Thursday, 16 February 2017

London AMs asked to rethink positions on anti-semitism motion

Brent Central Labour Party is holding a discussion on The Labour Party and Anti-Semitism tonight (7.30pm Christchurh Nursery, St Albans Road, Harlesden, NW10 8UG).

Richard Kuper (Free Speech on Israel) and Jeremy Newmark (Chair, Jewish Labour Movement)  will lead the discussion.

By coincidence the issue of criticism of Israeli government action being conflated with anti-semitism has produced intensive discussion  in both the Labour Party and the Greens.

It has arisen after the London Asembly unanimously approved a resolution on the issue:
This Assembly expresses alarm at the rise in anti-Semitism in recent years across the UK including London. This includes incidents when criticism of Israel has been expressed using anti-Semitic tropes.

We therefore welcome the UK Government’s announcement on December 11th 2016 that it will sign up to the internationally recognised International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) guidelines on anti-Semitism which define anti-Semitism thus:

“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.”
Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

The guidelines highlight manifestations of anti-Semitism as including:
  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

This Assembly hereby adopts the above definition of anti-Semitism as set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and pledges to combat this pernicious form of racism.

Free Speech on Israel, a Jewish ed organisation, committeed to open and transparent debate on Palestine-Israel issue the folowing ststaement:

Free Speech on Israel, a Jewish-led organisation, condemns the decision of the London Assembly on Feb 8 to adopt a position on antisemitism that is a charter for censors. It threatens to make effective campaigning for justice for Palestinians impossible.

Antisemitism is an age-old visceral hatred of Jews simply because they are Jews. It must be vigorously fought against, along with all forms of bigotry. To confuse it with opposition to a state which calls itself Jewish, or to the founding ideology of that state, Zionism, is to obscure the real meaning of the term antisemitism and make combatting it more difficult. This is exactly what the motion passed by the Assembly does.

Setting the limits of debate about “the Jewish state” is a key goal of pro-Israel lobbyists only recently unmasked as working hand in glove with the Israeli Embassy to brand any criticism as antisemitic. Labour Friends of Israel, to which the motion’s proposer Andrew Dismore belongs, were shown to be key players in this witch hunt, which has resulted in a wave of suspensions and interrogations of pro-Palestinian Labour Party members. The victims include Jews who, contrary to the claims of the pro-Israel lobby, do not have Zionism woven into their DNA. Jewish organisations have been among those calling for a full inquiry into the extent of Israeli interference in UK politics.

We defer to Avi Shlaim, professor emeritus of history at Oxford and an Israeli Jew, who writes: “Israeli propagandists deliberately, yes deliberately, conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism in order to discredit, bully, and muzzle critics of Israel.”

It is not necessary to agree with Palestinians and their supporters when they question the founding principles of the State of Israel, compare it to Apartheid South Africa or call it to account for its well-documented racism, in order to recognise their right to say such things. The London Assembly has taken a position which endangers that right.

At a time when minority ethnic communities, particularly Muslims, are under constant attack in our society, the London Assembly, on the pretext of defending Jews against racism, has placed itself in the invidious position of defending Israeli propagandists against Palestinians and their supporters. This can only have the unintended consequence of stoking new hostility to Jews who will be seen as attempting to determine what non-Jews may or may not say about a foreign state.

We urge members of the Assembly to reconsider this politically ill-advised move.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Agree with all the the bullet points referring to Jews, it's their conflation with the State of Israel that's medacious, eg this one:

"Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour."

I think even the State of Israel would agree that it's a racist endeavour.