Geras deals with Seumas Milne’s trivialization of Ahmadinejad


Paxman allows antisemite Ahmadinejad to set the Newsnight agenda

David T on HP.

Two on the Z-Word

David Hare begins his latest monologue on reasons for Israel to take down its security barrier (only he calls it a wall) with an appeal to “be serious” and “think about this”. Not a moment too soon, David. He progresses through an interesting and worthwhile piece with occasional appeals for coolness, while relieving himself of a number of superfluous observations within which are buried some atrocious little sentences. Jews should have learned from 2000 years of suffering (that shameful, derelict point about persecution-as-education). Tel Aviv looks like Florida (what could be worse). And “you wouldn’t be very nice if you lived under permanent siege” – this is provoking, but we have to be cool, he says, so since we’re called upon to put ourselves in Hamas’ shoes, it occurs to me to wonder whether I would have got myself into the predicament of a siege. While Hare is probably right, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood have been violent and hateful for a long time and fearful Israelis deserve more empathy from people like Hare.

Eamonn responds on Z-Word blog.

Also on Z-Word blog, Jonathan Hoffman reviews the BBC’s finding that its Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen failed to meet guidelines on impartiality and accuracy. Considering it’s well understood that Israeli military operations are the occasion for spikes in antisemitic activity in Britain, accuracy and impartiality are important in BBC reports. David T comments on Jeremy Bowen’s defenders in The Independent.

Radio 4 and Seven Jewish Children – David Hirsh

Howard Jacobson describes Seven Jewish Children as an antisemitic work:

“Caryl Churchill will argue that her play is about Israelis not Jews, but once you venture on to “chosen people” territory – feeding all the ancient prejudice against that miscomprehended phrase – once you repeat in another form the medieval blood-libel of Jews rejoicing in the murder of little children, you have crossed over. This is the old stuff. Jew-hating pure and simple – Jew-hating which the haters don’t even recognise in themselves, so acculturated is it – the Jew-hating which many of us have always suspected was the only explanation for the disgust that contorts and disfigures faces when the mere word Israel crops up in conversation. So for that we are grateful. At last that mystery is solved and that lie finally nailed. No, you don’t have to be an anti-Semite to criticise Israel. It just so happens that you are.”

He re-states this view when Jacqueline Rose and Churchill herself defend the play. If Jacobson is right then it follows that the play has no artistic or political value.

BBC Radio 4 has decided not to stage the play. Radio 4′s drama commissioning editor Jeremy Howe, rejected the play, writing in an email:

“It is a no, I am afraid. Both Mark [Damazer, Radio 4 controller] and I think it is a brilliant piece, but after discussing it with editorial policy we have decided we cannot run with it on the grounds of impartiality – I think it would be nearly impossible to run a drama that counters Caryl Churchill’s view. Having debated long and hard we have decided we can’t do Seven Jewish Children.”

They have made the wrong decision. If it is a “brilliant piece” of course it should be broadcast. If it is a “brilliant piece” how could it be “countered”? Brilliant theatre does not require something else to be broadcast another night in order to balance it.

Why would Radio 4 not broadcast a “brilliant piece”? The official BBC statement says that “we felt it would not work for our audience.” Why not?

The implication, of course, is that The Jews will not allow the BBC to broadcast this “brilliant piece”.

Tell them its antisemitic. Tell them its unbalanced. Tell them the BBC is biased.

If the piece is antisemitic then its crap. And it shouldn’t be broadcast.

If the piece is “brilliant” then it should be broadcast, and the BBC should stand up to the full wrath of “Israel Lobby” – or as the Independent would say, the “Jewish Lobby“.

David Hirsh

“Provocatively anti-Jewish rhetoric”

“Can you imagine a journalist for a liberal newspaper referring in neutral, even vaguely congratulatory terms to an artist’s “provocatively anti-gay rhetoric,” or “provocatively anti-black rhetoric,” or “provocatively anti-Arab rhetoric”?”

“Well, have a look at John Lewis’s profile of Gilad Atzmon for the Guardian, in which we read about the saxophonist’s “provocatively anti-Jewish rhetoric,” his “firebrand political outbursts,” his “furious attacks on Israel,” his “blunt anti-Zionism.” Sounds like laudable stuff, a challenge to the status quo, hooray!”

Read the rest by David Adler on Z Word.

Mainstreaming of antisemitism: blood libel and conspiracy theory in the Daily Mirror

Daily MirrorColumnist Brian Reade was published in the Daily Mirror as follows (5 March):

I want to thank International Development minister Douglas Alexander for visiting the Gaza Strip, and pledging aid. Because it typifies our cowardly subservience to the all-powerful pro-Israel lobby in America.

We looked away as Israel bombed the crap out of Gaza. When the 1,314 dead Palestinians temporarily sated Tel Aviv’s bloodlust, we sent a third-rate politician to pledge millions to replace all the buildings flattened by Israel’s military machine.

Thus putting up more targets for them to destroy the next time they feel the need to convince their people they are hard-liners who won’t be threatened by Arab infidels. At which point we’ll look away again. How proud our foreign policy makes me.

Open letter to the editor of the Guardian from Workers’ Liberty

workers libertyDear Alan Rusbridger,

The Guardian is the “house organ” of most of the non-Muslim people who took part in the two big demonstrations during the Gaza war. A vigorous campaign by the Guardian against anti-semitism on the “left” might do much good.

On Saturday 7 February, the Guardian carried an editorial, “Language and History”, denouncing anti-semitism and specifically the “anti-Zionist” anti-semitism that is now commonplace, remarking on the growth of anti-semitic incidents in Britain (now on average, one per day, and increasing).

Unfortunately, the editorial seriously misdefined the realities of what it discussed, and pussyfooted around the issue….

Read the rest here, on the Workers’ Liberty website.

Guardian Editorial, 7 February, 2009

guardianThis an editorial in The Guardian, 7 Feb, 09

Distinguishing between anti-Zionism and antisemitism has become a growth industry for every university department of cultural criticism. It is time the debate came out into the open, away from the classrooms and the academic journals. On average, there is an antisemitic attack of some kind every single day in the UK: graffiti, vandalism, arson and occasionally actual physical assault. Jewish schools have been granted extra protection. The Community Security Trust, which monitors incidents, issues frequent advice and warnings. According to the Trust the number of such incidents has risen again since Christmas, and the assault on Gaza. The government acknowledges that there is a growing problem. Responding to a two-year investigation by an all-party committee, it was decided that from this April, every police force will be required to keep a record of antisemitic offences.

This is not because – as some extremists on the right and possibly the left might claim – the government is in the pocket of a “Jewish lobby”. There is no “Jewish lobby” in the conspiratorial sense that the slur implies, and to assert that there is can only be the result of the kind of racism that has scarred Europe from tsarist Russia to the fascists and Stalinists of the 1930s through to the jihadists now. To present all Jewish people as conterminous with Israel and its supporters is a mistake with potentially terrible consequences. It aligns ethnicity with a political perspective, and it is simply racist.

The government has also recognised that there are “specific indications that, unlike other forms of racism, antisemitism is being accepted within parts of society instead of being condemned.” The left fought a long and honourable battle for racial equality, but some within its ranks now risk sloppily allowing their horror of Israeli actions to blind them to antisemitism. There is an ill-considered tendency to reach for the language of Nazism in order to excoriate Israel, regardless of its impact on the climate of tolerance. Last month, a rally in defence of the people of Gaza that included verbal attacks on the so-called “Nazi tendencies” of Israel was followed by actual attacks on Jewish targets in north London. That is not, of course, to say we should not criticise Israel and judge it by the same criteria as any other state.

It is chilling to see “kill Arabs” graffitied on homes in Gaza. But the style in which that is condemned must not create the climate that allows scrawling “kill Jews” on synagogues in Manchester. For that is what is at stake: what might merely be insensitivity can, cumulatively, erode the conditions that foster racial tolerance. For they depend not only on the laws, but on a respect for all people’s sensitivities.

Henry Siegman’s Lies – BobFromBrockley

This is a guest post by BobFromBrockley and is cross-posted at

Note: I am writing this as someone who opposed the Israeli blockade of Gaza, who opposes the Settler movement in the Occupied Territories, who opposed the Israeli incursion in to Gaza in November which helped precipitate the recent round of conflict, and who was angered at Israeli conduct during the December/January phase of this conflict. I write this also as someone who subscribes to and greatly appreciates the London Review of Books. I write, then, not in support of Israel, but against the taking of sides against Israel, against simplistic thinking, against the attempt to reduce a complex conflict into the battle of good and evil.

The LRB, a key platform for the liberal establishment that dominates British intellectual chatter, consistently takes a stridently anti-Israeli position. A piece, entitled “Israel’s Lies” by Henry Siegman, which kicks off the 29 January issue, is no exception. Like most of what the LRB publishes, it is a fine piece of writing, but, like most of what LRB publishes on this particular topic, is marred by a particular form of intellectual and moral dishonesty. Henry Seigman has form in this area, and it comes as no surprise that, at a time when much of the British left feels the need to take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the LRB would want to publish his lies.

Siegman purports in the piece to take apart a number of Israel’s lies. Among Israel’s purported lies is that Hamastani Gaza has become “a launching-pad for firing missiles at Israel’s population” rather than a step towards Palestinian statehood. Despite the obvious truth of Gaza’s role as a launching-pad for such missiles (1,639 in 2007, 2378 in the first half of 2008, up to 3000 during the recent round of conflict), Siegman purports to refute this notion by claiming this:

“First, for all its failings, Hamas brought Gaza to a level of law and order unknown in recent years, and did so without the large sums of money that donors showered on the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. It eliminated the gangs and warlords who terrorised Gaza under Fatah’s rule. Non-observant Muslims, Christians and other minorities have more religious freedom under Hamas rule than they would have in Saudi Arabia, for example, or under many other Arab regimes.”

If we were to accept what Siegman says here as true, the argument would have the same structure as the following argument: “The notion that Germany under Hitler murdered its Jews is a lie because in fact Hitler made the trains run on time and in any event Stalin killed more people.” Or: “The claim that the My Lai massacre was a war crime is a lie because the American occupation made lots of Vietnamese people rich and anyway Pol Pot did some worse things.” Or “A chicken is not a bird because it’s really a farm animal and anyway a duck is more of a bird than a chicken.”

Quite simply, the extent to which Hamas brought Gaza law and order and religious tolerance is irrelevant to the question of whether it used this orderly and tolerant haven as a launching-pad for rockets. The extent to which the Wahhabi monarchy is a theocratic dictatorship is irrelevant to the question of Hamas’ responsibility for the attempted mass slaughter of Israeli citizens.

But even if we ignore Siegman’s request that we look the other way (at Fatah’s corruption and the Saudi’s religious totalitarianism), we cannot avoid the fact that he is lying about Hamastan. Gaza under Hamas has been lawless: a law and order situation that is summed up in the labyrinth of tunnels beneath its borders, by the persistence of independent terrorism by Islamic Jihad, by the extra-judicial detention, beatings and murder of Fatah activists and other oppositionists, by the naked rule of Hamas-linked warlords on the streets, by the carte blanche given to Hamas client clans such as the Doghmush, by the repression of trade unions including those of journalists and doctors. And, of course, beyond this, Hamas uses densely populated civilian areas as the base for its paramilitary assaults on Southern Israel, thus endangering the lives of the people they are supposedly keep safe.

As for religious tolerance, the period of Hamas rule has not only seen a Holy War against the Zionist entity; it has seen an attempt at the ethnic cleansing of the Christian population. In build-up to the Hamas coup in 2007, 40 purportedly Christian internet cafes and book outlets were bombed in Gaza. Days after the coup, a convent and convent school was bombed. Later in the year, there was the murder of the manager of Gaza’s only Christian bookshop by a Jihadi group (the Righteous Swords of Islam) which Hamas have tolerated. Today, Gaza’s Christians live in fear.

Moving on, Siegman takes on Israel’s next “lie”: that Hamas is a terrorist group. “In fact,” he writes, “Hamas is no more a ‘terror organisation’ (Israel’s preferred term) than the Zionist movement was during its struggle for a Jewish homeland.” Again, even if we accept Siegman’s counterclaim as true, it has the same structure as the refutation above: a chicken is not a “bird” because a duck is a “bird”. Whether or not Zionists committed terrorist atrocities (whether or not a duck is a “bird”) is irrelevant to the question of whether or not Hamas does (whether or not a chicken is a “bird”). The truth is that Hamas most manifestly does commit terrorist atrocities: it constantly fires rockets intended to kill civilians in southern Israel, because it does not see a distinction between civilian and military targets.

But what of his claim that “the Zionist movement” was a “terror organisation”? It is true that the IZL and LHI committed acts of terrorism from 1937. However, IZL (Irgun, the military wing of the right-wing Revisionist minority current) were marginal within the Zionist movement; LHI (the Stern Gang) was even more so. The overwhelming majority of the global Zionist movement and of the Jewish community in Palestine, the Yishuv, condemned LHI and IZL. The 1937-8 terrorist attacks by IZL on Arab civilians (during the second stage of the small-scale civil war known as the Second Arab Revolt) was condemned throughout the Palestinian Jewish press and by the Yishuv’s leadership. There was a brief period of co-operation between the terrorist right and the Haganah, in Autumn 1945, when they jointly carried out operations against British military infrastructure targets like bridges. But for the most part, to quote the source Siegman uses (Benny Morris’ Righteous Victims), “due to its meager resources and manpower, almost consensual Yishuv opposition to anti-British terrorism, and successive, effective British clampdowns, sometimes assisted by tip-offs from the Haganah and IZL, the LHI’s stance was never really translated into action” until 1946, while IZL’s 1946 return to terrorism under Begin’s leadership (targeting buildings rather than people) led to the “Saison”, when Haganah teams attempted to wipe out IZL. IZL’s 1937-38 outrages against civilians and LHI’s brief, spectacular period of full-blown terrorism in summer 1946 – when the King David Hotel was bombed, with 91 casualties, British, Jewish and Arab – were the aberration rather than the rule before the 1947-48 war.

Benny Morris characterises the war as really two wars: a guerrilla civil war between two armed citizenries up to May 1948 followed by a conventional war between the State of Israel and the combined armies of its Arab neighbour states. It was during the second phase of the civil war – after the Jewish community had suffered sustained damage at the hands of Arab guerrillas who initially outgunned them – that the Haganah committed the acts of ethnic cleansing Siegman mentions. Although I would condemn those acts, they cannot be seen as “terrorist”, but as part of a spiralling guerrilla war. They comparable not to Hamas’ ballistic assaults but to some of the phases of KLA action during the Balkan civil wars or to some of the atrocities of the Republican armies during the Spanish Civil War.

To talk of “the Zionist movement” as terrorist in this period, then, is like talking about “the socialist movement” as terrorist because of the brief existence of the Red Army Faction and the Weather Underground. This kind of sloppy totalising narrative, with “the Zionist movement” presented as a single, homogeneous, undifferentiated and eternally unchanging entity plays into the antisemitic narrative of “the Zionist entity” and mirrors right-wing discourse on the inherently terrorist nature of “the” Arabs or “the” Palestinians. In fact, LHI had far less claim to represent “the Zionist movement” as a whole than Hamas has a claim to represent the Palestinian nationalist movement as a whole.

And what of Hamas? Siegman says “it is too easy to describe Hamas simply as a ‘terror organisation’.” True. It is too easy to describe a chicken “simply” as a “bird”, but it is a bird nonetheless.

The terrorist actions of the IZL and LHI were disastrous for the Zionist cause. The 1937-8 IZL anti-Arab bombs turned neutral Arab opinion in Palestine towards the Mufti and his far right Palestinian nationalist movement, making the possibility of the two people sharing the space less possible. The 1946 LHI anti-British bombs halted Churchill’s move towards a workable two-state solution, leading to the zero sum game that the two sides have been playing since 1947, which neither side can win without wiping out the other. Hamas’ rockets have likewise been a disaster for the Palestinian cause, undermining any steps towards meaningful Palestinian freedom. Henry Siegman and the LRB, in seeking to exonerate Hamas, are complicit in this disaster.

This is a guest post by BobFromBrockley and is cross-posted at

Radio show hosts have to think quick

Any Answers is on BBC Radio 4 directly after Any Questions. On Any Answers, the listenership phones in to answer the questions which have already been chewed over by politicians and other eminents on Any Questions. It’s a slice of public opinion, well kind of – for decades I’ve had the impression of being one of its younger listeners. You can Listen Again to Any Answers until this coming Saturday. This week’s programme was partly to do with the trouble the BBC finds itself in for deciding not to host the Disaster Emergency Committee appeal for Gaza.

Fairly early on one bloke pointed out, with due indignation, that the allegations of Israeli pressure were unfounded and made a number of other good points. Other callers were confused in one direction or the other. There had been an inbox collapse which Jonathan Dimbleby mysteriously referred to as being “for some reason beyond my paygrade and understanding” which meant that there were no emails to read out that day.

At 15 minutes 35 seconds, Josie Hines from Bradford bagged herself some airtime. She doesn’t realise that she was antisemitic. I dare say she considers herself somebody covered in rectitude. I will transcribe.

“Right, well first of all I’d like to say that I’m a great supporter of the BBC and ironically I’ve just been reading John Simpson’s News From No-Man’s Land, which goes into exactly this issue of impartiality of the BBC. I do feel that when it’s such a humanitarian disaster, politics and prejudice should go out of the window.”

Quite ironic given what followed.

“The problem here – my husband thought exactly the same thing – when they used the comment “compromises the BBC’s impartiality”, we think that this does compromise the BBC’s impartiality because we feel that it is possible that perhaps a large part of the hierarchy of the BBC is – and notice I use the word ‘Zionist’ – may well be Zionist Jews who have a great influence on the situation.”

Mr Hines must have been slapping his brow and trying to snatch the phone away. She got it wrong didn’t she, the dope. You’re supposed to use Zionist instead of Jew. That’s how you bat off the accusations of antisemite.

It’s not even that she gave herself away – if I had to guess, somewhere along the way this upright citizen of Bradford had soaked up some of the ambient Carter, Mearsheimer & Walt, Finkelstein &tc plot-lines and digested them (almost inevitably, Engage would argue) into nakedly antisemitic discourse. She continued digging for as long as it took Jonathan Dimbleby to interject. You could hear him rustling and sighing for some seconds beforehand.

“You’re not permitted to say anything against Israel. If you say anything against Israel, as an individual, you are automatically antisemitic.”

Bad kinds of Jew apply the vexatious charge of antisemitism to prevent people saying “anything against Israel”. Dimbleby intervened:

“Look, I can take all sorts of observations, and it’s a free broadcasting world, but I think that to talk about the senior people in the BBC – or indeed of any organisation as being driven by being Zionist Jews actually rather undermines the point you’re seeking to make. Doesn’t it?”

A brief exchange between Hines and Dimbleby followed before he cut her off.

JH: “Well, I don’t understand why that is. Why – why should we – “

JD: “Hang on. Hang on. You have no evidence whatsoever – “

JH: “I haven’t, no.”

Her tone was aggrieved, perplexed and defiant at once.

JD: “It’s not useful to use airtime, I suggest to you,  to make allegations of a rather serious kind without any evidence whatsoever, so forgive me, I’m going to move on.

And there ended what Josie Hines will probably always think of as her valiant attempt to speak truth to power. She and Mr Hines must have been in paroxysms of indignation. All their worst fears had been confirmed.

I harbour what is perhaps an unrealistic hope that next time this happens Dimbleby will explain a little more about what he means by “allegations of a rather serious kind” and that this will include a reference to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

How many other ordinary, thoughtful, non-Starbucks-smashing people like Josie Hines need an education that Zionist Jews aren’t puppeteering our society? More than a few.


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