RMT official accuses critic of Israel Boycott of being ‘one of the chosen people’ and ‘a modern-day Nazi’

Read the whole piece, with sources and recording, on Harry’s Place.

Steve Hedley is the London Transport Regional Organiser of the RMT, the official representative of tube and bus workers in London.  When his arguments for boycotting Israel were challenged he said the following to the critic at a public meeting at SOAS, University of London:

“We oppose the Israeli government because we oppose the racist policies that they’re carrying out on the Palestinian people. And you can cover it up for so long with your friends in the media, with the attack on the Mavi Marmara, and the attack on the innocent women and children who you who you starved and turned into the biggest concentration camp on the earth [applause].

And this is the reality of it!

You’re an absolute disgrace to the Jewish people!

You are a modern-day fascist!

A modern-day Nazi!

… No wonder the EDL are flying the flag of Israel!”

After this extraordinary tirade had finished, Richard Millett  asked Steve Hedley if he felt better, to which he replied:

“Better than you, obviously. But then again you’re one of the Chosen People so you might feel better than me, huh?”

Thereafter, this is what happened:

It wasn’t long after this that I felt a tug on my shirt collar and heard the words “You’ve got a right hook coming to you” menacingly whispered into my ear.

Read the whole piece, with sources and recording, on Harry’s Place.

35 Responses to “RMT official accuses critic of Israel Boycott of being ‘one of the chosen people’ and ‘a modern-day Nazi’”

  1. Thomas Venner Says:

    It’s good to see that the RMT are spending their time on the issues that really count, isn’t it.

  2. Absolute Observer Says:

    According to the recording, after this comment,
    “Better than you, obviously. But then again you’re one of the Chosen People so you might feel better than me, huh?”
    the “conversation” continued,
    “Why, because I’m Jewish”?
    “No, because you are a Zionist!”.

    I mention this as a resource for the next time anyone is asked to give an example of how antisemitism bleeds into “criticism of Israel”.

    • Bill Says:

      Ah but the Livingstone Formulation covers that thanks to his last little line. All the same, I look forward to how the RMT leadership addresses this. If at all.

  3. Karl Pfeifer Says:

    I have asked Nick Lowles, Graeme Atkinson and Steve Silver (Searchlight/Hope no Hate) if they are going to react and if yes how on Tuesday October 25, 2011, at 20.06

    Until now I received no reply.

  4. david Says:

    My first exposure to Hedley’s comments was in the form of a transcript and most, if not all, of what he says is factually correct. The Israeli government does carry out racist policies against the Palestinian people, much of the mainstream media in Britain and the US does blindly support Israel, Gaza has been turned into a “concentration camp” (at least in the sense that this term was coined during the Boer War).
    That would probably have been the time to sit down and shut up.
    The video of him ranting these otherwise factually correct statements hardly helps his point, and then he hands the supporters of the racist Israeli right a massive own goal with his follow up comment about the chosen people….thus allowing the valid points he makes to be completely sidestepped by a deluge of outrage about antisemitism. I don’t hear much outrage about the more obvious racism practiced by the murderous armed settlers in pursuit of Eretz israel.

    • Paul M Says:

      Each of the three assertions you present as “fact” is in fact no more than your own tendentious opinion. Shouldn’t alarm bells be going off in your head that your opinions are coming out of the mouth of someone so evidently consumed by bigotry? Shouldn’t you be taking a step back and saying to yourself, Perhaps it’s not the way I’ve been led to believe?

      Furthermore, even though this is a site focussed on antisemitism, if you haven’t seen strong condemnation of the settlements, settlers, government settlement policy and the behaviour of some settlers in both the articles and comments at Engage, you must be very new here. Try searching the site for the word “settlers” sometime when you have a few hours to spare.

    • soupyone Says:

      So David you can’t see any real problem with Hedley’s comments?

      “But then again you’re one of the Chosen People so you might feel better than me, huh?”

      Doesn’t the above remark strike you as rather offensive?

  5. Argaman Says:

    David, you present quite an example of intellectual dishonesty. When people hear the term “concentration camp,” they don’t think about the Boer War – they think about the Nazis and WWII. Calling Gaza a “concentration camp” is meant to arouse people’s emotions and equate Israel with Nazi Germany.

    Would you find it possible simply to denounce his statement about the “chosen people” as an antisemitic utterance, without worrying about on whether it damages “his side” in the debate? Because that’s all you do. You’re just conceding that he made a tactical mistake.

  6. Karl Pfeifer Says:

    David a lie repeated 1ooo times does not become truth. Fact is no racist policies are carried out in Israel. Many thousands of Palestinians come every year to Israel to hospitals and ambulatories to get treatment. And Palestinian patients are lodged in the same room as Jewish patients. And doctors and nurses are Jewish or Arab in Hospitals. And that is just one example.
    To call Gaza a concentration camp shows that you are saying the untruth. People from concentrations camps do not fire rockets. From Hamastan rockets are fired into Israel.
    But you David are a propagandist of a racist, obscurantist and antisemitic Hamas and peddle the lie about israeli racism.
    Had Arafat or Abbas accepted the deal proposed by Barak or Olmert, there wouldd be no settlers. Many years we were told by antizionists that there is no difference if Israel has a rightwing or a leftwing govt and that a rightwing govt. is even preferable.

  7. david Says:

    @Argaman:
    There is no dishonesty in my use of the term “concentration camp” in regards to the Israeli blockade of Gaza, although perhaps “ghetto” might be more accurate. Either way these are terms which some supporters of Israeli policies see as their own exclusive property, and any use by opposition seems to cause outrage. Is that your position Argaman?
    And no. The fact that an idiot parrots a political opinion does not invalidate that opinion per se.
    @Soupy:
    The last para of my post makes it pretty clear that I think Hedley’s use of the term “chosen people” is racist.
    @Karl Pfeifer:
    “…no racist policies are carried out in Israel…” perhaps you should take Paul M’s suggestion and spend an hour or two looking through the archives of Engage for the term “settler,” or better still go here:
    http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2011/10/25/jalud-another-day-another-pogrom/

    • Paul M Says:

      You are too fond of loaded language.

      Argaman is entirely right — no-one thinks of the Boer War when they hear “concentration camp”. They think of Nazi Germany and it is absolutely intended by anti-Zionists that they should. But neither concentration camp nor ghetto is an accurate description of Gaza. Gaza’s Palestinians are living on land they insist is and will be theirs, under a government of their own people and — initially at least — of their own choosing. At their demand, not Israel’s, Gaza is entirely unpopulated by a Jewish presence. If they are blockaded and occasionally bombed, it is because of an unending stream of terrorist acts against Israel — but also because of Egyptian fear of Hamas’s influence in their own country. (You erase Egypt’s role: It’s “Israel’s blockade of Gaza”.) Not any of this had a parallel in the camps and ghettos of Europe, and you know it.

    • Soupyone Says:

      “The last para of my post makes it pretty clear that I think Hedley’s use of the term “chosen people” is racist.”

      David, on the contrary you didn’t make it clear, but now you have let me ask you a question:

      Do you think that *sometimes* some people use the conflicts in the Middle East for their own ends or to attack Jews and Israelis in a racial way?

  8. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    “There is no dishonesty in my use of the term “concentration camp” in regards to the Israeli blockade of Gaza, although perhaps “ghetto” might be more accurate. Either way these are terms which some supporters of Israeli policies see as their own exclusive property, and any use by opposition seems to cause outrage.”

    Don’t change, do you, david, however long it is between your visits? _Of course_ there is dishonesty in your use of the term “concentration camp” and even more in the substitution of “ghetto” for it. If nothing else, it demonstrates a frightening degree of ahistoricity in your thinking (and this from someone whose first comment to me was to berate me for not knowing who a particular historian was, despite my noting that I was/am a sociologist, so perhaps that was why). You probably don’t need reminding (I hope, even if some of your putative friends and supporters do) that it was Egypt, in 1948/49 that created the refugee camp that is Gaza, that Israel overwhelmed it in 1967 in the process of defeating the Egyptian army, and then left it again in 2005(?); after which, as is common knowledge to anyone who is _really_ a student of the region, the Gazans trashed the place, Hamas took over in a coup, and promptly started sending rockets into Israel. As anyone who has any awareness of international law knows, Israel was, is and will continue to be entitled to control access of weapons and other materials of war into Gaza across the common border (and why do so few note that Israel is joined in this endeavour by Egypt? Perhaps because it would undermine their anti-Zionist case to do so). And, of course, the recent UN Palmer Commission of Enquiry into the “Peace Flotilla” (there’s an oxymoron if ever there was one) declared the Isreali sea blockade perfectly legal, even if the response was excessive: funny how The Guardian managed to put that the other way round, as though the excessive force somehow trumped the legality. Perhaps, on second thoughts, not so funny and more predictable.

    It shouldn’t need saying that those who are confined to “concentration camps” and/or “ghettoes” have no or little power over what happens to them. All Hamas has to do is stop sending rockets or suicide bombers into Israel, acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and at least _promise_ to negotiate over everything else, and the status of Gaza would change overnight. We all know that this isn’t going to happen, because the Hamas Charter demands the elimination of Israel as well as the destruction of world Jewry.

    And while I’m on the subject, just who are the “some supporters of Israeli policies [who] see [these terms] as their own exclusive property”? Names and dates, please. The only people I’m aware of who use these terms are _opponents_ of Israel’s continued right to exist as a sovreign state, such as the members of JfJfP, Electronic Intifada, the various elements of BDS, et al. And, of course, david, you.

  9. Hallo Says:

    “camp”, “ghetto”, “pogrom”. Like it is not bad enough that Israel is refusing to reach a compromise with the Palestinians.
    Now david, silverstein and other anti-zionists want to deny the individuality and uniqueness of their situation by imposing on it a specifically European Jewish narrative.
    And it is Zionists who are declaimed as “imperialists”!

  10. Noga Says:

    Paul M to David “… and you know it.”

    This is a huge assumption. What does David know that is not rabid anti-Israeli cliche one can find by the dozen on so-called ‘pro-Palestinian’ blogs and media outlets? And note the carefully positioned fig-leaf, pre-emptively inserted into an otherwise thoroughly hostile and slanderous rant:
    “… then he hands the supporters of the racist Israeli right a massive own goal with his follow up comment about the chosen people…”

    Note, too, that the only pernicious affect he associates with the slur is that it gives “supporters of the racist Israeli right a massive own goal”.

    That’s like Palestinians claiming that antisemitism is bad for Palestinians:

    http://simplyjews.blogspot.com/2011/10/palestinian-cause.html

  11. david Says:

    Brian! Lovely to hear from you….you never fail to rise to the bait, do you?….though I have no idea who the historian is you mentioned….are you sure you’re not confusing me with someone else?
    There really is no point in quibbling with you about the definitions of concentration camps or ghettos. Suffice to say that Israel has ensured that Gaza and the West Bank remain as bisected rump territories, blockaded and effectively strangled at birth. An independent Palestinian state is an impossibility for the foreseeable future, and there is no chance of refugees returning to their homeland. In the words of Baruch Kimmerling this is “the politicide of the Palestinian people, a gradual but systematic attempt to cause their annihilation as an independent political and social entity.”
    Israel has been shamefully aided and abetted in the blockade by the utterly corrupt Mubarak regime with the incentive of massive American aid to Egypt. We will have to see what happens now he’s gone, but I won’t hold my breath. Also, I would point out that the rocket firing was in response to the sealing up of the borders by Israel and the imposition of a siege (“putting the Palestinians on a diet”), not the other way round. It is the Palestinians who are defending themselves against illegal actions, not the other way round.
    Peace.

    • Paul M Says:

      So much to say, but this is an anti-antisemitism site not a Zionist one, and this thread has already gone far enough off the rails. Still, I take it “no point in quibbling” is your way of conceding? A couple of posts ago, the “Gaza concentration camp” was an established fact; now it’s a quibble. Your other “facts” are of similar quality.

      As others have pointed out, what’s important in the context of this thread is that, for you, Hedley’s racist rant really only matters because it makes him and his anti-Israel fellow travellers look bad.

      • Bill Says:

        And how does it make the fellow travelers “look” bad when they so often gladly insist, albeit fleetingly and quibbling, that Gaza is a concentration camp, until they concede that well… it isn’t. That they too, ala Orr though apparently not David, sneer at Jews as the “only” “chosen people.” That Israel is an Apartheid State until you start looking at the definition and all the other candidates for the prize who, of course, are “different” and not “really” apartheid states on their own merits despite satisfying each box on the checklist (and “stop changing the subject”). That “zionists” and others who don’t demonize Israel enough are smothering debate by … we’ll… debating and playing by the same cinderella test applies to every other classification/group that suddenly gets ignored because we’re talking about Jews and getting good and dirty with it, more than we would with anyone else. Once fact and context are brought to these straw men, the drama inspired by the dog whistle, hot-button and red-flag language is “quibbled down.”

        Maybe the problem is that Hedley is indeed reflecting badly on the rest of them — by holding up a circus mirror to them. And like any circus mirror help right up to your face, it can do a pretty darned good job of resolving flaws so well, you can probably shave with one.

  12. Drowning not waving Says:

    So once again an anti-zionist turns up on a thread about antisemitism in the UK and changes the subject to Israel.
    I guess when on thin ice, best thing to do is to pretend the lake does not exist and pretend one is waving rather than drowning in the sea of sewerage that passes for “criticism of Israel”. Looks like david is up to his neck in it and adding to it every time he opens his mouth.

  13. david Says:

    oh, and by the way Brian, none of the organizations you mention, nor myself, are “opponents of Israel’s right to exist.” That is nonsense and you know it.
    I suggest you broaden your perspective and watch the JFJFP video “Some of My Best Friends are Zionists”
    http://jfjfp.com/?p=26243

    • soupyone Says:

      My apologies David, I won’t be troubling you again.

      I had wrongly assumed that you were a genuine anti-racist concerned with the issues, but I can see from your replies that your overburdened ideology takes precedence in such discussions.

  14. Noga Says:

    Please note how David has gone from characterizing Gaza as a concentration camp to dowdgrading it to a “ghetto” and then, for some reason, abandoning any Nazi analogies, he went on to describe the Israeli-Palestinian impasse as “Gaza and the West Bank remain as bisected rump territories, blockaded and effectively strangled at birth.”

    OK. I’m always happy to notice that these “anti-Zionists anti-racists” are somewhat teachable. Now if only he could answer why, if such is the case he describes, why oh why have the Palestinians been repeatedly rejecting Israeli proposals that effectively reversed the three elements itemized in David’s list? Why have the Palestinians been refusing their own independent state for 64 years now?

    BTW, David tells Brian “….you never fail to rise to the bait…”. My question is, if David is interested in a serious conversation why does he resort to baiting his interlocutors?

    Bait: “4. To attack or torment, especially with persistent insults, criticism, or ridicule.” Not a tactic that anyone serious and ethical would stoop to using. The contempt in David’ comments is tangible and undeniable.

  15. Hallo Says:

    “Also, I would point out that the rocket firing was in response to the sealing up of the borders by Israel and the imposition of a siege (“putting the Palestinians on a diet”), not the other way round. It is the Palestinians who are defending themselves against illegal actions, not the other way round.”

    Leaving aside that firing rockets indiscriminately at civilians is a war crime and is not justified by the defence of defence (and yes, I know about Goldstone report!) the idea that the reason the rockets were fired was a simple response to Israel and Egypt’s seige of Gaza and has nothing to do with internal conflicts that exist in the political landscape of Gaza is yet another example of david et al’s inability to recognise the reality of Palestinian agency and, instead, imposing their own ignorance of a situation that they evidently do not understand at all.
    But, I guess as long as it is violence aimed at Israelis and antisemitism aimed at British Jews, they don’t care that much about the specifics involved, as long as it is packaged in the language of “resistance”.

  16. david Says:

    @Noga
    ” Why have the Palestinians been refusing their own independent state for 64 years now?”
    So it’s all the fault of those crazy Palestinians is it? Talk about blaming the victims. I think you need to go away and read up on some history which hasn’t been cobbled together by Hasbarists.

    @Noga again:
    “My question is, if David is interested in a serious conversation why does he resort to baiting his interlocutors?
    Not a tactic that anyone serious and ethical would stoop to using. The contempt in David’ comments is tangible and undeniable.” This follows shortly after Noga’s assertion that I am a “rabid” user of “anti-israeli cliche.” Since you seem to like dictionaries Noga, why don’t you look up the word hypocrite?

    • Ben Says:

      If we’re going to kind of stay on point about Hedley’s behavior: nothing from the article makes him, or the movement he claims to hold so very dear to his principled heart, look like anything other than bigoted asshole(s). I don’t think apologetics or spinning on his behalf are destined to be convincing, but free speech goes both ways, so any poster who would prefer not to face the reality of the post, G-d bless you.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        david, 31 October, 8.17 pm: “So it’s all the fault of those crazy Palestinians is it?”, in reply to Noga’s question ” Why have the Palestinians been refusing their own independent state for 64 years now?” Apart from wondering how answering a serious question with an evasion actually engages with the issue, the obvious riposte to david is Abba Eban’s “The Palestinians never fail to take the opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

        If he actually had the historical knowledge of the region that he purports to possess, he’d know better than to ask his ludicrous question in the first place.

  17. Noga Says:

    Please note that David does not offer any answer to either one of my questions. He dismisses my first question as a question that could be asked only by an Israeli totally ignorant of history. Now he, David, no only knows his history but he knows for a fact that the history books he read are much more reliable than the history books I read. I can only guess that he is fond of reading such histories written by the likes of Ilan Pappe and Joseph Massad.

    He dismisses my second question as a question that could only be asked by an hypocrite. He takes exception to the word “rabid” by which I characterized his previous comment, this comment:

    ““… then he hands the supporters of the racist Israeli right a massive own goal with his follow up comment about the chosen people…”

    Can anyone explain to me how this is not a rabid anti-Israeli cliche? When a critic of Israel uses antisemitic slurs, David’s only concern is that the practice serves Israel’s advocates. Has he shown any consternation whatsoever over the fact that this is a classical antisemitic slur, with a Nazi provenance, that inflicts pain and fear upon Jews? No. For him it is the Palestinians, eternal and undisputed victims, who are the direct sufferers from such slurs directed at Jews.

    If he doesn’t want to be referred to as rabid David should learn to contain his bile and at least keep up some appearance of SOME critical faculty.

  18. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    You know, david, you clearly really do think that we are collectively uneducated poltroons, given the way you talk to us. You make a series of unsupported assertions and then, when I deconstruct your comment, your response is to “wittily” suggest that I ” never fail to rise to the bait, do you?” No evidence, no reasoning, just a transparent attempt to avoid a reasoned response. Others have taken your comment apart and I won’t waste the moderator’s time with repeating what they say. In any case, your non-reply that “There really is no point in quibbling with you about the definitions of concentration camps or ghettos” says it all. No point, because you can’t answer.

    I do, however, note that you fail to come up with an answer to my question “And while I’m on the subject, just who are the “some supporters of Israeli policies [who] see [these terms] as their own exclusive property”? Names and dates, please.” Perhaps because you don’t have one, not least because there isn’t an answer. Something you do constantly, fail to respond to direct questions. And a common tactic among so many who come here to try and unbalance us. All they ever do is repeat themselves (never with evidence, let alone reasoning), then try to change the subject, then go away. How long are you planning to hang around, david, failing to respond to direct criticism and direct questions?

  19. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    A further thought to david: how am I supposed to take seriously a website that assigns the result of the Sheikh Raed Saleh appeal against deportation (he lost) to what happens “When judges follow politicians, not the law” and goes on to say that what happens is that: “Contradictions and double-speak abound as [judges] drag their profession into the mud.”

    Oh really? What would they have said if he’s won?

    So much for justice and the rule of law: if you don’t like the result, change the rules.

    To repeat myself: get real.

  20. soupyone Says:

    If you take the trouble to read David’s remarks of October 29, 2011 at 6:08 pm then it becomes very clear that he’s not genuinely concerned to oppose racism.

    David backs Hedley’s racism saying “…most, if not all, of what he says is factually correct.” [my emphasis]

    David then proceeds to lambaste Israeli, British and US governments.

    Invoking hyperbole David then go on to argue that Gaza is a concentration camp.

    David proceeds to feel sorry for Hedley arguing “…then he hands the supporters of the racist Israeli right a massive own goal with his follow up comment about the chosen people…”

    Finally, he concludes with a jab at ” the murderous armed settlers in pursuit of Eretz israel.”

    Yet what we see from all of this is that David is unfazed why a racism in Hedley’s rant, a bit embarrassed about it but not terribly troubled.

    It is, as if, said racism is a mere inconvenience to David. His comments are a boilerplate for that unthinking lack of opposition so often found amongst “anti-Zionists”. It is both intellectually lazy and predictable.

    One day it would be nice to find an “anti-Zionist” that can talk directly to the topic of antisemitism in Britain without shifting around, without bringing up Israel as a deflection and make clear they are completely opposed to antisemitism, without prompting, no ifs, no buts

    However, that’s not what we find with David. His political shiftiness and inability to confront racism is further indicated by subsequent comments. Pathetic.

  21. Mark G Says:

    at the same meeting, moshe machover talked about zionist wet dreams of ethnic cleansing – so, is it any wonder that another non-Jewish participant felt it was ok to call zionists modern day nazis?

    the obscene truth is that it is the anti-zionist jews who bear the primary moral and political responsbility for having normalised the filthy rhetoric that we now face.

  22. Karl Pfeifer Says:

    David, I do not remember one article on Engage promoting the lie that Israel is an apartheid state.
    Just this weekend I made an interview with a black member of South African parliament who rejected such claims as yours very strongly. I hope to be able to transcribe the interview in the near future.
    Fact is that an Israeli ex-president was given a severe sentence by an Arab judge. Never could a black judge condemn in apartheid SA a white man.
    And please do not defend the saying that Gaza is a concentration camp. When did concentration camp inmates fire rockets on the concentration camp guards?

  23. Noga Says:

    “at the same meeting, moshe machover talked about zionist wet dreams of ethnic cleansing”

    Who is talking about ethnic cleansing, openly and confidently? Here is Prof. Abukahlil from the respectable U of California, fantasizing on his rather popular website: “Angry Arab news service”:

    “Former Israelis
    After Palestine is liberated, we may have to impose military rule on the former Israeli residents of Palestine–those who will
    be allowed to stay. Palestinians in their land of 1948 (those who were not expelled), were put under military rule from 1948 until 1966. We may have to install a similar arrangement to root out any terrorist threats from former “Israelis”. Also, they will be subjected to the same searches and questioning that the Palestinian owners of the land of Palestine have been subjected to since 1948. No, there is no room for forgiveness in my heart whatsoever for Israel and Israelis. Their war crimes can’t go unpunished.

    PS After liberation, I may volunteer to work at George Habash International Airport (formerly Ben Gurion) to personally question visiting Zionists to Palestine.”

    To repeat: “those who will be allowed to stay. ”

    There is a lot more in this vein where this is coming from. BTW, he is on very good terms with Norman Finkelstein and Mondoweiss.

  24. Mark2 Says:

    “There really is no point in quibbling with you about the definitions of concentration camps or ghettos.”

    I imagine I am not alone in noticing a pattern emerging in anti Zionist discourse wherby first the fuse is lit using emotive and incendiary language then rowed back on when it is unsustainable but (they presumably feel) the damage is done and the naifs they hope thay have impressed with it will not have stayed around to hear the retraction. One wonders how the “Davids” of the world sleep at night.


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