More than a cartoon: What Jews are talking about when they talk about antisemitism

January 31st, 2013 by Mark Gardner

 
Adam Levick, at the CiF Watch website, has written an excellent article that uses the Sunday Times cartoon controversy to explain Jewish sensitivities concerning antisemitism in general. It reads as follows:  

The Gerald Scarfe Sunday Times cartoon controversy has followed a familiar pattern, with some arguing that the depiction of the bloody trowel wielding Israeli Prime Minister torturing innocent souls – published on Holocaust Memorial Day – evoked the classic antisemitic blood libel, while others (including Guardian contributors and cartoonists) dissented, claiming that Scarfe had no racist intent and was merely critiquing the policies of a head of state who happened to be a Jew.

In response to some who have noted, in Scarfe’s defense, that he had previously depicted Syria’s Assad using a similar blood motif, Stephen Pollard of The JC aptly noted: “But there’s never been an anti-Alawite blood libel, and the context matters. The blood libel is central to the history of antisemitism.”

Though Scarfe may have indeed possessed no antisemitic intent whatsoever, Pollard is stressing that the effect of the cartoon simply can’t be ignored, and that historical context matters.

When we talk about antisemitism at the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’ on this blog we’re not claiming to possess some sort of political mentalism – a piercing moral intuition which grants us access to the souls of their journalists and contributors. Similarly, we’re not suggesting that we can ever tell with any degree of certainty that, when we argue that criticism of Israel crosses the line to antisemitism, the writer who’s the focus of our ire is necessarily haunted by dark Judeophobic thoughts.

Rather, many of us who talk seriously about antisemitism are skilled at identifying common tropes, narratives and graphic depictions of Jews which are based on prejudices, stereotypes and mythology and which have historically been employed by those who have engaged in cognitive or physical war against Jews.

Though I’m now an Israeli, an apt analogy on the moral necessity of understanding and being sensitive about the racist context of seemingly benign ideas can be derived from my experience growing up in America.

Those who grew up in the US and inherited not the guilt but the moral legacy of slavery and segregation intuitively understand that we owe African-Americans an earnest commitment to strenuously avoid employing the linguistic, cultural and political currency of racism’s tyrannical reign. Though race relations have matured immeasurably by any standard, and codified bigotry all but eliminated, there are, nonetheless, unwritten prohibitions against language which, even though often unintended, hearkens back to the past, evoking the haunting memory the nation’s past sins.

In America, comedians avoid black-face routines, in which white performers create a stereotyped caricature of a black person. A mainstream newspaper wouldn’t publish a cartoon depicting an African-American as lazy and shiftless, nor would any publication present a black public figure (in any context) as a boot licking ’Uncle Tom‘. And, someone using the N-word (in public or private) would be rightfully socially ostracized or at least stigmatized as crude racist.

Such political taboos in America have developed organically over time in response to a quite particular historical chapter, and are recognized by most as something akin to an unwritten social contract on the issue of race. White Americans can not ever fully understand black pain, the learned cognitive responses from their collective consciousness, but it is reasonable of them to expect that we not recklessly tread, even if without malice, on their sacred shared memory.

Further, whites who honor this implied covenant – and avoid evoking such narratives and imagery – by and large don’t bemoan the so-called “restrictions” placed on their artistic or intellectual expression, or complain that African-Americans are stifling their free speech. Rather, such unwritten rules, social mores and ethical norms about race are typically understood to represent something akin to a moral restitution for a previous generation’s crimes. While in the US, the First Amendment affords legal protection to those who would engage in anti-black hate speech, it is largely understood that responsible citizenship often requires self-restraint – the greatness of a people measured by what they are permitted to do, but decide not to in order to preserve national harmony, what’s known in Judaism as Shalom bayit.

When Jews talk seriously about antisemitism they are asking those who don’t wish to be so morally implicated to avoid needlessly poisoning the political environment which Jews inhabit.

They are appealing to the better angels of their neighbors’ nature by asking them not to carelessly conjure calumnies such as the “danger” to the world of Jewish power or conspiracies , Jews’ “disloyalty” to the countries where they live, that Jews share collective guilt for the sins of a few, that they’ve come to morally resemble their Nazi persecutors, or that Jews intentionally spill the blood of innocents.

In short, we are asking that decent people avoid employing canards which represented the major themes in Europe’s historic persecution of Jews, and which, tragically, still have currency on the extreme left, the extreme right, and, especially, in much of the Arab and Muslim world today.

The Scarfe/Sunday Times row is about more than the cartoon itself, and it is certainly not about the “right” to offend. It’s about sober but passionate pleas by a minuscule minority that decent people not afflict the historically afflicted, and to recognize their moral obligations to not provide aid and comfort to anti-Jewish racists.

We are asking genuine anti-racists to resist becoming, even if unintentionally, intellectual partners or political fellow travelers with those who trade in the lethal narratives and toxic calumnies associated with the resilient Judeophobic hatred which has caused us immeasurable pain, horrid suffering and indescribable calamities through the ages.

Sunday Times, Holocaust Memorial Day: blood and antisemitism.

January 28th, 2013 by Mark Gardner

 
On Holocaust Memorial Day 2013, the Sunday Times has run a cartoon by its famously acerbic cartoonist, Gerald Scarfe, that depicts Benjamin Netanyahu using blood to cement a wall that he is building, that has parts of bodies trapped within it. (See it here, on the Commentator website.)

The bodies trapped in the wall seem to be more living than dead. They appear to be of various religions or ethincities, with the youth at the bottom looking as if he could well be Jewish, perhaps wearing a kippah. Women in headscarves can be clearly seen.

The blood drips off Netanyahu’s trowel and oozes between the laid bricks, like wet concrete. The blood is so central to the image that it will, inevitably, bring many Jews (and non-Jews also) to think of the antisemitic Blood Libel: the infamous medieval charge that Jews take the blood of others for religious purpose.

The blood imagery, sometimes explicitly as Blood Libel, is commonly found in obscene anti-Israel propaganda in Arabic and Iranian media. Scarfe’s image comfortably fits within this canon of extreme contemporary anti-Israel hatred.

In response to initial complaints, the Sunday Times pointed out the obvious – that the cartoon is typical Scarfe, that it depicts Benjamin Netanyahu rather than all Jews and that it has been run following Netanyahu’s Israel election victory:

This is a typically robust cartoon by Gerald Scarfe. The Sunday Times firmly believes that it is not anti-Semitic. It is aimed squarely at Mr Netanyahu and his policies, not at Israel, let alone at Jewish people. It appears today because Mr Netanyahu won the Israeli election last week. The Sunday Times condemns anti-Semitism, as is clear in the excellent article in today’s Magazine which exposes the Holocaust-denying tours of concentration camps organised by David Irving.

As ever, we are immediately drawn into the old ‘is it antisemitic, isn’t it antisemitic’ routine – as if anybody could ever prove what actually goes on in Gerald Scarfe’s head; and as if what goes on in his head is the most important thing in all of this.

For sure, Gerald Scarfe has ‘a thing’ about blood. It is a theme that repeats in his cartoons. For example, his Sunday Times cartoon of 26th February 2012, literally shows Syria’s President Assad guzzling blood from a cup that has “children’s blood” written on it. So, he has not singled out Benjamin Netanyahu for the blood treatment and he is perfectly capable of drawing a full-on blood libel should the mood take him. Neither has Scarfe singled out Netanyahu for physical disfigurement. This is how he draws people, regardless of their nationality or religion.

Unfortunately for Jews – and for satirists - antisemites and antisemitism also have ‘a thing’ about blood; and especially about the allegation that Jews murder others (children in particular) in order to use their blood or organs for heinous purpose.  It is a harsh fact that blood has long played a profoundly disturbing part in the history of antisemitism, and this has obvious consequences for Jews and antisemites today. The actual intentions of Gerald Scarfe and the Sunday Times count for very little within this broader context of history, and its contemporary emotional and racist impacts.

So, the cartoon, regardless of the wishes of Scarfe and the Sunday Times, regardless of it specifically being anti-Netahyahu rather than anti-Jew, will seriously distress many Jews and will give pleasure to many antisemites. (Indeed, CST has already received many calls and emails on this cartoon from upset and angry members of the public.) This is, after all, how antisemitism actually works, for its victims and its proponents. For those practical reasons, this cartoon will (like the Dave Brown / Independent cartoon of Ariel Sharon eating babies) be perceived as part of the canon of contemporary antisemitic imagery, as are the many other cartoons that associate Israeli leaders with blood in hideous ways.

And, with the cartoon having been published on Holocaust Memorial Day, its power to offend and upset the emotions of Jews is greatly worsened.

(For more information about the grotesque use of blood in contemporary anti-Israel and antisemitic propaganda, see the book “Cartoons and Extremism. Israel and the Jews in Arab and Western media”. Written by Joel Kotek and published with the support of CST, European Jewish Congress and Anti-Defamation League. Some of its images may be viewed here.)

Holocaust Memorial Day abuse part 3: David Ward MP

January 25th, 2013 by Mark Gardner

 
In recent days, CST Blog has covered two separate examples of the debasement of Holocaust Memorial Day, as we fast approach its annual commemoration on 27th January. (The first, by pro-Iranian group, Islamic Human Rights Commission is here. The second, by the Respect Party’s Lee Jasper is here.)

Now, a third example, this time by the Member of Parliament for Bradford East, David Ward (Liberal Democrat). His twitter feed is succinct:

#Bradford MP condemns #Israel for treatment of #Palestinians on day he signs #Holocaust Memorial Day Book of Commitment davidward.org.uk/en/article/201…

Mr Ward sent the tweet on the day that he signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment in the House of Commons. Mr Ward’s website has a photograph of him signing the book and explains that the Book gives MPs

…the chance to honour those who were persecuted and killed during the Holocaust and encouraging constituents to work together to combat prejudice and racism today.

The website page has the same title as the tweet (without the hash tags) and states:

Bradford East MP, David Ward, has criticised Israel on the day he has signed a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, in doing so pledging his commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and honouring those who died during the Holocaust and in subsequent genocides.

Of course, there is ‘criticism’ and then there is ‘criticism’. So how exactly has the Bradford East MP “criticised Israel”? His website explains:

Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.

Here we have someone who has visited Auschwitz in both a personal and professional capacity. The assumption, therefore, must surely be that he is most certainly not an antisemite. So, he is not an antisemite, but what exactly ought we to call a Member of Parliament who makes a crass Jews in Israel equal Nazis comparison?

…I am saddened that the Jews…within a few years of liberation…inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel…daily basis…

The Guido Fawkes political website carries a Liberal Democrat Party criticism of its MP’s remarks:

This is a matter we take extremely seriously. The Liberal Democrats deeply regret and condemn the statement issued by David Ward and his use of language which is unacceptable.

Mr Ward may know exactly where he stands on antisemitism, the Holocaust and the Israel-Palestine conflict. He may be utterly assured of his spotless morality and faultless compartmentalisation of all three issues. He may well have signed the Book of Commitment in order to encourage “constituents to work together to combat prejudice and racism today”.

Sadly, however, this is not quite how racism works; and neither is it how Jews (nor many others) will react to this latest opportunistic and amoral debasement of Holocaust commemoration.

Updates

Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, states:

I am deeply saddened that at this sombre time, when we remember those who were murdered by the Nazis, Mr Ward has deliberately abused the memory of the Holocaust causing deep pain and offence – these comments are sickening and unacceptable and have no place in British politics.

Some time prior to 1230hrs, 25th January, the page was removed from David Ward MP’s website. The ”atrocities” paragraph still appears at Asian Image.

Holocaust Memorial Day abuse part two: Lee Jasper

January 23rd, 2013 by Mark Gardner

Last week, CST blog briefly noted how the far left and Islamists abuse and twist the memory of the Holocaust for their anti-Israel and anti-Zionist purpose. In particular, we noted how the pro-Iranian group, Islamic Human Rights Commission, abuse Holocaust Memorial Day with their own annual Genocide Memorial Day.

Now, the Jewish Chronicle brings news of an ex anti-racist bigwig, Lee Jasper, also abusing Holocaust Memorial Day. On Monday 21st January, he posted on his facebook page:

Holocaust Memorial Day. Israel has failed to learn the lessons of its own tragic history having evolved into a racist oppressor #apartheid

Then he added:

Holocaust Memorial Day today. We are asked to remember that which Israel has forgotten, that religious & racial hatred is a sin against G-d.

Mr Jasper has held numerous high profile anti-racism posts. He worked directly with CST whilst senior advisor on race and policing to then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. I saw him help Police to better understand, post-Macpherson, the black community’s perceptions of Police racism and to adapt their behaviour accordingly. I know, therefore, from direct personal experience that this man is more than capable of intelligent theorising and practical input on issues of racism and community belonging.   

So, all the more depressing then, to say that here we have yet another example of someone who is fully aware of how racism works and how it is perceived by its victims: but whose anti-Israel hostility still leads him to treat mainstream Jewish sensibilities with outright contempt.

Mr Jasper has been here before. He addressed the 2010 version of the above-mentioned Genocide Memorial Day / Islamic Human Rights Commission event, telling his pro-Iranian hosts that “the Jewish community” had forgotten the lessons of Nazism; and that Israel “seeks to do to others exactly that which was done to them by the Nazis”:

We are one year on from Gaza, it seems to me almost unimaginable that a people such as the Jewish community who suffered so grievously under the yoke of Nazism and fascism should forget the fundamental lesson of that oppression, and the state of Israel as its currently engaged in its Zionism project around Palestine has simply abandoned any moral ground, any intellectual relationship with that experience when it seeks to do to others exactly that which was done to them by the Nazis.

At the time, CST blog noted that Mr Jasper, despite having just given an anti-racist theory speech on the nature of slavery, and the resulting long-lasting impacts upon oppressor and oppressed alike, had “still found the crass rhetorical link between the Jewish state and the Jewish genocide simply irresistible.”

We concluded:

The Holocaust, like the slave trade, is not something that can be glibly tossed about like rhetorical confetti. Choose to spit on the memory of the Holocaust and you choose to lose the trust of the overwhelming majority of Jews. It is quite simple and you don’t need to be a professional anti-racist to understand why.

Now with the Respect Party (see him campaigning in Croydon here, before losing his deposit), Mr Jasper has basically repeated his offence. True, there is no mention of Jews per se, but it is certainly implicit in his writing, “Israel has failed to learn the lessons of its own tragic history”. (My emphasis.) True also that this time he does not go so far as saying that Israel seeks to repeat the Holocaust, but these are small mercies from a man who fully understands racism.

As a community, Jews learned very quickly that the Respect Party’s name was an Orwellian pun. We expect nothing from Respect regarding their hatred of Israel and Zionism. It is disappointing that Lee Jasper now seems so well suited to them, but that is the reality: especially when we consider how well he knows the paramount importance of how the victims of racism perceive, internalise and respond to their past and present situations. 

Finally, could we imagine such an abuse of Black History Month, or of Transatlantic Slavery Memorial Day?

 

Morsi’s Antisemitism Reveals More About Us Than Him

January 22nd, 2013 by Mark Gardner

Ben Cohen has an excellent article on his website concerning recent American reactions to reminders that in 2010, Mohamed Morsi, employed the “sons of apes and pigs” slander that has been repeatedly directed at Jews, Zionists and Israelis by Islamists. 

In 2010, Morsi was a Muslim Brotherhood leader: so his remarks were taken, somewhat wearily, as yet another example of that group’s hatred. Now, however, Morsi is the President of Egypt. His words really do matter; and Ben Cohen’s article reminds us that antisemitism from such sources is seldom afforded the seriousness it deserves. Ben Cohen writes: 

“It’s a story that began with an eagle-eyed Jewish blogger who writes under the pseudonym “Challah Hu Akbar” and progressed all the way to the White House. In the process, it has reignited the debate as to whether Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood President, Mohamed Morsi, is really the pragmatic moderate that many believe him to be.

On Jan. 3, Challah Hu Akbar tweeted an item from the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) in which Morsi, in a 2010 speech, uttered what is a standard Islamist anti-Semitic slander, namely that Zionists are descended from “apes and pigs.” A little more than a week later, noticing that Morsi’s statement had barely registered with the wider media, The Atlantic columnist Jeffrey Goldberg wrote a blog post with the entirely apt headline, “Egyptian President Calls Jews ‘Sons of Apes and Pigs;’ World Yawns.” At Forbes magazine, Richard Behar made an identical point, adding that in the same set of remarks, Morsi had called for a boycott of the United States—whose taxpayers have provided Egypt with billions of dollars in aid—because of its support for Israel.

Eventually, the Morsi story found its way into the New York Times, which felt duty-bound to point out that “Mr. Morsi and other political and Brotherhood leaders typically restrict their inflammatory comments to the more ambiguous category of ‘Zionists.’” Actually, it’s not ambiguous at all. Especially since the Second World War, the word “Zionist” has always been code for “Jew” in the capitals of the Muslim world, as well as in the capitals of the late, unlamented communist bloc of states. And in case there was any lingering doubt, a subsequent Morsi item posted by MEMRI, also from 2010, showed the Muslim Brotherhood leader helpfully urging his people “not forget to nurse our children and grandchildren on hatred towards those Zionists and Jews.”

Unusually, given the prevailing view that accusations of anti-Semitism are a smear cooked up by an unscrupulous Jewish—sorry, I mean Israel—Lobby, condemnation of Morsi did follow. The New York Times published an editorial urging President Obama to directly convey to Morsi that such offensive comments ran counter to the goal of peace. White House spokesman Jay Carney also issued a statement, declaring, “President Morsi should make clear that he respects people of all faiths, and that this type of rhetoric is not acceptable or productive in a democratic Egypt.”

Of course, no apology from the Egyptians was forthcoming. Instead, Yasser Ali, Morsi’s spokesman, claimed that his boss’s comments had been taken “out of context,” and were really directed at Israeli “aggression” in Gaza. In fact, Ali’s statement is far less stupid than initially appears; anti-Semites in the Arab world know that there is a strong current of opinion in the west that regards their fulminations against Jews as justified, if unfortunately-worded, anger towards Israel. Ali was playing to that particular gallery.

And that leads to a broader, far more important observation. In its editorial, the New York Times asked, “Does Mr. Morsi really believe what he said in 2010? Has becoming president made him think differently about the need to respect and work with all people?” Disgracefully, the Times also argued, “Israelis are not immune to responding in kind either” (a sentence that appeared to have been overlooked by establishment Jewish groups like the American Jewish Committee, which rushed to welcome the editorial.) As for the White House’s Carney, his statement categorized Morsi’s remarks as “religious hatred,” a term that barely scratches the surface of what is really at issue here.

For the Morsi affair tells us much more about how anti-Semitism is understood in the West than it does about the nature of Islamist anti-Semitism. If the Times is to be believed, then the episode is merely a depressing example of how both sides dehumanize each other with nasty rhetoric. Similarly, the White House wants us to think that Morsi’s offense was religious intolerance.

As I’ve long argued, anti-Semitism isn’t just another form of bigotry. It is a method of explaining why the world is as it is; incendiary rhetoric against Jews, therefore, isn’t just an afterthought, but the natural consequence of the genuinely held belief that our planet is in the grips of a Jewish conspiracy. One has to assume the Times would not have questioned whether the anti-Semitic outlooks of Hitler and Stalin were genuinely held, so why do so with Morsi?

There are two reasons. Firstly, the misguided view that anti-Semitism is essentially a European phenomenon, and thus an alien import into the Muslim world that will disappear once the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved. That reflects, secondly, an enormous ignorance about the origins of anti-Semitism in the Muslim world and its centrality to the Muslim Brotherhood’s worldview.

In his masterpiece “Terror and Liberalism,” the scholar Paul Berman quotes Sayid Qutb, the leading theoretician of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was formed in 1928, as writing that “most evil theories which try to destroy all values and all that is sacred to mankind are advocated by Jews.” Elsewhere in the book, Berman painstakingly docments Qutb’s frankly Hitlerian view of the Jewish role in world history, including his repeated assertions that Jews had conspired against Muslims from the dawn of Islam.

These were the ideological foundations of the Muslim Brotherhood then, and they remain firmly in place now. Any compromise with the Jews, such as a peace treaty with Israel, would therefore be another twist in the same conspiracy. According to Qutb and his followers, the only honorable path is to vanquish the Jews entirely.

These are the same beliefs of Mohamed Morsi. They may be insidious, but they are authentically held. Asking him to recant them, as the White House did, is like asking Hitler to apologize for Mein Kampf.

A far more productive approach would be to integrate the persistence of Islamist anti-Semitism into policy analysis of our relationship with Egypt. Critically, we need to ask whether someone who really believes that there is a hidden Jewish conspiracy at work—and that, consequently, political relationships are camouflage for that—can be a partner in any sense of that term.

Going by their reactions to Morsi’s remarks, neither this White House nor its supporters in the commentariat are up to that task.”

 

Genocide Abuse Day

January 18th, 2013 by Mark Gardner

With Holocaust Memorial Day (27th January) fast approaching, so does its annual bastardisation by our local pro-Iranian and pro-Hizbollah fans, the Islamic Human Rights Commission.

(See previous CST blog for IHRC’s role in London’s annual version of the Iranian-inspired anti-Israel hate festival, Quds Day, replete with Hizbollah assault rifle flags.)

Unlike the Iranian regime and its Press TV outlet, the Islamic Human Rights Commission is not so stupid or crass as to engage in outright denial that the Holocaust ever happened, but the group is still stuck between a rock and a hard place: how to acknowledge the reality of the Holocaust, without lending legitimacy to the most basic and blatant of arguments in favour of Zionism?

The far left have tackled this problem by keeping Jewish victimhood centre stage, whilst alleging that Zionists wanted the Holocaust and/or actually colluded with the Nazis to bring it about. They turn the moral tables on Zionism, by claiming that Zionists needed and desired and worked towards dead Jews in order to gain global sympathy for their enterprise.

The pro-Iranian IHRC, however, prefer the tactic of declaring a Genocide Memorial Day. This year it is subtitled  “Remembering Man’s Inhumanity to Man” and will be held on 20th January. The day’s title enables the IHRC to gently subsume the genocide of European Jewry under the sheer scale of man’s inhumanity to man. Challenge this as sophistry and you are forced into a somewhat nauseating comparative study in human suffering.

As a bonus ball, IHRC also get to define and blur the meanings of the word “genocide” and the phrase “man’s inhumanity to man”. So, they include Palestinian suffering and seamlessly move Palestinians and Israelis onto the same moral planes as Jews and Nazis.

In 2011, CST blog detailed that year’s IHRC Genocide Memorial Day calendar. For brevity, here are four of the entries:

January – Gaza: During the Israeli assault on Gaza during the 22 Day war (2008 – 09), 1,434 Palestinians were killed of which 288 were children and 181 were women. A further 5,303 Palestinians were injured in the assault, including 1,606 children and 828 women.

April – Auschwitz: Estimates of numbers of Roma and Sinti people killed by the Nazis in the second world war range from 200,000 to 500,000.

October – Treblinka: The Treblinka concentration camp was set up by the Nazis in Occupied Poland. Between July 1942 and October 1943, 800,000 people were killed there, the majority of whom were Jewish, and a substantial number of whom were Roma.

November – Palestine: The Nakba (The Catastrophe) refers to the events of 1948 when Israel was created. That year saw the mass deportation of a million Palestinians from their cities and villages, massacres of civilians, and the razing to the ground of hundreds of Palestinian villages.

Note how the Gaza and Palestine entries balance those of Treblinka and Auschwitz. Note how Treblinka mentions Jews and Roma, whilst Auschwitz mentions Roma and not Jews. Note how Treblinka seeks to play up the Roma element, despite the overwhelming majority of its victims having been Jewish. (I write this to show the IHRC’s underhand ghastliness, not to diminish the dreadful suffering of Roma and Sinti.) Note how there is no actual mention of the Holocaust, nor of gas chambers. The spin is both subtle and repugnant.

This year, to mark Genocide Memorial Week 2013, we have a cutesy little animation video on the IHRC website. (It can be viewed here, but does not need to be.)

The animation shows an adorable child holding a red balloon. The child’s ethnicity and religion gradually changes (including Jewish and Muslim). The child is simply drawn in a charming and naive style, walking along without a care in the world to the tune of a happy background jingle. At the foot of the animation runs a series of children’s names that begins with “Ann Frank (Germany)”. This is followed by “Renate Wolff (Germany)” and “Agnes Ringwald (Hungary)”, before listing one Kurd, two Guatemalans, two Japanese and two Australians, then ending with “Mu’tassim – Muhammad Ali Samour (Gaza)”.

The name “Ann Frank (Germany)” (sic) is, of course, very well known. It immediately establishes for the viewer what the other names are all about. Unavoidably, your awareness is heightened that you do not actually recognise most, or perhaps any, of the other names scrolling along the screen. This causes you to pay greater attention to them. You cannot help asking yourself, ‘why don’t I know these other names and what tragedies have they suffered?’. (In actuality, not all of those listed were actually murdered in genocides and some of them are still alive. Again, this is to be forced into a comparative study of human suffering.)

The names change as the animated child also changes. As the words “Muhammad Ali Samour (Gaza)” appear, so the screen explodes blood red and the music changes to gunfire. The words “Sabra & Shatilla” are now stamped on the blood red background, with the figure 3,500. Next, there is “Srebrenica 8,000”, then “Nazi Holocaust 11,000,000”.

So this year, the IHRC did actually mention three Jewish child victims of the Holocaust by name and they did draw a sweet picture of a boy in a kippah. The Nazis’ six million Jewish victims are, however, conveniently subsumed within the larger figure of eleven million victims. Why commemorate the ethnocentric six million total, when you can commemorate the universalist eleven million total? (Whether this eleven million figure is even accurate is another, not unrelated, matter. See for example here.)

In all, 16 events and death tolls appear. Having begun with “Sabra & Shatilla 3,500″, the list ends with “Gaza 2009 over 1,000”. The opening and closing sections are the only ones that relate to Palestinians. It is their victimhood that literally brackets all of the other entries: this is subtle stuff, but it is highly effective and, as with the 2011 calendar, it moves Palestinian suffering centre stage and places it on an equal, or even higher plane, than that of Jewish suffering. The message is as subtle as it is unmistakeable; and the IHRC’s motivations for Genocide Memorial Day are shown up for being not quite as universalist as they would have you believe.       

The Iranian regime (and indeed the far left) could learn a great deal from this sleight of hand. Will the IHRC advise them to follow suit?

Finally, it should be noted that when searching “Genocide Memorial Day” on Google, the top result is a Wikipedia entry saying that this is a national holiday in Armenia. Curiously neither this, nor any Armenian children, feature in the IHRC’s video.

Philip Hayes and Kristyan Benedict: deserving of amnesties?

January 10th, 2013 by Mark Gardner

In a case that speaks volumes for the frightening ease with which antisemitism can surface in anti-Israel tirades and rhetoric, a Liverpool music promoter, Philip Hayes, has been fined £120 for making antisemitic remarks to the Jewish Labour MP for Liverpool Wavetree, Luciana Berger.

Hayes admitted his offence and apologised profusely for it, both directly to Ms Berger the following day (on facebook) and also in court and through his solicitor. He had said the old lie about all Jewish people having money and later said, “I f**king hate Jewish people”.

The offence occurred after “a discussion about Gaza” between Mr Hayes and Ms Berger at the Liverpool Music Awards on 17 November, 2012. Mr Hayes was angered by that month’s war between Israel and Gaza.

The victim, Luciana Berger MP, is also one of the three Jewish MPs to have been singled out by Amnesty International’s Campaign Manager, Kristyan Benedict, in his twitter “joke” of 20th November, which read:

Louise Ellman, Robert Halfon and Luciana Berger walk into a bar…each orders a round of B52s…#Gaza

A B52 is both a cocktail drink and a long-range US bomber plane. Luciana Berger MP’s contribution to the debate on Gaza in the House of Commons was to express concern about the impact of the Israel-Gaza conflict upon communal relations in the UK. So, there is no factual basis for Benedict’s “joke”.

There are serious questions, and lessons, from both the Hayes case and that of Benedict / Amnesty.

Mr Hayes was an abusive antisemite: but he has apologised. In light of Mr Hayes’ previous anti-racist and anti-fascist work, and in the spirit of Restorative Justice, ought we to basically accept the apology and move on?

Mr Benedict is not exactly a fan of Israel and neither are his employers. His offence is not remotely as clear cut as that of Mr Hayes, but then again, his apology would not pass Restorative Justice muster; and neither would that of Amnesty. It leaves  us with nothing to really move on from.

Three days prior to Mr Benedict’s subtle association between Ms Berger and (non-existent) carpet-bombing in Gaza, Mr Hayes made the same assumption about her stance, but was being somewhat more forthright. Both the BBC and Asian Image have good reports on the Hayes case, the offence, the sentencing, his apologies and his denials of antisemitism. The below is based upon these reports:

At the music ceremony, Ms Berger was talking with Simon Glinn of the Liverpool Philharmonic when Mr Hayes joined them “and embarked on a conversation about the situation in Gaza”.

The prosecutor claimed that Mr Hayes said “all Jewish people had money” and that he referred to a solicitor as a “f**king Jewish t**t”

Mr Hayes told Ms Berger that the Prime Minister of Israel is “your Prime Minister”. (To which she replied, “David Cameron is my Prime Minister”.)

Then, after the awards ceremony, as the MP was leaving the venue with Mr Glinn of the Philharmonic, Mr Hayes caught up with them and told Ms Berger:

I f**king hate Jewish people

(The BBC report shies away from mentioning ‘the f word’ in its report on this part of the abuse.)

There seems no doubt that Mr Hayes was genuinely remorseful for his actions. His solicitor claimed that he had drunk alcohol that night for the first time in five years. Mr Hayes apologised to Ms Berger the following day and his solicitor related how he had played a leading role in Liverpool anti-fascist activism. After sentencing, the solicitor spoke on behalf of Mr Hayes:

I sincerely apologise for the hurt and offence my behaviour has caused Ms Berger…for over 30years, I have always tried to fight racism in every form…I have tried to promote tolerance and celebration of all…I do not believe the words I spoke that night reflect who I am, but…I said them and caused offence…

I would like to thank my family and friends for the support they have shown me and I would like to think that support is due to the fact that they know this was a terrible act which I have accepted I committed, but that I am not a racist or an antisemite.

The link between anti-Israel emotion and antisemitic abuse is very well documented. For example, in 2011, CST recorded 84 antisemitic incidents (out of 586 that year) that included anti-Israel or Middle East related discourse. (See annual report pdf, page 24.) In 2009, CST recorded 293 antisemitic incidents (out of 924) that included such discourse. (See annual report pdf, page 22.) Most anti-Israel activists seem ambivalent, at best, to such facts.

So, there is nothing unusual about Mr Hayes’ actions, but what is very unusual (and welcome, despite the circumstances) is the strength of his apology.

Nevertheless, serious concerns remain:

  • the speed with which alcohol caused what (were presumably) very deeply submerged racist emotions to surface
  • the manner in which anti-Israel emotions were transformed into antisemitism against local Jews. (Both Ms Berger and the solicitor who was also abused.)

On a political and philosophical level:

  • is it possible to be an anti-racist, to use such racist language, to apologise - and then return to being an anti-racist?

And then, as ever, there are the deeply troubling exceptions that are made for antisemitism within so much of the anti-racism movement:

  • what appears to be the absence of concern in anti-racist circles about this incident
  • the likelihood that such remarks would be political and social suicide, regardless of alcohol or apology, had they been made about Black or Muslim people, rather than Jews: “I f**king hate Black people”, or “I f**king hate Muslim people”

Of course, Amnesty International’s B52 joker, Kritstyan Benedict did not declare that he f**king hates Jewish people, but neither did he issue an apology of substance for his tweet, saying merely it was a “giggle” and “light-hearted… some didn’t – so apols to those who booed”. Yet even those “apols” came with a barb, a link to a 2nd message:

Those justifying the killing of civilians need to spare me the sanctimony – you know who you are #Gaza #Israel (and #Syria for that matter).

Can we imagine a senior Amnesty staffer singling out three Black or Muslim MPs for a “joke” about carpet-bombing?

Subsequently, Amnesty almost managed a sort-of-apology, but not quite. The tweet only had “the potential to be offensive”, it was a “satire” of the MP’s views that was “inappropriate and offensive”: err…except Ms Berger seems to have expressed no such views. And they explicitly denied that the singling out of three Jewish MPs was either racist or antisemitic. This was, after all, about Jews and Israel, not another minority group:

The tweet in question was ill-advised and had the potential to be offensive and inflammatory but was not racist or antisemitic.

The use of dark satirical humour to highlight the MPs’ political views was inappropriate and offensive.

Apparently, Mr Benedict “would apologise to anyone offended by the tweet”. Really?

So, do any of these parties deserve an amnesty for their attitudes to antisemitism?

Who is worst in all of this and what does it tell us about the relationship between antisemitism and anti-Israel attitudes?

The choices, in no particular order:

Philip Hayes – drank alcohol for the first time in five years, an anti-Israel rant turned into an antisemitic one, and he was deeply shocked by his own behaviour.

Kristyan Benedict – singled out three Jewish MPs for a “joke” implying they supported the carpet-bombing of Gazan civilians. (A carpet-bombing that was not actually occurring.) 

Amnesty International - do not simply acknowledge that its officer’s act was offensive per se; and they know, for sure, that it was not antisemitic. This, regardless of whatever British Jews and their representative bodies may think about it; and regardless of the actual views of the three Jewish MPs regarding whether or not they wish to see Gaza bombed by B52′s; and, of course, regardless of how it compares with how other minority groups would be treated.

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