Monthly Archives: November 2010

Naftali Rothenberg on “the state’s Jewish character”

Some anti-Zionists are actively painting Orthodox rabbis as fascists.

In Israel, an intense debate is ongoing between – among other dimensions – religiously observant Jewish communities, over what it is to be Jewish and the nature of a Jewish state. Among those involved is Rabbi Naftali Rothenberg of Har Adar, one of many Orthodox leaders who refuses to pursue a conflict path.

Here he responds to the Chief Rabbi of Safed:

“Calls issued by rabbis not to rent apartments to Arabs, including such an appeal delivered recently by the chief rabbi of Safed, belie Israel’s definition as a Jewish state. They contradict the state’s Jewish character no less (and, perhaps, more ) than they undermine its definition as democratic. Much has already been said about the ease with which we allow ourselves to assail the country’s minorities, as though we do not bear a heritage of abuse as a persecuted minority in the lands of the Diaspora. However, it should be emphasized that the most problematic aspect of the rabbis’ calls of incitement is that they completely deviate from Jewish law.”

Read on.

Debates like these are ongoing across the Middle East, a region where minorities fare poorly and most states define themselves in religious or ethnic terms – for example, as Arab like Egypt and Syria or Islamic Republics, like Iran. Greens, like everybody else, should address this situation without prejudice.

Bonus link: Time to End the Reform-Orthodox Wars.

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CST discourse report: what is antisemitism?

Reproduced from the CST blog:

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(This is the 2nd in a series of sections and summaries from CST’s recently released report, Antisemitic Discourse in Britain in 2009. The full pdf can be accessed here. 58 pages, including graphics.)

Pages 10, 11 and 12 are entitled What is Antisemitism? Definition, Impact, Historical Background. (They can be accessed here.)

This vast subject is then summed up as

In essence, antisemitism is discrimination, prejudice or hostility against Jews.

Antisemitism is also used to describe all forms of discrimination, prejudice or hostility towards Jews throughout history.

Antisemitism focuses upon ‘the Jew’ of the antisemitic imagination, rather than the reality of Jews or Jewish life.

It is not necessarily antisemitic to criticise Israel or Zionism, even if the criticism is harsh or unfair. The antisemitic aspect largely depends upon:

• The motivation for the criticism: to what extent is the critic driven by the Jewish nature of Israel and/or Zionism?

• The form of the criticism: does it use antisemitic or otherwise racist themes and motifs? The more deliberate and/or inaccurate the usage, the more antisemitic the criticism.

• Who is the target for the criticism: are local Jews being singled out as recipients for criticism or bias that ostensibly derives from anti-Israel or anti-Zionist hostility?

The report then explains Brian Klug’s notion of ‘The Jew’ of the antisemitic imagination, including

Thinking that Jews are really ‘Jews’ is precisely the core of antisemitism.

…Loyal only to their own, wherever they go they form a state within a state, preying upon the societies in whose midst they dwell. Their hidden hand controls the banks, the markets, and the media. And when revolutions occur  or nations go to war, it is the Jews – cohesive, powerful, clever and stubborn – who invariably pull the strings and reap the rewards.

Next, the report explains Antisemitic impacts, noting

Antisemitic impacts may arise from entirely legitimate situations that have no antisemitic intention.

It explains that hate crime attacks can be sparked by legitimate media coverage or political comment, and that people

can feel vulnerable due to public debate on matters that they perceive as being closely related to them.

Then, a short section on Antisemitism: historical background. This includes

Antisemitism is an important warning sign of division and extremism within society as a whole. It is a subject that should be of concern not only to Jews, but to all of society.

The near destruction of European Jewry in the Holocaust rendered open antisemitism taboo in public life, but led many to wrongly regard antisemitism as an exclusively Far Right phenomenon that is essentially frozen in time.

…Antisemitism repeatedly adapts to contemporary circumstances and historically has taken many forms…Jews have been blamed for many phenomena, including the death of Jesus; the Black Death; the advent of liberalism, democracy, communism, capitalism; and for inciting numerous revolutions and wars.

A dominant antisemitic theme is the allegation that Jews are powerful and cunning manipulators, set against the rest of society for their evil and timeless purpose…[this] distinguishes antisemitism from other types of racism, which often depict their targets as ignorant and primitive.

The report states the worrying situation around both antisemitic race hate levels and terrorist threats against Jews, before quoting the late Steve Cohen on the ideological component of antisemitism

The peculiar and defining feature of anti-semitism is that is exists as an ideology. It provides its adherents with a universal and generalised interpretation of the world. This is the theory of the Jewish conspiracy, which depicts Jews as historically controlling and determining nature and human destiny. Anti-semitism is an ideology which has influenced millions of people precisely because it presents an explanation of the world by attributing such extreme powers to its motive force – the Jews.

This section of the report concludes with Antisemitism: legal definitions, Race Relations Act, and Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. It begins

The 2005-2006 All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism summarised antisemitism by reference to the Race Relations Act 1976 as follows:

Broadly…any remark, insult or act the purpose or effect of which is to violate a Jewish person’s dignity or create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for him is antisemitic…This definition can be applied to individuals and to the Jewish community as a whole.

It ends with

The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry definition of a racist incident has significantly influenced societal interpretations of what does and does not constitute racism, with the victim’s perception assuming paramount importance.

CST, however, ultimately defines incidents against Jews as being antisemitic only where it can be objectively shown to be the case…CST takes a similar approach to the highly complex issue of antisemitic discourse, and notes the multiplicity of opinions within and beyond the Jewish community concerning this controversial subject.

(Next, CST Blog will summarise the sections that follow the above, entitled British Jews: Relationship with Israel and Zionism; and Anti-Zionism: A Unifying Language for Different Politcial Extremists.)

The Ottawa Protocol

The Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism, an organisation which includes John Mann MP, met in Ottawa and agreed the Ottawa Protocol, reproduced below:

Preamble

We, Representatives of our respective Parliaments from across the world, convening in Ottawa for the second Conference and Summit of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism, note and reaffirm the London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism as a template document for the fight against antisemitism.

We are concerned that, since the London Conference in February 2009, there continues to be a dramatic increase in recorded antisemitic hate crimes and attacks targeting Jewish persons and property, and Jewish religious, educational and communal institutions.

We remain alarmed by ongoing state-sanctioned genocidal antisemitism and related extremist ideologies. If antisemitism is the most enduring of hatreds, and genocide is the most horrific of crimes, then the convergence of the genocidal intent embodied in antisemitic ideology is the most toxic of combinations.

We are appalled by the resurgence of the classic anti-Jewish libels, including:

–       The Blood Libel (that Jews use the blood of children for ritual sacrifice)

–       The Jews as “Poisoners of the Wells” – responsible for all evils in the world

–       The myth of the “new Protocols of the Elders of Zion” – the tsarist forgery that proclaimed an international Jewish conspiracy bent on world domination – and accuses the Jews of controlling government, the economy, media and public institutions.

–       The double entendre of denying the Holocaust – accusing the Jews of fabricating the Holocaust as a hoax – and the nazification of the Jew and the Jewish people.

We are alarmed by the explosion of antisemitism and hate on the Internet, a medium crucial for the promotion and protection of freedom of expression, freedom of information, and the participation of civil society.

We are concerned over the failure of most OSCE participating states to fully implement provisions of the 2004 Berlin Declaration, including the commitment to:

“Collect and maintain reliable information and statistics about antisemitic crimes, and other hate crimes, committed within their territory, report such information periodically to the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), and make this information available to the public.”

We are concerned by the reported incidents of antisemitism on campuses, such as acts of violence, verbal abuse, rank intolerance, and assaults on those committed to free inquiry, while undermining fundamental academic values.

We renew our call for national Governments, Parliaments, international institutions, political and civic leaders, NGOs, and civil society to affirm democratic and human values, build societies based on respect and citizenship and combat any manifestations of antisemitism and all forms of discrimination.

We reaffirm the EUMC – now Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) – working definition of antisemitism, which sets forth that:

“Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective – such as, especially but not exclusively – the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy, or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:

  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g. claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.

However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.

Let it be clear: Criticism of Israel is not antisemitic, and saying so is wrong. But singling Israel out for selective condemnation and opprobrium – let alone denying its right to exist or seeking its destruction – is discriminatory and hateful, and not saying so is dishonest.

Members of Parliament meeting in Ottawa commit to:

  1. Calling on our Governments to uphold international commitments on combating antisemitism – such as the OSCE Berlin Principles – and to engage with the United Nations for that purpose. In the words of former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, “It is […] rightly said that the United Nations emerged from the ashes of the Holocaust. And a Human Rights agenda that fails to address antisemitism denies its own history”;
  2. Calling on Parliaments and Governments to adopt the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism and anchor its enforcement in existing law;
  3. Encouraging countries throughout the world to establish mechanisms for reporting and monitoring on domestic and international antisemitism, along the lines of the “Combating Antisemitism Act of 2010” recently introduced in the United States Congress;
  4. Encouraging the leaders of all religious faiths – represented also at this Conference – to use all means possible to combat antisemitism and all forms of hatred and discrimination;
  5. Calling on the Parliamentary Forum of the Community of Democracies to make the combating of hatred and antisemitism a priority in their work;
  6. Calling on Governments and Parliamentarians to reaffirm and implement the Genocide Convention, recognising that where there is incitement to genocide, State parties have an obligation to act;
  7. Working with universities to encourage them to combat antisemitism with the same seriousness with which they confront other forms of hate.  Specifically, universities should be invited to define antisemitism clearly, provide specific examples, and enforce conduct codes firmly, while ensuring compliance with freedom of speech and the principle of academic freedom.  Universities should use the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism as a basis for education, training and orientation. Indeed, there should be zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind against anyone in the university community on the basis of race, gender, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation or political position;
  8. We encourage the European Union to promote civic education and open society in its European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and to link funding to democratic development and respect for Human Rights in ENP partner countries;
  9. Establishing an International Task Force of Internet specialists comprised of parliamentarians and experts to create common indicators to identify and monitor antisemitism and other manifestations of hate online and to develop policy recommendations for Governments and international frameworks to address these problems;
  10. Building on the African representation at this Conference, to develop increased working relationships with parliamentarians in Africa for the combating of racism and antisemitism;
  11. We urge the incoming OSCE Chair, Lithuania, to make implementation of these commitments a priority during 2011 and call for the reappointment of the Special Representatives to assist in this work.

To completely consume by fire – Jessica Goldfinch

Caveat Preamble

I am not ‘an’ academic, so my piece may not be as robustly referenced or argued, in such an academic manner, as some contributors. I have had to reference as best as I can at the end of each section and find some sources ‘post-hoc’,  because my books are probably out of date e.g. I have used ‘Wiki’ for the less contentious collated data and information aspects, but of course opinion is opinion at the end of the day.

Ha Sho’ah – The Holocaust; what are you thinking about?

When deciding whether to use Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, comparisons or analogies, one has to ask ‘why?’ What is the purpose, what is the motive, what is the intended outcome? Is to add to the debate, open up the debate or is it to hurt?

I then have to ask myself, why do I find it so hurtful or offensive? Why would I not use Holocaust evoking terminology in order to describe someone, something, an entire group of people or a country? Personally, I would only use it if it was describing directly the period in history or current self-declared groups or someone in fancy dress.

Here is my answer. When I think of Nazis or the Holocaust I don’t just think of autocratic behaviour, or soldiers in Storm trooper uniforms I think of the following:

  • Human experimentation – the sewing together of children’s bodies for conjoined twin experiments; people with dwarfism, who after experimentation had their bodies boiled to reveal the skeletal structure for further scrutiny; gynaecological experiments; live altitude and extreme cold studies; dye injected to eyes; homosexual reorientation tests; the Roma sea water experiments, which led to them licking newly washed floors in order to get water. The list is endless and unthinkable. These images are graphic and not intended as ‘trophy-ism’ or to subjugate the memory or importance of other victims from other conflicts, they are what they are.
    http://holocaustimages.blogspot.com/2006/03/mass-executions-and-human.html

    http://thehumanmarvels.com/?p=894
  • The likes of – Joseph Mengele, Hermann Goering, Karl and Ilse Koch, Joseph Goebbels, Franz Stangl, Paul Blobel, Josef Kramer, Irma Grese, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Friedrich Jekeln, Oskar Dirlewanger, Odilo Globocnik, Adolf Eichman, Reinhard Heydrich, Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler.
    http://listverse.com/2010/08/22/top-15-most-evil-nazis/
  • Jews, Roma, LGBT, disabled, mentally ill, physically ill, dissidents, political prisoners, Russians, Poles…and any other non-Teuton ideal. Bearing in mind that the ‘excuse’ was, that the only reason a nation has to deal with these ‘misfits’ is because they are all a result of allowing Jewish blood to infect your nation by interbreeding! Of course.
  • Nails removed for lacquer, skin for leather and light shades and fat for soap (still debated, based on testimonies, which may be ‘legend’/’myth’, and conflicting evidence. Arguments and counter argument found easily on the web), hair for stuffing, gold extracted from teeth, being stripped, nakedness, cannibalism, fighting over potatoes, piles of bodies, lime powder, gas chambers, ovens….and finally The Holocaust.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1158529/Germany-agonises-bail-industrial-giant-accused-using-human-hair-Auschwitz-World-War-II.html
  • The Holocaust – the ultimate conclusion for the final solution to the Jewish question. From the Greek ὁλόκαυστος holókaustos: hólos, “whole” and kaustós, “burnt” – to completely consume by fire, in order to obliterate an entire gene pool from the earth, hence Genocide.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Holocaust

Is it any wonder that some Green Party members, including myself, are deeply upset at it being implied that we are ‘Nazi’ or ‘Nazi infiltrators’?

Is it ok for Jews to use this language then?

To be honest, anyone can say anything in private or in a mutually agreed group; that’s free speech. Holocaust survivors are often cited as using Nazi comparisons, as if that makes it ok. My answer would be, for every Jewish person or survivor who says it’s ‘ok’, there is most likely one who is deeply hurt and anguished by it.

In some circles, it has become ‘ok’ to use the word ‘nigger’ between black people predominantly influenced by the some elements of ‘rap culture’. http://www.nytimes.com/1993/01/24/nyregion/rap-s-embrace-of-nigger-fires-bitter-debate.html

Maybe that’s ok within a private group, but would we, (of all colours) tolerate that word in open public debate, except for direct quotation?

I remember, during my times as a more politicised feminist, that the word ‘cunt’ was used quite prolifically. To ‘own’ it, ‘demystify’ it? Maybe that’s ok in a mutually agreed private group, but would we, (of all genders) tolerate that word in open public debate, except for direct quotation?

Would it be acceptable for me to invoke ‘The Slave Trade’ imagery and vocabulary to now describe the more despotic regimes in Africa, as if to imply, ‘Who’s the slave driver now then? You have a history of being slaves, so how come you treat each other like this now?’ Maybe you would say ‘yes’ and I would categorically say ‘no’.

The point should be clear. We can all ‘think’, ‘feel’ and ‘say’ what we like in private or in mutually agreed groups, but surely the point is to come up with a mutually agreed language for public and general engagement. A common language which allows for robust criticism and praise, without using language which we know causes pain. This is particularly pertinent when discussing groups of people who are in pain and suffering as a result of conflict, whoever they are.

The richness of the English language is indisputable and there are many words available to us to engage in a debate. The Israel/Palestine debate is already fraught with anger and pain, why would we even want to inflict more on each other; especially when we know that it does cause pain, intimidation, isolation and fear?

Why Should the Holocaust (and Nazi Imagery) Be Held as Unique?

Because it is. The Holocaust is a uniquely painful European experience and should be held as such. The only way I’ve seen Nazism being dealt in serious ways is through books, plays, films and comedy etc.; you may remember Mel Brooks sailed close to the wind in his film “The Producers”. Again, intent and motive is fairly clear: to take the sting out of ‘Nazi’ via mockery or to educate.

However, I believe that all similar experiences should also be held as unique:

  • The Native Americans 1830 and possibly the Anazazi before them.
  • Tribal Peoples of the Amazon
  • The Armenians 1915
  • The Ukrainians 1930s
  • Hiroshima & Nagasaki 1945
  • Tibet 1949-
  • Congo – to present
  • Cambodia (Kampuchea) 1975
  • Baha’is in Iran
  • Balkans –Bosnian Moslems 1990’s
  • Pigmy tribes of Southern Africa- pre- & post-Apartheid
  • And on…and on…thousands or millions in each case

I believe that it is a mistake to homogenise these events. We can have our ‘World Genocide Day’ and for sure we can find similarities in the universal human nature aspect of these atrocities, but each group deserves to be remembered uniquely and each country, region or people will remember there ‘fallen’ in their own, very personal, way. I fear that if we do not find ‘uniqueness’ in deliberately orchestrated atrocities, then the victims also become homogenised.

To find ‘uniqueness’ can help ameliorate the sadly all too common conflict in the world.

It is also important not to exaggerate and embellish events beyond what they actually are, if not, I believe this also diminishes the true meaning of words and events and ultimately the victims.

‘History is full of horrors. This is not a contest to win some awful prize’. Barbara Rogasky 1991, from her book ‘Smoke and Ashes’ – also more on ‘uniqueness’ of deliberately orchestrated atrocities.

Zionism and Racism / The Law of Return

This is far too big a subject to address here. However, again this word is bandied around as some casually acceptable insult. ‘Racist Zionist’, ‘smash the Zionists’, ‘eradicate this Zionist entity’, ‘Zios’ ‘Zionism = Nazism’, ‘Zionism-The New Holocaust’; and on and on. If you believe that the State of Israel, as a Zionist endeavour, is an entirely racist entity then you are, of course, entitled to that opinion. Likewise, Jews who don’t subscribe to the default position of the EUMC anti-semitism document don’t have to.

All I will say is ‘I am a Zionist’, but I certainly don’t recognise myself as being a Nazi or Racist who needs to be smashed and I do subscribe to my right to self-determination if I so wish.

With 14 odd branches of Zionism, this alone should indicate that Zionists are not a homogenous group of racists or homogenous group of anything.

Likewise, ‘The Law of Return’ is not a cut and dried issue, (it is not the only means of procuring citizenship and will no doubt be modified as situations change) and the notion of ‘jewishness’ or a ‘Jewish state’ is often not fully understood; there are many countries across the globe who employ similar rules, regulations, preferential treatment of entry, (inc. Germany, Serbia, Greece, Japan, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Chile, Poland, Finland et al), and ‘christian-ness, moslem-ness, hindu-ness’ in how a their country’s calendar is run – I might write about all this another day.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_Return

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zionism

‘The Zionist Idea’ (1981) Arthur Hertzberg.

Slippery slope

By allowing ‘Nazi’ imagery to become a standard level of discourse for critical purposes we are prone to becoming desensitised. As we have seen, next it’s cartoons of gas chambers, Auschwitz and then Holocaust denial. Using direct replacement, “The Palestinian Question”, of course only serves to invoke the next stage “A Solution”, implying mass orchestrated and deliberate murder. Bearing in mind this kind of imagery has been bandied around since before 1967, and indeed 1948; so is not just as a result of the current I/P situation.

Whether intended or not, the outcome will be the feeding of blatant anti-semitism; it is already happening. I do wonder about the minds of people who think it is ‘ok’ to have and display a ‘Holocaust Cartoon Competition’; this is not for educative purposes or satire. Think about it…Holocaust-Cartoon-Competition. Insert the following in the space where ‘Holocaust’ sits and think negative-making-fun images: Slavery…Ethnic Cleansing…Wounded Knee…Nakba…Pol Pot…what does any of this do to enhance debate? It doesn’t, it hurts and it is racist.

Nazi and Holocaust language is also the language of the KKK, White Supremacists and Neo-Nazis.

http://www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DRIT=3&DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=624&PID=0&IID=4636&TTL=Anti-Semitic_Cartoons_on_Progressive_Blogs

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Holocaust_Cartoon_Competition

http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/a-new-low-for-scottish-palestine-solidarity-campaign/

http://www.tomgrossmedia.com/ArabCartoons.htm

EUMC on Anti-Semitism

No document is perfect and most such things tend to continue to evolve. Overall, it has to be read ‘entire’, as each part tends to elaborate on a preceding part.

The document also offers a ‘default’ position, which can be accepted or rejected by each person as they see fit. Like many documents which offer guidelines, law or support, I can choose for it to support me or not. If I decide ‘not’, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t other people who are glad of it.

What this document does indicate is how to conduct discourse, without resorting to Nazi/Holocaust metaphor and analogy.

My only question would be:

What is it that cannot be said as a genuine robust criticism of Israeli Government Policy because of this document, whilst offering a default position on the use of language in that discourse?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism

No.

So, we come full circle, and I would ask the same questions:

When deciding whether to use Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, comparisons or analogies, one has to ask ‘why?’

What is the purpose, what is the motive, what is the intended outcome?

If someone is deeply hurt, angered, fearful or intimidated by the use of Nazi/Holocaust imagery in this comparative way, especially knowing where it can lead; is it ok?

I would say ‘No’.

Jessica Goldfinch, Norwich Green Party

From the Green Party International List, on Holocaust comparisons

The Green Party has allowed its International List email discussion forum to be overrun by arguments about Israel. Its moderators make no distinction between those who initiate antisemitic campaigning about Israel and those who attempt to address this. Some members interested in other international issues have abandoned the List as a lost cause, and others are nearing that point.

A recent measured response from Toby Green, reproduced with permission, gives some indication of the state we’re in:

“Dear XXXX,

You are going a long way to proving that some Jews can indeed be anti-semitic, just as the French novelist Irene Nemirovsky was.

The key is the elision between the “holocaust” and the “run up to the holocaust” which XXXX makes. There is a world of difference between the programme of extermination of the Nazis in which 6 million people died and the current situation in Palestine. By saying “and anyway, who cares?”, XXXX clearly – and deliberately – seeks to insult those who do care. In the debate about YYYY’s comments on the Discussion List, ZZZZ acknowledged that equating Jews and Nazis can indeed be anti-semitic. This is widely acknowledged in the mainstream, if not in the more extreme anti-zionist circles. XXXX clearly has no such qualms.

Nor does she have any qualms about facts, since, as mentioned, there is a world of difference between gas chambers and the current suffering of Palestinians. Gas chambers were, thus far in history, unique. Sadly, the daily sufferings of the Palestinians are far from unique, as the indigenous peoples of Colombia, the Karen of Burma, and many others know to their cost, not to mention the 4 million people who have died in Congo since 1997 as a result of wars to procure coltan so we can continue having these ridiculous electronic slanging matches (that’s right – 4 million).

Curiously, although XXXX, and others who share her bent, accuse Israel and Jews who do not support the boycott and vilification of Israel of promoting the exceptionalism of Jewish suffering as opposed to all others, it is actually they who promote the exceptionalism of the Jewish state – I am interested and protest about suffering in all places around the world, am actively involved in human rights movements and development activities in Latin America and West Africa, whereas it is quite clear that XXXX has no interest in anywhere on earth except for Israel/Palestine – this is probably why she erroneously believes that the situation there is uniquely bad, which leads her to make false accusations and to abusing those who care about maintaining historically accurate pictures of the holocaust. It is not a unique situation: it is just one of many examples of what human beings can do to one another in the wrong circumstances.

But the worst aspect of all is that this indication of her beliefs (“and anyway, who cares?”) shows that she has no real interest in seeing peaceful resolution of the conflict in Palestine and Israel, which is disgusting. Anyone who knows anything about the history of this region knows that we have to care about the holocaust and the nakhba if we are to make progress. We have to care about the Nakhba and its historical memory because of the suffering it caused and the feelings it arouses. And we have to care about the holocaust and what it meant to people since most Israelis grew up on streets with holocaust survivors and the reality of that event has clearly had a determining impact on their sense of embattlement, fear of the other, and consequent policies. Thus resolving the situation in Palestine means coming to terms with this psychological process, and engaging with it – not not caring about it. Just as resolving it also means understanding the Nakhba, and what it means to Palestinians. We have to engage with both. But XXXX’s simplistic view of the world and of history means that this is irrelevant to her, just so long as she can feel she’s on the right side.

Sadly, it seems that tokenism is too powerful an attraction to have to deal with the real moral dilemmas and conflicts which history and the nature of being human require us to confront. What a shame. And this in a Green Party which, when I joined, I believed had a more sophisticated grasp of the complexities of being alive.

Toby”

Beat the Jews

Adrian at Green Reading sends this from Care2:

Several students at La Quinta High School in Riverside County, California were caught playing a late-night game of tag called “Beat the Jew”.

Originally called “Fugitive,” the game consists of “Jews” being blindfolded and taken to a random location off the freeway. They then must make it to “base,” or the school, while being chased by “Nazis” who are out to tackle and capture them. While seven students were caught, the game has 40 fans on its Facebook page.

The game was not charged as a hate crime since everyone involved were willing participants, but the Facebook page has been shut down. The school’s principal reports that since the chase did not take place on campus, the school cannot take action against the students.

However the school recently announced plans to implement an “Anti-Bias Education” program, delivered by the Anti-Defamation League and sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Palm Springs and Desert Area. The curriculum will focus on encouraging teens to take action against bias and bullying, as well as empathy and prejudice. Other schools in the region will also receive training.

One issue that this story brings up is whether Facebook should ban hate pages. Certainly students’ anti-Semitic views and game would exist without Facebook, but the site was arguably a helpful tool in promoting the game. On the other hand, what can be termed a “hate site” may be subjective. Obviously a page promoting violence or harassment towards an ethnic, religious or cultural group is hateful, but what about a page that promotes stereotypes about a group yet is non-violent in tone? In addition, some argued the “Beat the Jew” game was not anti-Semitic since no Jews were actually harassed. The question of how much responsiblity a social networking site has in stopping hate has no clear answers, but given the disturbing incident at La Quinta High, it is in dire need of discussion.

Mira adds:

The game is 45-and-out crossed with a fox hunt. Renaming it shifts the aim of the game – it’s not ‘get back to base’, but ‘Beat the Jews’.

It matters what the hunter and the hunted are called in this fantasy world, whom most of the participants identify with, and how we think that the fantasy infects or reflects the real world.

I bet I’d make a mess of trying to explain this to high school students – but for Greens, with our vigorous opposition to Islamophobia, it’s easy: just imagine the game was called ‘Beat the Muslims’ and recast the Nazis as crusaders. Definitely something you’d want to intervene about.