Posts Tagged ‘BICOM’

The Break-Up of American Zionism and the Anti-Semitism Allegations

May 28, 2016

I’m aware that I’m in serious risk of doing this subject to death, but this needs to be said. I’ve put up several blogs featuring the videos of talks and interviews given by Israeli and American Jewish activists and historians – Ilan Pappe, Elizabeth Baltzer and Norman Finkelstein, laying bare the terrible history of Israel’s persecution and systematic ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian population. As I’ve repeatedly said, this is because of the smears against leading figures in the Labour party that they are anti-Semites, when they are nothing of the sort, and demonstrably nothing of the sort. Ken Leninspart, when he was leader of the GLC, was notorious and reviled for his anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia stance. And if you want to read what he has to say about anti-Semitism, it’s written down in his book, Livingstone’s Labour. He decries it as one of the worst forms of reaction, along with all other forms of racism, whether it be against Blacks, Jews and Irish. Naz Shah has the backing of her local synagogue. And Jackie Walker is the daughter of a Russian Jew and Black civil rights activist, deported from America as one of the ‘Reds under the Bed’ McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover were so scared of. Her other half is also Jewish. It’s truly grotesque that she should be slandered as an anti-Semite when it is clearly not the case.

Jimmy Carter

These slanders have not been confined to Britain. They were made against the Jewish Outreach Officer of one of the Democratic presidential candidates. The lady was forced to resign, despite the fact that she was not only Jewish, but a very active member of her community dedicated to their welfare. They even tried it on with Jimmy Carter, who was just about called everything bar a card-carrying member of the American Nazi party and supporter of Stormfront. Again, dead wrong. I can remember way back in the 1970s when old peanut teeth hosted the Camp David peace negotiations between Israel and Egypt. In his own state, he was instrumental in removing the colour bar and segregation laws against people of colour. He is not, and never has been an anti-Semite or a Nazi, whatever his failings as president were. And he certainly doesn’t have the sheer amount of blood on his hands that his successor, Reagan, had through his sponsorship of real Fascists in South and Central America.

And Carter showed that he wasn’t afraid to prove he was innocent of all charges, guv. He went in front of the students at Brandeis University, the biggest secular Jewish university in the US to debate one of the author of the smears, Alan Dershowitz. He got three or four standing ovations simply for appearing on stage. And when it came to Dershowitz’s time to speak, 2/3 of the audience walked out even before the old Neo-Con warmonger had opened his mouth.

Jewish Americans Liberal

American Jews are overwhelmingly liberal. Most of them want a two-state solution – for the Palestinians to have their own state. By and large they despise George Dubya Bush and 70 per cent of them are opposed to the war in Iraq. And despite the move of the majority of Israeli voters to the right, Ilan Pappe stated in his video that Israelis were decent people. He stated that going around, talking to people, especially small businessmen and farmers, who knew what it was like to have to struggle to make something for yourself, won people over to the Palestinian cause.

Livingstone, Shah and Walker Historically Correct

Nothing Leninspart, Shah or Walker said should be remotely interpreted as racist. Red Ken was factually correct: Hitler did briefly support Zionism and the emigration or deportation of the Jews to Israel. Walker was smeared because she compared the treatment of Black Africans under slavery to the Holocaust, and the persecution of the Palestinians in Israel. Now, I can understand historians picking at this to see if they really are equivalent. Africans were captured and worked to death simply as instruments of labour, rather than because there was a conscious desire to exterminate Black Africans, as in the Holocaust. Though against that was the gradual erection of the whole intellectual edifice trying to justify their enslavement as racially inferior, just as the Nazis used twisted biological theory to justify their extermination of the Jews. It’s reasonable for historians and political scholars to debate the similarities and dissimilarities between them. But I don’t think many genuine scholars, certainly not of the slave trade or the Holocaust, would dispute that these are terrible crimes against humanity. And the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians should be no different. There is a real debate on the legal definitions of genocide, because there are so many of them. So many, in fact, that I’ve heard an academic of the subject state that these definitions should be dropped simply in favour of ordinary, common sense. When states, or their majority populations start persecuting an ethnic group or trying to suppress their identity through force, then it’s genocide.

What also comes out is that the views of Livingstone et al by and large are supported by historical scholarship, including those of mainstream historians. Finkelstein states that there’s little difference between Israeli school textbooks and dissident, left-wing scholars on the origins of Israel. It is known that Israel had a programme of ethnic cleansing from the very first. It is incontrovertible that Israel is engaged in mass torture and human rights violations. And Finkelstein himself states that it is the Israelis, not the Palestinians, who consistently failed to ‘give piece a chance’ in the words of Lennon and Ono.

Denial of Palestinian’s History ‘Historicide’

As for the view produced by the historian, Peters, that there were no Arabs until the Jews settled in Israel, bringing development and jobs, this has been comprehensively disproven. Finkelstein or Pappe, I can’t remember which, describe it as ‘historicide’, the deliberate destruction of a people’s historical reality.

Jewish and Israeli Opposition to Persecution of Palestinians

There is absolutely no question that the facts are on the side of the accused. And I honestly believe that if Leninspart, Shah and certainly Walker were given the chance to rebut their enemies in debate at a university, they would do so in the same way Carter and his supporters vociferously routed Dershowitz. 72 per cent of British Jews say that Israel is important to them, compared to only 50 per cent of American Jews under 35. But that does not mean that British Jews do not want to see an end to their country’s persecution of the Palestinians. There are Jewish organisations in Israel helping the Palestinians defend their homes, families and livelihoods. You can find pictures of Orthodox rabbis in the long, black coats and broad-brimmed hats, forming cordons and lying down in front of bulldozers. University anti-racism and Palestinian solidarity groups have invited members of these organisations to speak. It would surprise me not one whit if many of those Brits reaching out to Palestine were Jews, and active members of their universities’ Jewsocs.

Political Motives behind Accusations

This isn’t about historical truth, however. This is about the Israel lobby trying to derail any criticism of the state and its persecution of the indigenous Arabs with accusations of anti-Semitism. It’s about the Blairites trying to hang on to power in Labour party by playing the race card against Jeremy Corbyn. But those accused have no real case against them. In any just court of law, they would be declared innocent, with damages found against their accusers.

Libel and Establishment Lies and Smears

Unfortunately, when it comes to libel, there is no justice in Britain. You are guilty until proven rich. And the accusations suit the British establishment very well. The Tories love it, because it harms Labour. And the Beeb’s Newsnight programme with Evan Davis uncritically swallowed all the guff from the guests that Labour had an ‘anti-Semitism problem’. One of the guests on RT’s Going Underground, with Afshid Rattansi, stated that the smears looked like the establishment coup against a leftwing British prime minister, as described in the novel and Channel 4 TV series, A Very British Coup. Listening to Finkelstein, I think that’s entirely plausible. There were smears by the establishment against Harold Wilson, which accused him of being a Communist spy. Many of them seemed to come from MI5. Finkelstein states that American funds Israel far and beyond the amount it gives to other nations, because it sees it as defending its interests in the Middle East.

Britain and America Supporting Israel to Retain Power in Region

I believe that this, or something like it, explains the British establishment’s attitude to the allegations. I can remember reading years ago a discussion on a right-wing American website about Israel, the Arabs and Britain under the Mandate. The site took the bog-standard right-wing American view that Brits must be anti-Semites, ’cause all Europeans hate Jews, as shown by the Holocaust and the increasingly secular nature of European society. The participants in the debate argued that the British deliberately set the Jews and Arabs at each other’s throats in order to maintain their control over the region. They quote the correspondence between one of the British officers involved in the Mandate, on this point. The quote was merely his own conclusion after studying the situation, and did not conclusively prove that it was so. They also quoted other correspondence, in which one British politician accused another wishing to establish a Jewish presence in the region as a kind of outpost of British influence, similar to Protestant Belfast amidst Roman Catholic Ireland.

It would not surprise me if something like that were the case. It may simply be that Britain gives unconditional support to Israel, because the Americans also give Israel their unconditional, or nearly unconditional support, in order to retain influence in the region. And since we declined as a world power, we’ve been acting as the American Empire’s junior partner and lickspittle. One former British ambassador to the US even went on Radio 4 and said that he was told by the Mandarins in London that his job was to go to Washington and ‘get up the American’s arse and stay there’.

The Beeb is the voice of the British establishment. It’s news programmes consistently support the Conservatives and industry, especially finance industry, against Labour and the trade unions. The establishment undoubtedly identifies British interests with those of Israel, though Robin Ramsey, the editor of Lobster, has said that the Beeb ties itself in knots trying to deny that it is pro-Zionist. So it is, unfortunately, a foregone conclusion that the Beeb and the establishment won’t give the accused a fair hearing. Not if there’s even more millions to be made from another bloody war.

Fighting Back against the Lies

Which doesn’t mean that the accused can’t win. The mainstream American media is also very staunchly pro-Israel and rabidly demonises the Arabs and the Muslim world. Despite this, in the polls Israel is just one point more popular amongst Americans than Iran. And you consider the massive negative campaign and image of that country in American media. The Israel Lobby – AIPAC and the leadership of J Street in America, the Labour Friends of Israel and BICOM over here, know that they’re losing the public’s hearts and minds. Hence the smears. I think the best course would be for Livingstone, Shah and Walker to stand up to them, call them out on their lies. Don’t expect any honesty from the press, ’cause that went long ago. But do it in the court of popular opinion – at public meetings, university seminars and talks, at literary events. Adam Shatz, of the London Review of Books, introduced Finkelstein and Baltzer when they spoke in New York. Perhaps the LRB can be relied on to give an unbiased platform. They should, at least regarding Jackie Walker. I can remember way back in the 1990s they published a piece on slavery at the time it was once again coming back into national consciousness. The treatment of Black people, and their abuse and discrimination, is of obvious acute interest to Jackie Walker, and so I think that more than some of the other media, they could be more inclined to give a sympathetic hearing.

This ain’t just about defending a group of accused Labour MPs. This is also about defending free speech and historical scholarship against the personal smears and gross historical distortions of a mendacious and deceitful establishment. An establishment that is prepared to grind down and destroy Jews, as well as Muslims, Christians, and those with no religion, in its campaign to preserve a monstrously racist order.

Norman Finkelstein and Elizabeth Baltzer on Young American Jews Rejecting Zionism: Part 2

May 27, 2016

Finkelstein and Baltzer also differ on whether the solution to the problem of Palestinian emancipation is the two state solution, articulated by the UN, or a dismantling of the mechanism of the systematic persecution of the Palestinians, so that they become part of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Israel, such as occurred in South Africa after the fall of apartheid. Baltzer favours the single state, post-Apartheid solution. Finkelstein supports the two state solution.

Finkelstein notes that the creation of a separate Palestinian state following the borders of the pre-1967 settlement is the solution favoured by the United Nations and international law. He argues that you may not like it, but you have to abide by it. He states that this would involve an exchange of about just over 1 per cent of land between Israel and the new Palestine. This would allow the Israelis to retain about 60 per cent of the settlements in the West Bank. He also describes how crestfallen Tzipi Livni, the Israeli minister in charge of this question, was when she was confronted by the Palestinians who proposed it. She seemed particularly dismayed looking at the maps they had produced, because, says Finkelstein, she found them convincing and didn’t know how to argue against the proposal. So she tried picking on some of the details. She would say, ‘What about that town?’, to which the Palestinians replied, ‘We know about that. You can build a bridge.’ ‘What about that village?’ ‘We know about that too. You can build a road here that’ll take you past it’.

He also disagreed with following the model of post-apartheid South Africa, because of the way the apartheid state had founded the Bantustans – special statelets for the indigenous tribes, which were officially recognised by the UN, despite the fact that they were part of the infrastructure of the apartheid ideology of ‘separate development’. I think Dr Finkelstein could be rather confused here, as this would seem instead closer to the idea of the two state solution.

Finkelstein also has some trenchant criticisms of the leadership of the mainstream American Jewish organisations, particularly J-Street. He says quite openly, ‘Their leadership is horrible. No, it really is. They think Tzipi Livni, who laughed about the conflict in Gaza, is a liberal’. This is a slight paraphrase, but it’s more or less what he said. He felt, however, that J Street’s grassroots membership were quite different, and said that they could reach out to 2/3 of them and win them over into a third party supporting the Palestinians.

Baltzer also said that the growing movement for the liberation of the Palestinians was diverse, and should include everyone. Finkelstein said that it shouldn’t, so she corrected herself, and said that racists weren’t welcome. It should be obvious, but unfortunately it does need to be said. There are real anti-Semites and Nazis, who attempt to gain a specious legitimacy by passing off their comments and stance as mere anti-Zionism. They shouldn’t be allowed entry into a genuinely anti-racist movement.

They also disagreed on the nature, extent and goals of the BDS movement. Both support it, but Finkelstein believes that the movement’s successes are about getting firms and individuals to sever links to the occupied territories, rather than about Israel generally. He also makes the point that their Zionist opponents were celebrating the fact that Daniel Barenboim, the Israeli conductor and founder of the East-West Divan Orchestra, had been refused entry to Qatar because he was a ‘Zionist’. Hence Finkelstein’s opposition to the use of the term.

At times the discussion got quite heated. Finkelstein himself made the point that no-one should go away from the event thinking that he and Baltzer were not friends, as they were, and he had immense admiration for her. After the talk had formally ended, and the three are packing up to leave the podium, Finkelstein turns and offers his hand to Baltzer. He can be heard saying, ‘I’ve got to offer my hand to you, otherwise people will go away thinking we’re enemies’.

It’s natural that on such a profound and emotive topic there should also be profound differences of opinion. Nevertheless, both sides of this debate need to be heard. Baltzer’s idea for a single state solution is shared by Ilan Pappe, while Finkelstein’s preferred solution is that of the UN and associated international bodies. What the reality will be, remains for the Palestinians and the Israelis to decide.

And there are also young Israelis, who are impatient with their nation’s failure to find a lasting, just peace with the Palestinians. Over a decade ago the Independent reported a series of protests held jointly by Israelis and Palestinians against the Israeli government and Palestinian authority. This took the form of ‘tea and cake’ parties. The participants issued a call for the British to come and take over the country’s government, as their own peoples were making such a terrible hash of it. And they chose tea and cake as the typical British meal to symbolise this.

Of course, they didn’t really want us back. It’s partly due to our misgovernment of the country and its seizure through the Mandate that Israel and much of the Middle East is in the terrible state it is. But it was heartening to see young Israelis and Palestinians meeting in peace and friendship, to demand a lasting people against the intransigence and incompetence of the politicos.

I have absolutely no doubt that one of the reasons why the Israel lobby – BICOM, the Labour Friends of Israel, and the other associated groups in Britain, and AIPAC in America – are actively trying to conflate Jewish identity with Zionism and criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism is because they are acutely aware that that neither are necessarily the case. But they need them to be in order to deflect any and all criticism of the way Israel treats its indigenous people. I therefore believe that as time goes on and support for the Palestinians increases, more people are going to be accused of anti-Semitism, and more Jews attacked for being self-hating, even when they obviously aren’t. Miriam Margolies, the great British thesp, was one of those of who joined the criticism of Israel during the bombardment of Gaza. She described herself as ‘a proud Jew, and an ashamed Jew’. Baltzer and Finkelstein in this debate remind us how many others like her there are, often severely normal people, who are horrified at a gross violation of human rights. It ain’t just celebrities and actors.

Ilan Pappe on Israel’s Foundational Myths and the Oppression of the Palestinians: Part 1

May 26, 2016

I’ve been blogging recently on Israel’s oppression of the indigenous Palestinians, because of its relevance to the recent allegations of anti-Semitism against leading members of the Labour party, such as Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, Naz Shah and so on. None of the accused are anti-Semitic. Ken Livingstone has always stood against any and every form of racism. Indeed, back in the 1980s the former GLC under his leadership was notorious for it and its campaigns against sexism. Shah has the support of her local synagogue, which argues profoundly against her having any hatred of Jews. As for Jackie Walker, she is half-Jewish, and her partner is Jewish. Her mother was a Black civil rights activist, who was thrown out of America as a Commie during the McCarthyite witch-hunts. Her father was a Russian Jew, and so probably knew all too well from his personal experience, or that of his parents, what real anti-Semitism is like. Their real crime was that they made comments critical of Israel, which the militant Israel lobby, BICOM, the Labour Friends of Israel and Blairite faction in the Labour party, all automatically and quite arbitrarily defined as anti-Semitic.

Criticism of Israel is not automatically anti-Semitic, just as criticising the government of my country and its policies does not automatically make anyone ‘anti-British’, and certainly not when real historic or present oppression is involved.

The video below, made by the human rights group Americans for a Just Peace in the Middle East, is a long interview with the courageous Israeli historian and pro-Palestinian activist Ilan Pappe in his office at the University of Haifa in Israel, where he formerly taught. Dr Pappe no longer teaches there, as his scholarship and views are now so controversial and bitterly hated in his native country, that he has been forced abroad, and is now head of the history department at Exeter University in Devon, here in Britain.

Pappe had conventional views on the foundation of Israel, until his examination of Israel’s own archives and those of the British government revealed that the standard, accepted view of his country’s origins was merely a myth, contrived to justify the state’s oppression and dispossession of the Palestinians, the country’s indigenous inhabitants. He was one of a group, who became known as the New Historians, 3-4 historians, who working independently came to the same views. They included Benny Morrison, who since then has recanted. In the interview, Pappe talks about his experience researching the origins of Israel, the country’s founding myths, and his own experiences and that of some of the history students around him of academic and personal persecution and ostracism, and Israel’s possible future. Pappe states that he was interested in researching the British files on the foundation of Israel, as Britain under the Mandate was the occupying power, and he wondered how we saw the situation, as he believed the British hated both sides equally. Interspersed with Dr Pappe’s own comments are quotations from some of Israel’s leaders, such as David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Dyan and Menachem Begin. These are chilling and horrifying in their cold-blooded espousal of violence, brutality and massacre in their ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

Pappe states there are three myths about the foundation of Israel. These are:

1. It was a struggle between David and Goliath, with the nascent Jewish state the weaker combatant.

2. The Palestinians were hostile to the Jewish settlers from the start, and that they threatened the Jews with another Holocaust.

3. Israel has offered the Palestinians peace countless times, which they have repeatedly turned down.

He goes on to refute each of these.

He states that the War of Independence of 1948 certainly was not a conflict in which Israel was the weaker party. Israel and the invading Arab armies both had the same number of men and armaments. Israel was additionally helped by the fact that they had cut a deal with the Jordanians, who had been promised the West Bank if they did not fight alongside the other Arab nations. Nevertheless, the myth that Israel won against overwhelming odds has given the Israeli people the idea that they are invincible supermen. He states that this image can be seen in American movies, and the converse is true about Arabs and in particular the Palestinians. They are presented as the mysterious Other, hostile and cowardly.

He states that the Palestinians were not immediately hostile to the Jewish immigrants when they began to settle in Palestine. He states that Palestinians are Arabs, and the Arabs are very hospitable. This is true. It’s one of the characteristics, that have endeared the Arab people to many Westerners. People I’ve known, who’ve travelled to Egypt have told me about the unforced generosity of its people. Pappe states that many of the new settlers were taken in by their new Arab hosts, as the Palestinians felt sorry for them because many of them were very poor. This changed in the late 1920s when it became clear that not only did the Jewish immigrants not want to be guests, they wanted to be the possessors of the whole house, and its sole possessors at that.

As for rejecting the Israeli peace deal, the truth was it was the other way around. It was the Palestinians who first sued for peace in 1948. Furthermore, many of the peace deals that have been advanced by the Israelis since then have demanded such major territorial concession from the Palestinians, that they would be automatically unacceptable to every other nation as well, if they were placed in a similar position.

He also discusses the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. He states that after Israel’s victory in the 1948 War, the Jewish population was only 690,000 against 900,000 + Palestinians. They therefore began a deliberate policy of terror and harassment in order to force them out, as shown very clearly by the quotations from the Israeli leaders used in the video. The Israelis justified this through another myth: that the Palestinians had been encouraged to leave their homeland by the other Arabs, who told them that they could return to their homes after victory had been won. Pappe states that his examination of the records of the British listening posts showed that no such call was ever made. He also states very clearly that leading Israeli politicians, like David Ben-Gurion, who served as its president, are deeply implicated in this cleansing. Ben-Gurion was head of the organisation which had overall authority over the resettlement programme, and so had ultimate responsibility for its policies.

The Anti-Semitism Allegations: A Very British Coup Against the Left

May 18, 2016

I was sent this clip from RT’s Going Underground by one of the great commenters on this blog. In this piece, the anchor Arshid Rattansi talks to Max Blumenthal about highly politicised nature of the anti-Semitism allegations. Blumenthal argues that they are being made to defend Israel from criticism, particularly after the Gaza conflict, and shows that those accused also include religious Jews, and those of Jewish descent, whose anti-racist beliefs and pride in their heritage should not be questioned.

Max Blumenthal describes himself in the clip as ‘an anti-Zionist’ Jew. He’s the author, according to a pop-up text in the show, of Life and Loathing in the Greater Israel. He says he was struck by the strong similarity between the accusations of anti-Semitism, directed at Jeremy Corbyn and the plot of the book, A Very British Coup, by the former Labour MP, Chris Mullens. In Mullens’ book, a former steelworker, Harry Perkins, becomes the British Prime Minister, and embarks on a very left-wing, Marxist programme, nationalising industry and setting up anti-nuclear zones. Perkins is very popular, and to topple him from power, the British establishment, the press and the right-wing of the Labour party, aided by the security agencies, manufacture quotes smearing him as an anti-Semite.

Blumenthal states that this is what is being done to Jeremy Corbyn, including groups within the Labour party that are close to the Zionist lobby. These are the Blairites in the Progress party-within-the-party and Labour Friends of Israel. Corbyn himself has said nothing anti-Semitic and has attended a meeting of the Labour Friends of Israel. On the other hand, he has embraced much of the programme of the BDS campaign – Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement, which seeks to persuade firms and consumers from dealing with firms or purchasing goods made in the occupied West Bank. He has also opened his office to anti-Zionist Jews, including Blumenthal himself. Blumenthal also makes the point that this started two years ago in 2014 when Ed Milliband, who was also Jewish, criticised the Israeli attack on Gaza. Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, who has joined in these allegations, was previously one of the spokesmen for Likud regime defending Israel’s actions during the attack. The definition of anti-Semitism used to justify these actions is highly partisan and politicised. It is not the definition used by some Jewish journalists and philosophers, which is that it is hatred of ‘Jews simply as Jews’, but hatred of the state of Israel. Regev even falsely accused Corbyn’s spokesman, Seaumas Milne in an interview, of saying that he wanted Israel’s destruction, before having to take that back 35 minutes later.

Some of those accused of anti-Semitism include Jews, and people of Jewish descent, whose character should be beyond reproach. In Britain, these include Jacqui Walker. Walker is a black woman of Jewish heritage, who is an anti-racist activist. She was suspended on these charges for a tweet she made saying that slavery was the Black equivalent of the Holocaust. Rattansi states that this isn’t anti-Semitic, just a very strong statement condemning slavery. In America, Bernie Sanders, also Jewish, has been attacked for being anti-Semitic for being critical about Israel. He was also forced to sack his ‘Jewish Outreach Officer’, Simone Zimmerman. Zimmerman is a very religious Jew, who is active in her community. But she also committed the heinous sin of objecting to Israel. Blumenthal states that Sanders and Corbyn have had some contact, but that criticism of Israel is far more muted in America, because AIPAC, the Zionist lobby in America is much more powerful than BICOM, its British equivalent. Blumenthal mentions an awkward moment during an interview Bernie Sanders gave to Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Sanders’ raised the point that Comcast, the parent company, was owned by someone, who donated to AIPAC, and that one of its leading journalists, Wolf Blitzer, was also a leading journo and researcher for the lobbyists, and that therefore the show would not broadcast any material critical of Israel. Blumenthal makes the point, however, that there is a grassroots movement in the Democrats away from supporting Israel. This is largely from younger people, who are more secular, and because the country has become much more diverse.

The show has a caveat at the end, stating that they tried to get into contact with Comcast, who made the statement that they do not interfere in the editorial contents of their shows.

Here’s the interview:

CounterPunch have also published a series of articles about the anti-Semitism allegations, pointing out that these are all about the Zionist lobby trying to protect its own interests and Israel against what are perfectly legitimate criticisms. Blumenthal mentions that some of the allegations were made against people, who have criticised the Israeli premier, Benjamin Netanyahu. There’s nothing anti-Semitic about this. I can remember going to a science talk given by a British scientist, who was a staunch supporter of multiculturalism and who had clearly worked in Israel. He had nothing but contempt for the man, whom he described as ‘That b*stard Netanyahu’. There was no condemnation of Israel qua Israel, and certainly no condemnation of the Jewish people. Just a fair comment about the brutal thug governing the country.

As for the extension of the definition of anti-Semitism from its accepted meaning ‘hatred of Jewish as Jews’ to ‘hatred of the state of Israel’, this also won’t wash. Those on the left, who object to Israel, do so because they see it as a White, colonialist settler state, like apartheid South Africa, or indeed the USA. They do not object to it, because its people are Jews.

Moreover, the accepted definition of anti-Semitism, as hatred of Jews simply because of their ethnicity, is that of the person, who first invented the term, Julius Marr. Marr was the founder and leader of one of 19th century Germany’s leading anti-Jewish groups, the League of Anti-Semites. Marr coined the term to describe hatred of Jews based on their racial heritage, rather than their religion. Again, his definition doesn’t have anything to do with the state of Israel. The only way an anti-Semitism allegation against someone based on their opposition to Israel would be correct by that definition, would be if their objection to it was purely or mainly because Israelis were Jewish. This doesn’t appear to be the case in most of these allegations, if any.

As for the suspension of Jacqui Walker for commenting that ‘Slavery was Black people’s Holocaust’, it’s extreme and highly emotive, but it’s one that has certainly been said before. I think it was first made by the highly respected civil rights pioneer, W.E.B. DuBois, after he became a citizen of Ghana after the War. He compared the treatment of Blacks under slavery to the atrocities against the Jews by the Third Reich. In 1994 Bristol’s involvement in the slave trade came under the spotlight once again with the TV adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s A Respectable Trade, and the exhibition of the same name at the City Museum. One particular point of controversy is the statue to Edward Colson on the city centre. Many Black Bristolians wish to see the statue removed. Colson was a wealth patron, who donated generously to charity for the people of Bristol. It was with money donated by him that Colston girls’ school was set up, which still continues today. He made his money from the slave trade, however, and that’s the reason why his statue is so controversial. Gregory presented a feature on Bristol’s legacy from the slave trade during which she interviewed Paul Stephenson, a Black civil rights activist in the city. Stephenson, obviously, had nothing but hatred and contempt for Colson, saying that he was responsible for ‘a holocaust in Africa’. As far as I know, no allegations were made of anti-Semitism against Stephenson for his remarks.

And their people’s experience of persecution and exile from their ancestral homeland through slavery and its aftermath has led some Black writers to identify with the Jewish people. Also back in the 1990s the Black British writer, Caryl Philips, that the historical experiences of Blacks and Jews in this fashion were so close, that sometimes he believed he was Jewish. This caused a little controversy, with Hilary Mantel, the Jewish author of Wolf Hall, writing in reply that Phillips shouldn’t be so daft, as the Jewish experience was unique to Jews. Phillips might be mistaken about the identity of Black and Jewish historical suffering, but he was not anti-Semitic. Far from it.

However, underlying these accusations is a renewed feeling of insecurity amongst Britain’s Jews. There have been reports that anti-Semitic attacks have gone up, especially after the Israeli attack on Gaza. A few years ago there were a couple of festivals celebrating the Jewish contribution to British culture. There was a festival of Jewish literature, which was a general festival of books by Jews. Non-Jews were welcome to come, and the writers speaking at this event included, I believe Howard Jacobson and Hilary Mantel. There was also a festival of Jewish comedy, which was featured on the One Show. It was also covered on Radio 4. The blurb for the radio programme about it stated that one of the reasons it was being staged was because Jews were facing competition as comedians from other ethnic groups. There has thus been some insecurity amongst British Jews about their place in Britain, partly caused by the growth of other ethnic groups in Britain’s changing diverse society. The allegations of anti-Semitism made by the Zionist lobby against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party reflect and draw on this insecurity. Of course, attacking Jews because of the actions of the Israelis is wrong, and should be condemned as anti-Semitic. But this does not make condemnation of Israel for its actions and treatment of the Palestinians anti-Semitic.