July 07, 2007

Disengaging from Littlejohn

More weirdness on, or off, the Engage site. Last night a post appeared promoting a programme scheduled for Monday night on Channel 4 to be presented by Richard Littlejohn titled "The war on Britain's Jews." Richard Littlejohn has several pet hates, most of which form the stock-in-trade of fascist parties. He rails from his tabloid column in the Daily Mail against gypsies, asylum seekers and gays. But he is a good friend of Israel - surprise surprise. Now Engage has waded into controversy before with its dalliances but this one really put the cat among the pigeons and had David Hirsh at his defensive best painstakingly explaining what he actually said to everyone who questioned what appeared to be his latest choice of friend. I first knew of the post when I got a comment here this morning. Thankfully the commentor copied and pasted the whole of one comment to the Littlejohn post:
interesting comment on Engage, which Hirsh posted but didnt reply to:

http://www.engageonline.org.uk/b...cle.php? id=1226
David Hirsh asks,

"back in the good old days,......

"....Who would have thought that the big trade unions would be organising a boycott of Israeli goods? "

is it surprising that big trade unions are now organizing a boycott of israeli goods when it willy-nilly steals its neighbor's land, on which it will set up Israeli-run "industrial estates" for walled-in palestinian villagers on the lands that will used to be their farms until stolen by the israeli state:http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm? ItemID=5735

Is it surprising that trade unions are now organizing a boycott of Israeli goods, when, according to Ha'aretz :"Palestinian workers employed in West Bank settlements and factories earn less than half the minimum wage stipulated by law, a Knesset study revealed Tuesday." naturally, the workers dont receive health benefits or anything like that: http://www.kibush.co.il/show_fil...e.asp? num=20941

Is it surprising that trade unions are now organizing a boycott of Israel when the World Bank, the UN, and Amnesty all say Israel is destroying the west bank's economy, making it impossible for farmers to get their own goods to market, while Israel floods they palestinian market with their own goods? http://www.stopthewall.org/downl...df/ FoodFull.pdf

Is it surprising that trade unions are now organizing a boycott of israel, when Israel's closure of Gaza now has 75% of Gazan industry shut down? http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Sat...icle% 2FShowFull
Ok, did you check out the link to Engage? I did and I very helpfully pointed out how you can get the url to link to the comments here. Follow the link and.....no comments. But now if you follow the link to the post you find....no post. Now when I did see the post I noticed that there were 30 comments so what has happened here?

Unfortunately Engage was so quick to remove the offending piece you can't (well I can't) find it on google's cache but Tony Greenstein copied me a comment that he tried to post earlier today to the same thread. In his email he very usefully copied some of the existing comments on the Littlejohn thread. He didn't catch the name on this comment but I think it's Joshua:
I just came across this at Workers' Liberty:

'When genocide was raging in Rwanda in 1994, Littlejohn wrote: "Does anyone really give a monkey's about what happens in Rwanda? If the Mbongo tribe wants to wipe out the Mbingo tribe then as far as I am concerned that is entirely a matter for them." '

http://www.workersliberty.org/node/8818

If Littlejohn really did write this then in my opinion you should take down this post. I don't care how much good he may do the Jewish people. There have to be limits. If that's what he wrote (and I really don't care if he subsequently retracted it) then he is a monster. Utterly beyond the pale. He should no more be talking about anti-Semitism on television than David Irving or Erich Priebke.
Here's an Anon possibly responding to the comment above:
Sorry to say this Joshua but from your last post you appear to be principled but naive.

First people on this site didn't want Dershowitz, now they don't want Littlejohn. If you want to 'vet' everyone who is against anti-Semitism however repulsive their views on the use of torture or genocide in Africa just remember that the people who are baying for Jewish blood today (and not always metaphorically) are not so queasy. Why else are we witnessing an unholy alliance between radical Muslims & the SWP?

What do you want, for Engage to be a minority site dismissed as some obscure ramblings of an extreme-left fringe?

P.S.
If this comment is censored then I know where the moderator stands and you won't be hearing from me again
Here's a chap called Mike Chivers:
I don't think we need any help at all from this racist. In addition to the Rwanda comments, he is also reported to have called Palestinians "the Pikeys of the Middle East" ("pikeys" being an offensive term for Gypsies, one of Littlejohn's chief hatreds). It might do for "Little Green Footballs", but not Engage.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Littlejohn

Some good comment from Johann Hari:
http://www.johannhari.com/archive/article.php?id=631
And here's a chap called Roger responding to the Joshua above:
Before Josh played the Irving card I was going to restrict myself to quoting Orwell: 'just because something is printed in the Daily Telegraph does not automatically mean it is untrue' (or something to that effect).

Irving and Priebke are not fair analogies.

Obnoxious as he is as far as I am aware nobody has ever accused Littlejohn of being an anti-Semite (in fact Jews must be one of the few minorities he is keen on) and he may even be capable of producing an informative and intelligent programme on anti-Semitism in Britain.

Presumably other left-wingers have appeared on the various TV shows he's fronted over the years - as watching him sagely agree with other bigots would hardly have made for good television (not that they were good television).

So personally I wouldn't touch him other than with the pointed end of a very long pole but given the pressing need to publicise that anti-Semitism is a problem and that this programme might well reach a wider audience than the few thousand political obsessives we normally address ourselves to, I am not sure David had that luxury.
And now a comment from a critic of Engage rather than a supporter:
Jews, Gypsies and Homosexuals are united by a deadly history of persecution by the Nazis.

A question for David Hirsh. If you were a Gypsy and you were told that someone was making a programme about anti-Gypsy racism, the only trouble was that they often say and write nasty things about Jews and Gays. How would you feel about this? Would you welcome it.

Similarly, if you were gay (I don't know your sexuality) and you knew someone was going to do a documentary about homophobia, only they are often racist about Jews and Gypsies, would you give them the time of day?

Why should any thinking Jew with a sense of history do anything to promote any piece of work by Littlejohn, who has excelled in anti-gypsy, anti-gay statements, not to mention his well known comments on Rwanda's peoples and about Palestinians which other contributors have referred to, and his appalling statements over the years on asyluym -seekers?

Is every anti-human statement forgiven the moment he utters something positive about Jews?

The only thing that may be unfair to Littlejohn is to call him Nick Griffin's favourite columnist. I thought that honour belonged to Melanie Philips, but maybe I'm wrong. ne thing I'm certian of though: the day the Jews think they need help from, or have an ally in, the likes of LittleJohn is the day things really are desparate.
Well up pops Hirsh immediately, almost:
I linked to an interview and I gave the time of a TV programme. Perfectly reasonable - people can watch the TV programme and make their own judgment. As I said I haven't seen it. I didn't embrace Richard Littlejohn as a lovely guy. In fact, if you read what I wrote, I said:

"how we hated these nasty little apologies for everything Thatcherite - tinged as they were around the edges with an anti-immigrant xenophobia and a baying hatred of the "politically correct"

I didn't know the Rwanda quote which is disgusting - but I well remember that he was xenophobic, homophobic, unpleasant - as I wrote in the piece. I don't think he was ever fascistic - he was a Thatcherite.

But diasporist, my point was, how come this right wing sleaze is now suddenly more of an anti-racist than you are? At least than Livingstone is, than the SWP is, than Alexei Sayle is, than UCU is than UNISON is, than T&G? How come?

What has happened to antiracist politics when even Richard Littlejohn is to the left of all those that I mention? I never said he was good, I said he was a clearer opponent of anti-Jewish racism than a whole layer of "antiracists".

You can pretend that I've suddenly become a fan of Littlejohn if you like - but people can read. And that pretence won't prevent anybody noticing that you have dodged the whole point of my piece.

Before people get all excited, I didn't say Littlejohn was suddenly a great antiracist, I didn't say he was an ally against antisemitism, I didn't say that we should all join in a popular front against antisemitism with him, I didn't say that he was my best mate, I didn't say that he was right to hate gay people - what I said was, perhaps you might be interested to watch his television programme on Monday.
And that's it. Those are just some of the quotes that saw the light of day but never will again, not on the Engage site anyway. Here's one last one that probably never saw the light of day on the Engage site in the first place. It's from Tony Greenstein:
What a sorry pass things have come to when David Hirsh goes into the last ditch in defence of Richard Littlejohn, the chauvinist and racist ex-Sun and Daily Mail columnist.

Let us ignore, no let’s not ignore, the record of the Daily Mail. This is what it said about Jewish refugees in the last century as they escaped the pogroms in Russia and Nazi persecution:

"The way stateless Jews from Germany are pouring in from every port of this country is becoming an outrage: the number of aliens entering the country through back door - a problem to which the Daily Mail has repeatedly pointed"
Daily Mail, 20 August 1938.

"They fought, they jostled to the foremost places at the gangways. When the Relief Committee passed by they hid their gold and fawned and whined in broken English asked for money for their train fare." February 3rd, 1900

And of course one could quote the ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’ headline or of course the personal meeting between Viscount Rothermere and Adolph himself.

So what has changed that their columnists, Richard Littlejohn and Mad Mel Phillips are so concerned about anti-Semitism? Actually nothing. It’s the Jews who changed in such a way as to become acceptable to right-wing bigots and chauvinists. They moved out of the East End and into London’s middle-class suburbia. Their place was taken by Bengalis, the new object of the Daily Hate Mail.

Whereas Jews in 1945 voted to put one of only 2 communists, Phil Piratin, into Parliament today they vote Tory or New Labour or even further rightwards (according to Geoffrey Alderman’s Jewish Community in British Politics substantial numbers in Hackney voted National Front in the 1974 General Election. In short, whereas Jews in the 1930’s identified with the Spanish Republicans and anti-fascist worldwide, today they identify with the Israeli State and the apartheid treatment meted out to the Palestinians. Because that is what Zionism has done – it has dragged many Jews to the right in support of imperialism and its domestic allies.
And of course the attitude of the Mail, including of course Littlejohn and Mad Mel, to asylum seekers is entirely consistent with that paper’s policies towards asylum seekers today. So how come they are concerned about anti-Semitism?

It is not, therefore surprising, that even posters to the Engage blog which David Hirsh runs, have taken exception to what Littlejohn wrote about the Rwandan genocide in 1994 ‘"Does anyone really give a monkey's about what happens in Rwanda? If the Mbongo tribe wants to wipe out the Mbingo tribe then as far as I am concerned that is entirely a matter for them." (which is actually a take on the sayings of another racist and friend of David Irving, the late Alan Clarke MP. And Littlejohn’s racist reference to Palestinians as ‘pikey’s’, a term normally used about Gypsies, another Littlejohn hate is entirely consistent with his opposition to ‘anti-Semitism’..

And likewise some people have taken exception to the support of Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard Professor who believes that judges should be able to issue ‘torture warrants’, for the anti-boycott campaign. After all Zionism and the Israeli state rely on the support of the far-right in the United States and their Christian Zionist allies, who when not supporting Armageddon in Palestine are dancing in joy at Mel Gibson’s Passion of Christ. Why object to the support of Littlejohn and Dershowitz?

It makes no sense.

But what is Hirsh’s take on all of this?

‘I didn't know the Rwanda quote which is disgusting - but I well remember that he was xenophobic, homophobic, unpleasant - as I wrote in the piece. I don't think he was ever fascistic - he was a Thatcherite.

But diasporist, my point was, how come this right wing sleaze is now suddenly more of an anti-racist than you are? At least than Livingstone is, than the SWP is, than Alexei Sayle is, than UCU is than UNISON is, than T&G? How come?

What has happened to antiracist politics when even Richard Littlejohn is to the left of all those that I mention? I never said he was good, I said he was a clearer opponent of anti-Jewish racism than a whole layer of "antiracists".

You can pretend that I've suddenly become a fan of Littlejohn if you like - but people can read. And that pretence won't prevent anybody noticing that you have dodged the whole point of my piece.’


Yes that’s right. How come Littlejohn is an anti-racist in comparison with Ken Livingstone or UNISON asks Hirsh. Well the obvious answer is that he’s not, but since Littlejohn opposes the academic boycott and accuses it of anti-Semitism he too has to be welcomed into the fold. And why not ? If it is racist to support a boycott against a state that still, today, demolishes the houses even of Israeli Palestinians because their villages are ‘unrecognised’ why not support the Littlejohns of this world?

Of course reality is slightly different. UNISON’s conference overwhelmingly supported the resolution calling for boycott and the right of return of Palestinian refugees because people saw, quite rightly, that you cannot oppose racism when it is directed against Jews but support it when it is carried out in the name of Jewish people. So simple really that it’s a wonder Hirsh doesn’t get it.

Now I know that, like my previous post, this will probably be ‘moderated’ i.e. censored. But maybe that’s a good thing because then I can e-mail the post directly to his academic colleagues rather than taking the chance that a few of them might chance upon his web site.

Tony Greenstein
I must say that I'm disappointed Tony didn't catch some of Linda Grant's contributions. I'm sure I saw her equating a man who insults gypsies, asylum seekers and gays every week from a multi-million circulation tabloid with the Socialist Workers Party's "antisemitism," epitomised in the slogan "We are all Hizbollah!"

Ok, one last thing. Engage monitors the Just Peace list and the comments of this blog. They have used their findings to harass Deborah Fink out of the leadership (or something) of Jews for Justice for Palestinians. I remember Deborah joking on the JP list that we'll have to be careful what we say on that list in case Engage or the Jewish Chronicle are watching. I think Hirsh even made an issue out of that. Now look at what happened in the Engage comments when I posted the thing about the F in academic freedom.
JSF have picked up on Jon's 'F' word: he really should be careful.
Which led to this:
I think that JSF need to be reminded of the historical antecedents (and precedents) here. The (ig?)noble F word was used at the time of the trial of "Lady Chatterly's Lover" for obscenity way back in the early 1960s (surely I'm not the only person on this site who can remember that far back, although I was very young then - and of course I still am). The Guardian - still The Manchester Guardian (shows how long ago it was: not even Linda Grant can remember that far back. Shows how much younger than me she is) - printed _that_ word. You have to realise that back then, The Guardian was still a liberal (capital _and_ lower case l) newspaper then. It even went on to support Israel in the 6 Day War. And I remember that as well.

So JSF should climb off their high horse (before they fall off). Jon merely remembered that impressionable young people, such as members of IJV, JfJfP or JBIG, might read the Engage entries, and they might be offended or otherwise upset. Unlike the mature people of the world on the UCU activist email list.
The F word was removed from the site after Brian Robinson complained about its use to David Hirsh. David Hirsh wrote back to Brian saying that it was perfectly appropriate for Jon Pike to use that language in the context of someone threatening to sue him. He then quietly, he thought, removed it without any explanation, apology or "hat-tip" to Brian. So how did this last commentor know what motivated Jon Pike to remove the offending word from the passage? I hope I never get defenders like that.

Ok, so another little slip by our (sorry non-Jewish reader, I'm addressing my very own here) defenders against antisemitism at the Engage site. They may have actually understood that allying with racists isn't a good way to fight antisemitism. Who knows perhaps they'll one day realise that you can't fight antisemitism with anti-Arab racism either. But then they'd have to delete the whole site.

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