September 3, 2008

Green Left responds to a motion on antisemitism with an anti-Zionist fringe advertised with an antisemitic cartoon

Posted in antisemitism, british greens, conference tagged at 11:22 pm by Mira Vogel

A group of people who are worried about antisemitism in general, and particularly within the Green Party, submitted a motion to the Green Party Autumn Conference 2008. The text of the motion C15 is available on p22 of the final agenda PDF. The clauses relevant to this particular post below are:

  • “Contemporary antisemitism often uses the language of antizionism.”
  • “The actions and policies of any State may be criticised, provided such criticism is not framed in racist or anti-Semitic terms.”
  • “The EU’s working definition of antisemitism shall be considered when determining what counts as antisemitism.”
  • “Representatives of the Party should condemn antisemitism when obliged to share a platform with (a) individuals who express antisemitic views, and (b) representatives of organisations that endorse antisemitism, and that such sharing of platforms should be discouraged.”

This is not a motion which restricts any freedoms. However, some Green Party members felt very threatened by this motion. They submitted a motion of their own (C16) which includes the following sentence:

“Whilst reaffirming the need to engage with other groups, especially Islamic groups, and supporting Green Party members who do this, the Green Party dissociates itself from any wider agenda. Specifically it rejects any implication of antisemitism.”

No “implication” is provided in this motion. How can we in good conscience consent to reject “any implication of antisemitism”? Any implication, that is – in other words, a hypothetical implication? This doesn’t make sense. It looks very much as if the proposers of this motion hope to innoculate themselves against antisemitism simply by insisting that “It couldn’t happen here”.

Green Left felt it necessary to go even further – “in view of the various motions on anti-Semitism etc” – and so they organised an off-programme fringe titled ‘Anti-Zionism – a Jewish Perspective’ by way of response.

Presenting anti-Zionism from a Jewish perspective, as if that automatically confers immunity from antisemitism, was lame even before one of its organisers, James Caspell, decided to advertise the fringe on his blog with a highly revealing choice of cartoon.

The cartoon (filename: Misuse_of_anti_Semitism_by_Latuff2.jpg) depicts a dismayed man wearing a Free Palestine bandana. Two hands – with a US cuff on one and an Israeli one on the other – are placing a gag over the man’s mouth. On the gag is written the word ‘Anti-semitism’. The cartoonist is Carlos Latuff, runner-up of the revolting Iranian Holocaust Cartoon Competition in 2006 (Ahmedinejad kicking the cat – his idea of payback for the Danish publication of Mohammed cartoons in 2006). In 2004 Latuff had contrived to blame Israel for the death of homeless people in Sao Paulo. He also draws equivalences between Israelis and Nazis and insists that Israelis will not tolerate Palestinians despite a critical mass of Israelis being for an end to the occupation and for two states. How could anybody assert without discussion or reassurance that accusations of antisemitism against him are baseless? To do so would demonstrate political irresponsibility to the extreme.

The point of the cartoon above is that accusations of antisemitism are a coordinated tactic carried out in bad faith to silence the expression of Palestine solidarity; it is the graphical version of the Livingstone formulation. Green Left uses an antisemitic cartoonist to accuse fellow Green Party members who are trying to take action against antisemitism of bad faith.

This is dangerous because it strengthens a growing current of opinion in this country that allegations of antisemitism – specifically allegations of political antisemitism which take more work and more historical awareness to understand than the street antisemitism of a desecrated gravestone or open talk of Jewish degeneracy – should be recognised as a tactic to prevent Palestinian self-determination. This is groundless and damaging. Palestinian self-determination is an urgent cause in itself – but antisemitism can and does attach itself to that cause. The job of any Palestine solidarity campaigner is to fight for Palestinian rights without undermining the relatively recent well-being and relative security of Jews by permitting political antisemitism to attach itself to their campaign.

Mira Vogel and Raphael Levy.

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22 Comments »

  1. Anon said,

    Your title states that this cartoon is “anti-semitic” – when it clearly isn’t at all! You are undermining your own argument.

  2. miravogel said,

    Anon, please explain further.

  3. The reason that cartoon particularly caught my eye was that it reminded me of the British elections (1997?) where BNP members wore labels over their mouths complaining of being silenced by the State/media. The idea being, I suppose that this implied there was some sort of dangerous truth being censored, and to demonise the censorers, which was somehow supposed to increase the truth/value of the message…

    In this case the image is even more of a straw man, and it’s simplistic and obvious.

    The implication of the cartoon is that because some criticism of Israel is not antisemitic, that it’s oppressive/idiotic to imply that any is.

    The content of the fringe is also troubling. I find the idea that a Jewish person gets put up as pro-boycott both racist and childish. Surely it’s obvious that individual people of all religions support every possible political stand, it’s racist to imply that it’s amazing that some Jews are capable overcoming their own personal problems in order to empathise with Palestinians, and it’s childish to be amazed by this?

    This is not to say that I don’t think there are strong parallels between the Israeli situation and South African apartheid, or that people should be free to choose to boycott for personal reasons, or that all the anti-boycott arguments were in the most diplomatic way. But the arguments have to stand on their own, and the anti-boycott argument I’ve seen has been the most level-headed and rational one (sometimes).

    Furthermore, it borders on disingenuous to imply that there is no racism involved (along a spectrum of possibly unintentional racism of showing off ‘the good Jew’ to sharing a platform with or supporting radical islamic groups who believe in the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’). Some of us on the left previously have complained about the artists formerly known as ‘Respect’ pandering to homophobic Islamic groups, but somehow it’s less of a problem with Jewish people.

    If I can support some of those aims of those Palestinian organisations and understand the desperation that motivates people to commit suicide bombings (without agreeing with their anti-Semitism), I can understand the same need for survival felt by the people of the state of Israel (and their way of dealing with the threat with an organised military) without making generalisations about the inhabitants. Because of course there are racists and sociopaths on both sides.

    I imagine most of the difficulty lies with the problem of Israel being an intersection of race, religion, nation and (heavily armed) state which make the situation very complicated, indeed.

    Thanks Raphael for helping to crystallise my views.

    Oh, sweet catharsis.

  4. […] As originally posted to  Greens Against The Boycott: here. […]

  5. G said,

    I don’t see what is antisemitic about the cartoon above.

  6. anti-zionist said,

    So this cartoon makes the whole event illegitimate. How ironic. The motion was not even passed and the anti-semitic card is already being used. This signals darker things to come.

    Mira you are the one that should explain yourself. You imply that this cartoon is anti-Semitic. We are awaiting the explanation to why this is. Most critics of Israel are brandished anti-semitic (or self-hating Jews) to stifle debate and cover their on-going campaign of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

    The truth is that the Palestinians were expelled from their land to give way to the Zionist colonial project. The Palestinians were made to pay for the Holocaust which they had no intervention or influence (read the justifications used for UN partition plan which Ilan Pappe has written about).

    If you want a constructive way forward, you should be support efforts to grant true equality between Israelis and Palestinians in the land of historic Palestine. And this can only be achieved with a one secular democratic state beyond Zionism. Zionist racism (and this is indeed racism) should not be allowed to prevail.

  7. raphavisses said,

    Antizionist,

    As a response to a motion on antisemitism, yes, this event is illegitimate.
    If you don’t think that antizionism can be antisemitic, what about this:


    Europe resolved a great problem – the problem of the Zionist danger. The Zionists, who constituted a strong political party in Europe, caused much disorder there. Since they had a lot of property and controlled an empire of propaganda, they made the European governments helpless. What Hitler and the German Nazis did to the Jews of Europe at that time was partly due to these circumstances with the Jews. They wanted to expel the Zionists from Europe because they always were a pain in the neck for the governments there. This is how this calamity fell upon the Muslims, especially the Palestinians, and you all know this history, more or less.
    […] The first goal was to save Europe from the evil of Zionism, and in this, they have been relatively successful

    Former Iranian president Rafsandjani.
    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1469

    I suppose that in this pro-nazi format, even you antizionist, can recognize antisemitism… maybe not?

    Raphael

  8. Bennett said,

    Pretty soon The Green Party is going to be a no go are for Jews. If Green Left get their way then their will be no attempt to combat antisemitism , Green Party officials will be free to share platforms with Hamas and other antisemitic organisations. Jewish Green Party members will be accused of being Israelis if they have Jewish sounding names and argue against boycotts. The Green Party will loose members but it will convince pople that it is not antisemitic by parading the very small number of Jews who are anti-zionist. In the same way as Stalin used anti-zionist Jews in his antisemitic campaign in the Soviet Union , so too will The Green Party. It’s a shame that there will not be an ecology party where Jews can also take part.

  9. I think that’s an extreme conclusion to jump to.

  10. miravogel said,

    Gordon, as usual you make good points.

    Bennett, other than the fact that I wouldn’t want Green Left to become defined by this boycott its views on Israel, I am worried about the same things as you.

    Anti-zionist, don’t you think it’s a mistake to consider the accusation of antisemitism as being worse than antisemitism itself?

    That’s what Caspell essentially does when he uses that cartoon to advertise that fringe in response to that motion.

    I get the general impression that many, though by no means all, anti-Zionists believe that avoiding the charges of antisemitism is incompatible with pro-Palestinian campaigning. it isn’t. Over on Socialist Unity, some commenters are even flirting with the idea that avoiding antisemitism is incompatible with being a good anti-imperialist, and that anti-imperialism is therefore an over-arching justification for antisemitism. That’s a worry.

    Here are some of the things that any Green, and ideally the Greens, could do to support Palestinian and Arab Israeli rights without denying the same rights to Israeli Jews. There’s The Abraham Fund (Arab Israeli equality). Combatants for Peace (turning from violence). Gisha (freedom of movement). B’Tselem (human rights). One Voice (parallel work on political process, strengthening negotiators against wreckers). Helping organisations like these gain momentum and advance these approaches is my response to the dire situation which Palestinians indisputably suffer.

    These approaches are not incompatible with a single state, but each is necessary to any peaceful resolution to the conflict.

  11. miravogel said,

    Anti-zionist. I think you would do well to balance your Pappe with Karsh and Morris.

    You say “The truth is that the Palestinians were expelled from their land to give way to the Zionist colonial project.”

    A few related questions:
    Why was there a Zionist project in the first place?
    Who was the colonial power behind this project?
    Why do you think that the movement for Jewish self-determination was unjust?
    Considering unpleasant views of Jews widespread among Israel’s neighbours, why do you think that a Jewish state is so outrageous today?

    I am appalled by the circumstances of Palestinians. But I don’t think the answer to these problems is getting rid of Israel. I also think that Israel needs to be a state for Jews and its citizens.

  12. Bennett said,

    Gordon “I think that’s an extreme conclusion to jump to.”

    Why ?

  13. Koppers said,

    I didn’t realise that Latuff had come second in the Iranian Holocaust cartoon competition. I think he’s typical of the leftist types that call themselves anti-Zionist when in reality they are anti-Semites – the mere fact that he entered the competition speaks volumes.

    Another one of his revolting cartoons depicts Alan Dershowitz masturbating and ejaculating over an image of Lebanese casualties in the 2006 Lebanon war.

  14. Bennett said,

    Gordon

    You say my conclusion is en extreme one to jump to. I’m not jumping to anything and it’s not extreme :

    “Green Party officials will be free to share platforms with Hamas and other antisemitic organisations.”

    Already being done.

    Jewish Green Party members will be accused of being Israelis if they have Jewish sounding names and argue against boycotts.

    Already being done.

    “The Green Party will loose members but it will convince people that it is not antisemitic by parading the very small number of Jews who are anti-zionist. In the same way as Stalin used anti-zionist Jews in his antisemitic campaign in the Soviet Union , so too will The Green Party. It’s a shame that there will not be an ecology party where Jews can also take part.”

    I know of one PPC who has already resigned , i know of another who is considering it. I know people who would like to vote Green bu won’t becuase of all the above.

    It’s not me who’s jumping to extreme conclusions.

  15. Koppers said,

    Antizionist wrote:

    “The truth is that the Palestinians were expelled from their land to give way to the Zionist colonial project. The Palestinians were made to pay for the Holocaust which they had no intervention or influence”

    Your ignorance is breathtaking – what took place was far more complicated than that.

    Israel existed in all but name long before she ever declared independence – there were Jewish Municipalities, Jewish universities etc set up under the auspices of the Jewish agency – all done transparently, legally and without violence. The final seal of approval came from the UN.

    After the war of indepence broke out (not started by Israel)some Palestinians were expelled, others fled and others had left because they were told to (women folk, for example, to be out of harms way).

    In the subsequent years Arab nations expelled Jews who’d lived in their respective countries for centuries. These refugees were more in number than the Palestians and they lost much more – the equivalent of 100,000 sq km of land, which is 4 times the size of Israel.

    The Palestinian Mufti spent the 2nd world war in Nazi Germany doing his best to help Hitler’s war effort.

  16. Bennett said,

    Apologies for the typos !

  17. raphavisses said,

    I reproduce here a very good post by an anonymous poster on the Daily (Maybe)
    http://jimjay.blogspot.com/2008/09/whats-hot-and-whats-not-at-this-seasons.html?showComment=1220533740000#comment-c3071481526840948385

    “””
    So, a cartoon that shows an alliance between the US and Israel silecing the free speech is not antisemitic?

    Let’s take a closer look.
    1. is its replication of the often stated (but rarely evidenced) claim that those who mention Palestine is not only accused of antisemitism, but is, actually and in reality, silenced by the accusation of antisemitism.
    Apparently,of all the words in the antiracist vocabulary, only “antisemitism” is deemed to carry this much (magical) power. Its attachment to previous myths is self-evident.
    2. It implies a complete identity of interests between Israel and the US. (One hand knowing what the other is doing). Again, mythologising political relations and that gains its potency through the further myth of the “Israel Lobby”.
    3. The silencing by the gag of “antisemitism” implies also that the claim of antisemitism is not only false, but also a weapon in the hands of “Zionists” (thereby linking Zionists and Jews who raise the issue whether ZIonists or not). It reiterates the power (and the blurring of) Zionist and Jew.
    4. It discredits any authentic claim to antisemitism around the question of Plaestine (a point noted by yourself that exists)
    5. In a classic formulation of antisemitism, the claim Zionists/Jews silence others is, as the above point notes, nothing other than a call to “silence” the “silencers”. What begins as an accusation of Zionists/Jews of silencing others is, at the same time, a call to silence Zionists and Jews wherever and whenever they raise the issue. Related to this point, of course, is the idea that a claim of antisemitism can never, never be legitimate.

    One other point.
    The debate is about antisemitism and not Israel. They are not two sides of the same coin. Those who peddle in antisemitism have always, since day one, claimed that antisemitism is a (legitimate) reponse to Jewish acts or actions. It is not.
    After all, antisemitism can exist without Jews, and often does so.
    “””

  18. Dan said,

    Who painted the picture could be an issue, but have you not even considered that the person who chose the picture had no idea of the background of the cartoonist? (I’m not commenting on the cartoonist as I know nothing about them, but do you serious expect anyone picking any cartoon to know the history of the person who drew the cartoon. People take cartoons off google all the time!).

    Also I think this is a smoke screen for another political agenda, that being political zionism. The cartoon, in and of itself, isn’t anti-semitic. It’s message is that zionists and zionist supporters (in this case the US government) are accussing people of anti-semitism in order to stop people from criticising zionism (anti-zionism and anti-semitism are of course entirely different things and many jewish people are anti-zionist). How is it anti-semitic?

    Point 2 above is nonsense. Where has anyone suggested that Israeli and US interests are identical? Indeed when it comes down to it Israel is utterly dependent on the US and is affect its imperialist guard dog in the middle east. Far from Israel or any zionist lobby having power in the USA when it comes down to it the USA has the power to cripple Israel. Israel not only depends on huge US subsidies but also the qualitive superiority of its armed forces depends on US technology, especially when it comes down to the air force.

    Rather than deal with the fact that the Israeli state is an apartheid state that puts Palestinians in bantustans, puts milliions of others in refugee camps by refusing the right of return and systematically oppresses the Palestinian people people get side tracked on to other topics.

    That is not to say in any shape or form that anti-semitism shoudn’t be totally and utterly condemned but I think some pro-zionists do the anti-racist cause no good whatsover by wrapping up legitimate criticisms of zionism and the Israeli state with anti-semitism.

    Also the EU definition of anti-semitism is extremely problematic. It includes this:

    *claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

    The zionist state of Israel by it’s very nature is racist and oppressive. It requires that Palestinians are denied the right of return, while having a racist immigration policy. Indeed as a capitalist state (and huge beneficiary of imperialist financial and military aid from the USA) its material interests are based on the oppression of the Palestinians.

  19. miravogel said,

    Dan, I would like to respond, but no time just now – so one question.

    Is there anything about Israel and its origins that you don’t think is imperialist?

  20. raphavisses said,

    This was posted on Jim Jay, the cartoon is antisemitic, if you can’t see it, learn below why it is.

    Anonymous said…

    “The cartoon says that Israel and the US use the charge of anti-semitism to silence critics. If you think it’s *wrong* in that analysis then fine – but it can only be anti-semitic if we ignore the fact that Israel and Jews are not the same and therefore opposing Israel is not anti-semitism.”

    Two points,
    1 As I noted,
    “The silencing by the gag of “antisemitism” implies also that the claim of antisemitism is not only false, but also a weapon in the hands of “Zionists” (thereby linking Zionists and Jews who raise the issue whether ZIonists or not). It reiterates the power (and the blurring of) Zionist and Jew.” (See, for example, the debates around Atzmon. See, also, the debates on the green list.)

    Many Jews who are not only not Zionists but are anti-Zionists have tried to raise the issue of antisemitism, but to no avail. The have been denounced as “Zionists”.

    Therefore, it is the cartoon and other “anti-zionists” and not me that links the Zionists and Jews.

    2. The two hands in the cartoon (one marked with the Israeli flag, one marked with the US) are, of course, part of the same body. That body is, be definition, an amalgam of Israel and the US. It is as if the two are the same. As I also noted, such imagery, feeds into the mythology of “Zionist America” (without the hyphen and so without any (political) mediation).

    It is also the case that the cartoon only contains its visual and “political” impact because of the tradition with which it connects. Adding the two blue bands around the star of David (i.e. the Israeli flag) merely acts as a means to transfer the ideological content of antisemitic notions of “Jewish power” to the Jewish state and its alleged dominance over another State.

    3. And, finally, the very idea that Zionists and Jews consistently raise antisemitism to silence others is, as I have indicated, itself a slur on both.
    As someone else raised on this blog, and I mentioned myself, the accusation is raised often but little evidence is given in support of such claims.

    Considering the levity of the accusation, – Zionists/Jews silence “free speech” and its tapping into antisemitic rhetoric -one would expect at least some serious empirically-sound evidence.

    At the moment, it has as much status as an “urban myth”, the story that happened to a “friend of a friend” that “everyone seems to just know”.

    I choose to post “anonymous” for numerous reasons.

  21. Anonymous said,

    Just to complete my contribution elsewhere.

    “The fantasy that antisemitism silences criticism of Israel is a complete inversion of reality.

    As this debate (and those on hundreds of blogs and other media) shows, the one claim of racism (antisemitism) that is deemed most effective in its purported aim of silencing is the one that is least effective.

    (And, in this way, if no other, the cartoon most resembles the myth of a Jewish power and its inversion of empirical reality).”

  22. […] allegations of antisemitism. He didn’t explain why one of its organisers advertised it with a dodgy cartoon. It was strange too that the two speakers were both anti-Zionists. There is, after all, a Jewish […]


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