Left behind – David Greenberg

In Slate, Rutgers professor of History David Greenberg reflects on Yale’s closure of YIISA, its establishment of YPSA, and how his political left ceded concern about antisemitism to the conservatives.

He ends with a not very optimistic assessment of general historical awareness of antisemitism which had served to chill anti-Jewish sentiment in recent decades, and a call for attention to how a commitment to concern about antisemitism can be renewed among progressives.

(Caution, the 247 comments to the piece get off to a bad start – not sure if they improve.)

Hat tip: @EquusontheBuses

Addendum: in the comments below Ignoblus links to an response by Phoebe who is “neck deep in 1840s France”, a piece about the historically populist appeal of  economic antisemitism in the ‘first world’ – a world which today is experiencing fresh schism between marginalised and privileged.

Leader of far right Jewish groupuscule Roberta Moore quits EDL

Hard right English Defence League Jewish division leader Roberta Moore quits – but not before the EDL had decided that what she says and who she likes are a liability, even for them.

Addendum: John ‘Snowy’ Shaw of the EDL’s Infidel faction on the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion: “all true British patriots take the time to read this”.

Attack on City Central mosque, Stoke-on-Trent

Stoke-on-Trent was one of the key battlegrounds for the British National Party last election, and has also been a focal point for the English Defence League.

Modernity has disturbing news about an attack on City Central mosque in Stoke-on-Trent. Police were called early on Friday morning when a gas pipe was discovered to have been diverted into the mosque and lit. They have arrested four teenagers and are treating the incident as a racist attack on a religious building.

There’s no point the British National Party acting shocked about this and trying to dissociate themselves from this. They continue to lay the foundations for violence by insisting that some people belong in this country because they are ‘indigenous’, and those who are not should be given the signal to leave. That is not a peaceful strategy that can be pursued by peaceful means.

On the English Defence League

In June, Ben Gidley’s Dissent blog post characterised the aggressively pro-Western, anti-Islamic, anti-multicultural English Defence League as currently ideologically diverse and unstable, but capable of becoming a politically sustainable movement under certain circumstances.

Conditions now seem conducive to this. Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas observes that the English Defence League is coalescing into a movement with more purpose, and now constitutes a bigger threat than the BNP.

Ben’s post gives consideration to how to respond to the EDL:

“I genuinely have no suggestions then about the best way to respond to the EDL in the short term, but the nature of the EDL seems to me to have clear implications about how to defeat them in the long term.  In the long term, we need a politics that mounts a robust defense of the best elements of the Western enlightenment tradition against the genuine threat posed by Islamism. If we leave this defense to arch-reactionaries, we’ve failed in advance. One aspect of this is surely to engage with those forces within the communities targeted by the EDL who also care about Western democratic values, which is why campaigns like One Law for All and grassroots organizations like Southall Black Sisters are so important.

Second, we need to foster an ethics of hospitality and solidarity, so that the communities which the EDL seeks to inflame and divide are immunized against their provocations. This means we need to actually make the arguments for the value of immigration, cultural diversity, and religious tolerance. Since 2001 we have generally failed in this. Within Guardian-reading enclaves these values are just taken for granted, while in local and national politics the mainstream Left has been reticent about defending them to the point of silence. The absence of a debate has enabled the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim Right to dominate the discourse while claiming an underdog status in relation to the liberal elite. People who are concerned about the impact of migration in their areas or about the threat Islam might pose are made to feel vaguely ashamed (as with Gillian Duffy, confronted with the prime minister calling her a bigot), but the counter-arguments are simply not articulated. The moment to articulate them is now long overdue.”

Jon Cruddas ends his piece with intent:

“The threat of the EDL and the wider cultural war must be taken seriously. That is why we will soon be establishing a broad-based group to formulate a response. The right has become very organised; it is time for those of us who believe in a decent progressive society to do the same.”

Israeli anti-boycott bill takes boycott to its logical conclusion

As the boycott of Israel mainstreams, it becomes a political football. As seemed likely from early on, it strengthens the Israeli right; most recently, some members of the Israeli Knesset are tabling a bill to outlaw ‘home-grown boycotters’. Natalie Rothschild comments in Spiked:

“The ugly side of this law – preventing cooperation and exchange between different peoples – is also the ugly end-product of international boycott campaign against Israel. And just as boycotters expect Israelis to take responsibility for the politics of their government – campaigning for the banishment of Israeli artists, academics, sportsmen and others from international events – so MKs are now demanding that all Israelis decide whether to be with their state or against it. If they choose the latter, they will be punished.”

As far as I can tell, Spiked believes the root of all evil to be narcissistic moral posturing and is primarily motivated to point  out the hypocrisies and counter-productive excesses of moralisers. The boycott of Israel has plenty to occupy them including this by Tim Black in 2009, countering the assertion that sanctions liberated South Africa.

Here is another fatalistic piece, a contrasting one I have some sympathy with, by Moshe Shoked, an academic anthropologist based at Tel Aviv University.

“I tend to believe that it is only a matter of time before this country’s academic institutions are boycotted, regardless of the wishes of the education minister and other champions of Israeli patriotism. They will be boycotted not because of the handful of Israeli professors who have unabashedly supported such a step, but because Israel is under a global microscope that perhaps unfairly discriminates against it compared with other countries that act unjustly, even violently, toward their minorities and neighbors.

For better or worse, Israel does not enjoy the same luxury as countries like Russia and China, which do not rely on the support of Europe and the United States. Indeed, a look through this microscope reveals the foolishness of Israel’s weak-kneed leadership.”

He predicts academic brain drain from Israel and the success of academic boycott. Perhaps out of demoralisation, or perhaps because he is diverted by his feelings towards Israel’s government, Shoked omits to protest these outcomes, though they are the purpose of boycott.

As boycotters and the Israeli right cooperate to knock the wedges in, OneVoice look even more like the dauntless, democratic, free-expression-loving stimulants of the moderate majority they are, inviting single-staters to debates, providing an alternative to grass-roots violence, and coming to talk to British trade unions.

Ben Gidley – who are the English Defence League?

The previous post describes Naomi Chazan’s efforts to bolster a politics of inclusion against the waxing defencism of Israel’s political right and the exclusions it purports to justify.

This substantial piece from Ben Gidley on the Dissent blog Arguing the World, linked from our previous EDL post but deserving a post of its own, brings this endeavour to Britain’s backyard. The piece begins by examining the EDL’s ‘suited’ and ‘booted’ members respectively, proceeds to discuss what feeds the EDL and how it might best be categorised within British politics, and concludes by considering what impact it might have should it become electorally oriented, and how to respond to it in the long-term:

“I genuinely have no suggestions then about the best way to respond to the EDL in the short term, but the nature of the EDL seems to me to have clear implications about how to defeat them in the long term.  In the long term, we need a politics that mounts a robust defense of the best elements of the Western enlightenment tradition against the genuine threat posed by Islamism. If we leave this defense to arch-reactionaries, we’ve failed in advance. One aspect of this is surely to engage with those forces within the communities targeted by the EDL who also care about Western democratic values, which is why campaigns like One Law for All and grassroots organizations like Southall Black Sisters are so important.

Second, we need to foster an ethics of hospitality and solidarity, so that the communities which the EDL seeks to inflame and divide are immunized against their provocations. This means we need to actually make the arguments for the value of immigration, cultural diversity, and religious tolerance. Since 2001 we have generally failed in this. Within Guardian-reading enclaves these values are just taken for granted, while in local and national politics the mainstream Left has been reticent about defending them to the point of silence. The absence of a debate has enabled the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim Right to dominate the discourse while claiming an underdog status in relation to the liberal elite. People who are concerned about the impact of migration in their areas or about the threat Islam might pose are made to feel vaguely ashamed (as with Gillian Duffy, confronted with the prime minister calling her a bigot), but the counter-arguments are simply not articulated. The moment to articulate them is now long overdue.”

An important read.

Naomi Chazan: “Israel’s democracy is Israel’s soul”

This is a guest post by Kubbeh.

Leading Israeli academic, peace activist and president of the New Israel Fund (NIF), Naomi Chazan, was in the UK earlier this month, talking to the Jewish community about her hopes and fears for Israel’s democracy. We’ve all heard the statement that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. It may not be perfect (where is?), but it is true. The citizens of Egypt, Jordan, Gaza, Syria, Iran and elsewhere would all benefit from a good dose of democracy – particularly women, Christians, gay men and women, journalists and political dissidents.

Speaking earlier this month to a capacity crowd at Moishe House, a post-denominational Jewish community in west London, Chazan outlined the challenges to Israel’s democracy and what her organisation is doing about it. These reached a peak earlier this year with a well-funded smear campaign against NIF by right-wing pressure group, Im Tirtzu, which attempted to vilify Chazan and NIF as enemies of the state.

“Is there a problem [with Israel’s democracy]? Absolutely yes. Is there a hope? Equally so, she said.

For Chazan, democracy is fundamental to the existence and success of Israel as a Jewish state:

“Israel’s democracy is Israel’s soul. Without Israel’s democracy, there will be no Israel. That is because Israel’s raison d’etre, as embodied in its Declaration of Independence, will no longer exist. The source of Israel’s strength is its democracy.”

Chazan explained how the NIF has been “thrust to the centre” of guarding Israel’s democracy, a role which she sees as crucial to upholding the Zionist dream embodied by the state’s founding fathers: “Jews have the right to self-determination in two senses,” she said. “Collective self-determination, in terms of the right to create a state for the Jews; and individual self-determination, through creating a society which grants individual liberties and social justice to all of its citizens regardless of race, religion or gender.”

She also took a swipe at anti-Zionists and boycotters, many of whom she regularly meets in academic circles, who want to see Israel relegated to the dustbin of history:“I have nothing in common with people who tell me that I have no right to exist. We need to distinguish between the deniers and deligitimisers – and dissenters.”

At a time when Israel is more politically isolated and vilified than ever before and the Islamist extremists of Hamas and Hezbollah continue to stockpile weapons to use against Israeli civilians, the work of peace and civil rights movements like NIF is more vital than ever. Israelis who want to walk the path of moderation have never had it so tough. In Chazan’s words, they are “stuck between those who don’t want to hear it and those who don’t want them to exist.” If, like me, you feel confused and frustrated about how to respond to recent events in the Middle East, then supporting the New Israel Fund is a good place to start.

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