Antisemitic and anti-Israel graffiti in north Manchester

August 31st, 2011 by CST

Greater Manchester Police are calling for witnesses following a spate of antisemitic and anti-Israel graffiti in Prestwich, north Manchester,overnight on Friday/Saturday 26-27th August. The graffiti read “Free Gaza”, “Free Palestine” “Jew Scumbags” and “F**k the Feds”. Thirteen different examples of the graffiti, all daubed in the same colour and hand, were reported to CST.

The Manchester Evening News reports:

Inspector Mark Kenny, from the Prestwich and Whitefield neighbourhood policing team, said: “Hate crime is completely repugnant and has a ripple effect across the whole community. It makes people feel vulnerable.

“Officers will talk to school staff about this anti-semitic graffiti next week and will talk directly to pupils.”

Mark Gardner, a spokesman for CST, said: “This is a shocking case of anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli hatred directed against Prestwich’s law abiding Jewish community.”

A Bury council spokesman said: “The council responded quickly to remove the graffiti.”

Anyone with information on the graffiti should call police on 0161 856 4538 or 4539.

SPSC & the Jewish People

August 31st, 2011 by Dave Rich

Paul Donnachie, the St. Andrews University student convicted of the racially aggravated harassment of a Jewish student because that student had an Israeli flag on his wall, told the court that he is a member of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC).

SPSC, as noted before on this blog, has a history of using language, imagery and information sources of antisemitic provenance. They inhabit the more extreme end of the anti-Zionist activist world in Britain: where every Zionist is a Nazi, everything Israeli must be boycotted and Israel itself is a unique evil to be eradicated.

All of this, SPSC assures anyone who asks, is merely political campaigning that is fully justified by Israel’s actions, and has nothing to do with their attitude towards Jews, Judaism or the Jewish people. They even have anti-Zionist Jewish friends who will guarantee this fact.

SPSC currently has a special offer for anybody who wishes to join their organisation, in the form of a book to help them understand the issues that motivate them. Presumably, then, this book might be something about the history of Palestine, or the current political situation, or strategies to help create a Palestinian state?

No. The book on offer from SPSC to new members is Shlomo Sand’s The Invention of the Jewish People; a book whose central argument is that the Jewish people, as a single collectivity, doesn’t really exist in an authentic way, but was invented as a concept by nineteenth century Zionists; and that today’s Jews are in reality nothing more than disparate religious communities, mostly formed through past conversion to Judaism in the diaspora and with no connection to the land of Israel.

It is beside the point whether or not Sand’s thesis is correct, although his book has been severely criticised by Israeli historians who actually specialise in the subject at hand (Sand is a Professor of History of Tel Aviv University, but specialises in French history, not Israeli or Jewish history). The point, though, is that this is another example of how SPSC’s campaigning is often more focused on what they want to destroy, than on what they want to create.



St. Andrews student racism case – SCoJeC report

August 30th, 2011 by Dave Rich

The Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SC0JeC) has published a report on the St. Andrews University case, in which one student, Paul Donnachie, was convicted of racially aggravated harassment of a Jewish student, Chanan Reitblat. The SCoJeC report is worth reading in full. It succinctly summarises the evidence presented in the case:

In the early hours of 12th March this year, his room-mate was brought back to the room drunk and unconscious.  Later, two other students, Paul Donnachie and Samuel Colchester, came to check on him. Although they had been in the room several times, and had never previously commented on the flag, as the court heard in evidence, Donnachie then launched into a tirade of expletives about Israel, and calling Chanan a ‘terrorist’, wiped his hand on his genitals and then onto what he called a ‘terrorist flag’, and then went out into the hallway in the halls of residence shouting about Israel being ‘terrorists, an illegitimate state, and Nazis’, disturbing other students. The court also heard that Colchester jumped on Chanan in his bed, and urinated around the room, including on his toothbrush.  The following day, Donnachie posted messages on Facebook, and delivered a note to Chanan, saying that he did not regret his actions.

Donnachie did not dispute any of these events, but tried to contend that showing ‘disrespect toward the flag is a time-honoured way of making a political protest’.  In his defence, his lawyer attempted to call three people as ‘expert witnesses’ to try to give evidence about the difference between Judaism and Zionism.  However, the Sheriff held that that was irrelevant to the case, and refused to hear them.

There has been some confusion over the basis of the verdict of racially aggravated harassment, with Donnachie’s supporters arguing that his action was not antisemitic. In fact, as SCoJeC explains, antisemitism has nothing to do with the case; rather, this was an example of racism directed towards Israelis as a national group:

In finding him guilty, the Sheriff stated that the case against Donnachie was not about antisemitism or about the rights and wrongs of the Israel/Palestine conflict.  It was only about whether his actions had caused ‘distress or alarm’ to Chanan and had been motivated by his ‘membership, perceived membership, or association with, members of a racial group’.  ‘Racial group’ is defined by section 50a of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995 as “a group of persons defined by reference to race, colour, nationality (including citizenship), or ethnic or national origins”.  The Sheriff ruled that there was clear corroborated evidence that Donnachie’s actions had caused alarm and distress, and that he had acted in this way because of Chanan’s identification with Israel.  His crime was therefore quite clearly racially aggravated under the definition in Scots law.

This is the same point we made on the CST Blog last week. Donnachie’s behaviour can be reasonably understood to have caused “alarm and distress” to Reitblat. Sadly, there is no evidence yet that any pro-Palestinian activists in this country recognise the central message of the St. Andrews case: that the language and behaviour they direct towards Israelis and their supporters have to respect the same legal limits as all other forms of public advocacy.

‘Anti-racist’ anti-Zionism and the law

August 24th, 2011 by Dave Rich

Paul Donnachie, a student at St. Andrews University in Scotland, has been expelled from the university after being found guilty of racially abusing a Jewish student. Donnachie had defaced (in an obscene manner) an Israeli flag on the wall of Chanan Reitblat’s bedroom, and called Reitblat a terrorist.

The trial and conviction are welcome, because Jewish students, like all students, must be able to express their beliefs free from the fear of intimidation or threats. In this case, the court clearly decided that Donnachie’s actions transgressed the boundaries of legitimate expression, and crossed over into criminality. The case against another student who stood trial alongside Donnachie was found to be not proven.

According to this report, Donnachie is a member of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC); an organisation which, to say the least, does not do enough to distance itself from antisemitic images, sources and language in its anti-Israel propaganda. There is no suggestion that SPSC was party to Donnachie’s abuse of Reitblat, which appeared to be spontaneous and alcohol-fuelled, but SPSC members did support him in court.

Donnachie was reported as saying, after the verdict:

This is a ridiculous conviction. I’m a member of anti-racism campaigns, and I am devastated that as someone who has fought against racism I have been tarnished in this way.

This is typical of an attitude on the anti-Zionist left, that because they define themselves as anti-racist, and they see their anti-Zionism as an expression of their anti-racism, they cannot possibly act in a racist manner. Yet they fail to observe that the laws against racism – laws which the left campaigned for and welcomed, to protect vulnerable minorities against racism – include nationality and citizenship as markers of racial groups. Donnachie was charged under section 50A of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995, which clearly states:

“racial group” means a group of persons defined by reference to race, colour, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origins

Sheriff Charlie Macnair, who heard the case, made it clear that Donnachie broke the law specifically because of his anti-Israel abuse:

He said: “This flag was his personal property. I consider that your behaviour did evince malice towards Mr Reitblat because of his presumed membership of Israel.

“I’m satisfied that you said Israel was a terrorist state and the flag was a terrorist symbol and I also hold that you said that Mr Reitblat was a terrorist.”

This does not make Donnachie an antisemite – but it does mean that he has been found to have acted in a racist manner, under exactly the same law that would be used for antisemitic abuse. It also means that the law can protect Israelis, as Israelis, from harassment, abuse and threats, just as much as it protects Jews.

It is perfectly possible to campaign against Israel, and for the Palestinians, without acting in a criminally racist manner towards Israelis (or people who are presumed to be Israeli). A genuinely anti-racist person or organisation, which Donnachie and SPSC clearly believe themselves to be, would take note of this case and rethink their language and actions. So far, they show no signs of doing so.

Latuff and the Guardian

August 23rd, 2011 by Dave Rich

Today’s Guardian carries a profile of Carlos Latuff, the Brazilian cartoonist whose work is used by many anti-Israel, anti-American and anti-globalisation activists in their political campaigning. The Guardian describes Latuff as “The voice of Tripoli”, because of his cartoons relating to the Libyan uprising; but their article typifies the superficial and dismissive treatment of antisemitism from anything other than far right sources, which has become sadly commonplace in that newspaper.

Latuff has an extensive back catalogue of grotesque anti-Israel cartoons, some of which echo traditional antisemitic imagery. He has a particular taste for comparing Israel with Nazi Germany. He entered, and won second prize in, the Holocaust Cartoon Competition held by an Iranian newspaper in 2006 – a competition intended to denigrate and deny the memory of the Holocaust. All of this has led to claims that Latuff’s cartoons promote the kind of anti-Zionist hatred of Israel that replicates, and potentially encourages, antisemitic attitudes towards Jews.

Jack Shenker, the Guardian journalist who interviews Latuff raises this with him, and Latuff responds as follows:

Not everyone has been so flattering. Since visiting the West Bank in 1999, Latuff has become known for his support of the Palestinian cause; some campaigners claim his work is antisemitic. “Part of the supposed ‘evidence’ for my antisemitism is the fact that I’ve used the Star of David, which is a symbol of Judaism,” he says wearily. “But check all my artworks – you’ll find that the Star of David is never drawn alone. It’s always part of the Israeli flag. Yes, it’s a religious motif, but in Israel it has been applied to a state symbol; and it’s the institutions of the state – the politicians and the army – that I’m targeting. Including the flag of Israel in a cartoon is no more an attack on Judaism than including the flag of Turkey would be an attack on Islam.” (emphasis added).

I took Latuff’s advice, and checked his cartoons. Within a couple of minutes I found this one, which clearly uses the Star of David alone, not as part of the Israeli flag:

I also found this one, which targets “pro-Israel citizen[s]”, presumably in countries other than Israel, rather than the institutions of the Israeli state:

This cartoon typifies Latuff’s portrayal of Israel and anyone who supports it as barely human, celebrating the deaths of Palestinian children and deserving of nothing but hatred.

Latuff also thinks that any claims that some criticisms of Israel may encourage antisemitism, or may be expressed in an antisemitic way, are not honest expressions of concern, but are cynical ploys to protect Israel:

But to be fair to Latuff, most of his cartoons are very clearly about specific Israeli political leaders and the Israeli army. His explanation to Shenker- and Shenker’s apparent acceptance of it – seems to assume that, as long as his cartoons are explicitly about Israelis, not about Jews, they cannot by definition be antisemitic. Yet Latuff draws on a range of themes that will be familiar to any student of the history of antisemitism. For example, this cartoon showing then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert emerging from a swimming pool filled with blood, while a waiter brings a glass of blood to drink, is evocative of the blood libel:

Or the Christian iconography in this cartoon, with its echo of the original antisemitic charge of deicide:

And the dark and sinister conspiracy power of ‘The Lobby':

But Latuff’s speciality is that most modern of antisemitic libels, the comparison of Israel to Nazi Germany. This is the cartoon he drew for the Iranian Holocaust Cartoon Competition:

Here are some more:

Given that the Israeli army has universal conscription, his portrayal of Israeli soldiers as monsters, “born to kill” and bent on nothing but murder and destruction, inevitably demonises all Israelis:

I am sure that Latuff genuinely rejects that idea that his cartoons could encourage antisemitism. He clearly defines himself as an anti-racist. However, even allowing for the cartoonists’s licence to caricature, his cartoons portray Israel, Israelis and their supporters in a way that is not rational. While there is room for debate about how much they draw on antisemitic imagery, or could potentially have an antisemitic impact, there is much less doubt that they potray Israelis in a bigoted and hateful way: they are examples of anti-Israel racism at the very least, if not antisemitism, and the Guardian should take that seriously.



Vile anti-Zionist “logic” at Guardian Comment is Free

August 11th, 2011 by Mark Gardner

 A 2010 survey by Jewish Policy Research examined the real interconnection between Jews and Zionists and Israel; and showed why the border between hatred of Jews, Zionism and Israel can be so porous.

  • 72% of British Jews self-categorise as “Zionists”
  • 82% of British Jews say Israel plays a “central” or “important but not central role in their Jewish identities”
  • 87% of British Jews agree “that Jews are responsible for ensuring ‘the survival of Israel’”
  • 54% of British Jews who do not self-categorise as “Zionists” nevertheless agree “that Jews are responsible for ensuring ‘the survival of Israel”
  • 62% of self-described Zionists agree that Israel should give up land for peace
  • 78% of British Jews believe in a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict 

These figures demonstrate the hurt that is caused to ordinary Jews when “anti-Zionists” push their dehumanised and demonised perversions of the word “Zionism”. This is done by everyone from Marxists to Nazis to Jihadis: but it can also seep into mainstream media, including the Guardian’s Comment is Free (CiF) website. 

The latest example of Guardian CiF facilitating such perversion is an article by “philosopher”, Slavoj Zizek. It demonises the meaning of Zionism; tries to somehow equate Zionism with the twisted mind of Norwegian terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik; says that Zionist Jews regard other Jews like antisemites do; and ends with an ill-defined lunge at alleged Zionist relations and parallels with the attitudes of Christian fundamentalists and Nazis (Austrian ones no less)!     

This kind of prejudicial hysteria shows why so many people in the Jewish community have utterly given up on the Guardian. Not just given up, but actually believe it to be one of the primary facilitators of antisemitism in Britain today.

It is not really because of what the Guardian says directly about Jews, but rather because of what it says directly about Zionism and Israel, how often it says it; and how Jews instinctively perceive that this must, inevitably, have harmful impacts for how “correct-thinking people” feel about them. (Look again at the above statistics to see why this would be the case.)

This kind of intellectual anti-Zionist veneer allows antisemitism to take hold: despite whatever sincere opposition Zizek and his publishers actually feel and voice regarding that utterly predictable and depressing outcome.

Having written for CiF, I know its rigorous editorial standards. For me, this makes the publication of Zizek’s article all the more startling. Nominally, the article is about the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik. Its title gives no clue about the anti-Zionist screed that follows:

 A vile logic to Anders Breivik’s choice of target

Like Pim Fortuyn before him, Breivik embodies the intersection between rightist populism and liberal correctness

Zizek’s article is 1,553 words long, but over half (797) of these words are in sections concerning (mainly condemning) Zionism or Israel, some of it adapted and grafted from his 2010 book, “Living in the End Times”. What the bulk of this has to do with Breivik is anybody’s guess – as is how it passed the editorial process.  

Zizek begins by explaining different aspects of Breivik’s ideology. The first sniff of the “vile logic” comes after he describes Breivik as antisemitic, yet pro-Israel, then writing:

He [Breivik] realises the ultimate paradox of a Zionist Nazi – how is this possible?

Here Zizek betrays his bias, and his playing fast and loose with terminology as and when it suits him rhetorically to do so. Firstly, he knows full well that Breivik cannot simply be pigeonholed as a “Nazi”: Zizek himself wrote as much, in the preceding paragraph. Secondly, it is a total perversion of the word “Zionist” for Zizek to employ it here: demonising it to mean the same as Breivik’s (1) hatred of Muslims and (2) attendant support for Israel as the supposed first line of anti-Muslim defence.

Nevertheless, this rhetorical flourish provides the lift-off for Zizek’s hateful riff. He alleges an accommodation between Israel, Zionism and the European right’s attitude to “Islamicisation and multiculturalism”. There are heated debates within Israeli, Zionist and Jewish circles over this and I have participated in many such debates: but to simply characterise the most right wing elements as the current Israeli and Zionist position is deeply misleading, malicious and ultimately another quite pathetic example of Zizek attempting to demonise Zionism.  

Then, there is an especially outrageous attack upon Zionists for aping antisemites’ anti-Jewish “logic”.

 Zizek alleges Zionism has:

come to adopt some antisemitic logic in its hatred of Jews who do not fully identify with the politics of the state of Israel

It would have been bizarre enough had Zizek alleged such hatred from Zionists towards anti-Zionist Jewish activists, but read his words again: this Zionist semi-antisemitism and full on hatred is supposedly directed against all who “do not fully identify with the politics of the state of Israel”. Next, there is a similarly scandalous allegation concerning Zionist construction of “the figure of the Jew who doubts the Zionist project”. Zizek’s casual transition between these descriptions typifies his lack of care over terminology, despite the sensitivity of the subject (for Jews at least).

Contemplate European antisemitism in all of its historical, recent and current modes. There is no fit between any of this and even the harshest pro-Zionist attitude to the most ardent Jewish anti-Zionists. (Not that Zizek means the extremes anyway.) At worst, Jewish anti-Zionists are derided as “self-haters”: an ugly, hurtful and not especially accurate term, but not congruent with antisemitism, be it Christian, economic, nationalist, Communist, racial-biological, revolutionary new left, or whatever.

Zizek’s claim that Zionism has “come to adopt some antisemitic logic in its hate” is explained by his stating that Zionists construct the non-Zionist Jew as “dangerous because he lives among us, but is not really one of us”. If this is what antisemitism amounts to, rather than, say because they conspire as the demonic Other / anti-Christ / the world bankers / the global war-makers / the race polluters etc etc: then Zizek might as well argue that any dissenting opinions within a single community share a resemblance to antisemitism. He could as simplistically say that disputes between different Muslim groups have “some antisemitic logic”.

Eventually, the article ends with overblown claims of collusion between Israel and “US” and “Christian” “fundamentalists” (both terms are used), before he references a depiction of two Austrian Nazis, and departs with one final demonization, writing:

These are today’s allies of the state of Israel.

The emphasis is Zizek’s, not mine. It is not entirely clear if he means that it is Christian fundamentalists, American fundamentalists or Nazis who are “today’s allies of Israel”. Whatever: it is one final, dirty twist.

Current security situation

August 10th, 2011 by Dave

CST website has been updated with security advice following widescale public disturbances and riots in London, Birmingham and elsewhere.

To be clear, there is no suggestion that any of the violence has been deliberately directed against Jews or Jewish communal property.

The violence is, however, quite indiscriminate and could as easily affect the Jewish community as any other.

The situation remains highly volatile, and there is no way of knowing at this time if it will further deteriorate.

We advise calm at this difficult time and request that Police and CST advice be closely followed.