The lies they tell about Israel

The presence of an Arab party in Israel's new coalition won't stop the lies

June 04, 2021 12:14

This week I have watched British pundits marvel at the scale of the ideological differences between those involved in Israel’s new governing coalition - and the fact that, for now at least, they have managed to bury those differences.

Whatever happens in the Knesset’s ratification vote, the very existence of the would-be coalition rubbishes the argument that Israel is an apartheid state.

Announcing the deal to journalists, Ra’am Party leader Mansour Abbas said:  “we have reached a critical mass of agreements in various fields that serves the interest of Arab society and that provide solutions for the burning issues in Arab society — planning, the housing crisis, and of course, fighting violence and organized crime.”

It's interesting to note the issues Abbas chose to mention. The real life concerns of Israeli Arabs bear little connection to the struggle in favour of “the resistance” and against apartheid that have been articulated in Hyde Park and outside the Israeli embassy over the last few weeks. Polling of Israeli Arabs shows that crime and housing are at the top of their concerns.

At a rally held the day after a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was agreed, Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell announced that “there will be no ceasefire in our campaign to boycott, disinvest and sanction the Israeli apartheid state.”  The Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion, Naz Shah MP, claimed that the ceasefire “does not stop Israel committing the crimes of apartheid.”

I wouldn’t expect either of them to change their tune any time soon. That Israel is an apartheid state is an accepted fact among what sociologist David Hirsh refers to as ‘the community of the good’. Various NGOs and think tanks have asserted that Israel is an apartheid state for years now.

If an Arab judge sending a former Israeli President to prison doesn’t change their minds then neither will the Arab soldiers serving in the Israeli army, an Israeli Arab Miss Israel representing the country in the Miss World contest or even the country being partially governed by an Arab Party. What it does do is make these various politicians and NGOs look pretty silly in pursuing the claim.

At the same demonstration at which Shah and McDonnell made their commitments against Israel, the veteran activist Tariq Ali asserted that, “since 1948 there has been a continuous Nakba. Decade after decade an attempt to drive the Palestinian people out of their territory to get more settlers in from Brooklyn, settlers who are semi fascists who chant slogans denouncing the Arab race who have learned nothing from what happened to them in Europe! Nothing! And they talk a lot about saying how all those marching for Palestine are antisemites, this of course isn’t true but I’ll tell you something and they don’t like hearing it, every time they bomb Gaza, every time they attack Jerusalem that is what creates antisemitism”. The crowd cheered.

The irony is that while impotent to have an impact on the Israeli Palestinian conflict, they do have the ability to impact on the toxicity and lies within their own movement. If John McDonnell, stalwart of the left, had called Ali out on his noxious comments, that appear to lay the responsibility for antisemitism in Britain at the door of Jews in Israel, it could have done a lot of good. It may have had the effect of stopping the continued ramping up of tensions here in the UK. He could have put other speakers in demonstrations up and down the country on notice that there are limits as to what rhetoric their movement will accept.

But he didn’t.

Perhaps if he had taken a stand a man in Birmingham speaking at a pro-Palestine demonstration last Saturday would have thought twice before invoking an antisemitic trope when he said “stand up to organ harvesting”, before riling up the crowd with the chant “Free Palestine”.

Why is it that so many speakers, some of them elected representatives, have such a hard time expressing their opinions on Israel without descending into falsehoods about apartheid? The use of language has become Orwellian, channelling the term ‘newspeak’ from 1984. This was a tactic used by the fictional regime to destroy people’s ability to articulate dissent against it, only this time it’s the opposite - the meaning of words are being changed in order to direct a greater amount of vitriol against the state of Israel. Gone are the days where you can express your discontent by lamenting ‘Israeli occupation’. If you’re not attacking ‘Israeli apartheid’, well, you’re just not cool.

On that day after the ceasefire several speakers stood up on a stage in Hyde Park before thousands of people to declare their support for “the resistance”. Hamas was never mentioned but it’s unlikely that they’re referring to anyone else. And Hamas are hardly shy about stating what they wish to see. Article 13 of their charter states: “[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion; the nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its faith, the movement educates its members to adhere to its principles and to raise the banner of Allah over their homeland as they fight their Jihad: ‘Allah is the all-powerful, but most people are not aware.’"

The word apartheid doesn’t come up in the Hamas document. Human rights also isn’t a term that appears. Could someone please tell Naz Shah and John McDonnell?

June 04, 2021 12:14

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