Labour needs a new candidate for Mayor

Ken Livingstone

Ken Livingstone’s latest on next year’s battle against Conservative Boris Johnson for Mayor:

“It’s a simple choice between good and evil – I don’t think it’s been so clear since the great struggle between Churchill and Hitler.”

Another slip of the tongue or a sign of a politician who’s lost the plot?

Yet another innocent mistake?

Ken Livingstone’s “moderate” says Jews killed Christ

Ken Livingstone, Gerry Healy, MI5, Libyan money and the Zionist connection

The story of the Ken Livingstone / Oliver Finegold affair. Here. (David Hirsh, March 06)

‘What makes ‘red Ken’ tick? Here. (Colin Shindler, November 05)

Shalom Lappin on Livingstone’s claim that “this is about Israel, not antisemitism”. Here. (February 06)

Some links from Workers’ Liberty on Ken Livingstone’s history. Here.

Jonathan Freedland on Ken Livingstone. Here.

Ken Livingstone: “[P]erhaps they’re not happy, perhaps they could always go back to Iran and see if they do better under the Ayatollahs…” Here. (David Hirsh, March 05)

Simon Pottinger on Livingstone’s “they could always go back to…” line. Here. (March 06)

Guardian leader on Livingstone. here. (March 06)

The Livingstone Formulation.

The Livingstone Formulation at greater length.

ESA Conference Programme Online

The European Sociological Association Conference is taking place in Geneva in September.

The Conference programme is online here.

A pdf of the sessions is online here.

Research Network 31 is the network on Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism.

“It will be good” – The Protest Song by David Broza

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.

Vile anti-Zionist “logic” at Guardian Comment is Free

This is a cross-post by Mark Gardner at the CST blog

A 2010 survey by Jewish Policy Research examined the real interconnection between Jews and Zionists and Israel; and showed why the border between hatred of Jews, Zionism and Israel can be so porous.

  • 72% of British Jews self-categorise as “Zionists”
  • 82% of British Jews say Israel plays a “central” or “important but not central role in their Jewish identities”
  • 87% of British Jews agree “that Jews are responsible for ensuring ‘the survival of Israel’”
  • 54% of British Jews who do not self-categorise as “Zionists” nevertheless agree “that Jews are responsible for ensuring ‘the survival of Israel”
  • 62% of self-described Zionists agree that Israel should give up land for peace
  • 78% of British Jews believe in a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict

These figures demonstrate the hurt that is caused to ordinary Jews when “anti-Zionists” push their dehumanised and demonised perversions of the word “Zionism”. This is done by everyone from Marxists to Nazis to Jihadis: but it can also seep into mainstream media, including the Guardian’s Comment is Free (CiF) website.

The latest example of Guardian CiF facilitating such perversion is an article by “philosopher”, Slavoj Zizek. It demonises the meaning of Zionism; tries to somehow equate Zionism with the twisted mind of Norwegian terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik; says that Zionist Jews regard other Jews like antisemites do; and ends with an ill-defined lunge at alleged Zionist relations and parallels with the attitudes of Christian fundamentalists and Nazis (Austrian ones no less)!

This kind of 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.

It is not really because of what the Guardian says directly about Jews, but rather because of what it says directly about Zionism and Israel, how often it says it; and how Jews instinctively perceive that this must, inevitably, have harmful impacts for how “correct-thinking people” feel about them. (Look again at the above statistics to see why this would be the case.)

This kind of intellectual anti-Zionist veneer allows antisemitism to take hold: despite whatever sincere opposition Zizek and his publishers actually feel and voice regarding that utterly predictable and depressing outcome.

Having written for CiF, I know its rigorous editorial standards. For me, this makes the publication of Zizek’s article all the more startling. Nominally, the article is about the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik. Its title gives no clue about the anti-Zionist screed that follows:

 A vile logic to Anders Breivik’s choice of target

Like Pim Fortuyn before him, Breivik embodies the intersection between rightist populism and liberal correctness

Zizek’s article is 1,553 words long, but over half (797) of these words are in sections concerning (mainly condemning) Zionism or Israel, some of it adapted and grafted from his 2010 book, “Living in the End Times”. What the bulk of this has to do with Breivik is anybody’s guess – as is how it passed the editorial process.

Zizek begins by explaining different aspects of Breivik’s ideology. The first sniff of the“vile logic” comes after he describes Breivik as antisemitic, yet pro-Israel, then writing:

He [Breivik] realises the ultimate paradox of a Zionist Nazi – how is this possible?

Here Zizek betrays his bias, and his playing fast and loose with terminology as and when it suits him rhetorically to do so. Firstly, he knows full well that Breivik cannot simply be pigeonholed as a “Nazi”: Zizek himself wrote as much, in the preceding paragraph. Secondly, it is a total perversion of the word “Zionist” for Zizek to employ it here: demonising it to mean the same as Breivik’s (1) hatred of Muslims and (2) attendant support for Israel as the supposed first line of anti-Muslim defence.

Nevertheless, this rhetorical flourish provides the lift-off for Zizek’s hateful riff. He alleges an accommodation between Israel, Zionism and the European right’s attitude to “Islamicisation and multiculturalism”. There are heated debates within Israeli, Zionist and Jewish circles over this and I have participated in many such debates: but to simply characterise the most right wing elements as the current Israeli and Zionist position is deeply misleading, malicious and ultimately another quite pathetic example of Zizek attempting to demonise Zionism.

Then, there is an especially outrageous attack upon Zionists for aping antisemites’ anti-Jewish “logic”.

Zizek alleges Zionism has:

come to adopt some antisemitic logic in its hatred of Jews who do not fully identify with the politics of the state of Israel

It would have been bizarre enough had Zizek alleged such hatred from Zionists towards anti-Zionist Jewish activists, but read his words again: this Zionist semi-antisemitism and full on hatred is supposedly directed against all who “do not fully identify with the politics of the state of Israel”. Next, there is a similarly scandalous allegation concerning Zionist construction of “the figure of the Jew who doubts the Zionist project”. Zizek’s casual transition between these descriptions typifies his lack of care over terminology, despite the sensitivity of the subject (for Jews at least).

Contemplate European antisemitism in all of its historical, recent and current modes. There is no fit between any of this and even the harshest pro-Zionist attitude to the most ardent Jewish anti-Zionists. (Not that Zizek means the extremes anyway.) At worst, Jewish anti-Zionists are derided as “self-haters”: an ugly, hurtful and not especially accurate term, but not congruent with antisemitism, be it Christian, economic, nationalist, Communist, racial-biological, revolutionary new left, or whatever.

Zizek’s claim that Zionism has “come to adopt some antisemitic logic in its hate”is explained by his stating that Zionists construct the non-Zionist Jew as “dangerous because he lives among us, but is not really one of us”. If this is what antisemitism amounts to, rather than, say because they conspire as the demonic Other / anti-Christ / the world bankers / the global war-makers / the race polluters etc etc: then Zizek might as well argue that any dissenting opinions within a single community share a resemblance to antisemitism. He could as simplistically say that disputes between different Muslim groups have “some antisemitic logic”.

Eventually, the article ends with overblown claims of collusion between Israel and “US” and “Christian” “fundamentalists” (both terms are used), before he references a depiction of two Austrian Nazis, and departs with one final demonization, writing:

These are today’s allies of the state of Israel.

The emphasis is Zizek’s, not mine. It is not entirely clear if he means that it is Christian fundamentalists, American fundamentalists or Nazis who are “today’s allies of Israel”. Whatever: it is one final, dirty twist.

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