Is the British labour movement ‘institutionally anti-semitic’?
Robert Fine and Eric Lee are speaking at the AWL’s ‘Ideas for Freedom’ event on Saturday 9 July.
Tonight’s Evening Standard reports that various officials are embarrassed by a series of errors which permitted Sheikh Raed Salah to enter the country and lecture the British public.
“I can’t see how the police missed him at the Conway Hall, he was speaking from the platform. It all sounds rather Inspector Clouseau”.
“We checked him out and he denied completely that he was an anti-Semite so we thought it was appropriate to bring him over”
Here’s Salah being antisemitic in 2007:
“Whoever wants a more thorough explanation, let him ask what used to happen to some children in Europe, whose blood was mixed in with the dough of the [Jewish] holy bread.”
In 2003, adamant about a Jewish 9/11 tip-off
“A suitable way was found to warn the 4,000 Jews who work every day at the Twin Towers to be absent from their work on September 11, 2001, and this is really what happened! Were 4,000 Jewish clerks absent [from their jobs] by chance, or was there another reason? At the same time, no such warning reached the 2,000 Muslims who worked every day in the Twin Towers, and therefore there were hundreds of Muslim victims.”
Salah’s Islamic Movement, 2011 – mad Jews against free expression:
“Since Salah received the invitation to come to Britain, the Jewish lobby went crazy and did everything in its power to prevent the visit, so that the Zionist narrative remains the only narrative”
Addendum, on Harry’s Place, Just Journalism reviews the opinions Salah expressed in a Ha’aretz interview in 2001, on homosexuality, women and honour killing, which are even more frightening than his views about Jews. The Guardian (of what, these days?) cares little.
“On Friday evening, Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek gave a lecture in a bookstore in Central Tel Aviv teeming with familiar faces of leftwing activists. It was hosted by Udi Aloni, an Israeli-American artist and BDS activist, who just completed a book entitled What Does a Jew Want, which is edited by Zizek.
Many seem to have come with the expectation to hear Zizek rip into Israel and use his wry wit and charisma in such a bourgeoises Tel Aviv setting to endorse the BDS Movement. Indeed when Udi Aloni introduced Zizek, he identified himself as an activist on behalf of BDS and said he chose the bookstore as a venue in order to not cooperate with any formal Israeli institution.
However, Zizek did not officially endorse or even talk much about BDS – and when he did it was because he was prompted to during Q&A. His two clear statements about BDS were that a) he is not 100% behind it and b)he supports a movement that is initiated jointly by Palestinians and Israeli here in the region.
Rather, Zizek spent almost two hours with the crowd’s undivided attention talking about antisemitism, capitalism and the place of the Jew in the world. He warned that antisemitism is “alive and kicking” in Europe and America and asserted that the State of Israel should worry more about Christian right antisemitism rather than wasting its energy on self-proclaimed Jewish anti-Zionists. He said that the Christian Zionists in America are inherently antisemitic and that Israel’s willingness to embrace their support is baffling.
After establishing the deep-rooted vitality of antisemitism, he mentioned that he has no patience for those who excuse Arab antisemitism; that even the most oppressed and poor Palestinian should not be tolerated for being antisemitic. He also spoke about his well-known argument regarding Zionist antisemitism, whereby Zionists use antisemitic language towards fellows Jews in accusing them of not being Zionist enough. This was his main critique of Israel – its witch hunt against those Jews it finds not “Zionist enough.”
Raincoat Optimist comments:
“What to some might appear like Zizek withholding sympathy for Palestinians, is in actual fact highlighting the paternalism and snobbery of some pro-Palestinians, who believe those who are lesser off than them should be pitied, left to their own devices, and if they express antisemitic views, well, who can blame them, ‘eh, after all they don’t know any better do they, they’re poor – and as all people know poor people are stupid and don’t deserve to be told they’re wrong to blame the Jews for their plight.”
In two weeks Sudan will become two states. Its last ever president, Omar Al-Bashir will continue to dodge an arrest warrant for crimes against humanity issued by the International Criminal Court. Tonight China (not an ICC signatory) is his host.
Meanwhile the disputed oil-rich border territory of Abyei represents an economic reason for north-south conflict. Yesterday the South Kordufan village of Kurchi was reported to have been strafed with rockets from Khartoum in the north, killing 16 including a three-year-old and a baby, and seriously injuring 32. This is one of many ongoing attacks, and the number of internally displaced people is currently estimated at around 80,000. Today the UNSC voted to deploy 4000 Ethiopian peace-keeping troops.
There is more to the Abyei conflict than oil. Khartoum is targeting people on ethnic and political grounds, but there are some who defy these categories. A Sudan analyst interviewed on BBC Radio 4′s The World Tonight views the conflict as between those who want to impose Khartoum’s sharia law and those – Nuba SPLA, a northern opposition group of Muslims and Christians together – who are fighting for basic economic and social rights in a pluralistic, religiously tolerant society, resisting the fundamentalist policies of Khartoum.
The analyst also expressed deep regret at the “depressingly little” international attention paid to this conflict:
“This struggle is particularly important because it is offering one of the few alternatives to division between north and south, between Christian and Muslim, or black and Arab, so the lack of international support is really shocking at this stage, even if we put aside the immediate suffering of innocent people.”
Sudan will split on 9th July.
In concert and talk.
A benefit for the Bay Area’s flotilla passengers who will be onboard The Audacity of Hope. You’ll meet them as they get ready to go on the “Freedom Flotilla – Stay Human” to break Israel’s illegal naval blockade, an awesomely courageous revolutionary liberatory, even world-history-making action.
Atzmon is a worldwide-renowned jazz saxophonist par excellence. He was born and raised in Israel. After serving in the Israeli military he became an expat and lives in London. He also holds a PhD in philosophy and is a prolific writer and speaker on Israel-Palestine.
Please join Gilad, his pianist Daniel Raynaud, and the passengers.
May 10, 2011 at 4:30pm
Gilad Atzmon is an unambiguous and explicit antisemite. These are the kinds of things that Atzmon likes to say:
“They try to call me an anti-Semite, I’m not an anti-Semite. I’ve got nothing against the Semite people, I don’t have anything against people – I’m anti-Jewish, not anti-Jews.
“I think Jewish ideology is driving our planet into a catastrophe and we must stop.”
“The Nazis were indeed . . . evil. They did things that were disastrously inhuman and unacceptable. But this doesn’t mean the Jewish ideology is correct, because in fact Jewish ideology and Nazi ideology were very similar.”
It should not need arguing, this late in the ethical history of mankind, that good people can do great harm. One of the finest and funniest novels ever written — Don Quixote — charts the damage left in the wake of a man who would make the world a better place.
Human beings are seldom more dangerous than when they are sentimentally overcome by the goodness of their own intentions. That Alice Walker believes it is right to join the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza I do not have the slightest doubt. But beyond associating her decision with Gandhi, Martin Luther King and very nearly, when she talks about the preciousness of children, Jesus Christ, she fails to give a single convincing reason for it.
“One child must never be set above another child,” she says. A sentiment that will find an echo in every heart. But how does it justify the flotilla? Gaza is under siege, Israelis will tell you, because weapons are fired from it into Israel, threatening the lives of Israeli children. If the blockade is lifted there is a fear that more lethal and far-reaching weapons will be acquired, and the lives of more Israeli children endangered.
You may want to argue that had Gaza been treated differently it would have responded differently, but if the aim of the flotilla is to ensure that one child will not be set above another it is hard to see how challenging the blockade will achieve it. All an Israeli parent will see is a highly charged emotionalism disguising an action that, by its very partiality, chooses the Palestinian child over the Israeli.
The boat on which Alice Walker will be traveling is called The Audacity of Hope. Forgive me for seeing a measure of self- importance in that reference. It will be carrying, Alice Walker tells us, “Letters expressing solidarity and love.” Not, presumably, for Israeli children. Perhaps it is thought that Israeli children are the recipients of enough love already. So what about solidarity? It is meant to sound innocuous. “That is all.”
Alice Walker makes plain, “its cargo will be carrying.” But what will these letters of solidarity be expressing solidarity with? Solidarity is a political term implying commonality of interest or aspiration. So what interest or aspiration do Alice Walker and her fellow travelers share with the people of Gaza? A desire for freedom? Well we all aspire to that. A longing to live in peace?
If they have such a longing we must be solid with them in that too, though the firing of rockets from Gaza is not, on the face of it, an expression of such a longing. And what about the declared hostility of Hamas to the very existence of Israel? Hamas, we are often told, is the elected government of Gaza, a government that fairly represents the wishes of its people. In which case we must assume that Hamas’s implacable hostility towards Israel fairly represents the implacable hostility felt by the people of Gaza. Are Alice Walker’s letters of love and ‘solidarity’ solid with the people of Gaza in that hostility?
“If the Israeli military attacks us, it will be as if they attacked the mailman,” she says. Wrong on a thousand counts. As a writer, Alice Walker must understand the symbolic significance of words. The cargo is a cargo of intention. It is freighted with political sympathy and attitude. It means to blunder into where it isn’t safe, clothed in the make-believe garments of the unworldly, speaking of children and speaking like children, half inviting a violence which can then be presented as a slaughter of the innocents.
Even before the deed, Alice Walker has her language of outraged moral purity prepared — “but if they insist on attacking us, wounding us, even murdering us…” The Israeli response is thus already an act of unprovoked murder, no matter that the flotilla is by its very essence a provocation. Whatever its cargo, by luring the Israeli military into action which can be represented as brutal, the flotilla is engaged in an entirely political act. To call it by any other name is the grossest hypocrisy.
Alice Walker might be feeling good about herself, but by giving the Palestinians the same old false comfort we’ve been doling out for more than half a century, and by allowing the Israelis to dismiss it as yet another act of misguided and uncomprehending adventurism — further evidence that its fears go unheeded – her political gesture only worsens the situation. The parties to this conflict need to be brought together not divided: but those who speak disingenuously of love will engender only further hatred.
Dear Sally Hunt,
I note the official UCU rejection of the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) working definition of anti-Semitism at the recent UCU Congress.
One part of that working definition rejected by the union stands out: it is anti-Semitic to ‘deny the right of the Jewish people to self-determination’, within some borders, unspecified as what they might be. It is hard for me to comprehend how anyone could consider this relatively anodyne claim as unacceptable, let alone reject it as a current form of anti-Semitism, which it most certainly is.
I also note that in rejecting this definition, they have singled out anti-Semitism from other forms of prejudice as something only they, and not the victims, have the right to identify. So a group of mainly non-Jewish trade unionists feels no compunction in telling its Jewish minority what anti-Semitism feels like. Read the transcript of the speech by Ronnie Fraser (http://www.academics-for-israel.org/index.php?page=v10n4), the lone (brave) Jew to speak out against the motion at Congress, and reflect on the fact that his words were met with stoney silence according to contemporaneous reports.
Given that no external body has or is likely to require UCU to take a position on this definition, the decision by UCU to single out anti-Semitism in this way is hard to understand
Yet when one considers the acceptance of actual and indirect expressions of anti-Semitism within UCU, perhaps the position becomes easier to understand. For example, in 2009, UCU invited Bonganu Masuku, a South African trade unionist who had just been found by the South African Human Rights Commission to have made anti-Semitic remarks, to the UK to speak about boycotting Israel. When challenged about Mr Masuku’s comments, UCU defended him by saying the claims against him were “not credible”. Additionally, there have been a number of oral and written comments by UCU members (see http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/02/20/mike-cushmans-protocols-moment/, for example) that can be regarded as anti-Semitic in character, but no action has been taken in respect of these by UCU.
At a time when working conditions and pay are under extreme pressure, it is incredible to me, and no doubt to most academics and external observers, that UCU chooses to waste its time on these ridiculous motions, which bear no relationship to its fundamental purpose as a union to protect the pay and working conditions of its members.
As a Jew, I wonder very seriously whether I should, following many resignations by Jewish members over the last six years, leave this tainted organization. Yet the academic community needs union representation in respect of its legitimate defence of pay and working conditions in the context of the spending review as never before. It is only my hope that the vast majority of UCU members do not ascribe to these views, and that they are confined to a misguided activist minority, that makes me hesitate, although voices of protest against the motion from rank and file members have been not been raised with any noticeable vigour.
Principal Lecturer in Education
Department of Education
London South Bank University