Saturday, 25 May 2019

Give peace a chance!

Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ between Israelis and Palestinians may yet prove to be the Flop of the Century.  But its architects have been amazingly successful at keeping mum: I can’t remember any other political programme that has been kept so secret for so long, in the face of such keen curiosity from journalists, pundits and political adversaries.  Nobody knows what the plan is; no details have leaked, no positions have transpired.  Unheard of!

No wonder, then, that everybody is jittery: Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, left-wingers and right-wingers… Kept in the dark, they are reduced to… well… guessing.

One understands this; it’s human nature.  Guessing is one way to try and gain some control in a world plagued by uncertainty.  But assuming the worst when knowing the least is not mere guessing – it’s something else.

It may be distressing to see the Palestinian Authority rejecting the new peace plan before even knowing what it contains; but a surprise it ain’t: after all, that Authority is made up of people who make a nice living out of the status-quo; from their point of view, any change (whether led by Trump, Obama or Clinton) risks being a change for the worse.

Waaay more surprising is the deluge of negative reactions from the ranks of the self-proclaimed 'progressive', 'pro-peace' camp.  Granted, these people don’t like Trump (I’m being a bit British here: they hate his guts, actually).  But hey: God (or the forces of Dialectical Materialism) moves in mysterious ways.  After all, those same self-proclaimed 'progressive', 'pro-peace' activists like the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty; which was signed not by doves, but by right-wingers Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat.  So why not wait until a few details have been revealed about the Trump plan?  It’s likely to happen in a matter of weeks, if not days.

I find it disturbing to see so many 'pro-peace' activists ranting against a peace plan – any peace plan.  And in particular one that they (along with everybody else) know nothing about.
"Pro-peace" – but only if it's the "correct" peace.
Writing in the Times of Israel, former Knesset Member Ksenia Svetlova attacks the ‘Deal of the Century’ for trying to offer economic benefits, rather than political solutions:
“So what is left of Trump’s peace plan if we take out the whole matter of an independent Palestinian state? Only the ‘economic peace’ that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been talking about for so many years."
Following a well-known activist’s gambit (when your argument is thin or dishonest, bring up a ‘human story’ to stir up readers’ emotions), Ms. Svetlova goes on to describe the plight of… Palestinian ice-cream manufacturers.  Apparently, Israel does not allow one such manufacturer in Gaza to export its products, claiming that “it [i.e. Israel] has not yet set up the required supervisory [i.e. security] mechanisms”.  An excuse that Mr. Svetlova derides:
“The State of Israel, which has pioneered advanced technological and human capabilities to detect whether the mother of an American Jewish tourist has friends in B’tselem, has no technological solutions to enable it to inspect goods from Gaza.”
In fairness, I tend to agree with her: I’m sure a technological solution can be developed, which would allow soldiers to detect explosive material, weaponry or parts thereof frozen inside a box of ice-cream.  What is, however, less clear to me is: why would Israel use its taxpayers’ money to develop and implement such a solution in order to enable exports from a hostile territory – when the most likely outcome would be that the resulting profits (or parts thereof, at least) would end up financing Hamas’s rocket capabilities, tunnels, attempts to break into Israel and other such goals?
But it’s not just Gaza – there are apparently also ice-cream manufacturers in the West Bank.  And, while Israel in principle allows the West Bank to export its products, Ms. Svetlova tells us that in practice
“The owners of the Al-Araz ice cream plant in Nablus would also be happy to reap the economic benefits of peace. But ice cream is a delicate and fragile product, and long waits at the checkpoints do it no good."
Upon reaching that passage, I’m sure that some of Ms. Svetlova’s readers will be wiping a tear: despite their occupation-induced misery, the poor-but-brave Palestinians manage to produce a bit of ice-cream – enough to export even!  But those nasty Israelis make them wait at the checkpoints, causing the ice-cream to melt, along with the readers’ tender hearts.

Except that, in the very next sentence, we learn that the same Palestinian ice-cream manufacturer
“whose ice cream is every bit as good as its Israeli counterparts, markets to the West Bank and to Jordan, and a bit to Dubai."
Now, that’s surprising.  Because, to sell in the West Bank and Jordan, the Palestinian ice-cream has to cross checkpoints manned by the same nasty Israelis.  As for shipping to Dubai (about 1,500 miles away from Nablus), surely that takes longer than crossing even the most vicious Israeli checkpoint?
When the tears are wiped off and the brain gears engaged, one finds more than a hint of dishonesty in Ms. Svetlova’s story: ice-cream is indeed a “delicate and fragile product”; which is why it is always moved around (even in frigid Scandinavia, let alone in the torrid Middle East!) in frigorific road trucks, railway cars and shipping containers – designed to keep that product from melting, whether en-route to Dubai, Jordan, Israel  or South Patagonia.  So, whatever it is that’s preventing Al-Araz from exporting ice-cream to Israel, it is not “long waits at the checkpoints”.

But a closer look at the primary thrust of Ms. Svetlova’s article reveals that it, too, is fatally tainted by dishonesty.  After all, she describes the – yet unpublished and unknown – “Trump’s peace plan” as merely an attempt to bribe the Palestinians:
“It’s supposedly a simple idea. We’ll give the Palestinians financial incentives so that they can develop their economy, create factories and jobs, and in exchange they will cease their military and political struggle and stop dreaming of freedom and sovereignty. In exchange, the economic flourishing will bring stability and quiet to the entire region."
Having ‘established’ that, she goes on to teach us how “real life” works:
“The problem is that in real life, the economic, the military, and the political cannot be separated from one another.”
That’s a cogent argument – if one ignores the fact that it’s based on a lie.  In fact, the new peace plan’s architects have been very clear that, while the plan included economic incentives, those are designed to come alongside – not instead of – political solutions.  In fact, Jason Greenblatt – one of the plan’s main architects and, in consequence, one of the very few people who really know what it contains – made that clear repeatedly; including on 20 May, two days before Ms. Svetlova penned her diatribe.

One can argue against the ‘Trump plan’ (if one is inclined to argue against anything ‘Trump’) without resorting to dishonesty.  It would be more than legitimate to doubt, for instance, whether either economic incentives or political solutions can be delivered in practice, given that both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have already rejected them out of hand.  One can argue that, in the face of that rejection, the ‘Trump plan’ is doomed to fail.

But then, decades of two-state-solution negotiations – including those led by Ms. Svetlova’s own party – have also failed.  It is difficult to see why the same approach that failed umpteen times in the past would succeed this (umpteen + 1) time.  And it is difficult to understand what's to be gained by rejecting a new approach out of hand – before even learning what that approach actually is.

Among the cohort of critics of the yet-unpublished peace plan is the British-Jewish organisation Yachad, which describes itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace”.  The group is so keen to attack that peace plan, that it even promoted an article from Al-Monitor, a ‘news’ website accused of being a mouthpiece for the Assad regime.

Yachad added their own view:

Once I got over my awe at the stentorian tone, I asked myself: how do Yachad activists know what the “Palestinian aspiration“ is?  Beyond the rather neo-colonialist tendency of attributing to other cultures our own ‘way of doing things’?  Of course, the Palestinian Authority/PLO/Fatah screams that aspiration to the entire world.  But what does that count for?  The last (and only) time Palestinians in West Bank, Gaza and E. Jerusalem had something remotely resembling free elections, a plurality voted for Hamas – whose declared goal is certainly not a sovereign state living in peace alongside Israel.

Yachad activists have visited the West Bank and met Palestinians – typically those that are themselves activists on behalf of the same Palestinian Authority/PLO/Fatah.  I have no doubt that, when queried by some starry-eyed Yachad activist, those Palestinians delivered the ‘correct message’.  But, again, what does that count for?

The 'peace activists' will tell you a tale of across-the-board Palestinian rejection of
Trump's plan.  But, as usual, the picture is more nuanced...

As I wrote elsewhere, the Palestinians are certainly entitled to their aspirations.  But what these aspirations actually are, it’s hard to know.  If anything, the more trustworthy opinion polls show them as ambivalent at best on the issue of ‘two-states’.

In fact, I would suggest that, leaving aside the corrupt political class, the Palestinian Arab masses are yet to make up their collective mind as to how their future should look like.  And why would it be any different?  The same can be said about Arab masses at large.  The fact is that Palestinians (like other Arabs) live under dictatorial regimes, with no freedom of speech and political debate.  It does not help that they also live in an ultra-conservative society rife with taboos, in which dissent is frowned upon and worse.

Unlike certain 'peace activists', I do not think Palestinians are stupid.  Why would they 'aspire' to a "sovereign state", if that just means exchanging Israeli occupation for the local brand of corruption-cum-tyranny?  For decades, foreigners and their local allies have tried to tell Palestinian Arabs what they should 'aspire' to: pan-Arabism, Islamism, or perhaps Western-style nationalism...  The one voice we have not heard is that of the Palestinians themselves.  But that does not seem to bother self-proclaimed ‘progressives’ who feel that they know what’s good for ‘the natives’.

Doesn’t it make sense, that, in order to formulate their collective “aspiration”, Palestinian Arab masses (and Arab masses in general) need to have the tools of free expression and the economic wherewithal that would allow them to think beyond tomorrow’s meal?

For decades now, ‘peace activists’ have been yelling at me: “Give peace a chance”.  Well, I listened.  And I did: I supported the two-state solution; the Oslo Accords; the withdrawal from Lebanon; the ‘disengagement’ from Gaza.  I rooted for Barak’s proposal, for Clinton’s parameters, for Olmert’s offer.

“You failed”, I tell the ‘peace activists’.  “But no matter, I will still give peace a chance.”
“Not this one”, they respond.  “This one’s different.  It’s wrong.”
“How the hell do you know?” I blurt, befuddled.  “And what’s ‘wrong’ with ‘different’, anyway?”
“Don’t you understand?” they yell, exasperation growing into shrill hysteria.  “This is coming from TRUMP!!!”
I shrug.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019


My maternal grandmother was born in Poland; but, as a young woman, her parents sent her to Romania, to take care of a sick relative.  She got married there and stayed.  I am the random outcome of that casual fact; because that’s how she survived, while her entire family (her two parents, her six siblings, her God-only-knows-how-many aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces) disappeared. 

During a recent trip to Poland, I was able to find the only physical evidence that my grandmother's family ever existed: a Town Hall record of her birth: next to the flowery calligraphy of the Polish clerk, in the correct column, is my great-grandfather’s scribbled, shaky signature: 'Jozef'.  Jozef Tratner.
They lived in Przemyśl, then a small Polish town bisected by the river San.  On 15 September 1939, the town was occupied by the Wehrmacht; between 16 and 19 September, they rounded up and shot 600 Jews.  Then the Germans withdrew across the river, so that the eastern half of the town could be occupied by the Red Army – as per the Hitler–Stalin Pact (a.k.a. the Treaty of Non-aggression between Nazi Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics).  In the Soviet half of the town, the Jews fared only marginally better: some were shot by the NKVD; thousands were deported to unknown destinations somewhere in the USSR – few were ever seen again; the remainder were killed by the Germans, after they re-occupied the eastern half of the town in 1941.

The river San flows through Przemyśl. In September 1939, it became the border between German- and Soviet-occupied Poland.
As for my grandmother’s family, I carry many of their genes, but know little of their story.  Nobody knows when they died; or where, or how they died: whether at the hands of the Germans, of the Soviets, of Polish or Ukrainian collaborators; perhaps they succumbed to starvation, thirst, cold, disease or just to depression and despair.  I know naught about their death and very little about their life.  That’s why I said that they didn’t just die – they disappeared.  The dead are memories in the souls of the living; all I have is broken branches on a family tree.

And yet, I took no part in the Holocaust Memorial Day.  As a proud Jew, this ‘Memorial Day’ offends me.

The very name ‘Holocaust’ adds insult to injury.  Contrary to popular belief, it is not an English word – it’s Greek.  The Greek translation of the Biblical term ‘burnt offering’, which refers to an animal being sacrificed and then burnt in the Temple as homage to God.  My poor relatives might have been burned, yes; but they were no animals.

Why on earth have we taken to calling our pain by a strange and grossly inappropriate Greek name?  It already has a name: it is  השואהthe Sho’ah.  It is a fitting name, because it’s in Hebrew, not Greek: the language of the prayers that my relatives may have uttered before being murdered (not sacrificed!)  The language in which I pray for their souls.  Sho'ah is a fitting name because it has nothing to do with ‘sacrifice’: it means ‘catastrophe’ or ‘calamity’; it’s what one calls a disaster of unbearable proportions.

We stupidly, bovinely accept the offensive term ‘Holocaust’, just as we once accepted ‘antisemitism’ – a term invented by a Jew-hater intent on putting a ‘scientific’, 'modern' patina on his irrational, age-old venom.

The Sho’ah ended in 1945; but there was no ‘Holocaust Memorial Day’ until 1996, when the Germans (yes, the Germans!) decided to proclaim a Day of Remembrance for the Victims of National Socialism (Gedenktag für die Opfer des Nationalsozialismus); 5 years later, it was adopted by the United Kingdom under the current name.

But, just like our pain already had a name, it already had a Memorial Day: Yom HaSho’ah, marked by Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora since 1949!

So why this new ‘Holocaust Memorial Day’?  If the peoples of the world wish to join us in our pain, why not just adopt Yom HaSho’ah as the Sho’ah Memorial Day?  Oh, don’t be naïve, my friend: the ‘Holocaust Memorial Day’ exists precisely because it is not Yom HaSho’ah: it is a Memorial Day for the Jews, just ‘cleansed’ of any Jewish character and especially (especially!) of any ‘controversial’ association with the Jewish state.  It’s a Memorial Day for the (dead) Jews, not by the (living) Jews!

Well, I resent it.  I cannot stand it.  My relatives were not “victims of National Socialism” – they were Jews murdered because they were Jews, by Jew-haters who may or may not even have known what ‘National Socialism’ is.

And I resent the ‘symbolic’ date: 27 January, a date meant to suggest ‘liberation’ or ‘salvation’ of Jews, rather than their mass extermination by Germans, with the extensive (and occasionally enthusiastic) collaboration by members of practically every European nation. 

27 January 1945 was the date on which the Red Army ‘liberated’ Auschwitz.  Liberated?  The German troops had already fled by then; most of the prisoners had been marched off – many to their death; the few emaciated, tortured human husks that still inhabited the camp had been left to their own devices – not out of belated compassion or remorse, but simply because the Nazi death industry was running out of ‘production’ capacity. 

Sorry to rain on that touching ‘liberation’ parade.  The Red Army ‘liberated’ Auschwitz not because – between September 1939 and January 1945 – it had developed a sudden interest in saving Jews; its aim was to punish those who invaded the Russian soil in 1941 – but also to create a new political reality in Eastern Europe.

But why January 1945?  Why Auschwitz?  The Soviet Army had already encountered death camps during the previous months: on 22 July 1944, for instance, the Red Army had captured Majdanek near Lublin.  Abandoned in panic by the German guards, Majdanek was captured intact – lock, stock and gas chambers.  The extent of the crimes committed was immediately clear: there were survivors, exhumations – there was even an official inquiry report published within weeks.

A crematorium in the death camp of Majdanek
By the end of July 1944, the Red Army – in full offensive and facing increasingly crumbling Wehrmacht units – had reached the outskirts of Warsaw.  In Southern Poland, the frontline passed close to the city of Rzeszow, just 150 miles east of Auschwitz.  But then – suddenly, surprisingly – the Soviet offensive stopped in its tracks; the Red Army remained relatively passive for months, before resuming its advance in January 1945.  Why?  Because on 1 August 1944, the Polish underground Home Army (Armia Krajowa) launched an insurrection against the German occupation. 

With weapons largely stolen or captured from the Germans, the Poles embarked on the symbolic act of liberating themselves – while expecting the Red Army to take advantage and advance.  As it happened, the Polish partisans  managed to take control of most of Warsaw, as well as of Rzeszow (on 2 August) and a few other parts of the country.  But Armia Krajowa was loyal to the Polish government in exile, which resided in London and was pro-Western.  Stalin had other plans for Poland.  

Opened up for research in the 1990s, the Soviet Archives include Stalin's orders halting the Red Army offensive and forbidding it from delivering any assistance to the Polish uprising.

That is the real story behind 27 January 1945: but for Stalin’s ‘overriding’ political considerations, there is little doubt that Auschwitz would have been liberated in August 1944.  Tens of thousands of Jews would have been counted among the survivors.  Unlike in the case of Majdanek, at Auschwitz the SS had time: time to dismantle crematoria and hide evidence; time to ‘liquidate’ many of the prisoners and time to march away others, into the deadly January cold.

But let’s not pick on the Soviets; there’s plenty of guilt to go around.  There’s hardly a nation in Europe and the Americas that did not contribute – directly or indirectly – to the murder of six million Jews.  Some murdered them with their own hands, others ‘just’ handed them over to the Nazis; some closed their borders, others their hearts; some sought ‘diplomatic solutions’ with mass murderers, others deemed ‘a few Jews’ a price worth paying for ‘world peace’.

Few had any interest in ‘liberating’ or saving Jews – and nobody wanted to go to war for them.

Even after the magnitude of the horror became officially known, few managed to muster more than nominal compassion for the survivors.  ‘Recognising’ that most of the surviving Jews ‘could not be reintegrated’ in Europe, the British government was planning to ship them to South America.  Excerpts from a 31 July 1946 contribution to a House of Commons debate, by British Deputy Prime Minister Herbert Morisson:
[B]y assisting to reestablish political and economic stability in Europe, we should continue to contribute to the restoration of those basic conditions which will make possible the reintegration in Europe of a substantial number of displaced persons, including Jews. [...]
But, when all that is possible has been done in Europe, it is clear that new homes must be found overseas for many whose ties with their former communities have been irreparably broken.  [...]
Plans are in preparation, in cooperation with the nations concerned, for resettling large numbers of displaced persons in Brazil and other South American countries.

* * *

But those days are gone.  And why wouldn’t they?  It’s all in the past.  Auschwitz is but a museum; the hundreds of thousands of survivors are no longer wondering across Europe; most are no longer around – and nor are the perpetrators; and so the few remaining survivors – the children of Auschwitz, now old and decrepit – can safely be celebrated as “victims of National Socialism”.

‘We’ are oh-so progressive now; so liberal; so determinedly anti-fascist in a world with so few overt fascists.  We are the good guys; so let’s commemorate the ‘Holocaust’, folks!  Or better still, ‘the Holocausts’. 

So what if two thirds of Brits do not know how many Jews were killed in ‘the Holocaust’?  So what if 1 in 20 believes there hasn’t been a ‘Holocaust’ at all?  If 1 in 10 believes that “Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes”?  Sure, sure, we need to deal with this ignorance – education and all that jazz.

But the important, the really important and urgent thing is not to remember just the Jews – there were others who suffered.  What about the Rwandans?  The Cambodians?  The Armenians?  The Bosnians?  Most importantly, what about… what about THE PALESTINIANS??? 

In the name of 'support for the Palestinians', the 'Holocaust Memorial Day' is becoming a 'Jews-Bashing Day' (see  On 27 January 2013, British MP David Ward declared himself "saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza."

What about the trans-Atlantic slave trade?  What about colonialism, imperialism, racism, sexism – what about capitalist exploitation??  No, no, we cannot possibly have a Memorial Day for just one Holocaust; especially not for the Jews – who are, let’s face it – when all is said and done, white privileged persons.  No, we’re going to have a Holocausts Memorial Day, a Genocides Memorial Day; or better, a Human Suffering Memorial Day.  A day in which we remember all those who suffered – throughout history and in all places; a Super-Universal & Über-Politically Correct Day for Remembering Everything & Everybody Who Ever Suffered on Earth & Throughout the Universe!  Without Prejudice & Irrespective of Race, Nationality, Ethnicity, Sexual Orientation & Gender Self-Definition, Of All Faiths or None... (that should cover everything, I hope!)

On 27 January 2011, then Labour Party MP and now leader Jeremy Corbyn proposed that the name 'Holocaust Memorial Day' be changed to 'Genocide Memorial Day – Never Again For Anyone'.

Labour Party activist Jackie Walker (now suspended) claims that Jews are privileged in "a hierarchy of race" and that the Holocaust Memorial Day ignores "other genocides".

Did I say I was a proud Jew?  That was soooo racist of me!  What I am is a proud human being… err… I mean a progressive inhabitant of the Universe, whether human or otherwise, it doesn’t matter now does it??  I swear I'm not Earth-centric, it was just a slip of tongue!

I am so ashamed, please, please forgive my former caveman… err… caveperson mentality!  I abjure, I abjure...  I abjure my heresies: my racist tendency to mourn my relatives, rather than all relatives!  My neo-con reluctance to thank the world for our liberation; my right-wing propensity to burden the world with guilt for just one Holocaust

I abjure my rootless cosmopolitanism, my dangerous nationalism; my bolshevism and my capitalism; my cowardice, my militarism; I confess all those sins.

I abjure Satan, Trump and Netanyahu; I affirm Noam Chomsky, I give myself to Intersectionality.

But please, I beg you: could you find it in your oh-so generous, universalist hearts to forgive me for that particular pain I’m still feeling?

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Yachad, Airbnb and a new untogetherness

Like the vast majority of Israelis, I am pro-peace.  I supported the withdrawal from South Lebanon, the disengagement from Gaza, the Oslo Accords.  I would have voted in favour of a deal along the lines of Olmert’s 2008 offer, had it been accepted by the Palestinian leadership.  Which means that I would have supported Israel’s withdrawal from some 95% of the West Bank, including the evacuation of many settlements.
Don’t get me wrong: I never thought that ‘the settlements’ are a serious obstacle to peace.  After all, there was no peace when there were no settlements; and the sure-proof way to ‘stop the settlements’ and ‘dismantle the occupation’ – if indeed that is what they want – is for the Palestinian leadership to make peace.
But I know there are people – including Jews in Israel and the Diaspora – who think otherwise, who have come to resent ‘the settlements’.  I disagree with them, for the reasons mentioned above – and more; but they are entitled to their opinion.

‘The’ settlements?

But this is not about being pro or against ‘the settlements’.  It’s about discrimination against Jews.  A few days ago, Airbnb has decided to de-list B & Bs owned by Jews in the West Bank.  Their press release is dishonestly entitled ‘Listings in Disputed Regions’.  ‘Dishonestly,’ because the decision targets just one ‘Disputed Region’ – the West Bank; which happens to be ‘disputed’ by Jews.  This is not about settlements in disputed territories; it’s about ‘the settlements’ – the only ones inhabited by Jews.
Writing for The Spectator, Brendan O’Neill puts it better than I ever could:
So alongside being the only country that pop stars refuse to play in, and the only country whose academics are boycotted on Western campuses, and the only country whose dancers and violinists cannot perform in cities like London without gangs of people screaming them down, and the only country whose produce is routinely avoided by luvvies and liberals, now Israel is the only country that has been politically punished by holiday app cum conscience of the Twitterati, Airbnb.
The world is, of course, full of ‘Disputed Regions’; lots of them are subject to ‘settlement’ by one of the parties to that dispute; and Airbnb happily operates in quite a few of them.

One of the more than 150 Tiobetans who self-immolated in protest against the
Chinese occupation and policies.
Formerly an independent (albeit relatively underdeveloped) state, Tibet was conquered by the Chinese Army in 1950.  China has been ruling the region with an iron fist ever since, in the face of visible Tibetan opposition – manifested for instance through periodic revolts and numerous acts of protest, including more than 150 instances of self-immolation.  The Free Tibet organisation (headquartered in London) accuses the Chinese occupation of causing more than 1 million fatalities among Tibetans; many more have been tortured; others live in abject poverty; the Chinese authorities are trying to forcibly assimilate the Tibetan population, actively discouraging them from enjoying their own culture, from practising their religion and from speaking their own language.  Moreover, China is actively encouraging settlers from among its own dominant Han ethnicity to move to Tibet.  No equivalent of B’tselem was ever allowed to operate in Tibet of course, so the exact number of Han settlers is unknown, but it is claimed that they threaten to become the majority in the region.  The Han settlers and ‘collaborating’ Tibetans are rewarded with economic benefits that are denied to the rest of the population.  In the words of the Dalai Lama:
The new Chinese settlers have created an alternate society: a Chinese apartheid which, denying Tibetans equal social and economic status in our own land, threatens to finally overwhelm and absorb us.
I found 300+ properties listed by on in Tibet’s capital Lhasa alone.  As far as I could see, they are all listed in Mandarin (the language of the Han settlers), rather than in the Tibetan language.  I randomly checked out 20 of those properties –all 20 hosts had Chinese (rather than Tibetan) names.  Quite a few actually disclose their origin in the ‘Hosted by…’ section.  “I’m from Inner Mongolia [a region in Northern China], writes the owner of Airbnb listing #25988191.  “In 2013, I resigned from a foreign company in Shanghai and then moved to Lhasa” – location #28316356.  “From Chengdu [capital of Sichuan Province in the South-West of China], came to Lhasa alone in 2013” – location #24162447.  “I graduated from Jinan University in 2012 with a master’s degree in journalism. At the end of October 2013, I moved to Tibet by myself.” – location #14696223.
Tibet is just one example.  In 1974, the Turkish army invaded Cyprus, conquering the northern 40% of the country.  The ethnic Greek inhabitants fled or were expelled almost to the last person.  No Greek Cypriot remained, for instance, in the seashore resort of Famagusta, which had been predominantly Greek.  Most of Varosha – Famagusta’s main tourist neighbourhood – was fenced off by the Turkish army and declared a ‘closed military area’.  Here’s the testimony of a journalist from The Telegraph:
Today, one part of Famagusta still remains entirely sealed off by rusting barbed wire, fiercely guarded by Turkish troops. Known as Varosha, it represents about 20 per cent of Famagusta and was the prime tourist area, comprising the stretch of golden sand, behind which stand skeletons of bombed and abandoned hotels and apartments, and streets of looted shops, restaurants, mansions.
The ghost town is heavily guarded by soldiers, and aggressive signs make it clear that this is a no-go area.[…]
For the past two years, I have been visiting the north and south of Cyprus regularly to research a novel. In that time, I have seen extensive building work taking place in the area surrounding Varosha, making it unrecognisable to former inhabitants. A large population of settlers from the Turkish mainland live there, their lifestyle and culture very different even from that of the Turkish Cypriots.
Ethnic distribution in Cyprus, before and after the Turkish invasion.
 Circa 40,000 Turkish troops still ‘protect’ Northern Cyprus and its ethnic Turkish inhabitants – including some 250,000 Turkish settlers, who are thought to represent by now the majority of Northern Cyprus’s population.  And who often live on land (and even houses) formerly owned by Greek Cypriots.
In 2012, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey must pay circa EUR 20 million in compensation to Greek Cypriot owners of hotels and other businesses.  In its Resolution 550/1984, the UN Security Council stated that it:
Considers attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible and calls for the transfer of that area to the administration of the United Nations.
Needless to say, that request was rejected by Turkey, as were various condemnations of its ‘settlement’ policy. lists 39 properties in Varosha alone (there are hundreds in Famagusta and the rest of the ‘Disputed Region’ of Northern Cyprus).  Unsurprisingly, the owners generally have Turkish names.  At location #24539082, host Ergin (a Turkish male first name meaning ‘mature man’) advertises his ‘Chic and Design Boutique Hotel at City Center’, which offers 36 en-suite bedrooms.  The hotel’s location is given as Kıbrıs (the Turkish equivalent of Cyprus), but the page also describes the location as ‘Turkey’.
Airbnb serenely lists locations in Western Sahara, Kashmir, Myanmar, Rwanda, Sudan, even a solitary one in Crimea. Let’s not forget the Falkland Islands, and a location listed as ‘Gibraltar, United Kingdom’ – a description that will surely rile quite a few Spaniards.  And dozens of other ‘Disputed Regions’ around the globe, many of which have seen horrendous atrocities.  And more: how many of the thousands of B & Bs in Poland are really Jewish houses taken over by neighbours – some as ‘reward’ for collaboration and betrayal?  How many belonged to the millions of ethnic Germans, Ukrainians and Lemkos that, between 1945 and 1950, were violently thrown out of their ancestral homes and lands?  Who knows?  Who cares?  Certainly not Airbnb!

‘Together’ with whom?

It doesn’t matter how you feel about ‘the settlements’ or about ‘Israeli settlers’.  Even if they were thieves and criminals, what justification is there for targeting them, while ignoring others who act in the same way – and much worse?  When one targets a specific category of ‘offenders’ (rather than a specific type of offence), this has nothing to do with ethics and justice; it has everything to do with discrimination and persecution.
And when Jews are (again!) subjected to such obvious double standards; when the words ‘Jews’ and ‘boycott’ are once more unashamedly spoken in the same sentence – you’d hope that any Jew worthy of the name would feel outraged.
Well, apparently not.  As soon as the news came out, a London-based outfit called ‘Yachad’ took to the social and traditional media to… express support for Airbnb’s discriminatory decision.
Of course, we are all by now accustomed to various As-a-Jew’s – people for whom bashing the Jewish state is their main link to Jewishness.  But Yachad claims to be “the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement for British Jews”.  “THE”—no less!  It’s their Twitter profile.
So why would “the” pro-Israel, pro-peace movement for British Jews (or even ‘a’ or ‘any’ “movement for British Jews”) support blatant anti-Jewish discrimination?
According to Yachad’s Director Hannah Weisfeld,
Recognition of the green line [sic!] is recognition of Israel’s legitimacy within those borders.  Glad to see @Airbnb recognises Israel’s legitimacy
Deputy Director Maya Ilany claims that
Contrary to Airbnb’s critics, the company has effectively reaffirmed Israel’s legitimacy as a sovereign state within the Green Line.
“Effectively”??  There is a Hebrew word for this kind of outrageous spin – and it’s not ‘yachad’: it’s ‘chutzpah’!
No, Airbnb has neither ‘recognised’ nor ‘reaffirmed’ Israel’s legitimacy – its press release contains no such declaration.  In fact, that official statement never mentions the term “legitimacy” or any of its synonyms; nor does it include the word “Israel”, though it does refer repeatedly to “Israeli settlements” and “Israelis and Palestinians”.
Of course, even had it been issued, such “recognition” would be absolutely worthless.  As a commercial enterprise, Airbnb was constituted in order to turn profits and make money for its shareholders; it is not in the business of conferring “legitimacy” and sovereignty on anyone and anything – nor does it have any moral standing to do so.
In fact, Airbnb’s press release reveals the trigger for their decision:
[M]any in the global community have stated that companies should not do business here because they believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced.
We know who those “many in the global community” are: BDS activists and supporters.  Who, as we also know, consider the entire Israel “lands where people have been displaced.”
In fact, Airbnb’s decision is one of “2 big BDS victories” described in a gleeful Palestine Solidarity Campaign statement.  Far from differentiating between ‘Israel proper’ and ‘the settlements’, the PSC statement calls Airbnb’s decision “a significant positive step in the right direction” and wraps it together with
a host of other victories for the BDS movement in recent months, including decisions by artists Lana Del Ray and Lorde to pull out of planned concerts in Israel in accordance with the call for a cultural boycott.
Neither Lana Del Rey, nor Lorde had planned any concerts in ‘settlements’; both were scheduled to perform in ‘Israel-proper’, before succumbing to torrents of abuse from what the PSC calls a “coalition of human rights activists”.
No doubt in order to generate more such “victories”, the same PSC statement also calls for
Support the campaign to boycott this year’s [sic!] Eurovision in Israel.
I.e., the Eurovision Song Context scheduled to take place next year in Tel Aviv.
PSC is right to call Airbnb’s step a ‘big BDS victory’.  Of course, BDS is not about boycotting ‘settlements’, but boycotting Israel and her supporters.  But the BDS’ers will take it one step at a time, like a drug pusher who will sell you pot, before one day switching you to ‘the real stuff’.  Once the initial barrier is breached (i.e. once a person is persuaded that boycotting ‘some Jews’ is a noble, moral endeavour), it is easy to push further.  For instance, Israeli telecoms cover also the West Bank – or at least Area C.  If Bezeq (the Israeli equivalent of BT) stopped providing services to the West Bank, then not just ‘Israeli settlers’, but also Palestinians would be deprived of telephone and internet services.  But that, as we know, does not necessarily bother the BDS activists, who present Bezeq as ‘a company profiting from the Occupation’.  Or take a ‘report’ produced by a coalition of Christian charities obsessed with the Jewish state.  Entitled ‘Trading Away Peace’, it states:
Settlements in the West Bank produce a range of industrial goods, mostly manufactured in purpose-built industrial zones.  Like the settlements themselves, the industrial zones are a violation of international law, which prohibits the occupying power from constructing permanent infrastructure in occupied territory, unless it is for military use or serves the interests of the occupied population.
Yachad would no doubt claim that the report ‘reaffirmed’ Israel’s legitimacy.  But that was neither its intended, nor its actual outcome.  Among the ‘examples’ of companies “in violation of international law” the report cites one I am familiar with, in a professional capacity.  With a turnover in excess of US$ 1 billion, Keter Plastic is arguably the world’s largest and most innovative manufacturer of garden furniture, as well as household and related products.  Headquartered in Herzlia (just north of Tel Aviv), Keter sells in more than 100 countries – including a few Arab countries – and operates more than two dozen factories in Israel, Europe, United States and Canada.  One of these production facilities is located in the Barkan Industrial Park, about 5 miles on the ‘wrong side’ of the Green Line.  The workforce consists mostly of Palestinians from the area, with a smattering of Jews.  The Barkan factory produces less than 5% of Keter’s turnover, but that was enough to include it in the report as one of the ‘international law violators’; which further caused the United Church of Canada, the US Presbyterian Church and the Quaker Council For European Affairs (QCEA) to call their faithful to boycott it.
The QCEA is an interesting example of how ‘settlement boycott’ becomes ‘Israel boycott’ and further snowballs into boycott of Jews who support Israel.  In 2012, the QCEA published a ‘Discussion Paper’ meant to ‘inform’ their movement.  In reality, it’s a blatant anti-Israel propaganda document.  But arguably one of the most interesting passages is the one describing an example of successful boycott.  It reads:
Take the example of a boycott campaign against McDonald’s that has been carried out throughout the Middle East: “McDonald’s is a ‘major corporate partner’ of the Jewish United Fund. In its own words, the Jewish United Fund ‘works to maintain American military, economic and diplomatic support for Israel; monitors and, when necessary, responds to media coverage of Israel.’ Also, McDonald’s chairman and CEO, Jack M. Greenberg, is an honorary director of the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce and Industry. McDonald’s […] announced it is closing down its operation in the Middle East due to loss of revenue as a direct result of the boycott (Oct 2002), and is replacing Greenberg as its chairman and CEO (Dec 2002). Since the launch of the boycott campaign, two of Jordan’s six McDonald’s franchises have closed due to lack of business. In Egypt, McDonald’s decided to change its brand name to Manfoods this past March, in an attempt to dodge the boycott. It had no effect and Egyptian police forces were ordered to guard the entrances to McDonald’s restaurants, after stone throwing incidents took place. A total of 175 restaurants will be closed at a loss of $350 million.
Note that the document published by the QCEA cites among the boycott’s ‘successes’ the purported dismissal of “Greenberg” (not Mr. Greenberg – as people would normally be referred to in Europe!) for the ‘crime’ of serving as the honorary director of the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce and Industry.  Note also that McDonald’s – Middle East is brought as purported example of successful boycott in a document discussing BDS, but is actually – according to its description – ‘classic’ Arab boycott of Israel.  This is more evidence that BDS is not ‘a new movement’ that started in 2005, but just a rebranding of the Arab League boycott, an old declaration of economic warfare.
In conclusion, it is only in Yachad’s imagination – either self-delusional or deceitful, but certainly weird – that settlement boycotts ‘confer legitimacy’ on Israel.  Such boycotts are not meant to highlight the difference between Israel and ‘Israeli settlements’, but between Israel and all other countries.  For people who are less informed (i.e., for most people) the message is that Israel is the epitome of evil; a case on its own, the world’s number one human rights violator.  Why else would companies like Airbnb select Israel – and only Israel – for this ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment not meted out on any other state since Apartheid South Africa?
Yachad’s support for boycotts is a new development in the history of this organisation.  Yachad was founded in 2011 as a ‘dissent organisation’ which claimed that the mainstream, elected leadership of the British Jewish community (the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council) are blindly supportive of Israel.  Although its criticism of Israeli policies and actions was often acerbic, initially Yachad was opposed to boycotts of any kind.  In a website post dating from 2013, the group explained:
As a pro-Israel organisation, Yachad believes Israel should be allowed to thrive. Whilst we are opposed to the ongoing occupation, and do not support new investment inside the Israeli controlled West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, we are also opposed to a policy of isolation. […]
Using boycott as a policy tool also implies that the solution to the conflict can be imposed externally without a genuine negotiations process and that the responsibility for achieving peace in the region lies solely with Israel.
Assuming that the 2013 statement above truly reflected its beliefs, Yachad has clearly changed its policy.
Despite its protestations, Yachad understands that steps targeting only Israeli settlements are discriminatory.  Indeed, referring to the uber-controversial EU decision to label produce from ‘Israeli settlements’, Yachad refers to the claim that such labelling:
is inconsistent with the way other territorial disputes are treated.
The Yachad document further comments:
This is largely true. In a commonly cited example, tomatoes grown in Western Sahara but exported by Morocco are labelled as product of Morocco.
But the fact that Israeli Jews are treated in a manner “inconsistent” with how others are treated (read: they are discriminated against) does not prevent Yachad from supporting that discriminatory policy.  And their support for ‘labelling’ (which at the time was presented as fundamentally different from boycott) has now morphed into a full throated support for Airbnb’s boycott.
In fairness, this type of gradual radicalisation of positions shouldn’t surprise anyone.  It is typical of fringe organisations, that struggle to persuade and attract larger numbers of supporters.  They start by presenting what they see as a ‘moderate’ view, in the hope of branding themselves as a ‘broad church’.  But, since in truth they are anything but moderates, their leadership cannot fail to – sooner or later – show their true colours.
In Hebrew, Yachad means ‘together’.  Nice name; but the reality is, these days, that Yachad is ‘together’ with those who target Jews – and only Jews – for boycott.
Yachad’s “founding statement of core principles” (found on their website) opens up with a touching declaration of love:
We are Jews who love Israel, who stand with Israel, whose lives are bound up with Israel. We believe in its right not just to exist, but to flourish. We stand against those who defame it.
Nice words; but there is little evidence of “love” anywhere else on that website.  This reminds me of the proverbial wife beater who, when dragged before a judge, cried:
But I love her to bits, Your Honour!  I only beat her so she knows she’s done wrong and needs to mend her ways…
Love shouldn’t hurt.  If it hurts, it’s not love – it’s abuse.  Like all abusive relationships, Yachad’s “love” batters, not betters.  On behalf of the vast majority of Israelis – who resent boycotts and those who support them – let me urge Yachad: will you PLEASE love us a little less!

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

'Anti-Zionism’ is about the Joos, stupid!

Raised and educated in the UK, Prof. Ian Almond teaches World Literature at Georgetown University in Qatar.  So, when I heard that he took to the Qatari-based Al-Jazeera to write about antisemitism, I was hopeful. I thought he was going to write about the high incidence of antisemitism (including Holocaust-denial) in the Arab world.  But no: Prof. Almond chose to warn us all of ‘The danger of conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism’.

Still, I remained hopeful while reading the first few sentences.  Says Prof. Almond:
"I still remember the shock I felt when, at the age of 12, my teacher told me the word ‘joo’ I had just spoken, which I had thought to mean to lie or cheat, was actually ‘Jew’ and was anti-Semitic.  Throughout my British childhood, I had used that word casually and frequently, without ever knowing what it really meant."
Almond goes on to analyse the reasons for his childish mistake:
"I start with this example to make a simple point: anti-Semitism is so entrenched in our society, so depressingly persistent, that to trivialise it is to trivialise the blueprint of prejudice itself. It is a barometer of moral cowardice: when someone doesn’t want to take responsibility for their own faults or problems, they blame the Jews."
Prof. Almond is right to use the present tense in the sentence above: this is not ‘historic’, but contemporaneous antisemitism; the future Professor was 12 at the time (Jeremy Corbyn, by the way,  was 32), so that’s a mere 37 years ago.  We may wish to believe that one man’s character – say Brett Kavanaugh’s! – can change in that stretch of time; but deeply entrenched prejudice does not just disappear from an entire society in less than a generation.

Of course, things did change since the 1980s.  We are much more ‘politically-correct’ these days.  School children are less likely to refer to cheating as ‘jewing someone’; if they do, they will be told that they should not use the word in that sense.  But it’s not about a childish word – it’s about the societal prejudice it reveals.  The word may rarely be used with that meaning these days; but the prejudice is still there.  If you want proof, just surf Twitter.  Or listen to the many Labour Party supporters who seem to say that, when African Caribbeans, Muslims or Asians complain about racism, they have a point; but when Jews complain about antisemitism, there must be some dishonest motive behind it.

Prof. Almond’s childhood story is revealing – and his subsequent analysis is correct.  Too bad they are employed to excuse, rather than inform, the rest of his 'learned article'.

After declaring that “anti-Semitism is so entrenched in our society, so depressingly persistent, that to trivialise it is to trivialise the blueprint of prejudice itself”, Prof. Almond proceeds to do exactly that – trivialise it:
"There are definitely some voices who claim to support the Labour Party, and who allow their anti-Zionism to spill over mindlessly into anti-Semitism."
“There are […] some voices who claim…”???  Professor, don’t “some voices” include the very Leader of the Party, who rose to the defence of blood-libellers, conspiracy theorists and ‘artists’ who depict hooked-nosed ‘oppressors’?  Don’t “some voices” include ’illustrious’ members of the Party top brass (and good friends of the Leader), who implied that Jews conspired with their own genocidal persecutors?  Don’t they include a well-attended recent meeting at the Party Conference, where people chanted ‘From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free’ – a call to pogrom on 6.5 million Israeli Jews?  Are these really“some voices who claim to support the Labour Party”???

But that’s not the only place where Prof. Almond’s argument lacks internal logic – not to mention moral clarity.  We are all, in fact, lucky that the good Professor teaches literature, rather than medical science; because – bluntly put – his diagnosis suffers from terminal idiocy, in view of the symptoms that he himself described in the previous paragraphs.

Indeed, Prof. Almond’s judgement of “some voices” is that “their anti-Zionism […] spill[s] over mindlessly into anti-Semitism”.  So anti-Zionism comes first and “some voices” are guilty only of taking it a bit too far.  But, since (as he himself explained) “anti-Semitism is so entrenched in our society, so depressingly persistent”, isn’t it much more likely that anti-Zionism is the outcome of that deeply entrenched prejudice?  Indeed, that it is just a new symptom of that entrenched disease?  If – God forbid – I suffered from “entrenched” and “depressingly persistent” lung cancer and developed a nasty cough – chances are it’s because of the cancer, not because I sang too loudly in church!

What ‘Costa’ means, of course, is 'the Zionists jew the Palestinians’.

Isn’t that “entrenched [… and] depressingly persistent” antisemitism a much more likely explanation for the visceral animus, unique in its nature and intensity, that “some voices” exhibit towards the Jewish state – and only towards the Jewish state?  Isn’t this why the oppression of Palestinians was so often and emotionally cited at the Labour Conference, while none of the ‘progressive’ leaders cared to mention the plight of Saudi women – those 51% of the country’s population that had to wait until 2018 (2018!) to be allowed to drive (by law, though still not in practice)?

Prof. Almond views as outrageous that
"The IHRA code considers any description of the Israeli State as a ‘racist’ institution to be anti-Semitic."
But – leaving aside the fact that his interpretation of “The IHRA code” is tendentious – which other state is called “a ‘racist’ institution”?  The Labour Party claims that Hungary’s current government is antisemitic and Islamophobic – yet it does not call Hungary “a ‘racist’ institution”.  Jeremy Corbyn politely frowned at Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya; yet he did not call the former British colony of Burma ‘a racist endeavour’ as a result.

But Prof. Almond appears convinced that Israel should be called a racist institution.  He explains why:
"[I]n 1948, three-quarters of a million Palestinian Arabs were forcibly evicted, with British backing, off their own land. To recognise this as racist, in the words of the IHRA code, would be ‘anti-semitic’."
That the “Palestinian Arabs were forcibly evicted, with British backing” would be shocking news to the 1948 British Mandate officials, as well as to the Jewish inhabitants of Kibbutz Ein Hamifratz, bombed by British artillery, apparently in order to ‘assist’ the Arab town of Acre.  But that’s by-the-by.

However, you know what?  Let’s be generous with Prof. Almond: let’s adopt his version of history – however specious.  Let’s assume that indeed the “Palestinian Arabs were forcibly evicted” – though the reality was considerably more complex than that; let’s ignore that that ‘eviction’ occurred in the midst of a civil war that soon morphed into a war of survival against attack by all neighbouring states; let’s even forget that the Arab side perpetrated their own ‘evictions’ – in fact more thorough ‘evictions,’ since no living Jew remained in the territory they even temporarily controlled.

But what I fail to understand, even after all those assumptions, is why and how is that ‘Jewish misbehaviour’ more terrible than dozens of other cases of ‘forced eviction’ that occurred elsewhere, both before and after the establishment of the State of Israel.  ‘Evictions’ that are very rarely – if ever – described as ‘racist’.

Immediately after the defeat of Nazi Germany, borders were re-drawn – and accounts settled.  The ethnic German population of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary (people that had lived there for centuries) was driven out.  So was the population of territories that had been part of Germany, but were now ‘given’ to the USSR and Poland.  In total, 14 million ethnic Germans were driven out of their homes and lands, with the agreement and connivance of the victorious powers.  Circa 1 million died in the process: some at the hands of local soldiers, policemen and civilian vigilantes; others, due to exposure and exhaustion; many died of starvation either before or after reaching war-ravaged Germany (or, rather, territories of the former German Reich, now occupied and governed by the Allies).  The 13 million survivors – and their descendants, accounting these days for almost a quarter of Germany’s population – were never allowed to return and were never granted any compensation.

Ethnic German refugees fleeing westwards 

Ethnic Germans were not the only population ‘evicted’ at the time: so were ethnic Poles living in Ukraine – many of whom were Soviet citizens.  Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Ukrainians and Lemkos were forcibly expelled from Poland into the Soviet Union; and when the latter closed its border, the remaining Ukrainian and Lemkos villagers were forced to ‘resettle’ in the west of the country, in the former German provinces ‘transferred’ to Poland.  Conditions were harsh and human life was cheap – so many died or were killed on the way; molested women and girls had nobody to complain to: they typically picked up the small children or younger siblings and continued their journey – that is, whenever they and their families escaped being murdered out of sheer sadism and gratuitous brutality.  Those Ukrainians and Lemkos who survived this ‘resettlement’ ordeal were forcibly dispersed, with no regard to family and community ties; the Polish authorities forbade any expression of native language and culture, in a deliberate attempt to assimilate them into the prevalent Polish ethnicity.  (To those wishing to learn more of the terrible history of Europe in the immediate aftermath of World War II, I recommend Keith Lowe’s excellent book ‘Savage Continent’.)

All of the above (and much, much more) happened in what was by then peacetime.  The allied armies ruled in Berlin and over a subdued Europe.  Those 'evicted' did not pose any security risk to the remaining population.  In Czechoslovakia and Hungary, they did not even endanger the demographic supremacy of the majority population.  It can be argued, on the other hand, that this was the making of the new Poland: historically, Poland had been a geographic and demographic patchwork whose existence as an independent nation between the German and Russian ‘spheres of influence’ had been intermittent; the post-war bout of ruthless viciousness gave birth to a completely different country — a Poland with utterly changed borders and a demographic eerily uniform from an ethnic perspective.

The making of modern Poland: new borders and homogeneous ethnicity

Europe isn’t the only ‘savage continent’.  In 1947, even while the newly-formed United Nations was debating the fate of the Mandate of Palestine, an additional former 'British' territory was being partitioned: the former Jewel of the Crown – the British Raj.  Like most colonies, this was not a country – but an artificial contraption made up of numerous faiths and ethnicities, held together (but often also set against each other) by colonial interests.  There was, however, one major fault line, between the Hindu population and the Muslim one.  Both groaned under the British colonial yoke, but also resented and feared each other.  To ‘pacify’ the place long enough to wash its hands of it, the British government implemented a territorial partition into two states.  It was hardly a fair deal: the Hindu-majority state – India – incorporated the vast majority of industrial assets and agricultural land; it also ‘inherited’ most of the former colony’s financial reserves.  The Muslim-majority state – Pakistan – initially comprised just one fifth of the former colony (the Muslim population accounted in 1947 for circa 30%).  Even that consisted of two non-contiguous pieces of territory – West Pakistan and East Pakistan (later to become Bangladesh) – separated by 1,000 miles of Indian territory.

Nations may draw borders, but borders don’t create nations.  Despite the partition, inter-communal violence continued and intensified.  When all is said and done, circa 1 million people are estimated to have lost their life.  15 million were forced to leave their ancestral homes and lands and go into exile – never to return.

A convoy of refugees fleeing West Pakistan in 1947. 
Not even that was enough to defuse the tensions: India and Pakistan have since fought several wars and continue to face each other with relentless suspicion and barely contained hostility.  Since both are armed to the teeth – including nuclear arsenals – this remains a potential source of catastrophic conflagration.

Pakistan officially calls itself an Islamic Republic (Article 1 of the Constitution) – and is recognised under that name by the United Kingdom.  Article 2 proclaims:
"Islam shall be the State religion of Pakistan."
Yet I have yet to hear protests from Prof. Almond or from other Corbynites.  Why aren’t they worried about the impact of such constitutional arrangements upon the status of Pakistan’s non-Muslim minorities (Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, etc.)?  And by the way, the official languages of Pakistan are Urdu and English, despite the fact that Punjabi is the native tongue for more than 40% of the population.

As for India, the Muslim minority in the predominantly Hindu country has long complained of discrimination – and independent reports tend to support those claims.  If anything, complaints of oppression and marginalisation have intensified under Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government.

I would assume that Prof. Almond is familiar with the birth of India and Pakistan – after all he claims Post-Colonial Studies as one of his specialisms.  Unless the good Professor is one of those ‘progressives’ for whom the study of post-colonialism always boils down to one small country in the Middle East…

Despite Prof. Almond’s protestations, the Labour Party did adopt the IHRA Definition – after numerous subterfuges and under huge public pressure.  But Jeremy Corbyn attempted to ‘supplement it’ (read: subvert it) with a proviso ‘protecting’ those who regard
"the circumstances around [Israel’s] foundation as racist."
But why?  How were those “circumstances” different from those that led to the formation of Pakistan?  Or of India?  Or of modern-day Poland?  Or of Croatia – the latest addition to the European Union – the “circumstances”of whose “foundation” included the ethnic cleansing of circa 400,000 Serbs?  Why is it that Corbyn and his supporters never call those countries ‘racist endeavours’?

The list of unpleasant “circumstances”, of course, is not limited to the countries mentioned above.  In fact, such “circumstances” are the rule, rather than the exception: more often than not, countries are born in conflict and strife; frequently, that strife includes numerous deaths, injuries, displacement and suffering of innocents.  That is (to use a British understatement) very unfortunate; but unusual it ain’t.  What's unusual – unique actually! – is the attempt to deny a country its legitimacy in the present and its existence in the future, because of “circumstances” in its past.  What's uncommon – extraordinary actually! – is calling an entire country ‘a racist institution’.  Hey, what an astonishing coincidence: the state subjected to this type of unique and extraordinary assault just ‘happens’ to be the Jewish state!  Surprising, 'innit?? (Note the attempt at English irony!)

No, Prof. Almond: I am not worried about “conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism”: they are one and the same.  You must have learned the wrong lesson from your childhood experience: singling Jews out for 'special attention' is just as wrong, even when you use politically-correct words.  Dear Professor of World Literature, antisemitism is not a matter of vocabulary; it’s not the words you utter – it’s the prejudice you harbour.  You see, the “IHRA code” is more than just a definition.  It’s a test – and you failed.