September 04, 2014
In the current climate The Executive Committee of Jews For Justice for Palestinians feels it is appropriate to issue a statement on antisemitism.
JFJFP abhors antisemitism as it does all forms of racism. It is important that there is a clear understanding of what antisemitism is: it is an attack on individuals or communities by virtue of their Jewishness whether in terms of their faith, their cultural practices, or their family and community history. Like all racism, it seeks to dehumanise and scapegoat the target group in the interests of the racists. Racism often blames selected groups for social ills which are not their responsibility (thereby deflecting criticism from those who do bear the responsibility), or to justify dispossessing the selected groups. There is a long history of antisemitism which took a strong hold in medieval Europe and flourished particularly in the modern era, culminating in the Holocaust. A more recent form of antisemitism is Holocaust denial. Since the establishment of Israel, successive Israeli governments and their supporters have all too often equated criticism of Israel’s policies and practices with antisemitism, in particular in relation to criticisms of the treatment of the Palestinians, the occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza. They habitually accuse and dismiss their critics in this way in order to prevent debate. This can be very effective in silencing people, particularly those who recognise and abhor the terrible damage antisemitism has done in the past.
The claim, by the State of Israel, that it represents all Jews (both its own Jewish citizens and Jews throughout the world) means that its actions in relation to the Palestinians are being misconstrued as specifically Jewish actions rather than the actions of successive Israeli governments. This claim is both false and contributes towards hatred of Jews. An additional dimension is the uncritical support given to Israel by many core institutions in western societies and thus the relative impunity to criticism which Israel has enjoyed in the West, and which adds to a sense that Israel and its supporters occupy a position of privilege.
There are strong antisemitic and fascist movements developing in Europe, particularly in France, Greece and Hungary, and widespread circulation of the classic antisemitic text ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’. However, the claim, too often made, that criticisms of Israel are antisemitic serves to blur any distinction between these classic, extremely serious forms of antisemitism and criticisms of Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights.
Here in the UK, the main Jewish bodies, The Board of Deputies of British Jews and The Jewish Leadership Council, do not make any distinction between Israel and Jews and convey the false impression that the whole Jewish community spoke with one voice in support of Operation Protective Edge, with its gross violations of human rights. It is therefore not surprising that some supporters of the Palestinians also do not make this crucial distinction. British Jewish leaders, who callously disregard the devastation caused by the Israeli assault on Gaza, risk fanning the very rise in antisemitism about which they are complaining.
Hence the importance we as Jews for Justice for Palestinians attach to independent Jewish criticism of Israel’s atrocious treatment of Palestinians.