The sacking by Bristol University of Professor David Miller, a leading authority on Islamophobia and corporate power, for his alleged ‘antisemitism’ represents a major escalation in the witch-hunt against the Left. Every academic who tries to tell the truth about Zionism, Israel, and the Palestinians is now under threat of dismissal.
The ‘antisemitism’ smear was, of course, a key weapon in the struggle of the Right to destroy the Corbyn leadership of the Labour Party. The witch-hunt inside the party continues, with arbitrary expulsions becoming normalised, especially of Jewish members, who are five times more likely to find themselves under investigation than other members – a reflection of the fact that Jewish socialists tend to be especially outspoken on the question of Palestine.
I want to make two basic points about the witch-hunt. The first is straightforward and often stated, but it bears repeating here. David Miller – let us take him as the example – is not an antisemite, but an anti-Zionist. So are millions of others – the Palestinians themselves, the Arabs and Muslims who sympathise with them, and the countless socialists across the world who stand in solidarity with the oppressed.
Zionism is a nationalist-racist ideology. The State of Israel is based upon the violent dispossession and displacement of the Palestine people. It is a colonial settler-state backed by imperialism. It is an apartheid state based on institutionalised discrimination and exclusion. That is why we – anti-Zionist socialists, both Jews and Gentiles, stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
This has nothing whatsoever to do with antisemitism, which means discrimination against, persecution of, and violence towards Jewish people as a minority group defined (originally) by their religious confession. In other words, antisemitism is a specific form of racism.
This brings me to my second and more problematic point. Antisemitism is not the dominant form of racism in the world today: it is Islamophobia and generic anti-migrant racism. Indeed, the more sophisticated Western fascists – like Steve Bannon – think in terms of an ‘in-group’ defined by their shared ‘Judaeo-Christian civilisation’ that explicitly includes Zionists.
Nonetheless, antisemitism remains a widespread form of racism. Many Western fascists, notably in Central and Eastern Europe, but elsewhere too, are openly and sometimes violently antisemitic. Jewish people, organisations, and spaces are frequently targeted by neo-Nazi groups.
But the bigger threat is posed by Islamic fascism. I make no apology for using this term. Islamist groups that target women, LGBTQI+ people, religious and ethnic minorities, ‘the wrong sort of Muslim’, etc, sometimes carrying out murderous attacks on schools, hospitals, weddings, etc, are fascists.
We have defined fascism as a process, a state of becoming, not a fixed state of being. We have stressed its multiple forms, shaped by different histories and traditions. We have argued that its essence is the hyper-charging of a cocktail of reactionary ideas – nationalism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, authoritarianism, militarism, etc – and the organisation of this cocktail into a counter-revolutionary political force. By this definition – which I am convinced is the only way to make sense of what is clearly a dominant global political trend – both Islamism and Zionism are different expressions of what we have called ‘creeping fascism’.
Islamic fascism is a clear and present danger to Jewish people. The danger – in particular of terrorist attack – is such that Jewish premises often require security guards and police protection.
The threat posed by Western and Islamic fascists, and more generally by antisemitic undercurrents in modern capitalist society, has implications for the way in which socialists should respond to the witch-hunt.
The Israelis and their Zionist supporters are using the ‘antisemitism’ smear to shut down criticism of Israel, delegitimise pro-Palestinian solidarity, and intimidate and weaken the Left. They do this in defence of a project that is inherently racist. But they are facilitated in this campaign – essentially a conflation of alleged ‘antisemitism’ with anti-Zionism – by the growing threat of a very real antisemitism in the context of a global wave of nationalism, racism, and fascism.
Socialists have a moral obligation to stand with the oppressed in all circumstances. Our support for the Palestinians is non-negotiable, and we will not remain silent about the racist and apartheid nature of the State of Israel. But we need to be equally outspoken against the antisemitism of Western and Islamic fascists, and equally forthright in our solidarity with Jewish people under racist attack.
Those who wish to support the campaign in defence of David Miller and stand up for free speech on Palestine should go to: supportmiller.org
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