Being a Jew has never been easy. We’ve a consistent history of being turned on, be it through expulsion or even attempted extermination.
Having heard my Grandfathers stories of his experiences in Auschwitz you could almost expect me to fear for who I am. But I never have. I’ve always felt safe in this democratic, free speaking country. That is until now. Until I realised, through recent developments, that anti-Semitism is not only okay, it is protected. As long as you dress it up as anti-Zionism you can speak as you please.
Citing incidents in April alone, we saw a Labour councillor (Aysegul Gurbuz) hail Hitler as the “greatest man in history”, and the resurfacing of MP Naz Shah’s Facebook-shared proposal for the “transportation” of Israel, bringing back chilling memories of twentieth century horrors. To top it all off, we’ve seen Labour MP Ken Livingstone defend Shah’s self-admitted offensive post (the post is no longer accessible online, however Shah has since apologised), before essentially calling Hitler a Zionist himself, that is of course before he “went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”
In case confusion persists, anti-Semitism is prejudice against Jewish people. It is what Cameron has described as an ideological “cancer”, and at its roots shares little difference with islamophobia. But anti-Semitism is arguably the cause of the Zionist movement. Zionism, by definition, is the belief in the right for Jews to have a homeland of their own. However contrary to popular assumption, it was driven not by ultra-orthodox Jews, but by Theodore Herzl, a secular Jew reacting to the anti-Semitism he saw in Europe, particularly following the controversial Dreyfus affair. The lines between the two terms have become blurred because, amongst other reasons, Zionism has been almost redefined not as a movement to achieve what has already been achieved, but a belief in the right for the State of Israel to exist.
So for clarification, if you do not believe in the right for a state to exist, one the UN voted for in 1947, then you are anti-Zionist. Saying Jews have “big noses” and “slaughter the oppressed” (Vicki Kirby, 15/04/2016), is anti-Semitic. And claiming Hitler was promoting the Zionist cause (Ken Livingstone, 28/04/2016), well that’s just pure buffoonery, really.
As Livingstone is now finding out from the media spotlight, there is an obvious difference between hating a people enough to pursue their expulsion (Hitler’s policy before he “went mad”), and supporting a peoples efforts to obtain a homeland. It is the equivalent of claiming that in keeping his hostage alive to claim their ransom, a kidnapper is promoting the best interests of his hostage.
Corbyn may argue there being “no crisis”, but I disagree. We students are the future of this country and we must thus be fully aware of both the implications and consequences of what we say and support. The immediate consequences to such matters have and always will be the alienation of us, student groups. We have seen this very recently, with the election of Malia Bouattia, a self-confessed anti-Zionist who failed to condemn Palestinian violence in a Channel 4 interview (26/04/2016). It is no wonder that over 25 Universities have since launched campaigns to disaffiliate with the NUS, as the alienation stretches beyond just Jewish groups.
Let me be clear. I’m not saying you cannot criticise Israel. Of course you can! If you disagree with Israeli policy, be it home or foreign policy, then say something. Make your voice heard. But go about it in the same way you would criticise any other nation. Religion has no place nor relevance to the conversation.
Yes, Israel is a Jewish state, but similarly Britain is an ideologically Christian country (Cameron says so himself), yet we don’t attack Christianity when we condemn British policies. The case of Israel should be no different. Do not talk about Zionist conspiracies, which are quite frankly the laughing stock of student politics, and do not hold Israel to double standards, as is another principle of modern anti-Semitism. There are territorial disputes all over the world, including Russia/Crimea, China/Tibet and many more, so why are we all so obsessed with Israel/Palestine?
What can also no longer be tolerated, and is a modern evolution of anti-Semitism, is simply replacing the word ‘Jew’ with ‘Zion’. It’s the political equivalent of substituting Andy Murray for Wayne Rooney. Two competent athletes, but just like the difference between Judaism and Zionism, at an entirely different ball game.
*Also it is worth noting, Naz Shah shared her anti-Semitic post before becoming an MP, yet is facing the consequences now. So be careful what you post/share online, it may come back to bite you.*