We must not fall for the lies told about Is­rael

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE -

WITHIN HOURS of the Labour party giv­ing its mem­bers wrig­gle room to de­fame Is­rael with­out any push­back, posters ap­peared on cen­tral Lon­don bus-shel­ters slan­der­ing Is­rael as a “a racist en­deav­our”. The virus of left-wing an­tisemitism is out of con­trol. Why is any­one sur­prised? None of this is new. Jeremy Cor­byn may have made the poison more toxic but he didn’t re­lease it. He is rather its most malev­o­lent symp­tom.

I first ex­pe­ri­enced this in 1982. Col­leagues im­plied that my real coun­try wasn’t Bri­tain but Is­rael. At the time, I’d never even been there and never wanted to go. All I’d done was stick up for it against the lies and blood li­bels.

For that, I was in­stantly pi­geon-holed as not fully Bri­tish. Dur­ing the fol­low­ing years, Jewish de­fend­ers of Is­rael like me were ac­cused of dual loy­alty.

So why was any­one sur­prised when Cor­byn sug­gested that Bri­tish Jews who sup­ported Is­rael were a breed apart who couldn’t un­der­stand English irony?

Over the past few decades, Is­rael has been the vic­tim of a cam­paign of de­mon­i­sa­tion and dele­git­imi­sa­tion of a kind directed at no other coun­try, peo­ple or cause.

Ev­ery ac­cu­sa­tion hurled at it is un­true. Dis­placed the in­dige­nous peo­ple of the land: un­true. Acts il­le­gally: un­true. Racist, apartheid, colo­nial­ist state: un­true. Dis­pro­por­tion­ately ag­gres­sive: un­true. Con­temp­tu­ous of the lives of in­no­cent Pales­tini­ans: un­true.

To these ob­scene false­hoods and more from the left, oth­ers have shrugged or, worse, nod­ded along. Even now, it’s not the lies about Is­rael that are pro­vok­ing such hor­ror. It’s the stuff about hook-nosed bankers or Jewish con­spir­acy the­o­ries or Jewish fas­cists.

Shock­ing and vile in­deed. But this loathing of Jews is um­bil­i­cally con­nected to loathing of Is­rael.

One of the most sly claims is that those protest­ing about an­tisemitism want to si­lence crit­i­cism of Is­rael.

That is it­self big­oted non­sense. Crit­i­cism is ra­tio­nal and le­git­i­mate. Patho­log­i­cal ly­ing about Is­rael is not.

Is­rael is pre­sented as a de­monic con­spir­acy to ma­nip­u­late the world. It is dwelt upon ob­ses­sively as a global men­ace. It is sin­gled out for im­pos­si­ble dou­ble stan­dards. It is ac­cused of crimes of which it is not only in­no­cent but the vic­tim such as geno­ci­dal ag­gres­sion, il­le­gal­ity, colo­nial­ism, racism, eth­nic cleans­ing and the wil­ful slaugh­ter of civil­ians.

Pre­cisely the same derange­ment of rea­son char­ac­terises clas­sic an­tisemitism. This is not a co­in­ci­dence.

There is a yet deeper link. Ju­daism com­prises an un­break­able and unique con­nec­tion be­tween the re­li­gion, the peo­ple and the land. Deny­ing any one of these three el­e­ments is to deny Ju­daism it­self.

This doesn’t mean ev­ery Jew must be a Zion­ist, any more than the fact that many Jews don’t ob­serve Shab­bat, for ex­am­ple, means Shab­bat is not an es­sen­tial part of the re­li­gion.

What it does mean is that those who vil­ify Jewish na­tion­hood in the Jews’ his­toric home­land as in­nately racist, or who en­dorse Pales­tinian fab­ri­ca­tions writ­ing the Jews out of their own na­tional story, are not “crit­i­cis­ing” Is­rael. Many Jewish lead­ers be­lieve some of the lies about Is­rael They are at­tack­ing Ju­daism it­self.

Bri­tain’s Jewish lead­er­ship gen­er­ally tries to avoid link­ing an­tisemitism to the sub­ject of Is­rael. It says Is­rael “com­pli­cates the is­sue”. But it is the is­sue.

One rea­son why Jewish lead­ers are re­luc­tant to make this link is that many them­selves be­lieve some of the lies about Is­rael: that the set­tle­ments are il­le­gal, for ex­am­ple, or that the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment is the ob­sta­cle to peace.

Re­mark­ably, some of the vic­tims of Labour’s an­tisemitic on­slaught them­selves par­rot wicked false­hoods about Is­rael — that the IDF de­lib­er­ately killed peace­ful demon­stra­tors at the Gaza border, for ex­am­ple, or that the na­tion­state law turns Is­raeli Arabs into sec­ond-class cit­i­zens. Even while de­nounc­ing Labour’s an­tisemitism, they are cur­rently fall­ing over them­selves to re­peat such claims.

But ac­cus­ing the IDF of killing in­no­cent demon­stra­tors is tan­ta­mount to slan­der­ing them as psy­cho­pathic child-killers. Claim­ing the na­tion­state law dis­crim­i­nates against Is­raeli Arabs is tan­ta­mount to call­ing Is­rael racist —merely be­cause it’s a Jewish na­tion-state.

It’s al­most as if these Jews are say­ing it’s fine to call Ne­tanyahu a racist or ac­cuse the IDF of be­ing wan­ton child-killers — but to call Ne­tanyahu a racist “pup­pet-mas­ter” or the IDF “Nazi” child-killers would be an­tisemitism. The dis­tinc­tion is weaselly and spu­ri­ous.

Un­til Bri­tish Jews them­selves dis­tin­guish le­git­i­mate crit­i­cism of Is­rael from the ma­li­cious slan­ders which con­sti­tute the new an­tisemitism, they will con­tinue to con­trib­ute in­ad­ver­tently to the ap­palling cli­mate of hate which now threat­ens to en­gulf them.

Me­lanie Phillips is a Times colum­nist

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