Thursday, 21 February 2019
On Tuesday night, the big-business Socialist Party (PS) called rallies in several cities after an altercation Saturday between right-wing ex-Maoist commentator Alain Finkielkraut and a protester wearing a yellow vest. The man, known to French intelligence for his Islamist ties, called Finkielkraut a “dirty Zionist.” Since then, the media have mounted a furious campaign to denounce the “anti-Semitic left” and demand that the “yellow vests” support the PS demonstration.
Anti-Semitism is a reactionary and repugnant ideology, indissolubly tied to fascism and the worst genocide of world history: the massacre of the Jews in fascist Europe. The mass murder of six million Jews, including nearly all the over 76,000 Jews deported from France to Nazi death camps, with the active assistance of the Nazi-collaborationist Vichy regime, is a horrific crime that cannot and will not ever be forgotten. The struggle against any trace of anti-Semitic influence is part of the essential work of any socialist organization of the working class.
But the PS is in no position to lecture anyone about anti-Semitism. Examining the reactionary record of the PS and of President Emmanuel Macron’s Republic on the March (LRM) party exposes their pretenses to oppose anti-Semitism as a political fraud. While they mount a campaign to tar the entire “yellow vest” movement against social inequality as genocidal and racist, and to discredit rising opposition in the working class across Europe, they are themselves appealing to racism and strengthening neo-fascistic tendencies.
The PS invited virtually the entire French political establishment to join its protest. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and 23 other LRM ministers participated, together with former Presidents François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy. The Stalinist French Communist Party (PCF), the Greens, the Democratic Movement of François Bayrou, the leader of the right-wing Republicans (LR) party Laurent Wauquiez and Nicolas Dupont-Aignan of the Arise France (DLF) party, allied to neo-fascist leader Marine Le Pen, all attended.
The PS leader, Olivier Faure, invited Marine Le Pen, saying she would be “welcome.” He refused to invite her National Rally (RN) party, stating that “its entire history is precisely bound up with the question of anti-Semitism and racism.” Faure wanted to get the support of Vichy’s political descendants against the “yellow vests,” but without unmasking his own fraudulent maneuver by letting figures like Marine’s father Jean-Marie, who has been convicted of making anti-Semitic statements, attend a rally supposedly called against anti-Semitism.
Le Pen ultimately did not attend the rally. The RN published a communiqué refusing to march “alongside organizations and politicians who either have done nothing against the spread of Islamist networks in popular neighborhoods, or encouraged them, or even discuss them in a criminal and irresponsible doublespeak.”
While the “yellow vest” protesters have mobilized with the support of most of the French population against Macron, the PS is mobilizing the government with the support of the political establishment against the “yellow vests,” while making its deals with anti-Semitic forces. It received broad support in official circles. Alongside the Freemasonry, the unions sent top officials to the PS protest, after having called off strikes in order to isolate the “yellow vest” protests.
At the rally, General Confederation of Labor (CGT) chief Philippe Martinez again denounced the “yellow vests,” whom he had slandered as neo-fascists before their first protest on November 17 in order to justify the unions’ decision to shut down strikes in solidarity with their actions. He called for CGT members to join the PS protest, however. There, he asserted that the “yellow vests” racism “has shocked me from the beginning of the protests, and a small part of the yellow vest movement is poisoning the rest.”
The only sections of the political establishment that were not welcome were those who did not fall in line with the media campaign slandering the “yellow vests.” Unsubmissive France’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon complained he had not been invited. He was the target of a media campaign for having criticized “the political exploitation of the struggle against racism and anti-Semitism” by the PS. But Mélenchon, a former PS minister, finally decided to join in this act of political exploitation and participate in the PS rally in Marseille.
PS-LRM propaganda against anti-Semitism is hypocritical and corrupt to the bone. The recent rise of anti-Semitic crimes across Europe is an extremely serious phenomenon; they have increased 60 percent over the last year in Germany and 69 percent in France. But it is impossible to fight against the rise of anti-Semitism without fighting the entire ruling class and the capitalist system.
In Germany, official statistics highlight the role of the far right, which is responsible for a large majority of such crimes. But the far right is prospering with the tacit support of Germany’s Grand Coalition government, whose Interior Minister Horst Seehofer infamously hailed neo-Nazi riots in Chemnitz during which a Jewish restaurant was attacked.
In France, the PS and Macron’s LRM government that emerged from it in 2017 have played the central role in legitimizing the heritage of French political anti-Semitism.
Hollande twice invited Marine Le Pen to the Elysée presidential palace. These were the first times a neo-fascist politician had been invited to the Elysée. At the same time, he sought to inscribe in the constitution deprivation of nationality, the legal mechanism that Vichy used to deport the Jews to the death camps and justify repressing the Resistance. Finally, last November Macron hailed Philippe Pétain, the head of the Vichy regime that approved these deportations.
The target of all these policies that reinforce anti-Semitism is growing opposition in the working class. Alongside the “yellow vest” protests in France, strikes in Portugal, Belgium and Germany are unfolding. The ruling class is terrified, and it is seeking to foment by all means necessary the political conditions to more broadly carry out repression.
Thus PS Prime Minister Manuel Valls attended a rally in Madrid of the Spanish right-wing parties including the new fascist party, Vox. This demonstration aimed to install a right-wing coalition government that would include Vox—a party that defends the record of fascist dictator Francisco Franco’s army during the civil war, that is, the use of mass murder against left-wing workers.
The “yellow vest” movement expresses the rejection by workers and significant layers of the middle classes of policies that have been imposed in Europe over decades. It is critical now to draw political lessons. After three decades of growing imperialist war since the Stalinist dissolution of the USSR in 1991, and a decade of deep austerity since the 2008 crash, capitalism is in a mortal crisis. The growth of anti-Semitism is again indissolubly bound up with this crisis of capitalism.
The struggle against it requires a conscious break with all these political tendencies that legitimize anti-Semitism while claiming to fight it, and a struggle to build a Trotskyist vanguard in the working class. Faure sought to present the PS as the historic opponent of anti-Semitism by mentioning the participation of PS founder François Mitterrand in a protest against the defacing of a cemetery in Carpentras in 1990. In fact, this example refutes his arguments.
Mitterrand, an ex-Vichy official, cynically participated as a scandal erupted about his continuing ties to René Bousquet, the Vichy chief of police who organized the Vél d’Hiv mass round-up of Jews for deportation in 1942. This scandal illustrated that the alliance formed between the PCF, petty bourgeois Pabloite forces like today’s New Anticapitalist Party, and the PS after the May 1968 general strike was a reactionary trap for the workers’ movement. It handed over the working class bound hand-and-foot to the PS, a bourgeois party pursuing austerity and militarist policies.
Thirty years later, the descendants of these parties are tacitly promoting anti-Semitism to poison the political atmosphere, all the while cynically claiming to combat it.
The Parti de l’égalité socialiste (PES) bases its policy on the growing international upsurge of the class struggle, of which the “yellow vest” movement is one expression in France. It fights anti-Semitism by seeking to arm the working class with a Marxist and internationalist, that is to say Trotskyist program to fight for political power, against Stalinist and Pabloite tendencies that have capitulated to capitalism, which is rotting on its feet.
On Monday, President Donald Trump met with the Venezuelan community in Miami, Florida. His speech represented more than just disdain for the country’s president Nicolas Maduro; it was a sign of what may really be behind his increasing rhetoric against Venezuela: Reelection. 2020.
Florida will be a key swing state in next year’s elections. Trump’s overtures to both the Venezuelan and Cuban-American communities were clear.
“The days of socialism and communism are numbered, not only in Venezuela but in Nicaragua and in Cuba as well,” Trump told the crowd.
But Trump’s push on Venezuela is not just about winning over key votes in Florida. It’s about sidelining progressives, distracting from domestic policies, and driving the U.S. into a war that could easily lift him into a second term.
Venezuela has been front and center over the last month. The U.S. has backed the National Assembly head Juan Guaido in his grab for the presidency, enacted devastating sanctions, pushed humanitarian aid, and, according to Cuba, is sending special forces to Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands with the goal of toppling President Nicolas Maduro.
This is not the first time the White House has been engaged in trying to undermine the Venezuelan government. It’s been at it since the early 2000s. Washington backed the coup against President Hugo Chavez in 2002. The National Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. Agency for International Development have paid millions to opposition groups in the name of democracy.
But never have the sanctions been so crippling. Never has the threat of military intervention loomed so large. Such a move would play right into Trump’s 2020 campaign. A war in America’s backyard. A trojan horse to lock in the president’s second term. Democrats in Congress have been either complacent or complicit.
A war with Venezuela would not be swift, even if carried out through proxy militaries like Colombia and Brazil. Venezuela is polarized and politicized. The country has almost two million soldiers ready to serve, including reservists. Violent action would likely throw Venezuela into a bloody civil war—a war that would last well through the 2020 presidential elections.
George W. Bush launched his invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, the year prior to the 2004 electoral campaign. He was reelected. No WMDs were found. Nor was Osama bin Laden, though the United States did generate enough animosity that it planted the seeds for the birth of the Islamic State.
Ronald Reagan’s invasion of Grenada in October 1983 helped to lift his failing approval rating the year before his reelection.
Of course, the situation in Venezuela is dire. President Nicolas Maduro shoulders plenty of the blame. Inflation is through the roof. His fiscal policy has been ineffective. Over two million Venezuelans have left the country in recent years. But the economic warfare and the U.S. sanctions, imposed in 2017 and deepened in recent weeks, have cost the country billions of dollars and blocked access to critical medicine for Venezuelan citizens.
In his discourse on Venezuela, President Donald Trump talks about democracy and the humanitarian crisis. But he overlooks these issues for the countries he considers allies. A great example is Honduras.
If the president was actually concerned with resolving humanitarian crises in the region, he should look not to Venezuela, but to Central America, to fix the structural problems that have led to the migrant crisis—the whole reason Trump says he needs a border wall—and which the United States helped to cause.
Millions have fled Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala in recent years. They flee violence, drug gangs, repressive regimes. The murder rates in El Salvador and Honduras hover above the rate in Venezuela, according to the World Bank.
In Honduras, the Juan Orlando Hernandez regime retained power in 2017 through fraudulent elections, after he strong-armed Congress and the Supreme Court to approve changes to the Constitution to allow him to run for reelection—the very reason that Congress ousted president Manuel Zelaya in 2009.
In Venezuela, by contrast, despite the opposition’s boycott of last year’s election—after it pulled out of the two-year-long talks with the government at the last minute—Maduro still won the presidency with a greater percentage of the overall Venezuela voting population than Trump won in the United States in 2016.
In Honduras, the assault on community, environmental and indigenous leaders is widespread. Berta Caceres’ assassination is only the most prominent example. Security forces have killed protesters with live rounds to the head. Impunity is rampant.
According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Honduras has “the most unequal distribution of income in Latin America,” an inequity that has accelerated over the last decade.
This all has spurred hundreds of thousands to flee each year in an attempt to reach asylum in the United States. Trump’s response has been to send the military to the border and to build a wall.
Ironically, the Central American crisis is one the United States helped to create, by backing brutal regimes and illegally funneling weapons into the region—a strategy it seems it may be trying to duplicate in Venezuela. The very man in charge of those weapons was Ronald Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Elliot Abrams, who was recently tapped by Trump to bring so-called democracy to Venezuela.
If he succeeds in toppling Venezuela, the future is bleak. Central America today is perhaps an image of what we can expect for the future: a crime rate through the roof, poverty, widespread inequality.
The White House has an interest in keeping the focus on Venezuela, and not on the controversies and domestic issues that have dogged Trump and his presidency. Venezuela is a way for the president to distract U.S. citizens. A way to tarnish a resurgence in the debate about socialism, which he highlighted in his State of the Union address.
With his bellicose rhetoric and point people trained in subversion and violence, Trump is willing to put peace on the line, not in the interest of the Venezuelan people, but for the United States, for U.S. corporations and conservatives.
Donald Trump’s push on Venezuela is about grabbing at the largest oil reserves in the world, making an example to any other would-be leftist leaders, and above all else, reelecting Trump in 2020.
The Democrats appear to be willing to give it to him.
Michael Fox is a freelance journalist and the former editor of the NACLA Report on the Americas. He is the coauthor of the books Venezuela Speaks and Latin America’s Turbulent Transitions. He tweets at @mfox_us.
Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
I’ve been reading Amos Oz’s books since his death, and one of the feelings he leaves me with is: Self-contempt. Many of Oz’s characters look on American Jews with disdain. “To be without power is, in my eyes, both a sin and a catastrophe. It’s the sin of exile, and Diaspora,” says one. Another says that Diaspora Jews “shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of… life.”
The message is clear. Jews in the west are half-made because they never had to fight. They haven’t served in the Israeli army, at the front line of reborn Jewish sovereignty. But those exiled Jews derive pride and strength from the armed Jewish nation; Israel has given them international prestige. Because once Jews went like sheep to slaughter, we formed lines to get on the cattle cars. Now we are a proud nation.
But those exiled Jews have no skin in the game. They are living comfortable idle existences. Getting up like me this morning and going to my desk.
This is the core truth of the Israel lobby. The American Jews feel guilty that they are not on the front lines. They are lesser; the Hebrew language even describes Jews who leave Israel as such: yordim, lower. So they must do everything they can for the higher, fighting Jews of Israel. Raise money for Israel, buy off politicians, make sure that the U.S. government sticks by Israel through thick and thin and every massacre too.
It’s no wonder the first thing anyone tells you about the Israel lobby group J Street is that its executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami’s late father fought with the Irgun, the militia that committed terrorist acts to end British control of Palestine. Jeremy Ben-Ami is Zionist royalty.
And Tzipi Livni a supposed Israeli liberal got the main stage at J Street to lie about Israeli soldiers’ accountability for war crimes, and all the older Americans murmur to one another with reverence, Her parents were in the Irgun. Tzipi Livni is Zionist royalty.
It’s been this way for a long time. American Jews may be peaceniks here but they can’t criticize Israel beyond the mild demurral.
Back in 1967, Lyndon Johnson said that rabbis who were lobbying him to move the Sixth Fleet to the Gulf of Aqaba for Israel wouldn’t give him a screwdriver to send to Vietnam. The poet Robert Lowell saw his New York intellectual friends making the same somersault: “We had a great wave of New York Jewish nationalism, all the doves turning into hawks.”
Ten years later Jimmy Carter made the mistake of thinking that because American Jews were liberals they would side with him against Israel’s new rightwing prime minister Menachem Begin when Carter was challenging Begin over settlements.
Carter was wrong. The religious ethnic national tie was stronger.
Israel had made American Jews proud, they were in for a dime or a million dollars. “We Are One!” wrote the historian Melvin Urofsky.
Philip Roth heard it from his father. “’Now they’ll think twice before they pull our beards!’ Militant, triumphant Israel was to his aging circle of Jewish friends their avenger for the centuries and centuries of humiliating oppression.”
Then Americans elected a rightwing nationalist president with fascist tendencies and some liberals thought the big American Jewish organizations would work against Donald Trump. No. They stuck with Trump so he would stick with Israel.
It’s my “Jewish duty” to be friendly with the Trump administration, explained David Harris of the American Jewish Committee— so that we keep Trump’s ear when we push Israel.
AIPAC says the same thing: There must never be daylight between the White House and the Israeli government. So that means holding both sides in a tight embrace.
The American guilt trip never ends. At Any and Every Israel lobby event someone is sure to cut off criticism by leaning into a microphone and saying, We don’t live over there. Our sons and daughters don’t go into the army, it’s a tough neighborhood, and we can’t really judge the decisions that Israel makes about her security.
Even liberal Zionists honor that code. A progressive NY synagogue gives neoconservatives the stage to tell American liberals to STFU. “Look, it’s easy to sit here on West 86th street.” It’s “cavalier” to “second-guess” Israel. “I believe that as Americans what we can do… is above all stand with Israel against existential threats, terror threats.”
And if the liberals forget to STFU, an Israeli politician is sure to remind them. We live soft lives in the U.S.
Asked in an English-language television interview about criticism of Israeli policies by some U.S. Jews, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely questioned whether “people that never send their children to fight for their country” could understand the “complexity” of the Middle east.
The heroes in the Amos Oz books are the brawny tanned Israeli warriors, who don’t think twice about blowing up “enemy” villages. They go on courageous “reprisal raids” against faceless enemies at night. Arthur Koestler said 80 years ago that European Jews were a “sick race”: because they don’t know how to wield arms and till the soil.
The Jews of the Israel lobby believe this. They think that Israel has figured out the right relationship to the Arab world and we are never to question it. We might suggest some minor changes in the p.r. campaign, but we’re going to hold the bag for you forever.
Massacre all the Palestinians you think it’s necessary to massacre and when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says it’s a massacre, even liberal Zionists will go after her and say she’s not being nuanced enough.
But when Tzipi Livni goes to J Street and says that Any Israeli soldier who did anything ethically wrong on the Gaza border will be prosecuted, she is a hero.
And as for the famous Jewish love of argument—STFU. The Jews who are against Israel must be squashed. They are non Jews or self-hating Jews. You’ll never see an anti-Zionist Jew at J Street except by mistake; and AIPAC doesn’t let anti-Zionist Jews in even to cover their hootenanny.
Because if American Jews divide over Israel it is a signal to American politicians that they can divide over Israel, too. We’re the gatekeepers. Everyone takes their cue from us. “The perception that AIPAC represents a consensus among American Jews has always been a key to its political influence, which explains the group’s sometimes seemingly outsized opposition to Jewish dissent from its line,” writes Doug Rossinow, whose piece on the dark roots of AIPAC in the Washington Post is one of the rare slams of the Israel lobby ever to appear in our papers.
Barney Frank’s sister worked for AIPAC and he shut up about settlements even when he saw them ending the beloved two-state solution. Bari Weiss’s father is an AIPAC hero, and she says all American Jews welcomed Israeli officials to Pittsburgh after the massacre because “we are all one, Am Yisrael.” The people of Israel, the old Zionist slogan!
Now the old hocus-pocus isn’t working. Jews are dividing. There is a new bloc of Jews who will not accept the Book of Nietzsche arguments about Israel’s use of force. They don’t have Philip Roth’s memories of the Holocaust, they don’t think that Jews need to show military prowess to be impressive Jews.
They don’t mind being called effete pencil-neck desk Jews, and they are taking on the Jewish establishment. Look at the numbers in the new Independent Jewish Voices poll from Canada: secular and progressive Jews have overwhelmingly negative feelings about the Israeli government.
Those Jews are giving Ilhan Omar permission. The Jewish divide is the reason there is a debate. People defer to Jews on this issue, because they’ve been indoctrinated to think Jewish survival depends on Israel’s existence, and we are all Zionists, just as Bari Weiss said. Now we are giving them permission to wonder. Peter Feld is on MSNBC saying some Jews welcome Ilhan Omar.
It’s like a lot of other family secrets that go on two or three generations then the young people blow it up. But we need help. We need outside scrutiny to take on the Vatican. We need you, Ilhan Omar. The biggest guilt trip in the world is coming to an end.
H/t Todd Pierce. I changed the definition of yordim in the 4th paragraph to reflect corrections passed to me by Ira Glunts and Jonathan Ofir.
Published time: 21 Feb, 2019 04:32Edited time: 21 Feb, 2019 08:15
Addressing a rise in hate crimes against the Jewish diaspora in France, President Emanuel Macron has supported the expansion of the definition of anti-Semitism to outlaw anti-Zionism as well, fueling public debate over the terms.
“Anti-Semitism is hiding itself behind anti-Zionism,” Macron said Wednesday, speaking at the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (Crif) and announcing that France seeks to define “anti-Zionism as a modern-day form of anti-Semitism.”
The rise of hate crime incidents in France, including the verbal abuse of philosopher Alain Finkielkraut at a Yellow Vest rally last weekend and the desecration of a Jewish cemetery near Strasbourg, has prompted the French government to seek new means to fight growing animosity towards their Jewish population, the largest in Europe.
While Macron believes the new definition falls in line with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) interpretation, the organization's own terminology does not contain any reference to Zionism at all.
“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews...[and which] might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity,” the IHRA said, making clear that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.”
Just a day earlier the French leader had said he opposes criminalizing criticism of the state of Israel, after French lawmakers proposed a bill on Monday that would make anti-Zionism a punishable offense. Yet it seems Macron somewhat changed his mind a day after thousands of demonstrators gathered across France to condemn the rise of anti-Semitic attacks, a 74 percent increase last year, with 541 reported cases.
While the Office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to endorse the new proposed definition, it fueled the long raging debate challenging the assertion that being anti-Zionist automatically equates to being an anti-Semite.
While the Office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to endorse the new proposed definition, it fueled the long raging debate challenging the assertion that being anti-Zionist automatically equates to being an anti-Semite.
Historically, different forms of anti-Semitism have existed across the world for centuries. Anti-Zionism, however, is a relatively new phenomenon which was born in the late 19th century to oppose the Zionist political movement that was founded by Theodore Herzl and advocated the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, at that time ruled by the British.
“It is crucial to say that what is forbidden is to deny the existence of Israel. That has to be made a criminal offense,” Sylvain Maillard, an MP with Macron’s political party The Republic on the Move (LREM), told RFI. “However, you obviously have the right to say you do not agree with the policy of the Israeli government. That is normal in a democracy.”
“If we consider opposition to Theodore Herzl's theory as anti-Semitic, then we’re saying that the millions of Jews who do not wish to live in Palestine and the occupied territories are anti-Semites,”French journalist Dominique Vidal, told FRANCE 24. “It's historical illiteracy, or worse, stupidity.”
The concepts of Zionism and anti-Zionism completely changed since the founding of Israel in 1948. Now anti-Zionism is largely associated with public anger towards the policies of the state of Israel, and not necessarily against Jewish ethnicity. It is most clearly defined in the worldwide Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) which the French president vowed to tackle on Wednesday, and criminalizing anti-Zionism could in theory allow him to do just that.