There it was, a banner reading ‘Jews against genocide’ among a crowd chanting, among other things, ‘From the river to the sea’. The presence of this banner was one of the most monstrous features of this week’s sit-in by hundreds of baying anti-Israel protesters at London’s Liverpool Street station.
After all, any informed person knows that ‘From the river to the sea’ is an anti-Semitic chant. It refers to the violent purging of Jews from the whole area between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the denials of anti-Israel activists, it is essentially a call for the physical annihilation of Jews where Israel happens to be. And yet, in the shape of this ‘Jews against genocide’ banner, some Jewish people were seemingly willing to lend credence to calls for Jews’ annihilation.
This phenomenon at first appears puzzling. Why are some Jews supporting demonstrations that most Jews would regard as anti-Semitic? After all, these protests typically project Israel as the epitome of all that is evil in the world: colonialist, racist and even Nazi.
Furthermore, the presence of Jews allows anti-Israel activists to crow that this proves that their movement is not anti-Semitic (despite the fact some protesters have been openly calling for the killing of Jews). Anti-Zionists can then claim that Israel’s supporters are cynically weaponising the charge of anti-Semitism to silence criticism of Israel.
There are clearly some Jews who see no problem with supporting these protests. In Britain, these include supporters of Na’amod (Hebrew for ‘we will stand’), a group committed ‘to end[ing] our community’s support for Israel’s occupation and apartheid’. There is also Jewish Voice for Labour, which describes itself as ‘Jewish-led’ rather than Jewish. It defines itself as opposed to the ‘apartheid state of Israel’.
In America, where the Jewish community is far larger than in Britain, Jewish anti-Israel organisations have many more supporters. These organisations include Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and IfNotNow. Jewish Currents, a publication that has its origins in the pro-Soviet Communist Party of the USA, also plays a prominent role. Indeed, JVP provided the template for this week’s Liverpool Street protest, having organised an anti-Israel protest at New York’s Grand Central Terminal last week.
To be sure, there have always been some Jews opposed to Israel. In addition to Jews on the far left, the Neturei Karta, a tiny haredi (ultra-orthodox) sect, has often featured prominently on anti-Israel protests. In its view, the Jewish state is evil because it was brought about by human political action rather than by God’s will. Always wearing their distinctive religious garb, this sect is welcomed by activists as an ostentatious way of denying the existence of anti-Semitism at anti-Israel protests. The sect is typically held up as the authentic voice of Jewry, despite the fact that the vast majority of Jews, both in the US and the UK, fully support Israel’s right to exist.
But something has changed in recent years. With the rise of identity politics, an increasing number of people, particularly among the young, have embraced a worldview that divides people up according to a hierarchy of oppression. As a result, Jews today are increasingly seen as beneficiaries of white privilege at the expense of non-white groups. This in turn reinforces the horribly skewed view that Israel embodies white privilege in the Middle East – that it is an aggressor state victimising Arabs and Muslims. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that a recent Harvard / Harris poll showed that 48 per cent of American 18- to 24-year-oldsside more with Hamas (as opposed to the Palestinians) over Israel.
Jewish people have been just as affected by woke politics as other members of society. That’s why an increasing number have embraced identitarian ideas. Indeed, they often embrace an anti-Israel stance with more zeal than others, as they see it as a form of rebellion against their elders.
As a result, the woke sections of the Jewish community make the same horrendous mistakes as others who embrace identity politics. JVP reacted to the murderous Hamas attack on Israel by declaring that ‘the root of violence is oppression’ and referring to the Hamas killers as ‘Palestinian fighters’. It claimed that ‘Israeli apartheid and occupation – and United States complicity in that oppression – are the source of all this violence’. Through its identitarian perspective, JVP has effectively excused the actions of a genocidal Islamist organisation.
Or take the description of Hamas’s pogrom by Ilan Pappe, an anti-Zionist Israeli historian who is the darling of anti-Israel activists. He claimed that his understanding of ‘the settler-colonial nature of Zionism’ had led him to ‘admire the courage of the Palestinian fighters who took over a dozen military bases, overcoming the strongest army in the Middle East’. He conveniently forgot to mention the murder and rape of many hundreds of civilians. As far as he saw it, Israeli oppression had driven Hamas to attack. It ‘had to act, and quickly so’, he said. It is hard to think of this as anything other than a justification for terrorism dressed up in the jargon of ‘decolonisation’.
Identity politics is embraced by many, from Christians and Muslims to atheists and Jews. But it is only the latter who are being used by the leadership of the anti-Israel movement in an attempt to deny the blatant anti-Semitism in its ranks. This denial should be staunchly resisted by all those who stand against Jew hatred and for freedom.