The stink of hypocrisy in the British political class at present is unbearable. Those who use anti-Semitism today as a political stick to beat their opponents, and to maintain western interests in the Middle East today, simultaneously ignore the plight of the Palestinian people and the treatment of their own Muslim populations – thereby ignoring any lessons from their appalling historic track record of abuse of the Jewish people in the 1930s and before– as well as abuses they have meted out to others under colonialism.
When Naz Shah MP, made a public apology for an anti-“Israel” comment she posted on Facebook two years ago, she tacitly accepted the criticism of her detractors, that an anti-“Israel” comment is actually anti-Semitism. Ken Livingstone, the former Mayor of London, appeared to argue that anti-Zionism does not equate to anti-Semitism because in the past Zionism has been endorsed by anti-Semites in Germany or in Britain (just as there have always been some Jews that have opposed Zionism). But his point was utterly lost in his usage of Adolf Hitler as an example.
This is more complex than a mere attack on a strand of opinion on the far left of British politics that opposes the occupation of Palestine, which includes Livingstone as well as Labour’s leader Jeremy Corbyn.
In February 2016 the British government announced it was to make the boycott of “Israeli” goods a criminal offence for public bodies and student unions.
Furthermore, the “Israel” question is one that Muslim children are questioned about, under the government’s Prevent strategy. Whereas most of the issues targeted under Prevent have been social or religious issues, some – such as opposing British military action in the Muslim world, and any opposition to “Israel” are political.
But it is hard to stuff social and political views as dictated by the British establishment down the throat of Muslims when the current leader of the opposition, former mayor of London and others don’t subscribe to some of these views.
So as with the social issues, they haven’t been able to convince people, so they resort to force instead.
But the net effect is that the liberal elite have given people a clear signal – support for “Israel” is a British policy that cannot be opposed.
Anti-Semitism commonly means hostility and prejudice directed against Jewish people based on their race and religion, and anti-Zionism means opposition to the secular nationalist ideology that sought to create, and to now sustain and expand, a Jewish state in the Middle East corresponding to the Biblical boundaries.
Most media outlets have pointed out that being anti-Zionist doesn’t automatically equate to being anti-Semitic. However, many “pro-Israel” politicians speaking during the current row go way beyond this – saying it is okay to oppose the policies and actions of Israel but if you’re anti-Zionist, you’re anti-Semitic.
Islam and the Jewish people
Muslims shouldn’t care about liberal labels that are fashionable in 2016 – but were ignored in 1916. They should be proud to know it was the Islamic rule of the Caliphate that treated Jews, Christians and others justly and with dignity for centuries – not chasing them out for their differences in religion, unlike the reality against Muslims in the UK today.
Moreover, Islam has a timeless view that is against nationalism and racism of all sorts.
To hate the Jewish people on grounds of race or religion would also be to hate the Prophets of the Children of Israel, and their followers amongst the believers, as well as those Jews who later followed the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) – and this sort of hatred would be unacceptable from an Islamic perspective.
Some falsely claim hatred is incited when Allah chastises the Children of Israel in the Qur’an.
However, these accounts of former generations are an example to Muslims – that they too could incur the wrath of Allah if they transgressed as previous generations of believers have done. The dislike of any people mentioned in the Quran who displeased Allah is not on the grounds of race or religion, but on the grounds of their false actions – just as you can respect those people who historically remained faithful to Allah by following the message of their Prophets.
Some argue the rhetoric used against “Israel” in the Middle East is proof of anti-Semitism – but such rhetoric is always present in the context of conflict even when unacceptable in other situations.
What about anti-Zionism? The Jewish people fleeing persecution in Europe were allowed to live within the area that was once the Biblical holy land in the Ottoman Caliphate. However, the establishment of a “homeland” by usurping and occupying someone else’s home – is not only unjust – it is unacceptable from an Islamic perspective.
The fact that this unique historic injustice occurred decades ago does not legitimize it in Palestine any more than it does in Kashmir or Chechnya. The abuse and oppression of the Palestinian people for so many years, only makes the situation more untenable.
Even the strong supporter of Israel, Martin Amis, understood this when he used a metaphor giving the context of historic Jewish persecution in Europe, “Imagine Europe as a burning building for the Jews and you jump to Israel. But if you land on someone you have to answer for that, you can’t say you didn’t land on anyone and you can’t go on landing on him.”
I write the word “Israel” in quotation marks precisely because I can never view it as a legitimate state, even when it is given a name. It is not simply the treatment of Palestinians, which so resembles apartheid South Africa. Nor the numerous massacres that would (even if a person did believe it was a legitimate state maintaining its security) count alongside any definition of war crimes for their disproportionate nature. It is because for me, and other Muslims, it is not and never will be a state. It is an occupation regardless of whether the perpetrators are Jews or anyone else.
If holding this opinion brings the ire of Cameron’s Tories and the Blairite-Left crashing down on one – then so be it. They are hypocrites who persecute religious minorities one day and then cry anti-Semitism the next.
If holding this opinion makes one a pariah in the eyes of many British people who bear the painful memory of World War Two – then so be it. British and European guilt over their own historic anti-Semitism is not a justification for an illegitimate occupation of someone else’s land. Let us not forget that Britain maintained a law called “De Judaismo“, which prescribed a special dress for Jews until as recently as 1846!
The infamous Balfour declaration was little more than a bargaining tool at the time looking for Jewish support in World War One. For the ruling class, just as with the anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism debate today, it was, and always has been more about British foreign policy interests than any genuine concern for oppressed people.
Dr Abdul Wahid is a regular contributor to New Civilisation. He is currently the Chairman of the UK-Executive Committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain. He has been published in The Times Higher Educational Supplement and on the websites of Foreign Affairs, Open Democracy, and the Prospect Magazine.