Jewish Socialist No 79 Editorial

Welcome to the new issue of Jewish Socialist.

Apologies for the long delay since issue 78. We had begun to plan this issue when the world was shaken by the 7th October massacre of civilians by Hamas in southern Israel, that claimed 1,200 lives (though evidence has emerged that a number of them were killed in the Israeli military’s chaotic response).

Israel’s war of retribution on Gaza’s civilians began almost immediately – carpet bombing homes, hospitals and schools, murdering 30,000 people, including thousands of children. Thousands more are missing under the rubble. And many victims of the bombing will struggle to survive from their  wounds and starvation, with medical facilities destroyed.

Since 7th October, we, as editors and activists here in Britain, have been caught up in a 24/7 spiral of organising and protest, challenging misinformation, conspiracy theories and false narratives that are being shared by state actors and activists, while trying to amplify the genuine voices of those who challenge the escalation of violence and war.

We have carried out our work in recent months under great time pressure but from a safe distance. In Gaza more than 100 journalists who braved the bombing to document the war of retribution, have been killed, many in targeted strikes by the Israeli military. The world has witnessed months of death and destruction. The claim that this is all done in “self-defence” is nauseating. But this is not just Israel’s war. Its military forces follow government directives, but the bombs they drop are supplied principally by the USA, Britain and Germany, whose  politicians share complicity with Israel for the outcomes. 

And history did not begin on 7th October. The war against Palestinian aspirations for equality and freedom from occupation has existed for decades. When Israel passed its Nation State law in 2018, it wrote longstanding apartheid practices into its Basic Laws. When openly declared racists and fascists were welcomed into Israel’s cabinet after the November 2022 elections, the oppression of the Palestinians increased in intensity. Settlers in the occupied West Bank have carried out pogroms with impunity. Hundreds of Palestinian civilians there have been killed, many more wounded, arrested and imprisoned, and homes demolished in 2023 – all before the events of 7th October.

To be clear: we stand fully behind the right to resist occupation, oppression and the siege of Gaza. We stand too against the murderous targeting of civilians and the taking of hostages. Our opposition to acts of terror against civilians applies equally whether they are carried out by individuals, resistance movements or state armies. We call for an immediate exchange for hostages with the thousands of Palestinians detained without charge in Israel, and we support the families of hostages who are protesting against Netanyahu’s government and calling for deals to be struck.

It is hard to find chinks of light in this darkness, but since 7th October, the most imaginative, energetic and determined protest movements have emerged across the globe, fighting for justice and for life. Here in Britain the Jewish Socialists’ Group was a co-founder of the Jewish Bloc. This has been formed by several newer and older Jewish groups coalescing to provide a focus for activism that has brought many Jews into protests against Israel’s actions and to question Zionism for the first time in their lives. The living, breathing and loving unity in our bloc is being built through a series of Friday night social and cultural events, with poetry, klezmer and Ladino music, dance, and food!

Israel is at its most powerful militarily and has loyal allies but, paradoxically, there is more questioning among diaspora Jews, not just of Israeli policies, but of the whole philosophy of Zionism than at any time since 1948, and there is open critical discussion within Israel about the state being on a trajectory towards fascism.

Ruth Lukom (p18) describes the breadth and beauty of the Jewish protest movement that has coalesced in Britain and integrated into the broader protests against war and for Palestine. It has counterparts growing in several countries. In Israel, anti-war protests were banned for two months but could not be repressed. Despite brutal policing and harassment from semi-official right wing militias, demonstrations are increasingly breaking out. We print extracts here from Dana Mills’ diary of essays from within Israel’s internal grassroots opposition, which has just been published, (p20). We couple that with a dynamic analysis of of Israel’s government and the role of its fascist elements, by Michael Sappir, an Israeli living in Berlin (p14).

The fallout from the war on Gaza is fuelling anti-Muslim racism and antisemitism, dividing Muslims and Jews, setting communities against each other. It is being used cynically by government and media to attack democratic rights to protest. As Jews we stand against all antisemitism and in solidarity with all groups facing racism and fascism. And we absolutely  defend democratic rights to protest.

Jewish leadership organisations in Britain and some loud, ultra-right wing campaigners, desperate to defend indefensible actions by Israel, have circulated wild claims about the extent of antisemitism, and tried to discredit the mass of people who have taken to the streets for justice for Palestine, for humanity and life, not death and destruction, accusing them of fomenting and engaging in antisemitism. We desperately need an honest and forensic accounting of the problem. Joseph Finlay (p5) has provided just that.

Tensions are high among those who have the greatest stake in the situation, and there are fascist individuals and groups always ready to exploit that. But fascism in the current era is more than opportunism. Fascism in the form of currents promoting a cocktail of ethno-nationalism, authoritarianism, various types of racism and persuasive conspiracy theories is rearing its head in many countries infiltrating and emerging in unlikely venues. Our section from p8 to p15 takes an in-depth look into these worrying trends, drawing on past examples and some surprising present day manifestations. We ignore them at our peril.

Posted: 26 March 2024  |  Published in: Jewish Socialist JS79