Anti-Semitism – an issue for everyone

David Hirsh’s letter in the Jerusalem Post in response to this article.

Anti-Semitism – an issue for everyone

Sir, – David Newman expresses one facet of a complex reality (“Smoke screen strategies,” December 15) when he says that sometimes right-wing Jewish voices portray criticism as though it were anti-Semitism. Rabbi Eliezer Melamed’s blood libel accusation against Defense Minister Ehud Barak is a case in point.

But by failing to take seriously the anti-Semitic potentiality of the contemporary anti-Zionist movements, Newman does little to untangle the knotted relationship between anger with Israel and hostility toward Jews. We have seen how the campaign to exclude Israelis, and only Israelis, from the global academic, cultural and economic community brings anti-Semitic ways of thinking wherever it goes. We have seen activists accusing anti-boycott lawyers of being financed by stolen Lehman Brothers money. We have seen a man found guilty of hate speech in South Africa being hosted by trade unions in the UK. We have seen “critics of Israel” drawing on far-Right conspiracy theory. We have seen any attempt to raise the issue of anti-Semitism routinely howled down by the cry, “Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic!”

The threat of contemporary anti-Semitism, including when it comes packaged in the language of Israel criticism, is real. There will be a significant stream of opinion at the Global Forum Against Anti-Semitism, which is critical of both anti-Semitism and Israeli human rights abuses. Anti-Semitism ought not to be allowed to appear as a right-wing issue.

Of course, it does not help the fight against anti-Jewish racism that this conference is hosted by Avigdor Lieberman, a man who has done nothing to demonstrate an understanding of how best to oppose racist ways of thinking.

DAVID HIRSH

Delegate to the Global Forum

London

62 Responses to “Anti-Semitism – an issue for everyone”

  1. Karl Pfeifer Says:

    Excellent Article

  2. zkharya Says:

    “WHILE THE main focus for anti-Semitism in the past emanated from the the right-wing fascist and neo-Nazi movements, much of the contemporary anti-Semitism, often coined as constituting the “new” anti-Semitism, is seen as having its roots in a combination of left-wing intellectual circles and/or Muslim communities who have taken up residence in Western societies. The neo-Nazis have not disappeared – just look at the growth of the British National Party – but they play a relatively small role in the contemporary discourse of anti-Semitism.

    A major problem in coming to grips with contemporary anti-Semitism is the inability, or perhaps unwillingness, of many community leaders to distinguish between critique of Israel and the policies of its government with that of anti-Semitic behavior. For many, the two have become synonymous. Not only is this erroneous in many cases, but it also cheapens the use of anti-Semitism as a legitimate argument when real cases occur (discrimination against Jews for being Jews) and often weakens the effective response to such incidents.

    The lines between being anti-Semitic and anti-Israel are becoming increasingly blurred and difficult to distinguish. Much of the anti-Israel discourse is indeed responsible for opening the back door for the real anti-Semites to walk in and manipulate the situation for their own objectives, especially when criticism ofIsrael – legitimate or otherwise – is a one-sided rather than balanced discourse. But it is essential that we do make this distinction, if we are to combat non-Israel related anti-Semitism when and where it occurs.”

    The trouble with the middle paragraph and last sentence is that it is precisely ‘Israel-related antisemitism’ that is the most dangerous. Just as antisemitism 70 years ago was primarily directed at the largest and most obviously Jewish community of Eastern Europe, so today it is directed at the second, largest and certainly most obviously Jewish community of Israel today.

    The antisemite of today would hate Israel, and the antisemitism that is most dangerous today is anti-Zionist, indeed is the most strident and uncompromising anti-Zionism.

  3. zkharya Says:

    ‘the second, largest and certainly most obviously Jewish community of Israel today.’

    should be ‘second OR largest’. But, what also attracts hatred is Israel’s vulnerability. The antisemite will hate the significant community he or she has most chance to harm or destroy, and will ‘love’ his or her few ‘own’ Jews to further the larger aim.

    UCU-BRICUP-SWP argues Israel is number one cause of antisemitism today. Which begs the question: what was the number one cause of antisemitism that resulted in the holocaust? And what fate do Israeli Jews merit thereby?

    Imagine this proposition applied to the issue of Islamophobia, and do you suppose UCU-BRICUP-SWP would ever do that?

  4. zkharya Says:

    ‘he or she THINKS has most chance’

  5. zkharya Says:

    It is Israel’s vulnerability that explains the alleged warrant of arrest for Livni et al., but not for Blair, Putin et al. Israel is fighting for its historical life. You can kill her so much the easier.

  6. Steve From Raleigh Says:

    Elie Wiesel said years ago “The left hates Israel and the right hates the Jews.”

  7. Nicole S Says:

    I never understand this notion of “legitimate” criticism of Israel. It is nobody’s business to criticise Israel unless they are Israeli, or Palestinian, or directly concerned in some other way, or unless they criticise other countries in the same way. Some people think Israel is the cause of all the problems in the world, in which case they are ill-informed and taken in by all the other criticism they hear. Or they might think Jews are OK as long as they are victims, or at a pinch kibbutzniks. It all seems fairly anti-semitic to me. What’s to untangle?

  8. Karl Pfeifer Says:

    Steve From Raleigh

    there is no such thing as “the left” or “the right”

    and if you hate Israel you hate of course the Jewish people in Israel.

  9. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    “or unless they criticise other countries in the same way.”
    This, Nicole, is exactly the point. I reserve the right to criticise Israeli government policy, in exactly the same way as I reserve the right the criticise US government policy, as well as my own (UK) government…in fact, if necessary, all governments’ policies.

    The reason this website exists (as you will see – and my apologies if you already know this – if you click on “About Us”, up there to the top left of each page) is because many who see themselves as being on the left see fit to criticise Israel and only Israel for allegedly being the worse breacher of human rights in the whole wide world.

    And you don’t need to tell _us_ about all the others. Tell _them_.

    These people are the subject of Nick Cohen’s excellent book “What’s Left?”. He calls them (among other things) the “progressive left”.

    So, I reserve the right to criticise Israeli government policy, while being an ardent Zionist and wishing only the best for the country and the region.

  10. modernityblog Says:

    I reserve the right to criticise the Israeli government, the Syrian government, the Chinese government, the Indonesian government, the Sudanese government, etc even the one currently ruling Iran.

  11. fred Says:

    I hope David does a write-up of the conference. Media reports so far have been a bit scanty with info.

  12. Thomas Venner Says:

    I would completely agree that there can be no such thing as “legitimate criticism of Israel”. Criticising a country’s government, its foreign policy, the actions of its military or other specific elements can be perfectly legitimate (though even specific criticisms of these from the so-called “left” tend to be based on misconceptions or outright lies), but not criticising an entire country, as if it was a single entity. One of the few things that I can actually agree with Noam Chomsky on is that to criticise Israel in its entirety, you have to first accept what he describes as the “deeply totalitarian assumption” that the people of a state and their rulers are a single entity. I haven’t heard any of the “anti-Zionist” lobby condemning the whole of the American people or the whole of the British people for the actions of the Bush administration or the New Labour government in the same way that they attack Israel and its people in their entirety, making no such distinction between the people and their government.

    As for Nick Cohen, I think the man’s a genius and a true left-winger. We could solve so many of our problems before they started if we just put everything he’s ever written on every senior school reading list.

  13. Nicole S Says:

    Brian, sorry, I wasn’t trying to teach you anything. I’ve read What’s Left and know what Engage is for. I just think there is unnecessary squeamishness in calling critics of Israel anti-semites when so often that is what they are. It is a truth, even if the right says the same thing.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      “there is unnecessary squeamishness in calling critics of Israel anti-semites when so often that is what they are.” Except that not all crtics and criticisms of Israel (or more accurately, its government or segments of its civil society) _are_ being, in any way, shape or form, antisemitic. It is for this reason that we have to be careful not to actually allow the Livingstone defence to be based on any form of truth, but to remain what it is: an excuse to avoid having to justify criticism in detail, having to think, or having to show universality in the mode of criticism (eg, of human rights abuses by governments).

      And I didn’t take offence, I hadn’t realised that you _were_ au fait with the reasons for the existence of Engage.

      All this adds up not to squeamishness in not necessarily calling a spade a spade (except when it’s obvious to _everyone_ that the alternative is calling it a bloody shovel), but, rather, avoiding giving the left antisemites a get-out clause to avoid genuine engagement (no pun intended).

  14. modernityblog Says:

    This issue shouldn’t be so intellectually problematic.

    It all depends on the content and nature of the criticism, not that criticism is made in the first place.

    All governments and all politicians are, rightly, open for legitimate criticism of their actions, as it should be.

    The CST explains it well:

    “Let’s be clear about something else, too, before anyone makes the familiar accusation: this is not a call for anti-Israel campaigners to stop their activities, despite what some may claim.

    It would be wrong to tarnish all with a single brush.

    People are perfectly entitled to campaign against Israel and criticise its actions or policies, just as they are entitled to do so against the actions or policies of any other state.

    But that does not mean that they can disregard or contextualise any associated antisemitism in a manner that they would not dream of doing were it any other form of racism. “[My emphasis]

    http://thecst.org.uk/blog/?p=288

  15. Bill Says:

    “A major problem in coming to grips with contemporary anti-Semitism is the inability, or perhaps unwillingness, of many community leaders to distinguish between critique of Israel and the policies of its government with that of anti-Semitic behavior”

    Distinguishing between the “new” anti-semitism (rather like the new-old-Cocacola), “globalized anti-zionism” and legitimate criticism of Israel is “hard” because it’s “dressed in overalls and looks like work.” (Take that Thomas Edison. He had… ahem.. “issues.”) You have to go through a set of decision trees and more-than-sometimes need look into someones past behavior for the checklist for one or the other, not only does that take work but it can be rather uncomfortable and give you a creepy feeling given all the ramifications.

    But even harder is the psychological block you may get when you start to realize that your colleague, the guy in the office next door, or worse still, someone who may be in a position to evaluate you just might be an “internalized” antisemite that occasionally comes flaming out of the proverbial closet when the moment is right and they think they’re in safe company since everyone in your organization “thinks alike.”

    As such, it’s a lot easier for some to presume that any criticism of “Israelis” (no matter the country in which they live) is really just about Israel’s policies rather than its primary demographic. It’s safer for their personal well being.

  16. Harry Goldstein Says:

    Nicole,

    I don’t think a reluctance to call people antisemites is simply squeamishness. I think there are some good reasons to be careful about doing so unless there is clear evidence that this is a motivation.

    Firstly, it requires a knowledge of people’s personal motives which we can’t possibly have. I prefer to combat their expressed views.

    Secondly, it’s counterproductive. It’s clear that in most cases the individuals themselves don’t regard themselves as antisemites, nor – almost certainly – do most of their colleagues, including those who have no time for their political views. All we do is allow ourselves to be accused of crying wolf.

    Third, and most importantly, I think it’s an incorrect understanding of what’s going on. My own guiding principle is that people believe their own ideologies, and are serious about putting them into effect. Thus Hamas, Hizbollah and other Islamists are entirely serious about their lunatic ideology, including exterminationist antisemitism, which they proclaim (at least to their own supporters) on every possible occasion.

    Equally, the far left are entirely serious about their (almost equally lunatic) anti-imperialism, and their understanding of Israel-Palestine in these terms. In their own minds, this is ‘true’ anti-racism.

    There are two major contradictions in this far left ideology which we need to be exploiting. Firstly, that it pushes them into an alliance with the aforementioned Islamists, forcing them to deny or make light of the latter’s openly-proclaimed exterminationist goals (and their other reactionary views, e.g. on women, gays, theocratic rule, etc).

    And secondly, in seeking support, the left use widely popular liberal democratic values such as self-determination, academic freedom, etc. which they, as totalitarian marxists, do not really believe in. After all, to them, these are really bourgeois mystifications, to be supported only where they serve the purpose of the wider struggle. Hence their ability to justify their alliance with the Islamists to themselves on the grounds that the latter are ‘objectively’ anti-imperialist. For them, the anti-imperialist struggle is so crucial that everything must be subordinated to it. Which makes the Jews (or women, or gays, or anyone else who gets in its way) expendable.

    The point is not that they pretend to be true marxists when they’re really antisemites. It’s that they pretend to be defending liberal values for which they actually have contempt.

    This is not to say that some opponents of Israel aren’t explicitly, subjectively antisemitic, and where there is clear evidence of this we should expose it, but it’s a mistake to operate on the basis that they all are.

    And by the way, this isn’t a plea for ‘moderation’ or ‘understanding’. I’m utterly opposed to these people. However, I think there’s a risk of thinking that their marxism would be fine if only it weren’t ‘distorted’ by antisemitism. On the contrary, I think that their ideology is precisely the problem.

    • Nicole S Says:

      I don’t think you need to know people’s motives to think they are anti-semitic. A total lack of sympathy with Israel and ignorance of Jewish history is anti-semitic enough for me. I’m sure you’re right about both Hamas and co and Marxists, and I’m certainly not suggesting calling people anti-semites as a central argument. But it is surely a permissible observation if true. It riles me that one cannot point out anti-semitism in case it people get all upset and sensitive. That can’t be right.

      • Bill Says:

        “It riles me that one cannot point out anti-semitism in case it people get all upset and sensitive.”

        Who says you can’t? (Oh yeah, the antisemites… abetted by those who just want to keep things quiet) Indeed, by law it’s what your supposed to do if it’s in the workplace. If you want to be a “costly enforcer” of manners and have long term benefits of a civil society at the expense of some short-term discomfort, sadly that’s also what you have to do to. The consequence in the workplace is a lawsuit. The consequence outside of the workplace is a world that will eventually turn much uglier if you just let such things “go.”

        As Jonathan says, while you can’t climb into people’s heads to sniff out internal motives and try to directly assess their antisemetic tendencies, there is nothing wrong with judging their actions and projecting forward on their logical impacts (things being anti-semetic in effect). If someone is linking to DavidDuke.com in listserve posts, you’ve no obligation to go fishing as to why they did such a stupid thing. Rather, you’re ethically bound to assess the reasonable impact that posting racist material will have on those groups that Duke targets or even just repulses — and act accordingly. If someone writes in a letter that a boycott is rightfully targeting the Israeli penchant for scholarship that comes with being Jewish (in such language!), you don’t have to wait for him to knock on your door like a petulant student with an blood-red marked exam paper for him to explain what he “really” meant to write. There are consequences that either the he and the activist block of the UCU will have to face alone, or face together with an inactive but severely compromised rank-n-file (if the activists have their way). That’s just the nature of the beast.

    • Jonathan Romer Says:

      Whilst I agree with some of what you say, Engage has generally dealt with this in a different way in the past. We may often not be able to say whether someone is an antisemite, but we can fairly judge whether their opinions, positions and actions are antisemitic in effect — which is a yardstick commonly applied to other forms of discrimination.

      A person, body or government that applies standards to the one, tiny country of the Jews that it holds no other to, selects a vocabulary that can be predicted to twist the knife in Jews precisely because of their Jewishness, subjects Israel to punishments that other and worse offenders do not receive, or spends 90% of its time examining Israeli misdeeds and 10% on the rest of the world, is antisemitic in effect and can and should be resisted as such. A trade union that creates an atmosphere hostile to Jews and refuses to either listen to their case or engage in self-examination is antisemitic in effect and needs to be told so until it hears the message.

  17. David Says:

    What a load of rubbish I’m reading in these postings.

    “Criticizing Israel” can obviously be shorthand for criticism of the policies of its government. It can also be shorthand for the general “ethos” or direction of the country. Much as criticism of “America” may be either of these and doesn’t have to be qualified with all this super-defensive nonsense. Someone criticizing the US is not required by some sort of political correctness police to qualify that they don’t mean “all the people of America” and don’t mean to question the legitimacy of the US as a political entity…

    And in any case, if, after a democratic election, the participating and “non-resisting” (shall we say) citizenry is not collectively responsible for the actions of the government, then where does that leave democracy, really?

    What I’m left with here is that any criticism of “Israel” that implies criticism of the collective (a collective which itself AS A COLLECTIVE, with collective rights is aggressively defended right here in these same columns) is rendered illegitimate – either a priori or by the death of a thousand cuts.

    • Jonathan Romer Says:

      David,

      If you want to debate, start by addressing David Hirsh’s points that only for Israel does “criticism” include academic and cultural boycott; that “criticism” of Israel results in accusations of financial manipulation whose only basis is the Jewish name of the supposed source of the money; and that “criticism” of Israel is expanded to include and excuse certified abusers of human rights.

      By refusing to look at these concerns you present yourself as light-minded about antisemitism, at best.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        Jonathan, he won’t of course, because he never does, in all his interventions in these columns. David consistently avoids addressing the specific issues he is asked to address and then complains about attacks on himself (usually ad hominem), all the while doing exactly this (as he does above) to others. And I predict that if these exchanges with him continue for very long, he will do exactly this.

        And he comes across as angry all the time. That, however, is his problem, and we shouldn’t make it ours.

        On this particular issue, apart from his general outpouring of bile over everyone who is attempting to tease out the issues here, understand and then address them, he, deliberately or otherwise, ignores the most salient point. An attack on Israel, its government and/or people, even a segment of the population is, unless carefully qualified, an attack on Jews (in case David hadn’t noticed, 80% of the population of Israel is defined as Jewish).

        An attack on the US is an attack on what? Christians? If so, are we talking about Roman Catholics or Protestants? If the latter, Baptists, Anglicans, Methodists or…? Or is the attack on white Americans? Or Black or Brown Americans. The same is true of the vast majority of states which might be so attacked. Those which aren’t, for example, the very highly ethnically homogeneous China, are usually attacked for other reasons.

        As David knows very well (but it won’t suit him to acknowledge: that would undermine his ability to pour bile over us), only Israel has such a high concentration of its citzenry composed of a group of which it can be said, in the immortal words of Tom Lehrer, “…and everyone hates the Jews”.

        • David Says:

          I’m so sorry Brian, really I am. I will try not to be as bilious next time, or to pour so much anger over you.

          And I won’t complain that your attacks on me are ad hominem. Nor will I compare your logic to that of the “Livingstone Formulation.”

      • David Says:

        Again, just because some critics of Israel are antisemites, doesn’t make all critics of Israel antisemites. It’s simple logic.

        There are other countries that are the targets of attempted boycotts, by the way. And yes, a lot of people single out Israel. Sometimes they may be antisemites.

        Or sometimes they don’t like the fact that Israel receives so much support and money from the US taxpayer (more money than anyone else) when there are Israeli human rights abuses going on. Perhaps they don’t like it that the US President is called an antisemite by members of the Israeli cabinet. Perhaps some American Jews don’t like their tax money going to support a country whose elected officials make antisemitic comments about prominent and highly-regarded American Jews. Are these people all antisemites for focusing on Israel?

        And what about South Africa? A familiar argument from the Right during the days of the Boycott was that there were many countries with much worse human rights records, so why the obsession with S.A? That was undoubtedly true, so why the focus on S.A? Racial hatred of Boers?

        There are many antisemites out there, but focusing on Israel is not antisemitic per se.

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          “Perhaps they don’t like it that the US President is called an antisemite by members of the Israeli cabinet. Perhaps some American Jews don’t like their tax money going to support a country whose elected officials make antisemitic comments about prominent and highly-regarded American Jews.”

          Some evidence here would be nice. Otherwise you’re joing a whole raft of (mainly, but not all, pro-boycott) assertionists. No evidence, no sense.

        • David Says:

          Evidence of what Brian? That American Jews don’t like these things? Do you think that perhaps we do?

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          No, it’s absolutely plain what evidence is being demanded: that what is in the quote from your previous posting is for real.

          Stop pretending you don’t know what the question is. Further avoidance in offering evidence that “the US President is called an antisemite by members of the Israeli cabinet. Perhaps some American Jews don’t like their tax money going to support a country whose elected officials make antisemitic comments about prominent and highly-regarded American Jews.”
          Anything less threatens to put you in the same camp as the likes of the Deborahs and numerous others who post here without evidence of their assertions. And I thought that you defines as an English (or a British) Jew in America, not an American Jew. Even your identity appears to be in doubt.

        • David Says:

          My identity is none of your business and I’m not exactly interested in discussing it with someone who evidently has some serious issues with personal boundaries.

          If you want evidence for the (apparently) two things you think I’m avoiding, I suggest you read the the Forward and/or Ha’aretz, both indispensable reading for any interested and involved Jew with a brain. Failing that, try a search on Google.

    • Bill Says:

      WOAH! Paragraph 2 certainly turns things on its ear doesn’t it. You might want to consider the broader implications as to how such fallacies rationalize targeting civilians in democratic republics (including those who are “non-resisting” but are members of the opposition as responsible citizens, but not as Revolutionaries) — and the converse immunity of totalitarian regimes via their populations of unwilling human shields.

      As for “Someone criticizing the US is not required by some sort of political correctness police to qualify that they don’t mean “all the people of America” and don’t mean to question the legitimacy of the US as a political entity…”

      …Uh… that’s because Political Correctness not only forgives, but practically requires anti-Americanism — not just of the government but of all of us trashy “Ugly Americans”. It’s a 2-for-1 (state+culture). Same for Israel. Jewish traits are too often, and almost inevitably, linked to orgasmically anti-Israeli sentiments — the tentacled “lobby;” the “greed”; that tendency to stick out of the crowd; my favorite: that “chosen-ness,” since every other religion brags on how their god hates their guts; and now, that “penchant for scholarship” (thanks for that one, Tom Hickey!).

      • David Says:

        Bill – international law forbids targeting (I presume you mean for violence) civilians in democratic republics and anywhere else.

        As for the rest of what you’ve written, I don’t understand your logic at all. You seem to be jumping straight into the completely counter-intuitive analogy I was drawing.

  18. Mark2 Says:

    What I struggle with in this context is less the exact crriticisms of Israel as their nature. The language used, the tone, the seemingly exclusive concentration on Israel completely out of proortion to the numbers involved, the size of territory or any other normal criteria people adopt in respect of international disputes, all lead me to ask the real reason for this “criticism”.

    Let me be clear. As a Jew (sorry but I had to say it!) I have no wish to believe that people I know personally and/or to whom often feel quite close politically are anti semites. But I am not convoinced by any of the arguments to the contrary. If for example, it was true that they felt justified in particularly criticising Israel because it was a democracy you would expect sometimes to hear them pay tribute to that democracy and despite their particular criticism to identify with Israel, yet the ususal reaction of these people when the claim is made is at best a snigger – at worst a tirade.

    What is it then that leads to such extravagences as the utterly ridiculous claim made to my face that “Israel is the worst human rights abuser in the world”. At very least one must accept that a perhaps subconcsious anti semitism is in the frame as an explanation.

  19. zkharya Says:

    “Criticising Israel” can be, and very often is, a delegitimising of the very process whereby Jews came to live in Palestine in other than tiny numbers, on the grounds that Palestinian Muslims and Christians were entitled to exclude them, a priori.

    That, at some level, is delegitimising of the existence of any kind of Israel, since it is only how any kind of Israel could have come to be.

    Yes, some people do the same with regard to, say, the US and Australia, but not many, and rarely with the same passion.

    “Zionism”, the Jewish nationalism that created any kind of Israel, is the focus of the hatred of many, in much the same way as once was “Judaism”, “Jews” and “Jewishness” before any kind of Israel existed.

    It is true that many call this mere “criticism”. But that is a little like calling the Holocaust mere “deconstruction”.

  20. zkharya Says:

    “And in any case, if, after a democratic election, the participating and “non-resisting” (shall we say) citizenry is not collectively responsible for the actions of the government, then where does that leave democracy, really?”

    Then, David, one takes that this is your view of the citizens of the Hamas run state of Gaza?

    • Bill Says:

      I’m sure Hamas gets an “out” because

      A) they’re not 100% fully sovereign as long as there is a Jew anywhere on that green 1946 ArcInfo trainwreck @ Harry’s Place that doesn’t have to ask Hamas for permission to be Jewish (and shucks, we know what that answer will be);

      and B) Fatah is non-“non-resisting” them (as opposed to Bibi and the Boyz being at odds their his opposition parties, that’s different).

    • David Says:

      Yes the citizens of Gaza are responsible. That doesn’t give Israel the right to bomb civilians, though.

      As I stated above, ” international law forbids targeting civilians in democratic republics and anywhere else.”

  21. Absolute Observer Says:

    Antisemitism is not a matter of opinion, it is not (or not only a) subjective predliction.

    It is an objective political, social and/or cultural ideology, system of belief and/or system of practice. Masuku would prbably not think of himself as an antisemite, but, objectively, the SAHRC found his spech and email comments to be hate speech. Jenny Tonge probably does not consider herself to be an antisemite, but her comments about “The pro-Israeli Lobby has got its grips on the Western World, its financial grips. I think they’ve probably got a certain grip on our party.” is objectively antisemitic.

    There are many definitions of antisemitism. In the present context, the most apposite in this context is the EUMC. Likewise the CST offer a careful and thoughtful distinction between the what is antisemitism and what is “criticism”, broadly understood.

    Both the EUCM and the CST differentiates clearly between “criticism of Israel” and “antisemitism’. As such they avoid the absurdity of saying things like ” A total lack of sympathy with Israel and ignorance of Jewish history is anti-semitic ” as well as facile comparisons with the US that ignore the speciific fact of Israel as a Jewish state (as if calling the US nazis, as in the 1960’s and 1970’s has the same meaning of calling Israel nazis and Gaza Warsaw in the 2000’s.).

    I read this article today and thought it fantastic. It sums up just what can be done by someone who is both serious about contemporary Israel as well as someone not seduced by the cliches of antisemitism.

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/23494

    Compate this article with, say, Jacqueline Rose’s nasty little notion of contemporary Israel as the product of pathological Jews historically determined by their history of abuse.

  22. PP 101 Says:

    Carl Schmitt, the “Crown Juriist for the Third Reich” having held produced a string of hardcore antisemitic tracts between 1933 and 1936 and held a conference “Judaism in German Law” defended these works after 1945 by saying that all he was doing was “criticising the Jews”.
    So, it would seem that there is a precedent for antisemitism appearing wrapped up in the language of criticism. So, again, nothing new here then.

  23. NIMN Says:

    “and don’t mean to question the legitimacy of the US as a political entity”

    And, therein lies the rub. It is precisely because, when it comes to Israel , and only Israel, that many people do indeed “mean to question the legitimacy of it as a political entity” in a way that US legitimacy as a political entity, or the UK, or India, or China, or Jordan, is not so questioned.

    In this context, then, it is the very existence od Israel that is called into question and which eschews any and all of the distinctions and subsumptions that apply to other states, including the US.

    Indeed, at the current time, it is Israel and only Israel that, of the 200 or so states, is the only one whose legitimacy is continually, if not constantly called into question through the language of “apartheid”, “colonialism”, “imperialsim”, “racist”, “nazi” and so on.

    So, do let’s keep it real, shall we.

    • David Says:

      Here we go again. So every critic of “Israel” is questioning its legitimacy as a political entity are they, and are thus antisemitic uUnless they take the additional trouble to point out that they aren’t questioning Israel’s right to exist)?

      • Bill Says:

        “Here we go again. So every critic of “Israel” is questioning its legitimacy as a political entity are they, and are thus antisemitic uUnless they take the additional trouble to point out that they aren’t questioning Israel’s right to exist)?”

        Whose got the logic problem? NIMN says “many” and David says “all”.

        Doctor Livingstone, heal thyself.

        In all honesty, have you never seen an act of anti-zionism that leveraged anti-semitism? Have you read Tom Hickey’s BMJ letter explicit leveraging Jewish traits? Did you see Jenna Delich’s moderator approved hyper-link to DavidFREAKINGDuke.com with the links — that included “Whatever Happened to Eugenics” on the sidebar (for Pete’s sake! It was RIGHT there along with a plethora of other RRA and Title VII nightmares for any HR chief)?

        Or do you prefer to live in denial, insisting that those who engage in such delegitimizing and objectively antisemitic misconduct (surpassing the “reasonable person test”) are not indeed antisemitic in effect, and in design. And do you prefer to claim that tolerating such conduct and bringing it under the “safe” umbrella of legitimate criticism of Israel (for which there truly is lots of good and ethical company, many of which are in Israel itself) doesn’t blows any credibility of those who insist that they’re part of an anti-racist (and anti-antisemetic) movement and sends them over to the dark side of racism and politically correct bigotry. ‘Cause I don’t. And the cold hard fact is that any head of personnel with any sense (and certainly any harassment and discrimination attorney) won’t either.

        • David Says:

          NIMN did say “many.” But he used the fact of “many” to argue in support of someone who stated “every” and against me, when all I have said is “not every.”

          So how am I supposed to take his argument? That he means to agree with me?

        • David Says:

          And you are AGAIN citing examples of antisemitism as if to prove that every critic of Israel is an antisemite.

          I really don’t get it. How does citing more cases of antisemitism strengthen your argument?

        • Bill Says:

          “And you are AGAIN citing examples of antisemitism as if to prove that every critic of Israel is an antisemite.”

          Oh Bull! You keep making this up. No one here is saying that – except you. The cases I present are very real. Also very real is how the UCU did little in these cases to discipline the miscreants — rather they came down on the whistleblowers. And worse still, the people behind the misconduct are still there making policy!

          You really *don’t* get it do you? The UCU refuses to confront flaming antisemitism from its organization. Just recently they were caught bringing in someone called out by the SAHRC for objectively antisemetic statements and threats against South African (not Israeli) Jews. And down came the cones of silence, again. Are we supposed to be fine with this? Are you?

          Look: If a someone at work keeps calling women employees by sexist slurs and the people on top kept saying, “Well he’s older, he doesn’t understand the ‘new’ role of women in the workplace, just ‘man’ up,” would that be fine? If another kept muttering racist epithets around black staffers, would it be ok for the boss to keep saying “well he has disagreements with affirmative action and then there is that Mugabe thing”? No on both counts.

          But in the UCU, the equivalent of this has been going on for some time. Indeed, they’ve been hemorrhaging (or as discrimination apologists say, “self-selecting” out) prominent members who’ve been pointing out this misconduct since the beginning. The result has been an increasing embubbled monoculture that reinforces such behavior by attacking those who point it out by setting up the same strawman as you’ve done: “You pesky Engagenicks keep saying any criticism of Israel is antisemetic — especially the antisemetic criticism, but never mind those and stop bringing them up!”

        • David Says:

          Where, pray, did I say that any of the cases you cite are not examples of antisemitism? Or that anyone should be fine with the behaviour of these UCU people?

          I was responding to people stating (above) that there is no such thing as “criticism of Israel” that is not inherently antisemitic. Why do you refuse to accept that this is what anyone else posted?

    • Evan Says:

      “Indeed, at the current time, it is Israel and only Israel that, of the 200 or so states, is the only one whose legitimacy is continually, if not constantly called into question through the language of “apartheid”, “colonialism”, “imperialsim”, “racist”, “nazi” and so on.”

      And, given the stridency of these many allegations, you have to wonder what exactly which human evil Israel is NOT guilty of!

      The recent video of the Q&A session at the UCU/BRICUP meeting (http://www.hurryupharry.org/2009/12/15/antisemitic-meeting-at-soas/ ) is proof of the sheer obsession behind the hate-Israel movement, as well as of the smugness and self-delusion of many comfortable anti-Zionist diaspora Jews.

  24. Absolute Observer Says:

    Yawn.
    It depends on the substance or content of the “criticism”.

    I will spell it out for you again………..

    Some “criticism” of Israel is antisemitic.
    Sme criticism is not.
    Some “criticism” is plainly aimed at delgitimising Israel as an existing state.
    Some criticism is not aimed at delgitimising Israel as an existing state.

    Whenever the question of why UCU and other bodies focus obsessively on Israel and only Israel – especially as to boycotts – has been raised, no satisfactory answer has been given.

    Indeed, most boycotters refuse to include a statement of when it is to end, i.e. even after the Occupation has ended. Again when questions have been raised about this, no answer has been forthcoming.

    So, yes, “focusing on Israel is not antisemitic per se”, but equally it may be antisemitic.

    It’s not that difficult.

  25. NIMN Says:

    “There are many antisemites out there, but focusing on Israel is not antisemitic per se.”

    True,

    But,

    When the “Stop the War” coalition send out statements about UK involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, they always includes a statement about the “evils” of Israel

    When the PSC reads “Peridtion” on Holocaust Memorial Day.

    When leaders of the Scottish PSC speak about the power of “international jewry”.

    When Walt and Mearsheimer apply old conspiracy theories to new situations and claim that the Iraq war was the product of “Zionist power”.

    When Jenny Tongue talks about Zionist control of her party, of the media, of the government.

    When Press TV post holocaust denial

    When anti-zionist groups hold services in Churches and rewrite the lyrics to Christmas carols.

    When Church clergy speak about people “braving the Lobby”.

    When the UCU introudce year after year after year boycott motions on Israel and only Israel.

    When we have seen activists accusing anti-boycott lawyers of being financed by stolen Lehman Brothers money.

    When we have seen a man found guilty of hate speech in South Africa being hosted by trade unions in the UK.

    When people link to neo-nazi websites

    When we see how antisemitic statements and sentiments are regualrly defended or ignored by “anti-Zionists”.

    When we see how those who raise antisemitism are “denounced” as “Zionists” and as part of the “Pro-Israel lobby”

    When we see all of this………….

    then the “per se” is not only beginning to look somewhat thin but also appears quite amenable to rebuttal.

    • Bill Says:

      “…the “per se” is not only beginning to look somewhat thin but also appears quite amenable to rebuttal.”

      I’d say that the “per se” is too often used by boycotters to simultaneously acknowledge and evade the antisemitism that clearly and openly exists under their roof. “Yes, we know it’s there. And, there, we said it. But not all of it is. Happy?” To which we must (and indeed do) say, “Why, yes. I am happy that it’s not all, per se, antisemetic. So what are you doing about that which is… ahem… per se antisemetic?”

      Well… they just keep saying that it’s not all, per se, antisemetic, and how dare we keep pointing out that misconduct which is antisemetic. Why? Because, in the process, we’re smearing the non-antisemetic, per se, folks — you know, the ones who keep enabling, underwriting, and encouraging all that antisemitic behavior by people who we can’t, per se, call antisemites (there should probably be a few more “per se’s” in there).

      • Bill Says:

        one more thing on this “per se-ing”….

        There’s not much you can do about the actual racist, sexists, homophobes, antisemites, bullies and assorted “whatevers” besides “isolate” or administratively “neutralize” them. They’re too often fixed in that mindset and the only way they ever see the light is when it’s too late for them. And at that point, they’re likely not going to be your problem or anyone else’s — at least after the settlement is finish being paid out (through your hide, of course)!

        The long-term problem really winds up being steered by those who constantly deny that such misconduct or worse still, acknowledge it but minimize (i.e., “per se” it) down to a minimal priority, and then smear anyone who is concerned with such grave matters with rocking the boat. And then… one of those pesky “single” isolated event happens (again!) and all hell breaks loose. And people then sit there navel gazing wondering what happened (for hopefully more than 30 seconds, but don’t get your hopes up). And after that, they come down like a piano dropped from 30 stories on anyone who sighs, “I told you so.”

        Such is the problem with those who have fits at those who are sensitive to antisemitism in the boycott.

  26. NIMN Says:

    To clarify my point

    Many people are legitimately angry – including me – about what Israel does. However, many of the organisations that represent that anger have, shall we say, an equivocal track record that makes the question their oft-stated distinction between “criticism of Israel” and their focus on Israel, and only Israel, somewhat debatable.

  27. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    David:
    December 18, 2009 at 9:54 pm
    “I’m so sorry Brian, really I am. I will try not to be as bilious next time, or to pour so much anger over you.

    And I won’t complain that your attacks on me are ad hominem. Nor will I compare your logic to that of the “Livingstone Formulation.”.”

    As usual, David completely ignores the issues raised throughout this column and attacks those who point this out. He also fails to respond to the _further_ comments directed specifically at him.

    The usual legerdemain from David. Not only no change there, but why am I not surprised either. Does it all the time.

    It would actually be quite intersting if, instead of being so bilious and/or angry, he used his intellect to address the issues. If not, doubt must be raised as to his motives. And I see little sign of a serious addressing of these in later postings.

  28. David Says:

    I’m so sorry Brian, so sorry.

  29. Absolute Observer Says:

    David,

    When a straw man is set up – such as the claim that all criticism of Israel is antisemtic or anyone who criticises Israel is antisemitic or labelled antisemitic – then it is easy to reach agreement.

    It is easy to reach agreement because no-one seriously thinks that.

    The more difficult question, of course, is the manner in which antisemitism has become an increasingly used resource amongst certain sections of the anti-zionist discourse.

    Merely accepting, as you do, that it is present and, as you also note, a motivating aspect of “criticism” of Israel in some cases, as if it can be put in a box and set aside hardly resolves the problem.

    The more people turn a blind eye to it, the more the raising of antisemitism is said to be a “weapon” of “Zionists”, the more prevalent it becomes.

    Engage and others have tracked the use of antisemtic imagery within some anti-Israel arguments. Rather than anti-Zionists accepting its presence and trying to do something about it, anti-Zionists blame the messengers for the message. (See the recent “discussion” on the invite of Masuku as the only most recent instance of this.).

    It is also a fact that the issues of Israel and antisemitism has in Israel and the US, but less in the UK, split along left/right lines, with the left adopting an anti-Israel line and the right adopting the issue of antisemitism.

    Like all political phenomena, this has a history. And, like all political phenomena, it is open to political critique. Merely positing Zionists on the right and charactersing them as “crying” antisemitism or, of painting a picture of the anti-zionist left as “mere” antisemites is but a characture, and does nothing to understand either problem.

    As people with a critical left perspective, it is necessary to break through the crudity of this imagery and to start thinking seriously about what is going on in Israel and what is going on in discussions around Israel, thinking that remains tied to a progressive politics, progressive both in terms of Israel and Palestine and progressive in terms of confronting racism.

    • David Says:

      It’s not a straw man. It’s stated above, as clear as day.

      Organizations that allow antisemitism to pass in the context of “criticism of Israel” (or any other context) should not be let off the hook and should be called to account. I never said that acknowledging it is sufficient.

      But the claim is made that supporters of Israel “cry antisemitism” in order to stifle any criticism of Israel. It’s important not to provide those who make that claim with any evidence. This is a very important ideological argument.

      There are some Jews (mostly on the hysterical Right) who do act this way, and it’s foolish for us to deny that it ever happens. But it’s important for more thoughtful and intelligent people to repudiate this when it happens and to be very careful with our own definitions.

      Calling someone antisemitic is a serious accusation, and to accuse and alienate well-meaning people who should be our friends is not helpful or productive.

      The mere act of singling out Israel for criticism is not sufficient evidence for the accusation, notwithstanding the sort of a priori arguments that are made for this position. There are just too many good counter-examples.

      There are many many reasons why people focus their attention and energy on fighting injustices in one place rather than in other places where much worse things might be going on. (That’s what happened with South Africa). Among those are the perceived support their own government may be giving to the injustices, perceived cultural closeseness to the participants, the effectiveness of political movements, access to information etc etc. (For Jews who are critics of Israel there may be many additional factors at work).

      None of these factors need involve racism or antisemitism. If the critic starts talking about conspiracies and control of the media, how Begin rhymes with Fagin (anyone here remember that one?) etc. that’s something completely different.

      But I have read repeatedly on this blog the claim that merely the act of singling out Israel is antisemitic. That is just wrong and it’s counter-productive.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        “But I have read repeatedly on this blog the claim that merely the act of singling out Israel is antisemitic. That is just wrong…”

        It’s only wrong when it can’t be demonstrated that _only_ Israel is being singled out for generalised criticism (such as unique human rights abuses). If it _is_ only Israel, then the suspicion that the motives of the singler out are suspect begins to have a basis – eg Tom Hickey.

        Actually, to repeat a comment that David Hirsh made months ago (and probably repeats far more often than he should have to) _who_ makes this claim (especially in these comment threads) that criticism of Israel is antisemitic – unless, of course, they can cite chapter and verse.

        Simple question: should be a simple answer.

  30. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    And I, likewise, David, am sorry that you continue to fail to produce evidence that one or more members of the Israeli cabinet has called the US President antisemitic or that American Jews (some, few, many, most?) resent paying taxes to a (US) regime the elected officials of which make antisemitic comments about leading American Jews (you say, with no supporting evidence). Or perhaps it’s not the current US president or the current set of elected officials (how do we know _who_ you mean?).

    Then there’s _this_ comment: “Or sometimes they don’t like the fact that Israel receives so much support and money from the US taxpayer (more money than anyone else) when there are Israeli human rights abuses going on.” (This, interestingly enough, is immediately before the comment about the accusation that the US President has been called antisemitic). We are not told who “they” are, especially as the following two sentences clearly refer to Israeli and US Jews, but “they” are presumably the very people who consistently single out Israeli alleged human rights abuses, while calmly ignoring all the other examples of human rights abuses in the world. People like Tom Hickey, for example – and I’ll be delighted to provide a link to his British Medical Journal article where he says these things: just ask). Such an approach does come close to stepping over the mark between legitimate criticism of Israeli government policy and antisemitism, if it does not actually cross it.

    Without further explanation, explication and evidence, you appear to be allying yourself to the same people we are attempting in these pages to hold to account.

    Once again: evidence, evidence, evidence.

  31. Steve From Raleigh Says:

    Karl, I believe Wiesel was being ironic on that point. It’s not a matter, in truth how or why someone is antisemite, it matters to THEM how they justify it.

  32. Absolute Observer Says:

    Good, so we are in agreement.

    Criticism of Israel is not antisemitic. But it can be.
    Just one word of caution,

    Like so many other “criticisms” of Israel can blur into antisemitism, so too its “singling out”.

    It need not be antismeitic, but, like all other “criticisms”, it perfectly possible that, in a given context, it can be.

    So, that’s that then.

  33. NIMN Says:

    “There are some Jews (mostly on the hysterical Right) who do act this way, and it’s foolish for us to deny that it ever happens.”

    But when people point to this “hystrical right”, some people say, “aha” see, I told you” and then attach it to everyone who raises the question of antisemitism, the problem is their’s not ours.

    The right have never spoken for everyone, it’s just when it comes to Israel, many people refuse to accept a left-right divide. As I say, the problem is theirs not ours.


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