|Mark Gardener, main spokesman of the CST, with fellow believer in tolerance, Richard Littlejohn|
|Robert Wistrich, Tel Aviv Professor and Ideologue for the Belief that Islam and a 'new anti-Semitism' are partners|
Weaponising the holocaust and anti-Semitism in the cause of IsraelIn an excellent post by Tony Lerman 'Another faulty, pseudo-academic antisemitism initiative' Tony Lerman, one of the key academics in Jewish and Zionist life in Britain, who broke from Zionism (see his book 'The Making & Unmaking of a Zionist' (which I've just reviewed!), he shows how unscrupulous 'academics', whose main concern is the wielding of 'anti-Semitism' at Israel's critics, are doing their best to shut down debate. In a comment I posted, in response to various comments, I add the following - full article underneath:
Sharon Klaff asks, all innocent and wide-eyed 'what your gripe is. Take a breath and ask yourself why you are so angry that there are people who recognize the rise again of a call for genocide of the Jews.'
Sharon has therefore answered her own question. When people take the term 'anti-Semitisim' and 'genocide' against the Jews and use it to falsely lable those who are anti-Zionist, , then that is the concern, which Antony Lerman has expressed very well in his excellent post above.
Richard Kuper has dealt neatly with Harvey Garfield's absurd suggestion that the slogan 'from the river to the sea' is in any way anti-Semitic. The call for a unitary, secular state is the most democratic and anti-racist solution to the conflict between a settler state and the indigenous people there is. And as Richard says, the Israeli state does not recognise the Green Line so why the Palestinians should is a mystery!
And since Dennis MacShane, who was quite content to siphon off thousands of pounds of public money whilst berating 'benefit thieves' if they should earn an extra fiver to feed the kids, is being honoured with an Award of Merit, the cover of which is headed by Jabotinsky, leader of the Revisionists, then Harvey needs to learn some Zionist history. Because:
i. The slogan of the Revisionists was the West Bank is ours and so is the East Bank too!! (Apparently the tribe of Benjamin and one other resided there at one time)
ii. Jabotinsky, although not a fascist himself, led a movement whose paper Daor Hayom in Palestine was edited by Abba Achimeir, who ran a column 'Diary of a Fascist'. Achimeir wrote of how 'Yes, we Revisionists have a great admiration for Hitler. Hitler has saved Germany. Otherwise it would have perished within four years. And if he had given up his
anti-Semitism we would go with him.' This was expressed in the trial of Arlossoroff, the head of the Political Dept. of the Jewish Agency by the Revisionists who are widely considered to have assassinated him (for good anti-fascist reasons ironically)
In 1933 Jabotinsky wrote to Achimeir urging an end to this nonsense:
'The articles and notices on Hitler and the Hitlerite movement appearing in Hazit Ha am are to me, and to all of us, like a knife thrust in our backs. I demand an unconditional stop to this outrage. To find in Hitlerism some feature of a national liberation movement is sheer ignorance. Moreover, under present circumstances, all this babbling is discrediting and paralysing my work ... I demand that the paper join, unconditionally and absolutely, not merely our campaign against Hitler Germany, but also our hunting down of Hitlerism, in the fullest sense of the term.' Joseph Schectman, Fighter & Prophet, p.216.
Or there is the training of Jabotinsky's Beitar naval squadron at Civitavecchia in November 1934 when Mussolini was the darling of, not just the Revisionist Zionists.
It is no surprise that Mark Gardener and Dave Rich of the Community Security Trust should throw their weight behind false accusations of 'anti-Semitism', since that is the real purpose of their organisation. To create an image of anti-Semitism that doesn't exist and at the same time to use the 'old' anti-Semitism to frighten Jews into emigration. One thing the CST has never done is to participate in any joint activity against anti-Semitic and racist groups like the NF/BNP/EDL.
Indeed they were quite content, as was Dave Rich, at the time of Cast Lead, for EDL members to participate in the glorification of the murders on the Mavi Marmara outside the Israeli Embassy. Despite Rich's protestations at the time, no attempt was made to prevent EDL members attending that demonstration. Indeed a mirror image of what occurred then happened at the pickets outside Ahava, with Zionist Federation and EDL members standing and chatting side by side. The CST had nothing whatsoever to say.
The agenda is quite clear, as Prof. Klaff states. Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, therefore it should be banned to protect Jewish students. Ironically the Union of Jewish Students, which would quite like to do the same, OPPOSED no platform for fascists and racists when I was a student, in case it might be applied to them!
Brian Klug's definition, that anti-Semitism is a form of hatred and discrimination against Jews is pretty clear. It is those who always saw anti-Semitism as a 'normal' reaction to the presence of Jewish strangers in their midst who can be considered as buying into anti-Semitism. Yet that was the meaning of the Negation of the Diaspora. Zionism accepted anti-Semitism as 'normal' with people like Israel's first Justice Minister Pinhas Rosenbluth going as far as to describe Palestine as an 'institute for the fumigation of Jewish vermin' (Journal of Israel Studies 4, Autumn 1983). But this is not the type of anti-Semitism Gardener and Rich are concerned about because theirs is a political campaign.
And if they ally with vehement anti-Islamic racists and fundamentalists who cares. Manfred Gerstenfeld's article about 'anti-Semitism' in Norway is a good example. Perhaps he would care to peruse the views of Andreis Breivich as to his attitudes to Muslims and Israel (though like the CST and the above symposia participants, he too detested Jewish 'traitors').
The problem for Wistrich, Klaff and the other Zionist McCarthyites, who brook no challenge to their theses or debates, is that all their efforts fall on stony ground. Most people are quite capable of working out what anti-Semitism is and the question they ask is quite simple. How come the Jews of all people, given their experience of racism, can indulge in the same. It is our job to point out that Jews and Zionists are not one and the same and that in any event any group of people, given the right set of circumstances, can be victim or victimiser.
It says a lot about the CST's lack of anything resembling a considered thought pattern that Dave Rich can seize on the letter from Emeritus Professor Leslie Baruch Brent, which compared Israel's actions in Gaza to those of the Nazis in the bombing of Guernica. Is Rich seriously suggesting that the Nazis were unique? If it is right to compare US bombing in Vietnam with Nazi bombing of civilians, or that of the British in Iraq in 1920, why should Israel be given a free pass? No one is suggesting that Israel is alone in this war crime.
It is somewhat ironic that Professor Brent, with whose letter I didn't totally agree, is himself a childhood survivor of the Nazis, a member of the Kindertransport. I think he knows a little more about what it was like to flee the Nazi terror than a paid propagandist.
|Tony Lerman - dissident former Zionist|
It was inevitable. Another Gaza offensive by Israel begins, ostensibly to stop Hamas from firing rockets into southern Israel, and within a couple of days accusations of antisemitism were flying around.
Two particularly caught my attention. The first was the claim that Steve Bell, in his Guardian cartoon of 15 November, was ‘getting] away with using antisemitic imagery and tropes‘ because it showed Tony Blair and William Hague as puppets of Bibi Netanyahu.
The second was in a tweet about a letter to the Guardian from emeritus professor Leslie Baruch Brent who condemned the ‘disporportionate response of the Israeli government to the Hamas rocket attacks’ and concluded ‘Has the world learned nothing since Guernica?’ The text of the tweet read: ‘Hard to take @guardian opposition to #antisemitism seriously when they publish letter comparing #Israel to Nazis.’
I was especially interested in these accusations because the first was by Mark Gardner, the communications director of the Community Security Trust (CST), the private charity that acts as the defence organization of the UK Jewish community, and the second by Dave Rich, his deputy.
One of the things that is most worrying about what I believe were these false imputations of antisemitism (and I will explain my reasoning for this conclusion in my next blogpost) is that they come not simply from individuals expressing their own views, but from officials of a very influential, major registered charity, and in the case of the cartoon, writing in their capacity as officials of that organization. The view of the Community Security Trust is seen as, and is intended to be seen as, the view of the organized UK Jewish community. And yet that wider community has no means of calling the CST to account and therefore has to suffer the consequences of its officials’ doubtful and often damaging politically-motivated interventions in public debate.
The politicization of antisemitism research
The institutionalized politicization of antisemitism by bodies claiming to be non-political or academic is not new. And with regard to a charity like the CST, it is very troubling.
We saw this politicization in the now defunct Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA), which was closed by the university authorities after it became clear that it was primarily an advocacy body and not a serious research institute. And it was also apparent in the now almost defunct European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism (EISCA), established, it seems, with a mandate to grossly exaggerate the problem of antisemitism (the inaugural lecture given by the then Labour Europe minister Jim Murphy was entitled ‘Antisemitism: a hate that outlives all others’). There has been no activity on its website since June 2011, and that was an article by the now disgraced former Labour Party junior minister Denis MacShane, first published in the Jewish Chronicle and cross-posted on the EISCA blog.
While still thinking about the manipulation of antisemitism for political purposes, I received information about a symposium on antisemitism taking place on 2 December at the Wiener Library in London. Though clearly planned long before the latest Israeli offensive against Gaza, the holding of the symposium at this time is an extraordinary coincidence. And it was immediately obvious from the programme that it fell squarely into the category of an event dressed up in pseudo-academic clothes but which is, in reality, an exercise in political advocacy.
Although the symposium is taking place at the Wiener Library, a highly respected documentation, research and educational resource on the Holocaust and the Nazi era, it’s not mentioned anywhere on Wiener’s website. This is no doubt because the event itself is being organized exclusively under the auspices of the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism (JSA), with the library’s prestigious central London premises simply hired for the occasion. Wiener’s director, Ben Barkow, is not speaking at the symposium.
The Journal for the Study of Antisemitism: a home for the ‘new antisemitism’ notion
The JSA is a privately funded periodical founded four years ago. It has no institutional base and is privately published. It describes itself as ‘ the peer-reviewed work of a select group of independent scholars’. Even a cursory glance at the journal’s list of Board Members reveals a great preponderance of neoconservatives, Islamophobes, advocates of the notion of the ‘new antisemitism’, pedlars of the ‘self-hating Jew’ accusation against Jewish critics of Israeli policies and out-and-out political propagandists.
The individuals funding the event are Daniel Pipes, Mitch Knisbacher and Jeff and Evy Diamond. Pipes, the president of the right-wing Middle East Forum (MEF), is widely described as an ‘Islamophobe’. In 2009 his MEF established a legal defence fund for the far-right, populist, Islamophobic Dutch politician Geert Wilders. Pipes reportedly claimed that President Obama is a former Muslim who ‘practised Islam’. Knisbach, who is the founder and owner of 800response (America’s leading provider of shared-use 800-number services), is active in the right-wing Israel lobby AIPAC and funds Tazpit News Agency, a service set up primarily to popularize a positive view of settlement activity in the West Bank. Jeff Diamond, who heads the Jeff Diamond Law Firm, which has six offices in New Mexico and Texas, was installed in January as chair of the New Mexico Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Board of Directors.
The journal’s editors — Neal E. Rosenberg, a criminal lawyer, and Stephen K. Baum, a clinical psychologist — and the journal itself were mired in controversy early in 2010 when they sacked Dr Clemens Heni, a Berlin-based academic, from the editorial board for criticizing the Berlin Technical University’s centre for research on antisemitism for what he regarded as its ‘neglect of Islamic anti-Semitism and Israel’s security’ — and this was in an article Heni wrote for the journal. Various members of the board resigned in protest. The editors say they were pressured by the Berlin centre, which, a Jerusalem Post article claims, threatened to engineer the resignation of seven German members of the Board and the withdrawal of cooperation with the journal by three German antisemitism research centres. The editors soon relented, reinstated Heni and asked some of the resigning Board members to return. Some did and some didn’t.
Heni vigorously attacked the decision to close YIISA. In the wake of its demise, and no doubt after his experience being sacked and then reinstated to the JSA editorial board, in 2011 he set up a new German antisemitism research body, the Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (BICSA), the main focus of which is ‘anti-Semitism in the 21st century, particularly hatred of Israel.’
The symposium: a one-sided affair
The curious thing about this incident is that it’s quite clear that the journal’s posture is very close to the line Heni took in his attack on the Berlin centre. The programme and speakers at the forthcoming symposium demonstrate this. (A note of caution: the programme sent to me looks like the last word on who is attending and speaking, but may not be. It differs from the version of the programme on the JSA website.) Titled ‘Contemporary antisemitism in the UK’, the symposium kicks off with a panel on ‘Defining the new antisemitism’, chaired by Kenneth Marcus. The panellists are Bat Ye’or, Richard Landes and Winston Pickett.
Marcus heads the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, which was founded in late 2011 and took over where YIISA left off when it was closed down. YIISA’s director, Charles Small is on the advisory board, the honorary chairman of which is Professor Irwin Cotler, former Canadian justice minister, who has probably done more than anyone else to promote the idea of the ‘new antisemitism’. Other like-minded board members, who were also YIISA supporters, include Professor Dina Porat, Professor Ruth Wisse and Professor Alvin H. Rosenfeld.
The three panellists will find much to agree on. For decades Bat Ye’or has been banging the drum about the ‘Muslim hordes’ who were about to take over Europe. Rather generously referred to as a ‘self-taught Jewish intellectual’, she now believes that Europe is dead, and in its stead ‘Eurabia’ has risen. Richard Landes, director and co-founder of the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University, told the Herzliya IDC conference in 2007:
European democratic civilization can fall before the Islamic challenge. Do not say that this will never happen in Europe and that Islam will not be able to take control of Europe.
If Europe continues its current path, the fall will be sooner.
Winston Pickett was the director of the now non-functioning EISCA. He lavishes unreserved praise on Professor Robert Wistrich for his huge tome, Antisemitism From Antiquity to the Global Jihad, a book that, as its title suggests, sets out to justify the notion of the ‘new antisemitism’.
Panel sessions 2 and 3 — ‘Mapping the rise of contemporary antisemitism’ and ‘Antisemitism on campus’ — present much the same picture. Both chairpersons, Manfred Gerstenfeld and Kenneth Lasson, see no real distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. Gerstenfeld’s crude and wild assertions about antisemitism are legion. A recent online article about antisemitism in Norway is a good example of his continuing attempt to portray European countries as riddled with antisemitism, no matter what the data say. Lasson’s views are clearly laid out in an 80-page paper, ‘Antisemitism in the academic voice’, in which he writes that ‘Anti-Zionism . . . has evolved into antisemitism’ and reveals how ill-equipped he is to comment on this subject when he says: ‘The misnamed “occupation” allegedly began after Israel’s 1967 victory . . .’
In panel 2, Mark Gardner of the CST and Robert Wistrich, who heads the Sassoon International Centre for the Study of Antisemitism (SICSA), should feel comfortable with each other’s role in justifying and promoting the notion of the ‘new antisemitism’, though it would be only fair to acknowledge that Wistrich’s influence in this regard far outstrips that of Gardner’s. Wistrich restated the classic definition of the ‘new antisemitism’ in a talk at the Hebrew University Jerusalem in June 2011 entitled ‘From blood libel to boycott: changing faces of British antisemitism’. A Cif Watch post summarised his remarks: ‘efforts to boycott and delegitimize Israel (the Jewish collective) as a form of exclusion from the community of nations [are] not dissimilar from historical efforts to exclude the individual Jew from the communities where they resided.’ Gardner’s use of the ‘new antisemitism’ argument is clearly apparent in his and Dave Rich’s analysis of Caryl Churchill’s short playlet Seven Jewish Children. (My refutation of their analysis is here.) It is also unlikely that there will be much disagreement in panel 3 between Clemens Heni, Ronnie Fraser (fresh from the tribunal hearing his claim of ‘institutional antisemitism’ against the University and College Union), who runs the
Academic Friends of Israel, and Dave Rich.
Some dissent at last?
Some serious diversity of views then appears possible when Lesley Klaff chairs a panel discussing ‘Addressing current approaches’. This would be unlikely, however, were Professor Klaff to proffer her own views. Linked to BICSA and the Brandeis Center, she has made her opinions on the connection between anti-Zionism and antisemitism perfectly clear. As she writes in the journal of the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs:
University codes of conduct and UK law recognize that an important university goal is the promotion of equality of opportunity for minority students and their protection from discrimination, including harassment. Given the growing consensus that anti-Zionism is in fact anti-Semitism in a new guise, this goal is flouted with respect to Jewish students every time that anti-Zionist expression takes place on a university campus.So, no anti-Zionist views allowed on campus then. Period. While Günther Jikeli, co-founder of the International Institute for Education and Research on Anti-Semitism in London and Berlin, is under the false impression that the Fundamental Rights Agency of the EU endorses its predecessor’s ‘Working Definition’ of antisemitism, he, the PhD student Hagai van der Horst from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Professor David Feldman, director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck University of London will hopefully be able to offer a stark contrast with what will have gone before. Feldman’s approach at the Pears Institute is a model of inclusiveness and variety; he creates a safe space for the expression of sharply different opinions.
Worrying about the left and boycott, and promoting the EUMC ‘Working Definition’
The speakers on the final panel, ‘Strategic interventions: what can be done?’, are not on record, as far as I could ascertain, as specifically subscribing to the JSA‘s line on the relationship between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. The barrister Julian Hunt is described in the programme as ‘having experience defending pro-Israel activists’, which, from his July 2012 post on the Commentator blog, seems to refer to Jewish students on campus. With a title like ‘Criminalising the boycott bullies’, it seems fair to assume that he has an uncompromising attitude to anti-Zionism. Philip Spencer, an expert on the Holocaust and genocide, is director of politics and international Relations at the Helen Bamber Centre for the Study of Rights, Kingston University, and has a special interest in what he sees as the left’s less than glorious history of standing up to antisemitism. Francisco Garrett, a lawyer from Portugal, appears to have no significant track record as an antisemitism expert.
But there is little ambiguity in the position of the chair of this panel, L. Ruth Klein. In her 2009 report on antisemitism in Canada presented to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA), the national director of the League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada refers to anti-Zionism as ‘that unholy hybrid of age-old and new-age bigotry’, calls for the criminalization of boycotts ‘against the Jewish state’ and for the adoption of the EUMC ‘Working Definition’ of antisemitism.
Giving the political game away
A spirit of free inquiry does not seems to govern these proceedings. And this view is strengthened further by the sessions of the symposium that are not panel discussions. The former chairman of EISCA, Denis MacShane MP, is given the platform to himself to speak on ‘The politics of fighting antisemitism’. I and others have drawn attention to his woeful lack of understanding of antisemitism, his propensity to exaggerate what it represents – ‘there is no greater intolerance today than neoantisemitism’ – and his readiness to vilify Muslims and pro-Palestinian activists. For a man fêted as such a friend of the Jews, his ignorance about Jews and Israel, as displayed in his book Globalising Hatred: The New Antisemitism, is deeply disturbing.
But having written a book with that title he will certainly be at home among the JSA‘s ’select group of independent scholars’ at Sunday’s symposium. So much so that he is being presented with ‘The Award of Merit: Righteous Persons Who Fight Antisemitism’. (Whether the organizers still think he is quite so righteous after being found guilty of fiddling his parliamentary expenses, we do not know.) At the head of the page in the programme detailing this award, and two others, is a photograph of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the right-wing, revisionist Zionist ideologue, whose ideas have inspired much of today’s ruling political elite in Israel and, so it clearly appears, the organizers of this symposium. Manfred Gerstenfeld receives the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ and Shimon T. Samuels scoops the jackpot with the ‘Jabotinsky Award’.
Samuels is the director for international relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre Paris and a long-standing promoter of the notion of the ‘new antisemitism’. In July 2011, after attending a UN meeting in Brussels titled ‘The role of Europe in advancing Palestinian statehood and achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians’, he wrote to the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon saying that the experience was akin to a ‘gangbang’. On 2 August 2012 he told the Jerusalem Post that the action of the Swiss Migros supermarket chain to label Israeli products from the West Bank was a boycott measure and must be viewed as ‘a continuation of Nazism’.
It shows just how far the academic study of contemporary antisemitism has become corrupted in some circles that the organizers of this symposium did not seem to feel a moment’s shame in so blatantly politicizing it by identifying so completely with the political ideology of Jabotinsky. As if this wasn’t enough to damn as bogus what’s billed as an academic event, the screening of Gloria Greenfield’s ‘documentary’, Unmasked Judeophobia, can leave no one in any doubt. The New York Times‘ reviewer Nicole Herrington wrote:
the film loses ground toward the middle, when it calls out individuals (often just by showing their images) and organizations for their passiveness or criticism of Israeli policies without giving a full account of the facts. The roster is long: the United Nations, feminists, the European news media, Alice Walker, human rights groups and American academics.
In the end the issues of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are conflated, weakening the filmmaker’s argument.
Less restrained, but equally reasonable, was this from James van Maanen’s film review blog:
I suspect there is some very good information in Gloria Greenfield’s new documentary, Unmasked Judeophobia: The Threat to Civilization (that sub-title alone should raise a red flag), but the repetitive, ham-handed manner in which it is presented is enough to make aware and thinking people — anyone, that is, who might find and be willing to admit as reprehensible some of the state of Israel’s current behavior toward its Palestinian residents — run for the exit.This comment could equally be applied to the entire JSA symposium.
Anyone who disagrees with the notion of the ‘new antisemitism’ should always be prepared to discuss it with its promoters. And its promoters should always be willing to debate the notion with its critics. This is the only way that sense on antisemitism can be arrived at. By the nature and format of this symposium, the JSA has clearly shown that it has no interest whatsoever in such a dialogue, even if one or two brave souls may try to speak up for the values that underpin true academic exchange.
(Thanks to Ben White for drawing my attention to this symposium and for sharing information and sources.)
Even one of Zionism’s more vacant intellects, Deborah Lipstadt, primus inter pares among American holocaust historians, bemoaned in How To Study Anti-Semitism how Yale University’s Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism had been shut down because, in her words: ‘Too many students who take these classes find that they have entered a zone in which advocacy masquerades as scholarship.’ In other words, it’s not easy to marry propaganda and serious historical research and vigorous academic debate.
See the Powerbase Article on the Community Security Trust
Needless to say this essay has set the cat amongst those who think of themselves as the more 'intellectual' Zionists e.g. Richard Millett, who questioned the fact that Dennis McShane was Islamaphobic as well of course as being a more general run of the mill reactionary! See this exchange: