December 23, 2012

Academics for Israel Part 2 - Robert Fine and the EUMC working definition

This is part II in what I am trying to make a weekly series on Israel advocates in academia.  I intend to post a link to the previous Academics for Israel post at the bottom of the latest one, but I might forget. 

I think the series is an interesting thing to do in itself because here we have people whose career commitment is to the "disinterested pursuit of truth" (or something like that) who often appear to have to bend the truth, ignore it or flagrantly misrepresent it in order to support a worldview based on prejudice rather than reality.  But also, it is quite rare for critical comments to be accepted by Israel advocacy blogs so this is a chance to make sure that comments are not wasted.

Having said that, Robert Fine is not actually a blogger himself or I am sure he would have a Normblog profile and he doesn't.


Robert Fine is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick.  He has a long standing relationship with the Engage site and like all zionist academics lately he is willing to jump through hoops for the EUMC working definition of antisemitism which has been formulated to make criticism of the State of Israel nigh on impossible. He often comes across as a nice chap but the smears he is willing to hurl at critics of Israel are as unpleasant and disingenuous as any emanating from the zionist camp.

Here he is on the Engage website "On doing the sociology of antisemitism".  The piece first appeared in the newsletter of the European Sociological Association.  It is largely a self-indulgent resumé of his academic career but I noticed his mention of the EUMC working definition of antisemitism and the way he misrepresented it. I stopped reading after that and left a comment that never made it past the moderator.

Anyway, here he is on the EUMC working definition:
The working definition on antisemitism put forward by the European Union Monitoring Commission is one attempt to deal with this issue.  According to this definition the following cases of ‘criticism’ of Israel may, depending on context, be examples of antisemitism: the nazification of Israel (e.g. when it is said that Jews treat Palestinians like the Nazis treated the Jews), the pathologisation of Jews (e.g. when it is said that as a result of the Holocaust Jews have become indifferent to the suffering of other peoples), the use of old antisemitic tropes (e.g. when it is said that Zionists engage in a world conspiracy to protect Israel or that Israeli forces steal the body parts of Arabs), or more simply the erasure of any distinction between state and civil society (e.g. when it is said that all Jews in Israel are responsible for the policies pursued by the government).
We may or may not agree on particular cases, but what is clear is that some forms of ‘criticism’ lean toward antisemitism more than others.  The systematic treatment of Israel as culpable by standards that are not applied equally to other states is another case in point. 
There were already two comments when I posted mine.  Here's the first from SarahAB from Harry's Place:
Sarah AB Says:

An excellent post. Just one example of the way in which antisemitism is sometimes shown to be ‘replaced’ by Islamophobia is that UCU Holocaust wall chart.
I critiqued her own promotion of the working definition here. Most of her comment refers to something in the article that I didn't even read but her description of the piece as "excellent" says it all about both him and her. I would guess that she could and would have described the piece as excellent even if she hadn't read it.

Anyway, knowing that Engage tends to restrict comments to its own zionist faithful I didn't want to get in too deep but here goes:
levi9909 Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation. [It has now been deleted altogether]
December 22, 2012 at 1:29 pm
Robert Fine’s section on the EUMC working definition is misleading and contentious.
He claims that the working definition was “put forward by the European Union Monitoring Commission”. It was actually put to them not by them. It was put to them by the American Jewish Committee who tacked on the “context” proviso as an afterthought because without it the working definition was an obvious case of preventing criticism of Israel by the bad faith allegation of antisemitism. This site shows the genealogy of this AJC document.
He rewords the “examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel” to validate the “context” proviso and yet the working definition itself lists examples which are unambiguously antisemitic regardless of context together with examples which are not so. For example, which context makes the denial of the right of Jews to self-determination and statehood antisemitic? And which context makes “holding the Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the state of Israel” not antisemitic? Clearly, a state specially for Jews is a racist endeavour as surely as holding all Jews responsible for it is antisemitic.
The working definition is itself antisemitic in that it essentialises Jews as zionists, ie, people who support the idea that Jews are a case for self-determination and statehood.
You simply cannot establish a principle whereby Jews qualify for self-determination and statehood which is consistent with the right of nations to self-determination. Just consider the case of, say, France and the French state and people. The French are the people of France. The French state is their state. You can be French if you are Jewish and French if you are not Jewish. The Jews are not the people of a specific country. Israel is the state of the Jewish people, You cannot be Jewish if you are not Jewish. Ergo, a Jewish state is inherently discriminatory, ie, racist.
Robert Fine also seems to have ignored the fact that the working definition asserts that Israel is a “democratic nation” and seeks to forbid specialist campaigning against Israel even by its victims. And yet Israel is unique in that it defines itself as the state of an entire ethno-religious non-territorial identity group most of whom don’t live there and it has displaced most of the people who come from there. It also receives more aid from abroad than any other country. Demands made of Israel tend to focus on where it differs from other states, not where it is similar. I know of no other “democratic nation” whose state exist on the basis of a recent, current and on-going campaign of colonial settlement and ethnic cleansing facilitated by an array of discriminatory laws and underpinned by a self-definition as the state for an ethno-religious community.
I find it profoundly disturbing that there are so many academics putting so much energy into defending such a bogus document as the EUMC working definition.
Fine has been an advisory editor of Engage before it dispensed with the need for such advisers or editors so I don't know if he saw my comment and I don't know of any forum where the piece has appeared where I could be sure he would read it.

Robert Fine is one of many academics for Israel who are willing to cast logic and truth aside for the sake of zionism and studiously avoid any situation where they might have to answer for themselves. He is a member of the board of the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism (JSA), whose page on the JSA website reads like a who's who of islamophobia.  They are the people who organised the conference which witnessed the contrived walkout and non-walkout by various UK zionists which I wrote about just recently.

I'm not suggesting that Fine is an islamophobe but for one with such a cultivated sense of outrage over antisemitism he is none too sensitive about the islamophobic company he keeps.

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