By Mahmoud Zidan
There are many challenges that the defenders of Palestinians’ human rights have to face, but one of the most considerable of them is the accusation of anti-Semitism. Zionists have always managed to convince the world of their manufactured version of history and of the myth that criticism of the state of Israel is synonymous with anti-Semitism. They base their claims on the notion that Israel is a Jewish country that speaks on behalf of all Jews and that was established as a result of the Holocaust; all of which claims are distortions of history but are an integral part of the Zionist playbook.
Last week, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the British Labour Party, found himself confronting one of the plays of the Zionists. There was a huge outcry over the statement that Corbyn made in the press conference that announced the results of the investigation of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. The furor was over one particular sentence.
The sentence, which infuriated several pro-Zionists, reads, “Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of the state of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organizations.” The Zionists and their sympathizers complained that Corbyn compared the state of Israel to the so-called Islamic State, Daesh. For them, such a comparison is unfair despite the similarities between the two, including crimes against humanity, exclusive theocracies, and so on. More importantly, their obsession with Corbyn’s sentence overshadowed the report itself.
The 41-page report, written by Shami Chakrabarti, concluded that there were “unhappy incidents” of anti-Semitism within the ranks of the party. Chakrabarti recommended, “Labour members should resist the use of Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, distortions and comparisons in debates about Israel-Palestine in particular.” Very few challenged this recommendation despite its being an insidious one.
Insidious because it legitimizes restrictions on what can be compared and — by extension — said and what cannot; flouting a basic human right, namely responsible freedom of speech and standing in the way of truth-telling. It also criminalizes criticizing oppressive regimes and drawing parallels between them.
Interestingly enough, this recommendation goes against a tradition of Jewish anti-Zionists, who emphasize, rightly so, the idea that the Holocaust, and any pogrom for that matter, should never be repeated. During the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza, 327 holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors co-signed a letter in which they make comparisons against which the Labour report recommends. In clear reference to the Holocaust, the letter states, “Genocide begins with the silence of the world … We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch. In Israel, politicians and pundits in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and right-wing Israelis are adopting Neo-Nazi insignia.” (Incidentally, the writers were critical of a major Zionist supporter of Israel; that is, Elie Wiesel, who died last Saturday.) If the signatories of the letter were members of the Labour Party, they would be exposed to immediate suspension or more by virtue of the comparisons that they make.
Therefore, the report, along with its recommendations, does not necessarily counter anti-Semitism or represent the true voices of the opponents of anti-Semitism. Rather, it is intended to mute truthful voices, as the Labour Party is being forced to regress to the role of a straw man for Zionism. Like other forms of racism — which should be fought relentlessly — anti-Semitism is reductive, bestializing, monster-making, infantilizing, and sexualizing. Unfortunately, the report does not dwell on the complexities of anti-Semitism. Instead, it nearly serves as a mouthpiece for the Zionists, the last group to which one should resort in order to defeat anti-Semitism.
In fact, many experts – some of whom are Jewish, described as “self-hating” Jews by the Zionists – quite convincingly argue that Zionism is historically predicated upon anti-Semitism. In an article entitled “The Last of the Semites,” Joseph Massad asserts that Zionism fulfilled the anti-Semitic dream: expelling Jews from Europe. He adds that Zionism was in cahoots with the Nazi and anti-Semitic regimes.
Theodore Herzl, the “father” of Zionism, was anti-Semitic himself and felt superior to German Jews who spoke Yiddish and who refused to assimilate into German society. More outrageously, he blamed Jews for anti-Semitism, suggesting that the very presence of Jews in Europe is the cause of anti-Semitism.
He further counted upon the assistance of anti-Semitic countries. In Der Judenstaat, he writes, “The Governments of all countries scourged by anti-Semitism will be keenly interested in assisting us to obtain [the] sovereignty we want.” In his Diaries, he predicts, “The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies.”
In keeping with Herzl’s vision, the Zionists approached Lord Arthur Balfour, an anti-Semite himself, after whom the Balfour Declaration was named. One of the main reasons that made him sign the declaration was that he wanted to stop Jewish immigration into the United Kingdom. Further, the Zionists broke the boycott against the Nazis that was initiated by American and British Jews in 1933 through signing an agreement with the Nazi government.
In principle, their rationalization of establishing a Jewish state in and of itself replicates the logic of the anti-Semites. Norman G. Finkelstein, the son of Holocaust survivors, explains, “[T]he Zionist case for a Jewish state is as valid or invalid as the anti-Semitic case for an ethnic state that marginalizes Jews.” In her book Precarious Life, Jewish thinker Judith Butler similarly responds to the claim that Israel is a Jewish state by writing: “The argument that all Jews have a heartfelt investment in the state of Israel is simply untrue,” enumerating different sources of identification for Jews other than the state of Israel. In other words, Jews and the Jewish Question for that matter cannot be reduced to Israel.
So what do the Zionists mean when they invoke anti-Semitism in response to any critical views of the state of Israel? Massad’s “Zionism, Anti-Semitism and Colonialism” suggests that “anti-Semitism in Israeli discourse is and has been nothing short of camouflage for the continuation of Jewish colonization of Palestine.”
Anti-Semitism is a serious issue that should be fought all over the world. However, it should not be used as a veneer for stifling opposition to oppression. On the contrary, it should help redress the world’s currently dire situation, including the appalling political and cultural atmosphere in the West, which is replete with racism and xenophobia, especially after Britons have decided to leave the EU. Fighting real anti-Semitism necessarily entails fighting all forms of racism including Islamophobia and racism against Palestinians. It also entails alienating the Trumps, Farages, Johnsons, Goves, Breiviks, Ficos, le Pens, and so.
Commenting on Corbyn’s sentence, Haaretz writer, Alan Johnson, criticized the Labour Party for “missing a major teachable moment.” In fact, the “teachable moment” should teach one otherwise. Using spurious pretexts, the Zionists, their supporters, and racists might be able to end Corbyn’s political career, but they will not be able to put an end to his ideas — such as his support for Palestine — and will not be able to prevent the truth from being told. The “teachable moment” then leads one to learn this lesson: Zionism’s Labor’s lost.
– Professor Mahmoud Zidan lives in Jordan. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.