Capitalism is no conspiracy and the Hamas is not the rebel alliance

Against Antisemitism within the activist scene
Flyer at the Anti-G8 Protests in Heiligendamm, Germany 2007

You consider yourself an activist, a radical, maybe an anarchist. In any case you are someone who is an outspoken critic of capitalism and who wants to end oppression and injustice as the left all over the world wants to.

At the same time, all over the world, Antisemitism is on the rise again. It takes many forms, some of which are violent such as verbal and physical attacks, while others are more subtle.

Antisemitism has a long and gruesome history: Since the middle ages, Christianity supported pogroms against Jews. Later, the natural sciences came up with the idea of an inferior Jewish „race“, and generally speaking Jews often got blamed for all evil in the world. The climax were the gas chambers of Auschwitz and other concentration camps where six million Jews were murdered.

The activist movement, however, seems to ignore this history and the fact that Jews still are not secure. Rather than acknowledging Antisemitism as another means of oppression that needs to be fought – such as racism or sexism – quite a few of its members actively take part in pushing antisemitic attitudes.

For the most part, these become visible in the form of hatred towards Israel even if of course not every critique of Israel equals Antisemitism. The creation of the State of Israel was a direct outcome of the Holocaust. It is a much-needed refuge for Jewish people to defend themselves effectively against antisemitic attacks. While it should still be on top of the agenda to criticize nation states, calling for Israel´s destruction through claims like “Palestine shall be free, from the river to the sea” means calling for the potential death of its five million Jewish inhabitants.

Ever noticed how Israel is constantly on the agenda while hardly anyone comments on the things going on in areas such as Darfur, Iran, Kashmir, Burma or the Western Sahara? Singling out and demonising Israel while ignoring far worse actions by other countries is what we would call antisemitic.

Likening Israel to Nazi Germany (such as displaying placards with the Star of David twisted into Nazi swastikas), or to traditional anti-Jewish stereotypical behaviour (Israel as a “bloodthirsty and power-hungry” state) is another sign of Antisemitism, as it turns the victims of the Holocaust into alleged persecutors.

Whenever people fight for emancipation, we need to look whom we show our solidarity with: The Hamas, for example, clearly states the wish to destroy the state of the Holocaust survivors. In their charta “the Jews” are blamed for almost everything: “They stood behind World War I…, they also stood behind World War II…, they inspired the United Nations and the Security Council … in order to rule the world. … There was no war that broke out anywhere without their fingerprints on it.”

A blind solidarity with the Palestinian struggle tends to ignore these and other reactionary elements in Palestinian society. Blowing up people by strapping dynamite around your waist is not a revolutionary act of liberation. To explain it with the Israeli occupation ignores ideological elements such as the widespread Antisemitism in Palestinian society: After all, hardly anywhere else oppressed people blow up innocent humans on the basis of their “ethnicity”. Of course, the suffering of people living in Palestine needs to be acknowledged and solutions for the conflict need to be found; but we need to carefully choose who we work with.

Antisemitism, however, is not simply about hating Jews and denying them the right to a secure State. Antisemitic ideology works more subtly: It is usually embedded in a particular world view that “explains” the evils of modern capitalist society. It emerged throughout Europe in the course of the 19th century as a reaction to the rapid spread of capitalist society and the social upheavals this triggered. Capitalism in the antisemitic world view is not seen as a process which unfolds of its own accord in the absence of a particular subject, but rather as an exploitative project consciously put into effect by evil people, like “the ruling class”. The antisemitic world view thus consists of personification and draws upon the picture of the “Jewish capitalist” that is deeply embedded in Western culture, which for centuries associated Jews with money. It can be displayed in talk of “the rulers” or “the capitalists” who “pull the strings”, “dominate the world” and just can’t get enough with their “greed”.

Consequent Anticapitalism might also prevent antisemitic resentments: Capitalism is not a conspiracy of a few – neither Jews, nor the G8 or other “leaders”. It has not become as horrible as it is because of a few capitalists’ intentional plans or because of the interest rates and flow of finance capital. The inherent logic that makes Capitalism work is that of a system that is not oriented towards people’s needs, but towards the realization of capital – it is a game that even capitalists have to play. If we really want to attack the roots of capitalist society we need to understand this mode of production that commodifies every aspect of our lives under the merciless rule of value.

If the activist scene starts to question a black-and-white world view that contrasts good “people” with evil finance “capital” it may come to realize that – as is the case with the Middle East conflict – there is no simple dichotomy of oppressor vs. the oppressed in the struggle for liberation and emancipation. We need to come up with new ways and not fight the players but the whole fucking game.