Posts Tagged ‘J-Street’

Sam Seder: Trump Advisors Shocked that He Says in Public His Private Racist Views

August 20, 2017

This is another important clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, in which Seder and his co-hosts discuss Trump’s vile moral equivalence between the Nazis at Charlottesville and the anti-Nazi counterprotesters. They make the point that his advisors, who are now declaring their horror at Trump saying that there were fine people on both sides – which means he thinks Nazis and White supremacists can be fine people – aren’t really horrified at his racism per se. They were quite well aware of how privately racist Trump was. What has shocked them is that he revealed it publicly.

After debating whether the mass resignations of the businesspeople on his manufacturing council did so out of genuine moral concern, or because they simply didn’t want to be associated with such noxious opinions simply for commercial reasons, they then get on to the topic of the two Jewish members of Trump’s cabinet, Gary Cohn and Steve Minuchin. Seder and his fellows on the programme are Jewish, so for them it’s particularly shocking and unacceptable that any self-respecting Jew should give aid to someone actively supporting Nazis. Seder says of Cohn that he must be profoundly grateful that it’s a long time till October, when he has to go to the synagogue for the Rosh Ha-Shanah festival. When he turns up then, there are going to be a lot of people looking at him. He states very clearly that the Jewish community should put pressure on Cohn to resign from Trump’s cabinet. Once he goes, Minuchin won’t want to be the only Jew left in it. After he’s gone, there’ll be a cascade of people resigning.

Seder debates which Jewish organization should put the pressure on these two men. He doubts the ADL would do it, because they’re a right-wing organization. J-Street might, possibly. But he concludes forcefully that there should be a coalition of left-wing rabbis, who believe in equality, who should stand outside their door first thing after sundown on Friday evening. This is when the Jewish Sabbath begins.

I’m not surprised that a couple of Trump’s leading officials are Jewish, despite his equivocation about the Nazis at Charlottesville. You can always find people in all races or religions, who are prepared to support those, who hate or would otherwise wish to harm their community. Karl von Luegerer, the anti-Semitic mayor of Vienna, who influenced Adolf Hitler, had Jewish friends. When he challenged about them by his fellow anti-Semites, he declared ‘I decide who’s a Jew and who isn’t’. One of the scandals of American support for the Nazis during the Third Reich was that this included prominent banking families, who advanced loans to them even while Jews were being deported and exterminated.

Many American, and for that matter, British Jews, are either emigrants or the children and grandchildren of Jewish Germans, who were forced to flee the country during the Nazi era. And these people had relatives, who were killed in the Holocaust. Michael Brooks has said in a previous video, in which he refutes criticism that the show and his boss, Seder, are anti-Semitic, that not only is he Jewish, but he’s specifically German Jewish. Trump’s willingness to support the goosesteppers has a direct, personal relevance for very many members of the American Jewish community.

Seder also attacks Cohn and Minuchin as they’re the weak links in Trump’s chain of command. The others aren’t directly affected by Trump’s support for the White supremacists and racists. They might even support it. But this isn’t the case for Cohn and Minuchin.

Regardless of their personal ethnic or religious background, I hope they, and others of Trump’s cabinet, do resign. Seder says in the video that the only Black official in Trump’s administration has done the decent thing and handed in his notice.

You can’t give the slightest support to Nazis and White supremacists. Trump states that there were ‘very fine people on both sides’. Part of the problem is that some Nazis and White supremacists can be personally very charming people. Way back in the 1990s I was listening to a programme on the Beeb, in which a German Jewish fellow described how he had successfully infiltrated and brought down a neo-Nazi group over there. He states that they included some people, who were otherwise perfectly friendly. They included not just real anti-Semites, but also normal Germans, who didn’t believe the Holocaust had occurred. Primo Levi, the Italian chemist and writer, states in his memoir of his incarceration during the Holocaust that there was personally no difference in character between the guards and the people interned. In his words ‘they had our faces’.

This is one of the aspects of the Holocaust, which make it so horrific and chilling. You don’t need to claim that Hitler was some kind of demon-possessed black magician, as some of the writers on the occult fringe have done. There was nothing supernatural or paranormal about the Nazis’ evil. Instead, it shows how otherwise normal people, who went back to their families at weekends or during leave as loving members, were capable of the most monstrous crimes against humanity.

As Mike pointed out with the Tweets he put up on his post from a very wide range of people, including Mr Sulu from Star Trek, George Takei, being a Nazi automatically rules you as a fine person. Or as Mr. Takei said, he ‘never met a fine White supremacist. Ever.’

Like Seder and his fellows, Takei has personal reasons to hate White supremacism. He’s a Japanese-American, who was active in the struggle to get reparations for the members of his community interned as enemy aliens during World War II.

Historians and political scientists have also pointed out that when the Nazis started out, they initially received miniscule support. The numbers, who voted for them in the early ’20s were comparable to those, who backed the BNP or NF today. The year before their election victory, Hitler’s party was bankrupt and had to go begging on the streets. One of the factors that boosted their support, apart from the Wall Street Crash and an agricultural crisis in Schleswig-Holstein, which allowed them to pose as the party of the beleaguered peasant farmers, was that influential members of the upper classes openly supported them. This included the philosopher Heidegger, who announced ‘Ich sage ‘Ja!’ – ‘I say ‘Yes!’.

This is the very good reason why no-one with any political power, or personal or social cachet, should give the slightest support to Fascism or Nazism. And why it’s necessary to condemn Trump, and deprive him of any support, for his own support for them.

Advertisements

Corporatist Democrats Smear Progressive Politician as Anti-Semite

December 7, 2016

I’ve posted up a number of pieces on this blog about the all-too many cases of decent, progressive politicians in Britain and America being smeared by the Israel lobby and the political establishment, because they’ve challenged Israel over its continued occupation of Palestine and its decades-long history of massacring and expelling them from their historic homeland, and/or they pose a threat to the Clintonian and Blairite corporatists in America’s Democrat and Britain’s Labour parties. We’ve had the anti-Semitism smears again Naz Shah, Jackie Walker and Ken Livingstone, and indeed, Momentum and the Labour left as anti-Semites in the Labour party. In America, Bernie Sanders’ Jewish Outreach officer was smeared and sacked from her post for alleged anti-Semitism, despite the fact that she was Jewish and active member of her community. Just like very many of those smeared in the British Labour party, such as Jackie Walker – whose father was a Russian Jew, whose partner is Jewish, and whose daughter attends a Jewish school.

Now the corporatist wing of the Democrats are trying to do the same to Keith Ellison, a progressive politico, who supported Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the presidential nomination. In this long piece from The Young Turks, their anchor Cenk Uygur discusses how he’s being smeared as an anti-Semite, because he is trying to become the party’s chair. This post is currently occupied by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who rigged the primaries against Sanders so that Killary would get the nomination. See how well that turned out. But no matter. The corporatist wing of the Democrats, like their counterparts in the Labour party, haven’t woken up to the fact that the majority of people are sick and tired of neoliberal elites, who are only interested in doing favours for their paymasters in big business. And so the Clintonite Dems have started ranting and blaming anyone and everyone except themselves and their candidate.

Ellison has been smeared using a piece he wrote decades ago, defending Louis Farrakhan, the head of the Nation of Islam, against the charge of anti-Semitism. The establishment Democrats have also used part of a speech he also gave, in which he criticised Israel for expanding the illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. That part of Ellison’s speech also said it was wrong for America to concentrate its Middle Eastern policy on aiding Israel, which only has a population of 7 million, against the 320 million people in the rest of the region. The Anti-Defamation League have also jumped in, stating that this speech shows that Ellison is deeply anti-Semitic.

In fact the opposite is true. Ellison is a Muslim, and the most prominent member of that religion in Congress. The piece defending Farrakhan was written when he was a college student. He recognises that Farrakhan is poisonously anti-Semitic, and years, if not decades ago, very publicly renounced what he’d written about him. I’ve also got a feeling that the information dug up about him and used to portray him as a Jew-hater comes from a militantly anti-Islamic group that has, according to The Turks, been itself identified by the Southern Poverty Law Centre as a hate group.

Cenk Uygur in this video is also very careful in his criticism of the Anti-Defamation League. This is one of the major Jewish organisations campaigning against anti-Semitism in the Land of Free. It is also pro-Israel. Uygur states that they are far to the right of him and The Turks there, and that it is wrong about Ellison’s supposed anti-Semitism. He does, however, recognise and praise the organisation not just for its work tackling anti-Semitism, but also for the way it works against hate crime as a whole. It has done sterling work in defending American Muslims against the rise in Islamophobia, and the attacks of the Alt-Right.

The passage used to claim that Ellison is an anti-Semite is a very carefully selected piece taken out of context. Ellison certainly is not anti-Israel. Far from it. He states that America should continue to defend Israel as its most important ally in the region. As for the illegal settlements, part of his argument against them is that they also harm Israel by provoking resentment around the world. This has been pointed out by another leading Jewish group, J-Street, which has come out to defend Ellison and point out that he has consistently been a friend to the Jewish community.

So once again, we have the corporatist wing of an ostensibly left-wing party – the Democrats – smearing a decent man with the charge of anti-Semitism, just to hang on to power. Like they’ve done to so many other decent women and men. This is disgusting and shameful, and the sooner the people, who make these false allegations are thrown out of positions of power, the better.

Mohandeer on Liberal Jewish and Israeli Organisations for Palestinian Rights

October 1, 2016

I’ve had a couple of very fascinating comments to my posts attacking the anti-Semitism smears, whose latest victim is yet against Jackie Walker. One of the pieces I put up about this issue earlier today was from a commenter, NoToLikudExtremism, who argued that the problem isn’t Zionism per se, but Likud and its coalition partners in the Israeli extreme right. They pointed out that Jeremy Corbyn also believes in a two-state solution, and recommends targeting Likud and the racist right for specific attack on this issue, as this would not alienate liberal Israelis and the many Jews, who also support Israel, but not its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

Mohandeer has posted a similar comment on my piece announcing the launch of Mike’s book against the anti-Semitism smears. She writes

If you really want to know what’s going on in Israel and how decent Jews there feel about the right wing apartheid parties who promote the apartheid movement visit BT’selem or Mondoweiss and have them subscribe to them and have their publications in your daily In box “Newsfeed”. Jewishness cannot be defined by identifying with Israel only, it is a faith like any other which has it’s traditional basis in the Talmud or Torah and inherited status from ancestral tradition. Jewish Voices for Peace or JVP and J Street discuss the views of US Jews and PSC (Palestinian Solidarity Campaign also has many Jewish representatives as does Ray Hanania of the Arab Daily news (a Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem). The Jewish Forward has come under criticism sometimes but overall it is a decent read because it offers an insight into the daily struggle Jews have in deciding which side of the line they want to come down on, though with a tendancy towards identifying with Israel it is not exclusively pro Israeli at all.
This accusation some of the Zionist wing of JLM are promoting is nothing to do with being Jewish but anti Corbyn and must be recognized as being distinct from being Jewish and being political. The fact that they are using anti Semitism as a basis for their attacks is nothing to do with being Jewish and everything to do with opposition to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and his left wing leaning and those arguments they use to attack Momentum must be seen in the light of what they really are, politically motivated and demeaning Jewishness as a tool in the process. They should be ashamed, but politics is a powerful motivator.

Many of these groups are new to me. I have heard Dr Norman Finkelstein criticise J Street as not being really interested in protecting the Palestinians, but it is a liberal Jewish organisation and clearly, not everyone involved in the issue shares Dr Finkelstein’s opinion of it.

I agree absolutely with Mohandeer’s statement that these accusations against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and the Labour Left, including his supporters in Moment are politically motivated, and demean Jewish identity.

I have heard of BT’selem. They are an Israeli human rights organisation. One of their leaders recently gave an internet talk on the occupation of the Palestinian territories to a left-wing internet group concerned with the revival of British democracy. Their work in documenting and tackling human rights violations in Israel has been cited by Counterpunch, amongst doubtless other left-wing organisations.

The people in these organisations are immensely courageous, as Likud and their fellow apartheid supporters are trying to marginalise and silence these people as being self-hating, and not real Jews. That’s why I put up the piece from the Majority Report yesterday, in which Sam Seder expertly takes apart that claim by an American Conservative rabbi. A poll carried out in the 1990s in Israel found that a majority of Israelis believed that those Israelis, who supported the Palestinians, should be stripped of their civil rights. I’ve put up several pieces before commenting on the Israelis, including rabbis, who’ve protested and put their lives on the line to prevent the house demolitions in Israel. And in the first years of this century there was a ‘Tea and Cake’ demonstration, jointly held by Israelis and Palestinians, protesting against the inability of their countries’ leaders to find a just and peaceful solution to the conflict.

I am thus very happy to put up here Mohandeer’s very informative comment, and to give these organisations a little bit more publicity in their campaign for peace and justice against Netanyahu and his thugs.

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.

Norman Finkelstein and Elizabeth Baltzer on Young American Jews Rejecting Zionism: Part 2

May 27, 2016

Finkelstein and Baltzer also differ on whether the solution to the problem of Palestinian emancipation is the two state solution, articulated by the UN, or a dismantling of the mechanism of the systematic persecution of the Palestinians, so that they become part of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Israel, such as occurred in South Africa after the fall of apartheid. Baltzer favours the single state, post-Apartheid solution. Finkelstein supports the two state solution.

Finkelstein notes that the creation of a separate Palestinian state following the borders of the pre-1967 settlement is the solution favoured by the United Nations and international law. He argues that you may not like it, but you have to abide by it. He states that this would involve an exchange of about just over 1 per cent of land between Israel and the new Palestine. This would allow the Israelis to retain about 60 per cent of the settlements in the West Bank. He also describes how crestfallen Tzipi Livni, the Israeli minister in charge of this question, was when she was confronted by the Palestinians who proposed it. She seemed particularly dismayed looking at the maps they had produced, because, says Finkelstein, she found them convincing and didn’t know how to argue against the proposal. So she tried picking on some of the details. She would say, ‘What about that town?’, to which the Palestinians replied, ‘We know about that. You can build a bridge.’ ‘What about that village?’ ‘We know about that too. You can build a road here that’ll take you past it’.

He also disagreed with following the model of post-apartheid South Africa, because of the way the apartheid state had founded the Bantustans – special statelets for the indigenous tribes, which were officially recognised by the UN, despite the fact that they were part of the infrastructure of the apartheid ideology of ‘separate development’. I think Dr Finkelstein could be rather confused here, as this would seem instead closer to the idea of the two state solution.

Finkelstein also has some trenchant criticisms of the leadership of the mainstream American Jewish organisations, particularly J-Street. He says quite openly, ‘Their leadership is horrible. No, it really is. They think Tzipi Livni, who laughed about the conflict in Gaza, is a liberal’. This is a slight paraphrase, but it’s more or less what he said. He felt, however, that J Street’s grassroots membership were quite different, and said that they could reach out to 2/3 of them and win them over into a third party supporting the Palestinians.

Baltzer also said that the growing movement for the liberation of the Palestinians was diverse, and should include everyone. Finkelstein said that it shouldn’t, so she corrected herself, and said that racists weren’t welcome. It should be obvious, but unfortunately it does need to be said. There are real anti-Semites and Nazis, who attempt to gain a specious legitimacy by passing off their comments and stance as mere anti-Zionism. They shouldn’t be allowed entry into a genuinely anti-racist movement.

They also disagreed on the nature, extent and goals of the BDS movement. Both support it, but Finkelstein believes that the movement’s successes are about getting firms and individuals to sever links to the occupied territories, rather than about Israel generally. He also makes the point that their Zionist opponents were celebrating the fact that Daniel Barenboim, the Israeli conductor and founder of the East-West Divan Orchestra, had been refused entry to Qatar because he was a ‘Zionist’. Hence Finkelstein’s opposition to the use of the term.

At times the discussion got quite heated. Finkelstein himself made the point that no-one should go away from the event thinking that he and Baltzer were not friends, as they were, and he had immense admiration for her. After the talk had formally ended, and the three are packing up to leave the podium, Finkelstein turns and offers his hand to Baltzer. He can be heard saying, ‘I’ve got to offer my hand to you, otherwise people will go away thinking we’re enemies’.

It’s natural that on such a profound and emotive topic there should also be profound differences of opinion. Nevertheless, both sides of this debate need to be heard. Baltzer’s idea for a single state solution is shared by Ilan Pappe, while Finkelstein’s preferred solution is that of the UN and associated international bodies. What the reality will be, remains for the Palestinians and the Israelis to decide.

And there are also young Israelis, who are impatient with their nation’s failure to find a lasting, just peace with the Palestinians. Over a decade ago the Independent reported a series of protests held jointly by Israelis and Palestinians against the Israeli government and Palestinian authority. This took the form of ‘tea and cake’ parties. The participants issued a call for the British to come and take over the country’s government, as their own peoples were making such a terrible hash of it. And they chose tea and cake as the typical British meal to symbolise this.

Of course, they didn’t really want us back. It’s partly due to our misgovernment of the country and its seizure through the Mandate that Israel and much of the Middle East is in the terrible state it is. But it was heartening to see young Israelis and Palestinians meeting in peace and friendship, to demand a lasting people against the intransigence and incompetence of the politicos.

I have absolutely no doubt that one of the reasons why the Israel lobby – BICOM, the Labour Friends of Israel, and the other associated groups in Britain, and AIPAC in America – are actively trying to conflate Jewish identity with Zionism and criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism is because they are acutely aware that that neither are necessarily the case. But they need them to be in order to deflect any and all criticism of the way Israel treats its indigenous people. I therefore believe that as time goes on and support for the Palestinians increases, more people are going to be accused of anti-Semitism, and more Jews attacked for being self-hating, even when they obviously aren’t. Miriam Margolies, the great British thesp, was one of those of who joined the criticism of Israel during the bombardment of Gaza. She described herself as ‘a proud Jew, and an ashamed Jew’. Baltzer and Finkelstein in this debate remind us how many others like her there are, often severely normal people, who are horrified at a gross violation of human rights. It ain’t just celebrities and actors.