Moshe Machover on What is Zionism and why the accusation that Anti-Zionism = Anti-Semitism is a lie

Moshe Machover on What is Zionism and why the accusation that Anti-Zionism = Anti-Semitism is a lie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Post-Blog

Falsely
accused of anti-Semitism


Professor Moshe Machover very kindly agreed to provide expert witness testimony
to my Expulsion Hearing before Labour’s National Constitutional Committee. 

Moshé was himself ‘autoexcluded’ from the Labour Party at the beginning
of October 2017.  Because of the outrage this
caused in the Labour Movement, Moshe was quickly reinstated.

It’s purpose is to provide the Panel which is hearing my case with no
excuse for saying ‘We did not know’.  After the last war many people said that ‘we didn’ know’ about what happened.  They were in the darkIt is important that if I
am expelled it is not because the members of the panel can say they didn’t know
or were not aware of Israeli Apartheid and Zionism’s crimes.
My suspension is as a direct result of the lobbying of the Jewish Labour
Movement and its Chair, Jeremy Newmark. The JLM is the British representative
of the Israeli Labour Party, a party which was responsible for the expulsion of
¾ million Palestinian refugees in 1948. 
Right-wing Chair of the National Constitutional Committee Rose Burley – defeated by the Left in elections last year but she’s still on the NCC
The ILP is a disgusting racist party that should have no
contact with the Labour Party.  Its last
leader Isaac Herzog declared that
his nightmare
was waking up to find that Israel had a Palestinian Prime Minister and 61
Palestinian Members of Israel’s Knesset .   Herzog also declared that he wanted
to dispel
the impression
that the ILP were ‘Arab Lovers’.
Imagine that
someone were to say that their fear was that Britain might have a Jewish Prime
Minister or that the Labour Party was not a ‘Jew lovers’ party.  The term
‘Jew lover’ and ‘N***** lover’ used to be part of the language of the National
Front and BNP. 

On May 24th Herzog wrote an article attacking Netanyahu’s government for not being tough enough with the Eritreans refugees who comprise 2/3 of Israel’s total.  Herzog wrote that Nearly two-thirds of infiltrators come from one country adjacent to the Red Sea: Eritrea.’  The reason Herzog called them ‘infiltrators‘ was because this was the racist term applied to Palestinian refugees who tried to return to the lands from which they were expelled.  It conveys the racist idea that the Jewish state is being ‘infiltrated’ by non-Jews.  Herzog deliberately refused to call the Eritreans what they are, refugees and seeks to associate them with that other Zionist demon – Palestinian refugees.  .

Herzog has recently been replaced as leader by Avi
Gabbay, who served in Netanyahu’s Cabinet.  He has supported Netanyahu’s proposal to
physically deport African refugees from Israel because they are not Jewish.  He has also declared that he won’t sit in Israel’s cabinet with the Arab
parties of the Joint List but he didn’t rule out sitting in the Knesset with
Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beteinu, a man who has said
he would like to drown the thousands of Palestinian prisoners in the Dead Sea. 
The pretext
for Moshe’s expulsion was his participation in the 2016 Communist University organised
by the Communist Party of Great Britain. 
In fact Moshe and I both spoke together in 2016 and 2017 at the Communist University.    
empty solar panels stands – the Israeli army confiscated them
Palestinians are being
dispossessed

This testimony is addressed to the Labour Party National Constitutional
Committee in connection with its hearing called to consider accusations of
‘anti-Semitism’ that have been made against Tony Greenstein by person or
persons unknown.
I am a dissident Israel citizen, born in Palestine in 1936. I have been
living in London since 1968 and am a naturalised British citizen. I am a member
of the Labour Party, Queen’s Park branch (Hampstead and Kilburn constituency).
I have known Tony Greenstein for over 40 years as a staunch socialist –
active in defence of the rights of workers, in particular the unemployed – and
against all racism, including anti-Semitism. In line with this, he is an
uncompromising opponent of the Zionist project of colonisation and of Israel’s
Zionist regime, which makes it a colonising settler state. He has devoted much
scholarship and thorough research to the history of Zionism and the dialectic
of its complex and paradoxical relationship with anti-Semitism. Having myself
also done much reading on the subject, I find his statements on it well
grounded in fact.
In what follows I address three related questions. First I discuss the
nature of Zionism, then the conflation between opposition to Zionism and
anti-Semitism. Finally I deconstruct the deliberate misdefinition of
‘anti-Semitism’ and its weaponisation as a means of attacking leftwing critics
of Israel.
The Apartheid wall
What is Zionism?
Zionism is a political movement that combines an ideology and a project.
While – like most political movements – it comprises a variety of currents and
shades of opinion, they all have a common core.
The core of Zionist ideology is the belief that the Jews of all
countries constitute a single national entity rather than a mere religious
denomination; and that this national entity has a right to self-determination,
which it is entitled to exercise by reclaiming its historical (or god-given)
homeland – pre-1948 Palestine (Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel).
Here, for example, is an authoritative formulation:
Zionism is
the national revival movement of the Jews. It holds that the Jews are a people
and therefore have the right to self- determination in their own national home.
It aims to secure and support a legally recognised national home for the Jews
in their historical homeland, and to initiate and stimulate a revival of Jewish
national life, culture and language.1
However, this claim begs a couple of questions. Do the totality of Jews
constitute a nation in the modern secular sense, to which the right of national
self-determination is applicable? This is at best extremely questionable, and
has in fact been denied by many Jews, who assert cogently that Jewish identity
is not national, but primarily based on religion.
Burnt out Arab villages in the Nakba, it was the Labour Zionist militias who did this
Thus, when Lucien Wolf – distinguished journalist and leading member of
the Conjoint Foreign Committee of British Jews – was confronted with Chaim
Weizmann’s effort to obtain what was to be known as the Balfour Declaration, he
wrote a worried letter to James de Rothschild, dated August 31 1916:

Dear Mr James de Rothschild 

At the close of our conference with Dr Weizmann on the 17th inst, you
asked me to write you a letter defining my view.
 ….

I have thought over very carefully the various statements made to me by
Dr Weizmann, and, with the best will in the world, I am afraid I must say that
there are vital and irreconcilable differences of principles and method between
us.
The question of principle is raised by Dr Weizmann’s assertion of a
Jewish nationality. The assertion has to be read in the light of the
authoritative essay on ‘Zionism and the Jewish future’ recently published by Mr
Sacher, more especially those written by Dr Weizmann himself and by Dr Gaster.
I understand from these essays that the Zionists do not merely propose to form
and establish a Jewish nationality in Palestine, but that they claim all the
Jews as forming at the present moment a separate and dispossessed nationality,
for which it is necessary to find an organic political centre, because they are
and must always be aliens in the lands in which they now dwell (Weizmann, p6),
and, more especially, because it is “an absolute self-delusion” to believe that
any Jew can be at once “English by nationality and Jewish by faith” (Gaster,
pp92, 93).
 

I have spent most of my life in combating these very doctrines, when
presented to me in the form of anti-Semitism, and I can only regard them as the
more dangerous when they come to me in the guise of Zionism. They constitute a
capitulation to our enemies, which has absolutely no justification in history,
ethnology, or the facts of everyday life, and if they were admitted by the
Jewish people as a whole, the result would only be that the terrible situation
of our coreligionists in Russia and Romania would become the common lot of
Jewry throughout the world.2

And on May 24 1917, as negotiations that were to lead to the Balfour
Declaration were at an advanced stage, Alexander and Claude Montefiore – presidents
respectively of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and of the Anglo-Jewish
Association – wrote a letter to The Times in the name of the Conjoint
Committee of these two bodies, protesting against the fallacies and dangers of
political Zionism. After declaring their adherence to Lucien Wolf’s position,
the writers went on to say that the theories of political Zionism undermined
the religious basis of Jewry, to which the only alternative would be
Palestinian refugees in 1948
a secular Jewish nationality, recruited on some loose and obscure
principle of race and of ethnographic peculiarity. But this would not be Jewish
in any spiritual sense, and its establishment in Palestine would be a denial of
all the ideals and hopes by which the survival of Jewish life in that country commends
itself to the Jewish conscience and Jewish sympathy. On these grounds the
Conjoint Committee of the Board of Deputies and the Anglo-Jewish Association
deprecates earnestly the national proposals of the Zionists.
The second part in the Zionist programme which has aroused the
misgivings of the Conjoint Committee is the proposal to invest the Jewish
settlers [in Palestine] with certain special rights in excess of those enjoyed
by the rest of the population …
In all the countries in which Jews live the principle of equal rights
for all religious denominations is vital to them. Were they to set an example
in Palestine of disregarding this principle, they would convict themselves of
having appealed to it for purely selfish motives. In the countries in which
they are still struggling for equal rights they would find themselves
hopelessly compromised … The proposal is the more inadmissible because the
Jews are and probably long will remain a minority of the population of
Palestine, and might involve them in the bitterest feuds with their neighbours
of other races and religions, which would severely retard their progress and
find deplorable echoes thought the Orient.
The view – evidently held by these leaders of the British Jewish
community – that Jewishness is religion-based rather than a national
category relies on basic facts. Indeed, the only attribute shared by all Jews
around the world is the religion, Judaism, practised by them or by their recent
forebears. Further, a necessary and sufficient condition for a non-Jew to
become Jewish is undergoing a religious conversion: giyyur. Thus Jews
can belong to various nations: a Jew may be French, American, Italian,
Scottish, etc. But Jewishness excludes other religious affiliations: a Jew
cannot be Muslim, Hindu or Roman Catholic.
Another fatal weakness of the justifications of Zionism as implementing
an alleged right of Jewish national self-determination is that, whatever group
of people the right of national self-determination may apply to, it does not
entitle them to pick and choose at will the territory over which they may
exercise that right. Claims that the group’s alleged distant ancestors lived in
the coveted territory many centuries ago, or that it was promised to them by a
deity in whose existence many of them happen to believe, or that they have long
wished to possess it, are simply not good enough. The right to
self-determination certainly does not license any group to colonise a territory
long inhabited by other people.
But the key fact about the Zionist project is precisely that it is a
project of colonisation of Palestine – an inhabited land; and it is precisely
this essential fact that is conveniently omitted by the definition of Zionism
offered by its present-day propagandists. They avoid the word ‘colonisation’
like the proverbial plague; it has become too compromising.
Ze’ev Jabotinsky – leader of the Revisionist Zionists – sympathetic to fascism
Earlier Zionist leaders and ideologues had no such qualms. Thus, for
example, Vladimir Jabotinsky (1880-1940) – the political and spiritual
progenitor of five Israeli prime ministers, including Binyamin Netanyahu3
– used in his seminal article, ‘The Iron Wall’ (1923), the term ‘colonisation’
repeatedly and unselfconsciously to describe the Zionist project:
Every native population in the world resists colonists as long as it has
the slightest hope of being able to rid itself of the danger of being
colonised. That is what the Arabs in Palestine are doing, and what they will
persist in doing as long as there remains a solitary spark of hope that they
will be able to prevent the transformation of ‘Palestine’ into the ‘Land of
Israel’ …
Colonisation can have only one aim, and Palestine Arabs cannot accept
this aim. It lies in the very nature of things, and in this particular regard
nature cannot be changed ..
.
Zionist colonisation must either stop or else proceed regardless of the
native population. Which means that it can proceed and develop only under the
protection of a power [ie, Britain – MM] that is independent of the native
population – behind an iron wall, which the native population cannot breach.4
Many years later, Zionist historian Yigal Elam wrote:

Zionism couldn’t appeal to the principle of self-determination and rely
on it in Palestine. This principle worked clearly against it and in favour of
the local Arab national movement …
 

From the viewpoint of national theory, Zionism needed a fiction that was
incompatible with the accepted concepts of national theory … [It] needed a
much broader conception than the simplistic one. In this other conception …
referendum of the worlds Jews superseded referendum of the population of
Palestine.5

Conflation with anti-Semitism
As we have seen, Zionism is a political ideology-cum-project. The State
of Israel – a product of the Zionist project as well as an instrument for its
continuation and extension – is, like any state, a political entity.
Israel has been in military occupation of the West Bank and the besieged
Gaza Strip for over 50 years and is exercising harsh oppression over millions
of Palestinian Arabs, who have no civil or national rights. It has been avidly
stealing their land and colonising it with illegal, exclusively Jewish
settlements. Israel may not be worse in this respect than other states that ruled
over other nations and colonised their land – for example, Britain in its
former colonies, such as Kenya.6
But Israel is also no better than other colonising states, nor is there any
reason to expect it to be any better: colonisation has its own logic, and
generally involves harsh, racist oppression and occasional atrocities,
justified by the ‘need to keep order among the natives’. Israeli officially inspired
and fomented racism is by now widely known and condemned.7
Opposition to Zionism and to the colonising regime and policies of
Israel is therefore a legitimate political position. It only becomes
illegitimate if it is motivated or accompanied by illegitimate aims or
arguments: for example, such as stem from generalised hatred or prejudice
against Jews as Jews. But such illegitimate motives or arguments need to be
proven before accusing an opponent of Zionism and Israel’s regime of
‘anti-Semitism’; they cannot simply be assumed or taken for granted. In the
absence of proof, accusation or insinuation that anti-Zionist discourse and
opposition to the Israeli regime are per se ‘anti-Semitic’ is a
despicable calumny.
Nevertheless this kind of calumny has often been maliciously made; and
latterly it is often directed against people on the left, including members of
the Labour Party. I have been besmirched in this way by some party officials –
for which they have yet to apologise. And many others, including Tony
Greenstein, are victims of similar character assassination.
Jews in the diaspora, including this country, are deeply divided in
their attitude to Zionism and Israel. Many have made attachment to Israel part
of their Jewish identity, as a supplement – and in some cases as a surrogate –
to their religion, Judaism. They support Israel ‘right or wrong’ and tend to
assume that hostility to Zionism must be motivated by anti-Semitism.
But an increasing number of Jews have a very different attitude: they
are deeply offended by the actions of a state that claims to be the ‘nation-
state of the Jewish people’, and professes to represent all Jews and act on
their behalf. They abhor the implication that they, as Jews, are complicit in
Israel’s crimes. Jewish opponents of Zionism include many secular Jews, as well
as the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) community, whose long-standing and deep-seated
hostility to Zionism is based on their religious faith.8
Opposition to Zionism has been increasing among younger Jews, especially
those on the left, including the Labour Party. This is the firm impression I
have formed through extensive contacts and it was indeed corroborated by events
and general atmosphere at the party conference in September 2017. This trend is
not fully reflected in the various polls and surveys that purport to show much
Jewish support for Israel. The reason is that these polls suffer from an
inbuilt statistical bias. Since there is no database listing all Jews in
Britain, the samples used by the polls miss out on the very large number of
persons of Jewish background who are not affiliated to any synagogue or other
official or semi-official Jewish organisation. And it is those not included in
the sample space who tend to be less inclined to Zionism and attachment to
Israel.

Deliberate misdefinition

Jewish opposition to Israel’s colonisation of Palestinian land and
oppression of the Palestinian people is part of a growing trend in progressive
public opinion around the world. This is reflected in the rapid growth of the
global campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), aiming to apply
economic and political pressure on Israel to end its violations of
international law.
Faced with this serious damage to its image, the Israeli government has
taken steps to attack and 
discredit its critics by a variety of means, fair and
foul. Worldwide operations with this object are orchestrated by the Ministry of
Strategic Affairs. Since 2015, this ministry is headed by cabinet member Gilad
Erdan, who is also minister of internal security and information. Erdan himself
is on record as stating that his “achievements should be kept hush-hush”.9The
Guardian
, reporting on his secret meeting in London in September 2017 with
disgraced Tory minister Priti Patel (following her return from a ‘holiday’ in
Israel), comments:
Erdan’s
ministry was asked in 2015 to “guide, coordinate and integrate the activities
of all the ministers and the government and of civil entities in Israel and
abroad on the subject of the struggle against attempts to delegitimise Israel
and the boycott movement” … Erdan has been put in charge of large-scale
efforts to target foreign individuals and organisations … [with] staff
recruited from the Mossad foreign intelligence agency, the Shin Bet domestic
intelligence agency, and the military intelligence directorate.10
One of the main weapons in these “efforts to target foreign individuals
and organisations” who criticise Israel, especially those who support BDS, is
to accuse them of ‘anti-Semitism’. In this campaign, Erdan’s operatives in
foreign countries harness local pro-Israel lobbies. An exposé of how such an
undercover operative, Shai Masot, worked in this country, and his attempts to
meddle in the Labour Party, was provided in January 2017 by Al Jazeera in a
fascinating four-part TV series, The lobby.11
Since Tony Greenstein’s accusers are concealed behind a veil of
anonymity, it is impossible to ascertain whether, or to what extent, their
efforts (which involved formidable trawling for ‘incriminating’ material)
received help, encouragement and guidance from Erdan’s operatives. But in light
of the Al Jazeera revelations – which included illustration of false
accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’ – this supposition cannot be entirely ruled out.
In order to dispel suspicions of this kind, the identity of the accusers must
be made known and they must be subjected to cross-examination, as natural
justice demands.
A weapon regularly used in the false accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’ is
the set of 11 illustrative examples appended to the so-called working
definition of anti-Semitism proposed by a US-based group calling itself
‘International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’ (IHRA). To the best of my
knowledge, the Labour Party has not adopted the illustrative examples, but only
the definition itself:
Anti-Semitism
is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.
Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward
Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community
institutions and religious facilities.
However, the accusations made against Tony Greenstein quote the
illustrative examples and make extensive use of them. While the definition
itself is in my opinion unsatisfactory, the examples are deeply problematic.
Most of them are concerned not with Jews as such, but with Israel, and are
deliberately designed to ring-fence Israel against robust criticism and
conflate hostility to its Zionist regime with ‘anti-Semitism’. These examples
have indeed been harshly criticised by eminent legal authorities: Hugh
Tomlinson QC12
and retired appeal court judge Sir Stephen Sedley.13
Please consult these authoritative opinions and note their warning that
applying the examples may well conflict with the right to free speech. Here I
will illustrate the absurdity of the examples by examining two of them.
Example 7 of alleged anti-Semitism appended to the IHRA definition is:
“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination: eg, by claiming
that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavor [sic!].”
Now, as Sir Stephen Sedley has pointed out, this begs several questions.
Let me spell them out.
What is the relationship between the first and second part of this
example? How does the ‘eg’ part of the statement have any connectionwith the
first part? It is clearly possible to affirm that there exists aJewish people
and it has a right to self-determination, but at the sametime to believe that
its alleged implementation in the State of Israel isa racist endeavour.
  • Do the
    totality of Jews around the world constitute a distinct nation, to which
    the right of self-determination would apply? As I have shown above, it is
    perfectly legitimate to assert that Jewishness is not a national but a
    religious category. And this has indeed been argued by eminent Jewish
    leaders. But the internationally recognised political right to
    self-determination applies to nations, not to religions.
  • Does
    the Jewish community in this country constitute part of a non-British
    national minority, entitled to seek self-determination in another country?
  • Does a
    group that is assumed to have the right of self-determination thereby also
    have right to colonise a territory inhabited by other people and displace
    these indigenous inhabitants? Surely not! But the Zionist project from its
    beginning, more than 100 years ago, did arrogate to itself such a ‘right’.
  • Can an
    endeavour of colonisation – which Zionism is, and openly declared itself
    to be in its early days – avoid being racist towards the indigenous people
    of the colonised territory? I know of no example of non-racist colonisation;
    and the Israeli settler state definitely conforms to the general rule.
Example 10 of alleged anti-Semitism appended to the IHRA definition is:
Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

Now, comparisons of this kind have in fact been made by Israeli
scholars. As recent examples, let me refer you to two articles by professor
Daniel Blatman, a historian of holocaust and genocide in the Hebrew University
of Jerusalem14
and to a report about a pronouncement made by professor Ofer Cassif, who
teaches politics and government at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.15
But look again at that example 10. Let me concede for a moment that
comparing contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis is an unjustified
slur. But slur against what or whom? At worst, it could be a slur against a state,
Israel; and as such it may well upset supporters of that state and those who
still believe in it. But how can it possibly be a slur against the Jews, and
hence ‘anti-Semitic’? Well, the only way in which it could bear such an
interpretation is if we hold all Jews collectively responsible for actions of
the state of Israel.
However, example 11 of anti-Semitism appended to the IHRA definition
reads: “Holding all Jews as collectively responsible for actions of the state
of Israel.”

This is evidently correct: it is indeed clearly anti-Semitic to hold all
Jews collectively responsible for the deeds of Israel. But if we accept that
example 11 is indeed a true example of anti-Semitism, as it clearly is, then
the assertion that example 10 is a true example of anti-Semitism is itself an
anti-Semitic assertion!
Thus the set of 11 examples taken together is self-contradictory and
self-incriminating. They ought to be discarded; and most certainly they should
have never been used so shamefully to smear Tony Greenstein – a veteran
campaigner against all racism.
Notes

1.
Zionism on the web: Zionism defined
(www.zionismontheweb.org/zionism_definitions.htm). For similar but briefer
formulations, see, for example, Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian,
March 18 2016
(www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/18/labour-antisemitism-jews-jeremy-corbyn);
or Eylon Aslan-Levy in The Times of Israel, December 8 2013
(http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-trouble-with-anti-zionism).
2.
Photocopy of typewritten original in B Destani (ed) The Zionist movement and
the foundation of Israel 1839-1972
, 10-volume set: Political diaries
1918-1965
Cambridge 2004, Vol 1, p727. My emphasis.
3.
The others are Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert.
4.
‘The iron wall’ (‘O Zheleznoi stene’), published November 4 1923 in the
Russian- language journal Rassvyet (Dawn); English translation:
www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/quot-the-iron-wall-quot.
5.
Y Elam, ‘Hanahot hadashot leota tzionut’ (‘New assumptions for the same
Zionism’) Ot No2, winter 1967; my translation (emphasis in original).
6.
M Perry, ‘Uncovering the brutal truth about the British empire’ The Guardian
August 18 2016.
7.
See, for example, comment by the senior Israeli journalist, Akiva Eldar:
‘Israeli defense minister’s comments highlight “plague of racism”’ Al
Monitor
December 14 2017
(www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/12/israel-xenophia-racism-minorities-human-rights-liberman.html).
8.
See A Ravitzky, ‘Ultra-Orthodox and Anti-Zionist’
(www.myjewishlearning.com/article/ultra-orthodox-anti-zionist).
9.   www.facebook.com/gilad.erdan/photos/a.225201850853267.56972.207139259326193/1265886783451430/?type=3&theater
(August 7 2016).
10.
‘What did Israel hope to gain from Priti Patel’s secret meetings?’ The
Guardian
November 8 2017.
11.
www.aljazeera.com/investigations/thelobby.
12.
‘Opinion: In the matter of the adoption and potential application of the
International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Anti-Semitism’,
March 8 2017
(http://freespeechonisrael.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/TomlinsonGuidanceIHRA.pdf).
13.
Talk delivered at a meeting in the House of Lords on March 27 2017:
http://freespeechonisrael.org.uk/sedley-ihra/#respond. Revised version:
‘Defining anti-Semitism’ London Review of Books May 4 2017.
14.
‘The Israeli lawmaker heralding genocide against Palestinians’ Ha’aretz
May 23 2017 (www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.791115); ‘Smotrich’s
stage-by-stage plan’ (Hebrew) Ha’aretz June 10 2017
(www.haaretz.co.il/opinions/.premium-1.4158915).
15.
‘Hebrew U professor: Israel today similar to Nazi Germany’ Jerusalem Post
June 23 2017
(www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Hebrew-U-professor-Todays-Israel-similar-to-Nazi-Germany-497731).

 

 

 

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