Collectivising atonement

Some Jews attempt to package Israel’s actions in Gaza in with Jewish moral reckoning on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.

Others are trenchant in opposing this collectivisation of atonement, which looks so like an accusation of collective guilt.

48 Responses to “Collectivising atonement”

  1. David Rosenberg Says:

    Apart from the moralising nonsense about collective responsibility and collective guilt, we always need to distinguish between peoples and governments, rulers and ruled.

    No one should seek to diminish or excuse the sheer brutality of Israel’s assault on Gaza. but we should acknowledge it was the higher levels of the Israeli military and government ministers who decided upon the action. They were armed among others by British weapons supplied with the active approval of the British government and were politically encouraged on their mission by the then American Government. Those who were directly part of that chain of responsibility have something to atone for whether its Yom Kippur or not.

    In all three countries – Israel ,Britain and America there were principled people speaking out and demonstrating against the war. So any notion of applying collective guilt is meaningless.

    But what of those like the Chief Rabbi and the leaders of the Board of Deputies who tried to corrall ordinary Jews here into demonstrating their solidarity with the Israeli government and its military policies and actions during the War?

    Anyway, fasting or not, in shul or not, don’t let Yom Kippur pass without listening to Leonard Cohen’s old song from “New Skin for the Old Ceremony” – Who By Fire.

  2. Absolute Observer Says:

    1 Rabbis Epistles to the American Jews; 1-14

    1.And it shall come to pass that those who reckon wrongly shall be cast out as false Jews, as betrayers of our sages, and of setting up false idols. And their name shall be forever cursed.

    2.And yea, though you live not in the Land of Israel, and though you may be of the Republicans and the Democrats, of the right and the left; thou shall be seen as the People of the Book and as deniers of the Book, and thou will be seen only in that light.

    3. And thou will be judged only in that light. And thou will be found wanting in that light. And thou will bring unto thou selves the wrath and and anger of the peoples with who you sojourn.

    4. And, lo, thou will live as the outsider and will be cursed until thou make the right reckoning, not only in thine heart but also with thy tongue and thy pen.

    5. And thou will be called upon by all the righteous to announce in the market place and the Temple the errors of your ways so that all shall hear and on the condition of which ye shall be welcomed back, not only to the bosom of the people, but into the nations of the world. For though the world loves a good Jew, so they hate an evil Jew; a Jew who is, as it is written, no Jew.

  3. Michael W. Says:

    Though I find Rabbi Rosen’s collectivist aspect disturbing, there is one thing I agree with – the siege of Gaza is too severe. Legally, one can argue that several aspects of the siege are disporportionate to the gained military advantage,. Some of the items prohibited from entering Gaza give Hamas no military advantage. Sure, they can supposebly get it through the Egyptian border, but they are also a partner in this siege (perhaps even more severly than the Israeli part).

    The siege needs a review and an update to match the strategic goal within legal parameters. As an Israeli-American living in the US, I leave most of the responsibility of determining security measures to Israelis in Israel, but I think the current status is unacceptable as a long-term approach and harmful to Israel if it is to stay so for ever.

  4. Absolute Observer Says:

    “But what of those like the Chief Rabbi and the leaders of the Board of Deputies who tried to corrall ordinary Jews here into demonstrating their solidarity with the Israeli government and its military policies and actions during the War?”

    “Corrall”?
    Yes, David, the majority of Jews in the UK are suspine.

    Unable to think for themselves. they follow the lead of the BoD and the CR whose powers of manipulation and propoganda know no bounds.

    How else can one explain that the vast majority of Jews support the existence of the state of Israel? and that when they feel Israel is under attack militarily and ideologically they seek ways of supporting it; no matter how problematic many of them find that state’s actions?

    JSG and groups with a similar line on Israel – IJV, jjfp – have failed miserably to garner any real meaningful support with the majority of Jews in Britain. To find a good part of the reason for that failure one only need refer back to the type of silly comments (which, one assumes, passes for “analysis” of you and the party for which you speak) that you have just made.

    Once again, you seem to think that the causes of your failure to engage with what should be your own constituency, lies with those who are rejecting you (after all, you are telling them that they are too stupid to know their own interests) rather than looking for the causes of your abject irrelevance within yourselves.

    Maybe when you have something serious and grown-up to say, people will start listening to you – a day which, I add, will make me very happy.

    Your (lack of) understanding of antisemitism may also be a reasaon for your marganiised political existence. Going round pointing to “principled Jews” as a counter to the antisemitic notion of “collective guilt” is not only naive, it is politically useless. The first rule of any anti-racist campaign is not to give an inch to the racists but to understand them, their ways of thinking, the social and political relations that give rise to them, etc. etc..

    It is not to say, “you are wrong abut collective guilt because, look, there’s a Jew or two Jews or a hundred Jews or a thousand Jews who have principles and spoke out” (implying the other 239,00 Jews in the UK have no principles at best or unprincipled at worse, but to oppose the notion of collective guilt in the first place.

    For someone associated with a party called the Jewish Socialist Group, you sure have a lot to learn about Jews and Socialism; because at the moment, you appear to know nothing and realise even less.

  5. Saul Says:

    David,
    Happy new year to you and yours. And, by the way,, one should listen to to Cohen’s “Who by Fire” as often as possible and not just on Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur! (I also discovered Bloch’s Kol Nidre recently, also worth a listen).

    In almost all my conversations with Jews – those with whom have similar politics to me and those that don’t virtually, every one of them think Gaza (and a dozen and one other current Israeli policies) wrong for numerous different reasons – politically, morally, pragmatically. Yet, when I ask if they would go to a Stop the War demo, an anti-occupation rally or an “anti-Israel” rally, they all said no; or, at least, not any more.

    The reasons they give for this refusal has nothing to do with “principles” or “speaking out”. Rather it has to do with the presence of antisemitism at these marches and demos as well as the rhetoric that surrounds them. They are repulsed and frightened by the slogans and sentiments – We are all Hezbullah/Hamas now, with the calls for the destruction of Israel per se; with the way the word “Zionism” is spat out, with the equation of the swaistika and the Star of David, with the confusion between Israeli policies and the Jews. with the speeches that speak of “Zionist” control, and so on and so forth; a presence that is put in relief when those same Jews (or at least some of them) raise the question of antisemitism only to be told either than they are imagining things or that it is not important or that by raising the question in the first place, they are “really” defending Israel’s acts and “demonizing” “their” (i.e. Israel’s and “the Zionists”) critics.

    (And, if I may say, it is not helped by the sight of Jewish groups, or representatives of Jewish groups) sharing a platform and remaining silent when such things are said.)

    (Needless to say, not one of these same people attended the “rally for Israel” nor the “pro-Israel” rally during the Gaza onslaught (whatever the Chief Rabbi says or not says!)).

    Now, of course, in any political campaign, groups make alliances or even walk in the same ranks of those with whom we disagree; that is the nature of campaigns.

    Yet, to ask Jews – no matter on what issue – to align themselves with either antisemites (and lest I be misunderstood, not all who march or organise such campaigns are antisemitic) or antisemitism (and this appears even amongst the best-intentioned) is, I am afraid, not only expecting too much, but asking too much.

    Without in any being provocative, to my mind, these individuals who take such a stance (an opposition to both Israeli policies of aggression and antisemitism within that more general opposition) are as principled as any who make the decision to speak out.

    It seems to me that in the light of these reflections, the problem is not so much with UK Jews not opposing Israeli policies, but, rather, with those they are expected to (publicly) campaign with. Until that side of things is sorted out, then the majority of Jews will remain with their principles; principles, as I said, that are as valid as those who choose otherwise.

  6. Rebecca Says:

    I did not support the Gaza war. But one question I always have is – if Israeli is criticized for embargoing Gaza of most goods except for the most essential – why isn’t Egypt criticized for exactly the same thing? Egypt could lift its closure of Gaza tomorrow and let people and goods in and out freely. It doesn’t. Therefore, if Israel bears moral responsibility for the deprivation of the inhabitants of Gaza, doesn’t Egypt bear exactly the same moral responsibility?

  7. Mark2 Says:

    “But what of those like the Chief Rabbi and the leaders of the Board of Deputies who tried to corrall ordinary Jews here into demonstrating their solidarity with the Israeli government and its military policies and actions during the War?”

    I was at the rally I take it is referred to here, and while defending the Government’s actions the Chief Rabbi’s emphasis – like that of the other speakers – was on defending the PEOPLE of Israel, not its leaders. In particular there was a video link to a bomb shelter in Sderot.

  8. Lynne T Says:

    The seige of Gaza was indeed severe, but what made it overly so?

    Israel stood down in 2006 after similar provocation from both Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah Lebanon and was promised by the international community that such bombardments would be stopped by UN observers, etc. Not only did the bombardments from Gaza continue, they peaked in December 2008 at the end of another “hudna”. And while Hezbollah isn’t firing rockets, they have rearmed.

    There are reports from Khalid Abu Toameh and others that Cast Lead has had the result desired by Israel: a significant number of Gazans have no wish to be used as human shields again and are angry with Hamas for provoking Israel and squandering money on carrying on the jihad instead of feeding people.

  9. Richard Gold Says:

    David R – Happy New Year !

    During the Gaza War there were some quite repulsive nasty Nazi comparisons. These included the rather odious analogies by Gerald Kauffman. Perhaps people would take the JSG more seriously in these issues if you hadn’t decided to give him a platform and promote this odious man ?

    Also i myself had another run-in with a JSG activist who put every obstacle in my way to reproducing Steve Cohen’s writings on antisemitism (including inventing emails that didn’t exist,and also abusing their position as a executor to Steve’s will) at the recent memorial day that we organised for Steve. This included trying to silence me at one of the planning meetings (a coalition of a boycott activist, a JSG activist and somebody with a personal vendetta against Jane Ashworth).

    Sorry Dave , but you need to sort your own JSG house out before you attack other people.

  10. Harry Goldstein Says:

    I find it depressing that even those commentators on this site who support Engage’s work nevertheless often find it necessary to issue disclaimers like ‘I didn’t support the Gaza campaign’ or ‘I didn’t attend the pro-Israel rally in Trafalgar Square’. There being an unspoken ‘of course’ in both cases, as if to say – who but a neanderthal right-winger could possibly do either?

    Well I did (on both counts), and I consider myself a left-liberal like most of the posters here.

    First, on the Gaza campaign: Michael W, the issue of ‘disproportion’ has nothing to do with the gained military advantage. Such a test would require foresight as to the success of a military campaign, which is simply not possible. On such a test, Arnhem was clearly ‘disproportionate’ because it failed to achieve its objectives, while the German invasion of France was proportionate because it succeeded brilliantly. I presume that none of us would determine the respective legality of these campaigns in that way.

    The test of the proportionality of the Gaza operation has to be the nature of the threat Israel faced. And I don’t simply mean the rockets. I mean the existence of an exterminationist antisemitic organisation on Israel’s borders dedicated to wiping out Israel and its population. Could someone please tell me what response counts as ‘disproportionate’ to such a threat (a threat which, sadly, hasn’t gone away)?

    As for the Trafalgar Square rally, its slogan was ‘yes to peace, no to Hamas’. Again, would someone explain to me which part of this they find objectionable? Speakers also expressed their anguish at the suffering of Gaza’s civilian population (which they placed, rightly in my view, at Hamas’ door) and took a collection for a hospital caring for the civilian victims. In short, nothing there for Engage to argue with.

    I feel that we too often let the positive case go by default. Also, by standing aloof from such initiatives as the Trafalgar Square rally we risk dissipating the impact of attempts to counter the far left/Islamist alliance.

  11. Michael W. Says:

    Harry Goldstein,

    First, I was speaking about the siege in regards to proportionality as a military operation.

    In regards to the Gaza war: In a military operation, the use of force must be proportional to the gained military advantage over the expected transgressions against the civilian population (such as casualties, property damage, and basic rights). So if the military advantage is great (such as 10 dead enemy combatants versus only 1 dead enemy combatants) and the expected transgression against the civilian population is low (such as one dead civilian), the use of force permitted by “law” is also great. If a militant is in a crowded market, the “legal” use of force is also low (such a bullet from a sniper).

    That being said, I believe Israel complied with this clause during the Gaza war overall. But some measures of the Gaza blockade give no or very little military advantage at the expense of the civilian population of Gaza.

    • Inna Says:

      As Rebecca pointed out above, the Egyptians however did NOT comply with the proportional use of force against the Gazans. Indeed their use of force (which they are carrying out as I type this) which includes torture is anything but proportionate.

      Egyptians however are not being investigated by the UN, castigated by the international news media, and no-one is planning to boycott Egypt. Oh, and neither Egyptians nor Arabs are collectively held responsible for Egypt’s reprehensible actions.

      How come?

      Regards,

      Inna

  12. Empress Trudy Says:

    It was the German Jews in the 1930’s who, because of their better education, upbringing, culture and assimilation who simply did not believe they were being killed even as they were being shoved into the showers. The astonished looks on their faces when they finally realized what my zaide said; “Never forget you’re a Jew, no one else will”, must have been something.

  13. Absolute Observer Says:

    I am not sure the relevance of your comments, Empress Trudy. Nor of your reduction of German Jews to the assimilated bourgeousie. There were many German Jews who were uncultured, uneducated and unassimilated (in the sense you use). Even those who you cite often had viscious, almost antisemitic attitudes to the Ostjuden.

    Be that as it may. I think Heine also made the same point. But, remember also what Arendt said; when attacked as a Jew, you fight back as a Jew.

  14. Absolute Observer Says:

    When the band stops playing, “the boys” will stop singing.

  15. Absolute Observer Says:

    “I promise to continue to tell my fellow Jews that when the oppressed become the oppressor, Hitler has won.”

    “I would hope that oppressors would remember how it is to be oppressed and instead respond to situations with compassion and caring.”

    More b*******ks from “this is my promise”.

  16. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    It seems to me that a fair degree of nonsense is being written about military “proportionality” and the like. Thus, Michael W. above writes (in clarification of his position at the start of this thread): “In a military operation, the use of force must be proportional to the gained military advantage over the expected transgressions against the civilian population (such as casualties, property damage, and basic rights).” Sorry, but this is arrant nonsense. To demand this of military planners and those who carry out their plans is to invite piecemeal defeat on the tactical level, to say nothing of the strategic level.

    I have recently read Richard Evans “The Third Reich at War”, and am halfway through Andrew Roberts “Masters and Commanders” on Roosevelt, Churchill and their respectives Chiefs of (Military) Staff. While none of the four of them intended _deliberate_ harm to the civilians “in the way”, they always used the maximum force available to them to ensure (they hoped) victory over their enemy. Civilian casualties, at least in the occupied countries, were (in that awful modern euphemism) “collateral damage”.

    And as for Michael W.’s general argument, I wonder what the Polish and Russian civilians in the way of the German armies in 1939 and 1941-42 thought of this view, let alone what the millions of forced labourers, often literally worked to death, of the German war machine thought.

    To castigate the Israelis in Gaza is to ignore the obvious basic maxim of war: win. Of course they didn’t wish or attempt to cause civilian casualties (unlike the Germans in 1939-45 in the east, and, anyway, many sources suggest these Gazan civilian casualties have been exaggerated by Hamas and those who are their – witting or unwitting – allies). What should always be kept in view is why Operation Cast Lead happened – and analysis of this should _not_ start with the fact of Israel’s existence as the cause.

    So Michael W. (and others like you), why did Israel mount Operation Cast Lead? What were the precipitating factors (thousands of rockets into Israel might be part of that, of course)? Did the _military_ operation achieve all, some or none of its stated aims? What were the other consequences of this operation? Were they forseeable? Were they inevitable (ie the near anti-Zionist response of Judge Richard Goldstone as a rapporteur to the Human Rights Council)? And by the way, what was the briefing for his report?

    Odd, that. The lack of realistic analysis that goes into anything Israeli/Palestinian or (hush my mouth!) Jewish, come to that, I mean.

    ps: Empress Trudy: and. boy, was your zaide right. If only he hadn’t been. But then, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride (as he probably also said!).

  17. Brian Henry Says:

    No one should seek to diminish or excuse the sheer moral idiocy of David Rosenberg’s assault on Israel.

    It is of course dreadful that Hamas and other groups operating from Hamas-controlled territory launched thousands of missiles and mortars against Israeli citizens.

    It’s dreadful that to defend its citizens Israel, at long last, finally attacked Gaza – in what was surely one of the most justified wars in history.

    It’s dreadful that because of its aggression and use of human shields that Hamas was responsible for the deaths of at least a few hundred civilians, perhaps as many as 1,000 if some dubious sources are to be believed.

    But Israel has nothing to be ashamed of in regards to Operation Cast Lead, in spite of anything the anti-imperialist left, the Islamists or the co-dependent Jewish voices have to say.

  18. NIMN Says:

    “Israel ,Britain and America there were principled people speaking out and demonstrating against the war.”

    This is what Rosenberg just does not get………..that there were many “principled people” speakoing out for the war.
    I was opposed to the war in Gaza.
    However, many were not. I disagree with them.

    What I did not do was to discount their view as the product of “brainwashing”. I did not discount their views as the product of “intimidation”. I did not discount their views as “Imperialist”.

    I tried to understand where they were coming from, what made them reach the decisions they did and engage with them in that way.

    The thing about politics (including war) is that people disagree, some with good reasons and some with less good reasons.

    Rosenberg’s maoist authoritarianism does not allow disagreement. There is only one Truth; all others have “false consciousness” and “do not know”. They are to be “re-educated” not engaged with. For those with the Truth, they must pronounce It publically.

    For Rosenberg, those with the Truth and those in need of Education must both wear signs – one the sign of guilt the other the sign of Principle.

    It is a pity that the JSG has so little faith in itself and its views that they have been reduced to cannoizing those who agree with them and demonizing those who disagee with them.

    Maybe its their Stalinist roots re-appearing, who knows and, to be frank, who cares a damn!

    • Richard Gold Says:

      Nimn – To be fair to the JSG (and they are a group that i have very little time for at all) – I think they sided with the Mensheviks against the Bolsheviks so i don’t think it’s fair to describe their roots as Stalinist.

  19. NIMN Says:

    Richard,
    Thanks,
    As much as I commend them for siding with the Mensheviks a century ago, my point is that Rosenberg’s take on contemporary affairs and on questions of strategy are more akin to the praxis of Stalinist and Maoist authoritarianisn, what with demands to “speak out”. Maybe he would like to “shame” non-compliance with the Party line and get the Chief Rabbi to walk the streets with a sign hanging from his neck so that all “principled people” can see just how wrong he is. It’s been done before, you know.

  20. David Rosenberg Says:

    Well done NIMN for spectacularly missing the point – which is that the Chief Rabbi and the Board/Bored of Deputies should recognise that there are a variety of views among Jews about Israel’s rights and wrongs in relation to Gaza. They should not be telling the community what to think; should not pretend they speak for anyone but themselves, should not be demanding that their shulgoers come to their solidarity with Israel demonstrations. if they want to inform them – gezunterheyt – do so, but leave it to individual Jews to practise their self-determination in deciding whether to do so, rather than try to make it an imperative.

    As it happened a lot of jews voted with their feet anyway. 4000 turned up compared with the 55,000 who followed similar instructions for a ‘solidarity with Israel’ rally in the same venue a few years earlier.

    In Israel there have been several commentators over the years who have criticised the political and military policies of various israeli government and their military adventures – especially in relation to Sharon/Begin’s Lebanon War of 82 and the more recent assault on Gaza. It is quite clear that the Chief/Board’s ‘solidarity with Israel’ is not with these Israelis.

    Richard, glad to have given you the opportunity to get your fear and loathing of the JSG off your chest but your “shoot the messenger” style of argument is a bit tedious, and it would be refreshing to have you address the substance of arguments you disagree with and enable a rational conversation to take place, rather than the tell-tale “this person in the JSG did this, that person in the JSG did that” that you use to substitute for this.

    At the end of the day I don’t know what you think of the role of those who consider themselves to be communal leaders, what our late mutual friend Steve termed the “makhers”, in relation to the contested views in the community around Israel/Palestine. We might even agree or at least find the points of disagreement. All I know at the moment is that you don’t like and seem a little obsessed with the JSG.

    So why not engage with the arguments?

    • Richard Gold Says:

      David

      “Richard, glad to have given you the opportunity to get your fear and loathing of the JSG off your chest but your “shoot the messenger” style of argument is a bit tedious, and it would be refreshing to have you address the substance of arguments you disagree with and enable a rational conversation to take place, rather than the tell-tale “this person in the JSG did this, that person in the JSG did that” that you use to substitute for this.”

      David , that’s a pretty pathetic response. You’re doing exactly what you accuse me of doing and avoiding answering my comments re JSG activists attempting to silence those who they disagree with. It’s not telling tales , it’s basic facts. The fact is that senior JSG members tried to silence firstly Steve Cohen and secondly myself (and Steve’s views).

      The Chief Rabbi doesn’t speak for me , he’s entitled to his views and so am i. You’re obviously very offended by what he says and i hope the two of you can sort it out amicably.

      I’m not obsessed with the JSG – but since you are the leader of the JSG i think i have a right to bring up how the JSG has attempted to silence people.

      A case of double standards by you again David.

      “At the end of the day I don’t know what you think of the role of those who consider themselves to be communal leaders, what our late mutual friend Steve termed the “makhers”, in relation to the contested views in the community around Israel/Palestine. We might even agree or at least find the points of disagreement. All I know at the moment is that you don’t like and seem a little obsessed with the JSG.”

      Steve was also extremely unhappy with the JSG’s treatment of him. But then again Steve was highly critical of the “makhers” and the JSG , he saw both ending up acting in the same way. Kindly apply the same standards to your own group as you do to the Chief Rabbi.

  21. NIMN Says:

    “the Board/Bored of Deputies”
    “board/bored,” How very grown up of you David; a true member of the Juvenille Socialist Group.

    “They should not be telling the community what to think; should not pretend they speak for anyone but themselves, should not be demanding that their shulgoers come to their solidarity with Israel demonstrations.”

    You make the early 21st century Jewish experience sound like the Church’s control of rural Ireland in the 19th century, which, let’s be honest , it is that model in which your politics are not only rooted, but never left.

    David, you can rant on about “false consciousness” all you like. that’s fine.

    You can give up your right to return, that’s fine

    You can demand (and it is you doing the “demanding”) that the Chief Rabbi and Baord of Deputies give voice to your tedious and irrelevant anti-Zionism; that’s fine.

    You can demand the majority of rabbis remain neutral of the call for a boycott of the Jewish state.

    You can demand the Board of Deputies announce the time and date where visible members of JjfP sing anti-Jewish Christmas Carols

    But, if you do, don’t then compalin and project the blame the absurd notion ofan omnipotent Jewish insitution.

    No matter how much you huff and puff and blame on those who reject you and your views (not because they are hoodwinked and manipulated, but because they actually think for themselves) David, you and the JSG are an irrelevance.

    But, as someone posted recently, you can always demand a new electorate.

    btw, how many copies of JSG do you sell? How many members do you have? Working on the assumption that there are 300,000 Jews in the UK, what is that in percentage terms.

    Don’t be embarassed if the number is small. We all know it can’t be easy when your every move is watched and the thoughht-police outdo you at every turn. They have eyes everywhere, you know!

  22. Absolute Observer Says:

    Maybe the CR and BofD should make more connection with the critics within Israel. No problem with that. I would welcome that.

    What is disgraceful is Rosenberg’s arrogance that UK Jews don’t know their own minds. It is a theme that both the SWP and BNP make in thier literature. If people only knew “the truth” which, of course, the JSG, both member) have.

  23. NIMN Says:

    David,

    “So why not engage with the arguments?”

    Why not indeed?

    Looking back over your interventions on Engage, one is struck by just how many times you simply disappear when challenged.

    Be that as it may – this after all is a website and the notion of integrity is not something one associates with either anti-zionists nor the internet.

    If I understand your “argument” correctly, you as a socialist are calling for the Chief Rabbi and Board of Deputies to relinquish their reresentational role as the spokesman of the mainstream orthodox and the majority of Jews affiliated to religious institutions respectively. You seem to think that neither body represents the views of the majority of British Jews on the grounds that there are some Jews who disagree with them (i.e. that support should not be shown when Israelis are under attack by an orgainsation that contains the Protocols in their Charter (or are you unwilling to overlook that detail). You seem to think that the views represented by these bodies are monolithic and that it is not open to the type of anti-zionism you and your organsiation express.

    This upsets you a great deal. So, rather than recognise and, as a “socialist” support the democratic element within the formation of the Board of Deputies which allows their views to be akin to the majoirty of their constiuency, you fall back on the nonsense that people think like they do because of the “demands” of those representative bodies, and that, if only you had a fair chance then people would see the light and connect with other elements within Israeli society. So, in good “sociialist” fashion you call for a laissez-faire approach! and demand, as I say, the Board relinquish their representation function; i.e. to turn their back on the views of whom they represent – and why? because, a. you cannot be bothered to do the work to convince people of your point of view (and let’s not pretend that people have not been exposed to your ideas, shall we?) or. b. you are unable to do that work organisationally or c. that you have dome the work, but people have rjected you. Instead, like so many left sects in the past, you spend your time denouncing what democracy there is in communal politics, simply because the majority perceive their interests and their connections differently to you.

    So, here’s a hint. Do some work. Actually try to convince people why you are right. Hold a meeting of refusniks in the UK (it does not have to be in a synagogue), bring over a spokesperson of Peace Now (I assume you don’t want to use the present Board of Deputies chair? president? who was a member of Peace Now – that would be embarrasing). Advertise it (the net is cheap and easy).

    Then discuss things with those who turn up. Expect those who disagree with you not to represent you fairly (it is politics after all) and don’t go all mopey and upset becuase someone called you bad names.

    Convince those who are open to your ideas.

    In other words, do some real hard political work instead of whining on and on and on how the world is unfair and nobody loves you.

    This is a grown up world, maybe you should start acting like a grown up for once.

  24. David Says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how the folks here at Engage (at least those self-anointed as “inside the Pale”) use the notion of Israel as the “collective” of the Jewish people to justify all sorts of things, from Israel’s “right to exist” (as if that were in question) to the exclusion of anti-Zionists or non-Zionists from legitimate debate within the Jewish community.

    Yet when it comes to any criticism of Israel or Zionism the notion of anything that smacks of “collective” responsibility (even the collective responsibility of the citizens of a democracy) is suddenly condemned as unfair, illegitimate, antisemitic.

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      David, I think you could ease your very uncomfortable-sounding state of unceasing amazement if you began to explore the different meanings of ‘collective’ when applied to co-location and when applied to blame.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      David talks about “people here at Engage” who “use the notion of Israel as the “collective” of the Jewish people to justify all sorts of things, from Israel’s “right to exist” (as if that were in question)”.
      Mira picks up on the point about all of “us” here at Engage”, but actually, David, there are an awful lot of people around who do, mightily, dispute Israel’s right to exist: many Moslem states (not all, note), JfJfP, virtually the whole of the BDS movement…need I go on?

  25. Absolute Observer Says:

    Onve again David misunderstands things and fals back on an crude “idenity politics”. What does he mean “inside the pale”?. WHo is inside the pale? (Indeed, if anyone it is Rosenberg who seems to think the politics of the Jewish community are like they were in the Pale of Settlemenrt of the 19th century.
    What escapes David is the idea that this discussion is as “objective” as any other discussion; that opinions formed has nothing to do with one’s relationship (if any) to “the pale”. Whilst such crudities are common currency for the hard of thinking, for others it is a denial of the way people make decisions and thinks about things.
    The problem with Rosenberg and David is simply that they know they are right and cannot comprehend why other equally thoughtful people come to difference decisions. As with so many of their ilk, it can only be a producty if distorted power or clever manipulation.
    They have failed to convince (not David’s silly comment that Hamas;’ oppression of Christians is a result of the occupation – again, the lack of political responsibility of those who think and act; on that logic Britian and Francethe UK are responsible for the Holocaust because of Versaliles. It is also the same justification Mugabe uses for his dictatorship.

    When you strip down these “critics” arguments they have as much weight as a feather in the wind. They are becoming ever more tedious and repetitive and fail to grasp the fact that Israel exists, Israel is supported by the majority of Jews, Israel is doing some bad things. These are political issues. Rosenberg and David can harp on and try to make it a “Jewish” thing. It is not, Jews as Jews can act politically and make real choices and decisions. But, of course, for “socialists” their biggest enemy has always been “the people”.

    Ok Let me explain.
    Collective support by Jews of Israel. Yes, we think it is good that Israel exists. We are pleased Israel exists. Some think Gaza was the right thing to do. Others don’t.

    Collective responsibility. You Jews in the UK etc are responsible for what Israel does. You Jews must speak out against what Israel does. There is only one answer. There is no debate, Say what we want to hear and we may spare you.

    Note the difference.

    • David Says:

      The usual (deliberate?) distortion by “Absolute Observer.”

      When did I state that “Hamas;’ oppression of Christians is a result of the occupation”??? That is not what I said.

      As for your “Collective Support” vs. “Collective Responsibility” statement, you are missing the point entirely. If you believe that there is a collective of the “majority of Jews” from which a minority of Jews is deliberately excluded for ideological reasons, then how in Heaven’s name do you have the chutzpah to complain when someone else acts as though Jews are a collective?

      My point here is, of course, not that critics or antisemites are correct to criticize “the Jews” or even the “Jewish Community.” My point is that a minority of Jews should not be excluded and abused by the majority for ideological reasons.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        David “The usual (deliberate?) distortion by “Absolute Observer.”

        When did I state that “Hamas;’ oppression of Christians is a result of the occupation”??? That is not what I said.”

        Maybe not _exactly_ what he said, but in a comment to the “What do Ken Livingstone & the BBC have in common article” (above this one), dated 5 October, David _does_ say

        “Do you really think the flight of Christians has nothing to do with the occupation?” in response to Lynne. Now of course I am neither a talmudic scholar, nor a Jesuit, to pick the fine bones out of that (indeed, on at least one occasion, David has said that I’m unfit to comment on matters Jewish, but so be it), but that appears to me to about as close to what he claims _not_ to have said as to make no difference.

  26. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    NIMN, a point of information (as they say): there are also secular Jewish bodies represented on the Board of Deputies. I should know, I was a rep for a while as one of them, for Maccabi UK, as it happens. There are other Jewish Youth Organisations with reps on the Board, as well as the UJS, and still others.

  27. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Having just read Dennis MacShane’s CiF article reproduced at the head of this page, I commend it to David Rosenberg. Once he’s read it, would he then have the gall to repeat his comments about the supposed control of the Board of Deputies and other organs of the Jewish community over the Jewish community? Does he expect us to agree with the Board and/or the Jewish Chronicle? Or to follow our own personal politics? In my case, to utterly reject Kaminski anad all he stands for and all those who ally themselves with him.

    But then, I’m only a tool of the Board, etc, according to Rosenberg.

  28. David Rosenberg Says:

    Beyond the infantile abuse about the JSG and anti-Zionists,
    I’m not actually sure what NIMN is arguing with but it certainly isn’t anything I’ve actually said.

    Go back to my original post and you find my criticism of: “…the Chief Rabbi and the leaders of the Board of Deputies who tried to corrall ordinary Jews here into demonstrating their solidarity with the Israeli government and its military policies and actions during the War?”

    They may have failed to a considerable extent – people wouldn’t take to the streets as they did a few years back for a military operation with such a high cost in human life. But
    does he/she deny that they tried? Does he/she think that is or should be their role – or is their role to acknowledge and reflect that there are divergent views among the community?

    And does he think that when the Board makes comments these reflect the divergent views of its elected members or the policies decided on by its paid officers?

    Is it really possible that we have a Board of Deputies that reflects the range of views of its members but has never uttered one word of criticism at one policy by any Israeli government (while in Israel itself there are many politicians and civil society groups who will make these criticisms)?

    And who elected the Chief Rabbi to speak for the Jews of Britain? Even the United Synagogue don’t elect him. The old Chief Rabbi Jakobovitz may have thought that the sun shone out of Maggie Thatcher’s tukhes on social and economic policy but he never pretended that the community were united on matters of Israel/Palestine/the Occupied Territories/Zionism

  29. NIMN Says:

    Yawn, this is geeting so boring
    No one elects the Chief Rabbi; whooopedeeda.
    The Board of Deptuties are not a monolithic body, they combine a wide range of views. Some views, such as anti-Zionism is not represented. But, then again, the Labour Party does not represent the views of the BNP and SWP or JSG. So just get over it.

    You want them to represent you minority view, well, get yourself elected. As Brian mentioned, the BoD have a wide constituency. Alternatively, do some work to have your views recognised.

    Alternatively, you can carry on whining about how no one listens to you. You can dismiss the views of the majority of Jews in the UK as a result of being silenced or being coralled or of having “false consciousness”. You can carry on staying silent in the face of antisemitic rhetoric that attaches itself to questions of Israel (indeed, you can continue to propogate and defend those myths as with your publishing of Caroline Lucas “no-one can criticise Israel without being called an antisemites”). You can carry on selectively responding to comments on Engage. This is your choice. But please don’t carry on blaoming others for your own failings.

    “Is it really possible that we have a Board of Deputies that reflects the range of views of its members but has never uttered one word of criticism at one policy by any Israeli government (while in Israel itself there are many politicians and civil society groups who will make these criticisms)?”

    You really have no idea, do you?

    Unfortunately, because of groups such as yours and your singular failure to challenge antisemitism and antizionism, the context of criticism in Israel and in the disapora is different. Look how the comments of Neve have been jumped on by JVP. Look how IJV has conflated antisemitism and antizionism, look at the nonsense Lerman spews out at every chance he gets. You imagine that in the UK the question of Israeli policies is a purely political and rational matter and completely unconnected with antisemitism (see the post that started this tedious theme).

    Indeed, you Inquistorial demand that the CR and BD “speak out” shows precisely the nature of the debate on Israel in the UK. In Israel people criticise within the security of their own state. In the UK, criticism of the type in Israel is used and abused by the antisemitic and antizionist left to call for the state’s destruction. As Arendt noted, what people like you are demanding is that Jews assimilate into the antisemitic environment.

    It’s about time you stopped blaming the victims of racism and deal with those that push racism; people whom you give a place in your own “journal”.

  30. NIMN Says:

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1119394.html#

    maybe Rosenberg thinks the BoD and the CR should “speak out” agains the coup in Honduras.

  31. NIMN Says:

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1119389.html

    Jew. Israeli. Israeli Jew.
    Even the Israelis get it!

  32. zkharya Says:

    The BOJD used to be anti-Zionist. It changed because of grassroots Jewish support for Israel. It staged that demo because its consituency was expressing support for Israel.

    So fewer attended than in 2002, so what? 2002 was not “55 000”. more like 20 000 (still about 15% of Anglo-Jewry). I wouldn’t be surprised if fear was a factor: those pro-Gaza/Hamas demos were very aggressive. Anglo-Jews aren’t like that. Their’s is not a RESPECT-SWP quasi-revolutionary movement.

    That they are made fearful to express open support for Israel in their own country isn’t a good thing.

  33. zkharya Says:

    Nor did the CR or BOJD “corral” anyone. That represents an inaccurate if not malicious picture of the relation of the CR and BOJD with Anglo-Jewry.

    Further, re. “collective”, this is an old antisemitic saw: Jews have been regarded as an ethno-national group dispossessed for most of Christian and Islamic history, for reasons as much to do with Christians and Muslims as Jews.

    One consequence is the effective driving out or killing of most Jews of old world Christendom and Islam in the 20th centuries, before 1914 mostly to America, after mostly to Palestine or what became Israel.

    It is possible for a diaspora Jew to be sympathetic towards Israel and Zionism without being a Zionist themselves.

    The antisemite conflates sympathy with or pro-Zionism with being an essential, cipher “Zionist”, or de facto Israeli or Jewish national, thus blaming the historical victim for having been regarded as “Palestinians”, with all its consequences.

  34. NIMN Says:

    zkharya
    Historically you are of course right. As with many assimilated Jews and their orgainsations and institutions, the BOJD were antizionist (as was their European correlates). Unfortunately, the events of history got in the way. JSG have yet to hit the 20th century, let alone the 21st. The poor loves think that they are still living in the Steitl where the struggle between socialists, Bundists and Zionists still meant something.

    Brian,
    Thanks for the info.

    Regards,
    NIMN

  35. David Rosenberg Says:

    Yawn, this is getting so boring
    At last, NIMN, we have something on which we agree.

    Not the rest of your tedious rant though which avoids any rational debate by basically saying that anyone to the left of where you stand is either an antisemite, or helping the antisemites.

  36. zkharya Says:

    sorry, can’t do math)

    (still about 7% of Anglo-Jewry).

  37. NIMN Says:

    David,

    Before you spit out your dummy, perhaps you could tell me which bit of my comment is incorrect?

    “In the UK, criticism of the type in Israel is used and abused by the antisemitic and antizionist left to call for the state’s destruction. As Arendt noted, what people like you are demanding is that Jews assimilate into the antisemitic environment.”

    The fact is, David, that your problem is that you cannot even begin to imagine a left criticism of Israel that is free of antisemitism. I can and many like me can. We are in the minority. We are called “Zionists”, “Nazis” “dishonest” “liars” merely for pointing out that some criticism of Israel is antisemitic.

    In other words, David, you are willing to turn a blind eye to antisemitism because of a “greater good”. You balance the existence of antisemitism against the need to attack Israel as opposed to do what a real socialist should do. Oppose both the increasing militarism and rightward drift of Israeli politics AND the prevalence of antisemitism in the UK that attaches itself to this discussion.

    Instead, you satisfy yourself by falling back on some nonsense vulgar Marxist conspiracy theory and, leaving the antisemites and antisemitism in place within the anti-Zionist groups (and defend the antisemitic rhetoric) and then “demand” that the representatives of British Jewry “speak out”.

    (I note also the British racists who demanded Muslim groups speak out following 9/11 and 7/7. I remember years ago after an young boy was sexually assaulted and murdered, people demanded the representatives of the gay community comment).

    You remind me of that sketch in Airplane when every one is hitting a distressed woman passenger for “her own good”. Whilst the Jews in the UK are being hit (metaphorically), your response is to shout “let me through, I’m a Jew” and hit them twice as hard solely for their own good and the good of the Israelis with whom you (and I) agree of course.

    You may be willing to countenance a bit of antisemitism. I am not.

  38. NIMN Says:

    “Not the rest of your tedious rant though which avoids any rational debate by basically saying that anyone to the left of where you stand is either an antisemite, or helping the antisemites.”

    Not “anyone”, David, some. And, thank goodness, some who are not.

    I find it also telling that you place a person’s on a spectrum of the left according to one’s position on Israel and assume an anti-antisemitic is a cause to move them to the right.

    How very Student Union circa 1979 (or should that be 1879)

    David, grow up will you. This is a serious matter.

  39. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    I had thought to stay out of this debate between NIMN and David Rosenberg, but, regrettably, I can’t.

    D. R. asserts above that NIMN’s “tedious rant…avoids any rational debate by basically saying that anyone to the left of where [NIMN] stand[s] is either an antisemite, or helping the antisemites.” This is so untrue as to beggar belief. Not so very long ago, Mark Gardner noted in these columns that Workers’ Liberty _always_ took an anti-antisemitic stand (on good anti-racist grounds) and, while they might prefer and desire a secular workers’ state in the area, meanwhile defended Israel’s right to exist _as the world is currently configured_.

    From where NIMN and I stand, AWL is so far to the left of us (I am guessing on behalf of NIMN – apologies if wrong) as to be a speck in the binoculars. So that’s one in the eye for JSG.

    These many years ago, I wrote a Masters by Dissertation (accepted, for the sceptics, by a Russell Group University), which involved a detailed study of ideology. I adopted a variant of (the sociologist) Alvin W. Gouldner’s definition that ideology was, in essence, a map of ‘what is’ in society, a report of how it is failing or working, and a series of commands as to what should be done about this state of affairs. For those unfamiliar with him and his work, Gouldner had been a member of a far left (possibly Trotskyite) group in the 1930s USA and had moved a little more to the centre (but not _that_ much) by the 1970s.

    However, what was clear from my reading of these 1930s to 1970s authors, was that there were both “open” and “closed” ideologies. Thus, the closed ones effectively barred their adherents from devising new policies for new situations, as the world changed (sometimes because of the success of the earlier versions of the ideology and the policies it generated), while the open ones did just the opposite.

    Guess what type the ideology of the JSG, David Rosenberg and his followers and all the other purist far lefties is?

    For many of the rest of us, as the world changes, so do the “routes” our “maps” prescribe as the best way to reach our personal or collective semi-utopias. But not, apparently, for the JSG, IJV, JfJfP, BDS, PSC groups and so-on through the alphabet soup of the rigid and closed-minded among us.

    No wonder it’s difficult to get a sensible debate going between us: their ideologies commit them to forever restating what might, once, have been penetrating truths, but are now merely hackneyed, historical, phrases.


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