Israelophobia and incitement

Greater Manchester is home to the fastest-growing Jewish community in Europe. It is also home to Britain’s largest Jewish community outside of London. So it is perhaps no surprise (given the climate of hostility towards the Jewish people) that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Manchester has risen from 131 cases in 2013 to 269 in 2014. In the words of Garry Shewan, Assistant Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, “We know from our figures that international events – such as the escalation of hostilities in Gaza – have had a significant impact within our communities and has motivated a large number of these hate crimes.”

In other words, geopolitical tension in the Middle East is the single biggest contributing factor to the upswing in anti-Semitic hate crime in England.
A hate crime is a crime committed against someone because of their disability, race or ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation and transgender identity. Interestingly, Greater Manchester Police is the first force in the UK to officially record incidents involving hate crime crime towards people who belong to alternative sub-cultures, thereby begging the question should police now consider classifying Israelophobic rhetoric and imagery as incitement to racial hatred?
When an individual or group threatens to harass a person or a group of people because of their affiliation with the State of Israel, isn’t that a kind of hate crime? Many of the Jews and gentiles who recently withstood fifty days of verbal and physical abuse by a noisy and thuggish pro-Palestinian mob outside an Anglo-Israeli cosmetics store in Manchester city centre would probably agree that they were victims of a campaign designed to inflame racial hatred. Incitement against shop staff (and the Jewish community who rallied in support of the store) also took the form of video content posted on YouTube and other social media. (All of this took place during Israel’s Protective Edge campaign in July and August).
Much of the verbal, physical, pictorial and online abuse committed against Jews in Manchester last summer can be attributed to Israelophobia. Don’t get me wrong. Israelophobia is a form of anti-Semitism, but it also something else. It is antipathy towards Jews and/or hatred of the State of Israel and/or aggravated hostility towards Jewish and gentile Zionists. Referring to this problem as anti-Semitism doesn’t do it justice. Israelophobia or anti-Zionism is a specific kind of hatred and it must be categorised as such if it is to contested by the police and the legal-political authorities. In a perfect world, Israelophobia should be treated with the same kind of public aversion as xenophobia or homophobia.
Manchester is a case in point. But disproportionate criticism of Israel is becoming a real problem throughout the Western body politic. There is nothing wrong in holding governments to account. After all, that is what we do in the UK. But when critics compare Israel to the Third Reich, that is a form of hate speech. Denying Israel’s right to exist is a form of hate speech. Applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation is incitement to hatred. When Israel is accused of controlling US foreign policy, or when it is accused of murdering Palestinian children, or when it is accused of poisoning wells, then then that is incitement to hatred. Calling for a war against an entire country is incitement to hatred – and genocide.
I can only speak for the situation in Britain, but until the political, legal and judicial establishments (and the media) understand that anti-Zionism is a particular kind of problem, then no real progress will be made in dealing with this new manifestation of anti-Semitism. One solution is to start tackling anti-Zionist activity in universities. According to Lesley Klaff, senior lecturer in law at Sheffield Hallam University, by allowing anti-Zionist expression on campuses, university authorities are in breach of their own equality, diversity and anti-harassment policies in relation to Jewish staff and students. Such policies, she says, “are required by law to promote equality of opportunity for minorities and to protect them from harassment and ethnic hostility.”
Another solution to the problem of anti-Zionism is to demonstrate to students that supporting Israel is actually liberal and progressive. After all, Israel has a free press and a trade union movement. Women are guaranteed equality, Israeli Arabs have the right to vote, homosexuals enjoy full civil rights, and Jews, Muslims, Druze, Baha’i and Christians can practise their respective faiths in peace. Israel is also a world leader in green technology and the advancement of animal welfare. These values are in short supply in the Middle East and are exactly the kind of ideals which progressives and left-leaning students usually gravitate towards.
Before anti-Zionists get on their high horse about the Palestinians and the disputed territories, let us not forget that modern Zionism was/is the product of the world’s pathological inability to allow Jews to live in their societies. Crusades, inquisitions, pogroms and the mass murder of six million Jews meant that the only option left to the Jewish people was/is to have a nation state. Then there was the expulsion of nearly a million Jews from Arab and Muslim lands in the 1940s and 1950s. Now after having achieved the goal of Jewish self-determination in the Middle East, along comes Israelophobia, which essentially denies the Jewish people a home. So where are Jews expected to go?
It seems to me that Israelophobes hold the irrational and bigoted belief that Jews are not entitled to exist as a people. And if that’s not racial hatred, I don’t know what is.