June 08, 2007

When Charlie Pottins visited Doctor Demon

I'm having a bit of a to-do with a zionist commentor called Malachi. I cross verbal swords with him with some trepidation (is that the word?) because he is actually a barrister called Adrian Cohen. I must point out here that he doesn't use the name Malachi as cover for his real identity. He is quite open about who he is and what he does for a living, or at least what he is qualified at. He uses the name Malachi in the same way that I use the name Levi9909 or that Michael Rosen uses Isakofsky. He's not like, say Alf Green (did I mention him?) or Baruch Spinoza (how about him?).

Anyway, he pops up here and there accusing anti-zionists and other campaigners against Israel of "demonisation" and sometimes making more specific allegations. I have sought clarification when he's done this but none came so I asked again just recently:
I remember asking you what you meant by "demonisation" and you wouldn't say. And then there was your charge that I had made "intemperate and deeply personal comments about Hirsh and Grant and others who don't share your extreme anti-Zionist views." When asked for examples you disappeared again.

You need to stand back and look at yourself and start debating like an honest grown up. This isn't the Engage site where you can make things up as you go along and rely on a bunch of zionists to feed frenzy when someone asks for an explanation or makes an honest point.

So go on, have an honest go now.
And this is how Malachi responded:
My point is that you use the term zionist to dehumanise people such as myself. Its a simple point. We are all multifaceted individuals with complex identities, the truth of which you try and erase. Your comments about anti-yiddishism are particularly inaccurate.

Your use of the term 'zionist' has no connection with the reality of how most Jews define themselves. I mix with lots of Jews with lots of different views and we don't go around saying 'hello I am a zionist and I understand you are a non zionist or a post zionist'. We don't debate the finer points of Borochov's inverted pyramid and we don't much discuss classical Zionism versus polycentrism. Your world view is a bizarrre pastiche of some throw back to the 1920s.

I work with members of the community drawn from atheist, theological liberal through to haredi and politically from left to right. Zionism as an ideology doesn't come up much, except for when people denigrate it because we know that these are in truth attacks on our identity - we all care about Israel's well being because we have friends and family there and because it plays a huge part in our traditions, for some of us our faith and for all of us our identity. Israel is also hopelessly interwinded with the history of the Shoah. It has been a salvation for Jews from persecution. Where would you rather be a Jew today:- Iraq, Ethiopia or Israel? Most of us see it as a refuge as well.

All your crawling over the minutae of zionist misdeamenours, real or imagined, misses the big picture and shows a quaint but dated obsession with ideology that reminds me of my friends in my student days who were in the RCPBML.

Wellbeing for Israel includes a hope that there is a settlement with the Palestinians and the overwhelming consensus is a recognition that this must be on the basis of two states.

Take this as a lesson on dehumanisation of Israel as well and apply to Israelis mutatis mutandis.

Now I didn't read the whole thing, I simply scanned for "demonisation" which I didn't see and for anything about Hirsh and Grant. Nothing. Unless you count the "anti-Yiddishism" bit. Zionism as an ideology and in practice in Israel has been dismissive of Yiddish. I have used zionist antisemitism as a counterpoint for "zionism is good for Jews" positions but since I think that how zionists have treated the Palestinians is of far more importance than how bad I think it has been for Jews I don't make much of an issue out of it. Anyway, I swore at him in my reply so I won't repeat it here. I only use bad language in the comments. Just to say that I had asked him to explain "demonisation" and that he had invented a whole scenario conflating zionists with Jews (whilst accusing me of that) and ignoring the question about Dr Hirsh and Ms Grant altogether. I also pointed out (and this is where the headline comes from) that my reference to Yiddish annoying the zionists came from a run in when Charlie Pottins had used a Yiddish word in a comment to the Engage site and got told off for doing so by none other than Doctor David Hirsh, the great anti-antisemitism campaigner. I know I've posted it before, and reposted it quite recently, but it seems that Malachi, in spite of being an avid follower of this site, has missed it every time. Here's the exchange starting with Charlie's comment:
Obviously Sue Blackwell can do no right by you. After all, she moved a resolution in the AUT to boycott two Istaeli institutions on account of specific issues, and in your book this places her "behind the campaign to blacklist Israeli scientists, academics, teachers, students, musicians and artists".
Presumably you had some arguments against the proposal to boycott Haifa and Bar Ilan, but why trouble with details when you can so much more easily scare the kinder with tales about a completely different and imaginary boycott.
And here is Doctor Hirsh's anti-Yiddish response:
Charlie Pottins, please relate to the argument in the post. Of course Sue is in favour of a full academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Don't play games. Relate to the discussion Charlie.

And please write in English Charlie, not in Yiddish. This is not a forum for you to perform your anti-Zionist Jewish identity. It is a serious discussion about antisemitism in the British Labour Movement.
So you see, I do believe that Doctor Hirsh was trying to impress his zionist and Israeli cohorts with his anti-Yiddishism. And I believe that much of, for example, Gilad Atzmon's anti-Jewish attitudes stem from his zionist upbringing. The negation of the diaspora may not be a consistent zionist principle but it has been very widespread in the movement, it lives on as a cultural instinct in Israel and some diaspora zionist circles but at the same time, the negation of the diaspora cannot be too overt given that fact that the zionist movement wants the Jewish communities of the diaspora to be hasbara parrots and donors to zionist coffers. So, maybe zionists are ambivalent or inconsistent in their approach to Yiddish. Up against the crimes of zionists against Palestinians, it's really no big deal. It certainly doesn't amount to dehumanisation or demonisation to comment on it one way or another.

Now that should put this business to bed but there's another thing. Whilst checking back to see when this Malachi chap had first accused me of demonisation I noticed that it was in the comments under the post about David Hirsh being so insulting to Charlie Pottins over the use of one Yiddish word on the Engage site. The post I linked above. So Malachi knew exactly where I got the anti-Yiddishism thing from and no matter how clumsily or lazily I express myself, and I know I do, there was no excuse to elevate this from a little dig at one Engagenik to the demonisation or dehumanisation of a whole movement or community, particularly as he never thought of it at the time of the post he was commenting under.

And he said "it's a simple point." It wasn't simple enough for him first time round. He must be on some learning curve.


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