Reprinted by permission of the author
This article was originally published in the Times of Israel but was pulled from their site within 24 hours
April 18 would have been the 115th birthday of Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the late Lubavitcher Rebbe. Schneerson, who took over a struggling Brooklyn-based Hasidic sect in 1951, was by his death in 1994 arguably “the most influential Jew since Maimonides” and it is about that influence I wish to write — particularly because, in the 20-odd years since his death, recollections of the Rebbe’s personal charisma have largely eclipsed the record of his actual teaching.
I note at once that I have neither the expertise nor the desire to try to analyze the whole range of the Rebbe’s religious doctrine. Of his role as clergyman and community leader I have little to say, never having lived in a predominantly Lubavitch enclave. Moreover, since I had no contact with him, I am clearly unequipped to write about the Rebbe’s personal qualities; I am prepared to grant that these were impressive.
We have posted our rebuttal of Duvall’s assertions about the nature of the IHRA definition; Tony destroys the fictions he wrote about the situation in Palestine/Israel. One of Israel’s major exports is Hasbara: the Hebrew word for what we call propaganda. It appears that Duvall is a loyal customer of the Hasbara store and retails Israeli, what we will politely call, fictions with a straight face. He may assume that people with less knowledge of the dire situations of Palestinian people in ’48 Israel, in the occupied territories and in the diaspora might be taken in by these fabrications: an increasingly dubious assumption. It is an insult to our intelligence that he expects FSOI activists and our friends to be so easily misled.
Reprinted from New York Times by permission of the author
I was raised in a religious Jewish environment, and though we were not strongly Zionist, I always took it to be self-evident that “Israel has a right to exist.” Now anyone who has debated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will have encountered this phrase often. Defenders of Israeli policies routinely accuse Israel’s critics of denying her right to exist, while the critics (outside of a small group on the left, where I now find myself) bend over backward to insist that, despite their criticisms, of course they affirm it. The general mainstream consensus seems to be that to deny Israel’s right to exist is a clear indication of anti-Semitism (a charge Jews like myself are not immune to), and therefore not an option for people of conscience.
Over the years I came to question this consensus and to see that the general fealty to it has seriously constrained open debate on the issue, one of vital importance not just to the people directly involved — Israelis and Palestinians — but to the conduct of our own foreign policy and, more important, to the safety of the world at large. My view is that one really ought to question Israel’s right to exist and that doing so does not manifest anti-Semitism. The first step in questioning the principle, however, is to figure out what it means. Continue reading “On Questioning the Jewish State”
Your video animation, designed to make the moral and political case against this year’s Israel Apartheid Weeks on campuses around the world, is a skilful piece of deceit that needs urgent challenge from all who support human rights.
I’ve always admired your writing on Judaism and I recommend your books to others. Except where you talk about Israel, at which point you appear to abandon your learning and your ethical values.
You’re hardly the only rabbi who does this. But most of them don’t have your worldwide reputation, status and audience. When you say something on an important topic like boycotts many will be listening and they will take your position to be the authentic, intelligent and trustworthy voice of Judaism.
In the UK the Government wants to outlaw statements like “Are you kidding, Apartheid has been here for ages. Ages” as antisemitic. In Israel they were part of Assaf Harel’s appeal to his fellow Israelis to wake up and realise the sort of society they are living in and endorse before it is too late.
This was Harel’s desperate final call as his show has now been cancelled.
In the video Harel demands that his fellow citizens compare their comfortable lifestyle, despite soaring prices and corrupt politicians, with the lives of Palestinians. He points out the daily reality of land thefts; soldiers shooting stone throwing children; administrative detention [without trial] of journalists; and so on. He despairs of Israelis’ collective ability to ignore what is happening a few kilometres away and willingness to dismiss the few brave voices who point this out as ‘left-wing extremists’. Left-wing ‘extremists’ who speak truth to power are equated in the public imagination to right-wing extremists who murder and burn people alive and are praised and protected by ruling politicians.
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.
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
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.
Anyone unaware of the years of research spent in dusty archives could well be forgiven for thinking this book was written in the publisher’s fast food kitchen to cash in on the current antisemitism soufflé whipped up by the unalloyed supporters of Israel and their right wing counterparts in the Labour Party and beyond.
When setting out to pen a short pamphlet on Zionism, a topic with which he was familiar and on which he believed himself to be well informed, Thomas Suarez came across some unusual references; checking their derivation lead him to the UK’s national archives at Kew and to a library of primary sources from the hands of individuals, British officials, the British secret services, national journals and Zionist organisations themselves. Many years of diligent work transformed the pamphlet into this seminal work, whose publication date fortuitously coincides with the very period when Political Zionism, having transmuted itself from a political ideology into a liberation theology deeply embedded in the existential identity of the majority of the Jewish community, has attained its apogee in popular European and American culture.
Suarez traces this trajectory from its beginnings in the second half of the 19C. to the Suez crisis of 1956. From its inception Revisionist Zionism was conceived as a biblical enterprise: building the Third Temple, founded on the rights of Jews as a race, claiming a divine right for all Jews and in the process trumping Jewish orthodoxy. The weapon of choice to carve out their temple was that of terrorism.
For many familiar with the history of the creation of Israel the received knowledge is that, in the aftermath of the Holocaust and in the pursuit of a safe haven for Jews, attacks were targeted by the incipient Israeli army on the British garrison in Palestine, and that in the quest for a state a number of atrocities were committed by small bands of extremists, the Irgun and Lehi (Stern) gangs, epitomised by the infamous massacre of Deir Yassin.
Suarez research lead him to a very different narrative: these small bands of extremists were integral, structured components of the regular armed force, the Hagana of the Jewish Agency – no model of the Geneva Convention itself, with its elite corps, the Palmach, its assassination unit the Pum and its deployment of barrel bombs loaded with shrapnel. All five groups were engaged in the programme of intimidation and terror, where the end, Eretz Israel – an exclusively Jewish state stretching east from the Mediterranean to include Transjordan, and from Egypt to the Lebanese boarder – justified Revisionist Zionism’s means. Obstacles in its path were the British, the other key players in the UN Partition plan, and not least the awkward existence of the indigenous occupants of Palestine.
Violence to the Palestinians, modelled on the antisemitic pogroms in eastern Europe, is traced to commence from the first settlers prior to the First World War, developing through the inter-war period, and rising to a crescendo of public bombing and the poisoning of wells with typhoid and dysentary, to provoke a reaction and to create a premise for full scale military operations in the period leading up to 1948. It culminated in the massacres of the inhabitants of tens of villages and the raising of many hundreds more: planned by military intelligence gatherers posing as hiking tourists, Plan Dalet was devised and executed, to create the Nachba of 900,00 refugees. The records show that, contrary to common understanding, the wanton violence was not brought to an end by the declaration of the state of Israel but was maintained, and continues to this day.
A significant portion of the book simply enumerates the hundreds of attacks on the British presence in Palestine, which hit both military and civilian targets. Violence to the regional powers ranged from assassination plans and actual attempts on the life of Churchill, Eden and Ernest Bevan, sabotage of British forces during WWII (compromising their capacity); plans to explode bombs in London, and UK facilities in France, Austria and Italy (mostly but not all foiled); false flag operations (such as the Lavrone affair in Egypt & the Bagdad Trials in Iraq) to ‘create’ antisemitic movements to justify Zionist demands; the sinking of British ships (resulting in 276 deaths) carrying Jewish refugees, when, contrary to Zionist demands they were diverted away from Palestine; the training and the use of child operators; selective assassinations of leading Jewish critics (most of the assassinations carried out by the Irgun and Stern gangs were of anti-zionist Jewish individuals); sabotaging Jewish anit-zionist printing presses and the targeting of institutions such as the Hashoma Club which argued for a two state solution. The litany is extensive and shocking.
Another dimension to the Zionist’s agenda was that they did all in their power to direct Jewish refugees away from offers of asylum by western democracies and to exert pressurise to divert Jews to Palestine. To this effect they were instrumental in seeing that Roosevelt’s plan in 1938 to accept 400,000 from Nazis Germany came to nothing.
It is instructive that these early Zionists listed in order of priority the opposition which they saw as critical: first were the anti-zionists in the Jewish communities, second came the offers of asylum from the democracies, and third was antisemitism. They referred to Jewish anti-zionists as ‘kikes’ which is the ’N’ word for Jew.
In the UK the startling rise of Jeremy Corbyn to leadership of the Labour Party, a person who has been both a life long champion of Palestinian human rights and a socialist committed to the substantial redistribution of wealth back to the poor, created major tremors simultaneously in the conservative and the Jewish establishments. Desperate to mount a counter-attack they seized on antisemitism as their weapon: a tool which, as this book describes, was fashioned by the Political Zionists from their beginning and was well honed over the ensuing decades in their drive to control the destiny of the Jewish community.
There are many quotations in the book from UK, UN, US and other international observers of parallels between the Irgun and Stern gang’s organisation and methods and those of the Nazis – statements which today would surely lead to expulsion from the Labour Party. A footnote observes that the relevant ‘Polkes’ papers in the Israeli archives remain classified. Referencing from Suarez’s book at a Labour Party meeting would certainly incur the wrath any Jewish Labour Movement or Labour Friends of Israel member present. It must be the author’s diligence in meticulously referencing every description of the legion of ruthless objectives and acts owned by the political and military wings of Zionism which has safeguarded him from legal action by the ‘lawfare’ department of Israel’s hasbora machine. (The references occupy one quarter of the book).
Intelligence reports in the period prior to 1948 put the Irgun and Stern gangs’ numbers at 8500, the Palmach at 5000, the Hagana army at 90,000, and a total call up potential of a fully equipped army and airforce of 200,000. (A Goliath against an ill equipped and disorganised alliance of squabbling Davids). It was from their positions in the comparatively small terrorist groups that the future leaders of Israel were able to set the agenda of violence to build Jabotinsky’s Iron Wall – who, as the father of the Irgun, put his boots where his mouth was. As small cogs in the gears of the military machine, in an environment where the British were exhausted by war and desperate to withdraw, and where the rule of law was disintegrating, these terrorist groups were able to dictate and drive the strategy: a reign of terror across the Mandate, with its tentacles reaching into the heart of its European masters to create mayhem until their objective was conceded. Conceived in a state of terror, terror became the new state’s modus vivendi, and its current leaders continue this macabre dance, still fixated on pursuit of the Third Temple.
It is this context which make sense of the seemingly incongruous fact that the commanders of the Irgun and Stern gangs, Ben Gurion, Menachim Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, became the first leaders of the new Israeli state. It also provides the historical context for the fact that Israel to this day has not defined its eastern boarder, and provides an explanation as to why successive peace talks, dating back to 1949 have produced no resolution.
For post 1948 second and third generation Jews growing up with a partial, bowdlerised narrative of Zionism, reading this book will either be a traumatic experience or it will be another volume to be consigned to the antisemitic waste bin. It is now well recognised that post Holocaust second generation Jews enveloped themselves and their children in a silence about their past. Suarez’s account of Zionist terror, which predated the Holocaust and which emanated from the pogroms of the 18C. and 19C., has exposed a second dimension of silence, in which the consolidation of Revisionist and Political Zionism has deployed the image of Humanitarian Zionism to cloak its past. For very many Jews Zionism is genuinely core to their identity, the very sense of their self, the solution to millennia of persecution. Suarez reveals it to have been yet another false flag on a grandiose and grotesque scale.
However, some third and fourth generation Jews, having looked beneath the cloak, have made the difficult and uncomfortable journey to disavowing Political-revisionist Zionism and are reasserting the international and Jewish values of human rights. It was wholly predictable that this would provoke a knee jerk response from the Political Zionists who have reached for their historical weapon of antisemitism, whilst those of us in a stubborn minority wave a contrary flag, that anti-zionism is not antisemitism, and seek to reclaim the genuine Jewish socialist tradition forged by the BUND in the period of revolutionary working class organisation at the start of the 20C. There is a Jewish tradition that even the smallest of minority voices shall be recorded, because one day they may prove to be the ones which should have been heeded.
The only message of congratulations that Steve Bannon has received from abroad, apparently, since being named the senior strategic adviser in Donald Trump’s White House, is one that arrived on official Israel government stationery and was signed by Israeli Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel.
The Anti-Defamation League, long prominent among American Jewish organisations battling anti-Semitism, published a sharply worded announcement signed by its CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, urging that Bannon’s appointment be rescinded; the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center and others pointed to Bannon’s “promotion of antisemitism, misogyny, racism and Islamophobia” as disqualifying him from any White House post; and local Jewish Community Relations Councils (eg New Haven, San Francisco) promptly published similar statements even as the leadership at AIPAC equivocated.
Meantime Israel’s Ariel hastens to send Bannon his blessings. Ariel, who is from the Jewish Home party, the party of the settler movement and the most extreme right-wing group in the Knesset and a senior partner in the Netanyahu government’s coalition, was pleased at the appointment of a man whose ex-wife has accused her former partner of anti-Semitism. “There are no words to describe this shame,” fumed Knesset member Stav Shaffir of Israel’s Labor Party in a Facebook post (Hebrew).
Knesset member Stav Sappir of the Israeli Labor party posted a scathing response to Ariel’s ensdorsement of Bannon (Hebrew) on her Facebook page: she wrote. “Rabbis from all across the USA are publishing denouncements… [and] dozens of Jewish organisations are campaigning against the appointment; the rest of the world – left and right alike – are warning of the danger in appointing a proud racist to such a sensitive American government post… while, along with Minister Ariel of Israel, those congratulating Bannon on his appointment include the leadership of the Ku Klux Klan, some prominent American anti-Semites, and the American Nazi Party.”
For supporting Israel, all is forgivable
The Israeli right has invented a new hybrid tool: the pro-Israel anti-Semite. It turns out that such a thing is possible. You can be an anti-Semite and still be okay is certain circles in Israel. The main thing is being “a friend of Israel,” which today means loving the Israeli occupation.
In return for supporting the Israeli occupation indefinitely, for encouraging the settler enterprise, the Israeli right is prepared to forgive anything. Anything at all. To forget the past, turn a blind eye to the present, mortgage the future, and relinquish any vestige of morality. Just let us go on building in the territories, that’s all we care about. To perpetuate the occupation, the Israeli right will sacrifice even the fate of America’s Jews, pawn its connection with them, ignore their anxieties and dismiss their concerns.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, another extreme right-wing figure, once said: “For the sake of Israel, lying is permitted.” The limits of this dubious assertion have now been woefully stretched by Israel’s right-wing settlers. For Israel, it is permissible to support even anti-Semitism, extreme nationalism, chauvinism and racism of every sort. The stretch began with the Israeli public’s overly broad support for candidate Donald Trump, perhaps the broadest of any other constituency outside the US, until it arrived at the ministerial letter congratulating the newly appointed Bannon.
Israel loves Trump
Unlike in many other countries, notably in Western Europe, no Israeli official figure has expressed reservations about Trump’s electoral win. This turn of events is not attributable solely to any threat to Israel. It was driven by authentic support for this problematic president-elect. Evidently the Israeli right, with its nationalism and its racism, finds a common language with the American right, similarly nationalist and racist.
Even worse, the global battle against anti-Semitism, a platform where the rightists typically scream loudest, begins to some degree to resemble a manipulative and cynical (and currently less useful) ploy. Suddenly, being anti-Semitic is no longer so terrible now. Suddenly it’s forgivable, especially if you hate Muslims and Arabs. So long as you are “pro-Israel”.
The Jewish and Israel right has issued a blanket pardon to pro-Israel anti-Semites, who will run the next US government. Like pornography, anti-Semitism now becomes a matter of geography, self-interest and cost-effectiveness. Right-wing American anti-Semites are no longer seen as anti-Semites as long as they support the occupation. Israel’s right wing finds anti-Semites only on the left. Roger Waters, an upstanding man of conscience, is anti-Semitic; Steve Bannon, openly racist and a closet anti-Semite, is Israel’s friend.
Jewish and Israeli activists who left no stone unturned in the search for signs of anti-Semitism, who saw every parking ticket issued to an American Jew as a hate crime, who screamed bloody murder when any Jew was robbed or Jewish headstone desecrated, are now kashering vermin. Suddenly they’re not sure that what we have here is that old disease, anti-Semitism.
When anti-Semitism is not anti-Semitism
Jurist Alan Dershowitz, pro-Israel crusader and propagandist extraordinaire, has already come to Bannon’s defence. In his Haaretz op-ed of 27 November, Dershowitz opined that the man whose wife testified that he didn’t want to send his children to school with Jews is not an anti-Semite. “The claim was simply made by his former wife in a judicial proceeding, thus giving it no special weight,” commented Dershowitz with pseudo-Talmudic aplomb. Dershowitz was told by an Orthodox Jew who once worked with Bannon that the man had never shown signs of anti-Semitism. Suddenly that’s enough for Dershowitz. Suddenly it’s all right to distinguish between anti-Semitism and racism.
Israel’s ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, naturally made haste to join the chorus, declaring that he “looked forward to working with Bannon.” And how. They see eye to eye on everything: there is no such thing as a Palestinian, there is no occupation, illegal settlements are forever, leftists and liberals are traitors.
For Dermer, the Likud ambassador in Washington, friend of the Tea Party, boycotter of J Street, who in normal diplomatic circumstances would long since have been declared persona non grata in the USA and thrown out on his ear, the election results and the new appointments are like a brand new day dawning. Dermer will feel right at home with conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, another Islamophobe slated for a senior appointment; Dermer will love working with Bannon, and Mike Huckabee is so precisely his cup of tea. Dermer, remember, received the 2016 Freedom Flame award from the CSP, an organisation whose banner is Islamophobia and for whom Dermer is a hero.
These and other likeminded racists are Israel’s best friends in the United States. They have common cause with right-wing racists in Europe. When supporting the occupation is the one measure of friendship, Israel has no other friends apart from racists and extreme nationalists. This should have evoked tremendous shame in Israel: tell us who your friends are and we will tell them who you are. With friends like these, who needs enemies? The disgrace of their friendship is sufficient. But Israel apparently takes pride in its friends.
These racists love Israel because Israel acts out their own fantasies – subjugating the Arabs, abusing the Muslims, expelling and killing, arresting, interrogating and torturing them, razing their homes, shredding their honour. How this bunch of lowlifes would love to go there. Till now it’s been possible only in Israel, the light unto the nations in this context. Long gone are the days when a handful of South African Jews went to prison with Nelson Mandela. Now, well-connected Jews in America support the nation’s new rulers: racists and anti-Semites.
“The Palestinians call the white nationalist Bannon an anti-Semite, and AIPAC and Dershowitz think he’s not such a bad guy,” commented Palestinian-American author Susan Abulhawa on her Facebook page. Abulhawa was expelled by Israel at the Allenby Bridge last year. The US and Israel are sharing the same values these days.
All that’s left now is to wait and see whether the new American regime will deliver the goods. Will the declared Islamophobia and xenophobia of several of its main figures lead to blind support for the Israeli occupation, even more so than under previous American administrations? Will the Israeli right wing’s bet pay off?
Liberal Jewish dilemma
There is also the matter of what will happen among liberal Jewish circles in the United States, who are a substantial segment of the American Jewish community. Will these developments change their attitude to Israel? Rightist, ultra-nationalist Israel, with its overt support for Trump and its senior minister who sends his congratulations to Steve Bannon – is that a country worthy of automatic support from America’s Jews? Israel, stalwart friend of the American hard right – is that an Israel whose flag liberal American Jews can proudly wave?
Over the next few months, we will find out. Maybe, paradoxically, the rise of the American right, alongside a regime no less rightist and nationalist in Israel, will shake up the liberal Jews of America and pose hard questions they have never faced. Until now.
First a mea culpa. Mary Davis accuses me of making an ‘incorrect and snide’ assertion that she wrote her first piece to support the Jewish establishment’s attack on Corbyn. I see how it can be read that way. What I wrote was “The issue is: just why Mary Davis is writing this piece now?” and went on to detail the coordinated, no-holds barred onslaught alleging that antisemitism that has been taking place. What I meant was that antisemitism in the Labour Party was a significant issue only because of this onslaught; and that she was writing her piece only because this misplaced salience had made it an issue. I did not mean that she was part of that campaign.
Before getting down to business I should also mention her rebuttal of my assertion that actual anti-Semitic incidents were relatively insignificant. She cites Community Security Trust figures for anti-Semitic incidents running at a total of 557 in the first 6 months of 2016. For a sense of scale, official figuresshow the total number of hate crimes averaged 222,000 per annum over the years 2012-5. I rest that part of my case.
To business. What ultimately divides our positions on the contentious issue of how anti-Zionism relates to antisemitism? It does not seem, at least directly, to be our views on Zionism itself. Mary says that she does not regard herself as a Zionist, and it is quite a few decades since I did so. And we are both highly critical about what Israel actually does. Yet it is clear that we do have grave differences on what can legitimately be done to end these excesses. These disagreements seem to stem ultimately from what she identifies as “the issue of the right of the state of Israel to exist”.
The right to exist
This is treacherous ground. In the present era of witch-finders general in the Labour Party I could still lose my leadership vote. (I am writing just ahead of the result being announced.) Many have already lost theirs for less. So forgive me if I tread warily. To question this ‘right to exist’ is not to toy with the idea of ejecting the 5 million or so Jewish inhabitants of Israel plus its illegal settlements into some external dumping ground (or worse). All the same, don’t forget that this dumping is exactly what happened to those hundreds of thousands of Palestinians ejected in 1948 who have since been denied their internationally attested right to return.
The reason why the claimed ‘right to exist’ is problematic is a question of definition, not of dematerialisation. States come and go, change their names and their borders, bifurcate and merge. That’s history for you. We don’t think that Mercia, dead these 1100 years, has or even had a ‘right to exist’. Coming more up to date the issue of exactly what is Ireland’s state-ly expression has sparked both bloody and peaceful struggle, and is not yet definitively resolved. Yugoslavia wasn’t a state, then it was, and then it wasn’t again, all in the course of about 70 years. Yugoslavia fractured in bloody fashion, but Czechoslovakia broke up into component parts by agreement.
There is nothing in international law that says that states have a right to exist. They either do or don’t exist, and there are criteria. As you would expect academic lawyers don’t speak with one voice on this, but (very roughly) to be a state you need to have a central government, a permanent population, a defined territory, etc. It helps to have international recognition, but that is probably not essential.
There are certain things that states cannot do in international law – attack others, practice ethnic cleansing or apartheid, things like that. But if a state violates these rules its transgressions don’t licence violent attacks on it by other states, and it doesn’t stop being a state.
Israel, the special case
Israel is of course a special case. As I said in my last piece, Zionism could realise its ambition of national self-determination in a defined territory only by taking someone else’s, and on behalf of people not actually living there. That contradiction between two claims and concepts of legitimacy remains and poisons the politics of the area. Israel’s supposed ‘right to exist’ is inevitably problematic if it excludes another co-located nation’s right to the same recognition. Continue reading “Israel’s right to exist”
At the JW3 ‘debate’ earlier this week, Jeremy Corbyn was asked what he most admired in Israel. This was an ideal opportunity to tell the audience and the questioner some home truths about both the Occupied Territories and Israel itself.
He could have told them that Israel today is an Apartheid Society. Of the approximately 6 million Palestinians it rules over, just 1.5 million have a vote and that is increasingly circumscribed with the Arab parties in Israel under increasing attack. Balad arrests won’t be the last in Israel’s ethnocracy
Unfortunately, Jeremy felt the need to fawn and flatter his audience rather than telling them some home truths. Some people will say ‘what does it matter’. I suggest this is why. In the event Corbyn becomes Prime Minister he would, on this evidence, bow and buckle to the much greater pressure of the City of London and industrialists. But also because a strategy based on appeasement is destined to failure. You stand up to your foes you don’t hand them olive branches to hit you in the face with. This is not just true of the Zionists. It is equally applicable to his MPs. Those who refuse to accept the legitimacy of his election should be told to depart or they will be deselected and have the whip withdrawn.
I have therefore taken the liberty of drafting the answers to the question that Corbyn was asked which he should have given! It is in the hope that next time he will have the courage of his convictions.
Q: Jeremy & Owen – I wanted to find out from you what aspects of Israel & its achievements do you most admire
Jeremy Corbyn: Thank you for a most interesting questions. The things I admire most about Israel include:
Its no nonsense arrest of Palestinian children as young as 12 and their shackling in chains. In particular Israel’s willingness to assault and even torture them if necessary, as articulated by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. It really takes some nerve to do this and claim you are still a democracy. You can’t help admiring Israel for this. I have to say I particularly like the Military’s practice of getting the children to sign confessions in a language they don’t understand (Hebrew). Serves the blighters right. It’s downright anti-Semitism refusing to learn the language of the occupying power. It is pleasing to note that the Military Courts under which these brats – sorry children – are charged have a 99.7% conviction rate. That might seem rather high but on the other hand it does demonstrate that it is possible to obtain a conviction but given the genius of the Israeli military it’s not surprising that they only get it wrong about once every 300 times.
It really is irrelevant that Jewish children in the same territories are entitled to things like a responsible adult attending an interview, social workers, nice warm offices and of course that they can’t be tried if they are under 14. We really must understand that there is no comparison between Palestinian and Israeli Jewish children. Those who take umbrage at this are, as my friend Jeremy Newmark says, out and out anti-Semites and Janet Royall has already had harsh words for those who alleged Apartheid at Oxford University Labour Club.
I particularly admire the annual Jerusalem day demonstration where thousands of settler youth express their tender and loving feelings towards Jerusalem’s Arabs by shouting ‘Death to the Arabs’. You have to admire Israel’s ability to get away with this and in particular the actions of Israel’s police in arresting any anti-racist protesters out to cause trouble. I understand that this year, the slogans were more varied and included the quite novel one, ‘A Jew is a soul, an Arabis a son of a whore.’ You have to give it to Israel’s democracy, it is most inventive.
I also admire the determination of Israel to ‘cleanse’ the Negev (southern desert area) of Israel of Bedouin villages such as Al Arakabh which get in the way of those nice, Jewish towns. This process of Judaisation might upset people but we must remember this is a Jewish state.
Of course I deprecate the repeated vandalism and arson at the Hand to Hand school, one of the few mixed Jewish-Arab schools in Israel. However Israel is a Jewish state and it is understandable that State schools in Israel are segregated. It is anti-Semitic to compare this with similar schools in Apartheid South Africa. Israel is a Jewish state. South Africa was a White Apartheid state. Anyway if do gooders insist on setting up private mixed schools which encourage Jewish and Arab children to mix, thus encouraging the possibility of sinful Jewish-Arab relationships, is it any wonder that religious Jews take offence?I personally applaud the efforts of the Israeli government to discourage miscegenation. Tzipi Hotoveli, Israel’s religious nut of a Deputy Foreign Minister was quite correct, when she said that it was “important to examine procedures for preventing mixed marriages, and Lehava members are the right people for that,” It’s true that Lehava is technically a fascist organisation that hates gays, beats up Arabs and sets fire to Churches and Mosques, but it is doing important work to preserve the Jewishness of the Jewish state. Those who oppose this work are, Mr McNicol informs me, anti-Semitic and will be suspended forthwith from the LP. Continue reading “The Answers that Corbyn Should Have Given to the Question What He Most Admired about Israel”