Saturday, 9 July 2011

Irwing Cotler Retracts Accusation that anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism

Cotler Accepts that Calling Israel an Apartheid State is not Anti-Semitic
It’s almost as if dawn is breaking and some of Zionism’s most ardent advocates had decided to take a cold shower of reality, outside the Israeli hasbara (propaganda) cocoon.
Liberal (read Conservative) Canadian MP and former Justice Minister, Irwin Cotler, who coined the phrase that Israel was the ‘Jew amongst nations’ has now conceded that describing Israel has an Apartheid state is not necessarily anti-Semitic and that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionist cannot simply be equated as the same.

Cotler has been one of the most ardent advocates of the ‘New anti-Semitism’, the idea that opposition to anti-Semitism and Israel were new forms of an old hatred. Intellectually, to say nothing politically, this has always been a highly dishonest and McCarthyite attack on supporters of Palestinians, especially when anti-Zionist Jews were termed ‘self-haters’ (the concept for which was first pioneered by Nazi attacks against anti-fascist Germans).
It was always dishonest for the simple reason that historically most Jews opposed Zionism just as most anti-Semites supported it.

When Herzl made his rounds of European rulers and aristocrats he met with one supporter in particular, the Grand Duke of Baden, which had previously been a centre of the German revolution in 1848. Herzl noted that the Duke ‘took my project for building a state with the utmost earnestness. His chief misgiving was that if he supported the cause, people might accuse him of anti-Semitism.’ Marvin Lowenthall Diaries of Theodore Herzl, p. 118.

Likewise Edouard Drumont, editor of the main anti-Semitic daily in France, La Libre Parole and author of La France juive in 1886 was extremely friendly to Zionism. Herzl went out of his way to court him and secure a review of his pamphlet Der Judenstaat [The Jew State], which he duly obtained, in Drumont’s paper. Drumont was one of the principle persecutors of Alfred Dreyfuss and a vicious anti-Semite whose mobs attacked individual Jews. Drumont himself was elected as a Deputy for an Algiers constituency in 1898. [Desmond Stewart, Herzl, p. 25] As Wikipedia notes Drumont ‘was one of the primary sources of antisemitic ideas that would later be embraced by Nazism’

There is a myth, assiduously cultivated by the Zionists, that Herzl’s Zionism was motivated by the Dreyfuss Affair whereas in fact he barely wrote about it, demonstrated no concern over what was happening and sought the approval of the most influential anti-Semite in France.

And the reaction of Jews to Zionism in Poland, is best described by Isaac Deutscher, biographer of Trotsky:

It should be remembered that the great majority of East European Jews were, up to the outbreak of the second world war, opposed to Zionism... The most fanatical enemies of Zionism were precisely the workers, those who spoke Yiddish... they were the most determined opponents of the idea of an emigration From East Europe to Palestine... in the idea of an exodus, from the countries in which they had their home and in which their ancestors had lived for centuries, the anti-Zionists saw an abdication of their rights, a surrender to anti-Semitism. To them anti-Semitism seemed to triumph in Zionism which recognised the legitimacy and the validity of the old cry ‘Jews get out’. The Zionists were agreeing to get out.
‘The Non-Jewish Jew & Other Essays - The Russian Revolution and the Jewish Question. ‘ pp. 66/67.
So the retreat by Cotler, who has previously spoken at conferences of the vicious Zionist McCarthyite organisation Camera is to be welcomed. This follows on from the closure by Yale University of its Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism [YIISA] because it was acting as a Zionist propaganda body rather than an academic body. When even Deborah Lipstadt, one of Zionism’s premier holocaust historians (whose main claim to fame is the Irving v Penguin trial when she was silenced because, despite claims to the contrary, she is no holocaust expert), suggested that Yale might actually have a case and that YIISA had confused advocacy with academia, even she was attacked as anti-Semitic! How To Study Anti-Semitism

Back in 2004, Cotler wrote in Front Page Magazine that

‘In a word, classical or traditional anti-Semitism is the discrimination against, or denial of, the right of Jews to live as equal members of a free society; the new anti-Semitism—incompletely, or incorrectly, [referred to] as "anti-Zionism"…—involves the discrimination against, denial of, or assault upon the right of the Jewish people to live as an equal member of the family of nations. What is intrinsic to each form of anti-Semitism—and common to both—is discrimination. All that has happened is that it has moved from discrimination against Jews as individuals—a classical anti-Semitism for which there are indices of measurement (e.g., discrimination against Jews in education, housing, or employment)—to discrimination against Jews as people—a new anti-Semitism—for which one has yet to develop indices of measurement.’

Of course anyone possessing an analytical mind would immediately spot the flaw in the above argument. There is no comparison between discriminating against individuals on the grounds of their religion/race etc. and refusing to accept that such individuals don’t belong to another nation. On the contrary it is usually part and parcel of the first, what Cotler terms ‘classical or traditional anti-Semitism’ that Jews do not belong in the host nation. But the latter definition ‘the new anti-Semitism’ is based a priori on the contention that Jews are members of a separate nation/people. Now one can argue this case but to take it as read, as Cotler and the EUMC’s Working Definition on Anti-Semitism do, the argument that Jews are a separate nation/race and then to base upon this supposition the argument that denying that this is the case is anti-Semitic is deeply dishonest and flawed.

Cotler seems to have woken up to the fact that what amounts to name calling is having less and less effect. In an article Calling Israel an apartheid state can be legitimate free speech he is quoted as saying that Where you say that Israel is an apartheid state, even then - that to me is, it's distasteful, but it's still within the boundaries of argument,' But he said not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.... I think we've got to set up certain boundaries of where it does cross the line, because I'm one of those who believes strongly, not only in free speech, but also in rigorous debate, and discussion, and dialectic, and the like," he said. "If you say too easily that everything is anti-Semitic, then nothing is anti-Semitic, and we no longer can make distinctions."

I enclose below 3 different contributions to this debate:

Firstly the whole of the Ha'aretz article, secondly a thoughtful article by Tony Lerman which adds much background material and thirdly an extensive debate between Professor David-Hillel Rubin Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, London University (where I took an MA in Imperial History!) and myself. Professor Rubin announced, after the vote of the Universities & College Union to have nothing to do with the bogus definition of anti-Semitism that he was resigning from the UCU. Having begun with a somewhat aggressive and intemperate e-mail to him from me we actually ended up with a very civilised and interesting discussion, though neither of us convinced each other. I have excluded separate correspondence, to which I was copied in, between Professor Jonathan Rosenhead of the LSE and Professor Rubin on the same topic as it covers much the same ground and tends to confuse our own debate. Although Professor Rubin asked me not to publish the correpondence on the net, he later e-mailed me to say that he had no objection to my doing to, and it is with this in mind that I a m publishing it in its entirely. I’ve only added on reference source to my own e-mails and have made clear that this is what I’ve done.

See also New antisemitism card starts to fold

Tony Greenstein

Canadian MP Cotler: Calling Israel an apartheid state can be legitimate free speech

By David Sheen

Canadian parliamentarian and staunch supporter of Israel Irwin Cotler told Haaretz last week that criticism of Israel as an apartheid state, while distastful, could be within the bounds of legitimate discourse.

Cotler, who was in Israel for the Presidential Conference, spoke to Haaretz about where to draw the line between acceptable critiques of Israel's policy and anti-Semitism, which he has spent much of his career fighting.

"You can criticize an Israeli policy or action as having been not only a violation of human rights and humanitarian law but also, you could even say it was a war crime," the former Canadian justice minister said. "It may be, as I say, distasteful to see that, or witness that, but I don't regard that as being anti-Semitic content. I think that that's part of what is called rigorous criticism and discourse."

Cotler, who is currently an MP from Montreal, said that idea extends to classification of Israel as an apartheid state, a sentiment he does not agree with, but sees as a part of the debate.

"Where you say that Israel is an apartheid state, even then - that to me is, it's distasteful, but it's still within the boundaries of argument," Cotler said. "It's where you say, because it's an apartheid state, it has to be dismantled - then you crossed the line into a racist argument, or an anti-Jewish argument. You're not just criticizing, you're not only criticizing Israeli policy or practice; you're not only saying it has apartheid policies; you're saying it's a criminal apartheid state that must be dismantled. Then in my view, you've crossed the line."

Cotler's statements to Anglo File represent a slight departure for the politician, who has argued vociferously against calling Israel an aparthied state and called for campaign to deligitimize the delegitimization.

In 2009, Cotler, who is Jewish, co-founded the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism, a group of Jewish and non-Jewish lawmakers from dozens of countries devoted to fighting anti-Jewish racism. The organization held its inaugural meeting in England in 2009, with Canadian MPs making up the largest delegation, and the group held its second conference in Ottawa this past November, with 140 parliamentarians in attendance. The Canadian parliament followed the conference with its own inquiry into Canadian anti-Semitism.

Since the start of the 21st century, the world has been "witnessing a new and escalating, globalizing, virulent, and even lethal anti-Semitism," Cotler said, one which substitutes hate for the Jewish person with hate for the Jewish state. "We had moved from the discrimination against Jews as individuals, to the discrimination against Jews as a people, to Israel as the targeted collective 'Jew among the nations."

But he said not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.

"I think we've got to set up certain boundaries of where it does cross the line, because I'm one of those who believes strongly, not only in free speech, but also in rigorous debate, and discussion, and dialectic, and the like," he said. "If you say too easily that everything is anti-Semitic, then nothing is anti-Semitic, and we no longer can make distinctions."

Cotler also says anti-Zionism is not always racist. "I think it's too simplistic to say that anti-Zionism, per se, is anti-Semitic," he said. "It may cross the line into being anti-Semitic where it ends up by saying, 'Israel has no right to exist', or 'the Jewish people have no right to self determination', or, that the Jewish people are not even a people."

Cotler said efforts by activists in other countries to lay criminal charges against Israeli politicians and high-ranking military officials can be a legal tool, so long as it is not pursued against Israelis alone. "That's fine, that was the principal that Israel invoked for why it prosecuted Adolf Eichmann," he said.

"But where people single out only Israeli nationals and apply only to them the principal of universal jurisdiction ... and you're not initiating any such processes against anybody else in a world in which many war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide are being committed - then you have to question whether this is not the singling out of Israeli nationals for selective and discriminatory treatment."

Cotler said that if activists also target others than just Israelis on the same charges, it can lend their moves credibility.

"Some of the same people may also want to try [former U.S. Secretary of State] Henry Kissinger and [former British Prime Minister] Tony Blair [for war crimes], okay? And then you can say, 'Okay, I don't like what they're doing, but they want to try them all,'" he said.

Former Canadian Minister of Justice Cotler: ‘Calling Israel an Apartheid State is Not Antisemitic’

Tony Lerman, 6.7.11.

Professor Irwin Cotler, the former Canadian Minister of Justice and Chairman of the Inter-Parliamentary Commission for Combatting Antisemitism, recently told Ha’aretz journalist David Sheen:

‘You can criticize an Israeli policy or action as having been not only a violation of human rights and humanitarian law but also, you could even say it was a war crime,’ the former Canadian justice minister said. ‘It may be, as I say, distasteful to see that, or witness that, but I don’t regard that as being anti-Semitic content. I think that that’s part of what is called rigorous criticism and discourse.’ ....

‘Where you say that Israel is an apartheid state, even then – that to me is, it’s distasteful, but it’s still within the boundaries of argument’.

Cotler’s remarks seem to have been received in relative silence by the blogosphere and others who comment regularly on antisemitism. This is curious to say the least given that Cotler is probably the most significant and influential international figure in the propagation of the concept of the ‘new antisemitism’, a key example of which is calling Israel an ‘apartheid state’. That what Cotler now says is a fundamental change in his position is clear from his past articles and speeches. In an ‘Alert Paper’, New Anti-Jewishness, written for the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute and published in November 2002, Cotler gave examples of ‘new antisemitism’ under 13 headings. Under the third, ‘Ideological antisemitism’, he wrote:

This finds expression not only in the ‘Zionism is Racism’ indictment – and the singling out of Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people and Israel’s ideological raison d’être, for discriminatory treatment – but the further criminal indictment of Israel as ‘an apartheid state,’ and the calling for the dismantling of this ‘apartheid state’ – a euphemism for Israel’s destruction.

Although he has never said that all critiques of Zionism are antisemitic, Cotler has avoided foregrounding this view. But in the Ha’aretz interview he is clearly keen to redress the balance. He says:

'I think we’ve got to set up certain boundaries of where it does cross the line, because I’m one of those who believes strongly, not only in free speech, but also in rigorous debate, and discussion, and dialectic, and the like. If you say too easily that everything is anti-Semitic, then nothing is anti-Semitic, and we no longer can make distinctions . . .

I think it’s too simplistic to say that anti-Zionism, per se, is anti-Semitic. It may cross the line into being anti-Semitic where it ends up by saying, ‘Israel has no right to exist’, or ‘the Jewish people have no right to self determination’, or, that the Jewish people are not even a people.'

I can imagine that many who have rightly seen the Canadian MP and law professor as the standard bearer for exposing the ‘new antisemitism’, and have lauded him for coining the phrase ‘Israel is the Jew among the nations’, will be bitterly disappointed by this change of mind. And at the moment they are keeping quiet about it.

But it comes at a very significant moment in the context of developments in the UK in relation to controversies surrounding definitions of antisemitism. Just during the last week a challenge has been mounted by the celebrity lawyer Anthony Julius, on behalf of Ronnie Fraser, against the University and Colleges Union for ‘institutional antisemitism’, following the Union’s highly controversial decision to reject the ‘working definition’ of antisemitism drawn up by the now superseded European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). More or less immediately after the vote at the annual congress of the UCU, the establishment bodies of the UK Jewish community, such as the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council and the Zionist Federation, went into overdrive as they started a campaign to label the UCU as institutionally racist and demand that the Equality and Human Rights Commission investigate. They have received significant backing from politicians. And when the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, wrote an op-ed for the Jewish Chronicle, in which he attacked the UCU, this was taken as governmental support for the organized Jewish community’s stand. Lambasting the union for ‘boycotting visits by Israeli academics for a number of years’, Pickles argues that it’s not interested in securing freedom of speech but rather in silencing dissenting opinion. Various UCU decisions have ‘left many Jewish academics and students uneasy’.

When seen in this context, the latest resolution is in fact sending out a chilling message. It says that Jewish academics and students who perceive that they are being harassed or bullied should understand that they will be held to a different standard. It says that they should expect to be fair game for invective, and learn to live with feeling more vulnerable. Little wonder that the UCU has already seen many members of the Jewish faith, other faiths and none, vote with their feet and leave.

Julius’s letter to General Secretary Sally Hunt setting out UCU member Ronnie Fraser’s case against the UCU is written in the strongest terms. It accuses the union of breaches of the Equality Act 2010, threatens that unless a series of demands by Fraser are met – including the abrogation of the resolution rejecting the EUMC ‘working definition’ and a ‘commitment to sponsor a programme (for a minimum of ten years . . . ) educating academics concerning the dangers of anti-Semitism, with special reference to the relationship between anti-Semitism and what now passes for “anti-Zionism” ‘ – Fraser will make an Equality Act claim to the Employment Tribunal.

The letter is full of bombast and ridiculous hyperbole, and in places is just factually incorrect, but my concern here is not to analyse or critique the entire text. Rather, I simply want to draw attention to the fact that in two paragraphs listing the causes for Fraser’s complaint – i.e. the evidence of institutional antisemitism – the first item in each is the constant ‘anti-Israel boycott resolutions’, and it’s clear that the issue of boycott is a central bone of contention.

Whatever position you hold on boycotting Israel as a means of bringing pressure to bear on it to fulfil its international legal obligations, end the occupation and so on – and I have always opposed boycotting as a means of achieving this – it’s difficult to regard boycotting Israel as a priori antisemitic. Professor David Newman of Ben Gurion University, who spent two years in the UK as the Israeli universities’ official coordinator of the campaign against the academic boycott, was adamant in remarks he made before finishing this assignment that it was both wrong and counterproductive to fight the boycott proposals on the grounds that they are antisemitic. If it reaches the point where the UCU had to defend itself against charges of institutional antisemitism at a tribunal, citing Professor Newman alone would be a strong defence.

Now that Professor Cotler has so publicly concurred with David Newman, UCU have an even stronger voice to use in their defence. It wouldn’t surprise me if Julius tried to use Professor Newman’s often strong criticisms of the Israeli government and his very dovish position on Israel-Palestine peace as a way of discrediting his view on boycott, notwithstanding the incontrovertible fact that Newman is a Zionist, heart and soul. But such a tactic would be impossible to use against Professor Cotler whose record as a defender of the Israeli status quo is impeccable and whose efforts to embed the concept of the ‘delegitimization’ of Israel in the international consciousness have been long-standing and sustained.

It’s true that Cotler says: ‘It’s where you say, because it’s an apartheid state, it has to be dismantled – then you crossed the line into a racist argument, or an anti-Jewish argument.' In other words, that’s when call for boycott becomes antisemitic. But there are two problems with this argument. First, it would be extremely difficult to prove that the Union as a whole, in voting for boycotting Israel, is therefore saying Israel must be dismantled. Second, even if a handful of people in the Union do believe that boycott should lead to the dismantling of the Israeli state, however far-reaching or shocking such a view might be, it also cannot a priori be deemed antisemitic. If such people were arguing that the Israeli state should be dismantled in order to construct a single secular democratic state in which Jews and Palestinians, and anyone else living in the state, were fully equal, you might charge them with extreme naivety in believing that such a goal is attainable, but it would be grossly unfair to assume that they were advocating the proposal in order to implement an antisemitic agenda of exclusion, demonisation, dehumanisation and so on.

Of course, the Julius letter carries other alleged evidence of institutional antisemitism and I am not commenting on them at this point. As I wrote in an earlier post, I’m not in a position to judge whether the UCU is entirely devoid of institutional racism or antisemitism. I have no doubt that the Union may have behaved insensitively in some way, but I confess that it seems far-fetched to me that a charge of institutional antisemitism could be made to stick. Certainly, there is something about the bullying and aggressive tone of Anthony Julius’s letter that suggests he is simply trying to humiliate the UCU, frighten it into making redress, rather than demonstrating a serious determination to take the matter to a tribunal. But I would not take this for granted for one minute

Correspondence Between Tony Greenstein and Professor David-Hillel Rubin

Re: the union expelled me

From: tony greenstein
To: david ruben
Sent: Wed, 22 June, 2011 13:01:55
Subject: Your resignation from the UCU is as futile as it is wrong headed

I understand that you are a philosophy professor, which confirms my view that philosophy can mean anything to anybody, and often does. Hence why Heidegger could be rector under the Nazis and a lover of Hanna Arendt. You have no objective standards with which to measure your output or assertions. As someone who calls himself a socialist, whilst supporting a settler state, clearly your philosophy is pretty elastic, or maybe selling and leasing land to only the Jewish part of Israel (JNF) or barring Arabs from security jobs or displacing the Bedouin of the Negev as part of a Judaification project there and in the Galilee is socialist?

But what convinced me that being a Philosophy Professor and being a quack doctor are not dissimilar are your strange powers of 'reasoning' as to why you have resigned from the UCU. You are right to say that your 'But my imagination was obviously limited' but I suspect you aren't aware of just how limited your reasoning is too.

You write that 'One part of that working definition rejected by the union stands out: it is anti-Semitic to ‘deny the right of the Jewish people to self-determination’, within some borders, unspecified as what they might be.'

It does indeed stand out. The idea that there is one unified Jewish people, from the Himalayas to the Andes, from Shanghai to Tehran, is an idea that Alfred Rosenberg and the whole panopoly of Nazi and anti-Semitic ideologists would have subscribed to. It was always an anti-Semitic idea that Jews, wherever they lived, whatever language they spoke, however different their customs, were part of one nation. Of course what they really meant was a 'Jewish race'. That is why all the early Zionists such as Max Nordau were believers in a notion of race as the determinant of human affairs.

The corollary of such notions of a 'Jewish nation' was that you can't be a member of 2 nations at once and therefore Jews didn't belong amongst the nations they were living with. Which of course was what the anti-Dreyfussards said.

So in reality you are resigning from the UCU not because it is anti-Semitic but because it has rejected anti-semitism. Congratulations for being one very muddle-headed professor.


Tony Greenstein

From: David-Hillel Ruben To: tony greenstein Sent: Wed, 22 June, 2011 14:57:33


I have known who you are for may years and I never imagined we could convince one another of the other's point of view. But I expected some arguments, even ones I might not agree with. Even knowing who you are did not prepare me for the high level of personal viciousness and ugly vindictiveness of the contents of your email. I did not think it was worthy of you. Or for the rather strange and ill informed attack on philosophy itself, which somehow got to me far more than the personal abuse.

On one matter I might make a little headway with you. I think it is hard to fit the Jewish people into any existing category paradigm in social science, because of the unique history of world Jewry. Nation, class, religion, race (obviously not that) and so on just won't do because categories per se assume other examples of the kind and I doubt whether Jewry has enough in common with any other examples to make a categorisation using existing terminology at all worthwhile. There are just too many dissimilarities between Jews and every other group I can think of (including for example the Romany, to which there are some striking similarities as well).

As you know, Jewish self understanding from time immemorial is that Jews constitute a unified 'am', people--a single people, whether 'from the Himalayas to the Andes, from Shanghai to Teheran', as you put it. Far from this being a Nazi invention, this self-understanding traces to probably the Second Temple period, perhaps before, when Jews first started living in large numbers in a Diaspora outside of Palestine. I think that any proper analysis of the position of the Jews has to start with a nuanced scientific understanding of the object of study.

I did once write about some of this in The Socialist Register, long long ago, but probably would not defend a lot of what I said there. 27 years is a long time.

Best wishes

David Ruben

David-Hillel Ruben

Professor of Philosophy, Birkbeck, University of London

On 22 Jun 2011, at 16:16, tony greenstein wrote:

Dear David

I'm surprised my infamy has travelled so far!

I have neither been vicious nor vindictive (I've suffered no personal slight from you to merit the latter adjective).

All the categories - people/nation/volk/ethnic etc. are to a great extent subjective. People not only don't think often in those terms but those identities are forever changing which is why Zionism's essentialisation of who the Jewish people are becomes so reactionary because it goes back to a mythical past. I don't need to refer to Shlomo Sands because very little in that book is new, he simply pulls it together, but there was a religious concept of Le Am, but that is different from a nation or people. For a start nations are a recent phenomenon and go with the birth of capitalism. Which is why it is absurd to talk of say an Iraqi nation or indeed a Kenyan nation, which were drawn with lines in the sand or jungle.

My own view on the Jews is that they are more than a religion but less than a people. There is a certain shared heritage, not that of the rabbis, but it is fast disappearing for an ugly form of idolatry and state worship. Which is why I don't understand how someone like you, who is clearly erudite, can go for all this hasbara nonsense. Despite calling itself the only democracy in the Middle East, which I would vigorously dispute, Israeli leaders were at one in their foreboding of the Arab spring. They preferred the barbarous leaders who they could then point to as an example of Arab dictatorships. You also know that a state which defines itself in ethnic terms is going to always be defining out the other which is what makes Israel unique, alongside Apartheid South Africa, Nazi Germany and other 'volkish' states. It is no accident that the Law of Return defines Jews in the same way as the Nazis did.

If you talk of 'anti-Semitism' then I have to say that having lived most of my childhood among non-Jews, as my father was a provincial rabbi, I experienced no anti-Semitism. As someone who has been in more fist fights with fascists than some have had hot dinners, I can honestly say that whereas the anti-Semitism of the NF stalwarts I met was tentative, embarassed etc. especially to your face, that of Zionists has been by far and away the worst. This is their 'negation of exile'. 'Jokes' about circumcision (they threw the wrong part away - a standard fascist joke incidentally), a desire that I and my family should have perished in Auschwitz (which the CST says is not anti-Semitic because a Jew said it!).

To go back to your point, I think by far and away the best analysis is that of Abram Leon's 'The Jewish Quesion: A Marxist Interpretation'. Jews became traders and engaged in professions allied with that. They weren't compelled to but chose to because it gave them a higher standard of living eg. the diamond cutters of Antwerp or tax stewards of Poland. They were essentially a caste and one should treat with a heavy dose of scepticism the idea that there was a common Jewish understanding for 2,000 years. Jewry changed. It forsook proselytising. At some stage descent went through the female line. The bible forbade usury, the Talmud qualified this to Jews, and so on.

A Jew from Poland who found himself in Cochin would have found little in common with an Indian Jew bar some, not all, religious rites. That doesn't to me make a nation or a people. There is certainly a strong case for saying that the Jews of the Pale were a national minority but that is entirely different.

Periodically the Jews were subject to horrific massacres, not because of Christianity, but because of their role as the middle people. The same incidentally is true of the Chinese of South Asia and different minorities in the Arab world and Asians in Africa. There was nothing special about the Jews until the Nazi extermination.

But I come back to why I am so baffled at your resignation. The EUMC is a political definition of something it calls anti-Semitism. As a definition, even for the collection of statistics, it is useless since it is in itself so subjective and defines anti-Semitism in terms of perceptions. But in so far as the EUMC has been used to close down debate on grounds of 'anti-Semitism' it is positively dangerous. It rests on the apparent definition of the Macpherson Inquiry which is, in itself, a chutzpah. Some of us were involved for along time in campaigning around the Met doing nothing to investigate Stephen Lawrence's murder. Those like the Jewish Leadership Council and Board of Deputies, who never uttered one single word about the racism of the Police, to now exploit tendentiously the Lawrence definition, which doesn't simply say that racism is a matter of taking the victim's word, is dishonest. As someone who specialises in employment law the definition of harassment isn't just based on the victim's perception but objectively and it has to be a reasonable perception.

I know many of those like Mike Cushman and Sue Blackwell. They are dedicated opponents of all racism. I don't know whether you have heard of Gilad Atzmon, who is anti-Semitic as well as being ex-Israeli. Sue in particular has been in the forefront of purging his influence from the Palestine solidarity movement, such as it is. Whatever else the UCU is it is not anti-Semitic.


Tony Greenstein

From: David Ruben To: tony greenstein Sent: Wed, 22 June, 2011 16:51:01

I know Leon's work well. Although I respect it-and Mandel too for that matter- I disputed it in the Socialist Register piece I wrote in 1982 or 83.

I think it is a real problem for classical Marxism when it tries to comprehend the Jews in class or financial caste terms.

Jews can be at least as ugly as everyone else. You know the old saying: we are just like everyone else but more so. Speaking personally, I am sorry you experienced such behaviour. I was on the Board of Deputies in the early 1990's and was appalled at the attack there on Colin Schindler. And appalled that the then leadership did not stop it from the chair. We sometimes don't win any awards for exemplary behaviour either.

When I wrote my resignation, I was aware that defence of nationalism was not exactly a socialist objective. I believe that all nationalisms are ultimately reactionary. I guess I take the view that the Jews should go second in divesting themselves of nationalism. Let's see who will go first.

I do admire Trotsky on this subject. He saw nothing wrong with all Jews who wanted to live together to do so, apart from a national formation for such an entity. If there will ever be internationalism socialism, he thought that the Jews who wanted to could live together.

By the way, let's keep our correspondence private and off the web.


From: tony greenstein To: David Ruben Sent: Wed, 22 June, 2011 21:05:25

I've just realised that Roger Scruton is/was based at Birkbeck. I did my MA in History there too in the early to mid 90s!

Yes I'm happy to keep it off the net although I copied my own letter to you to Jewssansfrontieres blog which first mentioned you. I do sometimes put conversations there such as an article concerning one Colin Bell and have likewise devoted much, too much, time and space to one Gilad Atzmon, the ex-Israeli anti-Semitic jazz musician, so I do take anti-Semitism seriously, very seriously but by that I mean anti-Semitism, not anti-Zionism. The EUMC definition is a joke. It comes from a political vested interest. If it was serious then the holding Jews collectively responsible for Israel's actions, which I agree is anti-Semitic, is something the Board are guilty of everytime they call a demonstration or protest in support of one or other of Israel's actions.

I don't find Leon's analysis problematic because there is no other way to understand anti-Semitism other than in relation to historical and material circumstances. Otherwise we have this myth of the 2000 years of anti-Semitism, which immediately begs the question 'why the Jews'? As you say, Jews are just like everyone else only more so, except that they probably aren't, for exactly the same reasons. Or otherwise you have an ideological definition via religious Judaism. What Israel proves is that anyone, including even Jews, given the right set of circumstances, can be racist. The irony, which all these debates miss, is how a section of the Israeli right, because of its role as settlers, actually identifies with the Nazis. I have done one story here but there are others you can google including the article on the Lubavitch magazine Fountains of Salvation which talks of death camps for Palestinians l or the graffitti sprayed on the walls of Arabs, especially in the Hebron area, 'gas the Arabs' and so on. Or Torat HaMelech, the book of the sages that another Israeli rabbi Yitzhak Shapira penned justifying the annihilation of non-Jews i.e. Palestinians. I could go on but you get the picture.

That incidentally is why the EUMC definition which says that comparisons between Israel/Zionism and the Nazis is anti-Semitic is absurd. Presumably Yeshayahu Leibowitz was an anti-Semite? To put it bluntly this definition is not fit for purpose, anti-Semitism isn't a 'certain perception of Jews' in any case. It involves deeds, be they physical or otherwise. But what is happening, and this explains the Atzmon phenomenon, is that calling people who are not anti-Semites 'anti-Semite' has the same effect as the boy who cried wolf. And it also has a secondary effect that means people now think automatically that all such accusations are merely a way of undermining support for the Palestinians.

All I know of Colin Shindler is that he is/was a member of Mapam if indeed the latter still exists. I don't know what he was subject to at the Board but given the latter's record in the 1930's when it did its best to get Jews not to stand up to Moseley, I have little time for this meeting of small minds.

My point about being told by a Zionist that it's a pity my family and I weren't murdered in Auschwitz was that on the same day I received a holocaust denial message on my blog too. The CST classed the latter but not the former as anti-Semitic on the grounds that Jews cannot be anti-Semitic.

What I'm really asking is, what is it about Zionism that makes its advocates come out with this sort of stuff. And the answer is that for some Zionists, both secular and religious, there is the belief that the Jews of Europe got what they asked for. They didn't do as Zionism had suggested and move to Palestine, not of course that they could have, and therefore deserved what happened. It is this idea that lies behind the infamous remark of John Hagee, the US Baptist that John McCain was forced to disown, that Hitler was god's messenger, driving the Jews to Palestine.

It's not just that you've resigned over a defence of nationalism, but that you have done so for a particularly reactionary form of nationalism. Nationalism doesn't just take one form. There is the nationalism of the oppressor and oppressed, as one saw in South Africa, whose only friend was the Israeli state (I won't bother to document this but I'd have no difficulty either!). There is a nationalism that embraces all the citizens of a state, and that was what the Dreyfus Affair was about, was it to be a democratic republic or an anti-democratic military regime. There is also the nationalism that turns on particular minorities and since nationalism changes so do its forms. But Zionism was always reactionary. It started out with a rejection of Emancipation and Herzl and others were very explicit on this. It rejected the idea of equality of citizens, indeed it 'understood' anti-Semitism. Hence despite all the myths about Herzl being convinced by the Dreyfus Affair to become a Zionist, the exact opposite was the case. He went begging Eduord Drumont, editor of the anti-Semitic daily La Libre Parole and author of The Eternal Jew, to write a favourable review of Der Judenstaat, which he did. This at a time when Drumont was leading mobs who were attacking any Jew they could find and Drumont was during all of this a Deputy for an Algerian constituency. You are, I'm sure are of Count Clermont-Tonnere's famous saying "to the Jews as individuals everything, to the Jews as a nation nothing'. That was a positive affirmation of the place of Jews within the French nation. It is a rejection of everything Israel stands for with its Liebermans introducing an anti-Arab bill a week, restricting commemoration of the Nakba, or preventing human rights organisations operating effectively or receiving funds, or McCarthist attacks on academics, or subverting the High Court ruling in the Kadaan case on the JNF not being able to refuse to lease or let to an Arab.

And you may think this is of no great importance but the rejection of Drumont and Herzl's friends, the victory of the Dreyfusards was felt over 40 years later when the Nazis occupied France. Despite Drancy, some 75% of French Jews survived. That was one of the highest such survival rates (only Italy, Denmark, Bulgaria and Muslim Albania) had higher survival rates. A victory against anti-Semitism immunised French politics. It made even the worst of the Vichy collaborators think twice, especially about touching French Jews as opposed to Jewish refugees from other countries.

I have no problem with Jews living together, but not as a colonial settlement or state that is exclusive. I doubt there will ever be a need as most Jews prefer to live with non-Jews and Israel is certainly no protector, as Argentinian Jews found out during the Junta. So basically what I am saying is that no socialist should resign from UCU because it rejects something like the EUMC. The latter is a political weapon to be used against anti-Zionists. It is useless when opposing anti-Semitism.


Tony Greenstein

From: David-Hillel Ruben To: tony greenstein Sent: Thu, 23 June, 2011 19:43:24

What could I possibly say to you, in light of all this, that might be helpful. Maybe just this-does the following perhaps really explain the gulf between us? I take what I think is the historically normative Jewish attitude of caring both about the universal (making this a better world for humanity) and about the particular (the Jewish people-yes I think there is such a thing and I don't think that involves me in what you call essentialism, any more than taking about the French people involves any essentialism and erases the difference between the Bretons and the Marseillais). Some Jews have stopped caring about the particular-maybe you are one of them, but I don't know enough about you to assert that with any conviction. I am not sure. But even if it does, it is not meant as a criticism. It is a viable choice. Many Jews have taken that path. You know the apparently true story of Trotsky saying to a visiting Jewish delegation in Moscow (to ask for restoration of kosher meat supplies) in the early years of the Revolution that there was no reason to come and see him as he did not regard himself as Jewish. (If you have never heard of the Chief Rabbi of Moscow's reply to Trotsky on that occasion, tell me-it is worth hearing).

And we both know loads of Jews who have stopped caring about the universal. That **is** a criticism. Of course I don't think that caring for the Jewish people, worrying about what used to be called the Jewish Question, lets one off morality and the obligations it imposes. One of the things I have against the de-legitimisers is that they have made real, honest criticism of Israel so hard, because utter a critical peep, and one is soon in bed with people who do not accept the very idea of the state. For me that makes it harder to criticise Israel. PS: I argued publicly for a two-state solution in the 1970's, against the Jewish establishment. But I also thought that Moshe Machover's single state idea was not viable, even then, and even more so today.

I do find that sometimes you seem to me to take things with kernels of truth, put the worst possible interpretations on, believe only the narrative of the other, etc. An example:

What I'm really asking is, what is it about Zionism that makes its advocates come out with this sort of stuff. And the answer is that for some Zionists, both secular and religious, there is the belief that the Jews of Europe got what they asked for. They didn't do as Zionism had suggested and move to Palestine, not of course that they could have, and therefore deserved what happened. It is this idea that lies behind the infamous remark of John Hagee, the US Baptist that John McCain was forced to disown, that Hitler was god's messenger, driving the Jews to Palestine.

I never ever heard any Jew say or intimate this. But even if you can contradict me and produce an example or three, it is hardly normative or mainstream. We have our mishagoyim too, like any other people. It is easy to demonstrate that we have our fascists, nut cases, assorted idiots, philistines, etc. Nu?

The evidence from Hagee doesn't show anything of course about the Jewish view anyway. I can't accept on myself the sins of the Baptists too.

David-Hillel Ruben

Professor of Philosophy, Birkbeck, University of London

On 25 Jun 2011, at 22:42, tony greenstein wrote:


although you didn't reply to my last message I thought of you, as an anguished Zionist, when I read Carlo Strenger's article today on-line.

I disagree with much of it and do believe there is a connection between Hamas/Hizbollah - both Israeli creations in their own way - and the stranglehold of Orthodoxy. It is a consequence of the nature of the state that has been created but it is an interesting article.

You have of course taken your own decision but I would hope that as someone who has had some involvement with the left that you will reconsider your decision to resign from the UCU. Socialists (& I don't know whether you call yourself that) don't resign from unions and UCU, whatever you may say about it, is not anti-Semitic. In fact it is one of Engage's absurdities to call people suggest that those who support Boycott and opposition to the EUMC are somehow anti-Semitic when it's not Sue Blackwell but Jonathan Hoffman & co. who demonstrate alongside the EDL.

Tony Greenstein

Israel is tearing apart the Jewish people
Israel has never had a government that so blatantly violates the core values of liberal democracy, which dismisses identities of 85% of the world's Jewry.

By Carlo Strenger
Ha’aretz 24.6.11.

In June last year, Peter Beinart published an article in the New York Review of Books that created quite a storm by pointing out the deep estrangement between the young generation of American Jews and Israel. A year later, it is time to take stock.

Unfortunately, the situation has only grown a lot worse. In my travels to Europe I speak to predominantly Jewish audiences, but also to non-Jews who care deeply about Israel. They voice their pain and anguish openly: They want to understand what has happened to Israel. They desperately want to stand by it, but they are, increasingly, at a loss of knowing how to do so.

Their questions are simple. They know that Israel is located in one of the world's most difficult neighborhoods; they have no illusions about the Iranian regime or Hezbollah; and they know the Hamas charter. But they don't understand how any of this is connected with Israel's settlement policies, the dispossession of Palestinian property in Jerusalem, and the utterly racist talk about the 'Judaization' of Jerusalem. They feel that they no longer have arguments, even words, to defend Israel.

Israel has never had a government that so blatantly violates the core values of liberal democracy. Never has a Knesset passed laws that are as manifestly racist as the current one. Israel has had foreign ministers who were unworldly and didn't know English; but it has never had a foreign minister whose only goal is to pander to his right-wing constituency by flaunting his disdain for international law and the idea of human rights with such relish.

Moreover, there has never been a government so totally oblivious of its relation to world Jewry. It passes laws that increase the Orthodox establishment's stranglehold on religious affairs and personal life - completely disregarding that 85 percent of world Jewry are not Orthodox - and simply dismissing their Jewish identities and their institutions. As a result, this majority of world Jewry feels Israel couldn't care less about its values and identity.

Israel's Orthodox establishment claims that by monopolizing conversion to Judaism and the laws of marriage, they are preventing a rift in the Jewish people. The exact opposite is true: It is Israel's turn toward racism that extends not only toward its Arab citizens, but toward Ethiopian youth not accepted into schools in Petah Tikva, toward Sephardic girls not allowed to study in Haredi schools in Immanuel, that most Jews in the world cannot stand for. It is the unholy coalition between nationalism and Orthodoxy that is tearing the Jewish people apart.

The overwhelming majority of American and European Jews are deeply committed to Universalist values, and have been so for most of their existence. This commitment is not a fad or an attempt to be fashionable and politically correct. It is the deeply felt conclusion the majority of world Jewry draws from Jewish history: After all that has happened to us, we Jews must never, ever allow violation of universal human rights.

This is why Jews in the U.S. have been central in the Civil Rights movement; this is why Jews in Europe will never forget that only Universalist liberals stood by Alfred Dreyfus in 1890s France. For most Jews of the world, it is simply unfathomable: How can we, who have suffered from racial and religious discrimination, use language and hold views that - as Israel Prize laureate and historian of fascism Zeev Sternhell argued - were last held in the Western world by the Franco regime?

For most of world Jewry, the idea of Yiddishkeit in the second half of the 20th century meant that Jews must never compromise on the equality of human beings before the law and the inviolability of their rights. So how can they stand by a state that continues to pay rabbis who argue that Jewish life has a sanctity that doesn't extend to gentiles, and that it is forbidden to rent property to Arabs?

In moments of despair, I try to remember that Israel's move to the right is driven by fear and confusion, ruthlessly fanned by politicians whose hold on power depends on the panic of Israel's citizens. I feel it can't be true that the country that was supposed not only to be the homeland of the Jews, but a moral beacon, is descending into such darkness. I try to remember that such times of darkness do not reflect on the human quality of a whole nation; that countries like Spain, Greece and Portugal emerged from dark times into the free world; that even though the winds of right-wing nationalism are sweeping over Israel, it is still a democracy.

Sometimes, along with the majority of Jews committed to liberal and Universalist values, I feel as if I were simply in a bad dream; that when I wake up, Herzl's vision of a Jewish state committed to the core values of liberalism will be the reality.

From: David Ruben
To: tony greenstein
Sent: Sun, 26 June, 2011 20:39:25
Subject: Re: Your resignation from the UCU is as futile as it is wrong headed

There is indeed much in the Strenger I would agree with. There are some things I despair about too. I see much of the present sorry state of things NOT as rooted in the very conception of Zionism but as a twisted, demented response to 65 years and more of war and turmoil imposed on the state.

Anyway, I have a question. Forget the background and authorship of the working definition of anti Semitism that the union rejected. Indeed, abstract away from the serious academic question of whether it is a good definition of anti Semitism. Suppose it was just a list of principles having nothing to do with anti Semitism. Take the principles just as they are.

Exactly what in those principles would it be reasonable for the union to reject?



The purpose of this document is to provide a practical guide for identifying incidents, collecting data, and supporting the implementation and enforcement of legislation dealing with antisemitism.

Working definition: "Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities."

In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for "why things go wrong." It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.

Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.

Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).

Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.

Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

• • • • • • • • • • •

Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:

Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.

Antisemitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of antisemitic materials in some countries).

Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property—such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries—are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews.

Antisemitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.

From: tony greenstein To: David Ruben Sent: Sun, 26 June, 2011 21:32:17

It's a good question. And I would say I wouldn't even begin with such a definition. Why? Is there one for anti-Muslim hatred? It has been and was devised by the American Jewish Congress and others. I don't for one moment believe it is about anti-Semitism.

Have a look at my blog, the current story.

I am at the moment grieving for the death of my friend and comrade, Alf Filer. Probably you never heard of him. He was an anti-racist and anti-fascist, that is why he came to anti-Zionism. Last year he was one of the principal organisers of the Harrow counter-mobilisation against the EDL, who were sent packing. I am giving a talk next Saturday, to which you are welcome to come, on the History of Fascism in Brighton to History Workshop. And yet at the same time we find Zionists demonstrating alongside the EDL, making apologies for the far-right in the European Parliament who just love them.

My definition of anti-Semitism is pretty simple.

Anti-Semitism is hatred of and discrimination against people who are Jewish, or perceived to be such. Anti-semitism is the belief that the Jews are at the centre of a world conspiracy aimed at non-Jewsor the holding. There is no need to talk of how it is manifested, that is excess verbiage. If you attack a building because it has an association with Jews and only for that reason then it is anti-Semitic. Period.

But when the definition moves on to 'In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel' then there is another agenda at work, the one that calls me a 'self hater' (itself an anti-Semitic and indeed Nazi term used against German anti-fascists, you hate your 'race' you therefore hate yourself). There is simply no need for the 'contemporary examples'. They are unnecessary and there for ulterior motives.

The one about 'Accusing Jewish citizens of beng more loyal to Israel... than to the interests of their own nations.' is another way of dealing with dual loyalty issue. That is indeed how many Jews feel which was why Ben Gurion was forced to accept that Israel would not claim to represent Jews abroad. Contrast that with Netanyahu's address to Congress, speaking as the Prime Minister of the Jewish people. Not sure when I elected him, but no matter.

The examples given are not only unnecessary for a genuine definition of anti-Semitism but politically loaded. E.g. 'Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination'. Leaving aside the question of sd, the concept of 'the Jewish people' is itself an anti-Semitic one. Suggesting that claiming that 'the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor' is anti-semitic is absurd. it was a racist endeavour. The idea of setting up an ethnically pure state in someone else's land is racist. Settler colonialism was always racist.'

Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation. This is obviously loaded and assumes what it asserts.

Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis. Well yes if it happens, but apart from freak fascists who aren't even mainstream fascists, this is not the case.

Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis. Why? It is Israelis who make these comparisons repeatedly and regularly. Rabin was dressed up Nazi uniform, Begin termed Arafat a Hitler hiding in his bunker in Beirut, Matan Vilnai promised a 'little Shoah' for Gaza. The Nazis didn't spring out of thin air, they were part of the international order and were treated as such. Or is daubing 'Arabs to the gas chambers' not worthy of comment for fear of being 'anti-Semitic'?

'Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.' I agree, which is why it should be levelled at the Board of Deputies who organise rallies on behalf of British Jews to show support for Israel's latest atrocities.

No I really think that if you oppose anti-Semitism you should be clear and not try to mix it up with Israel. When I was in my early '20s in Brighton, I was Secretary of the Anti-Nazi League in Brighton when it was a genuine mass movement. I went to the Jewish Youth Centre at Ralli Hall, Hove only to be told by the Israeli Shaliach that no, I couldn't put up a poster, because there was one and only one way to fight anti-Semitism and that was Aliyah. To run away. That is Zionism's response and Jews who stay are the horrific creatures of Herzl's Mausel. I don't know whether you have heard of Gilad Atzmon, I devote quite a bit of my site to him. He terms Jews outside Israel people with bad habits etc. and cites the Zionists as to how bad the Jews really were before Hitler stood up to them. I don't believe Zionism is or ever has been interested in opposing anti-Semitism, quite the contrary. if you read Herzl's Der Judenstaat (the Jew State being the most accurate translation - itself an indication of his mindset) you see how he explains that Zionism must use anti-Semitism like machines use steam.

So no, I would junk it entirely. It adds nothing to what we know already, is of no use to those collecting statistics because it is so subjective and you can't be subjective if you are going to monitor the level of anti-Semitic incidents (hence why the CST comes regularly under attack) and it has a hidden political agenda.

So UCU rejecting it had nothing to do with 'institutional anti-Semitism' [this comes from those who never ever supported the Stephen Lawrence campaign but now are happy to collect the fruits it bore).

You say, as I suspected you would, that you agree with Strenger. But you also say that it is a 'twisted, demented response to 65 years and more of war and turmoil imposed on the state.' The problem is that this is what Israel has always said, that it is imposed on them, but the truth is different. The bogeyman of Israel in the 50s-70s was Nasser yet he tried to reach an accommodation with israel, just as Syria has repeatedly done. it has used the rhetoric of Arab leaders, designed to fool their own people, as an excuse not to agree to a peaceful solution and the reason is not hard to find. Zionism is essentially a messianic movement at heart, coupled with the nature of settler colonialism, expansion was built into it. As you know in 1967 people wanted an excuse to attack and Levi Eshkol was criticised for being too cautious. The refugees were expelled, not because of a tall story about being told to leave (& Uri Avnery recently demolishes this as a childish story that no one can seriously believe).

The story of being forced into madness is a comforting one but it isn't true. Israeli settlers always had contempt for Arabs, whose land they coveted, from the first Kvutzah Deganiah. The advent of Lieberman and the demonstrators who shout 'death to the Arab's' need no justification, they are the product of something that was not difficult to see. Even Herzl knew that the problem with basing a Jewish state on Israel was that the rabbis might take charge. Which is why he preferred Argentina and even Kenya (Uganda).

Either way, this definition is no reason to resign!



From: David-Hillel Ruben To: tony greenstein Sent: Sun, 26 June, 2011 22:01:33


In our correspondence, I have taken the view that we are unlikely to convince one another. And I have struggled to find some thing to say that we might both assent to or something I might say that might move you an inch. I am much older than you and even so both of us have a lifetime of settled convictions. But here is a thought:

I think that what drives you, at the core, to reject the definition of anti Semitism is that the definition could be used to defend some form of Zionism:

''The examples given are not only unnecessary for a genuine definition of anti-Semitism but politically loaded. E.g. 'Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination'. Leaving aside the question of sd, the concept of 'the Jewish people' is itself an anti-Semitic one. Suggesting that claiming that 'the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor' is anti-semitic is absurd. it was a racist endeavour. The idea of setting up an ethnically pure state in someone else's land is racist. Settler colonialism was always racist.''

But look, and here is the rub. Whatever your views are about Zionism, why should the UCU take a view on that? It is, or was, my union too but I felt threatened by its line. I felt that the union expelled me, because it made a view of Israel that I cannot share almost a sine qua non of membership.

I said to Roger Klein a long time ago: for most of the UCU members, Zionism is a serious, political issue. That is all. But for most of the Jewish members who were in it (alas, no longer), unlike you, it was existential. Israel is where our parents, our children, and our friends LIVE. We believe that its existence is tied up with our physical safety and continuity. I appreciate that you will regard that as wrong and false but can you not at least see that that is how we think? And the dilemma it gives us who can't follow your line?

I simply cannot see why the union has to take any stand at all on these political questions, beyond supporting trade unions in Israel and academic freedom of speech in Israeli universities. Why all the time devoted by the union to the other questions about Israel and no other country?

You can have, personally, whatever views you like. If you think that Israel is illegitimate, so be it and go argue it in other venues. But why should MY (as it was) union taken any view on the question of the legitimacy of Israel? These are fraught, involved, complicated political questions and over the years I have felt a second class citizen of the union. It can't be MY union and hold that Israel is not legitimate. I understand that this was the or the main driving force behind the rejection of the definition.

Can you not see and understand my dilemma, regardless of your political views? My union constantly attacking Israel, claiming in effect that it had no legitimacy? This is a line a political party can pursue and good luck to them. But MY trade union? I cannot be a member of such an repeat, it feels to me that the union expelled me.

David-Hillel Ruben

Professor of Philosophy, Birkbeck, University of London

From: David-Hillel Ruben
To: tony greenstein
Sent: Mon, 27 June, 2011 8:32:35
Subject: Re: the union expelled me


I was citing the fact that I-and others in the union-had family in Israel not as a way of arguing anything other than that there is a certain asymmetry in this: for most, it is 'merely' a political question. For us, it is a matter of life and death for our family and friends. No, they would not suffer if there were a secular, fully democratic, state (one for Israeli Jews, the other for Palestinian Artabs) but I don't think that that is the path to which deligitimisation is likely to lead. If you are thinking of a single democratic state for both together, it would quickly lead to disaster for the Jews. My wife's cousin, David Yellin, was assassinated on the steps of the HU in the 1930s by an Arab who opposed his efforts at reconciliation. With the best will in the world, I cannot believe for a moment that a single state would not lead quickly either to programs or expulsion for the Jews. Over 50% of the Jews in the world now live in Israel. That is a gamble no rational person should take.

Oh well, I am sorry you have experienced abuse. I totally disagree with you but I have respect for your integrity and honesty and I hope you feel the same about me.


David-Hillel Ruben - Professor of Philosophy, Birkbeck, University of London

On 27 Jun 2011, at 14:45, tony greenstein wrote:


yes, I have respect for your integrity, even though we disagree.

There is no refuge from racism and persecution via a state which settles others' lands. I can't comment on the assassination of your relative as I simply know nothing about the circumstances but many of those who founded the 'peace wing' of the Yishuv, Brit Shalom, did so for very dishonest and dubious motives. Arthur Ruppin, father of land settlement, was a co-founder with Judah Magnes who was all but drive out of Palestine by the Zionist movement. Ruppin was, as you may not be aware, a devotee of race theories and had a very congenial meeting (according to his own diary) in the summer of 1933 with Hans Gunther, the ideological mentor of Himmler at Jena University. Others like the assasinated Arlosoroff and Kalvarisky, with responsibility for the Arab dept. within the Jewish Agency were also members. In other words they were the soft cops who wanted the Arabs to surrender peacefully.

What happened in Palestine was not strange, it happened in all settler societies but unlike Australia where they exterminated the indigenous populace in Tasmania or the US they couldn't do so.

The real problem is that in order to prevent a single state on a secular democratic basis, Israeli policy makers have unwaveringly sought to Islamicise the opposition, to confessionalise it. Just as the US played divide and rule in Iraq, with all the appalling consequences we know about or the British in India. It was Shin Bet who encouraged and indeed helped with the formation of Hamas as a means of undermining secular Arab nationalism. Just as the West today holds out the bogey of the Egyptian Brotherhood in Egypt whilst doing its best to ensure that they rather than the left take power.

My information about Hamas comes e.g. from Avi Shlaim's Iron Wall, a recent article by Robert Fisk and others who are on-line. It is an incontestable fact that they created the very monster they now wish to hold up as a reason for not being able to reach a settlement.

A secular demoratic state would have to include both Arabs and Jews otherwise it would be neither secular nor democratic. Partition doesn't have a good history - be it Ireland or India or Cyprus.

I know nothing of David Yellin but this kind of thing was not uncommon. The Mufti was put in place by Herbert Samuel, the first High Commissioner and a committed Zionist, even though he came 4th in the elections. Why? Because he represented the most backward and chauvinistic elements. Don't forget all the other assasinations - Count Folk Bernadotte who had rescued thousands of Jews in Hungary and elsewhere, Arlossoroff of course, Rabin and course the daily assassinations of Palestinians by murder squads.

Let me assure you that in the long term security won't come about through strength. All empires weaken. It can only come about through a lasting arrangement that removes the cause of conflict. In Israel that is the belief that being Jewish gives you privileges. It is the Jewish nature of the state which is the problem, coupled with the settlement of the land in accordance with that and the theft of water etc. etc. Without a change from a state which acts on behalf of one part of its citizens, Jewish, to one which is not a Jewish state but a state of its citizens, then there will never be peace. And that is why UCU's position is so good because it tackles the causes. It separates out the real anti-Semites from those who are 'anti-Jewish' because of what Israel does to them in their name. Israeli propagandists love accusing their opponents of being 'Hamas supporters'. I get accused of that regularly yet a cursory search of my blog will find trenchant criticism of them. This is useful to the propagandists but it is a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby Palestinians are being driven into the arms of the Islamists. The Palestinians are the most secular of people, all of those I knew drank and did the same things as we did. Imperialism confessionalises and to separate out real anti-Semitism from this EUMC nonsense is helpful not a hindrance.

I'll leave it at that but I do believe that your decision is mistaken and you have been taken in by the scare mongerers who have another agenda i.e. Engage.



From: David Ruben To: tony greenstein Sent: Mon, 27 June, 2011 15:06:47

I think that the record on partitions is good. Cyprus is an example. Greeks and Turks no longer kill each other.

I have argued forever that two groups with deep seated historical animosity towards each other are best separated in at least the medium term. The Balkans provide multiple examples too. I would have said same in northern Ireland but I have come to think that I may be wrong in that case.

From: Tony Greenstein

To: David Ruben

27th June 2011 18:56

Ah well this is a different debate entirely. Partition simply stores up hatreds because that is the basis of the division in the first place. Certainly Ireland it was a disaster. But even more so in India where it led to 1-2 million people being killed. The divisions that occurred between Hindu and Muslim were entirely because the British had begun as early as 1909 to impose communal electorates and favour communal parties and Jinnah in particular. Don't agree on Cyprus, it again led to a containment of a problem the British caused and led to the invasion of Turkish forces, which itself helped perpetuate the militarisation of the Turkish state. It's just the Turkish Cypriots can't manage very well in their truncated state and now want to abandon it. I'm no expert re the Balkans but it seems to me that it is merely storing up trouble for the future but there is a difference between secession of a national minority from a federal framework and the imposition of partition anyway.

There are about 6 million Palestinians in what was the British Mandate territory so there are rough parity of numbers. To have partition now, not least in what amounts to less than a bantustan cannot possibly be a solution. Hence why the US has been training Abbas's security forces as their job is to keep the lid on and in the process abuse and torture as much as they want (95% of security force detainees are tortured).

But partition doesn't deal with the root causes of the problem it deals with the symptoms but in such a way as to exacerbate the problem. Belfast is partitioned with peace walls all over the place. They provide a stimulus, as seen in the Short Strand area, for attacks on minorities. It unifies people against the other group, it doesn't allow for class and other forms of social solidarity.


From: tony greenstein
To: David-Hillel Ruben

Sent: Mon, 27 June, 2011 3:59:55


I agree. We won't agree! But it's nice to debate with a Zionist who isn't abusive (nearly all are I'm afraid).

On the issue of the EUMC then all that is being said is that a definition of anti-Semitism should have nothing to say about Zionism at all, one way or another. There was a similar problem with Searchlight anti-fascist magazine after its founding editor Maurice Ludmer died and Gerry Gable took over. My view was always that in the battle against fascism, then anti-fascist organisations should take no position on Zionism. His, Gable's position was to use the magazine to constantly attack Arabs of various guise. Hence I and many others parted company with him, especially Black organisation.

There should therefore be, for those who are serious about anti-Semitism and not using it as a stick to beat Israel's critics, a simple neutral definition which isn't politiclly loaded. Nothing more.

Yes the definition can be used to attack anti-Zionists, as indeed was done in Brighton 2006 by a Police Commander who decided that a demonstration against the invasion of Lebanon was potentially anti-Semitic. We had to wage a long battle against him before he was reprimanded by the IPCC.

Now UCU is a trade union and like my union has an international policy. All members have the right to take part in that policy formation and likewise can't complaint when their view is not accepted. But individuall they are not bound by such a policy, it isn't a condition of membership. Just as unions had position on Apartheid in South Africa. A few no doubt complained but that was the settled view of most of the members. Likewise with apartheid in Israel.

Yes I know that Israel is where Jewish people's friends and family often live. I have a brother in Jerusalem. But he knows the risks. It is not an argument I can accept even when I understand where it is coming from. You know that this is another version of the 'kith and kin' argument that the Tory Right used to defend white Southern Africans. Are you really saying that because your family and friends are party to what is happening in Israel that the union should therefore refrain from comment? The best service Jews in Israel can be given is to tell the truth to them. They are oppressors, they live in a state based upon racism, where there is a debate over the 'demographic problem' i.e. too many Arabs and the threat to a Jewish majority. You cannot but know where this kind of argument leads and where it derives from.

Yes it is your union but that in itself is just an assertion of proprietorship. It doesn't make you a second class citizen but we need Jews who will act as prophets, willing to tell the worshippers of racial domination, that they are imperilling their own children's children. Israel not only can't but won't last. No state which is not a state of its own citizens can last indefinitely unless it wipes out the indigenous population A significant section of the Orthodox Rabbinat, people like Dov Lior, Yitzhak Shapira, Ovadia Yosef etc. are prepared to do just that. They and in particular the military rabbinate are quite explicit - the Palestinians are Amalek and I'm sure you are aware of what this means. Dead and dying religious injunctions against non-Jews are being revived. The sections of the Talmud which had been excised as being a danger to Jews, the Dispensations, are now reintegrated into the Talmud, including the passages about not saving non-Jews on a sabbath etc.

Unions are campaigning bodies or they are nothing. Palestine is quite unique in that all other active settler states have 'resolved' their problem often in the US way of extermination of the Amerindians (which Hitler incidentally saw as a precedent). That is why it is quite correct to prioritise the question of Zionism and Palestine. Just as it was right to do the same with Hitler's Germany before the war (& I won't even bore you about how when the Jewish workers were launching boycotts of Nazi Germany the Zionist movement were concluding Ha'avara, the trade agreement) with them.

I don't incidentally accept that it is an existentialist question. The life of Israel's jews is not threatened by a secular and democratic state. On the contrary, if they pursue their madness then this question may arise. And if they do resolve their problems with their neighbours you would probably see civil war soon after as Israel is inherently an unstable polity kept together by the other.

It is your decision but you have resigned on the wrong issue.



On 7 Jul 2011, at 18:22, tony greenstein wrote:

I don't want to reenter this debate but Israel is subject to a deligimisation campaign precisely because apartheid and racism is unique to the very fabric of Israel.

E.g. when I wrote to the Home Office recently about the scandalous arrest and deportation of Raed Salah, the Northern Islamic Movement leader in Israel, they referred to him as an 'Israeli national'. This is a common form of ignorance though one would expect better of the Home Office. In fact there is no such thing as an Israeli nationality for the very good reason that Israel is not a state of its own citizens, for which nationality is usually coterminous, but a State of Jews (literally the Jew State as per Herzl's book). It claims me as a national but considers its own Arab citizens as effectively guests. [see Jewdas article for e.g. the Tamarin case where Chief Justice Agranat ruled that there is no Israeli nationality separate from the Jewish people – I have added this to the original e-mail TG].

Israel is different. It claims to be different 'the only democracy in the Middle East' yet is surprised when some of us take it at its word



  1. COTLER: the indictment of Israel as an apartheid state is false, defamatory and hateful

    LETTER TO THE EDITOR (Haaretz July 8)

    Your headline in the article "Canadian MP Cotler: Calling Israel an apartheid state can be legitimate free speech" - as well as the inappropriate juxtaposition of disparate comments - suggest that the indictment of Israel as an apartheid state can be legitimate free speech. As all of my writing, my talk at the President's Conference and my follow up interview with Ha'aretz make clear: the indictment of Israel as an apartheid state is false, defamatory and hateful, but the right to be wrong, defamatory and hateful - however offensive it may be, can nevertheless be an exercise in free speech. Simply put, the fact that the indictment is hateful - and may cross the line into being anti-Semitic when it calls for the dismantling of the State - does not mean that we should prohibit the hateful speech to begin with. It means, as I said in the interview, that we need to engage it, expose it, rebut it and thereby "delegitimize the delegitimizers" - not prevent their delegitimizing speech to begin with. The main theme in my writings - and in the interview - was regrettably not referenced in the article itself: that the real concern is not the phenomenon of the delegitimization of Israel. That has always been with us - what is new, and particularly offensive, is the laundering of the delegitimization of Israel under all that which is good, for example: the struggle against racism, international law, human rights, and the like. The result is not only prejudicial to the State of Israel - as in the indictment of Israel as an apartheid state or the singling out of Israel for differential and discriminatory treatment in the international arena- but prejudicial to the case and cause of the struggle against racism and human rights. To label Israel an apartheid state demeans the real struggle against apartheid - in which I was honoured to be at the forefront - as much as it falsely misrepresents Israel, however one may criticize Israeli policy and practice.
    Irwin Cotler
    Montreal, Quebec, Canada

  2. This doesn't contradict the thrust of the article, that Cotler accepts that it is not automatically anti-Semitic to label Israel as it is, an apartheid state.

    It isn't to suggest that Cotler has therefore become an anti-Zionist but he, like a few others, has woken up to the diminishing returns from calling everyone you disagree with an 'anti-Semite'.

    Cotler thinks it is 'demeaning' to compare the Israel and South African apartheid state. Why one sonders. How is is 'demeaning' to point out that half Israel's Arabs live in unrecognised villages, that land is confiscated from Arabs for the benefit of Jewish settlers, never the other way around, that Arab babies are denied accept to kindergartens because they are not Jewish, that jobs are reserved for Jews only (it used to be called the colour bar) etc. etc.

    If Cotler wasn't such a hypocrite he would accept that the Israeli state, in becoming the main arms supplier to Apartheid South Africa, by defying the boycott of South Africa (which included its 'trade union' Histadrut whose companies traded and even formed joint companies with South African ones, and of course the invitation in 1976 under a 'Labour' Zionsit government to John Vorster, South Africa's PM who was interned for his overt support for the Nazis during the war, demonstrated very clearly what kind of anti-Apartheid struggle Cotler was engaged in.

    The reality is that Cotler has linked up with NGO Monitor and Camera, who are dedicated opponents of free speech, on campus and in support of the Palestinians (to the extent of trying to deprive human rights groups of funding) is a nasty right-winger who used an undeserved reputation for concern with racism and human rights to legitimsie his support for another apartheid state.


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