Anti-Zionists should grow upHow's all that for a grown up argument.
By David Aaronovitch
It has long been one of the perverse talents of British middle-class activists to be able to devise campaigns which, instead of drawing attention to real grievances, divert attention away from them. I spent a lot of my early adulthood in observation of this phenomenon and recognise the inevitable moment when the movement stops being about the thing it says it was about and becomes about itself.
So it is with the boycott. Today the question in Britain is no longer what should be done about the Middle East, but how to spread or defeat the boycott. For almost everyone involved, the debate is — if the truth is admitted — hugely enjoyable. This isn’t really surprising, because it is all a fabulous diversion from the extraordinarily painful business of making or soliciting peace.[Now this could be seen as an even-handed criticism of both sides in the boycott debate but anyone familiar with Aaronovitch's articles will recognise immediately that he has opened by serving notice that he is not going to engage with an argument here but rather engage in ad hominem attacks on those he doesn't like but can't argue against.]
This is only one way in which the boycott movement is entirely counter-productive. It has emphasised the gulf between activists and memberships in all the unions where it has been debated (does anyone seriously believe that most Unison members want to boycott Israel?). And as Jonathan Freedland has pointed out, it has also forced an unhelpful solidarity upon those who are normally enemies, making it more, not less difficult for a hegemonic Israeli peace faction to arise.[who are these "normally enemies?" We can't know because Aaronovitch doesn't say. If he did say we might be able to point out that the enmity of one side was possibly a sham. I mean is he saying that there are zionists who are opposed to the occupation, the wall, the war on Lebanon who are going to support these things because this or that trade unionist won't eat a Jaffa orange?]
All this should be bleeding obvious, yet somehow it is not. That’s why I believe there is something deeply irrational about the boycott movement. This “something”, I think, rests not in a genuine sense of injustice concerning the Palestinians, but in a negative ideology that calls itself anti-Zionism.[ok, let's take stock. The boycott leads to zionist (sorry, pro-occupation) unity and is counter-productive because people who oppose the occupation support it because of the boycott, yes? So the boycott is irrational because its supporters claim to be anti-occupation and yet they strengthen the occupation. But then that means that all the money that zionists are pouring into the anti-boycott campaign is wasted. Not, as Jonathan Freedland says, because it is for PR for a bad product, but because the boycott actually works, according to Aaronovitch's reasoning, for the occupation. Also, anti-zionists do not care about the Palestinians. They subscribe to a free-standing ideology called anti-zionism.]
With there being no strong right-wing movement any more for the annexation of “Judea and Samaria” or the construction of Eretz Israel, anti-Zionism seems to me to be about as historically relevant as being anti-Common Market. [I don't know if Aaronovitch knows that Judea and Samaria are names for the West Bank but the Likud is quite a strong movement in Israel still and Olmert isn't exactly retreating from those areas. That's without getting into his not so subtle redefinition of zionism as the ideology of the settlers beyond the pre 1967 boundary and not the idea that Jews from anywhere have more right to and in Israel than the native non-Jews who are there or who come from there.]Personally I am a non-Zionist, just as I am a non-Catalan-nationalist, and I would no more think of being “anti” than I would of campaigning against the desire of Australian aboriginals to reclaim their ancestors’ skulls from the British Museum. I am, however, anti-Likud.[I've seen John Strawson try this one by saying that he is a zionist in the same way that he supports Bulgaria's right to exist. But does he support the right of one community from around the world to ethnically cleanse most natives from Bulgaria and establish a state that values, by force of its laws, a community from around the world in preference to the natives? He never said but Aaronovitch avoids such relative straightforwardness by getting into a comparative treatment of Catalan nationalism. Now check Catalan nationalism out on Wikipedia. It's a movement for greater autonomy for Catalonia. Catalonia is a place. Now there are various zionist orientations but when most people speak of zionism they do not mean autonomy or statehood for the place now known as Israel. They mean statehood for the Jews. That is one Israeli and non-Israeli community over other communities in or from the same place. That is what sets zionism apart from other movements for statehood or self-determination. So he is not comparing like with like. I'm not saying that he can't be non-zionist. I'm just saying he has invoked a bogus comparison. Obviously with only a vague definition of zionism it's impossible to know if he is truly a non-zionist. He'd have to say precisely what he understands by zionism. As it is he has only hinted at a confusion between Jewish supremacy in Israel on the one hand and the occupation on the other.]
So it is interesting to me to see that many of those involved in the boycott campaign use “Zionist” as a term of abuse, not analysis. For example, Mr Mark Elf, a heroic correspondent to the letters page of this and many other journals, describes Tony Blair as a Zionist almost entirely because he doesn’t like the PM.[ah now he gets personal against little old me and deliberately dishonest. He doesn't want people to see how dishonest he is being so he doesn't link to the article he is referring to but I am guessing it is this one on Blair being appointed envoy for the Middle East quartet. I headlined it "Quartet to appoint zionist as Middle East envoy." I explain in the article that I say this because Blair is an honorary patron of a zionist organisation called the Jewish National Fund]
He tells another critical correspondent on his Jews Sans Frontieres blog “not to lie or evade, I know that as a Zionist you find thus difficult to impossible…”. Used in this way, Zionist is just another word for bad, like the apartheid regime in South Africa was bad, or fascists are bad. It is a word to be applied to people whether they believe themselves to be Zionists or not.[The quote is lifted from a lengthy comment by me against Paul Bogdanor, a contributor to Campus Watch and Front Page Mag. The quote is from April 2006. That is how deep Aaronovitch had to dig to find a quote that would have me using "Zionist" as "a word to be applied to people whether they believe themselves to be Zionists or not." And that against an extreme zionist by the standards of other zionists or is Aaronovitch saying that Paul Bogdanor does not believe himself to be a zionist? But what this is, is Aaronovitch saying "you just can't argue with these people, they use such hateful terms as er "zionist"." But we define our terms and the reason zionists cannot argue with us is because there is no case for Israel.]
As deployed by some agency entirely external to the Jewish communities — an Egyptian newspaper, say, or an Iranian TV channel — such a demonology is to be regretted but can at least be understood as an attitude towards the “other”.[pass the sick bag Alice]
But when it is used in this way by people who go to such lengths as Mr Elf or his ubiquitous comrade, Mr Tony Greenstein, constantly and at every opportunity to stress their Jewish origins, something else would seem to be going on.[We don't stress our Jewish origins at every opportunity but unlike the many specifically zionist organisations that simply call themselves Jewish this or Jewish that, we do state what our agenda is honestly and openly.]
Ah yes, say some readers, we are way ahead of you. Mr Elf and Mr Greenstein are archetypal “self-haters”. They are typical Jews who hate Jews (an organisation, come to think of it, which would complete the long, self-indulgent list of Jews For or Against This or That). They wish somehow to lose their unwanted Jewishness by currying favour with the goyische welt. They like the Nobel prizes and the comedy, but they don’t want to be associated with the big noses and loud behaviour in Waitrose.[These anti-zionist Jewish groups that state their agenda in their name are at least being more honest than those that simply say that they are Jewish as if they are Jewish community groups. And it's a long time since I've heard those stereotypes about loudness and big noses and all and why would I not want my Jewishness? Accidentally Aaronovitch has hit on to something with this "big noses" thing. Of course we object to racist stereotypes but we are perfectly comfortable with our Jewish identity. We believe we should be able to live as Jews wherever we find ourselves. What we are rejecting about zionism is colonial settlement, ethnic cleansing, racist laws and relentless aggression. But see how Aaronovitch resorts to antisemitic stereotypes.]
There are Jews who hate Jewishness. In his excellent book about being brought up in a fascist household, Trevor Grundy describes his late discovery that his fiercely antisemitic mother was herself originally Jewish. Bad experiences at the hands of her step-father might have accounted for her pathological rejection of her own people.[He's come a long way from my condemnation of a state that favours Jews from anywhere over non-Jewish natives to an antisemitic Jewish fascist. Will JC readers notice the lack of linkage. I'm sure they will, but how many will point it out]
But the very extremeness of her example indicates why I distrust the “self-hating” diagnosis as much as I distrust the Elfian definition of Zionism. Both are impertinences. “I don’t hate myself,” Mr Elf might say with justice, “I just hate you.” [But he hasn't mentioned my definition of zionism. As far as I know he doesn't know what it is even though he has delved into my blog so deeply he went back to the comments in the first half of last year to muster ammunition and then he had to lift it out of context.]
Trevor Grundy’s mother hid her Jewishness. Jews Against Zionism (or whatever) luxuriate in their superior version of theirs. Indeed, their profession of Jewishness is as excessive as anybody’s on their hate-list, though it seems to exist for the sole purpose of negative deployment. I knew Tony Greenstein many years ago, when he reminded me of John McEnroe in a kefiyeh.[And yet Jews against zionism don't go around suggesting that their identity is somehow more authentic than that of zionist Jews. They are simply refusing to be (mis)represented by zionists.]
The boycotters, and especially the Jews for Boycotts, are not self-hating Jews — they’re adolescents. It isn’t themselves they hate, but Daddy and Mummy. In fact, they’re so vain they probably think this piece is about them.[Ah now this is the old David Aaronovitch. The dissident, the communist. Standing up to the establishment. They ludicrously call us self-haters but Aaronovitch has superior insight. He's got our number. We hate our parents.]
I ought to point out here that Aaronovitch implies that I have had several letters published in the Jewish Chronicle. Actually I have only had one. It was this one:
Dear SirThat was published back in February 2007. Did Aaronovitch wait for the dish to go cold? I wish I could say that this JC article is more evidence of the panic zionists are in over the boycott business but this time I think it really was personal.
David Aaronovitch wonders why he wasn't invited to sign the Independent Jewish Voices declaration even though he wouldn't have signed it. There could be two reasons. One is the fact that late last year, in The Times, David Aaronovitch sneered at Jews for Justice for Palestinians and, in particular, an invitation to sign their statement. He actually said that he wouldn't sign anything "as a Jew" and that he couldn't understand why anyone would ask him to sign anything simply because he has a Jewish name.
The second reason might be that the David Aaronovitch, who writes for The Times and who couldn't understand why he would be asked to sign anything "as a Jew" was a different David Aaronovitch altogether from the one who would like to have been asked to sign the IJV declaration and that these IJV people asked the Times chap but not the JC chap.
Perhaps it's time for one of these David Aaronovitches to read the other one's articles.