Further to news of Amazon’s publication and promotion of Persecution, Privilege and Power, I remembered how the other month I was surprised to a standstill in front of one of the promotional ‘Waterstones Recommends’ stands of the Gower St branch of Waterstone (huge academic bookshop at the heart of the University of London). Volumes 1 and 2 of Zionism: the real enemy of the Jews by Alan Hart were actually being promoted by Waterstones. Here’s what Alan says (I’m not linking to it but it’s easy to find):
Israel is the criterion according to which all Jews will tend to be judged. Israel as a Jewish state is an example of the Jewish character, which finds free and concentrated expression within it. Anti-Semitism has deep and historical roots. Nevertheless, any flaw in Israeli conduct, which is initially cited as anti-Israelism, is likely to be transformed into an empirical proof of the validity of anti-Semitism…. It would be a tragic irony if the Jewish state, which was intended to solve the problem of anti-Semitism, was to become a factor in the rise of anti-Semitism. Israelis must be aware that the price of their misconduct is paid not only by them but also Jews throughout the world. In the struggle against anti-Semitism, the front line begins in Israel.
Dross, and the whole thing, both volumes, is like that. The book isn’t authoritative and it isn’t scholarship, it’s a largely unsubstantiated apology for antisemitism from a very ideosyncratic and obviously mistaken commentator who finds favour with blinkered and facile people whose existing prejudices and wonky analyses he confirms. What the hell is it doing on the ‘Waterstones Recommends’ stand? I approached the nearest assistant with a simple question about the criteria for promoting a book in this way. The assistant referred me to the floor manager. He was wary. He said it probably meant it was on a college reading list. Potentially this was an even more disturbing development so I asked him to check whether this was the case and if so which course, and he obliged. But to my relief it wasn’t on a reading list. He got confused and started to explain that booksellers are not in a position to make political decisions about which books to sell and which not, so I cut him short because wasn’t what I was getting at. I told him no more than the truth about the thrust of the book and argued that I had no problem with it being sold but it shouldn’t be promoted because it’s a bad book by any critical standards, it appeals to cranks, to promote it is to rehabilitate crankishness and that many people consider it racist in its double standards. The floor manager said he didn’t know why it was there, and shortly after that told me that he would take it off the stand. (I hadn’t asked for this but it was what I’d hoped he’d offer to do.) The last time I had seen this book was in the British Library shop (and that astounded me too). Its publisher, World Focus Publishing, seems only to be dealing with Alan’s work (is it by any chance owned by Alan?) Its web site says:
“The take over of British publishing houses by conglomerates with agendas of their own and vested interests to protect has destroyed the independence of British publishing.
Well, not the whole truth. There are many things which can come between the reading public and their books – not least market forces – so he’d really have to justify blaming the publishers. Amazon has opened things up immensely, in fact. But he continues:
One consequence is that far too many books are published and pulped and books such as ZIONISM: THE REAL ENEMY OF THE JEWS simply cannot be published – because they offend powerful vested interests.
I’m not a powerful vested interest. I’m somebody who is worried about antisemitism, views Israel as a product of antisemitism, thinks that blaming Jews for wanting a state of their own is completely ridiculous, and understands the promotion of anti-Zionist literature in Waterstones as part of the same phenomenon which has seen antisemitic literature promoted by Amazon, as mentioned above. My sphere of influence is dinky, but I exert it as best I can, which is my right. Alan Hart, like Sue Blackwell whom World Focus Publishing name-checks, is patently, terminally, incapable of responding to antisemitism while he persists in peddling the lie that Israeli Jews – half the world’s Jews – are the culprits of antisemitism while only anti-Zionists are blameless victims. This stuff is appalling pile of tabloid cod which belongs far, far away from academia (my emphases):
Because the Nazi holocaust was a Gentile crime, there was nothing any decent Gentile in publishing, the media in general and politics feared more than being accused of anti-Semitism. Zionism played on this fear by asserting that criticism of its child, Israel (a unilaterally declared state for some Jews but claiming to be the state of all Jews), was by definition a manifestation of anti-Semitism – i.e. an attack on all Jews everywhere. This was, as it still is, propaganda nonsense, but it worked wonderfully well for Zionism. I mean that out of fear of being falsely accused of anti-Semitism, mainstream publishers, most media people and virtually all in public life shied away from truth-telling about Zionism and its contribution to catastrophe in-the-making.
No case for Israel then, Alan? What about 1947 UN Partition Plan? No case for Jews arguing robustly for a state of their own after the Holocaust? Or were they just supposed to go home again and pick up where they left off, give or take their businesses, homes and savings? It gets worse:
It was to force the re-opening of informed and honest debate closed down by the Nazi holocaust that I spent more than five years of my life researching and writing Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews.
Alan, everybody and their dog. Pappé. Finkelstein. Brenner, Mearsheimer ‘n’ Walt. Cooper. Neuman. Rose. Rose. Fisk. Pilger. Chomsky. Shlaim. The list goes on. These people are not in any way suppressed – on the contrary they’re positively thriving on anti-Zionism.
The underlying thesis of the book is that because of the settlement facts American support for Zionism right or wrong has allowed to be created on the ground, in defiance of UN resolutions and international law, it’s now too late for any U.S. administration to call and hold nuclear-armed Israel to account; and that only the Jews of the diaspora have the influence to do it – cause Israel to change its ways and make peace on terms which almost all Palestinians and Arabs everywhere can accept. But… I also say that it’s unreasonable and unrealistic to expect the Jews of the diaspora to play their necessary part in bringing Israel to heel and averting a Clash of Civilisations (Judeo-Christian v Islamic), unless and until they receive the maximum possible in the way of reassurance about their security in the lands of the mainly Gentile world of which they are citizens. What, really, do I mean? Though I am myself a goy (non-Jew) –
Oh god, here we go.
– I know that deep down almost every diaspora Jew lives with the unspeakable fear of Holocaust II (shorthand for another great turning against Jews) and thus the perceived need, if only in the sub-consciousness, for Israel as an insurance policy – the refuge of last resort. And this is one of three related reasons why only a very few diaspora Jews are prepared even to criticise Israel’s behaviour, let alone engage in activities to cause Israel to be serious about peace based on an acceptable minimum of justice for the Palestinians. Though they will never say so in public, the vast majority of diaspora Jews, because of the past, are too frightened to do or even say anything which they think would be interpreted as antipathy to Israel and could have the effect of undermining the wellbeing of Israel as the refuge of last resort for all Jews. The second reason for the silence of so many diaspora Jews on the matter of Israel’s behaviour is the fear that if they speak out and appear to be divided, they will encourage anti-Semitism. The third reason is fear of the reactions of fellow Jews.
Where is the empirical evidence for this? (Nowhere – not in this particular piece and it’s a long piece.) Are there even any examples? (No.) We have a bald pile of grotesque stereotypes, enitrely unsubstantiated. It reads like a cross between Dear Deidre and Mariella Frostrup’s column in The Observer Magazine (a good while ago she went on a course and became an agony aunt – it would be really funny but she lashes out at men all the time). Later, Alan puts forward a modest proposal:
So what if anything can be done to encourage diaspora Jews to play their necessary part in calling and holding Israel to account?
In my Epilogue, The Jews as the Light Unto Nations, I call for a New Covenant, not between the Jews and their God but between the Jews and the Gentiles.
The New Covenant I propose is a deal between the two parties – the Gentiles who are the majority in the many lands of which most diaspora Jews are citizens and those Jewish citizens (Jewish Englishmen, Jewish Frenchmen, Jewish Germans, Jewish Americans and so on). And the essence of the deal is this. In return for diaspora Jews using their influence to cause Israel to be serious about peace on terms the overwhelming majority of Palestinians and all Arabs can accept, and actually accepted a long time ago, the Gentiles commit to destroying the monster of anti-Semitism. (I write that it will not be enough for us Gentiles to put the re-awakened sleeping giant back to sleep, and that we must drive a stake into the monster’s heart, to kill it for all time).
(Alan regards lots of things as monsters and sometimes as well as writing like an agony aunt he also reminds me of the Brothers Grimm). Next, terms and conditions for the new job role of Light Unto Nations:
What, actually, is required of diaspora Jews in terms of their New Covenant obligations?
They must begin by recognising modern Israel for what it is – a Zionist state, not a Jewish state. If it was a Jewish state – i.e. one governed in accordance with the moral principles of Judaism – Israel could not have behaved in the way it has since its unilateral declaration of independence in 1948; behaviour which can be described, objectively, as (at times) brutal and cruel, driven by self-righteousness of a most extraordinary kind, with contempt for UN resolutions, without regard for international law and which, all up, makes a mockery of the moral principles of Judaism.
Thereafter the main New Covenant obligation for diaspora Jews would be to make common cause with the forces of reason in Israel for the purpose of changing it from a Zionist state into a Jewish state.
And finally we get inspirational Coach Alan. This bit is pure Lydia from the opening credits of Fame:
Perhaps that is the real point of the idea of the Jews as Chosen People… Chosen to endure unique suffering and, having endured it, to show the rest of us that creating a better and more just world is not a mission impossible.
To paraphrase, Alan proposes to hold Jews to a higher standard than any other people under the same circumstances. The weirdo actually subscribes to the ‘light unto nations’ stuff. It’s awful, really squirmy to read. There we are, it got written – these things do. But on the ‘Waterstones Recommends’ stand? What are we to make of that?