Reply to Seth J Frantzman, ‘Hannah Arendt, White Supremacist’ – Robert Fine

Seth J Frantzman published a piece in Jpost saying that Hannah Arendt was a white supremacist:

It’s time to admit that through Arendt’s writing runs a thread of European white supremacy. She was very much a product of the 1920s. It was by accident that she was Jewish, and not German, because she was closest intellectually to the Nazi academics who she associated with.

How did a woman with such racist views, such a hateful disdain for “dark continents,” “savages,” “scum” and “orientals” come to be seen as “progressive”? Mostly because of the careful work of other racist false progressives to keep her in the pantheon and to deceive Jews with liberal inclinations. Just as Karl Marx and many other writers are not subjected to proper critique for their racist views, so Arendt gets a free pass. It’s time to close the book on Arendt. She’s no hero. She’s a villain and represents a tragic point in European Jewish history where some Jews embraced white supremacy in order to fit in to the European context. They should have embraced the “orientals,” she derided.

Robert Fine wrote a reply, but Jpost cut it down and edited it into a letter.  Here is the full text of his response.

Robert Fine

Robert Fine

 

The apartheid state, an image of which adorns Seth Frantzman’s opinion piece, was undoubtedly white supremacist. Now in addition to all past indictments of Hannah Arendt as a self-hating and Nazi-excusing Jew, she is accused by this author of being just like the apartheid state. Is there no bottom to her alleged crimes? It is extraordinary what rodomontade a little knowledge and a fast read can engender.

Frantzman declares himself dissatisfied with received wisdom and claims contrary to Arendt’s uncritical academic sycophants to have read what the great lady actually wrote. He says that she combined a belief in white European superiority with a toxic view of the world that derided the whole African continent as savage; that she represented all that was wrong with German Jews who embraced European concepts of racial supremacy; that she had a racialised view of the world characteristic of German nationalism and treated ‘race’ as a fundamental political principle; that she was in favour of colonialism and thought that the extermination of native peoples was in keeping with the traditions of colonized peoples; and that in America she defended segregation just as back in Germany she had flirted with Nazi intellectuals like Heidegger. The writer concludes that the ignoring of her racism, like that of Karl Marx and other ‘false progressives’, works only to ‘deceive Jews with liberal inclinations’.

I urge your readers not to believe a word of this and to read Arendt’s inspiring texts for themselves. It’s almost funny how Arendt, whose whole intellectual and political life was oriented to understanding and resisting the temptations of totalitarianism in the modern age, has been turned on her head. In the third and final section of The Origins of Totalitarianism she took apart both the workings of totalitarian domination, including the death and labour camps, and the strange appeal of totalitarian ideas to radical intellectuals. In the first two sections of the book on antisemitism and imperialism her work was devoted above all to understanding the contribution of racism in its various forms – against Jews, colonized peoples, former slaves, other Europeans – to the growth of totalitarian terror. Not exactly the stuff of ‘white supremacism’.

Arendt described ‘expansion for expansion’s sake’ as the central political idea of imperialism. She characterized it as a ‘destructive principle that will not stop until there is nothing left to violate’. She held that its logical consequence was ‘the destruction of all living communities’. She argued that the ‘totalitarian successors’ of imperialism took the principle of imperialism to its limit when it set out to destroy not only ‘the Jews’ to the last man and woman but also ‘all politically stabilized structures’. I cite this argument to indicate that, far from defending the extermination of native peoples, Arendt maintained that it was the precursor of the extermination of those designated alien within Europe itself. Her aim was to look afresh at connections between unlimited capital accumulation, the pathological growth of antisemitism, racism and imperialism in the nineteenth century, and the destructive energies released by totalitarian movements in the twentieth. Hardly the stuff of ‘white supremacism’.

The methodological problem lies in searching for an apparently damaging quotation from Arendt’s texts that is ripped out of context and read as a statement of Arendt’s own views. This method is to pay no heed to what Arendt was attempting to do in her writing. So Frantzman quotes Arendt’s depiction of the race consciousness of late nineteenth century Boers, who thought of themselves as escaping civilisation for a ‘dark continent’ populated by ‘native savages’, as if it were Arendt herself who thought of Africa in these terms. What Arendt actually argued was that ‘race was the emergency explanation of human beings … whose humanity so frightened and humiliated the immigrants [Europeans] that they no longer cared to belong to the same human species’. And then again: ‘the Boers were never able to forget their first horrible fright before a species of men whom human pride and the sense of human dignity could not allow them to accept as fellow-men… when European men massacred them, they somehow were not aware they had committed murder’. Is this the stuff of white supremacism?

Frantzman writes that Arendt praised colonialism and thought that exterminating native peoples was fine because it was ‘in keeping with the traditions of these tribes themselves’.  What Arendt actually wrote was that ‘this answer [“Exterminate all brutes”] resulted in the most terrible massacres’ that reduced an indigenous population from 40 to 20 million. Frantzman does not seem to realize that the term ‘Dark Continent’ was drawn from Conrad’s magnificent and terrible Heart of Darkness. Arendt compared the archetypal colonial adventurer with the character of Kurtz from that novel: ‘hollow to the core, reckless without hardihood, greedy without audacity, cruel without courage’.  Arendt’s comment on the extermination of hostile tribes in African native wars, illustrated by the murder of ‘only’ a million or so members of other tribes by Zulus, was meant to contrast with the magnitude of the colonial experience and bring to light the senselessness that may help explain why human destruction is so often ‘not remembered by human history’. White supremacism? Surely not.

Finally, Arendt’s alleged ‘defence’ of segregation in her 1957 essay Reflections on Little Rock (an essay she disavowed soon after) was not a ‘defence’ at all but an expression of concern about the ways in which segregation was being fought: in particular the exposure of black children to the rage of white racists, the subordination of rights to association in all their contingency and potential bigotry to the demands of public authority, and the civil rights movement’s downplaying of its opposition to marriage laws prohibiting ‘intermarriage’ and ‘miscegenation’. Arendt’s political concerns were even according to her own account only partially justified, but they had nothing to do with ‘defending segregation’. As she wrote in her ‘preliminary remarks’ on the much postponed publication of the original text, ‘Since what 1 wrote may shock good people and be misused by bad ones, 1 should like to make it clear that as a Jew I take my sympathy for the cause of the Negroes as for all oppressed and underprivileged peoples for granted and should appreciate it the reader did likewise.’ ‘Tis a pity the author of this opinion piece did not heed the advice.

One last word. Of course Arendt was a creature of her place and time and not immune to the prejudices that accompanied them, but like Kant and Marx, two philosophers she greatly admired, what made her special was the profound self-critique of European civilisation to which she opened both herself and her readers.

Robert Fine

Professor Emeritus, Warwick University

Antisemitism and the British Labour Movement – David Hirsh

 

This is the talk that David Hirsh will give tonight in Amsterdam

David Hirsh

David Hirsh

Locatie: CREA Amsterdam, Muziekzaal
Adres: Nieuwe Achtergracht 170 Amsterdam
Datum: Donderdag 9 juni 2016
Tijd: Inloop 19:00 uur, programma: 19:30 – 22:00 uur
Entree: Gratis, aanmelding verplicht via cidi@cidi.nl of 070-3646862

Yesterday two gunmen opened fire in a restaurant in Tel Aviv.  Four diners were killed and three others were seriously hurt.  Video of the attack is circulating widely on the internet.

Housam Badran, a Hamas spokemsn said that this was the ‘first of many surprises’ planned against Israeli forces during the month of Ramadan.  Both Fatah and Islamic Jihad have described the attack as a ‘natural reaction to Israeli crimes’.

Before Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader of the Labour Party he famously referred to Hamas officials as ‘friends’.  When challenged on this, Corbyn said that this was just diplomatic language and that he was trying to help the peace process.

But he was not telling the truth.  In the same speech, still available on YouTube, Corbyn is heard saying that he believes both Hamas and Hezbollah are dedicated to ‘bringing about long-term peace and social justice and political justice in the whole region.’  Corbyn  has been hosted on a number of trips to Gaza by Hamas.

Jeremy Corbyn supports Hamas politically; he believes the violence and the antisemitism of Hamas is an expression of resistance to Israeli colonialism.  Corbyn is aware that the founding document of Hamas explicitly opposes peace talks.  He is also aware that in the same explicitly antisemitic Charter, Hamas is clear about its support for the shooting of Jews.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Director of Communications Seuamas Milne, a longtime supporter of Stalinist politics, once responded to claims concerning the antisemitism of Hamas that

Hamas and the support it attracts is only the current expression of a spirit of Palestinian national resistance to oppression and dispossession going back decades.

The picture offered is that what is real is the timeless democratic resistance of the Palestinian people; at any one time, the antisemitic form that it takes is not significant.

Gerry Downing, a Labour Party member who has now been suspended after he called for a ‘re-opening of the Jewish Question’ argued that the attacks of 9/11 were manifestations of the

justified outrage of the oppressed as opposed to the outrage of the oppressor, one violence is that of the slave and the other is that of the slave-owner. One is progressive, no matter how distorted its actions are, and must never be “condemned”…

Judith Butler, an influential philosopher and social theorist famously said that

understanding Hamas, Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left, is extremely important.

She later clarified: ‘They are “left” in the sense that they oppose colonialism and imperialism, but their tactics are not ones that I would ever condone.’  Judith Butler inadvertently puts her finger on a key point.

One element of the socialist and critical tradition, opposition to colonialism and imperialism, is raised to a new ‘–ism’ itself, anti-imperialism. From being one element of the tradition, anti-imperialism became an absolute principle, predominating over other left wing and democratic principles such as self-liberation, equality, democracy, the rule of law, human rights, liberty, women’s rights, lesbian and gay rights and national self-determination. This process is related to a resurgence of antisemitism on the left.

Much importance is ascribed to the ‘call’ of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) for a boycott of Israel.  This ‘call’ explicitly says that the ‘vast majority of Israeli intellectuals and academics,’ that is to say individuals, have contributed to, or have been ‘complicit in through their silence,’ the Israeli human rights abuses which are the reasons given for boycott.  While PACBI maintains the fiction of the ‘Institutional Boycott’ of Israel, in fact it lays the basis for thinking of all Israeli individuals as being responsible for the crimes, real or imagined, of the Israeli state.

One of the victims of the attack last night was an academic at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Dr. Michael Feige.   We remember that in 2002 Hamas killed 9 people in a bomb attack on a canteen at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

There is a relationship between boycotting Israelis and shooting Israelis; both rely on similar understandings of the relationship of the individual to the state; and of the essential malignancy of Israel.

It is often said in discussion in Britain that Israel is an apartheid state.  Last night one of the gunmen was shot by Israeli security forces.  His life was saved in an Israeli hospital where he was treated alongside some of his victims.  Israeli hospitals are staffed by mixed teams of Jewish, Arab and Muslim doctors and other healthcare professionals.

Malia Bouattia is the newly elected President of the National Union of Students (NUS) in the UK, which is one of the largest youth movements in the world.  Bouattia has condemned the Israel-Palestine peace process as ‘strengthening the colonial project’; she has argued that ‘to consider that Palestine will be free only by means of fundraising, non-violent protest and the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is problematic…[These] can be misunderstood as the alternative to resistance by the Palestinian people.’  By resistance, in this context, it is clear that Bouattia is referring to the stabbing, bombing, running-over and shooting of Israelis.

The politics of hating Israel is allied to the toleration of antisemitism.  This current has existed in dusty corners of the obsessive left for decades.  What is new today is the emergence of this politics into the mainstream left.

Last summer, Jeremy Corbyn swept to power in the Labour Party — in spite of his political support for Hamas and Hezbollah. It did him no damage when it emerged that he had leapt to the defence of Raed Salah, the blood libeller, and Steven Sizer, the 9/11 conspiracist.  When people realised that Corbyn had worked for the Iranian state’s antisemitic TV propaganda channel, nobody seemed to mind.  Labour now has a leader who supports the campaign for a boycott of Israel and who prefers anti-Israel politics to the politics of peace.

This Spring there has been an intensified focus in the mainstream media on antisemitism within the Labour movement.  When the leaders of the Labour Party and the Trade Unions stood for democratic politics, when they unequivocally supported Israel’s right to exist, when they opposed antisemitism, the existence of some antisemitism on the fringes of the movement was not really a big story.  Now that the leader himself embraces this kind of politics, every explicit example that can be found is being raised in the mainstream as a problem for the Labour Party as a whole.

There is a relationship between the political culture of Israel-hatred and the examples of easy to recognise antisemitism bubbling up to the surface.

In 2014, Vicki Kirby, a Labour Parliamentary candidate, was warned by the party for posting antisemitic tweets: ‘We invented Israel when saving them from Hitler, who now seems to be their teacher,’ she wrote.

She also asked why ISIS was not attacking the ‘real oppressor’, ‘evil’ Israel. Kirby had been reinstated as a party member and she was active in the Corbyn support network Momentum.

Oxford University Labour Club has been torn apart in the last year by Israel-haters who succeeded in drumming out their co-chair Alex Chalmers. Chalmers wrote that a large proportion of club members had ‘some kind of problem with Jews’. There was a culture in which the politics of peace between Israel and the Palestinians was mocked as ‘Zio’. A politics of war against Israel was considered more appropriate and the ‘Zios’ were routinely baited with the song ‘Rockets over Tel Aviv’. Jewish students were treated as defenders of racism and apartheid and attempts were made to deny ‘Zio’ members the right to vote in club business. Alex Chalmers wrote that the antisemitic incidents he witnessed were less troubling than the culture which allowed such behaviour to become normalised.

The Palestinian campaign to kill Israeli civilians in the streets has hardly impacted either the news or the political agenda in the Britain.

In 2012 the key institutions of the Jewish community said that the University and College Union had a problem with institutional antisemitism. Members who opposed the boycott, and the antisemitism which came in its wake, were routinely denounced as supporters of Israeli racism; a string of respected academics resigned from the union in disgust at the treatment they had received; the union stood stonily aloof as Jewish members were denounced as Nazis, as the Torah was portrayed as the source of Israeli racism and as opposition to the boycott was said to be allied to the forces of global capitalism.

Last week the union passed a new boycott motion, complete with paranoid clauses about the power of Israel and ‘Zionism’ on campus.  There are no Jews left in the decision making structures of the union who are willing or able to oppose the boycott campaign; they have been driven out or silenced.

Fears are now mounting that what Jews experienced in the UCU was neither an isolated incident nor an exaggeration, but a prototype of what was to come in the wider labour and progressive movement.

Jewish life in the UK is still rich and free. In spite of legitimate fear of terrorist attack and in spite of the fact that Jewish communal buildings are marked by the fluorescent vests of the Community Security Trust, Jews are not subjected to significant violence on the streets.

Antisemitism in Britain today is largely an elite phenomenon. It does not figure hugely in the popular press and in mass culture. It is, so far, a phenomenon about ways of thinking rather than physical violence.  But, as Hannah Arendt warned us, the elite searches for a mob.

Contemporary antisemitism is carried by people who believe themselves to be opponents of antisemitism; it is neither transparent nor obvious. The antisemites take the high ground, they feel virtuous and courageous. It is an antisemitism which makes Jews feel fearful and lonely, which makes us doubt ourselves and our own judgment. We accuse ourselves of inwardness and of paranoia and our instincts for self-preservation are disrupted and confused. But antisemitism is not a subjective feeling of hatred towards Jews, it is an objective social phenomenon and it can be defined and recognised by those who understand how it works and how it manifests itself.

Antisemitism is recognized by what is said and done, not by the purity of a person’s soul.

Everybody agrees that there is a distinction between criticism of Israel and antisemitism.  The problem is that this truism is often interpreted such that everything is judged to be criticism and nothing is judged to be antisemitism.

If some things are recognised as legitimate criticism and others are recognised as demonizing or antisemitic, then we are brought back into the democratic realm of rational politics.  The task then is by debate and discussion to find consensus on how to draw the boundaries.

If, on the other hand, some people in practice insist that every example brought before them is legitimate criticism then we remain outside the world of democratic and rational politics.

Those who insist that nothing is antisemitic, that everything is just ‘criticism’, tend to try to construct the whole problem as a battle between supporters of Israel and supporters of Palestine.  They want us to take sides with the ‘oppressed’ in this battle and against the ‘oppressors’.

Some on the edges of the trouble looking in are tempted to see it as a bad tempered and un-civil struggle, between two sets of angry ‘foreigners’ within our movement.  This is tempting because it assigns blame in a seemingly balanced way on all sides while also absolving the poor old Brits who have to try to ensure fair play and comradely good manners.

Incidentally, we see an analogous problem in judging what is criticism of Islam, what is opposition to Islamism and what is Islamophobia.  Islamophobes love to declare that all they are doing is criticising Islam; Islamists enjoy portraying genuine criticism of their politics as Islamophobic.

In order to judge what is antisemitic and what is legitimate criticism it is necessary to judge the politics of a situation as a whole, taking into account the context.

For example, some might say that the analogy of Israel with apartheid South Africa is antisemitic while others might say that it is legitimate.  The problem is that it could easily be either.  It could be a serious and rational debate about similarities and differences; on the other hand a Jewish society on campus might be harassed, banned and isolated over a period of time as apartheid, racist and supremacist; this could constitute an antisemitic way of relating to Jewish students.  The apartheid analogy is often deployed in a way which encourages people to think less rather than more, in the campaign to exclude Israelis from the global community.

We have seen it said often that the claim that Labour has an antisemitism problem is invented by Zionists, Tories and Blairites to damage the Corbyn faction and the Party.

Some say that there is an antisemitism problem; others respond that there is a Jewish problem; at least a problem concerning the overwhelming majority of Jews who are defined in a hostile way as ‘Zionist’ or apologists for Israel.

There is a long history of antisemites trying to make a ‘Jewish Question’ part of public debate; antiracists have always responded by insisting that the ‘Jewish Question’ is a racist question and the real problem is a problem of antisemitism.

Is there a woman problem or a problem of sexism?

Is there a black problem or a problem of racism?

Naz Shah is a Muslim Labour MP.  She was brought up politically in the Islamist/Trotskyist Respect Party; she then joined Labour and is well known for having defeated the more or less explicitly antisemitic George Galloway in Bradford West.  In April it emerged that during the time of the last Gaza conflict in 2014, Naz Shah had published an image on facebook which portrayed ‘Apartheid’ Israel as being similar to ‘Hitler’.  She had warned that ‘The Jews’ were ‘rallying’ against a claim that Israel was committing war crimes.   And she had published on facebook a plan to ethnically cleanse all the Jews from Israel and send them to Nebraska, complete with an estimate of ‘transportation’ costs.

Naz Shah made an apology for her actions; an apology which seemed to be much more serious than the standard politician’s apology.  She said that she had been ignorant and she wanted to learn; she said that she wanted to understand antisemitism and she wanted to bring her new understanding back into the Muslim community.  Since then Naz Shah has been doing that; including a long and serious and lengthy meeting with the congregation at her local synagogue.

By contrast, while Naz Shah was coming to terms with her own political history, Ken Livingstone, former mayor of London, was appearing in the media defending her and declaring that she had nothing to apologize for.

In March, Livingstone said that in his 45 years in the Labour Party he had never once seen any antisemitism.

In April Livingstone said that Hitler supported Zionism.  Most people know that Zionism was a response to antisemitism; most people know that Hitler wasn’t in the business of responding to antisemitism but was himself an antisemite.

Livingstone smears Jews, at least those who refuse to identify as antizionist, by saying that they are like Nazis.  He encourages people on the left and in the student movement to relate to the overwhelming majority of Jews as though they were Nazis.

Back in 2006 Ken Livingstone got into an argument with a Jewish journalist, Oliver Feingold. Feingold asked Livingstone for a comment about a birthday party from which he had just emerged. Livingstone got angry and Feingold responded that he was ‘only doing his job’. Livingstone latched onto this phrase, replying that Feingold was like a Nazi war criminal. Feingold told him that he was Jewish and he objected to that.  Livingstone persisted.

Livingstone is a bit obsessed by Nazis; he loves to think through everything by analogy to Nazism.

When the conversation was published, some accused Livingstone of antisemitism.  Livingstone spotted a political opportunity. He wrote an article in The Guardian criticising the occupation of the West Bank in which he wrote:

For far too long the accusation of antisemitism has been used against anyone who is critical of the policies of the Israeli government, as I have been.

This Livingstone Formulation is a response to a charge of antisemitism. It is a rhetorical device which enables the user to refuse to engage with the charge made. It is a mirror which bounces back onto an accuser a counter-charge of dishonest Jewish (or ‘Zionist’) conspiracy.

Firstly, the Livingstone Formulation conflates anything allegedly antisemitic, in this case repeatedly insulting a Jewish reporter by comparing him to a Nazi, into the category of legitimate criticism of Israel.

Secondly, it goes further than accusing people who raise the issue of antisemitism of being wrong; it accuses them of being wrong on purpose; of crying wolf, of playing the antisemitism card. It alleges an intent, often a collective intent and so a conspiracy, to mobilize Jewish victim-power for illegitimate purposes.

Jews may have good reason for raising the issue of antisemitism, as black people have for raising the issue of racism and as women do for raising the issue of sexism.  Indeed if people who have a long and intense memory of antisemitism racism or sexism occasionally recognise something as threatening which others may judge is not, the usual way is to relate with empathy rather than with aggressive accusations of bad faith.

Indeed people whose primary concern is to support Israel may still have good reason to raise the issue of antisemitism; they may feel that Israel was and is necessary because of antisemitism; they may feel that Israel is threatened by antisemitic movements amongst its neighbours; they may feel that the construction of Israel as the pariah nation is analogous to the construction of the Jews as the pariah people; they may feel that talk about the decisive power of the ‘Israel lobby’ reflects older the older trope of Jewish power.

There are four problems with the Livingstone Formulation as a response to concern about antisemitism:

  1. It is a way of avoiding discussion of the actual issue of antisemitism which has been raised by deflecting attention onto the imputed motive for raising it.
  2. It often functions as a form of antisemitic conspiracy theory in itself. It does not accuse Jews of being wrong – they could all be wrong independently and there is no shame in being wrong; but it accuses them of acting dishonestly, following a common, secret plan to try to help Israel in this disgraceful way.
  3. It is a key mode of bullying. When a Jewish person raises the issue of antisemitism, instead of being heard respectfully, they are often themselves accused of acting dishonestly, as an agent of a foreign power, as an agent of a foreign faction or as an agent of a foreign party.
  4. It trains our youth to recognise a claim of antisemitism as an indicator of Zionist dishonesty. It acts as a barrier to the education of our youth in recognising and understanding antisemitism.

When I named the Livingstone Formulation back in 2006 I was a little worried; I thought perhaps it was a bit arbitrary to give it his name.   But in recent weeks Livingstone has really embraced the identity which I named after him; he has really made it his own.

In 1981, when he was already leader of the Greater London Council, Livingstone became editor of a Newspaper called Labour Herald.  The Workers Revolutionary Party was an antisemitic Trotskyist group.  Labour Herald was financed by the WRP, which was in turn financed by Colonel Gadafi and other Arab Nationalist dictators.

Already in the 80s, Livingstone’s paper was running cartoons depicting the Prime Minister of Israel, Menachem Begin, wearing a Nazi uniform and doing a straight arm salute.  Portraying the Jews as Nazis is deep in Livingstone.

Later, as Mayor of London, Livingstone hosted Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi at City Hall.  Livingstone insisted that Qaradawi was ‘one of the leading progressive voices in the Muslim world’.  Qaradawi is the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is the Palestinian affiliate.  Qaradawi speaks in favour of wife-beating, Female Genital Mutilation and the execution of gay people.  He says that Hitler put the Jews in their place; he described the Holocaust as both exaggerated and also as divine punishment.

In 2012, a group of Jewish Labour supporters sat down with Livingstone to try and come to some agreement so that they could back him in the Mayoral election.  They reported that at ‘various points in the discussion Ken used the words Zionist, Jewish and Israeli, interchangeably, as if they meant the same, and did so in a pejorative manner.’  They also raised the issue of Livingstone having taken money for fronting a programme on the antisemitic Iranian propaganda channel Press TV.  Livingstone told the group that Jews are rich and so are not likely anyway to vote Labour.

Ken Livingstone says antisemitic things; he leaps to the defence of antisemites and antisemitic movements; he supports the positions of political antisemitism; he gave his name to a particular variant of antisemitic conspiracy theory whereby those who stand up against antisemitism are accused of doing so in bad faith; he recycles antisemitic tropes. He loves getting into a fight with the Jews. He crosses the street to pile in. He’s hungry for the spotlight in this fight.

Ken Livingstone and a significant minority of people in the UK still do not see that there is a problem of antisemitism on the left.

They see a right wing Zionist witch-hunt against good people who oppose austerity, imperialism, the Israeli occupation and Islamophobia. They are enraged by the injustice of the antisemitism ‘smear’. They are entrenched in their position that the influence of Israel, and the Jews who support it, is toxic. They are worried how this influence seems to seep into the dominant ideology of the ruling class and the mainstream media. Their blood boils more and more intensely about Israel, its human rights abuses, its vulgarity, and the racism that is to be found there; their anger is mixed with shame at this European Colonial outpost, created under British rule. They see Islamophobia, imported from Israel and America, as the poison of the post national Europe hope. They feel that everybody has learnt the lessons of the Holocaust except for the Zionists, who, having rejected Christian forgiveness and love, find themselves stuck more and more in the Nazi era.

The way that Corbyn found to deal with the antisemitism crisis was by announcing a committee of inquiry into the problem in the Party.  It is sitting this summer and is due to report in the Autumn.

David Hirsh

Goldsmiths, University of London

Response to Mike Cushman, leading Jewish activist in University and College Union – David Hirsh

Last week I wrote this piece about the latest pro Israel Boycott motion overwhelmingly passed by UCU Congress.  In that piece I argued that UCU still has a problem with cultural and institutional antisemitism, but that there was no longer much noise about it.  The reason there is not much noise, I argued, is that there are almost no activists left within the decision making structures of the union who want to make a noise. Specifically, I argued, there are no Jews left at Congress willing or able to oppose antisemitism.  True, there are some Jews there, but they are either antizionist pro-boycott Jews, or they are people who choose to keep their heads down.

Mike Cushman has responded to my piece here.  It is good that he has responded in public because I am still bureaucratically excluded from the internal email discussion, so I have no idea what is said there.  I have no right to read what is said about me and I have no right to reply either.

Mike begins his piece by demonstrating in practice how Jews who refuse to identify as antizionist are generally treated in the union.  He says Engage is ‘scurrilous’.  I didn’t know what that mean so I looked it up:  ‘making or spreading scandalous claims about someone with the intention of damaging their reputation’.  Of course I don’t lie about people; I analyse what they say and do in a way with which they disagree.  Engage makes arguments.

This is how Jews get bullied in UCU: ‘Colleagues have said that we should not respond to Hirsh’s calumnies [‘the making of false and defamatory statements’], suggesting that he is such a marginal and pitiful figure that he is not worth the attention but craves it.’  My trade union colleagues and my academic colleagues talk about me in these terms.  Why?  Because I oppose the boycott and I oppose antisemitism.  This is how Jews who opposed the boycott and who opposed antisemitism were bullied out of the decision making structures of the union.

Since when have socialists and trade unionists spoken contemptuously of the marginal and the pitiful?  Only when they are Jews who can be constructed as ‘Zionist’.

Cushman then writes this:  ‘Only Jews who subscribe to ‘my Zion right or wrong’ are real Jews in Hirsh’s eyes – the rest of them, a steadily growing number, are presumably ‘asaJew’ as Engage so eloquently describes them.’

Mike Cushman knows that this is not true; he knows that I am critical of much Israeli policy, he knows that I have spent thirty years arguing against the Israeli right.  See this recent talk, for example, which I gave in debate with Melanie Philips, and see this description of the event.   So this is the another key mode of UCU bullying: even somebody considered to be on the far left of the Jewish community is understood, within UCU, to be a ‘myZion right or wrong’ Jew.  In the normal world this characterisation may appear unobjectionable but within UCU it functions as an epithet meaning that I am a supporter of a racist ideology of Jewish supremacism and apartheid.  All Jews, who refuse to disavow Israel, are thought of as this singular and disgraceful entity.  They are excluded from the community of the UCU.

Allow me to explain what Cushman means when he refers to an ‘asaJew’.  I have seen Mike stand up to introduce a pro boycott motion at UCU Congress.  He stands up and he announces how courageous he is to oppose the Zionists.  His first concern is to satisfy the audience that there is nothing antisemitic about the proposed academic boycott of Israel.  For some reasons why his boycott may be antisemitic, follow this link.  But Mike does not tend to begin by making his argument; instead he begins with something like: ‘As a Jew, I can tell you that there is nothing antisemitic about this boycott’, or about the culture in this union, or about the fact that the only Jews left at Congress are antizionist or silent Jews.  This very phrase, ‘asaJew’ is trotted out as though it gave the speaker some kind of credibility.  If this guy is Jewish, they want people to think, and if he says there is no antisemitism, he must be right.  It is a mobilization of a Jewish identity as a political weapon.  It is an inversion of the Macpherson principle.  To read more about Jewish antizionism, follow this link.

I have never argued that antizionist Jews aren’t Jews, or aren’t real Jews.  What I say is that there is a huge consensus within the Jewish community about the legitimacy of Israel, against boycotts and how to recognize antisemitism, which Mike Cushman and his ‘asaJews’ stand outside of and which they oppose.  And they always use the prefix ‘as a Jew’ when they do so.

The Macpherson principle does not rely on the victims to define racism but it does take what victims say seriously.  If it is true that there is a broad consensus in the Jewish community about antisemitism, it does not follow that the consensus is correct; but it does mean that the existence of such a consensus is relevant.

Mike Cushman tries to pretend that there could be an ‘institutional boycott’ of Israeli academic institutions which would not boycott any Israeli scholars.  For reasons why the ‘institutional boycott’ is a myth, and for what PACBI actually says about individual Israeli scholars, see this piece.

Mike has forgotten that in 2006 NATFHE, the union which merged with AUT to form UCU,  passed a motion which called for a boycott of Israeli scholars who failed to “publicly dissociate themselves” from “Israel’s apartheid policies.”  Indeed PACBI did move away from the McCarthyite test after this, preferring the institutional test.  Steve Cohen, author of ‘That’s Funny You Don’t Look Antisemitic‘, wrote this piece after the NATFHE decision in 2006, in which he argued that this kind of political test functions in a specifically antisemitic way.

Mike asks: ‘Does [Hirsh] expect UCU, or anyone else, to believe that there has been a spontaneous uprising of the recent spate of accusations’ of antisemitism?  The UCU motion explains this ‘uprising’, and much more, as a manifestation of Zionist power.  A much simpler explanation for the fact that lots of people are talking about antisemitism in the Labour movement is that there is antisemitism in the Labour movement. Here is a list of some recent examples on the one hand, and also a list of people who say that the examples are actually made up by the state of Israel to smear the left.  Which is more plausible?

Mike Cushman is normally a skeptic when it comes to the workings of the bourgeois legal system.  But when the decision goes his way, he clings onto it with all his strength.  If people want to read more about the Fraser case against UCU, they should have a look at this link.  It is worth remembering that none of the boycotters or the antizionist Jews were called as witnesses in UCU’s defence.  I wonder why not.

David Hirsh

UCU member

 

 

 

 

UCU passes new boycott motion with paranoia about Zionist power mixed in – David Hirsh

This piece by David Hirsh is from Jewish News. toplogo

The reason that we do not hear much about antisemitism anymore in the University and College Union (UCU) is not that the culture has changed.  It is that there are no Jews left in the decision making structures of the union willing or able to oppose it.

For more than a decade now UCU has had a tacit deal with its core of Israel-hating activists.  The activists pass whatever motions they like about boycotting Israelis and about the threat of Israel and what it calls ‘Zionism’ on our campuses; and then the union bureaucracy rules that they will not be acted upon because to do so would be illegal.  The activists are happy because they can make their radical speeches; the bureaucracy is happy because it does not have to do anything.

Back in 2005 and 2007 this was fun for the boycotters because they were able to have a fight with the Jews; those Jews anyway who did not support excluding Israelis, and only Israelis, from our campuses.  The boycotters enjoyed going up the lectern, preening themselves and speechifying about how courageous they were to stand up against Zionist power.

Nowadays it is not so much fun because there are no Jews left at UCU Congress who are willing or able to stand up against them.  There are a few Jews there, but they are Jews who support and kosherize the boycott campaign; there is also a handful of Jews who keep their heads down for their own reasons.

The Jews, and others, who used to oppose BDS have been bullied, driven out and silenced.  I myself am currently serving the eighth year of a ban from the internal union email discussion after having been punished for whistle-blowing over the antisemitic and bullying discourse which was normal there.

This year’s motion (full text below), entitled ‘Palestine’, was debated this week at Congress.  With the boycott campaign comes paranoid rhetoric.  Taken together and in context this paranoid rhetoric mirrors the themes and purposes of antisemitic conspiracy theory.  The ‘notes’ clauses of the motion list the ways in which Israel is accused of conspiring to silence ‘criticism’: it procures UK Government guidance against boycotts; counter-radicalization is portrayed as an attempt to prohibit criticism of Israel; the conflation of ‘anti-Zionism’ with ‘anti-Semitism’ is held to be ‘orchestrated’; Israel is held responsible for a ‘drive’ to ‘access’ UK campuses for ‘state propaganda’; British laws against discrimination on the grounds of nationality and against antisemitism are portrayed as part of this conspiracy against ‘critics of Israel’.

The failure of western governments ‘to hold Israel accountable for war crimes’ is added to the picture.  No mention is made of other governments; whether their failure in this respect is considered insignificant or whether they are considered to be succeeding in the fight against Israel is not made clear.

And then comes: ‘scholars have a duty to ensure voices of the oppressed are not silenced on campuses.’  Notice the wording.  This is not about silencing Jews by boycotting them or by accusing them of speaking in bad faith; they are not considered ‘oppressed’ and there is no objection to silencing them.  This clause is to be understood as a prohibition on anybody making a fuss about antisemitism on campus.  In the world of UCU, making a fuss about antisemitism is recognized as a conspiracy to silence the voice of the oppressed; perhaps directly, if an antisemite who is considered to be oppressed is speaking; perhaps indirectly if a white male antisemite is speaking for the oppressed.

Malia Bouattia, the newly elected President of the National Union of Students, is a guest speaker at this UCU Congress.  She referred to TV and newspapers as ‘mainstream Zionist-led media outlets’ and she referred to a campus with a strong vibrant Jewish society as ‘something of a Zionist outpost’.  Bouattia is critical of those who support the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians; she advocates the politics of ‘armed resistance’ instead, including against Israeli civilians.

Congress ‘reaffirms its support for BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions), and for the boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions’.  In the old days UCU tried to set up a McCarthyite political test so that it could exempt Israeli academics of whom it approved. Now it proposes an institutional test instead.  If an Israeli is willing or able to disavow their institution and speak or submit to a journal or a conference without mentioning their institution then they may be exempted.  The ‘institutional boycott’ is a myth; a political test by another name.  It is an exclusion of Israelis who work at Israeli institutions.  Why else would the PACBI ‘call’ (the Palestinian Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) say that the ‘vast majority of Israeli intellectuals and academics,’ have been ‘complicit’ in the Israeli human rights abuses which are offered as reason for boycott. There would be no sense in making this claim if no sanctions against individuals were envisaged.  For more on the myth of the institutional boycott follow this link.

In any case, all this detailed thinking through is of no account to UCU Congress; it knows there is no chance of this boycott happening; not openly anyway.  How these people relate secretly to their Israeli colleagues, and how Israeli scholars choose to relate to British academia, are questions only answerable by anecdote.  An Israeli scholar once told me that he had asked a colleague at my institution to meet for coffee to discuss work of mutual interest; the reply was that he would be happy to meet if the Israeli would first formally articulate his opposition to Israeli apartheid.  The meeting did not happen.  The ‘grey boycott’ of Israeli individuals is flourishing under the surface; self-boycotting of Israelis who have no faith in the fairness of British academia is flourishing too.

One observer at this year’s Congress, the magnificent and courageous Sarah Brown, recently elected onto UCU Executive, spoke against the motion.  Her speech was greeted with stony silence.  The motion was passed overwhelmingly, with about fifteen quiet votes against.

The Jew-baiting atmosphere of ten years ago in UCU has subsided somewhat because it has been too successful.  There is nobody left to bait; the enemy now, described in huge, scary and shadowy allusion, is lurking somewhere, everywhere, outside the room.

The lawyer Anthony Julius represented Ronnie Fraser, a UCU member, in an action against the union in 2012.  They alleged that the cultural and institutional antisemitism in UCU constituted a violation of the Equality Act.  The tribunal heard 34 witnesses give evidence about antisemitism in UCU, how it felt, how it worked and how it was facilitated by the union officials.  The witnesses were union activists, scientists, sociologists, historians, lawyers, philosophers, Members of Parliament, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, academic experts on antisemitism and Jewish communal leaders.  In the end the tribunal judged tritely that the attempt to allege antisemitism in the union was a bad faith political move to silence criticism of Israel.  The repeated allegation of bad faith which was made against those who raised the issue of antisemitism inside the union was mirrored in the tribunal judgment.  The UCU made a determined attempt to force Ronnie, a sixth form maths teacher, to pay them hundreds of thousands of pounds in punitive costs.  Ronnie was bailed out by the generosity of his supporters and UCU was bought off in a behind-the-scenes deal.  For more detail on the Fraser case, follow this link.

The alarm that was raised about institutional and cultural antisemitism in the UCU was not confined to that Union.  We know now with hindsight that what happened in the UCU was not some strange aberration; it was a prototype of what was to come in the wider trade union movement and then in the Labour Party itself; where it has now been widely recognized.

I am still a member of UCU.  I grudgingly pay it £23.31 a month.  I do this because I won’t be driven out.  I also do this because, when we go on strike, I refuse to be the Jewish strike-breaker.  But I do not go to branch meetings any more on my own campus because I cannot bear it.  And I do not get delegated to speak at Congress.  As far as I know, most of the others who fought long and hard against antisemitism in the union have resigned in protest and in disgust.  Some of them keep their membership, probably for reasons similar to my own.

9 Palestine, University of Brighton, Grand Parade

Congress notes:

  1. Government guidance deterring Local Authority boycotts of unethical companies;
  2. ‘counter-radicalisation’ to prevent campus criticism of Israel, and boycott of complicit institutions;
  3. orchestrated conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism;
  4. the drive by Israel to access UK campuses for state propaganda via faux debates with selected critics;
  5. escalating legal threats and diplomatic pressure to intimidate Israel’s critics: including UCU Congress votes for BDS (2010), non-conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism (2011), and against contact with Histadrut (2010).

Congress believes

  1. BDS responds to Western governments’ failure to hold Israel accountable for war crimes and international law violations;
  2. scholars have a duty to ensure voices of the oppressed are not silenced on campuses.

Congress

  1. reaffirms its support for BDS, and for the boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions;
  2. requires union officers to uphold Congress decisions when acting in their UCU capacity, and to resile from such external positions as create conflicts of interest.

This piece by David Hirsh is from Jewish News. 

 

Resignation from Jews for Justice for Palestinians – David Hirsh

Dear Jews for Justice for Palestinians,JFJFP-BANNER

I write as a Jew for Justice for Palestinians. Unfortunately I feel that I have reached the point where I have to resign from the organisation and have my name removed from the list of signatories.

While I never agreed with every dot and comma of the JFJFP statement, I have had sufficient agreement with it to enable me to support the common solidarity with the Palestinians. The problem is that more and more, those who speak in the name of the signatories of the statement have moved away from the values and the politics of the statement itself.

In particular I object to recent efforts made in the name of JFJFP signatories to portray the crisis of antisemitism in the Labour Party as something which is invented by the Jewish community in bad faith in order to smear the left and in order to silence criticism of Israel.

I do not agree with this analysis. I believe that there is a problem of antisemitism on the left and I believe that JFJFP is more part of this problem than it is part of the solution.

Antisemitism hurts Jews, and this is a good reason for Jews to be vigilant against it. It also discredits, mis-educates and corrupts the left. And it undermines the purpose of JFJFP.

The original JFJFP statement defined itself as having support from anti-Zionists, non-Zionists and Zionists. I believe that for some time now JFJFP has been wholly hostile to ‘Zionists’, in violation of its own founding statement.

Please take my name off the list of signatories.

I am also concerned about the possibility of dying and being put on the list of dead signatories which I noticed on the website. It concerns me that this is an eternal state from which there is no possibility of escape.

Please feel free to publish this email amongst the signatories and on the website in the spirit of open debate and discussion.

Please confirm receipt of this email.

Best wishes,

David Hirsh

See report of my resignation in Jewish News

[Here is the JFJFP statement]

[Here is the JFJFP website]

[Here is the ‘Free speech on Israel’ website, which is leading the fight to stop the recognition of antisemitism in the Labour movement]

 

Why BDS is antisemitic – David Hirsh

  1.  BDS is a global campaign against Israel and only Israel.  It seeks to foment sufficient emotional anger with Israel, and with only Israel, so that people around the world will want to punish Israel, and only Israel.
  2. We are free to criticize whoever we want to criticize and people attracted by BDS are critical about other human rights abuses too; but this specific punishment, exclusion from the global community, is proposed only against Israel.  BDS cannot be defended as free speech; it goes beyond speech into action.  See this debate for more on the issues of singling out Israel; the debate continues here.
  3. BDS says that it seeks to punish only Israeli institutions and not to silence or exclude Israeli individuals.  This is not true.  Israeli individuals, academics, athletes, artists, actors, film-makers, work inside Israeli institutions; where else could they work?  If BDS demands that Israelis should not be part of institutions then it puts an eccentric demand on Israelis.  Follow this link for what happened when the BDS movement tried to disrupt a Hebrew production of Merchant of Venice in London.
  4. The BDS demand that for Israelis to be accepted in the global community they have to emigrate, and so not be part of Israeli institutions, is a claim about the essential illegitimacy of the Israeli state.  See ‘The Myth of the Institutional Boycott‘ for more on this.
  5. Sometimes BDS argues that there should be a political test rather than an institutional test.  For example Israelis have been challenged to criticize Israeli ‘apartheid’ – and if they fail to do so in the terms required of them then they are excluded.  But proponents of BDS never explain what kind of machinery would be set up in a university in Britain, say, or America, to test the political cleanliness of an Israeli.  And they never explain why such a McCarthyite blacklist would only be set up for Israelis.  For more on McCarthyism and BDS, see Steve Cohen here.
  6. BDS is careful to remain ambiguous on the question of Israel’s legitimacy.  It says that it is appropriate for people who oppose only the post 1967 occupation but it also refuses to make a distinction between Israeli institutions within Israel and within the West Bank.  BDS refuses clarity on what it means by the Palestinian ‘right of return’ and it thinks about the creation of the state of Israel itself as the root of the problem.
  7. BDS talks about Israel as a colonial settler state or an apartheid state but it allows no conception of Israel as a life-raft state, a haven for the un-dead of Europe, a home for Jews ethnically cleansed from the great cities of the Middle East, or as an asylum for the Jews who limped away from the carcass of the Soviet Union.  For more on the progressive case for Israel, see this link.
  8. BDS constructs Israelis as white foreigners, who came from outside to settle the land and it constructs Palestinians as indigenous, who have a natural right to the land.  In truth many Jews and Arabs have always lived in Palestine; and both Jews and Arabs moved into the area as it became more developed in the late Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.  There is a historical connection between Jews and the land of Israel.  In any case, the splitting of peoples into ‘foreigners’ and ‘indigenous’, the notion that some people have a natural right to land while others are impostors, is profoundly reactionary.  Moreover the idea, put about by BDS that Israelis are ‘white’ is also highly misleading.  About half of Israelis are descended from people who came from the Middle East; the other Israelis are descended from people who were defined and treated as a racial infection in white Europe.
  9. BDS remains unimpressed about Israel’s role as a potential haven for Jews around the world, if that should become necessary.
  10. BDS says that Israel is an apartheid state.  This analogy mis-states the key problem, which is a conflict between two peoples, not a racist state which seeks to exploit the black majority.  This analogy again refuses to make a distinction between Israel itself, which is fundamentally a multi-ethnic democracy in which everyone is equal before the law; and the occupied territories, in which there are two different legal systems.  Israelis and Palestinians need to find a peace agreement; we need to support those in both nations who recognise the independence of the other.  The apartheid analogy is weaponized by BDS as a thought-free short-cut to the conclusion of boycott.  See this piece by Alan Johnson on the apartheid analogy.
  11. BDS does not impact much against Israel; it impacts hard against Jews around the world where BDS takes a hold.  BDS constructs friends and enemies of the Palestinians in such a way that the overwhelming majority of democratic and antiracist Jews cannot be recognised as friends of the Palestinians.  BDS sets up an assumption against Jews, on campus, amongst progressives and in the Labour movement, that they are enemies of Palestinians and therefore enemies of those who want to support the Palestinians.  BDS sets itself up in opposition to the overwhelming majority of Jews.   See this debate with Claire Potter on the question of antisemitism.
  12. BDS situates itself in the tradition of the boycott of apartheid South Africa but it always remains silent about the other traditions in which it follows.  The boycott of Israel organised by the Arab Nationalist States was formally established in 1945, within a year of the gas chambers in Europe going cold.  Boycotts of Jews from universities and campaigns to ‘not buy from the Jews’ have been integral to antisemitic movements for centuries.
  13. To teach people to relate to the overwhelming majority of Jews, that is Jews do not agree with BDS, as apologists for apartheid, Nazism or colonialism is to teach people to relate to those Jews in an antisemitic way.  If BDS says that Israel is apartheid and that anybody who does not agree with boycotting Israel is a supporter of apartheid, then it is setting up a framework for Jew-baiting.  If antizionists say that Israel is genocidal, is like the Nazis, that Zionism is similar to Nazism, then they are inciting people to treat Jews as though they were Nazis.
  14. BDS operates as though there was no threat to the State of Israel.  Yet in 1948, 1967 and 1973 there were military attempts by Israel’s neighbouring states to wipe it off the map.  The Iranian state continues to argue for and to work for the elimination of Israel and it finances and arms Hamas and Hezbollah in their campaigns against Israeli civilians.  Israel may be strong compared to the Palestinians, but in the world as a whole it is a small state surrounded by states and political movements which want it eliminated.
  15. BDS is a campaign to make people angry with Israel and with Israelis and with those people around the world who are suspected of supporting Israel.  It would be extraordinary if such a campaign did not sometimes bring with it antisemitic emotions and if it did not sometimes draw upon antisemitic tropes.  Experience tells us that BDS does precisely that.  Israel is portrayed as a blood-thirsty child-murdering state; it is said that it is racist because the Torah, with its talk of ‘chosen people’ is racist; it is said that Jews were behind the slave trade; it is said that the Rothschilds financed the state of Israel by stealing diamonds from South Africa; it is said that Israel steals and trades in body parts; it is said that Israel is genocidal like the Nazis; it is said that Israel controls politics and the media around the world.  In these ways old antisemitic tropes, including blood libel and conspiracy, have a tendency to emerge, recycled, out of the BDS movement.
  16. BDS is only thinkable for people who have no fear of antisemitism.  But if we look at the political movements and the states and the militias which seek the destruction of Israel and if we look at the culture which BDS always brings with it into a social space, then having no fear of antisemitism is eccentric indeed.  See this critique of Naomi Klein’s argument for more on this .
  17. BDSers sometimes say that there is nothing to fear from debate.  This is not always the case.  Sometimes there is much to fear from debate.  Some debating questions are racist questions.  For example we would fear a debate on whether the Holocaust really happened; we would fear a debate on whether women should remain in the kitchen; we would fear a debate on whether black people are more aggressive than white people.  In the same way, I fear a debate on whether Israelis, and only Israelis, should be excluded from the global academic, sporting, artistic and economic community.  Antisemitism and racism never opens debate, it always closes off free speech.
  18. It is sometimes said that the claim that BDS is antisemitic is an ad hominem argument, aimed at smearing those activists who are in favour of it.  The truth is the opposite.  The truth is that antisemitism is not a characteristic of people who push BDS, but it is a characteristic of the movement itself.  Antisemitism is not only a hatred of Jews; it is also norms, practices and discourses which discriminate against Jews.
  19. The claim that Jews raise the issue of antisemitism as a dirty trick to silence the BDS movement is itself an antisemitic claim.  It teaches people to recognize someone who raises the issue of antisemitism as being part of a Jewish conspiracy to play the antisemitism card or to mobilize the power of Holocaust victimhood in a disgraceful way.   Usually when people say they have experienced racism or sexism or bigotry, we take that seriously.  But BDS trains activists not to take that seriously when it comes out of the mouths of Jews or Jewish communities.   BDS trains activists to assume that Jews lie.  BDS refuses to teach activists about the history and tropes of antisemitism.  BDS is happy to be in a global coalition with antisemitic movements which hate Israel, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.  BDS treats people who worry about antisemitism as being more of a threat than people who are antisemitic.  Follow this link more on the Livingstone Formulation, the counter-charge that somebody who says they experiences antisemitism is really lying for Israel.
  20. It is understandable when Jews have a special connection to Israel.  Sometimes this is manifested in a special horror or even shame concerning the crimes of Israel, both real and imagined.  This becomes problematic when Jews export their own specifically Jewish obsession with what Israel does wrong into civil society, campus debate and the Labour movement.  It becomes more problematic still when they offer guarantees to non-Jewish institutions and individuals that a focused hostility to Israel, and only to Israel, is not antisemitic.  It is problematic when Jews educate non-Jews to think in antisemitic ways and to support antisemitic movements.  Read more on antizionism, and particularly Jewish antizionism here.
  21. Antizionism forms the intellectual and the emotional underpinnings of the culture in which antisemitic speech and actions are tolerated.  Antizionism is not simply criticism of this or that policy or characteristic or Israel.  It is a political movement which takes hostility to one particular state and it makes it into an ‘-ism’, a worldview; one which has a tendency to position the Jewish state as being central to all that is wrong with the world.  Everything bad that happens in Israel is constructed, within this ideology, as the necessary result of the supposedly racist essence of Zionism.  The aspiration to dismantle the state of Israel, against the will of its citizens, leaving them defenceless against military and political forces which threaten their lives, is part of the antisemitism problem.
  22. Antisemitisms have always constructed ‘the Jews’ as being at the centre of all that is wrong in the world.  BDS mirrors this characteristic of antisemitism by putting Israel as the very centre of the political activity of ‘good people’ all round the world.   It trains people to think of Israel as the key question of emancipation in our age.  But Israel isn’t key.  It is just one rather small, rather unremarkable local conflict.  It is far from being the most important and it is far from being the most urgent and it is far from being the greatest injustice.
  23. For more on the kind of movement which we should be building, a genuine solidarity movement with Israelis and Palestinians who fight for peace, follow this link.

The Jewish far-right also has a problem with distinguishing criticism from antisemitism – David Hirsh

This piece, by David Hirsh, is on the Jewish News website

I spoke at an event last night, a debate on whether the 2 state solution is ‘dead’, with Melanie Phillips and others. The Jewish News website has published a transcript of my remarks.

It was largely a pro-settlement audience.  Many seemed to think that it would be a betrayal if Israel were able to negotiate a peaceful withdrawal from the West Bank.  Somebody shouted that I was like Neville Chamberlain.  Others yelled and heckled.  People were outraged when I said that the upswell of support for the soldier who executed a prisoner in Hebron was a worry.

As somebody who has spent a lot of time in antizionist spaces, the atmosphere of ‘we’re right and the other side is disgusting’ was familiar to me. It isn’t a political ‘we’ it is a national, ethnic or religious ‘we’ – to be technical an essentialized ‘we’ – which claims to be right; and it is ‘The Arabs’ or ‘The Arab World’ which is the ‘them’.  But it is also the EU and the US which stand behind and are really responsible for the threat of ‘the Arabs’.  There was openly racist rhetoric last night from the audience and there was also an intellectual and political culture which incubated and licensed it.

After I was silenced for a minute by angry shouts I made the point that this atmosphere reminded me of what our students face in student unions when they oppose BDS, or if they should try to argue that Zionism is not a form of racism; similar certainty, similar anger, similar contempt for debate, similar accusations of betrayal.

Melanie Philips wrote in The Times last week (http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/hatred-of-israel-and-jews-cant-be-separated-x69ffnf8j ) that denying the legal and historical rights of the settlers to the land demonizes and dehumanizes them and that dehumanization of the settlers leads inexorably to the dehumanisation of all Jews.

This argument is not right and it is also dangerous.  It follows that anybody who is for a two state solution is part of the antisemitism problem.

According to this view, most Jews, most Israelis, the British Government, the European Union, the President of the United States: everybody who wants Israelis and Palestinians to find a safe way for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank is part of the antisemitism problem. This of course includes Israeli governments; it includes Yitzhak Rabin who was murdered, accused of being a traitor to the Jewish people.

In fact, many of us two staters are part of the solution to antisemitism, not part of the problem.

This is not the antisemitism problem in the UK. The antisemitism problem is Hamas and the political support it enjoys from the leader of the Labour Party. It is the Iranian regime and the support if finds in the British left ‘against imperialism’. The real problem is Ken Livingstone’s love of baiting Jews by calling them Nazis, and the fact that he has got away with it for decades.  It is people who demonize the very existence of Israel as colonialist, racist, apartheid, and who relate to the Jews who don’t agree as though they were responsible.  It is the councillors who say that the Jews were behind the slave trade or who troll Israeli footballers telling them they’re like Hitler.

Brave and intelligent men and women have been making the argument against antisemitism in the Labour movement, on the campuses, and in the Unions for years.  They have been debating, explaining and educating.   Young Jews in the Union of Jewish Students have fought bravely, with great spirit and with knowledge and intelligence against the rise of Israel-hate in the student movement.

But Melanie and the others who say that support for a two state solution is antisemitic are undermining that work.

There are millions of engaged intelligent people in this country who know almost nothing about antisemitism.  They have not been educated in the very basics of its history and how to recognise it.   We cannot give up on those millions of people.  We will not change the minds of the hard core antizionists, but we need to influence those who would be influenced by them.

I was worried last night by the many people in that audience who would have been incapable of, for example, sitting down with Naz Shah, taking her apology in good faith, and having a conversation with her about Zionism and antisemitism.   They would not have been able to say anything to her which she would have had any chance of embracing or taking back to Bradford.  They would not have been able to win her over. They would not be able to go onto campus to engage with Ilan Pappe or Norman Finkelstein.  They would not know what to say and they would not know how to show an audience what was wrong with the anti-Zionist positions.

The line that Barack Obama, Tzipi Livni and David Cameron are all antisemitic because they hope for a two state solution is wrong, and most people could see easily that it was wrong.   It could have no traction in turning around the current antisemitism threat.

To say that opposing the settlement programme is antisemitic is to fail to make the distinction between criticism and antisemitism.  On both extremes of the antisemitism divide in Britain there are people who refuse to make this distinction.  We need to bring discussion back into the realm of the democratic and the rational.  We need to teach people how to make the judgment and how to distinguish between legitimate criticism on the one hand and demonization, Jew-baiting, or antisemitism on the other.

This piece, by David Hirsh, is on the Jewish News website

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