When British Socialists Supported Israel as an Anti-Imperialist Project

Sept. 15 2020

Between 1944 and 1950, Great Britain’s Communist party, in stark contrast to the far left today, vocally supported the creation of a Jewish state in Mandatory Palestine. This position put the Communists at odds with the Labor party of the day—not to mention with the Corbynite wing of today’s Labor party—which was working to keep Jews from reaching Palestine and to prevent those there from declaring a state. As John Strawson explains, British Communists were following the lead of Moscow, which at the time favored the establishment of a Jewish state, mostly out of antipathy to London’s imperial interests:

The opposition to British imperialism, and imperialism in general, is not perhaps surprising. What is more significant is the way in which the creation of Israel is portrayed and described [in the Anglo-Communist press]. The constant repetition that it is the Jewish state of Israel gives the lie to those on the left today who claim that the creation of a Jewish state is contrary to progressive thinking. The Communist Party of Great Britain simply recognized that Jews were a people with the right to self-determination and that included the right to create to Jewish state to exercise it. Indeed the Communist MP Willie Gallacher was keen to underline the historical significance of the event, “After more than 2,000 years of dispersal and unspeakable suffering the Jewish people in Palestine has proclaimed the existence of a Jewish state.”

Current left-wing anti-Zionists should note that Marxists of the 1940s did not see Israel as an “ethnonationalist” or “exclusivist” state. At the same time—as can be seen from this statement and the Daily Worker’s content—there is no suggestion that Israel is a colonial project. Quite the reverse in fact, Israel’s Declaration of Independence is seen as blow against colonialism. What is also striking there is no coverage or discussion of Palestinian Arab displacement, a process that began in early 1948 and continued during the war between Israel and its neighbors.

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Read more at Fathom

More about: Communism, Labor Party (UK), Soviet Union, United Kingdom

 

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter