Thursday, 6 May 2010

Ethnically cleansing the Jews? Yes, I think you'll find that's antisemitic.

Today I lost a little faith in the police.

Remember the story about Noor Rashid? He was the student accused of shouting 'slay the Jews' at the Oxford Union some months ago. (see here).

Well according to today's Oxford Student, after watching a video of his outburst the police had concluded that they 'could not find any evidence' of hate speech.

Strange really, since they - and he - agree that while he never actually said 'slay the Jews', what he did say was a remark in Arabic that translates as 'Khaybar Khaybar, oh Jews, the army of Muhammed will return'.

You're probably wondering what 'Khaybar' means. I'll tell you - and then you'll understand why what he said, on any reasonable account, qualifies as hate speech.

Khaybar was an oasis not far from medina that was inhabited by Jews before being conquered by Muhammed in the 7th century. It's Jewish inhabitants were later expelled by the Caliph Umar.

So the chant Noor Rashid shouted refers to the attacking, conquering, and subsequent ethnic cleansing of Jews. Anti-Semitic? I think so. I just wonder: why do the police seem to think otherwise?

Thursday, 15 April 2010

When a Bar Mitzvah goes political

I know I said I wouldn't be writing for a while, but this article pissed me off and I wanted a distraction from work.

The grandson of Judge Richard Goldstone - who wrote the Goldstone report on the recent Gaza conflict - is due to have his Bar Mitzvah soon. A Bar Mitzvah is meant to be a happy family event, but this one has become a political event, hijacked by the South-African Zionist Federation (SAZF).

According to reports cited in the article, the SAZF reached an agreement with the synagogue in which the Bar Mitzvah is due to take place whereby Goldsone would be banned from attending the Bar Mitzvah. The Rosh Bet Din (head of the religious court) in South Africa, Rabbi Moshe Kurtstag, was reported as saying he had heard the SAZF had also made plans to organize a protest at the shul to stop Goldstone from attending.

Clearly, the SAZF and many others feel that Goldstone delegitimized Israel. But to attack him by spoiling his grandson's Bar-Mitzvah is a disgrace. Politics and Bar-Mitzvahs just shouldn't mix - if you feel the same, why not tell the SAZF yourself:

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Pappe @ Israel apartheid week

The Israeli historian calling for a boycott of Israeli universities, Ilan Pappe, spoke in Oxford yesterday on the 1967 war.

There were familiar faces in the audience, including the flag-waving protestor shown below accusing the Israeli deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, of war crimes in Gaza (despite the fact he was not actually in the government during the Gaza conflict).

Then, kicking off the night's proceedings was a short film promoting Israel Apartheid week. The student who put the film on, and then introduced the event, was the very same student who last year screamed at Shimon Peres, breaching Oxford's code of discipline in the process - though I've no idea if the university did anything about it - and having to be taken out by security.

Good company.

The talk itself, chaired by Avi Shlaim, was certainly thought-provoking. In it, Pappe argued that the 67 war was in fact a war of aggression, not defence, and essentially a war of choice. In arguing this, he explained, he took a longer historical view of events, looking beyond the immediate past of the war.

He gave a sketch suggesting that the military and political elite in Israel had always wanted to have the whole of Palestine, arguing that capturing the West Bank had been their aim for some time. This, coupled with the fact that some very military and administrative plans were organised before the war, and that Israel had been engaging in considerable low-level provocation (he said, for example, that Israeli pilots from that time told him in an interview that they were instructed to undertake flying exercizes over Syrian airspace) suggested to him that Israel wanted the 1967 war. Members of the military and political elite, he claimed, cynically conveyed th message of an existential threat - a 'second holocaust' - while in private being confident of Israel's success and strength.

But there's a problem. Since returning home I've looked into some of the evidence he provided, and it doesn't add up. Here are some examples:

(1)Misattributing the Dayan quote
He quoted Moshe Dayan, the Israeli military leader, as having said: Israel must see the sword as the main, if not the only, instrument with which to keep its morale high and to retain its moral tension. Toward this end it may, no — it must — invent dangers

It turns out Dayan never actually said that. The wikiquote entry on it explains:

This has been reported to be a direct quotation of Dayan in the diaries of Moshe Sharett, but is actually derived from an interpretive commentary by Livia Rokach in "Israel's Sacred Terrorism" (1980) upon statements of Dayan reported in Sharett's diaries, from accounts provided to him by Ya'acob Herzog and Gideon Raphael — in other words: a third-hand interpretation of Dayan's meaning, based on a second hand report of his arguments. Sharett's summation of Dayan's statements of 26 May 1955 read:

We do not need a security pact with the U.S.: such a pact will only constitute an obstacle for us. We face no danger at all of an Arab advantage of force for the next 8-10 years. Even if they receive massive military aid from the West, we shall maintain our military superiority thanks to our infinitely greater capacity to assimilate new armaments. The security pact will only handcuff us and deny us the freedom of action which we need in the coming years. Reprisal actions which we couldn't carry out if we were tied to a security pact are our vital lymph ... they make it possible for us to maintain a high level of tension among our population and in the army. Without these actions we would have ceased to be a combative people and without the discipline of a combative people we are lost. We have to cry out that the Negev is in danger, so that young men will go there....

Rokach's interpretive assessment of this diary entry by Sharett produces:

The conclusions from Dayan's words are clear: This State has no international obligations, no economic problems, the question of peace is nonexistent... It must calculate its steps narrow-mindedly and live on its sword. It must see the sword as the main, if not the only, instrument with which to keep its morale high and to retain its moral tension. Toward this end it may, no — it must — invent dangers, and to do this it must adopt the method of provocation-and-revenge.. . . And above all — let us hope for a new war with the Arab countries, so that we may finally get rid of our troubles and acquire our space.

(2) What was the basic zionist project?
Pappe spoke in his talk about "the basic zionist proect, which started in 1882, which was to de-Arabize and Judaize Palestine."

This really doesn't add up. Zionism was initially and primarily concerned with Jewish self-determination - the location of Israel/Palestine was one, preferred, possibility, but hardly the 'basic zionist project.'

The significance of referring to 1882, as Pappe does, is to refer to the publication of one of the first documents promoting zionism, Autoemancipation! by Leon Pinsker. You can read it here.

Note that it explicitly states that it wants a homeland wherever it can get one - Palestine is not the issue - so long as the land is fertile and habitable. It suggests as possibilities land in Turkey or a place in North America. See this passage from it below:

Therefore, the selection of a permanent, national land, meeting all requirements, must be made with every precaution and confided to one single body... This tract might form a small territory in North America, or a sovereign Pashalik in Asiatic Turkey recognized by the Porte and the other Powers as neutral. It would certainly be an important duty of the directorate to secure the assent of the Porte, and probably of the other European cabinets to this plan.

Sorry Pappe; there's nothing about 'de-arabizing' Palestine there.

Moreover, Pappe's contention about the basic nature of zionism cannot make sense of the famous Uganda plan of 1903. In 1903 the World Zionist Congress debated and voted in favour of establishing a Jewish state in East Africa, after Britain had proposed an autonomous Jewish colony be established there. Jewish self-determination was the essential aim, not de-arabizing Palestine. (Although, yes, the Uganda plan was seen as a temporary measure, with Palestine still being hoped for by many). The establishment of the Jewish territorialist Organization, associated with zionists such as Israel Zangwill, further gives the lie to Pappe's selective reading of zionist history: this was a case of zionists looking for land in America, Australia, Asia or Africa - anywhere - to establish a Jewish homeland. (They only disbanded after the Balfour declaration in 1917).

Finally, zionists such as Martin Buber who actually called for a bi-national state, clearly don't fit into Pappe's conception of zionism's basic project of 'de-arabizing' Palestine.

In short, zionism is not the hitorically monolithic anti-Arab movement Pappe paints it out to be, but is a movement with various and sometimes antagonistic strands, some of which historically had not interest in Palestine at all. .

(3) The occupy-the-West-Bank toy-game claim
Pappe claimed in his talk that there were toy games made for Israeli children before 1967 all about occupying the West Bank. "you roll the dice and move the pieces," he said. Well I'm skeptical - very skeptical. After 15 minutes googling, I've found nothing about it. If any readers know any different, please tell me. But the idea that such games would have been manufactured and yet there be no record on the internet of them having existed, strikes me as being pretty bizarre, given how much they would indicate, and how quick anti-Israel groups would be to seize on them as evidence of 'zionist expansionism'. So as I said, in the meantime, pending evidence, I'm unconvinced.

(4) The Mokked plan
One of Pappe's pieces of evidence that the Israelis wanted war so they could occupy the West Bank was the Mokked plan - a plan developed by Israel in 1965/66 to take out the airforces of the neighbouring Arab states.

How is this sufficient evidence? I'm not a military historian, but it would seem to me to be obviously common sense, when surrounded by hostile countries whom you have recently been at war with, to have military plans in place for future conflicts. The existence of this plan can certainly be used as evidence of preparation for war, but not as evidence of an Israeli desire for war.

This post is getting too long; nearly at the end.

Despite the problems listed above, much of what Pappe said challenged me. . In particular he spoke of how before 1967, academics at the Hebrew U organized a legal and administrative framework for ruling the West Bank. This seems like a strange exercize to undertake unless they had an expectation (or desire) that Israel will be occupying the West Bank in the near future. Also, he quoted from the diary of Uri Avnery, who wrote that he had meetings with the military leader El-Azar, who told him that he 'dreamed' there would be sufficient Arab armies mobilised in Egypt to justify an Israeli attack.

Well, I'll need to read more on the matter.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Israel apartheid week - a complete abuse of language

If you go on the website for Israel Apartheid week, you'll discover that this year it takes place from the 1st to the 14th of March, meaning that it lasts for a fortnight, and not a week as claimed.

What a shocking abuse of language (;

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Is Israel actually a nation?

Does an Israeli nation exist? Strange as it sounds, that's the question Israel's supreme court will be answering this Wednesday.

Bernard Avishai explains why on his blog...

Back in 2005, in a piece for Harper's, I called attention to a curious petition, filed the year before with Israel's High Court of Justice. The petitioners were thirty-eight citizens of Israel, most of them Jews but a number of them Arabs: businesspeople, professors, entertainers, writers, jurists; a past minister of education, a past head of the air force. Their petition enjoined the court to order the Ministry of Interior to inscribe them as “Israeli” in the Registry of Population. Given how much else was being contested in the country, one would think a petition to recognize Israelis as “Israeli” was frivolous. It was anything but that.

He later quotes Israeli commentator and left wing activist Uri Avnery:

The Israeli Interior Ministry recognizes 126 nations, but not the Israeli nation. An Israeli citizen can be registered as belonging to the Assyrian, the Tatar or the Circassian nation. But the Israeli nation? Sorry, no such thing.

According to the official doctrine, the State of Israel cannot recognize an "Israeli" nation because it is the state of the "Jewish" nation. In other words, it belongs to the Jews of Brooklyn, Budapest and Buenos Aires, even though these consider themselves as belonging to the American, Hungarian or Argentine nations. Messy? Indeed.

That 'official doctrine' Avnery talks about was evident some years ago in the judgement of the then head of the Supreme Court of Israel, Shimon Agranat, who explained (in response to a similar petition to recognise an Israeli nationality - see the third paragraph here for more info):

Therefore, if there is in the country today – just 23 years after the establishment of the state – a bunch of people or even more – who ask to separate themselves from the Jewish people and to achieve for themselves the status of a distinct Israeli nation, then such a separatist approach should not be seen as a legitimate approach. It is prohibited to acknowledge this approach, since the principle of the right for national self-determination could not provide any justification for it..

So there you have it: there's no such thing as an Israeli nation - well, at least not officially (though clearly an Israeli nationality exists for and is claimed by most of what we would call Israeli citizens, and that’s enough for me to say it’s real, whatever its legal status). Let's see if this changes on Wednesday...

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The state of debate on the Jewish State on campus

A Manchester University student paper has this report ofthe clashes between Israel and Palestine supporters over the invitation and subsequent cancellation of the visit of the deputy Israeli Ambassador to the UK. You can see pictures of the protests here

Dan Berkely, one of the students present at the clashes, gave this assessment of the experience:

“They were ridiculous protests and became not about politics, but about who could shout louder. That was the problem with the lack of debate in the first place. It was just aggressive people shouting. I’ve never been able to hear their views. All I’m told is, ‘I should be ashamed’ and ‘I’m scum’ and that ‘I’m a murderer’. They don’t know my views and frankly, I don’t know theirs. They never want to sit down and speak. They never want to debate. It’s not politics.”
"They don't no my views and frankly, I don't know theirs" - and there's the nub of the problem; something which no amount of shouting will change.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Yuli Edelstein - trivialising antisemitism

Yuli Edelstein, the Israeli Minister of Information and Diaspora, spoke at a dinner hosted by the Zionist Federation on Sunday. According to the report on Haaretz, he told the audience that the Goldstone report represented a new 'kind' of anti-semitism.

Reading this reminded me of something the former head of Jewish Policy Research, Antony Lerman, had written:

Some Israel critics are no doubt classic anti-semites using anti-zionism as cover. But the anti-zionism equals antisemitism argument says something else. [Jonathan] Sacks summed it up when he told the Parliamentary Committee against Antisemitism that 'accusing Israel of racism, ethnic cleansing, attempted genocide, crimes against humanity,' is itself antisemitic. Yet to exempt Israel from such allegations is to set the threshold of where legitimate criticism of Israel tips over into antisemitism impossibly low. If we say a British institution is racist, does this imply an ideological anti-Britishness... The anti-Zionism equals antisemitism argument drains the word antisemitism of any useful meaning.
To accuse the Goldstone Report of being antisemitic is to trivialise antisemitism.

Nothing in the Goldstone report corresponds with historical - 'old' - definitions of antisemitism, which focus on 'hatred of Jews per se, belief in a worldwide Jewish conspiracy, belief that Jews are racially inferior' and so on. Watching this interview with Goldstone, and having read much of the report myself I found no evidence of any antisemitism in the report - at least understood in the normal way described above.

Some critics of Israel claim that the allegation of antisemitism is used to silence criticism of Israel. My impression is that this claim is more often asserted than it is demonstrated. (Indeed, sometimes people make it to try to excuse their own, actual antisemitism, and to silence those who draw attention to it). But the sad fact is, by calling the Goldstone report 'a new antisemitism,' Yuli Edelstein seems to have done just that: using the charge of anti-semitism to undermine Goldstone, so as to deflect or silence criticism of Israel.

Why you should cum to Israel

It's often said that sex sells in advertising. Well the makers of this Israeli tourism promo certainly thought so...

'It's small'

'It's paradise'

h/t Tikkun Olam

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Protests at Manchester University

I wrote previously about the invitation to the deputy Israeli Ambassador to speak at Manchester University last week. In the end the embassy cancelled her speech, over fears for her security.

Here is footage of the protests that took place as a result of the whole event - from both Action Palestine members and from students supporting her right to speak in the student union.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Sacks says no to chicken soup

It's true, it's official, it's amazing...

Britain's Chief Rabbi, Lord Professor (etc) Jonathan Sacks, is a vegetarian!

He says so in this interview with Cambridge University's VarsiTV, before adding:

I don't miss the Chicken soup, and life is short enough without my inflicting pain on innocent chickens.

As a sometime flexitarian, I'm excited.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Manchester's Action Palestine - yes to Hamas, no to Israel

Tomorrow afternoon the deputy Israeli ambassador to the UK, Talya Lador-Fresher, is due to give a talk to Manchester University's politics society entitled: ‘Hopes and challenges in the Middle East’.

In response the Manchester student group 'Action Palestine' are busy organizing protests. On facebook they explain:

we are calling a Protest against Israeli War Crimes in Palestine at 2 pm outside the Students Union steps before the Pol Soc meeting on the 18th to show Mrs Talya Lador-Fresher that neither she or the state she represents are welcome on the premises of our democratically run Union that prides itself on being a student-run establishment which does not endorse nor fund apartheid regimes responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians.
I'm not altogether sure what they mean when they say 'neither she or the state she represents' are welcome in the Manchester Union. What does it mean to say that 'the state of Israel' is not welcome? I understand saying 'the officials of the state' are not welcome, but the state itself? A citizen of a state is a part of that state. Are Israelis not to be welcome in Manchester Student Union anymore? That's what the message seems to be - even if it is, as I presume, the inadvertent result of a careless writing mistake.

But the really striking thing about all this is that only recently Manchester University was graced by Assam Tamimi, a Hamas supporter on record as having supported suicide bombing. Did Action Palestine kick up a fuss? No. Clearly they're not too bothered by article's 7 and 13 of the Hamas charter, which goes on about the day of judgement coming when muslims 'kill the Jews' (not 'Israelis') and expressly rejects 'peaceful solutions.'

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Let's listen to the world

Roi Ben-Yehuda has a well written piece in Haaretz today about why Israel should 'care what the rest of the world thinks' about it. Here's how it starts...

"First, let me tell you one thing: It's not important what the world says about Israel. It's not important what they say about us anywhere else. The only thing that's important is that we can live here on the land of our ancestors. And if we don't show the Arabs that they have to pay a high price for killing Jews, we won't continue living."

These words, spoken to a young Ariel Sharon by David Ben-Gurion, exemplify the realist strand that dominated and still dominates the thinking and discourse of many Israelis. However, these days, in the wake of the Goldstone report and international efforts to delegitimize Israel, it has become increasingly apparent that in order to "live here on the land of our ancestors" Israel must also pay heed to the opinion of the international community.

And he goes on:

According to organizational psychologists, when there is a significant gap between what people expect and what they actually get, two types of learning can take place: single-loop and double-loop learning. Single-loop learning refers to efforts to reduce this gap by modifying the strategy originally employed - improving Hasbarah skills, for example. Double-loop learning, on the other hand, requires us to question the assumption, values and actions that brought us to this problem in the first place.

There are no shortcuts here. Double-loop learning means we need to radically transform our relationship with the Palestinians. This is not to say Israel deserves to be delegitimized, but when it chooses an overall course of action - yes, the occupation, blockade and settlements are choices - it significantly contributes to the problem. Of course peace also depends on the Palestinians undergoing some double-loop learning of their own.

'Double-loop learning.' I like the sound of that.

Friday, 12 February 2010

'why we protested'

In it's cover story this week, The Cherwell, an Oxford student paper, has covered the protests at Danny Ayalon's visit. Reading through the defences offered by protestors for their behaviour, I wasn't sure whether to laugh or sigh - especially when reading Noor Rashid's claim that his Arabic outburst had 'no derogatory or secondary meanings'.

Two justifications in particular stood out for me.

The first was that of Hengemah Ziai, who interupted the evening for 10 minutes by refusing to wait until the question and answer session at the end of Ayalon's talk and instead shouted questions at him. Invariably, she didn't give him proper time to answer. She explained that she felt:

10 minutes was an insufficient amount of time to take Ayalon up on the lies he was feeding the audience

Oh please. Usually when a speaker lies or says something deplorable you catch them out at the end of their talk in the question and answer session. It's really not that hard. If 10 minutes - more than you would normally get with any other speaker - was not enough for Miss Ziai, that probably says more about her inability to coherently critique Ayalon than about the extent of his 'lies'.

The second individual whose explanation I took issue with was that of Nabeel Qureshi. He said:

If a holocaust denier came to the Union I would call him out on his lies rather than sit there treating him respectfully and letting him change history. Same principle.

Of course a holocaust denier has come to the Union. His name was David Irving, and I was in the chamber and challenged him when he spoke. Was Nabeel there? No - or at least if he was he was remarkably silent. So why didn't he 'call him out on his lies'? Why didn't he apply the 'same principle' he talks of?

And moreover, lets have some perspective here: at worst Ayalon's historical errors consisted of an idealized reading of Jewish history, a false description of the 48 war (that tired old claim that the Arab leaders told their people to leave) and possibly some dodgy stats when it comes to Lebanon. Now call me crazy, but I really don't think these historical errors are comparable with Holocaust denial as Nabeel seems to imply. I just wonder: does he?

Thursday, 11 February 2010

The protestor makes an admission...

As I discussed here, there have been different allegations over what the protestor at Ayalon's talk actually said in Arabic. Well the Oxford Student has an explanaton from the man himself:

Various media sources have reported that Noor Rashid, a second-year Teddy Hall student said an Arabic phrase, which the speaker, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon translated to the audience as “Kill the Jews”.

However, Rashid said that his actual remark was based on a classical Arabic chant concerning a seventh-century battle between Arabs and Jews at Khayber, in the Arabian Peninsula.

He said: “My version went: ‘Khaybar, O Jews, we will win’. This is in classical, Qur’anic Arabic and I doubt that apart from picking up on the word ‘Jew’, that even the Arabic speakers in the room would have understood the phrase.

“As you can see, I made no reference to killing Jews.” he said, adding that ‘Jew’ and ‘Israel’ were interchangeable terms. rn“It carries absolutely no derogatory or secondary meanings.”

His admission is astonishing. As I've already explained, the 'classical Arab chant' he claims to have said, about Khaybar, refers to a Jewish community in Khaybar being conquered by Muhammed in the 7th century, the Jews later being expelled by the Caliph Umar. So when he says he made 'no reference to killing Jews', he's being just a little disingenuous: by chanting about Khaybar he's referring to Jews being attacked, conquered, and expelled by Muslims.

Incitement? I think so.

On a completely separate issue, one of the other protestors at the evening has since claimed he was run over by an Israeli car after the event. But the police seem unconvinced that any motoring offence took place. See here:

Mr Inglis said he stood in the way an Israeli car to take a picture and he thought it would stop.

He added: “I was traumatised and left shaking after it happened.”

Det Chief Insp Colin Paine said he had seen CCTV footage of the incident and the driver would not be prosecuted for any motoring offence.

Asked if the driver had reported the collision immediately, he said not “initially”. Mr Paine said he would be looking into how quickly the driver had come forward.

He added: “A male protester moved in front of the car and appears to have made contact with it. The car was driving slowly and the man sustained minor bruising and grazes.

Shouting free speech away

Below are two videos from the past week. One shows the abuse levelled at Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren when he spoke at UC Irvine in the States; the other shows some of the heckling at the Oxford Union on Monday, when the Israeli deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon spoke.

Both show a complete disrespect for the principle of free speech, as though because the speakers are Israeli officials, their voice is not to be heard but shouted over - even if there is a room full of people who have chosen to go and hear them.

Oxford demonstration from Jewish Chronicle on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

‘Itbah Al-Yahud’ or ‘Khaybar ya Yahod’ – what was actually said?

In a previous post I gave my account of the abuse levelled at Danny Ayalon, the Israeli deputy foreign minister, when he spoke at the Oxford Union. As has been widely reported, one student stormed out the room shouting in Arabic and, according to Ayalon, had said ‘itbah Al-Yahud’, meaning ‘Kill the Jews’.

Since then one person has commented on my post to contest the translation:

“The protester said that in Arabic which I know better than Ayalon, I guess (being Arabic, how surprising, we do exist in Oxford!!!)The guy didn’t say kill the Jews he said: Khybar khaybar ya yahod, and I will leave it to your common sense to search and find what it means”

So I did just that – and, if what I have gleaned about that Arabic phrase is correct, then what he said would still qualify as incitement to religious / racial hatred.

Khaybar was an Oasis not far from medina that was inhabited by Jews before being conquered by Muhammed in the 7th Century. It's Jewish inhabitants were later expelled by the Caliph Umar. According to its Wikipedia entry, the phrase ‘Khybar khaybar ya yahod’, that the protestor allegedly said, is the start of a chant that translates as:

“Khaybar, Khaybar o Jews, the army of Muhammad will return"

Well that still sounds like incitement to me - especially when shouted aggressively in a room with many Jews.

Now whether the protestor actually said ‘itbah al-yahud’ – ‘kill the Jews’ – as Ayalon heard and translated at the talk (without anyone challenging his translation at the time) or the protestor said ‘Khaybar ya-Yahud’, as has since been claimed, can only and will hopefully be established from the footage of the evening.

But in the meantime it should be obvious that whichever he said, his outburst was incendiary and anti-semitic. It should be treated as such by the Union.

Monday, 8 February 2010

“Death to the Jews” - at the Oxford Union

Earlier tonight Danny Ayalon, the Israeli deputy foreign minister, came to speak at the Oxford Union. I don’t like his politics, and went along half-expecting to leave frustrated and embarrassed, as an Israeli, by what he would say. And sure enough by the end of the evening that’s exactly how I felt – frustrated and embarrassed – but not so much by him as by the stupidity and racism of fellow students at Oxford.

Speaking to the Oxford Union on Twitpic

To begin with the heckling was nothing out of the ordinary: a student stood up and read something out – extracts from the Goldstone report, I think – but spoke too quickly and too quietly for me to follow. Shortly after another student jumped up, shouting that she was a Lebanese Palestinian, before shouting some more while holding her passport and some photos in the air. She stayed standing for the remainder of his talk. So far, so usual; in the world of anti-Israel campus activism, this was nothing.

But then things got more heated. One audience member rose waving a Palestinian flag and left the room shouting that Ayalon was a war criminal who would be tried in court for his role in the Gaza war last year. Since Ayalon was not yet in the government at that time, I couldn't help but wonder: what crime was he to be be tried for?

Another student then took it upon herself to stand up and, in a shrill and impassioned voice, speak too quickly and too emotionally to make any sense. She then refused to stop talking, apparently misunderstanding the instructions at the start of the night that there would be time for questions at the end. She continued despite a rising chorus of ‘sit down’ being levelled against her. One student put it nicely when he said ‘stop being selfish, this is not a tutorial. It's a lecture!.’ She didn’t seem to get the message though, and rambled on. Ayalon, to his credit, took her seriously and attempted to engage with her comments. She didn't return the favour, and left soon after, no doubt with a great deal of self-righteous satisfaction.

The worst, however, was still to come. ‘Death to the Jews’, one student shouted in Arabic as he stormed out. (disclaimer: I don't speak Arabic, but that's what Ayalon claimed he said - and nobody in the audience challenged the translation) I’m no lawyer, but I’m fairly sure that comment constitutes incitement to racial and religious hatred under UK legislation – it will be interesting to see if anything is followed up by the Union. At the very least, I expect them to remove the Union-membership of the student in question, for breaking the law and calling for the slaughter of fellow members while at a Union event.

Outside the debating chamber, all the while, protestors were shouting ‘free free Palestine from the river to the sea’. When Ayalon argued that this chant amounted to a call for Israel’s destruction, and asked where Israeli Jews would have to go for Palestine to be free 'from the river to the sea', the woman sitting next to me said ‘back to where they came from!’ I couldn’t resist and had to ask her where exactly it was that she expected Jews to go ‘back to’, to which she replied, ‘well you’re in England, you appear to be doing fine’. I didn't think it worthwhile to point out that actually my grandparents 'came from' Poland and Czechoslovakia, and that the reason I am in England today is that in the 1930s they were not 'doing fine' in the countries they 'came from'.

In any case, I’m tired, and am heading to bed with the following thoughts:

  1. What would happen if a student called out ‘death to the muslims’ in the Oxford Union? Would it get national publicity and receive widespread condemnation? I expect (and hope) it would. I’m waiting to see how the press deal with the ‘death to the Jews’ outburst, and how quickly the apologetic ‘yes but you have to understand...’ voices are to emerge.

  2. By attacking him in the way they did, the protestors today handed Ayalon an undeserved victory. His politics and approach to diplomacy are deplorable; they could and should have been intelligently exposed. Instead, by the end of the night he seemed to be the calm victim of the aggressive onslaught of idiots. To judge from the opinions of the few non-partisan audience members whom I overheard talking as they left the chamber, he left looking more reasonable than his critics.

  3. To the extent that we can generalize from the events at the Oxford Union tonight, it seems that no Israeli official can expect to receive a fair hearing or to give a speech freely at a British University anymore – even at Oxford’s self proclaimed ‘bastion of free speech’. That’s bad for debate but it’s also bad for the Palestinians; however much self-righteous satisfaction protestors may feel when they shout aggressively at Israeli officials, doing so only feeds the perception within Israel that foreign critics of Israel are unwilling to give Israel a fair hearing, that they’re simply Israel bashers, and that they are anti-Semitic - and that's never going to inspire Israel to change its policies.

Friday, 29 January 2010

An unusual broadcast from Haiti

No one does satire quite like the Israelis... See this sketch on the PR element of Israel's Haiti efforts from Israeli show 'Eretz Nehederet' (a wonderful land).

H/t Shalom Rav

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

An Arab MK visits Auschwitz

Call me naive, but I think it's a good thing.

Mohammed Barakeh, an Arab MK, is attending a commemoration at Aushwitz tomorrow as part of a delegation from Israel. (see here). He's received attacks for doing so from both Arabs and Jews.

The Lebanese Daily Star explains that some Arabs attack him, and those like him who commemerate the tragedy of the holocaust, for political reasons, along these lines:

why help the Israelis and Jews with such an issue when Palestinians and Arabs are being displaced and oppressed on a daily basis by the Israeli state?
Jewish attacks, meanwhile, have tended to focus on his intention to criticize Israel's policies towards the Palestinians while in Poland. To do so, they argue, is to exploit the memory of the suffering of the victims of the holocaust; and I would agree.

(This kind of exploitation, however, is nothing new; Israeli officials have done it too. Abba Eban, for example, spoke of Israel's borders as being 'auschwitz lines', while more recently Israel's ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, exploited the memory of the holocaust as a means to delegitimize the Goldstone report, as I discussed in the last paragraph of my post here.)

But the important question is whether the good of Barakeh's visit will outweigh the bad of his exploiting it by using the publicity it will generate to attack Israel. I'm going to go for a yes: by visiting Auschwitz he makes it easier for other Arabs to commemerate the holocaust without fearing vilification along the lines quoted above. Moreover, it should help to foster a climate of reducing the politicization of acknowledging the suffering experienced by 'the other side' in the Israel/Arab conflict, and that can only be a good thing for peace.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

The Jewish vote in British Politics

In his Jewish chronicle column this week, Geoffrey Alderman discusses the Jewish vote in British politics: where (and if) it matters, which MPs it may effect, and evidence that at least one MP takes it seriously. Given his history of research on the Jewish community in British Politics (from which I'll be drawing on later in this post) when Alderman writes on these subjects the chances are he's on to something.

The main points:

  • Of the ten constituencies with the highest Jewish population, no less than 7 are currntly held by Labour.
  • Jewish voters are unlikely to swing the vote either way in five of those constituencies, either because they are too marginal (too likely to swing Tory) or too safe.
  • That leaves Harrow East and Hendon. Both these seats would fall to the Conservatives on swings of between 3.0 and 3.8 per cent.
  • In both cases, a Jewish sympathy vote for the incumbent MP could — just conceivably — save the seats for Labour

Some thoughts...

I live in one of the two Jewish-vote-significant constituencies (Hendon). My MP, Andrew Dismore, has certainly tried to appeal to his Jewish constituents. (See the clip below for example, when he used Prime Minister's questions to ask the Prime Minister to wish the Jewish community a happy chanukah.)

But I wonder: how large a factor does the 'Jewishness' of a voter play in their voting decisions? Ignoring class, income, age and other factors, how much of a 'Jewish' effect is there on a Jewish voter's decisions? My guess is not a great deal.

Beyond a strong anti-Israel stance, a desire to ban kosher slaughter, and an opposition to faith schools, I can't think of any other position a parliamentary candidate could take that would be likely to swing many Jewish voters against them for specifically Jewish-related reasons (can you?) Given the fact that in Hendon both Labour and Tory candidate alike will almost certainly take the same positions on these issues, I can't see voters choosing one way or the other out of any specifically Jewish consideration.

The historical context
How have the Jews voted in the past and why? Could this offer any clues as to how they will vote? (I don't think so, by the way, but it's fun to write about anyway...)

In 1867 the Jewish chronicle editorial claimed:
"The Jew feels instinctively that, politically, he is nothing if not a liberal"

This is unsurprising: Jews had been allowed to take a seat in parliament for only since the previous decade, and it was thanks to the Liberal party that they could. The conservatives had opposed changing the rules to allow Jewish MPs to take their seats without swearing a Christian Oath. No wonder the Liberals were the party of the Jews.

Fast forward 25 years and the situation was altogether different. The Chief Rabbi, Hermann Adler, was politically Conservative. So too was D.W. Marks, Minister at West London Reform Synagogue. British Jews, it seemed, no longer were 'instinctively... liberal'.

The reason for the change is twofold.

First, memories are short. As time went on Jewish voters stopped caring about the fact that the Conservatives had previously blocked the entry of Jewish parliamentarians (indeed, very soon after Rothschild took his seat the Conservatives got a couple of Jewish MPs of their own).

Second, the anti-Jewish pograms in the Russian Pale of Settlement, where 4 milion Jews lived, changed the British-Jewish political landscape. Gladstone was largely silent on the issue of Russian persecution of Jews while the Conservatives were more vocal. Moreover, the persecution led to mass immigration to Britain. Between 1880 and 1914 150,000 Jewish immigrants arrived in Britain, greatly enlarging the number of Jews in Britain, which had stood at 60,000 in 1880. The established Jewish population in Britain were nevous about the immigration. Most of the migrants were poor, spoke little English, and tended to be more Orthodox than the established, and largely sephardi, British Jewish community. How would their arrival change peoples' views on Jews? Would it lead to antisemitism? Conservative MPs supported legislation to restrict the flow of Jewish immigrants; because they feared the consequences of mass Jewish immigration, many British Jews were supportive of this approach, and therefore supportive of the Tories. (To dissuade Jewish immigrants from coming, the Jewish Board of Guardians, for example, put adverts in Jewish publications in Russia stating that life in Britain would be full of hardship).

In the 1906 election the Jewish Chronicle came out in support of the Liberals. There was some evidence that the Jewish immigrants had been responsible for turning the Jewish tide back to the Liberals. But this return to cordial relations between Britain's Jews and the Liberals was to be short lived.

In 1909 the Jewish politician Nathan Rothschild slammed the Liberal Party's 'People's Budget'. It was, he said, a 'robber's budget'. In response Lloyd George likened Rothschild to Pharoah. The Jews were not pleased... After a Liberal parliamentary candidate ran an anti-semitic campaign in Salford South, Alderman notes, 'the second honeymoon between Anglo Jewry and the Liberal party was well and truly over'.

Speed on to 1922 and a young(ish) party - Labour - was to have its electoral breakthrough in an election marred by antisemitism. (while not winning the election, Labour won 23% of the seats - up on the 8% won at the previous vote). The Morning Post and the Spectator argued that British politics was being dominated by Jews and Jewish considerations and the Labour party was branded as pro-Jewish in an effort to harness popular antisemitism against it. Whether or not Labour was pro-Jewish I'm not sure, but the Jews were becoming increasingly pro-labour. For example, all three of the seats for Whitechapel, then the most Jewish constituency, swung to Labour. The tendency for Jews to vote labour was to stay for some time.

The upward social mobility of Britain's Jews contributed to an increase in the numbe of Jews voting Conservative voting in the 80s. More recently, however, there appears to have been a swing back to Labour: in the 1997 election constituencies with large Jewish populations registered a swing to Labour greater than the national average.

As for the soon-to-come election, well, we'll have to wait and see.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

An armchair supporter

Just putting it out there..

It's called irony...

Stephanie Gutmann has a nicely ironic piece on Israel's construction of a field hospital in Haiti here.

Unfortunately, not all the readers seem to realize the irony...

Monday, 18 January 2010

Helping Haiti

Akiva Elder is a Haaretz journalist I usually admire. But I'm less sure of his op-ed today, which you can read here.

Entitled 'Israel's compassion in Haiti can't hide our ugly face in Gaza', the basic premise of his argument is that Israel's compassion in Haiti only underscores Israelis' indifference to suffering in Gaza.

True though this may be, it's the wrong - offensive, even - message to take from Israel's actions. Israel's efforts to alleviate suffering in Haiti have been impressive and commendable. They ought to be aplauded. Instead, Eldar has used them as an easy launchpad to criticize Israel.

Of course the form of Eldar's argument could be used every time Israel did anything good: I.e, 'Israel's good action here only underscores her bad action there'. Israel, like any country or individual, ought to be encouraged when they do something good and not attacked for having done wrong elsewhere. By all means criticize, but why embed that criticism within any praise for any action - however unrelated?

Friday, 15 January 2010

"Hitler was right" - the new thing to say to ashkenazi peace activists, apparently...

The video below shows the abuse being levelled at ashkenzai (Jews of European origin) peace activists demonstrating against the deportation of Palestinians from Shaikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, in December. Police had intimidated protestors on previous marches (see here).

What you see are two Mizrachi Jews shouting 'Hitler was right' to the peace activists. (Incidentally, such abuse would be considered anti-semitic if a non-Jew did it, so it meets the Telushkin test for who is a 'self-hating Jew')

It might just be a case of two loonies shouting, but still, pretty disturbing.

(Thanks to Jewdas for the h/t)

Thursday, 14 January 2010


I've just finished watching Yoav Shamir's controversial documentary 'Defamation'. The film explores the question: 'what is anti-semitism?'. You can (and should!) watch it here.

He exposes the extent to which the subject of anti-semitism has become politicized - by both the supporters and detractors of Israel. Antony Lerman, who used to be the director of Jewish Policy Research offers this analysis of the film here.

Here's my summary of the films main points:

(1) The ADL - the world's largest organiztion combating anti-semitism - reflect and promote a disproportionate fear of anti-semitism. There's around 1,500 anti-semitic incidents reported each year in the US; a small figure for a Jewish community of over 5 million people. The ADL budget amounts to tens of millions of dollars and pays for numerous offices across America. Yet early on in the film, one of its employees explains that they have insufficient resources to deal with the widespread antisemitism in America. When Shamir tries to find a recent example of serious anti-semitism in America, he finds very few. (Incidentally, in Britain for the last few years there's been around 500 anti-semitic incidents reported; also a small figure given a community of around 280,000, yet the CST - Britain's main organization combating anti-semitism - has a budget approaching six million pounds).

(2) Israel has an unhealthy (though understandable) preoccupation with anti-semitism and the holocaust. Thus Israeli school children explain in the film that 'everyone knows the Jews are hated, we were raised that way'. An Israeli journalist at Yediot Achronot newspaper explains that England is anti-semitic; when asked if he is being objective about it he retorts 'why do I have to be objective? were they objective?' (I wonder: who does 'they' refer to?)

(3) Expressions of anti-Israelism and anti-semitism have sometimes been confused, and perhaps sometimes intentionally.

Anyway, definitely worth a watch.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Wes Streeting and the Israel / Palestine facebook wars

A recent group on Facebook attacks the head of the NUS, Wes Streeting, for 'being a particularly Israel-friendly Laborite'.

I read posts on its wall, where a number of the group's members advocate outing their Jewish lecturers as being zionists. Take this gem:

So many people are scared about being labelled anti Semitic, and being accused of creating witch hunts, but by making sure every jewish lecturer is questioned on their views on Israel, (assuming they have views on Israel), its a great way to highlight the issue and do something on our campuses to make zionists feel really uncomfortable!

Problematic, isn't it?

Well yes, but not for the obvious reasons. Not because it advocates a McCarthyite witch hunt of Jewish academics and nor because it seeks to make all Zionists on campus uncomfortable - the problem with this quote is the person who wrote it. Because she's faking it; she's only pretending to be an Israel hater.

A cursory glance on her facebook page was revealing. I found a girl with happy holiday snaps from Israel who supported Alex Dwek's campaign to become president of the Union of Jewish Students. Her facebook friends include both a past and present UJS campaigns officer. Not the background of your average anti-zionist, is it? What we have here is an Israel-supporter masquerading as an Israel hater.

And she's not the only one. Another person posting similar sentiments on the website appeas to be doing the same: among his profile pictures is the one below. Not really convinced he's an anti-zionist either...

Now sure - they're taking the piss with the things they write, and most people will be clever enough to realize that. But not all will.

And because of this, to pretend as they do - as well as being dishonest - is a counter-productive means of combating those who, like one of those posting earlier on the group's wall, support 'find[ing]out just what their jewish lecturers stance is on Israel. In ALL universities.'

Just imagine the scenario: the JC sees the facebook group, gets shocked, and goes to write a story about it. They fail to take the necessary investigative steps undertaken by yours truly and mistake the author of the quote above to be a bone fide Israel-hater. They, along with Melanie Philips et al, go crazy in attacking such sentiments, citing them as 'evidence' of anti-Semitism and anti-zionism on campus today. What a scoop. Only then someone - an annoying blogger or whatever - goes and exposes the whole thing as having been a fake. The 'evidence' is found to be spurious, and in the process the credibility of real evidence of such problems is tarnished.

No, not the best way to campaign.

Exit rights - from states and communities

While avoiding revision I came across this BBC article. It's about Israelis who turn secular after being raised in charedi (ultra-orthodox) families. The resulting hardship they experience raised questions for me about tensions between the responsibilities of states and the rights of communities existing within them.

Multicultural theorists have discussed the idea of 'exit rights' for minority communities living within a state. An exit right can be defined as:

'an exemption from some legally mandated practice, granted to a person or a group, the purpose of which is to protect the religious or moral integrity of that person or group' (Jeffrey Jordan)

Here is an example of an exit right: In Britain, male Sikh's are exempt from wearing helmuts while driving motorbikes - something which is a legal requirement for any other British Citizen - since this would intefere with their wearing of the turban.

Reading about the difficult experiences of those who left the world of ultra-orthodox Judaism, however, gets me thinking about another sense of having an exit right: one which would be protection not from the laws of the state, but from the laws or restrictive social mores of a community within a state.

Essentially, if the state has a responsibility to protect community rights - as many multicultural theorists argue it does - then to what extent does it have a responsibility to support individuals within those communities should they wish to exit them? While individuals may have a legally enshrined right to choose their own lifestyles this right is meaningless if as a result of their education and upbringing they have little capacity to do so. Does the state then have a responsibility to enable all its citizens to function within mainstream society? To provide its citizens with both the right and associated capacity to exit their communities should they wish to?

In the Israeli charedi context the question is a significant one. As Irit Paneth of the organization Hillel, which offers practical help to former charedim, explains:

"They often do not know how to open a bank account, use the internet, find work and rent an apartment, she explains, or how to operate socially in the secular world."

If we accept a principle justifying exemption and protection for minority groups from the effects of majority laws or conventions, then it seems to me that this principle must be applied lower down as well: protecting minorities within minority groups from the restrictive practises of their community (should the individuals desire such help). For this reason, the work of the organization Hillel, I would argue, ought to be supported by the state and not left to the voluntary sector.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Being bored makes things less boring

While reading through political sociology notes I made over a year ago I came across this:

Boredom. Four walls, one rounded with a window.
A car passes the time as it drives in
And out of view. The chatter continues
On and on and on and on and…
Drifts into the sound of the background light.
Nothing is being said. Nothing at all.
Just words being thrown like carcassed thoughts.

It's funny, but expressing how bored I was in my notes back then has actually made reviewing them a less boring experience.

Maybe I should do it more often? (Or would that just get boring?)

Friday, 8 January 2010

Boycotting Britain, mark 2

I wrote earlier on the proposed boycott of British goods and services by some Israeli parliamentarians. Richard Slverstein of Tikkun Olam blog has a post on the topic today in which he quotes the text of the letter they sent to the British speaker of the House of Commons:

…In light of this decision [to distinguish between Israeli and settlement products], we are recommending the citizens of Israel to reconsider using the services of companies that operate in Great Britain…

We hope it will not be necessary to take any further action to make it clear how seriously we view this recommendation that in effect promotes a boycott of Israeli produce.

Pretty funny; truly ridiculous. And all this as part of a campaign to limit the information given to consumers about the goods their buying...

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Know thy self-haters - or be Jewishly illiterate

I leafed through Rabbi Joseph Telushkin’s book ‘Jewish Literacy’ yesterday. It’s subtitled ‘the most important things to know about the Jewish religion, its people, and its history’. Comprising 346 short chapters on all things Jewish, it functions as an introductory encyclopaedia of Judaism’s essentials.

Which is why I was surprised to find ‘self-hating Jews’ among its entries. The chapter begins by defining a self a hating Jew as a Jew ‘who thinks Jews are worse than other people, and who wants to cause them harm.’ Telushkin then goes on to inform his readers that Noam Chomsky is a self-hating a Jew.

I have three problems with the self-hating Jews entry having a place in this otherwise very good and useful book. The first is the suggestion that knowing about self-hating Jews is among ‘the most important things’ to know about Jews, and an essential part of ‘Jewish literacy’. Let’s focus on the positive, please. The second is the definition the chapter offers: I doubt Chomsky and most others branded as self-hating Jews actually believe Jews to be an inferior people deserving of harm. So the application of the term ‘self-hating Jews’ by Telushkin and others doesn’t match the definition of it he gives. Finally, and for the definitional problem highlighted above, I deny the claim that Chomsky is a self-hating Jew.

The two pieces of evidence on which Telushkin bases his assessment of Chomsky are (1) that Chomsky ‘has publically argued for the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state’, and (2) that Chomsky also publically attacked a French University who fired a professor who was a holocaust revisionist and that he refused to answer whether or not he believed the holocaust occured. The first piece of evidence is not evidence at all: Martin Buber, Judah Magnes, a number of ultra Orthodox Jews, the former chief rabbi of England, Hermann Adler – all these were against the idea of the Jewish state, often publically. But they, surely, are not ‘self-hating’. The second piece of evidence, meanwhile, is misleading. His public condemnation of the University is reflective of an absolutist (and I would say extreme) commitment to free speech rather than being indicative of Chomsky holding suspect beliefs on the holocaust. As Chomsky said in an interview:

QUESTION:…It's been said that Noam Chomsky is somehow agnostic on the issue of whether the Holocaust occurred or not.
CHOMSKY: My "agnosticism" is in print. I described the Holocaust years ago as the most fantastic outburst of insanity in human history

After reading Telushkin’s entry, I’m still left with questions. Whar is a self-hating Jew and why does Telushkin consider familiarity with the concept to be an essential component of ‘Jewish Literacy’?

You’ll have to wait for another post for the answers…

Monday, 4 January 2010

The state of one-state arguments

Normblog, one of my favourite blogs, has a recent piece questioning those who suport the one-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. His piece is excellent and you can read it here.

People who argue for a one state solution must necessarily, he argues, fall into one of two categories, those who require the consent of both populations - Jewish and Arab - for the one state solution, and those who do not - only requiring the consent of one (or neither)of the populations.

Now if the one-state solution is based on majority consent of both populations then the whole problem of the Israel-Palestine conflict would not exist. Democratic decision making would lead to one state being produced. But short of manufacturing consent (dfficult to see how) this solution is impracticable.

For those who don't require consent and so envisage the one state-solution being imposed on the Jews of Israel, Normblog asks the following questions:

First, how could it be imposed if a reversal of the policy of the settlements could not be? Second, are the Jews to be denied their right of national self-determination while the Palestinians (assuming them to fall in with the proposed one-state solution) are granted theirs? Third, are the democratic one-state solution converts merely sponsoring in a more hand-wringing way what others put less tactfully in their rhetoric - namely, the forcible destruction of Israel?

It's true that Israel may be heading towards a de-facto one-state situation. The region's demography points to a future in which Jews will constitute a minority in the area controlled by Israel - something the international community are unlikely to tolerate - and given Israel's continued settlement building, there is likely to be an even greater reluctance to relinquish that territory in years to come. A one-state situation - not solution - is therefore not entirely improbable.

But there is no good reason for confusing the possibility of a one-state 'situation' with its desirability as a 'solution' - unless, of course, you like the idea of imposing a political setup characterised from the outset by a legitimacy deficit and vigorous and violent opposition. But I suspect few will...

Haaretz, apartheid, the ZF, and antisemitism...

In his column in today's Haaretz, Akiva Eldar did what no British Jewish columnist could dare do in the Jewish Chronicle - he likened aspects of Israeli policy to those of apartheid South Africa.

Now lets be clear: Israel is not apartheid. Under apartheid a minority of whites deprived citizenship to a majority of Blacks. In Israel Jews constitute the majority and citizenship is granted to all people, Jews and Arabs alike.

But the point Eldar makes in his article is that within the occupied territories, comparing the experience of settler Jews to the Arabs living there who are not citizens - the situation may indeed be akin to that of apartheid. A minority ethnic group have power over a majority who are deprived citizenship.

Israel's usual response, Eldar notes, is to distinguish the two situations - apartheid and the setllements - by noting Israel's security concerns; it is these, so the argument goes, that necessitate Israel's policies in the territories. But as Eldar observes, the security claim was also used in the South African context, and, moreover, there have been cases in which the security argument would support Israel doing the opposite of what it in fact does. I think Eldar's argument needs to be developed further: the few examples he offers are not enough to show that Israel's policies are not, on the whole, based on security. Moreover, while never clearly stating it, the implication of Eldar's column is that Israel's policy in the territories is based on similar ideas to those of apartheid South Africa, and this too requires evidence which he fails to supply.

Meanwhile the Zionist federation in Britain maintains that any comparison between Israel and Apartheid South Africa is anti-semitic. And yet the former Prime Minster Ehud Olmert warned Israel was heading towards apartheid. Former Haaretz editor Danny Rubinstein said the same. Can it really be the case that Olmert, Eldar and Rubinstein are all anti-semitic?

Friday, 1 January 2010

The voices of Anglo-Jewry

Keith Kahn-Harris has written in this week's JC of the need to transform the Board of Deputies. Rather than seeking to present a united front, one 'voice of Anglo-Jewry', as it currently tries to do, it should instead provide a space for multiple viewpoints, and then express that diversity of opinion:

The presence of substantial minorities to the right and left of the supposed consensus over Israel is proof — if proof were needed — that the community is divided over this crucial issue. Even the most exceptional communal leaders cannot pretend that Jewish institutions embody the voice of Anglo-Jewry. This being so, the time has come for the “emancipation” of currently marginalised voices on Israel. Bizarre though it may seem, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Likud-Herut UK have a common cause in the struggle for an Anglo-Jewish polity that recognises the community’s diversity.

The Board and other communal bodies need to find a way to ensure that voices from across the spectrum of opinions over Israel can enter into a dialogue. Rather than constantly seeking to present a united front that does not exist, the Board should transform itself into a space within which the full range of opinions about Israel can be heard and properly debated, rather than quashed.