American Labor Can Help Right Anti-Israel Left
By Stuart Appelbaum
Thu. Mar 27, 2008

For more than two years, Israelis living in Sderot and other towns near Gaza have been the target of choice for Hamas terrorists. Launching its arsenal of Qassam rockets from residential neighborhoods and even schoolyards, they have as much as dared Israel to fight back. Now it has.

Predictably, much of the world is expressing its dismay — and those of us who call ourselves progressives are fuming that much of it is coming from our counterparts on the left overseas. However, it's not enough for us to be indignant. Absent the involvement of the American labor movement, any effort to build worldwide support on the left for the Jewish state will be extraordinary difficult.

To grasp the enormity of the challenge facing Israel's friends on the left, one need only look at the Socialist International's condemnation last month of "the excessive use of force by Israel in Gaza." The umbrella body of social democratic, socialist and labor parties went on to point out that it has "consistently denounced the attacks against Israel coming from Gaza as well as the incursions into Gaza by Israel, for both serve only to worsen the cycles of violence that in the end harm innocent people the most."

Of course, those who have even a passing familiarity with Hamas understand that their raison d'etre is the creation of a chain of violence and retribution. Suggesting that Israel and Hamas are both to blame for the bloodshed in Gaza is akin to saying that the would-be victim who fights off a mugger bears equal responsibility for the violence as the assailant.

Statements like the Socialist International's, however, are salutary compared to some of the venom generated by the left abroad.

For example, Australia's Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union and the Maritime Union of Australia joined forces recently to condemn a parliamentary resolution congratulating Israel on its 60 years of statehood . Their words speak for themselves: "We, as informed and concerned Australians, choose to disassociate ourselves from a celebration of the triumph of racism and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians since the al-Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948."

Why do voices that so often cry out for social justice serve up these kinds of diatribes against Israel? Why do they hold Israel to standards that no other nation in the world would ever be expected to meet? And why do so many of them claim that, in the final analysis, Israel is responsible for everything Hamas does or will do?

It is the triumph of instinct over intellect, and one can only conclude that, at least in part, what we are increasingly witnessing on the left overseas is antisemitism cloaked under the veil of anti-Zionism.


The post elicited some interesting commentary.

DE Teodoru said:

I never understoof the dangerous Fawing [meant fawning] of some American Jews— who appreciate the importance of separating Church and State to their survival in America— over right wing Evangeligals like John Hagee. Rev. Hagee's Jewish admirers remind of Hitler's Jewish admirers in Batar, Jabotinsky's "revisionist" mob that sought conquest by means of a bloody "iron wall," long before any Arab war befell the Zionists. Batar wore uniforms weaved, sewn, washed, pressed and distributed free by their Nazi tailors. Said Batar: so what if Hitler didn't like Jews, he's wonderful for the German people— then came Kristallnacht!

For three generations American Jews have wailed over the Holocaust. But it is not the wail for lost beloved brethren, but the wail of heavy guilt passed on through three generations for the deliberate silence of the 1930s, motivated by fear that their "good deal" in America might be endangered if they speak too loudly against German-US relations. After all, Germans were then the biggest immigrant group and the Bun was mighty tough, even in America.

East Euro Jews who survived TWO Holocausts (Hitler's and Stalin's) raised me through our westward refuge from Stalin's grasp. And they taught me that people who think it's cool to make a deal with them "dumb goyim" loonies end up at the front of the line of horror... as so many in Russia found out in the 1950 Soviet "Doctors' Plot" of Stalin. In 1946 Zionist leaders pledged Stalin full support against the West if only he armed the Palmach against the Arabs. He armed them generously; and then he butchered Russian Jews in a spasm of anti-Semitism brought to an end only by his death in 1953. So as a Christian raised by Jews I offer you an historical lesson passed on to me by my wise mentors: Don't play with the Devil, thinking that he is dumb; for you will surely be burned!

Thu. Mar 27, 2008

Adam Gold said:

The reason why most labour movements worldwide, especially the democratic ones, are ambivalent about supporting the Israeli state and its government is precisely because it is engaged in a brutal military occupation and has consistently denied and scuttled every serious attempt at a peaceful settlement in the last 40 years. Read Israeli academic Avi Shlaim's "Iron Wall" for proof. Or check out the website of Israel's B'Tselem: which provides ample, uncontestible evidence of the gross disproptionate nature of Palestinian civilian suffering.

The chief problem with the argument here is the concept of "Israel". This piece conflates the state, the government, the military and the people as if they are all the same. What labour movements worldwide should be doing is lending solidarity to all workers in Israel/Palestine and defending their human rights, not sucking up to governments (US, Israel or whatever).

As a non-native american citizen of the US, I assume you acknowledge the terrible treatement of North America's indigenous people over the last 500 years (what was ethnic-cleansing at a minimum). Is it truly so hard to acknowlege the same was suffered by the Palestinians?
Thu. Mar 27, 2008

Grif said:

Over the past two years alone Israel has killed more than 900 Palestinians, roughly half of whom are civilians. In return, the Palestinians have killed some 31 Israelis, again roughly half civilian. Mr. Appelbaum is right to decry the notion that "Israel and Hamas are both to blame for the bloodshed in Gaza," for the preponderance of force and violence and brutality is now and always has been Zionist. The above numbers do not begin to describe the hell Israel has imposed upon the Palestinians, for there are also the wounded and crippled, the beaten and humiliated, the 18,000 homes bulldozed, the land confiscated, the crops and olive trees destroyed, the check points and blockades and curfews, the hunger, the lack of jobs and of a future, all that which comes from internment in these modern-day concentration camps called Gaza and the West Bank. Yet Appelbaum, unable to melt butter in his mouth, insists Israel to be the helpless victim. What fools does blind ideology make of us all! Israel with the most powerful army in the ME, the fourth most powerful in the world, backed to the hilt by the US; Israel with the largest economy in the region, an economy many times larger than all its neighbors' combined; Israel who controls every aspect of Palestinian life, down to the population registry and what coinage they should use and when they should be allowed access to their groves. Israel who commits all of the above and kills with impunity and then is outraged when someone shoots back. What astonishing chutzpah, what towering narcissism.
Fri. Mar 28, 2008

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  • Tom Usher

    About Tom Usher

    Employment: 2008 - present, website developer and writer. 2015 - present, insurance broker. Education: Arizona State University, Bachelor of Science in Political Science. City University of Seattle, graduate studies in Public Administration. Volunteerism: 2007 - present, president of the Real Liberal Christian Church and Christian Commons Project.
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