Monthly Archives: November 2009

On the connection between anti-Israel sentiment and antisemitism

Read this Community Security Trust blog post, further to the Dispatches programme, and browse their reports. From the post:

“There were also incidents of direct antisemitic abuse, like the one involving Foreign Office diplomat Rowan Laxton, where the abuse was triggered by a specific media report about Israel (CST does not publicise the details of most incidents reported to us, but Rowan Laxton was not the only antisemitic incident perpetrator, reported to CST, who made direct reference to a news report about Israel while abusing Jews). It is important to point out that this does not mean that the media reports actually cause the antisemitic attacks: they may be the trigger, or the proximate cause, but the underlying cause is the bigotry on the part of the incident perpetrator. It is also worth stressing that the media reports may be entirely fair and balanced, but can still trigger something in a would-be hate crime perpetrator. Hate crime analysts in the police, academia and minority communities have long recognised the interplay between trigger events, media reporting and hate crimes. Henshaw’s collaborator on Dispatches, Peter Oborne, even wrote a pamphlet about it three years ago to accompany another Dispatches episode about Islamophobia. Henshaw may be astonished by the idea that media reports can lead to racist attacks, but it is not a controversial idea to those of us who work in this field.”

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“Zionists out of the peace movement”?

In case Rupert Read remains unconvinced by the previous post and the comments on it, here’s a piece at Contested Terrain – read it, and the antisemitic post to which it links, as a case of the active conflation of Zionists with Jews. This is common practice in contemporary antisemitism.

Note what a good cover anti-Zionism makes for antisemitism, and think about why it might be that many Jews may feel it necessary to oppose anti-Zionism.

Read also Steve Cohen, left anti-Zionist campaigner against left antisemitism, on former attempts to “de-Zionise” Britain and their effects on Jews, in his book (republished free online by Engage in 2005) ‘That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Antisemitic‘. If you read nothing else from it, see particularly Chapter 3, ‘The Left Returns to Zion‘. After a review of the relationship between antisemitism and what currently passes for anti-Zionism, it ends:

“For zionists to believe that such a state is no longer necessary, it is vital to attack that which necessitated it—namely anti-semitism. When confronted by the spectacle of an arsonist firing a person’s home, it is not morally justifiable for a passive observer to blame that person for jumping—even if s/he lands on a complete stranger. Certainly the stranger may be justifiably aggrieved—and with equal certainty cannot be expected to take responsibility for a fire they did not create. However, if no other homes are to be burned then the arsonist must be stopped. Moreover, isolated householders cannot be expected to do this unaided. As long as passers-by remain observers then the sorry saga will continue. The analogy with the triangle of the anti-semite, the Jew and the Palestinian is obvious. The onus for resisting anti-semitism cannot be on Jews alone. Wherever there is anti-semitism the socialist and labour movements have to oppose it. Unfortunately these movements have, all too often, been either passive or complicit.”

I think most people would agree that things are going the wrong way at the moment.

Update: I go to my inbox and receive this news from Karl Pfeifer, libelled as party to a massacre of Palestinians in the ’40s. There is no evidence, but “He is a Zionist”. This is the grim essence of prejudice and discrimination. Are we looking at a prelude?

Green councillor and candidate Rupert Read pushes Gilad Atzmon

Rupert Read, Councillor and Parliamentary candidate for the Green Party in Norwich, asserts:

“I abhor violence and I abhor racism and discrimination in all its forms.”

and

“I reserve my right to criticise the foreign policy of the state of Israel without being smeared as ‘anti-Semitic’.”

That is certainly his right. Criticism of Israel isn’t antisemitic. Neither should we allow antisemitism to pass for criticism of Israel.

Gilad Atzmon is a jazz saxophonist and racist campaigner who has repeated (http://bit.ly/4EuvyN) the old libel that “the Jews were responsible for the killing of Jesus”. He talks about a “Jewish lobby” and calls for Britain to “de-Zionise” itself. He calls for “de-judaisation”. He is frankly and comfortably antisemitic, and fights for anti-Jewish politics in the Palestine solidarity movement.

He is critical of those who compare the current Israel with Nazi Germany because he says Israel is a more radical evil: “Israel is nothing but evilness for the sake of evilness. It is wickedness with no comparison.”

Gilad Atzmon pushes classic anti-semitic Jewish conspiracy libel (http://bit.ly/4EuvyN):

“American Jewry makes any debate on whether the “Protocols of the elder of Zion” are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews (in fact Zionists) do control the world.”

Rupert Read says:

“Like all Greens I am wholly aware of the particular suffering of the Jewish people through hundreds of years of European history and their being subject to a myriad of lies and prejudices culminating in the Holocaust. Anti-semitism is as a result an especially vile attitude, and one which I have absolutely no truck with whatsoever.”

On setting fire to synagogues, Gilad Atzmon:

“I’m not going to say whether it is right or not to burn down a synagogue, I can see that it is a rational act.”

Atzmon also calls for more Holocaust deniers.

Confidently and purposefully, Gilad Atzmon syllogises Jews, Israelis and Zionists. When he calls for “de-judaification” (http://bit.ly/2z5iDV), he wants precisely that – Israel without Jews, a Palestine solidarity movement without Jews – a world without Jews. And when, in this latest piece (http://bit.ly/48Mt9y) he calls for de-Zionisation, you can look in vain for a distinction between Zionists and Jews.

Instead of standing against Gilad Atzmon’s anti-Jewish campaign, Rupert Read twitters to his followers to read Atzmon’s latest piece, repeating Atzmon’s call for Britain to de-Zionise itself (November 17th 2009, http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/britain-must-de-zionise-itself-immediately-by-gilad-atzmon.html).

Frankly, this is horrifying. How much more is the Green Party going to stand for?

Mira Vogel and Raphael Levy

Update: in the comments below, Rupert Read apologises, and has removed the tweet. He tells us he didn’t realise that Gilad Atzmon was a fellow-traveller with Holocaust deniers. This is welcome.

But Atzmon’s piece was characteristic of his project, in that he conflated Jews and Zionists and called for de-Zionisation. It refreshed many antisemitic tropes which have historically attached to Jews – the conspiracy, the manipulation of power, the social damage – and attached them to Zionists. So his flirtations with Holocaust denial are a relevant part of a bigger problem: the piece Rupert Read linked to was clearly part of an anti-Jewish campaign. Yet he still thought it an “interesting” and worthwhile read. Why?

Update 2. There are a number of lucid comments from Green Party members and campaigners against antisemitism over on Engage, from where I linked to this piece.

Update 3. Gilad Atzmon now an open Holocaust denier, says one of his anti-Zionist antagonists.


“Somewhere between a flat earthist and a holocaust denier”

The editors at New Civil Engineer are letting readers deal with members who deny anthropogenic climate change. I think this is probably necessary, because outside scientific and political circles climate change is widely passed over as a threat – The Guardian being a notable exception (let us not forget, though, that The Guardian has been subsidised by Auto Trader for a very long time, and taken as a whole its message is mixed to say the least).

Anthropogenic climate change deniers are pretty loud. Unable to get to grips with the complexity of the evidence themselves, they nevertheless feel comfortable refusing to defer to scientific consensus. Perhaps this is because the scientific consensus is also a political consensus, and they hold politicians in such low esteem? Or because science has been so done down in this country? Or perhaps it’s because to engage with the findings would challenge strongly-held beliefs they have about the way they are entitled to live their lives.

From the 29th October 2009, issue, Letters, p15:

Questioning global warming.

Antony Oliver (NCS Comment 8 October) would not feel so bad about flying to Scotland if he took a little time to look at the scientific evidence against the hypothesis of man made, or athropogenic, global warming.

A good start would be with professor Robert Carter’s 2008 paper Knock Knock: Where is the Evidence for Dangerous Man Made Global Warming, which covers most of the bases.”

“I’m a recent convert and feeling currently somewhere between a flat earthist and a holocaust denier – but the evidence is very compelling.”

You can read the rest towards the bottom of this page.

The reason flat earthists and holocaust deniers feel uncomfortable is because they are impelled to ignore or falsify evidence by prejudices they do not or cannot acknowledge. This is clear to most of the people they seek to persuade, and consequently they are pitied, treated as a threat, or held in contempt. Nevertheless they persist in thinking of themselves as brave speakers of truth to power.

Following week: New Civil Engineer, 12th November 2009, Letters, p16, has a number of enlightened correspondents. One:

Why does NCE continue to print letters from man-made global warming deniers (Letters 29 October)?

Professor Carter’s paper was mentioned, he’s on the research committee of the Institute of Public Affairs − a right wing group funded by the oil companies, so hardly an independent view. As for being convincing, his views have been widely discredited.

I doubt if the Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors is still questioning whether the earth is round or flat, they have moved on, and it is time that NCE moves on as well.”

Hopefully they will – you can read the rest of that one towards the bottom of this page.

And I’ve reached my limit – like the first correspondent, I have the impression that deniers in the face of evidence share some attributes, but I can’t get into that now.

Instead, and to pre-empt an argument which will almost certainly be added to the case against Israel sooner or later, one final correspondent. Climate Denial is a blog dedicated to exploring the psychology of climate change denial. I notice it is currently topped by a substantial Postcard from Israel by Lucy Michaels, a researcher located on a kibbutz who is currently investigating climate change denial in Israel, where drought vies with conflict for attention. It’s a piece which deals a little too freely in unsubstantiated assertions about cultures for my liking but for all that it seeks to understand rather than to blame. From it:

“Confronted with the more tangible sense of threat by a ‘terror’ attack or the incessant and somewhat obsessive discussion on the streets as to whether Ahmadnijad will drop the bomb and obliterate Israel altogether, it is perhaps understandable that the more diffuse and distant threat of climate change does not register highly on Israeli risk-o-meters.

Israelis are regularly bombarded by ‘disaster’ images. As has been found in research elsewhere, disaster imagery of climate change is most likely provokes feelings of powerlessness rather than the desire to take action.”

Three books about Hamas

Reviewed in the New York Review of Books.

It’s particularly interesting to read about the struggle between the pragmatists who want what’s best for Gaza, and the ideologues who seek God’s Kingdom on earth.

“Cracks emerged when Hamas drifted from social activism and armed struggle into politics. After Hamas decided to contest the 2006 elections, one of its preachers in Rafah left the movement with scores of followers. God’s will above man’s, he said, and besides Hamas had no business participating in an authority established by agreement with Israel. During the contentious interregnum of national unity government before Hamas’s takeover of Gaza in June 2007, both Fatah and Hamas solicited Salafist support. Unruly clans seeking an Islamist cover to press their claims bolstered their ranks. Amid the chaos, the Salafists sought to enforce their authority by waging a nasty morality campaign against Internet cafés, hairdressers, the American school, and other such places of ill-repute.

Armed confrontation with the Salafists followed fast on the heels of Hamas’s takeover. In July 2007 the Qassam Brigades laid siege to the stronghold of one jihadist group, the Army of Islam, forcing the release of the BBC’s kidnapped correspondent Alan Johnston.”

Analysis of Israel’s role in Hamas’ fortunes comes towards the end:

“Indeed, Israel’s mishandling of Hamas began even before the group’s creation. The Israelis turned a blind eye to recruitment by the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1970s and 1980s, largely because they saw the Islamists as a foil to nationalist groups. Belatedly alerted to the arming of Hamas cells during the first intifada, Israel increased its appeal by televising the trial of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the wheelchair-bound Gaza preacher who was Hamas’s spiritual head, and then by exiling hundreds of Hamas activists to Lebanon, where they had a useful chance to make contact with fellow Islamists such as Hezbollah.

Hamas’s subsequent resort to hideous “martyrdom operations,” as suicide bombings were called, owed much to Hezbollah’s inspiration and perhaps also to its technical expertise. Israel’s response of targeted assassinations hugely bolstered Palestinian sympathy for Hamas, even as it served to radicalize its followers. As Paul McGeough’s book makes abundantly clear, for instance, Khaled Meshaal, a relative hard-liner, rode to dominance within Hamas on the wave of outrage that followed Israel’s botched attempt to poison him in Amman in 1997. By contrast, when in 2003 Israel succeeded in murdering Ismail Abu Shanab, a respected Gazan intellectual with an engineering degree from Colorado State University, it eliminated a Hamas official who had argued passionately against suicide bombings and in favor of a long-term truce.

Israel’s dramatic acceleration of Jewish settlement in the occupied territories during the 1990s, and its systematic undermining of the Palestinian economy by means of roadblocks and closures, convinced many Palestinians that Hamas was perhaps correct in judging the peace process a sham. Even as Yasser Arafat’s credit waned among his own people, both Israel and the Clinton administration pushed him to crack down on Hamas. This he did, with some brutality and considerable success, in a campaign that put hundreds of Hamas activists into Palestinian prisons. Yet rather than being rewarded for risking the anger of his own people, Arafat was simply pressured to do more, and told that he would be held to account for any atrocity carried out by Hamas.

In effect if not in intention, Israel handed the Islamists veto power over the peace process. It also so weakened Arafat that when Israel floated the possibility of an offer at Camp David in 2000, the Palestinian leader shied from pursuing it, largely because he feared he could not swing his people to support it. When, in the autumn of 2000, the second intifada broke out in the wake of this failure, Arafat felt obliged to ride the violence rather than attempt to contain it, and soon lost control of his movement as local Fatah activists strove to outdo Hamas in fury.”

It’s good to read everybody’s favourite type of criticism – criticism of Israel – from people who a) haven’t got it in for Israel and b) know what they’re talking about. (The Green Party’s International Committee should try it sometime.)

Read it all and, for all the blandness of the account, be grateful you don’t live in a country Hamas runs, having your marriage licence checked by morality police, dissenting in fear of your life, and waiting for your government to give you a chance to vote them out. And be grateful you don’t have Hamas in the country next door.