Moussawi won’t be coming

Rosie Bell on “understandable” antisemitism

Rosie Bell on Ken Loach – discovered on a Bob From Brockley smorgasbord. She writes:

“After 9/11 a mosque and a Pakistani community centre were fire bombed in Edinburgh. I’d dreaded something like that so like Ken Loach I wasn’t surprised. And I understood it because I know racist thugs will be racist thugs. But I didn’t think, it is understandable that random British Muslims (and Hindus and Sikhs who look like them) get grief because of the activities of some Saudis based in Hamburg. Disgraceful and totally crappy were the adjectives that sprang to my mind. Something understandable is not something understood. Something understandable is something excused.”

Read it all.

UPDATE: Read Norman Geras on Loach’s “understanding” of antisemitism.

UPDATE 2: Brief and excellent response from Olly’s Onions – Why Ken Loach Should Apologise for High School Musical 3. Via Z-Word and Terry Glavin.

“Jewish Lobby” denounced in the Independent newspaper


Today’s Independent provides a classic example of the anti-Israel lobby thesis morphing seamlessly into the classic antisemitic Jewish power motif.

The article, by Rupert Cornwell, is ostensibly about the resignation of Charles Freeman as head of the National Intelligence Council. It is headlined: “ ‘Israel lobby’ blamed as Obama’s choice for intelligence chief quits”.

The opening paragraph, however, morphs the ‘Israel lobby’ into “the Jewish lobby”. It begins: “Fears over the Jewish lobby’s excess influence on US foreign policy flared anew yesterday…”.

It goes on to quote from Charles Freeman himself: “declaring he had fallen victim to what he [Freeman] called the ‘Israel lobby’ “. Next, Cornwell tells us that Freeman’s thesis “exactly reflect the thesis of” Walt & Mearshemier’s book “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy” about the malign impact of “the Jewish state’s supporters”.

Cornwell then quotes Stephen Walt on the Freeman episode and Walt’s words are placed in a highlights sidebar, “For all of you who questioned if there was a powerful ‘Israel lobby’, think again”. The article ends by recalling that, “Pat Buchanan, a right-wing commentator and erstwhile presidential candidate, once described Capitol Hill as ‘Israeli-occupied territory’ “.

So, there we have it then. The Independent’s correspondent Rupert Cornwell knows better than Freeman, Walt and (even) Pat Buchanan. This isn’t all about the “Israel lobby”, its all about “the Jewish lobby”.

I suppose its quite refreshing to have these things out in the open for once, but I’m certainly looking forward to the “its only criticism of Israel” excuses on this one.

(NB – the comments thread underneath the article is quite filthy, but is that any wonder?)

Mark Gardner, Director of Communications, CST


The Independent published the following letter from Mark Gardner on 14 March:

The article on the resignation of Charles Freeman was headlined, “Israel lobby blamed as Obama’s choice for intelligence chief quits”. The opening sentence, however, stated, “Fears over the Jewish lobby’s excess influence on US foreign policy flared anew”.

At root, the failure to distinguish between Israelis, pro-Israelis and Jews is the same analytical meltdown that occurs in the minds of those who physically attack and threaten British Jews every time there is a flare-up in the cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. The Independent really ought to do better.

Mark Gardner, Community Security Trust

COSATU: How the mighty have fallen

cos1COSATU, the ground-breaking non-racial trade union federation in South Africa is sliding easily into antisemitism. In the 1980s COSATU stood for working class solidarity and for opposition to oppression – and some currents in COSATU were also finding their way towards an alternative to the bland one-nation populsim of the ANC. Now the political clarity and the egalitarian energy for which it was known in socialist and trade union circles throughout the world is in danger of decaying into a vulgar Stalinist variant of the socialism of fools.

Bongani Masuku, the international relations secretary of COSATU, has been employing ever more threatening rhetoric against those Jews in South Africa who resist the pressure to define themselves as antizionist:

“You can leave this country. We will defeat the racists”

I don’t care whether it is antisemitic”

“Anyone who handles goods to or from Israel…Beware!” “Your life will be hell”.

COSATU needs urgently to dump this worldview which demonizes Jews. It needs instead to re-find a way of fighting for the politics of peace, antiracism and reconciliation.

It needs urgently to dump Bongani Masuku too, and explicitly to distance itself from him.

More here, here and here.

Israel as the new Third Reich

picture1From “It’s Almost Supernatural”:

The City Press is the Sunday newspaper with the third largest readership in South Africa. Last week’s edition contained an outstandingly repulsive article from Professor Ali Mazrui entitled “Is Israel bent on becoming the new Third Reich”.

Read the whole piece here, which concludes:

Unfortunately, articles such as this are becoming the staple diet for South African readers. It’s a tide that cannot be stemmed. And of course, it’s not just plaguing South Africa, as these articles can be found anywhere around the world. The difference with South Africa is that there is no pro-Israel/America alternative. It’s the same old drek wherever you look.

For more on what is happening in South Africa, read Alana Pugh-Jones on Engage.

Time to invoke Shylock in defence of Israel – Eric Lee



This piece by Eric lee is from the Jewish Chronicle. Eric is the editor of LabourStart (where trade unionists start their day).

I call it “my Shylock moment” and it’s happening more and more. I’ve had the opportunity three times in the last few weeks to represent the Israeli point of view in public debates. As you can imagine, it’s not an easy task. The audiences — two British universities and at a TV studio in London — are overwhelmingly hostile.

The questions repeat themselves, as do my answers. And every time, there’s one person whose question is a little bit different; this is what triggers the Shylock moment.

The questioner will speak softly. Their face will show real concern, even pain. And what you’ll hear is not an accusation, but a real question, because the person is genuinely confused.

They will say something like this: “I’ve been watching the scenes from Gaza on TV. I’ve seen small children standing in front of the ruins of their homes. I’ve seen parents weeping over the loss of their children. And I can’t understand how you can see all this and still support Israel.”

Obviously when these words come from some propagandist for Hamas they’re designed to deceive. But sometimes it’s a genuine question and deserves a fair answer. When it happens, I find the whole room full of people disappears before my eyes and I focus directly on the person who spoke.

I pause for a moment, not for effect, but to think through what is probably the most important answer I will have to give in an evening full of difficult questions and more difficult answers.

What I need to explain to this person is not so much the tactics and strategy of the Israeli army, or the history of the conflict — I’ll have other chances to do this — but something far more difficult, something that is at the heart of the problem. I need to convince them, first and foremost, that we Jews are actually human.

I realize this sounds like a wild exaggeration — until you’ve come face to face with this kind of audience and this kind of question.

In Britain — particularly on university campuses — we are facing a rising tide of antisemitism. And antisemitism denies the humanity of the Jew. When we confront it, our job is first of all to establish our credentials as members of the same species as the audience.

We need to prove that we share their DNA.

I always begin my answer with a series of negatives. We are not monsters, I say. We do not lack empathy. We are no less horrified than you when we see the needless death and destruction in Gaza. We are not immune to the feelings that you feel.

And when I say these words, I look carefully at the face of the questioner. If I look around, trying to gauge audience reaction to my words, I stop.

I’m looking at one person and talking only to him or her. And I find that sometimes, if I get it right, I get a sign of recognition; a sense that my words are getting through.

Of course I am delighted that I can persuade some people that we Jews are not monsters, that — like them — we want to live in peace and we abhor war. In doing so, I’ve done my bit for Israel and can sleep well at night.

But I also feel like I’m re-enacting the most famous “defence” of being Jewish ever written — Shylock’s monologue in the Merchant of Venice.

I find myself telling student audiences in Britain in 2009 that we Jews are “fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons” as they are. And that if you prick us, we will bleed. And if you poison us, we will die. And it’s not just rhetoric – we really have bled and we really have been poisoned.

Appearing before hostile audiences in Britain today requires us not only to defend or explain certain Israeli actions, but to defend our very humanity. Just as Shylock was forced to do.

Yes, things really are that bad.

Eric Lee

Eric Lee

This piece by Eric lee is from the Jewish Chronicle. Eric is the editor of LabourStart (where trade unionists start their day).