The far-left Socialist Workers Party’s annual Marxism 2023 festival, at which Jeremy Corbyn and film director Ken Loach were amongst the guest speakers, was littered with calls for the “destruction” of the state of Israel, and demands for “100 per support for armed resistance” by the Palestinians.
Jewish News watched recordings of three debates on the Palestinian issue that took place during the recent annual event, held at SOAS University, central London, in which Israel was venomously attacked by a succession of speakers as being “racist, apartheid” and “settler colonialist” in nature.
During his speech at the conference, the notorious rapper Lowkey told the audience that in the south of Lebanon, “Israel was not driven out by NGOs or flags at football …Israel was driven out of the south of Lebanon by armed resistance.”
While SWP central committee member Sophia Beach told the audience during one debate:”If there isn’t a solution that doesn’t see the disintegration of the state of Israel, then it’s not a solution I will support, it’s not a solution to the problem.”
She claimed there is “not another state in this world” like the “racist, apartheid” one of Israel.
Beach said the Palestinians would never win through a peace process or a two state solution, because “you cannot bargain with a colonialist.”
She then called for “international solidarity” across the working-class movement, saying the Palestinians “cannot win by armed struggle alone, but that’s not to say that I 100 per cent support the armed struggle.”
The SWP activist added:”I am proud to be organising a festival that has Jeremy Corbyn and Ken Loach speaking at it. These people are strong anti-racist activists and there is nothing antisemtic about what they say. I am proud to be a jew that stands against the state of Israel.”
Marxism 2023, which ran from June 29th to July 2nd, saw around 4000 members and supporters of the far-left organisation gather at the university venue for a series of speeches, films, debates and music events.
Corbyn and Loach, who did not take part in the Israel/Palestine sessions, were amongst the lengthy list of speakers at the event, which also included Noam Chomsky, Greek left-wing politician Yanis Varoufakis, Asad Rehman, director of War on Want, and Jewish Socialist Group member David Rosenberg.
In his speech, the former Labour leader praised the fact that on picket lines led by striking dockers the issue of refugee rights was now accepted, which he said showed “progress.”
Loach meanwhile used his speech to attack Labour leader Keir Starmer, following his expulsion from the party.
But addressing the audience at the end of the debate entitled 75 Years of The Nakba; Why Palestine Is Still The Issue, the SWP’s Beach dismissed the right of Israelis to self-determination.
“In a nutshell no,” she said, of this right.
“Because what does self-determination of Isra
elis actually look like? It looks like what the state of Israel does to Palestinians, right. What is the right to self determination of Israelis? It’s about stealing land from Palestinians.”
Beach said the Israeli state is a “racist endeavour” and “the very meaning of a Jewish state means that Palestinians and Muslims within that state have to be suppressed.”
She then said that while she hadn’t tried to apply for an Israeli passport,”even though all of my dad’s family died in the Holocaust, I’m pretty sure they would reject me. I mean, there’s far too many videos of me on YouTube calling for the destruction of the Israeli state.”
Another speaker in the same debate, a German activist
praised the “new groups” emerging in the West Bank that were engaging in “armed resistance” and were “defying” both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Ramsis Kilani then claimed “revolutionary uprisings” were the key to resolving the Palestinian issue.
But he argued that “imperialism and the Zionist project” were working together in the entire region as the Israeli state “ethnically cleansed” their enemy.
But he claimed that in Germany activists were “shamed” into feeling guilty to stand up for the Palestinians because of what he said was a “wrong and antisemitic equation of Judaism with the state of Israel and Zionism.”
Kilani said Germany had to live with its “horrific past and the crimes against humanity it committed with the genocide against the European Jews with the Holocaust, by explaining that now it can take responsiblity in the world again because it is standing in solidarity with ‘the Jew’. With the equation of ‘the Jew’ being the state of Israel, and Zionism.
“Thereby repressessing anything that stands against the important state ideology… the repression of course faces head-on those Palestinians who reject this narrative and who say there are crimes against humanity happening in Palestine. And also against anti-Zionist Jews in Germany, also competing with this narrative.”
The anti-Zionist rapper Lowkey also delivered a speech in which he expressed support for armed resistance both in the West Bank, and in Lebanon against Israel.
“In Lebanon, not only have we seen the liberation of the south of Lebanon,” he argued.
“Within the last week we have seen people move across into what was part of the Zionist entity and setting up tents…”
He then told the audience:” Now remember, Israel was not driven out of the south of Lebanon by NGOs and flags at football … Israel was driven out of the south of Lebanon by armed resistance.”
The rapper also added:”Despite the best efforts of the Palestinian Authority the West Bank is now armed.”
A further speaker was Richard Boyd Barrett, an Irish member of the People Before Profit party, who sits in the Irish parliament. Barrett said “everything” about Israel is about “racism and terrorism.”
At one point he said:”If you are against racism, if you abhor antisemitism, any form of discrimination, if you abhor imperialism and war, you are duty bound to stand with the Palestinian people and their resistance.”
Barrett ended by saying the crimes committed by Putin in Ukraine had been committed “every single day since 1948” against the Palestinians by Israel.
But during one debate at Marxism 2023 a member of the audience, who declared himself to be an “Arab Muslim” and an anti-Zionist, attempted to challenge the overwhelming narrative of total support for the Palestinian resistance.
He told the panel he had concerns that anti-Zionism on the left often came to support “every expression of Palestinian politics, and I think there is a genuine issue with this.”
The male, who did not state his name, continued:”Palestinian political society is not a homogenous monolith. What I notice in some Palestinian nationalistic tendencies is a real substantial current of Jew-hatred. Of real antisemitism.
“I am critical of this current in Arab political thought that says we can externalise all of the hatred, all of the evil in the region to the Israeli state.
“What I think this does, it gives a pass to all of the Arab ruling classes in the region who are exploiting their own working classes as well.”
He added that the construction of the Israeli state as being “not real” and just made up of settlers “this is wrong.” He said such thinking should mean that questions are also asked such as :”Is the foundation of the Lebanese state legitimate?.”
The male added:”I am very critical of this type of Palestinian politics that says ‘all Israelis in virtue of who they are are evil, are to be condemned’”
He argued:”We should not make concessions to right wing Palestinians” and noted damningly:”I have seen videos on TikTok being pro-Palestinian over the top of Hitler speeches.”
The SWP use the annual event to boost the morale of the group’s declining membership, while also attempting to attract new recruits to their party, which considers itself Trotskyist, and at its height used the selling point of “Neither Washington, Nor Moscow, But International Socialism.”
While a not insignificant number of Jewish socialists and anti-Zionists were once attracted to the party, the SWP alienated itself from all but the most hardcore supporters in the community, when it came out in support of Jazz musician Gilad Atzmon, who has faced widespread claims of antisemitism in his writings.
The SWP also suffered a further decline in support at the beginning of 2013 over allegations of rape and sexual assault made against a leading member of the party, which were covered up.
The SWP’s handling of these accusations against the individual known as Comrade Delta, later identified as Martin Smith, led to a significant decline in the party’s membership.
But at one stage during Marxism 2023, the audience were told that the stall run by the socialist bookstore BookMarx, that has always had close links to the SWP, had raised £45,000 in sales of books throughout the event.
Jewish News has approached the SWP for comment.