Observing the furore in the Labour Party around Naz Shah, Ken Livingstone and the likelihood of further suspensions from membership and an inquiry into the extent of antisemitism within the Labour Party, I want to discuss whether it is feasible to be anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and anti-racist.

Can one be critical of Israel and Zionism and a strong opponent of antisemitism? It is my contention it is possible and whatever opinion is of what is happening inside the Labour Party or wider, we must defend the right to be critical of Israel.

There seems to be a number of things happening: to undermine Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Labour. How else to explain why this is happening now, just before London mayoral, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and local elections, when in reality the comments by Naz Shah were made under the previous leader; and to discredit those who make legitimate criticisms of Israeli policy or Zionism as a political ideology?

As an anti-racist and anti-fascist Jew, active in campaigns against antisemitism, Islamophobia and racism in general, who also campaigns for peace with justice between Israelis and Palestinians, I entirely reject this agenda.

Irrespective of whatever we think of Ken Livingstone’s statements about Hitler – and I personally think them crass – it would be tragic to close down debate that has been central to Jewish political life since about 1900.

There were huge and fierce discussions for 50 years before the Second World War about whether Zionism was a solution to antisemitism or a capitulation; to the BUND – the Revolutionary Jewish Labour League in Lithuania, Poland and Russia – it seemed to be giving in to the racists rather than confronting them.

Indeed, there were also debates over collaboration of Jewish Councils with the Nazis in the Second World War; there was a famous court case in Israel in the 1950s around claims Rudolf Kastner, a leader of the Budapest Jewish Council, collaborated with Eichmann in 1944 to allow some 1,700 Zionist pioneers (including members of his own family) to get to Palestine in return for his support in facilitating the transportation of Hungary’s Jews to Auschwitz, by not alerting them to the horrors of Auschwitz.

The Israeli judge said Kastner had "sold his soul to the devil". My point is that these are complex and difficult issues taken from the most testing time in human history. The Holocaust throws up lots of questions like this. They have been raised and discussed, indeed, by Auschwitz survivors, such as Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel and resistance fighters such as Marek Edelman. We need to be able to debate them so we can learn lessons from the Holocaust, making it harder for genocide to recur.

I further worry these events inside the Labour Party have emboldened those who wish to curtail criticism of Israel. All say that it is entirely legitimate to criticise Israel, but are now arguing anti-Israel has antisemitism at its secret core.

I indeed go further. I think it legitimate to criticise the very founding philosophy and ideology of Israel – Zionism. There are disturbing suggestions coming from, amongst others, the police whose advice on Race Hate in 2014 includes anti-Zionism.

Now I think it entirely legitimate to argue for a democratic secular state in the area, composing the lands of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, as opposed to the current Israeli state. To think this is race hate is ridiculous.

Debates around Zionism were rife in the Jewish communities around the world since Zionism was founded as a political movement in 1893; indeed it was a minority movement until the Second World War. Many of the Jews, irrespective of their political affiliations, interviewed over the events in the Labour Party were clear about ensuring critical discussion was not threatened; yet there is definitely an atmosphere suggesting criticism of Israel or Zionism equals antisemitism.

Finally, it is also legitimate to argue for Boycott Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) as a tactic to influence Israeli policy. The All Party Parliamentary Inquiry Report on Antisemitism reported in 2015 BDS was legitimate as a target, although supporters needed to be vigilant about ensuring it does not stray into antisemitism. I agree with that. There is no contradiction between arguing for these things and combatting antisemitism. This debate around Israel must not be closed down.

Henry Maitles is a member of Scottish Jews for a Just Peace and Professor of Education at University of West of Scotland.