Antiracists met in London last night, Monday, for a meeting on antisemitism, Zionism and the left.
Some 200 people joined Tariq Ali, writer and activist John Rose, and Arthur Goodman from Jews for Justice for Palestinians to debate the response to accusations of antisemitism against the left.
Lindsey German from the Stop the War Coalition, Weyman Bennett, and Labour Party member Walter Wolfgang also spoke.
Speakers slammed the idea that it is antisemitic to criticise Israel. Arthur dismissed the European Union’s working definition of antisemitism, which includes “requiring of Israel a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation”.
The definition was recommended by an all-party inquiry which reported in 2006.
Arthur said, “No democratic country other than Israel expelled or dispossessed a large majority of the indigenous population within living memory.
“No other democratic country is occupying that people’s remaining land, and preventing them from achieving self-determination.”
Others attacked the right for using antisemitism to stop the left, Muslims and Jews from uniting to fight racism.
Lindsey said the accusations of antisemitism are “about saying that this comes from Muslims and their allies in the hard left. It’s another way of saying people can’t unite.”
Weyman said, “Antisemitism is too much of an important question to not be challenged properly.
“When the EDL marched in Tower Hamlets we brought the mosque and the synagogue together on the basis that we want to keep the Nazis out. That’s our tradition. That’s what we fight for.
“I will not be taught lessons by the likes of David Cameron on fighting racism.”
Tariq added, “If what is being done to the Muslim community today was being done to the Jews again, how many people would tolerate it? Very few”.
“It is perfectly possible to talk about a one-state solution without being antisemitic.”
People at the meeting debated the best way to respond to the attacks from the right. Some people argued that the left should focus on fighting racism rather than talking about Palestine, or be less critical of Israel.
But Lindsey said, “There is one thing you cannot do when faced with a witch hunt and that is to run away. You cannot abandon the term Zionism. You cannot abandon criticism of Israel.”
And John Rose said, “It is perfectly possible to talk about a one-state solution without being antisemitic.”
Teacher Rob Ferguson spoke from the floor. He said, “I’m the convenor of Newham Stand up to Racism and a Jewish teacher. All my adult political life I have been an anti-Zionist.
“I don’t presume to speak on behalf of every Jew. And nor should Zionists presume to speak on what is antisemitism and what is not.”
He added, “When David Cameron stands in the House of Commons hurling accusations of antisemitism at Jeremy Corbyn and the left I struggle to contain my anger. Because this is a left that has set an example of opposition to racism and fascism.
“This is the David Cameron that has resurrected the language of extremism and disloyalty once used against Jews and now hurls it against Sadiq Khan.”
He added, “The Tories and the media peddle the charge of antisemitism against the left not because they are opposed to racism but because they want a free hand to promote it unencumbered by a united opposition.”