Lerman in the Guardian: ‘The abuse of dissenting Jews is shameful’

August 21, 2012 at 5:45 pm (anti-semitism, Guardian, history, Pink Prosecco)

Guest post by Pink Prosecco:

Antony Lerman in the Guardian: The abuse of dissenting Jews is shameful

Half truths are more difficult to combat than outright nonsense.  Yes, it is true to say that some right wing hardliners will call almost anyone – any Jew that is – to left of Melanie Phillips a ‘kapo’.  And, certainly, at the other end of the spectrum, the most liberal Zionists, and a healthy proportion of anti-zionists too, are repulsed by the antisemitism of Israel-critic Gilad Atzmon. 

But the subheading of Lerman’s article ‘Jewish diaspora support is vital for Israel, yet those who oppose its policies are demonised and vilified’  is unfair, even dishonest.  It’s in the same territory as Pippa Bartolotti’s plaintive observation that anyone who ventures a criticism of Netanyahu gets called an antisemite. 

A similar slippage is on display here:
“The fact is that Jewish diaspora support is vital for Israel, whose governments have taken that support for granted for decades, exploiting it to bolster the country’s international position. But they also treat Jewish communities as subservient to Israel by claiming to speak and act on behalf of Jews everywhere. Were that support to weaken dramatically and Jewish diaspora critics of the Netanyahu government’s policies become dominant, Israeli officials privately acknowledge that the state would face an unprecedented crisis.”

But support for Israel does not – or need not – equate to support for Netanyahu’s policies.  Many of Israel’s most eloquent advocates are also highly critical of Likud. 

Lerman goes on to imply that charges of disloyalty and self-hatred are part of some well organised and centrally managed plan to discredit ‘Jewish critics with radical ideas for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’.  When in fact it seems to me that those who are irritated by anti-zionists – and of course those who are irritated by Zionists – need no outside pressure (or the financial incentives Lerman hints at mysteriously) to go on and on and on about the topic in any forum they can find. 

Although Lerman has managed to imply that anyone who prefers Kadima to Likud, or who wonders whether Netanyahu could rein in the settlement building a bit, is being targeted by a well-funded cabal, it then becomes clear that his own position amounts to rather more than just being critical of the current government’s policies.  He would seem to support a one state solution:
“I wished passionately that Israel would become a democratic state for all its citizens, end the occupation, recognise the Palestinians’ right of return, and acknowledge that Israel’s establishment in 1948 was a Nakba, a catastrophe, for the Palestinians.”

Here’s another misleading shift in the argument.
“In the four years since then, has anything changed? Is it any easier for critics to find a receptive communal audience? There are reasons to think it should be. A 2010 survey of Jewish opinion in the UK revealed that while 72% described themselves as Zionists, 74% opposed settlement expansion and 35% said Jews should always feel free to voice public criticism of Israel.”

If all he had done was say that Jews should feel free to criticise Israel in public and that Israel should halt settlement expansion – I doubt he’d have found many who’d take great issue with him.   Yet one might finish this article left with the vague idea that British Jews who feel concern for the Palestinians, who dislike some of Likud’s polices, who are critical of settlement expansion, are ostracised by their community – when in fact such views are pretty mainstream.

2 Comments

  1. Jim Denham said,

    Have a look at Lerman’s piece in the Graun / CiF, and in particular at the comments that follow:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/20/israel-silence-jewish-dissent-diaspora?newsfeed=true

    There’s some weird and wonderful (and quite nasty) stuff there… But NONE of the commenters (when I last checked) denounce Lerman as an “antisemite” or “self-hating Jew” for criticising Israel.

    The proposition that critics of Israel are routinely denounced as “antisemites” is a leftist/”anti-Zionist” urban myth. I can state with absolute certainty, as a harsh critic of Israel (though not a Jew), that I’ve simply never encountered it.

    As Pink Prosecco notes, criticism of Israel (whether from Jews or Goyim) is “mainstream.”

  2. Kolya said,

    Pink Prosecco’s verdict on Antony Lerman is correct.

    Lerman claims to speak on behalf of the supporters of Israel who are critical of its policies. But his advocacy of a unitary state implementing a Palestinian right of return means that the country whose interests he purports to promote would not be called Israel for long.

    I’ve seen no evidence of him being antisemitic, but he’s clearly antagonistic to the survival of the state of Israel, and whinging about the fact that most Jews in Israel and the diaspora disagree with him.

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