The crisis between Russia and Ukraine has provoked much talk of antisemitism. But whether or not antisemitism is thought to be a factor splits along left/right lines. Thus Jewish agencies who are usually quick to cry ‘antisemitism’ dismiss the charge, while leftists, who remember the eager collaboration of Ukraine with the Nazis see antisemitism as a key to the conflict. Is this just a Jew-centric view of history or is antisemitism a live force in Ukraine?
‘It’s like drugs, this anti-Semitism stuff. You start with something small, like avoiding herbs from Gush Etzion, and before you know it you’re foaming at the mouth and mainlining Mein Kampf’. Jewish Israeli Roy Isacowitz discovers, to his surprise, that he’s an antisemite – according to his Leader (PM Netanyahu) that is. According to aforesaid PM, support for BDS is antisemitic. ‘The only democracy in the Middle East’ + proper home for all Jews, classifies all critics as antisemites.
Seriously alarmed by the growing strength of the European BDS movement, Israeli politicians and their American supporters are pulling out every argument to ‘delegitimise’ the movement. Here Yosef Kuperwasser is on a tour to insist the movement is not only antisemitic and trying to delegitimise Israel but, by depending on popular ignorance about Israel’s occupation, is deliberately misleading the public.
The idea that global events can be explained by prejudice against Jews or Muslims is alarming. Antisemitism is an accepted term, Islamophobia isn’t (that too can seem ‘common sense’). But how far these prejudices are alive in Britain is disputed. Participants in a conference on anti-Muslim/ anti-Jewish racisms raise the issues. One is the extent to which ‘western values’ of democracy, individual choice and rights can be used authentically to defend Muslim customs.
The British-born director of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies is being threatened with a prosecution for racial discrimination. His offence was to have refused to sponsor an application for a fellowship from an Israeli academic at the Hebrew University. As a supporter of BDS he did not believe there should be support for an institution that was implicated in the occupation. The complaint has been made by a strange Israeli law centre and taken up as an instance of antisemitism by The Australian, amongst others who like life to be simple.
Paul Dacre did as Paul Dacre does – set his staff to hunt for anything that would destroy the leader of the Labour Party. If the best they can come up with is a diary entry from his teenage Dad on arriving in a strange and unwelcoming country they are scraping the bottom of the snake pit. Ralph Miliband’s critique of Britain was, and is shared, by millions on the left in Britain. His ‘evil legacy’ included a critique of the inherent limitations of parliamentary socialism and condemnation of Soviet-style rule. Evil? This is the sort of adjective that has been applied to other prominent Jews in Britain – Michael Howard had ‘something of the night about him’; Peter Mandelson was a ‘Prince of Darkness’. Such epithets are absorbed by, at the least, Daily Mail readers to make the Jewish subject of them fit an antisemitic stereotype of alien and untrustworthy.
There are some who wholly defend the Daily Mail’s attack on Ralph/Ed Miliband – it’s called, in the jargon, being ‘robust’. These include Alex Brummer, the Mail’s Jewish City editor and Michael Gove, (the right to be raucous). In a more nuanced piece, David Herman thinks the attack was vicious and inaccurate but not antisemitic. Miliband said the Mail had ‘crossed a line of common decency’ but did not call for press regulation.
It would be wrong to ‘excuse’ antisemitism by blaming Israel – everyone has a responsibility to distinguish between that state’s policy and Jewish people. But the unjust status quo, enforced by Israel and supported by the US doesn’t help. TA Ridout on how emotions cloud and distort efforts to get justice for Palestinians and any sort of peace.
One of the oddest groups to have come to life in recent years is the ICCA – the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism. Little-known outside the world of Commonwealth parliaments (mainly Canada and Australia) and the Israeli foreign ministry, it seems to do little, and that little is to slap down criticisms of Israeli policy as the ‘new antisemitism’. Its Declaration has been signed by the Labour, LibDem and Conservative party leaders.
If Jews are defined as a separate ‘race’ there is little to choose between antisemitists and zionists in their desire to get Jews out of Europe, argues Joseph Massad in a patchy survey of beliefs about race and Jews. (He ignores the distinctive zionist fanaticism for state-building). He mourns the defeat of the Jewish ‘Haskalah’ (enlightenment’) which sought to integrate Jews in European modernity and, in the cold war, as ‘white’ people – news to the Rosenbergs’ family. Mira Sucharov takes issue with the omission of Liberal Zionism which defines the Daily Beast for which she writes.
Ronnie Fraser’s legal action against his union has exposed many rifts within ‘the Jewish community’ in Britain. From those who backed him to bring the case through varieties of political and legal doubters to those who thought he had no case at all the episode has, at least, set a limit to those who, by seeing every defeat as evidence of antisemitism, make it harder to fight real antisemitism.
Anyone who sees Eli Valley’s cartoons and his brilliant creations such as Bucky Shvitz, Sociologist for Hire or Stuart, the Jewish Turtle is unlikely to forget them in a hurry. But Valley, like other bitingly satirical cartoonists you can name, does not have an easy ride. Here the anonymous blogger of the Philosophy and Law website defends Valley against the charge leveled against him in Commentary magazine of being – you guessed it – self-hating. And we link back to earlier postings about Eli Valley on this website.
For some years establishment Jews – and their peculiarly avid non-Jewish supporters – have been gearing up to counter the growing support for Palestinian independence amongst British students. They fear that the line between antisemitism and criticism of Israel has been crossed – which sometimes it has – that there is no such dividing line, that Palestinians have displaced Jews as the stateless people. Ronnie Fraser was a gift to them and they put their money where their mouths were.
Naomi Alderman, multi-talented writer, carries the heritage of Anne Frank and, of course the Holocaust and antisemitism. She reviews contemporary Jewish fictions – including one where a Palestinian boy demands of a settler that she renounces her ‘mythical claim’ – to find where that heritage has led. But it’s 2013, and life is as good as it has ever been for anyone in the history of the world. So without forgetting, we must stop looking in “the mesmerising mirror of victimhood”.
Britain’s Chief Rabbi addresses the AIPAC policy conference with a mix of ingratiation, odd bits of misinformation, and the cry that, yet again, the Jews are hated all over Europe. For this ‘spiritual leader’, being Jewish means seeing the US and Israel as guiding lights, exaggerating Muslim power and insisting on eternal victimhood.
You might wonder why a dispute at a college in another country should generate 2 posts here and headlines in many countries. The dispute is about discussing Israel and strategies to end the Occupation (BDS). Blimey. How scary. But as a NY Times editorial points out it is impossible to have a civil discourse about this in the US. More than that, we would say those who can’t stand criticism of Israel use a defence so wildly disproportionate (it leads to a 2nd holocaust, it is antisemitic, it ‘degitimises’ Israel, supporters are pro-terrorism) that it sounds hysterical.
In an article intended to demonstrate European wilful misunderstanding of the existential threat to Israel a JPost journalist discovers it has reached the western-most corner of Europe – a village in Kerry, Ireland. Richard Silverstein questions the accuracy of her account. Irish newspapers and letter writers respond.
The people and organisations which are quickest to cry ‘antisemitism’ – think Anti-Defamation League (ADL) or many of the so-called Jewish representative groups in the UK – seem to have no grasp of what actually constitutes antisemitism and its true horror. To help them master their hysteria, and provide a service to our sensible readers, we post the Daily Beast’s 17 point guide to antisemitism and the abuse of that term.
When Pres. Obama nominated Chuck Hagel as his next Defense Secretary, neo-cons led a charge against him waving the flag of ‘antisemitism’. Even right-wing Jews were embarrassed by this abuse of the term. The Senate Armed Services Committee hearing for Hagel’s appointment is set for January 31, but as AIPAC’s support is confined to Congress, observers think they will not lobby publicly to block the appointment.
When President Obama first mooted the name of Vietnam veteran Chuck Hagel as his next Secretary of Defense, it unleashed charges of antisemitism against the senator. It was notable how quickly these were scotched by many influential Americans (2). Perhaps learning how flimsy such accusations are, Obama has now gone ahead and nominated him. Might this spell the beginning of the end for using antisemitism as a cheap smear (1) to upset a gullible public and reveal the real political reasons for opposing Obama’s decisions (3 and 1)?