The persistence of anti-semitic allegations against Jeremy Corbyn’s UK Labour Party has allowed those who support and legitimise the continued Zionist usurpation and colonisation of Palestine to regurgitate myths when it comes to the origins of the Israeli state. Curiously, one of the most vociferous peddlers of these allegations are a group of disbanded revolutionary Trotskyists formerly headed by Professor Frank Furedi who have re-manifested themselves in an on-line journal, Spiked-Online. One of Furedi’s former disciples, a certain Dr. James Heartfield, in a recent hit piece on Corbyn’s Labour Party, justifies the establishment of the Zionist entity:
“After the Second World War, Jewish refugees from the Holocaust set about building a new country in what was then British Palestine.”
Embedded in this innocuous and humane sounding sentence are two major myths that are often propounded to justify the colonisation of Palestine. Firstly, the Zionist state building project began long before the late 1940s i.e “after the Second World War” and not in the immediate aftermath of World War Two. The project actually and formerly began with the British Empire issuing the Balfour Declaration in 1917. Secondly, from disingenuity about when the foundations of the new state began, Heartfield totally misrepresents about who founded the new state. In other words, it certainly wasn’t “Jewish refugees” that set about building a new country as Heartfield implies. The leaders and the vast majority of the settlers who founded the new Israeli state in 1948 were mostly from eastern Europe who had settled in Palestine before World War Two under British imperial auspices and against the wishes of the indigenous Arab population. When the Balfour Declaration was issued the Jewish population of Palestine was no more than EIGHT percent of the total population. Of this original eight percent no one knows how many Zionists were among them.
It needs to be emphasised that there are no issues with Jewish refugees having a new state per se. The issue is why specifically Palestine should be the new nation for refugees to colonise. A question I imagine, Heartfield does not possess the sincerity to answer. He then states that:
“Thoughout most of the postwar period, Labour, in keeping with the mainstream view, was sympathetic to the Israel’s aspiration for statehood”
Once again, there are two main sleights of hand in this sentence. Firstly, the assumption that Labour only supported the Zionist colonial project after World War Two is not true. Ramsey McDonald the first ever Labour leader of the UK wrote a book in the 1920s called ‘A Socialist in Palestine’ endorsing the British imperialist Zionist-colonial project in Palestine. The Labour Party gave whole hearted support to the Zionist colonisation in Palestine in the interwar years. Secondly, Hearfield’s statement, “Israel’s aspiration for statehood” implies that there was an “Israeli” identity before the creation of Israel. It is beyond the scope of this rebuttal to say what the Zionist colonial settlers in the inter-war period referred to themselves as, but the term one usually comes across in history books is Yishuv.
What Heartfield once again proves is, at the very least, an unabashed historical illiteracy when it comes to Palestine and at worse a white supremacist contempt for the indigenous population of Palestine. To deny or whitewash the history of a given indigenous population in favour of a British imperialist, colonial settler project is a manifestation of white supremacy. In order for Heartfield to justify the dispossession of Palestinians he must turn a blind spot to certain episodes in British imperialist history in order to present the settlers in Palestine in the most humane light, i.e as “Jewish refugees from the Holocaust”. Had Heartfield not had this blind spot, he would be honest about the manner in which Palestinians were ethnically cleansed in 1947-48 to make way for the colonial settlers from Europe. Heartfield needs to ask himself a further question about why “Jewish refugees from the Holocaust” needed to establish a new state in Palestine rather than say in Europe where the holocaust happened.
In conclusion, for the nucleus of all anti-semitic allegations made against Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, that is equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, to be at least credible, let alone succeed, then the actual history of Palestine under British imperialism from 1917 onwards needs to be whitewashed and replaced solely by the history of Jewish suffering in the holocaust in Europe in the 1940s.