Forwarded from Gad Levy (from Zionism to Marxism)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Jan 24 13:29:04 MST 2001

>From Zionism to Marxism

Nestor Gororojovsky piece inspired me to put finger to keyboard. Should
start by declaring my background as an Israeli by birth, Jewish by culture
and a Marxist by conviction; but, like all Jewish stories it was not as
simple as that.

The year was the summer of 1970, the place was Chile. Salvador Allende was
campaigning for the presidency. I was a second year law student at the
University of Concepcion, a hotbed of Marxist vanguardism.

The whole country was griped by political fever. Anybody and everybody took
a stand. It was impossible not to be sucked in. My liberal upbringing made
it easy. However I did wish to express my political stand as Jewish
left-winger. I was so relieved when I found a group who called themselves
the Federation of Left Zionists. I was invited to join their summer
activities, cultivating the land in the fertile valley of Maipo.

In the best of left wing Jewish tradition we gather every dawn to labour
the earth.… Along side us worked some conscripts from the Chilean army.
To date their presence there has baffles me. I am sure that their mission
was not to spy on us. The most logical explanation was that the land, we
were labouring, belonged to an officer of the Chilean army and most of the
conscripts were poor peasants. What should have intrigued me is why we were
there? I was very naïve then.

I could not resist and did my best to recruit the conscripts to the cause.
After all the whole country was at it. The Israeli emissary, who was in
charge, tried to curtail my unsionistic activities.

At the end of our manual labouring we hitch hiked to the south and on our
return attended the annual conference of the Federation of Left Zionists in
Santiago. I cannot remember his name; but his bright red ginger hair is
unforgettable. The ginger hairdo presented a paper advocating the mass
"aliah" (return) of all Jews from Chile to Israel, before the Popular Unity
is elected. His reasoning was, once the left was in power, immigration
would be made more difficult. I was alone in reminding everyone of our
internationalist stand as socialists.

Not long after that, deflated and disappointed I returned to my University
and joined the MIR (Revolutionary Left Movement). For the next three years
tried to radicalise the policies of Government of Popular Unity. The merit,
or otherwise, of our politics is outside the scope of this paper.

When the military, headed by Pinochet, imposed their reign of terror, I was
left with a limited scope for action. After some weeks I managed to reach
Santiago and sought asylum at the Israeli embassy. I can only praise the
humanitarian stand taken by the people at the embassy, which was in
complete contrast to the government they were representing. The Israelis
were very helpful towards us and very warm towards the incumbent
dictatorship in Chile.

Next, the embassy refused me a passport. My father, who remembered his
English lineage, secured, from Her Majesty Government an unenviable dark
blue passport; Her Majesty Government also facilitated my safe exit form
Chile; however they were relieved when the Israelis agreed to accept me
among their mist, minus an Israeli passport.

Once in Israel, after forcible separating me from my younger sister, I was
sent to a different kibbutz from her. Presumably so I will not infect her
younger brain with my nefarious ideology. To her credit she has reminded a
committed Marxist, with less doubt than I have.

My first act was to reactivate my contacts with my old comrades from the
Federation of Left Zionists, who, true to their word, did emigrate in mass,
prior to Allende assuming power. My aim was to set up a Solidarity
Committee with Chile.

I tracked down the ginger hair to a northern kibbutz, unannounced I showed
up at his modest bungalow. By his open doorway an M16 semiautomatic
American rifle was lazily resting against the wall. My ex comrade has just
return form the Yom Kippur war. After warmly embracing we were reassured
that our physical well being has not been damaged, his by a bullet from a
Russian klashnikof in the hand of an Arab soldier, and mine from a bullet
from an M16 semiautomatic American rifle, in the hand of a Chilean soldier.

I explained to my left wing Zionist ex comrade how desperate the situation
was in Chile. How friends, comrades and just innocents people were being
massacred by the bloodthirsty regime. How vital it was to mount a
Solidarity Movement with the people of Chile. I asked for his help,
contacts, etc.

The ginger hair returned a blanked face. After listening to my desperate
plea, he simply announced that I was in Israel now, Chile belonged to the
past! I should concentrate in my new life as a Jew in Israel! He crowned
his argument by accusing Allende of sympathising with the Palestinian cause.

My ex comrade's attitude was not an isolated stand. In fact he represented
the general view of the Israelis. If it did not affect them it had nothing
to do with them. To be fair, when we approached the Arabs students, they
told us that they had enough problems of their own.

However the labour party in Israel grasped the opportunity and suddenly we
were invited to a summer resort in Ashkelon, we were dined and wined by
ministers and members of the Israeli Kneset.

At our arrival we were handed an open letter written by Melnick, who wrote
in the stylistic vein of Wright Mills, "Listen Yankee" in defence of Fidel
Castro. Melnick poured his resentment against Castro for sending his
"guajiros" to fight along side the Syrian soldiers. Melnick reminded Castro
that as a progressive Jew he has spent many hours, in Chile, marching in
defence of the Cuban revolution, while the arabs proscribed the communist
into illegality.

The Israeli Labour Party was feeling the isolation after the Yom Kippur
War. At that first meeting they announced their intention to mount a Chile
Solidarity Committee.

All was very bizarre.

I did suggest that the Israeli Communist Party should be included, as they
have showed an interest in our cause. My suggestion was rejected even
before I managed to finish the sentence.

Not long after, Carlos Parra, a prominent member of the Radical Party of
Chile (Social Democrats) was invited and the Israeli Labour Party dinned
and wined him. They were now among the other European Social Democrats
offering words of comfort to the defeated Chileans.

At the first anniversary of the coup we gathered in front of the Chilean
Embassy in Jerusalem, minus the Israelis who have offered their previous
solidarity. We voiced our condemnation. The new Chilean ambassador, whose
name I have also forgotten, was a distinguished Jewish lawyer from
Santiago, who, besides being a prominent Zionist, helped me while I was
confined to the walls of the embassy in Santiago. Life is full
contradiction as Marx discovered when differentiating between civil society
and the state.

Eventually we all left Israel; but the story has a better finale. A few
years back, married and with children, we decided to spend a spring in
Israel. On my arrival at Eilat, immigration officials arrested me for
entering the country without an Israeli passport. I decided that it was
pointless to explain that I have been refused one 20 years ago. After
suffocating in a small office, the relieved official, who by then was
bearing the brunt of my wife irritation, received a fax from the Ministry
of the Interior in Jerusalem authorising him to stamp my British Passport
with a temporary visa. After that lovely spring break I haven't been back
to Israel.

I am still an Israeli by birth, Jewish by culture and a Marxist by
conviction, with a British passport.

Gad Levy

Louis Proyect
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