Philosophy, anti-Semitism and Israel’s war in Gaza – Judith Suissa

Sometimes philosophy can seem irrelevant to the painful, immediate and violent reality of political conflicts; sometimes it can offer a comforting escape; and sometimes, just sometimes, it can help us make sense of some of the difficult personal dilemmas into which we are thrown by this reality. For me, these last few days have been just such an occasion.

As a British Jew and an ex-Israeli, I am only too aware of and disturbed by the ugly anti-Semitism that often rises to the surface in debates over Israel and Palestine. This anti-Semitism is frequently veiled, but also frequently overt, as in some of the slogans and imagery used by various individuals and groups taking part in protests by the Stop the War Coalition against, for example, Israel’s 2006 war in Lebanon and its current war in Gaza.

For many of us on the Left, our moral world is a fully coherent system in which the values of individual freedom, social justice, and political equality fit neatly together. The rejection of racism, in all its forms, as a violation of the inherent worth of individuals irrespective of their ethnic and racial background – is conceptually and logically a part of this system.

How reassuring and comforting it would be if political reality were to mirror this coherent system. But we all recognize, of course, that it does not. And the attempts by some of us to deal with this unfortunate situation, it seems to me, reflect not just political, but philosophical differences.

In a meta-ethical view where the emphasis is on a system of moral principles and rules derived from them, moral dilemmas are represented as an attempt to resolve apparent conflicts between such principles and to formulate the appropriate rule for action. Thus, recognizing that the agendas of some of the people and movements who oppose the Israeli government’s current actions in Gaza comprise values inimical to their own set of values (being, for example, homophobic, anti-Semitic and anti women’s equality), some of my colleagues seem confident that the morally right thing to do is to refuse to associate with any of these movements or individuals.

Thus, in one reasonable paraphrase of the philosophical reasoning behind this view, the main principle at stake is: Respect for human beings as individual.

One moral stance derived from this principle would be: opposition to racism.

Another would be: opposition to the view that innocent civilians, including women and children, are legitimate “collateral damage” during war time.

Another would be: opposition to the occupation of an entire people that denies them basic human rights and freedoms.

There may be several other variations, and any one or other of these moral positions, or a combination of them, can constitute part of people’s reasons for taking political action now or at other times.

Moral reasoning, however, even for philosophers, is never divorced from empirical reality. So to these considerations of rules and principles is added another consideration: Many people who oppose Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people and the excessive use of military force against the population of Gaza hold anti-Semitic views.

Furthermore, it is conceptually true that anti-Semitism is a form of racism.

The next stage of the argument goes like this: By siding with people who hold racist views, one is legitimating racism. The morally right thing to do, therefore, is not to side with them.

In other words, in the perceived clash between the moral rule: always stand up to political injustice and oppression and the moral rule always reject racism, the second rule wins out.

Working out such arguments is not easy, nor is it unimportant. Hence the impressively sophisticated debate that has been waged on the Engage website, in feedback to Guardian blogs, and elsewhere, by colleagues arguing the ins and outs of such issues. Much of this debate centres on the important philosophical task of defining your terms: how racist exactly is the anti-war movement? how do we draw the line between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism? what exactly is Zionism anyway? and so on. Without rehearsing the well-trodden paths of this debate here, I would like to say that I was at the Stop the War Coalition march against the war in Gaza on Saturday. And, yes, I did encounter the occasional anti-Semitic slogan – although, I have to say, these were few and far between. And this in spite of the fact that I was marching with a group of ex-Israelis and carrying placards in Hebrew. At the beginning of the march, as we were assembling in Hyde Park, we came across a man carrying a placard on which a Swastika was drawn over the Star of David on the Israeli flag. We told him we found this offensive, and a Stop the War Coalition steward who was nearby insisted that the man remove the placard, which he did. On another occasion, an Israeli friend of mine heard a demonstrator shouting, in Arabic, “Jews out”, and went over to him to tell him that this was unacceptable and to point out that there were several Jewish people on the rally. He may have continued shouti ng his vile slogans elsewhere; I don’t know. But at least we were there. At least we tried to engage in the situation. By not engaging, we abandon the field to the racists and others who would have us see the world in simple terms of ”us “ and “them”. And, yes, it felt uncomfortable. But life is uncomfortable.

And in my attempts to make sense of it, I recall that there is another philosophical tradition: one that perceives the moral life not as primarily about the set principles we hold and the rules we derive from them, but about the choices we make in real and infinitely varied moral situations. And the process of moral reasoning by which we do this, while not irrational, is not one that can take the form of deduction from theoretical principles, but one that always involves concrete, ethically sensitive perceptions and judgements – thus embodying what Aristotle called “practical wisdom”. This understanding of the ethical – which the philosopher Martha Nussbaum has referred to as “the priority of the particular” – is logically connected to a rejection of the thesis of the commensurability of values. The Aristotelian tradition teaches us that trying to avoid circularity and internal tensions in our moral reasoning is not the most important thing in our lives as mora l individuals: what is important is how we choose to act in particular morally relevant situations. And these situations are always messy – which is why our attempts to understand and describe them are invariably imprecise and often confusing. But it is by experiencing such conflicts and trying, to the best of our ability, to act as moral agents within them, that we build up the resources to be better at the difficult job of living well. It is not that rules and principles have no role to play in this process, but they are vacuous without the crucial ingredients of practice and context.

And so, tempting as it sometimes is to join in the forums on Engage and other websites where philosophers and other academics thrash out the theoretical complexities of the issues in their genuine attempts to resolve their disagreements, at the moment, I no longer have the patience or the stomach for it. I am resigned to the fact that the theoretical tensions will never be fully resolved; that no one recommended course of political action will ever have a watertight rational defence or be free of internal tensions; and that there is no one right way to change the world.

So I will not be following the debates on Engage any more, and I am seriously considering unsubscribing myself from their email list. I will be out in the streets with others, protesting injustice. I will protest the use of children as cannon-fodder; I will protest the dehumanization of the Palestinian people in the name of “security”; I will defend Israel’s right to exist in safety and security; I will call on the Israeli government to negotiate with Hamas; I will reject the racist and anti-democratic aspects of Hamas’s stated agenda; I will continue to insist that the only way to end this shameful cycle of violence and killing is for Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian land and its oppression of the Palestinian people; I will refuse to accept that Hamas and other elements within the Palestinian leadership played no part in perpetuating this cycle of violence; I will reject the hatred and racism that lie behind the obscene attempts by so-called Jewish leaders here and elsewhere to justify Israel’s excessive use of military force as a legitimate act of self-defence; I will speak out against anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism.

Yes, I recognize that some of these positions may seem, to some who like their reality neat and tidy, to be mutually untenable. Yes, I recognize that attempting to promote all these moral viewpoints may lead me into difficult and confusing situations; and yes, I recognize that I will not always succeed – and indeed may fail dismally – in pursuing all these values and furthering all these goals, and that there will be frustrations and challenges along the way. But I will keep on trying. And as I do, I will take heart not only from my Palestinian and Israeli comrades and others who, for years, have promoted a vision of a just, equitable and peaceful resolution of this bloody and dismal conflict; but from the Greek philosopher who, over two thousand years ago, reminded us that, in Martha Nussbaum’s words, the person of practical wisdom inhabits the human world and does not attempt to rise above it.

Judith Suissa

Philosophy Section

Institute of Education

58 Responses to “Philosophy, anti-Semitism and Israel’s war in Gaza – Judith Suissa”

  1. Avi in Jerusalem Says:

    Judith, what is an ex-Israeli?

    I feel that your position is extremely elitist. It is a balm that soothes your conscience as an obviously very clever intellectual, but where does that leave the rest of us grappling with the real world? You and the other ex-Israelis swanning about Hyde Park at an anti Israel demo while the rest of us have to face random rocket attacks and worries about our children fighting in Gaza.

    And make no mistake, there are many of us concerned at the death and suffering in Gaza, but when the push comes to the shove, instead of running away to never never land, we are here making difficult decisions and carrying them out. And suffering the consequences.

  2. Mark T. Market Says:

    The absence of war isn’t peace. That a conflict has gone on for ages means that fundamental issues have not been settled.

  3. Daniel Says:

    This tortuous comment is a mixture of banal (‘But life is uncomfortable’, self-righteous (‘I will be out in the streets with others, protesting injustice’) and sanctimonious (Yes, I recognize that some of these positions may seem, to some who like their reality neat and tidy, to be mutually untenable’) sentiments. Why should anyone be interested in Dr Suissa’s navel-gazing?

  4. Saul Says:

    “So I will not be following the debates on Engage any more, and I am seriously considering unsubscribing myself from their email list. I will be out in the streets with others, protesting injustice. I will protest the use of children as cannon-fodder; I will protest the dehumanization of the Palestinian people in the name of “security”; I will defend Israel’s right to exist in safety and security; I will call on the Israeli government to negotiate with Hamas; I will reject the racist and anti-democratic aspects of Hamas’s stated agenda; I will continue to insist that the only way to end this shameful cycle of violence and killing is for Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian land and its oppression of the Palestinian people; I will refuse to accept that Hamas and other elements within the Palestinian leadership played no part in perpetuating this cycle of violence; I will reject the hatred and racism that lie behind the obscene attempts by so-called Jewish leaders here and elsewhere to justify Israel’s excessive use of military force as a legitimate act of self-defence; I will speak out against anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism.”

    Not sure why her position involves “unsubscribing” from Engage. It seems like she has the same position on most things.

  5. Observer Says:

    “In other words, in the perceived clash between the moral rule: always stand up to political injustice and oppression and the moral rule always reject racism, the second rule wins out.”
    Sounds like a bit of a “straw man” to me. One can oppose Israel’s military actions and oppose Hamas’ antisemitism.
    To put it another way, one can oppose Hamas’ antisemitism and oppose Israel’s actions.
    But, that is not really what the discussion is at all. What the discussion tunrs on is of how to stop falling into the trap of opposing the war but an uncritical support of Hamas. If Suisa is as familiar with Engage as she claims, she would know that is the real problem, the real conundrum. She feels she has found an asnwer to it. Fine. But in so doing, she is mistaken to believe that others (I.e. Engage) can be safely put on one side of the dilemma (antisemitism) or the other (pro-war). What she does not take into account is that Engage’s main focus is antisemitism. It is no wonder, therefore, that it is this element that appears more frequently than Israeli actions in Gaza. After all, there are many sites that are focussing on Gaza and who spend their time denying antisemitism or just not mentioning it. I wonder why she doesn’t mention those.

  6. NIMN Says:

    Oh God! Another self-proclaimed “Jew”.
    So, apparently other peoples, religions, etc. don’t have the same moral sensitivity. Racist tosh!

  7. Another Observer Says:

    Nice one Judith. “As a British Jew”, I can’t think of a better ploy that publically disowning yourself from one of the only left blogs in the UK dealing seriously and consistently with the question of contemporary antisemitism!

    I am so glad that “as a British Jew” you have made it clear to the wider public that Engage is really nothing but a pro-war site that revels in the blood of the innocent but who masks it true nature by “screaming” antisemitism. It’s not like we’ve ever heard THAT before.

    Good for you…………….at least your moral conscience is clean. We’ll just leave others to mop up the consequences of you oh so difficult “Jewish” dilemma shall we?

  8. Another Observer Says:

    Oh, and how does she know that she won’t meet other “Engage subscribers” on the very demos that she attends. I always thought philosophical thought needed to be flexible.

  9. Englender Says:

    “And, yes, it felt uncomfortable. But life is uncomfortable.” Dr. Suissa

    Excuse me but the man carrying a sign at your rally saying “Jews out” didn’t seem to feel as uncomfortable as you did.

    I think that behind Dr. Suissa’s sophistical comments seems to be a desire to avoid the very untidiness she says is at the heart of human existence.

  10. NIMN Says:

    Another Observer,
    It is no wonder that Judith Suissa takes a pop at Engage and its inconvenient and embarassing mentioning of antisemitism. Suissa is a singatory to IJV (although she keeps that affiliation to herself – no doubt adopting the IJV line that whenever they speak, they do so only in their “personal capacity”).

    As you probably know, IJV think that there is an internal Jewish conspiracy headed by the Board of Deputies to silence critics of Israel. They also believe that antisemitism is not only not a problem worth worrying about, but a “distraction” or “diversion” from what “really matters”; the question of Israel (or should that be Zion) is not only the central concern of Jews, but of the entire world. They are a mirror image of Zionists in that they think that Israel is the most important concern of “Jews” (a bit like the antisemites when you come to think of it). They go around carrying their “Jewish moral guilt” like it was a badge; and try to tell the world they they are not like the other Jews, they are “good Jews”, moral Jews, “real” Jews.

    It is probably for this reason that she so misrepresents Engage’s view of things to a wider public. After all, despite claims to the contrary, IJV is an irrelevance to most Jews in the UK; that is why they are seeking legitimacy “as Jews” by appealing outside what it believed was its constituency, but who have turned their back on them as a bunch of embarassed academics who have no idea what is or is not going on in the diverse elements of the Jewish community.

    It also explains her announcement that she is speaking “as a Jew” – after all, she is a member of Independent [sic] Jewish Voices. It is a pity that honesty is not considered a “Jewish” value by such “authentic” Jews.

  11. Jon Pike Says:

    Dear Judith,

    Since I agree with much of what you say, “asa” philosopher, an activist, someone who solidarises with the Palestinian demand for nationhood, I’m genuinely perplexed about your justification for withdrawing from the Engage mailing list. I don’t – we don’t hold the view that antiracism blocks other considerations, though there is a kind of lexical priority to it, and I don’t think it means that we should not stand up to injustice. I do think we should fight injustice in an antiracist way. Do you think this impossible? Your praxis – which I commend – suggests not. So what is your quarrel?

    We ‘strive for practical wisdom,’ on this website, in our universities, and even on the executive of the union. Sometimes that’s a lot of striving. Doesn’t that count as the real world?

    All the best
    Jon

  12. Curious Says:

    “I will reject the hatred and racism that lie behind the obscene attempts by so-called Jewish leaders here and elsewhere to justify Israel’s excessive use of military force as a legitimate act of self-defence”.

    What “obscence attempts”and by which “so-called Jewish leaders”?
    Could someone link some to me please.
    Thanks,

  13. Judith Suissa Says:

    I am genuinely puzzled by the responses to my piece, many of which seem to have completely missed the point I was making. Yes, of course, as Jon and others say, we should fight injustice in an antiracist way, and yes, of course I know that this is exactly the stance that most Engage readers take and will continue to take. I was merely objecting to the temptation to couch some of the debates on the very real problem of anti-semitism in a way which implies that these dilemmas can be resolved decisively, and suggesting that perhaps philosophical resources can contribute to our thinking about this. That’s all!
    I said I was “considering unsubscribing myself from the Engage website”, but this would clearly be self-defeating as I have no intention of giving up on debate.
    As for the comments of IJV, they are so absurd and venomous as to barely merit a response, but I certainly do not think there are “good Jews” or “more moral” or “better” Jews; I simply object to the attempts by various Jewish leaders to imply that this diverse community should, or does, speak with one voice.
    And finally, I fail to see why acknowledging that my identity is multiple and complex, and that this plays a role in my sensibilities and arguments, makes me a racist.

  14. Saul Says:

    Jon Pike,
    It is fairly evident that Judith Suissa will not reply.
    Regards,
    Saul

  15. jdyer Says:

    “Life is uncomfortable” but more for some than for others:

    “Europe Reimports Jew Hatred The mythical Arab Street now reaches deep into Paris, London, Berlin and Madrid.”

    By DANIEL SCHWAMMENTHAL

    “Give Giancarlo Desiderati credit for his unintellectual honesty. While most left-wing detractors of Israel claim their animosity toward the Jewish state has nothing to do with anti-Semitism, the head of a small Italian union, Flaica-Uniti-Cub, wasted no time with such sophism. Having long called for a boycott of Israeli goods, Mr. Desiderati last week made the logical next step. “Do not buy anything from businesses run by the Jewish community,” his group’s Web site urged Italians.

    Jews around Europe are increasingly under attack since Israel decided two weeks ago to defend itself after years of rocket fire at its civilian population. There have been arson attempts on synagogues in Britain, Belgium and Germany. Police last week arrested Muslim protesters who wanted to enter the Jewish quarter in Antwerp. Several Danish schools with large Muslim student bodies say they won’t enroll Jewish kids because they can’t guarantee the children’s safety. In France, a group of teenagers attacked a 14-year-old girl last week, calling her “dirty Jew” while kicking her….”

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123180033807075069.html

  16. Gil Says:

    I can empathise with her attempts to grapple with what (to her) seem contradictory positions. This should be common to all not just to Philosophy teachers and practitioners. It is clear that the writer has settled on a package of values that are not mutually exclusive.
    What I find difficult to understand is that she is coming across as minimising the manifestations of antisemitism during the marches. The writer acknowledges the overt antisemitism yet does not think it has yet reached a ‘critical mass’ that would force her to reassess her position in the ‘package deal’ she has bought. What is her position on those who compare Gaza to Warsaw and introduce Hans Frank into the mix?

    It would be interesting to know if she has any red lines in this regard, after which they are crossed she would say ‘I can’t take this antisemitism any more, it taints the whole ‘anti-war’ movement.

  17. MITNAGED Says:

    Judith Suissa “…Hence the impressively sophisticated debate that has been waged on the Engage website, in feedback to Guardian blogs, and elsewhere, by colleagues arguing the ins and outs of such issues…”

    Well, I absolutely agree that the debate on the Engage website and elsewhere in numerous other blogs is impressive, but this incredibly self-regarding homily lost all credibility so far as I am concerned when you put “impressively sophisticated” and “feedback to Guardian blogs” in the same sentence.

  18. Another Observer Says:

    ” am genuinely puzzled by the responses to my piece, many of which seem to have completely missed the point I was making. Yes, of course, as Jon and others say, we should fight injustice in an antiracist way, and yes, of course I know that this is exactly the stance that most Engage readers take and will continue to take. I was merely objecting to the temptation to couch some of the debates on the very real problem of anti-semitism in a way which implies that these dilemmas can be resolved decisively, and suggesting that perhaps philosophical resources can contribute to our thinking about this. That’s all!”

    So, what I acutally said publically about Engage, and the impression I gave, is not what I meant at all.

    Soooooo IJV!
    Oh, and whilst on the subject, perhaps Suissa can tell us where to find IJV’s sustained critique on antisemitism and its connection to anti-Zionism? I must have missed it. What I haven’t missed is the constant claim about “Jewish Leaders” silencing debate and criticism.

    In yesterday’s Guardian Suissa wrote,
    “For some of us, the moral imperative not to be silent bystanders is the most important lesson we have drawn for our collective history”.

    If this is not a claim to a privileged moral insight, I am not sure what is. So, after 40 years of occupation and deprivation, we can only hope that the Palestinians have learnt “their lesson” and become nicer, more moral people
    Indeed, .maybe those claiming genocide can be even more thankful on the philosophical equation of more suffering, more morality, perhaps? (no, wait, that is called Christianity)

    It is also the same argument that the right in Israel argue for the military operations going on at present. “The one thing history has taught us is never to be put in that situation again!

    To call the Holocaust is a “lesson” is a moral and historical disgrace.

    Suissa’s identity may well be complex; but Suissa did not write “as a woman”, “as an academic”, “as a wife” “as a mother”, “as a heterosexual” (not that I am assuming these statuses, but you get my point), so why emphasise the Jewish bit? What’s so special about that? Unless you think that as a Jew that gives her some insight to the compexity of politics in the Middle East? But, that takes us back to the “lesson” of the Holocaust doesn’t it.

    In yesterday’s Guaria

  19. Observer Says:

    Another Observer,
    Tony Lerman has written on as and az.
    Basically, it is a blame the victim kind of thing and that the word has lost all meaning kind of thing.

  20. MITNAGED Says:

    Judith Suissa, that you are “genuinely puzzled” by reactions to your piece comes as no surprise to me given the content of said piece.

    I second Another Observer’s request for you to provide evidence of IJV’s sustained critique of antisemitism and its link to anti-Zionism. Weblinks to writings on this subject by some of IJV’s august personages will do.

    Your allegation that Jewish leaders silence debate about Israel is spurious but even if that were true why should it worry you? Comment is Free will always publish anyone writing anything which criticises Israel regardless of the alleged power of “Jewish leaders” to silence it. And you are getting column inches here, too, so what bothers you so much? That some of us disagree with your views?

  21. Joshua Says:

    Liraz Madmony, a 23-year-old law student from Sderot, who on Monday addressed the UN Human Rights Council Special Session on Gaza in Geneva has a question for Judith Suissa: ‘Are human rights for some, but not for others?’

    Here is the text of her speech:

    Thank you, Mr. President.

    I come from Sderot, the city in Israel that for eight years has been terrorized, by 10,000 rockets fired against us from Gaza.

    As a law student, I learned – and I believe – that all human beings have the right to peace and security.

    But when I see today’s resolution, I ask: Why is the United Nations ignoring my suffering? When the terrorists committed these 10,000 violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, why was the UN silent?

    Are human rights for some, but not others?

    The constant assault on Sderot has destroyed our ability to lead a normal life. The warning before each attack gives us only 15 seconds to run for shelter. Fifteen seconds that will decide, life or death.

    Mr. President, who will protect our right to life? My family does not have a bomb shelter, so we run to the most protected room, which is the shower.

    There is one attack I will never forget. We heard the siren at seven in the morning. We ran to the shower. The rockets fell next to my house. My little brother, who was 14, went to see if anyone needed help. He found a man whose legs were blown off, and a woman blown to pieces.

    My youngest brother is six. The rockets have been falling for eight years. He knows no other reality.

    Everyone suffers in Sderot. Fathers and mothers are afraid to go to work, creating poverty. Kids are afraid to go to school. I have missed many of my law classes. My friends are afraid to visit. The streets lie empty.

    I dream of the hometown that I remember. When the park near my house was filled with happy families and children playing. When people enjoyed life.

    I still dream of peace. It will come when the rulers of Gaza choose humanity over hate, when they stop firing on our children while hiding behind their own.

    We refuse to grant victory to the terrorists. We choose to live, staying strong with our faith, family and love of country.

    Mr. President, who will protect our most basic human rights? My country is now trying its best, and all who love life and desire peace should pray they succeed.

    Thank you, Mr. President.

    http://tinyurl.com/84a3on

  22. David Says:

    I don’t get the point of Judith Suissa’s post. She’s tired of the arguments going round and around without decisive resolution? Is that it? Is that the climax of this long-winded “statement?”

    If she’s a philosopher, one would think she’d be pretty used to this. Is she quitting that too?

  23. M Says:

    “I will defend Israel’s right to exist in safety and security”

    That’s commendable. Here’s a suggestion: Attend the next “peace-march” carrying a big placard saying:

    “ISRAEL HAS A RIGHT TO EXIT IN SAFETY!”

    If the demonstrations in the UK are anything like the ones currently happening in Germany, you will be in for a serious beating and the police will declare you to be a “provocateur”. Why? Quite simply: Because the majority at those demonstrations violently disagrees.

  24. N. Friedman Says:

    It might help Professor Suissa to consider the views that differ from her assessment of the dispute including, for example, Jeffrey Goldberg’s view, which is stated in today’s New York Times and can be read at this URL:

    http://tinyurl.com/9cbtbw

  25. Daniel Says:

    The problem is that Suissa’s absurd self-regard ( ‘I fail to see why acknowledging that my identity is multiple and complex, and that this plays a role in my sensibilities and arguments, makes me a racist’) self-contradictory statements ( ‘So I will not be following the debates on Engage any more’………’I said I was “considering unsubscribing myself from the Engage website”, but this would clearly be self-defeating as I have no intention of giving up on debate’) are indicative of the narcissism which underlies the supposed hyper-ethical stance of Independent jewish Voices.

    I also thought her article was very boring.

  26. Richard Says:

    IJV – The group that has as one of its founders Professor Rose who campaigns to silence Israeli academics (and nobody else), Professor Rose who wrote a book describing zionism as a Jewish mental illness.
    IJV – at their first meeting people who dared to disagree with the IJV line were heckled. Not to forget also the list of signatories who believe Israel has nbo right to exist, or those signatories who use Nazi comparisons with regard to Israel. Also not forgetting those signatories who leave abusive messages and comments on various websites.IJV signatories amongst those who picketed an Engage meeting.

    IJV – the group that asked David Hirsh to speak at their debate on the boycott and then decided not to let him take his place on the panel and instead to say he could speak from the floor.

    But we’re not allowed to voice opinions of IJV and its supporters. If we do then they claim they are being silenced. You couldn’t make it up. They’re not being silenced. People have heard what they have to say , it’s just that people have a right to disagree with them.

  27. Another Observer Says:

    Hmmm, seems like Goldberg hasn’t learnt the lesson of the Holocaust! In the great Maoist style, maybe some moral re-education is in order.

    As to Israel’s right to existence; a co-signer of IJV said that she was not interested in that issue because it already gets enough coverage in the meida (you know, the media that spent two weeks trumperting IJV’s brave stand against the Jewish oligarchy).

    And, let’s be honest, if they were to hold up that message then good folks will think them indistinguishable from the very ones they claim they are not.

  28. Avi in Jerusalem Says:

    One additional point in this thread relates to the world financial crisis. One of the main causes seems to have been “toxic investments” and “financial structures”. Basically people who should have known better were sold unsupported mortgages as AAA investments. The “structures” were dressed up in flowing complex marketing descriptions that no one understood and almost everyone was too embarrassed to ask what their money was being invested in.

    The lesson is to ask that when someone is speaking gobbledygook, to ask them what they mean in English (or even Hebrew).

    The post here by Ms. Suissa is a classic example of gobbledygook which almost makes sense but is in fact undecipherable to a normally sentient human being. I think that if Ms. Suissa come out from behind the verbiage she will find that she is wearing the Emperor’s new clothes.

  29. James Mendelsohn Says:

    Mitnaged wrote, “this incredibly self-regarding homily lost all credibility so far as I am concerned when you put “impressively sophisticated” and “feedback to Guardian blogs” in the same sentence. Ha ha ha ha ha very good!

  30. Observer Says:

    Poor old Suissa, Such a moral quandry. What do I do? Hams are antisemitic but Israel is wrong to blow the crap out of Gaza. Well, here’s a start; try thinking politically!

    Work out a political (which is not the antithesis of morality)way of that seeming dilemma. Work out a political solution that avoids both Hamas and the IDF.

    Think outside the box; work it out like the rest of us are trying to do.

    Hamas is a loathesome antisemitic reactionary movement that is not only intent on destroying Israel, but is an equal disaster for the Palestinians (see Tamimi’s comments, see their attack on autonomous civil society organisations and trade unions). Kadima is a nasty right-wing political government that is of little good to Israel or the Palestinians .There is more to it than that.

    Judith, weall feel your terrible terrible pain but, despite what you “feel”, this is not about you either “as a British Jew” or “ex-Israeli”, it is not about (your obsession with) the Board of Deputies and the Holocaust; it is about the politics of Palestine, Israel and the Middle East.

    Deal with it!

  31. Observer Says:

    “As a British Jew and an ex-Israeli, I am only too aware of and disturbed by the ugly anti-Semitism that often rises to the surface in debates over Israel and Palestine.”

    Hint number 1

    You don’t have to be “Jewish” to be “aware of and disturbed by” antisemitism.

    It is an objective political ideology directed at Jews.
    Suprising as it may be to you, many, many non-Jews see what is and what is not antisemitic, just as many Jews recognise other instances of racism, sexism and homophobia. It is called being politically aware. Try it some time. Don’t be scared, some of my best friends are non-Jews (really).

  32. Observer Says:

    Oh, and don’t take from that last comment that I am “Jewish”.

  33. Joshua Says:

    ‘Judith, what is an ex-Israeli?’

    The only thing I can come up with is that in reality she’s dead and has channelled this post through a medium.

    From the Dead Parrot Sketch:

    Mr. Praline: ‘E’s not pinin’! ‘E’s passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed ‘im to the perch ‘e’d be pushing up the daisies! ‘Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!

    http://tinyurl.com/wwmj

  34. Another Observer Says:

    A Starbucks in London’s East End has been fire-bombed
    and antisemitic grafitti sprayed across it.

    It is being justified on the grounds that Starbucks is “Zionist” because its CEO is a “Zionist” and that they give the oney they raise on Saturday to Israel (I kid you not!)

    Sigh, if only he’d made a statement of some kind – no wait, Starbucks did, saying the stories are nonsense.
    (note also that Starbucks is the embodient of evil for the anti-impearalist jugglers et al)

    My! how so very “offensive” and “uncomfortable”. If only Judith were there to point out that some Jews don’t go to Starbucks, or that even some Jews don’t like coffee, it may never have happended.

  35. Nancy Says:

    At the risk of being accused of being ad hominem here, am I the only reader who just doesn’t even understand most of the post? I can’t find a coherent point. It could’ve been a whole lot shorter. And it does seem self-indulgent. With due respect to Judith Suissa, I feel like I just wasted my time here – and there’s too much else of good quality to read on this site and elsewhere.

  36. David Galant Says:

    Nancy:

    I think that Judith is saying, “Not me! Not me! Take them instead!” (sounds of whimpering)

  37. observer Says:

    “but one that always involves concrete, ethically sensitive perceptions and judgements –”
    On a scale 1 to 10 how ethically sensitive (and wise) does one rate the “shut them down” approach to all things Israeli, a basic advocacy of said coalition march, articulated by Galloway?
    In looe of the fact that most Israelis are Jews and there is an uncomfortable echo in Europe of a not so distant call; alongside the inevitable consequence of targetting “in praxis” mainly Jewish shopkeepers in Britain,essentially Jewish produce and Jewish names on visiting lecturer’s lists and company share-holders boards.

  38. Jon Pike Says:

    I regret the level of invective being directed at Judith Suissa by largely anonymous posters. Let’s try to engage with the piece a bit more directly.

    Judith’s piece is not particularly opaque, and I don’t think it’s either boring or more self-regarding than is usual in these arguments (and those who do, might think about keeping those opinions to themselves). I take it that she is contrasting a roughly neo-Aristotelian approach with a more absolutist (perhaps deontological) approach to ethical concerns, and commending the first. (Despite what she says, I don’t think these are meta-ethical matters, but matters of substantial moral theory).

    I have a lot of time for neo-Aristotelianism, and I think that Suissa is right that a closed off ‘Kantian’ account of moral thinking leaves a lot out. Now, the problem is that she seems (at first) to ascribe to Engage this absolutist view that involves the claim that we do not ‘fight injustice’ if that involves marching with people who shout racist slogans. But, as someone said, that’s a straw man Engage. She seems to have conceded that, though.

    But put it another way, Judith is arguing that we ought not to ‘close off’ ethical consideration with a set of self consistent claims, and feel pleased with ourselves and impervious to further ethical reflection. She thinks Aristotelianism is helpful in thinking that through. She’s right.

    Here’s an example: the brute moral responses that need to be made sense of here are – amongst others:

    1) despair at the killing of innocents in Gaza. 2) great concern at the political responses of the left in the UK – and beyond that, the increasingly widespread racism against Jews.

    Finally, a suggested explanation, which I hope Judith will consider. What we are seeing at the moment is a number of people thinking of themselves at a ‘tipping point’ – this is clear, for example, from the Guardian leader a couple of days ago, which edged it towards a boycott position. My guess is that Judith is at a similar point, and one action that she felt tipped towards was disengaging from Engage. She’s withdraw that, and of course, I think that would be a mistake, but it is not a mistake to think that the horrible events of the last few weeks require serious ethical reflection, rather than the confident repeating of familiar claims. I’d hope that Engage would be a place where people could do that.

  39. David Hirsh Says:

    Follow this link to the letters page of the Guardian on Tuesday for a couple of interesting letters: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/jan/13/letters-israel-rally-gaza

    First the one (at the bottom) responding to Robert Fine’s response to a previous “asa Jew” letter. http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/01/12/robert-fines-letter-in-the-guardian/

    Professor Robert Fine asks why it matters that the authors of a collective letter condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza should declare their Jewish origins (Letters, 12 January). Is it, he wonders, to “give a bad argument good authority”? No, it is to show that the aggressive colonialism of Israel does not represent the view of all Jews. But is his own signature as “professor” meant to give a bad argument good authority? Is he really saying that the civilian deaths in Gaza are the result not of a genocidal and racist policy, but due to accidental collateral damage and negligence? It is morally vacuous to reduce what is happening in Gaza to an academic seminar which does not confront the horror of what is happening.
    Mike Wayne
    London

    The anti-intellectualism in this response to Robert is philistine, unpleasant and ignorant; in this context it also keys into a particular antisemitic stereotype of the “too clever by half” Jewish professor who is trying to bamboozle good ordinary moral people.

    I don’t like the fact that people have responded to Judith Suissa’s piece with an anti-intellectual inverted snobbery on Engage.

    I think that some people judge a website by its community of commenters and I wouldn’t like people to think that the Engage community is well represented by this thread.

    As we speak there is a campaign to exclude Israeli scholars from lecturing at SOAS and people are rightly angry and a little frightened about that – and about the cultural and political background that makes it possible. But Engage is about putting together a considered, persuasive and articulate response to antisemitism.

    Coincidentally, on the same Guardian webpage as the letter responding to Robert Fine, is also a letter from Judith Suissa, in which she acts as a spokesperson for IJV.

    I think there is a lot to criticize IJV for and a lot to be angry with IJV for. I think that IJV came into existence to reassure the British intelligentsia that it had nothing to worry about as far as antisemitism is concerned. I think its central message was that people who are concerned about the relationship between antizionism and antisemitism should be dismissed as dishonest supporters of Israeli human rights abuses who play the antisemitism card in bad faith in order to silence legitimate criticism of Israel.

    Here are some useful responses to the IJV initiative: http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=2145

    If there is, broadly, an Engage critique of IJV then it ought to be articulated carefully and persuasively, not sarcastically and in a way that many people will simply not understand; and will then interpret as unthinking and outright hostility.

    I hope people will comment more persuasively on Engage in future.

    I also hope that people who don’t comment but who have contributions to make, start to comment more often.

  40. MITNAGED Says:

    David, we live in interesting times. I’m sorry that you don’t like some of what is written here because, as I perceive you to mean, it lowers the tone of Engage.

    I am a psychologist, David and a thinking, feeling human being. I would like to write here about why I perceive people like Judith Suissa feel the need to go into print with their ideas and to separate themselves out from their fellow Jews rather than to work to try change things from within (and I don’t think that IJV is silenced – it’s much more likely that many Jewish communities choose not to listen to them) but I simply don’t have the time to spend on such an undertaking.

    The fact is that I am sick and tired of IJV! I am becoming very tired of vacuous statements by IJV members being given far more importance than they deserve. I am hoping that if we ignore them – note, I do not mean silence them – then they will melt away!

  41. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    David H. tells us in his comment above that Judith Suissa has signed a letter in The Guardian “in which she acts as a spokesperson for IJV”.

    Here she is, in her own comment on the comments to her piece at the head of this column: “As for the comments of IJV, they are so absurd and venomous as to barely merit a response.” Of course, she might have meant “comments _on_ IJV”, but so far she hasn’t attempted to correct this typo, if that’s what it is.

    Despite Jon’s two responses, Judith Suissa’s two comments, here and in the letter to The Guardian, do appear, even retrospectively, to justify at least some of the comments on her original article.

    David H’s linking back to the earlier reactions to IJV’s formation certainly reminds us what IJV stood and stands for. And as far as I can tell from her criginal article and her comment, her position appears to be a fair reflection of that. Which makes many of the comments on this, to repeat myself, fair enough.

  42. Judith Suissa Says:

    For the record:
    1. Yes, it was a typo.
    2. I wrote my letter to the Guardian as an individual and not as “a spokesperson for IJV”.
    3. If by “working to try and change things from within” you mean engaging in dialogue and discussion with people in, for example, the synagogue to which I belong and my children’s Jewish school, then that is exactly what I have been doing and will continue to do. And, on the whole, I have been treated with far more respect there than I have by commenters on this website.
    And now I will do you all a big favour and “melt away”.

  43. Another Observer Says:

    Please don’t patroinse me that I did not understand her argument. I understood her argument fully.

    I thought the argument was wrong. I thought that the context in which she misrepresented Engage was wrong and, to be honest, duplicitious. I thought her choice to speak as a “Jew” was wrong. I thought that her manipulation of the Holocaust to legitimise her view was wrong and morally indefensible. I thought her personalising of a political problem was wrong. I think IJV is wrong.

    The reasons I have given are listed in the posts above.
    Perhaps, if Enage is asking her to be treated with respect, then maybe a little respect to Engage in her public comments would also be nice. Can we now expect her to note her agreement with Engage on the many points that she now claims in a forum as public as the original place of her comments. That, too, would be a mark of respect.

  44. Daniel Says:

    I am one of the anonymous commenters referred to by Jon Pike and intend to remain so as is my right.

    With regard to Jon Pike, Dr Suissa’s piece is not opaque but actually rather simple. As a non-philosopher, I take her argument to be- I’m worried about the humanitarian issues in Gaza, I’m not fundamentally anti-Israel, I think deeply about my complex divide of loyalties and I will deal with this by not engaging in further debate on this site. There is nothing particularly ethical about Suissa’s thinking since we are all aware of major ethical problems in this battle and I can’t see what ‘neo-Aristotelianism’ has to do with it.

    I think that her writing is overlaid with a tone of reklentless self-importance and is rather boring but if that is considered invective I will refrain from such descriptions in the future. However, Suissa’s comment that ‘I will reject the hatred and racism that lie behind the obscene attempts by so-called Jewish leaders’ is far worse in terms of unwarranted abusive stereotyping than any of the comments posted above.

  45. David Hirsh Says:

    Sorry Judith, I didn’t mean to suggest that you were a spokesperson for IJV but rather that your letter was an eloquent presentation of a standard IJV position.

  46. Duncan Bryson Says:

    I have just been persuaded, gently, over a couple of pints, to go to the ‘Gaza Crisis’ march in Birmingham on Saturday. I spent time in Israel, have Israeli friends and refuse to support the simplistic and occasionally racist demonisation of Israel that goes on. I am, however, very critical of Israeli government policy. The friend who persuaded me to march is active in the Palestinian solidarity movement and we often have lively debate over a number of issues around the middle east. He often tries to convince me that support for palestinian solidarity is multi faceted and nuanced (a bit like zionism)with many people deeply opposed to Hamas and to anti semitism. I am going along to see if he is right. I hope to be able to express my concern and anger without feeling I am lending support to the blind haters of zionism.

    I often read the debates on this website and am usually impressed with the quality of what is said. I understand the point of engage to be an attempt to get beyond simplistic balck and white solutions that paint anyone as villain or victim. What it is not is a forum for the defence of Israeli actions. What this site lacks sometimes, and what I think Suissa is attempting to provide is a way of criticising Israel while avoiding simplistic arguments or racism.

    I’ll let you know how it goes.

  47. Serendipity Says:

    I chanced upon Engage quite recently and enjoyed what I read.

    I am still enjoying what I read. The articles show sensitivity and intelligence and the arguments are well-articulated.

    I am disappointed in this one, however, and even more disappointed in David Hirsh’s rather finger wagging response to people who speak out about their impressions of it. So far as I can make out, most people here have not “played the person;” rather they have expressed their views, albeit strongly in some cases, about the content of the article. Their responses seem to me to be understandable in these fraught times.

    To Jon Pike, I am neither a sociologist nor a philosopher. I couldn’t understand some of the jargon in your most recent post although I agree with you that many of us who support Israel and a just solution to the Middle East difficulties are at a similar tipping point. Few of us resort to the public equivalent of taking our bat and ball home.

    (David Hirsh: Please note that this is meant neither as a hostile reaction to this article nor to Engage’s attitude to IJV. I haven’t the energy to be hostile to IJV).

  48. Another Observer Says:

    I notice that Judith S, is now “melting away”.

    I note that nowehre in her comments, whilst quick to deny her own comlicity with racist ways of thinking does she appear to think, as Daniel pointed out, that any clarification of labelleling “so-called Jewish leaders” “racist” is worthy of comment.

    Does she still by this, if so, why, if so, why not?

    A simple point of clarification is all that is needed.

  49. Observer Says:

    She libels the Board of Deputies, libels Engage and then gets upset that people are upset.
    Oh, really!

  50. Another Another Observer Says:

    Wow – when you guys turn on someone, you really turn on them. I bet Dr Suissa now regrets writing about “the impressively sophisticated debate that has been waged on the Engage website”. I don’t see much debate here – just shouting.

    “Observer” says: “What she does not take into account is that Engage’s main focus is antisemitism.” And Engage’s “About us” statement backs this up: “Engage is not centrally concerned with the Middle East.” Yet that same statement refers to Israel, Palestine and the Middle East in almost every paragraph. So in the current context, when events in the Middle East are prompting renewed calls to boycott Israel and helping to fuel antisemitism, no wonder the debate around Gaza is centre-stage here as elsewhere.

    There appear to be two poles to Engage. At one end are those such as the guest bloggers from Z-Word who seek to support and justify Israel’s actions – even the use of white phosphorus – and echo the official Israeli government line. At the other are those such as John Strawson and Judith Suissa who oppose Israel actions and are willing to side with other critics of Israel (Strawson as a signee of the Times letter of 11 Jan, and Suissa by taking part in last Saturday’s march).

    I’m in the latter camp but I guess I’m in a minority. Many posting on this website seem closer to the former – and show a worrying intolerance towards other views. It’s not enough to be against antisemitism – supposedly Engage’s “single issue” – you must also have chosen Sunday’s pro-Israel demo over Saturday’s pro-Gaza one, blame every war crime on Hamas, and mock attempts at diplomacy. So Strawson and Suissa are given short shrift; the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland, the Jewish Socialist Group’s David Rosenberg and Liberal Conspiracy’s Sunny Hundal get it in the neck; and as for Independent Jewish Voices and, God forbid, Jews for Justice for Palestinians…

    That’s fine if you want to behave like 101 other hasbara groups. But it does beg the question: what’s the point of Engage? According to the About us statement it’s a “left-wing campaign… concerned with the ways that people on the left, people who consider themselves to be liberals and anti-racists, trade unionists, are thinking about ‘Zionism’ and Jews.” If so, I don’t see much engagement with the left. You certainly wouldn’t have found them at Sunday’s protest in support of Israel’s stupid and bloody invasion.

    Some on this forum have accused Suissa of self-indulgence, proclaiming “this is not about you”. The irony is that by attending Saturday’s Stop the War march and confronting those carrying antisemitic slogans, she’s actually done a lot more than her critics here.

  51. Gil Says:

    I feel very privileged to be allowed to post here and I try to respect the rules of civilised discourse.

    ‘Another Another Observer’ (too many Anothers…), is it now the case that when someone disagrees with your views they are now ‘ worryingly intolerant’ towards you? Is this not an attempt to shut down a debate? You say that you are in a minority therefore the onus is on you to persuade the majority that they are wrong.

    Speaking for myself: I won’t march against a war with people who are are using the Gaza issue as fig leaf behind which they hide in their own war against Israel’s very existence; with people who shout antisemitic slogans and who make utterly unfounded comparisons between the battle against the Hamas on the one hand, and Warsaw on the other.

    I am on the left-wing and would like to see a two-state solution. In Israel I demonstrated twice against the late and unlamented Rabbi Kahana and against Sharon in September 1982 during the Lebanon war. I agree with everything Prof. Yehoshafat Harkabi said in 1987 about the need to deal decisively with the Israeli messianic Right Wing (See his book ‘Fateful Decisions’). However, those Jews from the Left calling for boycott on Israel and Israelis are, to use a cliche, throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  52. Another Observer Says:

    Ho hum,
    1. Please state where I have ever, ever, supported the IDF’s action in Gaza? Please state where I have ever, ever supported the use of white phospherous.
    2. Please state where I said I was not on the STWC march? Please state where I say I attended the Sunday march?
    3. Please state where I have disagreed with John Strawson, whose approach, by the way, can hardly be compared with Suissa’s.

    Suissa turns a political question into a moral one.
    She positions her moral position in a representation of the Holocaust as an “morally educative” event from which Jews are supposedly to have “learnt” a “lesson”.

    In writing “as a Jew” who has learnt her lesson, she implies that those who do not agree with her, have, by definition, not learnt their supposed lesson. Those who disagree with her are, by definition, morally deficient, at best, and morally guilty, at worse. And we all know that whilst legal guilt can be measured, moral guilt knows no bounds.

    She thinks that “as a British Jew” she has insight into the political conflict in Israel. Why? What privilege insight does being and writing “as a British Jew” give her into the politics of the Middle East? Does she write “as a British Jew” whose history has taught her not to remain silent in the face of suffering, on other issues? Did she write “as a British Jew” about Tianamen Square? Does she write “as a Jew” about the abject poverty in parts of Britain? Does she write “as a British Jew” on Dafur?

    By writing as a “British Jew” solely on matters of Israel she gives the impression that all British Jews share moral responsibility for the state of Israel solely because it is a Jewish state.- something antisemites have been trying to do for years and which is currently in the ascendancy.

    She calls those who adopt a different political position, but who also lament the loss of life – i.e. the Board of Deputies – “racist”, but does not see her own image as that of Jewish moral superiority (apparently the product of extermination). She fails to see that the very same “educative event” can equally as legitimately (from a moral standpoint) give rise to the most viscious militariasm and the most disgusting racism.

    In the same vein she treats antisemitism as a personal moral affront that apparently only Jews can recognise; as something that is “uncomfortable” and “offensive”. She tells an antisemite that he is wrong, She fails to see antisemitism as an objective political ideology, but instead fails to challenge it meaningfull. Instead she objects to by telling the antisemite that he is wrong and why? Because there are Jews in the march?

    Compare that to the comments by John Strawson. Strawson recognises the political nature of the conflict. Strawson recognises the moral dimension to the conflict. Strawson probably was at the STWC march. Strawson taught in a Palestinin university until he was excluded. Strawson’s sense of justice in the Middle East is without reproach. Strawson is as critical of Israel as Suissa. He just doesn’t write in a way that claims authority through an accident of birth. He does not claim authority for his thought by appropriating the darkest moment of Jewish history. He claims authority by knowing what he is talking about. He claims authority by knowing things. He claims authority by not demonising his opponents as moral inferiors. He acknowledges that people disagree and responds accordingly.

    Strawson promotes dialogue.

  53. Another Observer Says:

    “own image as that of Jewish moral superiority”

    should read,

    “own image as that of a claim to Jewish moral superiority”

  54. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    On Another Observer’s point about John Strawson’s approach promoting dialogue, it should be noted that those who receive short shrift in these columns usually do so because they do not debate, they do not present, and then interpret in a rational and logical manner, evidence. They assert, then when they return, after having been asked to present evidence to support their assertion(s), they merely assert again, and again, and again, until they give up. They give up because we fail to roll over and admit that they are right. We continue to demand evidence and argument to support their claims.

    They know who they are.

    Actually, we claim it of those we agree with as well. So we are consistent. Judith Suissa was _not_ treated in this way, in fact she was treated quite reasonably. Her _ideas_ and her _presentation_ were attacked, but was anyone actually _rude_ to her? If so, they should apologise.

    There are those who not deserve apologies for the rudeness directed towards them, but Judith Suissa was/is not one of them.

  55. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Actually, still referring to “dialogue”, I have asked a number of times, of a number of commenters, what Israel should have done instead of unleashing the armed forces as they have done. I did this in the context that:
    a) the rockets never stopped being fired into Israel during the so-called cease fire, merely diminished in number;
    b) at the end of the cease fire, Hamas and/or its agents and other Islamist/Jihadist groups resumed firing rockets into Israel at a rate of 300 a day for 10 days;
    c) they did this despite the warnings issued by official Israel sources that Israel would respond if the rocket firings didn’t cease.

    John Strawson is one of these commenters, but only one. So far, none of those to whom I have directly and specifically directed this question have responded.

    I could speculate that this failure to respond is because, despite the possibility that Israel has _over-reacted_, in terms of realpolitik, she actually had no other option but to do what she did. The only other possibility, other than refusing to respond – hardly an option in real terms – would have been to direct 300 rockets/artillery shells a day back into Gaza: strictly proportionate, but no more likely to endear Israel to her critics than the course actually taken.

    Or do those of whom I asked the question have a different answer to mine?

  56. Another Another Observer Says:

    Gil and Another Observer, I think you’re right: I conflated two criticisms – what I felt was a vituperative tone in many of the comments here, and concern at an over-slavish devotion to Israeli policy among some on this website – when they are separate issues. Another Observer: I certainly wasn’t accusing you of justifying the use of white phosphorous – I attribute that to Z-Word. And Gil: I didn’t mean to paint everyone with the same broad stroke.

    I certainly don’t expect everyone here to agree with my point of view, but as well as the tone of many of the comments above I was surprised by the almost unanimous hostility towards the articles by Jonathan Freedland – and John Strawson in his defence – posted earlier this month. Even the very modest letter signed by Shalom Lappin was mostly criticised. I suppose the underlying questions are how broad a coalition is Engage and are the comments on these posts representative?

  57. Another Observer Says:

    AAO,

    I am not sure if commentors are ever “representative” of a blog or whatever.
    What I think the diversity of comments show is that any idea of a particarly “Jewish” response to what is going on in Gaza is nonsense. If you look at the letters in the papers signed by various groups of individuals under the rubric “Jew” you will find those who this Israel are nazis, those who think Gaza is necessary but tragic, those who think Gaza is unnecessary and wrong, those who think Israel should negotiate with Hamas, etc. and so forth.

    The point is, of course, that in this as if more or less everything else, Jews are as politically divided as every other “group of people”. (Let us not for a moment think that there is no non-Jewish support for what is going on).

    Put briefly, what is going on in Gaza is NOT a “Jewish issue”. It is a normal, (but particularly nasty and horrible) political and military conflict.

    The fact that so many “Jews” and some “non-Jews” have overlayed this conflict with a veneer of morality (and, as I have said, politics is not the antithesis of morality) is a large part of the reason why some (and I stress some) opposition to Israel has morphed into antisemitism, and continues to do so. Israel/Jews are an immoral people, an overtly legalistic people – a common trope of anti-Jewish sentiment).

    Antisemitism is always a distorted product of what is seen as Jewish-non-Jewish relations. The way to cut antisemitism at its root is to recognise and repeat that, as I said Israel in Gaza is not a Jewish issue, anymore than Bernie Maydoff is a “Jewish” issue.

    That is why my position is surprisingly clear. No to Hamas, No to the IDF. Throw money and as much support as possible to the OT (WB and Gaza) whilst negotiating for a complete withdrawal with the PA from the WB (and Gaza, although it is no longer occupied as such). This would undermine Hamas’ support, screw over Syrian and Iran so thy cannot play with Palestine and the Palestinians); it would also undermine the Israeli right and the US right.

    That is political morality.

    Regards,
    AO


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