by Stuart Littlewood
The House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee has just issued its report ‘Antisemitism in the UK’ in response to concerns about “an increase in prejudice and violence against Jewish communities” and “an increase in far-right extremist activity”. It was also prompted by allegations of antisemitism in political parties and university campuses.
The following observations are based on the report’s Conclusions and Recommendations, which is as far as most people will read.
- Israel is an ally of the UK Government and is generally regarded as a liberal democracy.
- Those claiming to be “anti-Zionist, not antisemitic”, should do so in the knowledge that 59% of British Jewish people consider themselves to be Zionists. If these individuals genuinely mean only to criticise the policies of the Government of Israel, and have no intention to offend British Jewish people, they should criticise “the Israeli Government”, and not “Zionists”. For the purposes of criminal or disciplinary investigations, use of the words ‘Zionist’ or ‘Zio’ in an accusatory or abusive context should be considered inflammatory and potentially antisemitic.
- Universities UK should work with appropriate student groups to produce a resource for students, lecturers and student societies on how to deal sensitively with the Israel/Palestine conflict, and how to ensure that pro-Palestinian campaigns avoid drawing on antisemitic rhetoric.
- Jewish Labour MPs have been subject to appalling levels of abuse, including antisemitic death threats from individuals purporting to be supporters of Mr Corbyn. Clearly, the Labour Leader is not directly responsible for abuse committed in his name, but we believe that his lack of consistent leadership on this issue, and his reluctance to separate antisemitism from other forms of racism, has created what some have referred to as a ‘safe space’ for those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people.
- The Chakrabarti Report is clearly lacking in many areas; particularly in its failure to differentiate explicitly between racism and antisemitism… [its recommendations] are further impaired by the fact that they are not accompanied by a clear definition of antisemitism, as we have recommended should be adopted by all political parties.
- The Labour Party and all political parties should ensure that their training on racism and inclusivity features substantial sections on antisemitism. This must be formulated in consultation with Jewish community representatives, and must acknowledge the unique nature of antisemitism.
- The acts of governments abroad are no excuse for violence or abuse against people in the United Kingdom. We live in a democracy where people are free to criticise the British Government and foreign governments. But the actions of the Israeli Government provide no justification for abusing British Jews.
- In an article for The Daily Telegraph in May, the Chief Rabbi criticised attempts by Labour members and activists to separate Zionism from Judaism as a faith, arguing that their claims are “fictional”. In evidence to us, he stressed that “Zionism has been an integral part of Judaism from the dawn of our faith”. He stated that “spelling out the right of the Jewish people to live within secure borders with self-determination in their own country, which they had been absent from for 2,000 years—that is what Zionism is”. His view was that “If you are an anti-Zionist, you are anti everything I have just mentioned”.
- CST and the JLC describe Zionism as “an ideological belief in the authenticity of Jewish peoplehood and that the Jewish people have the right to a state”. Sir Mick Davis, Chairman of the JLC, told us that criticising Zionism is the same as antisemitism, because: “Zionism is so totally identified with how the Jew thinks of himself, and is so associated with the right of the Jewish people to have their own country and to have self-determination within that country, that if you attack Zionism, you attack the very fundamentals of how the Jews believe in themselves.”
- Research published in 2015 by City University found that 90% of British Jewish people support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and 93% say that it forms some part of their identity as Jews….
Hardly. It is no friend of the British people. Nor is it remotely a Western-style liberal democracy. We share few if any values.
The Israeli regime’s inhuman policies are driven by Zionist doctrine. I doubt if justice-seekers are in the least swayed by how many Jews consider themselves Zionists. Or how many Christians do, for that matter.
For the sake of even handedness, who will ensure that pro-Israel campaigns avoid drawing on hasbara lies and false claims to Palestinian lands and resources?
The abusers, and others with vile attitudes, may well be provocateurs bent on making Corbyn look bad. In any case why should he or anyone else feel obliged to “separate” antisemitism from other forms of racism?
Who needs a special definition or actually cares about differentiating antisemitism from racism? They are two of the same stripe, and I suspect most of us regard them with equal distaste and have no reason to put one above the other. In short, we know racism when we see it and that’s enough.
Unique? Racism is racism.
We tend to take a dim view of those who support states that terrorise others. Jews themselves have warned that Jews everywhere may suffer as a result of the Jewish State’s unacceptable behaviour. This is unfortunate as many Jews are fiercely critical of the regime’s misconduct and, to their great credit, actively campaign against it. By the way, how does the Select Committee suggest we treat those inside our Parliament who promote the interests of a foreign military power with an appalling human rights record?
The Chief Rabbi is flatly contradicted by the Jewish Socialists’ Group which says: “Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are not the same. Zionism is a political ideology which has always been contested within Jewish life since it emerged in 1897, and it is entirely legitimate for non-Jews as well as Jews to express opinions about it, whether positive or negative. Not all Jews are Zionists. Not all Zionists are Jews.
“Criticism of Israeli government policy and Israeli state actions against the Palestinians is not antisemitism. Those who conflate criticism of Israeli policy with antisemitism, whether they are supporters or opponents of Israeli policy, are actually helping the antisemites. We reject any attempt, from whichever quarter, to place legitimate criticism of Israeli policy out of bounds.”
On the Chief Rabbi’s other point, what right in law do the Jewish people have to return after 2000 years, forcibly displacing the Palestinians and denying them the same right? Besides, scholars tells us that most returning Jews have no ancestral links to the Holy Land whatsoever.
The Select Committee is careful to say that “where criticism of the Israeli Government is concerned context is vital”. The Committee therefore need to understand that the so-called Jewish State is waging what amounts to a religious war against Christian and Muslim communities in the Holy Land. Ask anyone who has been on pilgrimage there. And read The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism, a joint statement by the heads of Palestinian Christian churches. It says:
“We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.
“We further reject the contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organizations with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States that are presently imposing their unilateral pre-emptive borders and domination over Palestine. This inevitably leads to unending cycles of violence that undermine the security of all peoples of the Middle East and the rest of the world.
“We reject the teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support these policies as they advance racial exclusivity and perpetual war rather than the gospel of universal love, redemption and reconciliation…..”
In seeking to defend Zionism the Select Committee fails to put the opposing case – for example, that many non-Jews regard it as a repulsive concept at odds with their own belief. There is no reason to suppose that Zionist belief somehow trumps all others.
Did researchers ask British Muslims and Christians about the Palestinians’ right to their own state?
This research sounds like a swipe at people who are accused of ‘delegitimising’ Israel by questioning its right to exist. Actually Israel does a very good job of delegitimising itself. The new state’s admission to the UN in 1949 was conditional upon honouring the UN Charter and implementing UN General Assembly Resolutions 181 and 194. It failed to do so and repeatedly violates provisions and principles of the Charter to this day.
Israel cannot even bring itself to comply with the provisions of the EU-Israel Association Agreement of 1995 which makes clear that adherence to the principles of the UN Charter and “respect for human rights and democratic principle constitute an essential element of this agreement”.
In 2004 the International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled that construction of what’s often referred to as the Apartheid Wall breached international law and Israel must dismantle it and make reparation. The ICJ also ruled that “all States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction”. Israel nevertheless continues building its hideous Wall with American tax dollars, an act of hatred against the Palestinians and a middle-finger salute to international law.
Here at home powerful Friends of Israel groups are allowed to flourish in all three main parties in the UK. Their presence at the centre of government and in the fabric of our institutions is considered unacceptable by civil society campaign groups and a grave breach of the principles of public life. The backlash to growing criticism of Israel’s stranglehold on its neighbours and increasing influence on Western foreign policy is mounting intolerance, Hence the Inquisition, which lately has been directed against Labour’s new leader Jeremy Corbyn, an easy target for orchestrated smears given his well known sympathy with the Palestinians’ struggle and his links to some of Israel’s (not our) enemies.
The shortcomings of the Select Committee’s inquiry are obvious. Its report doesn’t properly consider the opposite view. It is half-baked. It is lopsided. It is written in whitewash.
After working on jet fighters in the RAF Stuart became an industrial marketing specialist with manufacturing companies and consultancy firms. He also “indulged himself” as a newspaper columnist. In politics, he served as a Cambridgeshire county councilor and member of the Police Authority. Now retired he campaigns on various issues and contributes to several online news & opinion sites. With a lifelong passion for photography, he has produced two photo-documentary books, one of which can be read online at www.radiofreepalestine.org.uk.