Palestine in Parliament

On the 13th October the British parliament is voting on whether to recognise the state of Palestine. Historically, when faced with such measures at the UN or nationally, the UK has usually abstained or been against. But these days, who knows. In 3 weeks, we will find out if the winds are indeed blowing in a new direction. Shamefully few MPs have stated their intention to participate in the debate, unsurprisingly the Conservatives are the worst offenders.

If you want an idea of what to write to your representative, this is what I composed for my letter to Tory MP Steve Brine for Winchester.

I hope this email finds you well. My understanding is that you haven’t signalled your intention to attend a debate on the recognition of Palestinians’ right to self-determination. On the right of the stateless non-Jewish indigenous in the West Bank and Gaza to their own nation.

As recently as July 11th, Netanyahu made clear that the Israeli government would never relinquish security control of the area west of the Jordan River. So where does that leave us? In a permanent and intolerable state of limbo, with ethno-religious apartheid in the region dominated by Israel’s military and the illegal settlements it protects. The Palestinians didn’t vote for Likud, yet their administration and its supremacist policies are what they find themselves subjected to every day the 47 year old occupation continues.

Even if you, like me, have you reservations about the plausibility of a two-state solution (how can you not with statements like the one from Netanyahu I recalled above). You must accept the need for secularism and equality, nationalism which isn’t predicated on treating any religious or ethnic group as second class citizens. The vote itself, at the very least, will demonstrate the will of the British people to have the human rights of every inhabitant of Israel-Palestine respected. I can’t force you to vote in any particular direction, but I can ask you to fall on the right side of history and of peace and justice. Or, even, just that you participate in the debate and struggle over these things.

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Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, and the chasm between

Mirvis at anti-semitism rally

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis speaking against anti-semitism at the Royal Courts of Justice last weekend

Criticisms of Israel or Zionists, like any arguments, must be fair, proportionate, and unprejudiced.

And, though I hope this is already clear to everyone who can read this, there needs to be absolutely zero tolerance for anti-semitism in whatever holds itself to the standard of legitimate debate.

I want to go a step further than the Owen Jones article a few weeks ago. Not only should we expect those on the left, if their opposition to bigotry is sincere, to accept the widespread and growing presence of anti-semitism: they should also be expected to acknowledge the genuine problem of anti-semites who piggyback the Palestine solidarity movement. I might even contend we don’t do enough to call them out. Simply saying “we reject anti-semitism” isn’t adequate, those who conflate Judaism or all Jews/Israelis with Zionism need to be repeatedly exposed and delegitimised (as do their arguments).

If Gideon Levy is spat at on the street, and then stabbed in the back by the same group he’s hiding in his apartment for, what on Earth’s the point? Stabbed in the back may sound extreme, but I’m really not kidding. Plenty of folks still see Hamas as a solely liberatory organisation whose central concern is for the struggle (rather than as religiously authoritarian theocrats and theonomists) after one of its primary spokespeople, Osama Hamdan, refused to apologise for the statement “we all remember how Jews used to slaughter Christians in order to mix their blood in holy matzoh”. I remember eating matzoh with my family while growing up, and I can assure everybody there were no gentile fluids in them. I would laugh if blood libel wasn’t so serious.

Those who pretend plutocracy is constituted singly – even primarily – by Jews, or forget that Jewish nationalism is only as bad as many other forms of religious nationalism/theocracy (when was Dominionism, which undoubtedly played a massive part in the US militarism in West Asia post-911, last condemned as strongly and widely by the left as Zionism) that have plagued humanity, can’t be trusted to manage an issue as emotive, historically-rooted, complex, or nuanced as the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Not all Jews are Zionists, not all Zionists are Jews, and neither are all Israelis Jews or Zionists. The propagation of this mantra is looking increasingly necessary.

With the above in mind I wouldn’t trust Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis either. A man who writes in a Telegraph opinion piece that Israel’s population would be slaughtered (or allowed to be), were they to lay down their arms, can’t be taken seriously… to take him seriously would give cover to a talking point that has typically been used to obfuscate practical discussion of the occupation. This would be sufficiently awful, but Chief Rabbi Mirvis continues on to say he honestly believes the current Israeli government’s goal is to minimise Palestinian and Israeli civilian casualties. Neither of these claims are substantiated by the evidence, but then that’s never stopped the pro-war or pro-Zionist lobbies in the past.

“While criticism of Israel is legitimate and justifiable, it cannot be an excuse – in any way, shape or form – for anti-semitism.” – Tariq Ramadan