by Martin Odoni

A couple of articles on this blog have received ‘pingbacks’ from a German blog that was, in turn, reblogging a post from a site called the ‘Jewish Concerns Forum‘. The reblogger clearly thought that the articles he linked to were related to what was under discussion.

I traced back to the original post, and, being the sort of person I am, I felt I had to respond to it. It discusses the ongoing conflation between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism in current discourse, and tries to argue that activists who criticise Israel are usually just anti-Semites trying to rationalise their prejudices.

The author of the post makes no attempt to identify him/herself, but my cross-examination of their post follows.

NB: This is a very long article.

“Not Anti-Black, Anti-Africa – A Guide to the Anti-Semitism/Anti-Zionism Debate”

This title implies that no one would condemn African Governments headed by black men or women in the same way they condemn Israel. This is made explicit by the author writing,

“I will attempt to shed light on the problem through satirical illustration of how the phenomenon plays itself out, if we were to apply the ‘anti-Zionist, not an anti-Semite’ logic to a different minority group, the Black community for example.”

The problem with this ‘I’m-being-persecuted!!‘ argument is that it ignores long stretches of modern reportage. Brutal black African Governments headed by the likes of Idi Amin have in fact been subjected to excoriating, damning condemnation for long years, and with good reason. The writer is saying, “This would never happen,” when there is comprehensive evidence that it not only would, but has.

The writer’s further speculation as to how an anti-Zionist argument might translate to an anti-African-Government critique is based on a fundamental flaw. The critique, as worded by the writer, is suggested to be approximately as follows; –

“I am not racist, I am in fact a life-long anti-racist. No one should be discriminated against based on their skin colour. I have nothing against Black people (Jews), I am anti-Africa (anti-Zionist) and critical of the policies of African governments (the Israeli government).”

The flaw is so obvious, it should not need pointing out, but just in case any readers have missed it, here it is: The writer is suggesting that being ‘anti-Africa’ is comparable to being anti-Zionist i.e. the only difference would be a change of parameters. But that is clearly ridiculous. Being ‘anti-Africa’ is about being hostile to a continent, and by extension its peoples and cultures. Being anti-Zionist, by contrast, means being hostile to an ideology. They are scarcely comparable at all.

The speculative nonsense then goes up a scale, as the writer puts into the mouths of Israel’s critics words that they almost never say, be it about black people or Jews. He suggests they would say something on the lines of,

“Africans (Israelis) behave in a primitive, tribal, manner, they are rude, aggressive and barbaric, brutal murderers of children. Their mentality is backward compared to modern nations in the west. With all the aid that is given to African countries (Israel) they use it to wage war and violence and do nothing to advance the stability and well being of the peoples who live in the region.”

Yeah, okay. Give me ten examples of anti-Zionist statements meaning such things about Israelis.

The writer then goes on to claim that anti-Zionists

“ascribe evils to Israel, such as Nazism or Jewish supremacy as well as classical anti-Semitic stereotypes that have traditionally been ascribed to all Jews. However, these types of anti-Zionists insist that they are not anti-Semitic, they are just opposed to Israel and Zionism and those who support this supposed ‘evil’ state. Let us return to how this might play out with our anti-Africans.”

Just because criticisms of Israel occasionally chime with vintage anti-Semitic tropes does not necessarily make the criticisms untrue or unfair. It also does not mean that the criticisms are based on the ‘Jewishness’ of Israel. And if the criticisms resemble descriptions of Nazism, maybe a reassessment of Israeli actions genuinely is required?

More of the same speculative made-up quotations then follow, to which my response is much the same.

To digress for a bit, the German reblog also sources other articles, including a history lesson provided by a website calling itself The British Observer. This too is somewhat flawed.

“Up until the post-war period, Jews were a stateless diaspora who resided predominantly in Europe and Russia, and throughout the 19th century the desire for a nation state of their own gathered momentum as a reaction to real or perceived antisemitism.”

This is misleading at best, as what ‘momentum’ was gathered by the Zionist movement was slight. The reality of Zionism in its early era was that it was notable for its unpopularity with Jews. There was a recognition among the diaspora that it simply proposed co-operating with anti-Semite wishes to see the Jews cast out of their then-home countries.

This dearth of enthusiasm is evidenced by the movements of Jewish communities in that era. The brutality of the Russian Pogroms, for instance, forced many Jews to retreat from the Baltic lands in great numbers. However, it is reckoned that, while around four million Jews left Europe between 1880 and the First World War, a bare one hundred thousand of them settled in the Holy Land. So The British Observer’s suggestion that Jewish nationalism ‘gained traction’ in the nineteenth century is dubious.

Indeed, a telling detail about the drafting of the Balfour Declaration of 1917 is the response to it of the British Cabinet. There was almost unanimous approval for it, but not quite. Edwin Montagu, Secretary of State for India, was notable as being the only Minister who opposed the Declaration. He was also the only Jew in the Cabinet. He knew, as other British Jews did, that starting the process of re-creating Israel would only serve to increase pressure on the Jewish diaspora to leave their then-present homelands. He described the Declaration as a “rallying ground for anti-Semites”. That danger would be demonstrated all-too-clearly in Nazi Germany less than twenty years later with the creation of the Haavara Agreement.

Another article sourced is written by David Hirsh, and is an excerpt from a book called, The Livingstone Formulation.

“Jenny Tonge, a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords, said at a fringe meeting of her party’s conference:

‘The pro-Israeli Lobby has got its grips on the Western World, its financial grips. I think they’ve probably got a certain grip on our party (Hirsh 2006).’

“This seems to be an antisemitic claim because it articulates a mindset in which a Jewish conspiracy controls the western world through its financial muscle. It is not a claim about influence or lobbying, but about singular and global financial control.”

It is rather circular reasoning on Hirsh’s part that he tries to explain that anti-Zionism is largely just rationalised anti-Semitism, but when trying to prove it, he simply makes a claim that depends on the assumption in the first place. In the quoted text, Tonge makes no mention of Jews but only of the Israeli lobby. Sure, there will be a high representation of Jews in that lobby, but Hirsh is still making a conflation. That many Israel supporters are rich is just fact, not prejudice. It is prejudice however to assume they are all Jewish, or that the rich sub-section of them are rich because they are Jewish. Tonge makes no suggestion of either, but what we can argue with some justification is that Israel supporters, both rich and poor, do tend to put considerable pressure on the media not to sound critical of Israel’s policies, especially towards the Palestinians.

“David Ward, Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East, took the opportunity of Holocaust Memorial Day to announce that

” ‘he was 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… (Quinn 2013).’ “

It is a little odd that Hirsh has decided to put this statement by Ward with Tonge’s, as there is no perceptible link between them bar the implied condemnation of Israel. While I would agree that Ward’s use of the term ‘the Jews’ where he should be referring to ‘Israel’ does raise suspicions about his outlook, that is hardly Tonge’s responsibility.

As for what Hirsh says about Ward’s follow-up remarks, framed by quotations from Lesley Klaff and labelled ‘Holocaust inversion’, no clear explanation is provided as to what is wrong with the implications of what Ward said. Hirsh quotes Klaff,

inversion of reality (the Israelis are cast as the ‘new’ Nazis and the Palestinians as the ‘new’ Jews), and an inversion of morality (the Holocaust is presented as a moral lesson for, or even a moral indictment of ‘the Jews’)…

Casting the Israelis as the new Nazis and the Palestinians as the new Jews may be hyperbolic, but there remains a legitimate parallel. It is only an ‘inversion of reality’ if we are to assume, quite preposterously, that the world is much the same now as it was in the early-1940s. It is not. Israel’s very existence is just one example of how much has changed since the time of the Holocaust. In the Holy Land today, the Israelis are the Government, just as the Nazis were the Government of ‘Greater Germany’ in 1942. In the Holy Land today, the Palestinians are a second-class, dispossessed people living in dire misery, just as the Jews were a second-class, dispossessed people living in dire misery in ‘Greater Germany’ in 1942. The establishment of Israel in 1948, and its subsequent annexation of Palestinian territory, was the turning point that allowed the previously oppressed to become the oppressors. The description is therefore not an inversion of reality, but a description of a reality that had eventually become inverted by physical events.

Equally, the reference to ‘inversion of morality’ is quite, quite ridiculous. No one is suggesting that the Holocaust is an indictment of the Jews at all. They are saying that the mistreatment of the Palestinians is an indictment of Israel, and that there is a danger of that mistreatment evolving into another Holocaust. It is not because the perpetrators of the crimes against the Palestinians are mainly Jews that they are being condemned, it is because the perpetrators are committing crimes. The fact that Jews were the victims of persecution so extreme that it led to a genocide, and that Israel repeatedly claims to be acting in the name of Jews globally, means it is doubly legitimate to point out that what the Government in Israel is doing is unforgivable – precisely because many survivors of the Holocaust came to live in Israel, and brought the full knowledge of those horrors with them. If any nation should know, therefore, that mass-killing, ethnic persecution is wrong, it is a self-proclaimed ‘Jewish State’.

Anyway, back to “Not Anti-Black, Anti-Africa”, whose author has more claims that need answering.

“Israel is central to the identity of the overwhelming majority of Jews not just in Britain, but all over the world. The reason is because it is central to Judaism.”

This claim is unproven – perhaps uncheckable – rubbish. A great many Jews, myself included, have never so much as set foot in Israel, let alone seen it as ‘central’ to our identities. It means no more to me on a personal/identity level than, say, Papua New Guinea, and if I ever chose to live in Israel, which I cannot see ever happening, I doubt I would feel particularly at home there. It is possible that the writer means the ancient Israel of the Bible, but that means there is an equivocation fallacy at play here, because anti-Zionists are not discussing the Israel of Roman Empire days, they are discussing the Israel of the modern world, and it is that Israel that the writer is also trying to defend.

Moreover, if Israel is so central to the Jewish identity, then logically, there can have been no such thing as a ‘Jewish identity’ from late in the first century AD, when the Jews were cast out of the Holy Land, until 1948. To repeat the earlier point, Zionism has always faced its greatest opposition from among the Jews themselves, and even today, it is opposed by many more Jews than one might expect. Zionism’s implied acceptance of an anti-Semitic assumption – that Jews cannot safely co-exist with gentiles – would lead ultimately to Jews casting themselves out of all other societies, and exiling themselves from the human race.

Israel was the result of that sadly nihilistic vision, and so if it is ‘central’ to the Jewish identity, it follows that it is part of the Jewish identity to consider oneself to be not really human. It is thus more than a little ironic that many Israel supporters like to taunt Jewish opponents of their country with the crude insult, “Self-hating Jew”. What could be more self-hating than a human being who endorses an ethnic ideology that thinks its own subjects not to be human?

And of course, even if this identity issue really were so prevalent, it would not make Israeli policies towards the Palestinians any more acceptable, and so the criticisms of it would not become anti-Semitic.

“Even if a Jew or non-Jew does agree with an Israeli government policy which is unpopular abroad, this doesn’t make it legitimate to unleash hatred against them.”

Of course not. But then in most cases by far, nobody is. They are just criticising the Israeli Government. Nothing that the writer has described – bar the quotations he or she openly admits are made up – sounds like someone ‘unleashing hatred’ towards Jews for reasons of them being Jewish. They are simply criticisms of the Israeli Government, and the way its supporters try to shut down discussion of what that Government does. That is quite different from unleashing hatred.

On the contrary, most of the aggression and bullying in my experience is coming from quite the other direction. Long-time followers of this blog will be aware of very nasty remarks thrown my way by the likes of Jonathan Hoffman, supporter of the (almost entirely-misnamed) Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, who last year called me a ‘Shill’ for speaking out against Israel.

In recent weeks, an Israeli put an unsolicited comment on one of my articles, calling me and other Jewish critics of Israel “Kapos”, a slur that may not be familiar to gentiles, but is in fact on of the most vicious and hurtful insults that can ever be directed at a Jew. (It implies a Jewish Prisoner-of-War in Nazi Germany who co-operates with the Holocaust. I would argue that it is comfortably worse than calling a Jew a “K*ke“.)

I am far from alone, even among Jews, in experiencing that blind, bigoted hostility either. Remember Max Blumenthal almost being physically assaulted by Zionists at a book-launch event I attended in Manchester three years ago? Or how about the incredible tidal wave of Zionist hate directed at young members of Jewish communities in the UK, when they have dared to demand an end to Palestinian persecution? (“When a British Jew steps out of line, the full weight of the community will fall on them.”)

This is another reason I get so angry and frustrated at all the largely-manufactured fuss about ‘Anti-Semitism-In-The-Labour-Party’. It is not just because very little of it is real, although that is bad enough. It is also that so much of the media are cheerfully ignoring the enormous waves of hostility, abusiveness and thuggish yobbery coming from the very people – British Zionists – who are painting this gargantuan picture of ‘socialist anti-Semitism’ to begin with. No attempts to impress the other side of the story onto the media seem to have any effect.

“British Jews have other connections to Israel beyond religious reasons. Many have family members who live there.”

I find it very difficult to see what point the writer is trying to make with this. ‘Many British Jews have family in Israel, therefore do not criticise Israel’? Or something? Nope, not following this point at all. I myself have family who live in Israel, cousins of my mother. They are quite patriotic Zionist Israel-supporters, and I often get into very heated and unhappy arguments with them over social media over how Israel treats the Palestinians in Gaza. So you see, it is perfectly possible to criticise Israel, even though I have family there, without insulting me or offending my ‘identity’. You would only be doing what I already do myself.

“Like many other minorities in Britain, such as Indians and Greeks for example. They have strong connections to the culture of these countries and to family and friends who live there.”

Not that this is particularly relevant either, but there is an important difference that the writer misses. Greeks and Indians have emigrated to Britain over the last few generations from Greece or India. British Jews, by and large, have not emigrated to Britain from Israel. Instead, their families have been mostly British for many generations, frequently dating back to long before Zionism was even thought of. So the family and friends in the main have moved to Israel, usually in living memory, and Palestinians have often been unsentimentally thrown off the land to make room for them. It is a bit much to appeal to sentiment over links to Israel, when those links have been created by acts stemming from a complete lack of sentiment.

“The anti-Zionist assumes that being Jewish is just a faith, rather than an ethnicity, that doesn’t need to have any connection to a particular land or people. Therefore, one should be able to completely divorce Israel from their Jewish identity.”

This is a wild generalisation. Some anti-Zionists assume that, some do not. And yes, not only should a Jew be able to divorce Israel from their Jewish identity, they very much are able to. My Jewish identity is divorced from Israel by default, because I have never been there. The identity of Jews before the 1940s was also divorced from Israel by default, because the country had not existed for nearly two thousand years. The integration of a ‘Jewish identity’ into Israel is a completely recent artifice, and is only as important to any Jew as they allow it to be.

“The anti-Zionist, essentially mimics an earlier version of anti-Semitism through the notion of a good Jew and a bad Jew. They have to demonstrate their ‘worthiness’ by denouncing Israel.”

This complaint by the writer is kind of rich, seeing what he/she says later about the “type of Jews Jeremy Corbyn associates with”, whom he describes as “like the Hellenists of our time”, which clearly implies that the writer has definitions of his own for ‘good Jew’ and ‘bad Jew’. The writer’s prejudices are profoundly insulting in their own right. That underlines the point I made above about Zionists being the really abusive ones.

“In the past a good Jew abandoned the beliefs of the Jewish community, i.e. Rabbinic Judaism and converted to Christianity. The Christians then would have said similarly, they do not hate Jews as people (in the way the Nazis did) they are just anti-Judaism and what Jews believe in, if they abandon their beliefs and practices and become Christians then they would accept them.

In our day, anti-Zionists similarly expect Jews to abandon the beliefs that the majority of them hold, which are central to their identity. The beliefs that were condemned in both periods are different, but what they share in common is that they are and were both beliefs that were central to Jewish identity in their time.”

This again, is the paranoia of the persecution complex. Very few people who criticise Israel care one way or the other what ‘beliefs’ or ‘practices’ Jews adhere to in their own lives. Hardly any of them care whether modern Jews convert to Christianity, or any other faith. They just think Israel should stop dispossessing Palestinians of their land, or trying to starve Palestinians into leaving the region altogether. If supporting these Israeli ‘practices’ is the writer’s idea of ‘Jewish beliefs’, then he/she is clearly a disciple of a very strange and remote school of Jewish thought, one that I have never encountered.

Likewise, the conflict between the Jews and ancient Greece was similar. The Greeks were fine with a Hellenized version of Judaism that would inevitably lead to its downfall but felt threatened by a Judaism as it was and the Zealots who refused to have their identity colonized by Greece. The Greeks banned Brit Milah (circumcision), Shabbat observance and the New Moon.

And who is trying to stop practising Jews today from observing rituals in the way the Greeks tried to? Okay, there is talk of stopping circumcision being practised on infant children, but that is not proposed for reasons of anti-Semitism, but for concerns over possible child abuse. As I was circumcised as a baby, long before I had a voice to protest against it, I happen to agree with putting a stop to it.

Anti-Zionists know that in our day, what keeps the Jewish people strong and proud is Israel.

Do they? How many of them has the writer asked?

This is, in large part what the Jewish festival of Chanukah is about, a victory against an effort which began with a Greek Hellenization of Judaism which became an internal struggle between Hellenized and non-Hellenized Jews, with the latter reigning victorious.

Yes, but Chanukah does not take place in the spring, so what that has to do with current developments is quite unclear.

Today that battle takes place with efforts by those who seek to undermine the source of Jewish identity and strength, the state of Israel and Zionism by appealing to, tokenizing and misrepresenting fringe groups and individuals as mainstream, that have internalized anti-Jewish tropes or are detached from the mainstream Jewish community for one reason or another and do not speak for the majority of the Jewish community.

As I pointed out the other day, most of that practice is done on behalf of Zionism, by the media projecting the views of prominent Jewish/Zionist organisations onto Jewish people as a whole. The proclamations of the Board of Deputies, Labour Friends of Israel et al are always being presented as the views of British Jews altogether, when in truth they do little to consult the wider Jewish population of the UK.

The type of Jews that Jeremy Corbyn associates with, for example the anti-Zionist Jewdas and other fringe Jewish groups are like the Hellenists of our time.

See my reply to this offensive snobbishness above.

The anti-Zionists also know very well, that without the state of Israel, the Jews will once again be defenceless in what is clearly still a world which is hostile to them, giving them free reign again to oppress the Jews as they wish. The state of Israel stands in their way, as it allows Jews the dignity and strength to stand up for themselves.

More paranoia, completely divorced from what is happening in the real world. Again, I must refer to a point I have made previously. Far from what the writer indicates here, Israel is not necessary to the survival of the Jewish people, and Zionism is in fact a failed ideology. Were Israel so necessary, why is there still a Jewish diaspora at all? Why have Jews like myself, who not only do not live in Israel but have never even visited it, not been slaughtered by this ‘world which is hostile’ to us? How does the State of Israel ‘protect’ us in countries all around the world, far beyond its reach?

Indeed, I would argue, and have done before, that Jews in Israel are in more danger of violence than I and my family are here in Britain. Israel is surrounded by countries like Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, all of whom, rightly or wrongly, are usually hostile towards Tel Aviv. That hostility is the justification that Israelis always use for their Government’s policies, so they can hardly change that story now. The founding of Israel has created the hostility with which it is immediately faced. Here in the north-west of England, I do not have to worry about rockets being fired across the Welsh border, meant to wipe out the large Jewish community of Manchester. But Israelis insist that Hamas is hurling rockets their way from the Gaza Strip almost daily. (This claim is enormously exaggerated, but nonetheless, it is still more anti-Jewish violence than I can generally expect to face.)

I will even suggest that the writer’s own existence appears to be an absurdity. He/she clearly, from what is in the article, writes as an Anglo-Jewish Zionist. But such a person is innately absurd. As are American-Jewish Zionists. Or German-Jewish Zionists. Or Australian-Jewish Zionists. In fact, any Jewish Zionist who does not live in Israel is an absurdity. Given Zionism’s ideology is grounded in the idea that Jews trying to live among gentiles cannot be safe, and therefore need to move to Israel to survive, how can any Jewish Zionist possibly live anywhere other than Israel? By living in Britain, the writer is clear evidence that Jews can co-exist safely with gentiles. The writer disproves his/her own ideology by his/her own location.

Sure, some parts of the world remain dangerous places for Jews to venture into, but by no means all of them.

Our anti-African example would take people like Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela and those who fought for rights for Blacks and turn them into African Supremacists and racist trouble makers.

No it would not, because Luther-King and Mandela were struggling against oppression in their respective societies. Israel is imposing oppression on Arabs on the fringes of its society.

They would be ok with Blacks as victims or collaborators in their hatred towards their fellow Blacks/Africans but they would oppose those who have self dignity and stand up for themselves.

Imposing an eleven-year blockade on the walled-in inhabitants of an autonomous region that has little access to clean water or electricity, while frequently launching missile attacks on their heads, can be called many things. “Self-dignity” or “Standing up for themselves” are not among them.

would conflate any mistake or wrongdoing by such rights groups or leaders as being as bad as slave owners, turning them into their own oppressors and perpetrators of their own persecution. They would point to the fact that slavery didn’t begin with America and that Africans sold slaves for centuries as well. This would then get misconstrued as Africa being the true arbiter of the slave trade.

The tragic irony of this prediction is that it is precisely what Israel and its supporters do to Palestinians desperately fighting for their freedom.

For all the criticism one might have, we all know, that most decent people would not dare say something as offensive as to equate a Black person with a slave owner, as Ken Livingstone casually, knowing he was a Jewish, compared journalist Oliver Finegold to a Nazi concentration camp guard.

Well firstly, it would depend on the record-of-behaviour of this hypothetical black person. The worst of the slave trade in history by far was the handiwork of white men, but there have been black slave owners too. If the hypothetical black person the writer is speaking of happened to be one of them, or at least one who has a history of very bullying or coercive behaviour, then yes we would.

As for the reference to Nazi concentration camp guards, again, this is rich given the aforementioned habit of Zionists of calling Jewish opponents “Kapos”.

But our hypothetical anti-Africans would, like Ken Livingstone, refuse to see it as racist, not care that it was offensive or insensitive or apologize, its their right to free speech.

I repeat, its ‘racist’ or ‘offensive’ qualities depend entirely on the behaviour of the person being accused of being a slave owner. Just as Israelis should know better than anyone that ethnic persecution of a people is wrong, so black descendants of Africans who were shipped to the West Indies should know better than anyone that slavery is wrong. If they do it anyway, it is quite reasonable to point out to them why they should intimately know better.

I could go on and provide other analogies and equivalences, but I hope that what I have discussed above has provided some insight into how many Jews currently experience the type of remarks that are made about them and Israel emanating from the ‘anti-racist’, anti-Zionist left.

What you have provided is an insight into how fallacious, paranoid, and muddled your thinking is.

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by Martin Odoni

My earnest hope for today is that the people of the Irish Republic vote to repeal the confounded ‘8th Amendment‘ of their nation’s constitution. It is an oppressive, paternalistic clause that deprives women of the most fundamentally feminine part of their own autonomy – control of their own reproductive abilities. The passing of the Amendment in 1983 was one of the most obsolete, regressive moves of the Irish Government in the modern era, as it places a powerful legal barrier in the path of any Irish woman seeking to abort a pregnancy, no matter the reason why she needs one.

Repeal the 8th Amendment

The Irish Constitution was amended in 1983 to provide an extra legislative barrier preventing abortion.

Now, I need to make clear that I am not a ‘fan’ of abortion, and I will always hope that a woman would only resort to one in dire circumstances. But I am a ‘fan’ of human rights, and I also recognise that, as a man, I will never be in a position truly to understand the emotional impact of being pregnant and having to face such a choice. I cannot accept that any male should have a decisive say on this issue at all, because in the end, it is not about what happens to his body.

Around the world, older generation males, especially of a religious/conservative disposition, seem to think otherwise, and assume women should always do whatever the men decide is best for them. Refreshingly, modern generation males seem to take a less arrogant stance. This includes, according to some media reports, many younger generation men in Ireland itself. According to feedback received by some pro-choice campaigners, many young Irish men have gone as far as to say they will not vote in the Referendum, saying that they want to leave the matter to women to decide.

Now, this wish to concede to the informed perspective is perfectly sound and creditable up to a point, but unfortunately,  it gets matters in the wrong order. The men can only take that step back after abortion is legal, not before. The Referendum is not a consultation on whether a specific woman should have an abortion. It is asking the very question as to whether women should be allowed to make this decision when the circumstances arise. The current position default in Ireland is ‘no, they should not be allowed’. As things stand, the matter is not left to women, so if an Irish man does not vote for repealing the 8th Amendment, he is not leaving the matter to women to decide.

Therefore, if men of Ireland wish to let women decide these matters – as they should – then they must get out today and vote in favour of repealing the 8th Amendment. Women will probably not be able to provide enough votes on their own.

Come on, men of Ireland, help to make this happen. Do not complacently imagine that you can let it happen for itself. When ordinary people assume that, nothing changes for the better.

by Martin Odoni

Owen Jones responded to yesterday’s news that Ken Livingstone is leaving the Labour Party, over the unending anti-Semitism controversy, with an unthinking renewal of a very frequent myth.

Yesterday morning, Jones tweeted the following; –

Before addressing the myth, I should mention that I question the first sentence. There were some things Livingstone said that could have been worded much more sensibly and carefully. But looked at objectively, Livingstone’s claim that Adolf Hitler supported Zionism is true, at least in a sense. It is certainly untrue to suggest that Hitler was a doctrinaire Zionist, who adhered to the complex minutiae of the ideology. But then Livingstone never implied that, and it should further be recognised that, back in the 1930s, Zionism did coincide quite neatly with the ugly ideas of Hitler’s desired Lebensraum. ‘Living space’, as the term means, for the Nordic/Aryan peoples across Europe would, rather by definition, be advanced by expelling the millions-strong Jewish population to another land beyond Europe’s boundaries, as that would leave more space for Hitler’s imagined ‘Master Race’.

Livingstone should have empasised that the Haavara Agreement between the Nazis and German Zionists was very lopsided, and that the Zionists signed up to it under duress. That he did not was foolish, but it did not really make his words anti-Semitic, especially as he was discussing Hitler more than he was discussing the Zionist movement or the Jewish people.

Indeed, I would go further and argue that if Livingstone’s remarks are offensive at all, they would be offensive to Zionists, not to Jews. While there is inevitably a lot of overlap between the two groups, they are not the same, and the points Livingstone was discussing were politically Zionist ones, not religiously or ethnically Jewish ones. The links between Haavara refugees and Holocaust victims who were left behind are being twisted by Zionists to make Livingstone’s remarks sound anti-Semitic. (As I have intimated before, I find manipulation of the Holocaust as repugnantly offensive as denial of it, so British Zionists really have soul-searching to do before they make hay about this.)

The second sentence in Jones’ tweet is what really irks me, though in fairness to him, he is only replicating a mistake that the media make very widely. The ‘bad relationship’ between the Labour Party and the ‘Jewish Community’ – a fallacy-of-homogeneity term if ever there were one – is the most question-begging assumption of the modern media. It comes from the constant clamour of Zionist (again note: not necessarily Jewish) groups like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, Labour Friends of Israel, the British Board of Jewish Deputies and so on, offering wildly-exaggerated tales of ‘anti-Semitic’ behaviour that is supposedly rife in the Labour Party.

It is lazy and profoundly incurious of the British media just to assume they can get a clear idea of the opinions of ‘Britain’s Jews’ just by consulting these groups. That they are ‘representative’ is a tenuous suggestion, especially given the maddening conflation that exists between Jews and Zionists.

The CAA, as I have demonstrated more than once on this blog, is scarcely interested in combating anti-Semitism at all, but only in discrediting critics of Israel. It is a tiny ‘charity’, is not elected in any plausible sense, and seldom consults anyone on a wide range of issues, bar complaints about possible anti-Israeli rhetoric. To imagine that the CAA knows what the general Jewish community’s thoughts are on, say, Brexit, or controlling inflation, or Scottish independence, or balance-of-trade is therefore comical.

LFI, equally, seem less interested in British Jews than in Israeli politics, as quite openly implied by their name. They seem to serve a similar purpose to the CAA – except to attack Labour ‘from within’ as it were. Many members of LFI are not even Jewish, and support Israel for reasons quite other than the survival of the Jewish people. Again, to suggest that LFI offer reliable insights into wider Anglo-Jewish thinking is ridiculous.

Links to LFI's Facebook Group

If Labour Friends of Israel are representative of Jews in the Labour movement, why do they have so few members in their Facebook group?

 

The Board of Deputies can at least claim to be somewhat representative, as they are appointed by a multi-layered election process of sorts. But this process only applies to synagogues and other Jewish organisations, not by Jewish individuals more broadly. This means that Jews like myself i.e. secular Jewish atheists are not consulted on who should be elected to the Board, or what our views are on any political or social issues. It is my choice that I am irreligious and do not practice any rituals or ceremonies of Judaism, but ethnically, I am still a Jew, a fact about me that can never change whether I like it or not. Therefore, when the BJD say they are expressing the views of “British Jews”, they are claiming to speak for me and others like me when they have never attempted to learn what our views are. If they claimed they are speaking for “practicing religious British Jews”, they would be on stronger ground. But they do not, and it is high time that the media questioned them on that instead of just parrotting the BJD’s assertions all the time when wanting to lend credence to anti-Semitism claims with which to beat up Jeremy Corbyn.

I know I am not alone in saying that I am unhappy for these groups to claim to speak on behalf of all British Jews, just as I am horrified when Binyamin Netanyahu claims to act on behalf of all Jews worldwide. I am also not alone in saying it is past time that the media dared to question these groups when they make such presumptuous claims.

by Martin Odoni

Gaza Great Return March

The Israeli Government insists that thousands and thousands of terrorists are storming the Gaza boundary fence. They do remarkably little damage for being so numerous, don’t they?

The latest massacre on the Gaza boundary on Monday was the largest of the year, taking the death-toll among Palestinians during the Great Return March past one hundred. Among the predictable, nauseating attempts to blame the victims, or Hamas, for the atrocity, a lot of equally-predictable pick-up-and-play ‘experts’ on  the Israel/Palestine conflict are coming out of the woodwork in the West. These would-be experts appear only dimly aware of the conflict most of the time, but hear about it in the news frequently enough to think they have a fairly strong grasp of what is what. Most of these people are Zionist/Israel-sympathiser in their leanings.

Part-time Zionists do not have a complete monopoly on inaccuracies in the argument over which side is the aggressor, of course – I have no doubt some of my own knowledge is incorrect. But they definitely have the lion’s share, and when it comes to really glaring mistakes, they are pretty much in a realm of their own. It can be quite breathtaking how they get, not just the finer details, but even the most fundamental facts, completely wrong.

In six days of reading lame, anti-Arab, pro-Israel apologia on social media, I have seen claims that Palestine is a separate country from Israel, that the Palestinians are being shot at because they have ‘invaded’ Israel, that Hamas are behind the protests and are trying to make them turn violent, that the destitution in Gaza is the handiwork of Hamas, and that the Palestinians who have died are being punished for ‘trespassing’.

These are all predictable jumps-to-conclusion that often happen in the aftermath of atrocities abroad committed by people on ‘our’ side. The British media always like to portray Israel as ‘our’ side, and therefore habitually offer vague descriptions of the real history of this conflict, while playing down the violence of Israeli actions. The above myths however are easily debunked even before a detailed examination of the events is carried out; –

Palestine is not a separate ‘country’ from Israel. Palestine is Israel. The land that became Israel in 1948 had, for the previous thirty-one years, been a large part of the British Mandate for Palestine. Before that, it had for centuries been part of the Ottoman Empire. What the land is called is not as important to the Palestinians as simply the reality that the land was theirs and was taken from them without asking and without recompense. The Gaza Strip and several parts of the West Bank are officially governed by devolved Palestinian administrations, but even so, they are not countries in their own right, they are semi-autonomous territories that have been occupied alternately by Egypt, Jordan and Israel.

The Palestinians have not ‘invaded’ Israel, certainly not during the current Great Return March. Nor have they been ‘trespassing’. They have simply gathered near the boundary between Gaza and Israel-proper, and protested, at times slightly violently, at being effectively imprisoned in an enclave. The Israeli Defence Force have responded by stationing snipers on the boundary and having them gun down protesters. Despite claims, with no supporting evidence, that the protesters who were shot were attempting to break through the boundary fence and to attack innocents, the truth is that the vast majority of those to die were hundreds of yards from it. Any claims to the contrary are defeated by the fact that snipers were guarding the fence at all. Why use sniper rifles to defend against opponents at close range? Why not use rubber bullets on targets at close range? Why use technology designed expressly for targeting at a distance? I do not doubt that some protesters did go straight up to the fence, and probably tried to break through it, but “the punishment doth greatly exceed the crime”.

Either way, the Palestinians are not ‘trespassing’, as they are not getting across the boundary. They are staying on their own side of the fence, and therefore are staying inside the zone administered by the Palestinian Authority.

Gaza buffer zone

The red-pink-coloured area is the buffer zone that Israel declared in a territory over which it has no right of control.

The Israeli Government declared a ‘buffer zone’ at the boundary that it insists Palestinians must not enter. But as the buffer zone actually begins at the fence and extends only into Gaza, while leaving Israeli-administered territory untouched, it must be illegal; Israel has no right to impose a buffer/no-go zone on territory it does not directly govern. That is very important for reasons that go far beyond the current protests as well. Gaza, with a population density of over five thousand per square kilometre, is the third most-over-populated territory currently inhabited by Man, and desperately needs to use the land in the buffer zone to make more room for its inhabitants. But it dare not attempt to build houses in the zone as long as the IDF continue taking pot-shots at any Arabs setting foot there.

While Hamas, an extremist Sunni-Wahhabist faction, probably deserves some blame for the current misery of life in Gaza, the above shows that the severe over-population (and eleven-year blockade by the Israeli security forces) plays a much bigger role. Palestinian voices have widely insisted that the protests were not Hamas’ idea at all, and have been carried out independently of the faction’s wishes, and have even extended their criticisms to Hamas themselves. It also needs to be noted that Hamas was only founded in 1987, and the general conditions in Gaza have seldom reached the heights of ‘tolerable’ at any time since the Second World War, so it seems a bit much to have Hamas carry the can alone for it all.

asa palestinian

Palestinians are not the brainwashed pawns that British Zionists like to paint them as.

Perhaps the most glaring myth I have seen spread is a historical one, and it left me gob-smacked when I read it. Someone, whose name I shall kindly keep confidential, claimed on social media that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians began, and led to the Palestinians losing their lands, because, and I quote; –

“Palestine attacked Israel in the Six-Day War.”

Intellectual confidence is often inversely-proportional to historical literacy, and this is one of the most startling examples I have ever seen. Let me itemise the reasons this claim is completely idiotic; –

  1. The conflict actually began in 1948-49. The United Nations drew up a plan to divide the land of the British Mandate between Arab natives and Jewish settlers roughly in proportion to their respective population sizes. The Jewish settlers were happy with the plan, the Arabs were not. Israel was officially founded in 1948, but neighbouring countries, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Syria, invaded and took control of the Arab zone, and used it as a platform from which to attack Israel itself. Israel successfully fought off the invading forces, and in the process seized control of over sixty per cent of the Palestinian zone that had been allocated to the Arabs. The West Bank was brought under Jordanian control, while Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip. This struggle is known as the First Arab-Israeli War, and the Palestinians did not really do any serious attacking at all, in large part because there was no immediate central authority to organise them at that point (bar the Arab Liberation Army, which in any event was more international than Palestinian, and was head-quartered in Syria). Large numbers of Palestinians were displaced from their homes during the conflict and had to flee to neighbouring territories, including Gaza. This initial dispossession is known in Palestinian infamy as the Nakba, roughly translated as the ‘Catastrophe’.
  2. The Six-Day War happened nearly two decades after Israel seized most of Palestine. The Six-Day War was a ‘re-match’ of the First Arab-Israeli War, but did not take place until 1967. Egypt and Israel had been on unhappy terms for many years over access to the Straits of Tiran, which were critical to Israeli shipping.Strait of Tiran
    When Egypt tried to close the Straits, and began a military build-up on Israel’s border in anticipation of a retaliatory attack, the Israeli Air Force launched a series of strikes on Egyptian airfields, wiping out the Egyptian Air Force in a single day, and gaining control of regional airspace. Jordan and Syria mobilised in support of Egypt, but in the days before they could intervene, the Israeli army overran both Gaza and the entire Sinai Peninsular. The Egyptian army was totally defeated, while the Israeli military turned east to defeat the Syrian and Jordanian forces in turn. The whole war lasted less than a week, and the Israeli victories saw them seize control of the West Bank from Jordan and the Golan Heights from Syria. And with the aforementioned seizure of  Gaza, Israel now had possession of all the land the UN had allocated to the Palestinian Arabs back in 1948. Again, the Palestinians, beyond unsuccessful defensive fighting in Gaza on the orders of the Egyptian Government, played no real role in the war at all, let alone ‘attacked’ Israel. On the contrary, Israel used the attack by Egypt as a pretext for capturing Gaza and the West Bank.
  3. Most Palestinian loss of land tends to happen outside of full-blown wartime. It has been a permanent feature of Israeli policy that any ethnically-Jewish individual on Earth who needs a home and ‘safe space’ against anti-Semitic persecution can automatically receive citizenship in Israel. But Israel was a small land at its birth, and soon ran low on space to keep taking in more refugees from around the world. Therefore, it became a routine process every few years for the Israeli Government in Tel Aviv to pass a new law authorising itself to seize the land and property of entire Palestinian communities, award it to Jewish settlers, and then cart the Palestinians off into Gaza or the West Bank. This sort of practice happens semi-frequently,  no matter how the Palestinians behave. The current protest campaign by the Palestinians, the Great Return March, marks the anniversary of Land Day in March 1976, which was a previous protest that ended in bloodshed against precisely such a shameless Israeli land-grab. You see, Palestinians have not lost so much land to Israel because they are being ‘punished’ for violent behaviour (even allowing for the fact that they have often acted violently). It happens because they have land, and Israel needs land. That is it. Occasional bursts of Palestinian militancy are just used by Israel as a justification for the mistreatment, but even when such militancy does not happen, land-seizures continue to happen anyway. Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have little alternative but to use force, as they have few legal rights, and are not allowed to vote in Israeli Elections, but only in the Palestinian Authority Elections, which are fairly useless as long as the boundaries are controlled by Tel Aviv. And the Israeli Government will never change that, as the total Palestinian population in Israeli-held territory is roughly the same size as the Jewish population. It is projected to grow faster than the Jewish population too, and so, with suffrage, Arabs would soon be able to outvote Israeli-Jews. Given the original ethnocratic notion behind Zionism of a strictly Jewish nation, that is a prospect that the Israeli right wing in particular dare not contemplate. (It is also one more reason why I argue that Zionism is a failed ideology.)

Israel is not exclusively culpable in the history of this conflict. Much of the blame must go to neighbouring countries, especially Egypt, for fuelling a very paranoid emotional outlook in Israel. But it is time that the real history of modern Israel was properly understood in Britain. The Palestinians are far more sinned-against than sinning. Some atrocities they have committed against ordinary Israeli civilians during the various Intifadas have been terrible. But the Gazans are a people in a permanent condition of imprisonment and destitution, chiefly for reasons of their race. Atrocities they may be, but they are hardly unprovoked.

One more point needs to be made, and that is on the matter of what caused the renewed protest on Monday – the US President deciding to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This was an astonishingly stupid move, even by Donald Trump’s standards, and not just because it was so obvious it would provoke furious protests. It also puts a huge obstacle in the way of the potential for a ‘two-state solution’ to the conflict, which would require Jerusalem to be neutral territory. East Jerusalem was originally meant to be the Palestinian capital city. For a major foreign embassy to Israel to be located in Jerusalem actively prevents that neutrality.

Many Israelis are celebrating Trump’s decision, which says little for their intelligence. They appear to miss the fact that the move leaves only a ‘one-state solution’, which ultimately will have to include full suffrage and legal equality for all Palestinians, if the arrangement is ever to be accepted by the majority of Arabs. Therefore, the demographic issue mentioned in section 3 above will be brought into play. The future existence of a Jewish state, if we must accept the notion that one is truly necessary, is being endangered by the very people its most fanatical supporters are applauding.

Sad? Yes.

Ridiculous? Certainly.

Symptomatic of the modern world? Totally.