I wrote a general piece on identity politics last year when the then current topic was “Islam is not a race“.
The whole nation / race / culture / religion subject is fraught with definitional problems, that really only resolve in self-identity. The fact that Semite has nothing to do with being a Jew in the first place, is only one of many nuanced issues in the Labour Antisemitism row. Of all the many nuances defining the antisemitism row, the distinguishing issue is the relationship to Jews of opinions on Zionism and Israel. Opinions about people and individuals (ie humans) are simply those of human rights and freedoms of thought and expression. End of.
Currently “Antisemitism” is really a question of Zionism. It’s all very well to hold opinions about “the idea of” an Israel – should it / shouldn’t it exist – but it does. We might not want to start from here, but we must deal with reality.
- How many nation states in the world have UN-recognised existing names and borders more than one or two hundred years old? Not many.
- How many nation states have dodgy political and bloody histories in how their modern day identity was arrived at. Most.
- How many nation states have modern-day ethnic / religious political tensions – historically disadvantaged groups – that lead to violent acts. Most of us.
The specific parties in the current politics and enforcement through power vary from state to state, and will require their own specific resolution and mediation, but the idea that Zionism makes Israel any different is plain wrong.
[Post Note : There are of course plenty of other reasons why the “Israel” issue remains perhaps the knottiest issue of our times, not least because the oppressed group really are largely Semitic, Arabic, Muslims, a subject with it’s own share of topical issues, to say the least.]
[Post Note : And absolute chaos on Twitter – so many witty responses to #KenGate and #JohnMannGate ( all on #EdBallsDay) but this sums up the underlying point:
I suspect Ken meant to say anti-Zionsim wasn’t the same thing as racism. But he subconsciously let the cat out of the bag.
— Dan Hodges (@DPJHodges) April 28, 2016
Ken’s just said it again. To be anti-semitic you have to hate Jews in Golder’s Green, not just Jews in Israel.
— Dan Hodges (@DPJHodges) April 28, 2016
Sure – but hating (not-liking) “Jews being in Israel” is a million miles from “hating Jews” in Israel, or Golders Green, or anywhere else. No-one “likes” Israel being what it is, but 4/5 generations after its founding, Israel and its current population have the same human rights and freedoms as the rest of us, Palestinians included. Sorry, our fore-fathers made a mistake so you lot are fucked – is no solution. Jeez. Reparations can be retrospective, reversable even, within a generation or two, but need to be proportional and humane for individual citizens recognised as a whole nation state.
And the whole comparison of Zionism with Hitler was well-meant (see this old example from Jared Diamond) but crassly stated for a professional politician. And John Mann MP losing his cool. Labour in meltdown on #EdBallsDay and all a week before local elections. Man!]
[Post Note – And, the morning after, those defending Ken are using accusations of PC-taboo topics and anti-intellectualism. Well sure Ken’s opinions have valid points – that was my point above. And as the tweets above show Ken probably made an intellectual error in one of his remarks but he didn’t correct it and he kept digging, defending himself and Naz. To be clear. Israel is a brutal regime, the Palestinians are oppressed, the whole situation is surrounded by Islamist states and factions, Israel’s brutality extends to attacks being their best form of defence, and yes the whole “Middle-East Problem” situation has a recent history of imperial responsibility. It’s a mess, I’ve written about before in more detail and we’re all, Ken & Naz & Jezza included, entitled to robust opinions for and/or against any & all of the parties and behaviours involved. Nothing is taboo, not even bigotry. Yes you can even hold the opinion that the problem is the existence of Israel as a Jewish state and the solution is to remove it / them. However, since we’re talking about members of the government and opposition in one UN state, their opinions about dealing with another UN state matter – we’ve all got present-day situations resulting from historical mistakes (see above). Proposing a policy that the state shouldn’t exist and that it’s population should be deported (somewhere) against their wishes – many generations after the original mistake – is not acceptable. It’s plain crass. That is against the human rights of the existing population – that’s what’s rightly being branded “antisemitism” (even though the word technically means something else), it’s a label for that crass inhuman bigotry.]