Online discussion on antisemitism

The current battle about antisemitism in the UK has centred on the EUMC working definition of antisemitism.

In my Diigo I have a tag titled “monumental thread” where I bookmark and snippet from important online discussions. The most recent is this one on Engage, further to Jonathan Hoffman’s review of antisemitism on Comment Is Free. In the comments, you will find Chris Bertram (from Crooked Timber) implying that everybody who proposes a single-state solution experiences aggravated charges of antisemitism and that the EUMC definition facilitates this. He doesn’t like it that the people who experience racism get to define what is racist. This is the basic underpinning of anti-racist law – not to mention the guidance provided by trade unions throughout the world – and to contest it is basically saying that Jews exploit antisemitism for their own ends. Nice, Chris. Richard asked him for examples of aggravated charges of antisemitism points out that it is rarely the case that people can provide examples when they complain of aggravated charges of antisemitism. Richard also outlines the most important questions for a binationalist / single state proponent to answer. Chris, more interested in demanding rights for single state advocates to speak than in antisemitism on CiF, does not himself answer these. Put up or shut up – is he shutting up? I don’t think he has examples answers.

You will also come across something quite normal these days – an ever-so-polite-and-reasonable purveyor of antisemitic ways of thinking, Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf, coming out (like the BNP) in favour of repealing anti-racist law. Ibn Yusuf believes “the creation of Israel as a Jewish state to be a major, but reversible, historical mistake” and his pursuit of this reversal obliges him to deny not only antisemitism but the legitimacy of anti-racist law. Anti-racist law is a trade unionists best friend – isn’t it? Except UCU activists, that is, who are quite probably looking for ways to jettison their own – these days self-incriminating – guidance on discrimination because it scrapes against their cherished boycott campaign in such an irksome way.

Richard, Zkharya and Hoffman respond to Ibn Yusuf. Inna has a good mutatis mutandis. You’ll also find three brilliant pieces of advice from David Galant and some good analysis from Saul (nice to see somebody around who doesn’t feel obliged to dignify polite racism for polite response. I think Saul is a luminary.)

Ibn Yusuf isn’t very good, as you can see. It’s easy to take his self-righteous arguments apart because they have nothing to do with sticking up for Palestinians and everything to do with hating Israel. Trouble is, people with his views are growing in influence round here. (Update: Observer in the comments below points out that he might be an agent provocateur who aims to encourage readers to associate these everyday double standards with Arabs.)

Another very important thread on the subject of antisemitism is the one which brought practically everyone who is publicly involved in these debates flocking to Andy Newman’s post on Socialist Unity. Hoary old antisemites, obsessive anti-Zionists who can’t help crossing the line, people who don’t know any better – and the anti-racists who try to bring them sense and limit their influence. Mercifully I think the Independent Jewish Voices worthies Brian Klug and Antony Lerman stayed away so the argument was a few degrees less contorted than it could have been, deeply unpleasant though it was.

Because I was mightily impressed by all the messages I took-home from the email seminar the other day, here are three simple take-home messages about antisemtism for the doubters and deniers of antisemitism:

  1. People don’t fabricate antisemitism – if you find an example it will be an exception that proves the rule. If you, from a position of influence, want to criticise Israel about its conflict with the Palestinians and at the same time you don’t really give a hoot about finding a solution that gives Israel’s Jews appropriate assurances, this will show in your selective knowledge, double standards, and hectoring. It would be highly irresponsible for you to do that, and people would rightly find you ideologically, rather than philanthropically, motivated. They will perceive bias against Jews, and indeed you would be arguing from an antisemitic premise which, purely and simple, is a premise that undermines the best interests of Jews. Basically, the more contentious the topic, the more open-minded and committed to finding out the truth you have to be. The debate around climate change is like this, ditto genes.
  2. It is probably the case that when you do something racially discriminatory you are being racist but are not a racist. I.e. it’s not running in your veins nor part of your constitution – it’s just something you did. But that’s neither here nor there because the identity of the person spreading the racism doesn’t make much difference to the people on the receiving end. It might be relevant but it’s impossible to ascertain. What is important to them is that the acts stop. So repeat after me: “It’s the impact, not the intention, that matters. It’s the impact, not the intention, that matters. It’s the impact, not the intention, that matters”.
  3. So you’ve failed as an anti-racist? Get a grip, racism is an easy trap to fall into, it’s not the end of the world. Do some damage limitation and make it a brief lapse. All you have to do is know yourself, apologise, work on it, most importantly, stop, and nobody will hold it against you. Just don’t be one of those cliche racists who are so unable to handle their own guilt that they have to go full throttle with the demonisation to turn it into a just cause and square it with their conscience. As Hoffer observes, there’s an “intimate connection between hatred and a guilty conscience”. So go easy on yourself – for all our sakes.

OK, they weren’t simple. There’s a reason for that. But I hope they were pretty much clear. Thanks for listening, you’ve been a great group. Please hand in your name badges on the way out.


46 thoughts on “Online discussion on antisemitism

  1. “In the comments, you will find Chris Bertram (from Crooked Timber) implying that everybody who proposes a single-state solution experiences aggravated charges of antisemitism and that the EUMC definition facilitates this.”

    Actually, I didn’t “imply” this, or anything like it. I quoted Jonathan Hoffman exact words that “the advocacy of ‘one [secular] State’ is antisemitic.”

    I also pointed out some of the difficulties that arise from saying things like “the people who experience racism get to define what is racist.” By all means explain why you think that those difficulties are somehow merely imaginary.

  2. Oh, and contrary to your post, Richard did not ask me to provide examples of aggravated charges of antisemitism. What he said was that one-staters often make this claim, that he has never met one who was able to back it up, and then he (Richard) suggested that the next time I encounter a one-stater making such a claim, I should ask them the same question that he does.

    I suggest that you read what people say more carefully before blogging about it.

  3. I don’t believe that Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf is the poster’s real name. I believe the name was chosen for rhetorical effect the way, say someone may post under a Jewish sounding name like Itzkik and say something antisemitic.

    In Ibrahim’s case the poster is trying to assume an Arabic identity in order to argue among other things that Comment is Free isn’t only antisemitic but anti-Muslim as well

    In this way the charge that CisF is antisemitic is made to seem unremarkable.

    From there Ibrahim goes on to make other claims about Israel that are antisemitic.

    His game is pretty clear.

  4. “I also pointed out some of the difficulties that arise from saying things like “the people who experience racism get to define what is racist.”” Chris Bertram

    Which “difficulties” are imaginary Chris? It’s up to you to say what those difficulties are before you ask flesh is grass to tell you why they are imaginary.

  5. Chris, you are right that Richard didn’t ask you to provide examples of aggravated charges of antisemitism. You have already suggested Hoffman for stating “the advocacy of ‘one [secular] State’ is antisemitic” is trying to “limit the boundaries of acceptable political discourse”. It’s true that I got a certain impression from you. And true that I find your statements (on that thread) require some interpretation – e.g. reading as closely as I can, you seem to leave plenty of room for “reasonable” attempts to limit the aforementioned boundaries. But this can’t be right either – there is a ‘reasonable’ case for the statement that advocating a single state is antisemitic. See for example Ben Cohen. And yet you say that Hoffman was unreasonable to make it.

    Richard posed a number of other questions which are crucial to the binational / single state debate – without answers to these there can be no moving forward. You, maintaining a stance which reminds me of a self-appointed referee, do not respond to these but instead add a question of your own. Your comments here are almost entirely preoccupied with smoothing the way for people to push for a binational state. You are far less interested in the subject of the original post – the anxieties of Jews about what CiF is hosting. (I don’t read you elsewhere – maybe these priorities do not reflect your priorities elsewhere – nevertheless your contributions here stand on their own.)

    The way I see it, if comment is going to be free on CiF, there is a need for antidotes to the poison spread by many highly-motivated haters the existence of which you acknowledge. Personally, I know too many Jews who are wrecking their lives worrying about CiF and what it implies for future Jewish life as a minority – trying to fight the growing sense that these recent relatively peaceful decades for Jews are just an interlude. Basically, if people do not put up convincing arguments to repel the haters on CiF and hatred outweighs the counter-arguments (as it does and looks set to do if nothing changes) then we should understand CiF as at least partly hate-site (in my estimation this compromises it irreparably).

    If hosting hatred is part of what political discourse means to you, Chris, then for pity’s sake weigh in and fight the hate. For example, demand answers to Richard’s questions and at least attempt to wrestle a one state plan away from the advocates whose sole and consuming interest is ending the Jewish state.

  6. I haven’t followed this at all, so am weighing in from a very ignorant position, but when I read the Jonathan Hoffman “report”, I found it rather sloppy, and it did say that taking a one state position was antisemitic (para.10: “the advocacy of – ‘one [secular] State’ is antisemitic” – his square brackets). He also said that there was antisemitism in the articles as well as the posts (“Both in the articles and in the ‘posts’ beneath them, CIF has antisemitic content.”), but failed to give examples, unless this counts as an example:
    “The history of CIF is that articles have been commissioned above all from writers to whom the Jewish character of Israel is either unimportant or undesirable, such as Inayat Bunglawala, Jimmy
    Carter, John Chalcraft, Mick Dumper, Seth Freedman, George Galloway, Tony Greenstein, Soumaya Ghannoushi, Ghada Karmi, Brian Klug, Seumas Milne, Karma Nabulsi, Avi Shlaim, Richard Silverstein, Jonathan Steele.”

    I found that pretty excessive. The idea of lumping, say, Freedman, Klug and Silverstein with the likes of Galloway, and of implying they are all antisemitic.

  7. Bob,

    So are you arguing that if we say that, say, Galloway or Greenstein are antisemitic then we need a different word when, say, Milne or Freedman cross the line? Because we need specificity, or because antisemitism is strongly taboo and attaching it to people – particularly if it is also attached to people they themselves find antisemitic – brings out their worst? What do you reckon?

    I think you’re right that JH would have done well to pick and flesh out one or two examples to illustrate that the articles can be thought of as antisemitic. I think this would have been very helpful. I also think that JH could have explained better about the grounds on which we could recognise single state proposals as antisemitic ie not considering Palestinian civil society, the jihadis and antisemitism, Jewish history or Jewish fears as barriers to a single or binational state, while pushing condemnation of Israel and reductionist, distorted, irresponsible narratives about Zionism. These are how most single state arguments are made in my circles. I think it’s appalling.

  8. It is not that the the word “antisemitic” is or isn’t the right word, but the tone of the JH report suggests that there is really no difference between real serious Jew-hatred, questioning the right of Israel to exist, and advocacy of a one-state solution, which seem to me very different issues. If advocacy of a one-state solution is antisemitic, then the Guardian shouldn’t publish article advocating a one-state solution, a proposition that seems insane to me.

    (I realise I need to read the Engage thread a bit better before weighing in here – I might be recycling already thrashed out arguments!)

  9. Bob, the Engage thread was dominated by responses to an energetic commenter Ibn Yusuf, describing himself as “not a regular contributor to CiF because I’m masochistic and I prefer to comment on Zionist-friendly forums.” whose main thrust is that Jews make aggravated or plain wrong claims of antisemitism.

    I agree that The Guardian should be able to continue publishing pieces advocating a 1ss and – providing they fulfil my criteria of being a serious, involved, concerned piece, this would be no worse than giving undue space to what is currently and probably longterm a far-fetched and irrelevant position. And – this is a separate point from the pertinent one you are making about JH’s logic – can you remember the last time you saw such a piece in The Guardian?

    I also want to say Jonathan Hoffman’s feeling that he has no choice but to spend a large proportion of his life fighting antisemitism on CiF and the wider Web is one shared by a number of people close to me. I really feel for him. The fact that most of the examples he documents were subsequently removed by CiF but only after his intervention vindicates him in this practice – posts on CiF are considered antisemitic by the moderators, but getting rid of them depends on burdening – mainly, I get the impression – Jews with moderation.

    There’s a sense that the Web – not least CiF – is running anti-racists, worried minorities and debunkers of conspiracy theories and deniers, ragged. The question is how to keep comment free without running them ragged – or doesn’t it matter? The Citizendium fork from Wikipedia is one type of rresponse.

    I wish people like Chris could evince some concern about this.

  10. I’ve gone and read the whole Engage thread now (phew!).

    I support a one-state solution, and in this I follow people like Martin Buber, Ahad Ha’am, Hannah Arendt, Judah Magnes and Albert Einstein, none of whom could reasonably be called antisemites.

    However, my advocacy (and theirs) would presumably be experienced as offensive and antisemitic by Jonathan Hoffman, the victim in this instance of my racism.

    I don’t think that Israel is an apartheid state, but I do think that there is a strong case that it is, which can be made without being in any sense racist. Similarly, to use the phase ethnic cleansing in relation to Israel (a phrase I would readily use in relation to many, many states, including Greece, Turkey, Russia, for example) is prima facie antisemitic. Yet if I were to use the phrases apartheid or ethnic cleansing, Jonathan Hoffman, the victim in this instance of my racism, would find offence.

    I have to confess that I have major problems with legalist anti-racism, and its tenet that the victim defines the offence.

    In the case of racial aggravation of a crime, it is utterly correct that the police and prosecutors PRESUME in favour of the victim, and similarly the moderators should PRESUME in favour of those who claim offense. But such preumption is different from simply accepting that anything which causes offence is actually offensive. We need to work towards more rigourous definitions.

    By getting bound up in legalistic and litigious forms of logic, in the wake of McPherson, the anti-racist movement loses sight of core principles, and fighting antisemitism becomes a case of close textual analysis and exhausting e-mail dialogues with moderators. Instead, our energies should be used putting our side of the argument. (Which is why it is most worrying that CiF moderators remove posts which do so!)

    Incidentally, exactly the same arguments could be rehearsed in relation to “Islamophobia”, as Inna’s Engage comments inadvertently demonstrate. To many Muslims, it is offensive and racist to use the word “Islamo-fascist”. The Guardian accepted that this was so until being forced to backtrack (see Champagne Charlie’s recent post at Shiraz Socialist, which I linked to a week or so back.) To many Muslims, it is offensive and racist to put the word Islamophobia in scare quotes, as I did at the start of this paragraph. These Muslims, in my humble opinion, would be wrong. Which is another reason the victim shouldn’t always define what is racist.

    While I’m here, I’m not sure anyone reads more than one or two comments (at most a dozen) at CiF (because why would you?), unless you are one of the crackpots who make these sorts of comments, apart from us poor anti-racist litigants.

    Oh, and to avoid acting like Chris Bertram, I better answer your question. No, I can’t recall a specific instance of the Graun publishing a sensible one-state article!

  11. I hadn’t heard of Citizendium. I just looked into and it a worthwhile project. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  12. Bob, I’ve been trying (weakly) to find out about who reads comments on these sites for some time.

    Personally, I’ve moved far from my original position (i.e. willing to engage with talk of single state solution in the various debates I’m roped into) – it has come to feel somewhat over-indulgent in recent months as people have been, frankly, taking the piss.

    You, on the other hand, a) know stuff b) care about Jews and Palestinians without prejudice.

    Other than that many questions not least about “accepting that anything which causes offence is actually offensive” – but no time tonight. As for “the anti-racist movement loses sight of core principles” – are these potted somewhere for the uninitiated?

  13. Shiber, a debate is raging between proponents of Citizendium’s model (eg Larry Sanger) and Wikipedia’s (eg Clay Shirky).

    One of the reason many academics object to Wikipedia is, if we are to rely on Wikipedia in the way we would rely on established encyclopaedias – to be current, correct, complete, accountable etc, they, too, would have to run themselves ragged monitoring these things.

    I need to look at the state of the debate again. Here’s the Citizendium blog. I was really torn. Maybe a mixed economy – Wikipedia for articles on Britney, and Citizendium for climate change? Or maybe I’m wrong to try to rely on an encyclopaedia to be current, complete and correct these days… But I don’t think so. What’s the alternative – read a book on the subject? It would have an expert author, wouldn’t it. I like experts, and I think what they have to say should have more weight. But I need to read Clay’s recent stuff.

  14. I am not a religious person. There’s nothing to stop me supporting a single state in a world which saw Pakistan and India get back together with Bangladesh. And Lebanon and Syria reunited. Iran and Iraq dissolving their borders. Etc.

  15. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with supporting a single state in the Indian sub-continent. The ethnic cleansing that accompanied the Partition – the South Asian nakba if you like – is one of the terrible tragedies of the last century. Actually, what I support is not so much one state in Israel/Palestine, as a No State solution: an end to the nineteenth century madness of the nation-state and the terrors which have attended it.

  16. Re 12-13 I keep trying to post a response, but it doesn’t work, so I’m chopping it into smaller comments in case that’s the reason

    Part I: Core principles of anti-racism:

    Hmm. First, to clarify what I meant. I guess taking the victim’s perspective seriously IS a core principle of anti-racism. What is problematic is the way that legalistic thinking, in the context of (a) our increasingly litigious culture, and (b) our increasingly managerial culture, deflects effort. Legalism means that defining racism or hate is made into a task for lawyers, for managers who have to draw up guidelines or interpret others’ guidelines, and for moderators. This is dangerous.

    What are the core principles then? Good question.
    * One is surely that “race” does not exist as a “thing” in the world, but only in the eyes of beholders. (Hence, the deeply problematic nature of the claim JH makes in the Engage thread, that Jews deserve protection coz they’re a race, while Basques don’t.)
    * A second is that all humans are fundamentally of equal worth. (Which, for me, is why anti-racism, drawn to its logical conclusion, is ultimately incompatible with any form of nationalism.)
    * And a third is that POWER is as important, if not more, than prejudice. That is, the prejudice of those who hold power, directed towards those who don’t, matters more than the prejudices of the powerless.
    But I guess that’s a fairly personal take!

  17. Part II: Wikipedia v citizendium:

    I’m a fairly heavy wikipedia editor. I vigilantly patrol a handful of articles I know something about, flesh out areas where I think I have something to add, and copy edit articles I use for reference even where I don’t know very much. I am endlessly impressed by the wikipedia community’s ability to police itself, and endlessly shocked by the extent of the need for such policing (i.e. the extent of anonymous vandalism and of “POV-pushing”, i.e. using wikipedia for political purposes). But on even such a hot potato topic as the current conflict in Ossetia ( ), there are enough well-intentioned, hard-working editors to make it a great resource.

    Citizendium’s intention is very sensible: it responds to the terrible flaws in wikipedia. But it is unlikely ever to become the resource wikipedia is – or, if it does, it will take years, which means (a) it can never be a good resource on issues that have a current dimension, and (b) users will continue to flock to wikipedia. (Citizendium has no entry mentioning South Ossetia.) For this reason, it seems to me that those who sign up at Citizendium would be better off putting the energy into making wikipedia pages good.

  18. “an end to the nineteenth century madness of the nation-state and the terrors which have attended it”.

    I kind of think that the nation state has been the worst alternative except for all the others. But my history is bad.

    Doesn’t a 0 state solution imply a 0 state world? Where does one start? (Stopping Quebec seceding and Belgium splitting might be some low-hanging fruit. Maybe merging the US and Canada at the same time.)

    I suppose my point was (and you’ll see I crossed out the first sentence of my last comment because it needed more explaining than I could do justice to) that I can hope for these things, but I can’t wish away what we have now.

  19. “I kind of think that the nation state has been the worst alternative except for all the others. But my history is bad.”

    There is some interesting scholarship that claims empires have been more tolerant regarding internal diversity (including position of ethnic and religious minorities) than nation-states.

    “Doesn’t a 0 state solution imply a 0 state world? Where does one start?”

    Absolutely. That’s why I think the single-state solution is non-starter. Why start with the smallest states (like Israel)? Why not Russia? Let them set the example. The rest of the world can see how that works out and whether they want to follow the example. Or not…

  20. That’s interesting about the empires. I’m not surprised – markets have their own exclusions but they are good at dissolving borders and ethnic / religious / cultural differences. Currency is currency and commodities are commodities.

  21. Bob, thanks for your comment #16. Lots of food for thought.

    “* A second is that all humans are fundamentally of equal worth. (Which, for me, is why anti-racism, drawn to its logical conclusion, is ultimately incompatible with any form of nationalism.)”

    For me, the anti-Zionist Steve Cohen’s arguments – that a bolt-hole is a reasonable thing for a persecuted people (race? nation?) to claim and defend – taken to its logical conclusion is incompatible with his anti-Zionism.

    * And a third is that POWER is as important, if not more, than prejudice. That is, the prejudice of those who hold power, directed towards those who don’t, matters more than the prejudices of the powerless.

    “Matters” seems right to me. How this can be converted into a response seems more difficult (of course). Some thoughts on applying this to the Israel-Palestine conflict – if you look at the Middle East, Jews are viewed unfavourably (there’s a pretty shocking Pew report) across the region. There are also different entrenchednesses (!) of prejudice. In the wider Middle East Jew hatred is ideological – widely preached. In Israel it isn’t – there is a strong anti-racist movement. To push to level the playing field (you don’t here, Tariq Ali, the SWP, Ilan Pappe etc do) in a conflict where there is this level of and imbalance in hatred seems like the wrong thing to do here.

    If you’re looking at the Arab minority in Israel, it’s more straightforward case of shabby and racist treatment, social exclusion and poverty, at the hands of their state, and no conflict. This is being addressed since a number of position papers from Arab civil society leaders back towards the end of 2006 demanding change (no links – sorry). I understand from the Abraham Fund that things are getting better for Arab Israelis. I hope so – it’s bound to be too slowly. What I’m getting round to saying is that a state cannot demand anti-racism in return for an end to discrimination.

  22. Can i just point out that Steve Cohen is not an anti-zionist. He’s a non-zionist. He doesn’t believe in states or any form of immigration controls. By the way , he’s also concerned about the amount of antisemitism on the left , as well as being against the academic boycott.

  23. I didn’t want to do this, but in all the discussion that I read (and I might have missed some) they didn’t touch on some of the problem all of the Hoffman report.

    I’m loath to criticise, because I appreciate the amount of time and effort that Jonathan Hoffman put into this, but sadly it is not a very good report, it could have been much better.

    Firstly, there are no terms of reference so the breadth and extent of the report are not defined.

    Secondly, the objective of the report is unclear.

    Finally the methodology is unspecified.

    There’s plenty of good stuff in the report and if it had been rewritten with less assumptions and more vigour (for the outsider) then it would have had greater impact.

    In terms of methodology, you would have to specify how you classify an antisemitic comment, differentiating between the severity of them and making some distinction between persistent ingrained racism and the casual, but ill thought out remark.

    Whatever we like to say there is a variety of opinions and intensity’s amongst Jew haters and their friends. It’s not just one thring or the another.

    Also within the methodological approach you have to specify how the sampling took place, over what period, what type of articles and how things were measured.

    I hope that Jonathan does another report, but maybe pulls in some help, because I think it was a very good idea, but could do with a bit of fine tuning.

    PS: I am split on the one State. Bob, it CAN be antisemitic, not in a utopian sense but when put forward as a method for eventually destroying Jewish cultural identity and subjugating Jews as a permanent minority within a State, which doesn’t take account of that sense of identity.

    Equally, I don’t think it’s put forward by *some* people in that sense, to snuff out Jewish identity and that is the problem with one State, it does depend on the motives of the proposer, and how things would in all probability turnout.

    I think it is put forward by the likes of the SWP with malevolence in mind, if Jews vanished then they wouldn’t be too trouble, one less “anomaly” for them to consider in terms of nationalism and identity.

    It is a tricky one, I think you need to define broad parameters (does the person articulating it consider Jewish identity worthwhile, etc, what safeguards are there, etc)

    Being realistic, I think the English will disown their own nationalism and embrace Europe long before one State is a fit solution of the Middle East. How likely is that?

    btw, I am very pro European 🙂

  24. Richard, I have huge amounts of admiration and gratitude for Steve Cohen, however I think that it is fair to call him an anti-Zionist – he calls himself an anti-Zionist although he weaves and dodges to confuse the antisemites:

    “I have started to assume the somewhat novel self-description of being an “anti-zionist Zionist”. I am an anti-zionist like no other (maybe I exaggerate) in that I refuse to accept anti-zionist myths and untruths. I am a Zionist unlike no other (here I don’t exaggerate) in that I am opposed to the state of Israel.”

    Jonathan, you are welcome. I should say too that I agree with Modernity’s points – and acting on them would help to convince the masses of people uninitiated in this debate who need convincing – including the ones who think that Jews fabricate antisemitism to divert from criticism of Israel.

  25. I think in terms of analysis, and I wouldn’t envy Jonathan’s task, it is very hard because it necessitates trying to differentiate between casual racism and the persistent, obsessive form and all shades in between.

    any analysis can’t simply be binary, it needs to “grade” some of the comments and there is always a degree of subjectively involved, as Jew haters do not often state their motives from the outset, so there is a degree of interpretation to be done, distinguishing between levels of intensity and it’s not a precise science.

    I think that you have to look at the individuals’ stream of posts to gain some idea as to their underlying thinking. Such is the abhorrent nature of antisemitism that not even the most virulent Jew hater will willingly acknowledge it (there was a link on David Duke’s web site where he stated something to the effect of “I am not an antisemite”, surreal or what?).

    So it’s a lot harder than it seems.

  26. Bob from Brockley: “Hence, the deeply problematic nature of the claim JH makes in the Engage thread, that Jews deserve protection coz they’re a race, while Basques don’t.”

    I hope I did not say that. What I think I did say (or meant) was that race relations legislation (eg in the UK) defines Jews as a race, whereas it does not define Basques as a race.

  27. Modernity

    Thanks. I can only plead that it is not my day-job and it was single-handed. I invite anyone with the resources to take it forward.

    The ‘Objective’: As I say in the Report there are various government initiatives happening and I wanted to produce input to that. The wider concern is that antisemitism becomes just another narrative on the Internet for readers to ‘pick and mix’ from. With kids relying so much on the Internet to learn, I think that is dangerous. I don’t see why the blogs of MSM should be any less subject to the editorial process than the MSM itself. I certainly don’t see why the victims of antisemitism should be expected to moderate it – unpaid. That is totally unacceptable.

    ‘Terms of Reference’ and ‘Methodology’: Given that it was a shoestring project, I don’t think it would have been right to dress it in misleading clothes. I hope it is something that can be properly resourced and taken forward in a more formal way. Maybe by the Yale Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, for example. All suggestions welcome. Many thanks for your interest.

  28. Modernity

    You typed ‘vigour’. I think maybe you meant ‘rigour’ (both keys are 4 from the left although one is top row and the other bottom!)


  29. [I don’t have a comments policy (never had the need!) but I censored about 4 lines of this because it was unsubstantiated left-bashing. A reasoned case against the Guardian and a single state is fine – but this wasn’t one. It was either edit bits out or trash the whole comment. Sorry Philo. FiG]

    Hoffman is a hero for undertaking such a lopsided fight against the evil of the Guardian.

  30. Your censorship is the reason I – econmically, a dedicated socialist – have voted centre-right for many years.

    My comment about the left was spot on, and your refusal to either acknowledge the left’s grotesque moral problem, or even print it, and your resort instead to censorship, is itself part of the problem.

  31. Fleshisgrass, I should mention that the problem is not simply outrightly anti-Semitic comments on CiF.

    The problem is that the Guardian has and continues to wage a virtual jihad against the Jewish people.Guardian and CiF articles (not just comments) show:

    * Continuous Israel bashing and one-sided moderation.
    * Platform for geoncidal terrorist organisations (Hamas, Hiz) and sympathisers.
    * Attacks on Jews (articles attacking on the JNF, attacking religious Jews for not assimilating)
    * Ludicrous attempts to whip up a single comment in the margin of a Foreign Office document into a plot for Jewish control of the FO

    I think Burchill’s general outlook was spot-on. The Guardian is a profoundly anti-Semitic institution. Hoffman’s laudable battle is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Other left publications (DailyKos, HuffPo, Nation) aren’t any better.

  32. Gosh – thanks Philo-Semite

    Thanks also to the very special people who spend hours monitoring CIF and other sites, for no other reason than believing it’s the right thing to do.

    Maybe you are one of them, Philo-Semite

  33. Philo, I’m wondering why you haven’t provided any links to the examples you give – particularly when you attribute a point of view to somebody in particular (Julie Burchill) or mention specific articles. Why require your readers to do legwork to verify what you say? Why should we?

    The Guardian isn’t a jihadi publication – it has not adopted a militant Islamist ideology, that much I know. Given the widespread fears of secretly-waged fifth-columnish jihad, and the islamophobia which goes with it, I really wish you hadn’t said that it was.

    You also give the impression of attributing leftness on the basis of a publication’s hostility to Israel, or encouraging stereotypes of the entire left as hateful of Israel which (although it’s increasingly easy for stereotypers to stereotype the left this way) is also untrue.

  34. I’m not out to “prove” anything to anyone. I’m an economic socialist who long ago concluded the left abandoned legitimate class struggle for identity-based ideology.

    The Guardian fits the mold exactly. As I said, it has published article after article attacking not only the Jewish state (on a disparate basis from any others) but also Jewish institutions themselves (JNF, unassimilated Hasidim).

    At the same time, it has had only a tepid reponse to outrages committed by Russians (against Georgia), China (against its own citizens and Tibet), Iran (against its own citizens, gays, Assyrians, women), …. The Guardian has also given a friendly patform to organiisations such as Hizbullah, an Islamist iranian proxy waging war against Lebanese Christians and against the legitimate Lebanese government, not to forget Hizbullah’s stated commitment to eradicating all Jews.

    Finally, it has shown an enthusiasm for “blogging the Quran” wich is quite inappropriate for a secular publication when dealing with [censored comment on Quran, thought it would feed the Islamophobes – it’s not the Quran that’s the problem, it’s an ideosyncratic section of its followers who are widely rejected – FiG] The Guardian certainly has not givens imilar friendly attention to fundamentalist Christrianity, Hinduism, or Judaism.

    The Guardian’s logic is thus quite twisted. It may be simply “MUslims are brown, Christians and Jews are white, so we must support Islam and oppose Christians, Jews, and the west.” Even at that, Hindus are brown, yet the left has ignored the terrorist islamist war against Indian democracy.

    Finally, you haven’t answered any of the substance of my comments.

    Why did the Guardian try to make anti-Semitic hay out of a simple Foreign Office draft?

    Why does the Guardian have many times the articles condemning tiny Israel, as much larger offenders such as China and Russia and Iran?

    Why did the Guardian appear in the Parliamentary commission’s own report on anti-Semitism?

    Why did a well-known non-Jewish journalist, Burchill, leave the Guardian, declaring it profoundly anti-Semitic?

    Why do articles and comments ranting about the need to eliminate Israel, the “Zionist-occupied US government”, etc appear commonly on leftist sites (including even Obama’s)?

    The only equivalents on the right come from far right fringes (as Front National).

    When the left fights for economic rights, I support it. When it gives itself over to viscious anti-Semitism, to justification of Hizbullah, and to weak responses to aggression and human rights violeations from Iran or from Islam as a whole, such as the supression of speech (“Jewel or Medina” book just suppressed in USA/UK), then I can no longer support the left.

    I’m not Jewish, not European, not American – but the extent to which the USA and UK left has become an outlet for pushing an Islamic religious agenda, including obvious and profound anti-Semitism, nauseates me.

  35. Jonathan,

    ops, sorry there, vigour or rigour

    I think I meant that, no knowledge of the subject, by the reader, should be assumed when writing such a report, etc it should be free standing and provide an introduction which draws the reader along each step of the way, that would make it more accessible for others (not just us who follow all of this).

    If V2 comes along I would gladly proof read it, if I can help.

    I think it is good to record the decline of the Guardian and warn them of it, you are doing them a service.

    This is not an easy topic to study so your labours, whatever our minor criticism, were worthwhile.

  36. Philo, you say “The Guardian’s logic is thus quite twisted. It may be simply “MUslims are brown, Christians and Jews are white, so we must support Islam and oppose Christians, Jews, and the west.” Even at that, Hindus are brown, yet the left has ignored the terrorist islamist war against Indian democracy.”

    There’s no reason to think it’s about colour. But it’s related to the rest of your questions. I think you are arguing that The Guardian is operating in a bubble of post-colonial guilt. I’m not at all knowledgeable about it but based on what little I know I think that’s a plausible theory for The Guardian being mostly dreadful on Israel. The Guardian is also very concerned about Islamophobia, and right to be. Islamophobia is a huge problem in this country – for this reason I removed what you said so irresponsibly about the Quran.

    Practically the entire media has ignored what is going on in India – not just The Guardian. I agree that the hyperscrutiny of Israel in the media is utterly inappropriate. What really brings it into stark relief is how, when the ethnic tinderbox of the Caucasus explodes, we suddenly find it’s been on the verge of doing so for years and we knew virtually nothing about it.

  37. Gosh, what a fascinating debate! I’ve got lots to say, but I’ll break it into a couple of different comments.


    Re 18-19:

    Yes, a 0 state solution implies a 0 state world, which can only really happen everywhere all at once,: a highly utopian solution! So I’m not asking Israel to start that off, hence my fallback to 1 state. And I’m not really asking Israel ALONE to do that. Support for power-sharing in Northern Ireland, fighting Hindu supremacism in India, opposing racist immigration controls, solidarity with a multiethnic Bosnia: these are all variants on the same theme.

    Re 19-20:

    Empires have indeed been historically better for minorities (like Jews) than nation-states. It is in the contxt of multinational empires like the Russian and Austro-Hungarian that some of the most creative solutions to the ‘national question’ emerged (e.g. those of the Austro-Marxists, Zhitlovsky, Dubnov, the Bund, the young Henryk Grossman).
    Provocative suggestion: the USA has been more hospitable to minorities because it is more like such empires than a conventional nation-state.

    Re 23:

    Yes, 1 state CAN be antisemitic. Or it can be in good faith. Or, as in the case of the SWP, somewhere in between. A good test of good faith would be whether its advocates support an unlimited right of return for all Jews to the new Israel/Palestine, or just for Palestinians. Another would be whether they would allow the settlements on the wrong side of the Green Line to remain in the one state.


    Re FiG at 21:

    You don’t have to be a nationalist – let alone believe in the existence of ‘races’ – to think that persecuted peoples (defined by shared culture, shared history, indeed shared persecution, and NOT by shared blood or genes) deserve boltholes!

    Not sure I get your second point, but it seems to me quite helpful to reframe tensions in Iz/Pal in terms of racism and discrimination instead of national self-determination: makes them more amenable to addressing them. New Israel Fund’s Kick Racism Out of Israeli Football has been very successful in deal with BOTH ‘Death to Jews’ and ‘Death to Arabs’ type chants at football matches, by framing such chants as racist rather than in terms of The Conflict.

    Re 21, 22, 26:

    I like Steve Cohen’s position and self-description. Myself, I use the term ‘anti-anti-Zionist’.

    Re 29:

    I won’t comb the Engage comments to check what Jonathan said about Jews/Basques 😉 but I agree that British race relations law protects Jews and not Basques, and this raises certain issues. Actually, in general British race relations law is framed in terms of discrimination etc on “grounds of colour, race, or ethnic or national origins” – i.e. not just race. But these terms are of course problematic, one of the reasons I find British race relations law (legalistic anti-racism) limiting.

  39. CiF

    Re 25:

    On the rare occasions I comment at CiF, I use “BobFromBrockley”.

    Re 23, 24, 26, 30 etc

    I broadly agree with Modernity’s sense of the limits of – and his appreciation for – Jonathan’s report, which has vigour aplenty, but could do with some more rigour! Jonathan, it’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it, so thank you. I’m not so bothered about “terms of reference” or objectives, but more clarity about methodology, and a more systematic presentation, would certainly improve it.

    Personally, I agree with Modernity’s notion of DEGREES of antisemitism; as I said before, suggesting (implicitly or explicitly) that advocacy of a 1 state solution is equivalent to calling for genocide will not win friends for our cause where it counts.

    However, I don’t think we can distinguish between ‘in-grained’ versus ‘casual’ antisemitism, precisely because we cannot read MOTIVE from these texts, just surface meaning. This brings us back to FiG’s second take-home point, which is exactly right: that we have to move from spotting racist PEOPLE to spotting racist statements and racists acts, or (as the sociologist Harvey Sacks would have said) from monitoring ‘being racist’ to monitoring ‘doing racist’. So, what we want to get across to CiF moderators and their like is not how to spot a real racist, but to understand what it feels like for a Jew to read certain forms of language, what the effect of statements are. (Although that doesn’t mean, as I said before, that they should always arbitrate in favour of the offended in every case, as they tend to with offended Muslims.)

    Re 32-36:

    Neither the Guardian nor the left as a whole are profoundly antisemitic institutions. The presence of very large numbers of Jews in the pages of the Graun and the ranks of the left – too many to be dismissed as tokens or self-hating lemmings – is enough to refute that charge. The existence of a very healthy ‘decent left’, which frequently finds its voice in the Graun (a decent left which, in this sense at least, stretches from the centrist New Labourism of Jim Murphy to Trotskyists like Alliance for Workers Liberty and anarchists like Shift magazine) is equally enough to refute it.

    Certainly, there is a problem, which we need to examine and analyse and combat, but it is not a disease afflicting the whole left root and branch. (Incidentally, there is a problem too on the political centre, as testified to by Baroness Tonge. And it still thrives in its traditional home, the right.)

  40. Bob, just picking up on a couple of your points right now.

    In #42 you say “…1 state. And I’m not really asking Israel ALONE to do that. Support for power-sharing in Northern Ireland, fighting Hindu supremacism in India, opposing racist immigration controls, solidarity with a multiethnic Bosnia: these are all variants on the same theme.”

    As a (putting it mildly 😉 ) skeptic of the 1-state solution, I’d slightly question that. It seems to me that it’s a very broad theme that includes campaigning for a single state on Israel and Palestine alongside anti-racist immigration laws alongside NI power sharing. I want people not to dream of campaigning for a single state unless they are also building understanding and good relations between the agents in the intractable conflict which has caused them as observers to consider the single state solution in the first place (in this, significantly outnumbering the people who actually live in the region, who themselves want two states, or two states first. I think I’m missing the religious anti-Israel p.o.v. here – I’m quite ignorant about that). In practice the organisations doing this (e.g. Combatants for Peace, The Abraham Fund) have an open mind about final status – they work with the majority view (i.e. two states).

    Bob (re your #42) I don’t perceive any incompatibility between antisemitism and good faith. They are all too compatible in my view. This is the nub of why I find the SWP position is so unacceptable – they want a single state but at the same time they support and exascerbate racism against Jews as wealthy supremacist aggressors and, less obviously, against Palestinians, whom they offer to us as only sufferers.

    This means I can and do assume good faith in everyone without this being assurance or reassurance. I’m part way through Roger Griffin’s book Modernism and Fascism – he is great, I shouldn’t try to paraphrase him probably but here goes – he presents the utopian aims behind the cleansing and remaking – ‘palingenesis’ he calls it – marshalled by Hitler and Mussolini as (though multifactorial) a response to the strongly-felt perils of the cosmological upheaval further to Darwinism, industrialisation and other developments. Of what use is this understanding to the Jews, Poles, disabled people, Gypsies, lbgt people and the others who died in the big clean-up? (I should add that Roger Griffin is not trying to make excuses for fascists, and I’m not trying to compare the SWP with them.)

    Good faith does count and Mod’s idea (#27) of “degrees of antisemitism” I accept as a necessary and helpful nuance, but it is relatively insignificant if we place more weight on “doing racist” (Bob’s #44). Good faith seems to me to be – literally – immaterial and therefore trumped by impact. The road to hell and all that.

    I also think that if we accept (Bob’s #44) “we cannot read MOTIVE from these texts, just surface meaning” then there doesn’t seem to be much justification for talking about good faith.

    Not to misread you though – I understand that the way people refer to their opponents in this argument can make all the difference, that it is not necessarily edifying to feel that somebody has attributed bad motives to you, and that applying the label ‘antisemitic’ can be a matter of pragmatism rather than conviction. Maybe two years ago I read Sean Matgamna (I can’t find it now) explaining why he sees no point in referring to an opponent as antisemitic – he thinks that they hunker down to a totally unreceptive defensive position. My approach is different – see my take-home message #3.

    Got more to say on borders but I’d better send this – it’s already plenty long (surprise!).

  41. ONE STATE-

    All of my other examples (fighting Hindu supremacism etc) are variants of the same thing: being against defining the right to belong to a state purely by some ethnic conception of “nationhood”. In Ireland, if a state is to belong only to the Catholics (the Irish “nation”), then it excludes Protestants, which is wrong, while a state that excludes Catholics is also wrong: clearly, something more like a bi-national state is needed – or, better, a non-national state. Similarly, in India, Partition was based on the idea of two nations, two states, with “nation” defined by ethno-religious identity. This left millions stranded in the wrong place, and the murderous consequences continue to be played out: a bi- (or, better, non-)national India would have been a better conclusion, and opening up India to its massive non-Hindu minority is now an urgent task. And so on. Does that make sense?

    Second, I am not advocating legislating one state in Iz/Pal right now. I want to build up the possibility by working for dialogue and co-existence and co-operation first.


    I think good faith is irrelevant when we are talking about moderating racism in comments: its the effect not intent. But I think if we are debating political strategies, good faith does matter, and here we can distinguish between good faith one-staters and otherwise. And, yes, I agree one can do racist while acting in good faith!

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