Thursday, June 16, 2011

Untitled



That's 21-year old Hagit Yasou, of Ethiopian origin but from Sderot in the Western Negev, singing in Arabic on Israel's "A Star is Born" talent show. Kind of puts the X Factor into perspective. (H/t The Blank Pages)

What else? Flesh on a broader definition of antisemitism; Roland on postmodernism and the death of solidariy; Greens Engage on Cynthia and Jello; Martin on Grayling, Glasman, Ken and Noam; Paul  Anderson on libertarian socialism in a cold climate; Nick Cohen on MF Husain and censorship; Rebecca on the beauty of Jerusalem; Richard S with some Paul Mattick Jr on socialism or barbarism; the AWL for a union campaign against antisemitism and on Libya, anti-imperialism and the Socialist Party; Hikmet Karcic on the Visegrad massacre; Neil on Nazi iconography in football; Marko from the archive on the left revisionists on the Balkans; Carl on Chavez, anti-Zionism and antisemitism; Michael Walzer from the Golan Heights; James Bloodworth on George Orwell the socialist; Richard on the Heygate, Broadgate and green capitalism; Transpontine on Brixton's anti-poll tax movement; Adam Barnett on Pamela Geller the genocide denier; linkage on Ratko Mladic from Kellie and mainly but not just on Iz/Pal from Matt.

Also Darren's long series on Class War: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. I've printed it out to read properly.

And from a totally different place, I only just noticed that Ben Cohen has his own website, with media punditry here, and a blog here. I saw this, on Brixtonian Mike Jones formerly of the The Clash on Jewishness and the Libyan uprising. (Is "brogue" the right word for a South London accent?) And on Mladic's appeasers and Yale's downgrading of antisemitism scholarship.

19 comments:

skidmarx said...

If you look at back copies of the YIISA newsletter, it is noticeable that the majority of their "Shorter Links" are about Israeli foreign policy concerns.I've commented on a couple of the posts you link to so I won't bother to provoke an unwanted argument, though I am curious as to whether Flesh thinks it is right that the EUMC might be used to accuse Roberta Moore an antisemite for using the word "kapo" or not.[I'd tend to say that it's an unpleasant bit of Holocaust trivialization, but hardly racism]
Oh , and Deborah Lipstadt seems to see two sides to the YIISA story.
As you link often to Pajamas Media, you might want to note that one post has caused outrage recently.

Flesh said...

"whether Flesh thinks it is right that the EUMC might be used to accuse Roberta Moore an antisemite for using the word "kapo" or not."

If Roberta Moore-far-right-pro-Israel types hold the Jewish community responsible for Israel, the WD prompts consideration of whether that is antisemitic.

I'd say that calling that many Jews kapos is a calculated tactic to hurt them as Jews. Why shouldn't we think of that as antisemitic?

skidmarx said...

I'd say that calling that many Jews kapos is a calculated tactic to hurt them as Jews
Yes, I think I'd agree.
Why shouldn't we think of that as antisemitic?
1. Because it's a category error. Anti-semitic insults are ones that treat Jewishness as a discreditable quality, this is doing the opposite. It should be needless to say, but I don't approve of what she says or how she says it.[I'd say the same about comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany, they are designed to hurt supporters of Israel, might sometimes be hyperbolic and unreasonable, but are the opposite of anti-semitic as the power of the words comes from the comparison with the greatest enemy of Jews. If the WD doesn't agree, so much the worse for it]
2.The charge of anti-semitism hopefully carries a strong meaning, which would be diluted by its overuse when not appropriate.

fleshisgrass said...

Since reading Roland's piece on post-modernism I have to pause for thought about discourse, and I also agree with you Skidmarx that dilution of the term antisemitism through overuse would be a problem. That said, I've encountered many anti-Zionist activists who practically explode with righteous indignation when challenged on grounds of antisemitism, and none who smile with pride, so on your number 2 I think there's the opposite danger to dilution - in fact antisemitism is taboo and cannot be confronted properly. An overly narrow definition will not help here.

Skidmarx says: "Anti-semitic insults are ones that treat Jewishness as a discreditable quality..."

I think that's the Sue Blackwell definition ("hostility to Jews as Jews") which Israel boycott campaigners argued for at UCU's conference.

"...this is doing the opposite.

Yes, it sets up the Holocaust as a gold standard of evil and then by association constructs Jewish political opponents as - like you say - the greatest enemy of the Jews.

"it's a category error."

Depends on whether we're more concerned with intent or impact. We can hopefully agree that 'Zionists' has long been used as a euphemism for Jews (see Carl's piece among Bob's links above, for example). And anti-Zionism is frequently expressed in ways familiar with anybody who knows about antisemitism.

In every other case of bullying, harassment, discrimination, on grounds or race, religion, nationality, or other characteristics, UCU emphasises the impact of the acts, rather than their intent. But, as well as making an exception for Israeli academics who apparently require immeasurably more scrutiny than academics from anywhere else (anti-Israel discrimination), it has made an exception for Jews who raise concerns about antisemitism with respect to anti-Israel campaigning. I think I'd say that is a category error.

I'm hoping you agree that there is a prejudice and discrimination which characterises anti-Israeli campaigning, which affects Jews directly or indirectly, and that your reservations about the use of the term antisemitism are like Brian Klug's, who thought that a different name for anti-Zionist anti-Jewish prejudice and discrimination would be helpful in avoiding anti-Zionism becoming synonymous with antisemitism.

bob said...

I think this is an interesting and important question, and I am in two minds about it myself. Is something offensive and draws on antisemitic themes necessarily antisemitic? Which is more important, racist intent or racist effect?

It is true that the term antisemitism is diluted by some people who see it everywhere. It is also true, though, that the refusal to see it hardly anywhere (as with Lerman, Kuper, Blackwell, Hunt, etc) seems to be increasingly the dominant position among liberals and leftists, and has led (as in the UCU motion) to the closure of whole areas of debate about antisemitism. This makes it difficult to have the conversation we need to have.

Sarah AB said...

The references to diluting the term perhaps chime with something on Flesh's own recent post - about how there are degrees of antisemitism and one shouldn't think it the worst insult in the world if one drifts, marginally or inadvertently, into a trope or whatever. The very fact that antisemitism is associated with the Holocaust creates a special anxiety around the charge, and ironically makes it more difficult for people to engage with appropriate concern to invitations to think again about the discourse they use.

A comparison could be drawn with this Lib Con thread about sexism

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/06/16/benevolent-sexism-sideshow-or-battleground/

No one seemed to have a problem with the idea that sexism might be a difficult area to police scientifically and that much might depend on context. Someone said that he'd never compliment a woman on her appearance for fear of giving offence. Just as there are competing interests at stake WRT antisemitism (need to be able to criticise Israel) so there are competing interests at stake here (danger of men being unfairly charged with harassment) - yet no one said 'oh these more marginal aspects of sexism could be used to target men maliciously, so we should ignore them and refuse to discuss them.'

I remember a lecturer giving a paper where he explained how a female colleague had made him see that he was being (slightly) sexist in some of his assumptions. It is difficult to imagine anyone standing up and saying they used to be a little bit antisemitic in such a comparatively relaxed way. Yet because sexism was a less anxiety-inducing 'ism' he was actually better able to face up to his shortcomings.

skidmarx said...

I've encountered many anti-Zionist activists who practically explode with righteous indignation when challenged on grounds of antisemitism, and none who smile with pride
If this proves anything, it is that none of them are consciously anti-semitic.
I'm hoping you agree that there is a prejudice and discrimination which characterises anti-Israeli campaigning,
You may be disappointed. There may be some discrimination in the neutral sense of choosing to campaign on I/P rather than other issues, but I have never come across anyone whose commitment to the Palestinian side seems due to ignorance rather than knowledge of what is going on.

skidmarx said...

There would seem to be a parallel with George Carlin and Bill Maher's desire to define fascism as "when the corporations take over" here.

Sarah AB said...

I think the answers given here provide a useful gloss (indirectly) on the question about the term 'kapo'

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100420120638AAL4L4r

Flesh said...

Skidmarx, "If this proves anything, it is that none of them are consciously anti-semitic."
It may indicate that none of them think that disliking Jews is an acceptable dislike.

"You may be disappointed."
Yes, I'm disappointed again. Wow, you really are determined to misunderstand the concern of the EHRC, the BoD, the CST, OSCE, untold numbers of resignees from UCU, the well-documented incidents on Engage, and you don't even bother to acknowledge them. I'm bored and you are sinister (Bob don't censor me for what is quite a good pun).

Flesh said...

Sarah, "Yet because sexism was a less anxiety-inducing 'ism' he was actually better able to face up to his shortcomings."

I think we're wondering whether poor self-image on the part of people with antisemitic beliefs might be the tripwire in this anti-antisemitism business?.

This reminds me of Jonathan Safran Foer's book Eating Animals. JSF thinks that it's a disgust of hypocrisy that makes it impossible for so many people to contemplate the idea of change. His entire book is predicated on avoiding that particular trip-wire, with the result that he is listened to, avoids controversy, gets to massage animal eaters into a hypocritical space where cutting down without going (sorry) cold turkey can be contemplated while feeling good about themselves. And that is how he saves and improves animals' lives, to the extent that he even managed a big readership in Germany, one of the world's biggest meat cultures.

But, ranged behind the nice, mild, understanding Jonathan Safran Foer are many flinty uncompromising animal rights activists who had the clarity of mind to feel more disgust about the lives and deaths of farmed animals than about the prospect of being a bit of a hypocrite. JSF thinks they failed tactically but at the same time he would be lost without them - he says "It’s good to surround yourself with people who keep you honest".

And if Jonathan Safran Foer were to turn his hand to persuading anti-Israel activists to recognise antisemitism in the same outreach vein as he dealt with persuading animal eaters to confront suffering, it wouldn't come out of a vacuum - behind him would be the uncompromising antagonists of antisemitism - the Hirshes, Garrards, Juliuses - we know and love.

On your kapo link, this just about summed it up "African Americans in this country will continue to be marginalized as long as they feel the majority feel the need to act/vote in a bloc". Calling a Jew a kapo is a dog whistle that that Jew cannot act in any other way than as a Jew. That is why I think it is racist.

Bob's question I need to give more thought to.

Martin Robb said...

Thanks for the link to my post, Bob - and for the video of Hagit Yasou. An Ethiopian singing in Arabic on Israeli TV - that's true multiculturalism/cosmopolitanism - as opposed to communalism - for you.

skidmarx said...

untold numbers of resignees from UCU
Or the numbers that have not resigned are untold? What seems to escape the notice of those slamming the UCU is that the argument "You must be racist if you don't accept our definition of racism" is not a way to win friends and influence people.
I could expand on the theme of how Israel's drop in popularity over the last 30 years can be far more easily traced to its own actions than to any supposed autonomous rise in anti-semitism, but there are none so blind as those who will not see.
Saw this guy on al-Jazeera last night.

bob said...

Martin, thank you - and yes indeed!

Thank you Sarah and Flesh for really interesting and thought-provoking contributions.

As for Skid, although the original questions he raised are important, I think his responses have amplified the complicity in racism of his whole line of argument. Skid is far from unique in this, and his position is most ably put by Jews like Lerman and Kuper, but I find this whole line of thought abhorrent.

For example, when Sarah says "I've encountered many anti-Zionist activists who practically explode with righteous indignation when challenged on grounds of antisemitism, and none who smile with pride", he replies: "If this proves anything, it is that none of them are consciously anti-semitic."

If we had not had this discussion here again and again, this could be taken simply as missing the point. But because we have discussed this again and again, it is not missing the point but a refusal to acknowledge some simple truths about racism which are accepted by all anti-racists and any person with an ounce of normal morality, i.e. that "being consciously anti-semitic" is a complete irrelevance. The people that owned slaves were in most cases not "consciously racist"; the people who spew bile about immigrants and Asians often start their sentences "I'm not racist but". Few people believe that they are racist, and one of the important steps in anti-racism is enabling people to learn where they are and to start to dismantle it. If "conscious anti-semitism" is taken as the only indicator of antisemitism then of course it doesn't exit. This refusal to see the most basic and elementary facts about racism, when it is persistent and utterly resistant to all argument and evidence refuting it, becomes active complicity in racism. [continued...]

bob said...

And we see the same thing again in the next thought. Flesh says: "I'm hoping you agree that there is a prejudice and discrimination which characterises anti-Israeli campaigning" and Skid replies: "You may be disappointed. There may be some discrimination in the neutral sense of choosing to campaign on I/P rather than other issues, but I have never come across anyone whose commitment to the Palestinian side seems due to ignorance rather than knowledge of what is going on."

In this blog, I have detailed dozens, possibly hundreds, of examples of prejudice and discrimination characterising anti-Israeli campaigning. This is not to say that all, or even most, anti-Israel campaigning is racist. But the examples of the slippage between Jewish lobby and Israel lobby, Weir's blood libel, Atzmon and Shamir's Holocaust revisionism, the support and defence for the likes of Weir and Shamir from all sorts of anti-Zionists, mutterings about the Lehman Brothers in UCU meetings, the circulation of David Duke material by anti-Zionists and any number of others constitute a very substantial body of evidence for the infection of anti-Israel campaigning by antisemitism.

This body of evidence cannot be refuted because all of the anti-Israel campaigners you've come across are nice, smart people. That is analogous to Brian of London in that other thread saying "I've met the EDL and they are very nice and not fascist at all". When evidence of prejudice from people's own experience is presented (as in Falastin's account of leftist racial prejudice), Skid dismisses it as not evidence, but somehow his own experience of not hearing any antisemitism is taken to show that it doesn't exist. Falastin, as a Muslim woman, might be taken as a more reliable guide to whether there is prejudice about Muslim women in the left than a white male - this is connected to the MacPherson issue we discussed before, about valuing victims' experiences of racism over the experiences of the "I'm not racist but" and "Some of my best friends are" types.

So, again, we see the persistence of the refusal to take racism seriously, and a refusal to see the facts. Again, when this happens once or twice we could see it as missing the point or ignorance. Its repetition over and over again in the face of refutation becomes complicity with racism.

I allowed this conversation to start, because I think that Skid's original question was important and interesting, and a conversation I'd like us to have. But I don't think I can keep on giving a platform to his nonsense.

Sarah AB said...

Thanks Flesh and Bob - Just following up Bob's comments - what worries me isn't so much the (non-trivial) number of anti-Israel campaigners who are either crudely or more subtly antisemitic. If I felt the more objectionable adherents of a position had the power to taint that position or the people associated with it - then it would be difficult to speak out against, say, extreme Islamism, because there one would obviously have some unwelcome company. What worries me much more is the fact that those who avoid antisemitic discourse nevertheless refuse, to a great degree, to acknowledge that it is a problem in others, in the boycott movement as a whole. I once tried to convince an antizionist that the UCU should not have invited Masuku to speak and her countermove was to say that his most a/s statement - 'Jews are arrogant' - was made when he was being provoked. So what? And whether or not one 'forgives' him on a personal level - that certainly doesn't mean he should speak at a meeting at a union which is supposedly committed to antiracism.

brocklydave said...

I remember seeing a pro palestinian demonstation with banners proclaiming that masons had killed a certain pc .
I didn,t really understand why they didn,t say zionists if thats what they meant .Or were they saying masons as a way of avoiding saying jews.
anyway made me feel uncomfortable .
i don,t understand why so called anti-racists would attend a march with banners like that.
Surely the best way forward for palestinians to reclaim their land is for anti-zionists to reassure israelis they arn,t anti semetic.

darren redstar said...

I cannot, once again, claim responsibility for the classwar series on redstar. that was our James, terror of Paul's comments page. My contribution is restricted to tidying up some of the spellings and removing a few of the names.
James has written another 60,000 or so more words. which he wants to bring together into a (substantial) book/pamphlet.
There are a lot of good ideas in James' work, as well as plenty I disagree with. In my opinion it is well worth plowing through.

bob said...

Darren, thanks - shows how observant a reader I am! I have printed it out and look forward to reading it properly. However, I finally bought the AFA book today, having managed to make it to Freedom Books, and couldn't wait to get stuck into that, so Class War might have to move down the priority list.