Solidarity with Palestine is not antisemitic (but clapping for Nazis sure is!)

PV Editorial

Antisemitism is a real and very serious issue. Jewish people have for centuries been targeted with discrimination, violence, pogroms and genocide. This country has a long and ongoing history of antisemitism, including legalized forms like immigration bans and restrictions on owning or renting certain properties.

Antisemitism does not distinguish on the basis of political views or religious conviction. A secular left-wing Jewish community centre is just as likely to be vandalized as a conservative synagogue – they are targeted simply because they are Jewish.

Antisemitism is hate, and it needs to be confronted, opposed and stopped.

The occupation of Palestine is also a real and very serious issue. Palestinians have for decades been dispossessed of their land, displaced from their homes, denied employment and citizenship, and targeted for arbitrary arrest, detention, violence and killings. The state of Israel has a long and ongoing history of oppressing Palestinian people, including legalized forms like severe movement restrictions and discriminatory laws on land allocation, planning and zoning.

The oppression of Palestinians does not distinguish on the basis of political views or religious conviction. A secular hospital is just as likely to be targeted by an Israeli airstrike as a conservative mosque or church. Nor does it distinguish on the basis of where they live.  Palestinians living within Israel are subjected to the same oppression, albeit with occasionally different shapes, as Palestinians living in Gaza or the West Bank. Palestinians are targeted simply because they are Palestinian.

The oppression of Palestinians is genocidal, and it needs to be confronted, opposed and stopped.

Equating the genocidal occupation of Palestine with being Jewish – claiming that Jews, purely on the basis of their Jewishness, hate Palestinians and want to oppress them – would be completely antisemitic. State policies are not the result of national origin, ethnicity, skin colour, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, hair or eye colour, age or body shape.

Rather, state policies emerge from concrete economic and political priorities of the specific state’s ruling class. Israel, much like Canada, is a capitalist country rooted in settler colonialism, and its state policies reflect that reality. Like any capitalist country, Israel drives to expand its control over resources, markets and trading routes at the expense of its rival states; as a settler colonial state, Israel first looks to achieve this expansion by dispossessing the indigenous Palestinian population.

So, for Canadian Members of Parliament to argue – as many have done in response to the recent outbreak of war – that anyone who criticizes Israel’s policies toward Palestine or (worse) stands in solidarity with Palestinian resistance to those policies is antisemitic, is ridiculous and dangerous.

Under that kind of logic, the millions of British working people who opposed Margaret Thatcher did so because they were misogynist, not because they were resisting her “short, sharp shock” version of violent neoliberalism. And the hundreds of thousands of Americans who protested Barack Obama’s invasion and overthrow of Libya’s legitimate government in 2011? They obviously they didn’t care a bit about peace and sovereignty – they were all just anti-Black racists!

Of course, there are people who opposed Thatcher because they don’t think a woman should lead a country, and there are far too many people who have never wanted a Black president. But that reality doesn’t extend to the vast majority of people who opposed Thatcher’s anti-worker agenda or Obama’s warmongering.

In the same vein, while antisemitism does certainly exist, it is not the basis for widespread solidarity with Palestine and opposition to Israel’s occupation and violence.

On the other hand, there is a pretty strong argument that giving a standing ovation to a Nazi war veteran is an antisemitic act. How the same parliamentarians that want to ascribe hateful ideological motives to people who legitimately support legitimate resistance can stand and clap (twice!) for someone who has been introduced to them as a member of a military unit that opposed the Soviet Union’s anti-Nazi counteroffensive is a mystery for the ages.

If Justin Trudeau, Pierre Poilievre and the rest of the gang in Parliament really cared about peace and human rights, they should get off their cheap soapbox and pressure Israel to stop its genocidal occupation of Palestine and to immediately implement a plan for peace and Palestinian statehood, as called for in several UN resolutions.

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