In August last year, I wrote that whilst people and organisations who identify as supporters of Israel often call themselves Zionists, they can more properly be thought of as Stalinists.
One of the major features of the Stalinists was their unquestioning obedience to the Party Line. One day, the dear leader would announce one political position, and everyone in the Communist Party during Stalin’s era would passionately adopt that position, and vehemently denounce anyone who disagreed.
Then the party line would change, and suddenly the Stalinists would adopt the new line, with the same passion, vehemently denouncing anyone who disagreed.
At one point, there was a line that it was illegitimate to collaborate with social democrats, who were identified as “social fascists”. After this helped paved the way for the rise of Hitler in Germany and the ensuing assault on communists, the party line changed: there would now be a popular front.
No longer claiming that other leftists were just another form of fascists, now the Stalinists would work with other leftists to fight fascism. The most important thing was to resist fascism: until Stalin signed a Non-Aggression Pact with Germany 1939. Then communists were expected to loyally support the new line of advocating peace. Until the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. Then communists in Western countries were expected to become patriots and support the war effort against Germany and its allies.
At each step, the Stalinists obeyed the party line. Those who were too slow in doing so would be denounced in the most withering terms, and would face expulsion from the party for such transgressions.
The party line would change on a dime, and people around the world were expected to follow the new line from the USSR, regardless of the arguments they had been making so passionately the day before.
One of the defining features of Stalinism was the intellectual dishonesty. Something true one day would become false the next, because the Party said so. The abuse and fabrications in polemics were also a standard feature of Stalinism.
A neat illustration of the new Australian Stalinism can be seen today. In July last year, the Prime Minister of Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu publicly flagged his opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state, which he noted is what “I always say”.
To win the elections in March, he announced that a Palestinian state would not be created if he won the election. He said, “I think that anyone who moves to establish a Palestinian state and evacuate territory gives territory away to radical Islamist attacks against Israel”.
So – no Palestinian state, because if a Palestinian state is created, Islamist terrorists will attack Israel.
This shaped up as a neat way to expose the Stalinism of Zionists in the West.
When the United Nations General Assembly started voting in favour of a two-state solution in 1976, Israel was one of the few countries in the world which opposed the creation of a Palestinian state.
Not long after Ehud Barak proposed the creation of a Palestinian state in 2000, it became standard for Western Stalinists to declare that they too, finally, supported the creation of a Palestinian state.
It was hard not to notice that Netanyahu did what he could to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state, and was determined to continue the colonisation of the West Bank, but Stalinists had their party line. Israel wants peace, it supports a two-state solution, but alas, they lacked a partner for peace.
Though Israel negotiated a prisoner exchange and repeated ceasefires with Hamas, and Fatah devoted its energies to enforcing Israeli security in the West Bank, Stalinists professed their yearning for Israel to finally acquire a partner for peace.
Then Netanyahu declared no to a Palestinian state, because it would give territory for terrorist attacks against Israel. Media around the world covered the shift. Would Stalinists be up to the challenge of embracing the new Party line?
Yes, yes they would.
In a recent issue of the Australian Jewish News (24/7/15), the editorial warns the ALP against embracing a policy of recognising a Palestinian state. The editorial notes that the ALP,
“Needs to ask itself whether the unstable Palestinian Authority, with its refusal to negotiate with Israel, with its on-and-off alliances to terrorist group Hamas, with its grand vision of a “Palestine from the river to the sea”, obliterating the world’s only Jewish state, XXXactually makes a convincing case for its own statehood.
At a time when the Middle East is a powder keg of violently extremist groups, and Iran, a sponsor of regional terrorism, looks forward to shaking off sanctions and cashing up to sponsor more global terrorism, the ALP needs to ask itself whether recognising an undemocratic Palestine, that would serve as a magnet for terrorism on Israel’s doorstep, is justified.” (emphasis added)
So you see? The editorial writers are not convinced of the case for a Palestinian state. Because it would serve as a “magnet for terrorism on Israel’s doorstep”. The transition from supposedly supporting a Palestinian state to being unconvinced was seamless. It also featured boilerplate arguments about how settlements aren’t really the underlying problem here.
Funnily enough, in an article also printed on 24/7 in the Australian, Labor Senator Joe Bullock announced that he opposes the ALP recognising a Palestinian state. Bullock began by claiming that this proposed policy would “undermine the bipartisan commitment to a two-state solution”.
He gave five reasons for opposing it. The first was asking “how can a state exist without agreed borders”. Which is an interesting argument, considering that Israel hasn’t defined its borders, let alone agreed upon them either.
Argument four was more interesting:
“Fourth, and perhaps most important, what incentives would exist for the Palestinian leadership to renounce terrorism, cease attacks on Israel and negotiate a settled, comprehensive peace if they are recognised as a state without being required to do any of these things?” (emphasis added)
The point of this is to add conditions to the creation of a Palestinian state. Whilst not quite overtly stating the new Party line, the point is that the ALP cannot support the creation of a Palestinian state, because it might not lead to the end of attacks on Israel.
If one thought the two peoples equal, one might similarly veto Israel’s existence as a state until the Palestinians could be sure Israel won’t attack them. This is only understandable on the premise that one group of people have rights which trump the rights of the other people.
Bullock will perhaps support the creation of a Palestinian state: implicit in this argument is that right now, he does not. Bullock also made the same boilerplate arguments about how settlements aren’t really the “cause of all the trouble”.
Further right in the Murdoch Press, Andrew Bolt showed his support for Bullock’s op-ed. He posted extracts from it, and headlined his blog “Why does Labor’s Left want to give terrorists a state?” That’s right. Andrew Bolt identified the creation of a Palestinian state as giving “terrorists” a state. This naked bigotry passed unnoticed, as usual for Bolt, because no-one seems to expect any decency from him.
Also on the 24th of July, the Guardian ran an op ed on the subject by Michael Easson, who used to hold a variety of positions in the ALP, and has served https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Easson on various boards of companies.
Easson wrote of his opposition to the proposed ALP policy. And for some reason, it sounded a bit like the editorial of the AJN from the same day:
“The fact is that especially since the collapse of the PLO-Hamas coalition, a unilateral, no pre-conditions, recognition of a Palestinian state without clear borders and Hamas running one part of the country, would see Labor turning a blind eye to the consequences of its actions: Labor would be supporting Hamas.
What is needed is a negotiated settlement. Resolutions “gifting” recognition are a cruel hoax. Nothing changes on the ground.
Preoccupation with this issue in isolation is miscued as the Middle East is a maelstrom of conflict, terrorism, brutality on an industrial scale, including devastation by the Islamic State (Isis), Iran’s genocidal threats and sponsorship of terrorist organisations, human rights abuses by the Assad regime in Syria, and resulting civil, refugee and human tragedies in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon.” (emphasis added)
The party line was announced – give back the West Bank and Gaza, and the Islamist terrorists of Hamas will attack Israel. The AJN and the Guardian loyally reprinted this thesis, with similar talking points. Bullock in the Murdoch press presented a less explicit version of the arguments that Palestinians would have to meet certain conditions before they’d be entitled to their own state. All in articles published on 24 July (though the AJN is released on Thursday the 23rd, but dated Friday the 24th).
To be fair, Fairfax also got in on the general action. Kim Rubenstein wrote an op ed on July 23 accusing Bob Carr of anti-Semitism for referring to the “Israel lobby” repeatedly. Rubenstein doesn’t deny that one exists, but still identifies Carr’s talk as “full of mixed insidious messages”, and claims Carr’s point is “clearly about the alleged ‘influence’, or even ‘control’ of the Jewish community. He has tapped into classical anti-Semitic tropes from the medieval past alleging Jewish conspiracies and dual loyalties.”
No proof is given, and no anti-Semitic remark is cited. It’s just the vibe. Which I suppose is a different form of Stalinism as noted above – the fact-free denunciations Stalinists became so well-known for.
I’d like to conclude by noting a bit of context. In 2013, I spoke at the festival of Jewish learning called Limmud Oz.
Unlike Peter Slezak, who was banned from speaking, I was allowed to speak on a panel, on the condition that the moderator be excluded and replaced by someone they chose, and that Yair Miller be placed on the panel.
Miller was the President of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, and a Vice President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry at the time. In response to my talk, he admitted that Jewish organisations at times of conflict are given talking points by the Israeli government.
This was corroborated by an article in 972 by Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf. Sheizaf obtained a recording of a lecture by Israeli Brigadier-General, Avi Benayahu. Benayahu served as Israeli army spokesperson from 2007-11, and is credited with revolutionising its propaganda.
In 2011, he was elected “Media Man of the Year” by the Israel Public Relations Association.
Sheizaf notes Benayahu’s frank admission about how the Israeli army uses the support of organisations around the world to push its message during wars:
“The most influential front is [being fought]on social media. During Cast Lead I built a tool […] it was called “global distribution.” […] We mapped hundreds of organizations […] Israelis, Jewish and Christian [groups]that love Israel, church organizations, we did all this leg work.
And the system works like this: if I have a message from the IDF Spokesperson, a message that I am also publishing in Israel, and I translate it to English — a photo, video, map, or document, I pass those onward with a single click through “global distribution” […] to hundreds of headquarters on every continent.
[…] I send it to Hillel, and Hillel sends it to every Hillel house in universities all over the world […] viral distribution. That defeats anything. We built this system, it works, the way we distribute our newsletter videos, pictures…
[…] In every war, all the Jewish communities around the world identify with the IDF. They raise money and send us packages. They hold rallies in support of the army. [Now], for the first time in history, they can actually take part in the war from their homes. With the tip of their fingers, they can make an enormous contribution to Israel’s hasbara.”
“Hasbara” is a Hebrew word. It means “explanation”; that is, advocacy for the Israeli government – also known as propaganda.
Stalin, and the Communist Parties at the time, might have been envious of this level of propaganda coordination. In an instant, a Party line can be sent around the world. In fact, it’s gotten so impressive, that in the course of a few days, every major media outlet in Australia can push the same line, and advocate for or against the same policy.
There was a time when Stalinism was controversial, and Stalinists could only publish their intellectually dishonest screeds in marginal communist publications.
Australia is clearly in a different place right now. A rather depressing one.