“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”

The Israel Lobby, Jeremy Corbyn, and the Abuses of Antisemitism

Richard Silverstein assesses how the campaign to demonise Jeremy Corbyn as an antisemite was promoted and developed and how it parallels attempts to discredit progressive US politicians.

Reprinted by permission from Tikun Olam

Ever since Jeremy Corbyn became a serious contender for Labour Party leader and later when he ran a surprisingly competitive election campaign, the UK Israel Lobby has been sharpening the knives against him. He is insufficiently pliant to Israeli interests. He is not subservient to the Lobby in the way previous Labour Party leaders have been. In addition, UK Jews are overwhelmingly Tory voters, so the prospect of a genuinely left-wing Party leader has given them the willies.  It has motivated the UK Lobby to escalate its efforts.

jeremy corbyn seder
Jeremy Corbyn attends Passover seder with the “bad Jews” of Jewdas

The accusations of antisemitism came right from the beginning, and they haven’t ceased for a second. They come in waves, all orchestrated by the Board of Deputies, the Israeli embassy, Bicom and their ancillary lobbying entities.

jeremy corbyn false anti semitism claims jewish chronicle

Typical screaming anti-Corbyn, anti-Labour Jewish Chronicle headline

When one wave of accusations recedes, another one comes along. This campaign is readily facilitated by the UK press.  Of Course the Tory tabloids and broadsheets like the Sun, Mirror, Mail and Telegraph offer screaming headlines about the fatal scent of anti Semitism in the ranks of Labour. Even supposedly liberal papers like the Guardian have lent their pages to the fulsome fusillades.

U.S. publications like the NY Times, not to be outdone, sic their pro Israel columnists on Corbyn’s alleged fatal flaw of Jew-hatred. We even witnessed the spectacle of an attack from resident pro Israel scribe, Bret Stephens.  Bari Weiss can’t be far behind.

Among the latest charges: that several Corbyn insiders belong to a 2,000 member private Facebook group which has published antisemitic comments.  So get this, several key figures in Corbyn’s circle either joined and were joined (depending on how your permissions are configured, sometimes Facebook Friends can sign you up for a group without your even approving it) were members of a group of 2,000 people among whom there were unspecified members who posted antisemitic material.  Corbyn’s folks didn’t post these comments.  In fact, we don’t even know if any of them posted even a single comment in the group.  None of them commented upon, liked or approved of the antisemitic posts.  So what exactly is the offense?  That they didn’t take the offending member out and shoot him?  Or that they didn’t denounce the rhetoric?  How could they if they didn’t participate in the group?  What does it mean that you are listed as a member of the social media group?  That you are personally responsible for every word published there?  Nonsense.

Angela Smiiht's tweet about Corbyn attending Jewdas seber (sic)
Angela Smiiht’s tweet about Corbyn attending Jewdas seber (sic)
The wrong sort of seder

The latest charge is a real doozy: after Corbyn asked to meet with the UK’s communal leadership, it refused unless he submitted to a series of conditions which were ridiculous and oppressive.  Instead, Corbyn chose to spend the Passover seder with a group of far more congenial UK Jews, progressives as well.  The members of Jewdas, a left-wing ant-Zionist group which opposes the mandarin Zionist leadership.  Well, the Jewish Chronicle and Deputies got wind of this and went to town.  They passed it on to the Blairites wing of the Labour Party and before you know it renegade MPs were denouncing Corbyn’s breaking matza with Jewish antisemites.

Guess what happened next? The UK Israel Lobby thought better of their shameless posturing and accepted Corbyn’s invitation to meet…with no conditions.  Exactly the approach they should’ve adopted from the beginning.  So Jeremy Corbyn and Jewdas taught the Lobby derech eretz, an ancient Jewish custom of showing decency to your fellow human being.

What especially irks me is hearing non-Jewish, non-progressive MPs telling Corbyn and the rest of us who are the good Jews and who are the bad.  And using a yardstick that has nothing to do with Judaism or Jewishness and everything to do, not just with Israel, but with an ultra-nationalist Likudist vision of Israel.  Excuse me, but Moses didn’t come down from Mt. Sinai with tablets on which the Zionist creed was inscribed.  He came down with Ten Commandments, which taught us as Jews how to be decent, ethical human beings.  Not good Zionists, but good humans.  That’s Jewdas’ vision and mine as well.  Maybe it’s yours too.

Strangely, though the charges are articulated in a fashion which assumes they pose a self evidently fatal blow to Corbyn, they aren’t. He bounces back as strong as ever. In fact, if anything, these scurrilous attacks ricochet and strike at the ones who launched them. Corbyn soldiers on, gaining support from quarters impervious to the traditional gutter snipe politicking of the tabloid press.

U.S. Israel Lobby Levels Antisemitism Charges Falsely at African-American Progressive Democrats

The Brits are not the only ones suffering from this ridiculous malady. Here in the U.S., our very own homegrown Israel Lobby and its media organs like the Algemeiner, Jewish Press, Washington Free Beacon, etc., stand like sentinels in the night protecting us from the anti Semites lurking among us.

The problem is that they always manage to dig up the usual suspects, and for some strange reason they’re always Democrats. Not just any Democrats, but progressive Democrats, least beholden to Israeli interests and the power of the Lobby. They are often African Americans, as well.

These attacks harken back to an era when Blacks and Jews first diverged from their mutual embrace of the civil rights agenda of the 1960s. Beginning in 1967, many Jews drew away from the Black struggle for justice and were drawn into Israel’s nationalist euphoria after its victory in what was called the Six Day War. This was also the era when Meir Kahane first developed his racist, nationalist platform, which is now triumphal within Israeli politics.

Ever since this period, pro Israel Jewish communal leaders have viewed the community’s interests as divergent from, and even inimical to the Black community’s. We saw this most clearly in the campaign by wealthy, white Jewush leaders to cast suspicion on Barack Obama’s bona fides as a supporter of Israel. He was called closet Muslim, anti Israel and even anti Semitic by some. The pages of the Jewish Forward were even filled with such false and provocative ads paid for by the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Nothing Obama did could assuage the naysayers and doomsayers. Though he was a traditional Democratic presidential candidate, captive to the Lobby, none of it did any good. The Lobby, under the influence of its Likud masters in Israel never warmed to him.

Even worse after Obama left office, Lobby groups like the ADL are suggesting he should apologize for being photographed in 2007, before he even ran for president, at a Congressional Black Caucus luncheon with Louis Farrakhan. Thankfully, Obama has ignored such nonsense.

Things are, if anything , worse with Bernie Sanders. A true populist, though with a strong pragmatic streak, he is seen as far too independent for the Lobby. His views on Israel, though calibrated in an extremely cautious fashion (long time lib-Zio DC operative, Matt Duss, manages his Israel messaging), elicited extreme fear and loathing from the Lobby.

But there is one major problem it has in attacking him: he is Jewish. Not religiously Jewish. But Jewish in the traditional cultural-political sense. He’s a liberal Democrat from New York. He sounds like us, looks like us, and thinks like us. So the usual attacks don’t stick. Sanders too, has been careful to manage his Israel messaging (and I don’t mean this as a compliment). Though it is distinctly to the left of Obama’s, he is careful not to rock the boat too heavily. After all, his main issues are domestic and economic. He is not a foreign policy wonk. That’s not where his passions lie. So Bernie is not prepared to die politically on a hill called Israel.

false israel lobby attacks on ellison

False claims by Israel Lobby oligarchs like Saban against Ellison

But Bernie has political allies who aren’t as insulated as he is from such attacks. Take Rep. Keith Ellison, who ran unsuccessfully for Democratic Party chair. The Lobby went into full attack mode then. They dredged up decade old comments he’d made praising Louis Farrakhan.

In 2009, I’d reported on secret Justice department wiretaps of the Israeli embassy which showed that the Minneapolus JCRC was tracking Ellison’s visit to Gaza with WA Rep. Brian Baird, after the 2012 Gaza war. The JCRC in turn passed this data on to the Israeli embassy, which also monitored Ellison’s activities, along with those of fellow African-American Muslim Rep. Andre Carson.,

Ellison is a proud progressive with a national profile. He is not beholden to the Lobby. Therefore, he poses a threat. That’s why its minions have dredged up an an old story that Ellison attended s 2009 dinner hosted by Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani. Farrakhan attended the same dinner which was falsely reported by the Forward as a “private dinner” with the three of them. In fact, 150 guests attended and Farrakhan was seated across the room from Ellison.

What do we learn from this? That the Israel lobby in both the UK and U.S. is threatened by true progressives. They prefer pliant, conservative politicians who do what they’re told without argument. We also learn that these two Lobbies are racist and Islamophobic. They they are anti populist and anti-democratic. They prefer Tories and Republicans. They prefer oligarchs and the white, monied classes. In short, they disapprove of everything many of the rest of us stand for. Even the Jews among us. Especially the (progressive) Jews among us.

Read also: UK Labor Party Witch Hunt: “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been Anti-Zionist?”

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”

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”

Corbyn Under Fire

Daniel Finn writes how, for weeks, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has been the target of a defamatory campaign meant to undermine it. He describes the agents of these attacks and their unsavoury connections
Reprinted from Jacobin by permission
The dominant narrative in the British media about Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party, and antisemitism is false and defamatory. Labour does not have a leadership that tolerates or encourages prejudice against Jews. It is not a safe haven for bigots. There is no evidence that antisemitic views are more prevalent in Labour than in other parties, or in British society as a whole.Anyone making those elementary points is likely to face an indignant response. Hasn’t Corbyn himself admitted that Labour has a problem? How can you deny the evidence staring you in the face? Continue reading “Corbyn Under Fire”

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”

When Did I Stop Being a Jew – reposted

This is being reposted as Facebook in an act of censorship has categorised the original as ‘abusive’

Mike Cushman, chair of FSOI, explains that to be Jewish is not about supporting Israel but about abiding by a moral code that stands against oppression

Those of us in Free Speech on Israel and even more our colleagues in Jewish Voice for Labour are accused every day on Twitter of not being real Jews. I, like soMike Cushmanme of our other activists, am a Jewish atheist but others of my colleagues are observant and some work for shuls. But this is not good enough for our detractors. This trolling by apologists for Israel is meant to both hurt us on a personal level and devalue our efforts to show that not all Jews rally to Israel’s crimes.

I was born of a Jewish mother, which under Jewish law is definitive even if I had not been circumcised, as I was, eight days later. I was Jewish enough to go to cheder every Sunday to learn about Jewish history and fail to learn Hebrew – but then on the other six days I also failed to learn French. Continue reading “When Did I Stop Being a Jew – reposted”

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”