Ilan Pappe: Don’t surrender to Israel’s bullying on ‘anti-Semitism’

Please read article in full on Middle East Eye here

Excerpt: ‘… Whatever the Zionists in Britain point to, as an expression of anti-Semitism, which in the main are legitimate criticism of Israel, have been said before in the last 50 years. The pro-Zionist lobby in Britain, under direct guidance from Israel, picks them up because the clear anti-Zionist stance of BDS has reached the upper echelons. They are genuinely terrified by this development. Well done the BDS movement!

The reaction, one has to admit, is powerful and vicious. However, succumbing to it by suspending party members, firing student leaders and unnecessarily apologising for crimes not committed is not the right way to confront it.

‘We are in a struggle for a free and democratic Palestine and Israel: fear of Zionist intimidation is not the way forward. The coming days will be very tough and we would need to be both patient and go back to the podium, the website, the radio and television and re-explain what for many of us is obvious: Zionism is not Judaism, and anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism.

‘Zionism was not the antidote for Europe’s worst chapter of anti-Semitism: the Holocaust. Zionism was the wrong answer to that atrocity. In fact, when European leaders lended without hesitation their support for Zionism their motives in many cases were anti-Semitic. How else can one explain a Europe that stood by when the Nazi regime genocided the Jews and asked for forgiveness by supporting a new plan to get rid of the Jews by despatching them to colonise Palestine? No wonder this absurd logic did not kill the anti-Semitic impulse but rather kept it alive.

‘However, these are bygones. Jewish settlers and native Palestinians share a land and will do so also in the future. The best way to fight anti-Semitism today is to turn this land into a free democratic state that is based as much as possible on just and equitable economic, social and political principles. This will be a complex, painful transformation of the present reality on the ground, and may take decades to implement. But it is urgent to begin talking about it clearly, without fear and unnecessary apologetics or false references to realpolitik.

Jeremy Corbyn may find it difficult to educate his party of the need to adopt the honest and moral language about Palestine – and he has done so much for the cause that we have to be patient, even if some of his and his party’s reactions are disappointing (although in any case, it is clear that the latest row in the Labour Party about anti-Semitism is mainly an attempt by the party’s Blairites, who were always in the pocket of the Zionists, to undermine Corbyn as much as they are a desperate attempt by Israel to stop the massive shift against it in British public opinion).

‘However, this is not the issue. What lies ahead is far more important than the domestic political scene in Britain. What really matters is to recognise that here in Britain, as well as in the USA, a new stage has begun in the struggle for peace, justice and reconciliation in Palestine. This is not a struggle that replaces the one on the ground, but it is the one that enhances and empowers it.


We should not be worried by the new proposed legislation, the new police guidelines or the media hysteria. Even the cowardly behaviour by the Labour Party in its purge of councillors should not detract us from the achievements in the struggle over the public mind and heart over Palestine.

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Ilan Pappe is Professor of History, Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies and co-director for the Exeter Centre for Ethno-Political Studies at the University of Exeter. 

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