(Opinion) — The New York Times recently published an op-ed titled “The Phony Peace Between the Labour Party and Jews” by Howard Jacobson. A novelist and op-ed contributor to the Independent in the UK, Jacobson is relatively unknown. Yet the Times found his allegation of anti-Semitism within the United Kingdom’s Labour Party worthy of the pages of the “newspaper of record.”
Essentially, Jacobson alleges that Labour entertains anti-Semitic ideas and whitewashes its willingness to entertain such ideas with reports that are “a brief and shoddy shuffling of superficies;” he then condemns Labour’s position on Israel as a cover for anti-Semitism.
Mr. Jacobson even pulls out a reverse racism card by noting “condemnation of Zionism was as febrile as ever and any Jew — particularly any Israeli Jew — willing to join in could count on a standing ovation.” In other words, if an Israeli Jew spoke about Israel’s crimes, his opinion must be invalid because of Labour’s hunger for his statement. So instead of challenging the Jewish Israeli speaker’s statement, he infers anti-Semitism is the only possible motive. The condemnation of Labour is then self-fulfilling. Thus Jacobson never has to challenge any content in the anti-Zionist position, which he then fails to do in the entire op-ed.
Apparently not shy of casting aspersions without support, Jacobson uses the Jewish dog whistle of “blood lust” too. He writes, without a single reference or link for support, “Labour Party delegates are hardly crusaders, but the whiff of blood lust rises even from Brighton.” Jacobson even name-dropped Josef Stalin, writing “How Labour changed roles with the Conservatives as the enemy of the Jews is a tale that cannot be told briefly, but like some of Mr. Corbyn’s closest advisers, it goes all the way back to Stalin.” Yet the connection to Stalin is never mentioned again beyond this unsubstantiated statement.
Perhaps the most fantastic allegation is that an amorphous group of Jews have made some kind of bargain. If Labour “desist[s] from overtly anti-Semitic discourse — invoking the malignancy of our appearance and ambitions — we [the Jews] will allow you [Labour] your anti-Zionism.” To Jacobson, even is this supposed trade did exist, it is simply impossible to fulfill, “for the truth is you cannot keep the Jews out of Zionism.”
Jacobson and I are both Jewish and don’t go to shul. I will go a step further and admit I am not a fan of organized religions, yet I support others in their right and desire to the free exercise of their faith. Personally, I sense there is a common spirit among mankind. I do appreciate what Jewish culture has provided me, such as critical thinking and an emphasis on education. Yet there is no place for any sense of Jewish supremacy, whether it concerns the placing of anti-Semitism at the same level of concern as far more pervasive crimes or the primacy of Israeli Jews as they oppress an entire nation of Palestinians in the identical lands of Israel and Palestine.
Suggesting that Corbyn’s declaration that “Labour opposes all racism and discrimination” is somehow flawed, Jacobson continues:
The ‘all’ is important. Burying anti-Semitism among offenses such as bullying and sexual harassment is a dodge to equalize things that are not equal and in the process ensure that anti-Semitism is rarely privileged with a mention of its own.”
While it is not exactly clear, the most generous interpretation of Jacobson’s statement is that Corbyn intended to drown out anti-Semitism with far more pervasive and serious crimes, even if Corbyn said no such thing. In essence, Jacobson is implying that while the beating or emotional breakdown of a child by a larger one or a group of children, or the use of power to obtain sexual favors or inflict feelings of inferior status, are critical issues, anti-Semitism is somehow a “privileged” offense that deserves equal time. This despite the fact that actual acts of anti-Semitism are much fewer and farther between today than are the far more pervasive acts of bullying and sexual harassment.
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While suggesting Labour’s criticism of Israel is really anti-Semitism, Jacobson’s summation of anti-Zionism is just one short paragraph representing complete denial of the history of Israel. The paragraph begins, “A willful historical ignorance sustains anti-Zionism. In some accounts the Israelis drop out of a clear blue sky in 1967 and occupy the West Bank; in others, Zionism is a recent ideology always contested within Jewish society itself.”
Thus Jacobson believes that “some accounts” is a good representation of anti-Zionists like myself. Yet I’ve never before heard of anything like the reference to Israelis falling from “a clear blue sky,” nor does it even make sense to me now. The comment is a journalistically disingenuous trick to falsely describe those he opposes. Still, I blame the Times more for publishing this than Jacobson for penning such an outlandish description.
So let’s briefly discuss what anti-Zionism is about. Israeli professors — that is, professors who themselves are Israel,i such as Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe, Avi Shlaim and others — have established that Israel ethnically cleansed over 700,000 Palestinians who lived within what is today considered Israel’s internationally recognized borders. Anti-Zionism acknowledges this event and calls for the Right of Return of these Palestinians and their offspring. After all, doesn’t Zionism claim a Right of Return from 1,400 years ago or more? Then how can it deny that right from just 70 years ago? Especially of people whom Israel itself drove out.
Furthermore, in 1967, Israel launched what it called a preemptive strike against the Egyptian military, thereafter engaging Jordan and Syria. Again historians now agree that, based upon Israel’s own documentation, this was not a defensive strike, but rather an opportunity to crush the Egyptians. Thereafter, the Israelis took the West Bank and the Golan Heights by war. Even if one were to discount that Israel’s war was an offensive one, Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention is explicitly clear: The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” There is no exception for whether the territory was gained through a defensive or offensive war. Thus anti-Zionism stands against the imposition of Military Law upon Palestinians for 50 years and running, and the illegal transfer of colonial settlers who now number over 600,000.
So when Jacobson continues the above-quoted paragraph, “What is elided is the 2,000-year history of Jews returning to the country from which they had been exiled, whether in response to longings for a homeland, to pray where they had once prayed, or to find a place of safety,” he appears to imply anti-Zionists deny this history. Actually, it has nothing to do with the anti-Zionist position. Or maybe a better way to say this is that anti-Zionists focus on the Palestinian “exile” and their “longing for a homeland, to pray where they had once prayed, [and] to find a place of safety.” For the anti-Zionist focus is on what Israel has done and continues to do to Palestinians for the benefit of Israeli Jews.
Perhaps the most ironic statement of the entire op-ed is a standard allegation made by Zionism’s defenders:
That Jews invoke anti-Semitism primarily to silence critics of Israel is a tired canard, but it continues to be pressed into service.”
Yet, except for one bizarre reference to an allegedly anti-Zionist view of one point in time of Israel’s history, Jacobson failed to mention anything about Labour’s position on Palestine. Therefore, all Jacobson did was allege Labour’s anti-Semitism to silence its position on Israel.
As for the Gray Lady, the question remains: How and why, with all the brilliant submissions it receives daily, did The New York Times choose this empty hit piece on the Labour Party that includes the most insidious of allegations, anti-Semitism?
Top photo | A Jewish man prays at the end of the Jewish Sabbath as Palestinians girls watch in Gaza City on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2010. Members of Neturei Karta, an anti-Zionist Jewish sect, have spent the Jewish Sabbath in Gaza with Palestinians.
(AP /Hatem Moussa)
Ian Berman is an entrepreneur and former corporate banker at leading global banks in New York City. He now focuses on renewable energy, financial advisory services, and writing about representative government, equitable public policies and ending American militarism and Israel’s continuing colonization of Palestine. He is the Co-Founder of Palestine 365, the Ongoing Oppression and its predecessor, Palestine 365, on Facebook.