17/02/2019 by socialistfight
On 10th February five supporters of the Socialist Fight group (SFG) attended the London Anti-Fascist Assembly. We were sent an invitation from some left-wing elements involved in calling it, and as we fully agree with the necessity to build a strong anti-racist and anti-fascist movement centred on the organised labour movement, we went along and joined in.
The assembly was reasonably well attended and there was some worthwhile discussion; there were around 150 present including a fair number of younger people from a variety of local groups. As well as supporters of the SFG, there were supporters of other Marxist groups present; the Bolshevik Tendency, the Red Flag group in the Labour Party, and the Revolutionary Communist Group.
One mistake that was made was that in a meeting only three hours long, the assembly kept splitting down into groups of six to eight people, and then merged these groups into slightly larger ones of approximately twenty, which meant that the assembly was both fragmented for much of the time, the groups had very little time to get a discussion going, and the amount of time for the whole assembly to discuss, hear, debate and perhaps even vote on political questions writ large was limited to the initial plenary session, and a few minutes at the end.
The result was that aggregated regional groups at the end decided, at least in principle, to create regional meetings in each of the four regions of London, broadly defined, but were unable to do much more than collate email addresses and phone numbers of those involved for future activities. It is hoped that the four ‘facilitators’ who convened these groups, who have these details, will be able to get these off the ground.
What seriously marred this meeting, however, was the baiting of supporters of SFG by an apparently Zionist grouping who seem to be involved in organising this conference against the far right. Their presence became obvious at the Assembly quite early on.
The first speaker from the floor at the opening plenary was Gerry Downing of the SFG, who made a couple of basic points about the important role of Brexit in feeding the growth of the far right and fascism, and how the far right was a product of capitalism, how it was the ‘blood poisoning of the capitalist system”. This produced some agnostic responses from the platform speakers, who did not want to get involved with the question of Brexit and though they were possibly more sympathetic to the point about capitalism, were not too keen on making this a prominent point.
Then another speaker from the floor, unnamed, said that Socialist Fight should not be in the meeting, as we were anti-Semitic, we were apparently holocaust deniers (!), we defended Gilad Atzmon, etc. At the ridiculous libel about anti-Semitism and holocaust denial our people called out “that’s a lie” and it fell flat in the meeting, though we certainly defend the Israeli dissident and Jazz musician against Zionist racists and other capitulators to Zionism, despite our political differences with him which are quite a few. We do not regard him as a right-wing figure, but a confused anti-racist repelled by the Nazi-like atrocities of the Israeli state, that he witnessed at close hand when he was in the Israeli army as a conscript.
During one of the group sessions this attack was made again on comrade Downing and other SF supporters in the group by some young woman who expressed outrage at our positions on Zionism and the Jewish Question said that we were anti-Semites and should be excluded from fighting fascism, therefore. The facilitator said this was not what the group was discussing and it could be discussed later. After the group broke up, a white, seemingly anarchist man, who eventually told us he was Jewish, repeated that we were anti-Semitic and confronted us with an alleged quotation supposedly by Gerry Downing, supposedly endorsing remarks by Ian Donovan, in a debate on the Facebook group of Labour Against the Witchhunt more than a year ago, when our position on Zionism and the organised racist role of Jewish bourgeois organisations like AIPAC as a faction of the ruling class, was used by cowardly capitulators to Zionism to exclude us from this organisation.
This quotation was attributed to Gerry Downing by this anarchist man, who we now suspect may be named Dave Whitney, who had it stored on his phone:
“Until such time, I stand with Donovan with respect to his allusions to a ‘Jewish subculture’ within the upper echelons of power that have deliberately conspired against the better interests of the rest of us.”
This, attributed to Downing by this character, was supposed to prove that he was solidarising with Ian Donovan in his supposed belief that there is a Jewish conspiracy against “the better interests of the rest of us”. As soon as Ian Donovan saw this quotation he deduced that this was a falsified quotation from somewhere that was being used as a deliberate libel by this character.
Actually, this ‘quotation’ contains NOT ONE SINGLE WORD that was written either by Gerry Downing, Ian Donovan, or any other supporter of the SF Group. It is taken from the Jewish News of 3rd Jan 2018, over a year ago, falsely attributing to Gerry Downing carefully selected remarks that were made by someone else entirely (https://jewishnews.timesofisrael.com/socialist-group-of-ex-labour-members-expels-half-its-supporters-over-anti-semitism/)
It is an extract from a comment made by a Labour Party member in their International section, Daniel Waterman, in our defence against the political cowards who excluded us from Labour Against the Witchhunt because they feared our consistent hostility to Zionist activities in the West would allow them to be falsely and demagogically accused by association of anti-Semitism (of course it did not save them from that anyway). Who is Daniel Waterman? He is a famous Jewish author, of material connected with the effects of narcotics, who lives in Holland and who is the son of Nazi holocaust survivors. Wikipedia does not say much about his politics except that:
“Waterman is a staunch critic of Israel. Following the Israeli army’s incursion into Gaza in 2009 he burned his passport and posted a video on YouTube. This earned him scathing condemnation from pro-Israeli activists. Together with his mother, Ruth Kupferschmidt, he co-signed an ad in the New York Times, (August 23, 2014) in which over 300 Holocaust survivors and their descendants unequivocally condemn the Israeli policies re Palestinians as “Genocidal”…
Defending us during the witchhunt in Labour Against the Witchhunt, he wrote denouncing Greenstein and co:
“I am sorry, extremely sorry for you guys, but any statement that includes any form of the verb ‘to be’ requires very careful scrutiny as saying something ‘is’ a particular way suggests the speaker has privileged knowledge of the ultimate nature or truth of something.
“The following statement, therefore, makes for uncomfortable reading:
“’Making a connection between the number of Jewish billionaires in the United States or who is Jewish amongst the richest sections of society and imperialist support for Israel is anti-Semitic.’
“NO NO NO! We all know that there are many Jewish millionaires and billionaires in the US. We also know that many of them are involved with determining policy with respect to Israel. We even know that many of them are outspoken supporters of Israel. Why on earth is it then taboo to speak about this openly?
“Yes, mentioning the power of the Jewish lobby was and remains a tactic of antisemites. But that does not make the statement, or the reality, inherently antisemitic. The reason why ought to be clear to anyone with half a brain but let’s just spell it out: because not all Jews are billionaires and not all Jews are Zionists or supporters of Israel.
“So, why has this issue become such a point in this group? First of all, we can consider quite legitimate concerns about the possibility of any discussion of ‘Jewish billionaires supporting Israel’ being interpreted as antisemitic, but then that is also exactly why this group was created, to defend others who are legitimately criticising Israel ‘and making comparisons to Nazi Germany’ from being accused of antisemitism.
“It seems therefore that there is another issue at stake that has not adequately been addressed in this group and which now threatens to undermine and divide us, which is freedom of speech, which includes the freedom to mention, examine and criticise taboo, uncomfortable and highly sensitive subjects such as the extent to which members of the Jewish community outside Israel have and are ‘colluding’ to support Israel and the extents to which the wider Jewish community have failed to adequately address this internally. It is not as if the matter of Jewish millionaires who support Israel is entirely unconnected to what has and is happening there. I don’t feel comfortable with treating this matter as if it were entirely subsidiary to class struggle or capitalism. Many members of the wider Jewish community condone and pride themselves on the extent of ‘Jewish influence’ in the world. I know I did once when I was young and stupid.
“How is this matter any different from the frequently mentioned relationship between Zionism and Nazism? If we can talk about that, how come we cannot talk about Jewish elites support for Israel? I don’t get it.
“My impression of the discussion with Ian Donovan, is that it went on all too long and met with entirely wrong responses from leading members of this group. Donovan made his point but as I pointed out to him, the concerns of Labour Against the Witchhunt take priority over the discussion he was pursuing. But the responses from this group were very similar to those that have led to accusations of antisemitism against other members of Labour and the expulsion demonstrates to me that we still can’t have a really sensible discussion about what really is antisemitic and what is merely legitimate criticism.
“To round up, what I would suggest, is that we STOP ACCUSING ANYONE OF ANTISEMITISM, particularly as Jews are not currently threatened in any significant way, compared to Muslims, people of colour, immigrants, refugees, gay men and so on. It is time that we, especially members of the Jewish community, focus instead on defending others less fortunate than ourselves and learn to accept that at least some of the things we now define as antisemitic, may actually be true.
“That is an uncomfortable reality we will have to live with until such time as the entire concept of race or ethnicity disappears or until such time as JUSTICE reigns within our community. Until such time, I stand with Donovan with respect to his allusions to a ‘Jewish subculture’ within the upper echelons of power that have deliberately conspired against the better interests of the rest of us. Yes, it is part of the phenomenology of CRAPITALISM, but it is important that the rest of the Jewish community acknowledge the fact that there are also Jews out there doing this. Deliberately! FFS! We need to have this discussion! And not ANOTHER WITCHHUNT!”
It was the portion in bold that was falsely attributed to Gerry Downing by Jewish News (without our knowledge) in a libel against us that was then regurgitated by this anarchist character in order to smear us at the London Anti-Fascist Assembly. But falsely attributing quotes is an actionable defamation.
As pointed out earlier, not one single word from the portion in bold above that was quoted comes from either comrades Downing or Donovan. The remark about a “Jewish subculture” is Daniel Waterman’s words, not Ian Donovan’s, as is shown by the word “allusions” immediately preceding it. It is Daniel Waterman’s own interpretation of our positions, which anyone can read in our publications, including in the 2014 document “Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern Imperialism” (https://socialistfight.com/2016/01/07/draft-theses-on-the-jews-and-modern-imperialism-by-ian-donovan-6-9-2014/) which lays out our position in detail and only speaks of culture as a secondary factor derived from the class composition of particular groups. For Marxists, culture is the product of class interest derived from particular historical circumstances, and does not play an independent role in history. In that context, comrade Waterman’s allusion to culture is based on his understanding of our position, not ours.
Hate Finkelstein, Hate Socialist Fight, Hate Anti-Zionists
Anyway, this (possibly) Dave Whitney person, and a couple of others with him, including the woman who denounced comrade Downing in the group were very antagonistic when it was pointed out that our views on the Jewish Question are very close to those that are now put forward by Norman Finkelstein, probably the world’s most prominent Jewish anti-Zionist. Finkelstein was denounced by one of these characters as anti-Semitic both for his book The Holocaust Industry and for his essay last year Corbyn Mania, about the witchhunt in the Labour Party, that dealt with the way that Zionists had acquired power to suppress criticism of Zionist oppression in the West, including in the Labour Party, by taking advantage of the disproportionate representation of Jews among the wealthier sections of society which makes Jews almost by definition more powerful than other ethnic groups, such as Arabs and Muslims, and their supporters, who are more likely to be poorer. According to these worthy racist ‘anti-racists’, this argument is anti-Semitic, even if the facts it is based on are 100% true (which they are!) and the ‘anti-racist’ thing to do is to ignore the facts. What they have to say to those whose oppression is based on the social reality that these facts underlie, is anyone’s guess. But the logic of their position, to Palestinians, who are affected by these facts, is ‘drop dead’!
One other argument made by the anarchist man (Dave Whitney?) was that there was something ‘dodgy’ about people who are interested in Israel’s crimes, and do not make such a fuss about the crimes of, for example, Turkey. Our comrades pointed out that Israel is virtually an honorary member of the European Union, and is put forward by the Western powers as one of its own ‘democracies’ and was thus aided and armed to the teeth by the West because of this. The argument this man made is a classic Zionist argument, and implicitly condemns the entire Palestine solidarity movement. These are clearly Zionist arguments, and should be recognised as such by all honest people on the left.
Jewish News witchhunted Tony Greenstein
The fact that it was the Zionist publication Jewish News that was used to smear us is significant in another way. In the light of the dispute between ourselves and Tony Greenstein over a year ago, which was also raised by these Zionists as part of their diatribe, it should be noted that it was the editor of Jewish News, Jack Mendel, who smeared Tony Greenstein and got him temporarily expelled from Twitter a few months ago. As Tony said then
“Jack Mendel was and is a liar. … I have nothing but contempt for a ‘journalist’ who attempts to close down free speech. All under the guise of opposing ‘hate speech’ no less. What I hate is racism and Zionism.
“On the 16th November I responded by saying that what was despicable was the shooting down in cold blood of 200 unarmed demonstrators in Gaza and the decade long starvation siege. In Mendel’s morbid mind this became ‘This morning a Jewish activist sent me a tweet filled with anti-Semitic tropes.’ Zionists love the word tropes. It’s a cliché they use as a substitute for thinking, probably because it rhymes with dopes.
His article was headlined “A VICTORY FOR FREE SPEECH – Twitter Restores Tony Greenstein’s Suspended Account. Malicious Zionist Complaint of ‘Anti-Semitism’ by Jack Mendel of Jewish News has been Rejected by Twitter”
It is worth noting that Tony’s account on Medium.com was suspended, and has now been permanently deleted, following material posted by him spelling out in detail Zionist collaboration with neo-Nazis like Britain First and other far right bigots, such as James Goddard, who wants to expel all Muslims from the UK.
If these people are indeed what their connections suggest they are then they should be regarded as a far right fifth column in LAFA.
This should be obvious given the involvement of Zionists with the far right, the persistent carrying of Israeli flags by the DFLA and EDL, and the open collaboration of prominent Zionists such as Jonathan Hoffman with Neo-Nazis like Paul Besser, one of the leaders of Britain First, in haranguing Labour Party events. Remarkable, given that it was Thomas Mair, a supporter of Britain First, who was photographed earlier on their street stalls, who murdered the Labour MP Jo Cox during the Brexit referendum campaign.
And of course, the close association of the Trump administration with Zionism, its soliciting and promoting Trump’s movement of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thus endorsing the occupation of the West Bank, and his cutting off of US support for UNRWA, aiming to starve Palestinian refugees. Then there is the open ideological solidarity of the US far right that overlaps with Trump’s right-wing populist administration, the likes of Steve Bannon and Richard Spencer, who have declared themselves ‘white Zionists’ in promoting open racism on the Israeli model.
Internet smear falls flat
It does appear that that this crowd of Zionists made a brief foray onto the internet to attempt to smear us to a broader left-wing audience. One of them called Dave Whitney, who seems likely to be one of those who denounced us at LAFA, posted a comment on the blog Revolutionary Programme, run by a supporter of the Bolshevik Tendency, on a thread that involved some rather high level discussion about Marxist strategy. He wrote:
“Ian D is an anti-Semite. Anti-racists should boycott Ian Donovan. Refuse to engage with him.”
And then, when various comrades disagreed with him, he claimed to be anti-Zionist:
“I agree that the State of Israel is racist, and I favour a one-state solution.
“However, to characterise Jewish members of the bourgeoisie as somehow worse than the gentile members of the bourgeoisie is anti-Semitic.
“To condemn Jews forming pro-Palestinian groups as exercising “moral superiority” is anti-Semitic.
“To draw attention to, and claim a significance in, the fact that certain rich Americans
accused of sexual abuse are Jewish is anti-Semitic.
“I hope to write at more length on this some time, but in the meantime the article at the following url does a fairly good critique.
Actually the article by Tony Greenstein demonstrates political differences as to how to analyse the precise role of Jewish bourgeois in Zionism and capitalism today, as Greenstein himself says that Jews are a “privileged part of the white community”. It is only blind opportunism and fear that led Tony to break with us for drawing the obvious conclusion from this that Jewish capitalists in the West who support Israel (i.e. most of them) use the “privilege” that he, not us, but he, says they have among “the white community” to oppress Palestinians.
A careful reading of this reveals that this is not a ‘good critique’ at all but a hysterical piece of self-contradictory nonsense driven by fear of the Labour bureaucracy. It is hardly Tony Greenstein’s best work, by a long shot. It is embarrassingly incomprehensible since most of the Zionist witchhunters, the Jack Mendels of this world, consider him just as bad as ourselves. In fact, with his view that the Jewish working class has disappeared, logically he ought to embrace our positions on this as Norman Finkelstein has already done – only the opportunist strand in his politics and fear of being disowned by the softer elements on the Jewish left prevents him from doing that.
Whitney was contradicted by Dov Winter, a supporter of the Socialist Fight Group in the United States who wrote:
“You are confusing Anti-Zionism with Anti-Semitism. Ian is Anti-Zionist, not anti-Semite. Did it occur to you that you just use the same rotten method of the Zionists to discredit revolutionary socialists? What if I tell you that I was born in Israel, and I don’t hesitate to say that the Zionists use the method of genocide against the Palestinians that is not fundamentally that different than the method that Nazis used against the Jews. The only reason why there are Palestinians in Israel that are alive is because the Zionists want them as a cheap labor to exploit.”
“I don’t think that what you have written is anti-Semitic. However, if you were to join a Jewish anti-Zionist group in Britain, Ian D would denounce you for asserting that you are ‘morally superior’. According to me, someone who denounces Jews in Britain for forming anti-Zionist groups is an anti-Semite.”
And then comrade Donovan himself responded with the following series of questions and points:
“Are you implying that these Jewish groups exist because Jews are victims of discrimination and their purpose is to fight for equal treatment for Jews?
“The problem is that none of these groups claim any such thing. The groups I am referring to are ones like Jews Against Zionism, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, Jewish Voices for Peace, Jewish Voice for Labour. All of them claim to be fighting for Palestinian rights, not Jewish equal treatment.
“Yet they have racially exclusionist membership criteria. Non-Jews cannot be full members. That means Palestinians cannot be full members. It is odd that Palestinians can be members of the Knesset but cannot join these groups which are supposed to be in favour of equality for Palestinians. It thus appears that these groups are even more discriminatory than the Israeli state.
“If during the anti-apartheid struggle a group had been founded called ‘Whites Against Apartheid’ which blacks were not allowed to join, in order that the anti-apartheid struggle not be accused of being ‘anti-white’ then everyone would recognise that this was a capitulation to apartheid and white supremacy.
“This is EXACTLY what these groups are doing. They are capitulating to the widely held notion that all non-Jewish critics of Zionism are anti-Semitic unless they have a specific Jewish endorsement to absolve them, to ‘kosher’ them to quote Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi. That concept is racist and paternalistic.
“Jewish-Zionist capitalists are not worse than those bourgeois of a different creed but they do form a specific caste or layer within the ruling class that have a material interest in Israel through that state’s racist, extra-territorial citizenship law. That is a layer that has considerable social weight in influencing Western imperialist policy to a hard-line pro-Israel position. They oppress the Palestinians.
“You want to say that there is no connection between dual US-Israeli citizen casino magnate Sheldon Adelson being Trump’s largest funder, and Trump’s policy on Jerusalem and UNWRA? You want to argue that it is racist to draw attention to that, which is only the tip of a huge iceberg of such things? You sound exactly like Trump demanding the resignation of Ilhan Omar.
“You are defending part of the ruling class from anti-racist criticism. Our politics are based on the theories of Abram Leon, the great Jewish Trotskyist theorist who was murdered in Auschwitz.
“When the DFLA attacked the SWP bookshop last year one of their people picked up Abram Leon’s work ‘The Jewish Question’ and shouted that this proved that the left are ‘anti-Semitic’. You have the same attitude.
“Would a communist of Jewish origin want to join one of these paternalistic Jews-only groups? I doubt it. We spend a lot of our time and effort trying to argue with Jewish people and convince them of our analysis.
“But we don’t indulge Jewish chauvinism or racism. We consider it just as bad as white racism and supremacism. And with the Zionist influence in the far right it is dangerous to the left and anti-fascists.”
After this Whitney refrained from any further reply.
Anti-Fascists: Embrace IHRA, or embrace Palestinians?
We might add to this that the only point we have ever made about the significance of rich Jewish people being involved in sexual abuse is to note the similarity between the involvement of Prince Andrew with the Zionist billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who was indeed accused of sexual abuse of minors, as Prince Andrew was by implication at least, with the scandal of the involvement of King Edward the Eighth with Hitler. In other words, the point was not about sexual abuse being a ‘Jewish’ trait (there is no evidence of that) but rather about the parallel between British Royalty being involved scandalously with Nazis in the 1930s and with Zionists today. We suspect that our friend is trying to say that comparisons between Zionists and the Nazis are anti-Semitic. He assuredly is trying to import the Labour Party’s witch-hunts into the anti-fascist movement.
We wonder if this Dave Whitney wants LAFA to do what the Labour Party has done and adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism? No doubt he would have no problem with getting Tommy Robinson and the DFLA to adopt it. They would be pleased to! The well documented, well publicised carrying of Israeli flags by today’s fascistic ‘Alt-right’ show that very clearly. An anti-fascist movement that tolerates Zionist witchhunters would be a plaything of the Alt-right. Zionist witchhunters, people who quote Zionist publications like Jewish News which have a track record of attacking the left and getting Jewish leftists banned from social media, should be regarded with suspicion as potential agents of the Alt-right.
Anti-fascists should be defenders of all the oppressed. We should embrace the Palestinian cause as our own. The cause of the Palestinian people should be the cause of anti-fascism faced with today’s Zionist slow genocide just as the cause of the Jewish people faced with the Nazi genocide was the cause of anti-fascism before WWII. No importing of Labour witchhunts into the anti-fascist movement! No Zionist fifth column! For a united front of all genuine anti-fascists! Full freedom of criticism for all within the anti-fascist movement!