Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Jewish Socialist versus the EUMC

The new issue of the reliably excellent Jewish Socialist magazine popped onto my doormat this morning and I browsed it as I ate my lunch. As always, I look forward to reading it from cover to cover, probably the only publication I can say that of.

The very first page, however, includes a short piece on Greens Engage which radically misrepresents the group. It is based on an interview with Joseph Healy, who claims, among other things that "Greens Engage have been using the controversial EUMC definition of antisemitism to make accusations against those in the Green party supporting justice for the Palestinians." In fact, Greens Engage members put forward a motion to a 2008 conference agreeing that "The EU's working definition of antisemitism shall be considered when determining what counts as antisemitism." (The same motion, incidentally, was unequivocally for a Palestinian right of self-determination, which seems like a good definition of supporting justice for Palestinians.) They did not, however, at this point, make any accusations about anyone based on the EUMC definition, and the definition only cropped up again some time later when a Green Party internal committee innocently stumbled upon it in drafting policy on antisemitic language, which then blew up into a new furore, as we know. I may be wrong, but I am not aware of any time that GE have made an accusation against anyone which quotes the definition.

There is also, on p.21, an article by Julia Bard on "the agendas being served by the Community Security Trust". This again (inaccurately I believe) invokes the EUMC WD: "Their definition of the threat is based on the discredited and highly contentious EU Monitoring Committee definition of antisemitism [which it isn't] and their equally contentious response to it [which means I have no idea what]." The main thrust of the argument, however, follows Geoffrey Alderman (a former friend of Jewish Socialist and now somewhat to the right of them) in seeing the CST as unrepresentative and adds that its funding structure echoes Cameron's Big Society, an interesting but not to me convincing point.

Anyways, apart from that, looks good. There's obituaries of Jayaben Desai, Miriam Karlin and Juliano Mer Khamis, a short piece on Tarabut, Moshe Machover, Afif Safieh and Amanda Sebetyen on the Arab spring, David Rosenberg on multiculturalism, the usual Spanish Civil war stuff, Ilana Cravitz on klezmer, Mike Gerber on boxing, Paul Collins on Victor Gollancz, J David Simons on Jewish Glasgow, David Landau on AFA (I will return to that one here when I've digested it), some muckraking on the hideous Israel Shamir, and lots more.

You may want to subscribe. Details below the fold.

Great reading and real value at still only £2 per copy. Subscribe today! £10 for 4 issues inc p&p from JS Publications, BM3725 London WC1N 3XX or print and complete this form.


skidmarx said...

And Charlie Pottins, whose blog is consistently excellent.

Assuming that the Joseph Healy interview took place more recently, I can't see the point of saying that the 2008 conference took place before the EUMC definition was an issue.

I see that Mira Vogel of Greens Engage claimed today that just because it is asserted that AIPAC isn't an agent of a foreign government, it must be true. But then the lack of concern over whether anything she says can be stood up leads her to be 4012 years out on the end date here.
Greens Engage certainly support the idea that those opposing use of the EUMC definition are racists, enthusiastically quoting the CST:
“People who carp and quibble over definitions of racism often have ulterior motives; and even more so, when they seek to outlaw the mere suggestion of a certain definition of racism.”
I think in view of the campaign against the UCU, it's fairly pointless to try and separate the EUMC definition from the desire to brand opponents of Israel as racists, but subject to the overall context go right ahead if that's your idea of a good time.
Talking of the CST, Tony Greenstein wonders why it pays its directors amounts that would give rise to headlines about milking the anti-racism industry, among other things.

Anonymous said...

“People who carp and quibble over definitions of racism often have ulterior motives; and even more so, when they seek to outlaw the mere suggestion of a certain definition of racism.”

Sounds bang on to me. I can't for the life of me fathom why people like Mr Healy are so clearly obsessed with Israel. Apart from the obvious reason.

skidmarx said...

The obvious reason being the dispossession of the Palestinians? No, of course not, that would be far too obvious to be the truth.
And the obsession of supporters of Israel who do little else? That's far more understandable.

Anonymous said...

Many people are dispossessed or oppressed yet do not attract any support, never mind noticeably less support.

I don't support Israel. Nothing in my posts states that. And Israel is really of very little concern to me. I was just noting something that is factually correct and seems to be a common theme. You can verify this by checking green blogs and seeing how many hits Israel gets compared to other 'problem' areas.

Otherwise, you have a good point. Carry on.

Sarah AB said...

A little tangential, but I've just got round to reading 'Shock Doctrine' and thought the chapter on Israel was an interesting example of Israel being criticised in the same way any other country might be, to paraphrase the EUMC WD. That is not to say the criticism isn't strong, and arguably unfair - but only in the same way Klein's criticisms of many other countries could be seen as unfair (depending on your politics). I wondered if others who had read the book agreed - particularly if you are broadly sympathetic to Engage etc.

bob said...

Sarah, haven't read Klein's book, but review in LRB gave me exactly impression you have - that fence/wall is seen as part of global fence/wall trend, rather than unique evil.

Skid, I am also a reader of Charlie Pottins (surprised to see randompottins not on my blogroll, will rectify) despite different position on "Zionism". Apart from that, I think you are talking nonsense. Idea that we should be opposed to AIPAC because it is a "foreign agent" is bullshit which smacks of Maccarthyism and Protocols thinking. I did not say that GE don't think that those who OPPOSE eumc are racists; I said they didn't USE eumc to make accusations. I may be wrong, but neither Healy nor you has given any example.

bob said...

Tony G, channelling well known campaigner for Palestinian justice, Geoffrey Alderman, gives some figures for CST salaries. TG claims people "like" two named main CST people get enormous salaries, Alderman's figure shows only one of them does (yes, quite a large amount in my world, I'm not disagreeing with that) and then complains about all the others getting salaries, but the average salary apart from the director from those figures is about £29K, not so enormous. If that's as bad as it gets in CST, I think Alderman and Tony are clutching at straws.

skidmarx said...

Idea that we should be opposed to AIPAC because it is a "foreign agent" is bullshit which smacks of Maccarthyism and Protocols thinking.
Again with the distortions. The argument is that because it works on behalf of a foreign power it should be registered as such, I don't know if I necessarily agree, but to describe the argument in the hysterical way you do is to demean those who faced McCarthyite witch-hunts, and as for the Protocols reference, words fail me.
Again on the EUMC, your point was that GE weren't using the EUMC to bash people with in 2008, and my question was whether this was the period Healy was talking about. Again the idea that anti-Israel activity is not the target of accusations of anti-semitism when it's one of the main planks of Ronnie Fraser's action against the UCU, cheered on by Engage, GE and so on, and that the EUMC definition wasn't intended to make such accusations easier to make doesn't merit much thought.

Tony Greenstein says that two members of the CST get £150K. He doesn't say people like them are getting it, you are playing on the ambiguity of "like" to distort what he says. I see a comparison with the ridicule heaped on "Gaza party boats" at Engage,GE and so on, or the attacks on solidarity tourism, the idea that people make a career out of pro-Palestinian activity and all of that sort of rubbish.

Correction: Mira Vogel was only 4011 years out at GE. I forgot there is no 0 CE.

I note that Naomi Klein is a supporter of BDS, so the idea that she is in the camp of those whose mild criticism of Israel isn't desired to be made illegal by EUMC definition supporters may be misplaced.

bob said...

Naomi Klein: I don't consider BDS as such to be racist, nor do I consider "de-legitimisation" of Israel as racist; those who do would obviously see Klein as racist, and I would disagree with them. However, I see singling out Israel as a unique evil unto the world (as some BDS advocates do) can be racist. Klein does not do that, and in my view anyone using the EUMC WD as their yardstick for antisemitism would not finger Klein. Her position is highly critical of Israel's policies, but she criticises them using the types of discourse and arguments that normal discourse uses about other repressive or authoritarian states - i.e. it is an example of the sort of criticism of Israel that the EUMC WD explicitly says is fine. So, the point is that the EUMC WD does not silence criticism of Israel. I don't think that's a complicated point.

AIPAC: "Right-wing" law and order types might want to make a big deal of whether AIPAC falls into some obscure legal category of "alien agent" or whatever it is your comrade Allan called it in his excavation of US law, but from the mouth of a noble "left-wing" person such as yourself that language is odd. I mean, how many times have you had bystanders shouting "go back to Russia" to you while on demonstrations? I thought you guys were all about "dissent", and indeed revolution?

Joseph Healy: It doesn't matter whether he was talking about 2008 or 2011. GE talked about the EUMC WD in 2008, and then barely until non-GE people in the Green Party stumbled upon it while trying to formulate a policy on antisemitic language, at which point they, the ones who used the EUMC definition, were silenced within the Greens. Neither GE nor Ronnie Fraser, to my knowledge, has used the EUMC WD in making a case against critics of Israel. If you have an example, you will no doubt correct me. Fraser's action is not using the EUMC WD to make an accusation; his action is saying that UCU's banning of the WD constitutes racism. I don't think that is complicated either.

Levi9909 said...

"Many people are dispossessed or oppressed yet do not attract any support, never mind noticeably less support."

Which existing people have been and are being dispossessed solely on account of the existence of the state which dispossessed or is dispossessing them?

I think you need also to consider the fact that Israel has the active material and vocal connivance of the most powerful states on the planet. In fact, whilst it is true that Israel's criminality is surpassed by that of some other states in quantitative terms, the Palestinians are being oppressed by the most powerful combination of forces. Clearly those forces have their motives but it is mostly the motives of the supporters of Israel's victims which get questioned.

Waterloo Sunset said...

Bob, kinda off topic but there's an important post that I've just put on my blog. I'd appreciate it if you'd help with getting the word out.

bob said...

More tiresome nonsense from Levi

So the only people worth solidarity are those dispossessed for this reason? Nobody here, not anonymous and not GE, says that Palestinians are not worthy of solidarity. The argument, rather, is that other peoples are also worthy of solidarity, and there is no pleasant explanation for the complete one-sidedness with which the Green Party lavish all their solidarity on one group.

Compare to or to or to or to to name the first to come into my head where dramatic stuff is going on. (Even if you subtract Greens Engage material from the first one)

skidmarx said...

Is there a pleasant word for the way you and Engage and Greens Engage and another blogger we're not allowed to mention lavish your solidarity on their oppressors?
I realise this comment gets into Punch and Judy territory {Oh no it doesn't I hear them cry), I guess that shows how different our perceptions on what's going on are.

Naomi Klein calls what's going on "apartheid", one of the things that might be threatened by the EUMC definition. Generally I'm not impressed with the argument that the caveats will permit non-racist criticism, the argument that Jewish supporters of Israel should get to define antisemitism would seem to logically proceed to the argument that the same people should get to choose when something is beyond the limit of acceptability. Plus, the whole idea of the "new antisemitism" is that it is either identical to or co-terminus with left Palestinian solidarity, that being precisely what distinguishes it from commonly understood meanings of antisemitism; thus the same believers in that want to use the EUMC definition to be able to shut down selected expressions of Palestinian solidarity, that's why ordinary definitions of antisemitism are not sufficient; but we've been over this before, and...

Joseph Healy - it only matters because you make a big issue about his point not applying in 2008. I don't think Ronnie Fraser's case is that complicated, his accusation that rejecting the WD is racist is wrong and to use a much used term, absolutely outrageous, and a sign of what would be done to critics of Israel if it were adopted.

Levi9909 said...

I didn't say that other victims don't deserve solidarity. The question is, which oppressor gets as much solidarity as the State of Israel? And why?

bob said...

What nonsense. I will be henceforth be deleting comments by Skid and Levi on grounds of extreme tediousness.

The EUMC WD makes no mention of apartheid. Ronnie Fraser's example is not a sign of anything, other than of a widespread feeling of being under the cosh from Jewish members in the union, who are leaving in droves because of leadership policy. The power here is the union leadership, which has banned and boycotted a particular definition of antisemitism, requiring union people to disassociate themselves from it at every opportunity, and Fraser is taking action in response to that, defensively. He is not trying to outlaw criticism of Israel. The legal framework of his is the Equality Act, part of UK law, not the EUMC WD.

Levi9909 said...

Sorry I'm not as interesting as the openly racist Noga but what an anal wanker you are Bob!

The WD makes no mention of "apartheid" but it does say that "taking overall context into account" it "could" be antisemitic to deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination eg by saying that Israel is a racist endeavour. Apartheid, like zionism, is racism Bob.

But go on, give yourself the last word. It's the only way you can make a case for your defence of racist politics.

Anonymous said...

ob I too got my copy of Jewish Socialist yesterday. I mainly was interested in the excellence of its writing, and (you don't mention) Amanda's piece on Tunisia.

Perhaps the comrades think there is no problem with anti-Semitism in the UK.

Well: a couple of weeks ago I was at a World Music Day in Ipswich enjoying the Klezmer band with a friend.

He was particulary impressed by their use of Ladino.

I was terrified out of my mind when I saw an Irish republican (hat is he would describe himself as left-wing) hovering on the edge of the crowd: that he would come and spoil our enjoyment.

He habitually refers to Jews as 'Yids'.

Sam said...

Bob, big of you to let Levi have the last word after all - he couldn't resist could he? Not sure what an anal wanker is - sounds painful and not my cup of tea.

Anyway, the sooner he takes his juvenile rubbish away, the better.

Sam said...

Anonymous, is the Irish Republican in question a well known person in Ipswich (what it sounds like from your description) or just someone you saw at that festival? Sounds pretty scary.

bob said...

As promised I marked Levi's last comment as spam, on the grounds of extreme tediousness, and for belittling someone's legitimate fears because they don't quite compare to 91 people getting shot, which is also a very flippant use of the 91 deaths.

I think I will continue to label Levi's problems as spam and will shortly start correctly recognising them as such.

And I won't, as I speculated about in the other thread, be bringing this blog to an end, just because of my irritation at hosting an energetic troll or two, but rather will simply stop hosting such trollery.

Levi9909 said...

you'll always host one energetic troll, Bob.