Khazars, The Far Right And Dubious History.
I didn’t want to post for a while, but after reading a truly appalling post at Socialist Unity blog by Ger Francis, I felt I had to comment.
The body of the Francis’ article is about a meeting held by George Galloway in Birmingham, but as I am not terribly interested in him or his views I wasn’t too concerned with that. Rather I was interested in the references within the post and in the comments box to the new book by Shlomo Sand, The Invention of the Jewish People.
Part of Sand’s work retreads a well-trodden path from Arthur Koestler, to any number of dubious Far Right web sites, that push the notion that “Jews aren’t really Jews, they are Khazars”.
Why Sand, as a historian of French history, decided to venture into the complex and contested area of Jewish history I can’t say, perhaps it was for the fame? The money or even notoriety? Whatever reason, it is unimportant and I shall leave it to academics in that field to critique his work.
I am more concerned with this very nasty line of reasoning, from an antifascist point of view and where it leads, to the delegitimization of Jews.
I think anyone remotely familiar with the limited range of thoughts and debates found on neo-Nazi and Far Right web sites will recognise that particular “Khazar” argument and understand why it is pushed. I won’t provide any links to those neo-fascist web sites, but readers can find them on Google by using the keywords: Khazars Jews white power or David Duke khazers.
The Far Right is populated by Jew haters and such like, they need, for the sake of their own beliefs, to delegitimize Jews, to denigrate them, to eradicate their very existence, politically, historically, socially, and physically. That is why Holocaust denial is so important to them, it is a form of racial incitement against Jews, and in their on-line web activities that means the Far Right manufacture, use fake quotations and dubious historical sources, and above all push the myth of the Khazars.
All of this is not coincidental, the Far Right view Jews as the ultimate enemy and any opportunity to disparage them is used, so conscious anti-racists and antifascists should be aware of the Far Right’s tactics, and certainly avoid emulating them.
However, as the post at Socialist Unity blog showed a wider problem is evident, which is that many modern political activists in the West seem to erroneously assume that they have to be anti-Israeli or anti-Jew to be pro-Palestinian.
Nothing could be further from the truth, saddling the cause of the Palestinians with the Far Right’s argumentation and method is the quickest way to discredit it.
Moreover, feeble attempts to try and delegitimize Jews, as a people, as a group with a deep sense of history, a bitter history, does not achieve anything. Quite the contrary and it is rather insulting and degrading.
Not only that, but it shows an almost complete ignorance of the Far Right’s methodology and activities, combined with a monumental lack of sensitivity which in the end only fosters anti-Jewish racism.
Copying the Far Right’s arguments is not something that socialists or antiracists should do, or seek to imitate.
I would hope that authors on Socialist Unity blog would take the time to read, and reread, Andy Newman’s guide to David Duke’s racism, and hopefully they would see their own mistakes in this area and avoid them.
Update 1: The CST blog covers many issues on Sand’s work.
Update 2: Thanks to a pointer at Engage I’ve noticed a good comment at the bottom of that thread. I’ll reproduce it here, just in case it gets deleted as Dave Rich’s comment was:
“47. For those involved in Palestinian solidarity in Birmingham, its university has long felt like some weird Zionist outpost”
I did my MPhil at Birmingham University two years ago and have to disagree with this comment. The UoB has a huge Muslim presence and most activism you see on campus is usually anti-Zionist. There’s a Jewish Society and Jewish students, most of whom (not all) are all very supportive of Israel, but that’s democracy for you. The idea that there’s a sort of Jewish conspiracy stifling debate on Israel is too widespread among many on the left, but it doesn’t stand scrutiny. Most progressive media is vocally anti-Israel, and the I/P conflict receives far more attention than any other in the world. If there’s one debate that hasn’t been stifled is precisely this one.
“the feebleness of the Zionist opposition to [the meeting], is further evidence of the growing hegemony of Palestinian solidarity in all corners of the city”
You’ve just shown me that I’m not that wrong, but then, it’s Birmingham, the British city with one of the largest Muslim communities. If the Palestinian cause didn’t gather support there, where else? The problem the Palestinians face is not their lack of support in the west, but among their Arab brethren. They can’t become citizens of most Arab countries, where they live as third class non-citizens, mostly in refugee camps. Black September Massacre perpetrated by the Jordan Army makes the Operation Cast Lead pale in comparison. So does the constant raids Palestinians suffer under in the refugee camps of Lebanon. The list is huge. Until the Arab leaders stop using the Palestinian people as a pawns in their power games, the Palestinians have a serious problem.
“To those who believed that the Israeli state was the natural and just creation for a Jewish people exiled from their homeland”
Personally, I think that’s irrelevant. I see Israel as the result of a nationalist struggle for self-determination of a people who, tired of being persecuted in Europe, decided that they’d be safer somewhere else. European Jews first started buying land in Palestine and establishing the kibbutzim as socialist experiences. But they were not the only Jews living there. Jerusalem or Hebron have a long history of Jewish population. The territory was under the jurisdiction of the Sultan of Turkey and later Britain. When decolonization took place you already had an important Jewish population in Palestine. Could things have been solved otherwise? Yes they could, but all the parties involved refused to do so: all, Jews, British AND Arabs.
“He reminded the audience that instead of the Zionists following some historic mission to Palestine, they considered Uganda, Scheyelles, and Patagonia as possible locations for a Jewish state”
Yes, that was Theodor Herzl looking for alternatives to emigrate. But people who point this out do it as if sending all the Jews to Uganda would have not created any injustice. Those places were populated too. The problem is that Jews were tired of being pogromed in Europe, and as the Pilgrims of the Mayflower, they decided it was better to try to go somewhere else. The Sultan of Turkey had welcomed them in 1492 after they were expelled from Spain. It’s normal that they thought about a territory that was then under Turkish jurisdiction and which has strong connections to Jewish history (yes, I think that the Bible is all bollocks, but so is Al-Quran, so if you’re going to deny the Jews their claims to Palestine, you should do so with Muslims. There’s no trace of Muhammad ever being outside the Arabian Peninsula, unless you believed that horses fly).
“Israel ‘is just another European settle state, similar to apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia’”
This is dishonest. Israel has 20% of non-Jewish citizens and their rights are in general respected. There’s discrimination, but there’re also Arabs in the Knesset, the Supreme Court, the Army, the diplomatic service, etc. Within the borders of Israel, you can’t define it as an apartheid state. The WB is something different, but I don’t regard the WB as Israel. Officially, Israel doesn’t either, and they apply Jordanian law over there. The example George was looking for is Texas, which got its independence 100 years before Israel. A lot of US citizens migrated to Texas, then under Mexican jurisdiction, and then decided to split from Mexico. They were independent for a year and after a war, they decided to join the US. A bloody episode, but all Texans are US citizens, even those of Mexican descent who are born there or naturalise themselves as US citizens.
Besides, what’s wrong with settlers states? My country of birth (Argentina) is a settler state. The US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, are settler states. Algeria is an Arab settler state in most of its territory (and the Ber Ber are not very happy about it). Morocco is a similar case to the south of Marrakesh. Settlers are the Arabs and Turks who live in Kurdistan and the Chinese Han who live beyond the two rivers. The problem is whether those settler states grant equal rights to their citizens (none of the examples I gave do). In my view Israel does within their borders, but not in the occupied territories, which is the reason why I think they should abandon them or declare the Palestinian citizens of Israel.
“Is it any wonder, George asked the audience, that more suicide bombers come from the living hell that is Jenin refugee camp”
No, it’s no wonder, but it’s sickening that anyone would rationalize suicide bombing. As I wrote somewhere else, suicide bombing is not the natural result of oppression, but a tactic chosen by psychopaths who have nothing by contempt for their ranks and files and who wouldn’t do it themselves. The Kurds are much more oppressed than the Palestinians. So are the Sharawis. Repression in El Salvador would make the Gaza look like a picnic (OK, OK, I’m trying to make a point here, not to denigrate Palestinian suffering, but rationalizing suicide bombing is a step too far) … None of those people ever did suicide bombing. Their leaders are socialists and secular, and unlike other men in robes, they care for their people.
“Oslo had been a disaster for the Palestinians”
Really? Before Oslo the Palestinians didn’t have any representation or authorities of their own. The IDF occupied the whole of the territory and the Likud party believed strongly in Greater Israel. Things are more nuanced today, and the IDF has abandoned most of Palestinian cities and great parts of B areas (not all unfortunately). There’s a lot of work to be done and I wish they retreated to the Green Line, but to say that after Oslo the Palestinians have not achieved anything can only be justified from a maximalist point of view. Fair enough, and I’ve no problems with people who define themselves as maximalists, but they should say so. Because most of the times, maximalism is lethal… and people know it.
“The only solution was now a single state”
A pity most Israelis and most Palestinians don’t agree with George.
“George Galloway is simply the most eloquent advocate of the Palestinian cause in the English speaking world”
If that’s the best the English speaking left can do… I’m disappointed.
Sorry for the long post. I hope it stirs some debate at least. For the record. I’m Argentinean. I’m a socialist and I’ve been a member of the Left since I’m 14 (more than twenty years now). I’m not a Zionist troll and post this with respect and critical spirit, in the belief that you can only strengthen your position if you allow opposite views to be discussed. My experience since I moved to Europe six years ago is that discussing the I/P conflict in the left is very difficult without people resorting to name calling. I find that self-defeating, and that’s not what I want for the left.
Comment by Juan — 15 November, 2009 @ 12:08 am”