Antony Lerman cached version 20/01/2019 05:33:08 en Labour should ditch the IHRA working definition of antisemitism altogether <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We need to understand the history of this attempt to define antisemitism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Western Wall, Jerusalem: Jgritz~commonswiki </span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In politics, neutralising a toxic controversy and moving on by taking a strategic decision to retreat, withdraw or compromise, may be a prudent course of action. But if this is what members of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) are planning to do today by ditching the amendments it made to some examples of antisemitism in the guidance notes of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) ‘working definition’ of antisemitism, and embracing the entire text lock, stock and barrel, they would be party to a travesty of justice. The more the definition is held up to the light and subject to public scrutiny, the more we see holes and cracks in its flimsy fabric. Not only is there now overwhelming evidence that it’s not fit for purpose, but it also has the effect of making Jews more vulnerable to antisemitism, not less, and exacerbating the bitter arguments Jews have been having over the nature of contemporary antisemitism for the last 20 to 25 years. Arguments that are inextricably linked to the Israel-Palestine conflict and generated by two questions: Are there forms of criticism of Israel which equate to antisemitism? If so, where is the line between ‘legitimate’ criticism and criticism that spills over into antisemitic hate speech?</p><p dir="ltr">We should no longer be quibbling over the dodgy nature of some of the examples in the counterproductive explanatory text that follows the IHRA definition, in a futile attempt to reconcile adoption of the definition with protecting the last vestiges of freedom of speech about Israel-Palestine. We should rather be telling the unvarnished truth: no definition ever saved a Jew from experiencing antisemitism. It’s time to abandon this tainted and deeply flawed text and instead seek to codify and implement far more widely, commensurate with the danger racism poses today, the tried and tested methods of combatting racism developed by anti-racist groups on the front lines of this struggle. </p><p dir="ltr">And yet, a misguided or misapplied prudence looks certain to hold sway. Relentless pressure from inside and outside the party to get the NEC to abandon its amendments to the examples, coupled with a constant stream of attacks on Jeremy Corbyn for allegedly associating with antisemites and even allegedly being an antisemite himself, are now paying off. It’s <a href="">widely expected</a>, that today, the NEC will reverse its decision, making the entire, un-amended IHRA definition and examples an integral part of its code of conduct on antisemitism.</p><h2 dir="ltr">A barrage of criticism</h2><p dir="ltr">A barrage of criticism greeted the NEC’s announcement on 5 July that it had agreed on those amendments. It stood accused of legitimising antisemitic hate-speech within the party and not allowing Jews to determine for themselves <a href="">what antisemitism is</a>. No matter that the code formally embraced the 38-word IHRA ‘working definition’ of antisemitism as well as all but 4 of the 11 examples of discourse that ‘could’ be considered antisemitic, added 2 more and, in discussing the 4 that were omitted, endorsed their content and strengthened their language with the aim of protecting freedom of speech on Israel-Palestine and simplifying the process for Labour officials conducting disciplinary hearings reaching judgements as to whether or not the code had been breached. This was convincingly argued by Dr Brian Klug <a href="">on oD on 17 July</a>. Klug remarked in his article: ‘I have not yet come across a critic of the NEC Code – I mean a critic who places a premium on combating antisemitism – who acknowledges [the points that significantly enhance the IHRA text], let alone welcomes them as the enhancements that they are. They are passed over in silence, as if the IHRA document were a sacred text whose words may not be tampered with – not even if the text can be improved.’ Having followed a very great deal of the subsequent comment on IHRA, the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn, I would say that Klug’s observation still applies. </p><p dir="ltr">Since then, the regular doses of ‘revelations’ about Corbyn have intensified, further entrenching the notion that, at the very least, Corbyn has a tin ear when it comes to recognizing antisemites and antisemitic discourse, and at the very worst repeats antisemitic tropes when talking about Israel’s human rights abuses, Zionism and the nature of the Jewish state. It is understandable therefore that some of Corbyn’s key supporters who reject these accusations nevertheless see adoption of the full IHRA text and the dropping of any changes to the examples as the playing of their ‘get out of jail’ card. The party can then no longer be accused of rejecting the ‘working definition’ and examples, critics will be assuaged, the matter will be history and laid to rest.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Politicising antisemitism within an inch of its life</h2><p dir="ltr">This is wishful thinking. The fact is that the damage has already been done. The default mode of almost all the mainstream media is to take as given that the party is institutionally antisemitic. And that its leader is either incapable or unwilling to do anything about it, except make pious statements that are ignored. These are certainly not propitious circumstances for putting the issue to rest. Too many people and organizations have a vested interest in not letting Corbyn or the party off the hook. (See, for example, <a href="">Jonathan Cook</a>). And the attacks, given spurious legitimacy by flying the IHRA working definition like a flag, as if it represented a holy and untouchable text, are ongoing and relentless. In a column in the Jewish Chronicle on 21 August, titled ‘Jeremy Corbyn appals me – and his behaviour will get no better’, Joan Ryan MP, Chair of Labour Friends of Israel, <a href="">wrote this</a>: ‘Nor should we pretend that even full acceptance of IHRA ends this battle against antisemitism in the Labour party.’ </p><p dir="ltr">At the Jewish Labour Movement conference on 2 September Margaret Hodge, now brazenly exploiting fears about antisemitism to bring about a leadership change, made it clear that it would no longer be enough for the NEC to adopt in full the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism at its meeting on the 4th. ‘It might have been enough three months ago, ‘she said, ‘it might have just enabled us all to start talking to each other and bring trust again, but I think that moment has passed.’ <a href="">She wants Corbyn to go</a>. And although Gordon Brown didn’t mention Corbyn by name in his emotionally charged speech at the same event calling for the adoption of the IHRA definition and describing antisemitism as ‘a problem of the conspiracy-theory left’, his words will surely be taken as a plea for a new leader.</p><p dir="ltr">These highly charged interventions were taking place even as the vile comments the former Chief Rabbi of the United Synagogue, Jonathan Sacks, made about Jeremy Corbyn, in an interview he gave to the New Statesman published on 29 August, were <a href="">still making waves</a>. Just when you might have thought that the vilification couldn’t be ratcheted up even further, the media’s most cuddly rabbi sent Corbyn-baiting off the graph when he told George Eaton that Corbyn ‘is an antisemite’ who has ‘given support to racists, terrorists and dealers of hate’ and that his reported 2013 remarks about ‘Zionists’ as ‘the most offensive statement by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell’s 1968 “Rivers of Blood” speech.’ </p><p dir="ltr">It would be naïve in the extreme to think that the kind of politicisation of antisemitism now engulfing Labour and looking like an orgy of self-destruction was a new phenomenon. I first started writing about the use and abuse of antisemitism in Jewish communal politics back in 1985 and was, to say the least, not thanked for doing so. But even after almost 40 years engagement in studying contemporary antisemitism, I have never seen anything like what we are now experiencing.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">after almost 40 years engagement in studying contemporary antisemitism, I have never seen anything like the politicisation we are now experiencing</p><h2 dir="ltr">The curious birth of the IHRA ‘working definition’ of antisemitism</h2><p dir="ltr">One of the central unique elements of this current controversy is the role being played by the IHRA working definition of antisemitism.</p><p dir="ltr">In the last three decades of the twentieth century, politicisation mostly expressed itself in the form of differences in the organized Jewish community over how to deal with the problem of antisemitism on the political level and whether it should be given minimum publicity or openly discussed, and no efforts made to suppress news about desecration of cemeteries and other antisemitic attacks – the default position of the Board of Deputies for many years who feared that publicising such incidents would make matters worse.</p><p dir="ltr">There was hardly any political controversy over how antisemitism should be defined. A broad consensus understanding of what it was prevailed – in the organized Jewish community, among mainstream political parties, across countries in the West. Once that consensus had clearly broken down by the first years of the twenty-first century, almost entirely over the issue of Israel-Palestine and how far anti-Israel rhetoric can be defined as antisemitism – and dubbed the ‘new antisemitism’ – &nbsp;the politicisation of antisemitism was taken to another level. Until that time, Israeli governments had not always made engagement with the problem of antisemitism for diaspora Jews a top priority. Zionism and the establishment of the state were all about overcoming antisemitism. To become too involved, certainly publicly, in this diaspora problem would have meant admitting that in one of its key aims, Zionism failed. But when Israel was placed at the centre of the antisemitism issue, Israeli state policy changed. Leading the Jewish fight against antisemitism, under the banner of promoting the notion of the ‘new antisemitism’, became a core strategic task of government.</p><p dir="ltr">And this is where the story of the IHRA definition begins.</p><p dir="ltr">Fast forward and, irrespective of the decisions that will be taken at today’s NEC meeting, the task of drawing together, in summary form, the very substantial body of evidence which should consign the IHRA working definition to the dustbin of history, is urgent. I understand that to expect the NEC to take a step in that direction is unrealistic. But this is only one stage on which the provocations associated with the IHRA definition action are being felt. Now is an opportunity to establish the fundamental principle that IHRA is so flawed it should be abandoned, not tinkered with.</p><p dir="ltr">Rather than proceed with the metaphor of the IHRA text as tantamount to an untouchable holy scripture, I suggest we think about it as if it were a balloon kept aloft not with helium, but rather with the heat of righteous indignation, the constant ratcheting up of fears and accusations, the ever wilder doubling-down on painting Corbyn an antisemite and the increasingly desperate attempts to oust him from the leadership using hatred of Jews as a weapon with which to achieve this.</p><p dir="ltr">In any public space where proper discussion and serious engagement can take place, the weighty critique of IHRA being produced by a diverse group of people with expertise, who don’t necessarily agree with each other on all aspects and are not working together in any conspiratorial or pre-planned fashion, would successfully puncture that balloon.</p><p dir="ltr">But there is no such space today. Those keeping the balloon in the air use a discourse that has deeply uncomfortable echoes of the post-truth populism, the ‘we don’t trust experts’ narrative, coursing through the political and social veins in so many countries today.</p><p dir="ltr">Those applying their knowledge of law, political history, race and ethnic studies, experience in monitoring, studying and analysing contemporary antisemitism and so on, are largely ignored or subject to ad hominem attacks, character assassination and vilification. But it’s due to their work that the case against IHRA is so strong.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Origins I: A deeply flawed rehash of an abandoned and discredited forerunner</h2><p dir="ltr">The IHRA text is not new. It’s a marginally rehashed version of the ‘working definition’ of antisemitism produced under the auspices of the now defunct European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) and published on its website <a href="">on 28 January 2005</a>. The American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) international affairs director, Rabbi Andrew Baker, persuaded the EUMC director Beate Winkler to call a meeting of Jewish representatives to discuss framing a new antisemitism definition as a way of extricating the EUMC from a damaging controversy over a suppressed, and then leaked, antisemitism report purporting to show young Muslims as principally responsible for rising attacks on Jews in Europe. The AJC’s antisemitism research head, Kenneth Stern, had already drafted such a new definition and it was this, subject to some small amendments made by a group comprising only Jewish representatives sympathetic to the notion of the ‘new antisemitism’, that surfaced as the EUMC working definition.</p><p dir="ltr">The draft definition was never subjected to proper scrutiny. On Stern’s own admission, only five people signed off on the final text: Winkler, Stern, Baker, Mike Whine (from the UK Community Security Trust, the defence body of the Jewish community) and Deidre Berger (head of the AJC’s Berlin office).</p><p dir="ltr">However, it undoubtedly made an impact. For example, the US state department, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism (2006), either used, cited or recommended adoption of the working definition. Many referred to it erroneously as the EU definition. From the start, the definition and examples were deliberately conflated. The conditionality of the examples were described by Professor Dina Porat of Tel Aviv University, a key figure in the initial discussions about the draft, as ‘a list of acts and statements that are anti-Semitic’ (emphasis added).</p><p dir="ltr">But reception was patchy and as inappropriate attempts to use it to suppress freedom of speech became public, criticisms mounted. The EUMC began to make it clear that the working definition had ‘no legal basis’, ‘did not necessarily reflect the official position of the EUMC’ and was not adopted by it. It should be viewed as ‘a work in progress’, Winkler said, ‘with a view to redrafting’</p><p dir="ltr">When the Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) replaced the EUMC, it dropped the working definition, did not display it on its website, said that no public authority in the EU applied the document in any way and that the FRA had ‘no legal competence to develop itself any such definitions.’</p><p dir="ltr">Among those who have contributed to the explication of the origins and the decline and temporary fall of the EUMC working definition are <a href="">Richard Silverstein</a>, <a href="">Ben White</a>, <a href="">Asa Winstanley</a>, <a href="">Jonathan Cook</a> and <a href="">Richard Kuper</a>. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Origins II: Creating a tool to fight the ‘new antisemitism’ by redefining Jew-hatred</h2><p dir="ltr">Stern’s aim was to create a definition that provided the basis for determining when criticism of Israel manifests itself as antisemitism. In effect, the task was to produce a codification of the nature of the ‘new antisemitism’ and how it could be recognised. One of the earliest figures conceptualising ‘new antisemitism’, publicising the notion and promoting it internationally, was Irwin Cotler, a Canadian human rights law professor who was justice minister in the 2003-6 Liberal government. He summed it up in 2010 in these words: ‘In a word [sic], classical anti-Semitism is the discrimination against, denial of, or assault upon the rights of Jews to live as equal members of whatever society they inhabit. The new anti-Semitism involves the discrimination against, denial of, or assault upon the right of the Jewish people to live as an equal member of the family of nations, with Israel as the targeted “collective Jew among the nations.”’</p><p dir="ltr">From the outset, this notion was disputed, contested and criticised, but also found support among many, including individual academics, some antisemitism monitoring and research bodies and antisemitism research institutes (some of which were specifically created to develop research and analysis grounded in the ‘new antisemitism’ idea). But it brought most solace to Israel advocacy groups, Israel lobbying organizations and an Israel government that was now convinced of the usefulness of using antisemitism as a defensive shield against external criticism of its actions. As <a href="">Neve Gordon writes:</a> ‘The Israeli government needs the “new anti-Semitism” to justify its actions and to protect it from international and domestic condemnation. Anti-Semitism is effectively weaponised, not only to stifle speech . . . but also to suppress a politics of liberation.’ And although the demise of the EUMC working definition of antisemitism was a blow to those who had worked to develop it and promote it, the effort to promote the notion or theory of the ‘new antisemitism’ continued apace – and successfully.</p><p dir="ltr">However, one crucial consequence was to turn discussion and reasoned argument about the idea, which was just about still discernible in the first years of the twenty-first century, into an all-out verbal and rhetorical war over the nature of contemporary antisemitism. As I <a href="">wrote in the Nation</a>: It ‘diluted the allegation of antisemitism. To warrant the charge, it is sufficient for someone to hold any view ranging from criticism of the policies of the current Israeli government to denial that Israel has the right to exist, without having to subscribe to any of the beliefs historians have traditionally regarded as constituting an anti-Semitic worldview. This is a fundamental redefinition of the term “anti-Semitism” for political purposes, one consequence of which is that if almost everything is antisemitic, then nothing is. The word is rendered useless.’ Or <a href="">as Brian Klug puts it</a>: ‘when anti-Semitism is everywhere, it is nowhere. And when every anti-Zionist is an anti-Semite, we no longer know how to recognize the real thing – the concept of anti-Semitism loses its significance’ . </p><h2 dir="ltr">IHRA adoption of the working definition: a deeply suspect process, mired in confusion</h2><p dir="ltr">The IHRA is not so international, not so exclusively focused on Holocaust remembrance and not at all above responding positively to political pressure. It began life in as the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research (ITF), which was created by the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust (SIF) in 2000. It was institutionalised permanently as the IHRA in 2012. Of its 31 member countries only 4 are not European. Two of the remaining 27 are not full members.</p><p dir="ltr">My understanding is that the AJC and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre (SWC) in Los Angeles worked assiduously behind the scenes to get the ITF institutionalised, with the express idea of using it as a vehicle to revive international promotion of the EUMC working definition. Acting for the AJC, once again, was Rabbi Baker. Acting for the SWC was its director of government affairs, Mark Weizman, who, conveniently, also chaired the Antisemitism and Holocaust Committee of the IHRA. And it was through that committee that Weizman drove adoption by the IHRA of an amended version of the EUMC working definition. Some reports suggest that this was the work of two years of hard drafting. The Experts of the UK Delegation to the IHRA on the Working Definition of Antisemitism called the result ‘a clear “gold-standard” definition of what contemporary antisemitism consists of.’ Yet the IHRA text is so similar to the EUMC one as to be, on first glance, virtually indistinguishable – especially the actual 38-word definition which is indeed identical. Someone is not telling the truth here.</p><p dir="ltr">I’ve been informed that members of some country delegations felt that adoption of the working definition on 26 May 2016 was ‘railroaded through’. The head of one of the state delegations to the IHRA participating in the Plenary stated the following:</p><p dir="ltr">‘The discussions, as I remember them, were quite intense and lengthy, both in the couloirs and in the plenary hall, until a decisive step was taken by the presidency, on the demand by some member states. Namely, the original draft text was cut into two, and only the first two-sentence part was to be the&nbsp;working-definition to be adopted, while the other part, the examples, remained what they were: examples to serve as illustrations, to guide the IHRA in its work. From then on, the plenary was able to move quickly on, and the non-legally binding working definition was unanimously adopted.&nbsp;The relevant press release of 26 May 2016... states it very clearly... This is why I really do not quite understand the reason of the ongoing and apparently heated debate in the UK on adopting the definition (actually, rather, the illustrative examples) in full, without caveats nor amendments’ (emphases added).</p><p dir="ltr">As for what adoption meant: Only 6 of 31 governments whose countries are members of IHRA have &nbsp;formally endorsed/adopted the definition, and it’s not clear whether they adopted the examples or not.</p><p dir="ltr">However, <a href="">we do know that</a>:</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- the UK Government adopted the definition but not the list of examples;&nbsp;</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- the LSE adopted the IHRA definition but clarified that it ‘does not accept . . . all the examples’;&nbsp;</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- the European Parliament adopted the definition without the examples in June 2017 </p></li></ul><h2 dir="ltr">Deliberate obfuscation of what is and what is not the IHRA definition</h2><p dir="ltr">Even in its first EUMC incarnation, promoters engaged in deliberate obfuscation as to what did or did not constitute the ‘working definition’. When accused of encouraging the chilling of free speech and endorsing the notion that anti-Zionism and antisemitism are one and the same – by including statements such as the ‘state of Israel is a racist endeavour’, ‘denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination’ and ‘drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis’ as examples that could be antisemitic – protagonists would insist that the examples were not part of the definition and were a work in progress. But when Zionist and Israel-advocacy groups, and ‘new antisemitism’ theorists treated the entire text as the definition, very little was done to disabuse them of this error. So as with the EUMC version, the same process has applied to the IHRA text – only more so.</p><p dir="ltr">One of the differences between EUMC and IHRA is the way the definitions are set out. In the former, the 38-word working definition is distinguished from the rest of the text by being set in bold type. The same text in the IHRA definition is not only also in bold type, it’s enclosed in a box which contains the longer part of a prefatory sentence that begins outside the box: ‘On May 2106, the Plenary in Bucharest decided to: [in the box] Adopt the following non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism’. As we see from the Corbyn-Labour antisemitism affair, critics like John Mann MP, Louise Ellman MP, Dame Margaret Hodge, Gordon Brown, Chuka Umunna MP and more, aggressively demand that Labour adopt the entire text and often claim that it is indeed the entire text that is the working definition. And when they proclaim that definition has universal acceptance, they further imply that the examples are an integral part of what is universally accepted. But given that there is no evidence of ‘universal acceptance’, there can hardly be evidence that the examples are folded into that.</p><p dir="ltr">Moreover, the administration of the IHRA itself confirmed unequivocally that the definition and the examples were separate things. Its permanent office in Berlin issued <a href="">the following statement on 12 September 2017</a>: ‘The working definition, like all IHRA decisions, is non-legally binding. The working definition is the text in the box’. This statement makes a nonsense of the statement issued by Experts of the UK Delegation to the IHRA <a href="">on 7 August 2018 that</a> ‘Any “modified” version of the IHRA definition that does not include all of its 11 examples is no longer the IHRA definition.’. How were they induced to make this untrue statement? </p><h2 dir="ltr">Analysis of the full text: deeply flawed and by definition, not a definition</h2><p dir="ltr">The 38-word definition is vague and tells us very little. (See the text <a href="">here</a>.) It’s so obviously a linguistic mess, I find it hard to believe that its promoters have read it. If antisemitism is a ‘certain perception’, what is that perception? If it’s a ‘certain’ one, why not spell it out? We’re barely five words into the definition and instead of clarity we get opacity. This antisemitism ‘may be expressed as hatred towards Jews’, which means it also may not. So if it may not be expressed as hatred, how else might it be expressed? Shouldn’t we be told? If the next sentence is designed to do this, it’s surely incomplete and inadequate. ‘Rhetorical’ seems to imply that it’s just for effect, for show, to make an impression. Surely it’s an inappropriate word. Then to say that antisemitism is ‘directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals’, you might as well just say ‘everyone’, but that doesn’t seem to tell us anything of any use at all.</p><p dir="ltr">Four prominent and respected lawyers who <a href="">have written opinions</a> on the definition are also unimpressed. Hugh Tomlinson QC described it as ‘unclear and confusing’ and said it ‘should be used with caution’. In <a href="">Sir Stephen Sedley’s view</a>, it ‘fails the first test of any definition: it is indefinite’. Sir Geoffrey Bindman <a href="">wrote</a>: ‘Unfortunately, the definition and the examples are poorly drafted [and] misleading’. And <a href="">Geoffrey Robertson concluded</a>: ‘It is imprecise, confusing and open to misinterpretation and even manipulation’.</p><p dir="ltr">At first glance, the sentence introducing the examples is reassuring, since it establishes their conditionality: they ‘could be’ manifestations of antisemitism, ‘taking into account the overall context’. Moreover, the list is not limited. </p><p dir="ltr">However, if they ‘could be’ antisemitic, they also ‘could not’. But you could say that about any number of statements and sentiments. For example, why not include ‘support for the existence of the state of Israel’, since there have always been antisemitic advocates of Zionism. Yet, if we look at these examples in the light of the intentions of the drafters, we see sleight of hand at play. In the same way as we are not discouraged to see the entire text as the working definition, we are invited to entertain only one possibility – that ‘could be’ means ‘are’.</p><p dir="ltr">The whole idea of adding examples to a definition of antisemitism is suspect. If a definition needs clarification using such simplistically formulated examples, it’s not a definition worth its salt. Certainly, the recording, analysis and interpretation of incidents, events, social media posts, statements by politicians, news programmes – of human activity in short – that is suspected of being antisemitic needs to be done, but that is the work of experts and not pre-prepared crib cards. Sometimes that work might involve legal examination, sometimes the writing of political essays, sometimes extended historical research and so on.</p><p dir="ltr">When there was a general consensus about what constituted antisemitism, there was never a need for a handy list of examples. &nbsp;</p><h2 dir="ltr">Legal dangers: chilling free speech and silencing Palestinian voices</h2><p dir="ltr">Although the document categorically states that it is non-legally binding, the urge to make it so is very strong. In the US, where the equivalent of the IHRA working definition is the US state department definition – which, being partially based on the EUMC working definition, bears more than a passing resemblance to the IHRA text – a determined effort to give it legal force is underway at both state and federal level. The House judiciary committee has held hearings on the Antisemitism Awareness Act where witnesses presenting testimony have clashed with congressmen <a href="">and with each other</a>. At one of those hearings, the original author of the IHRA definition, Kenneth Stern, who in recent years has become a prominent critic of how the definition is being applied, warned against making it legally-binding because he feared it would restrict freedom of speech.</p><p dir="ltr">Here in the UK, Dr Rebecca Gould, who has written the first thorough legal study of the adoption and implementation of <a href="">the IHRA working definition</a>, has argued &nbsp;that it has come to function as what she calls a ‘quasi-law, in which capacity it exercises the de facto authority of the law, without having acquired legal legitimacy’. ‘Adoption’ of the IHRA document occurred in the form of a governmental press release, not through a process of democratic deliberation. Had the government sought ‘legal ratification of adoption within a regulatory regime that would formally sanction Israel critical speech’, this would have been a troubling development among scholars and activists concerned with safeguarding freedom of speech. This would surely have amounted to the establishment of an adjudicative standard, something Geoffrey Robertson refers to when he concludes that: ‘The IHRA definition of antisemitism is not fit for any purpose that seeks to use it as an adjudicative standard.’</p><p dir="ltr">All of the legal experts quoted above either referred directly or indirectly to the government’s obligation, and the obligation of all institutions, including universities and colleges, to abide by article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects freedom of speech. But, writes Robertson, ‘a particular problem with the IHRA definition is that it is likely in practice to chill free speech, by raising expectations of pro-Israeli groups that they can successfully object to legitimate criticism of their country and correspondingly arouse fears in NGOs and student bodies that they will have events banned or else have to incur considerable expense to protect themselves by legal action.</p><p dir="ltr">Article 10 ‘does not permit the prohibition or sanctioning of speech unless it can be seen as a direct or indirect call for or justification of violence, hatred or intolerance. The fact that speech is offensive to a particular group is not, of itself, a proper ground for prohibition or sanction. The IHRA Definition should not be adopted without careful additional guidance on these issues’, says Hugh Tomlinson. Geoffrey Bindman argues that the definition and examples ‘in practice have [already] led to the suppression of legitimate debate and freedom of expression.’</p><p dir="ltr">And Gould provides evidence that the IHRA definition played a role in successfully getting Israeli Apartheid Week events at Manchester University and the University of Central Lancashire re-titled and cancelled, and an ultimately unsuccessful role in a complaint of antisemitism against the author herself in connection with an article she had written. Sedley describes an event in 2013, when a replica of Israel’s separation wall was erected in the churchyard of St James, Piccadilly. The Spectator denounced it as an ‘anti-Israeli hate-festival’, ‘a description’, Sedley suggests, ‘now capable of coming within the IHRA’s “working definition” of anti-Semitism. In such ways the official adoption of the definition, while not a source of law, gives respectability and encouragement to forms of intolerance which are themselves contrary to law’.</p><p dir="ltr">Especially troubling is the impact NEC adoption of the full IHRA working definition and examples is very likely to have on Palestinian members of the Labour party and on Palestinian voices more widely. There is clear danger that adopting IHRA will further marginalise public discussion of the Palestinian experience of Zionism and the discriminatory policies of the Israeli state, and suppress Palestinian voices even more than they are now. This may not be a result of Palestinians in the party, or non-members invited to be on platforms at local meetings and conferences, directly contravening IHRA guidelines by claiming, for example, that Israel is a racist state – even though they should be fully entitled to describe their personal experiences of dispossession in this manner – but rather a result of self-censorship.</p><p dir="ltr">This problem is starkly highlighted in a statement from Palestinian unions, NGOs and movement organisations, calling on Labour to reject the ‘biased IHRA definition that stifles advocacy for Palestinian rights’, released on 28 August and <a href="">published on openDemocracy</a>. Its second paragraph reads as follows: ‘This non-legally binding definition attempts to erase Palestinian history, demonise solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality, suppress freedom of expression, and shield Israel’s far-right regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and&nbsp;<a href="">apartheid</a>&nbsp;from effective measures of accountability in accordance to international law.’ These words could easily have their authors condemned as antisemites according to the IHRA working definition.</p><h2 dir="ltr">No refuge</h2><p dir="ltr">The IHRA working definition offers Jews no credible refuge from antisemitism. It deepens intra-Jewish conflict over Israel’s current trajectory and how to extend all the rights Jews have in Israel-Palestine to the Palestinians in what is now a de facto single state. It institutionalises the notion of the ‘new antisemitism’, thereby further degrading both Jewish and public understanding of the nature of contemporary antisemitism. If Israel is the collective Jew among the nations, right-wing populist and Christian evangelical ‘love’ of Israel makes their underlying antisemitism something the self-proclaimed leader of the Jewish people, Bibi Netanyahu is happy to live with. </p><p dir="ltr">The IHRA working definition offers no protection, just provocation. As <a href="">Robert Cohen argues</a>, it will alienate Jews from the very groups with which we should be working to combat racism.</p><p dir="ltr">If the Corbyn Labour party were not caught in this maelstrom, it would be able to calm the fears of Jewish members and Jews more generally by lancing the boil at the heart of this controversy: the festering sore of the Israel-Palestine conflict. With the two-state solution dead in the water, Labour’s policy on bringing peace with justice to Israelis and Palestinians is not fit for purpose. Start a managed but open debate in the party on how to achieve equal rights for all with no state paradigm-based preconditions and draw opposing voices into dialogue with each other – a dialogue they could not have if the IHRA working definition governed internal party discourse on Israel-Palestine. The answer to hate speech is more speech. Not suppression of offensive views. I can only see full NEC adoption of the entire, deeply flawed IHRA definition achieving the latter, not encouraging the former.</p><p dir="ltr">-----</p><p>I have not been able to acknowledge in the text of my article all those whose work on this issue I have drawn on and greatly benefitted from. I encourage you to read them: <a href="">David Feldman</a>, <a href="">Norman Finkelstein</a>, <a href="">Jamie Stern-Weiner</a>, <a href="">Ali Abunimah</a>, <a href="">David Rosenberg</a>, <a href="">Jonathan Rosenhead</a>, <a href="">Barnaby Raine</a> and others.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/david-hirsh/stop-accusing-jewish-community-of-conspiring-against-left">Stop accusing the Jewish community of conspiring against the left</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia uk Anti-Semitism and the left Antony Lerman Tue, 04 Sep 2018 11:43:55 +0000 Antony Lerman 119532 at Why turning to Jewish exceptionalism to fight antisemitism is a failing project <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The furore over the new Labour NEC Code of Conduct on Antisemitism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead lead " title="" width="460" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jeremy Corbyn, alongside Inquiry chair Shami Chakrabarti, answers questions from the press following a speech on Labour's anti-Semitism inquiry findings at Savoy Place, London, June 2016. Jonathan Brady/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>When the Labour Party <a href="">released the text</a> of the National Executive Committee’s new code of conduct on antisemitism on 5 July, did general secretary Jennie Formby expect the barrage of outrage, vilification and accusations of bad faith and betrayal that greeted it? The new code <a href="">seeks to implement</a> the June 2016 Chakrabarti Report’s recommendations, fulfil commitments made by Jeremy Corbyn to speed up disciplinary procedures after meeting representatives of Jewish establishment organizations back in April this year, to deal more robustly and efficiently with alleged expressions of antisemitism by party members and ‘to produce a practical code of conduct that a political party can apply in disciplinary cases’. </p> <p>It’s hard to believe, after the battering Labour has experienced over the issue of antisemitism in the party since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader and the fact nothing the party has done has succeeded in fully placating its critics, that officials expected anything approximating universal approbation. But the new code had barely seen the light of day before it was being condemned in the harshest terms by all and sundry, and representatives of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), the official Jewish affiliate to the party, were complaining that they had been misled by the NEC and were never properly consulted over the new code.</p> <p>In some ways it was of little consequence whether or not there was anything in the slightest controversial in the new text. There is no shortage of politicians, media commentators, Jewish organizations and anti-antisemitism groups permanently primed to respond to each and every moment of antisemitism ‘news’ relating to the Labour Party. And on this occasion they launched predictable partisan salvoes at Formby and the NEC. Keith Kahn Harris sees it as <a href="">one more chapter</a> in the ongoing ‘Labour antisemitism saga’, but ‘saga’ hardly comes close. This is a war. A bitter, dirty war of attrition over what antisemitism is today. It began thirty odd years ago and the Labour story is but one part of it. A war with no end in sight.</p> <h2><strong>Context is everything</strong></h2> <p>This is not a counsel of despair and should not be used as an excuse for remaining silent. It is true that, on both sides, so many minds are closed on the issue of Labour and antisemitism, the odds are stacked against changing anyone’s views. Nonetheless, some things need to be said so that where there has been mendacity, wilful distortion, political grandstanding and sheer inexcusable ignorance the record is at least set straight.</p> <p>In this article, my main aim is to address the two assertions fundamental to the arguments of those attempting to trash the NEC’s new code: </p> <p><em>First, that the NEC rejected the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, and</em></p><p><em> </em></p><p><em>Second, that the NEC code contravenes the Macpherson principle giving Jews the exclusive right to determine for themselves what antisemitism is.</em></p> <p>I do not undertake a critique of the IHRA’s definition, though readers should be aware that I believe it to be a deeply flawed document. (For two excellent analyses click <a href="">here</a> and <a href="">here</a>).</p> <p>Putting the record straight on the two assertions is quite straightforward. In both cases the evidence is easy to marshal. But while it seems entirely appropriate to set out the facts about the new code’s alleged rejection of the IHRA definition in as neutral a way as possible, the reverence in which it seems to be held, as if it were the holiest of holies, untouchable and possessing almost magical powers, has to be explained. Actually, its origins are highly controversial and the way it was adopted by the IHRA should make its vociferous promoters think long and hard about the wisdom of backing it with such blind faith.</p> <p>I briefly supply this explanation after setting the record straight on the two assertions. Apologies in advance if it seems to be a diversion from the main aims of this piece, but in my view this is crucial context, and I have always maintained, during thirty years of writing about contemporary antisemitism, that with this subject, context is everything.</p> <p>I conclude by discussing why those who claim to have the best interests of the Jewish population at heart – principally the leaders of major Jewish organizations – are so obsessively attacking the Labour left as the Jewish community’s most dangerous foe. And also why, by investing so heavily in this flawed definition, they have chosen a path of defensive, go-it-alone exceptionalism as the way of managing heightened fears of antisemitism, rather than pursuing open-hearted collaboration with other minority groups to fight the resurgent racism that blights society. </p> <h2><strong>First assertion:</strong> <strong>‘The NEC has rejected the IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism’ </strong></h2> <p>On 5 July, the Board of Deputies (BoD) and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) reacted to the NEC’s new code by <a href="">issuing a statement</a> headed: ‘Labour’s refusal to adopt antisemitism definition in full’. Later that day, the <em>Guardian</em>’s<em> </em>Jonathan Freedland <a href="">tweeted</a>: ‘So Labour have rejected a definition of antisemitism accepted by UK, Scottish and Welsh govts, 124 local authorities, gov’ts around the world and most Jews. It seems Labour found that definition too stringent – it prohibited anti-Jewish expression that Labour wants to allow.’ Labour MPs Chuka Umunna, Liz Kendall, Anna Turley, Stephen Kinnock, Luciana Berger, Kier Starmer and John Mann, among others, <a href="">endorsed</a> these allegations and criticisms. In Sunday’s <em>Observer</em>, Nick Cohen <a href="">added his voice</a>: &nbsp;‘Labour has taken upon itself to reject the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.’ And on 10 July, in his <em>Guardian</em> piece, Kahn Harris writes: ‘the code does not fully adopt the&nbsp;<a href="">International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism</a>’. The following day Mark Gardner, communications director of the CST, in a piece which first appeared in the <em>JC</em> and was then published on the CST’s news blog, <a href="">wrote</a>: ‘I am not surprised that Labour has now publicly rejected the definition, but the brazen chutzpah with which they have done it is still remarkable.’</p> <p>Not one of these assertions of rejection is accurate.</p> <p>On whether the NEC code rejects the IHRA’s working definition, the code could not be clearer. Clause (or paragraph) 5 unequivocally states:</p> <blockquote><p>To assist in understanding what constitutes antisemitism, the NEC has endorsed the definition produced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016.</p></blockquote> <p>Moreover, it reproduces the 38-word text of the definition in full:</p> <blockquote><p>This reads: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”</p></blockquote> <p>You will note from the quotes in my paragraph above, however, that some critics speak of ‘Labour’s refusal to adopt antisemitism definition <em>in full</em>’ or that ‘the code <em>does not fully adopt</em>’ (emphasis added) the IHRA definition. So given that the code endorses the 38-word definition in full, what can it then mean to claim that the NEC does not adopt the definition in full?</p> <p>The answer lies in the fact that in the IHRA’s published working definition document, the 38-word definition above is accompanied by additional text running to 468 words. This text is prefaced by the following sentence: </p> <blockquote><p>To guide IHRA in its work, the following examples may serve as illustrations:</p></blockquote> <p>After which comes this paragraph:</p> <blockquote><p>Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for ‘why things go wrong.’ It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.</p></blockquote> <p>There then follows another prefacing sentence:</p> <blockquote><p>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 . . . </p></blockquote> <p>which is followed by 11 such examples.</p> <p>So the critics who claim that the definition in full has not been adopted are referring to the additional text, principally the 11 examples, 7 of which relate to Israel and/or Zionism. And while the NEC code is content with 9 of them, it comments and suggests amendments to some of the others and only omits the one that relates to claims about the state of Israel being a racist endeavour. (As Jon Lansman <a href="">points out</a>, this is a subset of an example, not a standalone one.) <span class="mag-quote-center">Is it therefore true to say that the IHRA working definition has not been fully adopted?</span></p> <p>Is it therefore true to say that the IHRA working definition has not been fully adopted? The vast majority of people who would read this document and all the comment surrounding it are not in a position to divine any hidden motivations of those who devised and drafted it. So we have to begin by taking the entire document at face value.</p> <p>And it could not be clearer as to what is and what is not part of the definition. Gardner claim that ‘the definition is a single document, but Labour treats it as having two parts.’ But the definition, in bold type, is enclosed in a box headed ‘non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism’ and is wrapped in quote marks.</p> <p>Where the language of the definition is definitive – it could hardly qualify as a definition if it wasn’t –the language of the additional text providing examples is more circumspect, more conditional, using phrases such as: ‘might include’, ‘could include’, ‘taking into account the overall context’, ‘not limited to’. In other words the manifestations or examples of antisemitism given may or may <em>not</em> qualify as antisemitic, and they do not constitute an exclusive list. There may be more, perhaps many more, categories. These are very important caveats, but they are hardly the stuff of a definition.</p> <p>We have to assume that had the IHRA wanted the examples to be formally part of the definition, surely they would have said so. There is little doubt that the IHRA wanted the examples given to be seen as antisemitic, but they seem to have been canny enough to understand that statements, the meaning of which depend on the ‘overall context’ in which they appear, can hardly be part of a definition that seeks to be definitive. So the document containing the working definition is a single entity, but it is unequivocally separated into two parts: definition and supporting, conditional examples.</p> <h2><strong>Second assertion: ‘Labour’s decision means a break from the Macpherson standard, which held that a minority was best placed to define prejudice against it’</strong>—<em>Freedland tweet 5 July</em></h2> <p>The second ‘killer’ assertion about the NEC code is also based on an accusation of Labour’s alleged rejectionism: this time its denying of the validity of a supposedly standard understanding of who has the last word in determining the nature of prejudice against any minority group. </p> <p>What critics claim is that the NEC has rejected the alleged universally accepted Macpherson definition of racism, the notion of the absolute right of a minority to define for itself what constitutes prejudice against it. ‘It is for Jews to determine for themselves what antisemitism is’, <a href="">stated</a> BoD president Marie van der Zyl and JLC chair Jonathan Goldstein on 5 July. But critics go further. In <a href="">Nick Cohen’s words</a>, it’s ‘the party’s decision to make Jews the only ethnic minority Labour denies the right to define the racism they face’ &nbsp;</p> <p>In a letter sent to Jennie Formby on 10 July, the professional heads of the Community Security Trust (CST), <a href="">the BoD and the JLC state</a>: ‘It is for the Jewish community to decide what does and what does not constitute racism towards us, just as any other groups has the right to do.’ ‘This attempt at defining prejudice on behalf of the Jewish community in the face of our clear advice constitutes a significant departure from established anti-racist [principles] that will worry all minorities’.</p> <p>This apparent iron rule, as Freedland indicates in his tweet, is derived from the report of the Inquiry into the conduct of the police in investigating the killing of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence, conducted under the chairmanship of Sir William Macpherson and published on 24 February 1999. It is claimed that the Macpherson report produced a definition of racism that conferred the right on any minority to be the sole arbiters of what constitutes the racism they experience. Thus, it’s for Jews alone to define what is antisemitism.</p> <p>The problem with this claim is that Macpherson produced no such definition. And yet it continues to be made indignantly and insistently by Jewish groups no matter how often it is clearly proven to be a misreading of the 1999 report. And even as I write, there is news that the Jewish Labour Movement is presenting to the party on 17 July legal advice claiming that Labour may have breached the equalities act by <a href="">ignoring the so-called Macpherson principle</a> in its new NEC code of conduct on antisemitism.</p> <p>As I explained <a href="">in a piece for openDemocracy</a> in June 2011, in connection with accusations levelled at the time against the Universities and Colleges Union that by rejecting the EUMC working definition of antisemitism they were denying Jews the Macpherson-conferred right to define it for themselves, the only definition of racism Macpherson produced was of institutional racism. However, he did also define a racist <em>incident</em>, describing it as ‘any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person’. But this was a specific instruction to the police that the victim’s perception of the motive for an attack is what the police must record as the motive for the attack. The intention of providing this definition was to change police culture prevailing at the time, which systematically failed to take heed of the experience of victims. But there is nothing in the report suggesting a move from a specific and very important rule about recording the victim’s perception of what occurred to a general rule that only the victim can define the racism they experience.</p> <p>That this elision is highly problematic was in fact recognised by the CST. Its&nbsp;<a title="CST Antisemitic Discourse Report 2009 p. 12" href=""><em>Antisemitic Discourse Report 2009</em></a>&nbsp;states:</p> <blockquote><p>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&nbsp;only where it can be <em>objectively shown</em> to be the case&nbsp;[emphasis added], and this may not always match the victim’s perception as called for by the Lawrence Inquiry. 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 often controversial subject.</p></blockquote> <p>This is of course perfectly logical, because if an incident results in a prosecution being brought against the alleged perpetrator, judges and juries listen to the evidence and make objective judgements as required by the law of the land. They do not say: ‘Well, if the victim says the attacker was motivated by antisemitism, that’s all the evidence needed to convict.’</p> <p>Professor David Feldman, director of the highly respected Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, Birkbeck University of London, in a 22-page sub-report for the Parliamentary Committee Against Antisemitism published in 2015, <a href="">concurred</a>: ‘Macpherson’s report has been misinterpreted and misapplied . . . In short a definition [of antisemitism] which takes Jews’ feelings and perceptions as its starting point and which looks to the Macpherson report for authority is built on weak foundations.’ Feldman continues:</p> <blockquote><p>More fundamentally, if we rest our definitions of racism on the perceptions of minority groups then we open the way to conceptual and political chaos. For if the identification of racism becomes a matter of subjective judgment only, then we have no authority other than the perception of a minority or victim group with which to counter the contrary subjective opinions of perpetrators who deny they are racists. Without an anti-racist principle which can be applied generally we are left in a chaotic situation in which one subjective point of view faces another.</p></blockquote> <p>Note the measured tone of the CST’s statement in 2009 and the intemperate, accusatory, intolerant and angry tone of CST missives and blog posts about the current controversies concerning the Labour party, a tone echoed also in BoD and JLC statements.<strong> </strong></p> <h2><strong>Is reverence for the IHRA ‘working definition’ justified? Backstory and context</strong></h2> <p>The IHRA working definition was not something freshly minted in 2016. It’s a revamped version of <a href="">the ‘working definition’ of antisemitism</a> developed in 2004 in controversial circumstances under the auspices of the now defunct European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). At the instigation of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the EUMC director organized a meeting of Jewish representatives to discuss a new definition of antisemitism already drafted by the AJC’s leading expert on the subject, Kenneth Stern. The essential element in Stern’s draft definition was singling out certain forms of criticism of Israel and Zionism as antisemitic.</p> <p>The initiative followed the leak of a 2002 EUMC report on antisemitism in Europe, which the EUMC Board had decided not to publish, allegedly because it provided evidence of increased antisemitic attacks perpetrated by young Muslims. The Board did not think it wise to release such information. Jewish groups were furious about the alleged suppression of the report and the EUMC was mired in the controversy for two years. The AJC saw an opportunity to ensure that the suppression of such data would not take place in the future by crafting a definition of antisemitism for use by the EUMC which was rooted in the notion of the ‘new antisemitism’ – that Israel was now the Jew among the nations. Only people sympathetic to this point of view were invited to attend the meeting.&nbsp;(I reveal the full story of the origin of the EUMC working definition <a href="">on my blog here</a>).</p> <p><strong>The EUMC examples</strong></p> <p>The EUMC document separated the definition from 11 examples, presented as two separate groups. The first 6 featured well-known antisemitic tropes. The following 5 were prefaced by this sentence: ‘Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel taking into account the overall context could include’.</p> <p>The EUMC working definition was heavily promoted by its instigator, the AJC, other major American Jewish organizations, national Jewish representative bodies, Jewish defence organizations, the Israeli government, pro-Israel and Israel-advocacy groups, and was given the seal of approval by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as well as some other pan-European Jewish and general organizations.</p> <p>But the EUMC working definition was widely criticised and the organization itself was put under much pressure by both supporters and critics of the definition. When questioned, the body increasingly claimed that it was neither wholly endorsed by the EUMC itself – it was only on its website as a guide and a basis for discussion – nor was it in any sense <em>the</em> EU definition. Eventually, the EU decided that the EUMC was no longer fit for purpose and replaced it with the Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). The FRA effectively abandoned the working definition. When questioned on the matter, the FRA said: ‘Since its development we are not aware of any public authority in the&nbsp;EU&nbsp;that applies it [and the] FRA&nbsp;has no plans for any further development’. In an August 2010 publication on antisemitism it didn’t even mention the working definition.</p> <p>Then, as now, promoters of the definition played fast and loose with what actually constituted the definition. When it was attacked by people criticising some or all of the 5 examples of where Israel comment could be antisemitic, defenders of the definition said: ‘But the examples are not part of the definition’. Nevertheless, many Jewish bodies promoting the working definition made no distinction between the definition text and the rest of the document, claiming that the entire document was the definition. Rarely did any other supporters of the definition contradict them.</p> <p><strong>Working definition redivivus</strong></p> <p>The promoters and supporters of the EUMC working definition were never reconciled to it being set aside by the FRA. And in a climate of growing, murderous jihadi terrorism and perceived worsening antisemitism they found a sympathetic hearing among European political leaders. The path to the revamping and adoption by the IHRA is traced by Ben White in his new book, <em><a href="">Cracks in the Wall: Beyond Apartheid in Palestine/Israel</a></em> published by Pluto Press. ‘At the Israeli-government convened GFCA [Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism] in Jerusalem in 2015,’ writes White, ‘a working group recommended “that the Working Definition of Antisemitism be reintroduced into the international arena with the aim of giving it legal status”.’ Mark Weitzman, an official at the Los-Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a body which makes no distinction between fighting antisemitism and defending Israel, took up the task in his role as chair of the Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial for the IHRA. Under his chairmanship, in 2015 the committee proposed a definition which almost exactly replicated the discredited EUMC working definition. In May 2016, the IHRA formally adopted it.</p> <p>Promoters of the working definition were delighted that it now had a level of international backing, through the 31-country IHRA, that the EUMC version had never had. It was seen as an endorsement of the notion of the ‘new antisemitism’, welcomed by the AJC, which was behind the EUMC version, was trumpeted as a great success by Weitzman’s institution, the Wiesenthal Centre and was soon being pressed into service – not into raising public and political awareness of rising traditional antisemitism in Eastern and Central Europe, but against students hosting Israeli apartheid weeks and groups advocating and demonstrating for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. As Israel had been investing increasing resources into fighting BDS and apartheid accusations internationally, being able to deploy the IHRA definition’s examples of Israel-related antisemitism has proven to be a great boon. Ben White writes: ‘an Israeli government document noted approvingly that “the main innovation in the working definition is that it also includes expressions of Antisemitism directed against the State of Israel, when it is perceived as a Jewish collective.” In other words, “the definition also refers to anti-Zionism&nbsp; . . . as a form of Antisemitism”.’</p> <p>There is much in this story of the controversial – even rather grubby – origins and revival of the infamous ‘working definition’ to explain why there are very good reasons for not taking the IHRA definition at face value and, at the very least, for exercising judgment as to how the examples relating to criticism of Israel might be used. The Los Angeles Simon Wiesenthal Centre, the institutional home of Mark Weitzman, the man who masterminded IHRA adoption of the working definition, publishes each year a list of the ‘Top Ten Worst Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel Incidents’—making no distinction between the two. In 2015, 3rd on the list after ISIS, was the EU’s decision to correctly label the origin of products made in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. And in <a href=";b=9240795&amp;ct=14809459">8th place</a> were Jeremy Corbyn and the late Gerald Kaufman MP. Would any thoughtful, progressive person with Jewish interests at heart buy a definition from the Wiesenthal Centre man who sold one to the IHRA?</p> <h2><strong>Taking refuge in exceptionalism</strong></h2> <p>What has led to this extreme defensiveness, this unprecedented and unbalanced all-out assault on the Labour Party, which has undoubtedly made mistakes in its handling of the issue of antisemitism in the party, but which nonetheless retains a significant level of Jewish support, I would guess particularly among younger Jews? </p> <p><em>JC</em> editor Pollard, musing on who ‘would be on the shortlist of the least suitable people to draw up a definition of antisemitism’, <a href="">implies that</a> the Labour Party would not be much better than the Nazis.&nbsp; The CST’s Gardner makes this damning indictment: ‘IHRA rejection is now fundamental to [Labour’s culture]. It represents and repeats the same far left ideological, emotional and systematic rejection of our concerns that we have faced for decades. It is what moved&nbsp;<em>JC&nbsp;</em>editor Stephen Pollard to accuse Labour of&nbsp;“institutional antisemitism”’.</p> <p>And why, almost ten years after implicitly acknowledging that the understanding of what Macpherson wrote was wrong, has the CST reversed its view and now, together with the BoD, the JLC, government ministers, sundry politicians etc., blatantly repeats an egregious misreading of Macpherson?</p> <p>And why are Jewish leaders and friends of the Jewish community putting such blind faith in a definition of antisemitism that has murky origins, is being used to demonise non-violent means of protest and criticism of the policies of the Israeli government and has been found wanting by such respected figures as Professor Feldman, <a href="">who criticised</a> the definition’s key passage: ‘Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews’, calling it ‘bewilderingly imprecise’. And this is what he said about the 11 examples:</p> <blockquote><p>Seven deal with criticism of Israel. Some of the points are sensible, some are not. Crucially, there is a danger that the overall effect will place the onus on Israel’s critics to demonstrate they are not antisemitic. The home affairs committee advised that the definition required qualification ‘to ensure that freedom of speech is maintained in the context of discourse on Israel and Palestine’. It was ignored.</p></blockquote> <p>In my view, Jewish leaders can no longer identify who are the enemies of Jews or unequivocally support the kind of social and political order in which all who live in a country are entitled to equal human, civil, political, social and national rights. By increasingly throwing in their lot with people promoting the notion of the ‘new antisemitism’, they have found themselves wittingly or unwittingly making common cause with racist and Islamophobic forces which profess to love Israel. Thus loving Israel has become the proof of Jewish loyalty and, in effect, those who cannot express this love – Jews and non-Jews – are the symbols of today’s antisemitism. <span class="mag-quote-center">Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is doing more to legitimise antisemitism in Europe today than any expressions of anti-Jewish sentiment emanating from the left.</span></p> <p>Meanwhile, the leader of the country that the organised Jewish community – here and elsewhere – spends so much time, effort and financial resources defending, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is doing more <a href="">to legitimise antisemitism</a> in Europe today than any expressions of anti-Jewish sentiment emanating from the left. He supports Hungary’s populist prime minister, Victor Orban, who has mobilised dangerous antisemitic sentiment against the liberal Jewish philanthropist George Soros. He’s given the Polish government a free pass on its legislation criminalising opinion and scholarship which shows that Polish people were complicit in the Holocaust. He’s been happy to fraternise with far right party leaders in Europe and the American Christian right which loves Israel but sees left-liberal Jews as enemies. And he has turned a blind eye to President Trump’s tolerance of antisemitic forces, judging this a price worth paying for Trump’s essentially uncritical support for the Jewish state and effective abandonment of any solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict that recognizes and realizes Palestinian rights. In other words, setting the pursuit of extreme right-wing Zionism as a higher goal than the safety and security of American Jews. Or French Jews. Or British Jews. Or any Jews not living in Israel.</p> <p>Having completely bought into the notion of the ‘new antisemitism’, as enshrined in the IHRA document, it is very difficult for Jewish leaders to now take a stand against the government of the Jewish state’s pursuit of extreme nationalist policies. In these fragile times, with young Jews increasingly distancing themselves from Israel, strong challenges to traditional Jewish leadership from aggressive right-wing Jewish groups and deep-seated fears of jihadi terrorism, Jewish leaders have, in their uncompromising reaction to the NEC’s new code, responded by doubling down on the sanctity of the IHRA definition. They claim exclusive rights to determine what is antisemitism, potentially putting Jewish sentiment, and unwittingly the sentiment of any minority group, above the law of the land.</p> <p>Jewish leaders are struggling and failing to come to terms with new realities. They are choosing the utterly counterproductive path of isolation and exceptionalism, painting their community into a corner, making impossible demands for the eradication of anti-Semitism – which, like all racisms, can be fought and radically diminished, but will sadly always be with us – positively legitimising Jewish fears and doing nothing to discourage the narrative of exit one hears from family and friends as an answer to the insecurity Jewish leadership itself is exacerbating. </p> <p>Attacking the Labour party and investing all in the IHRA working definition of antisemitism is just making matters worse. This is the time to take the path to working with other minority groups, civil society organizations and human rights bodies to confront antisemitism within the context of a wider antiracist struggle, not to perpetuate the notion that Jews stand alone. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/moran-mandelbaum/do-we-need-legal-definition-of-anti-semitism">Do we need a (legal) definition of anti-Semitism?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brian-klug/code-of-conduct-for-antisemitism-tale-of-two-texts">The Code of Conduct for Antisemitism: a tale of two texts</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk EU United States UK Antony Lerman Mon, 16 Jul 2018 15:54:15 +0000 Antony Lerman 118889 at The ‘new antisemitism’ <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There are many Jews who actively sympathise with an anti-racist political vision. But the ‘new antisemitism’ complicates how the organised Jewish ‘community’ could identify with such an enterprise.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href=""><img src="// (1).png" alt="mirror racisms" width="460px" /></a></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// years later. Karen Gillerman Harel_Flickr. Some rights reserved.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="“64 years later”. Flickr/Karen Gillerman Harel. Some rights reserved."><img src="// years later. Karen Gillerman Harel_Flickr. Some rights reserved.jpg" alt="“64 years later”. Flickr/Karen Gillerman Harel. Some rights reserved." title="“64 years later”. Flickr/Karen Gillerman Harel. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“64 years later”. Flickr/Karen Gillerman Harel. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Assessing the complex political implications of the ‘new antisemitism’ in a short paper is quite a challenge. Inevitably, I must paint with a broad brush and, therefore, apologise for any loss of nuance as a result. It is also important that I make clear from the outset that I do not accept the validity of the concept of the ‘new antisemitism’, a term I will use in quotes throughout. Nevertheless, as this article is not about the validity or otherwise of the term, I will not enter into the arguments for and against the term itself.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>Discussion about the ‘new antisemitism’ very often dwells on the bitter and extreme disagreement between many of those who accept that there is such a thing and many of those who fundamentally question the validity of the notion. Nevertheless, although this state of affairs exemplifies just how politicised practically all discussion around the question of the ‘new antisemitism’ has become, placing the extreme differences centre-stage often results in a failure to interrogate or understand fully the political, or for that matter the contemporary historical, context of the emergence of ‘new antisemitism’ thinking.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span class="print-no mag-quote-right">The term ‘new antisemitism’ is actually not very new</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>The term ‘new antisemitism’ is actually not very new and has been applied to a variety of rather different phenomena. But from the late 1970s onwards, the term was increasingly applied, somewhat loosely, to forms of criticism of – and hostility to – Israel, especially that which emanated from the Arab world.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>However, in the last few decades, and especially since the beginning of the twenty-first century, those who use the term to describe what they believe is an actually existing phenomenon have tended to identify with a far more specific understanding of what it means. Irwin Cotler, Canadian professor of law and former minister of justice in the 2003-2006 Liberal government, </span><a href="">describes it in the following way</a><span>:</span></p> <blockquote><p class="Default"><span>“In a word, classical anti-Semitism is the discrimination against, denial of, or assault upon the rights of Jews to live as equal members of whatever society they inhabit. The new anti-Semitism involves the discrimination against, denial of, or assault upon the right of the Jewish people to live as an equal member of the family of nations, with Israel as the targeted ‘collective Jew among the nations’.”</span></p></blockquote> <p class="Default"><span>This definition, which appeared in this particular formulation in the </span><em>National Post </em><span>on 9 November 2010, has been publicly proclaimed countless times by Cotler, one of the key figures involved in disseminating the term since the 1970s.</span></p> <h2><strong>The </strong><strong>‘</strong><strong>new antisemitism</strong><strong>’</strong><strong> </strong><strong>and anti-Zionism</strong></h2><p><strong></strong><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// of Hasidic Jews protesting for a free Gaza. Alexis Gravel_Flickr. Some rights reserved.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Portraits of Hasidic Jews protesting for a free Gaza. Flickr/Alexis Gravel. Some rights reserved."><img src="// of Hasidic Jews protesting for a free Gaza. Alexis Gravel_Flickr. Some rights reserved.jpg" alt="Portraits of Hasidic Jews protesting for a free Gaza. Flickr/Alexis Gravel. Some rights reserved." title="Portraits of Hasidic Jews protesting for a free Gaza. Flickr/Alexis Gravel. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Portraits of Hasidic Jews protesting for a free Gaza. Flickr/Alexis Gravel. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The ‘new antisemitism’ is seen by most – but by no means all – of those who give it credence and promote its use as synonymous with anti-Zionism. As such, they find it not only in the Arab world but also in the political left, anti-globalisation movements, jihadist and Islamist movements as well as the Muslim world more generally, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, the left-liberal press, anti-racist groups – the list continues.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>The “Working Definition of Antisemitism”, published by the now defunct EU Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) in 2005, was central in providing the notion of the ‘new antisemitism’ with legitimacy and is taken by its proponents to be </span><em>the </em><span>European Union definition of antisemitism. This 514-word document contains a key passage giving examples of critical discourse about Israel that it says ‘could’ be seen as antisemitic.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>One of the main drivers behind the formulation of the ‘new antisemitism’ idea was the passing, in 1975, of UN General Assembly resolution 3379 (revoked in 1991), which equated Zionism with racism. It is important to remember that, at the time, support for Zionism and Israel was still broadly seen as a progressive and liberal cause in the west. Quite a number of the African and non-aligned countries that voted for resolution 3379 had good, if fairly low-key relations with Israel, as a result of the efforts of Israel’s then socialist government to improve its international position.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>So the apparent snub to Israel by these countries, and the perception among Jewish and non-Jewish supporters of Israel in the West that Israel was losing its status as a progressive cause, provoked much soul-searching and consternation. In Jewish and Israeli circles the dominant response was not to see any flaws in Zionism but rather in those attacking it and Israel. As a result, one of the main questions being asked was: What is the relationship between anti-Zionism and antisemitism?</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>While some writers, academics and commentators were convinced from early on that Arab hostility to Zionism and Israel was antisemitic, during the 1970s and 1980s there was considerable debate and reasoned disagreement about the validity of the charge. Political and ideological considerations played a relatively small part in the growing numbers of conferences and seminars taking place to discuss the issue.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>But what began largely as a series of intellectual and academic discussions gradually changed character as pro-Israel advocacy groups, the World Zionist Organisation, multi-agenda major American Jewish organisations (such as the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee) and Jewish communal organisations monitoring and combating antisemitism took up the matter. Mounting international criticism of Israel began to have a major impact on their work.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span class="print-no mag-quote-left">What started organically, morphed into a planned campaign</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>What started organically, therefore, morphed into a planned campaign to create a coalition of mostly Jewish activist academics, pro-Israel and national representative bodies in the Jewish diaspora and the aforementioned major American Jewish organisations to take the discussions in an increasingly political and ideological direction, linking anti-Zionism and antisemitism ever more closely.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>A key player in – and growing influence on – this campaign was the Israeli government, which pursued a new policy from the late 1980s through the newly established Monitoring Forum on Antisemitism. The policy aimed to establish Israeli hegemony over the monitoring and combating of antisemitism by Jewish groups worldwide. This was coordinated and mostly implemented by Mossad representatives working out of Israeli embassies. The policy served to bind diaspora communities more closely to Israel, their self-appointed ‘defender against external threats’, to promote Zionist immigration by using highly problematic data on antisemitic manifestations to stress the fragility of diaspora Jewish communities, as well as to portray Israel as being equally in the firing line of antisemitic attack by increasingly linking any criticism of Israeli policy with antisemitism.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>During the 1990s there was some ambivalence about and opposition to this policy in diaspora communities, largely because of growing evidence that traditional antisemitism was declining, which meant that effective challenges to ‘new antisemitism’ thinking could still be mounted. Moreover, the policy was suspended by prime minister Yitzhak Rabin during the few years of optimism surrounding the Oslo Accords. Rabin did not want to be constrained by too close a relationship with the increasingly right-wing American Jewish Israel lobby in negotiations which were taking place to achieve rapprochement with the Palestinians.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span class="print-no mag-quote-right">The ‘new antisemitism’ discourse was now in the ascendant</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>However, at the start of the twenty-first century, deepening disillusionment about Oslo, as well as events such as the outbreak of the second intifada, the Durban UN Anti-Racism conference and 9/11, led many to conclude that ‘new antisemitism’ was rising exponentially, driven by perceived Muslim hatred of Jews expressed largely in the form of anti-Israel sentiment. This became the dominant narrative among Jewish and Israeli leaders and the wider, growing neo-conservative commentariat, which included prominent journalists and columnists, as well as prominent academics.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>The Israeli government, reflecting the political drift to the far right in the country, again very publicly linked Israel’s fate with Jews worldwide and stepped up its leadership role on the antisemitism question. This time it had more cooperation from diaspora Jewish leaders, many of whom were more in sympathy with Israel’s harder line political direction than they had been when the country was under Rabin’s control. In these circles, the ‘new antisemitism’ discourse was now in the ascendant.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>In practice, what this meant was that in discussion, debate and argument about the state of contemporary antisemitism, ‘new antisemitism’ thinking occupied centre-stage and was rapidly acquiring the status of a new orthodoxy. This was not only in political forums, the media and public debates, but also in academic conferences, seminars, academic articles and books.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span class="print-no mag-quote-left">The most significant development in antisemitism after 1945 was the rapid emergence of Holocaust denial</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>Inevitably, being so intimately connected to a controversial political issue – the Israel-Palestine conflict – discussion of the issue of antisemitism became more politicised than ever before. Virtually no discussion of the phenomenon could take place without Israel and Zionism being centre-stage. And hardly any discussion about the Israel-Palestine conflict could take place without reference to the ‘new antisemitism’.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>There have always been disagreements about the definition and use of the word antisemitism, but during the first three or four decades after the Second World War there was, broadly speaking, a common understanding of what constituted antisemitism. This linked it to the classical stereotyped images of ‘the Jew’ forged in Christendom, adopted and adapted by antisemitic political groups in the nineteenth century and further developed by race-theorists and the Nazis in the twentieth century. That process of reformulation and revision did not end with the Holocaust. The most significant development in antisemitism after 1945 was the rapid emergence of Holocaust denial.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>Interestingly, while it seems that some referred to this as ‘new antisemitism’, most researchers and academics analysing and writing about the phenomenon had no difficulty in seeing it as essentially a new manifestation of a consensually defined antisemitism. But by the early to mid-2000s, the consensus had broken down.</span></p> <h2><strong>The irresistible rise of </strong><strong>‘</strong><strong>new antisemitism</strong><strong>’</strong><strong> </strong><strong>discourse</strong></h2> <p class="Default"><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// 60th birthday. Bryan_Flickr. Some rights reserved.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Flickr/Bryan. Some rights reserved."><img src="// 60th birthday. Bryan_Flickr. Some rights reserved.jpg" alt="Flickr/Bryan. Some rights reserved." title="Flickr/Bryan. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/Bryan. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The acceptance of ‘new antisemitism’ thinking means that antisemitism has been fundamentally redefined, so that a discourse about Israel and Zionism can be labelled antisemitic even though it contains none of the classic stereotypes of ‘the Jew’ that were previously widely understood to be essential to expressions of the phenomenon.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>In addition, in the writings of many of the ‘new antisemitism’ theorists and propagandists, as well as in political and communal support for some Jewish communal leaders, columnists and clergy, there is a confrontational and racialised approach towards Muslims and Islam. It is not only Jihadists and Islamists who are seen as responsible for the ‘new antisemitism’, but also the collective mindset of the ‘Muslim community’ and the ‘unreformed’ nature of Islam as a religion.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>The ‘collective Jew among the nations’ definition of ‘new antisemitism’ licenses this approach, which represents a form of stereotyping of the Other that is incompatible with the consensual understanding of antisemitism that has been fractured and undermined by ‘new antisemitism’. It is also the case that, since international bodies like the UN, human rights and humanitarian relief organisations, the EU, some churches and the ‘left’ are seen as responsible for disseminating ‘new antisemitism’, despite long-standing traditions of Jewish support for social justice, many Jewish communal leaders and commentators have distanced themselves from the promotion of human rights and anti-racism.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>Although the concept of ‘new antisemitism’ emerged from serious discussions about the relationship between antisemitism and anti-Zionism, its ubiquity by the mid-2000s was a direct result of a concerted campaign to get individual governments, parliamentary bodies, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Council of Europe and others to accept the validity of the notion.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>Despite the fact that significant proportions of diaspora Jewish opinion distanced itself from Israel in recent years, this campaign resulted from a much closer nexus between Jewish communal leaderships, national and international Jewish organisations, pro-Israel advocacy groups, institutional arms of the Israeli government and academics and researchers promoting the idea of the ‘new antisemitism’.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span class="print-no mag-quote-right">The acceptance of ‘new antisemitism’ thinking means that antisemitism has been fundamentally redefined</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>The ongoing confrontation between proponents and opponents of the EUMC’s “Working Definition of Antisemitism", irrespective of the fact that the EUMC’s successor organisation, the Fundamental Rights Agency, has now abandoned it, is a major example of this. It is perhaps expressed most sharply in the recent case brought against the University and Colleges Union in the UK by Ronnie Fraser, backed by Anthony Julius and the law firm Mishcon de Rea, which Fraser and Julius comprehensively lost. Supporters of Fraser have spun the result as, in effect, an antisemitic conspiracy between the Tribunal panel and the UCU.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>The de-coupling of the understanding of antisemitism from traditional antisemitic tropes, which thereby made criticism of Israel in and of itself antisemitic, necessarily made the opposite – support for Israel – into a touchstone for expressing sympathy with Jews. This opened the door to the phenomenon of Jewish support for far right, anti-Islam, anti-immigrant parties keen to whitewash their pasts and sanitise their anti-Muslim prejudice by expressing support for Israel and seeing the country and its Jews as the front line against Islam’s ‘incursion into Europe’.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>It is not surprising, therefore, that acceptance of the ‘new antisemitism’ theory has contributed to the exacerbation of tensions between Muslims and Jews in the UK (and elsewhere in Europe). There is, however, mutual pre-existing misunderstanding and mistrust, while negative images of Jews unrelated to the Israel-Palestine conflict are common among some Muslims.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>The scale of the problem from the Jewish side can be gauged from the results of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency-commissioned survey of Jewish opinion on antisemitism in eight European countries, which was devised, managed and analysed by JPR and released on 9 November 2013. This shows a marked tendency to blame Muslim populations in Europe for the perceived worsening of the antisemitic climate. It is interesting to note that these results were released on Kristallnacht commemoration day. This was no coincidence, but rather another example of the inextricable link between research on and politics of antisemitism and the </span><a href="">battle to control historical memory</a><span>.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span class="print-no mag-quote-left">We are faced with a community presenting itself as under siege at a time when the position of Jews in British society has never been so good</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>When considering how to neutralise and reverse the impact of ‘new antisemitism’ thinking within the Jewish community, the problem is made more acute by the fact that the discourse employed by the proponents of the concept shows remarkable similarities with antisemitic discourse itself, especially in its demonisation of Jews who question the validity of the concept. One example is the attack by more than 20 ‘new antisemitism’ proponents, orchestrated by Clemens Heni of the self-styled Berlin International Centre for the Study of Antisemitism, on Brian Klug when he was invited to deliver an address on antisemitism at the Berlin Jewish Museum’s 2013 Kristallnacht commemoration event.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>When this occurs at the same time as prominent Jewish figures, aided and abetted by significant commentators, academics and politicians – some Jewish, some not – who are constructing and legitimising anti-Muslim racism, we are faced with a community almost presenting an image of itself as under siege at a time when the position of Jews in British society has never been so good, objectively speaking.</span></p> <p class="Default"><span>My pessimistic conclusion is that although there are still very many Jews who would actively sympathise with the aim of building an anti-racist political vision, the influence of ‘new antisemitism’ thinking, among other factors, makes it very difficult to see how what we understand as the organised Jewish ‘community’ could be persuaded to identify with such an enterprise.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mirrorracisms/nira-yuval-davis-jamie-hakim/introducing-feature-anti-jewish-anti-muslim-racisms-palestine-israel">Introducing this week’s guest feature – Anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim racisms and Palestine/Israel</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mirrorracisms/nira-yuval-davis-jamie-hakim/anti-jewish-anti-muslim-racisms-question-of-palestineisrael">Anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim racisms, and the question of Palestine/Israel</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mirrorracisms/sami-zubaida/varieties-of-islamophobia-and-its-targets">Varieties of ‘Islamophobia’ and its targets</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mirrorracisms/hilary-aked/undeniable-overlap-right-wing-zionism-and-islamophobia"> The undeniable overlap: right-wing Zionism and Islamophobia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mirrorracisms/keith-kahn-harris/internal-external-factors-intra-jewish-conflict-israel-and-antisemitism">Internal and external factors in intra-Jewish conflict over Israel and antisemitism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mirrorracisms/helga-embacher-jan-rybak/anti-semitism-in-muslim-communities-islamophobia-gaza-war">Anti-Semitism in Muslim communities and Islamophobia in the context of the Gaza War 2014: Austria and Germany </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mirrorracisms/annabelle-sreberny/idea-of-jewish-anti-semitism-recuperating-semites">The idea of Jewish anti-semitism and recuperating the ‘Semites’ </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mirrorracisms/stefano-bellin/to-speak-about-jews-and-palestinians-we-need-non-racist-space-for-criticism"> To speak about Jews and Palestinians, we need a non-racist space for criticism </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Ideas International politics Mirror racisms Antony Lerman Tue, 29 Sep 2015 08:25:33 +0000 Antony Lerman 96347 at When is symbolism enough? The UK House of Commons vote to recognise the state of Palestine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Changes are occurring in public opinion in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. But shifts are also taking place in Israel. While it suits Netanyahu to witness civilised manoeuvrings around how to keep the two state solution alive, history may be leading somewhere else entirely.<em></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="//" alt="Supporters for Palestine's bid for UN statehood outside Downing Street, November 2011. " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Supporters of Palestine's bid for UN statehood outside Downing Street, November 2011. Rob Pinney/Demotix. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>On Monday 13 October, <a href="">the elected members of the UK parliament voted by 274 to 12 in support of the following motion</a>: “That this House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, as a contribution to securing a negotiated two state solution.” The vote has symbolic significance, but does it amount to anything more than that? The decision is non-binding and David Cameron made it clear from the outset that his coalition government would not change its policy. More MPs—364—stayed away than voted, so even what seems like an overwhelming expression of parliament’s opinion is, in reality, only a partial view. </p> <p>Nevertheless, symbolism should not be gainsaid, especially when it reflects the very origins of the conflict and Britain’s role in it.</p> <h2><strong>Symbolism counts</strong></h2> <p>On 2 November 1917 Lord Balfour, the foreign secretary, wrote to Lord Rothschild expressing “sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations” and promising “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”. Known ever since as the <a href="">Balfour Declaration</a>, Zionists expected that it would guide British policy once the Palestine Mandate was conferred on Britain by the League of Nations on 24 July 1922. But the declaration also stated that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” When the Mandate terminated with the establishment of the state of Israel on 15 May 1948, Britain left behind a legacy of bitterness felt by both the Jewish and Arab communities in Palestine. Although Jews got their state, they felt Britain had long since reneged on promises to facilitate its establishment. The Palestinian Arabs, who rejected the <a href="">UN’s Partition Plan of 1947</a>, which would have then given them a state, felt robbed of their land and denied the rights promised to them in the Balfour Declaration.</p> <p>Despite all that has happened since then, Britain’s complex and troubling responsibility for the unresolved 66-year old conflict remains more than just a historical memory. British governments refer to that responsibility. No matter that prime ministers since Margaret Thatcher have all been very supportive of Israel, an element of mistrust of the motives for British policy lingers among Israelis. And the Palestinians, whose representative bodies eventually came to <a href="">accept the principle of partition</a>, remain acutely aware of the role Britain played in their ongoing tragedy.</p> <p>So the debate in the House of Commons was freighted with a symbolism applicable to no other country that either has already recognised, or may yet decide to recognise, Palestine as a state. It was almost as if the MPs who spoke in favour of the motion were belatedly seeking to right a wrong perpetrated by the post-Second World War British government through its failure to prevent the prejudicing of “the civil and religious rights” of the Palestinians. </p> <p>Hardly any MP failed to emphasise that passing the motion was essential to the success of a two-state solution. Even those few who spoke against the motion were not arguing against the principle of recognising Palestine as a state, but just against the timing. They regarded it as premature in the absence of that state coming into being as a result of the successful conclusion of negotiations.</p> <p>A second reason for the vote’s symbolic significance lies in the UK’s position as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, a member of the European Union and America’s closest ally, at least when it comes to signing up for military action against Jihadi extremists. When the UN General Assembly considered Palestine’s application for non-member observer status in November 2012, 138 states voted in favour, 9 against, and 41 abstained. The US voted against, the UK and Germany abstained, but other key European countries—France, Spain, Belgium, Norway, Switzerland, Austria and Denmark—voted in favour. Were the British government—current or future—to make the vote government policy, it would be seen as a further strengthening of a trend in Europe towards supporting the speedy establishment of an independent Palestinian state and would leave America without a key strategic partner in its efforts to negotiate a settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict on the basis of two states, Israel and Palestine, coexisting side by side.</p> <h2><strong>Palestinian responses</strong></h2> <p>Naturally, the Palestinians officially welcomed the result of the vote. Hanan Ashrawi, a senior official of the Palestine Liberation Organization and former Palestinian Authority cabinet minister, praised the British parliament, <a href="">describing the vote in a statement</a> as sending “the right message to the British government and the rest of Europe” and creating “the right environment for the international community to grant the Palestinian people legal parity and rights.” In <a href=""><em>Al Jazeera</em>’s view</a>, the Palestinians are hoping the outcome will give momentum to their plan to put a resolution before the UN Security Council. This was their original intention in 2012, but the US administration put them under heavy pressure to abandon the idea, at least temporarily.</p> <p>Whether Palestinians really do “expect” that the “vote will usher in a new era”, as Hilal Khashan <a href="">claims</a>, a professor of political science at Lebanon’s American University of Beirut, does not seem to be borne out by the turmoil in Palestinian thinking about attaining full civil rights post-Gaza and a widespread feeling that the two-state solution is no longer viable. Moreover, as <a href="">Ian Black and Peter Beaumont wrote in the <em>Guardian</em></a>: “Palestinian critics declared their opposition on the grounds that recognition of a state they dismiss as a ‘bantustan’ territory (a nominally independent tribal area in apartheid-era South Africa), would reinforce rather than end Israel’s occupation of the whole of Palestine, not just the areas it conquered in the 1967 war.”</p> <h2><strong>The nature of Israeli opposition (and support)</strong></h2> <p>Israel expressed its opposition to the vote in a deliberately low-key fashion, preferring to convey its views to British parliamentarians in private meetings rather than through heavily publicised public statements. The <a href=""><em>Jewish Chronicle</em> reported</a> that the Israeli Foreign Ministry issued directions for diplomats to keep a low profile and not make media appearances or public comments ahead of the vote. It quoted officials who expressed surprise that UK Jewish and Zionist organizations, such as the Jewish Leadership Council, the Zionist Federation, BICOM and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, very publicly opposed the motion and failed to coordinate their actions with Jerusalem. “We don’t think their actions contributed to Israel’s interests in this case” said one official. “We favoured a policy of trying to draw as little attention as possible to this vote, as the Conservatives did, in our opinion very wisely, so it wouldn’t seem like a crucial decision of the entire British parliament. The ZF and other groups didn’t consult with us and their actions contributed to making this in to a much bigger issue than it should have been.” </p> <p>Israel, after all, has every reason to be satisfied with British-Israel relations. As <a href="">Matthew Kalman pointed out</a> in <em>Haaretz</em>, “the mounting wave of UK opposition to Israeli policies has had no discernible impact on British-Israeli relations. Despite the boycott calls, the street protests and the demonstrations against Israeli businesses, British-Israel trade has soared to record levels.”</p> <p>But other Israelis were not reluctant to publically express different viewpoints. On 12 October a group of more than 350 Israeli politicians, civil society activists, scientists, artists and others <a href="">released an open letter to members of parliament</a> calling upon them to vote in favour of recognising the state of Palestine. The letter states: “We, Israelis who worry and care for the well-being of the state of Israel, believe that the long-term existence and security of Israel depends on the long-term existence and security of a Palestinian state. For this reason we the undersigned urge members of the UK parliament to vote in favour of the motion to be debated on Monday 13 October 2014 calling on the British government to recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.” On the other hand, <a href=""><em>Haaretz</em> reported</a> that the Israeli Labour party chairman (not to be confused with the party leader), member of Knesset Hilik Bar, sent a letter to members of the British Labour Party explaining that symbolic recognition of Palestinian statehood will make peace “less, rather than more likely.” Bar called on Labour to oppose “unilateral moves” that would only make efforts towards peace less popular with Israelis.</p> <h2><strong>Alternative readings</strong></h2> <p>There are alternative, or perhaps complementary, readings of this vote. The most obvious is to see it as an attempt to revivify the two-state solution and, despite the fixed Israeli position that it’s an attempt to bypass negotiations, in fact to breathe life into the traditional diplomatic efforts to reach a mutually agreed peace settlement. </p> <p>While the vote seeks to strengthen the Palestinian position, only the most obtuse pro-Israel groups could possibly see an anti-Israel, let alone an antisemitic agenda at work. Those who promoted it are well aware that as long as the occupation continues, the Israeli government builds more houses in Jewish settlements and the Palestinians remain divided, a viable Palestinian state cannot be brought into being. But without it, the vote seems to imply, instability is a constant and Israel’s long-term security cannot be guaranteed.</p> <p>A second reading is to emphasise the significance of the vote in giving concerted voice to mounting criticism of Israeli actions, a criticism that was fuelled by public perceptions of the brutality and indiscriminate nature of Israel’s offensive against Gaza in July and August and, in the eyes of some, has reached a tipping point of sorts. </p> <p>Long-term changes are occurring in public opinion in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, which increasingly sees Israel as obstructing genuine efforts to achieve peace. The journalist <a href="">Rachel Shabi charts what she sees as a ‘sea change’ in attitudes towards Israel</a>, with support leeching away even from very long-standing friends like <a href="">Sir Richard Ottaway</a>, Tory chair of the foreign affairs select committee and member of parliament: “He became, he said, a friend of Israel before he became a Tory. His commitment to the state was deep and long-held. But, he explained, Israel’s recent conduct, including the appropriation of land on the occupied West Bank, had driven him to despair. And so he could not bring himself to vote against the motion.”</p> <p>Even though Cameron’s government remained aloof from the parliamentary process, the Tory minister responsible for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, who was obliged to be at the debate, denounced Israeli settlement activity in the strongest terms. The former Labour foreign secretary Jack Straw, who introduced the amendment to the original motion, which added a clause describing recognition as “a contribution to securing a negotiated two state solution”, clearly saw strong criticism allied to constructive strengthening of the Palestinian position as the way to exert significant pressure. As he told the Commons, “The only thing that the Israeli government, in my view, in its present demeanour under Bibi Netanyahu understands is pressure.”</p> <p>The message being conveyed is that Israel needs to wake up and understand how isolated it can become. The UK’s ambassador in Tel Aviv, <a href="">Matthew Gould, told Israel television</a> that without movement on the peace process, even Israel’s friends were losing heart. “As British Ambassador to Israel, as the person tasked with building the best possible partnership between Britain and Israel, I do have a worry for the long term about the direction of public opinion in Britain and beyond Britain in the absence of progress towards peace,” said Gould. “It’s been a very difficult summer. The impact of the Gaza conflict on British public opinion has been very difficult for Israel. Since the conflict has finished there has been a series of very difficult announcements to do with settlements. These all have an impact and long-term, I have to say as the guardian of the relationship, as someone who really cares about the relationship between the countries, I am concerned.”</p> <h2><strong>History seems to be leading somewhere else entirely</strong></h2> <p>Symbolism and good intentions notwithstanding, I’m not persuaded that what we have witnessed is much more than a kind of surreal political and diplomatic shadow-boxing. I have no doubt that recognising Palestine as a state is the very least that British parliamentarians should do. But to anchor argumentation for it so firmly in the shifting, unstable sands of the two-state solution is to ignore the fundamental reality of the de facto, repressive, unequal single-state that now exists, controlled by the Israeli regime. </p> <p>Jack Straw’s view that Netanyahu responds to pressure is only correct in the sense that the Israeli prime minister knows how to roll with the punches and emerge unscathed, fully able to continue with his project to secure control over the West Bank in perpetuity and to stymie any prospect of the creation of a viable Palestinian state. In fact it suits Netanyahu to witness such civilised manoeuvrings around how to keep the two state solution alive and to have his representatives abroad argue that, “Well, if you want a Palestinian state to come into existence, it has to be a consequence of negotiations, not a precondition”, as this give the impression that his government is still committed to such a process.</p> <p>The <a href="">illegal construction plans announced for Gush Etzion, Givat Hamatos and Silwan</a> are Netanyahu’s tried and tested means of sending the message to Obama, the EU and the international community overall that colonising Palestinian territory—“biblical Israel”—is the Jewish state’s right and to question it is to question Israel’s very existence and therefore to manifest unvarnished antisemitism. This is nothing new. But even more fateful for Palestinian national aspirations is a radical and significant policy shift taking place in Israel. </p> <p>America and Europe insist that negotiations over peace and two states and a permanent end to periodic offensives against Gaza is incumbent on Israel in order to help mobilize the Arab world to join the fight against ISIS and other extremists groups. The reliable, well-informed and perceptive American columnist <a href=";utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=Opinion&amp;utm_campaign=Opinion%202014-10-13">J.J. Goldberg, writing in the <em>Jewish Daily Forward</em></a>, quotes from what he calls a potentially explosive report by the defense correspondent for the Israeli daily <em>Yediot Achronot</em>, Ron Ben-Yishai, who argues that Israel is reaching the opposite conclusion.</p> <p>In what Ben-Yishai “calls ‘a dramatic reversal,’ Israeli officials say that at a time of extreme instability in the Middle East, it would be suicidal for Israel to consider allowing full sovereignty in most of Judea and Samaria, even if the territory is demilitarized. Even renewing negotiations over a peace agreement is unacceptable, the Israeli officials say, because such talks would lead to deadlock, frustration and unrest on the Palestinian street. Moreover, Israeli officials express doubt that the moderate Arab states need ‘an incentive’ on the Palestinian front to motivate them to fight the jihadists, who threaten their own regimes.</p> <p>“Ben-Yishai writes that Israel now seeks to ‘manage’ the conflict with the Palestinians rather than try to ‘solve’ it.”</p> <p>While the result of this policy might be the easing of certain restrictions on Gaza and the West Bank, the direction of travel is clear: the status quo is Israel’s safest option, which means no risky Palestinian state, only further entrenchment of Israel’s control of the entire Israel-Palestine region. The British parliamentarians can wish for the revival of the two state solution as fervently as they like, and thereby symbolically right the wrongs of history, but history as it’s now being made looks to be leading somewhere else entirely.</p> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia uk Antony Lerman Thu, 16 Oct 2014 14:35:41 +0000 Antony Lerman 86874 at British Zionism, Jews and Gaza <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The reaction of British Jews to the offensive in Gaza confirms that Zionism no longer serves as a glue holding most of the community together, whilst the right-wing ideology of the pro-Israel leadership is only intensifying divisions.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Israel’s bombardment of Gaza left British Zionist organisations dazed and confused. Whilst Zionist leaders appear secure, even strengthened, in their ideological and political commitment to Israel as they battle the country’s critics, they look terribly like a bunch of &nbsp;lost souls digging themselves ever deeper into a hole, out of which their Zionist ideological map offers them no way of climbing.</p> <p><strong>Zionism today: not like it used to be</strong></p> <p>I was an enthusiastic young Zionist in the 1960s and maintained—albeit a diminishing—adherence to Zionism for more than 20 years, before finally ceasing to be a Zionist at the turn of the century. So I remember very well what British Zionism was; and the differences between then and now are stark. It’s not that Zionism was any more right or wrong then than it is now, but there was at least a very lively debate between very different kinds of Zionism, ranging from the Marxist Zionism of the <a href="">Hashomer Hatzair</a> (The Young Guard) youth movement to the corporatist and fascist-influenced Zionism of <a href="">Herut</a> (Freedom) —the party of Menachem Begin, who, in 1977, brought an end to 30 years of coalition governments in Israel led by the Labour party.</p> <p>Today, any ideological differences between the organized diaspora Zionist groups are largely symbolic. For example, the socialist-Zionist youth movements may argue with mainstream Zionists about Israel’s political direction, but these arguments are divorced from political reality in Israel where they have no currency. Most Jews professing Zionism are simply expressing their practical and emotional connection to Israel as an existing country that they have visited, where members of their families live; and to the idea that the ‘Land of Israel’ is the ancestral home of the Jewish people.</p> <p>As I argued in a 24 August <a href="">op-ed I wrote for the <em>New York Times</em></a>, there’s only one form of Zionism of any consequence today, either in Israel or in the Jewish diaspora: right-wing, exclusionary, discriminatory ethno-nationalism, inspired by religious messianism. It has consequences and agency because it manifests itself in a very real project of continuous national self-realisation, purification of the tribe and dispossession. Liberal Zionism is the only other recognisable brand. Although rather a vague term, it implies a commitment to certain values e.g. democracy, human rights and equality, which are increasingly at odds with the political realities in Israel. It could almost be seen as the last redoubt for Jews who wish to declare a Zionist attachment.</p> <p>In the UK, the main umbrella body of Zionist organisations is the <a href="">Zionist Federation</a> (ZF), and its history stretches back to 1899, but <a href="">it does not represent all of them</a>. <a href="">Yachad</a> (Together), the new-ish ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace’ group, which is the flag-bearer for liberal Zionism today, and which is seen as on the left and has a mostly young following, is not a member. Neither is the <a href="">New Israel Fund</a> (NIF), which ‘exists to help secure Israel's long term survival and&nbsp;prosperity for all its citizens’ and stands for a de-politicized form of liberal Zionism. The NIF was specifically established as an alternative to the <a href="">United Jewish Israel Appeal</a> (UJIA), the man fundraising body for Israel, whose mission is ‘to ensure that British Jewry supports, engages and loves Israel’, and is affiliated to the ZF. The NIF lays great stress on supporting human rights projects involving Jewish and Palestinian Israelis, but only within the Green Line. It did not seek affiliation to the ZF. Yachad did—but was turned down (more on this below). This was a clear sign of the right-wing’s dominance of what is supposed be a broad church. And given that you are required to express ‘love of Israel’ to be a member of Yachad, the uncompromising nature of the right-wing’s Zionism is plain for all to see.</p> <p><strong>In decline, but fighting back</strong></p> <p>A <a href="">June 2010 poll</a> of the UK Jewish population revealed continuing Jewish closeness to Israel, but a significant proportion of respondents favoured a more robust, critical, pro-peace stance. One-fifth said they were ‘non-Zionists’. Over half said Jews in Britain had the right to judge Israel and more than a third that they should be free to criticise Israel in public. And with more than half agreeing that Israel should negotiate with Hamas, an underlying sense of unease with Israel’s political trajectory was clearly discernible.&nbsp; Meanwhile, there has been a decline in the influence of the organized Zionist/pro-Israel organisations and movements which can be illustrated quite simply by comparing the numbers of people from the Jewish community who have turned out for pro-Israel demonstrations during major crises.</p> <p>On Sunday, 5 May 2002, between 30,000 and 50,000 Jewish demonstrators attended an <a href="">official community rally in central London to express solidarity with Israel</a>. This was during the second intifada and the <a href="">suicide bombing campaign</a> carried out mostly by Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Jihad. In 2009, at the time of Operation Cast Lead, as the Israelis called their then bombardment of Gaza, <a href="">15,000 attended a similar rally at Trafalgar Square</a> in central London. On Sunday, 20 July this year, the ZF together with 60 other Jewish organisations again called on the community to express solidarity with Israel, this time at a ‘Yes to peace, no to terror’ rally outside the Israel Embassy, as its land, air and sea offensive against Gaza continued. This time <a href="">only around 1,500 attended</a>, though the organizers claimed a higher figure, up to 5,000. Even allowing for the smaller space and the short notice given for the rally, this was a bitterly disappointing turnout.</p> <p>On the other hand—and this may seem incongruous in light of the above—the Zionist right has become stronger and further entrenched, not numerically, but rather in terms of the way it communicates and frames its message. Once Israel advocacy groups—a term encompassing avowedly Zionist organisations and others calling themselves simply ‘pro-Israel’—became fully aware of declining attachment to Israel among Jews, they, together with the institutions of the Israeli government responsible for Israel-Diaspora relations and the Foreign Ministry, began to plough vastly increased resources into what is referred to in Hebrew as <em>hasbara</em> (information), transforming the scale and quality of their propaganda. Sharper and simpler formulas were devised for persuading Jews to show more uncompromising solidarity with Israel, such as the <a href="">‘We believe in Israel’ campaign</a>.</p> <p>In the past, Israeli spokespersons were heavily criticised by pro-Israel groups in the UK for speaking poor English and often coming off worst in encounters when interviewed on radio and television. A new breed of more articulate, westernised, media savvy performers came on the scene and, as we saw during the bombardment of Gaza, in the first two weeks or so of the conflict very few news anchors were able to lay a glove on them. Their simple messages, continually repeated by all of their team, dominated most news outlets, whose simplistic notion of maintaining balance played into Israel’s hands.</p> <p>Many Jews find what they hear from these spokespersons very comforting. And they are reassured even more by the fact that the supposedly representative institutions of the Jewish community, the <a href="">Board of Deputies of British Jews</a> (BoD) and the <a href="">Jewish Leadership Council</a> (JLC), which work hand in hand with the pro-Israel groups and are set to merge, essentially put over the same messages. Jews supporting Israel’s actions who were active on social media, either as part of organized groups, or simply as individual activists, repeated these messages consistently and frequently.</p> <p><strong>Zionist activists criticize their leaders, demand tougher counterattack</strong></p> <p>Even so, the scale of the protests against Israel’s Gaza bombardment, widely seen as more vehement and widespread than those during previous conflicts, took the Zionist groups by surprise. And as the death toll in Gaza mounted and the cries of disgust and anguish became ever more vocal and visible, Jews defending Israel felt increasingly embattled.</p> <p>The starkest evidence of this was the <a href="">‘town hall’ meeting for the Jewish community</a> arranged by the leading Jewish and Zionist organisations on 13 August at the Jews Free School in Kenton, which was attended by 700 people. Leaders of the main communal organisations, including the pro-Israel groups—BoD, JLC, <a href="">BICOM</a> (Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre), UJIA, <a href="">Community Security Trust</a> (CST), ZF—sat on the platform explaining to the attendees how they had been defending both the Jewish community and Israel. But instead of being reassured, the audience voiced powerful and angry criticism of the leadership’s inadequate action. Do more to defend Israel and do it far more openly, was the message. The Jewish response to perceived media bias against Israel and the need simply to put Israel’s case in the face of the barrage of rockets being fired by Hamas into Israel, in the form of letter writing and other means of complaint, were unfavourably compared to what was said to have emanated from pro-Palestinian sources levelling their own criticism of the media and drawing attention to the devastation being wreaked by the Israelis in Gaza.</p> <p>A telling moment in the proceedings came when one of the platform speakers mentioned Yachad. Some of the audience booed, a sign that the dominant hard-line, right-wing Zionists find even this utterly loyal, Israel-loving, but cautiously critical group, which has taken great care to steer clear of any Jewish activists they deemed to be too ‘radical’ in their approach to Israel-Palestine matters, too much to stomach. This same mindset was behind the deeply troubling <a href="">protest mounted against the <em>Jewish Chronicle</em> for printing the Disasters Emergency Committee’s appeal for humanitarian aid for Gaza</a>. But it’s probably more of a surprise that the <em>JC</em> printed the ad at all than that the editor, Stephen Pollard, apologised for doing so afterwards, claiming that it was a commercial decision and therefore beyond his control.</p> <p><strong>Conflating Jews and Israel: an own goal </strong></p> <p>Across the range of the main Jewish organisations, Jewish leaders have come under severe pressure from all sides. If their fundamental task has been to defend the Jewish community and defend Israel, whilst at the same time not allowing Jews and Israelis, or Jews and Israel, to be conflated when criticism of Israel is made, they have singularly failed.</p> <p>The <a href="">rise in antisemitic incidents as reported to the CST</a> was predictable. It happens every time there is such violent conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. However diligent CST may be in defending Jewish institutions, much of what they record is beyond their control because it does not take the form of high profile attacks on buildings or other Jewish sites. And they make their job even harder by politicising their response through taking a <a href="">vigorous stance against the campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel and declaring it antisemitic</a>. This only strengthens the notion that Jews themselves voluntarily conflate the interests of Israel and the British Jewish community.</p> <p>Nothing illustrates this more starkly than a comment from someone who attended the 13 August town hall meeting, which came to me via social media. The unnamed participant was keen to emphasize that they are not quick to spread propaganda, but stressed that the main outcome of the meeting was the need to do more—write more letters, make more complaints of bias in the media, stand up more for Israel. Noting that there are huge resources to help with this, the writer specifically named BICOM, referring to it as ‘basically the PR arm of the Board of Deputies.’ BICOM, the main lobby group working on behalf of Israel in the UK, is very well funded and works in close cooperation with the Israel Foreign Ministry and the Israel Embassy, producing slick briefings, with, when necessary, nods to mild criticism of some Israeli government policies to add credibility to their messages. They would deny vehemently that they are the PR arm of the BoD, as would the BoD. But Spinwatch’s report on BICOM, <a href=""><em>Giving Peace a Chance?</em></a>, documents the connections and collaborations between BICOM and the BoD. This in itself powerfully illustrates how the institutions of the Jewish community conflate Jews and Israel. But the writer, clearly a very loyal community activist, whose language is not extreme and who acknowledges that there are mixed views in the community about Israel’s actions, shows that the conflation is not just an institutional phenomenon, but is widely approved at the grass roots. The link between what happens in Israel and the position of the Jewish community is indisputable.</p> <p><strong>Protest against the bombardment of Gaza by Zionist Jews</strong></p> <p>The longstanding approach of the communal leadership has been to marginalize most left dissenting groups, either by ignoring them or demonizing them with accusations of disloyalty and Jewish self-hatred. But it has certainly been harder for communal leaders to know how to handle groups that clearly proclaim their support for Zionism while at the same time voicing what they regard as constructive and balanced criticism of selected Israeli government policies. Yachad and the NIF fall into this category.</p> <p>As a fundraising body, NIF steers clear of any kind of overt political statement or affiliation. Mainstream leaders avoid attacking it openly and some of them are donors to the charity. But Yachad is different. It is political, though it tries to wrap any critical statements about Israel in the warm blanket of love for the country. Though sometimes spoken of as a lobby, its main focus is the Jewish community itself, not the British government or even the Israeli government. Yachad wants to build not just a larger constituency that couches its critique of Israel within the context of unwavering solidarity with the country, but one that is knowledgeable about what is actually happening on the West Bank by organizing tours to the area.</p> <p>Yachad was established in 2011 with the encouragement of the Chairman of the JLC, <a href="">Mick Davis</a> (at the time, Chief Executive of the huge mining conglomerate Xstrata), and by other more dovish mainstream leaders. They wanted to create a safe space for young people who were feeling, or beginning to feel, estranged from Israel, in which they could identify with the country, but remain critical of government policies, if necessary, and strongly advocate the establishment of a Palestinian state. Although these leaders, and the young people involved in setting up Yachad, must have known that some within the Zionist camp would not be happy, I doubt whether they expected to be booed at the 13 August meeting. And yet, the writing was on the wall. As noted above, when <a href="">Yachad applied for affiliation with the Zionist umbrella body, the ZF, they were turned down</a>, causing some considerable controversy.</p> <p>During the entire Gaza crisis, Yachad tried hard to find a way of expressing strong reservations about Israel’s bombardment and at the same time laying great stress on the threat posed to hundreds of thousands of Israelis by the indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel by Hamas. By <a href="">organizing three campaigns</a>—a joint Muslim-Jewish fast for peace, a statement of support for peace signed by more than 1,000 people, and a letter to Britain’s UN representative, currently president of the UN Security Council, imploring&nbsp;him to broker a&nbsp;cease-fire—they avoided apportioning responsibility and relied on public sentiment that naturally yearns for peace to build support for their activism. According to their director, Hannah Weisfeld, they experienced ‘a massive surge of support’ and they claim to have been ‘much bolder’ than in 2012, the last Gaza crisis.</p> <p><strong>The dissenting Jewish left finds its voice?</strong></p> <p>But other dissenting left-wing groups were far less reticent about drawing attention to Israel’s fundamental responsibility for the crisis. <a href="">Jews for Justice for Palestinians</a> (JfJfP), established in 2002 and one of the older dissenting groups, say their social media ‘total page reach is now close to a million’. According to a <em>Haaretz</em> report, their ‘facebook page, set up on 9 July, had logged 27,500 visitors and 56,000 views by the end of the month and racked up more than 38,000 “engagements”—likes, comments and shares—compared with the <em>Jewish Chronicle</em>’s 167.’ JfJfP states: ‘We oppose Israeli policies that undermine the livelihoods, human, civil and political rights of the Palestinian people. We support the right of Israelis to live in freedom and security within Israel’s 1967 borders.’</p> <p>Together with JfJfP, <a href="">Young Jewish Left</a>, ‘a loose grouping that has highlighted the plight of Palestinian victims during the war’, the <a href="">Jewish Socialists Group</a> (JSG), which dates from the 1970s, and <a href="">Independent Jewish Voices</a> (IJV), set up in 2007, Jewish groups constituted a significant block on all the Gaza demos. JSG, which ‘fights for freedom and equality’, has a <a href="">Bundist</a> outlook and opposes Zionism. IJV, established as a loose framework for Jews—from Zionists to anti-Zionists—wanting to speak out on the repression of Palestinians on the basis of human rights values, organized collective letter protests to major newspapers. The London-based <a href="">Jewdas</a> group, which emerged around 2006, has a young, radical, diasporist, anarchistic following and is fond of ironic performative protest. But it chose solemnity when it demonstrated outside the British ZF conference on 27 July. The activists recited <em>Kaddish&nbsp;</em>(Jewish mourner’s prayer)&nbsp;for the Gaza dead followed by a two-minute silence. ‘Some of them also went inside the building to try and engage the participants, though to little success’, <a href="">reported Dimi Reider</a>.</p> <p><strong>Bereft of ideas, in denial about Palestine, the leadership flounders</strong></p> <p>Although it would be hard to deny that the balance of opinion among British Jews remains pro-Zionist and very pro-Israel, the leaders of the Zionist organisations, the Israel-advocacy groups and the Jewish representative bodies have felt severely embattled. They have struggled to cope with all of the ways that opposition to Israel’s actions has manifested itself throughout the country. They stand accused of being weak and ineffectual by Jewish activists demanding a much more outspoken, unashamed, centrally-organized campaign to defend Israel. They have found it difficult to deal with the increase in fear of antisemitism among Jews, though the increase in anti-Jewish hostility and antisemitic incidents reported to the CST could hardly have been unexpected. They seem to be without any new ideas, essentially seeing opposition to Israel’s actions as hypocritical and to a great extent antisemitic. They ask questions like: Why do people focus so exclusively on Israel, when there are so many far worse conflicts throughout the world, such as in Syria?</p> <p>This leadership cannot face up to the reality that the Israel-Palestine conflict is an inter-communal problem playing itself out on the streets of Britain, let alone show any awareness of its implications. It may not take the form of the violence seen in France—demonstrations and marches in the UK have been overwhelmingly peaceful—but what has happened over the last two months in the UK is the continuation of Israel-Gaza war by other means. Failure to grasp this was evident in the cack-handed <a href="">announcement of a joint Muslim-Jewish statement by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and the BoD calling on their faiths to ‘export peace’ to the Middle East</a>. In a patently awkward joint appearance on BBC Radio 4’s <em>World At One</em> on 29 August, Vivian Weinman, President of the BoD, and Shuja Shafi, Secretary General of the MCB, could not agree on whether daubing the slogan ‘Free Gaza’ on a synagogue wall was antisemitic or not. The statement simply brushed the difficult issue of Palestine under the carpet. An important article in the Israeli daily <a href=""><em>Haaretz</em>, by Fiyaz Mughal</a>, persuasively argued that this issue had to be squarely faced if dialogue between Muslims and Jews was to mean anything.</p> <p>For the Jewish dissenting left, there has been no evidence of a wholesale shift of Jewish opinion in their direction. Discussions about the situation among dissenters themselves have, in my experience, displayed a deep sense of despair at the sheer brutality and callousness of the violence and at the possibility of doing anything that can make a difference. And yet there has also been something about the awfulness of this round of Israel’s periodic battering of Gaza, and its sheer futility, that has galvanized activists, no matter how hopeless the situation may appear to be, to make their voices heard and to capitalise on the growing rumblings of doubt about Israel’s actions among some sectors of the Jewish population. This would suggest that the heading of <a href="">Daniella Peled’s report in <em>Haaretz</em></a>, ‘Left-wing UK Jewish groups thrive during Israel’s Gaza war’, has substance.</p> <p>Peled also reports the ZF claims of a ‘doubling of the number of calls to its north London office’ and quotes a spokesperson as saying that they had received ‘a lot of interest from the ultra-orthodox and the Reform [Jews]—groups who previously haven’t had strong ties with us,’ claiming that ‘This shows that the ZF is a centrist Zionist organisation rather than right-wing, which is what we were previously painted as.’ The idea that the ‘ultra-orthodox’ are turning Zionist in any significant numbers beggars belief. Though few openly express anti-Zionism, the notion that Israel is a Jewish state in any sense that conforms to their unbending theology is quite alien to them. And if some Reform Jews are turning for succour to the ZF it’s a sign that they are turning right, not that the ZF is becoming more centrist.</p> <p><strong>Zionism isn’t the answer for doubting Jews</strong></p> <p>What the Gaza crisis shows is that Zionism, already increasingly irrelevant as an expressly ideological choice for Jews, no longer serves as a glue holding most of the Jewish community together. In fact, it’s a source of division: there is growing polarisation between right and left, with the right better equipped than ever before with the tools of slick propaganda (the limitations of which became increasingly evident as the Israeli bombardment continued) and the left perhaps more astutely probing the cracks in the Zionist wall.</p> <p>There is still a middle where significant numbers of Jews remain mostly silent, thereby giving the impression of a hollowed-out space. But my impression, from many private conversations, interactions on Facebook and Twitter, and emails, is that those in the middle are deeply unsure about what Israel is doing. They would prefer not to know the truth about the country’s current trajectory, but still feel they must offer support because they see it as surrounded by implacable enemies and a victim of antisemitism. They may want to voice their doubts, but decide not to, partly because of fear of giving succour to antisemites and partly because of what this might do to personal relations between friends and family. They may never come to identify in any significant numbers with the dissenting Jewish left, but it seems hardly likely that what the leaders of the ZF, the Israel advocacy groups and the Jewish communal and supposedly ‘representative’ organisations serve up as Zionism offers them any positive way out of their unease and confusion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><strong>Crossposted with thanks to <a href="">New Left Project</a>.</strong></em></p> uk Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia uk Gaza Palestine and the Israeli Occupation Antony Lerman Wed, 15 Oct 2014 08:41:57 +0000 Antony Lerman 85863 at Anti-semitism, Israel and Nationalism, Part 3/3 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Antony Lerman in conversation with Tony Curzon Price around Lerman's political memoir,&nbsp;<a href="">The Making and Unmaking of a Zionist - A personal and political journey</a>. Part 3, 25 mins.</p> </div> </div> </div> <blockquote>Melanie Phillips has been accused of hysteria, even by Israel's sympathizers, for writing about [Independent Jewish Voices as] <em>Jews for Genocide</em>, but the behaviour of these Jews might make Melanie's critics rethink their criticism of her. It is hard for us Jews, whose love for our roots, our heritage, Jewsih hopes and dreams, which is so deep in us, to believe that such Jewish haters could exist, but I am afraid they do. What is it that moves them - cowardice, a need to be loved by the Gentiles, alienation, an assimilation of antisemitic attitudes (of which I wrote about in my <em>Funny, you don't look Jewish</em>)? It has been said that some Jews in concentration camps began to believe that they had done something wrong in order to reconcile themselves to their situation and to relate to their persecutors. Could these Jews be suffering from the same pathology? But for whatever reason they need to be utterly condemned, because they have acted in a manner to deserve the biblical punishment of "being cut off from their people" because they have chosen to do this themselves." <br /> Sidney Brichto, Email, 2007. Quoted by Antony Lerman.<br /><br /> Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.<br /> <a href="">Baruch Spinoza, 1670</a>, Quoted by Antony Lerman.<br /> </blockquote> <a href="">Download the audio file</a><p> <a href="">Subscribe to the iTunes channel</a></p><p> <div> <audio controls="controls" id="auidoplayerhtml5podbean850ed669b9262f88880c8d47c4f0564a"> <source src="" type="audio/mpeg" autoplay="no"> Your browser does not support the audio element. </source></audio> <script type="text/javascript"> var audioTag = document.createElement('audio'); if (!(!!(audioTag.canPlayType) && ("no" != audioTag.canPlayType("audio/mpeg")) && ("" != audioTag.canPlayType("audio/mpeg")))) { document.getElementById('auidoplayerhtml5podbean850ed669b9262f88880c8d47c4f0564a').parentNode.removeChild(document.getElementById('auidoplayerhtml5podbean850ed669b9262f88880c8d47c4f0564a')); document.write('<object classid="clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000" codebase=",0,0,0" width="210" height="25" id="mp3playerlightsmallv3" align="middle"><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="sameDomain" /><param name="movie" value="" /><param name="quality" value="high" /><param name="bgcolor" value="#ffffff" /><param name="wmode" value="transparent" /><embed src="" quality="high" width="210" height="25" name="mp3playerlightsmallv3" align="middle" allowScriptAccess="sameDomain" wmode="transparent" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" pluginspage="" /></embed></object>'); } </script> <br/> <a style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 11px; font-weight: normal; padding-left: 41px; color: #2DA274; text-decoration: none; border-bottom: none;" href="">Podcast Powered By Podbean</a> </br/></div> </p><p> Listen on Youtube <br /> <object width="460" height="344"><param name="movie" value="" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" width="460" height="344"></embed></object></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/antony-lerman-tony-curzon-price/anti-semitism-israel-and-nationalism-part-13">Anti-semitism, Israel and nationalism, part 1/3</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/antony-lerman-tony-curzon-price/anti-semitism-israel-and-nationalism-part-23">Anti-semitism, Israel and nationalism, part 2/3</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> England </div> <div class="field-item even"> Israel </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> Israel England Civil society Conflict Podcast Tony Curzon Price Antony Lerman Sat, 30 Mar 2013 13:17:58 +0000 Antony Lerman and Tony Curzon Price 71908 at Anti-semitism, Israel and nationalism, part 2/3 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Antony Lerman in conversation with Tony Curzon Price around Lerman's political memoir,&nbsp;<a href="">The Making and Unmaking of a Zionist - A personal and political journey</a>. Part 2, 30 mins.</p> </div> </div> </div> <blockquote>Judaism is not a religion of space and does not worship the soil. So, too, the State of Israel is not the climax of Jewish history, but a test of the integrity of the Jewish people and the competence of Judaism.<br /> <a href="">Abraham Joshua Heschel, 1969<a/></a/></a></blockquote> <a href="">Download the audio file</a><p> <a href="">Subscribe to the iTunes channel</a></p><p> <div> <audio controls="controls" id="auidoplayerhtml5podbean0bccc6ba4fed64ed83a6c0e37c208fc5"> <source src="" type="audio/mpeg" autoplay="no"> Your browser does not support the audio element. </source></audio> <script type="text/javascript"> var audioTag = document.createElement('audio'); if (!(!!(audioTag.canPlayType) && ("no" != audioTag.canPlayType("audio/mpeg")) && ("" != audioTag.canPlayType("audio/mpeg")))) { document.getElementById('auidoplayerhtml5podbean0bccc6ba4fed64ed83a6c0e37c208fc5').parentNode.removeChild(document.getElementById('auidoplayerhtml5podbean0bccc6ba4fed64ed83a6c0e37c208fc5')); document.write('<object classid="clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000" codebase=",0,0,0" width="210" height="25" id="mp3playerlightsmallv3" align="middle"><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="sameDomain" /><param name="movie" value="" /><param name="quality" value="high" /><param name="bgcolor" value="#ffffff" /><param name="wmode" value="transparent" /><embed src="" quality="high" width="210" height="25" name="mp3playerlightsmallv3" align="middle" allowScriptAccess="sameDomain" wmode="transparent" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" pluginspage="" /></embed></object>'); } </script> <br/> <a style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 11px; font-weight: normal; padding-left: 41px; color: #2DA274; text-decoration: none; border-bottom: none;" href="">Podcast Powered By Podbean</a> </br/></div> </p><p> <object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" width="460" height="344"></embed></object></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/antony-lerman-tony-curzon-price/anti-semitism-israel-and-nationalism-part-13">Anti-semitism, Israel and nationalism, part 1/3</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/antony-lerman-tony-curzon-price/anti-semitism-israel-and-nationalism-part-33">Anti-semitism, Israel and Nationalism, Part 3/3</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> England </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Israel </div> </div> </div> Israel EU England Podcast Tony Curzon Price Antony Lerman Fri, 29 Mar 2013 19:02:02 +0000 Antony Lerman and Tony Curzon Price 71900 at Anti-semitism, Israel and nationalism, part 1/3 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Antony Lerman in conversation with Tony Curzon Price around Lerman's political memoir, <a href="">The Making and Unmaking of a Zionist - A personal and political journey</a>. Part 1, 37 mins.</p> </div> </div> </div> <blockquote><p><span style="color: #222222; font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; line-height: 19px; background-color: #ffffff;">A nationalist development can have two possible consequences. Either a healthy reaction will set in that will overcome the danger heralded by nationalism, and also nationalism itself, which has now fulfilled its purpose - or nationalism will establish itself as the permanent principle: in other words it will exceed its function, pass beyond its proper bounds and with overemphasised consciousness displace the spontaneous life of the nation. Unless some force arises to oppose this process it may well be the beginning of the downfall of the people, a downfall dyed in the colours of nationalism.</span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span style="color: #222222; font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; line-height: 19px; background-color: #ffffff;">Martin Buber, Nationalism, 1921</span></p><p><span style="color: #222222; font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; line-height: 19px; background-color: #ffffff;"><br /></span></p></blockquote><div> <a href="">Download the audio file</a><p> <a href="">Subscribe to the iTunes channel</a></p><p> <div> <audio controls="controls" id="auidoplayerhtml5podbeanddfe85f9f474a70eac71ce0c64e1aca8"> <source src="" type="audio/mpeg" autoplay="no"> Your browser does not support the audio element. </source></audio> <script type="text/javascript"> var audioTag = document.createElement('audio'); if (!(!!(audioTag.canPlayType) && ("no" != audioTag.canPlayType("audio/mpeg")) && ("" != audioTag.canPlayType("audio/mpeg")))) { document.getElementById('auidoplayerhtml5podbeanddfe85f9f474a70eac71ce0c64e1aca8').parentNode.removeChild(document.getElementById('auidoplayerhtml5podbeanddfe85f9f474a70eac71ce0c64e1aca8')); document.write('<object classid="clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000" codebase=",0,0,0" width="210" height="25" id="mp3playerlightsmallv3" align="middle"><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="sameDomain" /><param name="movie" value="" /><param name="quality" value="high" /><param name="bgcolor" value="#ffffff" /><param name="wmode" value="transparent" /><embed src="" quality="high" width="210" height="25" name="mp3playerlightsmallv3" align="middle" allowScriptAccess="sameDomain" wmode="transparent" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" pluginspage="" /></embed></object>'); } </script> <br/> <a style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 11px; font-weight: normal; padding-left: 41px; color: #2DA274; text-decoration: none; border-bottom: none;" href="">Podcast Powered By Podbean</a> </br/></div> </p><p> Or LIsten on Youtube <object width="460" height="344"><param name="movie" value="" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" width="460" height="344"></embed></object></p></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/antony-lerman-tony-curzon-price/anti-semitism-israel-and-nationalism-part-23">Anti-semitism, Israel and nationalism, part 2/3</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/antony-lerman-tony-curzon-price/anti-semitism-israel-and-nationalism-part-33">Anti-semitism, Israel and Nationalism, Part 3/3</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/antony-lerman/911-and-destruction-of-shared-understanding-of-antisemitism">9/11 and the destruction of the shared understanding of antisemitism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/antony-lerman/g%C3%BCnter-grass-antisemitism-and-inflation-of-evil">Günter Grass, antisemitism and the inflation of evil</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/antony-lerman/israel-and-anti-boycott-law-wider-implications-of-popular-indifference">Israel and the anti-boycott law: the wider implications of popular indifference</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/antony-lerman/celebrity-anti-semitism-teaches-us-very-little-about-reality-of-prejudice">Celebrity anti-semitism teaches us very little about the reality of prejudice</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> England </div> <div class="field-item even"> Israel </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> Israel England Civil society Podcast Tony Curzon Price Antony Lerman Fri, 29 Mar 2013 12:01:55 +0000 Antony Lerman and Tony Curzon Price 71887 at Günter Grass, antisemitism and the inflation of evil <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Israel factor has politicised the business of assessing antisemitism such that the vitriolic disagreement surrounding it has become about far more than just facts, intelligent judgment and expertise. What does Israel, what does anyone gain from this?<em></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The widespread reaction to Günter Grass’s <a href="">poem, ‘What must be said’</a>—here is the best English translation I could find—in which he criticised Israel for its ‘nuclear power [that] endangers an already fragile world peace’ and its ‘claim of a right to [a] . . . first strike to snuff out the Iranian people’, confirmed three things.</p> <p>First, there is a high level of sensitivity to perceived expressions of antisemitism by major public figures in Europe. The <a href=",7340,L-4213037,00.html">accusations of Jew-hatred</a> levelled at the German Nobel laureate by (among very many others) Giulio Meotti and Benjamin Weinthal for example, came hot on the heels of a <a href="">similar attack</a> on Baroness Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, for allegedly drawing a <a href="">moral equivalence</a> between the murder of Jewish children by Mohammad Merah in Toulouse and the killing of children by Israeli military forces in Gaza. (She equated the suffering of dying children, not the immorality of crimes.)</p> <p>Second, such controversies about antisemitism invariably arise following some form of comment on or criticism of Israel and thereby demonstrate just how inextricably linked to the actions or inactions of the Jewish state are perceptions of antisemitism today. The result is that any moral judgments about what Grass wrote or Ashton said are complicated and even clouded by the way that the Israel factor has politicised the business of assessing antisemitism.</p> <p>Third, while these incidents may well generate various forms of indignation, they certainly do not demonstrate the existence of a shared understanding of <a href="">what antisemitism is</a>. Even among commentators who seemingly subscribe to the same liberal-democratic values and a commitment to rational debate, such as the <em>Atlantic</em> columnist Jeffrey Goldberg and the <em>Ha’aretz</em> columnist Gideon Levy, there are <a href="">diametrically opposed views</a> as to whether Grass’s poetic offering is or is not <a href="">antisemitic</a>.</p> <p>It is deeply troubling that what begins as a positive impulse—to be constantly alert to manifestations of antisemitism—so often ends in such bitter disagreement or worse. One assumes that the motives behind exposing antisemitism are to defend democratic values, tolerance, racial equality and the right to maintain religious and ethnic difference. And yet, in <a href="">the reactions</a> of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who said he was sure that Grass’s motives were antisemitic, and the announcement by his interior minister, <a href="">Eli Yishai</a>, that Günter Grass is ‘persona non grata’ in Israel, Israel was shown worldwide to be attacking freedom of speech, showing disdain for democracy, indulging in crude stereotyping of Germans and, by playing the antisemitism card, purporting to defend the interests of Jews worldwide while actually doing precisely the opposite. Even some who applauded the original condemnation of Grass by various major political figures in Germany and elsewhere, concluded that Israel had <a href=",7340,L-4214742,00.html">shot itself in the foot</a> with Yishai’s statement.</p> <p>When judged purely on the grounds of <a href="">poetic achievement</a>, ‘What must be said’ is certainly not one of Grass’s best literary efforts. Even the relatively readable translation cited above is clunky, disjointed and largely formless. It also betrays a naivety or thoughtlessness in its characterisation of the nuclear submarine sold to Israel by the Germans as ‘first strike’ hardware, a lack of empathy with Israeli fears of Iranian threats to Israel’s existence and - in writing that Israel claims the right to ‘snuff out the Iranian people’- a propensity to exaggerate. Nevertheless, he speaks of Israel as ‘a country to which I am and will remain attached’, and as a number of Jewish and Israeli commentators have pointed out, there is much that is true and reasonable in the poem. As Jerry Haber (<a href="">the Magnes Zionist blog</a>) asserts, ‘only one country, Israel, has threatened to carry out a first strike against the other’. <a href="">Larry Derfner</a> on <em>+972</em> says Israel is a ‘nuclear-armed destabilizing force in the Middle East’, endangering world peace with its openly voiced threats against Iran, its targeted assassinations of Iranians and Palestinians, its preemptive strikes on countries in the region, its assault on the Turkish boat, the <em>Mavi Marmara</em>, and its refusal to have anything to do with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. And who could seriously argue against Grass’s call for:&nbsp;</p> <blockquote><p>a permanent and unrestrained control<br /> of Israel’s atomic power<br /> and Iranian nuclear plants<br /> by an international authority<br /> accepted by both governments.</p></blockquote> <p>Finally, in advocating this strict control of nuclear facilities in the region, he writes: ‘Only thus can one give help to Israelis and Palestinians . . . all the peoples . . . in this region . . . and finally, to ourselves as well.’ This may not be the most eloquently expressed peace sentiment, but it is surely a heartfelt plea from an old man whose personal history and views expressed in this poem in some ways epitomise so many of the complexities of the post-war German-Jewish relationship: the unbreakable tie with Israel, the taboo against criticism of Israel (no longer observed), the heightened sensitivity to antisemitism (he anticipates ‘the verdict of “Antisemitism”’) and the hyper-awareness of German responsibility for Auschwitz (‘my own country, guilty of primal and unequalled crimes for which time and again it must be tasked’) .</p> <p>But what about the charge of antisemitism? Jerry Haber <a href="">is unequivocal</a>: ‘Only a twisted mind would find [the poem] anti-Semitic or even anti-Zionist’. Or take the view of another Zionist, Avi Primor, who was Israel’s ambassador to Bonn for most of the 1990s. A sober and <a href=",7340,L-4214009,00.html">loyal Israeli voice</a>, Primor ‘insists that there is no antisemitism in Grass’s speeches and publications, and he doesn’t even hate Israel. “It is important to pay attention to the message of the poem,” Primor says.’ Of course, I acknowledge that there are many other voices saying the opposite, and I have cited one or two of them above. Another is <a href=",1518,826383,00.html">Professor Moshe Zimmerman</a>, an expert on German-Jewish history at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, who strongly objected to interior minister Yishai’s travel ban, but argued that Grass ‘uses images and myths that are tinged with antisemitism’.</p> <p>While I come down firmly on the side of Primor and the Magnes Zionist, I have argued in a <a href="">previous piece</a> for oD that the shared understanding of what is antisemitism has been destroyed, so it is necessary to go back to basics to get some clarity. Fortunately, there are still scholars concerning themselves with definitions, in particular Dr Brian Klug whose work in this area is cited approvingly by a range of researchers and academics focusing on contemporary antisemitism. He recently supplied a short definition of antisemitism for a leaflet on the subject issued by the <a href="">University and College Union</a> (UCU):</p> <p>‘At the heart of antisemitism is the negative stereotype of “the Jew”: sinister, cunning, parasitic, money-grubbing, mysteriously powerful, and so on. Antisemitism consists in projecting this figure onto individual Jews, Jewish groups and Jewish institutions.’</p> <p>If we look at Israel as a ‘Jewish group’ and search for Klug’s negative stereotype of ‘the Jew’ projected onto Israel in Grass’s poem, we find no such thing.&nbsp;</p> <h3>The juggernaut<span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></span></h3> <p>Unfortunately, this isn’t all that needs to be said about whether Grass’s poem is antisemitic. This is not because of any weaknesses in the arguments set out above, but because the Grass controversy, like the Ashton furore and many such controversies in recent years, is about far more than just facts, intelligent judgment and expertise. A juggernaut of demonization and accusation <a href="">rolls into action</a> in each case, often before anyone has given full consideration to what has been said or taken place, suggesting a clear predisposition to bring prior assumptions to bear on the incident.</p> <p>Many of the features of this mindset are evident in the British MP <a href="">Denis MacShane’s</a> response to the 19 March Toulouse killings that appeared in the <em>Jewish Chronicle</em> on 22 March (but they were more fully apparent in his deeply flawed 2008 book <em>Globalising Hatred</em>, as I pointed out in <a href="">my review</a> in the <em>New Statesman</em>). MacShane claims that the British establishment does not accept that ‘21st century hatred of Jews is real’. Those who draw attention to it ‘often feel that they cry wolf and nobody listens.’ This ‘Denial of antisemitism is now mainstream politics.’ Antisemitism is effectively running riot around the globe, but particularly in Arab and Muslim societies where MacShane portrays it as an endemic evil. ‘Even as Ahmadinejad repeats his hate against Israel, the voices of appeasement make themselves heard.’ Antisemitism, he concludes, ‘remains the oldest, most deadly hate’. In his book he called antisemitism ‘the world’s most pernicious ideology and practice’, ‘preventing just and equitable solutions to world problems.’ In MacShane’s eyes, the present danger of antisemitism is truly apocalyptic.</p> <p>With his wild, unsubstantiated and mostly invalid assertions, it may be hard to believe that MacShane is not merely a one-off and that there are many commentators on antisemitism, in the USA, Israel and the UK in particular, but also in France and Germany, as well as Australia and Canada, who share the fundamental elements of this mindset. But the examples I have culled from MacShane are not all of it. Especially relevant for Europe are such assumptions as: because it was responsible for the Holocaust, Germany is never to be trusted; for Jews, Europe is a graveyard, a continent that, like Medea, repeatedly devours its Jewish children; anti-Zionism is merely Jew-hatred by another name.</p> <p>I would argue that this cluster of assumptions and beliefs is currently so widespread and influential, so appealing in its simplicity and facile coherence, that it plays a powerful role in shaping the response to such events as the Grass poem. Mere evidence that there may be a more complex, alternative story doesn’t stand a chance. This seems to be a case of the ‘inflation of evil’, to borrow a phrase from Alan Wolfe’s extraordinarily perceptive study <em><a href="">Political Evil: What It Is and How to Combat It</a></em>. Antisemitism and those espousing it are so inherently evil, its onward march is so assured, what it leads to is so inevitable and apocalyptic that no prescriptions for fighting it are adequate to the task. MacShane and others fail to understand that antisemitism is what I believe Wolfe would call a political evil, combatable using means that do not subvert the norms of democratic societies. The problem with the mindset of those inflating the evil of antisemitism is that it invites the contemplation of measures that would undermine those norms.</p> <p>If Grass’s poem is so heinous, what language and what action would ever be appropriate in response to genuine antisemitism? Salman Rushdie is someone who knows a thing or two about extreme reactions to his writing, having been under an Iranian death threat, since 1989, after he published <em>The Satanic Verses</em>. In <a href="">Rushdie’s view</a> it is ‘OK to dislike [or] even be disgusted by the poem, but to ban [Grass] is infantile pique. . . . The answer to words must always be other words.’</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item even"> Germany </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Germany Israel Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Antony Lerman Spotlight on Germany Mon, 16 Apr 2012 06:49:36 +0000 Antony Lerman 65355 at 9/11 and the destruction of the shared understanding of antisemitism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The links between the Israeli far right and Islamophobic groups in Europe follow a certain inexorable logic of the post 9/11 world. These alliances, encapsulated as well as encouraged by the redefinition of the "new antisemitism", make it very hard for Israel to overcome the monomaniacal war spirit of 9/11 </div> </div> </div> <p><span>Even before 9/11, the redefinition of antisemitism as essentially left-wing and Islamic prejudice and discrimination against the Jewish state of Israel—‘the Jew among the nations’—was well underway. But the popularity of this reformulation of what constitutes Jew-hatred, now commonly called ‘the new antisemitism’, gained decisive momentum as a consequence of the attack on the Twin Towers and has had far-reaching implications. So much so that Bernard-Henri Levy, France’s most prominent and possibly most influential public intellectual, could, with his trademark portentousness, confidently claim in his 2008 book,&nbsp;<a href="">The Left in Dark Times</a>, that antisemitism of the 21st century would be ‘progressive’—meaning essentially left-wing hatred of Israel—or <a href="">not exist</a> at all. This bizarre statement symbolises the damage caused by the influence of the notion of the ‘new antisemitism’, which has turned friends into enemies, helped open the door to fascism in Israeli politics and left Jews everywhere at the mercy of an idea that is ultimately self-contradictory and self-defeating.</span><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span></p><p><span>What Levy confirmed, in a strikingly stark fashion, was that the term ‘new antisemitism’ means more than just critical discourse about Israel using antisemitic tropes. The concept contains the radical notion that to warrant the charge of antisemitism, it is sufficient to hold any view ranging from criticism of the policies of the current Israeli government to denial that Israel has the right to exist as a state, without having to subscribe to any of those things which historians have traditionally regarded as making up an antisemitic view: hatred of Jews per se, belief in a worldwide Jewish conspiracy, belief that Jews generated communism and control capitalism, belief that Jews are racially inferior and so on. Given that the definition of the ‘new antisemitism’ is fundamentally incompatible with any definition relying on elements which historians accept make up an antisemitic view, for anyone who agrees with the definition of the ‘new antisemitism’ it’s but a short step to conclude that it replaces all previous definitions and then further to argue that no other kind of antisemitism exists.</span></p><p><span><strong>How the idea of the ‘new antisemitism’ took hold</strong></span></p><p><span>Make no mistake, this is not an argument about semantics, but about coming to terms with changing political realities. There was never any basis in fact for Levy’s 2008 prediction that there would be no old style antisemitism in the 21st century. A cursory glance at antisemitism <a href="">monitoring reports</a>&nbsp;from the time prove that it was an absurd statement to make. Today, with indisputable hard evidence of the persistence of far right antisemitism in Europe, as well as the revelation of the role of Jew-hatred in the thinking of the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik, Levy’s rhetorical flourish looks even more ridiculous. As for the idea of the ‘new antisemitism’, it emerged as a way of explaining the reasons for the increasingly strident attacks on Zionism and Israel, which led to the country’s deteriorating international position. And it was then taken up by pro-Israel groups as a means of defending Israel and attacking its perceived enemies. The increasingly widespread acceptance of the idea of the ‘new antisemitism’ since 9/11 has profoundly affected Israel’s foreign relations and the situation of diaspora Jews, especially in the major centres of Jewish population—the USA, France, the UK, Canada, Australia—but also in Western Europe generally and to some degree in the former communist countries.</span><span></span></p><p>Events in the year before 9/11 already appeared to lend credibility to the idea of the ‘new antisemitism’. The collapse of the Camp David negotiations in July 2000 (presented by Israel and its loyal supporters as a Palestinian betrayal), the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada in the autumn and the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish manifestations at the UN Conference on Racism in Durban in August-September 2001 were all explained as evidence of a deeply rooted, extreme, irrational anti-Zionism, seen by pro-Israel loyalists as conclusive proof that Israel was now incontrovertibly the ‘Jew among the nations’. When the Twin Towers were destroyed and the Bush administration moved rapidly to frame its response as declaring ‘war on terror’, it was inevitable that Israel, under the leadership of a national unity government led by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would seek to identify itself ever more closely with the US as a fellow victim of Islamist terror—indeed as the prior victim. Al Qaida’s ideology, which, in part, jointly demonised America and Israel, and also Jews in general, provided the Zionist right with even more justification for its argument that the ‘new antisemitism’ now posed the greatest threat to Jews since the Holocaust.</p><p><strong>The far right, Israel and the battle against the ‘Islamization of Europe’</strong></p><p>Antisemitism was thus recast as principally anti-Israel rhetoric emanating largely from Muslim sources. That rhetoric figured prominently in various forms of media in European countries with relatively large Jewish populations, like France, the UK and Germany, and was sometimes directed at Jews because of their support for Israel, but also because Jews and Israelis are often seen as one and the same. This—together with an increase in antisemitic incidents ascribed to Muslim perpetrators—led Jewish establishment leaders, while speaking the language of interfaith dialogue and the need to maintain and foster intercommunal harmony, to see the Islamist elements in Muslim communities as a direct threat to Jewish security. Some extended that fear to Muslims more generally. Despite the fact that the growing sense of Jewish belonging in Europe in the 1990s stemmed in great part from the success of multiculturalism and the positive influence of the culture of universal human rights, blame for Muslim hostility to Jews was now put down to multiculturalism’s alleged <a href="">failure</a> to integrate Muslims and the perception that rights values were being applied to all minorities except Jews. Both were seen as responsible for allowing the unrestrained attack on Israel to proceed unchecked. Add to this the fact that Israeli leaders were only too ready to redefine the Israel-Palestine conflict as a religious war, and it was but a logical step for Israel to come to be seen, in Slavoj Zizek’s <a href="">words</a>, as ‘the first line of defence against the Muslim expansion’.</p><p>Meanwhile, the far right had been undergoing a process of self-sanitisation: playing down its antisemitic past and distancing itself from Holocaust denial, and refocusing its animus towards the ‘other’ on ‘immigrants’ in general, but <a href="">Muslims</a> in particular. By the early 2000s, a new far right strategy emerged, exemplified by the National Alliance (AN) in Italy, the former neo-fascist party headed by Gianfranco Fini, who reached out to the Italian Jewish community to apologise for the party’s ‘former’ antisemitism and to express support for Israel, all against the background of a supposed shared understanding that Muslims were now the common enemy. The elected head of the Italian Jewish community rejected the NA’s approach, but some members of the community were not unsympathetic to Fini’s message and the issue became very controversial.</p><p>While some evidence emerged of Jews publicly identifying with far right groups in France and Austria, it never amounted to very much. More significant, however, was the far right’s increasingly warm pro-Israel rhetoric, which began to be looked upon favourably by the right-wing Zionist parties in Israel and their sympathisers in the Jewish diaspora. Geert Wilders, in his capacity as leader of the Dutch populist, anti-Islam Party for Freedom, visited Israel in 2008 and has <a href=",1518,777175,00.html">been back</a> a number of times since. Leaders of four other far right parties, the Belgian Flemish Interest, the Austrian Freedom Party, the Swedish Democrats and a new German anti-Islam party, Freedom, visited Israel in late 2010 and were warmly received by settler leaders and other far-right Zionist politicians. And yet these parties had by no means abandoned their <a href="">antisemitic roots</a>.</p><p>We saw a striking example of this phenomenon in the UK in 2009 when a far-right Polish member of the European Parliament, Michal Kaminski, whose past antisemitic views were well documented, <a href="">visited the UK</a> in his then role as Chairman of the new right-wing EP grouping of which Cameron’s Tory Party were joint founders. Strong objections to the fact that the Tories were now consorting with Kaminski and his party were raised across the political spectrum and in the Jewish community. But a number of Jewish Zionist leaders, the Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, the Israeli ambassador and non-Jewish Israel supporters feted Kaminski because of his very publicly expressed support for Israel.</p><p>It has become quite clear that, as Charles Hawley <a href=",1518,777175,00.html">writes</a> in Spiegelonline, ‘in the battle against what right-wing populists see as the creeping Islamization of Europe, Israel is on the front line.’ But it’s not only right-wing populists who see Israel playing this role. A melange of Jewish and non-Jewish columnists, public intellectuals, think tank specialists and mainstream politicians who would utterly reject being labelled ‘far right’—such as Melanie Phillips (Daily Mail columnist), Daniel Johnson (Standpoint Editor), Douglas Murray (Centre for Social Cohesion) and Denis MacShane (Labour MP)—express similar views and harsh criticism of the Muslim community for not tackling the extreme hostility to Jews and Israel found in its midst. This same kind of alliance can be found in America and France.</p><p>The two main parties in Israel’s governing coalition—Likud and Israel Our Home—have not only been encouraged by the range of anti-Islam forces lining up behind Israel. They have clearly seen it as giving the green light for the slew of<a href=""> anti-democratic bills</a> put before the Knesset in the last few years designed to reinforce the exclusively Jewish character of the state, brand Palestinian citizens of Israel as the internal enemy if they don’t accept Israel as the Jewish state, restrict the activities of human rights groups, undermine academic freedom and curtail freedom of speech. The failure of supposedly more moderate political leaders and of the parliamentary system as a whole to turn back this mounting anti-democratic tide has led respected commentators, academics and former military and security personnel to see the growth of deeply disturbing signs of incipient fascism.</p><p><strong>Zionism’s ambiguous relationship with antisemitism</strong></p><p>Many Israel-supporting Jews with progressive political views now find themselves between a rock and a hard place. As supporters of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and opposed to settlements and the occupation, the last thing they would have envisaged is finding themselves in the company of the far right, whether in Europe or in Israel. And yet many such Jews are convinced that the threat of a left-wing+Islamist ‘new antisemitism’ is severe and in maintaining their Zionism or pro-Israelism are simply stuck with unsavoury allies. Some Jews have simply chosen to cut themselves loose from their traditional progressive moorings. Others who simply refuse to join the anti-Muslim bandwagon and reject the post-9/11 Clash of Civilizations-type choice—‘you’re either with us or against us’—they feel they are faced with are left high and dry. If they edge towards those dissenting Jews who have doubts about Zionism, reject the ‘new antisemitism’ thesis and refuse to put support for the policies of an occupying power above the human rights of an occupied people, they are liable to face the hatred and vilification of Zionists whose arguments contain more than a hint of ‘some antisemitic logic’. As Zizek <a href="">writes</a>: ‘their . . . figure of the Jew . . . is constructed in the same way as the European antisemites constructed the figures of the Jew—he is dangerous because he lives among us, but is not really one of us.’</p><p>Zizek sees this as ‘paradoxical’, but—unfortunately—he’s wrong. In fact, from very early on in the development of the Zionist movement, opponents of Zionism were characterised using<a href=""> antisemitic stereotypes</a>. In his 1897 essay ‘Mauschel’, the founder of political Zionism, Theodore Herzl, angered by anti-Zionists, painted the weak ghetto Jew that Zionism was supposed to banish forever as the bad Jew who speaks with a Yiddish accent, a ‘scamp’, ‘a distortion of the human character, unspeakably mean and repellent’, interested only in ‘mean profit’—attributes of an unmistakably antisemitic kind. To a great degree the use of demonising language to describe Jewish opponents of Zionism largely disappeared from mainstream intra-Jewish discourse because Zionism appeared to achieve such hegemonic dominance among Jews everywhere. But as dissenting views became more prominent in the last 20-30 years, so the language used to attack dissidents became ever more strident, once again appropriating antisemitic phraseology, as in, for example, Melanie Phillips’s description of the founding signatories of Independent Jewish Voices as ‘Jews for genocide’. (The dangers of using this kind of language, because words can be ‘performative’, are intelligently spelt out by Thomas Hylland Erikson in his openDemocracy piece, ‘<a href="">The net of hatred: after Utøya</a>’.</p><p>Zionists were not only content to make direct use of antisemitic stereotypes, they also understood full well that antisemitism helped advance the cause, even as they promoted Zionism as the solution to the scourge of antisemitism. Herzl said that ‘the antisemites are Zionism’s staunchest allies’. Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, said in the 1930s that ‘le malheur of the Jews was the chance of Zionism’, and he and his followers knew all too well how to mobilize antisemitism for the achievement of their vision.</p><p>And there is another very contemporary example of how Israel and the Zionist movement are not beyond making common cause with antisemites. Millions of fundamentalist Christian Zionists in America are now among Israel’s staunchest <a href="">supporters</a>. Since 9/11 they have made funding pro-Israel propaganda groups, right-wing Zionist organizations and settlement activity, and providing political backing to the Israeli government’s hard line policies, a central plank of their foreign policy. But they do this because they believe that Christ’s Second Coming will only occur once the land of Israel is fully united. All believers will be transported to meet the Lord, while everybody else, including the Jews, will perish in the battle of Armageddon. So for Christian Zionists, Jews are merely a means to an end. However, it’s no secret that this ideology is suffused with antisemitism. But right-wing Zionists are quite happy to ignore such an awkward fact on the grounds that the support of Christian Zionists for Israel trumps their Jew-hatred.</p><p><strong>Ten years on</strong></p><p>Since 9/11, the growing popularization of the redefinition of antisemitism as hostility to the state of Israel has given licence to Jews and Zionists to act according to the maxim ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’. The forging of links between the Israeli far right and Islamophobic far right groups in Europe, embracing the position of Israel as the front line against the Islamization of Europe, turning a blind eye to the antisemitism of Christian Zionism, entrenching the exclusivity of Jewish nationalism in Israeli law and demonising Jewish dissenters using antisemitic rhetoric have all been made possible by placing Israel at the heart of what is considered antisemitism today. But as I have tried to demonstrate, these developments draw on a deeper, even more murky ideological and political reality: Zionism’s troubling relationship with antisemitism—what Professor Idith Zertal has <a href="">described</a> as the ‘complex, disturbing affinities, and mutual, even if undesired dependence and pragmatic partnership between antisemitism and Zionism’—and the ethno-national and ethno-religious exclusivism that was part of Zionist ideology from the beginning of political Zionism.</p><p><span>The prevailing spirit ten years on from 9/11 seems to be to draw a line under the events, admit to the mistaken policy decisions taken then and, in Jonathan Freedland’s <a href="">words</a>, abandon the ‘careless, undiscriminating monomania’ all too eagerly adopted at the time; to acknowledge that security can never be achieved by military means alone or by curtailing civil liberties and trampling on human rights. Regrettably, Israel, encouraged by hard line Jewish and non-Jewish supporters, hasn’t learnt these lessons. Not only is it continuing along the path followed since 9/11, more inclined than ever to see the world through the distorting prism of the ‘new antisemitism’, it is conniving in worsening its own isolation by drawing the wrong conclusions from events in its region. Rather than seek a positive accommodation with the democratic forces struggling to overturn dictatorships and autocracies in the Arab world, Israel has sought to prop up military juntas on the grounds of the narrowest and ultimately mistaken interpretation of its security interests. This, <a href="">argues</a> Zvi Bar’el in Haaretz, is because Israel is now run by its own form of military junta. The diplomatic meltdown with Egypt and Turkey now facing Israel, as well as the damaging exposure Israel will experience as the Palestinian Authority’s campaign to seek support for the declaration of a Palestinian state at the United Nations comes to a head in the next two weeks, is a case of reaping what you sow. The result is likely to be increasing defensiveness, a strengthening sense of victimhood and even more reliance on an America that the Netanyahu government has made clear it does not trust. This is a high price to pay for treating the destruction of the shared understanding of what constitutes antisemitism as a victory.</span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Israel </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Israel Conflict Culture Ideas International politics 9/11 Antony Lerman Wed, 14 Sep 2011 21:36:37 +0000 Antony Lerman 61434 at Israel and the anti-boycott law: the wider implications of popular indifference <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The motivation for the law is not primarily to give voice to the sentiments of the Israeli-Jewish majority, although it relies on the existence of those sentiments to achieve its goal - and that is something altogether more far-reaching. </div> </div> </div> <p>International Jewish and non-Jewish <a href="">condemnation</a> of the anti-boycott law passed by the Israeli Knesset on 11 July, which makes it an offence for citizens to either advocate or implement an academic, consumer or cultural boycott of Israel, including Jewish settlements in the West Bank, continues to mount. But the man responsible for sponsoring and driving through the legislation, MK Zeev Elkin, chairman of the coalition and a resident of a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, is unrepentant. Asked if he thought the new law would cause Israel international damage, he <a href="">replied</a>: &ldquo;In the long run, I think not.&rdquo; Elkin and his Knesset colleagues are confidently turning their backs on domestic and international opposition to the new law, secure in the knowledge that the majority of the Israeli public supports it.</p> <p>While that confidence may be misplaced, given that the law will almost certainly be challenged in the Supreme Court (although there is no guarantee that any challenge will succeed), there is no gainsaying the power now being wielded by Knesset members intent on cracking down on the very existence of dissenting voices in Israeli civil society - all the way from <a href="">parents&rsquo; groups</a> opposing the militarization of Israeli society to the <a href="">appointees</a> to the Supreme Court - and on any institutions that are less than wholeheartedly fervent in their expression of uncompromising nationalist and anti-Arab/Palestinian enthusiasm. Just how successful they are in driving the political agenda can be seen in the fact that while Prime Minister Netanyahu and other senior political figures absented themselves from the vote, presumably because they were concerned about international reaction, after the event Bibi belatedly felt obliged to place himself in the vanguard of the campaign to enact the anti-boycott law by making a <a href="">public statement</a> taking credit for it: &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t be confused&mdash;I authorized the bill. If I hadn&rsquo;t authorized it, it wouldn&rsquo;t have gotten here.&rdquo; He rejected <a href="">the idea</a> that the law is anti-democratic: &ldquo;What stains [Israel&rsquo;s] image are those savage and irresponsible attacks on a democracy&rsquo;s attempt to draw a line between what is acceptable and what is not&rdquo;, he said.</p> <p><img src="" alt="The Knesset Menorah, Jerusalem, Wkicommons" width="350" height="382" /></p> <p><em></em>&nbsp;<em>The Knesset Menorah, Jerusalem - Hope for Salvation. Wikicommons.</em></p> <p>The furore over the new law did just about make it onto the pages of national newspapers and broadcast news bulletins in the UK and other countries, but with so little coverage of events in Israel and Palestine recently, observers may find it hard to judge what the wider implications of this current controversy may be. The fact that even right-wing organs of opinion in Israel, like the <a href=""><em>Jerusalem Post</em></a>, staunch Jewish institutional defenders of Israel and its government, like the <a href="">Anti-Defamation League</a>, the <a href=";c=ijITI2PHKoG&amp;ct=10903277&amp;notoc=1">American Jewish Committee</a> and <a href="">NGO Monitor</a> and a politically hawkish diaspora Jewish periodical, like the UK&rsquo;s <a href=""><em>Jewish Chronicle</em></a> and many other non-left wing voices have attacked the law for being a dangerous infringement of freedom of speech could give the impression that the Israeli Zionist right has gone too far and is about to be reined in. Or that this is some kind of aberration in a society known for the unfettered character of its public debate. Regrettably, neither of these optimistic conclusions can be justified.</p> <h3>&ldquo;The tail is wagging the dog&rdquo;</h3> <p>Most Israelis are utterly opposed to a boycott of their country and would probably argue that advocates of a boycott are motivated by antisemitism. They would therefore view the aims of the law as uncontentious and would not be troubled by accusations that it undermines freedom of speech. If such freedom gives licence to people to propose measures that would lead to the destruction of the state, many Israelis would no doubt regard it as one freedom well worth curbing. But the motivation for the law is not primarily to give voice to the sentiments of the Israeli-Jewish majority, although it relies on the existence of those sentiments to achieve its goal&mdash;and that is something altogether more far-reaching. As the Labour MK, Daniel Ben Simon, <a href=",7340,L-4094443,00.html">put it</a>, this law &ldquo;binds Israel and the settlements into one piece&rdquo;. In other words it constitutes a&nbsp;<em>de jure</em>&nbsp;annexation of the West Bank by giving legal protection to the settlements for the first time and in effect obliges Israelis to support the settlements by doing business with them. Or in <a href="">Bradley Burston&rsquo;s</a> words: &ldquo;The measure erases the legal differentiation between settlements and Israel proper, regarding targeted boycotts against goods from the settlements as actions harmful to the state of Israel itself.&rdquo;</p> <p>This move can hardly have come as a surprise to Israelis, Israel&rsquo;s supporters in Jewish communities worldwide and those governments, particularly in the west, that are sympathetic to Israel&rsquo;s definition of its existential concerns. In reality, the settlement movement has been insidiously hijacking politics and the apparatus of the state for years. And since the advent of the Netanyahu government in 2009, any limitations on this process have been greatly weakened. The prime minister may have rhetorically accepted the 2-state solution, but all his actions - or perhaps it would be better to speak of his inactions - have been designed to prevent its implementation. In the absence of any serious government peace initiatives and as a result of the government&rsquo;s refusal to halt settlement building, the political initiative has been ceded decisively to the settlers and their political allies. As <a href="">Yossi Verter</a> summed it up: &ldquo;there is no government in Israel and no head of government. The tail is wagging the dog. Junior MKs dictate the national agenda to the government.&rdquo; It&rsquo;s as if the settlement project has openly swallowed the state whole.</p> <h3>Sliding down the anti-democratic slope</h3> <p>The anti-boycott law is just one of a slew of anti-democratic, racist and repressive measures introduced mostly by Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) MKs since the 2009 general election. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) monitors these developments. At the end of July last year it produced a list of <a href="">the top 14 anti-democratic Knesset bills</a>. Some have passed into law, like the Naqba law, which prohibits the use of taxpayers&rsquo; funds to commemorate the establishment of the state of Israel as a tragedy - a direct attack on the Palestinians&rsquo; perception of their experience of 1948 - and the anti-boycott law. Others are still under, or are awaiting, consideration (and often subject to political infighting between the main right-wing parties). For example, the foreign state funding bill, which targets left-wing political organizations and human rights groups in order to curb their activities, and a bill giving the Knesset veto power over appointments of Supreme Court justices, by means of hearings for candidates in the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee - a proposal that Likud MKs were already announcing, to the excitement of the Likud central committee, as their next legislative project barely 48 hours after the vote on anti-boycott bill. It&rsquo;s true that Netanyahu, only hours later, <a href="">publicly stated</a> that the government would oppose this second bill and protect the Supreme Court, but his behaviour over the boycott law suggests that such commitments are distinctly flaky.</p> <p>The targets of these illiberal measures - the NGO sector - are doing what they can to fight back against the attacks on their credibility and very existence. But there is no public groundswell of support for them. On the contrary, there seems to be a popular appetite for, or at least an indifference to, the undermining of individual human rights and the bolstering of the tyrannical power of the hard-line Zionist right-wing in the Knesset. Much of the comment in Israel objecting to the anti-boycott law focused very specifically on the principle of freedom of speech, almost in abstract, and showed no sympathy for the aims and objectives of the human rights NGOs or the groups defending the rights of Palestinian-Israelis. As the columnist <a href="">Carlo Strenger</a> put it:&nbsp; &ldquo;The result of Netanyahu and Lieberman's systematic fanning of Israeli's existential fears is tangible in Israel: polls show that Israelis are deeply pessimistic about peace; they largely do not trust Palestinians, and in the younger generation belief in democratic values is being eroded.&rdquo;</p> <h3>Embracing isolation</h3> <p>In a society where there is increasing sympathy for the notion of &ldquo;transfer&rdquo; - the expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank and of Palestinian citizens from Israel - as well as growing hostility to foreign workers, attacks on academic freedom, a religious right unashamedly propagating racist measures against Arabs, accentuation of the character of Israel as a specifically &ldquo;Jewish&rdquo; state in which rights of citizenship vary according to religious or ethnic identity, the anti-boycott law will only strengthen the growing international perception that Israel&rsquo;s citizenship values diverge from those in the countries with which it most likes to associate itself, especially the United States. These trends have been accentuated ever since the pro-democracy character of the Arab uprisings became clear. As <a href="">Paul Pillar</a> wrote in the <em>National Interest</em>: &ldquo;Not only have the demands for popular sovereignty in Arab countries highlighted the deprivation of popular sovereignty for Palestinian Arabs; to the extent that democracy emerges in any Arab countries, it undercuts the old we're-the-only-democracy-in-the-Middle-East argument that repeatedly gets served up to Americans.&rdquo;</p> <p>The situation is made even worse by the failure of right-wing Israeli politicians to understand the international climate. There is certainly hostility to Israel across the region but the prevailing Israeli mindset, reinforced by the kind of scenes we saw when the US congress lapped up every intransigent word and phrase of Prime Minister Netanyahu&rsquo;s speech in late May, refuses to recognize that the state has anything to answer for and sees its image problem almost entirely as a matter of improving the country&rsquo;s public relations. The popular mood is both sullen and self-satisfied. Carlo Strenger writes: &ldquo;Ordinary citizens in Israel don't trust the world; its politicians are richly rewarded for noisy declarations of undying patriotism and for defying the world.&rdquo; Israelis are understandably tired of constant wars and international vilification. On the other hand, many Israelis <a href=",7340,L-4095771,00.html">would agree</a> that &ldquo;Israel is currently experiencing one of the finest periods in its history&rdquo;: low unemployment, booming tourism, radically reduced fears about security, the introduction of major reforms in transport, education and communication.</p> <p>If this combination of aggressive nationalism, a political leadership devoid of principle and led by the nose by anti-democratic parliamentary factions, a drive to silence the country&rsquo;s &ldquo;fifth column&rdquo; and disloyal &ldquo;alien&rdquo; elements, a mounting sense of regional isolation and the celebration of the fruits of a kind of economic autarky&mdash;if all this is reminiscent of incipient or proto-fascism, it&rsquo;s an observation made by many worried and loyal Israelis in recent months and years. <em>Ha&rsquo;aretz</em>&rsquo;s Burston writes about &ldquo;learning about fascism one step at a time&rdquo;. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m learning that the success of the Boycott Bill is a textbook case of the quiet appeal, the brilliant disguise, the endlessly adaptable expertise in the workings of democracy, that help explain the progress of fascism in our time. So this is what I've found out so far: At first, it doesn't feel like fascism. That's why it works.&rdquo; Last November, the <a href="">Director of ACRI</a> told me that &ldquo;proto-fascism is becoming normal&rdquo;.</p> <h3>Significance of the diaspora Jewish response</h3> <p>Finally, the response of diaspora Jewish supporters of Israel to the new law is undoubtedly significant. Despite a shift to the right in recent years, Jews are generally still on the liberal side of liberal societies. While some have become disillusioned with the culture of human rights, because they believe that bodies like the UN Human Rights Council are grossly unfair in singling out Israel for condemnation, many still care deeply about human rights, oppose the occupation and support the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. I don&rsquo;t know for certain, but I suspect very many such Jews have a bifurcated attitude on the question of boycott. They may well support, even if only by personal action, the boycott of produce from Jewish settlements in the West Bank, but they are utterly opposed to&nbsp;boycotting universities or businesses in Israel. They argue that it would hit liberal Israelis who are themselves severely critical of the Netanyahu government. Underpinning such views is the common, unspoken feeling one senses among even very concerned Jews: a visceral shrinking back from the idea that Israeli Jews could ever deserve the treatment meted out to apartheid South Africa. For them, it was perfectly logical and principled to separate boycotting Jewish settlements in the West Bank from boycotting Israel proper. The settlements represent the Zionism that has gone astray. Pre-'67 Israel still represents the values of democracy, human rights, equality and the rule of law.</p> <p>How ironic then, or even tragic, that such good friends of Israel have been consigned, at a stroke, to the category of enemies of the state. Some of them have spent years of their voluntary time supporting Israel in one way or another, donating funds to charities, investing in Israeli businesses, defending the country in political forums and working for Jewish-Palestinian reconciliation. But it&rsquo;s clear that they have failed to come to terms with the fundamentally disastrous changes in Israeli society, aided and abetted by Bibi Netanyahu and epitomised by the passing of the anti-boycott legislation. It's a nice distinction to think that the settlements are not the &lsquo;real&rsquo; Israel. Now such Jews <a href="">must face the fact</a> that &ldquo;the settlements have annexed the state of Israel&rdquo;.</p> <p>Some commentators see a glimmer of hope in the broadly negative response to the law across the mainstream political spectrum in the Jewish diaspora. I find myself feeling far less sanguine. If enlightened Jews persist in holding to this illusory image of Israel, no matter what good works they may do supporting Israeli human rights organizations, they become part of the problem and not the solution. Israeli political leaders can continue to wrap themselves in the language of Jewish peoplehood with impunity&mdash;a very important weapon in their armoury: Jews worldwide, whether they like it or not, are enlisted as transnational allies in the state&rsquo;s lone stand against the forces of regional and international darkness.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s not the law itself that matters, it&rsquo;s the history that&rsquo;s produced it, the context out of which it has emerged, the trends that look set to continue irrespective of what actually happens to the law. There&rsquo;s no easy way out of this morass. But at a panel discussion on the Arab uprisings and the Israel-Palestine conflict, organized by Independent Jewish Voices on 14 July at Birkbeck, University of London, Ian Black, the <em>Guardian</em>&rsquo;s Middle East editor cut to the quick when he said there&rsquo;ll never be any real change until, &ldquo;Israel reconciles itself with the Palestinians&rdquo;.&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item even"> Palestine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Palestine Israel Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Equality International politics Antony Lerman Tue, 19 Jul 2011 08:04:49 +0000 Antony Lerman 60491 at "Racism" or "Racist incident", what's the difference? UCU and the EUMC ‘working definition’ of antisemitism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Is it good to pretend that racism can be identified simply with reference to the victim's perception of racism? The Macpherson report into the conduct of the police in investigating the killing of Stephen Lawrence is being mis-read </div> </div> </div> <p>The decision of the Universities and College Union’s congress at the end of May to ban use of the European Union Monitoring Centre’s ‘working definition’ of antisemitism greatly angered a variety of <a href="">groups and individuals</a> —Jews and non-Jews—who believe the UCU is soft on Jew-hatred.</p> <p>Proponents of the ban argued that ‘the EUMC definition confuses criticism of Israeli government policy and actions with genuine antisemitism, and is being used to silence debate about Israel and Palestine on campus’. Opponents countered by claiming that the UCU refuses to take members’ complaints of antisemitism in the organization seriously, that union members who earlier at congress had voted for a boycott of Israeli academia are motivated by antisemitism and that banning use of the EUMC definition is tantamount to denying that antisemitism exists, because it leaves the union without any definition at all. Although the resolution adopted does not say that the UCU must now ignore instances of antisemitism and in fact it <a href="">acknowledges</a> that ‘genuine antisemitism’ must be fought<a href="" target="_blank"></a>, critics argue that the UCU is ‘institutionally racist’, according to the definition of institutional racism in the 1999 Macpherson Report produced by the panel that conducted an inquiry into the 1993 murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence.</p> <p>In a highly significant development, these critics have gone even further and argue that the congress’s decision means that the UCU has rejected the Macpherson Report’s definition of racism. And that this justifies attacking the UCU for denying Jews the Macpherson-conferred right to be the sole arbiters of what is and what is not antisemitism. This was already anticipated before the debate. In the <a title="Martin Bright, &#039;Fightback on definition of antisemitism&#039;, Jewish Chronicle, 26 May 2011" href=""><em>Jewish Chronicle</em> on 26 May, Martin Bright wrote</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>Senior figures in the Jewish leadership have voiced concerns [about the UCU motion on the EUMC 'working definition'] to Trevor Phillips, chair of the EHRC. A letter has been sent from the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council and the Community Security Trust, urging the body to make a stand on the issue.</p> <p>The Jewish organisations have suggested that Mr Phillips re-emphasise the recommendations of the Macpherson Report into the murder of the south London teenager Stephen Lawrence.</p> <p>This defined a racist incident as ‘any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person’, and is now the definition used by police when antisemitic attacks are reported.</p> <p>The Board, the JLC and the CST have also written to UCU general secretary Sally Hunt and TUC general secretary Brendan Barber to ask them to sign up to the Macpherson definition of racism.</p></blockquote> <p>Among those commenting since the vote, a similar and perhaps even identical strategy is being advocated. For example, <a title="Adam Langleben, Left Foot Forward" href="">Adam Langleben, writing on the Left Foot Forward website, says</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>[The 'working definition's] widespread adoption would appear to be in line with the recommendations of the <a href="">MacPherson Inquiry</a>, whose report following the death of Stephen Lawrence stated that an incident is racist if: ‘… it is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.’</p></blockquote> <p>Langleben then goes on to quote the Macpherson Report’s definition of institutional racism and states: ‘This seems to be exactly what has occurred in the UCU.’ He concludes:</p> <blockquote><p><strong>Jewish organisations are now calling for an EHRC formal inquiry, a demand supported by John Mann MP.</strong> For the UCU, not only to ignore the concerns of its Jewish academics and community members - but to actively vote to dismiss them out of hand - disgraces the Left.</p></blockquote> <p>If ‘disgrace’ accrues to anyone in this debate, I’m afraid it’s to those arguing in this fashion.</p> <p>If by ‘definition of racism’ what is meant is a comprehensive definition of the term, the fact is that the Macpherson Report <em>did not provide any such thing</em>. It had a lot to say on the subject, because the failures in the police investigation of Stephen Lawrence’s murder were largely due to conscious or unconscious racism. But Macpherson gave only two definitions in relation to racism. <a title="Macpherson Report recommendations 12 and 13" href="">The first appears in the Report as follows</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>DEFINITION OF RACIST INCIDENT</p> <p>12. That the definition should be:</p> <p><em>‘A racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person’.</em></p> <p>13. That the term ‘racist incident’ must be understood to include crimes and non-crimes in policing terms. Both must be reported, recorded and investigated with equal commitment.</p></blockquote> <p>The second is a <a title="Macpherson Report 6.34" href="">definition of institutional racism</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>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.</p></blockquote> <p>It’s surely obvious that neither separately nor taken together do these definitions comprise a comprehensive definition of racism. However, they are both used to attack the UCU.</p> <p>As far as whether the UCU is institutionally racist, since it is an institution, it’s theoretically possible that it is racist. Macpherson did not intend the concept to apply to the police force alone, but to any institution. I’m not a member of the UCU and while I’m partially familiar with some of the accusations against the UCU in relation to Jewish members expressing their concerns about antisemitism, I’m not in a position to make a judgement.</p> <p>However, I do know that the UCU held a series of three all-day events last year, in Brighton, the University of Northumbria and at the UCU central office in London, under the heading ‘The Legacy of Hope: Anti-Semitism, The Holocaust and Resistance, Yesterday and Today’. This was in fulfilment of a resolution passed at the UCU 2009 conference to begin a campaign against antisemitism. The presenters were not only knowledgeable about the subject, but also represented a range of views on the issue of the relationship between criticism of Israel and antisemitism. They included Philip Spencer, Robert Fine, Brian Klug, David Hirsh, Gilbert Achcar, Mary Davis, Tom Hickey, John Rose. Sally Hunt chaired the Brighton event. The union produced an excellent educational wall poster on the Holocaust and subsequently a publication ‘The Legacy of Hope: Resistance, Yesterday and Today.’</p> <p>The holding of these events does not in and of itself acquit the UCU of any accusations that might be made against it of institutional antisemitism, but it certainly makes such accusations rather difficult to stand up. And it’s curious to say the least, that in all the ire and threats directed at the UCU by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council, Engage and so on, the fact that these events were held is, as far as I can tell, never mentioned.</p> <p>But far more important is the use made of the first definition: of a racist incident. This is because it has been widely interpreted as laying down a general rule as to who and who is not entitled to define the racism experienced by a particular minority or ethnic group. We can see this in <a title="Ronnie Fraser speech at UCU Congress" href="">the speech Ronnie Fraser gave</a> during the UCU debate on the motion to distance the union from the EUMC definition:</p> <blockquote><p>Congress, Imagine how it feels when you say that you are experiencing racism, and your union responds: ‘Stop lying, stop trying to play the antisemitism card.’</p> <p>You, a group of mainly white, non-Jewish trade unionists, do not have the right to tell me, a Jew, what feels like antisemitism and what does not.</p> <p>Macpherson tells us that when somebody says they have been a victim of racism, then institutions should begin by believing them. This motion mandates the union to do the opposite.</p></blockquote> <p>What Fraser implies here and what is stated and implied very broadly, for example by the Union of Jewish Students I believe, Israeli politicians and representatives of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, is that only the group that experiences racism is entitled to define what that racism consists of. In other words, only Jews can define what antisemitism is because they are the ones who experience it. So from a specific instruction to the police that the victim’s perception of the motive for an attack is what the police must record as the motive for the attack, we move to a general rule that only the victim can define the racism he or she experiences.</p> <p>That this elision is highly problematic was in fact recognised by the Community Security Trust. Its <em><a title="CST Antisemitic Discourse Report 2009 p. 12" href="">Antisemitic Discourse Report 2009</a></em> states:</p> <blockquote><p>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 <em>only where it can be objectively shown to be the case</em> [emphasis added],and this may not always match the victim’s perception as called for by the Lawrence Inquiry. 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 often controversial subject.</p></blockquote> <p>Clearly, the CST has sympathy for the principle that the victim’s experience must be heard and taken into account, but that ultimately judging what constitutes antisemitism must be determined objectively. It cannot rest solely with the victim.</p> <p>This is a commendable statement and an important reservation concerning the Macpherson definition of a racial incident. But it brings us back to what the Macpherson Report was setting out to achieve by framing the definition of a racist incident in this way. This is not by any means difficult to establish. It was conscious or unconscious racism that fatally affected the ability of the police to conduct a professional investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. The report goes into this in great depth. Most of the recommendations therefore relate to reforming and improving police behaviour. And the definition of a racist incident was clearly meant as a very simple and very direct way of doing that: insisting that police must not only keep accurate records of racist incidents, but that they must record that an incident is racist if the victim says it is. At no point does the report move from that very specific and narrow point to a generalisation that racism is what the victim says it is. And I am certain that neither Macpherson nor his fellow inquiry members ever intended that readers of his report and recommendations should understand that this what what they meant.</p> <p>There are therefore absolutely no grounds for attacking the UCU for rejecting the Macpherson definition of racism. It did no such thing; there is no such definition.</p> <p>This turns the spotlight back on the organizations, groups, activists, bloggers and so on who are using this as a tactic to attack the UCU for its decision to distance itself from the EUMC ‘working definition’ of antisemitism. Sadly, it’s once again a sign of the appalling leadership being offered to the Jewish community by the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council, the CST, <a title=" UCU must be shunned, press release" href="">the Zionist Federation</a>, the Union of Jewish Students and other groups. Their egos are being massaged by people like Adam Langleben who writes on <a title="Adam Langleben, &#039;UCU is actively alienating its Jewish members&#039;&#039;, 4 June 2011" href="">Left Foot Forward</a> that the EUMC ‘working definition’ is ‘the definition that the democratically elected representative bodies of the Jewish community broadly agree on’ – that is ‘democratically elected’ as in ‘mostly self-appointed’ and ‘representative’ as in ‘representative of a minority, and mostly a tiny minority: namely ourselves’. And they’re aided and abetted by websites like <a title="Simply Jews" href="">Simply Jews</a> that write hyperbolically about ‘the extent this teachers union will go to bury its inherent single minded racism against its Jewish members’ and laughably excoriate Jewish leaders for offering no ‘viable leadership to combat manifestations of modern antisemitism’ – when it sometimes seems Jewish leadership thinks it’s doing nothing else.</p> <p>They really must stop and think again. If they don’t listen to me, they should read <a title="Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Jewish Chronicle, 2 June 2011" href="">Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg’s 2 June op-ed article in the </a><em><a title="Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Jewish Chronicle, 2 June 2011" href="">Jewish Chronicle</a>. </em>‘Don’t let antisemitism take over our narrative’ he pleads.</p> <blockquote><p>Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are the dominant concerns of British Jewish life today. And anyone who engages at the challenging frontiers between Islam and Judaism, Israelis and Palestinians, may fear short shrift. . . . Our story, and our telling of it, is becoming strident.</p></blockquote> <p>He states clearly that ‘vigilance is necessary’ but goes on:</p> <blockquote><p>Yet, without relinquishing such vigilance, I believe it is important to uphold a narrative of greater imagination and tolerance. ‘Either you’re for us or you’re totally against us’ expresses an oversimplified, often bigoted world-view. It’s easy to brand others as antisemites, hard to engage at the borders between ourselves and those who don’t see the world as we do.</p></blockquote> <p>‘My point is that we shouldn’t make “the world hates us” our motto,’ Rabbi Wittenberg writes. This is precisely what Jewish leaders are doing in their intemperate and deeply misguided response to the UCU vote.</p> <p><em><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/richard-kuper/hue-and-cry-over-ucu">Hue and cry over the UCU</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> England </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> England Conflict Equality Antony Lerman Tue, 07 Jun 2011 19:01:09 +0000 Antony Lerman 59890 at Celebrity anti-semitism teaches us very little about the reality of prejudice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Galliano, Sheen, Assange: three unrelated episodes of alleged celebrity antisemitism have been transformed into a story of a general resurgence of prejudice. But does the story stand up to careful examination? </div> </div> </div> <p>The outbursts of alleged antisemitic sentiment by <a href="">John Galliano</a><a href=""></a>, <a href="">Charlie Sheen</a><a href=""></a> and <a href="">Julian Assange</a> have been roundly condemned. It shows that there is still widespread sensitivity to the public expression of antisemitic and racist views, especially when public figures are involved. And everyone concerned with combating such prejudice should surely find this encouraging.<br /><br />But as is often the case when a cluster of such attention-grabbing incidents occur, commentators are instantly prompted to tell us what they think these events say about the state of antisemitism today. The instinct to ask the question is reasonable enough, but the tendency to jump so quickly to conclusions might not be. From the following short quotes, there seems to be considerable support for the view that the recent incidents have shown antisemitism to be continuous, enduring, pervasive, newly threatening: they ‘reinforced reports of an alarming increase in antisemitism’ (<a href="">Andrew McCorkell</a>, Independent), provided evidence that antisemitism is ‘the hatred that refuses to go away’ (<a href="">Jonathan Freedland</a>, Guardian), indicated that ‘our liberal, creative elite [has] rediscovered an ancient prejudice’ (<a href="">Julian Kossoff</a>, Daily Telegraph), demonstrated that it was ‘the week that antisemitism became really, properly zeitgeisty again’ (<a href="">David Baddiel</a>, Daily Telegraph<a href=""></a>) and confirmed ‘the increasing acceptability of antisemitic abuse so long [as] it is couched within an Israel-Palestine context’ (<a href="">Norman Lebrecht</a>, Arts Journal blog).<br /><br />But while it’s possible to understand why these commentators reach such conclusions, a tad more circumspection might have been wise. A brief critique of the quotes shows that there are fundamental flaws in the pieces from which they are taken. Claims of an alarming increase in antisemitism don’t square with <a href="">information</a> announced in January by the Israeli government’s Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism that antisemitic incidents were down in 2010 from a high in 2009. The statement that antisemitism is ‘the hatred that refuses to go away’ implies that other hatreds have disappeared, but there is no evidence of this. To say that Galliano, Sheen and Assange are representative of ‘our liberal, creative elite’ is absurdly far-fetched. Antisemitism ‘zeitgeisty’?—how can it be the spirit of the time when there was such condemnation of the incidents? And finally, in the three cases under consideration, the abuse was ‘couched’ entirely outside an ‘Israel-Palestine context’.<br /><br />It’s perhaps not surprising that these writers display such weaknesses. None of them are experts in the subject. Not that experts have all the answers or that they would all agree. But it’s surely not unreasonable to expect that editors seeking informed comment should search for scholars and researchers who, while able to communicate their views effectively and succinctly, have at least got serious credentials. Isn’t there something absurd, even paradoxical, about seeking the wisdom of celebrity writers commenting on the verbal inanities of celebrities?<br /><br />Prejudice of all forms latches on to people, and through this process is constantly being renewed from generation to generation. While no amount of education or living together will ever eradicate it completely, the recent past has seen very great improvements. But such efforts must be supplemented by continuous research that examines, for each particular case of prejudice, what exactly it is, what motivates it, how it is being lived and transformed <em>now, </em>in <em>this</em> context. This careful examination of the particular is the only way we can hope to combat and confront prejudice in all its many changing manifestations. <br /><br />This is certainly the case with antisemitism, which has been around in some form or other so long, unfortunately, that our ability to understand or combat its current manifestations will only be enhanced if we refrain from trying to come up with instant, all-encompassing explanations, but rather take a more reflective approach. (<a href="">Linda Grant</a> <a href=""></a> did this rather effectively in her assessment that for Galliano ‘antisemitism is only another taboo . . . by invoking the name of Hitler and gloating about the gas chambers, he is only doing what others have always paid him to do: shock.’)</p><p>Antisemitism is a hot issue which demands cool and rational differentiated analysis. Making broad judgements about it in a climate of justified high indignation is probably unwise. Such a climate tends to develop when incidents occur that involve celebrities, government ministers, prominent businessmen and leading clergy. They rapidly become public controversies in which it’s soon difficult to separate out the incident from the response. Reactions and interpretations very quickly colour how we see the offending event, obscuring both its singularity and the social, cultural and political context in which it occurs.<br /><br />It may be tempting to lump together consecutively-occurring incidents, but the connections between them may be more complex than at first appears. This seems to me to be the case with the events in question.</p><p>The insult may be compounded by three alleged expressions of anti-Jewish hostility emerging within days of each other, but it’s very dodgy to build a theory about the salience of current antisemitism on an incident in a Paris bar that may never have come to light, a television interview with an actor already notorious for volatile and abusive behaviour and a report of a conversation between two people to which no one else was a party and which the ‘guilty’ individual disputes.</p><p>One common feature is highly significant, however, and that’s the role of modern media. It’s inconceivable that that these events would have impinged so rapidly on public consciousness 20 years ago, which raises the question: Just because we can see more of everything and comment on it so much more quickly, does that mean antisemitism has ‘increased’ or rather that we’re made aware so much faster of the antisemitism that already exists?<br /><br />Adopting a differentiated approach effectively means rejecting a theory of antisemitism, most fully realised in the work of <a href="">Professor Robert Wistrich</a>, that feeds much current comment: that antisemitism is a unique, continuous phenomenon, stretching back two millennia, that defies parallels and comparisons. Other leading historians of antisemitism, such as <a href="">Professor David Feldman</a>, who heads the new <a href="">Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism</a>&nbsp; at Birkbeck University of London, <a href="">Professor Tony Kushner&nbsp;</a> at Southampton and <a href="">Dr Adam Sutcliffe</a>&nbsp; at Kings College London, have developed a body of work that sets antisemitism within a wider context of Jewish-non-Jewish relations and does not see attitudes to Jews exclusively through the prism of prejudice.</p><p>In my view this is crucial in illuminating what is happening today because it helps understand the coexistence of outbursts of antisemitic sentiment and intensely pro-Jewish attitudes, sometimes in the same person. The tendency of so much instant comment is to look one-dimensionally at anti-Jewish prejudice and ignore the wider context of countervailing forces, the degree to which Jews have played a part in shaping their relations with the wider society, general ignorance about Jews, the revival of Jewish life in countries where antisemitism has been rife and the strong commitment to combating antisemitism that exists among governments and senior politicians in democratic societies. All this <a href="">calls into question</a> whether we should attribute much significance to these celebrity outbursts.<br /><br />None of this means that antisemitism is of no consequence today or that it does not represent a serious danger. Rather, it suggests that what tends to grab attention may not tell us very much about deeper trends and that our assumptions about antisemitism’s recent history are incorrect.</p><p>For example, in the writings of those who are most alarmist about current antisemitism, it is often baldly stated that antisemitism went away after the war because of revulsion at the Holocaust and has now come back with a vengeance. There was a post-war hope that the cultural objects of prejudice could be relatively easily eradicated by liberalism. This has not happened. The instinct, which intensified in the late 1960s, to move in that direction through human rights and anti-racial discrimination conventions and charters has had a very positive impact. The key innovation of this period has been to aim to eradicate prejudice on the grounds that it is a human right to be different and to preserve that difference.</p><p>For years, especially since the view that antisemitism had suddenly returned emerged so strongly post-9/11, I and other experienced researchers have been pointing out (<a href=""><span></span></a><span>) that the failure of the most naive post-war hopes imply that antisemitism never went away. Therefore whatever intensification has occurred builds on a pretty substantial base. In which case, we are not confronting such unprecedented phenomena as some like to claim.</span></p>Condemning hardcore antisemitic discourse and cartoons is the easy bit. More relevant to deeper understanding might be a relatively prosaic factor—because it’s seen perhaps as an old story—like the significance of the advance of far right, anti-immigrant and Islamophobic parties in Europe. Support for the BNP and the English Defence League show Britain is not immune, a fact further confirmed by the results of the recent <a href="">Searchlight opinion pol</a>l which showed that almost half the country would vote for far-Right parties if they gave up violence. <br /><br />Very little attention is given to the consequences of large scale migration from countries where education against prejudice, racism and antisemitism is inadequate and in some cases non-existent. (This is not an argument against a liberal immigration policy, with which I am in favour, but a call to develop special educational measures to deal with a specific problem - much as the human rights approach to prejudice has tried to do.) And while there is a hue and cry in some circles at the nasty expressions of antisemitism which tips up online in responses to blogposts on newspaper websites, violent language is common in such fora across the internet. What needs to be considered is whether this lends respectability to antisemitism and creates converts or whether it simply gives the existing cohorts of antisemites an opportunity to verbalise their hate anonymously in a form not available to them before. Unpleasant as it is, it may allow people to vent&nbsp; hatred and so may actually limit destructive power.<br /><br />Discussion should focus on the many other troubling manifestations of antisemitism and on the conceptual problems faced by analysts in determining what is and what is not antisemitic. (I’ve deliberately steered clear of the entire and highly controversial antisemitism-Israel-Palestine nexus, which is central to any assessment of antisemitism today. As far as I can see it played no part in the Galliano or Sheen cases, and while it may have figured in Assange’s thinking, his main apparent animus against some Jews emerged in a rather traditional form.) Paying too much attention to Galliano et al. is surely misplaced and is highly unlikely to reveal anything profound.<br /><br /><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> Equality Culture Antony Lerman Thu, 10 Mar 2011 19:14:51 +0000 Antony Lerman 58452 at Antony Lerman <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Antony Lerman </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-firstname"> <div class="field-label">First name(s):&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Anthony </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-surname"> <div class="field-label">Surname:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Lerman </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> London </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-country"> <div class="field-label">Country:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> England </div> </div> </div> <p class="Default">Antony Lerman is a Senior Fellow at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue, Vienna and an Honorary Fellow at the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations, Southampton University. He is also a member of the Black-Jewish Forum, a member of the Advisory Committee of the Holocaust Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum and a founding member of the Jewish Forum for Justice and Human Rights and the Independent Jewish Voices steering group. He is the author of <em>The Making and Unmaking of a Zionist: A Personal and Political Journey </em>(Pluto Press 2012). He tweets <a href="">@tonylerman</a>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-au-shortbio"> <div class="field-label">One-Line Biography:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> &lt;p&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-size: 11pt; font-family: Times New Roman; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;&quot;&gt;Antony Lerman is the former Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research and founding editor of &lt;/span&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-size: 11pt; font-family: Times New Roman; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: italic; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;&quot;&gt;Antisemitism World Report&lt;/span&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-size: 11pt; font-family: Times New Roman; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;&quot;&gt;, published yearly from 1992-1998. He blogs at &lt;a href=&quot;;&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;br&gt;&lt;/span&gt;&lt;/p&gt; </div> </div> </div> Antony Lerman Wed, 09 Mar 2011 19:29:27 +0000 Antony Lerman 58453 at The pro-Israel lobby in Britain: Antony Lerman's foreword <p>Lobbies, interest groups, policy think tanks and the like are an integral part of our political system and of practically all liberal democratic societies. And it is perfectly right that citizens should be free to organize themselves in these and any other ways to participate in and influence the democratic process as long as what they do is legal, does not contravene the accepted standards of public life and breaks no moral or ethical codes. But in exchange for this right, such groups have to fulfil certain obligations: to be transparent and open to scrutiny, to accept as entirely legitimate the public discussion of methods they use, to be accountable for their actions and to be ready and willing to participate in this oversight process by supplying information and engaging in discussion about what they do in the public arena.</p><p>Just as there is no reason why there should not be lobbies on any matter of political concern from the narrowest of domestic matters to the widest of international issues, so too there is no reason why those engaged in lobbying on Britain’s policies towards other countries should be exempt from the obligations I have already outlined. In a globalised and increasingly interdependent world, and with a multicultural and multiethnic population, Britain needs to engage more than ever in multilateral relationships with other countries. British citizens who have strong family, historical and cultural ties with those countries will naturally wish to ensure that the British government has a favourable relationship with them. This is simply a reflection of the fact that we live in an age when people are increasingly comfortable with multiple identities and transnational relationships, when being part of a diaspora does not mean sitting on bags waiting to return “home” but rather allows the individual to maintain their cultural heritage but integrate fully into British society. All of this should be a source of strength for the UK, not of weakness or fear.</p><p>However, where a particular newish state is in violent conflict with its neighbours or with elements of its indigenous population, where there are suspicions or evidence of serious human rights violations and where there was once a difficult relationship with the country that was involved in bringing the state into being, organized lobbying for that state is bound to bring challenges and be controversial. This is a scenario that applies to a number of countries, not just Israel. But because there are so many interlocking critical issues at stake in the Israel-Palestine conflict and in other conflicts affecting the entire Middle East—oil, terrorism, religious extremism, arms sales, nuclear weapons—it is not surprising that Channel 4’s Dispatches team should choose to examine the way the Israel lobby operates in the UK.</p><p>As someone who has worked professionally in the Jewish community for many years, and directed a policy think tank dealing with issues relating to the position of Jews in Britain and other European countries, I am convinced that it is best for any minority to be as open as possible to the wider society. Minority groups may think they have good reason—fear of persecution and discrimination for example—to keep themselves to themselves, and they should be free to do so if they wish, but this only perpetuates ignorance about them, plays into false perceptions that such groups are monolithic and presents a misleading picture of internal unity, which plays into the hands of community leaders, invariably men, with regressive and counterproductive agendas. Not being open to the wider society only makes minority groups more vulnerable.</p><p>It is therefore very much in the interests of the Jewish population of the UK that private organizations, like those which make up the Israel lobby here, and which claim to be doing things for the benefit of Jews, are open to scrutiny by public bodies, the media and Jewish groups and individuals who are concerned. Indeed, since we know only too well that the position of Jews in this country is directly affected by the violent twists and turns in the Middle East conflict, the impact that the Israel lobby has on government and opinion formers is of immediate and direct concern to Britain’s entire Jewish population, whether they consider themselves part of the organized community or not. So when I first learnt that Dispatches was planning to make a documentary film, which would examine the way the Israel lobby operates in the UK, I immediately saw it as a valuable exercise, though understandably one that may be seen as controversial and carried risks.</p><p>For some years I have been concerned about the role of the Israel lobby in maintaining and pursuing a view of Israel’s interests that in my opinion is neither conducive to furthering the cause of a genuine Israel-Palestine peace nor helpful for British Jewry. It is certainly true that for many Jews in this country, Israel has become a significant element of their Jewish identity, and this is perfectly understandable. It contributed greatly to a restoration of a sense of Jewish pride, self-confidence and security after the horrors of the Holocaust. And it has played an important role in a revival of Jewish educational, cultural and religious activity around the world. But there has always been a significant sector of the Jewish population for whom the state of Israel was either incompatible with their strictly held Jewish religious beliefs, with their rejection of nationalism and the concept of an ethno-religious state, or with their belief that assimilation was the best path for Jews to follow in order to become productive citizens of this country. In the last two decades, as Jews have become even more settled and comfortable in British society, there has been a weakening of the psychological, emotional and ideological ties with Israel which prevailed in the first few decades after the establishment of the state, a phenomenon particularly apparent among younger Jews. At the same time, a remarkable indigenous revival of Jewish culture has taken place, which contains Israeli influences but also reflects an increasingly critical mode of engagement with Israel on the part of growing numbers of British Jews.</p><p>Meanwhile, for many years now Israel has no longer relied on philanthropic support from Diaspora Jews and has developed a political system and culture which even strong supporters of the state regard with deep unease. But the key point is that this is the path chosen by what is a sovereign state, a state which, like any other, defines its own interests and pursues them. Whatever was the situation in the early years of the state, those interests do not automatically coincide with the interests of the Jewish population of the UK, or with any other Jewish community outside of Israel, even though successive Israeli governments always try to imply the opposite. The urgent and fundamental task of reaching a just resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians by withdrawing from occupied territory, dismantling settlements, solving the Palestinian refugee issue and fulfilling Palestinian national aspirations is made harder by the way Israel attempts to link its increasingly intransigent approach to peace to what it defines as the fate of the Jewish people as a whole. And the actions of the Israel lobby in the UK work to validate that view, to the profound detriment of the future of Jewish life in this country and of the independent and autonomous path Jews have forged for themselves, as an integral part of Britain’s multicultural society, over recent decades.</p><p>For those Jews who feel as I do, it should be possible in our liberal democracy, where free speech is the norm and change can come about through open discussion and dialogue, for us to question the role played by the Israel lobby and seek to counter its influence. This does not mean delegitimising Israel or undermining its national aspirations. It has achieved its national goals. These are a given. What it does mean is actually something more positive for Israel than that which is offered by the Israel lobby: ideas for a future in which Palestinian and Israeli human rights are protected and promoted, the national aspirations of the Palestinian people are fulfilled, Israel lives in peace with its neighbours and becomes fully integrated into the region. Arguing for these ideas as better alternatives to those offered by the Israel lobby is something which should be able to take place, on the one hand, without the demonising of Jewish critics of Israel or the levelling of accusations of antisemitism or Jewish self-hatred against them, and on the other hand, without unfounded allegations about the Israel lobby which feed entirely unacceptable antisemitic conspiracy theories. The Dispatches investigation is therefore to be welcomed and this valuable paper, which highlights some of the key problematic issues arising out of it, is an important additional contribution to a debate that must take place.</p><p>Examining how the Israel lobby operates is only one side of the issue. Equally important is the question of the impact, if any, the Israel lobby has on government policy and opinion. After all, it is the aim of all lobbies, interest groups and think tanks operating in the political arena to influence policy and opinion and the Israel lobby is no different. I know from past discussions in which I participated that the private donors to the lobby organizations want to see results and that they are not slow to express their dissatisfaction if they do not feel they are getting value for money. An attempt to answer this question, which is probably harder to do than to explain how the organizations operate, would further open up debate—and this would be in the best interests of the country, the political system, the integrity of lobbying organizations, the achievement of Israel-Palestine peace and the British Jewish community.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> uk UK Israel Antony Lerman Fri, 13 Nov 2009 18:22:27 +0000 Antony Lerman 49045 at