Christmas, Christianity and the rise in antisemitism

December 22, 2014 at 5:16 pm (anti-semitism, AWL, Christianity, Christmas, Islam, israel, Judaism, Middle East, New Statesman, palestine, posted by JD, religion, stalinism, zionism)

A Palestinian man wearing a Santa Claus costume is confronted by an Israeli soldier during a demonstration in village near Bethlehem, 19 December. Photo: Getty

A Palestinian wearing a Santa Claus costume is confronted by an Israeli soldier at a demo near Bethlehem

Christmas is, at its best, a time of good will to all peoples regardless of creed. But it is also, unfortunately, an excuse for antisemitism – a form of bigotry that Christianity has fostered for over 2000 years and successfully passed on to Islam.

Mehdi Hasan (who I do not believe is consciously antisemitic), for instance, uses Christmas as an opportunity to launch into one-sided and in some respects, factually inaccurate attack on Israel (tracing its original sin back to its creation in 1948),  in an article for the Huffington Post (where he is political editor), also carried in the current New Statesman.

Sean Matgamna wrote about this sort of Christian-inspired antisemitism fifteen years ago, in a piece introducing an excerpt from Karl Kautsky’s The Foundations of Christianity. I reproduce Sean’s 1999 piece below:

2000 years of anti-Jewish lies

In the last few years, undisguised anti-semitism has again become a force in Europe, especially in Russia and the east. It has re-emerged both in its racist, zoological, 19th century form, and in its earlier Christian, “native Russian”, form.

Why does this happen? Why, again and again, in one form or another, time after time, does Jew-baiting become a force in history? There are always “immediate” historical reasons, but one central, continuous, underlying “cultural” reason is this: anti-semitism is threaded into the very fabric of Europe’s 2000-year-old Christian civilisation.

Christianity is saturated with anti-semitism. The Christian New Testament is one of the main documents of historical anti-semitism.

As the classic Marxist writer Karl Kautsky shows in the excerpt from his book The Foundations of Christianity […] the New Testament writers set out, deliberately and systematically, to demonise the Jews and foment hatred against them as the murderers of Christ. They did it by inventing fantastic and self-contradictory tales about the death of Christ.

The events he analyses are set 2000 years ago in Roman-occupied Judea. The vast Roman Empire united Europe, much of North Africa, and parts of Asia. The Judeans resisted Roman rule fiercely. While the upper classes tended to make peace, the people refused. The Jews were divided into parties and factions – Sadducees, Pharisees, Zealots. Eventually, in 70 AD, the Romans razed the city of Jerusalem to the ground, completing the dispersal of the Jews, who already had settlements all over the empire.

The early Christians were one sect of Jews, feeling sectarian hatred towards the others. As time wore on, the dominant Christian faction, led by Paul of Tarsus, ceased to be Jews, no longer, for example, requiring converts to be circumcised. By the time the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written, decades after the events they purport to depict, the antagonism between Christian and Jew was very bitter.

Christianity grew stronger in the next 300 years, until it became a mighty power in the ossifying Roman Empire. At the beginning of the fourth century Christianity became the official religion of the empire, and its priesthood merged with the immensely powerful bureaucracy of the Roman state. Over time it got to the position of not having to tolerate other religions, or Christian factions other than the dominant one.

Thereafter, the New Testament and its stories, ideas and motifs became, for well over a thousand years, the main subject of art and literature.

Many dozens of generations of children were drilled in the New Testament’s malignant tales, presented as the word of God. “Who condemned Jesus Christ to death?” went the question in the Catholic catechism which, until recently, children from the age of five or six learned by heart. The answer? “Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, did it at the desire of the Jews.” Recently the Catholic Church has “exonerated” the Jews of guilt for Jesus Christ’s death – 2000 years and many millions of victims too late. An imaginary parallel will make the point clearer. Suppose that our own civilisation has broken down, as that of Rome did in the fifth and sixth centuries in Western Europe. Most of the survivors regress to subsistence farming. Literacy is almost lost, becoming the special expertise of ideologising monks and priests.

Most of our great books of learning and science are lost. Those we have saved acquire great authority in a world where scientific observation and experimentation have gone out of fashion, and where venerable authority is again, as in the Middle Ages, considered sufficient. One of the books which survives, preserved by its devotees, is The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This book purports to be a Jewish account of Jewish plans to take over the world. It was forged early this century by the Okhrana, the political police of ultra-Christian Tsarist Russia.

It recast the traditional Christian Jew-hatred, with which Tsarist Russia was saturated, into a venomous modern political fantasy. It has had immense influence in this century. It has rightly been called a “warrant for genocide”.

Suppose then that in our imaginary world, thrown back to the level of barbarism, a new religion takes shape, a sort of primitive evangelical neo-Christianity, organised by a powerful caste of priests. It worships, as one of its central “holy books”, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

And then, as society evolves and develops over many hundreds of years, slowly redeveloping a civilisation, generation after generation would learn the divine truth concocted by the Okhrana policemen. It would form the subject of paintings and literature and drama. When a new Enlightenment arose, and drove this nonsense off the highways of intellectual life, it would survive as prejudice and folk-wisdom. Living Jews and their behaviour would be judged not according to everybody else’s standards, but according to the patterns of malevolence outlined in the Protocols.

This fiction is horribly close to the true story of our civilisation and its development. The New Testament – with whose vicious anti-Jewish libels we are so familiar that they can and do go unnoticed – has down the centuries been the warrant for generations and ages of anti-semitism in Eastern Europe and Russia.

The Stalinist rulers did not fight anti-semitism but fomented it. They took Christian anti-semitism and wove it into their “Protocols”, according to which the great evil conspiracy is not Jewish exactly, but “Zionist”, and centred on Israel. Many on the left, misled by their justified and proper sympathy with the Palestinian Arabs who are in conflict with the Jewish state of Israel, uncritically accept this Stalinist reworking of the old anti-Semitism.

Karl Kautsky’s detailed analysis of the anti-semitism threaded into the New Testament, and therefore at the heart of 2000 years of European civilisation, is part of the necessary antidote to this poison, which, in its “anti-Zionist” mask, still infects much of the left today.

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In defence of Mario Balotelli

December 3, 2014 at 10:31 pm (anti-semitism, Jim D, Racism, sport)

Above: Balotelli embraces his foster mother

Antisemitism in all its loathsome forms is on the rise in Britain and the rest of Europe. Like all other forms of racism it needs to be challenged and opposed whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head. Shiraz has frequently made the point that sections of the left and liberal-left are all too prone to overlook antisemitism or “contextualise” it, especially when it takes the guise of “anti Zionism” or supposed Palestinian “solidarity.”

Mario Balotelli’s republished Instagram comments were foolish and ill-judged, but surely not racist or antisemitic in intention. In fact, as far as I can judge, he was trying to make an anti-racist point with humour, and to turn some  traditional racist stereotypes against the bigots. Naïve, certainly, but surely not deserving of a fine or ban from the Football Association.

Balotelli has now issued a fulsome apology, but his initial reaction – “My Mom is jewish so all of u shut up please” – struck me as quite understandable. His Italian foster mother is, indeed, Jewish and he’s clearly proud of that heritage. When members of the Italian team, including Balotelli, visited Auschwitz before the Euro 20 championship in 2012, he reportedly sat alone on the rail track at the camp, staring silently ahead and a little later told his team-mates about his foster mother and a box of letters she keeps under her bed. He’d never told anyone before.

Lay off this well-meaning eccentric, and worry about the real antisemites who campaign to boycott Jewish businesses, Jew-bait Israeli sports teams and performers, daub swastikas on synagogues and carry banners comparing Israel with Nazi Germany. There’s plenty of them on both the right and sections of the “left.” They’re the real antisemites these days.

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Oxford University Palestine Soc: “We are All Hamas”

October 20, 2014 at 6:49 am (anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, Guardian, intellectuals, islamism, israel, Jim D, Middle East, palestine, reactionay "anti-imperialism", students)

I have been asked, by a regular reader, to carry more material explaining our position on antisemitism – and, in particular our allegation that a lot of contemporary antisemitism comes from the “left” and takes the form of Palestinian solidarity (a cause that, in principle, Shiraz supports). I intend to write at some length on this subject soon, but as a starting point I’d refer readers to Galloway’s recent refusal to support Palestinian statehood (and his explanation, here) and the following account of a meeting at Oxford University. Note that one of the main speakers is an Oxford academic who frequently writes for the liberal-left Guardian. In other words, these people are not fringe elements within the pro-Palestinian movement in the UK. Support for the total destruction of Israel (ie the Hamas position) and  casual comparisons between Israelis and Nazis, are now commonplace in the pro-Palestine movement. Even placards stating “Hitler was Right” are allowed on pro-Palestine demos, apparently unchallenged by the organisers or other marchers. As usual, when we re-publish material, it should go without saying that we don’t necessarily agree with all the article’s contents or endorse all the politics of the author.:

From Richard Black (via Facebook)

15 October 2014:

Tonight I had the misfortune to attend the inaugural Palestine Society event here in Oxford. I went with Sapan and Jonathan out of a mixture of open mindedness and intellectual curiosity.

What I heard and saw genuinely shocked me. I’ve heard a lot in my time but this was by far the worst event I have ever attended. I can only describe it as a two hour hate fest of the variety described in George Orwell’s ‘1984.’ It went from the downright idiotic to the explicitly anti-Semitic – and often both. I heard a girl complain about the evils of ‘Zionist’ control in her native America – she even attacked ‘Zionists’ for controlling the make up she wore! No one challenged this girl’s delusions: they only reassured her that fighting Zionism must remain paramount. I heard numerous people glorify the ‘right of the resistance’ and reject non-violent tactics, even including an Oxford academic on the panel (Karma Nabulsi).

I had a question of my own. I read to the panel a quotation from John Molyneux, a theorist from the Socialist Workers’ Party;

“To put the matter as starkly as possible: from the standpoint of Marxism and international socialism an illiterate, conservative, superstitious Muslim Palestinian peasant who supports Hamas is more progressive than an educated liberal atheist Israeli who supports Zionism (even critically).”

I then added – “I’d be interested to know what the members of the panel think about this mode of analysis. Do they support what I consider to be a totally irrational – and dangerous – position?”

Not only did the panelists evade my question – Avi Shlaim, Karma Nabulsi and Barnaby Raine – to my horror, they actually agreed with its sentiment. Mr Raine, a student at Wadham College and a student activist, mocked me by saying that “anyone would stand up for the oppressed against an oppressor.” It should also be noted that Mr Raine noticeably hesitated when I put up my hand – he looked everywhere around the room before reluctantly taking my question. This person excuses the most morally reprehensible actions. He practically fetishises totalitarianism.

It got worse. Near the end of the talk, a local PSC activist defended Molyneux’s remarks by arguing that he’d rather be a Medieval, backward Chassidic Jew in the Warsaw Ghetto than a cultured German in a Nazi uniform. A sizable proportion of the room – hundreds of people – applauded this awful anti-Semitic distortion of history and trivialization of the Holocaust.

I am aware this status is long and most students couldn’t care less about student politics. However, I think it’s important that all students know that here, in 21st Century Britain, at one of the best universities in the world, political extremism is flourishing. Whereas far right fascists are, rightly, tarred and made into social pariahs, their equivalents on the far left get away with it time and time again. These are the totalitarians in our midst.

I have done what I can. I tried exposing rampant anti-Semitism in the Palestine Society at the start of this year and I was treated with ridicule. It’s time to take this stuff seriously. I saw many freshers at this event – freshers whose minds have been poisoned and given a wholly false narrative which demonises one people at the expense of the other, one that demonises the forces of peace and rewards the actions of hate and terrorism. I saw a room of intelligent, perhaps highly naive students, express the most hideous and morally warped trash. I saw no effort to condemn outright anti-Semitic prejudice when it was expressed. I saw pure intellectual fascism – people attending a talk to confirm their prejudices, and actively ostracising those that disagree with them.

I cannot think of a worse introduction to Oxford for incoming students to this University. Anyone who genuinely cares about Palestinians – whether in the West Bank or Gaza, or elsewhere in the Middle East or the diaspora – should stay the hell away from Oxford University’s Palestine Society. And remember that all it takes for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.

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Galloway opposes the very existence of Israel

October 16, 2014 at 11:30 am (anti-semitism, Asshole, Champagne Charlie, Galloway, islamism, israel, Middle East, MPs, national liberation, palestine, reactionay "anti-imperialism")

Many people were surprised to note that amongst those MPs who didn’t support the motion to recognise Palestine, was George Galloway. I have not been able to ascertain whether Galloway turned up to abstain, or whether (much more likely for such a poltroon) he simply didn’t turn up at all.

Here, Galloway explains his position, which boils down to the fact that his hatred of Israel takes precedence over his (supposed) support for Palestinian national rights. All this filthy charlatan’s past claims to support two states and a democratic solution is now exposed as so much bluster:

I have been urged by a number of my constituents to support a motion being debated and voted on in parliament on Monday “that this House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel”.

As many probably know the Palestinian cause has been central to my political activity for the last 40 years. I appreciate the good intentions many have in urging me to support this motion.

However, unfortunately I cannot support this motion as it accepts recognition of the state of Israel, does not define borders of either state or address the central question of the right of return of the millions of Palestinians who have been forced to live outside Palestine.

Israel was a state born in 1948 out of the blood of the Palestinians who were hounded from their land. Since then it has grabbed ever more land from the Palestinian people. In the last five years it has twice launched murderous assaults on the Palestinian people of Gaza, some 1.8 million people crammed into what is in effect a prison camp. In the wake of the most recent war on Gaza, Israel has announced its biggest land grab in the Occupied West Bank so far. Israel has defied UN resolution after UN resolution with impunity because of the continued backing of Western countries and, above all, the US.

I continue to support the only realistic solution, one democratic and secular state, called Israel-Palestine or Palestine-Israel. The proposed two-state solution is to all intents and purposes dead and is only used in order to provide Israel further breathing space to consolidate the illegal settlements and expand its land grab further.

For these reasons, I am afraid I cannot support this motion and will abstain on Monday.

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The Anti-Anti-Semitism of Fools

September 2, 2014 at 5:17 pm (Anti-Racism, anti-semitism, left, posted by JD)

Cross post By Eric Lee

I have just come back from attending a large demonstration in central London [on Sunday -JD] protesting the rise of anti-Semitism in the UK.

The demonstration was organised by a new group called the Campaign Against Antisemitism. It was backed by all the major Jewish organisations in Britain, including the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council, and many others. Nearly a thousand people signed up to attend the demo on Facebook; it looked to me like there at least that number there. The crowd seemed overwhelmingly Jewish.

Now if this had been a demonstration against racism, organized by the leadership of the Black communities in Britain, I can guarantee you that a wide range of Left groups would have been there to show their solidarity. You would have found assorted Trotskyists and others selling their newspapers, handing out leaflets and showing that they stood shoulder-to-shoulder with an ethnic minority group struggling against racist assaults, while busily trying to recruit new members.

But at this demonstration, I didn’t see a single left group of any kind with an obvious presence. There may have been individual socialists – like myself – there; but there were no banners, newspapers, or flyers.

The Jewish community seemed to be very much on its own. As if it alone could sense the danger.

On the face of it, this is odd. The rise of anti-Semitism in Britain and across Europe is well documented. Even the Muslim Council of Britain seems to acknowledge this problem in the joint declaration it issued last week together with the Board of Deputies calling for a joint fight against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

The eloquent Owen Jones addressed the problem in a recent column for the Guardian. Entitled “Anti-Jewish hatred is rising – we must see it for what it is”, Jones wrote that “there really is plenty of antisemitism that must be confronted.” And he then went on to point to rising anti-Semitism on the far Right in Greece. And Jew-hatred among the far-Rightists in Hungary. And of course anti-Semitism on the French far Right, in the form of the National Front.

But not a word about anti-Semitism in the UK. And of course no mention of anti-Semitism in Muslim communities, or the Left.

Jones is possibly unaware of the long history of anti-Semitism on the Left, a history that goes back to very earliest days of our movement. August Bebel, the great leader of German Social Democracy, famously called anti-Semitism “the socialism of fools”. (Some scholars think that the quote is wrongly attributed to Bebel, but no matter – it was widely known more than a century ago.)

Classic anti-Semitic ideas like exaggerated notions of Jewish power and wealth grew in the fertile soil of the Left long before the Palestinian issue ever arose. Left anti-Semitism pre-dates the recent Gaza war by at least a century. It may flare up when the guns are firing in Gaza, but it is always there, a low flame that doesn’t extinguish.

People like Owen Jones, and many of those on the British Left who were so notably absent from today’s demonstration, seem prepared to see anti-Semitism everywhere but in front of their noses.

Their opposition to Jew-hatred may be called the “anti-anti-Semitism of fools” as it has nothing in common with a real fight against anti-Semitism.

As a result, they leave the Jewish community alone – or drive it into the arms of right-wing demagogues who are happy for any excuse to bash the Muslim community or the Left.

And it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Left should be in the forefront of the fight against anti-Semitism, should embrace that fight and claim it as our own. We should be helping to build widespread public support for that fight, and providing it with analysis and programme.

Instead, the Left sits by the sidelines, its head in the sand, muttering about “Golden Dawn” in Greece rather than actually fighting the poison of anti-Semitism here in the UK, and here on the Left.

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Russian and other fascists discard their UK “socialist” friends

September 1, 2014 at 6:17 pm (anti-semitism, apologists and collaborators, fascism, Jim D, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, stalinism, Stop The War)

Discarded: German, Murray and members of ‘Workers Power’ at the last London meeting of Useful Idiots For Putin and His Fascist Friends

Less than two months ago Richard Brenner (Workers Power) and Alan Freeman (Socialist Action) were feted in the Hotel Yalta-Intourist by assorted Russian fascists and ultra-nationalists at a conference about Ukraine. The same initiative, meeting again this weekend, was apparently without them.

The first conference produced a “Declaration” (full of worthy anti-fascist and anti-war verbiage, designed for a European/US left-liberal audience) and a “Manifesto” (which amounted to a programme to wipe Ukraine off the face of the earth, or at least to reduce it to the borders of pre-World-War-One Galicia).

Brenner defended his attendance at the conference on the grounds that “some of the people in the resistance are nationalists and socially reactionary on some (not all) questions.” As for the “Manifesto”, according to Brenner, “there is nothing reactionary in its practical proposals.”

(An astonishing conclusion, bearing in mind that the title of the Manifesto – “Manifesto of the Popular Front for the National Liberation of Ukraine, Novorossiya and Transcarpathian Rus’” – was itself a “practical proposal” for the dismemberment of Ukraine.)

This weekend’s conference in the same hotel was entitled “Russia, Ukraine, Novorossiya: Global Problems and Challenges”, and will launch what it calls the “Anti-Fascist (Anti-Maidan) Council of the Russian Federation”. (1)

The conference was organised by the “Co-ordination Centre for Novaya Rus’” – one of the organisations headed by Aleksei Anpilogov which ran the earlier conference attended by Brenner and Freeman.

Three of the conference’s listed speakers attended the earlier conference: Anpilogov, Vladimir Rogov and Pyotr Getsko. (Anpilogov can fairly be described as a nationalist-cum-fascist; the latter two are more ultra-nationalist/fascist-fellow-travellers.)

But this time they were not meeting with a couple of (possibly) useful idiots from the British left.

Keynote speakers at the conference included Igor Strelkov-Girkin and Alexander Borodai (respectively, former Defence Minister and former Prime Minister of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’). Both are members of the Izborsky Club, a Russian fascist ‘think tank’ headed up by Alexander Prokhanov and Alexander Dugin.

Sergei Glazyev (presidential aide to Putin, and a member of the Izborsky Club) also addressed the conference, as did Mikhail Delyagin (Russian academic and a member of the Izborsky Club).

Other speakers included Mikhail Sheremet (former head of the ‘Crimean Self-Defence’ which worked with the Russian military in the annexation of the Crimea, subsequently appointed Crimean Deputy Prime Minister) and Mateusz Piskorski:

“Piskorski is an open proponent of Nazism, a holocaust denier, and the author of articles in the portals “White World” and “I, A Russian”. He was the leading light of the Polish skinhead paper ‘Odala’, where he praised the Aryan race and Adolf Hitler.” (2)

Publicity for the conference states that it would be attended by “members of the Izborsky and Zinoviev Clubs”.

The latter Club is named after the late Soviet philosopher Alexander Zinoviev: an admirer of Stalin, a supporter of Milosevic, and an opponent of Western values. The Club is concerned with the restoration of “traditional Russian values”.

Also attending the conference was “parliamentary and government delegations from twelve European countries.” So far, only one of them has been named: Marton Dyondyoshi, a leading figure in the Hungarian far-right and particularly anti-semitic party Jobbik.

The list of speakers shows the hollowness of the expression “anti-fascist” in the context of this conference and its goal of setting up an “Anti-Fascist Council”.

(It is no less hollow in the context of: “Campaign in Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine”, to which Workers Power, Socialist Action and other more explicit brands of Stalinism are affiliated.)

There is nothing “anti-fascist” about the politics of the Izborsky Club members. There is nothing “anti-fascist” about the politics of Dyondyoshi. There is nothing “anti-fascist” about the politics of the French National Front (regularly praised on separatist websites).

“Anti-fascist”, in this context, is no more than a verbal fig-leaf to cover up for straightforward Russian-imperialist aggression against Ukraine.

And the fact that the organisers of the first Yalta conference have now organized this weekend’s event, inviting along sundry fascists, Hitler-admirers and anti-semites, tells you a lot about their own politics as well.

But for the likes of Worker’s Power, perhaps Jobbik should now also be classed as no more than “nationalists (who are) socially reactionary on some (not all) questions”?

1) http://delyagin.ru/news/81020-rossiya-ukraina-novorossiya-globalnyje-problemy-i-vyzovy.html
2) http://sz-n.com/2014/03/piskorski-head-of-international-observers-in-the-crimea-is-known-fascist-and-anti-semite/

Dale Street adds:

An International Congress of Fascists

Anton Shekhovtsov, an academic expert on European and Russian far right/fascist movements and ideology, has published the following list of participants in the conference (or invitees to it – it is unclear from current reports how many actually attended):

Nick Griffin (fascist British National Party, UK)

Márton Gyöngyösi (fascist Jobbik, Hungary)

Frank Creyelman (far right Vlaams Belang, Belgium)

Luc Michel (neo-Nazi Parti Communautaire National-Européen, Belgium)

Pavel Chernev (far right Ataka, Bulgaria)

Angel Djambazki (far right Bulgarsko Natsionalno Dvizhenie, Bulgaria)

Erkki Johan Bäckman (neo-Stalinist, Finland)

Giovanni Maria Camillacci (far right Lega Nord, Italy)

Roberto Fiore (fascist Forza Nuova, Italy)

Mateusz Piskorski (far right Samooborona, Poland)

Konrad Rękas (far right Samooborona, Poland)

Bartosz Bekier (neo-Nazi Falanga, Poland)

See: http://anton-shekhovtsov.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/1984-russian-and-european-fascists.html

A pro-separatist website (http://baltija.eu/news/read/39884) states that representatives of the French National Front were also due to attend the conference.

On the website of the pro-separatist “Izvestia” newspaper (http://izvestia.ru/news/575833) an article reports that attendees at the conference include Alexander Prokhanov and Alexander Dugin (Russian fascists) and Konstantin Zatulin (Russian ultra-nationalist and president of the, ahem, philanthropic fund “We Are All – Berkut”).

In early July Aleksei Anpilogov (fascist) organized an international conference to build support for the “anti-fascist resistance” in Ukraine, attended, inter alia, by Richard Brenner (Workers Power) and Alan Freeman (Socialist Action) of the British “Campaign in Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine”.

Now the same Aleksei Anpilogov (fascist) has organized another conference (same venue) to build support for the “anti-fascist resistance” in Ukraine, attended (if they turned up to the event) by fascists from throughout eastern and western Europe.

The BNP, Falanga, Forza Nuova, Jobbik, Lega Nord, Vlaams Belang, French National Front, Workers Power and Socialist Action – that’s a very broad campaign in solidarity with the “anti-fascist resistance” in Ukraine that Anpilogov is building.

See also: Comrade Coatesy:  http://tendancecoatesy.wordpress.com/2014/08/30/allegations-of-link-up-between-socialist-action-workers-power-and-russian-far-right/

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A fable of antisemitism: Howard Jacobson’s J

August 25, 2014 at 12:45 pm (anti-semitism, literature)

The cover of Howard Jacobson's latest novel

Guest post from Pink Prosecco

Like most fictions of the near future, J invites the reader to piece together the missing bits of the puzzle, trace the path which has turned our world into the novel’s world. We learn early on that this isn’t going to be an easy task. “It was a good job that history books were hard to come by, that diaries were hidden or destroyed and that libraries put gentle obstacles in the way of research.” (Kindle edition: 2%). But we soon receive hints of some cataclysmic event (referred to as WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED) as well as clues about the society which has developed in its aftermath.

Although the novel’s biggest question is WHAT HAPPENED? I found myself puzzling over another question:- what kind of science fiction novel is this exactly? Are we meant to read it as a believable dystopia, a society which could be extrapolated from current trends? Satirical and whimsical notes (such as the universal adoption of Jewish surnames by Britons) might suggest not. But what about the central premise, the implication that in ten years or so there might be a pogrom of British Jews?

By chance, just after writing the previous sentence, I flicked over to Twitter and noticed something which captured very well my uncertain response to this question. “Do Jews have future in #EU? If #Holocaust is bench mark: they do. If fear of wearing in public kipa or Star of David: they have not!”  If Jacobson was aiming for realism, then a future Britain in which pretty much all observant Jews (and some secular ones too) have quietly moved somewhere else might have been nearer the mark. By contrast, even though he’s a wingnut Eurabian fantasist, Dan Simmons’ sf novel Flashback, which presents a future world in which Israel has been wiped out by a nuclear strike from Iran, is actually a little (I hope just a little) more plausible than Jacobson’s dystopia.

But of course a dystopia doesn’t have to be realistic in order to work and have something important to say. The Handmaid’s Tale is as implausible as J, and so is Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Perhaps J, like Atwood’s novel, should be read as a fable, a comment on our society’s apparent refusal to learn the lessons of the Holocaust, let alone the earlier history of antisemitism. Many elements in the novel’s hint suggestively at the relationship between antisemitism, on the one hand, and its apparent opposite – philosemitism, or simply a horrified avoidance of antisemitism. Towards the beginning of the novel a character speaks of looking for what is ‘left over’ (10%) and refers to ‘business dangerously unfinished’  but it is not at this point fully clear whether Jews are his target or those who might kill them. The pattern of confusion over this issue, the elision between guilt, horror and relief in society’s responses to WHAT HAPPENED seems to reflect the way the Holocaust is weaponised by some bigots against Jews today. The horror of the past is acknowledged, but only in order to create a new vector for antisemitism. This observation seems aimed at Jews, but could just as easily be aimed at the clever mutations and masks traceable in antisemitic discourse. ‘Too many of society’s ills were the result of the wrong sort of people with the wrong sort of beliefs finding ways of recycling themselves, no matter how much effort went into their disposal.’ (34%)

Indeed the novel seems to offer a whole series of oblique reflections on antisemitism. When Kevern is convinced someone has searched his house, Ailinn’s friend Ez is quick to offer soothing reassurances that imply he is being hypersensitive. The context (ostensibly) has nothing to do with antisemitism, but the anxiety/scepticism dynamic can be mapped onto the contrasting ways in which people respond to manifestations of antisemitism at a time when people seem increasingly emboldened to express their warped views. See for example this recent statement from a South African trade unionist, or the calmly chilling pronouncements from these Gaza protestors.  But, for some, almost any expression of anxiety is read as paranoid overreaction or a dishonest move, aimed at protecting Israel from criticism. I approached this novel with some reluctance because I found The Finkler Question overrated and politically crude. But science fiction proves a good medium for Jacobson’s message, and J, although still perhaps too obviously polemical in places, is a subtler and more unsettling exploration of antisemitism.

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Stop the War and Sami Ramadani’s loony conspiracy theory: ISIS is “serving Israeli and US … objectives”

August 18, 2014 at 5:49 pm (anti-semitism, apologists and collaborators, conspiracy theories, ex-SWP, iraq, Middle East, plonker, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Stop The War)

Sami Ramadani: idiot and conspiracy theorist

By Dan Katz

The Stop the War Campaign is misnamed. To the naïve it is a happy, pacifist campaign. However the splinter of the SWP that runs it (Counterfire) is very far from being pacifist, and it would be far more honest for the campaign to be renamed, “Stop this War and Start a Different  One”.

Counterfire – and unpleasant/idiotic friends like Sami Ramadani, who writes on the Stop the War site – would be very happy if everyone in the Middle East ganged up and attacked Israel. Or the US.

Apparently - according to Ramadani, and despite all known facts and common sense – Islamic State (ISIS/IS) is actually serving Israeli interests. The evidence for this?

It seems the “ISIS Caliph [leader] and Israeli war criminal Netanyahu declared the death of Sykes-Picot borders between Iraq and Syria on almost the same day.” You might think this is a statement of fact, but not Mr Ramadani who finds the alleged coincidence highly suspicious.

More than that, the leader of ISIS/IS, doesn’t “mention Israel or its war crimes in Palestine.” It must be so disappointing to Ramadani that IS writes: “We haven’t given orders to kill the Israelis and the Jews. The war against the nearer enemy, those who rebel against the faith, is more important.”

In other words IS is quite busy, currently, slaughtering Shia and Christians. However, this isn’t quite the same as “serving Israeli interests”, is it?

At a rally in Holland a couple of days ago IS supporters chanted, “Death to the Jews!” Does any sane person think ISIS will not get round to Israel after it has polished off the Shia?

Ramadani claims, “Israel’s ambassador in Washington explained why Israel and the west should back ISIS ‘bad guys’ against other ‘bad guys’.” The evidence for this? Ramadani links to an article by a man called Christof Lehmann. There are a few problems with this. The first is Christof Lehmann is a tiresome conspiracy nut, approved by US ultra-right “libertarians.” The second is Lehmann’s article is based on the word of an anonymous source ‘close to a Lebanese billionaire’ who claims backing for ISIS was decided at a meeting of a US think-tank, months ago (a thinktank which controls US policy?). And finally, that the article doesn’t mention an Israeli ambassador at all.

Then Ramadani, having convinced himself, writes, “It is clear to me that ISIS is serving Israeli and US economic, political and military objectives in the region.”

Which just leaves a small problem: why is the US currently bombing ISIS/IS?

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The Guardian and antisemitism

August 14, 2014 at 6:30 am (anti-semitism, AWL, From the archives, Guardian, israel, Jim D, media, Middle East, publications, reactionay "anti-imperialism", relativism, stalinism, zionism)

It should not need saying, but it does: people can be as angry as they like at the Israeli government, but to attack a synagogue, threaten children at a Jewish school, or throw a brick through the window of a Jewish grocery store is vile and contemptible racism. It cannot be excused by reference to Israeli military behaviour. The two are and should be kept utterly distinct.

Some may counter that that is impossible, given the strong attachment of most Jews to Israel. But this is less complicated than it looks. Yes, Jews feel bound up with Israel, they believe in its right to survive and thrive. But that does not mean they should be held responsible for its policy, on which some may disagree and over which they have no control.

Nor should they be required to declare their distance from Israel as a condition for admission into polite society. We opposed such a question being put to all Muslims after 9/11 and, though the cases are not equivalent, the same logic applies here. This is a test for those who take a strong stance in support of the Palestinians, but in truth it is a test for all of us.

The Guardian has recently carried a number of pieces denouncing antisemitism, including the editorial quoted from above, a powerful piece by Jon Henley on the rise in antisemitic attacks in Europe, a polemic entitled ‘Please don’t tell me what I should think about Israel’ by self-described “liberal American Jew” Hadley Freeman, and a confused but well-intentioned ramble by Owen Jones, who makes some good points but still seems to think that (often) “the charge of antisemitism is concocted” to silence critics of Israeli policy. Still, whatever its weaknesses, Jones’ s piece is further evidence of the Guardian taking antisemitism seriously.

Why the Guardian‘s recent concern with antisemitism comes as something of a surprise is because the paper itself has, in the past, been accused of downplaying the dangers of antisemitism, and even of promoting it, due to its often extremely simplistic Middle Eastern coverage, its promotion of ‘one-state’ (sic) propaganda and crude ‘anti-Zionism,’ due in large part to the the influence of the paper’s Stalinist associate editor Seumas Milne and its middle east editor Ian Black. The criticisms have not only come from the right. At the time of the last Gaza war (2009), Sean Matgamna of the Alliance for Workers Liberty wrote the following open letter to editor Alan Rusbridger. It’s worth republishing now because the underlying political problems it identifies are still commonplace on the liberal-left, including – as Owen Jones’s piece arguably demonstrates – the Guardian itself:

Dear Alan Rusbridger,

The Guardian is the “house organ” of most of the non-Muslim people who took part in the two big demonstrations during the Gaza war. A vigorous campaign by the Guardian against anti-semitism on the “left” might do much good.

On Saturday 7 February, the Guardian carried an editorial, “Language and History”, denouncing anti-semitism and specifically the “anti-Zionist” anti-semitism that is now commonplace, remarking on the growth of anti-semitic incidents in Britain (now on average, one per day, and increasing).

Unfortunately, the editorial seriously misdefined the realities of what it discussed, and pussyfooted around the issue.

“Some extremists on the right and possibly [sic] the left might claim [that] the government is in the pocket of a ‘Jewish lobby’. There is no ‘Jewish lobby’ in the conspiratorial sense that the slur implies, and to assert that there is can only be the result of the kind of racism that has scarred Europe from tsarist Russia to the fascists and Stalinists of the 1930s through to the jihadists now. To present all Jewish people as coterminous with Israel and its supporters is a mistake with potentially terrible consequences. It aligns ethnicity with a political perspective, and it is simply racist”.

Indeed. The editorial records the Government’s statement that “unlike other forms of racism, antisemitism is being accepted within parts of society instead of being condemned.”

And the left? “Some within its ranks now risk sloppily allowing their horror of Israeli actions to blind them to antisemitism…. Last month, a rally in defence of the people of Gaza that included verbal attacks on the so-called ‘Nazi tendencies’ of Israel was followed by actual attacks on Jewish targets in north London”.

The editorial adds that such things as “kill Arabs” graffiti in Gaza are “chilling”. And? “The style in which that is condemned must not create the climate that allows scrawling ‘kill Jews’ on synagogues in Manchester”. The style….

The problem with all this is that it is so shot through with understatement that it seriously misrepresents the state of things. The demonstrations on Gaza “included verbal attacks on the so-called ‘Nazi tendencies’ of Israel”? Included? As we reported (www.workersliberty.org/gazademos) the demonstrations were entirely dominated by placards equating the Star of David and the Nazi swastika, Israel with South Africa, Gaza with the Nazi mass murder of Jews, or chants about a “Palestine” stretching “from the river to the sea”.

All the platform speakers, in their varying notes, tones annd degrees, proclaimed the same sort of politics. The one-time British diplomat Craig Murray explicitly called for the abolition of Israel and the rolling-back of Middle East history to before 1948. An SWP organiser on the megaphone at one of the marches was shouting that Israeli Jews should “go back to New York”.

The Guardian says that the left “possibly” subscribes to notions of an all-controlling “Jewish lobby”. Possibly? Moshe Machover came pretty close to saying it outright in the recent exchanges in this paper – and he is one of the most sophisticated of the “absolute anti-Zionists”.

Mr Rusbridger, the root and core of modern anti-Semitism is the denial of Israel’s right to exist and defend itself. That inexorably leads on to a radical political hostility to most Jews alive.

Of course Jews and Israel are not co-terminous. They could hardly be! It is a fact that all but a few Jews — revolutionary socialists, Neturei Karta, etc. — feel connected with Israel, however critically, and however much they abhor such things as the onslaught on Gaza. How could a people with their history not have such attitudes?

The “demand” that the self-proclaimed left has made on British Jews — very aggressively on university campuses, for example – has been that they repudiate Israel, that they not be Zionists, that they accept that Israel is “racist” in essence and has no right to exist.

The denial of Israel’s right to exist, predominant on the self-proclaimed left, is the precondition for the bizarre alliance of so much of the left with political Islam (to give it its proper name, Islamic clerical fascism). It is what allows the self-proclaimed left, political Islam, and Islamic communalists to merge and meld almost indistinguishably on occasions like the Gaza demonstrations.

Inevitably that radical political hostility to most Jews alive taps into the great half-buried septic reservoirs of old anti-semitism — into old racist, religious, and nondescript crank anti-semitism.

The Guardian Editorial writes of Nazi and Stalinist anti-Semitism in the 1930s. The worst Stalinist anti-semitism – from which come such things as the Stalinist-typical lunacy of equating Zionism and Nazism – erupted in the late 1940s and early 50s. The poisonous account of modern Jewish and Zionist history in the 20th century, which is dominant on the “left”, originates there, in Stalinism.

These old ideas of High Stalinist “anti-Zionism”/ anti-Semitism are rampant in the pro-Palestinian movement because they have conquered so much of the Trotskyism-rooted “left”. Young people who, to their credit, want to do something about such things as Gaza, come under the sway of the “smash Israel”, supposedly “pro-Palestinian” campaigns. The are taught ro reject a “Two State” settlement.

For the Guardian editorial to say that the difficulty lies in “the style” in which specific Israeli actions are criticised and condemned is simply preposterous! Whatever the “style” — and it varies from the seemingly reasonable to froth-at-the-mouth, open anti-semitism — the proposal to put an end to Israel leads inexorably to the things which the Guardian condemns, and to far worse.

The Guardian Editorial talks of the anti-semitism of the “jihadists”. The point is that the politics dominant in the Gaza demonstrations were entirely in line with the jihadists and their anti-semitism.

The Guardian has influence within the broad left. It is a pity you do not use that influence to tell the left the unpalatable truth about the state it’s in, that you don’t hold the mirror up, force people who should know better to see what they have let themselves become.

Yours, Solidarity

Sean Matgamna

Below: different faces of contemporary antisemitism:

The Argus: Synagogue is sprayed with pro-Gaza graffiti

God_bless_hitler

 
 

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The conflict in Gaza; some thoughts about tropes

August 6, 2014 at 12:38 pm (anti-semitism, israel, Uncategorized, zionism)

Guest post from Pink Prosecco

A few days ago a participant in one of the countless online debates about Gaza made a reference to the phenomenon of “trope inflation”.  His particular point was that the term “blood libel” is used too vaguely and too freely.  The blood libel is a motif, or trope, within antsemitic discourse, and refers to the belief that the blood of gentile children is used in Jewish rituals. 

It seems reasonable to use the term “blood libel” of any image or text which directly references eating children – this cartoon for example, where the visual echo of the blood in the wine adds to the effect of bloodthirstiness.

The many rumours about Israel’s use of body parts may also, I think, be seen as a kind of modern version of the blood libel. And I can understand why the repeated references to “child murderers” in Mark Steel’s recent rant made many invoke the blood libel trope in their angry responses.

But criticisms of Israel’s actions in Gaza, even ones which seem unfair, shouldn’t be characterized as “blood libel” without good reason, or the usefulness of the trope is devalued.  Here’s a clear example of an unearned usage – the author never demonstrates why the phrase “blood libel” should appear in the title.

I’d like to emphasise that there seems nothing dishonest or manipulative in the author’s odd choice of title, a charge often leveled by zealous anti-zionists against supporters of Israel. In fact the article documents a very serious instance of antisemitism, drawing on more than one other significant trope but blood libel isn’t one of them.

Water is a cause of conflict in the Middle East, and it is often asserted that Israel deprives Palestinians of their fair share.  Within such discussions the waters are sometimes muddied, as it were, by another antisemitic trope, the old belief that Jews poison wells.   The Wikipedia entry on well-poisoning includes a sustained account of this Medieval trope and concludes references to alleged contemporary incidents of Israeli settlers contaminating the water supply.  It’s hard to know quite how to respond to this convergence, as of course just because something is a trope doesn’t mean it is necessarily always false.  I’ve seen examples of such stories being souped up in a lurid way, but also times where “trope inflation” has led to a reasonably dispassionate commenter being accused of antisemitism.

Another antisemitic trope is the conflation of Zionism with Nazism.  The possibilities are endless – and almost always best avoided. But some Zionists do stress-test this rule of thumb.  Moshe Feiglin’s plan for Gaza made the Mail declare that “Israeli official calls for concentration camps in Gaza”.  Technically, this may be accurate. But because the phrase “concentration camp” is now so associated with Nazism and seen pretty much as a synonym for “death camp”, I wouldn’t have used that expression myself.  But his proposals are certainly outrageous. 

To sum up – whether you are attacking antisemitism or Israel’s policies (or both) it’s best to use precise and proportionate terms.  If you feel strongly about the topic then you should be all the more confident about relying on facts and analysis Ð and seek to avoid giving your opponents a means of deflection.

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