The United States Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) condemns the British Labour Party’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance “definition of antisemitism.” The adoption serves only the interests of the Zionist enablers of Israel’s apartheid state. It is an attempt to exclude entirely from British politics, and especially the Labour Party, support for Palestinian inalienable rights and opposition to Zionist racism and oppression.
As many critics have observed, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism is itself racist in that it falsely equates antisemitism with anti-Zionism. That both major political parties in the U.K. have now adopted this definition in full is a sad and ironic reflection on a government that has historically been the major enabler of the dismemberment of Palestine and the continued dispossession of the Palestinian people. The British legacy in Palestine is one of open colonization, the Balfour Declaration and the arming of the Zionist movement alongside the brutal suppression of Palestinian indigenous resistance through multiple revolts and struggles for independence.
Not only is the adoption of this definition an attempt to stifle support for Palestinian rights, it also represents a travesty of the memory of those persons, a disproportionately large percentage of them Jews, who were murdered during the Second World War by German fascists following the promulgation of racist laws, in what has come to be known as the Holocaust. The lessons that must be drawn from Nazi terror and brutality must include the critical necessity to fight state racism relentlessly – never to institutionalize it nor protect it from critique.
Not only is anti-Zionism not a form of racism or antisemitism, Zionism itself is fundamentally racist, and the Israeli state exists on the basis of the dispossession and repression of the indigenous people of Palestine in a narrative deeply reminiscent of the “manifest destiny” mythology used to justify the genocide of indigenous people in North America.
The intense attacks and ongoing campaign against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party that have led to the adoption of this definition have been supported not only by British Zionists but by the Israeli government itself. The campaign has included the exclusion of long-time, anti-racist campaigners in the Labour Party on spurious charges of “antisemitism” based on their support for Palestine and opposition to Israeli apartheid, as well as attempts to stigmatize mourning for slain Palestinians and support for the freedom of Palestinian political prisoners as “antisemitic.” It is deeply reminiscent of the attack on the Durban World Conference Against Racism and the Durban Review Process, dating back to the intense pressure to rescind U.N. Resolution 3379, upholding the reality that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.
Various USACBI members have already suffered from the application onto them of similar definitions of antisemitism, and are fully aware of the ramifications that this definition will serve to engender everywhere, not just in the UK, even if the definition carries no legal bearing yet. In particular, this false, Zionist definition of antisemitism is likely to be used against BDS activists in the UK who criticize the state of Israel, in that one part of the definition reads: “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.” This equation of antisemitism with the anti-racist critique of Israel obscures and ignores the fact that the state of Israel was founded on stolen Palestinian land. It seeks to pretend that the Nakba, which displaced 750,000 Palestinians and killed thousands of others, did not happen and that Israel’s settler-colonial origins and apartheid system of unequal laws and discrimination entails “self-determination.” Clearly, this definition is being used as a weapon which those in the anti-BDS movement will use in their “lawfare” campaign against this disciplined, ethical movement for justice in Palestine.
The IHRA definition of antisemitism also absolves Israel of its responsibility for egregiously undemocratic legal and political practices, such as the recent so-called “Nation-State Law,” which classifies Arab and Palestinian citizens of Israel as inferior, along with their language and culture. The definition in particular masks the fact that egregious inequalities are the very building blocks of Israeli society: “Applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”
We reject the attempt of Zionists, including the proponents of this definition, to equate Jewish people with racist Zionism and the apartheid Israeli state. If anything, it makes an antisemitic argument – equating Jews with the racist state of Israel. Much of the alleged “moral weight” of Israel derives from its claim to be a “Jewish state” in Palestine and from the myths surrounding the ensuing Zionist claim to a “Land of Israel” that is, in fact, land belonging to Palestinians. This alleged moral claim is nothing more than pride in settler colonialism and the dispossession of indigenous people. [See Nur Masalha’s recently-published book, Palestine: A Four Thousand Year History].
It is time to delegitimize not only Israel’s policies and practices, but Israel itself.
Joseph Levine, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, writes: “With regard to the second claim, it seems obvious to me, and I bet many others when they bother to think about it, that claims to land stemming from a connection to people who lived there 2,000 years ago is extremely weak when opposed by the claims of those who currently live there and whose people have been living there for perhaps a millennium or more.”
USACBI stands in solidarity with organizers of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement against Israel in the U.K. who are likely to come under renewed attack with the adoption of IHRA’s definition of antisemitism. We particularly stand in solidarity with our sister organization, the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), which like USACBI targets discriminatory Israeli state policies in its support for BDS. It is clear that those pushing for adoption of the IHRA definition are seeking to deploy it in order to slander and discredit the BDS movement.
Finally, USACBI stands with Palestinian people in their fight for self-determination against a settler-colonial apartheid state. We urge people who have not yet done so to support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement against Israel by endorsing our call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel: http://usacbi.org/about/ .
For further information, contact USACBI.
Photo: @proteststencil, Twitter