Thursday, December 07, 2006


peacepalestine: "Gilad Atzmon"

What charge?
It is false to claim that people are silenced from criticising Israeli policy for fear they will be accused of anti-semitism.

In this piece I am not trying to draw where I think the boundary between criticism of Israeli policy and anti-semitic demonisation lies. I am simply insisting that such a boundary exists. I am also insisting that neither serious defenders of Israel nor anyone on the serious left denies its existence. The people who deny the existence of the important distinction between criticism and demonisation live in the anti-Zionist movements. The people who think that there is a concerted global attempt to delegitimise criticism of Israel with a charge of "anti-semitism" are already relying on the myth of a "Zionist" or Jewish conspiracy. And the people for whom the term "anti-semitism" automatically triggers a counter-attack against "the Zionists" have moved a long way from the anti-racist politics with which many of them were politically raised.

Conservative professors Mearsheimer and Walt published a paper that argued that the "Israel lobby" tricks America into fighting for Israel's interest in the world at the expense of its own.

It was all too predictable that when this paper came under heavy criticism, the supporters of this type of conspiracy theorising would try to present Mearsheimer and Walt as courageous victims of the same "lobby", now allegedly acting to close down academic freedom with a malicious cry of "anti-semitism".

Saturday's leader (subscription needed) in the Financial Times makes exactly this case. I want to nail one particular element of the FT argument, although this does not mean that I accept the rest. I will focus here on a claim that is made again and again: people are morally blackmailed into silence, claims the FT, by "the fear that any criticism of Israeli policy and US support for it will lead to charges of anti-semitism".

Only a person that has never thought seriously about the relationship between anti-Zionism and anti-semitism could possibly be silenced by this fear.

Think about it. Have you ever heard anybody claim that "any criticism of Israeli policy..." is anti-semitic? Sure, you've often heard it said that "the Zionists" make this claim, but have you ever heard a "Zionist" actually do it?

Now think about it again. It would be transparently ridiculous for anybody to claim that criticism of Israeli policy is anti-semitic. Wouldn't it?

This FT editorial appeared on April Fools Day. The best April Fools jokes are the ones that seem plausible - but when you discover that you've been had, you realise that you ought to have been able to work out for yourself that this was a hoax. You didn't need to know that it was a hoax because if you had been thinking clearly, you'd have guessed. This one, however, is no joke. The claim, that critics of Israeli policy are silenced by the malicious cry of "anti-semitism" appears routinely. It is propagated by people who have thought about it carefully. It is propagated by people who say they want a license to criticise Israeli policy for various reasons: either because they want to demonise, to sew hatred, to push "Zionist" conspiracy theories, or to single out Israel for a unique pariah status.

Indeed the idea that one requires a license to criticise Israeli policy already pre-supposes the existence of a hugely powerful, well organised, richly funded "lobby" that has assumed the right to issue such licenses.

David Duke, for example, former leader of the Klu Klux Klan, and also a big fan of the Mearsheimer and Walt piece, says the following:

It is perfectly acceptable to criticize any nation on the earth for its errors and wrongs, but lo and behold, don't you dare criticize Israel; for if you do that, you will be accused of the most abominable sin in the modern world, the unforgivable sin of anti-Semitism!

Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, says much the same thing:

For far too long the accusation of anti-semitism has been used against anyone who is critical of the policies of the Israeli government, as I have been.

Tam Dalyell agrees:

The trouble is that anyone who dares criticise the Zionist operation is immediately labelled anti-Semitic

"Criticism of Israel is not anti-semitism" insists Michael Neumann, philosophy professor at Trent university in Canada, while Norman Finkelstein, teacher of political theory at de Paul University, Chicago, writes that one central purpose of his new book is to expose the way that the charge of anti-semitism is misused to "delegitimise criticism" of the occupation.

Gilad Atzmon, saxophonist and anti-Zionist says:

Zionist lobbies present all critical views of Israel as a form of anti-semitism.

Why are all these different individuals from entirely different political traditions raising precisely the same straw-man argument?

The effect of this straw-man argument is to muddy the distinction between legitimate criticism of Israeli policy - which nobody serious, no Jewish communal organisation and no mainstream Israeli politician says is illegitimate - and the kind of demonisation, conspiracy theorising, blood libels, and misrepresentations that some argue do run the risk of building the ideological and emotional foundations for the emergence of an anti-semitic movement.

To go back over the examples above.

David Duke's interest in pretending that there is no difference between legitimate criticism and anti-semitism needs no explanation.

Ken Livingstone, who seems to be acquiring a habit of employing low-level racist abuse against Jews, certainly has a record of doing more than criticise Israeli policy. He condemns bus bombing in his own city but "understands" it and refuses to condemn it when it happens in Israel. He welcomes the anti-semitic Yusef al Qaradawi to City Hall as an honoured guest. Some may accuse Livingstone of anti-semitism, but it is not because he "criticises the policies of Israeli governments". It may be that the charge of anti-semitism against Livingstone is not proven. But it is clear that the charge is not levelled against him because of straightforward policy disagreements.

Tam Dalyell accused the Blair government of being unduly influenced by a Jewish cabal that tricks the Blair government into following Jewish rather than British interest (whatever he might have thought "Jewish interest" was). Again, some may accuse Dalyell of anti-semitism as a result, but this is not because he has made measured and reasonable criticism of Israeli policy.

Michael Neumann says the following, in the ever-so-radical Counterpunch:

The progress of Arab antisemitism fits nicely with the progress of Jewish encroachment and Jewish atrocities. This is not to excuse genuine antisemitism; it is to trivialize it. It came to the Middle East with Zionism and it will abate when Zionism ceases to be an expansionist threat.

This again, is something other than "criticism of Israeli policy".

However we may judge Norman Finkelstein's work, the people who accuse him of anti-semitism are not doing so because he "criticises" the occupation. They do so because they think that his analysis that there is a "Holocaust industry" that is exploited by some to hide Israeli human rights abuses behind the smoke of Auschwitz and Treblinka is dangerous and offensive.

Gilad Atzmon, the saxophonist - who has written "I would suggest that perhaps we should face it once and for all: the Jews were responsible for the killing of Jesus" - risks muddying the distinction between criticism of Israeli policy on the one hand and the demoniation of Jews on the other.

I am not arguing that all of the above are anti-semites. I am arguing that the fact that they raise the straw-man argument - "the Zionists call me an anti-semite because I criticise Israeli policy" - should ring an alarm bell for anyone that hears them do it.

Mainstream Israeli politicians and Jewish communal leaders may be "Zionists" (whatever that term may mean); some (but certainly not all) may be right wing nationalists; some (but not all) may be tainted by anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia. But they are not idiots. They do not claim that "any criticism of Israel is anti-semitic".

Back to the FT leader - the hostility to the Mearsheimer and Walt paper does not result from their criticism of Israeli policy. There is widespread hostility to the paper because Mearsheimer and Walt spin a coarse conspiracy theory in the language of an academic paper. It is because the claim of an unpatriotic Jewish (or "Zionist") conspiracy keys in very closely with old libels that have caused Jews so much trouble in the past. It is also because "the Lobby" charge is impossible to refute: successful refutation is taken as evidence of "the lobby's" power. It is because there will be some that refuse to notice that the paper has been discredited by academic critique and will continue to cite it as an authority - for who knows what nonsense.


Blogger Anonymous said...

I guess monkeys like you never learn.
Carter Book on Israel 'Apartheid' Sparks Bitter Debate

By Karen DeYoung

The Washington Post
7 December 2006

A veteran Middle East scholar affiliated with the Carter
Center in Atlanta resigned his position there Monday in an escalating controversy over former president Jimmy Carter's bestselling book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," traces the ups
and downs of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process
beginning with Carter's 1977-1980 presidency and the
historic peace accord he negotiated between Israel and
Egypt and continuing to the present. Although it
apportions blame to Israel, the Palestinians and outside parties -- including the United States -- for the failure of decades of peace efforts, it is sharply critical of Israeli policy and concludes that "Israel's continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land."

Kenneth W. Stein, a professor at Emory University, accused Carter of factual errors, omissions and plagiarism in the book. "Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information," Stein wrote in a harshly worded e-mail to friends and colleagues explaining his resignation as the center's Middle East fellow.

Stein offered no specifics in his e-mail to back up the charges, writing only that "in due course, I shall detail these points and reflect on their origins."

A statement issued by the center yesterday in Carter's
name said he regretted Stein's resignation "from the
titular position as a Fellow" and noted that he had not
been "actively involved" there for the past 12 years.
Carter thanked Stein for his advice and assistance "during
the early years of our Center" and wished him well.

While acknowledging that the word "apartheid" refers to
the system of legal racial separation once used in South Africa, Carter says in his book that it is an appropriate term for Israeli policies devoted to "the acquisition of land" in Palestinian territories through Jewish settlements and Israel's incorporation of Palestinian land on its side of a separating wall it is erecting.

He criticizes suicide bombers and those who "consider the killing of Israelis as victories" but also notes that "some Israelis believe they have the right to confiscate and colonize Palestinian land and try to justify the sustained subjugation and persecution of increasingly hopeless and aggravated Palestinians."

Accusing the Bush administration of abandoning the effort
to promote a lasting peace, he calls for renewed
negotiations on the basis of security guarantees for
Israel and Israel's recognition of U.N.-established

Formally published three weeks ago, the book quickly
became a bestseller. Carter has been prominently
interviewed in the media and has been mobbed at book appearances around the country.

Speaking Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," he said he was
glad the book had raised controversy. "If it provokes
debate and assessment and disputes and arguments and maybe
some action in the Middle East to get the peace process,
which is now completely absent or dormant, rejuvenated,
and brings peace ultimately to Israel, that's what I
want," he said.

Criticism of the book, primarily from Jewish groups and leaders, began even before it was published, and it became an issue in the midterm elections last month. The New York-based Jewish Daily Forward noted in October that Democrats were trying to distance themselves from its reported contents as Republicans were seeking to widely disseminate Carter's views in an effort to win Jewish votes.

Speaking to the Forward about Carter, Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matthew Brooks said the coalition had "not shied away from shining a light on some of his misguided and outrageous comments about Israel in the past. . . . So far, there's been nothing but silence on the part of the Democratic establishment in terms of holding Carter accountable."

Rep. Steve Israel, a Democrat from New York, told the
Forward that the "book clearly does not reflect the
direction of the party."

Since then, the controversy has only grown. In a widely published commentary last weekend, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz wrote that Carter's "use of the loaded word 'apartheid,' suggesting an analogy to the hated policies of South Africa, is especially outrageous."

In a statement issued Monday, the Simon Wiesenthal Center
in Los Angeles contended that Carter "abandons all
objectivity and unabashedly acts as a virtual spokesman
for the Palestinian cause."

In a telephone interview yesterday, Stein said that Carter
had "taken [material] directly" from a published work
written by a third party but that legal action was being contemplated and he was not yet at liberty to make the details public. He said accounts in the book about meetings he had attended with Carter between 1980 and 1990 had left out key facts in order to "make the Israelis look like they're the only ones responsible" for the failure of peace efforts.

1:42 PM, December 09, 2006  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

It appears that Carter is falling into senility, the same as the man who beat him for being a wimp.

6:01 PM, December 09, 2006  
Blogger Eurosabra said...

Iby, doesn't the anti-Zio crap bore you to death?
I'm discovering I'm happier outside the blogosphere.

11:01 AM, December 10, 2006  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

Not quite bored yet. It is always interesting to find out what antisemites think. They are like a species of ant.

Their latest queen, Mary Rizzo, certainly is industrious.

1:31 PM, December 10, 2006  
Blogger Abu Foxman said...

eurosabra, I also am getting rather bored with these kill everyone hate mongers. And find staying away from blogging to do other things with my time far more satisfying and productive.

However it is to a degree important not to allow their lies to go unchallenged as they take the lack of response to mean they are correct which is to a limited point dangerous. Liars should always be exposed for what they are.

The worst part of the ideologies of these hate filled people we keep confronting is IMO they believe they are doing a good deed for the “oppressed people of Palestine”. What they don’t realise is that they have been duped by a group of evil people who’s only real stated objective is to kill while perpetuating centuries old hate who have no real interest nor made any investment in peace.

The free Palestine at all costs movement are supporters of hatred that only leads to more bloodshed on all sides of the conflict with no end other than a mass blood letting as a solution.

2:38 AM, December 12, 2006  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

I'm still trying to figure out why the Arabs have realized that they themseleves enslaved the palestinian region.

8:15 PM, December 12, 2006  
Blogger Abu Foxman said...

Av if you want to report that anonymous monkey for spamming to its ISP I captured its IP address. Let me know if you want it and I'll post it for you.

Abu F

4:47 PM, December 13, 2006  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

I don't really care. It takes but a moment to remove it and it is so humorous to see him babbling on Mary's site.

5:05 PM, December 15, 2006  

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