April 12, 2015

Geoffrey Alderman now and then...

I got this copy of a Geoffrey Alderman JC opinion piece from the very useful Newspaper Direct website.  I don't know how it works but when I look for a newspaper article that I can't find on the newspaper's own site I often find it here.  It appeared in the print edition of the Jewish Chronicle dated 3 April 2015:

Racists seeking to destroy Israel

They deny to Jews that which they allow other ethnicities

UNDER WHAT circumstances should criticism of the state of Israel be deemed “illegitimate?” The nowcancelled Southampton University conference, “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism”, brought this subject into focus. But the question is hardly new.

Those of you with long memories may recall that, in 1956, at the time of the AngloFrench invasion of Egypt, a number of Jewish and — ostensibly — Zionist members of the British parliament found themselves at the receiving end of much communal opprobrium because they criticised Israel, whose armed forces had taken advantage of the invasion in order to neutralise terrorist cells in Gaza and the Sinai peninsula.[it was Israel that invaded Egypt in the first instance.  Israel occupied Gaza and Sinai until the yanks ordered them out.  I thought everyone knew that. Apparently the historian, Professor Alderman doesn't know that]

The MP for East Willesden — the highly vocal career Labour-Zionist Maurice Orbach — voted with his socialist colleagues to condemn the Anglo-French-Israeli initiative, and was subsequently booted out of his seat in a campaign whipped up by angry Jewish constituents. But in North-West Leicester there were few Jewish voters, and the local Labour MP there, who also voted against the Suez adventure, survived wider, vicious criticism of him. His name was Barnett Janner and, at the time, he was president of both the Zionist Federation and the Board of Deputies. What is more, at the deputies’ meeting on November 18, 1956, a large majority expressed full confidence in him.

There was a time when anti-Zionism was not merely a significant force in Anglo-Jewish affairs, it was fashionable. We need to remind ourselves that a former British chief rabbi (Hermann Adler) denounced Zionism from the pulpit, that the founding father of the Federation of Synagogues (Samuel Montagu) was an enthusiastic anti-Zionist, and the founding father of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue (Claude Montefiore) went so far as to blame Zionism for the rise of Hitler. [whereas Alderman would become quite grateful for the rise of Hitler] But into this sombre history lesson we need to inject the word “context.” The handful of Londonand Manchester-based Satmar chasidim who routinely join anti-Zionist demonstrations are campaigning against a nation-state that exists. The Jewish intellectuals and media personalities who apparently sympathise with them want to dismantle a vibrant liberal democracy —Israel — to have it replaced with a larger political entity in which antisemitism will be permitted to flourish. On paper, the “one state” that these extremes of left and right desire would be a purely secular entity. In practice it would become an Islamists’ paradise.[do vibrant liberal democracies ethnically cleanse whole swathes of population on the basis of assumptions as to how they might vote?]

In principle, today, we ought still to be able to distinguish anti-Zionism from antisemitism. In practice, the one has merged with the other. Anti-Zionists do not oppose the creation of a Jewish nation-state — such a state already exists. What they oppose is the continued existence of a Jewish nation-state. In seeking to dismantle that state, therefore, they expose their antagonism towards the very concept of Jewish self-determination.[there's nothing wrong with opposing the concept and reality of Jewish self-determination]

This is true especially of those who deny that there is any such entity as a Jewish “nation”. These positions are inherently racist: they deny to the Jews that which they freely grant to other ethnicities, and they do so on purely ethnic or racial grounds.[I know of no community for whom national self-determination is demanded on grounds of ethnicity and we shall see where Geoffrey Alderman stands on the question of ethnic equality]

None of this means that policies of Israeli governments cannot be legitimately criticised. Of course they can. But we need to recognise that, fundamentally, what drives the BDS movement is not antagonism towards Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, but hostility towards the concept of Jewish nationhood. This truth has been recognised by no less an opponent of the settlements than Professor Norman Finkelstein who, in 2012, launched a blistering attack on the Palestine Solidarity Movement’s campaign for the “right of return”, condemning it as a cover for its ambition to destroy Israel.[actually the BDS movement makes no demand regarding one or two states because no one knows how the people of Palestine will want the area/s constituted.  Finkelstein condemned not so much the idea of abolishing the State of Israel as a Jewish state but what he claimed to see as BDS supporters' lack of openness about the consequences of the right of return. To be sure Finkelstein is claiming to support Israel's continued existence as a Jewish state but he certainly does not decry its opponents as being antisemitic]

Finkelstein was absolutely right. Criticise Israel, if you must, to your heart’s content. Demonstrate to your utmost against Israeli domestic or foreign policy.

But do not espouse a cause that calls, even if indirectly, for Israel’s destruction and expect not to be condemned as a racist. For that is what you are.[we'll see who is being racist in just a moment]
Now I don't know why that piece has not appeared on the JC website but Geoffrey Alderman's latest offering on line is dated 8 April 2015.  This is the proposal whose opponents Geoffrey Alderman accuses of racism:
 under international law and in principle ethnic Jews have the right of settlement throughout the area of Mandate Palestine west of the Jordan River (including what is known as the West Bank), that this right extends to Jews whether or not they are citizens of the state of Israel, but not to Israeli citizens who are not ethnically Jewish, and that the state of Israel has a legal obligation to take any step and all steps necessary to uphold this right. 
Now that pretty much sums up Israel as is but it is rare to see it set out in such obviously racist detail. It is also self-exposing as to why there should be no such thing as Jewish self-determination.

Let's now have a quick look at how Alderman deals with the idea of abolishing the State of Israel:
It has been argued that the ultimate purpose of the conference was to cloak in a veneer of academic respectability the campaign for the delegitimisation of the Jewish state. Let us assume for a moment that it was. There is no subject on God's Earth that cannot be discussed in a university. Nor is it true that Israel is the only country whose legitimacy is currently being called into question. The whole purpose of the Scottish National Party is to call into question the legitimacy of the United Kingdom. There has recently been a referendum on that very subject.
Of course, the Scottish independence referendum debate didn't include any discussion of privileging this or that ethnicity over any or all others and Alderman manages to avoid alleging racism against either the SNP or the unionist parties.

But what of the "miscellany of Jewish interests" that had the conference cancelled?
Some terrible precedents have been created. I refer not merely to the gross betrayal of academic freedom. It will be said - rightly - that this betrayal was perpetrated at the behest and with the active connivance of Jewish interests. For antisemites the world over this is indeed manna from heaven.
Well yes that's true but the professor wasn't always so backward in calling forth what he saw as Jewish power.  Back in 2012, Jonathan Hoffman, for the Zionist Federation suggested to the Board of Deputies of British Jews that they adopt a policy of boycotting The Guardian.  And here's Geoffrey Alderman in the Jewish Chronicle on 26 January 2012:
Earlier this month, the Board of Deputies declined to adopt a resolution urging "all those who oppose antisemitism to refrain from buying the Guardian or advertising in it". The proposal, tabled by Zionist Federation vice-president Jonathan Hoffman, had already been rejected by the Board's defence division but the division's own alternative motion (a wrecking tactic if you ask me), noting the paper's "continued biased and anti-Israel reporting", and deploring the lack of action by the Press Complaints Commission, was also rejected. So, apart from rejecting both propositions, the Board did precisely nothing......

......my primary concern is with the arguments deployed by those who opposed the motion, and who presumably lobbied to ensure that it was defeated and its message never sent.

There is, for example, the protestation of Jonathan Arkush, the Board's senior vice-president, who reportedly instructed the deputies that, although he himself found the Guardian to be "odious", he nonetheless believed that "a boycott would be counter-productive and would damage the Jewish community's reputation".

What did he mean by "counter-productive?" That the Guardian's circulation would increase? That more companies rather than fewer would rush to advertise in its pages? And what did he mean by "damage" to Anglo-Jewry's "reputation"? That instead of being thought of as a docile collection of trembling Israelites we would henceforth be viewed with a great deal more respect and even - who knows? - with a tinge, a smidgen, of anxious deference?

I am told that, within the Board's defence division, some arguments equally as foolish were also placed on the table: that the passage of Hoffman's motion might suggest that Jews control the media (we should be so lucky though, if this fear is genuinely held, then the Board really should condemn the closing down of Press TV, which Tehran is blaming on the Jews); that a substantive and perhaps heated debate on this would reveal that British Jews were not of one mind (when have we ever been so?); that the Board did not believe in boycotts (not even of Iranian oil?). But of all these arguments surely none was more brainless than the argument that the adoption of the motion would play into the hands of antisemites.
Now Geoffrey Alderman has a very funny idea about what's racist and what's not.  He's also a little inconsistent when it comes to arguing his case whatever that might be.  I must say that his proposal for the world's Jews in Palestine would have been a laugh riot read out to an academic audience, presumably by a straight faced Alderman, assuming that is, that he wasn't joking.  But it's disappointing that he wasn't able to put his case for Jewish supremacy to the Southampton conference because I'm fully confident that in putting his case for Israel he would have made the most eloquent case against it.

UPDATE 11:02 17/4/2015: I've now found the Racists seeking to destroy Israel article on line at The Jewish Chronicle website.

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