Legitimate criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism

By Ameen Izzadeen
When Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, in the wee hours of July 19 passed a controversial law, declaring that Israel was exclusively a Jewish state, the passage of the bill made headlines but failed to generate much worldwide condemnation.
In any other democracy, including the United States, a bid to enact similar legislation will draw widespread denunciation. The new Israeli law undermines human dignity and upholds the superiority of Jewish citizens over its other citizens. It has been given the enshrined status of a Basic Law, underlying the principles of the State. Therefore, it cannot easily be repealed. The new law recognises “Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people” and reduces its Arab and Druze people to second class citizens.
Imagine if Sri Lanka’s parliament passes a law stating that Sri Lanka is exclusively a country for the Sinhala Buddhists. Within minutes, international condemnations will pour in. The United States and the European Union will withdraw trade concessions and warn of tough measures if the government fails to reverse the law. Sanctions will be slapped. Sri Lanka will be overnight reduced to a pariah state.
But Israel is often treated with kid gloves and allowed to get away scot free. It can kill a thousand unarmed Palestinians in one go and still strut about on the world stage, with the US patting it on the back and hailing it as ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’. When the abominable law was passed, there was not even a whimper of protest from the Donald Trump administration. Perhaps, Israel was emboldened by Trump’s move to recognise the whole of Jerusalem as the undisputed capital of Israel – a move that killed Palestinian peace hopes.
Expressing concern, the European Union issued a weak statement that hardly stood up to the depravity of the racist law. Much weaker was the statement the United Nations Secretary General’s office issued. “We reaffirm the United Nations’ respect for the sovereignty of states to define their constitutional character while emphasizing the need for all states to adhere to universal human rights principles, including the protection of minority rights,” said UNSG’s spokesman Farhan Haq.
The passage of the bill, on the contrary, warrants international isolation of Israel – just as South Africa had been during the apartheid years — and the reintroduction of the 1975 United Nations General Assembly Resolution which asserted that Zionism was a form of racism. The resolution had the support of the Non-Aligned Movement. In December 1991, with the Cold War coming to an end, the resolution was revoked, under pressure from and in awe of the US, which was emerging as the sole superpower or, sadly, as the global bully, unchallenged by any rival.
Israel’s Arabs and the Druze communities have challenged the law in the Israeli Supreme Court, but Zionist hardliners, including Premier Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, have warned of an earthquake if the courts were to uphold the petitions.
Against this backdrop, a major controversy has erupted in the British Labour Party, with party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has spoken in support of the Palestinians’ freedom cause, being slapped the anti-Semite label.
Corbyn’s problems began in April 2016 when Labour MP Naz Shah criticised Israel on social media posts and endorsed a suggestion that Israel be sent to the US. This was followed by former London mayor Ken Livingstone’s defence of Shah during a radio show. He added to the controversy by saying Hitler supported Zionism. He later resigned from the Labour Party, following his suspension.
These incidents and criticism of Israeli by several Labour activists saw Corbyn being accused of incompetence in dealing with anti-Semitism. In March this year, Jewish community leaders published an open letter accusing him of “siding with anti-Semites”. Although Corbyn had clarified matters saying he did not and would not support anti-Semitism, he remains vilified in the rightwing media. This is mainly because, Corbyn, in the true spirit of the traditional Labour, has been supporting the Palestinian cause, opposing Britain’s urge to bomb Syria and, domestically, pushing for radical socialist reforms aimed at uplifting the living standards of the working class.
Last month, amidst growing criticism, the Labour Party accepted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism in a bid to put the controversy to rest once and for all, but rightly did not agree to a stipulation which said criticism of Israel could be deemed anti-Semitism. The Labour Party argued that legitimate criticism of Israel could not be anti-Semitic.
Despite this principled stance, a section of the party wants Corbyn ousted. They are the rightwing members – the so-called Blairites or supporters of former Prime Minister Tony Blair who lied to the British people to launch the illegal war on Iraq in 2003, and who as the international community’s Middle East peace envoy did nothing but making millions of dollars through his private consultancy business targeted at the region’s despots.
The huge storm the criticism of Israel has created in British politics and the mild condemnations Israel’s apartheid law has evoked only underline the double standards the world has adopted in eliminating racism. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination reaffirms in its preamble that discrimination between human beings on the grounds of race, colour or ethnic origin is an obstacle to friendly and peaceful relations among nations and is capable of disturbing peace and security among peoples and the harmony of persons living side by side even within one and the same State.
In a related controversy, Britain’s former foreign minister Boris Johnson has drawn criticism from Prime Minister Theresa May and rights groups for saying that Muslim women who wear burqas or Niqab look like letter boxes or bank robbers. May, while scolding him, said women should be free to wear the burqa if they chose to do so.
But this appears to be a rare case of condemnation of Islamophobia defined as “dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims”. Often, in the name of freedom of expression, any mockery of Islam and its prophet is allowed in the so-called liberal and enlightened West, where academics and researchers are still prevented from questioning the Zionists’ narration of the Holocaust or Israel’s right to rob the Palestinians’ land.
True, anti-Semitism is bad and needs to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. The Holocaust is remembered not to allow Israel to oppress Palestinians and occupy their lands in violation of international law, but to prevent another Holocaust, irrespective of who the victims are. Sadly, the Palestinians are subjected to a subtle Holocaust, by Israel with the explicit support of the US.
If the strongest condemnation is reserved only in defence of Jewish dignity and is not forthcoming with similar vigour when other ethnic groups and religious communities are ridiculed and their dignity tarnished, then those who are issuing such condemnation are practising the worst form of r
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

About ameenizzadeen

journalist and global justice activist
This entry was posted in Political analysis and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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