Colin Shindler: The non-Jewish Jews who became the scholars of an ideological dreamworld.

Colin Shindler author of recently published “Israel and the European Left”, writes in the Jewish Chronicle :

During Jewish Book Week in February 1958, the great Marxist historian, Isaac Deutscher, gave a talk entitled “The Non-Jewish Jew”. It was later published and became required reading for the student revolutionaries of the 1960s. Deutscher tried to explain why some Jews embraced the revolutionary imperative and relegated their Jewishness to a secondary level.

As an ilui (child prodigy) of the yeshiva of Chrzanow in Poland, Deutscher supplanted God with Lenin and Trotsky at an early age. Although he moved beyond the Jewish community, he never renounced his Jewishness. He believed that non-Jewish Jews symbolised “the highest ideals of mankind” and that Jewish revolutionaries carried “the message of universal human emancipation”. He regarded such figures as optimists. And yet his father, the author of a book in Hebrew on Spinoza, disappeared in the hell of Auschwitz.

Deutscher argued that such Jews existed on the borderlines of various civilisations, religions and cultures. And from there on the margins, they were able to clearly analyse societies and events – and guide humanity into more benevolent channels.

His revolutionary heroes included the Talmudic heretic, Elisha Ben Abuya who was the teacher and friend, according to the midrash, of Rabbi Meir Baal Hanas. While his actual misdemeanours were never revealed, Ben Abuya was at pains to warn his close friend, Rabbi Meir not to transgress the Sabbath when he was unwittingly in danger of doing so. Why did Elisha do this if he was the advocate of heresy? Why did Rabbi Meir maintain his friendship with Elisha when the entire Jewish community had boycotted him? Such questions perplexed Deutscher, who identified with Ben Abuya and regarded him as the model for contemporary revolutionaries such as Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky. Yet this story and its mystery did point to the convoluted issues that faced non-Jewish Jews who had travelled outside the community yet culturally remained within. Such issues of national identity and internationalism affected many Jews on the European Left who were often marooned between identities.

Read the full article here.

 

You can also watch Colin talking about his book

What is the Progressive Case for Israel?

This piece was written by David Hirsh for a collection published by Labour Friends of Israel

David Hirsh, lecturer in Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London

What is the progressive case for Israel?  Why should a nation state need somebody to make its case?  What is the progressive case for France or for Poland?  Before the French Revolution, the question of France was still open.  Was Marseille to be part of the same Republic as Brittany?  When there was a political movement for the foundation of France, then there was a case for and also a case against France.  When Poland was half engulfed by the Soviet Union and half by the Third Reich, there was a progressive case for Poland.  But today, thankfully, Poland exists.  It doesn’t need a ‘case’.

There are reasons to be ambivalent about nationalism.  Nationalist movements have often stood up against forces which threaten human freedom.  Nationalism offers us a way of visualising ourselves as part of a community in which we look after each other.  But being part of something also means defining others as not being part of it, as being excluded from it.  The left should fight for freedom with the nationalists but we should also remember the dangers of nationalism.  Like John Lennon, we should imagine a world where people no longer feel the need to protect themselves against external threat, but until it exists, it is wise for communities to retain the possibility of self-defence.

Progressives in France or Poland might hope to dissolve their states into the European Union, or into a global community.  In that sense there is still a possible case to be made for Poland or for France.  But nobody thinks that either has to justify their existences to anybody outside.  Not even Germany after the crimes of the Second World War had to justify its existence.

In the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, radical Jews were split as to how they should oppose the antisemitism.   Some wanted to dissolve all religious and national characteristics into a universalistic socialism where everybody would treat each other with respect and where the distinction between Jew and non-Jew would eventually be forgotten.  Others wanted Jews to organise themselves into culturally and politically Jewish Bunds which would defend them from antisemitism and which would construct Jewish identity in new, egalitarian and empowering ways.  A third current thought that national self-determination was the key to guaranteeing people’s individual rights, and they wanted Jews from all different places to forge themselves into a sovereign nation.  This last group, the Zionists, made a progressive case for Israel while the other two, the Socialists and the Bundists, made progressive cases against Israel.

In the 1940s the overwhelming majority of the Jewish Socialists, Bundists and Zionists were systematically murdered, alongside Jews who had no opinion, who had other opinions, who only understood themselves to be Jewish through their religious communities and alongside those who thought of themselves only as loyal German, Czech or Dutch citizens.  Jewish culture in Europe was wiped out.  There were a few survivors here and there but most of them felt it unbearable to continue to live amongst those who had killed everybody they knew, and amongst those who had failed to prevent the killing, and amongst those who still had their children and their friends and relatives.

Before, during and after the Holocaust, Jews tried to leave Europe and they went wherever they were allowed.  Lots of Jews were learning the dismal lesson that the Twentieth Century beat into so many around the world: if you have no state of your own, you have no rights.  On April 20th 1945 a British army chaplain helped organise a Shabbat service five days after the liberation of the Bergen Belsen Concentration Camp.  A contemporary BBC radio report says that it was the first Jewish religious service held without fear on German soil for a decade.   The report says:

During the service the few hundred people gathered together were sobbing openly with joy at their liberation and with sorrow at the memory of their parents and brothers and sisters who had been taken from them and gassed and burnt.  These people knew they were being recorded.  They wanted the world to hear their voice.  They made a tremendous effort which quite exhausted them. [1]

The exhausting effort they made was to sing Hatikva, the Zionist national anthem, so it could be heard around the world.  This was how they made their progressive case for Israel.  For many survivors, getting out of Europe was not enough.  Having been taught that they couldn’t rely on others to help them, they wanted Jewish national self-determination.  Feeling safe was too much to hope for, but it would make them feel that if they were again threatened as Jews, then they would be able to die defending themselves, collectively, as Jews.

Even now, there was still a case to be made for and against Israel.  Perhaps immigration into Palestine was too dangerous for Jews, perhaps Israel was an impossible and utopian idea.  Perhaps the need for Jewish self defence could be realised within some kind of bi-national arrangement with the Arabs of Palestine.

But as the Holocaust had defeated the Socialists and the Bundists, so these other criticisms were answered, not by argument or reason but by huge, irreversible events in the material world;  in this case by the UN decision to found Israel and by the defence of the new state against the invading armies of neighbouring states which tried to push the Jews out.  The Jews, armed by Stalin via Czechoslovakia, in violation of a British and American arms embargo, were not pushed out.  About 700,000 Palestinian Arabs left, fled or were forced out during the war and were not allowed back by the new state of Israel.  For them this was truly a catastrophe but the Israel/Palestine conflict was never inevitable.  It was the result of successive defeats for progressive forces within both nations.  It is still not inevitable.  Neither could the fact of the conflict possibly de-legitimise a nation.  Nations exist and do not require legitimacy.

Isaac Deutcher, Trotsky’s biographer, who had been a Socialist anti-Zionist before the Holocaust, wrote the following in 1954:

I have, of course, long since abandoned my anti-Zionism, which was based on a confidence in the European labour movement, or, more broadly, in European society and civilization, which that society and civilization have not justified. If, instead of arguing against Zionism in the 1920s and 1930s I had urged European Jews to go to Palestine, I might have helped to save some of the lives that were later extinguished in Hitler’s gas chambers.[2]

Deutscher was not embracing Zionism as an ideology, he was recognising that the debate was over.  Israel now existed in the material world and no longer just in the imagination.  Antisemitism treats ‘the Jews’ as an idea rather than as a collectivity of actual human beings; an idea which can be opposed was transformed into a people which could be eliminated.  To think of Israel as an idea or as a political movement rather than as a nation state makes it possible to think of eliminating it too.

Israel needs to find the peace with its neighbours, amongst whom hostile and antisemitic movements have significant influence.  It needs to continue to fulfil contradictory requirements, as a democratic state for both its Jewish and non-Jewish citizens, but also as a Jewish state, guaranteeing the rights of Jews in particular.  There is nothing unusual about a social institution finding pragmatic and difficult ways to fulfil contradictory requirements.

But what if it turns out that Zionism’s promise to build a ‘normal’ nation state was utopian.  Perhaps the poison of the Holocaust is not yet spent.  Maybe Israel is, as Detuscher thought, a precarious life-raft state , floating in a hostile sea and before a careless world.  Perhaps the pressure on Israel from outside, and the unique circumstances of its foundation are creating too many agonising internal contradictions and fault-lines.  Whereas people used to tell the Jews of Europe to go home to Palestine, now they tell the Jews of Israel to go home to Europe.  Whereas ‘the Jews’ were thought to be central to the workings of capitalism, today Israel is said to be the keystone of imperialism.  If the Palestinians have come to symbolise the victims of ‘the West’ then ‘the Jews’ are again cast in the symbolic imagination as the villains of the world.   Perhaps Israel is precarious and perhaps we have not yet seen the final Act of the tragedy of the Jews.  And if it comes to pass, there will be those watching who will still be capable of saying, with faux sadness, that ‘the Jews’ brought this upon themselves.

This piece was written by David Hirsh for a collection published by Labour Friends of Israel

[1] This recording is easily accessible on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syUSmEbGLs4, downloaded 25 August 2011, Smithsonian Centre for American Folk Life.

[2] Isaac Deutscher (1968) The Non-Jewish Jew and other essays, London: Oxford University Press, pp 111-113

A brave campaign from the Union of Jewish Students

This is a cross post from Jak at Reduard

The Union of Jewish Students have announced a new Israel campaign for the upcoming academic year, one which signals a radical break from past UJS hasbara efforts.

As the JC reports:

Jewish students arriving at universities in the next fortnight will be asked to pledge their support to “two states for two peoples”, hand out Israeli and Palestinian flags, and support “freedom, justice and equality” for all.
There is a belief within UJS that standard advocacy efforts “do not cut it any more” because “students are not stupid”. Students will be encouraged to back the “liberation” of Israelis from Palestinian terror, and Palestinians through the formation of a new state.

To say this has stoked up debate online would be the understatement of the year. A Facebook group is doing the rounds, calling the campaign ‘disgraceful’ and ‘utterly crazy’.

Now, I was on campus for four years at a university widely consider to be a hotbed of extreme anti-Zionism and led a wide variety of Israel campaigns. We did all the standard campaigns that anyone who has been on a UK campus will recognise – we handed out falafel, had speakers from the Israeli Embassy, had film showings, talked about how welcoming Israel was to women/homosexuals/religious minorities etc etc. All were good campaigns, well organised and relatively successful. But what they didn’t do is change the narrative on campus. Hateful  anti-Israel diatribes would still appear in the student rag on a weekly basis, the Palestine society would still shout outside university buildings about the ‘holocaust’ in Gaza, and any ordinary student with any sense whatsoever simply ran a mile in the opposite direction – and understandably so. We are facing a new reality on our campuses – the old arguments about settlements or the security barrier are being replaced by a debate about the mere existence of Israel as a Jewish state. Zionism is a dirty word for many students – associated with oppression rather than liberation. Explaining Israel is no longer enough – what is needed is a dialogue, not just about Israel but about the very ideas behind Israel – Zionism, liberation, and self determination for the Jewish people. UJS is in a sense implementing is a back to basics campaign, focusing on ideas and concepts rather than specific policies.

As for those annoyed that UJS is advocating a Palestinian state, I would say this: it is morally dishonest to advocate self-determination for one group of people and not the other. Jews and Palestinians both need and deserve a homeland. Yes there may be a debate about the future borders or composition of those states, but the idea of self-determination is a universal one. It’s why groups like the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and their ilk will always be hypocritical, bigoted and discriminatory organisations – they vehemently support the self-determination of one nation whilst completely ignoring the rights of others. UJS should be proud of taking such a principled stance on the issue, especially as they must have been aware of the potential backlash it could cause.

The campaign is a brave step for UJS, and it may or may not work. But at least it is attempting something different. The naysayers and critics should step back and honestly ask themselves whether they really think the current strategy is working. Surely all evidence suggests that it is not? Burying heads in the sand and pointing to Golda Meir being a female as an example of Israeli progressiveness frankly no longer cuts it.

Dafni Leef’s speech to Israelis in State Square

Yesterday over 400,000 Israelis massed in squares around the country, the most populous of Israel’s protests to date.

Dafni Leef founded the tent camp which began Israel’s summer of protest. Here is her speech to the Israelis massed at Tel Aviv’s State Square , translated in a hurry but very eloquently by Robbie Gringas. From it,

“We have begun a new discourse, a discourse of hope, of sharing, of solidarity and responsibility. I want to ask the Prime Minister, to ask all the politicians: Look at what happened here, at what is happening here – is this what you want to defeat? Is this something you are able to defeat? You are the People’s representatives. Listen to the People. This protest, that gave so much hope to many people – do you want to break this hope? Is that what you want? To melt down the hope? You will never succeed!

And after we jumped all the hurdles and all the spin didn’t succeed, what did they have left? To attack me. This thing started with one person who did something. I set up my tent on Rothschild out of a personal feeling of to be or not to be. A person very close to my heart, Alex, put an end to his life. He was a poet. He wrote that even if you have a heart of gold, you will not manage to change the world. Two months before all this started up, he couldn’t be here any longer, and he chose not to be.

How can a person like that, a dreamer and an idealist, feel that he no longer has a place in this world? If he has no place in this world then I suppose I have no place here either. And my heart hurt. My heart was broken. What kind of a world is it that has no room for dreamers, idealists, poets? What kind of world cuts them out? A world of poverty. Because all of us are dreamers and we all have the right to dream. To be poor isn’t only not managing to make it to the end of the financial month or to be homeless. To be poor is to be troubled by these things, fundamentally, to such an extent that you are not able to dream, to think, to learn, to hug your children.

So I started this thing. But just because I started it doesn’t mean it’s mine only. It’s not just my story, it’s the story of many people who stood up and started walking, stood up and began to do something. We all decided to be. We decided to be here. Here we are.”

Read it all.

HT Ma’ayan

Vile anti-Zionist “logic” at Guardian Comment is Free

This is a cross-post by Mark Gardner at the CST blog

A 2010 survey by Jewish Policy Research examined the real interconnection between Jews and Zionists and Israel; and showed why the border between hatred of Jews, Zionism and Israel can be so porous.

  • 72% of British Jews self-categorise as “Zionists”
  • 82% of British Jews say Israel plays a “central” or “important but not central role in their Jewish identities”
  • 87% of British Jews agree “that Jews are responsible for ensuring ‘the survival of Israel’”
  • 54% of British Jews who do not self-categorise as “Zionists” nevertheless agree “that Jews are responsible for ensuring ‘the survival of Israel”
  • 62% of self-described Zionists agree that Israel should give up land for peace
  • 78% of British Jews believe in a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict

These figures demonstrate the hurt that is caused to ordinary Jews when “anti-Zionists” push their dehumanised and demonised perversions of the word “Zionism”. This is done by everyone from Marxists to Nazis to Jihadis: but it can also seep into mainstream media, including the Guardian’s Comment is Free (CiF) website.

The latest example of Guardian CiF facilitating such perversion is an article by “philosopher”, Slavoj Zizek. It demonises the meaning of Zionism; tries to somehow equate Zionism with the twisted mind of Norwegian terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik; says that Zionist Jews regard other Jews like antisemites do; and ends with an ill-defined lunge at alleged Zionist relations and parallels with the attitudes of Christian fundamentalists and Nazis (Austrian ones no less)!

This kind of prejudicial hysteria shows why so many people in the Jewish community have utterly given up on the Guardian. Not just given up, but actually believe it to be one of the primary facilitators of antisemitism in Britain today.

It is not really because of what the Guardian says directly about Jews, but rather because of what it says directly about Zionism and Israel, how often it says it; and how Jews instinctively perceive that this must, inevitably, have harmful impacts for how “correct-thinking people” feel about them. (Look again at the above statistics to see why this would be the case.)

This kind of intellectual anti-Zionist veneer allows antisemitism to take hold: despite whatever sincere opposition Zizek and his publishers actually feel and voice regarding that utterly predictable and depressing outcome.

Having written for CiF, I know its rigorous editorial standards. For me, this makes the publication of Zizek’s article all the more startling. Nominally, the article is about the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik. Its title gives no clue about the anti-Zionist screed that follows:

 A vile logic to Anders Breivik’s choice of target

Like Pim Fortuyn before him, Breivik embodies the intersection between rightist populism and liberal correctness

Zizek’s article is 1,553 words long, but over half (797) of these words are in sections concerning (mainly condemning) Zionism or Israel, some of it adapted and grafted from his 2010 book, “Living in the End Times”. What the bulk of this has to do with Breivik is anybody’s guess – as is how it passed the editorial process.

Zizek begins by explaining different aspects of Breivik’s ideology. The first sniff of the“vile logic” comes after he describes Breivik as antisemitic, yet pro-Israel, then writing:

He [Breivik] realises the ultimate paradox of a Zionist Nazi – how is this possible?

Here Zizek betrays his bias, and his playing fast and loose with terminology as and when it suits him rhetorically to do so. Firstly, he knows full well that Breivik cannot simply be pigeonholed as a “Nazi”: Zizek himself wrote as much, in the preceding paragraph. Secondly, it is a total perversion of the word “Zionist” for Zizek to employ it here: demonising it to mean the same as Breivik’s (1) hatred of Muslims and (2) attendant support for Israel as the supposed first line of anti-Muslim defence.

Nevertheless, this rhetorical flourish provides the lift-off for Zizek’s hateful riff. He alleges an accommodation between Israel, Zionism and the European right’s attitude to “Islamicisation and multiculturalism”. There are heated debates within Israeli, Zionist and Jewish circles over this and I have participated in many such debates: but to simply characterise the most right wing elements as the current Israeli and Zionist position is deeply misleading, malicious and ultimately another quite pathetic example of Zizek attempting to demonise Zionism.

Then, there is an especially outrageous attack upon Zionists for aping antisemites’ anti-Jewish “logic”.

Zizek alleges Zionism has:

come to adopt some antisemitic logic in its hatred of Jews who do not fully identify with the politics of the state of Israel

It would have been bizarre enough had Zizek alleged such hatred from Zionists towards anti-Zionist Jewish activists, but read his words again: this Zionist semi-antisemitism and full on hatred is supposedly directed against all who “do not fully identify with the politics of the state of Israel”. Next, there is a similarly scandalous allegation concerning Zionist construction of “the figure of the Jew who doubts the Zionist project”. Zizek’s casual transition between these descriptions typifies his lack of care over terminology, despite the sensitivity of the subject (for Jews at least).

Contemplate European antisemitism in all of its historical, recent and current modes. There is no fit between any of this and even the harshest pro-Zionist attitude to the most ardent Jewish anti-Zionists. (Not that Zizek means the extremes anyway.) At worst, Jewish anti-Zionists are derided as “self-haters”: an ugly, hurtful and not especially accurate term, but not congruent with antisemitism, be it Christian, economic, nationalist, Communist, racial-biological, revolutionary new left, or whatever.

Zizek’s claim that Zionism has “come to adopt some antisemitic logic in its hate”is explained by his stating that Zionists construct the non-Zionist Jew as “dangerous because he lives among us, but is not really one of us”. If this is what antisemitism amounts to, rather than, say because they conspire as the demonic Other / anti-Christ / the world bankers / the global war-makers / the race polluters etc etc: then Zizek might as well argue that any dissenting opinions within a single community share a resemblance to antisemitism. He could as simplistically say that disputes between different Muslim groups have “some antisemitic logic”.

Eventually, the article ends with overblown claims of collusion between Israel and “US” and “Christian” “fundamentalists” (both terms are used), before he references a depiction of two Austrian Nazis, and departs with one final demonization, writing:

These are today’s allies of the state of Israel.

The emphasis is Zizek’s, not mine. It is not entirely clear if he means that it is Christian fundamentalists, American fundamentalists or Nazis who are “today’s allies of Israel”. Whatever: it is one final, dirty twist.

On the role of racism in the Israel-Palestine conflict

Phoebe is thinking about the role of racism in the Israel-Palestine conflict:

“To lower everyone’s blood pressure for a moment, think of it like this. Imagine that two neighbors, one who happens to be Jewish, one who doesn’t, get into an argument over… any number of ridiculous things people argue about that have nothing to do with their ethnic-religious origins. Someone’s dog ripped up someone else’s flower bed, whatever. We wouldn’t say that the Jew’s antagonist in this conflict is an anti-Semite. Sometimes Jews, like everyone else, get into disputes, and those disputing with them have whatever beef anyone has with anyone. However, if a bunch of strangers to both formed a committee to support the Jew’s antagonist, while ignoring similar and worse conflicts in the town between non-Jews, we might wonder about the committee members. Now, if the Jew’s antagonist, picking up on his likely source of support, throws a ‘dirty Jew’ in there, that’s foul play and all, but that doesn’t mean the original conflict was about anti-Semitism. It was about the flower bed.”

And the next day:

“I remain unconvinced that “race” or “racism” is the best lens through which to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as it plays out among the parties themselves. I think it’s a very useful lens for understanding why certain third parties get involved, but the Israelis and Palestinians themselves, no.”

Matt responds in agreement about distinguishing between antagonists and their cheerleaders:

“When we call a speaker racist (as opposed to their speech), it typically means that that speaker should be banned from the discourse because their presence is unproductive. If we ban too many Palestinians or too many Jews, we wind up completely disrupting the discourse in a way that is certainly unproductive, because there’s no one left to convince.”

as well as disagreement about the role of racism in the conflict:

“…why should we distinguish between the claims of different actors on that basis when the claims are identical? And while we might seek to be inclusive of a variety of perspectives and actors in our conversation, that doesn’t mean that all claims are equal in that conversation. In short, I don’t think it’s often useful to think of racism as a matter of intent or as an exercise into soul divination.”

“Often, I go back to the 1929 Hebron Massacre. (Phoebe talks about the “ultimate” cause being about land, so lets go back in time.) Palestinian leaders spread a rumor that Jews were massacring Palestinians in Jerusalem. Palestinians (enough) in Hebron chose to believe that rumor because they were willing to believe almost anything about Jews, and they chose to respond by killing Jews.”

A very interesting conversation, HT Bob.

There may be strategic reasons for those most directly involved in the conflict and its resolution to pass over racism. But if like me you agree with Matt that racism is a significant factor, you will be wary of failing to acknowledge something major by putting it to one side. I also take Phoebe’s point that racism cannot be the only lens through which to examine the conflict, but it is racism which gives the conflict its popular edge and sucks in partisans with a weird and avid intensity from all over the world. It seems these days that in engaging with the conflict, and the way the conflict is refracted in far off places like Britain, it is impossible to avoid giving an audience to racist views. Nevertheless racism should compromise the influence of those who espouse it, should have consequences which disadvantage them while they continue to espouse it, and should meet with robust but constructive rebuttal.

The Zionist far-right and the anti-Zionists – trying to bring Israel down

An unholy alliance of the Zionist far-right and the anti-Zionist far-left is trying to bring Israel down. Like previous unholy alliances, the two partners despise one another, but realize that they are locked in a symbiotic relationship: without one another they will die. The far-right needs the hysteria of the far-left as a pretext for the legislation that fulfills the far-left’s fantasies.

…The only place we will be able to transform this unfortunate dynamic is at the ballot-box. The Israeli left remains down but not out; amidst the disappointment of the anti-boycott bill we must start plotting the resurrection.

Read the whole piece on False Dichotomies or Harry’s Place.

Posted in Israel. 2 Comments »

JC on the Israel’s anti-boycott law: “a betrayal of the very essence of Israel”

This week’s leader column in the Jewish Chronicle.

This newspaper, along with almost the entirety of Anglo-Jewry, does everything within its power to oppose the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

It is a moral disgrace, and its supporters deserve every ounce of the opprobrium they receive from all decent people. But the response of the Knesset this week, in effectively silencing the proponents of BDS, is not merely misguided and an own goal; it is a betrayal of the very essence of Israel.

When boycotters berate Israel, we have always been able to point out the hypocrisy of their focus on the one truly free country in the Middle East. That argument will no longer hold water if the new law is allowed to remain on the statute books. It is the very negation of democracy, and of what Israel stands for – freedom to express views which are defeated in argument. As for the behaviour of Benjamin Netanyahu, in simply absenting himself from the vote: so much for leadership. If he thinks the law is wrong, he should have led by example and voted against. This law must be overturned, and soon.

This week’s leader column in the Jewish Chronicle.

UPDATE

See also this piece in the JC, including:

But anti-boycott campaigners in the UK rounded on the new law. Ronnie Fraser of Academic Friends of Israel said it “will make it more difficult to argue that Israel is an open democratic society with few restrictions on debate. Once again the Israeli government has failed to understand the problems for pro-Israeli activists in the diaspora.”

David Hirsh, editor of the website Engage, which counters antisemitism and anti-Zionism in the academic world, said: “The boycott campaign treats Israel as though it was no more legitimate than the settlements in the occupied territories.  The new law shares this assumption… Instead of driving a wedge between the peace camp and the boycotters, the new law pushes the peace camp into the arms of the boycotters.”

See the report on Jonathan Freedland’s debate with Omar Barghouti, including:

… both Ms Gould and Mr Freedland were repeatedly shouted down by pro-Palestinian activists.

A clearly shaken Mr Freedland told the audience: “Tonight has been hugely revealing. I thought my disagreement with the boycott movement was because I want to see the end of occupation and you want to see the end of occupation and it was an argument about tactics.

“What has come through loud and clear is your motivation is not actually just the end of occupation but it’s with Israel itself – you have a fundamental problem with it.”

Wildcat strike on Israeli railway follows arrest, beating of union leader

From Eric Lee at TULIP, Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine.

Proponents of a boycott of Israel – and of its trade unions – will often claim that the unions aren’t real unions.  They’re just arms of the Zionist state.

But of course the facts are entirely different.  Israel’s unions are very real indeed, and sometimes the conflicts between unions and employers can get very sharp.

We had an example of this last week when a wildcat strike of railway workers was triggered by the arrest (and alleged beating) of the leader of the union and nine others.

The full story is here – on the TULIP website.

It’s not only the railway workers, but singers at the Israel National Opera who are embroiled in dispute with their employers.  The singers are threatening strike action this week.

Meanwhile, in some unions idiotic anti-Jewish sentiments are still given a platform.  The most recent example comes from Norway, where a union website published a letter from a member claiming that Jews ran the country in 1945.  Anywhere else and that might be insignificant, but as Norwegian unions have been particularly hostile toward Israel in recent years, that takes on an added meaning.

Finally, we’re now only five weeks away from the TULIP launch event in London.  If you can attend, please do make sure to RSVP to ericlee@tuliponline.org.  I hope to see many of you there.

Eric Lee

Under Avraham Burg’s “anti-Semitic rug”

Former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg has written an article of a Eurocentric bent to the effect that antisemitism shouldn’t any longer be thought of as racism against Jews but as a bad-faith accusation made by Israel’s advocates against honest critics of Israel. He argues that for Jews to give any particular attention to antisemitism is both right wing and falls short of the kind of Jewishness to which he aspires.

Saul responds:

“In Israel, the notion of antisemitism has been utilised by the right – it is reactionary use of antisemitism; see the film “Defamation”.

The trouble is that many progressives in Israel – Burg included (recall he wrote on Israel needing to overcome the Holocaust) – are simply arguing the opposite: “If the right say x, we say not x.”

They lack any critical understanding both of the (contemporary) concept of antisemitism and its use outside Israel.

What would be interesting would be to follow the journey this article makes; that is, see who outside Israel quotes it and uses it.

What frustrates me more than anything, though, is the claim that those of us who raise the issue of antisemitism are nothing more than apologists for Israel or non-critics of the Israeli right. Like large parts of the global left, much of the Israeli left has got that wrong. They seem to think that criticism of Israel and the claim to antisemitism are two sides of the same coin, rather than two phenomena linked together through the situation in Israel.

Burg writes

There is an internal Jewish essence that is not dependent on external circumstances. It is buried deep below layers of historical trauma. But its heart still beats; in the form of humanism, responsibility for the peace of the world, universalism without boundaries. Israel’s establishment ought to enable the realization of this potential. For example, the state of those who were ostracized can do everything in its power to assist the present-day ostracized who have taken their place. It can be a partner in the creation of a world coalition against hatred. Precisely because of its memories.

Arendt traces the history of this sentiment and, rather astutely, calls it racist.

For myself, I think it is deeply Christian. A reworking of redemption through suffering. And, the fact that Jews/Israel have not been redeemed is once again fuelling the idea of a great Jewish refusal. So far, they have had two chances at redemption: Jesus and the Holocaust. They have refused to accept it twice. Jews are truly irredeemable, hence their call to universalism over all particularism other than the particularism of suffering, which they are selfishly clinging onto whilst everyone else has moved on. Once again, the Jews are an anachronism (as was said of post-Christ Judaism).

Yuck!”

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