Jewish establishment, diversity, and rebellion – Flesh is Grass

Flesh is Grass responds to Keith Kahn Harris, who wrote a piece in which he tried to rise above and by-pass the controversy about whether we should be seriously concerned about contemporary antisemitism.

And here is the latest on the responsibility of neurotic and paranoid Jews for antisemitism by New Conservative, Antony lerman.

UPDATE from Saul

Why Lerman is Partly Right and Totally Wrong

There is a strong critical tradition within “Jewish” histiorography that takes to task the notion of “eternal antisemitism” – Arendt, Jacob Katz and Salo Baron. And, they are right on two points,

1. That the notion of “eternal antisemitism” – i.e. that non-Jews have always, do always and will always hate Jews – is not only wrong in itself, but also ignores the historical reality that for a long period of history Jews actively sought separation from “Gentile” communities (at least up to the 19th century).

2. That whilst Jews are not and never have been the cause of antisemitism the choices they have made and the situation in which they find themselves creates a reality upon which antisemitism arises and of which it offers a distortion.

A good example is the conflict in Israel and Palestine today – Israel is involved in a real-life conflict and its military responses and actions – as far as I and others are  concerned – are not acceptable.  This reality, of which Israel is an agent or actor appears in much “criticism” [sic] through the distorted lens of antisemitism – i.e. child-killers, the product of a “zionist” pathology,  controllers of the media, controllers of US foreign policy, exploiting the Holocaust, falso crying antisemitism, etc. etc..

Where Arendt, Katz and Baron differ from Lerman, of course, is that whilst they offer a critique of “eternal antisemitism”, they do so in the recognition of the real existence of the antisemitism of their day.   None of them, as Lerman does, denies its existence or blames the Jews for its existence.   On the contrary, their critique of “eternal antisemitism” is made so as to bring into relief the specific contours of the antisemitism of their day so as to understand it all the more clearly and, as a consequence, to oppose it all the more effectively.

Unfortunately, whilst reproducing these thinkers negative appraisal of “eternal antisemitism”, Tony Lerman robs them of their critical impact.   The paradoxical consequence of his approach is that Lerman reproduces a fundamental tenet of “eternal antisemitism”:  that is, its perceived “naturalness”.   It is this paradox that leads him to believe that the second Jews step out of line, non-Jews will “turn” antisemitic in a process as predictable as way that an acorn turns into an oak.

Saul

71 Responses to “Jewish establishment, diversity, and rebellion – Flesh is Grass”

  1. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    This, from Antony Lerman in the second link above: “Professor Salo Baron, probably the greatest Jewish historian of the 20th century…”

    Lerman, having left (did he jump or was he pushed?) JPPR, and finding himself under attack from many quarters for his insistence that Jews have only themselves to blame for contemporary antisemitism, must be desperate to shore up his increasingly bizarre views. Now, I readily admit that I am not a historian (actually, if you missed my numerous mentions of the fact, I’m a sociologist), but I _have_ heard (and actually read some) of the numerous 20th Century historians who were Jewish, and even some who were Jewish historians, to the extent that there is a difference (okay, okay, I know, there _is_ one), but who on earth is/was Salo Baron?

    But this nonsense about using Salo Baron and a presumed (no citation, as far as I could see) attack on “lachrymose Jews” to support his own odd views…Given the claim that there are Jewish jokes (at least those arising from among the East European Ashkenazi Jews) because “if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry”, suggests that there might be a lot to cry about – to anyone but Lerman and those like him.

    So, we shouldn’t cry about the Russian pogroms, or the Holocaust – to go no further back than starting with the late 19th century. What then would Lerman have us do? Celebrate them? Or forget them? “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.” Seems familiar…ah, yes, it’s what Lerman and his ilk would have us do, so that we can be surprised all over again by the next wave of murderous antisemitism.

    And I’m not even going to get started on that idiot being published in the Belfast Daily Telegraph – see the next post down. It’s late enough and I have my sanity to trhink of.

  2. David Says:

    “Who on earth is/was Salo Baron?”

    I presume you are joking…if not, as someone who has chosen to make something of the fact that you are a sociologist, you have just demonstrated a level of ignorance for which you should be thoroughly embarrassed. At the very least, you have made it clear that your academic position or qualifications have absolutely no bearing on the significance or relevance of your comments on anything Jewish.

  3. Mandrake Says:

    Lerman in la-la land:

    “Jews suffer from a persecution complex”; he misquotes Daniel Bar Tal (it was Ha’aretz that said it); “the Jewish public does not want to be confused with the facts”; “To justify its attack on Gaza, Israel threw the mantle of victimhood over the residents of southern Israel”; “Israel’s responsibility for the injustice of the humanitarian disaster in Gaza”;

    He adopts the Avram Burg/Norman Finkelstein position on the Holocaust: “There is every reason why the Holocaust should be a constant influence on our thinking. But by insisting on owning it, fencing it off and seeing it as uniquely unique, we’re in danger of lifting the Jewish tragedy out of history altogether.”

    He disguises the fact that antisemitism is at record levels, instead suggesting that it is normal for a time of Middle East tension:

    “This is starkly illustrated in the fact that the UK Jewish community’s defence body, the Community Security Trust, reports a dramatic increase in anti-Semitic incidents since the beginning of the Gaza war. This is not a new phenomenon. For some decades, incidents have increased at times of high tension or violence in Israel-Palestine.”

    He blames Israel for antisemitism: “ … by provoking outrage, which is then used to target Jews, Israel bears responsibility for that anti-Jewish hostility”

    He says Jews want there to be antisemitism: “so much of the Jewish world is more comfortable with an identifiable enemy that hates us than with a multicultural society that welcomes Jews on equal terms“

    And he ends by hinting at the equivalence of the Warsaw Ghetto with Gaza.

    Well done again to Adrian Cohen, Richard Bolchover and the other two trustees who quit when Lerman was appointed to the JPPR.

  4. David M. Seymour Says:

    As with much else in Lerman’s article, he is half-right about the Holocaust.

    There is a school of thought that confuses its uniqueness (but what event is not unique) with what some have termed “Holocaust Piety” – i.e. its resistance to rational understanding.

    However, he ignores two important facts regarding this. First, it is but one view of the Holocaust; and one questioned by many writers from both a “Jewish” and secular perspective (including myself).

    Secondly, the idea of Holocaust Piety is not a specifically “Jewish” phenomenon. It appears most clearly in certain “post-modern” and “post-Holocaust” writings, most notably in the work of Jean-Francois Lyotard.

    As I have argued elsewhere, Holocaust Piety, from wherever it emerges is not the most helpful way of looking at things.

  5. Mandrake Says:

    Lerman blames Israel for antisemitism: “ … by provoking outrage, which is then used to target Jews, Israel bears responsibility for that anti-Jewish hostility”

    How then does he explain the Holocaust (that thing he thinks we should not “own”, “fence off” or “see as uniquely unique”)?

    Israel wasn’t there in 1939-44 for him to blame.

  6. Efraim Says:

    David Says:
    ” “Who on earth is/was Salo Baron?”

    I presume you are joking…”

    David, Brian was asking a rhetorical question.

  7. Nora Says:

    “so much of the Jewish world is more comfortable with an identifiable enemy that hates us than with a multicultural society that welcomes Jews on equal terms“

    If Jews were “comfortable” with antisemitism there would never have been a Zionist movement.

    On the one hand, Lerman blames Israel for antisemitism which is to say for fighting back and on the other hand he blames Jews for succumbing to antisemitism, feeling more comfortable with it

    In which society where Jews were accepted as equals did they refuse to treat others as equals? Where are all these multicultural societies that have accepted Jews as “equals?” It is not “multiculturalism” which accepts Jews as equals it is democratic societies that do so as a matter of law.

    . Lerman is confused.

  8. Bialik Says:

    Lerman: “This is starkly illustrated in the fact that the UK Jewish community’s defence body, the Community Security Trust, reports a dramatic increase in anti-Semitic incidents since the beginning of the Gaza war. This is not a new phenomenon. For some decades, incidents have increased at times of high tension or violence in Israel-Palestine.”

    Do Palestinians or Arabs in the UK suffer a dramatic increase in racist incidents during these times of ‘high tension’? Why should periods of ‘high tension’ in Israel-Palestine have any repercussions in the UK at all?

  9. Malachi Says:

    Lerman’s analysis is flawed because he neglects the role of antisemitism in pan-Arab and Islamist ideology.

    Apart from this he is impossible to take seriously because he so obviously has a personal axe to grind.

  10. Keith Kahn-Harris Says:

    I think that to characterise my Prospect article as trying to ‘rise above and by-pass the controversy about whether we should be seriously concerned about contemporary antisemitism’ is a little harsh. It’s certainly true that the piece was reasonably agnostic about antisemitism in the UK. That’s not because I don’t have views about this. Rather, I was trying to look at the phenomenon of British Jewish leaders’ claims about antisemitism without adjudicating on the merits or otherwise of those claims. The point I was making was that the willingness to make these claims is a sign of greater self-confidence among British Jews in participating publicly in multicultural politics. It’s a little odd that I’ve had some criticism of the article among those who campaign against antisemitism given that the piece does in fact suggest that such campaigns are positive phenomena.

    As to the merits of the of the kind of ‘tactical agnosticism’ about antisemitism that the piece practices, the problem is that debates on the issue are so entrenched and bitter, not taking a position on the issue can be the only way to communicate some points. The fact that despite all of this the piece has still been seen by some as criticising campaigners against antisemitism is a sign of the difficulty of doing this (and possibly my own ineptness).

  11. David Hirsh Says:

    I don’t think you can look at the phenomenon of British Jewish leaders’ claims about antisemitism without making a judgment on the merits of those claims.

    Either they’re trying to defend the Jewish community against antisemitism. Or they’re paranoid neurotics driven mad by the experience of the Holocaust (as Jacqueline Rose and Anthony Lerman claim). Or they’re involved in dishonest a conspiracy to make criticism of Israel illegitimate. Or they’ve just got it wrong. Or their own support for Israel is the primary cause of antisemitism.

    You can’t understand the form without making a judgment about the content, can you?

    I agree, by the way, that the willingness to oppose antisemitism openly, politically and militantly, is a sign of self-confidence.

    It contrasts with the current of opinion which wants to deny or downplay antisemitism; which wants to blame Israeli wickedness for antisemitism; which thinks that non-Jews are so universally on the edge of antisemitism that Jewish bad behaviour is always likely to provoke in them an antisemitic response.

    Most Jews are no longer willing to put up with antisemitic rhetoric.

    The ones who are willing to put up with it, and to apologize for it, and to downplay it, and to deny it, and to blame Jews for it – are the ones who think of themselves as coming out of the most militantly antiracist tradition. Funny that, isn’t it?

  12. zkharya Says:

    “Professor Baron spoke out angrily against what he called the “lachrymose conception of Jewish history”, which placed suffering at the centre of Jewish life. ”

    Ironically, Baron first coined the term “lachrymose” view of history as part a critique of historiography that failed to acknowledge that Jewish life in the ghetto had not been as bad as many maintained it was before emancipation i.e. that emancipation, not Zionism, or Jewish nationalism, was not the perfect climax towards which Jewish history had tended.

    It was also a criticism of the first truly “scientific” Jewish history, Heinrich Graetz. Graetz, for all Baron’s criticism of him, had been ardent German nationalist, thoroughly at home in a fatherland he loved, despite antisemitism that Lerman’s German analogues would also have doubtless regarded as wildly exagerated.

    But doubly ironic is the year Baron first coined and used the term: 1928. Within 10 years the whole edifice of emancipated European Jewry would be crumbling, while Baron would be able to reflect upon it wisely from the comfort and security of Columbia University, USA.

    Perhaps he would have lectured the Jews of his motherland, Poland, on the “lachrymose” view they had of their, Polish Jewish history, a view that drove almost all of them to leave, even post-war.

    But, of course, Baron’s reasons for leaving Europe had nothing to do with a “lachrymose” view of European Jewish history.

    A speech of Lerman’s delivered in Hampstead in 2005:

    http://www.jfjhr.org/stories/storyReader$20

    A pearl:

    “Whether the Palestinians intended this to happen or not, Zionist/Jewish ethnocentrism was revealed in all its nakedness from 2000 onwards.”

  13. Keith Kahn-Harris Says:

    At the risk of entering into a debate that we’ve had before and that you probably have several times a day on this blog, I don’t think those who seek to ‘downplay’ antisemitism in your words should be characterised in such crude terms. ‘They’ (and it’s not a unified group) have different motives, different backgrounds and different perspectives. Can you not accept that some people will look at the same data as you do and come to different conclusions? I do understand that there is such a thing as bad faith, and perhaps this applies to a few, but I don’t think you can tar everyone with the same brush. I really dislike the quasi-psychoanalytic way in which you presume to make judgements about the deep motivations of people you’ve never met. This is hardly in the best traditions of the profession of sociology. I have some problems with what Tony Lerman argues but I do not recognise the perverse picture you paint of him – and unlike you, I have met him on numerous occasions. I have no problem with you thinking that the people you talk about are utterly deluded, even dangerous, but the people you pour scorn on are in the main motivated by reasonable motives. I do not see any evidence that the line you often push – that people like Lerman are essentially a throwback to the forelock-tugging tradition of Anglo-Jewry – is true. Tony has devoted a lifetime to working for the Jewish community and has sponsored or run projects that are anything but deferential, anything but motivated by fear of upsetting the goyim. Even if I thought he was completely in the wrong I would not treat him in the way you do.

  14. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Efraim, thank you.

    David, even if I wasn’t asking a rhetorical question, it is good academic practice to ask (politely or otherwise) “who is this person you are citing? Which piece of writing are you quoting from/referring to?” and similar such questions. And Lerman doesn’t provide this vital information. How do I know that Baron is who Lerman says he is, or (even more importantly) that he said what Lerman claims he said?

    Whenever I refer to a particular writer (other than the _really_ well-known ones, such as Marx – and even so, Karl Pfeiffer, elsewhere nearby, gives the complete reference to “The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” [which I’ve read, have you?]), I will attempt to give a reference of some sort: it is equally poor academic/intellectual practice to be so arrogant as to adopt an “of course _everyone_ who with any pretensions to intellectual ability knows the work of X”.

    Perhaps you are not an academic, David? You certainly give no indication of your grounds for presuming to be able to question mine. And arrogance and rudeness such as you display will give no-one any confidence that _you_ have any “academic position or qualifications [which] have absolutely [any] bearing on the significance or relevance of your comments on anything Jewish,”: your words.

    Before retiring, I had spent 38 years teaching at degree and post-graduate level; had published a number of academic papers, certain of them on the Holocaust, had and have spent time in the leadership circles of British Jewish life…

    You’re so certain of yourself, what are your qualifications? And why do you hide behind a single first name, especially when mounting attacks on others of whom you know nothing? Have you even read my contributions to these columns, right back to the beginning of the website?

    Why don’t you come right and say what your intervention implies: that anyone who disagrees with Lerman is a fool and an ignoramus. If you have grounds for agreeing with Lerman, state them.

  15. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Further, Lerman, as director of JPPR (twice) _should_ know all about proper academic citation.

    If he doesn’t, why was he ever appointed to the post the first (never the second) time?

  16. David Hirsh Says:

    Keith, I find your indignation surprising. You must know that it is the people who campaign against antisemitism who are constantly faced with ad hominem charges of bad faith. The argument is that people like those who support Engage raise the issue of antisemitism as a dishonest way of trying to de-legitimize criticism of Israeli human rights abuses. People often use this ad hominem attack as a way of not responding to the substance of the issue.

    But you say that I am making the ad hominem attack. You say that I am substituting quasi-psychoanalytic insult for sociological analysis. You say I am accusing Lerman of bad faith. You say my arguments are crude.

    I’ve just re-read my 2006 piece called “The New Conservatives”. http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=578

    The only thing I’ve ever written on the subject which could be understood as “quasi-psychoanalytic” or a crude allegation of bad faith is this paragraph:

    “A section of this Jewish left has now adopted the timid conservatism against which it used to rebel. The fire of 1968 has become a yearning to conform to those sections of the intelligentsia that understand Israel, and the Jews that ‘support’ it, as constituting a unique evil in the world and the greatest obstacle to world peace. It is a milieu that is increasingly ambivalent about the ‘legitimacy’ of Israel.”

    People should read the whole piece.

    Max Weber, somebody who most people accept as standing in the tradition of the best of sociology wrote the following:

    “‘Sociology’ … means the science whose object is to interpret the meaning of social action and thereby give a causal explanation of the way in which the action proceeds and the effects which it produces. …By ‘action’ in this definition is meant human behaviour when and to the extent that the agent or agents see it as subjectively meaningful; the behaviour may be either internal or external, and may consist in the agent’s doing something, omitting to do something, or having something done to him.”

    Weber, M. ‘The nature of social action’

    I don’t think that this is a piece about psychology or about motivation – not centrally. True, in this paragraph I point in that direction a little – rhetorically. But that is not the point of the piece. And I don’t claim to know what motivates Lerman and Kuper and Rose and Klug and the others. But I can see what they do and I can see the significance of what they do. This is a discussion about the meaning of social action.

    I think you miss the point of the piece Keith. You say that I don’t write in the best traditions of sociology – but you yourself do not engage with the substance of the argument – you skip around it and you say that it isn’t polite. But you don’t deal with the argument at its strongest point. You try and pick off vulnerable bits round the edge.

    I do think that Lerman is similar to the old style English leadership who appeared quiet and timid in the face of antisemitism. But this is not an argument about his motivation or his character or his mental health. It is a political argument and it is also a sociological argument.

    It is true that I am angry with the new conservatives. They undermine the fight against antisemitism and I think that is a seriously damaging thing to do – it damages Jews and it damages left and liberal thought and movements.

    It makes me angry that Lerman goes, “as a Jew” to the British intelligentsia and tries to reassure it that it has nothing to worry about in terms of antisemitism. When it does have something to worry about. We have demonstrated that time and time again. There are hundreds of demonstrations of the fact on Engage. Hundreds and hundreds. The new conservatives try to undermine our work against antisemitism. And they succeeds to some extent.

    They try to blame antisemitism on Jews and that is forensically mistaken, it is unjust and also dangerous. It is a radical departure from the political traditions of the antiracist movements.

    The current fad for pathologizing Jews and for understanding Israel psychoanalytically rather than politically comes from Jacqueline Rose, Caryl Churchill and now Tony Lerman.

    Also, you didn’t answer the question as to how you can make a meaningful judgment on those who oppose antisemitism without making a judgment on whether there is a significant problem of antisemitism which requires opposition.

  17. Keith Kahn-Harris Says:

    David

    I don’t suggest for a second that you and others who contribute to Engage are not the subject of ad hominem attacks – and that is appalling. You don’t deserve the approbrium that you are subjected to – but neither does Tony Lerman.

    I will retract to some extent the accusation that you are making psychoanlytic judgements on Lerman et al (and I take the point that this is something that Jacqueline Rose does a lot of) and I understand where you are coming Weber wise. However, I think there is a real issue in your work in that your desire to be politically efficacious contradicts your sociological profession. Terms like ‘the new conservatives’ or ‘the Livingstone formulation’ are excellent agit-prop stuff. However they skirt over a lot of very complex issues. The new conservatives term makes an interesting and relevant comparison with the old English establishment in that both seek to stress that antisemitism is not a major problem. However, the wider world view and context of the 2 are vastly different. The fact that 2 sets of people argue similar things at similar times does not suggest that they are doing so in the same context for the same reasons.

    Your failure to ever properly talk to Klug and Lerman is highly problematic. Even if you feel what they are doing is harmful, you need to know where they are coming from and their wider perspective if you have any hope of changing their minds of addressing the problem that you see them as representing.

    You also said: ‘Also, you didn’t answer the question as to how you can make a meaningful judgment on those who oppose antisemitism without making a judgment on whether there is a significant problem of antisemitism which requires opposition.’ Actually I think it’s pretty simple. Whether or no I believe there is a significant problem of antisemitism, I accept that other people will have different judgements. I accept that people have different judgements on almost every issue under the sun. I don’t like it, but that’s the way the world is. What interests me as why people make the jidgements that they make. To do that I have to listen to them carefully. It is true that that can make political action very difficult and complicated. But I think that ultimately it makes politics more effective.

    I’m going to sign off here. I broke my unwritten rule that I don’t get dragged into comment threads. That’s not because I think they are a waste of time, it’s that I have ME and they tend to turn my head inside out.

  18. David Hirsh Says:

    Thanks Keith. Sorry to mess with your head.

    I don’t think there is a contradiction between professional sociological analysis and political commitment. I don’t think that in order to understand what is happening you have to be neutral on the key questions.

    I don’t think that I have failed to talk to Lerman and Klug. I have engaged seriously with what they have to say. In public. Regularly. I think that is to treat their work with respect.

  19. Another Observer Says:

    “Whether or no I believe there is a significant problem of antisemitism, I accept that other people will have different judgements.”

    Whether or not I believe that the world is square, I accept other people will have different judgements.

    Whether or not I believe that Jews kill babies for Matzo I accept other people will have different judgements.

    As Saul noted a while back, Rose and Lerman now recognise that there is antisemitism; i.e. that Engage has been right all along. What they are now arguing is that it is Jews who are the cause of it’ or, at least, those Jews who, unlike them, do not not feel that the proper way to combat antisemitism is to scream mea culpa and “speak out” against all those “bad” or “pathologised” Jews…………..

    Whether or not I believe that Jews are pathological and paranoid screwballs I accept other people will have different judgements.

    Yeah, right!

  20. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    “Terms like ‘the new conservatives’ or ‘the Livingstone formulation’ are excellent agit-prop stuff. However they skirt over a lot of very complex issues.”

    Given Keith Kahn-Harris’s last sentence in the last comment above, I must apologise for butting into this exchange, and I will quite understand if Keith chooses not to respond (which is his right anyway). I’ll try not to be provacative to the point of annoying him into replying, which is far from my intent.

    However, I do believe that the quote above can be just as easily and legitimately be applied to those who are generally placed in the categories covered by the terms used therein.

    Thus, the term “the Livingstone formulation” was coined by David H. to be a short-hand way of noting the use of the formula “you (defenders of Israel in general terms) are using charges of antisemtism to stop me/us making valid criticisms of Israeli government policy”. Given that this ignores the fact the people attacked in this way are often very far from being uncritical friends of Israel and also that the language complained of _does_, prima facie, appear to be antisemitic, we get the formulation in all its gory (sic). What the user of the formulation _should_ be doing, of course, is examining their language to see whether there is any substance in the accusation or not. And _then_ using the formulation, if they are genuiney convinced that their words are not antisemitic.

    If the language/criticisms complained of were aimed at any other ethnic minority and the response was that these comments were racist or Islamaphobic, do we really think that the follow-up would be as the Livingstone formulation? We all know that the response from serious scholars and reporters would be to criticaslly their own language and motivation. If not in this situation, why should it be different when Jews claim antisemitism?

    As for the “new conservatives”, I take David as saying (and I agree with him) that, inter alia, they are often saying, as Lerman explicitly does and very often at that, that contemporary antisemitism arises at least in part as an understandable response to the actions of Israel with regards to its immediate neighbours. So _I_ am blamed, possibly even physically attacked, because I am a Jew and am _therefore_, again prima facie, assumed to be both a supporter of Israel and also, somehow to blame.

    Are Moslem residents of the UK attacked (verbally or otherwise) because of the rise of Islamist and Jihadist terror? I leave aside the extremists of the BNP and all the others over on the lunatic right-wing. Are they blamed, as British Jews are blamed, for Mumbai? For the attack on the Sri lankan cricketers?

    If not, if it is not _their_ fault that there has been an increase in Islamist/Jihadist inspired terror , why should the admitted and steep rise in antisemitism be my fault.

    Keith Kahn-Harris is a sociologist and, as such, will be well aware of the phenomenon of blaming the victim, which is _exactly_ what Lerman (among numerous others) is doing, and is exactly why he and they are “new conservatives”. Further, as the former Director of JPPR, Lerman should know better, as should all of those who do this and are themselves social scientists.

  21. Mandrake Says:

    Lerman’s article is treacherous, let no-one be in any doubt. That puts him beyond the pale. He undermines the fight against antisemitism. Why do you not condemn it, Keith?

    “Jews suffer from a persecution complex”; he then misquotes Daniel Bar Tal (it was Ha’aretz that said it); “the Jewish public does not want to be confused with the facts”; “To justify its attack on Gaza, Israel threw the mantle of victimhood over the residents of southern Israel”; “Israel’s responsibility for the injustice of the humanitarian disaster in Gaza”;

    He adopts the Avram Burg/Norman Finkelstein position on the Holocaust: “There is every reason why the Holocaust should be a constant influence on our thinking. But by insisting on owning it, fencing it off and seeing it as uniquely unique, we’re in danger of lifting the Jewish tragedy out of history altogether.”

    He disguises the fact that antisemitism is at record levels, instead suggesting that it is normal for a time of Middle East tension:

    “This is starkly illustrated in the fact that the UK Jewish community’s defence body, the Community Security Trust, reports a dramatic increase in anti-Semitic incidents since the beginning of the Gaza war. This is not a new phenomenon. For some decades, incidents have increased at times of high tension or violence in Israel-Palestine.”

    He blames Israel for antisemitism: “ … by provoking outrage, which is then used to target Jews, Israel bears responsibility for that anti-Jewish hostility”

    He says Jews want there to be antisemitism: “so much of the Jewish world is more comfortable with an identifiable enemy that hates us than with a multicultural society that welcomes Jews on equal terms“

    And he ends by hinting at the equivalence of the Warsaw Ghetto with Gaza.

  22. zkharya Says:

    Brian,

    Baron originally wrote the term in 1928 (Salo Baron, “Ghetto and Emancipation,” The Menorah Journal 14 (1928): pp. 515-16, 525), as a critique of Jewish historiography that he claimed or saw as having been, as it were, matyrology, including that by such as Heinrich Graetz.

    The following year he was appointed professor of Jewish history at Columbia, having already left Galicia for Vienna, where trained as a rabbi, and moved to the USA.

    He used the term “lachrymose” of certain views of Jewish history throughout his life, up to his death, in 1988.

    I think it is often abused by those who see it as an opportunity to criticise allegedly “Zionist” views of history, on the grounds of “But a respected Jewish academic says it”.

    But, of course, the early 20th century was, arguably, not the most auspicious moment to have pronounced forth on Jewish history so strongly as Baron did. But, when he originally made the statement, he was not critiquing “Zionism”, but “empancipation”, or the view that life in the ghetto had been as terrible as some celebrators of emancipation had made out. After all, Baron was a rabbi, and bound to see some good in the traditional religious life of the ghetto!

    Of course those who abuse his use of “lachrymose” often ignore this fact, since their target is not “emancipation” so much as “Zionism”, which latter, arguably, is premised on the failure, not success, of the former.

    As I said, Heinrich Graetz, one of the objects of Baron’s criticism, had been an ardent German nationalist, and, like his colleagues, saw German antisemitism as a passing, marginal thing -a view remarkably close to Lerman’s.

    And (or but) while Baron was right to seek and recount the good, as well as bad, in Jewish history (and it is not as if any reputable academic Jewish historians did not), by the end of the 20th century, the European Jewish world into which Baron had been born at the 19th century’s end, had all but vanished, and what had survived was now largely either the Jewish communities of America or Israel.

    Further, ironically, the very “lachrymose” vein of Jewish historiography that Baron criticised, was, again arguably, derived from the nature of the very rabbinic, Talmudic tradition (Israel is in exile, all Jews must periodically lament the loss of temple as though they themselves had been actually present etc) that had bound the community life of the ghetto together.

    But nothing I have read of Baron suggests, to me, that he was anti-Zionist. But diaspora professors of Jewish history have to fight their corner, particularly if stances they have taken in early academic life have appeared to have remarkably failed to predict the course of their specialist subject in their life time.

    Baron was able to “ride out” the holocaust as an academic in the US. Israel was born because many of his fellow European Jews were not so fortunate.

  23. David Says:

    Please explain what happened to my reply to Brian Goldfarb’s rude and insulting email. Thanks!

  24. zkharya Says:

    As an addendum, I once read a review of Hyam Maccoby’s The Sacred Executioner. The reviewer objected that Maccoby suggested that antisemitism derived from Christian anti-Judaism instead of (as the reviewer wrote) “lachrymose Jewish endogamy”.

    Maccoby observed that that is was “not so much an explanation of antisemitism as a manifestation of it!”.

    The assertion that Jews are “lachrymose”, cursed with tragedy and woe as a punishment for their sins, is a standard Christian one from the beginning of Christian tradition. Unsurprising it was internalized by converts, and many expositors of the Haskala.

    Among the tools of the modern antisemite and his successor, a certain kind of anti-Zionist, is the use of “lachrymose” as the assertion of a lie told about Jewish history, as though recounting the tragic nature of Jewish history were an espousal of its anti-Jewish and antisemitic causes, even as though telling the fact of the holocaust were an espousal of its causes.

    The standard Christian assertions and charges of European history against Jews are now placed in the mouth of the Jew, or “Zionist”, as though he had originated them. But whereas for the gentile cultural Christian they were the truth, now they a Jewish, or “Zionist” lie: “heads I win, tails you lose”.

    The tragedy is that this new form of antisemitism is evolving so fast, it is hard for those aware of it to keep track of let alone get recognition of it in academic circles (the EU guide lines are extraordinarily progressive, in this regard). Academic study of antisemitism reached its apogee only after the holocaust. Many of the Marxists who claimed to best understand it were, in fact, among its practitioners; or among those who, it turned out, did not understand it at all. Characters like George Galloway are smart enough to know they can use the old tropes so long as, as he says, “the word Jew never passed my lips”.

  25. zkharya Says:

    “Your failure to ever properly talk to Klug and Lerman is highly problematic.”

    Keith, dialogue goes both ways. Independent Jewish Voices were, arguably, more interested in grandstanding to the wider non-Jewish community than in internal Jewish dialogue -which they said was more or less impossible because they were allegedly being “silenced”.

  26. David Hirsh Says:

    No David. We don’t offer public explanations for every editorial decision that we make.

    And Brian will tell you that we’ve deleted enough of his comments in the past – and we haven’t offered public explanations for those decisions either.

  27. Mandrake Says:

    Richard Prasquier of CRIF (the French equivalent of the Board of Deputies) said at the annual CRIF Dinner last week “In January 2009, 352 antisemitic acts were recorded, compared with 460 for the complete year 2008.”

    But of course, Tony Lerman – Jews welcome antisemitism and anyway it’s all Israel’s fault.

  28. zkharya Says:

    Ditto re. me, David

  29. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Zkharya, thank you for the full explanantion of who Salo Baron was and what his writings were (and even why!). I wasn’t being entirely rhetorical in my first comment on this thread, as I hadn’t heard of Baron, or only vaguely. That doesn’t excuse David’s aggressive response to me: he could have said exactly what he did, more politely.

    Given what has been said about Baron’s work, I certainly stand by comments on Lerman’s use of Baron’s work: or rather, Lerman’s _misuse_ of his work.

    And David, yes my response to you was rude and certainly verged on the insulting: like for like, they call that in the trade. Read your’s to me and tell me, hand on heart, that you weren’t being rude and insulting to me. If you want to hand it out, you have to be prepared to take it. Otherwise, don’t start. These are _your_ words, some of which I repeated back to you: “I presume you are joking…if not, as someone who has chosen to make something of the fact that you are a sociologist, you have just demonstrated a level of ignorance for which you should be thoroughly ashamed…” If that’s not rude and insulting, then you need a new dictionary.

  30. Mark Gardner Says:

    An especially good thread here, very valuable debate.

    So sad to see elsewhere on the site about the passing of Steve Cohen. He is intensely relevant to the above thread because he put his marker down by fighting antisemitism. Despite (to the best of my knowledge) being politically very opposed to the mainstream community, he helped to fight antisemitism rather than muddy or trash the attempts to fight against it.

    Steve Cohen fought against antisemitism and he did so without equivocation and without compromising his political principles. Indeed, it was those uncompromised political principles that so empowered his analysis of antisemitism. His example should be followed by all those who claim to care so deeply about antisemitism.

    (Note to Keith KH – Keith, I don’t mean my comments on Steve Cohen to be mistaken as a criticism of you or your work. We’ve discussed on the Prospect blog why I felt your tone on this occasion was wrong, and I’ve accepted & understood your explanation.)

  31. vildechaye Says:

    Obviously I’m not an intellectual like Lerman or David (since I too never heard of Baron), but i don’t think my views should be written off on that account; i’ve never understood how people write off other views not on the basis of what they’ve actually said, but because of who they know or don’t know or the company they keep.

    There are so many things wrong with Lerman’s screed; but i’ll limit myself to one critique. He says Jews are more comfortable being eternal victims of anti-semitism than living in a free multicultural society and attributes that, at least in part, to today’s increased claims of anti-semitism.

    What bollocks! I’ve lived in Canada my whole life, never thought of the Holocaust as UNIQUELY evil, and could count the incidences of overt anti-semitism i’ve personally experienced on the fingers of one hand and still have some fingers left over. I’ve always given canadian gentiles who express mildly anti-jewish opinions the benefit of the doubt, as i’ve observed their opinions are typically based on ignorance and non-exposure to actual Jews. I’ve also been proudly social democratic my entire life.

    So when someone like me notes an ALARMING increase in anti-semitism, mostly coming from the Left, I’m not happy to see it written off by the likes of Lerman as being the rresponsibility of Israel or a collective wish to remain the eternal victim. What i do see is just another Jewish person sucking up to the Leftie establishment to prove that his “progressive” (i use the term loosely, to say the least) bona fides trump his Jewishness. His notion that Israel bears responsibility for anti-semitism is particularly noxious, and is anti-semitic in itself, since no other ethnic or religious group has to bear the stigma of what the “mother country” does. e.g. do british expats face the equivalent of synagogue bombings because of northern ireland or the invasion of iraq? didn’t think so.
    His derisive reference to “lieberman” also singles out Jews and is anti-semitic. Hamas and Hezbollah, well, we should negotiate with these fellows, we broke the truce, etc., but Lieberman? oh my god, it’s a moral schande. Of course, he fails to explain how Lieberman — who for all his faults, and they are many, actually supports a two-state solution — is worse than Hamas or Hezbollah, both of whom publicly state their desire for a “river to the sea” palestine, presumably free of all those wicked jews.
    Like all of Israel’s “critics,” jewish and non-, he automatically accepts the dogma that israel broke the truce with Hamas — as though tunnelling into Israel was a breach of the truce in itself. He automatically accepts the notion that Hamas and Hezb are actually interested in peace when all the evidence, in words and actions, suggests otherwise.
    In short, Lerman, writing on a different aspect of the same topic, sounds much like Ilan Pappe, about whom Anthony Julius wrote witheringly in regard to his writing on the “ethnic cleansing” of Palestine: “Every Zionist reference to “transfer” is treated as evidence of the plan; every Zionist disavowal of transfer is treated as an act of dissembling. Every Arab declaration of war against the Jews is treated indulgently, as mere rhetoric; every Arab claim of persecution is accepted without challenge. Every Zionist atrocity is treated as part of their transfer plan; every Arab atrocity is treated as a defensive response to Zionist aggression (or is airbrushed from the history) [43].The Palestinian refugees from Israel are represented as the victims of an historic injustice, and the pathos of their unsought and undeserved condition moves Pappe to indignant eloquence; the many hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab countries, on the other hand, displaced by a combination of coordinated action by the League of Arab States, of state-sanctioned discriminatory and repressive measures, and of popular violence [44], barely figure at all in his narratives. The immoderation of Pappe’s thesis, so plainly indifferent to the complexity of the historical record (when indeed it is not positively misrepresented) [45], invites not so much a refuting response as the dismissive acknowledgment that one is in the presence of a partisan, angered into the traducing of the motives and actions of one political movement in advocacy of the interests of its adversary movement.”

    Substitute “arab declaration of war” with “reference to Israel’s unique evil” or some similar anti-semitic phrase and the analogy becomes crystal clear.

  32. David Says:

    Brian – whatever gave you the idea that I can’t take it? I wrote a reply, which for some reason wasn’t accepted by DH. It was certainly no ruder than your original and follow-up email and didn’t contain the sort of ad hominem attacks and character assassination with which you began this debate. Moreover, it questioned your bizarre request for “qualifications” and the relevance of my surname (or anyone else’s posting here) as being any of your business…

  33. Mira Vogel Says:

    There’s a lot to respond to in the discussion above, including KKH’s casting of professional aspersion which I thought was a bad mistake to do at all, and to do in public after acknowledging that David H is subject to ad hominem attacks. Please note that David posted the comment anyway (I think he was moderating at the time).

    But KKH has sworn off these discussions for the good of his health (very wise) so I’ll try to speak generally.

    I can understand a reluctance to get involved with the politics from an academic professional standpoint – depending on what you are researching, an overt political stance could close off access to some of the people you are trying to study. But it is not necessary for academics to remain neutral.

    I also value what I perceive as KKH’s attempts to take some of the anger out of the argument for the sake of clear thinking – to mitigate a row and transform it into a debate. I also think it is a big ask – people get angry about racism and this anger is not necessarily destructive. Anger is not necessarily destructive, although it upsets and incapacitates some people – and we should care about those people. I don’t think we on Engage indulge the anger we might have to this extent, in fact speaking for myself I try to cover it up or better still rise above it – but I think KKH’s perception is important. We have a message to get across, and that message is not “Be angry” – it’s “Understand” and “Do something”.

    The reproach about not meeting with e.g. Lerman and Klug is one I don’t accept. They write and they speak – they put their views out into the public domain and it’s fine to respond to those – it’s also fine to speculate about their motives, as long as that speculation is transparent.

    The alternative is that nobody who follows Klug and Lerman can pass comment on Klug and Lerman without first approaching them to find out what they intend – leaving us with an elite of commentators, the ones who were important enough to gain the ear of K and L. Although I think what they intend is relevant, discovering these intentions is not do-able for most of us, and not necessary either. It is fine to make judgements about the artefacts and their impact – this is what David concentrates on and does so well.

    Good intentions pave the road to hell, as they say. To take the most extreme example, the fascists and the Nazis had some of the best and furthest-reaching intentions of cleaning up and remaking anew. Great. So we mustn’t demonise them. But they were still wrong, dangerous and to be opposed. But that was only an extreme example. Nobody here mentioned above is anything like a fascist or a Nazi.

  34. Keith Kahn-Harris Says:

    Mira

    I know I had sworn off this thread but I felt I had to acknowledge the thoughtfulness of your post – thank you.

    I always acknowledge my own shortcomings so I’ll do it again here: it probably was not a wise thing to do to cast aspersions on David’s professionalism given that I do abhor ad hominem attacks. However, I think there is an issue here that needs to be addressed, even if I could have phrased the issue better. I admire David as a scholar but I don’t think that some of the things that he writes on Engage do himself justice. It is extremely difficult to balance the requirements of scholarship and political efficacy (I certainly get it wrong as often as I get it right). My worry about David’s position on Tony Lerman and the ‘new conservatives’ line is that it does appear to imply all sorts of things that go beyond a reading of what people like Lerman have actually written. No of course I don’t think you can only comment on someone if you know them personally. However, there is a difference between dissecting and criticising someone’s views and making much wider and more ambitious judgements. The latter, it seems to me, take you into a realm where the sociological imagination becomes vital. Now sociology doesn’t mean you have to speak to someone before passing judgement on their opinions, but it seems to me that talking to people offers all sorts of insights that cannot be obtained through simply looking at peoples’ writings. I am not and I know David is not a radical postmodernist or ethnomethodologist – I am sure neither of us believe that all we are is a collection of texts. Further, the opportunity to meet up with Tony Lerman or any one else on the left of the UK Jewish community is easily taken up. I know myself that my understanding of all sorts of people – including David Hirsch – is deepened by meeting them. People are not stereotypes and everyone has something about them that can surprise or give pause for thought.

    My worry about the blog wars being fought by Engage and others is that it disconnects people from each other. I am a passionate believer in the power of dialogue – see my report here: http://www.newjewishthought.org/Experimentindialogue.php and my critique of internet politics here: http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/the-politics-of-me-me-me

    I agree with you Mira that anger can be productive. It can also be deeply disabling. Further, my biggest problem with the lack of restraint in the criticisim of Lerman et al is that it is harmful to Jewish community. Jewish community matters to me – David, Tony, Brian, Mira (and yes even Gilad Atzmon and Avigdor Lieberman) are mishpoach – they are my family. Fighting the good fight is all very well but politics in a confined space like UK Jewry needs to be modified if it is not going to rip a community apart. Yes I know the critique made of Lerman et al is that they are endangering community but it’s precisely at that point that community matters. I find it enormously ironic that those who criticise IJV et al for distancing themselves from UK Jewry often practice a similarly cavalier attitude.

    Finally I’d like to stress my own position. I agree with some of what Engage does but not all of it. I agree with some of what Lerman, Klug et al write but not all of it. I want to preserve nuance and complexity in a debate that is rapidly losing either. I am not going to choose sides once and for all despite a lot of people trying to push me into doing so. This may be self-centred but if I don’t have my own capacity to make judgements then what do I have?

  35. Keith Kahn-Harris Says:

    I mispelled mishpocha! Apologies. We self-hating Jews aren’t good with Yiddish words…

  36. NIMN Says:

    Oh Keith, you’re so much better than the people who fight against antisemitism. And you’re also so much better than the antisemites. Because you’re so complex. And so nuanced.

    You’re so much more intellectually sophisticated than those Engage people who spend their time teaching Jewish kids how to defend themselves when people come at them shouting that they are the new Nazis and that they support apartheid.

    And you’re so much more interesting than those Engage people who spend their time and their effort trying to make sure that Israelis are not boycotted by the UCU.

    And you’re so much more intelligent than those Engage people who spend their days putting together and maintaining a website which can help people who want to oppose antisemitic arguments but who don’t have the confidence or the knowledge to do it.

  37. Mandrake Says:

    OK Keith.

    Lerman blames Israel for antisemitism and says Jews want there to be antisemitism.

    But you won’t condemn it.

    As Deborah Lipstadt said “some people are so open-minded, their brains fall out”

  38. Gil Says:

    I wonder what Gilad Atzmon would make of someone calling him ‘mishpocha’? I wouldn’t want to belong to any mishpocha that had Atzmon as a member of it (with thanks to Groucho).

  39. NIMN Says:

    Engage is an antiracist and left wing website. It isn’t a Jewish communal website.

    So our family is not Lieberman, Atzmon, Philips, Lerman and Klug.

    Our family is Jon Pike and Jane Ashworth and others who want to help the fight against racism.

  40. Keith Kahn-Harris Says:

    Mandrake: One of the (many) reasons I oppose an academic boycott of Israel is that I will not participate in enforced condemnations. I don’t agree with much of what Lerman says but my position on him takes more time to explain than can be encapsulated in a one-line condemnation. I don’t have the time or energy to produce a full exegesis of Lerman’s latest article right now.

    NIMH: Ignoring your first sarcastic post. ‘Engage is an antiracist and left wing website. It isn’t a Jewish communal website….Our family is Jon Pike and Jane Ashworth and others who ant to help the fight against racism.’ Well then what are you fighting for? Are you fighting racism because it is some abstract discourse that annoys you? If you aren’t interested in those you purport to be defending then why bother?

  41. Saul Says:

    NIMN,
    yes!

    Antisemitism is not a “Jewish” thing though it targets Jews.

    Some people who are Jews get this wrong. Some people who are not Jews gets this wrong.

    Some people who are Jews understand this. Some people who are not Jews understand this

  42. NIMN Says:

    Yes Keith, you do ignore the central question – about antisemitism. And you continue to ignore what is at stake and you offer as an excuse that you don’t like the unpleasantness of the “debate”.

    Well nor does anybody.

    But we’re stuck with it. We’re stuck with the need to fight against antisemitism – and that means getting involved in unpleasant discussions.

    Keith asks why I am interested in fighting antisemitism if it is not because of some kind of communal kinship with Jews.

    The answers are (1) We don’t fight racism because we like or dislike the group which is demonized – or because we feel a kinship with that group. We fight racism because racism is false and dangerous. And it is dangerous to people who we may like or who we may dislike, who we may feel close to or who we may not feel close to. None of that is relevant. We defend even people we hate against racism and even people who are nothing like us. Perhaps not “even” but “especially”.

    (2) Antisemitism is a symptom of a serious problem with left and liberal thought. We must fight antisemitism in order to save the left.

  43. Mira Vogel Says:

    A lot to say, but no time now.

  44. Keith Kahn-Harris Says:

    Sigh…well for the record here is what I think about antisemitism: I think there is a real problem currently in the UK and elsewhere and it worries me immensely. I admire much of what Engage has done – particularly its fight against the academic boycott. I also have problems with much of the left’s blindspot on antisemitism.

    However, I do think that sometimes Engage sometimes fixes on the wrong targets. I also think that sometimes it reproduces many of the worst features of leftist discourse – a ‘with us or against us’ worldview and the narcisism of minor differences. I am desparately worried by many of things Israel does and I think that Engage is a missed opportunity to develop a politics that is anti-antisemitism and critical of Israeli policies (to be fair, I do think that the range of opinions on the blog during the gaza conflict was a step in the right direction).

    Nimn I think that the view you have about anti-racism – that your views on or relationship to the targets of racism are not in themselves relevant – reproduces a view that I have always had great difficulty with. I don’t think you can disentangle racism from its targets. This is precisely why I abhor the willingness of SWP etc to get close to Islamic fundamentalists. Yes racism should be opposed regardless of what you think about its targets, but things don’t stop there. For one thing, the behaviour of those that are attacked cannot be simply taken out of the equation, however much we might like to. I am not saying that Jews who support Israel (or Muslims who support Islamism) ‘deserve’ racism or are ‘responsible’ for it. However, racism does not spring fully formed from nowhere. It is part of a context that needs to be understood if racism is to be effectively tackled. To do that, you have to understand both the victims and the perpetrators.

    Further, I think racism is a problem because I value diversity and I value community. I am concerned that much activism against antisemitism does terrible harm to the Jewish community that I love. I abhor the creation of pariahs and I abhor abusive language (even if I engage in it sometimes myself I am aware that this is a real failing of mine and I struggle against it). The bitter internal disputes about Israel and antisemitism in the community are harming relations in the community.

    To be clear: I do not think that Engage and other campaigns against antisemitism are the only ones responsible for this. I have real problems with aspects of IJV etc. I did not agree with much of what Lerman said in his recent article. But I do agree with some of what they say and I do think their motivations are often correct and I refuse to cut them off.

    Anyway, I am busy, I am sick, I have a job. I will try and refrain from commenting more

  45. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Sigh! David, let me remind you of your very first words on this thread, directed at me. They were, in their entirety: “I presume you are joking…if not, as someone who has chosen to make something of the fact that you are a sociologist, you have just demonstrated a level of ignorance for which you should be thoroughly embarrassed. At the very least, you have made it clear that your academic position or qualifications have absolutely no bearing on the significance or relevance of your comments on anything Jewish.”

    By the way, if you had bothered to read my comment with any degree of attention, you will have realised that I was noting that my academic background might have caused me to miss reading certain authors. How many great sociologists have _you_ read?

    Your comment is rude, insulting and an ad hominem attack on me. You have (and can have) no idea of my academic qualifications, my work experience nor of any other experience I might bring to bear on the subject matter of the Engage website. At no time, then or subsequently, do you actually comment on the meat of my first comment, which is an attack on Anthony Lerman’s views, as presented in the article linked to.

    But you do have the gall to complain that I and others (both in this and at least one other comments thread), are being rude and insulting to you, apparently without any sense of the irony involved, given that you were (and are) rude and insulting _first_, and we are merely responding. Allow me to remind you that I commented on Lerman. This may have been a weak comment, it may have been factually incorrect, it may have been without foundation, indeed. However, readers of this thread would never know any of that, if that _is_ your view, from _your_ first and subsequent comments, where all you appear to do is “whine” (your word, again) about how stupid and ill-informed I am, how hard done by you are and how rude certain of us are to you and insult you and mount ad hominem attacks against you.

    Should the moderators decide to allow this comment through, perhaps you might enlighten us all as to how we have got our views of Lerman all wrong. Without being rude to or insulting us.

  46. Saul Says:

    “I am desparately worried by many of things Israel does and I think that Engage is a missed opportunity to develop a politics that is anti-antisemitism and critical of Israeli policies.”

    I don’t give a damn if every Jew in Britian stood up and said what Israel is doing is right.

    I don’t give a damn if every Muslim in the UK stood up and said 9/11 was a good thing and Israel must go.

    I will defend Jews against antisemitism; I will defend Muslims against Islamophobia from wherever it arises.

    Fighting against racism is unconditional.

    Keith want to understand the nature and causes of antisemitism; and he is right to do so. He is equally right to try to understand the nature of social and political relations that give rise to antisemitism. He is right.

    Lerman and Rose do not grant that “understanding”. Their simplistic (and lazy) analysis is that when Jews do bad things that leads naturally to antisemitism. The consequences of that belief is that Jews are responsible to antisemitism. Jews are never responsible for antisemitism; antisemites are responsible for antisemitism. Understanding antisemitism takes years of work and of study, and even that is no guarantee. It does not come from picking up a slogan of the antisemites.

    As to the “community” thing; I am frankly uninterested in it. As we know, whilst “community” can offer great strength, it is also the site of great abuse. Like everything else, “community” is equivocal. As such, it contains the same differences, distinctions and contradictions as in the wider world. I have no intention of patronising Lerman or Rose because they choose to speak “as a Jew” or because they happen to part of one of the many milleus in which I live.

  47. David Hirsh Says:

    KKH: “I am desparately worried by many of things Israel does and I think that Engage is a missed opportunity to develop a politics that is anti-antisemitism and critical of Israeli policies.”

    Engage publishes material that is critical of Israeli policies. Openly. Often.

    Keith, you have made quite a few claims in this discussion that are not true. Why?

    About Engage: “…we support a cosmopolitan or internationalist politics that supports those who fight for peace and against racism within both nations…. Our campaign against antisemitism and the demonization of Israel is intended to strengthen not weaken other campaigns for peace in the Middle East. We believe that the central reason that so called “Palestine Solidarity” is such a weak and fringe campaign in Britain is that most decent people don’t want to be involved with something that smells of antisemitism. We support those who campaign for Palestinian rights and we believe that what we have to say would strengthen, not weakens, their campaigns. We also support the Israeli peace movement, weak and disorientated as it may be. We believe that the demonization of Israel weakens the Israeli peace movement and pushes Israelis who are for peace into the arms of the Israeli right.”

    https://engageonline.wordpress.com/about-engage/

    Howard Jacobson: “I would tear the settlements down with my own hands had I power enough in them.”

    https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/02/26/why-jacqueline-rose-is-not-right-howard-jacobson/

    Alana Pugh-Jones: “Sadly within the Jewish community, and in broader South African society, such a heightening of tensions between pro- and anti-Israel supporters has had the effect of reducing the space for nuanced discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some moderate voices which supported the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and which advocate an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, have been rendered much more cautious by the extremism and antisemitism of Israel’s most vocal critics.”

    https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/02/25/alana-pugh-jones/

    Mira Vogel: “As I said at the meeting, I want a better twinning. Last week I was at an unedifying talk about what British Jews should do about Gaza. I went because my friend was an invited speaker. Afterwards he rounded up a small group of us with whom he was friendly and took us back to his home. The way it ended up, Palestinians, peace activists, former IDF soldiers, one or maybe two refuseniks, a person who found it very hard to be around to former IDF soldiers, an Israeli peace activist who was converted to boycotting, and an activist against British antisemitism talked and listened together, asked questions, disagreed, drew lines, talked sharply, reached agreements, put some things to one side. As David Hirsh puts it, they were reshaping the broad narratives of Israeli and Palestinian so that they were compatible with each other. This is a requirement of coexistence. The reason that group of people could come together is the kind of atmosphere my friend created – one in which Israelis and Palestinians, in Britain as equals, can grope towards the mutual understanding and trust which is so badly needed whether you support two states, one state or none.

    And our twinning? Worlds away.”

    https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/02/20/portrait-of-a-campus-anti-zionist-twinning/

    David Hirsh: “Everyone knows the shape of the peace – it is a two state solution. It is a peace between a sovereign Israel in the pre-’67 borders and a sovereign Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The more the peace looks unattainable, the more it is necessary to remind everyone that there is no other way out – there is no “one state solution” waiting in the wings…. It is right – and it is also effective – to challenge the politics of war against Israel and “the Zionists” – with a discourse of peace and reconciliation. … We shouldn’t replace idle and menacing dreams of victory over “Zionism” with idle and menacing dreams of victory over Palestinians, Arabs or Muslims. … We should fight for the universal values of peace, antiracism and democracy. …. Instead of inverting the demonization of Israelis and of Jews, we should subvert it.”

    https://engageonline.wordpress.com/page/6/

    Sarah Annes Brown: “So, to conclude, the only people who have actively encouraged me to rethink my decision to leave the UCU have been David and Mira.”

    https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/02/10/on-resignation-from-ucu-sarah-annes-brown/

    Engage is pro-peace, anti-occupation, antiracist and pro union.

    It is just not right to say that we have not combined the fight against antisemitism with criticism of Israeli policies.

    The examples I gave above are from the last few weeks. I could give you hundreds more Keith.

  48. NIMN Says:

    “Nimn I think that the view you have about anti-racism – that your views on or relationship to the targets of racism are not in themselves relevant – reproduces a view that I have always had great difficulty with. I don’t think you can disentangle racism from its targets. This is precisely why I abhor the willingness of SWP etc to get close to Islamic fundamentalists.”

    What is the analogy here?

    Engage opposes antisemitism, while supporting the Israeli and Palestinian peace movements, although it doesn’t love all Jews.

    The SWP opposes Islamophobia by forging a political alliance with Islamic fundamentalists

    So Engage is like the SWP because

    It has the same relationship to Zionists that the SWP does to Islamic fundamentalists

    And Zionists are analogous to Islamic Fundamentalists

    What a load of nonsense.

    Firstly because Engage is critical of Israel’s presence in the West Bank, in Gaza and in East Jerusalem while the SWP is not critical of, for example, the suicide bombing of civilians.

    Secondly because Zionism is not analogous to Islamic Fundamentalism.

    Zionism is a nationalist movement – a fight for a small piece of land – which came to fruition after generations of European and Middle Eastern antisemitism and after the Holocaust. Racism is present in Israel but is a minority movement within Zionism.

    Islamic Fundamentalism is necessarily antisemitic, misogynist, homophobic, anti democratic, anti trade union anti liberal, anti secular – and it is a movement with universal ambition.

  49. Keith Kahn-Harris Says:

    David

    I am aware that you and Engage take a leftist stance on Israel/Palestine (we are both signatories to the JfJfP petition). In private discussions between us it has been clear that we are pretty much on the same page on our views on Israel. I did make clear that I was pleased to see a range of critical opinions expressed during the Gaza conflict. I’ve read most of the pieces that you are drawing my attention to.

    It’s really a matter of priorities. Most of what Engage does is campaign against antisemitism. Campaigning against Israeli policies is secondary to what you do. The really tough challenge is to campaign simultaneously against antisemitism and the occupation. Similarly, IJV and JfJfP are also on paper against antisemitism but in practice it gets put on the back burner.

    You and most other posters have concentrated on my differences with Engage so I’ll say it again – I agree with and admire a lot of what you do. But I’m not going to jump in with any campaigning organisation until I find one that is bold in simultaneously attacking antisemitism and oppression in Israel. At the moment, the organisations I admire most are in Israel, but I’m not an Israel. So until my dream organisation emerges my primary loyalty will be to the UK Jewish community.

  50. Saul Says:

    “Similarly, IJV and JfJfP are also on paper against antisemitism but in practice it gets put on the back burner.”

    That is patently not the case. J. Rose and A. Lerman are both members of IJV (it is often how they are introduced).

    They do not leave antisemitism on the backburner, but go out of their way in national papers and elsewhere to say that, a. antisemitism is the fault of the Jews; b. Zionists are unhinged because of the Holocaust; and c. criticism of patently antisemitic discourse is an attempt to silence “criticism of Israel”.

    Secondly, is the idea that campaigning against antisemitism is somewhow conditional on taking a position on Israel.

    Leaving aside Hirsh’s links above, the fight against any form of racism is not conditional at all.

    As way of analogy, does one respond to the idea that Jews control the markets and have engineered the recession by demaninding that we take a position of disreputable businessmen and women who happen to be Jewish?

    Does an antiracist demand that Muslims who suffer constant verbal abuse on the streets of many cities “speak out” against the things done in “their name”. Of course not. And why, because we recognise those “conditions” as themselves racist.

    Antisemites link their attitudes to Jews by the behaviour of other Jews. Anti-antisemites challenge that. They do not demand (or ask politely) that Jews and non-Jews preface every challenge to antisemitism by the “I criticise Israel”……..

    I am surprised that you do.

  51. Mandrake Says:

    KKH “One of the (many) reasons I oppose an academic boycott of Israel is that I will not participate in enforced condemnations”

    Even the fact that you SAY this shows where you are coming from. No-one who is committed to fighting antisemitism would even say that they ‘oppose an academic boycott’, let alone say that there are many reasons for opposing it. It really goes without saying that an academic boycott is to be opposed – because it is antisemtic. There are two legal opinions which show that.

    How can you even write that?

    Then you say “I did not agree with much of what Lerman said in his recent article”

    Antisemitism is at record levels. Lerman is blaming Israel and saying that Jews welcome it. That is utterly to be condemned. It is treacherous.

  52. Keith Kahn-Harris Says:

    Engage’s unimpeachable credentials in opposing antisemitism could be (and occasionally are at the moment) a powerful source of moral authority in left-wing opposition to Israeli policies. So: I’m sure that you David and the vast majority of Engage posters and commenters are horrified by the large vote for the unashamed racist Lieberman in the Israeli elections and I’m sure you are disturbed by Netanyahu’s da facto opposition to a 2 state solution. Why not start a campaign against Lieberman’s racism and highlighting the danger posed by Liberman? Why not be their demonstrating when Liberman comes to London? There are many many people – Jews and non-Jews – who are desparately concerned at the turn Israel has taken but are repelled by the rhetoric of the pro-Palestinian movement. Why not take the lead on this and cut the rug out from under the extremists feet?

    It’s not that you have to do this to justify being against antisemitism, but campaigning on 2 fronts will give both campaigns more authority.

    Go on! If you do this I will by you lunch (and maybe dinner to) and I’ll be at the barricades with you.

  53. Saul Says:

    So, the subject changes to Israel. My my, what a novel move; never seen that happen in a debate about antisemitism before!

    Meanwhile, Lerman argues that Jews are damaged by the Holocaust and, indeed, thrive off the antisemitism created by Israel.

    Funny, how it is always the Jews who are psychologically damaged.

    The rest of Europe, you know the one’s who partook in the murder of Jews, have worked through it, and, in rude health, have now entered the nirvana of “multiculturalism” whilst those parochial, paranoid, Jews, stuck in their steitl (ghetto) mentality, see antisemitism where there is none (or, at the most, only a little).

    So, once again, the majority of Jews and the Jewish community are an anachronistic throwback.

    Good to see the arguments of the 18th century reappearing as if they were new in the 21st! You know, the argument that said Jews are backward and that once they enter the world of universal reason, the nation-state and become citizens, they woes would be at an end………….hmmmm, let me just check the historical record on that………..

    (By the way, what was McShane’s name before he changed it – or is he a honary gentile “gate-keeper”?)

  54. David Hirsh Says:

    Engage isn’t a gang and it isn’t a political party. It is a campaign against antisemitism and it is a defence against the exclusion of Israelis from the academic, cultural and economic life of humanity.

    I will happily go with you to demonstrate against Netanyahu or Lieberman when they come to London.

    I will happily go with you to demonstrate against genocide in Darfur.

    I will happily go with you to demonstrate against the occupation of Tibet or Western Sahara or the West Bank.

    I will happily go with you to demonstrate for trade union rights and for lesbian and gay rights in Iraq and in Iran, and in Saudi Arabia.

    But Engage won’t be organizing any of this. Because Engage is a campaign against antisemitism.

    Our worldview is an antiracist and a pro-peace worldview. But we are a single issue campaign.

    There is nothing wrong with being a single issue campaign.

    If you were saying that people ought to campaign against Israeli human rights abuses then I would agree with you wholeheartedly. And i do. And I have done for 3 decades.

    But you are saying more than that.

    You are saying that people can only be taken seriously as fighters against anti-Jewish racism if they parade their anti-occupation credentials.

    It is as though you were to say to somebody who campaigns against anti-black racism in South London:

    “I am not really convinced of your sincerity in opposing racism because I do not see you denouncing street crime in South London with sufficient clarity or frequency – and street crime in South London is committed, disproportionately, by black kids. Racism in South London is a result, partly at least, of black kids in South London being involved in street crime. So to fight racism you have to campaign against street crime. To show that you are a genuine antiracist rather than an apologist for mugging, you have to denounce mugging. Until you tie your campaign against racism to a campaign against mugging, your campaign is bound to fail – and it is bound to be seen as one-sided.”

    I don’t have to tell you why this would be the wrong way to fight against racism in South London.

    But when it comes to antisemitism, you follow the same logic.

  55. Keith Kahn-Harris Says:

    No I am not saying that ‘people can only be taken seriously as fighters against anti-Jewish racism if they parade their anti-occupation credentials.’ I am saying that campaigning against one strengthens campaigns against the other. Israelis and many Jews are very suspicious about the motives of those who criticise Israel (and often for good reasons) so a campaign against the occupation by those who also campaign against antisemitism is likely to have more of an impact than anything that pro-Palestinian campaigners can achieve. Similarly, a campaign against antisemitism by those who campaign against the occupation is much less vulnerable to the ‘Livingstone formulation’.

    Single issue campaigns are reasonable enough in theory (and I’ve been and still am a member of quite a few) but broader movements can be much more effective.

    I don’t think the S London analogy fits 100% but I do understand the point you are making. In my view though the most effective anti-racist campaigners are often those who are deeply implicated and struggling to improve the communities in which they live.

    And you’re on – we’re going to raise hell together when Lieberman comes to town!

  56. Another Observer Says:

    “I am saying that campaigning against one strengthens campaigns against the other. Israelis and many Jews are very suspicious about the motives of those who criticise Israel (and often for good reasons) ”

    Really, such as (please list the “good reasons” as in the UK).

    “In my view though the most effective anti-racist campaigners are often those who are deeply implicated and struggling to improve the communities in which they live.”

    Seems to me campaigning against antisemitism is quite a good way to “improve the community in which they live”……..it is also quite a nice way to improve society as a whole (regardless of whether or not it comprises of “communities” or not).

  57. Vlad the Impaler Says:

    KKH is IJV lite – his comments on this thread betray an embarrasment he shares with the New Conservatives at the antics of those who employ a robust approach to opposing antisemitism. He cares about all the mishpocha, even Gilad Atzmon – shock horror! – who cares – I worry about a nuclear Iran with a leadership which freely employs genocidal rhetoric, a failing state in Pakistan and a resurgent Taliban and an entrenched Hamas and Hezbollah on Israel’s borders and all this against the backdrop of the worst recession since the 1930s and the Jews are isolated like never before and all post Holocaust taboos are being broken.

    KKH peddles the politics of coolness and social acceptability – the kind of stuff that is paraded at Limmud – lets have Robert Fisk, lets have Deborah Fink – aren’t we so liberal and open minded – lalalala – makes you want to cry to think of the bullshit people come up with to excuse appeasement.

  58. Saul Says:

    KKH’s problem (political) is that he can ony think in terms of “community”; that is why he cannot quite cope with Engage’s position viv a vis antisemitism.
    Engage is not “communal”; its founding members are Jews and non-Jews, its politics are of a universality anti-racist left that simiple will not allow it to be corralled into a “community” pigeonhole.

    Engage never speaks “as a Jew”.

    Engage knows that antisemitism is not personal and does not depend upon an unmeidated respose to Jewish acts and behaviour.

    Engage understands that antisemitism is a politics; the politics of the gutter and the socialism of fools.

  59. Bennett Says:

    Keith

    Here’s some examples of solidarity groups that Engage has promoted.

    Gush SHalom

    Gisha

    Durham Palestine Educational Trust

    Let Khaled Study

    One Voice

    Parents Circle

    Bereaved Families for Peace

    The Abraham Fund

    End the siege

    Combatants For Peace

    West-Eastern Divan orchestra

    And here’s some links to various solidarity articles.

    Sponsored Walk For Durham Palestine Educational Trust : Please Donate
    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=2000

    Gisha on Palestinian students trapped in Gaza
    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/index.php?actu=30

    Against anti-Muslim racism
    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=2001

    Israeli academics speak out for Palestinian academic freedom
    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/index.php?actu=20

    Palestinians and Israelis must be able to meet to talk peace – Benjamin Pogrund
    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=495

    Why is the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel Supporting
    Settlements in the West Bank ?

    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/index.php?actu=30

    ADL is wrong to endorse a new boycott campaign – David Hirsh
    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=456

    Allow Khaled al-Mudallal to study at Bradford!
    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1452

    Let Khaled Study
    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1459

    Gush Shalom appeals against facilitating settler radio
    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1477

    One Million Voices Palestine performer refutes statement made by boycotters
    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1484

    Calls across the wall – Parents Circle – Family Forum
    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1489

    Conflict and Reconciliation: Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace
    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1495

    After Rabin – Uri Avnery
    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1511

    The Abraham Fund’s ‘Language as a Cultural Bridge’ programme
    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1531

    End the siege
    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1551

    Calls by US right wingers to boycott Sari Nusseibeh should be treated
    with contempt – David Hirsh
    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1572

    Sari Nusseibeh responds to those who characterized him as an antisemite
    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1578

    Students and the blockade of Gaza
    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1589

    Rebuilding alliances, rejecting boycott
    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1591

    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1593
    Barenboim becomes a Palestinian citizen

  60. Keith Kahn-Harris Says:

    Yes I know you’ve done these things – I do read Engage regularly – and I’m pleased you have. What I’m simply suggesting is that you give them more prominence.

    That’s it from me…

  61. Saul Says:

    Keith,
    You just don’t get it, do you?

  62. Mark Gardner Says:

    Some of this reminds me of my encounter with the CND stall in Crouch End this weekend. I stopped and asked why they said nothing about Iran. The beardy guy shrugged. I repeated angrily, “why don’t you say anything about Iran”. He smiled disarmingly (pun intended) and said “well, we can’t do everything”. I laughed. He laughed. We both laughed: and then I understood the meaning of the term ‘a knowing laugh’.

    There seems to be an increasingly spoken notion that British Jews need to condemn Israel in order to not deserve the antisemitic consequences of anti-Israel fury and anti-Zionist hysteria. This notion should be laughed out of court by all anti-racists. It is simply derisory. Nevertheless, that is where we are now at. Just as we are now at a situation where CND activists can’t see why they ought to bother about Iranian nukes.

    (And yes I did see the news about Iran not having weapons grade etc etc.).

  63. Marcus Says:

    IJV want to be loved by antisemites , Keith wants to be loved by everybody !

  64. Mira Vogel Says:

    I would like to argue with a number of Keith’s points, but he wants to go, he is ill and it’s not right to keep on with this when it is an effort for him to participate and defend his points. So that’s enough now – please save copies of any subsequent comments you submit to this thread, because I might delete them.

  65. Mandrake Says:

    If KKH, Lerman et al would like to do something constructive as opposed to unproductive navel-gazing and timewasting (the time of those of us who do not equivocate when faced with antisemitism), maybe they could write to the Abbey Theatre Dublin which is showing ‘Seven Jewish Children’ from tomorrow.

    This play demonises Israelis and has antisemitic content.

    The details of the Abbey are:
    00 353 1 887 2200
    Fax: 00 353 1 872 9177
    info@abbeytheatre.ie

  66. Bob Says:

    I’ve got lots to add to this debate, which has been surprisingly fierce, but am mindful of what Mira just said, so I’ll try and keep it short. The key thing is that the difference between what KKH is arguing at Prospect and what Lerman says in his despicable article is enormous, and too many commenters here are conflating the two, simply because they appeared more or less coincidentally. It is clear from Keith’s piece that he is not in any way blaming Jews for antisemitism (which Lerman is) and it is clear that, contrary to certain commenters’ readings of what he says, he does not demand Jews demonstrate their criticisms of Israel before they have the right to speak.

    The point in Mandrake’s comment at 12:20 – that KKH and Lerman should “do something constructive as opposed to unproductive navel-gazing and timewasting” – is misdirected in relation to Keith. His article celebrates the robustness of the Jewish community, the exciting things that are going on like Limmud, Jewish Book Week, Yad, bands like Los Desterrados, Jewdas (and Keith is personally involved in lots of these things). This is important and constructive, in a different way from the way fighting antisemitism is. There are lots of people in the Jewish community getting on with that sort of thing, who have varying views on the relationship between antisemitism and Israel.

    I notice, by the way, that Keith has been subjected to two contradictory criticisms here and at the Prospect blog: he has been condemned here for being primarily concerned about “the community” rather than the “universal” issue of anti-racism, and he has been condemned by Mark G at Prospect and by Mandrake here for not knowing the community well enough to know that everyone is obsessed with antisemitism and for being “treacherous” to the Jewish community for refusing to condemn Lerman (although he has made it clear that he disagrees with Lerman). Which of these criticisms is the right one?

    For me, someone like Atzmon is not my mishpokhe and I don’t go along with KKH’s communalism. But I am equally uncomfortable with the idea of “universal” values. Steve Cohen’s booklet described how the leftist myth of universalism has often been an alibi for various forms of antisemitism and “red assimilationism”. There is nothing wrong in wanting a healthy Jewish community: and that means a democratic one, where people are free to speak out on the issues that concern them.

    I’ve got lots more to say, but I don’t want Mira to cut me, and I have to go to a meeting!

  67. johng Says:

    Perhaps the CND guy might have pointed out that Iran doesn’t have any nukes? Just a thought.

  68. David Says:

    Brian: The first comment on this thread consisted of your ad hominem attack on Tony Lerman. That’s all there is to it.

    You seem to have been unable to stomach any questioning of your knowledge of Jewish history (based on your never having heard of Salo Baron), even though you constantly parade around your own academic credentials.

    Since David Hirsh (or whoever) sees fit to selectively edit my responses (which are certainly no ruder than yours, Saul’s, MIMN’s etc) and I have better and more interesting things to do than constantly check and rewrite what has, and has not, made it past the Engage censor, I will join KKH and the LONG list of those who have attempted to engage in productive discussion here, but have been run off by the self-righteous crowd that seems to think character assassination on the Engage blog has some connection to fighting antisemitism.

    Well done!!

  69. Mira Vogel Says:

    OK, took my eye off the ball, two comments sneaked in and I let in the dull one from JohnG myself. Move along people. Nothing to see here. Go write stuff on your own blogs.

  70. Mark Gardner Says:

    I dont want Bob’s comments to leave the impression that Keith KH and I are in conflict over this. I disagreed with some of his emphases in Prospect, he disagreed back, we respected each other’s interpretations and motivations, it was a constructive dialogue, and our relationship remains a wholly positive one.

    I don’t think Bob implies that I am lumping Keith KH, Tony Lerman and IJV all together. But, for the avoidance of doubt: I am most certainly not, and I would strongly urge others not to do so either.

    (Bob – you summarised me re.Keith as follows: “To clarify, howveer, he has been condemned by Mark G at Prospect and by Mandrake here for not knowing the community well enough to know that everyone is obsessed with antisemitism”.

    I think you’re overstating things a bit. I didn’t say we’re all “obsessed” with antisemitism. I presume this is the excerpt from my Prospect posting that you are referring to, and its not as over the top as you make out:

    “Are there “deep divisions” in Jewish Community about the cause and gravity of antisemitic incidents rise? Well, I haven’t met anyone who disputes the “cause” is Israel-Palestine conflict, but certainly the “gravity” and the meaning we take from it are disputed, but even here its stretching things to say that this is a widespread internal dispute. Basically, those who say its not serious, tend to already be a highly vocal but small minority who are in political dispute with the organised communal structures on everything else anyway.”)

  71. Mira Vogel Says:

    Thank you. Comments are now closed.


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