Gerald Kaufman just can’t help himself, can he?

"I Can't remember"

Martin Bright reports in the JC:

Sir Gerald turned to a neighbour on the Commons green benches, as pro-Israel MP Louise Ellman rose to speak, and muttered: “Here we are, the Jews again”.

In March 2010 he said:

“Just as Lord Ashcroft owns most of the Conservative Party, right-wing Jewish millionaires own the rest,” he said.

In January 2009 Kaufman said the following:

“The present Israeli government ruthlessly and cynically exploit the continuing guilt from Gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians,” he said.

Kaufman’s response?

“I can’t remember whether I said it or not. I can’t remember every comment I said under my breath.”

John Strawson on the University of Johannesburg’s boycott decision

John Strawson

The decision of the University of Johannesburg to actually implement a boycott of Ben Gurion University is indeed a major coup for the boycott campaign. It is also highly symbolic as it has been campaigned for and supported by such high profile anti-apartheid activists – and indeed heroes – such as Desmond Tutu and Faird Esack. It offers the boycott supporters and apparently firm link between Israel and apartheid.

However, this is analogy is in fact built on sand. In the debate, which was well dealt with by Robert Fine, Desmond Tutu thought it was correct to ask Jews to reflect on their own past of suffering. Whether or not Jews as Jews can make this reflection, what those of us with some knowledge of apartheid South Africa could ask the boycotters to consider the actual history of the University of Johannesburg. The core of the University of Johannesburg was the Rand Afrikaans University which was opened in 1968 as an academic project which was explicitly part of the apartheid project of the then ruling National Party. Its main buildings are in the shape of a laager – the defensive shape that wagons formed when under attack during the Great Trek. Its intellectual project was to counter the “liberalism” of the University of Witwatersrand which is also in Johannesburg and to propagate apartheid in the academy across all subjects.

I think we need to ask those who support this boycott whether they really think that Ben Gurion University shares the antecedents of the University of Johannesburg. It is evident that Ben Gurion University as an institution has simply not acted as a project to support to the colonial occupation of the Palestinian Territories – and its academics have included ironically some of the Israelis most associated with calls for the boycott, such as Neve Gordon – and his excellent book “Israel’s Occupation” (2008) speaks for itself.

Ben Gurion University is not in the same mould of the Rand Afrikaans University. The boycotters should know their own South African history better.

John Strawson, author of Partitioning Palestine, Reader in Law, UEL

More from John Strawson:
Zionism and Apartheid
The boycott campaign is about fuelling hatred of Israel
Why I am against the boycott
on sweeping victories and crushing defeats
reply to ‘Jews for Justice’ on the Lebanon war– and ensuing debate

Engage’s arguments against the academic boycott of Israel

University of Johannesburg boycotts Israeli University

This piece, by Matthew Kalman, is from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The international campaign for an academic boycott of Israel claimed its first success on Wednesday when the University of Johannesburg Senate voted to pull out of a two-year-old joint research project with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev to battle algae that are infesting the South African city’s reservoir.

The vote means that the University of Johannesburg is the first academic institution in the world to formally cut ties with an Israeli university as a result of pressure by supporters of the international boycott campaign.

In a written statement, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel working group lauded the move, saying it set a “worldwide precedent.”

The Senate vote followed a decision last September to end links with its Israeli counterpart if it found “direct or indirect military implications” to the relationship. The Senate had called on Ben-Gurion to form partnerships with Palestinian universities and ordered a review of the ties between the two institutions before April.

A fact-finding mission of officials from Johannesburg visited Ben-Gurion in February to see conditions on the Israeli campus for themselves. Ben-Gurion officials believed the visit had been a success. They are proud of the praise heaped on the university by Nelson Mandela when he accepted an honorary doctorate there, in 1997. The university conducts a number of joint projects, particularly on water and desert research, with Palestinian and Jordanian institutions and scholars.

The Ben-Gurion Student Association’s chairman, Uri Keidar, who met the delegation from South Africa, wrote to its members afterward, saying, “I find it difficult to believe that BGU, the home of 20,000 free-thinking students of different religious and ethnic backgrounds, is under this brutal attack. These accusations, although faulty, are being presented as scholarly facts, which I find very disturbing.”

But University of Johannesburg officials told the Senate before Wednesday’s vote that no Palestinian university had been found to team up with Ben-Gurion on the algae project. Sixty percent of the Senate voted to cancel the research agreement in a secret ballot.

The University of Johannesburg’s Petition Committee, which led the campaign, said in a prepared statement that the Senate had also found “significant” evidence that Ben-Gurion’s research and other projects supported the Israeli military and, in particular, its occupation of Gaza.

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but tensions and cross-border violence persist, including rocket fire from Gaza in recent days that was met with Israeli airstrikes.

The University of Johannesburg “is the first institution to officially sever relations with an Israeli university—a landmark moment in the growing boycott, divestment, and sanctions of Israel campaign,” said the committee, hoping that it would trigger “a domino boycott effect.”

Zev Krengel, national chair of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, condemned the vote as “playing to narrow-minded political prejudice and … a severe setback for constructive intellectual engagement in South Africa.”

“Rather than availing itself of a scientific cooperative project in the water-purification field that has enormous potential benefits for South Africa,” Mr. Krengel said, the university “has chosen instead to further the agenda of a group of anti-Israel agitators.”

Ben-Gurion University officials said they regretted the Johannesburg decision and stood by their record of cross-border co-operation with Palestinian and other institutions.

“Canceling this agreement, which was designed to solve real problems of water contamination in a reservoir near Johannesburg, will only hurt the residents of South Africa,” said the university’s president, Rivka Carmi. “The only losers in this decision are the people of South Africa.”

This piece, by Matthew Kalman, is from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

For much more on the debate around the South African campaign for an academic boycott of Israel, click here.

Boycott Israel? Desmond Tutu, David Newman, Neve Gordon, David Hirsh, Robert Fine, Ran Greenstein, Uri Avnery, Farid Essack

For some Engage classics on contemporary antisemitism and boycotts against Israel, click here.

Israel is not like apartheid South Africa.  click here.

Hirsh’s argument against the academic boycott campaign.  click here.

What’s wrong with PACBI’s “call” for a boycott?  click here.

Michael Yudkin’s argument against the academic boycott campaign.  click here.

Cutting our ties with Israeli universities helps no one.

Professor David Bilchitz writes:

“ACADEMIC boycotts are once again in the spotlight. This week, the question will return to the University of Johannesburg (UJ) senate whether it should discontinue its research relationship with Ben Gurion University (BGU). If it decides to terminate the relationship on the grounds that this would be contrary to the values of UJ — which involve respecting diversity, and human dignity — it will be required to evaluate all its existing agreements with institutions abroad. It is likely that further discontinuations will be required, including that with a university in Belarus.

Though some academics have come out in support of an academic boycott, many others have not. It is important to understand the reasons why some of us who are deeply committed to promoting fundamental rights in all parts of the world believe academic boycotts are a seriously misguided strategy.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Violence against Israel advocate during IAW

Israel Apartheid Week is an unconvincing masquerade of an annual Palestine solidarity event which aims to indoctrinate students against Israel. It is known for violence and threats against Jews and Israelis on campuses, and a growing number of voices are calling it part of the problem.

The Jewish Chronicle reports that a member of Stand With Us was physically attacked as he challenged the delegitimation of Israel at a public event.

No less worrying was the reported victim-blaming reaction of SOAS’ student union president and security guards:

“There was a struggle and the university security guards came out. A number of other people then began to say we shouldn’t be there. The president of the union came out and said we had made our point. A policeman strongly advised us to leave.”

Ro’i Goldman, who plans to study in the UK next year, said he was very shocked by the experience. But Tony Coren said he was not shocked, but was angry that the university authorities had indicated that by their very presence, the protesters had possibly provoked the attack. The alleged victim, whose name the JC is withholding for community security reasons, was taken to University College Hospital..”

You see Hanzala a lot at these events – I’m picturing him watching the Israel advocate get bitten, wishing Palestinians had better advocates.

In Canada, where the atmosphere around IAW has been fraught, University of Winnipeg President Lloyd Axworthy has responded with a programme of events and activities to give the Israel-Palestine conflict “a full and fair hearing as opposed to a one-sided hearing”:

“We felt the most effective way to respond to Israel Apartheid Week was to organize a series of opportunities in March for Arab-Jewish dialogue [that is] respectful, more open and fair” and promotes a greater understanding of the issues involved.”

That’s what university campuses are for.

Update: more at Harry’s Place.

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung report on prejudice in Europe

Reporting a large-scale investigation of prejudice (‘group-focused enmity’) across minority groups in eight European countries, German NGO Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung have published ‘Intolerance, Prejudice and Discrimination: a European Report‘ [pdf] by Andreas Zick, Beate Küpper, Andreas Hövermann.

Alongside five other prejudices (sexism, homophobia, anti-Muslim attitudes, anti-immigrant attitudes, and racism) the research includes antisemitism, operationalised as agreement with the following statements:

  • Jews have too much influence in [country].
  • Jews try to take advantage of having been victims during the Nazi era.
  • Jews in general do not care about anything or anyone but their own kind.
  • Jews enrich our culture.

There was significant variation in the responses across the different European states, with Britain and The Netherlands manifesting the lowest levels of antisemitic attitudes. However, in both Britain and The Netherlands there was relatively high agreement with the additional statements:

  • Considering Israel’s policy I can understand why people do not like Jews.
  • Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians.

From the report:

“The two additional statements on the current policies of Israel provide the following picture: About half the respondents in Portugal, Poland and Hungary see anti-Semitic sentiments as based on Israel’s political activities, while around 40 percent of respondents in most participating countries affirm the drastic assessment that the Israeli state is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians. In Poland 63 percent of respondents share that view.”

From the methodology, I’m not finding the status of these “additional statements” clear with respect to the numerical means calculated for each given prejudice. Whereas this research is primarily concerned with exploring right-wing populist or extremist attitudes, the latter two statements may  be more likely to identify antisemitism across the political spectrum than the first four. The difference in responses between the first four and the latter two indicate an area for future investigation – indeed, from the summary to the section on Political Attitudes and Prejudice:

“The further right respondents place themselves in the political spectrum, the more likely they are to hold prejudices against the target groups under consideration here. However, we found prejudices to be stronger among respondents at the extreme left-wing end of the spectrum than among the moderate left. In fact, respondents who classified themselves as extreme left were just as susceptible to group-focused enmity as those who regarded themselves as political moderates.”

One possible explanation for this may be the prevalence on the extreme left of authoritarian attitudes, which go hand in hand with a rejection of diversity. On the other hand, the extreme libertarian left stands militantly against any repressive expression of religion and may, for example, bring a view of religion as a tool of power to bear when posed a question like “Islam is a religion of (in)tolerance”.

More general findings: demography affects group-based enmity. Prejudice in general is negatively correlated with educational achievement and (independent of educational achievement) income, and there is moderate or strong correlation between the prejudices against outgroups. Despite a generally linear relationship between age and prejudiced attitudes, antisemitism is higher in the youngest age group surveyed (16-21 year olds) than the next-oldest (22-34 year olds).

Despite (unless I’ve misunderstood) some methodological grey areas concerning the calculation of mean levels of a given prejudice, and the decision not to give specific attention to Europe’s largest minority group, the Roma, this report poses and answers many good questions and is considerately written for readers who are not initiated into social research. It provides background, in inset boxes, to the statistical tests and ideological constructs deployed, and there are plenty of references to the theory of populist and extreme right political views such as authoritarianism, social dominance orientation and rejection of diversity.

The substantial section on Determining and Preventative Factors is of particular interest, relating explanatory factors such as security orientation, social interaction, universalism and anomie to Fiske’s core social motives for human interaction, namely belonging, trusting, understanding, controlling and enhancing self.

Gideon Levy on academic boycott

You may, like me, have lost count of the number of times Gideon Levy’s opinion pieces in Ha’aretz have been invoked as justification for the academic boycott of Israel and for the dissolution of Israel. I’d mistakenly come to think of him as another pro-boycott campaigner smuggled onto the UCU Activists List.

To the contrary, Aimee Riese reports his recent presentation at the London School of Economics, including:

“In a question-and-answer session following his lecture, Levy was questioned about the current Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. He said while he understands the “motivation for wanting to punish Israelis”, he does not think BDS will be effective because it will make Israeli society more nationalistic. An academic boycott, he said, would be directed in the wrong place. He also said within Israel, BDS is perceived as another method of attempting to delegitimise the state and has not been effective.

When asked if he supported a “one state” solution, Levy said he would like to live side-by-side with Palestinians in one state, if it were to be equal and democratic. He said he was sceptical as to whether this would be the case, and therefore said he supported a two state solution.”

(I don’t understand the motivation for wanting to punish Israelis.)

An mp3 recording of the event is available via the LSE’s podcast channel.

The activist left must condemn the murder of the Itamar family – Dmitry Reider

There has been plenty of condemnation of the abominable murders of Udi, Ruth, Yoav, Elad, and Hadas Fogel in the settlement of Itamar last night. But the condemnation has been dominated by ugly opportunism from Israel’s pro-settlement right, and has been used as a pretext for menacing Palestinians and urging more settlement activity in defiance.

In 972 mag Dmitry Reider does the necessary, which is liable to earn him more opprobrium than approval from some of his comrades.

“To those among us citing the illegality and illegitimacy of the settler enterprise: The community of Itamar is in and of itself a violation of international law. It was established to deepen Israeli hold on an the occupied territory; and over the years, the settlers of Itamar became almost equally well known for their violent attacks on Palestinian farmers as for the attacks that they themselves sustained – the community of 1,000 lost 15 of its members to attacks like last night’s over the past ten years. Needless to say, the occupation of the West Bank, the establishment of the settlement, and the individual settlers attack against their Palestinian neighbors are all illegal under international law; the latter are not only particularly brutish and wrong, but are also illegal under Israeli law.


But none of this justifies retaliatory violation of the very same laws, just like being robbed does not justify walking into the robber’s house and butchering him and his entire family. More generally, international law clearly allows armed resistance by occupied population to the armed forces of the occupier, but just as clearly bans targeting the occupier’s civilian population. The power of the law, certainly of international law, is in its totality and universality. We cannot call for selective application of the law against one party, and completely ignore the same law being broken by another; our legal argument loses any and all merit if we do that.”


“The sheer viciousness of this cold-blooded butchery should have provoked furious condemnation from those unequivocally opposed to the targeting of civilians – Israel’s civil society,the Left and the activist (“radical”) Left. However, at the time of writing, only two organizations spoke out: B’tselem, which has done the most extensive work of documenting the opposite sort of violence – by settlers against Palestinians – led the way late Saturday morning, announcing on Facebook and on its website that it is “appalled by the attack in Itamar and strongly condemns it. Intentional killing of civilians is a war crime and is unjustifiable. The Israeli and Palestinian authorities must work to locate and bring to justice those responsible for the attack.” About an hour later, Physicians for Human Rights joined in, announcing that the organization “strongly condemns the appalling attack in Itamar and calls the state of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to act in order to bring those responsible individuals to trial. Once again we learn that fences and security systems are not a guarantee for security. Only brave steps towards peace agreement and putting end to the conflict will bring end to these murderous acts.”

Apart from these two voices, and a quite a few individual activists expressing shock and dismay at the killings, much of Israel’s famously vibrant, undoubtedly committed activist Left remained silent.”

They have since been joined by Solidarity Sheikh Jarrah,  New Family, the Bilin Popular Committee Against the Wall, J-Street, Peace Now, Human Rights Watch and Rabbis for Human Rights.

Read it all.

HT Yish.

When I say Israelis I don’t mean Jews; and when I say Jews I mean Israelis.

Mark Gardner over at the CST blog writes about the recent exchange of views on Caryl Churchill’s antisemitic play “Seven Jewish Children”. The original article is here.

From Kosher Conspiracy to Seven Jewish Children

By Mark Gardner.

Contemplation of the high (or low) points of contemporary British antisemitic discourse in recent years brings four episodes to mind, all of which are emblematic of the collapse in left-liberal elite sensitivities to antisemitism:

1.   January 2002. The New Statesman cover reading “A Kosher Conspiracy?” and showing a golden Star of David piercing a supine Union Jack. This has been widely quoted (by CST and others) as evidence that the left intelligentsia no longer recognised or cared about modern day antisemitism, even when it hit them in the face. The New Statesman belatedly – sort of – apologised.

2.   May 2003. The assertion by (then) ‘Father of the House’, Tam Dalyell MP, that “a cabal of Jewish advisors” surounded Prime Minister Tony Blair. Dalyell was criticised for this, but the criticism was by no means universal and he and his supporters denied that the outburst was antisemitic.

3. January 2009. The explosion of Israel equals Nazi Germany comparisons at the time of the Gaza conflict. For many Jews and others, this confirmed that the demonisation of Israel had become both limitless and detached from reality. The fear was concretised by the unprecedented outbursts of antisemitic race hate crimes at this time.

4. February 2009. The first performance of Seven Jewish Children, by esteemed playwright Caryl Churchill and carried on the Guardian website.

(Of course, there are hundreds of other examples that one can alight upon, but these stick in the forefront of my mind.)

Reflecting upon these four events, I cannot recall or see where either the New Satesman or Tam Dalyell suffered any serious reputational damage within their own circles: and this is surely not unconnected to the enthusiastic and urgent reception subsequently afforded to Walt and Mearsheimer’s book, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy (2006). Basically, so long as you stuck to Israel, pro-Israel or Zionist, rather than Jew, you were (and remain) bang on trend.

The malaise and the conceit burrrowed so deep, that the Guardian could run aneditorial (24 July 2008) stating

When a presumptive US presidential candidate arrives in Jerusalem, he willingly dons a jacket designed by Israeli tailors.

Similarly, the profusion of Israel equals Nazi Germany comparisons never really impacted upon those who had made the equation, nor upon those who silently stood by. Besides, similar things had been said with depressing regularity by politicians and journalists since at least 2002, and none of them had really suffered for it either.

When Conservative Party-linked East European politicians try to relativise the Holocaust by comparing it to the suffering of their non-Jewish populations under Communism, then of course the intelligentsia hits top gear…but properly and consistently criticise people here in Britain for comparing Israeli Jews with Nazis, no way! Besides, this is Israel that’s being condemned and that’s not the same as Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

Seven Jewish Children, however, does not fit these patterns. It is not about a Jewish conspiracy that can be entirely kosherised so long as you remember to call it a pro-Israeli conspiracy. Neither is it about granting permission to relatavise the Holocaust, so long as you do it with Israel as the target. Instead, Caryl Churchill completes the circle, by writing a play about Israel and Israelis that is entirely referenced to Jews, Jewish history and Jewish emotions.

There is at least a certain honesty in this. The play, far more than most anti-Israel propaganda, at least acknowledges (both implicitly and explicitly) the centrality of Jews, Jewish history and Jewish emotions to everything concerning Israel. Nevertheless, the antisemitic resonance of the play (primarily the extent and meaning of its concentration upon the blood of the children who are the Jews’ victims) has seen it become a celebrated fault-line in the superheated arguments regarding what is and is not antisemitic in regard to Israel.

The fault-line has been spewing once more this week, in the Guardian letters page with Caryl Churchill taking exception to Jonathan Freedland’s citation (in the Guardian) of Anthony Julius’s deconstruction of the play. (Extracted from Julius’s brilliant analysis of British literary antisemitism, contained in his book, Trials of the Diaspora. Of course, the book itself has become another fault-line in the battle.)

Freedland’s excellent piece (analysed here on CST Blog) was published in the Guardian on 3 March. Churchill replied in the letters page the following day, saying (in part)

Jonathan Freedland (G2, March 3) denies that criticism of Israel is often wrongly called antisemitism. His point isn’t helped by quoting Anthony Julius’s allegation that my play Seven Jewish Children “tap[s] into the ‘blood libel’”. The line he is referring to is “tell her there’s dead babies, did she see babies?” It refers to babies killed in the attack on Gaza in 2009 and shown on TV. When people hear of babies killed in a war, they don’t usually think of medieval accusations of Jews consuming Christian children’s blood, but of babies killed in a war…

This prompted Julius to reply (in part)

…In this play, Jews confess to lying to their own children and killing Palestinian children. They also confess to something close to a project of genocide. And they freely acknowledge the source of their misanthropy to be Judaism itself.

None of this seems to bother Churchill – nor, indeed, the Guardian. As she correctly notes, the play is available on your website.

Next, Churchill replied to Julius

…What he doesn’t seem to realise is that these lines are not spoken as he suggests by “Jews” in general but by individual Israelis, desperate to protect their own child, during an attack of disproportionate violence on Gaza…It should be possible to pillory the defensive self-righteousness and racism of some – not all – Israelis without being called antisemitic.

For now (at any rate) the Guardian Letters page appears to have called time on its hosting of this particular debate. The arguments will, of course, continue, but there are two things that need saying right now.

Firstly, Normblog has this to say on Churchill’s “individual Israelis” argument

Her play wasn’t anti-Semitic because it featured individuals, rather than Jews as a category…

…And this is a playwright, with some knowledge of cultural matters! One is bound to wonder why anyone ever had a worry about Shylock in The Merchant of Venice…

Secondly, there is the point that my colleague Dave Rich and I made in our Comment is Free article, at the time of the Guardian’s own production of Seven Jewish Children

It is Jewish thought and behaviour that links the play together, not Israel. The words Israel, Israelis, Zionism and Zionist are not mentioned once in the play, while Jews are mentioned in the title and in the text itself. We are often told that when people talk about Israel or Zionists, it is mischievous to accuse them of meaning Jews. Now, we are expected to imagine that a play that talks only of Jews, in fact, means Israelis.

The play is only eight minutes long. We wrote the above almost two years ago. One does not need to be an anti-racist theoretician, a leading playwright, nor a literary critic to get the absurdity of saying

When I say Israelis I don’t mean Jews; and when I say Jews I mean Israelis

Then again, isn’t that the same absurdity that lay, back in the day, behind the New Statesman and Tam Dalyell getting let off the anti-racist hook?

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