Reader’s Comment: Likud the Real Issue, Not Zionism

On Thursday I put up a piece commenting on the political motivations behind yet another smear by the Israel lobby against Jackie Walker, the vice-chair of Momentum, at a study day on Holocaust Memorial Day. Mrs Walker was accused of anti-Semitism and insensitivity yet again for challenging the definition of anti-Semitism used by the Jewish Labour Movement, suggesting that the Memorial Day should be open to all the peoples, who have suffered genocide, and questioning the need for high security around Jewish organisations, including schools. In fairness, Holocaust Memorial Day does commemorate the victims of other genocides, but does not do so for events before 1945. This was of concern to Mrs Walker, who, like many Black activists, considers the slave trade and slavery a Holocaust against Black Africans. She rejected the organiser’s definition of Zionism, because it equates Judaism with Zionism, which as I’ve pointed out, is highly questionable. She was previously accused of anti-Semitism several months ago because of a post she put up during a conversation of Facebook criticising Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

I’ve made it very clear that these accusations are cynical, politically-motivated smears. Mrs Walker is the daughter of Black mother, who was a civil rights activist, and a Russian Jewish father. She has dedicated her life to tackling racism and anti-Semitism. It is grotesque that she, and the other victims of the smears, have had their character so slandered and defamed.

I received this interesting comment from NoToLikudExtremism, who argues that a distinction should be made between attacking Zionism and Israel, and the Likud party. They make the point that many Israelis and Jews elsewhere in the world despise Likud, while supporting Israel’s right to exist. He writes

Considering that Corbyn is a declared (two-state) zionist, and that there are many reasonable left zionists around, and that zionism is partially confused (sometimes wilfully) with jewishness and even judaism, attacking zionism is not a wonderful strategy.

The real problem is the far-right extremism of Likud, of people like Netanyahu (and Liebermann). And Likud offends many israelis and jews around the world by trying to identify zionism and even jewishness in general with itself, and therefore that criticizing “Israel” or “zionism” is anti-semitic, that has purchase even if it is a notion rejected by so many israelis and jews around the world.

Attacking the far-right extremism of Likud-style politics means rising above the issues about the connections between zionism and jewishness, any ethnic or religious issues, playing into the hands of the likudniks who have infiltrated even many jewish organizations outside Israel, turning them into party-propaganda platforms.

Attacking Likud-style far-right extremism as Corbyn does is a pure political struggle that can be supported by more than half of israeli and probably a large majority of jews around the world. That should be the priority. Likud is the bigger problem.

NoToLikudExtremism is right in that many Jews and Israelis have taken a stand against Likud and the Israeli extreme right. Rabbis have led protests and laid down in front of the bulldozers against the house demolitions, and the persecution and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. About ten years ago there was a movement amongst young people in Israel against the failure of their country’s leaders to find a just and lasting peace between Israel and the Arabs. They held a ‘Tea and Cake Party’ with their Palestinians friends, to demand symbolically the return of the British to take over the country’s government. Of course, they really wanted no such thing. And much of the problems and conflict in the Middle East today can be traced back to the annexation of the area by the great powers following the First World War, and the way they divided the region for their own imperial benefit, rather than those of its indigenous peoples. They just want to make the point that, however, grotty, squalid and incompetent the British Mandate was, the incompetence and bigotry of the present leaders of Israel and Palestine is worse.

Israel also has two political parties to defend the rights of the Arab minority. One is a purely Arab organisation. The other is open to both Jews and Arabs. There are also Israeli human rights organisations – in particular Beth Tselem, that have criticised the occupation of the West Bank. These Israelis are very courageous, as Likud and its coalition partners have also targeted them for hatred as subversive and anti-Israel. In one opinion poll taken in the 1990s, a significant number of Israelis responded ‘Yes’, to a question asking them if they agreed that their pro-Palestinian fellow countrymen should be deprived of their civil rights.

I think it’s entirely fair to criticise Israel for its historic crimes against the Palestinians, just as it is to criticise other countries, like Britain, for their past atrocities, and make the point that Judaism and Zionism are not synonymous. Though I also recognise that another poll of British Jews found that 75 per cent of them felt that Israel was an important part of their identity. I also understand that according to polls, most American Jews also want there to be a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue. I therefore take this commenter’s point about attacking Netanyahu and Likud, and recognising the opposition to his dreadful administration by many patriotic Israelis, who wish Israelis and Palestinians to co-exist in friendship and peace.

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