Don’t define my antisemitism!

The respectability of antizionism has fallen over the perpetrators of antisemitism offering them a free pass to attack Jews just as long as they proclaim their love for Palestine while attacking the “Zios”, the “Zonazis” or “the Israel lobby” and never using the word Jew.

Jew hatred is a strange beast. Most of the time even when it stares people in the face those staring back see nothing more than a figment of their imagination dismissed as easily as any other. Even when a victim of that beast points to it and screams out its presence those who turn their heads and look see nothing. They then invariably turn their attention to the accuser to pour scorn and ridicule upon them.

It’s as if the Jew is in the wrong for forcing people to turn and look at a monster they refuse to see.

I imagine this was very much how Ronnie Fraser felt in the wake of his failed legal battle against the University College Union for (apparently not) discriminating against him as a Jew.

This situation where antisemitism is alleged but not proven, where the Jew stands up as a victim but is attacked as a perpetrator has led to a situation where antisemitism simply isn’t recognised as a legitimate concern.

Unless it comes from avowed Nazis. Then everyone lines up to express their credentials as a fighter against Jew-hatred.

As a result Jews are left frustrated, abused and angry, but with no way of effectively venting their concerns for fear of being accused of “smearing” the bullies who attack them. A case in point is the Palestinian journalist Abdel Bari Atwan who was recently uninvited from a talk he was supposed to be chairing in the House of Commons. The Jewish Chronicle reported that in 2010 he “suggested that the ‘Jewish lobby’ was ‘extremely dangerous and is endangering the whole planet, the whole world’, and that it ‘controlled’ the American Senate, Congress and media.” When this was pointed out to the Labour Friends of Palestine they cancelled the event he was supposed to chair.

Instead of apologising for this and other remarks Bari doubled down. Writing in the website Open Democracy he said;

The session was cancelled at the last minute under extreme pressure from the Labour Friends of Israel parliamentary group and a campaign waged against me in the pages of the Jewish Chronicle. This is not the first, and I am certain it will not be the last, time I have been prevented from offering the Palestinian point of view by the powerful machinations of the Zionist lobby and the propaganda department of the state of Israel known as Hasbara (‘explaining’).

The session was cancelled because Bari is an antisemite, but for Bari the Jewish Chronicle was “waging a campaign” by reporting his odious remarks. So far as he is concerned not only shouldn’t he have to apologise to the Jewish community over his comments but the Jewish Chronicle should apologise to him for reporting them.

Sadly the Bari school of thought is more common by far than the school of thought that wishes to engage with the Jewish community and understand why offence was caused and endeavour not to repeat it in the future.

In 2015 on the British public affairs program Question Time George Galloway said the following;

Many Jews are not Zionists and most Zionists are not Jews…You’re playing a very dangerous game.”

He is not alone in arguing that it’s “dangerous” to conflate Judaism and Zionism, this is a piece of wordplay thrown out to the Jewish community constantly. Just the other day the left wing commentator Owen Jones wrote;

But here it is also worth listening to Barnaby Raine from Jewish Students for Justice in Palestine. “We have to be so, so clear about Israel and Jews being separate,” he says, decrying those who suggest otherwise, ranging from Islamist fundamentalists to the far right to hardline defenders of Israeli government policies.

I can’t think of any other race or faith who has the hatred against them defined for them by others, but when it comes to antisemitism, this is the norm. I would have thought that if Jones or Galloway wanted to know about Jews and/or Zionism they would have found a learned member of the Jewish community and asked them.

But no. Instead they dictate to Jews what they believe and what they’re allowed to define as antisemitism.

Of course it suits Galloway and Jones to define antisemitism for Jews, it allows them to ignore the inconvenient fact that the antizionist ideas they promote are responsible for a great deal of the hurt and frustration and antisemitism felt by Jews in the UK today. If this dynamic duo actually listened to Jews instead of pontificating to them they might have to rethink the implications of their rhetoric. Clearly they don’t want to.

What neither Galloway nor Jones make explicit is why it’s so important to separate Judaism and Zionism. Neither of them get into what would be so bad if, as Jews keep saying, Judaism and Zionism are bound together. This idea of danger only makes sense if they’re arguing that Zionists are fair game for something “dangerous”, that Zionists are such scum that they get whatever they deserve the only worry being for “innocent” Jews who declare their hatred for Israel.

In the London synagogue I grew up attending, we offered a prayer for the well being of the soldiers and the State of Israel right before the prayer for the well being of the Royal family. The word Israel is mentioned in the first line of the Shema and the prayer is recited several times in every service. Make of this what you will.

Whatever your thoughts on the matter they are actually utterly irrelevant. Whether you’re an antisemite or an antizionist or a bloody martian you don’t tell Jews what we’re allowed to find offensive to our race. We tell you. And it’s time you started listening, regardless of whether or not you really, really want Palestine to be free, think Hitler was right or constantly lecture Jews that it isn’t antisemitic to be antizionist.

About the Author
Marc Goldberg is the author of Beyond the Green Line, a story his service in the IDF fighting through the al Aqsa Intifada
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