Showing posts with label Zionism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Zionism. Show all posts

Friday, 19 February 2010

Gerry Caplan satirises the Rights & Democracy affair

Gerry Caplan's column in the Globe and Mail has taken on the Harper government's patronizing attempt to pander to the Jewish community for several months now.

Stephen Harper and the Jewish question published in December examined the irony of Jewish neoconservatives cozying up to evangelical anti-Semites, the Tory 10%ers accusing opposition parties of anti-Semitism and the cancellation of Kairos' grant.

His followup, Is the Harper government playing the anti-Semitic card? hammered the point home:

Real enemies of anti-Semitism do not throw the term around recklessly.

In the United States, the leading Jewish neoconservatives made an unholy alliance with evangelical Protestants whose ultimate vision was a Jew-free world–-Hitler's demented goal finally realized. What they had in common was support for the state of Israel–at least for the moment.

Are Canadian Jews now going to be seduced by a government that uses anti-Semitism for political reasons? That maliciously accuses decent men and women of being anti-Semitic? That identifies legitimate, democratic criticism of Israeli governments with anti-Semitism?
Caplan's latest piece, What every office needs to succeed in Harper's Canada is a biting satirical look at the attack on Rights & Democracy "because it thought Palestinians should have the same rights as all other people" and the bizarre inquisition by Haperite appointee Jacques Gauthier into the religious proclivities of R&D staff.

In a confidential evaluation of the organization's late executive director, Mr. Gauthier pointedly noted the perhaps telltale absence of Jews on staff, apparently a serious dereliction of duty.


How Mr. Gauthier learned that no Jew was employed by R & D is not yet clear. Suspiciously enough, R & D does not ask the religion of its employees. Often in the past Jewishness has been established by what's discreetly called the urinal test, although this technique doesn't really apply to women while also failing to distinguish telltale characteristics among Muslims, Jews and certain African ethnic groups. Mr. Gauthier brought a private investigator into the R & D office last year, although he was introduced as "a business associate" and his function wasn't explained. Bitter R & D staff, believe the stranger was expected to lead the urinal patrol in order to determine Jewishness. Isn't that what a private eye is for?

Businesses, NGOs and other institutions that are now frantically beating the bushes for unemployed Jews have a major challenge ahead of them. The first problem is that the Jewish employment rate is notoriously high. Many complain that you can never find a Jew when you need one. Then there's the vexing question of whether one is enough, a question that has befuddled Canadians for many decades.

It is understood that the Harper government is about to set up a special Number of Jews Bureau, to be known as the NUJ. It will report to Jason Kenney, the minister responsible for smearing anyone who disagrees with his cheerleading support of the Israeli government. The new bureau will be tasked with devising a formula to determine the necessary number of Jews each group needs on staff to meet the new criteria, and will house the inspectors who will be going from organization to organization across the land counting the number of Jewish employees. It is anticipated that synagogues will be exempt from inspection.

Among the trickier issue the NUJ must quickly deal with is whether the Jewish quota applies to the government. Believe it or not, it seems that no one knows for certain how many Jews sit in the government caucus or the cabinet, and there are too few urinals to do a test.

Mr. Kenney is not only responsible for the electoral seduction of Canada's credulous Jews. He is also Mr. Harper's main weapon in the wooing of Hindus, Sikhs, Persians, Koreans, Eastern Orthodox Christians, carefully selected Muslims, and countless other minorities. Here is where the new system faces certain tricky issues. How many Jews must your average mosque or Hindu temple or church employ to meet the government's new Jewish criteria?

And what will Punjabis, Armenians, Buddhists, Chinese and certain carefully selected Muslims think if they must hire Jews but other organizations need not hire, say, Punjabis, Armenians, Buddhists, Chinese and certain carefully selected Muslims? After all, they might reasonably ask, how many Punjabis etc. etc. etc. does the B’nai Brith, for example, employ? Mr. Harper's entire ethnic strategy might be jeopardized if this sensitive issue is not handled delicately.

The obvious answer, of course, is perfectly consonant with one of Canada's great conceits – our multicultural character. Yet in truth, outside public transportation and some malls, our many communities remain substantially segregated. Here is the means to make mythology reality. Every Canadian organization would have to have at least a certain number of employees from each of our ethnic/racial/religious/cultural groups. It's a magical solution for Canada's serious unemployment problem, since a good number of the unemployed happen to be members of these groups.

One downside of this solution is that Jewish organizations are expected to complain bitterly that the government has begun listening to other interests. Mr. Harper and Mr. Kenney are expected to discuss this conundrum later this week.
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Friday, 13 November 2009

Holocaust survivors vs B'nai Brith Canada

One of the things I find most offensive is when people trivialize the Holocaust by making specious analogies to it for political purposes. It bothers me when the left does it as well as the right. Unfortunately, there is a growing trend among Zionist groups and the Israeli government to engage in this practice. Over the years, Yassir Arafat, Hamas, Saddam Hussein, Ahmadinejad have all been compared to Hilter and there've been warnnings that another Holocaust is around the corner if they are not stopped. Of course, Zionist politicians don't stop there, they've even compared each other to Hitler and/or the Nazis, whether it's Ben Gurion referring to right wing Revisionist Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky as "Vladimir Hilter" or right wing Zionist spraypainting the words "Yitzhak Rabin = Hitler" near the slain leader's memorial.

The increasingly comical fringe group, B'nai Brith Canada, is the latest group to engage in the practice of insulting Shoa survivors by taking out a full page ad in the National Post comparing Muslims to Nazis earning them a strong rebuke from Holocaust survivors as reported in this article by the Jewish Telegraphic Association press service:

B’nai Brith ad raises survivors’ ire
November 12, 2009

TORONTO (JTA) -- A full-page newspaper ad placed by B'nai Brith Canada that equated radical Islam with Nazism has raised the ire of Holocaust survivors and a group that promotes Jewish-Muslim ties.

Headlined "The Unholy Alliance," the ad, which ran in the Nov. 9 edition of the pro-Israel National Post, noted the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the widespread pogroms in Germany on the night on Nov. 8-9, 1938. It showed a photograph of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem meeting with Adolf Hitler, and noted the "common objectives of Nazism and radical Islam: Killing Canadian men and women on the battlefield, incitement of children through schools and media, annihilation of world Jewry, and subjugation of every one else, [and] world domination."

The ad solicited tax-deductible donations to B'nai B'rith Canada.

The topic of open line radio shows and hundreds of blog postings, the ad drew an irate response from the group Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors. "We survivors have fought everybody that tries to trivialize the Shoah. We get very, very angry when it is done by Jewish leaders. I think that they should know better," said the organization's co-president, Sidney Zoltak.

It is "horrible for a survivor to hear that anybody is compared to the evil of the leaders of Nazism," Zoltak said, but added: "We can see clearly the danger of extremism in the Muslim world. We have to be vigilant. We know what can happen when we become indifferent. [But] to compare the situation between now and then is not healthy. I'm upset about it."

Barbara Landau, co-chair of the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims, questioned the ad's timing two days before Remembrance Day and in advance of the second annual Weekend of Twinning of Synagogues and Mosques. "My first thought was 'why?'" she said. "It was so distressing."

B'nai B'rith Executive Vice President Frank Dimant defended the ad, saying positive reaction to it outweighed the negative by "about 80 to 20. It seems there are a lot of people out there who are waiting for this kind of strong messaging."

Dimant said the ad was "intended to wake people up." He alluded to Iran's threats against Israel as a possible "future holocaust unless we stop it. I don't think any survivor will say that these people are not speaking about the genocide of the Jewish people."
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Saturday, 30 May 2009

Censoring Israel's critics

I was going to write something on B'nai Brith's attempt to have Queers Against Apartheid banned from this year's Pride Parade and tie it together with other recent attempts to censor opinion on Israel - namely the shameful blacklisting of artist Reena Katz by the Canadian Jewish Congress/United Jewish Appeal affiliated Koffler Centre, B'nai Brith's attempt to have Seven Jewish Children banned in Toronto, Peter Shurman's attempt to have the Ontario legislature censure Israel Apartheid Week, protests against York's upcoming conference on one and two state solutions to the Israel/Palestine conflict etc... and then I saw Antonia Zerbisias' brilliant post on her Broadside blog which expands and annotates her recent column on the QuAIA affair. I will try to write something of my own soon but at the moment I have little to add to what Antonia's said so take a look.
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Sunday, 24 May 2009

Turnout for "Walk with Israel" down again!

Anyone who doubts that support for Israel among Canadian Jews is dropping need only to look at the turnout for Toronto's annual "Walk with Israel" - the Toronto United Jewish Appeal's major fundraiser for the year. The intensification of pro-Israel advocacy efforts and mounting shrillness on Israel by the Canadian Jewish Congress has not resulted in a deepening of feeling for Israel by Jews. Rather, the horrors of the Gaza conflict has caused a growing number of Jews to question Israeli policies or at least doubt them enough not to come running when self-appointed leaders of the community come calling. This year about half as many answered the UJA/CJC's call as did four years ago.

Walk with Israel (Toronto) turnout:

2006 - 20,000

2008 - 15,000

2009 - 12,000

In a related item, the Toronto Star yesterday published an excellent piece on the 90th anniversary of the Canadian Jewish Congress - highlighting the fact that the CJC is out of touch with a large segment of the Jewish community because of it's narrow pro-Israel stance:

Has Jewish group forgotten its roots? Critics say Canadian Jewish Congress has clout in top circles, but not in community
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Sunday, 10 May 2009

Complain to Koffler Centre's financial backers for their blacklisting of an anti-Zionist Jewish artist

According to Koffler's website the CIBC is a major financial backer of the Koffler Centre. If Koffler is going to attack, slander and blacklist Jewish artists think it's a good idea to complain to Koffler's funders for their actions (they also receive taxpayer money) as they are inconsistent with the basic rights of artists.

Date: Sun, May 10, 2009 at 11:53 AM
Subject: To CIBC Wood Gundy re your financial support of the Koffler Centre
To: client.relations@cibc.ca
Cc: ceckert@kofflerarts.org, lstarr@kofflerarts.org


Dear CIBC,

It is my understanding that you are a major financial supporter of the Koffler Centre. While it is admirable that you are trying to contribute to the cultural and artistic community I suggest you reconsider your support of this particular institution given their blacklisting of Jewish artist Reena Katz not for her art but for her personal political views and associations. This oppressive behaviour by Koffler and their attack on the right of artists to their political beliefs and their right of free association is inconsistent with basic artistic values and renders them unworthy of support.

For more information on Koffler's discreditable conduct please see this article in Sunday's Toronto Star (pasted below):
Kensington Market exhibit stirs controversy among Jews

Yours truly,
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Koffler Centre persecutes Jewish artist



On May 8, the Koffler Centre for the Arts issued a press release announcing that they are "disassociating themselves" from an art exhibition by Toronto artist Reena Katz which is being installed at Kensington Market later this month. They are rejecting Katz not for the content of her work but because of her personal political beliefs, namely "Reena Katz’s public support for and association with Israel Apartheid Week." This is nothing less than blacklisting and the Koffler Centre should be ashamed of itself, particularly when one considers not only the number of Jewish artists and performers who suffered due to McCarthyist blacklisting in the 1950s but also the generations of Jews, in the arts as well as in the professions and various trades, who were denied employment not because of the quality or content of their work but because of their personal beliefs.

According to the Koffler Centre's press release
"As a Jewish cultural institution, an agency of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, the Koffler Centre of the Arts will not associate with an artist who publicly advocates the extinction of Israel as a Jewish state. The Koffler considers the existence and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state to be one of its core values." Katz replies in an article in today's Toronto Star saying, "I have said that I'm an anti-Zionist Jew. So they are conflating the state of Israel with Zionism. I'm speaking to an ideology when I speak about Zionism. They're speaking about a Jewish state."

Partisans of the UJA, CJC and B'nai Brith like pretend that Jewish critics of Israel are either assimilated Jews who reject their heritage and only speak out against Zionism so they can gain acceptance from the non-Jewish left or are, worse, apostates, the fact is that opposition to Zionism within the Jewish community is as old and as established as Zionism itself and that the most adamant of Zionism's Jewish opponents base their opposition on religious grounds. Others do so based on Jewish philisophical traditions of humanitarianism and universalism.

Reena Katz is one of the most Jewish people I've met. Her work is infused with Jewish sensibilities and themes. She is not only a visual and sonic artist but a musician who fronted the Klemzer band Promegranate for a number of years. She describes her upcoming exhibit as a(n) homage to my Jewish roots and the Jewish roots of Kensington Market." The Koffler Centre recognized this as well. According to their now removed write up of the event (still available online thank's to Google's cache feature):

each hand as they are called reflects on Toronto’s Kensington Market as the vibrant site of multiple public cultural histories, layered with personal stories and fragmented by the movement of time. Katz approaches the culture of the Market through the lens of her own memory and experience of Kensington, coming out as a young, politically engaged, queer woman. Taking the ephemeral nature of experience in urban space to heart, through a series of solo and collaborative performances, temporary installations, community projects and public posters, Katz works with the notion of transition and movement. each hand as they are called captures the spirit of the Market on any given day, filled with passing but memorable vignettes.

Roaming, live vocal performances insert an experimental soundtrack of assimilation, anachronism and hybridity into the urban landscape of the Market. Based on the jazz-fusion music of Yiddish speaking sister duos from the 60s, Katz’s haunting compositions are a combination of popular music, Yiddish classics and jazz, composed backwards for female duets. The resulting absurdist vocals create a hybrid language of calls and beckoning within the Market streetscape.

A community-based component of the project involves Katz working with residents from the Terraces at Baycrest and grade eight students from Ryerson Community Public School. Together, their working process will highlight Kensington as the important meeting point of Jewish and Chinese culture through the game of Mah Jongg, a game originating in East Asian communities which migrated and was popularized with North American Jewish women during the 1920s. The project culminates in a public day of inter-generational Mah Jongg in the Market’s Bellevue Park on June 7 (rain date: June 14).

In addition, Katz performs solo against the backdrop of Kensington Market’s tense relationship to urban development. At odd and unexpected hours, she will be seen working on temporary structures, building and deconstructing scaffolding in previously undisclosed locations. Katz’s scaffold performances gesture to the incredible labour history of the area, positioning the act of construction as obstruction and to memory itself as construct.

While each of Katz’s performative and social gestures are ephemeral, each hand as they are called will have a constant presence in the market through a series of interrelated street posters, designed by Katz in collaboration with award winning designer and artist Cecilia Berkovic. The posters provide additional context for the project while inserting a distinct visual presence amongst the eclectic mix of band-posters, announcements about lost pets, and other posted ephemera populating the Market.
Reena Katz isn't being blacklisted because her views on Israel somehow make her anti-Semitic (they don't), she's being blacklisted because she is too Jewish for the Koffler Centre and the United Jewish Appeal.

To complain about this outrage email the following people: lstarr@kofflerarts.org, ceckert@kofflerarts.org, thewer@kofflerarts.org, tliederman@kofflerarts.org, ishohat@kofflerarts.org, etauben@kofflerarts.org,

This is what Reena has to say on the matter:



Dear friends, family, comrades and colleagues;

Most of you know that I've been working on a site-specific commission for the Koffler Gallery in Kensington Market, set to open on May 20th. Kim Simon is an independent curator, who found me and proposed my work to the Koffler last year. She has been my main creative (and now political) ally in the process.

Today, at 9am Kim and I were informed by Lori Starr (Koffler executive director) and Mona Philip (Koffler curator) that the Koffler is disassociating from the exhibition: removing their name and URL's from any further outreach materials, exhibition posters and press.

Why?
Their Board of Directors, along with their major funder - The UJA of Greater Toronto - has decided that they "will not associate with an artist who publicly advocates the extinction of Israel as a Jewish state".

In our meeting with Lori and Mona this morning, it was made clear that their decision is based on my involvement specifically with Israeli Apartheid Week. Lori was explicit that it isn't me they object to, but the public statements I've made on behalf of specific organizations. Seeing this as a moment of potential change, I proposed a meeting with their Board, in which I would explain the true mandate of Israeli Apartheid Week, CAIA, and the Jewish Women's Committee to End the Occupation - now known as Women in Solidarity with Palestine.

Why now?
A year ago, Kim asked Mona directly if Koffler would have a problem showing my work considering my solidarity with Palestine. Mona was clear that since the project didn't deal with the issue, Koffler would stand behind it. Indeed, after a year of having access to my website, CV, Facebook page and any Google search results, it wasn't until this week that they chose to look at my Facebook page, and found a link to Israel Apartheid Week.

What the?
This weekend, I am working with Kim Simon, the independent curator on the project to respond to Koffler's press release (click on it to link there) with our own press release in response. It's evident they are acting out of fear. Fear of critique of Israel from within the Jewish community, fear of the repercussions of standing by an artist who is affiliated with justice for Palestinians.

Nu, so, what now?
They have offered to continue the project's $20,000 funding - without attaching to it institutionally in any way. An interesting proposal indeed. The project is quite extensive, and involves youth from Ryerson Community Public School, Seniors from Baycrest Centre, The Element Choir, solo vocalists and a number of stores, homes and cultural institutions in Kensington Market. Of course, I don't want to cancel the project but feel very uncertain at this time of how I want to proceed with it. Kim and I are putting thought to this, and plan to have a decision on Sunday. I am interested in taking this up politically, and strategizing around the best way to do that.

Until then, I would greatly appreciate your support in sending the Koffler messages. This is clearly an attempt by a mainstream Jewish institutions to stifle dissent within our community, and the art world in general. Please cc me on anything you send. Also, talk about it to anyone you know - especially arts organizations and their members. I'll be in touch soon with our press release.

With love and justice,
Reena


And here is an excellent letter from activist Henry Lowi:

To: lstarr@kofflerarts.org
Subject: Reena Katz unfairly targetted by Koffler Centre
Date: Sat, 9 May 2009 22:28:12 +0000

Lori Starr,

Executive Director, Koffler Centre of the Arts

Dear Ms Starr:

I read your announcement about the Reena Katz exhibition.[i]

I have known Reena Katz since she was a teacher in a Jewish Sunday School. I consulted her many years ago about violin lessons for my daughter. She referred us to the best violin teacher in Toronto.

I am well aware of Reena’s activism in solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine. I know that Reena is motivated by an acute consciousness of the history of Jewish suffering and persecution (and culture!), and a commitment that “Never Again!”, to anyone, anywhere.

Despite the Koffler mandate, [ii] you are taking sides in a political issue. Your position is symptomatic of a kind of panic that is overtaking pro-Zionist organizations. Your panic is based on the painful awareness that you have placed yourselves on the side of injustice and oppression, an uncomfortable position for a Jew to inhabit.

The atrocity committed recently by the State of Israel against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip has drawn the attention of the whole world. It is well documented. [iii] It has been compared to the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa.[iv] The whole world has seen how the Palestinians -- virtually unarmed, isolated, and poorly led -- are being systematically massacred by a well-armed military power that enjoys unlimited military, political and economic support.[v] Strong feelings of solidarity have been aroused.

You are untouched by those feelings of solidarity.

Most Jewish community organizations remained silent in the face of the atrocities and the ongoing blockade of Gaza. Unfortunately for you, all decent people, all lovers of humanity noticed the silence of the Jewish organizations. Fortunately, all also noticed that Jewish dissidents -- Righteous Jews, upholders of our traditions of struggle against injustice -- spoke out.[vi][vi(b)]

Reena Katz is one of those Jewish dissidents.

The Jewish community is split. The split will deepen. On one side, you will find those who uphold the values of solidarity, decency, culture, and human rights. On the other side will be the supporters of murder, racism, and apartheid. All will have to choose their side,

You have chosen your side.

By dissociating yourselves from Reena Katz’s artistic work, for political reasons, you are engaging in a form of cultural boycott. As you know, progressive Palestinian grassroots popular organizations have called for a boycott of Israeli cultural and academic institutions.[vii] Peace-seeking Israelis support the boycott.[viii][viii(b)] Solidarity-minded Canadians, like author Naomi Klein, support the boycott.[ix] Faced with the boycott, Zionist apologists howl about “singling out Israelis because they are Israelis”, “anti-Semitism”, and the like.[x] They lie.

The Zionists lie, but they are in a panic. Fewer and fewer people are impressed by Zionist lies. More and more are impressed by the inevitable parallels between Israel’s genocidal conduct and the conduct of other oppressive regimes.

Solidarity with Palestine will grow, while disdain for Zionism and its supporters will grow.

You are singling out Reena Katz because she is a decent human being who speaks out against the oppression of fellow human beings. You have done so very publicly, making it very clear where you stand, and with whom you stand.

Reena Katz’s Israeli and Palestinian comrades pay a heavy price for their activism.[xi],[xii],[xiii],[xiv] They know that justice is on their side. They will win. Palestine will be free. Arts and culture will flourish. Jews and Arabs will live together, in peace, as equals.

Regards,

Henry Lowi


And go see the show at Kensington Market beginning May 20!
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Thursday, 16 April 2009

Is the Canada-Israel Committee spying on the left?

It would seem so according to a CIC document obtained by Dr. Dawg which outlines a 2008 plan by the CIC to monitor and attempt to discredit Palestinian supporters. This is somewhat reminiscent of the scanadal several years ago when the US Anti-Defamation League was found to be spying on the left.
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Monday, 16 March 2009

Zionism is the problem

Here's an excellent op-ed from Sunday's LA Times:

Zionism is the problem

The Zionist ideal of a Jewish state is keeping Israelis and Palestinians from living in peace.
By Ben Ehrenreich
March 15, 2009
It's hard to imagine now, but in 1944, six years after Kristallnacht, Lessing J. Rosenwald, president of the American Council for Judaism, felt comfortable equating the Zionist ideal of Jewish statehood with "the concept of a racial state -- the Hitlerian concept." For most of the last century, a principled opposition to Zionism was a mainstream stance within American Judaism.

Even after the foundation of Israel, anti-Zionism was not a particularly heretical position. Assimilated Reform Jews like Rosenwald believed that Judaism should remain a matter of religious rather than political allegiance; the ultra-Orthodox saw Jewish statehood as an impious attempt to "push the hand of God"; and Marxist Jews -- my grandparents among them -- tended to see Zionism, and all nationalisms, as a distraction from the more essential struggle between classes.

To be Jewish, I was raised to believe, meant understanding oneself as a member of a tribe that over and over had been cast out, mistreated, slaughtered. Millenniums of oppression that preceded it did not entitle us to a homeland or a right to self-defense that superseded anyone else's. If they offered us anything exceptional, it was a perspective on oppression and an obligation born of the prophetic tradition: to act on behalf of the oppressed and to cry out at the oppressor.

For the last several decades, though, it has been all but impossible to cry out against the Israeli state without being smeared as an anti-Semite, or worse. To question not just Israel's actions, but the Zionist tenets on which the state is founded, has for too long been regarded an almost unspeakable blasphemy.

Yet it is no longer possible to believe with an honest conscience that the deplorable conditions in which Palestinians live and die in Gaza and the West Bank come as the result of specific policies, leaders or parties on either side of the impasse. The problem is fundamental: Founding a modern state on a single ethnic or religious identity in a territory that is ethnically and religiously diverse leads inexorably either to politics of exclusion (think of the 139-square-mile prison camp that Gaza has become) or to wholesale ethnic cleansing. Put simply, the problem is Zionism.

It has been argued that Zionism is an anachronism, a leftover ideology from the era of 19th century romantic nationalisms wedged uncomfortably into 21st century geopolitics. But Zionism is not merely outdated. Even before 1948, one of its basic oversights was readily apparent: the presence of Palestinians in Palestine. That led some of the most prominent Jewish thinkers of the last century, many of them Zionists, to balk at the idea of Jewish statehood. The Brit Shalom movement -- founded in 1925 and supported at various times by Martin Buber, Hannah Arendt and Gershom Scholem -- argued for a secular, binational state in Palestine in which Jews and Arabs would be accorded equal status. Their concerns were both moral and pragmatic. The establishment of a Jewish state, Buber feared, would mean "premeditated national suicide."

The fate Buber foresaw is upon us: a nation that has lived in a state of war for decades, a quarter-million Arab citizens with second-class status and more than 5 million Palestinians deprived of the most basic political and human rights. If two decades ago comparisons to the South African apartheid system felt like hyperbole, they now feel charitable. The white South African regime, for all its crimes, never attacked the Bantustans with anything like the destructive power Israel visited on Gaza in December and January, when nearly1,300 Palestinians were killed, one-third of them children.

Israeli policies have rendered the once apparently inevitable two-state solution less and less feasible. Years of Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have methodically diminished the viability of a Palestinian state. Israel's new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has even refused to endorse the idea of an independent Palestinian state, which suggests an immediate future of more of the same: more settlements, more punitive assaults.

All of this has led to a revival of the Brit Shalom idea of a single, secular binational state in which Jews and Arabs have equal political rights. The obstacles are, of course, enormous. They include not just a powerful Israeli attachment to the idea of an exclusively Jewish state, but its Palestinian analogue: Hamas' ideal of Islamic rule. Both sides would have to find assurance that their security was guaranteed. What precise shape such a state would take -- a strict, vote-by-vote democracy or a more complex federalist system -- would involve years of painful negotiation, wiser leaders than now exist and an uncompromising commitment from the rest of the world, particularly from the United States.

Meanwhile, the characterization of anti-Zionism as an "epidemic" more dangerous than anti-Semitism reveals only the unsustainability of the position into which Israel's apologists have been forced. Faced with international condemnation, they seek to limit the discourse, to erect walls that delineate what can and can't be said.

It's not working. Opposing Zionism is neither anti-Semitic nor particularly radical. It requires only that we take our own values seriously and no longer, as the book of Amos has it, "turn justice into wormwood and hurl righteousness to the ground."

Establishing a secular, pluralist, democratic government in Israel and Palestine would of course mean the abandonment of the Zionist dream. It might also mean the only salvation for the Jewish ideals of justice that date back to Jeremiah.

Ben Ehrenreich is the author of the novel "The Suitors."
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Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Jason Cherniak's anti-Semitism

In the comments section of my previous post cuddly ex-blogger Jason Cherniak wrongly claims that the political cartoon I posted is anti-Semitic. His argument is premised on the blood libel, an ancient anti-Semitic canard in which local Jews would be falsely accused of the ritual murder of Christians (usually children) in order to use human blood for the baking of matzos or as part of a religious ceremony. The blood libel was patently absurd since there is an abhorrence of blood in the Jewish religion - the reason for instance why in order to make meat kosher a butcher has to use salt to purge every last drop of blood from it. Thus the suggestion that Jews would actually use blood as part of a recipe for unleavened bread and consume it is literally anathema to actual Jewish dietary laws. Worse, these false claims were often pretexts to pogroms or other violent and often murderous attacks on Jews.

Ok, so now you know what blood libel is. Below is the cartoon in question:



Jason Cherniak responds to this cartoon by saying "What a picture. Glad to know that the blood libel still lives strong in your warped mind."

The cartoon is an artist's comment on Israeli military aggression against the people of Gaza. I posted it in response to the current air bombardment which has claimed over 370 lives. This brutality is being inflicted after a year and a half long blockade of the Gaza Strip. There are no religious connotations, whatsoever, in the cartoon, not even a Star of David. The soldiers are not depicted as having any of the stereotypically Jewish features one would see in anti-Semitic cartoons. If it weren't for the words "Israeli occupiers" and "Gaza" the soldiers could be Russian, British, French, American or any other attacking army in the world. There is no suggestion of religious ritual, no Jewish religious garments be they kippot or prayer shawls or tzitzi'ot. No matzot, no menorahs, nothing, in other words, to suggest that what is being depicted is a ritualized religious murder or anything that would be the basis of a blood libel.

Depicting an army or military leader as butchers or dripping with blood is a standard image in any political cartoonists library. Change the labels and this could be a cartoon criticizing the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan or Czechoslovakia, the American invasion of Iraq or Cambodia, the Chinese attack on Tiananmen Square or, indeed, it could be a critical depiction of Hamas:



Cherniak and I had the following exchange by email:

Firebrand: You're kidding me. The editorial cartoon isn't even remotely anti-Semitic.

But yes, as a Jew the memory of the blood libel does live strongly in my mind - my family fled Russian pogroms and ended up in Romania which was one of the most anti-Semitic nations in Europe between the wars (before the rise of Nazi Germany) so yes Jason, I know what the blood libel is and this isn't it.

Please don't debase the concept of anti-Semitism by applying it so casually to legitimate criticism of Israel.

You should be ashamed of yourself.

Jason Cherniak:
Being Jewish doesn’t allow you to ignore basic facts. You posted a picture of Jewish butchers with Palestinian blood on their knives. Do you really not see how that is similar to suggesting that Jews drink the blood of children?

FB: The soldiers are not identifiably Jewish - there are no stereotypical signifiers nor any use of Jewish symbolism such as the magen david.

Implying that soldiers engaging in a massacre (such as the killing of over 370 people) are butchers is a standard device when criticising any military operation. The soldiers in the cartoon could be Russians, Americans, French.

You are suggesting that a massacre carried out by Israelis should be treated differently than one carried out by any other military. I, for one, do not think Israel should be treated differently.

By casually throwing out accusations of antisemitism you are denuding the concept and making it easier for actual anti-semites to get away with it.

I can see why the Liberals don't want you to blog on their behalf and why partisans of other parties were sorry to see you go. You're an embarrassment to whatever side you argue for and as a Jew I find you as embarrassing as Liberals must have.

Please resume your policy of being 'off politics'.

JC:
It was my choice to stop blogging. Nobody asked me to, smartass.

As for the picture, did you miss the word "Israeli" on their clothing? What are you smoking?


FB: the point is there is no stereotypical or symbolic invocation of Judaism.

as you should know the blood libel was the false accusation that Jews kidnapped and killed non-Jewish children and killed them for ritualistic reasons to use their blood to make matzah or for some religious ritual.

There is no such connotation in the cartoon.

You are distorting and reducing the blood libel to argue that any reference to blood is antisemitic and completely disregarding the fact that references to blood and butchery are de riguer in artistic criticisms of military conflict. How do you suggest that an artist criticise the Gaza invasion without reference to blood, murder and death.

All you've shown is that you are unable to refute Barghouti's essay and prefer instead to avoid the subject by engaging in slander.

As for your blog - it may have been for a decision but I know for a fact that senior Liberals have thought it an embarrassment for years.

The 911 blowback that ended up in Dion being embarrassed and having to axe his own candidate was just the last straw. That "own goal" of yours will be with you for a long time

JC: Butcher's knives are used in kitchens where people make food for humans, goddmanit. Use your head.

Again, lol on the blog thing. You're a fool.


FB: again - it's standard to use that analogy when criticising military action. As for the blog - fine if I'm wrong restart it and see what... sorry phone trouble. if i'm wrong restart it and see what happens to
your 'career' in the Liberal party.

and if i'm wrong about your motives for ignoring the article to attack the cartoon then go ahead and refute Barghouti

JC: It's pretty clear I'm not going to convince you, so I'm not going to bother

FB: Considering that you have been unable to refute one argument I've made regarding what blood libel is or what war criticism is I'm not surprised. i have a cartoon somewhere of Brezhnev as butcher in regards to the soviet invasion of afghanistan. doubtless that's antisemitic too?

btw, do you mind if I publish this correspondence?

JC: Only if it is unedited.


Unfortunately, it's become more common for pro-Israel polemicists to deliberately conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism in an attempt to delegitimize said criticism and defame the critics. This tactic can only give comfort to actual anti-Semites as by overextending the concept of anti-Semitism these polemicists are effectively making the concept of anti-Semtism meaningless and making it easier for actual bigots and racists to practice their craft.

As British philosopher Brian Klug, a founding member of the group Independent Jewish Voices, wrote in his seminal essay, The Myth of the New Anti-Semitism "when anti-Semitism is everywhere, it is nowhere. And when every anti-Zionist is an anti-Semite, we no longer know how to recognize the real thing--the concept of anti-Semitism loses its significance."

In response to an essay by the American Jewish Committee accusing Jewish critics of Israel of being anti-Semitic, the New York Times interviewed British historian Tony Judt, one of the essay's targets. According to the Times: "The link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is newly created,' [Tony Judt] said, adding that he fears 'the two will have become so conflated in the minds of the world' that references to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust will come to be seen as 'just a political defense of Israeli policy.'"

It is important to be clear about what anti-Semtism is and what it is not. When the Jason Cherniaks of the world refuse to make the distinction because it is convenient to use anti-Semitism as a pretext to dismiss all and any criticism of the Israeli government then they demean the memory of those who have died or suffered under the heel of anti-Semitism over the centuries and give comfort to Jew-haters everywhere. To the extent that Israeli politicians encourage this deliberate conflation of anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel, they put themselves in opposition to the interests of the Jewish people throughout the world by sacrificing their safety and security in the interests of short term polemical gain.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Gaza has risen to 360 and Cherniak would have you believe that this can't be referred to as butchery or bloodletting.
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