INDEX (stories follow)
- Japan Dumps Water on Reactor; Radiation Levels Rise
- Deaths, Arrests in Bahraini Protest Crackdown
- Thousands Protest as Michigan Enacts Emergency Management Laws
- Wisconsin Prosecutor Challenges Anti-Worker Bill
- Florida Advances Restrictions on Teachers
- CIA Agent Accused of Murder Freed in Pakistan
- Hundreds Protest Clinton in Tunisia
- Clinton Visits Tahrir Square; Won’t Stay on Past 2012
- Palestinian Factions to Hold Unity Talks
- Study: 800,000 to Contract Cholera in Haiti
- EPA to Regulate Coal Power Plant Emissions
- Former Chicago Police Commander Begins Prison Term
Here’s the letter:
London, 4 June 2011
Dear Paul Simon,
We know you’re no stranger to controversy. When you recorded parts of ‘Graceland’ in apartheid South Africa with black South African musicians, you were publicly criticised by the liberation movement, the ANC, and anti-apartheid organisations, for breaking the cultural boycott.
At the time, you told the UN Special Committee Against Apartheid that you yourself had ‘refused to perform in South Africa’. And since anti-apartheid icons Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela played in the live ‘Graceland’ tour (even though there were anti-apartheid demonstrators at some of the venues), you clearly convinced key members of the anti-apartheid movement that you were not colluding with, or intending in any way to promote, the apartheid regime.
We’re struggling to see any carry-over from this situation to your forthcoming concert in Ramat Gan, Israel, on July 21. You’ve played in Israel before, so perhaps this event doesn’t seem that important to you – just a one-night add-on to your US and European tour (and maybe that’s why the Ramat Gan date doesn’t figure in the tour list on your website).
But if you hope this concert in Israel can be about music, not about politics, that’s not how your promoter, Marcel Avraham, sees things. In July last year he told the Israeli online news site, Ynetnews.com, that he does shows in Israel ‘as a mission, a sense of Zionism, not just to make a buck’.
Whether you intend it or not, your show in Tel Aviv will make a political statement. And Avraham is absolutely clear what he believes that statement to be. He told Ynetnews that Elton John, Metallica and Rod Stewart, all under pressure to cancel their shows in Israel, had approached him ‘with questions. “My answer to them was very simple. Listen”, I told them. “Israel is a small country still fighting for its existence. The Arabs want to throw us to the sea. If you want to come and lend us a shoulder, by all means, we’ll be delighted”.’
This hackneyed scenario – small beleaguered state teetering on the edge of extinction — won’t wash any more. Israel’s army has dominated the region for the past 40-something years, and the people who are clearly and evidently ‘fighting for existence’ are the Palestinians.
So — are you willing to ‘lend a shoulder’ to daily land-grabs and water-grabs and the inexorable squeezing and stifling of Palestinian lives and hopes? Are you willing to ‘lend a shoulder’ to illegal settlements and illegal military checkpoints, to detention without trial, torture in prison, and the innumerable daily cruelties, small and large, aimed at making Palestinian existence intolerable and driving people out?
If you don’t support these actions by successive Israeli governments (documented in comprehensive detail by human rights organisations like Amnesty International), and if you don’t want to appear to condone Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity (see, for example, the UN Goldstone report on the Gaza onslaught in 2008-9), then we believe you should want to cancel the Ramat Gan concert.
Your choice is simple: occupier vs occupied; ethnic cleanser vs ethnically cleansed; oppressor vs oppressed. You can’t avoid it. Please follow the logic of your opposition to South African apartheid. ‘Strong wind destroy our home’ – it’s happening to the Palestinians every day. Please lend a shoulder to them.
Professor Haim Bresheeth
Professor Jonathan Rosenhead
British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)
PS: We’ve just noticed that the liner notes of your recent album, ‘So Beautiful or So What’, were written by Elvis Costello. You probably know that Elvis Costello cancelled the concerts he was scheduled to give in Israel last year as ‘a matter of instinct and conscience’. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) said Costello’s decision was ‘exceptionally brave and principled…a victory for the ethical responsibilities of international cultural figures’. When you cancel, you’ll be in good company. Please don’t go.
In 2007, B’Tselem’s Video Department launched its camera project, in which the organization distributes video cameras to Palestinians living in areas in the West Bank,East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in which clashes are commonplace. The cameras enable them to present the reality of their lives to the Israeli and international public, thereby encouraging action to improve the situation. The project is unique in that it enables Palestinians themselves to document the infringement of their rights and to present their daily lives, their anger, pain, joy, and hope to Israelis who live so close and yet so far away from them.
The hundreds of volunteers film a reality that the Israeli public is usually unaware of. The video footage, together with the footage of security cameras set up at locations where violence is common, provides additional documentation. The unlawful shooting of a bound and blindfolded Palestinian demonstrator, daily harassment by settlers inHebron, attacks on Palestinian farmers in the southernHebronhills, and army incursions into Qalqiliya are just some of the events that have already been filmed and distributed thanks to the project. Footage taken by the volunteers is frequently broadcast by Israeli and international media, exposing to a large audience incidents that previously remained concealed.
B’Tselem uses the footage as a basis for its complaints to the army and the police following suspected breaches of the law by security forces. In some cases, the footage provides vital evidence in legal proceedings. In a few cases, broadcast of the footage has contributed to genuine policy changes.
Robert Fisk has penned a major story about billionaire businessman Munib al-Masri, the wealthiest Palestinian perhaps in the Middle East, who played a key role in bringing together Hamas and Fatah for the unity deal which they signed last month in Egypt. What’s especially interesting about this is that al-Masri provides his gloss on the meaning of the agreement for Israeli-Palestinian relations, and he reveals just how many separate power centers, nations and political-intelligence operatives were consulted to make the deal happen.
When you finish reading this (most of you anyway) will want to tip your hat to a man who pulled off one of the greatest deals of the past decade, at least, in Palestinian politics. He did all this from a base he himself created called the Palestine Forum, a group of distinguished Palestinian independents interested in bridging the gaps between the two warring parties. The Forum worked intensively and diligently for four years to bring this about. Partially through its own creativity and perseverance, partially through the parties coming to realize that an agreement lay in their own interest, and perhaps most important of all due to the propitious events of the Arab Spring which worked in their favor–they created a Palestinian political miracle.
The following is part of the conversation with Khaled Meshal that preceded the final acceptance of the agreement:
We told him the government has to be of national unity — on the agreement that we would be able to carry out elections and lift the embargo on Gaza and reconstruct Gaza, that we have to abide by international law, by the UN Charter and UN resolutions…He agreed that resistance must only be ‘in the national interest of the country’ – it would have to be ‘aqlaqi’ – ethical. There would be no more rocket attacks on civilians. In other words, no more rocket attacks from Gaza.”…Hamas agreed on the 1967 border, effectively acknowledging Israel’s existence, and to the reference to the ‘resistance.’
Then al-Masri summarizes his own understanding of the agreement, and the reason why it finessed the question of Hamas participation in a government by appointing a transitional one that would not include Fatah or Hamas affiliated members:
If Hamas was in the government, it would have to recognise the State of Israel. But if they were not, they would not recognise anything. “It’s not fair to say ‘Hamas must do the following’, Masri says…”As long as they are not in the Palestinian government, Hamas are just a political party and can say anything they want. So America should be prepared to see Hamas agreeing on the formation of the government. That government will abide by UN resolutions – and international law. It’s got to be mutual. Both sides realised they might miss the boat of the Arab spring. It wasn’t me who did this – it was a compilation of many efforts. If it was not for Egypt and the willingness of the two Palestinian groups, this would not have happened.” In the aftermath of the agreement, Hamas and Abbas’ loyalists agreed to stop arresting members of each side.
…1967 borders means that Hamas is accepting Israel and the ‘resistance’ initiative means an end to Gaza rockets on Israel. International law and UN resolutions mean peace can be completed and a Palestinian state brought into being.
Ben Caspit has written his own Hebrew version of this article, which includes a searing interview with the Palestine businessman and supporter of the Palestinian national movement. I find this interesting, because Caspit is a generally a supporter of Israel’s far right. It’s hard for me to understand Caspit’s interest in profiling the Fatah-Hamas unity deal in a positive light given the Israeli government’s absolutely allergic reaction to it. But hey, perhaps Caspit’s changing his tune politically or his intelligence sources are finding more to like in the deal than we realize. Whatever the reason, it is a positive development that Caspit is conveying to his readers the thoughts of a major Palestinian figure who explains that Hamas, while not necessarily Israel’s friend, is not the demon it’s made out to be by Bibi & Co. This is an important message for Israelis to here.
But al-Masri was not kind or diplomatic in his words. When Caspi asked why Israelis should believe there can be peace with Palestinians when they had just entered into an agreement with a movement sworn to destroy Israel, al-Masri replied:
This is foolishness. You disappoint me every time anew. You’re simply unwilling to listen to the other side, only to yourselves. You go to Washington and persuade members of Congress, make a big show of it, instead of quieting down and listening. If you really listened to Khaled Meshal’s speech at the reconciliation ceremony in Egypt you would’ve heard three fundamental principles. These are the three principles which we worked on with Hamas and for which we achieved recognition.
Hamas agreed to the 67 lines as a basis for a settlement. It gave Abu Mazen the credit [if he succeeds] and opportunity to continue the peace process. And Hamas agreed that resistance could only happen in a national context [as part of a process worked out among the parties]. No longer would every armed group carry out its own military attacks.
These are three enormous achievements. Similarly, they agreed to stop rocket fire from Gaza. So tell me, what’s so bad about this for starters? Why do you have to respond in a panic as you have done?
Hasn’t the time come for you to understand what Palestinians want? They want something simple. The 22% of the territory of Palestine about which we’ve agreed to compromise [67 borders]. What was agreed in Oslo. Our share of Jerusalem [East Jerusalem]. The creation of two states in harmony and friendship. Palestinians want to end the Occupation. Believe me that I’m realistic and know what I’m talking about. This isn’t propaganda. These are facts.
You talk about peace. But you don’t really want peace. Look, almost every one of your senior intelligence officials when the leave their positions all of a sudden become men of peace. I ask myself: why doesn’t this happen when they’re still serving? And what happens to them when they come into government [that they oppose peace]?
Caspit continues with a bit of sophistry in questioning al-Masri, claiming that Israelis have learned to believe Arabs when they say the “unpleasant things” they do against Israel, and that these words are not a basis of negotiation but of continuing war. To which the Palestinian replies:
Not true. You see what’s convenient for you to see. You tell me what’s wrong with the Palestinian people uniting in one leadership? It’s good for us and good for you and good for the peace process. How can it be since the split between Hamas and Fatah, that you can claim it’s impossible to negotiate with Palestinians since you don’t know who you should be talking with, and suddenly when we do unite you say [to Fatah]: “It’s either them or us.”
You have a lot of nerve. We united in order to show that there was a real Palestinian partner, that there is a real chance for peace. And after we achieve such monumental things, you respond by disseminating such twisted facts.
…You simply cannot create a Palestinian state without such a unity deal. So we united. And what do you do? Shut the door instead of pouncing on the opportunity.
Among the other interesting things revealed in Caspit’s story is that al-Masri’s grandson, who was named after him, was severely wounded by an IDF bullet in the Nakba Day protests along the border with Southern Lebanon. He dropped everything and flew to Beirut to sit by his bedside. Though he’d lost many friends to the Intifada and other military operations, the injury to his grandson was especially hard because the latter represented to him the future. The boy had been 15-20 meters inside Lebanese territory when he took a sniper’s bullet in the back. He lost a kidney and his spleen, his spinal cord is severed. He lost a great deal of blood. He took a dum-dum bullet which caused grave damage.
Caspit is so tone-deaf that he asks al-Masri why a boy who has everything in life including great wealth would take part in an assault on the Israeli fence. To which the long-time supporter of the Palestinian national resistance replies:
Because he is a member of a generation which does not forget. Golda and Ben Gurion, your leaders, said that the old would die and the young forget and so the problem of the refugees would be solved. But the young haven’t forgotten. He’s already the third generation. And he still wants to return to his homeland. He still dreams about it. You don’t understand this. You think that if you refuse to acknowledge it, it will go away. But it won’t. It’s a problem that must be solved.
Caspit asks, again cluelessly, whether the boy regrets what he did. To which the grandfather says:
No, he plans to return along with his friends. They will not give up.
…You cannot force people to give up their aspirations to return to their homes. It’s a natural wish. You also cannot dodge the moral and human problem resulting from the creation of the State of Israel and its decision to come [to this region]. The only way to solve this is the sit down and talk. The 2002 Arab peace initiative is a good basis to start. But to my sadness, you Israelis are boors. You don’t want to hear about such things. You only want to think your distorted thoughts which aren’t based on real recognition of us, but rather on narrow-mindedness, boorishness and prejudice.
What are you afraid of? The Arab Initiative says the refugee problem has to be resolved in a way that is just and mutually agreed. That means that you will have to agree to the solution as well [or it won’t work]. But Bibi first must recognize that there is a problem. And he must say to himself: it was caused because of our actions. And we have a moral and national obligation [to solve it]. First admit that you have a problem, and then we can talk about solving it with the help of all the nations, even the Arab world, all of us together…
I am sure that we can come up with a solution acceptable to the refugess and to you. But it’s necessary to be creative and flexible. It is possible. Why not try?
Caspit, again naïvely, asks why then the Palestinians won’t return to the negotiating table when Bibi has called upon them to do so many times. Al-Masri responds:
Bibi first tells us “No.” Count the number of rejections in his Washington speech: No to 67 borders, no to Jerusalem, no to refugees. No, no, no. You want to talk and in the meantime you continue to build. Since Rabin’s murder do you know how many houses you built in the Territories and in Jerusalem? And you want us to sit back and clap our hands? It’s not fair. You are pigs. You want to swallow everything, eat the entire cake, and then you want peace as well. You have quite a healthy appetite. You on the one hand want peace and on the other want to continue what you’ve been doing.
…If you don’t stop, you’ll turn into South Africa. It will go in the direction of a single state. You’ll regret you didn’t accept Nelson Mandela. You’ll long for a two state solution. Why don’t you see this?
When the Maariv reporter asks whether al-Masri doesn’t think Israel has a right to fear the consequences of paying the price for peace given its history, the Palestinian says:
No, you have a Shoah mentality. Leave the ghetto. God Almighty, enough already. You talk about the price of peace? What about us? We’ve lost the right to 78% of our lands. Most of our people live as refugees in other lands. And you want to talk about the price YOU pay?
The entire interview is worth reading. I’ve translated most of it, but the man is so smart, so sensible and Caspit is so damn, well you heard the man, boorish. It’s a perfect exemplar of the mess we face. But at least you’ll read the ideas of a Palestinian who see clearly and is far-sighted. Would that there was an Israeli leader who saw as clearly.
Caspit also notes that al-Masri may be a candidate for a major position in the transitional government since he is not affiliated with either side directly and so would be eligible for participation. At the age of 75, he may be willing to answer the call of his people to broker and ensure the success of this unity deal.
- New Truthout Story on Amazing Twists and Turns of Hamas-Fatah Unity Deal and Its RepercussionsTruthout has just published my latest piece on the Hamas-Fatah…
- As Hamas, Fatah Sign Unity Pledge, Meshal Calls for Palestinian State in 1967 Borders The Israeli far-right and its supporters have just suffered another…
- Hamas-Fatah to Form Unity Government, Israel Angered, U.S. Taken by Surprise Big news today. Hamas, Fatah and the new Egyptian government…
Maariv publishes an important article (Hebrew) noting that Meir Dagan is not the only senior military-intelligence official decrying a possible Israeli strike on Iran. Among the others who agree with him are former chief of IDF intelligence Shlomo Gazit, former defense minister Benyamin Ben Eliezer, and former Mossad director Ephraim HaLevy, and many others.
This article is so resonant and penetrating I’ll translate bits of it here. Quoting Anthony Cordesmann’s research on the subject (which I’ve covered here), it begins by noting that Israel itself predicts that a major air assault to knock out Iran’s nuclear facilities would involve the loss of fully one-third of the planes, which would be knocked out by missiles and Russian-provided air defense systems. Think of this. Israel would have to assign scores if not hundreds of planes and pilots to this operation. A third will not return. A third. Pilots are among the most skilled of all the personnel in the IDF: the creme de la creme. If one-third of the personnel don’t return it will be an enormous hit for the service and a enormous loss for the nation. Personally, I think it is a loss that the nation as a whole will neither forgive or forget (though it might rally round Bibi in the short term).
Those who do return will come back to a nation altogether different than the one they left. The Iranian response will be massive and painful, utilizing Shihad 3 land to land missiles which can reach every corner of the country. The article envisions (though I tend to doubt this part) that some of the missiles will be equipped with chemical warheads and extract a painful cost in loss of life.
In writing of Cordesman’s research here previously, I’ve noted the other parts of his scenario: that Iran will activate groups willing to act in solidarity with it, notably Hezbollah and possibly Hamas. Besides massive terror attacks, there will be rockets raining down on Israel from Lebanon as in 2006 and from Gaza as in 2008. From its perch on the Persian Gulf, Iran will attempt to strangle the flow of oil from all fields whose shipping must pass through these straits. This will result in massive spikes in oil prices and a serious blow to the world economy.
Maariv’s reporter also notes Ephraim HaLevy’s comments in a Time Magazine 2008 interview in which he predicts the results of an Israeli attack will be “devestating in the long run:”
It may impact us for the next 100 years, including an enormous negative affect on Arab public opinion toward us.
In an interview for the current article, HaLevy went even farther, pointing out that in the Time interview he hadn’t said “100 years,” but rather “a century,” by which he meant the negative impacts would be felt for generations, possibly even more than 100 years.
Shlomo Gazit goes even farther and his language is shocking and unrestrained:
An Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear reactors will lead to the liquidation of Israel. We will cease to exist after such an attack. The result we seek in this attack of destroying Iran’s nuclear capability will have the opposite result. Iran will immediately become an explicit nuclear power. Iran will play the oil card to force the UN to pressure Israel to return to 1967 borders. Such a settlement will, of course, include Jerusalem as well.
The threat of missiles across every part of Israel, international pressure and the necessity of returning the Territories. This we will not be able to survive. This is what Meir Dagan is trying to say. Use some common sense and ask yourselves why such an attack is necessary.
Even one of those who planned and conceived the Osirak attack in 1979 on Iraq’s nuclear reactor, Aviam Sela, warns that Israel was forced to spend huge sums to defend itself from expected Iraqi counter-attack, which didn’t materialize until the SCUD attacks of the 1991 Gulf War. Sela says far and away the most desired method of resolving this conflict is through negotiation. ”The military option,” he says, “is the least desirable solution.”
The director of Israel’s Atomic Energy Agency at the time of the Osirak attack, Uzi Elam, opposed it vehemently because he believed it would cause the world to invoke sanctions against Israel and would ratchet up a Middle East arms race, which is precisely what he claims happened, with Saddam dabbling in WMD, biological weapons, (which by 2003 he had abandoned), etc.
“The attack didn’t stop Iraq’s desire to develop nuclear weapons, it strengthened it.
Similarly, Benyamin Ben Eliezer warns that an attack may delay development of nuclear material at the facility attacked, but it will not delay overall development. In fact, it will only strengthen Iran’s determination to become a nuclear power.
Another senior official of Israel’s Home Defense, which will be responsible for caring for the Israeli refugees from Iranian counter-attack, also warns that an attack on Iran, instead of ending Iran’s nuclear ambitions, may ignite a nuclear arms race in the region, the opposite of Bibi’s intent.
The jingoists rooting for war should understand that Cordesman, HaLevy, Gazit and all the others are not dealing in theoreticals. They’re dealing in actuality if Bibi goes for broke. The dead won’t be imaginary either in Iran or Israel. The blood won’t be like in a movie. It will be from the bodies of real live people with fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers. It will decimate entire families and communities. That’s what they mean when they say Israel won’t be the same if it survives at all. Is this a price Israel can afford to pay even if it wants to?
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For some years now I have argued that the academic study of contemporary antisemitism has been badly compromised by the growing politicisation of the subject. Back in September 2008, in an op-ed piece for Ha’aretz, I wrote:Practically the entire business of studying and analyzing current anti-Semitism has been hijacked and debased by people lacking any serious expertise in the subject, whose principal aim is to excoriate Jewish critics of Israel and to promote the ‘anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism’ equation.A number of institutions, supposedly tasked with undertaking serious research on antisemitism, have contributed to this situation. One of the foremost of these is the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism (YIISA), established in 2006, and I had it in my sights when I wrote my op-ed.
Lerman goes on to list some of the organisations and individuals that have “badly compromised” the study of contemporary antisemitism.
Unsurprisingly, organizations that have contributed to the debasement of serious antisemitism research are not happy. The Anti-Defamation League’s National Director, Abe Foxman, said:Especially at a time when anti-Semitism continues to be virulent and anti-Israel parties treat any effort to address issues relating to anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism as illegitimate, Yale’s decision is particularly unfortunate and dismaying . . . it leaves the impression that the anti-Jewish forces in the world achieved a significant victory.The American Jewish Committee said it was surprised and saddened by the decision. AJC’s Executive Director, David Harris, warned: ‘If Yale now leaves the field, it will create a very regrettable void’.
Yup, the ADL and AJC are big hitters in the field of “debasement of serious antisemitism research”.
After a little detour to consider, by way of a hysterical howl of protest at YIISA’s demise from the New York Post’s, why YIISA has been ditched:
Foxman and Harris were relatively measured in comparison with the report in the New York Post headed ‘Yale’s gift to antisemitism’. The writer claimed that Yale ‘almost certainly [decided on closure] because YIISA refused to ignore the most virulent, genocidal and common form of Jew-hatred today: Muslim anti-Semitism.’ She also added: ‘Some suggest that Yale feels it can act with impunity because, earlier this spring, one of YIISA’s most powerful backers died; without his money and influence, the school can rid itself of a politically inconvenient nuisance.’YIISA’s funders are not revealed by the institution so it’s possible that closure may have something to do with the withdrawal of funds, though the story may just be a rumour set running by those who suspect an anti-Israel agenda at work. But whatever the specific reason, it was obvious from YIISA’s inception that it would promote the notion of the ‘new antisemitism’, focus heavily on criticism of Israel and prioritise the issue of Muslim antisemitism.
And then back down to the debasement:
Among the first papers presented at YIISA seminars were those by Dr David Hirsh (2005), a sociologist at Goldsmiths, University of London and founder of Engage, a website dedicated to opposing the boycott of Israel, Professor Shalom Lappin (2007), professor of computational linguistics at Kings College, University of London, and Professor Irwin Cotler (2006), professor of law at McGill University and a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. All three are well-known for their highly politicised approaches to current antisemitism.Hirsh’s paper was essentially a continuation of his political battles with the anti-Zionist left over the issue of boycotting Israel, which he claimed was an expression of antisemitism. Lappin’s academic work is not in the field of antisemitism yet he was regarded by YIISA as a proper person to present a paper that linked modern anti-Israel sentiment in the UK with centuries-old English antisemitism and claimed that the political class in contemporary Britain had abandoned the Jews – and this was written at a time when, in Prime Minister Tony Blair and his government, Jews in Britain had never had a more pro-Jewish and pro-Israel national political leadership. Cotler has probably done more than anyone to popularize the notion of the ‘new antisemitism’ having been responsible for coining the phrase ‘Israel is the Jew among the nations’. His paper, effectively an exercise in sophisticated hasbara (propaganda for Israel), likened the current situation to the 1930s and developed a framework for identifying forms of criticism of Israel as antisemitic.
The director of YIISA, Dr Charles Small, an academic with little experience of antisemitism research, had clearly put down a marker that Israel was going to be the central concern of YIISA…..Not all who have given seminar papers or lectures at YIISA have been quite as blatantly partisan as my three first examples, though one or two have been worse. (A list of some of those exemplifying YIISA’s approach can be found at the foot of this post.*)
Here’s the list:
Some of the individuals who spoke at YIISA and are representative of its politicised orientation: Anne Bayefsky, Barry Kosmin, Edward Kaplan, Michael Oren, Emanuele Ottolenghi, Alvin H. Rosenfeld, Dina Porat, Matthias Kuntzel, Gabriel Schoenfeld, Ruh Wisse, Gerald Steinberg, Alan Dershowitz, Hillel Neuer, Kenneth Levin, Richard Landes, Melanie Phillips, Shimon Samuels, Robert Wistrich.
So how good is the news of the demise of YIISA?
The wider issue raised by YIISA’s imminent closure is whether it’s a watershed moment representing a rolling back of the politicisation of academic antisemitism research. I doubt very much whether the UK Universities and College Union’s decision to distance itself from the EUMC ‘working definition’ of antisemitism can be linked to it, although the vote brought to public attention that the EUMC’s successor body, the Fundamental Rights Agency, has in effect dropped the definition – a potentially damaging blow to the lifespan of the ‘working definition’.
Hmm, end of YIISA and ditching of the EUMC working definition – good linkage!
More significant, although it’s not in the US, is the example set by the establishment of thePears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck, University of London. Its Director, Professor David Feldman, an eminent expert on Jewish history, is taking a rigorously objective academic approach to his task, while not in any way ignoring the complex interconnections between contemporary antisemitism, Israel, Islam, Islamophobia, racism in general and policy questions. Feldman has won plaudits across the academic world for his stance, which gives the lie to the arguments of Cohen and Glick that antisemitism cannot be studied dispassionately and value-free. And while the Pears Institute is not in the US, the international nature of the field of contemporary antisemitism research means that what Feldman does could have a very significant impact beyond the shores of the UK. With YIISA out of the picture and Pears at Birkbeck looking very secure, some sanity may now return to the discipline.I say ‘may’ because the combined forces of those institutions and groups which have a vested interest in maintaining the ‘new antisemitism’-based politicised approach to the subject are very strong. YIISA was important, but the ship sails on with the Israeli government and the entire political right-wing in Israel blowing a powerful wind into its sails. And it’s not impossible that American Jewish funders will try to persuade Yale to change its mind, or get the money together to transfer YIISA to another institution, or set it up as in independent body.
Finally Lerman gives the last word to Jerry Haber, the Magnes Zionist, who he finds in similar celebratory mood over the axing of YIISA:
I am by no means alone in having smelled a rat when YIISA came on the scene….The Magnes Zionist blog also knew the score. In a post on 9 JuneJerry Haber cuts to the quick:The moral of this story? Take an important phenomenon which is worthy of study and have it hijacked by people with an ideological agenda, who organize conferences that revel in Islamaphobia and rightwing Zionism, mixing mediocre academics and non-academics with serious scholars, all of whom have axes to grind – in short, trivialize anti-Semitism in order to silence critics of Israel – and sooner or later, God willing, real academics will write it off as an embarrassment.
So, good news for now. Within a couple of weeks of each other, Yale and the UK’s Universities and Colleges Union have dealt major blows to zionism’s antisemitism industry.
Here’s Hirsh, from Engage but presumably as published in SA Jewish Report:
RAN GREENSTEIN wants to get us bogged down in the detail of wording and of who said what. But what is important is whether we choose to embrace the politics of peace and reconciliation between Israel and Palestine; or whether we choose the politics of siding with one set of ardent nationalists in their war against the other.Greenstein does not support a peace between Israel and Palestine. He insists instead that Israel and Palestine should be thought of as one divided people who are ruled over by an apartheid regime.He wants to dismantle Israel, like the apartheid regime in South Africa was dismantled, and he proposes instead a regime of individual rights within a new state.But Israel is a nation, the nation descended from those who were driven out of Europe, out of Russia and out of the Middle East by 20th century anti-Semitism.Israel is not an apartheid regime, it is a life-raft state, and it will not allow itself to be dismantled. Given this fact, Ran’s plan for treating Israelis in the way that the apartheid regime was treated, can only be a programme for conquest. The conquest of Israel is, hopefully, impossible and would in any case, never lead to a democratic outcome.It is quite wrong to tell Palestinians that Israel must be finally defeated before they can be free, because it is like telling them that they can never be free.But Palestinians can be free. Even the most terrible and entrenched conflicts between nations come to an end. They don’t come to an end with the final defeat of one or the other, but with a peace agreement between the two.President Barack Obama was right when he outlined the deal: an Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and both nations to recognise the sovereignty of the other.Greenstein’s “Boycotts, Divestments, Sanctions” slogan tries to exclude Israelis, and only Israelis, from the cultural, academic, sporting and economic life of humanity.It is war by other means, it is not peace and reconciliation. And such a politics of exclusion, aimed at the descendents of the Jews who have already been boycotted and pushed out, is a politics which is insufficiently sensitive to the history of anti-Semitism which not only hangs over Jews, but over us all.Ran Greenstein, who has given up on Israelis, has despaired of building the Israeli peace movement, imagines that peace in his homeland can be built by demonising them here, and in the UK and around the world.He thinks that anybody who disagrees with him should be denounced as supporters of apartheid.Instead of the politics of anger and desperation, we should back those in both Israel and Palestine who want peace and who stand against the demonisation of the other.David Hirsh
Goldsmiths College, University of London
Funnily enough Hirsh failed to link to what it was he was responding to and refused to publish Greenstein’s response to his response. He simply linked to the SA Jewish Report with his letter in it.
Well it so happens that the South African Jewish Report has now published Ran Greenstein’s response:
David Hirsh does not think that “”wording”” and “”who said what”” are important. This is curious for an academic who deals with little else. But words do matter: contrary to his claims, I support peace between Israel and Palestine, conceived as democratic, mutli-ethnic societies, which guarantee equal individual and collective rights to all their people. I said as much at the UJ seminar and in my letter to SA Jewish Report, to which he was responding.If words (and reality) mattered to Hirsh, he would understand that ‘’dismantling’’ apartheid meant the creation of a democratic state in South Africa, not the destruction of white people. Not only do I not want to ‘’dismantle’’ Israeli Jews, but I wish for them to live long and prosper as equal citizens, together with their fellow residents of the land. Why does the spectre of equality and democracy haunt Hirsh?The real challenge facing us is to find ways to reach that goal. Certainly not by using violence to attack civilians (a practice employed to a far greater extent, resulting in far greater destruction, by the state of Israel than by Palestinians). Rather, it is by waging non-violent campaigns, peaceful protests, legal challenges, educational initiatives and, yes, sanctions as well. These have been used in many cases and constitute one important peaceful tactic, among others.Are Israelis singled out here? Hirsh seems unaware that his own country has imposed severe sanctions and used violent means of censure against numerous targets in the last two decades: PLO, Hamas, Burma, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Belarus, Serbia and, most recently, Libya and Syria, have been subject to sanctions and military campaigns far more aggressive and violent than Israel is likely ever to face. Israel has been singled out indeed, for receiving vast sums of military and financial aid that allow it to entrench the occupation, and diplomatic immunity by the USA for its acts of violence against civilians.Instead of pursuing his campaign of manufactured hysteria and distortions against those working for justice and democracy, Hirsh could support the thousands of Palestinians and Israelis who protest peacefully in Bil’in, Ni’ilin, Sheikh Jarrah, and elsewhere in Israel/Palestine. These young activists do not support one national group against another, but campaign for members of both to unite in order to stop oppression and create a secure democratic future for all. This is my goal as well, and should be supported by all progressive people wherever they are.
This link to Jews for Justice for Palestinians is more reliable as the SA Jewish Report updates its letters page every week. By the way, that means that Engage is currently linking to Ran Greenstein’s withering response that Hirsh apparently didn’t want his readers to see.
Of course Dr Hirsh has been mentioned in another dispatch by Antony Lerman, whose post on the demise of the Yale factory for the confusion of anti-zionism with antisemitism I linked to earlier. Here is a comment exchange between former American Jewish Committee employee, Ben Cohen and his host, Antony Lerman.
I specifically said that YIISA published some excellent papers and ran an exciting seminar series!
And here’s Lerman:
you provide as your first example of ‘did produce some’—again, a comment that sounds like you’re really saying ‘did produce some, but not very much’—the Hirsh paper, which I briefly criticise in my post. If that paper had been submitted to me by an undergraduate, I would have given it back with the following instructions: ‘Start again, curb your verbosity, cut out the value-laden attacks on people for whom you clearly have an animus, work out precisely what questions you want to ask and proceed on the basis of a clearly worked-out structure. And no more than 30 pages maximum. There are some good ideas here, but they’re just not thought through.’
So the best of times and the worst of times for Dr Hirsh. On the one hand he is getting a bit of publicity. On the other hand, er, he is getting a bit of publicity.
Larry Derfner and I began our debate about the future of Israel and Zionism at Israel Reconsidered several weeks ago. Just this week, we really got into it over Nakba and Right of Return. Frankly, I was surprised at how little Larry was willing to “give” on both subjects since I consider him to be one of the most forthright and progressive of Israel’s English language newspaper columnists. I got really exercised in my reply to him, Right of Return is ‘Right’ and a Right.
This is my first substantive foray into both of these subjects where I’ve put my thoughts down at length (never really did it here in this blog except in the comment threads). So I hope you’ll take a look especially at that post. You can access all the posts I’ve written at Israel Reconsidered here.
The latter blog is an experiment for both of us. We didn’t know how it would turn out. We have high regard for each other and usually agree politically. And frankly, I didn’t even know that Larry essentially rejects the Right of Return. When I read his last post it really brought me up short. That’s why my reply was so passionate and perhaps even vituperative. I’m eager for some readers here who haven’t weighed in on the comment threads there to do so. Until now, the preponderance has been of the liberal Zionist stripe, which I find sometimes limiting both intellectually and politically.
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The story jumps forward and back through the main characters, a Palestine based British soldier called Len and his granddaughter, Erin, who uses his diary of his time in Palestine to explore the story surrounding the establishment of the State of Israel and to fulfill her grandfather’s promise to a Palestinian chap he had befriended back then.
Well, it seems to be very well made. It’s certainly up there with Dallas and Friends. The plot reminded me a bit ofZelig or Forrest Gump. It relies heavily, almost entirely, on the most amazing coincidences.
The story begins with Erin considering going to Israel with her friend, a young Anglo-Israeli woman together with old Len suffering some hospitalising condition. It jumps back to Len being involved in and diarising the liberation of Bergen-Belsen. Current TV drama is interwoven skilfully with old newsreel much like Zelig, in fairness, without the humour. Au contraire, the footage of the dead in Belsen is chilling and provides the backdrop for Len writing of why Britain had gone to war. Then it jumps forward to Erin in Israel with her friend and the friend’s parents who are clearly very wealthy.
Anyway, the plot takes Len from Belsen to Palestine. If I hadn’t seen the protests from zionist quarters and not knowing anything of Kosminsky’s sympathies, I would have assumed the jump from Belsen to Palestine to be part of yet another zionist propaganda show. Can’t they satisfying themselves with news and documentary? Well, it wasn’t like that. Poor old Len was very conflicted about the whole thing.
He had a liberal non-Sabra Jewish girlfriend. She turned out to be an Irgunist. His unit also had an Arab chai wallah who Len befriends.
The coincidences come in thick and fast as Len gets caught up in everything everyone who follows Palestine knows about. He is at the King David Hotel when it gets blown up. He gets captured with the two British soldiers hanged by the Irgun. He is at Deir Yassin when the Irgun (and the unmentioned rest) slaughter most of the villagers. His, by then, ex-girlfriend is among the slaughterers. She still loves Len. Not sure if it’s mutual.
Erin too gets caught up in a few things that those of us who follow what goes on know about. She’s there when settler kids attack schoolgirls in Hebron. She remonstrates with Israeli soldiers for not intervening. She meets a Palestinian woman whose family protected Jews during the 1929 Hebron massacre. She even manages aRachel Corrie moment when an Israeli bulldozer comes to flatten the home of a suicide bomber’s family in Gaza.
I can’t really apologise for spoiling the plot because the past historical (if unfinished) side is so well known. The story doesn’t have that much in the way of nuance or intricacy. It’s actually a bit in yer face but it is very well made as far as I can tell. And it is good that someone troubled to dramatise some real historical and current issues in Palestine for a mass audience. I read somewhere that all the portrayals of Jews are negative. That’s not true. Zionism is put under a spotlight (not a microscope) but zionism isn’t the Jews and remember the programme practically starts in Bergen-Belsen. All in all it’s an entertaining tale but I can well see why Israel advocates are chalking this down as one of their failures.