While young Palestinians are getting killed demonstrating on the border of the Gaza strip, the heated debate over whether Ken Loach should be distinguished by the Free University of Brussels as Doctor honoris causa made big waves in the Belgium media. Is the filmmaker an anti-Semite? For some yes. And what makes them think that? Because he dares to criticise Israeli policy against the Arab population as well as the occupation and openly advocates for the boycott of Israel. He is not alone in this criticism. Many of our members share these criticisms but by no means do they believe in an anti-Semitic ideology. The intentional miss-assimilation of criticism of Israeli repressive policies with anti-Semitism (aka victimisation) plays into the hands of those who are responsible for the occupation and policies of repression. And the real danger is this intentional confusion!
Indeed anti-Semitism is on the rise in many parts of Europe, but it is not the result of criticism towards the Israeli state, rather it is a ideological conception of race and other nonsense. The fact than many Jews (as well as Muslims wearing scarfs or other signs of their belief) no longer dare to wear their kippah in schools, universities or any other public places is unacceptable for democratic open societies that should guarantee, among many other rights, the freedom of private religious choice, whether faith based or agnostic. The similarity between the (intentional) conflation of Islam and terrorism is as dangerous as the (shielding) conflation of the repressive policies of the State of Israel and Judaism. In conflicting situations these important nuances have a tendency to be overlooked and end up spiralling out of control.
Ever since our organisation was founded in 1948, support for progressive civil societies on both sides has been a given. We support, amongst others, the Peres Center for Peace as much as we support the Workers’ Advice Centre (WAC), we are partners in PINGO (Palestine NGO Network) and cooperate with Unionists on both sides. There are limits however: the denial of the right of existence of the State of Israel 70 years after its creation (retraction to the borders as agreed by the EU and the illegal occupation) and even more the denial of the Holocaust. It is an incredible insult to the victims and to those who work for reconciliation and keep the memory of the Holocaust alive to accuse Jews of having a share in the guilt. .
It was the German Nazis who decided, with the passive acceptance or ignorance of huge parts of the German population, on 20 January 1942 at the Wannsee conference the industrial extermination of the Jewish people in Europe. They are principally responsible. Unfortunately they were assisted – owing to the anti-Semitism prevalent at that time in all parts of Europe – in the execution of this crime in other European states.
Today the peace process is not making progress (nor has it in the last few decades) most likely due to a lack of real willingness from both/either side. The real debate should be: is the two-state solution still realistic or is there a need for another perspective guaranteeing peaceful coexistence for both parties? The intention of the Israeli Prime Minister and the US President to cancel the Iran agreement risks putting oil on the fire of a conflict that could easily get out of control. The problem is that the spiral of violence has to end, including the violence of occupation and colonisation! This is why we support the statement of the Progressive Alliance.