[Marxism] The "anti-semitism" of the oppressed, etc.?? (was: How to answer these questions?)

cleon42 at yahoo.com cleon42 at yahoo.com
Fri Aug 4 11:45:17 MDT 2006

--- Lou Paulsen <loupaulsen at sbcglobal.net> wrote:

> Continuing the discussion with Adam - first, there are two very
> different kinds of situation that we have to distinguish.  You are
> writing about ongoing concrete work in the U.S. in a movement with
> heavy Palestinian participation and leadership.  I'm sorry if you
> thought I was being dismissive when I referred to "people writing
> leaflets together" - that wasn't my intention.  I was trying to
> emphasize that there is active ongoing collaboration in real work.  I
> don't think anyone is suggesting that we can't be honest with people
> whom we actually have an active working relationship.

Joaquin is suggesting exactly that--he promotes a similar viewpoint
when it comes to Black and immigrant struggles. We should not
criticize, we should not question, we should just smile, nod, and never
give our input.

> But that isn't the sort of context that was being discussed when the
> thread started.  The thread started when someone asked how we deal
> with it if some resistance organization in the Middle East which we
> do NOT have a direct working relationship with - and which by the way
> it would probably be illegal to have a direct working relationship
> with - has material on their website attacking the Jewish people and
> maybe even has a link to the "Protocols".  Here we are dealing with
> people who are separated from us, not only because of their politics
> but also because separation and isolation is deliberately imposed on
> them by the United States.  This also applies to other people in the
> oppressed community here, though.  
> Now, I hope you will agree that some of your comments are not very
> applicable to this second situation.  You are writing about "entering
> into political discussion" with Palestinians, but what if that's not
> possible?  What if there's no way to talk with them?  What if you are
> reading a news account about people who have no idea who you are and
> have no history of working with you and no real reason to trust you?

Fair enough, but I think this also reflects a general lack of knowledge
about how well-connected these individuals and groups are with the
"wider" movement.

For reasons you yourself have already pointed out, I can't be too
specific. However, I will say that the "degrees of separation" between
someone like myself in the "wider" movement and the leaderships of
Hamas, PFLP, Hizballah, etc is *much* smaller than you would think.

Furthermore, there is a "rank and file" exchange as well; when
activists go on ISM trips to participate in Palestinian resistance,
when we host Palestinian activists (such as a recent tour from the
Ibdaa Center in Dheisheh refugee camp).

The dividing line between "us" and "them" is very, very thin indeed.

And no, I'm not talking about sending petitions and manifestos over to
the Hamas leadership or anything like that. But in the context of
common struggle, whether I'm in Atlanta or Ramallah, if someone
proposes an anti-Semitic theme, I'm going to speak against it. 

> Actually I do believe in entering into discussion with them, in a
> sense, but not by writing them letters so much as by putting our own
> views out there.  If we can read Hamas's website, well, Hamas can
> read our website.  They can read the material on the IAC website
> (www.iacenter.org) and read about the demonstrations taking place
> today and tomorrow making clear our position that the war on
> Palestine and Lebanon is a U.S. war rather than a Jewish war.  In
> fact our leaflet has on it a picture of a Hezbollah banner that says
> the "U.S. is the head of the terrorists"; it doesn't say the Elders
> of Zion are the head of the terrorists.  That's our side of the
> discussion.  That's our attempt to avoid being isolated and to say
> something meaningful about all this.  You and other people are
> participating in this kind of "discussion" all the time.  It will
> give our socialist comrades in Palestine and Lebanon and throughout
> the oppressed world some back-up as they themselves participate
>  in "discussions" all the time with people in their own nations and
> shape the future of their own struggles.

I disagree with none of this. (Though I will say that I wish the IAC
comrades who've dedicated their lives to organizing would dedicate some
of this skill to organizing their website.)

> You then goes on to say something that I really think you should
> re-read and apologize for, since it's really offensive:

Joaquin said that genocidal hatred of the Jewish people was legitimate,
justified, and he "has no problem with it." Who, exactly, is being
offensive here?

> I think it is entirely unfair to say that Joaquin is saying that any
> Marxists should promote the hatred of Jews.  He may have said such
> feelings were "justified" but that's different from saying that
> they're true or that he as a Marxist is going to go around promoting
> them.

He refers to Palestinian anti-Semitism as "righteous hatred." Not
merely justified, but "righteous." If that's not promoting hatred of
Jews, I really don't know what is.

> Wouldn't it be a time,
> rather, to demonstrate in practice whether we are on the side of the
> oppressors, or unconditionally on the side of the oppressed? 

You're absolutely right. And you know what? Some of us HAVE been doing
exactly that, while others have been writing missives on who we're
allowed to have political discussions with.

> I also think that you are sliding into metaphysics even when you
> think you are getting out of it.  Let's look at this "hatred" for
> example.  There is a difference between hating people who are killing
> you and hating people who are not killing you.  There is a difference
> between hating the oppressed nation and hating the oppressor nation.

You keep explaining this, and I keep agreeing with it. Nobody is saying

> And when you say that "Palestinian anti-semitism is STILL
> reactionary", well, reactionary compared to what?  Really, everything
> that falls short of revolutionary communism is reactionary by
> comparison if that's the standard you are going to use.  There are a
> lot of ways for oppressed people to be reactionary.  The number one
> worst way for oppressed people to be reactionary is to identify with
> the oppressor, to betray their people and serve the imperialist. 

I would argue that promoting anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, and the
Protocols of the Learned Elder of Zion (which is the dictionary
definition of "imperialist forgery") does exactly that.

> Finally, writing that "Joaquin being from an oppressed nationality
> does not exempt him from criticism" is off the mark.  Joaquin and I
> have criticized each others' politics before.  But in this particular
> case you are writing about whether it is or isn't "reactionary" for
> oppressed people to react to their oppression in a certain way, and
> in that case I think we all have to listen better to what people of
> oppressed nations say about it. 

Which is why I posted my other point; that equivocating between peoples
of oppressed nationalities solely on that basis is just as
undialectical as equivocating between the hatred of the oppressed and
hatred of the oppressor. You may say that Joaquin has some special
insight because he is a person of color, but in reality, the gulf
between Joaquin's experience and that of the Palestinians is just as
wide as--if not wider than--mine or yours.

The national question is key to understanding quite a bit of the way
the world works. But it doesn't *stop* there, any more than it stops
with questions of class or gender. 

> Anyway, please don't
> confuse me with some kind of super-liberal who is afraid to talk
> around people of color, and in return I will try not to confuse YOU
> with people like my boss who came away from the training session on
> sexual harrassment going "HUMPF!  Well, I guess you just can't say
> ANYTHING any more!"

Well, as a member of the oppressed community of cubicle denizens, I
*do* reserve the right to criticize silly, vacuous management programs.


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