For perhaps the first time in a mainstream British newspaper, the narrative of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries, who found refuge from persecution and death in the Jewish state, is used as a moral argument against the anti-Zionism of the hard left. Column by Allister Heath in the Telegraph:
I’m a Zionist, dear reader, and I cannot understand how any mainstream
politician in Britain today could not be. I find the fact that so many
on the extreme Left and at the top of the Labour Party now routinely
describe themselves as anti-Zionists to be not just baffling but
absolutely horrifying. The implications of their ideology fill me with
dread, and the fact that the Labour Party has now adopted, with a key
caveat, the international definition of anti-Semitism resolves very
Allister Heath: ‘it is horrifying to be anti-Zionist’
Zionism involves accepting a simple proposition: the
Jewish people should have their own country in the historic Land of
Israel, from where they were expelled all those years ago. Zionism is
not a programme for government; it is neither “Left-wing” or
“Right-wing”. Apart from agreeing that there should be Jewish national
self-determination in a viable, secure homeland in Israel, Zionists
disagree on everything else, including on where borders should be drawn.
Plenty believe that Palestinians have been very badly treated.
It was one thing to be an anti-Zionist in 1896, when Theodore Herzl
published Der Judenstaat, launching the modern Zionist movement; or in
1898, when Emile Zola wrote J’accuse in defence of a Jewish officer set
up by the French establishment; or even in 1917, when Lord Balfour
issued his declaration officially supporting “the establishment in
Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”.
didn’t exist then, even though tens of thousands of Jewish refugees had
already fled to Palestine. Some were even tempted by alternative
locations, including Uganda, or by the view that America was the real
promised land, despite the fact that Temple Mount, the holiest site in
Judaism and the Western Wall are to be found in Jerusalem.
In fact, in the early 20th century,
many Jews were opposed to Zionism, despite the pogroms and ambient
anti-Semitism; the Holocaust proved these anti-Zionists catastrophically
wrong but it was, at the time, perfectly legitimate to debate such
But once Israel was created in 1948, following a vote by
the UN General Assembly, anti-Zionism became either obsolete or an
entirely different, malign proposition. The original debate is over:
Israel now exists. Being a Zionist today thus means advocating the
survival of Israel, a prosperous country of 8.5 million that has just
turned 70. Being an anti-Zionist must therefore entail reversing this,
seeking to undermine Israel to such an extent that it ceases, for all
intents and purposes, to exist in any recognisable form, with all of the
calamitous implications that this implies for its Jewish citizens,
given the hostility of most of its Arab neighbours.
To be clear,
those who rail endlessly against “the Zionists” aren’t merely demanding a
two-state solution (a goal that most Israelis and all Western
democracies rightly support), better treatment for Palestinians or even
lobbying for a Left-wing party to win the Israeli elections: all of that
would be compatible with Zionism. No, what today’s anti-Zionists are
committed to is far more radical and extreme, which is why Left-wing
Israeli politicians have fallen out with the Corbynites.
hard-Left wants to dismantle the only truly democratic nation state in
the region and, one way or the other, force the Jewish people, once
again, into minority status, subsuming them into some greater,
antagonistic regional autocracy. There would no longer be Jewish
self-government, a majority Jewish state: the Zionist interlude would be
Imagine the implications of such a “one-state” solution
and what would happen to Israel’s 6.5 million Jews under any realistic
version of such a scenario: that is why anti-Zionism is such a shocking
ideology, and why anybody in Labour who subscribes to it should be
ashamed of themselves. Anti-Zionism of the sort propounded by the hard
Left is racism of the worst kind: obsessed with delegitimising the
world’s only Jewish country (and no other), in the full knowledge that
its existence is what protects its people from persecution, misery and
even death. How is that not anti-Semitic?
Jewish minorities in
North Africa and the Middle East suffered immensely over the past 100
years, and are only safe today because of Israel’s existence. There were
regular riots and outbreaks of murderous violence long before the rise
of fascism in Europe, and it got much worse during the Second World War
and its aftermath.
In Uprooted: How 3,000 Years of Jewish
Civilisation in the Arab World Vanished Overnight, Lyn Julius recounts
how almost the entire Jewish populations of North Africa and the Middle
East were ethnically cleansed, partly in retaliation for the creation of
Israel, even though they had been settled for thousands of years. Some
850,000 Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews were forced to leave, with the vast
majority moving to Israel. So much for the idea that Israel is racist
and that Jewish Israelis are all “white colonial settlers”, a claim that
is hideously offensive as well as wrong on all counts.
Corbyn’s statement to the Labour NEC this week said that it should not
be deemed “anti-Semitic to describe Israel, its policies or the
circumstances around its foundation as racist”
There were 100,000
Jews in Tunisia during the Second World War; today there are barely
2,000. In Egypt, there were 80,000 Jews a century ago; now there are
just a handful. The same happened in Iraq, Iran, Algeria, Morocco, Yemen
and everywhere else across the region. Yet in the hard-Left’s
world-view, these refugees don’t seem to count. Why?
is that Israel is the best place in the region to be a minority. Why do
the Corbynites not care about the massive exodus of Christians from
Iraq in the 2000s, or the fate of the Kurds, or the Baha’is in Iran and
Yemen? Or the massacres in Syria, which amount to the worst crimes
against humanity in recent history? Or, more generally, the hideous,
never-ending violations of human rights across the region, and the fact
that so many Muslims have been murdered by governments and the likes of
Isil in recent years? Why do they only seem to care about Israel?
Why did Jeremy Corbyn’s statement to Labour’s NEC, which was rejected,
include a passage stating that it shouldn’t be deemed “anti-Semitic to
describe Israel, its policies or the circumstances around its foundation
as racist because of their discriminatory impact”? What does the hard
Left imagine a triumph of anti-Zionism would look like?
Labour really wanted the best for the Middle East, it would return to
its Zionist roots and dedicate all of its energy to seeking a genuine,
workable peace and a two-state solution. Until then, it doesn’t deserve
even the faintest whiff of power.