27 September 2008

The Lies & Distortions of the Jewish Chronicle

The Jewish Chronicle takes pride in its position as one of the oldest Jewish newspapers in the world. It also describes itself as the voice of British Jewry, though a more accurate description would be the voice of the Jewish Establishment in Britain, which today is overwhelmingly pro-Zionist.

Following the lead of papers like the Guardian and Independent, the Jewish Chronicle now asks, on its letters pages, for people to let them know of any inaccuracies, as they would like to correct them as soon as possible.

Well Dr Sue Blackwell, one of the leading supporters of the academic boycott, from Birmingham University and myself, as a delegate to the last 2 UNISON National Conferences, wrote in separately to correct an article by their correspondent Anshel Pfeffer of 10th September 2008.

Pfeffer had written, in respect of the Trade Union Friends of Israel fringe meeting at TUC Conference, and the decision of the PGFTU to accept a bribe from the monies of Palestinian workers, that Histadrut, the Zionist ‘trade union’ had long ago stolen, that ‘Last month, the RMT transport workers union rejected a boycott motion and to date, the only union actively supporting a boycott is the UCU.’

In fact UCU doesn’t support a boycott (although this is probably more a case of believing their own propaganda) whereas both UNISON and the TGWU section of UNITE do. What was the reaction of the JC? It refused to print Sue’s letter because she stipulated, from previous experiences of how they cut the letters of anti-Zionists, that she should agree any cuts to her letter. This they refused to accept. I sent in a letter without such a stipulation. Surprise, surprise, the letter was also not published!

Conclusion? That the JC would prefer that its errors remain uncorrected rather than seeing the Zionist cause undermined. That of course is the hallmark of a propaganda rag rather than a serious newspaper which the JC occasionally purports to be. It is, of course, a deliberate deception of its own readers, despite the fact that most of them prefer to remain in the dark.

From The Jewish Chronicle, Anshel Pfeffer, September 10, 2008

The Palestinian Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) does not support a general boycott on trade and investment with Israel. This position emerged at the annual TUC Congress in Brighton this week, where a heated debate took place over the question of whether Palestinian workers are in favour of the boycott. At a fringe event on Tuesday, organised by the Trade Union Friends of Israel (Tufi), attended by Ambassador Ron Prosor and Avital Shapira-Shvirow, head of international relations at the Histadrut, it was claimed the Palestinian trade unions "are against the boycott of Israel as it harms first of all Palestinian workers." Boycott supporters who attended the event claimed the opposite. Sue Blackwell of Birmingham University, a key supporter of the boycott at the University and College Union, insisted: "It is our Palestinian colleagues who have called for the boycott, and the PGFTU have signed the petitions." No representative of the PGFTU was present at the event, but Fathi Nasser, legal adviser of the PGFTU and the main speaker at a Palestinian Solidarity Campaign fringe meeting, later told the JC that organisation was not in favour of a general boycott: "We think there should be boycotts only of companies directly involved in building settlements and the apartheid wall."

Members of TUFI said the reception they had received this year from delegates was, overall, positive. "Three years ago they stripped our stand of all leaflets," said volunteer Ian Sternberg. "This year the stand is opposite that of the PSC and things are quite friendly."Tufi chairman Roger Lyons said: "The agreement the Histadrut and PGFTU have just signed seems to have cut the legs off most attacks and calls for boycott."The agreement means that 50 per cent of the union membership fees of Palestinians working for Israeli firms will be transferred to the PGFTU.Last month, the RMT transport workers union rejected a boycott motion and to date, the only union actively supporting a boycott is the UCU.

Letter from Tony Greenstein to Jewish Chronicle, 16.9.08.

Letters Editor, The Jewish Chronicle 25 Furnival Street London EC4A 1JT
Dear Sir or Madam:
The article by Anshel Pfeffer (JC 11.9.08.) on the question of support in the trade union movement for a boycott is not correct.

I spoke at both the 2007 and 2008 UNISON annual conferences in favour of a boycott of Israeli goods and produce and in opposition to the enforced boycott of Gaza and the Palestinian territories by Israel. I can assure you that the policy on Boycott has not been changed or overturned. Likewise the TGWU section of UNITE also has similar policy, as Tony Woodley made clear at the PSC fringe meeting.

Roger Lyons of TUFI is engaging in wishful thinking if he believes that an agreement between Histadrut and PGFTU, returning monies belonging to Palestinian workers which was taken from their pay packets without their agreement, has thereby undermined the campaign of Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions.
If Histadrut wants to end the Boycott campaign then the simplest way of doing so is it to join us in opposing the Apartheid Wall, the siege of Gaza and the occupation and land confiscation in the West Bank. That should be the role of a trade union, not supporting the continued repression of Palestinian workers.
Yours faithfully,

Tony Greenstein Delegate to 2007 and 2008 National Conferences – Brighton & Hove Unison

26 September 2008

Open Letter from Palestinian organisations to President Mahmoud Abbas - Don't Abandon the Right of Return

Re: The Rights of Palestinian Refugees and the Final Status Negotiations

Dear Mr. President,

Greetings of Return

We, the undersigned Palestinian refugee organizations, civil society movements and institutions in the Palestinian homeland and in exile are national organizations working to defend the right of return. We appeal to you now because we are convinced that the alignment of the official Palestinian position and the position of the Palestinian people with regards to the final status negotiation issues is of the highest priority. Foremost among these issues is the cause of the Palestinian refugees.

We are convinced that the alignment of popular and official positions is the main guarantee of a strong Palestinian position in the current negotiation process, which is taking place in a local, regional and global context that jeopardizes the national rights of the Palestinian people. In this context, we are concerned in particular about the rights of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons to return to their original lands and properties, restitution of their homes, lands and properties and compensation for damages incurred over the past 60 years. Based on the fact that all of these rights are guaranteed under international law, and based on our awareness of the enormous pressures faced by Palestinian negotiators and the tactics of negotiations, such as secrecy with regards to the negotiation proceedings, we call upon you to adopt a negotiation strategy that is based on openness with the entirety of the Palestinian people - irrespective of their current place of residence - regarding all aspects and details of the negotiation process. Implementation of the Palestinian refugees' right of return was and continues to be the main purpose for which the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was established, a purpose which forms the central pillar of the PLO's legitimacy as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Transparency and candidness of our representatives with all sectors of our society will guarantee that our rights are best defended, and strengthen our position in the face of enormous pressures.

It has been clear at all stages of the negotiations that this process aims to eliminate the core issue of the Arab/Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice: the Palestinian refugees and their rights of return and restitution. In fact, elimination of these central Palestinian/Arab demands form the center-piece of both Israeli and US policies. It is also no secret that during the so-called "Oslo Peace Process" these policies have employed insidious tactics in order to nullify these rights altogether. Such tactics include attempts to substitute the return and restitution of the refugees with monetary compensation; to reduce the number of those entitled to exercise these rights from over 7 million Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons to a tiny minority, including so-called "hardship cases" that would be arbitrarily defined by Israel; to suggest that the refugees return to homes located in the areas administered by the Palestinian Authority; and other humiliating "trade offs" whereby Palestinians are expected to surrender the right of refugees to return to homes, lands and properties of origin in exchange for other rights and demands, such as self-determination, borders, the reclamation of Jerusalem and removal of the illegal settlement-colonies. The Palestinian leadership has rejected such degrading bargaining tactics in previous negotiations, notably those known as the second Camp David summit and the Clinton initiative. The late President Yasser Arafat rejected these tactics, and he was made to pay for that with his liberty and his life.

Whereas the rights of return, restitution and compensation are enshrined in international law and specifically affirmed in UN General Assembly Resolution 194 and UN Security Council Resolution 237;

Whereas we see that increasing US pressure aims to force Palestinian negotiators to agree to an obscure framework for a solution that is to be achieved by any means and at the soonest date, and that such a framework is largely for internal US consumption in the context of a US Presidential election;

Whereas it has become clear that the US administration is working on other fronts to market its obscure framework for a solution in the September 2008 session of the UN General Assembly;

Whereas we realize, as a result of our movement's long and difficult experience with Israeli politics, that Israeli political actors seek to solve the internal Israeli political crisis by venting destruction on the Palestinian front through various policies and practices, all of which work to entrench Israeli occupation, colonialism, and apartheid, and aim to attain international recognition of Israel as a 'Jewish State;'

Whereas Western and Israeli election platforms must not be employed to put pressure on the Palestinian negotiators, who should in no way be a party to the political maneuvers of US and Israeli political candidates, particularly in order to protect the legality, legitimacy, and sanctity of Palestinian national rights regardless of who emerges victorious in foreign elections;

Whereas we perceive the retreat of the once principled European position, and the transformation of this position into one that conforms to the US policy of total complicity and support for Israel; Whereas we clearly see the weakness and inability of the Arab countries to take action or play any effective role;

Whereas we witness the sharp, painful and unprecedented deterioration in the internal Palestinian political arena;

Whereas it has become plain and obvious that powerful external pressures aim to annul Palestinian refugee rights, particularly the right to return to their original lands and properties and the restitution of these lands and properties; Whereas Israel and the US, according to Israeli officials, are intensifying their efforts to reach a framework for a solution that is acceptable to both Israel and the US and will be viable regardless of the ruling party;
Whereas the primary measure of the legitimacy of any solution remains the extent to which it will lead to the exercise of the right of self-determination by the Palestinian people, including foremost the right of Palestinian refugees to choose to return to their original homes and lands regardless of their current place of refuge,

We approach you with this statement based on our strong desire to chart a way forward that is built on the highest levels of clarity and candidness with the Palestinian people; a way forward that aims to strengthen the Palestinian position in this sensitive stage of the Palestinian struggle; a way forward that ensures that any framework for a solution will include the following principles in clear and immutable language: The rights of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons to return, restitution and compensation are fundamental rights under international law and relevant UN resolutions - particularly UN General Assembly Resolution 194 and UN Security Council Resolution 237. The content of these rights is non-negotiable irrespective of the manner in which they will be exercised;

The right of return is an individual right held by every Palestinian refugee and internally displaced person. This right is passed on from one generation to the next, based on the individual's choice on whether or not to return, an inalienable and indivisible right, and not affected by any bilateral, multilateral, or international treaty or agreement. Any such agreement must respect the fundamental precepts and principles of international law;

The right of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons to return is a collective right that is not limited to one group or another, and it is an integral part of the Palestinian right of self-determination;

The right of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons to return is not subject to referendum.

May you remain steadfast in our struggle for freedom and dignity
Drafted: August 2008

194 Association (Syria)

Abassiya Association (Palestine)

Abnaa Al-Balad Center for the Defense of the Right of Return (Syria)

Aidun Group (Lebanon)

Aidun Group (Syria)

Al-Awda Palestine Network (Holland)

Al-Awda, Palestine Right to Return Coalition (North America)

Arab Cultural Forum (Gaza, Palestine)

Arab Liberation Front

Arab Palestinian Front

Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced (Palestine)

Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights (Palestine)

Beit Nabala Association (Palestine)

Bisan Association (Syria)

Coalition of Right of Return Defense Committees (Jordan)

Coalition of Right of Return Defense Committees (Jordan)

Committee for the Rights of Palestinian Women (Syria)

Confederation of Right of Return Committees (Europe: Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Greece, Germany, France, Holland, Poland, Finland)

Coordinating Committee of Palestinian Organizations Working in Lebanon (Lebanon)

Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine (Palestine)

Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine

Democratic Palestine Committee

Depopulated Towns and Villages Associations (Gaza, Palestine)

Farah Heritage Society (Syria)

Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Palestine)

Higher Follow-up Committee on Prisoners (Palestine)

Higher National Committee for the Defense of the Right of Return (Palestine)

Inevitable Return Assembly (Syria)

Islamic Jihad Movement Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas]

Istiqlal Youth Union (Lebanon)

Istiqlal Youth Union (Syria)

Ittijah: Union of Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations (Palestine)

Jafra Youth Center (Syria)

Jimzo Association (Palestine)

Lajee Center, Aida Camp (Palestine)

National Assembly of Palestinian Civil Society Organizations (Palestine)

National Committee to Commemorate the Martyr Ahmad Al-Shuqairy (Jordan)

National Nakba Commemoration Committee (Palestine)

Palestine Democratic Union [Fida]

Palestine House Educational and Cultural Center (Canada)

Palestine Liberation Movement [Fatah]

Palestine Remembered (USA)

Palestine Right of Return Coalition (Global)

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (Palestine)

Palestinian Civil Society Coordinating Committee in Palestine and Abroad (Global)

Palestinian Liberation Front

Palestinian National Democratic Movement (Palestine)

Palestinian National Initiative

Palestinian People's Party

Palestinian Popular Struggle Front

Palestinian Refugee Rights Defense Committee (Balata Camp, Palestine)

Palestinian University Professors Union (Gaza, Palestine)

Palestinian Women's Grassroots Organization (Syria)

Palestinian Youth Democratic Union (Syria)

Palestinian Youth Organization (Syria)

Palestinian Youth Struggle Union (Syria Branch)

People's Assembly of the Towns and Villages Depopulated in 1948 (Palestine)

Platform of Associations in Solidarity with Palestine (Switzerland)

Popular Committees to Defend the Right of Return (Gaza, Palestine)

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command

Refugee and Right of Return Committee (Syria)

Refugee Camp Popular Committees (West Bank & Gaza, Palestine)

Refugee Executive Office (Palestine)

Right of Return committee (Switzerland)

Ruwwad Cultural Center (Aida Camp, Palestine)

Salameh Association (Palestine)

Secular Democratic State Group (Gaza, Palestine)

Union of Right of Return Committees (Syria)

Union of Women's Activity Centers, West Bank Refugee Camps (Palestine)

Union of Youth Activity Centers, Refugee Camps (Palestine)

Vanguard for the Popular Liberation War [Sa'iqa]

Women's Activity Centers (Gaza, Palestine)

Yaffa Charitable Fund (Jordan)

Yaffa Cultural Center (Balata Camp, Palestine)

Youth Assembly (Gaza, Palestine)

Youth Struggle Union (Lebanon)
Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition (PRRC) is a not for profit tax-exempt educational and charitable 501(c)(3) organization as defined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States of America. Under IRS guidelines, your donations to PRRC are tax-deductible. To donate, please go to http://www.al-awda.org/donate.html and follow the instructions.

21 September 2008

Open Letter to Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney
Waterfall Estate
Starvecrow Lane
TN31 6XN

9 Cavendish Road,
London N18 2LU

Dear Paul,

As someone who grew up in Liverpool, I read with sadness your announcement that you were playing a gig in Tel Aviv, Israel on September 25th.

Your announcement is headed ‘My message is a peaceful one...’ yet the very people who are the victims of unrelenting violence, house demolition, aerial bombardment, land confiscation and water shortages are opposed to you coming to Israel. I refer to the Palestinians.

Forty-three years ago, when the Beatles were banned from playing in Israel, I like most people thought of Israel as some kind of socialist experiment in the making. As someone who grew up as a Zionist, I believed that Israel had made the desert bloom and was surrounded by those whose only wish was to destroy it. Successive wars of conquest demolished these myths and in particular the relentless bombing of civilians in the Occupied Territories and Lebanon.

If we are honest Paul, where John Lennon led you followed. When John Lennon gave back the MBE you were forced to do likewise. When he was dead and buried you were happy to accept a gong, a Knighthood, from Her Majesty. When John wrote in support of the struggle for Irish freedom, with songs such as Bloody Sunday and Luck of the Irish, you penned Give Ireland Back to the Irish. When John paid the fines of demonstrators against the Springbok Tour, the South African Rugby squad, you kept quiet, your hands in your pockets.

It was always understood by most artists and entertainers that to play in South Africa was to endorse the Apartheid regime. Just like the Palestinians today, Black South Africans asked that foreign musicians boycott the country not play in it. The same arguments apply today in relation to Israel. Or have you not heard of the Jewish only roads in the West Bank or the land confiscations or the denial of water to the Palestinian inhabitants?
It is therefore inexplicable that you should now decide to play in Israel, which like South Africa is also an apartheid state. As someone who is Jewish, I have the right any time I want to ‘return’ to that country, unlike Palestinians who were born and brought up there before being expelled.

Are you aware that discrimination against the Palestinians is not only systematic but the official policy of the Israeli Government in its attempt to preserve a Jewish majority in a Jewish state? That every aspect of public life - education, housing, social services - is divided into Jewish and non-Jewish? Even today, more than half of the Palestinians who weren’t expelled in 1948 live in ‘unrecognised’ villages which are liable to immediate demolition as part of the programme of ‘Judaification’ in the Negev and Galilee? Some 93% of Israeli land is deemed ‘national land’ which cannot be sold, rented or leased to non-Jews.

As you yourself admit on your web-site, the original idea behind you playing came, not from the Palestinians or even Israelis opposed to the occupation, but the Israeli Ambassador in London, Ron Prossor, the official representative of a Government whose military enforces a ruthless regime of occupation in the West Bank and which has engaged in a starvation siege of Gaza. When Ronnie Kassrills, the Jewish minister in the ANC government, visited recently, he remarked that the situation of the Palestinians was far worse than anything that Black South Africans had experienced.

The only conclusion that can be drawn from your decision to play in Israel, especially given that your tour was cancelled only a few weeks ago, is that the most important question in your mind was the money you would receive for playing rather than any notions of peace. As recent publicity made clear, you have far more money at your disposal than any human being could spend in one lifetime. Do you really need the money that this concert will provide you? Has it not occurred to you that not only could you have afforded to make a small sacrifice, as have many other artists have done who are far poorer than you, but that you would have made a positive contribution towards bringing about a peaceful solution?
Perhaps the best comment that could be made about your decision to play in Israel is the title of a song which was addressed to you on John Lennon’s Imagine.

How do you sleep at night?

Yours sincerely,

Tony Greenstein

An Open Letter To The President Of The Palestinian Authority

A very moving letter addressed to the CIA's man in Ramallah, Mahmoud Abbas. It could have been called 'Letter to a Quisling' but even Quisling got to run, at least nominally, the Norwegian state during the war. Abbas runs nothing, even nominally and the more he is humiliated by the Zionists the more subservient he becomes. As the Palestinian who sent me this letter wrote, 'What does a despicably servile slave expect from his master when he concedes anything of value to him?'

It is a good question but of course the answer is nothing, except a kick or a blow.Tony Greenstein

By Abdelfattah Abusrour

Director of Al-Rowwad Cultural and Theatre Training Center

Dear Mr President of the Palestinian Authority,

My name is Abdelfattah Abdelkarim Hasan Ibrahim Mohamad Ahmed Mostafa Ibrahim Srour Abusrour. I was born in Aida Refugee camp, on a rented land from Palestinian owners of Bethlehem.

My two eldest brothers as well as my father and his father and all those who were born before them, originate from Beit Nateef destroyed village on 21 of October 1948. My mother was born in Zakareya village, destroyed as well in 1948 by the Zionist bandits. I grew up in Aida refugee camps. When I was 4 years old, I remember most of the people in the camp hiding in a cave behind our house. I remember the old people talking about the war.

I remember the sky full of planes, and all of the young children covered by black blankets, and cherished by their mothers. I remember the first curfew after the Israeli occupation in Aida camp in 1968. I remember the first Israeli soldier, who was an old Iraqi Jew of about 60 years old. I remember the day my second brother was invited for an interview by the military occupation administration in 1972, and never returning back to the house. I remember that he was exiled 6 months later, without any confession, without any judgment or court sentence.I remember that we were fed the love of this occupied country, because it is ours.

I remember the rusty keys of our houses in Beit Nateef, keys for doors that exist no more, but keys that have their doors in our hearts and our imagination. Keys for doors that were real and have exited, for real houses that were build and have exited, in which real people lived in and brought up children. These rusty keys are still with me.

I remember that we were brought up with this eternal belief that the right is the right, and nothing can justify ignoring it. I remember that our right of return to our original villages and homes is eternal, and nothing can change it, neither realities on the ground nor political agreement, because it is not only a collective right, but is as well individual right. It is my right Mr President, and the right of my children and grand children and all those who come after wherever they are born.

Dear Mr President I remember the death of my mother, on September 9th, 2003. She was 75 years old. I remember the death of my father on December 26th, 2006. He was 96 years old. My mother and my father were hoping to be buried in their village, where they got married, where they brought up their children, where they irrigated their land with their sweat, blood, and tears; where they filled their land with joy, happiness, laughs and whispers. My parents are buried in the cemetery of Aida camp. My mother's tomb is next to a military tower, and surrounded by Israeli barbwire. My mother's tomb is not accessible. I can't visit it in a day of feast to recite on her tomb Alfateha or a surat of the Holy Quoran.

Dear Mr President I was full of hope that after 60 years of occupation, after 60 years of armed and non-armed resistance we could achieve something other than shallow promises. I was full of hope that we will never give up our rights, these rights who are recognized by the whole world, even if the whole wolrd remains complicit with injustice. I was full of hope that nothing can justify giving up such rights, with all the realities on the ground as they say, otherwise what heritage are we leaving to our children and the generations to come. Should we say to them? 'Go to where the wind takes you. Never stand up and resist the oppression. The importance of staying alive even if it is a life of humiliation and non-recognition of belonging to a human race?

Where are you talking us Mr. the President? To what desert are you leading us? To what catastrophe? How dare you deciding how many refugees can or cannot return? Who gave you permission to speak in my name, and in my children's name? Who asked you to make sales of our rights? What is the price of such sales on people's rights and sacrifices for 60 years? Where UN resolutions talk about Right of Return AND Right of Compensation for all this suffering in exile and refuge, for all this exploitation of lands and properties, for all this humiliation and torture that worsens every day, you dare to say that not everybody wants to return?

Even if this is the case, they have their right to their homes and lands, whether they want to return or not. They can sell it to others if they want, but it is not you who decide who want or not. It is not your right or anyone else to say "those who don't want to return should be compensated". Every single one have to be compensated for these 60 years of Nakba, those who left or forced to leave; those who are owners of lands, those who had their fields and oranges and fruitful trees. Yes, the oranges of Jaffa were there before Israel and they will stay after Israel, if they don't end by destroying them, as they did with the olive trees of thousands of years.

You were not elected to give away our rights, to give away the hopes and dreams and rights of people who are still in refugee camps, living on rented lands and wait to return to their original homes and lands for the past 60 years. Day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, we are living in lies and broken promises of change. Well change comes but to the worse and to the better, nothing improves with all these negotiation Mr President? Should we undress ourselves and show our nudity so that Olmert, and Israeli occupation forces be satisfied that we have nothing to hide?

Yesterday, Israel has distributed papers in East Jerusalem using the Holy Quoran and their Bible to say that they are fulfilling the promise of God to populate Israel and chase away every other non-Jewish. And we should understand that and help them, by leaving the country because we have so many other countries for us? And after that we can live in peace and our children will be happy with their children, and things will be great. Is this the next step Mr President? Is it because colonies on the ground are expanding, and that we can't force our presence on Israel, and that we should be nice so that the whole world be sympathetic to us, that we do whatever Israel wants us to do? And then we talk about horrible compromises and difficult solutions, so we should be the nice ones who make the compromise, who forgive, who forget, who give up, who leave or die because that would solve it for all?

Mr President I am not ready to leave. I will never leave, even if it is the only way to earn a living. I will never give up my right to return to my village, even if I have a castle in UK, and a chateau in France, and chalet at the red sea, and a property in Bahamas. My right is mine, and neither you nor anybody else have the right to erase it and exchange it or play with it.I do hope that you leave your tower of ignorance and tend to the needs of your people and descend a little bit on the ground and look in the eyes of those who still have a passion for this country, despite the disasters that we sank in with such futile and fruitless negotiation, while Palestinian blood is shed daily by those with whom you negotiate.

Have we no more shame to stop such circus from going on? I would have loved Mr President that such energy in negotiation be invested among Palestinians who are still in dispute, and because of such stubbornness from you political leaders, it is not you who suffer, but your people. Are we in such a way so worthless that we do not deserve your time and energy to stop this circus and unite your people instead of searching always what divides such tortured spirits?

Is it not enough that we are considered only as a humanitarian case, that is worth no more that a sack of flour or a bottle of oil or an expired medication? Is it not enough that a whole population is transformed into beggars and put in poverty depending on charity rather than helping them to be producers and keep up their dignity? Isn't the humiliation by the occupation enough that we are forced to have more humiliations to come? I am full believer in peace and non-violence. I am a full believer in hope and right and justice. I am a full believer in the values that make of the humanity what it is. I never learned to hate. I never hated any one. My parents were full of love and peace. They never taught me or my brothers anything other than respect of others and endless love to give and help the others. They taught us that when you practice violence you lose part of your humanity. But at the same time, they taught us to defend what is right and to stand against what is unjust and wrong.

Therefore, Mr President, I do dare to say that you have no right, even as President to give up our rights, the rights of two thirds of your people to return in dignity to their destroyed lands and properties and to be compensated for all this suffering and exile, and the use of their lands and fields and the stealing of their funds in British or other banks by the Zionists.

Mr President I don't know if you will read these words or not. If I will stay alive when you read them or not. But I do hope that such words, which come from the heart, reach your heart Mr President, and you can find the hope and strength our people still have in them. We do not give up our rights. We will never give up our rights. Peace can be built with justice. Real peace can be built with real justice. Any other thing is just a joke in the face of history.

My name is Abdelfattah Abdelkarim Hasan Ibrahim Mohamad Ahmed Mostafa Ibrahim Srour Abusrour. I am still a refugee in my own country with 2 rusty keys in the house.

AbdelFattah Abusrour, PhD

Ashoka FellowDirector of Al-Rowwad Cultural and Theatre Training Center

A Palestinian Riddle - What is the value of 30 pieces of silver at current prices?

At the 2008 British Trades Union Congress, Histadrut, Israel's apartheid ‘trade-union’ were cock a hoop. And well they might be. For the past 30 years Palestinian workers working inside Israel had ‘trade union’ dues deducted, without their permission from their pay packets. These went to the Histadrut, was founded in 1920 as the General Federation of Hebrew Labour. Histadrut was in many ways the forerunner of the Israeli state. Golda Meir once described how 'in 1928 I was put on the Histadrut Executive Committee at a time when this big labour union wasn't just a trade union organisation. It was a great colonising agency'. [Observer 24.1.1971.]

Histadrut created the Zionist pre-state organisations and it was its militias – Hagannah and Palmach - which executed the Naqba in 1947-8.

Histadrut is an apartheid which began its life with a boycott of Arab Labour and Produce. For its first 40 years it barred Arabs from membership and when it finally allowed them in they were segregated in a separate Arab section – headed by a Jew of course! The separation of Arabs inside Histadrut was natural for an apartheid organisation which was at one and the same time Israel’s second largest employer (until its industries were privatised in the 1980’s). Histadrut refused to invest in Arab villages and barred Arabs from most of its factories on ‘security’ grounds. In short, it reflected the chauvinism and racism of Israeli Jewish workers just as South Africa’s white mining unions rep resented the interests of white workers.

Histadrut, via. its front organisation, Trade Union Friends of Israel, is keen to squash all possibility of support for Boycott in the trade unions. In this it lines up with the right-wing of the British and other trade unions. What is remarkable is that for all its hostility to a Boycott of Israel, Histadrut began its life with another Boycott campaign – against Palestinian workers!!David HaCohen was a former Managing Director of Solel Boneh, which became the Middle East’s largest building and construction company. He was also a member of the Labour Zionist elite. Yet his activities occasionally troubled him. He wrote that:

I had to fight my friends on the issue of Jewish socialism to defend the fact that I would not accept Arabs in my Trade Union, the Histadrut; to defend preaching to housewives that they should not buy at Arab stores; to defend the fact that we stood guard at orchards to prevent Arab workers from getting jobs there... to pour kerosene on Arab tomatoes; to attack Jewish housewives in the markets and smash Arab eggs they, had bought... to buy dozens of dunums from an Arab is permitted but to sell God forbid one Jewish dunum to an Arab is prohibited; to take Rothschild the incarnation of capitalism as a socialist and to name him the 'benefactor' - to do all that was not easy. And despite the fact that we did it- maybe we had no choice - I wasn't happy about it." David Hirst, Gun & the Olive Branch, p.63.

‘Jewish socialism’ i.e. Labour Zionism meant alliances with Jewish employers against Palestinian workers who were sacked on grounds of race. It is therefore not surprising that Histadrut should have stolen millions of dollars (PGFTU claimed $10 m) from the pockets of Palestinian workers for refusing to represent them. Histadrut today refuses to represent the migrant workers in Israel from the Far East .

Nor is it surprising that Histadrut has consistently supported the Apartheid Wall and its building company, Solel Boneh, actually built many of the settlement blocs in the West Bank. It is this organisation that PGFTU has done a deal with. For some £2.5 million it has given the Zionists a weapon with which to attack the Boycott campaign, the only campaign in the West which has seriously rattled them. For returning a part of the money which was stolen from them, PGFTU have followed Fateh in once again accepting whatever crumbs fall from the table. Even when they consciously know that its only effect will be to undermine Palestinian Solidarity in the West.

The actions of the PGFTU, and one should not shy away from this, are an act of betrayal of the Palestinian workers it purports to represent. In practice that representation is doubtful as it hasn’t held elections for over 20 years. Following the Abbas road, PGFTU came into its own when its General Secretary Shaher Saad supported the Oslo Agreement. PGFTU has decided that collaboration is better than confrontation.

The following article from an article by Anshel Pfeffer in the Jewish Chronicle of 10th September 2008 might be inaccurate (my own union UNISON and the TGWU support a Boycott call) but it conveys the feelings of the Zionists accurately enough:

'The Palestinian Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) does not support a general boycott on trade and investment with Israel.

This position emerged at the annual TUC Congress in Brighton this week, where a heated debate took place over the question of whether Palestinian workers are in favour of the boycott.At a fringe event on Tuesday, organised by the Trade Union Friends of Israel (Tufi), attended by Ambassador Ron Prosor and Avital Shapira-Shvirow, head of international relations at the Histadrut, it was claimed the Palestinian trade unions "are against the boycott of Israel as it harms first of all Palestinian workers." Boycott supporters who attended the event claimed the opposite.

Sue Blackwell of Birmingham University, a key supporter of the boycott at the University and College Union, insisted: "It is our Palestinian colleagues who have called for the boycott, and the PGFTU have signed the petitions."

No representative of the PGFTU was present at the event, but Fathi Nasser, legal adviser of the PGFTU and the main speaker at a Palestinian Solidarity Campaign fringe meeting, later told the JC that his organisation was not in favour of a general boycott: "We think there should be boycotts only of companies directly involved in building settlements and the apartheid wall."

Members of TUFI said the reception they had received this year from delegates was, overall, positive.

"Three years ago they stripped our stand of all leaflets," said volunteer Ian Sternberg. "This year the stand is opposite that of the PSC and things are quite friendly."

Tufi chairman Roger Lyons said: "The agreement the Histadrut and PGFTU have just signed seems to have cut the legs off most attacks and calls for boycott."

The agreement means that 50 per cent of the union membership fees of Palestinians working for Israeli firms will be transferred to the PGFTU.

Last month, the RMT transport workers union rejected a boycott motion and to date, the only union actively supporting a boycott is the UCU.

At the TUFI Fringe meeting at TUC on 9th September 2008, Owen Tudor for the International Department of the TUC stated that ‘in private’ PGFTU opposed a boycott. In public they have been facing two ways – telling trade union delegations they support it and the Histadrut and others that they are opposed!

However we should recognise that PGFTU is primarily a union of Fateh and the Palestinian Authority, it doesn’t represent all Palestinian workers. For example there is the General Union of Palestinian Workers and there are a number of independent trade unions and workers organisations . as well as criticism of PGFTU’s lack of independence.

GUPW has, by way of contrast, made its own position extremely clear, as have hundreds of Palestinian organisations who signed the call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions, organised by PACBI [Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott] in conjunction with Badil and Ittijah in 2005. This itself came out of a call by PACBI in April 2004 in Ramallah for an academic boycott.

PGFTU is emulating, under its General Secretary, Shaher Saad, all the mistakes of the PLO in its acceptance of the dictates of the Israel Government and Zionist organisations. In return it obtained nothing except the monstrosity that is the Palestine Authority, Israel and the US’s eyes and ears in the West Bank. It is no accident that prominently displayed on PGFTU’s web site is the ‘Labour Start’ organisation, run by ex-Israeli paratroop officer Eric Lee, who used to have a picture of the Israeli army on his web site and who openly supported Israel’s attack on Lebanon in 2006. With friends like these....

Tony Greenstein -

Jews attacking Jews By Antony Lerman

Below is an article of 13th September 2008 from Ha'aretz. Antony Lerman, who has come under consistent attack at the Institute of Jewish Policy Research (Stanley Kalms, founder of British retailer Dixons and an ex-Treasurer of the Conservative Party resigned because of his ideas) for the fact that he is unwilling to toe the Zionist line when it comes to equating anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

Lerman is not an anti-Zionist. At best he is a liberal or non-Zionist but he is concerned about anti-Semitism and knows that if you accuse all Israel's detractors of anti-Semitism then the accusation can only benefit the real anti-Semites of the British National Party and Gilad Atzmon.

The reality is, of course somewhat different. As Theodor Herzl wrote in his Diaries (p.6), and he was but one of many,

'In Paris..., I achieved a freer attitude towards anti-Semitism, which I now began to understand historically and to pardon. Above all, recognise the emptiness and futility of trying to 'combat' anti-Semitism.'

And as Israeli novelist A B Yehoshua explained to the Union of Jewish Students:

'Anti-Zionism is not the product of the non-Jews. On the contrary, the Gentiles have always encouraged Zionism, hoping that it would help to rid them of the Jews in their midst. Even today, in a perverse way, a real anti-Semite must be a Zionist.' (Jewish Chronicle 22.1.82.)

The reality, as Yehoshua understands, is that it is the Zionist movement which has most affinity with anti-Semitism. Not merely the neo-Nazi gangs that now operate in parts of Israel attacking Jews (far worse than outside Israel!) e.g. Israeli neo-Nazi ring caught after attacks on synagogues but the general welcome by anti-Semites for Israel and Zionism by creatures such as Pastor Hagee of the Southern Baptists for whom the Holocaust was an act of divine will.

Or take the fascist British National Party. As the Guardian reported:Ruth Smeed, of the Board of Deputies, said:

"The BNP website is now one of the most Zionist on the web - it goes further than any of the mainstream parties in its support of Israel and at the same time demonises Islam and the Muslim world. They are actively campaigning in Jewish communities, particularly in London, making a lot of their one Jewish councillor, their support of Israel and attacking Muslims. It is a poisonous campaign but it shows a growing electoral sophistication."

* * * * *

When I first started professionally monitoring and studying anti-Semitism almost 30 years ago, there was, broadly speaking, a shared understanding of what it was. True, historians differed over a precise definition - quite understandably, given that the term was coined only in the 1870s, and was then used to describe varieties of Jew-hatred going back 2,000 years. There was also a degree of political manipulation of the phenomenon, with both the right and the left blaming each other for causing it.

Data on anti-Semitic incidents then were often crude and sometimes deliberately misinterpreted to generate aliyah (immigration to Israel), and controversy was developing about whether anti-Zionism, or extreme vilification of Israel, was anti-Semitism.

We Jews knew who the enemy was. Since Jews do not cause anti-Semitism, we fought those who peddled theories of the world Jewish conspiracy, Holocaust denial, blood libels. Except at the very margins, we didn't fight Jews.

How things have changed. Today, bitter arguments rage about what constitutes anti-Semitism. When Jew-hatred is identified, it's mostly in the form of what many call the "new anti-Semitism" - essentially, anti-Zionism. Others (this writer included) fundamentally dispute that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are synonymous.

But whatever position you take, it's clear that a revolutionary change in the discourse about anti-Semitism has occurred: Practically no discussion about current anti-Semitism now takes place without Israel and Zionism being at its center. Judging by the vast number of books, pamphlets, articles and conferences on the subject, this trend is widely welcomed.

The equation "anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism" has thus become the new orthodoxy, and has even earned the seal of approval of the European Union. Its racism and anti-Semitism monitoring center (the Federal Rights Agency) produced a "working definition" of anti-Semitism, with examples of five ways in which anti-Israel or anti-Zionist rhetoric is anti-Semitic. The 2006 report of the U.K.'s All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism urged the adoption of the EU definition, and the U.S. State Department's 2008 report "Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism" is also based on it.

The redefinition of anti-Semitism has led to a further radical change in confronting the phenomenon. Many Jews are at the forefront of the growing number of anti-Israel or anti-Zionist groups. So, perceived manifestations of the "new anti-Semitism" increasingly result in Jews attacking other Jews for their alleged anti-Semitic anti-Zionism.

Anti-Semitism can be disguised as anti-Zionism, and a Jew can be an anti-Semite. In principle, therefore, exposing an alleged Jewish anti-Semite is legitimate. But if you read the growing literature that does this - in print, on Web sites and in blogs - you find that it exceeds all reason: The attacks are often vitriolic, ad hominem and indiscriminate. Aspersions are cast on the Jewishness of individuals whom the attacker cannot possibly know. The charge of Jewish "self-hatred" - another way of calling someone a Jewish anti-Semite - is used ever more frequently, despite mounting evidence that it's an entirely bogus concept.

Anything from strong criticism of Israel's policies, through sympathetic critiques of Zionism, to advocacy of a one-state solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict, is defined as anti-Zionism, when none of these positions are prima facie anti-Zionist. Many attackers endow their targets with the ability to bring disaster and dissolution to the Jewish people, thereby making it a national and religious duty for Jews to wage a war of words against other Jews.

I realize that many readers will regard these attacks as fully justified. But think for a moment about who benefits. Can it really help the fight against anti-Semitism to place the fantasy of the anti-Semitic Jew at its center? There are many issues about which Jews should argue robustly with each other, but the attack by Jew on Jew is acrimonious and demeaning - Can it do us any good? I would say no to both questions, for overwhelming reasons.Serious discussion of current anti-Semitism - rational, objective, academically grounded - is virtually nonexistent. It is being replaced by internecine Jewish political battles and endless controversies over the alleged anti-Semitic implications of comments on Israel by public figures. Practically the entire business of studying and analyzing current anti-Semitism has been hijacked and debased by people lacking any serious expertise in the subject, whose principal aim is to excoriate Jewish critics of Israel and to promote the "anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism" equation. The new EU-approved definition fundamentally subverts the term because to warrant the charge of anti-Semitism, it is sufficient to hold any view ranging from criticism of the policies of the current Israeli government, to denial of Israel's right to exist - without having to subscribe to any of the elements that historians have traditionally regarded as constituting an anti-Semitic view. And it puts out of bounds the perfectly legitimate discussion of whether increased anti-Semitism is a result of Israel's actions.

This is no basis on which to develop effective policies to combat anti-Semitism.

It's a long way from the oft-repeated mantra that "anti-Semitism is not the Jews' problem, but that of the non-Jews," to this war against Jews who allegedly offer comfort to, or are themselves, anti-Semites. So far, indeed, as to suggest that we have lost our way.

As befits a time when fear is in vogue, we have successfully widened the pool of our enemies - as if by doing so, we are somehow going to be safer.

Antony Lerman is director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research in London. He writes here in a personal capacity.

11 September 2008

MODERATION - Apologies

I have always opposed the idea of moderating a blog, believing that it inhibits free debate. However, as the number of deleted posts indicates, there has been a regular attempt by the anti-Semitic supporters of Gilad Atzmon and Mad Mikey Ezra to defame other anti-Zionist Jews with puerile abuse.

Recent comments from a weird character who was friendly with Atzmon & Rizzo, one 'natural science' that there was no holocaust and that we should 'prove' it etc. or indeed that the Holocaust is a 'Jewish invention' have convinced me that to allow anti-Semites and fascist supporters - be they Atzmon, Mad Mikey or Paul Bogdanor - to comment would be to prevent free debate. It is therefore with reluctance that this blog will have to be moderated.

However I shall not block any post simply because I disagree with it. As I explained to Ms Rizzo and her friend Richard Jones, as long as it is not personally offensive it will be posted.

Tony Greenstein

8 September 2008

David Hirsh of Engage Skewered in debate with Martin Shaw

Democratiya is a e-Magazine, i.e. it doesn't exist except on the Internet. It is edited by a far-right supporter of imperialism and the Iraq war, Alan Johnson, a lecturer in an obscure Merseyside college and and a political refugee from the Alliance for Workers Liberty, a 'Trotskyist' group which supports the occupation of Iraq and which has made it clear that in the event of an Israeli attack on Iran will take a pro-Israeli position.

Nonetheless it contains an interesting debate between Martin Shaw, a Professor of International Relations at Sussex University and Hirsh, a sociology lecturer at Goldsmiths College in South London in its Autumn 2008 edition. Hirsh demonstrates, quite beautifully, his inability to comprehend or understand the arguments of his opponents.

His longwindedness is only matched by his refusal to answer the simplest of points of Shaw, such as why a boycott of South Africa wasn't anti-White or anti-Afrikaaner, whereas a boycott of Israel is automatically anti-Semitic. My conclusion is that sociology lecturers just ain't what they used to be! His is a text book example of what not to do when responding to an argument you don't agree with. Hirsh sounds like an undergraduate who, decides that what s/he lacks on substance they will make up for in quantity of footnotes and verbiage. It raises questions about whether nor not Goldsmith College exercise sufficient quality control over some of their lecturers!

Tony Greenstein

Antisemitism and the Boycott: An Exchange between Martin Shaw and David Hirsh
The Mote is in Hirsh's Eye: Martin Shaw responds to David Hirsh

Dear Editors:
I have never supported the proposal for an academic boycott of Israel and so I agree with some of the reasons that David Hirsh advances against it in Democratiya 13. However when it comes to the alleged 'anti-semitism' of the boycott, the mote is in Hirsh's own eye. He writes that, 'Any impact assessment of a boycott of Israel would find that in a whole number of distinct ways, it would disadvantage Jews much more than others. In this sense then, already we can see that an academic boycott of Israel would be institutionally antisemitic.' By this topsy-turvy reasoning, the boycott of apartheid South Africa must have manifested anti-white or anti-Afrikaner racism, since it harmed whites and Afrikaners more than others. It simply will not do to say that action against a racially based state like Israel is itself racist because it must by definition harm the interests of the groups that benefit from that state.

Hirsh also repeats the suggestion that anti-semitism must lurk behind the choice to campaign against Israel rather than against other oppressive states. This too is a phoney argument as there are plenty of other reasons for selecting to campaign against Israel. Unlike Burma or China (and actually plenty of opponents of Israel's policies also oppose these regimes), Israel claims to be a democracy and receives enormous support from Western governments.

It is Hirsh's resort to the insinuation of anti-semitism that is the 'lazy' argument, effectively granting immunity to Israel against any serious opposition. His use of it suggests that he simply hasn't come to terms with the gravity of the affront which Israel's oppression of the Palestinians presents to the progressive left and indeed to most sectors of democratic opinion worldwide. After 60 years of expulsion and 40 years of occupation, it is hard to 'exaggerate' the Israeli problem.

Antisemitism and the Boycott: A response to Martin Shaw by David Hirsh
Dear Editors:
Martin Shaw argues that although a boycott of Israeli academics would be wrong, it would not be antisemitic. [1] Israel is a 'racially-based state', he says, and hence any action against it would necessarily harm the 'racial' group upon which it is based. He argues that singling out Israel for unique punishment need not be antisemitic because there are reasons, other than hostility to Jews, for this singling out. He offers four such reasons: first that 'Israel claims to be a democracy'; second that 'it receives enormous support from Western governments'; third that Israel offers a grave affront to 'the progressive left' and more generally to democratic opinion; fourth, that its crimes of occupation and of expulsion are so huge that they are hard to exaggerate. His position is that the unwarranted 'singling out' is actually done by those who offer Israel a special immunity from criticism by inappropriately alleging antisemitism. In his view, those who see a campaign to exclude Israelis from our campuses as antisemitic have failed to grasp the gravity of the above reasons, especially the third and fourth ones. In making these claims he does not draw any distinction between a possible antisemitic intent and a possible antisemitic outcome; nor does he distinguish between singling out Israel for particular criticism and singling it out for unique punishment – in fact he subsumes both 'criticism' and 'boycott' into the category of 'serious opposition'.

In 1975 The UN General Assembly determined 'that Zionism [was] a form of racism and racial discrimination', a determination which was not reversed until 1991.[2] The charge that Zionism is a form of apartheid [3] or is worse than apartheid [4] peppers the pro-boycott case; it is even considered unremarkable in the boycott campaign to compare Zionism to Nazism. [5] The claim that Israeli or Jewish nationalism is unique or unusual in its relationship to 'race' – a claim which Martin Shaw appears to endorse – is one which calls for some theoretical unpacking as well as comparative research.

There are distinct, contested and complex relationships between the state, nationalism, ethnicity and histories of internal and external conflict in most countries. Syria, for example, is constitutionally defined as an Arab state; Iran as an Islamic state; Croatia, carved out only a decade and a half ago by campaigns of ethnic cleansing which drew on the Ustasha tradition, is a Catholic state; the Baltic states, containing large Russian populations which were originally brought in by the Stalinists as colonial-settlers, are finding ways to formulate more or less enlightened Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian nationalisms. But out of all these diverse nationalisms, there is a campaign to exclude the academics only of Israel from British universities. Many may criticise these others but what Martin Shaw calls the 'progressive left' only finds its collective blood boiling when it considers Israel's crimes.

Israel is not, however, adequately characterised by the phrase 'racially based state'. It is in fact an ethnically diverse society. Approximately 20% of its population is Arab and the Jewish population itself is by no means easy to characterise in terms of 'race'. Approximately half of the Jewish population is descended from people who were ethnically cleansed by Arab nationalist movements across the Middle East from the 1940s to the 1960s. There is a significant problem of racism against Arabs and against Muslims in Israel and certainly this problem is institutionalised in the state and in civil society in a large number of ways; but to characterise Israel as uniquely and necessarily racist is to allow a definitional essentialism to take the place of sociological and political analysis.

One curiosity of the view that Israel is a 'racially based state' is its a-historicism. It fails to acknowledge that Israel, when it was founded, was what Trotsky's biographer Isaac Deutscher called a 'life-raft state'. [6] Jewish national self-determination and Israeli self-defence make sense to a lot of Jews, many of whose families were pushed out from Europe, from the Middle East and from Russia by state supported antisemitic movements. What Martin Shaw calls 'the progressive left' failed, in the end, successfully to defend Jews against these exclusions. It is because Jews have been persecuted as Jews that so many people feel the necessity for a state where Jews cannot be dominated by others, where they can practice self-determination as Jews, and where they can defend themselves against antisemitism if need be.

We should be careful not to legitimise a formulation (such as 'racially based state') which encourages people to identify the overwhelming majority of living Jews (i.e. those who identify in one way or another with Israel) as racists. Because such a characterisation would be both inaccurate – at the very least simplistic and one-sided – and would also breed hostility to those Jews designated as supporters of the 'racially based state', it would be antisemitic. There is a strong Jewish collective memory of boycotts and exclusions, not least from universities. Indeed, part of the reason that Israel exists as a Jewish state is traceable back to a history of anti-Jewish boycotts and exclusions.

Of course we might well dissent from Jewish nationalist traditions and politics – I myself am not a Jewish nationalist. But in order to critique Jewish nationalisms effectively we need to understand their raison d'être, the richness of their histories and the power of their narratives.

Why then does there seem to be an enthusiasm present amongst a significant number of UK intellectuals to punish Israelis for human rights abuses while there is, at best, only a reluctant acceptance of the need to speak out against, for example Zanu PF or the Janjaweed, both of whom are responsible for crimes hugely greater in scale and in cruelty than Israel? Criticism of such genocidal organisations is generally accompanied by all the relevant contextualisations. It is pointed out that Zanu PF and the Janjaweed are products of long and complex colonial histories, are sustained by an imperialist system and are encouraged by the international arms industry. However, analogous contextualisation of Israeli human rights abuses seems to be prohibited by the (covert and unsupported) rule that one is not allowed to contextualise Israel in the history of antisemitism.

This kind of 'enthusiasm imbalance' was evident at UCU Congress in June where there was an observable excitement displayed by many delegates when they voted to flirt with breaking the taboo against excluding Jews from campuses and when they congratulated themselves on their courage as they refused 'to be intimidated' by those who said the boycott was antisemitic. As Moishe Postone has pointed out, antisemitism often appears to be anti-hegemonic. [7] In my Democratiya piece, I suggested an explanation for the 'enthusiasm imbalance' which does not rely on the circularity of analysing antisemitism by reference to previous antisemitism; I suggested an explanation in terms of the 20th century history of anti-hegemonic thought, particularly as it grappled to make sense of nationalism, totalitarianism and imperialism.
Martin Shaw offers the fact that 'Israel claims to be a democracy' as a reason to think that an exclusion of Israeli academics from the global academic community would not be antisemitic. According to this logic China should be held to a higher standard still than Israel because it claims to be socialist and not only democratic; North Korea, which is constitutionally defined as a socialist paradise on earth, must be held to the highest standard of all.

The question of Israeli democracy is another which deserves analysis and research. Struggles and debates over Israeli democracy are commonplace in Israel, amongst Jews as well as Arabs and other minorities. How can the ideas of a Jewish homeland and of a democratic and inclusive Israel be worked together in practice and in theory? How can we, outside Israel, make sense of, and constructively intervene into, these controversies about democracy? How does Israel compare to other states in terms of its democratic practice, freedom of speech, academic freedom, rights for minorities and rule of law? To what extent does the enduring occupation, and the quotidian humiliation and violence which sustains it, weaken and undermine Israeli democracy? How does the increasing threat to Israel from the Hamas and Hezbollah militias, armed, encouraged and financed by the antisemitic regime in Iran, impact on the Israeli polity? The question of Israeli democracy is a big question and requires more consideration than a simplistic and ambiguous 'claims to be'. But in any case, it is not clear why claiming to be a democracy, with whatever degree of accuracy, should justify unique singling-out for hostility and punishment.

Martin Shaw does not distinguish between criticism and punishment when he writes: 'plenty of opponents of Israel's policies also oppose these regimes'. Of course it is true that plenty of us who oppose Israel's policies are also opponents of the regimes in Burma and China. But there is no campaign in the UCU or anywhere else to exclude Burmese or Chinese academics from UK campuses. All we are left with is the evidence-free suggestion that people who think a boycott of Israeli academics would be antisemitic are also people who don't 'oppose Israel's policies'. The implication is that when such people say they oppose Israeli human rights abuses, they should not be believed. It is difficult to have a debate on the basis of such ad hominem charges. It will be claimed in response that those who raise the issue of antisemitism are the ones who are guilty of the ad hominem attacks. But my argument is not that antisemites are engaged in a conscious plan to encode their antisemitism. It is rather, that decent antiracists are, without knowing it, falling into antisemitic ways of thinking via an over-enthusiastic anger with Israel. It is part of my project to try to explain where this anti-Israel enthusiasm comes from without assuming that it originates in an underlying antisemitism. There is no novelty in the idea of a structural, institutional or unconscious racism. It is time that people who think of themselves as sophisticated antiracists stopped reacting to discussion of unconscious antisemitism as though they were Police Federation reps from the early 1980s facing the challenge of institutional racism.
Today, people who say antisemitic things and who support antisemitic boycotts are likely to have stumbled into antisemitic ways of thinking. They are unlikely to be wicked people. Our intention should not be to reverse the logic of demonisation in order to demonise the demonisers. It should be, rather, to work within the kind of cosmopolitan framework that Robert Fine has outlined [8] which tries hard to avoid replicating that which it critiques.

There is little value in alleging the bad faith of one's opponents in a debate, and people on all sides should stop doing it unless they have evidence. In my case it is a false claim that I offer 'special immunity' to Israel to carry out human rights abuses. I have been involved for my entire adult life in speaking for peace between Israel and Palestine and in opposing the occupation and in opposing the routine violence and humiliation which comes with it. But in any case people, specifically Jews, should not be asked to establish their credentials in this way as a pre-condition for being allowed to discuss or to oppose antisemitism.

Martin Shaw offers the fact that Israel 'receives enormous support from Western governments' as another reason to think that a boycott of Israeli academics would not be antisemitic. The relationships between Israel and other states around the world are interesting and complex. The national interest calculation of classical international relations theory is just one factor influencing Israel's international relationships; others might be historical narratives, political campaigning, cultural and ethnic relationships. Israel is by no means unique in receiving aid from the US and Europe; Egypt, for example, also receives extensive funding, but its human rights abuses fail to attract the punitive attention of the UCU. Israel's human rights abuses are no more serious or widespread than those committed by Britain and the US in territories which they currently occupy. Israel, for example, has never carried out the kind of total assault in Gaza or the West Bank which the allies carried out against Fallujah in 2004, and neither has it carried out anything like as fierce an assault as the Russians did against Grozny in the 1990s. If the charge against Israel is that it is financed by the US or the UK, then any academics who are going to be punished, surely, should be British and American ones.

Martin Shaw is keen to defend the legitimacy of what he calls 'serious opposition' to Israel. His concern is that the charge that a boycott would be antisemitic has the effect of undermining 'serious opposition'. My position is the opposite. Avoiding antisemitism is a necessary part of formulating serious opposition, not something which undermines it. Serious opposition takes careful precautions against antisemitism and makes its case in such a way as to offer no comfort to antisemites. [9] Such precautions are necessary because one would expect, given the historical embeddedness of antisemitism even on the left, that some opposition to Israel would be antisemitic. Sometimes, however, opponents of Israel act as though they believe that an explicitly antiracist opposition would be less effective against Israeli human rights abuses than an opposition which was relaxed about antisemitic rhetoric, images, tropes or exclusions.

Martin Shaw alleges that my raising of the problem of antisemitism in relation to the boycott campaign demonstrates that I have not come to terms with the …gravity of the affront which Israel's oppression of the Palestinians presents to the progressive left and indeed to most sectors of democratic opinion worldwide.
But that is precisely what I am trying to 'come to terms with' in my work. [10] The questions that confront me are why Israel's oppression of the Palestinians is so often mystified in the language and tropes of antisemitism, [11] even, or particularly, by people on the antiracist left; why Israel has come to function as an essentialist and unique metaphor for all that is evil on the planet; why Israel's oppression of the Palestinians has such a disproportionate gravitational pull on 'most sectors of democratic opinion worldwide'; how we got to a situation where the word 'antisemitism' itself has become a signifier on the 'progressive left' for dishonest Zionist obfuscation.

Martin Shaw goes on to say:
After 60 years of expulsion and 40 years of occupation, it is hard to 'exaggerate' the Israeli problem.
This is a surprising claim, coming from a leading academic expert in war and genocide. In fact it is disturbingly easy to exaggerate the 'Israeli problem': we see it done all the time. It can be exaggerated by claiming, as Ilan Pappe does, that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza; [12] as Ronnie Kasrils does, that Israel is worse than an apartheid state; [13] as Mearsheimer and Walt do, that Israel is responsible for sending America to war in Iraq. [14] Hamas claims that Israel was responsible for the French Revolution. [15] Hassan Nasrallah claims that Jews are '…cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion….' [16] Clare Short believes that 'US backing for Israeli policies … is the major cause of bitter division and violence in the world.' [17] Jenny Tonge says that '…the pro-Israeli Lobby has got its [financial] grips on the Western World….' [18] Richard Falk, the UN investigator into Israeli conduct in the occupied territories, feels himself '…compelled to portray the … abuse of the Palestinian people by Israel through a reliance on such an inflammatory metaphor as "holocaust."' [19] It is not hard to exaggerate the 'Israeli problem'.

A further problem with Martin Shaw's view is that his third and fourth points suffer from a damaging circularity. He legitimises the singling out of Israel for boycott by saying that it is gravely offensive to the progressive left, and that it is hard to exaggerate its crimes. But given that its crimes are frequently exaggerated by, among others, the 'progressive left', and given also that Israel is far from being the most serious human rights abuser in the world, we have to ask why it is found to be so uniquely offensive, and why its crimes are so readily exaggerated. Martin Shaw offers these two points as an explanation for the singling out of Israel, but far from performing the required intellectual task, they in fact replicate the explanandum. This is because they are themselves examples of singling out Israel for especially hostile attention and hence they are as much in need of explanation as the boycott proposal which they seek to legitimise. The need then, for an explanation, and preferably one which does not rely on an ahistorical theory of underlying antisemitism, is clearer than ever.

Further to that point, why would we characterise the problem of Palestinian unfreedom as specifically 'the Israeli problem'? How is it not also a Palestinian problem, a Lebanese problem, an Egyptian problem, a Syrian problem, an Iranian problem, a British imperial problem, an American problem, an Islamist problem – one could go on. Israel is not solely responsible for the plight of the Palestinians. We need to break out of a world of received wisdoms and one-sided clichés regarding the Israel/Palestine conflict. It is a world where the commonsense of 'democratic opinion' is assumed, in a much too unproblematised and unevidenced way, to be straightforwardly true. Politically we need a programme for peace rather than a schema for blame, punishment and total victory of one nation over the other. Sociologically we need to begin with a rigorous and cosmopolitan understanding of the world as it exists rather than trying to begin from where the world once was, in a mythical past. A warm collective imaginary of essentialised victims rising up against essentialised villains doesn't help anybody, not least the actually existing victims.

Martin Shaw writes:
…when it comes to the alleged 'anti-semitism' of the boycott, the mote is in Hirsh's own eye.

This is an allusion to the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount:
Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye…

If I understand him rightly, Shaw's claim is that raising antisemitism as an issue is a much greater wrong than excluding Israelis from universities. It is not far from Tariq Ali's particularly noxious but clear variant of the Livingstone Formulation [20]:

The campaign against the supposed new 'antisemitism' in Europe today is basically a cynical ploy on the part of the Israeli Government to seal off the Zionist state from any criticism of its regular and consistent brutality against the Palestinians. [21]

If we allow the normalisation of a presumption of bad faith when Jews and antiracists speak out against antisemitism then we run the risk of compounding the alleged problem. We should be careful not to do that.

[1] I would like warmly to thank Alexandra Simonon, Eve Garrard, Robert Fine, Jane Ashworth, Richard Gold and David Seymour and Kirsten Campbell for their help with this response.
[2] UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, Elimination of all forms of racial discrimination, 10 November 1975.
http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/NR0/000/92/IMG/NR000092.pdf?OpenElement, downloaded 10 July 2008.
[3] EG David Hirsh (2006) 'The argument for the boycott – Pacbi' www.EngageOnline.org.uk, 9 September, 2006, London.
http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=643#, downloaded 14 February, 2007
For Rebuttals of the apartheid analogy see Rhoda Kadalie & Julia Bertelsmann (2008) 'Franchising "apartheid": why South Africans push the analogy', z-word.com.
http://www.z-word.com/z-word-essays/franchising-%25E2%2580%259Capartheid%25E2%2580%259D%253A-why-south-africans-push-the-analogy.html, downloaded 10 July, 2008
See also John Strawson (2006), 'Zionism and Apartheid: The Analogy in the Politics of International Law',
Engage Journal, Issue 2.
http://www.engageonline.org.uk/journal/index.php?journal_id=10&article_id=34, downloaded 25 July, 2007
[4] Ronnie Kasrils and Victoria Brittain, 'Israel should face sanctions', Comment Is Free, 19 May 26.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2006/may/19/israel, downloaded 10 July 2008
[5] EG Haim Bresheeth (2003) 'Zionism, anti-Zionism and the state of Israel', inminds.co.uk, http://www.inminds.co.uk/jews-against-zionism.html#t3, downloaded 10 July 2008: 'I'm saying this in order to explain why it's so easy for me to understand the Palestinians in Gaza and in the rest of Palestine. It is very easy for me to understand them because they live in a combination of a concentration camp and Warsaw ghetto for so many years that we have stopped counting...'
EG 'Israel's Nazi style assault and humiliation of Mohammed Omer', Anti-Zionists against Antisemitism, 30 June 2008.
http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2008/06/israels-nazi-style-assault-humiliation.html, downloaded 11 July 2008.
[6] Isaac Deutscher (1968) The Non-Jewish Jew and other essays, London: Oxford University Press, pp 111-13, extract at:
http://www.engageonline.org.uk/archives/index.php?id=49, downloaded 10 July 2008
[7] Postone, Moishe, (2006) 'History and Helplessness: Mass Mobilization and Contemporary Forms of Anticapitalism', in Public Culture, 18:1
[8] Robert Fine (2007) Cosmopolitanism, Oxford: Routledge
[9] David Hirsh (2007) Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism: Cosmopolitan Reflections, The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA) Working Paper Series #1, New Haven CT (see particularly the critique of Tony Judt)
[10] David Hirsh (2007) Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism: Cosmopolitan Reflections, The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA) Working Paper Series #1, New Haven CT
[11] Seymour, David, (2007) Law, Antisemitism and the Holocaust, London: Routledge-Cavendish.
[12] Pappe, Ilan, (2006), 'Genocide in Gaza'.
www.ElectronicIntifada.net, 2 September 2006, http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article5656.shtml, downloaded 16 February 2007
[13] Ronnie Kasrils and Victoria Brittain, 'Israel should face sanctions', Comment Is Free, 19 May 26.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2006/may/19/israel, downloaded 10 July 2008
[14] John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, (2006) 'The Israel Lobby', London Review of books, vol.28 no. 6, 23 March 2006, London.
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n06/mear01_.html, downloaded February 26, 2007
John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (2006) 'The Israel lobby and US foreign policy', Faculty research working paper series, Harvard University and John F Kennedy School of Government, Working Paper. Number:RWP06-011, 13/03/2006.
http://ksgnotes1.harvard.edu/Research/wpaper.nsf/rwp/RWP06-011, downloaded 26 February 2007
[15] The Hamas Covenant 1988.
http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/mideast/hamas.htm, downloaded 10 July 2008
[16] Saad-Ghorayeb, Amal, (2002) Hizbollah: Politics and Religion London: Pluto.
[17] The Skies Are Weeping, website for the London premiere of the Cantata for Rachel Corrie, November 2005.
http://weepingskies.blogspot.com/, downloaded 10 July 2008
[18] Hirsh, David, (2006a) 'Jenny Tonge: "The pro-Israel lobby has got its grips on the western world"'.
www.EngageOnline.org.uk, 20 September 2006, http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=660, downloaded 15 February 2007
[19] David Hirsh (2008) 'Richard Falk and the Zionism-Nazism analogy', Engage, 8 April 2008.
http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1806, downloaded 11 July 2008.
Tim Franks (2008) 'UN expert stands by Nazi comments', news.BBC.co.uk, 8 April 2008.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7335875.stm, downloaded 11 July 2008.
[20] David Hirsh (2008) 'The Livingstone Formulation', Z-word.com, February 2008.
http://www.z-word.com/on-zionism/antisemitism-and-anti-zionism/anti-zionism-and-antisemitism%253A-decoding-the-relationship.html?page=2, downloaded 10 July 2008.
[21] Tariq Ali (2004) 'To be intimidated is to be an accomplice: notes on anti-semitism, Zionism and Palestine' Counterpunch, March 4 2004.
hhtp://www.counterpunch.org/ali03042004.html, downloaded 10 July 2008.

Falsely criticising Israel's opponents of antisemitism is no answer to the boycott campaign: Martin Shaw responds to David Hirsh
Dear Editors:
Clearly I should have known better than to write a short comment on an issue like Israel-Palestine, or in reply to a prolific writer like David Hirsh. Since Hirsh has widened the argument considerably, let me respond in some detail.

'Punishment', the boycott and racism
First I note that from the beginning of his response Hirsh attributes to me an argument that I did not make. Apparently I argue 'that singling out Israel for unique punishment need not be antisemitic because there are reasons, other than hostility to Jews, for this singling out.' However I never used the word 'punish' or 'punishment', still less the word 'unique'. This is a telling distortion, based on the assumption that 'serious opposition' to Israel, which I endorsed, must necessarily constitute 'punishment', and that the 'punishment' of Israelis or Jews must be 'unique'. This says more about the political victim-complex behind Hirsh's critique than it does about my argument.

As it happens, the main reasons why I oppose the academic boycott of Israel are indeed that it can be perceived as collective punishment of Israelis for the crimes of their state, and that it disadvantages Israelis who make criticise their government's policies as well as those who support them. Sanctions and boycotts are often blunt instruments and they are as likely to push the groups that are affected by them into stronger support of their state rather than into opposition. (I support dialogue and political negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians, and I fear that the boycott will not help this.) However that does not mean that such instruments are necessarily racist. No one suggested that the academic boycott of South Africa necessarily represented anti-white or anti-Afrikaner racism; likewise this proposed boycott does not necessarily represent anti-Israeli, let alone anti-Jewish, racism (or antisemitism).
Israel is not unique

The problem, far from being unique to the Israeli case, is a common one in the politics of solidarity with oppressed peoples. Not only can broad-based economic sanctions often harm the oppressed, but the oppressors often mobilise particular ethnic or national groups who therefore feel themselves threatened, as groups, even by targeted ('smart') sanctions or boycotts. Thus the UN's sanctions against Iraq not only (notoriously) contributed to harming the Iraqi population as a whole, but international opposition to the Saddam regime was also felt as a particular threat by the Sunni Muslim minority, sections of whom constituted the regime's social base and benefited from the regime. But does that oblige us to draw the conclusion that international action, including the overthrow of Saddam, was institutionally racist against Sunnis? Of course not. Likewise, international action over Kosovo was particularly felt as a threat by the small Serb minority, many of whom supported and benefited from the Serbian regime. But international action was hardly based on, or involved, anti-Serb racism, intentional or institutional. Of course, in all cases like these, opponents of the regime must take account of the danger that, in attacking or overthrowing oppression, they open the door to reverse injustice against the group identified with the oppressor, as has indeed happened to some extent in both Iraq and Kosovo. But awareness of this responsibility is hardly a reason not to take effective action against the oppressor regime.

It should be clear by now that when Hirsh refers to 'The claim that Israeli or Jewish nationalism is unique or unusual in its relationship to "race" – a claim which Martin Shaw appears to endorse', he is simply mistaken. I see Israel as simply yet another oppressor state, and yet another state established on racial foundations, which needs to be criticised, opposed, and transformed, in the way that all such states must be. It is Hirsh, with his argument that anti-Israeli politics must necessarily be antisemitic, who has the idea that there is something unique about the Israeli case.

The sociology of activism
It should be clear too, therefore, that I am not arguing for 'singling out Israel' in the sense that Israel warrants opposition above all other oppressive states. Not at all – there are far too many states as bad as or worse than Israel. But as a sociologist as well as an activist I understand that there are many reasons, good as well as bad, why particular causes attract support in particular periods. Few of us campaign against the atrocious regime in Uzbekistan because we know little about it, it rarely gets the Western media attention it deserves, and we (wrongly) feel little connection to or responsibility for it. We do campaign about Zimbabwe, as we did in the past about apartheid South Africa, and our media give them enormous attention, partly because of the deep historic connections between Britain and southern Africa, and the sense of responsibility that is involved. Something similar applies to Israel, which is hardly surprising given the ideological as well as financial investments that the USA and other Western states have made (of a different kind from the investments in Egypt to which Hirsh refers). If Israel's supporters want its defence to be the first priority of Western policy in the Middle East, they can hardly complain if opposition to Israel is the first Middle Eastern priority of many anti-Western activists.

Understood in this way, opposition to Israel is more likely to be a reflex of left-wing opposition to US or British 'imperialism' than of antisemitism. I agree with Hirsh that 'serious opposition takes careful precautions against antisemitism and makes its case in such a way as to offer no comfort to antisemites.' I accept that there are antisemites among Israel's critics and that as with all long-standing and widely diffused racial prejudices, low-level antisemitism may be widespread – probably even among Israel's supporters in the US and British political classes. However I do not think that on any serious assessment, antisemitism can be regarded as politically potent in Western societies today – by historical standards it is definitely weak – or a major theme among Western critics of Israel. The charge of 'antisemitism' is however laid as a matter of routine by Israel's supporters against almost every type of criticism of Israel (I myself found this out recently when I was libelled in this way in Australian Jewish News: they were forced to print an apology.) Whether this is a matter of Israeli policy, as Tariq Ali not so unreasonably suggested, I do not know: but it certainly seems to be part of Jewish-nationalist culture.

That Hirsh recognises the relative weakness of overt antisemitism in Western societies is probably the reason for his emphasis on the 'institutional' character of contemporary antisemitism. True, 'There is no novelty in the idea of a structural, institutional or unconscious racism.' Yet there needs to be caution in making this argument. If the British police were 'institutionally racist' this was not only because more blacks than whites fell foul of the law – that might also have reflected greater criminality among blacks – but fundamentally because racist attitudes were deep-rooted in the police and clearly seemed to drive some of the patterns of policing. I don't think the same can be said about the role of antisemitism in the opposition to Israel. Yes, many Jewish Israelis would obviously be the prime losers from policies that would weaken Israel's hold on Palestinian territories; but no, these policies are not primarily driven by antisemitism, intentional or institutional, but by the demand for justice for Palestinians. The equation does not work.

The racial basis of the Israeli state
Certainly the racial basis of Israeli nationalism and the Israeli state 'calls for some theoretical unpacking as well as comparative research.' The definition of any state on a racial, ethnic or religious basis implicitly discriminates against non-members of the dominant group. Thus I might feel myself, as an atheist, discriminated against by the Anglican definition of the British state. But I am realistic enough to see that this hardly leads to any grave infringements of my civil rights. A French Muslim might have greater cause for complaint, since the secular state's headscarf ban in schools seems to many a significant infringement of personal freedom. But again, one would be hard pushed to make a claim of deep oppression on this basis. The cases Hirsh mentions – Syria, Croatia, the Baltics – all involve more serious issues (I have myself commented on the genocidal impacts of Croatian nationalism in the 1990s). How then does Israel fare in theoretical and comparative perspective?

Hirsh says that Israel 'is not … adequately characterised by the phrase "racially based state".' It is indeed, as he says, an ethnically diverse society. Yet to say a state is 'racially based' is not to refer to the ethnic composition of its population but to the principles on which the state is founded and how, in practice, they affect different groups under its jurisdiction. Israel was indeed a 'life-raft state' for many Jews, but for many Palestinian Arabs it was from the outset a state from which they were expelled without a life-raft. Israel has a 'law of return' that allows all Jews, whether or not they, their parents or grandparents ever lived in its territory, to settle; yet it refuses to allow the genuine return of Arabs who themselves or whose parents or grandparents lived in its territory until 1948. The Israeli constitution privileges the 'Jewish nation' and renders the Arab minority second-class citizens, who suffer fundamental economic and social as well as political inequality. And this is without considering the occupation, which is now fundamental to the project of continuing expansion by grinding down and squeezing out Palestinian society from many areas of the West Bank (the state can hardly be considered apart from this). So 'racism against Arabs and against Muslims in Israel' and its institutionalisation are not secondary features, but follow from how Israel was established, how it is constituted, and how it is currently developing.

Thus Israel is not 'uniquely' but it is 'necessarily' racist. This is not 'definitional essentialism' but the conclusion of any serious sociological and political analysis. This is not a question of 'legitimising a formulation (such as "racially based state") which encourages people to identify the overwhelming majority of living Jews (i.e. those who identify in one way or another with Israel) as racists.' Serious analysis will also recognise that many Jews, even if or to whatever extent they may support Israel, may not be consciously racist towards Palestinians, and may accept official Israeli and Zionist rationalisations for the oppression of Palestinians without perceiving the latter's structural and historical bases. It is not only possible but necessary to recognise the racial character of the state, at the same time as refusing the stigmatisation of most Israelis or Jews as automatically 'racist'. However it should be said that Hirsh's attempt to cast the shadow of anti-Semitism so broadly over anti-Israeli opinion is the mirror image of such an attempt to castigate pro-Israelis as racist.

Genocide and its contextualisation
Hirsh calls for the 'relevant contextualisations' to be taken into account in relation to the Israeli state as they would be in assessing Zanu PF's or the Janjaweed's crimes. Yet the point of this comparison is that, whatever the relevance of British colonial oppression to understanding the development of Zanu PF, we are still justified in calling the latter, as Hirsh does, a 'genocidal organisation', because of its history of massacre in Matabeleland in the 1980s and because of its murderous policy towards whole communities of its political opponents today. Likewise with Darfur. The context neither excuses genocidal action nor should it lead us to deny the 'genocidal' label. Israel's foundation in 1948, as Israeli historians like Benny Morris and Ilan Pappé have shown, was based on the deliberate, brutal destruction of the larger part of Arab society in Palestine. This destruction clearly fits the definition of genocide enshrined in the Genocide Convention of the same year, even if the UN itself had ironically prepared the ground for this destruction with its partition scheme. Neither the long history of European antisemitism nor the exceptional murderousness of the Holocaust, while relevant context for explaining and understanding Israeli actions, can excuse the often murderous expulsion of the Palestinians or deny the relevance of the 'genocide' paradigm to this case. So Israel is – not uniquely, because many societies, settler and other, have genocidal histories – based on genocide, and much of its history to the present day represents the slow-motion extension and consolidation of that violent beginning. In this context, while some of the comments Hirsh cites may indeed be exaggerations, they are not all so far from the point as he believes.

To argue this is not to call for Israel's destruction, any more than to acknowledge Australia's genocidal roots is to call for the dismantling of the Australian Commonwealth, or to recognise those of the USA is to argue for a reversal of the European settlement of North America. Yet the relatively recent occurrence of the destruction of Arab society in most of Palestine, the ongoing dispossession of the Palestinians and the facts of Palestinian resistance, non-violent as well as violent, all make the consequential issues particularly acute. Of course, as Hirsh says, Israel is not uniquely responsible for the situation: Britain, the USA, the UN and others were all fundamentally implicated in 1948 and remain so today, and Palestinian (and other Arab) leaders have not always helped their people's cause. But the characters of the Jewish nationalist project, the Israeli state and the occupation remain the fundamental causes of the problem.

Looked at in this light, Hirsh would do better to stop worrying about 'over-enthusiastic anger with Israel' and look to what might be done now to halt Israeli colonisation and free Palestinian society. My claim is not, as Hirsh wrongly alleges, 'that raising antisemitism as an issue is a much greater wrong than excluding Israelis from universities.' Rather it is that falsely criticising Israel's opponents as antisemitic, especially using the argument of 'institutional racism' – which in this case is spurious – is no answer to the boycott campaign, let alone to the many deep-rooted objections to Israeli policies. Neither I nor most of Israel's critics are 'falling into antisemitic ways of thinking' – so Hirsh should not fall into the trap of seeing antisemitism as central to the debate about Israel and Palestine.

The Boycott is a symptom, and it's time to sound the alarm: David Hirsh replies to Martin Shaw
Dear Editors:
The stakes are high. If the proposal to exclude Israelis – and only Israelis – from British universities is antisemitic in effect, if it risks normalising antisemitic ways of thinking and if it is a symptom, an indication and an escalation of a wider problem, then we should sound the alarm. If we judge that Jews are crying antisemitism as part of a communalist conspiracy or that they are misjudging the situation for some other reason, then we should reassure the British intelligentsia that antisemitism is not something about which it currently needs to worry. But we'd better get it right. Judging by their record, European intellectuals should be reluctant to gamble the future of Jews on their own ability to recognise and to oppose antisemitism.
The narrative which underpins the singling out of Israel and only Israel for an academic boycott is false in a number of key claims: for example, that Israel is a necessarily racist state; that it was founded upon the deliberate and brutal destruction of the larger part of Arab society in Palestine; and that this constituted genocide. The Jews in Palestine in 1948 were the remnants of genocide. The UN offered them half a little statelet but it did not offer to defend it nor did it oppose the British and American arms embargo which sought to deprive it of the means of self-defence. Nevertheless the Jews accepted the UN compromise. It was, in 1948, the Arab nationalist regimes which launched the second genocidal offensive of the decade against the Jews. As it turned out, it was the Palestinians and not the Jews who were the chief victims of this pan-Arabist aggression. The Palestinians suffered terribly as a result of the subordination of their own national interest to the ideology of Arab nationalism. Many Arab states, to this day, refuse to allow Palestinians to live as equal citizens. Lebanon, Jordan and the 'Syrian Arab Republic' keep the descendants of the Palestinian refugees corralled, with the collusion of the UN, into 'refugee camps' so that their symbolic value as victims of Israeli oppression may continue to be exploited. Imagine if Britain or the United States still kept Jewish refugees from antisemitism locked up in 'refugee camps'.

The war of 1948 was horrible. There were some massacres of Jews by Arabs and there were some massacres of Arabs by Jews. There was terror and forced population movements on both sides. The Jews, against all expectations, won the war against the invading Arab states, and 700,000 Palestinians fled or were driven out as a result. What would have been the result if Israel had lost in 1948? I am not denying that this was a nakba for those Palestinians, nor am I denying that Israel should recognise its own considerable share of responsibility for ongoing Palestinian dispossession. But I am absolutely contesting the now standard British narrative of Israel's birth as an aggressive, imperialist and pre-planned campaign of ethnic cleansing, theft and genocide.

Left antizionist discourse owes much to its antisemitic Soviet heritage. The current boycott campaign relies on rhetoric similar to that which was used in the state purges of Jews from Polish and East German universities in 1968. Today's boycott campaign needs to make an emotional case as well as an intellectual one for boycotting a significant proportion of the world's Jewish academics. Not surprisingly therefore, it throws up many examples and echoes of the themes and images of global Jewish conspiracy and of the unalloyed nature of Jewish evil – an evil which was originally thought to be manifested in the murder of God and its periodic re-enactment on the bodies of innocent children. Left and antiracist antizionism exists alongside, and inter-twined with, other antizionist movements but it generally fails to notice this fact and the threat which comes with it. Sometimes it fails to resist the temptation of making political alliances with antisemitic antizionist movements.

Few on the British left seem bothered about antisemitism in predominately Arab or Muslim communities. The antisemitism of Hamas and Hezbollah, when not simply denied, is often judged in Britain to be politically unimportant; or it is just blamed on the Jews. The Holocaust-denying Iranian regime, which finances and arms the antisemitic and genocidal Hamas and Hezbollah movements, which promises to wipe Israel off the map and which is currently building nuclear weapons, is not generally regarded in Britain as a racist threat to Jews. The current research linking the rise of genocidal, anti-imperialist, anti-American antisemitism in the Middle East to Nazi war-time propaganda is not even read by British intellectuals; Ilan Pappé, by contrast, is treated as a serious historian. The high budget series, produced by Hezbollah TV (Al Manar) entitled 'Diaspora' and the one produced in Egypt called 'Knight without a Horse', both of which dramatised and popularised the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to huge and mainstream audiences across the Middle East, are not considered by most British cultural studies scholars to be of any significance.

The campaign to exclude Israelis from UK universities impacted immediately within the University and College Union itself against Jewish members. People who raise the issue of antisemitism are disdainfully ignored by union activists and officials. The arguments they raise are routinely de-legitimised by means of accusations of bad faith; disgraceful insinuations and assumptions directly underpinned by official union policy and underwritten by union staff. Formal complaints about institutional antisemitism in the union have either gone uninvestigated or have been whitewashed by the General Secretary. The union has done nothing to stop a steady stream of opponents of antisemitism from resigning. It responded in a trivial way to the concerns of the Parliamentary Enquiry into Antisemitism. It is clear that our union has a problem of institutional antisemitism, and that this is a predictable result of the campaign to exclude Israelis – and only Israelis – from our campuses. Eminent anti-discrimination lawyers, who have described precisely and technically how the boycott campaign violates both Race Relations law and the union's own commitment to equality, have been ignored.

Yet there are British intellectuals who, when confronted by the evidence of the contemporary threat of antisemitism, show themselves quite incapable of recognising it as such. They respond by means of angry disavowal, denial, minimisation, ad hominem counter-accusation, and above all by changing the subject.
It's Hirsh, not the western Left that is eliding antisemitism and anti-Israelism: Martin Shaw responds to David Hirsh
Dear Editors:
It is difficult to continue this debate as David Hirsh has not done me the courtesy of responding directly to my arguments. A good deal of his 'reply' is taken up with complaints about the British Universities and Colleges Union, whose proposed boycott I made it clear I did not support. He introduces a new complaint, that 'few on the British left seem bothered about antisemitism in predominately Arab or Muslim communities.' Let me make it clear that I am well aware of this and agree that it is a disturbing aspect of the polarisation over Israel and Palestine. But our disagreement was about the debate in Western societies, especially Britain, and here his new argument – 'Left antizionist discourse owes much to its antisemitic Soviet heritage. The current boycott campaign relies on rhetoric similar to that which was used in the state purges of Jews from Polish and East German universities in 1968' – strikes me as disingenuous. Although some anti-Zionists here, including Jews, are from Communist backgrounds, there is little to suggest that their ideas, let alone those of other contemporary Western anti-Zionists, owe anything to Stalinist rhetoric in Eastern Europe nearly half a century ago.

The serious issues, and indirect reply, in Hirsh's latest contribution, concern the foundation of Israel. Although many newly arrived Jews in Palestine in 1948 were indeed 'the remnants of genocide', the Jewish nationalist movement pre-existed their arrival and was led by earlier-settled Zionists. The UN did not offer the Zionists 'half a little statelet', but the larger part of a territory in which Jews made up barely one-third of the population: even assuming that partition could have been just, this was an over- rather than under-generous 'offer'. If, then, Zionist leaders 'accepted the UN compromise', this was because it gave them a basis to create a state, and enabled them to extend it further at the expense of Palestinian Arabs. Hirsh's account of the subsequent war – 'the Arab nationalist regimes … launched the second genocidal offensive of the decade against the Jews. As it turned out, it was the Palestinians and not the Jews who were the chief victims of this pan-Arabist aggression' – is now discredited by historical research including by Israeli historians. Hirsh complains that 'Ilan Pappé … is treated as a serious historian', but in The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Pappé has indeed written a seriously researched historical account, well received by other scholars (see Mark Levene's review in the Journal of Genocide Research). He shows from Israeli sources that the 'massacres of Jews by Arabs' were not accidental, but part of a carefully planned dispossession of a large part of the Arab population of Palestine. He also shows that when the Zionists won the war against the invading Arab states, this was not 'against all expectations'. On the contrary Zionist leaders had a realistic assessment that Arab resistance would crumble in the face of their better organised forces, and they planned their campaign to destroy Arab society in this expectation.

Hirsh complains about 'ad hominem accusations' but his dismissal of Pappé suggests that in the current debate it is he who resorts to this kind of argument. Hirsh should actually read Pappé, and recognise that he builds on the work of other scholars like Benny Morris (who unlike Pappé broadly supports Israeli policy in 1948). If he wishes to contest a 'narrative of Israel's birth as an aggressive, imperialist and pre-planned campaign of ethnic cleansing, theft and genocide', then he might at least refer to some of the arguments and evidence that have been adduced to support propositions similar to these.

I am glad that Hirsh is 'not denying that this was a nakba for those Palestinians.' But when he acknowledges 'that Israel should recognise its own considerable share of responsibility for ongoing Palestinian dispossession', I think it would have been more accurate to have replaced 'considerable' with 'prime'. True, others like the USA aid and abet Israel, and the divided and often misconceived nature of Palestinian and Arab opposition may offer it unintended reinforcement. But only the Israeli state and Zionist movements have pursued, continuously for more than 60 years, policies for dispossessing Arab Palestinians. Perhaps Hirsh needs to recognise that the deep, often intended harm to millions of Palestinians enormously outweighs the misconceived and unsuccessful attempt to deny Israeli academics a platform in British universities.

One final point. I, like most Western opponents of the Israeli state, have been very careful to distinguish between Israel and Israelis, and between Israelis and Jews. Yet I have been implicitly accused (elsewhere) of actual antisemitism, and by David Hirsh (if I read him right) of being 'incapable of recognising' antisemitism. Yet Hirsh, in his remarks about 1948, only refers to 'the Jews in Palestine', never once to the Zionist movement, leaders, armed forces or proto-state. It is clear that the identification of Israel with 'Jews' in general lies in the minds of Hirsh and other Israeli advocates rather than those of their critics. Not surprisingly then, opposition to Israel must be antisemitic, and if not consciously, then 'institutionally'. But this 'antisemitism' is largely the product of this mental elision on his (and their) part, not of the ideas of Israel's left-wing opponents.

Martin Shaw is an Advisory Editor of Democratiya and Professor of International Relations and Politics at the University of Sussex. His website is www.martinshaw.org.
David Hirsh is an Advisory Editor of Democratiya, Editor of
Engage and Lecturer in Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London.