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.