by Luke Akehurst, Director, We Believe In Israel
A perfect storm of coincidences has exposed how anti-Zionist ideology has pervaded the mainstream left in the UK and how the discourse around Israel has degenerated into anti-Semitic tropes.
Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock set out the government’s proposals to outlaw boycotts on a visit to Israel.
In May 2015 Ed Miliband whole-heartedly condemned boycotts. But now a spokesperson for Jeremy Corbyn attacked the Government proposals saying: “This Government’s ban would have outlawed council action against apartheid South Africa.”
This was not only incorrect (South Africa was not part of the WTO Agreement like Israel is now) but subliminally reinforced a core aspect of the campaign to delegitimise Israel – the smear that it is an apartheid state.
At Oxford University Labour Club, the wider battle for Labour’s soul between the Corbynite hard left and moderates collided with the global campaign to delegitimise Israel.
Co-chair Alex Chalmers resigned when a motion was passed mandating him to lead the Club in support of “Israel Apartheid Week”.
He and the University Jewish Society then revealed a catalogue of anti-Semitic behaviour by anti-Israel members of the Club, including singing “Rockets over Tel Aviv”, citing a “New York–Tel Aviv axis” that rigs elections and “the influence wielded over elections by high net-worth Jewish individuals” and harassing a Jewish student by shouting “filthy Zionist” at her.
This is not the Socialist Workers’ club – it’s the Labour Club at one of the UK’s most prestigious universities.
Demonising Israel by comparing it to apartheid has now reached the political mainstream and hounding people from office in political parties because they support Israel is the new reality.
The Labour Party is now a battleground between bigotry and rationality.
The Labour leader was offered the chance this week to distance himself from anti-Israel boycotts, but decided he’d rather not.
• Luke Akehurst previously served on Labour’s National Executive Committee