Norman Finkelstein’s Attack on the BDS Movement

A couple of hours ago I watched an interview with Norman Finkelstein on the BDS campaign. Finkelstein describes the BDS campaign as a little cult, lambasts it for being a one state campaign, as dishonest, etc. It’s well worth watching. It was here on You Tube but it was then made private and then removed. Anyway you can watch it here.

UPDATE 16/2.

Frank Barat’s facebook page gives the following explanation for the removal of the video from You Tube:

Final comment on removal of Finkelstein BDS video.

Norman Finkelstein contacted me (a common friend was also involved in discussion) and asked me to delete video from youtube account because “video did some harm” (his words). I agreed to do so because I think that, at the end of the day, video ended up creating a fuss/controversy but not much else and my intention was never to divert some people minds from what is really important: daily solidarity with the Palestinian People.

85 Responses to “Norman Finkelstein’s Attack on the BDS Movement”

  1. Marc Grajower Says:

    Help me out here. This Finkelstein meets Finkler no?

  2. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    A fascinating interview for what Finkelstein says and it is interesting to note that there is little in the half hour that he doesn’t say: I didn’t notice much in the way of subtexts (and now people will pile in to point out all the subtexts!).

    What I did take from the interview is that Finkelstein is a two-stater; that he attacks the inflation of refugee numbers (although he doesn’t query the ideology of UNRWA – maybe that’s a step too far); he labels BDS a cult; he calls (towards the end of the interview) BDS guilty of ‘duplicity’ and ‘disingenuousness’, ‘dishonest’, and ‘criminal’. I also note his dislike of the fact that the BDS movement isn’t open in its desire to see Israel disappear. It is also clear that he states with absolute clarity as a matter of legal fact that Israel is a state and has a right to exist – within the ’67 borders: and he does call them borders, not truce lines. He fails to mention the security barrier, by any name.

    Indeed, if all one knew of Finkelstein were this interview, one would wonder why Dershowitz was (is?) so unhappy with him.

    Finally, does anyone know who Frank Barat “Human Rights activist” is? unless it was planned this way, I’d say that Finkelstein gave him a working over.

    • fred Says:

      Finkelstein has stuck by 2-states consistently throughout his career. Dershowitz was chiefly upset with Finkelstein’s attacks on Dershowitz’s credibility. also, dershowitz criticized finkelstein for being against “the kind of two-state solution that exists today” (that’s a paraphrase), meaning incorporating settlement blocs into israel. this is short bit w/them debating 2-states

  3. BOOZ Says:

    Brian :

    Here is his self bigography ( in French)

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Well, that he publishes articles in Counterpunch says it all, really. Almost don’t need anything else, he said, imitating those who take a different view.

  4. David D. Says:

    The BDS people are scrambling to suppress this very embarrassing video. Here is a shortened version of the essential argument:

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Why am I not surprised at that? It’s very embarrassing for them. It is, though, a shame that hpmonitor are offering a shortened version, although I understand why: lots of people either don’t have the time or don’t have the inclination to sit for half an hour of very small screen intellectual (and it is intellectual) rigour.

      I am wondering where the BDS people are though. Why haven’t they popped up, telling us that the _real_ interpretation of what Finkelstein is saying is the exact opposite of what the words tell us? Or that we shouldn’t be watching it, because he’s a traitor to his principles, or…whatever.

  5. Blacklisted Dictator Says:

    Fink is also very ambivalent about whether the academic boycott is a wise strategy.

  6. justquoting Says:

    The longer version is more interesting for showing a bit of Barat’s sincere attempts at self-trickery. Plus, toward the end, Finkelstein’s discussion of the Northern Ireland solution is a poignant moment of anti-fanaticism.

    • Harvey Says:

      What I cannot begin to understand is how did they miss this and allow it to go on You tube in the first place . What was Frank thinking ? Is he so in awe of Finklestein that he couldn’t help himself and uploaded without thinking through what he had just been a part of .
      I fear for his safety . Does he get shipped off to some Gulag in Siberia , or do they simply hand him a revolver .
      I know the bds appratchniks from counter demos Ahava , Tesco ( was even punched by one of their leading ladies while helping security identify trouble makers ) etc . I know how obsessive they are in their Stalinist control of agit prop . How Greenstein , Levy , Fink etc missed it down at politburo headquarters is most strange .
      I’m sure The Atzmonites will cite this when they launch their coup .

  7. Marko Attila Hoare Says:

    Norman Finkelstein’s interview was very courageous, even if he is stating what seems obvious: that any movement for solidarity with the Palestinians will never grow beyond a cult, so long as it is conflated with a movement to delegitimise and destroy Israel. Or so long as its supporters defend, or march alongside, supporters of Hezbollah and Hamas and other Islamists and anti-Semites.

    Unfortunately, the criticisms that Finkelstein rightly directs against the BDS movement could equally be applied to much of the pro-Israel movement in the UK and elsewhere. No movement for solidarity with Israel – against attempts to delegitimise and demonise it, or against threats from Iran, Hezbollah, etc. – will grow beyond a cult, so long as it is conflated with a movement to whitewash Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians; the occupation, settlements, segregation, discriminatory laws. Or so long as its supporters march alongside Islamophobes and anti-Palestinian racists, of the kind that often dominate discussion at Harry’s Place and other pro-Israel blogs.

    Honourable supporters of Israel and of the Palestinians should be on the same side, against the extremists on both sides and in support of a two-state solution. There are plenty of decent voices out there, such as OneVoice or the Alliance for Workers Liberty. Unfortunately, what we have in the West is two essentially nationalist movements – pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian – that are all about supporting their respective nations rather than about justice for both nations. They drown out the reasonable voices.

    But well done to Richard Gold, at the Big Tent for Israel event last November, for upholding a principled, anti-racist standpoint, making clear that defending a threatened nation like Israel should not involve alliances with bigots or extremists.

    • Sarah AB Says:

      Marko – but although HP is often cited as the quintessential ‘Zionist’ site by anti-zionists, it offers quite a range of views, for example:
      also pieces by Matt Hill who is pretty critical of Israel, and by Mahmoud Jabari, a Palestinian journalist from Hebron – very moderate, but also critical of Israel.

      • Marko Attila Hoare Says:

        Sarah, on this occasion, I wasn’t criticising Harry’s Place as such, merely making a point about the sort of people who often dominate the discussion in the threads about Israel and Palestine. I’m aware that the HP bloggers and guest posters represent a range of viewpoints; I pretty much agree with Matt Hill as regards Israel and Palestine. The problem is that when someone like Hill makes a reasonable and enlightened case, he tends to be screamed down by the boneheaded extremists in the threads; extremists who are the ‘pro-Israel’, anti-Palestinian mirror-image of the anti-Semitic, Israel-demonising extremists in the Palestinian solidarity movement. Any movement or current that includes racists or national chauvinists is part of the problem, not part of the solution – irrespective of whether it is ‘pro-Israel’ or ‘pro-Palestinian’.

        If I were going to criticise Harry’s Place, I’d say that if one’s goal is to counter negative stereotypes about Israel, then it is surely counterproductive to allow bigots on one’s blog to spew hatred against Palestinians or Arabs and Muslims generally, without condemning them. A HP blogger might have a valid point to make about the presence of anti-Semitism in the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, or about the anti-Semitic implications of something a Guardian columnist says. But if the response to such anti-Semitism is an ugly online hate-fest involving bigots on Israel’s side who are just as bad as the people one is criticising on the Palestinian side, then this will hurt, not help, Israel and Jewish people. Because mainstream, liberal opinion will simply be alienated; negative views concerning Israel and its friends will be reinforced. It’s the same question that Finkelstein raised – do you want to be part of a self-indulgent, ineffectual cult, or of a movement that might actually succeed ?

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          Thus far, Marko A. H. appears to be including this site among the pro-Israeli “cult” sites, if only by default. Yet, the “statement of intent” for engage, to be found top left of every page, and the 3rd highlighted line down (about us) will demonstrate this not to be so. It states quite clearly that the site’s founders (and collective moderators) saw the aims to be the furtherance of anti-racism, most specifically antisemitism, support for the two-state solution to the “problem” of Israel/Palestine and, generally, from a conventional left-wing perspective. A sustained reading of these columns will show this to be the case. This will reveal much criticism of Israeli government policies, as well as of particular sections of Israeli society, along with equally sustained criticism of Palestinian society. At the same time, there is to be found sustained criticism of those who fail to present evidence, logic and rationality in defence of any position, but most often reserved for those who demonstrate their disdain for the right of Israel to exist in a state of peace and security, while claiming the rights of the Palestinians over any others.

          I’m sure he isn’t, but clarity is paramount in this field.

        • Marko Attila Hoare Says:

          Brian Goldfarb: ‘Thus far, Marko A. H. appears to be including this site among the pro-Israeli “cult” sites, if only by default.’

          What I wrote above: ‘But well done to Richard Gold, at the Big Tent for Israel event last November, for upholding a principled, anti-racist standpoint, making clear that defending a threatened nation like Israel should not involve alliances with bigots or extremists.’

        • Sarah AB Says:

          I completely agree that there are bigots on both sides, not just on the pro-Palestinian (or perhaps I should say anti-Israel) side. Clearly Engage, as Brian and you both agree, communicates a welcome and moderate point of view, which is then reinforced through its comments policy. Sites with no comments, like your own and Normblog, can also promote a moderate message which is uncontaminated by unwelcome comments – and that can indeed help communicate a message effectively. But I think there is something to be said for allowing people to say troubling, even offensive (though not racist) things, and they too have minds that could be changed. For example, when I did a post about Melanie Phillips’ remarks about Arabs I got quite a few agitated comments from people who didn’t like the post because they appreciate MP’s support for Israel – but there was a long thread and I think there ended up being a shift towards agreeing that what she said was racist.

        • Marko Attila Hoare Says:

          Sarah, you’re right that there is a place for open comments threads in which people with crude or bigoted views can be persuaded to think differently. All credit to you, Matt Hill and others who try to do this. Unfortunately, I fear that the effect on many of these threads is frequently the opposite: groups of extremely aggressive bigots and hardline nationalists work themselves into a frenzy attacking anyone representing a moderate or dissident voice. Which has the effect either of alienating people from the campaign against anti-Semitism and against the de-legitimisation of Israel, who might otherwise be sympathetic. Or of radicalising those who are already on board, pushing them toward a more extreme, intolerant position where they lose all ability to appeal to mainstream opinion.

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          Okay, Marko, I misinterpreted your views, and I apologise for doing so.

          However, taking the exchange between you and Sara AB, as to the advantages/disadvantages of no comment sites v. free for all sites, how do you rate those sites which moderate comments before they are allowed to be posted, such as this one? (Now there’s a test for the engage moderators: to allow this through or not?). Moderating out the worst comments, or the repetitious ones which don’t advance the argument/discussion (as has happened to me, here, quite legitimately) does allow for a debate, which can be advantageous for the non-commenting observers (as I know through personal comments from friends).

          Where does this sit in your rating as to how to conduct the debate – or, indeed, row?

        • Marko Attila Hoare Says:

          Thanks, Brian. I think Engage’s comments policy is entirely correct, and this is reflected in the high standard of discussion here. There’s a place for online discussion, but experience seems to show that unmoderated or barely moderated discussions simply don’t work. Even a site like CiF, where moderators are paid to delete abusive or disruptive comments, doesn’t work very well, because the discussions are invariably flooded with banal, flippant, off-the-cuff one-liners. Pre-moderation seems to be necessary to set an appropriate tone, ensure civilised discussion and to provide some quality control. The reason I don’t have comments on my own blog is not that I’m opposed in principle, but because I feel it is a big responsibility and commitment. If you aren’t prepared to devote the time and effort to moderating properly then you shouldn’t have comments at all.

        • hasan prishtina Says:

          A fascinating and, as Marko says, courageous contribution in the context in which Finkelstein made it. Unfortunately, the sweet reason of the posters above the line at Harry’s Place mean very little. Marko’s view of HP as a honeypot for aggressive bigots and hardline nationalists rings true, as can be seen on the EDL Facebook and other hard right pages that refer posters to individual threads at Harry’s Place. There was a time when I believed that HP was a forum where debate took place and people were prepared to revise their views. I stopped commenting having reached the end of my tether with endless personal attacks based on what people thought was my race or my religion and looking in on HP from time to time, I see that nothing has changed. Its articles are considered and informative; the comments below them make HP not so much a cult site as something approaching a hate site.

  8. Lars Says:

    I have been following NF’s ‘creativity’ for a while. This particular performance is remarkable. What do we actually learn?
    That NF is prepared to label the BDS movement as anti-Israeli (in a sense of wishing Israel’ s destruction), detached from the reality and indulging in wishful thinking, and hypocritical (missing on other important conflicts and focusing exclusively on Israel).
    There is not much of a novelty there. His political opponents (Israel supporters) said all that already.
    We learn, however, a lot of staff about NF himself, and -really-what we learn about him is a key to understanding what he says and why he says this.
    1) the guy is 58 years old, spent 30 years in his line of business.
    Shall we assume that for years and years he did not notice the malignant tendencies of the crowd surrounding him? That would be ridiculous…He did. If so, why did not he speak out earlier? And why has he been trying to limit the viewing of his ‘performance’?
    The obvious conclusion: him and his ilk are engaged in a massive cover up and /or whitewash of the BDS movement. They have decided that , given the noble goals of the BDS of doing justice to the oppressed, its deficiencies and genocidal tendencies and alignments can be overlooked. Chomsky and many Western deranged ‘intellectuals’ have been doing this very thing first in relation to the Soviet regime, then in relation to its Third World satellites. It is part of the same game. What made NF explode now? Approaching the maturity…which brings me to my next point.

    2) a trivial point but NF’s own summary of his life long activities may well be: long time -nothing useful. This realisation-commonly termed a middle life crisis-has proved both productive and destructive for many. NF reveals to us with a healthy degree of self-riducule that he was a maoist at young age, and states that he is unwilling to spend time on something as useless as what he has been doing the past 30 years. How does this sound to you? The guy has come to the point where he is ready to change the course. His past line of business brought recognition but not personal happiness, and he is facing it-better late than never.

    3) there must have been a trigger for all that, and often (though by no means always) it is finding a meaningful relationship, call it love. NF’s past interviews reveal a lonely and extremely bitter and angry man. A presence of unconditional love and attention (the source of this could be a man or a woman, Jewish or non-Jewish) could have triggered the current switch of loyalties. And, I can bet you any money, what we are witnessing is just the beginning. I admit, this is a hugely speculative point, but I witnessed this around myself so many times. NF’s profile fits this blueprint perfectly. And that leads to the next point?

    4) What is the NF’s profile? Angry, lonely and, above all, alienated individual. His friends are comrades not soul-mates, he shouts at the computer screen as he writes, he has a problematic inter-personal style (funny that his admirers just noticed it, they did not mind it when Israel supporters were its victims).

    5) The history of pro-Palestinian posturing is a history of a union between young radicals (who seek the excitment and attention) and the old alienated individuals, on brink of mental illness.

    I should be glad to hear views on the above-whatever they are.

    • Geo Says:

      While Finkelstein may have been a bit surprised by the fallout from this video, I wouldn’t take Frank Barat’s word that it was on Finkelstein’s request that he removed it from Youtube. My guess is that the BDS gang are simply so thoroughly imbued with their own mission that they didn’t immediately realize how it might seem to neutral observers. When it became clear how effectively Finkelstein had sabotaged their propaganda, they – on their own – quickly tried to squelch the interview. Too late!

    • Marc Grajower Says:

      My money is on the refusal on the part of BDS to glorify NF in the way he would have thought he deserved. For all we know he might have been trapped by Barat who’s gentle and subdued style of interview seems to be very uncharacteristic for him and for anybody in those circles I would imagine.

  9. Rangjan Says:

    I found the video on al Jazeera, with a serious critique and interesting analogy to Northern Ireland:

  10. NIMN Says:

    Yes, I really think that an article that contains the sentence ‘Conflicts in Ireland and Palestine are the legacies of settler-colonialism facilitated by Britain’ is both ‘serious’ and ‘interesting’. Or, ratter, it would be both these things if the empirical history of the matter didn’t porve the exact opposite.
    Perhaps someone could provide the examples Britain’s ‘facilitative’ role, such as the prohibition of Jewish emigration to Palestine when it was most needed and which lasted til 1948; the pro-Arabist stance of the FCO during most of the 20th century and so on.

    Yet another example of more nonsense that the uninformed think is informed.

  11. Philip Says:

    Here’s a great counter-argument to Finkelstein’s interview:

  12. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Ah, good old reliable Al Jazeera, based in the Gulf states and oh, so neutral. So neutral that it thinks that a comparison with Ireland is valid, especially if they deconstruct Finkelstein’s words.

    Now, let’s go back to what Finkelstein said: he said that the NI settlement was something most people could live with: not that it was perfect, not that it finally solved all the problems of Ireland, partition and the history of the Protestant Ascendancy, but that it would do. Just as a two-state solution (land swaps and all) would do. It will never satisfy those who wish to see Israel gone, which is exactly what the hard core of the BDS movement want, not a solution that would allow people to live in peace with each other. If they really believed that, they would be working for increased trade between the PA and Israel, for Hamas and Hezbollah to lay down their weapons, or at least their rockets, and negotiate meaningfully. The nearest Hamas has come to that is to say that once Israel retires to the Green Line, then they will negotiate. As any sane individual knows, it’s never going to happen that way, and Hamas knows it.

    So stop being oh so clever, Philip, and acknowledge that, if this is the “great counter-argument to Finkelstein’s interview”, then it’s really a continuation of the BDS case by other means. And, as such, equally fails to advance the argument in any way whatsoever.

    • Philip Says:

      So Al Jazeera, the first Arab channel to oppose Arab governments, the first Arab channel to allow Israelis to speak on it, is not neutral? Well, right, it probably isn’t, but it’s a shame you don’t see it for what it is: a vast improvement and a force for good in a region devoid of it.

      Anyhow, I digress. Abunimah is, of course, pretty open about his preference for the one state solution. However, in the article he argues for a two-state solution, based on civil rights principles. In fact, he issues the following challenges, to which you didn’t respond:

      “All these principles underpin the Belfast Agreement and yet they did not mean the “destruction of Northern Ireland”. What they rightly did away with is ethno-religious privileges for Protestants at the expense of Catholics.

      “So the question then for Norman Finkelstein and Zionists who are horrified by the idea of a one-state solution, is: could they accept two states on such terms? If the answer is yes, then it is clear that the BDS call is completely compatible with a two-state solution, and Finkelstein should withdraw his claim that this is mere deception.

      “If Finkelstein and Zionists cannot accept a two-state solution on these terms, then we know it is not the number of states that concerns them. Rather, their priority is to preserve racial and colonial privileges for Jews at the expense of fundamental Palestinian rights.”

      What are your thoughts on that?

      PS. your argument about Hamas’s demand for Israel to withdraw to the Green Line is interesting. But I could easily turn it around. As an ‘sane’ person knows, Hamas is never going to recognise Israel as a precondition for talks, so demanding it is just an excuse for not negotiating.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        Let me start with this: “As an ‘sane’ person knows, Hamas is never going to recognise Israel as a precondition for talks, so demanding it is just an excuse for not negotiating.” Actually, no. If Hamas refuses to recognise the right of Israel to exist, without reference to what the eventual picture will look like, then they are refusing to recognise the right of Israel to exist, and their “precondition” is just another way of saying we won’t talk. You plainly _still_ haven’t read the Hamas Charter, either in English (available here: or perhaps you can read it in Arabic, as you used to work in the region. There it says that Israel and the Jews are to be destroyed. As if you didn’t know, having been told that before.

        Actually, I didn’t respond to Abunimah because he doesn’t respond to Finkelstein, given that the Northern Ireland solution is not comparable to the Israel/Palestine situation, as you know perfectly well. Anyway, what I said was to repeat what Finkelstein said, which was that the NI solution was not the best nor did it satisfy everyone, but it was “good enough” and satisfied all but the most diehard hold-outs. Further, given that the two communities interpenetrated, this was probably the best that could be hoped for. Israel/Palestine are already two separate entities, do not interpenetrate, and any solution that fails to recognise this is doomed to failure.

        Given that the diehards have effectively rejected this, why are you claiming that this is a “great counter-argument” to anything? It’s an obfuscation that wants to wish away the Jewish state, while not being prepared to wish away any Moslem states. And you know it, Philip.

        • Philip Says:

          You are wrong about Hamas. And what’s more, your own arguments ape theirs entirely, so it’s amusing that you accuse others’ preconditions of being obfuscations but your own are noble points of principles. Hilarious. But a digression.

          Back to Finkelstein. Since you are obfuscating somewhat, let’s summarise and clarify.

          Finkelstein argues that BDS, rather than being a movement concerned with civil rights is actually working for the destruction of Israel by devious means.

          Abunimah rebuts his argument. He argues that (1) he supports a one-state solution openly, not secretly, (2) his primary concern is for civil rights. He also turns it on its head. By arguing for a solution akin to that in Northern Ireland, he argues that what he’s less concerned about is the number of states than the civil rights of the population. He challenges those who accuse him of seeking the dissolution of Israel, arguing that they are simply obfuscating themselves. Would they, he argues, support a solution along Northern Ireland’s lines? Two states, but with a commitment to civil rights? If not, it just shows that their real concerns are to maintain racial privilege, not to promote equality.

          Your response to this was to argue: Northern Ireland is not comparable. Israel and Palestine is much too different. The communities are not intertwined. (Trip to Hebron anyone?) While this is obviously not strictly true, let’s put it to one side for now. In principle, if it were possible (I know you think it isn’t, but just use your imagination), would you support a solution along the lines described by Abunimah?

        • Richard Gold Says:

          Philip, Abunimah’s challenge is the one state argument. Unless he respects the fact that full civil rights would be full civil rights in 2 independent states with a Palestinian right of return to an independent Palestinian state. You and Abunimah are doing exactly what Finkelstein and others such as Engage have argued – calling for two sates with Palestinian majorities which is in effect a single state solution with the dissolution of the Israeli state.

          With regard to Hamas – bearing in mind that you have previously been soft on antisemitism with previous comments, i don’t think i’m inclined to trust your judgement on Hamas and what Israel should or shouldn’t do re negotiating with Hamas. It’s not Israel’s fault that Hamas will not recognise Israel and while there are many things that the current Israeli government can be blamed for, this is not one of them.

          And Philip, i don’t intend to get into a lengthy debate with you because i don’t think bearing in mind your absolute hostility to Israel’s right to exist, as a supporter of a one state solution (even if you disguise it with word-play) that it’s worth wasting my time.

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          Well done, Philip, you’re patronising me again, which is typical of your behaviour. And equally typically, you manage to get it wrong. As I showed you months ago, Hamas is an eliminationist organisation which makes it plain that it wishes Israel gone, to say nothing of Jews generally, as the Hadith contained in their Charter shows. You cannot admit this, so you turn things around. What is plain is that recognition of Israel’s right to exist says nothing about an eventual solution would look like, but refusal to even consider negotiating until the end result is achieved as a starting point says exactly what Hamas’s Charter says. And why should anyone disbelieve the Charter?

          To Finkelstein. So Abunimah “supports a one-state solution openly”, and this is meant to be support of a two state solution? In fact, this is exactly what Finkelstein now says the BDS movement is aiming for, but daren’t admit. He might be wrong in all sorts of ways, but that’s what he has said, and you’ve just acknowledged that he’s right, except that Abunimah says it openly, as some but by no means all BDSers do.

          I fail to see what I have said that is obfuscating. In fact, as I’ve already noted, you are yet agian assuming that I can neither read what is there nor understand it.

          If anyone around here is obfuscating, it’s not me.

          And you go on to demonstrate this with the rest of your assertions. Talk sense and we’ll talk. Otherwise…

        • Philip Says:

          You are clearly obfuscating, in at least two ways: (1) you have tried to make the argument about Hamas, which entirely unrelated to what was being discussed on this comment thread, and (2) you are avoiding answering the explicit challenge both at the end of the article and in my last post.

          Instead we get comments about the subversive tactics of the BDS movement, which is officially agnostic about how many states should exist in the world (even, indeed, in the territory formerly know as mandate Palestine), and some of whose members openly support a one-state solution based on civil rights principles. (And then some hangers-on are racists.) It’s hardly as though you’ve exposed some great conspiracy. If you understood the challenge and my arguments, then answer them. To blather on without doing so is just obfuscation.

          One final thing, please avoid offensive statements and stereotypes about Muslims. Your reference to a Hamas ‘Hadith’ is actually a highly offensive statement, since it purposefullly tries to conflate the unsavoury activities of Hamas with Islam. I suggest that you retract this comment immediately.

          Secondly, I would suggest that you revise your archaic use of the word ‘Moslem’. While 200 years ago understanding of Arabic by foreigners may have been incomplete, it is now widely known that ‘Moslem’ is an imperfect transliteration of the Arabic word, better rendered as ‘Muslim’. If you put as much effort into understanding an alien culture as you do into hurling insults at me, our discussions might be more edifying.

          So, will you answer Abunimah’s challenge?

        • Philip Says:

          Richard, if you would support a solution with full civil rights in 2 independent states with a Palestinian right of return to an independent Palestinian state, then that’s something I could live with. I can’t speak for Abunimah.

          You’re right, I don’t think Israel has a right to exist. I don’t think any state has a right to exist. But I do think Israelis have a right to life, and all the other rights outlined in the Universal Declaration.

          You don’t want to get into a lengthy debate. That’s ok, I don’t want to get into a debate about Hamas either, in fact, I said that raising the issue of Hamas was an obfuscation. However, I would just like to state openly that I contend your view that I’m soft on antisemitism. For the record, I oppose racism in all its forms.

  13. Says:

    Israeli Arabs, and other non-Jewish people have civil rights or those they do not can be gained without the dissolution of Israel or its character as a Jewish state (just as Eire is a state for the Irish nation) as many civil liberty groups in Israel are working toward; just as Catholics in NI have full civil rights. (I could be wrong, but I don’t think the author cited above is calling for the integration of the populace of Eire (including all civil rights, including voting and residence) into that of NI. I am not sure the British State would particularly like that.
    Now, of course, if the author cited above is talking about those people who will form the populace of an independent and sovereign Palestine (and where civil rights and liberties will be extended to all no matter what religion, ethnicity, gender, etc.) to have civil rights in Israel he is a. calling for the de facto disoolution of Israel as a Jewish state, indeed, as an indepndent state; and, b, making claims on Israel that applies to no other country in the world – after all, what other country allows non-nationals the same range of civil rights and liberties (i.e. voting, residence, etc.) as nationals.
    Unfortunately, the author cited above seems to think that Israel is not a recognised legitimate state and sovereing nation of the Jewish people but that its character and population is still somehow open to negotiation. It is not, just as no other state’s is.

  14. The Spectre of Said Says:

    ‘If you put as much effort into understanding an alien culture.’

    Since when is Islam an ‘alien culture’?

    And you accuse others of being racists and/or Orientalists!

    My, how you must enjoy being a ‘white, Christain man’ in such exotic and seductive lands. All those dusky skins and exotic religious rituals! Maybe that’s why you think the criterion for a solution is ‘something I [you] could live with it’. Sweetheart, it may come as a shock to your Orientalist, Imperialist midset that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinains care a a flying f*** about what you can or cannot ‘live with’.

    ‘For the record, I oppose racism in all its forms.’
    No you don’t! You have refused to comment on Hamas’s chater (or rather said that, those who raise the inclusion of the Protocols within it as instances of its antisemitism (along with statements that all Jewish children are targets made during the attack on Gaza) are simply ‘wrong’ about Hamas. That is not ‘opposing racism in all its forms’ now is it? It is selectivey chosing which forms to ‘oppose’; a bit like the tried and tired line about ‘opposing’ all states but expecting Israel to be the first to jump.

    Nothing in this should be understood as my passing an opinion whether Israel does or does not continue to talk to Hamas or not (indeed, only a naive fool would believe that there has been no dialogue to date, especially around the Gilat/Palestinian prisoner deal).

    • Philip Says:

      If you think it’s ok to wittingly or unwittingly conflate Islam and terrorism, then I would say that a supposedly anti-racist website is not the place for you.

      I haven’t been asked to comment on the Hamas charter. When I told BG that he was wrong, it was because of his insistence that Israel and Hamas shouldn’t talk until Hamas recognises the right of Israel to exist. From your comments, it seems that you agree with me on that.

      • Gil Says:

        ‘If you think it’s ok to wittingly or unwittingly conflate Islam and terrorism, then I would say that a supposedly anti-racist website is not the place for you.’

        Spectre of Said did nothing of the sort, Philip. You really are tiresome.

    • Gil Says:

      Brilliant. One of the best responses to Philip I have seen on this site.

      • The Spectre of Said Says:

        ‘Perhaps you can tell me exactly where I think it is ‘ok’ to wittingly or unwittingly conflate Islam and terrorism?’
        You replied,
        ‘You criticised me for pulling up BG on conflating Hamas’s Charter (an anti-Semitic document, I quite agree) with the Islamic Hadith.’
        ‘BG’ said,
        As I showed you months ago, Hamas is an eliminationist organisation which makes it plain that it wishes Israel gone, to say nothing of Jews generally, as the Hadith contained in their Charter shows.
        ‘You reply,,
        ‘In fact, while it quotes some Hadith, it twists them to its own purposes.’
        And both BG and you agree, ‘the Hamas Charter is a racist document.’
        So, you and BG agree as to the place of the Hadith in the Hamas charter.
        So either both you and BG are, as you imply, racists, or you are note.
        I therefore ask you again,
        ‘Perhaps you can tell me exactly where I think it is ‘ok’ to wittingly or unwittingly conflate Islam and terrorism?’
        If you are going to smear critics of Hamas as racists and Islamophobes, please have the integrity (sic) to spell out exactly your accusation.

        • Philip Says:

          As you say, BG’s statement was: ‘Hamas is an eliminationist organisation which makes it plain that it wishes Israel gone, to say nothing of Jews generally, as the Hadith contained in their Charter shows.’

          What is clear from this statement, is that, wittingly or unwittingly, BG considers the offensive, eliminationist aspect of the Hamas Charter to be the Hadith. Not the general rubric, not the articles, the Hadith. He doesn’t, in his statement at least, argue that they have been misinterpreted, twisted or the like. No, it’s the Hadith themselves. Another possibility would be that he considers the Hamas Charter itself to be a Hadith, again. So a racist document is equivalent to a body of Islamic legal, philosophical and spiritual sayings. Both of these interpretations reveal a racist pattern of thinking, witting or unwitting.

        • The Spectre of Said Says:

          Sorry, Philip, your smears won’t work,
          Both you and BG speak of Hadith ‘contained’ in the Hamas charter.

          I smell mal fide Philip.

        • Philip Says:

          Yes, my point exactly. It’s not the general rubric or the other text in the Charter that BG considers to be racist. It’s the Hadith themselves. As I say, witting on unwitting conflation of Islam with racism, and ultimately, terrorism.

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          “It’s not the general rubric or the other text in the Charter that BG considers to be racist.” Where do I use the word “racist”, Philip? I was making a political point, not a sociological one. You constantly insult me about being a sociologist, now you insult me by asserting that I have stated something as being racist. I was noting that Hamas is an eliminationist organisation. What is racist about that, given that that is exactly what it is.

          Please stop smearing me, stop asserting that I have said something other than what I have actually said, and stop pretending that what I have said is really something else entirely. From anyone who was actually debating with me (or the others responding to you), I would expect an apology. Note I said “from anyone who was actually debating…” You’ll gather from that that the last thing I expect from Philip Blue is an apology.

          I shall reply in more detail later.

        • Philip Says:

          Dear Brian, let me apologise. You’re right that I have been sloppy in my labelling, the result of over-quick writing. You were trying to label Hamas an eliminationist organisation. Nothing wrong with that. Hamas are obviously a terrorist group, as is well known. They are many things beside this, but they are at least that. Which is why it’s disappointing that you chose to justify your position in the way you did. What did you say? ‘as is shown by the Hadith contained in [the Hamas] charter’. This conflates Hamas’s eliminationist and terrorist activities with the Islamic Hadith. It’s quite possible that you did this by mistake. But the fact remains that Islamophobia is such a prevalent thing in our society, I personally think it’s important to steer very clear of anything that could be construed as such. What might you have said? As Hamas’s Charter shows. See the way it has twisted Islam for its political eliminationist purposes. That would have been fine, and I would have agreed. But why bring Islam into it? This is a dangerous road to go down, and echoes racist patterns of thinking, prevalent among the extreme right.

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          “Dear Brian, let me apologise.” Even when apologising, Philip manages to patronise me. It’s not clever and it’s not funny. Further, this “You were trying to label Hamas an eliminationist organisation.” is not an “attempt” it’s an open statement of what is in the Hamas Charter, which quite clearly states that Hamas wishes Israel to no longer exist as an independent state, and that it will do whatever it can to achieve this end. Hamas itself labels Hamas as eliminationist, by the very content of its Charter. Any oh so weasel words trying to weaken this are futile. So he should stop “admitting” that Hamas is a terrorist organisation, as though this is, somehow, a lesser offence or problem for the rest of the world than if he admitted outright that it is an eliminationist organisation.

          Then he continues as follows: “What did you say? ‘as is shown by the Hadith contained in [the Hamas] charter’. This conflates Hamas’s eliminationist and terrorist activities with the Islamic Hadith. It’s quite possible that you did this by mistake.” Notice, the careful extra patronising tone of this passage – I might have done this by “mistake”. No, no mistake, done with deliberation; the Hadith is in the Charter, and is quite clear in its language. As written, the Hadith calls for the death of _all_ Jews, not just the elimination of the Jewish State. Hamas may have included the Hadith for any number of reasons, but is part of the Charter. As such, this makes it fair comment.

          Further, how can a statement of fact be Islamophobic? A reasonable response by Philip Blue might have been to argue that the Hadith was included in the Charter in error, in an excess of Islamic fervour, or to make some point other than the one stated in the Hadith. Philip says none of this, but attempts, as so often, to turn the matter back on me, by implying, oh so unsubtly, that I am being Islamophobic. Does Philip’s unsubtle attempt to make me the one stating untruths, making assertions as to the racist nature of Hamas (which I have not done, as he so patronisingly notes) mean that were I to state that Al Qaeda is an Islamist organisation, this would be an Islamophobic statement?

          If so, then he needs education the meaning of words – which earlier lessons he continuously manages to ignore. For someone who tells us that he is the proud possessor of two degrees (so are many other commenters here: so what? Formal qualifications _on their own_ confer no special status: it’s what is done with these qualifications that matters. So far, Philip shows little sign that he is worthy of special status. Apologies for descending into counter-patronising tones.

          And, while I’m here, how about an apology, unpatronising this time, as requested below?

        • Philip Blue Says:

          You put words into my mouth and ascribe sentiments to me that you can’t possibly know. If you won’t accept an apology sincerely given, then I’m not sure I want to continue repeating it.

          In terms of Hamas, Islam and Hadith, as I said, juxtaposing these things closely is to write in a way which starts with ‘racist modes of thinking’ and ends with outright racism. I would caution you away from such usage in the strongest terms, especially on a site committed to opposing racism.

    • The Spectre of Said Says:

      Sorry, Philip, your smears still won’t work,
      Both you and BG speak of Hadith ‘contained’ in the Hamas charter.
      Only now do you bring in the argument about other sources.

      I still smell mal fide Philip *buttressed by your accusation that I too am a racist (could it be that anyone who disagrees with you is to be called a racist?)

      However, I will leave it to BG to pursue this ‘discussion’ since only he knows what he meant.

      One can only hope, however, that in responding to you should he choose, he does not debase himself by calling you a ‘troll’, claims that you are ‘libeling’ or ‘smearing’ him, threaten him with the Google polie but rather answers your comments in a way fitting of civilised conversation.

      After all, is that really the way to respond to accusations of pushing racism, ‘wittingly or unwittingly’?

  15. Soupy One Says:

    London BDS recently showed how they are wedded to conspiracy theories & racism:

    “Please write to Baroness Jenny Tonge to show your support. Israelificated Zionists controlled media trying to blame her. ”

  16. The Spectre of Said Says:

    Perhaps you can tell me exactly where I think it is ‘ok’ to wittingly or unwittingly conflate Islam and terrorism?
    To make matter clear and to avoid empty and formalist cliches like ‘I oppose racism in all its forms’. I disagree with any formulation that equates Islam with terrorism entirely, comletelty and without reservation. It is racist in inception and in consequence. Is that clear enough for you?
    Perhaps now you can be as clear when dealing with the question of Hamas? Hamas’ charter is antisemitic. It contains antisemitism in its founding moment and programme. It is a racist document. Yes or no? Do not confuse the question with whether Israel should or should not negotiate with them with or without preconditions.

    • Philip Says:

      You criticised me for pulling up BG on conflating Hamas’s Charter (an anti-Semitic document, I quite agree) with the Islamic Hadith. In fact, while it quotes some Hadith, it twists them to its own purposes.

      So yes, the Hamas Charter is a racist document.

  17. Absolute Observer Says:

    Philip, stop mucking around.
    1. You believe in conspiracy theory when it comes to Jews, but smear others of being racists (so much for your faux generalisation of “opposing racism in all its forms” – that’s just not true).
    2. You believe in the end of Israel under the faux generalisation of not believing in the existence of any state; and, just like the anti-emancipationist racists of old, make the Jews the centre of your case and demand of them what you demand of no others in the name of ‘universalism’.


    • Philip Says:

      1. Those two statements are unrelated. I categorically do not believe that Jews are involved in some grand conspiracy. BG’s statement, how shall I put this, fell into the trap of racist patterns of thinking, ie, conflating Islam with terrorism at its very essence. I would have thought that people would be lining up to oppose such patterns of thought. By the way, hilarious that you say that I ‘smear’ people when you expended huge efforts do so to to me.

      2. That’s a misrepresentation. I don’t believe that Israel should be abolished. All I have said previously, to which I assume you’re referring, is that the ‘right’ of any state to exist (usually invoked for Israel) is not a constructive or theoretically cogent basis on which to base discussion of the Middle East peace process.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        “BG’s statement, how shall I put this, fell into the trap of racist patterns of thinking, ie, conflating Islam with terrorism at its very essence.”

        You can put it however you like, Philip, but what you are doing is putting words into my mouth or interpreting what I write in a way that suits you, even if it is blatantly untrue. And nothing about it is remotely hilarious. Where do I “conflat[e] Islam with terrorism at its very essence”? I have never said this, nor would I. I demand an apology for, in effect, lying about what I actually write.

        Regrettably, I suspect that I shall have to wait a long time for one.

  18. Absolute Observer Says:

    ‘I categorically do not believe that Jews are involved in some grand conspiracy./

    Not true.

    Here are some of your defences of conspiracy theory. Engage is littered with them (as is you own blog).
    You have been pushing this line for years.

    The problem is, Philip, that you don’t think the ideas of the ‘Israel Lobby’ and of Jews being in positions of power making US safe for Israel is antisemitic. And that is you problem. That is why it would be wrong to call you a liar or an antisemite. You simply don’t know what antisemitism is; what its tropes are; and how it has oozed its way into contemopary debate.

    Otherwise, how could you write,

    ‘One can also find in the archives his belief that because of Obama’s choice of chief of staff there will be no US change of policy in the US (from his blog) ; that Israel pushed for the war in Iraq, that Shlaim is the only historian worth reading (I paraphrase), that the modern state of Israel is based on the unilateral theft of land, that the Israel Lobby thesis is quite right, that the cry from “the river to the sea” does not mean what it implies and so on and on. (In fact, Israel, Israel, Israel as if it is the only country in the world!).’

    Philip Blue seems to think ‘the Jewish vote’ is holding back fair play:

    ‘So, by all means question the theory. That’s what academic discourse is about. But if you want to criticise the Mearsheimer and Walt theory in a meaningful way, then I would suggest you do so answering the following questions:

    ‘1. Is neo-realism adequate for explaining events in interantional politics?
    2. Is neo-realism a good basis on which to base US foreign policy?
    3. Do Mearsheimer and Walt correctly apply the theory to this situation? Have the accurately presented and analysed the facts of the situation? Has the US acted contrary to its national interest with regard to Israel? If so, what can explain this behaviour?’
    ( The last question is a standard trope; to prove your innocence, come up with the guilty party – a common theme among those wishing to deny rights to defendants)’.

    You haven’t learnt anything at all have you?

    And since you have raised the word ‘smear’; this is not a ‘smear’ but rather an accurate reflection of your views on the myth of ‘Jewish power’.

    • Philip Says:

      I very much agree with at least one part of what you say: ‘it would be wrong to call you a liar or an antisemite’. I will say that everything else you write above is a misrepresentation.

      I’m not inclined to answer your smears (one might call them ‘defamation’) from an anonymous blog troll. There is a growing school of opinion that considers anonymous name-calling, libel or defamation to be highly unethical. I remember a highly publicised case where Google turned over the name of one such person who had used the Blogger platform to defame. Anyway, say what you like about me. Unless you reveal who you are, then I’m not going to entertain your insults.

      • Absolute Observer Says:

        “I’m not inclined to answer your smears (one might call them ‘defamation)’.
        ‘name-calling, libel or defamation’

        Sorry Philip, you will not silence me by your huff and puff.

        Nothing I have said is a ‘smear’, ‘libel’ nor ‘defamation’ or ‘misrepresentation’.

        What I said concerning your views would have to be not true to fall under those categories.
        As I have shown, they are true; they are quotes from you and your blog (in articles that you clearly and unequivocally support) as well as things you have said on Engage.

        They are your words or words that were on your blog that you thought worthy opinion.
        In your comments you clearly support the idea that because Rahn was a Jew then Obama could not see straight on Israel.
        You have endorsed the idea here and on your blog that there is an ‘Israel Lobby’ that determines the choice of Presidential policies that it puts to the electorate.
        You have said that cannot conceive of US policy on the ME outside of this tale of the ‘Israel Lobby’.
        You have endorsed the implicitly racist views that the sole criterion for Jews voting in US elections is the issue of Israel.
        You have said all these things; word for word.
        So ingrained has antisemitic ways of thinking entered your mind set that you don’t even see them as anti-Jewish libels. And like so many of your ilk, when called on it you act like the hurt, innocent victim refusing to talk anymore and threatening legal action.

        You are protesting a tad too much – as well as evading the issue I have raised – coincidence perhaps?

        Philip, no matter how much you wriggle and bully, you have pushed antisemitic views here and elsewhere. Take responsibility for them.

        • Philip Says:

          I can’t let this one past, because it is actually mortifying that you are ascribing some of these views to me. And I want to deny them flatly. That you think some of these things are my views is deeply troubling. If ou can show me where I have said them, then I will certainly retract them, but let me state my positions here.

          First, I categorically do not believe that Rahm Emanuel’s Judaism has anything to do with anything. Picking a Jewish Chief of Staff has nothing to do with Obama’s middle east policy. What I was trying to say, perhaps incoherently, was different. When Obama was elected, a lot of people thought that US policy might change with respect to Israel. I was trying to make the point that this was unlikely since Obama had chosen an avowedly pro-Israel Chief of Staff. That he was Jewish had nothing to do with it. And incidentally, that was born out by events. Emanuel, in contravention of longstanding US convention, took his family on an IDF-hosted tour of the Golan Heights. US officials have long been prevented form visiting Israeli-occupied territories on private visits. Emanuels’ flouting this rule is evidence of contempt for the land-for-peace formula which most people think will eventually solve the ongoing crisis. I do believe that Emanuel’s positions on the topic do not show a serious willingness to take the hard measures necessary for the US to be a peacemaker. However, to have said that Emanuel’s Jewsishness was in some way relevant would certainly and categorically have been racist. I did not say this, nor do I believe it. If this is what I wrote, or is how I was understood, then I am mortified. It does not reflect my views.

          Secondly, you say that I believe that ‘the sole criterion for Jews voting in US elections is the issue of Israel’. I have note said this anywhere, nor do I believe it. In fact, I despise groups that peddle or promote such a view, such as AIPAC, Likud and the US Congress. If I said this in some fit of madness (please feel free to link to somewhere I have said it) then I will retract immediately, but I do not believe I have said it. Such a statement would be racist. Whether Jews care more about Israel than people in general is possibly true, but I don’t know its answer. It is, of course, an empirical question, but I don’t have any survey data that would lead me to lean either way on this right now. Nevertheless, I categorically do not believe that Jews only care about Israel.

          Do I think there is an influential Israel lobby (note small ‘L’) in US politics? Of course I do. Anyone who just watched any of the AIPAC lovefest would have seen this. It’s hardly controversial. Is it the only lobby in US politics? Of course not. Is it the most influential? That’s an empirical question, to which I don’t know the answer.

          I hope that sets some things straight.

        • Soupy One Says:


          Did it ever occur to you that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of lobbies in American politics?

          Did it ever occur to you that the most successful ones would probably be those that you don’t see plastered across television?

          If you wanted to verify the strength of a lobby then you should choose an example of when they succeeded in their objectives (what factors contributed and was it not been American self-interest to go along with it? What other influences came into the equation? ).

          Further, you might then look at its failures.

          An example, would be one of the many purchases of weapons systems by Saudi Arabia, and how they were opposed by what you consider to be the “Israel lobby”.

          In doing so you would weigh up the relative influence of the two lobbies and consider which is really more powerful.

          Clearly, it is the Saudi one**.

          Why don’t you do that as an intellectual exercise? Or at least see beyond the obvious?

          ** Even elementary photographic evidence of American Presidents, British Prime Minister’s and assorted European leaders genuflecting to King of Saudi Arabia is enough to tell you who’s has the upperhand in their relationship.

    • Absolute Observer Says:

      So Obama and the entire stock of US interests in the ME and elsewhere play second fiddle to the “Pro-Israel” position of a Chief of Staff? So, what Rahm said was US policy on Israel and Obama, what – a mere puppet? Funny, how such views that are common against Jews somehow transalte so easily to ‘pro-Israel’ people who, what, ‘just happen’ to be Jewish?
      I have linked to your continued belief in conspiracy politics, but this alone proves precisely my point.

      Philp. so ingrained is your belief in secret machinations and antisemitic tropes that you think it ‘reasonable’ to argue that it is not ‘controversial’ to argue of the ‘influence’ of the ‘Israel Lobby’.
      I am afraid, Philip, that all racist arguments are “controversial” and that it is is a sign of the poverty of rational thought when such views are accepted as ‘common sense’. as you clearly admit to so doing.

      Precisely what is their “influence”.? Where has the “Israel Lobby” “infuenced” the US to do soemthing that a. it would not do or b.. wanted to do? (And please don’t confuse this question with what you think the US should have done).
      Show me, in other words, the causal, empirical, link between ‘infuence’ and actual ‘outcome’?

      As I have said before, you are no intentional racist, but you uncritically accept as ‘uncontroversial” antisemitic ways of thinking and push them as ‘common sense’.

      You really need to do somehting about it.

      Until you do, why would anyone believe that you ‘opppose racism in all its forms’. You don’t, do you, you only oppose some forms of racism and think others are uncontroversially true.

      • Philip Says:

        You are putting words in my mouth. I did not say, ‘Obama and the entire stock of US interests in the ME and elsewhere play second fiddle to the “Pro-Israel” position of a Chief of Staff? So, what Rahm said was US policy on Israel and Obama, what – a mere puppet?’ What I said was the appointment of a pro-Israel Chief of Staff was indication of the direction in which Obama was pushing his policy. Perhaps an example will illuminate. If Obama appointed Paul Krugman to be his Treasury Secretary, I would take that as a sign that he generally favoured an expansionary fiscal policy. It wouldn’t mean that Krugman was in control of Obama. Simply a signal of what direction Obama wanted his policy to go. Get it?

      • Philip Says:

        Your argument is a bit ridiculous. You argue simultaneously that to say that there is an Israel lobby (you insist on using a large ‘L,’ which is, I think, a mistake, but it shows how you are trying to twist words and smear) is to be antisemitic, but encourage me to then prove that it is right. Which leads to the ridiculous notion that to point out something that is true (if indeed I am able to demonstrate it, a possibility you must acknowledge is possible given your encouragement) is also antisemitic. I would encourage you to make your mind up. Or perhaps better still, stop slinging pejorative accusations of racism at people who you don’t know behind a cowardly alias.

      • Soupy One Says:


        What about other lobbies in American politics? How do you, if at all, factor them in?

  19. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    I have been away for a few days, celebrating a family event and talking with sane people, not always agreeing, of course, but life’s like that. Then I come back to find that Philip Blue is traducing me (and presumably taking silence for assent, defeat, or embarrassment or some such), which he has done often over the last year or more he has been commenting here.

    I am accused of racism in at least two places, without any evidence, of course, because whatever I have been, racist isn’t one of them. Further, this is a person who appears to think that it is part of the debating process to deliberately misunderstand which book is referred to, when the precise title and contents have been clearly communicated. This is a person who appears to think that it is part of the debating process to “understand” words in their original 18th Century meaning, instead of the way everyone else uses then in the 21st Century. This is a person who prefers to misunderstand what people have said (to his advantage, of course) rather than answer them. This is a person who uses a tactic of replying to what he says people have said, when it is blindingly obvious to all but him that, actually, they didn’t say that at all (I provide two examples above in other comments). Of course, if he replied to what they _did_ say, he would have great difficulty – but actually debating with us is not his purpose, apparently.

    All in all, a strange approach to what should be a debating forum for one who has read, he tells us, PPE, but apparently not John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” (and it’s “On Liberty”, not any of his other, equally seminal, essays that I am referring to), or else his approach would be equally robust (as it could and should be) without the deviations from the facts and the insults.

    I can only finish by returning to a comment I made in reply to Philip Blue some months ago (on 10.12, 2010, in fact):

    Philip Blue had said
    “No one finds it astonishing. There are, though, some who would find it astonishing that you think your supercillious tone evidence of either intelligence or insight.” [I actually went back and re-read the comment(s) that Philip referred to, when he wrote this, and, you know what, I realise that I’m biased in my own favour, but I still couldn’t find anything like that in my comments. I continued:] Oh for Philip’s overwhelming confidence that he knows better than anyone else what everyone else thinks. And he claims that I’m rude to him.
    I note that he offers absolutely no evidence of my (or anyone else’s) supercilious tone, and I shall treat his comments with the contempt that they deserve (until he manages to mount an argument instead of snide comments): silence.

    I am, frankly, tired of being traduced by Philip Blue, tired, but not surprised. If only he would actually _debate_ with those who challenge, with evidence, rationality and logic , what he says. But, as I have already noted, I suspect that he is incapable of that, for it is entirely possible that he is aware that, without facts, his case is hollow. He can _only_ traduce, misinterpret and insult.

  20. Absolute Observer Says:

    ‘Anyone who just watched any of the AIPAC lovefest would have seen this.’
    Outcomes, Philip, outcomes? At AIPAC this year, Obama told the right-wing hawkes what they did not want to hear re: Iran; that AIPAC (‘Likud in Washington’) got fucked and in its place got platitudes of how the US has always supported Israel; etc.
    Infuence – yeah right!

    • Philip Blue Says:

      This is disingenuous. When someone focuses on ‘outcomes’ (eg, Mearsheimer and Walt) you accuse them of ‘racist ways of thinking’. You are not genuinely interested in having this discussion.

  21. Absolute Observer Says:

    ‘What I said was the appointment of a pro-Israel Chief of Staff was indication of the direction in which Obama was pushing his policy.’
    Assuming that to be correct (and forgetting for the moment that you have endorsed Walt and Mearsheimer’s nonsense and argued for its veracity on these very pages) you have here acknolwedged that I am right. That the power rests not with the myth of a or the Lobby or lobbies, but with how the US sees its interests.
    So, now, we can assume that you withdraw the nonsese about Lobby and ‘influence’.
    We can now assume you retract your support for such ignorant and antisemitic ways of thinking.

  22. Absolute Observer Says:

    Ok Philiip, not the first time you refuse to answer comments that show that your thinking is shallow and superficial. One need only look at this current thread.
    You cited the recent AIPAC ‘lovefest’ as evidence of the ‘influence of ‘an/the Israel Lobby’. I asked how you could show the ‘influence’ through policy outcomes (i.e. on concrete policies). You do not answer. Instead, you fall back on the tautology of saying that if you could show me an outcome, they would be met with accusations of antisemitism.
    Well, Philip, you are dead right. And the reason is quite simple. Theories that state and ‘prove’ that a few rich Jews (or ‘Zionists’ as they have been transformed into today) have the power to ‘influence’ the actions of the most powerful nation on earth; that a few rich Jews/Zionists can make the most powerful nation on earth adopt interests against what is ‘really’ (and what they know to be) its own ‘authentic’ interests (that is W and M thesis and the one you are defending is inherently antisemitic.
    There is a simple for believing this.
    That of a complete lack of knowledge of how politics and political relations work in a complex society and complex world; more often than not, those who lack such understanding and, in the words of W and M themselves, cannot imagine any other reason for political decisions, outcomes, etc, content themselves with believing in, in this case, the mythical power of a few human beings, or, to keep its historical tradition alive (see Lingburgh amongst others), Jews and Zionists to determine/influence the course of the world. For those who subscribe to such irrational ways of thinking, the belief that a small coterie of people (people to whom the ‘thinker’ ‘thinks’ [sic] influences or controls the world or specific aspects of it) offers solace from the sense of powerlessnes that emerges when one realises just how complex the contemporary world is.
    It is a bit like believing that if one touches a chair a certain number of times before going out, one will be safe from, say, being run over. It is, in other words, superstitious nonsense.

    Believing in such superstitious claptrap also means that the one way one can address the mythical power of the Jews/Zionists is to both take their power away and in so doing become as powerful as you imagine them to be. Both of these steps lead to discriminatory action against Jews/Zionists. That is, since one believes that they have exceptional power, then the only response is exceptional means to limit that exceptional power (see, for example, the attempts to silence AIPAC (which W and M sponsor) and the vile comments that emerge from such movements). E.g. ‘AIPAC had played a key role in fomenting support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.It is playing an even greater role in supporting a future military strike against the people of Iran. ‘ ‘People are scared in the US, to say ‘wrong is wrong,’ because the pro-Israeli lobby is powerful.’ ‘The fact is, this lobbying group has manipulated and coerced American politicians so much so that it becomes nearly impossible to get elected unless you speak out in favor of the U.S. / Israeli bond. In doing so, this lobby has created an air of fear in which any politician or person speaking out against U.S./Israeli foreign policy’.

    So, a few Jews/Zionists are alleged to have taken the US to war once at least (but if you look at the history of this type of thing, people have been saying this about Jews and war since at least the Crimea war), that a few Jews/Zionists have the power to ‘manipulate’ US politicians (again a well-known historical trope) and have created an almost universal atmosphere of fear and intimidation that has chilled the US core value of ‘free speech’ (again, a view that is hardly new). In all of these ways, the “Israel Lobby’ argument and its proponents continue to propogate historcal antisemitic myths; myths that were as believed in as much at the time as they are believed in now, even though we know, yes know, that they were all rooted in anti-Jewish mythology and hostility. Just as they were malicious lies then; so they are malicious lies now. But, just as people believed in such lies then, so people like you, believe in them now.

    In short, Philip, the “Israel Lobby; cannot be thought of without both a mythical image of powerful Jews and a response that is inherently (yes, inherently) antisemitic.

    It is to this image and this response that you endorse every time you evoke the spectre of ‘the Israel Lobby’ as the material cause for policies with which you disagree.

  23. Absolute Observer Says:

    To put the matter is simpler terms, in believing in the ‘influence’ of ‘the/a Israel Lobby’, you believe that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion speaks at least in some respects speaks truth to power.
    And what is worse, you to think that pushing such trash is a legitimate part of the debate concerning Israel and Palestine.
    Philip, if I have not said to before, I’ll say it now. Fuck off and take your antisemitic worldview with you.

    • Philip Blue Says:

      How charming.

      I don’t believe a word of the Protocols. If anyone had any doubts about how you smear people, then this is proof of it. How dare you make such baseless and offensive accusations behind the disgraceful cowardice of anonymity. Anonymity on the web is a hugely important tool for people fighting oppression. You abuse it for twisted purposes. I refuse to engage with you any further.

    • Soupy One Says:


      People will naturally assume the worst when you talk of the “Lobby”, but refuse to consider or articulate the counterarguments (ie. that there are many lobbies in American politics, the oil and Saudi lobby is exceedingly powerful, yet hardly talked about, etc).

      Perhaps you might want to clarify your views? Particularly in relationship to counter lobbies? Relative power, importance, etc

      • Philip Says:

        Soupy One, yes, there are plenty of lobbies in American politics. Yes, it’s good to have a discussion about which lobbies are powerful. Yes, I agree that oil lobbies, Saudi lobbies, etc. are important. You missed the banking lobby, potentially the most influential of the lot. That’s why the notion of a pro-Israel lobby in this context is of course not racist.

        It’s interesting how this conversation has gone. Ali Abuminah challenges people like Finkelstein to whether they could support a Northern Ireland solution, two states based on full civil rights. And then all I get is Brian Goldfarb blathering about Hamas, and smears from an anonymous fibber. So much for ‘engagement’.

        • absolute Observer Says:

          And on a far broader level, the general rise of arguments about ‘lobbies’ as an understanding of politics – whichever ones are referred to – from the antisemitic-tainted Israel Lobby myth, to that of the xenophobically tainted Saudi Arabia, to the ‘omnipotent power’ bankers, – just shows to what extent ‘progressive’ political thinking has sunk.

          As any serious literature on lobbies show (i.e. the non-racist, non-xenophobic, non-populist type),that States are only open to appeals from those with whom they already agree – except of course when its Jews and Arabs, eh Philip? Then their power known no limits, nudge, nudge. because in the tautolgies beloved of lobby fantasists, that initial agreement can only be explained by…………recourse to the Lobby. If it were not caught in this circular way of thinking, then, the whole Lobby argument would fall to the ground like the House of Cards.

          But, at least the Lobby argument offers some solace for the implicated – ‘we’ are all innocent, ‘they’ are the guilty ones. If only it were as simplistic as Philip (thinks it is)

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          Philip Blue to Absolute Observer “How dare you make such baseless and offensive accusations…” Interesting, I’m accused of making similar baseless accusations about Hamas (not directly at him), for which Philip Blue apologised, and I’m still waiting for a second apology concerning accusations of being Islamophobic, yet Philip Blue thinks he is the one smeared.

          “…all I get is Brian Goldfarb blathering about Hamas” (see the sentence immediately above): I do not blather, indeed, Philip Blue apologised for smearing me earlier in this thread concerning Hamas, now that he thinks I’m not reading these comments anymore, he promptly traduces me again. Philip Blue has no idea what blathering is, which is strange, since he does it all the time: ‘Blether, blather. To talk nonsense loquaciously’ Shorter O.E.D., vol 1, p. 203. His comment is doubly odd, because he acknowledged that I was right and he was wrong. If so, how come I am now talking nonsense? Presumably, Philip is yet again not bothering to read what is actually written, or only those parts which he wishes to read and ignoring the rest, and also, while he’s about, hoping that no-one will notice he’s traducing someone for something for which he has already apologised..

          Now I am owed two apologies. Given that I am still waiting for one from some time ago, I won’t be holding my breath, as Philip Blue’s apologies appear to be highly selective: apologise for what you absolutely have to, and ignore the rest. Then act the injured innocent and carry on traducing people, probably in the hope that they won’t notice that (a) you haven’t apologised, and (b) that you’ve just insulted them again.

          Sorry, Philip Blue, won’t work, because we’re all highly literate. And I notice that you’ve ignored my comment on John Stuart Mill. Is that because you don’t have an answer?

          I can’t leave this comment without coming back to the question of lobbies. Despite Philip Blue’s faux naive reference to a presumed Saudi lobby, it’s odd how it is only discussion of the Israel Lobby that leads to oh so serious and straightfaced comments as to the warping of US foreign policy against the US’s own interests in the Middle East. I wonder what his reaction might be to any mention or discussion of the role of the Arabists in the UK Foreign Office throughout the 1940s and 50s and into the 1960s on British government foreign policy. Probably claim that he’s too young to know about this. This would be a pity for someone who has read both PPE and Development Studies, and who should know all about theories of dependencia.

      • absolute Observer Says:

        ‘It’s interesting how this conversation has gone. Ali Abuminah challenges people like Finkelstein to whether they ‘And then all I get is Brian Goldfarb blathering about Hamas, and smears from an anonymous fibber. So much for ‘engagement’

        But, even in these comments quoted above you are unable to tell the truth.
        You got comments from The Spectre of Said , from which you ignored.
        You then smeared BG with accusations of racism and Islamophobia.

        You then got challenged about your persistent and oft-repeated views about the Israel Lobby.
        When shown clearly and with evidence how your thinking on this repeats antisemitic tropes, you fall back on accusations of being smeared (precisely what you accused BG of) and then having entered into discussion with me on several instances (my anonymous status not withstanding) and then shown again how every point I made about you perpetuating antisemitism is valid, you pick up the ball and whine that you don’t want to play because of my anonymous status.

        And, btw, do you think that ‘Soupy One’ is his or her real name.
        No doubt when, like everyone else who challenges your views so successfully, SO does the same you will either retreat into smears or claim that you don’t speak to people who don’t give you their real names.

        Philip – I have shown you are pushing antisemitic views. That far from ‘fibbing’ I have encapsulated exactly what you think about Zionist ‘power’ in the US (and elsewhere?)
        That you don’t like to look into the mirror held up to you is not my problem.

        So stop acting like a four year old who thinks that because he or she closes their eyes no one else can see them. We can see you all too clearly Philip for what you are. A critic of I/P for whom antisemitism is a legitimate resource.

        You are nothing more than a charlatan Philip.

        And, again, here is why………

        ‘That’s why the notion of a pro-Israel lobby in this context is of course not racist.’

        No Philip, the notion of a ‘pro-Israel Lobby’ is inherently racist.
        As your use of the ‘a’ indicates, you see no distinction between diverse Jewish/Zionist groups, but instead see them as all acting in unison (see BG’s comments about the idiocy of conspiracy theories) ”A’ Lobby’ thesis [sic] argues that the cause for specific US policy is a small number of rich influential Jews (Zionists). It argues that it is the only way to ‘explain’ US policy on Israel and Palestine. It argues that the ‘tail wags the dog’. It leads to movements solely organised against Jews/Zionists who then claim that these Zionists/Jews start wars, silent debate, ‘influence’ Congress, the President, the media and the press.
        All of these views are inherent in the idea of an Israel Lobby as it is presented and understood today.
        It is impossible to speak of a Israel Lobby without these malevolent positions being attributed to ‘it’ (since you speak in the singular). It is inherent in your view that it is ‘powerful’ or ‘influential’.
        It pushes the same stories that antisemites have pushed for at least 125 years.
        They are the same stories contained in the Protocols. They are the same stories that Linburgh drew on in his Idaho speech.
        They are exactly (yes, exactly) the same arguments that are being used today. They are as much a libel today as they always were.The Israel Lobby argument is only popular today not in spite of that history, but precisely because of it.
        You may well want to deflect from these facts by referring to the existence of other lobbies and the power you foolishly believe they exert. However, that ‘defence’ does not in the slightest detract from the repetitive consistency of the actual content present in the contemporary form through which the reincarnation of these persistent libels regarding Jews and Zionists occurs – the Israel Lobby.
        No matter how many ‘lobbies’ you point to Philip, the specificity of the allegations aimed specifically against the Israel Lobby (or lobby) remains what they have always been, from the Protocols, through the antisemitic sections of the right, the antisemitic sections of the left and now the antisemitic sections of the anti-Zionists. This is more than a coincidence, Philip, it is the very ‘context’ you simultaneously recognise and ignore.

        The fact that you have reached your own similar conclusions without recourse to these antecedents does not excuse nor justify your belief in such ‘findings’.

        You speak about ‘context’ Philip, well the fact that you have come to these same conclusions all by yourself says more about the context within which you and many others think about Zionism, Israel and Palestine than you realise.

        ‘They might have been modern “leftists” talking about the “Israel Lobby” conspiring to organise the Iraq War of 2003, while all the time insisting that there was nothing remotely racist about their conspiracy theories.’

        A pity that antisemitism is so ingrained in your worldview that you cannot even begin to think otherwise.

        Soupy One – apologies for the interruption.

  24. Absolute Observer Says:

    ‘I don’t believe a word of the Protocols’
    Well, that’s patently not the case now is it Philip.

    To ‘smear’ someone is to make up falsehoods about them.
    I have shown how such beliefs are inherently antisemitic. You have shown your defence of such views,

    You have argued throughout in your belief in the ‘influence’ of the Israel Lobby.

    In this case, I have shown that your beliefs are rooted in antisemitic worldviews – that Zionists were responsible for the Iraq war; that Zionists ‘chill’ free speech, that Zionists usurp ‘authentic’ US interests for their own gain.
    Each of these are present in the Protocols; each of these are reworkings of ‘classic’ antisemitism.
    Each of these myths have been perpetrated in the past. You, and others, are perpetrating them now.

    ‘5. We must compel the governments of the GOYIM to take action in the direction favored by our widely conceived plan, already approaching the desired consummation, by what we shall represent as public opinion, secretly promoted by us through the means of that so-called “Great Power” – THE PRESS, WHICH, WITH A FEW EXCEPTIONS THAT MAY BE DISREGARDED, IS ALREADY ENTIRELY IN OUR HANDS.’

    ‘It blames many of the world’s wars and discord on the Jews’.

    You have been caught out Philip. No wonder you ‘refuse to engage further’.

  25. Absolute Observer Says:

    ‘Three features of the old Left’s racism feel contemporary. Naturally, Communists could not say that Jews were members of a “Judaeo-Bolshevik” cabal. They had to recast the conspiracy as a right-wing plot and substitute “Zionist” for “Jew”. When Stalin put Rudolf Slansky and other Czech Communists on trial in 1952 the authorities announced: “The whole worldwide Zionist movement was in fact led and ruled by the imperialists, in particular the US imperialists, by means of US Zionists. For US Zionists, who are financially most powerful and politically the most influential Zionists, form part of the ruling imperialist circles of the USA.”

    Rudé Právo, the organ of the Czech Communist Party, said that Slansky and his co-defendants were “Jewish cosmopolitans, people without a shred of honour, without character, without country, people who desire one thing — career, business and money”. Communists and their supporters imagined a vast Zionist conspiracy reaching from the US Supreme Court to Tito’s anti-Stalinist supporters in Yugoslavia. For all that, they maintained that they were not anti-Semites but enemies of Zionism. They might have been modern “leftists” talking about the “Israel Lobby” conspiring to organise the Iraq War of 2003, while all the time insisting that there was nothing remotely racist about their conspiracy theories.’

    Get it yet, Philip?
    Or are you going to accuse Cohen of smearing you too?

  26. Dan Says:

    I know a lot of people on the pro-boycott side who took this interview as a betrayal. I can’t help but think that these people never really knew what he was about in the first place. Granted, Norm can be fairly reckless and often fails to consider the antisemitic implications his words might have (“The Holocaust Industry” for instance), but he’s not anti-Israel. He’s always been a two-stater.

    For what it’s worth, he’s not against the boycott either. He’s just saying that the movement needs to recognize Israel’s right to exist and come out in favor of the two state solution, or it will go nowhere. He knows that they won’t do this, however, because a large portion of the movement, as it is now, really does want the Jewish state to disappear. But if BDS is truly interested in helping the Palestinians and promoting peace in the region, it would be best if they were to cut the more fanatical elements loose. Until then, it will be far too easy for people to write it off as a bigoted and hypocritical movement.

    Even though I am against the boycott in general, I can’t help but agree with him here.

  27. Dan Says:

    The full version is still on YouTube, by the way.

    I must admit, I take great pleasure in watching this over and over again. It’s such a glorious and brutal smack down of BDS propaganda, so dripping with contempt for its hypocrisy that one such as myself can’t help but grin ear to ear at his every word. Bravo, Norm!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s