Above: the explanation?
All too predicatably, the usual suspects have rushed to explain the Woolwich killing by means of the so-called ‘blowback‘ argument (utilised with varying degrees of obvious gloating). Comrade Clive dealt with this back in the immediate aftermath of the 2005 7/7 bombings. Obviously, the 7/7 attacks were somewhat different to what happened in Woolwich (though it seems likely that the Woolwich perpetrators intended to commit ‘suicide by police’), but I think Clive’s essential case remains incontrovertible – JD:
‘Blowback’: a banal non-explanation
Just a note on the ‘blowback’ argument, which is put a bit less crudely in today’s Guardian by Gary Younge. Whereas the SWP/Galloway version of this just ritually nods at condemnation of the bombings, Younge seems more sincere, ‘to explain is not to condone’, etc. And, of course, presented with a ‘war on terror’ which is supposed to reduce terrorist attacks against us, it is not unreasonable to point out that, so far, this has not succeeded (I think, logically, this argument only runs so far, since nobody has suggested that the ‘war on terror’ will prevent terrorism until it is actually won; but there is some rhetorical force to this point).
And of course, if you think of the Beslan massacre, for example: you simply cannot account for the background to these events without explaining about Russian action in Chechnya. Clearly, Chechen Islamists did not materialise from nowhere, and there is a context to their existence. The same is true of Islamists elsewhere. Or to put this another way: of course if there were no real grievances to which Islamists could point, they would not be able to recruit anybody. Hamas would not be able to recruit young people and tell them to tie explosives to their chests and climb aboard buses, if the Palestinians were not actually oppressed and suffering grave injustices at the hands of the Israeli state.
But if this is all that is being said, surely it is banal. I suppose there may be some right wing crazies who think Hamas has grown among Palestinians purely because Arabs are bloodthirsty masochists or somesuch nonsense. But obviously, Hamas refers to real things in the real world to build its base, or it wouldn’t have one.
And the observation that there are actual grievances to which Islamists point as a way to recruit (or even, conceivably, that it is these grievances which motivate particular individuals to carry out atrocities) tells you absolutely nothing about the political character of the movement to which they are being recruited.
Of course it’s true, up to a point, that that the London bombs are connected to the British presence in Iraq. But this in itself is not an explanation for them. So if the ambition is to ‘explain but not condone’, you need to explain why people are recruited to these organisations – ones that want to blow up ordinary people on their way to work – rather than other ones. That bombs have dropped on Iraq and Afghanistan (or Jenin, or wherever) simply is not an explanation.
It would not be an explanation even if the organisations in question were identifiably nationalist, as opposed to salafi-jihadist. There have been plenty of colonial situations in the past which have produced armed struggle but not bombings of this kind.
But in any case they are not nationalist in the old sense, but something different – something whose political programme is not concerned with this or that grievance (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc) but with restoring the Caliphate, instituting sharia law, punishing apostates, and so on. Moreover – and this seems to me very important indeed – as far as the most extreme of these groups go, like the one presumably responsible for 7/7 – they are what can reasonably be called death cults. If the aim is explanation, then you need to tell us why this backward-looking death cult has prevailed over the old-style nationalists (not to mention more leftist movements – just to type the words tells you the fall of Stalinism has something to do with it), and so on.
And once you have identified the political character of these movements – what do you propose to do about it? We can withdraw from Iraq. But if you think withdrawal from Iraq will mean the jihadists will disappear from the Iraqi political landscape, I think you are deceiving yourself. There are much deeper social grievances which animate the militant Islamist movements, to do with the exclusion of the middle class from economic and political power, the decline of the old social classes, etc. Those social questions need to be addressed. And they need to be addressed by radical, democratic movements in those societies.
And, of course, Islamists – of all types – are the militant enemies of democratic movements and of democracy itself. Either you recognise the need to fight alongside democratic movements against the militant Islmists, in Iraq and elsewhere (including within Muslim communities here, of course) or…what? Even the more sophisticated blowback argument of the Gary Younge variety gives no sense of identifying the militant Islamists as our enemy – the enemy of socialists, of democrats, of feminists, of women in general, of lesbians and gay men, of trade unionists, and so on, both in the ‘Muslim world’ and on our doorstep. It criticises the method of fighting terror adopted by our governments, but as though there was simply no need to fight it at all. Read the rest of this entry »
Matt Hill, writing at the New Statesman website, makes some very interesting comments on the Hawking “boycott” and the BDS movement in general. It’s well worth reading the entire article, but this section is especially telling:
The problem with the BDS campaign is that the message it sends Israel is anything but clear – and, as a result, it risks being counterproductive. In his letter to the conference’s organisers, Hawking wrote about his concerns about “prospects for a peace settlement”, saying that “the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster”. But Israel’s supporters claim that the BDS movement has little to do with the occupation, peace, and government policy, and is instead intended to bring into question the Jewish state’s right to exist.
It’s true that Israel’s supporters throw the word ‘delegitimisation‘ around to portray fair-minded criticism of Israel as invidious and sinister. But when it comes to BDS, the fact is that they have a point. The BDS movement doesn’t have a single leadership with stated goals, but most of the biggest groups within it make little secret of their preferred outcome to the conflict. Instead of a two-state solution, they support a single, Palestinian-majority state that would mean the end of Israel’s existence. Don’t take my word for it. Norman Finkelstein, the heroic pro-Palestinian author and activist, recently launched a blistering attack on the BDS movement, telling an interviewer: “[The Israelis] say ‘They’re not talking about rights. They want to destroy Israel.’ And in fact, I think they’re right. . . . There’s a large segment of the movement that wants to eliminate Israel.”
And just in case any readers haven’t yet seen the clip of Finkelstein (someone this blog would not describe as “heroic”) accusing the BDS movement of fundamental dishonesty about Israel, here it is:
Guest post by Pink Prosecco
Stephen Hawking, explaining his decision to boycott the Shimon Peres Presidential Conference in Israel, describes what he had planned to say:
“Had I attended, I would have stated my opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster.”
That is a strong statement, but it’s not an eccentric or hateful view – and you certainly don’t have to be an enemy of Israel to share it. Yet although I can understand why some (particularly Palestinians) have urged Hawking to boycott this event, I very much regret his final decision. There are many countries which would not have allowed him to strike his planned dissenting note – and where requests for solidarity from those considering themselves oppressed could not even have been articulated. Here is Omar Barghouti’s response:
But Palestinians welcomed Hawking’s decision. “Palestinians deeply appreciate Stephen Hawking’s support for an academic boycott of Israel,” said Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. “We think this will rekindle the kind of interest among international academics in academic boycotts that was present in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.”
I believe Barghouti is still registered as a PhD student at Tel Aviv University. That doesn’t mean that he can’t speak out against the injustices of occupation, checkpoints, detention or any other topic, or indeed call for boycott. Clearly he can. And that fact in itself might make one wonder, not whether Israel should be protected from robust criticism over its policies, but whether it is really the one country in the world which deserves to be the focus of such a very concerted boycott campaign.
By David Hirsh
Reblogged from Engage
“When someone is honestly 55% right, that’s very good and there’s no use wrangling. And if someone is 60% right, it’s wonderful, it’s great luck, and let him thank God. But what’s to be said about 75% right? Wise people say this is suspicious. Well, and what about 100% right? Whoever say he’s 100% right is a fanatic, a thug, and the worst kind of rascal.”
(A old Jew of Galicia, from: The Captive Mind, by Czeslaw Milosz)
A co-ordinated campaign by Ronnie Fraser, his lawyers and his witnesses to try to intimidate critics of Israel with an invented accusation of antisemitism would indeed be vile and disgraceful. This is what the Tribunal thought was happening, and this explains the unusually intemperate and emotional language employed in its dismissal of Fraser’s case.
Above: David Hirsh
The Tribunal found against Fraser on everything: on technicalities, on legal argument, and on every significant issue of substance and of fact. The Tribunal found everything the UCU said in its defence to be persuasive and it found nothing said by Fraser or any of his witnesses to be of any value. The culture, the practices and the norms inside the union were found to be not antisemitic, either in intent or in effect. Indeed, everything that Fraser and his witnesses experienced as antisemitic, the Tribunal judged to have been entirely appropriate. In particular what was appropriate was the way that union staff, rules, structures and bodies operated. Fraser said that there was a culture in which antisemitism was tolerated but the Tribunal did not accept that even one out of the very many stories that it was told was an indicator of antisemitism.
Instead the Tribunal found that “at heart” the case represented “an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means… ” (para 178). What political end? The only possible political end is an attempt to defeat or silence campaigns against Israel. This would certainly be impermissible in an Employment Tribunal, which is rightly concerned with issues such as antisemitism, outlined in the Equalities Act.
Of course the fight against antisemitism is also political. But this cannot be the kind of politics to which the Tribunal objected. If it was, then it would find every allegation of racism, sexism or homophobia to be impermissible, because political. Opposition to antisemitic politics has always been central to campaigns against antisemitism.
The Tribunal makes clear that it meant that Fraser was trying to mobilize a bad-faith allegation of antisemitism in order to silence good-faith critics of Israel when it goes on in the next paragraph: “We are also troubled by the implications of the claim. Underlying it we sense a worrying disregard for pluralism, tolerance and freedom of expression….” The Tribunal says that Fraser was trying to fool it into outlawing and branding criticism of Israel as antisemitic. Of course, every racist claims that anti-racists disregard their right to free speech. True, sometimes the Tribunal appears to veer towards the view that those who complain of antisemitism are simply over-sensitive and lacking in objective judgment. But the central findings, that this is politics dressed up as litigation, and that this is an attempt to disallow free criticism, are allegations of bad faith.
Anybody who has been following the story within the union will be aware that the response of the Tribunal is precisely the same as the response with which opponents of antisemitism and of the boycott campaign were faced within the union. The Tribunal backs the union’s way of thinking about antisemitism 100%. The experience of going to the Tribunal, it turns out, is more of the same experience about which Fraser appealed to the Tribunal in the first place.
Fraser said that the key mode of intimidation in the UCU was a constant allegation of bad faith – the allegation that Jews who say they feel antisemitism are actually lying for Israel. The Tribunal replied that the Jews who say they feel antisemitism are actually lying for Israel – they are dressing up a political end as a problem of racist exclusion. In other words, the Tribunal answers that the accusation of bad faith made against Jews who say that they experienced antisemitism is appropriate. The Tribunal employed The Livingstone Formulation.
Fraser argued that there were a large number of incidents which should be understood as exemplifying a culture whereby antisemitism was accepted as normal within the union. Fraser called 34 witnesses to tell the Tribunal about the antisemitism which they had seen. I want to start my own response to the judgment by outlining a number of the incidents which the Tribunal were told about in detail:
In 2006 Ronnie Fraser stood as a delegate to NATFHE conference (a predecessor to UCU). It was said at the regional meeting that Fraser could not be a delegate because he was a Zionist and therefore a racist. NATFHE held an investigation and found that this statement had not been antisemitic.
Israel has been relentlessly condemned at every UCU Congress, often by motions to boycott Israel. There were no motions to boycott any other states.
The Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism reported that the boycott debates were likely to cause difficulties for Jewish academics and students, to exclude Jews from academic life and to have a detrimental effect on Jewish Studies. UCU responded that these allegations were made to stop people from criticizing Israel. 76 members of the UCU published a critique of the union’s response, but the union took no notice. John Mann MP told the Tribunal that UCU had been unique among those criticized by the inquiry in its refusal to listen.
Sean Wallis, a local UCU official, said that anti-boycott lawyers were financed by “bank balances from Lehman Brothers that can’t be tracked down”. Ronnie Fraser asked him whether he had indeed made this antisemitic claim. Wallis admitted having said it. But it was Fraser who, for the crime of asking, was found to have violated union rules concerning “rude or offensive communications”.
Gert Weisskirchen, responsible for combating antisemitism for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) asked the union leadership for a meeting to discuss antisemitism relating to the boycott. The union did not meet with him. When 39 union members protested publicly, the union ignored them.
The union invited South African Trade Unionist Bongani Masuku to speak at a pro-boycott conference in London. Masuku was known to be under investigation by the South African Human Rights Commission for antisemitic hate speech. Here is an example of what he had said: “Bongani says hi to you all as we struggle to liberate Palestine from the racists, fascists and Zionists who belong to the era of their friend Hitler! We must not apologise, every Zionist must be made to drink the bitter medicine they are feeding our brothers and sisters in Palestine”. Masuku also said that vigilante action would be taken against Jewish families suspected of having members serving in the Israeli military, and that Jews who continued to stand up for Israel should “not just be encouraged but forced to leave South Africa” The union ought to have known Masuku’s record. Ronnie Fraser told the union about Masuku’s record. Masuku was found guilty in South Africa of hate speech before speaking as a guest of UCU. And months later, UCU Congress explicitly rejected a motion to dissociate itself from Masuku’s “repugnant views”.
The Activists’ List is an email list hosted by the union.
Ronnie Fraser argued on the list that there was no absolute blockade of Gaza. In response, another union member said that he was like the Nazis at Theresenstadt. The union found that there was nothing inappropriate about this comment. Read the rest of this entry »
What description would fit the refusal to allow people to run, simply because of their gender? What would you call such fundamental discrimination and denial of basic human rights to 50% of the population? Surely not ”apartheid” ?
Gaza marathon: UN cancels race over Hamas ban on women
From the BBC website:
The UN agency which organises Gaza’s marathon has cancelled the event, blaming the refusal of the territory’s governing Islamist Hamas movement to allow women to run.
The marathon was scheduled for Sunday and would have been Gaza’s third.
Hamas said the marathon could go ahead if “local traditions” were respected.
Conservative elements in Gaza have sometimes complained about mixing between the sexes, especially in schools and at sporting events.
The UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) said in a statement that it had taken “the disappointing decision” after “discussions with the authorities in Gaza who have insisted that no women should participate”.
Unrwa “is working on a programme of other events, which will be forwarded to those interested as soon as possible,” the statement adds.
“We regret this decision to cancel the marathon but we don’t want men and women running together,” Abdessalam Siyyam, cabinet secretary of the Hamas government, told AFP news agency.
“We did not tell Unrwa to cancel the marathon and we haven’t prevented it, but we laid down some conditions: We don’t want women and men mixing in the same place,” he added.
The Palestinian territory is almost exactly marathon length from top to bottom.
Last year, thousands of runners braved freezing conditions to take part, including some women. Palestinian runner Nader al-Masri won the event on its first two occasions.
In previous years, Hamas has supported the race and provided security.
In the past there have been attacks on the UN’s summer camps for children in Gaza after complaints that boys were allowed to mix with girls, the BBC’s Jon Donnison reports.
The marathon was due to be part of the UN’s fundraising efforts in order to run those camps, our correspondent adds.
I wasn’t going to comment on the Gerald Scarfe cartoon published in the last Sunday Times, especially as Rupert Murdoch has apologised for it and Scarfe himself has stated that he hadn’t realised it would be published on Holocaust Memorial Day.
My personal view is that, on balance, the cartoon cannot fairly be considered antisemtic, but it certainly sails close to the wind, and its publication on Holocaust Memorial Day was a very serious misjudgement.
Political cartoonists frequently depict political leaders as blood-smeared, and they (the cartoonists, that is) sometimes seem unaware of, or indifferent to, the significance of the “blood libel” in the history of antisemitism.
Mark Gardner, of the Community Security Trust, very sensibly comments that the artist’s subjective intention is not necessarily the crucial consideration:
“As ever, we are immediately drawn into the old ‘is it antisemitic, isn’t it antisemitic’ routine – as if anybody could ever prove what actually goes on in Gerald Scarfe’s head; and as if what goes on in his head is the most important thing in all of this.
“For sure, Gerald Scarfe has ‘a thing’ about blood. It is a theme that repeats in his cartoons. For example, his Sunday Times cartoon of 26th February 2012, literally shows Syria’s President Assad guzzling blood from a cup that has “children’s blood” written on it. So, he has not singled out Benjamin Netanyahu for the blood treatment and he is perfectly capable of drawing a full-on blood libel should the mood take him. Neither has Scarfe singled out Netanyahu for physical disfigurement. This is how he draws people, regardless of their nationality or religion.
“Unfortunately for Jews – and for satirists – antisemites and antisemitism also have ‘a thing’ about blood; and especially about the allegation that Jews murder others (children in particular) in order to use their blood or organs for heinous purpose. It is a harsh fact that blood has long played a profoundly disturbing part in the history of antisemitism, and this has obvious consequences for Jews and antisemites today. The actual intentions of Gerald Scarfe and the Sunday Times count for very little within this broader context of history, and its contemporary emotional and racist impacts.”
But, as I said, I wasn’t going to comment until I heard Steve Bell “defending” the cartoon on the Today Programme this morning. Bell’s rant (against Stephen Pollard of the Jewish Chronicle who didn’t, in fact, want such cartoons banned) was vile, full of stuff about “you people,” the ”Zionist lobby,” how strange that even Murdoch has been forced to apologise (the “Zionist lobby” you see), an extraordinarliy ignorant claim that the blood libel is never used these days, and the alleged “fact” that the root cause of the problem is the foundation of Israel itself, based as it is (according to Bell) on “ethnic cleansing.”
This quote from Bell, in the course of this morning’s discussion, must never be forgotten:
“Extraneous notions like blood libel are
dropped in and sensitivities are talked up .. the very word
‘antisemitic’ becomes devalued…
“.. they throw it around with such abandon. If there really is
antisemitism it’s actually getting ignored…”
When the Guardian published this much-criticised cartoon by Bell last year,
I was inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt against charges of antisemitism. I wouldn’t anymore.
Steve Hedley is the London Regional Organiser of the RMT and, by all accounts, a good left wing militant who in the past has been victimised (and denounced by the Daily Mail ) for union activity. For the record, I do not agree with the label “hideous racist thug” on the clip below.
However, in October 2011 he was accused of antisemitism as a result of what he said to a Jew in the audience (who’d heckled him) at an RMT public meeting entitled ‘Palestine’s fight for Freedom.’ That is where the clip above was filmed (by the heckler, who is also responsible for the label above the clip).
This is a transcript of what was said on that occasion:
SH: We oppose the Israeli government because of the racist policies they are carrying out on the Palestinian people. You can cover it up for so long with your friends in the media but the attack on the Mavi Marmara and the attacks on those innocent women and children have turned into the biggest concentration camp on the earth. This is the reality. You’re an absolute disgrace to the Jewish people. You are a modern-day fascist, you are a modern-day Nazi, by supporting those policies that oppress [inaudible] minority in your own state. No wonder the EDL are flying the flag of Israel. The modern-day Nazi EDL are flying the flag of Israel because it’s the state that they associate with. What the Nazis did to you, you’re doing to the Palestinians.
[Chair calls next speaker who begins]
Heckler: Feel better?
SH: Better than you obviously. But then again you’re the chosen people so you might feel better than me, huh?
Heckler: So its about being Jewish?
SH: It’s about being Zionist.
Most of the left, at the time, ignored this incident, perhaps because the heckler (one Richard Millett) is, supposedly, a “right winger” and because there seems little doubt that Hedley was, to some extent, provoked. On the organised left, only the AWL criticised Hedley, and that was in a very mild and low-key statement.
Now Hedley has involved himself in a further row over “Zionism” and related matters. This time, however, Hedley’s targets are leftists, including well-known and outspoken anti Zionist Jews, several of whom are associated with the extreme (“absolute“) anti Zionist and anti Israel blog Jews sans frontiers.
The row took place on facebook and began when Toby Abse commented on former SWP leader Martin Smith’s association with the notorious antisemite and jazz musician Gilad Atzmon:
Tobias Abse Interesting reminder of the close friendship between Martin Smith and Gilad Atzmon, the notorious proponent of rabidly anti-semitic world Jewish conspiracy theories. During Smith’s leadership of the party Atzmon, a jazz musician, often did gigs for the party or its front organisations. Readers of the article below will note Atzmon’s aggressively sexist and anti-feminist views ( not I think coincidental).
Jews sans frontieres: Bookmark this!
Steve Hedley offs the closet Zionists are now attacking Martin smith,any diversion to stop people condemning the Israeli states atrocities,Abse your politics are lower than a snakes belly you opportunist runt.
Tobias Abse Did the Christian Brothers teach you antisemitism at school – yes, we are all Christ killers aren’t we?
Charlie Pottins Steve, these comrades were fighting Zionism before you had even heard of it. And quite frankly the way you go off like a Pavlov’s dog I think you have a problem. PS, Toby, wrong stereotype, Steve is from a proddy background. But did have a strong Stalinist injection if that is any relevance. Still, he has now uncovered the conspiracy hatched no doubt in the old cemetery at Prague behind the SWP’s little difficulty. I’m surprised the plotters took their time, mind, it would have been more effective if they had gone for Martin Smith while he was still SWP national secretary, rather than giving Smith’s comrades the chance to take their distance from him. I blame that Yigal Gluckstein myself, he was obviously sent over here with a long-term plan.
Steve Hedley You are the one with the problem Charlie i suppose coming from the wrp who were accused of being anti semetic(not that i agree with that by the way) yoy may feel that you need to prove a point by jumping to the closet Zionists defence.I have really not been following the internal rift in the SWP and have little knowledge of how the accusations made were handled and no comment other than to say that they should be investigated by an appropriate outside body.I do feel though that it is very wrong for people who call themselves socialists to gloat over these issues.To top it all
closet Zionists like Tobias Abase are now attacking Martin smith for his alleged links with a Jazz musician(who he claims is anti Semitic),.Smith has an impeccable record of anti racist anti fascist campaigning but this doesn’t seem to matter to Abase and his ilk who it seems will use any diversion to stop people condemning the Israeli states atrocities,Abse your politics are lower than a snakes belly you opportunist runt.
Roland Rance Steve Hedley: You’re not seriously arguing that JsF is a Zionist blog, are you? The SWP, under the leadership of Martin Smith, promoted the antisemitic chauvinist Atzmon long after nearly else on the left had rumbled him. When we picketed Bookmarks because of Atzmon’s lecture there, it was not because of the SWP’s (correct) position on Zionism and Palestine; it was because of their unconscionable support for and promotion of this charlatan.
Luke Cooper That is the most hideous piece of anti-semitism I’ve seen on the left. Ok, I have seen much of it but it is shocking and appalling coming from a leader of a progressive trade union.
Steve Hedley im objecting to guilt by association of an anti racist/anti fascist campaigner by a load of zionist charlatans if the cap fits wear it
Steve Hedley luke who?
Steve Hedley And just how are my comments anti semitic
Roland Rance Steve Hedley:
> how are my comments anti semiticBy your assumption that anyone who objects to Atzmon’s antisemitism is ipso facto a Zionist. In fact, by equating “Jewish” with “Zionist”, you are echoing both antisemites and Zionists. Enjoy your company!
Steve Hedley No Roland you made that assumption not me and by your own reasoning your an anti semite now
Roland Rance Where did I make that assumption? JsF exposed (many years ago) Atzmon, and protested at the SWP’s links with him. You describe them as “closet Zionists” (one of Atzmon’s pet phrases) for this. They are not Zionists, and unlike you I know very well the distinction between the two.
Steve Hedley You see you Zionists deliberately misconstrue any attack on the Israeli state as anti semetic Margaret Thatcher is a Christian Zionist so is George Bush enjoy your illustrious bedfellows.You really have to come up with better tactics to defend the murderous Israeli stae these ones frankly make you look daft.You made the assumption in your last post obviously the memory od a goldfish and the same debating skills.
Roland Rance The claim that I am a Zionist is false. Either you know this, and are delibarately lying in order to smear me, or you do not know this, which means that you have not been involved in Palestine Solidarity work for the past thirty years and have no idea what you are talking about. In either case, I demand that you retract and apologise for this defamatory statement.
Steve Hedley As i said if the cap fits wear it im retracting nothing ,ive posted here in an individual capacity but feel free to run to the bourgeois courts if you like.You on the other hand have labelled me anti simetic which im clearly not.Unlike you ive fought fascists politically and physically just where were you when AFA was fighting the BNP ,i don’t remember you ever putting your welfare on the line ,could it be your just another keyboard warrior?
Tami Peterson @ Steve – Roland and I certainly have our differences but to call him a Zionist and ‘keyboard warrior’ is ludicrous! In my time in politics in the UK Roland was one of the most consistently active and outspoken anti-Zionist activists that I met. You have no idea who you are talking about or you wouldn’t be making such ridiculous statements.
Roland Rance I was in AFA, Steve. In fact, I organised the first AFA conference in Bradford thirty years ago. We had stewards around the town to prevent a possible fascist attack, but had to call them back to conference in order to protect members of the local Asian Youth Movement from physical attacks by members of Red Action. I know all-too-well about racism masquerading as leftist anti-fascism.
Steve Hedley Tami I dont know either of you from Adam and Eve but anyone who throws the Label anti semite at me or inded Martin Smith is not in my opinion a laudable individual anyway your entitled to your opinion ,Roland Rat are you really calling AFA racist youve really lost the plot,
Steve Hedley That should have been Rance not rat
Roland Rance No, I’m not calling AFA racist. Learn to read.
Steve Hedley Your obviously just a middle class patronizing prat there will be no retraction and if the cap fits wear it . I’ve wasted enough time talking to you but feel free to run to the bourgeois courts like the other toy town revolutionaries Rat
Steve Hedley oh dear predictive text again Roland Rance
Tami Peterson Well Steve I personally met Roland, Charlie and the others you are attacking here on many anti-fascist demos. I never, however, had the pleasure of meeting you.
Steve Hedley Same here Tami ive never met you and AFA in which i served ten years didn’t hide behind police lines having demos
If you’ve spent any time discussing or reading about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I guarantee you’ve heard some variation of this statement:
OMG, Jews think any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic!
In the interests of this post, I’m going to assume that the people who express such sentiments are acting in good faith and really don’t mean to cause pain to or problems for Diaspora Jewry. For those good-faith people, I present some guidelines for staying on the good side of that admittedly murky line, along with the reasoning why the actions I list are problematic. (And bad-faith people, you can no longer plead ignorance if you engage in any of these no-nos. Consider yourselves warned.) In no particular order:
- Don’t use the terms “bloodthirsty,” “lust for Palestinian blood,” or similar. Historically, Jews have been massacred in the belief that we use the blood of non-Jews (particularly of children) in our religious rituals. This belief still persists in large portions of the Arab world and even in parts of the Western world. Murderous, inhumane, cruel, vicious—fine. But blood…just don’t go there. (Depicting Israel/Israelis/Israeli leaders eating children is also a no-no, for the same reason.)
- Don’t use crucifixion imagery. Another huge, driving motivation behind anti-Semitism historically has been the belief that the Jews, rather than the Romans, crucified Jesus. As in #1, this belief still persists. There are plenty of other ways to depict suffering that don’t call back to ancient libels.
- Don’t demand that Jews publicly repudiate the actions of settlers and extremists. People who make this demand are assuming that Jews are terrible people or undeserving of being heard out unless they “prove” themselves acceptable by non-Jews’ standards. (It’s not okay to demand Palestinians publicly repudiate the actions of Hamas in order to be accepted/trusted, either.)
- Don’t say “the Jews” when you mean Israel. I think this should be pretty clear. The people in power in Israel are Jews, but not all Jews are Israelis (let alone Israeli leaders).
- Don’t say “Zionists” when you mean Israel. Zionism is no more a dirty word than feminism. It is simply the belief that the Jews should have a country in part of their ancestral homeland where they can take refuge from the anti-Semitism and persecution they face everywhere else. It does not mean a belief that Jews have a right to grab land from others, a belief that Jews are superior to non-Jews, or any other such tripe, any more than feminism means hating men. Unless you believe that Israel should entirely cease to exist, you are yourself Zionist. Furthermore, using “Zionists” in place of “Israelis” is inaccurate and harmful. The word “Zionists” includes Diasporan Jews as well (most of whom support a two-state solution and pretty much none of whom have any influence on Israel’s policies) and is used to justify anti-Semitic attacks outside Israel (i.e., they brought it on themselves by being Zionists). And many of the Jews IN Israel who are most violent against Palestinians are actually anti-Zionist—they believe that the modern state of Israel is an offense against God because it isn’t governed by halakha (traditional Jewish religious law). Be careful with the labels you use.
- Don’t call Jews you agree with “the good Jews.” Imposing your values on another group is not okay. Tokenizing is not okay. Appointing yourself the judge of what other groups can or should believe is not okay.
- Don’t use your Jewish friends or Jews who agree with you as shields. (AKA, “I can’t be anti-Semitic, I have Jewish friends!” or “Well, Jew X agrees with me, so you’re wrong.”) Again, this behavior is tokenizing and essentially amounts to you as a non-Jew appointing yourself arbiter over what Jews can/should feel or believe. You don’t get to do that.
- Don’t claim that Jews are ethnically European. Jews come in many colors—white is only one. Besides, the fact that many of us have some genetic mixing with the peoples who tried to force us to assimilate (be they German, Indian, Ethiopian, Italian…) doesn’t change the fact that all our common ancestral roots go back to Israel.
- Don’t claim that Jews “aren’t the TRUE/REAL Jews.” Enough said.
- Don’t claim that Jews have no real historical connection to Israel/the Temple Mount. Archaeology and the historical record both establish that this is false.
- Don’t accuse Diasporan Jews of dual loyalties or treason. This is another charge that historically has been used to justify persecution and murder of Jews. Having a connection to our ancestral homeland is natural. Having a connection to our co-religionists who live there is natural. It is no more treasonous for a Jew to consider the well-being of Israel when casting a vote than for a Muslim to consider the well-being of Islamic countries when voting. (Tangent: fuck drone strikes. End tangent.)
- Don’t claim that the Jews control the media/banks/country that isn’t Israel. Yet another historical anti-Semitic claim is that Jews as a group intend to control the world and try to achieve this aim through shadowy, sinister channels. There are many prominent Jews in the media and in the banking industry, yes, but they aren’t engaged in any kind of organized conspiracy to take over those industries, they simply work in those industries. The phrase “the Jews control” should never be heard in a debate/discussion of Israel.
- Don’t depict the Magen David (Star of David) as an equivalent to the Nazi swastika. The Magen David represents all Jews—not just Israelis, not just people who are violent against Palestinians, ALL JEWS. When you do this, you are painting all Jews as violent, genocidal racists. DON’T.
- Don’t use the Holocaust/Nazism/Hitler as a rhetorical prop. The Jews who were murdered didn’t set foot in what was then Palestine, let alone take part in Israeli politics or policies. It is wrong and appropriative to try to use their deaths to score political points. Genocide, racism, occupation, murder, extermination—go ahead and use those terms, but leave the Holocaust out of it.
- In visual depictions (i.e., political cartoons and such), don’t depict Israel/Israelis as Jewish stereotypes. Don’t show them in Chassidic, black-hat garb. Don’t show them with exaggerated noses or frizzled red hair or payus (earlocks). Don’t show them with horns or depict them as the Devil. Don’t show them cackling over/hoarding money. Don’t show them drinking blood or eating children (see #1). Don’t show them raping non-Jewish women. The Nazis didn’t invent the tropes they used in their propaganda—all of these have been anti-Semitic tropes going back centuries. (The red hair trope, for instance, goes back to early depictions of Judas Iscariot as a redhead, and the horns trope stems from the belief that Jews are the Devil’s children, sent to destroy the world as best we can for our “father.”)
- Don’t use the phrase “the chosen people” to deride or as proof of Jewish racism. When Jews say we are the chosen people, we don’t mean that we are biologically superior to others or that God loves us more than other groups. Judaism in fact teaches that everyone is capable of being a righteous, Godly person, that Jews have obligations to be ethical and decent to “the stranger in our midst,” and that non-Jews don’t get sent to some kind of damnation for believing in another faith. When we say we’re the chosen people, we mean that, according to our faith, God gave us extra responsibilities and codes of behavior that other groups aren’t burdened with, in the form of the Torah. That’s all it means.
- Don’t claim that anti-Semitism is eradicated or negligible. It isn’t. In fact, according to international watchdog groups, it’s sharply on the rise. (Which sadly isn’t surprising—anti-Semitism historically surges during economic downturns, thanks to the belief that Jews control the banks.) This sort of statement is extremely dismissive and accuses us of lying about our own experiences.
- Don’t say that since Palestinians are Semites, Jews/Israelis are anti-Semitic, too. You do not get to redefine the oppressions of others, nor do you get to police how they refer to that oppression. This also often ties into #8. Don’t do it. Anti-Semitism has exclusively meant anti-Jewish bigotry for a good century plus now. Coin your own word for anti-Palestinian oppression, or just call it what it is: racism mixed with Islamophobia.
- Don’t blow off Jews telling you that what you’re saying is anti-Semitic with some variant of the statement at the top of this post. Not all anti-Israel speech is anti-Semitic (a lot of it is valid, much-deserved criticism), but some certainly is. Actually give the accusation your consideration and hear the accuser out. If they fail to convince you, that’s fine. But at least hear them out (without talking over them) before you decide that.
I’m sure this isn’t a comprehensive list, but it covers all the hard-and-fast rules I can think of. (I welcome input for improving it.)
But wait! Why should I care about any of this? I’m standing up for people who are suffering!
You should care because nonsense like the above makes Jews sympathetic to the Palestinian plight wary and afraid of joining your cause. You should care because, unfortunately, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has correlated to an uptick in anti-Semitic attacks around the world, attacks on Jews who have no say in Israeli politics, and this kind of behavior merely aggravates that, whether you intend it to or not.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a real minefield in that it’s a clash between oppressed people of color and an ethnoreligious group that is dominant in Israel but marginalized and brutalized elsewhere (often nowadays on the exact grounds that they share ethnoreligious ties with the people of Israel), so it’s damned hard to toe the line of being socially aware and sensitive to both groups. I get that. But I think it is possible to toe that line, and I hope this post helps with that. (And if a Palestinian makes a similar list of problematic arguments they hear targeted at them, I’d be happy to reblog it, too.)
So, TL;DR version:
- Do go ahead and criticize Israel.
- Don’t use anti-Semitic stereotypes or tropes.
- Don’t use overly expansive language that covers Jews as a whole and not just Israel.
- Don’t use lies to boost your claims.
- Do engage Jews in conversation on the issues of Israel and of anti-Semitism, rather than simply shutting them down for disagreeing.
- Do try to be sensitive to the fact that, fair or not, many people take verbal or violent revenge for the actions of Israelis on Diasporan Jews, and Diasporan Jews are understandably frightened and upset by this.
May there be peace in our days.
The end of the two state solution? Not irrevocably, in my opinion, but Rebecca at the interesting US-based Jewish blog ‘Mystical Politics‘ explains, with the map below, why Netenyahu’s plan is so disastrous, not just for the Palestinians, but for the long-term future of Israel itself:
If Israel goes ahead with its plans to develop E-1 (Dividing the West Bank, Deepening a Rift), located between Maale Adumim and Jerusalem, it will cut the West Bank in half and make a viable Palestinian state impossible. It’s time for the Obama administration to come out publicly against this plan, as publicly as the UK and France are – who are threatening to withdraw their ambassadors from Israel [This has not in fact happened - JD].
issues: Challenges in defining an Israel-Palestinian border.