Cross posted from the blog of David Collier
So much talk, so many arguments. Unsurprisingly, many of the people who favour boycotting Israeli academics, shouting down anyone speaking in favour of Israel, taking kosher products of shop shelves and verbally abusing Jews in the street are all suddenly worried about the importance of freedoms. The word ‘hypocritical’ comes to mind.
But this is not about the freedom to criticise the only nation in the Middle East where Arabs can vote for, talk to, sleep with and speak to whoever they want. The argument over this conference is simply about whether anti-Semitism is legal in this country or not.
Whilst there may be laws related to the fight against anti-Semitism, the upshot of simply discarding almost any comment about Jews or Israel as acceptable discourse, is the de-facto legalisation of racially motivated abuse against Jews.
The conference on the face of it is an academic investigation into issues about Israel’s core legitimacy as a state, except in reality it isn’t that at all. Admittedly, it would pass for such a thing in Saudi Arabia, it would pass for such a thing in Qatar and in Yemen; but we are not in any of those countries; we are in a nation that is democratic and free and where lynch mobs, witch hunts and blatant racial hostility have all been outlawed. In this country, women can drive, everyone can vote and such anti-Semitism is simply not acceptable in a university.
But is it anti-Semitism?
There are those who will only believe that an act is anti-Semitic if it is declaring itself to be and for as long as it can be excused, however blatant it may be, it will be excused. To those people, use of the words ‘Israel’ or ‘Zionist’ create umbrella coverage, allowing for every possible racist slur without the possibility of accusation. For them, if Hitler had first declared all Jews to be ‘Zionists’ and only then began with laws and boycotts against those Zionists, Nazi Germany would not have been anti-Semitic; the steps towards holocaust transforming into political warfare and not an anti ‘Jewish’ thing at all. There, laid bare, is the horror of the BDS movement and the despicable reality that is spreading its hate once more. But there will be far more about BDS another day.
This conference is designed to provide activists academic assistance in the political fight to de-legitimize Israel. In the manner in which the speakers align with a single cause, the wording in the call for papers and the themes themselves, this has already been clearly shown. Even the requests for donors were posted by ‘friends’ of Gilad Atzmon, such as Dr Gabi Weber from Café Palestine. If, as the organisers claim, it was never intended to be a one-sided hate-fest, how can it be that the original funding requests were only made to one side only?
But this alone is not enough. Universities are historical hotbeds of anti-establishment theory and political activity. Guilt by association is a nasty thing, and whilst the support of people like Weber and Atzmon along with words of encouragement from sites such as David Icke’s (NSFW), indicate the underlying premise of the conference is visible to all those that choose to see it, these things alone cannot move a conference from being part of the price to pay for free speech to one that should not be given airtime at all.
Nor is all criticism of Israel to be seen as ‘anti-Semitism’. It is perfectly legitimate to criticise any state, and that criticism doesn’t have to be fair, warranted or even-handed. People are not institutions, and whilst it is reasonable to make accusations against an organisation that spends all its time slamming Israel, the same argument cannot be made against an individual so easily. People generally pick and choose their fights, each with their own personal cause. Israel has problems and flaws and calling everyone who is critical of Israel an anti-Semite is both absurd and self-defeating.
But the conference doesn’t criticise Israel – it attempt to legally negate it, nor is the conference an individual. And the people involved are both meant to be academics and acting in that capacity. The defence of individual freedom at least, doesn’t hold, there are added implied and explicit legal responsibilities. With almost every nation on earth-born through war, revolution or the pen of the occupier; this conference has chosen to single out Israel. The question remains, is this conference simply an act of one-sided political activism or something more sinister?
Oren Ben Dor is Israeli born as are several of the panelists, some born Jewish, some Arab. His politics are, to put it mildly, off the Jewish map. In UK terms, Ben Dor, like Atzmon are akin to people such as John Amery or William Joyce (or for those who object to the fascist comparison, ‘the Cambridge 5′). They are not Labour or Liberals or Tories, or from UKIP or even the BNP; these people think, rightly or wrongly, the keys should be handed to the enemy. They view Zionism as the evil entity that has provoked the entire problem, and that Arab response to Israel therefore, however bad, becomes either legitimate or understandable. Dangerously extreme – yes, anti-Semitism – only perhaps.
For whatever reason, whatever child-hood trauma, whatever playground bullying occurred, these people grew up hating Israel. They are the extreme of the extreme, walking down a path that would lead them to exile. In most nations (and all nations have these people), they would have wandered off to the fringes, never to be heard of again. Israel however is different. Israel, like the UK in the 1940’s is fighting a war for it’s very existence which infers automatically, that Israeli people who demonize Israel have a use beyond the border; and given both a stage and outlet for their hatred, these people in effect simply become Israel’s very own ‘Lord Haw Haw’.
So it is no surprise that people such as Ben Dor have risen to prominence in the fight against Zionism; they are the perfect stooges. Unlike those on the Palestinian side, these Israelis tend neither to be successful nor well-known in their chosen fields; their fame, their fortune and the ‘love’ they receive *only* occurs when they open their mouths about Zionism. They are paraded around by the enemy as the ‘enlightened ones’ or the ‘chosen few’. This too however is not necessarily anti-Semitism.
For blatant anti-Semitism we have to extend beyond Zionism, to make Zionism merely a symptom of a greater issue. We need to identify me, a British Jew, as part of the problem, and we need to take it beyond personal choice to an all-encompassing ‘psychosis’ embedded into world Jewry. Does that belief still have a right to be heard in a University? Or is it fairer to state that when we connect the dots between someone who believes that when he talks of Israel, he is addressing a ‘Jewish problem’; not Zionism – is he also to be given a stage?
Hitler’s anti-Semitism isn’t the historical one; the idea that the Jewish gene needed to be eradicated isn’t always the one that surfaces in history. Many times, historical anti-Semitism allowed a way out for the bad Jew – renunciation of the ‘Jewish’ and conversion to the ‘good other’. In modern speak, there is similarity in the demand for a rejection of Zionism, the denunciation of the Jewish right to nationhood, that allows one to cross from ‘bad Jew’ to ‘good Jew’. For Ben Dor it seems, my Zionism is a symptom of a deep-lying Jewish psychosis, one that is ‘suicidal’ and ‘self-destructive’. Apparently only Ben Dor’s ‘enlightement’ can save me. Boy, have we been down this road before.
And suddenly we have left Zionism behind. For Ben Dor, this conference isn’t about Israel or Zionism at all; it is about me, a British Jew. If I were to say that ‘Zionism’ is merely a convenient way of saying ‘Jew’ without fear of accusation, perhaps it would be easier to criticise – but Oren Ben Dor also states this openly. For those that have the stomach, the video of this speech is on YouTube, where someone kindly uploaded it. I do thoroughly recommend those in doubt listen to the entire speech (embedded below).
“The voice of Jews against Zionism and the *political correctness* of Palestinians that will say “we have nothing against the Jews”
He also talks of Jewish ‘provocation’ of the holocaust:
“It is the denial that there is something so Jewish in that which has provoked the holocaust and the dealing with which has been so successfully postponed by the holocaust.”
In that comment Ben Dor appears to be stating, that there is something in me, a Jew, that historically brings about its own persecution. Not concerning Israel, not Zionism, but outside of it. We are meant to look historically at 2 millennia of persecution and blame the victim for the horrors they suffered.
On Zionism as a possible symptom of the greater ‘Jewish psychosis’:
“is still not finding a connecting issue to the apartheid being and thinking of the people whose god drove them into perpetrating and rationalizing these injustices done to the Palestinians in the Jewish name. Indeed Zionism may just be a symptom and not the cause”
And finally on the connection between Zionism and the Jewish question:
““*It is important to connect the Jewish and Zionist question*, because pathologies of Zionism, its racist mentality, its righteousness and something that is not often mentioned, its self-destructiveness , collective suicidal tendency …all these pathologies may be in the service of righteousness and aggressive victim apartheid mentality that pertain to Jewish being and thinking.”
Now I cannot get into the mind of people like Ben Dor or Atzmon to judge the processes that drive them; nor despite a feeling of disgust can I claim that what Oren Ben Dor says crosses lines of legality. But I am absolutely certain that whatever issue these people have with Jews, it goes way beyond the Palestinian cause; it goes way past an issue with Zionism. For them the Palestinians become the stooges – it is a marriage of convenience. This at its heart is an anti-Jewish struggle.
For those reasons, even if it is good that people in this country speak their mind; there is no way it is justifiable to place this conference in a University. The action of doing so would be a strike against me as a British Jew, the action, supported by the public purse, would give credit to the call for my conversion. The action of placing this conference within a University would itself be anti-Semitic and that is why this anti-Jewish hate-fest must be moved off campus.
- University of Southampton Conference: How to be openly antisemitic in England (www.ukmediawatch.org)