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Israel, Jews and the Left

by Jordy Cummings

Can it be that it was all so simple? In 1948, upon Israel’s founding, the International Left was supportive of Israel, including Arab communist and socialist parties, particularly in Egypt.

Even after the “Nakhba,” Marxists, even within the Arab world, were prepared to accept Israel’s right to exist within secure borders. The reasoning, beyond the obvious, was simple: a socialist, labor-based country would rub off on the repressive “Islamo-fascism” that permeated the region.

Indeed, it was the British-funded Muslim Brotherhood that provided the basis for Arab Anti-Semitism, as well as a means to push Nasser to the right. Moreover, it was the Americans (particularly Zbignew Brzezinski) in their brilliance, who decided to create an International Islamic Fundamentalist Brigade to defeat communism in Afghanistan, later to morph into Al Qaida. Aside from some American corporations, international big business, “capitalism” if you will, has always relied more strongly on Iron-fisted Wahabbis than Eretz Y’israel.

Then why is it that the International Left seems to be so “Pro-Palestinian?” leading many hitherto left-leaning Jews to abandon their progressive affiliations? Why is it that an innocuous Naderite group like McGill Qpirg has been lumped in with “extremists?”

Much of it has to do with a misunderstanding of our position on this issue. Even the most ardent critics of Sharon’s actions do not deny Israel’s right to exist in secure borders. It is just that we cannot square Sharon’s appointing of transfer-mongers and his stated desire to destroy the Oslo Peace Process with our support for Israel.

Therefore, like Americans who saw it as their patriotic duty to speak the truth while their nation was involved in the horrendous Vietnam war, we see it as our responsibility, as Jews and as Internationalists, to speak out against Ariel Sharon, not to mention his party which fills itself with open advocates of ethnic cleansing.

The charge that the Left is anti-Semitic is ludicrous, especially given that the vanguard of the many, if not most progressive social movements are disproportionately Jewish. Indeed, the group of non-violent activists who occupied Irwin Cotler’s office included more than one Israeli, as well as quite a few Palestinians.

As more Palestinians and Arabs become involved in leftist and internationalist politics, it will bring a far-preferable mode of political thinking to the region than that of the Wahhabis and B’aathists.

On the other hand, as many Jews close ranks to support Sharon, there has been a tremendous growth of openly expressed Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism, advocates of transfer and generally McCarthyite if not Meir Kahane-derived attitudes towards not only Palestinians but “self-hating Jews” as well, including Rabbi Michael Lerner, Amos Oz, Yossi Beillin and! others.

Israel and Palestine are but a small part of the International Left’s current agenda, which can be simplified in the great catch-phrase “Another World is Possible.” Unlike the media-created label of “anti-globalization,” the Left aims to globalize social justice, environmental, human rights and labor movements to eventually be able to counter the international power of corporations.

The nation-state has declined in power over the last half-century, while big business acts globally. Anyone confused about the current global corporate agenda can look at victims of Enron, not only in Houston, but all through India where it was a regular Enron practice to bribe state-officials to build huge Stalakhnovite dams that are environmentally destructive, while nearly one hundred million Indians are without properly irrigated water.

As the world faces an unprecedented growth in anti-Semitism, both in the fascist-LePenite and Islamic variety, it is important that the Jewish community understands one another, a sort of macro-level Shalom Babayit. It is of course also important for us to understand that LePen and other Euro-fascists are as anti-Arab as they are anti-Semitic. We Semites–Muslim, Jewish and Christian, must find ways of working together globally. My aim in writing this editorial was not to propagandize or preach, it was rather to explain to my community why so many of us are involved in Internationalism.

I expect that the knee-jerk responses to me will be visceral, just as they were to Spinoza, yet a compass is far more important when it is inconvenient, and I believe that history will vindicate my position, while the same cannot be said for those who blindly support Sharon.

Jordy Cummings lives in Montreal. He can be reached at:

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