The Bigger Picture: The City in the Global Village


Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism

Anyone who ventures to criticise Israel's behaviour is in danger of being branded one of two things. If Jewish, they will be damned as a "self-loathing Jew". If a Gentile, then the apologists for Israel will find an anti-Semite lurking in the undergrowth.

Those who assert that they are anti-Zionist but not anti-Semitic will be told that the distinction they make is just a cover for their anti-Semitism. A British Jewish woman, writing in the local newspaper, recently stated: "We are the same Jews. I am not an Israeli but have children living in Israel. Therefore, of course, when anti-Israel feelings are voiced, they are one and the same as anti-Semitic feelings - just in a different wrapper" (The Argus, 7-9-06). There is not much logic to her assertion, but it is an assertion which is very commonly made by many Jewish defenders of Israel.

Anti-Semitism is a particularly pernicious form of racism directed at Jewish people. To accuse anyone who expresses anti-Israel views as racist displays ignorance at best, but it also suggests that the racism in question is actually lurking in the accuser, and not the accused. It also devalues the term 'anti-Semitism', and in doing so gives succour to racists.

Unfortunately, racism is rife in Israeli society. Given the extremely close relationship between the US and Israel, Israel could well be thought of as the Deep East to America's Deep South of the pre-civil rights era.

Take for example the words of Israeli Environment minister, Gideon Ezra, a Kadima member of the coalition government. In a cabinet meeting on aid to communities in northern Israel, affected by the recent war, he is quoted as saying: "We have to make a distinction and ensure that the Arab communities in the north do not get all the money for the educational plan." Fortunately, for the reputation of Israeli democracy, the Education minister disagreed. The report in Haaretz continues:

'Speaking during a special cabinet to present a plan by the Education Minister on the rehabilitation of the north, Ezra said that the Arab towns and villages "carried on as normal" during the war, and, as such, there was no need to hand out any money to them.

'Education Minister Yuli Tamir [Labour] slammed Ezra for his comments, saying "I can't believe that a minister in Israel would dare say such a thing regarding Israeli citizens."' (29-8-06) No decision was taken at that meeting.

But remember Kadima is the dominant party in the coalition government.

Of course, all societies and all cultures are susceptible to racism, but let's be clear that Israel is no exception, and in fact a rather bad example of a society blighted by racist and bigoted views that stretch into government.

That's why Britain's uncritical support for Israel is so damaging to the prospects for peace, and so counter-productive.