Defamation and Dissent – Part I

Over the past few weeks we have seen a plethora of articles on CiF relating to Yoav Shamir’s film, Defamation. First, the Antony Lerman article, followed by a reply from David Hirsh, then Yoav Shamir himself and a statement from Abe Foxman of the ADL. As this seems like rather a lot of column space devoted to one film, I would like to take a step back and look at an overview of this subject.
As anyone, either on CiF or elsewhere, trying to inject some balance into the seemingly never-ending debates on the subject of Israel knows, he or she will inevitably find themselves coming up against one or both of two pernicious arguments. One of these is that pro-Israeli Jews wrongly accuse their opponents of antisemitism in order to shut down debate and that they do so knowingly, systematically, deliberately and dishonestly. A variation of this theme, amply evident in this series of articles, is that Zionists even deliberately engineer among Jews a fear of antisemitism which is unjustified and which in fact serves their political ends. The second argument is that people who are pro-Israel try to stifle dissent among Jews by accusing those who oppose them of being ‘self-hating’ Jews.
Examples of the first argument were abundant on the Abe Foxman thread.

Gareth100
27 Jan 2010, 1:08PM
The ADL finds fault with a documentary that rather disagrees with their raison d’etre, no surprises there. That Abe Foxman seems to have built a career on hyping up antisemitism, with the willing participation of other interested parties now seems clear. Yoav Shamir’s documentary has done the world a great service in this regard.

Ethelredsdirtybed
26 Jan 2010, 1:48PM
Anyone interested in this subject should watch this brave and illuminating new film by an Israeli filmmaker.
http://www.channel4.com/programmes/defamation/4od – 3022029
It shows how Israel is teaching its children to believe that the world hates them, that they will always be under threat and therefore must act in the manner they do. They use Auschwitz as a tool in this.
There is no doubt. The Holocaust is being used by right wing ethno-supremacists. It is not only disgusting but very very dangerous.
It is, of course necessary to remember, but perhaps more important not to perpetuate, and not put at stake the safety of rest of the world.

StevHep
27 Jan 2010, 1:10PM
I see the ADL thinks that Defamation accurately portrays its work in much the same way that the ADL accurately portrays the Venerable Pope Pius XII.
Ecclesiastes 10:8 Whoever digs a pit will fall into it; and whoever breaks through a wall will be bitten by a snake

orwellwasright
27 Jan 2010, 1:20PM
Has anyone else noticed the irony in the Anti Defamation League’s nasty habit of defaming its opponents?
Fortunately, no one with their head screwed on takes the ADL remotely seriously…

raymonddelauney
27 Jan 2010, 1:25PM
Defamation is neither enlightening, nor edifying, nor compelling. It distorts the prevalence and impact of antisemitism and cheapens the Holocaust.
The tawdry actions of the ADL cheapen the Holocaust.
In stifling debate and justifiable criticism of the actions of the State of Israel they seek to control language and thought. They are the thin end of a very dangerous wedge.

Hornstein
27 Jan 2010, 1:34PM
To me the film was an eye opener. I have also learned recently that many of those children (well they were 17 and above) shown on the film have now signed up to join the IDF. I wonder how they will see the Palestinians after their indoctrination. Job done I guess.
Today I read a comment by Dr. Hajo Meyer, an Auschwitz survivor, who is currently on a lecture tour in Scotland. He sums up the ADL motto very well: “Formerly an anti-Semite was somebody who hated Jews because they were Jews and had a Jewish soul. But nowadays an anti-Semite is somebody who is hated by Jews.? Can’t top that quote.

backtothepoint
27 Jan 2010, 2:26PM
@Jubilation1
I see, you don’t distinguish between Zionists and Jews.
Heheh. You’re digging yourself a big hole there. It’s exactly because I do distinguish between Zionists and Jews that I assume that a non-Zionist Jew wouldn’t have beaten me up and called me a terrorist on the basis of my wearing a Palestinian scarf.

adeinHK
27 Jan 2010, 2:51PM
@cubanoeslibre
Those kids were just being taught the facts of life in Europe.
Nonsense. I live in East London and none of my Jewish friends have experienced anti-semitic attacks despite living in areas that have huge black and Muslim Asian populations. I’m sure it does occassionally happen, but to claim it is an ever-present threat is a paranoid fantasy. I’m more likely to be mugged for cash, than a Jewish person is to be beaten up for being a Jew.

gondwanaland
27 Jan 2010, 3:20PM
cubanoeslibre
“I would like to see him to walking down any street in the UK or Europe wearing a skull cap or a star of David.”
He’d be in good company where i live in london where Jews wear everything from the Kippah, to the furry Russian hats.
The chief targets of UK racism are Muslims. One only has to read the comments on CIF threads concerning Islamic issues to see how widespread this is.
But of course you’re not really interested in racism at all are you?

YYZZ
27 Jan 2010, 3:27PM
“new forms” of anti-semitism?
That would be any criticism of Israel’s brutal occupation of the West Bank, blockade of Gaza or the murderous wars against, Gaza, Lebanon, etc.

Indigenous1
27 Jan 2010, 5:04PM
Apparently criticising Israeli racism against Palestinians is a “new form of anti-semitism”.

Imnotagrook
27 Jan 2010, 6:03PM
For a better understanding of this question, I want to recommend The Invention of the Jewish People,by Shlomo Sand. Sand works at the University in Tel Aviv. ADL are having their own agenda, not necessarily for the good of Israel, we must remember. While A Jewish Nation is central to Zionism, Zionism is a marginal historic element in Israel history and contemporary life. ADL wants to change that and instil fear and suspicion, thus creating enthusiasm for animosity both in Israel and Jews world wide, and aggression towards Israel to justify any actions taken by the Israel government.
But do read The Invention of the Jewish People, by Shlomo Sand.

Nowhere in the published writings on the subject of new antisemitism does one find an equivalence made between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism. Indeed, seven million Israelis manage to criticise their own nation and its government day in and day out without resorting to racism, so obviously it is the form that criticism takes which matters. Reasonable comment on Israeli policy or actions does not include ridiculous accusations that Jews and/or Israelis conspire to control the foreign media, foreign governments, international finance and so on. Reasonable criticism of Israel does not include the assertion that its policies or its people are evil and can be justifiably compared to those of the Nazi regime. Fair comment does not include holding Israel to higher or different standards than those expected of any other nation. Neither is accusing Jews of exploiting their greatest collective trauma of recent times –the Holocaust- for immoral ends an example of reasonable criticism.
Unfortunately, this type of unreasonable criticism has become a staple of much of the discourse on the so-called liberal Left even though most within that group would claim to be antiracist. A corner-stone of racism in general is the denial of the differences which exist within a particular group of people. The very suggestion that Jews or Zionists uniformly think or behave in a particular manner without any recognition of the variation of opinion or deed within those groups is essentially racist. This, of course, works in two ways; the often-heard claim that all Palestinians are innocent victims of oppression is no less an example of stereotypical thinking.
What is often forgotten is that the stereotypical image of Israelis and Jews as fostered by much of the liberal Left, among others, is not confined to sterile political debate; this way of thinking actually has a negative effect upon people’s lives. The young man who rather publically and very loudly accused me of being a child-murder last year on a Manchester street did not care about my personal professional history of saving lives and neither was he interested in the fact that I am a consistent Left voter. All that mattered to him was that I am Israeli; that was all he needed to know in order to decide who and what I am.
We have clearly reached a rather strange situation in which pro-Israeli Jews cannot, in many instances, attempt to defend Israel and her people against antisemitic attacks without being accused of doing so dishonestly. The argument as presented in some of the articles and their comments above is not that some individual Jews occasionally respond to provocation with unjustified accusations of antisemitism, as must sometimes happen because we are talking about fallible human beings after all. What is being claimed here is on an industrial scale; the assertion is in fact that in an organised manner, pro-Israeli Jews are deliberately and wrongly claiming that any criticism of Israel whatsoever is antisemitic. Jews are accused of cynically trying to make dishonest capital out of their real or, according to some, imagined suffering and that, of course, is one of the most ancient antisemitic calumnies around. In addition, Jews are accused of inflating and even fabricating antisemitism for political ends.
Rather than the case being that Jews are trying to shut down debate – and let’s be honest; there is zero evidence of that happening – it would seem that those anti-Israel campaigners who are exploiting arguments which sail rather too close to an antisemitic wind in their attempts to discredit, delegitimize and dehumanise Israelis are attempting to deflect criticism from genuine antiracists by launching a pre-emptive attack which is in itself antisemitic.
This flirt with antisemitism in order to promote liberal Left ideology is not only repugnant in its own right, it also opens the door to other groups with an anti-Israeli or anti-Jewish agenda such as the far Right or Islamist extremists; groups which the Left should be opposing rather than adopting their terminologies and ideas.
In part two of this article we will look at the subject of ‘dissent ’and its connection to defamation.

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