From the UN to the US to the BBC, the Lobby knows no rest.

It seems that nowadays if something does not go your way when discussing/commenting/joking on matters relating to Israel, the immediate default position is to see yourself as the victim of “the Lobby”.

Although such a position has a long and unpleasant history, its more recent appearance began with the book, “the Israel Lobby” in which the authors, unable to believe that the US would support Israel on its own volition, can only explain such matters as the response of the (evidently, not so secret) machinations of “the Lobby”.

The Lib Dem candidate who cannot understand why there is not an arms embargo against Israel can only think of one reason; “the Lobby”.

And now, the comedian Frankie Boyle.

Lightly reprimanded by the BBC for a “joke” he made on a BBC Radio 4 programme, Boyle can only imagine that the cause for his chiding was – not BBC guidelines nor a commitment not to offend put into place following the populist overreaction to the Ross and Brand affair – but the result of “well drilled lobbying”.

In a parody of the well-known maxim, if “the Lobby” existed, it wouldn’t need to be invented.

Here’s a report of the story,

And here’s Boyle’s response,

Violence against Israeli speaker is not an isolated incident

At the University of Manchester anti-Israel demonstrators, reportedly from Action Palestine, surrounded and tried to attack deputy Israeli ambassador Talya Lador-Fresher after she’d given a political science lecture. She has the impression that they would have beaten her up if they could.  The event had been postponed previously due to security concerns. A spokesperson for the University of Manchester commented irrelevantly:

“The University is fundamentally committed to freedom of speech, exercised within the law. It follows that it should also allow peaceful and lawful protest to take place on its campus.”

Not reassuring – the protest was not peaceful but violent.

There are political players at the extremes of Israeli and Palestinian society, along with their supporters, who would like us to consider this attack representative of Palestine solidarity, but it isn’t. At most, it represents support for the minority within Palestinian society which hates and attacks Israelis, and works to drive them away. In their approach and mentality Action Palestine activists have more in common with the extreme right Israelis who left a pipe-bomb outside the home of anti-occupation activist Ze’ev Sternhell than they have with genuine pro-Palestinian campaigners. They insist that they stand for Palestinian rights, dignity and freedom, and yet deny rights, dignity and freedom to Israelis. The only serious thing about them is their attempt to import the Middle East conflict onto a British campus.

Too often anti-Israel campaigners find antisemitism appealing, though they would be the last to admit this. Action Palestine hosted Bongani Masuku back in December 2009, at the same time as the University and College Union. The South African Human Rights Commission found Bongani Masuku guilty of hate speech against Jews a few days afterwards. UCU and Action Palestine would or should have known about the charges against him. They would or should have known that anti-Israel campaigning is often expressed as animosity to Jews, who are treated as proxy Israelis.

But, like UCU nationally, my local UCU branch at Goldsmiths attributes antisemitism to “the actions of the Israeli state” rather than to the groups and individuals who enact it, and leaves Jews to deal with it on their own. Harry’s Place points out that Action for Palestine is holding a seminar next week with Amnesty International and Ben White, who considers antisemitism “understandable”.

So where are we? A British campaign for Palestinian rights seeks education from an antisemitic speaker and attacks an Israeli. A reputable human rights organisation is content to partner with it. A trade union invites the antisemitic speaker to present on an anti-racist platform. A higher education institution can’t distinguish between peaceful protest and physical attack.

And precisely what does all this have to do with a political solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians?

Palestinians are not free, and there is a need for a movement which supports and enables a negotiated political settlement and mutual understanding between ordinary citizens. Compare Action Palestine with 11 students at the Technische Universität Darmstadt. They run an annual Middle East Simulation event where 50 students from Israel, Palestine and Europe are assigned key roles, simulate the conflict and global responses, and discuss freely. Nobody gets beaten up and nobody is permitted to indulge their prejudices. They are currently inviting applications to attend.

Update: on Harry’s Place, Marco Schneebalg writes of ongoing efforts to reduce the tension on the University of Manchester campus over Israel and Palestine. He feels that the attacks on Talya Lador-Fresher were a marginal event which nevertheless undermined the Palestinian cause because of the way it was dealt with in the media. He is due a lot of credit for his bridge-building work (and it would be good to stop there). But. The good work he and others are doing doesn’t change the facts of the attacks, nor the way the University of Manchester, and Action Palestine, whom he deals with gently, handled them. Nor does it alter the fact that the vitriolic attacks are not six of one and half a dozen of the other. It is right to take physical attacks and hatred against people because of their nationality very seriously indeed. This doesn’t come across in Marco Schneebalg’s post, and this is perplexing. I wonder if this is a case of (I’m going to quote Sophie Buckland here because she puts it best, even though she’s referring to clashes about something else – and the post I link to is well-worth reading): “Where two ideologies clash there’s always someone who claims the middle ground for their own, however inconsistent and fractured it may be.”

What is it about the Liberal Democrats, Jews and antisemitism?

“Lib Dem warns of ‘power of Jewish lobby”

“A Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate in Yorkshire told a hustings meeting that “the power of the Jewish lobbies in Washington and Britain” are the reason a full arms embargo has not been imposed on Israel.”

European Sociological Association Research Network 31: “Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism”

European Societies Forum

Our ESA Network on Racism and Antisemitism brings together, into a common forum of discussion, research activity in each of these areas. An informing idea behind setting up this network is that a prevailing current in the sociology of race has been that of a black-white binary which excludes other forms of racism that do not fit this binary. Our conviction is that an explicit connection between racism and antisemitism (and other intra-European racisms) helps us redress such exclusions. We also recognise that prevailing currents in study of antisemitism have generally not led scholars to situate this phenomenon with the context of racism more broadly but rather to view antisemitism sui generis as an independent phenomenon. Our belief is that Sociology can play a more universalistic role in overcoming tendencies toward particularism and that the broadening of our sociological imagination will flow from recognition of connected sociologies.

The connection between racism and antisemitism may appear uncontroversial, almost banal, but today any sociology that seeks to connect the phenomena of racism and antisemitism must be willing to confront serious resistance arising from a number of related sources. On the one hand, there are specialists who have an interest in maintaining a kind of sub-disciplinary specialization and in saying that this form of racism is real whilst that form of racism is minor or marginal or not real at all.  There are emphatic theories of difference that construct walls between one form of racism and another and find it difficult to recognize the sheer versatility of racism. There are standpoint epistemologies that say that only the victims can properly understand the racism or antisemitism directed at them and slip into paradigms of competitive victimhood that refuse to acknowledge the victimization of others.

In relation to antisemitism, most social scientists acknowledge that antisemitism was a major issue in the past but there are many who deny that antisemitism is any longer a significant issue in the present and argue that antisemitism has become more rhetoric than reality. They may embrace a philosophy of history that sees the new Europe as having overcome its darker, nationalistic temptations; or they may say that the conditions in Europe that once led to antisemitism have now been superseded and Islamophobia and other racisms have substituted for antisemitism. There is a temptation in sociology to resort to the symbolic erasure of antisemitism and disregard the mythological images antisemitism inherits from the past, because they are unwanted reminders of the subterranean streams of European civilization.

In terms of political argument it is sometimes said that the charge of ‘antisemitism’ is employed dishonestly as a means of deflecting attention from the allegedly racist character of Zionism and the Israeli state. It is said that a focus on Jews as victims of antisemitism serves to obscure the wrongs Jews themselves commit as victimisers. In these political debates we have to acknowledge that anti-racists can represent concern over the ‘antisemitism’ question mainly as a smokescreen for racism against Moslems, Arabs or Palestinians; and conversely we have to acknowledge that anti-antisemites can represent ‘antiracism’ as an ideology of those whose hostility to Israel is antisemitic in its effects if not its motives.

In the face of all these resistances, which we only touch upon here, our conviction is that the project of connecting racism and antisemitism – which is not at all the same as identifying them – is worth doing.  Racism and antisemitism evolved together in European societies as coeval manifestation of how Europeans at once turned on non-Europeans outside Europe and on one another within Europe. To see their connectedness today is our way of keeping in mind the universalistic promise of the sociological imagination.

Robert Fine and Claudine Attias Donfut

Ghosh against cultural boycotts

Norm writes:

These are excerpts from a statement by the writer Amitav Ghosh, exlaining, in the face of protests, why he accepted the Dan David Prize from Tel Aviv University:

I think it is of paramount importance to note that this prize is awarded by a university in conjunction with a private foundation: it is not awarded by the state of Israel. I would like to state clearly that I do not believe in embargoes and boycotts where they concern matters of culture and learning. On the contrary I believe very strongly that it is important to defend the notion that institutions of culture and learning must, in principle, be regarded as autonomous of the state. Or else every writer in America and Britain, and everyone who teaches in a British or American university, would necessarily be implicated in the Iraq war… Similarly every Indian writer and academic would also be complicit in the actions of the Indian government in areas of conflict. And if we don’t defend this principle how will we defend the rights of dissent of those who are employed in universities – especially, for instance, in times of war, when reasons of state can be cited to create an explicit complicity?

I do not see how it is possible to make the case that Israel is so different, so exceptional, that it requires the severing of connections with even the more liberal, more critically-minded members of that society.

The rest is here. (Via Kenan.)

Israel boycott again on agenda in UK

Dr. David Hirsh of Engage, a group of academics and trade unionists who campaign against the boycott call, came out strongly against the UCU’s move.

“Annually, the boycotters propose to exclude Israelis from the global academic, economic, artistic and sporting community as though Israel was unique on the planet and as though it was normal to punish ordinary working people for the actions of their government,” said Hirsh. “The UCU leadership does nothing about the boycott or about the Palestinians, but continues to allow anti-Semitic ways of thinking to pollute the union and to degrade our solidarity.”

Read the whole article by Jonny Paul here.

Boycott motions for forthcoming UCU Congress

SFC14 Practical support for Palestinian academic trade unionists, National executive committee

Congress condemns the failure of the international community to confront the Israeli government over the humanitarian disaster it is continuing to perpetrate in Gaza and the continued development of illegal settlements in the West Bank.


· Welcomes the decisions of the 2009 TUC Congress relating to Palestine and Israel, and instructs the NEC to work with the TUC, STUC, and other affiliates, Amnesty International and PSC, to put the recommendations into effect.

· Welcomes the Education International-Canadian Association of University Teachers report on academic freedom in Palestine and Israel, and the new impetus it provides for work on this area in EI.

· Calls on the NEC to work with Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, as well as EI, CAUT and other supportive EI affiliates, to build PFUUPE’s organisational and negotiating capacity within Palestine, according to the needs PFUUPE identifies, and to support its membership of EI and enable it to participate fully in EI’s work.

SFC15 Palestine solidarity, BDS, and Histadrut, University of Brighton Grand Parade

Congress notes the successful international BDS conference hosted by the UCU in line with Congress policy;

The statement that emerged from that conference and the call from the Palestinian Boycott National Committee for an isolation of Israel while it continues to act in breach of international law.

Congress resolves:

· To reaffirm its support for BDS, and to seek its implementation within the constraints of the existing law;

· To seek in conjunction with other trade unions, nationally and internationally, to establish an annual international conference on BDS, a trade union sponsored BDS website and a research centre on commercial, cultural and academic complicity with Israeli breaches of international law, with appropriate cost sharing;

· To sever all relations with Histadrut, and to urge other trade unions and bodies to do likewise;

· To campaign actively against the EU-Israel Association Agreement, and to coordinate that campaign with other trade unions and solidarity movements.

SFC16 Ariel and West Bank Colonisation, University of Brighton Falmer

Congress notes

The continuing colonisation of the West Bank – construction of illegal settlements, Israeli-only roads, diversion of Palestinian water, disaggregation of the territory, disruption of Palestinian life, destruction of olive groves and separation of Palestinian cultivators from their land, denial of educational and scholarly opportunities to Palestinians, and the continuing construction of the wall;

The contribution of Israel’s academy in this process – scientific and social and historical research, sitting of annexes on illegally confiscated land, and support for military occupation;

The particular contribution of Ariel College in this process – recruiting Israelis as settlers for their education – and the recent decision of Israel to recognise Ariel as a ‘university centre’, on the way to its establishment as a university on occupied territory.

Congress resolves to commence the investigatory process associated with the imposition of a boycott of Ariel College.

UCU’s invitation to Bongani Masuku of South Africa

The following has been submitted to UCU conference by Oxford University :

SFC17 UCU’s invitation to Bongani Masuku of South Africa, University of Oxford

Congress notes that:

UCU invited Bongani Masuku to a meeting in December 2009 to discuss Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions against Israel;

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has found that at a rally at the University of the Witwatersrand in March 2009 Masuku ‘uttered numerous anti-Semitic remarks which were seen to have incited violence and hatred amongst the students who were present.’

The SAHRC has determined that these statements, and others made publicly by Masuku, amount to hate speech prohibited by the South African constitution;

the SAHRC finding makes it clear that Masuku does not deny making the remarks attributed to him;

These remarks were publicly available on the internet well before UCU’s invitation to Masuku was issued.

Congress dissociates itself from Masuku’s repugnant views.

Congress censures those elected members responsible for inviting Masuku to participate in a meeting hosted by the union.

The Lib Dem Baroness, Her Patronage And David Duke.

Modernity over at Modernity Blog asks the following with regard to Baroness Tonge’s patronage of The Palestine Telegraph and the fact that it’s front page contains a rant by former KKK Grand Wizard, David Duke.

So I wonder how will she react when she sees David Duke’s face on the front of the Palestinian Telegraph’s web site?

Will she condemn it? Or will she try to excuse it away?

I would hope that even Baroness Tonge is familiar with David Duke, neo-Nazi and onetime grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan?

Surely she would realise why it is a very bad idea for the Palestinians’ cause to be associated with such a despicable professional racist and arch antisemite.

What type of editorial process goes on in the Palestinian Telegraph which means it finds it acceptable to post a David Duke video ? Unbelievable. What racist filth.

HT to Modernity Blog and HP.

UPDATE : According to Matthew Harris at the JC blog, Jenny Tonge has emailed the Palestine Telegraph to say that she no longer wishes to be a patron and wants her name to be removed from their website”.

The David Duke video has been taken down.

At the moment George Galloway is now listed as a patron.

The Budapest March of Life : commemorating the Holocaust.

Guest post by Karl Pfeifer

Éva S. Balogh publishes “Hungarian Spectrum” which I recommend to all those interested in Hungary. She wrote about the March for life which took place this year on April 18:

Even before I read the article describing the event my first thought was that it was really remarkable that this commemoration managed to attract several thousand people while all other demonstrations organized lately by left-liberals were very small. Only a few hundred people took the trouble to raise their voices against intolerance and the visible growth of the far right. And behold, here is this huge crowd. Maybe it means that in the future we will see more vigorous political participation on the part of the left.

The march was obviously more than a commemoration of the Holocaust. It was also a demonstration against the growing Hungarian Nazi movement. Because, let’s face it, it is a Nazi movement although in Hungary most people don’t dare to label it as such. When I wrote an article in Hungarian about the international reaction to Jobbik and mentioned that foreign commentators call them fascists, my editor wrote back expressing her hope that I could footnote that claim because otherwise Jobbik will sue the paper.

This is the eighteenth time that the march has taken place. In the first year only 400-500 people bothered to gather to commemorate the death of about 400,000 Hungarians in 1944-45. Last year there were more than 10,000 participants and this year their number might have been over 20,000. Among the marchers were several socialist and Fidesz politicians… Gábor Iványi, a well known Methodist minister. Apparently several members of the diplomatic corps also took part. I definitely saw the U.S. ambassador. …
Although there were several speeches the most interesting was the one given by Sándor Németh, head of the Hungarian chapter of the Assembly of God. [Hit Gyülekezete KP] This church is a very curious phenomenon. One would think that it would be politically conservative, but …[they] are a liberally minded lot and the church has long been associated with the liberal party. For instance, ATV, a liberal television station, is owned by the church.

Most commentators noted approvingly that Sándor Németh at last didn’t mince words and called Jobbik what it is, a neo-Nazi party. It is the shame of Hungary, he continued, that members of this party will be sitting in the Hungarian parliament. And, yes, the Jobbik parliamentary members will be sitting in the very same chamber where the laws against the Jews were enacted in the late thirties and early forties.

To finish this short piece on an upbeat note: I consider this very large demonstration a clear sign that the until now not very active left-liberal voters of Hungary will not be taking any anti-democratic shift in Hungarian politics lying down.”

I am happy to report good news from Hungary and I am proud to be for many years the Vienna correspondent of „Hetek“ the weekly of „Hit Gyülekezete“. This Budapest paper whose chief editor is Sándor Németh takes in every issue a stand against racism and antisemitism and is a staunch advocate for Hungarian-Israeli friendship.

Karl Pfeifer