Don’t cat-call, com­rades. Sup­port com­mon sense

As con­tro­versy con­tin­ues over defin­ing Jew-hate, read a Marx­ist and a main­stream view

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY DAVID OSLER

AP­PEAL­ING FOR an out­break of sweet rea­son be­tween Zion­ists and anti-Zion­ists is never easy, es­pe­cially when un­der­taken by a vet­eran Marx­ist with po­lit­i­cal views a long way from those of the av­er­age JC reader.

But, at the risk of dis­pleas­ing both sides, I want to urge the hard-left to back the In­ter­na­tional Holo­caust Re­mem­brance Al­liance’s def­i­ni­tion of an­ti­semitism. Then let me dou­ble down, and urge Jewish or­gan­i­sa­tions to com­mit to us­ing this rea­son­able in­stru­ment in a rea­son­able way.

The is­sue hit the head­lines af­ter Haringey last week be­came the lat­est lo­cal au­thor­ity to adopt the doc­u­ment, de­spite op­po­si­tion from sec­tions of the left.

I say “sec­tions of the left” de­lib­er­ately. Both Jeremy Cor­byn him­self and Labour left um­brella group Mo­men­tum have ex­plic­itly made clear they see no prob­lem here.

Lin­ing up against are pri­mar­ily those so­cial­ists who main­tain the IHRA def­i­ni­tion some­how out­laws le­git­i­mate crit­i­cisms of the Is­raeli state, to the detri­ment of work for Pales­tinian rights.

And le­git­i­mate crit­i­cisms aplenty can be lev­elled at the ac­tions of Is­rael’s gov­ern­ment. But il­le­git­i­mate crit­i­cisms in­spired by tra­di­tional Pro­to­cols-style an­ti­semitism are sadly in cir­cu­la­tion, too, and those are the ones on which the IHRA con­cen­trates.

Its two-sen­tence for­mal def­i­ni­tion of an­ti­semitism is worded so broadly that no anti-racist could ob­ject. The same goes for much of the rest of the doc­u­ment.

Dis­agree­ment cen­tres on just one or two lines, in par­tic­u­lar the stip­u­la­tion against “deny­ing the Jewish peo­ple their right to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion”.

Much hinges on the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of this pas­sage.

Here, Zion­ists and an­tiZion­ists alike are go­ing to have to dis­play com­mon sense.

Fairly read, the clause does not pre­clude ad­vo­cacy of any stan­dard rad­i­cal for­mula.

The sta­tus quo, the two state so­lu­tion, a bi-na­tional demo­cratic sec­u­lar state,

Karl Marx a demo­cratic so­cial­ist fed­er­a­tion of the Mid­dle East, or even the an­ar­chist “no state” stance are all proper propo­si­tions for dis­cus­sion.

Af­ter all, any set­tle­ment ac­tu­ally agreed by those that live in the re­gion ex­em­pli­fies, on any rea­son­able con­strual, self-de­ter­mi­na­tion in ac­tion. Any­thing less is res­o­lutely con­trary to that prin­ci­ple. That is the pol­i­tics of the fas­cist right and re­van­chist na­tion­al­ism, not the pol­i­tics of the left. And it goes with­out say­ing that ac­cu­rate re­portage is al­ways valid, even where it shows the Is­rael De­fence Forces or Jewish politi­cians any­where in a poor light. Mean­while, if the un­nec­es­sar­ily par­lous state of re­la­tions be­tween the left and the Jewish com­mu­nity — which likely cost Labour seats in June — is to be over­come, the first step should be to re­build bridges.

So don’t cat-call from the public gallery next time IHRA comes up for de­bate, com­rade. Urge your Labour coun­cil­lor to sup­port it.

David Osler is a jour­nal­ist and long­stand­ing left wing Labour ac­tivist


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