Jonathan Hoffman jeered at SOAS meeting

By Jessica Elgot, December 18, 2009


Jonathan Hoffman, co vice-chair of the Zionist Federation, was told he was "not welcome" after revealing his Jewish name at a pro-Palestinian meeting at SOAS.

Mr Hoffman raised concerns during the meeting about the presence of Bongani Masuku, a South African trade unionist who the South African Human Rights Commission have found guilty of inciting hate towards Jews.

Pro-Palestinian attendees of the meeting booed Mr Hoffman and shouted "Jewish" at him while he read out his question for Mr Masuku.

The chair of the debate, Tom Hickey of University and College Union, directed the panellists not to answer Mr Hoffman's question.

Raheem Kassam, of student anti-racism campaigners Student Rights, told the BBC: "The overpowering racist jeering as displayed by some audience members at the event is a stark and chilling revelation of what can happen when extremism is allowed to take root in universities.

"This man was first shouted down, then ignored by the event chair and panellists. Why? From what we hear shouted when he is speaking, because he is, 'Jewish', and 'not welcome here'."

A Soas spokesperson said that they did not believe there had been any law breach during the meeting.

Mr Hoffman's question can be seen at 4min 50 sec on the video.

NB: The facts of
this story are in dispute. Since it was published, the organisers of the meeting
have been in touch to tell us that they absolutely deny that there was any
“racist jeering”. In their view, the words reported were misheard. They say what
was actually said was: “Do you really want to know?”, in response to Mr
Hoffman’s question, “Why don’t you let me speak?”. They say that Mr Hoffman was
unwelcome because of his views, not because of his Jewish
name.

Last updated: 12:34pm, December 6 2010

COMMENTS

Jonathan Hoffman

Sat, 12/19/2009 - 11:51

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Thanks to Raheem, I have now listened again (from 4.50). I say "I didn't interrupt you, why do you interrupt me?" Then immediately there is indeed an audible jeer of "Jew---ish!". Raheem is correct. (I didn't notice at the time because I was speaking and focussing on being heard, despite the tirade of hate).

I will be taking this further. Zero Tolerance to Antisemitism.

I have just returned from the inspirational Antisemitism Conference in Jerusalem with over 500 participants from 40 countries. The fact that so many good people are taking this problem so seriously speaks volumes.


dinski

Sat, 12/19/2009 - 11:58

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Well done Jonathan, you are a brave and noble man!

Interesting that they were shouting "Jewish" "not welcome here". I thought they were only against "Zionists". Quite clearly anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism (Judeophobia) a lot of the time.


Jonathan Hoffman

Sat, 12/19/2009 - 19:15

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I will be seeking a prosecution of SOAS under the Public Order Act


moshetzarfati2 (not verified)

Sat, 12/19/2009 - 19:18

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Hoffman gives Zionism a bad name. The anti-Zionist love him for it.


Jonathan Hoffman

Sat, 12/19/2009 - 19:22

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Troll alert - don't feed it


moshetzarfati2 (not verified)

Sat, 12/19/2009 - 19:25

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More cut-and-paste bullying from the anti-Zionists' favourite Zionist.


gbr101

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 14:35

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Speaking as someone who was in the room, I totally reject any examples of antisemitism that might be evidenced in the video, although I can only hear one lone voice. I'm positive that the vast majority of people in that room would feel the same, and whichever depraved individual felt it necessary to shout "Jewish" out at Hoffman is clearly quite stupid given the number of other (anti-Zionist) Jews in the room at the same time. That person should feel ashamed.

However, this article is as stupid as the person who shouted "Jewish" at the meeting. The article is wrong where it says Hoffman was told he wasn't welcome "after revealing his Jewish name" - it suggests people were jeering because he's Jewish. While that might have been the case for one unfortunate idiot we hear on the video, the rest of us were jeering because Hoffman is a well-known troll at Palestine meetings, and continues to come to them even though he truly ISN'T welcome. He's not welcome not because he's Jewish, but because he's the Vice-President of the racist Zionist Federation and his ill-informed views and intentional antagonism at such meetings serve no function but to try and rile people - presumably in hope of winning some stupid responses from individual members of audiences.

Zero tolerance for antisemitism, zero tolerance for idiocy, zero tolerance for Hoffman.

Good luck to him trying to prosecute SOAS, as if the college has ultimate control over every person who steps inside its doors (perhaps Hoffman wishes they would). He'll rightfully be laughed out of town.


DLeigh-Ellis

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 14:58

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I agree, Hoffman was shouted down because his name is well known amongst such circles, not because it 'sounds jewish.' I applaud him for attending the meeting, but not for trying to spin the inevitable antagonism in his own favour.

gbr101 speaks well, this article IS misleading.


AdamJ

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 15:03

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Not anti-semitic as the above poster suggests? Do me a favour! Of course it's anti-semitic. The evidence speaks for itself. At the mere mention of Jonathan Hoffman's name he is heckled and insulted as a "Jew". This exposes the fallacy that anti-Zionism and anti-semitism are completely separate issues. We are dealing with the "Jewish state" here and demonisation of Israel is (as is quite self-evident here) often a mere excuse to indirectly attack Jews.

The previous comment exposes a complete disregard for freedom of speech and expression that, as British citizens, we should all hold so dear. The snide tone of the post suggests Jonathan Hoffman is "not welcome" because he dares to express an alternative view. Thankfully, the JC are slightly more willing to entertain the notion that people are entitled to hold differing opinions. Indeed, Jonathan's question was completely legitimate. How can a convicted anti-semite possibly comment impartially on a debate regarding the Jewish state?

This is fantastic activism by Jonathan, and something that all Jews should be encouraged to do more of when defending Israel. The only way we can change Israel's image is by taking a pro-active rather than reactive stance.


DLeigh-Ellis

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 15:15

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-1 points

I stated already that I respected Hoffmans assertion to attend such a meeting.

Furthermore, i dont understand why my comment 'exposes a complete disregard for freedom of speech and expression.' If AdamJ were to read some of my other posts and blogs he would understand that is completely not what I stand for. The post may sound snide but that is because I have grown tired of Hoffmans often petty and disruptive presence on the comment boards of these blogs.

The problem is that people like Jonathan Hoffman and Melanie Philips (see my MP related blog post) cannot help but conflating anti-semitism and anti-zionism in their own minds.. Thus any attack on their pro-zionist position (to them) become also an ad hominum attack on their religion too.

But as I have already explained, (although, I concede it may sometimes be blurred around the edges,) the majority of Zionist critiques are not by nature anti-semetic too. 99% of Anti Zionists have no problem with Judaism, just a problem with repression of a people. And that, my friend, is a cause absolutely justified in fighting against.


AdamJ

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 15:34

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I was more referring to gbr101 than you, although I suppose you have endorsed his views. Would the latest incident be such an example of Mr Hoffman's disruptive behaviour?

I think whether criticism of Israel becomes anti-semitic is very much context dependent. Zionism is the belief that Jews have a right to self-determination and their homeland should be in Israel. This in itself is not objectionable. Thus demonisation which seeks to undermine or deny the very existence of Israel or singles it out with the aim of making it a pariah state is anti-semitic. Simply making the point (for example) that you disagree with its actions since 1967 is not.

I do not think that the anti-semitism in the video can be "explained" away as you seek to do. Here it is manifest and clear. The more appropriate action here would be to apologise for any offence caused and to ensure that next time the debate a) involves people who haven't been convicted of anti-semitism b) involves legitimate criticism rather than demonisation of Israel.

So to put this into practice,

"He's not welcome not because he's Jewish, but because he's the Vice-President of the racist Zionist Federation and his ill-informed views and intentional antagonism at such meetings serve no function but to try and rile people - presumably in hope of winning some stupid responses from individual members of audiences.."

Here the reason why Jonathan Hoffman's views are so objectionable is clear- because he disagrees with the poster. Further equating Zionism with racism is itself anti-semitic because it denies Jews the right to self-determination.


Jonathan Hoffman

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 15:41

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Look, the EUMC Definition of Antisemitism is absolutely clear. To call Israel a racist [or apartheid] state is antisemitic. So the whole premise of this meeting was antisemitic. Kasrils and Matsuku and the others were invited by BRICUP in order to make the 'apartheid' comparison and of course they obliged.

Additionally there was the chant of 'Jewish' directed at me.

Such meetings have no place in civilised society. Antisemitism starts with Jews but never ends with Jews. There must be zero tolerance to it.


DLeigh-Ellis

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 15:42

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I agree with a lot of your sentiments, but the base assertion that Jews living in Israel is unobjectionable is trickier... Of course I believe that Jews have the right to live in Israel. The problem is that this has been achieved often to the detriment of those living there.

Forget politics for a moment, the fact of the matter is that two peoples who tolerated each other for several thousand years how now been forced into conflict by being squeezed between the forces of Arab manipulation and Israeli government militarism.

Simply on a human level, it should be obvious that this is wrong. Lives, and the quality of life for all those in the region has suffered as a result. The debate over whether anti-zionism is anti-semitism or not detracts from the actual human catastrophe that is currently taking place.... and partly due to this it serves as ammunition for the anti-zionists who claim they are being stifled for 'racism' as a result.

We need to be addressing the root issue, not whining calls for attention by chracters such as Hoffman.


Jonathan Hoffman

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 15:51

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@D Leigh-Ellis

I am not 'trying to spin the inevitable antagonism in my own favour.'

I did not even hear the chant of 'Jewish' until it was pointed out to me. Having heard it - yes, I am not prepared to let it ride - why should I ?

Imagine that a Muslim or a Black attends a BNP meeting.There they encounter racism. They complain. Are they also 'spinning the inevitable antagonism in their own favour?'

And why do you assume that meetings about Israel and the Palestinians have to invitably turn racist towards an Israel-supporting Jew who attends?

Isn't that assumption itself the most appalling indictment of the nature of these meetings?


AdamJ

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 15:57

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Again- the "whining" call line demonstrates your contempt towards someone who asks a legitimate question. The debate about whether anti-Zionism is anti-semitism is relevant (even though there is no debate in my mind) because it colours the entire understanding and context of the debate. If the debate is entered into on the premise that Israel has no right to exist then this is obviously going influence one's views as to the correctness of their behaviour, or to which side moral blame is ascribed to.

Unfortunately, the issue is not quite as simple as its "human level". Both sides have legitimate grievances which have to be worked through before the "human catastrophe" is solved. This is a debate for another time. However, these kind of outbursts captured on film CANNOT be tolerated.


DLeigh-Ellis

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 16:07

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I agree, and if Mr Hoffman has a complaint then it should be made according to the correct channels, ie directly to SOAS.

What I object to is the whole 'poor me, I was jeered' attitude... Of course Adam, I have no problem with him asking the question... And I think the way he is shouted down is willfully ignorant and abhorrent too. However, the problem is that a Jew complaining of anti-semetism has become almost an anti-semetic stereotype in its own way... and terrible as this may be we have to work such a manner of thinking into how we tackle anti-semitism. If people already believe that jews control the media and stifle any anti-israeli criticism, then making this into a court case , will only legitimise such stereotypes in the myths and minds of those present at the meeting, thus building up the issue to strike again.


AdamJ

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 16:18

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Yes- that's quite right. Enforcing statutorily guaranteed rights for exactly this purpose would further the cause of those who seek to demonise Jews...

I simply don't understand why first, the question was not treated with the respect it was due and second answered properly. Jeering is NOT the appropriate response in this situation, especially of this nature. I find your unrepentant statements here startling. The proper procedure is to have a rational debate, unless of course the question caught the audience off guard and was one they simply couldn't answer because of its obvious implications.

The point here is that there WAS anti-semitism. I completely agree that criticism of Israel can be legitimate, but here I think an assertive stance is the correct one. Unfortunately a line has been crossed. This is not about stifling debate, this is about stifling blatant discrimination.


DLeigh-Ellis

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 16:23

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I agree... But the problem is that when it is spun by those such as Hoffman, the question of its genuine status is confusing because he shouts so loud about everything, writing things like:

' To call Israel a racist [or apartheid] state is antisemitic. So the whole premise of this meeting was antisemitic.'

He allows his viewpoint of anti zionism as intrinsically anti semetic to cloud his agenda... ultimately wasting a lot of time.

Mr Hoffman, as I have said, many times before... criticising a state and its political agenda, is not criticism of the religion of the population, furthermore one is not a bad jew because one chooses to criticise the questionable actions of a Jewish regime.


AdamJ

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 16:26

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That's not a problem in my book. The EU, as Mr. Hoffman has demonstrated, consider that defining Israel as a racist or apartheid state, is anti-semitic. If he were making baseless and spiteful claims I would understand. But he's not, he's simply making claims you disagree with. And for this, you believe he deserves to be jeered. There is something intrinsically wrong with this.


Jonathan Hoffman

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 16:53

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@DLeigh-Ellis

I wish you would stick to the facts and not your prejudice.

I never said 'poor me, I was jeered'. And saying that it is antisemitic to call Israel a racist state is not 'shouting', it is simply what the EUMC Definition says.

Again - A Muslim or a Black attends a BNP meeting.There they encounter racism. They complain. Are they also 'spinning the inevitable antagonism in their own favour?' and 'shouting so loud'?

Presumably you pride yourself on being an antiracist. Why is it OK for Muslims and blacks to complain when they are the victims of racism but not for Jews to complain?


DLeigh-Ellis

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 17:11

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I never said it was not OK for jews to complain, the reference to shouting does not refer to your statement but to the monotony in what you have been going on about since i signed up to these boards.

The attitudes displayed in the SOAS meeting are clearly demonstrated in the video... That is all there needs to be.... My point is you seem more concerned with making cries of anti-semitism than dealing with the injustices in Israel that are the main cause for the modern wave of anti-jewish feeling.

My personal belief is that we should be tackling the roots of the cause with the aim to remedy it.... Rather than just dealing with the incidents that are reactions to the orginal issue...

Please dont do sematics with me, Mr Hoffman, the fact that I wrote 'shouted' is a minor point compared with the clear confusion you demonstrate in your conflation of religious and political spheres.

Ultimately, Mr Hoffmans stance against anti-semitism would be far more admirable if it were tempered with an ability to perceive that the Israelis are not the only victims in the middle east conflict. Defining Israel as an apartheid state may be technically untrue, but it represents the manner in which the public feel that having institutionalised second class citizens is wholly unjust in this day and age. Therefore, using the word 'apartheid' is tolerable. Especially if we continue to refer to Palestinian fighters as 'terrorists,' when many are fighting for no more than their home. Apartheid was definitely worse than Israeli policy, but all fundamentalist roads are slippery slopes... Who knows if ten years down the line, the Palestinians may be treated more like blacks in SA.... And this is exactly why we must act now to show how such treatment is wrong..... Arguing over the semantics of the word 'apartheid' completely miss the point!


Jonathan Hoffman

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 17:35

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I 'conflate' nothing. This thread is not about the peace process, it is about antisemitism. Please stick to the subject and moreover do it without veering into antisemitic dioscourse ('apartheid').

To help you, the Definition is here:

http://fra.europa.eu/fraWebsite/material/pub/AS/AS-WorkingDefinition-dra...

You falsely accused me of 'spinning the inevitable antagonism in my own favour' and 'shouting so loud'. And the inevitable "conflating anti-semitism and anti-zionism in his own mind".

You really need learn how to debate without imposing your prejudices. Then people might take you a bit more seriously.


DLeigh-Ellis

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 17:59

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I will take on board what you have said, I have always tried to be optimistic and unprejudiced in my posts but if you believe I have failed in such a regard I will reconsider how I approach certain subjects...

But judging by the feedback that I have had on this board and elsewhere I think that people take what I say fairly seriously.

But you must accept that your own debating techniques can stifle discussion too, perhaps you should engage with those who your own prejudice has blocked you from debating with previously. Perhaps your practice of stonewalling and shouting 'troll' is preventing many from considering you too as a serious voice


AdamJ

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 17:59

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"My point is you seem more concerned with making cries of anti-semitism than dealing with the injustices in Israel that are the main cause for the modern wave of anti-jewish feeling."

First- Jews, especially in Britain are not responsible for Israeli policy and in reality can do very little to influence even if they may (or may not) support it. What you have effectively admitted it that many equate (perceived) illegal activities of the Israeli state with Jews in this country and feel carte blanche to verbally abuse them (or even worse) as a result of this. Even if individual members of the Jewish community may support Israeli actions, this is in no way acceptable. However, there is a wide amount of discourse within the Jewish community as to Israel's actions, as there is in Israel itself.

To even compare Israel to an apartheid state is disingenuous and pernicious. There is no evidence conditions are worsening, indeed, as terrorism has stopped in the West Bank, conditions have improved, which may tell you something. I think your unwillingness to describe Hamas, Hizbollah et al as terrorists also reveals your innate prejudice and fundamental misunderstanding of the situation. Indeed one wonders if you have studied the history of the conflict at all.


DLeigh-Ellis

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 18:20

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I have studied Israel and lived there, I have seen the effects of the conflict on families and individuals on both side ... I am qualfied enough as anyone here to put my viewpoint across.

I did not refer to Hizbullah at all, and that is the point, you naturally go to 'et all' and then jump to conclusions about my political position. What I have been trying to put forward all along, is that it is not unreasonable for a people who just happened to live where another people also called home to want to prevent the loss of their land and the potential of cultural erosion. I certainly do not endorse murder on any side, but I feel as if I can empathise with their grief as well as with the Israeli. This conflict has been raging for longer than my entire life and for most of my parents. The only way to prevent passing it onto my own children is to engage in serious dialogue and move beyond this decades-old military standoff. Ruling Israeli military action as legal defence and branding all forms of Palestinian armed nationalism as terrorists, and thus having a reason to ignore some of the more legitimate humanitarian concerns is getting old. Both sides have behaved without dignity on many occasions.

I agree that the comparison of Israel as apartheid is warped, but I was just pointing out that it is possible based on a certain criteria, which may for many people would be more subjective. I would definitely accept that it is a comparison akin to the godwins law phenomenon.

Sorry, I just remembered that Jonathan pointed out that this thread was not about the peace process. So perhaps this discussion should end or continue elsewhere.


AdamJ

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 18:33

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I do not question your experience, merely your understanding. The "apartheid" reference is objectively unacceptable because of its negative connotations. It is a term purely designed to demonise Israel and create the impression it is a pariah state.

As for your other points- we shall have to agree to disagree because as you correctly point out it is slightly off topic, although I suppose it was inevitable it would be discussed because it underlies everything said. If I brought Hezbollah into this, I think this was a natural reaction as you were hardly specific about which groups you were referring to...


Jonathan Hoffman

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 18:41

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"you seem more concerned with making cries of anti-semitism than dealing with the injustices in Israel"

You are stereotyping me on the basis of your prejudices. You have no idea what my views are on the peace process.

You have no idea for example that as soon as I found out about the torching of the mosque at Kfar Yasuf I wrote this:

http://www.hurryupharry.org/2009/12/12/sub-humans-commit-an-appalling-cr...


ebony

Thu, 01/21/2010 - 00:48

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I have just returned from the inspirational Antisemitism Conference in Jerusalem with over 500 participants from 40 countries. The fact that so many good people are taking this problem so seriously speaks volumes.

With respect, James-


between

Sat, 03/06/2010 - 22:20

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Exceptional blog. You constantly write a intriguing blog post. Thanks!

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