Forward editorial


Michael Walzer on ‘proportionality’


SPME petition against academic boycott proposal in Canada

Sid Ryan of CUPE’s Ontario University Workers Coordinating Committee says:

“Israeli academics should not be on our campuses unless they explicitly condemn the university bombing and the assault on Gaza in general.”

The SPME petition is here.

Steve Cohen wrote the following in May 2006 on proposals to construct a political test for Israeli academics:

“I would hate myself in the morning” – Steve Cohen

The quote above comes from Ring Lardner Jr, the famous writer and member of the Hollywood Ten – who were convicted in 1947 of criminal contempt for refusing to cooperate with the House Unamerican Activities Committee. The ten were imprisoned for a year for their defiance. In fact Lardner was one of the few who did respond to a question put to him. The question of course was whether he was or had ever been a member of the Communist Party. To which he replied “ I could answer the question exactly the way you want , but if I did I would hate myself in the morning”.

I am sure Lardner, whatever his position on Zionism (if he had one) would have responded in exactly the same way to the resolution passed at the NATFHE conference which calls for a “a boycott of those that do not publicly dissociate themselves from” Israeli governmental policies towards Palestinians. It is this imposition of a loyalty test which is so reminiscent of McCarthyism. And of course Lardner did not stand alone. The playwrite Lillian Hellman famously said “I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions”. The fact that this year’s fashion –support for the Palestinians – is to be supported whereas old fashioned anti-communism is to be condemned – is irrelevant. The issue here is loyalty tests. It is being forced into making an open and public political statement not out of principle but out of blackmail.

Loyalty tests have a particular significance when forced on Jews. The significance is the assumption of collective responsibility, of collective guilt. Intrinsic to this is the requirement to grovel. Groveling, the humiliation of Jews, is fundamental to all anti-semitism. Degradation ceremonies are central to Jew-hatred. Remember those shocking images of Nazi Berlin where rabbis were forced to scrub pavements. Likewise it was central to McCarthyism. As the actor Larry Parks said “I would prefer, if you would allow me, not to mention other people’s names. Don’t present me with the choice of either being in contempt of this Committee and going to jail or forcing me to really crawl through the mud to be an informer”. As far as I am aware Larry Parks (who rose to fame playing Al Jolson in the Jolson Story before being destroyed by McCarthyism) was not Jewish. However being a squealie, a snitch, an informer, has always been seen within the Jewish tradition as being an abomination – particularly where the victim of denunciation is another Jew. For what it is worth (and culturally it is worth a lot) it says in Genesis “Though they all be killed they shall not betray a single soul from Israel”. This is one reason why the Kapos (the Jewish guards of the concentration camps) are so reviled. Morally there is no difference between this and loyalty teats – including the NATFHE test (though of course politically NATFHE have not achieved the status of Kapos). Loyalty tests, by blackmailing some into “coming clean” only act to point a finger at others who refuse to submit and who then become subject to a blacklist. And there is no suggestion that Palestinian academics submit to such a test (why should they?). Only Jews (and why should they?).

The NATFHE resolution refers to be boycotts of individuals and institutions – with the loyalty test applying to both. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has said in support of the boycott “no Israeli academic body or institution has ever taken a public stand against the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.”. This I am sure is true. But it is equally true that in the UK no academic body has taken a stand against the institutionalised racism of immigration control – which creates at least a quasi apartheid in the UK and which renders legality of employment in colleges (as elsewhere) as well as level of student fees dependent upon immigration status. Why does not NATFHE campaign for a boycott (not a loyalty test) against UK college institutions for compliance with such racism? In reality NATFHE has for years been accepting the loyalty test set by UK colleges and universities –“Are you or have you ever been of full immigration status?”. It would be interesting to know if NATFHE as an employer demeans itself by complying with immigration legislation (legislation which incidentally would prevent it employing Palestinian asylum seekers fleeing Israeli repression). Perhaps NATFHE should start boycotting itself.

Obtaining names was actually irrelevant to McCathyism. The American state (through its own espionage agents) already had these. What was important was naming names – the degradation ceremony. Likewise the deep anti-semitism behind the NATFHE resolution is not the boycott principle. It is the loyalty test on which it is based. It is the loyalty test more than anything else exceptionalises Israel. As a materialist I am far more concerned about what people do as opposed to what they say. I am far more concerned to see solidarity in action with the Palestinians – both in the occupied territories and Israel itself – than with verbal support extracted through blackmail. It may be that the proposers of the NATFHE boycott were not conscious anti-semites. It may be that the loyalty test was clumsily added as a “compromise” against a blanket boycott. So what? It doesn’t make it any less anti-semitic in its consequences. If I were a Israeli academic campaigning for Palestinian rights I would only have one response to the NATFHE demand – the response would be to get lost. Otherwise I would not be able to live with myself in the morning.

Steve cohen
Author of Thats Funny You Don’t Look Antisemitic

Asim Siddiqui and Adrian Cohen

This piece was published on Comment is Free.
The past week has witnessed a surge in antisemitic incidents across London, anti-Israel daubings on synagogues and other Jewish communal buildings and antisemitic graffiti in areas known for their Jewish communities, hate mail sent to Jewish organisations and communal leaders and, more seriously, an arson attack on a synagogue and a mob shouting anti-Israel and antisemitic slogans on the main road in Golders Green. Jewish Londoners have good reason to feel anxious. Events in the Middle East are impacting on the security of Jews far beyond the borders of Israel. Security at Jewish schools and synagogues has been tightened in the light of a threat against Jews everywhere by Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader, on Al-Aqsa TV. Jewish Londoners remember the terrorist attacks of 1992 and 1994 on Israeli and Jewish targets in Buenos Aires, in which Iran and Hizbullah were implicated.

For Jewish Londoners, this is not just a concern for their personal security. While there is a wide variety of views about the current Israeli military action, many share the worries of Israelis about the intentions of Iran and its proxies, Hizbullah in the north and Hamas in the south, which, if unchecked, are in a position through ever-increasing military capability to make large parts of the country uninhabitable. The military entanglement of Israel with Hamas is itself a concern, the loss of civilian life in the Gaza Strip, the continued rocket fire into Israeli towns and Israeli casualties. Many Jewish Londoners have relatives living in Israel. Every time an incident takes place in Israel, London’s Jews reach for their phones to check on loved ones living in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, for Muslim Londoners, there is deep anger at the large numbers of civilians being killed as a consequence of Israeli military action (even if as a result of rocket fire from Hamas). The feeling of many British Muslims is that Israel must have known in advance the likely civilian death toll that would result from such a military operation on a densely-populated society, but decided it was a price Israel was prepared to accept for its own security, rather than exhausting other possible options.

The sharply deteriorating humanitarian situation, which was already dire due to the stand-off between Hamas and Israel and the blockade, are being watched with disbelief in Muslim homes across London.

Much of that anger – shared outside Muslim communities, too – is directed at Israel, but also variously at Hamas, Egypt, the US and the UK, depending on political outlook and perspective, as was seen by marches from Glasgow to London last Saturday. But there is a broad consensus that somehow Muslim lives are considered cheap and that the international community continues to fail to exert any meaningful pressure on Israel to take the peace process more seriously. A huge effort is being made by British Muslims to get vital humanitarian aid into Gaza, which is being frustrated by the military conflagration and blockade, and the inexplicable difficulties in getting aid over the border from Egypt into Gaza.

Some British Muslims also feel that when they try to express support for Palestinian self-determination, then they are too quickly labelled as “Islamist” or “terrorist-sympathisers”. Likewise for Jews, gratuitous references to the Holocaust and the use of antisemitic tropes and imagery by some politicians, commentators and campaigners are both distressing and alarming. We need to create more safe spaces where young Muslims and Jews are free to debate and think through these issues, without fear of demonisation.

In this context, there is little direct inter-communal dialogue between Jews and Muslims. Now is not the time for “bagels and bhajis”. Let’s start up an honest discussion about the substantive political issues of Israel/Palestine, Zionism (of all political varieties) versus Palestinian nationalism (Fatah or Hamas), which, even at the best of times, have never been at the top of the agenda of inter-faith or cross-community dialogue, and yet – while these issues are ducked – events in the Middle East will continue to have the effect of stifling real inter-communal solidarity, something really needed for long-term social cohesion.

Londoners should be ideally building communities together, but that requires us to build trust and honesty between each other. We need to find a language that allows us to express strongly-held views about events overseas, without increasing the divisions between our communities here at home. What is needed is a move to educate each other about the aspirations, religious, communal and national of each other in all their variety and complexity and to develop empathy between us.

We are in danger of living parallel narratives. Part of the success of London, specifically, is as a result of its multireligious and multiethnic environment, but the time has come for Londoners to develop a shared story in order to have a meaningful and secure future. This responsibility lies with those of us living and working here. The same is true in towns and cities up and down the land.

But, beyond this, it means establishing a broad coalition in support of a secure Israel and a free Palestine, and an isolation of all those who wish to perpetuate the cycle of violence.

Both authors write here in a personal capacity

Posts from Harry’s Place

Bullying Jewish Children in the UK about Gaza.  Here.

Civilian casualties.  Here.

Hamas rejects ceasefire.  Here.

Shiraz Maher.  Here.

Threats against British Jews.  Here.

The Catholic Church, Jean-Marie Le Pen and the British Left?

Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in the Roman Catholic Church, said to the online newspaper Il Sussidiario on Wednesday, January 7, that the “conditions in Gaza … increasingly resemble a big concentration camp”.

It seems that he is thereby following the ideas of the racist leader of the French far right Jean-Marie Le Pen, who believes that the people of Gaza “is concentrated in what is a real ghetto and concentration camp.”

Antisemitic violence has ceased to shock


Daniel Finkelstein: “Understand Israel”


Stop the biggest neo-nazi march in Europe!

Come to Dresden on 14 February 2009

This piece is from I CARE (Internet Centre Against Racism Europe)

On 14 February 2009, right-wing extremists from all over Europe will once again gather for their annual ‘mourning march’ in Dresden (D) – UNITED and the local platform Geh Denken calls for your help to stop the largest meeting of the European right-wing extremist movement!

In 2008 a frightening crowd of more than 6000 neo-nazis from Germany and foreign allied brotherhoods were mobilised for the largest gathering of the European right-wing extremist movement. Under the guise of commemorating the victims of the air raids against Dresden 13-15 February 1945, right-wing extremists claim the streets of Dresden to spread defamatory propaganda and gain public acceptance. Beside that, this self-declared ‘March of mourning and commemoration’ forms the highlight of a several days lasting network meeting of the right-wing extemist movement – where neo-nazis can get organised and receive ideological training.

UNITED calls for international support to make an end to the silent acceptance of this neo-nazi demonstration in the state of Saxony. We need your help to confront the neo-nazis in the streets of Dresden with active (peaceful) resistance and to create international pressure on the authorities of Dresden and Saxony. The city’s official remembrance concept – a ‘silent commemoration’ – lacks a clear stand against modern right-wing extremism: LETS BREAK THE SILENCE!

In any case, the regional platform ‘GehDenken’ (Go and Think/Commemorate) together with UNITED is organising counter-actions in the streets of Dresden on 14 February 2009. Get united under the common title ‘Commemorate – a clear STOP to right-wing extremism’ and join forces in Dresden on 14 February 2009.

Get active together – use the opportunities!
Since some years, there have been a wide variety of activities against the march of right-wing extremists in Dresden. In 2006 the neo-nazi march was blocked successfully, but finally it was redirected and continued under rigorous protection of German police forces. In 2007 and 2008 German police guarded the way of this scandalous neo-nazi march, against the persistent protest of the anti-fascist movement.
In 2009, we call the European anti-discrimination movement to mobilise their forces to set an end to this public celebrated right-wing extremist procession.

Join us in the streets of Dresden on 14 February 2009 to stop the biggest annual neo-nazi gathering throughout Europe – peacefully and determined!


* Inform all your contacts about this counter-action (translate this call and spread it in your country; use your newsletters / websites / mailing lists etc. to make this call for action visible to as many activists as possible)

* Organise buses, get your friends and come to Dresden on 14 February 2009

* Support our public call with signatures and/or statements of support from you or your organisation (just send an email to and

* If you want to participate please inform us as soon as possible (we will try to organise budget accommodation)

More information under:

Get in contact with us:
Preparation group 14 February 2009 ‘Geh Denken’
phone +49-351-5636669

UNITED for Intercultural Action
Postbus 413 – NL 1000 AK Amsterdam
phone +31-20-6834778 – fax +31-20-6834582

In this year Dresden marks the kick-of for the ‘super election year 2009’ and far right groups will exploit the public platform for political propaganda. Under the patronage of the German authorities this annual neo-nazi gathering in Dresden mainstreams right-wing extremism, destructs democracy and corrupts the country’s political conviction. It is simply a SCANDAL that police is protecting the biggest neo-nazi gathering in whole Europe and that Dresden’s authorities accept that right-wing extremists are taking over places and topics of remembrance. We shall not allow any propaganda platform to right-wing extremists.

This self declared ‘March of mourning and commemoration’ of neo-nazis from all over Europe has nothing to do with freedom of speech! The neo-nazi party NPD (National Party Germany), one of the co-organisers of this march, refers to the destruction of Dresden in 1945 as a ‘bombing Holocaust’, comparing the air raids with the murder of millions of Jews. Banners, flags and public speeches at the neo-nazi gathering openly relativise the nazi crimes, downgrade the Holocaust, glorify nationalism and ‘mourn’ the territorial losses of the ‘Third Reich’ after the 2nd World War.

Right-wing extremist mass events like in Dresden promote the entrance into the anti-democratic movement among the participants, celebrate the brotherhood of a supposed national-socialist identity and provide a networking platform for right-wing extremists from all over Europe.

Such revisionist remembrance events strengthen the traditional lines towards the historical National Socialism. Equalising the victims of the air raids on Dresden and the victims who died in the concentration and destruction camps downplays and trivialises the Holocaust.

While Leningrad (RUS), Rotterdam (NL) or Coventry (GB) were targets of the German war of aggression and destruction, Dresden was bombed in the course of the ending of Hitler’s national-socialist tyranny. Many right wing extremists argument that the bombing of Dresden was rather aimed to ‘take revenge’ on the civil society in Germany than targeted at military and industrial areas. Far-right politicians in Germany have sparked a national debate by promoting the term “Bombenholocaust” (“holocaust by bomb”) to describe the raids. In order to oppose the extreme right propaganda, the difference between the Holocaust and the bombing of Dresden may not be blurred.

This piece is from I CARE (Internet Centre Against Racism Europe)

Attempt to firebomb UK synagogue – and other antisemitic indidents

This piece, by Craig Silver, is from the Jewish Chronicle.

An attempt was made to firebomb a London synagogue at the weekend in a protest against Israel’s actions in Gaza.

The attack, just before midnight on Sunday, at Brondesbury Synagogue in Willesden, North-West London, was the most serious of 25 antisemitic incidents that have occurred since Israel launched its operation on December 27.

Firemen were called to put out a fire that had been started at the front door of the United Synagogue premises. A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said the fire had almost certainly been started by an accelerant. An empty petrol can had been found nearby.

According to a Community Security Trust spokesman, the attackers attempted to smash a window and throw in a petrol bomb but were prevented from doing so by protective security film. “They then attempted to set light to the front door with petrol, causing damage to the exterior,” he said.

The police spokesperson said they were aware of three youths, described as Asian and aged between 16 and 23, seen in the area of the synagogue, though they were not seen starting the fire. Police in Brent have appealed for witnesses to come forward.

In North-West London, a gang of between 15 and 20 youths rampaged down Golders Green Road last Wednesday trying to force their way into Jewish restaurants and shops. A motorist was dragged from his car and assaulted. The following day, another car was driven up and down the road while its occupants shouted antisemitic slogans.

Graffiti has appeared on communal buildings in North-East London and in Jewish areas in Manchester. Jewish organisations and individuals have also been the targets of graffiti and abuse, via post and e-mail.

Demonstrations and rallies protesting against Israel’s actions in Gaza were held in a number of UK centres on Saturday. About 2,000 demonstrators in Central London tried to reach the Israeli embassy.

After clashes with police, 13 people were arrested for public order offences.

Press release from B’nai B’rith Europe:

B’nai B’rith Europe condemns recent damage to and attempted arson of synagogues in Toulouse, Toulon, Metz, Charleroi and Brussels, of a Jewish school in Brussels, of cars and shops belonging to Jews in the Kremlin Bicetre (France), in Toulon (France), Brussels and Antwerp (Belgium).

B’nai B’rith Europe urges the authorities to make every effort to identify and question those responsible for these unspeakable acts of vandalism. This new outbreak of anti-Semitic violence is linked to many anti-Israeli demonstrations held throughout Europe following Israel’s decision to respond to Hamas terrorist attacks, organised by people close to the radical Islamist movement.

B’nai B’rith Europe is requesting that all European governments ensure that every effort will be made to avoid the exporting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into Europe, which is causing inter-community tensions.