Last week, the British government used its new definition of anti-Semitism to ban National Action, a vile neo-Nazi ‘youth organisation’, whose members have openly called for another Holocaust in Britain against the Jews. Hope Not Hate, one of the anti-Fascist, anti-religious extremism organisations, cautiously welcomed the ban, but said they could not understand why it could not have been done much earlier using existing legislation.
I wondered when it was introduced whether it could be a first attempt by the government to legitimise a piece of problematic legislation by using it to ban a group, about whom there is little controversy, before using it to ban more problematic organisations. I said in my blog post that there seemed to be nothing controversial about the definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the British government, but was suspicious about how the legislation would be used.
It now seems I was right to do so.
Neve Gordon, an Israeli activist, who fights for the rights of the Palestinians to civil rights and their own independent state, has written a short piece in this weekend’s Counterpunch criticising the legislation. She begins by stating that anti-Semitism is on the rise globally and needs to be tackled. But she states clearly that the working definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the British government is hypocritical and dangerous, as
says that anyone who subjects Israel to ‘double standards by requiring of it behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation’ is an anti-Semite.
She then goes on show how the British government uses double standards all the time when criticising human rights abuses by China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. These could be used to show that the British government was Islamophobic, and, in the case of Sudan, guilty of ‘another type of racism’. She concludes
The definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the British government is itself a manifestation of a double standard, since it treats Israel differently from every other country in the world rather than as a nation among nations.
From this it appears to me that the purpose of the anti-Semitism legislation to criminalise criticism of the state of Israel, under the guise of tackling ant-Semitism. This was, after all, the reason behind the anti-Semitism allegations in the Labour party in the summer. Those slandered of anti-Semites were not. They were in most cases principled men and women, with proud personal histories of campaigning against racism, including anti-Semitism. What they were guilty of was standing up for the rights of the Palestinians against decades of horror by the Zionist state. They were also terribly guilty of being historically well informed. Jackie Walker, who is half Black and half-Jewish, with a Jewish partner and daughter, was condemned as an anti-Semite because she dared to state that the Holocaust, horrific as it was, was not a unique event and was comparable to other cases of ethnic cleansing and persecution, such as the slave trade in the case of Black Africans. She also discussed the way many Jews were also active in the slave trade, while recognising that the overall responsibility for it lay with White Christian nations. And Ken Livingstone was attacked and suspended because he was entirely accurate about the way the Zionist settlers had co-operated with the Nazis in the colonisation of Israel before the implementation of Hitler’s revolting Final Solution.
The Israel lobby vehemently attacks any criticism, no matter how warranty, with accusations of anti-Semitism. The definition of anti-Semitism enunciated by Benjamin Netanyahu explicitly links it to anti-Zionism. Critics of Israel are also smeared as anti-Semites by the allegation that they are especially critical of Israel, more so than any other nation. Mike, over at Vox Political, had just this accusation thrown at him by a commenter to one of his blog posts about Israel and the anti-Semitism accusations. This commenter claimed that Mike was hypocritical in attacking Israel for human rights violations, while tolerating the behaviour of the Turkish government in Cyprus. Mike responded by pointing out that he didn’t agree with that, either. Now it seems Theresa May has passed legislation that would allow her to smear and prosecute people like Mike using the new legislation by making the same allegations, no matter how demonstrably false and risible they are.
While there are Nazis and anti-Semites, who do use anti-Zionism as a cover for their real Jew hatred, the reason why left-wing critics of Israel, including many Jews and Israelis, like Neve Gordon, is because Israel is a western country. And its persecution of the indigenous inhabitants, the Palestinians, is exactly like the way other western nations, like Britain, treated the indigenous peoples of the countries they colonies. Such as the genocide of the Native Americans, the Aboriginal Australians, slavery, segregation in America and apartheid in South Africa, and the Nazi Holocaust and extermination of other groups, such as the mentally handicapped and ill, Gypsies, and Poles and Russians. And I have absolutely no doubt that very many of the same people are also concerned about human rights violations in the rest of the world, like Communist China and its treatment of Tibet, dissidents and people of faith, the rise of Hindu extremism and the persecution of Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Hindu dissidents and moderates by Modi and his wretched BJP. Nor are they complacent about the brutality and thuggery committed by the various African kleptocrats and despots.
They criticise Israel and its brutal treatment of the Palestinians, because Israel has not been subject to the same criticism and isolation as many of these other nations.
It also seems to me that the new legislation follows similar laws passed in America, which are designed to prevent the American state or local authorities from supporting the BDS movement. This is the movement that encourages people to boycott and divest from Israeli companies operating in the occupied West Bank. So far 30 per cent of the companies located there have been forced to move out. It is dangerously successful, and many, especially younger, American Jews are becoming increasingly indifferent or critical of Israel and its brutality towards its indigenous people.
Hence this malign piece of legislation, which is intended to protect a vicious, intolerant regime while claiming to protect Jews from vicious intolerance.
It also show the mendacity of the British press and media. The piece of the legislation that was cited in the I newspaper made no mention of criminalising criticism of Israel. It just followed the standard definition of anti-Semitism as hatred of Jews for being Jews. There was no mention of Israel. Now it may be that Neve Gordon is wrong, but I honestly don’t believe this. This government has lied again and yet again, without any qualms. And when it has not lied, it has attempted to defend itself by withholding information and official documents. And the media has also shown itself consistently mendacious about the anti-Semitism smears in the Labour party, endlessly recycling the lie that those smeared were anti-Semites when the opposite was true. The silence on this part of the legislation shows how little the British media really values free speech and journalistic independence.
Neve Gordon is right. Anti-Semitism is on the rise globally. You can see amongst the Alt-Right Nazi goons that turned up a few weekends ago at the Ronald Reagan room to scream ‘Hail Trump! Hail our race!’ It’s there in the Jobbik party in Hungary, and other viciously racist parties across eastern Europe. And its there in Britain, with Jack Renshaw and the other junior storm troopers of National Action. They’ve been banned. But the purpose of the legislation wasn’t to criminalise them. It was to close down free speech. Their ban was simply to make it all seem respectable.