Updated January 8, 2017Free Speech on Israel (FSOI) was founded as a predominantly Jewish campaign group in Spring 2016 to counter the manufactured moral panic over a supposed epidemic of antisemitism in the UK.Exaggerated and falsified accusations have focused on the Labour Left, but have also targeted faith groups, student bodies and other organisations which advocate the rights of Palestinians. Criticism of Israel and of its founding ideology, Zionism, has been misrepresented as antisemitic.FSOI promotes a non-Zionist Jewish perspective. It affirms that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. Antisemitism is a form of racist bigotry directed at Jews because they are Jews. By contrast, anti-Zionism opposes the political ideology which underpins the Israeli state. More than 40 percent of British Jews do not identify as Zionist. Zionism is not an essential part of Jewish identity. Opposing it is not antisemitic.Vigilance against antisemitism is necessary, alongside resistance to the other, far more prevalent, forms of racism. The ongoing moral panic, however, far from countering antisemitism, tends to promote it by conflating it with opposition to Zionism. The adoption by the UK government in December 2016 of the ‘IHRA definition’ of antisemitism, which treats the State of Israel as the personification of all Jews, is likely to have just this effect.The escalating allegations of antisemitism are evidently a response to the growing success of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in holding Israel to account for its crimes against the Palestinian people. Allegations of antisemitism have been used increasingly to discredit Israel’s critics. The clear intention is to suppress criticism of Israel and undermine freedom of speech for Palestinians and their supporters.FSOI challenges the assumption that the UK’s Jewish population generally perceives or experiences rampant antisemitism, in the widely understood sense of racist bigotry directed at Jews.
- FSOI insists on the right to freedom of expression on Israel and Palestine and defends those harassed for exercising that right.
- FSOI operates as part of the wider anti-racist and anti-fascist movement in the UK.
- FSOI champions the right to campaign in solidarity with Palestine. It works in alliance with anti-racist, labour movement, environmental, civil liberties, and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups and communities that endorse this right.
- FSOI’s website, Facebook page and other resources contribute a non-Zionist Jewish perspective to support those working for free speech on Israel and Palestine.
- FSOI offers speakers to groups on a range of topics including: Zionism and anti-Zionism; antisemitism; the pro-Israel bias evident in our political system and mass media; the functioning of the UK and global Israel lobby; and the moral panic against critics of Zionism and Israel.
Since its inception FSOI has asserted the right to campaign in solidarity with all oppressed people, including Palestinians. Solidarity with Palestine is consistent with the finest traditions of the labour movement, in the same spirit as its support for the American civil rights movement, for the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa and for the movement opposing Western governments’ disastrous wars in the Middle East.
We reject the notion that questioning the Zionist ideology of the Israeli state and its supporters entails anti-Jewish prejudice. Not all Jews are Zionists. Not all Zionists are Jews. Leading Palestinian activists have been forthright in their condemnation of antisemitism in any guise.
Language or behaviour is antisemitic if:
- it inflicts or incites violence against Jews because they are Jews
- it expresses hatred of Jews because they are Jews
- it stereotypes Jews on the basis of alleged negative personal characteristics such as being mean, sly and avaricious
- it links Jews to conspiracy theories about world domination of media, financial or governmental institutions
- it accuses all Jews of embracing a single ideology, ie; Zionism
- it implicates all Jews in the actions of the Israeli state
- it suggests Jews were responsible for, or fabricated, the Holocaust.
Branding legitimate pro-Palestinian utterance or actions as antisemitic undermines democratic debate in a manner reminiscent of the McCarthy era in the United States.
Support FSOI with a donation
We have funded ourselves so far from the pockets of our committee members and one generous donation but we now need your support if we are to combat the Zionist offensive against all criticism of Israel’s activities.
We need to pay for:
- Design and printing of leaflets: we are preparing leaflets on the role of the Jewish Labour Movement; the IHRA definition; and updating our general FSOI flyer
- Public meetings to inform and educate our potential supporters and the general public
- Developing our website, which is already a widely appreciated resource
- Commissioning our own small-scale research projects on the origins and extent of the attacks on Free Speech
Please support us by sending a donation to:
Free Speech on Israel
Sort code 16-58-10
Account number 20741316
One-off donations are very welcome; continuing donations by standing orders help us plan our future programme more securely.
Please send us an email if you do make a donation so we know where our funds are coming from and we an acknowledge your help.