Once upon a time, the Socialist International was an extraordinary organization. Founded in 1951 as a successor to various prior socialist groups, it was staunchly democratic and anti-Communist, and played an important role during the Cold War. Members included such luminaries as Felipe Gonzalez of Spain and Mario Soares of Portugal, and the SI helped them and their socialist parties re-establish their countries as democracies. The SI included people like Willy Brandt and Golda Meir.
Those were the good old days. More recently, Germany’s socialist party (the SPD) formed a new organization in 2013 called the Progressive Alliance. Among the SPD’s complaints: the SI now includes too many non-democratic parties. The Progressive Alliance now counts well over a hundred member parties and groups.
The latest news about the SI is the resignation from its ranks of Israel’s Labor Party. Why? Because the SI has now joined the BDS movement, calling for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. In late June, the SI adopted a “Declaration on the Palestinian Question” that “Calls all governments and civil society organizations to activate Boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli occupation, all the occupation institutions, and the illegal Israeli settlements including the total embargo on all forms of military trade and cooperation with Israel as long as it continues its policies of occupation and Apartheid against the Palestinian people.”
And that’s not all. The Declaration denounces Israel’s actions on the Israel/Gaza border without one single word of comment, much less condemnation, of Hamas. It “calls on the US administration to reconsider its positions that are favouring Israel,” as if favoring Israel were itself against international law. It “reaffirms its commitment…to bringing a complete end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian state that started in 1967.” Now that’s an interesting formulation, because there was no Palestinian state for Israel to occupy in 1967—just territory governed by Jordan and Egypt.
The SI has a long history and will continue in existence, doing good work and bad. But it is sad to see what was once a staunch defender of democracy and human rights collapsing into allowing non-democratic parties to affiliate and into using the usual Leftist canards. The SI Declaration said it wanted to encourage “progressive forces” in Israel, and the secretary general of Israel’s Labor Party, Yehiel Bar, responded forcefully:
In the declaration, you reiterate your ‘solidarity with the progressive forces in Israel.’ As the international secretary of the Israeli Labor party, as a leader in the party, and on behalf of the Labor Party leadership, the largest progressive party in the Israeli parliament, let me assure you that until the full and formal cancellation of this poor one-sided and miserable declaration, your ‘solidarity’ is not desirable by us.
I note that while Israel’s Labor Party is no longer an SI member, guess which party in that region is? Fatah-- Yasser Arafat’s old party, now led by Mahmoud Abbas. Fatah, whose leadership is never democratically chosen and which rules the West Bank without elections, free speech, or freedom of the press.
The SI’s actions, in driving Israel’s Labor Party out and embracing the Fatah Party, tell us all we really need to know about its present state. And that is a sad story.