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Bigotry In The Press.

with 31 comments

The New Statesman was, at one point in time, considered almost obligatory reading for anyone interested in politics or current affairs in Britain, but has suffered more recently from some internal turmoil and staffing changes.

A rather predictable article has just been published called, “Does Israel “cause” anti-Semitism?”

The author makes it very clear that he thinks antisemitism is wrong, bravo, but then proceeds with a time honoured, or time worn argument, that antisemitism is actually related to the behaviour of Israelis:

“But I do find it both tragic and ironic that the state of Israel – created ostensibly to protect Jews from across the world from hatred, prejudice and violence – through its actions today, and through its self-proclaimed role as the leader and home of world Jewry, provokes such awful anti-Semitic attacks against diaspora Jews who have nothing to do with the actions of the IDF or the policies of Netanyahu, Olmert and Sharon. “

Astute readers will remember this argument being trotted out by every bigot under the sun in various guises, for example, “Jews wouldn’t get attacked if they didn’t act as they did”, etc.

It is not a very pretty or coherent argument for what would be Britain’s premier weekly political journal.

From the comments Dave Rich of CST rightly argues:

“Let me explain some of the basic dynamics of hate crime. The people who are primarily responsible for racist hate crimes are the racists who perpetrate them; the “cause” is their bigotry and hatred for a chosen ‘other’.

Different racists respond to different stimuli: so, for instance, when Prince Harry wore a Nazi uniform a few years ago, or when Ken Livingstone was censured for his “concentration camp” comments, those events also acted as triggers for short-term surges in antisemitic incidents, but the incidents they triggered were of a different nature, and seemingly from different types of perpetrators, than the incidents triggered by the Israel/Hamas war in Gaza in January of this year.

In all cases, though, there is a very big difference between the stimulus, or trigger, and the “cause”. You would not write an article lamenting that fact that Muslim immigration “caused” the recent arson attack on the Luton Islamic Centre, or any of the other Islamophobic attacks that have been in the news recently, and rightly so. Don’t make excuses for racists, and don’t use racism as an excuse to score political points. It’s demeaning and not something the NS, of all journals, should be doing.

Most people who watched events in Gaza, even most of those who got angry about what Israel did, did not then go out and attack or abuse Jews. There is no direct cause and effect between the two. That is why CST’s reports talk of the response to events in Gaza being the trigger for incidents, rather than simply the events in Gaza themselves. “

It is a shame that a periodical, such as the New Statesman, is reduced to regurgitating bigotry, and I finally remember why I ceased buying it.

Written by modernityblog

27/07/2009 at 20:38

31 Responses

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  1. Let’s assume – for the sake of argument – that the state of Israel really is as monstrous as its enemies keep accusing it of being: according to the TNS line, this would ‘explain’ (read: justify) contemporary anti-semitism. But again, even if the accusation was true — it is not — shouldn’t anti-semitism still be viewed as irrational, dangerous, morally abhorrent, and beyond justification?

    ganselmi

    27/07/2009 at 22:53

  2. Exactly, when political publications start to rationalize the irrational you know something is seriously wrong with them

    modernityblog

    27/07/2009 at 23:30

  3. Back in the mid 80s, when I was still intellectually curious, I read The New Statesman from time to time at the University of Texas library.

    I miss Thatcher.

    mesquito

    28/07/2009 at 00:35

  4. Missing Thatcher is a bit like missing Herbert Hoover, IMHO

    modernityblog

    28/07/2009 at 01:15

  5. […] these lines, Modernity draws attention to a typically dense New Statesman piece titled ‘Does Israel […]

  6. Thanks Mod. Really.

    Fabian from Israel

    28/07/2009 at 06:32

  7. Given that Arab Muslims so easily terrorised non- or anti-Zionist Arab Jews into leaving, mostly for Israel, it’s a rather convenient explanation: Israel “caused” the antisemitism against them, not its perpetrators.

    zkharya

    28/07/2009 at 06:57

  8. If Israel causes antisemitism because of its actions, what does the far higher body count caused by Muslim militants cause?

    zkharya

    28/07/2009 at 07:12

  9. “But I do find it both tragic and ironic that the state of Israel – created ostensibly to protect Jews from across the world from hatred, prejudice and violence – through its actions today, and through its self-proclaimed role as the leader and home of world Jewry, provokes such awful anti-Semitic attacks against diaspora Jews who have nothing to do with the actions of the IDF or the policies of Netanyahu, Olmert and Sharon.”

    In which case, isn’t it ironic that alleged anti-Zionists-but-not-antisemites may be the primary cause for diaspora Jews migrating to Israel from places where hitherto they were tolerated?

    I.e. isn’t ironic that “anti-Zionists”, who allegedly do not believe Israel is “the leader and home of world Jewry”, prove the thesis on which the Jewish state of Israel was founded: latent antisemitism may be found in even the apparently safest places where Jews dwell?

    “its self-proclaimed role as the leader and home of world Jewry”

    I’m not sure “Israel” does so “self-proclaim”: I think it is rather more the “self-proclamation” about Israel by antisemites.

    zkharya

    28/07/2009 at 07:23

  10. I.e. isn’t ironic that “anti-Zionist” hatred and bigotry may be the number one factor strengthening Israel today?

    zkharya

    28/07/2009 at 07:24

  11. A commenter on NS, Daniele:

    “But the international Jewish silence on the Gaza atrocity is telling and can only make things worse.”

    Because diaspora Jews are responsible for Israel, aren’ t they? Because Israel is, after all, what Hasan calls “the leader and home of world Jewry”?

    Because there couldn’t be any legitimate reason why diaspora Jews sympathise with Israel, could there?

    Because, while Daniele would not consider himself to be an antisemite, he can understand why some are.

    Alternatively, Daniele’s comment is exactly how the new anti-Zionism elides so easily into the new antisemitism.

    The question is, Did Israel cause that, or did Daniele?

    zkharya

    28/07/2009 at 09:57

  12. None of the above posts was published by NS. Does Hasan screen them?

    zkharya

    28/07/2009 at 11:25

  13. I suspect so, the comments count has gone up from 13 to 19 today, on such a topic I would reasonably expect at least a few dozen.

    modernityblog

    28/07/2009 at 12:23

  14. Does Israel “cause” antisemitism?

    No western movies do, or do they?

    “Palestinian group threatens ‘Bruno’ star Sacha Baron Cohen ”

    By Haaretz Service

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1103450.html

    Jacob

    28/07/2009 at 18:47

  15. Timely! I was just reading it :0

    modernityblog

    29/07/2009 at 14:31

  16. So do or do not the actions of the Israeli state lead to anti-Semitism, that is, hostility towards Jews? Well, from my experience it does, not amongst left-wingers, but certainly within the general population. I have heard people in many different walks of life associate the crimes of the state of Israel against the Palestinians with Jews as a whole. These people do not subscribe to ‘world Jewish conspiracy’ arguments, or even to the old-style Jew-baiting arguments about their being ‘too powerful’ in banking, etc, and broadly consider themselves to be liberal in outlook.

    I consider it my duty, as a socialist and therefore anti-racist, to explain that the state of Israel does not represent the world’s Jews, that many Jews, both in Israel and in the rest of the world, deplore the treatment that the Israeli state metes out to the Palestinians, and that it is wrong to associate a people with a state that claims to speak in its name. For me, the fight for justice for the Palestinians is inseparable from the fight against all oppression, and that includes a fight against hostility towards Jews, that is, a fight against anti-Semitism.

    I and others in this position are not helped, however, by Israel’s fellow-travellers who deliberately muddy the issue by their associating the Jews of the world with the state of Israel, and thereby associate all Jews with the crimes of the Israeli state. When Israel’s fellow-travellers complain of anti-Semitism, this is hypocritical as they are the very ones who are helping to keep this vile creed in operation.

    So the fight against anti-Semitism necessitates a fight not merely against traditional Jew-baiters and those who cannot differentiate between Jews as a people and the state of Israel, but also against Israel’s fellow-travellers, who give encouragement to anti-Semitism.

    Dr Paul

    30/07/2009 at 00:20

  17. Dr Paul, you wrote:

    “Well, from my experience it does, not amongst left-wingers, but certainly within the general population…”

    I doubt that any socialist would want to advance the argument that immigration or the activities of ethnic minorities “cause” racism.

    That being the case, why then employ such an obviously fallacious argument concerning Jews?

    Need I remind you of the old pub talk “if it wasn’t for black crime, no one would hate the blacks”

    It is nonsense and you know it, even when applied to Jews or any other minority

    “When Israel’s fellow-travellers complain of anti-Semitism, this is hypocritical as they are the very ones who are helping to keep this vile creed in operation.”

    I would have thought that it was EVERYONE’s right, nah duty to highlight antisemitic attacks, on synagogues or Jews in the street, etc.,

    The individual’s particular views do not privilege, or delegitimise them in that instance.

    I believe that is employing something called a reverse “appeal to authority”, which is a logical fallacy.

    The facts on the ground of racial attacks against Jews do not change simply because one individual that you don’t like, or do like, articulates them.

    You wrote:

    “but also against Israel’s fellow-travellers, who give encouragement to anti-Semitism.”

    I have seen no evidence of anyone, remotely sympathetic toward Israel, encouraging attacks on Jews.

    If you have evidence on the matter please do supply it, bearing in mind that an assertion is not an argument.

    modernityblog

    30/07/2009 at 01:23

  18. Modernity writes: ‘I doubt that any socialist would want to advance the argument that immigration or the activities of ethnic minorities “cause” racism. That being the case, why then employ such an obviously fallacious argument concerning Jews? Need I remind you of the old pub talk “if it wasn’t for black crime, no one would hate the blacks”. It is nonsense and you know it, even when applied to Jews or any other minority.

    Am I employing such arguments? What I am saying is that Israel’s fellow-travellers, by associating the Jews of the world with the state of Israel and its criminal actions (which, like the Stalinists of the 1930s, they either outright support or excuse) they give ignorant people the idea that all Jews are responsible for throwing Palestinians off their land, attacking Gaza, and all the rest.

    So by saying that Israel’s fellow-travellers are giving encouragement to anti-Semitism I do not mean that they are encouraging attacks on Jews. They are, however, encouraging an atmosphere that encourages the continuation and rise of anti-Semitism amongst ignorant people. By equating all Jews with Israel’s crimes, they are doing the same as equating, say, a black lumpen street criminal with all black people, or an Islamicist suicide bomber with all Muslims.

    Do Israel’s actions increase anti-Semitism in Britain (and elsewhere)? I can give you a concrete example of where the actions of Zionists did exactly this. In the late 1940s, right-wing Zionists killed quite a few British troops in Palestine, not least with the Stern group blowing up of the King David Hotel, resulting in an upsurge of anti-Semitic sentiments and acts in Britain.

    There are unfortunately many examples of criminal and/or backward practices by members of ethnic and/or religious minorities that reinforce bigoted attitudes in Britain.

    The Islamicist suicide bombings in London in July 2005 and less vicious but equally reactionary acts by hard-line Islamicists; honour killings and other less vicious but equally reactionary and personally distressing examples of peasant culture (forced marriages, etc) amongst Asian immigrants (often defended by ‘community spokesmen’ as examples of ‘our culture’; lumpen criminality amongst black youth, racketeering and human trafficking for prostitution by (amongst other) Albanian gangsters… One of the worst gangsters in London 50 years back was Rachman, who really was a der Stürmer Jewish stereotype in his rack-renting thuggery: an anti-Semite’s dream character.

    All these indefensible things give succour to racists and bigots who tar all Muslims, Asians, Albanians, black youth, Jews, etc, etc, with the same brush on account of the criminal and backward behaviour of a few of them. And, as in the case of Israel’s apologists trying to tar all Jews with responsibility for the actions of the Israeli state, it is the responsibility of the left to make sure that people’s revulsion against such things does not lead to bigotry against all members of a religious and/or ethnic group.

    That is axiomatic: and that is surely what the author of the original piece was actually declaring. So I don’t see why our understanding of the impact of the actions of the state of Israel upon the situation of the Jews of the world whom it claims to represent should be any different than, say, our understanding of the impact of the actions of, say, an Islamicist such as Osama bin Laden upon the situation of the Muslims of the world whom he claims to represent.

    Dr Paul

    30/07/2009 at 23:59

  19. To follow your reasoning, Dr Paul, all prejudice is actually caused by its victims – Muslims, Albanians, black youth, Jews, and I’m sure many other groups as well. What you’re actually doing is justifying thinking and acting in a prejudiced way – justifying those who scorn all blacks because of “lumpen criminality among black youth.” You’re saying that it would be perfectly justified for me to hate all Albanians because of the human trafficking of Albanian gangsters. It seems to me that you’re operating from the position (not a socialist one by the way) that you, with your greater wisdom, get to decide what kind of prejudice and discrimination is justified by the actions of the actual victims of prejudice. How is this a socialist position?

    Rebecca

    31/07/2009 at 08:10

  20. What Rebecca said.

    modernityblog

    31/07/2009 at 13:11

  21. Rebecca, you are as guilty as Modernity in misunderstanding what I wrote. Whether this is through hasty reading, an inability to comprehend anything longer than the fashionable twitter-length comment, or a deliberate misreading of the sort that I have experienced at all points of the political spectrum, I do not know. What I do know is that I was pointing out that bigotry can have a material basis in the conduct of certain people, which is then extended by ignorant people and at times by the agitational right-wing press to all members of that ethnicity or religion — a process of stereotyping.

    But do I say that, to take one example, lumpen criminality on the part of some black youth justifies anti-black racism? No I don’t. Read my comment again:

    ‘All these indefensible things give succour to racists and bigots who tar all Muslims, Asians, Albanians, black youth, Jews, etc, etc, with the same brush on account of the criminal and backward behaviour of a few of them. And… it is the responsibility of the left to make sure that people’s revulsion against such things does not lead to bigotry against all members of a religious and/or ethnic group.’

    To describe a phenomenon is not to endorse it. That is, one might think, pretty axiomatic. I was describing a phenomenon that I have observed over the decades, and against which I have actively fought in my years as a socialist.

    I remember the nasty ‘mugging’ scare some 30 years back, in which a small number of black youth were involved in robbery with violence in inner London, and the right-wing press and racist organisations were using this as a means to demean and even criminalise all black people, and I recall how I spent not a little time arguing against this racist stereotyping. More recently, I have had to oppose hostility towards Muslims in the light of the stereotyping of them all after the Rushdie affair and the rise of al Qaeda terror. And, as I wrote originally, I have had to explain to otherwise impeccably liberal people that one cannot hold all Jews as being morally responsible for the crimes of the Israeli state.

    Dr Paul

    31/07/2009 at 13:56

  22. Dr Paul you wrote: “Rebecca, you are as guilty as Modernity in misunderstanding what I wrote. “

    Guilty, how so?

    You made a repeated point about “Israel’s fellow-travellers “

    I asked you for evidence when I wrote:

    “I have seen no evidence of anyone, remotely sympathetic toward Israel, encouraging attacks on Jews.

    If you have evidence on the matter please do supply it, “

    {my emphasis}

    You have provided NONE, even when you made this point time after time, thus I am tempted to conclude that your *argument* is not based on evidence, but an assertion and therefore, not of much use.

    However, if you *do* have such evidence I await with baited breath🙂

    modernityblog

    31/07/2009 at 14:17

  23. Dear oh dear, for the second time, I did not talk about fellow-travellers of Israel ‘encouraging attacks on Jews’. Do I not make myself clear?

    Do you see why I declare that you are misunderstanding what I wrote, that you are — for whatever reason — misrepresenting me?

    Let’s go through it once again.

    My original words are ‘Israel’s fellow-travellers, who give encouragement to anti-Semitism’.

    My first reply to you went: ‘What I am saying is that Israel’s fellow-travellers, by associating the Jews of the world with the state of Israel and its criminal actions (which, like the Stalinists of the 1930s, they either outright support or excuse) they give ignorant people the idea that all Jews are responsible for throwing Palestinians off their land, attacking Gaza, and all the rest. So by saying that Israel’s fellow-travellers are giving encouragement to anti-Semitism I do not mean that they are encouraging attacks on Jews. They are, however, encouraging an atmosphere that encourages the continuation and rise of anti-Semitism amongst ignorant people.’ [Original emphasis]

    Get it: this does not mean the Zionists would be encouraging attacks on Jews, it means helping to create and/or perpetuate an atmosphere in which anti-Semitism can develop.

    Now if an Islamicist in Britain were openly to support, say, the killing of non-Muslims in the Middle East or India (or wherever) on the basis of their being infidels and that this was good Muslim practice, he would be helping to create an atmosphere here which would be conducive to the growth of anti-Islamic sentiments.

    This is much the same thing as the previous example of fellow-travellers of Israel. Neither might want this hostile atmosphere to develop, but their statements in defence of the indefensible might well do this, indeed, will almost certainly help it to arise. That is what I originally said, and then elaborated on in my later posts — read them again. And so I do not see why I should provide ‘evidence’ to back up a statement that I did not make.

    Dr Paul

    31/07/2009 at 20:14

  24. Dr. Paul,

    I do not deliberately misrepresent your views.

    But if I might say, POLITELY, you are not arguing with the greatest of clarity.

    So who are these “Israel’s fellow-travellers”?

    And how exactly do they “give encouragement to anti-Semitism.”?

    For me, antisemitism is violence, the threat of violence against Jews or invoking age old racist myths concerning Jews, etc., perhaps you might want to clarify what *you* mean by it?

    modernityblog

    31/07/2009 at 22:56

  25. “Well, from my experience it does, not amongst left-wingers”

    No, in them it was a lightsleeper anyway.

    zkharya

    01/08/2009 at 10:18

  26. “I consider it my duty, as a socialist and therefore anti-racist, to explain that the state of Israel does not represent the world’s Jews, that many Jews, both in Israel and in the rest of the world, deplore the treatment that the Israeli state metes out to the Palestinians, and that it is wrong to associate a people with a state that claims to speak in its name.”

    Which heavily implies that it is both culpable and wrong for diaspora Jews to sympathise with the second or largest Jewish community in the world, the Jewish state of Israel, for all kinds of reasons.

    You are a principal reason why antisemitism is becoming increasing acceptable in left-wing discourse: you imply (or assert) that Jews who sympathise with (or even who simply do not condemn) Israel’s situation or actions are guilty by association.

    Which is what in which antisemitism consists today.

    zkharya

    01/08/2009 at 10:23

  27. Yes, Zkharya, you’re right. What Dr Paul wants to do is to make sure that any Jew who actually supports the existence of the state of Israel will be held liable for its actions. The corollary to this is that Jews who support Israel and find themselves attacked (physically, verbally, or whatever) deserve no sympathy from the supposedly anti-racist and socialist Dr Paul. What a load of hogwash, as we say in the U.S.

    Rebecca

    01/08/2009 at 10:32

  28. “Get it: this does not mean the Zionists would be encouraging attacks on Jews, it means helping to create and/or perpetuate an atmosphere in which anti-Semitism can develop.”

    But you have a wickedly loose definition of “Zionist”.

    Most “Zionist” diaspora Jews are not “Zionist”. They are “pro-” or “sympathetic to Zionism”, which is not the same thing.

    In fact, it seems to me to be perfectly possible to be non- or anti-Zionist (i.e. not seeking Zionism it in yourself or others) while sympathising with the situation which made an Israel and a Jewish state all but necessary, and de facto necessary given the Christian and Islamic worlds’, the worlds in which most Israeli Jew originated, imperfections, which was effectively the view of most Jewish Marxists and Bundists who survived the war.

    It is perfectly possible to be non- or even anti-Zionist but still appreciate that, as a state, Israel cannot tolerate 8 years of missiles’ falling on her citizens in her southern territory, or that a Hamasstan on her border constitutes a serious existential threat that is difficult to impossible to address.

    It is perfectly possible to be non- or even anti-Zionist and realise that any military action Israel takes against the threat or action of Hamas’ militants or her allies is bound to cause civilian casualties and that, since this does not deter her greater allies or associates i.e. the UK, US or Russian Federation, who are, arguably, rather less, careful, denying her that right would be to hold her to an impossibly higher level of behaviour that, taken to its logical conclusion, would lead to her self-dissolution.

    That might be, as an non- or anti-Zionist, want I want (might, not necessarily), but at least I would be open and honest about that and acknowledge that most Israeli Jews are inevitably going to see things, and thus act, differently.

    The modern antisemitism sees Israel, Jewish state or no, Zionism and the Jewish nationalism that bore them very much as the old antisemite saw Jews, Judaism and Jewishness in the “golden age” of antisemitism, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, long before any Jewish state of Israel existed.

    For which reason i.e. Golden Age antisemitism the Jewish state of Israel became either inevitable, a necessity or both.

    Cliche: the new antisemitism/new anti-Zionism (for it is not the old anti-Zionism) can only tolerate the Jew as victim, living or dead (not all Jews, necessarily just most or those most visible).

    The old anti-Zionism could tolerate contraception and possibly abortion, but not infanticide, and certainly not murder, of one kind or another. And those who would dissolve the Jewish state in the face of Israel’s enemies (the Palestinian national anthem is the only one that raises “revenge”, and arguably ethnic cleansing or genocide, to a pinnicle virtue: it bears no comparison to the ANC, for instance) are, by and large, advocating just that, whatever mealy-mouthed euphemisms they may use.

    zkharya

    01/08/2009 at 10:47

  29. “they give ignorant people the idea that all Jews are responsible for throwing Palestinians off their land, attacking Gaza, and all the rest.”

    But this is

    a) tendentious history

    b) ignores the fact that Palestinian Jews faced the threat of discrimination, dispossession or elimination even before the arrival of the Zionist movement per se in Palestine.

    And you are thuse making a “thoughcrime” out of what you call “Zionism”.

    How do you think that process began in the USSR?

    By the very fact of your peddling false and/or simplistic history you are perpetrating against Jews, Israeli or other, a new version of the old antisemitic myth: the crucifixion, libel or whatever.

    If you feed that false or simplistic line you are making the “thoughtcrime” of Zionism all but inevitable. What else could sympathy with so obviously a monstrous state of Israel be?

    That is how Ben White is putting to good use his evangelical knowledge of “Zionists” as colonizer-crucifiers of Palestinian Canaanites and Christs to create what he hopes with be a new Gospel of anti-Zionism for students and layabouts. Read me, he says, and you will arrive at the Truth, which shall set you free.

    zkharya

    01/08/2009 at 10:58

  30. By calling diaspora Jews who sympathise or express sympathy for Israel’s situation or actions “Zionist”, you are effectively calling them “Israeli”.

    That is how the process of co-identification and thus antisemitism begins.

    zkharya

    01/08/2009 at 11:01


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