Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, and Israel

Chaotic as twenty-first century politics is, we are currently witnessing anti-Semitism infiltrate from the hard left. However, we’re also seeing a great many critics from the centre and the right conflate anti-Zionist sentiment or criticism of Israel with racism. Where exactly should the line be drawn?

Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, has been bedraggled by anti-Semitism accusations as of late, and quite rightly too. Being “present but not involved” — his own words — at a wreath-laying for Palestinian terrorists isn’t really good enough for a supposed anti-racist politician.

There is a bigger issue, though, than Corbyn’s own actions or that of his MPs.

Anti-Semitism is on the rise both in politics and in wider society. It is a reality which really shouldn’t be the case in the modern day, but alas, it is. Unfortunately for Corbyn, his words and actions aren’t completely meaningless — they may well be exacerbating the situation.

This perhaps goes some way towards explaining why he is being attacked so much — and, to an extent, why he is being vilified for what may seem at first relatively small.

One of the problems with regard to Jeremy Corbyn is that he has engaged in the whole trifecta: anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, and anti-Israel rhetoric. This has led to the three being dangerously conflated with one another, and Corbyn being attacked for all of them.

The latter two are perfectly valid political positions: being opposed to the idea of a Jewish state and being opposed to Israel’s actions and goals respectively. There is little, if anything, anti-Semitic or racist about holding these views, and yet those who do are now attacked for them due to the Labour Party scandal.

Many on the left, however, have realised this and begun exonerating Corbyn and his party of all three charges — despite his very obvious guilt, on some occasions, of anti-Semitism. This is how we are now left with a situation in which a blatantly anti-Semitic leader of a major party is remaining in post.

If the UKIP can oust their leader when his wife is racist, then Labour should oust the leader when he is racist, right?

Wrong, apparently.

However, his relaxed attitude towards anti-Semitism doesn’t invalidate Corbyn’s arguments against the actions of Israel. There is a perfectly valid criticism that Israel currently has a system of apartheid, and is attempting an ethnic cleansing of sorts.

Binyamin Netanyahu is very unapologetic about Israel’s actions towards Palestine, shown by his recent success in pushing a Basic Law to make Israel a Jewish state through parliament.

Indeed, anti-Zionism — being against the very concept of a Jewish state — isn’t anti-Semitic or racist, although to me it is a somewhat foreign idea. Believing that countries should be secular and irreligious is often behind anti-Zionist beliefs, rather than a particular aversion to the Jewish people.

Although many western countries ally themselves with Israel, especially the US, this is often simply a “lesser of two evils” judgement, as opposed to declaring full and unwavering support for the country. We oughtn’t to become so caught up in defence of the Jewish people against anti-Semitism that we forget the crimes of the Israeli state.

Ultimately, it is about balance: we must not conflate the Jewish people with Israel, so that we don’t attack them for the failures of, for many, a foreign state.

We must also not conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism — they are very different things and should be treated as such. Just because you don’t agree with a viewpoint, it doesn’t mean it is racist or vile. After all, we don’t label people who oppose the state of Palestine Islamophobic, do we?

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