Naz Shah and the Diagram of Israel in America

Mike has also pointed out on his blog that the graphic Naz Shah retweeted, that was deemed to be so anti-Semitic, actually came from a Professor Finkelstein. Prof Finkelstein had posted it on the website of a Jewish group campaigning for justice for the Palestinians. There are several aspects to this.

Firstly, I don’t know if this was consciously the point of the graphic, but there is an episode in Jewish American history, and a 1990s poll of young Israelis, which actually show Prof Finkelstein has a point. I can’t remember the details, but in the 19th century one of the Jewish emigrants to America, wished to create a Jewish homeland in the continent. I think he intended to establish the new, Jewish state in the Niagara region, though as I said, I can’t really remember the details.

There actually wasn’t anything unusual in this fellows plans for creating such a state. America at the time was seen by many people, from various religious and political groups, as the place where they could begin anew and set up their own, independent communities. This included the British Utopian Socialist, Robert Owen, who tried to found one of his utopian communities there. Robert Southey, the Romantic poet, had also been a part of a movement to set up a utopian socialist community, Pansocracy, so called because it would be a society in which everyone would govern equally, in the Land of the Free. And there were many others. The best known of these new attempts to found a particular religious or political state in America is Utah, originally founded as an independent state by the Mormons.

Secondly, in the 1990s there was a poll of young Israelis, which asked them, ‘Where would you rather live – in America, with neighbours, who are Christians and love you, or in Israel, with neighbours, who are Muslim and hate you?’ About 80 per cent of the kids polled responded ‘America’. See the relevant chapter on Israel in the collection of papers edited by Albert Hourani, The Modern Middle East.

As for Jews and Muslims collaborating for a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, or making criticisms of the way Israel treats the Palestinians, there are many groups dedicated to this. The Open Democracy meetup group held a webinar a few weeks ago, in which the head of an Israeli human rights organisation criticised the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. One of the Israeli parties set up to defend Palestinians has both Arab and Israeli members. One of the Israeli pressure groups against the demolition of Palestinian homes is a group of rabbis. The section on modern Israel in the book edited by Hourani also notes that, according to polls, the majority of American Jews want a two-state solution to the Palestinian problem. The two American authors of the book, Bushwhacked!, criticising George Dubya and his wretched administration also include a section about an American Jewish businessman, who gives equally to Israeli and Palestinian charities, and who also wants a two-state solution. I’ve also seen adverts in some of the Asian shop windows in Cheltenham for a meeting held for Ilan Pappe, a Jewish anti-Zionist author, who I think was thrown out of Israel.

Now I don’t know what else Shah said, but simply retweeting Prof Finkelstein’s graphic does not automatically make her anti-Semitic. Indeed, you could argue that she herself has been the victim of prejudice, as someone simply saw a Muslim criticising Israel, and came to the conclusion that she must somehow be a terrible anti-Semite. As I’ve tried to show, this is not necessarily the case.

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4 Responses to “Naz Shah and the Diagram of Israel in America”

  1. Michelle Says:

    Here’s the video of the Meetup Group with the webinar you mentioned above on the occupation of the West Bank: https://youtu.be/82-GeSpDxZk?t=2m20s

    It was given by Jessica Montell (for 13 years Jessica was Executive Director of B’Tselem: the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights).

    All the best Beastie!

  2. Florence Says:

    I feel very sorry for Naz Shah. I felt her apology was as courageous as it was unwarranted, and that she had been bullied, and that behind that was a dollop of misogyny and racism. She has a lot of support inside the Labour party.

    • beastrabban Says:

      I’m very glad to hear that she has the continuing support of people inside the Labour party. All this has shown just how desperate the Blairite faction are now that their influence is waning.

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