Monday, January 31, 2011

Holocaust memorial day in Lewisham

A guest post by Councillor Michael Harris


At last Monday’s Council meeting, Councillors in the London Borough of Lewisham marked Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January) by inviting Rabbi Dr Amit of the Catford and Bromley Synagogue to address the Council. He lit a candle to commemorate all those who lost their lives in the Holocaust and other genocides. Following this the Council observed a minute’s silence. Rabbi Amit took time to ensure that he mentioned other faiths and emphasized that Holocaust Memorial Day marked the commemoration of the Holocaust and other contemporary genocides. He listed a series of genocides including the killings in Rwanda and the massacre of Muslims in Darfur. As he listed various genocides, John Hamilton the leader of Lewisham People Before Profit shouted at the Rabbi “Gaza”, as if the Rabbi ought to apologise himself for the events in Palestine. The Rabbi added, “Gaza”, and lit the candle. Hamilton obviously thought it appropriate to ask a Jew to apologise for the events in Israel – regardless of the fact that the Rabbi lives in the UK.

It also stuck in my craw, that during a commemoration to the 6 million Jews that were murdered at the hands of supposed civilised Europeans, Hamilton found it necessary to heckle a Rabbi. Regardless of your views of the state of Israel and its actions – to ask a Rabbi to apologise, as a Jew, for the actions of a State that he does not live in, seems rather sinister. It’s the equation of Semitism with Zionism; and that all Jews are responsible for Israel.

Mike is Labour Councillor for Lewisham Central, free speech lobbyist and activist for Index on Censorship (and the Libel Reform Campaign), and campaigns consultant. 

58 comments:

The Contentious Centrist said...

If it was a Holocaust memorial day, the rabbi should have concentrated on the Holocaust of the Jews.

I find Harris's point not well- taken. He seems to accept Hamilton's position about Gaza as a genocide and his only beef is that the rabbi was made to be guilty by association in being a Jew. I understand what he is trying to do but he is dead wrong if he thinks he can separate anti-Zionism from antisemitism. Hamilton's verbal brutalization of the rabbi's prayer is simple antisemitism, nothing short of a blood libel, not only because "to ask a Rabbi to apologise, as a Jew, for the actions of a State that he does not live in, seems rather sinister. It’s the equation of Semitism with Zionism; and that all Jews are responsible for Israel." but also, and principally, because it is an attack on Israeli Jews' right to defend themselves against a genocidal enemy. By creating a moral equivalence between Gaza's conflict-related 700-800 civilian dead killed in a war and the 6 million Jews who were industrially exterminated in special facilities created for that purpose alone, Hamilton was in effect denying that the Holocaust happened or that there is something unique about it that transcends the boundaries of human imagination. If the six million Jews were like the Gaza dead then why should anyone bother with HOLOCAUST commemoration? It would make just as much sense to include Kosovo, Afghanistan (7,000 since 2006) and Pakistan's recent dead (1,753 since 2004) to the roster. Apparently those dead don't matter to Hamilton. It's only where Jews are involved that his blood boils in righteous rage.

Gaza's war was not a genocide and someone should sue that Hamilton schmuck for blood libel.

It's too bad the rabbi capitulated to such unwarranted, baseless, malevolent provocation.

And it's too bad that Michael Harris cannot call a spade a spade when he sees one.

max said...

It looks to me that to say that John Hamilton was asking a Rabbi to apologize for Israel is to make a wild speculation.

I don't see in this report anything that suggests that John Hamilton asked anyone to apologize for anything, if the Rabbi was making a list of people suffering for conflicts and persecution and had left Gaza out it is not outlandish to ask that the people of Gaza are included in the list.

bob said...

What I think:

1. I think it proper for a rabbi to mention other genocides on Holocaust memorial day. This does not detract from the specificity of the Shoah.

2. I think that calling out "Gaza" is open to several interpretations. It may not be asking the rabbi to apologise for it. However, I seriously doubt Hamilton would shout out "Gaza" if the speaker had been an Imam talking about genocides. I am also told that Hamilton's choir, the Strawberry Thieves, have a song comparing Israel's actions to the Holocaust...

However, to include Gaza on a list of genocides is utterly wrong. While of course there is plenty to be said about the situation in Gaza, the word "genocide" is not one of them. To extend the word to Gaza is in my view a form of Holocaust denialism, as it reduces the seriousness of the Holocaust and other historical genocides.

It is also, at the very least, highly distasteful, to heckle a speaker, rabbi or otherwise, at an event of such solemnity.

3. For the above reason, the rabbi was wrong to capitulate to Hamilton's heckling, although I can feel some sympathy for him to not want to make the moment even more of a travesty and just to move on.

sackcloth and ashes said...

The natural response to some clown shouting 'Gaza' is 'And we remember the Palestinians living under Hamas' dictatorship since the coup of June 2007'.

max said...

Bob, I still don't see how John Hamilton would have been asking anyone to apologize for anything with what he did.

You may find what he did disrespectul but it seems to me that he was championing a cause rather than accusing someone.
The fact that the issue of Gaza is of a different order of magnitude than the Holocaust is surely true, and yet if one starts listing people's plight why shout at someone that's mentioning one down the pecking order, they're still people suffering, aren't they?

He may have been wrong and disrespectul, but from there to brush him as anti-semitic is quite wrong.

(as for the song, that would be another post altogether, if you can find the lyrics, still it looks like it's critizing Israel, not the Jews, and not at a Holocaust memorial but at their pro Palestine functions)

bob said...

Max, do you think John would have shouted out "Gaza" if the speaker had been a Christian or a Muslim?

Yes, the song is a different matter, but if it is correct it illuminates this event. Comparing what is going on in Gaza to what went on in the Holocaust is not merely criticism of Israel, it is an act of softcore Holocaust denial, which makes it deeply offensive.

max said...

Difficult to imagine a plausible situation where John Hamilton shouts "Gaza" to a Muslim speaker (although maybe something to do with Egyptians) but I can surely imagine him heckling some Christian speaker, probably American, for supporting Israel.

I see your point though, why not just shut up and letting people commemorate the Holocaust(s)?

My point is that the Rabbi was right to aknowledge that there's people suffering there too and that despite the fact that John Hamilton should have known better he was making a political point that he's well known to hold, not an anti-semitic mot.

Your point about the disrespect of an Holocaust Memorial is valid, but to stretch it to calling him a Holocaust denier is again a bit much for me.

The Contentious Centrist said...

The event was Holocaust Memorial day, to remember the six million Jews who exterminated because they were Jews. The memorial was not about the suffering of all people. I can understand how a memorial for the Holocaust of Jews can be an occasion for other genocides to be remembered, as a sort of a slap to humanity that it has allowed them to take place even after the world vouched "never again". But I totally reject the attempt to dilute the meaning and importance of the Holocaust by turning it into a list of sufferings everywhere. There can be another occasion for that kind of event. I also did not receive an answer from anybody why "Gaza" was inserted into this memorial, and is being justified by Max here, but not Afghanistan, or Pakistan, or Iraq, or Kosovo, or Bosnia, or the 1000++ Israeli victims of Palestinian suicide bombings and other murderous projects during the second Infantifada.

The only reason Gaza makes an appearance is because the event is a Holocaust memorial and Jew haters of any stripe know that making an equivalence between the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust and the suffering of Palestinians during a DEFENSIVE war is bound to cause mental anguish to Jews. Jew baiters know exactly how and when to stick their sharpened, poisonous verbal daggers into the heart of Jews. This Hamilton is a Jew baiter and nothing can excuse his vile attack on this hapless rabbi.

Rebecca said...

Why did the rabbi go along with the heckler and add "Gaza"? There is no genocide in Gaza, and the Gaza War, while horrible, was not an act of genocide. The State of Israel is not trying to exterminate all the people of Gaza.

ModernityBlog said...

Bob,

I assume that Hamilton is either a Tankie or some form of ex-Trot?

Whilst I would prefer to play the ball, not the man, I am struck at the obvious insensitivity of this bloke.

Therefore it seems not unlikely that he's been influenced by the political traditions of Soviet antisemitism, either directly or by political osmosis from Trotskyist groups in Britain.

That type of flagrant stupidity and callousness often, although not exclusively, comes from a such political environment.

Waterloo Sunset said...

Assuming they're the same party as the Ireland People Before Profit (which seems likely at least), they're an alliance between the SWP and a handful of independent socialists.

modernity said...

Thanks WS.

How I often wish that Anarchism not Trotskyism had become the dominant political stream on the British Left after 1968, how different things might have turned out....

Bob said...

People Before Profit in Lewisham is a small but broad-based independent left group that has nothing, as far as I know, to do with the SWP, but Hamilton himself is, I think, some kind of ultra-tankie, I think formerly of one of those parties called RCPB-ML or something like that.

I think Mod's "the ball not the man" point is right, as a rule. I am not suggesting that Hamilton IS "an" antisemite, Max. I am suggesting that what he said and did in this context is antisemitic. There is no sense in which it is appropriate to insert the word "Gaza" into a Holocaust memorial day; it has no relationship with the Holocaust, nor is it a genocide. To shout it out therefore is offensive, because the only way it makes logical sense is if we imagine that a rabbi (i.e. a representative of Jews/Judaism, not of Israel) has some responsability for or at least connection to what is happening in Gaza, as a Jew.

max said...

Hi Bob, I can entirely agree with much of your point and others raised there.

It's an episode with a lot of insensitivity at display, he saw a cue for an opportunistic comment in the Rabbi's speech and placed a word when he shouldn't have.

But still, he spoke for a cause he believes in, this doesn't mean that he was attacking the Rabbi or Jews at large at all.

sackcloth and ashes said...

'Hamilton himself is, I think, some kind of ultra-tankie, I think formerly of one of those parties called RCPB-ML or something like that'.

Which means he knows a thing or two about genocide. 1m dead in Afghanistan between 1979-1989 as a result of the Soviet invasion, 1.5m maimed for life, 5m refugees etc. Not that he's at all concerned about something like that, I suppose.

The Contentious Centrist said...

"I think Mod's "the ball not the man" point is right, as a rule."

I don't get the point at all. One can distinguish between an author and his work when it comes to determining whether or not he is an antisemite. But the incident reported here did not take place in the pages of a novel but in real life, and the person who uttered the word "Gaza" is not an author but obviously a man with a cause. So the rule of separating of man from the ball hardly makes sense. The man kicked the ball in a certain direction and for a certain purpose that had nothing to do with games and everything to do with intentionality. A ball has no intentions. The man - does. And he aimed at discomfiting a JEW and hijack a memorial. His cause is to to rope in the Holocaust for a Palestinian cause. The malevolence is appalling and I don't see why there is any need to find excuses for him or pretend he is anything other than what he is.

modernity said...

Noga,

I asked, because it distinguishes between those people with a degree of sense, and those from the SWP/Trot/Leninist melee.

The latter are often utterly insensitive, almost completely lacking in self-awareness and tend to function on a different plane of reality to the rest of us.

They frequently live in a bubble of self-righteous indignation towards Israelis/Jews, and it is largely a waste of time discussing their conduct.

You only need to see their reactions to Atzmon, etc

NOTHING gets thru'.

You could spend a year and a day, explaining it, pointing out how insensitive, etc to him, how stupid it was, but as Bob says "...what he said and did in this context is antisemitic. ".

Waterloo Sunset said...

If he's a tankie, can we just agree that he's an utter cunt?

It's not an ad hominem if the person making the argument is the problem with it.

bob said...

I am not saying that there is no such thing as "an antisemite", or even that John certainly isn't one of them. The most benign and un-antisemitic people (even me!) are capable of uttering or even doing antisemitic things. There are antisemitic discourses, and there are acts with antisemitic effects, regardless of whether the speaker "intended" antisemitism and perhaps even regardless of whether this or that Jew "feels" offence. My point is that we should not be scrutinising John Hamilton's other actions, his psychological make-up, or whatever to diagnose him as an antisemite or to declare him free of the disease. The point is to be clear that what he said WAS antisemitic. We need to be combating antisemitic discourse and actions, not blacklisted and disciplining antisemitic souls.

(It seems impossible to get this point over to the leftie academics, the BDSers, the SWPers, who seem to be locked in a "some of my best friends are Jewish so I can't be antisemitic" mindset. But the point seems also to be resisted by many of the anti-antisemites, who want to be able to point to morally unambiguous baddies.)

Mira said...

A commenter on Engage puts it very well:

"What is the difference between Hamilton shouting “Gaza” and another loony shouting “Christ Killer”?

After all, Jews, even the dead one[s], did not kill Christ and, after all, even the live ones (well, the Israeli ones) are not committing genocide in Gaza. And even if they did and even if they were, what has it to do with memorializing the victims of Nazism?"

John Hamilton said...

How amazing that people can get so worked up about something I said! Doctor Amit was listing other places where genocide has occurred, and after he said "...or Sudan.." I added, "or Gaza" and he took this up and added himself, "..or Gaza."

I wasn't asking him to apologise for anything, merely ensuring that his list was more complete.

There was no "verbal brutalisation of the rabbi's prayer and what is "blood libel"? "Contentious Centrist", who wasn't there, now says that I am a holocaust denier!! Is it right that someone should make libelous accusations about what he thinks I think and hide behind a pseudonym?

By the way, try looking up the United Nations definition of Genocide and you will find that article 2 defines genocide with five categories. The first three clearly apply to the action of the Israeli government during operation Cast Lead against the civilian inhabitants of Gaza two years ago.
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

In this context "The group" is the ethnic group, Palestinians.

modernity said...

"How amazing that people can get so worked up about something I said!"

Yeah John, how amazing that people should concern themselves with your racism, eh? (sarcasm)

Did it ever occurred to you how offensive you were being?

And please, no cute answers, you are a smart bloke, tell us why you can't see anything offensive in what you did ?

Anything?

The Contentious Centrist said...

I'd like to offer my sincere and unqualified apology to Hamilton for saying about his actions on Holocaust Memorial Day that:

"By creating a moral equivalence between Gaza's conflict-related 700-800 civilian dead killed in a war and the 6 million Jews who were industrially exterminated in special facilities created for that purpose alone, Hamilton was in effect denying that the Holocaust happened"

I misspoke. I apologize, unreservedly.

I am convinced, from Hamilton's own comment, that he did not intend to deny, belittle or detract from the magnitude of the Holocaust. By positing the 600-700 Gazan civilian deaths during the 2006 war as a genocide deserving a place in the record of historical genocides, and side by side with the Holocaust, he actually demonstrated the pain and anguish he was feeling at the memory of the 6 million dead Jews, who counted for something like 40% to 50% of the Jewish people worldwide.

A comparison between Israeli Jews killing of 600-700 civilians during a defensive war and the Nazis' extermination of millions of innocent Jews in the industrial extermination facilities cannot be counted as a blood libel against Israel.

Blaming Hamilton as brutalizing the rabbi's prayer for the dead was also wrong. He was anxious that no dead Gazan should be forgotten by any Jew, anywhere, under any circumstances. This is extraordinary humanitarian sentiment for which he must be commended.

Anonymous said...

John Hamilton is not the leader of Lewisham People Before Profit, he is simply a member

bob said...

Article 2 of the Convention on Genocide starts with: "In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such..." and then the three John listed above.

The key part is the "with intent to destroy". If killing members of the group was all it took to commit genocide, then the list of genocides would be beyond count: the UK would be guilty of genocide against Argentina and Argentina would be guilty of genocide against Britain, and so on and so on.

Ross said...

Pretty shameful behaviour from Mike Harris on this one in my opinion

After being rightly ridiculed by anti-cuts campaigners for his insistence on pushing through what he refers to as 'democratic socialist cuts', voting for cuts in the chamber whilst professing to be against them in public, and refusing to stand in solidarity with anti-cuts campaigners - he then rather conveniently comes up with a way of smearing a very publicly visible anti-cuts campaigner with anti-semitism. As he can't win the anti-cuts argument through rational argument he instead resorts to this kind of sinister anti-semitic smearing.

All those of you who make the jump (as Mike Harris so easily did) between saying 'or gazza' and the equating of the individual with state actions are haplessly playing the role of Harris's useful idiots. There are a lot of intelligent and politically sound posters who have commented on this thread who I generally find i'm in agreement with on other topics (modernity excluded), but I can't believe how eagerly you are doing this new labour lackey's work for him - he lit the touch paper and stood back, selectively choosing where to post this as to be sure for it to gain the most traction.

This is not just an attack on an individual but a political attempt to discredit the growing militant anti-cuts movement in Lewisham as a whole. Smearing your political opponents with racism or anti-semitism is a cunt's trick - and I'd have thought some on here would have been able to see through this and connect the dots as to what's going on here.

If the Lewisham anti-cuts movement played the same kind of games as Harris did, we might perhaps highlight Mike's decision a few months ago to publicly back the publishing and awarding of 'star letter' status to a bizarre homophobic rant submitted by a reader of the local newspaper, the Newshopper. In his quest for free speech he defended the newspaper's decision to award 'star letter' status to this homophobic bile. Clearly his commitment to free speech can be turned on and off at the drop of a hat depending on the usefulness of it to his own narrow political ends.

btw, I'm not a member of John's party, but have been involved in various anti-cuts stuff in Lewisham and very much aware of Harris's maneuverings

The Contentious Centrist said...

Earlier in the thread Bob was saying:

"My point is that we should not be scrutinising John Hamilton's other actions, his psychological make-up, or whatever to diagnose him as an antisemite or to declare him free of the disease."

which I took to mean that any engagement with his act during the memorial ought to concentrate on that particular act exclusively and analyzing its egregiousness in relation to that one act alone. There is no need to pile it on by bringing in other aspects of the man, unpleasant as they may be. I think the same principle can be applied to Harris. We cannot know whether he was motivated by petty politics or a deeper a sense of moral outrage and Ross's additional information is just irrelevant. Even if we knew for a fact that he was motivated by an impulse to smear, it has nothing to do with the veracity of his account.

Did the incident happen as Harris told it?

Ironically, as Ross strives to mitigate Hamilton's behaviour he resorts to the very same tactics he accuses Harris of.

sackcloth and ashes said...

'John Hamilton is not the leader of Lewisham People Before Profit, he is simply a member'

I agree that he's definitely a member.

'article 2 defines genocide with five categories. The first three clearly apply to the action of the Israeli government during operation Cast Lead against the civilian inhabitants of Gaza two years ago.
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part'

And by that definition, every act of war is an act of genocide, because unless you happen to be fighting over the Siachen glacier you will kill or main civilians in a war zone. And if Hamilton was a genuine humanitarian, he'd condemn the indiscriminate rocket attacks against civilian targets which preceded the Gaza war of 2008-2009. And if you were genuinely concerned about genocidal intent, you'd have something to say about the Hamas Charter as well.

But Mr Hamilton is silent on these subjects. I wonder why?

bob said...

For the record, I am opposed to the cuts that Lewisham's ruling party is implementing. I didn't like Mike H's claim that Lewisham Labour would make "left-wing cuts". I followed the debate about Mike's supposed pandering to homophobia on Darryl's blog and on Brockley Central, and found it too convoluted to take a position on.

For the record, I may have voted for John Hamilton or one of his candidates at one time or another, and admire the role he played in the Ladywell pool issue. I am told by reliable witnesses that he is a nice person, a mediocre plumber and a good chorister, although his choir's repertoire is a little cringeworthy.

I think, though, that all that is beside the point on this specific issue. I don't see Hamilton's comment as unique or uniquely awful, but rather as symptomatic as a much wider trend, and only report it as a manifestation of that trend rather close to home for me here in SE4.

Ross said...

"Did the incident happen as Harris told it? "

Clearly it didn't - Hamilton did not 'ask' a Jew to apologise for events in Israel as Harris asserts three separate times in his blog post. And no matter whatever way Harris or others try to twist it to infer that this was the reality of the situation, the simple fact remains that he didn't. And the incident in question in no way shows any connotation of equating the individual with the actions of a state.

The inference that the shouting out of 'or Gaza' as the Rabbi said "....or Sudan or Rwanda" is in someway the equivalent to demanding that the Rabbi should apologise ,as a Jew, for the actions of the Israeli state is ridiculous. Was the Rabbi there to apologise for events in Germany/Poland/Sudan/Rwanda as he listed the various attrocities carried out there? Clearly not, so why does the addition of Gaza to the list bring with it the connotation that there is an expectation of an apology from an individual Jew for the actions of the Israeli state?

Was John impolite or culturally insensitive? perhaps, but anti-semitic in comment or intent? I don't see it at all.

I also find it a bit odd to be heckled in one of the comments above for not focussing solely & purely on the event in question and instead bringing other factors into the mix to perhaps highlight the intent of Harris's inference (putting aside the fact for the moment the naive idealism that exists in such a view that we can analyse events around us, devoid of & abstracted from the material circumstances in which they take place within). Harris himself did exactly this with his somewhat hysterical and sensationalist inference about what he thought Hamilton actually intended by his comment of 'or Gaza'.

As to the little story about Harris and his supporting of the publishing & awarding of 'star letter' status to a vile homophobic rant - well it was posted with ironic intention to highlight the very game that Harris himself is playing (as I thought the comment immediately preceding it would have made clear). The difference with this incident however is there was no doubt about Harris's support for publication of the letter and the editorial decision of the newspaper to award it 'star letter' status. Unlike the conjecture and (imo) politically motivated inference that is present in Harris's irresponsible post on this blog. He seems to be following the swappie/liberal tendency to view racism inherently present in everything that white working class people do. This approach of course is widely recognised as being utterly destructive to actual anti-racism. Pity folk on here don't take the same approach with lazy and politically motivated accusations of anti-semitism. Instead we now see separate posts on this blog, referring to the event subtitled 'anti-Semitism in Lewisham'.

For the record, I could have voted for John's party at the last elections but didn't as I believed that any challenge to Labour from the left has to be one rooted in deep and strong engagement, relevance and activity in working class communities. I didn't see that from PBP at the time so decided to abstain instead. So the idea that I'm one of John's supporters who will defend him against anything due to party loyalty is pretty misguided.

Jimmy said...

John said:I wasn't asking him to apologise for anything, merely ensuring that his list was more complete.

Did you make sure he also mentioned Sri Lanka, Iraq, Algeria, Cambodia, Argentina?
No. You just shouted 'Gaza'. Did you interupt anybody else's speech or just the Jew responsible for the deaths of 600-700 civilians?

Whilst the deaths 700 people (civilians or armed) is to be regretted, to compare it to the suffering of the populations in Rwanda, Native Americans, or Gypsies and Jews in the holocaust, is to demostrate your failure to understand the enormity and the motivation of real genocides.

The Contentious Centrist said...

"And the incident in question in no way shows any connotation of equating the individual with the actions of a state."

The "individual" whom Hamilton chose to heckle with his "Gaza" shout is a British citizen. The state this shout invokes is Israel. Don't you think it would have been more sincere and appropriate to shout "Afghanistan!" or "Iraq!", then? Why wasn't the impulse to make the list "more complete" directed at the sins of Hamilton's and the Rabbi's presumably native country? Wherefore has this Gaza and its demonization of Israel sprung from? Could it be because the "individual" was a Jew and the occasion a memorial for the Holocaust?

Dot hese people actually believe themselves when they make these arguments?

bob said...

Ross, I get your point, but I don't agree. Most simply, there is absolutely no logic to adding Gaza to a list of genocides. You have to ask, then, why he added it, or what function it serves by being added.

And I repeat what I asked Max: would he (or you, John, if you're still here) have said this if the speaker had been an imam or pastor?

On the specific thing about Swuppie denunciations of white working class "racism", I don't class this in the same category at all. John Hamilton is an astute political operator, an intellectual, a member or ex-member of a vanguard party, and the what he said has nothing to do with the sort of sentiments in any way typical of the white working class in Britain. From my experience, there are very low levels of anti-Zionist antisemitism, or any kind of anti-Zionism, among ordinary white working class people; it is something you learn only when you are inducted into the cobweb left, and is much more a common feature of ruling class liberals. Most ordinary white working class people in Britain, if it is at all possible to generalise, are more likely than not to be fairly positive towards Israel, and unlikely to think Gaza should be added to a list of genocides.

Btw, I think PBP in Lewisham is probably more broad-based and locally rooted than many Trot front anti-cuts campaigns and coalitions sprouting up around the country, although that's not a very good standard to aspire to...

The Contentious Centrist said...

To Jimmy:

Between 1,100 and 1,400 Gazans (other estimates vary downwards)were killed during the war. Of whom, 600-700 were civilians.

From 2009:

"UPDATE, March 27: The IDF has released its official accounting of Gaza fatalities. According to the report, 709 out of 1004 fatalities whose status is known have been identified as militants. The other 295 who have been identified consisted of 89 children under the age of 16, 49 women and 157 civilian adult males. A further 162 fatalities are unclassified. These figures are sharply at odds with those provided by PCHR and other Palestinian sources. "

http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=2&x_outlet=118&x_article=1603

From November 2010 report:

"Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hamad's admission that Hamas and affiliated militias lost 600-700 fighters in the Israeli "Cast Lead" military operation undermines the central accusation of the Goldstone Report that the Israeli operation was "premised on a deliberate policy of disproportionate force aimed ... [at] the civilian population."

The public, however, is unlikely to know this, because Hamad's remarks have been largely ignored by major news organizations, like the New York Times and the BBC.

Hamad's comments were made in an interview published in the London Arabic daily Al Hayat on Nov. 1, 2010 and reported by Agence France Presse (AFP), the Jerusalem Post and others. According to AFP, he stated

"They say the people suffered from this war, but is Hamas not part of the people? On the first day of the war Israel targeted police stations and 250 martyrs were killed, from Hamas and other factions," he told the paper.

"In addition to them, between 200 and 300 fighters from the Al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas's armed wing) and another 150 security forces were martyred."
(AFP, Nov. 1, 2010)"

http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=2&x_outlet=118&x_article=1952

Waterloo Sunset said...

@ Ross

If Hamilton is doing decent anti-cuts work (and I see no reason to doubt you that he is), this kind of cobweb fuckwittery is even more indefensible.

Even if I take your word that Harris has deliberately played this one for cynical advantage (and New Labour types don't get the benefit of the doubt on that), he wouldn't have been able to if Hamilton hadn't been dumb enough to behave in a way to give him the ammunition.

What has this kind of metropolitan middle class obsession with Israel got to do with meaningful working class politics in the first place?

Ross said...

Bob - think we'll need to agree to disagree on this one. Partly as I don't have time to argue it out here and partly because it's clear you and others here clearly have this comment down as anti-semitic and no amount of discussion is really going to change our respective positions on this. I'm sure you'll agree however that we do seem to find common cause on most of the issues that we have discussed here over the years and my intervention in this discussion is based on my genuine and considered appraisal of the situation.

Quickly before I go though:-

Re your point though about there being no logic to adding Gaza to the list. There is no logic for the assertion that adding Gaza to the list meant that Hamilton was demanding the Rabbi apologise for the Israeli state's actions - as I said earlier the Rabbi wasn't apologising for any of the other atrocities , so why does the addition of Gaza suddenly turn it into an apologising thing. So it's clear that logic isn't really playing much of a role here at all.

Re the parallel with swappie crys of racism - I think you've misunderstood the point I was trying to make. I wasn't drawing a parallel with the content or manner of it, but instead the effect or impact of it - i.e. if people go around crying wolf with no substantive reason to do so, it devalues the very thing itself and is utterly counterproductive to any fight against racism/anti-semitism etc.. If every event or act can somehow have racism or anti-semitism squeezed out of it then everything and nothing is racist/anti-semitic.

Re PBP, i certainly didn't mean to compare them to any trot front anti-cuts groups - just that I saw a lack of a genuine anchored practical working class orientation in the area I live in.

@ WS

I agree with you about the obsession of the British left with Israel in particular and the middle east in general. I've commented on here many times on this very topic and the selectiveness of topics to coattail on - for example the massacre of nearly 200 protestors in one day in Guinea alongside orchestrated rapes in September 2009 raised not a peep from the left blogosphere at a time when countless words were being churned out about the Iranian demonstrations that were going on at the same time. I've always maintained that until the left in Britain make themselves relevant in their own backyard (and therefore command a certain amount of clout as a result of that relevance) their infatuations with romanticised far away struggles are more about making themselve feel good as individuals and are a complete waste of time politically. We in the IWCA have consistently made this position clear and tediously and consistently get labelled racist from the liberal and trot left for doing so (ditto for pointing out the complete and utter failure of official state backed political multiculturalism). But back on topic, cobweb fuckwittery, dumb actions or no meaningful working class politics perhaps, but anti-semitic? definitely not.

The Contentious Centrist said...

Let the record show that Ross did not answer the question why Hamilton inserted the Gaza shout, or what function it served by being added.

ModernityBlog said...

"this comment down as anti-semitic and no amount of discussion is really going to change our respective positions on this. "

That does show a certain contempt for the people here, when you argue that they couldn't ever be won over by lucid arguments.

I assure you that isn't the case.

Most people here are rational and can be won over by reason, if you have the capacity to employ it.

Equally, you would have to take into account all the counterarguments, the parallels, etc "How many people would shout at an Imam about Sudan and not be thought as a bigot, or worse?"

Anonymous said...

"I'm not a member of John's party"

If referring to LPBP then, again, it is not 'johns party', he is a member of the party, and not the 'leader' either (that being a titular role anyway).

bob said...

On whether LPBP is or isn't "John's party": I accept he may not be the formal "leader", but he is very much the public face of the group - e.g. its most prominent candidate over the years, is focus of 5 of 15 campaign videos on website plus is in a sixth, etc. I am interested in what kind of party democracy there is in LPBP?

Ross, it is true that the too hasty accusation of racism diminishes anti-racism. Harris does not, however, say that Hamilton was antisemitic, but rather that it "stuck in [his] craw", which I think is the right reaction.

I am not primarily interested in whether it was antisemitic by intent, and think the issue of intent is too difficult terrain; my belief is, first, that it was antisemitic in effect, and, secondly, that it reveals something in the air on the left, which is a total and utter disproportionality about Israel/Palestine in in general and Gaza in particular.

There is no logic for the assertion that adding Gaza to the list meant that Hamilton was demanding the Rabbi apologise for the Israeli state's actions - as I said earlier the Rabbi wasn't apologising for any of the other atrocities , so why does the addition of Gaza suddenly turn it into an apologising thing.
Yes, I guess this is true. But it leads me to ask again: would Hamilton have said this if an imam or pastor was speaking? I can't imagine he would.

It was not simply using a (totally inappropriate) platform to make a political point about Gaza: it was the Jew (the rabbi) who was the object of his interjection.

Anonymous said...

"I am interested in what kind of party democracy there is in LPBP?"

you have simply to come to one of our meetings to find out all (and possibly more) that you need - many of us are very busy with the 'carnival for cuts' (Feb 19th) at the moment but I'll let you know when there's an open meeting

invitation extends to Ross as well (as well as anyone else) so Ross especially can be part of our 'rooted in deep and strong engagement' (that'll be you Ross) movement.

modernity said...

As I doubt we will hear back from John Hamilton, I would like to ask our anonymous Lewisham People Before Profit person:

Internally, has anyone brought up these points to John Hamilton and explained to him that he hasn't enhanced People Before Profit's reputation one bit? In fact, the opposite.

Has anyone? I'd like to know.

Waterloo Sunset said...

you have simply to come to one of our meetings to find out all (and possibly more) that you need - many of us are very busy with the 'carnival for cuts' (Feb 19th) at the moment but I'll let you know when there's an open meeting

Chap, I know this is hard for Londoners to understand, but there is actually intelligent life north of the Watford Gap.

In other words, unless you clarify here, it is logistically unlikely I can find out anything like that by attending a meeting at the other end of the country.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if you have the interweb up there old chap, but a visit to a website might be a good first stop:

http://www.lewishampeopleb4profit.org.uk/

Morbid Symptoms said...

I've no time for Lewisham councillors and their cuts, and Mike Harris is clearly looking to discredit a political thorn in the Labour Group's side. Unfortunately that doesn't mean that he is wrong on this occasion.

Bottom line for me is that shouting out at a Rabbi on Holocaust Memorial Day is just not on.

I don't think that JH is anti-semitic in intent, but there's a simple rule I apply to judge whether something has anti-semitic content, regardless of intent: is something being treated differently (more negatively) because Jewish people are involved, or believed to be involved?

So I don't think there's anything anti-semitic about opposing the actions of the Israeli state in Gaza from a consistent perspective (say a total pacifist or anarchist/communist view of opposing all state violence). But if Gaza is treated radically differently from other similar conflicts you have to ask why? And when any comparison is made between the actions of Israel and the Holocaust well you don't even need to ask why. Nobody would make that comparison if Jews weren't involved - people don't generally accuse the Americans or British of genocide in Afghanistan although at least as many innocent civilians have been killed there.

Anonymous said...

If we are to take the request of mentioning Gaza as a request for an apology, surely we should count every other genocide mentioned?
The list was clearly not intended as a list of apologies from the Jewish communities, because on it Rwanda and the Holocaust were mentioned.
Taken out of context, it may seem that John was asking a Rabbi to apologise for the actions of the Israeli state, but in context, it is clear that nothing of the sort was trye

Bob said...

But, Anonymous, it was only Gaza that John called out to the rabbi. It was the rabbi himself that mentioned the others, so your point does not follow.

modernity said...

Bob,

Are Lewisham People Before Profit big down your way?

Cos it seems to me that they have many of these repellent habits of Last Century's politicos (the inability to argue coherently, and a distinct dislike of answering questions)

The Lewisham PBP web site seems a bit fixated with leaders, or one leader, John Hamilton.

Or is it just like a freelance version of the Lefties political cults of old?

If so, then it is a shame, as WS said:

"If Hamilton is doing decent anti-cuts work (and I see no reason to doubt you that he is), this kind of cobweb fuckwittery is even more indefensible."

Bob said...

Are Lewisham People Before Profit big down your way?

Depends how you measure "big". In the council elections last year, they came last more or less everywhere they stood, with 200 to 400 votes, with one ward (New Cross) where they got I think 600 or so - but the places where they might be expected to have done best also had a very credible Green party presence which took a significant chunk of the radical vote. In the ward where they didn't stand, the Socialist Party (with whom they had a pact) got over 1000. The huge turnout for Labour in Lewisham was a factor, as people like me were panicked by Cameron-fear into going back to a Labour vote.

In the mayoral election, however, Hamilton's personal vote was much more impressive, 6000, but that was still 5th, behind the Greens, and should be compared to Labour's 47,000. The better showing the mayoral election arguably shows that Hamilton is there most well known personality, or it might also reflect Steve Bullock's declining glamour.

Hamilton is a personality from his prominence in very popular campaigns on issues like swimming pool and school closures going back a few years.

modernity said...

But Bob, you know that a few election results don't really mean much.

The problem is the internal contradictions, inherent in so many Leninist/fake Leninist grouplets and one-time Leninists, that dog these campaigns.

Ego, power and that wonderfully condescending attitude found amongst politicos means that so many potential successes fail.

I hope Lewisham People Before Profit do good work on the anti-cuts campaigns, but I can't help thinking that fragile egos and political manoeuvring may well be its eventual downfall... time will tell..

bob said...

I agree Mod. The phrase "people before profit" was, I think, the slogan of the Socialist Alliance, the only formation, in my memory in the UK, since the Anti-Poll Tax Unions, to break out of this left cage on any kind of trans-local scale, and possibly something of its spirit survives in LPBP.

(Of course, the Trot sects and the SWP in particular killed the SA... So the risk of any such formations being killed in this moment is very large.)

modernity said...

Bob,

I think the problem is, the baggage.

Once people have been thru these cults and grouplets it often shapes their thinking in ways they don't realise and they frequently bring along the worst aspects of fake Leninism to their new organisations or groups, who fail in turn as John Sullivan showed.

That's not to say, that *everyone* who goes thru these groupings comes out irreparably damaged but it is hardly coincidence that in Britain group after group failed, campaign after campaign ran into problems (look at the NSSN, etc).

Still, I hope Lewisham People Before Profit succeed before the egos kick in.

Anonymous said...

I can't see the point in being ingenuous about this. Interrupting a solemn and poignant ceremony with a single word - Gaza - as a way of drawing attention to a highly complex situation and suggesting it is another example of so-called genocide (NB: not my definition)implies hypocrisy on the part of a Jew in speaking about the Holocaust while his fellow-Jews are engaged in supposedly similar actions. In what world can this possibly NOT be seen as anti-Semitic?

I applaud Rev Amit's dignified response.

davebrockly said...

Its strange how the left are in favour of immigration into this country as I am but seem to be against it in Palestine.
If a group such as the BNP went about murdering Muslims because they were worried they were going to take over in the uk I’m sure Mr Hamilton like me would try and stop it.
Though in palestine/israel Mr Hamilton seems more on the side of those who want wipe out recent Jewish immigrants and their indigenous counterparts
That’s why its so hypocritical of Mr Hamilton to be only concerned for the people of Gaza .

If mr Hamilton reads his history books he will know that many palestinians didn’t want immigrants escaping Nazi Germany to make it to Palestine. The Arab revolt of 36-39 and its attempt to kill Jews and oppose British rule encouraged the British to clamp down on escaping Jewish refugees.

So in a way Mr Hamilton was right to connect Gaza with the holocaust because the Palestinians of the 30,s and 40,s must share the blame of denying Jews a refuge.

Of course it doesn’t end their the mufti of Jerusalem helped raise two ss divisions of Bosnians and encouraged the final solution. The mufti promised that Palestinians would assist the einsatzgruppen in eliminating the Jews of Palestine

The missiles that hit Israel from Gaza are named qassam after the leader of the muftis militia.
So today’s Hama’s killers are directly linked to those who murdered Jews ,immigrants or not .


Next time Mr Hamilton wants to mention Gaza please remind him that the people of Gaza elected people who are disappointed the holocaust was never implemented in full in Palestine. That Hama’s want to drive both immigrants and indigenous Jews into the sea.

please remind Mr Hamilton that Hamas have declared that Jewish children in England should be murdered as a consequence of Israel actions in Gaza.

So yes Mr Hamilton you were right to link Gaza to the holocaust just not quite in the way I’m sure you intended.

I do feel a certain sympathy for Mr Hamilton if he reads the independent and watches channel 4 . They won’t be reporting the real links between Gaza and the holocaust.
however mr Hamilton will enjoy the fact that independent has printed anti-Semitic material from its journalists. He will probably enjoy "the Promise" because channel 4 like directors whose hero is someone who believe Israel shouldn’t exist

As for Gaza being comparable to other genocides .
well not many genocides see the population rising in Gaza from 250,000 in early 70,s to 1.5 million now

Interesting though Mr Hamilton how your justification for saying recent events in Gaza were genocide :just happen to use the same criteria and argument the NF/Bnp use when saying the white race is facing genocide in the uk.


maybe the far left and the faright aren’t as far apart as they pretend.

As for the reverend well why get into a row at a council event .
Still I bet Mr Hamilton got a round of beer bought from him from his Trotskyite friends .
Lets be honest shouting out Gaza when a 75 year old is speaking is the height of bravery .
Try exercising your democratic right Mr Hamilton by interrupting a speech by a hamas leader in Gaza and you might not be so lucky .
Try saying Fatah and you might end up taking a permanent dive.

please keep highlighting the link between Gaza and the holocaust I know I will

Lisa said...

The Holocaust between 1939 and 1945 was not just a time when Jews were killed. Gays and socialists and Romany people were also targeted.
The Rabbi chose to make the link with contemporary genocides.
Unless Israelis and people who support Israel start speaking out against the violence that is being perpetrated there and start campaigning for it to stop how will it end? As a pacifist I am against all war and all violence past, present and future. We must speak against all violence and not pretend that some is worst than others.

modernity said...

Lisa,

Please could you remind me which ethnic group was targeted for *complete* extermination?

And after that, could you tell us when (which year) anti-Jewish laws were implemented in Germany?

bob said...

Indeed not just Jews were targeted in the Nazi Holocaust. It was an act of genocide against the Roma too, and many other people were killed. It was a crime against the Jews and it was a crime against humanity. It was part of a continuum of human inhumanity, but it stands out from the rest of the continuum, which is why we commemorate it with special solemnity on days like the Holocaust memorial day.

It is not true that no act of violence is worse than any other. A child slapping her mother in rage is not the same as a mother slapping her child in cruelty. It is grotesque to try to apply some kind of comparative calculus of violence, but on any conceivable scale the Holocaust stands out as radically different from and worse than what has happened in Gaza.

I agree that Israelis and supporters of Israel have a duty to speak out against Israeli state violence, as British people have a duty to speak out about British state violence. But this has nothing to do with the Holocaust, with Holocaust memorial day, with Lewisham, or with the rabbi invited to speak here. There is no way in which commemorating the Holocaust can be made conditional on uttering the name of other acts of oppression, by Jews or not. I make no presumptions about the rabbi's opinion on Israel, and whether he does or does not speak out in any other context, and whether I would expect him to - but in this situation, he had absolutely no reason to mention Gaza, and to heckle him from the floor and call for him to do so is obscene.

davebrockly said...

Funny isn,t it when Mr Hamilton shouted out Gaza he wasn,t talking about the 700+ Fatah members and others killed since Hamas took over in gaza.
Hamas actualy killed more Palestinians during the gaza war than israelis.
Perhaps Mr hamilton will be hoping Hizbollah do a much better job on the Israelis.

If you care about Palestinians dont just remember the Fatah members Mr Hamilton.Don,t forget the 20.000 Palestinians killed by the Jordanians in the 70,s or the thousands killed in Lebanon in the late 80,s by the shite Amal and the Syrians.

All the above wern,t killed by jews and if you wern,t killed by jews well Mr Hamilton just isn,t quite as interested in you.