Britain’s Labour Party is not doing enough to combat anti-Semitism masked as anti-Zionism, three prominent and influential British Jewish writers have claimed.
Historians Simon Shama, Simon Sebag Montefiore and novelist Howard Jacobson penned an open letter in the U.K.’s The Times criticizing Jeremy Corbyn’s party for what they called its “derisory” response to anti-Zionism that they claim has become indistinguishable from anti-Semitism.
“We are alarmed that during the past few years, constructive criticism of Israeli governments has morphed into something closer to antisemitism under the cloak of so-called anti-Zionism,” the joint letter read.
This is an important letter. The trio are all passionate Zionists. Shama once created an entire hour-long documentary for the BBC giving the moral case for Israel and he defended Israel’s reaction to Hamas terror in Gaza. Montefiore, from the famed Zionist famly, wrote the acclaimed “Jerusalem: A Biography.” Jacobson has fiercely defended Zionism in print.
So it is most disappointing – nay, infuriating – to read that their open letter included this passage:
“We do not forget nor deny that the Palestinian people have an equally legitimate, ancient history and culture in Palestine nor that they have suffered wrongs that must be healed. We hope that a Palestinian state will exist peacefully alongside Israel…”
Equally legitimate ancient history and culture in Palestine?
The first two are historians, for God’s sake. How can they say that Palestinian history and culture are on a par with that of Jews?
The idea is absurd. There were no Arab people called “Palestinian” before the 20th century, and the only reason they exist is to deny Zionism. Their “ancient history and culture” consists of soap from Nablus and costumes from Bethlehem, which no one ever called “Palestinian,” and little else.
It is an insult to Jews and Zionists to equate the two claims and narratives and ideas of “justice.”.
Even if you give these writers the benefit of the doubt and say that they are only making this claim to allow their message about antisemitism to be easier to swallow by British anti-Zionists – doesn’t that mean that they don’t really believe that anti-Zionism is a modern form of antisemitism? It dilutes their argument, instead of strengthening it.
Moreover, when prominent Jews openly say that the Jewish claim on the Jewish homeland is nothing special, then why on earth should the rest of the world think that Israel has a right to exist – especially when Arabs universally claim that Jews have no rights to the land whatsoever? Who wins that argument? The British Zionist leaders are handing the keys to Jewish holy places to those who want to ban Jews from visiting.
The fear that prominent Jewish Zionists have to fearlessly defend the Jewish claims to Israel in the face of the Arab lies is sickening. Israel’s claim to all of the land from the Jordan to the Mediterranean is far superior to that of anyone else – historically, culturally, politically, legally. When the most prominent Zionists in Britain show that even they don’t believe that, there is something very rotten going on in England.
The irony is that people respect those who are strong in their beliefs that they are right. Embracing the Arab narrative makes observers doubt the sincerity of these prominent Jews, no matter how eloquently they state the case for Israel in other contexts. The truth is solidly on the side of Israel, and their propleptically giving the arguments for the other side dilutes their message. They could have simply said that Palestinian Arabs have rights too – as all humans do – and that their rights must be respected in any solution to the conflict.
There may be legitimate reasons to want a two-state solution. But it should be done because Israel, the entity that has the strongest claim, is willing to compromise on that claim for peace. If it is done because one legitimizes Arab claims, then Arab claims on Green Line Israel are just as compelling (and illegitimate) as their claims on the “territories.” (And you will never hear even the most moderate Palestinian say that Jews have a right to self-determination.)
No self-respecting Zionist can accept any part of the Palestinian Arab claims – because the very acceptance of those claims negates Jewish claims. That is the entire point of Palestinian nationalism since the 1910s – to delegitimize Zionism and Jewish peoplehood altogether. If there was no Zionism, there would have never been Palestinian nationalism which exists to combat Zionism. (Where were the Palestinian nationalists demanding self-determination in the territories between 1948 amd 1967?)
If Schama and Montefiore disagree, please, I would love to hear their arguments. I have looked for years for any evidence of a “Palestinian” nation and culture and people that predate Zionism, without luck.
I have no doubt that these three writers love Israel, but they seem very unaware of how much damage they can unwittingly cause to the nation they love by embracing the narrative of those who want to destroy Israel.
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