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Letters—Starmer’s attack on anti-Zionism is an attack on left wing Jews

This article is over 2 years, 7 months old
Moves to make Zionism and the state of Israel untouchable are ultimately at the expense of Jews and their safety, writes Bella Segal
Issue 2782
A flag of Israel flies over placards that say no to antisemitism

Supporters of Israel want to make the state synonymous with Jewish identity (Picture: Guy Smallman)

At the Labour Friends of Israel annual lunch last week Keir Starmer said anti-Zionism had no place in the Labour Party, and described it as a type of antisemitism.

This unambiguous conflation of anti-Zionism with antisemitism threatens our ability of members to legitimately criticise and hold the settler-colonialist state of Israel to account.

But it also stifles my right, as a British, anti-Zionist, self-loving Jew, to self-determination and political freedom.

What Starmer and Zionists refuse to consider is that my love and attachment to Jewish identity and values is why I condemn Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

Starmer’s declaration is backed up by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition that Labour adopted in 2018.

Both cement the profoundly antisemitic view that I do not get to determine what I think politically as a Jew beyond what is assumed to be in my best interest by Zionists.

By mandating that anti-Zionism is antisemitism, Starmer commands that I either love Israel or hate myself.

He presents left wing British Jews with no choice but to be gagged and barred from independent political thought by Zionist politics or be removed from the party.

This has manifested itself in harassment and discrimination against left wing Jews. A study by Jewish Voice for Labour reports that Jews are five times more likely to face antisemitism charges than non-Jewish Labour members.

Moves to make Zionism and the state of Israel untouchable are ultimately at the expense of Jews and our safety.

I am not made to feel safer by this rhetoric and the policies it leads to.

I will feel safe when my Palestinian comrades are free.

Our liberation is bound together and I will not allow my identity to be bastardised and co-opted to lend support to an apartheid regime.

Bella Segal, Bournemouth

Gains in Glasgow

Campaigners against library closures in Glasgow achieved a small victory last week.

The Scottish government agreed to provide funding to re-open five libraries that were closed when the Covid pandemic began.

The libraries are among 70 public venues, including community centres and sports facilities, that have now been closed for more than 18 months.

Many of these are in the poorest areas of the city.

The Scottish National Party-run council—and its Glasgow Life “arm’s length” organisation that runs the venues—initially said Covid was the reason for closing them.

But now they are seeking to sell them off to private investors or through progressive-sounding “community buy-outs”. These leave local communities responsible for running the venues.

There has been a six-month long campaign of weekly protests outside several of the libraries.

There has also been a city-wide campaign, including two well-attended demonstrations, called by Glasgow Against Closures (GAC). Without that, the libraries would have remained closed.

But while the re-opening of the five libraries is welcome, funding is only guaranteed for six months, so the campaign continues.

GAC is demanding that the libraries be reopened on a permanent basis. All the other closed venues must also be reopened.

And Glasgow Life should be brought back under local authority control with no job losses.

Iain Ferguson, Glasgow

Can we take action over rising rents?

Rents are rising at the fastest pace in 13 years.

I’m part of Eviction Resistance. We organise collectively to stop people from being evicted. The London Renters group has hundreds of people who go round and block the bailiffs. But that means we only see people who are being evicted.

How do you stop rents going up? We need more council houses. We need the government to open up unused empty properties for genuinely affordable council housing.

It would be great if unions took this up. How many workers live in houses of multiple occupation? How many on zero hours contracts don’t know how they’re going to pay rent from one month to the next.

The question is how we relate these problems to a movement that helps others.

Joel Hirsch, East London

Labour MPs’ gambling free gifts

Who can be surprised that Tory MPs stand up for the gambling industry and take free gifts from betting companies?

But what about Labour MPs? Some 28 MPs have taken almost £225,000 in wages and gifts from the gambling industry since August 2020. Most of those were Tories—but nine of them were Labour.

Labour MP John Spellar spoke up for the gambling industry in a parliamentary debate last year. He talked of an urgent need to “improve and continue Britain’s attractiveness” as a casino destination.

He just so happened to have taken a free cricket match ticket at a cost of £874.80 from the Betting and Gaming Council.

The council’s head? Ex-Labour MP Michael Dugher.

Rebecca Kearns, Carlisle

Labour a bad alternative

You say the Tories’ corruption scandals have finally put Boris Johnson on the back foot.

The trouble is, the choice between him and Keir Starmer is similar to asking turkeys to choose between being roasted or boiled at Christmas.

Either way, we all end up stuffed.

Leslie Bridges, on Facebook

Bigots always get their say

The academics that are setting up a new right wing university in the United States claim their free speech is under threat.

But bigots have most of society as a safe haven—not just religious institutions but most of the media including the BBC and the Guardian newspaper.

Beth Young, on Facebook

Hidden side to world wars

Good article on Britain’s colonial soldiers.

While growing up, we were taught about the First and Second World wars. But we heard nothing about the people from Britain’s colonies losing their lives for the Empire.

Modina Khan, on Facebook

The shame of Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer was asked last week whether he thought Jeremy Corbyn would have been a better prime minister than Boris Johnson.

He dodged the question—five times. The party has changed he said, again and again.

We shouldn’t be surprised, given how Labour MPs and staff sabotaged Corbyn’s leadership. Or how Starmer has spent most of his leadership supporting the government.

But it does beg a question for Corbyn supporters. Why stay in a party that seemingly hates you more than it hates the Tories?

Sharon Cresswell, Northallerton

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