October 29, 2010
Israel already has towns designated by ethno-religious criteria - Jewish, Arab or mixed - and there are clearly no-go areas for Arabs throughout Palestine so this latest bill, like so many passing through the Knesset these days, merely adds insult to injury, compounding the racism of the most racist of states, the State of Israel.
Israeli Arab MKs were outraged by the proposal and walked out on the committee's discussion of it.
MK Talab al-Sana (United Arab List – Ta'al) called the bill racist and said it was meant to prevent Arabs from joining Israeli towns. MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List – Ta'al) compared the bill to racist laws in Europe during World War Two, and the two told the committee members before leaving the hall: "We will not cooperate with this criminal law – you have crossed the line."
The committee's chairman, David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), responded to claims the bill was meant to reject Arabs from joining Israeli towns. "In my opinion, every Jewish town needs at least one Arab. What would happen if my refrigerator stopped working on a Saturday?"
But still, the committee chairman was only echoing the sentiment of the spiritual leader of the Shas party and former Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Ovadia Yosef, who recently caused no stir at all when he announced that gentiles were created to serve Jews.
From the Jerusalem Post:
“Why are gentiles needed? They will work, they will plow, they will reap. We will sit like an effendi and eat.”That's assuming the Arab has kept the fridge in good working order.
October 28, 2010
October 26, 2010
MK Avi Dichter (Kadima) was planning on taking part in an international peace summit in Spain over the weekend, but was forced to cancel over fears he would be arrested, and possibly imprisoned, by Madrid authorities, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Tuesday.According to report several days ago, a Spanish organization called The Madrid Coalition, invited Israeli and Palestinian representatives to take part in a summit focusing on the peace process and the Saudi initiative. Senior officials from the Palestinian Authority, including Mohammed Dahlan had RSVP'd to the event.
The Madrid Coalition works in cooperation with the former Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos. The summit organizers decided to invite a small group of MKs from Israel to take part in the summit. Former Shin Bet Chief MK Avi Dichter was set to lead the delegation.
Earlier this week, Dichter requested to look into the possibility that he may face legal action in Spain over complaints against him for his involvement in the Salah Shehade assassination, which took place when Dichter was head of Shin Bet) and for his involvement in Operation Cast Lead, Dichter was Minister of Public Security at the time). After looking into the legal aspects of the situation,
Madrid officials told Dichter that Spain did not intend to offer him immunity from arrest or interrogation, after which he cancelled his participation in the event.
You should read it. Seriously. Read it! It's unique. I'm not going to quote a passage. Please go to the platypus website and read the damn thing before you move to the next paragraph, in which I will entertain you with some reflections about it.
Have you read it? Seriously! Read it! Read it! Ok. Fine! I'll pretend that you've read it.
Now we can "analyze" it. By this I do not mean that we should hope to understand it. As Avital Ronell points out, there is something in stupidity that escapes analysis, something that confounds any attempt at thinking it through. Nor do I mean that we should explain it, perhaps by reference to the particular experience of living in the shadow of
Let us begin with a simple question of historical literacy. Do the authors know anything about Israel and its history? Israel, according to them, is the bane of the left. Why? Because of purely conceptual reasons. Israel defies historical-analytical categories. Now, what are these categories Israel defies? Which historical analyses do the authors challenge? Nada! Our authors, so eager to show their brilliant capacity to think outside the box, speak of Israel as if nothing was ever written about it. Instead, they bang their empty cranium against "History" and marvel at the hollow sound they hear.
Israel’s existence is the bane of the Left. This is primarily because this state and this nation cannot be regarded in the terms of the anti-colonial revolutions or movements of national liberation, unless one wants to understand as such the (undoubtedly) terrorist activities of Menachem Begin’s Zionist Irgun against the British prior to Israel’s founding. Israel, the “tautological nation” as it is termed by Bahamas, magazine of the anti-German left, is an anomaly in general: It fits no scheme in the philosophy of history and expresses no recognizable political interest, whether of the bourgeoisie and their intellectual henchmen or of the Left and its theorists.Should we mention just how unexceptional the "anomaly" of the Irgun fighting the Brits is in the history of "movements of national liberation" of settler colonial societies? Didn't the Boers fight the British? Didn't the North American colonies fight the British? Didn't the South American settler states fight national wars of liberation against Spain? Didn't the "pieds noirs" of Algeria fight against the Gaullist state?
As for the absence of a recognizable political interest, apart from the interest of the British Empire in securing their passage to India, the interest of the inter-war European bourgeoisie in the "emerging market" of Palestine, the interest of the French state in an ally for their Algerian problem, the interest of the rising US power in defeating Arab nationalism, followed by the interests of US corporations in selling weapons and pushing up the price of oil, apart from the interest of the neoliberal vanguard of Europe/US in pumping up the "War of Civilizations," and in having a training school for their immigration police, apart from the interests of the culture industry in burnishing the sentimental memories of the "good war" in order to provide its disenchanted democracy with a simulacrum of heroic legitimacy, apart from the interests of the "New Class" of soldiers and bureaucrats who established Israel to engage in perpetual wars in order to deflect political demands from the North African immigrants, apart from the interests of real estate speculators and petty bourgeois contractors to buy, build, and sell housing units in the colonies, apart from all these interests and a few more that it would take a library shelf to go through at this pace, really, nothing about Israel fits a recognizable political interest.
But enough with this flogging! Have some pity! Since with stupidity we are dealing, we should be looking for repetition (you call yourself stupid when you make the same mistake two or three times in a row.) Furthermore, the stupid gesture par excellence is the gesture that repeats exactly that which the gesturer wants to suppress, like offending an important guest after practicing what to say for the whole evening. Since our authors are obsessed with the alleged antisemitism of the Left, in particular the anti-Zionist left, it would not be without merit to note that the two gestures of repetition that structure the text (not the argument, as there is none, but the verbiage, as we shell see, is not random), repeat, first, the original gesture of Christian judeophobia, and second, German, European antisemitism.
Antisemitism is a modern phenomenon. But judeophobia becomes a factor of oppression to Jews when Christianity becomes an imperial state religion. The origins of that is the Christian identitarian gesture that allegorizes itself as "true Judaism." It is not the political gesture of St. Paul to refer to Christ's followers as "circumcised according to the spirit", thus downgrading circumcised Jews to the status of those who are merely "circumcised according to the Flesh." But the elevation of Christianity through its relation with the state into the anti-political allegorical truth of Judaism. This gesture, which made Christian religious identification dependent on the aggressive denigration of Judaism, creates the condition sine qua non for the oppression of Jews in Christian Europe.
What is then the relation between the two terms of the title, Communism and Israel, according to our authors?
..in Israel, between the unbearable old conditions (the threat of annihilation) and the not-yet-achieved new conditions (the society sans domination), we find exactly the epitome of what was once known and inscribed on red banners as the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” the organized political force for emancipation through revolution.But what to do with the fact that the "dictators" are, ahmmm, quite bourgeois and capitalist in every recognizable aspect, what with Israel being the second most unequal society in the industrial world, and what with the annoyance that people who, in most details except language, recall the (communist) partisans of the European forest, are being shot by Israeli helicopter gunships?
...the only way open to Sharon as a general was to fight in the anti-fascist struggle. This is so because communism as a stateless and classless world society demands, if it is to succeed at all, something impossible: Revenge for the dead, for the victims of barbarism, even as it demands justice for the living, that everybody be treated in accordance with their own character. Only in this manner can communism be realized as envisioned in the maxim, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” From this perspective, Israel is the armed attempt to reach communism alive.A short detour: our brave authors read Walter Benjamin only to kill him a second time, this time with a stick to his heart. Instead of the victory of the oppressed being the realization of a redemptive recognition across time, the condition of liberation becomes the necrophiliac obsession with vengeance. For all the animus against mass culture, this is "revolution" stuck at the level of V for Vendetta. Instead of liberation being the best vengeance, vengeance becomes the never fulfillable (impossible) condition of liberation, and therefore also its katechon, the alibi for the infinite suspension of communism. (There is also a new mean-spirited addition to the communist "constitution," one having all the fingerprints of Tony Blair's welfare policies, "to each according to their character.") Since communism demands, we are told, something impossible, at least literally, one assumes the authors thank God that we aren't going to see it anytime soon (or, as St. Augustine put it in his prayers, "make me chaste, O Lord, but not yet.")
But let's continue. Bourgeois, capitalist Israel, a society with thriving stock markets, masses of hungry children and even privatized prisons, is the “dictatorship of the proletariat". The figure of speech here is unmistakably the allegory. The "text" of reality doubles to create a new text that is the hidden meaning, the truth, of itself, just as Christianity is the "truth" of Judaism.
When Sharon murdered scores of villagers in their sleep in Qibya, we can say that the authors might see, like the rest of us, "in the flesh," the emissary of a new Israeli bourgeoisie defending the newly established property relations after the dispossession of the Palestinian peasantry. But "in the spirit" Sharon is a Shtetl Jew taking vengeance against the Nazis. The historical dialectical verbiage is camouflage, a Potemkin village of words to hide that this is not a description of a process (that would be absurd, how could the Nazis end up in Qibya) but merely one crude allegory. Israel, which provides "revenge for the dead," is "the armed attempt to reach communism alive," from which follows that the historic form of communism, communism that deals with liberation of the oppressed rather than with vengeance, must lead to death. Or, in other words, literally, "communism killeth", but communism in the spirit i.e., communism that is completely bourgeois in all its aspects, completely allied with the imperialist states, i.e., Zionism, "vivifies." Bourgeois, capitalist Israel is communism (according to the spirit), which makes figures such as George Habash and Matzpen, for example, communist only "according to the flesh." The Palestinians, an oppressed indigenous people in the flesh, become Nazis according to the spirit.
Put otherwise, this is the manifesto of people who want to retain the appearance of an old revolutionary faith while making themselves available as priests of a new imperial religion. Not very original.
There is one more repetition to consider.
...Israel is the only state in the world that can claim for itself an indubitable legitimacy...Now, let's pretend we agree that a certain threshold of past victimhood renders all criticism of one's actions absurd. Still, why is Israel "the only state" that gathers victims of a terrible historical persecution? What about, at least, Haiti? Haiti, the first and the only state established by liberated slaves, why doesn't it qualify? Let's review the possible answers, one by one, remembering that they are not mutually exclusive.
- Haiti not being particularly useful for imperialism, and not therefore having a regime that all major European powers defend, the authors do not believe that mentioning Haiti will earn them the gratitude of the establishment. The problem with this reasoning is that mentioning Haiti would have made them look (slightly) less crazed.
- Slavery doesn't pass the threshold of suffering that qualifies a people to have an absolute carte blanche to commit any crime whatsoever. The problem with this interpretation is that it is incomplete. What then are the criteria, and why aren't they explicated?
- Only Jewish history of victimhood creates the appropriate level of suffering that can justify anything. The problem is, again, why?
- The authors' knowledge of geography doesn't reach as far as Haiti.
- Jews are European, and some of them spoke German.
- Jews make these German authors feel very very guilty. Haitians do not. Why? Perhaps because none of the grandparents of the authors had slaves.
Israel is thus special because Europe/Germany is special, and Israel is the country of the Europeans victims of Europe. This interpretation has the benefit that is casts a much wider net than captures this putrid text alone. It was Aimé Césaire's point about the nature of the European reaction to the holocaust, which the authors probably didn't read because Césaire was neither Jewish nor German. Had they read it they might have understood that Césaire knew them already before they knew themselves:
Yes, it would be worthwhile to study clinically, in detail, the steps taken by Hitler and Hitlerism and to reveal to the very distinguished, very humanistic, very Christian bourgeois of the twentieth century that without his being aware of it, he has a Hitler inside him, that Hitler which inhabits him, that Hitler is his demon, that if he rails against him, he is being inconsistent and that, at bottom, what he cannot forgive Hitler for is not the crime in itself, the crime against man, it is not the humiliation of man as such, it is the crime against the white man, the humiliation of the white man, and the fact that he applied to Europe colonialist procedures which until then had been reserved exclusively for the Arabs of Algeria, the “coolies” of India, and the “niggers” of Africa. (Discourse on Colonialism)Israel is thus a European affair, whereas Haiti is far away, the people there have dark skin, and they are outside the history that matters, that is, European history. Another way to put it is that, what makes Israel special and therefore inherently legitimate for the authors is their own guilt-ridden narcissistic investment in Eurocentric racism. However, that Haiti (and Palestine) are outside that European history merely repeats the antisemitic gesture that, a century ago, put Jews outside European history, that is put them in Palestine, which might as well have been Haiti, thus preparing the ground for both Zionism and Auschwitz. The logic of the Anti-Deutsch guilt trip is the logic of the dream sequence, in which, as Freud remarked, negation doesn't exist. The anti in Anti-Deutsch is in fact an 'equal' sign between Zionism and Eurocentric white supremacy.
ADDEENDUM: the above was written after a very cursory visit to the Platypus habitat. I thought it would be useful to read their load of imported Scheißeon its own sick terms, because the racism is patent even on its own putrid assumptions that the world turns on antisemitism.
However, Louis Proyect did a much more thorough inspection of the worm infested intellectual food they offer their clientele. It turns out, shockingly, that the sucking up that is at the heart of the Anti-deutsch article they published is also very much their trademark. Who wouldve guessed!?
October 21, 2010
In spite of the demands of his professional achievements, Schorr simultaneously took a major role in changing and improving the whole of Israeli cinema.Thanks Renen!
That self-absorption probably helps being an Israeli leftist, as David Landy pointed out in his excellent observation in the comment section:
It's a beautiful quote from Mr Schorr, showing blissful lack of self-awareness, or perhaps too much self awareness. Implicit here - he doesn't even need to say it - is the belief that every action non-Israelis take have to be given the green light by Israelis. If these Israelis, despite, I'm sure trying their goddamned best, can't quite bring themselves to justify these actions, well that's the end of the road, isn't it. The actions are non-justifiable and there's no point in saying more.But having perused the website of the excellent school that Schorr founded and runs, and to which Mike Leigh almost came, I think it is not improper to measure Schorr's contribution to Israeli culture with some, as they call it in the Pentagon, concrete metrics.
- Percentage of graduates in 2007 (last available year) whose last name suggests might be Palestinian: 0
- Percentage of teachers whose last name suggests might be Palestinian: 0
- Percentage of staff whose last name suggests might be Palestinian: 0
- Percentage of management whose last name suggests might be Palestinian: 0
If however instead of these metrics you'd measure the output of films that criticize the occupation, I am almost sure that Schorr would come out smelling like roses. As he assures in his letter to Mike Leigh:
Over the decades Israeli filmmakers (joined by artists from the full cultural gamut) have used documentaries and features to grapple with the myriad strata of the conflict’s complexities. Those carrying out these courageous, controversial endeavors are people who see no contradiction between their being Israelis, Jews and Zionists and their belief in humanitarian, ethical principles, or identifying with the suffering of others. They fight, to a great extent, against the denial of this harsh reality by other .IsraelisHowever, an Israeli cinema that is fundamentally done by and from the perspective of those who "identify with the suffering of others" is not at all in contradiction with Zionism for a good reason, and not the one that Schorr mentions. Nothing bad will happen to it if the number of Palestinians in Palestine becomes as a low as their percentage on Schorr's payroll, especially given that this payroll is, after all, a mirror to Zionism's ultimate fantasy.
by Ran Greenstein, University of Witswatersrand, South Africa
As calls for boycotts and sanctions campaigns against Israeli institutions and practices become common, so do counter-voices seeking to shield Israel from criticism. Official Israeli efforts are usually organized through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its affiliates (such as the South African Zionist Federation) and are easily identified and refuted as sheer apologetics for oppressive practices.
Less official attempts in the same vein are sometimes disguised as liberal progressive efforts to enhance the struggle against the occupation by ridding it of particularly ‘offensive’ associations. An example of this strategy is the concerted attempt to deny the similarity between Israeli practices vis-a-vis Palestinians and the South Africa practices of apartheid before 1994 (I dealt with one practitioner of this approach, Benjamin Pogrund, here.
Frequently presented as a contribution to debate, this strategy aims to discourage exploration of ‘forbidden’ territories and to prevent critical discussion. Wittingly or not, those operating from this perspective serve as ‘useful idiots’ for Israeli state propaganda.
One site of this campaign is the UK group of academics operating under the label ofEngage, self-styled as “The anti-racist campaign against anti-Semitism”. They present themselves as concerned with anti-Semitism in the UK academic world, operating from a universal cosmopolitan perspective, but in fact have become a tool in the hands of those who reject all criticism of Israeli policies and practices as tainted with anti-Semitism. Two recent items from their site serve to illustrate the role they have undertaken, and the fallacies that inform their approach.
In a response to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who expressed support for a campaign to discontinue institutional relationship between the University of Johannesburg and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), Robert Fine argues: “the question of why he singles out Israel and Israeli academic institutions is not explained. Why not a host of other countries that repress their own inhabitants or occupy foreign lands, or a host of other universities that are equally implicated in policies of state? My own country, Britain, has after all been engaged in two bloody wars with casualties that far outnumber anything that has involved Israel. Why not boycott British academics? The academic boycott campaign he supports looks to the exclusion of Israeli Jews – and only Israeli Jews – from the scholarly life of humanity. This seems to me discriminatory.” And further: “This campaign opens the door to the deployment of ever wilder claims to justify the special treatment of Israeli Jewish academics – for example, that Israel is inherently ethnic cleansing, genocidal or akin to Nazism. To justify discrimination against certain academics by virtue of their nationality, there is a tangible risk of slippage from political criticism to the vilification of a whole people.”
Why indeed single Israel out? First, we must recognize that Israeli state institutions are in fact not singled out at all. Can Fine really be unaware that his country and its allies have been boycotting the Hamas government in Gaza (and for decades had boycotted the PLO), have collaborated with sanctions campaigns at various times against Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Serbia, North Korea, Burma, Zimbabwe and various other ‘hostile’ countries, have invoked international human rights legislation to prosecute political leaders and have used military force on a massive scale against some of these countries? None of these steps have been used against Israel. With the exception of few feeble legal enquiries, almost always opposed by the UK and the USA, Israeli war crimes and violations of human rights have gone unpunished. If Israel has been ‘singled out’ in this respect, it has been for a privileged treatment.
But wait, Fine is a political theorist and would tell us – correctly – that state is different from civil society, and his concern is with the latter, not with the action of states. Let’s examine the issue. It is true indeed that the academic boycott (though not other kinds of boycott) as an issue has been raised by human rights and solidarity organizations in relation to Israel but not to other oppressive countries. Why is that the case?
To understand this, we have to go back to the anti-apartheid movement. It argued that one cannot lead a normal life in an abnormal society. The movement set out to disrupt the comfortable lives of white South Africans, in order to force them to understand that change was necessary. One tactic chosen in this regard was boycotts and sanctions. Other campaigns against oppressive regimes have used similar tactics, selecting targets in order to maximize strategic
advantage. The closer the target was to the core identity of oppressive groups, the more likely it was to be effective. Thus, it made sense to boycott South African cricket and rugby teams to disrupt the sense of normality of sports-mad white South Africans. This tactic would not work in, say, Burma or Sudan, whose oppressive elites have limited interest in sports. Using the same logic, it made sense to boycott Chilean wine and football in Argentina (respectively sources of great national pride), when both countries were under military rule, but not the other way around.
When we consider the campaign against the Israeli occupation and oppression of Palestinians, a careful choice of targets must guide action. While Israeli Jews are not the only ones who violate human rights, as the stronger side they are the chief culprits today. Their greatest source of vulnerability is the obsessive need to feel an integral part of the West and the global community. This feeling is particularly strong among the elites, including academics. It is central to their professional identity and it contributes to a sense of political complacency. With their eyes firmly turned to the West, they have become blind to Palestinians living under conditions of military occupation and suffering from massive violation of human rights. This is the challenge, then: how to use the quest for normality and legitimacy in order to force ordinary people to move against extraordinary circumstances?
The academic boycott may become a successful strategy of political mobilization against Israeli oppressive practices to the extent that it manages to highlight what is wrong with the current situation and put pressure on elite sectors in Israeli society to oppose their government’s policies. In this vein, the petition that Desmond Tutu signed did not call for a total boycott but specifically for suspending relations with BGU until it took a stand against the occupation, in the same way that South African universities were expected to – and many did – issue statements against apartheid. Whether such a strategy could or should be used against the UK, USA or any other country is entirely irrelevant. No one ever demanded of the anti-apartheid movement to act against all other oppressive regimes before it could justify its specific claims to action; no one except for PW Botha and his supporters, that is.
While some of Fine’s points are not without merit, he distorts the essence of the solidarity campaign by claiming that it about the exclusion of Israeli Jews “from the scholarly life of humanity.” To begin with, Israeli Jews not affiliated with Israeli universities are not affected at all. In addition, Jewish academics affiliated with Israeli universities and non-Jewish academics are treated in the same way – the campaign does not target Jews in particular. Further, Israeli Jewish academics based at Israeli institutions are not affected as individuals. No one in South Africa has called for their exclusion from any academic activity whatsoever. The campaign is about institutional relations, not about individual scholars. Fine’s argument is pure fantasy as far as South Africa is concerned. There were indeed a couple of instances a few years ago in which Israeli academics were excluded in the UK as individuals, but these were isolated incidents and most supporters of the academic boycott campaign do not approve of such practices.
That criticism of Israeli practices may be turned by some into ‘a vilification of a whole people’, as Fine cautions us, is theoretically possible, but is that an argument for stopping such criticism? Criticism of apartheid frequently turned into vilification of all Afrikaners, criticism of US policies under George W Bush became vilification of all North Americans, criticism of Iran has become vilification of all Muslims, and so on. The problem of generalization is real, and should be dealt with, but why is it that only in the case of Israel this becomes an argument against criticism itself? Is that not a case of singling Israel out? This is not to deny that anti-Semitism may be a problem on the margins in some places. However, to use that to undermine a campaign against the much more clear and present danger of the Israeli state’s racist and oppressive practices, which are backed by the vast majority of Israeli Jews, betrays an agenda that has nothing to do with concern with human rights and justice.
Having said that, there is an important point implied in Fine’s article. To make the most of the potential educational value of the academic boycott campaign it must not become a punitive and externally imposed measure. Rather, it should be a step towards forging international links of solidarity and activism with Israeli and Palestinian progressive academics. Ideally it would help create a counterweight to the increasing pressure from right-wing forces that seek to silence critical voices at Israeli universities, including BGU.
This may be the most important contribution of the campaign: to side with those fighting for change from within. Local activists in Israel/Palestine are subject to enormous pressure internally, and the only way they could sustain a campaign for change is by maintaining a constant exchange of information, solidarity, and a flow of moral and material assistance from the outside. It is only through such a dialogue that the campaign can move forward.
Fine is misguided, though perhaps well-intentioned, and is respectful towards Tutu. His colleague David Hirsh, in contrast, is out to do a demolition job on one of the prominent activists and academics working against the occupation, Neve Gordon.
Taking Gordon to task for changing his mind about the academic boycott without providing reasons, Hirsh repeats the standard apologetic arguments against the boycott campaign: that it opens the door to anti-Semitism, that it singles out Israel alone for boycott, that it harms the left in Israel, that it uses rhetoric like ‘fascism’ and ‘apartheid’ to portray Israel in a particularly bad light, and so on.
Setting aside the inconvenient fact that Gordon never called specifically for an academic boycott, Hirsh has nothing to add to Fine’s points beyond personal vilification. Ironically, but not coincidentally, his attack on Gordon comes precisely at the moment when Israeli progressives rally against what they themselves regard as growing racist and fascist tendencies in Israel, expressed in legislation the Government has just approved (expelling foreign children, conditioning citizenship on loyalty tests, attacks on Palestinian activists and organizations inside Israel, and so on). That even some government ministers regard such trends as a threat of creeping fascism is unlikely to deter Hirsh in his campaign against
What has changed to make Gordon support sanctions and boycotts now, when he opposed them in the past? Without presuming to speak for him, here are some possible answers: the legal and extra-legal campaign against critical Israeli voices and dissident activists – Jews and Arabs alike – has intensified dramatically in the last couple of years, irrespective of their support for the BDS campaign. The freedom of the press and of political expression in the media and public life (including parliament) has shrunk. The space for peaceful protest and hope for change from within has become more restricted. The violence of the Israeli state has increased and the only effective – even if limited – barrier to its further expansion is pressure from the outside. Other strategies of persuasion from within have yielded meagre results. The hysterical reaction of the Israeli establishment whenever a boycott campaign achieves any measure of success indicates its vulnerability to such tactics. Faced with all this, the concern with the possible bias and double standards of the BDS movement (even if it were genuine) pales into insignificance. Whatever pro-Israeli UK academics may feel about the movement, their concerns have very limited relevance to Israeli activists standing in the line of fire. That many Israeli academics become radicalized as a result is hardly surprising. What can they be expected to do instead? Fight the occupation by obsessing over academic union officials’ e-mails, as Engage is prone to do?
Ultimately, the bankruptcy of the approach offered by Engage and their ilk is that they offer nothing by way of a strategy to fight the occupation and oppression. At best, they are irrelevant to the struggle. At worst, they actively side with the Israeli state and its propaganda apparatus. Either way they have nothing positive to contribute and must feel little satisfaction with their efforts: who really needs useful idiots when you can go to the source and serve the state directly?
by Ran Greenstein, University of Witswatersrand, South Africa
Anyway, you can find all sorts of stupid responses here if you can be bothered. What strikes me is that no matter how watertight an argument is, there are always people so lacking in integrity, even among the academic community, as to pretend not to understand.
October 20, 2010
In a letter dated Oct. 12, Mr. Leigh, the writer and director of “Another Year,” “Happy-Go-Lucky” and “Secrets & Lies,” said he would not travel to Jerusalem to teach at the Sam Spiegel Film & Television School, which Mr. Schorr directs.I'd love to know the conversation that took place between them that had Mike Leigh agreeing to go over in the first place but I think Mr Schorr is being very disingenuous making out that dialoguing with internationals is somehow going to make a difference to the occupation, the colonial settlement, the ethnic cleansing, the segregation and the relentless violence that holds the whole thing together. What can internationals do by appearing in Israel? Give the impression that something is happening? Or give the impression that nothing is happening that need concern people of conscience?
Mr. Leigh wrote that he “always had serious misgivings about coming,” adding that he almost canceled after an incident in May in which Israeli commandos raided a Gaza-bound flotilla. The “last straw,” Mr. Leigh wrote, was the proposal of legislation by the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, requiring that Israeli citizens pledge a loyalty oath to the “nation-state of the Jewish people.”
Mr. Leigh added that these and other actions by the Israeli government had left him “in an untenable position, which I must confront according to my conscience.”
Mr. Schorr wrote to Mr. Leigh in a letter dated Oct. 15, “I am certain that the decision is sincere and that it reflects your detailed, legitimate political views,” but added, “Boycotts and ostracism are the antithesis of dialogue.”
Mr. Schorr wrote that “the public will interpret your decision as indicating an irrevocable rift between us, a boycott of Israel, and a rebuke of its current and future artists.”
He added: “To me, this is a red line. Thus, I cannot justify your decision.”
Dialogue is a matter for the Palestinians but Israel hand picks the Palestinians with whom it will dialogue. If Israel is allowing international artists in for dialogue then the government must feel it has something to gain from the visits. Remember they even barred Chomsky and Finkelstein and they both support a two state solution and certainly Chomsky opposes a boycott. There's no pleasing Israel and there is certainly no point in appeasing Israel.
October 19, 2010
I'm not sure how he could rationalise that the Israel that carried out the flotilla murders was somehow an improvement on the Israel that carried out Cast Lead a couple of Chanukahs ago but he managed to and was occupied Palestine bound right up until he heard about Israel's most openly racist gambit yet, the oath of loyalty to that oxymoron a Jewish and democratic state.
On 31st May, 8 weeks after our lunch, the Israeli attack on the flotilla took place. As I watched the world very properly condemn this atrocity, I almost cancelled. I now wish I had and blame my cowardice for not having done so.The rest of the letter looks like his would be host talked him into what could have been passed off as a meaningful or maybe innocent personal appearance but I fear that Mike Leigh did make an enormous mistake, in his own words, "stupidly and naively", in agreeing to go into the belly of the beast in the first place.
October 17, 2010
British director Mike Leigh has canceled his scheduled visit to Israel after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet approved a controversial amendment to the Citizenship Law last week requiring non-Jews to pledge allegiance to Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state."It must have been bad translation that has him not anticipating the media firestorm that would have erupted if he broke the boycott. Perhaps he means that the Israeli media blew the gaffe because his coming over to Palestine would indeed have been interpreted as, at best, acquiescence to the policies of the most openly racist and fascistic of Israel's governments.
Leigh, who last visited Israel in 1990 and has since stayed away to protest Israeli policy, was due to arrive on November 20 for a one-week stay as a guest of the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School in Jerusalem. He was scheduled to lead student workshops and meet with audience members at cinematheques. Leigh was also due to give a lecture to Palestinian colleagues at the Jenin Cinema.
In a letter addressed to school director Renen Schorr, Leigh said that he had considered canceling his trip after the raid of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla on May 31, but that the amendment to the citizenship law was the final straw.
The director of such hit films as Life Is Sweet and Career Girls wrote that he would not feel at ease visiting the country, since his arrival would be interpreted as support for the government's policy.
Leigh, who is Jewish, said that he began seriously contemplating canceling his visit after the government announced that it would resume construction in West Bank settlements. It was only after the citizenship amendment was passed that the decision to stay home was made, Leigh wrote.
He also wrote that he did not anticipate the media firestorm that would have erupted had he continued with his original plan and made the visit. Leigh added that only after a "just solution" to the Palestinian issue and the rehabilitation of Gaza would he accept an invitation to the country.
Still this boycott movement needs nailing to the mast. The Irish example where people have pledged to boycott Israel in the event of being invited is what is required. Whatever he did or didn't anticipate, Leigh should never have agreed to appear in Israel. The cheer this gave to the Israeli media at a time when Israel is going flat out for its Araberein state or at least one where Arabs are neither seen nor heard by government order, is definitely not the time to address Israeli audiences so that they can say "but we don't support Leiberman or Netanyahu or the nearly late Sharon" or whatever excuse they come up with to distance themselves from the 96% that supported the assault on Gaza and said nothing about the flotilla massacre.
In the 1980s, at a time when Israel maintained close ties with South Africa, the ADL went on the attack against Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress. As Sasha Polakow-Suransky reported in his recent book The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa, ADL National Director Nathan Perlmutter co-authored an article implying that the ANC was “totalitarian, anti-humane, anti-democratic, anti-Israel and anti-American.” The ADL sent spies into the American anti-apartheid movement, as well as other movements critical of right-wing American foreign policy. Eventually, the organization was surveilling much of the American left. In 1993, a California police raid on the offices of the ADL and one of its investigators yielded files on Greenpeace, the NAACP, Act Up, New Jewish Agenda, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and several Democratic politicians, among hundreds of others. The ADL eventually settled a class-action lawsuit brought by several of its targets.Links to the ADL's hitlist are all broken so it may be that the ADL has pulled the list but when you consider the ADL's past support for apartheid in South Africa, it's a bit rich when it and its kindred groups and individuals get so apoplectic whenever Israel is understatedly denounced as an apartheid state.
October 15, 2010
October 14, 2010
I think I should start by declaring an interest. I am a member of the Executive Committee of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, which seems to be one of the groups that Jacobson is targeting in "The Finkler Question". I agree with an earlier reviewer that, though some of the novel is indeed entertaining and complex, the parts about the "ASHamed Jews" (which are actually a major part of the book, though many reviewers don't mention them) are crude political propaganda - which is surely very detrimental to a work of fiction - rather than satire. Of course I am politically biased against the book, but it is such blatant political propaganda that it calls for a political response.
First of all, all these groups, including openly anti-Zionist groups such as JAZ (Jews Against Zionism) (JfJfP is not an anti-Zionist group) reject entirely the label imposed on us all by Jacobson that we feel "ashamed" of being Jewish - on the contrary, we are asserting a universalist and prophetic Jewish identity of which we are proud and which this book repudiates.
I think true satire should contain some compassion and understanding for the characters, rather than the over-the-top caricature in which Jacobson indulges. For instance, there's a founder-member of the ASHamed Jews who is obsessed with the fact that he is circumcised. and spends his whole life sitting naked on a chair pulling at what remains of his foreskin in an attempt to lengthen it and reverse the circumcision - he does this all morning and then spends the rest of the day writing about his efforts on his blog and posting video and photos of his attempts on his blog.
The book can be very inconsistent and illogical. At one point two non-Jewish characters are discussing the "ASHamed Jews" in a very puzzled way, asking why Jews living in Britain should be ashamed of Israel's actions, which have nothing to do with them - then later on, at an "ASHamed Jews" meeting, Finkler objects to the idea of a boycott of Israel, saying Israel is their "family" and "you don't boycott your family". So here it is clear that Jews ARE very much associated with Israel.
During Operation Cast Lead,, the author writes of Finkler (with evident approval) "Gaza didn't do it for him" and Finkler doesn't understand why Israel's response is called "disproportionate". I've just been reading Gideon Levy's recent book "The Punishment of Gaza", containing articles demonstrating his anguish over the atrocities committed during Cast Lead, and to read Jacobson after that is truly appalling. I suggest that everyone who has lauded this novel reads Gideon Levy's book. As I've said above, if a novelist decides to spoil his novel by including large chunks of political propaganda, then he issues an open invitation for his work to be judged in political terms.
Other reviews on the same Amazon page mention the misogyny that I have heard mentioned a couple of times now. In fairness, Jacobson's misogyny doesn't seem to be a product of his zionism so perhaps that's why Deborah didn't mention it. This book is a "treat" in store for me as a friend is going to lend me his copy but I can't help feeling, even hoping, that some of the rave reviewers are going to regret their words by the time the paperback comes out.
Some people worry about buying books by writers they disapprove of so they go to the library. Unfortunately, that also generates income for the author. If you must read this book then the best thing to do is to borrow it from someone who has already bought it or wait until it appears in the second hand bookshops. I'm not sure what becomes of the money when they stack'em high and sell them for a pound. Of course a lot of people will have read Howard Jacobson's patronising and manipulative writing in The Independent and will wonder how such a person can win a Booker. Well I've heard that he has written the kind of stuff that could be worthy of a Booker but that this latest offering isn't of that kind. It's also true to say that many critics have said that last year's Booker shortlistees were all undeserving. There's no accounting for taste but the taste of a committee is a different thing from the taste of one consumer. It looks to me that the Booker people are happy to have colluded with a nasty piece of political bullying by just another purveyor of false charges of self-hatred and antisemitism. That's why I really ought to read the book. I know it's going to be bad and I know it's going to be heavy going. But it's got to be done. Vey iz mir...
October 11, 2010
October 09, 2010
Angel Gurria, Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), sent a harsh letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning that due to comments made by Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov (Yisrael Beitenu), the decision to hold a tourism conference in Jerusalem could be hindered.
Misezhnikov said in an interview with Haaretz on Monday that although some countries have cancelled their participation in the OECD conference to be held in Jerusalem later this month, the fact that most countries have not cancelled their participation is a show of support for Israel's territorial claims in Jerusalem.
Gurria wrote in the letter that he demanded clarifications regarding Misezhnikov's comments and claimed that the OECD had made it known to Israel that their decision to hold the conference in Jerusalem was not meant to have political implications.Now I don't know how often these conferences take place but with 30 members why do they have to be considering now whether or not to hold future conferences in Jerusalem? It would appear that the spectre of not holding future conferences in Jerusalem is a gambit to go ahead and support Israel's claim on Jerusalem whilst appearing to take action against it. Unless Israel digs in and embarrasses the OECD still further, the scheduled conference will take place in Jerusalem and the location of future conferences will be largely forgotten.
The Secretary-General protested the fact that Misezhnikov had linked the conference to political issues and said that the incident could hinder the planning of future conferences in Israel.
October 08, 2010
The judge who suggested that one of the anti-Israel activists who was acquitted of damaging an arms factory should be awarded the George Cross has been reprimanded for his “personal views”.
Judge George Bathurst-Norman made the comments in his 87-page summing up of the July trial of seven activists who broke into the Brighton EDO MBM factory last year.
The “Smash EDO” group were acquitted of causing £180,000 worth of damage to the building, which they believed supplied Israel with arms equipment.
In his summing-up speech, he told the Hove Crown Court jury: “You may well thing that hell on earth would not be an understatement of what the Gazans suffered at that time.”
In a statement released today, a spokesperson for the Office for Judicial Complaints said: “At short notice, the judge assigned to try a politically sensitive trial at Hove Crown Court on 28 and 29 June 2010 was unable to sit. To avoid an adjournment, His Honour Bathurst-Norman agreed to replace to him.
“A number of complaints were made about some of the observations he made during the trial and summing up. An investigation found that a number of these observations did not arise directly from the evidence at trial and could be seen as an expression of the judge’s personal views on a political question. This was an error.
“The Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice considered the conclusions of the investigation and HH Bathurst-Norman was formally reprimanded.”
Of course, this doesn't change the outcome of the case and the case does still demonstrate that when the racist war criminals of the State of Israel are subjected to forensic examination they are generally found guilty, certainly more guilty than those who damage the equipment used (or to make the equipment used to make the equipment used) to commit the crimes that maintain the State of Israel as a foreign legion permanently garrisoned on the crossroads of Africa and Asia and existing at the expense of its native and neighbouring populations.
PS - here's an interesting factoid. George Alfred Bathurst Norman was born on 15 January 1939 at Tel Aviv, Israel. I'm assuming it's the same guy. There are zionists all over the internet going ape about this case and they are just thrilled with the reprimand. If this Bathurst Norman is the one who presided over the case then just watch the zionists try to make out that his place of birth had something to do with his summing up and therefore the outcome of the case.
October 07, 2010
For more on the JNF see Gabriel's post on the Canadian branch of that racist organisation.