John Elder — The Morning Star June 18, 2018
Surely ‘mainstream’ Jewish organisations protesting about growing anti-semitism must see that, by failing to condemn Israeli brutality against Palestinians, they will be regarded by some as being indirectly complicit in that country’s actions.
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HERE is one especially striking feature surrounding the recent demonstrations in London against apparent anti-semitism within Labour Party ranks and emerging in the population at large.
It is the total lack of censure by the three organisers of the London rallies, or by individuals from the mainstream British Jewish community they broadly represent, of the simultaneous and ongoing atrocities that were being committed by Israel at its border with Gaza.
There, on March 30, the territory’s Palestinians were staging their pre-announced “great march of return” series of protests calling for the return of ancestral lands occupied by Israel.
What they received in response from the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) on its side of the border fence was gratuitous and sustained lethal live fire and aerial tear gas attacks.
On March 26, four days before the ill-fated Gaza border confrontation had begun, a demonstration arranged jointly by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Jewish Leadership Alliance was held outside Parliament in London.
The protesters were gathered together to denounce what they considered to be anti-semitic conduct by some of Labour’s members.
Among other associated issues in their sights, they had accused the party hierarchy of consistently turning a blind eye to the problem.
Another demonstration, this one apparently more noisy but with a similar agenda, took place in front of Labour headquarters in Westminster on April 8. It was organised by the Campaign Against Anti-semitism, a fairly new and seemingly aggressive pro-Israel pressure group.
The two London demonstrations were part of already ongoing campaigns to put pressure on the Labour Party and its leadership to stamp out anti-semitism within its ranks and take action against the perpetrators. These moves were to continue sporadically on a broader front over the following weeks.
While the anti-semitism campaigns progressed, the burgeoning toll of Palestinian dead and wounded in Gaza had really started to make the news. Yet this shameful event of six weeks’ duration may as well have not been taking place at all, if the lack of any kind of disapproval of it by mainstream British Jews and their leadership was anything to go by.
Their attention remained focused on Labour and, also, on what they believed to be rising anti-semitism in Britain itself. To have also censured Israel in any way for its ongoing and deadly onslaught on the people of Gaza was not on their agenda.
Akin, probably, to its counterparts elsewhere in the Jewish diaspora, Britain’s mainstream Jewish community has always given its unconditional support to Israel.
It was not until the atrocities at the hands of the IDF had all but ended, that representatives of the community decided to comment on the issue.
On Tuesday May 15, the final day of the Gaza Palestinians’ border protest — and only following Israel’s especially bloody assault on them the day before — statements from Jewish organisations and individuals finally began to emerge.
By this time the Israeli army had wantonly shot dead a total of around 117 Palestinian civilians, including women and children, and wounded many thousands more. Not a single Israeli soldier had been killed or wounded in this stunningly one-sided episode.
On that day, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the leadership of Britain’s “mainstream” Jewish community, said: “We are profoundly anguished at the violent scenes and loss of life at the Gaza border.”
The rest of its message was, as near as dammit, identical to the words that had come out of the mouths of Israeli government spokespersons.
Effectively, the board placed the blame for the large-scale Palestinian dead and wounded squarely on the shoulders of Hamas.
However, Mark Regev, erstwhile arch-spin doctor for the Israeli government and presently its ambassador to Britain, was on top form — and clinically colourful — in his response.
On May 15 he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We use live fire only in a very measured way, in a very surgical way and only when there is no alternative.”
On May 18, Sir Mick Davis, a former chair of the Jewish Leadership Council, was only obliquely critical of Israeli conduct in its handling of the protests in Gaza.
He reportedly questioned the lack of “empathy” on the part of Israel and its supporters for the “innocents” among the dead.
So hardly an unambiguous condemnation of the indiscriminate, mass killing and maiming of many thousands of protesting Palestinian civilians by the IDF in Gaza.
By contrast, on the same day, apparently more than 750 British Jews probably mainly — perhaps entirely — from worthy though sidelined minority groups who are critical of Israel were not impressed by the Board of Deputies announcement.
On May 18 they reportedly signed an open letter criticising the latter’s one-sided statement on IDF violence and the mass casualties suffered by Palestinian civilians as a result.
It was further reported that a group opposed to Israel’s aggressive policy towards the Palestinians had held a small demonstration in London to protest against Israel’s six-week offensive on Gaza civilians.
But, perhaps predictably, there seemed to be no reported statements of any kind from the various “friends of Israel” groups — parliamentary or otherwise — on the issue.
Nonetheless, there was a message from Downing Street on May 16 about this latest example of overwhelmingly deadly force on the thousands of unarmed Gaza citizens protesting for their legal rights to be reinstated.
It was that the government was “deeply saddened” by the casualties “during peaceful protests being exploited by extremists.”
And then, as if the rest of the world didn’t already guess, the news from Israel was that its political class and a majority of the population had supported the IDF’s premeditated lethal assault on demonstrating Palestinian civilians on the Gaza border.
Just as they had backed Israel’s far more bloody military offensive against Gaza in 2014, when a poll by Tel Aviv University showed that 95 per cent of Israeli Jews approved of the action.
Is it any wonder, then, that many have characterised Israel’s long history of tyranny towards its immeasurably weaker neighbour as a case of the once oppressed becoming the oppressor?
Similarly, it can be no accident that international polling over the years has consistently shown Israel to be among the most disapproved-of countries on the planet.
For example, the BBC World Service Annual Poll between 2013 and 2017 revealed that only Iran, North Korea and Pakistan had a lower approval rating than Israel.
Unfortunately, mainstream Jewish communities everywhere — and their supporters — appear unwilling to accept the connection between developing international anti-semitism (or anti-Israel sentiment) and Israel’s decades-long, yet still ongoing, acts of barbarism against Palestinians, and its illegal occupation and annexation of their land.
It could be because of their perpetual backing of a nation that cocks a snook at worldwide excoriation of its repeated military atrocities in Gaza, and seemingly endless UN resolutions opposed to its general conduct towards the Palestinians.
So surely the Jewish organisations and individuals who lately were protesting about growing anti-semitism in Britain must see that, as advocates of Israel’s historical and still unremitting brutality against Palestinians, they will inevitably be regarded by some other British nationals as being indirectly complicit in that country’s actions.
What is clear, though, no amount of protestations about the symptoms of rising anti-semitism or anti-Israel sentiment in Britain and elsewhere will end the problem until its root cause — Israel’s criminal behaviour — is dealt with.
Only a radical change to the UN security council voting system may bring that about. But that seems unlikely in even the unforeseeable future.
Although it is possible that, if the Palestinian Authority’s referral of Israel to the International Criminal Court goes anywhere, a verdict against Israel help the Palestinians’ cause. However, it will be a long wait, whatever the outcome.