February 16, 2010

More Independent letters

The zios are taking quite a beating in The Independent newspaper letters page lately. I have been pleasantly surprised at the number of people who are wise to the false allegation of antisemitism and even more surprised at The Independent's willingness to publish their letters. The letters page is always here and you can scroll down for specific days. For some reason, today's isn't on line yet but yesterday's offerings were rather good after a dodgy first one and an even worse last one:
I have the feeling that Yasmin Alibhai-Brown ("Still no hope of common sense in the war against anti-Semitism", 8 February) was too afraid of wandering off the beaten path for fear of what lurked in the undergrowth.

Her fears are understandable, since the supporters of Israel and Zionism are more than ready to brand any prominent critic as anti-Semitic. When Israel's Finance Minister, Yuval Stenitz, brands lifelong Zionist Richard Goldstone an anti-Semite for telling the truth about what happened in Gaza, then no one is immune from this scurrilous accusation.

Understandably, Ms Alibhai-Brown treads warily for fear of bringing the wrath of the "Israel right or wrong" brigade down on her head. Such caution often ends up as self-censorship. But like the boy who cried wolf, most people have become immunised to what is really just a variation on McCarthyism.

There is no evidence whatsoever that there is an increasing tide of anti-Semitism in this country. Anti-Semitism is hatred, violence and discrimination against Jews, not opposition to Israel and Zionism. Zionism, which represents an abandonment of the fight against anti-Semitism, with its belief that Jews are "strangers" in other peoples' lands, is a political movement. We oppose Zionism for the same reason that we opposed apartheid in South Africa.

Tony Greenstein

Brighton, East Sussex

Martin Sugarman's claim (letters, 10 February) that an EU definition of terrorism declares that comparing Nazism and Zionism is anti-Semitic is untrue. A Working Definition, written by the American Jewish Committee, and published by the European Union Monitoring Centre in 2004, made suggestions about what anti-Semitism might include.

That's as far as it went. It has not been ratified by the EUMC's successor organisation, the Fundamental Rights Agency. Like Mr Sugarman's letter, it was an attempt to stifle debate which has clearly failed. Comparing the Israeli government with the Nazis may or may not be a silly exaggeration. It is not anti-Semitic.

Charles Moore


The Independent is absolutely right to call on Israel to live up to its democratic credentials by allowing credible, independent investigations into alleged war crimes committed by its forces during the Gaza conflict (leading article, 3 February). This is something the Israeli government should willingly accommodate, to fulfil its obligations under the UN's report on the Gaza conflict, to provide a forum for justice and accountability, and, in the long run, to help in bringing peace to the region.

All of this would have been true without fresh claims from members of the Israeli military that they operated under dangerously permissive rules of engagement. The case for an independent investigation is starker still. Israel should stop digging in its heels and grant the investigation that would unlock this situation. The onus then would be on Hamas to prove itself capable of similar action.

Kate Allen

Director, Amnesty International UK, London EC2

Here's that last one I mentioned:

Whether it is anti-Semitic in itself to oppose the existence of the State of Israel (letters, 10 February), it is certainly the case that by far the majority of people who do oppose Israel are anti-Semites.

Andrew Lee-Hart

Wallasey, Merseyside

You just can't answer, erm, reasoning like that.

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