MOSHE MACHOVER, an Israeli socialist with a decades-long record as a defender of Palestinian rights has become the latest victim of a witch hunt against opponents of Zionism, following the republication of his article ‘Anti-Zionism is not Anti-Semitism’.
The pretext used to justify Machover’s expulsion was his supposed membership of the Labour Party Marxists, an accusation he categorically denies. But the allusion in the notice of his expulsion to an article that “appears to meet the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism”, reveals the principal motivation.
The claim that Machover’s article is antisemitic rests on the fact that it quotes Reinhard Heydrich, one of the main authors and organisers of the Nazi Holocaust, to show that for a brief period during the 1930s, the Nazis tried to cooperate with Zionists in getting Jews to leave Germany.
Machover quotes a 1935 article by Heydrich in which the latter claimed that “The [Nazi] government finds itself in complete agreement with the great spiritual movement within Jewry itself, so-called Zionism, with its recognition of the solidarity of Jewry throughout the world and the rejection of all assimilationist ideas”.
Machover notes that Heydrich’s article contained “a friendly mention of Zionism, indicating an area of basic agreement it shared with Nazism”, and adds that “looking back at all this, it seems all the more sinister, since we know that the story ended with the gas chambers a few years later”. Far from “excusing” Heydrich and the Nazis or saying that Nazis and Zionists are politically or morally equivalent, Machover is simply pointing out that Zionists and Nazis both wanted German Jews to emigrate to Palestine, albeit for conflicting reasons. Zionism wanted to establish a Jewish state in Palestine, while the Nazis wanted to drive Jews out of Germany altogether and had ultimately genocidal intentions towards them.
The argument is one that a large number of Jewish and even Israeli historians have made for decades: that from its earliest days the Zionist movement tried to cooperate with European antisemites to promote Jewish emigration, at a time when the great majority of Jewish people, from Orthodox rabbis to liberals, socialists and communists opposed emigration and argued instead for integration and resistance to antisemitism at home.
This temporary cooperation between some Zionists and Nazi Germany produced the 1933 Haavara Agreement between the Third Reich, the Zionist Federation of Germany and the Anglo-Palestine Bank controlled by Palestine’s Zionist Jewish Agency. This agreement saw Zionist organisations lift their boycott of Germany in return for the Nazi regime permitting wealthier German Jews to exchange a portion of their property for safe passage to Palestine.
Haavara helped to more than double Palestine’s Jewish population from 174,610 in 1931 to 384,078 in 1936. But it also weakened Jewish resistance to antisemitism, and the relatively small number who managed to get to Palestine under this agreement did not represent a major factor in saving Jewish people under Nazi rule.
It is understandable that both Jewish and non-Jewish defenders of Zionism should find these observations offensive, but they are not antisemitic – and that is Labour’s witch hunters dared not expel him for antisemitism, but were reduced to condemning him by implication.
Debate on the history and nature of Zionism has only become a particularly dangerous activity since Labour elected a defender of Palestinian rights as its leader for the first time.
With the Israeli state and its Zionist defenders running out of excuses for their criminal occupation and facing a growing international movement of solidarity with the Palestinians, they have responded with a systematic campaign to silence their critics through accusations of antisemitism.
This is the motivation behind the campaign of wildly exaggerated claims about the prevalence of antisemitism in the Labour Party. Far from educating members and confronting real antisemitism, it represents a grotesque devaluation of a very serious charge.
Red Flag calls for Moshe Machover’s immediate and unconditional reinstatement. Anyone on the left who refuses to do this, whatever their view on Palestine and Israel, shares the witch hunters’ contempt for party democracy.
Meanwhile we have to redouble our efforts to reinstate members expelled for socialist beliefs, defend free speech on Palestine, Israel and Zionism, and speed up the process of thoroughgoing democratic reform of the party
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