After Chakrabarti: We Need to Talk About Zionism

Please read this article in full on Media Diversified.

by Hilary Aked
JULY 1, 2016

The left should “stop talking about Zionism”, Labour’s Jon Lansman argued recently in the wake of a row that engulfed the party over anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism and led to the Shami Chakrabarti Inquiry. The inquiry, which was released yesterday, suggests a better way forward.

Chakrabarti, who disclosed that she had joined the Labour party on the same day she was asked to head up the investigation, found no evidence of institutional anti-Semitism within Labour. As regards Zionism, she advised “critics of the Israeli State and/or Government” to use the term ‘Zionist’ “carefully and never euphemistically or as part of personal abuse”. This is very good advice. Conversations about Zionism – carried out both by supporters and critics – are often crass, sometimes abusive, and occasionally accompanied by anti-Semitic or Islamophobic comments, particularly some of those carried out on Twitter IN CAPITAL LETTERS.

However, it’s important we don’t allow discussions around Zionism, an ideology and political movement which remains at the heart of the Israel/Palestine conflict, to be shut down. Indeed, this is precisely the point Chakrabarti made. Being respectful – and, as she put it, “leaving Hitler, the Nazis and the Holocaust out of it” – should help to “facilitate” rather than inhibit debate about what she called “one of the most intractable and far-reaching geopolitical problems of the post-war world”. In fact, she encouraged Labour members “to criticise injustice and abuse wherever they find it, including in the Middle East.”

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Advisory position paper for TU & Labour members & delegates on antisemitism, training & disciplinary procedures

This is a downloadable leaflet.

Who We Are – Free Speech On Israel 

Free Speech on Israel is a network of labour, green and trade union activists in the UK, mainly Jewish, who came together in April 2016 to counter attempts by pro-Israel right wingers to brand the campaign for Justice for Palestinians as antisemitic. Many of us are members of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jews for Jeremy, Jewish Socialists’ Group, Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, Young Jewish Left and Jewdas.

  • We do not believe there is a wave of antisemitism in the Labour Party
  • The attacks form part of two highly orchestrated campaigns: one is to undermine the Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party. The other is to suppress the pro-Palestinian voices of Jews, Muslims, Christians, and others of many faiths and none, campaigning for freedom, justice and equality, of which Jeremy Corbyn has been a leading spokesperson.
  • We reiterate our strong commitment to combating all forms of racism and to defending those who are subjected to it. This means opposing Islamophobia, prejudice against migrants and racism against ethnic and religious minorities, including antisemitism.
  • We reject the suggestion that questioning the current Zionist ideology of the Israeli state and its supporters, both Jews and non-Jews is antisemitic. Not all Jews are Zionists. Not all Zionists are Jews. Zionism is a political ideology, it is not an article of religious faith nor is it intrinsically a part of Jewishness.
  • In the very best traditions of the British Labour movement we campaign to end the injustices inflicted by Israel on the Palestinian people.

The Jewish Labour Movement

  • The JLM is affiliated to the World Zionist Organisation (WZO), a major funder of the illegal settlements.
  • The JLM is an affiliate of the World Labour Zionist Movement (WLZM), supporting its Jerusalem Programme – which claims its homeland to be Eretz Yisrael (Great Israel), i.e. all the land from the sea to the Jordan river, thus appropriating the whole of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
  • The WLZM claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, which means expelling the Palestinians from East Jerusalem.
  • The purpose of the JLM is to justify the actions of the Israeli state, whomsoever is in power. 
  • The JLM’s parent party is the Israeli Labour Party, which has never condemned the occupation. Labour’s Premier, Herzog, recently stated, “I wish to separate from as many Palestinians as possible, as quickly as possible…we’ll erect a big wall between us”. There are 1.4 million Palestinians who live in Israel itself.

Leading Israeli Cabinet members have made the following statements:

  • Speaking of Israeli Arab members of Parliament, Defence Minister Lieberman said, “The fate of the collaborators in the Knesset will be identical to […] those who collaborated with the Nazis […] executed after the Nuremberg trials at the end of the War. I hope that will be the fate of collaborators in this house.” And, “When there is a contradiction between democratic and Jewish values, the Jewish and Zionist values are more important.”
  • Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, posted on Facebook during Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza, “The entire Palestinian people is the enemy […] including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.”
  • The JLM makes no criticism of these statements nor disassociates itself from them. In fact Herzog sought to join his Israeli Labour Party to Netanyahu’s coalition government.

For these reasons many Jews in the Labour party do not accept that the JLM can represent us. Continue reading “Advisory position paper for TU & Labour members & delegates on antisemitism, training & disciplinary procedures”