Boycott Israel “as a Jew” – Ran Greenstein

On September 29 the University of Johannesburg’s ruling body met to discuss a proposal from the boycott campaign that it should sever its research links with Ben Gurion University.  It set an ultimatum for BGU and it postponed the decision for six months.  To read Desmond Tutu’s support for this move, click here.

Click here for the response of David Newman, who is Dean of Social Science at BGU. This proposal in South Africa sparked renewed debate on the Engage website.

Neve Gordon wrote an article about academic freedom in Israel here.

David Hirsh wrote a critique of a piece by Neve Gordon on academic freedom in Israel.  Read it here. David Hirsh wrote a second piece tracing Neve Gordon’s journey from sharp critic of the boycott campaign to important supporter.  Read it here.

Robert Fine, meanwhile had an engagement with Desmond Tutu published in the South African Mail & Guardian, here.

Last year Uri Avnery, the veteran Israeli campaigner for Palestinian rights, published a critique of the Israel-apartheid analogy and a critique of the boycott campaign, which related explicitly to the positions of Desmond Tutu and Neve Gordon.  Read it here.

Ran Greenstein, a supporter of the boycott campaign in South Africa responded to Engage here, in a trenchant critique of the Fine and Hirsh articles.

Robert Fine’s further response.

Here is Ran Greenstein’s latest:

Dear Robert,

Thank you for your response to my criticism of your article. Let me clarify my position: the academic boycott campaign is not a sacred cow, and you can criticise it without necessarily becoming an apologist for the Israeli state. Israeli scholars such as the late Baruch Kimmerling and Neve Gordon argued against academic boycotts without compromising their critical perspective. Unfortunately, most of those who take this position on Engage do become – wittingly or otherwise – such apologists. Your article falls, in my view, into this category. You are indeed critical of some Israeli policies and practices, but you present your views in a way that shields other policies and practices from criticism.

Allow me to elaborate on that point. You argue: “I hold that a Jewish-democratic state has a right to exist and defend itself, even as it has the responsibility to treat Palestinians in Israel as equal citizens and to allow Palestinians in occupied territories to form their own Palestinian-democratic state. It is quite normal for people in modern states to find ways of living with the contradiction between democracy and national identity.”

There may be a contradiction between national identity and democracy in all states. What is unique to Israel is that national identity is defined solely in ethnic-religious terms, and civic nationalism which encompasses all citizens equally does not exist. Further, it is the declared policy of the current Israeli government and its predecessors, backed by the courts, to ensure that such national identification never emerges, and to suppress all its manifestations by legal as well as coercive means. In this sense a Jewish democratic state is a contradiction in terms. As the saying goes, it is ‘Jewish’ for Arabs and ‘democratic’ for Jews. The exclusion of Palestinians (as second-class citizens, as occupied subjects, and as stateless refugees) has been the foundation of the Jewish state since its inception. What political thugs like Lieberman and Yishai (respectively foreign and interior ministers) say openly today, has been practiced since 1948 in a more diplomatic but no less oppressive manner by all preceding governments.

You argue that the analogy between Israeli and apartheid practices ends with the occupation and the views of the “ultra-nationalist right wing in Israel”. I beg to differ. In a long analysis, which cannot be replicated here, I argue that the analogy must be based on the realization that ‘Israel proper’ (in its pre-1967 boundaries) no longer exists. The occupation has lasted for 43 years (already a year longer than apartheid), and there is no going back from it. Greater Israel (with the occupied territories) and Greater Palestine (with the refugees) are the meaningful units of analysis, when we consider Israeli practices and compare them to apartheid SA (see detailed discussion in AND I would welcome your comments on it.

You argue: “ It seems to me vital to get some perspective on what the state of Israel has done, of which we may strongly disapprove, compared with situations in which ethnic groups are slaughtered, oppositions forces murderously suppressed, students beaten up and removed, trade union leaders defenestrated, women stoned to death, and gay people persecuted.”

I agree that if we wished to construct a universal scale of human rights violations, that would indeed be the case. That may be a worthwhile project, but not one I have any interest in. As an Israeli citizen my concern with what ‘my’ government is doing. As a Jew, my concern is with what the state that claims to represent me is doing in my name. That it is not the only or the worst offender violating human rights is irrelevant. Israel has done its share in expelling ethnic groups (80% of the indigenous inhabitants of the territories that became Israel in 1947-48), murdering opposition forces (defined as ‘terrorists’), beating up and killing students (in the occupied territories), and so on. That some other governments behave similarly is no consolation at all.

You argue that there are progressive academics and radical dissidents in Israel. Of course there are, and I am proud to have met and worked with some of them. But, the universities as institutions have NEVER voiced the slightest criticism of human rights violations, the occupation, military abuses, bombing civilian targets, and so on. They have never raised their voices against suppression of academic and educational life for Palestinians in the occupied territories. That is why the campaign should target institutions and not individuals. No-one I know in South Africa supports the exclusion of Israeli academics as individuals from presenting papers, participating in discussion, attending conference, publishing articles, and other such individual activities. BGU, Wits and other institutions have hosted Israeli academics of different political persuasions without any calls to boycott them. The campaign aims to sever institutional links rather than prevent relations between scholars. Read the UJ petition and talk to those who signed it if you are sceptical.

How can a campaign distinguish between individual and institutional targets? Here are some thoughts based on the need to convey the notion that things cannot proceed as usual, that there is no normal academic life in an abnormal society: do not attend any conference in Israel that does not explicitly address issues of rights and justice; link up with internal dissident forces and work with them to undermine discriminatory and abusive institutional practices; boycott any academic project that has military links; do not teach in specialized programmes dedicated to members of the security/military apparatuses; campaign against European or British financial support for any academic programme that does not have explicit progressive content (including ‘neutral’ or ‘value-free’ research); condition any further cooperation by insisting that the institution subscribe to something along the lines of the ‘Sullivan Code’, which was used under SA apartheid to enforce a minimum code of acceptable practice. I am sure you can come up with more ideas of this nature.

This is an ongoing debate. I am not the only one taking part and would strongly recommend that you read today’s Mail & Guardian for an effective response by Farid Essack to your article. It has not been posted online yet, but I would be happy to forward it when it becomes available

Best wishes

Ran Greenstein
Associate Professor
Sociology Department
University of the Witwatersrand

Jewish objectivity called into question by MEMO

Matthew Gould is Britain’s new ambassador to Israel. Modernity has discovered that he blogs.

In a post about a flimsy think tank called MEMO, he observes how your credibility to comment on Middle East matters is called into question if you are Jewish and not hostile to Israel, and paradoxically how readily Jewishness can be used to give credibility to criticism of or hostility to Israel.

Public meeting – no zionists, no undesirables allowed

Further to a JC article describing how senior figures in the Manchester Jewish community were ordered out of a meeting hosting Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, Manchester PSC Chair Linda Clair has had the following letter published in the Jewish Chronicle :

When are you going to start telling the truth and not a completely distorted version of the facts? I was the chair of the Gideon Levy meeting you report (JC August 27). Michael Samuels and his two companions did not actually enter the meeting to start with. They were outside the room when I asked Mr Samuels his name and where he came from. He replied and said he came from Manchester. I told him and his companions that they would not be allowed in – that Zionists were not wanted in that meeting. Mr Levy, who was already in the meeting room, and was standing behind me, asked me to let them in, which I did, only at his request. This was before he spoke to them. Whatever they said to him certainly did not influence my decision to allow them in, I had legal advice that although it was a public meeting, it was on private property and so we were well within our rights to exclude any undesirables. In case you want to label me antisemitic, I am not, I am an anti-Zionist Jew, and I know the difference between the two, even if you choose not to.

Linda Clair

I won’t comment on the letter because it speaks for itself (I should however point out that Manchester JFJFP’s promotion of the meeting was simply to send an email with details of the meeting and they were not involved in organising the meeting itself).

Howard Jacobson on his new novel: “The Finkler Question”

Howard Jacobson writes in the Jewish Chronicle:

Every other Wednesday, except for festivals and High Holy-days, an anti-Zionist group called ASHamed Jews meets in an upstairs room in the Groucho Club in Soho to dissociate itself from Israel, urge the boycotting of Israeli goods, and otherwise demonstrate a humanity in which they consider Jews who are not ASHamed to be deficient. ASHamed Jews came about as a consequence of the famous Jewish media philosopher Sam Finkler’s avowal of his own shame on Desert Island Discs.

“My Jewishness has always been a source of pride and solace to me,” he told Radio Four’s listeners, not quite candidly, “but in the matter of the dispossession of the Palestinians I am, as a Jew, profoundly ashamed.”

“Profoundly self-regarding,” you mean, was his wife’s response. But then she wasn’t Jewish and so couldn’t understand just how ashamed in his Jewishness an ashamed Jew could be.

That I know of, there is no Jewish media philosopher named Sam Finkler nor any anti-Zionist group meeting regularly at the Groucho Club. They exist only in the pages of my new novel, The Finkler Question, and any relation between them and real people or organisations is of course coincidental.

For many Jews and non-Jews in this country, Israel has become a figure of speech

Though the ASHamed Jews are a satiric invention, my novel is not primarily a satire. It is a bleak tale of love and loyalty and the loss of both. It tells of three men, old friends, two of whom have recently lost their wives, and a third who has no wife to lose.

The widowers are Jewish, the third man is not. But he would like to be. He envies his Jewish friends their warmth, their cleverness, the love they have inspired, and even their bereavement.

It is a bitter irony that he protests his admiration for all things Jewish just as many Jews are protesting their desire not to be Jewish at all. As the rats desert the sinking ship, he alone – it might appear – is left to clamber aboard.

The ostensible cause of these defections is, of course, Israel. Not the actual Israel. For the purposes of my narrative, Israel exists only poetically, in the imaginations of those who cannot adequately describe themselves without it.

I happen to think this is largely true outside my novel as well: that Israel performs a function greater than itself, enabling or disabling ideas about belonging and disengagement, fanning the flames of ancient allegiances and animosities. For many Jews and non-Jews in this country Israel has become a figure of speech, the occasion for wild and whirling words, a pretext for bottling up or setting loose emotions which originate somewhere else entirely.

I began writing the The Finkler Question in 2008 but it came to the boil for me in the early months of 2009 at the time of Operation Cast Lead, as a consequence of which, or as a consequence of the reporting of which – for it, too, like everything else to do with Israel outside Israel, was figmentary – England turned into an uncustomarily frightening place for Jews.

I am not speaking only of the physical threats and even damage that some Jews endured, attacks on persons, synagogues, cemeteries, the Jew-hatred expressed by primary school children etc, but of that anti-Zionist rhetoric which, in its inflatedness and fervour – a rhapsodic hyperbole growing more and more detached from any conceivable reality – was so upsetting in itself.

You do not have to be punched in the face to feel you’ve been assaulted: intellectual violence is its own affront.

The mood of those months inevitably found its way into my novel. I wanted to record what it was like being Jewish in this country then, when it seemed reasonable to ask whether loathing of Israel would spill into loathing of Jews – such a thing is not beyond the bounds of possibility – and whether a new Kristallnacht was in the offing.

Since many German Jews doubted they were in serious danger in the 1930s, how wise would it be of us to doubt we were in danger now? Ah yes, we told one another, but England is not Germany. The only trouble with that consolation being that, in the 1930s, German Jews didn’t think Germany was Germany either.

There was, as there remains, a chorus of jeering Jewish voices warning against crying wolf. There is no antisemitism to speak of in this country, they say, but if we continue to go on about it. . . A fatuously contradictory precaution, since if antisemitism can be roused from its slumbers merely by our going on about it, then its sleep cannot be that deep.

Let’s get something out of the way. I don’t think that being critical of Israel makes anyone an antisemite. Only a fool would think it does.

But only a fool would think it follows that criticism of Israel can never be antisemitic, or that anti-Zionism isn’t a haven in which antisemitism is sometimes given leave to flourish.

In some cases, the antisemitism to which anti-Zionism gives succour is inadvertent. I’d be surprised if Caryl Churchill, author of that odious piece of propaganda, Seven Jewish Children, turned out to be antisemitic in her person. But language has a mind of its own, and sanctimoniousness is catching.

In its unquestioning affiliations, her poisoned playlet snagged on every cliché in the anti-Zionist commonplace book and came up with a medieval version of the blood-sucking Jew whom she claims -and I believe her – it was never her intention to portray.

If her play was a sin against art and history, her greater, person-to-person crime was not to see, after the event, what she had done.

She was the victim, she asserted, of the usual dishonest strategy of accusing anyone of antisemitism who “dares” (as though it takes heroism) to say a word against Israel.

We know this assertion of victimhood well. It is a despicably dishonest strategy in itself, self-aggrandising, delusional, and not without a trace of the very antisemitism it disowns in that it assumes hysteria and malice on the part of every Jew who voices an anxiety. By claiming to be a persecuted minority, vilified by Jews shouting “Antisemite!”, those to whom anti-Zionism is bread and drink seek to exempt themselves from fair criticism.

Indeed, by the sophistry of their reasoning, there is no fair criticism of what they say because every one who argues against them must, ipso facto, be a Jew with a Zionist axe to grind. Thus do those who cry “Blackmail” become blackmailers themselves. Thus do they erect a wall of inviolability around their every expression of anti-Zionism, and thus do they think themselves exonerated of all possible charges of antisemitism, since those who do the charging, they assert, have antisemitism on the brain.

When it comes to Jewish anti-Zionists, their Jew-hatred is barely disguised, not in what they say about Israel but in the contempt they show for the motives and feelings of fellow-Jews who do not think as they do. There is, of course, nothing new in such schismatics; Jews have been railing against one another and indeed against Judaism from its inception. It was a Jew who invented Christianity.

Monotheism probably explains this enthusiasm for dissent. The Jewish God demands a oneness it can feel like a positive duty to refuse. It might even be to our greater glory that we splinter with such regularity and glee. In our variousness is our strength.

But then let’s call the thing that drives us by its proper name. Hiding behind Israel is a cowardly way for a Jew to express his anti-Jewishness. That half the time he is battling his psychic daddy and not his psychic homeland I don’t doubt, though I accept that, in political discourse, we have to pretend that what we are talking about is what we are taking about.

But here is the beauty of being a novelist —- I can have fun ascribing pathology to whom I like. I know what’s really bothering them. They are my creations, after all.

Howard Jacobson’s ‘The Finkler Question’ has been included on the 2010 Man Booker longlist.

This piece, by Howard Jacobson, is from the Jewish Chronicle.

Hirsh on the ASHamed Jews, or ‘new conservatives’, click here (some of the links don’t work any more).

More on Jewish antisemitism here.

Posts in our “as a Jew” category.

In a quandry about relating to Israel

The debate about how Jews should relate to Israel continues. I’m sure there are better responses than the one I am about to give below. I’ve only had half an eye on these debates because what I’ve read struck me as either communitarian or else to do with manicuring the self-image of the author. Since this blog is primarily concerned with antisemitic beliefs and acts, which we consider to be everybody’s problem, we (I think I can speak for all of us – let’s see) don’t feel that dwelling on the responsibilities of Jewish communities, or Jews outside communities, is right. How Jews act and think of themselves are community concerns – but these should be for their own sake, not as means of mitigating antisemitism.

However, a recent Ynet piece by Sara Reef (of whom I’ve been unaware up till now – she’s a specialist in intercultural communications with a Middle East focus, based in the US) was neither self-manicuring nor communitarian, but contemplated the problem as one of imposed spokespersonship.

Not that Sara Reef is resigned to this state of affairs, but resignation is unwise, I think. Sara lists the things that she cannot do, or isn’t expected to do, that Israeli citizens can and must, the most pertinent here being vote. It shouldn’t need pointing out that Israeli politicians who claim (and I can only half-remember one example) to act on behalf of citizens of other states, have no mandate to do so. None. Zero. No efforts at dissociation should be required. This kind of talk is a call for, rather than assertion of, Jewish solidarity. When people cite it to scrutinise ordinary Jews for dual loyalty, or the wrong loyalty, we should treat that in much the same way as we treat scrutiny of ordinary Muslims in the aftermath of terror attacks carried out in the name of Islam. That is, as wrong.

It shouldn’t need pointing out that if we begin to go along with expecting Jews outside Israel to follow Israeli politics, then this is liable – or perhaps even likely – to reveal a similar diversity of politics as there is among Israeli citizens.

It shouldn’t need pointing out that to follow Israeli politics at sufficient detail to intervene, as some have recommended, in a politically responsible way would entail a great many Jews outside Israel becoming more knowledgeable about Israeli politics than they are about the politics of their own states. That wouldn’t be good. And because it wouldn’t look good, either, Jews can’t deflect antisemitism this way.

It shouldn’t need pointing out – and this is where the conflicts Israel is embroiled in reach out, uninvited and unwelcome, to touch far-away Jews – that the concepts ‘Jew’, ‘Israeli’ and ‘Zionist’ are already permitted to slide into each other with disturbing frequency, as Sara knows herself from the encounters with her colleagues. We’ve all been there I reckon – for more ominous examples see also this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, and this, a small sample only. So it’s necessary to patiently explain why Jews of no official standing with respect to Israel cannot be assumed to know about Israel, and where they do, it’s a personal opinion informed by their own politics.

So do Jews have any special responsibilities with regards to Israel? I’d say that is a matter of individual conscience. Personally (and after all this, readers are entitled to wonder) I feel mine are independent of being Jewish: not to make myself, writing here, amenable to people whose Israel-eliminationist or Israel-expansionist politics I oppose; where writing about Israel, not to undermine – actively or by omission – people who are dedicating themselves to convincing Israelis and Palestinians to support civil rights and liberties for all and the circumstances which will end the occupation.

I’m equally interested in campaigning Israelis’ political responsibilities to Jews outside Israel – but that’s another story.

No s**t Sherlock

A post by Saul.

After years of the Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Independent Jewish Voices ranting on and on about the power of the “Israel Lobby” and how we need a “rational debate” about it and how influential it is in the UK and Britain, a piece containing the following appears in JfJfP’s latest newsletter, criticising Obama for a lack of pressure on Israel:

“While the “Israel lobby” thesis conveniently explains his failure to do so and absolves US policy-makers of responsibility for their ongoing support of Israeli apartheid, violence and annexation, it simply does not stand up under closer scrutiny.”

The newsletter, whilst replete with the normal misrepresentations of Israel as “apartheid” etc, claims that the “Lobby” argument does not stand up to scrutiny! No s**t Sherlock (or should that be Shylock?)!

Since the recent resurrection of this old canard, Engage has been saying exactly this, whilst simultaneously drawing attention to its formulation as a repetition of antisemitic myths.

JJfP and IJV have, from their inception, allowed themselves to be blown like a straw in the wind. Their tendency to uncritically accept any negative narrative that relates to Israel or Jews, whether it connects with antisemitic libels or not, is notorious.

Maybe now they can admit to themselves, and others, that their failure to connect with any meaningful section of their “target audience” (the so-called “Jewish community”) has nothing to do with the alleged omnipotence of the Board of Deputies, the Chief Rabbi or the Board of Deputies, but their own inability to recognise antisemitism when it stares them in the face.

A cringe-making boycott letter

Via Jewcy – the Yes Men write an open boycott letter and it’s been a while since I read anything as sanctimonious. I’m wondering why, in their professed love for Israel, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno link their decision to a branch of the longstanding campaign to end its existence. I also wonder about the grounds for their assertion that the cultural campaign to boycott South Africans worked, other than as social lubricant for international anti-racists. And whether they understand that the conscientious activists they tout who refer to sections of their government as ‘fascist’ would find their boycott counterproductive. Why they think that their presence would normalise anything for Israelis.

I wonder whether they would refuse to present their film in any other country. Would they end the announcement with a little message in the language of the land? The Hebrew words at the end of this open letter work like an ostentatiously Jewish seal of approval, a kosherising of the exclusion of the worlds only Jewish state.

The idea that Andy Bichlbaum’s and Mike Bonanno’s pressure – and impatience! – would contribute to the revelation of a path forward for Israelis would be pretty funny if it weren’t so tragic.

And does international law only apply one way? It’s no wonder that so many ordinary Israelis reach defencist conclusions. Who stands with them?

If you care about Israel, feel involved with Israel, feel terrible about Israel (or even terribly embarrassed by Israel), help the Israelis who are trying to make things better. These Israelis invariably say “Come, please use the platform, confront Israel with the occupation, criticise us to our faces”. If Andy and Mike really cared about Israel, that’s what they would have done.

Michael Cushman and the Jew-free UCU Congress

Michael Cushman

Michael Cushman

Mike Cushman is one of the leaders of the boycott campaign in UCU.  In the past he has pushed antisemitic conspiracy theory.   He has defended union members who passed material from David Duke’s website around the union.  He has rhetorically employed antisemitic stereotypes.   He has been feted by the Iranian state propaganda machine.  He has fawned over Hamas.

Now Cushman has provided the following breathless commentary of events at yesterday’s UCU Congress debate:

“It was brilliant. The Zionists bareley showed up. John Pike was totally isolated. On the first vote about invetigsting institutional anti-semitism in UCU he got about 6 votes out of 350.”

“On the key motion there were only two speakers against Pike and a woman from Workers Liberty, when the president asked for other speakers against no-one put their hand up. The vote was on my estimate about 300-30 (we should have asked for a count to rub salt into the wound).”

“What we must remember this was a victory built not just on hard work but even more on 1400 murders in Gaza.”

“Mike, in haste from Bournemouth”

This commentary requires a little bit of unpacking.  Two years ago, at the first Congress of the newly merged UCU, there was a big, very tense, very nasty debate about the boycott.  Cushman kicked off the ‘debate’ that day by declaring that he was “not going to be intimidated” – and received a huge cheer for it.  What he meant, and what Congress understood, was that he was not going to be intimidated by Jewish power.  And Congress followed his lead and voted for a boycott, many delegates showing clear signs that they were collectively excited at the feeling that they were standing up to the Jews.  Sorry.  To the Zionists.  This 2007 Congress was a horrible Jew-baiting Congress and it voted for a boycott motion.  When somebody stood up and mentioned antisemitism that day he was howled down by the delegates.

The Jew-baiters in UCU had a de facto deal with the union leadership – which was to allow them their fun at Congress but on the condition that the union would not actually do anything at all to implement any boycott.

Two years later, yesterday, the atmosphere was different.  There was not much cheering and there was not much howling.

Why?  Because there were no Jews left to bait.  As Michael Cushman says above, “the Zionists barely showed up”.

The Chair of the Open University Branch showed up to make a case for debating whether to have a ballot.  Congress voted him down.

Jon Pike showed up to argue that Congress should ask the union leadership to find out why Jews are resigning from the union.  Congress said it didn’t want to find out why Jews are resigning from the union.

Camila Bassi showed up, a member of a small Trotskyist group, she made a brave Trotskyist speech against the boycott.  Congress voted her down.

But there were speeches against the boycott available for anyone who wanted them.  But there was nobody left to make them.

There were no Jews there to speak against the boycott.  “The Zionists barely showed up”.

The soft left faction of union activists, the “reasonablists”,  the people who had always said they were against the boycott, remained silent, except for Mary Davis’ procedural question.  Perhaps some of them had gone soft on the boycott.  Perhaps some of them were frightened of being made into pariahs in the union if they stood up against antisemitism.  Not one of them spoke.  Not one of them insisted on making their argument.

Michael Cushman is excited by his victory.  He hasn’t noticed the significance of the fact that Congress is now free of Jews.  Except for Jews like him, the Jews who speak “as a Jew” but  who are quite unable to recognize antisemitism.  Haim Bresheeth.  John Rose.  Michael Cushman.  These are the Jews now, at UCU Congress.

David Hirsh

Antony Lerman, Jacqueline Rose, Jonathan Freedland, David Hirsh

UPDATE: another exchange between Hirsh and Rose, scroll down

This piece and the following comments come from comment is free.

Antony Lerman: Virtually anything can be said about Israel-Palestine, as Cif contributions and responses show only too clearly. Yet none of the words on any of the blogs hosted by any of the newspapers make a blind bit of difference to progress towards a just solution to the conflict. The power that derives from the barrel of a gun or the bombs of an F16 appears to be what does make a difference, although not to achieving peace. But at some point, if the conflict is ever unlocked on the basis of universal standards of justice, words will have played a central role. I don’t mean in the form of an agreement that fudges fundamental differences, but as a tipping point, in the form of a truth, previously unsayable, that is finally told.

What seemed obvious in Washington, when Prime Minister Netanyahu met President Obama, was that Bibi is a long way from expressing any form of words that might lead to the tipping point. Fevered speculation in the weeks and days leading up to the meeting, as to how he would find some way of doing what the new administration wants and endorse the two-state solution, proved to be just that. Neither the words “independent Palestinian state” nor “two states for two peoples” passed his lips, at least not in public. He can return home the “gever”, a macho hero, who stood up to the Americans.

It is, of course, grossly oversimplifying the issues to reduce matters to a few words not exchanged between Obama and Netanyahu. As if a huge celebratory peace bonfire has been constructed and all we’re waiting for is Bibi to light the match. The disturbing truth is that, despite opinion polls indicating that a majority of Israelis would accept an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, there are powerful forces stiffening Bibi’s resolve so that he will have all the arguments he needs to dictate his solution: economic progress for the Palestinians leading to a situation at some indefinable moment when the Palestinians will be able to rule themselves – but not completely.

According to Ofri Ilani in Ha’aretz, this is the role played by the Shalem Centre, an Israeli neoconservative thinktank, generously funded by American Jewish donors, whose “fellows areIf now sitting in government offices, helping turn abstract research into concrete policy”. Their approach on peace negotiations is summed up in the words of the man who is now the minister for strategic affairs, Shalem distinguished fellow Moshe Ya’alon, a former Israel Defence Forces chief of staff: “The diplomatic process can wait.”

Helping that along will be Michael Oren, Shalem fellow just appointed ambassador to Washington, and Natan Sharansky, author of an arch-neoconservative 2004 book, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror, warmly recommended by George W Bush. He is about to head the Jewish Agency, one of the arms of government that manages – or some would say manipulates – Israel’s relations with the Jewish diaspora. These people are not looking for short-term impact policy changes. They have been developing their ideas in many thousands of words since the mid-1990s. And they are looking 50 years ahead, aiming to inculcate in government the “world view of the Shalem Centre … neoconservative, Zionistic and based on Jewish culture.”

While the Obama administration is busy undoing the harm done by years of neoconservative thinktank dominance in the USA, the ascendancy of neoconservatives in Israel at just this moment could not signify a more fundamental clash of outlooks.

At one level, this will undoubtedly play itself out in a battle of words, one that will not leave diaspora Jewry untouched or uninvolved. The public positions adopted by the leaderships of diaspora communities around the world demonstrate solidarity with the state and government. American Jewish support for the Shalem Centre and other rightwing intellectual, political and religious forces in Israel is indicative of the important role a certain activist element of diaspora Jews play in propping up an expansionist Israeli stance. And Netanyahu can still rely on the quiescence of the mass of daspora Jews to be able to claim, as all Israeli governments have done, that Israel acts on behalf of all Jews.

But you need hardly dig more than an inch or two to find deep disquiet and confusion following the Gaza war and the appointment of the racist Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister. And some of that concern is being channelled into a form of lobbying that challenges Aipac, philanthropic activity supporting human rights organisations in Israel-Palestine and social activism based on Jewish universalism. These activities represent the growing strain of diaspora Jewish opinion desperate for a new way, which sees the damage being done to Israel and recognises the necessity of supporting Palestinian rights. Might this lead diaspora Jews to find a voice capable of speaking a previously unsayable truth?

A public meeting organised by the London Jewish Community Centre on Monday night titled “Can we talk about Israel?” provides a clue. The discussion was about the limits of what Jews can say when they want to be critical of Israel. The two key voices on the panel, the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland and Jacqueline Rose, professor of English Literature at Queen Mary, University of London, one of the founders of Independent Jewish Voices, demonstrated remarkable unanimity on what Freedland said he dreamed diaspora Jews would one day say to Israel. What prompted his dream was the Northern Ireland peace process, which he witnessed from a key vantage point as Guardian correspondent in Washington during the 1990s – at the same time as Israeli and Palestinian representatives were tramping backwards and forwards through the city busy with their own attempts at reconciliation. He said the key change which broke the deadlock was the pro-Republican, Irish-American community telling Gerry Adams that they had had enough of the terror and the murder. If it continued Sinn Fein-IRA could no longer rely on Irish-American support. That was the point at which the republican strategy changed to embrace the path of peace and led to the Good Friday Agreement.

Freedland’s dream, predicated on the fact that Israel is heavily dependent on the support of diaspora Jewry to legitimise its actions, was that diaspora Jews would finally turn round to the Israeli government and say “Enough is enough. The occupation must end. The Palestinians must have their independent state. If not, however much we are with you, we can no longer support you.” Jacqueline Rose agreed, adding that central to this there had to be a full recognition of the injustice suffered by the Palestinians in 1948. And Freedland accepted this too.

If the tipping point comes and leads to a just peace, perhaps it will be triggered by a form of these true words spoken to Israel by an overwhelming tide of assertive diaspora Jewish opinion.

David Hirsh: I was also involved in the debate but evidently Antony Lerman considers that I was not a “key” voice on the panel.

I also support Palestinian rights and I did so clearly on Monday. I argued that the project to settle the occupied territories was, from the beginning plain wrong, and was also wrong from the point of view of any conception of Israeli self interest. I argued that the occupation has to come to an end and I argued that the occupation requires a regime of racism and violence which is unacceptable.

But Antony Lerman’s telling of what happened at this discussion is twisted to fit the rather eccentric ideological framework which he is trying to build.

Lerman is trying to pretend that there are two opposing Jewish identities, an inclusive “diasporic” identity which respects human rights and an ethnic “Zionist” identity which doesn’t. If Jews adopt the former then they can undercut antisemitism and be happy in Europe. If they cling to the latter then they will be more and more marginalized by antisemites as an alien force in Europe.

Lerman is trying to re-raise “the Jewish Question”.

He co-opts Jonathan Freedland as a good Jew, and he pretends that Freedland was in fundamental agreement on everything important with Jacqueline Rose on Monday. He wasn’t.

Lerman just airbrushes me out of the picture because he cannot fit me into his binary opposition.

Jonathan Freedland: I’m flattered to be identified by Antony Lerman as a “key” voice at the debate he refers to – though he omits to mention the third panel member, Goldsmiths College lecturer and sometime CiF contributor, David Hirsh.

For the record, I should also like to clarify the summary of my views he offers. It is quite true that I urged – and urge – diaspora Jews to play the constructive role leading Irish-Americans played in the northern Ireland peace process at the start of the 1990s. True, too that I look forward to the day when – behind-the-scenes if necessary – the diaspora Jewish leadership says to Israel of the occupation that began in 1967, ‘Enough is enough.’ I even believe that the diaspora has to be able to say that – if the status quo continues indefinitely – the time will come when it will be unable to continue supporting Israel financially.

What I did not suggest is that Jews will – or should – make some kind of break from Israel altogether. On the contrary, I insisted that the power of that initial Irish-American intervention was that those leaders of the Irish diaspora always presented themselves as solid, reliable friends of Irish republicanism. As I put it on Monday night, their message to Sinn Fein was, ‘We love you, we stand with you, we’re never going to abandon you. But this has to stop.’

That is the message I want to hear from the Jewish diaspora to Israel – not a threat to sever all ties, but the kind of firm, yet supportive, advice one family member might give another.

This was not quite the tone Jacqueline Rose adopted or advocated on Monday. She, for example, supports an academic boycott of Israel, which I adamantly oppose. On this, and in several other areas, we took wholly different stands.

Lipschitz:   I was at Monday night’s meeting and Jonathan Freedland and Jacqueline Rose were most certainly not singing from the same hymn book (or should that be siddur) as Tony Lerman claims in his article.

I can see that Jonathan Freedland has already said as much, further up the comment chain.

drawinintoit: If Anthony Lerman considers his account of the meeting on Monday as an accurate reflections of its proceedings then I am afraid I cannot believe another word he says.

I am afraid that Rose and Freedland disagreed on many points.

Whilst I acknowledge Lerman’s apparent dislike of Hirsh (see the recent debate in the letters pages of the JC) it is still reprehensible to erase from the record a third active participant of the panel.

I had really thought that the days of making someone with whom one disagreed a “non-person” had longed been left behind.  I guess I was wrong.

Antony Lerman: Jonathan Freedland provided a useful clarification of his comments at Monday night’s public meeting and I’m grateful to him for fundamentally confirming, in his second paragraph, my understanding of what he said.

I think, however, that a little further clarification is necessary in case anyone gets the impression that I distorted his views. I didn’t take a verbatim note of what he said, but as far as I recall, when Jonathan said something along the lines of “Diaspora Jewry must say ‘enough is enough'”, he never used the words ‘behind-the-scenes if necessary’. Similarly, in clarifying that he believes that ‘if the status quo continues indefinitely – the time will come when it will be unable to continue supporting Israel’, he never specifically said, on Monday night, ‘financially’.

More importantly, when he writes: ‘What I did not suggest is that Jews will – or should – make some kind of break from Israel altogether’, it should be clear that I never wrote or implied any such thing. It would, in my view, be absurd in practical terms, given the very large numbers of Jews outside Israel who have relatives and close friends in Israel. But also in terms of achieving the object of getting Israel to change its policies, because a key additional means of doing that must be to support civil society groups in Israel which are themselves working to achieve such an objective.

I’m pretty sure, though, that on reflection, Jonathan would want to revise his italicised reference to ‘financially’, if, as I think we’re supposed to assume, that’s the main threat Diaspora Jews have at their command. He knows full well that the time when the funds given by Diaspora Jews to Israel were crucial to Israel’s survival has long gone. When Yossi Beilin was a minister in the Rabin government that concluded the 1993 Oslo Accords, he went round the world conveying precisely this message to Jewish communities, telling them they should be spending that money on themselves. So the message from Diaspora Jewry would need to be rather more robust than simply telling Israel ‘we’ll no longer be able to support you financially’.

What I found rather disappointing in his comments was his wish to distance himself from Jacqueline Rose. I never wrote, nor assumed that anyone would think for one second, that Jonathan and Jacqueline agreed on everything during the discussion. He made that clear at the time, and she did too. But on the point of Diaspora Jewry saying ‘Enough is enough’, I still maintain that there was fundamental agreement. And to imply – as Jonathan seems to do, but he can correct me if I’m wrong – that Jacqueline’s ‘tone’ was along the lines of ‘a threat to sever all ties’, I believe that he is fundamentally mistaken.

There are surely enough divisions among Jews for it be extremely important for us to make an effort to reach out to others, with whom we disagree on so much, but with whom we can find agreement on some fundamentals, and make common cause to achieve a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict based on justice for all and on universal human rights values.

What is most damaging to the kind of constructive dialogue that I believe Jonathan Freedland and Jacqueline Rose were able to engage in on Monday night, despite serious differences on a number of issues, is the seemingly deliberate distortion of some people’s views, the willful misreading of what some people write, that certain rather vocal individuals indulge in. Jonathan and Jacqueline certainly cannot be accused of such dispiriting behaviour.

Petra MB: A very interesting thread, indeed – particularly since David Hirsh and Jonathan Freedland have shown up to comment. It is certainly very telling that Anthony Lerman thought it’s OK to “erase” somebody he doesn’t much like from the picture — monnie, that might answer the question you asked upthread, and the answer would be: NO, it’s not allowed to disagree with Lerman…

But since Lerman likes psychological explanations a lot (link below), maybe one should try to explain his “erasure” of David Hirsh psychologically – all the more so since, judging from Jonathan Freedland’s comment, Lerman gives a very skewed account of what was said and who agreed with whom. What we do know for sure, however, is that Lerman agrees a lot with Jacqueline Rose.

Which brings me to pretzelberg – what makes you think:
“Mr. Lerman himself supports the state of Israel and is aware that he is on common ground here with most diaspora Jews.”

Indeed, be careful that you don’t find yourself sued for libel.

As to what the real progressive left thinks about Rose, and her admirer Anthony Lerman:

Jonathan Freedland: Apologies if this is getting tedious, but Antony Lerman asked me for “a little further clarification” of my comments, so here goes.

First, he suggests that I used phrases in this thread that I did not utter on Monday night. That’s because, as I hoped I had made clear, I was not seeking in my comment above to provide a transcript, but to explain my own views as they actually are – rather than let CIF readers rely on Tony Lerman’s account of them.

So, yes, my view is that the mainstream diaspora Jewish leadership may find it more palatable to confront the Israeli government “behind the scenes if necessary.” Not the exact phrase I used on the night, but clear from the context that evening – namely, the the precedent set by the Irish-American leadership which, I had said earlier, had approached Sinn Fein-IRA behind the scenes. What was implicit in my remarks on Monday had to be made explicit here.

The same applies to my use of the word “financially.” Here’s what happened. At Monday’s debate I said that diaspora Jewish leaders needed eventually to say “Enough is enough” about the occupation. A member of the audience later asked whether there had been an “or else” in the Irish case: had the Irish-Americans said “and if you don’t change, we’ll cut off the money?” I answered yes – adding that diaspora Jewish leaders might eventually have to say the same. Hence the word “financially.”

In both cases, the words may have been different – and Tony Lerman admits he did not take a verbatim note – but the meaning, given the context, was exactly as I stated it above.

Then Tony adds this:

More importantly, when he writes: ‘What I did not suggest is that Jews will – or should – make some kind of break from Israel altogether’, it should be clear that I never wrote or implied any such thing.

But the view Tony attributed to me was that I dreamed of the day when diaspora Jews would say, “we can no longer support you.” That sounded close enough to making a break from Israel altogether for me to want to set the record straight. Anyway, I’m glad that Tony and I agree that such a call would be, in his words, “absurd.”

Which brings us to the heart of the matter. Tony is disappointed that I apparently “wish to distance [myself] from Jacqueline Rose.” But I don’t just wish to distance myself from Jacqueline Rose, I am distant from her, on one issue after another. That much was clear to everyone in the room on Monday, as has been set out by those who were present and who have commented on this thread. (To quote lipschitz: “I was at Monday night’s meeting and Jonathan Freedland and Jacqueline Rose were most certainly not singing from the same hymn book…as Tony Lerman claims in his article.”)

In his original piece, Tony spoke of “remarkable unanimity” between me and Professor Rose. I’m glad he has now conceded that, in fact, we voiced “serious differences on a number of issues.” She advocated for the academic boycott of Israel and I denounced it. I said the most effective way for diaspora Jews to criticise Israel was for them first to make clear their warm support for the country; she left no doubt she could adopt no such stance. I insisted that Israel’s establishment was legitimate, given the Jewish existential need in 1948. She could not say the same.

Our loudest dispute was over her attempt to claim that the eminent and hugely admired Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg had written something which echoed her own views. I knew the piece in question and I know him – and I insisted that nothing was further from the truth. The quotation had been crudely ripped out of context. I was infuriated by this and, to her credit, Prof Rose withdrew the remark entirely.

She made the same move with the Israeli novelist David Grossman – as she has done before – attempting to claim him as an ally, when he is of course an avowed Zionist and Israeli patriot. On this point, Prof Rose was corrected by the chair, Ned Temko.

I confess this habit baffles me. Why does Jacqueline Rose repeatedly attempt to co-opt as allies people who don’t agree with her at all? I responded to Tony Lerman’s piece because I suspected he was doing the same thing with me, attempting to tell Guardian readers that I now shared a “remarkable unanimity” with Jacqueline Rose. We share, along with many, many Jews, an opposition to the post-1967 occupation – but that, I am afraid, is it.

Jacqueline Rose: Since some of the discussion about Mondays evening JCC debate refers to me I think I should take this opportunity to set the record straight, not least because my position on a number of issues is being, and was on Monday night, so misrepresented.

As I have stated several times in print, I was a reluctant supporter of the last academic boycott. I was never a proponent or organiser of it or involved in the campaign in any way. It was a counsel of despair born of the failure of the international community to exert any pressure on Israel to end the Occupation. It was legitimate in my view only if it targeted institutions and not individuals. Given the change, in many ways deterioration of the situation, the focus now – as it was in the impressive run of university occupations across the country during the Gaza offensive at the start of this year – is rightly on military disinvestment (a number of Universities have agreed to withdraw funds in companies involved in military trade with Israel). Given too the chance or perhaps I should say hopes of a real change in US policy towards Israel – I do not believe now is the time to consider an academic boycott. I have not therefore decided what position I will take should the matter arise again.

So one of the most striking things about Mondays debate and indeed Jonathan Freedlands comments here is the attempt to make me an unequivocal adherent of the boycott policy overall. What I did in the debate was explain why it had arisen – the destruction of Palestinian academic freedom, for example, had to be raised as an issue from the floor – and why under the circumstances it had felt justified, even though imperfect and problematic in many ways. It is as I see it an honourable disagreement. I respect the arguments on both sides of this difficult debate which is more than can be said for some others in this discussion.

On the question of expressing `warm support for Israel. I stated: ` Critique can be part of solidarity. It can be based on the belief for example, one which I hold, that for Israel to continue on its present path will be disastrous, not just for the Palestinians as a people, but also for Israel itself. All my remarks therefore are made in the context of fear for Israels future. This for me is a strongly felt expression of support. What I disagreed with was his use of the word `love. I suggested that the love of those in the Jewish diaspora should not be for Israel to the exclusion of others, but based on a more universal ethic.

Freedland suggests that I `could not say that Israels establishment was legitimate. I have said many times that Israel was born out of the legitimate desire of a persecuted people for a homeland. My point on Monday was something quite different – that the disaster of 1948 for the Palestinian was being glossed over, and even when acknowledged by him, it was – as it felt to me – in passing.

The most serious misrepresentation by Freedland is however in relation to Rabbi Wittenberg and David Grossman. I quoted the following passage from Wittenberg from the latest issue of Jewish Quarterly: ‘I find myself weeping many times over things especially the Gaza war. But my biggest difficulties are with the West Bank, particularly the eviction from houses. Certain anti-Zionist comments are racist, but certain actions of the State of Israel are definitely racist. I’ve heard from people and I’ve seen with my own eyes that they’re not accidental but part of a clear policy of wanting to remove non-Jewish inhabitants from certain key areas. I worry this is part of a process of long-term defeat for Israel. In the end, this is a rabbinic matter, ultimately Judaism is much greater than Israel.’ When Jonathan pointed out that Wittenbergs remarks were indeed framed in the context of stating his love for Israel, of course I accepted his point, but the point I was making still stood, that he was indicating that the question of Judaism was `greater than that of Israel, that the two cannot therefore be equated.

In relation to Grossman, I was not citing him to support my views. I only learn from Grossman and am dismayed that this suggestion is being made again, unjustly as before and with some relish. I was referring to a discussion which I had the privilege of hearing in Seville last summer between Grossman and the Lebanese novelist Elias Khoury when it seemed to me that Grossmans expression of fear on the part of Israelis and Khourys insistence on the trauma of 1948 for the Palestinians were not incompatible narratives as it first seemed but deeply related to each other. This was my thought, what I had learned from listening to these two extraordinary writers. Ned Temko misunderstood what I was saying and accepted my correction which Freedland omits to mention.

Contrary to what he suggests, I do not claim Grossman as an ally, any more incidentally than I was claiming Khoury as an ally. I have also acknowledged more than once that Grossman is a committed Zionist, as Jonathan in fact knows since I said this to him in conversation after Mondays debate. It is Grossmans ability to combine that commitment with the most profound critique of his nations policies which I, like so many, admire.

That David Hirsh should choose to caricature and simplify my views is only to be expected. I would have expected something else from Jonathan Freedland. In fact Antony Lerman is right that Jonathan and I, despite our disagreements, agreed at several points in the evening and by no means only on 1967. Why he should then wish in print so completely to disavow this reality is a question only he can answer.

David Hirsh:

Jacqueline rose (2009) (above): “I was a reluctant supporter of the last academic boycott. I was never a proponent or organiser of it or involved in the campaign in any way.”

Jacquline Rose (2005): “I think there should be economic and military sanctions against Israel, and an academic and cultural boycott as well. In face of the complete destruction of freedom of speech in Palestinian educational infrastructures, to point to the forms of creative dialogue that might take place across academe is evasive. This is a time for deciding which side you are on, and what you can do to prevent the deterioration of the situation.”

“True, there is a risk of boycott hardening the identity you are trying to open up. But at certain moments you must recognise that you are involved in different kinds of political calculation, and ask: what is being done to end this situation? What forces are being brought to bear? The answer is: none. That is why I feel that it is beholden on academics as a matter of conscience to do something about this, even if it creates something of a mess. “

Jacqueline Rose on the boycott, Open Democracy, 18/8 2005,

At risk of being again loftily and professorially swatted aside by Jacqueline as “choosing to caricature and simplify her views”, I would also like to point out a couple of inconsistencies in Jacqueline Rose’s argument relating to the boycott.

As demonstrated above, and in spite of her curious denial, she was indeed a clear and enthusiastic proponent of the boycott in 2005.

On Monday she re-stated her support for the boycott but then tried to retreat from that position when it was strongly criticized by Jonathan Freedland and myself.

Firstly she stated her support for co-operative cultural and academic projects between Israel and Palestine such as Baremboim’s orchestra and such as the Olive Tree Project, which brings together Israeli and Palestinian students to study in London.

This is opposite to her 2005 position (above) which was to claim that “to point to the forms of creative dialogue that might take place across academe is evasive…”

When I pointed out to Jacqueline that she had to choose: either boycott Israeli academia and culture, or support joint projects, she insisted that it was possible to do both. She thought there could be some kind of machinery set up to make a decision on which Israelis should be boycotted and which should not, on the basis of their political cleanliness.

In fact, of course, the boycott campaign which exists, as opposed to the one in the mind of Jacqueline Rose, strongly opposes all cultural and academic links between Israel and the outside world on the basis that it normalizes the occupation.

drawnintoit: “That David Hirsh should choose to caricature and simplify my views is only to be expected. I would have expected something else from Jonathan Freedland.”

Of course, this is not the first time that Jacqueline Rose has accused Hirsh of “misrperesentation”.

Her (and Anthony’s) letter in response to the article linked below, begins, “David Hirsh (“Do not confine Israel to the couch”, April 10th) performs the double feat of misrepresenting our views and showing his ignorance.”

I am not sure whether this recourse to claims of “misrepresentation” and “ignorance” rather than engaging with the views of one with whom one disagrees serves as the best good model for the peace and the processes that Rose so desires for the Middle East. Maybe she just thinks that some people are simply beyond the pale. Now, that’s kind of ironic!

Jacqueline Rose: David Hirsh objects to the suggestion that he simplifies my views. Yet he quotes my comments in the opendemocracy interview of 18 August 2005 but for some reason chooses to omit these further comments which I made on the same site two weeks later (September 5).

`In this context to call for a boycott – academic, cultural, or both – is indeed (on this much we agree) a mark of despair. I should have stated in my openDemocracy interview, as I have elsewhere, that I was a reluctant supporter of the Association of University Teachers boycott in Britain, for two reasons: because it seemed inconsistently and somewhat randomly applied, and because I too have the desire to keep open paths to dialogue wherever possible. But imperfect as it was, I welcomed the attempt by academics to do something on the grounds that, at the level of international politics, nothing is being done.

… although I think we should be cautious about any unqualified equation of Israels policies with apartheid South Africa, the experience of the boycott in the latter case has some lessons. It is worth remembering that the supporters of United Nations general assembly resolution 2396 (passed in December 1968) calling for a cultural boycott of South Africa were similarly accused of supporting censorship, of endangering academic freedom, cutting off the black population from much-needed contacts with the west, and alienating the whites.

None of these objections were completely wrong, anymore than are the objections to boycott in relation to Israel. But the boycott against the apartheid regime endured, and it is also worth remembering that – together with the dialogue which flourished with the countrys artists and writers at the same time – it helped bring the regime to its end and lay the foundations for an inclusive democracy.’ – 50k -

I continue to be a reluctant supporter of the 2005 boycott, am uncertain – as I say above – about any possible future boycott. Given that the stated aim on Monday night was to promote dialogue, Hirsh’s determination to present my views as unambiguous is as ironic as it is politically dispiriting.

David Hirsh: It is extraordinary of Jacqueline Rose to claim that I somehow mischievously “simplified” her view.

She claimed that she was “never a proponent” of the boycott.

I showed that this isn’t true and that she was a clear and unambiguos proponent of the boycott in 2005. And she was again at the beginning of the debate on Monday, although by the end, she was more ambiguous.

So that I could not be misunderstood, I quoted two paragraphs of hers, from 2005, in which she was clearly a proponent of the boycott.

So that I could not be accused of taking the quotes out of context, as she sometimes does, I provided the link, so that anybody who wanted to see the context could do so at the click of their mouse.

And again, instead of engaging with the issues, Jacqueline Rose chose to make an ad hominem attack against me, claiming that I “simplify” her ever-so-complex and nuanced argument.

What complexity, what nuance? Oh, this complexity, this nuance:

“This is a time for deciding which side you are on, and what you can do to prevent the deterioration of the situation” (quoted and contextualized above)

Well either you support those who are trying to build a movement on UK campuses to exclude colleagues who work in Israel, and nobody else, or you don’t. Jacqueline Rose did.

Does she now? Who knows? Perhaps she should say before UCU Congress on Wednesday?

I suggest that it would have been better for Jacqueline Rose to engage with the issues: specifically with the issue of contemporary antisemitism and its relationship to the campaign to exclude Israeli Jews from campuses.

Nobody is impressed with her refusal to deal with the arguments.

She can insult me as much as she likes, but it does not solve the important questions which relate to antisemitism. And we need to take those questions seriously.

This piece and the following comments come from comment is free.

Shalom Lappin: “Therapists to the Jews: Psychologizing the ‘Jewish Question'”

In the past few years an interesting mode of discourse has gained currency among some critics of Israel. It consists in characterizing most Israelis, and the Jews who are concerned about Israel’s continued existence, as suffering from a deep collective psycho-pathology that conditions them to commit or to endorse systematic brutalization of the Palestinians. It takes Israel and its supporters to be acting out the effects of a long term historical trauma that reached its climax in the Holocaust. They are deflecting the intense anger, helplessness and shame accumulated over centuries of persecution in Europe on to innocent Arab victims in Israel/Palestine. These victims are surrogates for the real but no longer accessible oppressors of the Jews. The analogy driving this discourse is that of the abused child who grows into an abusive adult, imposing his childhood experiences of violence on members of his family and his adult environment.

Three clear examples of this psychologized view of the Israel-Palestine conflict are Jacqueline Rose’s book The Question of Zion (Princeton University Press, 2005), Caryl Churchill’s play Seven Jewish Children, recently staged at the Royal Court Theatre, and Anthony Lerman’s article ‘Must Jews always see themselves as victims’ (The Independent, March 7, 2009). Rose argues that Zionism, and the country that it created, derive from the the same psychological disorder that generated the false messianism of Shabbtai Zvi and his followers. She regards it as a form of mass hysteria generated by the inability of Jews to respond rationally to prolonged suffering. Churchill adapts this diagnosis of Zionism to Israel’s recent offensive in Gaza. She portrays Jewish children as obsessively raised with the collective memory of historical trauma as the pervasive background against which Israeli acts of murder and expulsion are justified or denied. Lerman invokes the work of Israeli political psychologist Daniel Bar Tal to claim that the inability of Israelis and Jews to deal adequately with the experience of the Holocaust has given rise to a persecution complex that is responsible for Israel’s perverse behaviour towards the Palestinians, as well as the willingness of Jews abroad to support this behaviour.

There are at least five features of the psychologizing discourse worth noting.

Find out what they are on normblog.


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