‘A Zionist without qualification’

JVL Introduction

Leon Rosselson teases out the contradictions and traps of being a Palestinian trying to talk freely about their experience. He shows with pity and irony how their lives are an offence under the IHRA definition of antisemitism and how describing them only compounds their offence.

While they are silenced and speaking on their behalf is punished, their oppressors can control their lives and insult them with impunity.

As Leon concludes:

“ A Zionist without qualification is someone who has two countries.”
“Why does this someone need two countries?”
“One to live in, one to worship.”
“Isn’t that an antisemitic trope according to the IHRA definition?”
“You learn fast, my son.”

This article was originally published by medium on Wed 18 Nov 2020. Read the original here.

‘A Zionist without qualification’

On 3 November, Israeli security forces carried out demolition work to clear the Palestinian settlement of Khirbet Humsa al-Foqa in the northern Jordan Valley, located in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Seventy buildings and other structures were destroyed, including housing and sanitary facilities for eleven Palestinian families. The United Nations has recorded the demolition of 557 Palestinian-owned structures, an umbrella term for houses, huts, tents and basic infrastructure, in the West Bank and East Jerusalem so far this year.

The forces also demolished 29 tents and sheds used as livestock enclosures, three storage sheds, nine tents used as kitchens, 10 portable toilets, 10 livestock pens, 23 water containers, two solar panels, and feeding and watering troughs for livestock. 74 people were displaced including 41 children, one as young as three months old.

Abdelghani Awada, left homeless by the operation, told the AFP news agency that the Israelis gave people “10 minutes to evacuate our homes”.
“Then, they started bulldozing,” he said.
He said his family had lived in the area for generations and accused Israel of trying to “empty the Jordan Valley of its Palestinian population”.

Israeli army razes entire village in occupied West Bank Bulldozers and diggers demolish Palestinian village of Khirbet Humsa, leaving 74 people, including 41 minors, homeless.

“Did you read that …?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Israeli solders.”
“A whole village.”

“Why did they do that?”

“Because they could.”
“But why?”
“The people in the village were being punished”
“For what?”
“For a crime.”
“What crime?”
“The crime of not being Jews.”
“Since when has not being Jews been a crime?”
“In this little corner of the world, since 1967.”
“The Israeli authorities say the village didn’t have planning permission.”
“Yes, they always say that.”
‘So the village should have applied for planning permission?”
“And then they would have got permission and been allowed to stay?”
“Why not?”
“Because they are not Jews.”
“So they must be punished.”
“Maybe they were Jews once. Maybe they are descendants of the original Judeans-”

“Have you been reading Shlomo Sand?”

“-and then they converted to Christianity or Islam.”

“I doubt that argument would impress Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.”
“Who are they?”
“They’re the only ones who decide who is Jewish in Israel.”
“Can’t people decide for themselves?”
“Certainly not.”
“Are the soldiers Jewish?”
“I expect so.”
“So is it Jewish to destroy villages of non-Jews?”
“Better ask the Chief Rabbinate.”

“And the villagers only got 10 minutes to retrieve their goods.”
“That was generous. Sometimes they get no time at all.”
“As the most learned scholar of the Torah said, a thousand non-Jewish lives are not worth a Jew’s fingernail.”
‘But many of the villagers left homeless were little children. One was a baby”
“Little snakes according to the Israeli Minister, Ayelet Shaked.”
“How awful! Was she sacked?”
“Of course not. Her post calling for the destruction of the entire Palestinian people, ‘including its elderly and its women, its cities and villages, its property and its infrastructure’ got five thousand Likes.”
“What about the soldiers? I can’t help wondering what the soldiers were thinking when they were destroying these poor people’s property.”
“Since when has it been the job of soldiers to think?”
“So they were just obeying orders?”
“Of course.”
“Isn’t that what the Nazis said? The Nuremberg Defence?”
“ Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis is an example of antisemitism.”
“Is it?”
“According to the IHRA definition.”
“So I’m an antisemite?”
“According to the IHRA definition.”

An Israeli soldier detains a Palestinian in the West Bank 1 September 2020

“Oh dear. We’d better change the subject.”
“It might be safer. Ask me another.”
“Why did Corbyn get suspended from the Labour Party?”
“Sorry. We’re not allowed to comment on that.”
“Who said so?”
“Sir Keir Starmer.”
“Did he protest to the Israeli government about the destruction of the village?”
“Don’t make me laugh.”
“He didn’t?”
“Not to my knowledge.”
“Why not?”
“He’s a Zionist without qualification.”
“Can you be a Zionist with qualification?”
“I’ll come back to you on that one.”
“What does a Zionist without qualification mean?”

“Ask Stephen Kinnock.”
“He’s an MP and the son of a former Labour Party leader.”
“I don’t remember him.”
“You weren’t born then.”
“So what has he done?”
“Infuriated Keir Starmer.”
“He said in Parliament that the Israeli settlements are illegal under international law so the UK should not buy produce from them.”
“Is that a bad thing to say?”
“Starmer thought so. Kinnock suggested it was comparable to Israel profiting from the proceeds of crime.”
“Isn’t it?”
“Starmer didn’t think so. He reportedly gave Kinnock a dressing down.”
“Ooh! Scary.”
“I hope you aren’t being sarcastic.”
“Must be like being confronted by a startled rabbit.”
“You are being sarcastic.”
“What did Kinnock say?”
“Nothing as far as I’m aware.”
“Amnesty International says that ‘it is time for the UK and other countries around the world to stop being complicit in Israel’s unlawful killings, forced evictions, ill treatment, arbitrary arrests and deaths in custody’.”
“Criticism of Israel beyond that levelled against any other country could be antisemitic.”
“What’s that?”
“An IHRA example of antisemitism.”
“So Amnesty is antisemitic?”
“According to the IHRA definition.”
“Anyway, why is Mr Starmer being a Zionist without qualification?”
“He wants the approval of the Jewish community.”
“Which Jewish community?”
“The Jewish community.”
“Is there only one?”
“So all Jews think alike?”
“That sounds like an antisemitic conspiracy theory.”
“An antisemitic trope.”
“What’s a trope?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea. It just sounds more sinister than a theory.”
“So are you saying Mr Starmer is antisemitic?”
“I couldn’t possibly comment.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You’re still young.”
“If he’s a Zionist without qualification, how can he be antisemitic?”
“As I said, you’re still young.”
“You haven’t explained what a Zionist without qualification is.”
“I haven’t time.”
“Just a simple definition will do.”
“ A Zionist without qualification is someone who has two countries.”

“Why does this someone need two countries?”
“One to live in, one to worship.”
“Isn’t that an antisemitic trope according to the IHRA definition?”
“You learn fast, my son.”



Comments (27)

  • Chris Proffitt says:

    This article invoked virtually every emotion, anger, fear, humour, sadness, despair. I was in tears at the end…was there a chink of hope there? I hope so. Such a well written article that explained everything in a nutshell.

  • steve mitchell says:

    I first joined the Labour Party in 1956 ag the age of 16. I became a member of the Young Socialists in Dewsbury. My parents were ardent Labour supporters . My Grandad was a miners who was apprenticed to a collier at the age of twelve. He was a founder member of the local CLP. I am steeped on the history of the years between the Wars . I learned how working class people suffered under the Conservatives ; 150 people died every day in the decade prior to 1939. I knew about the Household Means Test by the tie I could read. All my life I have believed the Labour Party is the only vehicle for change in our country . Like thousands of others I rejoiced when Corbyn was elected leader .He gave us hope that the UK could become a good place to live . That our fellow citizens could enjoy the same benefits my generation were given by the Attlee Government. Those of us who grew up in the years immediately after WW2 experienced lives totally different to younger people today; real full employment ,rising living standards our forebears could only dream of. More inequality and much more social mobility. When Jeremy was elected leader I began to dream of a return to those days. A major political party was advocating real change . Of course , I knew the Right would mobilize to crush our dreams but at least there was a glimmer of hope. Alas ,the Right wing of our Party determined progresive policies would never be enacted . No need to describe how they mobilized. From the moment he took office he was undermined and vilified. Even right wing journalists have described his treatment as a national disgrace. The accusation of antisemitism against a man who was the least likely man in the UK to be racist in any way seemed crazy. Alas ,thanks to a well funded , well organised conspiracy , the charge stuck. I believe the hand of the Israeli government is behind this. In the event the Far Right have been given carte blanche to rule. Our Party is neutered for the foreseeable future. For the first time in 64 years I have lost faith in the Party I have loved. I am actually grieving. I cannot support the leadership of Starmer. He has no intention of carrying out our progressive policies . WE must carry on the quest of getting to the truth about the assassination of decent ,honest MP. That has to be the priority. There can be no unity until then

  • Jolanta Noj-Matheson says:

    This was just brilliant but still made me mad and sad.

  • Janet Shapiro says:

    What would George Orwell have written? But this has been going on for years – the house demolitions. A British girl hoping to defend them got shot. Think her name was Rachel.

  • Darren Webb says:

    What a sad world we live in to be called Anti-semitic for caring about people, in reality it shouldn’t be Anti-semitic if it was a countries other than Israel the world would be condemning this Government and taking action, it makes me sad 😥

  • Prof Ellie Palmer says:

    I agree – hard hitting satirical tragic commentary – even the strangely dissociated human rights lawyer Sir Keir might be discomfited were he to read this.

  • Michael Murray says:

    Leon Rosselson, a blast from the past – I last heard him live at a Tony Benn commemoration do in Covent Garden community centre about 10 years ago. He is the author of iconoclastically imaginative and historically inspired songs like “Don’t get married girls”; “Stand up for Judas” and “The World turned Upside Down” – a song about the first major social upheavals in England to which the beginnings of democratic and socialist theory and practice can be traced. Here, in the late autumn of his days, he turns his creative smouldering anger to one of the great injustices of our time: the plight of the Palestinians under brutal occupation. As they say in Ireland: “go mairfidh sé an céad”: That he may live to be a hundred. (For those not old enough to have heard of him: seek out his collaborative work with Roy Bailey – now deceased: RIP)

  • Nicola Moxham says:

    Such a powerful commentary on what is happening, in full view, to destroy Palestinian people en masse and deny them a voice and human rights.

  • Janet Watson says:

    Wonderful article. Beautifully constructed, direct, concise, true. Thank you JVL. Thank you Leon Rosselson.

  • Tricia McLaughlin says:

    I would be very grateful to join.

  • Connie Jensen says:

    Moved to tears. Beautifully written. Thank you Leon Rosselson, and thank you JVL for helping me keep my sanity in the insane world of today’s Labour Party. My daily JVL dose of wisdom, decency and sensitive intelligence is an important part of the slender thread still keeping me in the Party.

  • This tells me all I need to know about Keir Starmer’s approach to Israel and Palestine

  • John Hall says:

    Nice summation. Why aren’t more people simply pointing out the contradictions and falsehoods?

  • John Noble says:

    I could cry for those poor Palestinians but what good will that do?

  • Sabine Ebert-Forbes says:

    It is an enormously powerful article, evoking strong emotions like anger, sorrow, despair in me; at the same time it laid bare a bottomless pit of depravety in those ordering and committing the destruction of a people. The bystanders and profiteers are as guilty as those doing it. It is incomprehensible to me how human beings can do that and still sleep at night.

  • Teresa Steele says:

    Couldn’t fault that article at all. Will be sharing, and if I’m expelled I’m expelled.

  • John Woods says:

    So close to the truth it made me laugh & cry & angry all at once, and looking over my shoulder nervously.

  • Steve T says:

    Yes. Brilliant satire and, dare I say it, FORENSIC dissection of the entire s**tshow.

  • John Mclaughlin says:

    Excellent article, and as for starmer, he doesn’t know what he is, but everyone knows he is not a socialist.

  • M.Pirani says:

    Touche! Very sad especially in the light of what the Nazis did to he Jews. There are Jews with equal despair for what is being done in their names.

  • Stephen Pyle says:

    Wonderful piece, amazing skill in finding humour in the horror

  • John Pursaill says:

    Thank you, it is good to hear someone speaking the truth. Have been great admirer of Leon Rosselson since the 1970s.

  • Bernard Grant says:

    I felt exactly the same emotions as Chris Proffitt, I felt so stressed and helpless I too had to wipe away tears so I could keep reading.
    Can I copy and share please?
    Also, what can be done to stop these heinous crimes?
    I once wrote after watching a video of an Israeli soldier killing a young boy, the bullet smashed open his skull. The soldiers started cheering and patting the back of the killer.
    I wrote, “Isn’t it a shame that some Israeli children are taught that Palestinians are less than vermin”. Facebook suspended me.

  • Steve Griffiths says:

    How strange, my reaction is that it is uplifting to hear the reality expressed with such integrity, wit, power and persuasiveness. I believe there are cracks around Starmer: I hear creaking. I too remember Leon Rosselson’s wonderful songs when we were both young. My response is to hope that people tweet this everywhere possible, to the culprits, the airbrushers and the allies who will witness their responses. Is there any way that supporters can plug into a network to be effective on social media? We are many, and out there there’s the members of the biggest political party in Europe (counting nervously). JVL? Or anyone else skilled in social media campaigning? Lots of us are chafing to support more and ram the case home, and lack some of the skills though we have others.

  • DJ says:

    A marvellous article which lays bare the experience of the Palestinians living under occupation. The IHRA definition that the Israeli lobby are so keen on is designed to censor articles like this. This is why we need to campaign against it.Palestinian voices and those of their supporters must be heard!

  • Alan Marsden says:

    Make this into a play and take it on tour.

Comments are now closed.