Wednesday 18 May 2016

Lies, Damn Lies and Deligitimisation

"The creation of the State of Israel was fundamentally wrong,  because there had been a Palestinian community there for 2000 years".

"The creation of the State of Israel was a great catastrophe.  We should have absorbed the post World War II Jewish refugees in Britain and America".

These are the words of former London mayor and UK Labour Party member and activist, Ken Livingstone in a recent interview that he conducted with Arabic station Al Ghad Al Arabi.  The fact that Livingstone, or "Red Ken" as he is known by the British establishment, is anti-Israel and anti-Semitic is not new to most of us.  His own Labour Party recently suspended him on accusations of anti-Semitism, along with more than 50 other members of the party.   What is surprising is the fact that a former mayor of a capital city of one of the world's leading and progressive nations, can utter such factual inaccuracies in support of his anti-Semitic rant.  What is perhaps even more astonishing is that so many around the world accept these inaccuracies as fact. and find his open anti-Semitism (dressed up as anti-Zionism) to be perfectly acceptable.

Even though Red Ken was only a babe at the time that the State of Israel came into existence and will probably not be able to remember its details, it is incumbent on a man in his position and who is as outspoken as he is, to get the facts right before taking strong public positions.  Instead, he is using inaccuracies to justify his bias.  If he had learnt the facts, he would know that there was no Palestinian community in 1948, and so there could not have been a Palestinian community for 2000 years.  The concept of a "Palestinian people" or community only arose after the 1967 Six Day War when the Arab countries lost control of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem after trying to drive the Jews into the sea once more.  After they realised that they had little chance of defeating Israel militarily in order to gain control over the land held by the Jews, the notion of a "Palestinian people" was born as a tactic to beguile the world into feeling sympathy for their cause.  This has now translated into an "occupation" of their land, a misconception believed by a vast majority of the world's citizens and used endlessly at the UN and other international bodies to criticise Israel.

It is ironic that he makes a statement that the creation of the State of Israel was a catastrophe.  Why a catastrophe?  Does he believe that peace would have prevailed in this region had the State of Israel not come into being?  In the same interview, Livingstone refers to Libya and Iraq.  In those cases, he tries to blame western intervention for the conflicts that arose in those, and other Middle Eastern countries.  He claims that the west is equally to blame for the rise of Islamic terrorism, which has come about because of western double standards in the Middle East in Livingstone's opinion.  According to him, this is what has been encouraging angry youth to fight alongside ISIS and other terror groups.  Even he is smart enough to recognise that Arab and Muslim groups have fought amongst each other for hundreds of years., and that western intervention was not required to trigger terrorist activities.  We only need to witness the most basic split between Sunni and Shia Muslims to understand this, not to speak of the numerous tribal and political splits in evidence around the Middle East.  Does Livingstone believe that the Middle East would have been more enlightened and more developed without the existence of the State of Israel?  Once again, we have numerous examples to cite where Muslims have failed to capitalise on opportunities to enlighten and develop their countries and their people.  Should this be blamed on Israel?  Can we blame the terror state that has been constructed in Gaza, and funded by foreign aid, on Israel?  The catastrophe that Ken talks about is the same catastrophe that the Palestinians speak about.  It is the catastrophe of the Jews have a free homeland in which they can find self-determination.

It is ironic that Mr. Livingstone thinks that Britain and America should have absorbed all the post World War II Jewish refugees, and their failure to do so caused the "catastrophe" of the creation of the State of Israel.  In reality, it was exactly because of bigoted anti-Semites like Red Ken, that these countries and others refused to accept Jewish refugees, both during the war (when they really needed place to go) and in its aftermath.  Even those who were allowed to escape to western countries were made to feel like they were "guests", who may be sent out at any moment.  The exposure of endemic anti-Semitism in the Labour Party in Britain is not as a result of a recent development.  This manifests itself as a result of decades of institutionalised anti-Semitism in many areas of British society.  Who would believe that, even as recently as the 1980's, some large government-owned companies in the UK had a policy of not employing Jews?  This anti-Semitism has been cleansed by the political acceptability of being anti-Israel.  The anti-Semites finally found a legitimate cause that allows them to openly express their anti-Semitism in the public arena.  Even if they claim to oppose Israel's actions and policies while being Jew lovers.  

It should be clear that anybody who denies the right of the State of Israel to exist, or supports groups who seek Israel's destruction, is an anti-Semite.  This has little to do with the so-called occupation or the rights of the Palestinian people.  There are millions of Palestinians in refugee camps in the region, whose human rights are being denied in a much more systematic way than anything that Israel has ever done.  No criticism is issued about these human rights abuses, or about the abuses by the Palestinian leadership of its own people.  Instead, this has everything to do with the right of the Jews to be masters of their own destiny, and to have the right to protect themselves and their  Jewish homeland.  It can be dressed up as anti-Zionism or support for the Palestinian people, but the real root cause is well understood, and will not hidden from sight.

UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is on record calling Hamas and Hezbollah his friends.  And he is the one who has suspended more than 50 members of his party for their anti-Semitic behaviour.  This is evidence of how deep the anti-Semitism in the Labour Party runs.  The fact that those who support groups calling for Israel's destruction are the ones suspending the anti-Semites is ironic.  The anti-Semites have succeeded in galvanising support for hating the Jews and Israel around the issue of human rights abuses against the Palestinians.  This has filtered into the left-wing arm of the Jewish community, giving even greater strength to the mantra that being anti-Israel does not necessarily equal being anti-Jewish.  Each meeting of the UNHRC is forced to discuss agenda item 7 covering human rights violations by Israel.  How does it transpire that, amongst all human rights violators in the world (of which there are many), Israel is the one and only country that is forced to endure a torrent of criticism and abuse at each and every UNHRC meeting?  My contention is that it is rooted in institutionalised anti-Semitism at this organisation, and many others.

Although Red Ken is a classic example of anti-Semitism in its ugliest form, he is unfortunately not the only example.  And he is sufficiently unashamed to be prepared to make public statements in support of his argument that are factually inaccurate and incorrect.  The problem is that, when senior leaders like Livingstone make such statements and contentions, many of their followers believe it without any doubt and this perpetuates the unbridled hatred without cause.

When Livingstone refers to the "catastrophe", we understand what he truly means.  It has nothing to do with the so-called "nakba" or catastrophe that has befallen the Palestinian people.  This could easily have been avoided if they had accepted the Palestine Partition Plan agreed by the UN in 1947, instead of choosing to try to destroy the Jews.  The two-state solution that we continue to fight over today, could already have been implemented at that time.  If this is indeed what the true desire is.  Instead, Livingstone is referring to the catastrophe of the Jews having their right to independence and self-determination, and how much this has served to strengthen the cause and the presence of Jews around the world.  I imagine that he may have described it as an even greater catastrophe had the UK absorbed more Jews in the period after the Shoa as he suggests, and had a greater presence and influence in the UK today.  The mix of strong Jewish presence and influence, along with virulent anti-Semitism was exactly the recipe that brought the Nazis to power, and led to the Shoa and the massacre of 6 million people.  So, while I don't tolerate this form of bigotry from Livingstone and I am happy that there is a State of Israel to call him out and provide protection to Jews against his ilk, I still prefer this form of a catastrophe to the alternatives that Livingstone suggests.

Saturday 7 May 2016

Remembrance Day Reflections

When lighting the candle or listening to the siren on the day that commemorates the six million who were killed, and the heroes who survived the greatest genocide known to mankind, I find myself reflecting on so many different thoughts.  We are afforded a few minutes to think about what was, what is and what could be.

Amongst other thoughts, today I was struck by some of the similarities between Pesach and remembering the Shoah.  Jewish texts and prayers are littered with references to the exodus from Egypt, and the obligation on the Jewish people to remember it.  It is found necessary to remind Jews to remember this through the generations, despite it being regarded as probably the greatest miracle ever to happen to the Jewish people.  Memories can apparently be short, even when it comes to recalling miracles.  This is also reflected in the central mitzvah of the Pesach Seder, to tell one's children of the miracle of the exodus from Egypt.  In fact, the Haggadah tells us that, in each generation, we should immerse ourselves into the exodus from Egypt so deeply, that we should imagine that we actually experienced it ourselves.

In many ways, this is exactly what Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel is about.  It is about never forgetting.  It is about being immersed in the events that led to the annihilation of 6 million of our people.  It is about recognising the bravery of those who stood up to the murderers despite the odds.  It is about standing to support and strengthen the survivors.  It is about never forgetting how evil people can be, and how Jews can be hated for no apparent reason.  It is about celebrating the survival of our people, and celebrating he Jewish state.  And it is about ensuring that the next generations know all of this so they will never forget.  Most of all, it is about preserving the State of Israel which is the only way to ensure that this never happens again.

In the months and years following the genocide, people could not believe that such an event had been allowed to take place without the intervention of the international community.  And yet, more than 70 years later, it is easy to see how it could have happened.  The United Nations organisation that was set up in the aftermath of the Second World War and the Shoa to ensure that it does not happen again, is exactly the organisation that gives a platform to those who wish for it to happen again.  Many of the events that precipitated the murder of millions of our people, and the thoughts, sentiments, views and actions are dangerously repeating themselves in our day.  It has become politically correct, acceptable and even desirable to be anti-Semitic, dressed up as being anti-Zionist or anti-Israeli.  The BDS movement is at the forefront of what could be likened to the Nazi Party in Germany in the early 1930s.  While they stop short of calling for the annihilation of the Jews, they are actively working to indelibly damage the State of Israel.  They realise, as many of us do, that a world without Israel is a smokescreen for a world without Jews.

While we unbelievably continue to witness the hatred towards Israel and Jews that was such a hallmark of the lead-up to the Shoa, there are a few things that have changed since then.  With the access that we have to news and events around the world brought about by the Internet and social media, nobody will be able to say that they were not aware that this was happening.  Some are in denial about the true intentions of the Palestinians, of BDS and of other anti-Israel activists.  There are those, many of them Jews, who think that this is ok in our democratic world.  It is their view that Israel deserves to be criticised and castigated for actions to defend her existence and that of her citizens and Jews around the world.  But they will never be able to deny that these events took place.

Perhaps the most important difference between then and now, is the existence of the State of Israel.  It is not only the existence of the state, but also the existence of leadership which is prepared to take the difficult decisions required to ensure our continued survival.  When considering this, along with a population of young and old who are willing to give all that they have to defend our rightful existence in our homeland, I am convinced that even the most determined anti-Semite will have no prospect of repeating the horrendous events of the Shoa.  The State of Israel and the proud Jews who live there are our strength that is insurmountable to all those who wish harm upon the Jews.

It has been amazing to see the evolution of the nervous, fearful yellow star into the strong, proud and determined blue star.  The same star, but two different worlds.  Whereas the yellow star was worn with shame and trepidation, the blue star stands for democracy, innovation, pride, determination and an attitude that will do everything to ensure that we never again return to the yellow star.

We mourn those millions who were lost in the Shoa, but we bask in the glory of the State of Israel, the victory that this represents over those who wished to destroy us.  We will never forget, and we will never return to those days.  Never again.

Am Yisrael Chai.