Fathom 5 Is Online Now

Alan Johnson writes about the new edition of Fathom.

As Fathom goes to press, US Secretary of State John Kerry is working intensively with the Israelis and Palestinians to draw up a framework agreement. We carry three critical reflections on the peace process.  David Landau, the biographer of Ariel Sharon who died in January 2014, reflects on Sharon’s change of mind. Aluf Benn explores the personality and politics of Benjamin Netanyahu.  Isaac Herzog, the new Labour Party leader argued the division of the land is needed to maintain the future of Israel as a Jewish democratic state.’

The deal struck between Iran and the P5+1 nations in November 2013, is the subject of Ben Cohen’s interview with Olli Heinonen the former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Deputy Director General.

The relationship between some demonising forms of ‘anti-Zionism’ and contemporary antisemitism is the concern of several contributors to Fathom 5.

Dave Rich explains the unwelcome arrival of the Quenelle, Lesley Klaff examines the ugly phenomenon of ‘Holocaust Inversion,’ while David Hirsh reviews those aspects of Jewish left-wing anti-Zionism that have helped foster BDS activism in the West. Martyn Hudson looks back at the life of the Polish historian and socialist Isaac Deutscher, and Michael Allen reviews Gil Troy’s study of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the US Ambassador to the United Nations who opposed the ‘Zionism is Racism’ resolution passed by the General Assembly in 1975.

Two book reviews discuss aspects of the history of Zionism. Colin Shindler praises Shlomo Avineri’s study of Theodor Herzl for ‘casting a new light on the short, troubled and driven life’ of the founder of Zionism. Liam Hoare reviews Yossi Klein-Halevy’s Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation.

Israel’s Arab citizens are the focus of two important essays by Safa Abu-Rabia and Joshua Muravchik. Abu-Rabia maps the emergence of an exciting new Bedouin Arab leadership in Israel’s Negev region, while Muravchik shows that when it comes to evening out the differences between its Jewish and Arab citizens, Israel has done rather better than most countries encompassing sharply diverse nationalities. We also spoke to Sayed Kashua, the creator of the hugely popular Israeli television sitcom Arab Labour and one of the country’s most successful writers.

The remarkable journeys taken by two iconic American Jews are the subject of warm appreciations. Steven Lee Beeberon Lou Reed and Peter Ryley on Emma Goldman.

Yair Raveh reviews two films that take as their subject the murder of a Shin-Bet agent by his informant. Bethlehem is an Israeli film by first time director Yuval Adler, and Omar is an Oscar-nominated Palestinian movie by Hany Abu-Assad. Finally, we spoke to Yariv Ben-Yehuda about the Israeli rock opera Sakhir.

Vienna is different

This is a guest post by Karl Pfeifer

The city of Vienna made a promotional campaign with the slogan “Wien ist anders”, Vienna is different. And Vienna after the Second World War was different insofar as it did not call back its former Jewish citizens and it also tolerated anti-Semitism in politics and the media for several decades.

After the publication of Carl Schorske’s book “Fin de siècle in Vienna” the city of Vienna discovered that the world wanted to know more about the blooming of culture in Vienna and about those Jews who contributed to it. Since then the city of Vienna has a Jewish Museum and Michael Häupl, the Social democratic mayor of Vienna condemned the anti-Semitic election campaign in 2001 by the FPÖ of Jörg Haider.

Therefore it was a surprise to the Jewish community when the Vienna City Council (Wiener Gemeinderat) voted unanimously on an anti-Israeli resolution initiated by Omar al Rawi, a Social democratic member of city council.

Erwin Javor and Peter Menasse of the Jewish periodical “Nu” sent three letters to Godwin Schuster, the Social democratic President of the Council. They received no answer.

The first letter:

We call upon the Vienna city council in continuation of its foreign policy activities and in line with its unanimous Resolution of May 31, 2010 condemning Israel to consider the following resolution:
“The world has learnt with shock and horror about the massacre of the Uzbek Minority in Kyrgyzstan where at least 124 victims lost their life. The Viennese city council condemns this brutal behaviour against peaceful people.”
Kindly transmit this demand to the members of Vienna city council
With best regards
Erwin Javor, Publisher NU
Peter Menasse, editor NU

Second letter:

Regarding the new foreign policy engagement of the Viennese City Council we propose the following resolution:
“The world has learnt with shock and horror the news of the execution of the Sunnite leader Abdolmalek Rigi in an Iranian jail. The City Council of Vienna condemns this brutal behaviour against dissenters.”
We take note of the fact that our draft resolution sent to you several days ago concerning the massacre of the Uzbek Minority in Kyrgyzstan has apparently not been dealt with.
However we hope that the foreign policy engagement of the City Council of Vienna will not be restricted exclusively to the condemnation of the State of Israel. If so, we would be interested to know the reasons.
Hoping for an answer now.

The third letter:

Today we send a further proposal for a resolution by the City Council of Vienna. Concerning recent foreign policy engagement of this board we propose the following resolution:
“According to the umbrella organization of Kurdish Associations in Austria Kurds are terrorised in Turkey by its Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said that Kurds would ‘drown in their own blood’. The City Council of Vienna expresses its consternation and calls upon the Turkish government to grant the Kurdish population full minority rights.”
We would like remind you that we still have received no answer to our two previous suggestions for foreign policy resolutions. Is only Israel attracting the attention of Vienna City council? How does it come to this peculiar and so far unique distinction by the City council?
Still waiting for your answer
With best regards etc.

Foreign people should consider the slogan “Vienna is different” as a dangerous threat. And you can inform the president of Vienna City Council G. Schuster : godwin.schuster@spw.at that anti-Semitism manifests itself by applying one standard to the State of Israel and another to the behaviour of any other nation.

Anglican Vicar Uses Police To Intimidate Blogger

This is a guest post by Seismic Shock.

As some people have noticed, I’ve been rather quiet in blogging about the Reverend Stephen Sizer’s activities of late.

After all, what more can be said of a man forwards emails from Holocaust deniers, shares platforms with Holocaust deniers, and shamelessly flaunts his anti-Zionist theology before Iran’s apocalyptic Holocaust-denying regime? As Iranian pastors are arrested and house churches closed down, why is the Khomeinist regime translating Sizer’s book on Christian Zionism into Farsi? How many more times can I point all this out?

Yet there’s another reason why I’ve been quiet, and whilst I’ve held my tongue and my pen for a while, now is the time to speak.

At 10am on Sunday 29th November 2009, I received a visit from two policemen regarding my activities in running the Seismic Shock blog. (Does exposing a vicar’s associations with extremists make me a criminal?, I wondered initially). A sergeant from the Horsforth Police related to me that he had received complaints via Surrey Police from Rev Sizer and from Dr Anthony McRoy – a lecturer at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology – who both objected to being associated with terrorists and Holocaust deniers.

(Context: Sizer has associated with some very nasty terrorists and Holocaust deniers; McRoy has delivered a paper at a Khomeinist theological conference in Iran comparing Hezbollah’s struggle against Israel via suicide bombing with the Christian’s struggle against sin via the atoning death of Jesus, and describes the world’s most prominent Holocaust denier as an “intelligent, humble, charismatic, and charming” man who “gives quick, extensive and intelligent answers to any question, mixed with genial humour”).

The sergeant made clear that this was merely an informal chat, in which I agreed to delete my original blog (http://seismicshock.blogspot.com/) but maintain my current one (http://seismicshock.wordpress.com). The policeman related to me that his police force had been in contact with the ICT department my previous place of study, and had looked through my files, and that the head of ICT at my university would like to remind me that I should not be using university property in order to associate individuals with terrorists and Holocaust deniers (I am sure other people use university property to make political comments, but nevermind).

With my research on Reverend Sizer’s associations with terrorists and Holocaust deniers making its way into a publication of the Society of Biblical Literature, I was quite content to hold my peace. However, now that Reverend Sizer is now misrepresenting what has happened in my case in order to intimidate others, now is the time to speak up.

A Christian blogger – “Vee” of LivingJourney, who is based in Australia – linked to my blog as a resource for Christians to learn about anti-Semitism in the Church, including “lots of info on Stephen Sizer and Sabeel”.

Rev Sizer left her this comment:

Dear Vee,

You must take a little more care who you brand as anti-semitic otherwise you too will be receiving a caution from the police as the young former student of Leeds did recently. One more reference to me and you will be reported.


Sure, Stephen Sizer managed to somehow arrange a police visit to me from within the UK, but does Sizer genuinely think he can use police on the other side of the world to this effect?

Why is Reverend Sizer claiming that I received a police caution, when the police stressed I did not receive a caution? Is Sizer deliberately misrepresenting the same police force that he originally used to his advantage?

Who is Reverend Sizer reporting to, and why does Reverend Sizer genuinely feel he has the power to close down debate by threatening police action? Why call the cops rather than answer his critics?

Political and theological disagreements should never be accompanied with threats of litigation or police action, but instead with logic and open debate.

Think before you hit “reply all”

This piece is from jta.org.

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Iranian soccer federation official reportedly resigned after his office sent New Year’s greetings to Israel.

Mohammad-Manour Azimzadeh, who heads the Iran Football Federation’s foreign relations office, quit over the gaffe, and the federation’s president apologized, according to reports.

The foreign relations office had sent New Year’s greetings to all members of FIFA, soccer’s global federation, but forgot to omit Israel, which is called the “Zionist entity,” from its list.

Israel’s soccer federation replied positively to the message, according to reports.

Iranian athletes do not compete against Israeli athletes, including in the Olympics.

This piece is from jta.org.

Posted in Iran. 1 Comment »

Solidarity with Iranian political prisoners, students and workers! Demonstrate outside Press TV offices

Sunday 2 August 2-5pm

Press TV, Westgate House, Westgate, Ealing W5

* Two minutes walk from Hanger Lane tube station, Central Line
* Press TV is an Iranian state-funded English language station.

In the crackdown against last month’s Iranian protests the brutal Islamist regime arrested thousands of demonstrators and raided student dormitories. Some of those arrested have now been released, but still face prosecution. And the arrests continue. In Iran pre-charge detention can continue indefinitely.

Relatives have begun demonstrating outside Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, fearing the torture, ill-treatment and forced confessions of their loved ones.

Many people — perhaps much more than the official figures — were killed during and after the protests. Students were killed in their dormitories. Some students and other young people have disappeared. Their families do not know where they are.

In Iran protests and workers’ organisations are suppressed. In the recent past people organising for Iran’s minority populations, women’s rights, student activists and trade union leaders have been arrested and imprisoned. Mansour Osanloo, the leader of one of the most important new unions in Iran, the Tehran Bus Workers Syndicate, remains in jail.

Journalists have been forced to say on Iranian state-run television that they were supported by foreign powers, that they are guilty of “treason”.

And the role of Press TV? When one Canadian journalist was dragged onto Iranian state-TV Press TV reported it as “Detained Newsweek reporter comes clean” as if his “confession” could be taken at face value.

Last month, when millions of Iranians demonstrated for democracy and when the crackdown began Press TV refrained from criticising the government and was credulous about its actions. Neda Soltani’s death was said to be “hyped and dramatised by western media outlets.”

We are against all censorship but while the Iranian peoples’ human rights are suppressed, British journalists and commentators should have nothing to do with such a media outlet.

Let us send a message to the Iranian regime:
• We will not forget the prisoners — release all political prisoners now!
• For the right to organise against oppression, to demonstrate!
• For freedom of the press!
• For the right to join and organise in trade unions for worker’s rights!

Organised by British and Iranian socialists
To support this action or to find out more get in touch: 07951450370

Particularism on the left, and its critics

Where is the outcry in my trade union about the murder of Iranian students by the Iranian authorities and its executors, the Basij militia? Why is Israeli state violence against Palestinian universities so much more important to UCU members in Britain than Iranian state violence against its own universities and students?

Intellectual historian Moishe Postone talked about this sort of particularism at his SOAS presentation on Monday.

Update June 30th: see Martin in the Margins’ UCU does something right (hat tip Kellie):

“On Saturday UCU general secretary Sally Hunt represented the union at a protest outside the Iranian embassy, as part of the Justice for Iranian Workers campaign.

The UCU has also condemned the Iranian government’s arrest of 70 university professors, as part of the crackdown on opposition protestors.

Smantha Lishak on the Durban Review Conference

Samantha Lishak, second from the right

Samantha Lishak, second from the right

This piece is written by Samantha Lishak, Chair of Leeds University UJS

This week, one week after returning from the facade that was Durban II, has been a week of reflection for me. I have spent a lot of time thinking about what went on at that conference, and when people ask me “how was Geneva?” I’m never certain how to respond. How to explain what I went through at Durban II… According to my previous notes people had gathered that I’d gotten rather rageous, and been struck with dissapointment, at the United Nations. The truth is that there was so much emotion flying about that it was sometimes difficult to identify what I was actually feeling.

It is fair to say that Durban II was tainted from the start. The moment President Ahmadinejad was allowed to give the opening address to the UN, months after hosting a Holocaust Denial Conference, there was no way the conference could be seen as a legitimate conference against racism. Ahmadinejad’s racist, antisemitic speech overshadowed the entire week. Beyond his hateful words, what affected me was the repercussions of them. Speaking to NGO’s, I was told that actually Ahmadinejad’s speech was factually correct, that there is a force that controls the world. I was offered the chance to ‘admit’ the War in Iraq was my fault. I was offered the chance to explain how I controlled the media. I personally. I, because I am a Jew.

Never have I been more disheartened with the state of global affairs than after returning from Durban II. I went to Geneva with the naive hope of being able to “make a difference” by participating in a conference ‘against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances’. As a Jewish Student, human rights issues are of utmost significance, and it is frustrating that human rights abuses across the world are being absolutely ignored; Abuses in Darfur, Sri Lanka, India, to name a tiny few, were finally going to be given the opportunity to speak to the world, at this conference. NGO’s had come from all over the world, many of whom had spent 8 years waiting to afford to come to Europe, to present their plea to the United Nations that their suffering be recognised, and be offer helped. The Jewish student delegations from across the world arranged a rally with Darfuri people against the silence of the UN with issues in Darfur. I learnt so much from that rally. I learnt more about the politics of the Sudan, and most importantly the personal experiences of Darfuri people. Experiences that were inexcusably not heard in the UN General Assembly.

One week later, having celebrated 61 years of Israel’s independence in Leeds on Yom Ha’atzamut, remembered fallen Israeli soldiers on Israel’s Remembrance Day – Yom Ha’zikaron, and having been asked again, by a student, if I thought the um, the um, ‘Israeli’s’ controlled the global media and were using Gilad Shalit as a means of deflection, I am still ‘getting over’ the conference. I am continually asked “how was it?”, and every time I give a different response. Every time another story. Some beaming with joy, such as the clown who threw a nose at Ahmadinejad in the circus we call the UN, some with sadness, such as Tibet being thrown off the podium due to China’s objections to their speech, some with concern, such as the last NGO I heard speak claim that 9/11 was an unsolved mysery that didn’t happen, and that his organization were starting a lobby to remove the word antisemitism from the Oxford English Dictionary as it is clearly racist, and so many more stories and emotions in between.

I’d thought by now I would be able to give a calm response to the question “how was Geneva?” but I guess it will take more time for my blood not to boil when I think about Durban II, the farce it was, and the tragic neglect of what is so urgent to talk about.

This piece is written by Samantha Lishak, Chair of Leeds University UJS

“Antiracists” think Ahmadinejad was right

“…Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s UN speech on 21 April struck many as obnoxious, but in terms of understanding the 1948 roots of the Middle East conflict he was spot on. Vilifying him may feel good, but it is a diversion form the real issue.”

Ghada Karmi, Author, Married to Another Man: Israel’s Dilemma in Palestine

“However we may deplore the tone of President Ahmadinejad’s speech at the UN conference on racism, it is difficult to deny the principal facts that he presented…”

Geoff Simons, Author, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

Karmi thinks Ahmadinejad was “spot on” in his understanding of the roots of the Middle East conflict.

Simons agrees with the “principal facts” that he presented.

Neither stops to wonder why it is they agree with a genocidal anti-Jewish racist on the central question concerning Jews in the contemporary world.  Perhaps it is just a coincidence?  A stopped clock is right twice a day?

But perhaps there are other lessons to be learnt from the fact that they agree with Ahmadinejad.

And why is the Guardian printing this support for the understanding and analysis of the world’s most powerful antisemite on its letters page?

If people don’t understand what is racist about holocaust denial then they should make use of Deborah Lipstadt’s magnificent website, which is an excellent resource, Holocaust Denial On Trial.  http://www.hdot.org/

Holocaust denial is antisemitic firstly because denial was part of the crime itself.  Those who were murdered were told that nobody would ever believe that this happened and that nobody would ever know that they even existed.  Denial is not a response to the Holocaust but it is part of the Holocaust.

Secondly because Holocaust denial necessarily assumes that the Jews are sufficiently powerful and sufficiently evil to have invented such a horrible lie and to have made believing it a precondition for acceptability in public life.  It is antisemitic conspiracy theory.

John Strawson

John Strawson

UPDATE – John Strawson adds:

Karmi and Simons rely on ignorance of history  in order to make their case: a case that Ahmadnejad is able to trade on.

“Their” history is that Western guilt for the Holocaust meant that the Jews were given Palestine in order to make amends.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Reading the United Nations documents that led to the partition plan – debate in the General Assembly May through November 1947 and the report of United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) – there are no Western expression of guilt whatsoever. The only speeches that linked the creation of a Jewish State to the Holocaust were from the Soviet Union and Poland.

Indeed what is striking is that despite many anti-Semitic remarks, not one Western country rises to object. The partition plan itself explicitly stated that it was plan for the future of government of Palestine and not a solution to the “Jewish question” – the latter formulation being a reference to the survivors of the Holocaust in displaced peoples’ camps.  Far from guilt there is indifference bordering on callousness.  The Jewish population of between 600,00-650,000 (and 18,000 in detention in in Cyprus) [UN figures]) were of course in Palestine in 1947.

They constituted a clearly constituted a national community.  It is this national identity that the Karmi et al wish to deny. Modern anti-Semitism mainly takes the form of discrimination against Jews as national community – something that the Durban II statement reinforces when it places anti-Semitism between “Islamaphobia” and “Christianophobia.” (draft article 10)

John Strawson

Paxman allows antisemite Ahmadinejad to set the Newsnight agenda

Holocaust denier Ahmadinejad speaks at UN antiracist conference on Holocaust Rememberance Day