“Antiracists” think Ahmadinejad was right

“…Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s UN speech on 21 April struck many as obnoxious, but in terms of understanding the 1948 roots of the Middle East conflict he was spot on. Vilifying him may feel good, but it is a diversion form the real issue.”

Ghada Karmi, Author, Married to Another Man: Israel’s Dilemma in Palestine

“However we may deplore the tone of President Ahmadinejad’s speech at the UN conference on racism, it is difficult to deny the principal facts that he presented…”

Geoff Simons, Author, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

Karmi thinks Ahmadinejad was “spot on” in his understanding of the roots of the Middle East conflict.

Simons agrees with the “principal facts” that he presented.

Neither stops to wonder why it is they agree with a genocidal anti-Jewish racist on the central question concerning Jews in the contemporary world.  Perhaps it is just a coincidence?  A stopped clock is right twice a day?

But perhaps there are other lessons to be learnt from the fact that they agree with Ahmadinejad.

And why is the Guardian printing this support for the understanding and analysis of the world’s most powerful antisemite on its letters page?

If people don’t understand what is racist about holocaust denial then they should make use of Deborah Lipstadt’s magnificent website, which is an excellent resource, Holocaust Denial On Trial.  http://www.hdot.org/

Holocaust denial is antisemitic firstly because denial was part of the crime itself.  Those who were murdered were told that nobody would ever believe that this happened and that nobody would ever know that they even existed.  Denial is not a response to the Holocaust but it is part of the Holocaust.

Secondly because Holocaust denial necessarily assumes that the Jews are sufficiently powerful and sufficiently evil to have invented such a horrible lie and to have made believing it a precondition for acceptability in public life.  It is antisemitic conspiracy theory.

John Strawson

John Strawson

UPDATE – John Strawson adds:

Karmi and Simons rely on ignorance of history  in order to make their case: a case that Ahmadnejad is able to trade on.

“Their” history is that Western guilt for the Holocaust meant that the Jews were given Palestine in order to make amends.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Reading the United Nations documents that led to the partition plan – debate in the General Assembly May through November 1947 and the report of United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) – there are no Western expression of guilt whatsoever. The only speeches that linked the creation of a Jewish State to the Holocaust were from the Soviet Union and Poland.

Indeed what is striking is that despite many anti-Semitic remarks, not one Western country rises to object. The partition plan itself explicitly stated that it was plan for the future of government of Palestine and not a solution to the “Jewish question” – the latter formulation being a reference to the survivors of the Holocaust in displaced peoples’ camps.  Far from guilt there is indifference bordering on callousness.  The Jewish population of between 600,00-650,000 (and 18,000 in detention in in Cyprus) [UN figures]) were of course in Palestine in 1947.

They constituted a clearly constituted a national community.  It is this national identity that the Karmi et al wish to deny. Modern anti-Semitism mainly takes the form of discrimination against Jews as national community – something that the Durban II statement reinforces when it places anti-Semitism between “Islamaphobia” and “Christianophobia.” (draft article 10)

John Strawson

21 Responses to ““Antiracists” think Ahmadinejad was right”

  1. Saul Says:

    I am not sure why you omitted the third letter.

    It is interesting for related reasons.

    1. Is the idea that in the wake of this embarassment for Jewish anti-Zionists that “Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust deserves only to be ignored”.

    Why should be ignored?

    Surely the correct response is for people to shout from the rooftops about a leader of a large relevant state who stands in front of an international audience and preaches holocaust denial and antisemitic conspiracy theory?

    Does Sylvia Cohen think that the best course of action is for Jews not to mention anything, to keep their heads down and not cause a fuss? If only! For her, the problem of Ahmadinejad’s hatred of Jews is not the fact of his hatred, but that it distracts from the issue of Israeli “racism” and Palestinian suffering.

    That his is her point is evidence in the second line of her argument; that Ahmadinejad’s antisemitism is bad for the Palestinians. She is, of course, undoubtedly right about this.

    What she does not mention (because she has always called for it to be swept under the carpet) is that antisemitism is bad for Jews as well. Nothing good comes out of antisemitism for the Jews, ever. This point, however, is questioned in her next argument.

    Apparently Cohen (and she is not alone in this) thinks that the Jews gained a great deal from the Holocaust – their own state. She seems to think that after the Holocaust all these war-hardened and war-wearied nations decided, in a moment of guilt and Christian mercy at the suffering of the Jews (Cohen speaks of the word “sin”), “gave” Palestine to the Jews as a way of saying sorry.

    This, by the way, is the Europe that contained the UK with its Arabist foreign office and a leading cabinet member; a Soviet leader who, of his many characteristics, “guilt” and “mercy” was not amongst them; a Germany who was impotent at that time on the international state, an Italy in the throes of potential revolution; a France concerned about its oversees colonies and the effect of occupation; a US opposed to the creation of a Jewish state; a Spain that was fascist.

    This fantasy of Israel as a product of “European guilt” for near extermination and from which the Jews gained privileged treatment is not only political nonsense but historically false. If Israel was an act of grace to the survivors, why was their strict control on immigration by the British?; why did it take three years and a war of independence to gain such a gift (the toughest wrapping paper I’ve ever seen? and, come to think of it, who exactly was Israel’s war of independence fought against?

    It really is a sign of the times that the garbage that constitutes Cohen’s comments is in anyway taken seriously. But, I guess, the substition of fantast for reality, of myth for facts is not only a cause of antisemitism, but also its symptoms.

    So here we have it.
    1. Shut up about contemporary antisemitism.
    2. Antisemitism may be bad for others, but not Jews
    3. Jews, and only Jews, gained from the Holocausr

    It truly is sickening!

    “Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust deserves only to be ignored, although unfortunately it does ensure, with the predictable response of the western leaders who walked out of the convention, that the indications of racism in Israel’s treatment of Palestinians will not be addressed in any way.

    However, for Ian Black (Man with a pretext for controversy, 21 April) to say that Ahmadinejad’s comments “may sound unremarkable to Arabs and Muslims” is both inaccurate and somewhat patronising. Palestinians and Muslims with whom I have had contact, both in the West Bank and here, and whose writings I have read, are of course concerned with Palestinian suffering. They are also knowledgable about both the Holocaust and the persecution of Jews throughout the ages, and they condemn it out of hand. They just don’t quite understand why the Palestinians should pay for the sins of Europe.

    The piece also omits – and admittedly it is a very potted history – the betrayal of the Palestinians by Britain, which, having promised the Palestinians their own land in Palestine, went ahead with the Balfour declaration in 1917.
    Sylvia Cohen
    London

  2. Empress Trudy Says:

    2000 years of pretending they’re not really going to kill you hasn’t entirely worked out so well. Maybe this time it will, who knows?

  3. Evan Says:

    And don’t forget Geoff Simon’s (author of “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine”, don’t you know?) “Damning quote by a Zionist” letter. I wish people would contextualise their soundbites rather than present them in isolation as if they were “proof” enough.

  4. Toby Esterhase Says:

    It’s a bit like saying that Stalin’s critique of imperialist aggression was spot on.

    Or that Hitler’s anger over Versaille was quite right.

    Or that Nick Griffin’s critique of Islamic terrorism is exactly correct.

  5. john Strawson Says:

    Karmi and Simons rely on ignorance of history is in order to make their case: a case that Ahmadnejad is able to trade on. “Their” history is that Western guilt for the Holocaust meant that the Jews were given Palestine in order to make amends. Nothing could be further from the truth. Reading the United Nations documents that led to the partition plan – debate in the General Assembly May through November 1947 and the report of United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) – there are no Western expression of guilt whatsoever. The only speeches that linked the creation of a Jewish State to the Holocaust were from the Soviet Union and Poland. Indeed what is striking is that despite many anti-Semitic remarks, not one Western country rises to object. The partition plan itself explicitly stated that it was plan for the future of government of Palestine and not a solution to the “Jewish question” – the latter formulation being a reference to the survivors of the Holocaust in displaced peoples’ camps. Far from guilt there is indifference bordering on callousness. The Jewish population of between 600,00-650,000 (and 18,000 in detention in in Cyprus) [UN figures]) were of course in Palestine in 1947. They constituted a clearly constituted national community. It is this national identity that the Karmi et al wish to deny. Modern anti-Semitism mainly takes the form of discrimination against Jews as national community – something that the Durban II statement reinforces when it places anti-Semitism between “Islamaphobia” and “Christianophobia.” (draft article 10)

  6. duncan bryson Says:

    Did anyone also readin the review section of the same edition of the Guardian, this review of Rachel Shabi’s book on the experience of mizrachi jews?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/apr/25/arab-jews-israel-rachel-shabi

    It has some corkers in it.

  7. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Via Duncan Bryson’s link to the review, Daphna Baram has this to say:
    “Importing the Mizrachi (“eastern”) Jews to Israel has been made relatively easy by the tensions created between them and their homelands due to the circumstances of the creation of Israel. The mistreatment of the Palestinian Arabs by Israel engendered a guilt by association on Jews everywhere.” She also goes on to repeat the claims about the Zionist agents who planted bombs, etc, to “encourage” the Jews in arab lands to leave for Israel. This latter is, at best, a contested account of what happened.

    And anyway, one has to say “up to a point, Lord Copper”. This manages to ignore the opposition, often violent, of the Palestinians from well before 1947, going back to the late 19th C., and coming through the Hebron Massacre of 1927, and so forth. It also says nothing of the encouragement by Arab states of the Palestinians, even if the latter hadn’t had the Mufti of Jerusalem, the one and only Haj al-Husseini, yelling things in their ears.

    This is not to excuse the treatment of Palestinian Moslems by the Jews of Palestine and Israel from 1947 on, but it does put it in context.

    Then, perhaps this approach is unsurprising from the person commissioned to write the book about The Guardian and Israel, which many of us feel failed to get to grips with the complexities and subtleties of the that relationship.

  8. Linda Grant Says:

    Daphna Baram was not commissioned to write the book by the Guardian. It was her own project which came out of interviews she did at the Guardian while on a Reuters fellowship at Oxford.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Sorry, Linda, I thought she had. Possibly makes my comment even more apposite, then.

      I take it, then, that the book of this relationship between The Guardian and Israel hasn’t been neutrally investigated then?

      • Linda Grant Says:

        I have no idea if a neutral investigation could ever be possible. What disinterested party would commission should a study and for what purpose?

  9. Saul Says:

    John Strawson,
    Thanks for your comment. Are the documents you cite available online?
    Saul

  10. Saul Says:

    Is the draft statement available electronically too?

  11. Nora Says:

    “Daphna Baram was not commissioned to write the book by the Guardian. It was her own project which came out of interviews she did at the Guardian while on a Reuters fellowship at Oxford.”

    Yet, the Guardian published her book and did publish her tendentious review of the book on Mizrahi Israelis.

  12. Linda Grant Says:

    It also published a twelve part series of interviews by me of ordinary Israelis which appeared over several months. Unlike Daphna Baram’s book these were commissioned.

  13. Mark2 Says:

    “Importing the Mizrachi (“eastern”) Jews to Israel has been made relatively easy by the tensions created between them and their homelands due to the circumstances of the creation of Israel. ”

    Isn’t this the nastiest and weaseliest bit of the whole article? Things in this fantasy land don’t occur as a result of the kind of complex interaction of socio economic, ethnic and political factors usually relied on by academics in similar circumstances. No – it is all painted as Israel’s agency (“Importing” indeed!) and no one else has plays any independent role at all.

  14. jacob Says:

    “Importing the Mizrachi (”eastern”) Jews to Israel has been made relatively easy by the tensions created between them and their homelands due to the circumstances of the creation of Israel. ”

    I agree with Mark2′s response to this nasty a historical view of Mizrahi life in the countries in which they lived (hardly their “homelands.”)

    Imagine a book reviewer claiming that Southern American Blacks went North because of the tension created in the South between Black and White people in the post ww2 period?

    Would the Guardian have published such an apologia for White segregationists? Why did they publish this review then?

    In any case they exhibit a lot fo contempt for Jews and for the truth.

  15. Susan Says:

    Mizrachi Jews were kicked out of Arab countries in 1948. They had choice but to leave in most cases. Their houses and possessions went to the state. They arrived in Israel with their toothbrushes and that’s it. Some left because it wasn’t safe for Jews. Egyptian Jews used to go to the cinema on Saturday night after Shabbat ended. In 1948 was declared a state by the UN, they were attacked en masse. Everybody knew where Jews would be on Saturday evening. Egyptian Jews call it the Night of Broken Cinemas. There were some Mizrachi Jews who left, not because of the Zionists, but because of their own longing for the Holy Land.

  16. john Strawson Says:

    For documents on Palestine see:

    http://domino.un.org/unispal.nsf

    for the documents of UNSCOP and the UN debates search under “select by date” and insert 1947. All the texts are there – there are hundreds of pages buit very well worth reading.

    The Durban Review final text is available at:

    http://un.org/durbanreview2009/pdf/Durban_Review_outcome/document_en_pdf

    article 12 remains unchanged.

  17. Saul Says:

    Thanks

  18. Frank Adam Says:

    Daphna Baram is young enough to know that currently in Israel the Sephardim have integrated. She is looking for delegitimisation excuses – why is for her to explain – by raking up the problems of establishing Israel in a rush as an emergency rescue op a lifetime ago. These are justifiable historical research but not relevant to the present which has enough other problems – all aggravated by Arab hostility around the Israeli periphery and the resultant diversion of resources from remedial projects.

    I collected the intermarriage rates which were 2.5% in the 50′s and have slightly more than doubled every decade steadily to over 24% in the term of President Chaim Herzog and are probably 50% by now. With Gaby Ashkenasi as CoS with a Bulgarian father and Syrian mother it is time to shift priorities to ask the Arabs if their own hostility is not hampering the integration of Israeli Arabs who by and large are a good deal better off than the Arabs of all the Arab states – both materially and socially despite their problems.

    Meanwhile the Israeli government as customary at Independence Day and Rosh HaShanah released “then and now” stats this week inclusive that in 1948 a third of the Jews in Israel were local born – sabras – and now 70% are, of whom half are the second generation of their families to be sabras. Further we are likely to see 6 million Israeli Jews in Israel by 2013 or 14 – and the phoenix will have risen from the ashes, but slightly more Sephardi by ancestry than Ashkenasi.

    Now do the quibblers prefer that new equality created by Israel, or to return to the pre- 1939 situation in which the 95% bulk of the World’s Jews were Ashkenasi in Europe and so the majority of the Yishuv in Israel while the Sephardim were an equally depressed and somewhat more oppressed minority in the Arab World?


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