Complete this sentence: “Because he’s a Jew, he …”

Anybody with half a grip on how many ways there are to fall foul of stereotypes and preconceptions would be cautious about attributing an attitude, opinion or moral act to a person’s ethnic background. But some people seem to be pretty confident about their stereotypes and preconceptions.

How about “Because he is a Jew, he won’t call another Jew antisemitic for criticising Israel”?

Because he’s from a Jewish background, David Miliband is reckoned by the BBC’s Paul Reynolds (who subsequently apologised via – see the comments on the Engage piece – and, it seems, revised the article) to be free to criticise Israel without anybody attributing this to antisemitism:

“David Miliband’s Jewish background will be noted particularly in the Middle East. Israel will welcome this – but equally it allows him the freedom to criticise Israel, as he has done, without being accused of anti-Semitism.”

Which implies that Jews believe themselves incapable of antisemitic and also that Jews can be confident of an absence of antisemitism in their Jewish critics and so will ‘welcome’ their criticism in situations in which they’d ‘accuse’ a non-Jewish critic of antisemitism. This falsely hints both at a universally-shared Jewish outlook on antisemitism, and the workings of a sinister Jewish cabal. More on Jewish critics of Israel below.

How about “Because he’s a Jew, he won’t get called antisemitic for criticising Israel”? Or “Because he’s a Jew, he can’t be antisemitic”?

As well as being relevant to Miliband’s case above, Ghada Karmi also illustrates these in Bitterlemons. She wants us to think that Jews can’t be antisemitic:

“…the imputation of anti-Semitism is a red herring … In the case of the British boycott committee it is particularly inapt, since most of the members are Jewish.”

Meaning that being Jewish, or getting a Jew to make your point, is a good protection against charges of anti-semitism since Jews are simply incapable of committing an antisemitic act.

Simon Kelner, editor of The Independent, is reported to have said that as a Jew he “would be sensitive to anything antisemitic”. But again, being a Jew doesn’t confer these insights – it doesn’t mean you arrive in the world complete with an awareness of antisemitism and and the faculties to identify it. These things require an education.

How about “Because he’s a Jew, he won’t criticise Israel”?

Robin McKie in the Observer (Review, 5 Aug 2007, p27) writes of biologist Max Perutz “… though he was Jewish he was an implacable opponent of Israel’s treatment of its Arabs”. As if it were highly surprising, then or now, for Jews to criticise the Israeli government when it discriminates against its Arab minority. In fact there have been too many critics to mention, including Benny Morris, Baruch Kimmerling, Tanya Reinhart, Gideon Levy, Amira Hass, David Hirsh, Tony Greenstein, Stephen Rose, Hilary Rose, Gilad Atzmon, Ilan Pappe, Ammiel Alcalay, Shlomo Ben Ami, Eliyahu Eliachar, Shalom Chetrit, Ella Habiba Shohat. Members of groups and movements such as Israel’s New Historians and New Sociologists, OneVoice, The Abraham Fund, Naturei Karta, Marxists, B’Tselem, Gush Shalom, Haaretz reporters, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Independent Jewish Voices (who in distancing themselves from the “all Jews defend Israel” stereotype managed to avoid addressing it – I use past tense because the dust emanating from their CiF page and Web site nearly choked me when I looked in). There are many more individual politicians, artists, academics and activists. I may reject the criticism levelled at Israel by some of the individuals and groups above, but there it is – the critics are, among other things, Jews.

How about “Because he’s a Jew, he’s got a lot of money“, from Big Brother contestant Shanessa who said “I have always wanted to be Jewish, Jewish women have really nice clothes, Chanel suits and expensive things”. Just plain wrong, a stereotype from Shanessa’s perception from the more prosperous parts of North London perhaps or, subliminally, times when British Jews were prevented from owning land and pushed into usury and related occupations.

Wondering whether it were possible to stereotype yourself, I searched the Web for “As a Jew, I”. Some of the statements which turned up are below.

“As a Jew, I cannot sit idle while genocidal atrocities continue to unfold in Darfur” is attributed to US politician Jan Schakowsky and is one of several different Schakowsky”As a Jew” quotes you can find if you search. I know what she means. Israel exists because of genocidal acts and tendencies against Jews, and it’s a kick in the guts to read about Darfur. For the same reasons it’s also a kick in the guts to read about Israel deporting 50 illegal immigrants, most of whom were Darfurian refugees, back into Egypt from where they may be returned to Sudan and and uncertain chances of survival at best. There’s a sense that a Jew’s failure to exert themself in opposition to genocide is more negligent, more of a betrayal, more indecent. So we have this appeal – Schakowsky is not the only one to make it – to a sense of empathy and urgency based on the experience of Jews through history, which amounts to action on ethnic, rather than simply human, grounds. Its power is in the ease with which in these Darfurians you can see your desperate parents or grandparents fleeing Europe, and the inevitable question accompanied by a shameful and chilling sense of betrayal – who are you in this scenario? But I think it’s a fallacy. The holocaust didn’t just happen to Jews – it didn’t even just happen to Jews, Gypsies, gays, disabled people, Poles and dissenters. To a greater or lesser extent holocaust dehumanised or depraved all its contemporaries, and the work of researchers like Milgram which demonstrates that none of us are immune from depravity means that the legacy of its contemporaries is also our legacy. Simply by virtue of being aware of genocide, all human beings are equally guilty if they fail to act against it. Jews who sit by as idley on this or any other a given issue as any Gypsy, gay, disabled person, Pole or dissenter – anybody – are equally blameworthy for their apathy and negligence, not more so. I’d feel very uncomfortable defending people’s right to do nothing in the circumstances of genocide, but my expectations about who should exert themselves most are not based on ethnicity. I understand why Schakowsky made this statement, but ‘Jew’ should be jettisoned and substituted with ‘human being’.

Attributed to Viennese swimmer Judith Deutsch in 1935 we have “As a Jew I cannot participate in the Berlin Olympic Games. My conscience does not allow me”. This is a show of solidarity on the basis of discrimination against her ethnicity. It is also an act of empathy and resistance, but perhaps unlike Schakowsky, it is not a tacit appeal for solidarity or a display of higher moral values. The statement is reproduced from a letter to the Austrian Olympic Committee and constituted, as she wrote, “a personal decision” which she was attempting to explain and so preempt disciplinary proceedings. She was not seeking to persuade anyone of anything on the basis of her ethnicity but, having a lot to lose, appealing to empathy in the members of the Olympic Committee in the face their damaged public relations with Germany. In the event, she failed to convince the authorities and was banned from competing nationally – her family emigrated to Mandate Palestine the following year.

“As a Jew, I’m aware of the benefits open border immigration brings to the US” says a commenter on a story about Buchanan. This is to say “I know how I got here, I’ve visited Ellis Island and I’m not a hypocrite”. Fine – don’t be a hypocrite, and don’t tell us that you’re not a hypocrite. Considering the number of immigrants of different stripes in the US, the “as a Jew” part is superfluous.

“As a Jew, I’d dig calling Bob Marley my cousin”. Weird. I include it for interest.

“As a Jew, i’ve always felt uncomfortable with the notion of the rosary beads being in my stagewear wardrobe… until now!”, from a comment on a Jewish Forward article. Equally weird. On what grounds would Jews be uncomfortable with Catholic artefacts in their stagewear wardrobe? Because religious equipment should remain reverently stored until required? Or because it might weaken the religious identity of non-Catholics?

Based on these and other examples, it is possible to stereotype yourself, then, even when you’re talking about your own personal Jewish experience, if you extrapolate it to persuade others to take a certain course of action. There’s not much else to say really – Jews are a very diverse bunch. Hard to pin down. Some are religious, some are secular, some identify ethnically or culturally as Jews, some acknowledge a Jewish background, some decide to let their Jewish background fade, some don’t really think about it but happen to have a Jewishness thrust upon them in the form of the surname ‘Cohen’. Some feel personally and particularly responsible for Palestinians because they want to demonstrate against an Israeli politician who says he acts on their behalf, some because they feel a connection with Israel, some on humanitarian grounds. Some feel obliged to maintain a vigil for antisemitism. Jews are right-wing, left-wing, centrist or politically apathetic. Some are prominent establishment figures. Some are dissenters. Only a few of the above are mutually exclusive.

Unsurprisingly, in these respects and others, Jews are pretty much like everyone else. There is at least one historical particularity though – Jews are collectively (though certainly not exclusively) exposed to the evil of stereotypes and preconceptions. Like all instances of stereotyping, whether against Jew, Muslim, Irish, gay, woman or man, we have to recognise these and take them to pieces.

Part of this involves not being complacent about our abilities to recognise them and take them to pieces.

Advertisements

28 thoughts on “Complete this sentence: “Because he’s a Jew, he …”

  1. “Because he’s from a Jewish background, David Miliband is reckoned by the BBC’s Paul Reynolds (who subsequently apologised via Engage and, it seems, revised the article) to be free to criticise Israel without anybody attributing this to antisemitism:”

    I don’t find Reynolds’s apology on Engage or elsewhere — can you point me to it?

  2. Paul, in the comments to the Engage piece on his article, there’s a reproduced bit of correspondence (search the comments page for “I am sorry I offended you”) containing an apology from Mr Reynolds. That doesn’t strictly speaking constitute ‘apologised via Engage’ – you’re right.

    The original piece at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6248508.stm was also changed to eliminate the stereotype.

  3. Firstly I’m not sure why I’m placed alongside David Hirsch whose condemnation of anti-Arab racism is conspicuous by its absence and even more so that I am but 3 places away from Gilad Atzmon. Atzmon is without doubt an anti-Semite, but he doesn’t consider himself a Jew. Apparently he is now a Christian. But although individually Jews can be anti-Semitic and the Zionist movement is littered with those whose comments were anti-Semitic (e.g. Herzl ‘the anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies. We want to emigrate as respected people.’ (Diaries pp. 83/4) among one of many such quotes, on a political level Jews cannot be anti-Semitic, in other words their racism is reflective.

    But more to the point, Jews – in whose name Israel acts and speaks – are becoming aware, or some of them are, that what Israel is doing and becoming is no better than what happened in European countries pre-1945. I enclose a fascinating article translated from the Hebrew in Yediot Aharanot of 30th August.

    Thursday, August 30, 2007
    [Translated from the Hebrew press]

    FINDING RACISM

    THE COUNTENANCE OF THE COUNTRY

    Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 2) by Yuval Kaner et al. —

    Six Israelis of similar age and education went to look for work, rent an apartment and sign their child up for a private kindergartens. The six were: an Arab, a Haredi, an Ethiopian, a Russian, a Mizrahi and an Ashkenazi. In the Israel of 2007, will there be any significance to their origin or skin color? The answer, regrettably, is: yes. Yes, there is racism here. Sometimes disguised in a sentence such as, “[the position] is no longer open,” and sometimes obvious, direct, in a sentence such as, “we don’t want an Arab child in the kindergarten.” It is not good to be a member of a minority in the State of Israel.

    In a special project by Yedioth Ahronoth in cooperation with local newspapers, we sent six Israelis, all similarly educated and in the same age range, to make calls to dozens of places all over the country and find out where they are happily received and what city demonstrates racism shamelessly. This is not a professional survey, but a random sample only. The responses, you will discover, do not reveal any shame.

    Six educated men with similar personal data were chosen to represent the various sectors. They went to more than 400 restaurants, cafes, apartments for rent and kindergartens in 22 cities, from Kiryat Shmona in the north to Eilat in the south, and offered themselves up as waiters, tenants and parents who wished to register their children for kindergarten. During every conversation their origin was made clear – sometimes by noting their full name, sometimes it was their accent that gave them away, or alternatively they explicitly mentioned that they belonged to a certain sector. Between eight and 27 calls were made in every community. Phone calls were taped and full details of every person contacted are in the hands of the editors.

    The Ashkenazi person who called, Itai Unger, was the one who received the most positive responses, and did not encounter open racism against him. In second place according to the number of positive responses he received, following closely behind the Ashkenazi, was the caller of Moroccan origin, Yehuda Peretz. After him, in third place, was the Haredi, Yisrael Bernstein, closely followed by the immigrant from the former CIS, Boris Balenki.

    But in fifth and sixth places, lagging far behind, were dozens of embarrassing refusals. More than half of the conversations carried out by the caller who immigrated from Ethiopia, Sanbeto Tamno, garnered refusals (and dozens of insulting comments). Not far behind, with close to 70% refusals (and endless slamming down of the phone), was the Arab caller, Said Hasnin.

    During the investigation, with results piling up and turning into a tower of obvious racism, entering the room allotted to Said at the newspaper became more difficult, pressured and embarrassing. One after another we gave him telephone numbers of apartments that were, for certain, available for rent, of relevant jobs and kindergartens that were not yet full. And he, obediently, again and again dialed – and was humiliated. Another rejection, another disconnected call, another evasion. “Sorry, [the position] is no longer open,” was the key sentence that cut through the air – and Said’s heart – over and over again like a knife.

    Here are some of the results:

    Ramat Gan: Experienced Arab? No. Inexperienced Ashkenazi? Yes

    Ramat Gan did not welcome Said (the Arab). When he asked for the waiter’s job he was rejected at two restaurants, one in the Ramat Gan stadium area and the other in the stock market area, although he spoke about his experience. Itai (the Ashkenazi), who wanted the same jobs, was invited for an interview even though he admitted that he had no experience.

    We decided to examine another restaurant, on Jabotinsky street, which was looking for waiters. Yehuda (the Moroccan ) dialed and was asked to come for an interview. Sanbeto (the Ethiopian) dialed, and was invited to stay home. Said called (and suffered another refusal). “I have a tremendous amount of experience,” he tried to insist, but the owner was even more insistent. “We are full at the moment,” he said. Five minutes later he invited Itai for an interview. [©]

    Bat Yam: Ethiopian? Only with a coffee diploma

    At the coffee shop on the promenade in Bat Yam, where Sanbeto tried to get a job as a waiter, they asked him for a “certificate to operate an espresso machine,” explaining: “We work with a very, very complicated machine here.” All his claims that he was a skilled barman did not help. Itai, in contrast, was immediately invited to come for an interview. “But I have no experience,” he warned. “Don’t worry,” said the person in charge. “If we don’t take you as a barman, we will take you as a waiter.”

    Tel Aviv: Arabs do not sound good over the phone

    At the kindergarten in north Tel Aviv in Shikun Dan, Sanbeto, Itai and Yisrael received positive responses. Said was told: we are full, we have no room. During a conversation with Said, the teacher suddenly couldn’t hear: “I cannot hear you,” she said, “call another time.”

    Eilat: Ashkenazim can choose

    Eilat apparently does not like Arabs and Ethiopians. Attempts by Said and Sanbeto to get work as waiters were adamantly denied. A bit later on Itai called for the same job. “We are looking for barmen and waiters,” said the voice at the other end of the line. “What do you prefer?” Ashkelon

    “I don’t deal with Moroccans”

    All our representatives tried to get accepted to the kindergarten in Ashkelon. To Sanbeto they said: “We are full.” Yehuda Peretz received a similar response. After him called Boris, and wonder of wonders, there’s room, and how. “I prefer Russians and not Sabras,” said the teacher. Yisrael, the Haredi, received a positive response, while Said received a negative response with a smidgen of hope: “I need to organize a meeting with the parents to examine whether they would agree to have an Arab child in the class.” [©]

    Petah Tikva: “The parents will not be comfortable with an Arab child”

    Said’s attempt to register his son Ahmed to a kindergarten in the Ein Ganim neighborhood in Petah Tikva was not very welcome. “What can I tell you,” stuttered the teacher, “I have a lot of Russians in the class. I don’t know if they will have any opposition. I have no problem, but let me talk to the parents. I will have a parents meeting and tell them, so that there are no problems.”

    “What could happen,” insisted Said “the kid does not have a tail.”

    “I don’t know,” said the teacher, “I want him to be well received. The children won’t have a problem, but the parents©.”

    Holon: The city with the most equality

    Following repeated quests, insistent and repeated, Holon turned out to be lacking racism. All the sectors, without exception, were invited to rent apartments on Sokolow street and have their children join the kindergarten in Kiryat Ben-Gurion regardless of religion and race. Even when Said insisted and asked the renter: “It won’t bother you that I am an Arab?” He responded: “I don’t care. It’s not a problem.”

    Hadera: Ashkenazis are cultured

    The city of Hadera did not welcome Sanbeto. When he asked to rent an apartment in the Rambam neighborhood, he received responses in the negative. Itai, when he called later at the same number, got a better response. “I am looking for cultured people,” said the owner at the restaurant in the south of Hadera where Sanbeto looked for work as a waiter. No one wanted him. Three candidates for the job after him, Said, Yehuda and Yisrael, were actually invited to an interview.

    Jerusalem: “I don’t want to hang up, but©”

    The kindergarten teacher from Pisgat Zeev in Jerusalem was happy about the call from Boris and spoke with him in fluent Russian. Sanbeto spoke in Hebrew, but also to a positive response. Said, in contrast, received this response: “I don’t want to hang up on you. I recommend that you give up on this one and look for another.” At 4:50 pm Yehuda asked for work at the cafeteria at Malha Mall. He got a positive response. At 5 pm Said called the same place and was informed: “We have already found workers.” At 5:15 pm Itai called. The response: come for an interview tomorrow.

    Haifa and the Krayot: Surprising Success for Arabs in Krayot

    For the job of waiter at the coffee house in the Yefe Nof neighborhood of Haifa, three went: Boris, Yisrael and Itai. Boris got a negative response, Israel also, while Itai was invited to interview. Said, who was disappointed in the other cities, encountered positive responses, both in renting and kindergarten hunting. [©]

    That is why I and many others who are Jewish support a Boycott of Israel.

    Tony Greenstein

  4. Thanks Fleshisgrass. In my book that e-mail from Reynolds not an apology but a justification, and I can only second Engage’s own comment (the update to the original post) on what Reynolds said in his own defence.

  5. Tony, I’m interested in this. Just started Beyond Jews and Arabs by Ammiel Alcalay which is one of the saddest things I’ve read all year. Racial discrimination is always shameful. It’s also very very prevalent

    But again again again your double standard. I can think of so many countries where this racism happens or happened until recently. For example, right here, in the ’60s – https://fleshisgrass.wordpress.com/2006/12/07/tracked-down-a-poem/. But who else are you boycotting on these grounds?

    Without any complacency at all, Israel is moving in the right direction.
    The new Abraham Fund UK supports TAFI(srael) in co-existence between Jewish and Arab Israeli citizens – they are making a difference and they are optimistic. Maybe you’re involved with them? http://www.abrahamfund.org/

    When a Jewish leader says he does something you disagree with in your name, you can disown it publicly these days (and you do.) But boycott?? Come on! And as a Jewish moral gesture?

    In this country at this time, Islamophobia is a more urgent threat than antisemitism. Many Muslims must feel pretty precarious right now. There’s a lot of racism in Israel, yes. But why is it that whenever people who oppose a certain type of presentation of Israel on grounds of antisemitism speak up about it there is so often a) silence b) denial and scorn or c) a diversion of the type you provide, to the effect that (I paraphrase, obviously) “Israelis are racist, therefore they deserve no protection from racism and no respect”? Why?

  6. I find it interesting that Tony Greenstein has commented. One should take his ideologically motivated comments with a pinch of salt. When one wonders whether of not there can be such a thing as a Jewish antisemite, one only needs to look at the writings of Tony Greenstein. To give an example Tony Greenstein wrote circa 1982 a pamphlet entitled “Zionism: antisemitism’s twin in Jewish garb.” That pamphlet was praised by the far right wing and antisemitic National Front who commented on his “painstaking researches” and referred to it as “a seminal work, as important in its own way as was [Holocaust Denier Richard] Harwood’s ‘Did Six Million Really Die.'” The effusive praise from the National Front continued:”fascinating and vital reading for the student of modern history,” “his booklet is good. Read it and see!” [1]

    In the early 1980s Tony Greenstein was involved with an organisation known as BAZO and he distributed their material at National Union of Students (NUS) conferences.[2] This is an organisation where Dr. George Mitchell, the President of it, attended a Jewish Society meeting at Strathclyde University, took photographs of those present and threatened to send the pictures to
    Beirut [3]

    NUS publicly condemned a BAZO leaflet entitled Against Zionism as antisemitic, and why its conference noted that BAZO literature was not dissimilar to that of the fascist National Front and therefore called upon NUS to ban BAZO activities “from its base in Strathclyde Union and any other campus in the United Kingdom”?

    By the late 1980’s Tony Greenstein was on the founding editorial committee of, and went on to become the editor for, a magazine entitled RETURN that was banned in 1990 by the National Union of Students by its then President Maeve Sherlock, in a decision actively supported by Steven Twigg, the next President of NUS (who went on to become a Labour Party Member of Parliament) and other leading NUS members, including its Womens’ Officer. Maeve Sherlock specifically ruled that RETURN was “anti-Semitic.”[4]

    [1] Philip Drax,”Book Review,” Sussex Front January 1983 p. 9
    [2]Jenni Frazer, “On Campus,” Jewish Chronicle, January 2, 1981.
    [3] “BAZO Leader to Appeal,” Jewish Chronicle, August 24, 1979.
    [4]Unsigned Editorial, “NUS Attack on Freedom of Speech,” RETURN, No. 2, March 1990, pp. 4-5; Unsigned Editorial, “More Hypocrisy,” RETURN, No. 4, September 1990.

  7. (Note in above post: Reference for comment about BAZO being banned by NUS was Jenni Frazer, “UJS Learns to Push and Pull,” Jewish Chronicle, January 2, 1981)

    By the Spring 1981 NUS Conference BAZO were advertising that they were selling Lilienthal’s book – a book by an author who questioned the authenticity of The Diary of Anne Frank, who had signed a petition supporting a known Holocaust denier, and who was promoted by the National Front. The then President of NUS called the book “antisemitic,” warning delegates: “I don’t want to see this book at conference.” The NUS executive put out a statement at that conference, saying that “the actions of BAZO help antisemites in their activities,” and went on to add: “We are not willing to allow BAZO to have stalls at our conferences, or publicise their material through our publications”[5]

    Jewish students may join their Jewish Society for all manner of reasons – religious, cultural or social – but why did RETURN magazine hold the Union of Jewish Students in complete contempt, calling them, in an editorial, “a wing of Israel’s propaganda network”? And why did Tony Greenstein argue that UJS “act as paid and unpaid informers for Mossad”? [6]

    Tony Greenstein opposed Holocaust Memorial Day and went so far as to call it “obscene”? [7]

    More recently Asghar Bhukari, a spokesman for the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPACuk) was exposed for financing the Holocaust denier David Irving. [8] Despite this Greenstein went to Bhukari’s web site and sent him a very friendly message praising him for writing “a very excellent” article and for being “honest.” [9]

    I note that Tony Greenstein writes above that Gilad Atzmon “is without doubt an anti-Semite.” This is all very well but he does not mention that in June 2006 he sent Atzmon a friendly email saying “I shall be more than happy to hear you play the sax! ” and went on to continue that some of Atzmon’s “remarks re the holocaust were spot on ” [10]despite the fact that Tony Greenstein cannot get the fact right about the Holocaust himself. [11]

    [5]“Students Ban BAZO,” Jewish Chronicle, April 10, 1981.
    [6]Editorial, “Lies, Damn Lies and the UJS,” RETURN, No. 3, June 1990; Tony Greenstein, “The Fossilisation of Identity,” RETURN, No. 4, September, 1990.
    [7]Letter, The Observer, February 6, 2000.
    [8]Jamie Doward, “Muslim leader sent funds to Irving,” The Observer November 19, 2006
    [9]http://www.mpacuk.org/content/view/3047/1/
    [10]http://www.gilad.co.uk/html%20files/tony%27semail.htm
    [11]http://hurryupharry.bloghouse.net/archives/2007/01/24/tony_greenstein_more_errors_than_paragraphs.php

  8. And now seriously. For me, being a Jew has nothing to do with metaphysical beings, real estate or chanting. Well, maybe a bit of chanting (my birthday is Yum Kippur, so I’m a bit sentimental about that). It has nothing to do with GIlad Atzmon either. Can we have a Gilad Atzmon filter on this blog please?

    For me, being a Jew means a commitment to a set of humanistic values. It means caring about the Ger and the Almana. It means that women have rights, workers have rights, animals have rights.

    The big innovation of Judaism was a coherent, comprehensive and consistent moral system. That’s why the old man needed a single god. If there’s two, they can quibble. One can support slavery while the other opposes it. In fact, pre-monoteistic religions didn’t deal with morality at all. Take the greek gods: they do whatever they please. Some systems – like the Egyptian and Asurian – were about preserving social order. The purpose of the gods was to ordinate the king. Jewdaism gave us a legal system which was above the king. Above any administration, or none.

    So, because I’m a Jew I must do the right thing.

    Now, as for the racism of “because he’s a Jew”, well, is it in any way different from “Because he’s black”, “Because she’s Muslim”, “Because he’s from Manchester”?

  9. Because he’s Jewish doesn’t mean that he knows anything about Jewish history, culture or even the Jewish religion. It doesn’t mean that he isn’t embarassed and ashamed of being a Jew. It doesn’t mean that he is being extra-critical of Israel in order not be considered pro-Israel because he’s Jewish. I could go on, but I think you can get the point.

  10. Tony G is well able to defend himself, but as regards praise for his work from racist websites, I’ll just quote what another controversial figure, Lenni Brenner, said when this was brought up against him – cockroaches like gourmet food every bit as much as you do.

    But on the whole I prefer to ignore ad hominem discussions and as far as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is concerned I would like to refuse to get drawn into any discussion that does not concentrate on the injustices of illegal settlement building, those parts of the separation barrier that encroach upon internationally recognised Palestinian land, the harassment of Palestinians at checkpoints that is not justifiable in terms of Israeli security (and there’s a lot of it, as I’ve seen for myself), the strangling of the Gazan economy; and indeed, to refuse participation in discussion that does not recognise that if you add up all of what the Israeli government does, rather than what some of its spokespersons and apologists say, the only conclusion one can come to is that the unspoken aim is simply one of ethnic cleansing.

    Outraged statements about ‘academic freedom’, ‘singling out’, misplaced attributions of ‘antisemitism’ and so on, are so many obfuscatory red herrings. There were a few articles not so long ago in some of the Israel press reporting on a growing reactionary feeling in Israel that there was no-one to whom to “give back” the West Bank, with the implication that there was no need (and in any case “there was no occupation”, only “disputed territories”. You hear that argument too in some quarters in this country).

    I no longer wish to argue about whether a boycott is or is not antisemitic – I want to talk only about those points a few of which I’ve made above. When Israel starts negotiating in good faith, then we can talk about Palestinian rejectionists and the rest.

  11. Yishay asks: Now, as for the racism of “because he’s a Jew”, well, is it in any way different from “Because he’s black”, “Because she’s Muslim”, “Because he’s from Manchester”?

    Yes and no. Racism is not a uniform predictable thing – it takes different forms with different ethnicities and in different regions. The question is, can we identify different types of racism? When I finished this post on stereotyping Jews (which I ended with a caution to myself about recognising stereotypes and preconceptions) I started working on a “Because he’s a Muslim, he…” piece, with – it turns out – somewhat ambitious plans for a series on racial stereotyping.

    It’s very hard to gather evidence and to make sure I’m sufficiently knowledgeable and sufficiently sensitive to write on other types of racism. That I haven’t written on them yet doesn’t mean I don’t care or that they’re less urgent or less important. Anti-Muslim stereotyping (in particular around Muslims as a 5th column) is a serious issue here in the UK and elsewhere in Europe and America and it needs attention.

    So don’t necessarily hold your breath, but if what I come up with is any good I’ll post it.

  12. Susan, that’s cheating. But I get your point which, I believe, is about Jews who, in their attitude to Israel, are a dangerous combination of ignorant and hypercritical. When you’re both ignorant and hypercritical, the only route to follow is demonisation.

  13. My first political involvement was in 1970 when the South African Springboks toured Britain. The Boycott movement of that day was led by Peter Hain. Did I stop and say, I can’t do this because there are other racist countries too? That was certainly the argument of apologists for South African apartheid. The Black countries are worse, Black S Africans are better off here in apartheid South Africa etc.

    The point was that apartheid was unique. Not only was SA a western bastion, upholding the very regimes surrounding it that oppressed their own people, but alone in the world (bar Israel) they accorded rights and privileges according to some arbitrary and unchanging factor – skin colour (or religion/race in Israel). That is why what happens in Israel is unique. Most ‘islamic’ states use Islam to oppress other Muslims. In the ‘Jewish’ State the definition of who is Jewish is used in order to allocate privileges to one (Jewish) and deny them to the other. Look at the current controversy over the new JNF Bill where it is argued that it is fine to allow the Israeli Lands Administration not to lease or rent or allocate land to non-Jews, because that is in the JNF Constitution. Not only does this apply directly to the JNF land (13%) but also to the 80% owned by the State itself.

    Besides this all the Abraham funds in the world are irrelevant because they don’t tackle the source of the inequality and racism. It assumes that racism in Israel is a matter of prejudice, personal antagonism without realising that personal antagonism and prejudice (racism on an individual level) springs from the structures in Israel which give superior rights to one and not the other.

    Israel is therefore unique as an ethnocracy. It is a bastion of the West in the Middle East and a surrogate for US foreign policy, which is the source of most misery there and elsewhere. It is also I might add transforming the Jewish religion into state worship and fixing in people’ minds the idea that Jews are oppressors. There’s more than enough reasons there to oppose the Israeli state and yes to support a boycott because only a boycott will and is making an impression.

    I don’t reply to Mikey, who is my internet stalker and someone who, by his own admission, has an obsession with what I write. But for the benefit of others I will make a few comments on his absurd nonsense:

    i. I have no control over whether others cite my writings. My position is clear and unlike Mikey I’ve been an active anti-fascist for 30+ years. The last public meeting the godfather of British fascism, John Tyndall tried to hold in Brighton was prevented because I organised the counter-opposition. Mikey and his fellow anoraks have never engaged in any anti-fascist work.

    ii. The article that Phillip Drax (no such person exists!) wrote ‘praising’ my work also described me as a Trotskyist which he also stated was ‘political rabies’. More to the point the paper in which it appeared, Sussex Front, had previously printed about 10-12 articles attacking me, including printing my name and address. Why? Because I was the Secretary of the local ANL which drove the NF out of Brighton and Hove. Hence why on a number of occasions I was physically attacked by groups of fascist thugs, 2 of whom were convicted. The article Mikey cites was written after the NF became aware I was an anti-ZIonist and was written for the sole purpose of giving a helping hand to those they perceived as my Jewish nationalist opponents. It is no surprise that Mikey therefore uses this piece of nonsense. This isn’t supposition. The article he selectively quotes says exactly that !

    iii. Brian Robinson has already made the point but I’ll make it in a different way. Even the Devil can quote the Scriptures. But at least, unlike Herzl, I have never sought out a favourable review from an anti-Semitic writer. Herzl did exactly this with Eduard Drumont, who edited the main French anti-Semitic daily, La Libre Parole. That of course is different. My pamphlet on Zionism and anti-Semitism details this and many other examples of ACTIVE Zionist collaboration and praise for anti-Semitic canards and vicer versa.

    iv. Mikey refers to NUS and attempts to ban myself and others. I was a socialist activist in NUS, being a delegate to 13 NUS Conferences and a member of its Polytechnics Committee for 2 years. Of course the right-wing (Phillips, Aaronovitch, Woollas etc.) tried to ban me and others. Today these same people are New Labour supporters, Islamaphobes and racist supporters of New Labour’s policy on asylum seekers.

    v. Perhaps Mikey can tell people whether he’s been for any more drinks with his good friend Gilad Atzmon?

    Tony Greenstein

    >>Tony, I’m interested in this. Just started Beyond Jews and Arabs by Ammiel Alcalay which is one of the saddest things I’ve read all year. Racial discrimination is always shameful. It’s also very very prevalent

    But again again again your double standard. I can think of so many countries where this racism happens or happened until recently. For example, right here, in the ’60s – https://fleshisgrass.wordpress.com/2006/12/07/tracked-down-a-poem/. But who else are you boycotting on these grounds?

    Without any complacency at all, Israel is moving in the right direction.
    The new Abraham Fund UK supports TAFI(srael) in co-existence between Jewish and Arab Israeli citizens – they are making a difference and they are optimistic. Maybe you’re involved with them? http://www.abrahamfund.org/

    When a Jewish leader says he does something you disagree with in your name, you can disown it publicly these days (and you do.) But boycott?? Come on! And as a Jewish moral gesture?

    In this country at this time, Islamophobia is a more urgent threat than antisemitism. Many Muslims must feel pretty precarious right now. There’s a lot of racism in Israel, yes. But why is it that whenever people who oppose a certain type of presentation of Israel on grounds of antisemitism speak up about it there is so often a) silence b) denial and scorn or c) a diversion of the type you provide, to the effect that (I paraphrase, obviously) “Israelis are racist, therefore they deserve no protection from racism and no respect”? Why?

    Mikey said,
    September 4, 2007 @ 10:33 pm

  14. Dr Robinson, I have a mixed reaction. Your first point (to paraphrase) “just because racists like what we say, doesn’t mean we’re wrong.” Racists like the boycott because it’s against Jews – Israel is a Jewish project. And you propose that we ignore the threat of Jew-hate – in a classic bit of anti-semitism denial you call it a ‘red-herring’.

    Your middle chunk about how we should view the conflict – I was with you until the end. You won’t find any evidence that the Israeli government, although it could try a lot harder to integrate its different ethnicities, is trying to ethnicly cleanse its Arab Israeli citizens. I’m not an aplogist for the Israeli government, just don’t like unsubstantiated and libellous, let’s face it, assertions.

    The way we view the conflict is different from the way we should view the boycott – they’re not the same. The conflict is a violent struggle where each side feels their survival is at stake. Whereas boycott is a bit of post-colonial angst-ridden partisan moral masturbation. It’s been ages since I heard a decent reason to boycott Israel.

    You rule out the possibility of taking action to support Palestinians in their movement for a state *and at the same time* resisting antisemitism. If you think that by condemning people who are currently worried about antisemitism you will goad them into stopping being worried about antisemitism, that’s wrong and also callous. If your abundant (and admirable) empathy for Palestinians prevents you from also empathising with the majority of Israeli Jews, then you have a problem with bias. And empathy, by the way, shouldn’t mean unconditional support.

    Lastly, high-handed activists in my union are attempting to punish only Israel. In justifying the boycott they use all kinds of stereotypes. Surely you don’t seriously think we can debate the boycott (as we’ve been directed to do) and omit academic freedom, singling out and antisemitism?

  15. Tony, you talk about Herzl but a lot has changed since then.

    And South Africa was different – a case of stark racist injustice and a campaign for majority rule. Majority rule in Israel involves working to bring about equality of opportunities for, particularly, Mizrahi and Arab Israelis, and other ethnicities.

    If you want to claim the boycott is the only thing that is working, please cite some examples.

    29th November 1947 – UN Partition Plan resolved that Palestine would become two states – Jewish and Arab. Jews wanted political autonomy back then and everybody knows why. The world gave it to them. 5.3 million Jews in Israel – the majority – want it now. Doesn’t mean they’ll always want it, but considering the climate of hate and the threat from Muslim supremacists in the region, and a resurgence in antisemitism elsewhere I’d have thought you’d understand why they want it.

    But the people I tend to hear talking most loudly about taking it away are invariably people who live secure lives in mature democracies. I’m for a prosperous Palestinian state and a prosperous Jewish state with equal rights for Israeli Arabs and equal rights for Arab Jews. And maybe, just maybe, with time, and by mutual consent, the borders will soften to nothing.

  16. SWo much for him being an “anti-fascist.” One wonders why Tony Greenstein last year was involved in organizing a rally that caused such a commotion that one person ending up reporting the following incident to the local newspaper: “Somebody clocked I was wearing a Jewish symbol on my necklace. All of a sudden, a crowd of people had surrounded the car and were shouting anti-Jewish chants. Somebody stuck a banner through the car window and I had to struggle to fight them off. They were calling me a terrorist and Jewish scum and insulting my family. They were pushing and kicking the car and caused £400 damage to the bodywork. This abuse was racist and highly personal and deeply offended me.” Chief Superintendent Kevin Moore, a senior police officer, commented, “I can only assume the intention of the demonstration in an area where there is a large Jewish population was a deliberate attempt to provoke and incite.” [1]

    Tony Greenstein should also explain why he wrote a letter to a paper arguing that an assault on an eight year old autistic boy with a broken arm which was so serious that according to his father “his hearing was impaired for several days” and the police had to be involved was “reasonable chastisement.”[2]

    [1] http://archive.theargus.co.uk/2006/9/6/215271.html
    [2] http://www.theargus.co.uk/search/display.var.1088710.0.this_assault_was_hardly_reasonable_chastising.php

  17. Thank you Fleshisgrass. I have one question. Why should Jews in Israel be privileged over non Jews?

    I look forward to your answer.
    With good wishes
    Brian

  18. Dr Robinson, there are a number of discriminatory laws in Israel, and there are a growing number of anti-discrimination laws also. Please be specific about the privileges to which you refer.

  19. Sorry I don’t know your name, so ‘flesh is grass’ will have to do.

    Yes a lot’s changed since Herzl, but the attitude to anti-Semitism hasn’t. Take Argentina. Now one can argue over Zionist collaboration with Nazism and their deliberate sabotage of e.g. the boycott of Nazi Germany, but how do you explain the silence over Argentina, when according to Israeli newspapers such as Hadashot at the time, there was a deliberate policy in the embassy not to rescue the ‘wrong sort’ of Jews, i.e. leftists. Bear in mind that despite being less than 1% of the population, Jews were about 10% of those tortured and murdered. Contrast this with the Soviet Jewry campaign – all bells and whistles – yet noone was being tortured or disappeared.

    Yes in South Africa the majority was deprived of its political rights. But that isn’t too differnet today because there is rough parity between the number of Israeli Jews and palestinians, inc. those in the W Bank/Gaza. But right from the beginning there was a conscious understanding and plan dalet to exclude i.e. transfer Palestinians out of the country to create that majority. This was the subject of much discussion among those responsible for the nuts and bolts of colonisation like Joseph Weitz.

    I can’t share your optimism. We have just seen the JNF bill given a first reading, with a majority of 4-1 (just 10 Jewish MKs voting against). We have opinion polls saying that over 75% of Jews don’t wish to live next to an Arab, we have a large majority saying marriage to an Arab is treason, treason not merely distasteful and we have a consistent majority in opinion polls saying that they would like to see Arabs transferred out of Israel. Of course you will find racism in an opinion poll in any western country but not anything like those amounts. And they are growing not diminishing.

    The problem is a Jewish state. Once you define people with privileges, which is what being Jewish amounts to, or is there some special essence of being Jewish that defines a jewish state(?) then you are on the road to apartheid. Why is it that only Arab villages which are unrecognised? Some 50%. Jewish towns and villages are by definition recognised. Why the campaign for judaification of the Galilee and Negev. Doesn’t the term ‘Judaification’ remind you of something?

    As Meir kahane defined it, we can either have a Jewish or a democratic state but not both. And not only him. That is being echoed now on the website of the JNF and the comment of one of their leaders in Israel recently, viz. that Jews didn’t wait 2,000 years for a democratic state but a Jewish state.

    >>Tony, you talk about Herzl but a lot has changed since then.

    And South Africa was different – a case of stark racist injustice and a campaign for majority rule. Majority rule in Israel involves working to bring about equality of opportunities for, particularly, Mizrahi and Arab Israelis, and other ethnicities.

    If you want to claim the boycott is the only thing that is working, please cite some examples.

    29th November 1947 – UN Partition Plan resolved that Palestine would become two states – Jewish and Arab. Jews wanted political autonomy back then and everybody knows why. The world gave it to them. 5.3 million Jews in Israel – the majority – want it now. Doesn’t mean they’ll always want it, but considering the climate of hate and the threat from Muslim supremacists in the region, and a resurgence in antisemitism elsewhere I’d have thought you’d understand why they want it.

    But the people I tend to hear talking most loudly about taking it away are invariably people who live secure lives in mature democracies. I’m for a prosperous Palestinian state and a prosperous Jewish state with equal rights for Israeli Arabs and equal rights for Arab Jews. And maybe, just maybe, with time, and by mutual consent, the borders will soften to nothing.

    Tony Greenstein

    PS: I have no intention of replying to Mikey who spends his whole life digging up articles by or about me and asking silly questions. What a sad existence. I happen to be on the neo-Nazi Redwatch site, whereas I doubt they’ve even heard of sad Mikey. But since he is so fond of asking questions maybe he can tell people why he likes to go for cosy drinks with the infamous anti-Semite and supporter of the Protcols of the Elders of Zion, one Gilad Atzmon? Clearly another example of the phenomenon I described above whereby Zionists hate the Jewish diaspora so much they start echoing the most vile calumnies of the anti-Semites. (http://hurryupharry.bloghouse.net/archives/2007/03/19/gilad_atzmon_and_jewishness.php)

  20. Dear Dr. Robinson,

    Thank you. I also have one question. Why is it whenever someone tries to depart from a simplistic, radical position they are asked to excuse all and every injustice in the world?

    What is the logical link from Fleshisgrass’s thoughtful comments to your question?

    I look forward to your answer.
    wish best wishes,

    – Yishay

  21. It is no wonder that Tony Greenstein does not answer my questions as he does not really have any good answer. The reason I met Gilad Atzmon is the same reason I meet with other extremists – I am conducting research into extremists. Gilad Atzmon is in my opinion an extermist and like my other extremists I met him.

    However _ I have shown on the link above Tony Greenstein to be wrong about his theories of Zionist-Nazi collaboration so now he comes up with new nonsense.about Jews from Argentina – another recurring theme in his attempts to discredit Zionism.

    The policy of the Israeli government regarding Argentinian Jews was summed up by Yigal Allon, the foreign minister in Yitzhak Rabin’s government, who argued that those who could be saved, must be saved. Menachem Begin himself endorsed this policy – he wanted them all to be brought to Israel including the radical leftists:

    “I told them there was only one solution: Aliya. The situation in Argentina is terrible. It is in a state of anarchy.At the embassy they asked what would be done with the leftists. I answered: they should be brought to Israel. The junta should be promised that if they release these people, we will take them home immediately. Let’s assume they join Matzpen [Israeli-based communist organization], we will not approve but nevertheless accept it. Otherwise these young people are lost.”

    Source

    Yitzhak Mualem “Between a Jewish and an Israeli Foreign Policy: Israel-Argentina Relations and the Issue of Jewish Disappeared Persons and Detainees under the Military Junta, 1976-1983” Jewish Political Studies Review 16:1-2 (Spring 2004) Available at:
    http://www.jcpa.org/jpsr/jpsr-mualem-s04.htm

    Tony Greenstein is caught out yet again distorting the truth.

    Tony Greenstein also attacks the campaign for Soviet Jewry on the basis that “noone was being tortured or disappeared.” Tony Greenstein fails to mention Soviet Jews who were thrown in prison for their political beliefs such as Natan Sharansky – for as he said in 1977 “I had been arrested on false charges of high treason. My real crimes: fighting for human rights inside the Soviet Union and for the rights of Soviet Jews, myself included to emigrate.”

    Source:

    Natan Sharansky – The Case For Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tryanny & Terror (New York: Perseus Books Group, 2004) p. ix

    Tony Greenstein also fails to mention the long running campaign of antisemitism that ran through the Soviet Union for – example in 1953 there was the infamous Stalin’s doctors plot. Here nine doctors of whom six were Jewish were accused of being “Vicious Spies and Killers” whose goal was “shortening the lives of leaders of the Soviet Union by means of medical sabotage.” They were “inhuman beasts” in a “terrorist group” who “tried to undermine the health of the Soviet military leadership cadres, to remove them from the power structure and thereby weaken the defense of the country.” The Jewish “doctor killers” were a “fifth column” and “recruited by a branch-office of American intelligence — the international Jewish bourgeois-nationalist organization called ‘Joint,’” who gave orders for “the extermination of leadership cadres of the USSR.” The plot was uncovered and “The filthy face of this Zionist spy organization” could be revealed. According to a number of sources the purpose of this fabrication was that a show trial could be staged and used as a pretext for deporting all Soviet Jews to Siberia “for their own safety.” The idea was that approximately sixty famous Soviet Jews would denounce the traitorous “doctor-murderers” in a letter that would be published in Pravda. The signatories would propose that the entire Soviet Jewish community would be “voluntarily” deported to protect them from “the Russian people’s righteous wrath.” Fortunately Stalin died before this act of what could well have been mass murder could be carried out.

    Sources:

    Vicious Spies and Killers under the Mask of Academic Physicians Pravda 13th January1953 p. 1 Translation by P. R. Wolfe and BINIE staff available at http://www.cyberussr.com/rus/vrach-ubijca-e.html
    David Bandberger Stalin’s Last Crime?Recent Scholarship on Postwar Soviet Antisemitism and the Doctor’s Plot Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History Vol 6. No. 1 Winter 2005 pp. 187-204, A. Mark Clarfield The Soviet “Doctors’ Plot” – 50 years on BMJ Vol. 325 21st -28th December 2002 pp. 1,487-1,489, Simon Madievski The Doctors’ Plot Midstream September-October 2003

    Tony Greenstein yet again has been dishonest!

  22. Look, Tony Greenstein (may he simply stop in his tracks and then wander away) has been awful for a long time. But if, with his petty criminal record, he was good enough for the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign before he started pointing out that holocaust denial was unacceptable, then his petty criminal record counts for nothing in the PSC’s case against him now.

    What a bunch of gonads they all are.

  23. We support Tony Greenstein all the way!
    [Flesh: this is, perhaps, from Tony’s enema, Gilad Atzmon who is trying to discredit Tony by the equivalent of fly-postering the web, without actually engaging with his arguments (which are themselves huge tracts of selectively quoted history and nasty ad hominems)]

    Just to say that we stand alongside ENGAGE and WORKER’S LIBERTY in our support of Tony Greenstein, who, at the end of the day, remains one of us – a Jew! [Flesh: Engage and AWL don’t support Tony – they’re noting that he is being bullied by antisemites. And there is no “one of us – a Jew” – that’s just your own little us-and-them complex talking, Gonad] True, he has been criticising a few of our more forceful [Flesh: for forceful read ‘anti-Jewish’] policies over the years from inside the so-called Left, but as an insider, he was able to learn the way it works in England [Flesh: that’s an antisemitic thing to write, drawing on an idea most famously articulated in the notorious forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, that Jews infiltrate into the higher echelons of their ‘host country’ and manipulate policy from within]. Nothing wrong with that. Thankfully at last he has become a mensch and I personally no longer consider him an enemy of Israel. [Flesh: Gonad is trying to insult Tony by making out that Tony has betrayed his cause, lost his teeth and is no longer threat to Zionism] Musseltov Tony, and we stand in solidarity with you. [Flesh: whatever you do, don’t do that]

    [Flesh: Atzmon fuck off. Go and blow your horn to the SWP.]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s