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Archive for the ‘Palestine’ Category

Note: What follows is my attempt to work through issues involving the current struggles in Israel, particularly in light of arguments presented at a meeting on that subject I attended last Friday.  Many of the claims below thus originate with contributions heard there, though I of course bear ultimate responsibility for their explication here.

The series of protests that have swept Israel in recent weeks have presented a difficult question for those of us committed to Palestinian liberation.  On face, they appear a clearly positive development.  They have decisively tripped up Benjamin Netanyahu’s bellicose swagger, reducing his approval rating by 20 points in a very short time and leading various Likud ministers to distance themselves from the PM.  The protests have also grown rapidly, with 150,000 Israelis participating this weekend, and throwing up some quite punchy slogans, such as ‘the market is free, but we are slaves.’  As such slogans suggest, the protesters consciously see their role as confronting neoliberalism in Israel, which over the last thirty years has produced a society which, while free of the massive unemployment confronting many European economies, is one of the most unequal among the developed nations, subject to a dangerous combination of low wages and rapid price growth. In light of all this, the housing protests have been associated by many commentators with the Arab Spring and resistance to austerity more generally.

However, there also seem to be clear differences between the protests in Israel and the Arab Spring.  For instance, the National Union of Israeli Students, which has been one of the most prominent organizations in the struggle, has an appalling record on the question of Palestine, gaining headlines last year with absurd talk of organizing a counter-flotilla to expose Turkey as a ‘rogue state’  and working with adorably earnest StandWithUs Zionist propaganda outlet.  With such forces playing a leading role, it is unsurprising that the protesters have done nothing whatsoever to connect their own struggles with those of the Palestinians, despite the clear links between skimpy social spending and the promotion of settlements.

Given their contradictory character, the proper response to these struggles is unclear.  Israelis opposed to the occupation have seized on the opportunity to make the connections between military spending and cuts to social services, but it is not at all obvious that they are finding any significant audience within the protests.  Despite these limitations, some leftist groups have been quick to hold up the protests as evidence of the potential for working class unity in the Levant.

My own political background is in a tradition, that of the International Socialist Tendency (specifically the ISO in the US), more skeptical about the possibilities for militancy on the part of the Israeli working class.  Drawing on Tony Cliff’s own experiences as a Trotskyist in Palestine under the Mandate, and the writings of the Matzpen group, the IST has argued that the Israeli working class is, because of its position in the Zionist colonial project, not a revolutionary class, and that Palestinian liberation can only come through the efforts of the Arab working classes.  This perspective is admirably summed up in the saying ‘the road to Jerusalem runs through Cairo.’

This was the perspective presented at the meeting Friday, where the speaker pointed out that the levels of class struggle we are currently seeing in Israel are not exceptional even in Israeli history.  In 1951, 1962, 1969, and 1971, Israel saw a series of wildcat strikes by key workforces such as seamen, dockers, and postal workers.  None of these periods saw any substantial challenge to Israeli colonialist endeavors, let alone Zionism itself.  Given the historic failure of the Israeli working class to challenge Zionism, even at its most militant, our expectations for a significant but clearly less potent struggle such as this should remain modest at best.

Undoubtedly the most interesting and challenging aspect of the meeting came in explaining the reason for this failure.  The traditional explanation in IS circles has been that put forward by Haim Hanegbi, Akiva Orr, and Moshe Machover in their 1969 article, ‘The Class Nature of Israeli Society.’  Machover et al offer three primary lines of explanation for Israel’s unique class politics.  First, they argue that the fact that Israel’s working class is primarily composed of immigrants has distorted class consciousness, leading Israeli workers to hold higher hopes of social mobility, and consequently less investment in strategies of class struggle than working classes in other nations.  As the authors note, this alone cannot explain the persistent conservatism of Israeli workers.  If it were only Israel’s immigration patterns that distorted working class consciousness, one could reasonably expect second and third generation Israelis to demonstrate more traditional patterns of class conflict.  This has not happened.

The second factor Machover et al describe is the uniqueness of Israel’s ruling class.  Unlike ruling classes in other capitalist countries, the Israeli ruling class has historically not been composed of capitalists and their retinue.  Rather, Israeli history has been characterized by the dominance of capital by the political institutions of Zionism, such as the Histadrut and the Jewish Agency.  In Mandatory Palestine, the Histadrut in particular played a key role in subordinating Jewish capital to the Zionist project, organizing strikes, boycotts, and physical attacks against Jewish employers who hired Arab labor.  After the nakba, these institutions retained their predominance in the new state, as the Histadrut emerged as a majr employer, and a significant amount of the economy was controlled by the government, which was dominated until the mid-70s by Labor Zionism.  Israeli society has thus been characterized not by the hegemony of the bourgeoisie, but by that of the Zionist bureaucracy.  In particular, the role of the Histadrut as the only legitimate representative of the Israeli working class goes a long way in this account towards explaining the commitment to Zionism evident in Israeli working class history.

The third factor figures most prominently in the IST’s account of Israeli class structure, and that is  Israel’s unique role in imperialism.  As the Zionist propaganda outfit FLAME put it, ‘Israel is indeed America’s unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Middle East and the indispensable defender of America’s interests in that area of the world.’  The imperial powers support Israel because of its ability to punish misbehaving Arab regimes and guarantee continued imperial control over the most important strategic commodity in the world – oil. In return for this service, the imperial countries agree to subsidize Israeli society with foreign aid, guaranteed loans, and various incentives for private contributions to the Zionist project. The result of all this is, as Machover et al put it:

The Jewish worker in Israel does not get his share in cash, but he gets it in terms of new and relatively inexpensive housing, which could not have been constructed by raising capital locally; he gets it in industrial employment which could not have been started or kept going without external subsidies; and he gets it in terms of a general standard of living which does not correspond to the output of that society. The same obviously applies to the profits of the Israeli bourgeoisie whose economic activity and profit-making is regulated by the bureaucracy through subsidies, import licences and tax exemptions. In this way the struggle between the Israeli working class and its employers, both bureaucrats and capitalists, is fought not only over the surplus value produced by the worker, but also over the share each group receives from this external source of subsidies.

Up until Friday evening, I thought this was a very persuasive account of Israeli working class conservatism.  However, the speaker in the meeting pointed out that the inspiration for these protests, neoliberalism in Israel, complicates this analysis.  The living standards of working class Israelis have been falling for almost thirty years, with no appreciable increase in political challenges to Zionism.  This itself seems a prima facie falsification of the thesis that subsidies from imperialism work to buy off the Israeli working class.  Upon further consideration, there are additional problems with the thesis.  For one thing, it is highly reminiscent of the labor aristocracy thesis put forward by Third Worldist groups that argue the American working class is bought off by the super-profits of imperialism (this thesis has been subjected to devastating critique recently by Charles Post).  This resemblance is particularly ironic given that Tony Cliff was one of the first to reject the theory of labor aristocracy as an explanation for the prevalence of reformist ideas.  Finally, the  growth of the Israeli economy in recent decades has been such that the aid it receives from imperial nations is simply too small a part of its national economy to be a significant explanation of working class consciousness.

Where does all this leave us?  First, I think it’s worth recognizing that Israeli working class conservatism itself is a fact.  In the United States, for example, income is a fairly good predictor of support for imperial endeavors, and has been for at least fifty years.  The American working class has the most to lose from American wars, and their class consciousness is reflective of this.  In Israel, support for aggression against the Palestinians and neighboring countries has enjoyed almost unanimous levels of support, with the 1982 invasion of Lebanon consisting of the only significant exception.  This is indicative of a real difference between the Israeli and American working classes.  (Unfortunately, many Trotskyist groups are unwilling to recognize this difference, with the Spartacists arguing that ‘If successful, [BDS] would hit the Israeli proletariat the hardest, causing mass layoffs and weakening its social power that could and must be mobilised to defend its Palestinian brothers, and the peoples of Lebanon, and to smash the Zionist state from within through socialist revolution’ and the US SWP even going so far as to accuse BDS activists of anti-semitism.)

The question, then, is how to explain this difference, if imperial subsidies are clearly not plausible.  At the meeting, it was argued that the commitment of the Israeli working class to Zionism has so thoroughly shaped class consciousness that Israeli workers cannot conceive of themselves as anything but a Jewish working class in a Zionist state.  Ultimately, I don’t buy this argument.  It’s a bit too close to the positions advanced by whiteness theorists, who hold that white working class consciousness is so tied up with whiteness that it will never mount a serious challenge to capital.  This seems to grant the ideological-political aspect of class formation undue causal power in explaining very broad patterns of class conflict.  For me, at least, a sixty year history of Israeli working class conservatism calls for an explanation more deeply located in the class relations of Israel.

Such an explanation is, I think, visible in outline at least in the article by Machover et al.  First, while the argument about imperial subsidies clearly cannot explain Israeli history since the 1980s, it fairs somewhat better for the earlier period.  During this time, capital inflows from imperial nations really did make up a significant portion of the Israeli economy.  from 1949-1965, Israel had a savings rate that averaged around zero percent, yet the rate of investment was nearly twenty percent of  GNP.  This meant Israel was both able to spend substantial amounts on both capital formation and consumption during this period.  As Machover et al explain, ‘the growth of the Israeli economy was based entirely on the inflow of capital from outside.’  In this period, then, it seems quite plausible that capital from the imperial nations subsidized the Israeli economy to a degree that does have explanatory power.

This explanation becomes even more compelling when combined with their argument about the uniqueness of Israel’s ruling class.  Because of the volume of imperial investment, the Israeli ruling class was able to hold as its main class project the colonization of Palestine, rather than the extraction of surplus value from Israeli workers (though of course this remained an important concern).  This assortment of labor bureaucrats, settlement agency directors, and Histadrut officials pursued a class strategy which did not bring them into as direct a confrontation with Israeli workers as other ruling classes.  Though I lack the data to substantiate such a claim, it seems plausible that the Zionist bureaucracy’s hegemony over Israeli capitalists was premised on their ability to guarantee a certain level of labor peace by subsidizing the costs of the reproduction of labor power.  Imperial subsidies thus made the victory of the Zionist bureaucracy possible, retarding the development of class struggle in Israel, and ensuring the hegemony of Zionist consciousness in the place of class consciousness.

If this combination explains Israeli working class conservatism before neoliberalism, what explains its continued hold?  Here immigration seems to play an important role.  Over the last twenty years, nearly a million Russian Jews have immigrant to Israel (Israel today has a population of seven million).  Fleeing first Stalinist stagnation and then the savagery of Russian neoliberalism, these immigrants have found in Israel significantly higher standards of living than they had previously.  Immigration as an explanation of conservatism is further supported by the fact that Russian Jews are one of the most conservative sectors of Israeli society, forming the prime support base for Avigdor Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beiteinu.

It’s not exactly clear how unique character of Israel’s ruling class continues to play out.  Much of Israel’s economy has been privatized, and the Histadrut no longer plays anything like the role it once did in organizing either capital or labor (unionization rates have been sliced in half since the 1960s, and most of the industries it used to own have been sold to private owners).  Capitalists play a much larger role in Israeli society today than in the 1960s, and the housing struggles are partially a reflection of this fact.  To be clear, these capitalists are no less committed to the Zionist project than their predecessors, but they are also subject to market discipline in a way the bureaucracy never was.  This market discipline has led them to undertake their attacks on the Israeli working class.

Admittedly, this leaves my account in a lame position, as I am forced to rely on some kind of ideological intertia or hangover to explain the persistence of Israeli working class conservatism since the 1980s in the face of increasing capitalist attacks, precisely the kind of explanation I dismissed as insufficiently materialist earlier.  Two replies.  First, I think immigration is a significant factor, and is actually invaluable for explaining the rise of the far right in contemporary Israeli politics.  Second, it’s important to emphasize that the combination of Zionist bureaucratic hegemony and imperial subsidies is a good explanation for the pre-neoliberal period, and that this significantly reduces the period of conservatism to be explained by ideological factors.  I find it a good deal more plausible to explain thirty years of conservatism as a result of previous class formation than to explain sixty years on the basis of politics alone.

In conclusion, I’m not sure my argument here is necessarily incompatible with the perspective laid out at the meeting.  The struggles over housing will almost certainly not develop into a generalized challenge to the regime, because their participants remain committed to the Zionist project.  Though it’s possible that the struggles will create splits in the ruling class Palestinians can put to good use, neither they nor their supporters should expect much from the tent cities.

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It’s no secret that Israel has a PR problem.  Even the most fervent Zionists at this point admit as much, and the increasingly frenzied efforts of the Israeli state only confirm the feeling.  The Kushner Affair seems to be only the latest in a string of propaganda catastrophes for Zion.  Yet I also think it represents a turning point of sorts.  While previous incidents like the Mavi Marmara or the Operation Cast Lead helped solidify the growing opposition to Zionist barbarism, Kushner’s blackballing led nearly the whole of the liberal class in the United States to unequivocally condemn the censoring of a critic of Israel.  In what follows, I will attempt to lay out what I think the Kushner Affair represents for Israel and liberal opinion, by contextualizing it in a broader history of liberalism.

In Domenico Losurdo’s book Liberalism: A Counter-History, he argues that liberalism has always been far more compatible with domination than its own self-image would lead one to believe.  Through an examination of the writings of Locke, Tocqueville, Mill, and other leading lights of the tradition, Losurdo shows that liberalism historically has functioned by establishing a ‘community of the free,’ to whom the vaunted promises of rights and privileges correspond, while those outside that restricted community were entitled to no such enjoyments.  Locke, for example, did not believe that Africans or Native Americans deserved any of the rights he so carefully formulated for fellow Europeans.  Tocqueville thought it perfectly appropriate to crush the workers’ rising in Paris in 1848 through the suspension of constitutional order,  that the privileges of the liberal upper class might be preserved.  In other words, for Losurdo, the traditional Marxist critique of liberalism – that it promotes formal equality in the face of substantive inequality – gives liberalism too much credit.  Many of its leading thinkers were unwilling even to extend formal freedoms to those beyond the boundaries of the community of the free.

While this account has some problems (it seems difficult to differentiate liberalism and conservatism on this reading.  Symptomatically, Losurdo includes Burke firmly in the liberal tradition), it is also tremendously suggestive.  Losurdo demonstrates how liberalism’s naturalization of its social vision – the privileges of a restricted community – inevitably produces the pathologization so characteristic of liberal polemic.  The right to dispossess the natives is obvious, and you’d have to be a madman or mohammedan not to recognize as much.

Though much of the book concentrates on the changing definitions of the community of the free, Losurdo is equally interested in the conflicts internal to liberalism and their consequences for the tradition’s future.  The American Revolution is his first case study.  Here, he shows how restrictions on those accustomed to considering themselves part of the liberal community – the colonists – led to fissures with England, which since the Glorious Revolution had been the standard bearer of liberalism.  The course of the conflict itself involved debate over how this community should be defined.  Samuel Johnson’s pithy reprimand to the colonists (“How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?”) is representative of the ways that British liberals sought to both brand the rebels as hypocrites and reinforce their own liberal self-presentation.  At the same time, the colonists responded by pointing to the English involvement in the Atlantic slave trade, a practice the rebels held to be far more odious than merely owning a slave.  In this way, both sides of the conflict attempted to brand their opponents as the illiberal force threatening to crush precious liberty.

This same pattern reoccurs in the American Civil War.  Here, the slaveowners, who conceived of themselves as the most democratic and liberal ruling class in history, argued that the various Northern initiatives to limit the expansion of slavery constituted unacceptable aggressions against liberty.  The rhetoric of the planter class, which represented abolitionists as deranged fanatics, fits the pattern as well.  However, the Southern counter-offensive, whether in the form of the Gag Rule or Dred Scott or the Fugitive Slave Act, worked to antagonize the North all the more.  Each of these Southern responses could be, and were, read as infringements on the Northern community of the free.  As John Ashworth has written:

In the mid-1830s southerners were able to count upon some northerners to aid them in their war against the abolitionists.  Again, however, the consequence was to strengthen the forces of antislavery.  The pressure on northern legislatures to act against abolitionists alarmed many northerners who were themselves quite unconcerned about the plight of the slave but very concerned to maintain freedom of speech.  The anti-abolitionist riots of these years, conducted by men who were taking their cue from the leaders of southern opinion, also created deep disquiet and tended to confirm the abolitionist claim that slavery disorganized the entire nation.  Charles Sumner in 1836 wrote that ‘we are becoming abolitionists in the North fast: riots, the attempts to abridge freedom of discussion, and the conduct of the South generally, have caused many to think favorably of immediate emancipation who have never before been inclined to it.’ Ashworth, Slavery, Capitalism, and Politics in the Antebellum Republic, Vol I 143.

While Sumner exaggerated in describing the results of Southern maneuvers as increased abolitionism, it is certainly the case that the South’s efforts increased Northern antipathy.  Both North and South conceived of themselves as liberal societies, but the planter class’s strategy for maintaining control only put more ammunition in the hands of those who sought to portray them as enemies of liberty.

In a nutshell, I think something similar is happening today with Israel.  Like the Southern planter class, Israel defines itself, crucially, as part of the community of the free.  This is an endlessly repeated theme in the hasbara – Israel is the only democracy in the region, Israel has women’s rights, Israel has gay rights, etc.  Though Israel’s dispossession of the Palestinians has led many to argue that this self-image is a farce, Losurdo’s account demonstrates that, at the least, it is not an anomalous combination in the history of liberal states.  At the same time, however, it is undeniable that Israel has, in seeking to preserve its status as the liberal utopia among the barbarians, adopted a whole slew of blatantly anti-liberal policies – a new set of gag rules.

In the US, this comes in the form of the attack on Kushner.  Though censorship of criticisms of Israel is nothing new in the US (see Edward Said’s brilliant essay ‘Zionism from the Standpoint of its Victims’ for some perspective on how total this censorship once was), CUNY’s treatment of Kushner provoked an unprecedented outcry.  The New York Times, no friend to Palestine, was on the case immediately, issuing an editorial denouncing CUNY and publishing an interview (with the wonderfully understated title ‘A CUNY Trustee Expands His View of What is Offensive) with the the lead Zionist bully that was clearly written to make him appear every bit as disgusting as he actually is.  Other important liberal venues have jumped on the bandwagon as well.

As in the case of the conflict between North and South, the sympathy for Kushner in these publications has not, by and large, been based on sympathy for the Palestinians.  Rather, it stems from outrage over  the treatment of one of the finest representatives of liberal America.  Kushner himself is no radical on Palestine, and he has repeatedly affirmed his support for Israel’s continued existence and his opposition to BDS.  Indeed, his very timidity on the question has made CUNY’s offense all the worse in the eyes  of the liberal class.  If Israel’s defense is now coming at the expense of people like Kushner, it signals the potential for major conflict on the question within the liberal community.

This doesn’t mean that Israel is finished, or anything nearly so final.  Rather, I think it is an important moment in the struggle against Zionism, and one whose structure is familiar in the long duree of liberalism.  It signifies the moment when the actions of those outside the community of the free – abolitionists and slaves in the nineteenth century, Palestinians and solidarity activists today – succeed in pushing their demands to the point where they begin to create a crisis for the rulers.  Then and now, the outcome of that crisis is uncertain, but its arrival is unquestionably to be welcomed.

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A forum from Israeli Apartheid Week with Jasbir Puar, Judith Butler, and John Greyson.

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Wonderful stuff, that democracy.  Can’t get enough of it:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, adopting a tone reminiscent of the Bush administration, blasted Arab governments for stalled political change, warning that extremists were exploiting a lack of democracy to promote radical agendas across the Middle East.

What’s that?  She said what?

[Secretary of State Hillary Clinton] reacted angrily to news that Abbas had threatened to resign and call for new presidential elections. She told Palestinian negotiators: “Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] not running in the election is not an option – there is no alternative to him.” The threat was withdrawn and no election was held.

Hmmmmm.

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To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it ‘the way it really was’ (Ranke). It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger. Historical materialism wishes to retain that image of the past which unexpectedly appears to man singled out by history at a moment of danger. The danger affects both the content of the tradition and its receivers. The same threat hangs over both: that of becoming a tool of the ruling classes. In every era the attempt must be made anew to wrest tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it. The Messiah comes not only as the redeemer, he comes as the subduer of Antichrist. Only that historian will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the past who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious.” – Walter Benjamin


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I apologize for the rather meager fare which has been on offer here of late. A post is coming soon, I promise, on Richard Wright, communism, and the blues. Until then, here’s a passage from James Baldwin’s last novel, Just Above My Head (1978), in which he addresses the subject of terrorism.

I was traveling before the days of electronic surveillance, before the hijackers and terrorists arrived.  For the arrival of these people, the people in the seats of power have only themselves to blame.  Who, indeed, has hijacked more than England has, for example, or who is more skilled in the uses of terror than my own unhappy country?  Yes, I know: nevertheless, children, what goes around comes around, what you send out comes back to you.  A terrorist is called that only because he does not have the power of the State behind him – indeed, he has no State, which is why he is a terrorist.  The State, at bottom, and when the chips are down, rules by means of a terror made legal – that is how Franco ruled so long, and is the undeniable truth concerning South Africa.  No one called the late J. Edgar Hoover a terrorist, though that is precisely what he was: and if anyone wishes, now, in this context, to speak of “civilized” values or “democracy” or “morality,” you will pardon this poor nigger if he puts his hand before his mouth, and snickers – if he laughs at you.  I have endured your morality for a very long time, am still crawling up out of that dungheap: all that the slave can learn from his master is how to be a slave, and that is not morality.

Reading this passage today, one is struck by the force of its prescience.  Twenty years before 9/11, Baldwin utterly eviscerated Bush and now Obama’s pious apologias for the War on Terror.  The contemporary relevance of the passage, however, can obscure its own context, which is just as notable.  Baldwin’s emphases here, on stateless peoples and hijackings, make it clear that the occasion for his reflections is the Palestinian struggle, which during the 1970s especially took the form of hijackings meant to draw international attention to the occupation.

Palestine came to be a prominent issue during the Black Power years, as Black radicals who identified with anticolonial movements embraced the Palestinian struggle against Israel.  This embrace led to allegations of anti-semitism (which were not always unjustified) against Black Power figures, ultimately culminating in Johnson Publications’ decision to shut down Black World, an important Black cultural and political journal, over a supposedly anti-semitic article about Zionism.  In this context, Baldwin’s writings on the subject, though brief, display a remarkable clarity of focus, as he unhesitatingly declares that Israel represents imperialism, not Jewish self-determination.

Thus in 1972, in his essay “Take Me to the Water,” Baldwin recounted his reasons for not settling in Israel when he became an expatriate in the late 1940s:

And if I had fled, to Israel, a state created for the purpose of protecting Western interests, I would have been in a yet tighter bind: on which side of Jerusalem would I have decided to live?

Here Baldwin displays an awareness that, in 1948, most of the Left still lacked.  When he made the decision to flee the United States, Baldwin realized he could scarcely accomplish his goal by settling in a country then replicating our own bloody frontier days.  Indeed, Baldwin’s clarity on this question stands out from almost any analysis on the Left during the period of Israel’s birth, with the notable exception of Tony Cliff.

Baldwin’s most substantial writing on Palestine came in 1979, with his “Open Letter to the Born Again.”  This letter was occasioned by Jimmy Carter’s dismissal of Martin Luther King’s former aid Andrew Young from his position as ambassador to the UN because of his decision to meet with a PLO delegation.  Baldwin is again clear on the circumstances of Israel’s birth:

Jews and Palestinians know of broken promises.  From the time of the Balfour Declaration (during World War I) Palestine was under five British mandates, and England promised the land back and forth to the Arabs or the Jews, depending on which horse seemed to be in the lead.  The Zionists – as distinguished from the people known as the Jews – using, as someone put it, the ‘available political machinery,’ i.e., colonialism, e.g., the British Empire – promised the British that, if the territory were given to them, the British Empire would be safe forever.

But absolutely no one cared about the Jews, and it is worth observing that non-Jewish Zionists are very frequently anti-Semitic.

Baldwin goes on to speak of Europe’s history of anti-semitism, the civilizational links between the Inquisition and Franco.  The situation in Palestine, he makes clear, is not the result of terrorism or Jewish malfeasance, but European imperialism:

But the state of Israel was not created for the salvation of the Jews; it was created for the salvation of Western interests.  This is what is becoming clear (I must say it was always clear to me).  The Palestinians have been paying for the British colonial policy of ‘divide and rule’  and for Europe’s guilty Christian conscience for more than thirty years…The collapse of the Shah not only revealed the depth of pious Carter’s concern for ‘human rights,’ it  also revealed who supplied oil to Israel, and to whom Israel supplied arms.  It happened to be, to spell it out, white South Africa.

Baldwin’s sharp sense for geopolitics, his grasp of the gulf which separates Jewishness from Zionism, and his willingness to locate the source of the problem in 1948 (‘for more than thirty years’) all would put him on the Left edge of the Palestine solidarity movement today.  Thirty years ago, in the United States, he must have felt as if he resided in the most desolate political wilderness.  Studied today as a writer of sexuality and gender, or of civil rights, Baldwin’s international radicalism remains in the hinterlands.  Those of us struggling too make good on his vision of real justice in the Middle East have a right and a duty today to claim Baldwin’s voice for our side, and in doing so help bring his radicalism the recognition it deserves.

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Or, things with which to waste your time.

The premiere intellectual journal of the New Left, Radical America began as an effort of SDS members to come to terms with the United States’ radical past.  It quickly evolved into much more than that, becoming a general journal of the movement which engaged with questions of contemporary strategy and tactics as well as providing a base for the importation of European Marxist theory.  A number of its early contributors would go on to become prominent academics, such as Mark Naison, Linda Gordon, and its founder, Paul Buhle.  Thanks to the good folks at Brown University, nearly all issues are available to download for free.

The Israeli Left Archive contains an incredible amount of material on various manifestations of the Israeli Left from the sixties to the present, a great deal of it in Hebrew. Organizations such as the Israeli Black Panthers and Women and Black are here, along with the Israeli Socialist Organization, or Matzpen, whose analysis of the class nature of Israeli society has been crucial in the positions of a number of contemporary socialist groups, in particular those of the International Socialist Tendency.

The Bureau of Concerned Asian Scholars began as a Left journal of Asian Studies, founded by students and faculty upset with the dominance of the field by State Department scholars and dollars.  Continuing today as Critical Asian Studies, its early issues contain a wealth of articles on both Asian radicalism and US policy on the continent.

Socialist Register is an annual collection put together by the Canadian Marxists Leo Panitch and Colin Leys.  The journal features contributions from leading socialist theorists around the world, from Ellen Meiksens Wood to Aijaz Ahmad to John Berger.  The editors have been generous enough to put the entire back catalog of the journal online for free.  There are a number of formerly rare and wondrous articles here.  Two excellent starters are Norman Geras’ classic “Seven Types of Obloquy: Travesties of Marxism” and Rob Beamish’s “The Making of the Manifesto,” which reconstructs in detail the political and intellectual context in which the Communist Manifesto was written.

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