Jewish Liberation Is Everybody’s Concern*

I am here as Reference Person of the entire Community of RC. I speak, without any hesitation, for that entire Community, in offering a warm welcome to the first Jewish Liberation Workshop. The RC Community, for all its difficulties and for all the distresses it still has to discharge, is firmly committed to completely ridding itself, and the world, of anti-Semitism patterns both within RC and outside. We have much work to do in that direction, but the commitment to Jewish liberation has been made on behalf of the entire RC Community.

The Community has also committed itself to general liberation. There is a growing understanding and acceptance that human re-emergence means freedom from oppression, and that no one can be free from oppression as long as anyone else is oppressed. This reality is sinking in slowly, and the practical implications of it will be a long time in being worked out. But it is an actual situation and presently true that a very sizable movement of intelligent people, a movement that seems able to reach every section of people that it has tried to reach, has attained the point of commitment to the liberation of every human from every form of oppression. My appearance here, and one of my roles in being at this workshop, is exactly to be a symbol of the total support of the entire RC Community to Jewish liberation.


It is an unusual situation to be here, of course, as the only Gentile present. It’s not entirely without precedent. I was the only male present at the first International All-Women’s Workshop. I was the only Caucasian present at the first International Asian Liberation Workshop, and I was the only white present at the first Black Workshop. The good experiences at those workshops have emboldened me to request to be present at this one. I think there is value in having someone from outside the particular kind of oppression present in a liberation workshop like this, to furnish a different viewpoint. Whether I can fill that role, of course, will be determined in the next few days.

I want to first try this morning to look at being Jewish from a non-Jewish point of view. After this, I want to present what I think is a very real and enduring safety: the safety of present reality.


What is distinctive about the people called Jews? Are they a distinct race? They certainly are not. Their genetic background is completely varied. There are Chinese Jews who in every particular are Chinese. There are black Jews who are in every particular black and African. The great bulk of the Sephardic (or “oriental” or “Eastern”) Jews as constituted at present, are probably Berbers and Arabs in their genetic lineage, indistinguishable genetically from the Arabs and Berbers among whom they lived until recently in North Africa. They are converted Arabs, converted Berbers.

The Ashkenazi are suspected by many scholars to be largely Kazar in their ethnic or genetic background. The Kazar were a middle Asian people who converted to Judaism. Later, when they had migrated to Eastern Europe, they were joined by a wave of German Jewish refugees who brought with them a more advanced culture. Their everyday language changed to Yiddish, a medieval form of German, and a particular culture developed. Everywhere that Jews have lived, people around them have become converted to Judaism and intermarried with them, so that any long-term settlement of Jews has acquired very much the same genetic background as the people among whom they lived. Not only have surrounding peoples become converted to Judaism and to the Jewish culture everywhere that Jews have lived, but also, large numbers of Jews have become assimilated into the surrounding cultures. Everywhere in Jewish history, in the early nations of Samaria, Israel and Judah, and many times and places later, over and over, people of Jewish culture, Jewish religion, have become assimilated.

Sometimes they stayed assimilated and sometimes they reemerged again as Jews. Becoming ”Maronite” Christians or “New” Christians made it possible for large numbers of Jews to persist and survive under Spanish oppression. Many of these stayed assimilated and others re-emerged again as Jews in parts of Europe and America when it became safe to do so. (These were the founders of the early Jewish settlements in the Americas.)

Are the Jews unique because of language? No. They speak Arabic dialects. They speak medieval German in large numbers. They speak Russian, they speak Chinese, they speak Japanese. As they constitute a new nation, they speak Hebrew.


What is distinctive? It seems to me from out here to be inescapable that what is distinctive about the people called Jews is a culture, a culture that is ever-changing and has many, many diverse expressions but which has common and long-lasting elements as well. As part of this culture, there is a religion. This also is ever-changing and has many diverse expressions, but has an important persistence and commonality to it.

Where the original Jewish nations and Jewish cultures were constituted, in ancient Palestine, there were many other very similar peoples. The people who assembled into the first Jewish nations and the fountainhead Jewish cultures were remarkably like the other groups of people among whom they lived in the ancient Middle East. All of these groups, all of these cultures, were continually at war with each other, conquering and becoming conquered, being captured and sold into slavery, re-emerging from slavery, becoming vassal states of the ancient empires, being independent for a time, then becoming conqueror states, in great shifts back and forth. The early Jewish peoples went into exile frequently, emigrated to all parts of the Mediterranean world, were sold into slavery as groups and as individuals. Sometimes they stayed where they were enslaved, and were assimilated by the surrounding cultures. At other times, they emerged from slavery and founded new, distinctly Jewish settlements in the places they had been dispersed to. This happened repeatedly, long before the Diaspora.

The other peoples around them suffered very much the same fates. This was the way society functioned in its early slave stage. Continual war. Rome is well-known to us simply because it was the particular slave society that came out “top dog” in a long sorting process in which every slave society city-state tried to conquer and oppress every other slave society city-state. This was simply the “normal” process, the meat grinder that all slave societies went through at that time.

What was distinctive about the people called Jews was simply that their particular culture, of which the religion was an important part, had a high enough survival value that it refused to be wiped out. Nearby cultures, very similar in many respects, were wiped out, over and over and over again. Islands of the Jewish culture were also wiped out, by assimilation or by extermination, over and over again, but never the whole culture completely. The Jewish culture has had a high enough survival value at each stage of history up until now, that the Jews have persisted as a cultural group. It seems to me that this is the essence of it.

How high a value you place upon the religious aspects of the culture and how high a value you place on the other aspects will vary in judgment for every person who takes a look at the question, and will be different for every different viewpoint. But taking the culture as a whole, including the religion, it’s obvious that the people who followed this culture survived better than the similar people of other cultures who lived around them. There was a survival value in holding on to this culture or in adopting it.

Part of what we need to do in working out a rational program for Jewish liberation is to assess correctly the positive values of that culture, the parts that are truly pro-survival. (All of us here have been thinking about this in more or less aware ways.) We need to do this not only for the survival and the liberation of the Jewish people, but for the benefit of all people. The Jewish culture is a treasure house for all people, has always been used as such. It has always been a treasure from which surrounding people and cultures have borrowed and borrowed and borrowed.

Looking at the religious aspect, for example, many ancient religions were spin-offs of the Hebrew religion. Some of them still exist, such as the Samaritans in Palestine. But also such huge institutions as Christianity and Islam borrowed almost all of their roots from the Jewish religion. Mohammed had read widely in Jewish literature. Most of the good elements of Islam (and there are very good elements in the Islamic religion), can trace their roots to the Jewish religion. Almost all of the good elements of the Christian religion, of course, come from such wholesale borrowing. Christianity uses the Old Testament as the foundation of everything, and it is completely a Jewish literature. But there are many other positive elements as well: the tradition of excellence, the caring within the family, the community support, the love of scholarship and the written word, the tradition of justice, the undying, though necessarily by now occasionally rigid, hope for a positive future for all. These elements, even on quick examination, have high survival value.

If we re-examine Jewish history, and do not let ourselves be too engulfed in the horrors and defeats, I think we will see elements in Jewish culture which have had profound survival value for the Jewish people and will have for all people. I think that because we have, at last, the tool of the discharge and reevaluation process, we can begin to separate and distinguish the pro-survival elements in the culture from the elements that have interfered with survival—that have cooperated in non-survival, in the extermination and the assimilation and the other defeats which the Jewish people have suffered with such intensity and frequency.

No other people suffering a small fraction of the defeats which the Jewish culture and Jewish people have suffered, have survived. This kind of thing happened to many, many peoples, but never to the same people hundreds of times over, with their still persisting. This is a real source of tremendous pride. Every Jew can be enormously proud of Jews having endured.


With discharge and re-evaluation, I think we can begin to separate some of the things that are non-survival that got glued in with the positive elements of Jewish culture by the distress. This is, perhaps, one of the key contributions which RC can make to Jewish liberation. All of us have sensed, or we wouldn’t be here, that with discharge and re-evaluation we can reclaim our vast pride in being Jewish without feeling obligated to go on making the same kind of mistakes that have over and over again led us to the brink of extermination.

Humanity is today on the verge of moving toward an economically unoppressive society, a classless society. This has great significance for everyone, because class oppression, economic exploitation, economic oppression, is the great grand-daddy of all other oppressions. It is the one which spins off all other forms of oppression. The oppression of women was a spin-off from the institution of class oppression. It began early, under slavery, with the enslavement of women, but it persisted under feudalism and under capitalism, with many hangovers from the slavery and feudal days. Any special oppression is deeper because of the class oppression underlying it. Racism began as a tool for maintaining class oppression, for dividing the oppressed. Mistreatment of children is a spin-off from class oppression. Now the great motive power behind all forms of oppression is on its last, shaky, rotten legs. The collapse of capitalism is well underway.

If all of us who are wage workers (and most of us are wage workers, even though we might have been trained to think of ourselves differently; the college professor sells his labor for a portion of what his labor produces, just like the machinist), if all of us in this key, oppressed role supported capitalism to its utmost, if we cheerfully worked for lower wages and took pay cuts and were loyal employees; and if all women agreed to continue in their oppressed role; and if all Jews agreed not to protest against anti-Semitism, but accept it as their lot; and if all blacks said thank you for the mistreatment every time they turned around, capitalism would still fall flat on its face in a very short period of time. Its internal contradictions are bringing capitalism to an end, and there is no possible way this can be avoided.

So we have this basic factor in the world, that the great, motive power of all oppression is on its last, shaky legs. There are great dangers, of course. There have always been dangers. Capitalism killed off the majority of the population of many countries in Northern Europe in overthrowing feudalism, and capitalism as a system cared not a whit that the battles and the plagues that followed decimated most of the population as long as the system survived. It’s conceivable that the red button will get pushed and the missiles will fly and a majority of the world’s population could die. It isn’t likely, but it’s a possibility to take into account. The possibility shouldn’t add to our terror because the overwhelming probabilities and the overwhelming forces lie with the people.

The objective situation has been ready for a long time for a liberated humanity. Only the subjective situation, which has been so puzzling because it’s so difficult to take apart, has held us back. At last we can come to understand why the subjective situation has been so difficult to change, because we’ve discovered at the heart of it that familiar (to us) entity, the distress pattern. It’s plain now that all oppression has persisted at any time only on the backs of installed distress patterns. Only the distress pattern allows oppression to continue. Only the distress pattern allows stupidity to continue. Only the distress pattern allows an oppressive society to continue. One has to be conditioned by the installation of a distress pattern to be willing to be a victim, or one simply would not be a victim.


We’re reaching some important general conclusions in RC that are quite valid, but would be difficult for people to believe because of the distress and discouragement that’s been put upon them. One of them is: Given a correct policy, any situation can be successfully handled. Any time that things are not going well for us, any time we have frustrating difficulties (I don’t mean having to do hard work—you know the difference between working very hard, but knowing things are working; and having frustrating difficulties), any time that we’re having frustrating difficulties, we can safely conclude that there is something wrong or incomplete about our policy.

This understanding has useful implications. Any time a group of us, whatever we’re doing, are feeling frustrated, it’s time to stop and have a think-and-listen. Ask, what possible things could we do differently than we are doing now? Even five or ten minutes of this can make a big shift. Only persistence in patterned behavior leads to defeat.

It’s true that you can take isolated sample situations such as “there you are in the swamps of Vietnam and it’s kill or be killed;” but you had to act stupid a hundred-and-fifty times first, to get into that situation. The path forked a hundred-and fifty times, and you took the wrong path every time, in order to get to that.

Inside a distress, it doesn’t seem like that, I know. It doesn’t seem like it to me, either, but it has to be true that, given a correct policy, any situation can be handled successfully. We have the tools at our disposal now. We’ll have better tools. We’re continually improving them. But we have enough tools at our disposal now to say flatly that we can always determine a correct policy.


We non-Jews have a lot to do about Jewish liberation in the non-Jewish sphere. In RC, the non-Jewish RCers have a great deal of awareness yet to gain and work to do in looking at the anti-Semitism which has been systematically installed over a long period of time in all cultures, in order to get rid of it. As far as I have any influence (and I have some), we will be tackling that.

If we tackle it in the RC Community, it will get tackled outside. Because what has been lacking outside, too, is a correct policy. I think you’d be amazed if you knew how thoroughly and completely almost all non-Jewish people would welcome a good policy against anti-Semitism, one that they could understand and use. How shallow the roots of anti-Semitism are among Gentiles! I don’t know, from where you are, if you can conceive of it, but I can say flatly: the roots are very shallow.


It’s the primary responsibility of non-Jewish RCers to do something about this. But also, since I have this audience to talk to, I’d like to say that from out here, it seems very plain to me that with the strength of the Jewish culture and the tradition of being smart and the actuality of being smart, and the tradition of scholarship and of high education and a community feeling, that some very terrible patterns have to be operating, to have brought about the defeats that you have suffered. I don’t think there is any question about it. I think we’re at a point where we can look at and begin to differentiate the strength of being Jewish from the self-defeating patterns of being Jewish, and we can really live the one and discharge the other.

In the little leaders meeting we had just before this, a reference was made to the “heaviness” and the “thing” that most Jews feel.

At one point, I said that another name for the “thing” is terror. How could it be otherwise? It seems to me that everyone, every Jewish person I know in RC, is operating brilliantly on top of a sheet of icy fear; that there is complete terror in there. How could it be otherwise? I have my own terror. The people I come from lived in terror all their lives, too; but not in the same way, not with the same intensity, not with such uniformity.

What can we say about the terror, which is, I think, the biggest thing that we have to strip off? Well, that it can be discharged, just like any other terror. What is difficult in discharging it? The lack of a safe place to stand while you look at it. We’ve known for a long time in RC that you can’t “bail the ocean while you’re drowning in it.” This has become a key point of counseling—to find a place to stand while you bail the ocean; to find some ground, some bottom under your feet.

Is there safety? I think so. What are the elements of safety in RC? One, I think, is the one I just tried to say—correct policy will always lead to successful survival, and we have the tools for determining a correct policy when we use them. This, I think is the basic safety.


What’s a second element of safety? That there are no, no contradictions between the survival of non-Jews and Jews.


Three, that it’s demonstrable, though it has not been well enough demonstrated or often enough demonstrated or widely enough demonstrated by far, that anti-Semitism is a knife at the throat of every oppressed person, and is primarily directed at the majority of the oppressed, not primarily at the Jews, although they suffer the most from it. Anti-Semitism is primarily a tool of oppression of everybody.

Is anybody surprised by that? Let me just point it up a little bit. Anti-Semitism is the model for the divide-and-rule tactic which has been the only thing that has maintained oppression for a long, long time, probably for hundreds of years by now. Only the conditioning of each group of the oppressed to oppress every other group of the oppressed has allowed oppression to continue. And anti-Semitism was where this all developed.

Why? Well, in the objective conditions that existed the persistence and strength of the Jewish culture led to its spread throughout the world. Almost everywhere in the Western and Arab world, in the Turkish Empire, in India and Indonesia, were groups of Jews whose culture set them clearly apart from the surrounding people, who were few in number, conditioned to isolation, conditioned to a victim role individually and as groups, carrying the victim patterns, and with no national homeland to intercede for them. With this condition existing in enough places, it was undoubtedly inevitable that some oppressive ruler would come up with the “brilliant” notion of turning the fury of the other oppressed on this small group as scapegoats. Who knows when it was first done? But it was very quickly learned by adjacent rulers from the one ruler, the unknown “genius” who thought it up the first time, and it spread over almost all the world, and has been used again and again and again.

It was used by the secular authorities. It was also used by religious authorities who were indistinguishable from the secular authorities in earlier times. It was used by the Eastern Christian churches and by the Roman Catholic churches, and it was used by the Protestants and by the religious leaders of Islam. But, whoever was the spokesman or tool, it was always used by and for the basic group of oppressors, the economic exploiters, for whom the anti-Semitic religious leaders were simply fronts. From the use of anti-Semitism as the early, experimental divideand-rule tactic, which, found successful, was widely spread and inculcated as a tool for dividing the oppressed, divide-and-rule has spread to be used against every other group.

Here at Madison last spring, for the first time in RC, we made a simple step forward by asking, “How are you oppressed?” Instead of saying, “We will have the following liberation groups,” we said, “How are you oppressed?” and we found about twelve new kinds of oppression. I think most of you have read the amazing reports of this which were printed in Present Time. At Arundel (England), a few weeks ago, we had thirty-three reports on thirty-three kinds of oppression. The oppressive structure is being revealed so clearly. Here at Madison we heard fifteen groups of the population (there were eighty people here—a substantial sampling) stand up and say, “This is how the rest of you are making our lives unbearable day after day in your unaware attitudes and actions,” and each time all the rest of us listened in amazement and dismay.

The realization is becoming clear that each one of us is conditioned to put down and oppress people in all the other groups except our own. And that the oppressor society has no real strength except as the installer and manipulator of the conditioned patterns to make us all do the dirty work for the oppressor.

The real oppressor is the outmoded society. Even the members of the ruling class in this oppressive society suffer terribly from it. Both at Buck Creek and Arundel we had reports from the Upper Middle Class Caucus, and the distress and oppression by the society these RCers reported were very real. We had some old patterns grumble at first, “Why are we doing this stuff? We should be reserving our attention to think about South Africa. They have no right to grieve about their petty grievances,” and so on. But that was wrong, and after a little discussion, everybody understood that it was old, divisive patterns talking.

Everybody is oppressed. Everybody’s life is ruined by living in an oppressive society, everybody’s! Even the members of the oppressing classes can be reached intellectually (individually, not as a class, of course) to want to end oppression.

So it can clearly be demonstrated that anti-Semitism is the cutting edge of the main mechanism for oppressing all people. It can clearly be demonstrated that all working-class people have an immediate stake in overthrowing and eliminating anti-Semitism completely. It hasn’t been done yet; but the job needs doing, and it can be done. Until we understood the distress pattern and the means of dealing with it, people were helpless. You can look back at all the well-meant attempts that have been made in this direction and see how they failed again and again and again in the face of the un-understood mechanism of the distress pattern. Well, the ugly thing isn’t un-understood anymore. We know what to do about it. And it’s sticky getting at the pattern where it lurks behind our mind at the back of our head, and so, as always, we’re going to be mainly working on these this week. But we can see the back of each others’ heads pretty well.

So, we can demonstrate logically and clearly to everyone in every stratum of society, (and when the logic fails to get through, we can help people discharge until it does), that anti-Semitism is not only nonsense, that anti-Semitism is not only shameful, that anti-Semitism is not only destructive, but that it is a weapon aimed at the heart of that particular individual. We can show that anti-Semitism has operated, continues to operate, and until it is eliminated, will operate as a complete disservice to that particular person. We can do that. I think that’s an element of our safety. It gives us lots of work to do, but that’s an element of safety.


Probably the element of safety I’m most excited and hopeful about is the final realization of the importance in the lives of all of us of the conditioned powerlessness. This comes home with special force on Jewish oppression.

When the breakthrough to realizing the role of powerlessness came (the story of how it occurred appeared in Present Time), I went back and looked at what I’d been writing for the last six months and found I had been using the word over and over again, but I hadn’t heard it.

It was a decisive breakthrough to realize that this great, grey, fuzzy glunk that carpets all our floors and papers all our walls and tiles all our ceilings and greys all our windows and smogs all our outdoors is not natural, is not reality, but is the result of intense, severe distress, systematically installed on every single human being during childhood. It is permanently liberating to realize that the glimpses we’ve had of human nature in small breakthroughs on personal and small group issues, that humans are inherently full of initiative, taking charge of everything, and laughing at any opposition, is accurate in the wide world on the big issues, too.

Now the great, grey gobs of goo are still hanging everywhere. We haven’t gotten them discharged yet. But if we can see powerlessness as non-reality, if we can see it as an acquired, removable thing, then we can get rid of it.

The longest delay that I can remember in our seeing a problem clearly, and then finding a way to effectively work at it, was last year, when the International Community at Buck Creek really committed itself to work on white racism, and it took ten months before we found a way to really do it.

That took ten months. So maybe it will take a while to find all the good techniques for eliminating powerlessness. Maybe the powerlessness patterns will turn out to have more confusing layers below the top layers that we have begun to understand. Probably, as with all patterns so far, once we think we’ve really mastered them, they will sneak up our back a few times and be running us again before we even notice it. But we will find ways to completely eliminate powerlessness.

What are the key elements in the patterns conditioned on Jewish people, which lead them to cooperate in their own oppression? There are many of them. You have told me about invalidation, self blame, disunity, feeling like outsiders, terror, impending doom. What’s one of the key elements? What’s certainly one of the biggest grey gobs of goo? It has to be powerlessness, doesn’t it.

This powerlessness must be the source of another ancient destructive pattern, the one that says that cooperation in being the visible agent of the oppressors is the only way one can survive and allow one’s people to survive. Of course that has to spring from powerlessness. This agreement to support reactionary policies is, long range, one of the most destructive policy patterns, always buying short-range survival for a few, but long-range destruction for many. This has to be rooted in powerlessness. It has to be.

Can we cut this pattern right off at the root by eliminating the powerless conditioning? If we can, we can stop piecemeal protesting or being critical of the particular manifestations of this pattern and eliminate it at its powerlessness source. We can stop being content with saying, “Kissinger, you shouldn’t have done that,” or “Israel shouldn’t have supported South Africa.” We don’t have to go around picking the twigs and branches. We can get right to the root of it, and say, “Jews, take back your power.” Will we have to discharge? Yes, a lot. But I think we can do it.


As we discharge the powerlessness and take back our power, the isolation pattern is going to have to go. It seems to me that isolation is the cutting edge of the distress that has kept us from an effective Jewish liberation policy. I hear from Jews I CoCounsel with, “But it’s so deep! You cannot ever trust anybody else but other Jews to support you!” I don’t doubt that it’s that deep. Certainly non-Jewish RCers have to prove in practice, as well as in our intentions, that the non-Jewish RC community is going to discharge its anti-Semitism patterns, and make Jewish liberation a central point of its knowledge and concern. That’s going to take some doing. It’s not enough, by far, that I, as a leader, take the position I do. This is still a little inside a tradition of Jews cooperating with non-Jewish leaders or officials who “officially” take a stand against anti-Semitism, but never really reach their own memberships. We can’t settle for that. Non-Jewish RCers must become active against anti-Semitism, in RC and in the wide world. Every bit of involvement of nonJewish RCers in actively supporting liberation policies is going to be important ground for you to stand on in discharging the isolation distress patterns.

But we don’t have to wait for that. You don’t have to wait on it. The isolation can be contradicted right now along with the powerlessness. Sheila and I had a little discussion on the draft statement Number 2. She drafted it as a statement from “We Jews,” and I said no, and she agreed to change it. After she read it to a meeting in Boston, she again said she thought it ought to be a statement from Jewish RCers. And I again said no. She is not entirely convinced, and I anticipate a lot of discussion on this issue. But I want to say that I think it’s crucial that this statement be a statement of the entire RC Community because isolation is the key element in Jewish oppression. Of course, the black RCers speak for themselves, Asian RCers speak for themselves, the women speak for themselves in RC, and there will be many statements made just by Jewish RCers about Jewish liberation, and correctly so. I think it profoundly correct tactics, however, for the RC Community as a whole to speak for Jewish liberation at this point. Our basic, fundamental statement on Jewish liberation needs to be a statement that every Gentile RCer can sign, as well as every Jewish RCer, needs to be in the form of a united statement of the whole Co-Counseling Community.

Isolation as an expression of internalized oppression has arisen for very definite reasons. It was imposed from the outside to begin with. Once imposed, it was hardly surprising that selfisolating conclusions were drawn and became recorded and passed on from generation to generation. But, liberation does not lie that way. Isolation must go. At least half the key job has to be done by non-Jewish RCers, done by refusing to accept the isolation from outside, by discharging their own anti-Semitism imposed by the culture, and insisting and assisting others to do likewise. But no Jewish RCer needs to wait on actions from outside. Excuses for not taking the initiative oneself comprise one of the stickiest of patterns, and one that slows everybody’s re-emergence whenever it gloms on to an individual.

Certainly we must never accept that something outside is stopping us. That has to be nonsense. We have enough glimpses of reality to be able to say that very flatly. Logically, it’s impossible for anything else to be true than that each one of us is indeed mistress or master of the universe. If any one of us thought clearly enough and adopted correct enough policies and put them into action, that alone would eventually guarantee the freedom of the world and the end of all distress patterns. We have enough glimpses of reality to say that “philosophically and logically, it has to be true that if any one of us, any one human being, thought clearly enough, was well enough informed (and that’s not difficult these days), discharged where it was difficult to think, and put these clear thoughts and the resulting policy into action, communicated it in a way that other people could hear and join in the action, that one of us alone would be sufficient to determine the future of the world, the liberation of humankind and the end of distress forever.”

It has to be true. There are by now too many glimpses of the capacity of even one individual human intelligence, let alone the power achieved by the linking of intelligences in the ways that we’ve begun to learn to do it, for it to be otherwise.


So, what I would like to say is that reality is real and reassuring; that the terror associated with being Jewish is simply installed distress. It can be discharged completely.

I want to say that isolation is your enemy no matter in what friendly guise it appears. It appears, I know, as safety, as survival, as the only possible response to rejection. It will appear in every possible pseudo-survival form, but it’s your enemy. Isolation is your enemy no matter in what guise it appears.

I want to say that anti-Semitism can be shown to be, and can be heard by everyone to be, the enemy of all people and the immediate enemy of that particular individual, and that there is no individual who could not be mobilized against it, could not become a dependable ally in the struggle to eliminate it.

I want to say that the great, underlying oppressor, the economically exploitive society, the prime mover of all other oppressions, has lost its capacity to maintain itself and is well on its way out of existence.

There is enough safety. There is enough safety in our ability to think, our ability to relate, and our ability to discharge. If we remind each other of this safety, and support each other, we can discharge the heaviest terrors. In a workshop like this all-Jewish one, there is a little bit of a tendency to pool our distresses and to resonate with each other’s fears. “Where are you going to find somebody outside the terror?” a couple of people have already asked me, and already told me, “You’re not enough, Harvey.” But I don’t need to be enough, because reality is enough. We have to scrape the frost off it, wipe the dirt off it, get our heads out of the fog of our own fears. We will have to be skillful counselors to each other to help each discharge each one’s particular fears and confusion and uncover the reality, but the reality is there. There is enough safety now to discharge all the pseudo-reality of our distress. The reality that is left is handleable.


When I think of Jewish liberation from a general perspective, I don’t think, “At last, safety for Jews!” I think, rather, “Aah haah! An army of tough and able ones who have joined the general fight!” Because, of course, I’m concerned with the liberation of everyone. I’ve long been concerned with working-class liberation, and more and more, I’m coming to understand the others. It is simply time that human beings be free.

As each group enters upon its liberation struggle, each comes with all kinds of handicaps imposed on it by its particular oppression. If you look at the blacks struggling for liberation, you see the tremendous invalidations and feelings of worthlessness and ignorance that have been installed on them as a group, and which they have to struggle out of. You see the fragmentation of Native Americans and so on. Each has to counter the effects of the particular oppression they have suffered. Well, the liberation front is growing. If you read the Rough Notes from Liberation I & II, this marvelous transcript of a workshop a year ago last April, the first general liberation workshop, you can see there in embryo a liberation front of a wide variety of people. The working class, largely quiescent as yet in the United States, is ready to move. The blacks, the Chicanos, the Puerto Ricans, the Native Americans, the children, the older people, the students, the intellectuals, the immigrant national groups, the middle class, are all facing unbearable problems that cannot finally be solved without a fundamental transformation of society. There is a liberation front in preparation. Its ranks are forming. Its unity is being forged. We in RC have a great contribution to make to this, because we have the means of solving the problems that have frustrated and divided every other attempt at unity before. As Jews join the liberation front, casting aside all the traditions of isolation, casting aside the tradition of having to ally themselves with the oppressor in order to survive, taking their places in the ranks of the other oppressed—think of the strength they bring!

Do you have any notion how strong you are? Do you have any notion of how strong you appear from out here? I like to be up front in any struggle, but as you move, I’m going to have to run, to keep from getting trampled.


Let me just say a word about the oppressive role of Israel. We heard about the dilemma of Israel over and over last night. It’s a dilemma that I’ve shared. In the past, I bought largely the attitude of the rigid Left, that Israel’s role toward the Arabs was an imperialist plot foisted upon the liberation struggles of the Arabs, and my confusion was understandable. Looking more basically at the situation, however, I think, “How could I be so unthinking?” I and most of the world’s Left have been very foolish. This is true, I think, of all the Left sentiments that decry Israel’s existence—we have all been the unwitting victims of long-standing anti-Semitism patterns that are very pervasive. And as with any conditioned pattern, anti-Semitism doesn’t care what vehicle it rides. It will sneak into a Left policy just as happily as it will into a Right policy.


The key issue here—and you should tell this firmly to your Left friends, who are good people, but whose confusion cannot be excused—is what stage of liberation or revolution the Israelis are engaged in. Is it nationalist or socialist? Don’t be confused by the names political parties give themselves, since the word “socialist” as used in such contexts has no relation to what we are saying.

It’s been clear in revolutionary or Marxist theory for a long time, that any nation emerging from national subjection must progress through national emancipation, which is essentially a capitalist revolution, achieving national independence, before it can proceed to a socialist revolution, which involves taking power by the working-class people and their allies and proceeding to the abolition of classes. Any nation still in feudal conditions or under foreign rule, which is the modern counterpart of feudalism under conditions of capitalist imperialism, must go through successive revolutions. Feudal institutions must be overthrown. National independence must be achieved before the nation can proceed to class revolution, to the abolition of classes, to the establishment of socialism. Yet, the sectarian Left around the world has over and over and over again made the mistake of demanding of Israel that it be a socialist state. As of now, it can‘t be. Jewish liberation at this point is national liberation, and it’s very clear, from the standpoint of socialist theory, if you brush aside the anti-Semitism and look at the reality, that the safety, the liberation of the Jews, requires a national homeland.


We heard this last night in everything everybody said. No matter how uneasy they were about Israel’s reactionary policies, they were glad that Israel existed. Q— said, if I remember correctly, that it was crucial to her own re-emergence that Jews had stood up and fought somewhere. I think she meant, fought with the possibility of victory, with the actuality of victory, which is an essential ingredient. There has been no shortage of fighting bravely by Jews. What is new is fighting and winning. (I hope to talk, a couple of mornings from now, about the fighting ability and about the brave battles of the Jews, historically.) The liberation of a national homeland and the existence of a national homeland are essential for Jewish liberation.

It would be almost impossible for Jewish liberation to take place without a national homeland. Does this require that every Jew immediately go to Israel and take up arms for the survival of that nation on the ground there? No, of course not. Jews have the right to be residents of any place on earth and still claim their national homeland with pride, just as the Croatian or the Serbian or the Norwegian has that right; to live anywhere on earth and yet be very proud of their national homeland, their national traditions, even if nation and tradition have only lately been re-established.

Is it important that Jews everywhere support the existence of Israel? Of course. Is it important that Gentiles everywhere support the existence of Israel? Of course. It’s essential for the freedom of all people that there be a strong national homeland for the Jewish people. Is it important that every Arab support the existence of Israel as a national homeland for the Jews? Of course. Arab liberation cannot succeed without Jewish liberation. It’s possible to demonstrate this, and it’s possible to demonstrate this to Arabs. Many attempts in this direction are going on in little ways, and with confused policies, but enough to indicate the need for Arab-Israeli and Arab-Jewish unity.


Is it essential that Israel have better policies than it has had, in order to survive? Yes, but that is point number two. You cannot deal with point number two until you are very clear on point number one. Point number one is that regardless of how wrong Israel’s policies are or may be at any particular time, regardless of how oppressive the Israeli society is of the Eastern Jews, or of the wage workers, or of the Arabs; regardless of how wrong Israel’s policies are in being an appendage of American imperialism, or in supporting the racism of the South African white minority state, regardless of any other wrong policy, Israel’s existence must be supported. Point out to your rigid Left friends (it will help) that the Left has supported the most reactionary regimes in Africa because they were national governments, because however rotten and reactionary they were, they were national liberation governments, whose people had a right to their own independence even under the rottenest of governments. The Left has in general correctly supported this policy. Left Jews have in general supported this. Jews have often been in the forefront of the struggle for the liberation of the North African Arab states. Over and over, Jews took the lead in these national liberation movements. Often they were expelled very shortly after the liberation was achieved, but in general, they have not regretted their support. They knew that liberation was necessary for the Arab peoples there.

Why apply a different standard to Israel? Why say you can only support Israel if it has correct socialist policies? Nonsense! This has to be anti-Semitism. It has to be endemic, pervasive, sneaky anti-Semitism. We don’t have to make any apologies for Israel at all. In the fullest sense of socialist theory, Israel’s existence must be supported and guaranteed, even if it was completely reactionary, even if it was rotten in its foreign policy, in its treatment of minorities, in its class oppression. Israel’s existence must be supported as a national homeland for the Jewish people.


Then, and only then, we can say that Israel must become the champion of Arab liberation. It must become the champion of a national homeland for the Palestinian people, whose territorial integrity is guaranteed by Israel, if necessary. We can say that Israel needs to help establish a bastion for real Arab liberation.

Having taken the first stand, we can say to Israel, “Get rid of these nutty old policies of being an appendage of the imperialists and a pawn in the imperialist game. Start using the strength of the alliances right next to you. Look at the realities of Palestinian existence, and of the great need for the Arabs to have a base with which to fight against the reactionary regimes installed on them by the American imperialists and the Russian imperialists.” Then we can be critical of Israel’s policies, and make suggestions for better ones. But we can only do this, having given our complete support to point one, that Israel’s existence must be maintained regardless of how wrong its policies or practices are at any particular time. 

Harvey Jackins

* Report at Jewish Liberation I—September 19-23, 1976

Last modified: 2017-05-07 06:35:41+00