Antony Lerman’s CiF article of January 14th provided an excellent example of how a manipulative above the line writer can produce a mirror image of his message in the comments below the line and in doing so create an impression of consensus of opinion.
As we all know, Lerman is an anti-Zionist who advocates a one-state ‘solution’ and believes that the Law of Return should be repealed. He is opposed to the EUMC Working Definition of Anti-Semitism, stating “[a]nd it puts out of bounds the perfectly legitimate discussion of whether increased anti-Semitism is a result of Israel’s actions.”
My impression is that Lerman employs three main arguments about antisemitism with the aim of furthering his political agenda. He claims that antisemitism is exaggerated, that people with pro-Israel sympathies try to use antisemitism as a method of silencing criticism of Israel, and most dangerously, if rather paradoxically, he claims that rising antisemitism in the rest of the world is the direct result of Israeli policy and actions.
Sure enough, in the below the line comments, all three of these claims were repeated ad nauseum.
First, the downplaying of antisemitism:
14 Jan 2010, 1:17PM
The students go to Auschwitz and believe the Israeli secret serviceman who tells them they’re in “hostile country” and can’t go out from their hotel in the evening because neo-Nazis will attack them.
People in Israel, and much of the USA, appear to have undergone some form of Pavlovian conditioning, starting in schools, to the effect that they are obliged to cry antsemitism whenever anybody anywhere raises any question about Israel on any topic.
Give Israel your unconditional support, indeed.
They have thereby rendered the term devoid of meaning; an excuse for not actually engaging in debate.
Shout fire in a crowded theatre often enough and people are going to say just shut up, we’re going to watch the end of the play.
14 Jan 2010, 1:18PM
Reading some arguments, it often seems that not singing Israel’s praise 17 times a day is tantamount to anti-semitism.
(maybe allowing someone like Melanie Phillips to decide what constitutes ‘anti-semitism’ is part of the problem).
If this leads to a more profound conclusion than the post-911 “they hate us for our freedoms” horseshit…then it can only be a good thing.
14 Jan 2010, 1:26PM
In an odd sort of way, Israeli society has become a little like the nightmare of ‘politically correct gone mad’ obsessives rave about. If you focus all the time on some aspect of your identity, and interpret every possible action in that light, you become a bore and obsessive. So in some respects an Israeli (or Jewish) person who focuses excessively on anti semitism becomes like Bidisha seeing sexism or homophobia everywhere or a black activist who sees racism in every minor personal slight. It is just as risible. Its not just an Israeli thing – reading some American Jewish writers it is striking just how self obsessed some of the agonising is over percieved anti-semitism – in one online mag just last week there were some bizarre postings about the actress Natalie Portmans passing comment that she didn’t particularly want to do Jewish roles.
While historically of course there are pretty good reasons to be upset about antisemitism – we all know how it ended up mid 20th Century – it has the ironic effect of both giving people an excuse to use it ‘since you’ll call me an anti-semite whatever I say, I might as well insult you’. It also distracts from genuine anti-semitism (which I suspect hardly exists anymore, as distinct from general bigotry aimed at Jews, Arabs, Blacks, gays, etc). Even neo-nazis are now more interested in other ethnic groups to pick on.
As a modest proposal, I suggest that unless it has a very specific context, the entire word ‘anti-semitism’ be struck from discourse and replaced with the simple and unambiguous word ‘bigotry’.
14 Jan 2010, 1:54PM
The term Semite means a member of any of various ancient and modern Semitic-speaking peoples originating in southwestern Asia, including Akkadians, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Hebrews, Arabs, and Ethiopian Semites.
Who then is the anti-Semite?
14 Jan 2010, 5:14PM
Complaining about antisemitism today is like complaining about anti-white prejudice.
Sure it exists, but it is so laughably ineffective that it might as well not.
14 Jan 2010, 1:57PM
## orwellwasright ( tries) to bash Israel or mock anti-semitism. ##
What is mock anti Semitism.? Is that the same as phoney anti Semitism posted by pro Israelis to tar CIF as biased? ..eg..
## Maybe All jews want are their pound of flesh. ##
Now thats what I call mock anti Semitism! 🙂
14 Jan 2010, 2:18PM
## If anybody knows what anti-semitism is I guess it would be you, ##
.Im just not going to let folk away with shouting anti Semite …even at full volume it does not drown out the sound of bulldozers.
14 Jan 2010, 4:52PM“semitic’ applies to people, who speak semitic languages, as Hebrew and Arabic. The Holocaust was “antisemitic” and so is the policy of the state of Israel against Palestinians.
Next, accusations of silencing criticism of Israel:
14 Jan 2010, 5:30PM
Good Article Anthony. It is indeed difficult to define anti-semitism, because more often that not these days, it seems to not be so much a sectarian mindset as a tool used by the pro-israel crowd to stifle legitimate debate. I attended a Q&A session last year in a hasbara school in Jerusalem, full of young girls and invariably even though the discussion was about what is happening to the Palestinians the conversation was also dragged back to anti-semitism.
As regards Norman Finkelstein, the man is a shining light in the murky world of scholarship on the I/P conflict. There is a documentary out about him now called ‘American Radical’, if I remember correctly.
14 Jan 2010, 3:06PM
***another good example of how little concern Israel’s defenders have for the real world – just so long as they can slur or defame anyone critical of Israel’s actions… oh the irony..***
Ye indeed. These days any criticism of the actions of The State of Israel is immediately denounced ” anti-semitic”.
Thus absolutely all criticism whether from concerned individuals across the world or numerous respected humanitarian organisations or indeed bodies such as the UN (representing 192 countries) can be dismissed without a thought (as Turkey is now discovering).
As we have seen before in human history, a belief in a ” faultless” State with “flawless” people who are “God’s Chosen People ” and may therefore feel superior to the rest of the world brings certain dangers.
Ultimately this is not a good thing for Israel.
Then, those who claim that anti-Semitism is caused by Israel.
14 Jan 2010, 5:53PM
I quite agree with you, though it begs the question why it is not included under the general banner of ‘racism’ where it belongs. Why is it seen as a special case, with its own label?
The answer, in a nutshell, is Zionism.
If anti-semitism were the same as ordinary racism, then like ordinary racism it would have declined in the last 40 years (and anyone who disagrees with that has forgotten just how racist our societies were even a generation ago).
In fact, anti-semitism along with other forms of racism has declined.
But if your political program is justified by the constant threat of racism towards Jews, then you either have to abandon your political program or insist, against all the evidence, that racism against Jews is somehow unique and immune to the decline of other forms of racism.
Hence the bizarre attempts of Zionists to convince the world that anti-semitism is a unique and malevolent force like cancer that has existed throughout history and will continue to exist forever, instead of admitting that racism directed against Jews has largely been a function of timing, religious belief and pure bad luck (I mean, how bad does it suck that so many Jews ended up living in countries where the dominant religious scripture held them to be deicides and apostates?).
Foxman and his ilk will never stop as long as Israel exists. They don’t really care about anything else. Engaging with them is silly. They are only fit for ridicule.
15 Jan 2010, 12:14PM
why Israel’s behaviour towards the Palestinians apparently results in hostile attitudes to Jews rather than to Israelis. This could only happen because of deep-seated prejudices – long predating the re-establishment of the Jewish state – against Jews and (I would argue) Judaism.
Or, could it be – shock! horror! – that people have taken Israeli-state and Zionist propaganda at face value?
I agree, we should do everything possible to break the entirely false political and ideological link between the Israeli state and the Jews as a whole.
We can best do this by breaking the backs of the two political philosophies that strive to cement this link: anti-semtism and Zionism.
I look forward to your contributions in the fight against Zionism.
14 Jan 2010, 1:30PM
where is all this antisemitism?there are no incidents in the west to speak about. there are no killings no burning of templesor violence towards jews that im aware of.what there is is a dislike of israeli policy a sense that us policies are being directed to enable a tiny proportion of the worlds population to subvert international law.do the israeli people like living in a walled off country totally isolated from their neighbors?do you notice how western nations are headed down the same path?pretty soon tourists are going to need bodyguards.what a joke.byebye freedom.lets copy likudism and destroy ourselves.and guess what about the evil antisemites,is it possible that they would want a safe prosperous peaceful israel?then maybe their zionist fifth columnists will go there.
14 Jan 2010, 2:09PM
there is nothing more anti-semitic then zionsim………..
for example in 1948 white europeans evicted & cleansed the semtic people of palestine from their land in the name of zionsim….to this day it continues!
Then, having whipped up the crowd and got them humming to the same tune he repeatedly sings himself, albeit in a rather more polished style more suited to the salons of London, Lerman pops along to chastise the posters for not comprehending his message.
14 Jan 2010, 8:36PM
Question to myself: Did you really expect anyone to respond to your plea that Defamation might serve as a useful starting point for getting beyond warring over antisemitism and finding a common language to discuss differences with civility and respect?
Answer to myself: I’m an eternal optimist, so I guess I did. But I get your point. It doesn’t seem that many people took me up on my suggestion. Instead, it looked largely like business as usual. That’s a shame. But since I endeavour to read carefully and try to understand what others write and live in hope that others will accord me the same courtesy (very many do, of course, but too many don’t), I’ll keep trying to work for civilised, robust and honest debate.
(The rest of this post can be seen by clicking here)
How very curious that Lerman appears not to notice just how in tune he is with the below the line posters at CiF and that the last thing he is fostering is civility or respect – certainly as far as Israelis and pro-Zionists are concerned. Personally, I’m not sure how ‘civilised’ or ‘honest’ the debate with those who work towards the destruction of my country could, or should, be.