Friday, August 04, 2006

The cold in our eyes

Is it anti-semitic to criticise Israel? Is it anti-semitic to criticise Zionism? Is it anti-semitic, even, to oppose Zionism - to believe that the state of Israel (as established in 1948) was a thoroughly bad idea which should be replaced by something better?

To put it another way, does anti-semitism lead coherently to opposing Zionism - would we expect somebody who hated Jews also to hate the state of Israel? Because, if this logical entailment is invalid, it follows that the reverse inference - from anti-Zionism to anti-semitism - also falls. To put it crudely, if you can find me one Jew-hater who doesn't also hate the idea of Jews having their own state, then we can no longer assume that anti-Zionism follows from anti-semitism.

Sir Oswald, would you care to comment?
[anti-semitism is] a very old growth in British soil especially with people who come from the countryside when they come into contact with Jews. It is probably latent in the racial or traditional consciousness of a great many of these men. I am not arguing the merits of it. You may think me a great scoundrel for indulging in this and for developing it as much as we have, but there is something in it ... [My solution] is constructing a national home for them which would put an end to all this friction it engenders which is as harmful to the Jews as it is to us. It changes his character into a gangster and arouses in us a certain brutality and it is bad for the Jew and bad for us.
From the records of Mosley's appeal against detention as a fifth columnist, 1940 (quoted in the Skidelsky biography).

Now, Oswald Mosley is not the most reliable witness, even (or especially) on his own account. Skidelsky portrays him (apparently without realising it) as a monster of arrogance and sadism, utterly without loyalty or scruples, consistent only in his drive for personal dominance. If Zionist sympathies would make it easier for him to get out of jail, Zionist sympathies he would have. Nevertheless, it's a coherent argument he makes here. If British Fascists attacked British Jews, their objection was not to Jews per se but to the 'friction' which inevitably results when Jews live among Gentiles (T.S. Eliot had developed a similar argument). Since Fascists are primarily concerned with building their own homogeneous nation, there's no obvious reason to object to the formation of a Jewish nation by some of the Jews who were excluded from the Fascist fatherland; indeed, Fascists might offer Jewish nationalism a distant brotherly welcome.

I don't know what Mosley would have said about the invasion of Lebanon; it's entirely possible that his anti-semitism would have triumphed, and that he'd have been prominent among the critics of Israel. That said, it's clear that there's a line leading directly from hatred of British Jews to approval of a Jewish national home - and that it was possible, without any kind of contradiction, to oppose the presence of Jews in Britain and approve of their presence, under suitably nationalist auspices, in Palestine.

So, you can say that criticism of the Lebanon operation is anti-Israeli; you can even say it's anti-Zionist (some of it certainly is). But don't even think of saying it's anti-semitic.

11 Comments:

Blogger Jarndyce said...

It does seem ludicrous that anyone who criticizes Israel still has to defend him/herself against charges of antisemitism. But if you've had the misfortune to read excrement like Stephen Pollard's recently, that's still the precise line of the unquestioning Israeli supporters. Weird.

4/8/06 09:56  
Blogger Ed said...

Apparently the BNP have become big admirers of the IDF and their campaign against Lebanon.

I should think the BNP has its fair share of anti-semites, yet they now seem to be rather keen on the state of Israel.

Details on 'Islamophobia Watch'.

4/8/06 15:46  
Anonymous Backword Dave said...

But, but I read on Normblog that there was a study, yeah, and it *showed* that people who hate Israel were like really really big anti-Semites. It had numbers and all, so it must be science. You can't argue with science.

6/8/06 17:50  
Anonymous isakofsky said...

http://www.jewsagainstzionism.com/antisemitism/nazisupport.cfm

29/8/06 08:12  
Anonymous isakofsky said...

There are eleven (!) articles on Nazi-Zionist co-operation here:

http://64.233.183.104/search?q=cache:2ai8TIeuQMwJ:www.lastsuperpower.net/docs/nzcforeword/view+nazi+support+for+zionism&hl=en&gl=uk&ct=clnk&cd=5

29/8/06 11:39  
Blogger bob said...

Only a tiny number of Zionist nutters (like Stephen Pollard) think that anti-Zionism per se is anti-semitic. The question is whether anti-Zionism can serve as a cover for anti-semitism , whether certain forms of anti-Zionism are anti-semitic, and whether the obsessive concentration on Zionism (while ignoring other forms of nationalism which are by any objective standard equally pernicious) is anti-semitic.

Thus, talking about "a Zionist conspiracy" or a "Zionist cabal" might be anti-semitic, even if anti-Zionism as such isn't. Or Muslim Brotherhood-type anti-Zionism might be anti-semitic, even if socialist anti-Zionism isn't. Or leftists who agitate for boycotts of Israel but never think of boycotting Indonesia or Saudi Arabia might be anti-semitic, even if the call to boycott Israel is not itself anti-semitic.

1/9/06 17:24  
Blogger Phil said...

I don't deny that there are people who are both anti-Zionist and anti-semitic. I've met people like that; they didn't make a secret of their anti-semitism (or see any need to - that was what their world looked like, after all).

Your third argument seems to be that Zionism can become anti-semitic:

leftists who agitate for boycotts of Israel but never think of boycotting Indonesia or Saudi Arabia might be anti-semitic, even if the call to boycott Israel is not itself anti-semitic.

I'm not keen on this argument. I mean, they might be anti-semitic, but it seems more likely that they aren't - any more than my friends who campaigned for solidarity with El Salvador and Nicaragua but ignored Tibet were motivated by anti-Americanism. Nobody can campaign against all the injustices in the world; you put your efforts where you think they're most needed.

Some of the staunchest critics of Israel and Zionism I've known have been Jews. I'm happy to stand alongside them, although I don't share their dedication (or 'obsessiveness' if you prefer).

2/9/06 11:38  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You conveniently leave out that Mosleyite's after WW2 were screaming about what "the zionists were doing to our lads in Palestine". The vast majoirty of far right anti-semitic groups - Imperial fascist league , The Britons , Miliotant christian Patriots , etc were hardline anti-zionists" and were anti-semitic in the same way Mosley was. Your article is cheap and it's dishonest. As for the accusation that anybody who criticises Israel is labeled an anti-semite - this is a lie ! It's a smear campaign that is designed to confuse the issue.
"Some of the staunchest critics of Israel and Zionism I've known have been Jews. I'm happy to stand alongside them, although I don't share their dedication (or 'obsessiveness' if you prefer".
Off course evrybody has their "pet Jew"

6/9/06 01:00  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a useful piece
http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=611

6/9/06 01:03  
Blogger Phil said...

You conveniently leave out...

Not 'conveniently leave out', just 'didn't know'. And if you re-read my post you'll see that I don't say that the Mosleyites weren't anti-Zionist, or even that Mosley was telling the truth when he claimed Zionist sympathies.

As for the accusation that anybody who criticises Israel is labeled an anti-semite

Again, I don't say this.

"Some of the staunchest critics of Israel and Zionism I've known have been Jews. I'm happy to stand alongside them, although I don't share their dedication (or 'obsessiveness' if you prefer".
Of course everybody has their "pet Jew"


I'm really only responding because of this, which is a pretty nasty insult to me personally (if I get the allusion) and demonstrates your ignorance of some important currents in radical Jewish politics, in Israel and in the Diaspora. Look up Gush Shalom, or the Jewish Socialist Group, or Return. And please don't leave anonymous comments in future - they're liable to be ignored and/or deleted.

6/9/06 08:45  
Anonymous isakofsky said...

The key phrase from 'anonymous' (of course he or she is anonymous) is the insult 'pet jew'.

Several moves are going on: 1. Israel is becoming increasingly isolated in the eyes of formerly reliable allies, the liberal centre of western countries. 2. To counter this, the zionists are trying to prove that all anti-zionism is anti-semitism. This is a scare tactic designed to yoke in the liberal centre who find post-holocaust hostility towards 'jews', 'the jews', 'the jewish community' as a test of their humanity. 'No of course I'm not anti-semitic.' And mostly, they're not. Therefore yoking-in tactic can work
3. More and more Jews express anxieties, misgivings, disagreements and in some cases downright detachment from the zionist cause.
4. This needs to be countered by zionists as it seems to disprove the equation anti-zionism = anti-semitism. So anti-zionist Jews are therefore 'self-hating' and/or not really Jews. This way, the equation can be sustained. Or they think it can.

Just to be clear: Israel is a nation state. It is fair and reasonable to call it 'the Jewish state' because it was set up to be ruled by and for the Jews who wanted to live there. However, 'The Jews' are a people of many communities, many attitudes, many practices. Some Jews live in Israel, the rest live all over the world. Israeli Jews are called Israelis but there are also non-Jewish Israelis.

7/9/06 16:18  

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