Don't you just love the most moral army in the world? The most benign occupation of the worlds most cherished democracy?
Well hats off to the Israeli Occupation Forces (I mean 'defence' forces) for their unparalleled bravery
Saturday, 31 December 2016
Support those young Israeli Jews who Refuse to Serve in Israel's Occupation Forces & be part of the Criminal MajorityPlease read this message from Tair Kaminer, who spent 159 days in jail for publicly refusing to enlist.
Tair went to prison about 6 times, for renewable periods of about 28 days, because she refused to serve in the Israeli Occupation Forces.
Imagine how difficult it must have been for her. Not simply in spending over 5 months in prison, but in the ostracism and abuse she received from fellow Israelis who glory in the abuse and racism directed at Palestinians.
Taminer would have been considered a ‘traitor’ and worse by the chauvinists and bigots in the Israeli Jewish community and in the prison structure itself. Yet despite this she and now two other Israeli Jewish women, who are also currently serving prison sentences have stuck to their principles. Another Israeli Jew, Atalia Ben Aba will join them in February.
If you are thinking of a good cause to donate to in the New Year then there is no better cause to give to than supporting young Israeli Jews who refuse to be a part of the criminal majority in Israel. Please make a donation, however large or small.
At nineteen, I decided that I would rather sit in prison than serve in the Israeli army. You may know how the army and its soldiers are portrayed here in Israel. They are called heroes when in reality, their actions help prop up the occupation and oppression of Palestinians.
The public campaign my supporters initiated drew attention from around the world. The support I received from Refuser Solidarity Network in the U.S. meant that the media in Israel and internationally were reporting that a young Israeli woman was refusing to serve in an army that violates international law. The world knows now that Israelis would prefer to defy the government and military by sitting in prison than going along.
Your support meant so much to me and my family. Will you help us one more time in 2016 so we can continue to resist?
I sat in jail for close to six months. But then, the army gave in. They discharged me because the campaign on my behalf gave them negative public attention. Pressure works. Thanks to our work, the army and the government know there is resistance to their actions.
To keep the pressure up, we need your support. Will you donate as generously as you can before the end of 2016?
Now, two other young women are beginning their third term in military prison. Tamar and Tamar have decided that a peaceful future is too important to risk the alternative by staying silent. Atalia Ben Aba will join them in February.
To keep the pressure up for Tamar, Tamar, and Atalya, all the refusers, and all those who resist endless occupation and oppression, we need you.
I can't tell you how important the work of refusers is now, more than ever, in these bleak times.
Copyright © 2016 Refuser Solidarity Network,Inc., All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is:
PO Box 75392
Washington, DC 20013
Read more about 2 of the Refusers:
Thursday, 29 December 2016
Tony Greenstein’s Talk to the Boycott Israel Network (5.11.2016) on the Zionists' Anti-Semitism Offensive
In recent days, with the UN Security Council passing a resolution 14-0 condemning the expansion of settlements, the US abstaining, the anti-Semitism scarecrow has taken on new clothes. The President of the Zionist Organisation of America, Mort Klein, which invited Donald Trump's anti-Semitic Strategic Advisor, Steve Bennon, to their annual gala dinner, has even described Barak Obama, the most consistently pro-Israeli President ever, as “a Jew hating, anti-Semite.'
What we have seen in the Labour Party over the last year is an echo of this idiotic equation of support for the Palestinians and opposition to Zionism with anti-Semitism.
Below is a talk that I gave to the Boycott Israel Network on November 5th 2016 at the very beautiful Coalbrooke Youth Hostel at Ironbridge in Shropshire. Just down the road you can see a wonderful example of Victorian engineering in the world’s first arch bridge to be made out of cast iron.
What we have seen in the Labour Party over the last year is an echo of this idiotic equation of support for the Palestinians and opposition to Zionism with anti-Semitism.
Below is a talk that I gave to the Boycott Israel Network on November 5th 2016 at the very beautiful Coalbrooke Youth Hostel at Ironbridge in Shropshire. Just down the road you can see a wonderful example of Victorian engineering in the world’s first arch bridge to be made out of cast iron.
|A BIN gathering at Coalbrook 6 years ago|
|The magnificent iron bridge at Coalbrook, which is now a UNESCO world heritage site|
This talk can be found here as well as copied below
Annie O’Gara introduced the talk and chaired.
Tony: Thank you comrades; it’s my honour to be speaking to so many activists here. When Jenny invited me, she said that I had a reputation for diplomacy. I assured her that when I was at school, thinking about a career, I nearly chose the Diplomatic Service to enter because of those skills! So, I will try to employ them tonight!
|Coalbrook Youth Hostel|
O.K. We are at war – I think we understand that. We are faced with the world’s only apartheid society, the only active settler-colonial society and we have been facing in the last 12-14 months what is a tsunami of allegations that we are anti-Semitic, that the Labour Party is full of anti-Semites.
Indeed, as a member of the Labour Party myself, when I get up in the morning and go outside, I have to take a look both ways just in case someone is about to attack me and certainly when I go into a meeting, then, of course, you are fearful for your very life if you are Jewish! Or at least if the mainstream narrative that we hear from the press is to be believed.
The question is, why that is so. I think there are two things; I have been thinking quite a lot about this.
|John Mann - Chair of Parliament's 'anti-Semitism' Committee and one of the leaders of the false anti-Semitism campaign|
The first is undoubtedly, with the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party – remember Jeremy was probably the foremost advocate of Palestinian rights in the Parliamentary Labour Party – in the last 30 years. I knew him 30 years ago and subsequently and he was always outspoken, although since being elected leader he has barely mentioned the word Palestine.
There has been an alliance between Zionists and the right wing of the Labour Party, “Progress”, ‘Labour First’ etc. - a joint effort, if you like, and they’ve used anti-Semitism as the rationale, their main ideological weapon against the Left. This shouldn’t be any surprise to people. It’s far easier to use anti-Semitism as a weapon to attack your opponents than to go face-to-face and say that you support, for example, benefit cuts, further austerity, more privatisation of the NHS and so on. It makes sense from the perspective of the right wing of the Labour Party to join forces with Zionists and to use anti-Semitism as your chosen ideological weapon.
|Dr Sam Glatt - 90 Year Old doctor whose open letter was termed a forgery - John Mann was forced to back down when Dr Glatt wrote a second, handwritten letter! see|
Liz Kendall, the Blairite candidate who got 4.5% in the leadership elections in 2015 demonstrated that there is a limited appetite for Labour support for cuts to benefits and other Tory policies in the Labour Party! If you are going to fight the Left then it’s better as part of a supposedly ‘anti-racist’ politics.
|Shami Chakrabarti's Report on racism and anti-Semitism fell between 2 stools - the Zionists first welcomed it then panned it - anti-Zionists were divided over it|
If you think of British Imperialism historically, when it went into a country it didn’t, for example in India, say we are going in to occupy the country because we want to exploit you. It always said it was for benevolent reasons, that we are acting in your best interests. We are acting as trustees until you become civilised, because of course in the day of the Empire, the colonial people were seen as savages by most western people . In India, we went there to combat “suttee”, the Hindu practice of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands; just as in Iraq, we didn’t go in in order to grab the oil and take it back from the Iraqis; we did it in order to introduce them to democracy. We all know where thatled so it’s quite understandable that they use anti-Semitism today to justify Israel’s barbarism. Over 25 years ago I wrote an article REDEFINING ANTI-SEMITISM The False Anti-Racism of the Right in which I wrote [Return Magazine No. 5, December 1990]:
It has long been the practice to accuse supporters of the Palestinians and opponents of Zionism, including Jewish anti-Zionists of 'anti-Semitism'. Now however the term 'Left anti-Semitism' has come into fashion as a more general term of abuse.... Today the New Right claim to be opponents of anti-Semitism. The late, unlamented Federation of Conservative Students, even while harbouring neo-Nazis within their ranks, unanimously condemned anti-Semitism at their Conference. Reagan's Republican Party... voted at its 1984 Party Convention to condemn anti-Semitism unanimously. Even neo-fascist groups, eg. the French cultural and academic racist group, GRECE, opposes 'anti-Semitism'.’
Anti-Semitism was the new and false anti-Semitism of the Right and one reason for this is because it barely exists. Anti-Semitism is an extremely useful weapon with which to attack the Left and the Palestine Solidarity Movement and that is what we are experiencing today.
|Coalbrook Youth Hostel|
The Zionist’s Anti-Semitism Campaign during the last year began with Jeremy Corbyn himself – he was accused in the Daily Mail and the Jewish Chronicle, among other papers, of associating with Holocaust Deniers, in particular a guy called Paul Eisen, a friend of Gilad Atzmon.
For those people who are not aware; I was suspended from the Labour Party in March; Jackie Walker has been suspended twice. What she said has been completely distorted. According to the Zionists she was effectively saying that the Jews organised the Slave Trade and financed it and so on – a gross distortion (of her views)but then that’s what the Zionists and the mainstream press are best at. And it’s now gone further; of course, we had Ken Livingstone who said that Hitler supported Zionism and although he got a few of his facts wrong and was tactically inept, what he said was basically true. Anyone who is acquainted with Holocaust literature and historiography knows that the Zionists did form an alliance, did treat with the Nazis, in particular the Zionist movement outside of Europe, through Haavara, the trade agreement between the Nazi state and the Jewish Agency, the Zionist government in waiting in Palestine. He, Livingstone, stepped on some toes and he was immediately suspended for that.
There has been a belief in some quarters that this was basically an internal Labour Party thingand it would passover. I have to say that it won’t go away; it’s going to be a continuing theme, and, furthermore, it won’t just be the Labour Party. We’ve seen that: Jenny Tonge was suspended and has now resigned from the Lib Dems as a result of the targeting of her over a meeting that she chaired. It was quite outrageous. A Jewish Rabbi said that the Jews had brought the holocaust down on themselves,which is an outrageous statement but it is a common theme among those in Jewish Orthodoxy – God almighty has a purpose in life and the holocaust has a reason and it was the sinfulness of the Jews themselves. It’s a reactionary theme, but nonetheless, it’s a common theme. The idea that, somehow, this was an anti-Semitic statement which could never have been made in anything other than anti-Zionist circles is simply absurd. See The Belief that Jews were responsible for the Holocaust is common to Jewish Orthodoxy - ‘Lib Dem Cowardice over Jenny Tonge and Jewish Racism
We had the Home Affairs Select Committee Report, which is extremely dangerous, which reported about two weeks ago, - I don’t know whether anyone has read it. I did three different blog posts on it, which I suggest, if you haven’t read them maybe you should go to, because, it’s extremely dangerous. [False Zionist Allegations of Anti-Semitism and the Boy Cried Wolf Syndrome, Opposing Parliament’s Racist Witch-hunt of Malia Bouattia, “Antisemitism in the United Kingdom”
It’s a report by 10 MP’s, 6 Tories, 3 Labour – (Chair Keith Vaz, Chukka Ummuna and David Winnick) and 1 SNP. It’s an alliance of the Labour Right and the Tories. Labour chairs that particular committee because that’s the way that Select Committees work – the opposition chairs half of them - and this was a unanimous report and was designed to confuse anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Indeed, the whole purpose of it was to ensure that anti-Israel criticism and propaganda was subsumed within what they define as anti-Semitism.
Ironically, the one part of the Jewish community which does experience anti-Semitism, the most visible part, the Hasidic part who live primarily in Stamford Hill in London weren’t even mentioned, because the report is not really about anti-Semitism, just as the allegations which have been made and the campaign which has taken place in the last 15 months or so, really has nothing to do with anti-Semitism as such. That’s the last thing on their mind, but it’s a very convenient weapon to use in order to demonise Palestine solidarity activism and so forth. The other reason, if you like, for this, the other aspect is, I think part of the problem with the Palestine Solidarity movement, is that it isn’t quick-witted enough and it isn’t agile and it isn’t able to respond in the same way as the Zionists. One reason for this is that it doesn’t have the resources; Israel has allocated something like $50 million dollars to what’s called the Ministry of Strategic Affairs precisely to combat BDS and anti-Israeli attacks. It has the money, we don’t have that, but we have to be aware of developments within the ranks of our enemy, frankly.
Within the last few years as a result of BDS which really took off in 2005 with the decision of what became the University and Colleges Union to boycott Israeli Universities, there were developments within the ranks of the Zionists, a kind of Young Turks’ rebellion against the old fuddy-duddies in the Board of Deputies of British Jews whom they saw as inactive. It was best represented by a character called Jonathan Hoffman who, I’m sure, many of you remember; he was co-vicechair of the Zionist Federation until he began accusing Micky Davis, who was the chair of the Jewish Leadership Council, which then was an association of big Jewish capitalists, basically people like Stanley Kalms of Dixons,of being an anti-Zionist, because he made some mild criticisms of Israel. Micky Davis didn’t take too kindly to the criticisms and he threatened Hoffman with libel. Hoffman backed down and he was soon ousted from the Zionist Federation. But the seeds which Hoffman had sownbore fruit. You see that within the growth of an organisation which started during Operation Protective Edge, the attack on Gaza in 2014, called the “Campaign Against Anti-Semitism” which has become a charity; that is very active. It is a vitriolic, libellous, nasty organisation, which people have tended to ignore. I have done one blog on it. It’s registered as a charity and I think that we should be turning our attentions to that fact. It’s a political organisation masquerading as a charity.
But the Zionists have responded, because BDS to them represents something very different from what’s gone before and the word they use – and it’s a good one – is “delegitimization”. What they say is that you can criticise Israel and its policies but you can’t criticise what they say is “the right to exist”– it’s the very legitimacy of the state itself. And that is the fundamental question for people; there’s no avoiding it really. Palestine is not simply a human rights issue; if it were, it would be fairly low down the list. There are many other human rights issues, in South Sudan, for example or Sri Lanka. Palestine is a vibrant issue because it has a political dimension unlike any other campaign, because it involves the world’s only apartheid society, the world’s only active settler-colonial society – that is what makes Israel different. Israel is, if you like, the spearhead of the West inside the Middle East and it plays a particular role in destabilising that region and that is why the Palestine issue is of such significance and such importance. BDS is seen as a threat to the West’s favourite Rottweiler, it’s guard dog or as Alexander Haig, Reagan’s Secretary of State put it, Israel is an unsinkable aircraft carrier for the USA in the Middle East and cheap at the price.
Most people here, I’m sure, are active in the campaign for BDS but the primary importance of BDS is not the economic impact of it, which is marginal, let’s be frank about it, it’s political. That’s what Israel’s main fear about it is, just like in South Africa, the sports boycott, that’s where I started off politically, didn’t have any economic significance, but it had an immense psychological effect and that’s the importance of BDS. It questions the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, and when we talk about a Jewish State, I mean a Jewish supremacist state. Being Jewish in Israel means you have privileges over and above somebody who is not Jewish.
And what we have seen with the Home Affairs Select Committee is an attempt, in a sense, to redefine anti-Semitism. If I can spend a few minutes on that I will explain. Back in the 1970’s, it was with AbbaEban, a very clever Foreign Minister of Israel, that the concept of new anti-Semitism grew up. New anti-Semitism is different from the old anti-Semitism. When most people, the man or the woman in the street orthe man on the proverbial Clapham omnibus, think of anti-Semitism, what they think of is hatred of Jews, violence, discrimination etc. It could be summed up as ‘hostility to Jews as Jews’. That’s what most people think of as anti-Semitism. It encompasses stereotypes, the idea of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy and so on, but for Israel that is of no importance.
Indeed Zionism welcomes anti-Semitism because it helps encourage Jewish people to emigrate to Israel and become separate themselves. What they meant by new anti-Semitisminvolved a redefinition of anti-Semitism. Israel became in the words of Irwin Cotler, the former Minister of Justice in Canada, the “new Jew” - the Jew amongst the nations. In other words, criticism of Israel was not because of what it did but because of what it was. Israel was the Jew amongst the nations. People singled it out because it was a Jewish state as opposed to being a Christian State or an Islamic State or whatever.
Just let me make a quick observation in that respect because this is a common Zionist theme: I think many of you will recall that Israel is a Jewish state but it’s the only Jewish State; there are, however, many Islamic states and Britain is a Christian state. Why therefore the argument goes can we not have just one Jewish state. You don’t object to x number of Muslim states, why then one Jewish state? The reason is simple and it is this.
In Britain being a Christian state is a constitutional adornment. In Israel there’s a Jewish National Fund which I’m sure most of you have heard of and the JNF owns and controls 93% of the land and if you’re not Jewish you don’t have access to that land, precisely because you’re not Jewish. It is a Jewish National Fund and on its website it has a nice little green box because it’s very eco-friendly and in that box it says that it did a survey of the Jewish population in Israel and something like 80% of them said that, given the choice, they’d prefer that Israel was a Jewish state to being a democratic state and then went on to say that the Jewish people for 2000 years, according to the myth, had longed not for a democratic state but for a Jewish state.
That iswhat is involved in a Jewish state. In Britain, you can imagine that if there was a Christian National Fund and I was told that I can’t rent somewhere or lease somewhere or buy somewhere because I am not a Christian, I think that most people would say that that was anti-Semitic, but in Israel they don’t seem to understand that the same applies in reverse. The question I’ve always asked at meetings where Zionists are present, is whether if Jews in this country were treated the same as Palestinians in Israel would they consider that to be anti-Semitic. They never have an answer to that because there is no answer.
Amongst the Zionists arguments in favour of a ‘Jewish’ state is that Israel represents ‘Jewish national self-determination’. This has become a favourite issue, a talking point and the simple answer to that is that firstly, only an oppressed people have the right to talk about self-determination. It’s meaningless to talk about people who are oppressors having a right to self-determination. They are already “self-determining” another people. Self-determination simply means the right to be free of national oppression and the Israeli Jews are not oppressed as a nation. Indeed they are not a nation and incidentally there is no such thing as an Israeli nationality. The only time you see a reference to an Israeli nationality is on the Israeli passport, but the Hebrew translation in the passport itself is Ezrahut (citizenship) not Le’um (people/nation). So even Israel’s passport is a lie. It not only fools people outside Israel, it fools Israelis too!
Secondly Jewish people are not a nation. Jewish people are found amongst every people on the planet – French, British, Argentinian, you name it; the idea that they form a nation is some kind of metaphysical concept. There’s no rationale behind it. Jews don’t speak the same language, British Jews speak English, French Jews speak French. Jews don’t occupy the same territory. Often their religious rituals are different as well, so it’s a complete absurdity to say that Jews, wherever they live form one nation.
Talk of ‘self-determination’ is an attempt by the Zionists to attach themselves to the radical zeitgeist and pretend that they too are an oppressed people, but if you go back into Zionist literature and history, you will know that Zionism always talked about itself as a colonising mission. They were colonists and they called themselves colonists. – When Theodor Herzl, the founder of Political Zionism wrote to Cecil Rhodes, after whom Rhodesia was named, who was one of the key architects of white supremacy in southern Africa, Herzl asked ‘how then do I happen to turn to you since this is an out of the way matter for you. How indeed. Because it is something colonial.’ [Diaries of Theodor Herzl, p.1194.
The Zionists have fixed upon two definitions of anti-Semitism: one of them many of you will have heard of is the Working Definition on Anti-Semitism [WDoS] propagated by something that used to be called the European Union Monitoring Committee and this said that contemporary examples of anti-Semitism in public life include but are not limited to the following: calling for or aiding, justifying harming Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion. I would ask why calling for the killing of Jews needs to be in the name of a radical ideology or a religion; it would stand on its own. This is an attempt to harness it to an anti-Islamic theme. Another is accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel. Well I would accept that accusing people of dual loyalty is anti-Semitic but Zionism itself says that Jews have a loyalty to Israel. That’s exactly what Benjamin Netanyahu did when he came to Paris in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack and said that the real home of Jews isn’t in France, it’s in Israel. Another example isdrawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to the Nazis; and this is something that was in the Chakrabarti report, and I think it’s completely retrogressive. The fact is that Israel justifies its existence by reference to the Holocaust and to the Nazis and they make direct comparison between the Nazis and the Palestinians. Therefore, I think that we are free to draw comparisons. The comparisons should be valid and not used willy-nilly. For example when the Deputy Minister of Defence Eli Dahancompares Palestinians to animals New deputy defense minister called Palestinians ‘animals’or Benjamin Netanyahu speaks of the Arabs surrounding Israel as “wild beasts” I think it’s quite in order to say that that was the Nazi view of Jews – that they were animals. We should never retreat from the narrative that the Zionists engage in, because, when you retreat, you continue to retreat. I always think that the best form of defence is attack, and to put them on the defensive, not the other way round.
The WDoSsays that another example of anti-Semitism is holding Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the state of Israel. Again, I agree with that, but who is it that associates Jews in this country with what Israel does if not the Board of Deputies and the Zionist movement? Indeed, the chief Rabbi was in the Telegraph, not so long ago, telling us that you can no more separate Jews from Zionism than Britain from the City of London. Ken Livingstone and the hard Left are spreading the insidious virus of anti-Semitism
Fine! If you say that Jews are responsible for everything that Israel does then you can’t be surprised if some people then make that equation themselves. In other words, there is a contradiction that lies at the heart of the present Zionist offensive and it’s for people to draw the necessary conclusions. I want to make a number of points.
Firstly, I think that we cannot continue as we are and I think that the response of the Palestine Solidarity movement to the attacks taking place in the last 15 months has been desultory, to say the least. We haven’t responded, to be quite blunt, and we need to respond and the purpose of this workshop is to think of ways that do.
Secondly, this is a workshop of activists – BIN is an activist group – but activism itself is not enough because activism takes place within a political context and I refer to the Home Affairs Select Committee Report Antisemitism in the UK, The most dangerous thing about that Committee’s recommendations is where it says that ‘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.’
In essence it is saying that criticism of Zionism should be criminalised as a hate crime. That is an extremely dangerous formulation but it’s one that is quite likely to be taken up. We have seen in Scotland that somebody who shouts “Viva Palestina” can be arrested; we know that in France, BDS has been all but outlawed. In this country there are serious moves afoot, by the Zionist movement, to try to make criticism of Zionism a hate crime and we need to be aware of that and that’s why I say activism is not enough. We also have to be aware of the political surroundings and act accordingly.
I think we should also have some propaganda themes of our own to fight back with. As I say, attack is the best form of defence. Firstly our main theme is that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism and I go a bit further and say that anti-Zionism - opposition to Israel and opposition to Zionism, the movement that established Israel - is never anti-Semitic. Anti-Zionism is a form of anti-racism; anti-Semitism is a form of racism; racism and anti-racism are not the same by definition, because they are polar opposites. That does not mean that someone who is an anti-Zionist cannot also be an anti-Semite. Individuals have all sorts of contradictions within them. For example there are Zionists who are not racists. They sincerely believe themselves not to be racists. They are wrong. They don’t understand Zionism, but I accept that there are some Zionists who aren’t racist and we should try to win them over. But the movement itself is thoroughly racist, so we should always distinguish between the movement and the individual.
One of the main organisations we should work with and in is the Labour Party. Let me say this: we shouldn’t be afraid to engage with a political party. We have “Friends of Palestine” groups. The Tories are a write-off. 80% of their MPs are members of Conservative Friends of Israel. They are a right-wing party, they are pro-imperialist, you may get one or two individuals like Alan Duncan, but by and large, they are going to be pro-Zionist. The Lib-Dems are somewhat better, but not much better. In the Labour Party, you do actually have, especially with the new influx of Corbynistas, a ready-made audience there and we have a group called the “Labour Friends of Palestine” basically established in Parliament, many of whose members are also supporters of “Labour Friends of Israel”. It’s an organisation that’s not fit for purpose. We have to establish, I think, a pro-Palestinian organisation in the Labour Party, which is based in the grassroots, which is activist and doesn’t share anything in common with Labour Friends of Israel.
If I can quote the New Testament, the Gospel according to Matthew, No man can serve two masters. You cannot serve God and mammon! You cannot ride two horses at the same time. You can’t be a supporter of the oppressed and the oppressor at the same time.
The Jewish Labour Movementis an affiliate of the Labour Party but is the British wing of the Israeli Labour Party which it calls its ‘sister party’. I think we need to hone our propaganda. We need to make it clear that the Israeli Labour Party is as much a party of Israeli apartheid as is the Likud; indeed in many ways, it is worse. It was the original party of Israeli apartheid. I have done an article recently on why Israel is not a democracy and I think that should be another theme as well. The Home Affairs Select Committee and this new International Holocaust Remembrance Authority definition of anti-Semitism which it has taken up [see The Government's new definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ is an attempt to criminalise support for the Palestinians and opposition to Zionism] says criticism of Israel, which is the same as criticism of any liberal democracy is OK but that any other criticism of Israel which questions its existence is anti-Semitic. We have to be quite clear that Israel is not a liberal democracy. It is anything but a liberal democracy. It is a country where torture is a norm if you’re a Palestinian, where they have internment without trial, administrative detention, and they have for example constant censorship of the media and even state archives. This is not something you’d find in a liberal democracy. We have to have a criticism of Israel which doesn’t simply focus on the occupied territories. The West Bank, important though that is, important though the settlements are, are not the whole picture. We have to focus on the State that gives birth to the settlements and to the Occupation, because that is where the root of the problem lies.
I think we also need to focus, and to give examples, of how Israel itself, not just the West Bank but Israel itself, is the most racist state in the world and there’s plenty of evidence [see Why Israel is not a Liberal Democracy - Israel is the most racist and right-wing state on Earth]
The fact that 50% of Israelis say that they want the Arabs they live amongst to be expelled, for example. You wouldn’t find such an opinion poll in this country in which 50% of White people say this of Black people or Muslims. That shows that Israel is a different society and anything but a liberal democracy.
Other ideas I suggest include these. One of the areas the Zionists concentrate on is the NUS, the National Union of Students, and we know there’s been a witch-hunt against Malia Bouattia, who is the new NUS President, and a very good President, and they’ve been accusing her of anti-Semitism. The same Select Committee launched an unwarranted attack on her because she said that Birmingham University is a Zionist outpost, which it probably is. There’s nothing racist or anti-Semitic about that.
Again, we need to concentrate and put resources in to ensure that Palestine Societies are supported and created as an extremely important area of work.
Palestine Solidarity Campaign – let me just say this. You’ve heard of the Trade Union Congress, I assume. There was a famous cartoon in the 1930’s by David Lowe in the Daily Mirror; it depicted the TUC as a carthorse, slow-witted, slow to move, took time to get into action. I would suggest that PSC has some of those aspects as well. It hasn’t been the most agile of creatures and it needs to be. It is the largest organisation. The Zionists have a number of organisations with resources and so on. We need to be able to fight and to fight effectively and PSC should be part of that fight.
We also need to be quite clear that, and this is a political question, the question of two states is dead. All the Zionists groups say they support two states. That should make people wonder. If the Zionists say they support two states that is because they know there will never be two states. We should ask ourselves why that is so. We should be quite clear that two states today is a cover for Apartheid.
Regarding the media, I think we need to have a focus, as the Zionists did a few years ago, on the Guardian newspaper, which has been leading the attack on “anti-Semitism” and Corbyn. I think that’s crucial and I’ve got one or two ideas but I don’t have time to talk about them now.
I also think we need to emulate the Zionists – they have a number of “think-tanks” which look at their strategy, their tactics and devise programmes accordingly. I think we need to do the same. We should think about establishing something where ideas get thrown around so that we get as quick-footed and agile as they are. We need to learn something from our enemies in order that we can actually beat them.
Thank you very much for listening.
Agreed with much of what had been said. There has been a decision by the Israeli Government to attack BDS as “anti-Semitic” and thereby to silence it. To counter this it was necessary to engage with other groups – War on Want, Amnesty etc – to defend BDS as defending free speech. There needed to be more support on university campuses, both with student groups and at a senior academic level. Basic campaigning might not be enough, but it was essential to continue the normal work as well as countering the new attacks.
If Labour Friends of Palestine was inadequate, how to improve and what work was possible at local level?
Question 3 What was the role of the Israeli embassy and ambassador Regev in all this?
Question 4 Are we doing enough to convey to people what “Zionism” means – i.e. ethnic cleansing, apartheid etc?
Tony: I’m not suggesting that PSC gives up what it’s already doing. However, there are times when you have to draw up priorities and sometimes, shift the emphasis and I think that’s certainly what PSC needs to do now with the resources it has. For example, I think it needs to actively support, and that includes financially, “Free Speech on Israel” because it’s at the heart of a battle and it is a battle, a battle which, if we lose, we are going to be hamstrung without a doubt and we won’t even be able to engage in some of the routine activities that we do. It’s fine having a routine – the week on the Nakba, the week on Hewlett Packard etc. and they are all worthwhile, but we also need to ensure that we have the space within which to conduct it and that’s why the politics is so important.
For instance, PSC boasted at its last conference that it had made contact with over 1000 Parliamentary candidates but what has it done to utilise those contacts in the current climate? I can’t think of one single MP with maybe the exception of Richard Burgon, who spoke out about how Zionism is an enemy of peace, who’s spoken out throughout all of this. Ken Livingstone spoke out and his head was chopped off. Naz Shah spoke out two years ago and unfortunately was cowed into silence and even worse and apart from that there’s been nothing.
Jeremy Corbyn came to the last ten or more PSC conferences, the last one being just before he was elected and yet there hasn’t been an attempt to even hold a meeting, fix a meeting with him, or John McDonnell, to actually startto try and coordinate work with him and those around him. People in the leadership of PSC have I’m sure access to him but we haven’t utilised our contacts, haven’t put across our message and that’s what I’m saying: we need to. I also think we need to have held a public meeting with prominent members of the Labour Party like Ken Livingstone, for example, like Richard Burgon, like people in Momentum to start the fightback – Jackie Walker and so on. PSC needs to do that because the Labour Party is not an incidental organisation. I mean, someone asked about Mark Regev and the Israeli embassy, I don’t think Mark Regev began it but certainly he’s involved in it. If you look at it from this perspective, when Corbyn was elected or seemed likely to be elected to the Labour leadership, I imagine panic set in, not just in the Israeli embassy but the US embassy. Britain is the closest ally of the United States in Europe, the special relationship; the idea that someone who is anti-Nato, anti-Trident and so on, with his record, I would be amazed if the CIA and the Intelligence Agencies weren’t doing something. I mean that’s what they’re paid to do all over the world; why not in Britain? It would be bonkers if they didn’t; they would be failing in their duties, so, yes, of course they have been behind this campaign.
With regard to the Labour Friends of Palestine, nationally it’s a joke; if there are local groups, fine, but then they have to be radical, activist and getting the message across that there is no anti-Semitism in the Labour Party; they need to fight it. The Labour Friends of Palestine nationally, as far as I am aware, has said nothing, done nothing. If I’m wrong, tell me I’m wrong but that’s my impression, so I think we need to…PSC needs to… for example, get leaflets out nationally about what’s happening and they need to be sharp. They spent maybe £10,000 on an advert in the Guardian that no one even understood – it was regarding the settlements. I think it needs to be far harder, far sharper. I think our direction needs to be that the Jewish Labour Movement which is spearheading this is the prime target. Without a doubt –their Chair, Jeremy Newmark, is leading the attack on ‘anti-Semitism’. I think we need to call them out and explain, quite succinctly what Labour Zionism is about. I mean the sayings of Isaac Herzog their leader who said, “We are not an Arab-lovers party”, for example, or when he spoke about his nightmare of waking up to find there was an Arab Prime Minister of Israel. We need to bring those things to the fore.
Question 4 expanded what her question had been about.
Tony: I think on anti-Zionism we need to say that …let me read a quote from A B Yehoshua, an Israeli novelist, a Labour Zionist, a novelist whose most famous novel was “Face the Forest”. He is someone who believes in what’s called then Negation of the Diaspora, because Zionism was founded on hatred of the Jewish Diaspora. It held that the Diaspora was responsible for all the problems of the Jews. It was seen as a sinful creation and responsible for the degeneration of the Jews – they spoke in very much the same terms as the anti-Semites and Yehoshuain a lecture to the Union of Jewish Students,[Jewish Chronicle 22.1.1982] said“Anti-Zionism is not the product of the non-Jews. On the contrary, the gentiles (that is the non-Jews) have always encouraged Zionism hoping that it would help to rid them of the Jews in their midst. Even today, in a perverse way, a real anti-Semite must be a Zionist.” If someone tells me, “Tony, you don’t belong here! Go to Israel - you’ve got your Jewish state”, they’re either a Zionist or an anti-Semite, or both. We need to bring that out. Zionism rejects the Jewish position in the diaspora and you see that today with the election of Trump and the open anti-Semitism of many of his supporters including the appointment of Steve Bannon, former CEO of Breitbart, the alt-Right site. These are people who hold to crude anti-Semitic positions. But they are fanatically pro-Israel. They love Israel but hate Jews. So when Trump appointed Bannon as his Strategic Advisor, the second most important person in the White House, the Zionist Organisation of America invited him to speak at its annual gala in New York. [See the Jewish Forward of America, With Bannon on the Bill, Zionist Gala Becomes Flashpoint]. This caused a major rift in American Jewry. Ordinary Jews could not understand how pro-Israel groups could welcome to office open anti-Semites and there is no doubt that Bannon is anti-Semitic. I don’t mean personally. I’m sure he’s not anti-Semitic on a personal level, just as Enoch Powell was not anti-Semitic personally. But politically he’s openly employed and used anti-Semites and their tropes throughout the magazine he was responsible for.
Ha’aretz, the liberal Israeli newspaper in an article Zionist Organization of America Flooded With 'Dozens of Calls' Amid Backlash Over Bannon Support reports American Jews saying that ‘'We did not survive the Holocaust, we did not found the State of Israel, just so that less than two generations later we could cozy up to neo-Nazis.' Today they are learning what the Jews of Poland understood before the Holocaust. That Zionism will never fight anti-Semitism of the traditional kind. Instead it will redefine anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism and hope to fool a few gullible souls.
Today we have the hundredth year of the Balfour Declaration. As Prime Minister Balfour introduced the Aliens Act which was designed to stop Jews from coming into this country, but he was happy for them to go and settle in Palestine.
We need to point out that Zionism, historically, collaborated and worked with anti-Semites, not just the Nazi era for a long (time); Edouard Drumont, the anti-Dreyfussard. He wrote a very favourable review of Herzl’s “The Jewish State” which was the founding Pamphlet of the Zionist movement which said that Jews don’t belong in non-Jewish society. The Zionists say that Zionism is being used as a term of abuse. Well, that’s true because it’s an abusive movement, so we need to explain why it’s an abusive movement, because it believes that Jews have the right to sovereignty and only we Jews have the right to sovereignty in Palestine. Therefore, it’s inherently racist because it doesn’t recognise, and never has recognised, the rights of the indigenous population, just like any settler-colonial movement.
Agreed that the best form of defence is attack, but noted that Donald Trump, who has never hidden his right-wing politics has been supported by the ADL in the US because of his support for Israel. He himself had no support for equality.
One step to take would be to interview Palestinians and ask them “What does Zionism mean to you?” and give their experiences a voice.
A major problem was how to communicate outside the movement. Our enemies were shrinking our space to do this – especially in the universities, where meetings are cancelled or monitored aggressively by the authorities. Federica Mogherini’s reiteration of the right to campaign for BDS in the EU was important and welcome. Governments in Ireland, Sweden and Holland had also supported this. We need to develop links with groups like Stop Arming Israel to fight issues of free speech. Trade Unions needed to be encouraged to speak out.
Welcomed the idea of a Free Speech Coalition. Didn’t feel that attacking Zionism would prove effective; instead, concentrate on rights. Be aware that there are organisations in Israel which work alongside BDS in support.
Tony: the last questioner made some very interesting and useful points all of which I disagreed with!
Why talk about Zionism? I’ll tell you why: the Jewish Labour Movement and the Commons Select Committee both focus on our use of the word “Zionism”, which tells me there is a reason behind it. The reason is that they don’t mind us criticising them on the human rights stuff so much because that’s water off a duck’s back. What they don’t want us to do is to focus on Zionism because Zionism explains why they breach human rights, why they do what they do.
Zionism isthe movement which gave birth to the settlements and all the other things that we so dislike about Israel. To fail to deal with Zionism is as if 20 years ago, when we were campaigning around what was happening in South Africa, we concentrated on the “Group Areas Act” and all the other things but didnot mention apartheid because that was somehow sacrosanct. You can’t deal with the symptoms without dealing with the cause and the problem and that’s why I say that Zionism is, indeed, the thing that we should concentrate on and focus upon, because it explains why things happen. Without that we are rudderless and at sea.
Now we are facing a ruling-class, establishment movement, and no doubt, the balance of forces is against us, but most people in this country understand that if you criticise Israel, that doesn’t make you an anti-Semite and most people in this country understand what anti-Semitism is – which is racism towards Jewish people. You know, it’s an easy thing to understand. They don’t understand what this “new Jew” is about, they don’t understand what the working definition is about if they’d ever read it. In other words, that’s why the Zionists get in such a muddle because it’s not coherent, because what they’re really doing is redefining anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism. That’s what their game is, that’s what we should call them out about. The Zionists are fundamentally dishonest. That is why the JLM twists the MacPherson conclusions re a victim of racism defining what is a racial incident to suggest that a victim defines if someone is guilty, which was never said nor of course could it be. Only the courts find someone guilty but the JLM Rule Change to the Labour Party says that where an allegation is made by a Zionist of anti-Semitism, then that allegation must be believed. We need to call out that basic dishonesty.
One other aspect of their argument is this idea which has been propagated that Jews now identify with Israel; therefore, inherently, part of Jewish identity is support for Zionism and that Zionism and being Jewish is one and the same thing. Now, it’s interesting that the survey they quote is a Yachad survey conducted by City University last year. The Attitudes of British Jews Towards Israel. That survey found that 59% of Jews in Britain identified as Zionist, down from 72% five years ago and 31% of Jews say they are not Zionist.
They’ve tried to spin this away by saying that British Jews still support the right of Israel to exist. That’s true, but they don’t support the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish supremacist state. In other words, most Jews don’t understand what Israel does. I didn’t when I was a Zionist; I thought, “Why the hell do these Arabs not want to make peace with us? Is there something wrong with them? Why are they so bloody-minded?” That’s the attitude of most Jews because they’ve been fed myths and lies for example the myth that in 1948, these Arabs, they ran away. Apparently they left under orders from the Arab radio broadcasts in order that the Arab armies could invade. The Palestinian refugees deserved their fate because they abandoned Israel at a time when they were asked, even begged, based on a myth in Haifa, to stay.
Of course, that’s not true, it was debunked by two scholars Walid Khalidi and Erskine Childers in 1961 and in the work of Benny Morris and IlanPappe in the 1980’s onwards. We all know it’s not true, but that is what British Jews’ heads are full of. But, more and more Jews, nonetheless, understand that Zionism is no longer a nice word. It is about chauvinism and particularism and racism, in essence, and that’s why fewer Jews today, 59%, down from 72% in five years, identify as Zionists.The Zionists have tried to cover this up; it’s mentioned in the small print of the Home Affairs Select Committee.
I don’t underestimate our task. We are small and few in number. We have some advantages but we have many disadvantages as well. I also agree with another questioner regarding the way we work in some ways: we do need to work with Civil Liberties organisations and we do need to make the question of BDS a civil rights issue. I think we should be thinking in terms of the right to BDS as the focus of a campaign in its own right and the focus of a public meeting and leaflets and so on. And we should get MPs, I subscribe to the idea, that the right of BDS is a fundamental right – a right of all oppressed people - and to draw out that BDS, boycott, isn’t something new, it stretched from Ireland which is where the word Boycott came from to the Boycott of Slave-Grown Sugar, to the Jewish boycott of Nazi Germany, a mass movement which the Zionist movement broke. They don’t like to talk about that for obvious reasons because the Zionists pulled the Nazis coals out of the fire.
I do think we need to go on the offensive and to put them on the defensive and that is one of the ways that we do that. And, incidentally, on Jewish identity, even if it were true that Jews identified with Israel, just supposing they did, so what? Attacking an identity is not attacking a people. Some Africans identify with Female Genital Mutilation and see it as part of their religion. Do we, therefore, say it’s racist to attack FGM? Of course not. And if some people identify with a burkha as part of the Islamic religion, do we therefore say it’s racist to attack the burkha or the nikab or what have you?Of course not.
Things are right or wrong in their own terms. If Zionism is wrong, it doesn’t matter if all the Jews support it – they’re wrong. Simple as that!
I’ll leave it at that. Thank you.