[Part Two in a three-part work in progress series. Part One concerned the Soviet Union and Old Left and was posted on June 20, 2008. It is available here. The Third and final part (with bibliography) will be posted soon. The picture above is the cover of Joel and Dan Kotek’s Au nom de l’antisionisme: ‘image des juifs et d’Israël dans la caricature depuis la seconde Intifada. If you are at all interested in the intersection of contemporary anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist imagery you need to get this book.]
The New Left
In 1972, Joe Stork, the editor of the left-wing Middle East Research and Information Report (MERIP), wrote it was “difficult to point to official positions and articulated decisions in assessing the subject” of Israel and Palestine as “the white New Left has had very little to Say about Palestine or Israel.” For Stork, “the New Left groups and personalities have been conspicuous by their absence in any activity against Israel or US Middle East policy.”
Perhaps this was the case in 1972 when Stork claims to have surveyed available New Left Literature on the subject published subsequent to the 1967 War. Yet a more comprehensive article written by two members of MERIP would refute Stork’s claim a mere two years after Stork’s article was published. Today we have access to a variety of newspapers, reports, manifestoes, books and broadsheets, that clearly articulate an anti-Israel—and at times anti-Semitic—bias.
Unlike the Soviets, the New Left embraced a Third Worldist form of “guerilla romanticism,” a worldview described in the following manner by Paul Berman:
[S]ocial progress rested on a lie, a fear that prosperity was theft, and Western wealth was Third World exploitation; a fear that Western civilization comprised a system of manipulation designed to mislead its own people and everyone else-an iron cage cleverly designed to resemble the open air of freedom.
The most extreme elements in the New Left declared that fascism—specifically Nazism—had never truly been defeated. In Europe and the United States, activists linked the actions of their respective governments to a “cleverly disguised, still flourishing Nazism.”
The New Left embraced and synthesized various existing and moribund left tendencies including Marxism, anarchism, council-communism and so on. What most had in common was an uncritical and congratulatory stance—guerilla romanticism—towards the national liberation struggles occurring in the Third World. Algeria, Cuba, Vietnam, all were viewed as interconnected struggles against imperialism. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) reflects this political ideology and strategy in one of its basic documents, “The Military Thinking of the Front:”
A basic condition for a true, radical revolution in our times is a revolutionary party, whose function is to orchestrate a national liberation war and lead it to victory. It is the party, with its sound perspective, that decides the strategy and tactics to be used in the battlefield…The great, global confrontation today is being played out by the exploitative imperialist camp and the Third World and Socialist camp. Only through an alliance with the liberation movements of Vietnam, Cuba, North Korea, Asia, Africa, and Latin America can the Palestinian and Arab national liberation movements resist the imperialist camp… On the basis of this international strategy, we shall be able to encircle Israel, Zionism and Imperialism, and recruit all global revolutionary forces to support us in the battle.  See the document in Rubinstein [ed.] (1971) pp. 3-69.
The PFLP statement is nearly identical to any one of a number of political pronouncements of the era. All one needs to do is pick up a copy of The Black Panther, Revolutionary Worker, the Militant, Workers Vanguard, or the numerous pamphlets and newspapers common among the New Left of that time.
Publication in two successive issues of The Militant (October 1970) of an official Al Fatah document calling for the dismantling of Israel an including a broad attack on the Jews of all countries. The manifesto, carried by the Trotskyist paper, said in part:
Jews contributed men, money and influence to make Israel a reality and to perpetuate the crimes committed against the Palestinians. The people of the Book…changed roles from oppressed to oppressor.
George Novack, a leader of the Socialist Workers Party, wrote an article that expressing:
…at the present time there is a deadly symmetry between the attitudes of the Israelis towards the Arabs and that of the American Jews toward the Afro-Americans and their liberation struggle…the upper and middle ranges of American Jewry, comfortably ensconced in bourgeois America, some of them bankers, landlords, big and little businessmen, participate in the system of oppressing and exploiting the black masses, just as the Zionists have become oppressors of the Palestinians Arabs. Jewish teachers in New York, reluctant to give up their small privileges, resist the Afro-American demand for the control of the schools in their own communities.
At a Socialist Workers Party convention held August 8 to 12, 1971 in Cleveland, Ohio, a report was presented preceding a party resolution against Zionism and the state of Israel. The report emphasized:
…the major task confronting American revolutionists remains that of educating the radicalizing youth about the real history of the Zionist movement and the revolutionary character of the Palestinian and Arab struggle for destruction of the state of Israel.
It’s hard not to notice that the stated goal is not “ending occupation” or a “one-state solution” but destruction of Israel. Radical leftists were much more open about their intentions in the 1970s because they truly believed a revolutionary wave was sweeping the globe.
Beyond rhetoric, many revolutionary organizations in the United States and Europe provided material support for Palestinian groups engaged in armed struggle against Israel, or, in their words “the Zionist entity.” These groups included the Black Panther Party, the Weathermen, and the Red Army Fraction. The Palestinian groups engaged in terrorism that were supported by the left included the PFLP, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Palestine Liberation Front and Black September.
Over time, the American radical left increasingly began to view the Jewish community and its institutions as part of the “Establishment”: an affluent, smug “liberal” obstacle to the growth of revolutionary consciousness. Indeed, Jewish voting patterns, attitudes, alliances—in short, the political behavior of Jews—had a decidedly liberal cast.
For New Left radicals, liberalism was the main obstacle to revolutionary victory. Liberalism was the force which sowed and perpetuated illusions that progress could be achieved steadily and peacefully through normal democratic processes. Liberalism, therefore, had to be rendered obsolete if society was to be polarized and revolutionary awareness replace the tolerant and optimistic attitudes that provide the cement of “the system.” Consensual domination or, “hegemony,” in the terminology of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, must be challenged. However, unlike Gramsci, the cadres would emerge from the lumpenproletariat.
Eschewing the Old Left’s emphasis on class and the Civil Right’s Movement emphasis on cross-cultural solidarity, the New Left embraced racial minorities—especially African Americans—as the groups with the most potential for achieving a revolutionary transformation of society. Race was seen by the New Left as the most vulnerable aspect of American society at home and in foreign affairs the issue became the anti-imperialist struggle of the third world. Indeed, a single term, third world peoples, was coined to embrace the mass of humanity involved in both struggles. Again, over time, as the Jewish community was viewed as part of the liberal enemy at home, the Jewish nation, Israel, was cast in the same role abroad.
Foster and Epstein note:
In this historical context the radical left chose to take sides against the Jews. It was not so much a matter of wanting to do battle with the Jewish community [or racism as with fascist anti-Semites–TNC] as it was a fixed determination to show the blacks, especially the most radical and nationalistic blacks, that in their struggles they could count on the total support of the revolutionary left.
For most of the radical left, the backbone or heart of world capitalism was and remains the United States. To weaken and eventually destroy American influence in the world by battering it both at home and abroad is its most fundamental task and the prime requirement for the world victory of “socialism.”
To their credit, the New Left was not universally anti-Jewish. For example, when Daniel Cohn-Bendit was denounced as a “German Jew” by the leader of the French Communist Party, angry crowds of radical youths took to the streets chanting “We are all German Jews!” While at a right-wing rally one of the slogans was “Cohn-Bendit–to Dachau!”
Arab Nationalism, Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism
While undoubtedly stimulated by the modern Arab-Israel conflict, religious-based discrimination, harassment and murder have afflicted centuries-old Jewish communities in Muslim lands so severely in recent years that approximately 800,000 Jews from Arab lands have fled mostly to Israel, the lesser number elsewhere.
Anti-Jewish sentiment in the Arab and Muslim world has been well documented and is beyond the scope of this paper. Even Rodinson (no friend of Israel) admits “The very day after the partition plan was announced, on November 30, 1947, at dawn, Arab attacks announced the Arab refusal to accept the Jewish state.” 
Many Arab political leaders viewed Zionism as Socialist and pro-Communist, and later as the “foster child” of Western Imperialism – but not as a racist movement. The turnaround seemed to happen in May 1964 with the first wording of the Palestinian National Charter – Article 19 of the [original] charter defines Zionism as “a colonialist movement in its inception, aggressive and expansionist in its goals, racist and segregationist in its configurations and fascist in its means and aims.” The attempt to deny Jews the right of national determination and territorial independence accorded to all other peoples (and vigorously claimed by the Arabs for themselves) is a callous denial of 6,000 years of Jewish identity, more than a third of that time spent in involuntary exile.
Article 22 of the PLO Covenant explicitly liked Zionism with fascism. Most on the New Left felt the condemnation was justified, given Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and territory seized during the 1967 war. They were either unaware or chose to ignore the fact that the Covenant was drafted and adopted in 1964 before Israel liberated Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
If anti-Israel bias was not apparent in the UN’s it certainly became evident by 1975. David Greenberg describes a 1975 United Nations conference on women’s rights which issued a declaration that calling “for the elimination of ‘Zionism, apartheid, [and] racial discrimination.’” To the best of my knowledge, this conference is the genesis of the “Zionism is apartheid” trope.
Throughout the summer, Soviet, African, and Arab leaders maneuvered to oust Israel from the international body. Ugandan dictator Idi Amin led the charge, calling for the “extinction” of Israel. Echoing the language which would be repeated by Third World sycophants for decades to come, he urged Americans “to rid their society of the Zionists,” who controlled the media and banks. These were caustic, but unsurprising remarks for a man like Amin. That fact that Amin’s speech reportedly drew a standing ovation from the U.N. delegates is alarming and displays broadening support for the linkage between Zionism and racism beyond the left to include non-aligned, non-Muslim, nationalist regimes
Unlike Greenberg, Foster, and Epstein, Yochanan Manor delineates between Arab anti-Zionism and its leftist counterpart. For Manor, Arab anti-Zionism “derives from the conflict and the frustration of the Arabs in the light of the successes of the Zionist movement and their failures.” In Manor’s analysis, Arab nationalists appropriated Soviet and Eastern European anti-Zionist propaganda that aimed to find a scapegoat for various internal crises related to state socialism. As Manor writes, “sometimes the Soviets found it expedient to add an international dimension and present Zionism as an international conspiracy responsible for these internal crises.”
Black Nationalism, Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism
The association of Jews with the Civil Rights Movement is well documented. However, by the late 1960s, tensions and cracks were developing in the “black-Jewish coalition.” In addition to the notion of Jew as capitalist (described above) Benjamin Ginsberg notes the political tensions that existed in the coalition where Jews “were critically important to blacks when few other whites would help them.” Paradoxically, this made:
established black politicians vulnerable to attack by insurgent black political forces who could use anti-Semitic appeals as a way of charging that established blacks had sold out to whites and could not be trusted. The first major black politicians to successfully use this strategy were Malcolm X in the North, and Stokely Carmichael, head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), in the South.
In The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, Howard Cruse asserted Jews were to blame for most of the major problems facing black intellectuals. He also expressed great hostility toward the establishment of the Jewish state. Reminiscent of the arguments nativists had used against Catholics a century prior, Cruse questioned the loyalties of American Jews as agents of a foreign state. Thankfully, many African-American scholars responded with resounding disapproval. Reviewing the book in The Black Scholar of November 1969, editor Robert Chrisman wrote:
There is a vicious anti-Semitism throughout the work. When faced with complexity, Cruse finds the nearest scapegoat and furiously lashes his way out of the jam. The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual is the crisis of Harold Cruse more than it is anything else.
Black nationalists adopted anti-Semitic stances, viewing Jewish business owners as “exploiters” of poor black communities. That many Jews had once been a majority in many of these communities mattered little to black radicals. As small business owners, teachers, landlords, principals, as social workers and hospital personnel, Jews and unions were seen as blocking the path to “community control of the black community.”
Stork claims separatist elements in the Black Power movement combined with an increasing internationalist “Third-Worldist” perspective “led to the formulation of anti-Zionist positions and sympathies.” This is in keeping with a common trope of the time among anti-imperialists that African Americans in the United States—as a domestically colonized population—were in the vanguard of the revolutionary movement.
However, as would be the case in later years, the early source of information that blacks in the New Left were receiving was not from leftist organizations but nationalist ones. In Stork’s words,
The first expression came right after the June War, in the July 1967 issue of the newsletter of the Student Non-violent Co-ordinating Committee (SNCC)…This was not leftist analysis, but reflected the only ready source of critical material, the Arab League.
The material contained a graphic depiction of a hand with the Star of David holding nooses around the necks of Egypt’s General Nasser and United States boxing sensation Mohammad Ali but “none of this was remotely anti-Semitic” to Stork. The next major fiasco was the New Politics Convention in Chicago in September 1967 where the black caucus “laid a set of non-negotiable demands before the rest of the convention, one of which called for condemnation of the ‘Imperialistic Zionist War’” leading to the walkout of some white individuals, but not groups. According to Stork, these two events were alone responsible for “a new liberal orthodoxy asserting the ‘anti-Semitism’” of black separatists and radicals.
Again citing Stork:
The coincidence of two separate events—the Six-Day War in the Middle East and the emergence of the Black Power movement in the US—did most to break up the pro-Zionist consensus in America which had hitherto included the left. Within the black movement, this took the form of increased identification with Arabs as oppressed Third World people.
This was the worldview of internationalists like Malcolm X and Pan-African separatists. A perspective shared by Farsoun, Farsoun, and Ajay:
Coinciding with the development of an anti-imperialist upsurge within the United States concerning the US role in Vietnam, Latin America and elsewhere, the June 1967 War in the Middle East helped to undermine the US left’s myths about Israel.
Moving outside the left, the Nation of Islam (NOI) has a long history of anti-Semitism. Through the Final Call newspaper, NOI leaders refer to Jews as “blood suckers” of the black community. In contrast to the message of established black organizations that emphasized integration and coalition building with whites, the Nation of Islam under Elijah Mohammed argued for black separatism and against collaboration with those he dismissed as “white devils.”
While it is clear that Malcolm X and the NOI held anti-Semitic views, what about anti-Zionism? In one speech, Malcolm declared:
The Jews with the help of Christians in America and Europe, drove our Muslim brothers out of their homeland, where they had been settled for centuries and took over the land for themselves. This every Muslim resents . . . In America, the Jews sap the very life-blood of the so-called Negroes to maintain the state of Israel, its armies, and its continued aggression against our brothers in the East. This every Black Man resents.
Malcolm X’s combination of black nationalism and a proto-internationalist ideological perspective transcended Pan-Africanism. Of course Malcolm X was not the first African-American nationalist to adopt anti-Semitic rhetoric. But, he was the pioneer when it came to connecting anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism. Ginsberg argues by:
attacking Israel and the Jews, Malcolm was, in effect, attacking his more established rivals for power within the black community who were closely tied to Jewish contributors and who were, as a result, forced to maintain a supportive posture toward Israel. This was now excoriated by Malcolm as behavior utterly inappropriate for a true leader of the African-American people.
Secular cultural nationalists adopted similar rhetoric. The decomposition of positive attitudes toward Jews came in 1967 with the Six-Day War, which provoked SNCC’s Newsletter to condemn Israel for “massacres” inflicted upon the Arab population. Anti-Zionism, barely known until then in the African-American community, dovetailed with the criticism that SNCC’s program director leveled against Jewish rapacity.
SNCC’s stance was hardly unique, since Israel’s stunning military victory and occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank had the effect of undermining its international support elsewhere and especially among the left. While this writer has not been able to substantiate his claims, Ginsberg attests that NOI toughs assaulted SNCC field offices in the South, “to intimidate Jewish workers” and “to embarrass their black coworkers for relying upon the leadership of Jews.”
Outside of radical circles, relations remained strong. For example, for years the leaders of established black organizations signed Bayard Rustin’s annual Black Americans in Support of Israel Committee (BASIC) statement. Rustin, through the A. Philip Randolph Institute, also did an amazing amount of organizing on behalf of Soviet Jewish dissidents who wanted to immigrate to Israel.
When the UN General Assembly UN General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring, “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., executive director of the National Urban League, wrote a letter to the New York Times (November 5):
I am appalled at the grotesque attempt to equate Zionism and racism in the draft resolution…Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, seeking exactly what other national movements seek: statehood and self-determination. The attack upon Zionism amounts to the grossest form of anti-Semitism, since it is clear that the term Zionism is used by its opponents as a code word for Judaism and Jews.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also supported Israel.
A sense of identification with the Third World was reinforced by the benefits that African Americans could obtain from a Third World alliance. While Third World forces can offer little material help to African Americans, they can offer them a sense of power and association with the world’s majority, as well as status and legitimacy on the international scene as representatives of anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist groups in the United States. As Jim Sleeper has observed, some blacks are drawn to the international left, “not least for the very non-nationalist reason that here, at last, they find whites who treat them as people of importance.”
Delegations of African Americans attend international conferences, visit Third World capitals, and so forth. In these contexts, opposition to Israel and Zionism is universal. Very often African Americans participate in the drafting of resolutions condemning what are presented as the morally equivalent evils of racism, imperialism, Zionism, and apartheid. Generally, Middle-Eastern delegations expect Africans and African Americans to support resolutions in opposition to Zionism in exchange for their support for resolutions opposing apartheid and racism in the United States.
It is surprising that Black Nationalists—many of whom are ardent supporters of Marcus Garvey and his ideas regarding repatriation—would be against the establishment of a Jewish state. Many Jews could not understand why Black nationalists should see their common bonds with a fellow diasporic people, longing for a national homeland in their historical and spiritual birthplace. After all, Jews were victims of Roman imperialism. Their state was demolished and they were driven to the four corners of the earth. Surely Black Nationalists could empathize with this situation. Also, African Americans have drawn parallels between their situation in the United States and the Jews’ struggles for freedom when they were slaves in Egypt to show Jewish Americans have often become involved in the black cause through their interest in social issues and association with liberal politics.
However, during the 1960s and 1970s, proponents of black community control of schools and education increasingly found themselves at loggerheads with city administrators and teachers’ unions. In an especially bitter battle over the Oceanhill-Brownsville school in Brooklyn, threats, intimidation, and physical violence was used against Jewish teachers. Ginsberg notes,
In their struggles against the Jews, organizations of black teachers and their allies made frequent use of anti-Semitic slogans, pamphlets, and epithets designed to frighten and intimidate Jewish teachers and principals and to encourage them to give up their positions – often in poor black neighborhoods where they already felt threatened and vulnerable. As early as the 1960s, groups like the Afro-American Teacher’s Association, an organization formed in 1964 to represent black teachers in Brooklyn, asserted, We are witnessing today in New York City a phenomenon that spells death for the minds and souls of our black children. It is the systematic coming of age of the Jews who dominate and control the educational bureaucracy of the New York public school system . . . In short, our children are being mentally poisoned.
The New Left clearly sided with the clamors for community control. Declaring the strike “racist,” the CP-USA’s Hyman Lumer maintained that the strike was “directed against the Black and Puerto Rican peoples seeking to obtain some semblance of decent education in the ghettos through community control of the schools.” What Lumer fails to mention is that the Ford Foundation funded these “grassroots” efforts.
[to be continued]