Thursday, May 25, 2017

IfNotNow is NotReallyNew

The Peter Beinart-spawned IfNotNow's demo * on Jerusalem Day (here, too)

reminded me of Joseph Berger-Barzilai of which this source records.

JBB (original name Joseph Isaac Zilsnik, other form Zeliaznik) was a founding member and secretary of the Communist Party of Palestine.  He later was a victim of Stalin’s purges.

Born in Cracow, Poland in 1904, he grew up in Vienna and was brought up as an orthodox Jew and a Zionist. In 1919 he emigrated to Palestine. There he worked first on road construction and then as a translator in an enginering firm.  Originally a member of the leftist Zionist organization Hashomer Hatzair, he became soon a communist, took part in the founding of the Palestine Communist Party. The party had to operate under illegal conditions since the British Mandate Authority had outlawed all communist activities in 1921 as a result of the Arab riots, partially initiated by a May Day fight between various leftist groups.

His family, that included a son, Joseph, lived in the Arab village, Beit Safafa, then on Jerusalem's outskirts, under false identity.  In the spring of 1929, he was again called to Moscow. There he had a five-hour meeting with Stalin on May 5 and received the order to severe the ties with the Arab Executive Committee and other parts of the Arab nationalist movement. He returned to Palestine to take command of the party after the August 1929  riots in Palestine. In a statement the party had characterized the troubles as a result of colonialism: that Britain, afraid of the unity of Arab and Jewish workers, had instigated racial hatred to divide the communities, and this was aided by Arab effendis and Zionist leaders. According to Moscow’s instruction, Berger had to change this line as an Arab anti-imperialist rebellion against Britain and the Zionists and demanded unconditional support of the party for the “revolutionary Arab toilers,” notwithstanding their nationalist and religious slogans and their subordination under the violent anti-Jewish policy of the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin El-Husseini. Following the ECCI directive, Berger helped to reorganize the party to include an
Arab leadership. See, too, here. And here:

Within the Yishuv, the Jewish community of Palestine, the party devoted itself to a continuous fight against Zionism. This was the main concern of the party, as Berger frequently explained in his meetings with Comintern officials in Moscow or elsewhere. Karl Radek told him that the slogan “The success of the party depends on its becoming an Arab mass party” should become the guiding principle of political action. It was soon called “Arabisation”. Berger, the liaison between the ECCI and the Palestine Communist Party, was told frequently that “the center of gravity of the PCP’s activity must be among the Arab toiling masses.”

In a statement of Berger, on behalf of the party after the riots, it was

claimed that the riots originated from the protest of expropriated and exploited Arab toiling masses against their deteriorating social conditions. It also stated that it was the British mandate administration that was able to succeed in transforming what was originally a radical anti-colonial movement into an anti-Jewish pogrom. Jewish and Arab reactionary leaders had contributed their share to what turned out to be a religious struggle by turning the Western Wall into a symbol of power.

He was then ordered to arrange the appointment of a Central Committee that would constitute an Arab majority.

He later was arrested as a Trotskyite and spent some 20 years in the Soviet Gulag.

The lesson of Berger-Barzilai (p. 10) vis-a-vis IfNotNow?

Arrival in Palestine for some leftist Jews brought the realization that the Zionist project was in fact colonialist rather than socialist. When seeing that the land was not empty, as they had been told, but in fact was very much inhabited and cultivated by Arabs deeply opposed to their “project,” many Jewish communists and socialists left.

In the next phase of the anti-Zionist struggle of 1936-39,

The Comintern continued to support the Arab Revolt with relative consistency until early 1939, when the fascist threat against the Soviet Union began to overshadow other considerations. When the momentum of the revolt was fading and the AHC leaders adopted more “terrorist” methods, the Comintern denounced them as “traitors.” The new policy was declared in January 1939 in the Communist International, the central organ of the Comintern, which wrote: “Eli Chusein [Haj Amin al-Husayni] and his mysterious men . . . are wreckers and traitors to the true national movement of the Arabian people.”

IfNotNow is basically following in the the footsteps of those on the far left of over 80 years ago.

Only now, the Arab terror is not that much a problem, it would appear.

* Update: According to Leanne Gale, the spokeswoman for the protest, three organizations took part: IfNotNow, its Israeli counterpart All That’s Left, and Free Jerusalem, which describes itself as a solidarity group of Jewish Israelis working with Palestinian partners to combat the occupation in East Jerusalem.


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