Friday, February 05, 2010

what, who, me?

The 2009 Community Security Trust Report is out and being covered in the Guardian, although naturally (at the time of AW going to press), Denis MacShane's joke of a Potemkin thinktank couldn't get their act together to do so much as a blog post about it. It blurbs:

Anti-Jewish hate crime in Britain is a growing problem that the liberal left must condemn as readily as any other form of racism

well, certainly, I definitely condemn, why would anyone have thought I did anything other than condemn, I wholeheartedly condemn ... hang on a minute, what the fuck has this got to do with me?

The actual CST report makes it crystal clear why 2009 was the worst year on record for anti-Semitic violence in the UK - the increase was a result of anti-Semitic attacks by Muslims during the period of Operation Cast Lead. Why is this the "liberal left"'s problem? What are we doing in that headline?

In so far as I understand it, Mark Gardner's point is that anti-racist organisations don't take anti-Semitic violence seriously enough (I think the underlying idea is that anti-racists don't take anti-Semitism seriously specifically because they think it's motivated by Israeli foreign policy, although he doesn't say this in so many words and I might be wrong) and that this neglect is tantamount to "institutional racism" under the definition of the Macpherson Report.

To which I respond a) that Gardner gets points from me for using the phrase "institutional racism" correctly, unlike ENGAGE et al, whose misuse of the term as a blanket synonym for "differential impact" was one of the points made in Martin Shaw's humiliation of David Hirsh in the famous Democratiya exchange[1]. But b) that is this actually true of most mainstream (as opposed to specifically Muslim) anti-racist organisations active in the UK, most of whom seem to take anti-Semitism plenty seriously IME? And c) how is it relevant to "the liberal left", which is not an organisation and therefore can't have any institutional features at all, let alone racism?

The idea that anti-Semitic violence would be less of a problem in the UK if only the 300,000-odd readers of the Guardian would condemn it a little more is a curious kind of vanity. It's also more than a little pernicious because it is more or less inevitable that the CST's report, when publicised in this language, is going to be taken up by the kind of yahoo who thinks that anyone who notes that a consequence of Israeli militarism is anti-Jewish sentiment outside Israel (which the CST report itself does, how could it otherwise) is thereby making excuses for anti-Semitic violence. Which I think we can all agree is not going to be remotely productive for any kind of public debate, particularly the one that the CST wants to start.

[1] If you understood that sentence without following the links I hereby award you the title of "Aaronovitch Watch Black Belt Spotter"

24 Comments:

Anonymous Phil said...

Well, I remembered the Shaw/Hirsh exchange, but not the use Hirsh made of "institutional racism"; I'll look it up later, if I'm bored.

Gardner's logic is very stretched.

[In 2009 and 2006] Jews in Britain and elsewhere around the world suffered a wave of antisemitic attacks, triggered by reactions to conflicts involving Israel. Whatever you think of Israeli politics, attacking local Jews out of anger at Israel is racism.

This is straightforward and sensible: the difference between a nation state over there and individual people over here is pretty clear. Attacking local Jews out of anger at Israel is not on. (This is, of course, quite a widely-held position, even on the liberal left. Even on the non-liberal left, come to that. A couple of months ago some gravestones were vandalised in a Jewish cemetery near where I live; there was a protest campaign led by the local SWP.)

But what's the next paragraph about?

Most Jews support Israel at a basic, emotional level, although many do not. And among Jews who support Israel in a general sense, there is a vast range of opinions on every political issue or government policy. To treat every Jewish person, or synagogue, or organisation as personifying whatever you despise about Israel is to apply the racist idea of collective guilt.

Emph. added. We seem to have started with "attacking Jews as Jews is racist" and ended up with "attacking Zionist organisations as Zionist is racist".

Historically, antisemites have always sought to justify their behaviour on some premise or other.

Anti-semitism have always been with us, anti-semites call themselves anti-Zionist, therefore...

2/05/2010 04:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Der Bruno Stroszek said...

Very strange article. I'm not sure whether Gardner believes all Muslims are left-wing, or that Muslims will unthinkingly stop doing something if the "liberal left" say it's bad. It does seem to be one or the other, which would not make him my choice of writer to deliver the message "religious groups are not all of one mind".

2/05/2010 06:10:00 PM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

I actually had an exchange with Gardner about this a couple of years back. I pointed out that, by the CST's own reckoning, most attacks were carried out by Muslim youth of Arab or South Asian origin, with a declining subset carried out by white neo-Nazis. (Declining not least because the BNP under Griffin has become very pro-Israel, and the visceral antisemites were told to either keep quiet or bugger off to the NF.) Anyway, I opined that the average perpetrator was not terribly likely to be a regular reader of Seumas Milne or John Pilger, still less read one of their columns and be inspired to go out and brick a synagogue. IIRC his response was that loud, exaggerated and one-sided media condemnation of Israel (cough, mumble) mood music for antisemitic violence.

I was not totally convinced by this, and still can't see why the CST annual report is so fixated on Guardian coverage of Israel. Nor, if he's concerned with people blaming Jews for the deeds of Israel, does it help for the CST, the Board of Deputies and the Chief Rabbi's office to continually argue that criticism of Israel is an attack on the Jewish community.

I don't think those pro-IDF rallies during Cast Lead helped either. Not least that, while the platform speakers tried to sound reasonable, the crowd contained not a few ultra-Zionist wingnuts with placards calling for Gaza to be wiped off the map. If one random wingnut holds up a provocative placard at a pro-Palestinian rally, HP goes apeshit and Gardner puts it into his next report.

2/05/2010 09:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Lobby Ludd said...

"Anti-Jewish hate crime in Britain is a growing problem that the liberal left must condemn as readily as any other form of racism"

Oddly, I thought that one of the distinguishing features of the 'liberal left' was their opposition to all forms of racism.

Obviously I have not been beaten up enough, sorry Mark.

2/05/2010 09:06:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

As ever, I lose interest when the term "must condemn" comes up.

2/06/2010 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Very OT, but I recall BB is anticipating Decent attempts at rehabilitating the Vietnam War - can I point you all in the direction of HP chump Michael Ezra as a very likely candidate?

In the past couple of weeks, we've had -

- A post about how awful the '60s anti-war left was for singing songs about the US military killing Vietnamese women and kids and bombing schools and hospitals while the US military was, er, killing Vietnamese women and kids and bombing schools and hospitals;

- Another about how some academic is unserious, because he regards the CIA as "the most dangerous terrorist organisation" since WWII ended and a "multi-billion dollar criminal conspiracy" that's "in the service of the US empire".*

- And now, a long post about how the CIA's overthrow of Mossadegh was No Biggie, i.e. not very objectionable and totally unrelated to the loony uprising in 1979.

One to watch, this lad. I fully expect to see a post defending the military utility of napalm in a few weeks.

(While I'm boring you all with this, on the occasions I've raised the insanity of Vietnam with internet nuts, I've been ticked off for retrospectively supporting North Vietnam. Given the only other option was to hope the US exterminated so many Vietnamese that Hanoi would throw in the towel, this doesn't seem an illogical or immoral position.

That's before we get to the blank looks you get when you tell people that South Vietnam itself was a US political construct, but that's probably for another day).

*Whether you regard the first quote as OTT or not, I don't have major problems with the second and third, myself.

2/06/2010 02:30:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

Oddly, I thought that one of the distinguishing features of the 'liberal left' was their opposition to all forms of racism.

It is, which is why some of us might object to being told that we have to condemn it.

2/06/2010 06:57:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

i love it when HP Sauce invite right-wing cranks to contribute. Always ends badly (remember Edmund Standing?).

I put this on the other thread but the CST's definition of antisemitism is very slippery.

the definition they use includes stuff about 'holding Israel to a different standard from other democratic countries' and i think this is immensely problematic because that's entirely in the eye of the beholder, and as we all know is often used as a stick to beat people who are clearly not antisemites with. as splinteredsunrise says it tends to end up with them cough, cough mumbling about 'mood music' and what not; it's a shame because the core idea of the CST is totally praiseworthy, but they seem to morph into a HP Sauce style anti-lefty think tank every now and again.

There are also some worrying assertions like this:

Most Jews support Israel at a basic, emotional level, although many do not.

the rhetoric here is really problematic. i don't really think anyone should 'support' any state per se, other than in sport; it's totally irrational.

I found the pro-IDF rallies which masqueraded as 'peace rallies' really abhorrent. I genuinely cannot understand why anyone thought that the Gaza and Lebanon onslaughts were good ideas.

2/06/2010 07:55:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

As it goes, most pro-Israel people specifically hold Israel to a different standard than "other democratic countries", as far as I can see, and a rather lower one at that.

2/06/2010 09:44:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Flying Rodent - here's Michael Ezra on an HP thread a few weeks ago:
North Vietnam were, with Communist expansionism, trying to take over South Vietnam. The Americans went in to protect the South Vietnamese. Had North Vietnam not intervened in the South, there would have been no need for America to be in Vietnam in the first place. The North Vietnamese should have stayed in the North and not interfered with the South.
http://www.hurryupharry.org/2010/01/10/caldwells-legacy/
12 January 2010, 3:58 pm

2/07/2010 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

@Skidmarx - Jesus Christ. (Adopts pained expression, rubs temples as if nursing pounding headache).

That's completely insane - if Ezra really believes that bullshit, he's definitely the long-anticipated Super-Vietnam Rehabilitation Man. Rather than embark on a lengthy whinge about Decent reality-shopping, I think I'll just go have a sit down and maybe a cup of coffee.

2/07/2010 02:01:00 PM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

OT, but I see Normski is concern-trolling Amnesty. Again.

2/07/2010 02:56:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

Before we had blogs...

2/07/2010 02:56:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

There was also the "SWP blames Mossad for Lockerbie" piece, based on an article from 1989.

There was also another defending Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the latest is, sigh, on Chomsky's views on Cambodia.

Maybe it's some kind of initiation rite - you have to prove yourself by supporting every Decent shibboleth" in the book.

2/07/2010 04:04:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

most pro-Israel people specifically hold Israel to a different standard than "other democratic countries", as far as I can see, and a rather lower one at that.

that's the other side of the coin, isn't it?

Also see Anthony Julius's rather odd ideas about 'fellow travellers' and Martin Amis today - apparently because Amis isn't as odious as George Galloway his comments on Islam (he still views all Islam as Islamist btw, whatever he might occasionally say to the contrary) aren't worthy of any attention, or something. But tony Judt, now he IS beyond the pale, because cough, cough, mumble, Hamas are bad.

2/07/2010 05:32:00 PM  
Anonymous bensix said...

There was also another defending Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the latest is, sigh, on Chomsky's views on Cambodia.

From the thread (not Ezra)...

Hitler didn’t personally kill anyone (apart from himself), yet is still a war criminal. Chomsky hasn’t personally killed anyone but his words may have caused thousands of deaths.

2/07/2010 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

That'll be five quid, ta

2/07/2010 07:29:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

*Clink*

Er, no - hang on...

*Light, fluttering sound of a falling fiver*

2/07/2010 07:38:00 PM  
Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

I was going to try to write a comment pointing out the difference between an anti-semitic incident - the subject of the CST report - and anti-semitic violence, a subset of those incidents. I was then going to factor in the 'slippery' definition of anti-semitism used by the CST. And ask, if angry exchanges with war crime supporting* zionists on the grounds that they were war crime supporting zionists find their way into the CST figures.

2/08/2010 08:18:00 PM  
Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

Oh, sorry, I did.

2/08/2010 08:19:00 PM  
Anonymous saucy jack said...

'holding Israel to a different standard from other democratic countries'
So presumably those who hold that Israel should be a "light unto the gentiles" or contend that the IDF is the most moral army in the world are guilty of anti-semitism. CST is being cut far too much slack here incidentally, it is an organisation that makes money out of exploiting and amplifying feelings of insecurity among British Jews, its methodology in defining anti-semitic incidents is subjective, sloppy and tenuous, and the conclusion of every report is as predictable as the sunset - anti-semitism is "on the rise" and the answer to this is that the liberal left should stop being so beastly about Israel.

2/09/2010 08:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"CST is being cut far too much slack here incidentally,"

Perhaps, but for a number of historical and tactical reasons I am still inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt. We are where we are: the majority of Jewish people in Britain have direct experience of genocidal anti-semitism in their relatively recent family history. Under these circumstances, I can well understand why:
a) Some might press the panic button more often than external observers (who lack such a history) would see as reasonable, thus
b) It's going to be _really_ counterproductive if self-styled 'anti-zionists' decide that the best reaction to the CST's fears is to doubt them per se.

Yes, Zionists are going to try and use CST reports as ammunition. But given that the killer Zionist argument is always 'You're not safe here', it plays into their hands if we are seen to be dismissing its concerns. It's a permanently operating factor that we've got to deal with: we can't hope to change it.

Besides, there _is_ antisemitism about: the (graffiti) stuff that I see comes from British nazis, and the (verbal and vague) stuff that I hear comes from white British people. Incidentally, I live in an area with a big Muslim population and a synagogue slap in the middle of it, and I have yet to see any antisemitism coming from that direction - although it's something that's worth guarding against nevertheless.

Chris Williams

2/09/2010 09:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops - wrote 'white' above for 'goy'. My bad.

CW

2/09/2010 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

CST is being cut far too much slack here incidentally

I agree with Chris; it's being cut roughly the right amount of slack. The criticisms you make (conflict of interest in self-reported statistics, exaggerates problems for fund raising purposes, etc) are true of more or less any anti-racist organisation and come with the territory; I don't get the sense that CST is a bad or insincere organisation. It's important to keep some differentiation from bodies like EISCA, which I do think is an entirely unproductive thinktank which has never really contributed anything but politically slanted bullshit to the overall debate.

2/09/2010 01:49:00 PM  

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