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Jews are being used as human shields in the war of words over anti-Semitism

Demonstration in support of US Representative Ilhan Omar at 7th Avenue near of the Times Square in New York, US on 20 May 2019 [Atılgan Özdil/Anadolu Agency]
Demonstration in support of US Representative Ilhan Omar at 7th Avenue near of the Times Square in New York, US on 20 May 2019 [Atılgan Özdil/Anadolu Agency]

US President Donald Trump provoked outrage recently when he launched a blisteringly racist attack against courageous American Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, during which he basically told them to go back home. Many viewed his outburst on women of colour as a descent into overt white supremacy, while others saw it as a blend of bigotry and unchained misogyny directed towards the new women on the block making political headlines and waves in Washington today.

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly […] and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” wrote Trump on Twitter. “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came…” Despite his characterisation of the quartet, three of them are actually American-born; Omar is a Somali refugee who moved to the US in the early 1990s becoming a US citizen in 2000, when she turned 17 years old.

“The Squad” — the collective noun used in Washington to describe the four politicians — originally attracted Trump’s wrath because of their determined and principled stance on Palestine. In more recent bile-filled tweets, the President has also referenced their critical position towards Israel: “When will the Radical Left Congresswomen apologise to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said. So many people are angry at them & their horrible & disgusting actions!”

READ: Why doesn’t Trump help Rashida Tlaib to fix the place where her family comes from?

As happens after most of his tweets — as is, no doubt, intended — an avalanche of abuse from his own supporters filled the social networks. Most accuse the Squad of anti-Semitism, but Trump’s attacks on the four elected Representatives have nothing to do with Jew hatred and everything to do with his unconditional support for the state of Israel. However, he seems more than happy to step back while his supporters use Jews as human shields to attack the Congresswomen, all four of whom are co-sponsors of H.R. 2407, a bill which calls for a halt to US military aid used in the Zionist state’s abuse and torture of Palestinian children held in military detention.

Trump’s “human shield” strategy is thought to have been copied from Britain, where it has already been deployed successfully against Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Conservative politicians including new Prime Minister Boris Johnson as well as grassroots Tories have cloaked themselves in philo-Semitism to attack Corbyn by accusing him of anti-Semitism. Leading Zionists within the ranks of the Labour Party, including Jewish MPs, have embraced the same strategy even though this means that some left-wing Jewish Labour supporters have been caught in the crossfire.

Sadly, this means that very real anti-Semitism is being weaponised by people of all faiths and none as attempts are made to conflate it with anti-Zionism and criticism of Israel’s right-wing government. The net result is that any criticism of Israel is now condemned by the anti-Palestine lobby as “anti-Semitic”. With the “human shield” strategy being rolled out on both sides of the Atlantic, there are those, especially politicians, who find it increasingly difficult to challenge Israel’s deplorable human rights record and its unjust treatment of the Palestinians.

READ: Purging critics of Israel is no way to fight anti-Semitism

Now we have the ludicrous situation where right-wing Gentiles are accusing left-wing Jews of being anti-Semitic. What’s more, the infighting between different Jewish groups is spreading confusion and dissent which, in turn, is oiling the wheels of actual anti-Semitism.

Never one to miss an opportunity to target Corbyn, BBC TV recently broadcast a Panorama programme asking “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?” British newspapers were full of dramatic advance headlines, claiming that the supposedly flagship current affairs programme would show just how anti-Semitic Labour had become under pro-Palestine leader Corbyn.

The leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn in London, UK on 15 March 2019 [Tayfun Salcı/Anadolu Agency]

The leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn in London, UK on 15 March 2019 [Tayfun Salcı/Anadolu Agency]

Writing in the Guardian following the Panorama broadcast, Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge said, “I won’t walk away from the fight to root out anti-Semitism in the party. But the leadership remains in denial.” She used a vile expletive to describe her own party leader a year ago.

In fact, the programme exposed the pro-Israel, anti-Palestine lobby as being behind the “Labour anti-Semitism crisis” ever since Corbyn’s landslide leadership election in 2015. Thus, it was apparent that the BBC and a few of those interviewed by presenter John Ware — no friend of Palestinians —were more than happy to use Jews as human shields to attack Corbyn.

One such person worked for Joan Ryan MP, the former chair of the Israeli Embassy-funded lobby group Labour Friends of Israel. Ryan, who quit the party earlier this year citing its “anti-Semitism”, will be remembered for her own part in another documentary produced by Al Jazeera when she was exposed fabricating alleged “anti-Semitism” at the Labour Party conference in 2016.

As a result of Ryan’s allegation, Jean Fitzpatrick was reported for being “anti-Semitic”. Was it coincidental that Fitzpatrick happened to be a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and a well-known Corbyn supporter? Despite eventually being cleared of being an anti-Semite, the experience was traumatic and left a nasty taste.

READ: Israeli minister accuses UK’s Corbyn of Jew-hatred

Earlier this year a group of Labour MPs resigned from the party, blaming anti-Semitism and a failure to deal with it as one of the reasons for their departure. They included Ryan, who is not a Jew, and Luciana Berger, who is. In her resignation speech, Ryan suggested that the “huge shame” of anti-Semitism did not exist until Corbyn became party leader. This is simply not true, as eminent Jewish historian and political analyst Professor Geoffrey Alderman pointed out recently. Anti-Jewish racism, wrote Alderman, has existed in Labour since its creation in 1900. He also reminded readers that it has always been evident in other political parties as well.

Alderman, who describes himself as a “proud Zionist”, defended Corbyn’s “impressive record” of supporting Jewish community initiatives. This includes, for example, backing for the community’s efforts to facilitate the speedy issue of death certificates by the North London coroner. Moreover, in 2015, Corbyn took part in a ceremony in his Islington constituency to commemorate the founding of the North London Synagogue. In 2010 he put his name to an Early Day Motion tabled by his shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, calling on the government to facilitate the settlement of Yemeni Jews in Britain.

One of the most impressive examples of Corbyn’s philo-Semitism came in 1987 when the West London Synagogue approached Islington Council with a proposal to sell a cemetery to property developers. “This cemetery (dating from 1840) was not merely of great historic and architectural interest – in the view of orthodox Jews, the deliberate destruction of a cemetery is sacrilegious,” explained Prof. Alderman. “So when Islington Council granted the planning application, a Jewish-led and ultimately successful campaign was launched to have the decision reversed. I was part of that campaign. So was Jeremy Corbyn. Meanwhile, the then-leader of Islington Council (1982-92), whose decision to permit the destruction of the cemetery was eventually overturned, was none other than Margaret Hodge.”

READ: Formal ‘anti-Semitism’ complaint made against Corbyn’s Labour critic

Meanwhile in America, Donald Trump’s attack on the Squad appeared to backfire when leaders from Britain, Germany and elsewhere criticised the US president’s racist invective. This, though, didn’t stop a Christian evangelical group calling itself Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, from launching its own defence of him.

The group accused the Anti-Defamation League, a well-known Jewish American NGO, of siding with anti-Semites after the ADL challenged Trump’s racism. The evangelicals even had the barefaced cheek to use the derogatory Hebrew phrase laShon hara (evil tongue) against the Zionist civil rights organisation.

The reality is that Trump is probably one of the leading causes of anti-Semitism while other right-wing groups in Britain and Europe are also complicit. Trump has taunted Jewish Americans with anti-Semitic tropes such as addressing them in his speeches and referring to Israel as “your country” and Netanyahu as “your prime minister”. In his eyes, he probably thinks that Jewish Americans, like the courageous Congresswomen in the Squad, don’t fully belong in his United States of America.

Anti-Semitism is rife and must be challenged wherever and whenever it raises its ugly head. That is why it is alarming to see it in evidence among the holders of very high office in many countries today with the surge of right-wing populism, even more so given that such far-right anti-Semites are often feted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. However, it is clear that as long as Israel continues to receive unconditional support as it trashes Palestinian’s human rights under its brutal military occupation, Jewish people will continue to be used as human shields for attacks on anyone who dares to criticise the Zionist state. The real anti-Semites, meanwhile, get away scot-free.

Here is Tweet from Proclaiming Justice to the Nations defending Trump: 

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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