The IHRC said the Labour Party’s suspension of Ken Livingstone for allegedly making anti-semitic remarks in his defence of Naz Shah MP is yet another example of how anti-semitism is deliberately being conflated with anti-Zionism in the service of a pro-Israel agenda.
“Neither Shah, who has also been suspended, nor Livingstone have said anything that is racist or anti-semitic,” the IHRC said. “Both were criticising the state of Israel and the supremacist Zionist ideology underpinning it that has resulted in the dispossession and oppression of the Palestinians for well over half a century.
“The knee-jerk reaction of the Labour Party in relation to both members is disturbing in that it highlights the hyper-sensitivity that has been brought to prevail over any discussion of Zionism and Israel.
“By deliberately conflating them, supporters of Israel seek to prevent legitimate public criticism from taking place with the effect of not only narrowing the range of permissible discourse but stigmatising anyone who dares to cross their self-imposed boundaries.
“Criticism of Israeli policies and Zionism is not anti-semitic (you can be a Jew and anti-Zionist). Neither Shah nor Livingstone are anti-semites. They are victims of a political climate in which Israel and Zionism are exceptionalised and considered off limits to any kind of legitimate criticism.”
Stop the War
Meanwhile, the Stop the War also said it rejects and condemns the continuing witch-hunt being directed against those who criticise the Israeli government.
“Anti-Semitism is an evil which led to some of the most barbarous crimes of the twentieth century, and which has of course deep historical roots,” Stop the War said. “These are facts which must not be denied, belittled or trivialised. The full social and political equality of Jewish people, and their protection from discrimination and abuse, are essential mandates of our common humanity.
“This revulsion against a form of racism is now being abused to demonise all those who oppose the aggressive oppression of the Palestinian people by the Israeli state. It is not anti-Semitic to oppose the unbridled Israeli colonial settlement programme on the West Bank, to oppose the frequently brutal treatment of Palestinians, the seizure of their land, the imprisonment of their children and the denial of their basic human rights to self-determination and self-governance.
“The neo-colonial expansionism of the Israeli state has been one of the drivers of the conflicts in the Middle East in recent decades, conflicts which have led to numerous bloody wars. While the main responsibility for the Iraqi and many other wars does not lie with Israel – it lies with the British and US governments – it has always been clear that there can be no peace and justice in the region without justice for the Palestinians, something successive British governments have failed to address.
“The relentless demonization of pro-Palestinian opinion bears particularly hard on British Muslims arguing this case in public, as seen in the attempt to undermine and smear the first black woman President of the National Union of Students. Opposition to anti-Semitism is too often used as a cover for Islamophobia, which is no more acceptable.
“It is not a Muslim but the Tory candidate for London Mayor who is running a disgraceful “dog whistle” racist campaign against his principal opponent. Likewise, it is the incumbent Tory Mayor of London who used race to criticise President Obama. This goes unpunished and largely unremarked.
“Stop the War does not endorse ill-judged and offensive comments about Israel by public figures. However, it does not accept the double standards now being applied, the attempt to silence criticism of Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people, or smearing with the charge of anti-Semitism anyone opposing the political project of Israeli expansionism. It continues to stand for community cohesion and against any moves to use the conflicts in the Middle East to divide or demonise people of any race or faith in Britain.”