Eve Garrard: Antisemitism is on the rise, and “a very notable role in Western culture” …

March 10, 2015 at 3:10 am (anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, fascism, history, Judaism, Middle East, posted by JD, terror, zionism)

This is a brilliant statement of principle that you all must read:

An edited speech given by Eve Garrard, Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Manchester, to the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism’s event ‘Israel and Antisemitism in Britain: Now and in the Future’; first published in Fathom:

The murders in France of four innocent Jewish shoppers, connected arbitrarily but not accidentally with the killings of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, make the claim that antisemitism is once again on the rise in Europe seem depressingly plausible. Here in the UK the Community Security Trust thinks there’s been an increase in antisemitism, and since they monitor such things carefully, I for one am inclined to believe them. The Guardian even devoted a whole page (on 5 January 2015) to this resurgence, so I think we can take that as strong evidence that the phenomenon is a real one.

Some of us, perhaps many of us, thought that the Second World War, and the huge and ravenous killing of the European Jews which was so distinctive a part of that tremendous blood-letting,  would have put an end to serious antisemitism in Europe; we thought that shame and horror would effectively preclude its resurrection from the grave of the death-camps.  Well, if we did think that, we were wrong, and more fool us. We shouldn’t have expected so long-standing and deep-rooted a hostility to melt away in the post-war spring sunshine, such as it was.

People sometimes say that if we’re to understand the phenomenon of antisemitism we have to look at its root causes, and the root cause of its current increase is, supposedly, the behaviour of Israel, particularly in the Gaza war it fought last summer. Well, we can all agree that we should look at the root causes of outbreaks of racism in order to understand them better. But if we’re to find out what’s really going on we may need to spread our cause-catching net a little wider than is usual, in order to identify the various forces which are at work. What counts as the root cause may itself be a matter of dispute, and very often the identification by an observer of a cause as being the ‘root’ of the problem in hand is actually the result of prior political commitments and pre-judgements which ensure that the blame for the problem lands exactly where the observer has already decided it belongs. (Think of those people who regard immigration as the root cause of all social unrest in the UK, or who think that women’s immodest dress and behaviour is the root cause of rape. Their prior hostility to what they identify as root causes is often remarkably clear.)

People who think of antisemitism as being the result of the behaviour of Israel, or more widely the behaviour of Zionists, are concentrating on what we might call a push factor: the way Israel has fought its most recent war, or perhaps the fact that she fought it (or any other war) at all, is seen as pushing people, however reluctantly, into the otherwise unwelcome embrace of antisemitism. But the push explanation is in many ways very unsatisfactory. It’s supposed to work like this: people are horrified by what Israel has done in Gaza, where about 2,500 people were killed last summer, and that horror leads them to feel hostility towards Jews here in the UK, since they’re inevitably associated with Israel, the world’s only Jewish state. On this story the arrow of causation, so to speak, runs from Israel’s horrifying crimes to a resulting antisemitism.  Perhaps those who are horrified may not feel actual hatred towards Jews, but the hostility aroused in them by Israel’s activities leads them to repeat some very familiar antisemitic tropes. These include the blood libel – that is, the charge that Jews, in this case Israeli Jews, callously and deliberately aim at the blood-letting of non-Jews, especially their children; and the trope that there exists a shadowy but powerful Zionist lobby (aka the Jewish lobby) which exerts a malign and well-nigh total control over international and especially economic affairs. Israel’s behaviour, so it is claimed, has pushed people into embracing these and other prejudicial and discriminatory responses. Or it has led them to say, as Ken Loach did, that they’re not antisemitic themselves, but they can understand why some people are – Israel’s behaviour feeds feelings of antisemitism.

But when we ask, ‘Why Israel? Why is there among the groups so hostile to Israel no comparable hostility, no demands to boycott and ostracise, polities which commit far more, and far more serious, violations of human rights?’ then the answers we get range from the implausible to the downright ludicrous. References are frequently made to Israel’s human rights violations, or to it being an occupying power – but these fail to explain the hostility, since there are other far worse rights-violators, and other occupying states whose occupations have killed far more people, but whose activities aren’t used to explain prejudice against them or their nationals. Indeed these other states, such as Turkey or China, often seem to get an entirely free pass from the very people who announce how absolutely intolerable they find Israel’s misdeeds. (A ludicrous rather than an implausible answer to the question ‘Why Israel?’ was offered by an American academic in support of an academic boycott of Israel.  His astonishingly vacuous reply was, ‘Well, we have to start somewhere.’)

Clearly something else is going on here; there’s something other than moral outrage at occupation or human rights violations doing at least part of the work of generating so selective a hostility. A proper explanation of the resurgence of antisemitism is going to have to say something to account for that remarkable selectivity.  And in view of how unsatisfactory most of the answers citing push factors are, we ought also to consider the possibility of pull factors: the possibility that there’s something about antisemitism which might actively attract some people and entice them to embrace it, however great a show of reluctance they may make. We ought, that is, to consider what rewards antisemitism offers, and what satisfactions it may provide.

Unfortunately there’s a wide variety of such rewards, but the one I want to focus on here is the satisfaction of participating in long-standing traditions, and in doing this I’ll be drawing to a large extent on the historian David Nirenberg’s recent work on the very idea of Jewishness: Anti-Judaism. In this book, Nirenberg isn’t investigating prejudicial or discriminatory behaviour against actual Jews; rather, he’s interested in the role played by the idea of Jewishness in the broader culture in which it’s embedded. He argues, with a great deal of very wide-ranging evidence, that the idea of Jewishness, always a hostile idea, has played a very notable role in Western culture: it’s acted as a prism through which people make sense of the world, and in particular make sense of their enemies.  This is the phenomenon which Nirenberg labels ‘anti-Judaism’: it’s a picture of Jewishness which is used to identify and explain the forces that we find hostile to us. The precise characteristics which make up this idea of Jewishness have varied across the centuries, though there are some constant themes: Jewishness supposedly concentrates on and cares for the material rather than the spiritual; it’s wedded to a love of money; it exercises a deep and sinister influence in the corridors of power, wherever they are; it’s cruel and retrograde, and relishes the chance to shed the blood of non-Jews, especially children – the infamous blood libel (which we can see again in some of the cartoons produced by anti-Zionists and anti-Semites in this country and others). Even where there are few or no Jews in a particular country, this idea of Jewishness persists and flourishes, enabling people to criticise their enemies as being Jews, or at least in some way ‘Jew-ish’. (Some very striking examples of this recently occurred in Egypt, when the elected President Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was ousted by the army under Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Sisi was accused of being Jewish by those who opposed him. After the coup, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood on trial for various alleged offences were accused by the court of being demons who preached Jewish scripture.  Needless to say neither accusation is even remotely plausible, but Nirenberg’s work suggests that literal plausibility isn’t what matters in these cases: the important thing is that the designated enemy can be understood in terms of his exemplification of Jewish traits.)

Antisemitism morphs through the centuries, taking on the colour of the local culture in which it exists. In Medieval times, religion, specifically Christianity, was culturally pre-eminent in the West, and antisemitism took the form of declaring Jews to be God-killers and hostile to divine revelation. As time went by, and the rationalist wave of the Enlightenment poured over Europe, the charge against Jewishness changed from its being hostile to revelation (and hence being the enemy of Christ) to its being impervious to reason (and hence the enemy of rationality). With the rise in power and prestige of science in the 19th and 20th centuries, the pseudo-biological discipline of ‘race science’ declared Jews to be an inferior, perhaps sub-human, race, which tainted and infected the supposedly more advanced and progressive races such as the Aryans. The defeat of the Nazis in the Second World War, and the revelations about what their version of antisemitism led them to do, gave race science, and for a time antisemitism itself, a very bad name, and not too much of it was heard in Western countries in the aftermath of the war, although in the Soviet Union antisemitism continued to flourish very successfully under the fig-leaf of anti-Zionism.  But in due course, with the increasing emphasis on human rights in liberal-left circles, we find the growth of an obsessional interest in every violation of human rights that Israel could be thought to have committed (and indeed some that she clearly didn’t, such as the alleged massacre at Jenin). In this latest development, we see a shift from what has been aptly  called the bierkeller antisemitism of the right to the bistro antisemitism of the liberal left (see Ben Cohen’s, Some of my Best Friends: A Journey Through Twenty-First Century Antisemitism).

If this were simply a proportionate part of a general increase in sensitivity to violations of human rights everywhere, it might be unobjectionable and even welcome. But in Israel’s case, it is not proportionate. Many of those who are on red alert to any Israeli moral or legal transgressions are strangely silent when far worse horrors are committed by other states and non-state actors. The thousands killed in Nigeria, the tens of thousands killed in Sri Lanka, the hundreds of thousands killed in Syria, generated far less protest in the UK from the anti-Zionist parts of the liberal left, and the Islamist groups which they sometimes support, than Israel’s war in Gaza did, even though the death toll there was so much lower.  So, appealing to the idea of an increasing concern about human rights doesn’t explain the strangely selective attention to Israel’s putative violations of those rights, and the equally selective hostility towards Jews which these alleged violations are supposed to account for. (I say ‘alleged’ violations, not because I imagine that Israel has never committed any human rights violations – that would indeed be unique in human history – but because many of the charges of rights violations so readily levelled at Israel are simply untrue.)

This long tradition of appealing to the idea of Jewishness to explain the world’s troubles, and in particular the wickedness of our enemies, persists today, both in the West and in the East. It means that such appeal has the deep attractions of tradition. There’s a Jew-shaped space, and not a pleasant one, in Western culture, and placing actual Jews, both inside and outside the Jewish state, into that space seems obvious, familiar and natural – they seem to fit the space so remarkably well, especially once their actual activities have been reconstructed to conform to a deeply hostile picture of them. (For example, Baroness Jenny Tonge’s claim that Israel only provided a field hospital to Haiti in order to steal human organs for sale on the black market, or the more recent claim that the IDF had a policy of killing children in the war in Gaza this summer, thereby implying that Israelis are fools as well as villains, since Israel knows just as well as Hamas does that every dead Palestinian child is not only a desperate human tragedy but also a propaganda disaster for Israel.)

Nirenberg isn’t arguing for the inevitability of anti-Judaism leading to genocidal antisemitism – that phenomenon is too complex to have just one cause. What he says is this:  ‘The “Jewish” terrors that assailed Germany and many of its neighbours in the first half of the twentieth century … didn’t make the Holocaust inevitable. They were rather the product of a history that had encoded the threat of Judaism into some of the basic concepts of Western thought, regenerating that threat in new forms fitting for new periods, and helping far too many citizens of the twentieth century make sense of their world.’

This encoding, and this way of making sense of the world, continues today, and helps to explain why antisemitism recurs, and why Israel is the target of so much hostility, especially in parts of the liberal left which might once have been expected to put up a strong resistance to any form of racism. But racism, we have to acknowledge, is for many people deeply enjoyable, though this is rarely admitted by its practitioners. Such enjoyment isn’t peculiar to antisemitism, as the evidence from the horrors of the Rwandan genocide demonstrates. But antisemitism is peculiarly familiar; both in the West and in the East, Jewishness is an accustomed, easy target for people’s hostilities, and supposed Jewish machinations provide an explanation of social and political troubles which leaves people well within their traditional comfort zone.

The causal force of anti-Judaism can be seen at work in the issue which Howard Jacobson (among others) has recently labelled and discussed: when will Jews be forgiven the Holocaust? Jacobson points out that we often have trouble forgiving those whom we have wronged, since if we can believe that they’re thoroughly objectionable, they probably deserved what we did to them, and so we can reach the comfortable conclusion that we haven’t really wronged them after all; instead, we’ve given them what they really deserve. So, if the state which the Jews have created, the only Jewish state in the world, can be thought of as deep-dyed in blood and oppression, just as the anti-Judaism prism invites us to think, then perhaps the Jews weren’t so wronged after all, and we can sustain an antipathy towards them in ways that are comfortably familiar.

What I’m suggesting, then, is that if Nirenberg’s thesis about the nature of anti-Judaism is correct, then the causal link between Israel and antisemitism runs in exactly the opposite direction from that presupposed by the push explanation. The story embedded in the push explanation of resurgent antisemitism is that the horror produced by Israel’s (alleged) crimes prompts hostility towards Jews; unjustified, perhaps, but deeply understandable. On the alternative, pull explanation, things are more complicated. The deep anti-Judaism embedded in the culture generates an interpretation of Israel which construes it, in the teeth of the evidence, as a uniquely criminal political entity. This hostility towards Israel in turn provides an alibi for the antisemitism of people who might otherwise have been embarrassed and ashamed to display this ancient and blood-soaked form of racism. In this pull explanation, the causal arrow runs from anti-Judaism through anti-Zionism to the resurgent antisemitism that we are trying to explain. The advantage of the pull rather than the push account is that it does help to explain the obsessional hostility towards Israel, which has become distressingly prevalent in some social and cultural groups in the UK, and which figures so significantly in the story of resurgent racism towards Jews.

What does all this imply for those who want to combat antisemitism? Well, it’s not going to be easy; but we already knew that. However, it’s not going to be impossible either – think of the advances made by another group which has also been the target of prejudice and oppression for millennia, and still is in many places today: the female half of the human race. Consider the position of women in Europe 1,000 years ago, or even 100 years ago, and compare it to their position now, in the UK, in the early 21st century. With respect to misogyny, we’ve come a long way in the UK, and more broadly in the West, though this is regrettably not the case in all parts of the world. Progress is possible, even in the face of millennia of prejudice. So although things seem to be deteriorating, we can reasonably maintain hope for the struggle against antisemitism. It’s worth continuing the fight, particularly since there’s absolutely nothing else to be done.

19 Comments

  1. Mike Killingworth said,

    The attempt to draw an analogy between anti-Semitism and sexism doesn’t really work. For the human race to survive, both men and women are needed. Futures in which either no human beings are Jews, or else all human beings are Jews are equally plausible. If Dr Garrard were a psychologist (or even a historian) rather than a philosopher, she might be more inclined to consider whether the existence of Gentiles and the extirpation of anti-Semitism is a plausible scenario.

    It is human nature to fear the Other and to fantasize about their extirpation. To accept the Other, no matter how threatening they may feel to us, is a working definition of sainthood.

    One other point, whilst I’m here. There have been comments made here arguing that Judaism is a race, not a religion. This is easily disproved: in the Ancient World (where male circumcision was the norm and by no means a specifically Judaic practice) the Jews welcomed converts and even proselytised. It was only the destruction of their Temple by the Roman Emperor Titus that put an end to this outreach.

  2. Glesga Keeping Scotland Free From Loonies said,

    You have to cut across the crap that comes from philosophers, lefties and facists. The fact is they do not give a fuck about Israel and Jews and would not raise a hand if the slaughteer of Jews was imminent. What really gets to me is that some Jews think they can do a deal with those that want to wipe them out. However there are some clever Jews who know exactly whats instore for them and will fight. Carry on chaps and well done. Do not pay any attention to lefties.

  3. damon said,

    I think its possible to unpick some of the arguments put in this piece.
    It’s just really hard and I’m not sure whether I could do it.
    Not on my own anyway and not in the face of hostile opposition – which is what I got on another website when I used to attempt such a thing.
    Eve Gerrard has constructed something here. The argument as a whole.
    It’s been built, piece by piece, or brick by brick as it were. It finishes as a solid edifice and something that is difficult to approach.

    When thinking about this just now, an image of the Israeli separation wall came into my mind – along with one of its warning signs which state that you risk death if you approach with it or try to subvert it in any way.
    I also had the thought of those toxic debts in the American housing market that were sliced up and mixed in with positive assets and then sold on around the world. The good and the bad were infused together and one masked the other.
    I think some of that is going on here. Good sound analysis giving cover to some more dodgy, ideological and sectarian points.

    The trouble is where to begin. If I’d said this much on Harry’s Place, I’d already be being called an antisemitic lowlife. Because that is how many of the people who would support Eve Gerrard’s view here would react.
    Do react. They do it all the time. You can’t get into conversation as they are too abusive.

    The blood libel is mentioned in the article, just a few lines before Ken Loach is mentioned by name. Who apart from absolute head-cases talks about the blood libel? Not many people I think. But it’s really great when there are a couple – like this Haiti crazy story. It seems just a bit too convenient when I hear stories like that. When I was accused of being a rabid antisemite, I suppose that it was being implied that I bought into the idea myself too.
    It’s just preposterous is all I can think to say of such stupid allegations.
    No one believes in blood libels, but it doesn’t stop the accusations being made, like to that Guardian cartoonist who depicted Netanyahu building a wall with bits of dead Arabs mixed in with it.

    I could try to go more into the article point by point, but would there be any point? It might just look like an embarrassment if it stood alone there uncommented on.
    What’s happened here I think is what happens to loads of very complex and difficult issues. They get simplified, and then in cases like this, arguments get built up in a way that suits one side better. Those that would tend to agree, rally, and those that don’t, oppose.
    The same formula can be rolled out for many subjects.
    Just on today’s front page of the Guardian you could do this. It says:
    ”Minorities hit by huge surge in joblessness
    Labour condemns coalition for 50% rise among non-white adults”

    You could build an argument around that which focused just on how racist white people were, while ignoring any factors that didn’t suit your thesis.
    It seems to be the level of debate generally today. Pretty poor.

    • Jim Denham said,

      Damon: “What’s happened here I think is what happens to loads of very complex and difficult issues. They get simplified, and then in cases like this, arguments get built up in a way that suits one side better. Those that would tend to agree, rally, and those that don’t, oppose.”

      Not sure I agree with you re the particular case of the Eve Gerras article, but (insofar as I understand you), I have some sympathy with your general point about intolerance, group-think and unwillingness to debate.

      BTW have you read this in today’s Graun: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/11/mainstream-left-silencing-sympathetic-voices
      ?

      • Makhno said,

        I read that column. It starts of OK but then goes very arse. Spiked are libertarian left?

        They’re about as libertarian left as Ayn Rand, but with even madder and starier eyes.

      • damon said,

        I hadn’t seen that Tim Lott article until you linked to it.
        Yes interesting that. I’ve thought he was OK since he wrote a piece several years ago about north west London where he lives and he said that some of the youth gang culture there was giving his liberalism a hard time.
        One area where I thought Eve Gerrard’s article was poor was this:

        ”The thousands killed in Nigeria, the tens of thousands killed in Sri Lanka, the hundreds of thousands killed in Syria, generated far less protest in the UK from the anti-Zionist parts of the liberal left, and the Islamist groups which they sometimes support, than Israel’s war in Gaza did, even though the death toll there was so much lower.”

        That’s simply because Israel is taken to be a Western country and is scrutinised and judged a lot more closely. There could be some antisemitism in there as well of course, but you could ask why the USA and Guantanamo Bay got so much international coverage and the prisons in Morocco don’t. The people protesting about Guantanamo fetishised the orange jump suits prisoners wore to the point that Al Queda and now Isis have copied the practice to score some sick political points. Why was there so much fuss about a few hundred (mostly dangerous) prisoners when there are millions of other prisoners in the world in worse circumstances?

        I think I also disagree with Howard Jacobson as well, but it’s quite a difficult discussion to try to have.
        I’m not that impressed with Spiked for going down that ”easier road” on Israel and antisemitism too. Maybe it’s because they think that is the bigger point to be making right now, when so much of the left has fallen to unhelpful and short sighted bds positions.

  4. Aaron Aarons said,

    Sorry, but the reason Israel’s crimes are singled out by left critics is that those crimes are enabled, armed, financed and politically and defended by the ruling classes, and most of the middle class, of virtually every Western country, and particularly by the godfather of Western imperialism, the United Snakes. No other atrocity factory has that distinction. And you can add in the fact that the Zionist state has, thanks to the complicity of Western imperialism, a large arsenal of nuclear weapons and has threatened to use them, making Israel one of the major immediate threats to humanity.

    And maybe the fact that a large proportion, perhaps a majority, of self-described Jews politically and materially support the so-called ‘State of the Jewish People’ and its crimes — much larger than the proportion of Muslims who support violent political Islam — contributes to the increased, though greatly exaggerated by Zionists, hostility toward Jews, particularly among Arabs and Muslims. It’s time for Jews to disassociate themselves from those crimes, and from the settler colony that claims to speak for them, so as not to get blamed for their crimes.

    • Makhno said,

      United Snakes!

      Aarons, you are a moron and an anti-semite.

      • Jim Denham said,

        “It’s time for Jews to disassociate themselves from those crimes, and from the settler colony that claims to speak for them, so as not to get blamed for their crimes”: I’m afraid that comment is simply anti-Semitic. You may very well not personally hate individual Jews, Aaron, but your politics (as stated by yourself) *are* anti-Semitic by any rational definition.

        For once I agree with the Stalinist ‘Morning Star’ when it stated (see editorial, republished below) that “Attacking, criticising or making special demands on people because they are Jewish is anti-semitism.” That’s exactly what you’re doing Aaron when you state that “It’s time for Jews to disassociate themselves from those crimes, and from the settler colony that claims to speak for them, so as not to get blamed for their crimes.”

        That is an outrageous and, frankly, anti-Semitic statement to make – regardless of what your personal feelings towards Jews may be.

        Morning Star editorial, January 19 2015:
        No Place for Anti-Semitism

        Anti-semitism is known as “the oldest hatred” for good reason.

        For 2,000 years, Jewish people have been the targets of hatred, prejudice and discrimination in different parts of the world, in different types of society and for different reasons.

        It is rooted in fear of the unknown and hostility to those perceived as “outsiders.”

        But in the case of anti-semitism, this has been given a genocidal twist by the ideological conviction that Jews are the enemies of Christianity, nationhood, racial purity, socialism or — today — the oppressed people of Palestine.

        These and other vile calumnies have been used by the power-hungry and the deluded to identify a convenient scapegoat, deceiving the ignorant and downtrodden to the benefit of a particular leader or movement.

        Home Secretary Theresa May was right to declare that Britain must redouble its efforts to wipe out anti-semitism in her address at yesterday’s service to commemorate the four people recently murdered at a kosher supermarket in Paris.

        Her urgent call for more protection for Jewish cemeteries, synagogues and other targets of anti-semitism, alongside greater efforts to combat it through education and on the internet, stands in sharp contrast to government complacency hitherto.

        As late as December 29 last year, the Department for Communities and Local Government was trumpeting that its own report “highlights the great strides that Britain has made in fighting anti-semitism.”

        Since then, however, a YouGov opinion poll and a survey commissioned by the Campaign Against Anti-semitism have revealed that anti-Jewish prejudice remains widespread among the general population while a substantial minority of Britain’s Jews fear for their future here.

        The questions for Theresa May, Local Government Minister Eric Pickles and their colleagues must now therefore be: what additional resources are this Tory-led government prepared to plough into the police, broadcasting and education services to turn fine words into buttered parsnips?

        In order to step up the drive against anti-semitism it will also be important to foster unity between all those forces that can potentially be mobilised in support.

        Churches have a special responsibility to disown those in their ranks — sometimes in the past at the highest level — who have poisoned the minds of Christians against Jews and Muslims.

        Politicians and parties which profess patriotism must take every opportunity to make clear that their notion of nationality is inclusive, not least by highlighting the disproportionately positive contribution that Jewish citizens have made to social, economic, cultural and democratic progress in Britain and its component nations.

        Trade unions and the left — much of which has a proud record of combating anti-semitism here and overseas in the 20th century — must continue to expose the pernicious myths that most Jews are especially greedy and wealthy, are bad employers or engaged in some Jewish-led global banking conspiracy.

        That, as Engels echoed more than a century ago, is the “socialism of fools.”

        There also needs to be sharper clarity as to what constitutes anti-semitism and what does not.

        Attacking, criticising or making special demands on people because they are Jewish is anti-semitism.

        Attacking or criticising Jewish people or institutions in the sincere belief that they are wrong is not.

        Condemning Israeli state policies, or the actions of Israeli governments, is not in itself anti-semitic.

        At the same time, Jewish sensitivities about the conditions in which Israel was founded should be understood and appreciated.

        Many Jews around the world support the human and national rights of the Palestinian people.

        The fight against anti-semitism should not become the pretext for denying those rights.

        The struggle for justice and democracy against oppression and dictatorship is indivisible. That, too, must be remembered on Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27.

      • Aaron Aarons said,

        @’Makhno’: If my referring to the imperialist monstrosity in which I hold citizenship as “the United Snakes” makes me a “moron”, so be it. BTW, I have come across Zionists who, because of their state’s dependence on the U.S., consider it anti-Jewish to be anti-‘American’. Is that what you meant, appropriator of the name of the Ukrainian revolutionist?

        No, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking people in whose names crimes are being repeatedly committed to repudiate those crimes. That also goes for citizens of the United Snakes and the United Killdom, and of other imperialist countries, particularly those whose governments have the electoral support of their populations. And it goes for white people in the U.S. and other countries who don’t, IMO, have a right to be silent in the face of white supremacism.

        And that Morning Star piece is particularly Stalinist in its call on a reactionary capitalist government, one that in fact supports the crimes of Zionism, not only to protect Jewish cemeteries and synagogues, which should be done, and to the extent possible by multi-ethnic workers defense guards rather than by the ruling class, but also to carry on an ideological campaign against “antisemitism”! Is there any doubt that such a campaign by the Tories, or by British capitalists in general, will also be a campaign in solidarity with the Zionist state against the Palestinians and other opponents of that state?

        BTW, while Jewish sites should, in general, be protected, the left has no obligation to protect any entities, Jewish or not, that are in the process of raising material support for the Zionist state.

      • Jim Denham said,

        With everything you write Aaron, you confirm your anti-Semitism. As I tend to think you’re ignorant and politically ill-educated, rather than morally bankrupt and/or mentally ill, I’d suggest you try to educate yourself out of your anti-Semitism. Start by reading this:

        A mirror for anti-Zionists

        Walking from Westminster to Trafalgar Square one afternoon in May or June 2002, I came upon a small picket-demonstration – a dozen people perhaps – waving Palestinian flags and placards on the pavement across the road from the entrance to the Prime Minister’s residence in Downing Street. I saw from a distance, and wondered at it, that half the demonstrators were dressed in the black hats and clothes and the beards that identified them as some sort of especially religious Jews.

        I had known, of course, that some devout Jews believe that the creation of the state of Israel is a monstrous act of impiety and defiance against the God whose will it was that the Jews scatter across the world. I had never encountered such people before, so I stopped to talk.

        An intelligent, alert man of about 30 explained their point of view. Those Jews who created Israel were rebels against God, criminals. Israel has no right to exist.

        What, I asked, would he replace Israel by?

        “A Palestinian state, of course!”

        “The Israelis will not agree to that.”

        “They should get out, give Palestine back to the Palestinians.”

        “Where would they go?”

        “Oh, there are many countries that would have them.”

        So I said that for the generation that founded Israel, nobody would have them. And what should they have done in face of Hitler?

        “It was their own fault – Hitler only made war on the Jews because they made war on him. He said so!”

        “So they shouldn’t have fought back?”

        “No! Jews were meant to suffer.”

        And so it went on.

        To resist, fight back, struggle to shape their destiny – that was impious. He was very indignant with Israel and, I think, sincerely sympathetic to the Palestinians.

        I was concerned to question and listen – to understand. My theological wits being blunt from lack of use, I didn’t in time think to ask him how he knew that his God had decreed the Diaspora but not the Jewish “ingathering” in Israel.

        After all, many fundamentalist Christians in the US and elsewhere – Ian Paisley, for instance – see the re-emergence of Israel as God’s will, as proof that the world is being prepared for the “Second Coming” of Christ (such people, I understand, are a major part of the pro-Israel lobby in US politics).

        I regretted afterwards also not thinking to ask what he and his friends would have done in the Warsaw ghetto in 1943, when those marked for systematic destruction by the Nazis rose in arms against impossible odds to write one of the great chapters in humankind’s long struggle against predatory tyrants But I have no doubt at all what the answer would have been.

        I may, through lack of theological subtlety, be crudifying his arguments a bit here. I don’t think so; but if I am, I do not do it knowingly, for effect.

        Continuing my journey, it occurred to me that, apart from the small number of Jewish theological anti-Zionists, the only other group of people of Jewish background who are outrightly anti-Israel – wanting the destruction of the Israeli state, as distinct from being critical of Israel or opponents of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian-majority territories – are people influenced by “anti-Zionist” “Marxism”, that special “Marxism” created by the Stalinists and taken over by post-Trotsky “Trotskyism”.

        Of proponents of this “Marxism”, the most influential in the last 30 years was the late Tony Cliff, a Palestinian Jew in origin – he came to Europe in 1946 – and a vicarious Arab nationalist by conviction. Cliff could get away with preaching attitudes to Israel, and implicitly to Jews, that would, in someone who did not look and sound like Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, have been easily identified as virulent anti-semitism.

        By this I mean not “racism”, but comprehensive hostility to most Jews alive, who to one degree or another give their support – often reluctant and critical support – to Israel; who are heirs to the identity stamped on Jews by the murderous anti-semitism of the 20th century.

        The events of the first half of the 20th century turned Zionism – which fundamentally means commitment to a Jewish state, and then to Israel – from a minority movement amongst Jews to something that is part of the identity of almost all Jewish people. Critically or mindlessly, unreservedly or grudgingly, to one degree or another, Jews identify with Israel. Why shouldn’t they? How could they not?

        Knowing something of the history as distinct from the poisoned mythology of how and why Israel came into existence, how could any person of average goodwill find this unreasonable? How could it be otherwise? Unless you share the viewpoint of the Jewish sectaries demonstrating in Whitehall, that Jews must eternally suffer, must humbly submit to ill-treatment, never by their actions try to influence the destiny which God, left to his own inclinations, would inflict on them, how could you argue that the Israelis in 1948 should not have defended themselves? Not that this or that should have been done differently, but that they should have meekly submitted to the invading Arab armies, which was the only alternative to fighting and prevailing. Or that they should now dismantle their national state and put themselves at the mercy of the surrounding states?

        No people, no state in history, has ever done that. Why should anyone who does not have a “special” attitude to Israel and to Jews demand it of them? (As distinct from seeking a solution that would do something like justice to both Palestinians and Jews.)

        This viewpoint in an anti-Israel religious Jew is one thing – eccentric, strange, bizarre, whatever you like. But when a socialist who is not a consistent pacifist adopts the attitude to the Jews expressed by the demonstrator I talked to in Whitehall, then it is not masochism of the Jewish mystics, but its exact opposite. It becomes a “special” attitude to Jews

        SUPPORT for any solution other than two states – Israel side by side with a Palestinian state – inescapably implies a “special” attitude to Israel. Unless you are an Israeli chauvinist opposed to a Palestinian state, it implies, logically and organically, a comprehensive hostility to most Jews alive because they will rightly resist the equation of Israeli nationalism with anti-Arab “racism”, reject calls on the Israel nation to commit suicide by way of voluntarily dismantling its state, and refuse to find anything “progressive” in rocket attacks on Israel such as Saddam Hussein made in 1991 during the Gulf war (and some British pseudo-lefts accepted as useful “anti-Zionism”). In short, they reject the attitudes of my abnegating, self-denying mystic in Whitehall.

        It is of course possible to argue that Zionism and Israel are such an evil that the neo-anti-semitic implications of advocating Israel’s destruction are an acceptable “overhead cost” of necessary political activity. That attitude is in fact implied in much of what the British pseudo-left says and does, and in what it does not say and do. But who would go so far as to state that and argue for it openly?

        It is a precondition of rational discussion of the issues that these implications are brought into the light of scrutiny and rational assessment.

        The arguments which the man I met in Whitehall stated bluntly and with religious fervour closely parallel those which the pseudo-left uses, less candidly (and his attitude may, indeed, form the psychological and emotional substratum of the attitudes of a certain section of the “anti-Zionist” pseudo-left – some of the vociferous “anti-Zionists” in the SWP for example – who contribute no small part of the implicitly anti-semitic confusion which poisons both themselves and those who listen to them). For the left, of course, the Israeli Jews are rebels not against God, but against “History”, against the “Arab Revolution”, against the perennial role of fatalistic, submissive victim…

        The other-worldly Jews are entitled to those views. The international socialist left is not – not unless it applies such views comprehensively and consistently.

        The point is that, except where the Israeli Jews are concerned, normally the revolutionary left scorns such attitudes.
        – Sean Matgamna

      • Aaron Aarons said,

        Instead of dealing with the points I made, you paste a long screed by your guru, Sean Matgamna, describing his conversation with somebody who opposes Israel with the same kind of irrational arguments that most religious Jews use to support it. And, in the matter of Israel, a lot more religious ‘nutters’ or ‘loonies’ are on your side than on the side of us anti-Israel leftists. (But it’s not just the religious ones; there are quite a lot of non-religious Zionists whose attitude boils down to ‘God doesn’t exist and he gave us this land.’)

        BTW, it was the Zionists, particularly the fake-leftist, Nationalist ‘Socialist’, labor Zionists led by Ben Gurion, who, before, during, and even after the war of 1939-49, went out of their way to make participation in the theft of British-occupied Palestine from its inhabitants the only alternative for Jews escaping persecution, or just wanting to get out of the wasteland that was post-war Europe. Later on, when Jews who wanted to do so were allowed to leave the Soviet Union, the Zionists, with their U.S. backers, made sure that those leaving had to go to Israel first, although they couldn’t stop many of those who didn’t want to be there from moving on to other countries later.

        I’ve already spent more time responding to your arguments than you have responding to mine, so I’ll, as far as this sub-thread goes, leave it there.

      • Aaron Aarons said,

        The right-Stalinist Morning Star writes:

        Politicians and parties which profess patriotism must take every opportunity to make clear that their notion of nationality is inclusive, not least by highlighting the disproportionately positive contribution that Jewish citizens have made to social, economic, cultural and democratic progress in Britain and its component nations.

        The first thing worth noting here, though it is not directly relevant to the main argument, is the spectacle of a supposedly left-wing party in an imperialist country giving fraternal advice to “politicians and parties which profess patriotism”, as if such profession were not enough to put them on the other side of the ideological barricades!

        More to the point is the reference to “the disproportionately positive contribution that Jewish citizens have made to social, economic, cultural and democratic progress”. If it is OK to point out to the difference, at least statistically, between ‘Jews’ and others in all these areas, why is it ‘antisemitic’ to even suggest that ‘Jews’ are, on average, far wealthier than the general population, or even that ‘Jews’ have also made a disproportionate contribution to the world of finance, including, perhaps, to the rather substantial, probably dominant, parasitic aspect of that world? Do people really think that those who might be inclined to a hostile attitude towards ‘Jews’ in general are going to be dissuaded by such displays of philo-semitic bias? Isn’t it better to try, in the spirit of Abram Leon, to give a materialist explanation of the evolution of the Jewish ethno-religious groups, warts and all?

    • Makhno said,

      “If my referring to the imperialist monstrosity in which I hold citizenship as “the United Snakes” makes me a “moron”, so be it.”

      If you have to use an abysmal pun to convey a political point then yes, it does make you a moron. Soz. I greatly dislike my government, but I’m not about to go around calling the state in which I live the “Poonited Cumdong”, as it would make me look like a berk.

      By all means refer to the US government as an “imperialist monstrosity”, but when you need to

      “BTW, I have come across Zionists who, because of their state’s dependence on the U.S., consider it anti-Jewish to be anti-‘American’. Is that what you meant, appropriator of the name of the Ukrainian revolutionist?”

      No, the reason I called you an anti-semite is not because of the crappy pun, but because of the anti-semitic diatribe that followed it.

      I would certainly question the attitudes of anyone who considered themselves “anti-American”, however, as it’s just blatant xenophobia. As well as cultural ignorance, as America is more than just the US, and the US is more than just its government.

      • Makhno said,

        “…but when you need to descend to idiotic puns to make an argument, you’ve basically lost it”, I meant to say.

      • Aaron Aarons said,

        When I refer to the U.S. as ‘America’, I always (unless I’m being extremely sloppy) put that place name in single quotes, since I know that ‘Latin America’ exists, and am hoping to move to somewhere therein. And, no, it is not just the ‘U.S. government’ that I mean to attack, but the parasitic imperialist settler society that it more-or-less represents.

        You may not like political puns, but there is a big difference between referring to your country as the ‘United Killdom’ and referring to it as the ‘“Poonited Cumdong”. One pun has political content and the other doesn’t.

        BTW, when you need to descend to squawking “antisemitism” to make an argument, you’ve basically lost it.

      • Makhno said,

        “One pun has political content and the other doesn’t.”

        I fail to see how the word “snake” has any more political content than shit, jizz and cocks. In fact, the latter probably have a greater pedigree of use in political propaganda and satire than the lowly reptile (and I feel at this point I must pick you up on your blatant speciesism).

        The rest of your post is just so much blah and juvenalia (even more so than bodily functions). But thanks for telling us what you’re going to get up to on your gap year, yah?

        Face it, Aarons, you’re not a leftist. You just claim to be as it acts as a useful veneer for your petty-minded bigotry.

        You’d be much more comfortable as one of those Third Positionist red/brown weirdos, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we see you sharing a platform with that bearded bumclow Dugin or the Larouchies at some not too distant date. That’s if you don’t grow up first.

      • Aaron Aarons said,

        i specifically compared the obvious political content of the label, United Killdom, with your nonsensical “Poonited Cumdong”. The label, ‘United Snakes’, may perhaps be unfair to serpents, but it is meant to conjure up the image of the poisonous ones that hide in the grass and kill you. It also is a reference to this:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Join,_or_Die
        It may not be a perfectly appropriate choice of metaphor, but it should be far less offensive than the insulting (to ancient anti-imperialists) use of the terms ‘barbarian’ and ‘barbarism’ as a put-down.

        And what you refer to as my “petty-minded bigotry” is, apparently, my rejection of the Jewish tribalist bigotry I was, to some extent, raised with, although my parents weren’t nearly as bad in this respect as others around us. (It was, e.g., OK to have non-Jewish close friends as long as you didn’t marry one.)

        BTW, I knew Lyndon Larouche, and occasionally was in organizations with him, between 1962 and 1972, when he was known as Lyn Marcus, and wrote an interesting work called Dialectical Economics, which he pretty-much managed to suppress when he decided to stop pretending (sincerely or not) to be a Marxist and leftist and became something of a fascist, though of a non-standard variety. Even during the couple of years when I was somewhat working with him and his acolytes, we argued a lot, particularly because of his anti-environmentalism and fetishization of ‘progress’. In retrospect, I think I was sometimes right and sometimes wrong when I agreed with him, and sometimes right and sometimes wrong when I disagreed with him. But the same applies to almost everything I thought back then, though my worst political mistake might have been my support for the (in retrospect) racist New York City teachers’ strike of 1968.

      • Mike Killingworth said,

        Thanks for pointing me to that cartoon, which I hadn’t known about.

        Do you happen to know if Newfoundland and Nova Scotia declined invitations to the Continental Congress or didn’t they receive them?

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