Apartheid responses show that appeasing the pro-Israel lobby is a waste of time

Asa Winstanley

Middle East Monitor  /  September 29, 2021

It’s rare for Israeli apartheid to be a topic of conversation in Britain’s House of Commons, but from time to time it does happen. In May, for example, Labour MP Naz Shah said, correctly, that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid.

There is, however, another side to this. Israel’s apologists and agents in parliament deliberately and cynically attempt to smear those who accurately report on Israel’s apartheid regime as being “anti-Semitic”. Former Labour MP Luciana Berger is one such apologist. In February 2019 she accused Labour Party members of using “anti-Semitic conspiracy theories” against her.

What was her evidence for this? Some members of the party had allegedly tweeted that she was part of an “Israeli apartheid democratic front”.

Unsurprisingly for someone who spent the preceding four years sabotaging her own party, Berger lost her seat in the general election later that year. It happens to be a matter of fact, though, that she is a longstanding supporter of Israeli apartheid. So much so that lobbying for Israel was once her day job, as the director of Labour Friends of Israel, which just so happens to be a front for the Israeli Embassy in London.

During the years of media propaganda about “Labour anti-Semitism” under former party leader Jeremy Corbyn – which frequently cited Berger as “evidence” – pretty much the entire press corps conveniently neglected to report this fact. Her proven record as an Israel lobbyist, therefore, makes it logically impossible for it to be “anti-Semitic” when people state, accurately, that she is a supporter of Israeli apartheid. Indeed, I believe that Luciana Berger was simply lying to Parliament when she accused Labour members of attacking her “based purely on my Jewish background.”

Moving on from the British parliament, it is even rarer for Israeli apartheid to be raised as a topic of discussion in the US Congress. In fact, I can’t recall that it has ever happened before, until last week. And the response in the US was even more ferocious, and particularly vindictive. It was also openly racist.

Last week, Representative Rashida Tlaib rose to explain why she was voting against the proposal to give an extra $1 billion in arms funding for Israel’s so-called Iron Dome missile system. The weapon is a key component of Israel’s siege of Gaza, which helps maintain the apartheid regime’s crushing grip on the coastal strip. Gaza is, in effect, the world’s largest open air prison.

Tlaib is a Palestinian American woman. She said correctly in her very short speech in Congress that Palestinians are living under a “violent apartheid system” and that the Israeli government is an apartheid regime. “Not my words, the words of Human Rights Watch and Israel’s own human rights watch organization B’Tselem,” she pointed out.

The response to this was nothing less than racist. Ferociously so.

Using a barely concealed dog-whistle, Republican Chuck Fleischmann spat out that Tlaib was a “radical minority” and claimed she was guilty of “anti-Semitism” because she had refused to “stand with me, with Israel” and its allegedly “defensive weapons system.”

Fleischmann claimed that Tlaib is “anti-Israel” and “anti-Semitic” because she described accurately the apartheid regime under which Palestinians live. “As Americans,” he ranted, “we can never stand for that.”

The obvious and intended implication of Fleischmann’s words is that the “minority” Palestinian Arab Muslim Tlaib was not a “real” American like him, a white man. Worse still, even some of Tlaib’s Democrat colleagues joined in the denunciations. The “bipartisan” anti-Palestinian consensus still holds strong in Congress, it seems.

Tlaib’s action in voting against an extra $1 billion of US taxpayers’ money being sent to the violent Israeli apartheid regime – important as her vote is – was little more than symbolic. The proposal was passed overwhelmingly, with 420 lawmakers in favour and only nine voting against. There were two abstentions, one of whom was the untrustworthy “progressive” Democrat, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The bipartisan vitriol hurled against Rashida Tlaib demonstrated in the vilest possible way that the pro-Israel lobby cannot tolerate even the slightest degree of dissent. It will accept nothing less than total capitulation. And once you’ve capitulated, it will carry on kicking you, just to make sure you stay down. The responses to the use of “apartheid” to describe the regime imposed by Israel on the people of occupied Palestine show that appeasing the pro-Israel lobby really is a waste of time. Far better to stand up and be counted in your opposition to injustice and racism.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist living in London who writes about Palestine and the Middle East