Antisemitism, Palestine and the left: after the election… what next?

The charge of antisemitism against Labour was a key feature of an unrelenting campaign against Jeremy Corbyn and the labour left.

Rob Ferguson places these attacks in the context of the global narrative of the “new antisemitism”; he argues this has to be understood as an ideological offensive that has emerged from a crisis of neo-liberalism globally and the fear of revolt from below.

It is an offensive that not only seeks to defend Israel and Zionist political ideology, but which casts Muslim populations and the left as a “threat” to Western society and “liberal values” as a whole. This is a narrative that strengthens the racist right and crucially, fails to protect Jews.

It is in understanding the challenge and the motives underpinning this ideological offensive that the left must now forge a strategy after the election.

Stand Up To Racism Hampstead vigil, 30th December 2019

Opinion

Rob Ferguson

Labour’s election defeat on 12 December has been a bitter blow for the entire left. A Johnson government will have severe consequences: for workers, migrants, refugees, ethnic minorities and the poorest in society.

My own view is that Labour’s failure to grasp the anti-establishment component of the 2016 leave vote and succumbing to the pressure to shift towards a Remain position lies at the core of this defeat. However, it is also clear that the failure to stand up to the unrelenting, cynical politicisation of charges of antisemitism had devastating consequences. It is this ideological offensive and the consequences for the left as a whole that are my focus here.

The labelling of Labour as a “racist” party has been ongoing since 2016, running through the media’s “liberal” wing to the gutter press, and remained a key feature throughout the election campaign. Some may have concluded that this assault will now abate, “mission accomplished” so to speak. The immediate post-election landscape speaks otherwise.

In the Queen’s Speech the government announced legislation to prevent public institutions from imposing boycotts, divestment or sanctions campaigns against foreign countries and those who trade with them and to prevent institutions from working with those supporting BDS. In Jerusalem, Eric Pickles, Chair of Conservative Friends of Israel, and UK Special Envoy for post-Holocaust issues, declared BDS to be “antisemitic and should be treated as such”. The day after the election, the Tories’ “Antisemitism Tsar”, former Labour MP, John Mann, announced an investigation in January into “The Canary” and other left websites for promoting antisemitism.

Meanwhile we face an ongoing clampdown on campus Palestine and Islamic Societies (PalSocs and ISocs) with meetings subject to restrictions and bans, and harassment from Prevent leads. The witch hunt against pro-Palestine activists and critics of Israel now threatens to extend beyond Labour. The latent Islamophobia running through the anti-left campaign is likely to become more explicit. Days after the election, The Jewish Chronicle, to its utter shame, published a vile hate piece by Melanie Phillips, peddling the foulest Islamophobia and conspiracy theories of Islamo-Red plots.

For the Labour left, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission’s investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party looms menacingly. If the EHRC – against all the evidence – effectively find the Labour Party to be “institutionally antisemitic”, we can expect a renewed assault on the left, an extension of the witch hunt and further attempts to silence the Palestinian voice and critics of Israel.

The prospect under Corbyn’s successor is not promising. In an article on Labour List, one leadership contender, Emily Thornberry, insisted that recommendations from the EHRC inquiry should be implemented in full, and those criticised of any “wrongdoing”, expelled immediately. The party, Thornberry declares, needs to be “utterly ruthless… No indulgence, no excuses, no warnings or training sessions. Just kick them out”. Rebecca Long-Bailey, the preferred candidate of the left, went out of her way some months ago to post the outcome of a meeting with the Jewish Labour Movement, in which she conceded ground to­ claims of antisemitism against Labour, supported demands for Chris Williamson be expelled and, at the urging of the JLM, condemned The Canary.

We therefore face the likelihood of a renewed assault on a number of fronts. My concern is where we go from here.

To address this question, it is important to locate the roots of this ideological attack and its international context. We need to understand the forces ranged against us and their motives.

Context: the “new antisemitism” narrative and its roots

The repeated charges of antisemitism against Labour are widely viewed on the left as part of a wider attempt to undermine Corbyn’s 2015 leadership victory by any means necessary; his principled position on Palestine adding fuel to the ferocity of the attack. This view clearly reflects a simple truth; however, taken on its own, it is insufficient as an explanation.

The origins of the “new antisemitism” narrative lie in the aftermath of the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973. Its core thesis was that opposition to the state of Israel from the “new left”, the Palestinian liberation movement and Arab nationalist regimes, constituted a new form of antisemitism. For a long period, these were generally defensive arguments, confined to single-minded advocates of Israeli policy and Zionist political ideology.

However, the early 2000s marked a turning point in world politics and a dramatic reshaping of the narrative of the “new antisemitism”.

In Israel-Palestine, the apparent “consensus” following the 1993 Oslo peace accords was shattered by the outbreak of the Second Intifada in September 2000; this was followed in 2006 by Israel’s defeat at the hands of Hezbollah and withdrawal from Lebanon, and by the shock election victory of Hamas the same year. The assaults on Gaza in 2012 and 2014 that were met with major worldwide protest, exposed the racist and oppressive character of the Israeli state. This presented a major challenge both for Israel and its imperialist backers.

However, it is an understanding of the wider crisis of which Israel was only one element, that is crucial. The collapse of the Oslo accords were set against 9/11 and the catastrophic wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya; the disaster of Syria; the rise of Islamic State and not least, the Arab revolutions of 2011. Furthermore, this crisis of imperialist intervention was accompanied by the financial crash of 2007-8 and the greatest global economic crisis since the 1930s. Neo-liberalism was truly under siege.

It is in this context that the “new antisemitism” narrative took new form as an ideological offensive on an international scale.[1]

The war “over there” inevitably came “over here”. Muslim communities became subject to a wave of state sponsored and media Islamophobia; a key aim was to sow divisions and undermine anti-war sentiment. It was argued that a dangerous alliance had formed between Muslims and the “hard left”, bound together by a common “anti-Americanism” and authoritarian political traditions. “Radical Islam”, in alliance with the “hard left”, was now portrayed as an existential threat to Western liberal values and society. Central to this narrative was the casting of Muslims and the left as now the principal threat to Jewish communities, displacing that posed by the far right.[2]

For the pro-war, neo-liberal camp, Israel was now on the front line in a far wider war. In Britain, as elsewhere, this narrative was seized upon by leading proponents of military intervention on the Blairite wing of the Labour Party, such as Denis McShane and John Mann (See MacShane: 2008); both became leading opponents of BDS with Mann playing a key role in the witch hunt against the left in Labour.

The central concern of the post-2000 narrative of the “new antisemitism” was the supposed threat posed to Western society as a whole: from Muslim populations adhering to an “alien” hostile worldview and an anti-imperialist left opposed to capitalism; both accused of sympathy with enemies of the West. While the defence of Israel remained vitally important in itself, it now acted as a crucial focus for waging a wider ideological battle.

Understandably much attention is focussed on Israel’s role in promoting this narrative. However, the influence of an “Israel Lobby” cannot explain the scale of the attack. Of course, the Israeli state and its champions relentlessly exploit every opportunity open to them. This should be exposed and challenged. However, the ruling establishment of the world’s major powers have made this narrative their own. This ideological attack arises organically from what is a systemic crisis; an element of deliberate manipulation is important but ultimately secondary.

Here an over-emphasis on the “Israel lobby” runs the danger of getting things the wrong way round. The Pentagon, NATO, the rulers of the world’s economic and military powers, do not need persuading that a defence of Israel is in their vital interests. This is particularly true of the largest military power in world history, the United States. The tail does not wag the dog.

Furthermore, despite many Jewish communities’ hostile political positioning in relation to the left and their support for Israel, objectively, Jewish diaspora communities are being deployed as an ideological “human shield”. Put simply, the non-Jewish champions of Israel and tribunes of the attack on the left, are not defending Jews as Jews. Their “support” is ultimately conditional on a perception that Jews’ political allegiances reflect establishment interests. Where that begins to shift, that conditionality breaks down.

This can be seen most clearly in the US where Trump has passed an executive order to punish universities that allow campus campaigns for Palestine and BDS and treat Jews as a national group.[3] Trump has led the charge in support of Netanyahu, settlements, the occupation and the Nation State Law. Trump’s support is for Israel, not Jews. Trump and his administration actively promote antisemitic narratives casting Jews as wealthy “globalists”, as “disloyal” Democrat voters, even as “brutal killers”. This is exemplified by former new York mayor, now Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Guiliani, declaring he is more of a Jew than Holocaust survivor, George Soros, who “hates Israel”.

It is not simply a matter of antisemitic dog whistles. Trump plays on themes of a migrant “invasion” promoted by “global special interests”; his defence of white supremacists has thrown open the door to the far right and fuelled antisemitic, anti-Muslim conspiracy theories of “Islamification” and “the great replacement”, the consequences of which are seen in neo-Nazi terror from Pittsburgh to Poway, Halle and Christchurch.

Far from providing security for Jews, the institutionalisation of the “new antisemitism” narrative strengthens the racist right, weakens the left, and provides cover for those who present the real threat. In conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism, the far right are handed a get-out-of-goal-free card who now simply rebut any accusation of antisemitism on the grounds they support Israel. Finally, the “new antisemitism” narrative provides a firewall behind which conservative forces seek to conceal their anti-migrant, anti-black racism and Islamophobia.[4]

Internationally we are seeing the growth of far right and fascist movements on its greatest scale since 1945; yet this is accompanied by an ideological narrative that degrades the very meaning of antisemitism, undermining unity against the far right threat and racism.

This poses challenges for the left… and brings us back to post-election Britain.

The battle ahead and how it should be fought

Antisemitism is a global threat rising on the tide of Islamophobia post 9/11. It is a tide upon which the far-right rides from Brazil to Budapest.

Antisemitism, like any form of racism or prejudice can permeate all sections of society, including the left. Racism divides those who have a vital interest in uniting against a common foe. Thus, where it does arise it has to be be challenged and held subject to sanction and can include expulsion from labour-movement organisations where necessary.

Black and anti-racist activists have a long record in combatting the influence of racism and prejudice in the labour movement. The same holds true of discrimination against women, LGBTQ people and other forms of prejudice. We will take no lessons from the right in this battle but nor can we tolerate false charges made for cynical political gain that undermine a real fight against oppression in all its forms.

The attacks of the last four years are set to continue and broaden. Johnson’s legislative proposals against BDS are matched by Trump’s executive order in the US, and by the resolutions in the German Bundestag and French parliament.

We cannot afford a fragmented, partial response to this offensive. We require a response that matches the threat. To restrict our focus to the pro-Israel camp or the internal battle in Labour will be a recipe for failure. An effective response has to combine a number of indispensable elements.

No concession on principle, the defence of free speech

Over the last four years the charges of antisemitism against the Labour left have been marked by concessions and retreats, in the vain hope that attacks will recede and party unity be restored. This merely set the stage for further escalation. However, there have been wider consequences beyond Labour – for Palestine solidarity, for free speech and the right to protest, for the anti-racist struggle and for Muslim communities. There is increasing pressure to extend the adoption of the IHRA “working definition” from local authorities to the campuses. Concessions are not cost-free.

A defence of free expression is therefore central, based on the widest possible campaigns in the trade-union, labour and student movements and community campaigns. On campus, campaigns must aim to unite students, university staff, student unions and societies, local trade unionists and political and community figures.

Support for free expression on Israel and Palestine does not require political agreement with an anti-Zionist view, or with a particular view on Israel-Palestine. However, any defence of free expression and Palestine solidarity must refute any conflation between anti-Zionism, criticism of Israel or support for BDS, and antisemitism. It is precisely on this false premise that free speech is under assault and therfore this false equivalence has to be resolutely rejected.

Palestine

The most stark consequence of the campaign against Labour and the left has been the silencing of the Palestinian voice. The issue of Palestine has to be at the heart of any strategy. The voice of the dispossessed has to be given its platform; which means that voice has to be on the platform. Palestine solidarity and the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions campaign must not only be resolutely defended but actively built, in the student and trade-union movements and in wider society. A national demonstration for Palestine could act as an important focus for such campaigns.

Antisemitism

Solidarity with Palestine cannot now be separated off from the argument over antisemitism. The greater the hold of the “new antisemitism” narrative, the greater the pressure to silence the Palestinian voice and to suppress solidarity and campaigns such as BDS. We cannot ignore the elephant in the room. The “new antisemitism” narrative and its institutionalisation in the form of the IHRA “working definition” has to be fought openly. Common platforms with Palestinian, Jewish, Muslim, trade union and left voices will be important to providing a focus for resistance and for wider campaigns.

We can expect attacks on the left to continue, within the Labour Party and beyond, with the EHRC judgement being prepared in the wings. The movement needs to arm itself, politically, ideologically and organisationally. Defiance will be essential, but this cannot simply be focussed on the internal structures of the Labour Party, it will have to be fought out in the open alongside the broadest possible forces.

The fight against racism and the far right

The rise of Islamophobia and racism, and the election of a Johnson government present a major challenge. Over the last year the far-right street movements represented by Tommy Robinson have been rolled back; however, the international picture shows there can be no complacency. The Johnson government presents its own threats we can expect the Tories to play the race card to avert discontent.

Across Europe and the US, antisemitism is mounting with the rise of the far right and fascist organisations. The “new antisemitism” narrative, far from addressing this threat, provides it with cover, while at the same time sowing the most dangerous divisions on our side.

This makes this years’ anti-racism day demonstrations on the 21st March called by Stand Up to Racism immensely important. More widely we need to build the anti-racist movement in our localities.

Combatting the “new antisemitism” narrative

The charges of antisemitism against the Labour left and Palestine solidarity are ultimately driven by political motives. The “new antisemitism” narrative itself is cynical and damaging. However, its impact cannot be entirely explained by manipulation, or by hostile and biased media coverage, critical though these may be.

Most Jews and non-Jews accept key premises of this narrative. Foremost of these is that an affinity for Israel and identification with Zionism is intrinsic to Jewish identity, manifested on the left in support for a “two-state solution”.

For arch Zionists support for Israel may constitute explicit backing for a settler-colonial project and wholesale oppression of the Palestinian people. However, the key anchor for pro-Zionist ideas amongst Jews and non-Jews (outside Israel) remains the historical experience of antisemitism and genocide. Thus, many will accept a Jewish state as legitimate while being opposed to the oppression of the Palestinian people and remain open to support campaigns in solidarity. This is a contradiction that cannot be wished away in a slogan but requires political engagement.

Amongst diaspora Jewry (and many non-Jews) the first post-war breach with Zionism and Israel took place in the 1960s in the context of the anti-Vietnam war movement, civil rights, black power, the women’s and gay liberation movements and anti-colonial struggles. From this emerged a generation of young Jewish anti-Zionists, many of whom still form a key voice on the left in opposition to Israel and Zionism, a voice reflected in Jewish Voice for Peace in the United States and in JVL itself.

Most young Jews entered those movements accepting Zionist ideas and support for Israel; however, they began to develop political conclusions from the wider struggles they were engaged in. Argument and discussion on the meaning of an internationalist, anti-imperialist politics, often patiently conducted, played an important role.

After the battle of Seattle in 1999 and during the mass anti-war movement after 2001, solidarity with Palestine became a core thread of the movement. These struggles again had an impact on a layer of young diaspora Jewry. In the US, these fractures are again opening up as sections of young Jews find themselves confronting Trump, white supremacy, and their attendant antisemitism.

The battle against the racism and the far right is an Achilles heel in Zionism’s ideological armoury. Here the political battle between socialist internationalism and Zionism, dating back to the origins of Zionism itself, can again begin to come to the fore.

From this perspective, it is important to avoid traps that play into the hands of our opponents. Careless references to the Nazi Holocaust are a case in point, as are historical references to collaborative agreements between some Zionists and the Nazis (although never on an equal footing). Intentionally or not, such lines of argument can appear to equate the victims of antisemitism and genocide, with the persecutors. This is a gift to the tribunes of the pro-Zionist camp.

On one hand we need specific arguments about the character of Palestinian dispossession and solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom; on the other we need to insist that the project of seeking sanctuary from historic antisemitism in a Jewish state founded on that dispossession, can never protect Jewry but only reinforce an order that places Jews themselves in jeopardy. Ultimately, the only sanctuary from antisemitism is in a common struggle against all forms of national oppression, racism and imperialism.

The wider battle

The “new antisemitism” narrative is fundamentally a response to the wider crisis of neo-liberalism and imperialism in the early 21st century. It is a narrative that aims to undermine any radical challenge from below to austerity, war and racism.

That requires a response in kind; a response on a number of fronts, inextricably linked to each other: in the new explosive movement against climate catastrophe; in building a mass movement against racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia; in the battles against austerity, and in the movement against war. And in building solidarity with Palestine.

We need a “turn to the movements”, to the trade-union struggle, to the campuses and to communities, not least those on the receiving end of Islamophobia and racism. This must be the relentless focus of opposition to the attacks we face.

To place the internal battle in the structures of the Labour Party at the fore, would be a tragic error. Most of the new membership of Labour have never attended a CLP meeting or a conference. They are to be reached in the struggles for a different society; that is after all what inspired the support for Jeremy Corbyn. He was seen as a man of the movements. Those who were galvanised have not disappeared with the election defeat.

That is not to say that the left in the Labour Party should abandon a fight; rather it is to argue that the outcome of any internal battle will be won or lost in the struggles outside the confines of Labour and its structures.

It is in the resistance to Johnson and the Tories, and in the movements for a different society that our strength, and our hope, lies.

Endnotes

[1] This is difficult to overstate. A literature search prior to 2000 on the “new antisemitism” would yield a handful of key texts by the likes of Abe Foxman, Robert Wistrich, Arnold Forster and Benjamin R Epstein and Bernard Lewis. Today a search would locate tens of thousands of books, articles, and press commentary.

[2] The most prominent articulation of these was arguably by Pierre-André Taguieff, first published in French in 2002 and translated as Rising from the Muck: The New Antisemitism in Europe, 2004 (Ivan R Dee). Other texts include Fallaci, Oriana, 2002, The Rage and the Pride (Rizzoli); Phyllis Chesler, 2003, The New Antisemitism (Gefen). Laqueur, Walter, 2006, The Changing Face of Antisemitism: From Ancient Times to the Present Day (Oxford University Press); MacShane, Denis, 2008, Globalising Hatred: The New Antisemitism (Weidenfeld & Nicholson); Bauer, Yehuda, 2009, “Problems of Contemporary Antisemitism”, in Murray Baumgarten, Peter Kenez and Bruce Thompson (eds), Varieties of Antisemitism: History, Ideology, Discourse (University of Delaware Press).

[3]How Antisemites hear Trump”, Gabby Deutch, The Atlantic, 2 November 2018; “Jewish groups criticize Trump for antisemitic stereotypes in speech”, Lauren Aratani, The Guardian, 9 December 2019; “Donald Trump is attacking both Jews and the left with one clean blow”, Kate Aronoff, The Guardian, 12 December 2019.

[4] A very good article from the US by Phyllis Bennis of Jewish Voice for Peace in the LA Times deals with this: “I’m Jewish. I fight anti-Semitism and I support Palestinian rights”.


Rob Ferguson is author of “Antisemitism, the Far Right, Zionism and the Leftpublished by Bookmarks. Rob is on the steering committee of Free Speech on Israel and a member of the Socialist Workers Party.

 

Comments (12)

  • Colin Bowman says:

    I found this article intelligent and informative; crucially regards its reaching out to a big-picture horizon. I sense its thesis will have a long half-life effect for me.

  • Leah Levane says:

    this is an important and extremely thoughtprovoking article.. the dramatic upsurge in references to “new antisemitism” post 2000 was particularly noteworthy. But for me taking this understanding and developing this with the wider LP members – as said here – those who do not go to branch and CLP meetings or conferences…to think also about how to balance the work between the local and national and global and between doggedly addressing the LP structures while also being on the streets, in deep discussion and standing in solidarity with those who are suffering directly under this Tory government. But it is a responsibility we cannot shirk and the better informed we are, the more strategic we can be, the more likely we are to succeed in turning back the resurgent tide of racism.

  • RH says:

    “… Labour’s failure to grasp the anti-establishment component of the 2016 leave vote and succumbing to the pressure to shift towards a Remain position lies at the core of this defeat. ”

    This mythology is actually all of a piece with the ‘antisemitism’ scam – a worked piece of propaganda driven by the mainstream media. The ‘anti-establishment’ trope was a similar con, and the evidence is there in both cases in terms of the echoing play-lines taken from the media.

    The other similarity is that Labour failed to develop an antidote (leaving aside the question of whether it could or not). In both cases a mumbling partial acceptance helped instill the idea that the tropes were accurate, rather than tools of the opposition.

    Currently, my concern is that this massive elephant in the room – the frightening hold of a propagandized media – is being comprehensively ignored as mickey-mouse ‘reasons’ for defeat are provided as a substitute.

  • dave says:

    A good if rather too long article. This is a key bit:

    “However, the key anchor for pro-Zionist ideas amongst Jews and non-Jews (outside Israel) remains the historical experience of antisemitism and genocide. Thus, many will accept a Jewish state as legitimate while being opposed to the oppression of the Palestinian people and remain open to support campaigns in solidarity. This is a contradiction that cannot be wished away in a slogan but requires political engagement.”

    The problem is that there just aren’t that many who want to engage, although there are encouraging signs in the US among young people. Here in the UK we are just seeing a ratcheting up of purity tests for Labour and the new leader to not deny antisemitism (as if anyone has) and yet more prescriptions from the right on what we must do (essentially, throw out the left). We are also seeing even more attacks on people such as Michael Rosen, for goodness sake… I can only see yet more capitulation ahead.

  • Allan Howard says:

    ‘However, it is also clear that the failure to stand up to the unrelenting, cynical politicisation of charges of antisemitism had devastating consequences’

    The only way one can get their voice heard is through the MSM, and given that it has been the MSM itself that has conspired in and facilitated the black op Smear Campaign against Jeremy and the left, thee is no way on this earth that the LP can be heard, and if you deny that there’s a problem or that it has been grossly exaggerated or that it is all a smear campaign to destroy Jeremy and the left, you will be vilified and condemned as being in denial and being part of the problem, as such, or a conspiracy theorist. I mean just look what happened when Chris Williams defended the Labour Party! And what happened when he was reinstated!

    If you own and control the media, then you control the narrative. And the Establishment DO! As Malcolm X said:

    “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”

  • JanP says:

    A comprehensive well thought out article which shows that we have to take this issue outside the Labour Party in order to challenge and tackle it properly. I hope we can do this together. It needs to go beyond London.

  • John says:

    The fight against antisemitism needs to be seen in the wider context of the battle to keep free-speech and the need to oppose the ‘clash of civilisations’ propaganda that is a cornerstone of current Israeli and US policy, and which is creeping into the UK. Thus the fight against Islamaphobia has to be put on the agenda on par with the fight against antisemitism. And we need to take it way beyond the confines of the Labour Party.

  • Jacqueline Lewis says:

    What a brilliant analysis of the crisis of neo liberalism thankyou

  • Philip Ward says:

    This is an interesting article and raises some important points. However, I’m not sure about the alleged dichotomy inside/outside the Labour Party that is made in the article. Firstly, due to the massive media coverage, the smear campaign itself has already been very much “outside the labour party” and I’m not sure that the ranks themselves have actually had much formal discussion of the issue. More importantly, the terrible positions Labour has formally adopted on the issue need to be reversed – namely support for the IHRA definition and ignoring the Chakrabarti report. Clearly, external pressure, including from the trades unions can have some effect, as can a broader campaign in support of the Palestinians, but the internal fight needs to occur in conjunction with that and the formal processes necessary to change the LP policy must not be ignored.

    The article contains a fringe view on the left of Brexit and its role in the defeat of Labour. A good historical account of the forces behind that antisemitism smears is not complemented by a similar account locating the Brexit vote in the smashing of the trades unions under Thatcher and the breakup of “tradtional” (with good and bad connotations) working class communities.

    This brings me to my third criticism of the inside/outside dichotomy: to rebuild its support, Labour has to foster new structures in working class communities, turning itself outwards with political, social and cultural campaigning, as well as fostering a new trade unionism. That requires bringing more of its members into activity not simply decrying the fact that most of them do not go to internal meetings.

  • Philip Ward says:

    I need to retract the term “fringe” when describing the view of Brexit in this article. It is derogatory, so I apologise. I should have said that the view is a minority one on the left, especially in the pro-Corbyn wing of the Labour Party.

  • Chaim de Jong says:

    We had a discussion in our local shul the other day:
    Is it still OK to be left, pro Israel and oppose the Israeli government(s) on their policies toward Palestinians?
    It was a heated discussion. And showed how hard it is to be a moderate these days. To be strongly in favour of a two state solution, rights and civil liberties for Palestinians and to be a staunch supporter of zionism in its original form: the right of the jewish people to have their home in Israel.
    That’s why I feel sickened by how people use the term anti-zionism. And also by those who misuse the term zionism as an excuse for expansionist policies.
    Antisemitism should never be dragged into a discussion about the criticism people have against many Israeli governments for the last 20 years. Unless they make themselves vulnerable by using language that can give offence.
    Just stop doing that.

  • Philip Ward says:

    Chaim de Jong: I’m not sure who you are referring to when you say “antisemitism should never be dragged into a discussion about the criticism people have against many Israeli governments for the last 20 years”. I presume you mean dragged in by supporters of those Israeli governments, in which case it has been going on since Israel was being established. This is detailed in the book Publish it Not by Michael Adams and Christopher Mayhew. The latter was a junior minster in Atlee’s government and witnessed accusations of antisemitism against those who then opposed the setting up of the Israeli state and the expulsion of the Palestinians. Adams was thrown off the Guardian for reporting on Israel’s expansionist policies following this ’67 war, after which a long campaign against other opponents ensued, in the press and the Labour Party, with lots of dirty tricks being used against supporters of Palestinian rights. 70 years of such behaviour makes it look like the problem might actually be systemic.

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