A racist state
Labour’s adoption of the IHRA definition was a shameful betrayal of the Palestinians, writes Tony Greenstein
As Labour MPs voted to adopt - by 205-8 with 12 abstentions - the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, which conflates it with anti-Zionism, Israel’s colonial high court was giving the go-ahead for the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar - the West Bank village between Jerusalem and the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim - to proceed. In its place will be built Jewish-only settlements.
By what definition can this not be racist? If Jews in Britain were evicted to make way for non-Jews, would this not be racist? Only a dedicated racist could pretend that Israel is not an inherently racist state.
Two months ago, Khan al-Ahmar’s demolition was only stopped after a worldwide storm erupted. This was because if it is demolished there can no longer be any pretence of a two-state solution. At that time, Wes Streeting, the anti-Corbyn MP, called for sanctions - something which under the IHRA definition would be deemed ‘anti-Semitic’.
Labour MPs voted to endorse the IHRA without even the slightest caveat about free speech. This follows the national executive committee vote, which endorsed the definition in totality - effectively rejecting a statement from Jeremy Corbyn, which would have allowed members to call the founding of the Israeli state racist.
It should be noted that Corbyn’s statement was extremely weak in itself. Nonetheless, it did accept that people had the right to argue Israel’s founding was racist and it also accepted the existence of non-Zionist Jews. But, instead of accepting it, the NEC agreed a weak ‘free speech’ caveat.
However, for the Zionists all talk of a free speech clause was anathema. Jennifer Gerber of Labour Friends of Apartheid Israel “claimed the ‘freedom of expression’ clause ‘totally undermines the other examples the party has supposedly just adopted’”. The Jewish Labour Movement stated: “The only speech that IHRA definition seeks to limit is anti-Semitism.” The bigger the lie, the more often these racists repeat it.
Israel is racist - systematically and institutionally - in a hundred different ways. It is the most racist state in the world. That its defence minister - a fascist called Avigdor Liebermann - wishes to transfer Israel’s Arab population into a West Bank Bantustan should be reason enough to affirm this.
A few weeks ago hundreds of Jews demonstrated in the northern city of Afula against the fact that an Arab had bought a house in a hitherto 100% Jewish city. Hundreds of communities in Israel are Jewish-only by virtue of the law. In cities like Safed a paid state official - its chief rabbi, Shmuel Eliyahu, issued a religious edict forbidding the renting of flats or apartments to Arabs.
Every Labour MP who voted for the IHRA, which outlaws calling Israel a racist state, can be taken to have endorsed Israel’s virulent racism. MPs like Wes Streeting who criticise individual instances of demolition, yet endorse the Zionist state itself, are nothing but hypocrites. They condemn manifestations of racism, whilst endorsing the ethno-nationalist Jewish state, which so regularly indulges in such acts.
The reason that the IHRA definition has been pushed so strongly by the Zionist lobby is that it renders criticism of the state an expulsion offence. Zionists hate free speech, whether it is in Israel or the UK. The NEC, by endorsing the IHRA, has endorsed Israel’s racism.
No-one could be more despicable than Momentum’s Jon Lansman, who is a Jewish Zionist. Lansman is fully aware of the racism of Zionism. Only last month he accepted that “It cannot possibly be anti-Semitic to point out that some of the key policies of the Israeli state, observed since its founding days, have an effect that discriminates on the basis of race and ethnicity.”
Of course, Lansman, being a sickening hypocrite who supports a Jewish state, avoided saying that an entity which consistently discriminates against a minority population must be inherently racist. He therefore pretends it is the ‘policy’ of the present government rather than a function of Zionism itself.
Nonetheless, after visiting Israel, Lansman stated: “Those I met - Jewish as well as Palestinian citizens of Israel - spoke about racist state policies, not just in relation to the occupation and settlements, but also within Israel itself: the segregation of housing, education, employment and systematic economic disadvantage.”
Lansman is not stupid, whatever other qualities he has. A state that systematically discriminates against its Arab population, which has segregation at its heart, is not a normal ‘western democratic state’. Segregation equals apartheid. Yet Lansman, being a supporter of a settler Jewish state, refuses to accept that Zionism itself is racist. That is why at the NEC he stabbed Jeremy Corbyn in the back.
Corbyn has brought many of these problems on himself. If from the outset he had responded by saying that he condemned both anti-Semitism and also its weaponisation against critics of Israel, then he would have escaped a lot of the grief of the past three years. He compounded this mistake by coming out in support of the IHRA definition.
The claim is often made that the ‘Jewish community’ endorses the IHRA. This is a lie. Most Jews have not even read it. In any event even if the ‘Jewish community’ did agree with the IHRA definition, that would be no reason to adopt it. Racism is not made better because Jews agree with it.
We also face the hypocritical situation where it is anti-Semitic for anti-Zionists to compare Israel with Nazi Germany - but there is no such prohibition on Zionists comparing their opponents to Nazism. For example, when Margaret Hodge was playing the martyr, she compared the threat of her being disciplined by Labour to the abuse suffered by Jewish refugees escaping Nazi Germany.
All 13 of Israel’s Arab members of the knesset wrote to The Guardian at the beginning of September in support of Jeremy Corbyn, stating: “We stand in solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn and we recognise him as a principled leftist leader who aspires for peace and justice and is opposed to all forms of racism, whether directed at Jews, Palestinians, or any other group.” And two weeks ago 84 black and ethnic minority groups wrote to The Independent making clear their opposition to the IHRA. Suffice to say, both the NEC and Labour’s MPs ignored Britain’s black communities.
I am therefore proposing a statement to be endorsed by at least 500 people, asserting that Israel is a racist state. This is what I propose:
We, the undersigned, believe that Israel is and always has been a racist state, whose mission was summed up in the Zionist slogan, ‘A land without a people for a people without a land’. As Anita Shapira, a prominent Zionist historian, wrote, “The slogan ... was common among Zionists at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.”
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