Inquiry into Anti-Semitism & Islamophobia among Labour Party Members, UK

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As a former member of the UK Labour Party, now living in Israel, I am unable to contribute directly to the inquiry headed by Shami Chakrabarti, due to report in a few weeks. Therefore, these brief comments take the form of an open letter.

The inquiry panel will probably understand the great interest that this issue has created in Israel. The panel will also know of the alarm felt by many Jews in Britain and elsewhere that Jeremy Corbyn has associated himself with groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah who seek the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state. These organizations explicitly and incessantly proclaim their genocidal anti-Semitism – the Hamas Charter is a spectacularly unhinged example.

It is beyond belief that this is not known to Jeremy Corbyn and likeminded figures within the Labour Party. The explanation has been offered that expressions of solidarity with these organizations are for the purpose of encouraging peace in the Middle East. In his meeting with Jonathan Arkush of the Jewish Board of Deputies (Feb 2016) Jeremy Corbyn gave assurance that the Labour Party position was that Israel had a right to exist within secure and recognized borders.

Unfortunately, these organizations have no interest in such an outcome. Instead of being committed to a 2-State Solution, they are openly dedicated to the annihilation of Israel. Therefore, if Jeremy Corbyn agrees that Israel has a right to exist, he would help ease Jewish anxiety and vulnerability if he gave an account of his progress in trying to get these organizations to agree to this position as the basis for a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Without such an explanation, it is difficult to believe that he has made any serious attempt in this direction. Therefore, as the panel can imagine, the association of the Labour leader with such organizations sends a very threatening and frightening message to the Jewish community.

It also gives greater encouragement to those within the Labour Party and outside who believe that Israel should not have been created or should cease to exist. The reality is that many opponents of Israel are viciously anti-Semitic. This is particularly the case, but not exclusively so, with those from a Muslim background – which may explain the preponderance of Muslims amongst those suspended from Labour Party membership.

However, many party members and others who are neither anti-Semitic nor seek the demise of Israel are greatly concerned for the national and human rights of the Palestinians, especially in what are often termed the occupied territories. I suggest that by means of a two-pronged approach the panel has an opportunity to check the spread of anti-Semitism and contribute to a resolution of this long-running conflict, which is frequently at the centre of anti-Semitic hatred.

The first is that the Labour Party define what it considers anti-Semitism (for example, by adopting the definition of the IHRA – of which Britain is a member) and subsequently promoting and enforcing it. Secondly, a clarification of policy regarding the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the 2-State Solution and the primary obstacles to its attainment would be helpful.

In particular, there is an urgent need to publicize the key issue of Israel’s right to exist as the nation-state of Jews and to end any doubt on this among Labour members. It will also assist in the promotion of a solution to the conflict along the parameters preferred by the international community. This is because a primary obstacle is that the Palestinians and the wider Arab world refuse to accept Israel as a Jewish state. Indeed, they incessantly repeat that Jews are a religious group only and not entitled to national rights. That is, they deny Jews the same rights of national self-determination that they claim themselves.

It is relatively easy to recognize this denial from the genocidal call for the annihilation of Israel by Hamas in its Charter. But the refusal of the Palestinian Authority to accept Israel as the legitimate expression of Jewish national self-determination is the equivalent of the overt Hamas rejection. This explains why the PA has consistently rejected the formula 2-States for 2-Peoples.

In other words, the dominant Arab/Palestinian view believes the exact opposite of the 2-State Solution: that there are no legitimate Jewish national rights on what is considered to be exclusively Arab/Muslim land. This perpetuates the conflict. As a result, no matter how strongly advocates of the 2-State Solution believe it ought to be the solution, in reality it contradicts the Arab/Palestinian claim.

To put it differently, the insistence that Israel make peace with its enemies is a fine aspiration, but unachievable if Israel’s national rights are denied and the aim of dismantling a member-state of the UN is retained. Until this is abandoned and Israel is at last accepted by the Arab world, the proposition that the 2-State Solution is the only equitable method to satisfy the national aspirations of the Palestinians and the security aspirations of the Israelis will fail. It will fail because this ostensibly reasonable solution does not satisfy the real aspirations of the Palestinians and therefore it cannot satisfy the security concerns of Israel.

Here in Israel as elsewhere, there are many who love to hate Prime Minister Netanyahu. To put it mildly, his words are often treated with skepticism. The Palestinians often justify their rejection of direct negotiations by the claim that Netanyahu’s often declared desire for an agreement is merely a pretense and his call for them to accept Israel as the nation-state of Jews is merely a ploy because he does not genuinely believe in the 2-State Solution.

But if Netanyahu were indeed engaged in diplomatic deceit in this way, it would be very simple to test. All that the Palestinian leadership and the Arab League need do is call the bluff by the simple method of accepting Israel as a Jewish state – and then by appealing over the head of Netanyahu directly to the Israeli public if necessary. This would gain them access to the lectern in the Knesset in about 10 minutes flat. But they haven’t and they won’t and the conflict will continue.

This is why the efforts of the Labour Party and others are so crucial to promote the acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state as the only basis for a successful 2-State Solution. This will accomplish two things: it will minimize and marginalize voices of anti-Semitism and make a real contribution to peace in the Middle East.

Therefore, I wish the panel well in its difficult task and remain at its disposal to answer any queries, provide evidence or further information as needed.

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