What would you do if you only had a year to live?

What would you do?  You’d do the important things, right?  Iain Banks decided to have the stupid things he’d written about Jews re-published in the Guardian.

“A sporting boycott of Israel would make relatively little difference to the self-esteem of Israelis in comparison to South Africa; an intellectual and cultural one might help make all the difference…”

Yes, because white South Africans only care about Rugby while Jews spend their time with their noses in a book…  Mike Cushman came up with this one ages ago:  “Universities are to Israel what the springboks were to South Africa: the symbol of their national identity.”  And Tom (Israeli archeologists are nastier than Nazi killers) Hickey too: “we are speaking of a culture, both in Israel and in the long history of the Jewish diaspora, in which education and scholarship are held in high regard. That is why an academic boycott might have a desirable political effect in Israel, an effect that might not be expected elsewhere…”

“Israel and its apologists can’t have it both ways, though: if they’re going to make the rather hysterical claim that any and every criticism of Israeli domestic or foreign policy amounts to antisemitism, they have to accept that this claimed, if specious, indivisibility provides an opportunity for what they claim to be the censure of one to function as the condemnation of the other.”

Jews as hysterical?  People who say that “every criticism” is antisemitic?  Classic Livingstone Formulation… The conflation of criticism with demonization combined with the charge of raising antisemitism in bad faith in order to silence “critics”.

“Of all people, the Jewish people ought to know how it feels to be persecuted en masse, to be punished collectively and to be treated as less than human.” [ach you know what comes next…]

The Jews should know better?  The Jews should have learnt more at Auschwitz?  Well, take your pick.  Chris Davies? Jacqueline Rose? Desmond Tutu? “My heart aches. I say why are our memories so short. Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about the downtrodden?”

Why does everybody who comes up with this garbage think they’re really clever, brave and original to have thought of it?

Iain Banks’ illness is terrible news for a talented writer, a man who always seemed to be one of the good guys.    I’m sad that he thinks that this clichéd, dangerous and stereotyped nonsense is the most important thing that he should do now.

71 Responses to “What would you do if you only had a year to live?”

  1. Absolute Observer Says:

    ‘As someone who has always respected and admired the achievements of the Jewish people – they’ve probably contributed even more to world civilisation’

    ‘and have felt sympathy for the suffering they experienced, especially in the years leading up to and then during the second world war and the Holocaust,’

    ‘Of all people, the Jewish people ought to know how it feels to be persecuted en masse, to be punished collectively and to be treated as less than human……….. to be so blind to the idea that injustice is injustice, regardless not just on whom it is visited, but by whom as well, is one of the defining iniquities of our age, and powerfully implies a shamingly low upper limit on the extent of our species’ moral intelligence’

    Or, to put it another way,
    ‘I like clever Jews’
    ‘I like dead Jews’
    ‘It’s only the live Jews I have a problem with’

  2. IV, 1, 2343 Says:

    Now, here’s an irony.
    The claim of Jews’ immorality or amorality that Banks decries was precisely one of the ingredients of ‘the suffering they experienced, especially in the years leading up to and then during the second world war and the Holocaust’.
    And he thinks it’s the Jews who have learnt nothing!!

  3. Absolute Observer Says:

    Not only unoriginal, but how’s this for a contradiction,

    First we have this………..
    ‘despite the fact that the state of Israel and the Jewish people are not synonymous’……
    Followed by this…….
    ‘ the Jewish people ought to know how it feels to be persecuted en masse’

    And Banks has the audacity to complain that it is ‘Zionists’ who conflate criticism of Israel with antisemitic cliches of Jews ‘en masse’.

  4. s4r4hbrown Says:

    I find it so strange that Banks – who is a wonderful writer, one of the very very best sf writers of recent decades, someone whose works seem so intelligent, humane and nuanced – can come out with this. It’s not simply his support for some kind of boycott, this is a horrible piece for the reasons others have stated – I know people who support boycotts but frame their reasons – reasonably. (And we just agree to disagree.)

  5. 1 Says:

    It’s amusing that Banks accuses Israel of collective punishment when he himself is spending his final months hashing out a policy that would see the punishment of all Israelis, regardless of their support or connections with the Israeli government. Banks is another member of the leftist-relativist cultural elite that have hatched onto the Israel issue because he feels that he’d be made a pariah amongst his friends (Liz Lockhead, all that lot) if he didn’t. This would explain why he seems to know so little about Israel as a country and the effects that a boycott policy would have on Israeli individuals. In a 2010 op-ed in the Guardian, Banks called Israel an “outlaw state”. I think what he meant to say is that it, much like European Jews in the nineteenth century, is “beyond the Pale”.

  6. Brian Robinson Says:

    I have on a number of occasions used a piece by Eve Garrard from 2010 here
    http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2010/06/israel-human-decency-common-humanity-by-eve-garrard.html or http://tinyurl.com/33h7e6z as a way of confirming my suspicions that a correspondent was essentially antisemitic rather than someone concerned for human rights. The piece, which I re-read quite often, starts (links omitted here), “Fintan O’Toole thinks that Israel regards itself as ‘exempt from the demands of common humanity’ … Iain Banks thinks that ‘simple human decency’ means nothing to Israel …

    “Two well-known writers, very anxious to tell the world that Israel lacks humanity. Israel’s not like the rest of us, the rest of the human family. Compared to other nations, it’s inhuman. It doesn’t recognize what everyone else knows about, the simple requirements of being decently human. It ought to recognize these things, it isn’t hard to do so, since they’re so simple; and most other people do, since they’re part of common humanity …”

    It’s happened that sometimes an e-correspondent has introduced me to a third party, presented as a campaigner for Palestinian rights. We’ve then gone on to exchange emails on the Israel-Palestine conflict. At some point my new colloquor has said something that impels me to set them what I think of as ‘the Eve Garrard test’ — I copy/paste the whole of her piece together with link to the person. In every case they have not replied, and correspondence has ceased. They simply can’t deal with it. It destroys the tidy simplism of their Manichaean worldview.

    I was reading a book last night (nothing to do with the middle east, but one of sociologist Sarah D Goode’s admirable studies) and in one chapter, and one has to force oneself to read it, she surveys a selection of historical and current world events. One of them concerns the Democratic Republic of Congo, where “a war against women” has been ongoing now for over 10 years. I don’t need to go into the details here, but after reading it and some of the CBS, BBC, NY Times reports, I thought of the sorts of things some of the puce-in-the-face, “disgusted” speakers and writers say about Israel’s unpleasant human rights abuses.

    And it struck me that considered against the background of the sorts of things that Garrard itemises, and they are many besides the Congo, the rhetoric of so many advocates of BDS is actually obscene. Yes, in the wider world context, obscene. She deploys Banks’ phrase, “simple human decency” (which, he implied clearly in his Guardian letter, Israel lacks) to devastating effect against such selective simplicities.

    To say any of this is not to deny that Israel, like America, France, Britain, China and so on, can and must do better, of course we all must try our best to see that they do, but it’s to demand a sense of proportion. The world, as Schopenhauer and the Buddhists knew, is a pretty awful place, and a stultifyingly complex one: how much nicer, easier — and lazier — to reduce the whole thing to “bad” old Jewish Israel.

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      “I thought of the sorts of things some of the puce-in-the-face, “disgusted” speakers and writers say about Israel’s unpleasant human rights abuses”

      Well put. Thanks for the link to Eve Garrard’s piece – good to re-read that.

      • Brian Robinson Says:

        Thanks Mira, glad it was helpful. I was actually thinking of a medical colleague at a meeting at the RSM in early 2008. It was startling. But he wasn’t and isn’t the only one.

  7. Noga Says:

    “As someone who has always respected and admired the achievements of the Jewish people –”

    A Jewish American author who lives in Montreal but grew up in Chicago (David Homel) once wrote how his father had warned him to watch out for the philosemite even more carefully than the antisemite. I think we see many examples of this advice being very sound, for the greatest antisemites from the left today keep lamenting how Jews have drifted away from their beautiful religion and ethics by supporting Israel. Those are the philosemites who know exactly what and how Judaism is, and consider themselves to be speaking out of love for the true good Jew, who is nothing like the Israel-loving Jew who is the bad Jew.

  8. Mira Vogel Says:

    I tend to agreed – whether friend or foe, either way entails a big essentialising stereotype. But one response to that, which I often fumble, is why it’s OK when religious community leaders direct their communities to act in one way or an other in order to be better adherents of their religion, but not OK when the exhortations come from outside the community. How is “This is how I want us to be” different from Banks’ “This is how I want you to be”?

    Is it the same kind of heckling as “Muslims should explicitly renounce terror”? I find this demand very hostile since it imposes political tests on the adherents of just one religion, from the outside, and implies guilt by association not to mention by default.

    Of course that isn’t to say that Muslims shouldn’t renounce terror, nor that Jews shouldn’t renounce the occupation, nor Catholics paedophilia, nor any of the other things that either consciously or subconsciously become associated with a given social group. But it’s for the best if they do it in such a way as it doesn’t play to the agenda of people intent on imposing public political tests on the objects of their hatred, since they are often a menace themselves. This is a major reason why most people are unaware of all the activism which goes on behalf of Palestinians – much of which is cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. The good work goes on quietly, to avoid the attention of boycotters who tend to find it undermining and move aggressively to wreck it. The boycott Iain Banks supports holds no promise – it’s been going since before Israel was established, it’s achieved nothing at all except collateral damage and self-harm.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Okay, Mira, I’m going to attempt a response to that point (“why it’s OK when religious community leaders direct their communities to act in one way or an other in order to be better adherents of their religion, but not OK when the exhortations come from outside the community. How is “This is how I want us to be” different from Banks’ “This is how I want you to be”?”),probably because it’s the teacher reflex kicking in: how can I, after all these years, possibly resist a temptation to treat a rhetorical question as though it’s a real one.

      When the religious (or other) leaders of a religious community do this, it is such leaders “instructing” (after all, for Jews, the word Rabbi means teacher) those they take to be their fellow adherents in how to behave morally and “properly”. In fairness, “we” may well need instruction in how to practice our religion “properly”. I once heard a rabbi telling his congregation that when a person chooses to convert to Judaism, it is incumbent upon them to keep as many of the practices as possible: they have chosen this route. However, those born Jewish had no choice in the designation. Even should they choose to remain within the community, no sensible rabbi can demand that they keep all the practices, only hope that they do. In other words, don’t thunder at your congregation, suggest to them what they should be doing.

      But thunderer or not, they are one of ours (or we one of their’s, matters not which way round it’s viewed). Or, as the secretary of one synagogue said, when approached about a question of halacha: “Geoff, you know all the rules…” to be interrupted with a “Just because I know all the rules doesn’t mean I keep them all!” To general laughter, the subject was dropped. Again, a candidate for the vacant post of Rabbi noted that, of his current congregation, that he was surprised how many of them arrived at the synagogue on the Sabbath and Festivals, when no riding is permitted, “on the wings of eagles”.

      So that’s between us.

      However, when an outsider has the temerity to tell us how “you” (the distinction between “us” and “you” is vital), what right have they? Especially when no laws of God or man have been broken – and in the latter case, it is for the proper authorities to take action, not some supposed arbiter of other people’s morals. Although I am a very poor practitioner of my religion (very secular – just a bit more than 3 days a year), I’ll allow the rabbi to “instruct” me and nod sagely and not take issue with him – providing he steers clear of secular politics. However, when members of what Noga has dubbed “the Rancid Left” try to tell me what I should, believe and how I should behave, then that is very much another matter. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Tom Hickey, Ken Loach, or even fellow Jews (especially when they are part of the “as-a-Jew” brigade), and certainly not Iain Banks. In this context, sad though it is, his being terminally ill does not excuse his behaviour. Shame. I liked his science fiction writing. Now, I will deny myself the pleasure of reading what I hadn’t hitherto: what he ahs lately said would get in the way too much. Much as the knowledge that he is a member of the SWP will stop me reading any more of China Mieville’s work, for the same reason.

      Silly, I know. But I too have my principles.

      • Mira Vogel Says:

        Thanks Brian. And it wasn’t a rhetorical question – people stumble over this all the time.

      • Brian Robinson Says:

        Mira poses this: ‘How is “This is how I want *us* to be” different from Banks’ “This is how I want *you* to be”?’ One possible answer might be that in the first one he’s addressing his own family, group, nation, institution &c how we ought to behave — he’s not exhorting any outside group. “This is how I want *you* to be” (tho’ it would be rather arrogant) might just be OK if it went, “… and you … and you … and you …” But I’ve not read Banks (I don’t read many novels these days) so I don’t know if he’s told the adherents of other religions, or agnostics, atheists and the rest how he wants them to behave.

        But there’s another point, which I’ve not yet thought enough about but I’ll try to outline a thread here. His strictures just might have more purchase if Israelis, and “the collective of often unlikely bedfellows … throughout the world” had done to Palestinians and spoken of them in all the ways Christian Europe had done and spoken. (A few extremists and racists are on record as having thought and done similar things, but they’re not “the collective”.)

        Regarding Newkey-Burden’s article (see David Olesker’s post below), yes, tho’ I’m not sure what he means by “For instance, something that we gentiles should know better than to do is lazily accuse Jewish people, or the Jewish state itself, of any misdemeanour”. And this: “Put aside for a moment that the ‘oppression’ which proponents of this argument are accusing Israel of committing is usually imaginary”.

        I don’t think it helps to use scarequotes when we’re talking about oppression — there really *is* oppression by the Israeli state and to deny or minimise it is as bad one way as to exaggerate or demonize it the opposite way.

        I never try to counter antisemitism by denying, for instance, the bad effects on peace of the settlement-building programme, or the evidence for medical complicity in torture, and so on. Antisemitism must be fought on other grounds.

  9. Absolute Observer Says:

    Whoops, apologies, sent to the wrong thread!

    Absolute Observer Says:
    April 6, 2013 at 2:22 pm
    ‘(To the question, “What about boycotting Saudi Arabia?” – all I can claim is that cutting back on my consumption of its most lucrative export was a peripheral reason for giving up the powerful cars I used to drive, and for stopping flying, some years ago. I certainly wouldn’t let a book of mine be published there either, although – unsurprisingly, given some of the things I’ve said about that barbaric excuse for a country, not to mention the contents of the books themselves – the issue has never arisen, and never will with anything remotely resembling the current regime in power.)’

    Ok, let me see if I’ve got this right,
    If Israel was as ‘barbaric’ a state as Saudi Arabia, Banks wouldn’t publicaly call for a boycott. But, because Israel is not as ‘barbaric’, then it makes sense to boycott it. So, the reason to boycott Israel is because it is not as bad as other states. So on this way of thinking, the way for Israel to avoid to being boycotted is to become as ‘barbaric’ as Saudi Arabia.

    But then maybe for Banks the Arabs haven’t disappointed him as much as the Jews have. But then again, it can’t be easy sustaining such a loss on all that moral capital that he had invested earlier in all those clever and persecuted people. I can only guess that in these difficult times nothing is worse than negative equity.

  10. David Olesker Says:

    The most cogent response to the “you-Jews-of-all-people-should-know-better” kind of argument came from the talented Chas Newkey-Burden: http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/comment/70466/turn-vile-claim-its-head.

  11. Gil Says:

    As someone who avidly followed the Banks piece on CIF, I would like to point out a few things about the Guardian or CIF’s conduct in relation to the piece, but firstly something about Iain Banks.

    His book ‘Dead Air’ was his first book I had read. it came out after 9/11 and I read it a couple of years later. Granted, it was suspensful. However, what struck me was the attempt to link the I/P conflict to the terror attacks on 9/11. See how he depicts the protagonist’s girlfriend (‘Jude’ if my memory serves me well, I don’t have the book in front of me): hysterical and irrational. The protagonist is depicted as an ‘ordinary guy’ fighting unknown forces out to get him (albeit the Israeli angle is not the main focus of the book) who had sympathy for the Jews/Jewish people because of the Holocaust, BUT NOW…blah blah. Now, he is leaning towards the PalestinIans. So his thoughts on Israel did not crystallise after Gaza or the attack on the Mavi Marmara, which is the impression I seem to be getting from the article.

    Note how in the article Banks uses theword ‘regime’ to describe the Israeli government. My understanding is that the world should be used to describe the apparatus of a dictatorship, not a pluralistic society with a democratic polity which Israel is.

    CIF’s policy on opening the comments:
    1. The article was up on Friday evening but only opened for comments on Saturday morning. A poster below the line claimed that he/she had requested CIF to do so and he thanked them for this. Obviously, as of yet, there is no evidence that they did so on the basis of requests, though. What is true though is that on an earier piece on Banks and his illness, another poster thanked Banks for his stance on Israel even though it had nothing to do with the topic.

    2. The distaste I feel about this: 1. On Saturday there would be many religious Jews who would not be able to comment and try to respond to the inevitable onslaught of comments delegitimising Israel that would follow this policy (of opening up to comments). Funny that this morning, the Guardian closed the article to further comments either because they realised that the balance of comments would start shifting towards Israel or because someone made a strong complaint. 2. The fact that Banks is ill, gravely so, makes it more difficult for people to debate his article without feeling uncomfortable and looking unfeeling, uncaring and perhaps…demonic. After all, we are dealing with a malicious website here On the other hand, all Banks’ supporters have to do is to turn up and thank him for his ‘courage’ which can be interpreted in more than one way. In this regard, those who wish to debate and, yes, even attack Banks, would feel artificially and unnaturally restrained.

    I think my point 2 above is the real scandal here and the decision maker should be severely reprimanded for the decision to open the piece up for comments.

    The same malicious policy by CIF was seen in opening the Ben Zygier article to comments as it was breaking. It served no purpose whatsoever apart from pandering to the sensationalists. And I guess, this is what lies behind ther strange policy.

    • Brian Robinson Says:

      I just can’t see the Guardian as antisemitic (if that’s the claim, although perhaps it’s just CiF, but I can’t see that charge as valid either). Yes, the Guardian itself (as distinct from the below-the-line commenters) has a critical line, often, on Israel, but that doesn’t make it antisemitic. Indeed, in recent years, that critical line on Israel has softened considerably, and one might speculate on what influences have been responsible for that.

      Comments are often ‘closed overnight’, and I’m sure part of the reason is simply that there aren’t enough night shift staff to keep moderating it, and another related reason must be to avoid libel or other litigation.

      I was once (and only once) moderated myself on CiF and had a very interesting ongoing correspondence for a while with the CiF editor. To go into details of the substance would take us too far offtopic, but someone reported me for supposed antisemitism on the grounds that I’d quoted a few sentences from, and cited, an article by Moshé Machover on something Netanyahu was on record (literally: a tape recording in the possession of the Jerusalem Post) as having said in a publicly delivered speech. My removed (moderated) comment also cited an article in the Daily Telegraph of 28 April 2002 by the leading Israeli military historian, Martin van Creveld which, tho’ not about Netanyahu’s comment, related to it because of its quotation from something in Ariel Sharon’s memoirs.

      The CiF editor in one of her replies to me noted that moderators work independently from editorial staff, this being one way they try to keep moderation as value-free as possible. Their job, she wrote, is ‘to apply the community standards criteria even-handedly’, whilst adding that in practice, this can be difficult.

      A reader had reported my post as ‘hate speech’, saying that it was ‘profoundly anti-semitic’. The moderator who dealt with the report (she continued) ‘was unaware of Moshé Machover’s reputation. Had he been aware of it I doubt he would have deleted the comment’.

      However in addition the moderator was worried by ‘the lengthy but selective quoting from a piece that he didn’t have time to fully engage with’ and additionally was worried by ‘the repetitive use of “Zionist” and “Zionism” which moderators know from experience is often used in an anti-semitic proxy for “Jewish”.’

      However she stated that the moderators ‘fully understand that [the words] can be used in a way that is completely legitimate.

      CiF ‘antisemitic’? Hardly, on the basis of this kneejerk response. Clearly, it is impossible to discuss Zionism and Zionists without using these terms repeatedly. Yet according to the CiF editor’s explanations, it was sufficient for someone to complain about a repeated use of these words to brand the comment as ‘profoundly anti-semitic’, and to censor it without any further checking.

      No. The Guardian and CiF are not antisemitic.

      • Gil Says:

        ‘kneejerk response’? Was that meant at my post?I don’t think my post was a kneejerk response at all. It was an attempt to add something to the debate and I’m happy with it. Perhaps my point about distaste as to why they didn’t open it up for comment on Saturday was offensive. Fair enough, it was a feeling. And it was one minor point. However, you are no more qualified to comment on antisemitism on CIF than I am as I don’t know how many threads you read…I certainly read many of them inc. below-the -line (‘BTL’) comments and it is not pretty at all.

        ‘Indeed, in recent years, that critical line on Israel has softened considerably…’

        I disagree. If anything, it’s getting worse. Their spotlight is relentlessly critical to the point of double-standards.

        ‘Comments are often ‘closed overnight’, and I’m sure part of the reason is simply that there aren’t enough night shift staff to keep moderating it, and another related reason must be to avoid libel or other litigation.’

        I can’t comment on this because I don’t know. Therefore, my speculation as to why they were closed last night is as good as yours. But I do note that you don’t comment on why they didn’t allow the comments to be open today.

        I acknowledge that it is indeed quite easy, I have found, to succesfully get an antisemitic comment deleted. There is one BTL commenter there whose handle begins with ‘B’ and has been very active for years on those threads below the line. In the past he was given a free ride, now they are better at deleting his comments -whether because he makes the anti-Zionist side look bad or stupid (just joking…) or more probably because he is off topic or even antisemitic.

        For me the proof that nothing had changed came with the piece on Ben Zygier (Peter Beaumont’s piece I believe) article which they opened to comment and now with the Banks one. The article they commissioned on Lord Ahmed’s antisemitic comments was in my opinion deficient too.

        • Brian Robinson Says:

          Quick response, Gil, to your first sentence (I’ve not yet read the rest) — no, not at all, and I’m sorry for my bad wording — the kneejerk response was that of the Guardian moderator in the face of the complaint made against my post. Apologies for being unclear. I’m in the middle of something so wont read on until later, but I promise I’ll respond.
          all best
          Brian R

        • Brian Robinson Says:

          This hasn’t appeared yet, so I’ll copy it again here in case it got lost before responding to the substance.
          April 7, 2013 at 5:58 pm
          Quick response, Gil, to your first sentence (I’ve not yet read the rest) — no, not at all, and I’m sorry for my bad wording — the kneejerk response was that of the Guardian moderator in the face of the complaint made against my post. Apologies for being unclear. I’m in the middle of something so wont read on until later, but I promise I’ll respond.
          all best
          Brian R
          I agree that many of the comments below the line are often nasty, and by no means only in respect of Israel or Zionism. Even so I think I always prefer to know who my enemies are, where they are, and what they’re saying, but I recognise that many (most? all?) people don’t agree with me on this. (It’s one reason that I’ve always been opposed to ‘no platform’ arguments — let’s flush ’em out, expose them, shine an unsparing light on their bigotry: look how quickly the BNP man sank almost without trace after he controversially appeared on the BBC’s Question Time, for instance. And it’s always a good idea to know what George Galloway is saying, and to whom he’s saying it.)

          Frequently it’s crystal clear when a comment is antisemitic (and I’m not just speaking about the Guardian here but about anything said or written, anywhere). But sometimes it’s not so easy. People’s personal constructs really do differ, and in perfect good faith. What to one person is obviously antisemitic is not so to another, or at least not unambiguously so.

          I said above that it would take us too far offtopic to post the substance of my censored Guardian comment here, but in view of my contention that perceptions of reality can differ innocently, sometimes very markedly, I give below a link to the original articles by way of just one example of what one reader found, again I’m saying in good faith, to be antisemitic hate speech. (I don’t have a copy of my original comment, but it simply quoted, as part of the below-the-line discussion, about half a dozen sentences from the Machover piece, and gave a link to his article.)

          To the best of my memory I have never, or if I might once have done, I certainly don’t now, impugn the integrity of those who find antisemitism in certain sorts of criticism of Israel (some recent cartoons for example, or opinion pieces) — I may think that sometimes people may be mistaken, ie I don’t agree with them, but I don’t accuse them (as some others do) of feigning offence in order, as the slur has it, to silence criticism of Israel. I do not make that charge because I don’t believe it is true.

          But anyone reading this might want to make their own judgement, and so I’ve copied out the pieces. An article by Moshé Machover, the Daily Telegraph piece by van Creveld from 2002 to which he refers, and I’ve also just retrieved from the Jerusalem Post archive (for a few dollars) its news item from 1989.

          To at least one reader this seemed a case of antisemitic hate speech. It certainly didn’t to me, or I would not have posted it — nor does it seem so to me now, or I wouldn’t link to it here either.

          If someone does think it is antisemitic, I really would be grateful (and I’m being serious here) if they could explain to me why. Netanyahu said what he said, the Jerusalem Post reported, van Creveld wrote what he wrote, and Machover, as you might expect from a mathematician who has authored or co-authored two books on symbolic logic and has followed middle east affairs in at least 3 languages, put the whole thing together in an article: perhaps he added 2 and 2 and made 5, but at least let’s discuss it and not, as the Guardian did, try to obliterate all mention of it (they apologised, but never restored the comment). Nothing eventuated from my suggestion, also discussed for a while, that the Guardian commission a further piece from the professor. I think it would have made a useful contribution.

          or http://tinyurl.com/cpwp3z4

      • mightymark Says:

        Slightly off topic but I was moderated the other day on CiF for asking someone, whether he had “stopped beating his wife” – obviously in the sense of a question that can’t be answered without convicting oneself. I had a vision of a not very intelligent feminist appealing to an utterly thick and/or overworked moderator!!

      • Stephen Says:


        I can think of three reasons why the Guardian might be considered anti-Semitic…

        1) Its heavily slanted coverage of the middle-east conflict. This is in terms of both acts and omissions; the editorial position is unreasonably critical of Israel, CiF rarely contains articles that are not heavily biased against Israel and Zionism and these same editors who presumably wish to influence opinion of Israel negatively deem items which might inform its readers as to the motives of Israeli actions as unworthy of coverage, (such as anti-Semitic speeches by Ahmedinijhad or other Arab leaders, rocket barrages from Gaza, or foiled suicide bombings).

        2) Articles pertinent to and negatively slanted against Israel are more often than not published on a Friday afternoon, given that those most likely to defend Israel are religious Jews, or Jews who have at least some connection to Judaism this excludes the bulk of defenders of Israel from commenting.

        3) This is the kicker in my opinion, it may be subtle but its classic anti-Semitism. The few articles on CiF relevant to or about Judaism (not Israel) are authored by an ordained Anglican Minister. Throughout history Jews have been told what there religion is really about by Christian priests.

        • mightymark Says:

          Giles Fraser,of whom you presumably speak at “3”, is certainly an odd choice (and I think a convert from Judaism) but as I have said below he did self apply the label “Zionist” – and in the Guardian to boot! – and had previously, and against a mountain of abuse, defended circumcision. I have not seen any article of his where he “tells Jews what their religion is”, but I have not followed his articles for that long. While my main purpose here is to defend Fraser (unless someone can come up with a good reason not to) and not the Guardian, there have been occasional pieces in it by, usually “progressive”, Rabbis.

        • Absolute Observer Says:

          ‘I can think of three reasons why the Guardian might be considered anti-Semitic’

          Oh FFS!

    • mightymark Says:

      Also odd was why Giles Fraser’s self confessedly “pro Zionist” piecethe same day as Banks’ (noting Israel’s role as a refuge in the Hungarian context) has been abruptly closed to comments while still up on the main CiF webpage. Overwhelmingly pro Israeli comments and recommends but obivously some nasty stuff having to be moderated (the dreadful Berchmans included!). I recall another of his articles on circumcision where the comments and recommends were overwhelmingy anti but which remained open for about a week.

      • Gil Says:

        Your first paragraph: This is precisely the point I am trying to make. That there seems to be no transparent policy with regard to opening, and closing, the articles to comments. This is a separate (perhaps not entirely) issue from the actual content of the posts below the line.

        With regard to Berchmans, the moderators have been swift to act upon complaints, it is undeniable. I am pleasantly surprised with this.

        The problem with comments is that I accept it is difficult to draw the line between antisemitic comments and anti-Israeli or anti-Israeli policy comments. Let’s not forget that many Israelis express positions that are highly critical of Israel and no one can honestly claim that they are motivated by anti-Semitism. This is a good defence for the anti-Israelis and impossible to refute. This is not to excuse someone like Gilad Atzmon who has crossed over to some dark, sinister world and burnt his bridges.

    • Lynne T Says:

      Do you mean to position the IDF landing on the Mavi Marmara as an attack or was the flotilla of boats interfering with Israel’s perfectly legal and justifiable naval blockade as an attack?

      I know the Palmer Commission found Israel guilty of using excessive force, exactly what is the legal amount of force is when you find unarmed fellow soldiers being attacked by thugs armed with knives and lengths of ship planking with the intent to kill? Did the commissioners feel that shooting these characters in the legs would have sufficed?

      • Gil Says:

        Hi Lynne T, perhaps what I should have done is write ‘attack’ i.e. add quotes, or write ‘legal attack’ (without quotes). However, in this regard, it is interesting that the Palmer commission also employs the word ‘attack’ when quoting from the San Remo convention. Extract from P.71 of the PDF version: ‘Once a blockade has been
        lawfully established, it needs to be understood that the blockading power can attack any vessel breaching the blockade if after prior warning the vessel intentionally and clearly refuses to stop or intentionally and clearly resists visit, search or capture. There is no right within these rules to breach a lawful blockade as a right of protest. Breaching a blockade is therefore a serious step involving the risk of death or injury.

        See also: ‘If a vessel resists interception or capture, it may be attacked.’


        • Lynne T Says:

          But still, what got picked up by the media for obvious reasons is that the Palmer Commission made a finding of excessive force against the IDF, based, it seemed, on the fact that they didn’t believe it was necessary for the armed reinforcement to shoot to kill. Given my understanding of the circumstances — the high probability of murder by knife attacks, etc., — that the level of force was justified, but such a finding would be hard for the Palmer Commission to “sell”.

  12. Andy Gill Says:

    Excellent piece David. Iain Banks literary talents will be missed, but his obnoxious politics won’t be.

    Republishing this BDS propaganda piece is a sad publicity stunt, The attempted emotional blackmail is cynical and deserves nothing but contempt.

  13. Gil Says:

    Hi Brian, I clearly owe you an apology as I see you were not referring to my post. I am so wound up with the Guardian and CIF and this was reflected in my hasty reply to your post. I look forward to your longer response! Cheers! Gil

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Gil, you have my sympathy and support. When my nerves are steady enough, I go to CiFWatch. I have to say that I think Brian R. is being generous in his assessment of the Guardian (in general) and CiF (in particular).

      If one reads (from our perspective, that is) CiFWatch with any degree of closeness, and also assumes that Adam Levick and his co-workers are quoting correctly, then one has to accept that some of the Guardian reporters are, at best, slap-dash in their reporting and their “taken-for-granted” assumptions. Harriet Sherwood, for example. The kindest other thing one can say is that they come across as unwilling to cut Israel any slack at all, unlike their attitudes towards the Palestinians.

      However, when one comes to the comments underneath…If they are going to run a comments column, then they need moderators to filter them, and these moderators must be allowed to delay the posting of comments as long as necessary. I’ve got used to the built-in delay on the engage site (and I’m “favoured” – I’ve been here from the beginning and generally I’ll get posted, providing I don’t go over the top, and advance the discussion – editors’ privilege). So, why not the same on CiF?

      As a last point, I said Brian R. was being generous towards the Guardian. It must be about 7 or 8 years ago that The Guardian published an article by Timothy Garton Ash on entitled “The Role of Europe in the Rise of Antisemitism in the 20th Century”. The letters that were published following this article were illustrated with a pocket cartoon of an outline map of western Europe overlaid with a Star of David. There ensued a very long email correspondence between myself and, first, the letters editor, and then the Readers’ Editor. Both failed to understand that their explanation (that the letters in response to the Ash article were as much about the rise of Zionism as the rise of antisemitism) for the pocket cartoon was far from the only explanation. Indeed, it could be taken as on a par with the New Statesman’s “A Kosher Conspiracy?” front cover. I said this as a social scientist, to no avail. This was not their stated intention, so that was alright, then. (You have to understand that the emails flew back and forth over a couple of months and covered several pages of our email inbox). At that point, we stopped being Guardian readers.

      Sorry, but the most generous gloss that can be put on their attitudes is that they were being decidedly anti-Zionist. And not prepared to listen to alternative views.

      The Guardian under Alan Rusbridger has clearly decided that the second part of C.P. Scott’s dictum is no longer relevant: “Comment is free, but facts are sacred”. Not to this lot they aren’t.

      • Gil Says:

        Brian G., thank you for your response. I think CIF Watch, in general, does a good job. I don’t read it that often any more though because at various times I’ve thought that they had gone ‘over the top’ a bit in their will to find antisemitism at the Guardian and it is a bit embarrassing and counter productive. No organisation (or individual for that matter) is perfect and so it is with CIF Watch. Also, with regard to readers’ comments only, CIF comes over better than the Daily Telegraph and its Disqus system where you will find far more examples of antisemitism. of the Nazi type flavour. Such a comment on CIF happens but is rare. Also, the DT/disqus is slower to delete such comments.

        That said, CIF are far too indulgent to their ‘pet’ commenters such as the one hailing from Scotland whose handle begins with ‘B’ and ends with ‘S’ and who has been posting there for years. He (according to the photo) has crossed the line into antisemitism a few times recently imho. He had a couple of vicious ones up on the Banks article. However, again in CIF’s favour, they have deleted these posts. Perhaps because people have complained. But I don’t want to personalise this too much or fetishise one case.

        After having read ‘Dead Air’ I stopped reading Banks for the reason provided in my post above – not that it would made the slightest difference to him!

  14. Brian Robinson Says:

    As I hope I made clear, Gill and Brian G, I hope that what I tell myself, and anyone who will listen, is true, namely that I understand what you say and your reasons for saying it and I hope I will always listen and be ready to change my mind, as I’ve changed my mind for instance on the boycott itself. And by the way, I no longer get the Guardian or the Independent, not because I think they’re racist but simply because I think they’ve both gone downhill and lost what radical edge they once had. So many pages and pages are dumbed-down rubbish and pop trivia (and something of a rightward drift, I think). I do however look at some news items and some articles online — and invariably follow Nick Cohen, amongst others. The Guardian money goes on supporting openDemocracy, the New Statesman (cancelled) money now goes to New Scientist, and the LRB remains!

    But what antisemitism connotes to me (and perhaps I should broaden my concepts, I’m not sure) is conditioned to a considerable extent by what I described elsewhere on Engage in my Irish secondary school — two brief accounts of the antisemitism of the history/geography teacher and of the English teacher. I could have given several more. I didn’t mention the senior boy who knocked my books over on the stairs, on another occasion hit me, and would tell me I was a dirty little Yid and the grease was dripping down my face. Later in life, on reflection I came to have absolutely no doubt as to what would have befallen our little community had the Nazis defeated Britain — Ireland’s neutrality (if that’s in reality what it was, hmm…) wouldn’t have meant a thing.

    Perhaps today I set the bar too high. It would be untrue to say that words never hurt me — they do. Clearly the schoolboys (regrettably it wasn’t a co-ed) got away with it because of the masters, and the masters felt they could behave that way because of the influence of the Church, and probably something filtered down from de Valera and Douglas Hyde, and writers such as Gogarty.

    But my original point in mentioning the story of my little problem with the CiF moderator was to try to illustrate that the Guardian immediately reacted (over-reacted?) in its anxiety to avoid giving antisemitic offence. All it took was one complaint, and the mod jumped. If it was antisemitic it would never do that. Nor would it have Jews on the staff — unless someone argues that they’re token Jews, but I couldn’t believe that for a second. They’re in very senior positions and I wouldn’t be the least surprised if one of them becomes editor if Rusbridger leaves (guess who I’m thinking of!)

    A separate, but related, issue is whether the article to which I linked, with its further references, was itself antisemitic, and that’s why I put them in my Dropbox. I believe the person who complained was wrong in calling the comment hatespeech.

    But I keep reading and listening, and am ready to learn more.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Brian, we all have different experiences, as I illustrated in my comment just 2 or 3 above. I’m not saying that they are or were antisemitic, but I definitely think that there’s a large element of the rancid left (copyright Noga) about their attitude to israel. As I suggested, at the very least, they are holding Israel to higher standards than they hold anyone else to, or at least many of their reporters do, and the editors, by not attempting to change the culture, become complicit in this.

      You might also remind yourself of the Michael White comment – either attached to David H’s article or in the last one before that he posted.

      That doesn’t make you wrong. It might be us who are wrong and are being oversensitive.

      Which is why I said I thought you were being generous, which was not meant to be a polite way of saying that you were wrong.

    • Gil Says:

      Dear Brian, what you have writte on your childhood experiences in Ireland was very moving for me. Thank you for sharing this. I’ve also read that at the time de Valera signed the condolence book for Hitler at the German Embassy.

      With regards to England, my late uncle who was incredibly astute in many ways used to invoke these 3 characters, Judas, Shylock and Fagin, as sources for antisemitic feelings in England.

      I’ve read the articles you linked to and I agree that they canot be considered antisemitic. I do have an opinion on the Machover one, but this opinion is not really relevant in the current context.
      Agree about the New Scientist, I’ve just bought this week’s copy!

      • Brian Robinson Says:

        Thanks Gil, I’ve only just seen this (there’s obviously something wrong, ‘cos altho’ I’ve signed up to get notified of replies to my comments, it doesn’t always happen – a bit like the disappearing ‘Reply’ buttons!) It went on a bit through university too, although I mustn’t exaggerate, with a TCD lecturer on social and political institutions sneering about how ‘appropriate’ it was that something or other was located in Old Jewry (historic financial centre of London), and another lecturer on helminthic parasites taking a second out of his lecture to add a gratuitous remark about how much of a mortal sin it was to have acquired a tapeworm — for certain people.

        But what those things, unpleasant as they were, tell me is to think just how much worse, light years worse, it was in 30s and 40s Germany, Poland and the rest of it, with their in many cases eminent, distinguished fully ‘Aryan’ professors content, or happy, to participate in the baiting. I can’t at the moment remember the name, but for years and years one of the standard textbooks in obstetrics and gynaecology had been written by one of the Nazi doctors. If I had time, I’d take down Robert Jay Lifton’s monumental study, “The Nazi Doctors” and quote chapter and verse, but you don’t need me to do that. (Think all those experiments on the sterilising effects of radiation on the human reproductive system — and that’s only the start. But then, if we’re honest, the USA was doing similar experiments until more recent times, and we can’t pretend to know what went on at Porton Down. Still, none of that stuff was part of a totalitarian system of wickedness, so it wasn’t able to catch on as it could still in an authoritarian tyranny.)

        I suppose you and Brian G et al are right to maintain vigilance. In the old phrase, “it could happen here”.

        Re Machover et al, someone has just sent me an article by Moshe Behar, Pears Lecturer in Israeli and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Manchester, UK, which I haven’t yet read (Global Society, Vol. 25, No. 3, July, 2011) entitled “Unparallel Universes: Iran and Israel’s One-state Solution”. From a quick glance at the summary, the author believes, I think, that the 1-state and 2-state solutions (in whatever form the latter) are equally unlikely.

        He doesn’t say it will happen, but phrases it as, “It is erroneous to dismiss the possibility that—as happened in 1948 and 1967—an intense Israeli/Iranian regional confrontation can manufacture a Nakbaic conjuncture (resulting in fewer Arabs present in the already fully Israeli-controlled territory of Mandatory Palestine).”

        The summary concludes, “It is hoped that colleagues will identify paths to arrive at the utter demolition of this article”.

        I rather like that touch. I’m sorry if this has taken us rather too far from our proper subject. I find the idea quite terrifying — but I’m also shocked to find it horribly compelling. I am (impossible thought experiment) the Israeli prime minister: why wouldn’t I go for it? Ohmygod. Please don’t misunderstand me — I’d never go for it. But thank heaven I’m not the Israeli prime minister, nor ever will be. (Not sure I should have confessed all this. But I can’t resist a good thought experiment, and like to consider all ideas.)

  15. Jacob Arnon Says:

    Thanks for not posting my comments. There must be a special language that engagers use which is foreign to me as a Yank and I don’t intend to learn it. I post my views as I see them and you find my view that many anti Zionist are death obsessed maniacs, too bad.

    I wish you success in your campaign to eradicate antisemitism from the British university System.

    • Noga Says:

      Many of my comments are banned, too. I think Engagees are still very nervous about muscular language and explicitly expressed positions that do not tolerate any of these obscenities. They are for nuancing even the most nuanced so as not to be seen, God forbid, in the company of real red-blooded Zionists who are unapologetic about Israel’s robust survival instincts.

      • Absolute observer Says:

        Not at all. Engage just have better politics. Unless of course, like those you oppose, you think that zionism is a monolithic ideology and that there is no difference between the Israeli left and Israeli right; those who realise the need for negations and peace and the recognition of the dignity of Palestinians that would come with the existence of a sovereign state and those who are blind to such needs.
        As far as I can tell, Engage’s fight against antisemitism has a dual purpose. One to oppose antisemitism in all its forms (including when it appears in e language of anti-zionism) and secondly, a realisation that this presence of antisemitism is damaging not only to Jews, but also to the campaign for a just peace in Israel and Palestine.
        Anyway, as Daniel Barenboim (gasp) noted; if you’re not upsetting everybody then you’re doing something wrong!

        • Noga Says:

          Very few Israelis are blind to anything. We are certainly not blind to the kind of “criticism” that separates good Israelis from bad Israelies. This is the kind of criticism that brings a righteous “Leftist” like Gideon Levi to say the kinds of things he reported told Israeli author, Irit Linur, in a private conversation, that he wouldn’t drive 100 yards to rescue the life of a “settler” (שיחה פרטית איתו, אמר לי פעם שהוא לא היה נוסע מאה מטר כדי להציל את חייו של מתנחל, ). I get the impression that his reluctance to save even settler babies (I understood such a fulmination to include the murdered children of the Fogel family) is not unique to him, due to some particularly evil inclination; it is actually a moral duty shared by many of the anti-Zionist crowds that populate our planets and universities. It is a position to flaunt with pride. And all that flows from such a position is, as per definition, virtuous.

          (Daniel Barenboim stopped having any moral relevance for me when he forced Wagner on an unsuspecting Israeli audience.)

        • Jacob Arnon Says:

          Come on, AO, there is no consistency in my case of what is accepted and what is rejected. I am also surprised that Noga’s posts were also rejected. Agree with her or disagree (I havevdone my share of both) Noga’s comments are most of the time worth reading.

          Let’s just say that Engage is baffling which why Inasked if there was a specific code that outsiders need to learn.

        • Richard Gold Says:

          I can’t speak for all the comments as i am only one of several moderators but i do not let comments through that call people nazis or compare what is happening in Britain today to the Nazis.

        • Jacob Arnon Says:

          Thanks for posting my last reply. I would like to add why I refuse to cease using the nazi period> it is as a valid point of comparison when appropriate. Moreover I consider the censoring of the word nazi a victory of the haters of Israel. I know of no other historical period that is censored in the same way; not Stalinism or Maoism or indeed communism or American ante bellum slavery. One can use terms that denote the Spanish Inquisition, French revolutionary terror, or Napoleonic complexes. Even fascist is allowed though frowned upon. However, when it comes to the historical term nazi one has to justify its use to usually anonymous censors (though not in this case).

      • Gil Says:

        Hi Arnon and Noga, I read your comments and (especially with reference to Noga) I have a lot of sympathy with what you say. I too have often been frustrated with what seems to be some overwrought gentility or dancing-on the-head-of-a-pin style of discourse on this site. It’s as if you want to cry out: ‘Stop this endless academic pontificating an precise language and realise that it isn’t changing anything!’ But on balance, the mistake some make is forgetting that the raison d’etre of the site is not to defend Israel’s policies per se. And there are probably fence-sitters who may be turned off by partisan language. This is not to suggest that expediency is the reason. This is the reason I think: That in the fight against antisemitism, there is room for nuanced discourse too. Sorry, I’m not very good at articulating what others do so effortlessly! I’m sure someone else could provide a better answer.

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          Actually, folks, as David or any other of the moderators will tell you, we have all been not posted on occasion. Even me, a “founding commenter” on this site. If I repeat myself too much, or I fail to advance the argument, or if I get too heavy (although that should be impossible with some of the trolls and antisemites – the latter _very_ occasionally – providing one avoids outright obscenities), then I won’t get posted.

          It’s not personal, Noga and Jacob. Given the nature of UK libel law, the moderators have to take reasonable care to avoid the posting of libellous stuff. If you think that’s just silly (especially if you’re not in the UK, as Noga’s blog isn’t), then you should read Nick Cohen’s book “You Can’t Read this Book” on the ease of suing for libel in the UK. Just the Intro will give you the necessary flavour.

          Do keep posting: we (I for sure) need your contributions to make mine better, both here and elsewhere.

        • Richard Gold Says:

          Also as i mentioned above i delete comments that call the UCU or anti-zionists Nazis which is something that Jacob has done on his deleted posts. And i think i deleted one of your comments Noga where you used a Dreyfus comparison (though i could be wrong). And i’m not getting into a big debate over this.

        • Jacob Arnon Says:

          Brian, I only posted once, here (twice if you count my comment about other posters) so repetition isn’t an issue, here.

        • Jacob Arnon Says:

          “Also as i mentioned above i delete comments that call the UCU or anti-zionists Nazis which is something that Jacob has done on his deleted posts.” Richard Gold

          Well, now we come to the crux of the issue, there is a code after all. Words like “nazi” are not allowed. (I won’t defend its use now but a comparison to nazi like behavior doesn’t necessarily mean a comparison to extermination.The nazis ruled for over a decade and their per-extermination camp behavior was varied and offers a rich array of subjects. Is it the word nazi you object to or is it a whole historical period?) Are there other word that are not allowed? You should write a short stylistic manual which tells your readers the kinds of responses that won’t be published here. BTW: why do you think you need rule out certain posts? Why not let your readers decide if a post is worthy of comment or should just be neglected? If comments are on topic and not abusive or bigoted I don’t see why they should be censored. Do you have so little faith in your readers ability to discriminate between insightful comments and sheer dross?

          P.S. I used the word nazi in this ;post will that disqualify my comments? If so I give the censor permission to delete that term.

  16. Paula Says:

    Iain Bans is is not the first one who issued anti-Israel such statements when very ill. Bertrand Russell event went further. It is claimed – but is there any real evidence he really wrote this statement? – he wrote this two days before his death:

    “On 31 January 1970 Russell issued a statement which condemned Israel’s aggression in the Middle East, and in particular, Israeli bombing raids being carried out deep in Egyptian territory as part of the War of Attrition, and called for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders. This was Russell’s final political statement or act. It was read out at the International Conference of Parliamentarians in Cairo on 3 February 1970, the day after his death.”
    Bertrand Russell’s Last Message:

    “[…] For over 20 years Israel has expanded by force of arms. After every stage in this expansion Israel has appealed to “reason” and has suggested “negotiations”. This is the traditional role of the imperial power, because it wishes to consolidate with the least difficulty what it has already taken by violence. Every new conquest becomes the new basis of the proposed negotiation from strength, which ignores the injustice of the previous aggression. The aggression committed by Israel must be condemned, not only because no state has the right to annexe foreign territory, but because every expansion is an experiment to discover how much more aggression the world will tolerate.

    The refugees who surround Palestine in their hundreds of thousands were described recently by the Washington journalist I.F. Stone as “the moral millstone around the neck of world Jewry.” Many of the refugees are now well into the third decade of their precarious existence in temporary settlements. The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was “given” by a foreign Power to another people for the creation of a new State. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless. With every new conflict their number have increased. How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty? It is abundantly clear that the refugees have every right to the homeland from which they were driven, and the denial of this right is at the heart of the continuing conflict. No people anywhere in the world would accept being expelled en masse from their own country; how can anyone require the people of Palestine to accept a punishment which nobody else would tolerate? A permanent just settlement of the refugees in their homeland is an essential ingredient of any genuine settlement in the Middle East.

    We are frequently told that we must sympathize with Israel because of the suffering of the Jews in Europe at the hands of the Nazis. I see in this suggestion no reason to perpetuate any suffering. What Israel is doing today cannot be condoned, and to invoke the horrors of the past to justify those of the present is gross hypocrisy. Not only does Israel condemn a vast number. of refugees to misery; not only are many Arabs under occupation condemned to military rule; but also Israel condemns the Arab nations only recently emerging from colonial status, to continued impoverishment as military demands take precedence over national development.

    All who want to see an end to bloodshed in the Middle East must ensure that any settlement does not contain the seeds of future conflict. Justice requires that the first step towards a settlement must be an Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied in June, 1967. A new world campaign is needed to help bring justice to the long-suffering people of the Middle East.”

    • Gil Says:

      Paula, this is interesting. I did not know this. One sentence that is extremely offensive is this:’… but also Israel condemns the Arab nations only recently emerging from colonial status, to continued impoverishment as military demands take precedence over national development’

      This is a disgusting and antisemitic comment. Those very Arab nations who refused to accept the 1947 partition plan and who provoked the 1967 war, that they should be seen as the victims because Israel defended itself. It also reminds me of comments made by today’s antisemites with their blaming of the Jews for the world’s problems.

      However, it must be said, In 1968 Russell condemned the wave of antisemitism in Poland (in which Jewish students were put on trial) in a letter to Gomulka, the First Secretary of the Communist Party: “By some twisted logic, all Jews are now Zionists, Zionists are Fascists, Fascists are Nazis, and therefore Jews are to be identified with the Nazis.”

      Perhaps someone more knowledgable on Russell can comment.

  17. Brian Robinson Says:

    What is a big conflict, what is a small one, why are some conflicts big, others small, and how do some get bigged up? I have an occasional correspondent who believes, with Clare Short and others, that the Israel-Palestine conflict is the major source of instability in the world today. Not India/Pakistan/Kashmir, nor possible Russia/China rivalry, nor USA/China, nor Saudi Arabia/Iran, let alone North Korea, but the territorial dispute at the eastern end of the Mediterranean.

    What was a ‘small’ dispute? The struggle for Irish independence from Britain? In global terms, surely it was, yes. Is the Israel-Palestine conflict at its most basic about the same size? Yes, perhaps, or it would be if it weren’t for its location so near the oil supplies and their routes. The superadded theological dimension perhaps adds to middle east tension and bigs things up because of the eschatology lurking in the shadows (and frequently neither so lurking nor shadowy).

    When I first heard David Hirsh saying something along these lines (that the Israel-Palestine conflict, though nasty on both sides, was small and in reality globally insignificant, but symbolic because of the way people think about it) I couldn’t understand it. Reading Eve Garrard’s piece (I referred to it in another thread) helped to make me rethink the whole thing. And there’s plenty in the news besides for those who want to think about it.

    Are we, as some believe, at a crossroads, “reaching the end of the 200-year period of human culture based on fossil-fuel-derived energy … Globally … running out … of all the myriad resources needed to live and grow … reaching the point of ‘peak everything’ …? (Sarah D Goode 2011; Heinberg, R 2007)

    Another person, an academic during what proved to be our very brief exchange of views wrote to me, after I’d asked why boycott Israel alone of all the human-rights-abusing or belligerent states around the world:- “The fact is that Zionist influence spreads far beyond Israel’s area of dominion and has, for a long while now, exerted a corrupting power within
    many of the policy making institutions of western governments, and particularly that of the United States. In other words, unlike the Russians or the Chinese and other such governments, the Israelis and their supporters directly influence the policy makers of our own countries and this often results in our abetting Israel’s crimes. This makes it imperative that Zionist Israel be made a high priority case from among the many other oppressive regimes that may very well be candidates for boycott.”

    “Zionist influence spreads …”, “corrupting power …” Is this an old prejudice in new guise? Superficially no, but at a deeper and more significant level, yes. This looks more like the “Zionist” proxy word that my Guardian moderator wrongly attributed to myself. Seems, madam? Nay ’tis, I know not seems …

    • Gil Says:

      Hi Brian, I think the quote from your correspondent (and the others from Ward to Short to Tonge etc.) is doubly sinister because it was made AFTER the Holocaust. These people are not ignorant, they know better.

      I can’t tell if these views are open to change or not. However, if these views increase and minds are closed then there will be trouble. I sometimes also ask what worth is it to have all the films and photos and diaries from the Holocaust if for so many this serves their fetish to see Jews persecuted. I suppose one aspect of this fetish is to use antisemitic language, to see how it rolls of the tongue. Feeling all ‘liberated’ and thinking ” There! I’ve said it and nothing has happened to me!” Their indifference to the fate of the Jews in Israel transcends mere political argument.

  18. Brian Robinson Says:

    I meant to elaborate on “the end of the 200-year period … of fossil-fuel-derived energy” but I forgot. However, enough for now.

  19. Noga Says:

    “And i think i deleted one of your comments Noga where you used a Dreyfus comparison (though i could be wrong). And i’m not getting into a big debate over this.”

    Yes you are wrong. As moderator the very least you can do is actually have an accurate record of the comments you deleted.

    And I don’t really care about what motivates your censorship. It seems more concerned with keeping your Leftist credentials intact. To please whom, I wonder? Censorship is abhorrent to me. The only reason I would censor anybody is if there is personal information or information that could lead to finding personal information included in the comments.

    • Richard Gold Says:

      ” It seems more concerned with keeping your Leftist credentials intact. To please whom, I wonder?”


      I have to say that i get to read most of your comments and i really dislike your tone, i find you a rude and offensive person in your manner. That’s not a criticism of your politics either. I don’t mind robust debate within reason. Please go and be rude and offensive somewhere else.

  20. Brian Robinson Says:

    @Jacob Arnon April 9, 2013 at 5:27 pm [Sorry but the ‘Reply’ button keeps disappearing unpredictably, so I’m posting here]
    Jacob wrote “I would like to add why I refuse to cease using the nazi period …”

    Howard Jacobson, in the Independent, 18 Feb 2009 (extract)
    “[ … ]

    “[B]ut I am not allowed to ascribe any of this to anti-Semitism. It is, I am assured, “criticism” of Israel, pure and simple …

    “[M]y argument is not with the Palestinians or even with Hamas. People in the thick of it pursue their own agenda as best they can. But what’s our agenda? What do we, in the cosy safety of tolerant old England, think we are doing when we call the Israelis Nazis and liken Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto? Do those who blithely make these comparisons know anything whereof they speak?

    “In the early 1940s some 100,000 Jews and Romanis died of engineered starvation and disease in the Warsaw Ghetto, another quarter of a million were transported to the death camps, and when the Ghetto rose up it was liquidated, the last 50,000 residents being either shot on the spot or sent to be murdered more hygienically in Treblinka. Don’t mistake me: every Palestinian killed in Gaza is a Palestinian too many, but there is not the remotest similarity, either in intention or in deed – even in the most grossly mis-reported deed – between Gaza and Warsaw.

    “Given the number of besieged and battered cities there have been in however many thousands of years of pitiless warfare there is only one explanation for this invocation of Warsaw before any of those – it is to wound Jews in their recent and most anguished history and to punish them with their own grief. Its aim is a sort of retrospective retribution, cancelling out all debts of guilt and sorrow. It is as though, by a reversal of the usual laws of cause and effect, Jewish actions of today prove that Jews had it coming to them yesterday.

    “Berating Jews with their own history, disinheriting them of pity, as though pity is negotiable or has a sell-by date, is the latest species of Holocaust denial, infinitely more subtle than the David Irving version with its clunking body counts and quibbles over gas-chamber capability and chimney sizes. Instead of saying the Holocaust didn’t happen, the modern sophisticated denier accepts the event in all its terrible enormity, only to accuse the Jews of trying to profit from it, either in the form of moral blackmail or downright territorial theft. According to this thinking, the Jews have betrayed the Holocaust and become unworthy of it, the true heirs to their suffering being the Palestinians. Thus, here and there throughout the world this year, Holocaust day was temporarily annulled or boycotted on account of Gaza, dead Jews being found guilty of the sins of live ones.

    “Anti-Semitism? Absolutely not. It is “criticism” of Israel, pure and simple …”
    The Independent

    February 18, 2009
    Howard Jacobson: Let’s see the ‘criticism’ of Israel for what it really is

    • Noga Says:

      I remember Jacobson’s article well. Words like spurs, as we say in Hebrew. Still, when I read about some tribunal making judgments and passing decisive definitions over who or what is a Jew, for the purpose of pillorying a Jewish plaintiff, a tribunal that is in no way authorized, competent or knowledgeable enough to do that, the immediate connotation is that of the most recent time when such things were attempted. No sense of history, of humility, of compassion, of decency, of fairness, of fairplay. What are we to make of such a “tribunal”? What’s the purpose of such a “tribunal”? Justice is not their suit. The destruction of an entire Jewish polity will make them happy. Can’t we call that baby by its proper name, then?

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Be it noted that it isn’t Jews who have something to learn from the Holocaust. It’s those who, collectively, created the climate that permitted the Holocaust in the first place. And that isn’t the Jews. Or have those on the Left really bought into Bebel’s “socialism of fools”?

      The only thing Jews and Israelis need to learn and remember from the Holocaust is to be sufficiently well-armed (in whatever medium it needs to be) so that we can make sure it never happens again to us.

  21. Jacob Arnon Says:

    Thanks Brian, Jacobson and especially the photos published with his article says what I had in mind.

    I have also been saying and writing that genuine criticism is specific and doesn’t resort to false analogies. Comparing Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto when people there can buy or make rockets to fire at Israel is a sign of historical ignorance. The BDS movement that wants to boycott Israel (as a first step of the De-legitimization process) is comparable to the antisemitic movements in the 1920’s and 30’s that initiated boycotts of Jewish shops as a first step in the process of de-legitimatimizing and dehumanizing Jewish people in many European countries. It’s not complicated.

    If you are for a two state solution, if you want to see Israel negotiate withdrawals from the West Bank you would to reassure Israel that peace and security for tow States is the eventual goal and not the destruction of Israel. That doesn’t seem to me to be the goal of a man so obsessed with the Jewish state that in his last year of life (and I hope he is wrong and will live for another ten years so he can see how wrong he is) berating Israel. Apparently Mr. Banks doesn’t care much about the 70 plus thousand of Syrians who have already been murdered by Assad. Does he care that the Muslim Brotherhood may take over Egypt? That al Qaeda like fanatics may also try to take over Syria?

    Nothing else exists for this obsessed individual, just Israel and Israel has to be condemned even though Palestinians on the West bank are more secure and have a standard of living that most Egyptians could only dream of, not to mention Syrians.

    It’s all too absurd to take seriously, this is the sad lot of those who care about Israel: we have to respond to one false and absurd charge after another by an ever more pathetic crowd of individuals who have Israel on their brains. Calling them antisemites is a way of not taking what they say seriously while taking their actions very seriously.

    Sorry Brian, I didn’t mean to go on for so long.

  22. Brian Robinson Says:

    Here’s that Giles Fraser piece, for anyone who missed it

    Why Theodor Herzl’s writings still have an urgent message
    Antisemitic attacks in Hungary illustrate the necessity of Israel

    [F]ifa had banned Hungarian fans as punishment for their disgraceful behaviour chanting antisemitic slogans during a “friendly” match with Israel in August. As the Israeli national anthem was played the crowd … Regularly, on the Hungarian football terraces, a familiar nursery rhyme is chanted, with the words adapted to … Not that English football is free of this sort of dangerous rubbish … at Chelsea [before Roman Abramovich took over], the gas noise regularly greeted the Spurs team … This is why Paolo di Canio’s “straight arm gesture”, as it is being euphemistically described, really matters …”

    “But things are so much worse in Hungary. Budapest may have Central Europe’s largest population of Jews, but some of them are now asking themselves if it is time to leave … prominent leader of the Jewish community beaten up … The Holy Crown radio station defended the attack … Leader of the far right Jobbik party … called for ‘influential Hungarian Jews to be catalogued and assessed as a national security risk’ … Statues [are] being erected to Miklos Horthy …”

    “Which is why re-reading Theodor Herzl’s The Jewish Question in a Budapest cafe, opposite the astonishingly beautiful Dohány Street Synagogue, feels, once again, so topical …”

    Rev Fraser’s piece concludes:

    “I am a Zionist. Not an Israel right-or-wrong type of Zionist. Not a supporter of the settlement movement type of Zionist, and absolutely not a supporter of the shameful treatment of Palestinians type of Zionist. Tragically, the left-leaning universalist idealism of the likes of Herzl feels increasingly like a thing of the past in modern Israeli politics. But for all Israel’s political blunders and military brutality, the place to look for the necessity of the state of Israel is not in Israel itself but in places like Budapest. ‘I shall now put the question in the briefest possible form: are we to get out now and where to?’ asked Herzl back in 1897. For some people, that question remains.”

    Guardian, Fri 5 April 2013

    • Noga Says:

      There is no such thing as shameful treatment of Palestinians type Zionism. This is another perversiion of Israeli ethos, and monstrification of Israel’s defensive measures against Palestinian terrorism. Israel’s political blunders are no more blunderous than Britain’s political blunders. And what “military brutality” are we talking about? Is there a military that is not brutal, as in, based on the brute force? Is Israel’s military, of all the militaries in the world, to be a military of philosophers who defend their families by inviting their enemies to partake of tea and cakes? Is this person in the real world?


      “Would you have made a different film after the Al-Aksa Intifada and the two Israeli-Arab wars that have happened since?

      No, I don’t think so. I would make the same film. “Tsahal”, after all, is not reportage. The film looks at the Six Day War of 1967, the War of Attrition between 1968 and 70 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Not even the first Lebanon war of 1982 plays a role in my film. This is because the question that concerns me is a very different one: why should we judge Israel’s army according to different criteria than other armies? Why is human life in Israel deemed more valuable than elsewhere? As an answer to these questions “Tsahal” is still as important as it was at when it premiered 15 years ago.”

      • mightymark Says:

        I broadly agree with your reference to “shameful treatment” etc. however as regards the Giles Fraser piece, your post is a bit “glass half empty” when the overall tenor of the piece was to support, from an almost emotional point of view, the existence of the State of Israel in a newspaper which has many contributors whose main purpose seems to be to delegitimise that state totally.

  23. Richard Gold Says:

    There are serious problems at the Guardian as you can see by the examples given here

    Click to access Antisemitic%20Discourse%20Report%202011%20WEB.pdf

    • Brian Robinson Says:

      Thanks Richard. Wow, 21 pages and I’ve got 4 books on my shelf waiting to be read, but OK I’ll have a bash. But, quick look at the photos to remind myself, 17 July 2006, Opinion Soup, Everyman Cinema, Hampstead, Danny Finkelstein, Rabbi Julia Neuberger, David Hirsh, Tony Lerman, chaired by Jonathan Freedland. Was it banter or something much more serious (mainly I think from some in the audience) about the antisemitism of the Guardian, and Jonathan, well, of course I don’t know what he was thinking, but I recall him laughing, or at least my *thinking* he was laughing at it — denying? shrugging it off?

      Has anyone asked him why he continues to work for the Guardian, and has he written anything about whether he thinks there’s any justification in the charge? I think if I seriously believed a paper was antisemitic, I couldn’t write for it — unless I wanted to write, and fight, against the grain so as not to let antisemitism win.

      If he hasn’t written anything on this, I propose a test: that someone of sufficient stature, a respected figure, write him an open letter to ask him what he thinks. He’s very senior at the G. He must have a view. Of course it might be considered that he would be entitled to keep it to himself. But, goodness, it is such a serious charge, one of the most serious charges that can be levelled at an individual or an institution.

      Indeed, perhaps the Guardian should be tried, like in one of those mock trials that used to be so beloved of students (are they still?). Counsel for the prosecution, for the defence, a judge and jury. Why not?

      • Richard Gold Says:

        Brian, if you search the word Guardian in the pdf then you can find the examples quite quickly. I think it’s probably better to have people like Freedland at the Guardian than to leave it to the likes of Milne and Hearst.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        I have long wondered whether David Aaronovitch left The Guardian for the reason he stated (“I’ve got tired of always writing for people who agree with me”) or because he could no longer stand the atmosphere there and is too polite to say so out loud.

        He may not be technically Jewish, but you’d never know, given his appearances at places like Jewish Book Week. His support for the Jewish community and Israel is far from uncritical, and all the more valuabel for that.

        So, as Brian R. asks above, why is Jonathan Freedland still there? Being a fig leaf is a very uncomfortable place to be. Unlike many of the rest of us, he, surely, would have no problem finding another journalism job…and anyway, he has his successful fiction to sustain him as well.

  24. Noga Says:

    The whole issue of Israel’s legitimacy or necessity is a grotesque travesty. It’s like debating in the family whether one should have an abortion when the foetus under discussion is a 64 year old man or woman.

    • vildechaye Says:

      Very well put. I’ll have to remember that. I’ve also long thought that discussions about Israel’s “right to exist” are absurd and should not even occur.

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