Paul Kelemen will be discussing his book, The British Left and Zionism: History of a Divorce in a webinar (an interactive discussion, a talk followed by Q&A) on the first Thursday of June - June 7th at 7pm UK time. You can register for that talk and join in wherever you are as long as you have an internet connection and a computer or suitable phone. Go to http://bit.do/spsc2018
As well as looking at the British left's embrace over decades of a violent settler-colonial project (can there be any other type of settler-colonial enterprise) Paul will also discuss the false antisemitism crisis engulfing the Corbyn'led UK Labour Party.
Before joining in the conversation on June 7th, participants might benefit from reading a short piece in the current Scottish Left Review, Does Labour need to talk about anti-Semitism? by Sarah Glynn. There is a brief summary of current research into levels of antisemitism in the UK before the author looks at the forces allied in the effort to neuter the threat Corbynism poses to ever more extreme concentration of wealth and privilege in British society and the British-Israel alliance.
With a more restricted focus on Scotland, Mick Napier's recent article in Common Space also insists on the distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. Attempts to conflate criticism of Israel with antisemitism. It explains the ideological similarities and rationale for the numerous strategic alliances between Zionism and the forces of antisemitism, including the deranged motives of the Christian fundamentalist pro-Israel lobby in the US and Scotland.
31 May 2018
The Thursday July 5th talk is as billed - Prof Ella Shohat will talk about her book, On the Arab-Jew, Palestine and Other Displacements The work was written over 30 years and tackles the record of Zionism in relation to Arab Jews, a term that Zionism seeks to make inconceivable.
Ella Shohat insists she is an Arab Jew, from a Baghdadi family and now living in New York. She is Professor of Cultural Studies and of Middle Eastern Studies at New York University. See 5-minute http://bit.do/EllaShohat
See 5-minute video at http://bit.do/EllaShohat
A Tangled Web
Sarah Glynn unpicks the fine lines between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
An organisation calling itself Jewish Human Rights Watch has just published a report that purports to show that the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign is motivated, not by concern for the plight of the Palestinians, but by hatred of Jews. As a Jew who has campaigned alongside SPSC activists on many occasions, I have no hesitation in condemning this as a gross and politically motivated slur on a group of people who are driven by a strong and genuine concern for humanity (the fact that so much time has been spent putting together this report is a testament to SPSC’s success in promoting the Palestinian cause and in winning wider support.)
The report’s argument is demonstrably flawed and absurd, but while this must be dismissed for the propaganda it so clearly is, it would be foolish simply to ignore all the material collected as this can open the lid on much more insidious processes that could pose real danger to both race relations and progressive activist organisations.
Jewish Human Rights Watch (JHRW) was established two years ago to fight against the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which aims to isolate Israel economically and culturally for its treatment of the Palestinians in the same way as South Africa was isolated for apartheid. JHRW misrepresents BDS as an anti-Jewish boycott, drawing parallels with Nazi Germany – while itself campaigning for bans on Palestinian events. David Collier, the author of the report, and of an earlier similar report on the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in England, describes himself as an independent researcher and blogger and a Zionist (i.e. a supporter of the existence of a specifically Jewish state in the biblical land of Israel).
His research consisted of trawling through the public social media posts of everyone he could identify as taking part or attending SPSC activities (not SPSC’s own posts or webpage) and recording all posts he deemed anti-Semitic. To appear in the report, the person had to have posted at least three examples during the two-year research period, though some posts selected are clearly dated even further back. However, although Collier claims that he set an ‘unnaturally high standard’ in defining anti-Semitism by excluding criticism of Israel, the majority of the posts he reproduces are conspiracy theories implicating the Israeli Secret Service, Mossad. In these posts, Mossad, sometimes alongside the CIA, is depicted as responsible for the perpetuation of Middle Eastern wars, the creation of ISIS, and organising major terrorist attacks – including 9/11 and the attacks in Paris. (In not counting other posts that criticise the Israeli state and Zionist actions against the Palestinians, Collier actually serves his own thesis, as it is these posts that demonstrate the real reason for activist campaigns.) All the people whose social media posts qualify them for inclusion in this report according to these criteria are automatically deemed to be motivated by anti-Semitism. Collier claims that the incidence of anti-Semitic postings is much higher than might be expected in the general population, so ‘The inevitable conclusion is that anti-Semitic tendency is a primary driver of anti-Israel activism.’ But correlation does not prove causation, and if there is a causative link, then why not the other way around, with awareness of Israeli atrocities increasing receptiveness to the proliferating web of anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories? Collier’s predilection for jumping to the worst possible conclusions is highlighted by a revealing comment on a post advertising an event on ‘Empowering Palestinian Youth’ hosted in a church. He observes that ‘The Church has a 2000-year-old history of persecuting Jews and fuelling anti-Semitism’.
This is a report that had already decided its conclusion before it began; that knew what it was looking for and searched until it found it. It is a concentrated product of two years of trawling and sifting and of ignoring evidence of higher aims and ideals. It presents an extraordinarily biased view of all those it names, and imputes motives on no evidence. As an attack on SPSC it cannot be taken seriously, but it still makes for some uncomfortable reading.
The growth of unsubstantiated ‘news’ on the internet has vastly outpaced development of our critical faculties. We have learnt to approach government reports and stories in the mainstream media with a scepticism born of experience, and informal social media has helped us see through the official narratives. But alternative sources are often not treated with that same scepticism. Progressive activists, sickened by official propaganda and well-versed in the underhand machinations of outwardly respectable governments, are on the lookout for alternative sources of information and alternative explanations of the powers acting behind the scenes. We are only just beginning to realise the extent to which the internet has become a breeding ground for the confusions and deliberate deceptions of everyone who has a theory to propagate, a prejudice to share, or a political axe to grind. If a story appears to chime with known events it can be seized upon only too readily, especially if it has explanatory power. People with little previous political experience can prove particularly vulnerable. Many conspiracy theories contain an element of truth, and occasionally rather more, but they remain theories, untroubled by much evidence. Many are also harmless, but in others a combination of deliberate right-wing shit-stirring and more general political ignorance allows old prejudices, including anti-Semitism, to seep into the cracks.
We all know that people often ‘like’, or even share, posts on social media without reading them properly. We may agree with the general sentiment, and trust the person who has shared the post previously, or use the share as a convenient bookmark to isolate something we hope to look at later. Sometimes what might be shared as a simple anti-Zionist front page can hide overtly anti-Semitic arguments and images in the full document, of which the sharer is unaware. And sometimes items are shared not because we agree with what they say but because we want others to see what things are being said. But not all of the posts illustrated in the JHRW report can be argued away so easily. Too often they employ traditional anti-Semitic tropes and images that should be easily recognisable, even if relabelled as ‘Zionist’.
Old conspiracy theories about Jewish plans for world domination and a New World Order, so beloved of right-wing groups anxious to divert attention from the injustices of the actual political system, can morph into new plans for Zionist world domination. And legitimate fears about the impact of the ‘Israel lobby’ can become inflated to endow Zionists with extraordinary powers. These may be portrayed as enacted through the hate figures of the Rothschild banking dynasty, who (just as they have done since the nineteenth century) stand in for the evils of capitalism and a self-serving elite, which sees everything, including war, as a source of profit. And Holocaust denial is no longer constrained to the distant reaches of far-right propaganda, but can sometimes find a new niche as part of this imagined Zionist plan. Sharing of such material may constitute a genuinely ignorant and unintentional anti-Semitism, but it is dangerous stuff. It can also – as demonstrated by some particularly troubling examples in the report – open the door to overt anti-Semitic material, where it is ‘Jews’ who control the media and politicians. We even, in the few worst cases, find men with hooked noses chasing after money; that long-debunked Tsarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion; quotations from Hitler; and the argument that Jews, through their behaviour, are responsible for their own persecution. The fascist initiators of this anti-Semitic propaganda must be laughing, and Jews have good reason to fear the revival of these ideas.
The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign is very clear as an organisation that ‘Anti-Semitism is a crime. Anti-Zionism is a duty’, and, unlike Jewish Human Rights Watch, it distinguishes criticism of settler colonialism and the concept of an ethnically defined state, from criticism of Jews as Jews. It is the people and organisations that claim to speak on behalf of all Jews while defending the Israeli state that make the new anti-Semitism inevitable – though, of course, never acceptable. But, as progressive activists in an internet age we all need to be careful about what we post and about what is posted by our comrades and acquaintances. This isn’t about being PC police, but about helping each other to develop a deeper and more critical political understanding, so our arguments can’t become polluted with charges of anti-Semitism, so our movements don’t become unwitting vehicles for spreading dangerous right-wing lies, and so we can direct our attention to the real forces behind this unequal and unstable world. German Socialists of the 1890s called anti-Semitism the ‘socialism of fools’ because it was used to divert criticism of the powers of capitalism into criticism of a mystical conspiracy. The posts selected and pulled together in this report tell us very little about the motivations of people attending SPSC events, but they can serve as a timely reminder of the dangers of being fooled and the importance of political education.
Original here The National
the racial oppression of the Palestinian people is at the heart of the matter; all other things–land laws, religion, pass laws, racially designated roads and neighborhoods, etc.–are symptoms. This should not come as any surprise: the racial definition of the Zionist project existed from the very beginning. Theodor Herzel in his 1896 pamphlet “The Jewish State” wrote it would “form a part of a wall of defense for Europe in Asia, an outpost of civilization against barbarism.” This is the same Herzel who stated that Zionist colonization would be “representatives of Western civilization,” bringing “cleanliness, order and the well-established customs of the Occident to this plague-ridden, blighted corner of the Orient.” Recall Chomsky memorably quoting Chaim Weizmann, first president of Israel, as saying of Palestine, “there are several hundred thousand negroes there but that this matter has no significance.”
...Much ink has been spilled bemoaning the Zionist lobby in the United States. The success of this lobby in the Washington and media establishment, in terms of its limited objectives, is no doubt spectacular. However, it is a strange success, which has made strange bedfellows when considering the history of anti-Jewish racism in the U.S. After all, how could such a lobby hold sway over the Christian Right, Waspish conservative think tanks and a Congress filled with southern gentlemen?
...Zionist Apartheid is seen as an old fashioned war on people of color and, as such is perfectly attuned to the historical psyche of white America. Rather than trying to “liberate” American foreign policy from Zionist influence, I think it would be much more fruitful to ask why Americans, particularly the political, business class, and certain sectors of the white middle class, love Israel so much.
...Micah Bazant has spoken of “the Jewish establishment” giving “tremendous lip-service to the concern of Jewish assimilation” but instead contributes “to assimilation of the worst kind.” He explains, “they claim to value real Jewish traditions of social justice and tikkun olam, but in fact they have sold out and assimilated to U.S. values of capitalism, racism and imperialism.”
Zionism developed in a time of reinvigorated white supremacy in the latter part of the nineteenth century when European states were busily dividing up the land of Africa and Asia. In the confrontation with the indigenous people of Palestine, its ideology belongs within the history of European racial theories and, like the Afrikaner ideology of Jan Smuts, has little problem with seeing itself in the forefront of democracy and civilization in the Middle East while at the same time implementing and justifying the complete and utter subjugation of...people.
However, to understand Israel/Palestine as defined systematically by racial oppression has yet to be elaborated on its own. This is odd, given that the racial oppression of the Palestinian people is at the heart of the matter; all other things–land laws, religion, pass laws, racially designated roads and neighborhoods, etc.–are symptoms. This should not come as any surprise: the racial definition of the Zionist project existed from the very beginning. Theodor Herzel in his 1896 pamphlet “The Jewish State” wrote it would “form a part of a wall of defense for Europe in Asia, an outpost of civilization against barbarism.” This is the same Herzel who stated that Zionist colonization would be “representatives of Western civilization,” bringing “cleanliness, order and the well-established customs of the Occident to this plague-ridden, blighted corner of the Orient.” Recall Chomsky memorably quoting Chaim Weizmann, first president of Israel, as saying of Palestine, “there are several hundred thousand negroes there but that this matter has no significance.”
...That Israel should be in the vanguard of whiteness is actually a credit to the more than five decade old Palestinian struggle. The Palestinian struggle is on the fault-line of freedom and oppression and, as such, is in the forefront of the struggle against white supremacy and imperialism in the world today. Is it any wonder that the white supremacist imperialists holler the most when Palestine/Israel is brought up? It is exactly here that their “twisted contradiction” is most likely to be exposed. Apartheid Israel/Palestine is just another solution to the “problem of the color line.” It is a solution that did not begin in 1948 but some 400 years ago and is still with us very much today.
... the Zionist Apartheid project finds its force and appeal through its own conception of whiteness, not because Zionist organizations find better ways to get the ear of the white man. It is fully assimilated into this framework and all of its self-justification refers back to the matrix of white supremacy and empire. One cannot battle Zionism without battling white supremacy and the U.S. establishment–they are intimately linked. Seeking the ear of the establishment without speaking the truth about their racism underestimates their psychological and historical relationship with Apartheid. This means a solidarity built on an alliance with those who have been in the forefront of fighting white supremacy...
Extracts from peice by Aaron Michael Love
Counterpunch October 15 2002
By Leon Rosselson
In the current furore over supposed antisemitism in the Labour Party and the suspension of Ken Livingstone for asserting that Hitler supported Zionism, the crux of the problem seems to have been somewhat obscured. Livingstone’s intervention was untimely, uncalled for and clumsily expressed (it’s never a good idea to bring Hitler into the discussion) but the collaboration in the 1930s between Zionist leaders and Nazi apparatchiks, like Eichmann, is a historical fact. How was that possible? How could a Jewish ideology find common ground with a virulently antisemitic creed — and at a time when Jews worldwide were demanding a total boycott of Nazi Germany
Anyone who has been in a Zionist youth movement — Habonim or Hashomer Hatzair — will know that the job of Zionism is to persuade Jews that they don’t properly belong in the countries in which they have lived over the centuries and can only find their true home in a Jewish state. The Israeli political parties, Mapam and Mapai, didn’t send all those well-trained Zionist leaders over here just to teach Jewish boys and girls how to dance the Hora. As Ehud Olmert said, when addressing the World Zionist Congress in 2005, the Zionist project will not be fulfilled until every Jew in the world goes to live in Israel.Nowadays Zionist groups like the Jewish Labour Movement pretend that Zionist teaching has changed but they have to say that, otherwise they might have to ask themselves why they’re still living ‘in exile’ instead of in the Jewish state.
‘Money willingly we give there/Israel is our guiding star/Not that we would ever live there/Better worship from afar’.
Similarly when the celebrated Israeli novelist AB Yehoshua, interviewed by Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian, repeated the demand that all Jews should live in Israel and called Jewish life in the diaspora ‘neurotic’, Freedland maintained that this was ‘paleo-Zionism’, as if it belonged to an old ideology, now outdated. But as far as I know there aren’t 57 varieties of Zionism. There’s just Zionism, exactly as Olmert and Yehoshua and our ‘shlichim’ (emissaries) in Hashomer Hatzair expressed it.
So it is not difficult to understand how and why, before the death camps were thought of, the interests of Jewish nationalism and German nationalism converged. Both Zionists and Nazis were totally opposed to Jewish assimilation. To put it crudely, the Nazis wanted a Jew-free Germany; so did the Zionists, provided the Jews went to Palestine to provide the basis of a future Jewish state.
There existed in those first years, a mutually highly satisfactory agreement between the Nazi authorities and the Jewish Agency for Palestine — a Ha’avarah or Transfer Agreement, which provided that an emigrant to Palestine could transfer his money there in German goods and exchange them for pounds upon arrival…. The result was that in the thirties, when American Jewry took great pains to organise a boycott of German merchandise, Palestine, of all places, was swamped with all kinds of goods made in Germany. — Hannah Arendt Eichmann in Jerusalem.
There is no doubt that at that time, the Nazi party adopted a pro-Zionist agenda. So when Zionist emissaries from Palestine came to Germany to pick out young Jewish pioneers, they negotiated on equal terms with Eichmann and the SS in order to facilitate their transfer to Palestine. It could be argued that this was a way of saving at least some German Jews. But ‘the Palestine leadership refused to extend any help to emigrants whose goal was not Eretz Israel’. (Saul Friedlander, Zionist historian.) And Ben Gurion argued that in any conflict of interest between saving individual Jews and the good of the Zionist enterprise, the enterprise must come first. Consequently the Zionist leadership opposed the Kindertransport which brought 10,000 German Jewish children to England.
There has always been a symbiotic relationship between Zionism and antisemitism. Many antisemites support Zionist ideology and the state of Israel. Trump’s advisor, Steve Bannon, for instance. And Eichmann himself, according to Hannah Arendt, had read Theodor Herzl’s Der Judenstaat, the founding text of Zionism, and became converted ‘promptly and forever to Zionism’. Conversely, many Zionists are antisemitic, Herzl, for one. “The wealthy Jews rule the world “ he wrote in the German newspaper Deutsche Zeitung “…they start wars between countries and when they wish, governments make peace. When the wealthy Jews sing, the nations and their leaders dance along and meanwhile the Jews get richer.”
Like many educated, secular German-speaking Jews, Herzl despised the mass of Eastern European Jews. The first solution to the ‘Jewish problem’ offered by the founding father of Zionism was a mass conversion to Catholicism in Vienna’s St Stephen’s Cathedral. The one language that was forbidden to be spoken in Herzl’s ideal Jewish state was Yiddish.
Contempt for Jewish life outside a Jewish state has been an enduring feature of Zionism. In his interview with the Guardian, Yehoshua described Jews in the diaspora, like Freedland, ‘partial’ Jews, not proper Jews. Ben Gurion, in a conversation with Isaac Deutscher, echoed Stalin when he said, ‘They have no roots. They are rootless cosmopolitans. There can be nothing worse than that.’ It is no secret that the poorest, most marginalised Jews living in Israel are Holocaust survivors. Interviewed on Channel Four’s Unreported World, one survivor was asked why he thought they were treated so badly. ‘Shame,’ he replied. ‘They are ashamed of us.’
It seems to me that Zionism doesn’t like Jews much, which is why it wants to turn them all into Israelis. ‘In the Zionist school in Palestine,’ writes Uri Avnery, ex-Irgun, now peace activist and blogger, ‘we were taught that the essence of Zionism is the negation of the Diaspora (called Exile in Hebrew). Not just the physical negation but the mental, too. Not only the demand that every single Jew come to the land of Israel but also the total repudiation of all forms of Jewish life in exile: their culture and their language, Yiddish.’
So is Zionism antisemitic?
Leon Rosselson, Singer/songwriter, children’s author.
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