Palestine - British Zionists lead witch-hunt against the boycott movement

Zionist prime minister benjamin netanyahu

Palestine British Zionists lead witch-hunt against the boycott movement
Labour’s ‘Mayor’ savages Corbyn: Party star Khan damns leader over anti-Semitism
(Daily Mail, 20 September 2015)
Jeremy Corbyn ‘impotent’ as he fails to halt Labour’s anti-Semitism
(The Telegraph, 16 March 2016)
‘Most Jews can’t trust Labour’: Jeremy Corbyn under fire from senior Jewish figure
(Evening Standard, 17 March 2016)
Anti-Semitism a major problem in UK universities, says former co-chair of Oxford University Labour Club
(The Independent, 17 March 2016)
Labour and the left have an anti-Semitism problem (Jonathan Friedland, The Guardian, 18 March 2016)
Lord Levy ‘may quit’ Labour over party’s failure to condemn anti-Semitism (The Express, 20 March 2016)

Over the years RCG supporters and other Palestine solidarity activists have learned first-hand that British police, Labour councils, store managers and local fascists will collude to try to destroy boycott Israel campaigns, with arrests, violence and press campaigns using ‘anti-Semitism’ as a label to try and smear the protests. Now the ruling class media is up in arms over what it depicts as a wave of anti-Jewish sentiment across Britain. The supposed ‘sharp rise’ in anti-Semitism (BBC 30 July 2015) is tied directly to Palestine solidarity and student activism supportive of the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to isolate the state of Israel. While there have undoubtedly been examples of anti-Jewish views by supposed supporters of Palestine, including some Labour Party members, the media scandals are blown up by Israel’s supporters to smear the BDS movement as a whole. In reality the media campaign has nothing to do with combating racist or religious prejudice, and everything to do with smearing anti-Zionists as anti-Semitic. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership is now a target for this attack.

On 19 September 2015 after declaring his intention to stand as Labour candidate for London Mayor, MP Sadiq Khan launched a vicious assault on Corbyn and his shadow cabinet. Attacking Corbyn’s refusal to sing the national anthem and his alleged links to ‘terror groups’ such as the IRA, Khan claimed that his party leader’s support for ‘extremist’ Palestinian groups could inspire attacks on Jews in Britain. Khan picked up on recent allegations of anti-Semitism within the Oxford University Labour Club for supporting the Israeli Apartheid Week, and a renewed row over Labour member Vicki Kirby’s anti-Jewish tweets in 2014. In March 2016, Khan again publicly accused Corbyn of being too slow to tackle the issue: ‘For me it’s disgraceful if there is an impression left that there is anti-Semitism in the Labour party. It worries me, the impression left with the way the recent incident in the last few days has been dealt with by the leadership.’ By 26 March Corbyn and Khan had forgotten their differences and united to push Labour’s mayoral campaign. A London RCG activist took a Palestinian flag along as protesters challenged the Labour leaders on housing. Labour supporters made sure the flag was hidden from view. In Manchester, at the height of the Zionist onslaught on Gaza in summer 2014, Labour councillor Pat Karney told the Manchester Evening News that FRFI-led protests in solidarity with Gaza were ‘anti-Semitic’ and led by ‘extremists and revolutionaries.’

On 15 March Labour Party member and opponent of the Palestinian resistance Owen Jones wrote a Guardian opinion piece in which he conceded the left had failed to tackle anti-Semitism – without offering a single example. While briefly mentioning anti-Muslim racism, Jones suggested that references to Israel in discussions about anti-Jewish racism were ‘victim blaming’. Two days later, the Zionist President of the Board of Jewish Deputies Jonathan Arkush claimed that ‘there is a real problem of anti-Semitism on the far left, which now eclipses the anti-Semitism that we have always seen coming from the far right.’ The same week Arkush said ‘Israel hate should be included in definition of anti-Semitism by Europe’, and supported a demand that the EU should include hatred of Israel in its definition of anti-Semitism. Arkush also voiced support for Khan’s comments distancing himself from Corbyn’s Labour leadership.

In the context of continual settlement building, house demolitions, ethnic cleansing and frequent violent and murderous attacks on Palestinian civilians by a fascist Israeli occupation force, British Zionists are building up a head of steam to combat any solidarity with Palestine. The Britain-based Campaign against anti-Semitism – set up during the summer 2014 Israeli attacks – is part of a move to co-opt the struggle against anti-Jewish racism, helping to turn it into a ruling class witch-hunt against manifestations of support for Palestine. It is funded by ‘private donors’, supported politically by the Tory government and sees the boycott of Israel as an anti-Jewish hate campaign. In the campaign’s list of ‘contemporary examples of anti-Semitism in public life’, it cites as one ‘claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour’.

In March 2015 a conference entitled the ‘International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism’ was cancelled by the University of Southampton, citing ‘risks to safety and public order’. The ban on a conference that questioned the legal rights of the Israeli occupation of Palestine had come after massive pressure from wealthy Zionist groups, who won the support of senior Tories. Government minister Eric Pickles was numbered on a list of right wing figures known to have encouraged the ban along with ‘two major patrons’ of the university. (RT, 31 March 2015) Norman Finklestein writes that ‘Whenever Israel faces a public relations debacle its apologists sound the alarm that a “new anti-Semitism” is upon us.’

The attack on Corbyn’s supposed militant support for the Palestinian cause follows the fascist statements of Israeli politicians and journalists to his election. Writing for the ‘liberal’ Zionist paper Ha’aretz, Anshel Pfeffer called Corbyn’s supporters ‘terrorist sympathisers’ and ‘holocaust deniers’. Israel can’t stomach the idea of even moderate opposition from a potential leader and will use all its influence to see it destroyed. Corbyn’s Labour Party has been unable to mount any effective resistance to this campaign. On the question of Palestine Corbyn has already made serious concessions, pledging during his leadership election campaign to ‘establish relationships with all sections of society in Israel.’ Speaking later at a Labour Friends of Israel meeting, he said ‘Israel has always, and will continue to be, recognised by both myself and the Labour Party.’ He has since opposed the boycott of Israeli goods aside from those produced in West Bank settlements. The refusal to deal with the smear campaign labelling Palestine’s supporters as ‘anti-Semitic’ is in line with Labour’s own imperialist history and support for Zionism.

The campaigns claiming to combat anti-Jewish racism ignore the outright fascism of the Israeli government in their focus on Palestinian ‘extremism’. On 8 March Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman spoke of the ‘disloyalty’ of Palestinian citizens in the State of Israel and said: ‘Whoever’s with us, should get everything. Those who are against us, there’s nothing to be done – we need to pick up an axe and cut off his head. Otherwise we won’t survive here.’ The weasel words of the British media have no column space for condemning this racist, bloodthirsty statement. Between 1 October 2015 and 14 March this year, Israeli forces and settlers killed more than 200 Palestinians, with many more injured or imprisoned. Street protests continue daily across the West Bank, Gaza and historic Palestine. While solidarity is attacked in Britain, Owen Jones and the Labour left offer only a cowardly response that does nothing to stem the rising attacks on boycott campaigners. The only response is to step up our anti-Zionist activity.

Victory to the Palestinian people!

Boycott Israel!

Louis Brehony

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 250 April/May 2016


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