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.


  1. As always, Noru, an excellent article. I really don’t want to repeat our previous exchanges but it’s difficult for me not to respond to your claim that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Does it have to be? Is it really fair to describe Sir Edwin Montagu as an anti-Semite bearing in mind his reason for opposing Zionism. Were all those Reform Jews (and many very orthodox ones) who objected to Zionism in the early days anti-Semitic? Are the Neturei Karta anti-Semitic? As far as non-Jewish opposition is concerned are you really unable to conceive of entirely legitimate reasons why they might think it unwise to create (or rather re-create) a Jewish state in the heart of the Middle East?

    1. Hi Geoff, thanks for the comments. I don't think you really answered (or took on board) Melvyn's point: opposing the doing of 'Project A' is fundamentally different from undoing it years or decades later. As an example: there may be (or not!) 'legitimate reasons' to say "we don't want people from certain Muslim states coming to our country" (more-or-less Trump's position -- for which he WAS actually accused of Islamophobia); but what about saying "Muslims who are already residents of our country should be kicked out"? Would you argue that there are 'legitimate reasons' for this type of position? In general, I feel that your arguments are a bit theoretical and fail to address the points I raised in my article. I can see 'legitimate' (read: non-antisemitic) reasons why one would deplore the establishment of certain states (in view of the suffering that creation caused at the time) and even why one would include Israel on that list of states. But I cannot see any legitimate reason for the singling out of Israel and for the single-minded, obsessive treatment she gets -- to the point where bashing the Jewish state has become in some circles the only foreign policy issue worth debating. Geoff, you are blessed with a great intellect and I am sure that you are perfectly able to post-rationalise on the theoretical level such 'entirely legitimate reasons'. But I feel that such post-rationalisation fails Occam's razor test, as I've expressed in the article via the 'lung cancer/cough' metaphor.

  2. Edwin Montagu and many other Jews opposed Zionism BEFORE the fact. They believed mistakenly that they had assimilated and were English firstly and that the creation of a Jewish state would risk being seen as having divided loyalty and give rise to antisemitism. To be antiZionist post statehood is to deny the right of Jews in Israel the right to self- determination or nationhood- that is antisemitic. Melvyn Lipitch

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  4. I think the question we need to ask, Melvyn, is whether any group that claims to be a nation has the right to declare national self-determination and then, having done so, complain bitterly when that right is challenged. For example, do you think that Gypsies should have the right to declare statehood? Many of them think they do. Where should they establish their state? And if they established it somewhere that did not meet with your approval, would it be fair to accuse you of anti-Zyganism? What about the Cornish people? Do they have a right to national self-determination? And if you oppose it, does that necessarily make you anti-Cornish?

    1. Geoff, as a child I played with 'Gypsy' (Roma) kids -- I have no doubt that they are 'a nation', i.e. a large group of people with similar ethnic, cultural and/or linguistic characteristics. The only national attribute they lack (to the best of my knowledge) is a territorial association/relationship of the type Jews have. I am not aware (though perhaps I am wrong) that Roma have a 'national story' linking them to a specific territory in North India as their 'ancestral homeland'. To bring your 'Gypsy' argument in line with the actual facts: assuming that
      1. The Roma nation has established an independent state of their own, in which a significant proportion of them chose to live;
      I would question quite closely the motives of anyone suggesting that that state should be dismantled.
      If, in addition to the above,
      2. That state was established in a territory that many Roma regard as their ancestral homeland;
      I'd strongly suspect that anyone suggesting that establishing that state was 'racist' is motivated by antizyganism.
      If, in addition,
      3. The 'critics' of the 'Gypsy state' focused obsessively, singularly or disproportionately on its perceived faults and 'original sins', while ignoring similar or worse issues;
      That would strengthen my feeling that 'anti-Gypsy-stateism' is nothing but antizyganism in disguise.
      A conclusion even further strengthened in view of
      4. The fact that the 'critics' come from a society in which antizyganism is "entrenched" and "depressingly persistent" -- and has been for centuries.

  5. The mandate of 1922 recognised the historical connection between Jews and the land and that the mandate's purpose was to reconstitute the Jewish nation which had been exiled. Not only was this a moral right but a legal right underpinned by international treaty and extant.
    Regarding questioning a peoples right to self-determination; has anyone suggested the German people's rights to nationhood, a regime that committed the worst atrocities of the 20th century? or of America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand whose aboriginal populations have virtually disappeared?
    The treatment of Jews for over 2,000 years in Europe, Asia, The Middle East and elsewhere created the necessity of a Jewish state and if people wish to question Israel's right to exist and not Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon etc whose rights were created at the same time one has to ask why only Israel?
    Jews didn't create Israel, others did.

    1. Hi Melvyn, thanks for commenting here. I agree with most of your comment, but I don't think that the description of Israel as the 'Jewish lifeboat' is necessarily compelling or indeed historically correct.
      In the antiquity Jewish nationalism/patriotism was just like those of other nations, with the proviso that it was probably stronger for Jews because (e.g. at the time they encountered the Roman Empire) they were more advanced than others on the tribes-to-nation trajectory. Which, in turn, was at least partially because of the unifying effect of Judaism as one of the first multi-tribal religions.
      In the Middle Ages, proto-Zionism was of religious nature.
      In its modern form, Zionism was not just (and, I would argue, probably not even mainly) a result of the persecution of Jews by Gentiles. I would argue that it was influenced by the nationalism of the Gentile nations, that it was one nationalism among many. I argue that Zionism was in many ways similar to (for instance) Czech or Serbian or Polish nationalism. The national aspirations of those peoples may be said to have been to a certain extent ‘awakened’ and ‘helped along’ by the fact that they (the peoples) were oppressed by their imperial rulers or neighbours; but I’m not sure that such oppression in and of itself justifies the existence of the respective states.
      Bottom line, the right of nations to self determination is the defining world-order concept of our era. It may be argued that this will change in the future; but right now, no nation needs to justify its right to self-determination – other than by affirming it as a nation.

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    3. Political Zionism was a solution to the "Jewish question".
      In the wake of the pogroms, Herzl argued initially for conversion as a means of saving Jews but later recognised the real solution, outlined in Der Judenstaat lay in a territorial one to provide sanctuary. He was unsuccessful in achieving this and it was Weizmann who took up the reins and convinced the British government to issue the Balfour Declaration, which despite Britain's efforts to cancel it, resulted 30 years later in Statehood and a "lifeboat?"

    4. We tend to lionise Herzl, he was a brilliant 'fixer' -- but there are others who also qualify as major ideologues, leaders and organisers of Zionism. The fact that Herzl (and others, before, simultaneously and after him) chose the 'national' route; the fact that that route (rather than conversion, assimilation/emancipation, the protection of a liberal state, etc.) was the one that really enthused and got traction in the Jewish masses; all that was not just because Jews 'needed saving', but because this was an era of national awakening -- and not only for Jews. I believe, therefore, that it is simplistic to attribute the establishment of modern Israel to the need for a "lifeboat". Jews have needed a "lifeboat" for many centuries -- but it wasn't until the 19th century that that "lifeboat" began for many to take the shape of an independent state. That’s also why other territorial arrangements (Uganda, Argentina, etc.) were rejected. Uganda could be seen as an adequate “lifeboat” (indeed some saw it as such). But the majority rejected it, because it did little to satisfy the broader aspirations.
      I believe that modern Israel is the product of Jewish national aspirations -- the need for safety constituted just one aspect of the story. Even the idea that safety could be achieved in a 'Judenstaat' owes a lot to the very concept of nation state, which developed in late 19th and early 20th centuries. Before that, the state had not been seen as an expression of ethnic identity (‘people’ or ‘nation’), but as an expression of the feudal world order. A kingdom existed as a state, irrespective of whether the king's subjects necessarily spoke the same language. An empire was a state binding together various ethnicities. Even a republic was not necessarily based on ethnic solidarity, but on common economic and political interests (it was an extension of the ‘free town’ concept which developed in feudalism). That situation evolved gradually and only in the 19th century the idea of a nation state started to crystallise. Zionism was one 'national movement' among others that began to emerge in that period. Of course, a Jewish national movement was always going to have specific characteristics. But we must neither reduce it to mere ‘flight for safety’, nor detach it from the similar phenomena that were taking place at the time in the world at large.

    5. I agree that the concept of the nation state had renewed impetus in the 19th century but cannot agree that this was anything other than coincidental in the birth of political Zionism which as I wrote resulted from persecution and the intolerance towards Jewish assimilation. Are you asserting that political Zionism would have emegerged had Jews been able to assimilate and not subject to persecution? The core of Herzl’s belief was driven by the necessity of a Place that Jews would no longer be guests subject to the whims of hostile rulers.
      The success of the Zionists was largely due to Weizmann’s persuading the British government of the benefits of Jewish assistance at exactly the time that Britain, immersed in the war was most receptive

    6. Sorry, Melvyn, I beg to disagree. Although Jews faced persecution in the 19th centuries, there have been periods of more persecution -- without this resulting in political Zionism. Also, until recently Jews by-and-large resisted assimilation even in places and times when there was relative tolerance to such assimilation (e.g. in the Islamic world, where Muslim men marrying Jewish women was not something frowned upon). As I have argued in a previous article (http://www.pol-inc-pol.com/2017/10/the-balfour-demystification.html), I do not believe that the Balfour Declaration had the overwhelming effect on the success of Zionism that some people assign to it. The mass immigration to 'Palestine' started long before the Declaration, when the place was part of the Ottoman Empire. If anything, it can be argued that, had it remained part of the Ottoman Empire during the Holocaust, more Jews might have been allowed to take refuge there (as the Ottoman authorities were more corruptible than the British Mandate authorities). We are dealing in hypotheticals, of course; but in reality the post-Balfour British governments did nothing to help the Zionists and very quickly turned against them.

    7. Well I think we will have to disagree on the success of Balfour which I view as the Zionists foundational document, the essential first building block of the state. Your hypothesis that the Ottomans being more amenable than the British in in providing refuge for Jews is a novel concept but again I think unlikely, after all, Herzl was rebuffed by the Sultan earlier.

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    1. You are technically right, Geoff, but I feel you are nitpicking. Throughout my article, I referred top the current situation and current 'anti-Zionists', not historic ones. I may not have crossed every T and dotted every I, but it should be clear from the general discourse. Re Neturei Karta, arguably they are antisemites, as they resent other Jews. One can also argue that they are in fact Zionists, as they ultimately see Jews gathered in the Holy Land, albeit they dispute the means and the timing of that gathering. However, I won't argue either of those points. Rather, I feel that's again nitpicking: even if you find some very defined and tiny exceptions, do they really affect the point I was obviously making? Jeremy Corbyn, Ian Almond and their ilk do not belong to Neturei Karta; their motives are obviously different. I will reply separately to your other point.

    2. I see that you have deleted your comment. I will however, respond to your suggestion that for many 'anti-Zionism' is a consequence of anti-Americanism and anti-imperialism, rather than antisemitism. The fact is that, while the likes of Jeremy Corbyn also have a problem with the US, the extent, nature and intensity of that hostility are significantly lower compared to that manifested against Israel. Let me remind you that the recent Labour Conference meeting targeted Israel, not the US. The chants were against Israel, not US. If indeed they view Israel as nothing more but a US imperialist outpost then it would make more sense to rail against the metropole, rather than the outpost. You may say that it is more difficult to take on a world power; that's a valid argument for Corbyn - Leader of the Opposition, but not for Corbyn - the principled backbencher. I also wonder why there is nothing like such hostility towards for instance Taiwan and S. Korea, which are no less dependent on US assistance (in fact, they're probably more dependent) and can also be seen as US imperialist outposts. Labour does show hostility towards Saudi Arabia (another 'outpost'), but even that hostility is considerably less intense.
      I do not believe that anti-Americanism and anti-imperialism are the source of contemporary 'anti-Zionism'. Rather, I think they provide a cover for antisemitic prejudice, allowing it to manifest as 'anti-Zionism', while allowing 'anti-Zionists' to still think of themselves as nice people and 'anti-racists'.
      In our previous exchange of arguments, you asked for proof of hostility to Jews, rather than just to Israel. I believe that Jeremy Corbyn's 'English irony' barb is rather revealing in that respect -- the 'English' attribute of that irony would not have been employed against a political opponent called John Smith (or Theresa May, for that matter). Coming from an otherwise very tightly controlled individual like Corbyn, that was dog whistle -- and people in the audience would have understood it as such.
      I appreciate your intellectual efforts to pick holes in my argument. One needs such great efforts to avoid seeing the obvious: that there is an uncanny similarity (in both levels of absurdity and intensity) between hostility to Jews and hostility towards the Jewish state. That is true of Jeremy Corbyn and his junta, just as it's true of David Duke and his ilk.
      Whatever we each choose to believe (or to argue) about motivations, I suggest that we can at least agree on the outcomes: whether because of his own antisemitism (as I believe), or just because of what his blind 'anti-Zionism' causes in the society at large, Corbyn is toxic to Jews.

  7. Noru, you’re right. I didn’t respond to Melvyn’s comment. I responded to yours. You said (final paragraph) that “anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are one and the same thing” and I gave one or two historical examples where I suspect this is not true. Had you written “Post 1948 anti-Zionism” instead of just “Zionism” I would have offered only the case of the Neturei Karta. They may be bonkers but are they anti-Semitic?
    You go on to say that you “cannot see any legitimate reason for the singling out of Israel and for the single-minded, obsessive treatment she gets -- to the point where bashing the Jewish state has become in some circles the only foreign policy issue worth debating.” I fear we may be going over old ground here, but let me suggest a legitimate reason for some on the Left’s obsessive hostility towards Israel. You point out that Israel is a Jewish country, but in the eyes of many, it’s a lot more than that. They see it as a colonialist outpost and, worse still, an American colonialist outpost. Thus, the reason they loathe the country may have nothing to do with it being Jewish and everything to do with it spreading the cancer of American imperialism. That said, as previously pointed out, I have no doubt that much anti-Zionism is nothing more than poorly disguised anti-Semitism.

    1. Replies above, under your first post, which you deleted.

  8. Noru, you seem to have misunderstood my entire argument. I do not deny for a moment that many anti-Zionists are out-and-out anti-Semites. Why don’t these people rail against Taiwan and South Korea? Simple. It’s because those countries aren’t Jewish. Why, at the Labour party conference, don’t these same people shout at the US? Again, simple. The US is not a Jewish country. My argument is very different; it’s that an anti-Zionist is not always and necessarily an anti-Semite. Some people’s anti-Zionism – and I stress SOME -can be explained by his or her anti-Americanism (or anti-American imperialism to be precise) and there’s no need (a la Occam’s razor) to go any further.
    Indeed, one can be an anti-Zionist and a philo-Semite! Is it not possible to love the Jewish people but fear for their future if they’re located in their millions in a small geographical area within reach of a nuclear Iran? Again, is it not possible to love both Jews and Arabs, hate to see them fight one another and argue for a one-state solution simply and solely to avoid further bloodshed? Must opposition to Israel stem from anti-Semitism?
    Re-Corbyn’s remarks about English irony: Were they directed to British Jews in toto or just to those in the room as he maintains? If you insist on the former, are you not just revealing your own prejudice?
    That said, I very much agree that Corbyn is toxic and I wouldn't dream of voting for him.

    1. I understood, Geoff. But I find it very difficult to deal in theory and hypotheticals. "Is it not possible that..."? Yeah, I guess it is, in theory. But I have yet to see those people you are talking about. You're making a theoretical point about hypothetical people. I am talking about real people. Corbyn is anti-American, yes; but he is intensely, viscerally anti-Israel. The point is not whether his 'English irony' barb was directed at Jews in toto or at individual Jews. The point is that it was aimed at Jews as Jews. If he had said 'irony' instead of 'English irony', I would not have mentioned it. The 'English irony' barb wasn't about 'Zionists' of not having a sense of humour -- it was about 'unpleasant' Jews not 'being one of us'. And no: it's his prejudice, not mine. And it is a strident dog whistle, especially coming from someone who isn't particularly proud of his ethnicity or nationality and very rarely uses 'English' or even 'British' in that sense. Even if I accepted your 'belief' that Corbyn is not antisemitic himself (I don't), you admit yourself that many of these 'anti-Zionists' are just that: antisemites. So how do you explain this 'anti-racist's' lack of enthusiasm (not to say great reluctance) in dealing with the problem? Do you REALLY believe that this is how he would have dealt with racism, had the target community been different? And if you don't believe that, what does that say about Corbyn? Listen, you can always find excuses for him, but -- I'm sorry -- it sounds to me as absurd as Diane Abbott thinking up excuses for Mao :-)!
      At the end of the day, it matters little to me: I strongly believe he harbours subliminal anti-Jewish prejudice himself. But even if I had absolute proof to the contrary (i.e. if I were able to read his thoughts), it would not change a thing: if he isn't himself an antisemite, he acts as a magnet and a legitimiser for antisemites. I am a pragmatic man and in practical terms, it makes no difference if he does it out of prejudice or stupidity. He's the enemy.

  9. Noru, you don’t “find it very difficult to deal in theory and hypotheticals” for you’ve admitted that it’s possible, in theory, to oppose the existence of Israel for reasons unrelated to anti-Semitism. In other words, you acknowledge that the one does not necessarily imply the other. That’s all I’ve been arguing all along.
    Now if, as you claim, Corbyn is an anti-Semite, how do you explain the willingness of Jews like Rhea Wolfson and Jon Lansman to work closely with him? Are these Oxbridge educated members of Labour’s National Executive mere dupes?
    You ask how I account Corbyn’s reluctance to deal with the anti-Semites in his party given his alleged abhorrence of anti-Semitism. Well, in the first instance, it could be a cynical political calculation. Many of the anti-Semites, I suspect, are Muslims and by expelling them he risks antagonising the wider Muslim community and losing a large chunk of the Muslim vote. Secondly, what is obvious anti-Semitism to you might be rather less obvious to someone more objective and this difference of opinion might account for the “failure” to initiate action. Thirdly, a lot of people in the party have been accused of anti-Semitism and will be investigated, but there is such a thing as due process and the right of appeal which will inevitably slow the rate of expulsion.
    Finally, we’re in agreement that Corbyn acts as a magnet for anti-Semites and is dangerous for this reason if for no other.

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    2. Geoff, almost anything is possible ‘in theory’ – it’s hardly worth so many words to come to that conclusion. It was possible ‘in theory’ to be a Nazi-supporter yet not be an antisemite. But what of that?
      As an ideology, ‘anti-Zionism’ is antisemitism, if nothing else because its ‘logical’ outcome would be discrimination and persecution of Jews. It even boils down to an existential threat to the Jewish people.
      You argue that ‘in theory’ (i.e. conceivably using your imagination, rather than talking about actual people) it is possible to support that ideology out of stupidity, rather than mal intent.
      But, based on that ‘conclusion’ drawn from ‘analysing’ imaginary people, you then argue that Corbyn (a leader of that ideology) is in the ‘stupid rather than bad’ category. It takes a lot of naivety to believe that someone who spent his life in politics could be so naïve! But, in the end, people believe what they wish to believe (see your willingness to 'explain away' the 'English irony' slip) and it is useless to argue over articles of faith.
      Re Rhea Wolfson and Jon Lansman (and JVL, etc.): their support for Corbyn does not clear him of antisemitism any more than the Yevsektsyia cleared Stalin. Having a Jewish name does not necessarily make one interested in Jewishness or in a future for the Jewish people; it is no guarantee that one would not be blind/indifferent to antisemitism as long as it seems to target others (only Zionists, only privileged Jews, only Ostjuden, etc.); it doesn’t even immunise one to contracting antisemitism themselves.
      Since you ‘had the last word’ on our previous exchange, I claim the privilege this time: bottom line, since you’ve admitted that Corbyn is a magnet/legitimiser for antisemites and that he is toxic for Jews – I really do not care if you continue to believe that he suffers from stupidity rather than racism. BTW, his own ideology proposes to diagnose racism based on the outcomes rather than intent – of course with the exception of racism against Jews, where proof of intent is actually required (see the previous version of the Labour Code of Conduct). As I said already, I am a pragmatic man and from a practical point of view it makes no difference. Let’s leave it there.

  10. OK Noru, we'll leave it there. Shame really as I had quite a bit to say especially about the many Germans who WERE supportive of the Nazis but not anti-Semitic and your equating Wolfson and Lansman with the Yevsektsiya.

    1. Well, you kind of left it. I have no doubt you have quite a bit to say and so do I. But I have to earn a living and, unfortunately, nobody is paying me for this :-)...

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