Challenging antisemitism on Gaza demonstrations: Reposted from the Workers’ Liberty Website.

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Daniel Randall from Workers’ Liberty has written the following which is re-posted from the Workers’ Liberty website.  You can read the original article here.

On the 26 July London demonstration against Israel’s assault on Gaza, I confronted a man who was carrying a placard which read “Research: The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion”, with an image of a Star of David, dripping blood, with “666” in the centre.

The Protocols are an anti-Semitic forgery dating from Tsarist Russia, which purport to expose a Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world. They were used in their time, and have been used since, to whip up racist hatred, often violent, against Jews.

I told the man that racism had no place on the demonstration, that his presence harmed the Palestinian cause, and that the document he was promoting was a racist hoax. In the course of what was probably a not very coherent tirade from me, I mentioned that I was Jewish.

“Well, you’re blinded by your bias because you’re a Jew”, he said. “Only Jews make the arguments you’re making.”

Thereafter the “discussion” became more heated, and several onlookers were drawn in. Several people backed me up, but several defended him.

Their defences ranged from, “he’s opposing Zionists, not Jews”, to “he’s not racist, Zionism is racist!”, to the perhaps more honest “Jews are the problem. If you’re a Jew, you’re racist, you’re what we’re demonstrating against.” One man, topless, but wearing a balaclava, said “fuck off, unless you want your fucking head kicked in.”

I walked away, angry and upset. I returned a short while later to find the placard-holder embracing two young men, before leaving. When me and some comrades challenged them, they told us he wasn’t anti-Semitic, merely anti-Zionist. “Look, it says ‘Zion’”, not ‘Jews’. ‘Zion’ means Zionists”, one helpfully informed us.

Explicit anti-Jewish racism of the kind displayed on the man’s placard has been relatively rare on Palestine solidarity demonstrations in Britain. But the fact that it was present at all, and that it could find even a handful of defenders in a crowd of other demonstrators, is deeply worrying. Pointing to its rarity, and dismissing the problem as restricted solely to fringe elements, would bury one’s head in the sand. As recent events in France and Germany have shown, it is an undeniable fact that there are anti-Semites in the global Palestine solidarity movement, and ones prepared to violently express their anti-Semitism. That must not be allowed to infect the movement in Britain.

I don’t know how easy a ride the man and his placard had on the demonstration before myself and others confronted him. Had official stewards of the march seen the placard, and challenged him? Perhaps he’d spent all day under attack from other demonstrators; I hope so. But when I found him, he was perfectly at his ease, and, as it turned out, surrounded by friends. That is a disappointment. If people with such politics want to attend solidarity demonstrations to peddle them, they should find themselves isolated, and face constant harangue. They shouldn’t be entitled to a moment’s peace.

While outward displays of “classical” anti-Semitism are rare, subtler themes are more common. Placards and banners comparing the Israeli state to Nazism, and its occupation of Palestine to the Holocaust, and images melding or replacing the Star of David with swastikas, are, while far from universal, relatively commonplace. The politics of this imagery, too, has an anti-Semitic logic.

Nazism and the Holocaust – an experience of attempted industrialised genocide, just two generations distant – left deep scars on Jewish identity and collective cultural memory and consciousness, wounds that will take a long time to heal. As others have written recently, no other ethno-cultural group has the most traumatic experience in its history exploited in this way. “Zionism = Nazism”, “Star of David = Swastika”, and “The Occupation = The Holocaust” all use collective cultural trauma as a weapon to attack Jews. The fact that those who take such placards on demonstrations intend only to target the Israeli government, and not Jews in general, is no defence or excuse. The barbarism of Israeli state policy does not make the Jewishness of its government fair game, any more than Barack Obama’s imperialism excuses racist attacks on him.

To describe the Palestinian solidarity movement, as such, as “anti-Semitic” would be a calumny. Cynics and right-wingers have attempted to use incidents of anti-Semitism to extrapolate conclusions about the politics of all marchers, or to imply that any support for the Palestinians at all is somehow anti-Semitic. Such cynical extrapolations are not my intention with this article. Undoubtedly, the vast majority of marchers attended because they want to oppose Israel’s current assault on Gaza. The movement includes many Jews (and not just the theocratic reactionaries of Neturei Karta, but secular-progressive Jews too), and many sincere anti-racists. But a situation where anyone thinks it appropriate to carry such a placard, where he can find supporters, and where such people can openly racially abuse Jewish demonstrators who challenge them, is not tolerable and must be addressed.

Right-wingers in the Jewish community will use instances of anti-Semitism to discredit the Palestinian cause, and dissuade Jews from acting to support it. On this, instrumental, level, anti-Semitism harms the Palestinians. But racism should have no place in any solidarity movement, not because it’s bad PR, but because the politics of solidarity should be anathema to any form of racism.

It is now common in the left-wing blogosphere for articles which contain potentially traumatic content to carry “trigger warnings”, alerting those who have experienced particular traumas that something in the article might trigger painful memories of their experience. To attend a demonstration where Nazism and the Holocaust, the worst and most traumatic of Jewish collective experience, is used as a cheap propaganda tool, and openly anti-Semitic placards are carried and defended, while those challenging them are racially abused, must surely be “triggering” for many Jews. But we can’t put trigger warnings on demonstrations, or on life. All we can do is work to win hegemony for a political culture where such things are confronted and stamped out.

Finally, a “historical” note on placards on Palestine solidarity demonstrations. In 2009, during Operation Cast Lead, some Workers’ Liberty members in Sheffield (three of us, incidentally, Jewish) took placards on a demonstration against the assault which, amongst other things, said “No to IDF, no to Hamas.” As it happens, I now think, for various reasons, that our slogan was misjudged. But no-one attempted to engage us in debate or discussion about it; we were simply screamed at, called (variously) “scabs” and “Zionists”, and told we must immediately leave the demo (we didn’t). Our placards were ripped out of our hands and torn to pieces.

As I say, I don’t know how many people had challenged the racist placard on the 2014 London demonstration before me; several, I hope. But the political atmosphere on the demo was evidently not such that the man carrying it felt unwelcome – and, indeed, when he was challenged, many people leapt to his defence.

I don’t make the comparison in order to express a wish that what happened to us in 2009 had happened to him in 2014. I wouldn’t particularly advocate physically destroying the man’s placard, or attempting to physically drive him and his supporters off the demonstration. But a movement in which “no to IDF, no to Hamas” is considered beyond the pale even for debate and discussion, and must be violently confronted, but a placard promoting The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion can be carried without challenge, even for a moment, and its carrier find numerous defenders, needs to change its political culture.

Sneakily, the Israel lobby works under the surface?

Posted in Gaza. 12 Comments »

US Boat to Gaza proudly presents antisemite Gilad Atzmon at its fundraising party

Antisemite Gilad Atzmon

The US Boat to Gaza proudly advertised:

In concert and talk.

A benefit for the Bay Area’s flotilla passengers who will be onboard The Audacity of Hope. You’ll meet them as they get ready to go on the “Freedom Flotilla – Stay Human” to break Israel’s illegal naval blockade, an awesomely courageous revolutionary liberatory, even world-history-making action.

Atzmon is a worldwide-renowned jazz saxophonist par excellence. He was born and raised in Israel. After serving in the Israeli military he became an expat and lives in London. He also holds a PhD in philosophy and is a prolific writer and speaker on Israel-Palestine.

Please join Gilad, his pianist Daniel Raynaud, and the passengers.

May 10, 2011 at 4:30pm

Gilad Atzmon is an unambiguous and explicit antisemite.  These are the kinds of things that Atzmon likes to say:

“They try to call me an anti-Semite, I’m not an anti-Semite. I’ve got nothing against the Semite people, I don’t have anything against people – I’m anti-Jewish, not anti-Jews.

“I think Jewish ideology is driving our planet into a catastrophe and we must stop.”

“The Nazis were indeed . . . evil. They did things that were disastrously inhuman and unacceptable. But this doesn’t mean the Jewish ideology is correct, because in fact Jewish ideology and Nazi ideology were very similar.”

See this pdf on Harry’s Place for the antisemitic things that Atzmon has said and written.

See this piece by David Hirsh on Atzmon.

See this piece by David Aaronovitch on Atzmon.

David Adler assessed Atzmon years ago, in Jazz Times.

More on Atzmon here.

Even Sue Blackwell thinks Atzmon is an antisemite.

But the ‘antiracist’ antizionists have to take some responsibility for Atzmon.

Howard Jacobson on Alice Walker and her trip to Gaza

This piece by Howard Jacboson is from cnn.

It should not need arguing, this late in the ethical history of mankind, that good people can do great harm. One of the finest and funniest novels ever written — Don Quixote — charts the damage left in the wake of a man who would make the world a better place.

Human beings are seldom more dangerous than when they are sentimentally overcome by the goodness of their own intentions. That Alice Walker believes it is right to join the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza I do not have the slightest doubt. But beyond associating her decision with Gandhi, Martin Luther King and very nearly, when she talks about the preciousness of children, Jesus Christ, she fails to give a single convincing reason for it.

“One child must never be set above another child,” she says. A sentiment that will find an echo in every heart. But how does it justify the flotilla? Gaza is under siege, Israelis will tell you, because weapons are fired from it into Israel, threatening the lives of Israeli children. If the blockade is lifted there is a fear that more lethal and far-reaching weapons will be acquired, and the lives of more Israeli children endangered.

You may want to argue that had Gaza been treated differently it would have responded differently, but if the aim of the flotilla is to ensure that one child will not be set above another it is hard to see how challenging the blockade will achieve it. All an Israeli parent will see is a highly charged emotionalism disguising an action that, by its very partiality, chooses the Palestinian child over the Israeli.

The boat on which Alice Walker will be traveling is called The Audacity of Hope. Forgive me for seeing a measure of self- importance in that reference. It will be carrying, Alice Walker tells us, “Letters expressing solidarity and love.” Not, presumably, for Israeli children. Perhaps it is thought that Israeli children are the recipients of enough love already. So what about solidarity? It is meant to sound innocuous. “That is all.”

Alice Walker makes plain, “its cargo will be carrying.” But what will these letters of solidarity be expressing solidarity with? Solidarity is a political term implying commonality of interest or aspiration. So what interest or aspiration do Alice Walker and her fellow travelers share with the people of Gaza? A desire for freedom? Well we all aspire to that. A longing to live in peace?

If they have such a longing we must be solid with them in that too, though the firing of rockets from Gaza is not, on the face of it, an expression of such a longing. And what about the declared hostility of Hamas to the very existence of Israel? Hamas, we are often told, is the elected government of Gaza, a government that fairly represents the wishes of its people. In which case we must assume that Hamas’s implacable hostility towards Israel fairly represents the implacable hostility felt by the people of Gaza. Are Alice Walker’s letters of love and ‘solidarity’ solid with the people of Gaza in that hostility?

Alice Walker, writer of 'The Colour Purple'

“If the Israeli military attacks us, it will be as if they attacked the mailman,” she says. Wrong on a thousand counts. As a writer, Alice Walker must understand the symbolic significance of words. The cargo is a cargo of intention. It is freighted with political sympathy and attitude. It means to blunder into where it isn’t safe, clothed in the make-believe garments of the unworldly, speaking of children and speaking like children, half inviting a violence which can then be presented as a slaughter of the innocents.

Even before the deed, Alice Walker has her language of outraged moral purity prepared — “but if they insist on attacking us, wounding us, even murdering us…” The Israeli response is thus already an act of unprovoked murder, no matter that the flotilla is by its very essence a provocation. Whatever its cargo, by luring the Israeli military into action which can be represented as brutal, the flotilla is engaged in an entirely political act. To call it by any other name is the grossest hypocrisy.

Alice Walker might be feeling good about herself, but by giving the Palestinians the same old false comfort we’ve been doling out for more than half a century, and by allowing the Israelis to dismiss it as yet another act of misguided and uncomprehending adventurism — further evidence that its fears go unheeded – her political gesture only worsens the situation. The parties to this conflict need to be brought together not divided: but those who speak disingenuously of love will engender only further hatred.

This piece by Howard Jacboson is from cnn.

Lots more from Howard Jacobson here.

 

 

Gisha on Gaza

For more on Engage concerning Gisha, click here.

Gisha is the Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement.

Engage has been following much of Gisha’s work concerning the freedom of movement of Palestinian students and academics.

When I say Israelis I don’t mean Jews; and when I say Jews I mean Israelis.

Mark Gardner over at the CST blog writes about the recent exchange of views on Caryl Churchill’s antisemitic play “Seven Jewish Children”. The original article is here.

From Kosher Conspiracy to Seven Jewish Children

By Mark Gardner.

Contemplation of the high (or low) points of contemporary British antisemitic discourse in recent years brings four episodes to mind, all of which are emblematic of the collapse in left-liberal elite sensitivities to antisemitism:

1.   January 2002. The New Statesman cover reading “A Kosher Conspiracy?” and showing a golden Star of David piercing a supine Union Jack. This has been widely quoted (by CST and others) as evidence that the left intelligentsia no longer recognised or cared about modern day antisemitism, even when it hit them in the face. The New Statesman belatedly – sort of – apologised.

2.   May 2003. The assertion by (then) ‘Father of the House’, Tam Dalyell MP, that “a cabal of Jewish advisors” surounded Prime Minister Tony Blair. Dalyell was criticised for this, but the criticism was by no means universal and he and his supporters denied that the outburst was antisemitic.

3. January 2009. The explosion of Israel equals Nazi Germany comparisons at the time of the Gaza conflict. For many Jews and others, this confirmed that the demonisation of Israel had become both limitless and detached from reality. The fear was concretised by the unprecedented outbursts of antisemitic race hate crimes at this time.

4. February 2009. The first performance of Seven Jewish Children, by esteemed playwright Caryl Churchill and carried on the Guardian website.

(Of course, there are hundreds of other examples that one can alight upon, but these stick in the forefront of my mind.)

Reflecting upon these four events, I cannot recall or see where either the New Satesman or Tam Dalyell suffered any serious reputational damage within their own circles: and this is surely not unconnected to the enthusiastic and urgent reception subsequently afforded to Walt and Mearsheimer’s book, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy (2006). Basically, so long as you stuck to Israel, pro-Israel or Zionist, rather than Jew, you were (and remain) bang on trend.

The malaise and the conceit burrrowed so deep, that the Guardian could run aneditorial (24 July 2008) stating

When a presumptive US presidential candidate arrives in Jerusalem, he willingly dons a jacket designed by Israeli tailors.

Similarly, the profusion of Israel equals Nazi Germany comparisons never really impacted upon those who had made the equation, nor upon those who silently stood by. Besides, similar things had been said with depressing regularity by politicians and journalists since at least 2002, and none of them had really suffered for it either.

When Conservative Party-linked East European politicians try to relativise the Holocaust by comparing it to the suffering of their non-Jewish populations under Communism, then of course the intelligentsia hits top gear…but properly and consistently criticise people here in Britain for comparing Israeli Jews with Nazis, no way! Besides, this is Israel that’s being condemned and that’s not the same as Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

Seven Jewish Children, however, does not fit these patterns. It is not about a Jewish conspiracy that can be entirely kosherised so long as you remember to call it a pro-Israeli conspiracy. Neither is it about granting permission to relatavise the Holocaust, so long as you do it with Israel as the target. Instead, Caryl Churchill completes the circle, by writing a play about Israel and Israelis that is entirely referenced to Jews, Jewish history and Jewish emotions.

There is at least a certain honesty in this. The play, far more than most anti-Israel propaganda, at least acknowledges (both implicitly and explicitly) the centrality of Jews, Jewish history and Jewish emotions to everything concerning Israel. Nevertheless, the antisemitic resonance of the play (primarily the extent and meaning of its concentration upon the blood of the children who are the Jews’ victims) has seen it become a celebrated fault-line in the superheated arguments regarding what is and is not antisemitic in regard to Israel.

The fault-line has been spewing once more this week, in the Guardian letters page with Caryl Churchill taking exception to Jonathan Freedland’s citation (in the Guardian) of Anthony Julius’s deconstruction of the play. (Extracted from Julius’s brilliant analysis of British literary antisemitism, contained in his book, Trials of the Diaspora. Of course, the book itself has become another fault-line in the battle.)

Freedland’s excellent piece (analysed here on CST Blog) was published in the Guardian on 3 March. Churchill replied in the letters page the following day, saying (in part)

Jonathan Freedland (G2, March 3) denies that criticism of Israel is often wrongly called antisemitism. His point isn’t helped by quoting Anthony Julius’s allegation that my play Seven Jewish Children “tap[s] into the ‘blood libel’”. The line he is referring to is “tell her there’s dead babies, did she see babies?” It refers to babies killed in the attack on Gaza in 2009 and shown on TV. When people hear of babies killed in a war, they don’t usually think of medieval accusations of Jews consuming Christian children’s blood, but of babies killed in a war…

This prompted Julius to reply (in part)

…In this play, Jews confess to lying to their own children and killing Palestinian children. They also confess to something close to a project of genocide. And they freely acknowledge the source of their misanthropy to be Judaism itself.

None of this seems to bother Churchill – nor, indeed, the Guardian. As she correctly notes, the play is available on your website.

Next, Churchill replied to Julius

…What he doesn’t seem to realise is that these lines are not spoken as he suggests by “Jews” in general but by individual Israelis, desperate to protect their own child, during an attack of disproportionate violence on Gaza…It should be possible to pillory the defensive self-righteousness and racism of some – not all – Israelis without being called antisemitic.

For now (at any rate) the Guardian Letters page appears to have called time on its hosting of this particular debate. The arguments will, of course, continue, but there are two things that need saying right now.

Firstly, Normblog has this to say on Churchill’s “individual Israelis” argument

Her play wasn’t anti-Semitic because it featured individuals, rather than Jews as a category…

…And this is a playwright, with some knowledge of cultural matters! One is bound to wonder why anyone ever had a worry about Shylock in The Merchant of Venice…

Secondly, there is the point that my colleague Dave Rich and I made in our Comment is Free article, at the time of the Guardian’s own production of Seven Jewish Children

It is Jewish thought and behaviour that links the play together, not Israel. The words Israel, Israelis, Zionism and Zionist are not mentioned once in the play, while Jews are mentioned in the title and in the text itself. We are often told that when people talk about Israel or Zionists, it is mischievous to accuse them of meaning Jews. Now, we are expected to imagine that a play that talks only of Jews, in fact, means Israelis.

The play is only eight minutes long. We wrote the above almost two years ago. One does not need to be an anti-racist theoretician, a leading playwright, nor a literary critic to get the absurdity of saying

When I say Israelis I don’t mean Jews; and when I say Jews I mean Israelis

Then again, isn’t that the same absurdity that lay, back in the day, behind the New Statesman and Tam Dalyell getting let off the anti-racist hook?

Hamas condemns UN for teaching children that the Holocaust happened

From Reuters

Hamas condemned the United Nations Sunday, saying it planned to teach Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip about the Holocaust — but the U.N. agency which runs schools in the enclave would not confirm any change.

Branding the Nazi genocide of the Jews “a lie invented by the Zionists,” the Islamist movement which runs the Gaza Strip wrote in an open letter to a senior U.N. official that he should withdraw plans for a new history book in U.N. schools.

A spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which educates some 200,000 refugee children in Gaza, said the Holocaust was not on its current curriculum. He would not comment on Hamas’s statement that it was about to change.

Palestinians resent the way world powers reacted to the Holocaust by supporting the establishment of Israel in 1948, a move that left half the Arab population of then British-ruled Palestine as refugees in Gaza, the West Bank and abroad.

Hamas said it believed UNRWA was about to start using a text for 13-year-olds that included a chapter on the Holocaust.

In an open letter to local UNRWA chief John Ging, the movement’s Popular Committees for Refugees said: “We refuse to let our children study a lie invented by the Zionists.”

UNRWA spokesman Adnan Abu Hasna said: “There is no mention of the Holocaust in the current syllabus.” Asked if UNRWA planned to change that, he declined to comment.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, run by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas, teachers said there was no official guidance on teaching about the Holocaust.

Israelis are angered by denial of the Holocaust among some in the Middle East, notably lately by leaders in Iran, who provide support for Hamas. Abbas, who has engaged in negotiation with Israel, has had to distance himself from his own 1980s doctoral thesis, which cast doubt on the scale of the Holocaust.

Hamas’s official spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, said he did not want to discuss the history of the Holocaust but said:

“Regardless of the controversy, we oppose forcing the issue of the so-called Holocaust onto the syllabus, because it aims to reinforce acceptance of the occupation of Palestinian land.”

From Reuters

(Editing by Erika Solomon and Alastair Macdonald)

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