Here We Are, Gerald Kaufman Again

March 31st, 2011 by Mark Gardner

Imagine the outcry if Diane Abott MP got up to speak in the House of Commons, and behind her, on the backbenches, a fellow MP was overheard muttering

Here we are, the blacks again  

Imagine the bemused confusion that would follow when it emerged that the MP who had made the racist remark was himself black. Say, for instance, it had been made by David Lammy MP.

Except, of course, it is well nigh impossible to imagine such a thing happening.

Nevertheless, (the Jewish) Gerald Kaufman MP said exactly this on 30 March 2011 about (the Jewish) Louise Ellman MP – but about “the Jews” rather than “the blacks”.

Here we are, the Jews again

The remark can be clearly heard here at Parliament TV. It occurs when Louise Ellman MP begins to speak at 06:50:01 on the time frame. It is is said in a bored ‘here we go again’ manner. Less audible, at 06:50:17 you can hear Kaufman mutter something about “antisemitism”. (It is the only word that is really distinct.)   

Mathew Offord MP is to complain about this use of “unparliamentary language” and Kaufman has issued the bog standard statement

I regret if any remarks I made in the chamber caused offence. If they did, I apologise.

Kaufman’s excuse of an apology includes the word “if” twice. It is as if he is actually questioning whether or not his remarks really did cause offence; or as if he is questioning whether or not his remarks ought to have caused offence.

You could say that somebody this stupid has no place being an MP. That, however, is to put the cart before the horse: because first of all, somebody who makes such offensive remarks has no place being an MP. Had Nick Griffin been elected to Parliament and made such a remark – about “the Jews”, “the blacks”, “the homosexuals” or whomever – then one hopes that parliamentary justice would have been swift.

To be sure, Gerald Kaufman is no Nick Griffin: but words have impacts, and surely the words of a Jewish Labour MP would have a greater impact in normalising antisemitic attitudes, than would similar outbursts from a usual suspect like Griffin.

There will, of course, be those who say that Kaufman’s own Jewish identity means that he cannot be antisemitic. This is an understandable response, but it confuses antisemitic motivation with antisemitic action and antisemitic impact; and is premised upon an initial definition of antisemitism that is so diminished as to be inadequate for purpose in this particular case.  

Furthermore, merely citing Kaufman’s Jewishness as proof that he is not (or cannot) be antisemitic, is to ignore the many examples of Jews, past and present, who have – for whatever their egotistical and political reasons – chosen to make accommodation with antisemitism (or more accurately, with their chosen aspects of antisemitism) as either practitioners, facilitating allies or meaningfully silent bystanders.

This phenomenon of Jews acquiescing with certain aspects of antisemitism is not merely a matter of historical and contemporary fact. It is also something that is discussed within Jewish tradition, and is especially poignant right now as we approach the festival of Pesach (Passover), when Jewish families will read, in their Haggadot, the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt.

One of the best known passages in the Haggadah concerns The Four Sons: one of whom is wise, one of whom is wicked, one of whom is simple and one of whom does not know how to ask. It concerns how these different types of Jewish people relate to the story of Passover, but is really a parable about how different types of Jewish people relate to Judaism, Jews and Jewishness.

Not unusually, it is the Wicked Son who has attracted the most attention over the centuries (including in this searing polemic by David Mamet). The fundamental difference between the Wicked Son and the other sons, is that he deliberately places himself apart from his brothers by using the word “you”, rather than “we” or “us”. Provocatively, the Wicked  Son asks

What is this [Passover] service to you?

In this, there are striking parallels with Kaufman’s remark

Here we are, the Jews again

It is those Jews; those Other Jews; who are the objectified targets of Gerald Kaufman’s outburst. It is the Jewishness of those Other Jews that he wants to fling against them – and that he therefore incites others to fling also.

If others followed Kaufman’s example, then we would end up in a far more antisemitic society, whereby Jewishness became the deciding factor in someone’s suitability for making public comment. (For comparison, see Richard Ingrams, here.)

The situation is made even more ridiculous by the extraordinary fact that Kaufman, when he is not fingering Jews, has himself complained that his Liberal Democrat opponent at the last General Election in 2010 had toured mosques telling Muslims not to vote for a Jew.

So, Kaufman understands what it is like when people play “Spot the Jew” in public; and he is happy to call such behaviour “antisemitic” when it suits him.

Why, therefore, should the rest of us not apply similar criteria to Kaufman? After all, he has previous in this regard, having said at the time of the (very same) General Election

Just as Lord Ashcroft owns most of the Conservative Party, right-wing Jewish millionaires own the rest

Then, there was his telling the House of Commons that an Israeli Army Major could be compared to the Nazis who had murdered his own (ie Kaufman’s) grandmother.

It is now up to the Labour Party to decide what to do with Gerald Kaufman. He seems to have had enough of Jews; and most Jews have doubtless had enough of him. It is, in one sense, a devilishly difficult decision. Kaufman, if called to defend himself, will likely claim that it is not he who is the Wicked Son – rather, it is he who is the Good Son. It is he who cannot stand seeing the Star of David tarnished by its association with Israeli actions (for example, see him saying as much, here).

Nevertheless, the essence of contemporary antisemitism is how it utilises Israel in resurrecting deeply held notions of Jewish conspiracy, Jewish wickedness and Jewish otherness. Sadly for Kaufman, and all the other Jews, his six word, two and a half second outburst “Here we are. The Jews again” resonates on every one of those antisemitic markers.

CST and the Board of Deputies of British Jews Call For Closure of Facebook “Intifada” Site

March 29th, 2011 by CST

CST 2   BOD

The Board of Deputies of British Jews and CST (Community Security Trust) have received scores of enquiries and complaints regarding an Arabic language Facebook page calling for a “Third Palestinian Intifada”.

The Board and CST are keenly aware that Middle East conflicts can often indirectly lead to significantly higher levels of anti-Jewish race hate incidents here in the UK. Other Jewish communities throughout the world report the same phenomenon. The analysis is shared by Police forces and Governments; and has been widely reported in local, national and international media.

Facebook and other electronic networking media now play an increasingly important political role, which brings serious responsibilities. Facebook is currently enabling hundreds of thousands of people to urge a “Third Intifada”. The Board and CST appreciate the importance in protecting freedom of speech, but this must be balanced with the potential violent impacts and consequences of such speech.

If instituted, this “Third Intifada” will likely have severe consequences both in the Middle East and around the world, as previous Palestinian Intifadas have resulted in enduring conflict and loss of life to both Israelis and Palestinians. Globally, they have deepened hostility and intensified division and hatred. In particular, the Second Intifada led to a cycle of antisemitic violence and intimidation against Jewish communities that still remains unacceptably high; and, in the case of the UK, resulted in the Government instituting an ongoing Command Response to an Inquiry by Parliamentarians into contemporary antisemitism.

The Board and CST therefore call upon Facebook to shut this page down immediately.

Board of Deputies Chief Executive, Jon Benjamin stated:

If those behind the call for intifada really had the welfare of Palestinians at heart, they would be calling for a peaceful solution, not more violence.  This is effectively a call to arms, and Facebook should have no part in this kind of incitement.

CST Director of Communications, Mark Gardner stated:

Facebook is literally providing a global network calling for a further round of conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. One very likely consequence is that this will also incite a further round of conflict against anybody deemed to be a supporter of Israel, with antisemitic hatred and violence the inevitable outcomes.  That is why CST calls upon Facebook to shut this site down immediately.

Members of the public wishing to complain about the Facebook Intifada site are advised to go to the offending site and from there follow instructions to place a complaint http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/Palestinian.Intifada.

UPDATE: The above link is no longer working, although it is unclear whether or not this means that the ‘Third Palestinian Intifada’ group has been removed from Facebook.

CST Joins EU Project to Tackle European Hate Crime

March 24th, 2011 by CST

The European Commission has given a substantial grant of over two hundred thousand Euros to CST and three other Non-Governmental Organisations from Belgium and the Netherlands, to improve monitoring and recording of hate crimes and incidents throughout the European Union.

The Facing Facts! project is made up of the Brussels-based CEJI – A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe; CST; the Dutch Centre for Documentation and Information Israel (CIDI); and the Federation of Dutch Associations for the Integration of Homosexuality (COC Netherlands). ILGA-Europe (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) is an associate partner to the project. Each body brings a long established expertise to the work of monitoring hate crimes and training civil society and government bodies.

Hate crime is a growing problem in the European Union, yet most states do not monitor hate crime in a consistent or thorough fashion. According to the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) 2007 Report on Racism and Xenophobia in the Member States of the EU:

The Agency’s data collection work shows that most Member States do not have official or even unofficial data and statistics on anti-Semitic incidents. Even where data exist they are not compatible, since they are collected following different methodologies.

The FRA report also endorsed the work of NGOs in this area, saying:

For those Member States where official data collection on racist violence and crime is absent or lacking, NGOs play a vital role in monitoring and attracting attention to the problem.

This project will help civil society NGOs to produce data on hate crimes which affect their own community, and work with local authorities to improve government and police monitoring of hate crimes.

The two-year project will introduce standardised criteria for hate crime data collection; train civil society organizations representing victims; hold governments accountable to existing international agreements so that civil society and public authorities can work together; and improve cooperation between different communities.

The centrepiece of the project will be a training manual utilising each organisation’s expertise, and that of outside experts, to ‘train the trainers’ in monitoring and recording hate crimes. This will be implemented at a hate crime trainers’ conference, to be held in The Hague in late 2012.

CST’s involvement in this project follows our publication of A Guide to Fighting Hate Crime, as part of our commitment to use CST’s experience in combating hate crime for the benefit of other communities.

The grant of 227,896.05 Euros is part of the Daphne111 General Programme on “Fundamental Rights and Justice”.

CEJI  CST      COC     CIDI      ILGA

EU

Co-founded by the European Union’s Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme.

In Vino Veritas: Antisemitism, Alcohol and Purim

March 18th, 2011 by CST

Jewish history is a somewhat lengthy subject, and the Jewish calendar (which is lunar with a solar correction and hence differs from the Gregorian calendar or strictly lunar calendars) is punctuated throughout the year with festivals, commemorations and various special events. Combine the two and quite often an aspect of Jewish religious or historical relevance can be found to chime with contemporary events.

In recent weeks, the media has alighted upon (real and alleged) instances of celebrity antisemitism, citing both drunkenness and egotistical behaviour. Turning to the Jewish calendar, we see that these cases coincide now with the festival of Purim, which, despite being about 2,400 years old, contains some of these elements, except on this occasion the alcohol has a Jewish connotation, in that it is Jews who are supposed to get drunk.

The celebrity antisemite of the Purim story is Haman, the prime minister of King Ahasuerus’ Persian kingdom. An impressively wide array of Jewish sources depict Haman as egotistical, arrogant etc; and, in a tale that resonates through the ages, he plans to kill all the Jews of the Empire after one of them, Mordechai, refuses to bow before him. The Jews are saved when the King’s newish (and Jewish) Queen, Esther, intercedes on their behalf. Haman and his ten sons end up hanged on the gallows that were intended for Mordechai. 

The full story is far more complex, cliff-hanging and ironic than this, but the aspect of wine is well summarised as follows

The miracle of Purim is inextricably linked with wine. Vashti’s downfall occurred at a feast of wine, and Esther took her place. Haman’s downfall occurred at the feast of wine which Esther made. This feast of wine served to rectify the transgression of the Jews who had participated in the feast of wine made by Acashverosh [Ahasuerus]. (Eliyahu Kitov, The Book of Our Heritage: The Jewish Year and Its Days of Significance, Feldheim 1999: p.432.)

Among the core messages of Purim is not only a reminder that in every generation there will be a person or movement that wishes to oppress or exterminate Jews and Judaism, but also a reminder of the importance of guarding Jewish identity in the face of adversity.

There is some debate right now in Jewish academic circles about the historical, political and mass psychological meanings of regarding antisemitism as a constant (and therefore seemingly inevitable) thread of history; but in recorded history, the Purim message is surely more correct than it is wrong.

Nevertheless, Purim is about celebration, not morbid paranoia. Rather than bemoaning, “there’s always somebody, somewhere, out to get me”, Jews are instead instructed to get so drunk during the festive meal on Purim afternoon that one is unable to tell the difference between Haman and Mordechai. (It is also customary to eat vegetables, but this aspect of Purim attracts few headlines.)

The Tractate Megilah (7b) of the Babylonian Talmud records a statement by the sage Rava

מיחייב איניש לבסומי בפוריא עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן לברוך מרדכי. (“Mechayav Inish L’Besumei B’Puraya Ad D’Lo Yada Bein Arur Haman L’Baruch Mordechai”).

Translated loosely from Aramaic, this means

One is obligated L’Besumei on Purim until he cannot distinguish between ‘Cursed is Haman’ and ‘Blessed is Mordechai’.

The Aramaic word L’Besumei is simply explained as “to become drunk with wine”, but Jewish legal commentaries differ – some quite sharply – on how much a person should drink in practice.

In fact, immediately following this statement, the Talmud, using hyperbole, gives a deeply lyrical vignette, which warns of the potential catastrophe of irresponsible drinking. It relates a story of two sages, Rabah and Rebbi Zeira, who one year ate the Purim meal together. Rabah got drunk and slaughtered Rebbi Zeira. The next day, having sobered-up, Rabah prayed and restored Rebbi Zeira to life. The following year, Rabbah invited Rebbi Zeira to share the Purim feast once again. Rebbi Zeira, however, declines, saying: “Miracles do not always happen”!

The basic idea behind the importance of wine to the Purim festival is that the miraculous nature through which the Jews were saved came through wine, and so it is celebrated through wine. In the festival of Hanukah, oil plays a central role; on Purim, it is wine. Nevertheless, the word “L’Besumei” is related to the Hebrew word “Bosem”, meaning “pleasant fragrance”; and “bosem” (noun) means “perfume” in contemporary Hebrew. One idea, then, is that through imbibing wine, in combination with celebrating the historic significance of Purim and its attendant commandments, the inner fragrance of a person will come out to the open. They will rejoice in the festive spirit, not become crazed.

In considerable contradistinction to the notion of L’Besumei, the “alcohol-fuelled ravings” of modern celebrities smell neither of “perfume” nor any other “pleasant fragrance”. Rather, they reek of sweat and vomit; and many observers fear that the stench also carries an inner truth about the endurance of antisemitism; revealed when one’s ego and drunkenness combine to strip away all social inhibitions.

Latin provides a fine expression for this:

in vino veritas – in wine [there is the] truth

In the Babylonian Talmud (Eruvin 65a), there is the wonderful statement:

נכנס יין יצא סוד (“nichnas yayin yatza sod”)

- In came wine, out went a secret

The Talmud’s continuation of this (even without grasping its inherent triple play on the word root “כס”, “kos” and the Hebrew alliteration) is better still and is even more celeb-scandal relevant:

 בשלשה דברים אדם ניכר בכוסו ובכיסו ובכעסו (Eruvin 65b) (“B’shlosha dvarim adam nichar b’koso, b’kiso, v’b’kaso”)

- In three things is a man revealed: in his wine goblet, in his purse, and in his wrath


Footnotes

Hitler is considered by many to be a modern day Haman, and there is an echo of the hanging of Haman and his ten sons, in the hanging of the notorious Nazi antisemite, Julius Streicher, along with nine other leading Nazis at Nuremburg in 1946. Prior to his execution, Streicher screamed at the witnesses “Purim fest 1946!” (See here for more on this; and see here for Hitler’s obsession with Purim.)

In 2009, CST previously noted that the image of choice for the Guardian’s online production of Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children was a particular scene from the Passover seder (the unique festive meal in which Jewish families gather to teach one another about the exodus of the Hebrew nation from slavery in Egypt) in which the whole family recounts the names of the ten plagues visited upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians. As each plague is named, all present dip their finger into red wine and spill a drop onto their plate. The association of blood with Jews has long been an antisemitic obsession, as embodied in the Blood Libel charge. The accusation was that Jews murder non-Jewish children to use their blood in religious rituals, especially at Passover. Leading rabbis have even advised that Jews should use white wine instead of red wine on Passover in areas where false accusations were rife, lest the surrounding communities accuse them of drinking Christian blood. 

In July 2010, we noted that the organisers of the Palestine International Festival in Ramallah requested that the visiting 1970s pop group, Boney M, refrain from singing their most famous hit, “By the Rivers of Babylon.” The message went beyond boycotting Israel to boycotting references – even in pop music – to the historical Jewish connection to and longing for Israel, or Zion. The bitterly ironic aspect of this event was its proximity to the Jewish date of Tisha B’Av (the 9th day in the Jewish month of Av), a public day of mourning and fasting for the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem, along with other tragedies coinciding with this date. And, of course, the Boney M song is based on the original Hebrew version of “By the rivers of Babylon” (Al Naharot Bavel) in Psalm 137.

George Galloway on shifting sands

March 11th, 2011 by Dave Rich

George Galloway spoke at a meeting at the London School of Economics on Monday, in which, according to this Jewish Chronicle report, he made several astonishing statements. I wrote last week about the celebration of stupidity at LSE, but Galloway’s performance is something else entirely. Despite his reputation as a fearless straight-talker, Galloway is as liable as anyone to self-contradiction, obfuscation and sometimes transparent bluster. His LSE appearance was typical.

Firstly, there’s this:

[Galloway] denied giving money to Hamas despite video footage showing him handing bags of cash to leaders.

He was questioned about video footage during a Viva Palestina convoy to Gaza in 2009 where he is seen saying: “We carried a lot of cash here. We are giving you now 100 vehicles and all the contents. We are giving them to the elected government of Palestine. Here is the money. This is not charity. This is politics. The government of Palestine is the best people where this money is needed.”

But on Monday he said: “I did not give bags of cash to Hamas. I gave money, ambulances, wheelchairs, medicine, food, children’s clothes, teddy bears to the 1.6million Palestinian people under siege in Gaza.”

This is bizarre, because when the Charity Commission investigated allegations that Galloway’s Viva Palestina organisation had given money to Hamas, the Commission reported (no longer online) that Galloway told them the following:

Mr Galloway also confirmed that he had handed over £25,000 in cash to Hamas and acknowledged that this was not the Charity’s money. In addition he informed the Inquiry that in order to distance the Charity from this act he had been very clear that it was ‘personal money’ that had been handed to Hamas.

So Galloway told the Charity Commission that he did give money to Hamas, but told the LSE students that he didn’t. These two statements are obviously impossible to reconcile. It is possible that the Charity Commission and/or the JC have mis-reported his remarks; but otherwise there is a contradiction which only Galloway can explain. Perhaps, when speaking at the LSE, Galloway simply forgot what he had told the Charity Commission last year.

The video to which the JC report refers is of Galloway after he arrived in Gaza with Viva Palestina in March 2009:

The fuller, exact quote from Galloway is even more explicit than the one in the JC report:

Just in case the British government or the European Union want to face me in any court, let me tell them live on television: I personally am about to break the sanctions on the elected government of Palestine. By Allah we carried a lot of cash here. You thought we were all fat. We are not fat. This is money that we have around our waists …  We are giving you now 100 vehicles and all of the contents, and we make no apology for what I am about to say. We are giving them to the elected government of Palestine, to the Prime Minister Ismail Haniya. Here is the money [holds up bag]. This is not charity. This is not charity. This is not charity. This is politics. [starts to take money out of the bag and hand it over].

Galloway often makes a distinction between Hamas itself, and the government in Gaza which was formed by Hamas and is led by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. However it is worth noting that the UK and EU sanctions to which he refers specifically prohibit funding Hamas, not the government of Gaza per se. So his claim that his actions broke these sanctions either suggests that he knows his distinction does not hold water, or is simply bluster for the cameras.

Galloway has chosen a less orthodox political career than most – a “lunatic fringe MP” is how one Wikileaks cable records him being described in a conversation between British and American diplomats in Cuba. Nonetheless, the record shows he is just as capable of double standards as the career politicians he regularly castigates. His current image is that of a scourge of Middle Eastern dictators and he can currently be found across the media attacking Britain and other Western powers for supporting non-democratic Arab regimes. According to the JC:

He criticised Britain for “propping up every corrupt king and every tyrant, every dictator for as long as that dictator agrees to open his country, his economy, to our corporations”.

A quick scan of the House of Commons’ Register of Members’ Interests for the period when Galloway was an MP shows that he was not averse to accepting money or gifts from Middle Eastern rulers whose countries fall well short of democratic standards. For example, in November 1997, January/February 1999, March/April 2000 and December 2001 he visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with costs paid for by the UAE government. He also built up an impressive watch collection: Between November 1997 and April 2000 he received four different watches as gifts of the UAE government or one or other of its ministers. The UAE may not be the most brutal of Arab dictatorships, but according the the US-based organisation Freedom House it is definitely “not free“:

The UAE is not an electoral democracy. All decisions about political leadership rest with the dynastic rulers of the seven emirates, who form the Federal Supreme Council, the highest executive and legislative body in the country. The seven leaders select a president and vice president, and the president appoints a prime minister and cabinet. The UAE has a 40-member Federal National Council (FNC), half of which was elected for the first time in 2006 by a 6,689-member electoral college chosen by the seven rulers. The other half of the council is directly appointed by the government for two-year terms. UAE officials have said they intend to grant universal suffrage for the 2010 FNC elections. The council serves only as an advisory body, reviewing proposed laws and questioning federal government ministers.

There are no political parties in the country. Instead, the allocation of positions in the government is largely determined by tribal loyalties and economic power. The emirate of Abu Dhabi, the major oil producer in the UAE, has controlled the federation’s presidency since its inception. Citizens have a limited opportunity to express their interests through traditional consultative sessions.

[...]

Although the UAE’s constitution provides for some freedom of expression, the government has historically restricted this right in practice. The 1980 Printing and Publishing Law applies to all media and prohibits “defamatory material and negative material about presidents, friendly countries, [and] religious issues, and [prohibits] pornography.”

[...]

The UAE’s mostly foreign workers do not have the right to organize, bargain collectively, or strike.

[...]

The judiciary is not independent, with court rulings subject to review by the political leadership.

This report is from 2010, so it is possible that democracy and human rights have regressed significantly over the past decade, and that the UAE was a beacon of democracy when Galloway was a regular recipient of their government’s generosity. I doubt it, though.

Nowadays Galloway works for Press TV, an Iranian state TV channel. According to the JC, he defended his position there to the students at LSE, saying:

Because I don’t believe that the government of Iran is a dictatorship I have no problem about working for Press TV in London which is a British owned television station.

Galloway’s claim that the London arm of Press TV is “British-owned” is an example of how, by missing out some key information, it is possible to be totally misleading without actually saying anything that is untrue. Press TV is indeed registered as a company in the United Kingdom, but it is merely the local branch of an international TV network that was created by the Iranian state broadcaster IRIB, which lists it as one of its family of national and international TV channels; and its headquarters are in Tehran.

He also said:

There are many things wrong with Iran. One thing they do have is elections. They elected a president that you or I might not have voted for but I am in no doubt that Ahmadinejad won the presidential election.

Galloway is right that the Iranian president is elected, although many people believe that the last election was rigged. However he surely also knows that, in Iran’s complex political system, the president is subordinate to Ayatollah Khameini and much of the real power lies with unelected bodies of clerics. He must also know that the Iranian government can be extremely brutal in repressing political opposition and dissent amongst its own people, just as much as Egypt under Mubarak, or Libya under Gaddafi, or any of the other regimes he castigates Western governments for supporting. But to admit this would be to invite accusations of hypocrisy, so instead he blusters his way through. He did the same with Iraq under Saddam Hussein. The Register of Members’ Interests records a stay in Baghdad in May 2000, which Galloway described as being “paid for by the Baghdad Conference, a collection of NGOs working on the sanctions issue.” The idea of genuinely non-governmental Iraqi NGOs operating in Baghdad in 2000 is a sick joke.

Here’s another, smaller example, of Galloway’s ability to switch his views when the situation demands it. In my 2005 edition of Galloway’s autobiography, I’m Not the Only One, Galloway accused Robin Cook of:

betraying everything he stood for…I would never trust Robin Cook as far as I could throw him.

When Cook died in August of that year, Galloway paid tribute:

It is a bitter blow to the Labour movement, who wanted to see Labour become Labour again. He was Labour to his fingertips and a courageous, outstanding figure.

Galloway is hardly the first politician to swallow his true thoughts and say the ‘right thing’ when a long-standing colleague passes way. But this is hardly the mark of a fearless ‘truth-to-power’ speaker.

By the time Galloway wrote I’m Not the Only One, the Iraqi insurgency was in full swing and taking the lives of British and American soldiers with increasing frequency. On page 155 of my copy, Galloway laments the deaths of British soldiers in Iraq and explains that he opposed the war:

Not because I hate our soldiers … but because I care for them more than the politicians who sent them to kill and to be killed for a lie.

At the time of writing, the Iraqi resistance are attacking the invaders an average of 87 times a day. By the time you read this it may be more. In the month of September 2004 more than 2,700 military operations were undertaken by the resistance.

All of which comes just two pages after an astonishing admission, whereby Galloway freely admits to having recommended the tactics of guerrilla warfare to the Iraqi government before the 2003 invasion, and even to having given them instruction books on the subject:

I had many conversations in Iraq about what might happen if the US invaded the country. I encouraged them to avoid attempting to fight a war of position against a superpower.

‘Don’t stand in lines, or hunker down in trenches,’ I used to say. ‘You will be mown down or buried alive.’ The only war that can be fought against a superpower is a war of movement. I brought Tariq Aziz all the writings of Che Guevara and Mao Tse Tung on the arts of revolutionary war and he had them translated into Arabic. Fight a war of movement, take the uniforms off, swim among the Iraqi people and whatever their views on the regime, they will undoubtedly provide deep aquifers of support for a patriotic resistance.

I have no idea if Tariq Aziz ever did get Galloway’s guerrilla warfare books translated into Arabic, or whether they were used to train the Iraqi insurgents who killed so many British and American troops in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion. I expect that the Iraqi army needed little instruction in the dark arts of warfare. But it’s the thought that counts; and I do sometimes wonder, when George Galloway sits on Stop the War Coalition platforms next to the parents of British soldiers killed in Iraq, whether he feels proud, or ashamed, or neither, that their sons may have been killed by people who were trained with the books he gave to Saddam Hussein’s Deputy Prime Minister.

CST launches ‘A Guide to Fighting Hate Crime’

March 10th, 2011 by CST

Hate Crime booklet- Cover - Copy

CST, supported by the Home Office, today publishes a new guide to help other minority communities establish their own hate crime monitoring systems.

A Guide to Fighting Hate Crime was written by CST with the help of a grant from the Home Office Victims’ Fund. CST has recorded antisemitic hate crimes on behalf of the Jewish community since 1984, and became an official Third Party Reporter of hate crimes to the police in 2001.

The booklet includes guidance on defining and recognising hate crimes; how to respond to different types of hate crimes, such as assault, abusive graffiti or hate-mail; forming partnerships with the Police and other agencies; supporting victims; and examples of report forms that can be photocopied and used to record hate crimes.

The guide was officially launched at CST’s annual dinner in London on 2nd March. The guest speaker at the dinner was Prime Minister David Cameron, who was joined in launching the booklet by Conservative Party Chairman Baroness Warsi; James Brokenshire MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Crime Prevention; and CST Chairman Gerald Ronson.

James Brokenshire MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Crime Prevention, said:

Hate crime is totally unacceptable.

The government is committed to ensuring that everyone has the freedom to live free from fear of hostility or harassment.

This guide imparts many years of CST’s valuable experience in successfully fighting hate crime and I hope it benefits other communities who find themselves targeted.

Richard Benson, Chief Executive of CST, said:

The Jewish community in Britain has long recognised the need for a strong response to hate crime, as part of our commitment to fighting all forms of bigotry in our society. It is CST’s hope that this experience in tackling hate crime can help other communities throughout the country.

Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris, hate crime lead for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) said:

CST is an excellent example of an effective body that has been able to form a true partnership with Police colleagues and to inspire confidence in communities. I believe they are one of the best examples of a Third Party Reporting structure and would provide an excellent model for emerging groups to emulate.

The guide can be downloaded from the CST website (pdf) or hard copies are available from CST on request.

Hate Crime guide launch image - Copy

From Kosher Conspiracy to Seven Jewish Children

March 9th, 2011 by Mark Gardner

Contemplation of the high (or low) points of contemporary British antisemitic discourse in recent years brings four episodes to mind, all of which are emblematic of the collapse in left-liberal elite sensitivities to antisemitism:

1.   January 2002. The New Statesman cover reading “A Kosher Conspiracy?” and showing a golden Star of David piercing a supine Union Jack. This has been widely quoted (by CST and others) as evidence that the left intelligentsia no longer recognised or cared about modern day antisemitism, even when it hit them in the face. The New Statesman belatedly - sort of - apologised.

2.   May 2003. The assertion by (then) ‘Father of the House’, Tam Dalyell MP, that “a cabal of Jewish advisors” surounded Prime Minister Tony Blair. Dalyell was criticised for this, but the criticism was by no means universal and he and his supporters denied that the outburst was antisemitic. 

3. January 2009. The explosion of Israel equals Nazi Germany comparisons at the time of the Gaza conflict. For many Jews and others, this confirmed that the demonisation of Israel had become both limitless and detached from reality. The fear was concretised by the unprecedented outbursts of antisemitic race hate crimes at this time.    

4. February 2009. The first performance of Seven Jewish Children, by esteemed playwright Caryl Churchill and carried on the Guardian website.

(Of course, there are hundreds of other examples that one can alight upon, but these stick in the forefront of my mind.)

Reflecting upon these four events, I cannot recall or see where either the New Satesman or Tam Dalyell suffered any serious reputational damage within their own circles: and this is surely not unconnected to the enthusiastic and urgent reception subsequently afforded to Walt and Mearsheimer’s book, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy (2006). Basically, so long as you stuck to Israel, pro-Israel or Zionist, rather than Jew, you were (and remain) bang on trend.

The malaise and the conceit burrrowed so deep, that the Guardian could run an editorial (24 July 2008) stating

When a presumptive US presidential candidate arrives in Jerusalem, he willingly dons a jacket designed by Israeli tailors.

Similarly, the profusion of Israel equals Nazi Germany comparisons never really impacted upon those who had made the equation, nor upon those who silently stood by. Besides, similar things had been said with depressing regularity by politicians and journalists since at least 2002, and none of them had really suffered for it either.

When Conservative Party-linked East European politicians try to relativise the Holocaust by comparing it to the suffering of their non-Jewish populations under Communism, then of course the intelligentsia hits top gear…but properly and consistently criticise people here in Britain for comparing Israeli Jews with Nazis, no way! Besides, this is Israel that’s being condemned and that’s not the same as Jews murdered in the Holocaust.      

Seven Jewish Children, however, does not fit these patterns. It is not about a Jewish conspiracy that can be entirely kosherised so long as you remember to call it a pro-Israeli conspiracy. Neither is it about granting permission to relatavise the Holocaust, so long as you do it with Israel as the target. Instead, Caryl Churchill completes the circle, by writing a play about Israel and Israelis that is entirely referenced to Jews, Jewish history and Jewish emotions. 

There is at least a certain honesty in this. The play, far more than most anti-Israel propaganda, at least acknowledges (both implicitly and explicitly) the centrality of Jews, Jewish history and Jewish emotions to everything concerning Israel. Nevertheless, the antisemitic resonance of the play (primarily the extent and meaning of its concentration upon the blood of the children who are the Jews’ victims) has seen it become a celebrated fault-line in the superheated arguments regarding what is and is not antisemitic in regard to Israel.

The fault-line has been spewing once more this week, in the Guardian letters page with Caryl Churchill taking exception to Jonathan Freedland’s citation (in the Guardian) of Anthony Julius’s deconstruction of the play. (Extracted from Julius’s brilliant analysis of British literary antisemitism, contained in his book, Trials of the Diaspora. Of course, the book itself has become another fault-line in the battle.)

Freedland’s excellent piece (analysed here on CST Blog) was published in the Guardian on 3 March. Churchill replied in the letters page the following day, saying (in part)

Jonathan Freedland (G2, March 3) denies that criticism of Israel is often wrongly called antisemitism. His point isn’t helped by quoting Anthony Julius’s allegation that my play Seven Jewish Children “tap[s] into the ‘blood libel’”. The line he is referring to is “tell her there’s dead babies, did she see babies?” It refers to babies killed in the attack on Gaza in 2009 and shown on TV. When people hear of babies killed in a war, they don’t usually think of medieval accusations of Jews consuming Christian children’s blood, but of babies killed in a war…  

This prompted Julius to reply (in part)

…In this play, Jews confess to lying to their own children and killing Palestinian children. They also confess to something close to a project of genocide. And they freely acknowledge the source of their misanthropy to be Judaism itself.

None of this seems to bother Churchill – nor, indeed, the Guardian. As she correctly notes, the play is available on your website.

Next, Churchill replied to Julius 

…What he doesn’t seem to realise is that these lines are not spoken as he suggests by “Jews” in general but by individual Israelis, desperate to protect their own child, during an attack of disproportionate violence on Gaza…It should be possible to pillory the defensive self-righteousness and racism of some – not all – Israelis without being called antisemitic.

For now (at any rate) the Guardian Letters page appears to have called time on its hosting of this particular debate. The arguments will, of course, continue, but there are two things that need saying right now. 

Firstly, Normblog has this to say on Churchill’s “individual Israelis” argument

Her play wasn’t anti-Semitic because it featured individuals, rather than Jews as a category…

…And this is a playwright, with some knowledge of cultural matters! One is bound to wonder why anyone ever had a worry about Shylock in The Merchant of Venice

Secondly, there is the point that my colleague Dave Rich and I made in our Comment is Free article, at the time of the Guardian’s own production of Seven Jewish Children

It is Jewish thought and behaviour that links the play together, not Israel. The words Israel, Israelis, Zionism and Zionist are not mentioned once in the play, while Jews are mentioned in the title and in the text itself. We are often told that when people talk about Israel or Zionists, it is mischievous to accuse them of meaning Jews. Now, we are expected to imagine that a play that talks only of Jews, in fact, means Israelis.

The play is only eight minutes long. We wrote the above almost two years ago. One does not need to be an anti-racist theoretician, a leading playwright, nor a literary critic to get the absurdity of saying

When I say Israelis I don’t mean Jews; and when I say Jews I mean Israelis

Then again, isn’t that the same absurdity that lay, back in the day, behind the New Statesman and Tam Dalyell getting let off the anti-racist hook?

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