The Community Security Trust, Jewish Leadership Council and Board of Deputies describe the election of Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi to the Labour Party NEC as “a backwards step in tackling the toxic legacy of anti-Jewish racism”. Jewish News declares that her election is ‘sparking anger amongst mainstream communal organisation.’ As co-founder of Jewish Voice for Labour, she and the JVL are accused of anti-semitism.
Of course what angers them is her support for Palestine and her belief that Israel,“use the suffering of Jews to excuse the suffering of Palestinians.”
I think this is a moment to understand that this bile against a Jewish socialist is representative of a right-wing Zionism that has never been at the centre of religious or secular Judaism.
The founder of Zionism at the end of the 19th century, Theodor Herzl, was an admirer of the British Empire and wrote to Cecil Rhodes, founder of the white settler colony named after him, “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: “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.”
You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist. Prayers at the US Embassy, on the day Donald 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.
The Jewish opponents of Zionism could be found at the same time as Herzl in the Jewish Bund, founded in 1897 in Poland and Russia. They stressed the principles of, socialism, secularism and doyikayt or “localness.”
Doyikayt was encapsulated in the Bund slogan: “There, where we live, that is our country.” One of their early leaders, Viktor Adler, declared “Bundists 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.”
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi is part of that tradition and perhaps her election allows us to hear their voices, both past and present, more clearly.
Albert Einstein; “The (Israeli) state idea is not according to my heart. I cannot understand why it is needed … I believe it is bad.”
Sigmund Freud: “I concede with sorrow that the baseless fanaticism of our people is in part to be blamed for the awakening of Arab distrust. I can raise no sympathy at all for the misdirected piety which transforms a piece of a Herodian wall into a national relic, thereby offending the feelings of the natives.”
Erich Fromm, social psychologist: “The claim of the Jews to the Land of Israel cannot be a realistic political claim. If all nations would suddenly claim territories in which their forefathers lived two thousand years ago, this world would be a madhouse.”
Primo Levi, a survivor of Auschwitz: “Everyone has their Jews and for the Israelis they are the Palestinians”.
Marek Edelman, one of the leaders of the1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising compared the Palestine resistance to ZOB, the Jewish fighters in Warsaw.
Hannah Arendt, political scientist: “The trouble is that Zionism has often thought and said that the evil of antisemitism was necessary for the good of the Jewish people.”
Martin Buber, Israeli philosopher: “How great was our responsibility to those miserable Arab refugees in whose towns we have settled Jews who were brought here from afar; whose homes we have inherited, whose fields we now sow and harvest; the fruits of whose gardens, orchards and vineyards we gather; and in whose cities that we put up houses of education, charity and prayer. . ”
Isaac Asimov, novelist: “I find myself in the odd position of not being a Zionist ... I think it is wrong for anyone to feel that there is anything special about any one heritage of whatever kind.”
Harold Pinter. On Israel’s 60th anniversary said, “We cannot celebrate the birthday of a state founded on terrorism, massacres and the dispossession of another people from their land."
Uri Avnery, ex-Israeli army officer: “What will be seared into the consciousness of the world will be the image of Israel as a blood-stained monster, ready at any moment to commit war crimes and not prepared to abide by any moral restraints.”
Daniel Barenboim, Israeli pianist and conductor: “I don’t think the Jewish people survived for 20 centuries, mostly through persecution and enduring endless cruelties, in order to now become the oppressors, inflicting cruelty on others.”
Lenni Brenner, writer and civil rights activist: “The Zionist leaders were uninterested in Fascism itself. As Jewish separatists they only asked one question, the cynical classic: 'So? Is it good for the Jews?'”
Richard Cohen, US columnist: “The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel itself is a mistake … the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare.”
Henry Siegman, Rabbi and director of the U.S./Middle East Project: “Israel has crossed the threshold from ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ to the only apartheid regime in the Western world.”
Prof Norman Finkelstein: “Every single member of my family on both sides was exterminated. Both of my parents were in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. And it is precisely and exactly because of the lessons my parents taught me and my two siblings that I will not be silent when Israel commits its crimes.’
Richard Falk, former UN special rapporteur on human rights, called Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories “a crime against humanity.” Falk also has compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the Nazi treatment of the Jews.
Alexei Sayle: “Israel is the Jimmy Saville of nation states.”
Miriam Margolyes: “My support for the Palestinian cause is fiercer because I am Jewish.’
Noam Chomsky, “The last paradox is that the tale of Palestine from the beginning until today is a simple story of colonialism and dispossession, yet the world treats it as a multifaceted and complex story—hard to understand and even harder to solve.”