Antisemitism and the boycott: David Hirsh responds to Ran Greenstein

This relates to an ongoing debate about the campaign to boycott Israel. All the links are here.

Ran Greenstein has made a number of arguments for a boycott of Israel and he has tried to deal with a few responses.  I, however, commented that I found it astonishing that he had not even attempted to say anything about the issue of antisemitism.  I went on:

I ask Ran Greenstein about the antisemitism which always accompanies a campaign to exclude Israelis but nobody else from the global academic, cultural, sporting and economic community.

I say that the standard mode of antisemitic bullying is to accuse Jews of inventing antisemitism in bad faith in a dishonest attempt to shield Israel from critiicsm.

Ran Greenstein’s response is

1. there isn’t any antsiemitism

2. the many hundreds of thousands of words of evidence on Engage is “rather flimsy”

3. If there is antisemitism, then Engage is mobilising it as “an excuse to do nothing”.

The chief spokesperson in the trade union movement for “BDS” in South Africa, Bongani Masuku, has been found guilty of antisemitic hate speech by the South African human Rights commission, a body set up by the South African state to fight racism.

In UCU, there is not a single Jew left at Congress who is willing or able to oppose the boycott. This is why:

Michael Cushman, the leader of the acaemic boycott campaign, pushes antisemitic conspiracy theory and rejoices at the exclusion of “the Zionists” from the union:

A ucu official claimed that money stolen from Lehman Brothers was paying for anti-boycott lawyers in the UK:

Conspiracy theory from David Duke’s website has been circulated around the union lists by pro boycott activists:

There is a detailed five year long catalogue on Engage of the antisemitism which accmpanies the boycott movement.  It is not accidental.  The boycott is in itself antisemtic – it launches a global campaign of exclusion against Jews who committ human rights abuses while not doing the same against non-Jews who committ incomparably more serious human rights abuses.

With this campaign comes conspiracy theory.

With this campaign comes bloodl libel.

With this campaign comes rhetoric which accuses Jews of being nazis.

With this campaign comes rhetoric which accuses Jews of being neurotic.

We have shown you precisely how the campaign to boycott israeli academics works in practice:

Howard Jacboson makes the argument:

I have shown you how it has become standard practice to respond to a charge of antisemitism:

Ran, you don’t want to read the evidence. I suspect that you don’t think a bit of antisemitism in the Palestine Solidarity movement is very important. If that is what you think, you should say so. I think you would be quite wrong.

Ran Greenstein replies as follows:

David, I have claim no expertise on (or interest in) internal British academic politics and am happy to leave you guys to sort it out.

As for South Africa, there was ONE Cosatu official, who made offensive comments in ONE speech a couple of years ago, and was censured for it. Make of it what you will. There were TWO incidents of excluding Israeli academics in the UK as individuals and they took place in 2002-03. You have been making a fuss over that ever since.

I would not have bothered to intervene in this debate at all, if it continued to be confined to your dispute with the UCU. It is when you attack activists with impeccable progressive and anti-racist credentials like Desmond Tutu and Neve Gordon, precisely at a time when the Israeli state is coordinating a global campaign against them (and others like them), that I was moved to respond.

If you are for criticism of Israeli human rights abuses, then go ahead and criticise. The academic boycott campaign is merely one aspect – and a marginal one at that – of the global solidarity campaign with those fighting against the occupation and Israeli exclusionary practices. No one will stand in your way in fighting these in any way you see fit. Keep in mind at all times, though, that the goal here is to bring oppression to an end – the Israeli state and its agencies are culprits, not allies in this struggle.

Definitively, Ran Greenstein’s answer is

1  I don’t know what happens in the British Labour movement and I don’t know what happens in British Universities.  I do not intend to find out.

2  There is no significant antisemitism in the South African Palestine Solidarity Movement.

3  You (Engage?  David Hirsh?) makes a fuss about what there is – either because you are useful idiots who think they are protesting against antisemitism but are in fact objectively bolstering the occupation, or because you are dishonest supporters of the occupation.

Greenstein is an Israel-firster.  He has already told us proudly that he thinks what he thinks and he acts how he acts at least in part because he is Jewish and because he is Israeli.  He employs the “asa Jew” rhetoric and the “not in my name” rhetoric.  And now he tells us that he is only concerned with the campaign against Israel and he is uninterested, not “bothered” about what happens around the world in the Labour movement and in the universities.

I and Robert Fine challenged what Desmond Tutu and Neve Gordon had to say and we raised the issue of antismitism, making arguments and offering evidence.

Ran Greenstein responds not to what we say but in terms of who we are.

He denounces myself and Robert as idiots or apologists for Zionism.

He defends Desmond Tutu and Neve Gordon by saying that they both have ” impeccable progressive and anti-racist credentials”.

But these ad hominem attacks and defences leave the issue at hand entirely un-dealt with.  He fails to relate to what is being said.  He says he can’t be bothered.

Greenstein talks the language of universalist cosmopolitanism but actually he is only concerned that his own state, Israel, gets a kicking.

He accuses us of parochialism because we are concerned by the poison of antisemitism being introduced by his rhetoric into the global labour movement when really, don’t we know, the only important issue is punishing Israel.

He is like ‘socialists’ in times gone by who thought that people who made propaganda against Jewish capital and Jewish banks were half way there, and all that was required was for the masses to move one step beyond hating the Jews to hating all the capitalists.

In Ran Greenstein’s world, a campaign against only Jewish human rights abuses, special punishment for only Jewish human rights abuses, are justified.

Serious people on the left have always taken antisemitism in our movement seriously.  They have understood that antisemitism within our movement is an indicator for something profoundly wrong.   Not Ran though, who says he isn’t bothered by what happens in Britain in the wake of his boycott movement, so long as he can recruit the British to his own campaign against Israel.

Ran Greenstein has given up on his academic colleagues in Israel, on the Israeli working class and on the Israeli peace movement.  He has given up on his colleagues in Israel but he thinks my colleagues in Britain are capable of achieving what Israelis cannot achieve.   He thinks we can deliver the telling blow against “Zionism”.  And he isn’t interested in thinking through or finding out the relationship between his yearned-for blow to the Israeli state and antisemitism.

David Hirsh

Goldsmiths, University of London

This relates to an ongoing debate about the campaign to boycott Israel. All the links are here.