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The campaign against the British Labour Party: anti-Semitism or anti-colonialism?

August 30, 2018 at 3:49 am

Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, UK on 25 September 2017 [Snowdon Splendour‏/Twitter]

Much of Britain’s frenzied and poisonous debate regarding accusing the Labour Party of anti-Semitism revolves around the Labour Party’s expression of its opposition to Israeli laws, practices, ideologies and statements.

So, no sane individual could understand, for example, Winston Churchill’s description of the “international Jews’” in the Sunday Herald in 1920, plan for “world-wide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilisation” as not being an expression of anti-Semitism.

Nor can any reasonable person believe Lord Arthur Balfour’s warnings in a statement made in 1905 against the “undoubted evils that had fallen upon the country” as a result of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe aren’t meant to be anti-Semitic (one should not overlook the fact that both Churchill and Balfour were strong supporters of the Zionist movement).

However, the ongoing war in Britain is not based primarily on targeting such marginal racists who still believe in a global Jewish conspiracy to rule the world, rather based on the definition of describing Israel as settling coloniser as a form of anti-Semitism.

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It is also based on the notion that the resistance fighting Israeli colonialism and settlements, as well as Israel’s racist laws are a form of anti-Semitism or that questioning the colonial, ethnic, legal, and institutional privileges granted to Israeli Jews at the expense of the Palestinian people is merely an expression of anti-Semitism.

This argument seems confusing and puzzling to any ordinary political observer, as Israel claims to be the “Jewish state” and represents the Jews of the world, although most of them are not Israeli citizens.

The contradiction that flaws the British (or French, German, or American) debate to its core is the fact that the pro-Israel side, along with Israel’s leaders and ideologues, is calling on people to believe that Israel’s practices are Jewish practices and that Israel represents the Jews of the world.

It should be noted here that the Zionist movement chose to call its state “Israel,” the name given by God to Jacob in the Torah, where the sons of Jacob were called “the children of Israel” or “the people of Israel,” and the latter were those who became “the Jewish people.” In other words, “Israel” means “the Jewish people.”

By calling its state the “Jewish people”, the Zionist movement mixed its colonial project with all Jews, even when most Jews were hostile to it, and most still refused to live in Israel or become citizens of it.

Therefore, it must be emphasised that Israel and its supporters are who confused Israel and all Jews, and then they claim that condemning Israel, its policies, laws, practices, and ideology is nothing but an indictment of the Jewish people.

What is being overlooked in this debate is that the most anti-Semitic claims are the ones made by the Israeli government and its British supporters.

The majority of those who condemn Israel’s laws, policies and practices in Britain and abroad denounce its colonisation policies and practices and the dozens of discriminatory, racist laws in force, including the nation-state law issued last month, not its Jewishness.

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However, the nation-state law reaffirms the fact that Israel is the “national homeland of the Jewish people” and not the homeland of Israeli citizens of different ethnicities and religions. It ill also reaffirms that “the state sees the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.”

Based on the above, Israel’s supporters are not entitled to take advantage of this contradiction. They cannot, on the one hand, claim:

  • That the Zionist movement has the right to colonise the land of Palestinians in the name of the Jewish people
  • The movement has the right to grant privileges to Jews and oppress the Palestinian people and discriminate against them in the name of the Jewish people
  • As the right to name its state (the Jewish people) and speak their behalf

And then claim on the other hand that anyone who condemns Israel condemns the entire Jewish nation

It is ironic that the majority of those opposed to Israel, contrary to the majority of its supporters, are those who reject Israel’s claims of representing the Jewish people. Instead, they insist that Israel’s racist laws and colonial policies represent the Israeli government, not the Jewish people.

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When the Palestinian people resist Israeli colonialism and racism, it does not resist Israel’s “Jewish” identity but opposes its colonial and racist nature.

Therefore, accusing the Palestinian resistance of being against the Jewish people in this context assumes that the Palestinians would have allowed their country to be colonised if the colonisers were Christian, Muslim, Buddhists, or Hindu and that the Palestinians are intolerant to the Jewishness of their colonisers, not the colonisation itself.

While those condemning Israel inside and outside of Britain condemn Israel’s colonial settlements and its discriminatory and racist laws and practices, they must strongly and loudly denounce the Israel leadership and its supporters inside Britain and abroad for using this anti-Semitic logic.

If there is a definition of anti-Semitism that the Labour Party (or any party or institution) should adopt in Britain today, this definition must include the condemnation of colonial and anti-Semitic expressions that claim:

  • Israel is the Jewish state
  • Israel is the state of the Jewish people
  • Israel speaks on behalf of the Jews and in their name
  • The colonisation of Palestinian land is “Jewish.”

These anti-Semitic claims are what distort the image of Jewish communities around the world, not the resistance of Israel’s colonisation and racism.


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