New Alliances of Hate?

Lasse Wilhelmson speaks to Stockholm rally

On September 20, 2009, in Stockholm, on Al Quds Day, a new political constellation went public in Sweden. Muhamed Omar, who came out as a radical Islamist during the last war on the Gaza Strip, had created a new alliance whose declared intention was to fight Zionism.

Present was Lasse Wilhelmson, whose background is on the left, and Ahmed Rahmi, the notorious anti-Semite behind Radio Islam. This anti-Zionist alliance was not only against Israel, but also sought to counter Jewish influence in Sweden.

“In the near future, we will probably build a party, not an Islamist party, but an anti-Zionist party,” Omar said to Swedish broadcasting. “We will not focus on Muslim issues but only on Zionism, so that we can have the broadest possible appeal.” Omar was not afraid of attracting Swedish Nazis; “Everyone who shares our slogans are welcome,” he said.

In trying to break down the barriers between Left and Right, Muhamed Omar is inspired by the exploits of the notorious French comedian Dieudonné. Dieudonné, whose background is in the antiracist left, has now become something of an icon for a new type of anti-Semitism. His anti-Zionism blames most ills of this world on Israeli aggression and Jewish influence, indeed to Zionism as a belief system. His Liste Antisioniste has to some extent succeeded in bridging the gulf – or blurring the distinction – between Left and Right. Dieudonné’s followers include a motley crew of holocaust-deniers, right-wing extremists, Islamists, and disgruntled Marxists.

It may be fair to argue that not all forms of anti-Zionism are anti-Semitic, but as a rule, critics of Zionism use the familiar anti-Semitic techniques of double standards, delegitimization, and demonization. Being an anti-statist and an internationalist, I am certainly not comfortable supporting any nation-state. But I find it troubling – utterly despicable, to be honest – to call for the destruction of only the Jewish state, and to identify only Zionism as racist and exclusionary. Singling out only one form of nationalism or national identity is not anti-nationalism; it is prejudice and hate.

Dieudonné and his ilk are exponents for a new variety of “antiracist” anti-Semitism. If they hate the Jews, it is because Jews or Zionists today, allegedly, are the new Nazis, promoting racism and apartheid (even genocide and a new Holocaust!). Such views and this line of reasoning have gained a foothold far into the radical left. Interestingly, this Liste Antisioniste provided links between Islamists and LePen’s Front National. Dieudonné explains why he mingles with LePen: “He is the true Right, I am the true Left, the New Empire does not like either one of us.”

In the last European elections Dieudonné’s Liste Antisioniste gained some 1.3 percent of the votes in the Paris region. This, according to Maria Poumier, was a clear victory for them: “We had a very good result. This means that there are 37,000 convinced anti-Zionists in Paris! They share our values and ideas.”

Am I afraid that these new alliances immediately will attract the contemporary Left into the arms of the Right? No. My real worry is that what is usually called the Left today has no intellectual “lines of defense” against such alliances and their demands. Ever since the impact of the Six Days’ War coincided with Cold War Bloc politics and the anti-imperialism of the New Left, discussions of Israel and Zionism have gradually washed away the boundaries between legitimate criticisms, real political conflicts, and irrational national hatred. The United States and Israel have come to be seen as the prime symbols of capitalism and the West; all opposition against this “New Empire” is deemed legitimate. Contemporary leftists, it seems to me, have lost their ethical standards. As they fall ever further into disarray and discredit, new movements will reap what socialists and anarchists for decades have sown with their upgraded “anti-imperialism of fools.”

Recently, in demonstrations against Israel, we have increasingly seen crude hate messages dominate the streets. Anti-Zionism and calls for the “death of Israel” have become the magical, unifying rallying cries of both the Left and Right. Calls for a “global intifada” unites seemingly progressive anarchists and socialists with reactionaries and outright fascists. We are witnessing a resuscitated hatred that should have been buried in 1945: These ominous demonstrations against Zionism have been massive and increasingly violent.

Anti-Semitism and racism—indeed all forms of hate politics—must be fought vigorously, including present-day anti-Zionism. A humanist Left must stand up to bar the influence of such ideas and movements, and take this fight to the streets if need be.


Editorial Comment

Published in Communalism #1 (December 2009).