Posts Tagged ‘Adam Shatz’

The Break-Up of American Zionism and the Anti-Semitism Allegations

May 28, 2016

I’m aware that I’m in serious risk of doing this subject to death, but this needs to be said. I’ve put up several blogs featuring the videos of talks and interviews given by Israeli and American Jewish activists and historians – Ilan Pappe, Elizabeth Baltzer and Norman Finkelstein, laying bare the terrible history of Israel’s persecution and systematic ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian population. As I’ve repeatedly said, this is because of the smears against leading figures in the Labour party that they are anti-Semites, when they are nothing of the sort, and demonstrably nothing of the sort. Ken Leninspart, when he was leader of the GLC, was notorious and reviled for his anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia stance. And if you want to read what he has to say about anti-Semitism, it’s written down in his book, Livingstone’s Labour. He decries it as one of the worst forms of reaction, along with all other forms of racism, whether it be against Blacks, Jews and Irish. Naz Shah has the backing of her local synagogue. And Jackie Walker is the daughter of a Russian Jew and Black civil rights activist, deported from America as one of the ‘Reds under the Bed’ McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover were so scared of. Her other half is also Jewish. It’s truly grotesque that she should be slandered as an anti-Semite when it is clearly not the case.

Jimmy Carter

These slanders have not been confined to Britain. They were made against the Jewish Outreach Officer of one of the Democratic presidential candidates. The lady was forced to resign, despite the fact that she was not only Jewish, but a very active member of her community dedicated to their welfare. They even tried it on with Jimmy Carter, who was just about called everything bar a card-carrying member of the American Nazi party and supporter of Stormfront. Again, dead wrong. I can remember way back in the 1970s when old peanut teeth hosted the Camp David peace negotiations between Israel and Egypt. In his own state, he was instrumental in removing the colour bar and segregation laws against people of colour. He is not, and never has been an anti-Semite or a Nazi, whatever his failings as president were. And he certainly doesn’t have the sheer amount of blood on his hands that his successor, Reagan, had through his sponsorship of real Fascists in South and Central America.

And Carter showed that he wasn’t afraid to prove he was innocent of all charges, guv. He went in front of the students at Brandeis University, the biggest secular Jewish university in the US to debate one of the author of the smears, Alan Dershowitz. He got three or four standing ovations simply for appearing on stage. And when it came to Dershowitz’s time to speak, 2/3 of the audience walked out even before the old Neo-Con warmonger had opened his mouth.

Jewish Americans Liberal

American Jews are overwhelmingly liberal. Most of them want a two-state solution – for the Palestinians to have their own state. By and large they despise George Dubya Bush and 70 per cent of them are opposed to the war in Iraq. And despite the move of the majority of Israeli voters to the right, Ilan Pappe stated in his video that Israelis were decent people. He stated that going around, talking to people, especially small businessmen and farmers, who knew what it was like to have to struggle to make something for yourself, won people over to the Palestinian cause.

Livingstone, Shah and Walker Historically Correct

Nothing Leninspart, Shah or Walker said should be remotely interpreted as racist. Red Ken was factually correct: Hitler did briefly support Zionism and the emigration or deportation of the Jews to Israel. Walker was smeared because she compared the treatment of Black Africans under slavery to the Holocaust, and the persecution of the Palestinians in Israel. Now, I can understand historians picking at this to see if they really are equivalent. Africans were captured and worked to death simply as instruments of labour, rather than because there was a conscious desire to exterminate Black Africans, as in the Holocaust. Though against that was the gradual erection of the whole intellectual edifice trying to justify their enslavement as racially inferior, just as the Nazis used twisted biological theory to justify their extermination of the Jews. It’s reasonable for historians and political scholars to debate the similarities and dissimilarities between them. But I don’t think many genuine scholars, certainly not of the slave trade or the Holocaust, would dispute that these are terrible crimes against humanity. And the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians should be no different. There is a real debate on the legal definitions of genocide, because there are so many of them. So many, in fact, that I’ve heard an academic of the subject state that these definitions should be dropped simply in favour of ordinary, common sense. When states, or their majority populations start persecuting an ethnic group or trying to suppress their identity through force, then it’s genocide.

What also comes out is that the views of Livingstone et al by and large are supported by historical scholarship, including those of mainstream historians. Finkelstein states that there’s little difference between Israeli school textbooks and dissident, left-wing scholars on the origins of Israel. It is known that Israel had a programme of ethnic cleansing from the very first. It is incontrovertible that Israel is engaged in mass torture and human rights violations. And Finkelstein himself states that it is the Israelis, not the Palestinians, who consistently failed to ‘give piece a chance’ in the words of Lennon and Ono.

Denial of Palestinian’s History ‘Historicide’

As for the view produced by the historian, Peters, that there were no Arabs until the Jews settled in Israel, bringing development and jobs, this has been comprehensively disproven. Finkelstein or Pappe, I can’t remember which, describe it as ‘historicide’, the deliberate destruction of a people’s historical reality.

Jewish and Israeli Opposition to Persecution of Palestinians

There is absolutely no question that the facts are on the side of the accused. And I honestly believe that if Leninspart, Shah and certainly Walker were given the chance to rebut their enemies in debate at a university, they would do so in the same way Carter and his supporters vociferously routed Dershowitz. 72 per cent of British Jews say that Israel is important to them, compared to only 50 per cent of American Jews under 35. But that does not mean that British Jews do not want to see an end to their country’s persecution of the Palestinians. There are Jewish organisations in Israel helping the Palestinians defend their homes, families and livelihoods. You can find pictures of Orthodox rabbis in the long, black coats and broad-brimmed hats, forming cordons and lying down in front of bulldozers. University anti-racism and Palestinian solidarity groups have invited members of these organisations to speak. It would surprise me not one whit if many of those Brits reaching out to Palestine were Jews, and active members of their universities’ Jewsocs.

Political Motives behind Accusations

This isn’t about historical truth, however. This is about the Israel lobby trying to derail any criticism of the state and its persecution of the indigenous Arabs with accusations of anti-Semitism. It’s about the Blairites trying to hang on to power in Labour party by playing the race card against Jeremy Corbyn. But those accused have no real case against them. In any just court of law, they would be declared innocent, with damages found against their accusers.

Libel and Establishment Lies and Smears

Unfortunately, when it comes to libel, there is no justice in Britain. You are guilty until proven rich. And the accusations suit the British establishment very well. The Tories love it, because it harms Labour. And the Beeb’s Newsnight programme with Evan Davis uncritically swallowed all the guff from the guests that Labour had an ‘anti-Semitism problem’. One of the guests on RT’s Going Underground, with Afshid Rattansi, stated that the smears looked like the establishment coup against a leftwing British prime minister, as described in the novel and Channel 4 TV series, A Very British Coup. Listening to Finkelstein, I think that’s entirely plausible. There were smears by the establishment against Harold Wilson, which accused him of being a Communist spy. Many of them seemed to come from MI5. Finkelstein states that American funds Israel far and beyond the amount it gives to other nations, because it sees it as defending its interests in the Middle East.

Britain and America Supporting Israel to Retain Power in Region

I believe that this, or something like it, explains the British establishment’s attitude to the allegations. I can remember reading years ago a discussion on a right-wing American website about Israel, the Arabs and Britain under the Mandate. The site took the bog-standard right-wing American view that Brits must be anti-Semites, ’cause all Europeans hate Jews, as shown by the Holocaust and the increasingly secular nature of European society. The participants in the debate argued that the British deliberately set the Jews and Arabs at each other’s throats in order to maintain their control over the region. They quote the correspondence between one of the British officers involved in the Mandate, on this point. The quote was merely his own conclusion after studying the situation, and did not conclusively prove that it was so. They also quoted other correspondence, in which one British politician accused another wishing to establish a Jewish presence in the region as a kind of outpost of British influence, similar to Protestant Belfast amidst Roman Catholic Ireland.

It would not surprise me if something like that were the case. It may simply be that Britain gives unconditional support to Israel, because the Americans also give Israel their unconditional, or nearly unconditional support, in order to retain influence in the region. And since we declined as a world power, we’ve been acting as the American Empire’s junior partner and lickspittle. One former British ambassador to the US even went on Radio 4 and said that he was told by the Mandarins in London that his job was to go to Washington and ‘get up the American’s arse and stay there’.

The Beeb is the voice of the British establishment. It’s news programmes consistently support the Conservatives and industry, especially finance industry, against Labour and the trade unions. The establishment undoubtedly identifies British interests with those of Israel, though Robin Ramsey, the editor of Lobster, has said that the Beeb ties itself in knots trying to deny that it is pro-Zionist. So it is, unfortunately, a foregone conclusion that the Beeb and the establishment won’t give the accused a fair hearing. Not if there’s even more millions to be made from another bloody war.

Fighting Back against the Lies

Which doesn’t mean that the accused can’t win. The mainstream American media is also very staunchly pro-Israel and rabidly demonises the Arabs and the Muslim world. Despite this, in the polls Israel is just one point more popular amongst Americans than Iran. And you consider the massive negative campaign and image of that country in American media. The Israel Lobby – AIPAC and the leadership of J Street in America, the Labour Friends of Israel and BICOM over here, know that they’re losing the public’s hearts and minds. Hence the smears. I think the best course would be for Livingstone, Shah and Walker to stand up to them, call them out on their lies. Don’t expect any honesty from the press, ’cause that went long ago. But do it in the court of popular opinion – at public meetings, university seminars and talks, at literary events. Adam Shatz, of the London Review of Books, introduced Finkelstein and Baltzer when they spoke in New York. Perhaps the LRB can be relied on to give an unbiased platform. They should, at least regarding Jackie Walker. I can remember way back in the 1990s they published a piece on slavery at the time it was once again coming back into national consciousness. The treatment of Black people, and their abuse and discrimination, is of obvious acute interest to Jackie Walker, and so I think that more than some of the other media, they could be more inclined to give a sympathetic hearing.

This ain’t just about defending a group of accused Labour MPs. This is also about defending free speech and historical scholarship against the personal smears and gross historical distortions of a mendacious and deceitful establishment. An establishment that is prepared to grind down and destroy Jews, as well as Muslims, Christians, and those with no religion, in its campaign to preserve a monstrously racist order.

Advertisements

Norman Finkelstein and Elizabeth Baltzer on Young American Jews Rejecting Zionism: Part 1

May 27, 2016

This is as another video, which has some indirect relevance to the accusations of anti-Semitism against leading members of the Labour party – Ken Livingstone, Naz Shah and Jackie Walker. None of these are anti-Semites, and all of them have taken a strong part in anti-racist activism. Jackie Walker’s mother was a Black civil rights activist, who was deported from America for her protests against the official maltreatment of Black Americans. Her father was a Russian Jew, and her partner is Jewish. These allegations have nothing to do with anti-Semitism. They are about the Israel lobby attempting to deflect criticism of its oppression of the Palestinians by attacking its critics as anti-Semites, even when they most obviously are not. Coupled with this is the attempt by the Blairite faction in the Labour party, Progress, to hang on to power by smearing their opponents.

Yesterday I put up a post and a video by the Israeli critic of his country’s abuse and massacre of the Palestinians, Ilan Pappe. Dr Pappe is certainly not along amongst Jewish critics of Zionism and its persecution of the indigenous Arabs. A number of people , who were either Jews or of Jewish heritage, commented on an earlier piece in this blog, that they did not support Israel’s horrendous policies. This video is of a talk given by two more of the leading American Jewish critics of Zionism, Norman Finkelstein and Elizabeth Baltzer, introduced and moderated by Adam Shatz, of the London Review of Books. I think its from a literary festival in New York, and both Finkelstein and Baltzer have written a number of books about Israel and the Palestinians. They’re both activists, and Baltzer has spoken at various social, religious and political gatherings, including synagogues and churches. In this video, they talk about the growing abandonment of Zionism by young American Jews. The event consists of first a talk by Dr Finkelstein, followed by Madam Baltzer, and then a longer session where they respond to written questions from the audience.

Finkelstein in his talk describes how for a very long time Jewish identity was not automatically bound up with Zionism, and many Jews were either hostile or indifferent to the idea. The initial Jewish settlers were few. Most Jews wished to stay in their homelands in Europe. Many were opposed to the foundation of a Jewish state, as they feared that this would revive the suspicion that they had dual loyalties. Dr Finkelstein doesn’t mention it, but this was very much the case when Balfour’s Cabinet announced that it would support the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. The ‘Balfour Declaration’ was opposed by Samuel Montague, the only Jewish member of the Cabinet, because he feared that British Jews would be seen as less than British, with their loyalties ultimately more towards the new Jewish state. Montague was backed in his campaign against the decision by 75 of the leading British Jewish families.

Finkelstein continues, and states that even after the foundation of Israel, many Jews remained sceptical and hostile. He notes that Commentary, the main Jewish magazine in America, frequently ran articles by some of the now most zealous supporters of Israel, criticising it for the maltreatment of the Palestinians. This opposition changed after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and the defeat of the Arab armies. Israel then became imbued with the same sense of spiritual election and special destiny that informs the American self-image – ‘a shining city on a hill’, ‘a light to guide the Nations’. However, support for Israel by American Jews is by no means unconditional, especially amongst the young. Jewish American politicians, when given a choice between what will benefit Israel as against America, have consistently chosen America. And Israel increasingly plays little part in the self-identity of the younger generation, who increasingly see themselves as American with little connection to Israel.

Baltzer provides more information on young Jewish Americans rejection of Zionism, and their opposition to the continued abuse and maltreatment of the Palestinians. She discusses the dwindling membership of the Zionist organisations. The chapter in her home in Sonoma in California claims to be thriving, but won’t give the number of synagogues that are affiliated to it. On the other side, she lists a plethora of Jewish groups and organisations devoted to defending the Palestinians. These include such groups of as Young, Jewish and Proud. Baltzer, however, makes the point that ultimately it isn’t about Jews speaking on behalf of the Palestinians. They have their own voice, and it is they who truly deserve to be heard. She notes that some people feel that they somehow need Jewish permission before they support the Palestinians. She makes the excellent point that nobody should need permission, of Jews or anyone else, to listen to the Palestinian people and support them.

I am actually very glad she made this point, as I’ve refrained from blogging about this issue previously as I don’t want to appear anti-Semitic, nor give any succour to the genuine anti-Semites, who are trying to ride on the coat-tails of principled anti-racist opposition to persecution of the Palestinians. It is, paradoxically, good to hear a Jewish voice stating that you shouldn’t need Jewish permission to support the Palestinians, from the perspective that it is understood that the people she’s addressing aren’t anti-Semites.

Despite having the same ultimate gaols, Finkelstein and Baltzer have differences over tactics, and the form the emancipation of the Palestinians could take. One of these differences is over language. Finkelstein does not think that opponents of Israeli policy should use the term Zionism. Most people don’t understand it, and the gaols of the pro-Palestinian movement can be better expressed simply using plain language. These means just stating that you’re opposed to the occupation of the West Bank, or the inferior status of the Palestinians in Israel, the seizure and destruction of their farms, homes and property by the Israeli state.

He also makes the point that if the term ‘Zionism’ is used, their opponents will seize on it to make the worst claim they can about the person using it – that he or she is actively seeking the destruction of Israel, because of the ambiguity about the term’s meaning. They will also use it to try to divert the argument into one about Jewish identity – whether the Jews are a race, religion or people, or perhaps all three. The argument isn’t about Jewish identity. It’s about the appalling way Israel treats the Palestinians.

Baltzer, on the other hand takes the view that there is some good in a limited use of the term within certain contexts.