Posts Tagged ‘‘The View from the Bridge’’

‘If America Knew’ On Attempts to Define Criticism of Israel as Anti-Semitism

May 20, 2018

Part of the anti-Semitism smear campaign against the Labour party is the attempt to foist upon it and wider society the definition of anti-Semitism formulated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which specifically includes criticism of Israel. Although, as Mike points out, the definition only states that such criticism may be anti-Semitic, but not necessarily so in all cases. Nevertheless, this is how the IHRA’s definition is interpreted by the Israel lobby, and why it is being used to attack and smear decent, anti-racists when they object to it or question it. Jackie Walker, one of the vice-chairs of Momentum, was accused and vilified as an anti-Semite, despite her own Jewishness, precisely because she questioned this definition and the exclusive focus of Holocaust Remembrance Day on the Nazis’ attempts to exterminate the Jews, rather than include other races, who had also suffered their own genocides.

The IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism is completely ahistorical and just wrong. Anti-Semitism, as defined by Wilhelm Marr, the man, who coined the term and founded the Bund Antisemiten – ‘League of Anti-Semites’ – in 19th century Germany stated that it was hatred of Jews as Jews, regardless of religion. And this was well before the foundation of Israel. Mike has also several times posted the views of a very senior lawyer on this issue, that this is indeed the proper definition of anti-Semitism.

But this is not what the Israel lobby wants people to believe. And so when Corbyn met the Board of Deputies of British Jews a few weeks ago, after they organised a demonstration smearing Labour and its leader once again as anti-Semitic, they pressured him yet again to adopt the HRA’s spurious definition. If adopted, it would make criticism of Israel and its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Robin Ramsay, the editor of Lobster, discusses this in a recent edition to his article, ‘The View from the Bridge’ in Lobster 75, Summer 2018. His article also points to an excellent piece by Alison Weir of the If America Knew Blog on this history of this attempt to foist the HRA’s definition on America and other nations. It’s at
http://ifamericaknew.org/history/antisemitism.html

The article also includes this handy timeline giving the important dates in the development of this project.

Timeline for creating new Israel-centric definition of anti-Semitism

Following is a timeline of some of the key events in the creation, promotion and adoption of the Israel-focused definition of antisemitism. It provides an outline, but does not include every step of the process, all the key players, or every action.

1991 – Jean Kahn is elected president of the European Jewish Congress at its plenary session in Israel. He announces an ambitious agenda, including demonstrating solidarity with Israel and European countries coordinating legislation to outlaw antisemitism.
1997 – Kahn “convinces 15 heads of state” to create the The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia to focus on “racism, xenophobia and antisemitism.”
2000 – The Monitoring Centre issues a position paper calling for the definition of antisemitic offenses to be “improved.”
2003 – Israel’s minister for diaspora affairs Natan Sharansky founds the Global Forum against Anti-Semitism, stating: “The State of Israel has decided to take the gloves off and implement a coordinated counteroffensive against anti-Semitism.”
2004 – Sharansky, who is also chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel, issues a position paper that lays out the “3-D Test of Anti-Semitism:” statements that “demonize” Israel, apply a “double standard” or “delegitimize” Israel are “antisemitic.” These will form the blueprint for new definitions adopted by lobbying organizations and finally governments.
2004 – US Congress passes law establishing special office and envoy in the State Department to monitor antisemitism that includes statements about Israel under this rubric. (Sharansky is witness at Congressional hearing.)
2004 – American Jewish Committee directors Kenneth Stern and Rabbi Andrew “ Andy” Baker work with Israeli professor Dina Porat to draft a new antisemitism definition and push the Monitoring Centre to adopt it, according to Stern. Their draft drew on Sharansky’s 3 D’s.
2005 – Monitoring Centre issues a “Working Definition of Anti-Semitism” that includes Sharansky’s 3 D’s, based on Stern et al’s draft. While standard dictionary definitions of antisemitism didn’t even mention Israel, fully half of the newly devised Monitoring Centre definition referred to Israel.
2007 – UK’s National Union of Students (NUS) adopts the new antisemitism definition focused on Israel, after pro-Israel students introduce a motion misleadingly entitled “AntiRacism: Challenging Racism on Campus and in Our Communities.” Some student unions at various UK universities then follow suit.
2008 – The first U.S. State Department Special Envoy on antisemitism, Greg Rickman, endorses the Monitoring Centre working definition in State Department report to Congress. (Rickman later went to work for AIPAC.)
2009 – The Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (CCA), which brings together parliamentarians from around the world, issues the London Declaration signed by then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and others. The Declaration calls on governments to use the Monitoring Centre definition and to outlaw and prosecute such “antisemitism.” US Congressmen Ted Deutch and Chris Smith are members of the CCA’s steering committee.
2010 – Second US State Department Special Envoy on antisemitism Hanna Rosenthal officially adopts European Monitoring Centre definition; this is subsequently referred to as the State Department definition of antisemitism. Rosenthal creates course on antisemitism using this definition to train Foreign Service Officers.
2012 – Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under the Law is founded and immediately begins promoting the new definition. Within a year it launches an initiative to establish student chapters at law schools throughout the U.S.
2013 – Successor organization to the European Monitoring Centre (called the European Fundamental Rights Agency) quietly drops the working definition from its website. When questioned about this, the agency’s director says the organization had “no mandate to develop its own definitions.” (Groups using the definition continue to use it.)
2014 – Mark Weitzman, Director of Government Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, with help from Ira Forman and Nicholas Dean of the U.S. Department of State, initiates efforts for another agency to adopt and promote the working definition of antisemitism.
2015 – European Commission creates a special position to coordinate work on combating antisemitism, appointing German Katharina von Schnurbein to the post. Schnurbein proceeds to promote use of the Israel-centric definition.
2015 – Indiana University passes resolution denouncing “anti-Semitism as defined by the United States State Department and will not fund or participate in activities that promote anti-Semitism or that ‘undermine the right of the Jewish people to self-determination.’” University of California Santa Barbara and UCLA also pass such resolutions.
2016 – The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), consisting of 31 Member Countries, adopts the definition; the goal is to inspire others to also adopt “a legally binding working definition.” An analyst writes that the IHRA action is “a potentially crucial tool for forcing governments and international agencies to confront and take action.”
December 2016 – U.S. Senate passes law to apply the State Department’s definition of antisemitism to the Education Department, for use in investigating reports of religiously motivated campus crimes. Now the law defines actions connected to criticism of Israel as “religiously motivated.”
December 2016 – UK announces it will formally adopt the Israel-centric definition–the first country to do so besides Israel. UK Prime Minister Theresa May made the announcement during a talk before 800 guests at the Conservative Friends of Israel’s annual lunch.
December 2016 – Adoption of the definition by the 57-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which had been heavily lobbied by the American Jewish Committee, is blocked by Russia. The AJC then says it will push for individual member states to adopt it.
March 2017 – South Carolina House of Representatives passes legislation under which the State Department’s definition “would be used in probes of possible anti-Semitism at state colleges and universities.” The Senate version will be discussed in 2018. Similar bills are being considered in Virginia and Tennessee.
March – May 2017 – Resolutions adopting the Israel-centric definitions are passed by student governments at Ohio’s Capital University and Kent State, California’s San Diego State University and at other campuses around the U.S.
April 2017 –
Austria adopts the definition. (The Austrian justice minister previously announced that the new definition would be used in the training of new judges and prosecutors.)
The ADL, which uses Israel-centric definition of antisemitism, announces that antisemitism has risen by 86 percent in 2017, but includes questionable statistics. News organizations throughout the U.S. report the ADL claim.
Reports that Trump administration budget cuts might cause special antisemitism envoy position to remain vacant provokes outrage among Israel lobby groups and others. Samantha Power calls for entire Trump administration to focus on antisemitism. Soon, Trump administration says it will fill post.
All 100 US Senators send a letter to UN demanding it stop its actions on Israel and connects these to antisemitism.
May 2017 –
Israel-Britain Alliance begins asking candidates for Parliament to sign a pledge that they will support the new definition.

Russell Brand Takes Down Jacob Rees-Mogg

September 25, 2017

I realise that Russell Brand probably isn’t everyone’s favourite comedian ever since that stunt he and Jonathan Ross pulled leaving sneering prank messages about Andrew Sachs’ granddaughter on the old fellow’s answerphone a few years ago. I also don’t agree with his anarchistic stance encouraging people not to vote. However, in his Trew News videos on YouTube he has produces some very incisive critiques and demolitions of contemporary capitalism, right-wing politics and bigotry.

In this video he takes on Jacob Rees-Mogg, now the darling of the Tory party, many of whom would just love him to take over the reins from Theresa May, whose own failings are increasingly obvious. And they definitely prefer him to Boris after BoJo showed his complete lack of scruple and personal loyalty by stabbing Cameron and then Gove in the back over Brexit.

They like Mogg, because he’s soft-spoken and courteous. But as Brand points out here, his opinions are absolutely toxic. Brand shows the clip of Mogg wrong-footing John Snow when Suchet was interviewing him about May’s Brexit speech. Suchet stated that many people thought here speech was a shambles. So Mogg says ‘It seems a bit harsh to compare her speech to a butcher’s slaughterhouse.’ This throws Snow for a moment, who clear wasn’t aware that that was what the word originally meant, and throws it back to Mogg, saying that it seems a harsh thing for him to say. Only for Mogg to tell him that this is what Suchet himself has said, as that’s what the word means. Brand rightly mocks Mogg for this piece of rhetoric.

In fact, the word shambles actually means the stalls butchers occupied in medieval market places. Bridgwater in Somerset had its shambles, and a fish shambles as well, in the Cockenrow, the name of which means ‘Cook’s Row’, and refers to the shops in that part of town selling cooked meat. The medieval shambles at Shepton Mallet has survived, and you can visit it with the benches on which the medieval tradesmen used to display their wares, above which is mounted a small tiled roof.

In discussing the etymology of the word, Mogg is clearly being pedantic, simultaneously using his knowledge to play down just how awful and uninspiring May’s speech was, while also showing off his superior knowledge in the hopes that this will impress everyone with the depth of his aristocratic education. In fact, the word’s etymology is immaterial here. The word is simply used commonly to mean a mess. Of course, if you wanted to make the point in a more elevated and highfalutin manner, Snow could have said ‘I was using the term synchronically’, which is modern philologist’s parlance for what a term means now. I doubt Mogg’s own knowledge of the theory of linguistics goes that far, and it would have thrown his own rhetorical strategy back at him. But unfortunately, thinking about such responses is usually the kind of thing you do on the way home after it’s all over.

Brand then goes on to talk about Mogg’s appearance on Breakfast TV, where he showed himself against gay marriage and abortion, even after rape. Brand is like many others – impressed by Mogg’s honesty, while at the same time horrified by the views he holds.

And then he attacks Mogg’s performance on LBC Radio, where he declared that the growth in food banks was ‘uplifting’, and goes on to talk about how the state couldn’t provide everything. Brand states that what brings this argument down is the fact that most of the people forced to use food banks are actually working. They’re just not paid enough to live on.

He also rebuts Mogg’s claims that his views are based in Christianity. They aren’t. Most of Christ’s message in the Gospels is about being nice and kind. Mogg, however, prefers to see Christ as being harder towards the poor and sick. To support his point about Mogg’s highly selective interpretation of Christian morality, he cites and shows a letter published by one of the papers, that makes this point.

In fact, Mogg’s views on food banks are more or less standard Tory rhetoric. Many Tories will say something about preserving a welfare state to give some provision for the poor, but will then do exactly what Mogg did, and then say that the state can’t provide everything. When challenged about cuts to the welfare state, they’ll probably make some comment about needing to target the support to those who really need it, rather than scroungers.

This is all highly mendacious. The cuts don’t just attack scroungers – they create real poverty amongst those in genuine need. And nobody expects the state to do everything. They just expect them to provide real support for the poor and the disabled. This support is not being provided, and the Tories are intent on destroying the welfare state piecemeal, so that no-one notices. Rees-Mogg’s comments about retaining some kind of welfare state are a sham, whether he believes it or not, are designed to gull people into believing that the Tories really do want to look after ordinary people. They don’t.

As for Mogg being delighted with the charity and generosity shown by people giving to the food banks, this was actually one of the reasons Thatcher wanted to abolish the welfare state. She thought that, with the state unable to provide for the poor there would be a resurgence in private generosity as people rose to the task of giving themselves, rather than relying on state aid. But as Lobster noted in a piece in its editorial, The View from the Bridge, a little while ago, this didn’t happen, And Thatcher realized it. As for the state being unable to provide adequately for the poor, the opposite is true. Conservative, religious Americans do give generously to charity. They’re often more generous than secular liberals, according to polling done a few years ago and cited in the book, The Truth about Evangelical Christians. But this personal generosity is completely inadequate for tackling the deep, widespread and grinding poverty that’s now spreading across America thanks to nearly forty years of Reaganite neoliberalism.

Brand gives Rees-Mogg his professional appreciation as a comedian. He states that Mogg is a comedic character. He makes the point that he seems mostly compounded from Maggie Thatcher. That’s certainly where Mogg got his mistaken and disgusting views about the efficacy of private charity over state aid. Just as Thatcher got it from her mentor, Keith Joseph. And if Mogg was the creation of a comedian sending up the Tories, he would be highly funny. He comes across somewhat as a mix of the Slenderman, the sinister internet meme, and Lord Snooty from the Beano. Or was it the Dandy? Looking at the photo Mike put up, showing Mogg trying to lift his leg over a style reminding me of nothing less than the Monty Python sketch, the ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’. Brand goes on to the compare Mogg to Trump. Mogg’s a comedic figure in exactly the same way Trump is. But only from a distance. Brand says that if he lived in America, which has to deal with the problems Trump is creating, he wouldn’t find Trump funny at all. The same with Mogg. Like Trump, he can appreciate Mogg as a comic character, but in reality, as a politician, Trump and Mogg are anything but funny.

Israel’s Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinians was Planned from the Start

October 6, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has posted up an excellent article critiquing and rebutting a piece by Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador in the Groaniad. Regev uses the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, where Communists, Jews and other Leftists saw off Oswald Mosley and his thugs in the BUF, to try to drum up support for Israel. Mike comments on the way Regev deliberately tries to confuse Jewishness, with Israel and Zionism, and his explicit claim that opposition to Israel is a form of anti-Semitism. As Mike, many of his commenters, and numerous critics of Israel, both gentile and Jewish have pointed out time and again, this is not the case. Both Mike and I have put up a number of posts reporting and commenting on opposition to Zionism and the Israel lobby from decent people, who are not anti-Semites, but simply opposed to Israel’s dispossession and persecution of the Palestinians. This includes many courageous, principled Jews and Israelis, who have been reviled and actively persecuted because of their stance. They include the academics Dr Norman Finkelstein and Ilan Pappe, an Israeli, who now teaches at the University of Exeter, I believe. Dr Pappe was forced out of the country of his birth through a campaign of official persecution and intimidation.

Mike makes the point that the Zionism of the late 19th and early 20th century is not the same as that today. Then the movement was, as Regev himself argues, a movement for Jewish self-determination. Today it is simply a movement for the militaristic expansion of Israel, and the ethnic cleansing of its indigenous peoples. Mike makes the point that Israel’s borders are not the same as today, despite the impression Regev’s words give, and that the hostility against Israel is due to the military expansion of its frontiers. He also makes the point that Israel’s policy aggression is not rooted in Judaism as a religion. He has a point. Zionism started as a secular movement. It remained a secular movement until Rabbi Kook made a series of prophecies in the 1960s which seeming legitimised Israel from a Jewish religious perspective. But as Sam Seder, the host of the radical news show, The Majority Report, has pointed out, Judaism has no overall religious figure determining dogma and belief like the papacy in Roman Catholicism. The traditional attitude was that it is a sin to attempt to restore the Jewish state before the coming of the Messiah, and there are plenty of texts which support that view. As the graffiti on the walls in Jerusalem says ‘Zionism and Judaism are diametrically opposed’. Religious opposition to Zionism amongst Jews is also expressed in the Neturei Karta, a group of Orthodox Jews, who are still opposed to Israel on religious grounds, and who held a mass demonstration against it New York several years ago. The anti-Zionist movement also includes other Jews from more liberal traditions. Many of them are opposed to it, because it’s persecution of the Palestinians is similar to the persecution the Jewish people have also suffered in their history, and they see their Judaism as being in solidarity with other movements for the emancipation of the whole of humanity.

MIke’s article concludes

No, he wants you to believe Israel – and the Zionists – are victims of anti-Semitism, even while they steal land that legitimately belongs to others and suppress those who would try to resist, and even though many Jews have declared their opposition to these activities.

Understand this, and it becomes clear that his claim that anti-Zionists see “the Jewish state” in the terms he describes is nonsense.

Zionism is not Judaism. Israel is not Judaism. Mark Regev is a propagandist trying to exploit and pervert the memory of a proud collaboration between Jews, the Irish, and many British groups.

Don’t let him get away with it.

Mike’s article is at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/10/06/do-not-let-mark-regev-use-the-anniversary-of-cable-street-to-lie-about-modern-zionism/ Go and read it. And read the comments many of Mike’s readers have left supporting his previous articles on this issue. Many of them come from Jewish critics of Israel, who are definitely not self-hating, or any other kind of vile slur the Israel lobby and its lackeys throw at them.

I differ from Mike in that I believe that there was always an element within Zionism from the very start that contemplated and planned the dispossession of the Palestinians. In the piece ‘Same Old Same Old’ in Robin Ramsay’s ‘View from the Bridge’ column in Lobster 58, Ramsay notes how one of his readers spotted a paragraph claiming precisely this in a review of ‘Four Books About Islamist Terrorism’ in the Sunday Telegraph for 18th June 2009. This states

Meanwhile, the founder of modern political Zionism, the Austrian journalist Theodor Herzl, had earmarked a site for the Jewish state. In June 1895, he wrote in his diary: “We must expropriate gently the private property” and “spirit the penniless population across the border”.

Ramsay lays bare what this means

Ethnic cleansing, in other words. Which is what the Israeli state has been doing since it was founded; but doing it piecemeal, slowly enough to avoid making too many waves in America.

See: http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster58/lobster58.pdf and scroll down until you get to the relevant section.

Now the quote from Herzl makes clear that he did not want it done violently. But as Ilan Pappe has documented in his books and lectures, it was done with considerable violence. Massacres and forced expropriation were committed from the very foundation of Israel in the 1940s. And quite often the worst perpetrator of these crimes were Labour governments under leaders like Golda Meir.

This does not mean that all Israelis support this programme of ethnic cleansing. Indeed, as I’ve said, there are many Israelis and human rights organisations in Israel, that are deeply opposed to it. These include B’Tselem, the human rights agency. There is a political party standing up for the Palestinians, which includes both Israelis and Palestinians. Israelis have protested against the house demolitions, where rabbis have also led down in front of bulldozers to protect Palestinian homes. Members of the Israeli armed forces have also protested against their country’s oppression of the Palestinians. And a few years ago a Jewish peace organisation occupied the New York headquarters of the Friends of the IDF.

And many modern anti-Zionists aren’t opposed to the state of Israel. Most of them, including Dr. Finkelstein, want a two-state solution, in which Israel withdraws to its pre-1967 borders. But Regev in his article lies and says Israel’s opponents want the complete destruction of the country. The Israeli government, however, firmly refuses to pull back from the Occupied Territories on the grounds that this would leave the country militarily vulnerable. And so they continue to justify their dispossession and persecution of the Palestinians.

Lobster on the Israel Lobby and the Creation of the Neo-Cons

May 5, 2016

I found this piece on the creation of the Neo-Conservatives by the Israel Lobby in the 1970s in ‘The View from the Bridge’ section of Lobster 48, Winter 2004: 25.

The Power of Nightmares

The three films by Adam Curtis, shown here in October/November on BBC 2, under the title of The Power of Nightmares, documenting the rise of militant Islam and American neo-Conservatives, deservedly received much praise. Curiously – or perhaps not curiously – none of the comments I read seem to have noticed that Curtis’ account of the origins of the neo-Conservatives was based on a big omission. In Curtis’ view the neo-Cons grew out of the ideas of political philosopher, Leo Strauss, some of whose students are now prominent in the Bush regime. (Strauss is discussed in this issue by Bernard Porter.) But much more important in the neo-Cons rise to prominence was the Israeli lobby in the United States. (The ‘house journal’ of the neo-Cons in the 1970s was Commentary, the journal of the American Jewish Committee.)

Alarmed by the ‘even-handed’ approach taken by Henry Kissinger and Nixon during the 1973 Israeli war with the Arabs, the Israeli lobby set about remaking US foreign policy to protect Israel. This involved first recreating the Soviet Union as the big bad wolf (Cold War 2). As Curtis showed, this entailed the wholesale fabrication of a renewed ‘Soviet threat’, at the heart of which was the so-called Team B exercise. Then the Soviets were presented as the controllers of international terrorism, enabling the Israelis to label the Palestinians as terrorists, controlled by the KGB. This theme was launched at the Jonathan Institute conference of 1979 in Israel before being taken up by anti-détente groups within the US intelligence community. Yet the Israeli lobby’s was missing from Curtis’ films.

And so the world has been subject to the tension of the Cold War of the 1980s and then the grotty imperialism of the past decade and a half, partly because Zionist Americans and Israeli hawks were alarmed at Nixon being a bit too fair to the Arabs for their liking.