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.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Fathom

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

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy