Does Israel “cause” antisemitism?

On holiday last week a fellow guest in our inn for the night mentioned that the behaviour of certain Eastern European immigrants to Lancashire “caused racism”. Our host sympathised and the conversation became somewhat tense. If racism, rather than a form of outrage appropriate to the transgression, is so easily “caused”,  then surely the objects of the racism are due our concern? Wrong – it seems we are to take racism for granted and, if we are Eastern European, abandon any claim to unracist censure.

Along these lines, Modernity draws attention to a typically dense New Statesman piece titled ‘Does Israel “cause” antisemitism?’ The author’s bad error is that he takes for granted that antisemitism would be easily provoked by Israel’s engagement in unjust conflict, and so suggests a very short chain of causation for antisemitism which ends – because he has decided it should – at Israel.

The enduring tendency of quite a lot of people to mistake antisemitism for righteous anger is the reason that Israel exists as a Jewish state.

Martin on Kolakowski and anti-semitism

This is a guest post by Martin who blogs at Martin In The Margins.

Tributes to the Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski, who died last week, have tended to focus, perhaps inevitably, on his increasingly critical analysis of Marxism. Less attention has been paid to the important part played in the Polish philosopher’s political and intellectual progress by his deep revulsion against anti-Semitism.

As Christopher Hitchens says, Kolakowski was a ‘sworn foe of the clerical, chauvinist, and anti-Semitic Polish right wing to the end of his days’. According to the Telegraph obituary, Kolakowski ‘embraced Communism as an antidote to bigotry, anti-Semitism and nationalism’.

But ironically it was left-wing anti-Semitism that may have provided the key turning-point in his disillusionment with Communism. His departure from Poland for the US in 1968 was the culmination of a long process, but the final straw was an extreme nationalist campaign against ‘Zionists’ waged that year (Kolakowski’s wife, Tamara Dynenson, was Jewish).

Kolakowski first visited Israel in 1969, shortly after his departure from Poland, as Shlomo Avineri recalls:

I was his host at Hebrew University, and immediately after his
arrival, he asked me to take him to Mea She’arim. When I asked
why, he explained that in his birthplace, the central Poland city of
Radom, there had been a large Jewish community, and the sight
of pious Jews with earlocks, black cloaks and fur hats was part of
the scenery of his youth that no longer existed in Poland. In
Jerusalem, he said, something was preserved that he, “the goy,”
as he called himself, wanted to keep.

Kolakowski’s story is a reminder that anti-semitism is a curiously persistent feature in authoritarianisms of both right and left.

Boycott of Israeli goods constitutes incitement to discrimination

left_bannerPress release issued by the Registrar


The European Court of Human Rights has today notified in writing its Chamber judgment1 in the case of Willem v. France (application no. 10883/05) concerning the conviction of the mayor of Seclin for calling for a boycott of Israeli products.

The Court held by 6 votes to 1 that there had been no violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights. (The judgment is available only in French.)

1.  Principal facts

The applicant, Jean-Claude Fernand Willem, is a French national who was born in 1934 and lives in Seclin (France), a municipality of which he was mayor (for the Communist party) at the relevant time. On 3 October 2002, during a session of the town council and in the presence of journalists, Mr Willem announced that he intended to call on his services to boycott Israeli products in the municipality. He stated that he had taken that decision to protest against the anti-Palestinian policies of the Israeli Government. Representatives of the Jewish community in the département of Nord filed a complaint with the public prosecutor, who decided to prosecute the applicant for provoking discrimination on national, racial and religious grounds, under Articles 23 and 24 of the Press Act of 29 July 1881. Mr Willem was acquitted by the Lille Criminal Court but sentenced on appeal on 11 September 2003, and fined 1,000 euros (EUR). He lodged a cassation appeal but was unsuccessful.

2.  Procedure and composition of the Court

The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 17 March 2005.

Judgment was given by a Chamber of seven judges, composed as follows:

Peer Lorenzen (Denmark), President,
Jean-Paul Costa (France),
Karel Jungwiert (the Czech Republic),
Renate Jaeger (Germany),
Mark Villiger (Liechtenstein),
Isabelle Berro-Lefèvre (Monaco),
Mirjana Lazarova Trajkovska (“the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”), judges,

and also Claudia Westerdiek, Section Registrar.

3.  Summary of the judgment2

Mr Willem took the view that his call to boycott Israeli products was part of a political debate concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and was without doubt a matter in the general interest. He complained that his conviction had thus constituted a violation of his right to freedom of expression within the meaning of Article 10 of the Convention.

The Court observed that the interference with the applicant’s freedom of expression had been provided for by law, being based on Articles 23 and 24 of the Press Act 1881, and that it pursued a legitimate aim, namely to protect the rights of Israeli producers. The Court reiterated that for interference with freedom of expression, especially that of an elected representative, to comply with the Convention, it had to be “necessary in a democratic society”. Like the French courts, the Court took the view that Mr Willem had not been convicted for his political opinions but for inciting the commission of a discriminatory, and therefore punishable, act. The Court further noted that, under French law, the applicant was not entitled to take the place of the governmental authorities by declaring an embargo on products from a foreign country, and moreover that the penalty imposed on him had been relatively moderate. The Court therefore found that the impugned interference had been proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued and that there had been no violation of Article 10.

Judge Jungwiert expressed a dissenting opinion, which is annexed to the judgment.

CST Antisemitic Discourse Report 2008

Dave Rich from the CST writes :

CST has long been known for recording and analysing antisemitic hate crimes: the physical assaults, desecrations, racist abuse and hate mail that make up a quantifiable measure of antisemitism. But just as, in recent years, it has become increasingly apparent that antisemitism is not restricted to the activities of street thugs and bar room racists, so it has become necessary to chart that other sort of antisemitism: the ideas, images and language that occasionally pollutes public discourse.

Read the whole piece Here.

Download the full report Here.

Naomi Klein and the “get-away-with- genocide free card” and the boycott of Israel

Naomi Klein :

“[Some Jews] even think we get one get-away-with-genocide-free-card.”

“the decision isn’t to boycott Israel but rather to oppose official relationships with Israeli institutions.”

ON the UN Durban Review Conference held in Geneva in April, Klein says that she was disturbed by “the Jewish students’ lack of respect for the representatives from Africa and Asia who came to speak about issues like compensation for slavery and the rise of racism around the world.”

Klein described the Jewish students who protested against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at the conference as “truly awful” – in the same breath as she described Ahmadinejad as “truly awful.”

Read Noam Schimmel’s reply Here.

David Hirsh on why Naomi Klein is wrong to call for a boycott of Israel.

Solidarity with Iranian political prisoners, students and workers! Demonstrate outside Press TV offices

Sunday 2 August 2-5pm

Press TV, Westgate House, Westgate, Ealing W5

* Two minutes walk from Hanger Lane tube station, Central Line
* Press TV is an Iranian state-funded English language station.

In the crackdown against last month’s Iranian protests the brutal Islamist regime arrested thousands of demonstrators and raided student dormitories. Some of those arrested have now been released, but still face prosecution. And the arrests continue. In Iran pre-charge detention can continue indefinitely.

Relatives have begun demonstrating outside Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, fearing the torture, ill-treatment and forced confessions of their loved ones.

Many people — perhaps much more than the official figures — were killed during and after the protests. Students were killed in their dormitories. Some students and other young people have disappeared. Their families do not know where they are.

In Iran protests and workers’ organisations are suppressed. In the recent past people organising for Iran’s minority populations, women’s rights, student activists and trade union leaders have been arrested and imprisoned. Mansour Osanloo, the leader of one of the most important new unions in Iran, the Tehran Bus Workers Syndicate, remains in jail.

Journalists have been forced to say on Iranian state-run television that they were supported by foreign powers, that they are guilty of “treason”.

And the role of Press TV? When one Canadian journalist was dragged onto Iranian state-TV Press TV reported it as “Detained Newsweek reporter comes clean” as if his “confession” could be taken at face value.

Last month, when millions of Iranians demonstrated for democracy and when the crackdown began Press TV refrained from criticising the government and was credulous about its actions. Neda Soltani’s death was said to be “hyped and dramatised by western media outlets.”

We are against all censorship but while the Iranian peoples’ human rights are suppressed, British journalists and commentators should have nothing to do with such a media outlet.

Let us send a message to the Iranian regime:
• We will not forget the prisoners — release all political prisoners now!
• For the right to organise against oppression, to demonstrate!
• For freedom of the press!
• For the right to join and organise in trade unions for worker’s rights!

Organised by British and Iranian socialists
To support this action or to find out more get in touch: 07951450370

Understanding and Addressing ‘The Nazi card’


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