Those who campaign alongside the people of Palestine are all too often accused of anti-semitism. Most of the times I have come across this allegation, I have not believed the incident in question to be anti-semitic: it isn’t intrinsically racist to criticise the policies of the Israeli state. For those of us who care about the rights of Palestinians, it is all the more damaging when someone who works on this issue says something which is anti-semitic: it confirms for those who make this accusation their trope that all Palestine activists are really anti-semetic, whether or not we say such things.
And so, for me, it is important that we recognise when someone has said something we believe to be anti-semitic. Because unless we are willing to accept that some things are, we have no right to say other things aren’t; and, more importantly, speaking up against racism is always important, especially when it is from people in our own communities.
With that in mind, let’s turn to the Jewish Chronicle, who recently ran a story on Pippa Bartolotti, a candidate in the coming Green Party leadership elections (though few would rank her as the front runner).
“When she [Pippa] was arrested during the “flytilla” demonstration against Israel’s blockade of Gaza, she questioned Mr Gould’s [the UK Ambassador to Israel] independence and objected to being represented by a member of the UK diplomatic staff with a Jewish name.
“She told this paper last December: “I questioned the wisdom of having a Jewish Zionist ambassador in Israel and stated that their loyalty was a matter for the FCO to investigate.”
“She added: “The vice -consul was called Levi. From the university of life I have learned that Jews often have a conflict of interest in matters relating to Palestine.””
I think this comment is racist. It is saying that someone is likely to be unable to do their job because of their race. It is particularising from a general. It is taking issue with someone not just because of their political beliefs (zionism) but also, their race. As a Green blog, we would be wrong, I feel, not to point this out. Unlike the Jewish Chronicle, that Ms Bartolotti has been arrested by the IDF, and that she has attempted to break the siege of Gaza through the ‘flytilla’ are points in her favour in my book. But her anti-semitic comments are not acceptable.
I contacted Pippa, and asked for a comment. Her response is below.
I can only re-articulate what I said before: that it is surely difficult for the UK Ambassador – a self-confessed zionist – to remain impartial regarding matters affecting the relationship between the UK and Israel, and the UK and Palestine, over which Israel holds illegal siege and occupation powers.
In the subsequent long and excruciating exchange with the Foreign Office after my unnecessary and unreasonable imprisonment, I discovered that the UK had never before appointed a jewish person to this post.
One can only hope that there will be an outbreak of fair play, and we will see the 45% of moslem people in the region similarly represented in future ambassadorial postings.
www.pippabartolotti.blogspot.com has a bit more info
She later added the following*:
My grandfather was jewish, so I have no axe to grind either way. For me this is a human rights situation. If the boot was on the other foot I would be supporting the jews. As you say, zionism is an ideological position – and not restricted to jews.
In conclusion, I want to be clear. I am not generalising from the particular. I am neither saying that Pippa is racist in general, nor that she is anti-semitic in general. I am happy to believe that what she cares about is human rights, and from what I have seen of her record in standing up for Palestinians, I have mostly been impressed. But when she complains because someone is Jewish, Pippa crosses a line. It is wrong, and it is damaging to those of us who have unjustly been accused of anti-semitism when we oppose the Israeli State. I feel that fellow Greens must be willing to say so.
*note, this second message has been added retrospectively, in the light of comments from Pippa below.