DODDERING OLD FOOL ADDRESSES PROBLEMS OF ANTIZIONISM
The following is from an exchange that took place between June 8 and June 11. There were four participants, including your humble servant (hereafter known as Doddering Old Fool—DOF). The exchange took place on the Facebook “wall” of one of the participants. Ignorant as I am of Facebook protocol, I did not know that individuals’ “walls” are private, and consequently saw nothing wrong in posting the entire exchange on my blog. It has been brought to my attention that such is not the case; moreover at least two of the participants in the exchange objected to having their words posted. (The incident brings to mind Rockefeller’s telling Diego Rivera, “It’s my wall”; let that pass.) I have therefore deleted all the comments made by the other participants (including, to be on the safe side, those of the person who did not object), leaving only my own comments, and trusting to the ability of readers to figure out the issues from what remains. I fear trying to do so will be a bit like listening to a string quartet with all but the second violin removed, but some may find the effort rewarding.
Notes are at the end.
DOF: I favor free speech, but merely because people have suffered reprisals for exercising free speech does not make them my heroes; it depends on what they say. I deplored the killing of the cartoonists, but that did make me march with Netanyahu or declare that Je suis Charlie Hebdo. Dieudonne M’bala M’bala has made a career out of not merely condemning Zionism but by vulgar Jew-baiting. I condemn his persecution by the French state, but I do not consider him a hero. The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.
DOF posted the following links to two New Yorker articles:
DOF: Since you do not object to his cozying up to the National Front, his support for Ahmadinejad, his preference for Bin Laden over Bush, and his giving an award to Faurisson (for more on that, google dieudonne faurisson), can you tell me what you would find objectionable?
DOF: Do you think the New Yorker made up his visit to Iran and his statement that he preferred bin Laden to Bush? Did wikipedia make up his award to and his appearances with Faurisson? The Marseillaise cuts both ways, and like you I would need to know more of the context. (If he actually opposed a mob of racists, why the links to Le Pen and Soral, or are they also inventions?) I don't like Netanyahu or Ahmadinejad, Bernard H-L, Faurisson or the National Front. As I keep saying, the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. It is obvious to me that he gets his kicks (and maybe more) from twitting "the Jews," beyond what is necessary to the struggle against zionism. I oppose Jew-baiting not because it poses a threat to the Jews (who are pretty well situated now) but because it is a danger to the working class (to which I am still retarded enough to be loyal.) I am still waiting to hear what, if anything, you would find objectionable.
DOF: I also defend Faurisson's right to speak, and Dieudonne's. But if you meant what you said about needing to know more of the context before you making up your mind, then I suggest you not be in such a hurry to post (with obvious approval) a report from Atzmon, who has shown, shall we say, a lack of discrimination in choosing his associates (so long as they claim to oppose Zionism).
DOF: I support the schoolteachers, nurses, bus drivers, miners and workers in the oil, automobile, tire, sugar and other industries who have protested and struck against the Islamic Republic. Larudee seems like the genuine article. I hope his decision to give an award to the person who gave an award to Faurisson does not hurt him and the movement against Zionism.
DOF: And were you also trying to be funny when you said you support Ahmadinejad "absolutely" (and prefer bin Laden to Bush)?
DOF: As for Bush and bin Laden, I take seriously the possibility of a world with neither, and will not limit my choices to which of the two I "prefer."
DOF: We agree on many things: the danger represented by Zionism and the harm being done by Jewish identity politics, which is one of its main pillars and without which it is not clear that the Zionists would enjoy the backing of the U.S. and other governments which allows them to carry out their policies. That is why I support and encourage your efforts to expose those politics.
Where we disagree, I think, is that you have collapsed all evil in the world into Zionism, and have developed an approach that leads you to select your friends and enemies based on the sole criterion of their attitude toward Zionism. That is mistaken analytically, and even more mistaken as a tactic. You have compared the scale of the Zionist danger to that posed by the Nazis in the past. Granting the validity of the parallel, I remind you that some good people (and some not so good), in their zeal to defeat Nazism, adopted a political line that led them to crush a revolution in Spain and oppose the national movements of India, Algeria, Indonesia, Puerto Rico and other peoples oppressed by the powers they hoped to enlist in the grand anti-Nazi alliance – even to the point of denouncing as disruptive of the war effort the1942 Negro March on Washington Movement. It was a disastrous mistake. I do not accuse you of having committed comparable sins, but I fear you are on the same path, and that is why I think it is you, not I, who have lost perspective.
Believe me, I can understand the temptation to bash “the Jews.” I do not view all those who engage in that pastime as Himmlers; but I do think that those who know better, and who engage in that sort of demagogy because it is popular in certain circles and think they can gain from it are following a dangerous course which will do grave harm to the antizionist movement, unless they turn back, something which experience shows that they, once embarked on that path, rarely do. And while I defend the right to speak of Dieudonne, and Faurisson, and Zundel, I do not award them hero medals – not even as a joke. Zionism is not responsible for the mistreatment of the Muslims in the banlieus (so well depicted in the film “L’Haine”). French capital would like nothing better than to channel the resentment of those people of the police and the political parties (including the National Front) into a struggle against “the Jews.” It would not be the first time the princes have played that card.
Maybe you saw – it is all over the internet – the video of the cops in Texas breaking up a pool party of black youth, one of them putting his knee in the back of a 14-year-old girl clad in a bikini. That atrocity was not the work of “the Jews.” I know, worse things happen every day in Palestine, but that incident is a highlight in an important struggle developing in the number one backer of Zionism. At the height of the Ferguson rebellion, people from Gaza tweeted the people in Ferguson who were hurling tear gas grenades back at the cops with messages of support and practical advice on how to deal with tear gas. I view that as a moment of global significance.
I do not believe that the National Front in France, or any of the white supremacists who offer a friendly venue to people you and I both know (so long as they limit themselves to denouncing Zionism), have said anything about the black struggle. On the contrary, they are on the wrong side, cheering law-and-order. Do you think the link between Gaza and Ferguson—which offers greater hope than anything else I see for inflicting serious harm on Zionism and imperialism – will be built through such connections?
Finally, I knew too many Iranian revolutionaries, comrades of mine from the anti-Shah movement of the 1970s, who were tortured to death in the prisons of the Islamic Republic, to be swayed by Ahmadinejad’s (or Ghadafi’s) verbal denunciations of Zionism and U.S. imperialism. The enemy is at home, in the U.S. and Iran. And the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.
DOF: In answer to your question, am I referring to you as an antisemitic demagogue? While I think you underestimate the harm that they can do -- that is a difference between us -- no, I do not number you among them. I regret that you found it necessary to ask, and I to answer, this question.
DOF: I have said, and I stand by it, that I appreciate the work you have done opposing Jewish identity politics. I do regret that because I refuse to dismiss antisemitism as a marginal cult of no consequence you suspect me of lumping you with the antisemites.
DOF: Although it is true you have not devoted reams to discussing some of the people we differ on, I do not regard your attitude toward them as marginal, and I do not apologize for bringing it up.
DOF: I take antisemitism seriously – not as a present reality with a force comparable to that of neoliberalism and Zionism – but as an ideology with the potential to divert and mislead mass movements. You don’t. In fact you claim it does not exist, compare me to Chip Berlet or the SPLC, and accuse me of “judeocentric prejudice in [my] insistence on this non-existent demagogy.” (Shamir accused me of “Judaic thinking” for believing that white supremacy was still a live issue in the U.S. at a time he was trying to engineer an alliance between Cynthia McKinney and David Duke.) In the meantime, you offer no objection to Atzmon appearing under the sponsorship of someone who thinks antebellum southern whites were the counterparts of Palestinians, or Alison Weir appearing on a radio show hosted by someone whose website features the Confederate flag over a quote attributed to Solzhenitsyn, “You must understand, the leading Bolsheviks who took over Russia were not Russians. They hated Christians. Driven by ethnic hatred they tortured and slaughtered millions of Russians without a shred of human remorse. It cannot be overstated. Bolshevism committed the greatest human slaughter of all time. The fact that most of the world is ignorant and uncaring about this enormous crime is proof that the global media is in the hands of the perpetrators” followed by the comment, “They call them Zionists or Neocons today. And they hate Americans of all colors today! Especially whites.” I could offer you testimony of people involved in actual struggles in the streets that the holders of those views are not a handful of marginal cranks but exercise influence in real movements. I believe that under certain conditions they could grow and become more of a danger than they are now. Very well, you aren’t interested, and resent my bringing it up. In that case, I can accept you as an authority on Jewish identity politics and the end of modern Jewish history, and not engage you in any discussion of strategy, thus avoiding disharmony. Is that what you want?
DOF: Temper, temper. Are there so many people who appreciate even to the extent I do what you are trying to do that you can afford to drive one of them away?
Since the phrase “you have collapsed all evil in the world into Zionism, and have developed an approach that leads you to select your friends and enemies based on the sole criterion of their attitude toward Zionism” offends you, let me see if I can formulate what I think with greater precision:
Your focus on the struggle against Zionism has led you to dismiss as marginal currents claiming to oppose Zionism that are actually or potentially dangerous, and made you unwilling to draw as sharp a line against them as that which you draw against Zionism.
Will that do? Somehow I doubt it.
DOF: Of course I do not believe Dieudonne is a problem compared to “all this.” The point is, I do not compare him to “all this” but to what is necessary to defeat Zionism. (I have not reached a conclusion about Dieudonne; some things I read gave me pause; I listed them and was ridiculed for doing so.) The behavior of organized Jewry in France, the U.S. and every place else is so reactionary and overbearing that it makes people whose antizionist bonafides I have no reason to doubt desperate enough to seek support from sworn enemies of everything you and I hold dear so long as they claim to oppose Zionism. But that is a dangerous weapon to employ, and may do grave harm to the one wielding it. Moreover, it will not help the Palestinians or the Lebanese. You once wrote that you had refused to speak under the auspices of James Dean, a white supremacist. Atzmon did, and twisted and squirmed like a pickpocket in the dock when I called him on it. (Our exchange, including your comment, is on my blog: http://www.pmpress.org/content/article.php/20120314153431220) Have you changed your mind? Did you read what I quoted from Clay Douglas’s website about the Bolshevik Revolution and the Jews and hating white Americans? Would you speak on his radio show and keep silent about his ravings? Alison Weir did, several times. (I do not doubt your explanation for why JVP attacked her; but that doesn’t justify what she did.) The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.
Final words (perhaps) from DOF: It is evident to me that we are dealing with four levels here: first, antisemites and white supremacists; second, those who, while not themselves antisemites or white supremacists, consider it acceptable to deal on friendly terms with those who are; third, those who have not dealt with antisemites and white supremacists in that way but feel no need to challenge their friends who do; and fourth, me. The chain breaks when it reaches me.
 Robert Faurisson, French “historical revisionist,” convicted and fined for “holocaust denial,” a crime under French law.
 Bernard Henri-Levy, French prozionist writer.
 Jazz musician and controversial writer, former Israeli now living in London. His most recent book is The Wandering Who: Studies of Jewish Identity Politics. His website is http://www.gilad.co.uk/
 Paul Larudee, Iranian-born American pro-Palestinian activist, an official of STYLO France, an international literary and human rights group. It was STYLO’s granting of its 2015 Free Speech prize to controversial French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala that sparked the exchange.
 Ernst Zundel, German writer and publisher, imprisoned for “holocaust denial.”
 Professional hunters after the “far right”
 Israel Shamir, Russian-Israeli publicist, often accused of anti-Semitism. http://www.israelshamir.net/
Noel Ignatiev is editor of A New Notion: Two Works by C.L.R. James: "Every Cook Can Govern" and "The Invading Socialist Society".