September 02, 2006

Do they mean me?

I stumbled on two articles yesterday that deal with Jewish critics of Israel. One was to denounce, the other was to applaud.

The first, from the Jewish Press, is now on Norman Finkelstein's, and many other, websites. It's titled "Jews who hate the Jewish State" and it contains all the stupidness one usually expects Engage to direct at Jews for Justice or other Jewish critics of Israel. In fact, go have a look at Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Richard Kuper's letter to three Engage contributors (Shalom Lappin, Eve Garrard and Norman Geras) who seem to subscribe to the maxim, "all Jews, one opinion." Here's what he was responding to.

My reason for posting the Jewish Press article here is the rather modest one that it mentions me. I should point out that the Jewish Press is reckoned to be quite extreme even in zionist circles but then Engage is getting more and more shrill in its denunciations of Israel's critics, especially if those critics are Jewish.

So here's the me bit of the article:
Another left-wing British Jew, Mark Elf, draws a subtle distinction: "To be rid of an Arab presence is to engage in ethnic cleansing. To be rid of a Zionist presence is to be rid of those who would engage in, or excuse, ethnic cleansing." His comrades translate these principles into action: Jewish members of the International Solidarity Movement travel to Israel in order to facilitate "the armed struggle" for the "liberation of Palestine" – a struggle whose realities can be seen in the burning corpses and severed limbs of their co-religionists.
The quote is an accurate lift from a letter in the London Review of Books and I'm not troubled by it as it stands. Arabs are an identity group based on birthright, language and cultre, if you like, an accident of birth. Of course there is nurture involved in the language and culture aspects of the identity but very little in the way of free choice. Zionists are not born, they are made. They are people who choose to support a racist ideology or to participate in a racist project of colonial settlement and ethnic cleansing. That said, they still quoted me out of context. Here's the letter in full:
Assault on Knowledge

As a non-Israeli anti-Zionist Jew, I am well aware of the need to distinguish between peoples and ideologies. It is J. Behar (Letters, 24 January) who appears to be 'morally unsavoury' when he equates Edward Said's lamenting of a 'Zionist presence' at Princeton with the wish of some Jews in Israel to be rid of an Arab presence. To be rid of an Arab presence is to engage in ethnic cleansing. To be rid of a Zionist presence is to be rid of those who would engage in, or excuse, ethnic cleansing.

Mark Elf
Dagenham, Essex
Facilitate armed struggle? At Princeton? My letter was a rejection of the conflation of peoples and ideologies and yet they tried to use the quote to do just that. The rest of the article is the same ludicrous tosh. Either trust me or read it and then trust me.

The other article appears in the Tehran Times on line. It's a gushing and patronising piece by a guy who is given to directly comparing Israel to the nazis. Read some of his stuff to see what I mean. I don't have objections in principle to the comparison but all comparisons have their limitations and behind the comparison of Israel with nazi Germany there is a suggestion that suffering and injustice don't count for anything unless they are like the holocaust. I think this detracts from the message that anti-zionists should be trying to get across.

Anyway, here's a chunk of the article:
Fact is, the equation of Zionism with Judaism is a well-known lie, and Zionist Jews who use it to justify Israel’s atrocities are finding themselves going up against increasing numbers of honorable Jews who are appalled at what is being done in the name of their religion. This schism must be suppressed at all costs, but if some mention of it manages to get out, it must be rubbished and its authors denounced as -- you guessed it -- “anti-Semites” or “self-hating Jews.” Ooooh!

For those intelligent enough not to buy into the official “Hezbollah is a terrorist group/Israel is the victim” group-think, here are some recent glimpses into what some honorable Jews have had to say about Israel, Lebanon and the Nazis:
He then lists out some Jews or groups of Jews he describes as honourable. This is why I call it patronising. It does raise the spectre of conditional acceptance of Jews and sets a standard for Jews to aspire to if they are to be accepted. This dovetails rather unfortunately with the Engage allegation against JfJfP, that they are simply trying to ingratiate themselves with certain interests. Anyway here's one item from the list of "honourable Jews."
On July 10, 300 Jews in Great Britain took out a full-page ad in the London Times to denounce Israel's aggression against Lebanon.
That'll have Hirsh and co hopping about a bit. If you read the Shalom Lappin, Eve Garrard and Norman Geras open letter you will see that they make the ludicrous claim that the reason 300 hundred Jews took out an ad in the Times newspaper was to make themselves "socially acceptable." Honestly they say that. Look:
The next time you......take out a self-abasing ad in a major newspaper designed to exhibit yourselves as socially acceptable Jews, bear in mind that you do not speak in our name.
Now to whom might we signatories be trying to make ourselves "socially acceptable?" The Tehran Times? And if criticising Israel is so socially acceptable, why did the Times have to be paid to carry the page? Why don't they just editorialise or report in that vein or get some "socially acceptable" Jews on board the flagship of the Murdoch press? Those zionists, they'll say anything.

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