‘Anti-zionism is not antisemitism’

Statement on ‘Labour’s problem with antisemitism’ from the Jewish Socialists’ Group.

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Labour MP John Mann publicly accused former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone of antisemitism.

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The following statement was issued by the Jewish Socialists Group (JSG) on 28 April 2016, in response to the contrived campaign accusing the Jeremy Corbyn leadership of the Labour party of antisemitism. This campaign not only seeks to undermine Corbyn. More importantly, it is but the latest example of a concerted attempt by imperialism and its zionist stooges to equate the settler colonial state of Israel with the jewish religion, culture and people, and thereby to criminalise support for the just struggle of the Palestinian people.

Antisemitism exists and must be exposed and fought against in the same way as other forms of racism by all who are concerned with combating racism and fascism.

Antisemitism and anti-zionism are not the same. Zionism is a political ideology which has always been contested within jewish life since it emerged in 1897, and it is entirely legitimate for non-jews as well as jews to express opinions about it, whether positive or negative. Not all jews are zionists. Not all zionists are jews.

Criticism of Israeli government policy and Israeli state actions against the Palestinians is not antisemitism. Those who conflate criticism of Israeli policy with antisemitism, whether they are supporters or opponents of Israeli policy, are actually helping the antisemites. We reject any attempt, from whichever quarter, to place legitimate criticism of Israeli policy out of bounds.

Accusations of antisemitism are currently being weaponised to attack the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour party with claims that Labour has a ‘problem’ of antisemitism. This is despite Corbyn’s longstanding record of actively opposing fascism and all forms of racism, and being a firm a supporter of the rights of refugees and of human rights globally.

A very small number of such cases seem to be real instances of antisemitism. Others represent genuine criticism of Israeli policy and support for Palestinian rights, but expressed in clumsy and ambiguous language, which may unknowingly cross a line into antisemitism. Further cases are simply forthright expressions of support for Palestinian rights, which condemn Israeli government policy and aspects of zionist ideology, and have nothing whatsoever to do with antisemitism.

The accusations do not refer to antisemitic actions but usually to comments, often made on social media, long before Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership. Those making the charges now did not see fit to bring them up at the time, under previous Labour leaders, but are using them now, just before mayoral and local elections, when they believe they can inflict most damage on the Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn.

The attack is coming from four main sources, who share agendas: to undermine Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Labour; to defend Israeli government policy from attack, however unjust, racist and harmful towards the Palestinian people; and to discredit those who make legitimate criticisms of Israeli policy or zionism as a political ideology.

As anti-racist and anti-fascist jews who are also campaigning for peace with justice between Israelis and Palestinians, we entirely reject these cynical agendas that are being expressed by:

• The Conservative party
• Conservative-supporting media in Britain and pro-zionist Israeli media sources
• Right-wing and pro-zionist elements claiming to speak on behalf of the Jewish community
• Opponents of Jeremy Corbyn within the Labour party.

The Jewish Socialists’ Group recognises that ordinary jewish people are rightly concerned and fearful about instances of antisemitism. We share their concerns and a have a proud and consistent record of challenging and campaigning against antisemitism. But we will not support those making false accusations for cynical political motives, including the Conservative party, which is running a racist campaign against Sadiq Khan, and whose leader, David Cameron, has referred to desperate refugees as “a swarm” and “a bunch of migrants”.

The Conservative party demonstrated its contempt for Lord Dubs, a jewish refugee from nazism, when it voted down en masse an amendment a few days ago to allow 3,000 child refugees into Britain while Labour, led by Jeremy Corbyn, gave total support to Lord Dubs and his amendment.

The Jewish Socialists’ Group sees the current fearmongering about antisemitism in the Labour party for what it is – a conscious and concerted effort by right-wing political forces to undermine the growing support among jews and non-jews alike for the Labour party leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and a measure of the desperation of his opponents.

We stand against antisemitism, against racism and fascism and in support of refugees. We stand for free speech and open debate on Israel, Palestine and zionism.