There needs to be a firm commitment by Muslims to remain steadfast in the face of political pressure that is aimed to silence them and others.
There has been a long-standing attempt by supporters of ‘Israel’* to silence criticism and the questioning of its legitimacy. In recent years it is one of the political issues targeted by the Prevent strategy** and counter-’extremism’ policies.
One way this has been done is by making accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’, or suggesting that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism.
The arguments that are made include:
- There is disproportionate criticism of the wrongs of ‘Israel’ compared to criticisms of other countries.
- Accusing Zionist Jews of having dual loyalties, like they were accused in pre-WW2 Europe.
- Jews were persecuted in Europe/Russia, and ‘Israel’ is a homeland for any Jew anywhere if they needed refuge. So arguing it has no
- legitimacy is like delegitimizing a refuge for Jews.
- Comparing the crimes of ‘Israel’ to the crimes of the Nazis.
Current events in the UK
The latest manifestation of this are the criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.
I am no expert on the current Labour party membership and I don’t hold a brief to defend Mr Corbyn – but it is hard to justify the claims he is an anti-Semite. He appears to have been consistently anti-racist all his political career, though he does criticise ‘Israeli’ abuse of the Palestinian people – and he will engage those who do fundamentally question ‘Israel’s’ legitimacy, from amongst Muslims and non-Muslims Leftists (including Jewish critics).
But for those who are cheerleaders for Mr Corbyn on issues related to Palestine, it is worth noting he is actually a Zionist, insofar as he has repeatedly said that the ‘two-state’ solution is the solution to the Middle East conflict i.e. an ‘Israeli’ state and a Palestinian ‘state’ ***. His only disputes are about the borders, as well as the treatment of the Palestinian people – but not the fundamental illegitimacy of the occupation. So he believes in a Jewish state based on pre-1967 borders.
Given these are his views, one can see that the attacks on Mr Corbyn would appear to stem from two motives. The first, to undermine him generally – because he is not from the mainstream political establishment and hence is not trusted by them. The other motive for attacking him on this issue, so that other critics of ‘Israel’ and those who oppose it fundamentally are silenced.
The challenge for Muslims is two-fold.
The first is to hold-fast to the Islamic viewpoint on this matter and related issues – i.e. that there can never be any legitimacy when the land of Palestine – or any other land which was formerly under the governance of Islam – has been usurped.
Hence, the ‘two state’ plan is not a valid solution from an Islamic perspective – whether from so-called 1967 borders, or indeed 1948 borders. The land has been illegal occupied and dissected since 1917.
Also, that the oppression of Muslims – and indeed all the Palestinian people – is never justifiable and needs to end. This sort of militarised occupation that is fulfilling the colonial objectives of Western states, can only be resolved by liberation by a state-level army – a military occupation of a state-level proportion cannot be resolved by anything less than that. Only by understanding this will people realise that it would take a serious sustained political effort to change opinions in the region to reach that objective. Short-term thinking and individualistic efforts could never achieve that.
Moreover, we should be arguing that what should replace it is not a secular nation state that is a subjugated client of Western powers – rather what should replace this occupation is the gold standard of Islamic governance, which unifies the land with the rest of Bilad al Shaam and beyond, as was the case in the era of the Khilafah pre-1917, which governed all its citizens with justice; which achieved unparalleled levels of harmonious coexistence in the region; and which established periods of peace in a region where there is now seemingly endless conflict.
The second challenge is not to fall into political traps through unwise, foolish or haram speech. The oppression of the Muslims of Palestine by the Zionist occupation, and the appeasement of these actions by its supporters, provokes justifiable anger amongst Muslims and others.
Muslims in the West do not live in the midst of that war-zone of occupation, where all sides use the rhetoric of war. We do not live in Muslim countries where regimes either ally with the occupiers, have trade relations and defence cooperation, or remain silent and inactive when they could be actively working to respond to the problem – and as such the ordinary Muslims speak out to scream at their governments to do something, and in doing so use understandably emotive language.
Yet some Muslims in the West may respond to the violent oppression and vocal support for the violent oppressors by using similar language that is not necessary in order to make the political and Islamic points that must be made. Indeed, there maybe certain language and arguments that would allow those who wish to silence debate to do so with more ease – taking what anti-Zionist activists think is a stick to beat Israel, and using it to beat them instead.
I am under no illusion that the challenge to maintain the Islamic viewpoint on the absolute illegitimacy of the occupation, remind people of the Islamic solution to this and any similar issue – i.e. a real liberation – and to call for an alternative vision for a troubled region built on an Islamic basis – will still generate a reaction. Even to avoid the aforementioned political traps, anti-Zionist arguments will inevitably be falsely labelled anti-Semitic and ‘extremist’ by the political establishment and the corporate media.
Islam seeks a political liberation of the occupied region not the extermination of a race – but that liberation would strike at the heart of a policy that has sought to subjugate the Muslim world and control its resources.
British politicians in the early part of the twentieth century schemed to steal the land and create an occupation that would create the maximum level of conflict in order to subjugate and neutralise the Middle East as a source of power for Islam. Those politicians were anti-Semites – preferring to see British people of Jewish heritage relocated to a ‘homeland’ in the Middle East, against their wishes. Personally, as someone living in the UK, I would have no problem if the UK government would offer to give the Jewish people a homeland in the UK. My problem is that they gave a land which was not theirs to promise, nor theirs to give.
Currently, the pressure on Corbyn from inside and outside of his party is immense. He may well end up comprehensively adopting the definitions he has hitherto resisted. Or else he may simply be silenced from saying what he has said to date on the issue of Palestine – which would be a reversion to the norm in British politics – i.e. no voices in the political establishment that are willing or able to challenge one of the greatest political injustices ever.
Regardless of this, Muslims have our own definitions and our own viewpoint – and our challenge is to remain steadfast in speaking about these and to try to convince others of our alternative vision for the region – and not to simply follow the definitions and ‘solutions’ of others – and crucially to use our voices wherever we are to build that sustained argument for change that will realise a real liberation of that Blessed Land and its people
* The word ‘Israel’ is in quotes because those like me, who do not accept its legitimacy as a country, view it as an ‘entity’, or an ‘occupation’. For the purposes of this article please understand the word to mean ‘Zionist entity’ or ‘Zionist occupation’.
*** The word ‘state’ is in quotes because there is no proposal on the table under any form of ‘two-state solution’ whereby a future Palestine would be a functional state with the ability to govern and defend itself.