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The Internationalist
May 2024

A Weaponized Smear for Witch-Hunting, Police Repression and Thug Attacks

Genocide Defenders Slander
Anti-Zionists as “Antisemitic”

Democratic president Biden and Republican House speaker Johnson whip up bipartisan hysteria labeling pro-Palestinian protests “antisemitic” as they justify genocidal U.S./Israel war on Gaza.  (Photo: Doug Mills / New York Times)

Speaking at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Remembrance Ceremony on May 7 in the U.S. Capitol, President Joe Biden let loose a diatribe of vituperation against the Gaza solidarity encampments that sprang up on campuses across the country this spring. Denouncing a “ferocious surge of antisemitism in America and around the world,” he painted a fictitious portrayal: “On college campuses, Jewish students blocked, harassed, attacked while walking to class. Antisemitism – antisemitic posters, slogans calling for the annihilation of Israel, the world’s only Jewish state.” At the same time, the commander in chief of U.S. imperialism declared that his commitment to “the security of Israel” is “ironclad.” So much for the charade of cutting off bomb supplies over the impending Israeli invasion of Rafah . . . after already delivering thousands of “bunker busters” without which the genocidal slaughter of tens of thousands of Palestinians would not have been possible.

Biden was followed at the podium by Mike Johnson, the hard-right Republican speaker of the House of Representatives who went to Columbia University a couple of weeks earlier to call for sending in the National Guard against the pro-Palestinian protesters camped out on the lawn. Johnson said that “we are witnessing American universities quickly become hostile places for Jewish students and faculty,” accusing student protesters of “repeating the Nazi propaganda” of a “final solution.” Johnson and the Democrats are now in a tactical alliance against a challenge to his speakership by even farther right, fascistic Republicans, after he delivered the quid pro quo, permitting Congressional approval of $95 billion in military and other aid to U.S. imperialism’s flunkies and allies in Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. What we are witnessing here is a cynical, orchestrated, bipartisan hysteria to justify U.S./Israeli genocide by smearing opposition to it as “antisemitic.”  

The purpose of this vile slander is to bring down the hammer of capitalist state repression to silence critics of the mass murder being carried out by the Zionists and the U.S./NATO imperialists. The very next day, a Republican-led House committee summoned the heads of public schools in the liberal bastions of New York City, suburban Washington, D.C. and Berkeley, California to accuse them of being soft on anti-Zionism. The inquisitors asked menacingly if they agreed that the slogan “Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea” is antisemitic, as it was labeled in HR 894, passed by the House last November.1 (They agreed.) Why wasn’t a New York teacher fired for showing a map of the Middle East identifying the country between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea as Palestine, they demanded. (The NYC schools chancellor at least said employees have the right of due process.) Of course, when Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu held up a map at the United Nations labeling the entire area “from the river to the sea” Israel, no one blinked. And now, thanks to Biden, he is carrying out that program with U.S. arms.

Internationalist contingent banners in New York City May Day 2024 march.  (Internationalist photo)

The filthy smear that the protests against the Zionist slaughter are “antisemitic” and a threat to the safety of Jewish students is repeated by Democratic and Republican politicians from Biden and Johnson on down, and regurgitated in the media, from the high-brow imperialist Zionism of the New York Times to the tabloid gutter press and Fox News. The claim that the encampments and/or antiwar protests around them are hotbeds of “Jew hatred,” as the New York Post (25 April) blared on its front page, is a flat-out lie – as numerous Jewish participants and others have pointed out. Not only are many of the pro-Palestinian protesters themselves Jewish, report after report claiming that Jewish students are threatened has turned out to be false.

  • The claim that students encamped at Northeastern University in Boston chanted “Kill the Jews” was used as a pretext for triggering mass arrests of over 100, but a reporter for WGBH (27 April) revealed that it was uttered by a pro-Israel counterdemonstrator mocking the pro-Palestinian protesters.
  • The story of a Jewish Yale student supposedly getting stabbed in the eye with a Palestinian flag, played up by Fox News and repeated by Speaker Johnson at the Holocaust ceremony, was “misleadingly portrayed by the victim” (New York Times, 28 April).
  • A man shouting “The Jews control the world! The Jews are murderers!” across the street from a Gaza war protest at Columbia was not part of the demonstration and was told by a demonstrator to take his antisemitic filth and “go away” (Ibid.).
  • The scene of pro-Palestinian demonstrators banging on a glass wall at Cooper Union last October was a set-up by pro-Israeli demonstrators who earlier taunted them outside and spotted the opportunity for a good visual.

The claim that Jewish students are forced to “hide their kippahs under baseball hats, tuck their Jewish stars into their shirts” on campus as Biden claimed is pure bunk. The purpose of this slander is to outlaw slogans and ban protests defending the Palestinians. That defenders of the Israeli genocide in Gaza feel uncomfortable about protests against the barbaric slaughter they are supporting – as well they might – is another matter.

Moreover, as Republicans are avidly preparing more “antisemitism” hearings modeled on the anti-communist witch hunts of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) of the 1950s and ’60s, the stage is now being set for federal government “investigations” based on such inventions. The same day as Biden and Johnson were denouncing Gaza solidarity encampments in unison at the Capitol, the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education issued a guidance for sending in the feds based on “purely hypothetical” scenarios that are the exact opposite of actual events. Take Example 3, which posits the following:

“At a public university, a school organization announces that it has invited an Israeli filmmaker to screen a video about his observations from Israel. In response, several dozen students and faculty members gather in the main entryway of the building and refuse to allow anyone to get through, including the event organizers who had arrived for setup, explaining that they do not want to give a ‘Jewish filmmaker an opportunity to spread their propaganda’.”

In real life, at Hunter College in New York City, the Film and Media Department and Arabic program scheduled a showing last November of the film Israelism by two Jewish American filmmakers recounting their experiences visiting Israel and coming to realize how it oppresses the Palestinians. This was banned by the administration at the last minute (literally on the day of the showing), and faculty and students, including both Palestinians and Jews, mobilized to demand that the film be shown. The CUNY Internationalist Clubs played a central role in the protest campaign, which resulted in rolling back the ban.2

False claims that Jewish students are being harassed on campus are being used to vilify and repress pro-Palestinian protesters, who are in fact threatened. Left: “Doxxing truck” prowled near Columbia University campus during April 2024 pro-Palestinian protests, with names and photos of those it labeled "Columbia's leading antisemites."
(Photo: Judy Goldstein / Columbia Spectator)

Example 4 in the witch-hunters’ fake scenario list hypothesizes that “During anti-war demonstrations, protest signs list specific Jewish students by name and use epithets that stereotype all Jewish people as racist murderers.” Nothing like this has been reported anywhere. On the contrary, what has happened is that, in response to antiwar demonstrations, “doxxing trucks” have prowled around or parked near schools from Havard to Columbia, Yale, campuses of the City University of New York and elsewhere, displaying names and faces of academics lyingly branded as “Leading Antisemites.” These scenarios eerily recall George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 in which “war is peace,” “freedom is slavery,” and “ignorance is strength.” The Orwellian fantasies of the official “antisemite” hunters portray those protesting genocide in Gaza as persecutors of Jews in the U.S. But in 2024, the repression of anti-Zionists is not hypothetical but very real, with thousands arrested in the last month alone.

The equation of anti-Zionism with antisemitism is a longstanding trope of Israel’s state-sponsored propaganda, or hasbara, which it uses to whitewash its crimes. Seeking to give this official imprimatur, an “International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance” in 2003 cooked up a definition of antisemitism that included characterizing Israel as racist or opposing the existence of the self-proclaimed “Jewish state.” In 2018, the Trump administration adopted this definition in judging civil rights complaints, and it has been used by university administrations to ban pro-Palestinian speakers, as well as by supporters of Israel to defame and blacklist academics like Norman Finkelstein, author of The Holocaust Industry (2000), whose parents were survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Auschwitz and Majdanek concentration camps. Now the IHRA definition is being written into law in the ominous “Antisemitism Awareness Act” (HR 6090) overwhelmingly adopted on May 1, with 133 Democrats joining 187 Republicans to outlaw opposition to the Zionist state built on land stolen from the Palestinian people.

Antisemitic “Friends of Israel”

Far-right Christian nationalists Mike Johnson (speaking) and Virginia Foxx (behind him to left) at Columbia University, April 22. Johnson called to bring in the National Guard to repress Gaza solidarity encampment while Foxx is leading witch-hunt committee in Congress..  (Photo: Bing Guan for The New York Times)

Marxists oppose a religious or ethnic designation of a state, as this is inherently anti-democratic. We are against a self-proclaimed “Jewish state” of Israel as well as the “Islamic republics” of Iran and Pakistan or the Islamic monarchies of the Arabian peninsula, and would-be Christian states such as the fascistic military dictatorships of Marshal Pétain in France and Generalissimo Franco in Spain. The League for the Fourth International calls instead for a binational Arab/Hebrew Palestinian workers state, in a socialist federation of the Middle East. As for liberal supporters of Israel, they should be aware of who some of their allies are. “Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson has proclaimed that America is and was founded as a Christian nation,” as the Associated Press (17 February) noted in a feature article on the spread of Christian nationalism on the U.S. right wing. Johnson denies that there is a constitutional separation of church and state, and is closely associated with an outfit called the Wallbuilders, which talks of the “Godly foundation of our country.”

Standing together with Johnson at his April 22 Columbia appearance inciting violent repression against student protesters was North Carolina representative Virginia Foxx. This far-right Republican chairs the inquisitorial House committee that forced the resignations of the presidents of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania. Now, having wrung an auto da fé confession from Columbia’s president Nemat Shafik, they seek to crucify her as well, even after Shafik called in the NYPD to disperse the encampment and arrest the participants. Foxx, like Johnson, is an evangelical Christian Zionist, who holds that Jews are “God’s chosen people.” But chosen for what? In the milieu of the religious right, the answer is often grotesquely antisemitic. As for Foxx, she is also a promotor of “Christian academies,” the name preferred by the whites-only private schools set up in the South following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling outlawing segregation in public schools.

The most prominent Christian Zionist is Protestant fundamentalist televangelist pastor and head of Christians United for Israel John Hagee, who spoke at the 14 November 2023 “March for Israel” on the National Mall. Hagee is a raving antisemite, claiming that the Rothschild family runs the world’s banks, blaming the Holocaust on “half-breed Jews,” etc. Hagee delivered the benediction at the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem along with another Christian Zionist antisemite, Pastor Robert Jeffries. Hagee and Jeffries, like many of this variety of evangelical bigots, believe that an apocalyptic end-times war in the Middle East will result in the Second Coming of Christ and the Rapture, in which true Christians will rise to heaven while Jews and Muslims will either convert, or burn in hell for eternity.

Marxist anti-Zionists (right) combat the real antisemites, including including Christian Zionist defenders of Israeli genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.  (Internationalist photo)

As Johnson and Foxx get ready for a second coming of Donald Trump, another of this set of “friends of Israel” is Steve Bannon, the former Trump White House advisor bounced after praising the August 2017 Charlottesville, Virginia “Unite the Right” fascist rally where marchers with torches chanted “Jews will not replace us” and anti-racist demonstrator Heather Heyer was run over and killed by a Nazi. So while slandering the pro-Palestinian protests and encampments as “antisemitic,” the Zionists are in fact making common cause with antisemitic white supremacists, fascistic elements and outright fascists. But why would this be surprising, as Israeli prime minister Netanyahu’s cabinet has two fascist ministers, Itamar Ben-Gvir of Jewish Power and Bezalel Smotrich of the Religious Zionism party, both followers of the Jewish supremacist anti-Arab fascist Meir Kahane.

And then there is the star of the congressional star chamber inquisition against the presidents of Columbia, Harvard and MIT, Representative Elise Stefanik from upstate New York, who, seeking to become Trump’s running mate, styles herself an “ultra-MAGA” Republican. (Stefanik’s performance was hailed by New York’s Democratic governor, Kathy Hochul, who has launched witch hunts against CUNY and the State University of New York system.) While smearing protests against the Gaza genocide as antisemitic as a pretext for escalating censorship and police-state measures, this cynical operator is notorious for echoing the antisemitic, anti-immigrant “great replacement” conspiracy theory in her campaign ads (“The Invention of Elise Stefanik,” New York Times, 31 December 2022).

Meanwhile, real antisemitism is indeed growing, or at least being more openly expressed. The witch hunters and other backers of the U.S./Israel war on Gaza are helping fuel it, by equating Zionism with Jewish people, and Jews with the crimes of the Israeli state – the official ideology of which is Zionism, based on oppression of the Palestinian people. The Internet is awash with conspiracy theories about Khazarian Jews, (falsely) portrayed as ancestors of the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe, along with the usual themes of “cabals” of Jewish bankers, etc. But this is not coming from the Gaza solidarity encampments, which have been vigilant to squelch such filth. In the U.S., actual antisemites are to be found largely among Trumpian ultra-rightists, and are often explicit supporters of Zionism. They would like to get rid of Jews  and have them all go to Israel. This seemingly odd alliance is, again, nothing new. The “Revisionist” wing of Zionism founded by Ze’ev Jabotinsky was inspired by Italian fascism and with Mussolini’s support founded a military school for his Betar youth movement, closely allied with the genocidal Irgun terrorists. And both Revisionists and “Labor” Zionists led by David Ben Gurion made deals with the Nazis to spirit some Jewish notables to Palestine.3

The slogan “Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea” is in itself not antisemitic, but rather an expression of desire for a Palestinian state in historic Palestine, whose land has been stolen by the Zionists to erect what they claim to be a “Jewish state.” The only basis for claiming that a state of Palestine would be necessarily oppressive to Jews is if one assumes, as the Zionists do, that Palestinians would treat Jews in the brutal, oppressive and murderous way that Israel has treated Palestinians. And by denying the Palestinians’ right to national self-determination, pushing them off their lands and now killing over 42,000 of Gaza’s residents the Zionists are fueling a desire for revenge for three-quarters of a century of brutal Zionist repression that Islamist groups like Hamas feed off. That the present genocidal war on Gaza will increase antisemitism among some of the victims is yet another crime of the Israeli state and its imperialist backers.

Your tax dollars at work. Residents return to devastated Khan Younis in southern Gaza after Israeli troops pull out, April 8. Every heavy bomb used in this genocide, and every warplane from which they were dropped, were supplied by the United States.  (Photo: Atia Mohammed / Flash90)

Interpenetrated Peoples: Common Struggle for Socialist Revolution

There is no right of national self-determination for a “Jewish state.” Jews are not a nation but a religious and, to a degree, ethnic category, of several different ethnicities. Historically they were a people that had a distinct economic function as a merchant class under the pre-capitalist Ottoman and Russian empires – what Jewish Trotskyist Abram Leon termed a “people-class.” (The author of the classic The Jewish Question: a Marxist Interpretation, Leon died in Auschwitz at the age of 25.) That specificity dissipated under capitalism and Jewish people became integrated, sometimes as an oppressed minority, or expelled from the various nations where they reside. Israel is not the state of Jewish Americans. A nation is not a nebulous “imagined community,” as some liberal academics assert, which would mean that just about any group could imagine itself to be a nation and claim the right to national self-determination. For Leninists, and in reality, nations are historically constituted peoples having a common predominant language, common territory, a common economy and common culture.

At the same time, due to a confluence of historic crimes (the Nazi Holocaust that slaughtered six million Jews, followed by the Zionist Nakba, that drove hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and their homeland), a specifically Hebrew-speaking nation has been consolidated in Israel. That nation, like all nations, does have the democratic right of self-determination, even though it like many other countries is an oppressor nation. It is the oppressor of the Palestinian nation, which also has the right of national self-determination while dispersed in Israel, the Occupied Territories, Gaza and the refugee camps in neighboring countries, which includes the Palestinians’ right to return to their historic homeland and homes. So you have two nations, one oppressor, the other oppressed, living on the same narrow strip of land in the eastern littoral of the Mediterranean, both with the right to exist, that is, of national self-determination. This situation of interpenetrated peoples thus presents a conundrum.4 Seeking to ignore or deny this basic fact can only help the Zionist rulers further cement “national unity” of the Hebrew-speaking workers with the nuclear-armed Israeli state.

Under capitalism, there will always be competition for scarce resources (like water in this parched desert region), in which the stronger state power will prevail. Just look at how Israel has since its birth stolen water from the Jordan River. Thus calls for a “two-state” solution are in fact a recipe for continued subjugation and oppression of the Palestinian Arab population whose pseudo-state would necessarily be at the mercy of the vastly more powerful Israeli state. A “democratic secular Palestine” under capitalism is a liberal fantasy that will not come to pass.  The only way those competing national rights can be realized in a just and equitable manner is through a revolution, under workers rule, establishing a collectivized economy, replacing the inherently anti-democratic, Jewish-supremacist Zionist state of Israel with an Arab/Hebrew Palestinian workers state. And that state can only be the product a common Arab/Hebrew workers revolution, in conjunction with revolutionary struggles in the neighboring Arab, Turkish, Iranian and Kurdish lands leading to a socialist federation of the Middle East.

The creation of Israel was due to the crimes of the imperialists, who (with the connivance of the Zionists) refused entry to Jewish refugees during and after the Holocaust and pushed large numbers of them into Palestine. There, the supposed “Jewish state” relegated the Palestinian Arabs to a second-class citizenship in Israel proper, and then subjugated them militarily and deprived them of any democratic rights at all in the Occupied Territories. While conditions in the occupied West Bank bear some resemblance to the “bantustans” of apartheid South Africa, to depict Israel itself as an apartheid state is altogether too generous, and misleading. Those who take this description seriously argue that Zionist rule could be overcome just as apartheid rule was in South Africa, by a political overturn. That ignores the fact that the denial of political rights to the African peoples under the apartheid system in South Africa was designed to perpetuate the superexploitation of black labor. That superexploitation continues today under black capitalist rule in neoapartheid South Africa.

“Labor” Zionist David Ben Gurion and “revisionist”
Zionist Ze’ev Jabotinsky collaborated with Hitler
and Mussolini to bring prominent Jews to Palestine.

The goal of Zionism is fundamentally different. While the Israeli state is dependent on Arab labor in several sectors, the Zionists’ founding and present-day goal is not to superexploit Palestinians – their aim has always been to expel the indigenous population (euphemistically termed “transfer”) or destroy them. As Jabotinsky wrote, “There can be no voluntary agreement between ourselves and the Palestine Arabs. Not now, nor in the prospective future” (The Iron Wall [1923]). And Ben Gurion concurred: “We must expel Arabs and take their place” (letter to his son Amos [1937]). The logic of Zionism is not apartheid but “ethnic cleansing” by forced population transfer leading to what we are now seeing before our eyes: genocide. And as revolutionary Trotskyists proclaim our “ironclad” defense of the oppressed Palestinian people, we declare that Zionist oppression cannot be overcome by Palestinian nationalism, whether of secular or Islamist variants, but only through the joint revolutionary struggle of the working people of the entire Middle East and North Africa.

 Above all, as the present horrendous war underlines, the road to a just and equitable solution for all the myriad peoples of this region, a fabled “crossroads of civilizations,” requires the overthrow of the rapacious imperialist exploiters and militarists who have laid waste to Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria and have now supplied the weaponry to turn all of Gaza to rubble. This perspective of international socialist revolution underlines the centrality of the struggle to mobilize workers’ power, in the U.S., Europe and throughout the world, to defend the besieged and imprisoned Palestinian people and defeat this obscene and barbaric, genocidal U.S./Israel war. ■

  1. 1. By a vote of 311 to 14, with 95 Democrats (a plurality) voting in favor.
  2. 2. See “McCarthyite Film Ban at Hunter College Struck Down By Student/Faculty Protest,” on our blog Revolutionaries in the Class Struggle (https://igclassstruggle.blogspot.com/).
  3. 3. A documented account of this sordid history, as well as of the common struggles of Jewish and Arab workers in Palestine prior to the founding of Israel, can be found in the dossier headlined “Defend the Palerstinian People!” of articles in The Internationalist No. 9, January-February 2001.
  4. 4. For a discussion of the situation of the interpenetrated Palestinian Arab and Hebrew-speaking peoples in Israel-Palestine, see the articles in Workers Vanguard when it was the voice of revolutionary Trotskyism, particularly “The Birth of the Zionist State, Part 1” (WV No. 33, 23 November 1973), and “Part 2” (WV No. 45, 24 May 1974), as well as “Israeli Trotskyists Call for Hebrew/Arab Workers Revolution,” WV No. 47, 21 June 1974.