Informed and Honest Debate With Zionism Is Impossible

I have made a discovery. Informed and honest debate with Zionists and other supporters of Israel right or wrong is impossible. I have long suspected this to be the case but a recent experience gave me the irrefutable proof.

On Friday 12 June, I presented and chaired, for recording and first television transmission by Iran’s PressTV, two programmes with the title ANTI-SEMITISM RISING. WHY? The format for both programmes was an all-Jewish panel discussion followed by debate with an invited audience of all faiths and none.

As I explained in my studio introduction, the headline title I gave to the discussion and debate (and also the invitation) was provoked by three statements made in the wake of Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip and the almost universal condemnation of it.

“Anti-Semitism is back.” That was the statement of Richard Prasquier, the head of the Council of the Jewish Representatives of France. He was speaking at a dinner for French politicians.

“Hatred of Jews has reached new heights in Europe and many points south and east of the old continent.” That was Denis MacShane, a British MP and former minister, writing in the Washington Post.

“Europe is poisoned by anti-Semitism we thought had been dispatched to history’s dustbin.” That was Rupert Murdoch addressing a gathering of Jewish Americans.

Something, I went on to say, is obviously “rising”. But what, really, I asked, is it?

Is it anti-Semitism – prejudice against and even hatred of Jews as Jews, wherever they are; or is it something else, what could be described as anti-Israelism, or, more accurately, anti-Zionism (opposition to Zionism’s colonial enterprise, ethnic cleansing and all) and therefore NOT a manifestation of anti-Semitism?

That was the question to be explored in the first part of the first programme. I gave it context by quoting the warning words of Yehoshafat Harkabi, Israel’s longest serving Director of Military Intelligence. In his seminal book, Israel’s Fateful Hour, he wrote the following (my emphasis added):

“Israel is the criterion according to which all Jews will tend to be judged. Israel as a Jewish state is an example of the Jewish character, which finds free and concentrated expression within it. Anti-Semitism has deep and historical roots. Nevertheless, any flaw in Israeli conduct, which initially is cited as anti-Israelism, is likely to be transformed into empirical proof of the validity of anti-Semitism. It would be a tragic irony if the Jewish state, which was intended to solve the problem of anti-Semitism, was to become a factor in the rise of anti-Semitism. Israelis must be aware that the price of their misconduct is paid not only by them but also Jews throughout the world.

That warning was published in 1986. More than two decades on, my own view is that the Zionist state’s “misconduct” – its contempt for international law and its criminal behaviour, including from time to time demonstrations of state terrorism – has become the prime factor in the rise of anti-Semitism.

Harkabi’s warning was, in fact, an echo of earlier Jewish fears. Prior to the obscenity of the Nazi holocaust, very many of the most informed and thoughtful Jews of the world were opposed to Zionism’s colonial enterprise. They believed it to be morally wrong. They believed it would lead to unending conflict. And they feared that Zionism’s child would one day provoke anti-Semitism. (It’s my view that after the obscenity of the Nazi holocaust, and because of it, the giant most likely would have gone back to sleep, remained asleep and might have died in its sleep – IF Zionism had not been allowed by the major powers, first Britain, then America, to have its way, as Balfour put it, “right or wrong”. There is a case for saying – honest historians of the future might say it – that with British and American politicians as “friends”, the Jews did not need enemies).

When the idea for the panel discussion and debate came to me, I was by no means certain that it could be made to happen because, by default rather than design, the broadcasting regulations give Zionism a power of veto. I’ll explain what I mean with an example.

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