The row in British politics concerning Labour’s alleged ‘anti-Semitic problem’ needs no further introduction these days.
Inside this atmosphere of witch hunting, agendas meant to stifle debate about Zionism are being promoted.
Michael Levy, who was known as Tony Blair’s “Lord Cashpoint” from his major fundraisings towards Blair’s campaigns (which won him the unofficial title of Blair’s private envoy in the Middle-East during Blair’s premiership), has recently suggested on BBC Newsnight, that usage of the word “Zionist” has become “another form of anti-Semitism” and that “this should not be tolerated”.
UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis told the Sunday Times that Jewish students at universities were confronted with a “wall of anti-Zionism, which they feel and know to be Jew hatred”, bemoaning that they are sometimes even described by “the ugly term Zios”.
These pundits do not seem to find a need to provide actual basis for their suggestions. As Mirvis puts it, Jews “feel and know” it.
Seeing beyond the cynical political agendas of what Max Blumenthal recently and wittily referred to as “a very British coup,” I think it is very important to look at the agendas regarding the stifling of debate concerning Zionism. The attempts to make this term “forbidden” under the suggestion that it veils anti-Semitic thoughts and feelings, threatens to make it impossible to discuss the political aspect of Zionism as separate from Judaism – and this threatens to have a limiting impact upon our discourse concerning Judaism, Zionism and Israel in the future, making it harder to discern the elements without stepping on eggshells.
Usage of the term “Zionist” is in itself not feared amongst Zionists themselves. In fact, it is a revered and seen as holding nationalist and patriotic merit – hence the center-left block in Israel calls itself “The Zionist Union”. The term is a typical boasting from the left, to signal to the right that being on the left does not mean one is “soft” on nationalist issues. Sometimes this pathological need to show one is not ‘soft’ in fact spills over into overt racism, as when the leader Isaac Herzog warned that his party must not be seen as “Arab lovers”.
So if the term “Zionist” is both used by those opposing Zionism and those supporting it, how can the term itself be considered anti-Semitic? It is almost like saying that the term “Jew” is problematic, since it is being used by anti-Semites for hateful purposes. What the pundits are essentially saying is that the term Zionism may be legitimately used by Jews and political supporters of Zionism (be they Jewish or not – as in Christian Zionists), but that usage of the term by those who are critical or opposing of Zionism is illegitimate, because it harbours a thinly veiled form of Jew-hatred.
If Zionism and Judaism were one and the same, the Zionist Union would not need to call itself that. It could call itself the ‘Jewish union’ – but that would immediately signify it as more overtly racist and nationalist – these titles are more fitting for the further right parties such as the “Jewish Home”. If Zionism and Judaism were one and the same, why would there be a ‘World Zionist Congress’ convening every 4-5 years? Why not just ‘World JEWISH Congress’?
Whilst Zionism does not represent all Jews, it seeks to create a monopoly upon the usage of the term ‘Zionist’, and its pundits are seeking to stifle debate about it. The aim of this is obvious – if it would be impossible to discuss Zionism and Judaism separately, Zionism could become an unchallenged representation of Jews all over the world. This is indeed Benjamin Netanyahu’s wet dream. As he said last year: “I went to Paris not just as the prime minister of Israel but as a representative of the entire Jewish people.” He would be the unelected king of the Jews. The self-anointed Messiah.
As ridiculous as these chauvinistic and megalomanical expressions may be, we must not dismiss them as a mere slip of the tongue by a madman. These are expressions which are rooted deep in the Zionist psyche – that it is the ultimate and uncontested answer to the ‘Jewish problem’. That it IS Jewish survival.
This is the absolutism that we are being cunningly pressed to accept: that Israel’s political exclusivity as a Jewish State must not be questioned, must not be challenged. Any attempt to do so is automatically labelled as anti-Semitic. Challenging the paradigm of ethnic exclusivity is thus equated to racism. And that is how Newspeak is established – you say something and it automatically means the opposite.
We must fight this ideological atavism with all our might, and open the debate on Zionism as far and as wide as we can, in the seeking of new paradigms of identity and governance that may be viable unto a future of freedom and equality. Zionism has not only done very poorly on these fronts – it is actually threatening to shut down our minds so that we may not be able to perceive any other way.