Jon Lansman, a founder of the Momentum campaign group, has written an article in Left Futures stating:
I […] think the Left should stop talking about “Zionism” or “Zionists”. As Herman argues, ‘Zionism has become a dirty word for many on the left. It has become synonymous with Israel itself, the racist practices of the Israeli state.”’ […] Abandoning use of the term “Zionist” will not be enough on its own. There needs to be clarity, guidance and even training about what is appropriate.
If this suggestion receives any kind of official support from the Labour Party, it will have a chilling effect on free speech. Below are two responses from Free Speech on Israel members:
FREE SPEECH ON ISRAEL: OK, BUT JUST DON’T CALL A SPADE A SPADE
The piece appears to be just about use of language. But the whole issue is all about language, definitions and emphasis, there’s bound to be a lot more besides.
He says we can have “robust criticisms” of “Israeli government policy” but mustn’t alienate the critical British Jews who mostly (60%) still identify as “Zionists”. But anything more systemic or fundamental is out of bounds: “Zionism” which “has become synonymous with Israel itself” should not be targetted because there is “more to Zionism” than racism and apartheid.
Rather than using exact language to target the Zionists who created and defend Israel, Jon suggests a range of euphemisms such as “Israeli fundamentalists” or, ideally, “Netanyahu’s regime”.
Not only does this confirm “Zionism” as a forbidden word to be labelled anti-semitic; not only does that validate the brouhaha about attacks on Zionism being really attacks on Jews; not only does that limit free speech on Israel; it ALSO disables essential language tools in a way that, ironically, funnels the argument towards genuine antisemitism.
So who do we blame for the 1948 Nakba and the 1967 mass expulsions less well known as the Naksa, which shaped today’s map? Surely not Israeli fundamentalists who were yet to come, and certainly not Netanyahu who was yet to come and will one day be gone. If we can’t use their own word — Zionism — to explain 70 years’ worth of ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and the deeds of all its apologists and backers, we are left pointing at an entity called “The Jewish State”. Or just Jews.
But we don’t want to do that, because not all Jews are Zionist (or even vaguely pro-Zionist), and not all Zionists are Jews: some 30 million are Christian Zionists, and there’s any number of fascists who hate Jews but admire the weapons, the walls and the prisons of Israel, and increasingly hate Muslims even more than they hate Jews.
Jon writes as if the Left just understands Zionism as a shorthand rhetorical term, and says there is “a lot more to Zionism” than Israel. Indeed there is.
Zionism is a whole lot more than just the establishment and maintenance of Israel as a state with a guaranteed Jewish majority vote and a host of laws, regulations, secret police, cultural signs and symbols, a falsified narrative, peer pressure and racial separation (with its own Hebrew term, Hafrada) to keep it all humming along.
Zionism is also the politics, organisation and ideology aimed at herding Jewish communities around the world to be its outriders, come what may, and telling them that failure to up sticks and go and live in Israel makes them inferior as Jews and as human beings, or perhaps a “little Jew-boy” as US Ambassador Dan Shapiro was called by an Israeli government minister. If they turn away to avoid seeing the brutality, that’s Zionism’s doing.
Zionism is also the lies and PR, the deals and realpolitik, the silencing and hunting down of enemies for physical and reputational destruction, the cover-ups such as USS Liberty, the damage limitation exercises, the bullying, blackmailing, destabilising and bribing of governments abroad to do its bidding, the unleashing of thousands of paid trolls and hackers, the false flag operations, the dehumanising of Palestinians and denial of their history and culture, and the relentless expansionist drive towards a Greater Israel.
The line of thinking that you’re in safe waters if you support the Two State solution and criticise policy, or governments, or settlements, but never Israel, is to be heard day after day from governments.
What we must never never do, they say, is deny a future for the State of Israel, as that, they say, is “anti-semitic” and equates to the genocide and expulsion of Israel’s Jews. It’s strange that people who call for regime change all over the world (from Communism, autocracy, theocracy, apartheid, military dictatorships etc) cannot conceive of simply taking down all Israel’s internal walls and borders and giving the whole population equal rights under the law as a state for all its citizens.
But do be careful who hears you saying this: it’s an existential threat to the Jewish State of Israel.
It’s Zionism that’s abusive
Zionism is a ‘dirty word’, or rather a term of abuse because Zionism is abusive. Zionism has a very specific meaning, a movement whose purpose was to establish a Jewish settler colonial state in Palestine. In the course of doing this it established a whole number of racist and Zionist organisations to fulfil these goals. The most important were the Jewish National Fund, which ‘redeems’ land for Jews, and the Histadrut which followed a policy of Jewish Labour, Land and Produce.
Israel could, theoretically, have abandoned Zionism having achieved statehood. Instead, it took a clear decision to expel most Palestinians in order that it could have a massive Jewish majority and then it proceeded with a continuous process of colonisation internally, which deprived those Arabs who remained of most of their land. Even today villages such as the Bedouin village in the Negev are demolished to make way for new, all Jewish towns.
Zionism is very well understood inside Israel, and all the Zionist institutions have become para-state organisations. Another is the Jewish Agency which funds settlement on the West Bank.
The deprivation of the rights of Palestinians, the apartheid nature of the Israeli state don’t come from nowhere: just last month we learnt that Jewish women going into hospital have the right to stay in maternity wards where there are no Arabs. Likewise, Jewish students at Israel’s oldest university Technion have the right to choose dorms or accommodation which is free of Arabs.
If this isn’t apartheid, what is?