Well it’s certainly not tactical to call Richard Kuper antisemitic because he devised a contorted argument for rejecting the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism – and Eve Garrard doesn’t. She does however demonstrate that there were several other ways than antisemitism you can balls up making your point. His piece is like a holiday from logic.
But I tend to think that the difference between antisemitism on the one hand and the persistent excusing or minimisation of antisemitism, on the other, is no more than a matter of degree. I can’t see the difference. And for that reason, I think Richard Kuper must be a bit antisemitic. Not the worst thing in the world you can be, no. But pretty bad when you’re trying to kick some guidelines about antisemitism into the long grass, and replace them with nothing.
Can anybody tell me why I shouldn’t think of Richard Kuper as a bit antisemitic? And the Green Party Regional Council?
(Don’t get in a lather – antisemitism is a kind of racism, racism is very ordinary, we’re all susceptible, you just have to acknowledge it in yourself, work on it, take measures, move on. Stop acting as if somebody has accused you of eating a live puppy.)
One possible reason more alert readers may have noticed is that I’ve departed from the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism. There’s no example there that relates to minimising or denying antisemitism.
And have you noticed that the EUMC Working Definition allows us to identify EDL’s former Jewish Arm (tiny – 12 people) leader Roberta Moore as antisemitic when she calls the Community Security Trust ‘kapos’ for not defending Israel with sufficient militancy for her liking, too?
Throwing it away and replacing it with nothing. An error. I’d call it an antisemitic error.
Is there any reason to distinguish between antisemitism on the one hand and the persistent excusing or minimisation of antisemitism, on the other?
Over on Engage, Matt points out in a comment:
“There are also some more specific problems with Kuper’s piece.
“surely be possible to question whether “the Jewish people” are a people in the secular-nationalist as opposed to the religious sense of the word (as the Israeli author Shlomo Sand has done most forcefully in his recent book The Invention of the Jewish People).”
Passages like this are always particularly galling, because it was Rashid Khalidi who wrote one of the most important works on national identification in order to defend Palestinians against charges that they weren’t a legitimate national group. All national claims are, to some extent, fabricated. When some people make such claims without contest, it is because of the totality with which they have subjugated others. Jewish national claims are as strong as any, but we are constantly made to defend ourselves against what shouldn’t be an issue. This is a regressive, and even reactionary, argument from Kuper. Actually, it strikes me as a variation on the rootless cosmopolitan line that claims that Jewish culture and Jewish difference aren’t legitimate and that the Jewish desire to refuse assimilation is wrong. Jews must be allowed difference, and we must be allowed to be different on the terms WE define, but Kuper argues for minimizing difference in order to define our politics for us.”
Which affirms my feeling that antisemitism should not be thought of only as slathering Jew hatred and active malevolence towards Jews, but that it should also include the distinctive forms taken by a preparedness to put Jews at a deficit unless they toe your ideological line, to withhold sympathy from the errant Jews while upholding the entitlements of other groups (here, Palestinians), and to hold Jews responsible for Israel while moving to prevent anybody from identifying hostility against Jews with hostility against Israel. I don’t think that this doubles standard is always antisemitic – sometimes it’s no more than policing members of your group. You judge by effects – here the outcome is to throw out some careful and context-dependent guidance on antisemitism, Kuper allowing his anti-Israel politics to trump concern for Jews battered over the head with those same politics emanating from many different sources on a daily basis.
Definitions of antisemitism have got to be broader and more differentiated than the simple final solution kind. They do need to allow for anti-Israel antisemitism.