Antisemitism, Islamophobia: products of a rotting society
Two items appeared on the news on 17 February: one from Reuters on the worldwide increase in antisemitism as a result of Israel's offensive in Gaza and the onset of the global economic recession; and a Guardian article about a leaked document from the Home Office which envisages reclassifying extremists in a way that would officially define thousands of Muslims as potential terrorist recruits.
"Several countries have reported an increase in anti-Semitism during Israel's 22-day offensive in Gaza which ended with a January 18 truce with Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.
France's main Jewish association CRIF recorded more than 100 attacks in January, up from 20 to 25 a month in the previous two years.
Some 250 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in Britain in the four weeks after fighting began in Gaza, compared with 541 incidents over the whole of last year, a charity that protects the Jewish community was reported last week as saying.
In Venezuela, armed men vandalised the Tiferet synagogue in January while Turkey's centuries-old Jewish community said it was alarmed by anti-Semitism that emerged during protests at Israel's Gaza assault."
And in addition:
"A survey by the Anti-Defamation League published last week found that stereotypes about Jewish power in business still held strong in Europe.
The poll of 3,500 people in Austria, France, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Spain and Britain found 31 percent blamed Jews in the financial industry for the global economic crisis".
The economic crisis is the product of the inbuilt contradictions of capitalism. But capital is an impersonal force and the laws of the capitalist economy, at first sight, seem so hard to understand. Isn't it much easier to look around for some actual persons to blame, someone identifiable? And the mainstream media certainly encourage such a way of looking at things, with their endless scandals about the role of sinister speculators and greedy bankers in the credit crunch. But it's not such a step to go from greedy bankers to the Jews. ‘We all know' that most Jews are rich and are masters of financial skulduggery ever since they started lending money at interest....
Thus one of the mainstays of reactionary thought from the Middle Ages to the Nazi concentration camps comes creeping back to a Europe that is seeing the downfall of all its propaganda about prosperity and progress. What Trotsky said about fascism in general applies in equal measure to one of its habitual components - anti-Jewish racism:
"Fascism has opened up the depth of society for politics....Everything that should have been eliminated from the national organism in the form of cultural excrement in the course of the normal development of society has now come gushing up from the throat; capitalist society is puking up the undigested barbarism. Such is the psychology of National Socialism" ("What is National socialism", 1933).
There is of course a new gloss on this old rubbish: the enemy is not the Jews, it's the Zionists. Look what Israel is doing in Gaza, look what it did in Lebanon in 2006, look at how it terrorised hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into fleeing from Palestine during the war of 1948...All of which is true. But it is also true that ‘anti-Zionism' is often a thin cover for the old antisemitism. The ‘powerful Zionist lobby' in the US that unduly influences US foreign policy can easily become the secret Jewish cabal that controls the world or the ‘Zionist Occupation Government' dreamed up by America's extreme right-wing militiamen. But the left wing (of capitalism) is no bulwark against antisemitism either. On marches against Israel's atrocities in Gaza the Trotskyists tell us to support Hamas because it is leading the ‘resistance' against the Israeli state. But Hamas has the Protocols of the Elders of Zion - a Czarist forgery purporting to reveal Jewish plans for world domination - enshrined in its constitution. A local branch of the Socialist Workers Party, eager to win Muslim youth to its popular fronts, recently brought out a leaflet which tells us that the Nazis exterminated gays, disabled people and trade unionists, but somehow forgets to mention the Jews...even an Italian anarchist group came under fire for talking about the "the powerful US Jewish economic lobby" in the US (see http://libcom.org/forums/theory/does-libcom-support-aryanization-22122008). Whether the extreme left is openly antisemitic or not, its inbred nationalism and its flirtation with Islamic radicalism certainly make it incapable of fighting against the renewal of anti-Jewish hatred.
The link between the revival of antisemitism and the development of Islamic extremism is also evident in Europe: many of the attacks on Jews in Europe are not the work of the traditional fascists but of young Muslims fired up by Bin Laden's tirades against Crusaders and Jews and enraged by what they see happening under the auspices of a ‘Jewish state' in the Middle East.
For people like Ed Husain, who chronicled his involvement with and eventual break from Islamic extremism in his book The Islamist, the violent, fascist element in jihadist Islam is enough to justify defending the democratic state and calling on it to step up vigilance against Islamic extremism. "Violent extremism is produced by Islamist extremism and it's only right to get into the root causes." (Guardian 17 February)
He's referring to his support for the approach contained in a new strategy for dealing with Islamic radicalism, Contest 2 as it is known in Whitehall. The strategy is still only in draft form and has reportedly stirred up a good deal of controversy among politicians, civil servants and the ‘intelligence community', since some have recognised that it will only serve to further alienate Muslims. According to Contest 2,
"people would be considered as extremists if:
• They advocate a caliphate, a pan-Islamic state encompassing many countries.
• They promote Sharia law.
• They believe in jihad, or armed resistance, anywhere in the world. This would include armed resistance by Palestinians against the Israeli military.
• They argue that Islam bans homosexuality and that it is a sin against Allah.
• They fail to condemn the killing of British soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Contest 2 would widen the definition of extremists to those who hold views that clash with what the government defines as shared British values. Those who advocate the wider definition say hardline Islamist interpretation of the Qur'an leads to views that are the root cause of the terrorism threat Britain faces" (ibid).
So while radical Muslims find ready scapegoats in the Jews, the democratic state finds an excellent scapegoat in the radical Muslims, stretching the definition of extremism so wide that it could encompass not only thousands of Muslims but all those who find themselves politically at odds with ‘British values' by opposing its wars in Afghanistan or Iraq, or by daring to suggest that parliamentary democracy is a hollow fraud.
The rise of Judaeophobia and Islamophobia are both expressions of the extreme putrefaction of capitalist society and its real ‘values'. But they cannot be opposed by the liberal wing of capitalism, which aligns itself with the democratic state and its cynical use of anti-Islamic prejudices, nor by the pseudo-revolutionary left which has chosen sides in the imperialist conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere and is acting as a cheerleader for Islamic gangs which are open advocates of anti-Jewish myths. The only standpoint which can really oppose both sets of prejudice is the standpoint of proletarian internationalism, which rejects support for any national state or would-be state and insists on the common interest of all the exploited, whether they are Christian, Jewish or Muslim, Israeli or Arab, European or Asian...