In concert and talk.
A benefit for the Bay Area’s flotilla passengers who will be onboard The Audacity of Hope. You’ll meet them as they get ready to go on the “Freedom Flotilla – Stay Human” to break Israel’s illegal naval blockade, an awesomely courageous revolutionary liberatory, even world-history-making action.
Atzmon is a worldwide-renowned jazz saxophonist par excellence. He was born and raised in Israel. After serving in the Israeli military he became an expat and lives in London. He also holds a PhD in philosophy and is a prolific writer and speaker on Israel-Palestine.
Please join Gilad, his pianist Daniel Raynaud, and the passengers.
May 10, 2011 at 4:30pm
Gilad Atzmon is an unambiguous and explicit antisemite. These are the kinds of things that Atzmon likes to say:
“They try to call me an anti-Semite, I’m not an anti-Semite. I’ve got nothing against the Semite people, I don’t have anything against people – I’m anti-Jewish, not anti-Jews.
“I think Jewish ideology is driving our planet into a catastrophe and we must stop.”
“The Nazis were indeed . . . evil. They did things that were disastrously inhuman and unacceptable. But this doesn’t mean the Jewish ideology is correct, because in fact Jewish ideology and Nazi ideology were very similar.”
It should not need arguing, this late in the ethical history of mankind, that good people can do great harm. One of the finest and funniest novels ever written — Don Quixote — charts the damage left in the wake of a man who would make the world a better place.
Human beings are seldom more dangerous than when they are sentimentally overcome by the goodness of their own intentions. That Alice Walker believes it is right to join the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza I do not have the slightest doubt. But beyond associating her decision with Gandhi, Martin Luther King and very nearly, when she talks about the preciousness of children, Jesus Christ, she fails to give a single convincing reason for it.
“One child must never be set above another child,” she says. A sentiment that will find an echo in every heart. But how does it justify the flotilla? Gaza is under siege, Israelis will tell you, because weapons are fired from it into Israel, threatening the lives of Israeli children. If the blockade is lifted there is a fear that more lethal and far-reaching weapons will be acquired, and the lives of more Israeli children endangered.
You may want to argue that had Gaza been treated differently it would have responded differently, but if the aim of the flotilla is to ensure that one child will not be set above another it is hard to see how challenging the blockade will achieve it. All an Israeli parent will see is a highly charged emotionalism disguising an action that, by its very partiality, chooses the Palestinian child over the Israeli.
The boat on which Alice Walker will be traveling is called The Audacity of Hope. Forgive me for seeing a measure of self- importance in that reference. It will be carrying, Alice Walker tells us, “Letters expressing solidarity and love.” Not, presumably, for Israeli children. Perhaps it is thought that Israeli children are the recipients of enough love already. So what about solidarity? It is meant to sound innocuous. “That is all.”
Alice Walker makes plain, “its cargo will be carrying.” But what will these letters of solidarity be expressing solidarity with? Solidarity is a political term implying commonality of interest or aspiration. So what interest or aspiration do Alice Walker and her fellow travelers share with the people of Gaza? A desire for freedom? Well we all aspire to that. A longing to live in peace?
If they have such a longing we must be solid with them in that too, though the firing of rockets from Gaza is not, on the face of it, an expression of such a longing. And what about the declared hostility of Hamas to the very existence of Israel? Hamas, we are often told, is the elected government of Gaza, a government that fairly represents the wishes of its people. In which case we must assume that Hamas’s implacable hostility towards Israel fairly represents the implacable hostility felt by the people of Gaza. Are Alice Walker’s letters of love and ‘solidarity’ solid with the people of Gaza in that hostility?
“If the Israeli military attacks us, it will be as if they attacked the mailman,” she says. Wrong on a thousand counts. As a writer, Alice Walker must understand the symbolic significance of words. The cargo is a cargo of intention. It is freighted with political sympathy and attitude. It means to blunder into where it isn’t safe, clothed in the make-believe garments of the unworldly, speaking of children and speaking like children, half inviting a violence which can then be presented as a slaughter of the innocents.
Even before the deed, Alice Walker has her language of outraged moral purity prepared — “but if they insist on attacking us, wounding us, even murdering us…” The Israeli response is thus already an act of unprovoked murder, no matter that the flotilla is by its very essence a provocation. Whatever its cargo, by luring the Israeli military into action which can be represented as brutal, the flotilla is engaged in an entirely political act. To call it by any other name is the grossest hypocrisy.
Alice Walker might be feeling good about herself, but by giving the Palestinians the same old false comfort we’ve been doling out for more than half a century, and by allowing the Israelis to dismiss it as yet another act of misguided and uncomprehending adventurism — further evidence that its fears go unheeded – her political gesture only worsens the situation. The parties to this conflict need to be brought together not divided: but those who speak disingenuously of love will engender only further hatred.
By Mark Gardner.
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.)
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 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.”
Eric Lee at Tulip :
The international trade union movement has just delivered a stinging rebuff to advocates of the campaign to boycott Israel.
At its second world congress which just concluded in Vancouver, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) rejected calls to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign targetting the Jewish state.
A vehemently anti-Israel resolution submitted by the Congress of South African Trade Unions never made it to the floor.
And in a stunning blow to pro-Hamas activists in some unions, the Israeli national trade union center Histadrut was honored by the global trade union movement.
Its leader, Ofer Eini, was elevated to the ITUC’s 25-member Executive Board as well as its General Council. Eini was also elected as one of the organization’s Vice Presidents.
The ITUC has 312 affiliated organizations in 156 countries and territories representing 176 million workers.
Eini’s election followed calls by major unions in the UK and elsewhere for the Histadrut to be boycotted. Instead, the international trade union movement has embraced the Israeli unions, understanding them — correctly — to be important partners in building peaceful relations between Israelis and Palestinians.
In a resolution adopted by the ITUC congress, the positive role of the Histadrut was made explicit:
“Congress welcomes the landmark agreement between Histadrut and the PGFTU on the rights of Palestinian workers, which was finalised with the assistance of the ITUC in August 2008, and initiatives by Global Union Federations in their sectors to support cooperation in defence of workers’ rights. This agreement, and other actions to promote decent work and end discrimination, are crucial to building the basis for just and equitable economic development.”
For the future, the ITUC resolution declared:
“Congress commits the ITUC to continue to support the strengthening of cooperation between the Palestinian and Israeli trade union movements and calls upon the international community to support Palestinian economic reconstruction and development, including through the ILO Palestinian Fund for Employment and Social Protection.”
In addition, the world’s trade unions
-Called for a two-state solution — and “universal recognition of Israel’s right to exist, next to an independent viable Palestinian state”.
-Rejected “the extremist policies of Hamas“.
-Condemned the Egyptian “decision to impose heavy restrictions on its border with Gaza”.
-Acknowledged that Israeli’s December 2008 attack on Gaza came “in response to rocket attacks”.
-Supported the 2002 “Road Map” for peace proposed by the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union.
The resolution adopted was highly critical of many Israeli policies, calling for an end to illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories, rejecting the blockade of Gaza and the building of a security fence, and so on.
But what stands out clearly is the commitment by the vast majority of the world’s trade unions to a two-state solution and to strengthening Israeli-Palestinian trade union cooperation.
This is welcome news for Israelis and Palestinians and a blow to the supporters of Hamas who have tried hard to isolate and demonize Israel within the trade union movement.
Bradley Burston in Haaretz.
“The proof is in the performance. From Britain to Berkeley to Toronto, the only actual consequence of the BDS movement has been to dramatically inflate the importance of its proponents in their own eyes.
Think about it. If you wanted to do something direct and concrete to protest the killing of civilians and journalists by a U.S. Army Apache helicopter gunship in Baghdad, you could take direct effective action in a number of ways. You could organize and hold a demonstration. You can contact public officials directly. You can take your case to the media, and do community organizing.
Alternatively, the next time you fly home, you could politically spin your wheels by boycotting Boeing, which made the helicopter. You’ll be doing the government a favor, getting yourself off its back.
Should you decide to go this route, which, the path both of least resistance and of least likely good, it’ll be easy enough for you to remember. Boeing refers to its division which manufactures the Apache, by the initials BDS. “
Read the whole article Here.
Hat Tip Modernity.
A smear campaign was launched last week against leading Israeli social justice organisation, the New Israel Fund. In what Meretz MK Haim Oron, described as a “show trial,” NIF has been blasted for apparently being the “life-force” behind the UN’s Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead and the delegitimisation of Israel in the international court of opinion.
But this campaign to discredit NIF and its grantee organisations amounts to nothing less than an attack on freedom of speech.
On 29 January 2010, Israeli tabloid Ma’ariv published the findings of a report by right-wing student group, Im Tirtzu, claiming that over 90% of allegations against the IDF in the Goldstone report came from 16 NIF-funded Israeli NGOs. The following day Im Tirtzu organised a demonstration outside the Jerusalem home of NIF president, Prof Naomi Hazan (pictured), with dozens of activists dressed as Hamas terrorists, as well as running an advert in the Jerusalem Post depicting a demonic Prof Hazan wearing a horn.
It didn’t take long for Im Tirtzu’s “research” to be debunked and dismembered. Anshel Pfeffer did a good job in Ha’aretz:
“What is being said here? Im Tirzu is not claiming that any of the information supplied by these organizations was false. It is simply questioning the very legitimacy of free speech in Israel.”
In support of Israeli democracy
NIF is a philanthropic organisation that funds over 300 organisations working to make Israel a better country, in line with the vision of its founding fathers. NIF grantees pursue social justice, civil and human rights, religious pluralism and safeguarding the environment.
One need not agree with every position of every organisation that NIF funds, which range from Breaking the Silence and B’tselem to Friends of the Earth Middle East and the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel. But supporters of democracy should stand up for the New Israel Fund – and many already have, including journalists from Ma’ariv itself.
Ori Nir from Americans for Peace Now said it succinctly:
“The New Israel Fund is an asset to Israel‘s democracy, as are its grantee organizations. Attempts to silence them should not be tolerated by the Israeli public and by friends of a free and democratic Israel worldwide.“
But this sorry episode has left me with a feeling of déjà vu.
One thing that struck me is how many NIF grantees would find themselves boycotted by anti-Israel activists here in the UK. For instance, Israeli groups that promote cooperation between Jews and Arabs.
There’s an uneasy parallel between the recent McCarthyist attacks on NIF and the British Left-Islamist coalition’s campaign to silence and boycott those who fail to tow their party line of an Israel-free Middle East. It seems that the two sides have more in common that they would like to admit.
See also my Greens Engage post, New Israel Fund needs international solidarity; Jews outside Israel need theirs.