AS ISRAEL showers a condensed civilian population with bombs, the world shows its disgust. When thousands march in London this Saturday among them will be supporters of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and others.
We will be proud to march alongside people from all backgrounds as partners in the long struggle to free Palestine.
The actions of the Israeli state are symptomatic of a sense of unassailable fear; in the view of Netanyahu and his supporters the lesson of the Holocaust is that Jews are destined to a fate as eternal outsiders and must close ranks to look after their own.
Thus Israel’s far-reaching operation to recover the three recently kidnapped teenagers was codenamed ‘Operation Brother’s Keeper’ while the murder of at least five young Palestinian civilians by the Israeli army in the first days of that operation barely caused a flutter of concern in Israel. For Zionism, as for all nationalism, Jewish life exists above Arab life in a hierarchy of priorities.
There is, however, a long and proud alternative Jewish history, which opens up a space for a different reading of the Holocaust. From Jewish participation in trade union and socialist movements in Europe in the nineteenth century to the prominent Jewish role in the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa a century later, this is a politics of solidarity rather than national particularism. It generalises from the Jewish experience of suffering to oppose injustice everywhere. It sees in pogroms and Nazism the horrors implicit in distinguishing between people on the basis of their ethnic origin, and refuses ever to play that game.
This is the politics that leads Jews like myself to oppose Israeli state violence. Some of us are firm anti-Zionists. Others long considered themselves supporters of Israel but cannot abide the barbarism of its latest killing spasm. All of us refuse the Israeli framing that sees a conflict between Jews and Arabs.
That framing can only give rise to anti-Semitism. Instead, we insist that this is a battle between an occupying army and an occupied people seeking to live in freedom, and the religion of each side is totally irrelevant to the conclusions we should draw. Tapping into a profound collective memory of discrimination and dispossession, we can feel no solidarity with Israel’s occupation. Our solidarity is firmly with the Palestinian people.