No, the Israel Lobby Does Not Permit ‘Reasonable Criticism’ of Israel

This is more comment on some of the rhetoric and material on the Labour charge sheet against Mike accusing him of anti-Semitism. The charge sheet states that it is because he criticising Israel on his website. It then goes on and declares, rather piously, that reasonable criticism of Israel is permitted.

This leads to the obvious question of what? When?

I’ve come across this bland statement about ‘reasonable criticism’ always being permissible in an internet debate before. I can’t remember what it was about, but it may even have been about criticising Israel. It’s to disguise the fact that the person making the statement almost certainly wants to close down debate. And the comment made after this pious declaration was made, was that those making such bland statements about the permissibility of ‘reasonable comment’ don’t give examples.

The Israel lobby certainly does not, and indeed has done all it can, to stop negative reporting of Israel’s vile persecution of the Palestinians. Peter Oborne a decade or so ago made a documentary for Channel 4’s Despatches about the power of the Israel lobby. He discussed the way the Israel lobby had tried to shut down the news of massacres committed by Israel and its allies, in this case the Christian Phalange in Lebanon, by accusing reporters of anti-Semitism. These disgraceful libels had been directed against such respected Beeb journos as Jeremy Bowen and Orla Guerin. When David Dimbleby had weighed in to condemn these accusations as smears, he was accused and investigated in turn as an anti-Semite. Other organisations, such as the press and broadcasting watchdogs, were called in to investigate their reports, and concluded that they were substantially factually correct. And Middle Eastern experts on the programme stated that what they said was true.

Oborne also talked to the editor of the Groaniad, Alan Rusbridger. Rusbridger, who really does look a bit like Harry Potter, was under constant pressure from the Israel lobby every time he published articles on Israeli racism and ethnic cleansing. He described how, after his paper published one such article, he was visited by two people, one representing the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the other a Zionist lawyer, who bitterly complained about the article. The lawyer even tried arguing that its publication would encourage people to attack Jews.

The veteran anti-Fascist, anti-racist and anti-Zionist campaigner, Tony Greenstein, has also put up on his site examples of how flexible the charge of anti-Semitism is when used to silence opponents of the Blairites and the Israel lobby. One Labour party member was accused and expelled as an ‘anti-Semite’, because he’d reposted on social media an image of the jobcentre’s sign with the words ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’.

This is the notorious slogan above the walls of Auschwitz. it means ‘Work Makes (you) Free’. But its use here cannot be considered anti-Semitic. The comment was not made about Jews. Greenstein also explained that the slogan was first used in a concentration camp, where the majority of the inmates were gentiles.

It is also fair comment on the DWP and its odious leadership. The man in charge at the time was Iain Duncan Smith, who had used that slogan approvingly in a newspaper article. Furthermore, the DWP’s determination to get people into work, or rather, simply off benefit, has resulted in unjust pronouncements of ‘fitness to work’, and benefit sanctions, resulting in a massive rise in the number of people using food banks and starving to death.

Nor is it anti-Semitic to accuse the callous, murderous and dictatorial in authority of behaving like Nazis. People do it all the time. Petty, jumped up authoritarians full of their own importance have always been called ‘little Hitlers’. And I remember hearing on Radio 4 in the 1990s a description by men and women serving in the army as sergeant majors that there was one such NCO who used to show a cardboard cut out of Hitler to new recruits, declaring that this was who he was related to. No-one at the time consider this anti-Semitic, as indeed it is not.

But let’s turn the issue round and ask the Israel lobby themselves what they have done to criticise Israel. It’s perfectly possible to be a friend, and yet object to another’s faults. At the level of ordinary, personal friendship people warn each other against taking such actions, and tell them it was wrong for them to act a certain way. Remember the anti-drunk driving campaign on American TV which had the slogan ‘Friends don’t let friends drive drunk’?

How about ‘Friends don’t let friends commit crimes against humanity’?

So, what representations and criticism have pro-Israel groups, like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, the Jewish Labour Movement or the Board of Deputies of British Jews, made to the Israeli authorities about the murder, summary imprisonment, massacre and seizure of Palestinian lands and homes?

If they have made any criticism or complaints, then I shall be delighted to hear of it, and will certainly post it here.

But to my knowledge they’ve made none. Zip. Nada. Zero. To my knowledge, every time the IDF or Israeli state commits another atrocity, the above scurry to defend them. The latest massacre of the protesters in Gaza was another example. The Board then tried to excuse the massacre by claiming that the murdered people had all been put up to it by Hamas, and were all terrorist sympathisers. It was a classic case of blaming the victims.

If they’re friends, who welcome reasonable criticism of Israel, then they’re very poor friends indeed.

But of course, they don’t allow ‘reasonable criticism’ of Israel. They back the Israeli state and its brutalities 100 per cent, and share its goal of ethnically cleansing Eretz Israel of its indigenous Arabs. And they brook no criticism or reporting of Israel’s horrendous crimes in doing so.


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