Anti-fascist logic undermines Palestine solidarity


This is a response to Spencer Sunshine’s article for Political Research Associates, Drawing Lines Against Racism and Fascism, 1. I argue that it doesn’t oppose racial discrimination, rather, it defends one form of it by greatly exaggerating another.

There are a few factual errors in the article. As an example of a passage which I could pick apart, because I directly experienced the events in question, but don’t think it’s worth the effort, here’s Sunshine’s account of the reasoning behind the successful efforts of Jewish leftists to oust a Palestine activist from the co-operative movement:

Pacifica Forum members attended Occupy events in Eugene and Portland, Oregon, attempted to use a left-wing bookstore in Portland to host an antisemitic speaker, and one was a board member at an annual co-operative conference.

But that’s not the main problem. More important is to explain the hidden cause of Mr Sunshine’s logical errors.

The above sentence follows from a passage in which Sunshine asserts, without explanation, that anyone who tolerates the airing of what he labels “far right” ideas, should be treated the same as someone who actually believes these ideas. This is subject to a logical contradiction. Suppose you adopt Sunshine’s prescription, and treat anyone who tolerates any “far right” ideas in the same way as people who actually hold those ideas. What about someone who tolerates people who tolerate “far right” ideas, but doesn’t herself tolerate those ideas? Do you treat her in the same way as those whom she tolerates, who tolerate “far right” ideas? Where do you draw the line?

Whereas most of us might be concerned about how how true or false a given proposition about the world is, Sunshine’s position involves adopting a complex classification system, in which some ideas are classified as “far right”, and some as “progressive”. His elaboration of this classification makes it clear he cares primarily about “anti-semitism”. He uses this term very broadly, to include anyone who challenges Jewish interests.

Apart from the logical absurdity of Sunshine’s position, it could lead to violence.

I’ve written some articles which, while generally what Sunshine would call “progressive”, utilize some “far right” ideas. This is one of them: Invention, Imagination, Race and Nation 2.

Part of Spencer’s anti-fascist front uses violence against peaceful “far right” meetings (see my 2012 article on the incident at Tinley Park 3). So, if generally “progressive” people who make use of some “far right” ideas are regarded as being as bad as these “far right” activists, some of Sunshine’s friends might try to disrupt our meetings. This could lead to a tragedy.

So far, in my experience, anti-fascist harassment has only led to one Palestine solidarity activist getting fired, because he worked at a co-op which was easily persuaded by Jewish activists that he believes “far right” ideas. The real reason was that he was trying to persuade the co-op movement to boycott Israeli goods.

Why take anti-fascism seriously? Sunshine’s article includes warning of “a revival of fascist influence within countercultural music scenes”, and the influence of the “far right” among environmental activists.

The article becomes more serious when Sunshine says the president of the Palestinian rights advocacy group, If Americans Knew, Alison Weir, is “crypto-antisemitic”, because she talks and writes about the power of the Israel Lobby. Since it can be shown that the Lobby is the main reason for American support for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, suppressing discussion of this issue helps it continue (see my article, Faithful Circle 4).

His attempt to discredit Weir is the most obvious giveaway of Sunshine’s real aim – thought-policing the left in the interests of Jewish privilege. Alison Weir is liberal to a fault. Her message of support for the victims of Jewish supremacy is becoming increasingly heard. That’s why Jewish racialists within and without the left are slandering her more than ever.

Another clue as to Sunshine’s covert racialist aims is his attempt to amalgamate any critique of any aspect of Jewish over-representation, in positions of power and influence, with Nazism:

The same goes for those who repeat traditional Nazi-era antisemitic conspiracies, such as that Jews control the government, banking system, or the mass media… while repeating classical antisemitic narratives, deploy code words such as “Zionists,” “Jewish neocons,” or the “Frankfurt School” — instead of “the Jews.”

He wants us to believe that if you attribute the notorious pro-Israel bias in the US media to Jewish over-representation in its ownership, or criticize a large section of the Jewish community for its support for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, or mention the role of the neo-conservatives in persuading the US government to massacre the inhabitants of Arab and Muslim countries in various wars since September 11th 2001, while noting that the majority of the neo-cons are self-identified Jews, you are in the same league as the murderers of Anne Frank.

The degree of Jewish control of the media, and whether or not it matters, are empirical questions. We shouldn’t care at all whether or not a theory conforms to a “classical antisemitic narrative”. Objecting to a position because it sounds like Nazi propaganda is illogical; just because the Nazis claimed the Soviet government murdered the Polish officer corps 5, doesn’t mean it’s not true.

Chutzpah is a Yiddish word meaning “breathtaking hypocrisy”. Sunshine alleges

Allowing Far Right participation can also pose a security risk. Far Right actors may use such opportunities to collect personal information on progressive activists and information about their organizations. This has been an ongoing problem, in particular for antifascist and other groups that monitor the Far Right.

But this is at least as true of allowing anti-fascist participation in progressive movements. The Portland 9/11 Truth Alliance has had its members’ details publicized, because, of the wide range of conspiracy nuts hosted by the group, one or two of them mentioned the idea of Israeli involvement in September 11th. Overt Zionists are copying what anti-fascists do – “doxxing” (publishing the names etc.) of Palestine activists, hoping employers will take notice, while remaining anonymous themselves.

For example, The Canary Missionis publicizing the identities of pro-Palestinian student activists to prevent them from getting jobs after they graduate from college. But the website is keeping its own backers’ identity a secret” 6.

As a result of its chutzpah, the anti-fascist left is immune to irony. Sunshine’s piece treats the Southern Poverty Law Center as if it is an authority. The SPLC describes a group as a hate group if it spreads ideas about some other group of people which inspire a person, or persons, to commit violence against that second group. But the SPLC’s labeling of the Family Research Council as a hate group led a man to shoot a security guard at the group’s headquarters with a 9mm Sig Sauer semi-automatic pistol – which means, using its own criteria, the SPLC is a hate group. The attacker can be heard on this Youtube video admitting to the police that he found the FRC via the SPLC 7.

“Anti-semitism” is one form of racial discrimination which has never been very important in the US. You can tell this by looking at statistics for lynchings – if a particular minority has been seriously discriminated against in US history, you can be sure some of its members will have been murdered by mobs. What the SPLC and its allies mean by “anti-semitism” is opposition to a minority using its privileged position to oppress others. Logically, genuine opponents of racial privilege would surely prioritize undermining Jewish supremacy, rather than exaggerating the danger of white nationalism. The role of anti-fascists like Spencer Sunshine is to try to prevent us from drawing that logical conclusion.