Yesterday there was an event at the House of Lords, put together by the Palestine Return Council (PRC). The evening was hosted by Jenny Tonge.
There were no tickets remaining, but I had to go. The PRC and I have history. It was at one of their events that Gerald Kaufman told tales of Jewish money and Israeli conspiracies. Jenny Tonge needs little introduction. I wanted in. A little back story, a tale or two spun along the way, and I had successfully gate-crashed a party at the Houses of Parliament. Soon I was sitting in the front row of committee room 2A.
As it turned out Tonge was tame, but there was still much to shake me. I go to so many of these events and I am still trying to formulate a complete picture of what it is I am seeing. For example, there is more antisemitism in the air than there was 18 months ago. Much more. I see it on campus, I saw buckets of it at a recent event at Lichfield. I saw it last night at Westminster. A definite increase. But why?
There is no point being directed by anger, nor to lose yourself in the creation of an irrational inhuman enemy. These methods merely provide a lazy way out, a system of avoiding uncomfortable moments of self-reflection. Theirs is a line that can be drawn. Drawn between the civil war in 1948 and those who sit in the House of Lords today demanding an apology from the British government. We can draw the line further back, even beyond the 1917 letter they created this event to discuss.
I look around and feel sorry for the Arabs in the room. They have tied their flag to yet another pole that will only bring additional wasted years, more bloodshed. I cast my mind back to the Arab families I knew so well. Families, friends, in Ramallah, Nablus, Jericho and Bethlehem. In Qalqilya and Tulkarm. These are the choices of the people representing them? It is 16 years since the outbreak of the second ‘intifada’. Since all those bridges were burnt. Another generation wasted. How can you not have sympathy for a desperate people who depend so totally on this, the hopeless cast of a thousand who lead them?
The PRC event
Almost immediately I realised I was not the only Zionist in the room. Jenny Tonge publicly welcomed someone from ‘Israel radio’. I am not sure why she did this. Tonge used the opportunity to score points, by thanking the reporter for the publicity his articles had brought her in the past. Reveling in her own notoriety. But she had also passed warning to everyone present that Zionist ears were in the room. From that moment I knew Jenny Tonge would be on her best behaviour.
The event was to launch the ‘apology for Balfour’ campaign and the central thrust was to discuss activity over the next twelve months. Within a week we can expect to see the launch of an online petition – target 100,000 signatures by late Spring. There are also plans to have a large public demonstration in Trafalgar Square at the time of the 100th anniversary.
Then came the speakers. One introducing himself as a ‘British Palestinian’. What a ‘British Palestinian’ is I have no idea. They are born here. They are British passport holders, not refugees. This one Karl Sabbagh was born in Worcestershire in the early 1940’s, so whatever his family did, they did out of their own self interest. His mother was British, of American and Irish parentage. Karl is willing the international community to create an alliance of power to remove the ‘invaders’ and replace the Jewish state. A mirror image of the Zionist monster he imagines in his head. Karl Sabbagh is on a strange personal mission.
The first two talks were nothing special. The same fare I have heard 1000 times. Balfour was ‘a mistake’. The telling of a narrative held together by sticky tape with a C.S Lewis or Enid Blyton signature. The third talk was by Betty Hunter, Honorary President of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Enough said. There was also a ‘special guest’ speaker, who had not been on the programme. Yakov M. Rabkin, ‘a professor of history at the Université de Montréal’. A rabid anti-Zionist Jew.
Then the audience gets to speak. We leave the scripted, careful talk behind, and open up the room for comment. There were four incidents that I need to describe, to expand on this issue of growing antisemitism. But first, the groundwork:
The failure of a science
The pro-Palestinian reasoning is built on falsehoods. It is why ‘anti-Israeli’ is a more fitting description of the movement. In truth, they do nothing to help the Palestinians. Yes, they support their friend the British Palestinian. And yes, they wave the flag of an emotional cause. But to assist the future of the actual Palestinian family? To invest, build infrastructure, help carve the groundwork for a future nation? To encourage sacrificing some of the ‘principles’ to gain future prosperity for the children? These are things *nobody* in the anti-Israel camp ever does.
The narrative itself is founded on too many myths to withstand rigorous investigation. The conclusions and assumptions built from within this ‘paradigm’ are therefore also false. This creates major issues for those who have become emotionally invested in the Palestinian cause.
Prior to 2000 there was room to maneuver. As the Oslo process presented a two state option, it was possible to be both ‘for the Palestinians’ and in theory at least, a vocal supporter of Israel. This possibility collapsed in September 2000, in the violence of the second Intifada.
The Israelis and most of the rational world understood the causes and implications of the failure of the Oslo process. Sure, Israel hadn’t been the perfect partner, and no, they hadn’t stuck precisely to the letter of the agreement. But this didn’t cause the intifada. The violence was strategy, a Palestinian choice. The leadership, such as it was, remained unable to provide an end game. They left the negotiating table. Today the weakness of the Palestinian leadership is amplified ten-fold.
For the opposing camp this was a dilemma. The outbreak signaled a major flaw with the underlying assumptions. Enough to cause a shift. This fundamental challenge destroyed the Israeli peace camp. Further, outside of the hard core supporters, the violence ended support for the Palestinian cause. You cannot sell bus bombs to the public. For the Arab narrative to hold true, additional adjustments needed to be made to the basic principles. So the narrative of ‘demonic Israel’ began to enter the mainstream.
Anyone familiar with Thomas Khun’s structure of scientific revolutions understands, there is always strong resistance to change from within the ‘established community’. The community will continue to add ever more elaborate dimensions to their paradigm in an attempt to hold it together. The Israeli left collapsed because they were no longer able to maintain scientific cohesion. For if the Arabs had to be absolved of blame entirely, despite the evidence at hand, Israel needed to turn from a nation seeking to defend itself, into a demon state, capable of committing all evils. The Israeli left knew this was not true.
This ‘demonic’ element is now a primary pillar on which the entire movement is built. People such as Ben White, Max Blumenthal and Ronnie Barkan have made careers out of it. So as expected, last night, at every turn, Israel was demonised. There can be nothing worthy about Israel at all. When Betty Hunter got the chance to discuss the label of democratic Israel, this is what she said:
“A crucial point that is put in the media all the time, and that is Israel is not a democracy. It is not a democracy because not all the citizens have the same rights. They can’t live in the same places, they can’t get the same jobs, they can’t go to the schools together, they don’t get the same amount back from the taxes, which are equal, that’s very equal between the Palestinian Israelis and the Jewish Israelis, but the benefits do not go to the Palestinian population, and we heard about what happened, as Karl said, to the elected representatives to the Knesset. We just have to remember the campaign that has been going on all year about the Bedouin people who are being driven from their land in their 10,000’s. There has been many more already driven from their lands, but this is the current catastrophe. So it is not a democracy. And that is another issue that we have to explain to the British public.”
Of course, this is nonsense. By any reasonable measure Israel is a vibrant democracy. When placed against the majority of nations on this planet, Israel’s liberal values simply sparkle. But it is important to note the demonic label is not restricted to Israeli policy inside the lands taken in 1967, but rather the opposite. It is vital for the ’cause’, that the very nature of the Israeli state be called into question. Thus the ludicrous labels of Apartheid, Settler Colonial, Genocidal and so on. Singling out Israel to question its right to exist. It is why the BDS movement has to focus on Israeli citizens as well.
Yet although this demonising process became absolutely crucial if the anti-Israel movement was to maintain integrity, this scientific ‘bolt-on’, created another issue within the ranks. The accusation of antisemitism. The overwhelming majority of Jewish people are Zionists. According to recent polling, over 90% of Jewish people inside the UK believe Israel is a part of their Jewish identity. Anti-Zionist Jews are but a tiny fringe, split between communists and a single strange ultra-orthodox sect. As you begin to demonise Israel and Israeli supporters, you are effectively tarnishing almost every single Jew.
So we arrive at a crossroads again. How can the cause maintain integrity, whist at the same time allow for the horrific accusation of antisemitism to be leveled towards the humanitarian groups of the left? Never underestimate the innovation of adherents desperate to maintain the inherent structural logic of their own particular paradigm. It was time to split the Jewish people.
The Zionist and the Jew
As questions were asked, another Zionist Jew, Mike Abramov, presented himself. Mike often goes to these type of events to oppose the venom. In a room full of vitriolic, there are brave individuals who will not sit idly as these lies are spread. He spoke up for Israel. The woman sitting next to me said ‘there is always one’. I recognised her, she was at the Lichfield event. Then the turn came of a ‘Palestinian writer and political analyst’ who commented about Balfour being deliberate, rather than a mistake, and then suddenly he went on:
“I want to thank the professor, and what a difference, between the Jew and the Zionist’” (Applause.) A Jew admits…(pause) most Jews who admit that Israel does not stand for them, should come forward and stand with us, because what we want is coexistence. We don’t want to throw anyone into the sea, we want to reclaim our rights, and we want the world to stand with us for claiming our rights.”
He made that remark in reference to the difference between the acceptable (to him) Jewish anti-Zionist professor and the Zionist Jewish attendee who stuck up for the democratic Jewish state. This comment denied the Jewishness of the Zionist. It creates a good Jew, a real Jew, and on the other side, the Zionist. Because what is the message here: Real Jews are ones who hate Israel. Only if you hate Israel will we accept you as Jewish.
Putting aside the veiled threat aimed at anyone who does want to stand with Israel, this is the anti-Israel camp defining what is Jewish and what is not. Last night, in the House of Lords, my Jewish identity was deliberately and specifically attacked. But there is more:
The Zionists who caused the holocaust
At a certain point in the evening, four ultra-orthodox Jews from the Neturei Karta showed up. As relevant to Judaism as some esoteric Christian sect is to Christianity, yet these same handful are at the front of every anti-Israeli action in the UK. When one came to talk, it is difficult to overstate the bile that came from his mouth.
First, he compared Israel to ISIS. “Isis is a perversion of Islam just as Zionism is a perversion of Judaism.” Then he continued:
“One of the main Zionists in America, Rabbi Stephen Wise, a reform, a heretic, so called Rabbi, he spoke in the New York Times in 1905, there are six million, note the number, bleeding and suffering reasons to justify Zionism.”
I cannot stress strongly enough the implication of the instruction to ‘note the number’. This is from a holocaust denial script. The suggestion used on neo-Nazi sites is that this quote is evidence that the Jews had already decided on the six million figure 40 years before the holocaust. Therefore, the holocaust is a hoax. You can read an example here (NOT SAFE FOR WORK). Why else mention it? If you Google Rabbi Stephen Wise and six million, almost every site on the page is one to avoid.
Not done with regurgitating the holocaust hoax argument, the man then continued:
“And thirty years later, he made the boycott on Germany, the economic boycott on Germany which antagonised Hitler, over the edge, to then want to systematically kill Jews wherever he could find them. As opposed to ‘Judenrein’, to make Germany free of Jews, a Jew free land. Which is enough, but that is noted by one of our Rabbis, that is what pushed him over the edge. His personal secretary Ribbentrop was in Nuremberg trials, he said to Rabbi Wise(?), this is what, he became a madman after this boycott, Judea declares war on Germany. In Manhattan they had 100, 000 people marching in the economic boycott in 1935, it was the same heretic rabbi who caused that.”
This places the blame of the holocaust squarely onto the Zionists. Unlike Livingstone, this isn’t even an accusation of a life-saving deal, this is saying that the Zionist actions caused Hitler to go mad and kill Jews. Good Jews, bad Zionists. If you want to read more of this type of thought, you can find it on neo-Nazi sites such as Rense or Stormfront. The one other place where such thought is entertained is on the Satmar website.
Another comment from the audience:
“Chaim Weizmann did a confidence trick back in 1917/1918. He made the British establishment think that world Jewry had power that it just didn’t have. The trouble is, 100 years on, I am not talking about world Jewry, I am talking about ‘that segment’ which we call the ‘Zionist movement’ has that power, and it has it over our own parliament”.
This is the transference of classic antisemitic tropes, from the hands of the Jew to the hands of the Zionist. This comment makes no sense outside of the existence of antisemitism. How can the ‘Zionist movement’ control anything? Believe me. I’ve met most of the leaders of the Zionist groups in the UK. Nice guys they may be, world controllers they are not.
And the evening was over. I went home. I was physically sick. This is not the first time I have witnessed such an event within the central estate of one of the greatest democracies on earth. What is important to understand is the connection is a logical one, that is central to the cohesion of the argument. Antisemitism is a natural by-product of the anti-Israel position. Further, to maintain integrity, several new myths have to be propagated.
You will frequently hear the tale of the Khazars, suggesting Jews are not even Jewish. Interestingly, they apply the Jewish label freely onto anyone who will demonise Israel. Such as Jackie Walker, Naomi-Wimborne Idrissi and so on. Only Zionist Jews have a fake heritage.
I am hearing more and more mention of Christian Zionism. As if Zionism isn’t actually a Jewish ‘thing’ at all. Rather, antisemites and Christian Zionists created a monster through Balfour, Zionists, with their Jewish status now removed, are evildoers who must be opposed. Real Jews oppose Zionists. Through this method they define ‘Jewishness’. They create a type of Jew it is legitimate to hate. A brilliantly created necessity to prop up a narrative full of holes. Jews must pay the price. At some point someone commented that “if anyone is anti-Semitic it is the Israelis themselves”.
Zionist power. For every insult that was once thrown at Jews, is now safely directed towards any Jew who supports Israel (almost all Jews). Zionists control the banks, the media and as we heard yesterday, Zionists control the government. How is this not antisemitism?
Zionists have evil intent. Such as the Livingstone episode or the issue above with the Jewish boycott.
These are groups of people with major emotional investment in their cause. They will not simply ‘let go’. It is getting worse because it has to. The anti-Zionist movement cannot maintain integrity without further fueling the split between Jew and Zionist, the more they do this, the louder the accusations of antisemitism will become. The more they must create divisions. A vicious circle.
It is absolutely true that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism as we have seen it before. This is a new breed. A mixture. It is dangerous and it is scary because this anti-Zionist movement cannot survive without carrying the antisemitism along with it.
So for the Jewish Zionist, the vast majority of Jewish people in the world, we become targets. Until someone in a position of power puts a stop to this, preferably through an accepted definition of antisemitism, the vast majority of Jews remain ‘legitimate’ targets of hate crimes. Let’s face it, yesterday, I witnessed a Jew hating festival at the heart of the British estate. In the meantime. Balfour is cause for celebration. The only apology needs to come from those responsible for feeding antisemitism last night.
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