by Britain just as the Russo-Georgia War of 2008 or the civil war in Ukraine in 2014 was 'started' by NATO.

Part of the reason they look and sound stupid is that the name 'Stop the War Coalition' is a meaningless and, perhaps, Trotskyist construction. For them 'the war' is not Afghanistan or Iraq. It is capitalism and imperialism which is just one permanent war of the 'rich west' against the 'poor rest'.

A 'British Peace Coalition' would be better and 'stopping wars' indicates that it might be pacifist. But clearly by being 'anti-war' they mean 'western war' because others wars, revolutionary or 'resistance' based are politically correct and not Western so that violence is valid.

In the StWC outlook, most wars are caused by the West. So wars that are against it are considered fine unless it is either Al Qaida or ISIS because it would make for bad propaganda to claim they are just the extreme fringe of anti-imperialist forces. So they are also wholly caused by imperialism. 
This usually means a selective interpretation of Cold War history in which the West backed the mujahadeen against the PDPA in Afghanistan after 1979 and so caused 9/11. But Arab Afghans were a tiny faction of the mujahadeen and the PDPA regime actually caused a jihad prior to US meddling.
The reason for this oversimplified history is that it suits Western radicals in Britain to believe the evils of the world are caused by their own governments because it means if 'we' act to change the government, then the world can be changed for better. Ironically, it's Westernocentric.

But, the other problem with this worldview, apart from its stupidity, is that it acts as a magnet for all sorts of paranoid cranks who associate imperialism with cosmic plots to destroy Arab and Muslim unity. This easily lends itself to anti-semitism because of the aspect of conspiracism Inherent in the worldview.

StWC propaganda generally also denies agency to people in foreign lands, presupposing they are either incredibly moronic for always allowing their country to be destabilised by plots or else very easily hoodwinked by super cunning Israelis and assorted imperialists.

For example, it used to be the complaint that Hamas was an Islamist tool to destroy the unity of the Fatah lead Palestinian Liberation Organisation and divide and rule Gaza and the West Bank. Yet when Fatah showed signs of giving in to Israel and the US, Hamas became lauded as a heroic resistance force.

No comments:

Post a Comment