Distorting the definition of antisemitism: silencing criticism of Israel

Amos Goldberg and Raz Segal add to evidence that the IHRA (mis)definition of antisemitism fails to protect Jews and inhibits free speech as illustrated by the recent actions of Tower Hamlets Council

They describe how the IHRA initially sought to combat racism against Jews and Holocaust denialism, but its definition of antisemitism serves as a tool for silencing criticism of Israel, making it harder to identify actual forms of anti-Jewish hatred.

This article is republished from +972

There is a growing tendency among both Jews and non-Jews to label those with whom they have profound political differences, especially on the subject of Israel-Palestine, as antisemitic. The accusation is a severe one: in most countries in the West, antisemitism is considered a taboo, and the identification of a person or organization with antisemitism often renders them illegitimate in the public arena. Continue reading “Distorting the definition of antisemitism: silencing criticism of Israel”

Facebook allege calling Israeli settlers land stealers is ‘offensive’

Richard Silverstein, a well respected American Jewish blogger and columnist has been banned by Facebook for accusing Israeli settlers of stealing land (shock, horror) on the basis that it “disparage[s] ethnic or religious groups”.

I am a freelance journalist and political blogger with 5,000 Facebook followers on my personal account and 1,500 Followers of my blog page, Tikun Olam.  I publish articles about the Israeli-Arab conflict.

The message Silverstein received from Facebook telling him he was bannedOn June 7th, I posted to Facebook this article from the site, AI Monitor, which reported that Palestinian landowners who had lost their homes through fraudulent real estate transactions perpetrated by Israeli settlers had regained them.

I added to the article my own comment: “Israeli settlers steal land.” The screenshot of my post and comment is attached.

Continue reading “Facebook allege calling Israeli settlers land stealers is ‘offensive’”

Ronnie Barkan: I stand here today as the accuser, not the accused

Ronnie Barkan is  a long-time Israeli friend of FSOI. Alongside two other activists for Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, he faced a first trial hearing in Berlin on 4 March for disrupting a talk by Israeli lawmaker Aliza Lavie at Humboldt Wniversity in Berlin (in 2017). The three were pointing out her complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity. The three are Ronnie Barkan, Stavit Sinai (both Jewish-Israeli) and Majed Abusalama (Palestinian), known as the “Humboldt 3”.

This is his powerful speech to the court.

I stand here today with a sense of pride.

Not the pride of vanity, but pride in knowing that what I did was fundamentally right and done for the greater good.

I also stand here today as the accuser, not the accused.

he Humboldt 3, Stavit Sinai, Ronnie Barkan, and Majed Abusalama, receive an award from Copenhagen’s Mayor for Technical and Environmental Affairs, Ninna Hedeager Olsen (far right) in February 2019.
The Humboldt 3, Stavit Sinai, Ronnie Barkan, and Majed Abusalama, receive an award for their courage from Copenhagen’s Mayor for Technical and Environmental Affairs, Ninna Hedeager Olsen (far right) in February 2019.

Continue reading “Ronnie Barkan: I stand here today as the accuser, not the accused”

How to turn Breaking the Silence rights activists into ‘traitors’

Orly Noy explores how malicious allegations calling Breaking the Silence activists traitors, spies, and enemies of the state were used to attempt to destroy their reputation as principled defenders of human rights. While criminal charges have not been pressed, the reputational damage persists and no one has apologised.

This article was first published in +972 Magazine and is reprinted by permission

One day in the future, when high school students learn about the transformation of Israel from a nationalistic fortress state into a fascistic one, an entire chapter will be dedicated to the persecution of left-wing activists and human rights groups. The chapter will describe at length the role of three central bodies in this destructive process: extreme-right organizations, the media, and politicians from across the political spectrum. Continue reading “How to turn Breaking the Silence rights activists into ‘traitors’”

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?”

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”

Israel and the Labour Party: a love story

Leon Rosselson shows how the Labour Party is in a state of denial about an Israel committed to a fantasy of a two state solution to be achieved through non-existent peace talks

This article is reprinted by permission from Medium

In my last blog  I suggested that Israel’s staunch supporters are infected with a brain disease called Zionusitis. It was, of course, a joke. Or maybe it wasn’t. Since then, there has been another enactment of the absurdist farce called Antisemitism in the Labour Party. A demonstration in Parliament Square organised by the (self-selected) British Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council demanded an end to the antisemitism which, so they claim, is now rife in Corbyn’s Labour Party. It was attended by a number of Labour MPs plus various riff-raff from other parties and the usual suspects from the Jewish Labour Movement. Following that, Jeremy Corbyn attended a seder organised by a group of young Jews called Jewdas and was pilloried for consorting with the wrong sort of Jews.

Of course, this has nothing to do with real antisemitism. The Board of Deputies has no problem with the antisemitism of Trump and the American white supremacists or the antisemites in Hungary and Poland, like Viktor Orban, since they are also firm supporters of Israel. Jewdas is attacked as unrepresentative because it is a non-Zionist group. Since Israel claims to represent all the Jews in the world and since Netanyahu claims to speak for ‘the Jewish people’, it would not be surprising if those who are angered by Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians tweet or write criticism of Israel that sometimes topple over into antisemitism. But a report by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research found that the level of antisemitism in the country and across the political parties , including the Labour Party, is low; the level of anti-Israelism, on the other hand, is significantly higher. And this is what the Zionist lobby, the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Labour Movement, the Labour Friends of Israel, are concerned about. Continue reading “Israel and the Labour Party: a love story”

This Is not about Natalie Portman

Michael Lesher argues that talking about Portman’s refusal to visit Israel to receive a prize provides a useful distraction from thinking about Israel’s murders of Gazans

This article first appeared in The Forward and is reprinted by permission

Come on, folks. Since when is one actress’s discomfort about sharing a stage with Israel’s blood-stained prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, more newsworthy than the Israeli atrocities against Gaza that presumably spurred it? (And let’s face it, these are just the most recent horrors in Israel’s war on the 2 million inmates of the world’s largest concentration camp.)

Since when does a cancelled award ceremony take precedence over murdered children and defenceless demonstrators getting their legs blown off?

And what sort of Jewish media, or public intellectuals, would have more to say about one performer’s refusal to be window dressing for Israel’s latest crimes than about the crimes themselves?

But — oh, if only these were rhetorical questions! Continue reading “This Is not about Natalie Portman”

Dear Natalie Portman, your liberal Zionism won’t save your Jewish values

An open letter to Natalie Portman  from Robert Cohen telling her that her stance is brave and welcome but will fail unless she deepens her understanding of the limitations of even liberal Zionism

Reprinted by permission from Writing From The Edge

“Israel was created exactly 70 years ago as a haven for refugees from the Holocaust. But the mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values. Because I care about Israel, I must stand up against violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power.”

Natalie Portman, Friday 20 April 2018

Dear Natalie

I too was a liberal Zionist.

I too thought the problem was the leaders of Israel and their policies.

I too thought a change of leadership and a change of policies could fix things.

I don’t think that anymore.

Like you, I care about “Jewish values” but I long ago gave up on the idea that Israel, and the Zionism that created and sustains the Jewish State, would protect those values. Continue reading “Dear Natalie Portman, your liberal Zionism won’t save your Jewish values”

The ‘Jewish nation’ is the central myth of Zionism. It needs to be dismantled

Jonathan Ofir argues that trying to imagine a Jewish nation into existence leads to nonsensical parodies of Israeli  citizenship and nationality and excises the Palestinians

Republished by permission from Mondoweiss

Today, April 18th, is the eve of Israel’s 70th Independence Day. Some are probably wondering how that may be possible, if Israel declared its independence on the evening of May the 14th. The answer is, that Israel celebrates the event as if it was a Jewish holiday, according to the moon calendar, which most often does not coincide with the Latin, sun-based calendar.

This is only one aspect in how Israel seeks to apply itself as a “Jewish State”. But I am going to speak about an even more essential ideological aspect that sits at the heart of Zionism. It is not the notion of the Jewish state as such, but the notion of the Jewish nation.

Continue reading “The ‘Jewish nation’ is the central myth of Zionism. It needs to be dismantled”