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It isn’t anti-Semitic to be anti-Israel and its contempt for international law

Anti-Semitism and Criticism of Israel - Cartoon [Cartoon Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]
Anti-Semitism and Criticism of Israel - Cartoon [Cartoon Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Israel is determined to be both racist and extremist in the hope that the world will continue to ignore and, indeed, condone this fact. Its dictum is that attack is the best form of defence and it is trying to delegitimise Palestinian resistance to its occupation by condemning Hamas and Islamic Jihad as “terrorist groups”. Israel and the US failed in their effort to get the UN General Assembly to agree, despite intense pressure applied by the outgoing US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley.

In a similar vein, the EU has recently adopted a definition of “anti-Semitism” that does not conflate such racism with being anti-Zionism and anti-Israel. Europe refuses to include anti-Zionism and the campaigns to boycott Israel as examples of anti-Semitism, which has disappointed Israel and its supporters, who openly try to benefit from public opinion which very rightly condemns anti-Semitism. Israel is also trying to benefit from the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and the US, in order to gain support for its policies.

The failed attempt to push through the resolution at the UN condemning legitimate Palestinian resistance as terrorism was trying to latch onto the global anti-terrorism agenda. People living under occupation, let us remind ourselves, have every right under international law to resist that occupation by any means at hand. The Palestinians, in other words, have an inalienable right to resist; to do so is not terrorism and nor, by the way, is it anti-Semitic. This battle between international laws and norms on the one hand, and the influence and propaganda of Israel and US Zionists, including the Trump administration, appears to be never-ending.

READ: BDS isn’t anti-Semitic, says veteran Israel journalist 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has come close to conflating anti-Israel activism with anti-Semitism. When an official UN report included harsh criticism of Israel, Guterres told the 2017 World Jewish Congress that, “The modern form of anti-Semitism is the denial of the existence of the State of Israel.” In fact, nobody denies that Israel exists; it is what Israel has done, continues to do and plans to do in the future that people are opposed to.

“Israel needs to be treated like any other UN member state,” added Guterres. This is so true; it needs to be held to account like every other member state; it needs to respect the UN Charter like every other member state; and it needs to fulfil the conditions of its membership of the UN, which included allowing Palestinian refugees to return to their land, like every other member state.

Of course, Israel is actually unlike any other UN member state, in that it was created through the ethnic cleansing of another people whose land it continues to steal and colonise. This is manifested in Israel’s recent Nation-State Law that only recognises the Jewish people on the land of Israel which, by its reckoning, includes all of historic Palestine. It does not recognise the right of any other people, except for the Jews, to determine their fate in the land, disenfranchising at a stroke 20 per cent of the Israeli population who are not Jewish.

Secretary-General Guterres distanced himself from Israel in order to reserve the right to object to such a law: “…But you also understand that I sometimes disagree with positions of the Government of Israel or any other government, and that is absolutely normal in a society where many of your citizens have exactly the same expressions of opinion.”

BDS supporters campaign in London [File photo]

BDS supporters campaign in London [File photo]

This battle between human rights defenders and the Israeli occupation is still evident in Israel’s opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. This entirely non-violent campaign for justice and upholding international law has been criminalised by Israel and its supporters in some countries, as well as a number of states in the US.

Such clashes highlighting Israel’s contempt for international law include the response to reports by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). The most recent — Israeli Practices Towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid — concluded that Israel imposes an Apartheid system on the Palestinian people as a whole. This constitutes a violation of the principles and provisions of international human rights law. However, the UN disavowed this and a previous report and bowed to Israeli and American pressure for their withdrawal. This prompted the UN official who supervised the preparation of the reports, Rima Khalaf, to resign. It is worth noting here that the 1975 UN Resolution 3379, which determined that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination” was cancelled in 1991 after similar pressure was applied.

READ: The pro-Israel lobby’s weaponisation of anti-Semitism takes a hit in the US 

While all of this is going on, a number of Arab states are in the process of normalising relations with Israel and colluding with its occupation of Palestine. This is the confused international situation at the moment with regard to the Palestinian cause. In the meantime, support for BDS is growing as a peaceful means to advance justice for the Palestinian people. Many international bodies and institutions, including universities, are active in this human rights approach to the issue of Palestine.

The opposition to Israel is not based on an irrational hatred of Jews; it is based on the illegality of the foundation of the State of Israel and its daily human rights abuses and contempt for international laws and conventions. That, no matter which way you look at it, cannot be defined as being anti-Semitic; it is simply being pro-justice and pro-international law.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 19 December 2018

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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