By Nick Clark
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2616

Fight antisemitism smears—defend support for Palestine

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Issue 2616
Thousands on the streets in 2014
Thousands on the streets in 2014 (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The Labour Party dropped disciplinary proceedings against MP Margaret Hodge on Monday. This decision was made despite her having shouted in Jeremy Cobyn’s face that he is a “fucking antisemite and a racist.”

Hodge has never denied making the disgraceful and baseless attack on Corbyn. She did deny that she ever apologised.

It came after Jeremy Corbyn promised to “root out” antisemitism from the Labour Party in an article on the Guardian website last Friday.

He was immediately attacked for it from the right.

Corbyn—a life-long ­anti-racist—is accused of tolerating and encouraging antisemitism because of his long-standing support for Palestinians who are oppressed by Israel.

The right are demanding that the Labour Party adopts a definition of antisemitism that says it is ­antisemitic to call Israel a racist state.

This would make it impossible for Palestinians to describe their oppression at the hands of Israel as racist.

It would also stop them from talking about their expulsion from Palestine when Israel was established in 1948 as ethnic cleansing.


Some 850,000 Palestinians were forced to leave their homes between 1947 and 1948 because Israel’s founders wanted the country to have a Jewish majority (see right).

Yet Corbyn wrote that it is “wrong” to describe Zionism—Israel’s founding ideology that justified the Palestinians’ dispossession—as racist.

Don’t give ground to right’s antisemitism smears, go on the offensive over Palestine
Don’t give ground to right’s antisemitism smears, go on the offensive over Palestine
  Read More

Despite this, Corbyn’s critics stepped up their attacks on him. Some wanted him to acknowledge “his own role” in encouraging ­antisemitism, by which they mean his support for Palestinians.

But most demanded “action”—meaning they want him to give in and adopt the definition that claims it is antisemitic to call Israel racist.

One critic James Sorene, chief executive of pro-Israel think tank Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, said the definition was the “core of this crisis”.

He was retweeted approvingly by prominent right wing Labour members.

The response to Corbyn’s article showed clearly that the accusations of antisemitism against the left are about silencing criticism of Israel.

It also showed that giving in to the right’s demands won’t make them go away.

A section of Corbyn’s allies want him to back down and accept the definition. Yet this will open the door to further attacks on solidarity with Palestinians, justified by the smear that opposition to Israel is motivated by antisemitism.

The best response to this is to insist that it is not antisemitic to call Israel racist—and highlight the Palestinians’ struggle against the racist Israeli state.

Blocking Palestine solidarity

A Tory councillor in Barnet, north London, launched a serious attack on the right to campaign in solidarity with Palestine last week.

Councillor Brian Gordon submitted a proposal to the council to ban all supporters of the pro-Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign from using council facilities.

His justification was that BDS is antisemitic because it falls foul of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemtism. This often includes an example that says it is antisemitic to call Israel racist. That’s the same example that the Labour right are so desperate to force Labour to include in its own code of conduct on antisemitism.

Gordon’s proposal was referred to a council committee which next meets in October.

It shows the real danger that the IHRA definition poses.

‘Zionism is racist’—author Ilan Pappe

Acclaimed Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has spoken out for the right to show solidarity with Palestinians—and against accusations of antisemitism made against the left.

Pappe is the author of the ground breaking book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. It documents how Palestinians were systematically expelled from Palestine when Israel was created.

In an interview with Socialist Worker, Pappe said recent accusations of antisemitism against the left “are born of the sole motive to remove Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of the Labour Party.”

“This is the first time in decades that a pro-Palestinian politician was elected to a senior position in any European political system,” he said. “That terrifies not so much the state of Israel, as it does unsettle its supporters in Britain.”

Pappe dismisses the idea that all Jews in Britain support Israel, or that they are all represented by the organisations attacking Corbyn. He also argued that Zionism—Israel’s founding movement—“from the moment it set foot in Palestine adopted a racist vision towards the native Palestinian population.”

‘Fear works if you cave in’—Ilan Pappe on Israel, Palestine and antisemitism
‘Fear works if you cave in’—Ilan Pappe on Israel, Palestine and antisemitism
  Read More

He said linking anti-Zionism to antisemitism “is scholarly wrong and morally absurd.

“The Zionist movement is a settler colonial movement. These movements were created by Europeans that escaped the continent for existential reasons.

“When they encountered a native population the logic that informed them was to remove those natives as the main obstacle for creating a new homeland. The Zionists carried out a programme of ethnic cleansing against Palestinians in 1948. They then dealt with the Palestinian minority inside Israel through a harsh military rule that robbed them of basic rights.

“At the same time they created an Apartheid system discriminating against the Palestinian citizens in Israel through laws, practices and policies.

“Zionism and the Israeli policies that emanate from them are racist in the way they frame, treat and envision the future of the Palestinians.

“These treat and frame the Palestinians as potential criminals, regardless whether they are children or active resistance fighters, because they were born Palestinians. There is nothing more moral and just to condemn such an idea and policy as racist.”

Read the longer interview at

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