A Guardian letter – and why anti-Zionism equals antisemitism

What’s been called the Knife Intifada began last year in early October, when Mohammad Halabi went on a stabbing rampage in Jerusalem’s Old City, killing Nehemia Lavi, 41, and Aharon Banito, 21, and wounding Banito’s wife and baby

On May 2nd, the Guardian published a letter (in response to an op-ed by Jonathan Freedland about the current antisemitism row within the Labour Party) by Kamel Hawwash, a British Palestinian activist who not only rejects Israel’s right to exist, but recently referred to the terrorist murderer Halabi as a ‘martyr’.

Hawwash, Vice Chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, referred to Halabi as a martyr while speaking at a Palestinian Return Centre event in Parliament last month.  Here’s the transcript posted at the blog Harry’s Place. (Audio is here)

“Now this was posted on Facebook by Mohammad Halabi one of the first people, martyrs of the current intifada starting in October, now I call him a martyr because I am speaking from a Palestinian perspective. 

Hawwash’s letter in the Guardian print edition, though titled ‘A Palestinian view on the antisemitism row’, says almost nothing about antisemitism save a predictable plea that anti-Zionism (the rejection of a Jewish state within any borders) is NOT antisemitic.

Mostly, Hawwash ignores the substance of Freedland’s call to the British left to avoid antisemitism by simply ‘treating Jews the same way they’d treat any other minority’, and uses the 445 words given to him to erase the Jewish connection to the land, call for a “right of return” for “refugees” from 1948 and the end of Jewish sovereignty – an anti-Zionist position he euphemistically refers to as “reconciliation” via the implementation of a “very different political arrangement in historic Palestine”.

Even leaving aside the likely antisemitic motivation of those who call for the end of the the Jewish state (and only the Jewish state), the antisemitic impact of such an anti-Zionist view extends beyond the unimaginably injurious consequences for more than six million Jewish citizens of Israel.  As Freedland pointed out in his op-ed, a 2015 poll revealed that 93% of British Jews say that Israel forms a part of their Jewish identity.

When you use tropes and narratives suggesting that Zionism represents a unique evil, one that should be purged from the world, you’re in effect saying that Jewish identity itself is essentially corrupt, immoral and malevolent.

So, as much as anti-Zionist activists in the UK likes to claim otherwise, an attack on Zionism – i.e., the rebirth of a Jewish state in their historic homeland – is necessarily an attack on British Jews.

Though we’ve been critical of Freedland in the past, he hits the nail on the head:

On the left, black people are usually allowed to define what’s racism; women can define sexism; Muslims are trusted to define Islamophobia. But when Jews call out something as antisemitic, leftist non-Jews feel curiously entitled to tell Jews they’re wrong, that they are exaggerating or lying or using it as a decoy tactic – and to then treat them to a long lecture on what anti-Jewish racism really is.

The left would call it misogynist “mansplaining” if a man talked that way to a woman. They’d be mortified if they were caught doing that to LGBT people or Muslims. But to Jews, they feel no such restraint.

So this is my plea to the left. Treat us the same way you’d treat any other minority. No better and no worse. If opposition to racism means anything, it surely means that.

Anti-Zionists like Hawwash will have to deal with this undeniable truth: If you insist on calling for the political or physical destruction of the world’s only Jewish state, no amount of pseudo-intellectual sophistry or faux progressive rationalisations will change the fact that the overwhelming majority of Jews will define you as a racist.

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