ANTI-ZIONISTS: DO YOU WANT TO WIN A CLASS, OR LOSE A RACE, WAR?
by John Spritzler
May 24, 2021
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I say why the conflict in Palestine is a class war in my article, "ATTENTION ANTI-ZIONISTS AND PRO-ZIONISTS! ISRAEL'S GOVERNMENT ATTACKS ORDINARY JEWS AS WELL AS PALESTINIANS" And I say, in my article, "Listen Anti-Zionist!", why it is crucial for the anti-Zionist movement to assert this truth. Doing so is to wage a class war, and this is how we can win.
If you don't know the facts about Zionism's longstanding oppression of ordinary Jews, then you really must read the first article I link to above. At the very least, read this footnote*.
I know that some (arguably most) people in the anti-Zionist movement think the conflict is a race (or ethnic, if you prefer), not a class, war: a war between "the Jews" and "the Palestinians." This view is not only factually false, it also makes it impossible to defeat Zionism. Here's why.
By declaring "the Jews" to be the enemy, this view is essentially an antisemitic view since declaring Jews to be the enemy is virtually the definition of antisemitism. If there is anything that Zionists love, it is for their critics to be easily dismissed as "people who say they are against Zionism and not Judaism but really they're just antisemites." Zionist leaders count on this in order to maintain the crucial support for Israel of most of the American public. It is foolhardy to hand them this gift on a silver platter.
Zionism prevails because it (the Israeli government) has the full military, economic and diplomatic support of the U.S. ruling class. And as long as anti-Zionists treat the conflict as a race (or ethnic), not a class, war, the U.S. ruling class will be able easily to continue supporting Zionism. Here's why.
As I explain in "Why U.S. Billionaires Could Destroy the Israel Lobby, But Don't," U.S. billionaires support Israel because Zionism is enormously strategically useful to them. But in order for the U.S. ruling class to support Zionism, with its obvious violent brutality against Palestinians, the U.S. ruling class needs the U.S. general public--at least a critical mass of it--to believe that what the Israeli government does is morally justified because it is only what is necessary to protect Jews from the violent antisemitic hatred of Palestinians. Zionism absolutely requires that Israeli violence be seen as fundamentally only violence in self-defense.
The supporting pillar for this pro-Israel argument is the assertion by Zionists that the Israeli government's top priority, like that of the Zionist movement since the days of the Holocaust, is and always has been protecting ordinary Jews from antisemites.
The reason this false Zionist assertion (Yes, it is false! Read the facts that prove it so you can tell others.) is so widely believed is because VIRTUALLY NOBODY CHALLENGES IT. And by challenging it, I mean pointing out that Zionist leaders have betrayed ordinary Jews since the Holocaust (when they sabotaged efforts to rescue Jews from the Nazis) and oppress them inside Israel today. None of the anti-Zionist organizations and leading individuals challenge this Zionist Big Lie pillar of Zionist propaganda.
Hamas certainly does not challenge this Zionist Big Lie. The PLO never challenges it. The BDS leaders don't challenge it. Angela Davis doesn't challenge it. Jewish Voice for Peace doesn't challenge it. Jews for the Right of Return doesn't challenge it. Noam Chomsky doesn't challenge it. Norman Finkelstein doesn't challenge it. Ilan Pappe (who wrote the wonderful book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine) doesn't challenge it (as you can see by listening to him say why anti-Zionism is not antisemitism here). Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan don't challenge it. Alison Weir's If Only Americans Knew doesn't challenge it. Gideon Levy and Amira Hass (famous anti-Occupation columnists for the pro-Zionist Israeli newspaper, Ha'aretz, who don't even support the Right of Return) don't challenge it. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! doesn't challenge it. Bernie Sanders (who wants us to "tone down calling Israel an apartheid state") doesn't challenge it. The Marxist World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) doesn't challenge it. The socialist Democratic Socialists of America doesn't challenge it. I'm not aware of even John Pilger (who is wonderful in most respects) challenging it. Chris Hedges, who is passionately anti-Zionist, doesn't, as far as I have seen (correct me if I am wrong, please), challenge it. Miko Peled, the Israeli general's son, is passionately anti-Zionist, but doesn't challenge the pillar of Zionist propaganda. Peter Beinart says a lot of wonderful true things in his video opposing Zionism, but he doesn't challenge the Zionist Big Lie either, alas.
Instead of challenging the Zionist Big Lie, most anti-Zionists say it is true. Here's what I mean.
First, the stated goal of Israeli violence--to grab as much land for Israel as possible and have as few Palestinians on it as possible--is the official goal of Zionism, but this goal is really just a pretext (designed to get the support of Israeli Jews who are told it is necessary to make them safe). It is a pretext for attacking Palestinians to accomplish the actual goal: making Palestinians be so angry at Israel that they can be portrayed as the frightening bogeyman enemy of Jews the Israeli billionaire ruling class needs and uses to control and oppress Israeli working class Jews to get even richer.
Second, most anti-Zionists declare that the pretext goal of Zionism--its stated and official goal--is the ACTUAL goal of the Israeli ruling class, a goal that is (these anti-Zionists wrongly say) truly one that benefits ordinary Israeli Jews. These anti-Zionists then declare ALL Israeli Jews to be "settlers" whose very existence in any part of Palestine (the part that is Israel or not) constitutes oppression of Palestinians. This "Jewish settlers versus oppressed Palestinians" is the "anti-Zionist" vocabulary of race-war.
No wonder Zionist propaganda--race-war propaganda--is so effective! Nobody is challenging its fundamental pillar.
When one's enemies don't challenge one's chief propaganda theme, one will prevail. That is why Zionism is prevailing, despite growing numbers of people horrified by its violence against Palestinians.
When the conflict is presented to the general public falsely, as a race (or ethnic) war between "the Jews" and "the Palestinians" (as Hamas works so hard to make it seem), then most people--certainly enough to let Zionism keep winning--take the side of "the Jews," whom they perceive to be the innocent victims of antisemitism just doing whatever it takes to defend themselves. Sure, a certain number of people (and it is indeed growing) take the side of "the Palestinians"; but these people will remain a minority that is not large enough to stop the U.S. government from supporting Israel.
When the conflict, however, is presented to the general public truthfully, as a class war, most people take the side of ordinary working class Jews and Palestinians AGAINST the billionaire ruling class of Israel and the upper class Palestinians who are in cahoots with Israel's ruling class. This is a fact. You can test it for yourself.
WE CAN WIN OVER THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE GENERAL PUBLIC TO THE ANTI-ZIONIST SIDE
I call your attention to the anecdote at the beginning of my article, "Listen Anti-Zionist!," in which a fiercely pro-Zionist Jewish colleague of mine (named Michael) angrily declared that I was "close to being Hitler" when I was collecting signatures at work in support of the Right of Return. But after I talked to him about the fact that Zionist leaders had betrayed ordinary Jews during the Holocaust and continued till today to oppress them inside Israel, Michael did a 180 and became very friendly.
There are millions of Michaels in the United States and many more millions of non-Jews in the United States who support Israel because the Michaels say it is antisemitic not to support Israel. Are we going to tell these Michael's the truth and thereby win them and the millions who follow them to the anti-Zionist side? Or are we, by our silence and implicit acceptance of the race (ethnic) war framework, going to let the Zionists retain these millions of people as staunch supporters of Zionism? Silence on this question is what comes from seeing the conflict as a race (or ethnic) war. Speaking the truth boldly is what comes from seeing the conflict as the class war it truly is.
WHICH IS BETTER, TO WIN OR TO LOSE?
I say to the anti-Zionist movement, do you want to lose a race (or ethnic) war, or win a class war? That's the actual and only choice.
Right now the anti-Zionist movement with its implicit acceptance of the race (ethnic) war framework, despite gaining some increasing support, is not going to ever gain the critical mass of support it needs to win. The Israeli government is not about to end its ethnic cleansing; in fact it is escalating the violence against Palestinians and doing so with the assured support of the U.S. ruling class.
Is Hamas going to defeat Israel with its rockets?
Some people in the anti-Zionist movement have realized that the strategy of appealing to the general public to pity the Palestinians suffering at the hands of the Israeli government (and hence, supposedly, at the hands of "the Jews") is not going to defeat Zionism, even if it recruits some more people to the anti-Zionist side. So, these people are placing their hopes instead on a military victory (by Hamas) against Israel. These people find it encouraging that Hamas has many rockets that can strike Israeli towns farther and farther away; that it can force Israel to put its people in air raid shelters and close down its airports and so forth.
But as long as the Zionists have the almost unanimous support of the Israeli Jewish population (which the race [ethnic] war framework guarantees) and the support of the U.S. government (because the race [ethnic] war framework ensures sufficient support for Israel by the U.S. general public), Hamas is never going to defeat Zionism.
Uh oh! I can already hear some people insisting that the anti-Zionist movement, with its current, implicit race (ethnic) war framework, is going to just keep getting stronger and stronger and will eventually defeat Zionism. If you are one such person, I have a question for you. Do you want to try winning without the support of the millions of Jewish Michaels and the more millions of non-Jewish people who follow them? Or would you rather have a MUCH greater chance of defeating Zionism by having these millions of Jewish Michaels and their even more millions of non-Jewish followers on your side instead of being your bitter enemy? If you choose the former, then I think you are--knowingly or not--betraying the Palestinian people. Something to think about, no?
How Did the Vietnamese Defeat the United States?
The way the Vietnamese defeated the United States was by making it impossible for the U.S. ruling class to maintain the support of the general public or--most importantly--of the GIs in Vietnam for waging the war against the Vietnamese working class and peasantry.
The GIs in Vietnam came to see that, contrary to what they had been told--that they were in Vietnam to defend freedom--they were really in Vietnam to defend an unjust US occupation of that nation against the will of the vast majority of the Vietnamese working class and peasants. Read here how the GIs increasingly refused to fight the Viet Cong, and how this fact--coupled with the enormous military resistance of the Vietnamese people to the U.S. occupation--is the reason that the U.S. government had to withdraw from Vietnam.
The issue here is not violence, pro or con. The Vietnamese used all the violence they could muster against the U.S. occupying forces. This violence served a good purpose! The U.S. GIs came to understand the real reason why the Vietnamese people were shooting them, and this is why they (the GIs) increasingly refused to fight the Viet Cong.
But the Vietnamese aimed their violence at occupation forces, not at noncombatant civilians in the United States. This is what made it increasingly clear to the GIs and the U.S. public--despite enormous U.S. propaganda about "defending freedom"--that the Vietnamese were fighting in self-defense, that they were not an enemy of ordinary Americans.
Imagine what would have happened if the Vietnamese, on the contrary (and like Hamas today with its suicide bombers and rockets aimed at Israeli noncombatant civilians), had sent terrorists to U.S. cities to kill random noncombatant civilians with bombs or something, and then boasted about how they had done that and would keep doing it until the U.S. surrendered. This would have only made the GIs and the general public more certain that the "Communists" were indeed their mortal enemy as well as being the enemy of good freedom-loving people in Vietnam--just as the U.S. propaganda lies asserted. There would not have been a refusal by GIs to fight, no more than there was a refusal by GIs to fight in World War II when they thought the war was for a noble cause. The U.S. would probably still be occupying Vietnam today if the Vietnamese had attacked U.S. noncombatant civilians in the United States the way that Hamas presently aims to kill noncombatant Israeli Jewish civilians with its rockets.
Those who think Hamas is going to defeat Zionism with rockets aimed at Israeli noncombatant civilians are wrong. The Zionist leaders LOVE it when Hamas fires these rockets.
Hamas could fight a class war against Zionism, with good, effective, violence. I wrote about what that might look like here. But Hamas does not want to win the class war; it has a very different goal: to keep itself in power over ordinary Palestinians.
If and when we frame the conflict truthfully as a class war (that the Zionists try to make people perceive as a race [ethnic] war) then and only then will we be able to recruit the millions of "Michaels" and the many more non-Jewish millions who follow them to the anti-Zionist side. Only then will the U.S. billionaire ruling class have great difficulty maintaining its support for Israel's Zionist ethnic cleansing. Only then will the anti-Zionist and pro-working class forces inside Israel start to emerge and gain strength and eventually end the Zionist project.
* In July of 2011 the people in Israel (mainly, but not only Jews) launched a huge wave of protests against the Israeli government over the issue of their economic impoverishment. The movement kept growing and growing, with mass demonstrations and people pitching tents on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv. “On Saturday, September 3, an estimated 450,000 people participated in several demonstrations which were held over various locations across Israel and which were referred to by protest organizers as ‘The March of the Million.” People were demanding basic economic things, such as affordable housing. Many Israelis could no longer afford to pay their rent.
“The cost of living in Israel is horrendous,” said Daniel Levy, a senior fellow and director of the Middle East Policy Initiative at the New America Foundation. “It’s hellishly expensive compared to what people earn and the inequality gap has only gotten wider.” [ http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/world-july-dec11-israel_08-19/ ]
The Guardian reported:
"Saturday's demonstrations followed 50 days of protests that have rattled political leaders and led commentators and analysts to ask whether a new social movement would transform Israeli domestic politics for the next generation.
"The movement, which has the support of about 90% of the population according to opinion polls, began when a small group of activists erected tents in Tel Aviv's prosperous Rothschild Boulevard in protest at high rents and house prices.
"Tent cities mushroomed across the country and protesters rallied behind the slogan: "The people demand social justice." Among the issues raised were the cost of housing, transport, childcare, food and fuel; the low salaries paid to many professionals, including doctors and teachers; tax reform; and welfare payments. The government established a committee led by the economics professor Manuel Trajtenberg to examine the protesters' demands, which is due to report later this month.
"Demonstrators in Tel Aviv on Saturday night blew whistles and banged drums as they marched in a carnival atmosphere to a large square for a rally. Residents hung banners from balconies and cheered as they passed." [my emphasis]
Note that the demonstrations had the support of 90% of the population! This wave of demonstrations was not about grievances that only affected the Sephardic Jews who are well known to be a sub-set of Jews in Israeli who suffer from discrimination; nor was it about grievances that only affected non-Jews in Israel. No! It was against the economic oppression that harms ALL working class Israeli Jews as well as non-Jews. Evidence for this fact is, as The Guardian article reports, that some people on the Left didn't like that the demonstrations were against how Jews as well as non-Jews were oppressed:
"The protests have been criticised by some on the left for not paying more attention to the discrimination suffered by Israeli-Arabs, who make up 20% of Israel's population, or Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories."
These demonstrations elicited solidarity between Jews and non-Jews. The Guardian reports:
"At a rally in Haifa, Shahin Nasser, an Israeli-Arab, said: 'Today we are changing the rules of the game. No more coexistence based on hummus and fava beans. What is happening here is true coexistence, when Arabs and Jews march together shoulder to shoulder calling for social justice and peace. We've had it.'"
Another Guardian article reported on how the protesters included "middle class" people (a.k.a. working class people better off than other working class people):
"The Facebook-driven tent villages across Israel have echoes of the pro-democracy movements across the Middle East, but Nadav was quick to point out important differences. "This is a middle-class protest, focused on one issue. People in Egypt didn't have a lot to lose. They had no civil rights and no trust in their government." But, he added, "I've kind of lost my trust in my government too because it doesn't serve my needs."
"The Israeli government is alarmed at the spread of the protests and how the issue has united left and right, religious and secular, and the middle-class with their less-affluent fellow citizens.
"The housing protest swiftly followed a widespread consumer boycott of cottage cheese in protest at the high cost of dairy products. Dairy companies were forced to cut prices, and the government initiated a review of the industry." [my emphasis]
Clearly there was working class solidarity that frightened the Israeli ruling upper class!
What did Prime Minister Netanyahu do? Did he grant the demands of “his people”? No! He killed the movement by letting the Zionist ideology do its job: demanding that the demonstrators (the Jews, at least) act "patriotically," i.e., support their [billionaire controlled] government in the fight against “the real enemy”: Palestinians in Gaza, some of whom had fired rockets into Israel (and thereby helped Netanyahu get out of a bad spot!) Netanyahu, in other words, killed the movement with Zionism.
As a The Guardian article reported September 4, 2011:
Weekly demonstrations, whose turnout had been steadily building, were suspended for two weeks after an attack by militants near the Egyptian-Israeli border in which eight Israelis were killed. Some commentators suggested that the movement had lost its momentum.
This is the purpose of Zionism, the purpose of the brutal and violent ethnic cleansing of non-Jews (Palestinians) from most of Palestine: to create a bogeyman enemy with which to frighten and control and thereby exploit and oppress working class Israeli Jews.
Until Israeli Jews see that Palestinians are not their enemy but indeed their ally against their real enemy, they will continue to remain oppressed by the Israeli ruling class.
This anti-working-class function/purpose of Zionism is seldom mentioned explicitly in the mass media. But there are indirect references to it. Here's one, reported by the Christian Science Monitor, that makes the point by noting that when the dangerous bogeyman enemy is not in the news then working class people feel more free to stand up against the Israeli ruling class:
Lull in Palestinian violence turns Israelis' attention to pocketbook issues
Netanyahu has touted himself as an responsible economic leader who supports liberalization amid a globalized economy, but the public also remembers him cutting social-welfare payments and pushing privatization of state companies as finance minister in the first half of the 2000s.
"The housing is a symptom … . Although there is a really good macroeconomic aggregates like GDP [gross domestic product] growth and unemployment, the problem is that we have very large income inequality," says Momi Dahan, an economics professor at Hebrew University.
He says that such issues are coming to the fore because of a relative low in Palestinian violence.
"When it is quiet in the area of security, then all of the other problems come to the surface," Prof. Dahan says. "People are sick of the rules where some people get a six-digit salary, and a cleaning woman or a cashier has a hard time feeding their kids."
Americans old enough to remember the effect of 9/11 (the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the NYC World Trade Center and Pentagon, for those too young to remember) on anti-establishment activism know that it totally put the kabosh on all such activism because people felt that it was unpatriotic to go against "our government" that was defending us against "the terrorists." In Israel, the government can use the "Palestinian conflict" to make it seem like a 9/11 attack whenever it needs to put the kabosh on pro-working class activism. This is why there is a "Palestinian conflict" in the first place: it enables the Israeli upper class to dominate and oppress "its people."