Excerpts below from a speech by Nadine Rosa-Rosso, a Brussels-based independent Marxist, at The Beirut International Forum for Resistance, Anti-Imperialism, Solidarity between Peoples and Alternatives, held from January 16 to 18, 2009 ( full text also here):
The massive demonstrations in European capitals and major cities in support of the people of Gaza highlighted once again the core problem: the vast majority of the Left, including communists, agrees in supporting the people of Gaza against Israeli aggression, but refuses to support its political expressions such as Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The Left not only refuses to support them, but also denounces them and fights against them. Support for the people of Gaza exists only at a humanitarian level but not at the political level.
At all the demonstrations I participated in Brussels, I asked some demonstrators to translate the slogans that were chanted in Arabic, and they did so with pleasure every time. I heard a lot of support for the Palestinian resistance and denunciation of Arab governments (in particular the Egyptian President Mubarak), Israel's crimes, and the deafening silence of the international community or the complicity of the European Union. In my opinion, these were all political slogans quite appropriate to the situation. But surely some people only hear Allah-u-akbar and form their opinion on this basis. The very fact that slogans are shouted in Arabic is sometimes enough to irritate the Left. For example, the organizing committee of the meeting of 11 January was concerned about which languages would be used. But could we not have simply distributed the translations of these slogans? This might be the first step towards mutual understanding. When we demonstrated in 1973 against the pro-American military takeover by Pinochet in Chile, no one would have dared to tell the Latin American demonstrators "Please, chant in French!” In order to lead this fight, we all learnt slogans in Spanish and no one was offended.
If we would agree to stop staring blindly and with prejudice at the religious beliefs of people, we would perhaps "learn to understand" why the Arab and Muslim masses, who today demonstrate for Palestine, are screaming ‘Down with Mubarak’, an Arab and Muslim leader, and why they jubilantly shout the name of Chavez, a Christian-Latin American leader. Doesn’t this make it obvious that the Arab and Muslim masses frame their references not primarily through religion but by the relation of leaders to US and Zionist Imperialism?
And if the Left would formulate the issue in these terms, would they not partly regain the support of the people that formerly gave the Left its strength?
Another cause of paralysis of the Left in the anti-imperialist struggle is the fear of being associated with terrorism.
On the 11th of January 2009, the president of the German Chamber of Representatives, Walter Momper, the head of the parliamentarian group of ‘Die Grüne’ (the German Greens), Franziska Eichstädt-Bohlig, a leader of ‘Die Linke’, Klaus Lederer, and others held a demonstration in Berlin with 3000 participants to support Israel under the slogan ‘stop the terror of Hamas’. One must keep in mind that Die Linke are considered by many in Europe as the new and credible alternative Left, and an example to follow.
The entire history of colonisation and decolonisation is the history of land that has been stolen by military force and has been reclaimed by force. From Algeria to Vietnam, from Cuba to South-Africa, from Congo to Palestine: no colonial power ever renounced to its domination by means of negotiation or political dialogue alone.
Nadine's criticism is powerful because it comes from an athiest, European, leftist who is able to take a step back and point out the racist, islamophobic, and imperialist glasses through which the European 'left' views the world, wether they realize it or not.
This is important to take into consideration when discussing not only global protests and resistance to Zionism/neocolonialism but also the status and 'integration' of Muslims in Europe.
Finally, comments below from a I.K. (thanks for forwarding speech and comments!), in relation to US 'Left':
One additional comment I would add, is that it is important to note that the author is characterizing major trends of the "European Left" specifically "traditional" Marxist/Communist political organizing which has a long history there. There are, however, some elements of "Third Worldist" leftists that view Islamists in a more positive way.
In the USA, this could be seen reflected in the differences between UFPJ (which has its organizing base in the much older Communist Party of the United States (CP USA) and ANSWER (which currently has its organizing base in the Party for Socialism and Liberation; but before the 2004 split, in the Workers World Party).
Traditional Marxists (like many in Europe) do not see beyond "class" as an organizing unit, neglecting the national aspirations of Third World nations that may very well organize beyond "class" including the use of religion.