Socialist Worker

Israel supporters are on a new offensive

by Alex Callinicos
Issue No. 2691

Supporters of Israel want to step up their assault on Palestine solidarity

Supporters of Israel want to step up their assault on Palestine solidarity (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The Witchhunt smearing anti-Zionists as antisemites has moved on to new targets.

The Jewish Chronicle complained last week that the anti-racist charity Show Racism the Red Card had chosen the film-maker Ken Loach and the poet Michael Rosen as judges in their annual competition for young people.

This prompted an outpouring of bile from the likes of TV presenter Rachel Riley, who ranted about “deniers/proponents of anti-Jewish racism”.

Accusing Michael Rosen of Holocaust denial is beyond surreal. Anyone familiar with his vast output knows that one theme is his Jewish identity, which he takes pride in.

His latest book is The Missing, and is about his efforts to trace the histories of relatives who were murdered by the Nazis during the Second World War.

The attack on him is reminiscent of the Blairite leader of the National Union of Students who back in the 1990s called Tony Cliff, the founder of the Socialist Workers Party, a Holocaust revisionist.

She recanted when Cliff’s partner, Chanie Rosenberg, like him Jewish, wrote to her listing the members of their families who died in the Holocaust.

Ken Loach isn’t Jewish. But he’s a socialist, internationalist, and anti-racist. He’s singled out because, like both Michael and Jeremy Corbyn, he supports the struggle of the Palestinian people against their expropriation and oppression by the state of Israel.

It’s unlikely that the likes of Riley can be shamed into recanting. She’s already used the Holocaust denial slur against Noam Chomsky, another anti-Zionist Jew, who has suffered antisemitism. And this isn’t just about the self-feeding nature of social media campaigns.

Supporters of Israel won a major victory with Labour’s defeat in the December general election. The campaign to brand Corbyn, the first anti-Zionist to become leader of the Labour Party, as an antisemite helped to undermine his image.

We can see the same kind of slurs being rolled out in the United States against Bernie Sanders’ left wing campaign to become the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate.

Sanders’ criticisms of Israel are in fact much milder than Corbyn’s but, if he continues to win support, the accusations of antisemitism will reach a higher pitch.

The attacks on Loach and Rosen represent an attempt to drive anti-Zionists out of the anti-racist movement.

It’s vital the witch-hunters are defeated

It’s interesting how the antisemitism campaigners against Corbyn have tended to talk about “anti-Jewish racism”.

This is factually correct—modern antisemitism is a form of racism.

But this usage was intended to imply that people such as Corbyn don’t deserve to call themselves anti-racists. This is, of course, the ultimate height of absurdity.

Corbyn, Loach and Rosen all have excellent records of fighting all forms of racism, including antisemitism.

The Jewish Board of Deputies and other such pro-Israel organisations have long had to struggle with the embarrassing fact that the most effective campaigners against the far right—who remain the main proponents of antisemitism—have tended to be anti-Zionists often working together with Zionists.

But just because something is ridiculous doesn’t mean it can’t get mass support in favourable circumstances.

And unfortunately present circumstances are favourable for the peddlers of the lie that antisemitism is the same as anti-Zionism. Corbyn’s defeat gave them a big scalp. They want more.

If they succeeded in driving out the left, the anti-racist movement would collapse. The movement is the product of decades of struggle by black people and anti-racists and anti-fascists of all colours and backgrounds.

The other day I saw its spirit embodied on a London bus when a young black woman challenged a drunk who was pestering an orthodox Jewish man.

It’s vital the witch-hunters are defeated. This requires a vigorous campaign to defend Loach and Rosen—and one that is not apologetic and defensive like the Labour Party response to the slurs against Corbyn.

There’s no shame in supporting the Palestinian struggle.


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