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162 responses to “Quick link: Engage in the struggle against anti-Jewish racism”

  1. Sam

    Paul, I applaud the sentiment, but I think you overstate the influence of the (Greens controlled :)) Marrickville Council.

  2. Aidee

    And why isn’t it pertinent to boycott a State which undertakes the oppression of a people and limits internal democracy? How is this different to South African apartheid? Mine isn’t an anti-semitic sentiment but one against a State. Always frustrated that any voice against Israel gets reframed time and time again as an attack on Semitism.

  3. Paul Burns

    I abhor anti-semitism but I think there is a huge difference between anti-semitism and being critical of the State of Israel whose human rights and war crimes record is appalling. The two are not the same thing.

  4. Paul Foord

    This sets a very low bar to label someone anti-semitic

  5. adrian

    So at the risk of being labelled anti-semetic, we ignore the actions of what is rapidly becoming a rogue state.

  6. Sam

    The error, as always, is to equate the State (much less the people) with the government.

  7. paul of albury

    Engage is about simplifying complex to single issues. It treats as one issue antisemitism and criticism of Israel and of Zionists…

    I can’t see anything on that page to justify conflating these except that apparently they ‘oppose all racism’. Apparently they support the Israeli nation state because they’re not nationalists? Or more likely we’re not supposed to criticise their support of the nation state because they don’t think they’re nationalists?

    Perhaps addressing the wrongs perpetuated by the state of Israel may address the ‘new commonsense is emerging that holds Israel to be a central and fundamental evil in the world’. Targeted assassinations, brutality against occupied territories, absorption and annexation of land which is not Israel into Israeli settlements, attacks on blockade runners, etc

    These are not wrong because they’re done by a Jewish state, they’re wrong because they’re done at all. Jewishness should be irrelevant both in condemnation and exculpation.

    And maybe they could also have a look at the demonisation of Jews who don’t think of themselves as Zionists

  8. Fran Barlow

    I wonder wjhat they think of those active Zionists who label their Jewish political enemies as self-hating Jews.

    Anti-semitism, like all forms of bigotry, has no place in rational discussion of public policy, but conflating anti-semitism and anti-Zionism is special pleading in favour of Zionism, which, for more than 60 years, has been manifest in the dispossession and oppression of the Arab people of Palestine.

  9. CJ Morgan

    Yeah, I don’t buy it either. I’m no anti-Semite, but I’m frequently and increasingly appalled at the way the state of Israel acts in the name of Zionism.

    The conflation of the two doesn’t help anybody.

  10. silkworm

    I object to the use of the term “anti-semitic.” It feeds into the Zionist myth that the Jews are a race – specifically, the Semitic race, descended from the Biblical Shem – and that to be anti-Jewish is a form of racism.

  11. Sam

    Come on Norton. You started this. Get in here.

  12. moz

    I can see why Zionists would want to conflate the terms Zionist and Semite, but I don accept that. There really are people who only fall into one of the groups.

    There’s also joy to be had asking whether critics are attacking the behaviour or the people. Saying that the state of Israel is doing bad things and that the voters there strongly favour the politicians who promote and arrange the bad things is not criticising any individual Israeli, let alone the entire race of “persons of middle eastern appearance”. Or even accepting that there is such a thing as a “jewish race” (a single race that includes everyone from black africans to white russians strikes me as really stretching the definition of “race”).

  13. jules

    The error, as always, is to equate the State (much less the people) with the government.

    So whats the state if not the govt?

    I think the real error is to equate the state with the people.

  14. sg

    so I clicked on the category “child killing” (wtf?!) and found 5 articles, which included:

    – a link to an Eva Gerrard article on anti-semitism in the left, which starts with the words “There is not at the moment, so far as I know, a deliberate and conscious anti-Semitic project on the left to undermine the standing of Jews in Britain and elsewhere”

    – a review of “Seven Jewish Children”

    – David Hirsh’s talk on “combating anti semitism.”

    I think that if they want to target anti-semitism on the left, it might be wise not to start by categorizing an anti-Israeli play as “child killing.”

  15. Terry

    No one takes Marrickville Council seriously. Honestly, how much trade would the People’s Republic of Marrickville do with Israel in the absence of its so-=called “BDS strategy”?

    If ever you wanted a case for voting for Albanese in Grayndler, this sort of overgrown student politics would have to be it.

  16. Terry

    I also would have thought that, given the scale of the cuts to UK universities now going on, the University and College Union’s membership would have been better served by a leadership focused on such issues rather than whether or not to boycott Israel.

  17. Patrickb

    @3
    Totally agree. This looks like an attempt to smear anyone who protests against Israeli aggression as an antisemite.
    “We believe that a new commonsense is emerging that holds Israel to be a central and fundamental evil in the world.”
    That’s a pretty bizarre belief to hold. The fortunes of Israel are central to US foreign policy and lately have been taken up by the christian right in that country, I can’t see how the dominant view is threatened by this “new commonsense”.
    As I understand it our current PM is a fervent supporter of Israel.

  18. akn

    As someone who taught genocide studies under the auspices of the now defunct Macquarie University Genocide Studies Centre I immersed myself in Holocaust studies and other genocides. It is my view that the entire Zionist state of Israel is the result of unmanaged trauma and that the Zionists there and elsewhere are the victims of traumatic repetition. The other victims are anyone who has the misfortune to get in their way. This does not make me an anti-semite by any means. I fully support all measures for all forms of boycott against the State of Israel until such time as that state takes meaningful steps to accommodate Palestinians.

  19. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    If Israel can organise a blockade to keep Gaza’s economy “on the brink of collapse”, then why for the love of Jehovah can’t other people run a BDS campaign on Israel? It’s a fair turn-around, guv.

  20. Dr_Tad

    Er, why is this on Larvatus Prodeo? I thought this was a left-wing site.

  21. jules

    I’m clearly antisemitic cos I believe the only people entitled to “self determination” are indigenous people whose legal systems were disregarded when western law was transmitted to their countries. (IE like Australian indigines and “terra nullius”.) And then its only cos the power structures in said countries are usually set up to screw them.

    The “Jewish right to self determination” is no more valid than the Boer right to self determination in South Africa or the Anglo Australian one here aka “the white Australia policy”.

    Thats a separate issue to the war crimes of the state of Israel, and to the right wing nutjobs that drive its expansion. The Israeli use of WP in Gaza was probably just as abhorrent as the US use of it in Fallujah. Maybe not cos it wasn’t on the same scale as the US attack. Settlers are jerks, and would be whatever their genetic background.

    Also there are antisemitic Zionists. There are plenty of psycho christian “zionists” who only want Israel around so the New Temple gets consecrated and the Apocalypse can begin. Once that happens all those jewish israelis better convert quick smart or they’ll get whats coming to them. Scratch this attitude a bit and you’ll find the Christf#$kers usually say jews will deserve it cos they killed Jesus then rejected his forgiveness.

    Honestly sometimes I think the Nazis started the depopulation of Jews from Europe and the Zionists are finishing it. As of now the European population of jews is tiny compared to the pre war years. Its hard not to be cynical about that sometimes. European jews contributed enormously to western culture pre ww2 on so many levels.

  22. FDB

    Engagement in the struggle against anti-jewish racism will continue to occur, on the Left and elsewhere, despite the utterly counterproductive efforts of Engage.

  23. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    As for this half-witted sentence:

    We believe that a new commonsense is emerging that holds Israel to be a central and fundamental evil in the world.

    Israel: the Mordor of the 21st century.

    /snark

  24. FDB

    I predict one of three things will occur here.

    In order of likelihood then…

    1) A long and unproductive stoush

    2) A comments closed notice when (1) looks like developing

    3) Chicks With Guns II – The Jewening

  25. Lefty E

    What an extraordinary organization. Don’t criticise the actions of this state, because of the religious and ethnic composition of (some of) the nation?

    That’s just plain f*cking stupid.

    There’s a reason Israel insists on conflating the two – its to sucker morons like these lot into ignoring the repeated human rights abuses.

    Enjoy this thread. I’d rather watch telly.

  26. Patrickb

    Slightly off topic but perhaps obliquely on, I note that Abbott supports the tabling of a petition calling for a moratorium on “Muslim immigration” and that Kate Lundy declined to table the same petition as she found its position “abhorrent”. I reckon there’s a wider movement afoot to paint all Muslims as “central and fundamental evil in the world”, I really don’t think the state of Israel has much to worry about on that score.

  27. Terry

    It would be very interesting to know whether the NSW Greens support their comrades at Marrickville Council. I’d also be interested to know if Lee Rhiannon and Christine Milne share the same views?

  28. Michael W

    They explicity label themselves as ‘left wing’, just in case you read what they say and conclude (correctly) that they are right wing.

  29. Fran Barlow

    For the record I’m not keen on riffs based on the semantic content of “anti-semite”. While it is fair to say that not all semites are Jews and not all Jews are semitesand have a lawyerly slapdown, it is clear that when the term anti-semitic is deployed, people mean it to refer to animus towards those identifying as Jews. Yet the etymology of anti-semitism is questionable, but would the arguments about conflation of Zionism and Jewish identity be different if the term were something with a sounder etymology?

    I don’t agree it would.

  30. pablo

    Let’s wait and see what happens when the Egyptians re-open the Rafah border to the Gaza. While there are risks – gun running etc – my hope is that the insularity of Hamas will be challenged and the effect will percolate through both the PLO and, inevitably Israel. Just a hope mind, but from the comments so far, this imbroglio needs a game changer. Releasing the Gazans could be the equivalent of Mandela off Robbin Island.

  31. sarpedon

    What is this shit doing here? Zionism is a political ideology that for most of its depraved life has in fact been opposed by most Jews. Moreover, many if its most ardent supporters are loony Christians. Israel is an apartheid state and I for one will support any boycotts against it. Just as I supported the boycott against apartheid South Africa.

  32. Lefty E

    Yeah, I’m struggling to see the difference with White South Africa in the 1980s.

    If anyone from “Engage” could please highlight some obvious distinctions for me, I’m all ears.

    Otherwise, the case for sanctions against Israel seems pretty straightforward, and mandated on grounds of consistency.

  33. Nickws

    @ 10: I object to the use of the term “anti-semitic.” It feeds into the Zionist myth that the Jews are a race – specifically, the Semitic race, descended from the Biblical Shem – and that to be anti-Jewish is a form of racism.

    silkworm, you believe ahistorical rubbish.

    A quick google tells me the widespread use of the word ‘anti-Semitic’ predates the Zionist movement by about a decade or more.

    And it was all about describing the Europe of the pogroms.

    I take it you accept the pogroms actually happened, and were carried out against a distinct ethnic group?

    @ 29: Er, why is this on Larvatus Prodeo? I thought this was a left-wing site.

    Dr Tad, I take it Paul has decided to become a supporter of the UK Engage website because it represents a pretty venerable radical Jewish tradition, and that said tradition was always very important in British Left politics.

    Simply put, if there had never been any Jewish Brit Leftists there would have been no British mass syndicalist movement, no mass anti-Mosley protests.

    Insular Australian Leftists could be forgiven for not understanding this, what with them coming from what until recently was a very whitebread culture.

    (That said, from perusing the website I think Engage is much too confrontational. If Paul is pushing their agenda as a kind of positive discrimation against the historical narrowminded Anglo-Australian militancy then I think he’s just begging for the dominant culture to fight back, albeit in the guise of them being Teh Real Defenders of Multiculturalism.)

  34. Liam

    Come on Norton. You started this. Get in here

    You think you were here first? Well let’s see who’s here last.

    I’m struggling to see the difference with White South Africa in the 1980s

    Izquierdista, SA was an unequal unitary State of a powerless majority and dominant minority. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip aren’t part of the State in any way, not even in the way Africans were in South Africa. Or any State for that matter. It’s rather the point of wanting either a one- or a two-State solution. South Africa was not an occupying power.
    On the grounds of consistency, would you also support boycotts against the United States, China and Russian Federation, the world’s other major powers fielding armies of occupation (respectively Iraq/Afghanistan and chunks of Central America and the Pacific, Tibet, and all of those Central Asian ex-Soviet Republics I can’t name)? It’s going to get pretty quiet around here if we’re going down that road.

    3) Chicks With Guns II – The Jewening

    Because if there’s anything hotter than any given woman with any given gun, it’s any given Jewish woman in IDF camouflage, holding an IMI Tavor. On the back of a Merkava.

  35. FDB

    *SHHHHH*

    *…wait…*

    *…

    …tug…
    …tuG…
    …tUG…
    …TUG…

    I’s got one, Uncle Ma! I’s GOT one!

  36. Patrickb

    “Insular Australian Leftists”
    I suppose this would be a really difficult group to join, may be harder than orthodox Judaism? You seem to know a bit about it, can you tell us some the IAL’s history?

  37. jules

    Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip aren’t part of the State in any way, not even in the way Africans were in South Africa. Or any State for that matter. It’s rather the point of wanting either a one- or a two-State solution. South Africa was not an occupying power.

    Yeah, but what about non Jewish residents of Israel? Do they have the same rights in a “Jewish State”? There’s more to this than just occupation too, the ongoing settlement, and the decades long dispossession of Palestinian property is a bit different to all the nefariousness of Russia, China and the US right now.

    Israel and Palestine now is more like Australia in the frontier days (a few sahort years ago, post ww2) or the dispossession of the Americas.

    And like it or not “the problem of European jewry” has been solved. I’m cynical about that. Europeans knew they couldn’t really be arsed defending European Jews properly so they arranged to dump them in the middle east, that way it was someone else’s problem. (Plus all those pesky lefty jews would be gone, nickws is right about jewish contributions to british leftism. Tho it wasn’t just leftist contributions to culture in Europe.)

    After all those pogroms who’d have thunk it.

  38. Patrickb

    @34
    Er, maybe it was a reference to the Arabs within the state of Israel? I mean some say that they aren’t looked upon with favour by the govt. Some actually say that people of a particular faith are favoured by laws passed by the Knesset. of course at the same time they have some standing withing Israel it’s just that it’s … well … not quite as good as some other class of people within the state of Israel.

  39. harleymc

    “concerned also about the demonization of Israel, and of Jews who don’t think of themselves as anti-Zionists.

    I’m really happy that Engage is concerned about the demonization of Jews who don’t think of themselves as anti-Zionists. I’m sure any anti-Zionist Jews who are in denial will be relieved once they progress to acceptance.

    OK OK cheap shot at some mangled English but I wonder if the mangleing is indicative of a logically thought through philosophy or whether it is simply a kneejerk ideological position.

    Nick @33 “Insular Australian Leftists could be forgiven for not understanding this, what with them coming from what until recently was a very whitebread culture.”
    Thanks Nick, glad to know I’m insular and whitebread – what other gross generalisations do you want to make?

  40. Razor

    Israel should unilaterally disarm and let the Arabs do whatever they want to do. What was the UN thinking of after WWII in creating it? Anybody would think the Arabs wanted to commit genocide or something.

  41. Razor

    I’m pretty sure the Gaza strip is actually part of Eygypt and the West Bank is part of Jordan and Syria – never actually seen the Country of Palestine in an Atlas.

  42. Dr_Tad

    Nickws @33 — Since when has the venerable Left Jewish tradition in the UK been one of defence of Zionism? It seems to me that the pre-WWII tradition was dominated by a mix of social democratic and revolutionary socialist currents as was the case in many Western countries. Zionism was a significant but not majority current.

    More recently, Zionism has taken on a qualitatively different character in that it has runs on the board in the guise of an exclusionary state that is a key promoter of Western imperialist interests in a vital part of the Arab world. To debate Zionism now is not just about solutions for anti-semitism but about the role of Israel as an aggressive politico-military entity.

    Perhaps most worryingly when there has been a resurgence of fascist activity in Europe (including the UK), Engage seems to be suggesting that to fight anti-semitism you also have to defend Zionism. It’s a dangerous elision in both directions, I’d argue.

  43. Lefty E

    Maps of Palestine here Razor. It can be hard to keep tracks of as it is progressively stolen. http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_Y-z-fb-HGGA/STS0AAof9KI/AAAAAAAAE-U/XXutgwJeq4M/s1600-h/_28473_Four_Palestine_maps.jpg

    Nonetheless, it issues its own passports, is on maps and used to have used a border with Jordan before than was seized, but still does have an international border with Egypt – currently blockaded.

  44. James T

    From ancient grudge, break to new inanity…

  45. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    Gaza was never part of Egypt, Razor. Occupied by them, but never officially part of the country. Jordan has already ceded any claims to the West Bank.

  46. OB

    Just out of interest, if Israel agreed to return to 1967 borders – you can forget 1948 borders – would there be more acceptance on the Left of the legitimacy of the Jewish State?

  47. Lefty E

    Have to disagree, Liamista, the parallels are absolutely legion: a racialised state, which sets up a series of politically neutered Bantustans – in part to minimise the population differential in their favour – which, far from ‘not being part of the State in any way’ – are under near-complete subjugation in terms of security, border control, defence and foreign relations. Exactly like in the old SA.

    Like the Bantustans, they are in theory internally self-governing, but international recognition is limited, primarily becuase polite company doesnt like to laugh along to a bad joke at someone’s else’s expense*. In this sense, its totally unlike Tibet etc – which China certainly doesn’t pretend is a self-governing, neighbouring state.

    Like the Bantustans, the Palestinian territories are partly products of huge population displacements. They also have exactly the same prohibitons on marriage as a vehicle for a Bantustani(k)s gaining citizenship.

    But yah, aside from that, hardly anything in common.

    Obviously Arab-israelis have superior rights to non-Bantustan blacks in the old SA, but lets not go so far as to pretend they’re not systematically discriminated against on the basis of their ethnicity.

    *Israel was the only UN member to afford some sort of diplomatic recognition to any of the Bantustans, including trade ties and consulates. How about that for a coincidence.

  48. Nickws

    @ 36: I suppose this would be a really difficult group to join, may be harder than orthodox Judaism?

    Wow, PatrickB, I leave myself so open to attack with my contemptuous language yet still the first comment to go after me just has to draw a negative comparision to the Jewish religion.

    @ 39: Thanks Nick, glad to know I’m insular and whitebread – what other gross generalisations do you want to make?

    harleymc, I never said anything about anyone here now being whitebread. What I said was that Australian Leftwingers tend to be from a culture that ‘until recently was a very whitebread’ one.

    I thinks it’s self-evident that our parent’s pre-1980s generation (or at least my Australian father’s generation) were not yet living in a melting pot akin to the Great Britain of the people who write Engage. No, forget that, if you wish to misrepresent my off-the-cuff statement about the capital ‘L’ Australian Left not having the same historical empathy for Jews as the British Left traditionally did then I needn’t go into any detail. I believe I have history on my side when I say that _practising_ Jews used to find it very easy to be socialist Labourites in Britain while in this country they invariably became more Rightwing Laborites. If they were progressives at all, that is.

    Needless to say all this anger at Israel, the type that goes beyond constructive criticism—it’s an oldish, unreflective identity politics thing. And I believe Paul Norton is pushing back against it hard (and harder than I would if I were him.)

  49. Nickws

    Everything after that third para shouldn’t be in blockquote, thanks.

  50. paul of albury

    Woah there OB, legitimacy of the Jewish state is another question again. If there is no Zionism does Israel have a reason to exist? I think there’s still justification though it’s kind of tough on the people who were kicked out to give them a state.

    Perhaps a better settlement with the Palestinians would help their legitimacy? Jules makes the useful comparison with our own history and unfinished business.

    I thought most of the comments on this thread were questioning the legitimacy of rogue actions in the name of Zionism. Can an Israeli state exist without behaving abhorrently? Many on the right eg @40 appear to have doubts about this. I think they may have a better long term future if they worked a bit more on winning friends. But as noted many of their loudest ‘supporters’ just want them there to start the apocalypse – long term may not be something these backers have in mind- peace may delay the rapture (btw Razor I don’t include you in this group)

  51. The Only Jew In The Village

    Norto, on this one, I don’t know whether to yawn or shrug.

    The Engage web page specifies (after some fairly ponderous meanderings) that they are a single-issue campaign focusing on what appears to be a local intra-left stoush in Britain…

    Here is the money quote…

    …Engage was not born in Israel or in Palestine, but in Britain, to fight against an exclusion that was supported by our own trade union – an exclusion of Israeli Jews and of nobody else…

    I’m sure that even the most “Insular” Australian Leftist would concede that Israeli Jews should be able to join a union — or at least, should not be the sole targets of exclusion from one!

    Single. Issue. Campaign.

    Although, for a single issue campaign, they certainly talk about a lot of things that are nothing to do with their Single Issue…protest too much, methinks?..they describe their politics as “consistent, cosmopolitan, internationalist,” and then insist they are single-issue. Their statement seems profoundly, ponderously, incoherent to me. As in, there is no “there”, there.

    Yawn? Shrug? I can’t decide…

  52. Liam

    Izquierdista, let’s cut the difference and agree that Engage is a pretty piss poor single-issue effort, way behind the Euston Manifestists in terms of scope and imagination? I don’t disagree about the badness of Israeli war and occupation policy, I simply disagree that they’re uniquely bad in the region and the world.

    the case for sanctions against Israel seems pretty straightforward, and mandated on grounds of consistency

    On consistency grounds, the prime candidate for Middle Eastern Aggressor Apartheid State is clearly Turkey. They disenfranchise and make war on their non-citizen Kurds, they’re totally irredentist about the rights of return for Greek Cypriots, their political system is chauvinist even for the Middle East and they’ve got… kind of a history of ethnic “policy”. After all, who remembers the Armenians?
    /goes straight to Hell

  53. skip

    On consistency grounds, the prime candidate for Middle Eastern Aggressor Apartheid State is clearly Turkey.

    Even if this were true, which it’s not, it’s not like boycotts are automatically triggered once states pass some threshold of badness. You boycott when a boycott will be effective. Israel’s crimes are uniquely dependent on the economic, political, and cultural support that they receive from other countries, especially the West. Notice that politicians don’t elbow past each other to declare that they are the world’s most devoted and loyal friends of Turkey now-and-forever. That means a boycott campaign, which has the potential to undermine this support and level the playing field, has a much more important role to play.

  54. jules

    The sad thing about Israel and Palestine is there will only ever be peace in the region if they come together and unite under one state.

    And then there would have to formal recognition of why Israel existed in the first place, and the damage done to Palestinians who lost property (for example olive groves destroyed by the wall), some who lost lives etc etc

    They’d need a formal document, like a preamble to a constitution that spelled out the purpose of the new state was to protect both peoples from oppression, and to really work it’d have to dedicate the lives of the non jews to potecting the jews and vice versa.

    Can’t see it happening myself, but then a week before Christmas who would have predicted Tunisia and Egypt?

    BTW Engage is one of 3 “sister” organisations, there is also the Euston Manifesto and democratiya (a publication that has since been taken over by Dissent), both of which have a disturbing neocon tone to them.

  55. Sam

    Norto trolled his own blog with this effort. Nice one, Paul.

  56. Helen

    Yeah, for once I have to disagree with you, Paul. What @Aidee, @Paul Burns, @Paul Foord, @Adrian, @Sam, @Fran, @CJ Morgan, @Moz and the rest say. I am so sick of people conflating, as Fran accurately describes it, anti Zionism or opposition to the actions of the Israeli state as anti-semitism. It’s dishonest, and no better than the neocon stance under the Howard government where criticism of the US was framed as hatred of americans per se.

    The website and one it’s linked to also seem to favour the toxic trope of “Greens = racists.” Ugh. I wouldn’t stand with these people, even though I don’t necessarily agree with an anti-Israeli boycott.

  57. Lefty E

    /goes straight to Hell

    Heh.

    I couldnt agree more about the Turks, incidentally.

  58. Lefty E

    Israel’s crimes are uniquely dependent on the economic, political, and cultural support that they receive from other countries, especially the West.

    This really is a key point, well said.

  59. Chav

    @42 “Perhaps most worryingly when there has been a resurgence of fascist activity in Europe (including the UK),…”…

    Indeed, and the primary targets of this resurgent fascism have been the Muslim community, with the fascist taking their cue from the government and MSM.

    I am reminded of the recent photograph of EDL thugs proudly displaying a Star of David flag at one of their violent rampages, sorry, rallies.

  60. ChrisB

    Can I get a pass on antisemitism if I say the best thing for everybody would be if the Jewish state was unilaterally dismantled and all the Jews moved here to Australia?

    Nobody now, surely, looking with the wisdom of hindsight at the situation as it was on VE day, would recommend to the Jewish people that the smart thing for them to do would be to squat in the middle of 300 million people with a grudge against them.

    Does anybody really think that the Jewish state will survive until 2100? We should be making evacuation plans now, and given Australia’s tend in attitudes towards boat people we should be locking in some permissions to land.

  61. Patrickb

    @48,
    Wow Nick, doesn’t take much for you to play the antisemite card. Anyway your crappy insult destroyed your credibility.

  62. Paul Norton

    There’s a lot for me to respond to, and only so many hours in a day, so I’ll confine myself to a few general points.

    1. I will do advocates of a BDS on Israel the courtesy of assuming that they do so on a substantive normative basis (e.g. concern about the occupation of Palestinian territory, concern about human rights, etc.). My challenge then is to ask them to look at how all the nations of the world stack up against these normative criteria, and call for a BDS on all countries which breach these criteria to an equal or greater extent than does the current government of Israel. In other words, cancel your holidays in Bali until the Indonesians get out of West Papua, and don’t buy anything made in China until they get out of Tibet.

    2. It is a huge and important fact that historically the Jews have been an oppressed people. Further, it is at the very least premature to think that the history of Jewish oppression is now totally and permanently at an end.

    As a person of the Left, I support the right of all oppressed groups – women, queers, oppressed nations and peoples, etc. – to organise against their oppression and to determine for themselves the terms of their liberation from oppression and their strategies for achieving liberation. This right was as much the right of Jews struggling against their oppression in the 19th and 20th century as of any other oppressed group.

    It is true, as many have pointed out, that for a time within Jewish communities Zionism (i.e. Jewish national self-determination in a state of their own) contended with non-Zionist options (socialism, Bundism, liberalism, etc.). However it is beyond serious dispute that Zionism came to be embraced by the great majority of Jews as their preferred strategy for liberation. We should respect the right of Jews to choose this option as much as we respect the right of women to choose feminism.

    Why did the Jews come to choose Zionism? In large part, because of the Holocaust. The Holocaust was the game-changer on “the Jewish Question”. I leave it to other commentators to explain why this thread managed to reach 57 comments without this issue being seriously addressed.

    3. As a reading of the Engage website and a viewing of YouTubes of Engage forums on this issue makes clear, neither Engage nor I would suggest that evidence-based criticism of the Netanyahu government, criticism of specific Israeli actions and policies, or support for a Palestinian state alongside Israel (but not instead of Israel) is anti-Jewish. What we are concerned about, basically, are things like disproportionate and selective hostility to Israel, and advocacy of the denial of national self-determination to Jews via destruction of Israel.

    4. As someone who spent the first five years of my adult life being a left anti-Zionist, I feel angry, ashamed and soiled that my youthful radical enthusiasm led me to embrace and repeat tropes generated by the propaganda agencies of the Soviet and Polish Stalinist regimes as part of their general turn to anti-semitism in the 1960s and 1970s. See here and here.

  63. skip

    Paul, I directly addressed your first point. Boycotts are not a game of ethical one-upmanship, but a method of practical politics that should be used when it has the potential to be effective. You’d know this if you were familiar with BDS arguments in general. It’s just not rational to “not buy anything made in China until they get out of Tibet”, because China’s exports are too widespread and their policymaking process isn’t vulnerable to that kind of action. If it were the case, though, I’m sure such a campaign would exist, as there is substantial overlap between Western anti-Zionist organisations and the movement that raised international awareness about Tibet.

    As to your second point, on behalf of the Tribe, I am delighted to inform you that “The Jews” did not “choose” Zionism. Indeed, we have had no real ability to engage in such collective ethnic decisionmaking since our Elders’ secret meetings were rumbled by Wikileaks in the early 20th century. More’s the pity.

  64. Sam

    As someone who spent the first five years of my life being a left anti-Zionism

    You must have been an advanced infant, the John Stuart Mill of your generation. I spent the first five years of my life learning to how to walk, talk and wipe my arse.

    Anyhoo, Paul’s critics might care to look at the website of the Israeli centre-left newspaper Haaretz for a non-Netanyahu, Israeli, view of the world.

    Those who feel more comfortable with a Sabra and Shatila viewpoint (unfortunately all we get from the Israeli lobby’s local reps, not to mention those in the United States) – this means you, Razor – can go to the Jerusalem Post.

  65. Sam

    Oops, this is what happens when yoiu don;t have comments preview.

    Mods!

  66. Liam

    My challenge then is to ask them to look at how all the nations of the world stack up against these normative criteria, and call for a BDS on all countries which breach these criteria to an equal or greater extent than does the current government of Israel

    My point exactly, Norto.
    And may I add to the list: the Australian Government’s suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act in the Northern Territory’s Intervention and its practices of suspending land leases, and the practices of income management, etc. go rather further than Israeli Government discrimination towards Arab Israeli citizens.

  67. Terry

    Maybe Marrickville Greens councillors should start burning Israeli flags outside the Marrickville Metro if they want to express what they truly feel. After all, I can’t imaging many of them were planning to holiday in Tel Aviv in the absence of the boycott.

  68. adrian

    “My point exactly, Norto”

    And a pretty lame point it is too. I suppose you both didn’t support the boycott of South Africa either. I seem to recall that the same argument was used by the racsist right in the dying days of apartheid.

  69. Terry

    Different issue, Adrian.

  70. Sam

    I can’t imaging many of them were planning to holiday in Tel Aviv in the absence of the boycott

    Tel Aviv is, according to Wikipedia, the gay capital of the Middle East, with a well-established LGBT community.

    So do the Marrickville Greens show solidarity with one oppressed minority community by holidaying in Tel Aviv, or show solidarity with another one by boycotting it?

    Decisions, decisions. Nobody said it was easy being a Left activist.

  71. Liam

    You would be wrong in supposing that, Adrian. Not least because I was in primary school when the country made the transition to democracy.
    Care to have a crack at any political positions I may have had on twentieth century issues? Italian aggression in Abyssinia, trade unionism in Spain under Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship, Japanese predations in Manchuria?

  72. Liam

    Which brings up another point—these discussions, despite skip’s assertion otherwise, are entirely games of ethical one-upmanship. It’s simply false to say, given the minute scale of economic and cultural trade between Israel and the Marrickville LGA, that the Marrickville Council’s vote to boycott Israel is motivated by political effectiveness. It’s a display of solidarity, nothing more.

  73. Fine

    Paul Norton, I can well recall Left wing university groups whose pro-Palestinian position toppled, in a very ugly way, into very nasty anti-Semitism. Of course, we can criticise the Israeli state without being anti-Semitic, but I still see the two positions being conflated on an everyday basis.

    Just as it’s a mistake to conflate criticism of the Israeli state with anti-Semitism, it’s a mistake to think that strands of anti-Semitism never exist within some of that criticism.

    On a slightly different note, I remember a couple of years ago Ken Loach withdrew his film from the Melbourne Film Festival, because the festival had accepted money from the Israeli Film Commission. This was a small amount of money which paid for a couple Israeli filmmakers to be flown to festival. Loach wanted the Festival to withdraw those films and return the money. This seemed very strange seeing as the films in question took a Leftish pro-Palestinian stance. Loach has every right to decide the circumstances in which his films could be shown, but it seemed entirely counter-productive to me. Does this mean no cultural product from Israel should be shown? This was the same Festival in which all the Chinese film were withdrawn because of the screening of the pro-Uighar “Ten Conditions of Love”. The comparison of the two Festival boycotts made me very uncomfortable. It certainly sparked a lot of arguments at the time.

  74. Sam

    Not least because I was in primary school when the country made the transition to democracy.

    If you’d been an activist prodigy like Paul then you would have had a position on South Africa.

    Of course the comparison doesn’t work in any case. Boycotting Israeli universities (a primary boycott target) serves to punish some of the most progressive elements of Israeli society. Does anyone think the Likud types could give a crap if Israeli universities were boycotted?

    Boycotting South Africa, especially its rugby teams, on the other hand, struck at the very heart of white South Arican’s existence.

  75. Liam

    One last facetious point before I go and do some work—in light of Eddie McGuire’s comments about Sydney’s fabled Land of the Felafel, it’s probably more appropriate to describe Marrickville and Israel as economic competitors, not collaborators.

  76. adrian

    It’s exactly the same issue since the argument seems to be based on the premise that because some states should be subject to a boycott and aren’t, no states should be subject to a boycott.
    Peurile in MHO.

  77. skip

    Which brings up another point—these discussions, despite skip’s assertion otherwise, are entirely games of ethical one-upmanship.

    Paul, it must be disappointing to hear the anti-apartheid boycott described in these terms.

    It’s simply false to say, given the minute scale of economic and cultural trade between Israel and the Marrickville LGA, that the Marrickville Council’s vote to boycott Israel is motivated by political effectiveness.

    Boycotts, like picket lines, don’t work on the principle of: “But it’s only little old me!”

  78. adrian

    And who really cares about Marickville Council’s rather meaningless actions, apart from the usual suspects who use it as a stick to beat the left about the head with.

    Surely the wider point is that virtually no one in any position of power or authority in this country would evencontemplate such a boycott for a nanosecond and if they did the combined forces of the MSM and the government and One Nation/the Federal Opposition would go ballistic.
    Israel is basically untouchable in Australia today which makes the premise of this post rather laughable.

  79. akn

    Paul Norton @51:

    However it is beyond serious dispute that Zionism came to be embraced by the great majority of Jews as their preferred strategy for liberation.

    You cannot be serious. From my mate, son of a Rabbi whose daughter is currently in Rabbinical training:

    Israel does not represent international Jewry.

  80. Sam

    From my mate, son of a Rabbi whose daughter is currently in Rabbinical traing

    There are of course sects of ultra orthodox Jews who refuse the recognise the state of Israel, because it shouldn’t exist before the arrival of the Messiah.

  81. Francis Xavier Holden

    Liam – I’m onto you.

    I notice you are remarkably silent on The Council of Trent.

    Whereas my stance has been well recorded and at much personal cost.

  82. Sam

    Liam 77, I don’t think that McGuire thinks of Marrickville as Western Sydney. What he’s got in mind starts at Wentworthville and works its way out.

  83. OB

    Helen:
    Are you Jewish?
    If many Jews describe a position as anti-Jewish, than it’s anti-Jewish. Non-Jews don’t get to decide what’s anti-Jewish or not.

  84. skip

    I officially proclaim that even Gentiles have a right to theorise and analyse actual or alleged anti-Semitism.

  85. Lefty E

    “It’s a display of solidarity, nothing more.”

    Well, as some notorious leftist once said, all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing etc.

    Come on guys, srsly: the arguments being put against sanctions on the Israeli state (viz, cos others guys are bad) could have put in the 1980s by defenders of apartheid, and probably were. Its not exactly a very good argument – not least because the sanctions were quite effective.

    Like it or not, such tactics are less effective on authoritarian states – who censor and control all info coming in from outside. These tactics work better on ethnic-democratic states who are sensitive to the criticism, politically diverse within (the Israeli left is big, and not a mile from these positions many of us hold eg 1967 borders), and often contain large liberal elements.

    What effect does saying notihng have on their chances within? Seriously. Why wouldnt we assist our comrades within Israel, let alone Palestine?

    I might add Im not suggesting anyone’s a bad person for disagreeing with me – but then again I know there’s a little Birdy’s out there calling me an “anti-Semite” as we speak so, you know, we all have to deal with holding our positions.

    As for AU, agree Liam. And on point, I note that the western right’s vigorous defence of Israel come mainly from ideological tendencies most responsible for historical anti-Semitism: the Christian right. If our brave RWDBS ‘Friends of Israel’ crowd think the Israelis arent aware of that, they are eluding themselves.

    Here’s one Australian who organised protested at the German Embassy in the 1930s. Today’s average RWDB defenders of Israel are the same swine who most opposed saying sorry to his descendants. http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2010/s3082041.htm#

  86. Lefty E

    In moderation, not sure why!

  87. skip

    Paul, the generational split on this can’t be overstated. When it comes to identification with Israel, 1983 was a long time ago for disapora Jews. It was effectively another era. 2006 was another turning point.

  88. Sam

    If many Jews describe a position as anti-Jewish, than it’s anti-Jewish

    How many is “many”? Orthodox, conservative and reform Jews have been ripping each other new one’s for years, describing the others as anti-Jewish.

    It’s not as though there’s a Jewish Pope who can decide.

  89. Paul Burns

    Okay, Paul Norton.
    Lets deal with the Holocaust. If there is one country in the entire world who should know instinctively that the way they treat Palestinians is immoral, wrong, genocidal etc, it should be the Israelis since many of their citizens are survivors of the Holocaust or children or grandchildren of survivors of the Holocaust, yet they go on and on trating the Palestinians in ways comparable to how the Nazis treated European Jewry. Almost exactly comparable, except for the death camps, so far as I know.

  90. adrian

    Also in moderation??

  91. Sam

    Paul, skip 88 is right on this. Your generation of Jewish student activists still thought of Israel as a quasi-socialist state, which it sort of was until 1977.

  92. OB

    Israel was not founded as a state for the Jewish religion. Most of the Zionist leaders who founded Israel were secular socialists and many were atheists. It was founded as a state for the Jewish people, in their historic homeland. Of course the Jewish religion enjoys a privilged position, although other religions are freely practised.

    Israel is a small and crowded country that could not accommodate 4 million new settlers, but mainly because Israel is a Jewish state and would cease to be so if 4 million non-Jews settled inside its borders. The Palestinians have had two opportunities to achieve a Palestinian state, in 1947 and 2000, and in both cases they rejected the chance and chose to resort to force instead. If you choose to resort to force, and lose, you forfeit your right to achieve your objective by other means. If the Arab states had accepted the UN Partition Plan in 1947, there would have been a Palestinian state for 60 years. If the PLO had not resorted to terrorism in 1969, the Palestinians would have had a state 40 years ago. If Arafat had accepted the Clinton-Barak plan in 2000, there would be a Palestinian state now. Nations make choices, and they live with the consequences of their choices

  93. Lefty E

    And just to be clear, some of us never were involved in ‘anti-Zionist left’. Personally, I’d probably defend the 1967 borders myself, (if …you know, I was brave n shit. Blogging n support is certainly go).

    What I cannot accept, along with more than a few Israelis, is the nakedly dishonest justification for dispossession that goes: “If i cant be in Hebron, what right have I got to be in Tel Aviv?”

    How do people not choke on such barefaced lies? Its as absurd as saying “if I cant be your country, what right have I to be in mine?”

    Err, the pick any justification for citizenship – jus soli, jus sanuguinis: youll find they DO apply in your country, and dont apply in neighbouring ones. We all have this phenomenon. Its just how that works. Its not controversial in the least.

    Lets call that bullshit for what it is: a justification for a policy of Lebensraum.

  94. skip

    No breakdown by age on that poll.

  95. Sam

    If you choose to resort to force, and lose, you forfeit your right to achieve your objective by other means.

    Shit, even Netanyahu says he still supports a two state solution. How extreme must OB be?

  96. sg

    Paul, just because you got sucked into stalinist claptrap in your activist days doesn’t mean that modern anti-Israel activists – far removed from stalinist claptrap due to the collapse and humiliation of that politics – are falling for the same loony lines. Just because your opposition to Israel was anti-semitic doesn’t mean mine is, and doesn’t mean that a naff website (connected to normblog, which is Eustonite, and I right?) which puts an anti-Israel play under the category “child killing” has anything to say about the actual political issues.

    Do you also reconsider your support for the South African boycott, given that you now seem to think we shouldn’t boycott Israel if we don’t also boycott China?

    Should all political activism be shelved if we can’t apply it consistently simultaneously to every problem? We shouldn’t be vegetarian because omg! we aren’t also boycotting illegal organ donations?

  97. skip

    I’ll make the point a bit clearer, because I think it’s in danger of getting obscured. Surely a majority of American Jews are still Zionists, as the AJC poll shows. But the State of Israel and the Zionist political project have no particular claim to represent authentic Jewishness; they represent a recent current of nationalist sentiment that it is quite possible to reject, renounce, and organise against, without going anywhere near anti-Semitism. It is not, as Paul would have it, something that “the Jews” have “chosen”.

  98. Liam

    If you choose to resort to force, and lose, you forfeit your right to achieve your objective by other means

    Well to be fair, that’s also Hizbollah’s post-2006 argument.

  99. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    Paul: you lived through the debates, but 2011 isn’t 1983, and it definitely isn’t 1974. That wasn’t too long after the Six Day War (when Israel took on all comers and won), and many would have had actual living memory of the Holocaust. Would the same debates have a different outcome today? These days, Israel isn’t exactly David against Goliath – not when its tactics include indiscriminate shelling into Gaza.

    Just so you know where I’m coming from, I support a one-state, two-state or even three-state solution to the whole Israel-Palestine situation, as long as (a) all resultant states are healthy democracies, (b) the states are independent of each other, and (c) the participants are happy with the outcome.

    However, I think a two-state solution is not looking likely, no matter what diplomatic recognition Palestine gets from other countries. The result is a state made out of two exclaves run by different parties who hate each other. No wonder most Arab Israelis want no part of it. They prefer to be part of a democracy, not subjects of Hamas or Fatah.

  100. jules

    Yeah its easy to blame the second interfada and the failure of Oslo on Arafat, but why would the Palestine accept the Clinton plan when over 7000 houses were built by settlers in Palestinian territory since Oslo and Israel decided that it would annex that territory. You expect that to be an acceptable position for a sovereign state?

    You blame the Palestinians for not acquiescing to the theft of their land/property. What you call “resorting to force” Palestinians call self defense – settlers were stealing their land, and the IDF backed them up. Thats typical of an Israeli govt (specifically on the Israeli right) attitude that irritates people who see this situation from outside.

    Its funny that the attitude was driven by hard core right wing jerks. The same sort of hard core right wing jerks who in Australia won’t compromise on anything and make comments like Morrison’s yesterday.

  101. jules

    Sorry that comment was specifically for OB @99.

  102. sg

    Paul, my entire first paragraph was a response to your previous explanation of what happened during the “great debates” of the 70s. I’m not sure what you can infer about me from that except that I’m not a stalinist.

    But since you ask … I would like to see a one state solution to the problem, with “Israelis” and “Palestinians” living side by side in peace in a democratic, secular state. Kind of like the original vision of the PLO, maybe? (Not that I know much about their original vision in detail). Maybe we could rename the entire area “Ponyland.” Failing that, I would like to see a two state solution where Palestine is actually a state, not a bantustan, and has contiguous, secure borders with access to the sea and freedom from external attack. We could call those countries “The Ponylands.”

    The reality is we’re not going to see either. I don’t see what that has to do about how wrong you were or weren’t in the 70s.

  103. Fine

    “Ponyland”. Sounds like bliss.

  104. myriad74

    “Ponyland”….“The Ponylands.”

    Great an entire country or countries I’d be allergic to. Bit like how I’m allergic to Israel/Palestine debates these days.

  105. sg

    Paul, you can’t provide a frank dismissal of the apartheid comparison, and it’s possible that the apartheid comparison has become more apt in the intervening years, not less.

    I don’t like this comparison of “anti-semitism” with misogyny and patriarchy. They’re completely different things, enforced by completely different methods in completely different contexts. Also, women haven’t carved out their own kingdom with the support of powerful imperial interests, where they indiscriminately shell the neighbouring men, hold them in a state of malnourished subjection, and murder people who try to break the blockade. If they were, criticisms of “Witchland” would probably not be based in misogyny.

  106. sg

    myriad74, equine beasts have a strong antipathy to me, so I doubt I’d be visiting ponyland either.

  107. skip

    The issue is not whether someone’s “opposition to Israel” is subjectively motivated by conscious hostility or prejudice towards Jews either as individuals or as a people, but whether such a position is objectively contrary to and/or lacks empathy with the interests and aspirations of the Jewish people.

    Your posited entity, The Jewish People, don’t have any inherent shared “interests” as Jews except to be free of anti-Jewish prejudice and oppression. The Zionist project, as it happens, is not helpful in this regard. If they have political opinions about the Middle East, that’s fine, but they’re as much subject to criticism as anyone else’s political opinions. I don’t have to back off on having opinions about America if they happen to cut across the “interest and aspirations” of the American people. Some aspirations are bad! I’m not sure what to make of your suggestion that anti-Zionism “objectively lacks empathy”.

  108. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    Sg: the proposed names for the one-state solution are Palisra (Hebrew: ????????, Arabic: ??????) or Isratin (Hebrew: ?????????????, Arabic: ????????).

    But I think Ponyland (Hebrew: ????? ????, Arabic: ????? ?????) is heaps better.

  109. Liam

    We could call those countries “The Ponylands”

    [Cough] Mark 11:1-11 [cough]

  110. Fine

    I didn’t realise Jesus was a horse thief.

  111. sg

    Also, given that the state of Israel isn’t exactly objectively helping the interests of the Palestinians, can’t just as easily present Zionism as based on deep-seated anti-Arab or anti-Islamic ideas? We can all play this game of finding hidden reasons for peoples’ assessments of modern politics. Perhaps it’s a game best put aside?

  112. Sam

    I predict one of three things will occur here.

    In order of likelihood then…

    1) A long and unproductive stoush

    2) A comments closed notice when (1) looks like developing

    3) Chicks With Guns II – The Jewening

    It’s time.

  113. Lefty E

    “Black South Africans didn’t have the vote or parliamentary representation under apartheid.”

    True in South Africa proper, as I noted at 47, Paul, but they did vote in the Bantustans.

    For a neutered political authority, nominally self-governing, but totally under the sway of its neighbour in all key sovereignty areas, unilaterally constituted as to territory by the dominating regime deciding what residual pieces of land they didn’t care for.

    The similarities are plentiful.

    Dont forget that 55% of black Sth Africans lived in Bantustans at their peak – so while the “disenfranchised subject denizen” population of Sth Africa ‘proper’ was enormous, the *majority* were actually living in political entities quite parallel to the Palestinian authority.

  114. Lefty E

    Oh yeah – and the seemingly endless “transition” to full statehood, entirely at the behest and timing of the dominant party, trotted out as a ‘goal’ whenever talking to the international community – thats exactly the same too.

    Thus, in sum – I conclude that until such time as there *actually is* a two-state solution, the label “apartheid regime” – while not an absolutely perfect fit, agreed – is easily the most apposite comparison for the current Israeli regime.

    They could change that tomorrow. Only the state of Israel has that power.

    Its pretty obvious who we should pointing the finger at.
    Sit on that and ‘Engage’, alleged British “left wing activists’.

  115. myriad74

    I’m so going to regret this, but:

    Surely the only really salient point regarding “is BDS justified cos it’s just like the South African situation” debate is that the most important thing they have in common is that the call for the boycott etc. has originated from the people suffering the oppression.

    IE, BDS originated as a call from a very large cross-section of organisations and representatives of Palestinian society in all locations (exile, in Israel, in occupied territories); just as the call of the South African boycott came from black South African society.

    so people in developed free societies bickering over whether the oppression suffered in both instances is exactly the same frankly to me is a near-complete irrelevancy when you can find now, easier than ever, the voices of grass-roots civil Palestinian society clearly calling for this, just as we chose to hear the call for the South African boycott.

  116. silkworm

    goyim in a country like Australia

    That would be, like, 99.5% of us.

    Your language is strange, Paul. Why do you have to use a term like “goyim”? Why can’t you use the term “non-Jews”?

    As for most Australians subconsciously harbouring prejudices against Judaism, that would be down to the fact that, historically, hatred of the Jews comes from Christians who have been taught that the Jews killed Jesus. When one is not brought up a Christian, or if one renounces Christianity, then one does not suffer from the delusion that the Jews killed their saviour. The charge of “anti-semitism” just won’t stick against atheists and agnostics, let alone members of other religions such as Muslims.

  117. silkworm

    Israel was not founded as a state for the Jewish religion. Most of the Zionist leaders who founded Israel were secular socialists and many were atheists. It was founded as a state for the Jewish people, in their historic homeland.

    Here we have the quintessential Zionist myth, that the “diaspora” Jews are the descendants of the Biblical Hebrews. Most of the Jews in Israel are descendants of the European Ashkenazis, who were 10th century converts to Judaism. It’s not their historic homeland at all. Those with the best claim to be descendants of the original inhabitants of Israel/Palestine are the Palestinians themselves. The Ashkenazi Jews in Israel are nothing more than colonialists.

  118. OB

    Silkworm:
    You’re not Jewish. You don’t get to decide what’s anti-Jewish or not.

  119. The Skeptical Leftist

    I note the Hamas Charter still cites “The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion”. How about we boycott them also?

  120. silkworm

    Loyalty to the state of Israel is central to Jewish identity. In Jewish schools around Australia (I cannot speak for the rest of the world, but I presume it is identical), students are inculcated with Zionism as part of the religious curriculum in Jewish schools. I did a Google search of Jewish schools in Australia, and I could not find one that did not have Zionism as their central tenet.

  121. Terry

    I think that the longer this thread continues, the more vaild the points that Paul Norton makes are shown to be.

  122. Joe

    I’ve been in shame the last few weeks since my last thread melt-down. [queue theme music from Man from the Snowy River II]

    This thread is really interesting, because:

    In the first instance this topic is so jading…

    But it’s actually a good example of the limits of our contemporary political playing field:

    Jewishness is a really good example of a term, which, in particular due to it’s proximity to religion and pre-modernity, means such different things to different people. One of the most perceptive historians, in my opinion, is Fritz Stern, who in a very readable article says, among other things about Nazi Germany:

    The Nazis didn’t realize that they were part of a historic process in which resentment against a disenchanted secular world found deliverance in the ecstatic escape of unreason. German elites proved susceptible to this mystical brew of pseudo-religion and disguised interest.

    Likewise, Jewishness represents to some degree an escape to unreason. It is a mixture of historical, mystical, geographical, etc. arbitrariness. You will notice I’m now making a comparison between the Germans of the Nazi era and Jews. Zionism is a seductive example of unreason. And moreover a literal example of escape.

    One very small point, because the particular issue truly is jading: Islamism and Zionism or Jewish nationalism are in the Middle East symmetrical. They are correlated. They simply have to be, otherwise one side can’t push back. In the face of struggle, we’ve seen the combatants turn to irrationality and its result.

    More broadly significant is the increasing role and acceptance of this dynamic in Western ‘secular’ politics. The Christian right being the actor, which is hogging the spotlight in our own country. But there are many other examples…

    In relation to a thread recently about freedom of speech, political debate is based on differences. Politcal actors argue with each other but they do have to agree on one thing: religious issues cannot be solved politically.

  123. FDB

    Okay Sam, let’s get started then.

    I do hope you weren’t calling for option #2.

  124. furious balancing

    silkworm – “Loyalty to the state of Israel is central to Jewish identity.”

    That’s utter rubbish.

  125. Ambigulous

    silkworm @128
    regardless of the origins of anti-semitism in Europe, it is possible to be anti-semitic and atheist.

    Two of the hardest anti-semites I ever met were both atheists. The older one had possibly been influenced by populist rhetoric against ‘the money power’ imbibed during the Depression….

    A few months ago a dinky-di Aussie was explaining to me how she made sure to include (at least) two Holocaust sites on her European travels: the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, and a concentration camp museum. Overhearing this, another dinky-di lady said, “I still think the Jews have too much power”. The casual brutality of this was stunning. I think dinky-di II is atheist, and has never been influenced by Soviet or Polish propaganda.

    Anti-semitism takes many forms, and seems little diminished by the terrible publicity provided by AH and the boys.

  126. Ambigulous

    FDB: how about those virgin bodyguard chicks Col Gaddafi employs?

    Oh, probably not Jewish….

  127. silkworm

    furious balancing

    Jewish education involves indoctrination in Zionism and all its myths. There are few people that have had Jewish education and who manage to overcome their Zionist indoctrination. The only one I know who has done this is Antony Loewenstein.

  128. Liam

    Okay Sam, let’s get started then

    IT BEGINS.

  129. Ambigulous

    “If that’s a gun in your pocket, Liamista…” she purred, then she winked.

  130. dylwah

    i know i am late to this, but i just want to say that a boycott of Israel wouldn’t work in the same way as with SA.

    SA was really only supported by governments and bigots whose arguments all boiled down to “black africans will stuff up any country they run, look at . . . . ” Israel is supported by a large chunk of an international diaspora that that is a smidge one eyed. an international diaspora that names important places like hospitals “Masada” commemorating a defeat that makes Gallipoli look like a raging success. A diaspora that celebrates the actions of people that broke the laws of their own countries to support them. i love the picture of Vidal Sassoon looking like a younger version of his hairdressing posters. Israel has a lot more dedicated and fervent support than SA ever had.

    it’s only vaguely pertinent, but i first met virulent left wing anti zionism when i was on my chilly shifts at the picket line outside the SA embassy in Canberra. My fellow picketer used to bring all these anti zionist pamphlets, we were operating in shifts, and i couldn’t understand why he gave them the time of day. The one i remember, i guess ’cause it was the simplest to dismiss, claimed that Israel was in the wrong place, not wrong place as in it ought to be in the Kimberley, but the wrong part of the Mid East, like he had never heard the joke “why did Moses spend forty years wandering the desert? To find the only place in the ME without oil.” It was a weird time Paul N, don’t be too hard on yourself.

  131. Mercurius

    Silkworm, your website skimming of Jewish school curricula is insufficient for you to form an authoritative view of the basis of Jewish loyalty to the state of Israel. I have been in synagogue, on Yom Kippur, and listened to the Rabbi deliver a speech which made some quite scathing remarks about the State of Israel’s conduct in the 2006 war on Lebanon and the 2009 invasions of Gaza. It got quite a reaction from the congregants, I can tell you!

    I can assure readers here that the virtues and vices of the State of Israel receive no more searching scrutiny and criticism than from Jews themselves — whether as diaspora or Israelis, whether as Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, secular, or atheist/agnostics of Jewish heritage.

    Trust me, we’ve got criticism of Israel pretty well covered. In fact, read the average daily issue of Haaretz and you’ll find more skeptical and critical coverage of the Israeli State than you’ll find in the average year’s coverage from the New York Times or The Australian.

    But, back OT to Paul Norton’s original post. Remember — if the words of ‘Engage’ are to be believed, they are a single issue campaign apparently organised around a local industrial issue in Britain….

    … So I can apply a good old East Cost USA litmus-test question to the actions of ‘Engage’. Question: Is it good for the Jews? Answer: No. And this thread is a signature example of why I say no.

    May I remind readers that on the other thread presently live on LP, Australians are exercised over the fact that a petition was filed in our House of Representatives calling for an end to Muslim immigration to Australia (signed by three people!), and Australians are apparently grumbling about the cost of flying some Muslim people to the funerals of their own family members.

    Many of the Jews I have known in the USA and Australia would stand in solidarity with the Muslims of Australia against the vilification and harassment they face in this country, long before they would be willing to shake the hands of ‘Engage’.

  132. su

    [queue theme music from Man from the Snowy River II]

    Nah, cue this – this

    I was expecting to have to wait much longer ; )

  133. furious balancing

    silkworm – “Jewish education involves indoctrination in Zionism and all its myths. There are few people that have had Jewish education and who manage to overcome their Zionist indoctrination. The only one I know who has done this is Antony Loewenstein.”

    Since I have many Jewish relatives who have attended Jewish schools and regularly attend a synagogue and who would describe themselves as strongly anti-Zionist, I would suggest that the fact that you only know one indicates that you simply don’t know many Jews – so perhaps you could desist with the ignorant generalisations? The most strongly anti-Zionist people I know are all Jewish.

  134. Mercurius

    Oh, and I’ll second Furious Balancing @136. Silkworm, you don’t know what you’re talking about. The State of Israel has been around for three generations. Jewish identity has been around for hundreds of generations. I think Jewish people get to say what is central to Jewish identity, and you…just…don’t.

    But, I see that the chicks with guns have begun to appear. So, it is time to bid you…????

  135. FDB

    I didn’t know Drew Barrymore was Jewish.

    Though in your defence, perhaps you didn’t know I was looking for more than she could ever be.

  136. paul of albury

    Don’t cross the streams Merc! Seriously thanks for one of the more uplifting posts.

  137. Lefty E

    Yah, what Mercurius said – there’s loads of critical Jewish & Israeli voices out there.

    And then in the other corner, we have “Engage” – basically telling us to STFU, and, well, not to engage with them.

    Instead, please nod politely at the state.

    Fact: ‘Engage’ are a pack of tossers. ‘Left wing activists’ my ass!

  138. weaver

    The issue is not whether someone’s “opposition to Israel” is subjectively motivated by conscious hostility or prejudice towards Jews either as individuals or as a people, but whether such a position is objectively contrary to and/or lacks empathy with the interests and aspirations of the Jewish people.

    Right, so (leaving aside the absurd reification others have mentioned) if I have an objection to all forms of Romantic 19th century ethno-nationalism, Zionism included, that objectively makes me a Jew-hater. Gosh, I’m glad I’m only a goyish anti-Zionist and not a Jewish one, otherwise I might find that peculiarly insulting.

    It fascinates me that apparently sensible people can use a phrase like “national self-determination” in the context of talking about a state defined by a particular ethnicity, and not demonstrate a skerrick of comprehension of what it is they are actually advocating.

  139. Hal9000

    [email protected]

    Interesting train of thought.

    It’s fascinating how the attraction of unreason applies even within cultures of unreason. The way the christian zionists seize on selected biblical passages and choose to ignore others is a wonder. That they can also ignore the millenia-old history of christianity’s relationship with the magical land, and encourage the oppression of its still exisiting christian community is extraordinary. That such a wacky set of beliefs is widespread in the hegemoic power’s heartland is frightening. Something is seriously wrong with reality when so many are so willing to sever their connection with it.

  140. Nickws

    @ 42: Since when has the venerable Left Jewish tradition in the UK been one of defence of Zionism?

    Dr Tad, you’re kidding, right? You want us to believe there is no connection between British Jewish socialism and Israeli socialism? That’s where the Israeli Labour movement got it’s name from. The movement that created the first govt of Isael. Yes, there were ideological disputes in the Jewish neighbourhoods in Manchester etc over that, but considering you earlier wrote a one sentence denunciation of this issue not even ‘belonging on a Leftwing website’ I’m hardly convinced by your new and improved argument about UK Left Jews not being integral to Zionism and vice versa.

    @ 51: I’m sure that even the most “Insular” Australian Leftist would concede that Israeli Jews should be able to join a union — or at least, should not be the sole targets of exclusion from one!

    Ha ha, I think I see what you’re doing there..

    Mercurius, I think you’re right about Engage being a bit on the incoherent side—the first thing I read on their site was an attack on UK Green party policy that makes no mention of what exactly it is the Greens have supposedly done wrong (btw, I assume you’re a Green way before you’re a socialist, right? What do you make of my assertion about Australian religious Jews not traditionally being welcome in the Left? This is all pretty abstract for me.)

    @ 61: Wow Nick, doesn’t take much for you to play the antisemite card

    I didn’t call you an anti-Semite, PatrickB.

    Yet I’m happy to now think you’re exactly the kind of ideologue who deliberately pushes the line when commenting about the Jews merely so you can then respond to valid criticism with the tried and tested, “Don’t you dare call me racist/bigoted!”

    Funny thing is it’s not like I’m not hyper-critical of Likudniks and neocons, it’s not like I my opinions don’t have more in common with someone like Loewenstein than they do with Avigdor Lierberman. It’s just I don’t lump all of _them_ together in my rhetoric.

    Fine @ 76: On a slightly different note, I remember a couple of years ago Ken Loach withdrew his film from the Melbourne Film Festival, because the festival had accepted money from the Israeli Film Commission. This was a small amount of money which paid for a couple Israeli filmmakers to be flown to festival. Loach wanted the Festival to withdraw those films and return the money. This seemed very strange seeing as the films in question took a Leftish pro-Palestinian stance. Loach has every right to decide the circumstances in which his films could be shown, but it seemed entirely counter-productive to me. Does this mean no cultural product from Israel should be shown?

    Damn, I was actually trying to mentally justify whether a BDS that was aimed purely against the Israeli govt might be justified (because that’s just how aggressively and intolerantly philo-Semitic a guy I am, I’m a regular Sarah Palin me) but this shows how impractical it would be to run one against a contemporary mixed-economy nation state. If you want to keep your pluralist credentials intact, that is

    A Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions policy for any individual person choosing how to spend their own money, sure. But for a union, community org, NGO, business or elected authority—the effect is totally scatter gun.

  141. silkworm

    Of all the websites for Jewish schools with information on their curricula, all but three (Sinai College, Brisbane; United Jewish Education Board, Melbourne; Kesser Torah, Sydney) expressed their commitment to the State of Israel or Zionism. Here are extracts from these websites:

    Massada College, Adelaide… “Where appropriate, Jewish Studies focus on practices in Israel as well as in Australia and the importance of Israel in Jewish life is considered…. The Israeli festivals of Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) and Yom Hazikaron (Israeli Remembrance Day) have their own counterparts to some extent in Australia Day and Anzac Day. Many of these days are celebrated or commemorated in the school as part of Israel Week with special activities and guest speakers arranged.”

    Bialik College, Melbourne… “Comprehensive and enriching, the curriculum encourages students to view personal and social relations, achievements and responsibilities in the light of Jewish tradition with a strong emphasis on Eretz Israel.”

    Leibler Yavneh College, Melbourne… “As the College is under the auspices of the Mizrachi Organisation we embrace the philosophy of Modern Orthodox Zionism…. The students look forward to … Zionist camps.”

    Mt Scopus Memorial College, Melbourne… “Jewish identity, Hebrew and the centrality of Israel are integral to learning and play, and are taught in a modern, engaging way.”

    Sholem Aleichem College, Melbourne… “Our purpose is to cultivate in our students a passionate sense of Jewish identity and a sense of belonging to the world-wide Jewish people with special ties to the Australian Jewish community and the State of Israel.”

    The King David School, Melbourne (billed as “progressive”)… “Students participate in Jewish communal events such as Yom Ha’atzma’ut (Israeli Independence Day), Yom Hazikaron (Israeli Memorial Day)… Israeli religious leaders and academics speak to our students on issues of contemporary concern and enhance students’ knowledge of their culture and traditions. Israeli student leaders add to the School’s Zionist connections through activities and seminars. Diverse programs such as the Year 10 Zionist Camp…”

    Carmel School, Perth… “Carmel School is a modern Orthodox Zionist Jewish day school…”

    Masada College, Sydney… “Masada College aspires to teach children Modern Orthodox Jewish values in a tolerant and inclusive manner and to develop in them a love of Israel and a strong sense of community, Australian identity and citizenship.”

    Moriah College, Sydney… “A knowledge of our Jewish traditions, ethics and family values, a positive commitment to modern Judaism and a love for the State of Israel help to ensure our young people become caring, active, responsible members of the community.

    Mount Sinai College, Sydney… “Our focus on the ‘whole child’ prepares our graduates to be self-directed, life long learners with a strong Jewish identity and a commitment to Medinat Yisrael [the State of Israel].”

    The Emanuel School, Sydney… “Israel – a commitment towards the establishment and development of the modern State of Israel, an identification with and mutual understanding between Israel and Diaspora communities.”

    Seriously, if anyone has endured education in any of these establishments and has rejected their Zionist indoctrination, then well done.

  142. Mercurius

    I see Silkworm has been to the Kevin Donnelly school of education critique: read a few websites and then pronounce oneself a perspicacious critic.

    Ever heard of the difference between written and delivered curriculum? Ever heard of critical literacy? Do you even know, BTW, what the word ‘Israel’ means? And what it means for an entire people to call themselves ‘Israel’? It’s instructive to look it up and ponder the implications.

    Silkworm, I know Rabbis who practically grew up in these ‘Zionist camps’, singing Zionist songs and strumming guitars, who spend many weeks and months of the year in Israel, and who are quite capable of enunciating a more factual and more nuanced critique of the State of Israel than you are. And I’ve been to Jewish education courses where the whole bloody mess of the founding of the modern State of Israel, and every nefarious massacre conducted by Zionists during the British Mandate, are recounted and presented by Jewish educators.

    But hey, your skimming a few websites trumps all that, doesn’t it? Don’t let real, lived examples of real people interrupt your reading…

  143. su

    I have begun to wonder, in recent years, whether international political pressure, such as the call for sanctions, UN resolutions and the endless debating which frequently spills over into an implicit antisemitism, isn’t having the paradoxical effect of strengthening the siege state mentality anyway. Because I am largely in agreement with AKN and by extension, Joe, about the traumatic foundations of Israel it seems to me that all such pressure just folds back into a perception that the Jewish people are alone and isolated and under siege, and that any alliances are made for completely self-serving reasons by their allies. What if the ethical posturing on Israel and Palestine was making matters worse?

  144. Chav

    “Having just gotten back from Israel, I witnessed the last two weeks of social discussion that accompanied the escalating events in Egypt. The overwhelming consensus is pity for Mubarak and an almost pathological fear and hatred of the Egyptian protesters. When reports of the events in Egypt started coming in, my neighbour told me explicitly: “Arabs cannot have democracy. They’re not capable of it. The only way Arabs know how to function is to brutally oppress others. If it’s not a dictatorship that’s favourable to us, it’s going to be a dictatorship that hates us.” Another blamed Obama for “inciting this stupidity of democracy when he came to Cairo. I knew he was a Muslim just like the rest of them.” The Obama administration’s massive financial support for both the Mubarak dictatorship and, of course, continual aid to Israel was politely ignored in favour of wild racist speculation!

    There is no support in broader Israeli society for the demands of the Egyptian protesters that I saw. When I mentioned that Mubarak’s Egypt was a brutal police state, the overwhelming response was that it didn’t matter how many political dissidents Mubarak tortured, or how many political freedoms he took away, as long as Egypt was aligned to Israel’s interests. Another person I talked to (a high school teacher!) said, “I would only care about the politics of a regime that works with Israel if it oppressed Jews. It can commit mass murder on the Arabs for all I care. Fewer terrorists to deal with.” Fear of what could happen if the protesters succeed was the overriding emotion in every conversation, along with anger at the US for not uncritically backing Mubarak.”

    http://www.sa.org.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3105:fear-and-loathing-in-israel&catid=227:palestine&Itemid=222

  145. FDB

    “What if the ethical posturing on Israel and Palestine was making matters worse?”

    Given the lack of meaningful alternatives, that’s a depressing question to ponder.

  146. Down and Out of Sài Gòn
  147. Sam

    FDB @ 135. You should have warned me. I almost knocked myself out with my keyboard.

  148. derrida derider

    Unfortunately, my experience of a couple of weeks in Jerusalem a decade or so ago is indeed that there is an incredible amount of outright racism of the worst sort in popular Israeli attitudes, and it explains a lot of Israeli government actions (it is, after all, a democracy however vile its actions towards non-citizens). You can certainly explain all that as a consequence of 50 years of living in a state of siege, but an explanation is not an excuse.

    And yes, declaring that Jewishness is intimately bound up with Zionism, and then in the next breath declaring that anyone who criticises Zionism as racist is themselves a racist, is more than a bit self-contradictory.

  149. adrian

    ‘What if the ethical posturing on Israel and Palestine was making matters worse?’

    What ethical ‘posturing’?
    And what implication are you suggesting with your use of that word? Sounds like a bit of posturing on your part to me.