Antisemitism in the anti-globalization movement
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Part of Jewish history
Antisemitism within the anti-globalization movement has been the subject of a number of writers and researchers such as Walter Laqueur, Paul Berman, and Mark Strauss. Critics of this view argue that the allegation is either unfounded or exaggerated, and is intended to discredit legitimate criticism of globalization and free trade economic policies.
Allegations of antisemitism within the movement
Mark Strauss of Foreign Policy argues that globalization has stirred anxieties about "outside forces," and that with "familiar anxieties come familiar scapegoats." He writes that what he calls the "backlash against globalization" has united a variety of political elements, from the left to the far-right, via a common cause, and that in so doing, it has "foster[ed] a common enemy." He quotes the French Jewish leader Roger Cukierman who identifies the anti-globalization movement as "an anti-Semitic brown-green-red alliance," which includes ultra-nationalists, the green movement, and communists.
Strauss cites Jörg Haider of Austria's far-right Freedom Party and Jean-Marie Le Pen of France's Front national as examples of the far right exploiting their electorate's concerns about globalization. The Movimento Fascismo e Liberta in Italy identifies globalization as an "instrument in the hands of international Zionism," according to Strauss, while in Eastern Europe, ultranationalists and communists have united against foreign investors and multinationals, identifying Jews as a common enemy.
American White nationalist Matt Hale of the World Church of the Creator said of the 1999 protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle that they were "incredibly successful from the point of view of the rioters as well as our Church. They helped shut down talks of the Jew World Order WTO and helped make a mockery of the Jewish Occupational Government around the world. Bravo." Strauss also cites the neo-Nazi National Alliance, which set up a website called the Anti-Globalism Action Network in order to "broaden ... the anti-globalism movement to include divergent and marginalized voices."
Strauss writes that, as a result of far-right involvement, a "bizarre ideological turf war has broken out," whereby anti-globalization activists are fighting a "two-front battle," one against the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Bank, the other against the extremists who turn up at their rallies. He points to an anti-globalization march in Porto Alegre, Brazil at which he says some marchers displayed Swastikas and that Jewish peace activists were assaulted.
Held two months prior to the U.S.-led attack on Iraq, this year's conference — an annual grassroots riposte to the well-heeled World Economic Forum in Davos — had the theme, "Another World is Possible." But the more appropriate theme might have been "Yesterday's World is Back." Marchers among the 20,000 activists from 120 countries carried signs reading "Nazis, Yankees, and Jews: No More Chosen Peoples!" Some wore T-shirts with the Star of David twisted into Nazi swastikas. Members of a Palestinian organization pilloried Jews as the "true fundamentalists who control United States capitalism." Jewish delegates carrying banners declaring "Two peoples - Two states: Peace in the Middle East" were assaulted.
Strauss argues that the anti-globalization movement isn't itself antisemitic, but that it "helps enable anti-Semitism by peddling conspiracy theories."
Strauss's arguments have been met with strong criticism from many in the anti-globalization movement. Oded Grajew, one of the founders of the World Social Forum, has written that the WSF "is not anti-Semitic, anti-American, or even anti-socially-responsible capitalism". He claims that some fringe parties have attempted to infiltrate the WSF's demonstrations and promote demonstrations of their own, but adds that "[t]he success of the WSF [...] is a threat to political extremist groups that resort to violence and hatred". Grajew has also written that, to his knowledge, Strauss's claim of Nazi symbols being displayed at an anti-globalization demonstration in Porto Alegre, Brazil is false.
Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, argues that Strauss has "inflamed, not enlightened" the debate over globalization by making "no distinction between the far right's critique of globalization and that of the global social justice movement", which is premised on "respect for human rights and cultural diversity". She notes that the Council of Canadians has condemned antisemitism, and that it expelled some individuals who tried to organize a David Icke tour under its auspices. John Cavanagh of the International Policy Centre has also criticized Strauss for using unproven allegations of antisemitism to criticize the entire anti-globalization movement, and for failing to research the movement's core beliefs.
In response to these criticisms, Strauss has written that antisemitic views "might not reflect the core values of the Global Justice Movement or its leading figures, yet they are facts of life in an amorphous, grassroots movement where any number of individuals or organizations express their opinions or seek to set the agenda". He has also reiterated his concern that "anti-capitalist rhetoric provides intellectual fodder for far right groups".
Walter Laqueur describes this phenomenon:
"Although traditional Trotskyite ideology is in no way close to radical Islamic teachings and the shariah, since the radical Islamists also subscribed to anticapitalism, antiglobalism, and anti-Americanism, there seemed to be sufficient common ground for an alliance. Thus, the militants of the far left began to march side by side with the radical Islamists in demonstrations, denouncing American aggression and Israeli crimes. ... And it was only natural that in protest demonstrations militants from the far right would join in, antisemitic banners would be displayed, anti-Jewish literature such as the Protocols would be sold."
Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard University, also stated that "[s]erious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent. For example ... [a]t the same rallies where protesters, many of them university students, condemn the IMF and global capitalism and raise questions about globalization, it is becoming increasingly common to also lash out at Israel. Indeed, at the anti-IMF rallies last spring, chants were heard equating Hitler and Sharon."
Similar allegations have been made by Sol Stern, a senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor to City Journal. Stern identifies what he sees as antisemitism within the movement as a function of Jews no longer being portrayed as the victims of capitalism, but rather as its masters.
A March 2003 report on antisemitism in the European Union by Werner Bergmann and Juliane Wetzel of the Berlin Research Centre on Anti-Semitism identifies anti-globalization rallies as one of the sources of antisemitism on the left.
In the extreme left-wing scene, anti-Semitic remarks were to be found mainly in the context of pro-Palestinian and anti-globalisation rallies and in newspaper articles using anti-Semitic stereotypes in their criticism of Israel. Often this generated a combination of anti-Zionist and anti-American views that formed an important element in the emergence of an anti-Semitic mood in Europe.
Michael Kozak, then U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, told reporters in 2005 that people within the anti-globalization movement have conflated their legitimate concerns "with this idea that Jews run the world and globalization is the fault of Jews." He said:
I think one of the disturbing things is that you're starting to see this in some — you know, it's not just sort of right-wing ultranationalist skinhead types. It's now you're getting some fairly otherwise respectable intellectuals that are left of center who are anti-globalization who are starting to let this stuff creep into their rhetoric.
And that's disturbing because it starts to — it starts to take what is a legitimate issue for debate, anti-globalization or the war in Iraq or any other issue, and when you start turning that into an excuse for saying therefore we should hate Jews, that's where you cross the line, in my view. It's not that you're not entitled to question all those other issues. Of course, those are fair game. But it's the same as saying, you know, you start hating all Muslims because of some policy you don't like by one Muslim country or something.
Conflation of globalization, Jews, and Israel
Robert Wistrich, Professor of European and Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told Manfred Gerstenfeld that globalization has given rise to an anti-globalist left that is "viscerally anti-American, anti-capitalist, and hostile to world Jewry." He argues that the decade that preceded the current increase in antisemitism was one that saw accelerated globalization of the world economy, a process in which the losers included the Arab and Muslim worlds, and who are now the "major consumers of anti-Jewish poison and conspiracy theories that blame everyone except themselves. Israel is only one piece on this chessboard, but it has assumed such inflated importance because it serves a classic anti-Semitic function of being an 'opium for the masses'." As an example of the alleged conflation of globalization, the U.S. and Israel, Josef Joffe, editor and publisher of Die Zeit and adjunct professor at Stanford University, cited José Bové, a French anti-globalization activist and leader of the Confédération Paysanne. Bové led what Joffe calls a "deconstructionist mob" against McDonald's to protest against its effects on French cuisine, later turning up in Ramallah to denounce Israel and announce his support for Yasser Arafat. "Arafat's cause was Bové's cause ... here was a spokesman for the anti-globalization movement who was conflating globalization with Americanization and extending his loathing of both to Israel." Joffe argues that Kapitalismuskritik is a "mainstay of the antisemitic faith, a charge that has passed smoothly from Jews to America. Like Jews, Americans are money-grubbers who know only the value of money, and the worth of nothing. Like Jews, they seek to reduce all relationships to exchange and money. Like them, Americans are motivated only by profit, and so they respect no tradition."
David Clark, writing in The Guardian, argues against this that "instances of anti-capitalism spilling into 'rich Jew' bigotry are ... well documented" but "stand out precisely because they conflict so sharply with the Left’s universalism and its opposition to ethnic discrimination".
In early 2004, Kalle Lasn, author of "Culture Jam" and founder of Adbusters, two influential and widely read anti-globalization texts, generated controversy when he wrote an editorial entitled "Why won't anyone say they are Jewish?". In it he stated "Drawing attention to the Jewishness of the neocons is a tricky game. Anyone who does so can count on automatically being smeared as an anti-Semite. But the point is not that Jews (who make up less than 2 percent of the American population) have a monolithic perspective. Indeed, American Jews overwhelmingly vote Democrat and many of them disagree strongly with Ariel Sharon’s policies and Bush’s aggression in Iraq. The point is simply that the neocons seem to have a special affinity for Israel that influences their political thinking and consequently American foreign policy in the Middle East." The editorial suggested that Jews represent a disproportionately high percentage of the neo-conservatives who control American foreign policy, and that this may affect policy with respect to Israel. Lasn included a list of influential neo-conservatives, with dots next to the names of those who were Jewish.
Lasn was criticized by a number of anti-globalization activists. Klaus Jahn, professor of the philosophy of history at the University of Toronto condemned Lasn's article stating "Whether listing physicians who perform abortions in pro-life tracts, gays and lesbians in office memos, Communists in government and the entertainment industry under McCarthy, Jews in Central Europe under Nazism and so on, such list-making has always produced pernicious consequences."
Meredith Warren, a Montreal anti-globalization activist responded to the article by saying "The U.S. government has only an economic interest in having control over that region. It wants oil and stability – it has nothing to do with Jews or Judaism. Pointing out the various religious stances of those in power totally misses the point of the U.S. government's interest in Israel."
Controversy over alleged antisemitism within the French movement
According to a report by the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, a major event for the anti-globalization movement in France was the European Social Forum (ESF) in Paris in November 2003. The organizers allegedly included a number of Islamic groups, such as Présence Musulmane, Secours Islamique, and Collectif des Musulmans de France. Tariq Ramadan, the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, the Egyptian founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, also attended meetings. A few weeks earlier, Ramadan had published a controversial article on a website — after Le Monde and Le Figaro refused to publish it — criticizing several French intellectuals, who according to the Institute, were either Jewish or "others he mistakenly thought were Jewish," for having "supposedly betrayed their universalist beliefs in favor of unconditional support for Zionism and Israel."
Bernard-Henri Lévy, one of the intellectuals who was criticized, called on the French anti-globalization movement to distance itself from Ramadan. In an interview with Le Monde, Lévy said: "Mr. Ramadan, dear anti-globalizationist friends, is not and cannot be one of yours. ... I call you on you quickly to distance yourselves from this character who, in crediting the idea of an elitist conspiracy under the control of Zionism, is only inflaming people’s thoughts and opening the way to the worst."
Le Monde reported that many members of the anti-globalization movement in France agreed that Ramadan's article "has no place on a European Social Forum mailing list."
Other activists defended Ramadan. One activist told the newspaper that "[o]ne of the characteristics of the European Social Forum is the stark rise in immigrant and Muslim organizations. It is an important phenomenon and a positive one in many ways." Another activist, Peter Khalfa, said: "Ramadan’s essay is not anti-Semitic. It is dangerous to wave the red flag of anti-Semitism at any moment. However, it is a text marked partly by Ramadan’s communitarian thought and which communicates his view of the world to others." One of the leaders of the anti-globalization movement in France, José Bové of the Confédération Paysanne, told Le Monde: "The anti-globalization movement defends universalist points of view which are therefore necessarily secular in their political expression. That there should be people of different cultures and religions is only natural. The whole effort is to escape such determinisms."
Concern within the political left
One of the protagonists of the anti-globalization movement, the Canadian writer and activist Naomi Klein, has written of her concern at finding antisemitic rhetoric on some activist websites that she had visited: "I couldn’t help thinking about all the recent events I’ve been to where anti-Muslim violence was rightly condemned, but no mention was made of attacks on Jewish synagogues, cemeteries, and community centers." Klein urged activists to confront antisemitism as part of their work for social justice. She also suggested that allegations of antisemitism can be often politically motivated, and that activists should avoid political simplifications that could be perceived as antisemitic:
The globalization movement isn't anti-Semitic, it just hasn't fully confronted the implications of diving into the Middle East conflict. Most people on the left are simply choosing sides. In the Middle East, where one side is under occupation and the other has the U.S. military behind it, the choice seems clear. But it is possible to criticize Israel while forcefully condemning the rise of anti-Semitism. And it is equally possible to be pro-Palestinian independence without adopting a simplistic pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel dichotomy, a mirror image of the good-versus-evil equations so beloved by President George W. Bush.
Similar concerns were raised by "De Fabel van de Illegaal" ("The Myth of Illegality"), a left-wing anti-racist immigrant-rights organization in the Netherlands. The group began issuing online alerts in 1998, published in English in 2003 as a booklet under the title "Nationalism, Anti-Semitism, and the Anti-Globalization Movement." The group claimed that the European New Right openly tried to insert antisemitic ideas into anti-globalization campaigns such as the one against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). Conspiracy theorists also visited anti-MAI meetings. At such a meeting in Geneva in August 1998, titled "Globalisation and Resistance", one participant wanted to publicly read excerpts from the books written by Jan van Helsing, a German anti-Semite. Around about the same time, "conspiracy expert" Kühles came into contact with the Dutch campaign. He spent several weeks pushing antisemitic claims in anarchist circles before being unmasked. Because of concerns over this and related issues, the group left the anti-globalization movement.
Take Adbusters magazine’s founder Kalle Lasn’s recent editorial rant against Jewish neoconservatives....The article includes a self-selected ‘well-researched list’ of 50 of the supposedly most influential ‘neocons’ with little black dots next to all those who are Jewish....If it’s not the neocons then it’s the all-powerful ‘Jewish lobby’ which holds governments to ransom all over the world (because Jews control the global economy of course) to do their bidding. Meanwhile rightwing Judeophobes often talk of a leftist Jewish conspiracy to promote equality and human rights through a new internationalism embodied in the UN in order to control governments and suppress national sovereignty. They call it the ‘New World Order’ or the ‘Jew World Order’. They make similar lists to Lasn’s of prominent Jews in the global justice movement (Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, etc) to argue their case."
The issue observes, however, that "While antisemitism is rife in the Arab World, the Israeli Government often uses it as moral justification for its policies."
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