By Richard Mather
The UK is home to the one of the largest Jewish populations in the Diaspora. England’s second city, Manchester, is home to the fastest-growing Jewish community in Europe. So it is a sad state of affairs when one of Britain’s major political organisations, the Labour Party, has found itself embroiled in an unprecedented scandal in which more than fifty party members – including MPs and councillors – have been suspended for engaging in what can only be described as race hatred.
Anti-Zionism is, of course, a form of anti-Semitism; but it also something else. It is genocidal hatred of a country, a culture and a people. Referring to this problem as anti-Semitism doesn’t do it justice. Anti-Zionism is a specific kind of hatred and it must be categorised as such if it is to be legally and culturally contested. In a perfect world, anti-Zionism should be treated with the same kind of public aversion as xenophobia or homophobia.
Anti-Zionism is racist because it singles out a nationality – Israelis – for differential and discriminatory treatment in the international arena. Israelis are expected to conform to an impossibly high moral standard that would endanger their well-being. When Israelis inevitably fall short of these impossible standards, they are accused of indefensible behaviour. In contrast, the Palestinian Arabs are not held up to any standard at all. That too is racist.
No other nation in the world is singled out for criticism the way Israel is. Israel is condemned for human rights abuses even when such allegations are proved to be untrue (e.g. Jenin). It is accused of ethnic cleansing when Jewish neighbourhoods are built in east Jerusalem. It is dubbed an apartheid state even though Israeli Arabs have full voting rights. It is accused of being an occupier even though Jews had lived in Judea and Samaria for hundreds of years before they were evicted by the Jordanians. Israel is accused of doing nothing to promote peace when in actual fact it is the Palestinian Arabs who have turned down the opportunity for statehood on numerous occasions.
When critics compare Israel to the Third Reich, that is a form of hate speech. Denying Israel’s right to exist is a form of hate speech. Applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation is incitement to hatred. When Israel is accused of controlling US foreign policy, or when it is accused of murdering Palestinian children, then that is incitement to hatred. Calling for a war against an entire country is incitement to hatred – and genocide.
I can only speak for the situation in Britain, but until the political, legal and judicial establishments (and the media) understand that anti-Zionism is a particular kind of problem, then no real progress will be made in dealing with the problem. One solution is to start tackling anti-Zionist activity in universities. According to Lesley Klaff, senior lecturer in law at Sheffield Hallam University, by allowing anti-Zionist expression on campuses, university authorities are in breach of their own equality, diversity and anti-harassment policies in relation to Jewish staff and students. Such policies, she says, “are required by law to promote equality of opportunity for minorities and to protect them from harassment and ethnic hostility.”
Meanwhile Zionists ought to demonstrate to students that supporting Israel is actually liberal and progressive. After all, Israel has a free press and a trade union movement. Women are guaranteed equality. Israeli Arabs have the right to vote. Homosexuals enjoy full civil rights. Jews, Muslims, Druze, Baha’i and Christians can practise their respective faiths in peace. Israel is also a world leader in green technology and the advancement of animal welfare. These values are in short supply in the Middle East and are exactly the kind of ideals which progressives and left-leaning students usually gravitate towards.
Before anti-Zionists get on their high horse about the Palestinians and the disputed territories, let us not forget that modern Zionism was/is the product of the world’s pathological inability to allow Jews to live in their societies. Crusades, inquisitions, pogroms and the mass murder of six million Jews meant that the only option left to the Jewish people was/is to have a nation state. Then there was the expulsion of nearly a million Jews from Arab and Muslim lands in the 1940s and 1950s. Now after having achieved the goal of Jewish self-determination in the Middle East, along comes anti-Zionism, which essentially denies the Jewish people a home.
So where are Jews expected to go?
Anti-Zionism is the belief that the State of Israel should not exist. It is obvious, based on the behaviour of Middle Eastern Muslims that Hamas, Hezbollah and Isis would massacre the stateless Jews. Meanwhile, Europe is currently collapsing under the current refugee crisis. How would it absorb six million Jews? And America’s wartime resistance to rehousing persecuted Jews is well-known. In other words, if Israel ceased to exist, six million Jews would be killed. That is genocide.
It seems to me that anti-Zionists in the British Labour Party don’t just have a problem with individual Jews; they also hold the irrational and bigoted belief that Jews are not entitled to exist as a people in the security of a Jewish homeland. And if that’s not racial hatred, I don’t know what is.