January 12, 2008

Is comparing Jews to nazis antisemitic?

Of course it's not. But there are some who say that it is antisemitic so that they can insulate Israel from this comparative form of political criticism. Zionists have even succeeded at having the EU suggest in a working definition of antisemitism that it is antisemitic to compare Israel to the nazis.

So what's this post about? It's those great academics at Engage again. Apparently, to try and make up for the disgrace of the cancellation of Norman Finkelstein's withdrawn invite to the Oxford Union last year, the Union is now hosting a debate with the clunky and just plain wrong title "Israel has a right to exist".

The Engage site now claims to be a resource against antisemitism but it began life as a defence of what it calls academic freedom. It was actually established to counter boycott calls against the racist institutions of the State of Israel, in particular, the academic boycott. Since it's establishment its become quite a shrill and hysterical campaign against most criticism of Israel, even suggesting that accusing Israel, truthfully, of killing children is antisemitic.

Well now they're likening some Jews to nazis. Go see. This debate at the OU is to be addressed by two Jewish academics, Norman Finkelstein, for the motion, and Ilan Pappe, against. And what is David Hirsh's response? He is likening the event to the Oxford Unions hosting of neo-nazis, Nick Griffin and David Irving. Very clever. And what exactly is Dr Hirsh's beef with these people debating whether or not Israel has a right to exist? Let's see:
Gallantly defending Israel's right to exist is Norman Finkelstein. Finkelstein proudly hosts Brazillian 'cartoonist' Latuff and his antisemitic cartoons on his website. That is the same Latuff who won second prize in President Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial art competition. Here are a couple of Latuff's blood libel images. If you don't understand why they are blood libel images, see Anthony Julius.

This is what the generous defender of Israel's right to exist had to say during the war between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006:
“Right now, and I say it publicly, right now we are all Hezbollah. All of us. You can have differences, disagreements with their ideology, with their values, with their organization. But right now at this moment that is totally and utterly irrelevant... Every victory for Hezbollah over Israel is ... a victory for liberty and a victory for freedom...”
Anything there that suggest that Israel doesn't have the right to exist? I can't see it myself. And here are those offending pics by Latuff:

And this:

Nothing antisemitic there, just hard-hitting exposure of Israel's crimes while the world looks on. I think Latuff's contribution to the holocaust cartoons turnout actually highlighted that the holocaust did happen. I'd have to check that one though. But please check Anthony Julius if you don't trust Hirsh. Sure, that'll help. He has written some stuff about how Jews used to be falsely accused of killing children for religious ritual purposes. Er yeah? That did happen. But now Israel kills children frequently and deliberately and to liken that to the blood libel is to suggest that the latter is true though the intention is to suggest that the former (Israel's killing of children) is false. Hirsh himself came up with the wonderful idea that Israel's child-killing policies are "a myth based on truth". That is to say that we can take it as read that Israel kills children because Israel does kill children. I mean, what is a myth? Isn't it a narrative that is believed without proof? It doesn't necessarily mean that it's not true, just that it is believed without evidence. If Israel's child-killing is passing into myth then it's because there is so much evidence of Israel killing children, we don't need any further evidence. But read Anthony Julius anyway. It's yet another of those zionist works that can be reasonably described as "beyond chutzpah".

Anyway, what Hirsh is saying here is that if you criticise Israel you cannot believe that Israel has a right to exist. The funny thing is that he might be right to say that Finkelstein doesn't believe that Israel has a right to exist but since Finkelstein is only on record supporting the two state solution there is no basis for saying that he would be an inappropriate defender of that "right". What Hirsh wants of course is a hasbara parrot. An Israel apologist. And I'm sure his time will come if he can lower himself to appearing at a venue that has hosted neo-nazis.

Ted Honderich too gets the Hirsh treatment but since he's not Jewish, he can safely be likened to nazis with no problem. It's only Jews that mustn't be compared to nazis. So let's turn to the opponents of the motion. That is those who say that Israel has no right to exist. They are Ghada Karmi and Ilan Pappe. Like Honderich, Karmi isn't Jewish so into the nazi camp she goes. No problem. Pappe though should be immune from the comparison on the same grounds that zionists use to insulate Israel from criticism, but no, Dr Hirsh knows better. Here's how he concludes the article:
Finkelstein, Honderich, Karmi and Pappe want to boycott Israel. But they don't mind accepting invitations from the Oxford Union two months after they host Jew-hating neo-Nazis.
What's the reasoning here? They want to boycott Israel because of the occupation (possibly because of Israel's essentially racist character) so they shouldn't speak at a forum that has hosted neo-nazis. I don't get it. Is he saying that if, like him, you don't support a boycott of Israel, then it's ok to speak at the same forum. I just don't see the connection and I don't recall Engage criticising the people who eventually did participate in the debate on whether there should be a one or two state solution. I should say that me not recalling doesn't mean it didn't happen. Hirsh may have had a rare bout of consistency. But there is no connection between who has appeared at a venue and who else appears at the same place. Dr Hirsh's "reasoning" is simply imbecilic, he's just shouting at critics of Israel and calling on like-minded others to do the same.

Ok, now let's have a quick look at the comments. The first is a fairly standard "singling Israel out" kind of comment.
Which other country ever has its "right to exist" questioned? The Oxford Union could start closer to home, and debate whether the UK has a right to exist. Or England, for that matter. This is not a debate, this is a campaign of delegitimisation.

You really have to wonder about the Oxford Union -- first David Irving, now this.
Ok, last things first. First Irving, a racist, and now Finkelstein, Honderich, Karmi and Pappe, four anti-racists. This is terrible. But the "singling Israel out" thing is just ludicrous. I cannot believe that the Oxford Union hasn't had debates on the abolition of the United Kingdom by abolishing the monarchy or by the secession of Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales or by being subsumed by the EU or even the US. I might even bet that they have had more debates on the continued existence or not of the United Kingdom than they have on the continued existence of a state, Israel, whose right to exist is far more obviously questionable.

A comment that resembles my post here in many ways is from a "Seth". It's long but bear with me (yuk! I said "bear with me"!).
I think the title of the earlier debate was much better than this revised one, but in either case Finkelstein is an excellent person to speak in favor of a two-state solution. He has been a consistent supporter of a two-state solution, and he can make the case without linking it to the usual Dershowitz-style falsifications about Israel's outstretched hand for peace etc.

Magnes Zionist has a short quote from Finkelstein over what he would have said had he been at the first debate:

It is also the case that Finkelstein has written about how in his view there is a contradiction between basic democratic principles and Israel not being a state of all its citizens. Which is still consistent with his support for a two-state solution as being the internatinal consensus which should be supported.

Regarding Hirsh's sarcastic comment about Finkelstein's comments about Hizbollah and him being "a generous defender of Israel's right to exist", I don't see how Hirsh's comment makes much sense. Finkelstein has said, and says, favorable things about Hezbollah. Instead of taking small soundbites, it is probably better to refer to a more extended description of his reasons:


or during a Q&A about it here:
(which also has some more comments about why he favor a two-state solution- "if there's even a 5% possibility of a two-State settlement and ending the Israeli occupation within our lifetime, then that's the position we should be fighting for.")

Whatever one thinks of this however, there is no contradiction between "publicly honoring the heroic resistance of Hezbollah to foreign occupation", as Finkelstein sees it, and supporting Israel's "right to exist" within its borders. In Finkelstein's view, Israel has caused great damage to Lebanon, and he admires Hezbollah's fighting against that. That has nothing to do with Israel's right to exist within its borders. Similarly, "Israel has every right to build a wall, as any sovereign state has the right to build a wall. It has a right to build a wall on its property but it doesn't have the right to build the wall on another people's property."

Regarding the Finkelstein->Latuff->Holocaust Denial, wouldn't it be better to quote Finkelstein's actual words on the topic? He did in fact write a letter to the Tehran Times on this topic, which Mark Elf posted on his site:

Inasmuch as most of my family perished in gas chambers at Treblinka, it would not make sense for me to deny the existence of gas chambers. I do NOT deny that the Nazis exterminated 5-6 million Jews during World War II. Rather, I argue that that Israel and American Jews have exploited the colossal suffering of Jews during World War II to justify criminal policies against Palestinians and other Arabs.

Surely this is clear enough. He's only made this point about
100,000 times.

Hirsh responds at first to a different comment that i can't be bothered to read. But check out this great academics logic:
The point about 'generosity' is that Israel exists - it is absurd to discuss whether it has the right to exist.

About Finkelstein's support for Hezbollah - he is very clear, and I quoted a sound-bite and linked to the original so that people could hear for themselves. At the moment when Hezbollah, an organization which is antisemitic and genocidal, was slamming Iranian-supplied missiles into Haifa, Finkelstein didn't only say he supported Hezbollah, he said "We are all Hezbollah".

I'm assuming, Seth, that you're somebody who thinks of himself as being in some sense on the left - the idea that you should, at any moment in history, offer unconditional and uncritical support to an organization like Hezbollah is mind-boggling: It is racist; it believes in Islamist rule and it opposes the democratic government of Lebanon by force; it is in a close alliance with the current Iranian regime; it is starkly against any kind of gender or sexual liberation. Seth, can you not remember what happened to the Iranian left, some of which was bamboozled by the anti-imperialist rhetoric of the Ayatollah? Is your memory so short? "publicly honoring the heroic resistance of Hezbollah to foreign occupation", you say? Yuuchchchch. Israel, unlike Syria, had been out of Lebanon for years.

Sure, Finkelstein opposes the kind of Holocaust denial which is the speciality of his predecessor at the Oxford Union, David Irving - I never said anything different. But isn't it interesting that he hosts Latuff's antisemitic cartoons. And isn't it interesting that he still hosts Latuff's antisemitic cartoons even after Latuff has taken part in Ahmadinejad's Holocaust-denial fest?
So Hirsh was being sarcastic when he spoke of "generosity" in granting that Israel has a right to exist on the grounds that Israel does exist. If the Palestinians as a whole accept that Israel has a right to exist as a state for Jews on 78% or even on one square mile of Palestine then that is more generous than any native national liberation movement has ever been towards its oppressors and displacers.

But look at his criticism of Seth's short memory. Hizbullah is racist and genocidal? Israel exists on the elimination of a people from the area we now know as Israel. It hasn't killed most of them, but it did remove most of them from the land they had inhabited for generations and for decades Israel denied, not simply their right to exist but the fact of their existence. Even now a welcome guest at Engage, Alan Dershowitz, whilst claiming to be "pro-Palestinian" says that the Palestinians were late incomers to Palestine following the zionist colonisation that he doesn't call colonisation.

But Israel is genocidal. It is actively seeking the destruction of a people and it has been largely successful. And it is thanks to the cover provided by zionists in western governments, media and academia that Israel has been so successful. Yes, the tide is turning against Israel now but much damage had been done. And yes, Israel exists now, but so did the Soviet Union, the German Democratic Republic, Upper Volta, Zaire, Czechoslovakia and many other states whose right to exist was taken for granted, then questioned then revoked. As the United Kingdom's right to exist will one day be revoked. And as Israel's surely will be one day too.

Goodness, look at the length of this post. I didn't mean it to be. I thought it would be a little thing about zionists' propensity for projection. That is accusing your opponents of your own faults or wrong-doing. It was a zionist occasional guest at Engage and the even more dishonest Harry's Place who drew my attention to the EU's ludicrous working "definition" of antisemitism as including comparing Israel to the nazis, presumably because Israel is Jewish. Well Finkelstein and Pappe are both Jewish. It's not antisemitic to liken them to nazis as Hirsh has done. It is wrong though, indeed it's intellectually dishonest since it accuses them of something other than principled anti-racist opposition to racist rule. And then there's this mobilisation of zionists to try to stifle criticism and debate. Let's just remind ourselves that whilst they are simply another zionist outfit defending Israel from legitimate criticism, they came into existence specifically to fight a proposed academic boycott of Israel and this in the name of academic freedom!

PS - I've just had my inconsistent spelling of Hizbullah pointed out to me, together with two typos. I prefer to spell Hizbullah, Hizbullah but lots of people prefer Hezbollah. I prefer to say Hizbollah, but Hizbullah seems to make more sense when written because Hizb is how most people spell the word for group or party and ullah most closely approximates to Allah and the way I hear people say Hizbullah. Clear? No. Ok, sorry.


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