Anti-Semitism is very real, of that there is no doubt, but the greatest threat to Jewish people today comes not from those on the political left who criticise the Zionist state of Israel. It comes from those on the far right whose pernicious influence is spreading across North America and Europe.
This is obvious to reasonable political observers. However, the facts are being masked by the pro-Israel lobby which insists on conflating anti-Semitism with criticism of Zionism, the ideology which underpins colonial Israel. It is enough simply to mention Israel’s brutal military occupation of Palestine to incur the lobby’s wrath. Ironically, though, this Zionist witch-hunt fails to protect Jews.
We should all be deeply concerned by this sinister development. Not only is this an attack on free speech and one step away from book burning, but it is also diverting attention from the real threat to Jews from right-wing anti-Semites who feel so emboldened that they have brazenly turned their guns on synagogues and carried out other atrocities against Jews.
The sight of armed thugs rioting in the US Capitol in mid-January was shocking enough, but this was compounded by the fact that some of them were wearing “Camp Auschwitz” hoodies and other Nazi regalia and symbols of hate; we should all be outraged. That they were incited in this extremely disturbing behaviour by the then US President Donald Trump — someone who used anti-Semitic tropes in his speeches — was no surprise.
Trump was forgiven for his blatant anti-Semitism by right-wing Jews because he was seen as Israel’s greatest friend. Rejecting international law and opinion, Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of the occupation state, and ignored Israel’s unquenchable thirst for land theft and its continued enlargement and building of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. The fact that he withdrew funding from Palestinian refugees through UNRWA, making their daily struggle even more intolerable, was welcomed by many in the pro-Israel lobby.
Around 50 million Christian evangelicals are part of this lobby, demonstrating that most Zionists are not actually Jews. Trump’s Middle East policies were put together to please his white, Evangelical Christian electoral base; it is a core belief of theirs that Jewish control and settlement of the Holy Land is a necessary precursor to the return of Jesus, peace be upon him, and the apocalyptic Last Days and “the Rapture”.
Extremist groups, including the so-called “Proud Boys” (who have a chapter in Israel… go figure that one out), and other far-right organisations assault America’s democratic institutions and peddle anti-Jewish hate. Meanwhile, members of the hate-filled pro-Israel lobby look the other way and spend their time hunting down left wingers, including Jews, who dare to criticise Israel. Unless a halt is called to this McCarthyite witch-hunt many good people will have their careers and lives destroyed on the altar of Zionism simply because they call out the brutal occupation of Palestine by the settler-colonial, apartheid state.
In America, a group of young Jews who are against the ongoing Israeli occupation are campaigning hard to draw attention to the witch-hunt. They are also working to influence US President Joe Biden when he comes to choosing his envoy to fight anti-Semitism. Called If Not Now, the group wants Biden to appoint someone who will focus more on tackling violent anti-Semites than silencing those who support legitimate Palestinian rights. A video of their work was uploaded on social media recently.
In Britain, aided and abetted by a complicit media, the witch-hunters sought — and often succeeded — to persuade voters that the then Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, a man with a proven track record of compassion and humanity for all, was in fact fuelling anti-Semitism to achieve his political objectives. It is no coincidence that Corbyn has been a lifelong supporter of justice for the people of Palestine, and while his successor Keir Starmer shamelessly pocketed donations from the Zionist lobby, Corbyn refused to entertain this racist ideology. An interesting poll last year (“Diagnosis of Defeat”) provided some idea of the feelings of the party’s members on the “anti-Semitism” issue.
Al Jazeera investigated some of the inner workings of the pro-Israel lobby, exposing the lies and distortion of facts used to discredit good people simply because they stand up for Palestinians. The undercover documentary led to the dismissal and expulsion from Britain of one key member of staff at the Embassy of Israel in London, but few in the mainstream media are prepared to call out the more unsavoury activities of these lobbyists. While its critics hit back by accusing Al Jazeera — predictably, but in vain — of anti-Semitism, the Qatar-based broadcaster produced another expose about Israel’s lobbyists in the US.
Unbelievably, the award-winning English film director Ken Loach has now attracted the unwelcome attention of the Zionist lobby. He is 84 years old. Age, it seems, is no barrier for the harbingers of hate who support Israel.
In a hard-hitting editorial in the online independent news outlet The Canary, Kerry-Anne Mendoza warned: “First, the media and political opportunists tried to convince us life-long anti-racist Jeremy Corbyn was Hitler-in-waiting. Now, lifelong anti-racist Ken Loach is being attacked by the same witch-hunt. But after several years of the fraudulent weaponisation of anti-Semitism to achieve political objectives, the left is done. You come for one of us, you come for all of us.”
Left-wing Jews in the Labour Party say that even they are being targeted and persecuted for daring to criticise Israel. One victim — another octogenarian, by the way — is Orthodox Jew Diana Neslen, a disabled widow who lives in Ilford, Essex. She is currently being investigated by the Labour Party because she is an outspoken critic of Israel. Neslen was issued with a warning by party officials after she suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “making shameless political capital out of the Holocaust”. She has explained her position in a video: “I see no contradiction in being Jewish, anti-Zionist and a trenchant critic of the Israeli State… [this] bears no comparison to anti-Semitism that I recognise.”
Elsewhere in Britain, academics are also being targeted in this vicious, bogus pursuit of “anti-Semites”. Professor David Miller of Bristol University is one of them. He is currently being targeted by individuals and groups such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD), the Community Security Trust (CST) and the Union of Jewish Students (UJS); all demand that he be sacked. Having experienced such hateful attacks by this cabal myself, I know that it is extremely painful, stressful and harrowing. The lobby’s tactic depends largely on a template of anonymous briefings, bullying and even misogyny. It remains to be seen if Bristol University stands up to this unwarranted persecution of a man dedicated to honesty and justice.
What this all demonstrates, of course, is that the Zionist network focuses its energies and resources on people who criticise Israel and not the real thugs on the far right who are driven by a hatred of Jews. The anti-Semites’ leaders, paradoxically, are often close to Netanyahu and cheerleaders of the colonial occupation state. No wonder that ordinary Jewish citizens are concerned by the rise of anti-Semitism; they are being misled and often don’t know who their real friends are.
Supporters of If Not Now held a banner aloft at a recent demonstration declaring that “Jews won’t be free until Palestinians are”. It’s a simple message and to the point. Moreover, and more importantly, it comes from a generation of Jews who refuse to be bullied by the pro-Israel lobbyists who cosy up to the far-right and attack critics of the settler-colonial, apartheid state.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.