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.