The Nakba Day rally in London, characterised by its vitriolic rhetoric and deeply troubling displays, underscores the persistence of antisemitism in contemporary society. It is disheartening to witness such gatherings that not only perpetuate historical revisionism but also propagate dangerous narratives that justify violence against Jews with bloodthirsty cries for a renewed Intifada. Nakba Day, with its attempt to equate the establishment of the modern State of Israel as a racist, colonial enterprise, is not only historically inaccurate but also fundamentally antisemitic.
The event, titled “Nakba 75 – End apartheid, End the occupation,” witnessed thousands of participants assembling outside the offices of the BBC and marching to 10 Downing Street, where a rally was held to denounce Britain’s perceived support for Israel. Banners accusing Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and placards drawing disturbing parallels between Israel and Nazi Germany were carried throughout the demonstration. It should be noted that drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis is a direct contravention of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, which the UK adopted in December 2016. It remains to be seen if any of the numerous breaches of the definition will be met with reprecussions.
Such comparisons trivialise the horrors of the Holocaust and undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state. Equating Israel, a nation founded in the aftermath of immense persecution and genocide, with the regime responsible for the systematic murder of millions of innocent people is not only historically erroneous and fails to stack up to any reason, but serves as a cheap antisemitic jibe at Holocaust memory and an affront to Holocaust survivors and their descendants.
The presence of Jeremy Corbyn, the former leader of the Labour Party who has faced numerous allegations of tolerating and promoting antisemitism within his party, only amplifies the troubling nature of the Nakba Day rally. Corbyn’s participation in an event that propagates antisemitic rhetoric demonstrates a lack of regard for the concerns of the Jewish community and a failure to foster an environment of understanding and dialogue. But that’s hardly surprising to anyone who has observed Corbyn and his acolytes’ incessant vitriol against Israel over the last several decades.
Of course, it is essential to differentiate between legitimate criticisms of government policies and the promotion of antisemitic tropes that breed hatred and intolerance. Antisemitism, however, remains a pressing issue that demands our collective condemnation and unwavering vigilance. The chants calling for Intifada as the only solution and the slogans proclaiming the eradication of Israel from “the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea” not only undermine the prospects of peaceful resolution but also deny the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland. Such rhetoric is not only inflammatory but also fundamentally antisemitic, as it seeks to deny the Jewish people their right to exist in Israel, while simultaneously erasing the deeply-rooted historical, cultural, and religious connection between Jews and Israel.
Furthermore, the misrepresentation of historical facts and the distortion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict only serve to fuel antisemitic sentiments. Accusing Israel of being a “racist, apartheid state” and equating Zionism with fascism and Nazism not only oversimplifies the complexities of the situation but also perpetuates an atmosphere of hostility towards Jews. It is crucial to acknowledge that Zionism, at its core, is a national liberation movement aimed at establishing and preserving a homeland for the Jewish people. Equating Zionism with racism or colonialism not only misrepresents its principles but also strips the Jewish people of any agency in exercising national self-determination.
The participation of various organisations, such as Amnesty International and the National Education Union, in the Nakba Day rally raises serious concerns. These organisations, which should be committed to promoting human rights and education, should not align themselves with events that propagate hateful rhetoric and discriminatory messages. The blatant ultracrepidarianism of these organisations seemingly knows no bounds, as they profess to uphold the principles of inclusivity, understanding, and respect for all communities – except when it comes to the Jewish community – all the while throwing their support behind Palestinian organisations and movements whose radical Islamist doctrines are anything but tolerant and progressive.
Leading communal organisations, such as the National Jewish Assembly, rightly called-out the Nakba Day rally for what is was: a hate-filled attempt to deligitimise Israel and legitimise violence against the Jewish state. As we condemn the antisemitic rhetoric and historical revisionism promoted at the Nakba Day rally, it is vital to reaffirm our commitment to dialogue, understanding, and peaceful coexistence. Constructive discussions based on mutual recognition and respect are the only way to achieve a just and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Any serious interlocutor in the peace process must strive to create an environment where diverse perspectives can be heard and understood without resorting to hate speech or flat-out denying the rights of others.
In the face of the antisemitic rhetoric voiced at the Nakba Day rally in London, British Jewry and its allies must stand united against hatred, bigotry, and the distortion of history. Antisemitism has no place in our society, and it is our duty to reject it unequivocally. We must strive for understanding, empathy, and genuine dialogue, fostering a world where antisemitism is extinguished and the rights and dignity of all people, regardless of their background, are respected. It is imperative for us to build a future free from the shackles of prejudice and intolerance that the Nakba Day types would gladly throw on us.
Heath Sloane is the Press & Marketing Manager at the National Jewish Assembly (NJA)