Fathom Autumn Edition.

fathom

The Autumn edition of Fathom is now out and you can read it here.

Norm 1943-2013

I am sad to report that norman_geras_140x140Norman Geras, political philosopher and writer of normblog, died this morning.

He wrote with clarity, courage and commitment about contemporary antisemitism.  He wrote about lots of other things too.

The most fitting tribute I can think of is to link to things that he wrote:

On Alibi Antisemitism – major piece in fathom.  (Jan 2013)

On Greg Philo’s work which says that Israel’s view of things dominates the media.  (Jun 2011)

On Jon Pike’s resignation from UCU.  (June 2009)

It doesn’t matter if criticism of and attitudes to Israel are anti-Semitic, so long as they are also anti-Zionist.  (April 2009)

On Antony Lerman and the ‘one state solution’.  (April 2009)

On Seaumas Milne’s apologetics for Ahmadinejad. (April 2009)

On the Israel-Nazi comparison.  (April 2009)

On accusations made against Israel of war crimes.  (Feb 2009)

Why a boycott would be antisemitic (in response to Martin Shaw). (Sep 2008)  More on Martin Shaw.  (September 2008)    And more still on Shaw (Oct 2008).

On resigning from UCU.  (July 2008)

On Tony Judt.  (Feb 2008)

On Norman Finkelstein and academic freedom.  (June 2007)

On Steven Rose.  (June 2006)

On Jews for Justice for Palestinians.  (April 2006)  And also here on JFJFP.  (August 2006)

On singling out Israel.  (June 2005)

‘Cynical Ploys’:The Familiarity of Alex Brummer’s Defence of the Daily Mail – Saul

This is a guest post by Saul:

Re-reading Alex Brummer’s defence of the Daily Mail I was struck by the following sentence,

But the real danger in these completely phoney allegations is that they detract from the genuine anti-Semitism that is suddenly on the march again in Eastern and Southern Europe.

For readers of Engage, this argument is hardly unfamiliar. Claims of antisemitism that are raised in discussions about certain comments of ‘critics of Israel’ are frequently met with the ideas that, not only, is the claim bogus or ‘phoney’ but, in so raising it, you are making the fight against ‘genuine’ antisemitism that much more difficult. Yet, if we delve a little deeper, we find that the assumptions underpinning Brummer’s defence is, in essence, no different from those that emerge from the other end of the political spectrum.

Regardless of those making the argument, at the heart of the distinction between ‘phoney’ and ‘genuine’ is the idea that those accused of raising ‘phoney’ claims of antisemitism are not simply right or wrong or not simply mistaken about the presence or absence of antisemitism. Rather, they are accused of bringing up the issue for nothing other than ulterior, nefarious, dishonourable and dishonest purposes. It is being raised as a ploy, a deceit, a lie. Thus, on the one hand we read, as way of illustration that,

the real purpose of the new antisemitism is to discredit and silence Israel’s critics in the US and elsewhere.

On the other hand, this comment from Brummer,

Indeed, the cynical attempts by Lord Kinnock, the political Left and the Labour Party to shift the debate about the Mail article that explored Ed Miliband’s late father Ralph’s views on politics, international affairs and economic models, to one about alleged anti-Semitism within the Associated Newspapers group is absolutely deplorable.

Despite the political chasm that separates them, both the author of the first sentence and Brummer agree on one fundamental point; when claims of antisemitism are made by either the right or the left, Zionists or non- and anti-Zionists, Jews or non-Jews they are to be rejected out of hand. They are nothing more than ‘cynical attempts’ the ‘real purpose’ of which is to defame and silence.

Furthermore, if the adoption of such underhand tactics were not enough, those  accused of knowingly raising ‘phoney’ claims of antisemitism with such malodorous intent are further accused of standing in the way of the struggle against ‘genuine’ antisemitism. Without such obstruction, those endowed with the gift to smell out a phoney claim from a hundred paces would at last be free to tackle head-on the type of authentic antisemitism that, as one of its fundamental precepts, warns against ever taking what a Jew says at face value.

The Daily Mail invoked an age-old antisemitic smear about disloyal Jews – John Mann

This is a cross-post from Left Foot Forward.

John Mann is Labour MP for Bassetlaw and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against AntisemitismDaily Mail

‘Antisemitism can seem a subtle, elusive business. Calling it out can feel too much like hard work, often prompting a torrent of abuse as hurtful as the original offence. But it has to be named for what it is – and not only by Jewish writers like me. History could not be clearer on this last point. Antisemitism may start with the Jews – but it rarely ends with the Jews.’

The brilliant Guardian op-ed by Jonathan Freedland ends with the above words.

This week, in attacking Ralph Miliband, the Daily Mail invoked an age-old antisemitic smear about disloyal Jews. Whatever their intention, we need to be outspoken in our intolerance of this kind of offensiveness.

The accusation that Jews have dual loyalties is not new. In 1884 Alfred Dreyfus, a French Jew whom like Miliband served his country, was put on trial and convicted for treason. Eventually exonerated, the affair divided France and inspired the political Zionist movement.

Accusations of dual loyalty also feature heavily in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the discredited antisemitic myth which was used extensively by the Nazis.

More recently at home, we had the former ambassador to Libya, Sir Oliver Miles, questioning the propriety of having Sir Lawrence Freedman and Sir Martin Gilbert sit on the Iraq war inquiry panel because of their Jewish heritage and ‘Zionism’. Within our Party, Paul Flynn questioned  Matthew Gould’s ability to represent Britain to Israel because he is Jewish.

Abroad, the accusation of dual loyalty has also taken root, in political parties in Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. A document referred to as the Prague Declaration was in recent years working its way through email accounts at the European Parliament. The document used legitimate concerns about communist regimes as a cover for the re-writing of history books to draw equivalence between Soviet Communism and Nazi Fascism.

The perverse outcome of this and the related accusation of Jewish complicity in Soviet rule led, in Lithuania, to three Holocaust survivors being subject to state investigations for alleged ‘war crimes’. This narrative was imported into this country by, among others, Lee John Barnes of the BNP, whom in his blog depicted the Holocaust as a defensive action against ‘Jewish Bolsheviks’.

The impact of the Mail attack has consequences in countries like Lithuania, where Rachel Margolis, a 91 year old partisan war hero, is now vilified by some in high authority for being a Communist. The attacks, on her and Leonardis Donskis, an MEP, are unambiguous: “Jews are Communists and Communists are evil; when we helped the Nazis we were fighting evil Communists; oh, and by the way anyone who speaks Russian cannot be a patriot and look, the [tiny and elderly] Jewish population in Lithuania speaks Russian. Therefore we cannot trust the Jews”.

It is an industrial rewriting of history in Eastern Europe to excuse mass murders carried out on behalf of the Nazis.

The Mail vilification of Ralph Miliband has consequences beyond his family and beyond Britain.

As chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) against Antisemitism, I challenge any hint of any antisemitic imagery being used in my own party. That is why I raised at the highest levels in the party and publically, including at the 2009 London international Conference on Antisemitism, my concerns about the depiction of Michael Howard as Fagin in national Labour Party 2005 election posters. It is not a populist move to criticise your own Party and its election material.

I am pleased to say that when Paul Flynn made the dual loyalty accusation against Matthew Gould, Ed Miliband acted decisively and Flynn subsequently apologised.

So too, when Tory politician Andrew Turner accused Israel of using Nazi tactics in Westminster Hall, David Cameron rightly forced him to apologise; when David Ward was abusive about the Jewish community, he was disciplined by Nick Clegg.

This is in keeping with the London Declaration on Antisemitism that the political leaders have signed which states that: “Parliamentarians should speak out against antisemitism and discrimination directed against any minority, and guard against equivocation, hesitation and justification in the face of expressions of hatred”.

Whether these individuals maintain their innocence or not, the parties were not prepared to allow any perception that the line had been breached. This is what is needed now by Lord Rothermere with the Mail. Their headline stating that Ralph Miliband ‘hated Britain’ was an editorial choice and their failure to apologise is an equal miscalculation.

The motivations of the Mail are uncertain. The antisemitic trope might have been calculated or unintentional. Whatever its provenance, I certainly hope there was no political impetus behind this. It would be easy for Linton Crosby or his Labour and Lib Dem equivalents to set up ad agencies or others to do the parties’ dirty work. We must never tolerate anyone in any party using the racial or religious characteristics of the candidates to win seats.

I will continue to challenge those seeking to do so, regardless of how unpopular that might be. On 29 October, an All-Party Inquiry into Electoral Conduct that I commissioned will publish its findings. We need clear Party agreement on future behaviour.

The Ralph Miliband affair has shamed the Daily Mail, it must not be allowed to further pollute our politics.

Nisht ahin un nisht aher* – Saul

This is a guest post by Saul:

Just when I thought the long 20th century was over, up it pops again in the shape of the Daily Mail’s attack on the memory of one of the most humane Marxist thinkers of the 20th century, Ralph Miliband. From one perspective that century can be defined as one enduring ‘Jewish Question’. In the present context, that question can be defined as what to do with the Jews? It was with the demise of the three ‘great’ Empires and the rise of increasingly hostile nation-states in which the nation came to dominate the state, that the Jews came to be recast as a specifically modern ‘problem’. To quote Zygmunt Bauman, as ‘non-national nations’ and despite all references to ‘assimilation’ nationalists never accepted ‘their’ Jewish citizens as ‘true’ nationals, as truly belonging to the new national communities. Their allegiance – their ‘love of country’ – was always already in doubt. Indeed, the more they assimilated, the more they became just like everyone else, the more their loyalty came to be questioned. The resonances of this nationalist way of thinking contained in the attack on Miliband is clear for all to see.

However, it is also clear that just as the nationalist right calls into question Ralph Miliband’s inclusion within the English (or is that British?) nation, so too I should imagine would sections of the current internationalist, ‘anti-imperialist’ left. According to Colin Schindler in this week’s Jewish Chronicle, in a typically intense discussion following the ‘six day war’ in 1967 with the Belgian Jewish Marxist Marcel Liebman and co-author, Miliband not only defended Israel’s right to exist but also its right to self-defence. Needless to say, in today’s climate, Miliband would be recast in the (increasingly loose use of the term) as a ‘Zionist’. As such, he would be open to hostile vilification, elements of which would include the accusation that his ‘Zionism’ meant that his commitment to internationalism was nothing more than mere appearance, cloaking nothing more nor less than the ‘truth’ of his Jewish nationalism and his support for ‘Zionist imperialism’ and the ‘Zionist colonial settler state’. As someone who would not agree with the idea of the ‘original sin’ of Israel, his loyalty to and ‘love’ of the working-class as well as to the oppressed peoples of the world (including, of course, the Palestinians) would be ‘unmasked’ as nothing more than a fraud and a lie.

Just as the nationalist right refuse Ralph Miliband a place in the ranks of ‘the English’ and characterise him as a man ‘who did not love England’, so sections of the contemporary anti-Zionist and ‘anti-imperialist’ left would exclude him from the ranks of the International Labour Movement and correspondingly present him as a man ‘who did not love humanity’. Excluded from England by the nationalist right and excluded from humanity by the internationalist left, Miliband would be nish’d to hin and nish’d to he(a)r, neither here nor there. Taken together, he would, as Hannah Arendt phrased it, be denied a place in the world.

* (Yiddish) [trans: Neither here nor there, in limbo.)

 

Antisemitism doesn’t always come doing a Hitler salute : Jonathan Freedland

When the Ukip politician Godfrey Bloom referred to “Bongo Bongo land”, there were not many who denied the remark was racist. When the same man told women who failed to clean behind the fridge that they were “sluts”, most could see the comment was sexist. Yet when the target of an insult is a Jew or Jews, there is rarely such certainty. Unless antisemitism comes dressed in an SS uniform and doing a Hitler salute, we are regularly thrown into confusion. Suddenly we are in the seminar room, calling on experts to tell us whether or not this or that sentence was anti-Jewish, the debate usually ending without clear resolution. To add to the complexity, very often Jews disagree among themselves, with just as many willing to give the disputed word or deed a free pass as to condemn it.

Read the rest of it here.

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