Remember all those months ago when the Jewish Labour Movement and the Blairites in the Labour party had a collective feeding frenzy and went howling after ‘Red’ Ken, accusing him of being a terrible anti-Semite? Livingstone had committed the unutterable crime of trying to defend other members of the Labour party, falsely accused of anti-Semitism, by stating quite truthfully that Hitler had supported the Zionist movement.
This is quite true. Before embarking on the horrific ‘Final Solution’ the Nazis had as a way of creating a Judenrein Germany. The gave aid and support to people smugglers sending Jews covertly to Palestine, then under the British Mandate. And the Zionists themselves preferred Nazi persecution of their people, to tolerance and the patriotic Jewish groups fighting to stay in their homelands, like the Jewish ex-servicemen’s league in Germany. The Zionist leaders made monstrous pronouncements about preferring all of the Jews in Germany to suffer at the hands of the Nazis rather than half of them being saved if they found sanctuary in England, so long as some went to Israel.
All this is a matter of historic fact. You can find it in the history books, including those written by very pro-Zionist Jews. Yet it didn’t stop the cries of anti-Semitism, or John Mann doorstepping Livingstone to scream the accusation at him. And many histories of Fascism have pointed out that anti-Semites elsewhere, including Britain, were also Zionists through their determination to cleanse their countries of their Jewish population.
Behind all this raving Zionist hysteria is the determination of the Jewish lobby to conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism. Israel is the Jewish state, and so, according to the Likudniks and the Israel lobby, any hostility to Israel can only be motivated by anti-Semitism. Even if the person criticising Israel is Jewish. Then they’re accused of self-hatred. And Jews and Gentiles alike have been accused of Jew-hatred, even when they are decent individuals without a racist, anti-Semitic bone in their bodies.
This was the reason Jackie Walker, the deputy chair of Momentum, was accused of anti-Semitism for her comments made at a day workshop in preparation for Holocaust Memorial Day. Walker had questioned the organisers’ definition of anti-Semitism, which explicitly conflated it with anti-Zionism. She also criticised it for the way it exclusively concentrated on the Holocaust, giving little, if any, mention of other genocides and crimes against humanity, such as slavery. Walker is half-Jewish herself, and her partner is Jewish. Her daughter attends a Jewish school. Her mother was a Black woman, deported from America for joining the Black American civil rights struggle. Her comments about Israel and the slave trade are part of a general debate amongst historians, scholars and anti-racist activists, including Jews. But that didn’t stop the Israel lobby demanding her head as a terrible anti-Semite.
Now it seems that Netanyahu and the other members of his Likud-led coalition cannot, by their own actions, accuse others of being anti-Semitic if they don’t equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, or even worse, remind the world that many anti-Semites were pro-Zionist. ‘Cause Netanyahu has now done the same himself. He has publicly embraced Trump’s cabinet, which includes two notorious anti-Semites, for the support Trump is going to give Israel.
Neve Gordon has written an excellent article about this in Friday’s Counterpunch.
In February, the Israeli prime minister praised the British government for introducing new guidelines prohibiting publicly funded bodies from boycotting Israeli products. ‘I want to commend the British government for refusing to discriminate against Israel and Israelis and I commend you for standing up for the one and only true democracy in the Middle East,’ Netanyahu said.
‘Modern anti-Semitism,’ he went on, ‘not only attacks individual Jews, but attacks them collectively, and the slanders that were hurled over centuries against the Jewish people are now hurled against the Jewish state.’
Progressive voices such as Jewish Voice for Peace have tried for years to counter the insidious conflation of criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, but the identification may now be unravelling at last because of a forceful intervention from the right.
She then discusses Trump’s appointment of Steven Bannon and Jeff Sessions. Bannon was accused by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency of putting anti-Semitic material on Breitbart, while Jeff Sessions is another White supremacist with a reputation for anti-Semitism. Sessions made distasteful joke sometime ago about thinking the KKK were all right, before he found out they smoked dope.
But now Netanyahu as embraced Trump, the hero of the racist, anti-Semitic Alt-Right. Netanyahu’s education minister, Naftali Bennett, happily sat next to Bannon last Sunday at a dinner organised by the Zionist Association of America. Bernie Marcus, the founder of Home Depot and a member of the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition, praised Bannon, stating
‘I have known Steve to be a passionate Zionist and supporter of Israel who felt so strongly about this that he opened a Breitbart office in Israel to ensure that the true pro-Israel story would get out.’
Neve Gordon’s article rightly concludes
Israel’s leaders and their right-wing Jewish allies in the United States, in other words, have no problem stomaching anti-Semitism so long as the anti-Semite supports Zionism. But if an anti-Semite can be a Zionist then anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are not the same.
This shows the amoral political utilitarianism and hypocrisy of the Israel lobby. With Netanyahu’s embrace of Trump and his foul cabinet, they no longer have any right whatsoever to accuse anyone of anti-Semitism simply because they criticise Israel and its decades of brutality towards the indigenous Palestinians. And they have just proved Livingstone to be right about Nazis supporting Zionism. They did during the Third Reich. And they’re doing so now, with the bland co-operation and blessing of the Likud.