Remembrance and Responsibility

In the history of modern Europe, Jews, Muslims, Roma, peasants, the poor, women, people with disabilities, traditional healers and midwives, heretics, "mad" people, sex, gender and religious non-conformists – and many other "others"- have been targets of demarcation, separation, concentration, torture, and other forms of systemic violence, not stopping at genocidal extermination. These practices have underpinned the growth of Western power and the modern Global Market.  From 1492, this history has been intertwined with and extended through the massive violence ofgenocides, making way for the Atlantic slave trade and the exploitation that built European empires in the Americas. 

Genocide – defined as the systematic decimation of a national, religious, racial, political orethnic group – has decimated individual lives, families, and communities, and therefore also history, language and culture. The weapons and technology of systematic collective violence modernizes, but the decimation of people andways of living remains constant. Sometimes the time frames are short, at other times they are extended. Some are carefully calculated, others are "collateral damage" incurred as aresult of the barbaric acquisition of resources and political power.  They all result in dehumanization, subjugation, objectification, and ultimately they threaten the existence ofpeoples, cultures and ways of living.

The stated intention of defining, codifying and condemning the act of genocideafter WWII was to prevent its recurrence. In practice, acts of genocide are more likely to be condemned when it serves western interests. Conversely, actsof genocide that would expose western interests and dominance tend to be disguised, silenced and ignored. The use and misuse of genocide in Darfur by Zionist institutions and the west, particularly the United States, is one contemporary example.  The histor yin which it is rooted – and therefore western colonial complicity – is whited out, while the presentation of the current atrocities is used to instigate further violence against people of Islamic faith in other parts of theworld.  In this way, the suffering of genocidal violence becomes a political tool to promote more of the same elsewhere.

Europe’s political and cultural elite have never come clean on its genocidal colonial history which enabled Nazism; rather, the Nazi memory is used to justify their profitable de facto support for the ongoing colonization and ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Zionism, a reactionary response to European antisemitism, has become a cornerstone for extending western "post-colonial" domination. Through Zionist state building, Jews have been recognized as Western in return for their contribution to the maintenance of Western domination globally by assuming the power of the European colonial nation-state. The state of Israel has been integrated into "western leadership" and, in addition to serving its own specific interests, serves more broadly as a western outpost of political, military, and nuclear power in the East.

Because Israel is integral to the ‘leadership’ of the West, it helps determine with what savagery all of us are governed, and extends and enhances US military and political power.  Thus what Israel has done in Palestine is not something ‘over there’.  Palestinian blood is on the hands of all the ‘democratic’ western governments.  They have handed a goodly sum of Western tax dollars for Israel to make war from Lebanon to Gaza; we have paid for nuclear, chemical and other weapons, for building and rebuilding infrastructure Israel destroys, for a global network of spies and militia training, and for the racist propaganda and brutality of Islamophobia.  This reinforces and strengthens the racism and exploitation experienced by immigrant working class communities of color living and working in western countries. We will not allow this brutality and imperialism to present itself as a struggle agains tantisemitism. Therefore, the struggle for the liberation of Palestine is integral to the liberation of all persecuted communities, since it is a victory against racism, xenophobia and war. Conversely, each victory against racism, exploitation and war anywhere is a victory for Palestine.

The incorporation of European Jews as white, and the exclusion of Muslims, Roma and all immigrants of color, and the reconstitution of Christian Europe as"Judeo-Christian," rather than transforming the history of the Nazi genocide, creates a new racist divide in which African, Arab and Asian people, and especially Muslims, are targets of racism/Islamophobia.  Jews must then choose between the US/European empire building and state power that we are invited into, and the transformation of those relations of power that perpetuate every violence. This is truer of Jews of European decent, but is also true for Jews of African, West Asian and Arab descent in relationship to Palestine/Zionism. Our collective protection depends on solidarity with each other, and not exploiting some for the benefit of others.

It is time to spell out loud and clear that, while Jews in Europe sought refuge from racist violence, the Israeli state manipulated this tragedy by using it as a vehicle to gain State power for itself. Since its creation in 1948, the State of Israel has misrepresented itself as a haven for Jews escaping oppression.  Zionism, an example of late nineteenth century European notions of ethnic nationalism, remained a minority movement among Jews in Europe, even as the early Zionist colonizers laid the foundations for what would be called a "Jewish state" on Palestinian land.  The Zionist idea of a Jewish state gained momentum with the rise of Nazism in Germany, and it gained imperial support as the British Empire lost its ability to maintain its Mandate in Palestine. Following World War II and the grief and fury of Jewish people worldwide, the establishment of the state of Israel in historic Palestine was billed as a permanent "solution" to the problem of antisemitism – as all ambitious separatists do, it reduced all social problems to this one problem; the truth of anti-Semitism hide the greater truth of how many of us are under attack, how many are struggling to assert our humanity, how liberation from every form of exploitation and oppression is an international rather than a Jewish problem only.

The tragic scope of the Nazi genocide was viewed as justification of pre-war Zionist claims that anti-Jewish hatred was inevitable as long as Jews existed as a minority group within other nations. In the years following the creation of the state, Israel launched projects of nation building that attempted the erasure of the diversity among Jews from many lands, and established its audacious lying practice of speaking on behalf of Jews worldwide. The Israeli presumption to speak for all Jews was hotly contested in the 1950s, in particular by Jews in the United States. But as Israel increasingly connected Jewish identity with Western military power, Jews generally had come to identify with the state of Israel and did not challenge its claim to represent global Jewish interests.

From its beginning, Israeli statehood has presumed the link with the Nazi genocide ("The Holocaust"). However, by now, a large body of scholarly literature has shown that in the pre-WW II years, Zionist leaders in Palestine dispassionately viewed the persecution of Jews in Europe as an opportunity to promote their political goals. Many Zionist leaders capitalized on, but did not oppose, the persecution of Jews in order to bolster their case for a Jewish state. Within months of the Nazi takeover in January 1933, Zionist leaders began negotiating with Nazi officials for the emigration of "only the best" of German Jews toPalestine. With the onset of war in 1939, other Zionists initiated contacts with fascis
t leaders in Italy, in order to coordinate plans against their common British enemy. Even during genocidal assaults on Jewish communities, Zionist leaders sought to cooperate with Nazi officials, and showed themselves willing to sacrifice "ordinary" European Jews in order to secure the release of prominent Jewish Zionists.

Zionist leaders were highly selective about which Jews were welcome in the future state. Guided by an antisemitic belief that landless life in the Jewish Diaspora led to physical, moral, and spiritual decline, and that the genocide was made possible by Jewish weakness, Zionist officials expressed shame about Jews fleeing to Palestine as refugees, and consistently favored Jews who chose to come to Palestine out of an ideological commitment to build a new state. Historical records abound with statements by leading Zionists who expressed concern that refugees who suffered from an "exile mentality," whom they considered "scum," would "poison" Zionism (Tom Segev, TheSeventh Million). Even in the late 1950s, when the full extent of the attacks on Jews was known, Golda Meir (then Israeli foreign minister) questioned whether Polish officials should be told not to send sick or disabled Jewish survivors to Israel, since they would be a drain on resources. Such statements about the unworthiness ofEuropean Jewry echo the Nazi concept of Lebensunwertes Leben ("Life unworthy of life"), the eugenics-inspired justification for the murder ofdisabled people, Jews, Roma, and millions of others.

Given this history, we must utterly reject Israel’s propaganda to stand as the only safe haven, and as a victory, for Jews against racism and fascism. Likewise, we refuse the long record of Israel’s manipulation of the Nazi genocide to justify the racist, systematic oppression and exploitation of Palestinian people. Jewish people can no longer permit the exploitation of the legacy, memory, and history of the Nazi genocide of Jews to go unchallenged.

The Israeli state, using emotional capital accumulated to claim "special" status as victims of the Nazi genocide, has created a tiered system of Israeli citizenship, which legalizes discrimination against Palestinians and special rights for Jewish citizens. Zionist brazen lies and manipulation of the effects of Jewish persecution become a license to kill, and to inflict upon Palestinian people torture, displacement, mass arrest, confinement, and denial of water, food, electricity, medical treatment, education and a livelihood. It has allowed Israel, while claiming to be a safe haven for Jews, to create a permanent state of emergency, where all critics are enemies and the rule of law is suspended.

No genocidal violence in any form, expression or degree is acceptable.  What is required everywhere is its universal condemnation. There are no hierarchies of suffering or worthiness for life and liberty. Israeli academic Yehuda Elkana, director of the Institute for the History of Science and Ideas of the University of Tel-Aviv says: "From Auschwitz came, symbolically, two peoples: a minority that proclaims this will never happen again and a scared and anxious majority who proclaims that this will never happen to us again." The Israeli state historically and continually asserts the latter. We assert the former, along with most of the world, including so many of the communities and societies that have suffered and resisted genocide.

The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network is a product of Jewish histories of resistance. We resist the anti-Semitism Jews have suffered, including at the hands of Zionism; and we resist the insidious violence perpetrated against the Palestinian people in our name that decimates lives, culture and land. We reject entirely Israel’s claim to speak on behalf of worldwide Jewry and the notion that protection is found through isolation and domination. Our collective and long-term survival, self-determination, and emancipation can only be found by joining with the liberation struggles of our time. IJAN’s wholehearted support of the Palestinian cause is rooted in our abhorrence of racism, colonialism and mass violence, including histories of prejudice and violence against Jews.  The International Jewish anti-Zionist Network stands in the universal tradition of struggle for human dignity and survival, and in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle against Israel and the governments which support and finance its racist violence. We stand with the many who struggle every day, everywhere for their right to live a life worth living.

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