The latest revelations to emerge from the Al Jazeera investigation into the work of the Israeli embassy in London and pro-Israel lobby groups in Britain are a reminder of an issue that once dominated the headlines: the Labour Party’s so-called “anti-Semitism crisis”.
Like Israeli embassy official Shai Masot being caught on camera seeking to “take down” British politicians, the fact that Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) director MP Joan Ryan is shown to have misrepresented and smeared a pro-Palestinian party member is instructive, but not a shock. Read more
The warm congratulations extended by Israeli politicians to Donald Trump after his election victory was unsurprising. Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is a coalition of right-to-far-right parties, including ministers with a penchant for authoritarian, nationalist legislation, and anti-Palestinian, Islamophobic rhetoric. Read more
This month marks the 99th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration and the beginning in earnest of preparations for next year’s centenary.
Israel and its supporters are gearing up for a celebration of what they see as an historic document that underpins the state’s legitimacy. Palestinians and their allies, meanwhile, are seeking an apology from Britain for an injustice whose impact is still felt today. Read more
By now, it is clear that the UK Labour Party’s so-called “crisis” of anti-Semitism is being used to delegitimise anti-Zionism by groups and individuals who see the two as one and the same thing. It is that conflation I want to address, and specifically, how it is only possible through the dehumanisation and disappearance of the Palestinians. Read more
Earlier this year, I took a look at a booklet by the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) called ‘The Apartheid Smear’, authored by staffer Alan Johnson. Intended as a “vital tool” for fighting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, the publication is full of errors and omissions; for example, it doesn’t mention the illegality of Israeli settlements even once.
I am returning to BICOM and Alan Johnson, following the latter’s interventions in recent debates on BDS and antisemitism. Johnson presents himself as a leftist when arguing Israel’s corner, especially in contexts where Israeli apartheid gets short shrift (e.g. campuses). He also tends to repeat the same points again and again – so here is the BICOM guide to defending Netanyahu’s Israel. Read more
“If there are other inhabitants there, they must be transferred to some other place. We must take over the land. We have a greater and nobler ideal than preserving several hundred thousands of Arab fellahin.”
Menahem Ussishkin, chair of Jewish National Fund, 1930.
There is a lot of discussion about Zionism at the moment: how to define it, what it means to be anti-Zionist and whether that equates to antisemitism, and so on. But there has been a notable, and instructive, absence in these debates: an understanding of what Zionism has meant for Palestinians. Read more
In 2005, a draft, working definition of antisemitism was circulated by the European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). To the dismay of its critics, the document confused genuine antisemitism with criticism of Israel, and was repeatedly, and erroneously, promoted by Israel advocacy groups as the EU definition of antisemitism.
By 2013, the EUMC’s successor body, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), had abandoned the politicised definition as unfit for purpose. Just this week, in response to a motion passed at NUS conference, the FRA explicitly denied having ever adopted the definition. Yet on March 30, Eric Pickles, UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust issues and chair of Conservative Friends of Israel, revived the discredited definition by publishing it on the government’s website. Why? Read more
Critics of Israel’s policies and the ongoing colonial displacement of Palestinians are familiar with the antisemitism smear. Now, faced with a growing boycott and allies increasingly frustrated with its rejectionist, ultra/right-wing policies, Israel is preparing to up the ante in its attack on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
This week, the Israeli government is convening the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism (GFCA) in Jerusalem. The fifth event of its kind, the conference is billed as “the premier biennial gathering for assessing the state of antisemitism globally, and formulating effective forms of societal and governmental response.” Read more