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From a non-Jewish Left-Zionist: an open letter to Ken Livingstone

The Livingstone affair is the latest symptom of the European left's retreat into anti-Zionism. Proportionate criticism of Israel is necessary, but opposition to the Jewish State insults history.

Ken Livingstone surrounded by media. Anthony Devlin/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.Dear Mr Livingstone,

You have certainly achieved something out of the ordinary. I think few can have foreseen the day when Twitter was abuzz with fevered talk of the Haavara Agreement. You are clearly aware that recollection of this initiative is embarrassing to some Zionists and, indeed, always has been.

In the 1930s American Zionists, in particular, were divided, with some furious that the worldwide Jewish Boycott of Nazi Germany had been over-ridden in the effort to aid the escape of the German Jews. But you trumpet it as some kind of “gotcha” revelation. “Look how evil the Zionists are”, is the subtext of your rant; “they even negotiated with the Nazis!”

In truth, Nazi-Zionist negotiation wasn't even a novel issue when your declared source, Lenni Brenner's Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, discussed it in the 1980s. Hannah Arendt had written about it in 1963 in her biting critique of the Eichmann trial, while it was a virtual obsession of the Revisionist hard-right in Israel in the 1950s who never forgave the Zionist mainstream for their “deals with the devil”.

It is hardly brave to condemn desperate attempts at salvation made in the terror of Europe's darkest epoch from the safety of Cricklewood, 2016. It was, frankly, a fairly ignoble chapter of Israel's history when the Beginists hung Rudolf Kasztner out to dry in 1954. It is worse coming from you. It is perhaps understandable that one school of Israeli iconography deifies Hannah Szenes and pillories Kasztner; in Britain we should have a little more respect for the moral agonies of those days.

It is, also, intellectually offensive to suggest that because they advocated transfer before 'going mad' and opting instead for genocide, the Nazis were Zionists. Peter Beaumont has already amply illustrated the crassness of this fallacious equation of agency and intention so I will let the case rest with him. Suffice it to say that a more ludicrous reading of Nazi anti-Semitism it is hard to imagine. But then, your piece of radio sophistry was not meant to illuminate history, rather to damn Zionism by innuendo.

Let me absolve you of one charge. You are clearly no racial anti-Semite of the Drumont-Wagner variety, though your repeated conjuring of the image of malign Jewish power leans far closer in their direction than you should be comfortable with.

No, you are an anti-Zionist, and, it would seem, a pretty fervent one at that. Your claim that this is not inherently anti-Semitic is defensible, but fails to take into account the difference between intention and consequence. Since yours is but the latest example of the anti-Zionism/anti-Semitism debate it may be helpful to consider it in a little detail.

The sequence invariably goes something like this: a left-winger denounces Zionism, at which point he is charged, often but not exclusively, by Jews, with being anti-Semitic. The left-winger angrily responds that to be anti-Zionist is not to be anti-Jewish and counter-charges that his antagonists are playing the anti-Semitism card to obfuscate and distract from the sins of Israel. “Your animosity goes beyond criticism”, say the critics, “and is such that it can only be motivated by Jew-hatred”. “This is an absurd smear”, cries the left-winger, and, tu quoque, “if there is racism anywhere, it is from Zionists to Palestinians”... etc, etc, etc.

What is almost never discussed as mediation is the simple fact that people or groups can experience a statement or attitude as racist or discriminatory which was not intended to be so. Overt and explicit racism does not require a great deal of cognitive sophistication to identify.

However, racism is not as clear cut as the Judge's old dictum on pornography - “I can't define it but I know it when I see it”. Often, something is racist in effect (in that a minority group feels persecuted, threatened or insulted) without having been racist in intention (whereby the perpetrator intended to persecute, threaten or insult the minority group). Thus, unlike pornography, not everyone “knows” this type of racism when they see it or, indeed, say it.

The evidence suggests that a sufficiently large number of Jews feel that Zionism constitutes such a substantial part of their Jewish identity for anti-Zionism to be experienced as an attack upon Jews and Jewishness, especially when the anti-Zionist seems to focus on the issue monomaniacally.

You and I are both non-Jews and leftists. Your leftism leads you to reject and oppose Zionism, mine to accept and even cautiously embrace it.

At present those who most deny Jews' right to feel this way are people like you and some sections of the Ultra-Orthodox right-wing of Judaism who are appalled that Jewish identity would ever come from anything so secular as a State.

To offended Jews you charge over-sensitivity in dismissive terms that I doubt you would ever apply to another minority. I don't know what we have come to when left-wingers from the predominant ethnic group in Britain are dictating to a minority group what it is permitted to experience as racism and what it is not.

You should, at the very least, acknowledge that views such as yours are experienced as racist, whatever their intention. Wider acceptance of the explanation I have offered would certainly save us all a lot of unedifying shouting every time this issue comes up, where claims of anti-Semitism are met with defiant denial, minds are changed not at all, and hearts grow that much more hardened and hate-filled.

Nonetheless, it is regrettably true that propagandists for Israeli action (as opposed to defenders of Zionism, and there is a difference) sometimes use these arguments to deflect, and I have no wish to silence Israel's critics. Lord knows there is much to criticise. Nor should anyone try to stifle reasonable discussion on Zionism. It is a national-political movement and, as such, should be subject to lively and passionate debate. But while there is educational and moral value in debating a critic, little of either comes from debating a vilifier, and it is increasingly hard to describe you as anything else.

Coming hard on the heels of Gerry Downing, Vicki Kirby, the Oxford University Labour Club et al, the Tory Party and the Tory Press have gleefully commandeered your outburst as a stick with which to beat Corbyn's Labour. How they must have rejoiced when you presented them with an unmissable open goal from which to further try to steal the traditionally Labour ground of anti-racism. Clearly the portrayal of the Labour Party as a hotbed of Mosleyite Jew-hatred is cynically exaggerated. Harder to refute however, is the idea that anti-Zionism is now an orthodoxy of British leftism and a staple of grass-roots Labour activism.

Labour has always had a contested, pluralistic approach to Zionism. It was, after all, the party of both Harold Wilson and Ernest Bevin; of Dick Crossman and Christopher Mayhew. In recent years, though, it is Mayhew's successors who have shouted loudest and, in the context of anti-Zionism experienced as anti-Semitism I have described, this makes Labour's “Jewish Problem” harder to dodge. It is to anti-Zionism itself, then, that I now turn.

I write to you in public because it is important for Jews, both here and abroad, to know that your anti-Zionism does not speak for all non-Jewish leftists. We may be in a minority, but we are here. No doubt, to you and those Labourites for whom you speak, my “Zionism” makes me unfit for membership in the Socialist club; a betrayer of the cause, perhaps even a Neo-Con in disguise. I shall have to bear this fraternal ex-communication, though it is honestly painful.

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You and I are both non-Jews and leftists. Your leftism leads you to reject and oppose Zionism, mine to accept and even cautiously embrace it. It also leads me to believe passionately in justice, statehood, restitution and irredentism for the Palestinians. These two positions result in a difficult and deeply complex tension but are not irredeemably contradictory.

I am a left-Zionist because I accept as valid and accurate the late nineteenth century Zionist thesis that a safe, dignified Jewish life, free from both persecution and the necessity to surrender the particular Jewish character was, and would remain, impossible in most of Europe. I am a left-Zionist because, from this, I share the Zionist conclusion that a sovereign Jewish polity was both necessary and desirable.

Since many leftists have come to think of Zionism either as a Rothschildian conspiracy or else a quasi-Imperial jaunt, a little recapitulation of its origins is called for. It arose, in an organised form, in the late 1800s as one Jewish solution to the quite desperate condition in which Jews found themselves in central and, primarily, eastern Europe.

The reason British leftists have such trouble with Zionism is, perhaps, the same reason why successful, assimilated British Jews rejected it when it first began to spread: the oppression which inspired it, which made it necessary, was far less prevalent in Britain than on the continent. For it was from Russia, and the awful climate of both Czarist and popular persecution, that Zionism sprung.

British anti-Semitism since the re-admission has tended to be typically British; subtle, social and snide rather than homicidal. 1190 and York are too long ago for the national consciousness to recall Christendom's savagery on the Jews. We thus have no collective memory of murderous, officially-inspired pogroms to persuade us of the necessity for national Jewish self-defence. Fiddler on the Roof is about as close as most Britons have ever come to the native experience of the east European shtetl Jew whom Zionism sought to emancipate.

In the late nineteenth century, Britain's Jews were not forcibly conscripted into the army and forced to serve for 25 years as the Russians were; their children considered chattels of a State who could requisition them at will. Though there was Jewish poverty in Britain, huge swaths of Jewry were not forced into privation by restrictions on their employment and land ownership, as in eastern Europe. Though British Jews were by no means welcomed everywhere, there was no seperationist “Pale of Settlement”, as in Russia, whereby Jews could live only where the regime decreed.

We do not much know in this country that it was from these conditions that Zionism arose. And if we do know, we do not feel it in our bones as a guilty reminder of why some Jews decided on the necessity of national self-determination. No, Britain, by comparison, was heavenly.

Here, a thin fraction of Jews could become titans of industry and commerce and, though frequently reminded of their “origins” by the haughty British establishment, could both practice their religion and form communal organisations and be considered good Englishmen. Thus, the rich, assimilated British Jews heard Zionism's call to end the exile of suffering and were appalled: “We are doing very well here, thank you very much, and consider ourselves Brits of the Jewish religion” was their mantra.

Many of the British Jews' European cousins had, initially, also favoured assimilation into their respective countries. The Haskalah, the Jewish counterpart to the European enlightenment, had meant an opening up of the Jewish world; a widening of its horizons and an embrace of European modernity with all its cultural and intellectual delights.

For the assimilationist Jews, anti-Semitism would be overcome by showing their non-Jewish compatriots that they too were proud Russians/Germans/Hungarians etc. Oh, had they been right, and oh, had Europeans been worthy of the Jews' high estimation.

Particularly deeply assimilated became the Jews of Germany, hence why the Nazis dealt such a fatal blow to assimilation as a wholesale solution for the Jews of Europe. For Hitler arose in the country in which, above all others, Jews had shown a patriotism and zeal for the national life.

Many eastern Jews tried assimilation, with proponents stressing the importance of speaking the native tongue and embracing the secular national culture. Alas, the non-Jewish society made it abundantly clear to the Jews that, try as they might, they could never be “real”, welcomed or even tolerated fellow countrymen.

Can we honestly retrospectively reject Herzl's conclusion? On which aspects of the subsequent European twentieth century would you like to draw to help dismiss him as a pessimist?

Zionism was in fact a conclusion reached most reluctantly, and with great sadness, by some of its Russian originators; passionate secularists and men of the enlightenment who had believed firmly in the possibility of harmonious integration into Russian society. They turned to Zionism when Russia turned on them.

Imagine, if you will, how an eastern Jew who had championed the adaptation of Jewish life to the needs of the motherland felt when news of the Kishinev Pogrom reached him in 1903. Or what Jews all over Europe thought when it became clear that the Russian authorities waited days before intervening in the slaughter in modern-day Moldova, and, in fact, almost certainly themselves fomented it. Kishinev was but one of many pogroms of the era, and thus merely one of many daggers to the heart of eastern Jewish assimilation.

For other Zionists, assimilation, even if it were possible, meant the death of Jewishness, and such an erosion of faith and traditional culture that it would accomplish the destruction of Judaism on the anti-Semite's behalf. Only with Jewish sovereignty, they concluded, could a Jew be both himself and free and secure.

These were the people who became the first Zionist pioneers in Palestine; victims of persecution seeking a better, freer life without the need always to demonstrate fealty and away from the hideous one-two of the mob and the Czar. An arduous, dangerous and malarial existence, theirs was a feat of endurance.

Theodor Herzl then saw with the Dreyfus Affair and what it unleashed that even France, the cosmopolitan centre of progressive Europe was capable of succumbing to the madness of popular anti-Semitism. If the nation of the emancipatory revolution could turn on the Jews, then what chance the rest of the continent?

He thus recognised the need for immediate Zionist political organisation and nation-building. Can we honestly retrospectively reject Herzl's conclusion? On which aspects of the subsequent European twentieth century would you like to draw to help dismiss him as a pessimist?

Rather than pioneering in Palestine however, by far the most popular option taken by the persecuted Jews of the east in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, and the first three of the twentieth, was non-Zionist immigration to the west, primarily to America.

The exodus ran to the millions, with over 100,000 arriving on our own shores to be greeted with frostiness from an Anglo-Jewish elite who were afraid that the influx would create a spike in anti-Semitism and reverse their hard-won journey to prosperity and respectability.

Thanks to deplorable nativist hostility this emigration could not be a solution for all, in any case. American immigration was unlimited only until 1924-25. After that, “Bring me your tired, your hungry, your poor, huddled masses- but only at an annual rate of 2% of the total number of immigrants from each country already in the U.S.” was the American message to the Jews of the east.

Had this not happened, it is doubtful that Jews would have immigrated to Israel in anything like the number they did. Our own country acted much sooner than the Americans, passing the anti-Jewish “Alien Act” of 1905 and the “Alien Restriction Act” of 1919, both debated amid a climate of virulent anti-Semitism. Prominent MPs spoke of Jewish refugees as 'parasites praying on the body politic' and 'the muck, the rubbish, the refuse of the continent'.

Jeremy Corbyn is justly proud that his parents met Mosley in battle at Cable Street in 1936, but both you and he should take a moment to remember who they were defending: these same eastern European refugees and their descendants. The Jews of the East End, though grateful to Britain, knew far better than their well-to-do assimilationist cousins the conditions in eastern Europe and that emigration to the west was a palliative and not a cure; hence their enthusiastic reception of Theodor Herzl's speech at the Jewish Working Men's Club of Whitechapel in 1896, in stark contrast to the cold shoulder he received from the rich.

What does our leftism say to these Jews of the east, Mr. Livingstone? To those denied the chances of both tolerance via assimilation and western emigration, who thus turned to Palestine. Do we say “you should have stayed in the east, to be persecuted”?

If, as a leftist, I am not retrospectively “for them”, then who am I for? Many Jews of the east, indeed, forwent a Zionist solution and put their faith in Socialism itself; in the illusory promise of the coming brotherhood of man and its guarantee that all men would be equal regardless of ethnicity or creed. Suffice it to say, the reality of the post-Revolutionary Russian regime would, in time, disabuse them of this hope.

Meanwhile, thanks to the relative ease of American immigration before 1925, the movement of Jews to Palestine remained comparatively small. It is after this (but before 1939) that a huge increase can be seen, as the combination of American restrictions and the rise of Hitler-the-Zionist precipitated a massive upsurge in demand.

As an anti-Zionist perhaps you approve of the British Government's 1939 White Paper limiting Jewish entry to Palestine. Had Britain and the other free nations of the west combined this barring of the gates with a concomitant commitment to allow the Jews of Nazi Europe a haven within their own borders while escape was still possible, you could square this anti-Zionism with leftist humanism.

But, as you no doubt are aware, though the free nations admitted some Jewish refugees, no such commitment to shelter the majority was forthcoming. So the White Paper kept the Jews in the hell of Nazi-occupied Europe without, largely, providing an alternative.

I cannot think you believe this a glittering moment in the anti-Zionist struggle. Similarly, are you proud, as an anti-Zionist, that a Labour Government which had campaigned against the White Paper reneged and allowed its Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin to continue its implementation after the war?

When the Jewish-American intellectual Leon Wiseltier was asked last year what the last Jew out of Europe should do upon leaving, his reply spoke for much of the American-Jewish intelligentsia: “Spit”, he said.

The Holocaust did not create Zionism. What it did do was negate the competing claims for a solution to the “Jewish Question” discussed above. Zionism did not achieve majority Jewish support before the Holocaust. It sure did after. Apart from anything else, most of the anti-Zionist Socialist, assimilationist or Orthodox Jews were wiped out. The shattered survivors wanted somewhere safe to rebuild their lives and, no thanks to Bevin, they eventually found it.

The Zionist authorities certainly deserve reproach for hampering or discouraging emigration of the survivors to places other than Palestine, where it was possible. But neither was non-Palestinian emigration a wholesale solution, or a solution for all. Who, Mr. Livingstone, would take them in such numbers? In any case, the Holocaust made a pretty compelling defence of the Zionist thesis that only national sovereignty could protect the Jews. Life among the gentile had gone beyond persecution, to annihilation.

What does the leftist anti-Zionist retrospectively say to those Hitler failed to kill? “Go on, give gentile Europe one more chance to be civil?” Do we dare go back in time and tell the survivors that Simon Dubnow's dream of a European Jewry which was both unshakably European and culturally independent was not assassinated along with him in the hell of Riga, 1941?

The Holocaust should not serve as a justification for Israeli behaviour. Ever. But if you don't concede that it does justify that aspect of the theoretical framework of Zionism which says that the diaspora alone could not guarantee the Jewish future then we are so far at cross-purposes that dialogue seems fruitless. Listen to the great Israeli writer and Holocaust survivor Ze'ev Sternhell (an ardent champion of Palestinian rights and constant critic of Israel) on this subject and see if you can answer my question.

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There is an understandable trend in modern Jewish thought which rejects “lachrymose” history; which refuses to see the entire record of their people through the prism of its misfortunes and persecutions alone. However, as non-Jews I think we are compelled to view the history of Jewish-Gentile relations with more lachrymosity than the Jews themselves. How else do we face honestly and regretfully the historical record?

This is particularly incumbent upon us as Europeans, by far the worst transgressors against the Jews. “The Jews are our misfortune”, said the Nazis. As a leftist, I prefer to flip this on its head and see Europe as, far too often, the misfortune of the Jews.

This is why Zionists baulk at condemnation from Europeans most of all. When the Jewish-American intellectual Leon Wiseltier was asked last year what the last Jew out of Europe should do upon leaving, his reply spoke for much of the American-Jewish intelligentsia: “Spit”, he said. We may reject Wiseltier's condescension all we like, but if I were an American or Israeli Jew I'm not sure how kindly I would take to Europeans dishing out lectures on civility, morality and human rights. Collective memories are long indeed.

By virtue of his position, the anti-Zionist does one of two things. Either he denies the persecutory nature of late nineteenth and twentieth century Jewish European life (an outrageous negation of a collective experience that he wouldn't dare impose upon another minority), or else he accepts the veracity of this Jewish experience but denies the Jews the right to have done anything to escape it; to “auto-emancipate” themselves, in the words of one of the great early Zionist thinkers. Thus, the anti-Zionist either rejects the diagnosis or accepts it but rejects the cure. Well if he wants to be a historical doctor and not a quack then he must proffer another.

The great Bertrand Russell realised, naturally, that this kind of nationalism was odious and destructive, but also that a rejection of it did not, by necessity, mean a repudiation of Jewish national liberation.

The anti-Zionist is, perhaps, rightly suspicious of nationalism's degrading potential, and wishes a less ethnocentric organisation of the peoples of the world. This is fine and laudable. But the anti-Zionist retrospectively asks Jews between the late nineteenth century and 1948 to ignore the period's prevailing norm of the primacy and integrity of the sovereign nation state.

He asks the persecuted Jews to wait, for their liberation, for the great emancipation from the yoke of nationalist parochialism, after which there would be no more ethnic hatred. This was the essence of Arnold Toynbee's anti-Zionism. It is a consistent position only if the anti-Zionist applies his anti-nationalism to all and not merely to the Jews, which he invariably does not.

In fact there were, within the wider Zionist movement itself, many fine men and women who shared the suspicion of the narrow nationalism they saw as inherent in the Statist-Zionist position. They thus pressed for a bi-national arrangement, with Jews and Palestinians equal in one nation.

The anti-Zionist blames the failure of the bi-nationalists on the intractability of the Ben-Gurionites. This is some truth in this, but it must also be said that Arab-Palestinian hostility to the Jewish presence- particularly events like those seen in Hebron in 1929- also helped kill off the bi-nationalist dream.

Thus, it is the conclusion of the Zionist mainstream- that the security of the Jewish people could be guaranteed only in a sovereign, defensible state- which enrages the anti-Zionist who, simultaneously, forgets his anti-nationalism when supporting the national liberation of other beleaguered peoples. Indeed, if by nationalism we mean chauvinism and the superiority of one people over another then, of course, this is everything a leftist should reject.

I cannot, and will not, ever support a Zionism of this kind. The great Bertrand Russell realised, naturally, that this kind of nationalism was odious and destructive, but also that a rejection of it did not, by necessity, mean a repudiation of Jewish national liberation.

Thus, in 1943, he had 'come gradually to see that, in a dangerous and largely hostile world, it is essential to Jews to have some country which is theirs, some region where they are not suspected aliens, some state which embodies what is distinctive in their culture.'

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Just as I have argued that basic human solidarity and compassion should lead the leftist to a positive view of Zionism, so it must also to support for justice, restitution and statehood for the Palestinians. The same logic and basic empathy lead, in my view, to both positions.

My defence of Zionism is not a defence of Israeli action. Let me be unequivocal: the Occupation is unjustifiable (and in the opinion of the ICJ in 2005, internationally unlawful). The settlements are unjustifiable and a disgraceful expropriation of rightfully Palestinian land. The Security Wall is justifiable in principle but its disregard of the Green Line shows it for the annexing land-grab it is.

Militarily, though Israel undoubtedly has the right to defend itself from its enemies (many of whom, the left would recall, are bent on its destruction) it has far too often responded disproportionately and/or without due care for the civilian population, be it Palestinian or Lebanese. Its obdurate refusal to negotiate a lasting peace more often bespeaks a cynical desire to maintain the status quo than the lack of a genuine Palestinian partner.

Israeli hardliners may claim, all they wish, that all these are the products of the need for “security”. But as a left-Zionist it would be hypocritical not to acknowledge that they are, in fact, products of one type of Zionism; a disgraceful right-wing Revisionist variant which sees “Arabs” only as one-dimensional sources of inevitable danger and claims that “both banks of the Jordan” are rightfully and inviolably Jewish. It is to Israel's, and Zionism's shame, that these notions are not confined to the extreme margin.

The early Zionists were shamefully ignorant of the native population of Palestine, and woefully sanguine and patronising as to the warm welcome the Jews' “modernism” and economic development would guarantee them. Any Zionist attempts to belittle the damage done to the Palestinians or indeed the presence of Palestinians themselves are as disgraceful now as they were when Joan Peters' fraud From Time Immemorial was first perpetuated in the 1980s. Similarly, denial of the agony of the Nakba, or obfuscation of Zionist responsibility for it, will not stand and deserves our fullest repudiation.

Liberal Zionism is divided on whether Jewish Statehood was contingent upon Palestinian dispossession. Put simply, could things have gone differently?

The renowned Israeli journalist Ari Shavit is a fervent Zionist but argues that Israelis must face guilty responsibility for the fact that statehood depended upon the often forcible removal of Palestinians.

I support Shavit's encouraging of moral responsibility but prefer the British academic David Hirsh's non-determinist view that the existential Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not inevitable but, rather, 'the result of successive defeats for progressive forces within both nations.' 'The Bride is beautiful', wrote the Viennese Zionist Rabbis of their reconnaissance to Palestine, 'but she is married to another man.'

Dreamers Hirsh and I may be, but we believe that a better-handled, well-demarcated ménage à trois was possible. These are tragic and weighty matters of history, and they deserve more nuance than they are afforded by the blinkered anti-Zionist who, by his myopia, robs the Jews of their narrative just as surely as the chauvinist-Zionist does the Palestinians.

My defence of Zionism is not a defence of Israeli action. Let me be unequivocal: the Occupation is unjustifiable...the settlements are unjustifiable and a disgraceful expropriation of rightfully Palestinian land.

Nonetheless, I will never be a source of hasbara for Israel. While I admire much of the national life, so many of Israel's actions are defensible only by the most blinkered propagandist. I will, however, do hasbara for Zionism itself. If the worst things done in the name of an idea repudiates the idea itself then we, as leftists or Socialists, are far more damned by history than Zionism.

In any case, the lamentable conduct of numerous Israeli Governments does not, in my view, deal a fatal blow to Zionism itself, either as a theory or a practice. There are countless Israelis who remain ardent Zionists even though they are just as appalled as you are at Lydda; at Deir Yassin; at Sabra and Shatilla; at Jenin; at Gaza and, above all, at the grinding, choking and emaciating occupation.

Anti-Zionism treats the Israeli left as though it doesn't exist; as though a progressive Zionist or Israeli is a contradiction in terms. Thus, the Irgun were “Zionism” but the Brit Shalom were not; the Likud is “Zionism” but Peace Now is not; Mordechai Kedar is “Zionism” but Baruch Kimmerling is not; and Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett are “Zionism” but Yossi Beilin and Stav Shaffir are not.

If the worst things done in the name of an idea repudiates the idea itself then we, as leftists or Socialists, are far more damned by history than Zionism.

We may justly lament the rightward shift in Israel and the inadequacy of the Israeli left's response (though you should ask yourself if there are any young Parliamentarians in the Labour Party as courageous and impressive as Shaffir. I will save you some time: there aren't).

But we should support and fraternally encourage the Israeli left rather than huff and puff and write them off. This surrenders both Israel and Zionism to the Sharons and Netanyahus and, like those countless Israelis, I am not prepared to do that.

You should also realise that broadsides like yours only strengthen the rejectionist hand of Netanyahu, and his simple but powerful electoral appeal that Jews continue to live in a world endemically hostile to them.

Likudniks will pick up on you and say: “Look! See what the goyim are really like!” Similarly, I think a climate of anti-Zionist hostility hardens Anglo-Jewish attitudes and encourages, at least in public, more of an “Israel, right or wrong” attitude than they really feel.

The modern left is, on international issues, either a broad church or hopelessly divided, depending on your perspective. Zionism is at the heart of the divide. Nonetheless, I believe there is room and need for us to come together.

But if we are not for justice, peace and security for both Palestinians and Israelis, then I really don't know what we are for. Leftism should mean justice for all, not just our victim of choice.

I will continue to support the Labour Party. Were I a Londoner I would vote for Sadiq Khan and, Londoner or not, passionately hope he overcomes Zac Goldsmith's shameful smear campaign. I wish Jeremy Corbyn well and have defended him against the accusation that he is largely to blame for this current state of affairs. In the light of the recent issues he has acted swiftly and decisively and his opponents should be ashamed that they commandeer a real issue for political purposes.

I also see nothing wrong in Corbyn's “controversial” assertion that Hamas and Hezbollah are valid agents for negotiation. This, alas, is simple realpolitik and is precisely the same conclusion reached by former heads of Israeli Intelligence.

I hope, however, that he sees them for what they really are and not, as Judith Butler does, as part of the anti-Imperial left. Sadly the Raed Salah affair does not fill me with confidence on this. I despair of the section of the left who sees any “anti-Western” force, however reactionary and illiberal, as worthy of a warm embrace. It is true, I am something of a Eustonite. Nonetheless, I will remain a Labourite, too.

You have, inadvertently, provided the party and the wider movements it represents with a fantastic opportunity finally to moderate their take on Zionism; to remain fervent defenders of the Palestinian national cause whilst also recognising the historic and contemporary necessity of Jewish national sovereignty.

While it seems you will, through choice, never be a part of such a process, I can only hope we take this chance. In the meantime, and despite my commitment to the Palestinians, when Labourites hurl the epithet “Zio” at Jewish activists, let them hurl it at this non-Jew too.


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