Many believe that the easily observable dominance of the friends of Israel over some aspects of government policy is a phenomenon unique to the United States, where committed Jews and Christian Zionists are able to control both politicians and the media message relating to what is going on in the Middle East. Unfortunately, the reality is that there exists an “Israel Lobby” in many countries, all dedicated to advancing the agendas promoted by successive Israeli governments no matter what the actual interests of the host country might be. Failure to confront Israel’s crimes against humanity combined with an inability to resist its demands regarding how issues like anti-Semitism and hate speech are defined has done terrible damage to free speech in Western Europe and, most notably, in the Anglophone world.
For the United States this corruption of the media and the political process by Israel has meant endless wars in the Middle East as well of loss of civil liberties at home, but some other countries have compromised their own declared values far beyond that. Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised Israel completely inaccurately as a light that “…burns bright, upheld by the universal principles of all civilized nations – freedom, democracy justice.” He has also said “I will defend Israel whatever the cost” to Canada, an assertion that some might regard as very, very odd for a Canadian head of state.
In some other cases, Israel plays hardball directly, threatening retribution against governments that do not fall in line. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently warned New Zealand that backing a U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settlements would be a “declaration of war.” He was able to do so because he had confidence in the power of the Israel Lobby in that country to mobilize and produce the desired result.
It might surprise some that the “Mother of Parliaments” in Great Britain is perhaps the legislative body most dominated by Israeli interests, more in many respects than the Congress in the United States. The ruling Conservative Party has a Friends of Israel caucus that includes more than 80% of its Parliamentary membership. BICOM , the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) clone located in London. It is well funded and politically powerful, working through its various “Friends of Israel” proxies. Americans might be surprised to learn how that power is manifest, including that in Britain Jewish organizations uniquely are allowed to patrol heavily Jewish London neighborhoods in police-like uniforms while driving police-type vehicles. There have been reports of the patrols threatening Muslims who seek to enter the areas.
Prime Minister Theresa May is careful never to offend either Israel or the wealthy and powerful British Jewish community. After Secretary of State John Kerry described Israel’s government as “extreme right wing” on December 28, 2016, May sprang to Tel Aviv’s defense, saying “we do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally.” May’s rejoinder could have been written by Netanyahu, and maybe it was. Two weeks later, her government cited “reservations” over a French government sponsored mid-January Middle East peace conference and would not sign a joint statement calling for a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after Netanyahu vociferously condemned the proceedings.
This deference all takes place in spite of a recent astonishing expose by al-Jazeera, which revealed how the Israeli Embassy in London connived with government officials to “take down” parliamentarians and government ministers who were considered to be critical of the Jewish State. It was also learned that the Israeli Embassy was secretly subsidizing and advising private groups promoting Israeli interests, including associations of Members of Parliament (MPs).
British Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has been under unrelenting fire due to the fact that he is the first major political party leader in many years to resist the demands that he place Israel on a pedestal. Corbyn is indeed a man of the left who has consistently opposed racism, extreme nationalism, colonialism and military interventionism. Corbyn’s crime has been that he is critical of the Jewish state and has called for an “end to the repression of the Palestinian people.” As a reward, he has been hounded mercilessly by British Jews, even those in his own party, for over two years.
The invective being spewed by some British Jews and Israel has increased of late, presumably because Theresa May’s Conservative government is perceived as being weak and there is a distinct possibility that the leader of the Labour Party will be the next Prime Minister. That a Prime Minister might be sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians is viewed as completely unacceptable.
Last month, rightwing Labour Parliamentarian Margaret Hodge raised the stakes, calling Corbyn “a fucking anti-Semite and a racist”. She then wrote in the Guardian that Labour is “a hostile environment for Jews.” The traditionally liberal Guardian has in fact been in the forefront of Jewish criticism of Corbyn, led by its senior editor Jonathan Freedland, who reportedly believes that “his Jewish identity is intimately tied to Israel, and that to attack Israel is to attack him personally… he is demanding the exclusive right to police the parameters of discussions about Israel.” Last month he featured in his paper a letter attacking Corbyn signed by 68 rabbis.
All of the invective has been more-or-less orchestrated by the Israeli government, which directly supports the gaggle of groups that have coalesced to bring down Corbyn. This effort to destroy the Labour leader has included the use of an app disseminating messages via social media accusing Corbyn of anti-Semitism. The app was developed by Israel’s strategic affairs ministry, which “directs Israel’s covert efforts to sabotage the Palestine solidarity movement around the world”.
There are two principal objectives to the “get Corbyn” campaign. The first is to remove him from the Labour Party leadership position, thereby ensuring that he will never be elected Prime Minister, while also eliminating from the party any and all members who are perceived as being “too critical” of Israel. In practice that has meant anyone who criticizes Israel at all. And second it is to establish as a legal principle that the “hate crime” offense of anti-Semitism specifically be defined to include criticism of Israel, thereby making it a criminal offense to write or speak about Israel’s racist behavior towards its Muslim and Christian minority while also making it impossible to freely discuss its war crimes.
The principal argument being made against Corbyn is that the Labour Party is awash with anti-Semitism and Corbyn has done little or nothing to oppose it. Some of the most brutal shots against Corbyn have come from the usual crowd in the United States. Andrew Sullivan recently observed in New York Magazine that “When it emerged, that Naz Shah, a new Labour MP, had opined on Facebook before she was elected that Israel should be relocated to the U.S., and former London mayor Ken Livingstone backed her up by arguing that the Nazis initially favored Zionism, Corbyn didn’t make a big fuss.” Sullivan then went on to write that “It then emerged that Corbyn himself had subscribed to various pro-Palestinian Facebook groups where rank anti-Semitism flourished” and had even “…attended a meeting on Holocaust Memorial Day in 2010, called ‘Never Again for Anyone: Auschwitz to Gaza,’ equating Israelis with Nazis.”
In other words, Corbyn should have been responsible for policing the personal views of Shah and Livingstone, both of whom were subsequently suspended from the Labour Party with Livingstone eventually resigning. He should have also avoided Palestinian Facebook commentary because alleged anti-Semites occasionally contribute their views and ought not to acknowledge in any fashion the Israel war crimes being committed on a daily basis in Gaza.
So Corbyn must go based on the “fact” that he has to be a closet anti-Semite as discerned by the likes of Andrew Sullivan on this side of the Atlantic and a host of Israel-firsters in Britain. But the Labour leader’s worst crime that is being regarded as an “existential threat” to Jewish people everywhere is his resistance to the pressure being exerted on him to endorse and adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) precise multi-faceted definition of what constitutes anti-Semitism. The IHRA basic definition of anti-Semitism is reasonable enough, including “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
The Labour Party and Corbyn have accepted that definition but have balked at eleven “contemporary examples of anti-Semitism” also provided by IHRA, four of which have nothing to do with Jews and everything to do with Israel. They are:
- Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
- Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
- Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
- Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
One might observe that many Jews – not all or even most – but many, do have dual loyalty in which the allegiance to Israel is dominant. I would cite as a prime example the current U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman who spends much of his time defending Israel. And there are also the American Jews who have spied for Israel, to include Jonathan Pollard and AIPAC luminaries Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman who obtained classified information from Lawrence Franklin and then passed what they had obtained to Israeli intelligence.
And yes, Israel is a “racist endeavor.” Just check out the recent nationality law passed by the Knesset declaring Israel to be a Jewish State. It grants self-determination only to those living within its borders who are Jews. And if using racial distinctions for full citizenship while also bombing hospitals and schools while lining up snipers to shoot thousands of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators is not Nazi-like behavior, then what is? Israel and its leader are sometimes compared to Nazis and to Adolf Hitler because they behave like Nazis and Adolf Hitler.
And finally there is the definition that challenges any “double standard” in demanding behavior from Israel that is not expected from any other democratic nation. Well, first of all Israel is not a democracy. It is a theocracy or ethnocracy if you prefer wrapped around a police state. Other countries that call themselves democracies have equal rights under law for all citizens. Other democracies do not have hundreds of thousands of settlers stealing land and even water resources from the indigenous population and colonizing it to the benefit of only one segment of its population. Other democracies do not regularly shoot dead unarmed protesters. How many democracies are currently practicing ethnic cleansing, as the Israeli Jews are doing to the Palestinians?
Will Corbyn give in to the IHRA demands to save his skin as party leader? One has to suspect that he will as he is already regularly conceding points and apologizing, publicly delivering the required obeisance to the holocaust as “the worst crime of the twentieth century.” And every time he tries to appease those out to get him he emerges weaker. Even if he submits completely, the Israel firsters who are hot to get him, having just like in American significant control over the media, will continue to attack until they find the precise issue that will bring him down. The Labour National Executive Council will meet in September to vote on full acceptance of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. When they, as is likely, kneel before force majeure that will be the end of free speech in Britain. Criticize Israel and you go to jail.
And the same thing is happening in the United States in precisely the same fashion. Criticism of Israel or protesting against it will sooner rather than later be criminalized. I sometimes wonder if Senator Ben Cardin and the others who are promoting the hate legislation really understand what will be lost when they sacrifice the U.S. Constitution to defend Israel. Once free speech is gone, it will never return.