Category Archives: OPT

State policy: dispossession, displacement, demolition

A state founded on an oxymoron – that Israel can be both democratic and yet in the exclusive control of one ethnonationalist group, in this case Israeli Jews – is unlikely to have a developed sense of irony. Irony, after all, requires, at a bare minimum, a capacity to notice a contradiction when it’s staring you in the face; and, more particularly, when you yourself are its author.

Certainly, Israel’s Foreign Minister appears to be a stranger to the ironic sense. As reported in Ha’aretz newspaper, Israel’s Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, is very angry – outraged in fact – with the Polish government. The Poles have passed a law that will prevent Jews from claiming the property they had to leave behind when fleeing the Nazi Occupation of 1939.  After the war that property was retained by the post-war communist regime.  And the current Polish Government intends to retain, without compensation, that property still. ‘This law is immoral’, the Israeli minister fulminated, ‘No law will change history. This is a disgrace that will not erase the horrors …’.

Meanwhile…

Meanwhile, back in the democratic, Jewish state, it has fashioned its own outrages. As the Ha’aretz correspondent, B. Michael, points out, if the Poles want to deprive people of their property, it should have sought to emulate Israel’s Absentee Property Law which does a more thorough job than does the Polish version. This law, passed in 1950, defines as ‘absentees’ people who were expelled, who fled, or who left the country – i.e. Palestinians – after 29 November 1947 as a result of the 1948 war that established the Israeli state. Those defined as absentees lose any rights to the property they owned within the newly founded state.  It legalises the theft of Palestinian property, placing it in the hands of the Israeli state and connected agencies for the exclusive benefit of Israeli Jews. 

Present absentees

But that move alone was not sufficient from the state’s perspective. In addition to the 750,000 Palestinians who left land, homes and property to find refuge in neighbouring countries, there were a significant number of Palestinians who were ‘internally displaced’, that is, they fled their original homes in what became Israel in 1948, but fled to other villages and towns that were within the boundaries of the new Israeli state.  

Internally displaced people in Israel are also known as ‘present absentees’ normally a contradiction in terms, which rather takes us back to the oxymoronic nature of the Jewish State. This is further exemplified by the fact that ‘present absentees’ have Israeli citizenship, but no right to live in the homes that they own. In normal circumstances the status ‘citizen’ would refer to, among other matters, a substantive body of rights held in common with other citizens.  This clearly is not the case here. 

First hand report from Jaffa

I thought readers of this blog may be interested in a piece by Matan Kaminer, a Jewish Israeli anthropologist and political activist living in the ‘mixed’ city of Jaffa. Matan reflects on the situation in Jaffa and the larger meaning of the crisis, arguing that it serves the Israeli far right’s agenda of eroding the already fragile fabric of joint Jewish–Palestinian life. The article was originally published in Jewish Currents.

These last few days in Jaffa, the most centrally located and deeply unequal of Israel’s mixed Jewish–Arab cities, a tense quiet has prevailed. The intercommunal mayhem that engulfed mixed cities like Acre and Lod since Israel’s horrific attack on the Gaza Strip began last week has for the most part passed us by. To even speak of what might have happened, and still might, seems like courting misfortune. But if the worst is to be averted, it must be imagined and faced head-on.

The conflagration within Israel’s 1948 borders, while unexpected, did not erupt spontaneously. The Jewish residents of the mixed cities have for years been targeted for proselytization by garinim toraniim—“Torah nuclei,” or groups of extremist West Bank settlers whose guru, Meir Kahane, is also the hero of street-brawling groups like Lehava and La Familia. The involvement of Palestinian residents in the indefensible destruction of Jewish lives, livelihoods, and places of worship as part of this violence should not be ignored or glorified. But the arrival of armed settlers in the mixed cities, Netanyahu’s framing of the troubles as Arab “terrorism,” the criminal justice system’s completely lopsided response, and the police’s naked provocations all point in the direction of a strategic agenda being served: ethnic cleansing, known euphemistically in Israel as “population transfer.” Netanyahu’s recent courting of Kahanism, through his promotion of the far-right Religious Zionism party, explicitly legitimates this agenda.

In a way, this is nothing new. The threat of “transfer” has hung over the heads of the Palestinians who managed to retain their homes in the state of Israel ever since the original ethnic cleansing of 1948. Just a few years ago it was touted by politician Avigdor Liberman—now a darling of anti-Netanyahu centrists—as a way of dealing with the Arab-majority area of Wadi Ara, which abuts the West Bank. But one should not expect the next round of ethnic cleansing to arrive in the familiar guise of camouflaged trucks and shouting soldiers. In the mixed cities, it may take the shape of further provocations by state and parastate actors, calculated to gradually destroy the texture of everyday Palestinian life, which relies on peaceable, if not always harmonious, interaction between Arabs and Jews.

The word “coexistence” is often applied to life in the mixed cities, but local activists are hesitant to use this simplistic term, which is all too often abused by romanticizing tourist agencies and see-no-evil dialogue groups. This tissue of common life is a scar over the broken flesh of previously lively urban centers, a direct result of the corralling of those Palestinians who managed to survive the Nakba into cramped ghettos. The foundational violence of 1948 has continued to mar the social life of these cities, many of which were packed after the war with Jewish immigrants nearly as poor as the locals. As in many other places around the world, here the effects of capitalism and racism are compounded through gentrification, and its slow violence has made survival even more difficult for residents of the sought-after beachfront neighborhoods of Jaffa. Braving poverty and discrimination, the Palestinian residents of the mixed cities have refused to budge, practicing sumud, the Palestinian national value of steadfastness. But here, where Arabs and Jews live in close proximity, patronize each other’s businesses, and even undertake cultural projects together, connections with Jews have been central pillars of the Palestinian strategy for survival.

The long-standing links between the mixed cities’ Palestinian communities and the Israeli Jewish left have given rise to political initiatives that play a role in protecting these communities from the combined violence of state and market. Most prominent in recent years has been the Tel Aviv/Jaffa municipal political party City for All, led by Jewish Knesset member Dov Khenin of the majority-Palestinian party Hadash (now part of the Arab-led Joint List). During its heyday as an effective opposition to the city’s neoliberal mayor Ron Huldai, City for All managed to secure an informal moratorium on the eviction of Arab Jaffans from housing that had been confiscated from Palestinian refugees and held by the public corporation Amidar. Along with a few other pockets—the higher education system, the hospitals—the mixed cities have become small islands of common living in what has become, since the beginning of the Oslo process, a sea of total segregation.

The mixed cities thus make a doubly attractive target for the far right in government and its parastate allies: Not only do their trapped Palestinian populations make for relatively easy targets, but their very existence represents the possibility of Jews and Arabs living together, a possibility these groups would like to eradicate. To an extent, they have already succeeded. As a Jew who has lived in Jaffa for over a decade, I had never felt the slightest concern about interactions in public spaces before this week. If I am now more cautious, how much more frightened must my Palestinian neighbors be, knowing that if conflict breaks out the police will not come to their aid as they would come to mine?

God willing, soon the attack on Gaza will end. But if Netanyahu’s jingoistic strategy succeeds in keeping him in power—as it probably will—then we can expect the onslaught on the mixed cities to continue, with the aim of pushing local Palestinian communities away from prime real estate and deeper into isolated ghettos, and destroying the texture of joint life. The emergency committee for self-defense established by the Palestinian community in Jaffa understands this, and has reached out to Jewish allies, who have responded warmly. The threat to sumud here is as dire as it has been in decades, but this community will not be destroyed without a fight.

The original wound

The original wound is still raw – septic. Yet the work of wounding continues, daily, without let, without hindrance.

The original wound

The original wound was inflicted in 1948 – the Naqba (Catastrophe) marking the expulsion of the settled, indigenous inhabitants of Palestine from their homes and land.  The methods: Intimidation and brute force at the service of the ethnic cleansing project that was, and still is, the modus operandi of the Israeli State. 

The State of Israel, a colonial and colonising State – a peculiar, almost ahistorical aberration seemingly out of time with the wider world where, for example, European countries were beginning to glimpse and face up to the inevitability of having to relinquish their colonial possessions. Israel – history in reverse.  Out of time.

Starting here, with the unhealed wound of 1948, alerts us to what has too often been obscured, that Occupation and Colonisation did not start in 1967, after the Six Day War. It started in 1948.

Between 1948 and 1967, Israel worked, as it still works, to erase Palestinian history. A patina of contrived forgetfulness lays upon the land. Walk where you will, look where you will, and you’ll not be far from a forest or institution, the presence of which masks, and is designed to mask, the Palestinian village or cemetery destroyed by Israel. Be that the Jewish National Fund’s South African Forest – billed an ecological-conservation-motivated project – which overlays the destroyed Palestinian village of Lubya; or by Tel Aviv’s coastline, at the site of what is now the Etzel Museum, which was once part of the Palestinian village of al-Manshiyyah. Then there is Al-Shaykh Muwannis, which abuts the campus of Tel Aviv University. Down the road a large building that was once part of the Palestinian village is now a faculty club.

Where you walk in Israel, you walk on injustice.  This original wound has festered for seventy-three years and counting.

The perpetual wounding

Israel did not have to hold on to the West Bank, Gaza, still less East Jerusalem after the 1967 war. The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs reported Senator Fulbright’s 1970 proposal ‘that America should guarantee Israel’s security in a formal treaty, protecting her with armed forces if necessary. In return, Israel would retire to the borders of 1967.…As Israeli troops were withdrawn from the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank they would be replaced by a UN peacekeeping force. Israel would agree to accept a certain number of Palestinians and the rest would be settled in a Palestinian state outside Israel.’ 

But the wounding continued. The strategic Israeli aim of acquiring and retaining Palestinian land, but removing as many Palestinians from it as possible, has been and continues to be the principle and reference point of Israeli policy. What began in 1948 continues. It is now fifty-four years and counting, of Israeli Occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

An insightful letter framing a courageous act: Israeli students publicly refuse military conscription

Last month, January 2021, sixty Israeli High School students very publicly refused to be conscripted into the Israeli army (military service is compulsory for men and women) . Below is the letter they sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, army Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and Education Minister Yoav Galant.

It’s a stunning, courageous letter, combining succinct political and social analysis within a strong ethical framework. It also offers an insight into the pervasive militarism of Israeli society, and how from the earliest age Israeli children are prepared for their role as enforcers of a corrupt, perverse Jewish supremacist ideology.

Beyond this brief introduction, there is nothing more I need say, the letter speaks so eloquently for itself.

We are a group of Israeli 18-year-olds at a crossroads. The Israeli state is demanding our conscription into the military. Allegedly, a defense force which is supposed to safeguard the existence of the State of Israel. In reality, the goal of the Israeli military is not to defend itself from hostile militaries, but to exercise control over a civilian population. In other words, our conscription to the Israeli military has political context and implications. It has implications, first and foremost on the lives of the Palestinian people who have lived under violent occupation for 72 years. Indeed, the Zionist policy of brutal violence towards and expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and lands began in 1948 and has not stopped since. The occupation is also poisoning Israeli society–it is violent, militaristic, oppressive, and chauvinistic. It is our duty to oppose this destructive reality by uniting our struggles and refusing to serve these violent systems–chief among them the military. Our refusal to enlist to the military is not an act of turning our backs on Israeli society. On the contrary, our refusal is an act of taking responsibility over our actions and their repercussions.

The military is not only serving the occupation, the military is the occupation. Pilots, intelligence units, bureaucratic clerks, combat soldiers, all are executing the occupation. One does it with a keyboard and the other with a machine gun at a checkpoint. Despite all of this, we grew up in the shadow of the symbolic ideal of the heroic soldier. We prepared food baskets for him in the high holidays, we visited the tank he fought in, we pretended we were him in the pre-military programs in high school, and we revered his death on memorial day. The fact that we are all accustomed to this reality does not make it apolitical. Enlistment, no less than refusal, is a political act.

Seismic shift: Authoritative Israeli human rights organisation brands Israel an Apartheid State

It’s as good as official: Israeli human rights group – B’tselem – defines Israel an Apartheid State. Other organisations have made that evidence-based judgment, not least the UN and Al-Haq, but the B’tselem report has special significance – it represents a radical break in its previous position and implcitly calls to account those that have given Israel comfort by treating it as a normal state.

My posts have unfailingly labelled Israel a racist, Apartheid State. And over a number of postings I have presented evidence to support that designation.  Nevertheless, it’s clear that, for many, it’s a designation too far, not least for some at the liberal end of the political spectrum. 

To a significant extent liberal thought, along with its Zionist liberal variant, generally revolves around what are considered universal values: human rights, political, civil and religious rights for all, in this case understood as mutual entitlements both for Palestinians and for Jews.  In the abstract, there is little of contention here, but in the brute light of history and the day-to-day lived experience of Palestinians under Israeli rule, these precepts amount to no more than wishful thinking. 

The historical distinction: The Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel proper

A key aspect of some liberal thinking, and indeed of more centrist thought, is that a distinction must be made between Israel proper (i.e. Israel within the Green Line) and its Occupation of Palestinian territory, i.e. Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  This distinction forms what might be called the ‘standard paradigm’ within which Palestine/Israel questions have traditionally been considered.  There is Israel, and there is the OPT.  Israel is a democratic State – so it says of itself – and there is Israel in the OPT.  It shouldn’t be there, of course, but, according to the standard paradigm, the ‘solution’ to that state of affairs is to hand: Israel must withdraw from the OPT. 

Thus far the conventional approach – the standard paradigm – has not paid too much attention to what goes on within Israel, specifically as it affects its non-Jewish citizens and residents, but focuses on, and works to counter, human rights abuses in the OPT; and to press for an end to the Occupation. 

No distinction: an alternative paradigm

But what happens if the standard paradigm is wrong? Or at least, were it ever right, it is wrong now, and has been for some time. If the paradigm is wrong or outdated, then it becomes not a tool for thought, but a constraint upon it. 

Facts on the ground have for some time made redundant the idea that there is a firm distinction to be drawn between Israel proper and the OPT. Israel’s writ runs throughout both territories; on both sides of the Green Line, that writ is a racist, Apartheid one.  For a range of motives and reasons, this characterisation of the Israeli State has been unpalatable for many. 

Those reasons and motives need not detain us in this post, but the reluctance to stare reality in the face results in, and is based on, denial, this perhaps particularly the case for those I’ve characterised as of liberal persuasion. From this perspective, Israel’s often acknowledged misdeeds, misbehaviours and cruelties can be laid at the door of the Occupation. It is the Occupation that is the mutant gene, corrupting an otherwise healthy Israeli body politic. Ending the Occupation, therefore, is conceived as a salve that, once administered, will create the conditions for the restoration of the ‘true’ Israel, the fabled democratic state that resides in a ‘tough neighbourhood’. 

Seismic shif

In what amounts to a seismic shift in thinking and analysis, the well-regarded, authoritative B’tselem – The Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories – has declared Israel a racist, Apartheid State; a State that controls the entirety of the territory bounded by the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan: Israel proper, the OPT and East Jerusalem.

Historically, B’tselem devoted itself to documenting Israeli violations of Palestinians’ human rights but only in the OPT – the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip – but not in Israel proper within the Green Line demarcation border. It has now come to a different analysis, this based on documented facts on the ground. 

‘A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid’

Under the heading set out above, B’tselem explains:

The common perception in public, political, legal and media discourse is that two separate regimes operate side by side in this area [between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River], separated by the Green Line….

…Over time, the distinction between the two regimes has grown divorced from reality…. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers now reside in permanent settlements east of the Green Line, living as though they were west of it. East Jerusalem has been officially annexed to Israel’s sovereign territory, and the West Bank has been annexed in practice.

Most importantly, the distinction obfuscates the fact that the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is organized under a single principle: advancing and cementing the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians. All this leads to the conclusion that…There is one regime governing the entire area and the people living in it, based on a single organizing principle.

It goes on to say:

In the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, the Israeli regime implements laws, practices and state violence designed to cement the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians….

Jewish citizens live as though the entire area were a single space (excluding the Gaza Strip). The Green Line means next to nothing for them: whether they live … within Israel’s sovereign territory, or east of it, [in illegally held territory] is irrelevant to their rights or status.Where Palestinians live, on the other hand, is crucial….The geographic space, which is contiguous for Jews, is a fragmented mosaic for Palestinians…

…A regime that uses laws, practices and organized violence to cement the supremacy of one group over another is an apartheid regime. Israeli apartheid, which promotes the supremacy of Jews over Palestinians…is a process that has gradually grown more institutionalized and explicit, with mechanisms introduced over time in law and practice to promote Jewish supremacy. These accumulated measures, their pervasiveness in legislation and political practice, and the public and judicial support they receive – all form the basis for our conclusion that the bar for labeling the Israeli regime as apartheid has been met.

A change in the ethical grammar

Robert A. H. Cohen, in his reliably excellent blog, is clear that the B’tselem report changes not only the acceptable vocabulary on Palestine/Israel but also the ‘ethical grammar’ which hitherto has both shielded and sustained Israel.

Israel is and has been sustained through massive financial support from the USA and the EU, along with close military and ‘security’ cooperation; joint arms’ development and sales; and protected from criticism by demonising Israel-critical speech as prima facie anti-Semitic.

The B’tselem report implicitly calls into question the role the political class has played in turning a blind eye, and cosying up to, Israel.  It similarly calls to account all those organsations and individuals – civil society – that have given Israel comfort, not least by treating it as a normal State.

The B’tselem report blows a hole through many of the policies and practices designed to neutralise or vanquish criticism of Israel.  The Jewish Board of Deputies and the Jewish Labour Movement, for example, will presumably need to take pause to consider, and attempt to refine, their approach to defending Israel. The Labour Party Leader, Keir Starmer, may come to feel he has misstepped in his handling of the of anti-Semitism issue within the labour Party. Or at least he should.

The Education Minister, Gavin Williamson, may feel the ground has been cut from beneath his feet in his attempt to force universities to adopt the IHRA (International Holocaust Memorial Alliance) definition of anti-Semitism, along with examples of what may indicate anti-Semitism. One of those examples I discussed in an earlier blogDenying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour. In the light of the B’tselem report, how can it now feasibly be suggested that Israel is not an Apartheid, racist State?  And on what ground now does the oft-critiqued IHRA defintion of anti-Semitism stand – quicksand?

BDS: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions

Then there is the non-violent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, it also the subject to vilification and threats.  The B’tselem report draws a parallel – not an exact one, but sufficient for the purpose – between the Israel Apartheid State and what was the South African Apartheid State.

BDS played a significant role in isolating that regime, and by doing so aided its demise.  This surely, then, is the moment when those who have offered Israel the benefit of the doubt, in part because they based their analysis on what I have called the standard paradigm, need to reappraise both their analysis and the actions that may be required of them.

BDS is a significant tool in the struggle against Israel’s State-induced oppression and needs to be more widely supported. It’s always struck me as odd that many of those who actively opposed South African Apartheid, not least by supporting the BDS campaign of its day, have been somehow quesy about supporting its current iteration in respect of Israel’s Apartheid State.

Turning a blind eye, not confronting the reality – the humiliations, brutalisations, home demolitions, killings that Palestinians daily endure – can no longer be an option.

Endword

To coin a phrase: There is an elephant in the room that this blog occupies.  

The B’tselem analysis rests upon the fact that there is but one regime that governs both Israel within the Green Line, and Palestinians within the OPT, including annexed East Jerusalem.  The elephant therefore thinks it inevitable that we ask ‘What of the two State ‘solution’? Is it tenable? Was it ever really tenable? And if it is not now tenable, what is the way forward for justice within Palestine/Israel?

I think this needs to be the subject of the next post.

So you and I could be anti-Semitic, and we didn’t even know it. Part One

A key objective of the Israeli State is to appear to be a normal state, one adhering to the modalities and conventions associated with a legitimate political entity. Because Israel, in vitally significant ways, does not in fact conform to those modalities and conventions, it must therefore expend much energy and money directed towards creating and sustaining what is, fundamentally, a false image.  The problem with falsity, however, is that it is only effective for as long as the veneer of falsehood is maintained.  Such maitenance requires much effort.

This is the first of two articles, the second to be published next Monday, 28 December. This first one discusses Israel’s strenuous efforts to appear a normal democratic state and the way it has deployed accusations of anti-Semitism to intimidate its critics. The next article will pursue this theme showing how our – the UK and the West’s – commitment to democratic values and free speach are endangered by an over-strident Israel lobby. This post is about a five minute read.

A key objective of the Israeli State is to appear to be a normal state, one adhering to the modalities and conventions associated with a legitimate political entity. Because Israel, in vitally significant ways, does not in fact conform to those modalities and conventions, it must therefore expend much energy and money directed towards creating and sustaining what is, fundamentally, a false image.  The problem with falsity, however, is that it is only effective for as long as the veneer of falsehood is maintained.  Such maintenance requires much effort.

The mechanism deployed by Israel both to eulogise its purported achievements and to intimidate its actual and potential critics is called hasbara.

Hasbara is propaganda directed at an international audience. It aims to influence the conversation so that Israel is portrayed in a positive light. Israel well understands the power of media and works assiduously to shape and direct the narrative on Palestine/Israel matters.  Such is the importance that Israel accords to propaganda that there is a Hasbara Ministry, headed by a government minister.

Hasbara, then, is well resourced, sophisticated and unrelenting. Israel-critical voices are demonised as anti-Semitic, a point I shall return to below. Palestinian voices and perspectives are erased or vilified.  Mainstream western media is shamefully complicit in the marginalisation of Palestinian perspectives.

Hasbara and its local helpmates

To be effective, hasbara must work through locally based groups and organisations – some very influential – who expend much energy patrolling the boundary of what they consider to be acceptable speech about Israel. However, to have extensive reach, upwards towards government and national institutions, and downwards towards local government and civil society – for example football clubs and university student unions – requires a self-reinforcing, unifying theme,  one that, superficially at least, appears manifestly, incontrovertibly, both necessary and true.

In a move of tactical brilliance, it was realised that a highly effective way of intimidating and demonising critical voices was to accuse Israel-critical and Zionist-critical individuals and groups of anti-Semitism. And, indeed, the tactic has been highly effective to the extent that even Jews can be accused of anti-Semitism, which certainly puzzles many of us.

Nevertheless, one would normally expect a degree of caution, not to say scepticism, to be brought to bear when assessing the validity of anti-Semitism charges if only because they are so promiscuously deployed. But no, to be charged is to be guilty, and through a process of demonization critical voices are silenced, hounded and marginalised.

Israel-critical and Zionist-critical analysis and speech is curtailed, in part through self-censorship born of the fear of being publicly vilified; and in part because the platforms – the halls, venues, papers, social media sites  – available for speech are  withdrawn and access debarred. There is a chilling hint here of the Salem witch-hunts whereby certain actions and forms of speech are deemed heretical and must at all costs be both punished and silenced.

Within its own terms, witch hunting has an underpinning rationale which, once accepted, forms the basis of the accusations that follow. One approach was to test the accused’s ability to flawlessly recite a New Testament biblical passage or the Lord’s Prayer. Stumble over a word or words, and the witchcraft charge is confirmed, for only the maliciously deviant are so far from god’s grace that holy words become unspeakable.

Spurious authority: Working definition of anti-Semitism and examples

And so it is that Israel advocates seized on a profoundly weak document – the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) flawed and muddled ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism – as the basis for accusations of anti-Semitism. And, via this vehicle, a closed system of thought was instituted based on the assertion that almost all critical speech and writing about Israel and Zionism is, in and of itself, anti-Semitic.

The IHRA’s non-legally binding, working defintion of anti-Semitism:

‘Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.’

In the same way as scripture, new or old testament, has an accompanying body of commentary to help elucidate the meaning of the sacred texts, the ‘definition’ had appended to it a concoction of notional ‘examples’ of anti-Semitism to illuminate potential areas of misspeak; that is, where anti-Semitic utterance could be said to have occurred.

Nothing to do with anti-Semitism

But the actual purpose of the IHRA’s so called definition, and a significant number of its notional elucidating examples, have little or nothing to do with countering anti-Semitism but has everything to do with erasing knowledge of Israel’s brutal fifty-two year occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, to say nothing of the discrimination Palestinians face within Israel (i.e. as distinct from the occupied territories). 

The tactic here is to weld criticism of Israel to a self-serving set of examples that link Israel-critical and Zionist-critical comment to anti-Semitism, thereby neutering negative comment and analysis, and condemning the critic to obloquy.

There are six highly questionable examples which it is claimed may constitute anti-Semitism. The full list can be found here.  For now, I’ll concentrate on only one:

‘Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.’

In 2018 the Israel Knesset (Parliament) passed the ‘Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People’.  Extracts are given below in italics.

The law’s title actually says it all: Israel is the Nation-State of the Jewish people. This further clarified in the clause:

‘The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.’

Palestinians and non-Jews comprise around 20% of the Israeli population but only Jews have the ‘unique’ right to self-determination. ‘Unique’ equals ‘exclusively.

‘The state will be open for Jewish immigration and the ingathering of exiles.’

Only Jewish immigration, not Palestinian. Palestinian’s have no right to immigrate – or ‘return’ – to Palestine/Israel.  This particularly affects the approximately 750,000 Palestinian refugees and their descendants who were effectively expelled from their homes and country in the 1948 Naqba ethnic cleansing by the nascent Jewish State.

‘The state’s language is Hebrew not Arabic. 

Notwithstanding around a 20% Arab population.

‘The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.’

Note the development is of Jewish settlement. The settlements, properly called colonies, are situated on stolen (West Bank) or illegally annexed (East Jerusalem) land. The theft of Palestinian land is carried out with the aid of JCB British, militarised bulldozers, the Israel Defence Forces, and Israeli Border Police.  This process continues and in fact has recently been significantly stepped up. Israel does this with impunity. 

Notwithstanding any other indicators that define Israel a racist endeavour, surely the Basic Law clauses set out above confirm that the current State of Israel’s very foundations are racist, and it acts accordingly.   

Does what I have said here constitute the offence of anti-Semitism?

Next week’s article will discuss the real and present danger current hasbara practices represent to free speech and the need for a unified front against all forms of racism, not simply anti-Semitism. This is both an ethical point, and a pragmatic one.