This demonisation has centred around charges that Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite, who in the words of the former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, “has given support to racists, terrorists and dealers of hate”, adding, “Now, within living memory of the Holocaust, and while Jews are being murdered elsewhere in Europe for being Jews, we have an anti-Semite as the leader of the Labour Party and Her Majesty’s Opposition.”
One of those countries where anti-semitism is growing is Victor Orban's Hungary. Wait a minute. Orban was recently an honoured guest of Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government.
In our own country The Middle East Forum, a pro-Israel conservative think tank were funding Nazi Tommy Robinson when he was in prison. In the words of their Director, Gregg Roman, who has worked in Israel's Defence and Foreign Ministries, “We are helping Robinson in his moment of danger ... to fund his legal defence … and bringing foreign pressure on the UK government to ensure Mr. Robinson’s safety and eventual release ...”
MEF previously funded far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders’ legal defence, against Dutch charges of inciting racial hatred.
Despite knowing all this, we must prove that we are not anti-semitic before we criticise Zionism or Israel. Let’s do it.
My father was one of the first Allied doctors to enter Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The photos he made there, and later showed me of the skeletal prisoners, scarred my young mind. It was those haunting pictures that led me to a lifetime of anti-fascism. As a teenager I took part in street fights with the British Movement, forerunners of the British National Party, the National Front and today's Israeli-backed Nazi, Tommy Robinson.
But my opposition to Zionism now makes me 'anti-semitic.”
I am in good company. Albert Einstein said, “The (Israeli) state idea is not according to my heart. I cannot understand why it is needed … I believe it is bad.”
Primo Levi, a survivor of Auschwitz, said, “Everyone has their Jews and for the Israelis they are the Palestinians”.
Then there is Marek Edelman, one of the leaders of the1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising. In a letter in support of the Palestine resistance, he compared them to ZOB, the Jewish fighters in Warsaw and greeted them thus, “Commanders of the Palestine military, paramilitary and partisan operations.”
If alive today Einstein, Levi and Edelman would stand accused of anti-semitism.
So who are the Zionists? Founder of Zionism at the end of the 19th century and a proponent of a Jewish homeland was Theodor Herzl. He was an admirer of the British Empire and wrote to Cecil Rhodes, he of the white settler colony named after him, Rhodesia, “You are being invited to help make history … it does not involve Africa but a piece of Asia Minor, not Englishmen but Jews … I turn to you … because it is something colonial ..”
Chaim Weizmann, who suceeded Herzl, wrote to the Manchester Guardian: “Should Palestine fall within the British sphere of influence and should they encourage Jewish settlement … we could develop the country, bring back civilisation and form a very effective guard for the Suez Canal.”
Of the contemporary Zionists we should not forget the Evangelical Christian Right. Prayers at the US Embassy, on the day Trump moved it to Jerusalem, were delivered by Robert Jeffries, a Dallas megachurch pastor who said Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to their ancestral land.
Amongst the first Jews who opposed Zionism were those who set up the Jewish Bund in Poland and Russia. They stressed the four principles of, socialism, secularism, Yiddish and doyikayt or “localness.” Doyikayt was encapsulated in the Bund slogan: “There, where we live, that is our country.”
“We Bundists”, wrote one of their early leaders, Viktor Alter, “wish to shatter the existing economic frameworks and show the Jewish masses how a new society can be built not by escape, but by struggle. We link the essence of the Jewish masses’ life to that of humankind.”
Their contemporaries can be found in Jewish Voice for Labour, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jewish Voice for Peace and in the words of Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Miriam Margolyes and Alexei Sayle.
If opposition to Israel is a definition of anti-semitism then add me to this list along with Corbyn’s mum and my dad. She was blocking Mosley’s fascists at Cable Street in the 1930s, while the Daily Mail, who are today leading the demands for Corbyn to resign as Labour leader, was lauding Mussolini and Hitler.
It's long past time to call out these people for who they are.