Maybe the majority of pro-Palestinian activists in this country aren’t terrible but pro-Palestinian activism is famous for being terrible: irrelevant; futile; distorted; bitter; hostile to Jews; anathema to peace – no help whatsoever.
As at least one of my readers may recall, I had a long conversation last night in the pub near where I work with somebody I like, a very clever and compassionate anti-Zionist who doesn’t understand the problem with comparing Zionists to Nazis. I could hear my voice rising until, as my Matt would put it, only dogs could hear. Luckily my interlocutor was patient. He was trying very hard to understand, but he didn’t understand.
It’s some consolation that more knowledgeable and articulate people than me also face this problem. Imagine having these conversations every day because it’s your academic area and because there’s an intensification of activity and you understand the threat. David Hirsh, an immensely patient and forbearing person, does.
Here he is trying to communicate the point once again, and further to an awful event on his campus where a woman posing as a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto was invited by the Student Union to propagate fear and hatred of Israel and build for a boycott. It is a great piece. He ends:
“It is false to say that Israel is trying to achieve a ‘final solution’ by killing the Palestinians. We should not educate students in London to believe what is false.
It is true that conditions in Gaza are extremely difficult. The borders are tightly controlled by Israel and by Egypt. The de facto government in Gaza, elected in January 2006, which later took total power in a coup against the Palestinian President, promises war against the Jews of Israel to the end. The Israelis pursue the Hamas fighters into the streets and housing estates of Gaza, resulting in the inevitable and routine deaths of civilians. In Gaza there is agonizing poverty and shortages, for example of medical supplies. There is little freedom of movement for Gazans. But talk about Gaza being a prelude to a ‘final solution’ is just false.
But it is more than false. It is vile. Why can’t you see that the designation of ‘Zionists’ as Nazis is vile? Why don’t you feel it in your political bones? Why doesn’t it set your internal racism alarms ringing?
I think the reason is that too many radical people no longer understand irrational and disproportionate hostility to ‘Zionists’ to be a form of racism. They have internalized a commonsense notion that demonization of ‘Zionists’, in Jennifer Jones’ sense, while perhaps not entirely right, is neither entirely wrong. ‘Zionists’ are thought of as being at the centre of bad things that happen in the world. ‘Zionists’ oppress the Palestinians and the Palestinians stand for the oppressed everywhere. ‘Zionists’ are in favour of war and they are responsible for sending America to war in Iraq and perhaps in Iran. ‘Zionists’ have lots of power – in the media, in Hollywood, on Wall Street. ‘Zionists’ failed to learn the lesson of the Holocaust as we learnt it so well in Europe. ‘Zionists’ failed to learn the lessons of imperialism as we learnt it so well in Europe. ‘Zionists’ are behind Islamophobia, which eats at the heart of the new Europe.
Can you see it now?”
The Facebook event promotion said that Suzanne Weiss survived the Warsaw Ghetto:
“Suzanne Weiss is a member of ‘Not In Our Name: Jewish Voices Against Zionism’ and has flown all the way from Canada to speak to us at Goldsmiths.
Suzanne will be speaking about her time in the Warsaw ghetto in Poland as a child and her experiences in the ghettos of the Gaza Strip.”
But she wasn’t in the Warsaw Ghetto.
I’m not sure who is responsible for this Holocaust survivor impersonation, Weiss herself or the twinning organisers, but she certainly capitalised on this status to pronounce that Gaza is like the Ghetto and Zionists are like Nazis, and then to shout for boycotting Israel out of existence. What depths.
It listed Jennifer Jones as a contact. Jennifer Jones gave a statement to the Jewish Chronicle in which she voiced hopes that:
“the few vocal Zionists on campus become involved in a more positive capacity to support those suffering under the occupation”
Personally I hope that the few vocal Zionists (see Hirsh’s definition on the end of the above link) on campus are joined by the hitherto silent ones who comprise the majority of the student and staff body and develop a better practice of pro-Palestinian activism.
David T and Harry’s Place commentariat developed the episode into an allegory with an entire cast of characters. As Mark G from the Community Security Trust observes in the comments, the humour has a brittle quality. How could this woman have been invited onto that campus?