Anti-Zionists, a polite request

It has come to my attention that you consider yourselves wronged. You are saying quite unambiguously that people you disagree with have claimed that criticism of Zionism is antisemitic. There are plenty of examples of your unevidenced assertion.

It would be helpful if you could desist from making this accusation unless you can provide three facts to back it up:

  • Who said it?
  • What did they say?
  • Where did they say it?

If you can’t provide these three facts then you should ask yourself whether you might possibly have got the wrong end of the stick.

UPDATE: your Mum and Dad don’t count.

UPDATE 2: So that is what I’m up against? Your mum and dad? And somebody at your JSoc when you were an undergraduate 20 years ago who called you a self-hating Jew? OK. So they do count.

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12 thoughts on “Anti-Zionists, a polite request

  1. I’m sure that the evidence will start piling in any moment now. Lerman’s Aunty Hanke and how she hurt his feelings one Passover. Greenstein’s Uncle Motty and the terrible email fight. Caroline Lucas’s friend of a friend’s friend. The extent of the abuse will soon be known.

  2. I think that making such rash and accusatory statements in a public platform is never acceptable, especially when at least some of her fans are undoubtedly too young or uninformed to have an adequate grasp on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Not that anyone is saying that it is acceptable. I was very disappointed when I read her post.

  3. Oh I am stupid. I went through a little pile of comments after I got back from holiday. I didn’t relate your comment properly to the post it was responding to and notice it was an example I asked for.

    She is clearly wrong in that unequivocal statement, not least for the reasons you say. And she gives it such emphasis. It is disappointing.

    I think she makes her appeal as somebody who subscribes, fearfully, to the “it will never go away” view of antisemitism (“Well. A Jew is a Jew is a Jew is a Jew. “) and I disagree with her in that too. But I feel the two views – that antisemitism will never go away, and that speaking against Israel is antisemitic – are related.

    I guess the key is (if she were looking) to hold up examples of people who defend Jews and who also defend Palestinians. Both of those currently involve speaking out against Israeli policies. Hopefully I am one of those people. More conspicuously, there is the Israeli author David Grossman, the blogger Bob From Brockley, the Hadash Party and Peace Now in Israel.

    I dropped her a line.

  4. I am glad to read that you contacted her, as I know I am one of those too young and uneducated on the conflict to reasonably question her comments. My slight yet waning bias towards Palestinian issues would not have helped either.

    As a complete outsider to both sides, however, I’m still struggling to understand the view of “it will never go away.” At first, I was dumbfounded by how much of a caricature she came off, possessing of the oft-mocked “us against the world” view that I’ve read about in staunch anti-Zionist publications. But of course it’s never that transparent, and simply disregarding her perspective is something that I wish I was never convinced to do.

    I feel that you are a clear and fair writer, but some comments posted by visitors of your blog colored the general tone of the writing as a little less even. Which is why I continued reading, and I am glad I did.

  5. The “it will never go away” view of antisemitism has different dimensions. The easiest to refute is the view that people have a spot inside them that hates Jews. The hardest to refute is the view that Jewish history with its frequent persecutions and exclusions is the result of human nature: in times of calamity human beings tell themselves comforting stories which make sense of the chaos; they accordingly look for somebody to blame; they rework and filter facts so that they fit in with the scape-goating story; power-seekers find hatred to be a highly unifying agent – https://fleshisgrass.wordpress.com/2008/07/17/eric-hoffer-on-the-ideal-devil/; the Jews are a conducive target because they’re foreign but also successful and even influential. The pat explanation which predicts more antisemitism because of human nature.

    The people who believe that antisemitic tendencies are fixed in human nature have more than a little in common with the people who hate Jews because of a notion of Jewish nature. If you consider these things inevitable, it follows that you primarily concern yourself with self-defence. If you, on the other hand, consider antisemitism as a function of individuals in the circumstances of their environment, you then also try to make the arguments and establish or maintain political, legal and societal structures to protect humans from other humans.

    One major difference between the two outlooks is pessimism – and how do you tackle pessimism? You look for counter examples. It’s quite hard work. But necessary.

    Milk, as an aside, how old are you, if you don’t mind me asking, and what’s interested you in this issue?

  6. I am eighteen, which makes me realize that calling myself young has become slightly more relative since my last birthday. I don’t have any cultural ties or otherwise to the issue, and while I could attempt to describe some narrative or reasoning to my interest, I simple do not know what keeps me seeking involvement in learning about the conflict. While my interest in Palestinian issues became more significant only this January, I was always conflicted by the seemingly incomprehensible divide and how impossible it has generally been to have a firm grasp on anything certain. But at the same time, I am not simply looking for an opinion I can substantiate and then moving on. I would like to begin to orientate myself towards activism in order to see a fair resolution come about.

    Eric Hoffer’s work is quite eye-opening, along with your descriptions of the different modes of thought. Reasons for optimism seem pretty scarce, and have never been considered in any writing I have found. Yet it seems quite mandatory for real progress to be made.

  7. You’re now in the 18-30 bracket Milk. I am a great deal older than you, but I get refused alcohol in my local supermarket. I have to show them my hands and shout my age out to the queue. Sometimes I forget my age – that’s how old I am. Sometimes the duty manager comes and gives me the nod after close scrutiny.

    Anyway enough about people thinking I’m a child. Eric Hoffer also has his critics. And I think you will be a very good peace activist because you seem disposed to question orthodoxies, and yet you aren’t aggressive or even blunt. And there are a lot of orthodoxies and dogma in the dominant forms of pro-Palestinian activism, so these qualities will stand you in good stead while you work out your values and how to defend them. Good luck to you.

  8. I suppose it’s about time to become overwhelmingly informed in some specialized subject matter to still be considered more wise than those my age. Speaking in a deliberately complicated matter just doesn’t cut it anymore.

    It seems like an inconvenient compliment to be considered so young. From my sister’s stories, it seems like the peppy exuberance of a 21-year-old’s first purchase of alcohol lets cashiers know that the buyer is definitely of age. But your use of the word “queue” has me assuming that you probably aren’t subjected to the high hopes of the Unites States’ drinking age. Which makes me wonder how incredibly young you must look.

    And so. Thank you very much for the positive feedback. I hope I can be a fair activist far into the future, and that I could perhaps help the pro-Palestinian group at my college more successfully campaign to include a wider and more diverse group of supporters of a fair peace. While the hard-lined rhetoric of some infrequent members is shocking to the point of intrigue in its resoluteness, it’s quite obvious that it will only lead to more useless division.

    I am very glad I found this blog. I still have a lot more to read, and I look forward to researching more thoroughly the topics and authors that you have discussed. It’ll be a summer finally well spent.

  9. Well, thanks v much, and keep in touch.

    I can recommend http://www.engageonline.org.uk, on antisemitism and its intersection with anti-Zionism. Also anything by Eve Garrard, Sean Matgamna of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, David T of Harry’s Place and Bob From Brockley, the blogger – there’s a range of politics amongst that lot but they’re all staunch defenders of Jews under attack. On pro-Palestinian activism, I like the Abraham Fund (for co-existence within Israel), and Daniel Gavron has written a book on the subject – see the bottom of http://greensengage.wordpress.com/2009/01/30/the-politics-of-me-me-me-daniel-gavron-on-israeli-palestinian-coexistence-cooperation-partnership/. I very much admire OneVoice, whose sole agenda is, in parallel in Israel and the Palestinian territories, to empower political process and cut out support for violence. Peace Now has done excellent work documenting and explaining Israeli settlements in the West Bank. B’Tselem is the Israeli human rights organisation which many anti-Israel activists use for evidence, conveniently ignoring the also-documented deaths of Israelis at the hands of Palestinians. Gisha is another, which focuses on freedom of movement. And there are many others.

    If you find anything you like during your reading, drop me a line if you have the time.

    Look after yourself.

    PS I don’t think there’s much good about being thought younger than you are. It’s a recipe for low expectations and condescension. Damned if I’m changing the way I look though.

    PPS Are you from the US?

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