Tag Archives: David Ben Gurion

There is no such thing as anti-Semitism.

Outside St Michael & All Angels Parish Hall, Chiswick last night.

Outside St Michael & All Angels Parish Hall, Chiswick last night.

St Michael & All Angels Parish Hall, Chiswick was the quaint setting for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s latest event to try to tear down the only Jewish state in the world.

When I arrived I accidentally walked into the main church where there was a carol service rehearsal taking place.

In stark contrast to the hymns as I climbed the steps to the large room on top I could hear Ben White spewing out poison about Israel.

Inside St Michael & All Angels Parish Hall last night.

Inside St Michael & All Angels Parish Hall last night.

Ben White is on a mission to sell his book Israeli Apartheid, A Beginner’s Guide.

He regaled us with maps, quotes and general distortions about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while a mostly sympathetic audience shook their heads and tut tutted the whole way through.

For 45 minutes he built up a picture of Israel as a “racist apartheid” state in readiness for the book signing afterwards.

Andrew Slaughter, MP for Hammersmith and Shadow Justice Minister, was there listening in.

Last week Slaughter met Muhammad Totah and Ahmad Atoun of Hamas.

The chairman for the evening, a prominent anti-Israel figure outside Ahava and British supermarkets, told us that to resist is to exist.

In the Q&A White was asked whether he could extend his apartheid analogy to the treatment of the Palestinians in Arab countries where they are deprived of their rights to work, to vote and to citizenship. White remarked that they were indeed treated badly but that the real culprit is Israel who won’t implement the right of return. Once that right has been exercised there will be equality for all Palestinians.

But last night was not so much about White and Slaughter but the audience.

It is the mingling afterwards where you really get to know the nature of the beast you are dealing with.

When you explain that Israel has to do certain things to stop rockets landing in Israel and suicide bombings the standard response is “Well, Palestinian casualties are much higher”.

One man told me that anti-Semitism doesn’t exist anymore. He also said that no state has ever recognised Israel as a Jewish state and that David Ben Gurion only accepted United Nations Resolution 181, the partition resolution, when he found out that the Palestinians were going to reject it.

One woman asked me to prove I was British and twice I was asked why I still lived here.

On the way out another woman asked me, “How can you justify a fucking Jewish state?” I tried to explain the basis for nationalism but she wasn’t having it. She told me she was a lesbian and how absurd it would be for a group of gays to get together to form their own country.

And all this in a church.

Ben White signing his book Israeli Apartheid, a Beginner's Guide

Ben White signing his book Israeli Apartheid, a Beginner's Guide

Arabs and Israelis facing the Holocaust and the Nakba (A book and a talk at SOAS)

On tuesday two hundred students attended SOAS to hear Gilbert Achcar, a Professor of International Relations at SOAS, talk about his new book The Arabs and the Holocaust: the Arab-Israeli War of Narratives.

Achcar claimed:

1. The Arabs bear no responsibility at all for the Holocaust.
2. The Israelis have Nazified the Palestinian people.
3. This Nazification has come about by Israel’s broadcasting of the Mufti’s connections with Hitler during WW2.
4. The Israelis must apologise for the Nakba (the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948) for there to be peace.
5. The Israelis are today still frozen with fear by Holocaust.
6. Any anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in the Arab world is purely a result of Israel’s aggression or Israel’s societal shift to the right.

He presented the Arab and Israeli narratives, as he saw them, on the conflict as follows:

Arab – Israel is a Zionist colonial enterprise where the “ethnic cleansing” of 1948 was a defining moment. The expansion of this colonial state continued after the 1967 war and continues to this day with the oppression of the Palestinians on the West Bank and in Gaza.

Israeli – Zionism was a response to anti-Semitism and Israel was created as redemption for the Holocaust. The Arabs are like the Nazis. There was no ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and the 1948 War was purely a defensive one.

Achcar didn’t refute the Arab narrative but did refute the Israeli one.

He said that there had been a total lack of sympathy with Nazism throughout the Arab world and no military actions were undertaken by the Arabs with the Axis powers but Israel needs to acknowledge its role in the Nakba and its oppression of the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, Arabs must acknowledge the role of the Holocaust on the Israeli psyche.

Mohammad Amin al-Husayni (The Mufti) cleared by Achcar of all charges of conspiring with the Nazis

Mohammad Amin al-Husayni (The Mufti) cleared by Gilbert Achcar of any responsibility at all for the Holocaust

Next to speak was Palestinian author and journalist Nur Masalha.

Masalha said “we are not responsible for the Holocaust. We are its indirect victims. We paid for the Holocaust and we are still paying for it. The Jews were its victims but we are also its victims. We are the Jews of the Jews. We have become the Jews of history” and he spoke of “concentration camps in Gaza”.

He claimed the Mufti was not an anti-Semite and that as Jews and Muslims had fought in several wars together this was proof that there was no history of anti-Semitism in the Middle East.

He thought that a Holocaust denier in France would go to prison and in the UK would lose his job but if you deny the Nakba in the UK, like the current Chief Rabbi did, you go to the House of Lords.

Last to speak was Idith Zertal of the Institute for Jewish Studies, University of Basel. Again we heard that the Arabs had nothing to do with the Holocaust. She said that too much had been said about the Mufti and that the Palestinians are the scapegoats of the Israelis.

She also felt that Israelis are so helpless in the face of such an event like the Holocaust, and how it was allowed to happen, that Israelis are transferring their rage onto the Palestinians.

She said that even the Poles share in this Israeli “rage” because as so many Israeli youngsters visit Auschwitz they think the Poles exterminated the Jews.

How I wished for a Melanie Phillips or a Geoffrey Alderman to be on the panel.

The audience asked the usual banal questions including on the prospect of a one-state solution, while a few felt the urge to label themselves “Jewish” before comparing Israel to Nazi Germany.

I also contributed:

1. How can Achcar claim that the Palestinians had no responsibility for the Holocaust? The Arabs had persuaded the British to shut the door of British Mandate Palestine to Jewish immigration leaving the Jews to their fate at the hands of the Nazis. (There was also the 1937 Peel Commission which offered the Jews just 20% of British Mandate Palestine. Had the Arabs accepted even more Jews would have escaped the Nazis).

Achcar told me that all nations had shut their doors to the Jews including “racist Britain”.

Evenso, that doesn’t absolve the Arabs from all responsibility for the Holocaust!

2. Israel does bear little, if any, responsibility for the 1948 Nakba as UN Resolution 181 created two states; one for the Jews and one for the Palestinians. The Arabs rejected it and chose war instead.

Achcar countered that the Palestinians had a right to resist the takeover of “their country”.

3. Jews were not treated well in Arab countries. They were dhimmi (tolerated and protected but subordinate) and one million were expelled after Israel’s creation compared to the 750,000 Arabs that left British Mandate Palestine/Israel. There was also the Farhud of 1941 during which 175 Iraqi Jews were massacred.

Achcar answered that it was debatable as to why the Jews had “migrated” but it was nothing compared to the fate of the Palestinians. He also said that despite being dhimmi Jews had always fared better in Arab and Muslim countries than in Western countries.

4. As for Nazification if anything it was the Arabs who were doing this of Israel with slogans like “Stop the Holocaust in Gaza” and talk of Palestinians in concentration camps. Even Nur Masalha had just mentioned concentration camps.

Masalha replied that it was the British who invented concentration camps so he, of course, was not referencing the Holocaust.

Achcar did however dispute Masalha’s astonishing claim that the Mufti was not an anti-Semite. He said the Mufti was anti-Semitic as evidenced by his radio broadcasts from Berlin inciting Muslims to kill the Jews wherever you find them. But, Achcar said, this had all come to nothing anyway.

Hizbollah fighters: According to Gilbert Achcar the Nazi salutes are purely down to Israel's behaviour.

Hizbollah fighters: According to Gilbert Achcar the Nazi salutes are purely down to Israel's behaviour.

However, I would suggest, it isn’t the Holocaust that keeps Israelis locked in a state of fear but these murderous pronouncements of intent by the Mufti which have been taken up by Hamas and Hizbollah.

The Hamas Charter explicitly calls on Muslims to kill Jews and Sheikh Nasrallah, the head of Hizbollah, said that “if all the Jews gather in Israel it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide”.

But not once were Hamas or Hizbollah even mentioned. There was no acknowledgment of any Jewish connection to the Land of Israel. There was no acknowledgment of the ethnic cleansing of one million Jews from Arab countries who had to leave everything behind them.

Quite incredibly, all three speakers painted the Arab nations, and the Palestinians in particular, as innocence personified.

The only thoughtful comment came from Idith Zertal.

She agreed that some Arabs do Nazify Israel but felt that Israelis invented this type of the Nazification.

However, she felt it was now important for both sides to find other words to describe the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Holocaust was a unique tragedy and there is no place for such comparisons today.

Finally, after two long hours, some sense was spoken.