Friday, July 29, 2005

Anti-Zionism is NOT Anti-Semitism

I shall continue to be an impossible person as long as those who are now possible remain possible. Michael Bakunin 1814-1876

In response to Warren Kinsella who maintains the myth that criticism of the State of Israel is Anti-Semitism. And to other critics of my articles:

Warren Kinsella moves Right
Lies of Our Times

Bakunin’s denunciation of Nationalism and the State led him to denouncing Polish Nationalism in favour of Pan-Slavism. At the same time Bakunin denounced the Zionism of Herzl, who wanted Jews in Russia to leave for a new utopia, rather than to fight against the Tsarist Pogroms and for a social revolution. Anarchism opposes nationalism and the Nationalist State in all its forms.

Theodor (Binyamin Ze’ev) Herzl


“In Basle I founded the Jewish state . . . Maybe in five years, certainly in fifty, everyone will realize it.”

The Jewish State
Theodor Herzl


"Anti-Semitic behavior is generated in situations where blinded men robbed of their subjectivity are set loose as subjects. For those involved, their actions are murderous and therefore senseless reflexes, as behaviorists note -- without providing an interpretation. Anti-Semitism is a deeply imprinted schema, a ritual of civilization; the pogroms are the true ritual murders. They demonstrate the impotence of sense, significance, and ultimately of truth -- which might hold them within bounds . . . Action becomes an autonomous end in itself and disguises its own purposelessness." Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment trans. John Cumming (New York, 1972), pgs. 171-2.


Edward C. Corrigan

Mr. Corrigan has a law degree from the University of Windsor and a Master's in political science from the University of Western Ontario. He advises the reader: "This article is not intended to be a comprehensive study of Jewish criticism of Zionism but only an introductory survey. The author owes a debt to many people in the Jewish community for assistance and would like to thank David Finkel and especially Harriet Karchmer for her help with the material on Orthodox Jews. The writer, of course, bears all responsibility for the material and any errors or omissions."

The Palestinian uprising or intifada and the Israeli campaign to suppress it have caused considerable anguish for many Jews around the world. A large number of Jews have even begun to reassess their support for Israel and critically analyze the ideology of Zionism which legitimates the Jewish state. One example of this phenomenon is a statement that appeared in The Nation on February 3, 1988. It was endorsed by 18 prominent American Jews.

The advertisement called upon American Jews to "dissociate from Israel." It expressed the concern that "the close identification in the public mind between Israel and Jews -- an equation vigorously fostered by both the Zionist movement and the American Jewish lobby, which has come under its control -- threatens to stigmatize Jews everywhere." The ad called for a two-state solution and for negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The statement also discussed past discrimination against the Jews and the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust adding:

How tragic that in our own time the very state established by Jews in the aftermath of this evil has become a place where racialism, religious discrimination, militarism and injustice prevail; and that Israel itself has become a pariah state within the world community. Events taking place today are all too reminiscent of the pogroms from which our own forefathers fled two and three generations ago -- but this time those in authority are Jews and the victims are Moslems and Christian Palestinians.

Those endorsing The Nation statement included Professor Yigal Arens, the son of Moshe Arens; Mark Bruzonsky, former Washington Associate, World Jewish Congress, who now serves as chairperson for the organization; Professor Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor MIT; Rabbi Susan Einbinder, Colgate University; Jane Hunter, publisher of Israeli Foreign Affairs; Jeremy Levin, former CNN Beirut Bureau Chief and former hostage in Lebanon; Professor Don Peretz, Department of Political Science, SUNY; and Henry Schwarzschild, of the American Civil Liberties Union. The subsequent organization they formed, the Jewish Committee on the Middle East (JCOME), has, in the short time that it has existed, attracted well over a thousand signatures endorsing their statement. These include academics at 125 U.S. universities.

JCOME has challenged pro-Israeli American Jewish leaders to conduct a joint poll to see what American Jews really think about Israel and the Palestinians. To back up their challenge JCOME cited evidence which suggests that there is a divergence of opinion between American Jews and the pronouncements of their "official" leadership. As one example of a difference in opinion JCOME pointed to a poll which showed that 29 percent of American Jews favor negotiations with the PLO. However, while this new organization is important, Jewish criticism of Israel's policies and Zionism is not new. They both have deep roots within the Jewish community.

It is clear that the ideology of Zionism has had a profound impact on Jews. Today most Western Jews support its objective of establishing and securing a Jewish state in the territory formerly known as Palestine, even though the majority do not follow its precepts and immigrate to Israel. Historically Zionism was the subject of intense debate. Zionism has always meant different things to different people. It could be interpreted in a religious, political, national or racial light depending upon the circumstances. For some, Zionism was a solution for the age-old problem of anti-Semitism, while for others merely an excuse for getting rid of the Jews. As Hannah Arendt explained, "The Zionist Organization had developed a genius for not answering, or answering ambiguously, all questions of political consequence. Everyone was free to interpret Zionism as he pleased . . . ."

Zionist leaders have put off indefinitely the attempt to resolve the resulting conflicts and even contradictions generated by different interpretations of Zionism. This explains why the "Jewish state" has no constitution and why many fundamental questions about the nature of Israel remain undefined. The avoidance of a battle over conflicting definitions of what is a Jewish state is one of the reasons why Israel has a vested interest in maintaining the state of war in the Middle East. This interest has been openly acknowledged by a former president of the World Jewish Congress, Nahum Goldmann:

On the day when peace comes, the leftist movement will undoubtedly be very strong in Israel, and it will be anti-Orthodox. A great cultural battle will then break out which, like Ben Gurion, I want to avoid at this moment: as long as war prevails, that kind of internal struggle would be terribly dangerous. But after the hostilities the first thing to do will be to separate religion and state. Today we confine ourselves to telling the leftists: "Don't make a fuss on this question, you will be obstructing our defence policy, which requires national unity" -- and the leftists, being good patriots, give way. But after the peace they will resume the debate.

Prior to World War II the majority of Jews were non-Zionist, and a large number were openly hostile to Zionism. As Nahum Goldmann wrote, "When Zionism first appeared on the world scene most Jews opposed it and scoffed at it. Herzl was only supported by a small minority." It was not until the full horror of the Holocaust was realized that the great bulk of the Jewish community came to support Zionism.

Jewish history is rich in its diversity of ideas and ethical dissent. Many of the Hebrew prophets were "solitary voices" who criticized their people for betraying the great principles of their faith. The prophet Amos, for example, advanced a new interpretation of the "Chosen People" thesis. He wrote: "From all the families of the earth I have chosen you alone; for that very reason I will punish you for all your iniquities." Amos' concept of "chosen" did "not imply the assurance of victory or prosperity" but rather that of "the burden of more severe punishment for 'normal' unrighteousness."

Amos was even more revolutionary in reinterpreting the meaning of the "Promised Land." To quote Hans Kohn:

Through his mouth the Lord proclaimed that the children of Israel were unto Him no better than the children of the Ethiopians. True, God had brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt; but equally He brought the Philistines (then Israel's hereditary enemies) from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir, guiding each one into its land.

In Amos' view all peoples were entitled to the land they occupied in a spirit of equality and sharing. No one people had special God-given rights.

One of the most critical moments in ancient Jewish history was when Jochanan ben Zakkai, the leading representative of Judaism in his day and the disciple of Hillel, "abandoned the cause of the Jewish state." At the time, the city of Jerusalem was besieged by the Romans and heroically defended by the zealots. Zakkai escaped from the city by a ruse, and with the agreement of the Roman commander, established a Jewish academy at Jabne. Judaism survived while the Jewish state was destroyed.

In the more recent period, Ahad Ha-am (Hebrew for "One of the People" and the pen name for Asher Ginzberg), one of the greatest Jewish thinkers of this century, was also highly critical of Zionism.10 He drew attention to the fundamental and neglected ethical dilemma of Zionism, namely the presence of the Arabs. In his 1891 report, The Truth from Palestine, he pointed out that "there was little untilled soil in Palestine, except for stony hills and sand dunes." Ahad Ha-am also warned the Jewish settlers against arousing the wrath of the large native Arab population:

Yet what do our brethren do in Palestine? Just the very opposite! Serfs they were in the lands of the diaspora and suddenly they find themselves in freedom, and this change has awakened in them an inclination to despotism. They treat the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, deprive them of their rights, offend them without cause, and even boast of these deeds; and nobody among us opposes this despicable and dangerous inclination.

Ahad Ha-am wrote this statement when Zionist settlers formed only a tiny portion of the population of Palestine. He also gave the following warning: "We think. . . that the Arabs are all savages who live like animals and do not understand what is happening around. This is, however, a great error."

Ahad Ha-am worked tirelessly for an intellectual and spiritual revival of the Jewish people. His belief in Zion was of a spiritual and prophetic nature. In 1913 he attacked the Zionist labor movement's racial boycott of Arab labor:

Apart from the political danger, I can't put up with the idea that our brethren are morally capable of behaving in such a way to men of another people; and unwittingly the thought comes to my mind: if it is so now, what will be our relation to the others if in truth we shall achieve "at the end of time" power in Eretz Israel? If this be the "Messiah," I do not wish to see his coming.

Israel Zangwill, one of Herzl's earliest and strongest supporters, eventually turned against the idea of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine. Ironically it was Zangwill who coined the phrase "a land without a people for a people without a land." It was this phrase that became the potent rallying call for Zionist settlement in Palestine.

It was not until 1904 that Zangwill realized that there was a fundamental problem with the Zionist program. In a speech given in New York in that year he explained:

There is. . . a difficulty from which the Zionist dares not avert his eyes, though he rarely likes to face it. Palestine proper has already its inhabitants. The pashalik of Jerusalem is already twice as thickly populated as the United States, having 52 souls to every square mile, and not 25 percent of them Jews; so we must be prepared either to drive out by the sword the tribes in possession as our forefathers did, or to grapple with the problem of a large alien population, mostly Mohammedan.. . . This is an infinitely graver difficulty than the stock anti-Zionist taunt that nobody would go to Palestine if we got it. . . .

Zangwill and many other leading Zionists split from the movement in 1905 when the Zionist Organization turned down the British offer to settle Jews in Uganda. Incidently, this proposal was supported by Herzl. The dissidents set up the Jewish Territorial Organization to pursue alternative settlement proposals. Zangwill was elected leader of the new body. The organization was, however, dissolved in 1925.

Sir Edwin Montagu, the only Jewish member of Lloyd George's cabinet when Great Britain first threw its weight behind Zionism in 1917, was also adamantly opposed to the creation of a Jewish state. He attacked the Balfour Declaration and Zionism because he believed they were anti-Semitic. Montagu based his argument on the fact that both Zionism and anti-Semitism were based on the premise that Jews and non-Jews could not co-exist. He was also afraid that a Jewish state would undermine the security of Jews in other countries. Montagu's opposition to Zionism was supported by the leading representative bodies of Anglo-Jewry, the Board of Deputies and the Anglo-Jewish Association, and in particular, by Claude Montefibre, David Alexander and Lucien Wolf.


Not only Orthodox and Reform Jews were opposed to Zionism. In March 1919 United States Congressman Julius Kahn presented an anti-Zionist petition to President Woodrow Wilson as he was leaving for the Paris Peace Conference. The petition was signed by 31 prominent American Jews. These included Henry Morgenthau, Sr., ex-ambassador to Turkey; Simon W. Rosendale, ex-attorney general of New York; Mayor L. H. Kampner of Galveston, Texas; E. M. Baker, from Cleveland and president of the Stock Exchange; R. H. Macy's Jesse I. Straus; New York Times publisher Adolph S. Ochs; and Judge M. C. Sloss of San Francisco.

The petition read in part:

. . . we protest against the political segregation of the Jews and the re-establishment in Palestine of a distinctively Jewish State as utterly opposed to the principles of democracy which it is the avowed purpose of the World's Peace Conference to establish.

Whether the Jews be regarded as a "race" or as a "religion," it is contrary to the democratic principles for which the world war was waged to found a nation on either or both of these bases.

Albert Einstein was also anti-Zionist. He made a presentation to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, which was examining the Palestine issue in January 1946 and argued against the creation of a Jewish state. Einstein also later turned down the presidency of the state of Israel. In 1950 Einstein published the following statement on the question of Zionism.

I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish state. Apart from the practical considerations, my awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain -- especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks, against which we have already had to fight without a Jewish state.

Albert Einstein, Sidney Hook, Hannah Arendt and twenty-five other prominent Jews, in a letter to The New York Times (December 4, 1948), condemned Menachem Begin's and Yitzhak Shamir's Likud party as "fascist" and espousing "an admixture of ultra-nationalism, religious mysticism and racial superiority." The same theme is echoed in William Zukerman's 1934 article in The Nation, "The Menace of Jewish Fascism. "58 This is also the premise of Michael Selzer's book, The Aryanization of the Jewish State.

For most Western Jews and many other people, the connection of Zionism to fascism and racism is odious and inappropriate. However, this theme is a recurrent motif in the debate on Zionism within the Jewish community. Even David Ben-Gurion, Israel's founding father and first prime minister, wrote an article in 1933 entitled, "Jabotinsky in the Footsteps of Hitler."60 Vladimir Jabotinsky was the founder of Revisionist Zionism and the mentor of Menachem Begin.

Professor Richard Arens, the late brother of Moshe Arens, the Israeli defense minister and leading figure in the Likud party, has also equated Israeli policies towards the Palestinians with the Nazi persecution of the Jews.61 Hannah Arendt, when writing about the trial of Adolph Eichmann, pointed out the irony of attacking the Nazis' Nuremberg Laws of 1935 when certain laws in Israel regarding the personal status of Jews were identical to the infamous Nazi code. Morris Raphael Cohen, the distinguished philosopher, went so far as to argue that "Zionists fundamentally accept the racial ideology of anti-Semites, but draw different conclusions. Instead of the Teuton, it is the Jew that is the pure or superior race."

Other leading Jewish intellectuals who opposed Zionism include Louis D. Brandeis (see Menuhin, Jewish Critics of Zionism), Martin Buber (coauthor, with J.L. Magnes and E. Simon, of Towards Union in Palestine: Essay on Zionism and Jewish-Arab Cooperation, 1947), Isaac Deutscher ("The Non-Jewish Jew," in The Non-Jewish Jew and Other Essays, 1968), Simon Dubnow (Nationalism and History: Essays on Old and New Judaism, edited by Koppel S. Pinson, 1961), Morris Jastrow (Zionism and the Future of Palestine, the Fallacies and Dangers of Political Zionism, 1919), Emile Marmorstein ("A Bout of Agony," The Guardian, April 1974), Moshe Menuhin (father of Sir Yehudi Menuhin and author of The Decadence of Judaism in Our Time), Claude Montefiore ("Nation or Religious Community?" reprinted in Selzer, Zionism Reconsidered), Jakob I. Petuchowski (Zion Reconsidered, 1966), and Franz Rosenzweig. Hans Kohn, who was one of the world's leading authorities on nationalism, posed the following questions on the issue.

Might not perhaps the "abnormal" existence of the Jews represent a higher form of historical development than territorial nationalism? Has not the diaspora been an essential part of Jewish existence? Did it not secure Jewish survival better than the state could do?

Erich Fromm, the eminent scholar, also was critical of Zionism. He stated that the Arabs in Israel had a much more legitimate claim to citizenship than the Jews. Fromm also wrote:

The claim of the Jews to the Land of Israel cannot be a realistic political claim. If all nations would suddenly claim territories in which their forefathers lived two thousand years ago, this world would be a madhouse.

"One Man, One Vote, One State"

Israel Shamir, a leading Russian Israeli writer, is a champion of the "One Man, One Vote, One State" solution seeking to unite Palestine & Israel in one democratic state. Shamir's work and that of his contributors speaks to the aspirations of both the Israelis and the Palestinians seeking an end to the bloodshed, true democracy and lasting peace.
In the midst of the endless talk of a "Two State solution", Shamir, along with Edward Said, has become a leading champion of the "One Man, One Vote, One State" solution in all of Palestine/Israel. His most recent essays have been circulating widely on the Internet and are now posted on many prominent media sites. With every new article, Shamir is establishing himself as a journalist whose work speaks to the aspirations of both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Zionism as Jewish National Socialism
Lasse Wilhelmson - 31.08.2004 11:55

The Jewish colonization of Palestine under the Zionist slogan "the land without people to the people without a land" started almost a hundred years ago and reached its first climax with the proclamation of The Jewish State of Israel in 1948. A second climax is now in the offing through the ongoing colonization of the West Bank and Gaza.

Moses Hess converted Karl Marx to Communism, yet advocated National Socialism for Jews; Shlomo Avineri on the Intellectual Origins of the Jewish State- Selections by Peter Myers. Date November 14, 2000; update August 17, 2004.

Kibbutz Reshafim

After growing up in the antisemitic 1930's in Eastern Europe and escaping the Holocaust by hair's breadth, it is no wonder that many Jews, the founders of Kibbutz Reshafim among them, became fervent Zionists. The fact that of the famous saying "A country without people for a people without country" only the second part was correct, didn't escape members of the Hashomer Hatzair Movement, who favoured the creation of a bi-national state in Palestine. It didn't work out that way, and during the War of Independence in 1948 many Palestinian communities were displaced. (A list of abandoned Arab villages in the Beit Shean Valley). A number of kibbutzim and moshavim (another form of cooperative agricultural settlement) were founded and populated by refugees and olim2 from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
Socialism in all its forms was immensely popular in the 30's (as were the variants of Fascism). Its aim in those days was not just the economic betterment of the working class, but the creation of a new, more humane society and a new man to go with it. The kibbutzim were to serve as a model for this revolution. They were the proletarian vanguard, and much admired for it.
Even if quite a few of the founding members considered Stalin to be the epitome of human endeavour and mourned his (long overdue) passing on, they never adopted his policies of proletarian dictatureship. Decisions were made by a democratic show of hands, and there was quite a bit of pressure on those black sheep who wouldn't accept majority rule.

Eyal's Radical Corner

Class War in Palestine

The Zionist Scourge

We should prepare to go over to the offensive. Our aim is to smash Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, and Syria. The weak point is Lebanon, for the Moslem regime is artificial and easy for us to undermine. We shall establish a Christian state there, and then we will smash the Arab Legion, eliminate Trans-Jordan; Syria will fall to us. We then bomb and move on and take Port Said, Alexandria and Sinai."

—David Ben-Gurion, prime-minister of the provisional government of Israel, speaking before the IMF general staff during the 1948 war

The Birth of Zionism

With the onset of industrial Capitalism in Europe in the 19th century, the ruling classes took advantage of ethnic divisions in the European population to vent the masses' anger at them, incurred by deteriorating living standards and intensified exploitation. One of the immediate and easiest targets were the Jews, who, due to various factors (not the least of which being religion-inspired separatism, often even xenophobia) had failed, in many areas in Europe, to harmonize themselves with the rest of the population, and many of then had found refuge, for the previous several centuries, under the protection of the nobility and the monarchy, as petit-bourgeois tradesmen, artisans, scribes, lawyers, etc. Now their former benefactors were inciting the more violent non-Jews even to harm Jewish people physically in the infamous 'pogroms' (which were, by the way, not only inspired but often actually organized by the national governments).

So, basically, the Jews had two options: the first, to seek unity with the peasants and the workers, forsaking the landed nobility and the the bourgeoisie; the second, to look to the masters for solutions.

Many Jews opted for something which was a mix of these two - immigration to the more advanced Capitalistic countries: the western European countries and the USA.

Of those who did not immigrate, the more progressive Jews (probably the poorer ones, the workers, the peasents, and some of the landless petit-bourgeois) came to adopt a Socialist perspective, understanding that racism and nationalism to be by-products of the Capitalistic class society, and must therefore be resisted by joining forces with the radical forces in combating the exploiters. Many of the influential agitators and organizers struggling for social change in Europe were Jews. And, of course, the 'Algemeiner Yidisher Arbayterbund' cannot go unmentioned here...

The Jews more closely tied to the ruling classes, those who were service-renderers to the rich and powerful and dependent upon their wealth for a living, saw things differently, of course. Theodore Herzl, the 'founding father' of political Zionism, an Austrian playwright, journalist and outspoken admirer of the policies of the Imperialist European governments, decided that what the Jews needed was a nationalistic movement of their own. The idea was not to remove the causes of ethnic strife, but rather find a place where Jews could be the ones holding the economic, military and political power, and therefore the on the attacking side of ethnic confrontations (which, claimed the Zionists, were completely unavoidable, since Jews and non-Jews are 'incompatible').

Zionism was a part of a wider current in European political thought, and it seems to have been inspired by Sorelianism (e.g. purification by violence and nationalist revision of Socialism), de-Man's Planism and other pre-Fascist thinkers. With it, world Imperialism acquired its foremost champion in its unfolding war against the toiling masses of this region.

A Deal

The contradiction between the letter of the Covenant and the policy of the Allies is even more flagrant in the case of the independent nation Palestine than in that of the independent nation of Syria. For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country, though the American [King-Crane] Commission has been going through the form of asking what they are. The four great powers are committed to Zionism and Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.

—British Lord Arthur Balfur, two years after issuing the 'Balfur Declaration' (supportive a 'National Home' for Jews in Palestine)

So imagine you're a prominent Jewish businessman or intellectual in the 1880's. Given the facts that:

  1. You're all buddy-buddies with the political leadership and the economic elite of Europe, which is at the height of its colonialist period
  2. You want 'save the Jewish people' (the same ones you'd do everything to distance yourself from, and didley-squat for their protection from the almost-officially-mandated violence)

What's more natural than to offer up the Jews as harbingers of European rule to the countries of the 'uncivilized barbarians'?

So the Zionists came to the German Kaiser, and the Russian Tsar, the British and other governments (all of them anti-Semitic to some degree or another, obviously) and proposed the following deal: "we'll get all the Jews out of your sight and render you further economic and military services abroad, providing you find us a country in which to settle them all and to rule."

It took a few years of convincing, but the Imperialists couldn't resist an offer of erecting "a bastion of Europe against Asia" (to quote Herzl), not to mention a chance to drive out Millions of members of an ethnic group highly prone to Socialism and other 'destructive' and 'harmful' notions.

"Ok," says Britain (who ended up being the main supported or political Zionism) "How's about you take Uganda?"

"Hmmm... let us think..." say the Zionists. "Naah, we want Palestine. We need the sound basis of crackpot religious myths to bring together diverse religious groups to form a single national entity. We'll call it 'a land without a people for a people without a land'. It'll work out great! ... The only problem is pushing the Turks around some and we're set!"


Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because the geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahalal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kfar Yehoshua in the place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not a single site built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.

—Moshe Dayan, addressing the Technion, Haifa (reported in Haaretz, April 4th, 1969)

"But what about the Palestinian Arabs?" you would ask. And so did Max Nordau, another famous Zionist leader. This question brought about (not immediately, but soon enough) the great split in political Zionism - the split between the so-called-left (supposedly-Socialist, to some extent) Zionism - and the more overtly Fascist Zionism.

The 'left' surmised that "for now, we'll just concentrate on getting as many Jews as possible to settle in Palestine and we won't talk about what's to happen eventually - we'll tell everyone we're just trying to evade persecution, or to bring progress to an under-developed region, or to carry out a social experiment, or to create a Jewish worker's society or some other fibs" ; the right-wing, who were less ashamed of their racism and felt no need to identify themselves with the masses struggling for freedom and equality, said openly: "Fuck the Arabs. Not with words but with blood and iron shall a nation be molded - their blood, our Iron. We'll take control of the entire land and they'll either accept us as absolute masters, be driven out or die at our hands."

But such distinctions were hardly relevant when it came to practical action. Once the first world war was over and the British assumed control of the country, wave after wave of Jewish immigrants began flooding Palestine. There was hardly a peasant among them and not too many manual laborers... but they did bring on a steady stream of investment capital, and the technical expertise to use it. The pseudo-feudal, agricultural, semi-theocratic Palestinian society did not stand a chance. It gradually began to fray and eventually disintegrate in an alarming rate, as more and more agricultural land was bought by Jews and an increasing number of Palestinians sought employ with the Jews. Even the local elites, the more powerful 'hamula' structures, where overwhelmed and didn't put up much of a fight.

A great backlash against this process took place between 1936 and 1939 in the form of a mass strike followed by an armed rebellion, but it was doomed to fail, both because the Palestinian working class was weak in number and the peasantry disorganized (or rather mis-organized), with its leadership fearing the rebellion and aiding its diffusion, and because the British were bringing in massive troop reinforcements (rumor equates the number of British soldiers in Palestine during the rebellion to their numbers in India, but I haven't confirmed that) and did not hesitate to resort to house demolitions, mass arrests, numerous executions and assassinations.

The Zionist leadership, tightly controlling the Jewish workers, teamed up with the colonial ruler to violently suppress the rebelling natives by force.

Anarchy in Yiddish: Famous Jewish Anarchists from Emma Goldman to Noam Chomsky

Anti-semitism, argued anarchists such as Voline, had evolved as a sort of safety valve that the wealthy and powerful could use to control working class anger – people who were conscious of being cheated and misused could be persuaded to attack the Jews rather than their rulers or their employers. As everyone from the Czars to Hitler discovered, Jews make excellent scapegoats. To really permanently destroy anti-semitism, anarchists argued, we have to attack the root of the problem: the conditions of exploitation and injustice that Jew-hating serves as a distraction from. Thus, Voline wrote that only

the complete destruction of present-day society and its reorganization on a completely different social basis which will lead to the definitive disappearance of the nationalist plague, and with it, of antisemitism. It will disappear when the vast human masses, at the end of their sufferings and misfortunes, and at the price of atrocious experiences, comprehend, finally, that humanity must, on pain of death, organize its life on the sane and natural basis of cooperation, material and moral, fraternal and just, that is to say, on a truly human basis. (“Antisemitisme,” Encyc. Anarchiste)

Jewish anarchists took this a step further by beginning the battle against anti-semitism in the present. Samuel Schwartzbard didn’t stop at his personal revenge for the pogroms; he founded an organization called the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism. In exile from the U.S., Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman investigated and reported back on the condition of the Russian Jews in the early years of the Soviet Union. Leah Feldman rode with Nestor Makhno’s army against the pogromchiks. One way or another, Jewish anarchists fought back – as Jews, as anarchists, as human beings rising against their oppressors.

At the same time, they didn’t always have an easy time getting along with other Jews. Religion was a particular sticking point. Proudhon and Bakunin had defined anarchism as the revolt against all forms of human enslavement, physical and mental – and religion they counted as a form of mental slavery, noting that the Church had always bolstered the State, and that poor people were always told to wait for their reward in heaven rather than seeking justice on earth. Jewish anarchists frequently took up this wholesale attack on religion; in her famous manifesto, Emma Goldman wrote of “religion” as “the dominion of the human mind” (AOE 53):

The primitive man, unable to understand his being . . . felt himself absolutely dependent on blind, hidden forces ever ready to mock and taunt him. Out of that attitude grew the religious concepts of man as a mere speck of dust dependent on superior powers on high, who can only be appeased by complete surrender. All the . . . biblical tales dealing with the relation of man to God, to the State, to society . . . [express] the same motif, man is nothing, the powers are everything. Thus Jehovah would only endure man on condition of complete surrender. Man can have all the glories of the earth, but he must not become conscious of himself . . .

Religion! How it dominates man’s mind, how it humiliates and degrades his soul. God is everything, man is nothing, says religion. But out of that nothing God has created a kingdom so despotic, so tyrannical, so cruel, so terribly exacting that naught but gloom and tears and blood have ruled the world since gods began. Anarchism rouses man to rebellion against this black monster. Break your mental fetters, says Anarchism to man, for not until you think and judge for yourself will you get rid of the dominion of darkness, the greatest obstacle to all progress. (51, 53)

Now, in light of this kind of pronounced atheism emanating from the anarchist quarters, it’s no wonder rabbis in New York and London saw the Jewish anarchists as a threat to their traditions, their communities – and their own rabbinical authority. In 1888, the “clerical and lay leaders” of London’s Jewish community “set out to destroy” the Yiddish-language anarchist newspaper, the Arbeter Fraint. According to Fishman, “The back page of every issue carried the appeal in heavy type: ‘Workers, do your duty. Spread the Arbeter Fraint!’” The typesetter was bribed, and issue number 26 appeared with the wording of the ad slightly changed: “Workers, do your duty. Destroy the Arbeter Fraint!” The typesetter promptly disappeared, fleeing the wrath of the editors; then, after that, they bribed the printer (155). By 1904, they were hiring “gangs of thugs (schlogers) . . . to break up Anarchist and Social Democrat meetings” (259).

Anarchists didn’t take all this lying down, needless to say – nor did they fail to provoke it. When the Arbeter Fraint started up again, it featured a full-bore attack on orthodox Judaism, including parodies of the Passover seder and the Lamentations (155). In the late 1880s, a group of Jewish anarchists on the Lower East Side organized as a club called “The Pioneers of Freedom,” which “distributed Yiddish parodies of penitential prayers, mocking the traditions of Yom Kippur,” and organized “Yom Kippur Balls held on Kol Nidre night” (Kolel) In 1889, they leafleted to “[invite] Jewish workers to spend Kol Nidre evening at the Clarendon Hall on Thirtieth Street” – causing a “near-riot” when the proprietor, “under political pressure,” tried to call it off. In 1890, in Brooklyn, they threw a “Grand Yom Kippur Ball with theater” on the Day of Atonement (“A Life Apart: The Treyfe Medina”), advertising their celebration as “Arranged with the consent of all new rabbis of Liberty . . . Kol Nidre, music, dancing, buffet; Marseillaise and other hymns.” This spectacle, which more than once provoked actual street fracases between believers and non-believers, was duplicated in London and in Philadelphia (Kolel) – although on at least one occasion, in 1890, the Russian-Jewish anarchists of Philadelphia actually called off their Yom Kippur Ball – which was to feature “pork-eating” – out of respect for the role played by the city’s orthodox rabbi, Sabato Morais, in mediating a crucial strike of cloakmakers that year (“Morais”). In London in the 1890s, Rudolf Rocker was asked to comment on the habit of some Jewish anarchists of demonstrating “provocative behaviour” in front of the Brick Lane synagogue on Shabbat. He answered that “the place for believers was the house of worship, and the place for non-believers was the radical meeting” (Ward). Which, if you think about it, is a peculiarly rabbinical sort of exchange – it’s just the sort of question young men used to ask rabbis to answer: Rabbi, are the comrades right to demonstrate in front of the synagogue on the Sabbath? No wonder Sam Dreen said “Rocker was our rabbi!” (qtd. in Fishman 254).

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