7 September 2006
It is not often I send two AFI group emails in one day, but three is unheard of. I have been moved to do so because I spent this evening reading the comments about the piece by Denis MacShane, the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism, on the Guardian’s Comment is Free blog and listening to Stephen Rose debate the report on BBC radio.
Below you can find Denis Mac Shane’s article and David Hirsch’s analysis of the radio discussion. I urge you to read the comments which follow the article, many of which are antisemitic. It is also frightening that remarks that accuse Jews of being more loyal to Israel or claiming Israel is a racist state, are made without a second’s thought and no one complains, as one person put it: “If it wasn't scary it'd be laughable. All these people telling us that they don't conflate Judaism and Zionism, and then arguing against this report on antisemitism by attacking Israel. Sounds like a conflation to me” This is a snapshot of our society in the UK today, what will tomorrow be like? Education is only part of the answer, even if these people knew what antisemitism was, the majority wouldn’t accept the definition. Neither do they know the meaning of Zionism, anyway read on and see what you think.
Academic Friends of Israel
Antisemitism is back
Our parliamentary report finds that many British citizens who happen to be born Jewish face unacceptable harassment, intimidation and assault.
Anti-semitism is back. Today an all-party commission of enquiry has published a report on anti-semitism which sets out in stark terms the problem. The Commission had 14 MPs on it. None is Jewish. None is active in Middle East politics. The work was carried out in a traditional parliamentary manner - open witness sessions, scores of written submissions, visits outside London.
The conclusion is inescapable. Too many British citizens, who happened to be born Jewish, now face harassment, intimidation, and assault that is unacceptable in democratic Britain. Their synagogues are attacked. Their children jostled and insulted going to school. Their social events requiring levels of security protection that no other faith or community has to undertake.
There are not that many Jews in Britain - a total community of between 250,000 and 300,000. The Chief Rabbi told the Commission that Britain was the best country in Europe to live in. But unlike other faiths or diaspora groups in Britain, British Jews are not allowed to live easily and freely with their religion, their culture, their history and their affiliation to other Jews in other countries, notably Israel.
Already the emails are pouring into my parliamentary inbox denouncing Israel in terms that will be familiar to all readers of Cif and Guardian comment pages. (By the way, why was the Guardian's coverage of our report quite as titchy as it was? The other broadsheets gave it full whack but it was a surprise to me that the Guardian reduced an important report based on a year's parliamentary work to a tiny news story.)
But please, will those already gearing up to attack the report, read it? It is not about Israel and the Middle East. It is not about the behaviour of Israel in Lebanon. It is not about 1948, or 1967, or 1973. Nor is it about Hamas, Hizbollah, the intifadas.
What we did is what Parliament exists to do. We examined a problem. We heard witnesses. We read submissions. One MP, the West Midlands Labour MP, Bruce George told one witness : "You are describing a Britain that my constituents do not know exists."
Precisely. There is a tiny slice of Britain - less than a quarter of a per cent of the population - who feel the quality of their lives, their right to their religion, their sense of history, the causes they support is being denied to them because they were born Jews, not Catholics, or Anglicans, or Muslims or Hindus.
I understand all the anger that people may feel about what happens overseas. Many hate America. But we do not throw bricks through schools for Americans in London or seek to desecrate the graves of Americans in Britain. My constituents of Kashmiri origin feel passionately about the behaviour of India in Kashmir. But this does not lead them to attack British Indians, or jostle a British Indian citizen who wears the marks of faith or community.
We make clear that criticism of Israel is to be expected. There is a double-standard at work, in that criticism of other regimes with terrible records of human rights abuses against Muslims (or whose planes have killed scores of children as Sri Lankan air force warplanes recently did in attacks on Tamil areas of the island) never get the same front-page coverage.
We are where we are with Israel. But we know of no mechanism that visits upon a community in Britain the responsibility for the actions that a sovereign state and UN member takes, however angry many are over Israel's behaviour. Our universities should be as open to Jewish students to say what they want as they are to other faiths. Our newspapers should watch language and images so that there is not a crossing of a line into attacking Jewishness. In the 1930s, the language was of the Jewish "cabal." Today, it is the Jewish "lobby" that is all-powerful. The demonisation of Jews was meant to have died in 1945. Alas it did not.
Instead we have to examine the acts against Jews and see them for what they are: racist attacks on individuals of a faith. We need to look at language and images especially those available on the internet, or via satellite and DVDs. Liberatarians will have no problem with copies of the hideously anti-semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion being on sale in Arab shops in London's Edgware Road.
But as someone who has fought against racial prejudice and language that demeaned British citizens of black or Asian backgrounds, and as someone who denounces and exposes islamaphobia, I cannot stand silent when I see anti-semitism back in 21st century Britain.
I know what the comments below this short blog will be before they are posted. Can I just respectfully ask Cif readers to hold back a while and read our report. If you write to me at the House of Commons I will send a hard copy or you can look at it on www.thepcaa.org.
Say that again, Steven Rose?
The report of the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism was published today. The BBC Today radio programme paired Professor Shalom Lappin with Steven Rose to discuss the issue. Listen. David Hirsch from Engage has written this analysis of the discussion
Steven Rose is a fluent, fast and effective media operator. So lets slow it all down a bit and think carefully about what exactly he said:
Interviewer Professor Rose, that boycott, was that in part responsible for this increase in antisemitism?
Rose No, the increase in antisemitism, which is clearly there, is primarily the result of the really criminal illegal actions of the Israeli government in the occupation in Palestine, exacerbated of course by what it’s been doing in the Lebanon.Rose, unlike many anti-Zionists, accepts that there is a clear and present increase in antisemitism. This is, he says, "primarily the result of" the actions of Israel. His explanation for the increase in antisemitism globally does not focus on the antisemites but on the actions of Jews in the Middle East. Interviewer But that is Israel, that is the country, the government of Israel, it’s not Jewish people.
Rose That is precisely the point but the problem is always that the Israel Lobby insists that Judaism and Zionism, Judaism and support of Israel, are identical and while they go on insisting that, and while they go on attacking those of us who actually oppose the policies of Israel as being antisemitic or being, in my case, a self-hating Jew, then they actually build this rod for their own backs... Rose introduces the term "Israel Lobby" and he claims that it is responsible for this false identity between Judaism and "Zionism" (Rose translates "Zionism" as "support for Israel"). The term "Israel Lobby" was given a new lease of academic respectability this year by Mearsheimer and Walt, two eminent conservative international relations professors in the US. Here, Rose is broadening out the claim that antisemitism is the fault of Israel, into a claim that it is the fault of a global "Israel Lobby". Immediately he conflates the multiplicity of campaigns and individuals who oppose his anti-Zionism and his boycotts into one shadowy and undefined term. The "Lobby", argues Rose, insists on this identity between "Zionism" and Jews and it attacks those who "oppose the policies of Israel" as being antisemitic or self-haters.
So another shift: now it is not Rose's demonization and his boycotts that the "Lobby" wants to suppress with its trumped up charge, but it is actually criticism of Israeli policies.
Rose himself conflates "Israel Lobby" with "Jews" by arguing that "they" build a rod for thier own backs. The "Lobby" builds the rod but it is Jews in general ("their own backs") that get hit by it. So the "Lobby" has already become, in the way that Rose uses the term, a code-word for of Jews-in-general.
Rose does not think it important to discuss who is doing the hitting with this rod that "the lobby" has built for "their own backs". He is not interested in the responsibility of antisemites for antisemitism, or in the responsibility of Jews for opposing and confronting the antisemites.
Rose goes on We’ve received death threats for actually daring to discuss the idea of a boycott of a racist university system within Israel itself. And so in fact the rise in antisemitism is precisely because this equation of being Israeli and being Jewish. We don’t say that but the Israelis do.Rose is clearly implying here that it is "the Israel Lobby" that sends out death threats to him and his colleagues. And he is right. Because his understanding of the term "Lobby" includes everyone from AIPAC, the ADL, the AJC, Campus Watch, Melanie Phillips, to the UJS, the Board of Deputies, the All Party Parliamentary Committee, to Engage, Workers' Liberty, Jonathan Freedland, David Aaronovitch, Meretz USA - to loony late night green-ink letter-writers who send death threats. All those who stand against Rose's characterisation of Israel as apartheid and illegitimate speak, in his paranoid imagination, with one voice, say one thing, adopt one tactic, have one politics. In other words, the "Lobby", in the way that Rose uses the term, is a global Jewish conspiracy. And it is huge. Nearly all newspapers, TV stations, websites, publishing houses, Hollywood itself, oppose his cranky and extremist focus on Israel as a uniquely racist centre of global imperialism. And Rose can't just be wrong, can he? People disagreeing with Rose can only be explained by the existence of a vast conspiracy.
Are Israeli universities racist? Well Rose gives the answer later on in the interveiw when he is trying to rebut the charge that he wants to boycott Israeli Jewish academics. "Remember that a considerable proportion of the Israeli academics are not necessarily Jewish they could be Palestinian" he says.
Lappin My point is that Steven Rose has actively collaborated in promoting demonization of Israel and this has spilled over into Stalinist and neo-Nazi style demonization of Jews.
Rose That is a grotesque argument. The reason why Israel is under criticism is because of the racist policies. The reason why there is a boycott of the universities is because the universities are complicit precisely in the apartheid and racist policies.Lappin makes the charge clear for Rose. The problem is not "criticism of Israel" but is the demonization, which sometimes spills over into the demonization of Jews. Rose again raises his straw man argument because he doesn't want to address the central charge made against him.
Interviewer But you called for the boycott of individual Jewish lecturers.
Rose No Sir. No we didn’t. Remember that a considerable proportion of the Israeli academics are not necessarily Jewish they could be Palestinian. This is a boycott of Israeli institutions, certainly not Jews and certainly not individuals.Jon Pike discusses the "institutional boycott" argument here. It is clear that the point of a boycott of Israeli universities is to exclude Israeli Jewish academics from conferences, journals, campuses - from the global academic community.
Shalom Lappin challenges Rose about his silence over other human rights abuses in the world, such as the current genocide that is happening in Darfur
Rose There is no point in trying to persuade us that because we are boycotting Israel we are uncritical of other policies, including those of our own government.Again, Rose raises his straw man. He wants to boycott Israel and nowhere else. He wants to exclude Israeli Jewish academics and no other academics on the planet. He thinks that Israel is "apartheid" and "racist" and "imperialist" and uniquely illegitimate. His answer is that he also criticizes other human rights abuses.
He criticizes other human rights abuses. But he demonizes Israel.
The Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks
Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld - Chairman of the Board of Fellows, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Henry Grunwald Q.C. - President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews
John D A Levy - Director of the Academic Study Group on Israel and the Middle East
Andrew R. Marks, M.D. - Columbia University, USA
Dr Robin Stamler
Professor Leslie Wagner CBE
Rt Hon Lord Young of Graffham
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