Singing from the same songsheet with the UJIA, JfJfP, ZF and the US!


By Dan Judelson
November 18, 2010
Share

It was an innocuously titled email: "interesting article" said the subject line.

When I opened it and read the article in the JC about UJIA chair Mick Davis's remarks regarding criticism of Israel, I had to rub my eyes, pinch myself and then reread it, slowly. The chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council saying some of the things I think myself? Broad agreement from the ZF, from United, Liberal and Reform synagogues? What the hell was happening?

It's this last question that I think we should try to focus upon. I'm not claiming that Harvey Rose, Mick Davis or Jonathan Sacks are about to appear on a JfJfP platform, let alone sign up to our statement. Further, there was criticism of Mr Davis from parties such as Joy Wolfe and Samuel Hayek of the JNF, not to mention Abe Foxman.

One of the reasons I signed up to JfJfP and became active within it was because the various Jewish organisations did not reflect my views on Israel. When we met with a group from the Board of Deputies, one of the first questions we wanted to ask was why they felt unable to voice any criticism of Israel in public. I think the proposed loyalty oath is repugnant. And while we have always acknowledged that JfJfP does not speak for the majority of Jews in the UK, we maintained that we represent a significant and growing body of opinion of Jews in this country.

Now Mick Davis has confirmed some of what we have been saying. More than that, significant figures in British Jewry have been strongly supportive, saying they would not disagree with his quoted comments and that he speaks for the mainstream.

If it goes on like this, JfJfP will need to wind itself up, having served its purpose! (I know some bloggers would like that to happen anyway, regardless of Mick Davis's comments.)

I'm going to make a plea here. I realise that this is a both significant and controversial. But rather than jumping up and down on personal bandwagons about the organisations, I hope we can actually discuss the issues at hand which are:

Is it right/constructive to criticise Israel in public?

Is the mainstream of British Jewry antagonistic or sympathetic to the current path of Israeli politics?

Is it right to worry that the effect of Israel's policies is to increase antisemitism, or is that worry itself giving in to racism?

There are other questions arising, but these I think are the crucial ones.

COMMENTS

raycook

Thu, 11/18/2010 - 21:33

Rate this:

1 point

Dan

1.
Israel should not be immune to criticism. The problem is that no space is given for measured, fair and constructive criticsm due to the maelstrom of demonisation coming at Israel from the Muslim world, the UN and the Far Left.

How can Jews who support Israel join in this so-called criticism when they feel it is a form of treachery to do so. Nevertheless, there is still a vein of fair criticism in the community but it is not surprising so many are circumspect to voice it too loudly.

I rerserve the right to criticise Israel but I am much keener to criticise those who would destroy it and those who think themselves well-meaning by standing with Hamas-lovers and Jew-baiters.

I'd much rather see an organisation called Jews for Justice in the Middle East than one that implies that the victims are on one side.

2.
I think they probably agree with some things and disagree with others. The recent poll showed overwhelming support with concerns about aspects of Israeli society. I think people generally understand that Israel is under an existential threat. Does the UK population really carry much weight anyway? The US is the only community that really matters.

3.
Is a question only anti-Semites and Finklers would ask. It really doesn't matter what Israel does, the anti-Semites have never needed an excuse to attack Jews. If we are more at risk when Israel moves to protect itself then that just demonstrates that anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism more often than not.


telegramsam

Thu, 11/18/2010 - 21:50

Rate this:

0 points

That's a good point well made, Dan. It's about time the community started standing up to the craven Israel-firsters. And it's about time the leadership here started leading rather than following a few loud-mouthed thugs down a murky path.


Jonathan Hoffman

Thu, 11/18/2010 - 22:08

Rate this:

0 points

Forget it. JFJFP hosts One Staters (Halper) and talks to terrorist supporters. It represents a tiny fringe. Don;t try and make out it's mainstream - that's fraudulent.

Most of Davis' comments were unobjectionable.

But he was completely wrong about Bibi:
http://www.thejc.com/blogpost/mick-davis-wrong-about-bibi

I thought his original article was wrong too:

http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/comment/33196/defending-israel-d...

The government of Israel is democratically elected. Davis is not an Israeli voter and he cannot expect to have an input into policy.


telegramsam

Thu, 11/18/2010 - 22:17

Rate this:

0 points

If Israel is, as it claims, the state of the Jewish people, then Jews, as Jews, have every right to comment on its activities, especially when they impact on Jews outside Israel. Or don't you think it's the state of the Jewish people?


telegramsam

Thu, 11/18/2010 - 22:21

Rate this:

0 points

Grow up, Jonathan. Act your age, not your shoe size. You lost. You had it coming. Now try and mend your ways.


Jonathan Hoffman

Thu, 11/18/2010 - 22:22

Rate this:

0 points

Which word do you not understand, liar:

"I - don't - talk - to - lying -cowardly - vexatious - little - pishers"


telegramsam

Thu, 11/18/2010 - 22:26

Rate this:

0 points

Go on, Jonathan, run along to your silly pathetic friends at JCWatch, make sure that Avraham gets all the details he needs to to get Ovadia Yossef bar the staff of this paper, the BoD, the UJIA, NIF, US, JfJfP, UJS, the Abraham Fund and Uncle Moshe Cobley from Israel. And have him do a Pulsa Denoura dance for you while he's at it.


Avraham Reiss

Thu, 11/18/2010 - 23:38

Rate this:

1 point

I understand that the British Jewish community has no poverty or other issues to handle, that while refusing to make Aliyah because it's too hard, these people have plenty of time on their hands to create new innovative ways to injure the State of Israel.

Not enough Israelis murdered since Oslo. Let's find ways to jack up the figures a bit ... it's mostly settlers that get murdered anyway, so no big problem there. And the less settlers = the less opposition.


gbr2004uk

Thu, 11/18/2010 - 23:42

Rate this:

1 point

Dan asks three questions that get to the nub of the matter. In the hope of adding constructively to the discussion I'll give some immediate answers.

Right/constructive to criticise Israel in public?

Yes, provided the criticism is fair, based on factual evidence and proportionate. As has many times been said, correctly, Israel is not the only, and by no means the worst human rights abuser in the world, and so it is illogical and unfair to speak pejoratively about it, and to threaten punishments against it, in ways that one would not speak or act in relation to other human rights abusers (e.g. to name but one, China in relation to its longterm occupation of Tibet, with its ongoing colonisation by Chinese, i.e. Han people).

For instance, I have long condemned attempts to equate Israel with Nazism, and I remain unhappy with and unconvinced by the common application of the term 'apartheid' to Israeli policies.

Mainstream of British Jewry antagonistic or sympathetic to the current path of Israeli politics?

I am aware of the recent work of Keith Kahn-Harris (Centre for Religion and Contemporary Society, Birkbeck) and Ben Gidley (Centre on Migration, Policy and Society, University of Oxford)-- see
http://kahn-harris.org/writing/books/page0001/ -- however I don't know enough about it to comment.

But we certainly need evidence and we need a discussion about it -- but one as free from polemics as possible, in an atmosphere of goodwill and respectful cooperation. The aim is to generate light and not heat.

Right to worry [whether] Israel's policies ... increase antisemitism, or is that worry itself giving in to racism?

Tony Klug's article in Tikkun
http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/may2010klug is valuable and important here, as are pieces by Tony Lerman and Brian Klug. I'm sure readers will know them.

I think one can be vigilant about this, without necessarily worrying about it, and to be vigilant is not to be giving in to antisemitic racism -- indeed, I'd say quite the contrary.

I do think we either need to abandon the term 'antisemitism' altogether or else to define it in such a way as to avoid confusion with anti-Zionism, and before I'm misunderstood, let me say at once that I believe that anti-Zionism *can* sometimes be a mask that hides, as it expresses, antisemitism. (In this respect compare the word 'Islamophobia' -- one can certainly subject Islam to critical examination, as one can any religious or philosophical system without that criticism being racist in its consequences. But as with the antisemitism/antiZionism pair, one must be on the lookout for racism. Words can be so stretched as to go so far beyond ambiguous that they become meaningless.)

Again, the work of Brian Klug is helpful here, and I'm thinking especially of an article of his that I read recently, "The collective Jew: Israel and the new antisemitism" published in Patterns of Prejudice, vol 37, no. 2, 2003.

I understand that there is an updated version of this article in Klug's new book, "Being Jewish and Doing Justice" due to be published shortly.

Lerman and Klug,as well as others, have outlined very clearly in several writings the kinds of words, phrases, references, metaphors, analogies that indicate quite precisely when a given speaker or writer is using antisemitic language, or revealing antisemitic prejudices whilst pretending to be speaking critically of Israel.

It's usually quite easy to spot. But I'm aware of the difficulties that can arise, perhaps most obviously in the movement for boycott, disinvestment and sanctions. If you boycott one country for doing something you think wrong and don't boycott another doing exactly the same thing or worse, then in general that's invidious, but if that country is Israel, it's also antisemitic. Must be -- no other view can be reached without the most serpentine kind of sophistry.

But if critics stick to the facts -- the occupation, the settlement building, the annexation of East Jerusalem, the problems for healthcare and education in the West Bank (not to mention Gaza) -- and they deal with those in basic human rights terms, especially in a context where they also criticise countries such as China, Sudan and all the rest, that cannot be antisemitic any more than, say, criticism of UK Border Agency policies need be anti-British.

-- Dr Brian Robinson
Milton Keynes, UK


Avraham Reiss

Thu, 11/18/2010 - 23:57

Rate this:

1 point

"Right/constructive to criticise Israel in public?"

You've explained "what" and "how", but missed the most important part of the expected answer: WHY?

Why should I, who lives in Israel, having undergone many tough situations you will never know about, have to relate to your opinions on how we conduct ourselves here, and the main subjects of your proposed criticisms are of life and death for us - remember, we are dealing with terrorists?

What right do you have to input opinions on, and attempt to influence what my country's borders should be?

Having been born Jewish is NOT enough.

How would Britain like it if I, holding British citizenship but having lived outside the UK for some decades, created a lobby here that would 'pressure' the British government?


amber

Fri, 11/19/2010 - 00:02

Rate this:

0 points

JfJfP takes part in anti-Israel demos with people who are simply Jew haters, supports of Hamas and Hizbollah.

The notion that they have anything constructive to say about Israel is a sick joke.


Jonathan Hoffman

Fri, 11/19/2010 - 00:05

Rate this:

0 points

Well said Avraham!

Robinson drags out that old canard abut redefining antisemitism.

He even quotes Lerman!

http://cifwatch.com/cif-contributors/antony-lerman/

and Klug!

http://cifwatch.com/cif-contributors/brian-klug/


Advis3r

Fri, 11/19/2010 - 00:45

Rate this:

2 points

So here we have Jews for Injustice to Israelis seeking to claim that it holds common ground with the UJIA because of one article? As an Israeli (see we can do it too) I am ashamed of the mealy mouthed support we get from armchair "Zionists" who sitting in the comfort of their North West London suburban homes consider themselves experts on the Middle East. No we don't have all the answers but it hardly helps when our so-called brethren pontificate on how terrible and beastly we are being to the Arabs when they have not an inkling as to what the realities are living in this part of the world. That unfortunately showing your humane side means that you are treated as being weak thereby unleashing further excesses from our implacable enemies who do not want peace however much you believe otherwise. Just take a moment to visit the websites that monitor what the Arabs are teaching their children to see how each generation is being poisoned against a legitimate Jewish presence in our ancient homeland and the lies they are being fed to reinforce that hatred and then consider why we have to take the measures we do.
No Hamas are not the IRA who never professed a desire to destroy the United Kingdom and throw its inhabitants into the sea and no Mr Abbas is not your lovable Uncle since he clearly does not love Jews -since he wants none of them living in his country!
The Jews living in the Diaspora claim that they should have say in what happens in Israel as if this was a right. With rights come responsibilities. Those of us living in Israel have taken on those responsibilities including either defending this country from the hordes of enemies who would finish us off in the twinkling of an eye and/or sending our children out to do this on our behalf. No one prevents you from airing your views and many of you do but what we do find irksome is not the criticism of the policy of the country on any given subject e.g. whether handing over Judea and Samaria to the Arabs is a good or bad thing we have plenty of arguments about that ourselves but critiquing us per se i.e. Israel is an apartheid country, the settlers are all fascists. the IDF are the new Nazis. Bibi is a right wing warmonger, Israel is an institutionalized racist state, we have stolen land from the Palestinians, I am a right-winger so I cannot possibly have a valid viewpoint the list is endless and the content just lies. No none of it is true and Jews for Injustice to Israelis in one from or another holds all of those views and deserves to be shunned and certainly not given a free ride to propagate views which if implemented will cause even more grief to us living here.


ibrows

Fri, 11/19/2010 - 00:52

Rate this:

0 points

Can you name another community in the world, that is considered beyond and above all criticism, even when members of that community offer genuine criticism they are attacked and vilified. The JFJFP is more mainstream than many of Jonny's views. Once again, an organisation is attacked and vilified completely, simply on the basis that it has offered criticism of the Israeli occupation, there appears to be no interest in the content or evidence for these criticism, that it has criticised Israel is seen as reason enough the try and discredit it. What a complete joke


amber

Fri, 11/19/2010 - 01:10

Rate this:

0 points

ibrows comes to defend JfJfP.

That tells you all you need to know about JfJfP - the people who speak for it are rabid Israel haters.


Advis3r

Fri, 11/19/2010 - 01:27

Rate this:

1 point

ibrows define "Israeli occupation"?


Advis3r

Fri, 11/19/2010 - 01:34

Rate this:

0 points

You know what don't bother just go to
http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/what-occupation--9485?...
it will explain it all to you.


amber

Fri, 11/19/2010 - 01:38

Rate this:

0 points

Advis3r, ibrows doesn't know how to discuss unless it involves shouting slogans here's picked up elsewhere.


Watchful Iris (not verified)

Fri, 11/19/2010 - 02:50

Rate this:

0 points

Oh dear....someone call the grammar police.


jose (not verified)

Fri, 11/19/2010 - 05:56

Rate this:

0 points

Is it right/constructive to criticise Israel in public?

Provided this criticism is not one-sided, as it mostly is today, why not? The problem is that Israel is criticized for ills that can also be criticized in other nations. Who, for example, believes that there are not Arabs (or Muslims in general) that do not live in "abject poverty" in France, England, not mentioning the Muslim countries themselves because that would be too easy.

Is the mainstream of British Jewry antagonistic or sympathetic to the current path of Israeli politics?

Only in your dreams.

Is it right to worry that the effect of Israel's policies is to increase antisemitism, or is that worry itself giving in to racism?

That's what I call a loaded question. When there was no state of Israel, antisemitism was at his worse as shown in the Dreyfus affair and its influence on Herzl's commitment to Zionism, and WW II with the Shoah.
What the hell should we care about antisemites justifying their hate with the policies of Israel, which is the policy of every democratic country to protect its existence.
Then, pretending that Israel is "giving in to racism" is like noticing the mote in the eye of a democratic nation while letting unnoticed the gigantic amounts of hate speeches produced by 22 Muslim countries and the hypothetical 23rd (let alone the 24th) one.

In other words, the author of these lines should bother about facts instead of living in wonderland.


Dan Judelson

Fri, 11/19/2010 - 11:08

Rate this:

1 point

Ray & Jose, I included the third question because the issue was raised in Mick Davis's original comments, though not in the form I used:

“When they do good things it is good for me, when they do bad things, it’s bad for me. And the impact on me is as significant as it is on Jews living in Israel.”

and it is not about Israel giving in to racism, but its critics doing so. I agree, it was a loaded question, but actually intended to be loaded in the other direction. My bad for a poor phrasing. It's the only part of Mick Davis's quoted remarks I strongly disagree with - because not only did anti-semitism exist long before Israel did, even if the creation of Israel had given rise to anti-semitism, it would still be racism and still, to say the least, unacceptable. I never expected to find myself in agreement with Abe Foxman or Joy Wolfe but they are right to say Israel needs to do what is right for Israel and its citizens, not what is right for Jews, of any political persuasion, living elsewhere. It is of course my contention that what Israel is doing is bad for their citizens in the long term.

Avraham, I would be delighted if you chose to set up such a lobby as you propose. Seriously. People support causes the world over, be it Tibet, Burma, Chilean (and now possibly NZ) Haiti, Sudan.

Can I clarify something you raise in your first point? Is it your position that all Jews should make Aliyah, rather than live outside Israel?

Advis3rYou can't put words in my mouth (where, for example, have I ever said your views are not valid because you are on the right wing?) and then criticise me for "saying" them. One of the reasons I blog here at all is to try and converse with people who do not agree with me. I'm idealistic enough still to think it benefits political discourse.

Trolls No food for you! (Thanks to everyone else who is commenting constructively.)

POST A COMMENT

You must be logged in to post a comment.

LATEST COMMENTS