The “Grassroots” Pro-Israel Activist Groups Dedicated to Conflating Anti-Zionism with Anti-Semitism

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Pro-Israel activists have been gathering momentum in their concerted effort to conflate Zionism with Judaism/Jewish identity and therefore censor particular references and discourses.

Based on dubious and deceptive conflation, several Labour MPs have been suspended. Notable organisations fronting these efforts are “feeder” groups which often forward information onto other Israel lobby groups like the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council. These grassroots organisations are linked to other organisations which have been, for instance, directly responsible for the eventual suspension of Jackie Walker – a Jewish anti-racism activist who made the “mistake” of saying “millions more Africans were killed in the African Holocaust”.  Similar conflations by these organisations have been made about NUS President Malia Bouattia (see here and herefor instance).

A brief peruse down the social media timelines shows that some of their campaigns have targeted (I would argue legitimately) those instances which genuinely constitute anti-Semitism. This, however is insidiously supplemented by a concerted campaign to confuse anti-Israel views and political activism with anti-Semitism. Bullying and intimidation tactics, like in the case of Walker, are adopted to force this conflation.  In doing so, boundaries on what can and cannot be articulated about Israel are redrawn and free speech – the favoured neocon invocation for anti-Islam hate – is assaulted. The organisations also profess views which are often aired from the Zionist far-right.

Sussex Friends of Israel

The two main organisations involved in the conflation campaign are Sussex Friends of Israel (SFOI) and North West Friends of Israel (NWFOI). SFOI’s expressly drags anti-Zionist views into the remit of anti-Semitism thereby silencing voices critical of Zionism:

“For three years Sussex Friends of Israel… and other grassroots organisations have been at the forefront in the fight against the latest incarnation of antisemitism – an unvarnished hatred that groups like the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) subsume under the guise of ‘anti-Zionism.’” 

In its spin-laden propaganda on their website, the group is keen to highlight that the Palestinians rejected the offer for the creation of a Palestinian state.  Yet it shares an article which discusses whether the 2014 UK vote to recognise a Palestinian state that ended in an overwhelming majority, was a ‘hasbara’ failure. This suggests the group is not entirely keen on the concept of a Palestinian state.

The Walker debacle demonstrates that any mention or comparison of Zionist behaviour or actions with the Nazi era pours forth accusations and insinuations of offence and anti-Semitism.  Exemplifying double standards, SFOI also does the same.

When Ken Livingstone stated the fact that Hitler had initially supported the Zionist cause (a point which Professor Norman Finkelstein broadly agreed with), the group commented that there was “more of a chance of Hitler apologizing for what he did to the Jews than Livingstone saying sorry!”, thus making the insinuation that Livingstone was worse than Hitler:

NFOITweetLivingstonHitler

Like other pro-Israeli outfits, it has promoted events designed to whitewash Zionist crimes against Palestinians.  At one event promoted by IAM and organised by other Israel activists, Colonel Richard Kemp, who has served in Afghanistan, was invited to “dispel the disgraceful accusations of “Israeli war crimes”.”  Kemp is a student of IDF and Mossad’s methods, and hence is not exactly the last bastion of “objective” assessment on IDF actions. He has fervently downplayed the Goldstone Report, which Professor Finkelstein described as being,

“…consistent with the findings of the other human rights organizations, that Israel targeted civilians, Israel targeted civilians who were carrying white flags, Israel systematically targeted the Palestinian infrastructure. The findings were consistent with those of the other human rights organizations: Israel is guilty of a very significant number of war crimes. And also, the findings which were — other reports, the same conclusions, that the Palestinians were not using hospitals to hide Hamas officials. There’s no evidence that the ambulances Israel targeted were carrying Hamas militants or ammunition. And most significantly, in terms of the coverage during the Gaza massacre, the report found, as did Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, there’s no evidence whatsoever — and I would want to underline that — there’s no evidence whatsoever that Hamas was guilty of human shielding. But on the other hand, there is significant evidence, actually copious evidence, that Israel was guilty of human shielding.”

Israel Advocacy Movement

As already highlighted, SFOI often promotes IAM’s campaigns.

Sickeningly, IAM is an apologist for child killing.  In a Facebook post describing the killing of a thirteen-year old girl by an Israeli security guard, IAM writes,

“Today one such attack took place when a girl of just thirteen years old was killed as she launched a terror attack against an Israeli security guard.”

Lethal force against a child was used where lesser evasive action could have been taken.  One wonders when the IDF will actually use their supposedly effective Krav Maga martial arts style to disable alleged assailants.  Even the Israeli Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot pointed out the obvious cruelty in shooting children dead:

“there have been cases in which a 13-year-old girl with scissors or a knife got into a confrontation with soldiers. I don’t want a soldier to empty a magazine on a girl with scissors.”

Indeed, incidents exist which demonstrate that IDF killers have no reservations about killing Palestinian youth who pose no threat, and have even faked stabbing attacks. This is of course not mentioned by IAM.

In another post, IAM dedicates a video to question the importance of Al-Aqsa Masjid – the third holiest sanctuary in Islam – on the basis that some British Muslims confuse it with the Dome of the Rock:

“Al-Aqsa may be the third holiest site in Islam, but if many Muslims don’t know what it looks like, one could question just how important it actually is?”

The comments under the video by Zionists further denigrate the importance and centrality of the mosque.

Al-Aqsa denigration.png

Of relevance is the fact that IAM is also determined to subsume criticism of Israel into allegations of anti-Semitism.  The group explicitly declares that it endorses the view that Zionism and Judaism are inseparable (discussed further below).

IAM’s campaign of intimidation and bullying has seen Walker being suspended from the Labour party.  It has also successfully lobbied the Department for International Development to cut the funding of charity group War on Want (WoW). IAM misleads its audience by giving the perception that it has “raise[d] millions under the pretence of “tackling poverty”.

WoW’s remit includes advocating for worker rights and economic justice and against war profiteering. It also campaigns for “justice for Palestine”.

IAM’s intimidation tactics also include “naming and shaming” pro-Palestinian activists as “puppet masters ochestrating (sic) and financing much of the anti-Israel activity in the UK” – a pathetic statement considering a recent report by transparency organisation Spinwatch found that European Zionist lobby groups are funded in the millions by the Islamophobia industry’s chief financiers.  WoW has also faced the ire of neocon propagandist Andrew Gilligan with a piece by him being dedicated to their pro-Palestine activism, which is suitably framed as problematic.

North West Friends of Israel

SSFOI works with the North West Friends of Israel (NWFOI). In December 2015, “IsrAction Day” was launched as a “joint initiative between the UK’s two largest Israel advocacy grassroots organisations – North West Friends of Israel and Sussex Friends of Israle (sic).”

NWFOI is well connected with high-profile pro-Israel lobby groups and MPs.  John Mann MP, who recently lashed out at Livingstone for his comments, is a supporter of NWFOI and has addressed the organisation in the past.  On 14th December 2014, at a NWFOI event, Mann proceeded to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism:

“line into anti Semitism crossed this summer [a reference to the 2014 Gaza massacre which saw 2100 Palestinian deaths in 50 days]. Most Jews are Zionist & demonizing of Zionists is demonizing Jews & is racist”.

Many Christians are Zionist too.

This conflation is not surprising. In 2013 Mann gave evidence to a tribunal without actually being a witness. The judge concluded,

“when it came to anti-Semitism in the context of debate about the Middle East, he announced, ‘It’s clear to me where the line is…’ but unfortunately eschewed the opportunity to locate it for us.”

More revealing is his “illiberal” take on anti-Israel rhetoric.  In the NWFOI event he remarked that Twitter was “ideologically opposed to any censoring” and that the “law needs to be better at prosecuting”. He suggested that the Public Order Act would need “strengthening” against boycotts, again curtailing lawful political activism in support of human rights.

Ivan Lewis MP is another pro-Israel activist who has professed his support for NWFOI. He is a former vice-chair and current supporter of the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) lobby group. In 2009, he was appointed Foreign Commonwealth Office Minister with responsibility for the Middle East. That year he controversially supported the Zionist massacre in Gaza, in which white phosphorous was extensively used and in which the indefensible collective punishment delivered by the terrorising army resulted in the death of 455 women and children (see Professor Finkelstein’s description of the assault, above).

In the same year, despite overwhelming evidence of UK complicity in torture, Lewis deflected the claim by arguing that “we always make clear that torture is unacceptable and abhorrent.” He then resorted to contextual obfuscation:

“What is true, however, in a modern world you cannot counter terrorism by acting in isolation; we have to work on a global basis with many other countries”.[1]

The above sounds awfully like an excuse for turning a blind eye to torture in the name of security cooperation. Then again, Lewis is a “supporter” of the disgraced Tony Blair.

As for commitment towards Palestinian statehood, Lewis was among those who, through LFI representatives, requested Ed Miliband to not enforce the whip on the symbolic vote for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Lewis “stayed away” from the Westminster vote.

Anti-Muslim Views and Denial of Palestinian Existence

The hard-right in the Zionist entity is known to reject the existence of historic Palestine. In February this year, Anat Berko of the Likud Party claimed there was no such place as Palestine because there is no letter P in Arabic. Such a noxious denial is constitutive of the broad spread hatred against the indigenous Palestinian people.

Similar racist denials are found to be among the views of NWFOI:

NWFOIPalestineHeritage

This disgusting statement masks the depopulation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. The contemporary Jewish historian Illan Pappe, who deems Zionism “as a racist and quite evil philosophy of morality and life”,[2] notes,

“In February 1948, within a year of the British decision to leave Palestine, the Zionist leadership began ethnically cleansing it. Three months later, when the British left, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were already refugees, pressuring the Arab world to take action, which it did on 15 May 1948…”[3]

During the height of the Gaza massacre, World Bnei Akiva Chief Rabbi Noam Perel acknowledged the Palestinian people when he disturbingly urged the Zionist government to turn IDF into an army of avengers, ‘which will not stop at 300 Philistine foreskins.’

Such a position of NWFOI is not a slip. The denial has been repeated on their Twitter timeline (see here and here):

NWFOIPalestineHeritage2

The apartheid treatment of Palestinians by the group is reinforced by NWFOI’s official Zionist propaganda mantra that Israel is a “Jewish State” – an intrinsically discriminatory claim which would ultimately deny the Palestinian refugees the right of return from the areas of dispossession and colonisation and would render the Palestinians subject to “systematic discrimination in land, housing, citizenship rights, education and freedom of speech, all of which are well documented and occur right now.” (See further here)

NWFOI has repeatedly referred to Israel as a “Jewish state” (here and here):

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This inherent racism and discrimination spills over into the discourse on Muslims too.

Demonstrating extreme hypocrisy, in one Tweet, the NWFOI proclaims that saying “Jews buy cheap bombs” is wrong and that “if some said Muslim that would be wrong”.

However, NWFOI has generalised Muslims as “butchering” each other “across the Middle East”, and it has referred to alleged knife attacks as “Muslim terror” – an epithet which reinforces the “Muslim as terrorist” negative stereotype:

NWFOIMuslimTerrorStereotype.png

In one particular discussion, one Muslim Twitter user highlights the Islamophobic nature of a banner with bold letters claiming “Extremist Islamic Terrorism” (with “Islamic” in enlarged text) (here and here).

NWFOI defends the stereotypical banner and calls on the user to condemn the terrorism:

NWFOIMuslimTerrorStereotype

The Zionist intolerance extends to Jews also. In one particular Tweet, NWFOI calls Miko Peled, an Israeli writer and peace activist, a “self-hating Jew” who “Hitler would have come for”:

NFOISelfHatingJewMikePelodCOmment

Demonstrating further intolerance and potentially anti-Semitic views against those the organisation does not agree with, NWFOI refers to senior Labour politician Gerald Kaufman and freelance Israeli writer Mira Bar-Hillel as being cut from the “same self hating Jew cloth”.

NFOISelfHatingJewKaufmanBarhillelcomment.png

The Lies, Spin, Bullying and Conflation in the Attack on Afzal Khan

Lewis and Mann remain a conduit for Zionist pressure to be exerted, as NWFOI regularly tags Lewis in their Tweets intimidating others (see here and here).

The most recent victim of NWFOI’s application of the tenuous, politicised definition of anti-Semitism has been MEP Afzal Khan.

The initial set of accusations by NWFOI were potentially defamatory. The organisation first claimed Khan referred to Jews as Nazis:

NFOIAfzalKhan1.png

This was repeated again here.

This then changed to comparing Israelis to Nazis in a Tweet which tagged the Twitter accounts of the Labour Party, Board of Deputies, the editor of Jewish Chronicle Stephen Pollard and the Jewish Leadership Council.

NFOIAfzalKhan3

The shoddy claim further morphed again into “Israel being compared to the Nazis” with Khan’s supposed statements being characterised as an example of anti-Semitism:

“A local North West MEP Afzal Khan has compared Israel (by which he means Jews as we are sure he is not referring to Arab Israelis) to the Nazis…This is disgraceful and anti Semitic.”

This is wholly different from the first allegation that Khan referred to Jews as Nazis.

Given this flurry of misleading Tweets and messages, what was actually stated?

“The Israeli Government are [sic] acting like Nazi’s [sic] in Gaza”.

The actual statement is referring to the actions of the Israeli Government. How criticism of the behaviour of a belligerent state can be construed as “referring to Jews as Nazis” is beyond the pale of reasonable interpretation. The ridiculous nature of the accusation is further accentuated when one realises that the statement is not Khan’s, but a quote from a blog.

Despite this manifest misrepresentation, Eric Pickles is quoted in the Telegraph report as having said,

“Another day, another Labour anti-Semite caught red-handed.”

This is revealing.  Pickles, the chair of the Conservative Friends of Israel, in a speech proposed a definition of anti-Semitism which includes anti-Israeli views. This saga is but another exercise in cementing his proposal and pandering to detrimental foreign governmental influence.

It is also a potentially libellous statement – indeed if it is anti-Semitic, Khan should be prosecuted under hate crime laws. As it is there are, I believe, fertile grounds for a defamation action against both NWFOI and Pickles.

Comparison Between Nazi and Zionist Violence Anti-Semitism? Free Speech?

A number of prominent groups/individuals have drawn comparisons between the behaviour of the Zionist state and the Nazi regime.  The African National Congress refused to alter its indictment of the Zionist entity, comparing its actions in the 2014 massacre against the people of Gaza to those of Nazi Germany. During the Gaza massacre of 2009 Gerald Kauffman, a Jewish, senior Labour MP in Parliament stated that Israeli military action in Gaza was comparable to that of German soldiers during the Holocaust.

One of the last remaining survivors of Auschwitz who endured ten months in a Nazi death camp similarly stated that,

“The Israelis tried to dehumanise the Palestinians, just like the Nazis tried to dehumanise me.”

Transcending the left/right dichotomy, a Conservative Zionist soldier broke his silence to the hostility of Zionists and spoke out in his condemnation of Zionist excesses in a lengthy Facebook post, again comparing them to Nazi Germany:

“Israel 2014 is like Germany 1933. Please don’t let Israel 2020 be like Germany 1939.”

Earlier this month, IDF deputy chief of staff Yair Golan highlighted “nauseating trends” in Israeli society reminiscent of 1930s Germany at an event marking Holocaust Remembrance Day.  He was forced to backtrack his words after pressure from (in the words of Isaac Herzog) “crazies”. Ironically, the whole façade demonstrated the level of intolerance in the Zionist entity.

Pertinently, such comparisons, not only with Nazi Germany, but with Apartheid South Africa (former UN special rapporteur on Palestine, John Dugard, in an interview stated that “Israel’s crimes are infinitely worse than apartheid South Africa”), and other historically totalitarian and oppressive regimes are needed to provide perspective on how bad the situation has become for a people who remain colonised. This is precisely what the former head of the political science department at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem professor Zeev Sternhell does when he answers a question whether Israel is on the verge of fascism:

“It’s a gradual process. We have yet to cross the red line, but we are dangerously close.”

Such discussions become even more important when one considers that the already ridiculously far-right Netanyahu government is set to lurch even further to the right to form the “most right-wing government in history”.

Yet these are the discussions which Israel and their activists here in Britain seemingly wish to censor and avoid.

Zionists have support of British neoconservatives like Michael Gove and anti-Muslim hate preacher Douglas Murray. This neoconservative gang squeals and squirms when attacking Islam and Muslims that they need to accept the freedom to be offended. Where indeed are these hypocrisy-ridden voices when sophisticated lobby groups practically bully the erosion of free speech on the topic of Israel?

Is Anti-Zionism the same as Anti-Semitism? Free Speech?

The Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis recently waded into the discussion to give credence to the new amalgamation of Judaism and political Zionism, arguing that Jewish students on campus knew the “wall of anti-Zionism” to be “Jew hatred”. Indeed, a letter signed by a number of individuals from Jewish background explicitly rejected this mutation.  However, a further problem for Rabbi Mirvis comes from with the Jewish Orthodoxy. The Neturei Karta a Jewish orthodox group dedicated to opposing the “Zionist state” based on theology.  Are they too perpetuating “Jew hatred” and therefore anti-Semitic?

Historically, Zionism was a minority movement. The Board of Deputies of British Jews, which today operates as a Zionist lobby group, was also against Zionism and the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people.  The Christian historian George Antonius records that there was intense opposition to the Zionist movement:

“The majority of influential English Jews were opposed to Zionism, or more exactly, to the nationalistic idea inherent in political Zionism.”

“…the hostility of an influential section of Anglo-Jewry had hardened to such a pitch that they had declared their irrevocable opposition to the establishment of the Jewish State which the Zionists were advocating; and a campaign had begun, led by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association – the two most representative bodies of English Jewry – of which the object was to dissuade the Government from acceding to the wishes of the Zionists.” [4]

Professor Finkelstein also makes the same point in an interview on the much-hyped “Labour party anti-Semitism”,

“the most vociferous and vehement opponents of the Balfour Declaration were not the Arabs, about whom almost nobody gave a darn, but the upper reaches of British Jewry.

Eminent British Jews published open letters to newspapers like the Times opposing British backing for a Jewish home in Palestine.

In 2013, Academic Friends of Israel director Ronnie Fraser brought an action against the University College Union alleging institutional anti-Semitism for their “anti-Israel policies”. The judge found that a belief in Zionism or attachment to Israel was “not intrinsically a part of Jewishness” and was not an aspect that could be protected under equality law.”

Instead – and this is fundamental point – it highlighted the intolerant and restrictive nature of a claim which was buttressed by false evidence:

 “The panel said it was troubled by a “worrying disregard for pluralism, tolerance and freedom of expression” underlying the claim.

The court recognised that such a conflation would lead to restrictions on freedom of expression and pluralism.  This adequately sums up the consequences of the efforts of the pro-Israel activists.

Concluding Remarks

The Israel activists have renewed their efforts to maintain the status quo of human rights violations and oppression against Palestinians by resorting to Zionist tactics of bully, spin and coercion. These tactics have been the hallmark of recent efforts to fuse anti-Zionist activism with anti-Semitism.

One questions how representative today’s Israel lobby groups are.  Leaving aside the dire consequences for the right to political dissent, is Zionism tolerant of those Jews who oppose Zionism? Given the treatment by the “grassroots” organisations towards those critical of Zionism and Israel, and given the concerted efforts to classify such opposition as anti-Semitism, the answer would be an emphatic no.

This should be seen for what it is: a part of a PR strategy to improve the flailing image of Israel in the world. In the process, the much championed “Western value” of free speech is being consigned to the dustbin in order in order to placate a foreign, occupying influence responsible for terrorising a colonised people.


Reference:

[1] Dobson A.P., Marsh S., Anglo-American Relations: Contemporary Perspectives, Routledge: Oxon, 2013, p.218

[2] Pappe, I., Out of the Frame – The Struggle for Academic Freedom in Israel, Pluto Press: London, 2010, p.x

[3] Ibid. p.187

[4] Antonius G., The Arab Awakening, 1938, republished by Pickle Partners Publishing, 2015, [Kindle Ebook], Location 4140, 4152

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