Had loads of fun with this one. Cleverly scripted, well acted, and most critically as it turns out, a highly topical polemic. In short, brother and sister are at war with each other. Usual sibling rivalries but with an added ingredient. Jewish brother brings home his blond girlfriend/fiance who just happens not to be Jewish. Sister berates brother for threatening to marry outside of the Jewish faith thereby weakening the purity of Jewish line. Brother retaliates by accusing sister of upholding a fascist ideology more akin to the Nazis. All good fun, but in the light of the anti-Semitism accusations swirling around the Labour Party at the moment, and in particular those aimed at a certain Mr Jeremy Corbyn, this turns out to be deadly serious stuff.

I've deliberately stuck some quotation marks around the term anti-Semitism to suggest that this is a highly contentious term in itself. For example, where does sharp criticism of the Israeli government and its Greater Israel project merge, if at all, with good old fashioned European anti-Semitism? Of course the answer to that is all a matter of definition. One person's anti-Semitism is another person's legitimate political criticism. The question; how to unravel this contentious and highly charged state of semantics?


For me, the starting point in this messy polemic has to be God, or should I say, the total and complete absence of one. At this point I should declare myself something of a militant atheist with some remote and fading Jewish ancestry. For me it's all quite simple. If there is no god, (and I assume the likes of Ken Livingstone, the Miliband brothers and Jeremy C share this view), then there can be no chosen people and no promised land. Like all religions, it's all myth and superstition. In fact, when you think clearly about it, there can be no such thing as a biological Jew anymore than there is a biological Hindu or a biological Christian. There are simply large groups of people who share a particular set of superstitious and illogical beliefs that have been passed down through the generations. In terms of biology, we are all Homo sapiens that, over the millennia, migrated in successive waves from Africa, interbreeding with and eventually exterminating the Neanderthal hominoids that came before us.


With respect to the Jewish notion of a chosen people, that is as absurd as it is repulsive. The brother in the play Bad Jews was absolutely correct, in my view, to castigate his sister for clinging to such a repugnant ideology. As for the Zionist claim that the land we variously refer to as Israel or Palestine is the Jewish promised land, this notion is equally repugnant and absurd. Even a cursory knowledge of ancient history will tell us that this particular patch of desert has been occupied by not only Semitic tribes but also Assyrians, Babylonians, Romans and more recently various Muslim civilisations. Nobody has a god-given right to that land because 1) there is no god and 2) no one group of people has had uninterrupted tenancy of that land. Like so much of the planet, Palestine is contested territory where the only principle at play is one of military might.


So where does that leave us? Well, if there is no god to adjudicate on these matters then we have no other recourse than to defer to human law. And the highest form of law that we flawed humans have managed to come up with so far is that of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Neither may be perfect but it is all we have. And in the aftermath of the 19th century Russian pogroms and the 20th century Nazi mass exterminations of European Jewry, the UN declared that the ancient land of Palestine should be partitioned between the stateless Jews and the Palestinians who were currently occupying the area. It was more or less a 50/50 split but it was a compromise that was to satisfy neither side.


The Arab nations and the Palestinians understandably would not happily acquiesce to a Jewish state being plonked right in the middle of what had been for thirteen hundred years a largely Muslim area. And the Zionists, who had long dreamed of a Greater Israel that matched the old biblical Jewish empires, had no intention of settling for a mere 50% solution. And step by step, village by village, the Zionist State of Israel has been expropriating, by military might, huge chunks of the remaining 50% of Palestinian controlled land, thus negating the possibility of a viable Palestinian state. And here's the rub. If one dares to criticise the Zionist state and its expansionist policies one is accused of anti-Semitism.


Intermingled with this historic impasse was the real-politics of the international Cold War along with the continuing neo-colonial ambitions of the US, Europe and Russia. Control of the oil fields is central to the on-going chess game in the region and religious allegiances are deliberately inflamed by the competing big powers. Any hope of a secular resolution to the conflict becomes more distant by the day.


Where should Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party stand in all this? Two principled positions, I would argue, should be to the fore. Firstly, the political and philosophical tenets of Zionism should be roundly condemned for what they are; a colonial settler project that is more akin to South African Apartheid than to a modern secular democracy. Secondly, the Arab states should be condemned for what they are; brutal autocratic theocracies kept in place by the US military-industrial complex. Corbyn must, as he has always done, champion the cause of the secular democratic state where state and religion are constitutionally separated. No one should fear to espouse this principled and progressive position no matter which vested interests might be offended along the way.


As a fully committed atheist, I celebrate the secular state as a definite step forward in how we humans manage our affairs. At the very same time I vigorously respect the right of people to follow whatever collection of religious myths and superstitions they might choose to, provided they adhere to the laws of the secular state and broadly accept the spirit of the UNs Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Religious superstitions and diktat, from whatever quarter they may emerge, must never again be allowed to trump secular democratic law no matter how flawed those secular laws may be.


As with all self-defined groups of people, be they religious, ethnic or national, there tends to be far sharper differences within the group than of those between groups. I suspect the Jewish community is no exception to this rule. This makes the label of anti-Semitism particularly unhelpful and has no doubt been unleashed by elements within the Tory Party, aided and abetted by the British State's dirty tricks department and the Zionist lobby to destabilise the Corbyn leadership. I desperately hope they don't succeed.


End JPK Copyright 4/5/16

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 20 May 2018 09:51 )