Photo from- British Revolution Written by Luqman Temitayo Onikosi
It is frighteningly puzzling to watch Labour left pundits seriously struggling to articulate the differences between the Anti Zionism and Antisemitism, especially when ever they are given the stage on the mainstream media platforms to discuss the recent Ken Livingstone remarks.
I am wading in to the contention of the debate in question, as regards the land grab in the Palestine, stolen from Palestinians the Word Zionist Organisation (WZO), because this land, could have easily been a territory of an African country, Uganda. The Ugandans could had been the victims of the violence of state of Israel. Perhaps, Africans and Africa history, would had even been even more distorted, far from what we are now finding out that the Europeans and Americans had manipulated Africa and African people history for millennial to suit their imperial agendas.
It is quite distressing and the same time saddening to see Pro- Zionists act as if they dont know that Palestinian land, was one among several other territories across the global south continent that were proposed by Zionists like Theodor Herzl who is considered the founder of the Zionist movement.
The recent ensuing debate make me pondered if history matters at all and whose history even matters when it comes to referencing historical facts to analyse the present. I saw how Pro Zionist are manipulating history to suit and shift public opinion and empathy onto their side of the argument on the so called ‘Jewish state’.
I vehemently contended that state of Israel is not a Jewish state but a Zionist state. Reason be that, you can be a Jew or non Jew and politically dislike the state of Israel because you may disagree with the WZO agenda in setting up the state of Israel as ‘promise land’. My reason will become clearer as you read this article further.
It is a shame that to hear the Labour left rambling and beating around the bush and cant simply articulate that Ken Livingstone point, taking in its wider context in which his remarks was made in the course of the interview he granted BBC London, Vanessa Feltz Show, was a legitimate AntiZionistic criticism of the state of Israel.
For those who dont know the history about the territories that were initially proposed by the Zionists to resettle the European Jews way before Hitler went psycho on the Jews or even came to power. Throughout the first decade in which Zionism was formally established as political movement by the Austro-Hungarian journalist Theodor Herzl in 1897 following the publication of his book Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State). The Zionist front runner, proposed Sinai Peninsula, Mesopotamia, Mozambique, Argentina, Cyprus as potential Jewish homelands.
In the light of the Channel 4 interview on the 28th of April 2016, conducted by Jon Snow with Michael Segalov and John Woodcock MP, where Woodcock, argued that within the Labour ‘there is particular strand within the hard left…who have been associated, over the decade with Soviet Russia, saw the way in which Soviet Union turned violently antisemitic in the years after second world war, that has abhorred antisemitism and I think it concerned the growing number of antisemitic incident within the labour party. Some of the people now think that there is an opening caused by Jeremy Corbyn been elected as the leader of the labour party, that is wrong’.
First of all, John Woodcock MP history of the Jews in Soviet Russian woeful. It is worth mentioning that, before the Zionist Socialist Workers Party was established in 1904, within the Russia Emipre, Russian Jews faced violently hostility and where “pogrom” was carried out against the Jews. A repeated anti-Jewish rioting broke out.
The word ‘pogrom‘ was first used in the 19th century, during the hey days of the Russian Empire between 1791-1835. The “the Pale of Settlement” territories between the modern day Ukraine and Belarus, designated by the Russian Imperial government, within which Jews were permitted to live. It was within this territories that the pogroms largely took place. Most Jews were forbidden from moving to other parts of the Empire, unless they converted to Orthodox Christianity. Two million Jews fled the Russian Empire between 1880 and 1914, with many going to the United Kingdom and United States.
It was the bloody ‘pogroms’ of Bohdan Khmelnytsky, between 1648 and 1656, where tens of thousands of Jews (given the lack of reliable data, it is impossible to establish more accurate figures) were killed by the rebels, and to this day the Khmelnytsky uprising is considered by Jews to be one of the most traumatic events in their history which had wiped out one third of the Jewish population and destroyed many centers of Jewish learning and communal life.
It was these ‘pogrom’ of Bohdan Khmelnytsky along with other ‘pogroms’ that occurred in 1800s Russia Empire, that that actually galvanized the Zionism into a political movement to seek promise land outside Russia Empire.
According to Sir Moses Montefiore own estimate in his 7 jorneys to Ottoman Palestine in 1827, 1838, 1849, 1855, 1857, 1866, and 1875, that there were only 12, 000 Jews living in the Old City of Jerusalem in the Ottoman Palestine and were largely from Mediterean and Oriental countries, whom are referred as ‘Old Yishuv‘.
In 1850s, Sir Moses Montefiore and Theodor Herzl friend Judah Touro were the first European Jews that donated and bequeathed money to fund Jewish residential settlement in Ottoman Palestine. The first wave of the Jews arrivals at Ottoman Palestine were called New Yishuv or First Zionist Aliyah dated back to 1882.Most immigrants came from the Russian Empire, escaping the frequent pogroms and Empire-led persecution in what are now Ukraine and Poland.
So by the 1890s, Herzl infused Zionism with a new ideology , with particular urgency, leading to the First Zionist Congress at Basel in 1897, which created the World Zionist Organization (WZO). Herzl’s aim was to initiate necessary preparatory steps for the development of a Jewish state. Herzl’s attempts to reach a political agreement with the Ottoman rulers of Palestine were unsuccessful and he sought the support of other governments. The WZO supported small-scale settlement in Palestine; it focused on strengthening Jewish feeling and consciousness and on building a worldwide federation.
It was at this stage that Herzl emphasized using propaganda of relevance of the memory, emotion and myths linking Land of Israel for Jews which ever the eventually settled for.
Despite using Zion as the name of the movement (a name after the Jebusite fortress in Jerusalem, which became synonymous with Jerusalem), Palestine only became Herzl’s main focus after his Zionist manifesto ‘Judenstaat’ was published in 1896, but even then he was hesitant. Even after then, instead in 1903, British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain offered Herzl 5,000 square miles in the Uganda Protectorate for Jewish settlement called the ‘Uganda Scheme’.
It would be misleading to argued that third Aliyah, which began from 1919 to 1923, two years after Russian Revolution, was responsible for continuation of the second Aliyah which occurred between 1904 – 1914, however was interrupted by the first world war. A renewed impetus for the third Aliyah was not because the Soviet violently repressed nor was it hostile to the Russian Jews. In fact the Jews of Russia, with socialist/ Marxist view, participated in the Bolshevik Revolutions to over throw the Russia Empire because it was in the interest of their settlement in the new Soviet Union. In July 1930, Maxim Litvinov, a Jew, becomes foreign minister of the Soviet Russia. In May 1934, the Soviet Union establishes the Jewish Autonomous Region of Birobidzhan near the border with China and Soviet went as far as setting up, April 1942 the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee.
The fourth Aliyah 1924 to 1928, was predicated upon several factors that has nothing to do with myths of Soviet Russia violence towards the Russian Jews, instead, it was caused by the economic crisis in Poland and the economic restrictions imposed on the Polish Jews which is referred to as ‘Grabski Aliyah’ dubbed after the Polish finance minister. The crisis had nothing to do with Soviet violence towards the Jews as suggested by Woodcook. In fact it was the Poland that attacked Soviet, twice, January 1918 and April 1920.
The other reasons why the Zionist pressed on with was in the post-war pogroms in the Ukraine and the influence of the European national struggles that coincided with a renewed hope, inspired by the Balfour Declaration and the British conquest of Palestine. Most especially because, descendant of the British Empire, such as Sir Moses Montefiore and Judah Touro were very influential in the British Empire politics.
Unfortunately for the Herzl , the British Empire offered the ‘Ugandan Scheme’ instead of Palestine the same year as the World Zionist Organization’s Congress at its sixth meeting, at Basel on August 26, 1903, where a fierce debate ensued. Some parties felt that accepting the scheme would make it more difficult to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. While some Zionists, argued that the African land was an ‘antechamber to the Holy Land’. It was decided to send a commission to investigate the proposed land by 295 to 177 votes, with 132 abstaining. The following year, congress sent a delegation to inspect the plateau. A temperate climate due to its high elevation, was thought to be suitable for European settlement. However, the Ugandan area was populated by a large number of Maasai, who did not seem to favour an influx of Europeans. Furthermore, the delegation found it to be filled with lions and other animals.
After Herzl died in 1904, the Congress decided on the fourth day of its seventh session in July 1905 to decline the British offer and, according to Adam Rovner, “direct all future settlement efforts solely to Palestine”. Israel Zangwill’s Jewish Territorialist Organization aimed for a Jewish state anywhere, having been established in 1903 in response to the Uganda Scheme, was supported by a number of the Congress’s delegates. Following the vote, which had been proposed by Max Nordau, Zangwill charged Nordau that he “will be charged before the bar of history,” and his supporters blamed the Russian voting bloc of Menachem Ussishkin for the outcome of the vote. The subsequent departure of the JTO from the Zionist Organization had little impact.
Before 1917, both the Zionist Socialist Workers Party (SSRP) (Socialist-Territorialists) and the Jewish Socialist Workers Party (SERP) favoured settlement ouside Palentine. The Russian parties favoured the idea of a Jewish territorial autonomy, outside of Palestine. The two parties were particular about Uganda. However, at the 7th congress of the World Zionist Organization in 1905, and when the WZO formally rejected the ‘Uganda Plan’ (a proposal to resettle Jews in East Africa) after sharp debates. In response, the Zionist Socialist Workers Party (SSRP) (Socialist-Territorialists) and the Jewish Socialist Workers Party and other territorialists withdrew from the WZO in 1905. However, after 1917 revolution led by Lenin, Jews largest political parties Zionist Socialist Workers Party (SSRP) also known as Socialist-Territorialists merged with the Jewish Socialist Workers Party (SERP) to form the United Jewish Socialist Workers Party (UJSWP) in the same year as the revolution. The UJSWP organization favored the idea of a Jewish territorial autonomy outside of Palestine. As an alternative to Zionism, Soviet authorities established a Jewish Autonomous Oblast in 1934, which remains extant as the only autonomous Oblast of Russia.
In conclusion, the danger of single history in the anti Zionism vs anti Antisemitism, is that when we dialectically call out the European Pro Zionists, by criticizing the state of Israel, it seems to me that European Pro Zionists manipulate history over and over again, to accuse us, the so called ‘hard left’, of antisemitism, to conveniently seek public sympathy. While always befittingly emphasizing the significance of not forgetting the ‘history’ of the horror of holocaust (which is genuine fear by the way), by vehemently referencing the Bible as the bearer of the truth. In actual fact, Pro Zionists and Zionist themselves, the Bible was merely a means, a soft touch to massage the heart strings of global public for compassion, to justify the ends, which is the mythological claim to the ‘promise land’. However, conveniently throw out of the window the full history and why the European Zionists finally settled for the Ottoman Palestine.
For John Woodcock MP inferred that Soviet Russian was antisemitic is fallacy , very far from the truth and is an attempt to distort history. However, it is through that the Russian Empire, had a very long record of state-organized genocide and ethnic cleansing was widely regarded as the historic enemy of the Jewish people. Therefore, for a Blairite politicians like, Woodcock, to say on a prime time TV on Channel 4, that some Corbynista in the Labour party are the hard left who imbued the antisemitic thinking of the defunct Soviet Russia is a merely crying wolf.
As African wading into this propaganda of the Blairite Pro Zionists arguement, in many ways for me, the Soviet Union nipped in the bud Uganda Scheme from the Zionist colonial take over of Uganda. Even, by extension, Soviet Russian delivered the wider region of the Eastern Africa from the Zionist, knock on effect that the violent land grab would had stirred up, the imagination that, terrifies me.