Some books need to be written and this is one of them. Those working to shore up support for Israeli apartheid ought to be held accountable and this is what motivates Hil Aked, the author of “Friends of Israel”.
As defined by the International Criminal Court, apartheid is the practise of “inhuman acts… committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by the one racial group over any other racial group”.
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Yesh Din and B’Tselem (Israeli human rights groups) have concluded what Palestinians in Israel and its occupied territories know from their daily existence: Israel is an apartheid state.
The maintenance of Israel’s apartheid state requires not just militarized violence but pretence on the international stage that it isn’t happening.
If the pretence is exposed and the reality made manifest, Israel could experience what happened to apartheid-era South Africa: friendless, isolated and subject to economic sanctions.
The British Zionist movement, working to minimise criticism of Israel and power down the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, seeks to maintain the topic of the ‘Israel lobby’ as a taboo area.
The ‘Israel lobby’ must not, Akeed is right to emphasise, be misunderstood as a ‘Jewish lobby’. Anti-Semitism is for real and it allows for the demonization of critics of Israel, presenting them as enemies seeking to destroy the ethno-religious and cultural identity of Jews.
It is a potent form of attack for ideologues of the ethno-nationalism that is the Zionist movement in Britain.
“Friends of Israel” has a chapter on the evolution in Britain of Zionism and its presence in the contemporary pro-Israel landscape; a table provides basic data on twenty key organizations in the British Zionist movement and one of them, Bicom (Britain Israel Research and Communications Centre), comes under scrutiny in a separate chapter devoted to the influencing of the media.
The media played no small part in attacking Jeremy Corbyn after his surprise election as leader of the Labour Party in 2015.
Anti-Semitism became a weapon in the armoury of both the Zionist movement and Labour’s right wing, culminating in the adoption by Labour of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition which redefines anti-Semitism to include certain criticisms of Israel.
There are many reasons why Keir Starmer is a disaster for leftish-enlightened movements in Britain and his unequivocal support for Israel is one of them. Akeed makes this clear; Labour Friends of Israel, like Conservative Friends of Israel, is now in a stronger position than ever before.
“Friends of Israel” is an important publication and its wealth of information a vital resource for realizing that Palestinian solidarity and resistance to settler colonialism is driving pro-Israel lobbies to increase their efforts to mask the country’s apartheid policies. Supporting the BDS movement is part of a larger movement for social and racial justice that looks to civil society as an agent of change.
“Friends of Israel: The backlash against Palestinian solidarity”, by Hil Aked, is published by Verso.