Friday, January 21, 2011

For those who don't like Harry's Place, here's Denis MacShane!

MacShane on boycotts, in the Jerusalem Post. A few points:

1. As far as I'm aware, all of the Aaronovitch Watch editorial staff are opposed to an academic boycott of Israel; I am not sure about nonacademic boycotts, but speaking for myself I buy Israeli-made goods without a second thought while trying to avoid agricultural products grown in the Occupied Territories themselves (as a result I sometimes have to go to Somerfield rather than Sainsburys to buy parsley; pretty radical political action eh guys).

2. There is something horribly unpatriotic about writing about your own country in a foreign newspaper and making broad, sweeping and unspecific claims about how horrible it is. MacShane's "people" and "it is said" must be giving a terrible and wholly inaccurate impression of the level of anti-Semitism in Britain to the readers of the JP and that's actually quite an irresponsible thing to do.

3. Need it be said that the article itself is atrocious?

98 Comments:

Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

jesus, even by his standards that article is bad. so much tedious godwinnery.

I also worry about the prevalence of this kind of writing about London/the UK in the Israeli media. Even relatively sane writers like Seth Freedman, and a lot of my Israeli friends, seem to think that the situation for Jews in Britain is even worse than its portrayal in The Finkler Question. I don't really care about patriotism (though a lot of Decents do, not least MacShane's old mate Nick Cohen), but I do think that politicians (or former politicians - isn't Denis still suspended?) have a duty to not stir up hysteria either here or elsewhere.

BY DEFINITION, an apartheid state has no right to exist. It cannot be a member of the UN. The campaign to call Israel an apartheid state is a campaign to make it a non-state.

Am far too young to remember the anti-apartheid movement, and far too busy to read up on it; but i'm prtty sure that this argument was not being made at that time. or was it? Surely the movement was towards the destruction of apartheid, as opposed to the destruciton of south Africa as a state?

also this is just weird:

Those who dislike Israeli rightwing policies must find other language than that of classical anti- Semitism.

Judging from the article, MacShane would, I think, classify your parsely aversion as antisemitic.

i don't understand the academic boycott calls. I can sort of understand why people might be uncomfortable collecting awards which are endorsed by the Israeli govt, but i'm pretty sure I'd collect one if asked, which i never will be. I've applied for academic jobs over there, without much luck. The idea that my refusing to collaborate with one of the many excellent Israeli academics whose work I've read would somehow help anyone is pretty ridiculous.

His 'other occupations' are pretty questionable too... saying that India occupies Kashmir is a bit different from saying that Israel occupies the West Bank. Surely MacShane knows that?

Like you, i try to avoid stuff produced in occupied areas of the West Bank, but i'm pretty lazy about it really. I never buy parsley anyway.

1/21/2011 09:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

I agreed it was a bit too crudely expressed in some places - the links between anti-Israel feeling/antizionism and antisemitism do exist but they need to be teased out more subtly. I think it is very reasonable to ask 'what about' questions about academic boycotts, at least - UK academia has plenty of contacts with major human rights abusers but it's only Israel which gets targeted for boycotts.

1/21/2011 10:09:00 AM  
Anonymous dsquared said...

BY DEFINITION, an apartheid state has no right to exist. It cannot be a member of the UN.

Quiz time! This week's question:

"Was South Africa a founding member of the United Nations, with an unbroken record of membership throughout the apartheid years and regular service on the Security Council?"

CLUE: Denis MacShane said it wasn't.

Previous quizzes like "Did Napoleon fail to conquer Moscow?" and "Did Neville Chamberlain betray Poland in the 1930s?" are now closed.

1/21/2011 10:50:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

UK academia has plenty of contacts with major human rights abusers

Does it? I'm genuinely unaware here, but my impression was that Israel is quite unusual in being both a state with a big human rights problem, and one with a large population of good-quality English speaking academics. Unless you're going to count India or the USA as major human rights abusers (which I don't think passes the laugh test), I can't think of anywhere else, and having an academic boycott of, say, Sri Lanka or Chad would be a bit pointless. Not that boycotting Israeli academics as a bloc isn't pointless, obviously.

1/21/2011 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

BY DEFINITION, an apartheid state has no right to exist. It cannot be a member of the UN. The campaign to call Israel an apartheid state is a campaign to make it a non-state.

I'm fair sure that the definition of an apartheid state doesn't define its right to exist*. I'm 99% certain that the UN doesn't mention it in any of its laws/rules/articles/whatever.

I can't even imagine how one could describe Israeli right wing politics in classical anti-semitic terms. I suppose you could, but it would be a very strange analysis.

FWIW, the original academic boycott focused on a particular university and its fairly objectionable activities in the occupied territories. Which is a different debate, whatever one might think of it.

* whatever that means. I mean seriously, what does "the right to exist" even mean. Do you have the right to exist as a man/women? Is that meaningful

1/21/2011 11:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

The other thing about the boycott was that it was linked to Israel's disruption/destruction of the activities of Palestinian universities.

Its a shame that both those arguments got lost, as it would at least have focused attention on the disgusting/disgraceful actions of the IDF against Palestinian education/research.

1/21/2011 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

dd beat me to it. I know I'm a terrible for arbitrary style rules, but I think sweeping statements -- " UK academia has plenty of contacts with major human rights abusers" -- need some concretisation or clarification viz "such as ...". If there isn't an example readily available, chances are the generalisation is bull.

And it's not just human rights abuses that Israel is being accused of. It's annexing land, taking property, making people homeless. This is fairly unique; the only examples of similar I can think of (apart from the Godwin, and I'm not going there) are Saddam v the Kurds, and the expansion of European Americans into Native American territories. Both of these are regarded by 'right thinking people' as appalling crimes.

Quick reply to Cian's point. IMO by definition an apartheid state existed for around 50 years in modern South Africa.

And doesn't Japan still have vestiges of a caste system?

I tried to read Macshane, but my bullshit detectors were in the red from the second sentence. "Europe’s oldest political appeal" er, dates? And really, I'd have thought that was something like, "You decadent Athenians who spend time with women should be more like Sparta, etc" followed by shouting. Also shouldn't it be "tsunamis", plural? The man's a fool.

1/21/2011 11:53:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Unless you're going to count India or the USA as major human rights abusers

see MacShane on Kashmir? hehehe...

the links between anti-Israel feeling/antizionism and antisemitism do exist but they need to be teased out more subtly

I think this demonstrates the problem of even discussing the two things. my take on it is there are some people who let their antizionism blur into antisemitism, partly through sloppy use of language; and there are some people who are antisemitic so by definition will be antizionist (though there are a fair few antisemitic zionists too).

The former is, I think, more or less encouraged by the problematic ways in which the state of Israel is discussed on both sides. Framing it as 'THE Jewish state', for example, while sort of correct, also encourages the idea that not Israel, but Jews, are to blame for things. we can see how that happens with Islam too, in the case of Saudi Arabia.

the problem is that by even associating the two as Sarah does - 'the links between the two feelings do exist' - implicitly states that as there IS a link, the two can fairly easily be conflated; so in order to make sure nobody is indulging in antisemitism, we have to pretty much make antizionism vietato as well. i actually believe fairly strongly in zionism as an ideal but it's surely fair enough for others not to.

And this conflation-and-thus-rejection is standard, it's pretty much the sumary of MacShane and Jacobson's thoughts on the matter.

I do not mean to single out Sarah here, by the way, and I apologise, but there's a problem with phrasing of that sort that makes discussion of these topics really frustrating.

btw that UN thing is really, really funny Dsquared.

1/21/2011 12:06:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeesboard said...

Reading back over that, I tohught i'd add something on The Finkler Question, which doesn't really conclude - and Finkler, the antizionist jew, is at least in part sympathetic - but the idea of antizionism is pretty much dismissed in the novel as everyone therein who is antizionist is either a weirdo with father issues, or just a weirdo, or alternatively a holocaust denying racist.

1/21/2011 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

Slightly off-topic, but can anyone imagine a dinner party where Baroness Warsi and Nick Cohen were both present?

1/21/2011 01:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Asteri said...

Israel and South Africa actually had very close relations during the Apartheid era, Sharon even visited SA occupied Namibia to try and sell them some more weapons, but to be fair, Pretoria did get round to denouncing the Apartheid regime in about 1988.

1/21/2011 01:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Surely the movement was towards the destruction of apartheid, as opposed to the destruciton of south Africa as a state?

That's certainly the way it worked out, the last time I checked. Really bad example.

I don't know who this whataboutery is supposed to persuade. All it makes me think is that if somebody starts a campaign against Turkey/Morocco/etc I'll certainly support it. I don't think going easy on the IDF would somehow benefit the Western Sahara.

As for who the boycott helps, that's the wrong question. A boycott is a sacrifice, meaning that the The immediate outcome of any boycott is worse than the status quo ante. The message is essentially "you don't seem to care if we disapprove of your actions, so we're prepared to hurt ourselves if that's what it takes to make you care".

1/21/2011 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Singapore?

1/21/2011 03:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

dd - I was thinking of a slightly different issue - not links between academics but between HE in the UK and students from other countries - from China, many (other) Middle East and Gulf states, and Pakistan.

Cian - I think it would be much better to focus on supporting Palestinians whose education is being disrupted by Israelis (eg by making it difficult for them to travel unnecessarily) without resorting to boycotts, or boycott threats. I don't, or don't fully, accept the logic of those who argue that because Jewish institutions or academics have been a traditional target of sinister boycotts, Israel should be immune from boycotts just because it is the only Jewish state - yet I can understand why sensitivities are triggered when it does seem to be singled out pretty relentlessly for cultural and academic boycotts. If *I* (coming from a neutral starting point I think) am sometimes aware of a kind of protective reflex towards Israel which makes me instinctively question criticism of the country rather than accept it - then it's easy to imagine Israelis might be sent into a counterproductively defensive mode by the all the criticism.

organic cheeseboard - no problem. Clearly antisemites are going to incline towards antizionism and boycotts. I tend to assume most supporters of the boycott aren't antisemitic and I also assume the primary motive of most boycotters is concern about Palestinians. But even if they aren't individually antisemitic there is nevertheless something oddly intense about the focus on Israel - I think this is due to several factors which include, for example, media coverage which is fueled in turn by the fact that access to the region is fairly open. But I do think antisemitism is one *vector* of the boycott movement as it were. And I also think that people become so zealous about boycotts that they do become indifferent towards/tolerant of antisemitism - eg the UCU's refusal to engage with any possible problems involved in the fact they hosted Bongani Masuku some of whose statements were ruled to be hate speech by the SAHRC. There was also a really interesting discussion over on Greens Engage recently which displayed both the way in which criticism of Israel seems to slip into antisemitism - and the indifference or lack of understanding this elicits.

http://greensengage.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/very-cunning-nazis-infiltrate-the-green-party/

1/21/2011 03:19:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

I was thinking of a slightly different issue - not links between academics but between HE in the UK and students from other countries - from China, many (other) Middle East and Gulf states, and Pakistan

Ahhh I see. I would like to say that noooooobody in the boycott campaign has any problem with Israeli students and would never dream of treating individuals badly simply because of their nationality, but I don't have full information and I don't write blank cheques for other people's reputations, so I doubt I can make that assertion (actually, some people frankly do get totally het up about Israel, particularly when drink has been taken, and this is not good and not OK and, while in my view not very typical or representative, it only takes one piece of unrepresentative anecdata to ruin your whole day).

I ought to write up (or write down I suppose) my personal theory of the reasons for the "obsessive focus" on Israel. It's simply that it's a self-organising process. If you start from the simple rule that when someone argues, someone else is likely to argue back, and then you "seed" your model with a largish and articulate middle-class English-speaking community on one side of a contentious issue, you can pretty quickly derive the result that this issue is going to generate a disproportionate amount of action and attention.

I mean:

a) Assume that I have literally no life other than arguing on weblogs, and that all I do is surf blogs, looking for statements I disagree with and then replying to them. (yes, yes, very funny). Assume also that I am purely *reactive* - I don't state views of my own, just argue with other people's

b) Assume that I only care about two issues in the world - human rights violations in Sudan, and human rights violations in Israel. Assume also that I care about them equally.

c) Now based on what we know about the online world, I am going to spend nearly 99% of my time arguing about Israel, simply because that's how the blogosphere works. And this would even be the case if I cared *much more* about Sudan, and spent much more of my time looking for arguments about Sudan. There just isn't an articulate English-speaking community of apologists for human rights abuses to argue with on any other issues than Israel.

So basically I think it's just to do with the dynamics of Internet flame wars. (Unfortunately, people caught up in Internet flame wars can end up acting in ways that make them indistinguishable from actual bigots).

1/21/2011 04:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

But even if they aren't individually antisemitic there is nevertheless something oddly intense about the focus on Israel

Do you think if Italy behaved like Israel that the focus would be any less intense on them?

I think it would be much better to focus on supporting Palestinians whose education is being disrupted by Israelis (eg by making it difficult for them to travel unnecessarily) without resorting to boycotts, or boycott threats.

Well its a little bit more than disruption. Its included the deliberate destruction of facilities, preventing them from replacing even simple things like textbooks as well as preventing Palestinian academics from forging links with those outside Palestine. I don't understand why its okay for Palestinian academics to be placed under an effective boycott by Israel, but not okay for people voluntarily to refuse to engage with Israeli academics?

And I'm not sure what else one could do from the outside? Any suggestions?

1/21/2011 04:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

it's easy to imagine Israelis might be sent into a counterproductively defensive mode by all the criticism

This is exactly the argument that used to be made by opponents of the anti-apartheid campaign. It's probably true, but I don't think it should be given much weight.

I think what bugs me about the whole "when anti-Zionism shades into anti-semitism" discourse is that it's never done to help. I mean, I'm a middle-class white male who's worked on the Left, so I know a bit about how unacknowledged assumptions can be revealed in unguarded moments. I once had some copy for a leaflet knocked back because I'd used the unacceptably sexist term "bogeyman". But the approach in cases like that, implicitly or explicitly, was always "we don't doubt your sincere commitment to a just cause, but you should probably modify your language, as it seems to reflect attitudes which you would probably prefer to repudiate". And the offending individual reflected on his (usually) bad word choices, and the moment passed, and we could all go on working together. The message from the likes of David Hirsh is more like "your language reveals that your professed commitment to a just cause is a sham, and that your true beliefs are vile and unforgiveable".

But this shouldn't really be a surprise, because people like Hirsh have no interest in working together with the people they unmask; they're not working on the same side or for the same goals. "Revealing" that supporters of BDS are unconscious anti-semites - because they use images which sound vaguely anti-semitic, because they aren't also campaigning to free Tibet, or whatever - isn't the act of someone who wants the campaign against Israel's illegal actions done better or differently or more diplomatically, it's the act of someone who opposes the campaign and wants to discredit it.

I think Hirsh and people like him detect lots of false positives when they're looking for anti-semitism - they've got no interest in minimising its extent, after all. That said, I wouldn't be at all surprised if dedicated campaigners against a Jewish state occasionally used an anti-semitic trope or image; this was a fairly unfriendly country for Jews until relatively recently, and language changes slowly. (My wife grew up using the word "jew" to mean a rip-off. She'd never thought of it as an anti-semitic term - to the point that, when I picked her up on it, she initially maintained it was a completely separate word.) If these slips were brought to their attention in a friendly and constructive spirit, most of the people involved would probably be mortified and watch their language from then on. But of course these charges never are made in a friendly and constructive spirit: it's not friendly advice because it's not advice from a friend.

1/21/2011 04:58:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

I have to say that during my short sojourn in the Green Party, I did come across quite a lot of people who were at the very least bores about Israel (by the definition "someone who won't change his mind and can't change the subject"), and who at the very least had atrocious manners when it came to throwing around very racially loaded language. The leadership did their best to keep a lid on them internally, but Greens as a group tend to have a bunker mentality when it comes to criticism from outsiders, and as far as I could see, people like Caroline Lucas regularly got bamboozled into saying things ridiculously more extreme than they would have supported in calm reflection.

It was a combination of that, plus the sheer number of people who didn't believe in science (in a party whose only reason for existence is science!) that caused me to give up on the Greens, just in time to be confirmed in my view by Jenny Jones decision to support Ian Blair in his confidence vote.

1/21/2011 04:58:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

That's why I didn't go for 'em: if they've got such dodgy views about the minor points of science I've got no reason to trust them on, say, the climate. It'd feel like asking someone who's not sure of how to change a fuse to rewire my house.

1/21/2011 05:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

Cian - I don't know about the specific examples you mention, but the world is full of regimes which make it difficult for people to teach and study, yet Israel is still the one people zoom in one.

Phil - that doesn't really square with my own sense of David H, but he does have quite a forthright manner - I'd say Mira Vogel was definitely emollient to a fault - she'll continue to try to find common ground and give people the benefit of the doubt long after I'd have given up on them. I've also definitely enjoyed some good debates on Engage with people who definitely aren't antisemitic, but maybe like you think David etc are being over sensitive (about Seven Jewish Children) and I think we really did manage to have an interesting discussion.

I agree that it's easy to fall into antisemitic tropes just by chance or by cultural osmosis - but some people seem to fall harder and heavier than others!

Sometimes such accusations do seem far fetched. I remember, for example, being unconvinced when someone was accused of invoking an antisemitic stereotype in relationship to polluting a Palestinian water supply (I may have got those details slightly wrong) because of the old image of Jews poisoning wells.

1/21/2011 06:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Cian - I don't know about the specific examples you mention, but the world is full of regimes which make it difficult for people to teach and study, yet Israel is still the one people zoom in one.

Well if the country's a dictatorship, boycotting its universities is probably going to be pointless for all kinds of reasons.

1/22/2011 12:26:00 AM  
Blogger AndyB said...

Singling out Israel? I thought that was what its supporters do - describing it in black and white contrast to every other country in the Middle East.

1/22/2011 10:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

Cian - I'm not sure if that's true. Some quite nasty regimes seem to respond to some degree to various pressures - eg from Amnesty campaigns.

Andy B - I don't really recognize that pictue. Comparisons are sometimes drawn with other reminders in the region as a reminder that Israel gets somethings right, or more right than its neighbours. (Going back to an earlier point about how special scrutiny would be applied to Italy if it behaved like Israel, I do think it's unreasonable to draw parallels between a country in the middle of Western Europe and a country surrounded by so many hostile regimes).

I agree that a subset of Israel's supporters demonise Palestinians and talk about them in racist terms without taking their experiences into account at all. Same on the other side too of course.

1/22/2011 12:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

"comparisons are often drawn with other REGIMES" I meant to say!

1/22/2011 12:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Well name one that fits this model? Where an academic boycott might have an affect, and where it is doing something similar to Israel in the occupied territories. I really can't think of one.

1/22/2011 01:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

Cian -I think my earlier comment was more a response to your implication that an academic boycott would clearly be less effective if applied to a dictatorship than a democracy. I don't think *any* academic boycott would be particularly effective and I can think of no country I'd want to boycott in that way. But I am aware of some ME and Asian countries that seem willing to sponsor their citizens to study at post grad level in the UK, quite often on things which have a practical impact on eg science or public policy. Here's a random link to give you an idea.

http://www.rgu.ac.uk/future-students/international-students/where-are-you-from/gulf-states/united-arab-emirates

1/22/2011 02:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Actually I think an academic boycott of Israel, if it included the US, would be highly effective. Just as sport boycotts of S. Africa were.

The trouble with sanctions on dictatorships is that they tend to hurt the people who live there rather than the leadership, who by definition are fairly insulated from their populations.

1/22/2011 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

OK. Good afternoon. I shall sidle back, briefly, since this is a bit more interesting than other subjects I can think of, and since Sarah's questions are good ones which merit the attempt at giving them, good answers.

Firstly, on the "What about?" question. I think it's a perfectly good question to ask, provided it's asked in good faith. The thing is, it is almost inevitably otherwise: it's almost always a way of saying "if you don't support a boycott of somebody else too, we shall call you anti-Semitic, though not a word of actual anti-Semitism may ever have passed your lips". I don't do politics that way. I was thinking about this the other day, and I think it's maybe because my earliest political experiences were in the CND years, where it was widely considered acceptable to call anybody in favour of unilateralism a Soviet sympathiser, or stooge, or apologist. My loathing of this technique remains with me thirty years later.

But of course on principle it's a good question, just as it's perfectly reasonable to observe that there are worse human rights abusers than Israel. Which there are - even though Israel is a pretty major abuser in its own right - and some of them are in the same part of the world as Israel. Then again, it was also true all those years ago that there were worse human rights abusers than South Africa, and some of them were on the same continent: the names Mengistu, Mobutu and Bokassa all come to mind, and you could think of a few more. What was different about South Africa was that it was not simply an abusive government, but an abusive society: it was systematic, it oppressed and discriminated openly, as a matter of course, it was the principle on which the society was based. You couldn't remove the oppression simply by unseating the leader, or even by dissolving their party: the whole basis of the society was the problem.

Now you can argue about whether Israel is at that point or not - I don't think it is in practice, quite, at least not in terms of sheer rigour. However, it is undoubtedly true that as a society it is openly based on the elevation of one people and the subjugation and dispossession of another, and that this dispossession and subjugation is systematic, conscious, ongoing and violent.

1/22/2011 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

(Apologies for doing this over more than one comments box, by the way, but I don't trust Blogger comments at the moment.)

Anyway, you see the point. There are more oppressive regimes, and there are more violent regimes, and there are also other parts of the world where people (and peoples) have been driven from their land in colonial or quasi-colonial manner. There are governments which are headed and controlled by ethnic partisans who use their power to promote the interests of one group against another. But I can't think of anywhere where this process is the central purpose of the whole society. That's what apartheid was, and why it was singled out for special attention: it's the resemblance to that now-overthrown apartheid which causes Israel to attract similar attention.

Now I think there are good and honourable arguments (so long as they are made well, and honourably) against a boycott, just as I think there are good and honourable arguments in favour of them. But what I consider to be beyond doubt is that Israel is a disgrace, a palpable disgrace, and that the fact that it receives financial, military, political and intellectual support from the West is also disgraceful. It shouldn't. Whatever the merits or otherwise of calls for boycotts, support for Israel, the painting of Israel as the victim is some way beyond what I consider reasonable. And I think that the way it has to be accompanied with the constant smearing of Israel's opponents tends to back that up. A better argument would speak for itself.

1/22/2011 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Lastly, on the question of whether Israel should be judged on the same basis as Western democracies, what with being surrounded by hostile regimes and all. Well, I personally wouldn't, though it does strike me as something of a relativist argument. But then again, I wouldn't make the same demand of the Palestinians, who are threatened by the Israelis much, much more than the Israelis are threatened by the surrounding regimes, which, as we know, they absolutely dominate militarily. I think Andy's comment earlier in the thread is apposite: the nature of debates about Israel is that Israel is allowed to break the rules all over the shop, and if it is not, the complaint is that it is being picked on. Once you can do this, then intellectually, you can do pretty much anything.

1/22/2011 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

On a factual note, Israel is not 'being surrounded by hostile regimes'. It is bordered by the sea which is controlled by its allies, Egypt and Jordan with which it has long standing peace treaties, Saudi Arabia which is a covert ally, Lebanon which poses no realistic threat and which has been invaded and occupied by Israel on a regular basis, and lastly Syria who would like their territory back in exchange for a peace treaty, something Israel refuses to negotiate.

1/22/2011 05:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Frank said...

Phil " think Hirsh and people like him detect lots of false positives when they're looking for anti-semitism - they've got no interest in minimising its extent, after all."

Can you give some specific examples please when Hirsh does this ?

1/22/2011 06:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Frank said...

Phil

You also say (again with no proof),

"But this shouldn't really be a surprise, because people like Hirsh have no interest in working together with the people they unmask; they're not working on the same side or for the same goals. "Revealing" that supporters of BDS are unconscious anti-semites - because they use images which sound vaguely anti-semitic, because they aren't also campaigning to free Tibet, or whatever - isn't the act of someone who wants the campaign against Israel's illegal actions done better or differently or more diplomatically, it's the act of someone who opposes the campaign and wants to discredit it."


But you have no proof whatsoever for this, do you ?

As Hirsh himself has said :

"I drove Adam Keller of Gush Shalom around the UK when he came on a speaking tour and I was involved in organising his tour.

I speak out against the occupation, in academia, in my union and within the Jewish community.

I have taken part in demonstrations, most recently the one in Tel Aviv against the occupation and against the Israeli action against the flotilla.

Engage has consistently highlighted the plight of Palestinian academics and students whose life is made extremely difficult by the occupation. We have argued for our academic union to make links with Palestinian and Israeli colleagues.

I have written in public against the occupation:

For example here, on the Guardian website:

“Everybody serious supports a two state solution; an Israeli withdrawal to borders based on the 1967 ceasefire line, the foundation of an independent Palestinian state and a deal done between the two parties on Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugees and their descendents.”

In the South African press:

“Palestinians are not free. They suffer under an Israeli occupation that is sustained by a regime of violence, surveillance and control.”

“As well as a military occupation, successive Israeli governments have tolerated and supported the efforts of settlers to take Palestinian land for themselves in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

“Palestinians and settlers live under unequal legal regimes. Settlers have incomparably greater freedom of movement, democratic and legal rights as well as access to resources.”

http://www.mg.co.za/article/2008-10-09-occupation-not-apartheid

In the Israeli press:

“One reason that the loathing of Israel is becoming respectable in British society is that the Israeli state often acts wrongly. Israel still hangs on to the West Bank, encourages Jews to build settlements there, and rules it as a colony. The Israeli government acts as though it plans to annex a significant proportion of the West Bank to Israel. Within pre-1967 Israel, there is still discrimination against Arab citizens, some of it formalized in law. Because Israel is the occupying power, and because it is vastly more powerful than Palestine, it must accept a major share of responsibility for squandering the opportunities for peace in the 1990s. ”

http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=206

Within the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Global Forum against Antisemitism:

“One of the reasons why so many people around the world are angry with Israel is because of the continuing occupation of Palestinian land and because Israel, which has state power, has not done enough to end the occupation. Such an occupation cannot be sustained without racism, violence and humiliation against the people who are occupied. ”

http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1683

I feel a bit dirty for having obeyed your injunction to answer “what I have done” because I think that “what I have done” against the occupation is irrelevent to the arguments that I make.

But we do, don’t we? When people accuse us of acting in bad faith, we are tempted to jump through their hoops, to demonstrate good faith, while knowing that there will always be a new hoop offered"

1/22/2011 06:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Frank - I'm genuinely surprised to read the lines you quote; it seems that I've rather grossly misrepresented (or rather misinterpreted) David Hirsh's position regarding the occupation of the West Bank and anti-Arab racism in Israel. Apologies.

This of course knocks a hole in my critique of Hirsh. All I can say is that, when he writes about supporters of BDS, he doesn't write like a sympathiser with the cause who disagrees with the tactic being adopted and has concerns about some of the language being used - I think you'd agree that his tone is much harsher than that.

Perhaps the red line, for Hirsh, is being able to self-identify as a Zionist, as the position from which he criticises Israel's actions; perhaps it's when that identity is rejected that he feels he's no longer dealing with allies.

1/22/2011 11:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Do you think if Italy behaved like Israel that the focus would be any less intense on them?

Well, for it to *really* behave like Israel, it would first have to receive daily rocket attacks from the Tyrols and Croatia and Albania would have to be sponsoring terrorists to blow up pizza parlours in Milan. Not forgetting an autonomous Sicily which would be run by a theocratic death cult committed to the destruction of Italy as a state and the extermination of all native Italians.

So, about Italy's "behaviour"...

1/23/2011 12:13:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Israel, remember, is the victim. Israel has reasons.

Once you can do this, then intellectually, you can do pretty much anything.

1/23/2011 08:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Frank said...

Hi Phil. Thanks for your polite reply. Hirsh has been quite open about his views on Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and the conflict, so from what you say, i think it's a lesson to judge Hirsh by what he writes and says.

Another example of why this is important is when you say

"Perhaps the red line, for Hirsh, is being able to self-identify as a Zionist, as the position from which he criticises Israel's actions; perhaps it's when that identity is rejected that he feels he's no longer dealing with allies."

Because Hirsh does not self-identify as a zionist but as a non-zionist. As the about us page on Engage says

"here are plenty of people in the world who fly the Israeli flag, defend whatever Israel does, and regard Palestinians as being incurable rejectionists, terrorists or fundamentalists. There are plenty of others that fly the Palestinian flag and regard Israel as being an “oppressor” state, an essentially, unchangably racist, illegitimate, imperialist or apartheid state.

Engage comes out of a socialist tradition that maintains a skeptical view of nationalism. We do not see nationalism as necessarily racist or evil, but neither is it our own tradition; we are not nationalists. To the extent that nationalism defines community, and as far as nationalism represents a collective response to oppression, or a means of self-defence, we recognise that nationalism sometimes plays a positive role. Yet nationalism always also has potential to exclude those who are not thought of as being part of the nation and it has the potential to set one nation against another. This does not mean that we hope that nationalism (or particular nations) can be wished away or artificially destroyed. It means that our perspective is not one that puts any particular nation first, but one that aspires to a world in which people can enjoy guaranteed rights irrespective of national identity."

1/23/2011 09:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

i think it's a lesson to judge Hirsh by what he writes and says

I did - including what he's written in response to me personally. I just didn't read as widely in the writings of David Hirsh as I apparently should have done.

Hirsh does not self-identify as a zionist but as a non-zionist

OK, now I'm really confused.

1/23/2011 09:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

hello - I'm reading as I reply - so this may be a bit list like.

ejh - I suppose by now I do feel I've joined a 'side' but my opposition to a boycott of Israel came (as far as I can tell/remember) out of nowhere a few years ago when I became aware of the UCU boycott initiatives - the singling out was perhaps what struck me most at the time.

I agree with your point about SA - there is something morally outrageous about apartheid which might well trump more random abuses with a comparable impact.

The discrimination in Israel is both informal and (to some degree) institutionalised but doesn't strike me as anything like so bad as SA. Groups are badly treated in other countries - blasphemy laws in Pakistan, if you're Jewish and convert to Islam in Iran you apparently get all your family's money, also Lebanese treatment of Palestinians.

Coventrian - Israel may have an uneasy peace with some of its neighbours, but there is huge hostility towards Israel/Jews in the region, and of course from Iran, which does make its situation different from that of Italy, should Italy do something outrageous to a minority group or whatever.

Frank - I was relieved to see that your longer comment wasn't one I needed to engage with. I'll add to it by linking to a recent piece by that evil arch Decent Norman Geras,

http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2010/12/does-israel-need-the-west-bank.html

1/23/2011 09:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

So if I'm reading Frank correctly, we should be criticizing Engage for not living up to its ideals.

1/23/2011 11:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

but my opposition to a boycott of Israel came (as far as I can tell/remember) out of nowhere a few years ago when I became aware of the UCU boycott initiatives - the singling out was perhaps what struck me most at the time.

But I still don't understand what you mean by singling out here. Compared to where? What other countries do you think should be the subject of a boycott, s.t. Israel was not being singled out? If you can't actually name a country, then you can't also argue its being singled out.

The discrimination in Israel is both informal and (to some degree) institutionalised but doesn't strike me as anything like so bad as SA.

I think most critics of Israel are more concerned with the actions in the Occupied Territories (including of course Jersualem). Which is far worse than what happened within SA.

1/23/2011 11:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Brownie, for the analogy to work the following would have to be true of Italy.

1) It would have to been created through the ethnic cleansing of the original population by settlers - and the terrorism would be from the original inhabitants. Italy itself of course would have been founded through terrorism, and its secret service would have a long, unbroken, history of using terrorism for its own purposes abroad.

2) The Tyrols and Croatia, etc would all have to be been invaded by Israel on at least one occasion, while part of Croatia would have been illegally annexed by Italy as a result of this illegal invasion. And Albania would experience regular intrusions of its airspace by low flying supersonic planes, drones, etc. And would have been subject to a brutal ocupation of the southern half of the country.

3) The "autonomous" Italy would be completely cut off from the rest of the world, would be subject to regular military harrassment, assassinations, be subject to brutal sanctions and prior to this experienced 40 years of an extremely brutal occupation. Oh and to have been told by the world that they could have a democratic election, so long as they chose the CIA backed strongman, otherwise they would face sanctions, etc.

4) Oh and course the Tyrols would be occupied, and the Italians would be constantly stealing land, farmland and Italian settlers would be shooting locals for the crime of being, well, local.

Israel's victimhood is a little like the schoolyard bully complaining that the kid on the floor with a broken nose and jaw slapped him. Kind of nauseating.

1/23/2011 11:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

dd - I missed your earlier comment about students not being singled out - which was interesting about being reactive etc. My anecdatum(!) is that someone was turned down for a post grad place because he'd served in the IDF - compulsory for Jewish Israelis in any case. Yes it could well be that I focus on the viler manifestations of the boycott - but while not wishing to demonise all its supporters right through I did listen to the whole of the recent debate about the issue at the LSE and thought the win for the antiboycott side was well deserved. I didn't agree with every point made by the anti boycott chap - eg I don't think that the benefits of Israel's technology in themselves are a good reason not to boycott a country.

Cian - maybe China, Saudi, Iran?
Though note I'm not keen on academic boycotts in general.

Cian - the effects of the occupation do seem deplorable but again not unique, nor I think entirely Israel's fault, although any debate about that would stress test my knowledge of history etc.

I must say I'm finding this debate more civil than one or two recent threads I've been involved in on HP ;-)

1/23/2011 11:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

should Italy do something outrageous to a minority group or whatever

Actually not hypothetical. Doesn't really compare with the Occupied Territories, mind you.

I am utterly unimpressed with the "singling out" argument, because as far as I can see it is only ever advanced in an attempt to discredit or delegitimise somebody else's sincerely-held views. It's a hostile act, in other words. Returning again to my distant memories of actually being an activist, nobody from Anti-Apartheid would ever go to an El Salvador solidarity meeting and demand that the people there concentrate on South Africa instead. What about X? Well, if you happen to care more about X than about Y, feel free to start a campaign about X, and if I've got the time and energy I may well support it. I'm campaigning about Y because I happen to care more about it.

1/23/2011 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

People who are interested in the "singling out" argument might like to reflect on Nelson Mandela's 1958 article, "Our Struggle Needs Many Tactics", which is over here.

A snippet:

*** Perhaps it is precisely because of its effectiveness and the wide extent to which various organisations employ it in their struggles to win their demands that some people regard the boycott as a matter of principle which must be applied invariably at all times and in all circumstances irrespective of the prevailing conditions. This is a serious mistake, for the boycott is in no way a matter of principle but a tactical weapon whose application should, like all other political weapons of the struggle, be related to the concrete conditions prevailing at the given time. ***

1/23/2011 12:05:00 PM  
OpenID yorksranter said...

Also, Italy did have not one but several terrorist campaigns. The Tyrol was the least serious but the most obviously dependent on external support, but somehow they coped without bombing Vienna.

Both the extreme-left and extreme-right terrorists, for their part, had various degrees of support from outside Italy, and aimed at times to overthrow the state. Among other things they managed to assassinate the prime minister.

That's before we get onto the question of how, exactly, Sicily is not in fact governed by a theocratic death cult...

if you're Jewish and convert to Islam in Iran you apparently get all your family's money

Apparently, eh? This wouldn't be like that time when Mike Ledeen started pretending that Jews in Iran had to wear the yellow star?

Further, I'm not sure anyone's made this point as it is blindingly obvious: academics who want to protest against Israeli policy start academic boycotts because they're academics. If you're a dock worker you black ships belonging to people you don't like and get other dock unions to refuse to handle them. If you're a vacuous newspaper pundit, you write endless volumes of tosh. If you're a student you go and put Tory Central Office's windows through.

1/23/2011 12:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Among other things they managed to assassinate the prime minister.

Not quite - at the time Moro was leader of the ruling party, but not PM.

But well, quite. Things got pretty nasty in Italy at the end of the 70s - people have written books about this stuff - but there was (for example) only one occasion when troops in armoured cars were sent into a university to pacify it (Bologna, 1977). Would that the Occupied Territories suffered from that level of repression.

(Incidentally, nobody's ever asked why I singled out Italy, despite the fact that I spent six years of my life researching the politics of a country where I've never lived and have no personal connections.)

1/23/2011 02:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

I used the word 'apparently' on purpose in case the point about Jewish inheritance in Iran was incorrect. I've come across several reference to it just now on the internet but also one reference to the practice having lapsed. But here's plenty more info about discrimination in Iran.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discrimination_against_non-Muslims_in_Iran#Jews_2

1/23/2011 02:55:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I am utterly unimpressed with the "singling out" argument, because as far as I can see it is only ever advanced in an attempt to discredit or delegitimise somebody else's sincerely-held views.

as someone up there hinted, 'singling out' also works both ways. for everyone who claims that antizionists et al are 'jew-obsessed', to quote nick cohen, there's an awful lot of partisan zealots who plan and attend demonstrations in praise of Israeli military attacks - but don't attend many other demo's...

1/23/2011 02:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5367892.stm

Here's a BBC site which asserts that point about how if one Jewish family member converts to Islam he inherits all the family wealth.

1/23/2011 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Frank said...

Another point about the boycott is that the leaders of the boycott in the UCU refuse to come out in support of a 2 states settlement (based along The Green Line with the removal of all settlers). Infact the boycott campaign is by and large a campaign to raise support for a one state solution in the whole of Israel and Palestine. People ask the boycotters what specifically Israel would have to do for the boycott campaign to be stopped. There has never been a clear answer. Never, ever, ever !

1/23/2011 03:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phil, can you post the link as to what Hirsh wrote about you please ?

1/23/2011 03:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Frank said...

Sorry that last question to Phil was me.

1/23/2011 03:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that Phil is referrring to this thread

http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/05/28/michael-cushman-and-the-jew-free-ucu-congress/

{which is worth scrolling down in order to see Jon Pike being a gentleman and a brick).

Frank, I'm on the Engage mailig list and DH may hold these nuanced views, but they are not reflected in the bulk of its output. Also, his attitude to the relationship betweeen Zionism and Jewish identity leads me to doubt that he would describe himself as a non-Zionist. As ever, I remain open to evidence.

Chris Williams

1/23/2011 04:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Frank said...

Chris - UCU Congress has been a pretty unpleasant place for delegates who happen to be Jewish (unless they pass a litmus test on Palestine) - I know this from actually being there. Infact even Jon Pike had enough and jacked it all in after the abuse he received last time he went (and he ain't even Jewish).

But the icing on the cake was UCU actually organising a speaker tour for a straightforward antisemite - Masuku. I couldn't believe that even UCU would stoop so low after the SA HRC case.

I always tell Jewish colleagues to stay in UCU and not to let apologists for antisemitism win. But many have left and Sally Hunt doesn't care.

Hirsh has become a hate figure for the boycotters because they fail to deal with his arguments and like schoolboy bullies they like to give out abuse but can't take it. The only person i have seen in a straightforward debate with Hirsh was Ilan Pappe about five years ago at Birmingham and Pappe was hopeless (and yes it did surprise me).

1/23/2011 04:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Frank said...

Duncan Bryson's article is worth a read to show how unpleasant Congress can be (and he had intended to vote for the boycott).

http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/05/05/how-i-ended-up-worried-about-anti-semitism-duncan-bryson/

1/23/2011 04:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

Frank - the Masuku case is one of the reasons why it's difficult to see antisemitic boycotters simply as a small and distracting subset of an otherwise respectable group. The UCU displayed a mixture of indifference and evasiveness over the whole issue. I don't like the boycott movement, but if they'd issued a simple statement of regret, in the light of the hate speech ruling, at having hosted Masuku,I would have welcomed that as an indication that, even if we disagree over tactics, our principles are the same. But how are Jewish members (or indeed any members, and I'm not Jewish myself) supposed to react when their union shows such disdain for their concerns.

1/23/2011 05:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Frank said...

I agree Sarah.

1/23/2011 06:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

The trouble with that Duncan Bryson piece is that its largely opinion and interpretation from a guy who is openly hostile to the boycott. Its going to convince people who are already convinced that what he says is true - equally anyone who thinks the opposite is going to ignore it because of the heavy bias.

1/23/2011 06:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the unpleasant consequences of the polarisation of debate over the boycott in UCU is that neither side is taking so much as the time of day from the other. So if one of the sides spots a genuine wrong 'un in the ranks of the other lot, their denunciation is heard merely as a tactical crying of 'Wolf!'

This is a shame, as it's led to people like Aztmon being tolerated for longer than they'd otherwise have been. But I'm afraid that a denunciation from Engage alone no longer does the trick for me, and that's a direct consequence of Hirsh's nazidar recording way too many false positives.

Chris Williams

1/23/2011 07:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh god, this is becoming Another Thread About Israel, isn't it? Perhaps we should call it a day?

CW

1/23/2011 07:03:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

The Engage site's 'art' section, and its discussions of Carly Churchill in particular, are pretty ropey.

And I'm not really sure what they've got to do with the aims of Engage either.

1/23/2011 07:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Another point about the boycott is that the leaders of the boycott in the UCU refuse to come out in support of a 2 states settlement (based along The Green Line with the removal of all settlers). Infact the boycott campaign is by and large a campaign to raise support for a one state solution in the whole of Israel and Palestine.

Assuming this is true, it suggests to me that the leaders of the boycott are not Zionists. But it would be an odd world where one had to be a Zionist in order to criticise Israel, surely.

1/23/2011 10:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Frank said...

Hi Phil
Assuming this is true, it suggests to me that the leaders of the boycott are not Zionists. But it would be an odd world where one had to be a Zionist in order to criticise Israel, surely".

You don't have to be a zionist to accept Israel's right to exist and to support a 2 states solution - otherwise the PLO would be described as zionist. The boycotters are not criticising Israeli government policy, they are criticising Israel's right to exist even if the occupation ended. That's pretty extreme.

1/23/2011 10:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

The trouble with that Duncan Bryson piece is that its largely opinion and interpretation from a guy who is openly hostile to the boycott.

From Duncan's article:

I set off to congress ready to vote in favour of motion 25 [i.e. pro boycott], after all I felt that Israeli government policies were resulting in the oppression of many Palestinians

So you didn't read it, Cian?

Have another go.

Assuming this is true, it suggests to me that the leaders of the boycott are not Zionists. But it would be an odd world where one had to be a Zionist in order to criticise Israel, surely.

There may be good arguments for an academic boycott of Israel (I haven't heard any, but I suppose they *may* exist), but I'm more likely to be convinced if the main champions of such a policy do not display a preference to see the end of Israel as a nation state and shy away from hosting well-known anti-Semites.

1/23/2011 10:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

That's pretty extreme.

Not on any thread involving Cian, it isn't. It's very much par for the course.

1/23/2011 10:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

So you didn't read it, Cian?

No I skimmed it, and obviously missed that paragraph.

But I think my point still stands Brownie, no matter how offensive you want to be, that there's not actually anything much in there that's factual.

So you get the following:
"Banners in the hall proclaimed Israel was a racist, colonial usurper state, that Zionism was racism."

While its perfectly possible this was true, given he doesn't quote any of these banners, the reader has to take his interpretation of this on trust.

And this:
Whereas Yasser Arafat and most of the Arab world had accepted Israel’s right to exist and a two state solution, many delegates of the UCU had not.
Could mean all manner of things. In contrast if he'd simply said what they believed, the reader could make their own mind up.

And the bit about the exhibition. "It appeared that a Jewish delegate manning an exhibition about Israel was viewed with some suspicion." Or possibly nobody was paying much attention to exhibitions, or they had bad posters. His interpretation (the most negative possible) is certainly possible, but other more innocent explanations are also possible.

Its not that I don't believe these things are impossible. Its just that I don't think his article is hugely convincing that there is a problem. And its really not helped by the habit of many supporters of Israel of greatly exaggerating the "crimes" of people they disagree with. Its been a long time since I've taken the word of pro-Israel supporters on anything, in much the same way I'll probably get a second opinion on anything the SWP say.

1/24/2011 12:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Not on any thread involving Cian, it isn't. It's very much par for the course.

There's a 215 message monster thread just below this one that proves otherwise.

1/24/2011 12:47:00 AM  
Blogger john b said...

My anecdatum(!) is that someone was turned down for a post grad place because he'd served in the IDF - compulsory for Jewish Israelis in any case.

*cough*.

If true, this is clear racial discrimination and the student should have both sued the university and reported them to the police.

However, if untrue, that's *much* more likely. It reads like a million other sob stories from failed uni applicants saying "I didn't get in even though I had an excellent academic record so it must have been because the tutors are evil bastards who're biased against [insert pet bee in bonnet here], and definitely not the fact that there were a hundred other applicants for five places all of whom also had excellent academic records, some of whom were better equipped for the course than me and some of whom were luckier".

1/24/2011 02:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

John B - I've certainly questioned people on blogs who've claimed they were turned down by Oxbridge because of some sinister prejudice, so I know what you mean, and I did check this just now because I couldn't remember the details.

http://www.zionismontheweb.org/AUT/

"Boycotting Israel can be viewed as blatant discrimination by a university, as Oxford's Andrew Wilkie, Nuffield professor of pathology, discovered to his cost in 2003. He told Amit Duvshani, a student at Tel Aviv University, that he would not agree to his request to work in his laboratory because the professor had a "huge problem" with the Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

Referring to the student's three years of Israeli national service, he wrote: "I am sure you are perfectly nice at a personal level, but no way would I take on somebody who had served in the Israeli army." Wilkie was suspended - the stiffest disciplinary measure short of dismissal - and told to take part in equal opportunities training."

1/24/2011 07:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, UK academia appears to be working reasonably well when it comes to stamping out prejudice, then?

Chris Williams

1/24/2011 08:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

The boycotters are not criticising Israeli government policy, they are criticising Israel's right to exist even if the occupation ended.

I don't believe an independent Palestinian state consisting of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem (as utopian as even that sounds) would be viable; I believe those enclaves would inevitably degenerate into bantustans supplying labour for Israel. I therefore believe in a one-state solution: a single democratic secular state.

I don't see why disagreements over long-term (and probably unattainable) goals should be elevated into a reason for opposing people who are campaigning effectively for short-term goals that you purport to share. It would be like anti-apartheid campaigners denouncing other campaigners for their tendentially racist flirtation with the Pan-African Congress. Which just didn't happen, outside a few micro-sects (the kind of place where people always pay more attention to having the right line than being effective).

1/24/2011 09:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

I'm still not seeing refusing to take on somebody who had served in the IDF as racist. I mean would he be condemned if he refused to take somebody on who had served in (without knowing the recruitment policies very well) the Indonesian army during the Sukharto era?

I can see reasons for disagreeing with him, just not that reason.

1/24/2011 09:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

But I think my point still stands Brownie, no matter how offensive you want to be [ed: Huh?], that there's not actually anything much in there that's factual.

This is true enough; it is mostly opinion and interpretation. But if the sympathies of Bryson were relevant when you mistakenly wrote:

The trouble with that Duncan Bryson piece is that its largely opinion and interpretation from a guy who is openly hostile to the boycott.

then they're relevant when it's pointed out that he was in fact pro-boycott. The very thing that you thought was "the trouble" with his article doesn't apply. If you're reading in good faith, this revelation ought to make a difference.

But it doesn't, does it?

I'm still not seeing refusing to take on somebody who had served in the IDF as racist.

Given Israel has conscription and exemptions are rare, and given something like 90% of 18 year-olds are conscriptied, a refusal to take placements from students who have served in the IDF is to all intents and purposes a refusal to take placements from Israeli students.

Racist, in other words. Which is why Oxford suspended Wilkie.

1/24/2011 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

Sarah AB writes, 'Coventrian - Israel may have an uneasy peace with some of its neighbours, but there is huge hostility towards Israel/Jews in the region.'

Ever wondered why that should be?

1/24/2011 10:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Ever wondered why that should be?

Well in the case of Syria and Iran - Israel's most antipathetic near-neighbours - it's because there is institutionalised anti-Semitism: the sort that is taught in schools, is all pervasie in the MSM and which dominates the political discourse.

Why would you seek rapprochement with pigs and dogs, after all?

1/24/2011 11:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any comments from the two-staters in the audience on the likelihood of an Israeli partner for peace emerging in the foreseeable future, given yesterday's revelations?

Chris Wil

Stop me, stop me, kill the blog - it's not getting anywhere

1/24/2011 12:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Given that the IDF is a conscript army, discriminating on the grounds of service in the IDF has effects which are in practice hard to distinguish from discriminating against Israelis as a nationality. That's a very different thing from assuming that anti-IDF-veteran discrimination is motivated by anti-Israeli prejudice (which isn't racism anyway, but never mind).

I would have thought that anyone wielding rhetorical munitions as heavy as the charge of racism would be keen to observe these distinctions so as to avoid false positives, but maybe that's just me.

1/24/2011 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Shorter Decency on the leaked negotiations: These revelations of Israeli intransigence reflect very badly on The Guardian. And the Palestinians.

From a very brief scan, it looks like the Decent line on the leaks is that the Graun have endangered the peace process, which is hilarious on just about every level.

I don't have much to add on the boycott stuff, beyond "I'm not a fan of boycotts", as I've said in the past. Another point that often gets missed when it comes to the Jacobson-style invocation of incipient, UK-wide Kristalnacht-level Nazi racist hatred is that the people making them aren't misguided, mistaken or alarmist.

They are - for real, guys - intentional bullshitters promoting an unconcealed political agenda, and should probably be treated as such. If there's one thing I've learnt in all these years fannying about online, it's that people who call you a Nazi as a first resort don't deserve intellectual charity.

1/24/2011 12:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Given that the IDF is a conscript army, discriminating on the grounds of service in the IDF has effects which are in practice hard to distinguish from discriminating against Israelis as a nationality. That's a very different thing from assuming that anti-IDF-veteran discrimination is motivated by anti-Israeli prejudice

Which if you're an Israeli student looking to be placed in the British university makes all the difference, of course.

"Please be assured, Benjamin, that whilst the *effect* of our policy is to exclude all Israeli students, we don't actually have anything against Israeli students per se. It's just the natural consequence of our policy that makes it impossible for Iraeli students, and Israeli students alone to be place with us."

I'm trying to envisage in what other context you'd be so keen to make this distinction. I'm confident there isn't one.

Certainly, Oxford University wasn't interested in this distinction which is why Wilkie was sent for re-education on what is and isn't a discriminatory practice.

which isn't racism anyway, but never mind).

Good grief! I actually added a footnote initially to clarify that I do know the difference between racism and bigotry and that 'Israeli' is not a race, but then I don't allow the "Muslims are not a race" defence to Muslim haters, so I figured what the fuck.

Should have remebered where I was.

1/24/2011 01:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Obviously the effect of this person's prejudice was to discriminate against Israelis. Obviously this is unacceptable. Obviously his employer was right to discipline him. I've never said otherwise. None of this changes the fact that it's wrong to call someone a racist unless they actually hold racist beliefs.

I'm trying to envisage in what other context you'd be so keen to make this distinction.

Great. So I'm convicted of tolerating anti-semitism on the grounds that when I argue to the effect that I'm not doing any such thing, I'm making distinctions that you can't imagine me making in another context. Thanks for making it so clear that you're arguing with figments of your own imagination, and don't let me detain you any longer. You sock it to 'em!

1/24/2011 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

Hi Brownie,

Clever of you to mention only two of Israel's neighbours and only one with a border.

In the case of Syria, why do you ignore the occupation and annexation of the Golan?

In the case of Iran, why do you ignore Israel's support for the Shah and repeated threats to wage war and incitement of the USA to do likewise?

ps

For Ezra watchers and HPers like Brownie I've been doing some research on the founder of Harry's Place (Harry Steele/Hatchet) and his postings on Yahoo Groups.

Here's a good one.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/UK_Left_Network/message/9377


Re: [UK_Left_Network] Lies and smears

'Darrell,

I read the full shameful article in which you bragged that David Aarnovitch (sic), one of the most odious of the ex-Eurocommunist media darlings, uses the Weekly Worker website to gather information on the SLP and others for his pathetic columns.'

1/24/2011 02:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Phil,

Okay, two things:

None of this changes the fact that it's wrong to call someone a racist unless they actually hold racist beliefs.

This is correct. I didn't actually intend to call Wilkie a racist; I was responding to a comment by Cian which defended Wilkie against a charge of 'racism' that hadn't, as it happens, been levelled. But to be clear, I am not calling Wilkie 'racist' and withdraw any explicit or implicit suggestion he is.

Obviously this is unacceptable. Obviously his employer was right to discipline him.

With respect, it wasn't 'obvious' given your first comment made no reference whatsoever to your view on whether Wilkie's behaviour was acceptable or if his employer was right to suspend him. You merely wrote a paragraph explaining the distinction between the effect and motivation of Wilkie's self-adopted policy.

So I'm convicted of tolerating anti-semitism on the grounds that when I argue to the effect that I'm not doing any such thing, I'm making distinctions that you can't imagine me making in another context. Thanks for making it so clear that you're arguing with figments of your own imagination, and don't let me detain you any longer.

Not nearly right. If I thought you were an anti-Semite, or tolerant of anti-Semitism, I'd say so. I haven't because I don't. My point is that outside a conversation about Israel on AW with a HP troll, this distinction between the effects of a discriminatory policy and the motivation for it would barely warrant a keystroke.

I can imagine the response here if a similar issue having the effect of discriminating exclusively against Muslims was, er, explained in such terms on HP. This is what I meant about not being able to think of another context in which you'd have adopted this policy of explanation first and, eventually at least, outrage second.

Notwithstanding the above, I don't automatically accept that the distinction between effect and motivation is always one that matters. Some practices have inescapable results and it is rarely a legitimate defence to maintain that these are merely bi-product rather than indended consequences. Indeed, I would include some aspects of Israeli law in regard to land owndership and residential status. There are laws which are not in and of themselves dsicriminatory against Arabs, but for any number of socio-economic, cultural and historical reasons the *effect* is discriminatory nonetheless.

How much latitide I'd be given here making such distinctions as they apply to Israeli law is a question that doesn't require an answer.

1/24/2011 02:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

In the case of Syria, why do you ignore the occupation and annexation of the Golan?

I wasn't aware I was 'ignoring' it, but since you ask I think Israel should and probably will, eventually, cede the Golan to Syria. But probably not before something fundamental changes in Syria.

What I don't buy is that Syria's institutionalised anti-Semitism was the natural response to Israel's occupation of the Golan. I don't know how much you know about Syria, but if you know anything you wouldn't buy that either.

In the case of Iran, why do you ignore Israel's support for the Shah and repeated threats to wage war and incitement of the USA to do likewise?

See above.

1/24/2011 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

'What I don't buy is that Syria's institutionalised anti-Semitism was the natural response to Israel's occupation of the Golan. '

So what is the natural response to the occupation of your country?

1/24/2011 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

So what is the natural response to the occupation of your country?

Virulent racism?

1/24/2011 03:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Obviously the effect of this person's prejudice was to discriminate against Israelis.

Except for that small minority who refuse to serve for whatever reason. Presumably there wouldn't be a problem with his decision if the IDF was a volunteer army. It becomes a problem because they have conscription. But that's problematic because where does one draw the line? Or is there simply no line.

Ignoring Israel entirely for the purposes of the argument, if only too keep the pub bore at bay, what are the dividing lines? Is there some point where individual conscience should trump the demands of the society? Ethnic cleansing? Massive human rights violations? And when the sanctions for refusing to serve are fairly minor?

1/24/2011 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

I'm sorry Brownie, please answer the question.

What is the natural response to the occupation of your country?

1/24/2011 04:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In fact, discrimination against ex members of the IDF becomes a different kind of problem to discrimination against ex members of the Bundeswehr because of the racist way that the IDF recruits.

Stop me, before I post again!

C

1/24/2011 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

While waiting to discover Brownie's answer to my question, I found another of his mentor Harry Steele's opinions of 'Son of Sam'.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/UK_Left_Network/message/9386

'I accept that you made a slip-up and that you are not proud of the fact that right-wing traitors like Aaronovitch use your website and newspaper for witch-hunting the left.

But perhaps in return you might consider why he chooses to read the Weekly Worker to get dirt on the left?'

Oh the irony.

1/24/2011 06:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Coventrian, I'm sure we could piss away the evening discussing the Six Day War and I've little doubt you're one of the revisionists who pretends this was an Israeli war of aggression rather than attempt to preserve its existence, but what is not up for debate is that Syria began shelling Israel before a bullet had gone across the border the other way, the IAF and IDF being otherwise engaged with Egypt.

To cut a very long story short, there was a very brief conflict at the end of which Israel occupied two-thirds of the Golan. UNSCr 242 requires the wthidrawal of forces from land seized during the Six Day War and - the bit that you guys always forget - the establishment of peace in the region, the cessation of all states of belligerency and recognition of the sovereign, territorial integrity of all countries. Neither Israel nor Syria has fully complied.

So Israel continues to occupy 2/3rds of the Golan. If I were Syrian, I'd be annoyed. If I were Israeli, I'd regard it as foolhardy to return this strategic land to a country that maintains its state of belligerency in contravention of UNSCr 242.

All of which is very interesting, but I'm fairly certain it doesn't explain why there is institutionalised anti-Semitism in Syria.

My own guess is that institutionalised anti-Semitism in Syria is linked to the fact that the country has been run by Baathists since 1963. Six Day War or no Six Day War, I think there's a better than even chance they'd still hate Jews.

So are you sticking with the "it's the Golan" line? Good for you.

Now, I have some pins I need to push into my eyes, so I'll leave it there if that's okay?

1/24/2011 09:23:00 PM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

Thanks Brownie, your position is that the appropriate reaction to having your country occupied by a foreign power is to 'be annoyed'.

Perhaps you could look at American attitudes to the Japanese during WW2 and wonder what their propaganda would have looked like if they had occupied Hawaii as well as attacking it.

If Israel wants to be liked by its neighbours rather than hated and feared - and all the evidence is to the contrary - perhaps it should refrain from ethnic cleansing, invasion, occupation, torture, murder, kidnapping etc.

I don't know about you, but if any of that was done to me I'd be more than 'annoyed'.


Meanwhile on the topic of MacShane, he's made the mistake of tweeting,

'Swiss rightwing pol Dick Marty now pulling back from claim that Kosovo PM did organ harvesting in 1999. But Russians have had propaganda hit
2:04 PM Jan 23rd via web'

Which has run into

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/24/hashim-thaci-kosovo-organised-crime

'Report identifies Hashim Thaci as 'big fish' in organised crime
Kosovo's prime minister accused of criminal connections in secret Nato documents leaked to the Guardian'

Epic fail?

As for MacShane's tweeting

http://www.jonworth.eu/politicians-that-dont-get-twitter-macshane-byrne-swoboda/

'The second way (the wrong way) is to just broadcast, broadcast, broadcast. Worst I have ever seen in this regard is Austrian socialist Hannes Swoboda @Hannes_Swoboda – not a single @ reply in the last 20 tweets, and not even a single link to anything! Following close behind is former UK Europe Minister Denis MacShane @DenisMacShane – he follows just 22 people and yet more than 1300 follow him, and again there’s not a single @ reply. '

MacShane now has 3,203 followers but still is following only 53, but has managed a reply to our Aaro.

1/24/2011 10:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

If Israel wants to be liked by its neighbours rather than hated and feared - and all the evidence is to the contrary - perhaps it should refrain from ethnic cleansing, invasion, occupation, torture, murder, kidnapping etc.

So the institutionalised anti-Semitism in Syria and throughout much of the ME is Israel's fault? They made their neighbours racists?

Thanks for clearing that up.

Now, where'd I put those pins...?

1/24/2011 11:16:00 PM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

So does Brownie expect Israel's victims to have positive feelings for their oppressor? Laughable.

As for MacShane (or as they have it, MacShain), here's a photo with him side by side with Hashim 'Snake' Thaci. I wonde which one will be in the dock first.

http://lajme.shqiperia.com/lajme/artikull/iden/1046985577/titulli/MacShain-Marty-nje-gazetar-sensacionalist-i-zoti#

English version from Google Translate


Albanian to English translation


'MacShain: Marty, a journalist neat sensacionalist
Published in The Express on January 24, 2011 at 17:55 Former

From Express on January 24, 2011 at 17:55
Former British Minister Denis MacShain, Dick Marty said that Switzerland does not represent or Council of Europe and that his report has no witnesses and no evidence points. He called a reporter Martyn sensazionalist the owner. These comments made MacShain Monday after meeting with Kosovo Prime Minister to resign, Hashim Thaci, in which said Dick Marty is a lawyer by profession, but acting hundred percent as a politician with huge load of hostility towards Kosovo.

MacShain said that Marty is a brilliant self-publicist and sensational nature of his allegations meant that they would appear on the front page of many newspapers.

But, according to him, is just sensacionalizëm and Marty thoughts are similar to Serbia and Russia.

"Dick Marty is a lawyer by profession and in that report it operates 100% as a politician with a huge load of hostility towards Kosovo and if you read the report he actually argues that in 1999 Milosevic should continue to send piles His killing of massacring Muslims, whether in Kosovo, or, as stated earlier, in Srebrenica. It is the opinion of Marty, he is entitled to say his opinion. Russia thinks so, "said MacShain.

Former British Minister said that the UK wants to see a fair pure Kosovo, where the future is not charged.

Meanwhile, outgoing Prime Minister of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci on the report of Dick Marty, said that such defamation should be investigated to the end.

"I sent a letter to the Council of Europe, with a full support to label things presented in the report of Dick Marty, to investigate to the end. We gave full support EULEX authorities. Kosovo is a state law. We have nothing to hide, why trust law, "said Thaci.

With the former British Minister, Minister has talked about general developments in Kosovo, which it has said on this occasion the focus of Kosovo's institutions is to build a democratic, rule of law country, a multi-ethnic society.

Executive head of Kosovo has expressed gratitude to the former Minister MacShain and the British government's full support given to the process of freedom of Kosovo, its democratization, making Kosovo an independent state, sovereign and recognition process.

"Kosovo as an independent country now produces more peace, stability, regional cooperation and Euro-Atlantic spirit and in the future will be part of NATO, the European Union, as a perspective of a secure, democratic, developmental, welfare social, ie, a country of a Western model, "said Thaci.

Meanwhile, former Minister MacShain has expressed his country's commitment to Kosovo's European future. He said that the British, the new government and former government wanted to see that all European Union member states recognize Kosovo state and want to encourage business investment in Kosovo normal and a normal tourist trip.

He also spoke about the expected talks between Pristina and Belgrade, saying that we should find a solution to the ongoing dispute with Serbia because for Serbia, the road to Brussels passes through Pristina.

According to him, and the European future of Serbia holds a large question mark behind, as there is no agreement and a recognition of Kosovo from Serbia. / Kosovapress'

1/24/2011 11:44:00 PM  
Anonymous saucy jack said...

“I've little doubt you're one of the revisionists who pretends this was an Israeli war of aggression rather than attempt to preserve its existence”
Yes, those dreadful anti-Semitic revisionists, like Menachem Begin ("The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.") Yitzhak Rabin ([Nasser’s troops in the Sinai] “would not have been enough to unleash an offensive. He knew it and we knew it.”), Mossad head, Meit Amit, ( “Egypt was not ready for a war; and Nasser did not want a war") and IDF chief of operations in 1967 Ezer Weizman ("there was no threat of destruction" and the Egyptians would have "suffered a complete defeat" even if they "attacked first”). Or Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld who speaks of the IDF being "at the peak of its preparedness," "confident in its power" and "spoiling for a fight and willing to go to considerable lengths to provoke it." Thank God we have an intellectual titan like Brownie, who believes the situation on the West Bank is comparable to that of rural Cambridgeshire and whose entire first hand experience of the Middle East consists of a 48 hour visit to Tel Aviv which he spent in his hotel watching football, to refute these revisionists.
“but what is not up for debate is that Syria began shelling Israel before a bullet had gone across the border the other way”
You don’t count Israel's downing of 6 Syrian MIGS in April 1967 as a bullet going the other way then, or believe that Syria should have taken any notice of Rabin’s announcement on army radio at that time that, “the time is coming when we will march on Damascus to overthrow the Syrian government”?

1/25/2011 09:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Usually about this point Brownie storms off, complaining that there's no point dealing with people so removed from reality.

I have no idea whether Brownie's right on Syria schools, or not. I couldn't find a non-propoganda source for this, so who knows. I do know four Jewish people who've spent time in Syria, and none of them experienced anti-semitism, or any problems. And just the usual bland stuff about Israel (Golan heights, Palestinian right to a state, etc). So presumably these textbooks aren't very effective if this if Brownie is correct, which is not impossible I suppose.

1/25/2011 07:15:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

Apropos of not much - bloody hell!

1/26/2011 06:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MacShane is a busy little bee during his suspension.

http://www.iraqinquirydigest.org/?p=10786

(with added Rentoul)


Guano

1/28/2011 03:21:00 PM  

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