As the crisis over anti-Semitism in the Labour party continues. It is still, unfortunately, the case that people are quite unable to understand how what is claimed to be anti-Zionism and not anti-Semitism can be and often is a form of anti-Semitism.
Here I will attempt to shed light on the problem through satirical illustration of how the phenomenon plays itself out, if we were to apply the ‘anti-Zionist, not an anti-Semite’ logic to a different minority group, the Black community for example.
One of the things I always ask myself when I hear anti-Semitic or ‘anti-Zionist’ remarks and how others react to them is to ask myself, “what if this remark or something similar were said about Blacks or Muslims or any other group?”
Suppose an individual or group of people professed the following:
“I am not racist, I am in fact a life-long anti-racist. No one should be discriminated against based on their skin colour. I have nothing against Black people (Jews), I am anti-Africa (anti-Zionist) and critical of the policies of African governments (the Israeli government).”
I sense that already you’re liberal compass should ponder, ‘even if they say they do not hate Black people, why does that legitimize a bigoted view of Africa. What is their problem with Africa?’ To which the group or individual responds:
“Africans (Israeli’s) behave in a primitive, tribal, manner, they are rude, aggressive and barbaric, brutal murderers of children. Their mentality is backward compared to modern nations in the west. With all the aid that is given to African countries (Israel) they use it to wage war and violence and do nothing to advance the stability and well being of the peoples who live in the region.”
Quite frequently, anti-Zionists ascribe evils to Israel, such as Nazism or Jewish supremacy as well as classical anti-Semitic stereotypes that have traditionally been ascribed to all Jews.
However, these types of anti-Zionists insist that they are not anti-Semitic, they are just opposed to Israel and Zionism and those who support this supposed ‘evil’ state. Let us return to how this might play out with our anti-Africans.
The statements below are aimed at demonstrating the way that anti-Zionists first demonize Israel, with a warped interpretation of events.
“I am just against Africa (Israel) sucking the life out of and taking advantage of us through appeals like Comic Relief (the Israel Lobby), to dupe Britain every year through powerful and carefully constructed propaganda, exploiting so called ‘European post-colonial’ guilt (the Holocaust) into giving our hard earned money to helping barbarians (Fascist Israelis), it is a scam.
However, Africans (Zionists) have their tentacles all over the world, who are more loyal to each other than they are to the countries they live in. They care more about Africa (Israel) than their fellow citizens. They put pressure on Britain and other countries, controlling their foreign policies regarding South Africa (Israel) for their own benefit and to the detriment of British interests.
Some of these disloyal subjects, seeking to meddle with British interests are part of the Black (Jewish) community in the UK and in other countries, but it also includes many non-Blacks (non-Jews). Also there is much diversity in the Black (Jewish) community. There are many Black (Jewish) people who recognize the barbaric crimes of Africa (Israel) and its vulgar hateful culture.
Yes there are still many people who conflate their being Black (Jewish) with Africa (Israel), but they are not the same thing, one can fully renounce Africa (Israel) and still be proud to be Black (Jewish).”
Israel is central to the identity of the overwhelming majority of Jews not just in Britain, but all over the world. The reason is because it is central to Judaism. This doesn’t mean that all Jews agree with everything that the Israeli government does. But even if a Jew or non-Jew does agree with an Israeli government policy which is unpopular abroad, this doesn’t make it legitimate to unleash hatred against them.
British Jews have other connections to Israel beyond religious reasons. Many have family members who live there. To some, it is seen as their homeland and to others like a home away from home. Like many other minorities in Britain, such as Indians and Greeks for example. They have strong connections to the culture of these countries and to family and friends who live there.
The anti-Zionist assumes that being Jewish is just a faith, rather than an ethnicity, that doesn’t need to have any connection to a particular land or people. Therefore, one should be able to completely divorce Israel from their Jewish identity.
It would likewise be absurd to expect Black people to not in any way identify with something to do with Africa, African culture or history. For many it is intertwined with their heritage, since this is where their roots are.
The anti-Zionist, essentially mimics an earlier version of anti-Semitism through the notion of a good Jew and a bad Jew. They have to demonstrate their ‘worthiness’ by denouncing Israel.
In the past a good Jew abandoned the beliefs of the Jewish community, i.e. Rabbinic Judaism and converted to Christianity. The Christians then would have said similarly, they do not hate Jews as people (in the way the Nazis did) they are just anti-Judaism and what Jews believe in, if they abandon their beliefs and practices and become Christians then they would accept them.
In our day, anti-Zionists similarly expect Jews to abandon the beliefs that the majority of them hold, which are central to their identity. The beliefs that were condemned in both periods are different, but what they share in common is that they are and were both beliefs that were central to Jewish identity in their time.
Likewise, the conflict between the Jews and ancient Greece was similar. The Greeks were fine with a Hellenized version of Judaism that would inevitably lead to its downfall but felt threatened by a Judaism as it was and the Zealots who refused to have their identity colonized by Greece. The Greeks banned Brit Milah (circumcision), Shabbat observance and the New Moon.
Anti-Zionists know that in our day, what keeps the Jewish people strong and proud is Israel. This is, in large part what the Jewish festival of Chanukah is about, a victory against an effort which began with a Greek Hellenization of Judaism which became an internal struggle between Hellenized and non-Hellenized Jews, with the latter reigning victorious.
Today that battle takes place with efforts by those who seek to undermine the source of Jewish identity and strength, the state of Israel and Zionism by appealing to, tokenizing and misrepresenting fringe groups and individuals as mainstream, that have internalized anti-Jewish tropes or are detached from the mainstream Jewish community for one reason or another and do not speak for the majority of the Jewish community.
The type of Jews that Jeremy Corbyn associates with, for example the anti-Zionist Jewdas and other fringe Jewish groups are like the Hellenists of our time. The anti-Zionists also know very well, that without the state of Israel, the Jews will once again be defenceless in what is clearly still a world which is hostile to them, giving them free reign again to oppress the Jews as they wish. The state of Israel stands in their way, as it allows Jews the dignity and strength to stand up for themselves.
Our anti-African example would take people like Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela and those who fought for rights for Blacks and turn them into African Supremacists and racist trouble makers. They would be ok with Blacks as victims or collaborators in their hatred towards their fellow Blacks/Africans but they would oppose those who have self dignity and stand up for themselves.
They would conflate any mistake or wrongdoing by such rights groups or leaders as being as bad as slave owners, turning them into their own oppressors and perpetrators of their own persecution. They would point to the fact that slavery didn’t begin with America and that Africans sold slaves for centuries as well. This would then get misconstrued as Africa being the true arbiter of the slave trade.
For all the criticism one might have, we all know, that most decent people would not dare say something as offensive as to equate a Black person with a slave owner, as Ken Livingstone casually, knowing he was a Jewish, compared journalist Oliver Finegold to a Nazi concentration camp guard. But our hypothetical anti-Africans would, like Ken Livingstone, refuse to see it as racist, not care that it was offensive or insensitive or apologize, its their right to free speech.
I could go on and provide other analogies and equivalences, but I hope that what I have discussed above has provided some insight into how many Jews currently experience the type of remarks that are made about them and Israel emanating from the ‘anti-racist’, anti-Zionist left.