As Jews, we reject the myth that it’s antisemitic to call Israel racist

In such urgent times, it is more important than ever to distinguish between legitimate critiques of unjust Israeli policies and ‘hostility to Jews as Jews’

Israeli Knesset

Richard Kuper and Rebecca Vilkomerson write in the Independent, “A worldwide coalition of Jewish groups has issued a joint statement condemning attempts to stifle criticism of Israel with false accusations of antisemitism. The statement, which 40 Jewish groups from 15 different countries have signed, could not have been more timely. In the UK, the Labour Party is currently under pressure to adopt the full guidelines accompanying a definition of antisemitism from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Labour adopted the 38-word definition long ago. But the guidelines with it include examples of antisemitism, two of which – both connected to criticism of Israel – are highly controversial. Firstly, they suggest that ‘claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour’ could itself be racist. Secondly, they claim that “applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behaviour not expected of any other democratic nation” is potentially antisemitic.”…

“But genuine anti-racist principles surely lead us to criticise Israel for its many discriminatory policies, whether its segregated road network, its dual justice system, or the “Jewish nation state” bill passed on Wednesday, which entrenches ethnic inequality in law. Perversely labelling critics of this racism “antisemitic” also silences Palestinians who object to Israel’s historic and ongoing takeover of their land. Meanwhile, the idea of “double standards” has been used to attack the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Supporters of Israel claim that unless all human rights-abusing nation states are boycotted, there must be some antisemitic motivation lurking behind calls for BDS.”

“This deliberately ignores three points. Firstly, Palestinians have collectively called for solidarity through BDS until their fundamental human rights are upheld, including the right of return for refugees. Secondly, via military, financial and diplomatic support, our governments are deeply complicit in Israel’s violations, whereas this is not the case with, say, the Syrian government’s crimes. Thirdly, precisely because of this direct involvement, implementing a boycott strategy here can make real impact, just as the boycott of South Africa – on which BDS is modelled – helped to bring an end to apartheid there.” (more…)

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