By Stuart Littlewood
Australian federal and state MPs have been indulging in an orgy of anti-anti-Semitism by signing en masse the London Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism. Over 100 have put their mark on it.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that even more of the nation’s 226 federal parliamentarians in Canberra are expected to sign up, and all 105 federal Liberal MPs and senators have done so.
About 300 other lawmakers from some 60 countries have also signed, according to a spokesperson from the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism. Fifty of these are Canadians, 18 are British, six are Israeli and two are American (what, only two?).
Moreover, last month Australia’s Julia Gillard became the fourth prime minister to sign, after Britain’s Gordon Brown and David Cameron, and Canada’s Stephen Harper, who in 2010 signed the Ottawa Protocol, reaffirming the London Declaration.
The Stooges’ Pledge
So what exactly have they put their names to? The full document can be found here. It seeks to “draw the democratic world’s attention to the resurgence of anti-Semitism as a potent force in politics, international affairs and society”.
The authors of this one-sided treatise (the aforementioned Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism) want their 34 “commandments” enforced by all the big battalions – national governments, parliaments, international institutions, political and civic leaders, non-governmental organizations and civil society.
In the process, of course, efforts to expose the tightening noose of Zionism on those very same areas of politics, international affairs and society will be stifled.
Commandment no.1 states that “Parliamentarians shall expose, challenge, and isolate political actors who engage in hate against Jews and target the state of Israel as a Jewish collectivity”.
Oh dear, how confusing. Here I was foolishly thinking the state of Israel was indeed some sort of Jewish collective since its founding document says:
“We, members of the People’s Council, representatives of the Jewish community of Eretz Israel and of the Zionist movement hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel,to be known as the State of Israel. The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles… We appral to the Jewish people throughout the diaspora to rally round the Jews of Eretz-Israel in the tasks of immigration and upbuilding…”
Commandment no.6 states that “Governments and the UN should resolve that never again will the institutions of the international community and the dialogue of nation states be abused to try to establish any legitimacy for anti-Semitism, including the singling out of Israel for discriminatory treatment in the international arena…”
In other words, mustn’t pick on, criticize or punish Israel for its horrendous crimes. It’s an old tune.
Commandment no.24 states that “Education authorities should ensure that freedom of speech is upheld within the law and to protect students and staff from illegal anti-Semitic discourse and a hostile environment in whatever form it takes including calls for boycotts”.
But what exactly constitutes “illegal anti-Semitic discourse”? And is this an attempt to make boycotting illegal? Surely, that would be an infringement of personal and civil liberty.
Commandment no.29 states that “Governments should take appropriate and necessary action to prevent the broadcast of antisemitic programmes on satellite television channels, and to apply pressure on the host broadcast nation to take action to prevent the transmission of antisemitic programmes.”
The heavy hand of state censorship rides again.
“A Flawed Document”
There is good, sensible stuff in the declaration but it is laced with neurotic nonsense. The above are just a few examples. Readers will find more to annoy them when they see the full text, including its hectoring tone, and may feel the whole thing trespasses too far on their personal discretion and good sense.
To their credit two Australian Green MPs, John Kaye and David Shoebridge, have publicly refused to sign the declaration, saying that the document,
“wrongly conflates valid criticism of the state of Israel with anti-Semitism” and is “an unacceptable slander on those of us who speak up for the rights of the Palestinians. Criticism of the state of Israel… that is motivated by concern for a people dispossessed of their land, the consequences of a state that is founded on a religion or ethnicity or the actions of a government that ignores UN resolutions, is a valid contribution to public discourse.”
They add: “It is a tragedy that the London Declaration is a flawed document. The fundamental intent – to combat and end irrational hatred against a people – is too important to be subverted by the political objectives of Zionism.”
They further argue:
“When people of goodwill express their opposition to Israeli soldiers routinely humiliating Palestinians at checkpoints, the construction of an apartheid-style segregation wall through the West Bank or the brutal use of Israeli military force against civilians in Gaza, their motivation is not to denigrate the Jewish people but to highlight injustices perpetrated on the Palestinian people.”
Is there a working definition of anti-Semitism? According to the European Forum on anti-Semitism,
“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective – such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
When did fact become myth? Is Jewish ownership of large sections of the media a myth? Is the subservience of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the US government to Israel a myth? Is repeated interference in church affairs by Jewish groups a myth?
Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
Legitimate worries over dual loyalty are here to stay.
There’s more to chew on in this part of the document:
Examples of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:
-Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour.
-Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
-Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g. claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
-Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
-Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel. However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.
Self-determination? The Israelis have denied the Palestinians their right to self-determination for decades and just recently opposed their moves towards statehood. And let’s get this straight: critics require from Israel only the same standards of behaviour expected of other countries, i.e. conformity with international law, proper respect for humanitarian law and acceptable standards of justice. This is core.
Furthermore, the state of Israel is always welcome to demonstrate to the world that it is not a racist endeavour after all.
Wanted: a declaration against irrational hatred of all kinds, not just anti-Semitism
So, are you entirely comfortable with these “commandments”? Would you brandish the blue pencil or eagerly sign up like those fine, thrusting parliamentarians in Australia and Canada – and Brown and Cameron?
What’s the alternative? It seems to me that some Jews would do well to examine their own thoughts and deeds before pleading a special case. Tackling anti-Jewish hatred is a priority but not the only one. Hatred of non-Jews also needs to be curbed, and I’m thinking especially of the Israelis’ Arab neighbours – Christian and Muslim – whose lands, homes and resources they have stolen, whose economy, wellbeing and livelihoods they daily trash, and whose freedom, security and dignity they have long denied. This hatred often spills over into cruelty, murder and other atrocities such as out-and-out military assaults and mass bombing of civilians and infrastructure essential to life.
So here’s a suggestion for the promoters of both documents. Please delete the word “anti-Semitism” from the title and redraft to make it a fair and balanced undertaking against irrational hatred of all kinds.
That, hopefully, would earn universal support. Note the word “earn”. Reasonable, sensible people won’t be pushed and shoved.
It is astonishing how any self-respecting lawmaker could wholeheartedly subscribe to the declaration as it stands.
– Stuart Littlewood’s book Radio Free Palestine, with Foreword by Jeff Halper, can now be read on the internet by visiting www.radiofreepalestine.org.uk. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.