Thursday, 26 May 2016

“Honey, I shrunk the religion!” Who’s in and who’s out according to Zionism?

The space available to be Jewish is shrinking rapidly. Ironically, it’s both pro and anti-Zionist positions that are making Judaism look so minuscule.

Jewish students on Britain’s campuses now feel they have to choose between their Jewish identity and supporting the National Union of Students. The dilemma has been brought to a head by the election of Malia Bouattia as NUS President and her well-reported anti-Zionist opinions.

Our Jewish students can’t work out why their minority rights (when defined in terms of supporting Zionism) aren’t considered valid in the same way as other groups’ desires for self-determination.

The students are not the only ones feeling their Judaism constrained. 

It’s doing my head in too. But for the entirely opposite reason.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Thank you Chief Rabbi. Now I know. Judaism is to blame for the Palestinian Nakba.

Dear Rabbi Mirvis

When it comes to defining Zionism, you have brought crystal clarity.

You have been emphatic and categorical. You have left no room for doubt.

And why am I writing to you today? Well it’s Nakba Day. And thanks to you, I can now join a perfect straight line between Judaism and the Palestinian ‘Catastrophe’.

However, I imagine you and I will disagree strongly on the implications of that straight line.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Letter from an anti-BDS Arab to a Jewish BDS supporter [and this Jew's BDS response]

A member of my family sent me this open letter to BDS supporting Jews, hoping I might see the error of my ways. It hasn't worked.

It was published last month and written by Fred Maroun who writes a column for the Times of Israel. Looking at his other posts for TOI he clearly likes to target any Jew who has a problem with Israel. Maroun describes himself as a Canadian of Arab origin who grew up in Beirut, supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state and wants a liberal and democratic Middle East.

Here's a quote from Maroun's previous thoughts on BDS, a tactic he seems to enjoy misrepresenting:

Not only is the BDS movement anti-Semitic, but since its objective is the destruction of Israel, the killing of Jews, and the return of the remaining Jews to the stateless and precarious status that they had before May 1948, the BDS movement represents an anti-Semitism at par with Hamas, and the worst form of anti-Semitism since Nazi Germany.

Click here to see Maroun's open letter to people like me [with my responses in bold].

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Three pieces of advice to help British leftwingers kick racism out of their anti-Israel rhetoric

Too often I see those in solidarity with Palestinians lose the plot and allow opponents to grab the agenda and deflect attention from where the suffering really exists.

That's exactly what's been happening in Britain this week as a row over antisemitism in the Labour Party has dominated the news.

My initial reaction to Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone was sympathetic. The whole thing felt hyped up, out of all proportion and part of the ongoing attempts to undermine Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of the Labour Party. See Asa Winstanley's article at Electronic Intifada for a compelling account of this.

But after days of news coverage about Zionism and antisemitism, none of which has shed the slightest light on the plight of the Palestinians, my sympathy with how some left wingers express their views on Israel has worn very thin. Their verbal antics have allowed distraction and deflection to triumph as an exaggerated crisis about antisemitism in Britain rules the airwaves.

I don't believe the Labour Party in Britain has a "problem with Jews". Antisemitism in Labour is not "endemic", or "toxic", or "institutional". Or at least no more than it is in the Conservative Party.

But I do believe some comments expressed by some Labour members in support of Palestinians have been crass, ignorant, and yes, antisemitic.

The right wing opponents of Corbyn, and those who can't stand his pro-Palestinian sympathies, are undoubtedly making the most of every stupid social media post and comment they can dig up.

It does feel like a witch-hunt has been unleashed with Labour politicians now lining up, like a parody of a scene from Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible', to say how antisemitism must be "rooted out of the Party".

If the Palestinian people are ever to get the attention and respect they deserve then those who claim to support their cause need to clean up their act, learn some history, avoid own-goals and stay focused on achieving a just peace in Israel/Palestine.
Self-made bear traps

There's a way to talk about Israel that's honest and defensible even though it won't avoid you escaping every accusation of antisemitism. And then there's a way to talk that leads you into a massive bear trap of your own making.

Language and history are incredibly important when it comes to Israel/Palestine and being sloppy with either gets you into a heap of trouble that ought to be avoidable.

So let me offer three pieces of advice to help British left wingers kick racism out of their anti-Israel rhetoric.