The Guardian and Libya

I've nearly ploughed my way through yesterday's Guardian. Five observations:

1. The front page story on American forces shooting at pro-rebel villagers when rescuing downed airmen: I felt that the paper gave this undue weight, compared to all the other stories (although the web edition doesn't give it a very prominent place). I am not a soldier, and cannot pass judgement on the decisions made under conditions I can only imagine - but this seems like a grave blunder. More than that, it seems to me that there have been far too many times (in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and now in Libya) when US forces turn their guns on civilians on the side  they are meant to be protecting, and this must tell us something worrying about American military culture. And this is why it is hard for me to be unqualified in my support of the intervention. I'd like to think I'm wrong.

2. Simon Tisdalls's "world briefings": Is it just me, or are these flimsy pieces more or less devoid of facts? As far as I can tell, the Guardian simply employs him to give a veneer of facticity to empty liberal platitudes.

3. Soft Stalinists and objective pro-fascists: The sheer quantity of material the Guardian publishes by tankies-posing-as-peaceniks like Andrew Murray and Seamus Milne is unbelievable.

4. Jonathan Freedland's very balanced and thoughtful piece on liberal interventionism was excellent, and against the tone of most of the sub-editorialising.

5. The letters pages: reveal that Guardian readers might dissent from the anti-interventionist line on Libya to quite a degree, despite the prevalence of lite-Milneism.

Oh, and if anyone tells you to read David Gibbs' piece comparing Libya to Kosovo, tell them to read this and this and this.

Nothing to do with the Guardian, I composed a post in my head about Nicolas Sarkozy, entitled "Islamophobia at home, Arabophilia abroad", but I'm unlikely to type it, so I thought I'd just share the title.


Jim Jepps said…
It's not just you, Tisdall's stuff is woeful a lot of the time - yet he seems to be given some sort of priveled place in the paper.

I don't mind opinions that differ from mine but I do mind lack of evidence or basic journalistic standards.
kellie said…
I seem to be able to read that Sarkozy post in my head, well done, the future of blogging!
Anonymous said…
If you crashed your plane in potentially hostile territory, you might not be so quick to welcome everyone running towards you with a Kalashnikov. Self-preservation kicks in pretty quickly in those situations and the adrenalin is already sky high.

The situation in Libya is crazy, with virtually no information worth anything being given to us. There was going to be a bloodbath in Benghazi (the reason for starting it all) but seemingly not in any of the other towns where government forces are currently occupying rebel areas.

Total fuck-up.
ModernityBlog said…
Professor Gibbs is a peculiar one, not quite the specialist on the Balkans that you might believe, as he seems to gives credence to people like Diane Johnstone and Edward S. Herman.

I allowed him a guest post on my blog recently, probably one of my more stupid blogging decisions.

You might enjoy this,
bob said…
Anonymous - the point was that they did not go down in hostile territory, but in rebel territory. And it is not the people who crashed who opened fire (the people who crashed were injured, and were rescued and treated well by the rebels). The shooting was done by those who were sent to get them. We can't really know what happened, and on a personal level I wouldn't judge what they did, but it's concerning.

I'm not sure what you mean about bloodbaths.
skidmarx said…
1.Undue weight - grave blunder : if the latter is the case, the former is unlikely. I'm reminded of a poster on HP this week complaining that the BBC hadn't given sufficient weight to Hamas rockets that had killed nobody (perhaps the headline should have been "Small rocket attack in Israel - none killed). Complaining about the weight given to stories without any solid stats to show bias seems to show a major observation bias.

2. You and Jim, and anyone who thinks the Guardian is a resurrected Daily Worker. Tisdall sets out a story that a number of states think Libyan intervention isn't the bees knees, with evidence.

3. When the tankies were running CND, I didn't dispute that they were actual peaceniks, and see no reason to do so now.

4.Is it just me or is this more or less devoid of facts?
Ken McLeod had this to say about one of the few facts, the Gadaffi quote:
On a more serious note, it's impressive to see how Gadaffi's offer of an amnesty to rebels who lay down their arms, combined with a warning of a 'house to house, room to room' search for, and no mercy to, those who don't, has been spun into a threat to massacre the people of Benghazi.

Maybe the amnesty offer was insincere, but that's not what's being said. Instead, we get Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian saying:

Colonel Gaddafi threatened to attack the rebel city of Benghazi with "no mercy, no pity," adding in chilling words, "We will come. House by house, room by room." If those nations with the power to stop these pre-announced killings had stood aside, they would have been morally culpable. Benghazi was set to become another Srebrenica – and those that did nothing would share the same shame.

If the rebels and/or their more powerful allies were to close in on Tripoli, what would they announce to the 'Gadaffi loyalists'? No doubt that they should throw down their arms, and that anyone who didn't would be hunted down.

House by house, room by room.

5. I saw somewhere that Gibbs has replies to this stuff. Actually when people argued his case on Kosovo at the time I was reminded that in the late eighties Socialist Worker Review had presented a very grim picture of Serb oppression.

So Gaddafi says something that implies massacre IF resisted thus the Rebels will do the same? A bit like some interpretations of "We are ruthless and ask no quarter from you. When our turn comes we shall not disguise our terrorism" then, Marx as bad as Metternich? Structurally you thus find yourself in the same camp as Micheal Ezra.

How goes the genocide denial business anyhoo?
Jim Jepps said…
Skid: for clarification I don't think the Guardian is a resurrection of the Daily Worker (not sure whether that would be good or bad though) and I am opposed to the military intervention.

I also happen to think Tisdall's standards of journalism are low and I do not understand why he seems to have such weight in the Guardian - despite the fact that on this question we agree.
levi9909 said…
Bob - this post looks like a Private Eye style caricature of the Telegraph criticising The Guardian except I presume you're actually serious.

Tisdall - what facts are you querying or suggesting are mere veneer? and veneer for what? liberalism? Sheesh! heaven forfend! they have to cover their liberal worldview with, er, facts. Perhaps if they used openly jingoist (woops, I mean humanitarian) platitudes they could (and maybe they would have to) dispense with the facts.

Tankies? Andrew Murray and Seumas Milne?

I gather Murray really is a stalinist but Milne? I really don't know now but I thought he was SWP.

Freedland - you say he is very balanced and yet the headline alone has him supporting the intervention. In fairness I'd say he's hedging given his warning of "dangers".

But his first paragraph is emotive nonsense likening geopolitics to newtonian physics and then throwing in the ludicrous idea that American troops invade a place depending on how guilty the president might be feeling about previous invasions. It's politics for children.

Skid and Jim - I read The Daily (maybe) post on Libya. I thought it was very good. Whilst looking for it just now, I quite enjoyed the piece on the former Israeli prez getting his comeuppance. Which is why I find it surprising, Jim, that you're not more concerned about Freedland's influence at the Guardian than you are about Tisdall's.
skidmarx said…
socialrepublican - I was going to give you as polite a response as I could up until the last bit. Then I realised it would be a waste of time. Don't be such a prat if you want a process of communication to occur.

Jim Jepps - good. I haven't read Tisdall avidly enough to make a general judgement,that piece didn't seem to have the fact-free nature Bob was ascribing.
In a lighthearted spirit, I point out that to complain about basic journalistic standards when you've badly failed to spell priveleged is...

Levi 9909 - Danny Alexander was pulling the "Arab League's for bombing so we must be doing the right thing about dictatorship" shit on Newsnight last night until Ken Livingstone pulled him up on it.

Bob - Russia Today is also doing the "It's All Yugoslavia All Over Again".
skidmarx said…
And before anyone says, yes it is "privileged".
Jim Jepps said…
Thankfully Tisdall has sub-editors to check his spelling and protect the public from his typos so who knows what his gramatical standards are like.

One of the reasons I left school at 16 was because I was so bored of people pointing out that I can't spell and it doesn't get any more interesting even when, as in this case, it is clearly a typo.

I'm sure my writing is full of them - thankfully everytime I've appeared in a national publication they have been corrected before any harm is done.

I've tried communication but you didn't reply to my generous offer to discuss your status. Thus I have no choice to go with my opening offer that you are a fluffer for genocide denialists. Like the butler for David Irving I suppose. You can do what the fuck you want, you remain what you are
bob said…
I once left a comment at Jim's about the words I can't spell. I think privileged was one of them. Am off-line for most of the weekend - will try to reply on return.
I must say I agree with you on Simon Tisdall..
bob said…
Snatching couple minutes. 1. Undue weight - grave blunder : if the latter is the case, the former is unlikely.

When I say grave blunder, I don't mean a grave error of American strategy, or of the coalition war aims or anything like that. Rather, a grave error of individual judgement from those effecting the rescue, from what little information we have.

Sure, not trying to make big claim about weight of coverage, but it seems to me this story was given prominence because it fit the editorial line rather than for its actual importance.
bob said…
snatching couple more

2. On Tisdall: I did not say he veneers platitudes with facts but with facticity: he dresses up platitudes with bullet points and references to "experts" and formulaic phrases, but once you re-read them, they are empty. The experts this briefing quotes turn out to be basically bloggers, for example.

There's nothing wrong with bloggers, obviously, but there's no reason the Guardian should treat us as exprts. We have no one to sub-edit us, non-one to spell check us, no one to fact check us. Hence we spell words wrong, for example. And hence no one pays us. Whereas Tisdall gets a regular salary and fills large amounts of pages and bandwidth, with pure filler. Seems wrong.

More later maybe
levi9909 said…
As it happens what I thought was the last article he wrote before your post seemed quite useful to me because we have been told that the whole world was up for this war and, simply by drawing on some online newspapers he seems to be scotching that one. Mind you, I wouldn't mind his job.

But he doesn't seem to draw on any expert or blogger opinion/fact in that piece.

As it happens I find his opinions a bit emotional at times, like Fisk,

Of course, he was the chap who likened Israel's invasion of Jenin to 9/11 which was a major hostage to fortune.
sackcloth and ashes said…
'Actually when people argued his case on Kosovo at the time I was reminded that in the late eighties Socialist Worker Review had presented a very grim picture of Serb oppression'.

And then ten years later the SWP opposes the NATO operation which saves the Kosovar Albanians from being ethnically cleansed from their homeland.

Oh, and socialrepublican, you may have already seen this but skidmark's endorsement of genocide denial can be seen here:
skidmarx said…
Nice to see how badly sackcloth & libel can miss the point again.
bob said…
OK, back on line. 3. Tankies and peaceniks. I don't know what party if any Milne is a member or supporter of - wouldn't be surprised if it was SWP or Labour. Maybe Stalinist fellow traveller would be the better descripion of him than tankie. Certainly, he uses his column to praise Castro, Che, Chavez and the Soviet Union, alongside his less Stalinist apologias for Islamist terror organisations.

As for CND/Stop the War/the Morning Star actually being peaceniks, I think the word "tankie" is a good clue as to why they're not real ones. Kate Murray infamously defended North Korean nuclear proliferation, and their response to Iran's nuclear programme is hands off. I don't believe that Murray or any of his cronies ever spoke out against Russian wars against Muslims in Chechnaya or Serbian wars against Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo. The only war that counts with them is one involving Amerikkka and/or Israel. They do nothing to stop the wars in Africa, despite them killing far more people than any of "our" wars, for example.
bob said…
4. Jonathan Freedland and facts: A difference between Tisdall and Freedland is that Freedland is published on the opinion page, as a columnist or op ed writer - he's not there to give us "world briefings". A different standard should apply.

However, the idea that he is being dishonest because he says Gaddafi promises a bloodbath is nonsense. Defending and trusting the Libyan regime is a new low, worthy of the Healeyites or Nick Griffin.

When he claimed he would offer clemency to those who laid down arms, he was actively bombing Ajdabiyah and Misrata.

On the other hand, now the rebels are advancing, is evidence emerging of them going "room by room" against Gaddafi loyalists? Of course not. Partly because the "room by room" image only works for a campaign against civilians, such as Gaddafi is carrying out, and makes no sense when the mass civilian population is on the rebel side. And partly because that is not the modus operandi of the rebel army, who are idealistic amateurs liberating their country, not trained murderers of civilians. This is also why the BBC line of questioning of NATO this morning - will NATO prevent rebel killings of civilians, as the UN resolution mandates them to do - was a red herring.

If evidence emerges of large-scale revenge killings, we can discuss this again.
bob said…
5. Gibbs. Of course he has responded to critics, including the guest post Modernity gave him. In my view, totally unconvincing.

(I have no idea by the way what relevance it is that the SWP painted a grim picture of Serb oppression before the break-up of the Yugoslav state. Once again, I believe a glimmer of Third Camp decency still shone through in the 1980s.)
bob said…
Skid and Jim - I read The Daily (maybe) post on Libya. I thought it was very good. Whilst looking for it just now, I quite enjoyed the piece on the former Israeli prez getting his comeuppance. Which is why I find it surprising, Jim, that you're not more concerned about Freedland's influence at the Guardian than you are about Tisdall's.

I think that paragraph captures well the perversity of the anti-Zionist imagination. Jim has well thought out views on Libya and on Israel which are very much at odds with mine, based on his internationalist, anti-imperialist politics. He also has an assessment of the journalistic quality of some of the Guardian writers, even where this is at odds with his politics. But for Levi, the rage against Israel ought to be the first and foremost principle and he can't believe it doesn't totally control Jim's assessment of journalistic quality. In the anti-Zionist imagination, if the Guardian employs a writer who is not sufficiently critical of Israel, we ought to be concerned, and anyone who criticises Israel is told they need to disassociate themselves from the bad Jews who are too close to Israel.

(What indication is there, by the way, that the bad Jew Freedland influences Guardian policy? The Guardian has been pretty solidly anti-interventionist, even if they have published a few pro-intervention articles. On the other hand, it is likely Tisdall does have some influence, as he is, according to the paper, "assistant editor of the Guardian and a foreign affairs columnist".

Also by the way, I think that the Guardian has a number of impressive journalists in its foreign affairs team (to balance the terrible Tisdall and the even worse Jonathan Steele), such as Julian Borger or Ian Black, who probably share Tisdall's worldview, but are simply far better journalists.)
bob said…
Final comment for now I think.

As it happens what I thought was the last article he wrote before your post seemed quite useful to me because we have been told that the whole world was up for this war and, simply by drawing on some online newspapers he seems to be scotching that one. Who is saying the whole world is up for war? Quite obviously, Russia and China have done their best to stop the West intervening, and no-one has denied this. Germany are playing the role Chirac's France played over Iraq in 2003; possibly the British liberal classes will start to fawn over Merkel now the way they did over Chirac then. But anyway, Tisdall's words in that piece are things like "uproar" and "campaign", which are completely hyperbolic.

As it happens I find his opinions a bit emotional at times, like Fisk I have some respect for Fisk, and am not opposed to over-emotional writing. I don't want dispassionate journalism; I just want good standards.
ModernityBlog said…

Gibbs, just to correct you.

"Of course he has responded to critics, including the guest post "

Anyone reading the Gibbs thread (and I came to it very late as I was away for weeks) will notice that Gibbs does not *really* respond to his critics.

Gibbs does NOT take the central arguments placed against him by Marko Attila Hoare and others, based on the *evidence*, and deal with them.

Instead Gibbs said his piece then when challenged he goes off in a huff.

There is NO substantive dealing with the real issues by Gibbs.
levi9909 said…
Bob - I just happen to know that Freedland is often dishonest in defence of the State of Israel and that he smears Israel's critics and he's used the Guardian editorials, opinion pages and Cif to do it. He also seems to have a certain influence at the Guardian when it comes to maintaining a broadly pro-zionist editorial policy in spite of the paper's supposed liberal worldview. I got that last from Daphna Baram's book, Disenchantment, where I think she lets him off extremely lightly and with which Freedland appears to have been very co-operative.

In fairness, I don't read newspapers (or anything else) that thoroughly these days so I don't know much about Tisdall at all (I even have to keep rechecking his name) except what I read about Jenin and the last article I alluded to.

No one admits to wanting bad standards but you don't seem to demand better standards or indeed any standards of people who confirm your own views, like Freedland or certain of the commentators here.

I just scrolled back and noticed your ludicrous thinly veiled allegation of antisemitism (the Jew Freedland) against me. Honestly Bob, you talk about standards!
skidmarx said…
On the war generally - the country seems fairly evenly split, not really reflected in the House of Commons.

On "Kate Murray" is this the new Brangelina?I could bother to check, but I think I'd be fairly safe in assuming is that she/they opposed a double standard on Mr.Ronery's stockpile, rather than actively advocating it.

On the relevance of SWP acknowledgement of Serbian oppression in Kosovo - just that it made me think twice before accepting the line that Kosovo Albanians had bugger all to worry about until the Nato bombing started.
And it was never Third Campism [omits recent OED addition and several exclamation marks for the sake of not getting over-excited].

I seem to remember that Tisdall is the brother of Sarah.
skidmarx said…
Oh, and for those who actually want to talk about Rwanda, Kevin Ovenden draws our attention to this man who explains his anti-imperialist conclusion towards the end of this. Note to the idiots, no I'm still not interested in your libel-prefaced invitations to "discuss" the subject.
bob said…
The new Brangelina: thanks Skid. I meant Kate Hudson.

Levi: was very irritated when I wrote that comment. Probably should not have used that language.

Have not read Daphna Baram's book, altho heard her speak once. Prima facie, tho, hard to accept idea of Guardian as bastion of Zionism under Freedland's influence. Looking at the most recent comment on Israel I count six strongly anti-Israel pieces, three pro-Israel pieces (Cesarani and Cohen, latter in Observer, plus Amos Harel), 1 that is neither (Seth Freeman). That seems more or less typical to me. In the previous period, anti-Israel outnumbers pro-Israel 9-2 (with Milne among the anti, Freedland among the pro), but that was the Palestine Papers period, so skewed.
levi9909 said…
thanks for that Bob, you're contentious, centrist and truly decent.

You see criticism of Israel as anti-Israel. I see wanting to abolish Israel as anti-Israel. As far as know the Guardian has only ever published two articles that logically entailed the abolition of Israel as a desirable goal and they were both some time ago.
bob said…
I meant "pro" and "anti" in a very broad sense. Some Zionists see Freedland as an anti-Zionist and Cesarani is not exactly an unconditional supporter of the state - whereas apparently for some anti-Zionists even Hamas is not anti-Israel enough.

Levi, I think you underestimate the number of anti-Israel commentators. By your standards, are you saying that Omar Barghouti of PACBI is insufficiently anti-Israel? Is regular contributor Ghada Karmi? Karma Nabulsi? Daud Abdullah signed the Istanbul Declaration; it doesn't get much more anti-Israel than that. Osama Hamdan is a senior member of Hamas.

I think maybe we live in different worlds.
EscapeVelocity said…
Dont worry Bob, you can turn your nose up at American soldiers on the ground around the world, you arent the first Leftwinger to do so, nor will you be the last.

Maybe you should go out their and offer yourself up as a target, instead of leaning back in your rocking chair at your posh university job, heh?
levi9909 said…
Bob - we just notice different things, that's all.

Sure the Guardian doesn't mind allowing the occasional criticism of Israel but the basic editorial policy remains the same. I don't see them allowing Ghada Karmi to question Israel's right to exist as that dramatic an issue as long as she's honest and consistent in her application of principles. Freedland has been allowed to engage in sophistry and smears. At the Independent there is a similar policy. They allow for more comment against the Israel, proportionally, than the Guardian but then they have Jacobson to placate the lobby. It's pointless discussing whether anti-zionists would be allowed smear and distort because they don't have to.
skidmarx said…
Tisdall's two contributions to today's Guardian do seem flimsy and largely devoid of facts.
More interesting was the Libyan on last night's Newsnight pointing out that there is a difference between going to Iraq to fight Americans and being al-Qaida.

David Gibbs wa on Russia Today.
bob said…
I wouldn't want to defend the Guardian, or Freedland. (And incidentally, Freedland writes on many topics for the Guardian, of which Israel is only one - in fact not a single piece on his current page is on Israel)

But the idea that people like Freedland get published to "placate the lobby" is pernicious nonsense. The Guardian is overwhelmingly anti-Israel, but also includes some pro-Israel commentary. It is overwhelmingly left-of-centre on UK politics, but it also regularly runs right-of-centre commenters like Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins, as well as frequently opening up CiF to Tories, and even once published an anarchist. Does it publishes right-wingers to placate the Tory lobby and anarchists to placate the anarchist lobby? It publishes atheists, Christians, Muslims and Hindus - does it do that to placate the atheist, Christian, Muslim and Hindu lobbies?

No, the liberal idea of "balance" (flawed as a concept, of course, from a radical perspective, and inconsistently applied by the Graun) is wired into the Guardian's editorial policy, and it is out of a commitment to "balance" (whether that commitment is right or wrong, or simply naive) that the Guardian publishes a range of views.

The notion of a Jewish/Zionist lobby with the sort of power you ascribe to it determining the editorial policy of the Guardian is conspiracy theory completely disconnected to the real world. And it is pernicious because it feeds an antisemitic myth of Jewish power.

If "the lobby" was so powerful, I don't think senior Hamas leaders would be writing in the Guardian, or regular advocacy of BDS, or regular appearances by MCB spokespeople.
ModernityBlog said…
"The notion of a Jewish/Zionist lobby with the sort of power you ascribe to it determining the editorial policy of the Guardian is conspiracy theory completely disconnected to the real world. And it is pernicious because it feeds an antisemitic myth of Jewish power."

Exactly, such ideas are, in my experience, very common amongst many British "anti-Zionists" which is where we came in....
levi9909 said…
i know the Guardian, Bob. It is liberal in two senses. it broadly supports liberalism and one writer doesn't commit all the others. there doesn't seem to be too much in the way of proprietorial interference. but Freedland and other zionists have had quite a free hand there. it could be that the Guardian as part of the establishment simply supports zionism or it could be that they are yielding to pressure. there is a lot of pressure.

the overall Israel/jewish lobby thesis is wrong but that doesn't mean there is no lobby and it doesn't mean that it doesn't get results in individual cases. if it doesn't get results why do lobby groups exist and what do they do?

curiously a lot of the letters and articles the Guardian publishes against Israel and zionism are often tainted with antisemitism (including Hastings and Jemima Khan)which i feel also undermines the cause of Palestine solidarity. I've got no idea why they do that when there are so many writers of letters and articles who can argue against zionism without generalising about Jews.

I know there are honest people that like Freedland's writing and speaking on other things but his smears of Israel's critics are outrageous and his sophistry rarely gets addressed if ever.

It could be that in order to appear balanced they have to let zionists lie for Israel or against the critics whereas anti-zionists don't have to but allowing journalists to smear named individuals in what claims to be a newspaper of record does seem to be a privilege only granted to zionists - on the question of Palestine anyway.

You should look at Baram's book if you can get it now. You probably can. I think it was commissioned by the Guardian in response to an American inspired campaign against it. As I said before, she seems to let Freedland off lightly, indeed she doesn't criticise him at all. Linda Grant doesn't fair so well though.
Sarah AB said…
I am wondering exactly what Levi means by 'Zionist' in his previous comment - is the word always being used to mean the same thing here? I always think of Jonathan Freedland as someone who is pretty critical of Israel - which is fine and also compatible with being a 'Zionist'. I always find Zionist an unhelpfully overused word. I don't consider myself a Zionist, largely because I'm not Jewish. But I am not an anti-zionist.
Sarah AB said…
Just thinking about this further over breakfast - Levi, is this person a Zionist or not? (Not me, though similar views)

Supports a two state solution

Is decidedly critical of some of Israel's actions, eg Mavi Marmara, settlement building.

Condemns hate preachers in West Bank

Thinks it's wrong Hamas doesn't allow teaching of the settlement.

Condemned shooting of Israelis, and saw that action as an attempt to stop peace talks.
Sarah AB said…
I meant 'holocaust' not 'settlement' of course.
levi9909 said…
Whenever I use the word "zionist" I use it to mean the same thing. I use it to mean someone who believes there should be a state for the world's Jews and that Jews should have more right to that state and more rights in that state than the native non-Jewish population. I think that tallies with what the World Zionist Organisation and the officials of the State of Israel mean by it.

I wouldn't say whether someone is a zionist or not depends on whether they are Jewish or not. Churchill (among many others) described himself as a zionist and there are Christian fundamentalist groups which openly call themselves zionist.

I don't think anything in your list is relevant to whether someone is a zionist or not. So many people of different persuasions and motivations claim to want a two state solution. I suppose it depends how they want those states to be organised that counts.

I often assume that people who smear Israel's critics or support proposals to have them silenced are zionists regardless of where they claim to stand on one, two or no state solutions.

They accuse Israel's critics of "glossing" and "distortion" without ever explaining what they actually mean, even when challenged. Come to think of it, David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen do that sort of thing and neither of them are Jewish either, unless they converted recently or they are simply self-identifying as Jews - which is fine by me but they ought to make their minds up.

Whatever. I don't think it's relevant whether someone is Jewish or not to whether they are zionist or not. But I understand there are many people who share the same positive opinion of the State of Israel and that some are openly zionist and some claim to be non-zionist. I have even seen David Toube and Linda Grant claiming to be anti-zionist. But then, Noam Chomsky has claimed to be a zionist and he has pretty much the same opinion as Norman Finkelstein, who Freedland smears as being antisemitic, mostly because of Finkelstein's writing against zionism and the exploitation of Jewish suffering, particularly in the holocaust.
levi9909 said…
Re Churchill - that's Winston, not Caryl.
skidmarx said…
Condemned shooting of Israelis
Presumably meaning the Itamar killings, as to think that any resistance by Palestinians ever was the reason peace is not achieved would be a bit silly.
levi9909 said…
The Itamar family were knifed, not shot and I think it's still not known who actually did that. A very strange case given the extreme zionism of the Gush Emunim settlers and the lack of access to the settlement to Palestinians and yet they rely on foreign workers, one of whom is believed by many to have killed the Fogel family members. Does anyone have more recent info on that?

But regarding that case, I would assume to be a zionist, without further evidence, anyone who declares that "the left must condemn" and yet remained silent through the so-called "cast lead" attack on Gaza.
Sarah AB said…
I had in mind the Israeli settlers who were shot - I think there were 4, one was pregnant.
bob said…
I think sarah's referring to the shooting in Hebron in September by Hamas Qassam Brigade gunmen, at a time when PA were engaged in peace talks with Israel, an evil act designed to derail the talks, make 2 state solution impossible, and keep Iz/Pal locked into the cycle of violence. Yes, one of the victims was pregnant.
ModernityBlog said…

The question what does someone mean when they use the word "Zionists" is a good one.

But in this particular instance Elf is probably about as consistent as you will find him. (That's a compliment)

But if you look at the wider usage of the word "Zionist", the meaning varies from those (whom support the existence of Israel as an entity and think it was a good idea) to its deployment as a euphemism for Jew, and many varieties in between.

Typically on the "anti-imperialist left" Zionist seems to be taken as someone who is a quasi-fascist-believer-in-ethnic-cleansing-and-low-of-the-low (evidence for this can be seen on any particularly active thread at SU blog or Seymour's blog covering related issues).

Elsewhere amongst parts of the English intelligentsia the word "Zionist" seems akin to baby-eater or worst.

So I find it depends on the person and their grasp of the issues, and more often than not emotional inclination, as to how they actually use it in day to day usage.
levi9909 said…
In other words, to answer the question that Sarah actually asked: "I am wondering exactly what Levi means by 'Zionist' in his previous comment - is the word always being used to mean the same thing here?"

As moddy said, I am consistent in my definition and application of the word "zionist" though I am aware that different people have different meanings and applications of the word.

I think an abstract definition is possible. For example, statehood for a specified identity group not necessarily from the state territory, whereby members of the group have more right to live in the territory and more rights if they live in the territory than people who are not members of that identity group, whether the latter come from or live in the territory or not.

Needs work maybe (it was off the top of my head - not the best place to look for something except my hat), but I think it works in the cases of the WZO, its affiliates and the State of Israel, together with all organisations that I know of that describe themselves as zionist.

Waters are muddied by antisemites and zionists, both whom have an interest in implicating all Jews in the zionist project; the former because they can associate Jews with an unjust project, the latter because it associates anti-zionists with a repugnant tenet of ideology, ie antisemitism.
ModernityBlog said…
"Waters are muddied..."

Indeed they are, but by more than Elf would suggest.

Political 'Anti-Zionists' tend to use the word "Zionist" in a pejorative fashion.

Many Leninists (and his latter-day representatives) have traditionally used it in a similar fashion (remember the 1960's 'anti-Zionist' campaigns).

If you were to ask 10 non-Jewish "anti-imperialists" what the word 'Zionist' I very much doubt they would tally with Elf's definition.

In the same way that if you had visited North America in the early 1950s** and asked some relatively prosperous graduates how they define the word 'socialist' then you might get answers along the lines of "same as Communism, human bondage slavery and dictatorships" etc etc .

You sometimes get the impression that the word Zionist is spat out in a similar fashion to Cold War warriors saying "Communist!".

It's not so much what people say but how they say it.

** the period of active McCarthyism.
levi9909 said…
Moddy, you've given an example of when an antisemitic campaign was called "anti-zionist" in order to cover up its antisemitic motivation and outcome. Actually one outcome was beneficial to zionism too. Jews were allowed to leave, eg, Poland, only if they said they were going to Israel. Whether they went to Israel or not is another story. Some ended up in the UK for sure.

I did mention that this sort of thing happens (antisemitism disguised as anti-zionism and the vice versa allegation that you don't give examples of) though I didn't give specific examples.

Out of all the people purporting to support the Palestinian cause, I have only seen Gilad Atzmon offering a definition of zionism that didn't involve Jewish statehood and he had to lie to make the example look relevant to anything.

But anyway, the question Sarah asked wasn't about random self-styled leninists or anti-imperialists, it was about "what Levi means by 'Zionist' in his previous comment" and " - is the word always being used to mean the same thing here?"

I have offered a definition that is consistent with the aims and objectives of self-defined zionist groups and the State of Israel. And, yes, I always mean the same thing when I use the word zionist.
ModernityBlog said…
" is the word always being used to mean the same thing here?"

A good question, but words can mean different things to different people, and we would be foolish to assume a static view of words, or that how **we** use words is how people perceive them, which is a more pertinent question.

As for Leninists, there's no self styling.

It could certainly be argued that the consistently 'Anti-Zionist' theme found in most Leninist parties owes its origin to early 20th century debates in Russia, as much to 1960s Soviet 'anti-Zionism'.

By that I mean you will find a particularly peculiar approach is taken by certain Leninist groups (as opposed to non-Leninist Marxist groups) towards Zionism, and I think that flavours much of the contemporary debate.
Sarah AB said…
Thanks Levi - does Jonathan Freedland really think that Jews should have more rights than non-Jews within Israel though?

My hypothetical case was a Palestinian from the West Bank who is a peace activist - I used him as an example because I had been thinking that he would probably get called a Zionist, or maybe ZIONIST, if he ventured to express his views at Socialist Unity!
levi9909 said…
Sarah - thanks for your thanks.

As you would (indeed as you do) expect, there are no zionists who openly admit to what zionism actually entails in terms of Jewish privilege or supremacy because it undermines their claim to support a state based on western values of democracy, liberty and the rule of law.

But I have seen Jonathan Freedland admitting that the establishment of the State of Israel involved the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and I have seen him calling the establishment of the State of Israel, as a state specifically for Jews, both a "moral necessity" and a Jewish "entitlement". And I have seen him describing himself as a zionist.

I haven't heard him define zionism, nor have I heard him say the words "I believe that there should be a state to which Jews have more right and in which Jews have more rights than the existing non-Jewish, former non-Jewish or any non-Jewish population."

From what I have seen, that could be coaxed out of him but I haven't actually seen it, read it or heard about it.
levi9909 said…
BTW - Coincidentally, I was googling for him saying that the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians was a "moral necessity" and I found him saying this (it addresses a point raised earlier in the thread by Bob)

"When people complain about articles in The Guardian, they are almost always talking about outside submissions rather than pieces written by staff journalists. That is the price you pay for being involved with a paper that believes in publishing the widest possible range of voices."

He adds: "The Guardian believes not only in Israel's right to exist but goes further. In a 2001 editorial, it stated that the creation of the state of Israel was ‘a moral necessity'. That is the Guardian view of Israel."

And there's the rub. "Israel's right to exist" obscures, I believe deliberately, what Israel exists as. But when you consider that just about everyone who calls themselves a zionist says that the Palestinian right of return amounts to "the destruction of the State of Israel" they clearly mean that Israel should be a state for the world's Jews and that Jews should have more right to it and more rights in it than non-Jews.
bob said…
Now how did this happen? Last week I posted on a local Islamic Centre in my manor - and we get a long comments thread on Gilad Atzmon. This week I post about the Guardian and Libya - and we get a long comments thread on what a Zionist is. And some people accuse me of Ziocentrism!
bob said…
Whenever I use the word "zionist" I use it to mean the same thing. I use it to mean someone who believes there should be a state for the world's Jews and that Jews should have more right to that state and more rights in that state than the native non-Jewish population.

When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - - that's all."

Historically, Zionism was about a national home for the Jews, not a national state. Ahad Ha'am, one of the most influential and important Zionists historically, never advocated a Jewish state. The early practical Zionist movement and the precursors of the kibbutzim, such as the Degania piorneers, were non-state Zionists, as James Horrox's excellent history excavates. Joseph Trumpledor was, I think, a non-state Zionist. Under Levi's Humpty Dumpty definition, however, none of them count as Zionists.

And then there are the Zionists who have advocated one state or a binational state of some sort, such as Martin Buber, Gershom Scholem and so on. I presume the Magnes Zionist blogger, given his blogname, considers himself a Zionist, as his inspiration Judah Magnes. But not under Levi's Humpty Dumpty definition.

And then all the Zionists who want two states, or a fully democratic Israel in which Arab citizens are truly equal. Nope, not them either. Doesn't matter, in short, whether someone calls themselves a Zionist or not, the Levis, the Finks and the Humpties are there to tell us who the real Zionists are, and warn us away from them. The good Jews, the Jews Against Zionism, they're the ones that can tell the rest of us the truth lurking behind the lies people tell about themselves.

Under the Humpty definition, evil people are Zionists, because Zionists are evil people. A twisted and perverse worldview.
bob said…
Finishing my previous thoughtstream (apologies for thinking aloud...): In the anti-Zionist imagination, they define Zionism as they choose, as essentially a believer in ethnic cleansing, and then you're damned if you call yourself a Zionist and don't believe in ethnic cleansing, because Zionists are Bad, and you're damned if you support Israel but don't call yourself a Zionist, because Zionists believe in ethnic cleansing. It's a circular argument, and it leaves most Jews (because most Jews are positively emotionally invested in Israel, whatever their views) feeling under assualt.


I always thought "the Z-word" was a great name for a blog. Zionism is treated, in the anti-Zionist imagination, as utterly exceptional. One of the ways this is so is illustrated in the above comments.

Take any other nationalism. Nationalism is about the SELF-determination of "nation-states". So, black nationalism, for instance (and its sub-sets, like Garveyism or Afrocentrism), is a movement of black people, about the self-determination of an imagined black nation. Not many non-black people would call themselves Garveyites or be called Garveyites. (You get a few, usually eccentric people who identify so strongly with another "nation" that they are exceptions to this rule - Sylvia Pankhurst in relation to Ethiopianism, say, or TE Lawrence and his heir George Galloway in relation to Arab nationalism. They are exceptions, oddities.)

Of course, there are so-called Christian Zionists, an odd messianic movement that has absolutely nothing to do with the self-determination of a Jewish "nation" and everything to do with Biblical eschatology and the end days - this has nothing really to do with Zionism as such, although there are strategic alliances. Apart from that, few non-Jewish people would call themselves Zionists, as few non-black people would call themselves Garveyites, however sympathetic they might be.

But in the anti-Zionist imagination, supporting Jewish national-self determination is a crime, the crime of Zionism.
bob said…
Sorry to continue thinking aloud, even though this has gone on far too long.

Whenever I use the word "zionist" I use it to mean the same thing. I use it to mean someone who believes there should be a state for the world's Jews and that Jews should have more right to that state and more rights in that state than the native non-Jewish population.

Indeed, Levi is consistent in his definition, to say which, repeating Mod, is a compliment, as that is not true of many people on both sides. Partly because there is so much bad faith, partly because there is a lot of honest confusion and mixed feelings. I suspect I am not so consistent in my uses of this or related words.

One of Levi's consistencies, as in the definition here, is the repeated "native" claim. I know I'm repeating myself here, but I leave the defence of the rights of "natives" to the BNP and their ilk of every colour: the people that talk of the American Southwest as Aztlan, the saffron fascists who impose imaginary Hindu names on the body parts of their Motherland, and so on.

Specifically, what does it mean to say an "identity group" is native not just to a village or a valley or a region, but to a national territory? What does it mean to say they are native to a nation-state that has never existed? How many generations in a place do you have to dwell in a place to be considered native? How many generations of absence does it take to lose one's native status?

Do people carry nativeness in their blood? Do they carry it in the keys to doors that no longer stand, as with the Sephardic Jews who still carry their families' Spanish keys or the Palestinians that carry theirs' from the Nakba? What do you do if half your blood comes from a native line but not the other half?

To count as native, do you have to know when your ancestors migrated to the territory? Do we pick a year - say 1948, or 1917, or 1841, or 70 CE? How do we chose which year to pick?

If you get political priority - the right to have rights, as Arendt put it - only by being native to a nation-state, what about the individuals or the groups who are native to no-where, including the Roma?

Leave nativism to the BNP and the Kahanists.
ModernityBlog said…

Am off for the weekend so can't really contribute for a few days, but here's a few random thoughts:

1) As you say there's a lot of confusion over the word 'Zionist'

2) You might think that those engaged in politics or activism would appreciate that there is a need for precise meanings and shared understandings, but that obviously isn't the case.

3) There is a tendency among activists to employ a form of word inflation, hyperbole and we can see this in many facets in society, but none more so than when the Middle East swings into view.

4) Part of the issue, a key part is not what we say but how it is received, ie what the people here when the word 'zionist' is used? I suggest that a majority of British Jews take 'Zionist' as a euphemism for Jews (even if it's not meant that way)

5) That you might conclude if my point 4 has merit then activists should be a bit more careful, but it is the contrary.

They throw the word around in a pejorative sense, look at SU blog and other anti-imperialist blogs as evidence

Yet if you were to tell them how that word is received they would more than likely deny that meaning, which leads to problems with Atzmon's terminology and how the SWP didn't pick up on his racism, or issues in the Green Party.

More later.
skidmarx said…
I suggest that a majority of British Jews take 'Zionist' as a euphemism for Jews
I suggest that a majority of British Zionists take 'Zionist' as a euphemism for Jews. Making an apologist for the state of Israel like yourself the policeman of language, well pirates/navy, fox/henhouse,...

Bob - they define Zionism as they choose, as essentially a believer in ethnic cleansing
You engage in a couple of pieces of slippage around this. One is to avoid the question of whether establishing and maintaining Israel's ethnic status has required and does require ethnic cleansing, which would make that the inevitable consequence of Zionist belief, and whether anti-zionists might have the wit to think that someone who wants to see Jews in Palestine but not at the expense of Palestinians isn't a Zionist.[Or whether it takes a lot of cheek for non-Palestinians to insist that ending their oppression is not a more important goal than worrying about how their oppressors are described].
Do we pick a year - say 1948, or 1917, or 1841, or 70 CE?
How about 1948?
How do we chose which year to pick?
The one when the historic expulsion in living memory took place?
bob said…
Do we pick a year - say 1948, or 1917, or 1841, or 70 CE?
How about 1948?
How do we chose which year to pick?
The one when the historic expulsion in living memory took place?

So, once the Nakba is no longer in living memory, which is actually not that far away, everything will be OK? That's a relief!
levi9909 said…
Bob - The question from Sarah was what Levi means by the word Zionist. The way I use the word Zionist is consistent no matter when I use it and it is consistent with the aims and objectives of the WZO and its affiliates and the structure and policies of the State of Israel. If I had known (and I should have) how tricky you were going to be, I should have specified that I mean "modern political zionism" but I thought that went without saying.

All that Humpty Dumpty stuff is gratuitously insulting and dishonest, particularly as I have mentioned that there are people (like Magnes and Chomsky) who call themselves zionist whilst not supporting a state specifically for Jews. Not only that, it is you who is arguing for a definition of zionism so flexible as to be meaningless. And it was you who once defined zionism as "self-emancipation of Jews" with no hint of irony. So you're also engaging in projection by way of a change. Perhaps I should point out that Steve Cohen described himself as an anti-zionist zionist, and that he claimed that he calls himself zionist because he is opposed to antisemitism. That cannot be a definition of zionism if indeed we want a definition.

Most histories of zionism distinguish between the Lovers of Zion (Ahad Ha'am) and the zionist movement. El Al's history certainly does. And anyway, apparently Ha'am did favour a Jewish state until he witnessed the behaviour of the people who described themselves as zionists. And the kibbutz movement was aimed at Jewish statehood. A national home for Jews as distinct from Jewish statehood is deliberately meaningless. You're trying to make out that the Balfour Declaration was something other than support for the zionist conquest of Palestine. I doubt Buber's sincerity from what I have read but his view of bi-nationalism still involved special status for Jews and ultimately restrictions on Arabs and other non-Jews. Magnes seems to have been fairly sound on the question of the rights of the non-Jewish communities in Palestine but logically his view of Jews settling in Palestine still meant Jews having special status denied to non-Jews. And I've mentioned before how the Magnes Zionist blogger would be considered anti-zionist by supporters of the State of Israel and all organisations that call themselves zionist today.

Your invoking of Garveyism was simply giving an example of an earlier abstract definition I offered. As it happens, Sierra Leone and Liberia, as far as I know, both had their origins in "back to Africa" movements and like zionism involved the oppression of existing communities but garveyism today is basically rastafarianism and curiously enough, CLR James likened Garvey to Hitler. That would get him banned from addressing students at Birmingham University. But there is no practical "back to Africa" movement so it's pointless discussing it except as yet more filibuster material. The fact that you had to resort to a non-existent movement tends to suggest that zionism is unique today as a practical project.

Christian zionists do support the idea of Israel being a state for the world's Jews where Jews have more rights than the non-Jewish population. Yes they are antisemitic and yes they want the Jews once they are all "ingathered" to convert to Christianity or die. But they don't negate how I defined zionism.

Asking when we begin to define zionism in a way that has current and relevant meaning is a rhetorical question coming from someone more interested in smearing the critics of Israel than in an earnest discussion about what zionism actually is but of course, the state variety (modern political zionism) is the only one of campaigning interest.

There is all sorts of academic stuff on "zionist orientations" like linguistic, cultural and so on, but it was so obvious what my meaning was it wasn't worth going into simply to preempt a filibuster.
levi9909 said…
Bob again - re your hope that "the old will die and the young will forget" there is some controversy in zionist circles as to whether or not Arabs can be given equal rights with Jews at any point:

See this from Shalom Lappin:

There is no justification in a country that purports to be a democracy for a policy of
sustaining the majority status of one of its ethnic groups through coercive legal measures or
discrimination against its minorities. However, there is a significant distinction between such a policy and a refusal to accept the return of large numbers of refugees who would
destroy the national character of the country through hostility to it.

If Israel returns to the 1967 borders (or the rough equivalent envisaged under the Geneva
Accords), the Arab community will constitute approximately 18% of its total population [….]
To the extent that Israeli Arabs achieve genuine equality and their standard of living rises
accordingly, it is reasonable to expect that their social patterns and demography will come
increasingly to resemble that of the Jewish majority. This may well stabilize the population
balance over time.

But Adrian Cohen (is he connected with the Z-Word blog? Not sure) disagrees on the dispensability of the explicit racism in Israel's laws:

Without its Jewish character and without the laws, such as the law of return and the laws
which assist with the settlement of Jews in Israel it could not perform its role.

Re your question of how much got said about zionism in this thread, I mentioned what I thought of Freedland to Jim Jepps and you went ape about it, implying that I'm antisemitic. You managed a semi-retraction before degenerating into gratuitous abuse, circular definitions, irrelevant nonsense, suspended disbelief and a bewildering propensity for projection. You might try scrolling before asking.

Re Deborah Fink, I don't think she describes herself as anti-zionist but I don't know.
Anonymous said…
If Levi wants to define a chair as "something to sit on with four legs", I think he should be accused immediately of making the word chair mean what he wants it to mean.

Previous comment caught in spam.
levi9909 said…
Mod, Bob and Sarah would then accuse me of sexism for not acknowledging that a chair is actually non-sexist language for someone who heads an organisation or a committee. And ignorance for not knowing that "chair" is actually the name of one of Woody Allen's pet spaniels. Then of course there is "CHAIR!" which some people used to shout when they saw a mouse before that word was replace in the late medieval period by "EEK!"

So how far back are we taking this "chair" concept?
Sarah AB said…
Two thoughts, neither of them a direct challenge to points made by Levi et al.

1. The word Zionist is, I think, often used to describe someone who supports the policies of the Israeli right in an uncritical way. This makes it more difficult to define oneself as a Zionist who is critical of those policies. Zionist always = right wing Zionist.

2. The bar for qualifying as a Zionist seems to be set lower if you are Jewish. If I held my present views (which include opposition to Israel boycotts), but was Jewish, I think I'd be seen, and see myself perhaps, as a Zionist.

(If I am a Zionist, though, I hope I am also a Palestinianist!)
levi9909 said…
If people are going to say that they are or are not zionists then they ought to be able to say what they are affirming to or denying.

If people are saying that they believe anti-zionism to be antisemitism then they should say what they understand by both of these expressions.

If they are saying that they do not believe anti-zionism to be antisemitism then the same goes.

Zionism is similar to fascism, racism and antisemitism in that they are all ideological positions that far more people are accused of than own up. Where zionism today stands out from the other three is that whereas you will not find hardly any individual or group openly describing themselves as fascist, racist or antisemitic, there are many people and organisations who openly describe themselves as zionists.

What is very strange is that it tends to be Israel's detractors and victims who are asked what they think zionism is rather than the people who openly describe themselves as zionists. And yet some gentle probing will generally elicit from them that they support the idea of Jews having special status in a specifically Jewish state.

Sarah, the two observations you make ought to be supportable by reference to examples. I'm sure there are some (in fact I can think of some) but you haven't provided any.

re your point 1) Maybe I already mentioned that when I saw Freedland at a discussion hosted by JfJfP he had no objection to being introduced as a "leading advocate of the zionist left".

re 2) I did already say that Churchill called himself a zionist in that he supported the idea of a state for Jews. Gordon Brown told a meeting of the JNF that he was raised in a "zionist household". Cameron, Blair, Brown and Kennedy are all honorary patrons of the Jewish National Fund which was established by the World Zionist Organisation. I would say this makes them all zionists irrespective of their non-Jewish ethno-religious backgrounds.

I accept you weren't challenging me or anyone in particular but if we don't arrive at common definitions for certain words we end up in Bob's projected humpty dumpty land where anything means anything (everything sucks!) and only supporters of the existing status quo can benefit from that.
skidmarx said…
That anonymous comment is mine.
Sarah AB - I fear the two may be incompatible.

Levi9909 - you're also blatantly ignoring the fact,the fact,that not all chairs have four legs, that it is only in the comfortable West that we can afford to create such back pain,and of course, the fact that you have not mentioned Israel anywhere in your response proves that you must think the Israelis are secretly changing the definition for their own nefarious purposes. You complete Mormon.
Sarah AB said…
Levi - you seem to set the bar pretty high for Zionism - and this may be internally consistent, but is confusing given that others set it low, eg (I think) here:

But I'm happy to try to police my use of the term 'anti-zionist' more carefully, given that I had no objection to the way BfB advocated a one state solution here
bob said…
I know Churchill was in many ways very PRO-Zionist, but I wondered if he actually described himself as A Zionist. I did a very brief bit of googling and found this interesting review article: In Churchill's time, being or not being a Zionist I suppose was a weighty question in a very particular way for a British politician, as Britain had it within its gift to make or not make the Balfour Declaration, to draft or not draft the White Paper and set quotas on Jewish immigration, to leave and hand over the state to one or another or both or neither of its "nations".

For me, I never found it relevant to say I am a Zionist or an anti-Zionist. The state of Israel existed, and in a sense therefore Zionism became redundant. I used to answer, if asked, that I was a "non-Zionist". Later, when I started hearing about "post-Zionists" in Israel, I liked the idea of that. More recently, since the start of the second intifada I think, I feel that the tenor of anti-Zionism as an empirical movement (not as an intellectual concept) changed. I'm not sure how easily I could articulate what I felt, but I started, "as a Jew" (even if only sort of Jewish) who was not anti-Zionist, to feel under attack AS a Zionist. I don't know if that makes sense, but I suspect anyone Jewish who is not a committed anti-Zionist will have experienced something like this. I think that I have felt at times a kind of reactive "we are all Hezbollah"/"we are all German Jews" type perverse desire to attest to being a Zionist in the context of the anti-Zionist assault. I suspect that most non-Jews who call themselves Zionists today (leaving out the Christian Zionists, who I continue to think are a wholly different species), are doing it out of solidarity with that sense of assault, or in the case of politicians cyncially appealing to the votes of people experiencing that assault, or possibly a mix of the two.


Just to clarify my clumsy attempt at humour above: I do not in any sense "hope that the old will die and the young will forget", a la Ben Gurion. Rather, I was trying to point out the absurdity of taking "the historic expulsion in living memory took place" as a criterion for political priority. My point about the keys of Seferad should make it obvious I know that memory is long. Indeed, many Jews, as you know, still genuinely mourn the destruction of the Temple...
levi9909 said…
Sarah, I answered your original question honestly and straightforwardly, only adding later that I mean "modern political zionism" as distinct from, eg, cultural and linguistic. I can't see any grounds for confusion and I can only guess what it means to "set the bar pretty high for Zionism".

Regarding "internally consistent", the way I define zionism is not simply internally consistent, it is consistent with the aims and objectives, structures, policies and professed beliefs of the overwhelming majority of extant groups and individuals who self-identify as zionist.

I have mentioned some exceptions to the general rule and I have noted that there are people who believe that the State of Israel should remain Jewish but who claim not to be zionists, though it's rare to see them explaining what the difference is between themselves and those who call themselves zionists. Eg, Dr Hirsh of Engage (the former) and John Strawson (the latter). There are many examples but I gather you know Hirsh and Strawson (so you could always ask them what they understand by the word zionist. If you did already, what did they say?).

I also offered an abstract definition which, though rushed, Bob seemed to endorse with his reference to garveyism.

I don't see Bob's take on the one-state solution detracting from my definition of zionism, in fact he seems to confirm it's validity with the words "another Zionism is possible". Other than what? So that seems to be another endorsement from Bob but he doesn't confuse you or at least you don't say he does.

And I see you being accused of being a zionist on the Socialist Unity thread. Is that what you meant by a lower bar? How so? It was you that said that non-Jews don't get called zionists and you say you are not Jewish but you've been called a zionist on SU. I'm guessing it's because they perceived you as a supporter of Israel, the zionist state. But I notice, that in spite of your professed confusion to my spelling out in detail, with examples and subject to exceptions, "what Levi means by 'Zionist'", you express no confusion on the SU thread where no one explained what they meant and you didn't ask.

Perhaps you could offer us a definition of zionism that would tally with the usage of those institutions and individuals who call themselves zionist and we'll see if we can iron out this confusion of yours.

Or, failing that, just say what it is you find confusing and what you mean when you say I "set the bar pretty high for Zionism". But please note, with this "bar" thingy, you seem to have contradicted yourself. I know this is a blog and not a phd thesis or a court of law but you're not even being "internally consistent".
levi9909 said…
Bob - Here's this Yoav Tenembaum chap in an article titled, "The last romantic zionist gentile":

Churchill used to trace his Zionism back to the days of the Balfour Declaration, describing himself as ”an old Zionist.” His attitude toward Zionism remained as passionate and as explicit following his return to Ten Downing Street in 1951. Now, however, with the State of Israel firmly in place, the images he entertained became perhaps more vivid, more colorful, and as ever imbued with historical resonance.

Thus, in June 1954, Churchill stated to journalists in the United States, ”I am a Zionist, let me make that clear. I was one of the original ones after the Balfour Declaration and I have worked faithfully for it.”

It was the first site to appear when I googled - Churchill "I am a zionist". What did you google?

Personally I don't distinguish between pro-zionist and zionist, Even if I did, the definition of zionist would remain the same.

By the way, the Balfour Declaration was issued before the UK conquered Palestine from the Ottoman empire though I'm sure the UK saw the world as its oyster to carve up as it chose. And the WZO was openly colonial and referred to Jews as a race.

Regarding whether or not zionism became irrelevant when Israel came into being, this overlooks how a zionist state differs from all others today. Israel insists on being a state for Jews. All other states are defined simply by where they are. All Syria has to do to continue to be Syria is stay where it is. Israel needs policies to guarantee that it remains, not where it is, but what it is, ie, Jewish. This means constantly cherry picking the population, and excluding/displacing the natives. That is why the role of the World Zionist Organisation to liaise between the State of Israel and the Jews of the world is so important, indeed unique out of all existing states. I'm not saying other states don't manipulate the ethno-religious character of their populations, but only Israel does it by dint of its self-definition and only Israel would cease to exist, other things being equal, if it abolished its segregationist citizenship laws.

It's a funny thing that whilst there are critics of Israel's critics who say it's old hat to be anti-zionist, they never seem to query the role of the WZO (or its affiliates). And yet if you take out the WZO Israel would go from being zionist to post-zionist. How it then deals with the right to citizenship and rights as citizens would determine whether it can be a state for all its people or the racist state that it has been since its inception.

Re that personal stuff about you being Jewish (sort of?), I had assumed that you were Jewish because you once said that you were unsettled by what you called the left's "lopsided" attitude to Israel because it made you feel attacked as a Jew and that, as per Hannah Arendt's position, led you to defend yourself as a Jew.

Some of my best friends aren't Jews, but I wouldn't want you to think that I simply assumed you were Jewish a propos nothing in particular or what I see as your support for Israel.

Oh, it's only just occurred to me to ask, if you Bob, thought that Churchill was pro-zionist, what did you think he was pro if you think the definition is so mobile as to be meaningless or at least to make me a wonderland figure for offering a definition. Really, what did you think Churchill was pro when you thought he was pro-zionist and that he seems to have described himself as a zionist both before and after the establishment of the State of Israel?

Perhaps Sarah could answer that one and end her confusion. Churchill described himself as a zionist. He claimed he was a zionist from at least 1917. What did he mean?
levi9909 said…
ok skidders, you got me, three chairs for zionism!

I was surprised at the mormons though...
bob said…
Re Levi re Sarah, I think you have completely missed her point. If I may, I think she was saying that you set the bar high (not a bad thing: you have a precise, consistent definition) while others (e.g. on SU) set the bar low, and the difference is confusing for someone who wonders into these waters relatively innocently.

I think the whole z-word debate is flawed, because of the different things different people mean. And because the object itself is not so easy to pin down: you have to specify you mean modern political Zionism, in a way that excludes, I think, a major part of the history of the movement. There is Zionism as an idea, as an empirical movement now, as a historical movement, etc etc. I would prefer a simpler, fuzzier, more general definition, like "the nationalism of the Jewish people", or "the Jewish movement for national self-determination", although you'd need to add something about Palestine but in a way that didn't exclude, say, Zangwill or Syrkin from the definition.

I also have a huge problem with a definition that puts the element of zero sum national self-determination of Jews and (other) Palestinians: the Levi definition seems to me like someone defining Marxism as "believes in killing off the bourgeosie" or defining Palestinian nationalism as "believes in Jews being driven into the sea".
Sarah AB said…
[Bob - just read your comment - that's exactly what I meant.]

Levi, when I said you set the bar high, I particularly had in mind your point that Zionists thought that Jews should have more rights within Israel. I would assume many people could identify as Zionist but not think that. (By the way, I don’t know John Strawson at all. I have had some brief email exchanges with David Hirsh (and a couple of others at Engage) in relation to my occasional posts there.)

Bob’s OSS could be seen as distinct from having a specifically Jewish state, but does not necessarily imply that the Zionism he de-identifies from needed to treat its citizens unequally.

My point about some commenters on SU is that they seem to set the bar *very* low for qualifying as a Zionist. I have sometimes asked people what they mean by Zionist but there would have been no point on that thread. I take it their main criterion for Zionism is ‘someone who might in some context feel minded to defend Israel from criticism’ yet use Zionist as a term of abuse, implying that you are an extreme right wing racist. There might be a point in asking someone like Andy Newman, but not someone who, on the basis of a single comment from me which was an implied criticism of a rather dodgy video linking Christmas with I/P, said:

“Today’s zionists don’t even bother to hide their crimes anymore. That is hardly possible so they simply justify them on the basis that others have committed similar crimes so why shouldn’t they. Sarah AB not doubt will be remembering Operation Cast Lead with a mixture of pride and satisfaction knowing that she’s no worse than any other criminal.”

When I said that the bar for Zionism was higher for non-Jews, that wasn’t simply meant to be a criticism of the way in which people decide who is and is not Zionist. That was part of it, but I also assume (and Bob’s recent comments back this up I think) that the mere fact of being Jewish is going to incline you more to self-identifying as ‘Zionist’ though that doesn’t mean that you are going to be more uncritical of Israel – you might be *more* critical of Israel than some random person who would never even think about whether or not they were Zionist.

I find it difficult to offer a definition of Zionist. It wouldn’t be so different from yours but it wouldn’t include the bit about unequal treatment of Israel’s citizens and it would also include something about having an instinctive feeling of connection to that country. But it’s a bit like deciding what genre a text fits into. You have various criteria – and might place the text in a genre category based on demonstrating all criteria moderately, or most strongly. Thus if you are Jewish you are much more likely to tick the ‘instinctive feeling of connection’ box – which will in turn make you more likely to have given the whole question of Zionism more thought than someone who isn’t Jewish.

Like Bob, I find the word pretty superfluous now – compare the possibility of a special word such as Pakistanist which was dragged out every time that *other* I/P situation was mentioned, a word used whenever anyone wanted to criticise the flaws of Pakistan and which simultaneously also signified someone who thought that country had a right to exist or who perhaps objected to Islamophobic language invoked when discussing the country.
levi9909 said…
Regardless of what Sarah meant in her last comment, there is a major discrepancy from here:

The bar for qualifying as a Zionist seems to be set lower if you are Jewish.

to here:

you seem to set the bar pretty high for Zionism - and this may be internally consistent, but is confusing given that others set it low, eg (I think) here:

Bob, you want a definition of zionism that is nice. You said yourself that "Another zionism is possible". You must have meant a zionism other than the one I defined which is the dominant, indeed unrivalled, tendency in the zionist movement and the one that you claimed amounted to me inventing meanings for words as I go along to the extent that I render words meaningless.

Failing a nice definition, others on the thread, like Sarah, appear to want the word undefined so that they can make of it what they will depending on when it is used. They can then pretend that when someone refers to zionists pejoratively they actually mean Jews. She was totally inconsistent even considering the links she gave, one of which showed you accepting by default my definition as the mainstream and people on SU calling her a zionist.

This is consistent with the attitude of some around here towards Israel's critics but it involves all sorts of inconsistencies with language and principles. Thus there are regulars on this blog who are happy to run with a "working definition of antisemitism" so broad as to prevent any criticism of the State of Israel and yet not broad enough to rule out bogus assumptions about Jews but then the latter isn't its aim.

Debates on anything are bound to be flawed (not all sides can be correct) but you, Bob, rarely mention the flaws of people's arguments that support your own position and yet you sometimes invent flaws for your opponents. I notice Sarah does the same, eg, in a previous thread she accused me of "glossing" and "distortion" without any explanation, even when challenged. She also claimed that calling a Jew a nazi is an "antisemitic trope" with no explanation of that either.

I think if we want to be consistent in debate, I know it's a cliché but honesty is the best policy. It's best to base opinions on facts rather then the other way around.

Sarah - I hadn't seen your comment before writing what I did above. I can't see that it changes much of anything. If people want a state for Jews then I don't see how that is achievable without at best discriminating against non-Jews. It's curious how you have now made at least two references to what people "think". Of course we cannot know what people think, only what they say and do. If people think they can have a state for Jews but where Jews don't have more rights than non-Jews then let them explain how to go about that either theoretically from the inception of the WZO or practically from where we are now.

If you want the history of zionism then that is a different issue to how we approach it now. We could spend lots of time talking about Jews working in agriculture in Ottoman Palestine with no view as to how the state is governed or who by and that might be an interesting academic exercise. It wouldn't take us very far in drawing out the campaigning issues with regard to Palestine solidarity.
levi9909 said…
Bob - Sarah has a comment stuck in the filter.
bob said…
There's gorgeous sun in South London and it's forecast to rain later, so I'm in the garden as it would be sad to miss spring. Back later.
bob said…
[Having more or less absented myself from the debate for a few days, I’ve got the comment thread open on my browser, up to 9:52 yesterday morning, and am off-line, reading them through and will paste these thoughts in when I get back on line later today, so the conversation might have moved on. Apologies for that, and for the excessive quantity.]

An interesting theme in Levi-discourse is that of honesty. The most common accusation he makes against me is dishonesty; others can judge whether for themselves if this accusation sticks. But he also makes it against Buber, who is “insincere” for some reason. Then there are people who do or don’t “own up” to being Zionists. Then there’s “Dr Hirsh” who says he is not a Zionist but he really is, Toube and Grant who “claim” to be anti-Zionists but aren’t, and so on.

These are examples of anti-Zionisms “hermeneutics of suspicion” (to borrow a phrase of Arendt’s, from a totally different context). Anti-Zionism is obsessed with uncovering the secret Zionists, discerning the true meaning of Zionism, the reality behind the hasbara appearance. The “real meaning” of Zionism, for the anti-Zionists, is not what the Zionists think or say, but what they do and what they are. The real meaning is not national self-determination, but ethnic cleansing. (The Israel Lobby thesis, of which Levi is not a particular adherent, although he started this thread with the imputation of enormous behind the scenes power over Guardian editorial policy by “the lobby” carried out by its agent Freedland.)

This obsession with the hidden reality, unmasking the Zionists, is the kinship, in my view, between contemporary anti-Zionism and the Soviet anti-Zionism that Modernity mentions. (Speculating further, this might be one reason that non-Jewish anti-Zionists are so keen on Jewish anti-Zionists like Atzmon, as the people that can “reveal” the inner truth behind the scenes.)
bob said…
“Most histories of zionism distinguish between the Lovers of Zion (Ahad Ha'am) and the zionist movement. El Al's history certainly does.” I’ve not read that many histories of Zionism, but all of the ones I’ve read give Ahad Ha’am a pretty central role. “Political Zionism” became dominant over “practical Zionism” at a particular moment, but that is not a reason to write the latter out of the history. I completely disagree with the idea that the kibbutz movement as a whole was aimed at Jewish statehood. You have to whitewash a huge amount of Zionist history to make your definition fit historically.

“You're trying to make out that the Balfour Declaration was something other than support for the zionist conquest of Palestine.” I was saying nothing about the Declaration. The wording “national home” simply accurately expressed the aspiration of most Zionists in the period up to 1948. I think the history of Zionism shows that statehood was just one element of this, foregrounded by some streams of Zionism and not embraced by other streams. While we are here, though, I think the Balfour Declaration was primarily about recruiting an imagined world Jewish public opinion to its war aims, rather than any commitment to a Jewish state, and certainly not any interest in “Zionist conquest”, which its authors would have been utterly opposed to. See James Renton’s excellent The Zionist Masquerade.
bob said…
“Your invoking of Garveyism was simply giving an example of an earlier abstract definition I offered.” You’ve either wilfully missed the point I was making or perhaps I didn’t make myself clear. Garveyism was heavily influenced by Zionism as well as by the earlier Back to Africa movements that led to Liberia and Sierra Leone. The earlier movements, which predate Zionism, were also influenced by the sort of Biblical language that would be later harnessed by Zionism. But my point was that these were expressions of the idea of the self-determination of black people. I think the whole idea of self-determination, or at least of national self-determination, to be completely flawed – as I’ve written in the post Sarah mentioned. But the thing is people don’t tend to identify themselves or be identified with the self-determination of other people, so that it seems off to hear a white person say “I am a Garveyite” (or a non-Tamil say they are a Tamil nationalist, or a person with no Irish heritage to say they are an Irish Republican etc), just as it sounds off to hear a non-Jewish person describe themselves as a Zionist or be ascribed that identity by others.

CLR James, by the way, enormously admired Garvey, but was also very critical of him. He perceived the Garveyism’s kinship with other ethnic nationalisms of the time, and with generic fascism. Paul Gilroy has taken up this theme very interestingly in his Between Camps (and Gilroy’s Black Atlantic also explores some of the connections between earlier black nationalisms and Zionism). I don’t recall James specifically comparing Garvey to Hitler, but a comparison to Hitler would certainly be apt in some ways – a comparison to Mussolini would be even more accurate. I have compared Jabotinsky to Mussolini, and I think that Revisionist Zionism (like Garveyism, like the Muslim Brotherhood, like the Hindutva movement) was formed in an intellectual moment and milieu that also spawned generic fascism and the movements share several fundamental features.

To make these arguments would be completely legitimate, by the way, and have no relation to using a phrase like “Zionazis” or, saying “the Jews are the new Nazis”. The latter not the former are obviously the types of claims the EUMC definition is aimed at. An analysis that would allow for a comparison between Jabotinsky and Hitler would also allow for a discussion of whether Garvey should also be compared to Hitler, and therefore is an unlikely context for antisemitism. Whereas hurling the ultimate offensive accusation of “Nazi” at Jews because of Israel’s actions is likely to be judged an antisemitic trope by anyone not an active denier. (A comparison of Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto would fall somewhere in between the two, being grossly and offensively disproportionate but not necessarily antisemitic; here the EUMC qualification of context would come into play.)
bob said…
“there are people who believe that the State of Israel should remain Jewish but who claim not to be zionists, though it's rare to see them explaining what the difference is between themselves and those who call themselves zionists. Eg, Dr Hirsh of Engage (the former) and John Strawson (the latter).” Not sure what is latter and former here, but “Dr” Hirsh has argued very clearly (I am typing this off-line for pasting in later, so I am paraphrasing rather than quoting) for a response to Israel/Palestine that gives the Palestinians justice and the Israelis security. Before the boycott issue came up, his academic work was on the settler far right and on the illegality of the occupation. Anyone who has read even a tiny bit of his writing on Israel/Palestine itself (rather than on antisemitism in the UK, which is Engage’s main focus) would see immediately that whatever else his views are, he is not someone who advocates ethnic cleansing and second class status for Palestinians. Clearly, then, he is not a Zionist in Levi’s restricted sense, although he may be in the enlarged sense – and, like Sarah, also a Palestinianist in the larger sense.

(This is part of a larger package, mentioned above, of anti-Zionists claiming to know the secret truth behind the appearances. Hirsh calls for Palestinian rights; he really means they shouldn’t have rights. Similarly, Aaronovitch and his ilk are “simply self-identifying as Jews”; the reality underneath is for Levi to reveal. Toube and Grant “claim” to be anti-Zionist, but Levi knows the truth.)
bob said…
“another Zionism is possible”. I don’t recall how I actually used that phrase; I’ll have to check. I took it, I think, from Jacqueline Rose’s The Last Resistance, although her definitions of Zionism are even slippier than mine. I think I meant “other than” the now dominant Zionism. I think I was referring to historical examples of one-state or non-state Zionism, and suggesting that if other Zionisms were historically possible so perhaps other Zionisms are possible now and in the future, and perhaps other ways of framing the situation than the zero sum game of today in which, according to Skid, being Zionist in any enlarged sense is incompatible with being “Palestinianist” in any enlarged sense.

Talking of Professor Rose... re “that personal stuff”: I wasn’t bothered about being or not being assumed Jewish. Points to Levi for remembering so well what I typed the last time (or was it the time before?) that we had this argument, at JsF.
bob said…
“It was the first site to appear when I googled - Churchill "I am a zionist". What did you google?” I googled |Winston Churchill Zionist|. But I wasn’t disputing you! However, while Churchill may have been a Zionist in some senses, he was a pretty conflicted and contradictory one, no?

When I said Churchill was pro-Zionist, I meant he supported the broad Zionist movement as it existed at that time, and its core aim of national self-determination for Jews and a national home in Palestine. He was formed politically in a time when racial nationalism was the predominant frame for understanding geopolitics. It was this racial nationalism that lay behind the writing of the Balfour Declaration, and informed the simultaneous pro-Arabism and pro-Zionism of many of its framers. (Again Renton is excellent on this. If I remember right, he talks, for example, about Mark Sykes and his Arabophilia and philosemitism.)

To be formed in this time, to experience the Balfour Declaration, you don’t simply stop being a Zionist when the state of Israel is formed. When I said “The state of Israel existed, and in a sense therefore Zionism became redundant”, I put it wrong. Because Zionism had a new lease of life after 1948, as it became the project of nation-building. But by the 1980s, when I was formed politically, the nation-building period was basically over, and it seemed utterly irrelevant to be a Zionist or not a Zionist – the “Pakistanist” situation Sarah mentions.
bob said…
“It's curious how you have now made at least two references to what people "think". Of course we cannot know what people think, only what they say and do.”/ “We could spend lots of time talking about Jews working in agriculture in Ottoman Palestine with no view as to how the state is governed or who by and that might be an interesting academic exercise.” I tend to assume we can usually infer something of what people think by what they say/write, but I take the point. But the anti-Zionist hermeneutics of suspicion means that means is that what people say and do is describes as mere illusion. Hirsh and Toube and Grant say X, but “really” they think Y. And as for what they “do”, well largely they write stuff for English-language audiences. Except that according to the anti-Zionist hermeneutics they are “really” engaged in ethnic cleansing. And, really, dissecting what Sarah and I say and write and do is about as academic as talking about Jews in Ottoman Palestine for all the impact we have on what happens in Tel Aviv, Hebron or Gaza!
levi9909 said…
Bob - you are not averse to falsely accusing people of dishonesty. Once you cut a comment of mine to make it look like I had omitted something I had included. That alone will make me say that you are dishonest when it suits. I also think your politics are prejudice rather than reality based and so you sometimes have to tweak reality to fit the prejudice.

Anyway, I'll try to deal with your points in order:

Buber, I didn't assert that he was insincere, I said "I doubt Buber's sincerity from what I have read but his view of bi-nationalism still involved special status for Jews and ultimately restrictions on Arabs and other non-Jews". An honourable thing for you to do would be to ask what I have read and what leads me to that conclusion. Your worry appears to be that i can support what I believe by reference to known facts.

I didn't say that Hirsh, Toube and Grant were lying by saying that they are non or anti-zionist. I said there are people with the same positions on the question of a state for Jews, some of whom describe themselves as non-zionist, some as anti-zionist and some as zionist. It's hard for me to believe that you thought I was saying there were lying from what I actually said. I was actually saying that there is inconsistency between how people describe themselves over the same worldview which makes it difficult to arrive at a definitive answer to the question "what is a zionist?".

The Guardian is pro-Israel in that it supports the idea of a state specially for Jews. It doesn't take enormous power to shift the Guardian.

The "hidden reality" stuff is pretentious twaddle. I see what anyone can and does see. Freedland is a self-described zionist and he says that Jews are entitled to a specifically Jewish state. It so happens that that state is based on ethnic cleansing. He has lied to smear Israel's Jewish critics and his writing has revealed a barely concealed racism towards Palestinians. I don't care if the Guardian is throwing sops to a lobby against its will or if pro-zionism is its will.

But to attempt to reduce the very idea of a powerful Israel lobby to an absurdity isn't simply dishonest, it's ludicrous.

And don't forget, I showed you a whole load of text from the man himself saying that the Guardian supports Israel. So he doesn't lie about everything.
levi9909 said…
"You have to whitewash a huge amount of Zionist history to make your definition fit historically."

No I don't Bob, you do. Sarah asked what I meant by calling Freedland a zionist and I gave her a definition that works for recent and current events and for the overwhelming majority of individuals and groups calling themselves zionist.

Re "national home", you still haven't attempted to define it. You need to define it in the abstract and then point to examples of other national homes that don't amount to statehood or special status.

The entire Palestine settlement enterprise under the auspices of the WZO was clearly aimed at establishing a singularly Jewish entity. This Renton chap seems to ignore other declarations made by Balfour and agreed to by other imperial powers at the same time. And even if the Balfour Declaration wasn't such a great zionist victory, as Renton claims, then that is an admission of the fact that zionists were not seeking simply a "national home" nor an accommodation with the existing non-Jewish communities, but a state specially for Jews that severely prejudiced the rights of the non-Jewish communities. And wasn't so great for existing Jewish communities either.
levi9909 said…
I can't believe you're still promoting the EUMC working definition that you claimed earlier to have so many problems with. It was produced by the American Jewish Committee to prevent criticism of the State of Israel. You know it, I know it, everyone knows it.

It has now been adopted by Birmingham Uni students guild/union to vet future speakers. Check out the Jewish Chronicle for how it all happened. Anyway, I know it wouldn't be used against CLR James if he compared anyone but Israel to the nazis. The WD isn't aimed at defending anything or anybody other than Israel and its supporters. No hidden meaning there. It's in our faces.

The "could" and "context" provisos are a sham and you know it. You are simply being dishonest as is the working definition.

Anyway, let's see how it plays out in Birmingham where Israel was likened to the nazis in a public meeting, neither to a rabbi nor an Israeli ambassador.
levi9909 said…
Not sure what is latter and former here, but “Dr” Hirsh has argued very clearly (I am typing this off-line for pasting in later, so I am paraphrasing rather than quoting) for a response to Israel/Palestine that gives the Palestinians justice and the Israelis security.

Dr Hirsh claims to be a non-zionist and John Strawson claims to be a zionist and yet both believe that Israel should be a Jewish state or a state for Jews.

What does justice for Palestinians mean? And what does security for Israel mean?

I suspect it is vacuous nonsense but at least try to explain in a way that is consistent with Hirsh professed belief that arguments against Israel existence as a Jewish state are antisemitic.

Hirsh is on record saying that the UK Labour Party's support in 1944 for the removal of the Arabs from Palestine was an acceptable response to news of the holocaust. I am not sure that he has even ever admitted that the Palestinians have suffered ethnic cleansing. He tends to promote Isaac Deutscher's "burning building" nonsense on how the zionist colonisation, conquest and ethnic cleansing of Palestine came about.

I think you'll find that most of what Hirsh claims is antisemitism is criticism of Israel and calls for boycott though he did find an instance of antisemitism in a small circulation Greek newspaper. He didn't criticise cast lead.

I think you need to ask him what he means by "justice for the Palestinians". I think you'll find he wants a state for Jews throughout most of Palestine and a state with no Jews in the rest of Palestine.

I see you revisiting the Toube/Grant and so on stuff. I merely said that they claim to be anti-zionist and yet they have the same views of others who claim to be zionists. They are against the right of ethnically cleansed Palestinians to return to their homeland.

Your hissy fits are so childish and you try to act so intellectual. Aaronovitch, Nich Cohen and Julie Burchill have each claimed to be Jewish and non-Jewish at different times. Check it out for yourself. I just know what they've written that's all.

As it happens, Burchill doesn't do it now and I saw Aaronovich distancing himself from former claims. Cohen said in an article I think you have referred to, that he hasn't had any Jews in his family for over a hundred years. Now he says he is Jewish. He also used the name Baruch Spinoza to accuse me of self-loathing sophistry and to accuse George Galloway of antisemitism. But that's another story.
levi9909 said…
You'll have to check? You'll have to check what you wrote?

You can write screen after screen misrepresenting what I wrote, not to mention the complete bollocks you've written defending some of the dodgiest of characters and you don't even know what you wrote.

I don't, as a general rule, have to check what I wrote because I am totally honest in these discussions.

You say what you think will play best with readers. I say what I believe to be true. Therefore if I am called on something I wrote, I know straight away if I would say such a thing. You will say anything to promote your prejudice based politics. It needs checking and rechecking.

You went to the trouble of saying that the "lopsided attitude of the left towards Israel" made you feel attacked as a Jew and that made you "defend yourself as a Jew" pace Hannah Arendt. I'm sorry if I remember the claims you make that you subsequently regret of forget. Another reason why honesty is the best policy.

But what was worse than inventing an identity was the fact that you see defending oneself as a Jew as smearing the critics of Israel. Smearing the critics of a colonial settler state based on ethnic cleansing and segregationist laws is not a singularly Jewish trait, Bob. Your assumption was antisemitic. But don't worry, you won't fall foul of the EUMC WD. That's not its aim.
levi9909 said…
Churchill was as conflicted about Jews as zionism itself. He supported Jewish supremacy and he was antisemitic. Typical zionist if you ask me.

I've just noticed that some of your answers are for Sarah. Are you both the same person?
Sarah AB said…
I didn't really feel I had anything else to add - though thanks for further comments which I did read with interest.

But I just *had* to respond to Levi's last point - that wasn't *serious* was it? I do link to my personal blog after all! Though I suppose I could be a Mossad fembot or something.
levi9909 said…
No, I don't think you and Bob are the same person. I just noticed that Bob responded to points put to you.
bob said…
I have to confess I don't really understand most of the points Levi makes in the last few comments, which mainly seem at a tangent to rather than in response to my comments, which is fine, because I shouldn’t have let it get into a jousting type situation. For example, I’m not sure what “some of your answers are for Sarah” means: we have to answer points put to us and ignore the rest of the conversation? On Balfour, Levi seems to have particularly missed the point, both mine and Renton’s, as I can’t get any purchase on his reply.

On the other hand, I might have missed his point on the various people claiming to not be Zionist. In particular, I misunderstood the Hirsh/Strawson former/latter point. I thought you were saying they claim not be Zionists but in fact are. If you are simply saying, Levi, that people take similar positions and call themselves different things (and possibly vice versa) then I completely agree with you and apologise. And this does, I agree, make “it difficult to arrive at a definitive answer to the question "what is a zionist?"”

Levi seems to want me and others to take a consistent line or position, and to always express it publicly, like those “What we stand for” columns on the back of a Trotskyist party paper. In fact, of course, I’m just an opinionated private individual who changes my mind and is inconsistent, but I don’t think I change my positions for the gallery or to deceive. So, for example, I think the EUMC Working Definition is problematic and am apprehensive about what its adoption by a student union might mean in practice. But at the same time it is clear to me that the EUMC working definition would enable anti-racists to see that discussing the relationship between Revisionist Zionism and generic fascism is perfectly legitimate, while shouting “Zionazis” at Jews is racist. If it is “promoting” the EUMC WD to say that it is flawed but not as fundamentally flawed as Levi claims it is, so be it. The “could” and “context” provisos are declared “sham” by Levi (again the obsession with exposing the hidden truth); to me they make it a workable working definition.

Or, another example, Hirsh “didn’t criticise” Cast Lead, as if has a duty to explain himself and his position on Israel’s policies. Perhaps he did but not on Engage; perhaps he didn’t. (I happen to have spoken to him about it at the time, so I know his position, but I see no reason he needs to declare a line.) And I think I do believe, on reflection, that Levi’s endless insistence on people like Hirsh having to declare themselves on Israel’s actions (like Fink’s insistence on policing Greens who are not sufficiently “up on the issues”) legitimises a good Jew/bad Jew trope that easily feeds antisemitism.

Levi is aghast that I can’t remember exactly how I used the phrase “another Zionism is possible”, saying this shows the depth of my dishonesty and inconsistency. Sorry, I simply can’t remember exactly how I used that phrase four months ago, and can’t remember the exact context. I write quite a lot, probably too much, on this blog and in the comments threads. Some of it makes me cringe later; sometimes I am pleasantly surprised.
bob said…
On the “national home”, no I don’t define it precisely because different Zionists have at different times defined it differently: a definition of Zionism I think is useful is a definition that actually captures what the range of Zionists now and historically have believed in, said and done. If pressed, I guess something like: “a land where they could determine their fate as a nation, and a refuge from the antisemitism they experienced elsewhere”. For many Zionists, “territory” would work as well as “land”, but not all. For many Zionists, the territory needed to be a Jewish “state”, but not all. For some, it would be a land where Jews were free to live amongst others; for others a Jewish majority was important (the land needed to be Jewish in some sense); for some it had to be exclusively Jewish. Similar diversity would be found among any other national movement; all nationalisms have a fascist edge and a civic liberal edge, and many have a socialist edge too. Arguably, all nationalisms are racist, and there is nothing exceptional about the Zionist variant of nationalism. Because Zionism is so like other nationalisms, I see no great need to offer too much precision in defining this particular nationalism. And I see no need to offer a definition that parts from this sort of thing and elevates an attitude to non-nationals to a defining quality.

On the Guardian: on two or three occasions in the current century (is it any more than that?), a Guardian leader comment has explicitly made a commitment to the existence of some kind of Israeli state, and in this sense the Guardian could be said to be “pro-Israel”. However, the official leader comment position, and the editorial thrust of the reportage, selection of who comments etc are completely different things. The official paper position in May 2010 was to endorse the Liberal Democrats, but reading the range of comments published and the thrust of the reportage, then and now, you wouldn’t call it a pro-Lib Dem paper. I think the official Guardian position is to endorse AV, but reading the range of comments published and the thrust of the reportage you wouldn’t call it a pro-AV paper. In fact, whatever the official line, it is clear from the comments it publishes and from the way it reports Is/Pal, that the paper is overwhelmingly highly critical of Israeli state policy, and regularly publishes Palestinian nationalists, people who don’t think Israel has a right to exist and people who support one state. A simple browse through the Israel section on the website will suffice to make it obvious that the Guardian is in no meaningful sense a “pro-Israel” paper.

On Churchill, as I type this I note over at the corner of the screen a Huffington Post story entitled “Zionist Terrorist Attempted To Assassinate Winston Churchill: M15 Report”, and I just read Boffy’s comments at TCF on the Allies during WWII: “Churchill was just as much a Jew hater as Hitler, and none of these powers did anything to help the Jews prior to the War.” Odd that Churchill is so much in the air right now!
levi9909 said…
I don't think there's much to add here except, regarding Dr Hirsh.

I don't think people generally or Jews in particular need to take a stand on the question of Palestine but he does take a stand on Palestine.

He claims his site is anti-racist and against antisemitism and that it came into being specifically to oppose a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. He also persistently asserts that there are parameters to any political debate on any final status situation between Israel and the Palestinians and he seeks to set parameters as to how, the two state/no return model can be brought about, ie with no pressure on Israel but with nothing said about the pressure placed on the Palestinians.

You now say that he wants security for Israel and justice for Palestinians. And yet neither of these are explained. What, eg, is Israel securing if not Jewish supremacy throughout most, if not all, of Palestine? And how can there be justice for Palestinians if Israel is securing Jewish supremacy?

And, given the fact that Hirsh clearly does take a stand on Israel/Palestine and that you say he wants justice for the Palestinians, you might think he would say a critical something about cast lead. I just remember at the time him comparing a Palestinian and an Israeli student's objections (I think it was a picket) to Tel Aviv centenary celebrations to the nazis trying to stop Jews attending university in Germany by way of a rather striking image posted to the Engage site at the time.

And when news came through of a university destroyed in Gaza, I checked the Engage site and there was a post on an antisemitic article in a small circulation Greek newspaper.

Also, Dr Hirsh claims that most antisemitism is expressed as anti-zionism and that anti-zionism (as in seeking the abolition of Jewish statehood) is predictive of antisemitism. This leads to him being very protective of Israel and, at best, dismissive of its critics, sometimes in antisemitic terms.

In fact I think you will find that most of the Engage output amounts to either positive defences of Israel or attacks on Israel's critics. Now and then there is something that is truly antisemitic and even disturbingly mainstream but that is in a minority of the Engage output.

But, no, whilst I would like as many people as can be reached to come out and support the Palestinian cause, including the right of return, I don't think it is anybody's obligation.

In fairness to Hirsh, his position on Israel seems to have evolved (maybe devo'd) since the start of the site. Once he raised he raised the Labour good, Likud bad standard and was accused of doing, exactly what you are accusing me of doing, positing good Jew bad Jew. Back he came: "you say that Engage wants to go on playing the old anti-semitic game of sorting Jews into ‘good’ Jews and ‘bad’ Jews. Well there are good Jews and bad Jews – Jews are like everyone else in that respect."
He has denounced Sharon and Netanyahu as instrumentalising antisemitism allegations as a means of silencing critics. He now makes vague references to an unspecified "Israeli right" and he claims that bad faith allegations of antisemitism just don't happen, indeed that it's antisemitic to say that they do.

We're all on a learning curve, I suppose.

But I must reiterate my point that I believe your politics to be prejudice rather than reality based. The things that tend to confirm your prejudice are accepted without question. Counter-argument instils in you "outrage", again often without question even when some straightforward questioning would elicit an entirely innocent and morally and intellectually sustainable position. Whereas, morally and intellectually unsustainable positions but emanating from quarters more in line with your own prejudice are merely, at worst, "not very helpful", "problematic" and so on.
bob said…
Haven't digested the last comment, because when I started reading it I realised I should check what Hirsh said, and found I was misquoting him quite significantly. He says this:

"My approach is to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict into two analytically
distinct elements: the Palestinian struggle for freedom and the Israeli struggle for
survival. My argument is that an adequate analysis needs to recognize the reality and
validity of both struggles, even if they become indistinguishable in practice."

Deutscher is indeed a reference point. The above quote follows on from this: "He understood
the conflict as one in which there was both right and wrong on both sides of the ethnic or
national divide. Israel was, in his view, a life-raft state, built under the severest emergency conditions imaginable by Jews who were pushed out of Europe. Deutscher insists that there could still have been outcomes other than seemingly endless conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Deutscher’s refusal simply to endorse the nationalism of one side or the other, coeval with the establishment of the state of Israel, contrasts with
retrospective tendencies at a later time either to support the nationalism of the oppressed against the ‘Zionism’ of the oppressors or, alternatively, to support Israel against its
‘Arab’ neighbours."

Here is a later section, making the above point in a different way: "
Since before it existed, Israel has been engaged in two struggles with its neighbours. One
is a just war, waged by Palestinian Arabs for freedom - which became a struggle for
Palestinian national independence; the other is a genocidal war that aims to end, or at
least subjugate, Jewish life in the Middle East. It is my argument that a cosmopolitan
framework should insist on the reality of this distinction and it should challenge those
who recognize the reality of only one or other of these two separate wars.

However in the summer of 2006, when Israeli tanks were stalking through the crowded streets of Gaza, when Katyusha rockets were slamming into a deserted Haifa, when Israeli F16s were blowing up buildings in the suburbs of Beirut and when Israeli soldiers were being held in underground dungeons waiting for their own beheading to be broadcast on al-Jazeera, the distinction seemed entirely notional...

The way out is for cosmopolitan voices and political movements to insist on the reality of both wars and to separate them conceptually; to stand clearly for a Palestinian victory in the fight for freedom and equally clearly for an Israeli victory in the fight against annihilation."

I think this is totally at odds with the version of Hirsh that Levi insists on.
ModernityBlog said…
"Zionism is similar to fascism, racism and antisemitism in that they are all ideological positions that far more people are accused of than own up"

This old chestnut.

I do wish that Elf would avoid politics, as clearly he knows next to nothing in that arena.

Certainly in the realm of human psychology his insights are useful as those of a Teletubby.

But coming back I see that Elf has quoted Shalom Lappin, and typically neglected to give the original reference, lest his characterisation be shown false.

Here it is:

Another extract:

"Interestingly, while many critics of Israel object to its character as a Jewish state none, as far as I know, have any problems with Palestine as an Arab state or with the encoding of Arab national and cultural identity into the constitutional structure of the countries that surround

Given their hypersensitivity to Jewish nationalism it is peculiar that these people accept with such equanimity the fact that large non-Arab minorities in these countries are systematically repressed.

Even relatively benign Morocco has subjected the Berbers to generations of forced Arabization, although they were the original indigineous people of the country and still consistute a very large part of its population.

Similarly, the Copts have always faced marginalization in Egypt, and the Kurds were brutally persecuted in Iraq under Sadaam Hussein.

I don't recall those political groups that find Israel's existence as a Jewish state so abhorrent ever encountering a problem with ethnically defined Arab states.

Why isn't the same standard applied across the board here? Is one brand of nationally defined state more acceptable than another simply because of the identity of the nation in question?" {My emphasis].
ModernityBlog said…

Do you remember that there's some academic program, I forget what it's called, but it analyses text to produce some readability score.

I was thinking that you could do something similar, and produce a summary of how many times in this particular exchange (or others) that Elf has used the words "dishonest", "dishonesty", "lie" or "liar" to refer to others that don't hold his views.

My bet is that it is more than 20 times, just a guess.

Bob, want to speculate, before tallying them up?
Nishtikeit said…
"But, no, whilst I would like as many people as can be reached to come out and support the Palestinian cause, including the right of return, I don't think it is anybody's obligation."

Correct, Levi. It is however your obligation to deal with the antisemitism in your movement. If you think you can deal with antisemitism in your British anti-Zionist back yard so much better than David Hirsh, how about you take yourself off back to JSF and crack on with it.

Though I realise that's a tall order for somebody who'd derail a discussion about Libya with one about Israel advocacy.
ModernityBlog said…
"But I must reiterate my point that I believe your politics to be prejudice rather than reality based."


I am slowly, after coming back, reading this thread and there are some good bits (mostly in response to Elf's CONSTANT accusation of bad faith by others, which is one of his common theme).

But, really, how do you put up with his shite:

"I believe your politics to be prejudice rather than reality based."
levi9909 said…
Bob - you seem to have avoided my point:

You now say that he wants security for Israel and justice for Palestinians. And yet neither of these are explained. What, eg, is Israel securing if not Jewish supremacy throughout most, if not all, of Palestine? And how can there be justice for Palestinians if Israel is securing Jewish supremacy?

You've simply replaced the word "justice" with the word "freedom". I think you will find that Hirsh posits the idea that it was and is other Arabs who are responsible for the injustice and lack of freedom suffered by the Palestinians.

Deutscher does endorse one side, he claims that Arabs attacked Jews in 1948 and that that was the start of the conflict. He ignores the settlement of Palestine by zionists since the 1890s.
levi9909 said…
Hirsh actually describes Arab intentions as genocidal and makes out that the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians (which you, Bob, claim was unsuccessful) was simply a defence against that.

"It was, in 1948, the Arab nationalist regimes which launched the second genocidal offensive
of the decade against the Jews. As it turned out, it was the Palestinians and not the Jews who were the chief victims of this pan-Arabist aggression. The Palestinians suffered terribly as a result of the subordination of their own national interest to the ideology of Arab nationalism. Many Arab states, to this day, refuse to allow Palestinians to live as equal citizens. Lebanon, Jordan and the 'Syrian Arab Republic' keep the descendants of the Palestinian refugees corralled, with the collusion of the UN, into 'refugee camps' so that their symbolic value as victims of Israeli oppression may continue to be exploited.

Sheesh! I hadn't noticed the quotes around "refugee camps". But Hirsh wants justice and freedom for the Palestinians and he doesn't, or in that correspondence, didn't see Israel or zionism as being responsible for the injustices the Palestinians suffer or the lack of freedom.

You might want to read the whole correspondence with Martin Shaw but it involves `Hirsh "absolutely contesting....a pre-planned campaign of ethnic cleansing, theft and genocide [by Israel or zionist forces".

Does this "contesting" form a part of his "anti-racist campaign against antisemitism"? If it is then he is doing precisely what you, Bob, said he doesn't do.

So let's read on: "Left antizionist discourse owes much to its anti-Semitic Soviet heritage. The current boycott campaign relies on rhetoric similar to that which was used in the state purges of Jews from Polish and East German universities in 1968." No examples given.

Thankfully, if what bob is saying about the working definition is true, antisemitism monitors will distinguish between expulsions of Jews using zionism as an excuse and calling on the general public or academics to boycott a state based on colonial settlement, ethnic cleansing and segregationist laws. But Hirsh appears here to be accusing Israel's opponents of antisemitism simply for believing and promoting a version of history that seems to tally far better with what is documented and known and has been detailed by Israel advocates and detractors alike. He also advocates the incorporation of the working definition into the laws of member states of the EU.

But still, if, as you suggest, he expresses himself better in private conversation than he does or did in print, that's fine.
levi9909 said…
Moddy - I was pointing out what Lappin and Cohen were saying about Israel's need for undemocratic laws restricting the rights of non-Jews in Palestine. What he said about Arab states and Palestinian aspirations is completely irrelevant to his discussion about a "democratic Jewish state" with Adrian Cohen. I was simply responding to Bob's remark that when the immediate victims of the nakba are all dead, the problem will be solved. He then said he was only joking but the point is a serious one as the discussion between Cohen and Lappin attests.

Re: "I believe your politics to be prejudice rather than reality based." It isn't shite. It's based on observations of, er, reality. I see what I see and I make up my mind. You make up your mind, then you see what you see, same with Bob. Examples are legion but can we wrap this up now?
skidmarx said…
Bob's remark that when the immediate victims of the nakba are all dead, the problem will be solved.
I could point out that if "nakba" is replaced by "Holocaust", the remark wouldn't be written off as a joke. I'm tempted to point out that rather than the z-word problem being one of misattribution, it is far more of any use of Zionists/Israelis/Jews being used as a target for an allegation of anti-semitism to avoid discussing the politics of the issue.
bob said…
I just noticed that Skid recommended, by way of that great humanitarian Kevin Ovenden, Mahmood Mamdani, someone I see as an apologist for genocide in the Gibbs model.

Last time I mentioned him (on a previous occasion when Socialist Unity pushed Mamdani), I wrote: be sure and follow the links provided by Terry Townsend: here, here, here, and also read RW Johnson's response on Mamdani's apologia for Mugabe.

The review snippets on the Princeton University Press website, by the way, are classics of the genre. When I see film posters saying '"fantastic action scenes" - Daily Telegraph', I can't help but wonder if the Telegraph actually said "apart from the fantastic action scenes in the first ten minutes this film is pure shite". That's what Princeton have done here. Look at the Dissent review they quote from. A more representative quote might be this: "Mamdani's attempt to make the genocide thinkable is remarkably successful—until he comes to the genocide itself. Then his approach becomes utterly inadequate, and its inadequacy leads him to make some dubious judgments about the genocide and the political landscape left in its bloody wake." Or: "Up to the end of the colonial era, Mamdani's theory illuminates the commonly accepted historical account in a way that makes this book a genuinely original contribution to understanding the Rwandan catastrophe. But with the so-called "social revolution" of 1959, the relation of his claims to the facts begins to provoke more questions than insights." Or: "Mamdani accords the Hutu desire for power an emancipatory status not borne out by the facts he adduces to it. Everything that followed independence in 1962 shows that the Hutu leaders wanted majority rule, not because they believed in democratic principles, but because they wanted to rule.Mamdani's argument gives him a dubious opportunity to see the four decades since independence in terms of the purported defense of "the gains" of the "social revolution," which makes Hutu violence slightly more legitimate." Or: "In a book dedicated to making it "thinkable," the genocide itself occupies fewer than twenty pages. It has an air of unreality; after so much talk of politics and identity, the raw facts of murder by machete never reach the page. Without ever being legitimated, in Mamdani's version the genocide becomes one more event in a history of political conflict, rather than a crime of such magnitude that in some ways Rwandan history—ordinary history,the struggle for power between groups, the desire to live in peace on the part of individuals—stopped on April 6, 1994, and when it resumed nothing could be the same again. It is the greatest failure of Mamdani's book that the genocide (not the perfunctory one in its pages, but the one we know from other accounts and from whatever effort our own imaginations can make) comes across not as the culmination of everything he's discussed beforehand, but as something mysteriously apart."

The Foreign Affairs review quoted IS positive, but goes on to say: "the imbalance between the book's elaborate theoretical and historical apparatus and its empirical evidence is a central problem".
bob said…
Meanwhile the Victoria Brittain review in the Guardian doesn't seem to exist. (Instead, the Guardian published Eric Reeves dismissing Mamdani as glib, dishonest and ideologically motivated.) The H-Net review quoted doesn;t seem to exist. (Instead H-Net published an even handed review pointing out some inaccuracies and calling him extreme.) The Independent's review isn't on-line either, if it exists.
bob said…
Examples are legion but can we wrap this up now? Any time you like Mark!

It is utterly absurd for me to reply to the idea that my politics are prejudice-based while yours are reality-based, or the shocking charge that I go easier on my friends than on my enemies.

I didn't exactly say I was "only joking" about everything would be OK when the victims of the Nakba are dead. Rather, I was (clumsily) pointing out the utter absurdity of using 1948 as year zero when it comes to have the right to have rights, simply because it is "in living memory". The bizarre Holocaust comparison actually sharpens this: justice will not come when the Shoah is simply no longer in living memory.

I can't really follow what you're saying about Hirsh. I'll try and read it more carefully and maybe reply, not that I feel the need to answer for him. I personally think "survival" and "security" are rather different things, and that "justice" and "freedom" are rather different things, but fair enough if you don't.
bob said…
Hirsh: ebanon, Jordan and the 'Syrian Arab Republic' keep the descendants of the Palestinian refugees corralled, with the collusion of the UN, into 'refugee camps' so that their symbolic value as victims of Israeli oppression may continue to be exploited.

Levi: Sheesh! I hadn't noticed the quotes around "refugee camps".

I completely agree with Hirsh on this. How are Palestinians treated in Jordan? Are they allowed to live the full lives of equal citizens? Why are they kept as second class citizens in such places dependent on UN aid?

Can you really still call somewhere like Wihdat as a "camp", a place Electronic Intifada calls "a suburb of east Amman" (check the photos)?

Or Ain al-Hilweh in Lebanon (pic at )? Why are Palestinians kept there as second class citizens, eating rotten vegetables and barely accessing basic health care?

Or Yarnouk in Syria, where a quarter of a million Palestinians live? See image and interview here: A clue to why Syria wants them to be thought of as refugees in camps: "We live exactly like Syrians, but we haven’t political rights. We can’t participate in Syrian parties, so we have a different cause. This is why the Palestinians are involved in Palestinian movement and not in Syrian political… For example, we don’t talk about democracy in Syria. This is not our issue for the Palestinian. This is not our problem. It is the problem of the Syrian."
bob said…
Levi, I did not say that Hirsh does not have a view on Palestine, and only fights antisemitism. If I'd said Engage exists to fight antisemitism and not to take a position on Israel, I'd stand by that, or if I said that that there is no reason we should expect Hirsh to take a public "position" on every single aspect of the I/P conflict. He is perfectly entitled to contest Martin Shaw's views isn't he?

Apart from that, I don't really understand your points about him, so I'll stop there.

In your quotes from Hirsh, I read a recognition of injustice against Palestinians and a desire for justice.

Similarly, I do not recognise Isaac Deutscher from your your "reality-based" caricature of him. Here is my "prejudice-based" version, writing in 1967 in NLR: "Israel promised not merely to give the survivors of the EuropeanJewish communities a ‘National Home’ but also to free them from the fatal stigma. This was the message of the kibbutzim, the Histadruth, and even of Zionism at large. The Jews were to cease to be unproductive elements, shopkeepers, economic and cultural interlopers, carriers of capitalism. They were to settle in ‘their own land’ as ‘productive workers’.

Yet they now appear in the Middle East once again in the invidious role of agents not so much of their own, relatively feeble, capitalism, but of powerful western vested interests and as protégés of neo-colonialism. This is how the Arab world sees them, not without reason. Once again they arouse bitter emotions and hatreds in their neighbours, in all those who have ever been or still are victims of imperialism. What a fate it is for the Jewish people to be made to appear in this role! As agents of early capitalism they were still pioneers of progress in feudal society; as agents of the late, over-ripe, imperialist capitalism of our days, their role is altogether lamentable; and they are placed once again in the position of potential scapegoats. Is Jewish history to come full circle in such a way? This may well be the outcome of Israel’s ‘victories’; and of this Israel’s real friends must warn it.

The Arabs, on the other hand, need to be put on guard against the socialism or the anti-imperialism of the fools. We trust that they will not succumb to it; and that they will learn from their defeat and recover to lay the foundations of a truly progressive, a socialist Middle East."
ModernityBlog said…

I frankly don't understand you.

Elf insults, says essentially that you are prejudice, and you keep trying to exchange civil views with him?

Why? to what purpose?

NOTHING, but NOTHING you could say to him would make a damn bit of difference.

If you wish to turn your threads into to Ziocentric haven for him and Skidmarx, then I'll leave you in peace, it is tedious in the extreme.

Elf is impervious to reason.

No argument will make him change his mind concerning your politics.

Why indulge him?

Your comments boxes will end up as a three-way discussion between you, Elf and his sidekick, Skidmarx.

It all seems so pointless, and wastes your valuable time.

I will bow out.
levi9909 said…
I am not saying that various words, justice, freedom, survival and security are interchangeable or synonymous. I said that what Israel's is trying to survive and what it is trying to secure need explaining. I am saying that it is trying to survive as a Jewish supremacist state. I am further saying that justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible, in Palestine anyway, with the securing and survival of Jewish supremacist rule.

Hirsh's blaming of "Arab nationalists" for the plight of the Palestinians suggests that he absolves Israel and the zionist movement of wrong-doing and, as per Deutscher in the work that's relevant to the establishment of the State of Israel and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians that was essential to the establishment of the State of Israel, and that commenced 7 months before the mobilisation of the Arab states.

As regards the ill treatment of the Palestinians in Arab states, that cannot be gainsaid, but the existence of the Arab states is not predicated on the ill-treatment of the Palestinians or of anyone else. In fact, we are seeing the difference between revolutionary activity in the Arab states and resistance to zionism nowadays. With the Arab regimes, it is the regimes should be overthrown. With Israel it is the state itself. That is because, unlike the Arab states which have illegitimate regimes, Israel is an illegitimate state. Only Israel advocates seem to find that difficult to understand.

Yes Bob, Deustcher wrote some nice stuff but over the crucial actions of the zionist movement from November 1947, he became, maybe temporarily, an apologist for zionism.

BTW, Engage is now running Goldstone's Washington Post op-ed tagged as anti-Zionism! Time for another chat.
bob said…
I simply don't recognise a "reality-based perspective" in which Hirsh and Deutscher's words could possibly be construed as "supremacist", or in which the only Israel imaginable is an essentially racist one in a way that is not the case with other nations, or that Israel is a uniquely illegitimate state. I simply don't recognise your description of what Hirsh says about 1948 in your glossing of what Hirsh says happened in 1948. Clearly, as already noted, we live in parallel realities.
levi9909 said…
I didn't gloss. I gave a link to a discussion and quoted from it in context.

The reality is that in claiming to simply oppose antisemitism, Hirsh presents a history of Israel that whitewashes the zionist movement. The prejudice, is that you think a nice zionism is possible and so you turn a blind eye to pro-zionist histories and activities.
bob said…
By "gloss" I didn't mean "gloss over", I meant the reading you provided for it, the interpretation you gave - all those extra words you added in around the quote. The 9 paragraphs or so you use to quote around 7 sentences. (See definition of "gloss" at Wikipedia, including this nice bit: "Glosses and other marginal notes were a primary format used in medieval Biblical theology, and were studied and memorized for their own merit. Many Biblical passages came to be associated with a particular gloss, whose truth was taken to be scriptural.")
levi9909 said…
Moddy - you seem to want a Harry's Place type blog where any dissenting voices are swamped by abusive dross and failing that perhaps you want Bob to do what Hirsh does by simply ensuring a balance of posts overwhelmingly supportive of the blog's position regardless of reasoned argument.

I merely complained about Freedland's influence at the Guardian and Bob went ape, apparently trying to imply that I'm antisemitic. He was never going to convince me of that.

Bob - I didn't simply give a description, I asked perfectly reasonable questions. The Martin Shaw/David Hirsh exchange is very informative as to how Hirsh uses antsemitism (particularly institutional) allegations as a means of "effectively granting immunity to Israel against any serious opposition".

Also Bob, it is you who uses writings as scriptural texts. My way is to look at evidence and writing. Deutscher and Hirsh posit Israel as a "life raft state" arising simply out of the nazi era with no regard for the pre-existing zionist movement and its expressed aims and objectives of establishing a state in Palestine for Jews by way of the "transfer" of the existing non-Jewish population.
ModernityBlog said…

You are NOT a dissenting voice, you are a wordy crank with a blog.

You are authoritarian, thick and untutored, thus it is pointless to even TRY to discuss complex issues with you.

You misread almost everything and have a relatively conservative view of things.

So in the same way I wouldn't waste my breath debating complicated issues with a thick Tory, I can't see any meaningful reason to exchange pleasantries with you, or assume that anything will enter your cranium.

I don't see any point in turning Bob's blog into a Ziocentric heaven where you can rant at your leisure, but that's Bob's choice.

Again, you are slow witted authoritarian with a shallow to nonexistent grasp of politics, unable to comprehend complex ideas.

You are uninterested in the views of others and therefore it is pointless to exchange views with you, there is NO common ground.

Or would you like me to explain that for a third time?
levi9909 said…
Moddy - a mass of contradictions from you.

You claim to be bowing out yet you don't and you claim to not want to waste your breath yet you continue on apparently unaware of the irony.

I don't see much in what you have just said that couldn't be applied to you. It is you who keeps trying to have me banned and yet you call me authoritarian. It's you that wants parties to adopt a working definition of antisemitism that you seem not to understand is itself antisemitic and which is aimed at preventing criticism of Israel (even subject to context) and it is you who says I have no understanding of politics.

Also, you say I am untutored and yet I have a BA SocSci (Politics) 2/1. It was a long time ago but I think grasping politics is a bit like riding a bike or swimming.

You call me a Tory, and yet it is you that rails against the left as if all leftists and anti-zionists owe their worldview to stalinism and the old Soviet bloc.

You say I am turning Bob's blog into a ziocentric heaven and yet my first comment addressed the entirety of the post with an aside to Jim Jepps that I'd read his piece on the Israeli president and expressed surprise that he didn't seem perturbed by Freedland at The Guardian. Bob then flipped out about "the bad Jew Freedland". The stuff about zionism flowed from there.

As regards lack of understanding, it's the straightforward stuff that I say that seems to get misconstrued. My saying that Hirsh, Toube and Grant deny that they are zionists, I am told, means I am saying they are lying but that wasn't what I was saying. Sarah wanted to know what I mean by zionist and when I told her what I mean and that that is what I invariably mean, that was somehow construed as me inventing meanings as I go along to the extent of rendering words meaningless, and that by someone who was doing exactly that to the word zionism.

Finally, you say I am not interested in other people's views but that is absurd. Why would I read and comment on what I am not interested in? And what do you mean there is no common ground? Bob supports the right of Palestinians to return and he says he believes that Jews should have the right to continue to live in Palestine and to go there to live when they come from elsewhere. I believe all of those things too and that anyone, not just Jews, should be allowed to go there to live. So I think Bob and I actually agree on what we both call the one state solution unless he thinks non-Jews who don't come from there should be restricted. I doubt if he does think that. It might just be you, in this thread, who is opposed to the right of Palestinians to return. I don't know, but then it's not your views I'm interested in. You go too ape when you disagree with people. I don't like all the unpleasantness. I find you a bit of an authoritarian red-baiter.
bob said…
Just to say that I suspect "flipped out" and "went ape" are not really how most people would see what I wrote. I was intemperate, compared to my usual calm self, but I think even my intemperate self is calmer than the blogosphere norm. I am, I think, henceforth leaving/putting any more flamery on this thread into the spam folder.
bob said…
I would also like to reassure commenters who have not achieved grades of 2/1 or above that they too are welcome here.
ModernityBlog said…
"You claim to be bowing out yet you don't and you claim to not want to waste your breath yet you continue on apparently unaware of the irony."

Indeed, a link brought me back and I like reading Bob and WS's points.

Which is where I saw Elf's nonsense again.

"yet you call me authoritarian"

Because you are, you think there is only ONE way of seeing things, YOUR way.

That is an authoritarian mindset.

"You call me a Tory, "

NO, I didn't, I wrote conservative as in UNCHANGING.

My poor analogy mentioned Tory, but that was an analogy, that most intelligent socialists would understand, but clearly not Elf.

My point, (and sadly Bob doesn't seem to get it) is that IF Elf can't read a few points here with any competence, then why debate him, as he would naturally misrepresent his interlocutor's views and make any honest discussion impossible?

That being the case, what purpose is served by arguing with someone who CONSTANTLY misrepresents other people's views and then goes on to call others "dishonest"??

"And what do you mean there is no common ground? "

These threads indicate that Elf is contemptuous of others' views, misrepresents them, doesn't understand them and really can't be bothered, that's why there is no common ground.

My overall point is that wasting time on Elf, plays into his pet neurosis and discourages other commenters, but it is Bob's blog, so he can do whatever he wants....
skidmarx said…
I don't know if I've been honoured with the appellation "sidekick" before. Holy Land Grab, Batmensch!

Oh Bob, I came across this quote from Callinicos' "Trotskyism":
The search for a “third camp”, representing a democratic alternative to both the Viet Cong and the Americans and their allies, prevented the ISC from mounting an effective campaign against the Vietnam war (Fisk 1977: 42-5). From the mid-1970s onwards, however, the International Socialists, along with much of the rest of the American Left, developed a fairly uncritical enthusiasm for Third World movements such as the Sandinistas, even though these could as plausibly as the Viet Cong be depicted as the agents of bureaucratic collectivist revolution.

Link, and to that of Cliff on bureaucratic collectivism in separate comment.
skidmarx said…
Callinicos. Cliff.

John Rees compares imperialism to an ill-mannered dinner guest.
skidmarx said…
levi9909 said…
Mod - before you jump in feet first you ought to read what you wrote. Eg you said "I wouldn't waste my breath debating complicated issues with a thick Tory". Go look.

Now, just because you're out of your depth with the discussion, doesn't mean everyone is. If you look at recent posts, the ones that have had the most comments are the ones that I have contributed to. I think so anyway. And I'm more than happy to change my position on something in light of new facts or a persuasive argument, as I did on that Toby Green thread. It looked to me that everyone else was dug in.

But I do wish that when you make your allegations of me "constantly misrepresenting other people's views" or "fiddling dates" or "revising facts" you would give a little more info, like what you're talking about. It's not fair simply to shout "liar liar pants on fire!" For some people, dishonesty is a serious business though I gather for you it's a legit debating tactic.

Re authoritarian, it is you who wants people banned for not agreeing with you and/or Bob. That's a behaviour thing, not a mindset. I don't read minds any more than you do.

Re common ground, Bob says he supports a one state solution for Israel/Palestine with the right of return for Palestinians. That is common ground between him and me because I support that as well. I understand he wants some special status for Jews there but by and large his position is much like mine.

So bow wow instead of bow out but I think you are saying more about yourself than you are about me.
ModernityBlog said…
"Mod - before you jump in feet first you ought to read what you wrote. Eg you said "I wouldn't waste my breath debating complicated issues with a thick Tory". Go look."


Honestly, you are frighteningly illiterate.

I am making a parallel, take the whole sentence tried to analyse it in the **totality**, if you can

I wrote:

"So in the same way I wouldn't waste my breath debating complicated issues with a thick Tory, I can't see any meaningful reason to exchange pleasantries with you, or assume that anything will enter your cranium."

Once more, because despite having a degree you can't read.

I wouldn't argue with a Tory because there is NO common ground, similarly I wouldn't argue with you because you can't read and even if you manage to read something you totally muck up the meaning, is an example.

As you know I am rather direct so if I wanted to say to you something I would started something are....

Further, I'm making a parallel, it is fruitless to discuss things with Tories as they see the world from such a different way and little if any common ground is possible.

That's what I'm trying to say, NOT that you are a TORY, but that you can't understand anything, you are linguistically limited, slow witted, incapable of elementary reason and will almost be guaranteed to misread anything.

But I don't think you're a Tory, you are a thick arse, a wordy one at that.

I think your mentality is highly conservative in that it never changes in any significant way, I think that you are authoritarian and have personality issues, but I don't think you're a Tory.

Elf, would you like me to reread anything I've written that you have misunderstood, again?

In my view, you are NOT a that??
levi9909 said…
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levi9909 said…
Word verification says "losit"

Of course I understand you Mod. When you say "a Tory" you mean "NOT a Tory". And when you see common ground between me and say Bob, you say "NO common ground" because there is no common ground, eg, on OSS, between yourself on the one hand and Bob and me on the other. And because you never change your position on anything and I do, I, not you, have an authoritarian mindset. And because you hurl playground insults and taunts around and call for people to be banned, I, not you, am contemptuous of the views of others. And because you can't let go of a meaningless and barely coherent filibuster in what was an interesting thread, I, not you, have personality issues.

All very straightforward.

I think you might have to think the unthinkable and consider the fact that it's you that isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Also, I didn't say my degree means I can read, though of course it does. I said it negates the idea that I am "untutored". But then I'm probably missing some profound context there too, if you can dream one up.

Anyway, whether or not someone changes their position on an issue has no relevance for anything. The issue is whether or not their position can be defended by reference to facts. Mine can.

Anyway, check out my letter in yesterday's Guardian. No common ground between me and Jonathan Freedland, but they still ran it.

I posted it to Bob's Mid-week miscellany post where it was on topic by way of a link to the (not so) original Jonathan Freedland Cif piece:
levi9909 said…
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bob said…
Have been out of internet range for a day or two, just unspammed some stuff, although not read it.
bob said…
OK, read last few comments. No conspiracy involved, Levi, in the now you see it now you don't thing - just google's overzealous spam filter and my being off-line. However, might start leaving any more personal slanging match material in the spam folder. I think that's enough of it now.
levi9909 said…
No conspiracy involved, Levi, in the now you see it now you don't thing - just google's overzealous spam filter and my being off-line.

Apols for thinking otherwise. I deleted duplicates.

might start leaving any more personal slanging match material in the spam folder

Good thing, Thanks!
ModernityBlog said…

I appreciate you want a wide ranging debate and have higher tolerances than me.

But could you explain how it is possible to exchange ideas with Elf? In any meaningful way.

Surely it's fairly obvious from my most recent exchange with him, that he can't read.

I make a parallel with how it is difficult next to impossible to debate issues with a Tory, then Elf assumes I'm calling him a Tory.

Now despite stating it five times, he can't acknowledge the bloody obvious that he misread what I wrote.

And if Elf misreads these simple exchanges, then what else does he misread in the world?

Bob, it is worthwhile pondering the latter point and the futility of you trying to find common ground with Elf.

Again, if someone is so stupid, like Elf, that he can't manage the basics (read simple sentences and get their meanings), then it follows that it is highly unlikely that complex political matters will be within his intellectual grasp.

Bob, please tell me if you think otherwise.
bob said…
Mod, I will try and reply before the end of the day!
levi9909 said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
bob said…
I have just deleted the preceding comment, not because it had any offensive comment in it whatsoever (it was perfectly civil) but because I am tired of this thread being used for tit for tat sniping. I will do the same with any subsequent comments on those lines. I think there are important substantive issues at stake, which I will try to address a little in my reply to Mod's question, and I will leave un-deleted any comments that address substantive issues behind this conflict. Apologies if this seems like an excessive use of my authority.
bob said…
OK, I will try and get my thoughts in order.

My natural inclination, by politics and by personality, is to try and find common ground, to assume the best, to build connections and alliances. In this spirit, altho Mark accuses me of refusing to see the errors and falsehoods in my friends' positions and nit-picking at my enemies' positions (using friend/enemy broadly), I think it is clear from the links on my blogroll and the links in my round-up posts that I operate a broad church: I link to anarchists, socialists, Zionists, liberals, Tories, Muslims, Israelis, etc etc. Some of my friends tell me I am too eclectic and un-discerning. (A few examples: the Propagandist debate, the Bahamas debate, linking to both Marko Hoare and Andrew Coates, my refusal to cut links to Will Rubbish, etc etc.)

There is, following this, common ground in theory between me and Elf: I do indeed believe in one-state solution and principle of Palestinian refugee, altho not without doubts and ambivalences, and not in the same way Mark does. And I am sure there are other areas of common ground in non-Iz/Pal issues.

I should add that I have had quite bitter conflict with Tony Greenstein, who behaved in my view completely unacceptably in relation to the CST/EDL connection a while back and more recently on the JC EDL rabbi poll and particularly appallingly towards Greens Engage - but I recognise his key role in exposure of Atzmon. These issues are lie behind my attitude to the current spat.

Recently, I think we reached some level of civility. But I overreacted to what I read as Mark excusing away Kurt Nimmo on the Atzmon thread, and the civility vanished.

That incident dramatised what I think is the most important chasm between me and Mark, which is that he and his political tendency in general not only always assume bad faith when antisemitism is invoked but do so in such an active, heated, strategically consistent way as to actually give licence to antisemitism, and that is totally out of order to me as an anti-racist.

There is also another issue, which is my discomfort of having my personal blog, where I have cultivated a number of friendships that have come to mean a good deal to me, has become a place for sniping from Mark and Skid (not that either is sidekick to the other!) that inevitably devolves, one way or another (including, as I said, due to my own lapses of decorum) into personalised invective. I don't want this to be that kind of place.

Finally, there is the ziocentrism issue. Israel/Palestine is one of the central issues of the Bob project (I have a post about this nearly finished - honest!) but I don't want it to be THE main issue, or become an obsession. I would like to play music, talk about forms of antisemitism not related to Israel, have a conversation about my hero Hannah Arendt that is not overdetermined by the anti-Zionism/Zionism divide. I want to contribute to the movement against the cuts, to express solidarity with workers in struggle across the world, to use my googling skills to deconstruct lies that circulate on the web. I want to help de-toxify the immigration debate, expose academic idiocy, add my slight weight to the campaign for justice for Smiley Culture. And the time and energy I devote to the bloody Zionist/anti-Zionist pillowfight is time and energy not spent doing those things. (Bloody literally not as a swearword, but that too I guess.)

So, if anyone (especially anyone we've not already heard from) has interesting or intelligent thoughts on those things, I'd like to hear them.

And if anyone uses this thread to continue the slagging, I'll delete it. I will not do so with impartial neutrality: I may favour my friends, because this is my house. But I'll try to be fair.

I will also do the deleting and the un-spamming in my own time, around the edges of work, commuting and family, and not aspire to instantly clear stuff stuck in spam to satisfy other people's agendas, nor immediately swoop on offensive comments to police the space.
levi9909 said…
I've left a decent interval for anyone else to comment but no one did so I just want to make three points (in no particular order) addressing Bob's last comment.

1. I think I am more sniped against than sniping.

2. Bearing in mind that you, Bob, recognise Tony Greenstein's and my role in exposing and denouncing Atzmon et al you must recognise that I do not "always assume bad faith when antisemitism is invoked". I do however believe that the bad faith allegation of antisemitism has enabled the likes of Israel Shamir, Gilad Atzmon and Roy Bard to claim just that, ie that all antisemitism allegations are without merit. I fail to see how my alleging bad faith in some cases could have led to the likes of Shamir, Atzmon and Bard running viral antisemitic campaigns against me personally and other Jewish anti-zionists. There are clearly bad faith allegations and they undermine good faith allegations as we have seen.

3. Tony Greenstein read too much into the JC poll on rabbis and the EDL but I think he ended up more sinned against than sinning when all he really did was vote in a poll (that should never have been run in the first place) and urge others to do the same. That was denounced as vote rigging. It was no more vote rigging than Bob and Waterloo Sunset discussing the AV or not referendum. I don't know about CST/EDL so can't comment.
bob said…
Levi "always" assuming bad faith clearly an overstatement. I should have said assuming bad faith as a default. I believe that it is this (and not bad faith accusations) that gave space for the Atzmons and Bards, and defused the opposition against them, but we are clearly not going to agree about that.

Just quickly on the JC poll thing: it wasn't the "vote rigging" thing that bothered me personally, it was the malignant notion that rabbis in general are as bad as the EDL, a notion that can only fuel antisemitism.
levi9909 said…
I take your point about Tony, indeed I'm close to agreeing with you. I don't know if a muslim religious leader would become antisemitic if he believed that all rabbis were like the EDL but it would certainly hinder or prevent amicable dealings between imams and rabbis.

Re the default position, that is an exaggeration. I look at specific allegations and make up my mind based on their content. We are not helped by the fact that many zionists have a tendency to list examples of antisemitism and stick Israel halfway down or at the bottom of the list though rarely at the beginning. I remember Jim Denham listing Atzmon's transgressions and including something like "you want to destroy your own country" together with real examples of AS, of which, of course, there are many.

I must say that if the working definition of AS becomes common currency, bad faith assumptions will become the norm. Indeed AS will have been effectively redefined as an innocuous thing. And I think you have been far too credulous about it. The mere fact that it hangs in EU space without formal adoption or forensic examination but available to be touted as an EU thing is itself extremely damaging for Jews (by essentialising us a community with a political agenda), though of course enormously beneficial to the State of Israel and its advocates.
Waterloo Sunset said…
I've defended Tony a fair bit on here, as Bob can confirm (as can Tony himself, I think).

But he was being a dick over that poll. Apart from anything else, if people had voted for that, the EDL will have made hay.

As I've said before, I respect Tony's record as an antifascist. I just wish he didn't insist on acting like a member of fucking 4chan when he gets bored.

(He didn't cover himself with glory over the whole complicated EDL/ZF business, but neither did Hoffman frankly. If anything, Tony's behaviour actually let Hoffman off the hook by completely obfuscating the real issues).
levi9909 said…
I hear what you're saying WS but Bob referred to CST/EDL which I know nothing about or I can't remember anyway.

I'm not sure how Hoffman can be considered to be "off the hook". The BBC has had to issue an apology over a bogus allegation of antisemitism involving his attendance at a meeting, I think, at SOAS. It wasn't him who made the original complaint of antisemitism but he supported it once it had been made. Hoffman had to issue a detailed apology to the photographer he falsely accused of "photoshopping" who had snapped him and an EDL activist together at the Ahava counter-picket. He has now been suspended or somesuch from the ZF which could be construed as letting the ZF off the hook. And Ahava's landlords won't be renewing their lease in Covent Garden following complaints from neighbours.