Scratch a Liberal Zionist and You find a Jewish Racist
Scratch a Liberal Zionist and You find a Jewish Racist
Hannah Weisfeld of the Zionist Yachad group first accepts then
deletes my response to her article on Jewish Identity
The hypocritical Liberal Zionist group Yachad which argues that support for Israel is compatible with support for peace
Hannah Weisfeld – Yachad Director who prefers to delete critical comments rather than justify her pretentious writings
UPDATE: I have been asked by Hannah Weisfeld to point out that the moderators of the LSE blog deleted my post to them. I am happy to do so but as the author of the article she had a responsibility to ensure that there was no political censorship of the comments on the article.
I have also since had an email from the moderators saying that my comments were deleted because I called Hannah a hypocrite. I told them I stand by that comment, which they wished to remove. Likewise they objected to a further comment calling Jonathan Hoffman a fascist. Whilst I didn’t save the comment I did point out that Hoffman has organised and attended protests with members of the English Defence League and literally held hands with the Jewish Nazi Jewish Defence League. Whether he is a fascist personally is frankly irrelevant but his comments were not deleted. Hannah has not commented on this either.
The dividing line between Zionists and non/anti-Zionists is support or opposition to a ‘Jewish’ state. Why? Not because some of us would object to an Israel which was as Jewish as Britain is Christian but because being Jewish in a settler colonial state inevitably means it is a Jewish racist state. In Britain being Christian does not affect the civil and political rights of someone who is not Jewish. I don’t have any less or more rights, being Jewish, than someone who is Christian. Yet in Israel being Jewish is to be privileged vis a vis a non-Jews.
It was said that in Nazi Germany even a non-Jewish tramp could feel superior to a highly educated Jewish lawyer because the former belonged to society whereas the latter was an alien. So too in Israel. Even the lowest Jew feels superior to the most educated Arab because it is a Jewish state. In a settler colonial state, being Jewish (or White etc.) defines the identity of the coloniser, the oppressor. Hence why Israel is, in the words of the late great Israeli sociologist, Baruch Kimmerling, a herrenvolk state.
Within Israel there is no role left for ‘liberal’ or ‘left’
Zionism. It is an oxymoron. The old ‘Marxist’ Zionist Mapam/Meretz (Civil Rights) Party just managed to
hang on at the 2015 election to 5 seats in the Knesset, one less than the
fascist Yisrael Beteinu. The party that
is called ‘centrist’ in Israel, Yesh Atid, would be considered on the far-Right
in this country. Its leader Yair Lapid recently
attacked the Israeli soldiers organisation Breaking the Silence for exposing
the Israeli Army’s war crimes. He has also decried the idea of Jews marrying non-Jews saying how concerned he would be if that happened to his own daughter.
Hannah Weissfeld deleted my post but was happy to accept contributions from Hoffman (right) because even the most racist and fascistic Zionists are part of the Zionist family. Only anti-Zionists are beyond the pale!
Jonathan Hoffman on the right is with Roberta Moore of the Jewish Defence League, the Jewish section of the English Defence League. In the background are members of the EDL in fatigues and on the left is Harvey Garfield a Hoffman clone.
The only role left for liberal/’socialist’ Zionism is outside Israel. Its purpose is to act as public relations advocates for Israel, whitewashing the ‘Jewish’ State clean and telling people how ‘democratic’ it is. After all they are living proof of how dissidents thrive in Israel. What they never tell you is how civil and democratic rights even for Jewish people are now under attack. Eg they don’t mention the latest Transparency Bill whose sole purpose is to demonise and attack human rights organisations like Breaking the Silence and Btselem, which within Israel are seen as traitors to the national collective. They are now obliged to publish the fact that they receive funding from abroad, with the implication that they are funded by foreigners hostile to Israel, unlike organisations that receive private money from American billionaires like Sheldon Adelson and Saban.
In the first Knesset elections in 1949 Mapam, who considered themselves ‘Marxist’ Zionists,
gained 19 seats making them the second largest party in the Knesset. Although they split into two (Mapam and
Ahdut Ha’avodah) in the next Knesset elections both wings achieved the same
result. Today they are irrelevant in the
Zionist spectrum. Of course Mapam then
were within the Zionist consensus.
Their militia, Palmach, had been
involved in the worst atrocities and massacres of Palestinians during the
In the last few days alone the fascist
Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman and his deputy Rabbi Eli Dahan, have
forbidden Israeli soldiers from volunteering to help refugee children in South Tel-Aviv. As Ha’aretz reported [Lieberman
Orders to Cancel Soldiers’ Volunteering With Children of Asylum Seekers in
Israel] the ‘Defense minister says soldiers should engage in
activities within the realm of public consensus, ‘especially when in this case
it involves activities with a population that isn’t residing here lawfully.’
Israel virtually all asylum seekers are ‘illegal’ because Israel doesn’t grant refugee
status. The reason for this is that they
are non-Jewish and therefore threaten,
as Netanyahu explained, the Jewish identity of the Israeli state. [Netanyahu:
Illegal African Immigrants – a Threat to Israel’s Jewish Character] Refugees
are termed by people like Dahan ‘infiltrators’ a term which used to be applied
to the Palestinian refugees who secretly returned to Palestine after having
been expelled. The refugees are
described in exactly the same terms.
Yet people like Weisfeld, knowing full well that
they have no influence within Israel, devote their time to whitewashing the Israeli
state and labelling its critics ‘anti-Semites’.
Recently I was referred to an online
article by Hannah Weisfeld, Director of the Liberal Zionist Yachad. The
Labour anti-Semitism row has thrust British Jewish identity into the public
domain, but its complexity is often lost
Yachad doesn’t attempt to defend each and every
Israeli atrocity. It accepts that Israel
isn’t perfect. Indeed Weisfeld gets
quite angry when Zionists defend each and every Israeli abomination. She doesn’t however like the use of the word
‘Zionism’ because that implies a connection between Israel’s behaviour and how
and why the Israeli state was set up. Zionism
provides the explanation for why Israel is a uniquely racist society, based as
it is on ethno-religious supremacy.
Weisfeld is quite
prepared to accept criticism of Israeli policies
but she does this in order to defend the Israeli state as a Jewish state. In other words she will criticise individual
policies of Israel all the better to defend the Jewish supremacist state
Yachad is an integral
part of the Jewish establishment. Ms Weisfeld
is not happy when crude Zionists, like former Zionist Federation co-Chair
Jonathan Hoffman, argue that all criticism of Israel is ‘anti-Semitic’. This is too blunt an instrument. Rather Ms Weisfeld, in an extraordinarily
confused and muddled article, tries to argue that Jewish identity today is
bound up with the Israeli state. By
criticising Israel as a Jewish state and denying its ‘right to exist’ you are
To Weisfeld criticism
of Jewish ‘identity’ and identification with Israel is anti-Semitic. It is of course a thoroughly dishonest
argument. Criticising an identity, even
assuming that support for Israel is equivalent to Jewish identity today cannot
logically be racist unless that criticism is made primarily as a means to attack
the group itself (e.g. the Nazi attack on Jewish ritual slaughter had nothing
to do with concern for animals and everything to do with hatred of Jews as Jews
just as Right-wing attacks on the Muslim religion’s homophobia is racist if the
same people are not prepared to condemn the Christian and Jewish religion’s
There is however no
evidence whatsoever that when people criticise say the bombing of Gaza they are
doing so as a way of attacking Jewish people in Britain. If Jewish people are attacked on account of
what Israel does it is because groups like the Board of Deputies of British Jews
deliberately associate Jews with Israeli atrocities.
When I first saw Weisfeld’s
article I wrote a response and posted it to the web site, which is the ‘Religion and The Public Sphere’ blog of
the LSE. I assumed that normal academic
guidelines applied. The site is
moderated and after a short delay my rebuttal to the article appeared alongside
other, virulently Zionist comments, including one from Jonathan Hoffman which
denied that Zionists say that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are synonymous. I immediately posted back a couple of
references proving that Hoffman was lying, not least because I have personally
heard him shouting that anti-Zionism was anti-Semitism.
Strangely when I went
back to the site a couple of days later my response had disappeared. It would seem that Weisfeld was unhappy to
have me take her article apart on an academic site and therefore used her
position to delete my criticism of the article.
This is a good example of the Zionist attitude to free speech and
debate. Ms Weisfeld holds, according to
the Yachad site, an MSc in
Global Politics. It would seem that Ms Weisfeld
isn’t confident enough to deal with criticism.
I am therefore publishing both my own critique of her article and the article
It is a good
illustration of the racist consensus within which even the most liberal
Zionists operate that my comments were deleted whereas those from Hoffman remained. Hoffman has been happy to protest alongside fascists
such as the English Defence League. He
was memorably photographed dancing down the street outside Ahava, an Israeli
shop in Covent Garden which we successfully closed, hand in hand with Robert
Moore, a founder of the Jewish Defence League, a virulently Jewish Nazi
organisation which is banned as a terrorist organisation in the United
States. Ms Moore has been involved in
physically trying to disrupt Palestinian and anti-Zionist meetings in Britain
and her boyfriend was recently convicted of assault for one particular attack. The JDL were the Jewish section of the
Holocaust denying, Hitler loving English Defence League. It probably didn’t even occur to Weisfeld to
delete Hoffman’s comments because Hoffman and Weisfeld both operate within the
same racist Zionist consensus.
There are some on the Jewish
left, including Jews for Justice for Palestinians who argue that a group like
Yachad is progressive. Ms Weisfeld’s
article demonstrates that Yachad uses its ‘progressive’ reputation to undermine
BDS and support for the Palestinians, through using the familiar slur of
‘anti-Semitism’ in ways which the more honest and racist Zionist groups find it
difficult to do.
It is a mistake to
think that there is such a creature as a ‘liberal’ or ‘left-wing’ Zionism. There is an honest and dishonest
Zionism. Both are based on racist
assumptions concerning a Jewish state, but the latter uses its alleged
opposition to Jewish racism (but never an inherently racist Jewish state) in
order to better undermine the struggle of the Palestinians. For all its ‘liberalism’ Yachad is as
vociferously opposed to BDS as Likud and the racist settler Jewish Home and the
fascist Yisrael Beteinu. Those who
attack BDS, the only solidarity tactic that has got Netanyahu and the Israeli
state on the defensive, are like those liberals who attacked Boycott in South
Africa. These ‘liberals’ criticised
Apartheid but refused to contemplate its replacement.
The founder of
Revisionist Zionism, which is now represented by Likud, Vladimir Ze’ev
Jabotinsky, once wrote a famous essay The Iron Wall (4.11.23) on
relations between the Zionist movement and the Arabs. It was an essay which contained none of the
hypocritical and pretentious cant of the ‘socialist’ and liberal Zionists. Jabotinsky wrote:
There can be no voluntary agreement between ourselves and the Palestine
Arabs. Not now, nor in the prospective future…. Except for those who were
born blind, they realised long ago that it is utterly impossible to obtain the
voluntary consent of the Palestine Arabs for converting “Palestine”
from an Arab country into a country with a Jewish majority.
My readers have a general idea of the history of colonisation in other
countries. I suggest that they consider all the precedents with which
they are acquainted, and see whether there is one solitary instance of any
colonisation being carried on with the consent of the native population. There
is no such precedent.
The native populations, civilised or uncivilised, have always
stubbornly resisted the colonists, irrespective of whether they were civilised
The Zionist peace
group Brit Shalom, the ‘Marxist’
Zionist party Mapam/Hashomer Hatzair and other ‘liberal’ Zionists used to
pretend, under the British Mandate (1917-48) that it was possible to reconcile the aims of
the Zionist colonists with those of the indigenous Arabs of Palestine. They suggested that it was only feudal Arab
leaders like Haj al-Amin Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who prevented
ordinary Arabs agreeing to a peaceful relationship with Zionism. The ignorant masses were misled by their
leaders into opposing the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. They argued that Zionist colonisation was in
the Arabs’ interests and once a Jewish state was established the Arabs would
come to realise how much they had been misled by their reactionary and feudal
Today this nonsense
has a counterpart in the allegations that if it wasn’t for Israel’s security
contractor, the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas, then Palestinians on
the West Bank would welcome their land being confiscated, their homes being destroyed
and their children imprisoned and tortured.
Trouble on the West Bank or Jerusalem is because of the ‘incitement’ of Palestinian
Zionists who refused to admit Arabs as members of the Jewish only Kibbutzim
were no different. It was the
‘socialist’ Zionists who campaigned for Jewish employers to sack Arab workers
and who destroyed the produce that Jewish women bought from Arab shopkeepers. The same ‘socialist’ Zionists refused to
admit Arab members to their trade union, Histadrut.
The ‘peace’ Zionists
were the worst hypocrites. David
Ben-Gurion demonstrated this when he asked Martin Buber, a founder of Brit
Shalom, whether he had come to Palestine with the consent or against the wishes
of the indigenous population.
Arthur Ruppin, Zionist Executive member and ardent eugenicist and racist
Arthur Ruppin, a
member of the Zionist Executive was a founder member of Brit Shalom. Rupin was known as the Father of Zionist Land
Settlement, the person who was directly responsible for planning and organising
the first Zionist settlements in Palestine, including Deganiah in 1908. Ruppin was also an ardent believer in the
racial sciences and in the summer of 1933 he made a visit to Hans Guenther, Professor of Racial
Anthropology at the University of Jena.
Guenther was directly appointed to his post by Wilhelm Frick, the first
Nazi State Minister in Germany, later Nazi Minister of the Interior, and he was
hanged at Nuremberg. [see The Makings of History
Revisiting Arthur Ruppin]
Nazi Professor Hans Guenther, a racial scientist who met Arthur Ruppin at Jenna University to exchange racial pleasantries
Guenther was the
foremost racial scientist in Germany and someone who put the ‘scientific’ stamp
of approval on the Holocaust, which he both defended and denied. As Ruppin confirmed in his Diaries, he had a
pleasant conversation with Guenther with whom he agreed on the essentials of
racism, genetics and racial hierarchies.
Ruppin, whose writings were deeply anti-Semitic, was quoted by Nazis such
as Alfred Rosenberg when arguing that the Jews were a degenerate ‘race’.
Ruppin also believed
in the racial inferiority of Arab Jews and at first opposed the immigration of
Yemenite Jews to Palestine. He believed
that it was impossible to be both Jewish and Black. Ruppin was a believer in the ‘transfer’ of
the Arabs out of Palestine in order that there could be a Jewish majority.
Balad MK Haneen Zoabi flanked by Jamal Zahalke – has been subject to vitriolic abuse by Zionist MKs including physical assaults for defending Israeli Palestinians
The racism of ‘left’/liberal
Zionism was not confined to the early years of the Zionist movement. MK Jamal Zahalke of Balad, the Arab
nationalist party described the racism of even the most left of the Labour
Zionists, Stav Shaffir: Labor Zionism
‘invented racism,’ says Joint List MK
“Miss Social Justice Stav Shaffir has never
said a word to me. She’s never even said hello to me! I am transparent to her.
Arabs do not exist! Racist! Racist of silence! Racism of ignoring; I will tell
you what that is! Ignoring the existence of a person! Since you are in the
Knesset you have never spoken to me! You don’t say hello to me! I try and you
don’t say hello back! Racist!” Zahalke said….
continued, calling the Labor Party, which makes up most of the Zionist Union,
the “mother and father of racism.”
invented racism,” he said. “The people who took our land, who
expelled us, weren’t the ones who chant ‘death to Arabs.’ They’re the ones who
said ‘we’re bringing peace to you.’ Shame! You should be embarrassed by the
racism and discrimination!…You are condescending, wealthy, comfortable
Ashkenazim! Give us back the land you took from us…in the name of universal
harmed us more, the Likud or Labor? Labor, of course. Likud built settlements
next to Arab residents. You built your kibbutzes and your socialism on the
ruins of our towns.
Below is my amended
response to Hannah Weisfeld’s article and her original article.
Response to Hannah Weisfeld’s article on Jewish Identity and
The debate on Zionism and Jewish identity
is an important debate. Unfortunately it
is normally characterised by the
dishonesty and opportunism of Zionism’s supporters, including liberal Zionists
such as Hannah Weisfeld. Weisfeld’s
argument is quite simply: you can criticise the Apartheid policies of Israel –
the demolition of Palestinian homes, the proposed demolition of Susiya village,
the demolition of Bedouin villages like Al Arakhib in the Negev as well as all
the other abominations that Israel commits but if you generalise about why
these things happen and locate it in the Zionist political movement then you
are an anti-Semite.
This is the ‘logic’ that Hannah draws
upon. And why? Because 93% of British Jews identify with
Israel. This is a lie or what is worse,
a half truth. I also see my Jewish identity
as being bound up with Israel – albeit in opposition to it.
The same City University survey that Yachad
commissioned found that 31% of British Jews no longer identify as
Zionists. Up 12% in five years. In other words they recoil from being
identified with the settler colonial movement that Hannah supports.
What is the nature of the Israeli state
that Jews allegedly identify with? It is
a state where some 8% only of its population identify as leftist. Where the very term ‘leftist’ is now an
insult in common parlance. Where a
plurality of the Jewish population supports the expulsion of the Arabs and 79%
according to Pew Opinion Survey support the idea that Jews should receive
preferential treatment to Arabs. [Israel’
Religiously Divided Society] I doubt that even at the height of Nazi rule
in Germany that a similar percentage of the population would have said yes to
Israel is not a state with racist policies
but a racist state at its very core. Whereas
the homes of Arab ‘terrorists’ are demolished, Jewish terrorists’ homes are
never demolished. Jewish victims of
‘terrorism’ receive compensation. Arab
victims of Jewish terrorism never receive compensation because ‘terrorism’ and
‘Arab’ are synonymous in Israeli discourse.
Israel segregates children in school.
Even at kindergarten children are segregated. There are no mixed state schools. Israel even allows
Jewish students in University to choose whether to live with non-Jews and
Jewish women to decide
whether they want to share a maternity ward with Arab women.
In Israel instead of direct discrimination
what is known as indirect discrimination occurs. Under British law, indirect discrimination is
where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice is applied such
that fewer people from the Protected group (women, Blacks, gays etc.) can
comply than those of a random sample.
For example if you say that no one can enter a restaurant with a dog and
apply it to a blind person then that is discriminatory because a sighted person
can easily leave their dog at home whereas a blind person needs a guide dog to
get around. If you expect all people to
work unsocial hours, that will adversely impact on women because they are the
ones who are likely to have child care responsibilities. It is therefore discriminatory and unlawful
In Israel the neutral provision, criterion
or practice most often used is military service (which most Arabs bar the Druze
don’t do – why should they serve in the army of a ‘Jewish’ state?). Military service acts as a racist filter in a
variety of areas – from welfare benefits, to student grants to employment.
Hannah however knows this. After all she and I can emigrate to Israel
anytime we want and claim citizenship whereas friends who are Palestinian and
who were born there or whose parents were born there have no such right,
because according to the racist logic of Zionism I am ‘returning’ whereas they
What Hannah is saying is yes, oppose the
policies of Zionist apartheid but don’t oppose Zionist apartheid itself. Hannah doesn’t like the condemnation of
Zionism very much. For Ms Weisfeld ‘Zionism is the belief in the right of Jews
to have self-determination in the land of Israel. Any other understanding of
this word, or the historical manifestation of it (i.e. the creation and
existence of the state of Israel), is a subjective interpretation and not the
essence of ‘Zionism’.
It is however Weisfeld’s interpretation
that is subjective. Not only subjective
but dishonest. The founders of Zionism didn’t
describe it as a national liberation movement or a movement for self-determination. They described it as a colonial
movement. That was the basis of the
appeal of Theodor Herzl to Cecil Rhodes, the leader of white settlers in
Rhodesia. It is only when the language
of anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism entered political discourse on the
Left that the Hannah Weisfeld’s of this world began using the language of the
oppressed to justify the policies of the oppressor.
Weisfeld’s argument therefore that
opposition to Jewish self-determination is anti-semitic or in her parlance ‘creates
a real feeling of uncomfortable difference for Jews’ is a wholly dishonest one. Should we have supported apartheid in South
Africa because it discomforted white South Africans in this country? Were they more important than Black South
Weisfeld speaks about subjectivity and then
gives a good example of such a phenomenon.
She says that ‘No faith community
can stomach others telling them what their faith is, or should be’ when it
comes to Jews who don’t identify with
Israel. Apparently this creates good and
No doubt the same applied to White South
Africans who opposed apartheid. They
were the ‘good’ South Africans and therefore equally objectionable as ‘good’ Jews. What Weisfeld objects to is criticism of Jews
who are or who support a racist entity and their comparison with anti-racist Jews. Despite appearances, Weisfeld is to be located
in the former category. Weisfeld would
prefer that anti-Zionist Jews disappeared entirely because they confuse her
classification of what constitutes a Jew!
To her being Jewish and being Zionist are interchangeable, which is also
the standard position of anti-semites.
Weisfeld therefore objects to the new
President of NUS, Malia Abouattia’s distinction between being Jewish and
Zionist. This was in the context of her
remark about Birmingham University being an outpost of Zionism. This is an attempt ‘to
dictate to Jewish students that Zionism has nothing to with faith and
ethnicity’. Apparently one should not suggest that being
Jewish and Zionist are separate entities because Zionism ‘has absolutely everything to do with faith and ethnicity’
If Zionism however
has ‘absolutely everything’ to do
with being Jewish then the terms ‘Zionist’ and ‘Jewish’ are
interchangeable. Accordingly someone
who criticises the actions of Zionism or the Israeli state is therefore
justified in blaming all Jews for the actions of Israel. Yet the EUMC Working Definition on Anti-Semitism,
which the Zionist movement has been keen to resurrect, says that anti-Semitism
is ‘Holding Jews collectively responsible
for actions of the state of Israel.’
So if you deny that being Jewish and supporting Israel is identical or you
blame Jews for what Israel does – you are anti-Semitic. It’s a case of heads you lose, tails I win! Political
honesty runs through the Zionist movement and Hanna Weisfeld’s arguments are a
good example of this. Zionism makes two
diametrically opposed arguments and if you fall foul of either you are
Zionism used to be described in Herzl’s day
as a colonising movement not a movement of self-determination. How are the Jews a nation. Outside Israel they don’t speak the same
language or occupy the same territory.
Even their religious customs differ significantly. What is being argued is that they form a
separate race. This concept of ‘national
self-determination’ is a fundamentally anti-semitic idea. It means that Jews aren’t part of the nations
they live among but they form a separate nation/race. This is the basis of the anti-semitic idea of
dual loyalty, that the ‘real home’ as Netanyahu described it when addressing
French Jews in 2015, was Israel not France.
Zionism was a movement of settler colonialism in which European Jewish
settlers colonised Palestine, driving out the indigenous population. There is nothing subjective about that.
Hannah however has another argument up her
sleeve. Most Jews identify with Israel
therefore if you oppose this identity you are an anti-Semite and a racist. This is the most dishonest of all arguments. It conflates identity with racism. It illustrates all the pitfalls of identity
politics and how they can be used to justify oppression. People oppose the Israeli state not because
it is a Jewish state but because it is a racist and genocidal state. It is a state of ethnic cleansing and the
most virulent forms of racism. By Ms Weisfeld’s
‘logic’ opposition to the death squad regime and state in El Salvador or Guatemala
also counted as racism.
The argument is also dishonest on another
level. Jewish identity is not fixed or
static. It has changed repeatedly over
the years, contrary to the Zionist fable about 2,000 years of a longing for a
Jewish state. Jews in the Middle Ages,
money lenders, diamond cutters etc. wouldn’t recognise the Jews of today. Still
less would the warring Hebrews of ancient Canaan. Nor would the Jewish working-classes in the
Pale of Settlement who supported the Bund, Communist and social-democratic
The Jewish socialists of the 19th
and 20th century hated the bourgeois Zionists who came to terms with
and reached an understanding with anti-Semitism. This was epitomised by Theodor Herzl, the
founder of political Zionism. In August
1903 he paid a friendly visit to von Plehve, the Czarist Minister of the
Interior, just four months after the Kishinev pogrom which killed and injured
hundreds of Jews. These pogroms were
organised and funded by Plehve via the Black Hundreds. Herzl told Plehve that Zionism was taking the
Jewish masses away from socialism and on this basis asked for and secured an
agreement that Zionism alone would be allowed to remain a legal political
movement within Czarist Russia. In return
for legalisation, Herzl ensured that there was no criticism of the Czarist
government at the All Russian Zionist Congress and the 1903 World Zionist
Thirty years later, under Nazi rule,
Zionism would once again be the sole Jewish political movement which would
remain legal and unhindered in its work.
The Zionist organisations were the most favoured Jewish groups. Heydrich’s order to the Gestapo of May 1935
made this explicit. As Lucy Dawidowicz
and Francis Nicosia, both Zionist historians, noted:
“The activity of the Zionist-orientated youth
organisations… lies in the interest of the National Socialist state’s
leadership [these organisations] are not to be treated with the strictness that
it is necessary to apply to the members of the so-called German Jewish organisations
(assimilationists).” [War Against the Jews, pp. 118, 240, Zionism &
anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany]
As Isaac Deutscher remarked in The
Non-Jewish Jew and Other Essays [pp. 66-67 Oxford University Press, London
1968] ‘to the Jewish workers anti-Semitism
seemed to triumph in Zionism, which recognised the legitimacy and the validity
of the old cry ‘Jews get out!’ The Zionists were agreeing to get out.’
But even if Hannah is correct and most Jews
do identify with Israel and its actions, so what? There is no doubt that in parts of Africa,
the prevailing religion is bound up with support for female genital
mutilation. Religion and social/tribal
customs are intermixed because religion reflects social practice. Is it therefore racist to oppose FGM because
it is an integral part of the religious identity of some Africans?
In Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Muslim
world the Niqab/Burkah is an integral part of the religion. Is it racist to oppose the Burkah as a symbol
of womens’ oppression? Perhaps Hannah
would like to wear one to show her solidarity with her Muslim sisters?
When Weisfeld argues that: ‘the public discourse on this issue [Israel] needs urgent attention in order to prevent
it from causing continued offence – whether intentional or accidental –
to the Jewish community’ what she is saying is that because a majority of
the Jewish community identifies with Israel’s racist regime, we must not
criticise Israel because we might offend British Jews. Would the same logic have applied if there
had been a substantial section of the White British community who had
identified with Apartheid South Africa?
What if there had been a substantial German population in Britain in
1933? Would it have been racist to criticise
the Nazi state?
Jews were in 1961, according to Dr Geoffrey
Alderman, twice as likely to be in social classes A&B as non-Jews [Jewish community in British Politics]. If Jews in Britain, whose identity is no
longer that of working-class Jews, support a racist and apartheid state, is it
racist to oppose that identity? Of
course not. Opposing an identity,
religious or otherwise, is not racist unless it is a means of attacking the
people themselves, i.e. Jews as Jews. I
have never known a Palestine solidarity supporter who attacked Jews as Jews,
quite the contrary. My PSC group in
Brighton is opposed to all forms of racism.
Half our branch, including some very elderly people, were out on the
demonstrations against the EDL/MFA in Brighton in the past few years. It is the far-Right Sussex Friends of Israel which
has cavorted with the holocaust denying EDL.
The anti-Semitic far –right are strong
supporters of Israel. Ruth Smeed,
spokesperson for the Board of Deputies admitted that ‘‘The BNP website is now one of the most Zionist on the web – it goes
further than any of the mainstream parties in its support of Israel’ [The
Guardian, April 10th 2008
As for ‘zio’ – it is short for Zionist
which is a political not an ethnic category.
It is obviously not racist. After
all to be a Zionist you don’t have to be Jewish. Some of the most virulent Zionists are non-Jewish. People like Pastor John Hagee, President of
the million strong Christians United 4 Israel who believes that Hitler was
an agent of god, a hunter, sent to drive the Jews to Israel!
Severely injured Palestinian lies on the ground. Medical team from Magen David Adom ignores him in favour of lightly wounded Israeli soldier. Elor Azaria took a rifle and killed the Palestinian with a shot to the head. He has become an Israeli hero, 60% of population support him as does the fascist Defence Minister Lieberman
As a Jewish member of the Labour Party who
has been suspended for ‘anti-Semitism’ my experience is that I’ve never come
across anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
As someone who has spent a considerable part of his life tackling
fascist and anti-Semitic organisations like the NF and BNP and who also chased
Gilad Atzmon out of the Palestine solidarity movement, I have no problem in
opposing any manifestation of anti-Semitism.
But I won’t be a hypocrite like Hannah.
I won’t use Jewish identity as an excuse for justifying and exonerating
the most racist state in the world. A
state where Jews now march to the chant of ‘death to the Arabs’. A slogan which used to be the slogan of
anti-Semites in pre-war Germany and Poland with Jews substituted for Arabs. At one of these demonstration in
Tel-Aviv recently, held to defend Elor Azaria, a soldier accused of shooting an
incapacitated Palestinian dead whilst he was lying on the ground, there was a
banner ‘death to them all’ and
another banner ‘my loyalty is my honour’. The latter was the slogan of the SS. What goes around comes around.
Tel Aviv demonstration in support of Elor Azaria at which ‘death to the Arabs’ chanting was dominant
But as I said in my response to her
article, which Ms Weisfeld deleted, I will debate these issues with her in a
neutral forum at any time because what she is doing is providing a liberal
cover for the most atavistic racism.
Shami Chakrabarti, whose report the Zionists first welcomed, has now been attacked by them because she is seen as a useful stick to beat Corbyn with
Chakrabarti’s report into anti-Semitism was published in June. Her inquiry
followed the suspension of MP Naz Shah and ex-London mayor Ken Livingstone amid
anti-Semitism claims. Here Hannah Weisfeld argues that although the
report is helpful in staking out the boundaries of acceptable discourse, it
fails to engage in understanding the complex nature of Jewish identity.
recent headlines are almost all related to how people talk about and discuss
Israel, and treat those that seek to define part of their identity in relation
to Israel. The way in which British Jews construct their identity as Jews
has long been a hot topic of internal debate within the Jewish community.
Discussions related to how one identifies as a Jew take place between friends
and family, within synagogues and other forms of prayer groups, and within
Jewish youth groups all the time.
rarely is this of broader public interest. As the intersection between strongly
held views about Israel and its conflict with the Palestinian people, and Jewish
support for the State of Israel, makes front page headlines of the mainstream
press in the UK, this internal issue has been catapulted into the public
the vast majority of Jews, Israel plays some role in the construction of their
Jewish identity. In the most recent research conducted by City University in 2015 into British
Jewish Attitudes Towards Israel, 93% agreed that Israel played a role in
their Jewish identity varying from ‘some role’ right up to ‘central to’. Beyond
that near consensus attitude, opinions vary enormously on issues related to policies of the Israeli
government, peace with the Palestinians, occupation, security and a wide range
of other topics.
Given that the vast majority of Jews fall into the
category of, in some way, defining their Jewish identity in relation to Israel, the public discourse on this issue needs
urgent attention in order to prevent it from causing continued offence –
whether intentional or accidental – to the Jewish community.
is entirely legitimate to critique
the policies of a government with whom you may not agree. This issue is not about
whether it is legitimate to criticise the policies of the Israeli government.
Indeed, many British Jews are critical of aspects of the policies of the Israel
government, and 55% agree
that it is legitimate to not only criticise Israel, but to do so publicly.
At the same time, it is also possible to find members of the Jewish
community who take offence at all criticism of Israel. Those that cannot
stomach any form of criticism do the Jewish community a disservice in calling
out any opinion about Israel with which they do not agree as anti-Semitic. This
compounds the false notion that the Jewish community’s concerns related to
anti-Semitism are simply attempts to shut down legitimate debate about Israel.
much of what has been stealing the headlines in recent months are not mere
criticisms of Israeli policy. Comparisons between Zionism and Nazism, using
old-school anti-Semitic tropes, often replacing the word Jew with Zionist, and
the use of name calling towards Jews, represent something far more problematic.
The use of the term Zionism or ‘Zio’ as a term of insult, or the repetition of
anti-Semitic stereotypes that are repeated by simply replacing the word Jew for
Zionist would suggest that there is a sense that Jews identifying with Israel
provides an excuse to air views that would be deemed downright anti-Semitic if
the word Jew was used instead of ‘Zio’, for example.
Zionism is the belief in the right of Jews to have
self-determination in the land of Israel.Any other understanding of this word, or
the historical manifestation of it (i.e. the creation and existence of the
state of Israel), is a subjective interpretation and not the essence of
‘Zionism’. However, for many people
today, Zionism is synonymous with actions of the Israeli government. As a
consequence, in expressing dislike or even hatred of these actions, it is all
too easy to express dislike or hatred of those that support ‘Zionism’.
is of course legitimate (although many Jews would not agree) to disagree with
the concept of national self-determination and therefore Zionism, and this not
stem from any type of anti-Semitism. But when
the dislike of national self-determination appears to manifest solely in
relation to the Jewish state, it creates a real feeling of uncomfortable
difference for Jews. Furthermore, when Jews are told that they do not have
to have, or should not have, a relationship to Israel to fulfil their Jewish
identity it creates a notion of ‘good’ Jews vs ‘bad’ Jews, with non-Jews
seemingly deciding who is ‘good’, with the vast majority of Jews falling into
the category of ‘bad’ Jew because of a connection to Israel. Take this
Socialist Worker article for example which refers to the many ‘anti-Zionist’
Jews used to justify the contents of the piece. No faith community can stomach others telling them what their faith is,
or should be.
the new president of NUS explained that she had never intended to cause offence
to Jewish members of NUS by describing Birmingham University as a ‘Zionist
outpost’ she wrote ‘I
want to be clear, again, that for me to take issue with Zionist politics is in
no way me taking issue with being Jewish…it has been, and will always be, a
political argument, not one of faith or ethnic identity. Zionism, religion and
ethnicity must not be seen as one and the same.’ But what she failed so deeply
to understand was that she was simply telling Jewish students that her version
of how Jews should construct their identity was the correct way, despite the
fact she was being told by significant numbers of Jewish students that she had
got it wrong. That is not to say that the NUS president is therefore an
anti-Semite because of this particular comment i.e. someone who actively
dislikes or even hates Jews. Yet her decision to dictate to Jewish students that Zionism has nothing to with faith
and ethnicity, when for Jews it has absolutely everything to do with faith
and ethnicity, is defining Jewish identity on behalf of Jews, which is hard not
to see as anything other than anti-Semitic – intentional or not.
course she is right to point out that those who choose to entirely conflate Jews,
Israel and Zionism are making an untrue and unhelpful contribution. Indeed, the organisation I direct was set up partly to provide a new space within the
British Jewish community to speak about Israel, and British Jews relationship
to it, in a more critical and nuanced way. Yet, to claim, as she does, and many
others on the far left do, that there is a complete separation between these
ideas, and therefore it is entirely possible to say whatever you want about
‘Zionists’ is also deeply mispresenting the reality of what being Jewish means
to the overwhelming majority of Jews.
catapulting of these issues into the public domain has put the complex nature
of Jewish identity under a microscope. In some respects, this is helpful in
simply staking out the boundaries of acceptable discourse. Chakrabati’s report
outlines that certain language is simply not acceptable to be used as part of
modern parlance such as the term ‘Zio’. The report described the term as “a
term of abuse, pure and simple” and recommended that the word ‘Zio’ should have
no place in Labour Party discourse going forward.
what the report did not address (perhaps because it was outside of its remit)
and what so much of the public debate on this issue has failed to do, is to
examine that for many Jews the sense of
Jewish ‘peoplehood’ rests at the centre of their identity and Zionism is simply
the manifestation of peoplehood. This has nothing to do with the Zionism
that the Socialist Worker piece earlier referenced so boldly claims has
‘racism towards Palestinians is at its very core’. By refusing to engage in
understanding the complex nature of Jewish identity, the debate will continue
to remain toxic for the many of the Jewish community and in so doing will fuel
tensions between diverse communities that could, and should, be working
together to combat hatred of others