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Israel and its uncritical proponents: a danger to Jews

Updated: Mar 18

Jews genuinely concerned about antisemitism are ill-served by the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), because its actions and approach are more likely to engender antisemitism than to counter it.  Its main function is to protect and promote the foremost generator of antisemitism, the State of Israel.  It is joined in this enterprise by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the three entities coalescing to form a connected web of apologists and promoters of the Jewish supremacist Israeli state. This state can, apparently, do no wrong.

The source of the danger lies in the fact that these three ideologically connected bodies – Israel, the CAA, the Board of Deputies (BoD) – claim to speak for all Jews, thus creating the impression that Jews are an undifferentiated body of people with a uniform view, i.e. they are all supporters of Israel.

In reality, the BoD is a long way from being representative of Jews in the UK. According to one estimate, it represents barely 20% of British Jews via synagogues. Apart from synagogues, only some 30 Jewish organisations are represented on the Board.

When Israel acts, it acts, by its own definition, as the Jewish state. And when the CAA and the BoD support Israel’s actions, more or less whatever they may be, they make clear that they are acting as Jews, i.e. Jews supporting the Jewish state. And since they claim always to speak for the Jewish community – a non-existent entity – it should not surprise us if some non-Jews take this unholy alliance at its word, and blame all Jews for Israel’s multitudinous murderous, oppressive actions against Palestinians.

Interlude: a short, pertinent story

Perhaps a short story will illustrate this. On a recent (2022) visit to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, I met for the second time a man who describes himself as a freedom fighter. His life had followed a trajectory from armed resistance to the Israeli Occupation through to now, when he eschews violence, though without sacrificing the principle that Palestinians have the right to armed resistance against an occupying power.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to interview him at his home; a home that was near an Israeli checkpoint that may or may not be closed at the whim of the soldiers on duty there.  One of the things he talked about was this: 

If the Israeli state defines itself as Jewish, takes my land [his land had been stolen by Israel] to give to Jews in the name of a specifically Jewish state, how am I not to hold Jews responsible?

If that same Jewish State kills my sister in front of her twelve-year-old child, how am I not to see this as an action done in the name of Jews? And if that same Jewish state imprisons me nine times without trial in the name of the Jewish state, what am I to think? In the light of all this – what heroic sense of forbearance am I supposed to muster in order not to become antisemitic?  That is a pertinent question.

Despite the oppression and suffering detailed above, he is an advocate for one state, a state in which Palestinians and Jews would live peaceably together as equals. 

I heard he was arrested again recently. I do not know if that was an administrative detention without trial, or some charge or other. I do not know, at time of writing, if he has been released.

The CAA – scare tactics

The CAA has been very active recently, seeking to limit, or ban completely, the almost weekly demonstrations that call for a ceasefire in Gaza and the opening of the border crossings to allow food and aid into Gaza.

The CAA, alarmed at the extent of criticism of Israel and its Western allies, has embarked on a campaign of demonisation of the hugely supported demonstrations. The method deployed is scare-mongering, manufacturing the false claim that to demonstrate in favour of Palestinians, and in favour of a ceasefire in Gaza, is somehow antisemitic.

The CAA, for example, claims to detect genocidal language in the popular and well-known slogan From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free. The CAA was particularly exercised by that slogan being projected onto Big Ben, describing it as: antisemitic genocidal language [that] was projected onto Big Ben, the symbol of our democracy and often of our nation. 

That the CAA characterises the slogan as antisemitic and genocidal is deeply problematic; and false.

It is false, because the slogan itself is most widely understood as calling for peace, equality and justice for all the inhabitants – Muslim, Jews, Christians, and others – of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. It is an inclusive statement, echoing the inclusiveness of the demonstrations, where Muslims, Jews, Christians, and those of no faith march together united in support of what is a noble cause.

It is problematic, deeply problematic, because the CAA’s approach, echoing as it does that of the Jewish Board of Deputies, is to characterise as antisemitic virtually any criticism of Israel, or any support for Palestinians. This is amply demonstrated by the CAA’s false characterisation of the meaning of ‘From the river….’  

These slurs against those who protest against Israel’s actions are but one aspect of a wider strategy to embed the idea that criticism of Israel constitutes the new antisemitism; the new referring to the Israeli state conceived as the collective Jew.  Conceiving the Israeli state as a collective person enables the false conflation to be drawn that criticism of Israel is tantamount to antisemitism against actual persons. The way is then open, as we so often observe, to invoke the Holocaust as the key exemplar of what could happen if the new antisemitism takes hold. This creates a McCarthy-type political atmosphere that stifles legitimate political comment. We are witnessing moves in this direction at a gathering pace.

And because the CAA seeks to present itself as representing Jews, all Jews, they tar all Jews as supporters of a racist, Jewish supremacist state. Presenting this undifferentiated, fallacious, Jewish view actually increases the chance that an antisemitic perspective takes hold in some people, many of whom will be good-hearted people, sickened and outraged by the actions of the self-defined Jewish state.

The huffing and puffing of the CAA serves to obscure, and is designed to obscure, Israel’s active pursuit of ethnic cleansing – from its inception in 1948 - and now unfolding not only before our eyes in Gaza, but also in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The pot calling the kettle black

It is instructive to note the founding charter (1977) of Likud, the party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, now part of an extreme right-wing Israeli government.

The Right of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel (Eretz Israel)

a. The right of the Jewish people to the land of Israel is eternal and indisputable and is linked with the right to security and peace; therefore, Judea and Samaria will not be handed to any foreign administration; between the Sea and the Jordan there will only be Israeli sovereignty. [Italics added]

b. A plan which relinquishes parts of western Eretz Israel, undermines our right to the country, unavoidably leads to the establishment of a Palestinian State, jeopardizes the security of the Jewish population, endangers the existence of the State of Israel. and frustrates any prospect of peace.

Here we find the phrase between the sea and the Jordan there will only be Israeli sovereignty. This, surely, foreshadows, at the very least, a commitment, a need to ethnically cleanse the indigenous Palestinian population from its land in order to fulfil Likud’s policy objective – Israeli sovereignty from the sea to the river.  That objective is of course now codified in the 2018 Jewish Nation-State Basic Law that makes explicit that only Jews have the right to self-determination in Israel; and that the development of Jewish settlement is a national value, this referring to the settlements already existing on stolen Palestinian land, and those to come.

The conclusion to be drawn

The CAA, along with the BoD and the Israeli state, are hard at work, on the one hand, manufacturing false and contrived dangers – for example, that antisemitism infests the Palestinian solidarity movement. And, on the other, they are seeking to obscure by all possible means, the nature of the Israeli state, its rooted racism, its aggressive militarism, its fascist tendencies, and its institutionalised cruelty against the indigenous Palestinian population.


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