libby-davies2.jpgIt appears that NDP deputy leader Libby Davies has been ambushed. After being set up in an interview clearly designed to entrap her, the country’s right wing has initiated a witch-hunt. They have seized upon a series of comments she made about Israel and Palestine to smear her personally, the NDP left, and the opposition to Israeli imperialism and the struggle against the occupation in general. Disgustingly, the initiator of this tirade was none other than the NDP’s other deputy party leader, Thomas Mulcair.

Those who control the past…

The situation has been blown out of all proportion. Anyone who bothers to watch the interview can readily tell that the right-wing smear campaign is based on pulling quotes out of context, and then putting words into her mouth. With the Thought Police seemingly on patrol everywhere these days, this aggressive, hysterical straw man reasoning—the newspeak and doublethink for the digital age—is the fuel for the very propaganda machine she talked about in the interview.

The interviewer is clearly a pro-Israel activist posing as a “neutral” indie journalist, or perhaps even a pro-Palestinian blogger. After a rally against Israel’s deadly attack on the aid flotilla, Libby was approached for the interview. The first question she got was a loaded one—about when she considered the occupation of Palestine to have begun, 1948 or 1967. From the beginning it was clear that the interviewer was attempting to back Libby into a corner and get her to make statements on a few key issues—the occupation, the Green Line, the blockade of Gaza, the BDS movement—that could be used against her if taken out of context.

Libby’s first apparent thought-crime was the way she answered the question about when the occupation began. Clearly caught off guard, clearly not prepared, clearly not making an official political statement, and clearly finding the question peculiar, Libby hesitated and answered “1948,” then added that in fact the date was not important, that either way it was one of the longest occupations in the world, and that the really important thing was that something be done about the suffering of the Palestinian people.

Indeed, those who control the past control the future; those who control the present control the past. The entire right wing, from the National Post to Stephen Harper to NDP MP Thomas Mulcair, have all lined up to inform us of the official version of history.

Suddenly, there is only one acceptable history—the history from the point of view of the most radical supporters of the state of Israel, the history of the victor and aggressor. To say otherwise means committing the thought-crime that according to these people, means you must therefore deny Israel’s right to exist, which means that you must be an anti-semite.

But, it doesn’t mean that at all and the one does not flow from the other! The spin has been created around the straw man reasoning that if Libby believed the occupation began in 1948, she then therefore believes that Israel has no right to exist. But, she never said this! And indeed, she has always made it clear that she supports Israel’s right to exist and that she supports the two-state solution supported by the NDP.

However, the book on history is not closed. There is more than one interpretation of events, and certainly more than one interpretation of the history of Israel and Palestine. There is no contradiction between saying that the Israeli occupation started in 1948 and believing in Israel’s right to exist. Many ignoramuses in the press and the political establishment are using this as evidence that Libby does not know the history of Israel, yet her answer to the loaded question in fact shows that she knows her history, and better than these fools!

Prior to 1948, there was no state of Israel. Where did it come from? It certainly didn’t drop from the sky or magically appear one day. It certainly wasn’t a universally happy, peaceful affair. The Palestinians certainly didn’t willingly cede their homes and land to the state of Israel.

In fact, the state of Israel was founded on the basis of an intense political campaign that included terrorist bombings, the forced expulsion of some 750,000 Palestinian Arabs from land designated for Israel, an intense civil war in the former British mandate, and eventually a full-scale war between Israel and several nations in the region. Depending on one’s point of view, there are many dates that could be considered the start of the occupation. It is not for nothing that the right of return of Palestinian refugees is one of the major issues in this question; the Arab peoples forced from their land, from their homes and villages, certainly believe their land was occupied. However, according to Mulcair and Co., apparently their point of view doesn’t matter. Apparently, according Mulcair and Co., only their version of history is acceptable.

Marxists were opposed to the creation of Israel in 1948, precisely because it was believed that, on the basis of capitalism, the establishment of the state of Israel would be a cruel trap for the Jewish people and would be a major crime against the Palestinian people. How true this turned out to be. This is precisely why the Marxists do not agree that a two state solution will actually ever solve the question of Israel-Palestine, and instead argue that the only solution to the problem lies in the unity of the Israeli and Palestinian workers, youth, and poor in a struggle against their enemy in common—Israeli capitalism and US imperialism.

We cannot turn back the clock on the history of Israel. Israel exists and has a right to exist—the Israeli people have the right to exist just like anyone else, and this should also mean the Palestinians. Of course, having said that, the state of Israel has no right to conquer and oppress other peoples, as was done in the establishment of the nation, and as Israel continues to do today. Thus, there is no contradiction in believing that the occupation began in 1948 and believing that Israel has the right to exist.

NDP right wing hurts party

While everyone gets caught up in the hysteria and propaganda of the Harpers, Raes, and Mulcairs, the Tories, Liberals, and the right wing of the NDP are using this issue to smear and attack the left of the NDP. They would all love nothing more than if Libby were to resign. These right-wing hypocrites may or may not care about the issue of Israel and Palestine and what Libby Davies thinks about it—but, the real intention clearly is to smear and damage her and the NDP left.

Stephen Harper and Bob Rae are leading the charge. Rae argues, “The logical implication of these comments is that Israel has no right to exist.” Harper crassly argues that Davies’ comments “[are] a fundamental denial of Israel’s right to exist,” and claims they are a repeat of comments made by Helen Thomas, a veteran White House correspondent who recently resigned after stating that Jews in Israel should “get the hell out of Palestine,” and “go back to Poland, Germany, America, and everywhere else.”

Libby’s comments were clearly nothing of the sort, and there is nothing similar between what Libby said and what Helen Thomas said whatsoever. It was just this sort of hysterical straw man reasoning that Libby was decrying in the interview—that the response of the pro-Israel camp to any criticism of Israeli imperialism and its criminal abuse of the Palestinian people is painted as anti-semitism.

This video was utterly unimportant until NDP MP Thomas Mulcair got a hold of it and decided to use it for factional purposes against Libby. When the interview was first posted on YouTube, it went unnoticed, with something like less than 30 views in the first 24 hours, most of them probably by the interviewer himself. But then Mulcair, the dark horse of the NDP right wing and most rabid pro-Israel supporter in the party caucus, saw the video and saw an opportunity to strike.

Somewhere along the line, Mulcair got a hold of the video and exploded the situation out of all control. He launched a merciless factional campaign to punish Libby and attack the left. He launched the spin that if Libby believed that the Israeli occupation began in 1948, then she must therefore believe that Israel does not have the right to exist, a flagrant leap in logic used solely for factional purposes. With no regard for the party, Mulcair twisted all the right screws and pushed all the right buttons in an effort to smack Libby down.

Mulcair’s campaign worked, and Jack Layton panicked. He hung Libby out to dry when it would have been more than easy enough to answer the ignorant and slanderous arguments of the Harpers, Raes, and Mulcairs ,and the idiots in the press. Layton could have also taken the opportunity to take the lead and attack Israeli imperialism and its criminal treatment of the Palestinians. Instead of defending her, he forced her to make a public apology and even went so far as to apologize to the Israeli ambassador! Layton shouldn’t be forcing her to apologize, but commending her courage and joining her in her stand against Israeli imperialism and the McCarthyism in the political arena about the question.

As Layton desperately prostates himself and the entire party before “good, decent bourgeois society” in an effort to show the real masters of the country that he is responsible enough to be prime minister, and prepared to work for the boardroom table instead of the kitchen table, the NDP is humiliated and its public image damaged.

It’s no accident that Mulcair and Davies split the position of deputy party leader. This is Jack’s symbolic gesture towards “unity” and “bringing the party together;” this was Jack’s attempt to get the party’s left and right wings working together. We’ve always explained that there is no real middle road, and as the economic crisis deepens and the class struggle intensifies, the room for the middle road will become smaller and smaller, forcing Layton to choose one or the other. His recent actions, not the least of which is siding with Mulcair in this rabid affair and grovelling for forgiveness on Libby’s behalf, clearly show which way he is drifting.

The message sent by Mulcair was loud and clear for Davies and others in the NDP: “No member of our caucus, whatever other title they have, is allowed to invent their own policy. We take decisions together, parties formulate policies together, and to say that you’re personally in favour of boycott, divestment, and sanctions for the only democracy in the Middle East is, as far as I’m concerned, grossly unacceptable.” The National Post even commented that if NDP supporters want to retain ties to the BDS campaign, they will have to do so clandestinely. Mulcair may find it unacceptable, but does that mean he has the right to shut down debate in the party on the issue?

All socialists, workers, and youth in the NDP must demand an open debate on this question in the party, and we must fight for the NDP to adopt a principled position against Israeli imperialism and the oppression of the Palestinian people.