Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked commented recently on the controversy of "anti-Semitism" from the United Kingdom's Labour Party, which has led to the suspension of Labour politicians.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn "must clarify that anti-Semitic comments are not within legitimate political debate, and that anti-Semitic views should end a politician’s career and disqualify them from any future public office,” she said in remarks broadcast from a ceremony in Krakow, Poland.
The controversy started when Labour MP Naz Shah posted a map showing Israel superimposed over the United States, saying that the answer to Middle East peace was relocating Israel to the nation where Israelis are "most loved."
In response, Shah stepped down, but not before another Labour MP, Ken Livingstone, took to the airwaves to defend her. In a radio interview, Livingstone chose to bring up the cooperation between German Zionists and Nazis in the 1930s. While this is historically documented, Livingstone was not clear on the facts, and he has been suspended from the party.
Anti-Semitism has a new definition in the UK and Europe, and some fear that this new definition conflates it with "anti-Zionism," or the criticism of the State of Israel's policies. Many call this the "new anti-Semitism."
For example, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks justice for Palestinians through academic, cultural and business boycotting of Israeli institutions that aid the occupation, has been outlawed in both France and the UK .
Members of academia and civil society have weighed in on the debate.
1. Norman Finklestein, U.S. political scientist, author and activist specializing in Israel-Palestine.
Finkelstein speaking at an event in the UK | Source: Wikipedia
Finkelstein's website was the source of the map that kicked off the controversy. "Were it not for the current political context, nobody would have noticed Shah’s reposting" of the map, he told OpenDemocracy.
Regarding the "new anti-Semitism," Finkelstein said "these campaigns occur at regular intervals, correlating with Israel’s periodic massacres and consequent political isolation … Pew found [British] anti-Semitism levels at seven percent. Is that grounds for a national hysteria?"
He then cited a 2015 poll which found that "40 percent of UK adults don’t like Muslims and nearly 60 percent don’t like Roma … So where is your order of moral priorities?"
2. Ilan Pappe, prominent Israeli historian
Ilan Pappe | Source: ilanpappe.com
Pappe is a celebrated historian whose work focuses on the creation of the modern State of Israel, including the expulsion of the native Palestinian populace.
"Whatever the Zionists in Britain point to, as an expression of anti-Semitism, which in the main are legitimate criticisms of Israel, have been said before in the last 50 years. The pro-Zionist lobby in Britain, under direct guidance from Israel, picks them up because the clear anti-Zionist stance of BDS has reached the upper echelons. They are genuinely terrified by this development. Well done the BDS movement!"
3. Frances Webber, Vice-chair of the Institute for Race Relations (IRR) Council of Management