June 26, 2015

Knowing the difference between Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism

David Aaronovitch had an article in The Jewish Chronicle a few weeks ago where he commends Sarah Annes Brown for spotting the antisemitism of one of the organisers of the recently postponed Southampton University conference on Israel.  It's a quirky piece but, typically, it ends up taking a swipe at the anti-zionist left.

Let's see how he starts:
What with one thing and another, I followed the spring furore over the "Israel" symposium at Southampton University only rather loosely.....

What I hadn't realised is how far gone some of the conference's animating spirits are in what I can only call the New Judeophobia. The gap in my education was filled this week with the latest edition of the magazine Fathom and an article by Professor Sarah Brown, anatomising the thinking of the Southampton academic and symposium organiser Oren Ben-Dor.
See that?  Maybe you didn't notice but Aaro only followed loosely what had been appearing all over The JC, for which he writes, for weeks before and after the event was postponed and the JC article he linked to no longer appears on the JC site but he snapped up and eagerly devoured the latest edition of the mouthpiece of Israel lobby group, BICOM, for which he doesn't yet write. Strange for a self-styled "non-Zionist" but let's read on:
One of the more unwelcome phenomena of recent life in the broad diaspora has been the appearance of a certain kind of Israeli exile who insists on telling us how bad Jews are.
See that?  In the previous paragraph he hadn't known about what in the next paragraph he describes as "phenomena of recent life".  Fast learner this guy.

And the next paragraph is a flat contradiction of the "recent life" one which, as we've seen contradicted the one before that.
until last week I had imagined that Mr Atzmon was more or less unique
So "recent life" began last week.

But for all that nonsense I think Aaro's understanding of what Sarah Annes Brown wrote was fair and in turn her understanding of Oren Ben-Dor was fair too.  And here is Aaro's take:
his article is entitled "Occupied Minds: Philosophical Reflections on Zionism, Anti-Zionism and the Jewish Prison..... it argues that Zionist and most anti-Zionist Jews are captives of the same primeval Jewish mindset, and that it is this mindset that, in effect, provoked antisemitic reaction, right down to the Holocaust itself.
In other words, Jews have been asking for it throughout history, and in fact quite like it when they get it.
Actually he misses the bit where Ben-Dor says that the nazis had to become like Jews themselves in order to carry out the holocaust but I suppose that's relatively small beer against the central thesis. Actually to give Sarah more credit than Aaro does, she refers to Ben-Dor's methodology such as it is by mentioning his penchant for "dark suggestion" over hard evidence, or indeed any evidence. But anyway, where does Aaro go with all this?
What is depressing about Ben-Dor is that many left-wingers and sympathisers with the Palestinian cause in this country and elsewhere can no longer tell the difference between progressive thinking and "essentialist" bigotry that used to be the preserve of the anti-democratic and racist right.
Now that was the bit that had me sending an email to the JC as follows:
Dear Sir

If nothing else the now "postponed" University of Southampton conference on the legitimacy or not of the State of Israel has raised the profile of one of its organisers, Oren Ben-Dor.

Ben-Dor's antisemitism was noticed and blogged by anti-Zionist Tony Greenstein back in 2008 whereas David Aaronovitch has only just noticed it.

In fairness, that doesn't tell us anything about David Aaronovitch's perception of antisemitism. The Board of Deputies knew nothing of Ben-Dor's warped world view when it lobbied the University of Southampton to cancel the conference using "two lines of attack...legal and health and safety".  Note, not antisemitism.

Zionists John Strawson and Geoffrey Alderman were going to address the conference. Neither of them raised any issue about Ben-Dor.

Even on the Israel advocacy and self-styled anti-antisemitism blog Engage, Zionist academic and racism expert Ben Gidley failed to mention any issue with Ben-Dor.  Engage's Dr David Hirsh simply said that Ben-Dor "has come to the defence of an open antisemite", not that he is antisemitic himself.

Given his low profile, Oren Ben-Dor has flown below the radar of most activists, both Zionist and anti-Zionist.  So why does David Aaronovitch berate the left and Palestine solidarity supporters over a failure to "tell the difference between progressive thinking and "essentialist" bigotry"?

It might even be that in defence of the State of Israel, Zionists have made so many bad faith allegations of antisemitism they can no longer differentiate between the crying of "wolf" and the wolf itself.

Yours faithfully
Now as luck would have it the JC didn't publish my letter.  I say it's lucky because one usually incisive blogger, Louis Proyect, the Unrepentant Marxist, has decided to prove Aaro at least partly correct by publishing a lengthy and tedious defence of quite a high profile American antisemite by the name of Alison Weir.

Now Louis Proyect's take on the various antisemites rearing their heads mostly on the internet has ranged from dismissive (Atzmon) to disgusted (Moon of AlabamaMRZine).  He's never been supportive before and I haven't noticed him being evasive when challenged before now.  Anyway, here's his post, which as I said is a guest post.  When asked why he was defending Weir he asked the questioner to elaborate. I reckon evasion is all Louis Proyect has when challenged over this post but I'll update if anything changes or maybe even if nothing does.

UPDATE 3/7/2015 09:51 - I'm being told by supporters of MRZine that Louis Proyect was smearing by association when he denounced them here.  I really don't know enough of what he was talking about to comment on that - though others may wish to.  What I have noticed in Louis Proyect's post titled, MRZine regular circulates anti-Semitic filth, is the logic he employs could easily apply to his own decision to publish support for an antisemite and a promotion of engagement with white supremacists.

See this from the post itself:
It doesn’t really matter if Chandan did not write this filth himself. He made the decision to publish the article by Muhammad Nasr, a long-time anti-Semite who writes for http://freearabvoice.org/.
And here's Louis in the comments:
I don’t think that MRZine is “promoting” these views, only that one of their favorite bloggers is too stupid to have noticed that an article he put on his blog was garbage.
I still don't know much about this but Louis has certainly published garbage on his blog with the guest post from this Amith Gupta.  He might not have realised what he was posting when he first posted it but when it was brought to his attention that Alison Weir has plenty of form for antisemitism in her own right without getting into her "repeat and friendly" associations with white supremacists he went into denial, blocked critics on twitter, started hurling insults around and ended up simply lying.  I also noticed that in spite of the post being about antisemitism and definitely not about Palestine, he has tagged it to Palestine and not to antisemitism.  It suggests to me that he does have the good sense to want the post buried and forgotten eventually and certainly he doesn't want it compared and contrasted with his usual position on antisemitism.  But given his ducking, diving, insulting, lying and blocking I don't suppose we'll ever know why he hosted a guest post by someone who wants antisemites to enjoy credibility in the Palestine solidarity movement.

All in all I have been shocked by Louis Proyect's sheer lack of integrity. The guest post was at best disingenuous and Louis's defences of it, such as they were, have been worse. I know that many bloggers let their egos get in the way of their integrity but what is genuinely sad is that Louis Proyect has shown such appalling judgement in all this

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