We have, of course, repeatedly pointed out that—however much Zionists may propagandistically abuse the charge—anti-Semitism (veiled, barely veiled, or plain old blatant) really is evidenced in much ostensibly "leftist" discourse these days. One alarmingly common fallacy probably falls into the "barely veiled" category: When "Zionism" is blamed for the ills of the global capitalist system, you know the writer is taking his cue from the Protocols—even if he is ostensibly coming from the "left." We most recently had to call out supporters of Venezuela's Hugo Chávez for engaging in this idiotic barbarism. Pointing this out is not a defense of Zionism.
Now, we wish we could have been at this event, instead of just getting it through the perhaps slightly distorted lens of The Forward of May 25. The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research held a conference at New York's Center for Jewish History entitled "Jews and the Left." Some of the speakers apparently touched on precisely the question of bogus anti-Zionism. Yet, we fear (or, actually, we hope) that The Forward is distorting their views. From the article:
One of the most intriguing aspects of the conference was the extent to which the participants who self-identify with the left agreed with the view that it had indeed betrayed the Jewish state. Mitchell Cohen, professor of political science at Baruch College, established a distinction between anti-Zionism as legitimate protest of state actions and anti-Zionism as sublimated anti-Semitism, indicating that much of the current discourse falls into the latter category. Moishe Postone, professor of history at the University of Chicago, gave a Marxist critique of anti-Zionism, which, he explained, has become a "fetishized form of anti-capitalism," meaning that people attribute to Israel and Jews all the negative effects of capitalism. This, he made clear, is racism pure and simple, and a fundamental flaw in leftist theory and practice.
We certainly agree that that Zionism-is-to-blame-for-capitalism hogwash is "racism pure and simple." But we see it less as a "flaw in leftist theory and practice" than right-wing ideology creeping into the left, with contemporary "leftists" being too naive to notice. We haven't read the works of professors Cohen and Postone, but we hope they would dissent from The Forward's characterization of them as as agreeing that the left has "betrayed the Jewish state." By buying such hogwash, the left has betrayed rationalism, secularism, anti-racism and class analysis—all the things that the left has traditionally stood for. And things which are also fundamentally incompatible with the notion of a "Jewish state"! And the problem is not merely "state actions" (as if a "Jewish state"—that is, an explicitly ethno-supremacist state—could "act" benignly), but (yes) Zionism.
Bogus, evil, wacky "anti-Zionism" that masks (however crudely) anti-Semitism can only be truly opposed by a legitimate anti-Zionism, that understands what Zionism is: the ideology and program of Jewish colonization of historic Palestine. Otherwise, we just have a demoralizing contest between competing reactionary ideologies.
We will try to find time to bone up on the works of Cohen and Postone, and report back our findings here. Meanwhile, the esteemed professors are more than invited to weigh in...