More on Motion 30, and an inquisition

Pro-boycotters insist – with indignation, or impatience, or both – that there’s nothing antisemitic about UCU Motion 30, which gave us the clause:

“Congress believes that in these circumstances [of an inhumane occupation] passivity or neutrality is unacceptable and criticism of Israel cannot be construed as antisemitic”

The evils of the occupation I acknowledge – that said though, of course criticism of Israel about the occupation can be construed as antisemitic – for example:

“Of course Israel is occupying the Palestinians. The Jews are an expansionist race – it’s just what they do. There’s no point reasoning with them – they’ll only respond if we make their lives as difficult as possible.”

Or:

“Jews occupy Arab lands because they think Arabs are inferior.”

Or:

“The occupation is all the evidence we need that the Jews should have their state dissolved.”

Or:

“Ending the occupation is the key to averting World War III. As a Jew, I feel personally responsible for making sure that Jews aren’t at the centre of the world’s problems once again.”

I’m being cooperative here in limiting my examples to the occupation – the clause is so badly phrased that it allows the interpretation that no criticism of Israel can be construed as antisemitic. So considering that criticism of Israel can be construed as antisemitic, are there formulations of the above clause which could have avoided the charge of antisemitism – maybe “is not necessarily” instead of “cannot be construed as”, for example?

It quickly becomes clear that the answer is no – what pro-boycotters want is total immunity from the charge of antisemitism which of course equates to a license to be antisemitic. The message of the Motion 30 clause is:

“People keep saying that the boycott is antisemitic. We’re denying any such charges on the grounds that they’re either just wrong or made in bad faith. But they keep coming – they’re a distraction and bad for our image. We need immunity from them or we’ll never get this boycott started.”

There’s no way to formulate that message in a way which allows discrimination between the spurious charges of antisemitism and the legitimate ones. Hence Motion 30 amounts to a license, when criticising Israel about the occupation (a cooperative interpretation of the motion), to make antisemitic statements without challenge. That this license has been overruled by anti-boycotters making necessary points about the nastier arguments for a boycott is neither here nor there.

On a different note, a friend told me tonight about an experience at her Arabic evening class. A group of students used to go out for a drink after class and one night it came up that she was Jewish. The conversation quickly turned to Israel and its irredeemable qualities, culminating in a collective demand from all of the group that she denounce Israel. When she refused, the atmosphere became too bad to continue the conversation. She says that none of the Palestinians she knows have ever talked about Israel in that way or made demands like that, but the thing about this group was that it was white, English and left-wing.

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5 thoughts on “More on Motion 30, and an inquisition

  1. So you come up with customized examples to make a point you want to make? Bizarre! The irony is that you try to sound objective then paint the Arabs (Palestinians?) in a bad light.

    How about this: “Israelis are no better than Nazis. The Israeli government discriminates against Palestinians in so many ways including not allowing Palestinians to buy land but granting any Jew immigrating to Israel to do so.”

  2. attendingtheworld, lucky I don’t put any stock in Godwin’s Law. That statement compares Israelis with the gold standard of evil, the Nazis. It may be possible to make some very specific comparisons between Israelis and Nazis, but that statement really shoots itself in the foot with such an easy, unsubstantiated, and hackneyed, generalisation. Hackneyed because it is used frequently and often intended to cancel out the atrocities experienced by the families of many Israelis during the holocaust.

    I don’t paint Arabs or Palestinians in a bad light. The example referring to Arabs illustrates that it would be racist to hold the opinion that all Jews are ethnosupremacist when this is the view only of an extremist fringe which moderates reject and condemn. To hold the view that Arabs or Palestinians are inferior is racist – of course it is – but it is not intrinsic to Jews, Israeli or otherwise.

    Regarding the land laws, there’s a petition against them here: http://www.petitionspot.com/signature/jnfbill – I was alerted to this by http://www.engageonline.org.uk.

  3. ATW: Israelis are no better than Nazis. So are Brits, Palestinians, Americans and anyone else on the planet. The most horrific idea to accept is that the Nazis were people like you and me. And as the Milgrom experiment shows, we can all become Nazis. So until your morals have been put to a stress test, you are also a potential Nazi. Just keep that in mind when you judge others.

    As for the post itself, yes – isn’t it cool to be able to enjoy the thrills of racism and feel uber-moral at the same time? Your friend’s experience is so typical. I’ve heard a lot of justified anger from my Palestinian and Lebanese friends. I’ve heard hard to stomach criticism, but I’ve never heard the arrogant, intolerant, self-indulgent righteousness I get from British left. I call it intellectual colonialism.

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