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Labour must not back down from supporting Palestinian rights

JEREMY CORBYN’S prompt apology for having hosted Holocaust survivor Hajo Meyer at a House of Commons meeting in 2010, acknowledging it is wrong to compare nazi Germany with apartheid Israel, ought to be accepted.

It won’t, because Corbyn’s opponents inside Labour and without are set on forcing unconditional acceptance of an interpretation of anti-semitism that minimises criticism of Israel.

The case put forward by Meyer at the Holocaust Remembrance Day hosted by Corbyn was that the slogan Never Again should apply not solely to eradication of Jews but Palestinians too.

He claimed to see parallels between nazi “blood and soil” rhetoric and that of zionist settlers in the occupied West Bank where Israel continues its illegal colonisation and ethnic cleansing.

Meyer itemised “coerced ghettoisation behind a ‘security wall,’ the bulldozing of homes and destruction of fields, the bombing of schools, mosques, and government buildings, an economic blockade that deprives people of the water, food, medicine, education and the basic necessities for dignified survival.”

These are certainly war crimes inflicted on an occupied population, but they are not, repeat not, an emulation of the nazi Holocaust — the historically unique plan for industrialised extermination of an entire people.

Corbyn knows that, just as he did in 2010, but his commitment to justice for the Palestinian people led him to offer a platform to a speaker whose recollection of horrors inflicted on Jews in nazi-occupied Europe caused Meyer to see parallels, based on superficial similarities, in Israeli-occupied Palestine.

Meyer was wrong to draw an inaccurate historical analogy, but he was not driven by anti-semitism.

He was motivated by dispossession of the Palestinians by Israel, supported militarily, commercially and politically by the US and the European Union and with sympathetic coverage offered by media networks based in those blocs.

The mass media’s flimsy coverage of Israel’s recent adoption of a nation-state law to entrench apartheid, giving legal superiority to Jewish citizens over Arab and to Hebrew over Arabic, while permitting communities to restrict admission to minorities, is a stark example of this one-eyed approach.

Drawing inaccurate historical parallels between today’s political phenomena and the era of the Third Reich is not uncommon.

Israeli leaders never tire of defining their enemies — Saddam Hussein, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Yasser Arafat etc — as “today’s Hitler,” thereby diminishing the unique abomination that the nazi regime posed.

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan justified the recent military massacre of unarmed Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip by calling them terrorists following the orders of Hamas, which he described as “nazi.”

Meyer’s mistaken “logic” was to counter such lazy mobilisation of historical memory by pinning the “nazi” tag on those repressing the Palestinian people.

Crimes committed by zionist expansionism should be condemned for what they are rather than be compared provocatively and wrongly to those of the nazis.

Self-styled “friends of Corbyn” have suggested trying to hold back the tidal wave of anti-semitism allegations by telling him to simply accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition, including so-called working examples, while telling members they would remain free to criticise Israel and back Palestine.

This naive suggestion should be rejected, since it ignores the reality that countering anti-semitism is not the primary motivation of those attacking Corbyn.

Muting criticism of Israel’s illegal colonisation is the first stage towards abandoning totally the national rights of the Palestinian people.

If Labour backs down from supporting Palestine and defending its own stance on anti-semitism, it will encourage further attacks, not fewer.

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