THE decision by Labour Students to hold an investigation into allegations of anti-Semitism at Oxford University Labour Club (OULC) is welcome.
There is no room for anti-Semitism or any other form of hatred based on ethnicity, colour or religion in the labour movement.
Anti-Semitism has traditionally been encouraged by powerful groups in society to divide working people. It ought to have breathed its last when Germany’s nazi regime was extinguished in 1945, putting an end to the Holocaust — the industrialised extermination of Jews, Gypsies and others designated “subhuman” by the nazis.
But this constantly mutating virus persists not only as the result of centuries of propaganda directed against Jews by some Christian denominations but also because of newer, and nonetheless false, rationales for such hatred.
Israel’s dispossession and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the West Bank is sometimes used as a pretext to blame all Jews for the crimes of the zionist state.
Jews in the diaspora — and a brave minority in Israel itself — are at the forefront of campaigns to condemn the denial of Palestinian national rights and to isolate Israel for doing so.
Equating all Jews as zionists or all zionists as Jews is not just wrong but a deliberate ploy to confuse people into swallowing easy conclusions.
The most inflexible of zionists emanate from the US Christian Zionist movement, based on a bizarre interpretation of biblical scriptures.
Zionism historically had minimal attraction for Jews until the Holocaust and postwar Jewish migration to Palestine prior to Israel’s establishment.
Jews, like non-Jews, are divided in their attitudes to Israel, with some excusing everything it does and others refusing to turn a blind eye to its ongoing appalling treatment of the Palestinian people.
Some apologists for Israel level accusations of anti-Semitism when criticisms are in fact directed at the political manifestation of zionism rather than at Jews in general.
Louise Ellman berates OULC for backing Israel Apartheid Week, complaining that comparisons between apartheid Israel and apartheid South Africa “are a grotesque smear and the Labour Party should dissociate itself from them.”
Both Cape Town Archbishop Desmond Tutu and South African liberation movement armed wing head of intelligence Ronnie Kasrils have some experience of combating apartheid and argue that the Israeli variant is even worse than South Africa’s.
The letter from former OULC chairs and executives in support of Alex Chalmers, who has resigned as the club’s co-chair, highlights Nelson Mandela’s recognition of the “legitimacy of zionism as a Jewish nationalism.”
Mandela also insisted after the onset of democracy in South Africa: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
That freedom has never been further away since the early 1990s Oslo accords.
Whereas Israeli governments once paid lip service to a two-state solution, words and deeds unite today to underline Tel Aviv’s intention of imposing a onestate outcome, with Palestinians driven from their homeland or confined to an archipelago of bantustans by their colonisers.
Ellman will not agree with this view. Nor will fellow Labour MP John Mann, the Israeli embassy, Alex Chalmers or those such as Jeremy Newmark of the Jewish Labour Movement, formerly Poale Zion (Workers of Zion), who chose to write a piece for the Telegraph asking why Labour finds it difficult to weed out anti-Semitism from within its ranks.
They are entitled to stand in solidarity with Israel, crimes and all, if they wish, but they are not entitled to smear pro-Palestinian activists as anti-Semitic for seeking to isolate the zionist state.
Let the inquiry proceed and root out anyone implicated in anti-Semitic comments or acts, but it should not be bamboozled into confusing legitimate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.