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Uses and abuses of the word ‘Zionism’

The Labour right, in close coordination with pro-Israel propaganda organizations like BICOM has orchestrated this entire scandal out of thin air.
Former British PM Tony Blair [File photo]
Former British PM Tony Blair [File photo]

Be under absolutely no illusions about what is going on with the Labour Party’s fabricated “anti-Semitism crisis” right now. This is nothing less than a coup attempt aimed at ending the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn, of course, is a long-standing socialist and veteran Palestine campaigner. The embittered Ultras of the Blairite right will see the party go down in flames, sacrificing every election, before they allow a Labour government under Prime Minister Corbyn come to power.

In this entirely failed campaign to abort Corbyn’s spectacular election victory last summer, Blair himself was explicit: “I wouldn’t want to win on an old-fashioned leftist platform. Even if I thought it was the route to victory, I wouldn’t take it.” His remaining followers in the party – few in number but still entrenched in some key positions of power – seem to have taken this as rallying cry.

In Syria’s brutal civil war, one of the slogans supporters of President Bashar al-Assad are reported to have embraced is “Assad, or we burn the country.” The Blairite slogan seems to be “Corbyn-Out or we burn the party.”

The fact they have been entirely unable to produce a viable or unifying replacement leadership candidate only speaks to the total bankruptcy of the New Labour project.

The Labour right, in close coordination with pro-Israel propaganda organizations like BICOM (the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre) has orchestrated this entire scandal out of thin air.

This poisonous atmosphere of lies, dirty tricks, and fabrications in the media and political establishment is reminiscent of the worst days of 1950s McCarthyism in the US.

Such levels of hysteria are usually reserved for coup attempts against democratically elected governments that the governments of the US and the UK specialise in. In this case, a pre-emptive coup attempt is being launched years before Corbyn could even conceivably become prime minister.

A recurring theme has been endless repetition by Israel’s apologists that anti-Zionism is simply anti-Semitism. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This preposterous notion, endlessly repeated by Israeli and pro-Israeli propagandists the world over is a vicious lie. What is more, it is in effect an anti-Semitic statement in itself, seeking as it does to falsely associate all Jews in the world with the violent colonial movement that in 1948 used terrorist militias to remove 750,000 or more Palestinians from their native land.

It gets worse. Michael Levy, the Labour Party peer and Tony Blair’s former “Lord Cashpoint” claimed on BBC Newsnight a few days ago that “using the word Zionist” is “another form of anti-Semitism”. Using the word. This is an astonishing new level in the attempt to crush dissent over Israel and designate thought crimes.

Of course, this hypocritical supporter of Israeli war crimes did not apply his logic to pro-Israel and Israeli organizations – many of whom describe themselves as “Zionist” (see the “Zionist Federation,” the “World Zionist Organization,” Israel’s main opposition coalition the “Zionist Union” – and many more).

Zionism, after all, is the foundational ideology of the state of Israel.

My colleague Ben White has written eloquently on the vital element missing from the laughable and shambolic debate being performed by the establishment media and the political elite in the UK over what Zionism really means: What Zionism has meant for Palestinians.

It has meant and still means: ethnic cleansing, regular massacres, bombardments of entire civilian populations, wars of aggression against every neighbouring Arab state, dispossession, exile, systematic racism and apartheid.

That is the historic and current reality of Zionism.

For Zionist hoodlums to try and decree any mention of their own ideology by their critics verboten is the most rank hypocrisy. It is also political cowardice, and a sign they know in their heart-of-hearts that their arguments are weak. Hence they try to limit the acceptable parameters of debate around Israel.

It is true that Jew-hating white supremacists and neo-Nazis sometimes use “Zionist” as a weasel-word for “Jew” as a sort of thin veneer for their racism. But other bigoted fascist groups in modern times have embraced an opportunistic form of Zionism – such as the English Defence League, who were notorious for carrying Israeli flags on their violent anti-Muslim street provocations.

Even the BNP’s Nick Griffin had a pro-Israel period – recall his infamous 2009 appearance on Question Time when he declared that the BNP was now “the only political party which, in the clashes between Israel and Gaza, stood full-square behind Israel’s right to deal with Hamas terrorists”.

It is also true that some politically naïve people are suckered by the propaganda, and take Israel at its word in its false (and anti-Semitic) claim to be the representative of “the Jews” of the world (my impression based on what I’ve seen, is that Naz Shah seems to have fallen into that category in 2014).

But to leap from that to then claim the word “Zionism” or “Zionist” is impermissible is ridiculous. Zionism is a political ideology, as such it must be open to opposition – as much as Israel’s apologists wish it were otherwise.

The Jewish Labour Movement (affiliated to the Labour Party, the Israeli Labor Party and the World Zionist Organization) is now proposing a rule change that (they argue) should outlaw “Zionism as a term of abuse.”

It is habitual for critics of a political ideology to use the self-descriptors of those ideologies as terms of harsh criticism – e.g. “Tory,” “fascist,” “Blairite” etc. If you’re bitterly opposed to a political ideology, it’s no surprise you’d want to use it as an insult.

Why should Zionism be exempt from this principle?

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London and an associate editor with The Electronic Intifada.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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