World Politics

Does solidarity with Palestine equal ‘anti-Semitism?’


Let’s not confuse the issue. What is happening in Palestine is not a conflict that exists between “Islam and the West” or between “Judaism and Islam.” It is a conflict between oppressor and oppressed—a conflict between a settler-colonial state engaging in ethnic cleansing, and the people whose land they are stealing. When the Israeli Defense Force deliberately targets hospitals and civilian homes, and the Israeli government actively encourages Jewish settlement on lands recently stolen from Palestinians who are told to demolish their own homes, this couldn’t be more clear. For over 70 years, Palestinians have been fighting for their freedom.

Unfortunately, Zionists and their allies (including real anti-Semites) will deliberately foster the notion that the free Palestine movement is anti-Semitic (anti-Jewish)—for different purposes, of course. Movement activists need to discredit the lie that Israel defends Jews, and therefore that countering Israeli policy is inherently anti-Semitic. Dismantling this falsehood is important for achieving Palestinian liberation; at the same time, it necessitates combating anti-Semitism whenever it flares up around the world.

Anti-Semitism must not be tolerated

Agitators have and will come to Palestine solidarity rallies and meetings with the intention of exploiting justified anger against mass murder and turning it into “anti-Semitism.” They try to catch the movement off guard, occasionally taking poorly conceived statements out of context and then publishing the “evidence” far and wide. Sometimes they go much further in their actions, such as accusing Palestine supporters of seeking a second Holocaust.

The “anti-Semitism” label was recently employed against the Palestine solidarity movement by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WVa.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who reintroduced legislation that would effectively allow state and local governments to implement laws targeting firms that boycott Israel. “The boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement is the single most destructive campaign of economic warfare facing the Jewish state of Israel today,” said Rubio. “Amid a rising tide of anti-Semitism, it’s critical that we stand shoulder to shoulder with our closest democratic ally in the Middle East.”

Of course, real anti-Semitism must be crushed wherever it rears its ugly head. Anti-Semitism is designed, like all forms of racism and prejudice, to divide the working class. The longer that Jewish workers are fooled into thinking Palestinians are their enemies, and the longer that some Palestinians put blame on Jews in general, makes it longer until they realize that their common enemy is capitalism. This works to the benefit of the Israeli capitalists and their sponsors in the United States and other imperialist countries.

This is the same dynamic that white supremacy plays in the United States, and it is thus no surprise that Trump rallies fly the flag of Israel, while Black Lives Matter rallies have often embraced the cause of the Palestinians. Many U.S. police and border patrol agents receive training from Israeli security experts or receive training directly in Israel. The same methods of police terrorism are applied globally, and therefore it is easy for both BLM activists and Palestinians to see that their oppression takes similar forms. The racists and anti-racists alike are well aware of their allies and enemies.

Israel will not protect Jews from oppression

One of the reasons used to defend the existence of Israel (by arch-Zionists as well as by supporters of a “two-state solution”) is that Jewish people, being persecuted globally, need a homeland of their own, an ethnic Jewish state for their own protection. Never mind that to secure this Promised Land requires theft from the Palestinian people, with their persecution and murder.

For one to believe that Jewish people require a hermetically sealed special box for their protection is to cede to global racism a massive victory. But shouldn’t oppressed peoples have the right of self-determination? Yes, absolutely, but this doesn’t justify Israel. As the 1971 Socialist Workers Party resolution on Israel and the Middle East explained:

“The situation of the Israeli Jews is essentially different from that of Jews in other parts of the world. The struggle against anti-Semitism and the oppression of Jews in other countries is a progressive struggle directed against their oppressors. In some circumstances the demand for self-determination for oppressed Jews, directed against the oppressor nation, could become appropriate. Thus the Bolsheviks under Lenin and Trotsky recognized the right of the Jews in Russia to set up a state on their own territory, if they wished. However, the oppression of Jews in other countries does not justify the creation and maintenance of the existing Israeli state at the expense of the Palestinians, who were not and are not responsible for the oppression of the Jews. There, the situation is the reverse. The Israeli Jews form an oppressor nationality of a settler-colonial character vis-a-vis the Arab peoples. The Israeli state is the means by which this oppression is maintained.” [1]

Israel does nothing to halt the oppression of Jews worldwide. If anything it intensifies it, by allowing an opening for the anti-Semites to declare that “the Jews,” as a group, are oppressing people. As Israel privileges Jews more and more at the expense of the civil rights and autonomy of other peoples, this racism only feeds more racism.

Moreover, Zionism implicitly relies on the existence of anti-Semitism to justify itself. As long as Jews in Israel perceive that they are surrounded by enemies, and that they are powerless to make common cause with oppressed people in the Middle East, the suggestion is reinforced that the only solution is to continue the settler-colonial project. This idea encourages a xenophobic fortress mentality on the part of Jewish citizens of Israel, who feel obliged to defend themselves from a hostile world that intends to destroy them as a people.

However, the target of the Palestinian movement is not Jewish people but the state of Israel. Some well-meaning people may believe that the only viable means to do so is to hoist the Jews off the land once stolen. But this is not a goal expressed by most forces of the free Palestine movement and its supporters worldwide.

Zionism leads Jews away from the class struggle

In the history of labor struggles and social movements, particularly before World War II, Jewish people were at the forefront, and made up a large portion of socialist forces. This was true in both the United States and Europe. It is no surprise that with the emergence of fascism in Germany and other countries, Jews became a specific target of persecution.

Fascism, as a dictatorship of capitalists guaranteed by gangsterism*, has as a high priority the annihilation of socialist forces. In the 1918 revolution, before the rise of Hitler, the German proletariat came very close to overturning capitalism, and they had chances again in 1923 and 1933. The association of “Jews” with “Bolshevism” became a ringing point of fascist propaganda. Jews were, of course, not the only victims of the Holocaust, and the slaughter of a number of class fighters and a majority of Jews helped German capitalists eliminate any memory of the proletarian class struggle in Germany.

After this abomination, Zionism came to the forefront, supported by U.S. and British capitalists. They supplied money, arms, and willing settlers to the burgeoning colonial state of Israel. They did not, of course, do this out of the kindness of their hearts or out of any sense of guilt for persecution happening in their own countries. The existence of Israel provided a beachhead, and a very valuable one, for securing U.S. and British interests in the Middle East. They continue to provide arms (including material for nuclear weapons) and other aid to Israel for this purpose and no other. It is a great evil of history that one mass killing is used to justify another.

Zionism leads Jewish working-class people into a racist trap, one which, as mentioned, helps perpetuate capitalism and colonialism by pitting them against Palestinians, as well as the whole Arab world. In reality, Jewish working people have their real allies in the greater working class of the Middle East and Palestine. It is by mobilizing this class in the name of its own interests against the rich of the Middle East that Israeli Jews can secure their own protection. Arab workers of the Middle East must also recognize where this trap is being set for them, and struggle as a class.

Two state solution?

In the struggle to end the oppression of Palestinians by settler colonialism, what solution will work? What state of affairs will guarantee, in reality and not mere words, the equality of rights in Palestine between Jews, Muslims, Christians and everyone else? It should be clear that the settler-colonial state itself, Israel, is incapable of providing the needed framework. It is built, as is the United States, on a foundation of land theft and genocide.

Biden and other imperialist politicians call for a “two-state solution,” a formula that is accepted by the Palestinian Authority. That would require maintaining the state mainly for Jews (Israel) while allowing a smaller one for Palestinians (the West Bank and Gaza). Since Israel has not found success in putting an end to rebellions against its domination over historical Palestine, the two-state scheme is the next best acceptable option for the U.S. ruling class. Steering the Palestinians toward such a “solution” would strengthen the influence of the leaders of the Palestinian Authority and provide hope that more radical forces could be contained.

It should be obvious, however, that there no way that Palestinians could build a tenable “state” while their territory is subdivided into tiny unconnected parcels that are interspersed with hostile settler communities, and subject to constant Israeli regulation. [2] Moreover, it would be ridiculous to assume that Palestinians can liberate themselves from racist tyranny while Israel remains a military outpost for the expansionist needs of U.S. imperialism. Any movement by Palestinians against neo-colonial domination would be met by the force of Israeli arms. These reasons help explain why the “two-state solution” is increasingly unpopular among radicalizing youth, both in Palestine and in the world solidarity movement.

Only a united socialist Middle East can successfully repel imperialist aggression. The establishment of a singular, secular, and democratic Palestine,with the right of return open to all Palestinians, is an unavoidable step along this road. It is in the framework of a democratic secular Palestine that the Free Palestine movement can begin to achieve its goal of equal rights for all ethnicities and religions, including Palestinians and Jews. But full liberation can only come when workers and oppressed people throughout the world take the road of socialist revolution.

And this especially is why anti-Semitism is so valuable to the ruling classes of both Israel and the United States. The suggestion that there is an inherent desire for race war among those in struggle is a tool that they will try to use to hold off workers’ revolution in the Middle East and occupied Palestine—and in this country as well.

* The book “Fascism and Big Business,” by Daniel Guerin, is an exemplary history of the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany, and is recommended reading for anyone seeking an understanding of the causes (and horrors) of 20th century fascism.


[1] — SWP 1971 Resolution on Israel.

[2] — Erwin Freed discusses the successes and challenges to the Free Palestine movement, including the pointlessness of the “two-state solution.”


From the website of Socialist Resurgence