Tag Archives: School of Oriental and African Studies

Shlomo Sand at SOAS: Israel is “a shitty nation” and “the most racist society in the world”.

Shlomo Sand in full flow at SOAS last night.

Shlomo Sand in full flow at SOAS last night.

Last night Tel Aviv University history professor Shlomo Sand referred to Israel as a “shitty nation” (clip 1). He called Israel “the most racist society in the world” and said that he has been fighting “Jewish racism all my life” (both clip 2). And he declared that anti-Semitism doesn’t exist in the western world today (clip 3).

He was speaking in London at the SOAS launch of his new book The Invention of The Land of Israel. The much discredited thesis of his previous book The Invention of The Jewish People is that there was no expulsion of the Jews from the Holy Land; diaspora Jews, therefore, must have all descended from converts and so have no right to return to Israel.

The already much discredited thesis of The Invention of The Land of Israel is, simply, that the land of Israel holds no religious significance for Jews either.

First, he claimed, there is no mention of “Israel” in the bible; it is only mentioned in the Talmud. This is not true (see note 1). Second, he claimed that political Zionism grew out of Christianity, not Judaism, and he solely credits Lord Shaftesbury and the evangelical Christian movement in London for the idea that Jews should return to the Holy Land.

But Sand, conveniently, regards great religious figures like Rabbi Alkalia and Rabbi Kalischer, who in the early nineteenth century wrote voraciously about the pressing need for Jews to return to Zion, as only minority influences.

Sand claimed that the Balfour Declaration came about due to three main reasons:

1. The ideological background of many leaders who wanted Redemption via a Jewish return to the Holy Land.
2. The colonialist interests of Britain in the Middle East.
3. Anti-Semitism – Balfour didn’t want suffering Jews from the East coming to Britain.

Sand said Jews preferred to move to America but after 1924, when America stopped eastern European immigration altogether, no country would accept Jews who then had no choice but to go to the Holy Land against their will.

Sand, again, conveniently ignores the examples of the Jewish pioneers in the Hibbat Zion and BILU movements who volunteered to move to the harsh conditions of the Holy Land during the 1880s to try to make a life there.

Sand views Israelis as a nation even if a “shitty one”. But, for Sand, they aren’t a Jewish nation because he doesn’t recognise such a concept exists. Sand views being Jewish as a purely religious concept and said that Hamas in Gaza are much more likely to be descended from the ancient people who once inhabited the Holy Land than he is.

Sand says he desires a two-state solution with equal rights for Arabs living in Israel and for Jews living in a future Palestine. Presumably, it would be an Israel where diaspora Jews would have limited, if any, rights to move to.

And on anti-Semitism Sand said:

“The century of anti-Semitism between 1850 and 1950 is finished. Pro-Zionists don’t understand history. I don’t think that political public anti-Semitism exists today in the western world. You cannot find members of Parliament in Britain or the United States who are openly anti-Semitic. You cannot find journalists who are anti-Semitic. You cannot find films that are anti-Semitic.”

This is what many in the audience wanted to hear. It was their official certificate that they are not Jew haters even though they focus solely on opposing the Jewish state while ignoring atrocities by both sides in Syria, by Hamas in Gaza and by the Saudi Arabian monarchy and the Iranian government which both brutally oppress their own people. To name but a few.

Once again, Sand conveniently ignores or is unaware of the example of Liberal Democrat David Ward who recently accused “the Jews” of inflicting something akin to a Holocaust on the Palestinians.

Sand is the master of cherry-picking anything that backs up his argument while ignoring anything inconvenient that might detract from it.

His recent books are not based on proper fact, record or history. They are simply driven by a hatred for the Jewish state.

Notes:

1. For a superb taking down of Sand’s new book see here via Elder of Ziyon.

2. For  a superb analysis of Sand speaking at The Frontline Club the previous night see here via Jonathan Hoffman.

Clips from last night (not good sound quality):

Clip 1 – Sand declares Israel a “shitty nation”:

Clip 2 – Sand declares Israel “the most racist society in the world” and says he has been fighting “Jewish racism all my life”:

Clip 3 – Sand claims there is no anti-Semitism in the west today:

Centre for Palestine Studies and UJIA swap roles on Israel for the night.

There must have been something in the London air last night. While the United Joint Israel Appeal, Union of Jewish Students and “Pro-Israel” Yachad hosted Israel boycotter Peter Beinart via Skype, further down the Northern Line SOAS’ Centre for Palestine Studies hosted Professor Jean-Pierre Filiu.

Beinart will have been trying his best to persuade his Jewish audience (the talk was restricted to Jewish students and members of Jewish youth groups only) to boycott the livelihoods of innocent Jewish families living in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).

Meanwhile, at SOAS’ usually anti-Israel Centre for Palestine Studies Professor Filiu gave an interesting talk on the history of Gaza. Not only did Filiu recognise Israel’s security needs but he attacked Hamas for its mistreatment of Palestinian women. There were no calls for boycotts.

Filiu’s main thesis was that peace in the Middle East would only come via Gaza as, historically, control of Gaza was pivotal to control of the Middle East. The most recent example was General Allenby who won control of Gaza a month before entering Jerusalem.

Filiu said the Muslim Brotherhood opened a branch in Gaza in 1946 and its founder, Hassan al-Banna, visited Nuseirat sometime before May 1948 to urge his followers to fight for Palestine.

Filiu described Gaza as a “Noah’s Ark” for 200,000 Palestinian refugees, but it was  the Sinai Desert that kept the refugees in Gaza otherwise they would have journeyed on to Egypt. Gaza’s original population was 80,000.

Filiu splits Gaza’s recent history into three 20 year cycles:

“1947 – 1967 Obliteration of Palestine” – Filiu claimed that during the winter of 1948/1949 many children died of hunger and cold and that the Quakers and Turks were the first in to offer tents. The only two political parties were the Muslim Brotherhood and the Communists.

In 1955 Ariel Sharon’s Unit 101 launched a raid into Gaza to attack terrorists. An Intifada soon followed. The battle cry of the Brotherhood and the Communists was “Nasser dictator, traitor of the Palestinian cause.”

During Israel’s short occupation of Gaza to try to destroy Fedayeen nests 1,000 Palestinians died out of a population of 300,000. (NB. there are no proper archives on Gaza’s history so figures may well be inaccurate)

After the 1956 Suez Crisis Israel withdrew from Gaza. Egypt took over. The Fedayeen weren’t allowed to operate. Many left Gaza for the Gulf and founded Fatah. The Muslim Brotherhood went underground.

“1967 – 1987 Reoccupation” – This period was characterised by Palestinian civil resistance to Israel, the Muslim Brotherhood’s continued oppression by Nasser, infighting between Palestinian Nationalists and the Muslim Brotherhood and a boycott by President Sadat when the Palestinians condemned Egypt’s peace agreement with Israel.

Islamic Jihad was formed and they regarded Palestine as a priority, but not its Islamisation. The 1987 Intifada took both the PLO’s external leadership and the Muslim Brotherhood by surprise. The Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza turned itself into Hamas.

“1987 – 2007 Cycle of Intifadas” – Filiu said this was a time of collective sorrow, desolation and Palestinian infighting. Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades executed many Palestinians for being collaborators.

The peace process brought hope but when Arafat divorced himself from Gaza Palestinians living there felt they had paid the price for bringing him back from Tunis, especially when Palestinian police opened fire on their own people and many were tortured to death. Gaza totally lost out in the peace process.

Israel again withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but it was Fatah’s change of rules for the 2006 Palestinian elections, hoping to prevent a Hamas victory, that actually allowed Hamas to win. Hamas immediately offered a national unity government but Fatah wasn’t interested in Gaza. After the 2007 coup Hamas fully controlled Gaza.

Filiu said that Palestinians in Gaza are fed up with Fatah and Hamas’ petty war. He acknowledged Israel’s security concerns but said Israel “should deal with the people, not bomb and kill them”. He said there is no other way but for Israel to lift the “blockade” of Gaza, which he viewed as helping Hamas to build a police state and control the population, especially the women.

During the Q&A Filiu was asked about the possibility of a one state solution. Filiu said a two state solution was the only way forward and that this is what the PLO had just asked for at the UN and that this had been celebrated even in Gaza.

Apart from Filiu’s wanting Israel to lift all restrictions on Gaza, which would lead to increased suicide bombings in Israel, it was as objective and interesting a talk about the conflict and Hamas as I have heard from any non pro-Israel organisation.

Smearing of pro-Israel questioners gathers pace at SOAS’ Centre for Palestine Studies.

Professor Gilbert Achcar (R) and Shlomo Sand (L) at SOAS in Feb. 2011.

Professor Gilbert Achcar (R) and Shlomo Sand (L) at SOAS in Feb. 2011.

Dr. Amal Jamal is following the path of Omar Bhargouti. Both are academics who have hugely benefited from living in Israel but who then came to London at the first opportunity to question Israel’s existence.

Tel Aviv University must have a death wish because Bhargouti, who would like to boycott Israel out of existence, did his Masters and is now pursuing a PhD there, and Dr. Jamal, who thinks Israel is heading towards a “one state solution”, is senior lecturer in the Political Science Department there.

Dr. Jamal spoke last night at SOAS on The Jewish State and the Hollowing Out of Palestinian Citizenship. The talk was sponsored by the recently created Centre for Palestine Studies, which is based at SOAS and includes Ilan Pappe as one of its academics.

Another of the Centre’s academics is Professor Gilbert Achcar. Professor Achcar lectures in the Department of Development Studies at SOAS.

Last night’s chairperson, and another of the Centre’s academics, was Dr. Laleh Khalili. Dr. Khalili lectures in the Department of Politics and International Studies at SOAS.

More on both Professor Achcar and Dr Khalili later on.

Dr Jamal introduced his talk by describing the “Zionist narrative” as Jews returning home to a land that was promised by God according to the Bible. But, he said, the Palestinians pose a heavy threat to that narrative.

This, he argued, has led to an Israeli policy of manufacturing “quiet Arabs” and “floating Arabs” who have no ability in Israel to influence what they want to be.

Israel, he said, is doing this by redefining the Jewish state and hollowing out Palestinian citizenship.

Part of this is a mechanism of “Control and Neglect”. “Neglect” means de-developing the Israeli Arabs so they become unequal to other citizens. And “citizenship” as a control mechanism is used to inhibit Israeli Arabs from integrating fully into Israeli life.

He said that in Israel “Jews live. Palestinians exist”.

He criticised the Knesset with its automatic majority that can enact any law. Other tools used included separation and “the racist Wall” and other walls being built in Lod and Caesarea. The citizenship law, the boycott law and the Nakba law were other examples as well as the limiting of resources for Israeli Arabs and the removal of citizenship in cases of treason.

Dr. Jamal concluded his talk by saying that the Jewish state is a hegemonic project that cannot tolerate contention and that this will eventually lead to its breakdown and that Israeli policies will close off any hope of a two state solution, eventually leading to a “one state solution”.

During the Q&A events took a turn for the worse.

I asked Dr Jamal why, if as he stated, Israeli Arabs could not influence their future in Israel then how had he become so successful there. I then went on to suggest that at least in Israel the Arabs had a chance to argue their case while in the surrounding Arab countries Arab citizens were either being slaughtered or undergoing the imposition of strict Islamic laws.

Dr Khalili thought this second point off-topic and tried to shout me down. Next someone shouted “This is Hasbarah. It is crap”. When I tried to defend my right to ask a question Professor Achcar, who was sat in the front row, referred to me as a “professional disruptor” to which Dr Khalili replied “I know, I remember”.

Then, quite incredibly, Professor Achcar announced to the room that I had left insults on his phone and that had he known I was coming he would not have allowed me in. He told me to get out.

I realised afterwards that this is the second time he has asked me to leave a talk. In February 2011 exactly the same happened when he didn’t like my questioning of Shlomo Sand (also of Tel Aviv University, incidentally) at SOAS.

Afterwards Professor Achcar told me that he still has the recordings of the insulting phone messages.

If he can prove that they are from me I will donate £1000 to a charity of his choice. Alternatively, he might have the decency to apologise.

I never got a proper answer from Dr Jamal as to why he had succeeded while other Israeli Arabs hadn’t. He just said that Israeli Jews must be saved from enacting policies of apartheid, expulsion and genocide. He said Jews can change but that the Jewish community in Britain has an important role to play as Israeli Jews  can’t save themselves on their own.

He also said that he wanted the right of return but for it to be controlled at first both for Jews and Arabs. Eventually, he said, up to 20 million people must be somehow accommodated.

For the Palestinian “right of return” read Israel’s destruction. And this from someone being paid by Israel to teach Israeli students!

Meanwhile, I was proud to study at SOAS and I contributed financially when I was recently telephoned to help current students. It’s now very sad that some anti-Israel SOAS lecturers are using smear tactics when they don’t like what they hear.