Anti-Semitism, or Anti-Zionism?

In his regular opinion column for the Barking & Dagenham post the Chair of East London Humanists expresses his personal view on the anti-Semitism debate  (published 26.9.18).

“I write in my personal capacity as a Jew, an atheist and a Humanist. Not everyone seems to realise that you can be Jewish without having any religious belief. In fact I am every bit as Jewish as the Chief Rabbi. Despite my lack of religious belief I have the right to become an Israeli citizen.  I qualify because my mother was Jewish, and under Jewish law that makes me Jewish.

I actually have no desire to settle in a region my ancestors left eons ago. I find fulfilment living here in this richly diverse country. As a Humanist I care equally for everybody’s wellbeing, and I am concerned about the millions of displaced Palestinians who don’t enjoy the same rights as me.  Until recently they and generations before them lived on land which is now occupied by Jewish settlers. I have misgivings about any state where the right to citizenship depends on ethnicity or religious belief.   I am also concerned at the means used by the Israeli state to perpetuate this unfairness.

Jews, just like any ethnic or religious group, do not all speak with one voice. We are all individuals with our own opinions and values. No one can claim to speak on behalf of the whole Jewish community, and not all Jews, religious or otherwise, support the Zionist project. Anti-Semitism is a dreadful scourge.  However, legitimate concerns about anti-Semitism should not distract us from concerns about injustice to others, or stifle legitimate criticism of Israel.  “

Paul Kaufman
Chair, East London Humanists

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