Labour leader Ed Miliband has promised to protect Jewish traditions if he is elected Prime Minister. According to Britain’s Jewish Chronicle, Miliband has also declared himself to be a Zionist, a description which his office later declared was taken out of context. During his speech at a Jewish community event, Miliband voiced opposition to the boycott of Israel and the organisation of anti-Israel activities in the UK, while at the same time wanting people “to understand the anger and dismay about the [Israeli] settlements”.
From what was gleaned of news reports, a context to this discourse was missing or distorted when he said, “I take anti-Semitism very seriously. Any kind of delegitimisation of Israel is something we should call out for what it is and not tolerate it.”
Miliband failed to distinguish between anti-Semitism and opposition to Israel’s Zionist policies. While the former constitutes a form of discrimination, so-called “delegitimisation” of Israel is prone to occur due to the simple fact that Zionism was the prime instigator of attempts to obliterate the very existence of the Palestinian people. The State of Israel was constructed upon false premises and a UN resolution approving an illegal occupation upon an already existing people. If a critical approach were to be taken, contemporary Israel has delegitimised itself with its belligerent occupation, apartheid practices and disregard for international human rights law. Zionism, which created and instilled a sense of national identity absent in Jewish tradition, has enforced a culture of oblivion upon Israelis which excludes recognition of Palestinians as the land’s indigenous community in order to enhance the fallacy of a Jewish homeland in “a land without a people”.
Also, an understanding of “anger and dismay” with regard to Israeli settlements is far from articulating a stand against Israel’s continuously expanding borders. The term is inconsistent with the outrage experienced by Palestinians who have a history of forced displacement in order for the State of Israel to adhere to its historical Zionist agenda. “Anger and dismay” simply echo UN and international “concern” over settlements; an exhausted attempt at solidarity with Palestinians and a reprimand without consequences for Israel, which revels in its sustained impunity. Settlements constitute a war crime with additional repercussions on the Palestinian populations, such as exploitative labour and the usurping of water resources, in addition to land and produce being appropriated in order to boost the Israeli economy.
The boycott of Israel is a means of resistance through which citizens are rendered participants and thus able to influence official decisions with regards to trade. Netherlands has become the latest country requesting retailers to label fresh produce from illegal Israeli settlements. Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said clearly, “We do not want to contribute to the economy of illegal settlements.”
Miliband may oppose anti-Semitism and strive to preserve Jewish traditions, but any rhetoric equating legitimate resistance to anti-Semitism is flawed and helps to consolidate Israel’s impunity within its illegal occupation of Palestine. The politics of Zionism was largely responsible for the merging of illegal practices within an intentional misreading of Jewish texts. To endorse such reasoning at a time when even certain Jewish scholars are attempting to unravel the Zionist interpretation of Judaism is simply an affirmation of being in agreement with Israel’s illegal policies and activities.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.