Israel and defining anti-Semitism

 

Sir, – In response to your editorial on the British Labour Party’s anti-Semitism controversy (“A damaging, hurtful battle”, September 10th), the Ireland Israel Alliance would like to offer a counterbalanced view.

The issue of contemporary racism surrounding the British Labour Party’s decision to accept the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism certainly resonates beyond Britain, but to say that much of it is directed against Muslims and people of colour rather than Jews is to avoid the very real issue surrounding this particular war of words (not to mention the semantics of defining Muslims as a race).

It should be remembered that the modern state of Israel was not created as a response to the Nazi genocide. The initial immigration of Jewish refugees to Palestine began in 1882, with a second wave returning just prior to the first World War, both as a direct result of vicious persecution.

Anti-Semitism is growing again within Europe and Jews are genuinely concerned and, in many cases, deeply worried. Worried enough, that many have already packed their bags, grateful they have a home they can call Israel.

It is unfair to suggest that the current right-wing government relies on “West Bank settler parties” to stay in power. Israel is a multi-ethnic and diverse society. Its Jews have returned from places as far afield as Russia, India, Ethiopia, Iran, South America, Europe and the US, to name but a few, and like all liberal, democratic societies its voter affiliations cover a very wide spectrum.

There is much fatigue within Israel at Binyamin Netanyahu’s leadership. However, on issues of national security, Israelis feel that nobody else appears able to take on the challenge of Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas, who openly seek the destruction of this tiny state, similar in size to Leinster.

Indeed, it is not anti-Semitic to criticise Israel. Israelis spend an inordinate amount of time criticising their own government policy. But what is anti-Semitic is denying the right of Jews to live collectively in their ancient homeland with the same rights as everyone else, and to describe the circumstances around its foundation as racist. – Yours, etc,

JACKIE GOODALL,

Director,

Ireland Israel Alliance,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Your editorial on the recent travails within the UK Labour party highlights an ongoing issue of the conflation of criticism of Israeli government policy with anti-Semitism. While some have argued that Jeremy Corbyn could have handled the situation better, his primary concern was the protection of the right to voice concerns relating to the treatment of the Palestinian people and the ongoing deliberate undermining of a tenable Palestinian state by the current Israeli administration. Jeremy Corbyn has been a lifelong campaigner against racism in all forms and indeed his credentials in this regard are more solid than many if his detractors. As Gideon Levy, writing in the Haaretz newspaper recently indicated, Jeremy Corbyn represents the greatest threat to the narrative being put out by Binyamin Netanyahu and his cabinet. The label of anti-Semitism, a hugely emotional charge and one that should not be taken lightly, has become a convenient stick to beat down any legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians. He quotes Hajo Meyer, a Dutch Holocaust survivor and human rights activist, who once stated that “once an anti-Semite was a man who hates Jews, today an anti-Semite is a man whom the Jews hate”. It is true that many anti-Semites do use the cover of the Palestinian conflict to push racist ideology; however, the vast majority of those who question Israeli policy do so in the context of the requirements of international law, the basic tenets of which arose from the catastrophe of the Holocaust. It is in the long-term interests of both the Israeli and Palestinian people that a workable solution is found to current impasse but it must have its basis in international law. Criticism of both Israel and the Palestinian leadership in the context of international law must be protected. – Yours, etc,

BARRY WALSH,

Blackrock,

Cork.

Sir, – Your editorial makes the very important statement, “It is not anti-Semitic to criticise Israel’s origins or policies”.

Thank you for stating the plain truth. All too frequently, those of us who disagree with the hardline oppressive policies of Israel toward the Palestinian people whose land they have appropriated are maligned by Zionists and their supporters and described as anti-Semitic, which is an outrageous slur on those who believe in human and civil rights for all people and races. – Yours, etc,

GEAROID KILGALLEN,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.