Richard Burgon and criticism of Zionism

The misuse of ‘Zionist’ as a surrogate for ‘Jewish’ has to be dealt with case-specifically, say Geoffrey Bindman and Stephen Sedley

Letters, Guardian
23rd April 2019


It is disturbing to read (Shadow justice secretary admits to anti-Zionist speech, 17 April) that a prominent Labour MP, Richard Burgon, has felt it necessary to apologise for having said “The enemy of the Palestinian people is not the Jewish people. The enemy of the Palestinian people are Zionists, and Zionism is the enemy of peace and the enemy of the Palestinian people.”

As Jewish lawyers who have been concerned for much of our lives with opposing racism in general and antisemitism in particular, we see no reason for any such apology. We are among the large number of Jews, worldwide, who regard with shame the military oppression by Israel of the Palestinian people and the ongoing appropriation, by illegal settlement, of the little land that is still theirs.

The Jewish Labour Movement, a pro-Zionist group within the Labour party, has no entitlement to speak for Jews at large in seeking to stigmatise all criticism of Zionism as antisemitic. The undoubted misuse of “Zionist” as a surrogate for “Jewish” has to be dealt with case-specifically, not by immunising Zionism from all criticism.

Geoffrey Bindman
London
Stephen Sedley
Oxford