In a recent Jewish News piece, I suggested that Israel bears no moral obligation to fix the consequences of the Palestinian leadership’s aggressive folly of 1948 when they persuaded five Arab countries to reverse United Nations (UN) resolution 141 by force of arms. If there is no such obligation, it can hardly be racist to bar the return of the refugee descendants.
But are there other ways Israel has been guilty of racism against the Palestinians during its 70 years of existence? Does it systematically oppress them?
No one could sensibly complain about the use of proportionate measures of defence against terrorist acts driven by hatred and the desire to drive Jews out of the land the UN gifted them on 29 November 1947.
But opinions will always differ on whether or not a given measure is proportionate or oppressive. Some people might regard the demolition by the Israel Defence Forces of homes in which young Palestinian terrorists reside with their innocent parents as a justifiably effective deterrent. Others will baulk at the practice as unconscionably draconian and be not in the least impressed by the fact that it was inherited from the British. Stone-throwing can endanger life but does it really warrant a response with live rounds? Shooting Gaza demonstrators posing no discernible threat to Israel’s soldiers has made for very uncomfortable reading.
Of course, individual acts of oppression or cruelty do not make the state of Israel racist. But it may be another matter if there is evidence of the Israeli authorities habitually turning a blind eye to such acts.
Whether they do so may be debatable, but if there were evidence of institutional toleration, it could hardly be described as antisemitic to denounce this as racist.
Whether or not Israel is racist, we have recently witnessed a new angle on the issue
of presumptive Israeli misdeeds that is almost bizarre.
Recently, the Independent website hosted audio footage of some remarks attributed to Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union and currently president of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), during a fringe meeting at the TUC conference in Manchester.
Referring to the continuing crisis over antisemitism in the Labour Party, Serwotka observed at one point: “I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I’ll tell you what – one of the best forms of trying to hide from the atrocities that you are committing is to go on the offensive and actually create a story that does not exist for people on this platform, the trade union movement or, I have to say, for the leader of the Labour Party.”
Even if there were proof of atrocities committed by Israeli forces, Serwotka was admitting making a statement for which in the nature of conspiracy theories for which there is not the slightest shred of evidence.
This is the preposterous notion that the Israeli Government had devised and successfully implemented a diversionary plot to incite or manipulate Jews in Britain to concoct a smear about the Labour Party being too tolerant of antisemites in their midst.
As Yaron Schwalb memorably commented online on the Jewish News report about Serwotka: “When someone starts a sentence with ‘I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but…’ – you know what’s coming.”
What was coming indeed was that old faithful: diabolical Jewish control of the world. In spite of the traditional protestation about Serwotka’s committed opposition to antisemitism (together with the customary mantra “and all forms of racism”) his words suggest a very different sentiment.