Sacks Vs Corbyn

Why conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism makes fighting antisemitism impossible

Robert Cohen explains why Sacks’ comments are dangerous for British Jews as well as attacking Palestinian rights. Reprinted from Patheos by permission of he author

Earlier this week Rabbi Jonathan Sacks made himself look foolish, tarnishing his worldwide reputation as a man of considerable Jewish learning and wisdom by making outlandish criticism of the Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn.

This morning, on the BBC Andrew Marr Show, he did it again:

“He [Corbyn] implies the majority of British Jews are essentially alien to British culture…he is as great a danger as Enoch Powell.”

For younger readers and those less familiar with U.K. political history, Enoch Powell was a Conservative MP from the 1950s through to the early 70s who Andrew Marr explained to his viewers is “probably the most reviled British figure of the 20th century”. Continue reading “Sacks Vs Corbyn”

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 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”

Freedom of Speech in Universities

FSOI presented evidence to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights enquiry on Freedom of Speech in Universities about the threat posed by far right and Zionist disruption of events supportive of Palestinian rights. This evidence was presented in January 2018 but not published here through an administrative oversight.

Submission by Free Speech on Israel to the Inquiry by the Joint Committee on Human Rights

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Antisemitism in the UK is not epidemic, and is low by comparative standards.

Externally generated pressures based on an enlarged definition of antisemitism are encroaching on the freedom to hold campus events supportive of Palestine and therefore critical of Israel.

The UK government has adopted a contentious definition of antisemitism (now found not to have been agreed by its supposed promoting body), and has promoted it to all UK universities, as well as to local authorities.

The dissemination of this definition was followed by an upsurge, still ongoing, in university managements’ obstructions of campus meetings thought likely to adopt a critical stance on Israel.

Such action has frequently been triggered by complaints from external groups supportive of Israel.

There is a growing campaign of aggressive disruption of such meetings by far-right and Zionist activists.

We make recommendations for Government, universities and Universities UK to defend legally entrenched free speech. Continue reading “Freedom of Speech in Universities”

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”

Tell us what you mean when you say antisemitism

Brian Robinson describes how much discourse about antisemitism is unhelpful because issues around Israel keep intruding and even Jews find themselves silenced. We must confront an epidemic of hysteria if we are to have a sensible conversation

The problem with almost all discussions on television, radio, print media, and also recent street demonstrations, with respect to antisemitism is that the participants never seem to define the word, but everyone assumes, and leaves the reader, listener, viewer, observer to assume that we’re all talking about the same thing. Antisemitism was classically always about discrimination against, or hatred of, or exclusion of Jews as Jews, simply for being Jews, regardless of anything they did or didn’t do. Various refinements of that definition include adding phrases to include the notion of stereotypical projections, where Jews are perceived in prejudicial ways to be something they are not. The Oxford philosopher Brian Klug, for instance, uses scare quotes, as in for example, ‘Hatred of Jews as “Jews”’. Continue reading “Tell us what you mean when you say antisemitism”

Sam Semoff

Free Speech on Israel is saddened to learn of the death of Sam Semoff. Sam was a dedicated supporter of FSOI, opponent of Zionist oppression of Palestinians and a leading figure in campaigns against privatisation of the health service

Sam Semoff
Sam Semoff

Sam’s comrades in Liverpool have published this tribute

Continue reading “Sam Semoff”

Labour smears Israel’s critics as antisemites

Free Speech on Israel is supporting the Labour against the Witch-hunt’s

Lobby of the Labour Party NEC

Tuesday 23 January
11.00 a.m.-1.00 p.m.

Southside, 105 Victoria Street London SW1E 6QT

1. A moratorium on any new NCC witch-hunt cases
2. The withdrawal of all outstanding NCC witch-hunt cases
3. The immediate implementation of the Chakrabarti report recommendations on Labour’s disciplinary procedures in respect of natural justice and due process

Labour activist and co-founder of Britain’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign Tony Greenstein will shortly undergo a Labour Party disciplinary hearing over accusations of alleged antisemitic comments made online. Greenstein was suspended from Labour back in 2016 when the remarks first came to light. Greenstein has maintained the content was legitimate criticism of Israeli policy, and not derogatory statements about Jews. 

Moshé Machover, a British-Israeli activist and member of the UK’s Labour Party, has prepared the following testimony in defence of Greenstein. Machover was also the founder of the Israeli socialist political party Matzpen.  Continue reading “Labour smears Israel’s critics as antisemites”

Right-Wing “Friends of Israel” disrupt Jewish antisemitism discussions

In London these days, Jews critical of Israel need police protection in order to hold meetings.

“We’re just Jews calling other Jews kapos”.
Disruptors at a Free Speech on Israel meeting at SOAS on November 14. Photo by Sue Blackwell

In November and December this year, individuals claiming to defend the Jewish community against people they view as traitors – that is, Jews who are critical of Israel – have actively organised to disrupt a series of meetings on university and parliamentary premises.

In one instance on November 14, shouting, cat-calling and loud abuse resulted in massive disruption of a meeting to launch a book about antisemitism published by the US organisation Jewish Voice for Peace. The event was organised by the campaign group Free Speech on Israel (FSOI) at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Abuse directed at the Jewish speakers and audience members included, “You’re called traitor Jews, kapos….(“Kapo” is a label applied to Jews who helped the Nazis run the death camps.)… We’re going to challenge you and your foul race hate against Jewish people….You’re a moron and she’s an antisemite.” The last remark was addressed to one of the speakers and her sister. Continue reading “Right-Wing “Friends of Israel” disrupt Jewish antisemitism discussions”