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shadowfax



Joined: 02 Apr 2010
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Post Post subject: Exchange with Union of Jewish Students Reply with quote

This is a recent exchange I had with Mark Wolfson, Local Campaigns Officer of the Union of Jewish Students. Wolfson has posted a version of our initial correspondence at his UJS blog (here: http://www.ujs.org.uk/news/blog/letters-to-mark-rachel/), but refuses (understandably, given his admissions) to publish the rest of the exchange. Here it is in full.

-------------------------------------

Dear Mark,

Re: http://www.ujs.org.uk/news/blog/mark-s-opinion-erasing-the-line-antisemitism-and-anti-zionism/

I'm a non-zionist Jew who believes that Israeli policies towards the Palestinians are criminal, and that boycott is a legitimate, non-violent means of forcing Israel to comply with international law.

Does this make me an antisemite???

Regards,

Hannah

-------------------------------------

Dear Hannah,

Thanks for reading my blog. I think you missed the point of the blog: Bogdani Masuku incited hatred against Jews. This makes him an antisemite.

UJS is a democratic organisation. Our members support the right to Jewish national self-determination in our historic homeland. We do not have specific policy regarding Israeli governmental policy. We encourage our members to develop and act on their own views regarding Israel and Judaism.

Furthermore it is important to note that holding Israel to different rules compared to other countries is what is called 'double standards'; why the Jewish state is the only one held to such rules in my opinion is grounded in a deep rejectionism, hatred, delegitimisation and therefore exclusionary antisemitism.

I find it profoundly disturbing, however, that you would read what Masuku said and ignore the explicit incitement against Jews. By all means, work to ameliorate the situation of Palestinians (as many of our activists do), but call antisemitism out for what it is.

Shabbat shalom,

Mark

-------------------------------------

Hi Mark,

Thanks very much for responding so promptly. I've interspersed a few comments into your text below, and would be most grateful for your thoughts as and when you have time.

All the best,


"Thanks for reading my blog. I think you missed the point of the blog: Bogdani Masuku incited hatred against Jews. This makes him an antisemite."

Well I confess I hadn't looked into the particulars of this speech by Masuku when I typed my email. I've now looked it up though, and I'm not at all sure - based on the quotes that have made into most press pieces - that he should be labelled an antisemite. The quotes are pretty inflammatory, I agree. But he seems to be directing his vitriol not at Jews per se, but at Jews who support the state of Israel... which is rather different. If he was singling out Jewish supporters of Israeli policy (and not condemning ALL supporters), then this could still be considered antisemitic I suppose, but we'd need to know the context to be able to come to this conclusion. Your blog says that Masuku led the burning of an Israeli flag. Well, this certainly isn't something that's going to endear him to principled critics of Israeli policy, but it certainly isn't an anti-semitic act, lest one believes that Israel represents all Jews everywhere. Which it does not, and I'm proof of that.

"UJS is a democratic organisation. Our members support the right to Jewish national self-determination in our historic homeland. We do not have specific policy regarding Israeli governmental policy. We encourage our members to develop and act on their own views regarding Israel and Judaism."

But what about Jews who do not support "the right to Jewish national determination in our historic homeland"? Are they to be tolerated within UJS? Don't get me wrong, I believe Jews should have a safe and secure homeland - I just don't recognise the argument that says this can only be secured via a "state" where Jews are privileged at the expense of other ethnicities... as per the reality. It may sound treacherous to you, but I feel most affinity for the Jews who, prior to 1948, advocated a unitary bi-national solution to the problem of accommodating competing nationalisms in Mandate Palestine, and who predicted - rightly as it turned out - that a "Jewish State" would lead inexorably to racism and violence.

"Furthermore it is important to note that holding Israel to different rules compared to other countries is what is called 'double standards'; why the Jewish state is the only one held to such rules in my opinion is grounded in a deep rejectionism, hatred, delegitimisation and therefore exclusionary antisemitism."

What makes you think Israel is being held to "different rules"? To persuade me on this, you'd need to supply the name of another state currently into its 5th decade as an occupying power, that has transferred its population into its occupied territories, that has expropriated all the occupied territories' strategic resources, that prosecutes its occupation in a manner resembling the worst excesses of "apartheid", that has systematically bombed and dropped white phosphorus on all the civilian infrastructure necessary to maintain life within those occupied territories (Gaza is still occupied under international law)... and all this off the back of settler colonialism and massive ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population. In addition, as a British citizen, I believe I have a special duty to speak out on palestinian suffering, as it was our handling of the mandate, our suppression of the Arab revolt of 1936, and our soldiers' inaction as zionist militias forcibly expelled Palestinians (note: 250,000 were expelled BEFORE arab armies entered the war on 15 May 1948) that has ultimately led us to the current state of affairs in Israel/Palestine.

"I find it profoundly disturbing, however, that you would read what Masuku said and ignore the explicit incitement against Jews. By all means, work to ameliorate the situation of Palestinians (as many of our activists do), but call antisemitism out for what it is."

Well I've addressed this already. As stated, I hadn't, and still haven't, read Masuku's actual contextualised comments. If you have a full transcipt, I'd be most interested to see it.

H

-------------------------------------

"Well I confess I hadn't looked into the particulars of this speech by Masuku when I typed my email. I've now looked it up though, and I'm not at all sure - based on the quotes that have made into most press pieces - that he should be labelled an antisemite. The quotes are pretty inflammatory, I agree. But he seems to be directing his vitriol not at Jews per se, but at Jews who support the state of Israel... which is rather different. If he was singling out Jewish supporters of Israeli policy (and not condemning ALL supporters), then this could still be considered antisemitic I suppose, but we'd need to know the context to be able to come to this conclusion. Your blog says that Masuku led the burning of an Israeli flag. Well, this certainly isn't something that's going to endear him to principled critics of Israeli policy, but it certainly isn't an anti-semitic act, lest one believes that Israel represents all Jews everywhere. Which it does not, and I'm proof of that."

It is a comfortable place to be, not having looked into the particulars. Below are the findings against Masuku. Also, with regards to the flag burning; doing it outside a synagogue is intended to intimidate Jewish people. The Magen David is a symbol of Judaism (even if you – in a clear minority – choose not to associate with it) and his counts as incitement. This has been tried, and appealed, and it still stands.

Why do you refuse to call antisemitism out for what it is?

Anyway, I am not going to fight about a specific case. Masuku is an antisemite – that is an easy argument for me to win. My broader argument is about the exclusivity of hatred reserved for Israel. You are part of the delegitimisation process, and I want to explain to you why it is wrong. I will now (after you have read the ruling below) deconstruct your rather ridiculous argument that Israel is at once Colonial and Apartheid.

Here is the ruling of the South African Human Rights Commission <http> .

From it:

“21. On the day in question Mr Masuku was speaking to students who included both Jewish Zionists and Palestinian supporters. There appeared to already have been noted tension between these two groups. Therefore by Mr Masuku making those remarks he surely intended to incite violence and hatred that was already potentially imminent amongst these two groups. COSATU members of Palestinian supporters present at this rally could easily have been incited to hate, and even attack their Jewish counterparts. This is exactly what Section 16(2) of the Constitution seeks to prevent.

22. Mr Masuku’s heated statements made amidst an already tense audience appeared to advocate hatred against Jews and all other supporters of Israel. This is inciting violence based on religion, an area which freedom of expression does not protect.

23. Mr Masuku in his response to the allegations put to him by the South African Human Rights Commission, states that he was heckled by what he refers to “as a particular section of the audience – most of whom seemed to be members of the South African Union of Jewish Students”. This statement leave little doubt that the references made by him referred to Jews.

24. The statement that “it will be hell” for any group of students, taken in its proper context is intimidatory and threatening. It is conveyed as a warning to the effect that should one support Israel, one would suffer harm. Harm for the purposes of Section 16(2), as confirmed in the Freedom Front decision is wider than mere physical harm.

25. In responding to the allegations relating to the emails sent by him, Mr Masuku fails to deal with the context in which he used the words “…whether Jew or whomsoever does so, must not just be encouraged but forced to leave…” These words in effect come across that unless South Africans agree with his views they should be forced to leave South Africa.

26. In view of the content of the speech made and emails sent by Mr Masuku it is clear that the expressions amount to the advocacy of hatred and thus would not fall under the protection of Section 16(1) of the Constitution.

27. The comments and statements made are of an extreme nature that advocate and imply that the Jewish and Israeli community are to be despised, scorned, ridiculed and thus subjecting them to ill-treatment on the basis of their religious affiliation. A prima facie case of hate speech is clearly established as the statements and comments by Mr. Masuku are offensive and unpalatable to society.

Finding:

28. In light of the above, the Commission hereby finds that the statements made by Mr. Bongani Masuku amounts to hate speech.”

"But what about Jews who do not support "the right to Jewish national determination in our historic homeland"? Are they to be tolerated within UJS? Don't get me wrong, I believe Jews should have a safe and secure homeland - I just don't recognise the argument that says this can only be secured via a "state" where Jews are privileged at the expense of other ethnicities... as per the reality. It may sound treacherous to you, but I feel most affinity for the Jews who, prior to 1948, advocated a unitary bi-national solution to the problem of accommodating competing nationalisms in Mandate Palestine, and who predicted - rightly as it turned out - that a "Jewish State" would lead inexorably to racism and violence."

Okay. Jews who do not support the right to Jewish national determination in our historic homeland are not just tolerated within UJS, they are welcomed. We are the Union of Jewish Students, and as long as you self-identify as Jewish then we will do everything to facilitate a positive Jewish university experience. I think you are being disingenuous if you believe the question of Zionism to be a problematic one within British Jewry: there is broad support for Israel amongst most British Jews, and you cannot be serious if you believe yours to be a mainstream opinion. Of course, there are disagreements about Israeli policy (our office is indicative of this), but there is broad support for the Zionist idea that the Jewish State in our ancient homeland is a legitimate one. But, regardless of mainstream or not, I will point again to our democratic processes. Our Union self-defines as Zionist because the OVERWHELMING majority of our membership does.

Take another example: in Britain, our government self defines as social-democrats, even though this is not the definition of a majority of the British people. Nevertheless, I, as a Conservative, am represented by the British government. So too in UJS. You may not be Zionist, but we will nevertheless represent you – we offer all our members ‘Shabbat UK’ meals, we offer them all pastoral care, trips, advice – regardless of their political position on Zionism. Politically, we will fight antisemitism that may be directed against you, but you have every right to disagree with our Zionism as I have every right to disagree with Gordon Brown’s Public Spending policies.

"What makes you think Israel is being held to "different rules"? To persuade me on this, you'd need to supply the name of another state currently into its 5th decade as an occupying power, that has transferred its population into its occupied territories, that has expropriated all the occupied territories' strategic resources, that prosecutes its occupation in a manner resembling the worst excesses of "apartheid", that has systematically bombed and dropped white phosphorus on all the civilian infrastructure necessary to maintain life within those occupied territories (Gaza is still occupied under international law)... and all this off the back of settler colonialism and massive ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population. In addition, as a British citizen, I believe I have a special duty to speak out on palestinian suffering, as it was our handling of the mandate, our suppression of the Arab revolt of 1936, and our soldiers' inaction as zionist militias forcibly expelled Palestinians (note: 250,000 were expelled BEFORE arab armies entered the war on 15 May 1948) that has ultimately led us to the current state of affairs in Israel/Palestine."

This is a very confused paragraph, if you don’t mind my saying so. Israel is certainly held to different rules: I would advise you to look at China-Tibet as one example. JUST ONE EXAMPLE. Yet, where is the Hard Left’s occupations about this? They are silent on this matter, just as they were silent on the horrors that the Soviet Union inflicted on its people for almost a century. You see, I have many problems with what I deem to be the occupation of Palestine. Yet, even that statement is loaded. If we talk of occupation, we must question from whom it is being occupied. If, as you will fling at me, the ‘innocent Palestinian people’, then I would say that you do not know your history. Before the British mandate, ‘Palestine’ was not one contiguous territory, but divided into separate territories all under the broader Ottoman Empire. Britain created ‘Palestine’ just as they created Transjordan and all the other Levantine states – Lebanon, Syria, even Iraq. If you condemn Israel for being a colonial creation, then so too must you condemn Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Every state is a consequence of the process of state creation: if you oppose Israel’s state creation, then you must oppose the evolution of states fullstop. This is, therefore, a demonstrably ridiculous accusation. Then after British withdrawal, Transjordan took control of the West Bank. This was until 1967. Then Israel won the territory (after a unprovoked attack by Hussein – Israel had no qualms with him, only the Egyptians). In 1991, Jordan withdrew its claims to the West Bank. So the question of W. Bank is a massive grey area. Indeed, when it is called the West Bank, it is done so because a Palestinian state was intended by the UN partition plan to straddle both the East and West Banks of the Jordan river. No-one talks about this anymore, because the focus is on delegitimizing exclusively Israel. Are you starting to understand why there is such disinformation, and why you are not ever told about this? Because all your arguments can be counteracted with evidence.

Yet it is far more dangerous than that. Firstly – the occupation is dangerous. BUT – when you state “Jews are privileged at the expense of other ethnicities” I must say that you are either misinformed or you are lying. Within Israel, 20% of the population is not Jewish. In Jordan, and Syria, THERE ARE NO MORE JEWS. Israel protects its minorities. They have the vote. They serve in the army (for the Bedouin and druze, who have generals in the IDF), they get money from government. And yes, there is some discrimination, and yes, it is disgusting, but if you went to the Tower Hamlets in the UK and you went to Richmond in the UK you too would see gross discrimination and poor treatment of minorities. IN Tower Hamlets, 50% of kids are on school vouchers and the age of death is about 72 years old, compared to Richmond’s 88 years old. Every state has poor treatment of minorities; yet within what has now become known as “Israel proper” there is full rights for non-Jewish citizens.

In the territories, there are problems. But again, it is not divided down ethnic lines. The ‘Jew only’ roads that you were alluding to are not ‘Jew only’, but ‘Israeli only’. A massive waste of money in my opinion, but nevertheless it is based not on your religion, but on your identity card. If you are Israeli, you can drive on those roads. If you are Palestinian (Christian or Muslim), you can’t. The barrier is predominantly a defensive measure (I have an apartment in Netanya in “Israel-proper”, and can now holiday there without fear of being blown up by a suicide bomber from the Jabaliya camp 12 km away. Where it became a land-grab, the Supreme Court has stepped in. Do you see any other Middle Eastern country with such a proactive and progressive supreme Court??

Plus, it is easy to talk about the expulsion of Palestinians, but my answers to this are many. Firstly, in the Indian-Pakistani partition, 11 million people were made refugees, and then they were rehoused. NO OTHER REFUGEE POPULATION (and trust me, in the 20th Century there were many) has an entire UN Section dedicated to it. The refugee question has become institutionalised, in order to delegitimize Israel and ensure that peace remains a distant possibility. The real victims are ordinary Palestinians, who have been kept by the Arab leadership in this stasis. You want to see real discrimination – go to Lebanon, where Palestinians cannot pass property on to their children, where they cannot integrate in Lebanese life, where they have lived for 50 years but still don’t have citizenship, where they can’t enter the professions, where they don’t have access to healthcare. The double standards are disgusting. Secondly, over 800,000 Jews were kicked out of Arab land. Israel is a tiny slither of a country, and yet we managed to rehouse anyone who wanted to come. The Arab world has unbelievable wealth and vast territories, and yet the insist on using the Palestinian civilians as fighters in an unwinnable war.

You see, it is easy to fling around big words, but there is a story behind each one. An argument, and a counterargument. I hope that mine has started to bring some truth to the lies you have been fed.

I look forward to the next round,

Mark

-------------------------------------

Hi Mark,

Many thanks for your comprehensive reply. I've responded in turn below. Look forward to hearing from you...

Best wishes,

"It is a comfortable place to be, not having looked into the particulars. Below are the findings against Masuku. Also, with regards to the flag burning; doing it outside a synagogue is intended to intimidate Jewish people. The Magen David is a symbol of Judaism (even if you – in a clear minority – choose not to associate with it) and his counts as incitement. This has been tried, and appealed, and it still stands."

You’re misrepresenting the facts here, Mark. Masuku has not been “tried” since the SAHRC is not a court. Rather, it is an advisory commission that has, in this instance, ruled that there is a prima facie case for Masuku to answer. And there hasn’t, as far as I can gather, yet been an “appeal”... though Masuku would appear to be in the process of submitting one.

"Why do you refuse to call antisemitism out for what it is?"

Because I’m acutely aware of the strategy used by apologists for the State of Israel to deliberately conflate anti-zionism with anti-semitism... which, contrary to what you said in your initial email, was the point of your blog piece.

"Anyway, I am not going to fight about a specific case. Masuku is an antisemite – that is an easy argument for me to win. My broader argument is about the exclusivity of hatred reserved for Israel. You are part of the delegitimisation process, and I want to explain to you why it is wrong. I will now (after you have read the ruling below) deconstruct your rather ridiculous argument that Israel is at once Colonial and Apartheid."

Many thanks for your reproduction of the SAHRC ruling. As already noted, the process is on-going, which means you’re rather overstating your case.

"Okay. Jews who do not support the right to Jewish national determination in our historic homeland are not just tolerated within UJS, they are welcomed. We are the Union of Jewish Students, and as long as you self-identify as Jewish then we will do everything to facilitate a positive Jewish university experience."

Well you sure paint a comforting picture of inclusivity over at UJS. But you’ll forgive me if I suspect that the reality is otherwise. Afterall, according to the UJS-endorsed document “Student’s Guide to Antisemitism on Campus”, currently available at the CST’s website, anything other than “pure anti-zionism” (defined in such a way as to make pretty much every anti-zionist “impure”) equates to anti-semitism. Thus, under your own terms of reference, you seem to be suggesting that the UJS welcomes anti-semitism... which is ever so slightly problematic, don’t you think?

"I think you are being disingenuous if you believe the question of Zionism to be a problematic one within British Jewry: there is broad support for Israel amongst most British Jews, and you cannot be serious if you believe yours to be a mainstream opinion. Of course, there are disagreements about Israeli policy (our office is indicative of this), but there is broad support for the Zionist idea that the Jewish State in our ancient homeland is a legitimate one. But, regardless of mainstream or not, I will point again to our democratic processes. Our Union self-defines as Zionist because the OVERWHELMING majority of our membership does."

What’s “mainstream” today may well not be so in the future. Such is the nature of progressive change. Things which are currently acceptable become unacceptable. Take slavery: once considered the norm, but eventually abolished via a movement that began small, then snowballed. I suspect the same will happen with Zionism. And just to be clear: it isn’t simply that the concept of a “Jewish State” is problematic vis-a-vis democratic theory, it’s that this particular Jewish State was founded on LAND BELONGING TO OTHERS, necessitating massive ethnic cleansing to manufacture a Jewish majority. This isn’t something for Jews, or indeed anyone else, to be proud of. On the contrary, it’s something I believe we should be disassociating ourselves from, while at the same time advocating the implementation of international law (most crucially, a return of all refugees) and democratic rights for all.

"Take another example: in Britain, our government self defines as social-democrats, even though this is not the definition of a majority of the British people. Nevertheless, I, as a Conservative, am represented by the British government. So too in UJS. You may not be Zionist, but we will nevertheless represent you – we offer all our members ‘Shabbat UK’ meals, we offer them all pastoral care, trips, advice – regardless of their political position on Zionism. Politically, we will fight antisemitism that may be directed against you, but you have every right to disagree with our Zionism as I have every right to disagree with Gordon Brown’s Public Spending policies."

I see where you’re coming from here, but your analogy is flawed. The UJS is more akin to a political party, whose members agree on the essentials and argue over the peripherals. Dissenters within political parties are eventually ousted (take George Galloway, or Clare Short, as examples), and it would no doubt be a similar story for non/anti-zionists within the UJS, assuming they could stomach joining in the first place.

"This is a very confused paragraph, if you don’t mind my saying so. Israel is certainly held to different rules: I would advise you to look at China-Tibet as one example. JUST ONE EXAMPLE. Yet, where is the Hard Left’s occupations about this? They are silent on this matter, just as they were silent on the horrors that the Soviet Union inflicted on its people for almost a century."

The “Left” are not silent on Tibet – that’s merely an assumption on your part that fits with your pre-conceived notion of Israel being unfairly singled out. Look a little harder and you’ll find plenty of pro-Tibet activists out there. You’ll also find that most western governments are openly critical of Chinese policy in Tibet, something that distinguishes the Tibet issue from the Israeli one, with clear implications for grassroots political activism. Let’s also be clear here: there is a marked difference in character between what Israel is doing to the Palestinians and what the Chinese are doing to the Tibetans. The Chinese have not ethnically cleansed Tibet. Tibetan villages have not been systematically razed. The Chinese have not destroyed the Tibetan people’s civilian infrastructure. The Chinese have not dropped white phosphorus on children. The list could go on, but the point is that Israel’s actions are especially extreme. On top of this, you’re failing to appreciate one of the fundamentals of political activism, which is that citizens of democratic countries should act, first and foremost, to mitigate suffering for which they bear a measure of responsibility (through the actions of their government). The UK government has, for decades, both directly (via diplomatic support, sale of arms) and indirectly (through close alignment with the US, Israel’s principal backer), facilitated Israel’s criminal policies. The same can’t be said of UK’s policy towards China. The moral case for action (by UK citizens) against Israel is therefore greater than it is for Tibet, and this principle applies elsewhere too. A related principle is to act where one has the capacity to effect change. Israel is a small, trade dependent country that could well be susceptible to direct action like BDS, whereas a boycott movement against China would be incredibly unlikely to bear fruit. A further reason for a UK citizen to focus on Israel is that, as already stated, the UK shares unique historical guilt for the disaster that has befallen the Palestinians, the corollary of which is that the UK, and UK citizens, have a special responsibility to engage with this issue as a priority. Yet another reason for focusing on Israel is that, unlike any other state, Israel purports to speak/act not only for its own citizens, but also for Jews in the Diaspora. As one of these, I wish to make it clear that not only does Israel NOT speak for me, but also, in claiming to act for all Jews everywhere, it is guilty of inciting hatred against Jews – something you claim to have an interest in. So you see, there’s actually no shortage of reasons to focus on Israel. But you’ll continue to cry double-standards I’m sure, safe in the knowledge that most people will be cowed into submission out of fear of being labelled an anti-semite.

"You see, I have many problems with what I deem to be the occupation of Palestine. Yet, even that statement is loaded. If we talk of occupation, we must question from whom it is being occupied."

No, we don’t need to question this at all. International law is perfectly clear on the matter. The West Bank, Gaza and E Jerusalem are Occupied Palestinian Territories.

"If, as you will fling at me, the ‘innocent Palestinian people’, then I would say that you do not know your history. Before the British mandate, ‘Palestine’ was not one contiguous territory, but divided into separate territories all under the broader Ottoman Empire. Britain created ‘Palestine’ just as they created Transjordan and all the other Levantine states – Lebanon, Syria, even Iraq."

Ah, I see you’re resorting to the long ago-debunked argument that the Palestinians did/do not constitute a distinct group with their own cultural ways and traditions. Even the early Zionists recognised that this was rubbish – was not "the bride" afterall "married to another man"?

"If you condemn Israel for being a colonial creation, then so too must you condemn Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Every state is a consequence of the process of state creation: if you oppose Israel’s state creation, then you must oppose the evolution of states full-stop."

What I oppose, in principle, is the ruthless and on-going ethnic cleansing of indigenous people by settlers, in order to manufacture a state with one dominant ethnic grouping. This is called racism. Had I been alive when the indigenous Americans were being wiped out by European settlers, I’d have opposed it on similar grounds.

"This is, therefore, a demonstrably ridiculous accusation. Then after British withdrawal, Transjordan took control of the West Bank. This was until 1967. Then Israel won the territory (after a unprovoked attack by Hussein – Israel had no qualms with him, only the Egyptians)."

Israel had attacked Egypt despite senior Israeli figures being confident that Nasser was merely sabre-rattling. Jordan had signed a mutual defense pact with Egypt just days earlier. It's hardly accurate to describe this as an “unprovoked attack”...

"In 1991, Jordan withdrew its claims to the West Bank. So the question of W. Bank is a massive grey area."

It’s only a grey area for indoctrinated people who pick and choose the bits of international law they’d like to see enforced.

"Indeed, when it is called the West Bank, it is done so because a Palestinian state was intended by the UN partition plan to straddle both the East and West Banks of the Jordan river. No-one talks about this anymore, because the focus is on delegitimizing exclusively Israel. Are you starting to understand why there is such disinformation, and why you are not ever told about this? Because all your arguments can be counteracted with evidence."

"Yet it is far more dangerous than that. Firstly – the occupation is dangerous. BUT – when you state “Jews are privileged at the expense of other ethnicities” I must say that you are either misinformed or you are lying. Within Israel, 20% of the population is not Jewish. In Jordan, and Syria, THERE ARE NO MORE JEWS. Israel protects its minorities. They have the vote. They serve in the army (for the Bedouin and druze, who have generals in the IDF), they get money from government. And yes, there is some discrimination, and yes, it is disgusting, but if you went to the Tower Hamlets in the UK and you went to Richmond in the UK you too would see gross discrimination and poor treatment of minorities. IN Tower Hamlets, 50% of kids are on school vouchers and the age of death is about 72 years old, compared to Richmond’s 88 years old. Every state has poor treatment of minorities; yet within what has now become known as “Israel proper” there is full rights for non-Jewish citizens."

This is hopelessly contradictory, Mark. How can there be “disgusting discrimination” if non-Jewish citizens have “full rights”? And are you seriously suggesting that Israel’s Palestinian minority is not systematically discriminated against? If so, and to take only the most egregious example, how do you explain the “Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law”, which disproportionately impacts on “Israeli Arabs”?

"In the territories, there are problems."

“the territories” – that’s cute. “problems” – that’s cuter.

"But again, it is not divided down ethnic lines. The ‘Jew only’ roads that you were alluding to are not ‘Jew only’, but ‘Israeli only’."

I wasn’t alluding to anything, Mark. You’ve invented this allusion to allow you to take up a position you feel is more defensible. This is known as a straw-man argument.

"A massive waste of money in my opinion, but nevertheless it is based not on your religion, but on your identity card. If you are Israeli, you can drive on those roads. If you are Palestinian (Christian or Muslim), you can’t."

Ahh, that’s ok then. Never mind the fact that the settler-only roads are built on illegally occupied Palestinian territory – let’s all rest easy as Israelis of any religion, ethnicity and/or creed can travel on them. I can’t actually believe you’re making this point, but hey. Perhaps at this juncture, and of relevance to our exchange on discrimination, you might like to ponder awhile on the fact that settlers, living outside the internationally recognised borders of Israel, are permitted to vote in Israeli elections, whereas Palestinians living just down the road are not.

"The barrier is predominantly a defensive measure (I have an apartment in Netanya in “Israel-proper”, and can now holiday there without fear of being blown up by a suicide bomber from the Jabaliya camp 12 km away."

No-one outside the Zionist bubble believes that the wall is about security. If it WERE about security, it would have been built on Israeli territory, and certainly no further out than the Green Line. In reality, however, it snakes into the West Bank and annexes all major settlement blocks, plus crucial water resources and fertile land, to Israel. The ICJ, the highest court on the planet, has ruled the wall illegal and demanded it be torn down. Your comment about the suicide bomber from Jabaliya is a very good example of racial stereotyping – please retract it.

"Where it became a land-grab, the Supreme Court has stepped in. Do you see any other Middle Eastern country with such a proactive and progressive supreme Court??"

"Plus, it is easy to talk about the expulsion of Palestinians, but my answers to this are many. Firstly, in the Indian-Pakistani partition, 11 million people were made refugees, and then they were rehoused. NO OTHER REFUGEE POPULATION (and trust me, in the 20th Century there were many) has an entire UN Section dedicated to it. The refugee question has become institutionalised, in order to delegitimize Israel and ensure that peace remains a distant possibility."

This is mostly diversionary waffle. The refugee question is one of international law. All the refugees have the right to choose between physical return to their homes within what is now Israel (difficult, I agree, since Israel has razed most Palestinian villages) or compensation and re-settlement within a Palestinian state. The fact that you see the refugees as a method of “delegitimizing Israel” says a great deal about the Zionist psyche.

"The real victims are ordinary Palestinians, who have been kept by the Arab leadership in this stasis. You want to see real discrimination – go to Lebanon, where Palestinians cannot pass property on to their children, where they cannot integrate in Lebanese life, where they have lived for 50 years but still don’t have citizenship, where they can’t enter the professions, where they don’t have access to healthcare. The double standards are disgusting. Secondly, over 800,000 Jews were kicked out of Arab land. Israel is a tiny slither of a country, and yet we managed to rehouse anyone who wanted to come. The Arab world has unbelievable wealth and vast territories, and yet the insist on using the Palestinian civilians as fighters in an unwinnable war."

I’m not going to defend the surrounding Arab states, who have indeed colluded at various times and to varying degrees in the suffering of the Palestinians.

"You see, it is easy to fling around big words, but there is a story behind each one. An argument, and a counterargument. I hope that mine has started to bring some truth to the lies you have been fed."

The existence of a counterargument says nothing about its validity. From the mixture of arguments you’ve advanced above, I’d diagnose a severe case of denial. Denial of the basic fact that Israel, the state you hold dear, was founded on the violent removal of the indigenous population, and continues to this day to operate policies designed to seize as much strategic land as possible while simultaneously preserving its “Jewish integrity”. Israel has a stark choice: democratise, or ultimately destroy itself. For the sake of all those in the region and beyond, I hope it opts for the former.

H

------------------------------------

If you don't mind me saying, you are quite brilliant. I am not going to go through your argument again, as this is an unending debate and I have a real job and not much time.

However, if you'd like to meet me or anyone else from the office, I'd be more than happy to arrange that.

Again, I would like to emphasize that UJS is a union for all self-identifying Jews. I hope my personal ramblings can shed some light on my (limited) understanding of the arguments seen on British campuses. These have been my thoughts: not UJS definitions or policies.

If you would like to arrange a coffee do let me know.

Mark
Thu Apr 15, 2010 12:06 am
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