Why can’t I make these necessary arguments?

Mike Cushman

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism is about far more than the ever-present necessity to remember the Holocaust: it is about limiting debate about the nature and activity of the Israeli state.

The definition, and its earlier appearance as the EUMC draft working definition, has been used to try to prevent the description of Israel as an Apartheid state. Anyone is entitled to attack this description as mistaken or as malicious but to assert that it must not be used is a punitive restriction on free speech. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the meaning of Apartheid in Afrikaans is separateness. What critics of Israel call the apartheid wall, the Israelis call the separation barrier; hardly an example of lost in translation.

The Apartheid Wall next to the Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem
The Apartheid Wall next to the Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem

All across the United Kingdom at the end of February there will be events to mark 2017 Israel Apartheid Week. IAW has long been a high spot of the calendar of Palestine support – each year it is denounced as antisemitic on account of its name not because of some supposed outrage. The current

round of false antisemitism allegations started from the attack on the Oxford University Labour Club for its endorsement of the 2016 IAW –

Israel Apartheid Week 2016 poster
Israel Apartheid Week 2016 poster

this was deemed by the Zionist claque to be indisputable evidence of antisemitism with any supporting facts. May’s adoption of the IHRA definition will empower the self-appointed Witchfinders General to harass defenders of human rights and international law.

Every day the Israelis are attempting to separate out the Palestinians from East Jerusalem through home demolitions and through revocation of residents’ rights to live in the city – who cannot see the replication of the practices of Apartheid South Africa in these practices? Only Zionist true believers and their acolytes in western governments, ready to apologise for and excuse almost every Israeli brutality. Every crocodile in every zoo in Europe and North America has been ruthlessly stripped of their tears to wet the handkerchiefs of May and Merkel and Hollande when they limply distance themselves from a particularly inexcusable excess.  Trump, however, has not bothered any passing reptile: refusing to shed any tear, human or otherwise, for the plight of a single Palestinian. These politicians will turn round in ten years’ time to tell us they never supported Israeli apartheid and excoriated Netanyahu and his gang just as their predecessors told us with straight faces that they always supported Mandela.

Central to apartheid in Israel as in South Africa is differential rights to own and occupy property and land. Expulsion of Black Africans from Sophiatown is remembered for its brutality. The gradual expulsions from Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah is slower but no less traumatic. South Africa had its Group Areas Act; Israel has its Absentee Property Law with its Orwellian creation of present absentees. These are the inescapable equivalences that the IHRA definition seeks to proscribe.

A key signifier of antisemitism according to the IHRA is questioning the right of Israel to exist by claiming it is a racist endeavour. It is not some capricious act to raise these questions; they are demanded by any simple observation of the facts. The Absentee Property Law is central to land holding in Israel and it is an explicitly racist piece of legislation. The desire to expel Arabs (sic) has been a recurrent theme from Ben Gurion’s regime onwards. Even before the state was founded, the slogan “Jewish Labour only” was common in Mandate Palestine.

The fact that Israel, uniquely, is a state without a singular nationality is racist. The Law of Return allowing Jews with no connection to Israel beyond a self-claimed mythical biblical one are allowed to immigrate, while Palestinians remain to sojourn in refugee camps, can only be regarded as racist. Israel proudly claims to be a Zionist entity. Central to Zionism is the claim to a special status for Jews and a lesser status for others – this is as explicitly racist as anything in the Nurnberg laws (naturally, making this comparison is another sign of antisemitism).

The question of self-determination, although the substance of that right is never explained, is commonly translated into ‘questioning the right of Israel to exist’. This is a strange formulation. States do not have rights, people do. States are contingent and rise and fall. Scots contest the right of the United Kingdom to exist. The right of the USA to exist was challenged in a bloody civil war. Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia lost their rights to exist, one peacefully the other far less so. The right of Jews living in Israel not to be slaughtered is absolute; their right to live as they please regardless of their impact on Palestinians is not. If self-determination means they can dictate the conditions of life of others who are denied any engagement in a democratic process, then that is selfish not self.

In writing this I have consciously transgressed the strictures of the IHRA. I do that unapologetically; not because I am antisemitic or ‘self-hating’ but because my Jewish heritage instructs me to stand against injustice and oppression. Zionism is more harmful for Jews than anything since the holocaust because it frames Judaism as unjust. While I am not religious I require religions, maybe vainly, to be enablers of the transmission of virtue, generosity and justice: I demand no less of humanism and atheism. Israel is a living proof of the ludicrous optimism of my expectations.

 

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One thought on “Why can’t I make these necessary arguments?”

  1. I would only add two points:-
    1. What about the right of self-determination for Palestinians? In the modern era (post-1919) that must surely mean they were entitled to their own state? Again – as with the Armenians and Kurds – imperialist powers colluded to deny them this right that European nations were allowed to exercise. Racism leading to further racism in the zionist state.
    2. I lived in apartheid South Africa in the 1970s and – having also visited the zionist state and occupied West Bank in recent years – can only conclude by agreeing with Desmond Tutu that the zionist state is actually far far far worse than the apartheid state ever was.
    The only solution is a single secular state with equal rights to return for all.

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