As British Jews come under attack, the liberal left must not remain silent

Jonathan Freedland

Jonathan Freedland

This piece, by Jonathan Freedland, is from Comment is Free

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks on September 11 2001 and July 7 2005, a noble impulse seized the British liberal left. Politicians, commentators and activists united to say to their fellow citizens that, no matter how outraged they felt at the loss of civilian life they had just witnessed, they should under no circumstances take out that anger on the Muslim community. Progressive voices insisted that Muslims were not to be branded as guilty by association, just because the killers of 9/11 and 7/7 had been Muslims and had claimed to act in the name of all Muslims.

They urged Britons to be careful in their language, not to generalise from a few individuals to an entire community, to make clear to Britain’s Muslims that they were a welcome part of the national life. One week after the 7/7 London attacks, a vast crowd gathered in Trafalgar Square to hear a call for unity led by then mayor Ken Livingstone, who said Londoners should not start looking for “who to blame and who to hate”.

It was the right reaction and I am glad that, writing on these pages, I shared it, denouncing the surge in Islamophobia that greeted either a terrorist attack or the revelation of a terror plot. Yet there’s been a curious silence in the last few weeks. Once again many are outraged by the loss of civilian life they have witnessed – this time in Gaza. Yet there has been no chorus of liberal voices insisting that, no matter how intense their fury, people must not take out that anger on Britain’s Jewish community.

It’s worth stating the obvious – that Operation Cast Lead is not 9/11 or 7/7, that Israel is not al-Qaida – and noting that the silence has not been absolute. In a very welcome move, a group of leading Muslims wrote an open letter condemning apparent Gaza-related attacks on Jews. Meanwhile, Labour’s Denis MacShane, in a passionate article for Progress magazine, urged those on the left not “to turn criticism of Israel into a condemnation of Jews”.

Otherwise, it has been eerily quiet. Those who in 2001 or 2005 rapidly spoke out against guilt by association have been mute this time. Yet this is no abstract concern. For British Jews have indeed come under attack.

According to the Community Security Trust, the body that monitors anti-Jewish racism, the four weeks after Cast Lead began saw an eightfold increase in antisemitic incidents in Britain compared with the same period a year earlier. It reports 250 incidents – nearly 10 a day – the highest number since it began its work 25 years ago. Among them are attacks on synagogues, including arson, and physical assaults on Jews. One man was set upon in Golders Green, north London, by two men who shouted, “This is for Gaza”, as they punched and kicked him to the ground.

Blood-curding graffiti has appeared in Jewish areas across the country, slogans ranging from “Slay the Jewish pigs”, and “Kill the Jews”, to “Jewish bastardz.” Jewish schools have been advised to be on high alert against attack. Most now have security guards on the door; some have a police presence.

The threat is real, and yet barely a word has been heard from those who pride themselves on their vigilance against racism. But there is more than a sin of omission here.

Take last month’s demonstrations against Israel. Riazat Butt, the Guardian’s religious affairs correspondent, describes in a joint edition of the Guardian’s Islamophonic and Sounds Jewish podcasts how at one demo she heard the cry not only of “Down with Israel” but “Kill Jews”. An anti-war protest in Amsterdam witnessed chants of: “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas.”

At the London events, there were multiple placards deploying what has now become a commonplace image: the Jewish Star of David equated with the swastika. From the podium George Galloway declared: “Today, the Palestinian people in Gaza are the new Warsaw ghetto, and those who are murdering them are the equivalent of those who murdered the Jews in Warsaw in 1943.”

Now what, do you imagine, is the effect of repeating, again and again, that Israel is a Nazi state? Even those with the scantest historical knowledge know that the Nazis are the embodiment of evil to which the only appropriate response is hate. How surprising is it if a young man, already appalled by events in Gaza, walks home from a demo and glimpses the Star of David – which he now sees as a latter-day swastika – outside a synagogue and decides to torch the building, or at least desecrate it? Yet Galloway, along with Livingstone, who was so careful in July 2005, did not hesitate to make the comparison (joined by a clutch of Jewish anti-Israel activists who should know better).

The counter-arguments here are predictable. Some will say they take pains to distinguish between Zionists and Jews. Intellectually, that’s fine; in the seminar room, it holds water. The trouble is, it doesn’t mean much on the street – at least not to the man who saw a group of Manchester Jews leaving synagogue on January 17 and shouted “Free Palestine, you motherfuckers,” before giving them the Nazi salute.

The liberal left should know this already. After all, when Jack Straw wrote his notorious piece about the hijab, full of qualifications, progressives understood that none of that would matter: it would be read as an attack on all Muslims. And so it was. For all Straw’s careful phrasing, Muslim women whose heads were covered were attacked. Liberals warned Straw that he was playing with fire. Today’s anti-Israel activists need to realise they are doing the same.

Besides, this business of distinguishing between good and bad Jews has a long history. Anthony Julius, author of a definitive study of English antisemitism, says that, with the exception of the Nazis, Jew-haters have always made distinctions. Christian antisemites accepted Jews who were ready to convert and rejected those who refused. A century ago, Winston Churchill drew a line between homegrown British Jews and those spreading Bolshevism. Now the dividing line is affinity for Israel.

But the logical corollary of this is that, if Jews refuse to dissociate themselves from Israel, then they are fair game for abuse and attack until they publicly recant. Liberals rightly recoil from the constant pressure on Muslims to explain themselves and denounce jihadism or even islamism. Yet they make the same implicit demand when they suggest Jews are OK, unless they are Zionists. The effect is to make Jews’ place in British society contingent on their distance from their fellow Jews, in this case, Israelis.

Nor is it good enough to say that most Jews support Israel. Yes, most have a strong affinity and family ties to the Jewish state. But that doesn’t mean they support every policy, including the one that led to such mayhem in Gaza. And do we think that those who kicked the man in Golders Green first stopped to ask his opinion of the merits of Cast Lead?

I know that some will say that even raising this is an attempt to divert attention from the real and larger issue, Israel’s brutality in Gaza and the colossal number of civilian deaths that entailed. I won’t accept that. Regular readers know that I denounced Cast Lead from the beginning. But I shouldn’t have to say that. These two matters are separate. It is perfectly possible to condemn Israel’s current conduct and to stand firmly against anti-Jewish prejudice. And it’s about time liberals and the left said so.

This piece, by Jonathan Freedland, is from Comment is Free

63 Responses to “As British Jews come under attack, the liberal left must not remain silent”

  1. Gil Says:

    Jonathan Freedland has made some valuable points here. His credentials on the ME conflict mean that his narrative should give many people on the Left something to think about. Of course, Galloway will not change, though. He uses the Holocaust to claim that Muslims face a similar fate – heard on his radio programme.

    The disgraceful Gerald Kaufman MP could learn from Freedland. Will he say something along these lines too?

  2. David Rosenberg Says:

    Any manifestations of antisemitism, like any other form of racism, is wrong full stop.

    The fact that antisemitic incidents have risen during the Gaza War of course indicates that a small minority opposed to the war are blaming any and every Jew and venting their anger on Jewish targets. The fact that hundreds of Jews took part in the several large anti-war protests under Jewish banners, without any hassle, indeed with lots of positive support from the people they marched with and from the platform speakers – confirms that we are dealing with a marginal rogue element, but an element that may grow unless their wrongheaded attacks are condemned.

    I’m presuming that in the context of separating an attitude to Israeli policy and an attitude to Jews in general, Jonathan Freedland, and those supporting his arguments, would likewise be none too pleased about the Board of Deputies/Chief rabbi/ZF et al trying to corral any and every Jew into supporting Israel’s war.

    • Fritz Wunderlich Says:

      This sounds a bit strange, a bit like blackmail.
      If Jews are marching with anti-war protesters in a big crowd, against Israel, they are not in danger.
      Otherwise yes, as Rosenberg indicates when mentioning the Chief rabbi?? And by minimizing the antisemitic attacks to a small minority?

  3. Jonathan Romer Says:

    As far as it goes, Jonathan Freedland’s article says the right things — it just doesn’t go far enough. It is a poor defence of Jews and a poor defence of freedom of thought and speech to build your argument around “Yes, most have a strong affinity and family ties to the Jewish state. But that doesn’t mean they support every policy, including the one that led to such mayhem in Gaza.” What of it if they support every single policy? Does that make them fair game?

    British Jews, like everyone else, have the right to support anything they choose without having violence done to them or their communal institutions. You can criticise or argue all you want, but you have no more right to threaten harm than I have to threaten Galloway or Tamimi or Tonge or any of the rest of that crowd for their odious politics. The only thing you can rightly threaten me with is the law, if law is on your side. Is it just Freedland’s oversight, or is it indicative that that basic freedom is becoming unavailable to supporters of Israel in today’s Britain?

  4. Susan Says:

    I’ve had a chance to read the comments to Freedland’s post. I’m sorry to say that you’re wrong Gil. Its the usual response that Jews cry antisemitism whenever anyone criticizes Israel.

  5. Saul Says:

    Rosenberg is so flattered by the fact that he and others marching “as Jews” received “lots of positive support from the people they marched with and from the platform speakers” that he doesn’t realise that this very expression of “support” is part of the phenomenon that Friedland is addressing. After all, it must feel good to bathe in the light of being the “good Jews”.

    Once again, Rosenberg and his little groups of Bundists indicate just how ignorant they are of the dynamics of antisemitism.

    (One of the speakers “supporting” Rosenberg and his merry bund was Tamini; you know the one who screamed “We are all Hamas now”. My, how proud Rosenberg must feel by recieving praise from such a man.)

  6. David Says:

    David,
    Surely the test for antisemitism is not to be measured by those with whom there is agreement on a particular matter?

    Surely, the test for antisemitism is to measure it by the response to those Jews who are not in agreement and who choose to express that opposition?

    Regards

  7. Dave Rich Says:

    David

    Have you considered the possibility that by marching alongside Jews in friendship, thereby demonstrating that they are not antisemitic, some anti-Israel activists feel free to attack any Jews who do not actively dissociate themselves from Israel?

    Or do you believe that somebody is only antisemitic if they hate all Jews equally?

  8. Linda Grant Says:

    I did not support the war in Gaza. I would have attended a demonstration but one in which the organisers made it clear by their platform speakers that views like my own were welcome. Had there been an invitation say to one of the rabbis who signed the Observer letter, I would have gone. But I believe, and perhaps David Rosenberg can tell me I’m wrong, that the organisers would not invite any platform speaker who was identified as a Zionist and who openly opposed Hamas.

  9. NIMN Says:

    Pat comments like “opposing antisemitism” misses the point here.

    Freidland’s comments come down to the notion that there is an antisemitism that liberals and the left then chose to remain silent about. However, the problem is far deeper than that.

    To chose to speak or not about antisemitism is dependent upon a prior stage of a recognition of antisemitism.

    However, as many of us know, in the present climate, not only is antisemitism as a phenomenon denied (i.e. one is wrong in saying that x or y is antisemitic – so those who raise it are factually wrong), but is claimed that those who raise it to do dishonestly and for their own oppressive interests, (I.e. that it is a diversionary tactic used by “Zionists” to stifle debate; etc.)

    No longer are anti-racists told when they mention antisemitism, they are wrong, they are told that they are liars and are, indeed, nothing more than part of the problem.

  10. Englender Says:

    “The fact that hundreds of Jews took part in the several large anti-war protests under Jewish banners, without any hassle…confirms that we are dealing with a marginal rogue element, but an element that may grow unless their wrongheaded attacks are condemned.” David Rosenberg

    Some of us in the US refused to demonstrate against the Gaza operation precisely because many demonstrators insisted on equating Israel with Nazi Germany and what is worse acted like Nazis themselves yelling at Jews to go “to the ovens.”

    Yes, they probably would have welcomed me as a ‘Jewish demonstrator” the way Stalinists welcomed help from wealthy donors. That doesn’t mean that they weren’t bourgeois.

    I refuse to become a useful idiot, David Rosenberg.

  11. David Rosenberg Says:

    Linda et al ,
    On the second and much larger of the demonstrations I listened to many of the platform speeches while we waited in Hyde Park to move. Very, very few mentioned Hamas. And very few banners/placards did either. The banners and placards were overwhelmingly demanding an end to the war and an end to the blockade of Gaza. And it was clear from lots of individual conversations that many demonstrtors did not have high regard for Hamas but were there to support the Palestinian people. They recognised that while Israel certainly wanted to weaken Hamas this was essentially a war on the Palestinians and the people were paying a higher price than their politicians.

    On at least one of the demos there was a positive reference from the speakers platform to the rabbis letter – a letter that was critical within a Zionist framework. I don’t think any Zionists offered themselves as speakers but the speakers represented quite a range from political to human rights commentators several of whom would not be easy to pigeon hole on their attitude to Zionism as such.

    Of course I respect your reasons, but I think it was a shame that you and Jonathan F were not there as I think you would have perhaps seen it in a different light. I’ve seen various blogs with photos that have focused on the most marginal unpleasant elements that tagged along but if you were there I’m sure you would have acknowledged that they were very marginal to the marches as a whole.

    Personally I was very pleasantly surprised by the numbers of Jews who were marching together week after week in January. They included people I knew had never done this before, some of whom work for Jewish organsations, but they told me that Israel had crossed a certain line and they felt it was time for them to do so too.

    PS: Saul – take a chill pill, you are sounding more an more like Melanie Philips every day

  12. Linda Grant Says:

    My question is whether the organisers would have invited people like Tony Bayfield or Julia Neuberger, not whether they offered themselves. My understanding is that the demonstrations were organised by the Stop the War Coalition and the PSC. What is their policy on sharing a platform with Zionists, other than to debate them?

  13. Saul Says:

    “Saul – take a chill pill, you are sounding more an more like Melanie Philips every day”

    Dear David,
    I apologise without reservation for my tone. These have been difficult times for many of us.

    Thank you so much for your comments, they are truly appreciated. However, it seems to me that you have not really addressed the matter at stake. A couple of questions, if I may.

    Do you think that the left and liberal left are choosing not to raise the issue of antisemitism as it has arisen in relation recent events in Gaza and Southern Israel as Friedland argues? Indeed, do you see antisemitism as implicated in this issue at all? I am thinking here, for example, of Tony Benn’s comment that the Israel/Zionist Lobby would stop Christ speaking a sermon on love if it was deemed criticism of Israel?

    Do you agree with NIMN that those raising the question of antisemitism have been treated with suspicion? I refer you, for example, by comments to Caroline Lucas where, inter alia, she claimed that all criticism of Israel is met by accusations of antisemitism.

    Do you think that, as another commenter asked, the test for antisemitism is not so much to be gauged by those Jews whom are seen as agreeing with the general opinion, but of those who hold different political perspectives that may not agree with others? Here, the idea that your welcome on marches would not have been so warm had you held a placard that states, for example, “No IDF, No Hamas” or, e.g. “Two-States now” (I am not asking if you agree with those statements; that is not the issue here).

    Do you not think that the welcome you received implied something about those Jews who make take a different position; something beyond what is expected of legitimate political discourse.

    And, what of the situation that “Englander” found himself in? Or the case in Holland where, to return to the original post, a Dutch protester (MEP?) remained silent in the face of “Gas the Jews” chant?

    I am sure that, like me, you appreciate that these are important points and should be discussed openly.

    Please realise that even though they above appear as a list of questions, they are not to be read with a litigious inflexion. It is merely a form that can ensure a fruitful debate ensues.

    Regards,
    Saul

  14. Lbnaz Says:

    The demo organizers who smashed the ‘No to Hamas; No to the IDF’ placard and evicted the bearer of the placard from the demo, render Rosenberg’s special pleading hollow.

  15. Linda Grant Says:

    Just to expand this a little, I am certain you are quite right that many in the crowd did not support Hamas, but that was not my question. I understand that there was a Hamas representative on the platform. Would the organisers have invited a Zionist speaker who was opposed to Hamas and said so?

    In other words, did the organisation of demonstrations, as opposed to those who turned up, involve a willingness to include a perspective on the platform which was a) supportive of Israel b) opposed to Hamas c) opposed to Operation
    Cast lead on moral/humanitarian grounds?

    Saying there were Jews on the platform is not very relevant if those Jews are so marginal to the mainstream.

  16. Efraim Says:

    “They included people I knew had never done this before, some of whom work for Jewish organsations, but they told me that Israel had crossed a certain line and they felt it was time for them to do so too.”

    Could you explain what kind of line Israel crossed? You are being very vague, David.

    How would you have responded to rocket attacks on your family and neighbors?

    How do you think Israel should respond to Hamas an organization that quotes from “The Protocols….” in its charter?

    Finally, while your own demonstration may have been more tolerant of Jews you still have to recognize that Jews are being attacked all over Europe (physically as well as socially with threats of boycotts, etc) and that the attackers use the Gaza war as an excuse. How do you plan on dealing with that?

  17. Another Observer Says:

    As with so many others, “David Rosenberg” does not ask himself the more fundamental questions

    In a world of continuing atrocities why is it the rather small-scale conflict in Gaza and South Israel that brings the large sections of the left and liberal left to such rage?

    Why is it that it is a rather small-scale conflict in Gaza and South Israel that leads to a eight fold increase in attacks of Jewish institutional properties and persons?

    Why is it that it is a rather small-scale conflict in Gaza and South Israel that leads to accusations that the Jews/Zionists are so powerful they can determine the political/humanitarian policies of the BBC.?

    Why is it that it is a rather small-scale conflict in Gaza and South Israel that leads to respected members of liberal and the left to talk in terms of a “Zionist Lobby” and of “cynical exploitation” of the Holocaust?

    Why is it that it is a rather small-scale conflict in Gaza and South Israel that leads to Jews and Israelis being compared to Nazis and Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto of the 1940’s?

    Why is it that it is a rather small-scale conflict in Gaza and South Israel that leads to the liberals and the left turning on anyone who dare mention antisemitism?

    Why is it that it is a rather small-scale conflict in Gaza and South Israel that leads to university occupations across the UK? Why is it that it is a rather small-scale conflict in Gaza and South Israel that leads to chants of “Death to the Jews” in the streets of European cities for the first time since the Dreyfus Affair at the end of the 20th century.

    Why is it that it is a rather small-scale conflict in Gaza and South Israel that has acted as a point of convergence for the political forces of the right/centre/left and which organises itself the noun of a fantastical “Zionist” as its collective enemy?

    The question of “proportionality” so often raised by the outraged appears a far more appropriate question in this context than in its original setting.

  18. David Rosenberg Says:

    In answer to some of the points (and thanks Saul for the change in tone – I’d rather look for points where we can agree, or at least disagree without gratuitous invective).

    Strangely enough a few years back there was a Stop the War Demo where we were trying to get a Jewish Socialist speaker on the platform but they were fobbing us off because they wanted a rabbi or somebody more from the mainstream. So if Bayfield or Neuberger were willing to speak on such platforms today I think they would be welcomed.

    Linda – yes the demos were organised by STWC and PSC – but they were essentially the umbrella. The people who turned out for them and made the demos what they were, were many times greater than the numbers afffiiated to either of these organisations. PSC has on several occasions had Israeli refuseniks speaking some of whom would probably describe themselves as Zionists

    I think debate is happening within the left about antisemitism and its relation to the Gaza but at more subterranean levels, away form the public eye. Tomorrow, for example, a JSG member will be speaking to a meeting at a predominantly Muslim inner city school, invited by a non-Jewish teacher who supports STWC, asking our speaker to address the dangers of antisemitism in the current situation.

    I’ve got a feature in the Morning Star today stressing the importance of oppositional voices within Israel. Robert Fisk wrote a strong piece recently against Holocaust analogies. and myself and others have been having fruitful discussions about that on various blogs.

    I think also it is important to recognise that there is a difference between thought-out antisemites exploiting pro-Palestinian marches, and more naive individuals, perhaps demonstrating for the first time who don’t make the distinctions we understand between Jewish people in general and supporters of Israel’s war (distinctions which as I said earlier Jewish community leaders constantly blur). And when you encounter these people on demos – as we do – we debate with them and persuade them, usually successfully, to see things differently.

    What happened on the demo on Holland was completely unacceptable. What I’ve heard about the Sheffield demo seems to fall into a long-running “Life of Brian” sectarian dispute between SWP and AWL, which I’ve got no desire to get embroiled in but I do know that Peter Tatchell had no problems on the London demos walking with a placard criticising both Hamas and IDF. The leaflets that the JSG gave out on the demos stated clearly that our politics were not the politics of Hamas. They were eagerly taken and no-one commented on that aspect.

    I don’t find people on the left suspicious of the issue of antisemitism in relation to these events being raised by people committed to peace with justice for the Palestinians.

  19. Joshua Says:

    ‘Could you explain what kind of line Israel crossed? You are being very vague, David.’

    He is a lot less vague in this piece:

    http://tinyurl.com/cg2ccu

  20. Joshua Says:

    ‘Saying there were Jews on the platform is not very relevant if those Jews are so marginal to the mainstream.’

    As indeed are you, at least in relation to this issue.

  21. Saul Says:

    I see that in today’s Guardian Anthony Lerner is blaming JIsrael for “provoking” antisemitism.

    Well, here’ the thing. Jews don’t provoke antisemitism and never have “provoked” antisemitism.

    Antisemites have always justified their antisemitism as a (justified) reaction to some wrong committed by Jews.

    Early Jew-haters justified their hatred because Jews refused the message of Christ.

    Early-modern Jew-haters justified their hatred of Jews because Jews were seen as not loyal to the nation-state?

    Modern antisemites justified their hatred of Jews because of their alleged economic, cultural, social and political power

    Post-modern/post-colonial antisemites hate Jews because of the actions of the Jewish state.

    Lerman should know better than blame the victims of racism for the racism they are subject to.
    Lerman is naturalisng antisemitism by implying that whenever Jews act in the world and come into conflict with others, antisemitism will naturally, automatically follow.
    Lerman thinks that to stop antisemitism, Jews have to behave themselves and not upset anyone else or suffer the very real consequences.

    The major concern of Jews in the diaspora at the moment is antisemitism. The Jewish left and liberals are letting them down. The Jewish left and liberals analysis of contemporary antisemitism is to blame the very people whom as in the past, they have defended without reservation.

    The Jewish left and liberals are saying that, like the non-Jewish left, their fight against antisemitism is conditional on Jewish “good behaviour”.

    Lerman’s attitude show the bankruptcy not only of the liberal and Jewish left, but, more specifically, the Jewish liberal and left.

  22. Mark Gardner Says:

    Its important to acknowledge David Rosenberg’s contextualising of what was actually said from the stage, and the fact that Jews were welcomed by so many of the marchers: because this confirms yet again the complexity of contemporary antisemitism – it isn’t the 1930s, and it seems quite apparent that openly antisemitic rhetoric is not what fuelled and emboldened the perpetrators of antisemitic incidents during the Gaza conflict.

    I think its entirely natural for Jews to get so excited about Israel and Zionism, (regardless of their political perpsective). But why do so many others care? I’d be very cautious before buying into their trinity of “Hate Israel, Fear Zionism, Love Jews”

    Can anyone doubt that for as long as anti-Zionist fear and hysteria, and anti-Israel rage and obsession are at their current levels, we will continue to see antisemitic incidents going through the roof?

  23. Linda Grant Says:

    I entirely accept what you say about the majority of people on the marches. Some friends of mine who were on the 2003 anti Iraq war demo told me how they met up with some of their former neighbours on the march and they went off to John Lewis for afternoon tea.

    But when I look at the line-up on the stage at these Gaza demos, I see Galloway and I see Tammimi, but I don’t see anyone like Julia Neuberger. The question is whether they were asked. And I still don’t know the answer to that. I do know that the STWC is top heavy with SWP apparachiks who think Zionism is racism.

    And as others have pointed out, do Jews deserve to be victims of anti-semitic attack because they are Zionists, or is it the ‘good’ Jews of the anti-Zionist left which your constituency is prepared to leave alone? So when you debate with these people on demos, are you saying, look, not all Jews are Zionists? Because while that is obviously true, they are a minority when it comes to Jews who think that Israel has a right to exist.

    I read a great deal about ‘the Zionists’ – baldly, ‘the Zionists’ is by a reasonable yardstick, Jews.

  24. Linda Grant Says:

    Here, by the way, is Andrew Murray writing in the Morning Star :

    ‘The start of 2009 has seen an extraordinary upsurge of mass solidarity action with the Palestinian people.

    The brutal Israeli assault on Gaza, with more than 1,400 deaths, has stimulated a broader and more militant movement of support for the Palestinians than this country has ever seen.

    As well as the largest-ever national demonstration on the issue in London last month, this movement has encompassed scores of local protests, even in relatively small towns, students’ occupations and public condemnation of the BBC’s shameful refusal to broadcast the Gaza charity appeal.

    The movement fuses the humanitarian impulse to assist devastated Gaza with political anger directed not only at the Israeli war criminals but also at our own government’s complicity in their crimes. Second, the coalition is the obvious, albeit not the only, place where all elements campaigning on these issues, from Muslims to trade unionists, from socialists to pacifists and from Liberal Democrats to students, not forgetting socialist Muslim trade unionists and pacifist liberal students, can work in unity together. ‘

    Do you notice a group missing from the list in that final para, David? Does it convey the impression that Jews play a significant or any part in this coalition? Do you understand why someone like me doesn’t trust these characters?

  25. modernityblog Says:

    Dave Rosenberg wrote:

    “I think debate is happening within the left about antisemitism and its relation to the Gaza but at more subterranean levels, away form the public eye.”

    Sorry Dave, but I can’t find many examples that much of the British Left is terribly concerned with the outbreak of violent antisemitic incidents in the past 2 months.

    Isn’t that the problem?

    Maybe I am wrong, but please do correct me if you can, where are the reports on the Synagogue desecrated in Venezuela? Or the problem of antisemitic graffiti? etc

    If I were to read the major British Left web sites would I see them? Or do sites provide access to CST reports on these events? unlikely

    Still, you will remember a few years back when the Parliamentary report on antisemitism came out?

    It was attacked all over the place, yet reports of Jews getting physically assaulted doesn’t

    do you see the disparity?

  26. Lizzy P Says:

    Isn’t it true that Anthony Lerman’s cravenness and stupidity in the face of antisemitism might, perhaps, make people think that all Jews are craven and stupid and might, thereby, encourage antisemitism?

  27. Jacob Says:

    David Rosenberg: “I think also it is important to recognise that there is a difference between thought-out antisemites exploiting pro-Palestinian marches, and more naive individuals, perhaps demonstrating for the first time who don’t make the distinctions we understand between Jewish people in general and supporters of Israel’s war (distinctions which as I said earlier Jewish community leaders constantly blur).”

    How can you tell which is which, David?

    How do you distinguish between a “well thought out antisemite exploiting pro-Palestinian marches” (whatever well thought means here) and someone who attacks Jews because of Gaza? In what way is a Galloway less an antisemite than your imagined “well thought out” antisemite?

    I notice also that you didn’t answer some of the harder questions asked of you above. In what way did Israel “cross certain lines?” Why is Israel being condemned in these demonstrations but not Sri Lanka (or many other conflicts around the world) which killed many more civilians in the same period?

    Here is an article by a well known Mexican writer, excellently translated by Eamonn McDonaghon:

    asking similar questions:

    http://blog.z-word.com/2009/02/enrique-krauze-on-gaza/

    “Enrique Krauze is a Mexican writer and, among other roles, the editor of Letras Libres. The following is my translation of part of an op-ed piece by him that appeared this week in El País.”
    Here is the same article in the original Spanish:

    http://www.elpais.com/articulo/opinion/enfasis/sospechoso/elpepuopi/20090204elpepiopi_17/Tes

    David please answer the questions about why do you think Israel is more deserving of opprobrium than these other countries? Why is Israel but not say Russia or Sri Lanka compared to Nazi Germany? Here is where the issue of antisemitism is to be found not just in the ugly chants of some demonstrators.

  28. Jerry Webb Says:

    “perhaps demonstrating for the first time who don’t make the distinctions we understand between Jewish people in general and supporters of Israel’s war (distinctions which as I said earlier Jewish community leaders constantly blur).”

    This is the second time Dave has attacked Jewish community leaders. These leaders have the responsibility of administering to whole community and not just to anti-Zionist Jews like Dave. They are also responsible for caring for hospitals, cemeteries and schools.

    They are the ones who see young Jewish children abused by antisemites and have to work out ways of dealing with it.

    Dave goes to one or another demonstration against Israel and he thinks he is being moral. He doesn’t have to deal with the consequences of his actions on other members of the Jewish community. It isn’t “Israel’s war,” an ugly phrase, and those who support Israel’s right to defend itself, which is the cause of such Jew hatred. Rather it’s Jew hatred which is singling out Israel and Jews for disproportionate censure.

    To say that such discrimination is wrong is not the same as “supporting war.”

  29. Jacob Says:

    David Rosenberg: “I think also it is important to recognise that there is a difference between thought-out antisemites exploiting pro-Palestinian marches, and more naive individuals, perhaps demonstrating for the first time who don’t make the distinctions we understand between Jewish people in general and supporters of Israel’s war…”

    How can you tell which is which, David?

    Also, why is Israel being condemned in these demonstrations but not Sri Lanka (or many other conflicts around the world) which killed many more civilians in the same period?

    David, could you answer the questions about why you think Israel is more deserving of opprobrium than these other countries? Why is Israel but not say Russia or Sri Lanka compared to Nazi Germany?

    Here is where the issue of antisemitism is to be found not just in the ugly chants of “some naïve “demonstrators.

  30. Saul Says:

    What exactly does Anthony Lerman think of non-Jews? Does he distrust them so much as to think that the second Jews “misbehave” themselves , they will suddenly and automatically be “provoked” into turning antisemitic?

    Does he think that inherent within all non-Jews there is an antisemite just waiting his or her moment until a Jew slips up?

    Isn’t this the very kind of belief that drove Herzl and other early Zionists to the dream, and actuality, of a Jewish homeland?

  31. Linda Grant Says:

    David, I can you see you have it coming from all sides. If you’d like to continue this discussion more quietly, do email via the link on my website (just google my name.)

  32. Saul Says:

    David,
    There has been an eight fold rise of reported antisemitic attacks. At the stwc Taminii screams “We are all Hamas now”. Jews everywhere feel antisemitism in the air. Benn bleats on about Christ Love and the Zionist Lobby
    You may well be right, and it is marginal. (I disagree, but that is not what is at issue here). However, Freidland’s point is the lack of open challenge to those events and those feelings.
    I am sure that when you come across this type of garbage at demos, etc. you do make challenges. That is to be applauded (but what else should JSG or any Jewish organisation do??).

    What concerns me and JF is that no leading member at those same demos have ever openly condemned antisemitism from the platform. Not one leading player has written an op-ed in, say, the Guardian or Independent clearly and categorically opposing even the allegedly “marginal” presence of anti-Jewish hostility within stwc’s rank.

    It is as if merely raising the presence of antisemitism is seen as somehow indicating support for Israel. It also appears to give those elements a “green light”, whether intentional or not intentional.

    That is what concerns Friedland and that is what concerns me.

    And, here, I have not even begin to raise the points made by “Another Observer” of what he terms the more “fundamental” questions.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts. Of course, no alliance can ever be perfect, but demanding some basic respect for the concerns of others (in this case Jews) is surely fundamental.

    Regards,
    Saul

  33. Saul Says:

    Linda and David,
    I understand that you would like to continue your discussion in a more “quiet” environment. I accept full responsibility for my opening tone, for which I have apologised and have tried to engage in a more appropriate manner.
    However, I have been following your discussion with great interest. (I thought carefully in continuing my own response as I did not want to detract from it).
    I would like to see how the discussion progresses along with points of agreement and disagreement.
    In other words, could I ask you to continue “openly”? Both of you have the right to respond to those comments you want and to ignore the rest and engage with those you choose.
    Could I ask you, respectfully, therefore, to reconsider your absenting yourself from this current thread.
    Thanks,
    Saul

  34. David Rosenberg Says:

    Saul, I appreciate the desire to keep this correspondence open and ongoing and your recognition that some points may be worthwhile routes for fruitful discussion than others (including red herrings that have been rehearsed endless times).

    I will make a few points now but may not be back for a while after – just got a really heavy workload this weekend and the next few days ,with some of my downtime to be taken up watching West Ham become the first team to put a goal past Man U for several weeks!

    Linda asks me to clarify whether I think Jews who are Zionist deserve to be the targets of antisemitic attack. No, I dont. This war was chosen and carried out by political and military leaders in Israel who used a largely conscript army to perpetrate it. I don’t regard the Jewish people as responsible for it, and though the Israeli public was largely supportive of it, they were also starved of alternative news angles on it. And beyond Jews/Israelis we have to recognise that the arms that were used were manufactured and sold from Britain and America, so America’s ex-government and Britain’s current government must bear some responsibility. So legitimate anger at the war should be directed principally at those responsible.

    Saul, I have known Tony Lerman since the early 80s and have always had a lot of respect for his opinons in general but you may be reading too much into a clumsy shorthand phrase in the last couple of sentences of an article in the Guardian today that I thought was on the whole eminently reasonable.

    I disagree with him that Israel provokes antisemitism. It provokes anger, despair, hatred, (and as a parent I can imagine some of what I would be feeling if I was a bereaved parent in Gaza, of whom there are now very many) among those directly affected, but if anyone here choses to express their solidarity with those feelings in an antisemitic way that is a conscious choice (though sometimes made out of ignorance), so I wish Tony had taken more care with that phrasing, but I don’t think it invalidates the other points he was making.

    Regarding Mark G’s descriptions of anti-Zionist fear, hysteria and rage – there was some of that at the demos but I don’t really recognise it as at all an accurate portrayal of the mainstream of the demonstrations. The main emotions I observed (and felt) on the largest demonstration was sadness and a sense that however large our protest the carnage would contiunue up till Obama’s inauguration.

    Last weekend I was very struck by Avi Shlaim when he addressed a JFJFP meeting. Now, although some people here tend to label any one to the left of Peace Now as “the enemy” and essentially the same as each other, Avi Shlaim remains a solid and convinced two stater, he recognises the legitimacy of Israel’s formation as a state and its place in the Middle East, and he analyses situations in a very nuanced way. Yet, he describes the war as Israel’s “most savage war” and called it “one sided carnage”. He indicated his general support, as a two stater, for boycott, divestment and sanctions. He also warned against what he saw as undercurrents of classical fascism within Israeli society typified in the (ultimatley thwarted) attempt to ban Arab political parties.

    Meanwhile we are days away from the victory of Netenyahu – the only person who could ever make Ariel Sharon seem like a liberal – and he is already promising new settlements (though not a peace settlement to be sure).

    So, yes we must be vigilant and expose and oppose antisemitism. And we should urge those who stand for left/liberal ideologies not to be blind or indifferent to it but we should also fully recognise and respond appropriately to the forces gathering momentum in Israeli politics/the Israeli state,even if that means standing together with people we may not feel very at one with. And maybe we have to ask what would Israel have to do for Jewish community leaders here to utter one word of public criticism? The phosphorus bombs certainly didn’t register a murmur.

  35. Saul Says:

    David,

    “So, yes we must be vigilant and expose and oppose antisemitism. And we should urge those who stand for left/liberal ideologies not to be blind or indifferent to it but…….”

    For me, there is no categorically no “but” when it comes to antisemitism or racism; whether it be Israel, those few British Jews who support Israeli actions unconditionally, Bernie Madoff, or Jewish department store owners.

    Whatever my views on Israel, for/against/indifferent, I demand and expect from the left and the liberals unconditional support in our struggle against antisemitism as against any other articulation of racism.

    That, I think, is where we differ.
    Saul

  36. modernityblog Says:

    Dave R wrote:

    “So, yes we must be vigilant and expose and oppose antisemitism. “

    but then again as you say “…debate is happening within the left about antisemitism and its relation to the Gaza but at more subterranean levels…”

    which is hardly satisfactory when you try to square the two.

  37. Saul Says:

    David,

    David,

    “So, yes we must be vigilant and expose and oppose antisemitism. And we should urge those who stand for left/liberal ideologies not to be blind or indifferent to it but…….”

    For me, there is no categorically no “but” when it comes to antisemitism or racism; whether it be Israel, those few British Jews who support Israeli actions unconditionally, Bernie Madoff, or Jewish department store owners.

    Whatever my views on Israel, for/against/indifferent, I demand and expect from the left and the liberals unconditional support in our struggle against antisemitism as against any other articulation of racism.

    That, I think, is where we differ.

    Let me put it another way…………..

    I will defend any woman who is discriminated against in the workplace. She may well be an anti-abortionist.

    They are two distinct issues; the former unrelated and unconditional on the latter.

    If I, “as a Jew”, I demand people challenge and confront antisemitism, I will not accept that they then have any right whatsoever to ask my views on Israel, or even the conflict in Gaza. They are two distinct issues.

    If “as a Jew” I choose to voice an opinion on Israel, I do not abrogate my right to choose with whom I will ally myself.

    An illustration here is that a few years back, the RSPCA (or some such group) campaigned against Jewish ritual slaughter. The NF began to tag onto their marches. The campaign was withdrawn post haste.

    Now, I am not saying that simply because antisemites tag along to marches concerning Gaza then the campaign should be withdrawn. On the contrary. What I am saying is that the responsibility for ensuring that antisemitism does not appear in those situations rests with those organising the demonstrations; either through greater policing or through overt statements.

    Those organising the marches on Gaza have failed on both counts.

    Why, in the face of these failures, should I “as a Jew” or as a socialist or as a liberal, ally myself with them? Alternatively, why should they expect me and others like me to “overlook” that failure, especially if I have raised the issue to them previously. They have made a decision on antisemitism. They have related the unrelated, conditioned the unconditional of antisemitism and a position on Israel. They have decided that anti-antisemitism is something dispensable. As a Jew or as a socialist or as a liberal (indeed, as a conservative) that is an unacceptable choice for me. They have forefeited their right to expect me to ally themselves with them, no matter the cause.

    It is a matter of political principle.

    If, after that, they criticise me for not attending or not “speaking out”, they are acting in bad faith.

    That is the bottom line.

    Regards,
    Saul

  38. GideonSwort Says:

    David Rosenberg

    “Israeli public was largely supportive of it, they were also starved of alternative news angles on it”

    Pompous, presumptuous and ignorant.

    You are babbling, and clearly clueless. By far, most Israelis are saturated with news coverage, the gamut of, and international diversity, makes available media coverage in the UK, narrow and pale in comparison.

  39. Gil Says:

    David Rosenberg: ‘So, yes we must be vigilant and expose and oppose antisemitism. And we should urge those who stand for left/liberal ideologies not to be blind or indifferent to it but we should also fully recognise and respond appropriately to the forces gathering momentum in Israeli politics/the Israeli state,even if that means standing together with people we may not feel very at one with.’

    I see, let’s isolate and shun those in the Jewish community who dare not to object to a possible Netanyahu victory, but support Israel’s right to exist. In return let’s support those who will use Net.’s probable victory as a fig leave behind which to object to Israel’s very existence, per se.

    By the way, Netanyahu will have have to govern in a coalition with Barak. In addition, the danger from Iran is looming large and Bibi-Barak will have their hands full with that. So no straw man argument please.

  40. Gil Says:

    Sorry, ‘fig leaf’, not ‘leave’.

  41. Saul Says:

    David,
    One further and final point.
    As I mentioned, you are free to ignore those posts you do not wish to engage with. However, it is rather disrespectful to mention them in passing and in a disparaging manner, (i.e. “including red herrings that have been rehearsed endless times”). I think as a matter of respect, you should either explain why you believe this is the case, or to pass over them in silence. To take a swing at them whilst looking in the other direction is not only not conducive to fruitful debate, but it disrespects both those posters and yourself.
    Regards,
    Saul

  42. Saul Says:

    Is this not the most stupid letter ever written on the subject of antisemitism?

    Jonathan Freedland (As British Jews come under attack, the liberal left must not remain silent, 4 February) is concerned about antisemitic incidents. The simplest, most effective and most moral method to combat anti-semitism is for British Jews, many of whom are unhappy about shameful Israeli policies, to disassociate themselves publicly from those policies. Palestinians, and Muslims in the UK, are crying out for understanding of their situation. When I have identified myself, on demonstrations and in meetings, as a Jew who calls for justice for Palestinians, I have encountered nothing but warmth and appreciation from otherwise angry Muslims. In Coventry, where a number of members of the organisation Jews for Justice for Palestinians have been regularly attending meetings and vigils in opposition to the onslaught on Gaza, there is a growing rapport and warmth between our group and the Muslim community. The pleasure and relief the largely Muslim demonstrators feel at the presence of Jews who can say “We understand; we sympathise” is palpable.

    If there is any antisemitism in some of the recent criticism of Israel, Jews publicly disassociating themselves from Israel’s actions will not legitimise or encourage it. On the contrary, it will help to put paid to the truly dangerous falsehood that what Israel is doing is somehow inherent to Judaism. There is no lingering, millenarian antisemitism, waiting to spring out if we lower our guard. What there is is bafflement, and of course anger, that British Jews appear to sanction the imprisonment, starvation and, now, massacre of defenceless civilians when they are carried out by our brethren.
    Professor David Mond
    Mathematics Institute, Warwick University

    I think it is.

  43. Jacob Says:

    David Rosenberg, I was very disappointed by your reply. You spoke eloquently about the pain Gazan parents may feel about the suffering of their children but failed to even mention the pain, fear and anxiety Israeli parents have been feeling for their children as rockets were falling on their towns for many years.

    You also failed to address what you would have done to stop these rockets attacks. You assumed that Israel was wrong to defend itself and you assumed that Israeli citizens were somehow coerced into supporting their government. These conditions are truer for Hamas dominated Gaza than for Israel.

    You yourself mentioned that Israel will be having elections soon and its citizens will choose their government a situation that Gazans can only dream of.

    Given the little sympathy you show for the plight of Israelis and your ignorance of life in Israel (Israelis are among the most connected via the internet to foreign news in the world, and most of them speak more than one language) I am not surprised that you would minimize the presence of Jew hatred in anti Israel demonstrations.

  44. David Rosenberg Says:

    Saul, I agree with you on the need for better “policing” – (stewarding) of the demos and more overt statements from the organisers of their opposition to anyone using this issue to promote antisemitism, and for antismitism to be opposed unconditionally.

    Where I think we may differ is that I think there are antisemitisms – plural – and how we oppose and undermine them different forms of antisemitism must be based on understanding where they have come from, whether they are backed by a theory or by ignorance, whether an action is intentional or unintentional.

  45. Gil Says:

    David Rosenberg, I don’t think that the first and second paragraphs of your above post can be reconciled. You say that antisemitism should be opposed unconditionally but then say that there is more than one. I am bemused.

  46. Richard Says:

    David. You say
    “whether an action is intentional or unintentional”.
    This is something Engage has always said. However the problem is when you give people the benefit of the doubt and when their mistake is explained to them and they refuse to accept that what they said was antisemitic in effect.(though not in intent) then you have to wonder.

    There’s another problem with the fact that Jews are being denied the right to take part in political activity unrelated to Palestine / Israel. Best I give an example – I was involved a few years ago in a local anti-deportation campaign.In one of the campaign meetings it was decided we would march on a forthcoming anti-war demo with the campaign banner. There was no way I was prepared to march (or would have felt comfortable) marching with MAB supporters and other organisations. So I was deprived of the opportunity to march with and in solidarity with an asylum seeker. Infact I wasn’t even asked by the other peple involved in the campaign because they probably knew how I felt. But I should have been able to go on the demo and to have felt comfortable as a Jew.

    BTW – Enjoy the match tomorrow and hope you don’t get too upset !

  47. Toby Esterhase Says:

    Yes, there have been many entirely distinct antisemitisms – Christian, Enlightenment, anti-Englightenment, left, right, Nazi, Stalinist, Arab nationalist, Islamist, English etc. etc.

    We must understand that they are distinct, from different times, places, social worlds, etc.

    Given that they are so different, it is difficult for us to explain why they keep throwing up the same tropes – Jews are evil, Jews are secretive, conspiratorial and hugely powerful, Jews kill children etc.

    The best we can do is to explain the re-emergence of similar tropes and images by reference to a theory of an unconscious cultural reservoir of such images and assumptions – upon which anyone who is hostile to Jews – for whatever reason in whatever way and in whatever century – may draw if he or she so wishes.

    “… how we oppose and undermine them different forms of antisemitism must be based on understanding where they have come from…”

    This is true too. Different forms have their different narratives and their different histories, their different effects and their different peculiarities. But what they have in common is the mystification of real events involving relationships between Jews and non-Jews into racist language, tropes and movements. We have to understand what is going on but this does not mean that we have to be “understanding” about racist threats to Jews.

    The analogy is with other racisms, isn’t it? We may understand that the BNP does well amongst poor whites, whites who are excluded from society, whites who are let down by “labour” councils, whites who turn their rightful anger and grievances onto the wrong targets – onto blacks. We have to be understanding. Antiracists have to help white people who may be attracted to racist ideas or movements to understand that their anger ought not to manifest itself in the language or in the tropes of racism, but rather in more productive and egalitarian ways – against the social structures which really cause their problems. We try to educate people not to be racist. But this does not translate into a softness or an “understanding” of the racist movements themselves, or of racist tropes or images. We try to educate people not to be racist but we physically oppose them if they go out and demonstrate with the BNP.

    “…whether they are backed by a theory or by ignorance…” This is just a mix-up isn’t it David R? all racism is backed up by ignorance – and all racist theory is just wrong. It isn’t true that blacks have better rhythm or that Zionists are the cause of war; it isn’t true that Muslims are terrorists or that Israel stands in the way of world peace.

    The idea that racism, or any bigotry, is caused by the bad behaviour of some of the people in the group against which the racism is aimed is just wrong.

    It isn’t the behaviour of gays or blacks or Jews which makes people hate gays or blacks or Jews.

    It isn’t the behaviour of women which makes people misogynist.

    It isn’t the behaviour of Israel which makes people antisemitic.

    It isn’t the opinions of the Board of Deputies or the Chief Rabbi or the Jewish Chronicle which makes people antisemitic.

    It isn’t the fact that Jews are “touchy” about anti-Jewish racism which makes them worry about it.

    Jews who worry about antisemitism are not cynically ‘playing the antisemitism card’ in order to defend israel.

    What makes people antisemitic is the translation of hostility against particular Jews into hostility against Jews in general – even with some categories of Jews excepted – and the employment of antisemitic tropes and stereotypes to express the hostility.

    “…whether an action is intentional or unintentional…”

    Actually, David R, who cares? Was Carol Thatcher intentionally trying to propagate racism when she talked about “gollywogs”? who cares? What she said was racist. It doesn’t matter what her intent was.

    Is a Christian antisemite motivated by hatred of Jews or by a wish to save their souls by helping them to love Christ? Who cares, David R? Who cares what their intention is?

    Is an Islamist antisemite motivated by a hatred of Jews or by a disproportional anger against Israel? who cares?

    Of course, antiracists have to do the patient work of explaining and educating and helping people to see things from an antiracist perspective. But racism is always ignorant. It is always based on rubbish. It always has elements of good motivation as well as bad motivation. It always results from a number of different intentions. We oppose it militantly.

    And if it struts up and down Golders Green Road, then we oppose it physically.

  48. David Rosenberg Says:

    Gil, will it make you less bemused if I said all forms of antisemitism should be opposed unconditionally?

    Richard – as a matter of basic democratic practice you should have been asked – and then if there was a very clear majority it would be reasonable for the banner to go on the demo and for you to take a personal choice about going or not. If it was a small campaign and there was more than one person objecting then the campaign would have to consider whether it is that important taking the banner rather than people choosing to go or not to go as individuals.

    I don’t think there’s is any easy answer to these questions about which demos you go along to with whom. Single issue campaigns tend to be coalitions where people may not have too much in common beyond that issue , though when you go and you talk to people you think in your head have a certain position, you may find it’s not quite true.

    I’m not very keen on MAB though not necessarily for your reasons (which you haven’t said) but a few years ago because of circumstances where I was stewarding a demonstration with them at the Trafalgar Square end of a march form Hyde Park I had a couple of hours to chat to some of their activists in depth. I was surprised by what I gleaned from these chats. Having expected them to be at least borderline antisemitic they were clearly anti-zionist but very sound on antisemitism and with a very nuanced knowledge of Jewish history. At the same time they revealed themselves as very anti-Left, and angry that the left wer claiming isseus which they saw as Islamic issues or just human rights issues rather than issues of liberation/anti-capitalism.

    People don’t always conform to the labels/stereotypes we have of them – and had you gone on that particular march you may have found it more comfortable than you anticipated. Also if you suspected them of having issues about Jews and you were there proudly as a Jew and as someone opposed to the war and supporting an asylum seeker, whose contradiction is that? It’s not necessarily yours.

  49. Saul Says:

    David

    All antisemitism(s) come from somewhere and from specific social, political and cultural conditions. Indeed, antisemitism is often a distortion of those very conditions,and therefore, not all antisemitism is the same. That we agree on. Equally, we agree that to fully understand contemporary antisemitism hard analytical work is needed. Likewise, how one understands it is intimately linked to how one combats it; again, that is something we agree on.

    But, and this returns us to Friedland’s point, the very people who should be doing that hard work are not doing it. Rather they are, at best, turning a blind eye to it, and, at worst acquiesing in it.

    It should not be for you as an individual or “as a Jew”, or even as a Jewish organisation to approach people on a demo and say, “look, this is wrong, because……”(although you are of course right to do so).

    It is for those who have legitimacy, who talk from the platform, who put ads in the paper who here have the burden of responsibility. They are the one’s with political experience; they are the one’s who should know what can, and often does, attach itself to criticism of Israel. It is they who are, therefore, responsible for “educating” the naive and the ignorant and the unintentional and the angry
    That is what politics and political leadership is all about. After all, we both know people aren’t born antisemites.

    But, what have they done? Lerman and Mond blames the Jews; Benn libels the Jews and falls back on on myths about Jewish power; Tamini screams “we are all Hamas now” (do you want to be a member of Hamas and not just “as a Jew”??). Qaradawi looks forward to taking part in a Second Holocaust. Galloway screams “we are all Hezbollah now”. Occupations think it is ok to invite Jenny Tonge to speak to them; SPS commemorate Holocaust Memorial day with distored myths about Zionist “collaboration” with the nazis. JfJP think that “The Israel Lobby” has something meaningful to say. IJV remain silent.

    David, in other words, not one single major player on the scene has so much as recognised a problem, let alone began to work trying to understand and combat it. Have one of these players even thought of appraoching a Jewish organisation who has experience of understanding and fighting antisemitism.

    Has any one player thought that, maybe, despite political differences, the Board of Deputies may well have experience in understanding antisemitism and, therefore, be a resource worth tapping? Has one single player thought that, maybe, the CST could be a useful resource to helping to understand the current situation? Has one single player approached Engage? No-one is saying that these bodies have a definitive answer, nor that their views are not up for discussion; but it seems to me that, for those serious about understanding and combatting antisemitism, these may be fairly good places to start.

    The left have always claimed to be “good” on antisemitism. Now is the time for them to show good that record.

    Regards,
    Saul

  50. Jacob Says:

    David Rosenberg Says: “I think there are antisemitisms – plural – and how we oppose and undermine them different forms of antisemitism must be based on understanding where they have come from,…”

    Why should it matter if someone hates you because they see you as part of a world conspiracy, a Zionist, a Capitalist, a foreign Jew, or just simply an un-categorizable individual Jew? Yes, there is a multiplicity of antisemitisms but they all have on thing in common they all hate Jews. Some hate them as individuals and some as a collectivity, but the end result is the same.

    By the way, David still hasn’t answered the question about how Israel could have stopped rocket attacks on its cities and towns without taking on Hamas. Nor has he shown any sympathy for those Israelis directly under attack has he has for the people in Gaza.

  51. Toby Esterhase Says:

    “Where I think we may differ is that I think there are antisemitisms – plural – and how we oppose and undermine them different forms of antisemitism must be based on understanding where they have come from, whether they are backed by a theory or by ignorance, whether an action is intentional or unintentional.”

    one more point occurs to me on this – I think David R is trying to make a distinction between “understandable racism” and racism which is worthy of contempt.

    So a Palestinian who supports Hamas is understandable in David R’s patronizing world because (a) palestinians don’t know any better and (b) Palestinians are oppressed. And they are not motivated by an intent to hurt Jews qua Jews. (which still leaves the question, what is the excuse of Brits who are soft on antisemitism but have had access to a socialist education and who are not “oppressed”.)

    But an Israeli who votes for Lieberman is despicable, in spite of the fact that she lives in a crappy “development town” in the South where missiles come flying over every other day and in spite of the fact that they were formed politically in a vile antisemitic Soviet culture.

    Palestinian racism is understandable.

    Jewish racism is thought of in terms of the essential and unchangable badness of “Zionism”.

  52. Absolute Observer Says:

    Only someone who thinks Israel and Palestine is a eternal conflcit between Jews and non-Jews think they need a “nuanced view of Jewish history”. Rule#1; they have little to contribute other than a sense of historical injustice that can never be sated by rational means: ask the Serbs nationalists about that one!

  53. David Rosenberg Says:

    Toby, in your hurry to assume my views on this or that you’ve missed my point. The distinction I am drawing is that between a hard line, conscious, theorised racism and situations of genuine social conflict where people reach for, or are handed, simplistic but plausible racist narratives, which can be challenged and shifted by alternative ideas and changing realities. And I would put Leiberman firmly in the first category and many of his supporters who live below the poverty line in Israel in the latter.

    In Sderot there are jews who live under the Hamas rockets but will certainly not be voting for Leiberman such as those organised in kol aher (www.othervoice.org). they have built up and maintained friendly relations with Gazans who they do not see as the enemy. similarly you may be familiar with the petition that hundreds of Sderot residents signed in November calling on Israel not to escalate the conflict with Gaza militarily but to look for a different solution. These people will not be fodder for Leiberman. Others no doubt currently believe in his strong man, racist message which is very similar to far right demagogues in other societies.

    When I’m not arguing about these matters on blogs, one of my work roles is leading historical walks of the East End (www.eastendwalks.com) including one called “AntiFascist Footprints” which focuses on the East End struggle against fascism in the 1930s. In that struggle many people, who lived miserable lives in cramped housing,and with little work, and thought it must be the fault of the Jews, were won away from supporting Mosley, especially through campaigns around housing and unemployment. If the anti-fascists had given up on the people Mosley would have gone from strength to strength. but there was no way that the Ideas of Mosley himself were going to be shifted.

  54. Englender Says:

    “In Sderot there are jews who live under the Hamas rockets but will certainly not be voting for Leiberman…”

    I doubt anyone here supports Lieberman’s views, I certainly don’t.

    In any case you are shifting the argument.

    The campaign against Fascism in Britain in the 30’s is hardly comparable to the conflict with Hamas. England was then a democratic society and the rule of law prevailed in spite of Mosley’s thuggery.

    Of course, the people of Gaza are not the enemy, but Gaza is ruled by a clerical Fascist regime. Moreover, the war against Hamas was launched by the current centrist Israeli government and was supported by all sides of the political spectrum including the leftist parties.

  55. Reporter Says:

    Dave it isn’t only people in Sderot who think that the people of Gaza are not the enemy, it’s the Israeli army who doesn’t think so also:

    “A free lunch for Hamas”

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1233304710842&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FPrinter

    The idea that only a few right thinking leftist got it right and that “Capitalist” governments are the enemy may be comforting to you, Dave, but it’s not always true.

    It’s not true in either in Jordan or Egypt where the governments signed peace treaties with Israel while from all reports a plurality of the people there are not supportive of these peace agreements.

  56. Robbins Says:

    David Rosenberg, how do you intend to deal with the Mosleys’ of today?

    “Rise in antisemitic attacks ‘the worst recorded in Britain in decades'”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/feb/08/police-patrols-antisemitism-jewish-community

  57. Saul Says:

    When I’m not arguing about these matters on blogs, one of my work roles is leading historical walks of the East End “(www.eastendwalks.com) including one called “AntiFascist Footprints” which focuses on the East End struggle against fascism in the 1930s. In that struggle many people, who lived miserable lives in cramped housing,and with little work, and thought it must be the fault of the Jews, were won away from supporting Mosley, especially through campaigns around housing and unemployment. If the anti-fascists had given up on the people Mosley would have gone from strength to strength. but there was no way that the Ideas of Mosley himself were going to be shifted.”

    David,
    I guess my question is where are the “anti-fascists” now; or rather, where are the anti-antisemites (the rhetoric of many anti-fascists is that Israel and its “supporters” are the “new fascists”? – i.e. they are part of the very problem we are discussing)

    Of course, for those theoretically committed antisemites, their ideas will remain, but where are those who overtly challenge and campaign around and against antisemitism? I am sorry for repeating myself, but where are those who challenge the idea that Jews/Zionists control the BBC; who control the media; that Israel and the nazis are one and the same, that Gaza is Warsaw? These are idea that are now being taken as “common-sense” by many.

    The left have a mixed history of anti-fascism (but, successful in the UK). They have been less successful on antisemitism. In fact, the left have never theorised antisemitism adequately. Where are the great books of left critiques of antisemitism? Leon? Engels? Austrian-Marxists? None of the above. One has to wonder why this is the case. It places the present failure into some form of historical and political context.

  58. David Hirsh Says:

    Where are the anti-fascists and the anti-antisemites?

    They’re here.

    But David Rosenberg thinks that Engage doesn’t do a good job. Indeed, he thinks that Engage is worse than nothing in the fight against antisemitism.

    Perhaps you’d like to explain why, David?

  59. Linda Grant Says:

    I think Saul sums it up, really. The far left and particularly the leadership of anti-war movement, does everything it can to deny or suppress official reports of anti-semitism and regards the CST as a propaganda outfit for Israel. It refuses to listen to Jewish organisations who know something about anti-semitism because they believe they know best, and they won’t make even tactical alliances with Zionists.

    As Gary Younge put it, seven years ago, in the best piece on anti-semitism on the left that I’ve ever read:

    ‘Of the many and varied responses I get to my work – that it is anti-white (insane), anti-American (inane) and anti-Welsh (intriguing) – anti-semitism is one charge that I take more seriously than most.

    ‘This is not because I believe I consciously espouse anti-semitic views, but because I do not consider myself immune to them. There is no reason why I should not be prone to a centuries-old virus that is deeply rooted in western society. That does not mean that I accept the charges uncritically. I judge them on their merits and so far have found them wanting. But I do not summarily dismiss them either; to become desensitised to the accusation would be to become insensitive to the issue. It is a common view on the left that political will alone can insulate you from prejudice. It stems, among some, from a mixture of optimism and arrogance which aspires to elevate oneself above the society one is trying to transform. ‘

  60. Englender Says:

    As Gary Younge put it”

    “There is no reason why I should not be prone to a centuries-old virus that is deeply rooted in western society. That does not mean that I accept the charges uncritically. I judge them on their merits and so far have found them wanting. But I do not summarily dismiss them either; to become desensitised to the accusation would be to become insensitive to the issue. It is a common view on the left that political will alone can insulate you from prejudice. It stems, among some, from a mixture of optimism and arrogance which aspires to elevate oneself above the society one is trying to transform. ‘”

    Thanks Linda, I wish a number of Leftist Jews would take these words to heart. They too are not immune from society’s century old prejudices and as many Soviet leaders of Jewish provenance like Trotsky and others learned they could easily become targets of antisemitic hatred.

  61. Another Observer Says:

    I assume that Ryan Gigg’s second half strike was somewhat more traumatic than we realised.

  62. Vivek Golikeri Says:

    Whatever anyone thinks of Israel’s policies, there is utterly no excuse for violence against Jewish persons or property. I myself have been branded antisemitic for speaking out in anger against Ashkenazi white racists. When someone tries to silence any and all criticism of Jews or Israel by yelling “antisemitism,” I bluntly tell them to go to hell if they don’t like it.

    However, violence, harrassment or intimidation are vehemently not free speech. They are criminality, and must be dealt with firmly by the authorities.


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