Amongst the many photographs I’ve seen of posters and banners at demonstrations in the last few days – featuring Jews as dogs, Jews as Nazis, jokes about the Holocaust and so on – the one which has really stuck in my mind is of a young woman whose placard identifies her as a “Queer Jew”.
There is no reason why a Queer Jew should not be against a war that has killed many Palestinians: supporters and opponents of Hamas alike. Indeed, there is no reason why a Queer Jew should not be in favour of solidarity with ordinary Palestinians. Indeed, to refuse to support Palestinians because Hamas claims their leadership is, perversely, to accept the fascist terrorist group’s right to speak as the voice of all (Muslim) Palestinian people.
Solidarity with Palestinians is one thing. Solidarity with Hamas is quite another.
Queer Jews, and indeed genuine socialists and liberals, should certainly ask themselves whether they want to march on a demonstration co-organised with Hamas, at which solidarity – not with Palestinians, generally – but specifically with Hamas is openly proclaimed. Or where “Jews to the Gas” is chanted.
But how about this.
Howard/Laura Miles is a UCU activist, who identifies as a woman, and as SWP Member who is “immensely proud” of her party’s work. Well, somebody has to be, I suppose. She has been commenting at length on the UCU List.
And she supports Hamas.
One commentator asks:
I appreciate that you can show solidarity with, and support for, the Palestinian people. I also appreciate that you can condemn Israel for their actions. I share both these positions with you. What I cannot understand is how you can support HAMAS, given their activities and beliefs. I fear what they would do, not only to Israeli citizens but to women and sexually-deviant minorities everywhere, if they had comparable power. Would you really like to live in an Islamic Caliphate? Do you think Palestinians want to?
Laura’s response is interesting, and worth discussing further. Here it is:
As I said, I hold no political brief for Hamas. As a marxist, atheist, transsexual I suspect that life in a Hamas state would be a tad uncomfortable for me. But marching against Israeli barbarity is not the same as marching for Hamas. And to say that in a fight between Hamas and the Palestinians on one side, and Israel and the West on the other, I stand with Hamas and the Palestinians is similarly not, for instance, to endorse the Hamas covenant (something which others have raised on this list), which as we know does endorse the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and blame Jews for the world wars, the French and Russian revolutions, and so on.
That makes them wrong about a world Jewish conspiracy, something which those who drafted the covenant should have known better about and should eschew, but it doesn’t make their movement fascistic, despite being socially conservative or reactionary on some issues.
However, in fairness, that is one (completely misconceived) section of the covenant. The tone of the covenant overall is one of a call to struggle (jihad) against the oppressor, the duty of muslims to support one another and the community and to resist oppression by all means necessary, including of course force of arms, all tied together with justifications in terms of Islamic holy writings. The jihad is conceived very broadly (it is not just about taking up arms) and is about the broadest solidarity against the oppressor, and something to which all members of the community can contribute in whatever ways they are able.
It clearly represents ‘the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world’ as Marx put it in his famous and very moving explanation about the attractions of religion. It is difficult to conceive of such a covenant having the current force it has among the Palestinians without taking into consideration the decades of western imperialist manouvering, ethnic cleansing, terror, exile, military defeat, poverty, the failure of the secular resistance (the PLO and Fatah) and the failures of the (Stalinist) Left in the region, and the treachery and cowardice of the Arab ruling classes in surrounding countries. Not surprising that the people in their desperation look towards those who embody the anger and willingness to resist, and can provide solidarity and material support to a people in such dire straits.
For me it is similar to the situation with Irish republicanism. As a socialist I never shared the nationalism or social conservatism of the IRA but I supported their right to resist the oppression meted out by the British state and their right to fight for a united independent Ireland, ie their right to self-determination. Not to have supported their right would have put one in the camp of tacit support for the imperialist power, exactly the analogous situation with Israel and Hamas, I would argue.
I have a number of responses to this piece. The first is that Laura Miles is a fucking idiot.
Actually, that’s my second and third response as well. This letter falls into the same category as “Seals Marching in Solidarity With Clubs” and “Turkeys Voting For An Early Christmas”. However, if truth be told, there have always been people who endorse a political movement that is determined to attack and oppress them. For example, although the Monday Club supported the “repatriation” of Asians, it had an Asian man as Chairman of its Students’ wing.
In a sense, there’s something admirable about people like Laura, who are prepared to sacrifice themselves, nobly, for a greater cause. Then, in another sense, she’s still a fucking idiot.
First of all, it may be a “tad uncomfortable” for Laura to have to declare herself a Hamas supporter. But it is more than a “tad uncomfortable” to be a gay person living in a repressive Islamist state. And, as Laura now thinks of herself as a woman, a woman. Or a union activist. Ditto, a non-Muslim, and particularly a Jew.
But, of course, Laura doesn’t live in a repressive Islamist state. Neither does she have to defend herself against such a state, or indeed those who are working to create such a state, and who paint “Kill Jews” on the walls of her neighbourhood. She lives in a liberal democratic state, where others put themselves directly in the firing line against fascists, and keep her safe, to identify as a woman, and a SWP member, and a trade union activist.
In short, she’s a freeloader. And a fucking idiot.
Secondly, there’s a level of self delusion about Laura’s conception of the nature of authoritarian theocratic movements like Hamas. As far as she’s concerned, banding together under a constitutional document that insists, repeatedly, that God wants you to kill all the Jews, because they’re responsible for spreading moral poison all over the world, is merely the “sigh of the oppressed”. She actually appears to find something noble and admirable in Hamas’ conception of Jihad.
If anything, this reminds me slightly of Morrissey’s fascination with racist skinhead yobs. I’m sorry, but it does. Morrissey very clearly eschews the politics of the far right: it is the iconography that attracts him. And, similarly, Laura is excited by the thought of resistance. In that context, all other concerns fall away. Genocidal racism is merely something that Hamas and its supporters “should have known better about”, is no more than a ‘misconception’.
But, in fact, Laura does Hamas a great disservice. Hamas certainly relies for its support on a jihad “for Islam” and against Israel: which is why they are so determined to ensure that the jihad continues as long as possible. However, they are part of a far wider Islamist movement, with its roots in the struggle between nationalism, socialism, modernity, and theocracy. Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood is a creature of Egyptian religious politics, not of Palestinian resistance. It is a relatively recent import into Palestinian society; albeit a successful one. It is not a product of resistance: it is parasitic upon oppression. Because its goals are not ‘Justice for Palestinians’ but the creation of a Caliphate, it does not offer any sort of solution to Palestinian disposession; other than a gamble that is predicated upon provoking first, the Israeli war machine, and secondly, the religious conscience of Muslims who are not directly involved with or affected by the plight of the Palestinians.
That Laura Miles gets this wrong is no surprise. This has been the Socialist Workers’ Party’s line for quite some time, after all. They didn’t change it when the clerical fascist party, Jamaat-e-Islami utterly routed them from RESPECT, ending the political careers of Rees and German, the chief architects of that alliance. So why should they now?
What Laura Miles’ post illustrates is quite how weak and irrelevant the far Left has become, on issues like these. They may have a view, but they have absolutely no real influence on the fight. After the Gaza takeover, Arab secularists, nationalists and socialists were oppressed. There’s no open LGBT movement in Gaza for her to stand with. Trade unions have been raided and closed down there. The SWP’s only function, really, is to provide the platform from which Hamas activists and supporters can chant theocratic slogans, and then to post defences of this scum “as a transgendered woman”.
Gaza has become, in effect, a spectator sport for those on the far Left. They stand on the sidelines, cheering their side. Whatever the outcome, it makes no difference to them. This is entertainment, for struggle-junkies.
Transgendered people, trade unionists, socialists, liberals, or Queer Jews living comfortably in well defended liberal democracies will never have to live with the consequences of Islamists in power.