On Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. late last summer posters affixed to street light poles and utility boxes promoted a Sept. 24, 2005 anti-Iraq war rally. They carried three big, black headlines: "Stop the War in Iraq"; "End Colonialist Occupation from Iraq to Palestine to Haiti"; and "Support the Palestinian People’s Right of Return."
Cindy Sheehan, whose Marine son, Casey, 24, died fighting in Iraq after re-enlisting, was one of the rally’s numerous speakers. A news media favorite, Sheehan declared that her son died for "a neo-con [neo-conservative] agenda to benefit Israel." Elsewhere, she has called the Saddam Hussein loyalists and Islamic fundamentalists fighting coalition troops and terrorizing Iraqi civilians "freedom fighters." She has equated them approvingly with Palestinian anti-Israel terrorists. Sheehan also has been quoted criticizing the Bush administration for
saying … it’s okay for Israel to have nuclear weapons. But Iran or Syria better not get nuclear weapons …. It’s okay for Israel to occupy Palestine… for the United States to occupy Iraq, but it’s not okay for Syria to be in Lebanon. They’re a bunch of [expletive] hypocrites.
Another speaker at the Sept. 24 demonstration was George Galloway, a figure prominent in European opposition to the war. A British parliamentarian expelled from the ruling Labor Party, Galloway has been cited by a U.S. Senate investigation for allegedly profiting from the U.N.’s "oil-for-food" program. Last spring he termed Israel "this little Hitler state on the Mediterranean." And at a May 21 rally in London featuring vitriolic anti-Israel speeches–in one, Andrew Birgin of the Stop the War Coalition, claimed that "when there is real democracy [for Palestinians] there will be no more Israel!" –Galloway called for a general boycott of the Jewish state.
In a Nov. 13, 2005 speech at Damascus University, Galloway condemned as a set-up the U.N. investigation of possible Syrian involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. Galloway praised Syrian dictator Bashar Assad as the last Arab ruler willing to resist American and Israeli desires. Syria, he claimed,
is being threatened because she will not betray the Palestinian resistance, Hezbollah, because she will not sign a shameful surrender-peace with General [Ariel] Sharon [Israel’s prime minister], and, above all–more than any of the others–because Syria will not allow her country to be used as a military base for America to crush the resistance in Iraq.
Participants at the Sept. 24 Washington, D.C. rally also heard Lynne Stewart, lawyer for Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman. Rahman was convicted for the 1995 plot to blow up key New York City landmarks. Stewart herself since has been convicted of supporting terrorism by passing the sheik’s messages from his prison cell. (She was out on bail for the rally.)
Also at the microphone was Michael Shehadeh, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and one of the "Los Angeles Eight," whom the U.S. Justice Department has sought for two decades to deport as supporters of terrorism.
Yet another speaker on Sept. 24 was Leslie Feinberg. She reportedly accused President Bush of going to war in Iraq to cover up "the capitalist economic crisis." Feinberg described herself as "a Jewish revolutionary" dedicated to the "fight against Zionism."
What does opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq have to do with opposition, even hostility to Israel and Zionism? For some key organizers, plenty. And the roots of that hostility predate not only the Palestinian "al-Aqsa intifada" that began in September, 2000 but even Israel’s control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that began with the 1967 Six Day War.
To understand those roots, one must consider the main organizers of the Sept. 24 rally, represented by a coalition calling itself United for Peace and Justice, and International Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER). According to Washington Times reporter James G. Lakely ("War protestors linked to radical left-wing groups," Sept. 22, 2005), UPJ was "founded by liberals who say they were concerned about the radical tactics and smorgasbord of issues trumpeted by ANSWER" in the latter’s previous anti-war efforts.
Examples of ANSWER’s involvement in the Palestinian issue include:
* A Hezbollah flag fluttered from the speakers’ podium at ANSWER’s National March for Palestine, Against War and Racism, April 20, 2002 in Washington, D.C.
* In December 2000, ANSWER delegates attended the first anti-Zionist International Cairo Conference, at which the organization reportedly solidified its support for the destruction of Israel. The conference issued a declaration "Against U.S. Hegemony and War and In Solidarity with Palestine."
* "Never Forget the Palestinians" and "Free Palestine: Stop U.S. Aid to Israeli Terror," signs were displayed at ANSWER’s anti-war demonstration in Washington, D.C., March 15, 2003. Pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protesting was prominent at several ANSWER anti-war assemblies that day.
* In 2003, ANSWER delegates attended the second International Cairo Conference at which hundreds of Arab and other international "activists" supported "acts of resistance in Iraq and Palestine." ANSWER representatives meet with Osama Hamdan, a Hamas leader in Lebanon.
* "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Hamas will never go!" and "Long live jihad!" crowd members chanted at an "emergency rally" outside the Israeli consulate in New York City, co-sponsored by ANSWER and pro-Palestinian Al-Awda and New Jersey Solidarity. The March 23, 2004 demonstration followed the assassination of Hamas founder Sheik Ahmad Yasin.
UPJ, which eventually tolerated "a big overlap" in the Sept. 24, 2005 protests, comprises many groups, among them Punks for Peace, Queer to the Left, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and Historians Against the War.
ANSWER was formed on Sept. 14, 2001, three days after al Qaeda terrorists murdered nearly 3,000 Americans by flying two jetliners into New York City’s World Trade Center, a third into the Pentagon in Washington, and crashing a fourth in rural Pennsylvania. Its 12-member organizational steering committee included the Free Palestine Alliance, Muslim Student Association of the U.S. and Canada, and the Middle East Children’s Alliance.
Common Cause with Sheikh Rahman
But the keystone of the organized anti-Iraq war movement may be found in ANSWER’s core group, the World Workers Party. And in the WWP, one finds an early branch of the far left’s persistent anti-Zionism. Writing in The L.A. Weekly ("Behind the Placards: The Odd and Troubling Origins of Today’s Anti-War Movement," Nov. 1 – 7, 2005), David Corn, with contributions from Jonathan H. Miller, asserted that ANSWER "is run by WWP activists, to such an extent that it seems fair to dub it a WWP front."
Another anti-war organizing group, International Action Center, is a WWP offshoot and reportedly linked to ANSWER. The WWP itself, says Corn, is "a small political sect that years ago split from the Socialist Workers Party to support the Soviet invasion of Hungary in ’56," when Hungarian freedom fighters–believing the United States would support them–attempted to overthrow Moscow’s puppet government in Budapest.
Corn writes that though UPJ wanted the Sept. 24 event to represent a broader range of speakers united by their focus on the anti-war issue, "WWP shaped the demonstration’s content by loading the speakers’ list with its own people. None, though, were identified as such." For example, Feinberg, the "Jewish revolutionary" and anti-Zionist, was listed in a May issue of Workers’ World as a "lesbian and transgendered Communist and a managing editor of Workers’ World."
WWP has "the shock troops and talent needed to conduct a quasi- mass demonstration," Corn concludes. But it creates front groups and trims its anti-capitalist, anti-American "imperialism" message to get large numbers of participants from elsewhere.
"It is revealing," writes David Frum, in Canada’s National Post ("Marching Against War–and Jews," Sept. 27, 2005),
that at the core of these so-called peace marches you will find a leadership that strongly supports … acts of war targeted against Americans and Jews. You will see that the radical left and extremist Islam–while they may disagree ideologically–can find common cause, as the hard leftist Lynne Stewart found common cause with Sheik Rahman.
On the left, Michael Lerner mirrors Frum’s observation. A rabbi and editor of the leftist Jewish magazine Tikkun, Lerner was banned from speaking at a San Francisco "peace rally" in 2003. Why? Because he publicly criticized ANSWER, one of the groups sponsoring the San Francisco demonstration, for using the anti-war movement "to put forward anti-Israel propaganda." Writing in the Wall Street Journal ("The Antiwar Anti-Semites; Peace protest organizers tolerate no dissent," Feb. 12, 2005), Lerner asserted that
it is outrageous that those of us who wish to protest against what we see as a fundamentally unjust war must be subjected to a barrage of slogans and speakers that are one-sidedly hostile to Israel.
the most painful thing has been watching other anti-war groups make unprincipled compromises with ANSWER. As a result, there is support on the left for self-determination for every group in the world except the Jewish people.
Lerner’s notice of left-wing anti-Zionism affirms an insight of twentieth century political science: Far-right anti-Semitism grew from early and medieval Church teachings of contempt for the Jews and the parallel teaching that Christianity (and by implication Christians) superceded Judaism (and by implication Jews) as the "new Israel." This "classical" anti-Semitism became genocidal with Nazism’s "racial" anti-Semitism.
Similarly, secular left-wing anti-Zionism and contemporary Islamic fundamentalist denial of Jewish nationalism and the Jewish state have their roots in Marxist-Leninist thought and subsequent Soviet policy. Marx, observed Robert S. Wistrich in The Left Against Zion: Communism, Israel and The Middle East (Vallentine, Mitchell and Co., Ltd., London, 1979), rejected the Jews’ claim to exist as a distinctive group. Instead, Marx identified them with what he imagined were the worst aspects of capitalism.
Marx’s followers, including Lenin and even European Jews who struggled for a universal "socialist revolution,"
rejected as inadmissible any notion of national rights for Jews. If there was one factor that united such well-known Marxist Jews as Leon Trotsky, Paul Axelrod … Rosa Luxemburg
and others, said Wistrich, "it was their complete rejection of the very principle of Jewish national self-determination."
But ninteenth century national movements resurrected whole nations, including Germany, Italy, and Poland. Marxists accommodated themselves to these nationalisms to the extent they were judged to accelerate "the revolution" and speed "the disintegration of the feudal-absolutist monarchies in central and eastern Europe." Even Karl Kautsky, a Marxist who saw the Jewish proletariat as a class with a future, regarded Zionism as "a spoke in the wheel of progress," Wistrich writes.
"The negative attitude of Marx, Lenin, and their disciples to the Jewish problem before 1914," he asserts, "has continued to influence and shape communist doctrine right up to the present day." And communist doctrine influenced Arab attitudes, strengthening Arab-Islamic rejection of the Jewish state.
The Soviet Union initiated the U.N. General Assembly’s infamous 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism, a slogan-turned-ideology that the Arab and Islamic states quickly made their own. Though repealed in 1991, the Zionism-is-racism slander continues to echo.
Manipulated by anti-Semites and anti-Zionists, assimilated by many who imagine themselves "progressive," it’s behind allegations that Israel’s West Bank security barrier is "an apartheid wall." It helps prop up the smear that "Israel treats the Palestinians like the Nazis treated the Jews." It supports the delegitimization of Israel in any borders since "the Jews are not a nation, only a religious minority, and not entitled to a sovereign state like the Palestinian people." The underlying old Marxist insistence that Jewish nationalism was reactionary, coupled with later Soviet propaganda that "Zionist reaction" was a tool of "capitalist imperialism," helps explain ANSWER’s morbid obsession with Israel. The organization’s linking of the U.S. war in Iraq with the Jewish state’s fight for survival exposes ANSWER’s own hoary prejudices.