ISRAEL: A STUDY IN RACISM AND NATIONALISM

Pal image Wall Aug 2016by Ellen Isaacs, July 2016

Nowhere in the world today is there more evidence of the destructive nature of racism and nationalism than in Israel, a state that aspires to be exclusively Jewish. It is true that Jews were persecuted for many centuries, ostracized, isolated, and murdered, more so in Western countries than in the East. The culmination was the slaughter of 6 million by the Nazis. The mistake that Zionists (those who seek to build a Jewish state) make is believing that anti-Semitism is ineradicable and different from other forms of racism. Thus many have been won to believe that their security rests in isolating themselves and practicing racist persecution of Palestinians and other minorities within Israel.

 

The first mistake of Zionists is to believe that the slaughter by the Nazis, as indescribably horrible as it was, was unique in history. 12.5 million Africans were forcibly deported from Africa as slaves, to be either killed or made slaves for life. Native Americans were almost entirely obliterated by disease or murder and the remaining minority forced onto reservations. 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered by the Turks. Australian Aborigines were largely eliminated and then continuously denigrated. The list is, unfortunately, endless. What is common to all these examples is that a ruling class needed scapegoats to blame for the misery of the majority of citizens and/or needed to clear out a native population to make way for colonization.  The soldiers and sailors who carried out these murderous misdeeds were won to racism and nationalism in order to do so.  Those who rebelled and joined with the victims to fight back are those we celebrate in this blog.

To everyone, we say recognize your common humanity with the workers, farmers, students and soldiers of the world. Join together against the ruling classes of all nations.

 

Israel rally Aug 2016In Israel, a majority of Jews have rejected their commonality with other persecuted peoples. From the earliest days of Jewish immigration to Palestine in the late 1800s, the official Zionist position was to refuse to live or work with Arabs. In fact, Palestine was touted as “a land without people for a people without a land,” despite the presence of over 400,000 inhabitants.  Nonetheless, from the 1920s to the early 1940s, Jewish and Arab workers did struggle together in trade unions. The ruling classes of both nationalities fought hard to build nationalism and destroy this unity, which has not been equaled since.

 

After WW2, tens of thousands of surviving Jews from Europe came to Palestine. Most would have preferred to go to the US or England but were unable to because of very restrictive quotas. Many would have gone back to their homes but were prevented by persistent anti-Semitism. The Zionist leaders in Palestine were anxious to have them, to build the population of their envisioned new state, and to form an army to fight Arab resisters.  They also induced a million Jews to emigrate from Arab countries, such as Iraq and Morocco, sometimes sending secret agents to create fake anti-Semitic incidents and foment fears of persecution, which had not occurred during Nazism. Once in Israel, these darker Arabic speaking Jews were discriminated against, and their inequality persists today.

 

When the United Nations created the state of Israel in 1948, 55% of the land was given to the Jews even though they comprised only 30% of the population and owned only 6% of the land. Moreover, they received the most fertile areas with the most water.  Beginning in 1947, even before statehood, the Zionists, under the leadership of Ben-Gurion, began a carefully orchestrated and brutal expulsion of  about 750,000,  six out of seven, Palestinians. They were forced into refugee camps in what is now the West Bank and Gaza or in neighboring countries. Since 1967, Israel has militarily occupied the Golan Heights,  Gaza and the West Bank. Palestinians are subject to harsh restrictions of movement, shortages of food, housing, water, health care and employment. This brutal, military occupation is the longest in recent history, is illegal under international law, and has been punctuated by episodes of mass slaughter, as in Gaza in 2008 and 2014. Nonetheless, if Palestinians fight back they are branded as terrorists, despite the legality and unstoppable human impulse to resist occupation. The murderous Israeli army describes itself as the “most moral in the world.”

 

The irony is that life is not good for many Israelis. There is very high unemployment, housing shortages, and a debilitating atmosphere of militarization, hate and fear. Moreover, a small nation cannot be safe when it has engendered hatred by fully half of its own residents (in the occupied territories and within Israel proper), and all the surrounding countries. Only because the US provides over $3 billion a year in aid and has allowed Israel to become a nuclear-armed military superpower can it exist at all.  In July 2016, Obama pledged another $3 billion for Israeli defense expenses.  Hillary Clinton also supports the Israeli government and its occupation.

 

Pal Street Aug 2016

Unfortunately, since the first intifada, or rebellion,  of 1987-91, the Palestinian resistance has been disorganized and ineffective. And it has always been nationalist, with a goal of a Palestinian state, not considering an alliance with working class Israelis or others. Despite being occupied, Palestine is also a very in-egalitarian society, with a small, greedy elite who cooperate with Israeli and other capitalists. In fact, Israel, Palestine and the US have approximately equal GINI (general inequality index) scores, near to the worst in the world. (see article on Flying the Nationalist Flag, http://mondoweiss.net/2015/02/flying-nationalist-progressive/)

 

Ultimately, Palestinian and Israeli workers, farmers and students must unite with each other to build a non-capitalist, anti-racist society. There are a few on both sides of the Wall who are trying to do that, some calling themselves the One Democratic State movement. Unfortunately its platform says nothing about the economic nature of the society it envisions. The elite capitalists of Israel and Palestine would be all too happy to unite together and exploit workers of both nationalities. This movement also does not have a program of on the ground struggle. We will continue to applaud and support those in the region and internationally who fight racism and nationalism in Israel/Palestine and around the world. We are happy to note the growing popularity of the BDS (boycott, divest, and sanction) movement, but see it only as an educational tool. To achieve an egalitarian society in Israel/Palestine and elsewhere a program of international struggle is needed.

 

 

MORE RACIST POLICE TERROR. UNITE AND FIGHT BACK.

by Ellen Isaacs

 At least 4 young men of color have been killed by the police in the last 2 weeks: Pedro Villanueva, Delrawn Small, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, although there has been little publicity or outrage about the first two. Even the mass rebellions in Ferguson and Baltimore have not changed the impunity with which cops can murder black and Latin citizens. Although many cities have paid millions of dollars to the families of murdered relatives in the last two years, conceding that malfeasance occurred, and some cops have been fired, not one has gone to jail.

Even though we have a black President and Attorney General, the racist violence continues. It is not a correct response to set out on an individual rampage, as did the Dallas shooter, whose killing skills were taught and mind warped by the racist New Black Panther Party and by serving in the US military slaughterhouse of Afghanistan. It is also not a correct response, as do liberal politicians and “community leaders”, to call for better police training or more minority police. They are relieved that the murder of the cops in Dallas can be used to promote sympathy for the police and mitigate the anger against police murders.

Since their origin as slave catchers, the police have played a role in society: to control and intimidate the poor, minorities, and the rebellious. As political science professor E. B sharp says (Social Science Quarterly, 87:2, 2006), “Heightened police staffing still appears to be part of a social-control phenomenon of subduing a population perceived to be rebellious.” When police harass poor people on the street for selling merchandise (a result of high unemployment), for congregating in their own decrepit housing, for driving cars with broken down parts, they are carrying out purposeful intimidation. The aim is to discourage rebellion against poverty and its consequences. The police also serve as strike-breakers and to contain protesters who step off the sidewalk or raise their fists too high. By concentrating in communities of color and arresting far more residents there than in white areas, they build on racist perceptions and fears.

It is heartening to see the large, multiracial protests that have erupted around the country. But we must remember that when such movements grew after Ferguson and Baltimore, many devolved into nationalism. Even Black Lives Matter, which has been on the forefront of much protest, has chosen to marginalize white and Latino supporters into separate “allied” groups. As our blog posts have emphasized, the entire working class is hurt by racism and capitalism. If we are not united together, we will not have the strength to maintain a mass movement that questions the role of the police and the exploitative system they uphold. We must be united to resist the role of politicians or police chiefs who claim to be our friends because they are of the same color. They do not represent our interests. We must see ourselves as united with working people and students around the globe to resist being drawn into ever more resource wars, building lasting movements on the job and in our schools. There is no doubt that as wars escalate, climate change worsens, and the economic system deteriorates, all of us will be targeted by increasingly aggressive police, as we have seen in Ferguson and Baton Rouge, trying to quell our outrage.

FIGHT RACISM AND POLICE TERROR, IN THE US AND AROUND THE WORLD

 

The Free State of Jones Movie Review: Multiracial Attacks on the Confederacy

 

 

The Free State of Jones is an amazing story of an organized revolt against the Confederacy during the Civil War in Mississippi by white farmers and escaped black men and women (maroons).  They organized themselves into an armed fighting squad that dominated 1/3 of Mississippi, one of the most racist states.

 

Slavery devastated the income and employment of white workers while destroying the freedom of black workers.  Plantation and business owners used free, enslaved labor instead of employing white workers.  Only ¼ of white southerners owned slaves; most owned fewer than 20 people. To pacify white workers, the owners created a myth of white superiority that persists today.  They also forced many whites into serving as overseers on the plantations and punished whites who did not capture escaped slaves.

 

How did this revolt happen?  The Civil War killed over 600,000 soldiers in brutal battles that also maimed and injured many more.  The Confederate Army forced southern workers and farmers to join the army yet allowed men whose families owned 20 or more slaves to avoid conscription.  This “20 slave rule” enraged poor workers and generated resentment against the Confederacy.  Poor families also rebelled against the Confederate soldiers who ransacked their properties, stealing food, livestock, and household goods, leaving their families totally destitute.

 

At the same time, some refused to support slavery and joined with freed black people to fight the plantation owners.  They rejected the idea of racial solidarity with the rich and fought for their class interests alongside free black men and women.

 

Newton Knight, one of the poor farmers in Jones County, left the Confederate Army after the battle at Corinth and fled to a swamp where the maroons lived.  Supported by local farmers and enslaved people, they organized themselves into an armed force and attracted 100s of others to stop the Confederacy forces.  Using guerilla tactics, they ambushed the troops and retreated to the swamp and safety.

 

The movie depicts these events: the Army’s assaults on poor white households, the attacks on the troops, and life in the swamps.  The movie highlights the role of women in this battle.  Knight armed women with firearms and training.  In one scene, a Mom and her 3 young daughters hold off a band of Confederate soldiers with shotguns.  In another, women ride through a battle shooting and killing more soldiers.  Unfortunately, the movie does not give a voice to these women.

 

The movie clearly extolls and focuses on Newton Knight (played by Matthew McConaughey).  He makes all the major speeches.  Several reviewers accuse the director of playing into the “white rescuer” character.  While the fighters included white and black people, the movie would be stronger if it covered how they worked together and how this struggle changed the racial prejudices among the white members.

 

Knight continued to fight racism after the war during Reconstruction, building schools and teaching black children along with his own white children.  He fought the Klan yet managed to survive into his 80s.  Unfortunately, this multi-racial solidarity did not prevent the rise of racism and the Klan after the war.

 

Knight’s family life included a white wife, Serena, and a black wife, Rachel, a former slave, with whom he fathered many children who lived on the same land in different households.  After the war, he continued to live with Rachel without divorcing Serena.

 

While the story would be strengthened by giving more attention to the other fighters, it offers an important example of multi-racial struggle in the deep South during one of the most divisive periods of American history.  It discounts the image of the white working class as solidly racist who cannot recognize their own class interests.  The Knight “army” showed tremendous black-white solidarity, militancy and bravery to stop the Confederacy.

 

Books by Sally Jenkins and Victoria Bynum provide more depth on the Free State of Jones.