Defamation and Dissent – Part 2

On the recent Abe Foxman thread relating to Yoav Shamir’s film ‘Defamation’, CiF editor Matt Seaton made the following comment.

Dissent is defined as a refusal to conform to an established authority or doctrine. To suggest that Zionists try to stifle dissent by ‘throwing around accusations of self-hating Jew’ firstly implies that there is some sort of consensus of opinion against which these dissenters are rebelling. The very idea that the world’s 14 million or so Jews hold one opinion (excepting this ‘brave few’ swimming against the tide) is obviously absurd and has more than a whiff of stereotyping about it as it denies the diversity of opinion and ideology within the Jewish ethnic group.
There is, of course, no compulsion for a Jew to be a Zionist; many strictly orthodox Jews are not Zionists for religious reasons, although I personally prefer to define them as non-Zionists rather than anti-Zionists due to the fact that with the exception of the very extreme few, they do not engage in anti-Israeli activity. Anti-Zionists who are actively working towards the dismantling of the one and only Jewish State are, however, a different kettle of fish. Whilst they have a right to their opinions, and are under no obligation to live in or contribute to a country of which they disapprove, I see no moral justification for their efforts to try to undermine the home of half the world’s Jews. I’m not fond of the term ‘self-hating Jews’ because I feel it simplifies the phenomenon of Jews actively working against Israel too much. What makes these people behave as they do? There seem to be many factors at work, but one thing can be said for sure – they are certainly not being silenced, especially not on CiF!
The Jewish experience obviously differs depending upon where one lives; in Israel one lives Judaism in a natural way, with no need to actively seek it out. Jews living elsewhere in the world are of course influenced by their surroundings and the culture in which they live. In some of the few countries where significant Jewish populations remain, this means absorbing the modern post-colonial guilt which influences so much of Western politics today. British Jews in particular have proudly and successfully absorbed ‘Britishness’ as part of their identity and this has in turn had an influence on their interpretation of Judaism. For many, religion now takes a back seat and Jewish life no longer revolves around a place of worship; instead political and social groups seem to have become a focus through which to define Judaism.
Certainly in the UK, where Jews were traditionally active socialists and even today still identify strongly with many left-wing principles, the issue of the Middle East presents quite a dilemma. Israel has lost the ‘underdog’ status so beloved of the British in general and the Left in particular; the British Jew must therefore choose between Israel and the Left and in effect decide which part of his identity as a left-leaning British Jew is more important to him. Whilst for other religions a rejection of theology does not necessarily mean a rejection of identity, for Jews the issue is complicated by the double link of religion and ethnicity. Some have approached this dilemma by re-modelling their interpretation of Judaism as having a ‘new age’ message of ‘tikun olam’ style reparation of the world at its core.
Unfortunately, some sections of British Jewry have something of an ignoble history of being more concerned about their own status in British society than the fate of their fellow Jews. The 1905 Aliens Act, designed to stem the tide of Eastern European Jews knocking on Britain’s door in an attempt to escape the pogroms was supported by two Jewish MPs. It has been estimated that the Jewish Board of Guardians itself repatriated some 50,000 Eastern European Jews, having set up an emigration committee as early as 1879. Those Eastern European Jews who did gain entry to Britain received help from the established Jewish community, but the attitude towards them is reflected in the words of one of the major donors, Lord Rothschild: “We have now a new Poland on our hands in East London. Our first business is to humanise our Jewish immigrants and then to Anglicise them”. This excerpt from a satirical poem written in Yiddish by Israel Zangwill in the 1890s also gives an idea of the mood of the time:

My brothers, sisters newly here
Listen to my wise oration,
You can live without the fear
Of hatred and repatriation.
All you have to do, I bid,
Is stop acting like a yid.
Endeavour to be strong and fine,
And live just like the English do;
If you live like Eastern swine,
Our nightmare, left behind, comes true;
The man who lets his earlocks dangle,
Makes us all go through the mangle.

Whether the actions of anti-Zionist Jews stem from self interest of whatever kind or some misguided quasi-religious principle is irrelevant in my view. The fact that they see nothing wrong, to put it mildly, in exploiting their ethnicity to promote a political and/or personal agenda which can have no other result than to be detrimental to half the Jewish population of the world, not to mention large numbers of my fellow countrymen of different religions, is nothing short of despicable.
Imagine if I, as a British-born Israeli, were to set up organisations in Israel which supported and promoted the views of the BNP in Britain, and that the end result of their successful campaign to gain power which I had aided and abetted, would be that Jews (among others) were expelled from the UK. I would be rightly considered as both immoral and of less than sound mind. When Jews (and non-Jews) of any nationality actively support Hamas and other Islamist organisations, they are doing no different.
The claim that anti-Zionists are being ‘silenced’ is not only obviously untrue, but also clearly falls into the same category as complaints that Zionists are dishonestly using accusations of antisemitism to silence criticism of Israel. Both claims are no more than underhand tactics in an increasingly ugly campaign to undermine a sovereign state with wilful and shockingly frivolous disregard for the fate of its people. It is telling witness to the state of liberal Left opinion today that people who naturally recoil with horror from the odious ideology of ‘expulsion of foreigners’ promoted by the BNP do not so much as bat an eyelid when similar intentions are declared by Hizbollah or Hamas.

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