Is antisemitism different from other forms of racism?

Mike Cushman asks, wherefore is this racism different from all other racisms?

Advocates of the IHRA document on antisemitism often claim that antisemitism is different from all other forms of racism because it attacks a privileged group rather than a disadvantaged group – are they right? Both Jewish and non-Jewish members of the antisemite hunting pack are fond of this claim.

The answer is, of course, no and yes.

Is antisemitism different?
Jews arriving in the East End at the start of the 20th century
Jews arriving in the East End at the start of the 20th century

Historically, at the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century Britain’s Jews were largely a poor immigrant community, sweated labour in the garment factories and living in overcrowded slums. Antisemitism then was no different to the racism suffered now by Bengalis in the East End who have inherited their workplaces and location. Balfour’s 1905 Aliens act was driven by the same visceral racism that characterises all the subsequent migration legislation from the 1962 Commonwealth

East End Bengalis protesting against the racist murder of Altab Ali (source Swadhinata Trust)

Immigrants Act onwards. Jews then faced the same problems in accessing housing, jobs and fair treatment from public agencies that people of colour face now. So, in this respect – no, not different.

Continue reading “Is antisemitism different from other forms of racism?”

FSOI supports global Jewish initiative against demonising criticism of Israel

Unprecedented initiative by over 30 Jewish groups worldwide opposes equating antisemitism with criticism of Israel

  •  Jewish groups issue joint statement against misleading definition of antisemitism used to stifle criticism of Israel and undermine free speech
  • Coalition of 36 groups from 15 countries defends right to criticise and boycott Israel
  • IHRA definition undermines both Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and global struggle against antisemitism

New York, London, Berlin, Tel Aviv (July 17, 2018)  –  From South Africa to Sweden, New Zealand to Germany to Brazil, for the first time ever over thirty Jewish organisations across the globe have come together in a statement opposing attempts to use a distorted definition of antisemitism to stifle criticism of Israel. The statement, spearheaded by the US-based Jewish Voice for Peace and supported by six UK Jewish groups, condemns a growing trend of legislative campaigns to target organisations that support Palestinian rights, especially the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Continue reading “FSOI supports global Jewish initiative against demonising criticism of Israel”

The Guardian censors criticism of May and Netanyahu

Mike Cushman condemns the suppression of Steve Bell’s cartoon of Netanyahu’s meeting with May as only the latest censoring of drawings of the Israeli PM in a bonfire of morality.

The Guardian, which regards itself as Britain’s leading progressive newspaper, has censored a cartoon drawing attention to the sycophantic nature of Theresa May’s relationship to Benjamin Netanyahu.

The cartoon drawn by Steve Bell, widely regarded as Britain’s outstanding political cartoonist, is based on a press agency photo of May’s meeting with Netanyahu at 10 Downing Street.

Theresa May and Benjamin Netanyahu at Downing Street on June 6, 2018
Theresa May and Benjamin Netanyahu at Downing Street on June 6, 2018 (Photo: Getty Images)

Bell replaced the fireplace with a drawing of murdered Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar.

The Steve Bell cartoon censored for 'antisemitism'
The Steve Bell cartoon censored for ‘antisemitism’

There has been no clear statement from the Guardian as to why this sharp but fair condemnation of the insouciance of the two prime ministers is antisemitic. This has resulted in speculation that placing Razan in the fireplace (the focal centre of the press photo) has been interpreted as an insensitive allusion to the Nazi crematoria. Continue reading “The Guardian censors criticism of May and Netanyahu”

Liberty AGM warns of dangers of IHRA ‘definition of antisemitism’

Liberty LogoLiberty, Britain’s leading human rights charity, agreed a resolution deploring use of the IHRA (mis)definition of antisemitism at its AGM on 19 May.

Media Notice from Free Speech on Israel

Liberty Warns against IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

Resolution passed by civil liberties body says government-adopted definition risks undermining the fight against antisemitism

  • Liberty reiterates abhorrence of antisemitism as “repellent undercurrent which persists across the social and political spectrum.”
  • Definition conflating antisemitism with criticism of Israel is “threat to freedom of expression.”
  • Public bodies urged not to adopt IHRA definition.

The Annual General Meeting of Liberty, Britain’s leading organisation concerned with civil liberties and human rights, has warned public bodies not to adopt a government-backed definition of antisemitism because it brings confusion to the fight against anti-Jewish prejudice as well as constituting a threat to freedom of expression. Continue reading “Liberty AGM warns of dangers of IHRA ‘definition of antisemitism’”

Im Tirtzu claims New Israel Fund supports ‘foreign agents’ who persecute Israeli soldiers

Jonathan Ofir describes how a  fascist group, Im Tirtzu, defames and attempts to intimidate and silence critical voices in “the only democracy in the Middle East”

This article first appeared in Mondoweiss reprinted by permission of the author

The right wing Israeli Jewish group “Im Tirtzu” has published an incitement video, featuring Adi Shosberger, who has recently called soldiers near the Gaza fence ‘terrrorists,’; and an activist from ‘Machsom Watch’ (‘Checkpoint watch’) who tells an Israeli soldier “you are a disgrace”.

Im Tirtzu video targeting New Israel Fund for allegedly persecuting Israeli soldier
Im Tirtzu video targeting New Israel Fund for allegedly persecuting Israeli soldier

The video frames these actions as a conspiracy of the progressive New Israel Fund. New Israel Fund, a global organization based in the U.S., has supported Machsom Watch, but it has no connection to Shosberger. “I have no connection to the New Israel Fund,” Shosberger writes, in Hebrew.  Continue reading “Im Tirtzu claims New Israel Fund supports ‘foreign agents’ who persecute Israeli soldiers”

Venturing into the lion’s den: the case against IPSO

Jonathan Coulter describes the weaponisation process, the targeting of the Labour Party and his own experience in challenging media distortions.   He seeks to explain why this is happening, and goes on to suggest how pro-Palestinian rights activists can push back, in alliance with other groups.

Britain’s acquiescence with the weaponisation of antisemitism; can we really be so daft?

I recently launched a Judicial Review of the press regulator IPSO (Independent Press Standards Organisation) for failing to heed a group complaint about two Murdoch newspapers which had grossly misreporIPSO logoted a House of Lords meeting to launch the campaign for Britain to apologise for the impact on the native Palestinian people of the Balfour Declaration of 1917.   Between them, the newspapers had smeared a whole meeting of Palestine sympathisers as ‘antisemitic’ and, by implication anybody who spoke at or attended similar meetings.

In this endeavour I worked closely with the Hacked Off Campaign.  Hacked Off has no position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but supported me as it considers IPSO to be a ‘sham regulator’ that the press barons established to protect their own interests, and not those of the public, and because it felt that my specific complaints had merit and were important. Continue reading “Venturing into the lion’s den: the case against IPSO”

How talking about Zionism can lose you your job

Mike Cushman reports how Stan Keable has been sacked by Hammersmith and Fulham Council for a private conversation when he attended the Jewish Voice for Labour Parliament Square rally on 26 March.

Stan Keable, a Unison branch officer, has worked for Hammersmith and Fulham Council for 17 years as a Housing Enforcer: his job is to force landlords to keep their property in a safe and habitable condition.

Stan engaged in a discussion with a Zionist during the Parliament Square rally, a conversation that happened to be recorded by the BBC and broadcast. During the one on one discussion Stan talked about the historically undisputed collaboration between the Nazis and the German Zionist leadership. At no time did Stan make any, even remotely, antisemitic comments.

Hammersmith and Fulham Tory MP Greg Hands circulated the video of the conversation, publicised on Twitter and then referred it to the New Labour Leader of the Council. That letter, which was the first public association of Stan with the Council, was made public. This linking of Stan with the Council was the sole basis of the charge of ‘bringing the council into disrepute’. Hands publicised Stan’s link with the Council and then this publicising was, itself, used as the basis for dismissal. An offence that only existed because the complainant had caused it to exist. Continue reading “How talking about Zionism can lose you your job”

FSOI regrets Ken Livingstone’s resignation from the Labour Party

Free Speech on Israel deeply regrets that Ken Livingstone has been driven out of the Labour Party by a concerted campaign of misrepresentations of what he said. FSOI has always stood beside Ken and his statement on resignation clearly lays out why we have been right to do so. He is demonstrably not an antisemite but his opponents want to use his case to intimidate the rest of us into silence on Israel’s crimes. They will fail.

STATEMENT FROM KEN LIVINGSTONE

21 May 2018

After much consideration, I have decided to resign from the Labour Party. Continue reading “FSOI regrets Ken Livingstone’s resignation from the Labour Party”

“Antisemitism” not “anti-semitism”

Throughout this blog we use the spelling antisemitsm and antisemite. The reasons we do this are political and not pedantic as usefully spelled out in the Jewish Voice for Peace book, On Antisemitism

Throughout this book, we have chosen to use the spelling “antisemitism”, following the advice of scholars in Jewish Studies who have made a compelling case for this spelling. While this term is used to refer to anti-Jewish sentiment, the category “Semite” was actually imposed by scientific racism, a pseudo-scientific use of scientific techniques and hypotheses to identify and classify phenotypes, and to sort humans into different races. Scientific racism often supported or justified racial hierarchies. term “antisemitism” was notably popularized by the German writer and politician Wilhelm Marr, who used the term “Semitic” to denote a category of language that included Aramaic, Arabic, and Hebrew. Marr used this term to lend credence to his analysis of what he argued was a life-or-death struggle between Germans and Jews, a struggle that could not be resolved by assimilation.

According to Yehuda Bauer, the use of the hyphen and upper case, as in “anti-Semitism,” legitimises the pseudo-scientific category of Semitism. We have therefore chosen to spell the term as “antisemitism” throughout. There are contributors to this book who argue for reclaiming the term “Semite,” and emphasizing, among other things, the relationship between Hebrew and Arabic that the term implies. Those contributions retain the spelling of “anti-Semitism.” We do not want to minimize this analysis: it is crucial to understanding that the European invention of antisemitism saw European Jews as “others,” more like Arabs than Europeans, in the context of a civilizational and orientalist discourse. As contributions to this book make clear, as we fight antisemitism, it is essential that we fight Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism with equal vigour.

Similarly we give no time to the too often heard statement that ‘Arabs are semites too’, so “anti-semitism” must apply equally to anti-Palestinian attitudes. This is wrong for two reasons. Firstly, there are no “semites” to be anti. It is an invalid use of the name of a language group for a supposed race; it is like calling abuse of the French or Spanish anti-romanticism, since  both French and Spanish are romance languages.

Secondly the meanings of words are defined by their usage not their origins. The etymology of many words would suggest something totally different meaning to their current meanings; neither toilets nor lavatories are where you go to wash despite their derivations. Antisemitism means hatred of Jews, even if Judeophobia might be a better word to describe the phenomenon.

How Equalities Policies are Used to Deny Free Speech and Human Rights

Tony Greenstein describes the tortuous logic used by Hammersmith and Fulham Council to try to dismiss Stan Keable for unexceptional speech about collaboration between Nazis and Zionists in the 1930s. Free speech seems to be a difficult concept for the Council to grasp.

I have just learnt why Steve Terry, the London Regional Organiser (Local Government) is so unwilling to help Stan Keable.  He is also Councillor Steve Terry of Walthamstow Council and a firm supporter of Progress.  I am writing to him to ask him to step aside and have no further dealings with the case as he clearly has a conflict of interest.  I would be interested if anyone else has had dealings with Mr Terry.

On March 26th, as part of the wholly contrived campaign against Jeremy Corbyn, which blew up around a long erased, allegedly antisemitic, mural various Zionist organisations organised their first ‘anti-racist’ demonstration outside Parliament.  It is worth noting that over 2 years ago the Jewish Chronicle was far more tentative, describing the mural as having “anti-Semitic undertones.”  Fast forward to today and the same Jewish Chronicle was clear that ‘its intent was obvious’. Continue reading “How Equalities Policies are Used to Deny Free Speech and Human Rights”