Anti-Semitism used to be the preserve of the right, but in recent years has a new strain has emerged on the left. This is a controversial subject – the borders between criticism of Israel, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are as disputed as Israel’s actual borders. Critics argue that invoking anti-Semitism conflates anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. They see it as a way to stifle criticism of Israel and as a trivialisation of what anti-Semitism really means. Indeed, we do have to be careful with such tactics, but there is a new strain of anti-Semitism as I will attempt to show. It is hard to remember Israel was once the darling of the left. Those days are long gone.
Naz Shah is the Labour MP for the constituency of Bradford West She actually won the seat from George “Saddam, I Sir, I salute your courage” Galloway of the Respect Party. In April 2016, she was suspended from the Labour Party following the emergence of a Facebook post she had shared supporting the relocation of Israel to the U.S.:
Then we had former Mayor of London speaking on the Vanessa Feltz Show on BBC Radio London:
The creation of the state of Israel was fundamentally wrong, because there had been a Palestinian community there for 2,000 years. The creation of the state of Israel was a great catastrophe. We should have absorbed the post-WWII Jewish refugees in Britain and America. They could all have been resettled, whereas 70 years later, the situation is still very tense, and there is potential for many more wars, potential for nuclear war.
… When Hitler won the elections in 1932 and came to power, his policy was not directed toward killing the Jews. He wanted to deport all the Zionists to Israel [sic]. If you look at the Arab world at the time, there were large Jewish communities that never suffered threats or attacks. They lived in peace alongside their Arab neighbours. But all of this was destroyed with the establishment of the state of Israel.
Then we have the support by Labour luminaries such as Seamus “Stalin wasn’t all bad” Milne for Hamas an organisation whose charter states:
The Day of Judgment will not come until Muslims fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say, ‘O Muslim, O servant of God, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’
Anything Israel does is susceptible to criticism. Thus we have Pinkwashing. The first reference I can find to it is by Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian American journalist, in a book published in 2011. The idea is that this forms an intentional strategy to use an image of modernity and progressiveness to hide the ongoing violation of Palestinians’ human rights. In a piece in the Huffington Post, lawyer Alan Dershowitz rightly mocks this idea. As he points out there is no logical basis for this strategy. Will the media ignore the Palestinian issue and have masses of coverage on Israel’s positive policies toward gays. Are gays around the world supposed to feel so indebted to Israel that they will no longer criticize the Jewish nation? If this is the policy it has been an abject failure. Here is a quote from Dershowitz:
The pinkwash bigots would apparently prefer to see Israel treat gays the way Israel’s enemies do, because they hate Israel more than they care about gay rights.
This very month a group of 51 Muslim states blocked 11 gay and transgender organizations from attending 2016 High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS.
I think that criticism of Israel is legitimate. But these comments are beyond the pale. It is wrong to compare what Israel has done in the occupied territories to the Nazis attempt at ethnic annihilation in which six million people were murdered. The scale and purpose are completely different. Israel’s abuses against the Palestinians, which undoubtedly exist, occur within the context of a territorial and political conflict, not as a campaign of mass extermination.
Another objection I have is to the support for the boycotts of Israel and the campaign for disinvestment. That Israel should be singled out in this way when you consider the many unsavoury regimes in this region and around the world. I tend to oppose sanctions. Take Cuba. I think the American sanctions have been counter-productive. In fact, the communists are perfectly capable of screwing up an economy without any outside help!
I do not conceive a world without a state of Israel. It does look difficult right now, but there will have to be a two-state solution. I have recently finished reading Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel. The book is right Israel is both a triumph and a tragedy. I am not a fan of the Israel of Begin, Sharon and Netanyahu. Somehow Israelis and Palestinians are going to have to find a solution.