Simon Kelner was Editor of The Independent between 1998 and 2011, and currently writes a column for the Indy’s i100 page. You may recall that Kelner defended his paper’s decision to publish that infamous cartoon by Dave Brown’s in 2003 showing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ‘devouring the flesh of a Palestinian baby’, claiming that it was not antisemitic.
Last year David Ward MP decided to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day by grossly debasing Holocaust memory. He published a post on his website which included the following passage:
Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.
Though he later issued a pseudo apology, subsequent statements and Tweets by the Liberal Democrat from Bradford East suggest that his imperious lecturing to Jews about their myriad deficiencies represents his true views.
Now, just a few days ago, the British tabloid The Daily Mirror published an op-ed by former British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott titled, ‘Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is a war crime and it should end‘.
His op-ed included the following charges.
Those who live in Gaza are kept like prisoners behind walls and fences, unable to escape the bombings, and an Israeli economic blockade has forced Palestinians into poverty.
Israel’s Iron Dome defence system easily intercepts missiles launched from Gaza. Three Israeli citizens have died from these primitive rockets, with 32 soldiers killed fighting Hamas.
Compare that to the toll in Gaza. Of the 1,000-plus to die, more than 80 per cent were civilians, mostly women and children.
But who is to say some of the other 20 per cent weren’t innocent too? Israel brands them terrorists but it is acting as judge, jury and executioner in the concentration camp that is Gaza.
And Israel flouts international law by continuing to build illegal Jewish settlements. Why? Because it knows it can get away with it.
As if the grotesque and appallingly misinformed accusation that Israel is keeping Palestinians in a “concentration camp” isn’t bad enough, Prescott then doubles down on his Holocaust inversion, and asserts the following:
What happened to the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis is appalling. But you would think those atrocities would give Israelis a unique sense of perspective and empathy with the victims of a ghetto.
While his concentration camp comparison is contemptible, the “they-of-all-people” argument – the suggestion that Jews, having faced unimaginable persecution during the Holocaust, should know better than anyone not to be oppressors – is arguably much, much worse.
As Howard Jacobson argued about critics who lecture Jews on their sub-par post-Shoah moral performance:
“[For such people] the Holocaust becomes an educational experience from which Jews were ethically obliged to graduate summa cum laude, Israel being the proof that they didn’t.”
But, I think the most eloquent refutation of such criticism leveled at Jews was written by Chas Newkey-Burden, who argued that those who employ the “they of all people” argument are essentially saying that, following the systematic extermination of six million, it is Jews, and not the antisemites, who have lessons to learn – that it is Jews, not the antisemites, who need to clean up their act.
One thing is certain: Jews do not need lessons in morality from John Prescott.
Finally, at at time when Israel is fighting a war with an extremist movement which openly calls for a new genocide; when synagogues are being attacked and the chant of ‘Death to Jews’ can be heard in ‘enlightened’ capitals in Europe; and when Jews are again fleeing the continent in fear of persecution, perhaps non-Jews who have previously mouthed the words ‘never again’ should think seriously about what precisely this ethical imperative demands.
Cross posted by London-based blogger Richard Millett
Last night (Shabbat) I was at Amnesty International’s London HQ for the launch of Ben White’s updated Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide. The event was chaired by David Hearst, former chief foreign leader writer of The Guardian.
After White’s talk he had a Q&A with Hearst after which members of the audience were allowed to ask White questions. Well, most of them anyway.
I had my arm raised for half hour while Hearst took questions from those sitting around me, before taking questions from the other side of the room. While my arm was still raised Hearst called an end to questions.
Feeling rather frustrated I asked whether I could put a question to White. Hearst declined my request and replied:
“I know exactly what you’re up to. And who you are. And who you write for.”
Sinister or what! Here’s the exchange:
So, what was I up to? Who am I? Who do I write for? Well, since starting this blog in 2009 I have mainly written for myself. I have occasionally written for the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish News, the Jewish Chronicle and CiF Watch, but I never realised writing could get me boycotted.
But here’s the point; I have never had any dealings with Hearst. So, how did he know who I was?
He was obviously primed but why? I have never been disallowed from asking a question at Amnesty before, although I was once threatened at an Amnesty event by Amnesty Campaign Manager Krystian Benedict, who has since been moved to work on Syria and who was present last night.
My question to White was going to be simply this: Seeing that White relies heavily on statements by Israeli politicians to paint Israel as racist (see slides below) I wanted to know whether the same could also be said of White particularly after he once stated that (British Jewish author) Howard Jacobson’s face was “another reason to support a boycott of Habima”, the Israeli theatre company.
I’m sure White would have batted that away quite easily, wouldn’t he? He reads my blog (he mentions it), so he should feel free to leave an answer below.
White started his talk addressing the Israeli Embassy’s apparent attempt to stop last night’s event taking place and went on to dedicate the evening to “all those people, including the Palestinians, who have sacrificed so much for liberation”.
Here’s the clip:
He then proceeded to talk about Israel’s continued “Judaisation”, particularly in the Negev and Galilee, and Israel’s “brutality”, “racism” and “apartheid” (including towards Israel’s own Ethiopian and Mizrahi Jews).
White loves nothing more than portraying Israel and Israelis as child killers. Apparently, Israeli soldiers hide near schools so they can kill Palestinian children (see slides below).
White finished off by telling his love struck audience that “Israel is afraid”.
Meanwhile, if last night is anything to go by I’m sure that Middle East Eye, David Hearst’s new website, will be a beacon of democracy and one of many and varied views…..
Slides used by Ben White last night:
Here are the first few paragraphs of my Times of Israel essay published today:
If the progressive community was truly concerned about the fate of historically oppressed minorities, and sincerely moved by a passionate desire to find the social and economic remedies to ameliorate the condition of the marginalized, the example of Jews in the late 20th and early 21st centuries would serve as a model for all future campaigns.
Progressives who are unburdened by the fetishization of victimhood, and misplaced faith in ‘systemic’ root causes, would have to be inspired by the example of world Jewry – a community which not only survived the Holocaust, but quickly re-established their communities and, within a short period of time, could boast of social, economic and political success (in Israel and the diaspora) quite ‘disproportionate’ to their miniscule numbers.
Howard Jacobson has forcefully argued that the world has never forgiven Jews for the collective guilt driven by memory of the Holocaust. However, it seems equally as urgent to acknowledge that the progressive movement seems not to have forgiven Jews for a success born largely of their own perseverance.
- In article on Syria, Deborah Orr again throws in antisemitic ‘chosen people’ slur (cifwatch.com)
- Jonathan Freedland’s antisemitism blindspot (cifwatch.com)
- Official Guardian editorial legitimizes a ‘one-state solution’. (cifwatch.com)
- Is Mira Bar Hillel prejudiced against Jews? “Alas, yes.” (cifwatch.com)
We recently reported on a Tweet by David Ward MP, which read “Am I wrong or are am I right? At long last the #Zionists are losing the battle – how long can the #apartheid State of #Israel last?”, suggesting that the Bradford East MP was relishing the inevitable destruction of the “apartheid” Jewish state. Ward’s Tweet, on top of comments he made on Holocaust Memorial Day earlier this year, resulted in minor disciplinary action being taken against him by his party, the Lib Dems.
Whilst the Guardian reported the most recent row somewhat fairly, a July 18 piece in The Independent, reporting on both Ward’s latest Tweet and his original Holocaust Day ‘reflection’ egregiously downplayed the latter. Nigel Morris, the Indy’s political editor, in a report titled “Liberal Democrats suspend MP David Ward over Israel comments on Holocaust Day“, wrote the following:
A Liberal Democrat MP who questioned the continued existence of Israel lost the party’s whip yesterday following a dressing-down from Nick Clegg.
David Ward, the MP for Bradford East, had previously been reprimanded by the party’s leadership over comments condemning Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
The issue came to a head after a new post on Twitter in which Mr Ward wrote: “Am I wrong or are am I right? At long last the #Zionists are losing the battle – how long can the #apartheid State of #Israel last?”
Of course, it is grossly misleading to write that Ward had been reprimanded due to comments “condemning Israel’s treatment of Palestinians”. The quote which caused the row specifically referred to Jews, and not Israelis. Here it is:
“Having visited Auschwitz twice– once with my family and once with local schools … I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new state of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza,”
As the quote clearly indicates, Ward was castigating Jews as Jews for, a mere few years after liberation from the death camps in 1945, evidently not learning the correct moral lessons and thus beginning immediately to inflict atrocities on Palestinians.
Jews, ‘of all people’, an exasperated Ward was in effect exclaiming, had visited upon the Palestinians a level of cruelty and violence which arguably evoke the crimes committed against their co-religionists in the death camps throughout Europe – a “they of all people” argument which Howard Jacobson aptly characterized as leaving the Jewish people doubly damned: to the Holocaust itself and to elevated moral scrutiny as a result of it.
As Chas Newkey-Burden so eloquently wrote:
Let us strip the “they-of-all-people” argument down to its very basics: gentiles telling Jews that we killed six million of your people and that as a result it is you, not us, who have lessons to learn; that it is you, not us, who need to clean up your act. It is an argument of atrocious, spiteful insanity. Do not accept it; turn it back on those who offer it. For it is us, not you, who should know better.
Contrary to the extremely misleading passage by Morris, Ward did not simply condemn Israel for its treatment of Palestinians, but criticized Jews for their alleged collective amnesia over the Shoah, and their resulting ‘inhumanity’ towards others. Jewish victims, Ward’s logic implies, have “sadly” become the new victimizers.
Ward egregiously crossed the line between criticising Israel and collectively criticising Jews, a huge moral distinction which the Indy editor should have easily identified.
- David Ward Tweets truth to Jewish power (cifwatch.com)
- David Ward saga: BBC still prevaricating on antisemitism (bbcwatch.org)
- David Ward disciplined by Lib Dems after Tweet about Israel’s inevitable imposion (cifwatch.com)
- Anti-Zionists claim to be completely different to anti- Semites. But there’s one key thing they have in common (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)
H/T NGO Monitor
The following 40-minute documentary about antisemitism, which aired on Israeli Channel 2 on the eve of Yom HaShoah, April 7, features interviews with Richard Millett, Abe Foxman, Howard Jacobson, and Alan Dershowitz – and includes clips of several figures who will be familiar to CiF Watch readers, including Lauren Booth, Jenny Tonge, and Ken O’Keefe.
Much of the show is in Hebrew, but many of the interviews are in English. You can jump to Millett’s segment by forwarding to the 17:15 mark. The other commentators noted above follow Millett.
As CST and others have reported, British MP David Ward (Liberal Democrat, Bradford East) recently decided to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, observed internationally on Jan. 27 (the day, in 1945, that Auschwitz was liberated), by grossly debasing Holocaust memory.
On his website, there is an entry with the following title: ‘Bradford MP condemns Israel for treatment of Palestinians on the day he signs the Holocaust Memorial Day Book of Commitment’.
It begins thus:
Sunday January 27th will mark the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi concentration and extermination camp which is the site of the largest mass murder in history. In the weeks running up to the day, the Holocaust Educational Trust placed a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, giving MPs the chance to honour those who were persecuted and killed during the Holocaust and encouraging constituents to work together to combat prejudice and racism today.
Then there is a quote from Ward himself:
Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.
While some have rightfully focused on the morally obscene comparison between casualties as the result of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Nazi extermination of six million Jew, there’s an element of Ward’s quote which is even more disturbing. It is the “they-of-all-people” argument: the suggestion that Jews, having faced unimaginable persecution, should know better than anyone not to be oppressors.
As Howard Jacobson argued, the argument leaves the Jewish people doubly damned: to the Holocaust itself and to elevated moral scrutiny as a result of it. By this logic, Jacobson argued, “the Holocaust becomes an educational experience from which Jews were ethically obliged to graduate summa cum laude, Israel being the proof that they didn’t.”
Further, as Chas Newkey-Burden so eloquently argued, those who employ the “they of all people” argument are, in essence, saying that it is Jews, and not the antisemites, who have lessons to learn – that it is Jews, not the antisemites, who need to clean up their act.
“The Holocaust followed centuries of slander, persecution, violence and murder committed by gentiles against Jews. So it is not you who have an increased responsibility to behave morally, but us.
For instance, something that we gentiles should know better than to do is lazily accuse Jewish people, or the Jewish state itself, of any misdemeanour. We have seen what centuries of slander against the Jewish people led to during the 1930s and ’40s. We see the hatred, heartbreak and bloodshed that such anti-Jewish libels continue to provoke, particularly in the Middle East.
Yet much of the world still continues to delight in damning Israel with indecent haste. From Al Dura (the false claim that Israeli forces murdered a boy in Gaza) to Jenin, from the Goldstone Report to the Gaza flotilla; time and again the world has found Israel guilty of a particular crime before all the evidence was available. When the full picture emerged and exonerated Israel it was too late to undo the damage. We gentiles, of all people, should know better.”
Newkey-Burden’s urgent moral plea to resist those who would so debase Holocaust memory ends thusly:
“Let us strip the “they-of-all-people” argument down to its very basics: gentiles telling Jews that we killed six million of your people and that as a result it is you, not us, who have lessons to learn; that it is you, not us, who need to clean up your act. It is an argument of atrocious, spiteful insanity. Do not accept it; turn it back on those who offer it. For it is us, not you, who should know better.”
Turn David Ward’s vile charge on its head!
- BBC tones down British MP’s comments on Jews and the Holocaust (bbcwatch.org)
- LibDem MP In “The Jews” Holocaust Meltdown (order-order.com)
Cross posted by our friend, Richard Millett
Twitter is a good way of seeing what our elected politicians are up to. One in particular is a voluminous anti-Israel tweeter. Labour MP Richard Burden, for it is he, is also an enthusiastic retweeter of Ben White:
In my opinion, for an elected politician to promote Ben White, considering White’s views, is highly offensive.
It is Ben White who, in his article for Counterpunch in 2002 Is It Possible to Understand the Rise in Anti-Semitism?, wrote:
“…I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are.”
More recently White tweeted:
and this was the picture he linked to:
Joseph W. at Harry’s Place argued:
“Ben White appears to be linking Howard Jacobson – an English Jew – and Israeli Jewish Habima actors, by aesthetics and looks. If you are aware of the history of antisemitism, you will know that a great deal of attention was given to the physical appearance of Jews, who were portrayed as people whom one could legitimately hate based on how they look.”
The Warped Mirror neatly recounts what happened.
As I was concerned that Richard Burden MP was promoting someone such as White with such contemptuous views, I tweeted Burden about it. However, it was Mira Bar-Hillel, who writes for the London Evening Standard newspaper, who responded. Here’s Bar-Hillel’s Twitter profile first:
In response to my tweet to Burden pointing out White’s view that he can “understand” why some people are anti-Semitic Bar-Hillel stated that she “can understand it too”:
When challenged as to whether she could also “understand” people who were Islamophobic she, somewhat ambiguously, responded:
“I understand hatred for anyone one who feels wronged – or unjustly treated – by. Racism I abhor.”
Good to know Bar-Hillel abhors racism. But then how would one explain the following quote apparently attributed to her in Anshel Pfeffer’s article in Haaretz in June which discussed the set exam question “Why are some people prejudiced against Jews?” (Haaretz might be behind a pay-wall for some so I have copied and pasted the full article below for context purposes):
“The Jews of today scare me and I find it almost impossible to talk to most of them, including relatives. Any criticism of the policies of Israel – including the disgraceful treatment of Holocaust survivors as well as refugees from murderous regimes – is regarded as treason and/or anti-Semitism. Most papers and journals will not even publish articles on the subject for fear of a Jewish backlash. Goyim (gentiles) are often treated with ill-concealed contempt, yet the Jews are always the victims. Am I prejudiced against Jews? Alas, yes.” (Emphasis added)
So Bar Hillel abhors racism, but is “prejudiced against Jews”. Work that one out.
Meanwhile, I continued to question Richard Burden MP as to whether he found White’s view offensive. Sadly, instead of agreeing that it was he refused to give a straightforward answer:
It is very concerning that a British MP, who does denounce anti-Semitism, still goes on to promote someone like White with such views and doesn’t see anything wrong in that. Or maybe, as Burden suggested, I should just “grow up”.
Anshel Pfeffer’s Haaretz article in full:
Anti-Semitism in 100 words or less
In rhyme, in sorrow and in a single word, readers took my challenge. Which one gets the bottle of wine?
By Anshel Pfeffer | Jun.22, 2012 | 2:42 AM | 2
Nine years ago, I found myself hanging out with a group of Pakistani journalists I met at a seminar abroad. At the time, we were all hearing about secret and not-so-secret dealings between Israel and Pakistan, and one of them showed me his passport. On the bottom of every page was written, “For travel to every nation in the world except Israel.” “It’s just politics” he explained to me. “There is no anti-Semitism in Pakistan; there are no Jews.”
Technically, that may be true, as the small Jewish communities of Karachi and Peshawar dispersed decades ago. But it is interesting that he felt the need to create a distinction between a hatred of Israel and the shunning of Jews.
There is anti-Jewish rhetoric in the local media in Pakistan. Many would argue that in a nation without a history of local anti-Semitism, this is actually a manifestation of anti-Western sentiments, along with the country’s intense hostility with neighboring India, which is increasingly becoming a strategic ally of Israel. It doesn’t seem as though Pakistan has a homegrown tradition of Jew-hatred.
On Wednesday, a British woman of Pakistani origin, Shasta Khan, was charged in a Manchester court for planning, along with her husband Mohammed Sajid, what could have been the worst anti-Semitic attack on British soil in living memory. Born and raised in the Manchester region, she would have seen and recognized Jews from the large Orthodox community in the city. The couple is alleged to have scouted out targets in the Prestwich neighborhood, where thousands of Jews live and work.
A different duo of young British-Pakistanis, Asif Mohammed Hanif and Omar Khan Sharif, became radicalized after traveling to study in Damascus, where they were recruited by Hamas and carried out a suicide attack at a Tel-Aviv pub, killing three people, in 2003. In contrast, Khan and Sajid are accused of embarking on their Jihad after surfing radical websites. They allegedly learned how to build homemade bombs from Al-Qaida’s Inspire magazine, and instead of travelling to the Middle East to strike at the Zionist enemy, they decided to avenge the Palestinians by murdering fellow Britons, members of a neighboring religious community.
But that is how anti-Semitism has evolved: Defying reason and ideology, overcoming geographic and social divides, it adapts to new environments and conditions. Anti-Semitism is the most flexible and versatile of hatreds. That is my main conclusion from the many answers I received over the last two weeks, following the question I posed to readers: “Why are some people prejudiced against Jews?” But that was not the only conclusion.
A brief reminder: I decided to open up the column to readers following the hysterical reactions of some politicians and community leaders in Britain when this question was posed to high school students in a national exam. Financial blogger Henry Blodget was inundated with angry responses when he asked the same question with sincerity and seriousness. I had hoped that this column’s readers would prove both more intelligent and display a greater sense of equipoise than those who expressed outrage over the exam question. The reader responses exceeded my expectations.
There were a handful of responses such as the commenter who wrote [the following]:
“Anti-Semitism should be condemned not explained – full stop.” But most readers who answered believe, like I do, that no subject should be beyond discussion, even if some of the responses do not make for easy reading. Of course, there were a few nasties, such as the writer who tried to convince me that the world doesn’t have anything against Jews in particular, but rather just against Israelis. After all, he wrote,”the Internet has shown the world what kind of people you are.”
Others were also critical but from a place of sorrow. Mira Bar-Hillel wrote [the following]:
“The Jews of today scare me and I find it almost impossible to talk to most of them, including relatives. Any criticism of the policies of Israel – including the disgraceful treatment of Holocaust survivors as well as refugees from murderous regimes – is regarded as treason and/or anti-Semitism. Most papers and journals will not even publish articles on the subject for fear of a Jewish backlash. Goyim (gentiles ) are often treated with ill-concealed contempt, yet the Jews are always the victims. Am I prejudiced against Jews? Alas, yes.” [emphasis added]
I know that some would label Mira with the despicable title of “self-hating Jew,” and while I don’t necessarily agree with all she writes, I think she expresses genuine concerns and should be heard. Mira’s answer is one of my two honorable mentions.
The other honorable mention goes to Richard Asbeck, who managed in verse to convey the uneasy feeling of many Jews and non-Jews at the separateness, perhaps aloofness, that Jews have conveyed over the millennia.
“How could I by virtue of reciprocity,
blessed by the honor of having been treated as a friend,
remembering the humanity of a shared meal,
remembering the hachnasat orchim (hospitality ), how could I, in the attempt of responding in kind, avoid the self-allegation of impurity and ‘unchosenness’ clearly marked by the catered dinner on a stranger’s plate, or worse: the foil-wrapped carton board plate?”
Although I allowed up to 100 words, some readers made do with just one or two words: Envy; jealousy; religion; Zionism; ignorance; Jesus Christ. All are indeed reasons why people are prejudiced against Jews, and there are of course many more, often conflicting, and never justified reasons. And that is why I said that anti-Semitism is the most flexible of hatreds and why I chose Mark Gardner’s entry as the winner. My only hesitation is that the writer is a professional in the field, who serves as director of communications of the Community Security Trust (CST ), of British Jewry. My choice of Mark as winner is not an endorsement of the CST; indeed I criticized the organization in a column on an unrelated matter two months ago. But unlike others who monitor anti-Semitism, I think that his entry proves he can address the issue in a balanced manner. So he gets the (kosher ) bottle of wine.
Here is his answer to why some people are prejudiced against Jews.
“If prejudice is hating someone more than is necessary, then you must consider the anti-Semites’ charge sheet. So, let us be brief: Allied with the Devil to kill the son of God; lost God’s covenant; fought God’s last prophet; visible rejecters of God; kill children and drink their blood; conspiratorial; money hoarding; greedy; corrupting; mean-spirited; physically grotesque; contemptible; ferocious; ingratiating yet always alien and never authentic; devious, evil, corrupting geniuses; unchanging and unassimilable; racially distinct, self-superior hypocrites; financiers of war; harbingers of revolution; pornographers; hucksters and fraudsters; whiners and liars; imperialists and colonizers; thieves, racists, war-mongering destroyers. More briefly: scapegoat.”
- BBC examines its own record on the Hungarian Holocaust (bbcwatch.org)
A guest post by Joy Wolfe, StandWithUs UK chairwoman and co-President of the Zionist Federation
StandWithUs UK and many other UK organisations and individuals have applauded the high profile figures (Arnold Wesker, Ronald Harwood, Maureen Lipman, Simon Callow, Louise Mensch MP and Steven Berkoff) who have opposed calls for the Globe Theatre in London to disinvite the world-renowned Israeli Habima Theatre Company.
We also congratulate Howard Jacobson on his positive stand in supporting Habima.
Boycotts of any kind are totally counter productive and do nothing to help the Palestinians.
Hopefully the BDS brigade will think again about disrupting a performance that the majority of the audience wish to support and enjoy. However, if they do press ahead with their publicly declared threat to cause a disturbance I hope they will be quickly ejected and face legal consequences.
Cultural, academic and trade boycotts are particularly counter productive when Israel has so much to offer the international community.
Not only are they counter productive but often have the exact opposite of the desired effect as people often go out of their way to support companies and shops that are targeted. Recently in Canada, a targeted shop the boycotters were trying to disrupt was inundated with pro-Israel customers who previously had never even heard of the company.
Another example of a misguided attempt to help the Palestinians was the failed April 15th “Welcome to Palestine” flytilla, when over 1500 pro Palestinian protesters had planned to fly into Israel to disrupt Ben Gurion Airport before moving on to carry out alleged humanitarian visits to “Palestinian prisoners”.
In a brilliantly crafted response, Israel had alerted airlines to the fact that those denied entry into Israel would have to be flown home at the airlines’ expense. As a result, hundreds were refused boarding at a number of European airports and around 40 who did succeed in arriving in Israel were sent home with a pithily written letter noting all the genuine human rights issues around the world, not least in Syria, where their protests would be better directed.
In the meantime, despite the best efforts of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) campaigners, there are so many positives to prove just how unsuccessful they are. Israeli trade with the UK has never been at a higher level, academics from Israel and the UK are working together in many cooperative projects, Israel has just signed a new aviation agreement with the EU, and Israel and the UK have an extensive programme of business and academic joint projects.
We should reduce our efforts to counter BDS activists, and similar reactive measures, which give them the added oxygen of the publicity they seek, and concentrate instead on spreading the good news about Israel’s achievements and cooperation with grass-roots Palestinians, which are much more positive and effective ways to create an atmosphere more conducive to moving the peace process forward.
- ‘Boycott Israel,’ the movie, starring actress Emma Thompson (cifwatch.com)
- I’m a Pro-Israel Muslim: So Why did UJS Ban Me? (cifwatch.com)
A guest post by Joe Geary
I have recently taken to trying to fathom an explanation of the phenomenon of the As-A-Jew which, thanks to Howard Jacobson, also goes by the name of ASHamed Jew or “Finkler”. Some call them “self-hating Jews”.
What precisely can it be that transforms a sensible upstanding member of the Jewish community into a raving, swivel-eyed fanatic bent on spouting the most preposterous anti-Israel claptrap complete with conspiracy-theory quotes from Chomsky and friends? Or into a simpering obsessive, forever composing letters in green ink to the Guardian beginning:
“Dear Sir, As a Jew I am writing to dissociate myself from the policies of the Israeli government …”?
You see, I’m not Jewish myself but if I were I’d be inordinately proud of what my co-religionists have achieved in a blink of history’s eye. I’d be an Israel braggart, poking people in the chest and challenging them “what do you think about that then?” A democracy with civil rights for all, sexual equality, freedom of expression, freedom of faith. A scientific cornucopia forever replete with marvellous inventions. A never-ending cultural and artistic festival with magnificent film-makers, musicians, writers. And all in sixty years and all in a region benighted by despotism, cultural and educational stagnation and under-achievement in every sphere except those of violence and intolerance. Yes, I’d be an Israel pub-bore. Like Jacobson, only less funny.
So how does Jacobson himself explain the “Finkler”? He sees it partly as an expression of the famed Jewish disputatiousness (his word, too long for me to have thought of), of contrarianism. A sort of: “I’m Jewish and so you expect me to be proud of Israel? Well, I won’t be, just to teach you not to presume”. And partly as an expression of the eternal Jewish quest, of self-interrogation for the essence of Jewishness in a world of non-Jews, which brings with it at times great pride but at other also a sense of guilt at being Jewish in that world of non-Jews. And partly as a paradoxical sense of disappointment. Before it existed it was possible for Zion to be all things. Now that Israel does exist, why isn’t it perfect in every single way?
All very cerebral and complicated. But then, Jacobson is an intellectual and intellectuals sometimes have a difficulty in seeing a spade as anything less than a long-handled spatula agricultural implement. Me, plain old Joe Geary, I’m not convinced. Why not? Well just look at them, these As-A-Jews – the Richard Silversteins, the Antony Lermans, the Tony Greensteins. Do you really think they’re capable of all the mental machinations that Jacobson attributes to them, all that self-interrogation? Are they in constant logical and emotional turmoil forever pondering and balancing ideas of identity and belonging? Do me a favour. These are the Jews that God forgot. The Friday afternoon Jews, or perhaps the extremely-late-in-the-evening-of-the-Sixth-Day-when-He-was-really-exhausted Jews. Whose craniums He omitted to fill and whose backbones got left in the crate.
No. My explanation is much simpler. The As-A-Jew certainly wants to be loved. He desperately desires to be accepted into the shallow hypocritical soi-disant left-leaning world which he feels is his natural habitat (that would be, by the way, the world whose UK branch is pandered to and bolstered by the Guardian). But he has a problem. He’s Jewish. And one of the trade-marks of, one of the tribal markings you must have to enter that shallow hypocritical soi-disant left-leaning world is a hatred of Israel, aka the Jewish state. That soi-disant left-leaning world is therefore suspicious of Jews: do they or do they not pass the Jonathan Freedland “Israel test”? Tell us you despise the place and there is a seat at our dinner table. Tell us you feel any affinity and you can find your own way to the door. As Freedland puts it most succinctly:
[I]f Jews refuse to dissociate themselves from Israel, then they are fair game for abuse and attack until they publicly recant. Liberals rightly recoil from the constant pressure on Muslims to explain themselves and denounce jihadism or even Islamism. Yet they make the same implicit demand when they suggest Jews are OK, unless they are Zionists.The effect is to make Jews’ place in British society contingent on their distance from their fellow Jews, in this case, Israelis.
There you have it. The As-A-Jews are the Uriah Heeps who, instead of unleashing the old two-fingered (or one-fingered if you happen to be American) salute on whoever sets them this test, meekly renounce the Little Satan and all its Works.
And having betrayed their people, their history, their tradition, they make a virtue of that very betrayal. They brandish their anti-Israeli views like a pimp displays his Cadillac. They’ll top any anti-Israel story with one of their own. They’ll meet your “Gaza-open-prison” and raise you an “apartheid State” They even become experts at the reductio ad Israelam fallacy, namely, the evils of the Middle East, nay make that the entire world, are all down to the existence of the Zionist entity. Thus our As-A-Jew, like some latter-day Hebrew Faust sells his soul to buy his soirée cred.
Also of course there’s money and fame to be had – if you can call “fame” being published by the Guardian’s Comment is Free.
And doesn’t that soi-disant left-leaning world just love its tame As-A-Jews, its “House Jews”? What could be more useful in the campaign to delegitimise the Jewish State than to trot out a Jew to recite your script?
So, I’m sorry Howard, but I don’t buy your intellectualisations. You do these sell-outs too much credit. This is my version. You asked “The Finkler Question”. Call this answer the “Geary Theory”.
- Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland is mugged by the reality of BDS movement’s malevolence (cifwatch.com)
- “As a Jew” explained (cifwatch.com)
- An open letter to Jonathan Freedland (cifwatch.com)
- The Guardian’s anti-Israel Jews and a letter to my teenage nephew (cifwatch.com)
Nick Cohen’s piece at CiF, “Howard Jacobson offers a contrary voice in the arts” - which argued that Jacobson’s satire “The Finkler Question”, which recently won the Booker Prize, was unique in that the British arts community has typically been politically homogeneous, and that Jacobson’s work represents a rare heterodox (non-leftist) theme – and further, that, often, the only Jews in favor with this elite community are those who openly express their contempt for Israel. Sure enough, this offended many CiF commenters, some of whom took the opportunity to level hateful charges against Israel.
Here are two, which haven’t been deleted:
Of course, the idea that you “can’t discuss” Israel in a critical way in the media, expressed at the site most prolific (above and below the line) in expressing such vitriol, is simply comical.
And, then there was this:
But, then there were these differing views:
And, here is where I would typically display a snapshot of the post (with the deleted text) with a note remarking that “this comment has been removed by a moderator”, but I was unable to do so in this case because all traces of this comment by Fergus’s have disappeared completely.