Critical solidarity with Israel is not a neurosis. It is an achievement of the left and is based on specific historical experiences of the Federal Republic of Germany.

A wall with bullet holes, dishes on the sink shelf, a painting hanging crooked

Kibbutz Kfar Aza on April 7, 2024, six months after the Hamas attack Photo: Amir Cohen/Reuters

In an interview about the size and limits of the '68 movement in 1978, Hans Magnus Enzensberger made a final note in a conversation with Italian journalist Marco d'Eramo that still resonates today.

The mere existence of real socialism in the GDR, says Enzensberger, meant that radical left positions in the Federal Republic of Germany could not reach as far into the social center as in France or Italy: “You should never forget this Indeed, because “It determines everything, it limits every left-wing political position. Those who do not recognize it isolate themselves. It is difficult for foreign comrades to understand this.”

Well, even today many foreign “comrades” find it difficult to understand not only the official German position on the Gaza war triggered by the Hamas massacre on October 7 and 23. It is precisely “German guilt” – which was first anchored in the national consciousness by the social left – and the actions derived from it, which are seen as a defect, a trauma or a neurosis, if not as a mere excuse for It becomes unconditional support for the war waged by the current Israeli government.

With Enzensberger we can remember that, in addition to the Holocaust for which the Germans were responsible, there is at least one other important historical experience in contemporary history that no other Western country has had: that part of the nation was subject to a real socialist war. dictatorship, which itself claimed to be on the right side of history, even though the wall regime and scarcity economy exposed it as a blatant lie day after day. From this fact Enzensberger derives the limitations of any radical left in the Federal Republic of Germany. He says:

“One of our mistakes in 1968 was to interpret anti-communism only as manipulation by the great monopolies of opinion. And that wasn't true. People were not misinformed. When the workers of the Federal Republic of Germany shouted at us: 'Go to your communist friends!', we reacted hysterically to those shouts, we said to ourselves: 'They are fascists. How is that possible?'.

Instead, they really wanted us to explain to them what was happening in the East. And we couldn't do that. We vaguely said that we wanted another type of socialism, but we could not say which one in a concrete and coherent way. And when an idea collides with an interest, it is always the idea that is defeated. That was the case in '68.”

Back to the Middle East conflict

There are several starting points for today's debate. Wouldn't it be appropriate to publicly explain more than “vaguely” – see above – how you imagine a future in Gaza under the Hamas regime? Or even how criminals should be held accountable?

Should October 7 be the national holiday of a state “from the river to the sea”? What will you tell the children about the party?

More fundamentally speaking, even in liberation movements – and that is Hamas in its own definition and that of its international supporters – the ends do not justify the means. They cannot claim that their killer potential is simply suppressed.: Intellectuals have already made the same mistake in evaluating real socialism, and they still make it, to some extent, in evaluating Putin's regime.

To further paraphrase Enzensberger, wouldn't it be time for Hamas Non-Mentioners' International to explain to us “in a concrete and coherent manner” how they envision a future in the region with these people in positions of responsibility?

Should October 7 be the national holiday of a state “from the river to the sea”? What will you tell the children about the party? Today we celebrate that civilians were massacred, humiliated, abused and kidnapped?

ideas and interests

No, we are no more “misinformed” than the West German workers in 1968 and following. And our information flows into a space of historical resonance from which it would be simply ignorant to overlook the misanthropic potential of those on the morally superior side.

The support Israel received from its Arab neighbors during the Iranian attack also raises the question – speaking again to Enzensberger – of where the “idea” lies and where the “interest” lies in this conflict: So who will win in the end? ? .

Evidently, the interest of the governments of neighboring states – which relevant sectors of the population certainly think otherwise – in stability and containing the regime of the Iranian mullahs and their partners in the region is much greater than the final battle. against Israel or the The liberation of the Palestinians comes from the occupation regime.

The Palestinians: inside they are alone. That is the tragedy of history. But the task of activists and intellectuals is not limited to complaining about this. Rather, they must acknowledge their participation in this tragedy and convey it to their own people. Only this path can lead to a better future.

A new Enzensberger is needed

That Israel should not continue the war against Hamas as if it were a war against the civilian population of Gaza is now the consensus of the establishment from Washington to the Vatican to Berlin and Moscow (although the leaders there have the greatest interest in continuing the conflict). If the postcolonial international left joins this official “laying down of arms,” that is welcome, but it is neither original nor effective.

The left should do what it was invented to do: criticize the government and bravely and radically stand on the side of all victims. To do this, of course, he would first have to recognize the Israeli hostages and denounce Hamas's tactics of hiding behind the civilian population in Gaza. And its intellectuals would have to do what was done in German discourse in much more peaceful circumstances, but also under the challenge of concrete historical experience: criticize their own people, who are willing to justify every heinous crime in the name of anti-imperialism. .

We can only hope that today's left will one day find its Enzensberger to analyze its errors, at least that. But this hope does not make it any less irrelevant to the solution of current problems.

The interview with Hans Magnus Enzensberger is found in the 1978 volume “L'immaginazione senza potere. Miti e realtà del '68” was published and available on the website of the left-wing Italian magazine MicroMega with the title: “Il Sessantotto tedesco. Interview with Hans Magnus Enzensberger” (translations in this text by the author).

Failed to fetch data from the URL.