Where have we encountered views like this (see below) before?
A UKIP candidate has blamed the holocaust on Jews, claiming that World War II was engineered by “Zionists”. According to local press reports, Anna-Marie Crampton wrote on her Facebook — which also contains pictures of her with Nigel Farage:
“The Rothschilds are Zionists. There is a difference between Jews and Zionists. These Psychopaths hide behind and use the Jews. It was thanks to them that six million Jews were murdered in the War along with 26 million Russians.”
Crampton — who will be on the ballot paper in East Sussex whether UKIP sack her or not — also references the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious anti-semitic hoax professing to be a plan for worldwide Jewish domination:
“Read the Protocols of Zion, all you need to know is in there and it’s in their own words”
“I cannot continue to live and to be silent while the remnants of Polish Jewry, whose representative I am, are being murdered. My comrades in the Warsaw ghetto fell with arms in their hands in the last heroic battle. I was not permitted to fall like them, together with them, but I belong with them, to their mass grave. By my death, I wish to give expression to my most profound protest against the inaction in which the world watches and permits the destruction of the Jewish people” - “The Last Letter from the Bund Representative with the Polish National Council in Exile”.
From the Economist blog:
By GG, Jerusalem, Warsaw
THE 19th of April 1943, exactly 70 years ago, saw the first insurrection against the Nazis in occupied Europe: the Warsaw ghetto uprising. The event symbolises both Jewish courage and Jewish suffering. For Poland, its anniversary is also a resonant event in the country’s ongoing reconnection with its Jewish heritage and fight against anti-Semitism.
Last week, more than a hundred volunteers showed up to work on cleaning and restoring the dilapidated Jewish cemetery, perhaps the strongest visual testament to the fact that this city was once one of the largest Jewish centres in the world – and is no more. Almost none of them were Jewish. They told me they had come out of a sense of duty.
The event had been listed on a website devoted to the anniversary commemorations, which are extensive. From now until the May 16th when the Great Synagogue on Tłomackie Street was destroyed, marking the end of the uprising and effectively of all Jewish life in Warsaw, the city hosts ceremonies, exhibitions, concerts and lectures devoted to Poland’s Jewish heritage.
The new Museum of the History of Polish Jews is co-ordinating much of the proceedings. It has used the occasion to officially open as an educational centre even though its permanent exhibition is a year away from being ready evidently hoping its impressive architecture and cultural programme will trump the dubious symbolism of its emptiness.
The guest of honour is Simcha Rotem (Wikipedia entry here), nom de guerre ‘Kazik’. At 89, he is the only former member of the Jewish Combat Organisation (ŻOB) still in good enough health to make the trip. I met him in Israel, where he has lived since shortly after the war, last month. Though tired and in low spirits, he told our correspondent he had decided long ago that if he could possibly make it to this anniversary, he would, regardless of what kind of commemoration was planned for the sake of the memory of his comrades who are no longer alive.
Some of those comrades did live for years after the war though—thanks to Kazik. His is an astonishing story of courage and luck in hellish circumstances. As a 19-year-old, fair-haired ruffian from the Warsaw district of Czerniaków, Kazik did not look Jewish. For that reason the insurgent leader, Marek Edelman, chose him to go to the Aryan side and try to organise a rescue operation for the Jews trapped in the ghetto, already in flames.
After a week on the Aryan side, Kazik finally found two sewer workers who thanks to much goading with vodka in one hand and a pistol in the other, showed him an underground route back into the ghetto. Emerging on Zamenhofa street, he found nothing but smouldering ruins.
It’s at that point that Simcha Rotem’s testimony ends Claude Lanzmann’s epic documentary, Shoah: he believes he is the “last Jew” and has nothing left to do but wait for the Germans. But that is not what he did.
Returning to the sewers, he hears voices: a dozen or so fighters. They say there are more hiding elsewhere, and he tells them to gather and make their way through the sewers to a manhole under Prosta Street, just outside the ghetto.
Simcha Rotem to this day does not know exactly people he saved: “A few dozen. Do you think I had time to count them?” he exclaims. After meeting the group in the sewer, he had returned to the Aryan side and organised for two vans to pick up the survivors at dawn. Only one van arrived, at 10am, and its driver had to be held at gunpoint to prevent him from driving off while the Jews were coming out of the manhole.
After it seemed that no-one else was emerging from the manhole, Kazik told the van to move off. Against all the odds, the few dozen made it to safety the forests north of Warsaw. Yet some had remained underground. Simcha Rotem has had to live with the idea that perhaps he could have done better. But today he says he feels it was the only decision he could make in the circumstances: “The Germans were 100 metres away. It was broad daylight. It was now or never.”
Asked whether his memory of that moment is still vivid today, Simcha Rotem is almost offended: “It is not the sort of thing a person could forget”. His anger at the Nazis is still very much alive, too: “I regret in a way that we didn’t get revenge on the SS. Because they were not conscripts, they chose to do what they did. So they were murderers. And murderers should be hanged. They were not people, but animals walking upright.”
Fear that the world could forget the horror of the Holocaust, or that it could happen again, animates those who do remember it ever more as their numbers dwindle. Irena Boldok, who escaped from the Warsaw ghetto aged eight or nine, gives talks in schools and elsewhere as a member of the Children of the Holocaust association. She speaks gloomily about the experience: “some of them understand, not many. It’s hard to talk to fourteen-year-old kids. It is like a history lesson for them.”
According to the Polish psychologist Barbara Engelking, one reason the ghetto uprising did not happen sooner is that Jews in the Warsaw ghetto maintained the illusion that they might live: the death camps were simply beyond human imagination. With fewer and fewer survivors around to remind us of the horrors of the Holocaust, marking the anniversaries of its key events becomes an ever more important way of ensuring that we don’t forget something that was so unthinkable at the time.
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 »
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.
Born (Alexandria, Egypt) 9 June 1917; died (London) 1 October 2012
The great historian and political commentator Eric Hobsbawm died earlier today, aged 95. Like many others, I have highly ambivalent feelings about him: on the one hand an undoubtably fine historian and a man of sincerely held leftist views; but on the other, an apparently uncritical Stalinist at least until the late 1970′s after which he became a “Euro-Communist” and gave intellectual justification to Neil Kinnock and the forces that were dragging Labour to the right. He genuinely hated Blair and what became New Labour, but lamentably failed to account for his own role in the process, just as he never properly accounted for his own Stalinist apologetics
I shall be returning to the subject very soon, and offering some further thoughts on this extraordinary and important figure. I may even devote some space to his jazz criticism (he wrote about it as ‘Francis Newton,’ a name that referenced Frankie Newton, a fine, neglected black American trumpet player who was a member or fellow-traveller of the US Communist Party).
For now, it seems appropriate to simply quote the (in places strange and surprising) concluding words of his 2002 autobiography, Interesting Times:
The test of a historian’s life is whether he or she can ask and answer questions, especially ‘what if’ questions, about the matters of passionate significance to themselves and the world, as though they were journalists reporting things long past — and yet, not as a stranger but as one deeply involved. These are not questions about real history, which is not about what we might like, but about what happened, and could perhaps have happened otherwise but did not. They are the questions about the present not the past, which is why they are important to those who live at the start of the new century, old or young. The First World War was not avoided, so the question whether it could have been is academic. If we say its casualties were intolerable (as most people agree) or that the German Europe that would have emerged from the Kaiser’s victory might have been a better proposition than the world of Versailles (as I hold), I am not suggesting it could have been different. And yet, I must fail the test, were I asked such a question even in theory about the Second World War. I can, with enormous effort, envisage the argument that Spain might have been better off if Franco’s coup had succeeded in 1936, avoiding the Civil War. I am prepared to concede, with regret, that Lenin’s Comintern was not such a good idea nor — this time without difficulty, for I was never a Zionist — Theodor Herzl’s project of a Jewish state. He would have done better to stay with the Neue Freie Presse as its star columnist. But if you ask me to entertain the proposition that the defeat of National Socialism was not worth the 50 million dead and the uncounted horrors of the Second World War, I simply could not. I look forward to an American world empire, whose long-term chances are poor, with more fear and less enthusiasm than I look back on the record of the old British Empire, run by a country whose modest size protected it against megalomania. What marks have I got in the test? If they are too low, then this book will not give readers much help as they go into the new century, mostly with a longer life ahead of them than the author.
Still, let us not disarm, even in unsatisfactory times. Social injustice still needs to be denounced and fought. The world will not get better on its own.
In view of some recent comments on this blog (see, especially, those below the piece Why won’t the IOC mark the Munich massacre?), and the Graun‘s despicable obituary of the “left” antisemite Alexander Cockburn, I though the following article from the AWL might serve an educative purpose for those who are willing to think about the issues, and not already “absolute” anti-Zionists and anti-Israel fanatics:
What is left anti-semitism?
There are three difficulties, three confusions and obfuscations, that stand in the way of rational discussion of what we mean by “left-wing anti-semitism”.
The first is that left-wing anti-semitism knows itself by another and more self-righteous name, “anti-Zionism”. Often, your left-wing anti-semite sincerely believes that he or she is only an anti-Zionist, only a just if severe critic of Israel.
The second is that talk of left-wing anti-semitism to a left-wing anti-semite normally evokes indignant, sincere, and just denial – of something else! “No, I’m not a racist! How dare you call me a racist?”
No, indeed, apart from a nut here and there, left-wing anti-semites are not racist. But there was anti-semitism before there was 20th-century anti-Jewish racism. And there is still anti-semitism of different sorts, long after disgust with Hitler-style racism, and overt racism of any sort, became part of the mental and emotional furniture of all half-way decent people, and perhaps especially of left-wing people.
Left-wingers are people who by instinct and conviction side with the oppressed, the outcasts, those deprived of human rights, the working class, the labour movement; who naturally side against the police, the military, and the powerful capitalist states, including their “own”; who are socially tolerant; who, in contrast to the “hang ‘em, flog ‘em, build more jails” types, look to changing social conditions rather than to punishment to deal with crime — people who want to be Marxists and socialists, or try to be consistent democrats. Confused such people may be, racists they are not. We are not saying that left-wing anti-semites are racists.
The third source of confusion and obfuscation is the objection: “You say I’m an anti-semite because I denounce Israel. I’m not anti-Jewish when I denounce Israel, but anti-Zionist”. And sometimes, at this point, you get the addition: “By the way, I am myself Jewish”.
The objector continues: Israel deserves criticism. Even the harshest criticism of Sharon’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza, and of Israel’s long-term treatment of the Palestinians, is pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist, not anti-semitic. To equate criticism of Israel with anti-semitism is just crude and hysterical Zionist apologetics.
No, by “left-wing anti-semitism” we emphatically do not mean political, military, or social criticism of Israel and of the policy of Israeli governments. Certainly, not all left-wing critics of Israel or Zionism are anti-semites, even though these days all anti-semites, including the right-wing, old-fashioned, and racist anti-semites, are paid-up “anti-Zionists”.
Israel frequently deserves criticism. Israel’s policy in the Occupied Territories and its general treatment of the Palestinians deserve outright condemnation. The oppressed Palestinians need to be politically defended against Israeli governments and the Israeli military. The only halfway equitable solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, a viable, independent Palestinian state in contiguous territory, side by side with Israel, needs to be argued for and upheld against Israeli power.
Solidarity [the AWL paper] condemns Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. We defend the Palestinians and champion an independent Palestinian state side by side with Israel.
The difference here between left-wing anti-semites and honest critics of Israel — a category which includes a very large number of Israeli Jews as well as Israeli Arabs — is a straightforward one of politics, of policy.
The left-wing anti-semites do not only criticise Israel. They condemn it outright and deny its right to exist. They use legitimate criticisms, and utilise our natural sympathy with the Palestinians, not to seek redress, not as arguments against an Israeli government, an Israeli policy, or anything specifically wrong in Israel, but as arguments against the right of Israel to exist at all. Any Israel. Any Jewish state in the area. Any Israel, with any policy, even one in which all the specific causes for justly criticising present-day Israel and for supporting the Palestinians against it have been entirely eliminated.
The root problem, say the left-wing anti-semites, is that Israel exists. The root “crime of Zionism” is that it advocated and brought into existence “the Zionist state of Israel”.
Bitterly, and often justly, criticising specific Israeli policies, actions, and governments, seemingly championing the Palestinians, your left-wing anti-semites seek no specific redress in Israel or from Israel, demanding only that Israel should cease to exist or be put out of existence.
They often oppose measures to alleviate the condition of the Palestinians short of the destruction of Israel. Thus the petitions and chants on demonstrations: “Two states solution, no solution!”
A neat illustration of this was provided three years ago when, at a meeting of the council of the SWP-dominated Socialist Alliance, a supporter of this newspaper proposed the slogan “Israel out of the Occupied Territories”. It was voted down, and much vaguer ones, “Free Palestine”, “Victory to the intifada”, voted in.
Why? “Free Palestine” can be understood in different ways, depending on your definition of “Palestine”. Therefore it can accommodate those who, without having studied the complexities or the history of the Jewish-Arab conflict, instinctively side with the oppressed and outmatched Palestinians, and for whom “Free Palestine” means simply that Israel should get out of the Occupied Territories. And it can also accommodate those, like the proponents of the slogan, the political Islamists of the Muslim Association of Britain/ Muslim Brotherhood and others, who define “Palestine” as pre-Israel, pre-1948 Palestine, and by “Free Palestine” mean the destruction and abolition of Israel, and the elimination in one way or another of the Jewish population of Israel, or most of them.
The political differences spelled out here are easily understood. But why is the drive and the commitment to destroy Israel anti-semitism, and not just anti-Zionism?
Because the attitude to the Jewish nation in Israel is unique, different from the left’s attitude to all other nations; and because of the ramifications for attitudes to Jews outside Israel. Apart from a few religious Jews who think the establishment of Israel was a revolt against God, and some Jews who share the views of the leftists whom we are discussing here, those Jews outside Israel instinctively identify with and support Israel, however critically. For the left-wing anti-semite they are therefore “Zionists”, and proper and natural targets of the drive to “smash Zionism”.
The attitude of the “anti-Zionist” left to Israel brings with it a comprehensive hostility to most Jews everywhere – those who identify with Israel and who defend its right to exist. They are not just people with mistaken ideas. They are “Zionists”.
In colleges, for example, where the anti-Zionist left exists side by side with Jewish students, this attitude often means a special antagonism to the “Zionist” Jews. They are identified with Israel. They, especially, are pressured either to denounce Israel, to agree that it is “racist” and “imperialist” and that its existence is a crime against the Arabs — or else be held directly and personally responsible for everything Israel does, has done, or is said to have done.
In such places, where the left “interfaces” with Jews, the logic of the unique attitude to Israel takes on a nasty persecuting quality. In the past, in the mid 1980s for example, that has taken the form of attempting to ban Jewish student societies. Non-Jews who defend Israel’s right to exist are not classified in the same category.
But is the attitude of the “absolute anti-Zionists” to Israel really unique? There are seeming similarities with left attitudes to one or two other states — Protestant Northern Ireland, apartheid South Africa, or pre-1980 white-ruled Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) — but the attitude to Israel is unique, because the reality of Israel cannot properly be identified with Northern Ireland, apartheid South Africa, or white Rhodesia.
In apartheid South Africa and white Rhodesia a minority lorded it over the big majority of the population, exploiting them. Israel is a predominantly Jewish state consisting of all classes. The Jewish nation does not subsist, and never has subsisted, on the exploitation of Arab labour, or depended in any essential way on such exploitation.
The general left hostility to the Northern Ireland Protestants — who are not exploiters of Catholic labour, and who are the compact majority, if not of the Six Counties, then of the north-east half of the Six Counties — is the closest to the attitude to Israel.
But it is not widely believed on the left that the Northern Ireland Protestant-Unionists simply have no right to be there. The right of the Jews to “be there” is denied in those sections of the left that we are discussing. The organisation of Jewish migration to Palestine — that was the root “crime” of Zionism, of which the “crime” of establishing Israel was only a further development. The “solution” is not only to undo and abolish Israel, but to reverse Jewish “migration” — which now includes people born there, to parents born there — and to roll the film of Middle-Eastern history backwards.
The prerequisite for left-wing anti-semitism is the catastrophic decline in the culture of the left over the last decades, a decline which allows people who want to be socialists to chant “Sharon is Hitler, Israel is Nazi” and similar nonsense without checking on the words. The specific framework within which what we have been describing exists, and without which it probably couldn’t exist in these “left-wing” forms, is the poisonous and systematic misrepresentation and falsification of the history of the Jewish-Arab conflict and of the Jewish people in the 20th century. We can only touch on that here.
In real history, Jews fled to Palestine, where a small Zionist colony and a small pre-Zionist Jewish community already existed, from persecution in Europe in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. In the 1930s and 40s they fled for their lives from Nazism, which killed two out of every three Jews alive in Europe in 1939, in a world in which no non-persecuting state would let them, or enough of them, in.
They fled to the existing Jewish national minority in Palestine (a long-established minority which, though small, was for example the majority in Jerusalem in 1900).
While Hitler was organising mass slaughter, Britain shut out Jews from Palestine, interning those who tried to enter. Overloaded, unseaworthy boats carrying illegal cargoes of Jews sank in the Mediterranean trying to get to Palestine (for example, the Struma, in which over 700 people died).
Israel was set up by those Jews on licence from the UN, which stipulated two states in Palestine, one Jewish and one Arab. When the state of Israel was declared in May 1948, the surrounded Arab states invaded. States like Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt were then British-dominated, and some of the armies were staffed by British officers.
The Israelis defended themselves and won. In the war three quarters of a million Palestinian Arabs were driven out or fled; in the same period and afterwards, about 600,000 Jews were expelled from or fled Arab countries.
In the Arab invasion of 1948, the Arab-Palestinian state was eliminated. Most of its territory went to Jordan, and fell under Israeli control in the war of 1967. That was a tremendous tragedy that will only be redressed when an independent Palestinian state takes its place alongside Israel.
This complex and tragic history is presented by the “absolute anti-Zionist” left as a conspiracy of Zionism, conceived of as a demonic force outside history. It is not rare to find “left anti-Zionists” arguing that this Jewish-Zionist conspiracy was so all-powerful that it was able even to manipulate Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust in which six million Jews died (see the play by the veteran Trotskyist Jim Allen, Perdition, of which Ken Loach planned a performance at a London theatre in 1987).
The core idea, the root of modern left-wing anti-semitism, is that Israel, in one way or another, is an illegitimate state; and that therefore, in one way or another, it should be done away with. If its citizens will not be the first in history to voluntarily dismantle their nation-state and make themselves a minority in a state run by those whom they have had to fight for national existence; if they will not agree to voluntarily dismantle Israel and create a “secular democratic Arab state”, in which Israeli Jews can have religious but not national rights – then they must be overwhelmed and compelled to submit or flee by the Arab states, now or when they are strong enough.
Usually beginning with the benign-seeming proposal to sink Israel into a broader Arab-majority entity in which “everyone could live in peace”, the chain of logic rooted in the idea that Israel should not have come into existence, that it is an illegitimate state, leads directly — since Israel will not agree to abolish itself — to support for compulsion, conquest, and all that goes with it. Israel must be conquered.
Even the work of a writer like Hal Draper can feed into this poisoned stream. While Draper made valid and just criticisms of Israel, he accepted that it had a right to exist and a right to defend itself. He denounced those who wanted to destroy it. But he made his criticisms in the tone and manner of a prophet denouncing sin and iniquity. He too thought that Israel was an illegitimate state, that it should never have come into existence and should go out of existence as soon as possible.
By agreement, and only by agreement, he believed; but the subtleties got lost. There is nothing to stop someone swayed by Draper’s denunciations of Israel, and accepting his idea that Israel is an illegitimate state, then impatiently insisting: if not by agreement, then by conquest.
And so an increasingly-disoriented SWP-UK could look to a Saddam Hussein to “free Palestine”, that is, conquer Israel.
The point here is that states and nations are the products of history. There is no such thing as an illegitimate nation or a “bad people” which does not deserve the rights conceded to other peoples.
Above: August Bebel
The German socialist leader August Bebel, confronted by raucous denunciation of “the Jews” ludicrously depicting them as the epitome and embodiment of capitalism said of anti-semitism that it was “the socialism of the fools”.
The anti-semitic left today, which depicts Israel as the hyper-imperialist power — either controlling US policy, or acting as its chief instrument, the story varies — is in the grip of an “anti-imperialism of the fools”. And that in practice leads to a comprehensive hostility to Jews not far from what Bebel called the socialism of fools.
One of the great tragedies of today is that many young people, whose initial instincts to oppose Bush and Blair in Iraq and to support the Palestinians are healthy, are being poisoned with “left-wing” anti-semitism through the “anti-war movement”.
“Left-wing anti-semitism” is, in short, a comprehensive hostility to most Jews alive, branding them as “Zionists” and seeing that description as akin to “racist” or “imperialist”. It excepts only those Jews who agree that Israel is racist imperialism in its most concentrated essence, and oppose its continued existence.
The general antidote to this anti-imperialism of fools is the propagation of rational democratic and socialist politics. Such politics focus on a political solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. They measure and criticise Israel — and the Arab states — according to their stand in relation to that just solution — the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
There is an immediate “antidote” to left-wing anti-semitism too, and it is a very important task for Marxist socialists like those who publish Solidarity [ie: the AWL]: relentless exposure and criticism of their politics and antics — without fear of isolation, ridicule, or the venomous hostility of the vocal and self-righteous left-wing anti-semites.