June 26, 2015

Knowing the difference between Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism

David Aaronovitch had an article in The Jewish Chronicle a few weeks ago where he commends Sarah Annes Brown for spotting the antisemitism of one of the organisers of the recently postponed Southampton University conference on Israel.  It's a quirky piece but, typically, it ends up taking a swipe at the anti-zionist left.

Let's see how he starts:
What with one thing and another, I followed the spring furore over the "Israel" symposium at Southampton University only rather loosely.....

What I hadn't realised is how far gone some of the conference's animating spirits are in what I can only call the New Judeophobia. The gap in my education was filled this week with the latest edition of the magazine Fathom and an article by Professor Sarah Brown, anatomising the thinking of the Southampton academic and symposium organiser Oren Ben-Dor.
See that?  Maybe you didn't notice but Aaro only followed loosely what had been appearing all over The JC, for which he writes, for weeks before and after the event was postponed and the JC article he linked to no longer appears on the JC site but he snapped up and eagerly devoured the latest edition of the mouthpiece of Israel lobby group, BICOM, for which he doesn't yet write. Strange for a self-styled "non-Zionist" but let's read on:
One of the more unwelcome phenomena of recent life in the broad diaspora has been the appearance of a certain kind of Israeli exile who insists on telling us how bad Jews are.
See that?  In the previous paragraph he hadn't known about what in the next paragraph he describes as "phenomena of recent life".  Fast learner this guy.

And the next paragraph is a flat contradiction of the "recent life" one which, as we've seen contradicted the one before that.
until last week I had imagined that Mr Atzmon was more or less unique
So "recent life" began last week.

But for all that nonsense I think Aaro's understanding of what Sarah Annes Brown wrote was fair and in turn her understanding of Oren Ben-Dor was fair too.  And here is Aaro's take:
his article is entitled "Occupied Minds: Philosophical Reflections on Zionism, Anti-Zionism and the Jewish Prison..... it argues that Zionist and most anti-Zionist Jews are captives of the same primeval Jewish mindset, and that it is this mindset that, in effect, provoked antisemitic reaction, right down to the Holocaust itself.
In other words, Jews have been asking for it throughout history, and in fact quite like it when they get it.
Actually he misses the bit where Ben-Dor says that the nazis had to become like Jews themselves in order to carry out the holocaust but I suppose that's relatively small beer against the central thesis. Actually to give Sarah more credit than Aaro does, she refers to Ben-Dor's methodology such as it is by mentioning his penchant for "dark suggestion" over hard evidence, or indeed any evidence. But anyway, where does Aaro go with all this?
What is depressing about Ben-Dor is that many left-wingers and sympathisers with the Palestinian cause in this country and elsewhere can no longer tell the difference between progressive thinking and "essentialist" bigotry that used to be the preserve of the anti-democratic and racist right.
Now that was the bit that had me sending an email to the JC as follows:
Dear Sir

If nothing else the now "postponed" University of Southampton conference on the legitimacy or not of the State of Israel has raised the profile of one of its organisers, Oren Ben-Dor.

Ben-Dor's antisemitism was noticed and blogged by anti-Zionist Tony Greenstein back in 2008 whereas David Aaronovitch has only just noticed it.

In fairness, that doesn't tell us anything about David Aaronovitch's perception of antisemitism. The Board of Deputies knew nothing of Ben-Dor's warped world view when it lobbied the University of Southampton to cancel the conference using "two lines of attack...legal and health and safety".  Note, not antisemitism.

Zionists John Strawson and Geoffrey Alderman were going to address the conference. Neither of them raised any issue about Ben-Dor.

Even on the Israel advocacy and self-styled anti-antisemitism blog Engage, Zionist academic and racism expert Ben Gidley failed to mention any issue with Ben-Dor.  Engage's Dr David Hirsh simply said that Ben-Dor "has come to the defence of an open antisemite", not that he is antisemitic himself.

Given his low profile, Oren Ben-Dor has flown below the radar of most activists, both Zionist and anti-Zionist.  So why does David Aaronovitch berate the left and Palestine solidarity supporters over a failure to "tell the difference between progressive thinking and "essentialist" bigotry"?

It might even be that in defence of the State of Israel, Zionists have made so many bad faith allegations of antisemitism they can no longer differentiate between the crying of "wolf" and the wolf itself.

Yours faithfully
Now as luck would have it the JC didn't publish my letter.  I say it's lucky because one usually incisive blogger, Louis Proyect, the Unrepentant Marxist, has decided to prove Aaro at least partly correct by publishing a lengthy and tedious defence of quite a high profile American antisemite by the name of Alison Weir.

Now Louis Proyect's take on the various antisemites rearing their heads mostly on the internet has ranged from dismissive (Atzmon) to disgusted (Moon of Alabama & MRZine).  He's never been supportive before and I haven't noticed him being evasive when challenged before now.  Anyway, here's his post, which as I said is a guest post.  When asked why he was defending Weir he asked the questioner to elaborate. I reckon evasion is all Louis Proyect has when challenged over this post but I'll update if anything changes or maybe even if nothing does.

Access denied at the JC again but why?

David Aaronovitch had an opinion piece in the JC just recently and at the start he linked to an article that seems to have been disappeared.  The article was about the cancellation of the Southampton University conference on Israel and it was titled, Don't rush to welcome cancellation.  Clicking the link I got this:

Access denied

I searched for what I could glean from the url and came to the very useful pressreader.com site and from there to some Ireland based Palestine solidarity site where I found the article in copyable form.  So here it is:
Don’t rush to welcome cancellation
By: Simon Johnson

ONE OF the Jewish Leadership Council’s day-to-day jobs is to co-ordinate the best response and engagement when Israel-related issues impact on the UK Jewish community. In the past fortnight, there have been two issues which required a more sober, more sceptical analysis than the headlines provided. 

The first was the decision by Southampton University to cancel the “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism” conference on the grounds of health and safety and security. There is no doubt that this conference was an appalling example of delegitimisation of Israel, a manipulation of academic freedom to promote hatred and discrimination. Jewish community organisations and grassroots activists had worked closely together to oppose it. 

But the fact Southampton University chose to cancel for health and safety reasons and security concerns represents a double-edged sword. 

Those who seek to undermine the legitimacy of Israel are already accusing Jewish organisations of threatening violence to force the cancellation of the conference. We do not know all of the complicated security considerations of Southampton University, but pro-Israel groups were planning to protest peacefully and appropriately. 

Another problem is that “security reasons” have been used in the past by other universities and student unions to prevent Israel supporters or Israel embassy representatives from speaking on campus. Sometimes these are real fears about violent protests or attacks, but other times we suspect that universities have misused “security” to kick out pro-Israel events. We have emphasised to university authorities that security of speakers is an inalienable element of universities’ duty to protect freedom of speech. 

So, the challenge for Jewish community organisations is this — how can we welcome this security decision and yet condemn others when those same reasons are used against our interests? 

This is why the JLC has not rushed to judgement and is thinking carefully about what this cancellation means in the bigger picture. 

Recently, Amnesty International published a report entitled Unlawful and Deadly: Rocket and Mortar attacks by Palestinian Armed Groups during the 2014 Gaza/Israel Conflict. At first glance, there seemed to be a welcome rebalancing of Amnesty’s previous anti-Israel publications. The report rightly condemned Hamas for its indiscriminate firing of rockets at Israeli civilian areas; its callous disregard for Gaza based civilians in the firing of rockets, and even rightly identified a Hamas rocket as the cause of death of 11 children and two adults in a Palestinian refugee camp in July. That is what made the headlines. 

But, if you study the full report, it is clear that Amnesty tries to explain away Hamas’ actions by referring to the Israeli blockade — a context denied to Israel in its report on Israel’s actions last year. The report contains criticism of Israel for its treatment of Bedouins inside its recognised borders; this isn’t related to Hamas rockets but it’s clearly a theme that Amnesty — with its relentless focus on Israel — is likely to return to. 

And of course, the organisation’s bona fides in its reports on the region are called into question by Amnesty UK’s continued employment of Kristyan Benedict, a man with a track record of provocative social media postings that some have seen as antisemitic. 

That is why we and other organisations have reserved judgement so we can discuss the troubling detail. 

So, a delegitimising conference cancelled and a critical report on Hamas? Behind these headlines lie complex issues that we will be wrestling with for months. We should sometimes be careful what we wish for.
Now why on earth did the JC bury the article?

June 24, 2015

Earl Grey Tea Leaves at Auschwitz

I heard yesterday about two private school students stealing some items from Auschwitz. I'd just come out of a museum.  I managed to resist the temptation to actually steal anything but I certainly know the feeling of wanting to own an exhibit or two.

Here are some links to reports from yesterday and today:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-33237625
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/23/uk-teenagers-held-thefts-artefacts-auschwitz-museum
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3135957/British-teenagers-arrested-stealing-items-former-Nazi-concentration-camp-Auschwitz.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/23/british-steal-auschwitz-_n_7649024.html?ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000067
http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/1.662615

Of course you can always google Auschwitz where you will find the thefts as the lead news item for the time being anyway.

I noticed that the first reports I read focused on the enormity of what had occurred at Auschwitz during the holocaust with the privileged character of The Perse School being considered of secondary importance.  Here's The Daily Mail:
The pair, who attend Cambridge’s exclusive The Perse School where fees are more than £15,000 a year, were spotted acting suspiciously on Monday afternoon.
And here's The Guardian:
Perse school counts the theatre director Sir Peter Hall and Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd among its alumni.
So, posh young men at a posh school.  I'm guessing profit wasn't the motive.  Maybe they were overwhelmed by curiosity.  I can't help feeling sorry for them given the way the news of what they did has traveled round the world but I suppose the law is the law.

June 19, 2015

Spain Grants Jews the Right of Return

As you can see from this earlier post, the idea of descendants of Spanish Jews being granted Spanish nationality is nothing new but now it is a reality, for those who can afford it.  Here's the Jewish Chronicle:
Thousands of Sephardim around the world are expected to request Spanish citizenship after the Madrid Parliament approved a new law allowing descendants of Jews expelled in 1492 to apply for a Spanish passport.
The law, passed on June 11, does not come into force until October 1 but the Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities (FCJE) — which is acting as the official intermediary with the Madrid government — has already received 6,000 applications in the past month.
Many younger Israelis are also now seeking a Spanish passport, which would give them freedom to work anywhere in the European Union and to travel freely throughout most of the continent.
And there was me thinking that Israel is a member of the EU.

June 15, 2015

The Curious Incident of the Shoe in the Nighttime

Or why, even  if we think there is a far fetched conspiracy afoot it is probably better to focus on issues that we can all see and agree on.

I'll return to the issue of Asghar Bakhari and his missing shoe later.  Er, no I won't.  See below...

June 12, 2015

Jews and the Right of Return

Here's a very interesting article in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency archive about calls for Sephardic Jews to granted the right of return to the Spain of their ancestors.  Note that the article, pasted here in full, is from 1933:

Ayala Urges Spain Right Wrong of 1492; Asks Citizenship for Sons of the Expelled


A movement for the return of the descendants of those Jews who were exiled from Spain in 1492 has been started by the famous Spanish author and statesman, Franzesco Ayala. His plan, which has a very large measure of support behind it, provides not only for the repatriation of Sephardic Jews, but also for the granting of Spanish citizenship to such of them as care to accept it, wherever they may be living.
Spain has long begun to realize the enormous loss it suffered by the banishment of the Jews, for by this means it lost some of its most intelligent, wealthy and enterprising citizens. The desire to make good this wrong and to receive back at least part of the descendants of these exiled Jews, is not entirely new. But the abolition of the monarchy and the setting up of the republic, and the abrogation of the supremacy of the Catholic Church that soon followed, strengthened this sentiment, and the Nazi persecution of the Jews gave it a new impetus. Franzesco Ayala’s plan has now given it practical shape, and it is all the more important since it has the full backing and support of the Spanish Government.

FAITHFUL TO SPANISH TRADITION

According to Ayala, there are anywhere from 800,000 to 1,000,000 Sephardic Jews scattered all over the world, but chiefly in the Balkan countries and in Holland. For more than 400 years, down to the present day, they have continued to speak a beautiful old Spanish dialect, they have stuck to their old Spanish traditions and customs, and have kept up their old Spanish culture. No better proof could be required of their loyalty and devotion to their old fatherland, in spite of its cruel treatment of their ancestors. It would therefore be no more than an elementary duty, Alaya says, to thank them and to extend a hearty welcome to them to return to their old home.
Ayala tries to show that the old Spanish anti-Semitism was a very different thing from the present German brand. In Spain in the fifteenth century, anti-Semitism was not political, but purely religious, and it was in accord with the views of the time, and with the laws of the land, for the Catholic Church was at that time the only recognized religion in Spain. Nazi anti-Semitism, however, had no such excuse, for it is based exclusively on political and racial grounds which it is impossible to justify, and it is a breach of the laws of Germany, for the Jews had lived there for generations and had been granted full civil rights.

ALL RELIGIONS NOW EQUAL

The new Spanish Republic had abolished the absolutism of the Catholic Church, and the new Constitution provides for absolute liberty of thought and freedom of worship. All religions are now equal in the eyes of the law, and there is now no reason why the Jews should not return to Spain in large numbers.
Ayala realizes the enormous political, cultural and economic benefits Spain would derive from a large Jewish population, and therefore wishes to incorporate the million descendants of those Jews who were banished over 400 years ago in the Spanish people. Since it would be impossible, however, to get them all to come back, he at least wants to make them “Sons of Spain” again, by granting them Spanish citizenship, whether they come back or not.
Ayala’s movement has a great body of support, and is growing form day to day. The Government supports it whole-heartedly. But there are many technical and legal difficulties in the way of its realization.

MORAL SIGNIFICANCE

At the same time its moral significance cannot be overestimated. At the very moment when Germany has turned back the clock of history, and is depriving its Jews of their citizenship and driving them into exile, Spain, which did the same 400 years ago, is doing her utmost to retrieve her error, is welcoming her Jews back, and offering them all the rights of Spanish citizenship.
In Spain, the last act of a great tragedy is being played, the first act of which took place in the Middle Ages. In Germany, it is the first act that is being played now. But there too the last act will come sooner or later.
I wonder what the Zionist movement made of the proposal at the time.

June 03, 2015

Can Stephen Fry be serious?

The trouble with asking comedians their view on a certain thing is that you don't know if their answer is a joke or not.  That is certainly the case with Jews for Justice for Palestinians signatory, Stephen Fry.  See this in the most recent New Statesman.  It's headed "What you can't say. Stephen Fry, Slavoj Žižek, Elif Shafak and more say the unsayable".  Now cop this:
Stephen Fry


Between the intense sanctimonious sensibilities of the left, on the one hand, and the brute moral certainties of the right, on the other, we squeezed liberals find ourselves (as ever) wringing our milk-white hands and wishing it were all otherwise. We don’t want to offend, but we cannot spend our lives walking on eggshells.

An example from each side. The truth has to be told about the genocidal madness of Hamas (read their “covenant” online if you don’t believe me. It’s not just every Jew across the world they want to kill, it’s also – I’m serious – Rotarians).The truth also has to be told about the failure of the west’s “war on drugs”. Not just a tactical failure, but a ­strategic and moral one.

So, from those two, more or less randomly chosen, subjects, here are two things that can’t be said. Israel has every right to resist coming to an accommodation with Palestine while it is led by Hamas. To save lives all over the planet, drugs must be legalised.
I knew I shouldn’t have spoken.

*tiptoes away*

Stephen Fry is an English comedian, actor, writer and activist.
Whether intentional or not, it is a sick joke to suggest, as Fry does, that the words of Hamas are somehow more problematic than the actions of the racist war criminals of the State of Israel but given the stance of most of the mainstream media on Israel and the Palestinians there is always more space for denouncing Hamas and using their ridiculous charter as an excuse for Israel's war criminality than there is to denounce Israel.

May 05, 2015

Blair speaks up for Ehud Olmert, the "former Labor leader"

I'm worried about this.  The Jerusalem Post has reported that Tony Blair has written to the court dealing with Ehud Olmert's sentencing for corruption.  According to the Post' report Blair,
pleaded for the former Labor leader not to serve any jail time.
I'm not aware Olmert was a Labour leader of any kind.  Have I misread?  Did they mean that Blair pleaded for himself not to serve any jail time? Or maybe they mean Kadima.  Or maybe they mean that Israel's Laborites have been led by Likud for some decades now.  Or maybe when he led Kadima he was technically Labour's leader.  But then if it's all down to technicality, does Israel even have a party called Labour or Labor?

UPDATE: Round about 11:50 am  I noticed the reference to "the former Labor leader" had been removed.  I searched for a cache version but they seem to have been faffing around with the article so much google cache couldn't keep up.  Anyway now they've overhauled the article completely.  The curious thing is that the page seems to have gone through at least three changes since I first posted at 9:40 and yet there is no mention of any update and the date and time say 5/5/2015 10:07.  Funny people.

Ms Lauryn Hill regrets...

So Ms Lauryn Hill has cancelled a second engagement on her tour. The first was Nigeria and the second is Israel. Here's how she announced the Nigeria cancellation.

And following the link we see this:
Hello Lagos, Nigeria! We are disappointed to report that we will not be performing at tonight’s concert. From our end, we did everything we were supposed to do, including waiting at the airport for many hours, ready to fly out and share the evening with you. Unfortunately, after much effort, the promoter was not able to get all of our travel arrangements taken care of. This prevented us from being able to fly into Nigeria in time to make the concert. We were all very excited to come, and very disappointed that we couldn’t make this one. HOWEVER, we are working to reschedule our appearance ASAP. From what we’ve been told, the promoter intends to honor all tickets sold. Our best to and for Lagos. Love and Blessings!
Well we see that after scrolling down the home page.  The link to that section and its "notes" is actually here.

So now the tweet about Israel:

See that?  Nope?  That's because there is no tweet about the cancellation of her planned Israel gig.

Ok, so let's see the website:
Dear Friends and Fans in Israel,
When deciding to play the region, my intention was to perform in both Tel Aviv and Ramallah. Setting up a performance in the Palestinian Territory, at the same time as our show in Israel, proved to be a challenge. I’ve wanted very much to bring our live performance to this part of the world, but also to be a presence supporting justice and peace. It is very important to me that my presence or message not be misconstrued, or a source of alienation to either my Israeli or my Palestinian fans. For this reason, we have decided to cancel the upcoming performance in Israel, and seek a different strategy to bring my music to ALL of my fans in the region. May healing, equanimity, and the openness necessary for lasting resolution and reconciliation come to this region and its people.
Respectfully,
Ms. Lauryn Hill
I don't want to be the party pooper here because I know many people are excited by this but her statement could have been written by John Kerry.  She doesn't mention Palestine, the occupation, zionism, racism, war, segregation, apartheid, refugees, Gaza or ethnic cleansing.  It's just some vacuous statement about her Israeli and Palestinian fans.  Oh, but it's headed as an address to her Friends and Fans in "Israel".  I guess career imperatives prevent her from even lying about having Palestinian friends let alone actually having them.

To be clear this cancellation is some kind of success for BDS but we need these celebs to openly refuse to perform for Israel because it is a pariah state, an illegitimate entity, not because performing for such an entity might be misconstrued by some friend or fan.

May 03, 2015

No sects please, we're Pakistani

Just an excuse for a catchy headline. I saw this on the Angry Arab News Service:

Sect in Pakistan

From S in Pakistan: "re: your blog on the new Hajj visa form. 

Pakistanis routinely add their religion to their CVs when applying for 
a job.  Private schools ask parents for the religion of the students.  The form I saw recently for applying for a teacher's position in govt schools in Punjab asked the religion of the applicant.  The final paperwork for  submitting a PhD thesis at Punjab University asks for religion.  

Pakistani Muslims have been happy enough to ask for or provide religious affiliation when it benefited Muslims and gave them preference and advantage over Christians or other communities.  

Then they are shocked, just shocked, when someone asks about sect."
The original article on the "Are you Shia?" issue is here.

April 21, 2015

How stuff works: Greville Janner, his son. his friend and the DPP

The more we hear about this Greville Janner business the worse it gets.  Now it turns out that a key individual advising the Director of Public Prosecutions on the case is a former colleague of Greville Janner's barrister son, Daniel Janner QC.

I first noticed this latest twist in a Guardian article which focused mostly on the fact that whilst supposedly being to incapable to understand legal proceedings Lord Janner was apparently able to write to David Beamish, the clerk of the parliaments a letter received on 9 April:
The peer wrote: “I am writing to request Leave of Absence from the House of Lords for the duration of the 2015 Parliament. I understand that this will take effect on the next sitting day.”

The letter was signed by Lord Janner, but the signature has been blanked out by the House of Lords to avoid any risk of ID theft. Below, someone has printed “Lord Janner of Braunstone” on the bottom of the letter.

Asked whether Janner’s signature on the letter warranted further inquiries given the public outcry over whether he is fit to stand, a House of Lords spokesman said: “The signature on the form matches the signature of Lord Janner of Braunstone. There is nothing for the Clerk of the Parliaments to investigate.”

Janner also wrote to Beamish on 3 October to indicate that he wished to go on leave of absence, the spokesman said.
So the man who we are told requires round the clock care was able to write a letter requesting a leave of abence from the House of Lords.

But it gets worse. From the same article:
It also emerged on Monday that Saunders sought advice on Janner from a CPS barrister who recently worked in the same chambers as the Labour politician’s son. Neil Moore QC, Saunders’ principal legal adviser, was based at 23 Essex Street chambers with Daniel Janner QC until late last year.

A CPS spokesman said: “Saunders made the decision not to prosecute on her own and Moore had told her he had been in chambers with Lord Janner’s son before discussing the case.”
Got that?  The DPP's advisor told the DPP that he was a former colleague of Greville Janner's son and then gave her advice that led to her deciding that her advisor's former colleague's dad should not face trial.  I wonder how different her treatment of his advice would have been if he hadn't declared his interest.  Actually I'm left wondering if the declaration of interest was the advice....

April 17, 2015

Günter Grass and Greville Janner: Compare and Contrast?

At least I think that's what today's Jewish Chronicle editorial has done without actually naming Greville Janner.  See this:
He was only a Nazi

Gunter Grass may have had literary merit but he was also a Nazi, having served proudly and freely as a member of the Waffen SS. This fact was simply swept aside as inconvenient by many of the arts establishment in their gushing tributes. The BBC’s arts editor, Will Gompertz, briefly referred to his Nazi past as having caused “controversy” before returning to Grass’ literary magnificence. Had he been found to have been a paedophile, one imagines the tone would have been rather different.[my emphasis - obviously]
Now if the JC had Lord Janner in mind then I can think of lots to contrast with Günter Grass and not a lot to compare but what on earth was the JC thinking?

April 14, 2015

Why would a nice Jewish woman involve herself with anti-racist politics?

Here's a piece from last week's Jewish Chronicle about a holocaust survivor active in the anti-racist, Beyond UKIP group.   It's about a woman called Ruth Barnett, who survived the holocaust by way of the Kindertransport, joining the demonstration against Nigel Farage at his local pub and then getting caught up in the attack on the Beyond UKIP group by the fascist activists of the Britain First group:
So why does Mrs Barnett, who arrived in the UK on the Kindertransport when she was four years old and now lives in north London, continue to put herself in harm’s way for the sake of politics?

She said: “As a Jew I don’t think I can speak out about the rise in antisemitism without speaking out about the rise in other intolerances and I think Ukip and others are stirring up hatred towards immigrants. It seems we are still not learning the lessons of the Holocaust.

“Beyond Ukip are passionate about standing up for vulnerable minority groups. It is fun and exciting to be around such young and passionate people.

“I was a vulnerable minority group as a child and I’ve spent my life protesting and campaigning for similar groups.”
I dunno, I suppose I'm old school. I find it really sad that the Jewish Chronicle has to ask why a Jewish survivor of the holocaust would want to side with the oppressed.  I remember when you wouldn't have to ask.

In the same edition of the JC, Marcus Dysch is thrilled to announce that a recent survey suggests that 69% of UK Jews will vote Conservative and this he believes because they like the uncritical supporty David Cameron offers to racist war criminals.

April 12, 2015

Geoffrey Alderman now and then...

I got this copy of a Geoffrey Alderman JC opinion piece from the very useful Newspaper Direct website.  I don't know how it works but when I look for a newspaper article that I can't find on the newspaper's own site I often find it here.  It appeared in the print edition of the Jewish Chronicle dated 3 April 2015:

Racists seeking to destroy Israel

 
They deny to Jews that which they allow other ethnicities

UNDER WHAT circumstances should criticism of the state of Israel be deemed “illegitimate?” The nowcancelled Southampton University conference, “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism”, brought this subject into focus. But the question is hardly new.

Those of you with long memories may recall that, in 1956, at the time of the AngloFrench invasion of Egypt, a number of Jewish and — ostensibly — Zionist members of the British parliament found themselves at the receiving end of much communal opprobrium because they criticised Israel, whose armed forces had taken advantage of the invasion in order to neutralise terrorist cells in Gaza and the Sinai peninsula.[it was Israel that invaded Egypt in the first instance.  Israel occupied Gaza and Sinai until the yanks ordered them out.  I thought everyone knew that. Apparently the historian, Professor Alderman doesn't know that]

The MP for East Willesden — the highly vocal career Labour-Zionist Maurice Orbach — voted with his socialist colleagues to condemn the Anglo-French-Israeli initiative, and was subsequently booted out of his seat in a campaign whipped up by angry Jewish constituents. But in North-West Leicester there were few Jewish voters, and the local Labour MP there, who also voted against the Suez adventure, survived wider, vicious criticism of him. His name was Barnett Janner and, at the time, he was president of both the Zionist Federation and the Board of Deputies. What is more, at the deputies’ meeting on November 18, 1956, a large majority expressed full confidence in him.

There was a time when anti-Zionism was not merely a significant force in Anglo-Jewish affairs, it was fashionable. We need to remind ourselves that a former British chief rabbi (Hermann Adler) denounced Zionism from the pulpit, that the founding father of the Federation of Synagogues (Samuel Montagu) was an enthusiastic anti-Zionist, and the founding father of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue (Claude Montefiore) went so far as to blame Zionism for the rise of Hitler. [whereas Alderman would become quite grateful for the rise of Hitler] But into this sombre history lesson we need to inject the word “context.” The handful of Londonand Manchester-based Satmar chasidim who routinely join anti-Zionist demonstrations are campaigning against a nation-state that exists. The Jewish intellectuals and media personalities who apparently sympathise with them want to dismantle a vibrant liberal democracy —Israel — to have it replaced with a larger political entity in which antisemitism will be permitted to flourish. On paper, the “one state” that these extremes of left and right desire would be a purely secular entity. In practice it would become an Islamists’ paradise.[do vibrant liberal democracies ethnically cleanse whole swathes of population on the basis of assumptions as to how they might vote?]

In principle, today, we ought still to be able to distinguish anti-Zionism from antisemitism. In practice, the one has merged with the other. Anti-Zionists do not oppose the creation of a Jewish nation-state — such a state already exists. What they oppose is the continued existence of a Jewish nation-state. In seeking to dismantle that state, therefore, they expose their antagonism towards the very concept of Jewish self-determination.[there's nothing wrong with opposing the concept and reality of Jewish self-determination]

This is true especially of those who deny that there is any such entity as a Jewish “nation”. These positions are inherently racist: they deny to the Jews that which they freely grant to other ethnicities, and they do so on purely ethnic or racial grounds.[I know of no community for whom national self-determination is demanded on grounds of ethnicity and we shall see where Geoffrey Alderman stands on the question of ethnic equality]

None of this means that policies of Israeli governments cannot be legitimately criticised. Of course they can. But we need to recognise that, fundamentally, what drives the BDS movement is not antagonism towards Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, but hostility towards the concept of Jewish nationhood. This truth has been recognised by no less an opponent of the settlements than Professor Norman Finkelstein who, in 2012, launched a blistering attack on the Palestine Solidarity Movement’s campaign for the “right of return”, condemning it as a cover for its ambition to destroy Israel.[actually the BDS movement makes no demand regarding one or two states because no one knows how the people of Palestine will want the area/s constituted.  Finkelstein condemned not so much the idea of abolishing the State of Israel as a Jewish state but what he claimed to see as BDS supporters' lack of openness about the consequences of the right of return. To be sure Finkelstein is claiming to support Israel's continued existence as a Jewish state but he certainly does not decry its opponents as being antisemitic]

Finkelstein was absolutely right. Criticise Israel, if you must, to your heart’s content. Demonstrate to your utmost against Israeli domestic or foreign policy.

But do not espouse a cause that calls, even if indirectly, for Israel’s destruction and expect not to be condemned as a racist. For that is what you are.[we'll see who is being racist in just a moment]
Now I don't know why that piece has not appeared on the JC website but Geoffrey Alderman's latest offering on line is dated 8 April 2015.  This is the proposal whose opponents Geoffrey Alderman accuses of racism:
 under international law and in principle ethnic Jews have the right of settlement throughout the area of Mandate Palestine west of the Jordan River (including what is known as the West Bank), that this right extends to Jews whether or not they are citizens of the state of Israel, but not to Israeli citizens who are not ethnically Jewish, and that the state of Israel has a legal obligation to take any step and all steps necessary to uphold this right. 
Now that pretty much sums up Israel as is but it is rare to see it set out in such obviously racist detail. It is also self-exposing as to why there should be no such thing as Jewish self-determination.

Let's now have a quick look at how Alderman deals with the idea of abolishing the State of Israel:
It has been argued that the ultimate purpose of the conference was to cloak in a veneer of academic respectability the campaign for the delegitimisation of the Jewish state. Let us assume for a moment that it was. There is no subject on God's Earth that cannot be discussed in a university. Nor is it true that Israel is the only country whose legitimacy is currently being called into question. The whole purpose of the Scottish National Party is to call into question the legitimacy of the United Kingdom. There has recently been a referendum on that very subject.
Of course, the Scottish independence referendum debate didn't include any discussion of privileging this or that ethnicity over any or all others and Alderman manages to avoid alleging racism against either the SNP or the unionist parties.

But what of the "miscellany of Jewish interests" that had the conference cancelled?
Some terrible precedents have been created. I refer not merely to the gross betrayal of academic freedom. It will be said - rightly - that this betrayal was perpetrated at the behest and with the active connivance of Jewish interests. For antisemites the world over this is indeed manna from heaven.
Well yes that's true but the professor wasn't always so backward in calling forth what he saw as Jewish power.  Back in 2012, Jonathan Hoffman, for the Zionist Federation suggested to the Board of Deputies of British Jews that they adopt a policy of boycotting The Guardian.  And here's Geoffrey Alderman in the Jewish Chronicle on 26 January 2012:
Earlier this month, the Board of Deputies declined to adopt a resolution urging "all those who oppose antisemitism to refrain from buying the Guardian or advertising in it". The proposal, tabled by Zionist Federation vice-president Jonathan Hoffman, had already been rejected by the Board's defence division but the division's own alternative motion (a wrecking tactic if you ask me), noting the paper's "continued biased and anti-Israel reporting", and deploring the lack of action by the Press Complaints Commission, was also rejected. So, apart from rejecting both propositions, the Board did precisely nothing......

......my primary concern is with the arguments deployed by those who opposed the motion, and who presumably lobbied to ensure that it was defeated and its message never sent.

There is, for example, the protestation of Jonathan Arkush, the Board's senior vice-president, who reportedly instructed the deputies that, although he himself found the Guardian to be "odious", he nonetheless believed that "a boycott would be counter-productive and would damage the Jewish community's reputation".

What did he mean by "counter-productive?" That the Guardian's circulation would increase? That more companies rather than fewer would rush to advertise in its pages? And what did he mean by "damage" to Anglo-Jewry's "reputation"? That instead of being thought of as a docile collection of trembling Israelites we would henceforth be viewed with a great deal more respect and even - who knows? - with a tinge, a smidgen, of anxious deference?

I am told that, within the Board's defence division, some arguments equally as foolish were also placed on the table: that the passage of Hoffman's motion might suggest that Jews control the media (we should be so lucky though, if this fear is genuinely held, then the Board really should condemn the closing down of Press TV, which Tehran is blaming on the Jews); that a substantive and perhaps heated debate on this would reveal that British Jews were not of one mind (when have we ever been so?); that the Board did not believe in boycotts (not even of Iranian oil?). But of all these arguments surely none was more brainless than the argument that the adoption of the motion would play into the hands of antisemites.
Now Geoffrey Alderman has a very funny idea about what's racist and what's not.  He's also a little inconsistent when it comes to arguing his case whatever that might be.  I must say that his proposal for the world's Jews in Palestine would have been a laugh riot read out to an academic audience, presumably by a straight faced Alderman, assuming that is, that he wasn't joking.  But it's disappointing that he wasn't able to put his case for Jewish supremacy to the Southampton conference because I'm fully confident that in putting his case for Israel he would have made the most eloquent case against it.

UPDATE 11:02 17/4/2015: I've now found the Racists seeking to destroy Israel article on line at The Jewish Chronicle website.

April 09, 2015

The non-story of the refusal to insure a Belgian Jewish Kindergarten

A week ago a Ha'aretz tweet linking a story about an insurance company's refusal to insure a Belgian Jewish kindergarten got 39 retweets and was independently tweeted many times over April 1 & 2.
Here's the headline and subtitle:

               Firm cancels Belgian Jewish kindergarten’s insurance due to 'high risk' of anti-Semitic attack

'It's an absolute disgrace that the situation has come to this,' says Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the European Jewish Association and of the Rabbinical Center of Europe. 

The article mostly centres on statements from the above-mentioned Rabbi Menachem Margolin such as:
First, not enough is being done to secure Jewish institutions in Europe despite the repeated requests and numerous warnings – and consequently insurance companies are using the situation to avoid the risk of insuring Jewish kindergartens. What a surreal and cynical reality.
Well now, Ha'aretz has done a follow up tweet:

Now see the headline and subtitle:

               No proof Belgian insurer discriminated against Jewish school, watchdog says

Statement by Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism follows reports that an unnamed firm declined to insure a Jewish kindergarten citing an elevated risk of attacks. 

Now let's have a taste of the article:
There is no proof that a Belgian insurance company refused to insure a Jewish kindergarten because it was deemed too risky, a Brussels-based watchdog on anti-Semitism said.

The statement by the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, or LBCA, follows reports last week that an unnamed firm declined to insure a Jewish kindergarten in Brussels, citing an elevated risk factor due to previous attacks on Jewish targets in Belgium and Western Europe.

Joel Rubinfeld, a co-founder of the national watchdog, told the La Capitale daily that after looking into the matter, “There was no proof confirming a discriminatory character with regards to a refusal.”

The news about the alleged refusal came from the European Jewish Association, a lobby group that operates the kindergarten in question. The association and the Israel-based Tal Rabina public relations office alerted media to the matter without naming the insurance company in question.

The association’s director, Menachem Margolin, and Tal Rabina’s office did not reply to JTA queries asking them to identify the insurance company to obtain their reaction.
I see.  The insurance company was unnamed and the whistle-blowers were a "lobby group" and an "Israel-based PR office who "did not reply to ...queries".

To paraphrase the Rabbi Menachem Margolin there might be a surreal and cynical reality at play here.

Oh by the way.  Ha'aretz's tweet that the first story might be bogus only got 9 retweets.

April 06, 2015

On a roll: Lobby targets yet another anti-racist conference

Here we go.  Just when you think they can't stoop any lower the lobby manages to stoop lower.  Having got meetings cancelled in Southampton and Toulouse they now want to get a meeting called off because it treats antisemitism and islamophobia as equally nasty.  See the Jerusalem Post:
Jewish organizations worldwide expressed shock and dismay over the weekend following the announcement that the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency is planning on holding a conference that implies an equivalence between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

The first annual colloquium on fundamental rights in the EU, held by the racism watchdog organization and titled “Tolerance and respect: Preventing and combating anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim hatred in Europe,” is scheduled to be held in Brussels in early October.

It will focus on the rise of anti-Jewish sentiment and violence across the continent and the “growing evidence in many European countries, especially in the past two years, of very high rates of anti-Muslim incidents, including acts of verbal and physical violence,” according to the organizers.

Jewish community leaders in Europe and elsewhere told The Jerusalem Post that despite being largely supportive of the FRA’s work, they believed it inappropriate for it to juxtapose hate directed against Muslims with anti-Semitism as if both were one and the same.

“The challenge of combating anti-Semitism would be better served by a stand-alone colloquium fully focused on the problem,” said Eric Fusfield, the legislative affairs director of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy. [so why doesn't B’nai B’rith organise one?]

“Opponents of anti-Semitism have tried for years to promote greater understanding of anti-Semitism as a distinct phenomenon with unique dimensions sometimes requiring unique solutions,” he said.[I'm guessing he means they want the political persuasion of zionists to be included in the protected characteristics of Jews]

“It is true that some strategies for combating anti-Semitism may apply to other forms of intolerance as well, but the fact is that, for too long, the tendency of governments and international organizations to conflate anti-Semitism with other social illnesses has served as a means of avoiding the problem rather than addressing it head on, even as the crisis facing Jewish communities has intensified in Europe and elsewhere,” he added.

While it is “critical” to deal with discrimination against Muslims in Europe, the FRA “should have been more sensitive to the long and tragic history of anti-Semitism in Europe and kept these two issues separate, particularly in the context of the most recent anti-Jewish violence,” agreed Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman.[he's hinting that antisemitism is worse but there's more]

“These problems are totally different, the origin of both problems is very different, the only common point is that both are racism,” asserted Eli Ringer of Belgium’s FORUM der Joodse Organisaties.[heaven prevent intercommunal unity against racism!]

According to Ringer, even though the FRA is exhibiting good intentions by organizing the conference, he fears that “some might profit from such a colloquium to evade the issue of anti-Semitism.”

England’s Community Security Trust, an anti-Semitism watchdog, was likewise opposed to the format of the conference.

According to Michael Whine, CST director of government and international affairs, many European countries seek to “equate anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred in the same breath and they are not the same. Muslims are suffering in Europe, and that is being monitored, but it’s certainly not coming from the Jews, whereas many of the attacks against Jews are coming from the Muslims.” [I don't wanna do the whataboutery thing here but what about when chief rabbis addres thousands of Jews at rallies supporting Israel latest Palestinian cull?  A joint conference on antisemitism and islamophobia could discuss whether such rallies are good for intercommunal relations or not. They might also discuss whether nasty generalisations against the Muslims are helpful too.]

“The growing problem of anti-Semitism in Europe comes from Muslims and the Left and anti-Israel agitators,” he added.

In its announcement of the conference, the FRA pointed to other roots for the rise in anti-Semitism, citing a recent Pew study indicating that “incitement and hostility rooted in theological and other discourse, far-right ideologies and Holocaust denial are growing in Europe.”

“There is a heightened interest [regarding anti-Semitism], obviously influenced by the recent events in Paris and Copenhagen and so on,” Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos, the head of the FRA’s Equality and Citizens’ Rights Department, told the Post, referring to a number of recent terrorist attacks against Jews by Muslim extremists.

Research by the FRA indicates that “there is a problem which we haven’t resolved yet [and] we have to do more about it,” he said.

Asked if he thought that there was any problem with juxtaposing anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the context of the conference, Dimitrakopoulos replied negatively.

“I don’t think so, because first of all tackling anti-Semitism is part of a wider effort to tackle prejudice and intolerance, and somebody who suffers from a hate crime and hate speech can be Jewish, can be Muslim, can be lesbian or gay, can be Roma, can be a member of minorities that live within societies in Europe,” he said.

“I think that the approach to single out each one and see how we can tackle each one has not worked out, and it’s very important to see how we can build up a common approach to this,” he said, adding that “it is very important also to note the Jewish communities are largely behind this effort.”

“Nobody is denying that there are problems between the groups [Muslims and Jews] but one needs to look at it also from a common perspective,” Dimitrakopoulos asserted.

Not everyone in the Jewish community was fully opposed to the way in which the colloquium is to be organized.[now you wouldn't know that from the headline, sub-title and first half of the article]

“The Jewish people do not have a monopoly on persecution,” remarked Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which sponsors Jewish- Muslim interfaith events on the continent.

“This is an opportunity for Jews and Muslims to recognize that we share both a common faith and a common fate.

Yet, the Fundamental Rights Commission of the EU must acknowledge that a contributing force to growing European anti-Semitism are elements of the Muslim community.”[it might also note that western and Jewish communal leadership support from Israel is a manifestation of and a cause of both islamophia and antisemitism]

Maurice Cohen, the chairman of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland, was likewise rather sanguine about the conference.

“As Irish people, we are all too aware of how sectarian and religious intolerance has affected relations between Catholic and Protestant traditions in Ireland, and therefore we welcome any and all initiatives by the EU or anyone seeking to examine and highlight the futility and destructive nature of intolerance and xenophobia within societies,” he said.

“Time and perhaps the conclusions of the colloquium will tell how effective this initiative will have been and whether or not it was correct to examine both anti-Semitism together with anti-Muslim hatred,” he said.[wow there's an innovation the zionists might try, ie. see what the conference actually says and concludes and take it from there]

“As a small Jewish community in Ireland, we have experienced differing degrees of intolerance over the years. It should be pointed out, however, that this has been very infrequent and not anything like that experienced by Jewish communities on the continent,” he added.

“We have excellent relations with the Muslim community here in Ireland and they have informed us that they too experience varying forms of prejudice and intolerance against their community,” he concluded.

The FRA had previously drawn Jewish ire after it removed a working definition of anti-Semitism from its website in 2013.[aha, the good old working definition which zionists all over the net are now saying is simply a common sense consideration of context before loosing off about antisemitism.  It's nothing of the kind of course but some people will say anything to defend Israel and silence its critics]
So there we have it.  There are major Jewish organisations telling anyone who cares to listen that racism against Jews and Muslims cannot be dealt with at the same time because whilst no Jews can ever be accused of racism, the Muslims most definitely can.