The Labour Party expelled a prominent Israeli anti-Zionist academic and campaigner last week, citing antisemitism.
Respected socialist and philosopher Dr Moshe Machover—a well-known critic of Israel—was expelled after one of his articles was distributed at Labour’s conference.
Machover’s article criticised Israel and its founding ideology Zionism. But it was not antisemitic.
A letter from Labour headquarters told Machover he had been expelled because of his links with the left wing group that distributed the article.
The letter said the group’s “expressed aims and principles are incompatible with those of the Labour Party”.
If writing for a paper which is outside Labour leads to expulsion, the party will have to remove Jeremy Corbyn who for years wrote regularly for the Morning Star.
The expulsion letter also says that Machover’s article “appears to meet the
International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism”.
The definition used by Labour is often interpreted in a way that prohibits legitimate criticism of Zionism.
Zionism is the belief that Israel has a right to exist in Palestine as an exclusively Jewish state.
Zionism excludes Palestinians from any form of independent political control, and racism towards Palestinians is at its very core.
It excludes Palestinians from any form of independent political control, and racism towards Palestinians is at its very core.
Opposition to Zionism is not antisemitic. The Jewish Voice for Labour group issued a statement supporting Machover.
The statement said, “Moshe Machover is a highly respected Jewish historian and a life-long socialist, and was founder of the socialist party Matzpen in Israel.”
It added that Machover’s article, “Contains no attack on Jews. It is, rather, a scholarly analysis of Zionism, one that is well worth reading and debating.
“Zionism is an ideology (one also espoused by non-Jews) and as such must be open for study and debate.”
Machover’s expulsion comes amid fears by pro-Israel activists inside Labour that they are losing the argument about Palestinian rights.
There have also been deliberate attempts by right wing members and groups around the Labour Party to smear the left as antisemitic.
They conflate criticism of Israel and Zionism with antisemitism and imply that the left’s support for Palestinians encourages antisemites.
A similar, Islamophobic argument suggests that antisemitism is specifically a problem among Muslims.
Such smears give the right opportunities to attack Labour. Tory prime minister Theresa May last week said Labour is “riven with the stain of antisemitism”.
And the smears undermine the basis for anti-racist campaigns that unite Jews and Muslims.
Machover should be defended and Labour’s leaders and left-led national executive should ensure he is immediately reinstated.