Loyalty, Labour and the IHRA

Anti-Semitism is regarded among the worst of all prejudices, due to the gruesome history of 20th century Europe. My maternal grandparents were lucky to avoid the worst of it, as their parents had left Latvia in the late 19th century from economic necessity. As in the Proclaimers song, I was told that one couple (everyone has forgotten which) were “headed to New York” but ended up staying not in Leith, but in Leeds or Manchester. They were therefore naturalised in the UK long before the atrocities of the Nazis, although one of their children was killed while fighting them when his plane was shot down.

I have now established my credentials, as a potential victim of anti-Semitism, through ancestry (and I’m told appearance), if not religious practice. I have felt the need to do this, not only to show my personal interest in the meaning of this word, but also because I shall shortly write something extremely controversial.

I hear in the media of the “internationally agreed” definition. I’ve read articles in the Jewish Chronicle listing the numerous bodies that have adopted it. Organizations as unlikely as Bradford council and our own SNP have been cited in the Jewish press as halachic authorities on the proper interpretation of this word. Due to the history, the word has power, and potential victims have an interest in this power being maintained.

As it happens the definition itself, from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), is not contentious. It simply states that antisemitism is “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews”. The debate, if such it can be called, concerns some of the 11 examples that accompany the definition, listed as contemporary illustrations of anti-Semitism. There is maybe a real debate to be had here about why this exercise should be considered worthwhile at all. In his recent bestseller, Darren McGarvey has written perceptively about how “intersectional” politics, the need to avoid causing offence to minority and vulnerable groups, can become a means in itself to exclude disadvantaged people from debate. Unless you’re educated to some reasonably high level in what everyone might find offensive, you are liable to be labelled as a bad one and ostracized. How much erudition in these matters are we entitled to expect, particularly from those whose human rights happen to have been abused for example, by soldiers claiming to act on behalf of a historically oppressed group? Revealingly, the comic actor David Schneider, a supporter of the IHRA definition, recently suggested on Twitter that much of the antisemitism in the Labour party is inadvertent and not motivated by hatred towards Jews. As a potential victim, I feel rather less concerned by that type, though still offended on occasion.

I’d be amazed if a majority of Jews worldwide had even heard of, let alone read, the IHRA definition and its examples. Sadly however, most know exactly what anti-Semitism is, in the particular context in which they live. For example, when the late Muammar Ghadaffi was attempting, largely successfully, to expel every last member of the Libyan Jewish community from the country, I’m betting no one felt the need to consult any definitions about how to describe this experience. It’s odd though, that Tony Blair, the great hero of what we might call the pro-definition faction in Labour, put himself to considerable trouble to restore the Colonel’s reputation in the latter part of his own term in office. Why complain that the current leader once appeared with someone who said something unacceptable on a different occasion, while lauding a man who attempted to rehabilitate such a monster? Just one of the almost endless absurdities and ironies that characterise this debate.

Most of the examples in the IHRA definition seem uncontentious to me, including some that the Labour party initially questioned. In my opinion, they do provide some useful understanding of the kinds of statement that most Jews will find offensive. I have no problem with three out the four examples that were rejected by elements in the Labour party. For example, the sixth reads:

“Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations”.

This seems reasonable to me. I can, and do find such allegations offensive, as they attempt to undermine people’s connection with their society in the diaspora. Even this one, however, throws up ironies. The “radical diasporist” group Jewdas, who Jeremy Corbyn recently favoured with his allotment-grown beetroot at their Seder in his constituency, have pointed out that the Israeli Prime Minister himself could be regarded as anti-Semitic for urging French Jews to “come to your real home”, ie Israel. To be clear, I don’t think that an Israeli PM asserting that Israel is Jews “real home” is anti-Semitic, though for a European politician it certainly would be. Indeed, the IHRA definition could be a handbook of Israeli politics, so frequently do they accuse each other, for example, of being like the Nazis. I’m saying that absurdities and ironies are certain to abound if you try to apply a textbook definition to a complex phenomenon in which context is crucial.

However, there is only one example in the IHRA definition that I have a serious problem with. So (gulp!) now for the really controversial part. I believe that the people of Israel/Palestine should collectively determine the form of government that they wish to have. There, I’ve said it now. I have just, consciously and deliberately, become guilty of “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination“, the seventh example of anti-Semitism in the IHRA definition. Much of the recent discussion has insisted that the definition doesn’t prevent criticising Israel or attacking the policies of its current government. The IHRA text says so explicitly, but this really isn’t the point. What if you feel that the Palestinians have a reasonable right to resist being caught up in a state constituted to benefit another ethnic group? A few weeks after Israel passed its Nation State law, you might believe in “a commitment to the principle of equality, that everyone enjoys the dignity of being treated equally”? Are you then anti-Semitic?

Perhaps you feel that the words in that last quote are just New Labour-style cant, not to be taken seriously (They are, after all, taken from Gordon Brown’s recent spectacularly pompous speech in support of the IHRA definition). Even if you have no illusions regarding equality and rights, you might still think that inhabitants dispossessed by a discriminatory power are certain to resist their fate. This was, after all, the view of the influential “revisionist” faction of the Zionist movement throughout the 20th century. The revisionists argued, reasonably enough, that it is base hypocrisy to support the existence of the state, while insisting that it mustn’t take the steps necessary to ensure it survives. In this view, either you feel that the end of a Jewish state justifies the means, as the revisionists did, or you oppose its existence. From this perspective the policies of the current Israeli government, which we are permitted to criticize, are inevitable if you support the “right of the Jewish people to self-determination”. If you’re appalled by what the revisionists called the “Iron Wall”: the Gaza blockade, the child detentions, the expansion of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the killing of demonstrators, then logic might lead you to conclude that setting up a state that requires these measures, just to survive, is a bad idea. This would make you an anti-Zionist, but are you anti-Semitic? The seventh example of the IHRA definition suggests you are. Labour was right to question this, and wrong to capitulate on that point.

This whole episode raises many questions about the abysmal level of public debate on this issue. The Conservative party have been sitting pretty, watching their ratings rise in polls of Jewish citizens, supported by the editorials in the Tory-supporting Jewish newspapers. But nobody has thought to ask if their own party has adopted the IHRA definition (it appears they haven’t). Meanwhile Labour’s capitulation, and its weak response to genuine examples of anti-Semitism, yet again highlights Jeremy Corbyn’s feeble leadership. It’s all very well having a radical leader who promises a break with the centrist establishment, anti-war, anti-nuclear, anti-racist and pro-Palestinian. But seriously, what’s the point if he leads a party that votes for Trident renewal and formally outlaws the expression of support for Palestinian equality? Corbyn has had unprecedented opportunities for a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, a vice-president of CND. Members and supporters of those campaigns might reasonably have expected him to lead robustly from the front, taking their message to the wider public. Mr Corbyn’s Palestinian friends might have anticipated the extreme rarity of a Western leader outlining a strong position, in opposition to racism and in support of universal rights. Failing that, he could at least have upheld party members’ right to argue for universal rights. This could not only have promoted positions that Corbyn appears to have identified with his whole life but would have also served his own interests as a leader, showing him as a man of principle prepared to take risks with his own prospects to stand up for the dispossessed. Far better this than a lame and defensive response in which he has obviously been afraid to state his own position openly. You can argue Corbyn has failed because his party is so divided. I’d argue he has proved simply incapable of the leadership required.

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  1. Dougie Blackwood says:

    I read half way through this piece and felt that I was missing something. Some time ago when the stushie in the Labour Party first arose I Googled the IHRA definition and am sure that I remember that it included an example that it was considered Anti-Semitic to criticise the policies of the state of Israel. If my memory serves me correctly this would clearly be a nonsense. As I read here I Googled again and that specific example that I remember is not in the version I saw this time. Has it been changed?

    I do not consider myself an Anti-Semite but there is still an example in the latest text that grates. It is listed as number “10. Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.” You may not think so but in my view the actions of the state of Israel against those incarcerated within Gaza or excluded behind the fence or those who have their historic houses demolished before their eyes can fairly be compared to the actions on Kristallnacht and in the early days of the Nazi party prior to the creation of concentration camps and embarking of their idea of a “Final Solution”.

    There I’ve said it; and still do not consider myself an Anti-Semite

    1. Rebel Yell says:

      If you want to outlaw comparing your policy slate to the Nazi regime it doesn’t say much for your policy slate

    2. Ellis Simpson says:

      The fact you have said something like that – something clearly antisemitic by any objective standard – does not make you an antisemite. You might be. We just don’t know. The fact that this site allows such a vile post to remain also says something, and it’s not good.

  2. R. Eric Swanepoel says:

    OK, but why no mention of the over 40 Jewish groups who oppose the IHRA definition? See https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/30jewishgroupsbds/ .

    ‘Of particular concern is the usage of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, intentionally worded such that it equates legitimate criticisms of Israel and advocacy for Palestinian rights with antisemitism, as a means to suppress the former.’

    List of endorsing Jewish organisations:

    Academia4equality (Israel)
    Arbeter Ring/Workmen’s Circle, Southern California
    Boycott from Within (Israeli citizens for BDS)
    Coalition of Women for Peace (Israel)
    Collectif Judéo Arabe et Citoyen pour la Palestine (France)
    Dayenu: New Zealand Jews Against Occupation (New Zealand)
    Een Ander Joods Geluid (A Different Jewish Voice) (The Netherlands)
    Een Andere Joodse Stem – Another Jewish Voice (Flanders, Belgium)
    European Jews for a Just Peace
    Free Speech on Israel (UK)
    Gate48 – critical Israelis in the Netherlands
    Independent Jewish Voices (Canada)
    Independent Jewish Voices (UK)
    International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
    Italian Network of Jews Against the Occupation
    Jewish Anti-Fascist Action Berlin (Germany)
    Jewish Socialists’ Group (UK)
    Jewish Voice for Democracy and Justice in Israel/Palestine (Switzerland)
    Jewish Voice For Labour (UK)
    Jewish Voice for Peace (USA)
    Jewish Voice for Peace members in London (UK)
    Jews Against Fascism (Australia)
    Jews against the Occupation (Australia)
    Jews for Justice for Palestinians (UK)
    Jews for Palestinian Right of Return (USA)
    Jews of Color & Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews in Solidarity w/ Palestine (USA)
    Jews Say No! (USA)
    JIPF – Judar för Israelisk Palestinsk Fred (Sweden)
    Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden im Nahost e.V. (Germany)
    Junts, Associació Catalana de Jueus i Palestins (Catalonia, Spain)
    Los Otros Judíos (Argentina)
    Manchester Jewish Action for Palestine (UK)
    Quebrando Muros – Judeus Brasileiros Pela Descolonização da Palestina (Brazil)
    Scottish Jews Against Zionism
    SEDQ Network- A Global Jewish Network for Justice
    South African Jewish Voices for a Just Peace (South Africa)
    South African Jews for a Free Palestine (South Africa)
    Union des progressistes juifs de Belgique (Saint-Gilles, Belgium)
    United Jewish People’s Order (Canada)
    Union Juive Française pour la Paix (France)
    Boston Workmen’s Circle, Center for Jewish Culture and Social Justice

    1. Ellis Simpson says:

      “OK, but why no mention of the over 40 Jewish groups who oppose the IHRA definition? See https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/30jewishgroupsbds/ .

      ‘Of particular concern is the usage of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, intentionally worded such that it equates legitimate criticisms of Israel and advocacy for Palestinian rights with antisemitism, as a means to suppress the former.’ ”

      Maybe, just maybe, because if you read the IHRA definition, you will see it does no such thing. However, when have facts been allowed to get in the way of demonization?

  3. SleepingDog says:

    I think you might view these events as a manufactured skirmish in a larger conflict:
    Charges ‘Without Merit’ – Jeremy Corbyn, Antisemitism, Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky
    http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/879-without-merit-jeremy-corbyn-antisemitism-norman-finkelstein-and-noam-chomsky.html

    I watched the Al Jazeera documentary series The Lobby linked from the above article. If the allegations are true, then the Israeli embassy in the UK is running a 5th column intent on binding the major political parties to a pro-Israeli position. I’m sure other nations, corporations and groups are equally active in lobbying, influencing and undermining UK politics, but the Israeli plots (some of which they appear to have apologized for) either seem more than typically brazen, or clumsy, or perhaps real anti-semitic groups and Jewish groups who reject Israeli influence are highly motivated to expose them.
    https://www.aljazeera.com/investigations/thelobby/

    What I have not heard is for calls for a UK public enquiry to examine how and why Jewish people are underrepresented in influential areas of British life, have lower than average earnings and education, and are denied opportunities on an equal basis.

    My view is that some of this is also about a dry run that other religious groups are having about influence in UK politics, as declining Christian congregations lead to greater scrutiny of church privilege (bishops in the Lords is only one small if visible part of this). Therefore, whether the definitions of Jewishness are religious or not, other religious bodies are keen to coat-tail on the back of any benefits gained, so that perhaps Disestablishmentarianism can be made to fall foul of anti-Christian definitions:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disestablishmentarianism

  4. Laurence Davies says:

    ‘The Conservative party have been sitting pretty, watching their ratings rise in polls of Jewish citizens, supported by the editorials in the Tory-supporting Jewish newspapers. But nobody has thought to ask if their own party has adopted the IHRA definition (it appears they haven’t).’

    What’s more, the Tories have been cuddling up to Orbán, who is shamelessly and blatantly anti-semitic.

  5. Ellis Simpson says:

    “I believe that the people of Israel/Palestine should collectively determine the form of government that they wish to have.”

    There are so many complex issues that arise from that seemingly simple statement. But to cut to the chase, yes, it is antisemitic.

    If your serious intention is to find a way to arrive at a peaceful solution, that is not a serious contender. The Palestinians – or at least their leadership – do not want the Jews to have any say over any part of whatever they are currently claiming as ‘historic Palestine.’ They made that clear when they rejected the partition plan, and at several other opportunities throughout the years since.

    Sad to say, but your rightful exercise of free speech may have been intellectually satisfying, but achieved nothing other than an opportunity for some of your followers to vent their spleen at Israel.

    1. The Author says:

      On the contrary, you have convinced me (the author of this piece) that something has been achieved in cutting to the chase of this issue, so thanks very much for your comment Ellis. You declare my simple statement anti-Semitic by explaining in purest colonial terms why Palestinians should not be involved in determining their form of government. This illustrates the problem with example 7 better than I possibly could.

      1. Ellis Simpson says:

        “You declare my simple statement anti-Semitic by explaining in purest colonial terms why Palestinians should not be involved in determining their form of government. ”

        First and foremost, that’s not what I said. I did not say that the Palestinians shouldn’t be involved in determining their own government. They absolutely should.

        I don’t know where the ‘purest colonial terms’ came from. Projection? Puzzling.

        1. The Author says:

          Ok, let me try to spell this out at more length so we can maybe establish exactly where we disagree.

          The original statement argues that all of the inhabitants should be involved in determining how the territory is governed – I’m not talking about the right to “determine their own government” of some puppet body with severely limited powers (although the Palestinians have been denied even that in recent years) – but the big questions: one or two states, how are minority communities to be looked after, the rights of refugees etc.

          You responded by calling the statement anti-Semitic (an extremely hurtful accusation by the way). You then argued that such an approach won’t work, on the basis of decisions that the Palestinian leaders have taken. The latter argument is standard colonial practice.

          On the theme of the article, I appreciate you disagree with the above suggestion, but that’s not really the point at issue here. The question is whether the statement is anti-Semitic, giving as it does at least equal status to the Jewish inhabitants of Israel/Palestine. Should it be considered legitimate to put such an argument, in the interests of having an open debate that might (G-d willing) eventually illuminate some sort of way forward? In my opinion it’s in everyone’s interests to distinguish arguments around Middle East politics from the position of Jewish people in the UK. These should be totally separate questions, but they are conflated in the definition, particularly the 7th example.

          1. Ellis Simpson says:

            There’s no doubt your original statement is antisemitic. You find that a hurtful accusation? First, it’s not an accusation, it’s a fact. Second, what on earth would make you think that such a flagrantly antisemitic statement could be construed otherwise? You venture into the minefield of antisemitism with a clear understanding of what the IHRA definition is, and what the examples illustrate, post something that denies the right of the Jews to self determination (done that to any other ethnic group recently?) and expect to walk away unscathed? Perhaps you might get an award from those in the so called pro-Palestinian camp, but from any reasonable, objective perspective, there could only be one outcome.

            Now, if you want suggestions about the way forward, instead of wasting time on fantasy nonsense about hoping Israel will disappear – which is what much of Corbyn’s fellow travelers seem to believe in – how about recognizing that progress needs to be made in getting the Palestinian situation sorted out. For example, what can be done to get Hamas to deviate from its Jew hating genocidal agenda? For example, what can be done about getting one elected, responsible, less corrupt, accountable representative body for all the Palestinians? For example, what can be done about remedying the inherently homophobic and misogynist nature of the Palestinian environment? For example, what can be done about the dreadful incitement towards hate and bigotry perpetuated by the official Palestinian (and other Arab) media? None of these are easy, But, efforts have to be made. One step at a time. Which is why, notwithstanding Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ I fear that peace, if it is ever to be achieved, is a long way off.

            I have deliberately listed some (!) of the challenges on the Palestinian side because they are the most difficult to address. Sure, Israel will have challenges to sort if there is to be peace, but we are far removed from that at this moment in time.

            While I am here, I want to deal with this part of your post:

            “You then argued that such an approach won’t work, on the basis of decisions that the Palestinian leaders have taken. The latter argument is standard colonial practice.”

            I checked my dictionary and could not see a definition of colonial or colonialism that made sense. I know that some who demonize Israel refer to it disparagingly as a colonial project, but in the context of your post, it makes no sense to me.

            What you appear to be saying – and I could be wrong in this – is that it is colonial to expect the Palestinians to take responsibility for their actions. Presumably you expect the Israelis to take responsibility for their actions. So, is your position – by no means unique – not a racist one? If there is an alternative explanation, I’d love to hear it.

            Finally, we do agree that arguments around Middle East politics should be distinguished from the position of Jews in the UK. I do not agree there is any conflation in the seventh example, but I am open to persuasion.

          2. The Author says:

            No, your interpretation of what I’m saying with its suggestion of racism against Palestinians is totally wrong (the alternative explanation you request is below). I have said almost nothing about the Palestinians except to suggest that they should be involved in determining the form of government in their country. The fact that you find this anti-Semitic actually highlights an important point of agreement between us. We both interpret the “self-determination” of example 7 to mean a right of Jews in Israel/Palestine to determine how the territory is governed without reference to the rights or interests of the other inhabitants. This self-determination is actually a right to set up a state in which civil rights are conferred not by residence but by an ethnic or religious qualification, effectively a right to oppress. I believe that states should exist to serve the inhabitants of the countries concerned, not ethnic groups, however they are defined.

            You ask if I have denied such a right to any other ethnic groups recently. I’m not sure that the need has arisen but I’m very happy to do so. Just name an ethnic group and I’ll assert that they have no right to establish a state based on ethnic discrimination anywhere. The world is full of stateless ethnicities. Do the Roma have such a right? The Cajuns, the Berbers, the Alawites, the Pashtuns, the Xhosa, the Gaels? Or within Israel, for example, do the Druze, the Ashkenazim, the Sephardim, the Bedouin or the Russians? No, none of them do. Nor should any other existing states feel they have the right to set up schemes of ethnic discrimination, like the former Apartheid system in South Africa, for example. Far from anti-Semitic this is a pro-Jewish position, as most of us live as minorities in our countries. The correct response to anti-Semitism is to oppose discrimination in principle and fight for the rights of minority and disadvantaged groups.

            In answer to your weird interpretation of my views, I am of course not saying that it’s colonial to expect Palestinians to take responsibility for their actions. I’m saying it’s typical colonial thinking to present a factually dubious list of their supposed failings (as you have done repeatedly here) as part of a justification for denying them political rights. Even if your racist depiction of Palestinian society had any truth it would be irrelevant to the question under discussion.

          3. Ellis Simpson says:

            “No, your interpretation of what I’m saying with its suggestion of racism against Palestinians is totally wrong (the alternative explanation you request is below). I have said almost nothing about the Palestinians except to suggest that they should be involved in determining the form of government in their country. The fact that you find this anti-Semitic actually highlights an important point of agreement between us.”

            Wrong. What I found antisemitic, indeed what is indisputably antisemitic, is your denying the Jews their right to self-determination.

            “We both interpret the “self-determination” of example 7 to mean a right of Jews in Israel/Palestine to determine how the territory is governed without reference to the rights or interests of the other inhabitants.”

            Not quite. The rights or interests of other inhabitants of *Israel* absolutely have to be taken into account. It is fair to say that Jews have already determined and continue to determine how Israel is governed. Not always correctly. Not always in the best fashion. Not always well expressed or explained. Not always with the best approach to accommodating others. But we are a young country in world terms, and are still learning – hopefully – from our mistakes and experiences.

            “This self-determination is actually a right to set up a state in which civil rights are conferred not by residence but by an ethnic or religious qualification, effectively a right to oppress. I believe that states should exist to serve the inhabitants of the countries concerned, not ethnic groups, however they are defined.”

            I don’t accept the ‘right to oppress.’ Perhaps ‘capability to oppress’ is fairer. Israel is set up to serve its inhabitants regardless of race, creed, color, or religion. It is a thriving, vibrant democracy, with a full panoply of civil rights for its citizens. I have yet to find an Arab Israeli who would swap his life for one in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, or Jordan. For sure, the position of the Palestinians is not as good. We need to sort out the mess in Gaza, and decide on a way forward in Judea and Samaria.

            “You ask if I have denied such a right to any other ethnic groups recently. I’m not sure that the need has arisen but I’m very happy to do so. Just name an ethnic group and I’ll assert that they have no right to establish a state based on ethnic discrimination anywhere. The world is full of stateless ethnicities. Do the Roma have such a right? The Cajuns, the Berbers, the Alawites, the Pashtuns, the Xhosa, the Gaels? Or within Israel, for example, do the Druze, the Ashkenazim, the Sephardim, the Bedouin or the Russians? No, none of them do. Nor should any other existing states feel they have the right to set up schemes of ethnic discrimination, like the former Apartheid system in South Africa, for example. Far from anti-Semitic this is a pro-Jewish position, as most of us live as minorities in our countries. The correct response to anti-Semitism is to oppose discrimination in principle and fight for the rights of minority and disadvantaged groups.”

            I don’t know enough about the groups outside of Israel, but it may well be that some are entitled to self-determination. The Druze are unique in that their belief system tells them to be true to the nation in which they reside. The other inhabitants of Israel you mention have already achieved the desired self-determination.
            However, now that you have explained your position in a bit more detail, I understand where your initial premise comes from, and what you were trying to say. How to make the proposition without it being antisemitic? Perhaps you can do it by restricting matters to the Palestinians, as in, the Palestinians have the right to self-determination.

            “In answer to your weird interpretation of my views, I am of course not saying that it’s colonial to expect Palestinians to take responsibility for their actions. I’m saying it’s typical colonial thinking to present a factually dubious list of their supposed failings (as you have done repeatedly here) as part of a justification for denying them political rights.”

            You seem to overlook that you have had to shoehorn the criticism of Palestinian behavior into something colonial so you could use the buzzword, but without it having any meaning. It appears your political perspective is so ingrained, you couldn’t resist. You had to be true to your anti-colonial stance! Why else use that word? But the more you protest, the clearer it is that my interpretation is what you were saying, even if unintentionally. Big bad Israel (or the Western world) cannot possibly criticize the Palestinians, for they are the underdog and are always right. In fact, the Palestinians could have had a state of their own several times over. They have only themselves to blame. The Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

            “Even if your racist depiction of Palestinian society had any truth it would be irrelevant to the question under discussion.”

            Which bit is inaccurate? Which bit is racist? Pray tell me when the last Gay Pride march was in the Gaza Strip, or Judea or Samaria? You must know that honor killings in the Palestinian community are rife, with most killers walking free or serving minimal sentences. Women’s rights? A joke. Free speech? Only if you don’t say it. Free press? Only if you write what Hamas or the PA want, as appropriate. Antisemitism? Tons of it, all officially sanctioned.

            People who say they are pro Palestinian and anti Israel need to reconcile their conscience with the fact that they are supporting homophobia, misogyny, bigotry, and the antithesis of freedom. Failing to own up to these realities, these facts, is silence for the sake of hate. Such people should be ashamed of their stance. To paraphrase Burke, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to say nothing..

            It is absolutely not irrelevant to point out that Palestinian society is deeply flawed. It does not seem capable of government. You only have to look at the Gaza strip. Hamas had the perfect opportunity, to set up a Palestinian state, and look what they did. On the basis of the evidence we have, as things stand, a Palestinian state would be (at best) another failed state. Who needs that?

            If there is to be meaningful progress towards peace, the Palestinians need to sort themselves out.

          4. Ellis Simpson says:

            You said:

            “Ok, I think we’ve arrived at the heart of our disagreement here. I think the claimed “right of self-determination” is effectively a right to oppress, and I agree with many, perhaps most Zionists that the success of the state depends on it being excercised.

            You think that self-determination merely comes with a “capacity” to oppress and with magnificent understatement you acknowledge that it happens to have been used “not always with the best approach to accommodating others”. You even tacitly acknowledge that such oppression is inevitable, by excusing it as the excesses of national youth.”

            I say: Armchair critics like you have the luxury of being able to criticize without offering sustainable alternatives, nor assuming one iota of responsibility for their often naïve (if not juvenile) and simplistic solutions. What we are talking about here is how the State of Israel has gone about its business while trying to protect its people from those incited to murderous intent. It didn’t work out so well for the Jews when they had to depend on others for their health and safety, so we do prefer to have control over our own destiny. And, as I acknowledged, there have been mistakes. Why is that an understatement? Have not Britain, the USA, France, Germany, or any other decent nation state you care to mention made mistakes? Are those countries demonized for their mistakes, their imperfections? And yes, though it is not an excuse, it is a fact that Israel is young and still learning.

            You said:

            “We can continue to debate this, but regardless of the rights and wrongs, remember that we’re arguing about whether I can express the above opinion without being accused of the worst form of racism, in other words is it legitimate to do so at all? In that context, the distinction between the two positions outlined above is actually pretty minor.”

            I say: Possibly. The core for me remains that if you or anyone else deny the right of the Jews to self-determination, that is antisemitic.

            You said:

            “Your logic is flawed. You assert that “rights…of other inhabitants of *Israel* absolutely have to be taken into account”. But you insist that it’s anti-Semitic to argue that they should be, at least with respect to the political right to influence the constitution by which the territory is governed.”

            I say: It’s not my logic that is flawed, it is your analysis. The rights of the other inhabitants have to be taken into account. That is separate from denying the rights of Jews to self-determination. For example, Israel is a Jewish country, but that doesn’t stop the practice of other religions.

            You said:

            “With the emphasis on *Israel*, you are also trying to get away with a kind of double-think on the occupied territories.”

            I say: Judea and Samaria, you mean. 8)

            You said:

            “On the one hand they are not part of the country, because even you can’t claim the people there enjoy “a full panoply of civil rights”, or that a state constituted for Jews could be democratic when they are only 50% or so of the population.”

            I say: OK.

            You said:

            “But on the other hand it is “we” who must “sort out the mess in Gaza, and decide on a way forward in Judea and Samaria”. So it seems the power to determine the form of government (in this case a foreign military dictatorship) extends beyond Israel’s never-defined, phantom borders. This second view is, of course, correct. There is one state in Israel/Palestine and it excercises its capacity to oppress throughout. (Don’t get me wrong, I don’t accept your arguments regarding the Arabs living within Israel. I was certainly astonished by your implication that the Bedouin enjoy self-determination for example, a few days after one of their villages was demolished for the umpteenth time).”

            I say: Maybe I got my lines crossed somewhere, but I never intended to say we – as in Israel – needs to sort out the Palestinian mess in Gaza, Judea, and Samaria. I am sure I posted this: *If there is to be meaningful progress towards peace, the Palestinians need to sort themselves out.*

            That Bedouin story as presented by you is a prime example of (successful) anti-Israel demonization based on lies and misrepresentation. Here are the facts. Khan Al Ahmar is an illegal settlement. The Jahalin Bedouin are a branch of a larger tribe based in the Arad region. Some members started squatting in that to-be-demolished location after the 1973 Yom Kippur War. (Some say this was the result of an inter tribal feud.) The State has made generous relocation arrangements for them – free housing (with fully connected services) with an assurance that the community will remain intact in a location only four miles away. Indeed, many of the community have relocated already.

            There have been multiple attempts through the courts by the PA and the EU to block the relocation. All were rejected. If you knew how prickly (rightly so) Israel’s High Court was about such matters, you would better appreciate how ill founded these legal cases were to have been so soundly rejected. But then, ask yourself, what would any other proper government in the world do if people tried to establish an illegal settlement outside their capital city? Some say that European law, ironically, is even more strict when it comes to nomadic populations mandating forcible deportation. That’s not what Israel is doing. It is applying the rule of law and giving all-expenses-paid relocation. But only Israel is demonized, and you fell for it, hook, line and sinker.

            You said:

            “You have misinterpreted the point of my list of nations that don’t enjoy a right of self-determination on the terms meant by the definition. The details are unimportant – I don’t accept that anybody has such a right.”

            I say: OK. Noted.

            You said:

            “There is much else in your posts that I disagree with but I’m trying to keep the focus on the theme of the original article. There are enough threads on the internet about the rest.”

            I say: OK. Happy to discuss any and all. Bear in mind, as with the Bedouin village case above, you should not take at face value the propaganda of Israel haters.

        2. SleepingDog says:

          @Ellis Simpson, if you are still struggling with the definition of colonialism, someone has drawn a picture:
          The Maps of Israeli Settlements That Shocked Barack Obama
          https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-map-of-israeli-settlements-that-shocked-barack-obama

          1. Ellis Simpson says:

            I wasn’t struggling so much with the meaning of colonialism as the inaccurate usage. Common in anti-Israel propaganda, but often nonsense.

            Here’s the thing about the New Yorker article – it’s plain wrong. I cannot upload graphics here, but if you take the map from that article (the State Department map of 2016 claiming the two state solution is viable) and the 1995 Oslo II map of Areas A and B, and put them side by side, you will find they are identical, or as near as dammit. Why? The white parts of the article’s map are Areas A and B under the Oslo Accords, and the rest of the West Bank under the accords was under Israeli control. In other words, the article’s map has no connection with settlements – none! What it is, is a map of Palestinian areas which are then misleadingly and fraudulently put forward as evidence of Israeli settlement growth.

            Kerry was deceived and, probably, too dense to know it. Or he didn’t care.

            Now some points of detail.

            First, there clearly are areas of separation between Palestinian areas. Israeli peace offers made after the map was created removed most of the separations.

            Second, as matters stand right now – despite all the propaganda to the contrary, the situation on the ground is that Israeli ‘settlements’ and control extend over almost exactly the space agreed to in the Oslo accords. All that rubbish about Israel expanding the ‘settlements?’ I don’t know for sure the exact figure, but something like 99% of development has been of existing developments within the planned space. Shocking isn’t it? Anti Israel campaigners bang on about the settlements, but the facts – which they seem happy to ignore – say otherwise. No wonder Israeli politicians are often tempted to take action and ignore what the outside world says.

            Third, it’s not ‘settlements’ that have been responsible for the lack of peace. If you want something more concrete – apart from the rotten state of the Palestinian leadership – perhaps the Palestinians saying no, no, and no (to the 2000, 2001, is a better bet.

          2. The Author says:

            Ok, I think we’ve arrived at the heart of our disagreement here. I think the claimed “right of self-determination” is effectively a right to oppress, and I agree with many, perhaps most Zionists that the success of the state depends on it being excercised.

            You think that self-determination merely comes with a “capacity” to oppress and with magnificent understatement you acknowledge that it happens to have been used “not always with the best approach to accommodating others”. You even tacitly acknowledge that such oppression is inevitable, by excusing it as the excesses of national youth.

            We can continue to debate this, but regardless of the rights and wrongs, remember that we’re arguing about whether I can express the above opinion without being accused of the worst form of racism, in other words is it legitimate to do so at all? In that context, the distinction between the two positions outlined above is actually pretty minor.

            Your logic is flawed. You assert that “rights…of other inhabitants of *Israel* absolutely have to be taken into account”. But you insist that it’s anti-Semitic to argue that they should be, at least with respect to the political right to influence the constitution by which the territory is governed.

            With the emphasis on *Israel*, you are also trying to get away with a kind of double-think on the occupied territories. On the one hand they are not part of the country, because even you can’t claim the people there enjoy “a full panoply of civil rights”, or that a state constituted for Jews could be democratic when they are only 50% or so of the population. But on the other hand it is “we” who must “sort out the mess in Gaza, and decide on a way forward in Judea and Samaria”. So it seems the power to determine the form of government (in this case a foreign military dictatorship) extends beyond Israel’s never-defined, phantom borders. This second view is, of course, correct. There is one state in Israel/Palestine and it excercises its capacity to oppress throughout. (Don’t get me wrong, I don’t accept your arguments regarding the Arabs living within Israel. I was certainly astonished by your implication that the Bedouin enjoy self-determination for example, a few days after one of their villages was demolished for the umpteenth time).

            You have misinterpreted the point of my list of nations that don’t enjoy a right of self-determination on the terms meant by the definition. The details are unimportant – I don’t accept that anybody has such a right.

            There is much else in your posts that I disagree with but I’m trying to keep the focus on the theme of the original article. There are enough threads on the internet about the rest.

  6. SleepingDog says:

    Wasn’t Priti Patel forced to resign as International Development Secretary for apparently showing more loyalty to Israel than her own country? I’m not sure if she identifies as a Jewish citizen, but if she was, such criticism of her should not count as anti-Semitism. If the IHRA example refers to all Jewish citizens and not individuals, then I think it is not clearly worded enough.
    “Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”
    https://www.holocaustremembrance.com/working-definition-antisemitism
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priti_Patel

    1. The Author says:

      I disagree strongly with this. If Priti Patel had been Jewish, then highlighting this as a factor in her actions would have been anti-Semitic in my opinion. It would suggest that other Jews are susceptible to this form of “disloyalty”, just because they are Jewish. The fact that she isn’t, and still did what she did, serves perhaps to illustrate how wrong such generalisations can be.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @The Author, I think you misunderstand my point, which was the opposite of highlighting. Not having a religious or nationalist upbringing myself, I am not best placed to judge, but my impression is that some members of some groups see their in-group membership (and other’s out-group non-membership) as the primary attribute of a person. Thus an “indispensable nation”-believing USAmerican may believe that US citizenship is the primary attribute of a person and divide the human world first into Us and Them on that basis; furthermore, they may put their version of their history at the centre of world history, and be angry if someone has a vision of a future world without their nation (even a mild case as in John Lennon’s Imagine, where there is no religion too).

        Some other people, myself included perhaps, might not see any one primary personal attribute standing above others, nor a belief in an essential nation. So whether Priti Patel does, or does not, identify with Jewishness is irrelevant in saying that she was forced to resign for acting secretly as an agent of a foreign power, here Israel. The relatively significant characteristic of Patel here might have her loyalty to the state she was a member of government for and a foreign state. I think it is fair to cast her behaviour as demonstrating loyalty to the state of Israel over the UK, whether she identifies with Jewishness or not. It cannot be fair or rational that if she did turn out to identify with Jewishness that would be a get-out-of-jail card on the grounds that such criticism was anti-Semitic.

        I believe that a worldview that someone’s ethnic or religious affiliation is unimportant compared with (and unconnected to) issues of good character will tend to be far less anti-Semitic than any view which holds Jewishness to be the primary characteristic of a person. My suspicion (as I said, I have not the religious background to inform me) is that some members of some groups use arguments and debates like these to promote the view that their in-group (and others’ out-group) membership is the primary attribute of a person, and that could amount to a dangerous divisiveness and distortion of history and the human world (see also ultranationalism, apartheid and the patriarchy).

        1. Ellis Simpson says:

          “…she was forced to resign for acting secretly as an agent of a foreign power, here Israel.”

          Bollocks.

    2. Ellis Simpson says:

      “Wasn’t Priti Patel forced to resign as International Development Secretary for apparently showing more loyalty to Israel than her own country?”

      No. She resigned because the meetings were not authorized in advance by the government, nor notified according to FO protocol. In short, these were unauthorized meetings..

      Putting it mildly, it’s a wild conspiratorial stretch to equate that with “showing more loyalty to Israel than her own country.”

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