Leeds University.Wednesday 10 June 2009. David Hirsh (Goldsmiths College) speaks on: “Anti-Zionism: the New Antisemitism?”

Centre for Jewish Studies

Wednesday 10 June 2009 ,17.00

Michael Sadler Building LG 19

David Hirsh (Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London) speaks on:

“Anti-Zionism: the New Antisemitism?”

Or is the ‘Israel Lobby’ trying to silence honest criticism of Israel?

Ken Livingstone wrote: “…for far too long the accusation of antisemitism has been used against anyone who is critical of the policies of the Israeli Government.”

The Livingstone Formulation is a common ad hominem response to a suggestion (or suspicion) of antisemitism (questioning the motive behind the suggestion). This tactic is nothing but a substitute for the requirement to consider or rebut the substance of the suggestion; instead, it serves to neutralise the issue by ascribing malicious motivation to the person raising it.
The Livingstone Formulation is a rhetorical device which treats disproportional, irrational, hysterical or phobic hostility to Israel as mere criticism of Israeli policy. It conflates antisemitism, and variants of the blood libel and conspiracy theories, with serious and legitimate criticism of Israel’s Government.

Contemporary antisemitism is often unconscious; people who argue antisemitic things and who employ antisemitic tropes often do so without knowing it, and while denying it. By contrast, the Livingstone Formulation accuses those who oppose antisemitism of doing so in bad faith. It claims that they deliberately raise antisemitism as a “straw-man” in a dishonest attempt to de-legitimize criticism of Israel. Since everybody who campaigns against anti-Zionist antisemitism is accused of the same dishonesty, this must also be an accusation of “Zionist” conspiracy.

David Hirsh, academic and trade union activist, is an international expert in this subject. He is a lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths College, where he researches and publishes on crimes against humanity, genocide and ethnic cleansing; international and cosmopolitan law; cosmopolitanism, nationalism and fundamentalism; Israel / Palestine, antisemitism and Islamophobia; and socio-legal studies. His book Law against Genocide: Cosmopolitan Trials was published in 2003;  His Yale lecture Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism: Cosmopolitan Reflections was published in 2007.

9 Responses to “Leeds University.Wednesday 10 June 2009. David Hirsh (Goldsmiths College) speaks on: “Anti-Zionism: the New Antisemitism?””

  1. Mellie Says:

    People criticise Israel because of its appalling human rights record and breaking of international law.

    Then pro-Israelis who want to defend the indefensible try to silence critics by accusing them of racism. It’s wrong, and it won’t work. Injustice is injustice whoever does it.

  2. David Hirsh Says:

    Mellie, thanks for that.

  3. James Mendelsohn Says:

    Mellie, sounds like you need to come to the talk.

  4. zkharya Says:

    Injustice is indeed injustice, of which Israel is not the only or worst practioner. To treat it as though it were is itself a form of injustice.

  5. modernityblog Says:

    will this event be videoed?

  6. Lynne T Says:

    It would be nice to think that the Mellies of the world could come and listen to people like David or read what he has written and come away with an understanding of what racism actually is, but highly unlikely.

  7. Saul Says:

    “People criticise Israel because of its appalling human rights record and breaking of international law.”

    Indeed that is so; and sometimes, maybe without thinking about it, they slip into antisemitic ways of doing so. (There are many examples of such instances on the Engage webpage).

    As you say, “injustice is injustice whoever does it” and applies as much to those who believe they are merely being critical as it does to that which is being “criticsed”.

    Perhaps, also, you could give us examples of where “pro-Israelis who want to defend the indefensible try to silence critics by accusing them of racism.”

    Such accusations have often been raised, but rarely, if ever, substantiated. So, maybe you would like to begin with posts on Engage, for instance? That seems a fair question, doesn’t it?

  8. Absolute Observer Says:

    Yes, that’s right Mellie, all the statements of those critical of Israel talking of Zionists controlling US foreign policy, plunging the US into an unwinnable war; controlling the UCU, the Lbi-dems, the BBC – all these are “criticisms of Israel”; and those who note the similarity between that and antisemitic imagery are merely cynically “defending to indefensible”. Looks like you got us all “banged up to rights!”

  9. zkharya Says:


    Cicero (Marcus Tullius Cicero) Source: De Natura Deorum (III, 15).

    Extreme justice is extreme injustice.

    [Lat., Summum jus, summa injuria.]

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