The Holocaust and Modern Genocide : Friday 11 June 2010. The British Academy, London.

A One Day International Conference organised by

The Wiener Library and Kingston University

The Wiener Library and Kingston University have come together to organise an international conference entitled The Holocaust and Modern Genocide, which will examine the way in which scholars of genocide write and think about the Holocaust now and its continuing relevance, as it recedes further into the past. This has been stimulated by our earlier collaboration on the 2007 conference Teaching and Researching the Politics of Mass Murder and our shared interest in how the Holocaust is being incorporated into the historiography of genocide. Among the issues that the conference will discuss are the extent to which the Holocaust remains or should remain central to our understanding of both the history and continuing threat of genocide, and how it can be understood in relation to other genocides past and present, perhaps particularly to those committed or facilitated by Western powers. Our event takes place at the British Academy on Friday 11 June.

The key-note speaker will be Professor Omer Bartov (John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History and Professor of History and Professor of German Studies: History, Brown University), author of several major works on the Holocaust and genocide, including Mirrors of Destruction – War, Genocide and Modern Identity, (Oxford, 2000).

Papers will also be given by:

Professor Jacques Semelin (Senior Researcher in Political Science CERI-CNRS Editor in Chief of Center for International Studies and Research), and author of a major recent study of comparative genocide Purify and Destroy – The Political Uses of Massacre and Genocide(Hurst, 2007)

Professor Martin Shaw (Research Professor of International Relations at the University of Sussex) and author of What is Genocide? (Polity, 2007)

Professor Marcello Flores (Professor of Contemporary and Comparative History, University of Siena), author of Tutta la Violenza di Un Secolo (Feltrinelli, 2005)

Professor Philip Spencer (Director of the Helen Bamber Centre for the Study of Rights, Conflict and Mass Violence at Kingston University)

How to Register

Thanks to generous support from the British Academy, the conference is free of charge but places are limited. To register your interest in attending please email


The British Academy
10 Carlton House Terrace

Israel and the British Left – Ben Gidley

Ben Gidley gives consideration to Conservative MP Douglas Carswell’s analysis of what fuels the hatred of Israel in sections of the British left, touching on supranationalism, cultural relativism, and the vicarious nationalism of the so-called anti-imperialists.


A selection of news and comment.

Ignoblus on Yoav Shamir’s film Defamation.

Via Bob From Brockley: Contentious Centrist surfaces some under-reported news of a separation wall built by Hesbollah and Syria which isolates a Lebanese border region mostly populated by Christians and Druze, and  home demolitions by Hamas; the revolution will not be Tel Aviv’ed – gingerly linking to Spiked to give you Natalie Rothschild; Martin in the Margins on Chomsky refused; Michael J. Totten’s interview with Paul Berman about his book Flight of the Intellectuals.

Off-topic for this blog (but kind of on-topic because I came to it via a Labour parliamentary candidate who, nonetheless worryingly though she was unsuccessful, apparently believes that problematising Zionism will pay off in British politics) Peter Beinhart considers some long-term trends in Israeli society and trends in the attitudes to Israel of Jews outside Israel, calling for an uncomfortable Zionism as alternative to anti-Zionism, a lethargic non-Zionism, or an exclusive and aggressive kind of Zionism.

The Turin Book Fair was targeted by boycotters again this year, but they were rebuffed, and Israeli author Amos Oz won the readers’ prize. Umberto Eco was again (scroll to the L’Espresso translation, 2008) one of those who spoke against boycott. Here is something good from him back then :

“I understand very well what certain friends of the extreme left (who only need to turn 360 degrees to come dangerously close to the extreme right) are thinking when they demand such a thing: we have to direct people’s attention to the ominous politics of the Israeli government, so we can kick off a scandal that will hit the headlines in all the papers. It is true that politicians and advertising companies work like this (and Berlusconi has mastered the art), but what is happening in Turin right now is a bit like the Blue Telephone trying to draw attention to the abuse of children by having some of them whipped in public.”

Elvis Costello’s bad boycott

Nathan Guttman writes in The Forward about Elvis Costello’s decision to boycott Israel:

“In reaction, a music industry insider confirmed that the winds could be shifting. The music executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity in light of his ongoing business ties with artists, said that in recent months he had approached more than 15 performing artists with proposals to give concerts in Israel. None had agreed. The contracts offered high levels of compensation. He called them “extreme, big numbers that could match any other gig.””

Grassroots boycotters at the bottom of their movement’s foodchain might not get it, but the cultural boycott of Israel needs to be recognised as part of a coordinated attempt to isolate Israel and undermine its existence. This boycott has never exhibited any promise or mechanism of ending the occupation and provokes a defensive reaction in Israelis. Nevertheless, it’s catching on and you get the impression that it now takes spine and a clear head to go through with performing in Israel. I’m wondering if by now it’s easier to simply leave Israel off the tour and even whether the praise you might gain for first agreeing to perform and then ostentatiously pulling out, citing the Palestinian cause, now outweighs the opinion of people like me that the cultural boycott is wrong.

I think Elvis Costello’s boycott is hollow. One reason for this is that he knew about the occupation when he arranged to play in Israel – what happened between then and his decision to cancel? Another is that is that his statement hardly relates to the matter at hand. He’s potentially a very precise communicator so I’m assuming this was deliberate. But in among the pained and indistinct verbiage is the conclusion that his name on an Israeli billboard will do more harm than boycotting Israel. I think the opposite is true.

Many Palestinians will feel that Elvis Costello is their friend, but this sympathetic outcome is the limit of what the boycott gesture can achieve. It’s outweighed by the negative side-effects of boycott recorded by Engage over the five years of our existence – five years in which the boycott campaign, predictably, has not led to any improvement in the overall situation. I don’t see how it could.

Does Elvis Costello believe that if he, Elton John, Joan Armatrading, The Pixies, Bob Dylan, or anybody else plays to their Israeli fans – and Elvis Costello supposes fans of his to be enlightened people – then pro-occupation campaigners will use the media to claim this as an endorsement of Israeli policies? That’s the same fools’ claim boycotters are making, and it’s not valid. Who says that artists have to go along with activists ventriloquising their political views? More likely Israelis and Jews would take the visit as proof that an unjust boycott campaign was failing to make the world’s only Jewish state a world pariah – and they would be entitled to celebrate that.

There is no mechanism through which boycotting Israel proposes to help end the occupation. Only a tiny minority of Israelis – Israelis who have abandoned the task of building the confidence for a peace movement in their own society and now find it more rewarding to build an international rejection movement instead – are calling for a boycott of Israel. Many more Israelis feel as David Horowitz does when he cites years of warfare and terrorism against Israel and points out that the ‘wrenching’ of settlers from Gaza was rewarded with the democratic election of Hamas, with its suicide bombers, missiles, and rhetoric of Jew-hatred.

According to many commentators, Israeli existential fear is so acute as to constitute a siege mentality, and this boycott has no prospect of alleviating that. Israel is a democracy – you have to persuade the voters to effect a change of policy. This boycott is the opposite of persuasion. Elvis Costello’s solipsism is so complete that he neglects to extend any worked out alternatives to occupation, and certainly no prospects for peace. Perceiving no alternative to the current approach of fortification and pre-emptive strike, Israelis are most likely to turn in on themselves and support what they feel the right-wing government they voted in has to do to protect them and secure the ongoing existence of their state. Israelis have good reason to fear Hamas, Hesbollah and their major theocratic sponsor and sworn enemy of Jews, Iran. This boycott has no argument with Israel’s enemies.

Does Elvis ‘instinct and conscience’ Costello think that by performing in Israel he risks contributing to the insufferable complacency of all those Israelis who divine their country’s morality on whether musical artists include Israel on their tour, as if reading the tea leaves? I don’t think any Israeli judges their country by that measure. Does he seriously believe that Israelis, so many of whom are drafted into national service, or whose relatives are, don’t understand that the occupation, in the piously facile words of Ofer Neiman in The Forward article, “has a price tag attached”?

So what is Elvis Costello thinking? It looks as if boycott campaigners are beginning to get a purchase in public opinion and it also looks as if, in the face of their pressure, explaining a decision to perform in Israel has become overly effortful and unpleasant for artists. You have to put up with getting called wilfully ignorant, callous, complicit, even Binyamin Netanyahu’s “gay Band Aid“. Easier to play to the figurative gallery than sweat out explaining your decision to play to the real one.

Shai Lahav (this Shai Lahav, veteran of Gaza during the first intifada, defending the soldiers who tried to bring to light Israeli military misconduct during Operation Cast Lead?) is a fan of Costello’s who wrote in Ma’ariv:

“You certainly know, Mr. Costello, that many ‘enlightened’ countries such as the US and UK are involved without respite in fighting in faraway countries, such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan…You would never cancel an appearance in New York or London, while condemning the government policies for sending soldiers. You would have too much to lose by such a step. But a concert in Israel is a different story…In Israel, there is a great public of humanist people, who desire peace, yearn for a normal life, are willing to make painful concession and who are also cultural enthusiasts. Look at how fast your concert tickets were snapped up. Over the years, this public has fought bitterly to advance its positions and its dreams. It fights against extremists at home and against Muslim extremists, who are destroying any chance for peace. Your miserable decision directly weakens this public. You have given it another reason to despair, to be frustrated and to understand that the chance for sanity is slipping away. ‘Music is not mere noise,’ you wrote in your cancellation letter. But you have proved the exact opposite. Sometimes a musician would do well to concentrate on music, which, at least, he understands.”

Boycotters are probably right that the cultural boycott will distinguish artists with integrity from artists who prefer not to see what is going on. Only they have it the wrong way round – the artists with integrity will perform in Israel and deal with the flak.

Unison refuses TUFI a stall at its annual conference

See TULIP (Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine).

“Trade Union Friends of Israel (TUFI), which aims to “promote Israeli-Palestinian trade union co-operation and strengthen the links between the Israeli, Palestinian and British trade union movements”, has been banned from attending the upcoming annual conference of UNISON, the giant public sector union.

For three years running TUFI, like many similar groups, had a stall at each year’s UNISON conference, as well as at the conferences of other major trade unions. (This year two major British unions — the GMB and CWU — have specifically invited TUFI to attend.)

But last year, UNISON told TUFI it was not welcome to have a stall at its conference. Initially, UNISON claimed that TUFI had requested the stall too late, but later changed the line to say that TUFI was not welcome because of the “security threat”. Apparently there were some concerns for the safety of Jewish members of the union following the Gaza conflict.

After the conference — at which TUFI held a very successful fringe meeting — UNISON promised that it was all a great misunderstanding and everything would be fine this year.”

Read the whole thing.

This month has seen Israel reacting to Egypt’s ongoing refusal of visas to Israeli academics, and Israeli officials refusing entry to Noam Chomsky and a clown.

It’s grim to see a British trade union allowing its pro-conflict faction to drag it into this. Make some noise.

On a boycott tool

Consumption should be political – that’s why I used to subscribe to the boycotters’ magazine Ethical Consumer. But when it began to get too preoccupied with boycotting Israel, I began to find it less than credible and let my subscription slip.

For the same reason I approached this online Boycott Toolkit with trepidation. I came to it via a link to a Pajama’s Media article which gave the impression that it was a tool dedicated to boycotting Israel. It isn’t though.

I don’t want to interfere with ongoing moderate Israeli attempts to get mainland Israel to divest from those settlements which are not part of the peace plans (i.e. to be exchanged for Israeli land elsewhere) as a condition of bringing about a Palestinian state. This kind of targeted action makes sense to me in a way that an entire boycott of Israel, with all its attendant scapegoating and veiled hopes for erasure, never will. The settlement boycott has acceptance of a state of Israel built in – it espouses a two-state solution. Anti-Zionists don’t like it. For this reason it is important to distinguish between settlement boycott and all-Israel boycott. In the Boycott Toolkit today, there is no overall boycott all-Israel campaign (although it’s open for users to make one, and I think it’s probably just a matter of time).

It’s early days to see what kind of political vehicle the Boycott Toolkit becomes. Focus on Israel there is currently disproportionate, and that focus reflects its creator’s politics. However, there is also a campaign against the state of Arizona, sponsors of Glenn Beck On Fox News (for calling Obama a racist), the Californian financiers of Proposition 8 which bans gay marriage, and BP for the oil spill. But the Israel and Palestine related campaigns have the lion’s share of the energy. If it remained that way, and I were its creator Josh Levinger, I’d feel obliged to do something about that singling out.

A couple more thoughts. Currently there is no distinction between settlement that isn’t part of peace plans and settlement that is. To some extent this only mirrors Israel’s long-standing policy of undifferentiation. I’m not sure what to make of it – it’s open to people to start a separate campaign which does make a distinction. The second thought is that the presence of an entry supportive of Palestinian Products on this boycott site shows how the tool can be gamed.

Hat tip: Bob’s Jogo.

Bonus link: Hasan Abu-Libdeh, Palestinian Authority Minister of the National Economy writing in the Jerusalem Post, “The Palestinian campaign against settlement products represents a practical commitment to peace”

Review of Benny Morris’ book ‘One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict’

This review is by Brian Goldfarb.

Benny Morris – ‘One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict’

Yale UP, 2009.

By his own admission, Benny Morris has “moved marginally rightward”, as he says of himself in an article in The New Republic in 2009 reviewing and critiquing Avi Shlaim’s book “Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations”   (,0). By the same token, he notes that the other Israeli “New Historians” – Ilan Pappe, Tom Segev, Avi Shlaim – having started, like himself, on the left of Israeli politics, have “steadily drifted leftward (if that really is the direction of people expressing understanding and sympathy for the likes of Yasser Arafat and Hamas).” It goes further: Shlaim (who, though born in Iraq, is more British than anything else, having been largely brought up and educated in  the UK and is now a professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford and a fellow of the British Academy) is less than complimentary about Morris’s work.

Thus, in the New Republic article cited above, Morris quotes a Shlaim article in which he says of Morris that he “is in danger of becoming…’a genuine charlatan’”…which is a very British way of saying that [Morris is] a charlatan”. We must also remember that Morris was born in the UK, which accounts for his excellent and untranslated prose style, and for his understanding of the very British nuance that Shlaim displays.

However, Morris’s latest book will do nothing to alter the views of those such as Shlaim and the other “New Historians” as to his supposed rightward drift. His last book, “1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War”, published in 2008, was clearly a return by him to a more conventional view, from the Israeli side, of the causes both of that conflict and of the Palestinian refugee situation, as readers of these pages will know. That is, he, in essence, repudiated his earlier views as to which side was the prime mover in the creation of the Palestinian exodus from what became post-1948 Israel. Now, claiming access to official (mainly Israeli) documents not available earlier, he argued that the Arab states encouraged this movement and, anyway, in many cases, civilians, hearing the sound of gunfire getting closer, did what unarmed civilians most often do in such situations: flee. Of course, there was an Israeli push, especially from Irgun, and, occasionally, even Haganah units overstepped the mark. But essentially it was, at worst, six of one, half-a-dozen of the other and there was no official Israeli government policy on expulsion.

Now, his history of the politics of the one state, two state issue will further alienate him from his erstwhile fellow “New Historians” and others of that ilk, all the way from IJV, JfJfP through to the whole of the BDS squadrons, to say nothing of the people who believe that they are advancing the Palestinian cause by demonising Israel.  Whether Morris will care is another matter.

The book starts with 7 pages of maps as to what the various proposals for partition would or did look like “on the ground”. This is followed by a short (27 page) chapter on “The Reemergence of One-Statism”, which is a tour through the mainly Arab and Palestinian retreat from “their at least superficial espousal during the 1990s of a two state solution and a reversion to the openly enunciated policy of the Fatah and Palestinian Liberation Organization in the 1960s and 1970s…which posited the elimination of the Jewish state and the establishment in its stead of an Arab-dominated polity encompassing the territory of Israel and the (at present) semioccupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.” (pp 1-2) Just try counting the number of contested and contestable statements in that sentence alone.

The bulk of the book (pp 28 to 160) is concerned with “The History of One-State and Two-State Solutions”. To this reader, this chapter was both interesting and essentially uncontroversial, to the extent that I was already aware of much of the history. Others may well find at least some of his interpretations interesting, to say the least. However, in my view, the real sting comes in the final, 40 page chapter: “Where To?” Perhaps unsurprisingly, he utterly rejects the one-state, bi-national, solution as likely to lead to, at best, a Jewish exodus. However, his own conclusion will, if read with care, come as a surprise, although there are those who will find it anathema.

He concludes, despite his rejection of the “one-state” solution, that the “conventional” two-state solution – a Palestine composed of the West Bank and Gaza, with a guaranteed access between the two, and an Israel essentially within the 1967 Truce lines, with or without land swaps – is no longer viable. The area that would be Palestine is far too small. His proposed solution is for an enlarged Jordan: one that will encompass Gaza, the West Bank and Jordan (again, with or without land swaps to allow for the major settlement bloc(s)). He squeezes this idea into the final two pages of his book, and summarises it thus: “…a partition of Palestine into Israel…along its pre-1967 borders, and an Arab state, call it Palestinian-Jordanian, that fuses the bulk of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the east bank…” (p. 199). It would be physically large enough, Morris argues, to allow for the Palestinian desire for expansion (ie, the Palestinian Right of Return) as well as for future development. Morris’s sting in the tail comes with this gem: “…the unification of the P[alestinian]N[ational]A[uthority] and Jordan, with its relatively powerful army and security services, would provide the possibility of reining in the militants (much as Jordan has easily and successfully reined in its own…militants over the past decades).” Hardly music to the ears of the one-statists!

It must be left to the reader to decide how viable such a solution would be, but to Engage and other supporters of the “Euston Manifesto” (of whom the author is proud to be one), it’s certainly a solution worthy of serious consideration and debate.

Morris offers one further satisfaction for regular readers of these columns: his preparedness to dub many writers on this issue and also the lobby as guilty of “mendacity”, including Mearsheimer and Walt and many other proponents of the one-state solution. For those without a dictionary to hand, “mendacity” is a very British way of calling someone a liar. It also carries clear implications of being a knowing liar.

Mearsheimer’s Lists

Mark Gardener at the CST.

It is a curious fact that many of the academics and professors who so eagerly bash Israel and Zionism, do so whilst moonlighting from other issues in which they are actually specialist, but don’t seem quite so animated about.

When a professor uses their own academic field to bash Israel and Zionism, their impact upon the debate can be quite profound. One such professor was John Mearsheimer, co-author with Stephen Walt of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, a book lent gravitas by the authors’ respective positions at Chicago and Harvard universities; and in particular by their leading roles in the grandiloquently titled school of “Structural Realism” (aka Neorealism).

The book was decried by some critics as antisemitic conspiracy theory in academic guise; and hailed by others as a studious, careful and urgent warning about the Zionist fifth column that it warned was driving American foreign policy.

Now, however, as Mearsheimer’s analysis drifts ever further from Capitol Hill, the more he becomes just another over-animated basher of Zionism and Israel: only more so, because now the learned Professor is categorising American Jews into lists; and holding them responsible for bringing Israel to heel.  As if this were not bad enough, his list of good Jews evokes the Holocaust by being called “righteous Jews”. In this context, his list of bad Jews as “new Afrikaners” seems almost benign, rather than being the deligitimising slur that it actually is.

Mearsheimer’s Lists and logic were laid out by him in a lengthy speech, delivered as the Sharabi Memorial Lecture at Washington D.C.’s Palestine Center and transcribed by the Jerusalem Fund.

Like many before him, Mearsheimer appears deeply frustrated and somewhat angered by the failure of Israel and Jews to fit his own predetermined view of the world. This leaves him grasping for answers that are increasingly reliant upon speculation rather than scholarly evidence. It is what is called cognitive dissonance and it is a very common point of refuge for those with fixed theories about how the world works: or at least how it would work if only there weren’t unseen forces, that a select few must bravely drag into the light. It is easy to slide from this into conspiracy theory, where the absence of evidence actually reinforces your belief that hidden powers must indeed be at work.

Of course, Israel and Jews already have something of a reputation for transgressing whatever ideological theories and historical certitude comes their way: regardless of whether it is Christian, Muslim, Marxist, Structural Realist or whatever. This obstinance has given rise to what may well be the most extensive list of conspiracy theories faced by any people. Mearsheimer’s speech reminds us of the “Jews run the media” aspect of antisemitic conspiracy theory, where he says

Israel and its supporters have been able to do a good job of keeping the mainstream media in the United States from telling the truth…But the Internet is a game changer…[it] allows Americans to learn the story that the New York times and the Washington Post have been hiding from them

However, by far the most significant aspect of Mearsheimer’s analysis is the central role he gives “American Jews” and “the Jewish American community” in the future prospects for peace. It may be “hardline Israelis and their American supporters” who comprise “the lobby”, but Mearsheimer’s logic dictates that it is only American Jews (rather than the US Government) who have the strength to slay the Zionist dragon

Hardline Israelis and their American supporters are aware of these problems [of apartheid Israel legitimacy], but they are betting that the lobby will defend Israel no matter what, and that its support will be sufficient to allow apartheid Israel to survive… In fact, one could argue that Israel could not have gotten as far down the apartheid road as it has without the help of organizations like AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League.  But that strategy is not likely to work over the long run.

The problem with depending on the lobby for protection is that most American Jews will not back Israel if it becomes a full-fledged apartheid state…there are good reasons to think that a marked shift in the American Jewish community’s thinking about Israel is in the offing.  This is not to deny that there will be some diehards who defend apartheid Israel; but their ranks will be thin and it will be widely apparent that they are out of step with core American values.

Mearsheimer goes on to explain how the crucially important American Jewish community currently stacks up. This is where he starts with the lists

Let me elaborate. American Jews who care deeply about Israel can be divided into three broad categories.  The first two are what I call “righteous Jews” and the “new Afrikaners,” which are clearly definable groups that think about Israel and where it is headed in fundamentally different ways.  The third and largest group is comprised of those Jews who care a lot about Israel, but do not have clear-cut views on how to think about Greater Israel and apartheid.  Let us call this group the “great ambivalent middle.”

It is Mearsheimer’s use of the term “righteous Jews” that really infuriates. To many Jewish eyes and ears, including my own, the phrase is an antisemitic provocation, with its spit and sneer comparison to the Holocaust-related term “righteous Gentiles”.

We cannot be certain that this is Mearsheimer’s intention, but he is no fool and we must assume that he expected his audience, and Jews in general, to understand the allusion. Mearsheimer does, however, explain what he means by “righteous Jews”. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t mean American Jews who risk death to their entire household by sheltering Palestinians from Israeli death squads, merely those who

believe that self-determination applies to Palestinians as well as Jews, and that the two-state solution is the best way to achieve that end. Some righteous Jews, however, favor a democratic bi-national state over the two-state solution.

I have the impression that Mearsheimer believes this group of Jews to be significantly smaller than it actually is. Nevertheless, you have to wonder how many of them would classify themselves alongside Norman Finkelstein, whom Mearsheimer includes in his personal avenue of the righteous, also populated by Philip Weiss, Noam Chomsky, Richard Falk, Naomi Klein and Tony Judt amongst others.

You may have guessed by now that the wrong list to be on is that entitled the “new Afrikaners”. This is not because Mearsheimer would place you in a Boer War concentration camp, far less a Nazi one: but rather because you would be epitomising all that is worst about American Zionist defenders of Israeli apartheid.

Mearsheimer specifies that

I would classify most of the individuals who head the Israel lobby’s major organisations as new Afrikaners.

He then goes on to list four such individuals and their organisations: the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations, and the Zionist Organization of America.

As with those whom he listed as “righteous Jews”, the list of “new  Afrikaners” have diverse motivations, methodologies and goals. The fact that Mearsheimer just lumps them all together into two lists – good and bad – exemplifies how far he has now strayed from his area of expertise.

Nevertheless, read (or watch) the remainder of Mearsheimer’s speech and you may well be cheered to discover that the “great ambivalent middle” Jews will rise from their slumber and save the day:

I believe that most of the Jews in the great ambivalent middle will not defend apartheid Israel but will either keep quiet or side with the righteous Jews against the new Afrikaners, who will become increasingly marginalized over time.  And once that happens, the lobby will be unable to provide cover for Israel’s racist policies toward the Palestinians in the way it has in the past.

So, there you have them, Mearsheimer’s Lists and the chilling historical echoes that this kind of Jew-categorisation evokes.

Aside from their content, what does the actual existence of Mearsheimer’s Lists say about his tactics and scholarship? The language employed is a poor simplification, poisonously expressed. Mearsheimer is from the Offensive branch of Structural Realism, but every explanation I have read of Offensive Realism describes it as an intellectually rigorous analysis of how states conduct power politics. Nowhere can I find an explanation that says it is an intellectual pursuit in which academics find un-academic ways to cause offence to the objectified targets of their vitriol.

It almost goes without saying that double standards are also at play here. Could we envisage Mearsheimer’s defenders tolerating such a categorisation of Muslims or of African-Americans?

Of course, Mearsheimer isn’t blaming The Jews per se, only those who are on the wrong list. The problem is, however, the longer it takes for the “great ambivalent middle” to fulfil Mearsheimer’s prediction, the more likely (and more deservedly) they are to end up on the wrong list. Worse still, if there’s one thing that you can predict about Jews, its that they don’t fulfil other people’s predcitions

Another response to Mearsheimer’s Jewish categories

David Schraub writes to Andrew Sullivan about the latter’s defence of John Mearsheimer’s categorisations of the American Jewish community into ‘Righteous Jews v. New Afrikaaners‘.  From the middle:

“Mearsheimer also groups the entire list — “righteous” and “Afrikaner” — under the broader label of “American Jews who care deeply about Israel.” This is the fulcrum of your defense of his delineation — that Mearsheimer’s objection to the “New Afrikaners” is that, within the broader class of people who care about Israel, their political prescriptions are deeply misplaced; the “righteous Jews” are the ones who truly care and know best. But again, to characterize them as folks who “care deeply about Israel” is simply not an accurate description of several of his “righteous Jews”. I mean that in an entirely value-neutral way — not that their politics are inconsistent with a deep concern for Israel (though I think in many cases they are), but simply that they wouldn’t characterize themselves as folks who “care deeply about Israel”.

Put simply, by their own admission a goodly portion of Mearsheimer’s “righteous Jews” are not folks who “deeply care” about Israel and are committed to achieving a two-state solution for as long as it is a plausible goal. Their commitments and desires lie elsewhere. They are not our friends. They are not our allies.”


Israeli peace activist Mossi Raz in London, 10th May

Israeli peace and civil rights activist, Mossi Raz, to speak in London on Monday 10 May

Byline: Kubbeh

Long-standing Israeli peace and civil right activist, Mossi Raz will be leading a public discussion, “From Lebanon to Gaza: Challenges to War and Peace,” in London on Monday 19 May 2010 (7.30pm). Raz is the former head of the largest peace movement in Israel, Peace Now and has served in the Knesset as a Meretz MK and as a captain in the Israel Defence Force.

This will be a unique chance to hear from one of the country’s leading peace activists on the current situation in the Middle East. He will be talking about Israel’s recent incursions into Gaza and south Lebanon and the disputes they cause among left-wing groups in the Knesset and Israeli civil society. The event will also provide a panoramic and up to date account on the current political situation in Israel, informed in part by his involvement with the groundbreaking Palestinian-Israeli All for Peace Radio station.

The event is hosted by Meretz UK at Hashomer House, 27a Broadhurst Gardens, London NW6 3BN.

Entry £3, free to Meretz UK members (no one turned away due to lack of funds).