If Melanie Phillips wrote an article which accused me of hoping that would Israel would disappear and of giving interviews to, endorsing or forwarding material from American white supremacists and Holocaust deniers, I guess there are a number of things I could do.
Firstly, I could try to deny its factual accuracy. I could say that I categorically reject any position that threatens Israeli sovereignty. That might be tricky, though, because when I was in Iran not so long ago, I reportedly said this:
“Asked to comment on the United Nations requirement to repatriate the Palestinian refugees to their homeland, he said that repatriation of Palestinians to their own territory will be effective in retaking their own country, because, when the Palestinian refugees come to their home, they will form majority of the population and would form a multi-ethnic state including Jews, Muslims and Christians.”
[UPDATE: Stephen Sizer now claims that this report misquotes what he said]
I could also insist that I “have never knowingly, to use [Melanie Phillips’] words, ‘given interviews to, endorsed or forwarded material from American white supremacists and Holocaust deniers’.” That would leave someone needing to explain the existence of various emails apparently sent out by me, including:
As for the radio interview, that would leave me and my publisher with a bit of explaining to do as well.
Next, I could slip into one of my old favourites, “the Livingstone Formulation“. Not for the first nor even for the second time, I could suggest that someone is raising the spectre of antisemitism in an dishonest effort to stifle legitimate criticism of Israeli policies – specifically, I could write this:
“Is [Melanie Phillips’ piece aiming] to deflect attention from Israel’s recent wanton killing spree in Gaza? Or was it written out of frustration at the decision of the Church of England Synod to divest its shares in Caterpillar? Or just part of the wider Zionist lobby targetting Barak Obama’s new Administration? Or is it perhaps a precursor to an imminent pre-emptive attack against Iran? Lets hope not otherwise it won’t be the libel or calumny we are debating but whether her friends who seem anxious for Armageddon are right after all.”
It would seemingly not concern me that repeatedly accusing Jewish people of raising the spectre of antisemitism as a dishonest ploy to stifle criticism of Israel’s policies might in itself be an antisemitic claim (because it implies that the [usually] Jewish people who do it are dishonest), nor that they might be doing so because, in light of those emails which seem to have left my outbox (not to mention my subtle insinuation of Israeli complicity in 9/11 or my repeated use of dubious sources), they might in fact have good reasons for doubting my philosemitic credentials.
Thirdly, I could lapse into conspiracy theory, suggesting [as above] that Melanie Phillips’ piece is part of the wider plans of the wicked Zionist lobby working on both sides of the Atlantic to target Obama’s administration, to instigate a pre-emptive attack against Iran, and to discredit Chas Freeman (and me). Again, it would seemingly not overly concern me that the myth of an all-powerful Zionist lobby controlling American policy is just that – a myth. And, like the Independent, I might find it difficult to convince people that I really do emphasize the difference between the “Zionist lobby” and the older antisemitic trope of a “Jewish lobby”, because in the past I have specifically written that Dole & Clinton were cowed by the “Jewish Lobby”. It would of course help me to gush over the work of Mearsheimer and Walt (which I refer to as “dynamite”), even though numerous commentators have challenged its claims, notably Alan Dershowitz who pinpoints numerous factual errors and who summarises it as “the newest – and oldest – Jewish conspiracy”. Too bad that Dennis MacShane, someone who knows a bit more about government than me and whose work I have promoted on my own blog, (because I do really want people to believe that I condemn antisemitism) strongly criticises the work of Mearsheimer and Walt, summarising it as “smears against Jews”, concluding with the telling comment that “Jews, Israel and the fabled ‘lobby’ did not exist in any papers I saw or discussions I had as a government minister.” (MacShane, Globalising Hatred – The New Antisemitism, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2008, pp. 137-138)
Fourthly, I could encourage my hearers to combat racism: I could urge them to “Support the United Nations Durban Review Conference to be held in Geneva in April. The Durban Review Conference, to be held in Geneva, Switzerland, 20-24 April 2009, will evaluate progress towards the goals set by the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. The Review Conference will serve as a catalyst to fulfilling the promises of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action agreed at the 2001 World Conference through reinvigorated actions, initiatives and practical solutions, illuminating the way toward equality for every individual and group in all regions and countries of the world.” It would seemingly not occur to me, and certainly not to my hearers, that the Durban 2001 conference turned into a cesspit of antisemitism (sorry! – “legitimate criticism of the policies of the Israeli government”), nor that numerous observers, including veteran anti-apartheid campaigner Benjamin Pogrund, consider that the 2009 conference will be little better, nor of course that one of the goals set in 2001 (point 65 of the Durban and Declaration and Programme of Action) was this: “We recognize the right of refugees to return voluntarily to their homes and properties in dignity and safety, and urge all States to facilitate such return”. Would that be a call for the Palestinian right of return, long recognized as a euphemism for Israel’s destruction?
This would be ironic, seeing as I devote a lot of my time to criticising those who see the Bible as predicting events in the modern-day Middle East. It would also be a bit silly, seeing as the people referred to in those passages were based in first-century Smyrna and Philadelphia respectively. It would also be tricky because both groups apparently “claim[ed] they were Jews but [were] not” – suggesting they may in fact have been Gentiles claiming to be Jews (something which has parallels in later history) – but who ever heard of a non-Jewish Israeli rabbi? It could also be a PR disaster for me, because a simple Google search shows how that phrase in Revelation has been and still is misused by antisemites today, whilst one of the leading works on left-wing anti-Semitism shows how the trope of Satanic or Satan-worshipping Jews has a long and inglorious history.
If I did all this, would you be convinced that I took antisemitism seriously? Or would you begin to wonder whether my particular brand of Christian anti-Zionism was in fact morphing into something else?
Dealing with Conflict (School for Peace – Wahat al-Salam ~ Neve Shalom)
London 31/03/09 or Brighton 24/04/09
Workshop about our Education Resource Dealing With Conflict which is in line with national curricular requirements. Suits citizenship, RE, history, community cohesion, mediation skills, exploring identity, inter faith, Learning about the Israel-Arab conflict. Featured in TES, DEA RE Today, and DFES. Dealing with conflict is modelled after the international institute of encounter and conflict resolution, The School for Peace, in Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salam, a joint Jewish / Palestinian village.
Workshop will also accommodate any non teaching professional who likes to learn about the methods at SFP.
More details: http://www.oasisofpeaceuk.org/5-dwc-01.htm
Office 020-89524717 M. 07843630760
B.A. hon. (SOAS), M.A. (Goldsm.), M.Sc. (Brunel),
Member of NUJ for PR / Press
Education Coordinator / Press & PR
British Friends of Neve Shalom~Wahat al Salam
For all Phone +44.7843630760