Right’s heresy hunt
If I am anti-Semitic, so is the Israeli press, writes Tony Greenstein
In 1633 Galileo was convicted for heresy by the Inquisition for arguing in support of the Copernican belief that the earth revolved around the sun. This was despite the fact that most of the scientists and philosophers at the time were convinced that the Aristotelian concept of a stationary earth, around which the sun and planets moved, was false.
Galileo’s problem was that scientific evidence, logic and observation conflicted with the ideological needs of the system he lived under. A reordering of the heavens challenged the very basis of the theological precepts by which papal rule was maintained.
Galileo wrote to the German mathematician, Johannes Kepler: “What would you say of the learned here, who, replete with the pertinacity of the asp, have steadfastly refused to cast a glance through the telescope? What shall we make of this? Shall we laugh, or shall we cry?”
I am reminded of Galileo’s travails, since the heresy hunt in the Labour Party makes it an expulsion offence to even hint that Zionism is racist or to compare Israel in any way with the Nazis. Indeed to pretend that Israel is anything other than a fine, democratic example to the rest of the world, a beacon of freedom, is not only reason enough for suspension, but prima facie evidence of ‘anti-Semitism’, it seems.
In the Labour Party today there is a similar refusal to look through the telescope - or perhaps it is the turning of a Nelsonian blind eye - to see the Israeli state as it actually exists. Israel permanently rules over four and a half million Palestinians, who cannot be granted the vote or any measure of civil rights, because that is incompatible with a ‘Jewish state’. It is a situation whereby there are two different systems of law - one for Palestinians and another for Jewish settlers. Even within the non-existent ‘green line’, Israel’s own Arab citizens are there on sufferance, with a plurality of Jewish voters wanting them expelled. Apartheid may not be officially declared, but it exists in practice.
The Labour Party seems to be in a parallel universe, whereby black is white and truth is false. The laws of logic no longer apply. How else can one describe a situation whereby those who support the world’s only apartheid state are the ones defining what is and what is not racism?
In recent weeks, Ken Livingstone has been suspended for mentioning the relationship of the Nazis to the Zionists, David Watson has been suspended for claiming that Zionism is racist and I have been suspended for, among other things, claiming that Zionism is a Jewish form of anti-Semitism.
The latter is a question of fact. Although Zionist supporters today claim to oppose anti-Semitism, no historian of Zionism can be unaware that both anti-Semites and Zionists shared the same prejudices against diaspora Jewry. As Jacques Doron notes, “It cannot be denied that the Jewish self-criticism so widespread among the German Zionist intelligentsia often seemed dangerously similar to the plaints of the German anti-Semites.”1
There is a universal consensus in the media, that extends from The Guardian to the Daily Mail, that anyone who criticises Zionism is anti-Semitic. The mere suggestion that Israel is anything other than the purest form of Athenian democracy is likely to result in Labour’s Inquisition bearing down on them, presided over by Tomás de Torquemada in the form of John Mann MP. Events, however, have a habit of defying even the most prosaic of ideologues.
In the past week alone Israel’s deputy chief of staff, general Yair Golan, has compared developments in Europe - particularly Germany in the 1930s - to Israel today.2 Yair’s speech at a ceremony remembering the holocaust led to a series of events, which culminated in the removal of Moshe Ya’alon as Israel’s defence minister. Ya’alon was no slouch when it came to killing Palestinians, but his replacement, Avigdor Lieberman, is the Israeli equivalent of Islamic State. Lieberman had previously called for the beheading of “disloyal” Israeli Arabs3 and the drowning of thousands of Palestinian prisoners in the Dead Sea.4
Lieberman agreed to join Netanyahu’s Likud coalition on the basis that he could introduce the death penalty. Naturally the death penalty will only apply to Palestinians, since only military courts, which have a conviction rate of some 99.7%, will have the power to impose it. Jewish settler terrorists are tried in civil courts.
Meanwhile, we have an Alice in Wonderland situation in the Labour Party, whereby the Jewish Labour Movement, which supports the Israeli state and its founding ideology, Zionism, is to be put in charge of anti-racism training by Baroness Royall, who investigated ‘anti-Semitism’ at Oxford University Labour Club. It is akin to having the late Dr Harold Shipman given responsibility for developing a course in medical ethics. The JLM is affiliated to the World Zionist Organisation, which is responsible for the funding and development of settlements in the West Bank. Its institutions are key to the maintenance of Israeli apartheid, both in Israel itself and the occupied territories. Since the JLM excludes from membership anyone who is not a Zionist or supporter of the Israeli state, it would be more honest to call it the Zionist Labour Movement.
It is part of the new political gospel that the Labour Party is being submerged in a tsunami of anti-Semitism. What we are witnessing is the manufacturing of consent that flies in the face of all the evidence. It is the perfect example of Marx’s dictum that the ruling ideas in any society are the ideas of the ruling class. The existence of ‘anti-Semitism’ is assumed as a given. It is above and beyond challenge in the mainstream press and media, despite the lack of any evidence.5
The now-defunct European Union Monitoring Centre’s ‘working definition’ of anti-Semitism,6 which Zionist groups fought a rearguard action to defend,7 defined anti-Semitism as “holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel”. Yet almost every day people who criticise Zionism, the movement which founded the Israeli state, are being suspended for ‘anti-Semitism’. Although it is anti-Semitic to equate Jews and Zionism, anyone who criticises the latter is deemed anti-Semitic!
Jackie Walker, the vice-chair of Momentum who is both black and Jewish, has been suspended for mentioning the involvement of Jews in financing the slave trade. She is required to accept the myth that anti-Semitism is a seamless continuum of Jewish oppression for 2,000 years - Jews were always victims, never perpetrators. It was this, the “lachrymose version of Jewish history”, that Salo Baron, perhaps the greatest Jewish historian of the 20th century, railed against.
I was myself suspended on March 18 for having made unspecified comments, the details of which Labour’s compliance unit refused to give me. This did not prevent members of the unit from leaking those details to The Daily Telegraph, which printed them on April 2.8 Suffice to say, after a little persuasion, both papers retracted any suggestion that they were implying I was anti-Semitic - even though, of course, that had been the whole purpose of the articles!
I will shortly be appearing before an investigation meeting. It would appear that the acting regional organiser for the South-East, Harry Gregson, has gone into overdrive trying to find some incriminating evidence against me. It is a strange process whereby you first suspend someone and then begin trying to find the evidence to justify the suspension.
One of the charges now is that I wrote a blog post entitled ‘Israeli policy is to wait for the remaining holocaust survivors to die’.9 This was deemed by Gregson to be such a terrible accusation that he could only conclude it must be anti-Semitic. It is, of course, a terrible accusation, but exactly the same charge is made in an article in Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper!10
It is beyond dispute that Israel is parsimonious in the extreme in withholding benefits from holocaust survivors. Thousands of them live in dire poverty in Israel - forced to choose between heat and food.11 Israel has received billions of shekels in reparations from the German state, but it has preferred to spend it on holocaust memorials and holocaust ‘education’ (to say nothing of weaponry) rather than on the holocaust survivors themselves. To Israel the holocaust is a nationalist symbol above all. Thousands of Israeli schoolchildren are taken to Auschwitz each year in order that they will learn the lesson that Israel must be militarily strong. Far from drawing anti-racist lessons, their racism is strengthened.
The true reason for my suspension though may lie in one other charge that I am facing: namely that I have called for the deselection of Peter Kyle, the New Labour MP for Hove. Kyle is someone who believes fervently in the involvement of private companies in the NHS. He voted for the bombing of Syria and is a darling of the Progress wing of Labour.
The anti-Semitism witch-hunt in the Labour Party has one overriding purpose. It is not just about sanitising Israel: its primary purpose is the removal of the Jeremy Corbyn leadership of the party. It is a testament to the stupidity of Corbyn, John McDonnell and Momentum’s Jon Lansman that, instead of standing up to those who equate anti-Zionism and criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, they are helping to lead the charge. Appeasement is never a very good strategy and in this case it is a recipe for defeat. Its only effect is to whet the appetite of Labour’s McCarthyites.
1. ‘Classic Zionism and modern anti-Semitism: parallels and influences (1883-1914)’ Journal of Israeli History No8, September 1983, p171.
2. ‘IDF general in bombshell speech: Israel today shows signs of 1930s Germany’ Jerusalem Post May 4 2016.
5. See ‘How Israel lobby manufactured UK Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis’: https://electronicintifada.net/content/how-israel-lobby-manufactured-uk-labour-partys-anti-semitism-crisis/16481.
7. See https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ben-white/pro-israel-groups-keen-revive-discredited-anti-semitism-definition.
8. ‘Activist who derides critics as “Zionist scum” admitted to Labour in latest anti-Semitism scandal to hit party’ The Daily Telegraph April 2 2016. See also ‘Labour welcomes back blogger who compared Israelis to Nazis’ The Times April 2.
10. Its article was also headlined: ‘Israel is waiting for its holocaust survivors to die’ (www.haaretz.com/opinion/israel-is-waiting-for-its-holocaust-survivors-to-die.premium-1.501630).
11. See ‘Tens of thousands of Israeli holocaust survivors are living in abject poverty’: www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/12122754/Tens-of-thousands-of-Israeli-Holocaust-survivors-are-living-in-abject-poverty.html.