Trump support for racists forces Israeli leaders to take sides, but which side will they choose?

Jonathan Ofir
Reprinted from Mondoweiss by permission of the author

President Trump’s initial statement on the Charlottesville violence, where he said “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides, on many sides”, has taken on a life of its own. Equating the Nazis and white supremacists with their victims has become a national (as well as international) sport, and the promulgators of this “many sides” narrative are getting so excited with the prospect of it, that they are even going further, to regard the leftists as worse than Nazis.

Trump's allies on the march in in Charlottesville chanting 'Jews will not replace us'
Trump’s allies on the march in in Charlottesville

All this has made various Israeli leaders rather uncomfortable. Because although they are on board with Trump’s attacks on the left, his “many sides” narrative was, after all, normalizing bona fide anti-Semitism.

Charlottesville: Race and Terror: VICE News video from reporter embedded in Charlottesville Nazis

But before we get to Israel, let’s see how the ‘left-equals right’ notion has been mainstreamed:

The notion of a supposed ‘Alt-Left’ as equal to the Alt-Right was voiced loudly merely a day after the Charlottesville violence via none other than the newspaper of record – New York Times, which published an op-ed by Erick Woods-Erickson, opening with the following:

“As a conservative, I see both the social justice warrior alt-left and the white supremacist alt-right as two sides of the same coin.”

Vox congressional reporter Jeff Stein tweeted in disbelief:

“NYtimes oped begins by admonishing “social justice warrior alt-left” the day after they fought Nazis. Unreal.”

Meanwhile, in Israel, Head of Republicans Abroad in Israel Marc Zell said that he holds “leftist thugs,” local authorities and organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union responsible for Saturday’s events:

“I am, of course, no supporter of Nazis or white supremacists. But this very tragic event could have been avoided,” he said. “It was clear to all that the leftist thugs would come out to provoke and escalate the events. These thugs are the ugly face of progressivism around the country. They are looking to shut down free speech.”

Zell even went as far as to suggest that the car-ramming attack might have been a ‘false flag’:

“I am confident that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the newly appointed director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, will conduct a proper investigation. And I will not be surprised if they find that the incident was deliberately provoked by the left”, he said.

Trump’s dog-whistle

As I had mentioned in my first commentary on the Chartlottesville aftermath, Trump’s equivocal statements were a dog-whistle. He was calling on the dogs, and he was waiting to see how loud they could bark.

But there was also fierce pressure on Trump to name the thugs by name. So on Monday he finally did call out the KKK, Neo-Nazis and White-Supremacists, albeit ending the condemnation with “other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans”. Coming from Trump, the latter could be read as another opening to the “many sides” narrative.

Indeed, on Tuesday, Trump went back and doubled down on his original message, applying the “alt-left” notion which was being mainstreamed in the meanwhile. Speaking at the Trump Tower in New York on Tuesday, the president was asked for his opinion after Senator John McCain had condemned the “alt-right” for its role in the violent rally, to which he responded:

“What about alt-left? Do they have any semblance of guilt?”

Let’s hop back to Israel now, because the fact that the Nazis are involved in this is causing a certain discomfort to many Jewish Israelis. As CNN host Anderson Cooper was saying on Tuesday, the Charlottesville Neo-Nazis “were freaking chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’ on the streets of America.”

Thus Israeli centrist leaders Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni were rather vociferous and unequivocal in their condemnations. Yesterday, Lapid said that

“There aren’t two sides. When Neo-Nazis march in Charlottesville and scream slogans against Jews and in support of white supremacy, the condemnation has to be unambiguous. They represent hate and evil. Anyone who believes in the human spirit must stand against them without fear.”

Sounds good. Let’s put aside for the moment Lapid’s own anti-Palestinianism, anti-miscegenationism (against mixed marriage) and ultra-nationalism.

Tzipi Livni, who had joined forces with the left under the Zionist Union was also quite clear:

“When it comes to racism, anti-Semitism and Nazism, there are never two equal sides. There’s good and there’s evil. Period”, she said.

Let’s also put aside for the moment the fact that Livni, who was Foreign Minister during Israel’s 2008-9 Gaza onslaught said that “Israel demonstrated real hooliganism during the course of the recent operation, which I demanded”, as well as that “Hamas now understands that when you fire on its citizens it responds by going wild – and this is a good thing.”  – I mean, just because it’s hooliganism on a national level, doesn’t mean it’s racist, does it?

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett has called on US leaders to denounce the rally’s “displays of anti-Semitism” and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of Bennett’s Jewish Home party has urged prosecution of neo-Nazi activists. Once again, let’s put aside for the moment the Education Minister’s “I’ve killed many Arabs and there’s no problem with that”, as well as the Justice Minister’s advocacy for genocide of Palestinians.

Now, as the condemnations were coming from the right of Netanyahu, that was a sign that he shouldn’t be too silent on this, even if he wanted to not upset Trump. So Netanyahu finally tweeted on Tuesday that he was “outraged by expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism. Everyone should oppose this hatred.”

Screen shot from Yair Netanyahu's Facebook page, the son of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Screen shot from Yair Netanyahu’s Facebook page, the son of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But, alas, another Netanyahu came out on this. Netanyahu Jr., that is – Yair Netanyahu. Writing on his Facebook yesterday:

“To put things in perspective. I’m a Jew, I’m an Israeli, the neo nazis scums in Virginia hate me and my country. But they belong to the past. Their breed is dying out. However the thugs of Antifa and BLM who hate my country (and America too in my view) just as much are getting stronger and stronger and becoming super dominant in American universities and public life.”

The Times of Israel reports sources “close to the Prime Minister” taking a distance, claiming that “Yair is an adult and his views are his alone”.

Nazi claims to be ‘White Zionist’

But this is where it gets more confusing. Because yesterday, ‘Hail Trump’, white supremacist, Alt-Right leader Richard Spencer was interviewed on Israeli Channel 2, and said that Israelis should respect someone like him, because he’s “a white Zionist”:

“An Israeli citizen, someone who understands your identity, who has a sense of nationhood and peoplehood, and the history and experience of the Jewish people, you should respect someone like me, who has analogue feelings about whites. You could say that I am a white Zionist – in the sense that I care about my people, I want us to have a secure homeland for us and ourselves. Just like you want a secure homeland in Israel”, he said.

At the same time, Spencer voiced the classical anti-Semitic tropes about Jewish ‘over-representation’ and separating them from ‘whites’, when he was asked whether slogans such as “Jews will not replace us” constitute anti-Semitism:

“Let’s be honest,” Spencer said, “Jews are vastly over-represented in what you could call ‘the establishment,’ that is, Ivy League educated people who really determine policy, and white people are being dispossesed from this country.”

This is not the first time Spencer brings up the ‘white Zionism’ notion. He has also managed to leave Texas rabbi Matt Rosenberg speechless, when the latter, an avowed Zionist, challenged him with ‘love an inclusion’, where Spencer presented to him the question:

“Do you really want radical inclusion into the State of Israel? And by that I mean radical inclusion. Maybe all of the Middle East could go move in to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Would you really want that?”

Spencer added to the blow a white-supremacist embrace of “respect”:

“Jews exist precisely because you did not assimilate. That is why Jews are a coherent people with a history and a culture and a future. It’s because you had a sense of yourselves. I respect that about you. I want my people to have that same sense of themselves”, he said.

Not only is this not new from Spencer – it is not new from Nazis in general. As Adolf Eichmann said in 1960 (Time):

“In the years that followed (after 1937) I often said to Jews with whom I had dealings that, had I been a Jew, I would have been a fanatical Zionist. I could not imagine anything else. In fact, I would have been the most ardent Zionist imaginable.”

Indeed, the anti-Semitic, white-supremacist notions represented in Charlottesville, make the proximity between Zionism and anti-Semitism too close for comfort for many Jews, especially the Zionist ones. Zionism has a long and murky record of collaboration with Nazis, which presents a contradiction to the narrative of Israel being a diametric answer to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.

But having mentioned Yair Netanyahu, it could be an interesting anecdote to mention the letter of another Yair – the Jewish terrorist ‘Stern Gang’ leader Avraham ‘Yair’ Stern (‘Yair’ being his nom de guerre), offering allegiance to Hitler in January 1941. Here Stern offers to “actively take part in the war on Germany’s side” and that “common interests could exist between the establishment of a new order in Europe in conformity with the German concept, and the true national aspirations of the Jewish people as they are embodied by the NMO” (NMO stands for National Militant Organization, of which the Stern Gang became an offshoot).

“Anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends”

When Herzl wrote in his diary that “the anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies”, he was already pinpointing a notion which Zionism and Israel would desperately seek to conceal. Which is, that Zionism, the state ideology, and anti-Semitism, are tightly knit and inter-dependent. Zionism is not an answer to anti-Semitism – it is an extension of it. And when the unabashed racists and anti-Semites go marching, when their Israel-loving President keeps exonerating them and equating them with their victims, then it becomes a bit uncomfortable. The ideological affinity between anti-Semitism and Zionism becomes exposed. And that’s where the Zionist apologists try to cover it up again, under the balancing act of being a Zionist and opposing anti-Semitism.

But Benjamin Netanyahu’s son, Yair, he got the trick. The trick is to demonize the left as “haters” and “thugs”, so as to also be able to condemn the Nazis, as it were, but effectively making the left worse than Nazis, by downplaying the Nazis as a thing “of the past”. Because Israel is now in an ideological international fight both against anti-Semitism, supposedly and as it were, but more importantly and more truly, against the left. But it has to look good. You don’t want to seem too Nazi.

A Question of Academic Freedom

Nick Riemer

This article first appeared in Jacobin Magazine and is reproduced by permission of the author

BDS opponents are wrong — boycotts are well within the bounds of academic conduct.

Many academics have objected to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel on the grounds that it violates academic freedom — an accusation that has been remarkably successful in gaining traction.

Zionists denounce those who would disrespect the “free flow of ideas within the international scholarly community,” as Russell A. Berman puts it, but refuse to recognize that, in Palestine, ideas (not to mention people) face severe restrictions. The apparatuses of settler-colonial violence — which BDS’s opponents typically show little interest in dismantling — brutally contain thought in Palestine. This self-evident truth hasn’t yet exposed the academic-freedom argument for the hypocrisy it is.
The claim gets much of its force from the false notion that boycotts represent an exception to the academy’s normal functioning. Opponents don’t just want liberals to see BDS as an attack on a fundamental principle of scholarly exchange — they also want to shock them with the scandalous breach of academic politesse that BDS supposedly represents.But this vision of academic life is a chimera: a closer examination reveals that restricting the flow of ideas constitutes much of the daily conduct of research and teaching, and indeed, of the working life of universities in general. Academic exchange is not intrinsically bound up with the free exchange of ideas, but rather, with their regulation. That’s perhaps why many of the boycott’s fiercest opponents themselves regularly try — illegitimately — to restrict ideas they disagree with.
Continue reading “A Question of Academic Freedom”

How Not to Fight Antisemitism

On Monday 24 June Haringey Council gave a masterclass in how not to fight antisemitism. And indeed how to give local democracy a bad name.

On 15 June the agenda for the Council’s meeting was published. One item was the proposal of a motion, by the Council Leader on behalf of the Labour Group, for Haringey to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) ‘definition’ of antisemitism. (Those blissfully unaware of what is wrong with this sorry document can catch up here.)

Professor Haim Bresheeth addresses the protest outside the Council Meeting, in front of the FSOI banner
Professor Haim Bresheeth addresses the protest outside the Council Meeting, in front of the FSOI banner

A slow-motion car crash in action

Continue reading “How Not to Fight Antisemitism”

Labour’s Right, defending Israel on the pretext of fighting antisemitism

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi

Most Labour Party members, even including many MPs previously hostile to Jeremy Corbyn, have responded to the party’s revival during the general election campaign by setting aside divisive talk and looking forward to a more unified future. Not all however.

For Jeremy Newmark, chair of the pro-Israel Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), writing in the Jewish News, “the immediate agenda” is to re-investigate and expel Ken Livingstone, pursue outstanding cases such as Jackie Walker’s, “revisit” those Chakrabarti and Royall report recommendations “that fell short of expectations,” get the NEC to table the JLM’s rule change proposals at Labour Party conference and, “redouble our efforts to massively expand our training and education program at all levels across the party.”

The JLM’s rule change proposals, like their partisan training sessions, are based on the same principles as the “International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition” which attempts to redefine the term “antisemitism” in order to include criticism of the State of Israel. The impact of this goes way beyond the Labour Party. John Mann MP, one of a number of ardent, right-wing non-Jewish Zionists in the Labour Party, has proposed an Early Day Motion in Parliament calling for its adoption by all public bodies in the UK.

Jeremy Corbyn speaking
Jeremy Corbyn – under attack form the Jewish Labour Movement

It is significant that the Jewish Chronicle reacted angrily to Jeremy Corbyn’s race and faith manifesto issued during the election, complaining that “the manifesto only uses the section of the definition which makes reference to hatred of Jews. The rest of the definition – which refers to Israel – has been cut.” In other words, for the JC, the part of the IHRA document that seeks to define antisemitism as what it really is, is unacceptable unless widened to include examples which talk not about Jews but about the state of Israel.

The IHRA document is the subject of a legal opinion by an eminent human rights lawyer, Hugh Tomlinson QC, showing it to be a threat to freedom of speech and not – as its supporters claim – a necessary tool in the fight against antisemitism. Sir Stephen Sedley, a Jewish former appeal court judge, argues strongly in a recent article in the London Review of Books against the way it widens the definition of antisemitism from its essential meaning.

Proponents of the IHRA document claim that it poses no threat to free speech because it permits criticism of the current government of Israel and allows opposition to settlement building in the Palestinian West Bank. It is perfectly acceptable, they say, to subject Israel to criticism similar to that which is made of other states.

They fail to take into account the many ways in which Israel is entirely different from other states. The IHRA document explicitly rules out, as potentially antisemitic, types of criticism that Palestinians and their supporters are entitled to make in order to highlight their specific history of dispossession and racist discrimination. The document is already being used in the UK to censor campaigns which call for an end to injustices Palestinians have faced since Zionist colonisation and settlement of their land began a century ago.

The recent European Parliament debate on this subject starkly demonstrated the point. Social Democrats argued that the IHRA document was nothing more than a harmless contribution to opposing racism against Jews. But they found themselves in the same camp as far-right Islamophobes who saw it as a weapon to be used in Israel’s defence and against its critics, particularly Muslims.

This is not the way to unite our diverse and fractured society. Nor is it conducive to unity within the Labour Party.

Antisemites endorse call to MPs to support Israel

American Christian Zionist evangelist John Hagee’s organisation, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), was quick to applaud We Believe in Israel’s call to all general election candidates asking them to support Israel and oppose antisemitism. In the event, the call attracted little support from among the 3000 plus candidates.

There are many problems with this initiative which seeks to anathematise defence of Palestinian rights. Many are obvious but the support it has gained from CUFI and not renounced by the pledge organisers is the most egregious. Hagee has a well documented history as an antisemite. His willingness to condemn all Jews to eternal damnation has not prevented Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders warmly welcoming him; nor, it seems, extreme enough for Luke Akehurst to want to distance himself from them. Luke Akehurst, the prime mover behind We Believe in Israel, is not a lone wolf: he is well connected to the Zionist establishment and was appointed by BICOM, which is close to the Israeli Embassy, to lead this project.

CUFI leader John Hagee speaks to Israel supporters at a rally at the Jerusalem convention centre in 2008
CUFI leader John Hagee speaks to Israel supporters at a rally at the Jerusalem convention centre in 2008

Free Speech on Israel has written to Labour candidates who were misled into signing the pledge asking them to reconsider their endorsement. You can see a list of all signatories to the pledge on the CUFI website We encourage you to write to any of your local candidates who signed Continue reading “Antisemites endorse call to MPs to support Israel”

UK government told: reject campaign to ban PalExpo

Free Speech on Israel has written to Sajid Javid, UK Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, calling on him to resist a campaign to shut down Palestine Expo, Europe’s largest ever social, cultural and entertainment event on Palestine, scheduled for July 8/9 in London.
Queen Elizabeth II Centre
Queen Elizabeth II Centre
The letter says:
“We ask you to not merely reject the voices calling for suppression of dissemination of knowledge about Palestinian culture; we hope you will actively welcome this manifestation of the richness and diversity of London’s communities.”

Continue reading “UK government told: reject campaign to ban PalExpo”

Antisemites endorse call to MPs to support Israel

American Christian Zionist evangelist John Hagee’s organisation, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), was quick to applaud We Believe in Israel’s call to all general election candidates asking them to support Israel and oppose antisemitism. In the event, the call attracted little support from among the 3000 plus candidates.

There are many problems with this initiative which seeks to anathematise defence of Palestinian rights. Many are obvious but the support it has gained from CUFI and not renounced by the pledge organisers is the most egregious. Hagee has a well documented history as an antisemite. His willingness to condemn all Jews to eternal damnation has not prevented Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders warmly welcoming him; nor, it seems, extreme enough for Luke Akehurst to want to distance himself from them. Luke Akehurst, the prime mover behind We Believe in Israel, is not a lone wolf: he is well connected to the Zionist establishment and was appointed by BICOM, which is close to the Israeli Embassy, to lead this project.

CUFI leader John Hagee speaks to Israel supporters at a rally at the Jerusalem convention centre in 2008
CUFI leader John Hagee speaks to Israel supporters at a rally at the Jerusalem convention centre in 2008

Free Speech on Israel has written to Labour candidates who were misled into signing the pledge asking them to reconsider their endorsement. You can see a list of all signatories to the pledge on the CUFI website We encourage you to write to any of your local candidates who signed Continue reading “Antisemites endorse call to MPs to support Israel”

Judge tells Government: allow BDS

Mike Cushman

A High Court judge has ruled that the Government was exceeding its power in trying to direct Local Government Pension Funds to ignore calls for BDS and abandon ethical investing. The Government, he said: “has acted for an unauthorised purpose and therefore unlawfully“.

Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has a record of fierce partisanship in favour of Israel. As Culture Secretary he lobbied hard to punish the Tricycle Theatre for declining to accept Israeli Embassy funding. In his current post he attempted to misuse the review of Local Government pension regulations to prohibit funds from taking Israeli Human Rights abuses and other ethical considerations into account when deciding investment priorities. He sought to include

“In formulating and maintaining their policy on social,
environmental and corporate governance factors,
an administering authority…

• Should not pursue policies that are contrary to UK foreign
policy or UK defence policy.”

in the guidance.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign crowdfunded a judicial review of this manifestly politically motivated and partisan restriction.

PSC supporters outside High Court demand judge Judge rules pensions regulations illegal
PSC supporters outside the High Court

Continue reading “Judge tells Government: allow BDS”

I’m a British Jew, and I Don’t Fear a Corbyn Victory I’d Welcome It

Ha’aretz published two articles that totally misrepresented Jeremy Corbyn as an enemy of Jews and a poor choice for Prime Minister. Jonathan Rosenhead, vice-chair of FSOI responds.

This article originally appeared in Ha’aretz and is reprinted by permission of the author

The caricature of Jeremy Corbyn as a tool of Trotskyites, a lover of dictators and a shill of anti-Semites is unhinged and wrong

There is indeed a Jewish angle to Thursday’s UK general election. Come to that, there is a Jewish angle to most things of interest. But it is far from the most interesting feature of the election campaign. In their accounts of the election Colin Shindler (Can British Jews Still Vote Labour?) and Anshel Pfeffer (British Jewish Voters’ Choice: Anti-Semitism Today, or Tomorrow) manage both to mislead and confuse, and also to miss the big picture almost entirely.

Their portrayals are consistent – a caricature of the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn as a lover of dictators, leading a team of ex-communists and fellow travellers, at the head of a party engulfed by hard-left entryists

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn

and infiltrators. His followers have an anti-Semitic reflex, which Corbyn doesn’t ‘get’ as an issue.

All of which raises a big mystery – how is it that the more the British public gets to see Jeremy Corbyn relatively unmediated by the media and its commentators, the more they seem to like him? Continue reading “I’m a British Jew, and I Don’t Fear a Corbyn Victory I’d Welcome It”

PalExpo organisers resist hate campaign

Richard Kuper

Palestine Expo 2017 is the largest social, cultural and entertainment event on Palestine ever to take place in Europe. It runs on 8th and 9th July at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London. Food, live entertainment, academic discussion, shopping, photographic exhibitions and much, much more are on offer.

PalExpo leaflets
PalExpo leaflets

Too much, it seems for some. A hate campaign has been launched on social media maliciously accusing the organisers of having terrorist links in an effort to stop the celebration/exhibition in its tracks. Unjustified legal action, lawfare, has been launched by RHF Solicitors in Manchester representing Jewish Human Rights Watch (JHRW). They are trying to pressure the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre into cancelling the event. They have manufactured accusations against two of the organisers of PalExpo, Friends of Al-Aqsa (FOA) and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), claiming they have clear terrorist links and support

Lawfare letter from RHF solicitors
Lawfare letter from RHF solicitors attacking PalExpo

“Jew Hate across the UK”. The solicitor’s letter alleges that “the recurring anti-Semitic themes promoted by the above groups is deliberately intended to intimidate and discriminate against Jews.” It continues: “Our client is certain that this event is a front for Jew hate and that the main groups (Friends of Alaqsa & Palestine Solidarity Campaign) are organisations promoting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions in relation to Israel, a known anti-Semitic movement.”

Both FOA and PSC have robustly rejected these absurd allegations. In an appeal for support, FOA has said in a statement on 2nd June:

“FOA and our Chairman, Ismail Patel, have been slandered and defamed by JHRW who accuse us of spreading  ‘Jew hate’ because we support Boycott Divestment and Sanction of Israel. The promotion of BDS is supporting freedom of Palestinians and has nothing to do with being anti-Semitic!

They have also outrageously claimed that Palestine Expo should not be allowed to take place so close to Westminster, in a disgraceful attempt to exploit the recent horrific Westminster incident for their own gain. The malicious attack is a tactic to deter supporters of Palestine from attending.”

PSC Director Ben Jamal, cited in an article by Yvonne Ridley, called the allegations “false and disturbing” and explained:

“Palestine Expo will be a celebration of the rich Palestinian culture, with traditional dancing, food, artisan goods, art exhibits, and children’s entertainment alongside talks on the current political situation… We are sure that reasonable people have no issue with any national group celebrating their heritage.”

The two organisations are seeking legal redress against these slanders. They urge everyone to show their support for PalExpo by going along on 8th or 9th July! You can book tickets in advance here.

Further reading:

Ben White, “Israel and friends battle the boycott in Britain” Middle East Monitor, 1 March 2016

Yvonne Ridley, “An online hate campaign is trying to get a Palestinian cultural festival cancelled”,  Middle East Monitor, 26 May 2017