Standing on the narow bridge – Jonathan Freedland

This piece by Jonathan Freedland, is from the JC.

An old song has been coming back to me, one I learned back in my youth movement days. Perhaps it’s in my mind because, last week, I packed off my eldest son to his first summer camp.

The song is Gesher Tzar Me’od (A Very Narrow Bridge) and it resonates now because that is where I feel I stand – on a very narrow bridge, getting narrower by the day.

On July 10, I took part in a debate at the South Bank Centre that was part of the London Literature Festival. Its theme was the rights and wrongs of cultural boycotts in general, with an inevitable focus on the proposed boycott of Israel.

This event has already been widely discussed in the JC, including one story with the headline, Freedland gloom as Israel boycott is applauded.

It’s quite true that I found it a gloomy experience. Partly because the event was, in effect, jointly organised by British Writers in Support of Palestine – a fact that emerged only later but which the South Bank Centre did not disclose to me or my fellow anti-boycott panellist, Carol Gould, and which it did not reveal in its publicity material. The audience was woefully one-sided, consisting almost entirely of committed boycotters of Israel. At times the atmosphere got pretty nasty: there was repeated jeering, booing and the odd obscene hand gesture from assorted members of the audience.

Israel’s boycott law seems designed to confirm its enemies’ views

Still, I was not, despite what the JC said later, “visibly shaken”. I’ve appeared in front of similar audiences before and my skin has thickened. (Brief tangent on that point: I wonder how many of those bloggers and JC letter-writers who frequently denounce me as insufficiently “pro-Israel” regularly defend the country, not from their armchair or at cosy gatherings of like-minded Israel supporters such as the recent We Believe conference, but in front of Israel’s most strident opponents. Certainly not one of them turned up at the South Bank to oppose the boycott. Next time they call me a traitor to Israel or worse, remind me to ask them where they were on July 10.)

For all that, I did find the event useful. What it confirmed out loud was that the hard core of boycott campaigners do not merely object to the post-1967 occupation- even if that dominates their public rhetoric – but to Israel as Israel. Speakers from the floor repeatedly returned to the alleged ills of pre-1967 Israel and of Zionism itself. Indeed, Naomi Foyle, the activist who had acted as a “volunteer consultant” to the South Bank in organising the debate, later blogged a concise response to my claim that the boycott campaign was anti-Israel rather than anti-occupation: “Damn right.”

I think it’s helpful that the boycotters are exposed in this way. Because many of those tempted to heed the boycott call – and it’s important to distinguish followers from leaders – will be drawn to it as a way to oppose the occupation. Some, not all, will be less keen to join a campaign hostile to Israel’s very right to exist.

So I was happy to stand against the boycott. But guess what happened a few days later. Israel passed an anti-boycott law that seemed designed to confirm everything the country’s enemies say about it.

A grotesque violation of the basic right of free speech, it makes it illegal not just for an Israeli living in Tel Aviv to boycott, say, goods produced in the West Bank but even to advocate such an idea. At a stroke, it undermines Israel’s repeated claim to be “the only democracy in the Middle East”.

This is what I mean about standing on a very narrow bridge. On one side are the Israel-haters. On the other are those leading Israel into an ever darker place, backed by allies abroad who cheer them on, almost never saying enough is enough. To their credit, many did speak out against the anti-boycott law – but that proposal is not a one-off. The Knesset is now debating a plan to drop Arabic as an official language, even though it is the mother tongue of one fifth of the population and has been respected as such since the day the state was founded.

So, yes, I condemn the boycott, but I also condemn the boycott law. I deplore Israel’s enemies, but I also deplore acts of madness like this.

And though the bridge feels so narrow, I suspect there are many who stand in exactly the same place.

This piece by Jonathan Freedland, is from the JC.

31 Responses to “Standing on the narow bridge – Jonathan Freedland”

  1. David Galant Says:

    Jonathon’s understanding of the “boycott” law is at complete odds with reality. It criminalizes nothing, but makes advocacy of a boycott of West Bank products a tort. One can still boycott whatever one wishes, but advocacy has a potential bite. The law has never been tested in the courts, so the actual consequences of advocacy are still moot.

    The libel law in the UK seems an appropriate parallel to me.

  2. Carol Gould Says:

    Lovely piece. Jonathan and I had an interesting evenign at the Purcell Room, to put it politely. I am on Press TV tonight at 730PM discussing the settlements.

  3. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    “…I also condemn the boycott law.”

    At least Israel has a freely elected parliament which can pass laws such as the boycott law (however abhorrent – and I for one abhor it), and not at the behest of a dictator or hereditary absolute monarch. Israel may have a ludicrous pr system which means that there can never be a majority or even a simple coalition of like-minded allies, but it is an electoral system in which _all_ citizens (including Christians, Moslems, Bahai, etc) can vote, and for whatsoever party they choose, unlike other states in the region. And the electorate may vote in such a way that they get a government nobody (or nothing like a majority) actually wants, but, hey, _we_ got a coalition here in the UK, and it looks like fewer than a majority of those who voted, let alone the whole electorate, actually wants it.

    Or, as Winston Churchill said, in response to a comment that democracy was a terrible system, “Indeed, until you look atb the others.”

    And at least Jonathan Freedland could go to Israel and make exactly the same comments and the worst that would happen to him would be an argument (without hatred and obscenities), followed by coffee, pitta bread and falafel with his detractors.

    That wouldn’t happen in other countries in the region. And he bet he wasn’t offered coffee and cake after the South Bank Show either. And as David Galant says, it doesn’t create a criminal offence, hasn’t been tested in court yet, and certainly hasn’t come before the Israeli Supreme Court either.

    • Gideon Swort Says:

      Well put Brian.

      Reading the Standing on the narow bridge headline, one may misguidedly be thinking about Jonathan’s precarious opinions with regard to his daytime employer’s posture – clearly getting ahead of one’s self, as one invariably does when falling into an abrupt spell of uncalled-for buoyancy.

  4. Noga Says:

    “A grotesque violation of the basic right of free speech, it makes it illegal not just for an Israeli living in Tel Aviv to boycott, say, goods produced in the West Bank but even to advocate such an idea. At a stroke, it undermines Israel’s repeated claim to be “the only democracy in the Middle East”.

    This is what I mean about standing on a very narrow bridge. ”

    With all due respect, i don’t think Jonathan understands Reb Nachman of Breslov’s brilliant metaphor.

    The song Freedland refers to is a nigun by Reb Nachman, the founder of the Breslov Hasidic dynasty.

    “Kol ha’olam kulo gesher tzar me’od,
    v’ha’ikar lo lefahed klal.”

    And translates as follows:

    The entire world is but a very narrow bridge,
    and the main thing is to not be afraid, at all

    In the song, and unlike Freedland’s expansion of the metaphor, there are no “sides” to this very narrow bridge. This bridge is all there is. A bridge over a very deep chasm. It’s a song about fear and life. Fear that impedes life, that gets us closer to the chasm and darkness. Letting go of fear means having a chance at life, but life that no matter what will still be lived on a very narrow bridge.

    I don’t understand the relevance of this great poetic thought to Freedland’s problem with Israel’s boycott law.

    I find Israeli journalist Ben Dror Yemini’s thoughts about it much more pertinent:

    “… there are clauses in the law that are justified. Those are the clauses that disallow benefits for organizations that support the boycott. Whoever maintains the position that Israel deserves to be boycotted does not deserve any benefits from the state. Just as in the case of the first, and discarded, version of the “Nakba Law”, which suggested that those who commemorate the Nakba be censured, the final bill which passed, and rightly so, denied any funding for such commemorations by the state.

    Israeli ethos has fostered a very special type of entitlement. As in the case of the painter who joined a Canadian campaign of boycott against the city of Tel Aviv; he returned home to receive an award from the city of Tel Aviv for his artistic achievements. And like hundreds of artists from the same political persuasion who demand money from the state to explain to the world that Israel is a pariah state. They are free to speak and preach as much as they like, but not at our expense.”

    Perhaps, instead of speaking of “grotesque violation of the basic right of free speech” (the kind of language he shares with the boycotters’ he ostensibly opposes), Freedland should really exert himself to imagine what kind of existence Israelis have, on that “very narrow bridge” stretching over a chasm, and what they need to do in order to remain suspended over that chasm and continue to be. Freedland, it seems to me, thinks like a typical Englishman in Orwell’s times: from within the glorious safety of an island protected by a very powerful navy.

  5. haim shalom Says:

    Since you’re asking Mr Freedland, on July 10th, I was at work, paying my taxes to the Israeli Government, whose army I serve in on reserve duty. So please do tell – how exactly do you, Mr Freedland have the right to tell me I don’t do enough to defend this country. Jonathon – you’re welcome to come and do my next reserve stint for me, if you’re so keen to defend us. This October. I’ll tell my officer you’re filling in for me.

    Unrelatedly, for once, I agree entirely with all you have written. Shame, I do so dislike agreeing with you. And this was a particularly well written piece. Darn!

  6. zkharya Says:

    Excellent article.

  7. zkharya Says:

    Though I think he could have mentioned how the core, fundamental anti-Israel hostility of the BDS movement plays a part, direct or indirect, in driving Israel to the right. By promoting a Palestinian nationalism that seeks to end or eradicate Zionism, they are merely making Israeli Jews feel more embattled.

  8. Jonathan Goodson Says:

    It’s fine to disagree with the anti-boycott law if you want to. But the notion that it is somehow beyond what is acceptable in a democracy faced with the situation that Israel is in is nonsense, as argued by Eugene Kontorovich of NW University (www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-EdContributors/Article.aspx?id=229780).

    As for Jonathan Freedland, it is rich for him to be trying to take the moral high ground on anything, given that he works for the Guardian – a newspaper that routinely gives space to people on the hard-left and Islamist extremes (i.e. those who are every bit as bad as those on the far right) and demonizes Israel in the most grotesque hatred-inciting terms . As the author of that critique of the recent Zizek piece in the Guardian (cross-posted from the CST site) puts it:

    “[Its anti-Israel] prejudicial hysteria shows why so many people in the Jewish community have utterly given up on the Guardian. Not just given up, but actually believe it to be one of the primary facilitators of antisemitism in Britain today”

    Jonty Goodson

  9. Absolute Observer Says:

    As to the anti-boycott law – as with any other country, it is easy to fixate on one particular piece of legislation and argue its pros and cons.
    However, in doing so, one ignores that fact that it is part of a broader legislative programme. It is a part of a drip, drip, drip of reactionary measures that many in Israel are struggling so hard to oppose. I am with the opposition on this.
    The current law, as Freedland notes, is to be understood in connection with the disgusting law that will stop Arabic being a national language. There are moves afoot to change Israel’s basic law. It has launched libelous accusations against liberal and human rights organisations, often in terms that demonise any and all opposition to the current government.
    In other words, Israel is currently being governed by a very nasty, very reactionary and very nationalist coalition.
    It needs to be opposed and defeated. And as we speak, at least one-sixth of Israeli society is saying the same thing.

    As to JF’s article. Why not attack the guy for writing op-eds in the Guardian? Let’s just sit there and mumble about how terrible the Guardian is and attack one of its most consistent critics of its stance on Israel? Why not leave him without any support? More, let’s simply attack and demonise Freedland. We can write things like he is immoral, that he has no moral right to speak about anything. After all, that is what anti-ZIonists say about Israel, Israelis and “Zionists”. What a good example to follow!

  10. Absolute Observer Says:

    And, whilst on the subject, let’s attack David Hirsh and Jon Pike (the founders of Engage); let’s say the same about Ronnie Fraser for not only staying in the UCU but also fighting against the presence of antisemitism within its ranks, since the UCU is as much, if not more so, culpable of “demonizing Israel in the most grotesque hatred-inciting terms”.

    http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2010/01/18/david-hirshs-talk-at-ucu/

    Let’s attack Mark Gardner for his contributions on CiF.

    Indeed, let’s attack all except those who, as Freedland says, “frequently denounce me as insufficiently “pro-Israel” [and who] regularly defend the country, not from their armchair or at cosy gatherings of like-minded Israel supporters such as the recent We Believe conference.”

    Let others get their hands dirty and, when they do, we can spend our time complaining to each about their dirty hands.

    Really, is that the best that is on offer? Is that the best they can hope to expect?

  11. Zkharya Says:

    The law is extremely counter-productive.

    It’s a shame that JF says it proves the BDSers right. It doesn’t, really. It shows how the BDS movement’s fundamental hostility to Israel’s having been born a priori both drives the Palestinian national movement to a similar extreme position, which in turn drives Israeli Jewish nationalism to the right.

    But this was still a good article, which I very much appreciate on JF’s part, as I do his performance at the South Bank.

    Kol haKavod, Yonatan.

    Z

  12. Jonathan Goodson Says:

    AO, I disagree with most of what you say.

    First, Freedland doesn’t just write op-eds for the Guardian, he’s one of the permanent staffers on a newspaper whose pernicious influence far outweighs any harm done by Israel’s antiboycott law (if harm there is). So when Freedland criticises Israeli democracy while being so closely linked to the Guardian himself, he is like someone proclaiming the wonders of democracy while writing for Pravda or some far-right rag. Yes, the Guardian in 2011 really is that bad on the Jews and Israel, not least because of its influence on politicians, other journalists, and academia is so pervasive. And it’s perfectly reasonable to notice as much, suggest that Freedland needs to deal with the log in his own eye before criticising others for the speck in theirs, and feel that meanwhile he cannot be taken seriously as a journalist (even when on occasion he’s right). Surely, we all make judgments like this about public figures in journalism and politics all the time (e.g. I also find it hard to take Melanie Philips seriously on any subject in light of the unconscionable comments she made about gay people a few months ago, even though she may sometimes be right about some things). The struggles of Jon Pike, David Hirsh, and Ronnie Fraser within UCU are a different kettle of fish altogether.

    Second, your suggestion that Israeli democracy is somehow in peril is not just wrong but part of the problem. Not only is Israeli democracy incredibly robust and, in my view, healthier at present than what I’m seeing in much of Europe, but caricaturing Israel’s democracy as on the ropes because of malign reactionary forces dragging it down into fascism simply adds fuel to the fire of demonization. In reality you just disagree with the democratically elected politicians upholding democratic values that Israel happens to have at the moment. I sympathise with that because I would probably have voted for Kadima at the last election if I were Israeli. But I can nonetheless see that Netanyahu’s govt is not ‘rightwing’ (on the democratic right, let alone the far right) in any straightforward sense – at least, no more so than the present UK govt, for instance. Indeed, it is a coalition of assorted elements, including some on the left, and has done things that give the lie to your own portrayal of it:
    - it placed itself well to left of Rabin by imposing a 10-month freeze on construction within settlements to get Abbas to the negotiating table, unlike any previous govt;
    - back in Feb it scuppered plans to make it hard for artists to get funding if they hadn’t served in the IDF (www.haaretz.com/news/national/ministers-reject-bill-barring-state-funding-for-artists-who-dodged-idf-1.344643);
    - and Likud MK of all people joined the opposition in opposing an inquiry into foreign funding of hard-left NGOs (www.haaretz.com/news/national/knesset-postpones-vote-over-panels-of-inquiry-into-leftist-ngos-1.344799).

    Three, the one law and the one proposed law that you dislike, perhaps rightly, are no different in essence to Germany’s law against holocaust denial, or the second-class status of Welsh (the longest continuously spoken language in Britain) in the UK, except that the Israeli system is more likely to strike down or reverse such laws, even though it is effectively in a struggle for survival of the sort not faced by other Western democracies since the 1930s and 40s (during which, here in the UK in WWII, for instance, we cancelled vast swathes of our democracy, something Israel refuses to do). As for the anti-boycott law itself, why shouldn’t Israel take such actions of ‘lawfare’ to defend itself against the racist attacks of the BDS crowd at home and abroad? It’s no different to UK laws used by those who successfully challenged UCU’s anti-Israel boycott motions because they were illegal. And regarding the Arabic issue: firstly, the proposal is actually to make Hebrew the official language, with Arabic (and English) retaining special status; secondly, I’ll eat my hat if the proposal, which I personally wouldn’t support, actually gets through, for one important thing I learned from the now sadly defunct blog of Yaacov Lozowick is this:

    “one of the characteristics of Israeli politics is that politicians seek to climb out of their anonymity by proposing outlandish laws, knowing full well they’ll garner attention but the laws will never pass. Meanwhile, the opposition likewise garners attention and publicity from the same proposal, so everyone wins…These days the government is notionally right-wing (as if the term means anything in Israel), so the squawking is being done by the lefties. All well and fine, so long as everyone understands those to be the rules of the game, and doesn’t take seriously the sound-bites about how Israel is descending into fascism etc etc.”
    (http://yaacovlozowick.blogspot.com/2011/02/israels-robust-democracy.html)

    Indeed, I think Kadima have now withdrawn their support on that law.

    Fourth, and finally, as Benjamin Kerstein put it a few months ago regarding the small number of loopy Israelis trying to maintain that Israel’s democracy is somehow under threat:

    “The real problem with polemics like these is not that they are critical of Israeli society, but that their basic descriptions of that society bear no relation to reality. For the truth is that Israel today is more democratic, and substantively so, than it has ever been before. Until 1977, Israel was essentially a one-party state, dominated by a secular and socialist Ashkenazi elite. Today, it is one of the most politically, ethnically, and religiously diverse societies in the world. Sephardi Jews, religious Jews, Arabs, Russian immigrants, and many others have a voice and a degree of political influence they could never have enjoyed in the past that is so nostalgically remembered by the Israeli Left…Many Israelis today may not like what these groups have to say, or what they want to do. But that is not a threat to democracy. It is democracy. And here, in its apparent powerlessness to change the face of this democracy, lies the Left’s insoluble dilemma. To paraphrase Brecht, its only recourse is to dissolve the Israeli people and elect—or, better, appoint—another one.”
    (www.jewishideasdaily.com/content/module/2011/1/25/main-feature/1/is-israeli-democracy-finished/t).

    Sorry for the long reply, but one rant deserves another!

    Jonathan Goodson

  13. Absolute Observer Says:

    So to sum it up (and save us all a lot of time)
    JF is a shit and Israel is doing just fine.

    btw, how many “loopy Israelis” have been out on the street the past few weeks? But, I guess, unlike yourself, they don’t live “here in the UK” so what can they possibly know about Israel, Israeli society and Israeli politics? I assume that you have told them that “they’ve never had it so good” and that, really, since they live in a democracy they have nothing to complain about; indeed, to complain is madness (loopy as you call it) After all, why should Israelis demand their democracy to be better than any others; why should they demand a social content to the concept of “democracy”; and, since the Welsh have second-class status in the UK, why should the Arab citizens of Israel demand (or, rather uphold) anything better.

    Thank you for making your point so clearly. I couldn’t have expressed it better.

    Sorry for the short reply, but one rant deserves another!

  14. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    I take Jonathan Goodson _NOT_ to be talking about the street protests, which are a part of democracy. Note, everyone, they are not looting nor rioting, attacking the police nor even the institutions of the state. Nor are they being physically attacked by the agents of the state. In other words, as already noted, they are a part of the vibrant democracy that is Israel. They can’t do anything else at the moment, as there isn’t an election slated.

    Rather, I take him to be commenting on the attitude of those such as the unlamented ex-resident Israeli Ilan Pappe and his ilk.

    I take it that AO wouldn’t see the 2 million marchers against the Iraq war as “loopy”, regardless of whether he supported or opposed their wishes. Similarly, the CND marchers of yore; protestors against this or that (peacefully marching and assembling in Trafalgar Square). So what’s the difference?

  15. Jonathan Goodson Says:

    AO:

    (1) “JF is a shit”
    No, your words, not mine. JF is probably a very nice man and, whether he is or not, I would never engage in verbal abuse of that kind in a public forum such as this. I just happen to think that his journalism and politics are tainted, not because of his views about Israel, but because of his association with the Guardian. Those are the kinds of judgments that are at the heart of being politically engaged and we all make them all the time – see, e.g., the post that’s just gone up on Engage about Ken Livingstone.

    (2) “Israel is doing just fine”
    Again, your words, not mine. In my view, Israel has all kinds of real internal problems (e.g. anti-Arab and anti-Jewish racism, longstanding economic inequalities, effects of the neo-liberal economics of recent years, the need to spend yet more on security instead of health and education given what’s happening around it); and it has serious external problems (e.g. Islamist regimes likely to emerge in Egypt and Syria, US/Euro demands for daft concessions putting Israeli citizens at risk so that Europeans/US can have a quiet life in the short term, prejudice at the UN). These and other issues need to be discussed and addressed, of course, but they do not mean Israel’s democracy is not on the verge of going down the plug-hole.

    (2) “btw, how many “loopy Israelis” have been out on the street the past few weeks?”
    This comment doesn’t make sense. The quotation of several months ago referred to that small number of hard-left Israelis who think Israel’s democratic system really is in danger, not the many people who have been protesting about concrete issues (housing, prices, settlements) much more recently.

    (3) “But, I guess, unlike yourself, they don’t live “here in the UK” so what can they possibly know about Israel, Israeli society and Israeli politics? I assume that you have told them that “they’ve never had it so good” and that, really, since they live in a democracy they have nothing to complain about; indeed, to complain is madness (loopy as you call it)”
    Again, this doesn’t make sense as a response, especially given its unnecessarily snide tone. But for what it’s worth, I didn’t say Israelis have never had it so good and never would, both because external threats make war likely soon and because, as in other democracies, there are always major and minor internal issues to be dealt with. Once more, however, Israel is no more about to become a fascist state than France (due to the burka ban), Switzerland (due to the minaret ban), the UK (due to its control orders), or USA (due to Guantanamo).

    (4) “After all, why should Israelis demand their democracy to be better than any others; why should they demand a social content to the concept of democracy…Welsh have second-class status in the UK, why should the Arab citizens of Israel demand (or, rather uphold) anything better”
    They can demand that their democracy, including its social content, be better than others if they want to and, in some respects, it probably already is (e.g. it generally has a higher threshold before going to war and the IDF at war generally makes more of an effort to avoid civilian casualties than other democracies). But it’s important not to use the harshest language to demonize Israel – e.g. by saying its democracy is on the verge of collapse – when it ends up being more or less the same as other democracies and/or sometimes falls short of the democratic ideal in the way other democracies also inevitably do from time to time (e.g. if the law demoting Arabic from official status to special status were to go through which currently seems highly unlikely).

    (5) “Thank you for making your point so clearly. I couldn’t have expressed it better.”
    Actually, you’re comments suggest you’ve not understood most of what I’ve said. And the sarcastic, hyperbolic tone isn’t helpful.

    (5) “Sorry for the short reply, but one rant deserves another!”
    Touche

    Jonathan Goodson

  16. Absolute Observer Says:

    “I would never engage in verbal abuse of that kind in a public forum such as this”

    Oh really,
    How about this,
    “As for Jonathan Freedland, it is rich for him to be trying to take the moral high ground on anything, given that he works for the Guardian.”
    If that is not verbal abuse I am not sure what is!

    However, I do not think you read my initial comment,
    “However, in doing so, one ignores that fact that it is part of a broader legislative programme. It is a part of a drip, drip, drip of reactionary measures that many in Israel are struggling so hard to oppose. I am with the opposition on this.
    The current law, as Freedland notes, is to be understood in connection with the disgusting law that will stop Arabic being a national language. There are moves afoot to change Israel’s basic law. It has launched libelous accusations against liberal and human rights organisations, often in terms that demonise any and all opposition to the current government.
    In other words, Israel is currently being governed by a very nasty, very reactionary and very nationalist coalition.
    It needs to be opposed and defeated. And as we speak, at least one-sixth of Israeli society is saying the same thing.”

    “fascist”? your word not mine
    I said nothing about “fascist”. Indeed, if you read what is written rather than what you think I wrote, then you will see that I did not refer directly to “democracy” being under threat (although now you mention it…………)
    What I did say was “Israel is currently being governed by a very nasty, very reactionary and very nationalist coalition”.

    However the fact that you think that criticising a right-wing nationalist-religious government who has proved so successful that 90% of the population are dissatisified is the same as “demonisation” shows that in reality you are nothing more than a right-wing troll who turns up every now and then and pretends to to “defend” Israel, when, in fact, all you are defending is its current government. A common practice of nationalists of all countries.

    But the biggest irony is that your views on Israel are no different from those anti-Zionists who, like you, see no difference between “Israel” and its tawdry rightist government, as if the one is the same as the other. They too get confused between “criticism” and “demonisation”. The only difference is they blindly attack it and you blindly defend it. Israelis don’t deserve either of you.

    However, unlike yourself, I treat Israel with the dignity it deserves, that is as a normal state with normal problems and normal political conflicts; one of which revolves around its current government and the policies it is introducing which as you note is no different from the racist policies in Switzwerland and France, from the authoritarian policies in the UK and the abuse of the rule of law in the USA. (Your examples, not mine).

    I oppose those policies in Switzerland, in France, in the UK and the USA. I have no idea why I would or should not oppose them in Israel. It is called political consistency and, unlike you and the anti-Zionists, I refuse to make Israel a “special case”.

    And on a related note, was I the only one to notice and to be disgusted by, Harriet Sherwood’s description of the shootings that killed six Israeli civilians and one Israel soldier (I assume, off duty?) as “audacious”? No doubt, she thinks that indiscrimately firing a machine gun at a bus is up there with the raid on Entebbe.

    .

  17. Absolute Observer Says:

    From the print edition I received this morning (but absent from its online version),
    “”in a co-ordinated and audacious three-pronged, three hour assault”…….

    “audacious” (this word means bold, adventurous, recklessly daring)
    as in,

    “The names of five people killed in the terror attacks in Israel’s south on Thursday were released Friday. The victims are Yosef Levi, aged 52, from Holon; Sisters Flora Gez and Shula Karlitzky, aged 52 and 54 respectively, and their husbands, Moshe, aged 53 and Dov, aged 58. The two couples lived in Kfar Saba and were on their way to a vacation in Eilat when their car was attacked.”

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/two-sisters-and-their-husbands-among-victims-of-terror-attacks-in-south-israel-1.379561

    “The terrorists also fired mortars at a civilian work crew repairing the fence nearby, but caused no casualties.”

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/10-rockets-strike-israel-day-after-coordinated-terror-attacks-kill-8-1.379518

  18. Jonathan Goodson Says:

    No, AO, maintaining that it’s rich for prominent journalist A to say B because of their record C on issue D does not count as verbal abuse; it’s expressing a view, with which others are entitled to disagree, of course, as part of the rough and tumble of debate.

    What does count as abuse, however, is calling people rude names of one degree of offensiveness or another, like “a shit” (which you wrongly impute to me as summing up my view of Jonathan Freedland) or “right-wing troll” (which you call me as some kind of ad hominem insult).

    Please apologize, at least for the latter.

    Jonathan Goodson.

  19. Absolute Observer Says:

    Jonathan,
    You seem upset about what one anonymous person has said to you on a single internet cite.
    Perhaps now you will have a bit of empathy for Jonathan Friedland who has to suffer the type of shit you have thrown at him day in and day out by many other people.
    You may call that a difference of “opinion”; he, on other hand, may well see it as an “ad hominem attack”.
    Think about it!

    Just to be clear about our terms, shall we,
    “Ad hominem” attack is where one attacks someone for who they are (i.e. a journalist in a given newspaper) rather than for what they say (a commentary on an anti-Zionist meeting or a political view about a given law).
    Your comments on Friedland fall clearly into the former,
    Likewise I have illustrated clearly that you misrepresented (intnetionally or not) my initial comment and set up a “straw man” with which to argue.
    I have illustrated clearly how, like many anti-Zionists, you confuse “criticism” of Israel with “demonisation” of Israel.
    I have illustrated clearly that the examples you cite about other countries are racist, authoritarian abusive of the rule of law and which, by your own reasoning is on a par with some of the laws the current Israeli government is passing.
    I have, in other words, illustrated clearly why, if you are not a “right wing troll”, you are certainly doing a good impression of one.

  20. Jonathan Goodson Says:

    Goodness, AO, what a mix of opposites, non-sequitors, and projections your comments are. Not least, your own see-how-you-like-it jibe (“Perhaps now…”) shows that you are in fact doing (in using derogatory names) what you are wrongly criticising me for doing (vis-a-vis Freedland).

    It’s true, of course, that we don’t know each other from Adam and I’m not personally offended by your name calling. In fact, since “rightwing troll” echoes the name of a drag queen I used to go and see at the Black Cap in Camden (or somewhere) years ago, it’s faintly amusing.

    Nevertheless, when one party introduces such name calling into a conversation, it inevtiably has an effect on the dynamics by making it impossible to have a proper, polite, potentially fruitful discussion. So unless you’re willing to withdraw it, there we must leave it, I’m afraid.

    Jonathan Goodson.

  21. Carol Gould Says:

    In this week’s JC they haveprinted my letter about the five articles that have appeared in the past month about Jonathan Freedland and me. For some odd reason the JC deleted my quote from the Ibn Gabirol, which I felt best reflected my sentiments towards the loud and abusive BDS hecklers at the Purcell Room. I would now like to share with Engage readers and bloggers the quote: ‘In seeking wisdom the first step is silence; the second: listening; the third: remembering; the fourth: practising; the fifth: teaching others.’
    I hope my Purcell Room anti-Boycott speech, to which I gave great care, taught something to those who had the wisdom to listen. My talk delivered on 10th July may be read at CurrentViewpoint.com

  22. Absolute Observer Says:

    I see that today’s Guardian carries a full page hagiography of the cartoonist Latuff

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2011/aug/22/carlos-latuff-cartoon-arab-spring?INTCMP=SRCH

    Unfortunately the article fails to mention that Latuff got second prize in Tehran’s so called “International Holocaust Cartoon Competition”. As with many of his comments on the Israel/Palestine conflict, this “winner” equates Israeli Jews with Nazis and the IDF with the SS. He also draws images implying that the issue of antisemitism is used in a maliciously instrumental way to silence “criticism” of Israel.

    It is really a bit like the Guardian interviewing David Irving about his book on, say, Dresden without mentioning the fact that is a confirmed antisemite and Holocaust Denier.

    Oh, that Guardian, you gott love ‘em

    • modernity Says:

      Just posted this rather moderate comment on that piece at the Guardian, however, I doubt it will get through their pre-moderation censors:

      “It is a pity that this piece omits the fact that Carlos Latuff won second prize (some $4,000) in the 2006 Iranian International Holocaust Cartoon Competition.

      One might then ask the question, what was the purpose of the 2006 Iranian International Holocaust Cartoon Competition?

      Answer, mocking the suffering of Jews.”

  23. Absolute Observer Says:

    re: Latuff,

    http://blog.thecst.org.uk/

    • Zkharya Says:

      Thanks for posting that, AO. I was particularly struck by Latuff’s Christian iconography: Palestine as Christ-the Dove of the Holy Spirit Incarnate; crucified/pierced (presumably by Israel, Zionism, alien Zionist interlopers); albeit in the arms of Palestine as his mother, the Virgin Mary.

      That is very insightful as to ‘where’ Latuff is coming from (apart from culturally Catholic Brazil; where Ben White spent a few years journalising, between uni and returning to the UK, if I recall correctly).

      This is exactly what one might call Christian nationalism: Palestinian Arab Christians and Muslims as the national incarnation of Christ.

      That is a powerful motif whose underlying spirit, I think, is very prevalent in the PSC, BDS movement.

    • modernity Says:

      I think it is good to remind people about the type of racist imagery that Carlos Latuff peddles.

      Adam Holland has a good post comparing Latuff’s tentacled octopus with an earlier one.

      http://adamholland.blogspot.com/2011/08/carlos-latuff-blocks-adam-holland-on.html

      It would make a good subject for a post, as so many academics seem to read the Guardian!

      • Sarah AB Says:

        If I knew nothing about Latuff I’d assume he was ok after reading that piece which implies he’s just done the odd cartoon criticising Israel (but carefully avoiding antisemitism) and then go picked on by oversensitive, or even dishonest, supporters of Israel – in some ways it’s more annoying that the I/P angle is invoked only to be contained, pretty misleadingly, than if it had simply been ignored. I think the way Latuff is just allowed to brush the criticism aside reflects pretty badly on the author’s research skills, to put it no more strongly. The interview repeats the message of some of the cartoons – that antisemitism is invoked dishonestly to shut down fair criticism of Israel.

      • modernity Says:

        “If I knew nothing about Latuff I’d assume he was ok after reading that piece which implies he’s just done the odd cartoon criticising Israel (but carefully avoiding antisemitism) and ….”

        Indeed Sarah,

        That is *IF*.

        But claims of ignorance are less tenable in the age of the Internet, aren’t they?

        Latuff’s own Facebook entry refers to it:

        “Carlos Latuff (photo) is a freelance political cartoonist, born in November 30, 1968, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

        Latuff’s works have been posted on various Indymedia websites and blogs; and several of his cartoons were also published on other websites such as Norman Finkelstein’s official website.[1] He has also participated and was placed second, winning $4,000, in the 2006 Iranian International Holocaust Cartoon Competition.

        Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff creates artworks that call on the world to condemn Israeli holocaust of Gaza”

        [See http://tinyurl.com/3cz25rw a Google cached copy of his FB page.]

        The Guardian is guilty of lying by omission as anyone with the Internet can see.

  24. Absolute Observer Says:

    It would appear the the quote cited by the cst is not in the print edition.

    How “audacious” of the Guardian


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