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Richard Seymour on the Israeli “conceit”

As he does every time Israel dares to defend itself militarily, Richard Seymour– the budding Marxist intellectual of the Socialist Workers Party– has gone into full Israel-hating mode at Lenin’s Tomb.

It’s mostly the usual boilerplate about Israel being the big, bad colonialist bully of the Middle East, positively glorying in the chance to kill and terrorize Palestinians. But this passage in his latest post, Israeli psychopath, caught my attention:

Israeli state ideology is predicated on the conceit that it is the organised self-defence of a Jewish people who are permanently at risk of antisemitic reflux. In a world of nation-states, the best self-defence is to ‘normalise’ one’s relations to others by achieving statehood, as opposed to remaining a dispersed minority within other states.

Well, yes. There is much more to Zionism than that. But (ignoring the sneer behind the word “conceit”) that’s a large part of it.

After all the Jewish people were “a dispersed minority within other states” for about two thousand years. And that didn’t always work out so well for us– especially from 1933 to 1945, but also before and after that period.

But let’s have it your way for a moment, Comrade Seymour. If it is proper for Jews to remain a dispersed minority in other states, regardless of the dangers, then surely it was proper to fight a war against the nation that tried to exterminate them while they were a dispersed minority in Europe.

Not according to the SWP’s founder and longtime leader Tony Cliff. Cliff (born Yigael Gluckstein) was born to a Zionist family in Palestine and lived there until 1946. In 1940 Gluckstein was imprisoned by the British authorities for his antiwar activities, based on his belief that their was no choosing sides in a war between “rival imperialisms.”

As Colin Shindler writes in his book “Israel and the European Left” (page 166):

By October 1940, he was a leading light in the Jerusalem branch of Brit Spartakus which attempted to persuade Hebrew University students to oppose all attempts at mobilization and enlistment. ln the pages of its journal, Dapei Spartakus, reports of student opposition to the war were quoted. In Britain, the actions of students at Cambridge who opposed Churchill were approvingly quoted as were the publications of the pro-Soviet Labour MP and admirer of Stalin, D. N. Pritt… Social Democrats were reviled for their participation in the war — an echo of their betrayal of the working class in World War I. Brit Spartakus argued for ‘an end to the imperialist war and for a peoples’ peace’.

So Tony Cliff (who survived the war thanks to the desire of his Zionist parents not to be part of a dispersed minority in Europe) was objectively prepared to countenance the triumph of Nazi Germany, and the resulting extermination of all the world’s Jews, rather than support an “imperialist” war against it.

And it is possible to draw a straight line from Cliff’s position on the “imperialist” war against Hitler to Seymour’s opposition to the use of Western military force ever, for any reason, as expressed in mind-numbing prose in his book “The Liberal Defense of Murder.”