Sunday, 1 January 2012

A (small) Thank you to anti-Israel Jews

If for every two Jews there are three opinions, it is hardly surprising that there is a distinct lack of unanimous support for any policy decision from any Israeliadministration. But, while most British Jews prefer to leave the public criticism to Israel’s many willing opponents, some feel the need to state their disagreements loudly and “as Jews”. Their apparent willingness to lend support to the complete delegitimisation of the Jewish state leaves the rest of us unsure how to respond and it is tempting to simply label them “self-hating Jews”. However, the truth is never so straightforward.
In many, perhaps most, cases the motivation to publicly denounce Israel is the desire to fight antisemitism. As the CST has observed, the number of antisemitic attacks in the UK is directly related to tensions and actions in the Middle East. Some believe that the support Israel receives from Britain’s mainstream Jewish organisations is a cause of antisemitism and the only way to fight that is to create Jewish anti-Israel organisations.

The founding declaration of Independent Jewish Voices, for example, places the fight against antisemitism at the heart of the organisation. Likewise, Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP) state that they “extend support to Palestinians trapped in the spiral of violence and repression” because they “believe that such actions are important in countering antisemitism”.

Unfortunately, these campaigns are naïve and counter-productive. Racists are generally not entirely rational people. The egg-throwing thug is unlikely to weigh up the probability that the man walking home from synagogue might disapprove of settlements. Nor is the desecrater of cemeteries going to check first that his victims haven’t signed an anti-Israel letter to the Guardian.

More likely is the attitude shown in a comment allegedly left by a member of the Reading Palestine Solidarity Campaign on a website that “not all adherents to the Torah are enemies of humanity” because Neturei Karta are not. By opposing any and every action by Israel, the impression is given that anyone not joining the public denunciations is fully supportive of all these policies. Far from destroying the impression of Jewish support for Israeli actions, their opposition reinforces it. And all this is aside from the impact of delegitimisation on our fellow Jews in Israel.

Nevertheless, very few anti-Israel Jews are self-hating. We should recognise this and make sure to keep them within the big tent against antisemitism rather than making them pariahs. They may be opponents of Israel but they can be our allies in the struggle against antisemitism.

An example are the Jews of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). The PSC is a leading force in delegitimisation, using trade unions to advance its call to boycott all things related to Israel. Its public meetings are often attended by Labour MPs and it invited the banned Sheikh Raed Salah to speak at one such meeting to be held in the Houses of Parliament. Many believe the organisation is incapable of distinguishing between criticism of Israeli actions and antisemitism.

However, during 2011 there has been something of a mini-purge of the organisation with some previously important members forced to resign because of their antisemitism. Those effectively expelled include a former national chair, the chair of one branch, the secretary of another and the webmaster of a third. Behind all these resignations appear to be rank and file Jewish members with support from a Jewish member of the Executive Committee. While the PSC itself may be unable to work our what antisemitism looks like, its Jewish members certainly can.

We have enough enemies already that we shouldn’t be looking to create more.

So long as anti-Israel Jews retain their sensitivity to antisemitism we can be sure that they are neither self-hating nor hate us. They remain allies in our struggle against antisemitism and in some ways are capable of achieving results in it that the rest of us cannot. We should thank them for that. If we don’t make enemies of them, we may find that we have more friends than we thought. May 2012 be a year of reconciliation and greater unity in our small community. We will all be better off for it.

This piece was published in the Jewish Chronicle.


  1. I agree with one thing: many of them are not self-hating but narcissistic, overpreening egos who think that self-publicity is more important than the welfare of Israel and its Jews. You sure are one of them. Otherwise, this is an absolutely disgraceful post, seeking to excuse the hateful anti-Israel propaganda emanating from those people.

  2. One has no reason to thank the Quislings in our midst. Indeed, their limited achievements in moderating the enormities of the ghastly organisations in which they participate give free and unwelcome PR coups to these organisations. I prefer the old Trot notion that these orgs be allowed to reveal themselves in their true nastiness than to be delicately protected by the few House Jews who warn them when their antisemitic flies are undone.

  3. I find it hard to see how I could be excusing their actions having described them as "naive and counter-productive".

    I am suggesting that anti-Israel Jews are far closer to supporting Israel than they care to admit. Their primary concern is antisemitism. At the moment they see opposition to Israel as the way to stop antisemitism. That is wrong. Convince them that that approach is wrong and they will abandon the camp they currently inhabit.

    But we can't convince them of anything if we refuse to talk to them because we've decided they're beyond the pale. Some might well be but certainly not all or even most.

  4. I haven't met any of these fabled warriors against antisemitism to whom you refer. All the anti-Zionist Jews I know spend most of their time trying to deny the antisemitism in their organisation, and to exclaim how the "bad" Jews use the call of antisemitism as a get-out-of-jail free card.

    Your naive but honest anti-Israeli Jews a largely straw men of your own creation. Whatever their isolated and irrelevant mission statements might say. Unlike you, it seems, I do speak to these people frequently, and their bile and hatred to any notion of Jewishood is manifest, I genuinely haven't met more openly antisemitic people than a large proportion of these anti Zionist Jews. Go to a protest against Ahava or some such and try engaging with them. Be as polite and conciliatory as you wish. And then enjoy the torrent of classical antisemitic tropes from your concerned warriors in return.

    The only thing more naive than the straw men in your hypothesis is your hypothesis itself.

  5. I refer to the two Jewish members of the Liverpool branch who campaigned to have another member expelled because of her antisemitism. I refer to the Jewish members of the PSC who reported the former national chair and received support from a Jewish member of the Executive Committee.

    They do appear to exist but perhaps not standing outside Ahava.

  6. Like spontaneous remission from stage 4 cancer, such miracles do exist, but one shouldn't build your general strategies on expecting them to turn up.