Tag Archives: Howard Jacobson

London Evening Standard journalist: “I’m prejudiced against Jews.”

Twitter is a good way of seeing what our elected politicians are up to. One in particular is a voluminous anti-Israel tweeter. Labour MP Richard Burden, for it is he, is also an enthusiastic retweeter of Ben White:

and

In my opinion, for an elected politician to promote Ben White, considering White’s views, is highly offensive.

It is Ben White who, in his article for Counterpunch in 2002 Is It Possible to Understand the Rise in Anti-Semitism?, wrote:

“…I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are.”

More recently White tweeted:

and this was the picture he linked to:

Joseph W. at Harry’s Place argued:

“Ben White appears to be linking Howard Jacobson – an English Jew – and Israeli Jewish Habima actors, by aesthetics and looks. If you are aware of the history of antisemitism, you will know that a great deal of attention was given to the physical appearance of Jews, who were portrayed as people whom one could legitimately hate based on how they look.”

The Warped Mirror neatly recounts what happened.

As I was concerned that Richard Burden MP was promoting someone such as White with such contemptuous views, I tweeted Burden about it. However, it was Mira Bar-Hillel, who writes for the London Evening Standard newspaper, who responded. Here’s Bar-Hillel’s Twitter profile first:

In response to my tweet to Burden pointing out White’s view that he can “understand” why some people are anti-Semitic Bar-Hillel stated that she “can understand it too”:

When challenged as to whether she could also “understand” people who were Islamophobic she, somewhat ambiguously, responded:

“I understand hatred for anyone one who feels wronged – or unjustly treated – by. Racism I abhor.”

Good to know Bar-Hillel abhors racism. But then how would one explain the following quote apparently attributed to her in Anshel Pfeffer’s article in Haaretz in June which discussed the set exam question “Why are some people prejudiced against Jews?” (Haaretz might be behind a pay-wall for some so I have copied and pasted the full article below for context purposes):

“The Jews of today scare me and I find it almost impossible to talk to most of them, including relatives. Any criticism of the policies of Israel – including the disgraceful treatment of Holocaust survivors as well as refugees from murderous regimes – is regarded as treason and/or anti-Semitism. Most papers and journals will not even publish articles on the subject for fear of a Jewish backlash. Goyim (gentiles) are often treated with ill-concealed contempt, yet the Jews are always the victims. Am I prejudiced against Jews? Alas, yes.” (Emphasis added)

So Bar Hillel abhors racism, but is “prejudiced against Jews”. Work that one out.

Meanwhile, I continued to question Richard Burden MP as to whether he found White’s view offensive. Sadly, instead of agreeing that it was he refused to give a straightforward answer:

It is very concerning that a British MP, who does denounce anti-Semitism, still goes on to promote someone like White with such views and doesn’t see anything wrong in that. Or maybe, as Burden suggested, I should just “grow up”.

Anshel Pfeffer’s Haaretz article in full:

Anti-Semitism in 100 words or less
In rhyme, in sorrow and in a single word, readers took my challenge. Which one gets the bottle of wine?

By Anshel Pfeffer | Jun.22, 2012 | 2:42 AM | 2

Nine years ago, I found myself hanging out with a group of Pakistani journalists I met at a seminar abroad. At the time, we were all hearing about secret and not-so-secret dealings between Israel and Pakistan, and one of them showed me his passport. On the bottom of every page was written, “For travel to every nation in the world except Israel.” “It’s just politics” he explained to me. “There is no anti-Semitism in Pakistan; there are no Jews.”

Technically, that may be true, as the small Jewish communities of Karachi and Peshawar dispersed decades ago. But it is interesting that he felt the need to create a distinction between a hatred of Israel and the shunning of Jews.

There is anti-Jewish rhetoric in the local media in Pakistan. Many would argue that in a nation without a history of local anti-Semitism, this is actually a manifestation of anti-Western sentiments, along with the country’s intense hostility with neighboring India, which is increasingly becoming a strategic ally of Israel. It doesn’t seem as though Pakistan has a homegrown tradition of Jew-hatred.

On Wednesday, a British woman of Pakistani origin, Shasta Khan, was charged in a Manchester court for planning, along with her husband Mohammed Sajid, what could have been the worst anti-Semitic attack on British soil in living memory. Born and raised in the Manchester region, she would have seen and recognized Jews from the large Orthodox community in the city. The couple is alleged to have scouted out targets in the Prestwich neighborhood, where thousands of Jews live and work.

A different duo of young British-Pakistanis, Asif Mohammed Hanif and Omar Khan Sharif, became radicalized after traveling to study in Damascus, where they were recruited by Hamas and carried out a suicide attack at a Tel-Aviv pub, killing three people, in 2003. In contrast, Khan and Sajid are accused of embarking on their Jihad after surfing radical websites. They allegedly learned how to build homemade bombs from Al-Qaida’s Inspire magazine, and instead of travelling to the Middle East to strike at the Zionist enemy, they decided to avenge the Palestinians by murdering fellow Britons, members of a neighboring religious community.

But that is how anti-Semitism has evolved: Defying reason and ideology, overcoming geographic and social divides, it adapts to new environments and conditions. Anti-Semitism is the most flexible and versatile of hatreds. That is my main conclusion from the many answers I received over the last two weeks, following the question I posed to readers: “Why are some people prejudiced against Jews?” But that was not the only conclusion.

A brief reminder: I decided to open up the column to readers following the hysterical reactions of some politicians and community leaders in Britain when this question was posed to high school students in a national exam. Financial blogger Henry Blodget was inundated with angry responses when he asked the same question with sincerity and seriousness. I had hoped that this column’s readers would prove both more intelligent and display a greater sense of equipoise than those who expressed outrage over the exam question. The reader responses exceeded my expectations.

There were a handful of responses such as the commenter who wrote, “Anti-Semitism should be condemned not explained – full stop.” But most readers who answered believe, like I do, that no subject should be beyond discussion, even if some of the responses do not make for easy reading. Of course, there were a few nasties, such as the writer who tried to convince me that the world doesn’t have anything against Jews in particular, but rather just against Israelis. After all, he wrote,”the Internet has shown the world what kind of people you are.”

Others were also critical but from a place of sorrow. Mira Bar-Hillel wrote that “The Jews of today scare me and I find it almost impossible to talk to most of them, including relatives. Any criticism of the policies of Israel – including the disgraceful treatment of Holocaust survivors as well as refugees from murderous regimes – is regarded as treason and/or anti-Semitism. Most papers and journals will not even publish articles on the subject for fear of a Jewish backlash. Goyim (gentiles ) are often treated with ill-concealed contempt, yet the Jews are always the victims. Am I prejudiced against Jews? Alas, yes.”

Honorable mentions

I know that some would label Mira with the despicable title of “self-hating Jew,” and while I don’t necessarily agree with all she writes, I think she expresses genuine concerns and should be heard. Mira’s answer is one of my two honorable mentions.

The other honorable mention goes to Richard Asbeck, who managed in verse to convey the uneasy feeling of many Jews and non-Jews at the separateness, perhaps aloofness, that Jews have conveyed over the millennia.

“How could I by virtue of reciprocity,

blessed by the honor of having been treated as a friend,

remembering the humanity of a shared meal,

remembering the hachnasat orchim (hospitality ), how could I, in the attempt of responding in kind, avoid the self-allegation of impurity and ‘unchosenness’ clearly marked by the catered dinner on a stranger’s plate, or worse: the foil-wrapped carton board plate?”

Although I allowed up to 100 words, some readers made do with just one or two words: Envy; jealousy; religion; Zionism; ignorance; Jesus Christ. All are indeed reasons why people are prejudiced against Jews, and there are of course many more, often conflicting, and never justified reasons. And that is why I said that anti-Semitism is the most flexible of hatreds and why I chose Mark Gardner’s entry as the winner. My only hesitation is that the writer is a professional in the field, who serves as director of communications of the Community Security Trust (CST ), of British Jewry. My choice of Mark as winner is not an endorsement of the CST; indeed I criticized the organization in a column on an unrelated matter two months ago. But unlike others who monitor anti-Semitism, I think that his entry proves he can address the issue in a balanced manner. So he gets the (kosher ) bottle of wine.

Here is his answer to why some people are prejudiced against Jews. “If prejudice is hating someone more than is necessary, then you must consider the anti-Semites’ charge sheet. So, let us be brief: Allied with the Devil to kill the son of God; lost God’s covenant; fought God’s last prophet; visible rejecters of God; kill children and drink their blood; conspiratorial; money hoarding; greedy; corrupting; mean-spirited; physically grotesque; contemptible; ferocious; ingratiating yet always alien and never authentic; devious, evil, corrupting geniuses; unchanging and unassimilable; racially distinct, self-superior hypocrites; financiers of war; harbingers of revolution; pornographers; hucksters and fraudsters; whiners and liars; imperialists and colonizers; thieves, racists, war-mongering destroyers. More briefly: scapegoat.”

Yachad’s Ben White love-in.

What to do about Yachad?

This UK based organisation that calls itself “pro-Israel, pro-peace” had an inauspicious start in the UK.

On October 31st last year at a panel event at UCL Yachad’s Hannah Weisfeld endorsed two of Israel’s main demonisers; Israeli human rights organisation Yesh Din and the vicious anti-Israel website +972 Magazine.

And at SOAS on January 30th this year on a panel to discuss Is BDS working? Weisfeld hinted that she just might endorse a boycott of part of Israel’s Jewish community when she said of the “settlements”:

“I think we would be having a very different conversation in this room if the BDS movement was about a targeted boycott. I am not saying that I would necessarily support it, but I think the entire debate would be different, because I think the position would be a position that does not put people on the defensive because it recognises the legitimacy of the other side to exist and I think that the level of criminality that exists inside the Green Line, over the Green Line is not distinguished…is exactly the reason BDS will not succeed in ending the occupation.”

The legality of the “settlements” is a valid argument to have in my book but not to condemn outright a boycott of Jews is unforgivable and in my book “I am not saying that I would necessarily support it” is tantamount to saying “I might support a boycott of Jews living on the West Bank”.

Seeing that Yachad calls itself “pro-Israel” and that Israel needs all the friends it can get in a time of increasing anti-Semitism not so cleverly disguised as anti-Zionism Yachad should have been given time to prove its credentials.

We’ve tried, we’ve listened but Yachad has done Israel no favours at all so far.

Yachad is pro-Israel to the extent that, unlike the Palestine Solidarity Campaign for example, it believes the Jewish state should exist. Incidentally, I have heard it put that the reason that some mainstream Jewish organisations embrace Yachad is that they see Yachad as a buffer to stopping young British Jews joining the PSC.

Some endorsement!

One of Yachad’s main arguments is that if Israel does not vacate the West Bank Israel will inevitably lose its Jewish and democratic status as the West Bank’s alleged 2.5 million Palestinians will, when added to Israel’s own Arab population, eventually outnumber Israel’s Jews.

Such a calculation has been deconstructed in this study by Bar-Ilan University which puts the number of Palestinians on the West Bank at 1.41 million.

I wanted to compare Yachad’s claim to the BIU study so I sent an email to Yachad on March 27th asking for their source. I received no response.

I did receive an invite to Yachad’s upcoming events at The Jewish Museum (June 10th), the Marjorie and Arnold Ziff Community Centre, Leeds (June 14th), Finchley Reform Synagogue (June 17th), Hampstead Synagogue (June 18th) and the London Jewish Cultural Centre (June 19th) on the proviso that we “start a conversation within UK Jewry about these issues which are at the heart of the ongoing conflict”.

First, Yachad wants these issues to be discussed amongst “UK Jewry”. What about the views of the UK’s Muslim and Christian etc. friends of Israel? Yachad may as well hang a “Only Jews welcome here” sign outside their events. And, yet, Yachad has the nerve to compare Israel to an apartheid state.

Second, is it not the height of arrogance for Yachad to presume that the democratic wishes of Israel’s electorate can be so easily overridden by “a conversation within UK Jewry”?

Supporters of Yachad could do no better than make aliyah and win hearts and minds in Israel in order to change government policy. Jews in the UK have no vote and little, if any, influence on Israeli government policy. Yachad should be having the “conversation” in Israel where it might actually count.

Supporting Yesh Din and +972 Magazine is one thing and scaremongering over the demographics of the region is another but Yachad can’t get much lower than reaching out to one of Israel’s main enemies and demonisers; Ben White.

It did just that on Twitter when on April 27th, in the name of “diversity”, it asked White to comment on their new blog and, in particular, a piece by David Landau which makes the scaremongering argument over the demographics of the region I have outlined above:

The piece, by the way, attracted just four comments.

As Yachad is all for “diversity” it is a surprise they didn’t reach out to far-right fascists because the difference between their views and some of the views of Ben White is minimal.

Like those on the extreme far-right White is a hardcore anti-Israel polemicist who wants the Jewish state destroyed. And in his book Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide White cites an essay by Roger Garaudy who was fined the equivalent of $20,000 by a French court for questioning the Holocaust.

On June 29th last year White was due to share a platform with homophobic preacher Sheikh Raed Salah at a panel discussion until Salah could not appear due to having been arrested after entering this country despite being on a banned list.

Salah eventually won his deportation case despite, inter alia, believing that homosexuality is a “great crime” which signals “the start of the collapse of every society” and laughing at the memory of taunting a Jewish teacher with a Swastika.

White has also written “I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are.”

And White tweeted this comment in light of Habima’s upcoming recent performance at The Globe:

Here is that “massive picture of Howard Jacobson’s face”:



As Joseph W writes over at Harry’s Place
:

“Ben White appears to be linking Howard Jacobson – an English Jew – and Israeli Jewish Habima actors, by aesthetics and looks. If you are aware of the history of antisemitism, you will know that a great deal of attention was given to the physical appearance of Jews, who were portrayed as people whom one could legitimately hate based on how they look.”

Incidentally, for anyone looking to defend White on the basis that he might have been talking about the expression on Jacobson’s face here’s Joseph W again pointing out that White didn’t mention Jacobson’s expression, simply his face.

So, if you are going to any of those Yachad events keep in mind the sickening company Yachad keeps; all in the cause of “diversity”!

The Independent’s New Year’s message to Britain’s Jews: Goodbye Israel.

While Britain’s Jews were last week preparing for Rosh Hashanah Mary Dejevsky, of The Independent newspaper, was thinking about her article Will Israel still exist in 2048?, which was published on Friday, the second day of Rosh Hashanah.

She imagined every doomsday scenario possible which could mean that “Israel, as currently constituted, may not be a permanent feature of the international scene”.

She wished to give the impression of objectivity by telling us that “Israel should continue to exist” because it has “UN recognition”, “has survived more than 60 years in a distinctly hostile neighbourhood”, “has created a thriving economy” and “has a rich cultural life”.

The question for her is whether Israel “can and will survive”.

This sounds distinctly like PLO/Fatah and Hamas rhetoric. Both, like Dejevsky, recognise Israel’s existence as fact. But, neither recognise Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

And nowhere in her article does Dejevsky acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, which might explain her excitement at the possibilities of how Israel’s demise might come about.

Possibility 1: Israel’s borders are too vast and too porous to defend and could be breached by Palestinian civilians from Syria or there could some sort of invasion from Egypt. The Palestinian Authority and Jordan may join in.

Possibility 2: Islamists may come to power in the surrounding countries with the knock on consequences for Israel and the new Arab leaders “will have to be responsive to the wishes of their people”.

Possibility 3: Israel’s suffers a societal split making it less unified and, therefore, less likely to successfully defend itself militarily. This split, she thinks, will be the result of “the Arab, Orthodox Jewish and second-generation Russian populations increasing much faster than other groups”.

She explains that the Holocaust could be “less of a unifying force” and that “the younger, more educated” of the population might leave Israel.

Dejevsky leaves Israel with just two outcomes; it becomes a fortress-like, isolated state protected by nuclear weapeons or “the so-called one-state solution” ensues.

She concludes with the idea that “Next Year in Jerusalem” could be reduced to “a noble ambition overtaken by cruel demographic and geopolitical reality”.

First, she should know that the Holocaust is not needed to unify Israelis. They are unified by their desire to go on living.

Second, none of the three groups she cites as catalysts for a possible societal split would prefer living under Arab rule, judging by the human rights violations ongoing in many of the world’s Arab and Muslim states. That applies to Palestinian Israelis too.

Third, Israel already has 200 nuclear weapons, so what will be the difference in 10 or 20 years time?

And, finally, Israel has a far superior fire-power and will win wars against any Islamist states.

Dejevsky could have written an article about the demise of any country by 2048. Who knows what could have happened to Britain, America or France by then?

And her article would have been a pleasure to read for those who really wish Israel harm, but for it to be published on Rosh Hashanah shows a lack of respect for Britain’s Jews that The Indy is becoming notorious for.

That The Independent hasn’t got a great deal of respect for Britain’s Jews, especially the more religious ones, is evident from the piece by Christina Patterson it published last year in which she tore apart Hasidic Jews living in Stamford Hill in a manner that she wouldn’t dare to do if she was on the receiving end of the same behaviour she attributed to them if they happened to be Blacks, Asians or Muslims living in a certain part of London.

The Independent does have the pro-Israel Howard Jacobson writing for it. However, this only seems to allow other Independent commentators like Dejevsky, Patterson, Johann Hari and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to be even more vitriolic about Israel as any complaints to OFCOM about bias can be countered by The Indy pointing to the presence of Jacobson in its pages.

While Israel lives on the same cannot be said for The Independent. With its ever plummeting sales figures who can say whether it will see 2018, let alone 2048.