Monthly Archives: May 2011

Ben Gidley on the EUMC Working Definition and the politics of defining antisemitism

The Green Party briefly accepted the EUMC’s Working Definition of Antisemitism before succumbing to a politically-motivated campaign to remove it. The University and College Union, which has received Green Party support for its anti-Israel activity, now faces a similar effort to banish the definition from any future consideration of antisemitism.

In response to Congress Motion 7, Ben Gidley, an academic who studies racism, has a piece in the Dissent blog Arguing the World, titled ‘The Politics of Defining Racism: The Case of Anti-Semitism in the University and College Union‘, which we have permission to reproduce in full.

I cannot recommend enough reading this piece. We can only regret that it didn’t exist at the time of the discussions in the Green Party which, almost unopposed, resolved to exclude it, and all it represents, from consideration.

~~~

My trade union, the University and College Union (UCU, representing professionals in further and higher education in the United Kingdom), has its annual congress this weekend, and, under the title “Campaigning for equality,” will be debating a number of motions on racism and discrimination, including one on how anti-Semitism should be defined.

Unions need policies on such things, because union case work, on relations between employees and management and among colleagues, often involves discrimination and harassment that may be racist. At times like now, when there are huge cuts in higher education and academics are being placed under ever more performance pressure by management, harassment and workplace tensions can increase, and these issues become even more important.

But there are many difficulties in addressing racism.

Racism is mercurial. It mutates over time. Pseudoscientific racial theories are now spouted only by marginal cranks. Notions that different races are different species have come and gone; eugenics has come and gone; words like “Aryan” and “Semitic” are starting to sound quaint. The period since the 1980s has seen the rise of cultural racism, or racism that focuses on cultural differences rather than biological ones.

Racism is promiscuous. It will use whatever materials it has at hand. In the age when the Church dominated European ways of thinking, racism used a Biblical language; Jews were attacked as Christ-killers, black people were condemned as under the curse of Ham. With the modern rise of scientific disciplines, racism had access to a whole new language. When that language was discredited by the Nazi genocide, new forms of expression were found—those others don’t share our way of life, they cook food that smells, they control the media, or they have a culture of criminality.

Racism proceeds through euphemism and code. At various points, “aliens,” “cosmopolitan,” “Zionist,” and “finance capital” have served as euphemisms for Jews; while the Nazis spoke about sub-humans, today’s anti-Semites mutter about Lehman Brothers or Goldman Sachs. Sometimes it is impossible to distinguish the code from what’s behind it—are Muslims hated by racists in Western Europe because of their perceived color and culture, or are North Africans and South Asians hated because they are Muslim?

Some racists wear Ku Klux Klan uniforms, or shave their heads and perform Nazi salutes. But others wear suits and ties and talk about “free speech” or the “rights of the indigenous people.” We’re not against black people, says the British National Party, we’re just for white people. We’re not fascists, says the rebranded National Front in France, we even have a black candidate.

Libraries full of books and journals full of articles are devoted to debating, dissecting, and defining racism in general, and tracking its specific mutations. For every definition or classification proposed, there are qualifications, exceptions, counterexamples, refutations. No one-page definition would be universally accepted by scholars.

But in the streets, in the workplace, and in the courts of law, you need something more straightforward. When a grassroots civil society organization monitors racist incidents, when a union is asked to represent a colleague that has been the victim of racist bullying, when a lawyer prosecutes a racially aggravated crime, when an editorial assistant has to moderate an op-ed comment thread where temperatures have been raised—you might need some kind of working definition to rule the incident in or out. If all racists looked like booted boneheads or evil Nazis, these people would have an easy job.

A few principles have emerged from the anti-racist movement to help decide a case. Three are particularly relevant. First, the victims of racism should have at least some say in defining racism. This principle is reflected, for example, in British law. Following the racist murder and failure to prosecute the killers of Stephen Lawrence, a black teenager, in London, there was a thorough review of the case that profoundly changed how the criminal justice system in the United Kingdom addresses these issues, presided over by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny.

The ensuing Macpherson Report in 1999 recommended that a racist incident be defined as “any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person,” and reported, recorded, and investigated as such. Of course, the offense taken by someone who sees him or herself as a victim can never be a sufficient criterion for ruling and convicting someone of a racially motivated or aggravated crime, but the victim’s voice should be heard and constitutes at least prima facie grounds for taking the allegation seriously. And this principle also means, for instance, that black people should have a role in defining anti-black racism, that Jews should have a role in defining anti-Semitism, and so on.

Second, racist intent is not necessary for a statement or action to be racist. Acting in good faith, believing oneself not to be racist, and being ignorant of what constitutes racism do not exempt us. In fact, anti-racists have long argued that racism is so pervasive that we are all often unconsciously racist. We are not aware of the implications of our words and actions, of the connotations they have, of the harm they might cause. The issue that matters, in other words, is racist deeds and words, not racist people. Combating racism does not require an inquisition into our souls; it requires attention to the impact of our actions. This principle is taken further in the concept of “institutional racism,” defined initially by Black Power activist Stokely Carmichael, whose words were drawn on in the Macpherson report, which defined it as the

collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.

The key word here is “unwitting”: it is not racist intent that matters, but the harm done. Saying “some of my best friends are black” doesn’t let you off the hook.

Third, context matters. A word might be racist in one context but not another. This principle is well established in British case law around racially aggravated crimes. For instance, in the case Director of Public Prosecutions v M 2004, the Divisional Court held that the phrase “‘bloody foreigners’ could, depending on the context, demonstrate hostility to a racial group.” This was cited in Rogers v Regina 2007, when one of the judges, Baroness Hale, said, “The context will illuminate what the conduct shows.” For example, the word “Zionist” means something very different in the name of the Zionist Federation than it would if a BNP member were to walk into a synagogue and shout, “Kill the Zionists.”
DEFINING ANTI-SEMITISM has become one of the most difficult instances of defining racism. This is partly because of the particularly strange mutation of anti-Semitism in recent years, including the emergence of what has contentiously been called “the new anti-Semitism.”

Far-right anti-Semitic movements increasingly borrow the language of anti-Zionism as a cover for their racism, and far-right anti-Semitic ideas have in turn increasingly gained traction among anti-Zionists. For example, anti-Zionists have taken up the old Christian anti-Semitic “blood libel” myth, while neo-Nazis have taken up ideas from the anti-Zionist movement, such as the idea of an all-powerful “Israel lobby.” So, while the British Chief Rabbi’s claim that we are experiencing a “tsunami of anti-Semitism” is almost certainly exaggerated, it is certainly the case that there has been a surge in the last decade.

This surge has mainly been seen in different sorts of places than where anti-Semitism has traditionally been encountered. In fact, it is often expressed by the intelligent, thoughtful, anti-racist academics who make up UCU’s rank and file.

In 2008, for example, a union activist circulated an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory taken from the website of the Ku Klux Klan’s David Duke to hundreds of union members on its activist list. When this was mentioned on a blog, rather than apologizing, she took the advice of a senior union member and threatened legal action, getting the blog closed down. To my knowledge, this activist was never censured within the union. (In contrast, leading campaigners against an academic boycott of Israel were excluded from the same email list for minor infringements of etiquette.) Several Jewish academics resigned in what they saw as the rise of a culture of institutional anti-Semitism.

The following year, a senior union member posted an article to a website circulating another anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, complaining that Jews are overrepresented in Parliament and that Tony Blair’s New Labour project is in thrall to Zionist money distributed by suspicious “shape-shifting” financiers. A couple of months later, a UCU branch secretary, speaking at a UCU congress fringe meeting, promoted yet another anti-Semitic conspiracy theory: lawyers ruling on union boycott policy have “bank balances from Lehman Brothers that can’t be tracked down.” Again, no censure from the union. The same year, UCU hosted South African trade unionist Bongani Masuku, allowing him to address UCU members on boycotting Israel, despite the fact that the South African Human Rights Commission (HRC) had found Masuku guilty of hate speech against Jews.

These incidents might suggest that there is a need for action and robust guidance on anti-Semitism within the union. Instead, the leadership has insisted on seeing all these instances as nothing other than legitimate criticisms of Israel. In 2006, the union executive published a formal statement denying that “criticism of the Israeli government is in itself anti-Semitic” and claiming that “defenders of the Israeli government’s actions have used a charge of anti-Semitism as a tactic in order to smother democratic debate, and in the context of Higher Education, to restrict academic freedom.” This was formalized as union policy at its 2007 congress, which resolved that “criticism of Israel cannot [emphasis added] be construed as anti-semitic”—a motion that seems to me to deny the obvious reality that some criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. The following year, another policy passed, clarifying it: “Criticism of Israel or Israeli policy are [sic] not, as such, anti-semitic.” Again, the resolution did not acknowledge that some criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.

By 2009, there had been so many resignations from the union because of this sort of thing that a motion was put to the congress noting the resignations and mandating that the national executive investigate the causes. This was rejected by a large majority.

When it was pointed out to UCU that its guest Bongani Masuku had been criticized by the HRC, rather than taking this institution and its findings seriously, the UCU dismissed this as “stuff doing the rounds on the internet”—shocking ignorance of post-apartheid South Africa for a union whose leaders regularly use the apartheid analogy to describe Israel, but also an a priori refusal to take racism against Jews as seriously as other racisms. A motion to UCU congress noting the HRC’s findings and disassociating congress from Masuku’s anti-Semitic views was formally rejected by an overwhelming show of hands. This near-unanimity in rejecting criticism of anti-Semitism led to a number of resignations from the union, from Jewish colleagues who took it as a sign that anti-Semitism was thoroughly institutionalized in it.

The culture in the UCU has been to dismiss in advance any criticism of racism against Jews, seeing it as merely a tactic to smother debate and criticism. While a handful of anti-Zionist Jews have applauded this, many academics from the Jewish community have felt increasingly isolated, their own understanding of racism not taken seriously, violating the principle that the victims of racism should have some voice in its definition. The a priori dismissal of allegations of anti-Semitism follows what David Hirsh has called “the Livingstone formulation”—the claim that allegations of anti-Semitism are made in bad faith to stifle debate. By alleging that Jews are merely crying anti-Semitism to stop people talking about Israel, the UCU leadership cries Israel to stop people talking about anti-Semitism.
WHICH BRINGS us up to the present, and the latest motion on anti-Semitism. This motion notes “with concern [that] the so-called ‘EUMC working definition of anti-Semitism,’ while not adopted by the EU or the UK government and having no official status,” is being used by student unions in relation to campus activities. It states a belief that “the EUMC definition confuses criticism of Israeli government policy and actions with genuine anti-Semitism, and is being used to silence debate about Israel and Palestine on campus.” Then it resolves that the union do three things: not make use of the definition (“e.g. in educating members or dealing with internal complaints”), disassociate itself from the definition in anypublic discussion on the matter in which the UCU is involved, and “campaign for an open debate on campus concerning Israel’s past history and current policy, while continuing to combat all forms of racial or religious discrimination.”

Every clause of the motion is deeply problematic. What is this “so-called” EUMC working definition? The EUMC was the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, an agency of the European Union. It was itself preceded by the Commission on Racism and Xenophobia (CRX), established in 1994, known as the Kahn Commission. The CRX became the EUMC in 1998 with an official mandate from the European Commission. Among other things, the EUMC published one of the most important studies of Islamophobia in Europe, in 2002, summarizing several separate reports on specific aspects of Islamophobia from the member states of the EU. In 2007 the EUMC became the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA). The FRA has continued the important work of the EUMC in documenting anti-Roma racism and homophobia across Europe.

It reports annually on discrimination and fundamental rights in the EU, and therefore reports on anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic incidents. It is only natural that it should seek a standard, usable, operational definition of anti-Semitism, just as its massive Islamophobia report set out a working definition of that form of racism. To this end, it published a one-page working definition in 2005. This has been adopted by the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Enquiry into Anti-Semitism in 2006, by several branches of the National Union of Students (NUS), and more recently by the NUS itself.

The text defined anti-Semitism thus: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” In the fifth line, it continued: “In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.” Note, not “do” but “could,” and not Israel as such but Israel “conceived as a Jewish collectivity.” It proceeds to give examples of what anti-Semitic incidents might look like. These include stereotyping Jews, including the myth of a “world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media,” as well as holding all Jews responsible for the actions of some Jews.

Then, it gives examples of how anti-Semitism might manifest itself with regard to Israel, which David Hirsh summarizes concisely:

It may, in some contexts, be anti-Semitic to accuse Jews of being more loyal to Israel than to their union; to say Israel is a racist endeavour; to apply double standards; to boycott Israelis but not others for the same violations; to say that Israeli policy is like Nazi policy; to hold Jews collectively responsible for the actions of Israel.

And here too there is a caveat in the working definition: these might be anti-Semitic, “taking into account the overall context.” In other words, talking about hidden Lehman Brothers bank accounts might be completely legitimate in the context of analyzing the subprime collapse, but not when talking about the politics of people who just happen to be Jews and have no connection to the bank, at a time when conspiracy theories about it are circulating on the Internet.

After the list of examples, the report insists, “However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled at any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.” This sentence is important, and its existence refutes the second clause of the UCU motion, that “the EUMC definition confuses criticism of Israeli government policy and actions with genuine anti-Semitism, and is being used to silence debate about Israel and Palestine on campus.” Not only does the motion name no instances when this has happened (because it is highly unlikely any such instances have ever occurred), but the working definition itself explicitly avoids the claim that criticism of Israel “in itself” is to be regarded as anti-Semitic.
FOR ALL the reasons I’ve made clear in this article, any definition of any racism is bound to be imperfect, and the EUMC working definition is no exception. I would not want it to be included without amendment in employment law, and it wouldn’t be appropriate for it to be adopted by the UK government—and, indeed, I’ve not heard of any of the working definition’s advocates arguing it should be. (In fact, it would be bizarre if the British state did adopt it formally, as the government has affirmedthat it includes anti-Semitism among the racisms covered by the Macpherson definition of a racist incident discussed above—an incident “perceived to be racist by the victim.” That definition is significantly broader than the EUMC’s.)

But the EUMC definition is a guide, a working definition, and this makes it useful in deciding when, for example, to take seriously and investigate an internal complaint. The working definition could never be used to definitively rule an incident in or out. Its uses of “could” and “context” make this clear. The specific context of an internal complaint would always have to be the determining factor. To resolve to make no use of the document in such circumstances is therefore ridiculous. Similarly, it might be useful in an education setting as a heuristic device for examining different manifestations of racism—also perversely ruled out by the motion.

For the union to disassociate itself from the working definition in any public discussion of anti-Semitism is beyond ridiculous. It means insisting that all of the organizations that do take the working definition seriously—the Community Security Trust (CST), which monitors anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom; the NUS; the Union of Jewish Students; the Fundamental Rights Agency; the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe—are dismissed in advance. It undermines their work on anti-Semitism, and it undermines their vital work on anti-Roma racism, Islamophobia, and other racisms.

In the workplace, as the CST’s director writes, this “will serve to (even) further alienate Jews from the union; and it will make it (even) harder for anti-Semitism to be raised there as a matter of concern….[I]t carries the implication that people who complain about anti-Semitism in any Israel-related context are likely to be a bunch of liars, dancing to a pre-ordained tune.”

As an academic who studies racism, I find it bizarre that my union cannot accept that there is even the faintest possibility that institutional racism might exist in our own ranks, even after a series of clearly documented incidents and a shocking number of resignations by Jewish members who perceive it as such. This motion, if passed, will in fact legitimate racism in the union and stop any allegation of anti-Semitism—in debates or in the workplace—from being taken seriously. That the motion will be tabled in a session entitled “Campaigning for equality” is ironic, but the irony tastes bitter indeed.

This piece by Ben Gidley is at Dissent’s Arguing The World blog.

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Alternatives to violence

At False Dichotomies, Alex Stein describes a protest organised by Combatants for Peace (one of whose founders Bassam Aramin, I have had the pleasure of meeting), an ensuing Twitter argument, and comparisons with Nakba day.

“As Billy Bragg sang, “The only way to disarm is to disarm.” Non-violence means non-violence. Unarmed means unarmed. If you hurl stones, however pathetic and ineffective you claim them to be, you are armed. A protest where people throw stones is not an unarmed protest. This was my argument earlier this week in a Twitfight with Joseph Dana, an American-Israeli journalist who spends much of his time chronicling the protest movement in West Bank villages that have had their land stolen by the Separation Barrier. This is how Dana describes the protests at places like Bilin and Nabi Saleh: “I go to demos on a regular basis. Sometimes they are violent with stones and sometimes they are non-violent without stones. Always unarmed. To my suggestion that someone with a stone could be considered armed, he replied: “If you think a stone in the face of the world’s 4th strongest army is considered ‘armed’ having an honest discussion is out of the question.”

This is like saying that Accrington Stanley do not have an attack because their opponents are Barcelona. Yes, the IDF is much more powerful than the demonstrators it faces each Friday in the West Bank. And I have much sympathy for the predicament faced by the villagers of Nabi Saleh and Bilin, if not for the anti-Zionism of many of their supporters. But I object to the claim that these are non-violent or unarmed protests. After stressing this, Dana unwittingly conceded my point: “If an army invaded your village and arrested your children, Would you throw stones at their armoured jeeps or worse?

I have never been to Nabi Saleh (which I understand is the most dangerous of the West Bank protests), but I have been to Bilin and Sheikh Jarrah on a number of occasions. From what I saw, Sheikh Jarrah was scrupulously non-violent (and unarmed), and the response of the Border Police stationed there was excessive: I was pushed hard in the back for no apparent reason. I saw red, although luckily I managed to channel my anger towards a choice and little-known English swear-word, rather than a physical response. Each time I have visited Bilin, though, it has never been non-violent, and – contrary to what Dana always says in his tweets – the stones were often thrown before the IDF had fired tear-gas canisters.”

HT: Bob.

EUMC, antisemitism and anti-Zionism

My trade union, UCU, is tackling the EUMC’s working definition of antisemitism – taken up for a brief time within the Green Party before a successful campaign to overturn it – and replace it with nothing – was launched by people whose ideas about Israel are so awry that they refuse to defend Jews against antisemitism.

On the Community Security Trust blog, Mark Gardner gives background to the EUMC working definition of antisemitism. He begins:

“People who carp and quibble over definitions of racism often have ulterior motives; and even more so, when they seek to outlaw the mere suggestion of a certain definition of racism.”

And proceeds to explain the background to the working definition, why it is necessary, and, towards the end:

“In Britain, the Lawrence Inquiry (by Sir William MacPherson into the Metropolitan Police’s flawed handling of the murder of black teenager, Stephen Lawrence), thrust the notion of “institutional racism” into our definitions and understanding of this complex mix; acknowledging that the culture of organisations could be racist. Again, this could be deliberate or inadvertent on the part of the perpetrators, but such an organisational culture could be significantly mitigated against by decently engaging with those perceiving themselves to be on the wrong side of the racist stick.

The ideological warriors behind this … resolution, however, have no need for such touchy-feely time wasting and universalist anti-racism. They know where they stand on this issue, and if it helps root Zionists out of their midst, why the hell should they worry?”

Modernity picks out some more from that post.

Anti-racist antisemitism. A most pernicious variety. Still, as Eric Hoffer said, every movement needs an enemy – keeps people on the same hymn sheet, &tc.

Eve Garrard warns of complicity by remaining in a discriminatory movement, and writes that it is time to go. On UCU’s bid to change the definition and so make a fiction of antisemitism by fiat, she writes:

“Those of us who took part in some of the debates about Israel on the Union activists’ list will recall with misery the readiness of people on that list to compare Israel to the Nazis, to claim that Gaza was equivalent to the Warsaw ghetto, to denounce Israel as an apartheid state, and to praise boycotters’ sterling courage in bravely ignoring the worries of Jewish UCU members who felt that we were seeing a resurgence of anti-Semitism under the thin disguise of an anti-Zionist figleaf. Such worries were standardly discredited by claiming that they were merely dishonest attempts to distract attention from Israel’s crimes. This discrediting manoeuvre doesn’t seem to have been entirely successful, since the UCU now feels the need to rebut charges of anti-Semitism by definitional fiat: if a definition of racism shows up our practices as racist, then… change the definition! Words mean whatever we want them to mean, whatever we say they mean. You might think that academics would be able to find a better political role model than Humpty-Dumpty, but they’re under a hard drive here: if the UCU were to accept that singling out the world’s only Jewish state for uniquely hostile treatment, or spreading innuendos about the sinister global power of its supporters, or telling lies about it being a practitioner of apartheid, or making a disgusting equivalence between Zionists and Nazis – if the Union were to accept that all or even any of these activities might be anti-Semitic practices, then some influential members of the UCU might show up as endorsing anti-Semitism. But that would be intolerable – better to announce that the word ‘anti-Semitism’ needs to be given a different definition.

This Orwellian resolution of political disputes by way of linguistic fiat is particularly contemptible in an academics’ union, since academics are supposed to have some knowledge of how argument works, and how intellectually empty it is to support an argument by distorting the meanings of the terms you use. (It’s not of course politically empty, and the UCU’s vicious example has certainly strengthened some of those who want to see the Jewish state destroyed.) The UCU doesn’t offer any alternative account of anti-Semitism for us to use, and this is not accidental: central to definitions of any kind of racism are core concerns about unequal treatment which disadvantages members of the disfavoured race, and the deployment of hostile stereotypes about them. Since this is exactly what the UCU does to Israel and its supporters, and indeed longs to do more of, it will be hard put to find a way of defining anti-Semitism which will let it off the racist hook. Perhaps this is why it has prudently kept quiet on the matter of an alternative definition. We are just supposed to take on trust the claim that a Union which wants to boycott the only Jewish state in the world, and doesn’t want to boycott anywhere else, isn’t and can’t be anti-Semitic.

This form of anti-Semitism would, like all other forms of that oldest of prejudices, be funny if it weren’t frightening, if it weren’t another little nail in the coffin of Jewish feelings of security and equality. What is to be done?”

“It’s no longer plausible to suppose that the Union will feel the need to change its discriminatory propensities, however strong the arguments against it are. It isn’t only the spectacle of the boycott obsessives in the Union leadership which forms a basis for that pessimistic conclusion. It’s also the sight of the majority of union members, who I am quite sure have no interest in boycotting Israel and who would vote against doing so by a huge majority if they were ever given the chance, being nonetheless content to remain silent as their leaders dance the Union down the well-paved path to institutionalized anti-Semitism.”

David Hirsh sums it up:

“UCU will now oppose all bigotry except for one particular category: racism which can be said to resemble criticism of Israel. UCU will oppose racist and religious antisemitism, but political antisemitism will be protected under the new policy.”

Update: in the comments below Sarah AB asks

“Has anyone ever said what kind of activity or discussion the working definition has closed down?”

Richard Kuper wrote one of the more considered responses.

There are more like this. So, we learn that you don’t have to explain. You simply call the EUMC WD flawed, confidently assert that it suppresses criticism of Israel, provide some selective quotes from it which omit its highly qualified language e.g. “taking into account the overall context”, then complaint that it’s too qualified, spend plenty of time picking apart its provenance and generally mischaracterising it as something with designs to be more than a practical guide (this is what Mark Gardner is responding to above with his discussion about its origins). You never say what it would prevent you from saying. You don’t need to, because people who are worried about anti-Israel antisemitism are already at such a deficit of influence. But all the while you insist that they are propagandist forces for suppression – you just have to keep reinforcing that it is they who are suppressing free expression (even as you work as hard as you can to proscribe even the most tentative definition of antisemitism).

The EUMC opened up the debate about antisemitism by proposing possibilities while insisting ‘criticism of Israel similar to that leveled at any other country cannot be considered antisemitic’. The Green Party and UCU, on the other hand, narrow it.

The opponents of the WD here really need to explain what the WD prevents them from saying, and they should propose a way of responding to the kind of antisemitism which looks like criticism of Israel.

Sarah AB – empathise with both sides

On Harry’s Place, Sarah AB writes in response to ‘Israel advocacy should stop’ by Anthony Cooper who argues:

“Because if the lies and boycotts serve to pressure Israel into facing reality and pushing for peace then opposing those lies and boycotts can only do harm.”

But in all these years boycotts and lies haven’t claimed a single victory for Palestinians. They’re ends in themselves. Perhaps that is one reason they correlate with the rise of the defencist and racist right in Israel. And lying confuses the children.

Ben Gidley – British Jews and Muslims: two myths

Part 1 “the myth of Jews as a model minority, blazing a trail that Muslims and other immigrants should follow” and Part 2 “the Islamophobia-is-the-new-antisemitism myth” can both be read at the Muslim Institute, concluding:

“This complex reality requires a complex politics. We need to stop competing in the victimhood stakes and recognise that both racisms are important and dangerous. We need to attend to Islamophobia in the Jewish community and to antisemitism in the Muslim community. And we need to be vigilant about the blurry line between taking sides on Israel/Palestine and taking up antisemitic or Islamophobic themes. Once Jews and Muslims recognise they have a common stake in fighting both racisms then we can begin to build a Britain free of antisemitism and Islamophobia.”

The boycott of Israel is a campaign of elimination

Somebody who means well but supports the boycott remonstrated with me not so long ago, in all sincerity, that just about everybody wants to see a two state solution in Israel and Palestine. This is why I take slight issue with Alex Stein’s assertion on his False Dichotomies post that supporters of boycott are lying. I dare most are sincere enough – more importantly, if they say they want a two state solution and they boycott Israel, they are labouring under an illusion, misguided by the anti-Israel architects of the boycott. Whether or not they realise it (and the wording of the resolutions is a powerful clue – Israel to get rid of its border controls and also allow 8 million Palestinians to become citizens – imagine trying that one in your own back yard!) the boycott campaign can only be a campaign to eliminate Israel, this is its architects’ and organisers’ cherished aim, and they will not stop while Israel is on the map. This and the fact that it seems if anything to strengthen Israel’s defencist, pro-occupation contingent, is why boycott is such a comically hypocritical response to the conflict in the Middle East.

From the piece.

“Barghouti continues: “Specifically, what is often objected to is the demand for full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel. One can only wonder, if equality ends Israel’s “existence,” what does that say about Israel?” I have no objection whatsoever to full material equality for Israel’s Palestinian citizens, and I know that Israel will not look very different from how it does now when this goal is achieved. For Barghouti to suggest that this is the key objection Israel’s supporters have to the BDS movement is highly disingenuous, but he manages to supersede it in the next paragraph: “The “delegitimization” scare tactic…has not impressed many in the West, in fact, particularly since its most far-reaching claim against BDS is that the movement aims to “supersede the Zionist model with a state that is based on the ‘one person, one vote’ principle” – hardly the most evil or disquieting accusation for anyone even vaguely interested in democracy, a just peace, and equal rights.” What Barghouti really means by this is that BDS seeks ‘one person, one vote’ for Israeli citizens, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and those UNRWA defines as Palestinian refugees and their descendants. Or, as another supporter of BDS puts it, “The right of return is an inviolable and sacrosanct principle which necessarily spells out the end of the Jewish state.” It is a shame that Barghouti does not share this honesty.”

Peace activists may or may not boycott settlements but they don’t boycott Israel. To put it another way, people who boycott Israel are not peace activists but Palestinian nationalists, or simple Israel annihilationists, all of whom have a deficiency of concern for Jews, and who hold Israel’s Jews to standards they are comparatively relaxed about in other states. Very hypocritical.

Update: Contentious Centrist.