[Marxism] How to answer these questions?

Ian Pace ian at ianpace.com
Fri Aug 4 03:45:46 MDT 2006

From: "Sayan Bhattacharyya" <ok.president+marxmail at gmail.com>
> On 8/3/06, Mike Friedman <mikedf at amnh.org> wrote:
>> One thing to keep in mind is that our solidarity, particularly that of
>> Jews, must be unconditional toward the Palestinian people.
> The problem is that there is a chicken-and-egg scenario.  Jews such as
> yourself (who see clearly how things stand) are relatively few in number 
> in
> the USA. They're going to be turned off by any insistence, such as the
> above, that anti-semitism in the Resistance movement _must_ be ignored. 
> Such
> insistence will mean that there will not be many Jewish people in the 
> ranks
> of the Solidarity movement. Meanwhile, unless there is a critical mass of
> Jews visible in the Solidarity movement, the Resistance movement will find
> it difficult to rid themselves of their steretyping of all Jews.
> I think the best solution is to be honest and straightforward to both Jews
> and the Resistance -- to explain, rather than to criticize.  To tell the
> Jews: yes, we recognize that there is anti-semitism in the Resistance
> movement; and explain the historical reason why it came to be so. And to
> tell the Resistance: yes, we recognize that there are not many Jews 
> joining
> the Solidarity movement yet (but that there are a not-entirely-negligible
> few who _are_ already in solidarity) --and explain why many Jews are being
> turned off.
> That way, you would have shifted the stance from criticizing (whether
> criticizing the Resistance for anti-semitism, or criticizing Jews for not
> unconditionally joining the Solidarity movement) to explaining (to both 
> Jews
> and to the Resistance why things are the way they are).
> Maybe this is a too Habermasian solution, depending too much on
> communicative rationality, so that no one will have the patience to hear 
> out
> the explanations in a time of war when both time and  tempers are short?
> Could be. But may be worth a try.
I think you are very right, and that communicative rationality is a positive 
way forward in such situations. Though alas you do get some on the far left 
who think such a thing is a 'petty-bourgeois fetish' or the like, and think 
that as long as you shout a didactic message often enough, people will come 
to believe it. The fact remains that the right wing will always win in terms 
of the second strategy, as their messages are cruder, more primeval and more 

I am passionately anti-Zionist, but this has absolutely nothing to do with 
any antipathy towards Jewish people (to the extent I can still remain on 
good terms with moderate Zionist Jewish friends, without hiding my 
position). Organising support against Israel's actions is not easy at all, 
especially not if any hostages to fortune are given to those who will simply 
dismiss such campaigns as anti-semitic. The Boycott Israeli Goods (BIG) 
could be very effective if it were taken up by a significant number of 
people (as were similar campaigns with respect to South Africa). But that 
will only happen if there can be seen to be a significant amount of Jewish 
support for the campaign. If the vast majority of Jewish voices are calling 
such a campaign anti-semitic, moderate leftists and social democrats will 
run away at the first opportunity. And this has occurred with most such 
attempts to organise against what Israel is doing. Many on the far left are 
just dismissive of this issue and spend too much time solely in the presence 
of totally committed fellow travellers.

Any sort of dedicated action that might put pressure on Israel to withdraw 
from Lebanon, the occupied territories, etc. is certainly not going to bring 
about international socialist revolution, but that does not mean that 
revolutionary socialists should not be involved in trying to make the former 
happen. I suppose there is the ultra-leftist view that thinks the worse 
things get in the Middle East, the more the whole world is destabilised and 
thus the closer world revolution comes. But that sort of dangerous thinking 
can be dispensed with, I would hope.


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