December 30, 2007

Dr Hirsh sings Come all ye faithful!

Well, he doesn't actually sing it, he just says it and then not in so many words. Heaven forbid him from singing a Christmas carol, what with the brouhaha over Jews for Justice rewording a few. This first appeared on the Engage site on 19 December but I needed to pick the brains of a few academics about the traditions of academic co-criticism. Anyway, cop this. Dr David Hirsh of the, ahem, "non"-zionist website, Engage, has written a supposedly academic paper. Academic is what he does. He is an academic, a Phd no less. The paper is called, Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism: Cosmopolitan Reflections. Now see how, on the Engage site, he announces a meeting to discuss the paper with some, ahem, respondents:
All welcome to hear responses to David Hirsh's paper at SOAS, 30 January
Added by David Hirsh on December 19, 2007 05:17:08 PM.
All welcome to hear responses to David Hirsh's paper at SOAS, 30 January
Robert Fine, Professor of Sociology, Warwick University
Les Back, Professor of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London
Anthony Julius, Visiting Professor, Birkbeck, University of London
Jon Pike, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Open University
David Hirsh, Lecturer in Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London, will reply briefly
Charles Small, Director of YIISA and editor of the Working Paper series, will chair the event.

Will respond to: Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism: Cosmopolitan Reflections By David Hirsh.

30 January 2008, G2 SOAS, University of London, 7.00pm, Followed by a reception

Everyone is welcome entry is free, but you must reserve a place by e-mailing Book now, before the holidays, and put the date in your diary for 30 January.

Download a flyer [PDF]

Download the paper (165 pages) [PDF]

Listen to David Hirsh discussing the paper

Details on the Goldsmiths website

This event is organized by the Unit for Global Justice at Goldsmiths, in association with the Centre for Jewish Studies at SOAS and the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism

Now the academics I spoke to told me that a more usual practice would be to submit an academic paper to some recognised authority in the field who would then seek respondents with either different points of view or no known point of view as to the specifics, just expertise in the broad field, say, sociology, politics, whatever. Well check out the Engage contributors page. Five of his "respondents" are Engageniks. One of them, Jon Pike, is on record saying that Engage opposes Israeli racism. Where are they on the Law of Return that says that any Jews can take out Israeli citizenship? Where are they on the ban on Palestinians returning? Ok, that was a bit of an aside but this is the quality of respondent.

Let's move on to the meeting. It's an open meeting but you have to email Hirsh to reserve your place. This means he can vet the attendance. That's not to say he will, but he can. Hirsh has no prominence outside of the zionist movement in the UK though clearly there are zionists stateside who feel he has his uses. The paper is hosted on the Yale website.

But it all looks like an exercise in vanity publishing rather than any discernible academic exercise. It's a bit like a supporter of intelligent design inviting known fundamentalist Christian vicars to respond to a paper on the creation. Of course there is an element of vanity to this effort but it also looks like an attempt to give momentum to a paper that we can be sure will be seeking to equate anti-zionism with antisemitism. He won't say that in so many words. Even Hirsh isn't that gauche. From what I have seen it will be this new "antisemitism in effect but not intent" guff. Goodness knows why that would take 165 pages. And what's all this about "cosmopolitan"? I asked someone about this and they told me that it has to do with the application of universal principles to diverse cultures. This is truly bizarre. The last place on earth that wants the application of universally held principles is that exception to international norms, Israel.

The insidious thing about this paper is that by organising a rally for it, it gains for it a momentum that it would lack if it went the more traditional route of independent critique. If it was read by people with no track record of zionist activism, as these respondents have, the critique might have the likes of Yale thinking twice about running zionist propaganda that has little or no academic merit. I'm saying all this without having read the thing but I've read enough of Hirsh to hazard a guess.

Anyway, I'd love someone to go away, read it and critique it properly rather than simply parrot it as this rally of Dr Hirsh's zionist faithful is intended to do.

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