Tag Archives: IHRA

Anti-Israel meeting at SOAS stopped by peaceful pro-Israel protest.

Mike Cushman speaking at University London Union in 2012.

Mike Cushman speaking at University London Union in 2012.

Whenever I ask a question at SOAS it’s usually accompanied by abuse coming my way. For example, after asking a perfectly reasonable question in 2012 SOAS lecturer Gilbert Achcar accused me of being a “professional disruptor” and then falsely accused me of leaving insulting messages on his phone.

On Tuesday night at SOAS it was completely different and uplifting.

The members of the panel were Tony Lerman and ex-teacher Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi. Chairing was academic Mike Cushman who has more than a touch of Larry David about him in both look and mannerism. The subject of the evening was a new book they had contributed to called On Antisemitism.

The room of 50 sat relatively quiet listening to Lerman explain how “non-violent activism” like boycott, divestment and sanctions againt Israel (BDS) are under attack in America. And he quoted Judith Butler who claims that accusations of antisemitism, like those against BDS and anti-Zionists, “are meant to cause pain.”

Lerman went on to claim that “supremacist Zionism” attacks Israel’s internal critics like B’tselem and Breaking The Silence and he attacked the “notorious definition of antisemitism” adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance which he felt was “an attack on pro-Palestinian activism”.

Wimborne-Idrissi read out her favourite parts of the book one of which was about how American Jews have now placed themselves within the “tent of whiteness” due to their identifying with a “white supremacist Israel dominated by white Ashkenazi Jews”.

Cushman allowed me to ask a question and so I put it to Lerman how it could be that BDS, which calls for the right of return of some five million so-called Palestinian refugees, can be considered anything other than violently antisemitic when such a return would result in the demographic demise of the only Jewish state.

To my pleasant astonishment I received a large round of applause from the back of the room; a first after 10 years of blogging these events. I was embarrassed, but nicely so.

Lerman answered that he had never met a Palestinian who wanted to actually return to Israel, only that that they should have their rights recognised.

The evening then quickly disintegrated soon after a young South Korean man stood up to ask about the comparison between Israel and North Korea. Even Cushman told him to sit down.

Lerman again complained about the “demonisation” of BDS after which someone called out “What about the way you demonise Israel?”. Jonathan Hoffman then accused Wimborne-Idrissi of making light of antisemitism live on LBC Radio.

More interruptions followed before five Israeli flags were produced and accompanied by a beautiful rendition of Am Israel Chai.

Cushman, now channeling his inner Larry David, stood up, slammed the table and demanded silence. But silence there came none. So he called the police.

Once SOAS security appeared at the door the pro-Israel group left peacefully.

The meeting resumed but the attendance was now thoroughly depleted. And in a surprising show of contrition Wimborne-Idrissi attempted to answer Jonathan Hoffman’s accusation. She admitted her LBC interview “wasn’t my finest hour”.

As for that peaceful interruption of Israeli singing and flag waving I find it highly ironic than when I sit silently and wait patiently to be called to ask a reasonable question I am labeled a “disruptor” anyway. Those attending these vile events to put forward Israel’s case are criticised whatever we do, however well we behave. Such smears won’t stop us attending though.

(For more reflection on Tuesday evening’s events read Jonathan Hoffman)

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Jackie Walker brings her “lynching” to SOAS.

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Jackie Walker is a political activist who thinks she has been lynched by supporters of Israel who don’t like Jeremy Corbyn. To use “lynching” is a pretty strong metaphor. It means to “kill (someone) for an alleged offence without a legal trial, especially by hanging.” This is obviously what she thinks has happened to her. Some exaggeration.

When I walked into SOAS last night for her performance of The Lynching there was a black doll in front of us with a noose around its neck.

The first half of the show is about her tragic life. She was the product of an affair between her mother and Jack Cohen, a Jewish jeweller, who met each other during their fight for black rights in America. She held up a photo of two black men hanging by their necks.

She came to the UK, via Jamaica, with her mother and suffered racism in the UK. Her mother died prematurely from an asthma attack when she was 11 and she was taken into care which she left at 18. She became a teacher. In 1991 she joined the Labour Party and was eventually elected vice-chair of Momentum, the hard-left Corbyn supporting group within Labour. She was then sacked as vice-chair of Momentum and suspended from Labour over allegations of anti-Semitism against her.

The show then turns into her own trial of the accusations against her where she plays both prosecution and defence. The accusations are: 1. She accused Jews of financing the slave trade 2. She said there’s no such thing as anti-Semitism. 3. She belittled the Holocaust.

She defended herself against each. On 1. she claimed that instead of writing on Facebook that “And many Jews, my ancestors too, were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade” she should have written “amongst the chief financiers” and that missing out just one word does not make her an anti-Semite.

On 2. she claimed that she was merely asking for a definition of anti-Semitism she could work with. On 3. she claimed that she merely wanted all who had suffered similar, like the millions killed in the slave trade, to be remembered.

She didn’t explain why she raised Jews as being “financiers of the slave trade” at all considering all religions and nationalities were.

But why were these accusations made against her? She says it was merely because Jeremy Corbyn had been elected and that “he was a supporter of the Palestinians.” His enemies were the “establishment and people on the side of Israel”. And then to huge applause (there were about 200 hard-left activists in the room) she said “Get rid of right wing Labour MPs!”

She said the accusations were an “attack on a movement for change and that Jackie Walker was not a Jew hater but innocent…I don’t seek the destruction of Israel but to save Israel from its descent into racism and far-right nationalism…We must be free to fight for a Palestinian homeland without being accused of anti-Semitism…I refuse to go to the back of the bus because the media or anyone else says I should.”

Then Walker was joined for a Q&A by three other anti-Israel activists: film director Ken Loach, author and journalist Victoria Brittain, and academic Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead.

The Q&A session basically turned into a full attack on the Jewish Chronicle and those writing for it who Walker called “proto-fascists”, The Jewish Labour Movement (Walker thinks the JLM should not give training sessions on anti-Semitism), the Israel Advocacy Movement who Walker accused of digging into her Facebook, the Labour Party compliance unit who Walker thinks is leaking everything to the Jewish Chronicle, the Campaign Against Antisemitism and the Community Security Trust who Walker said “churn out biased surveys all the time”, the so-called “weaponisation of antisemitism” (see above), the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Working Definition of AntiSemitism which is being increasingly adopted by governments and councils, and, of course Israel.

These hard-left activists want the IHRA defintion changed because they only recognise the neo-Nazi type anti-Semitism as seen at Charlottsville. That means they, in their opinion, can never be considered anti-Semitic.

They don’t like the IHRA classifying “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” as anti-Semitism. That’s because they want the end of the only Jewish majority state.

Rosenhead said “it was a shame racism had reared its head in Israel of all places…and it was a shame Jews in this country are supporting a racist state” and that it was “convenient for the British government to plant them (Jews) there (in the Middle East)”.

It was then time for audience members to claim victimhood. Dave Watson said he was an opponent of Stella Creasey MP and that he’d tweeted “anti-Israel things, not anti-Semitic and I supported Naz Shah (presumably when Shah said Israel should be relocated to America). He said he “criticised Zionism and supporters of Israel but not Jews.” (It seems he also, inter alia, compared Mossad to Nazis).

Graham Bash, Walker’s partner, said he’s Jewish and has only come across anti-Semitism once in 49 years in the Labour Party.

A Hungarian lady said “Anti-Semitism is misused which is an insult to those who died in the Holocaust.”

Once Loach had declared “No arms trade with Israel, no trade with Israel” I took to the microphone:

I said that most people in the room, including the four panelists, just wanted the end of Israel. I challenged the four panelists to admit that they wanted the end of the only Jewish majority state. I said that calling for the end of the only Jewish majority state, while not calling for the end of any other state, was anti-Semitic. I told them that they obviously wouldn’t admit to being anti-Semitic and that another way of, therefore, expressing anti-Semitism was to call for the destruction of the Jewish state. I also said they didn’t care about the Palestinians.

In response to this challenge I received idiotic responses.

Loach said he was merely here to help Walker get justice. Walker said she was a “socialist and internationalist” and Rosenhead said he didn’t want the destruction of Israel but a country with five million Jews and five million Palestinians (note to Rosenhead: that is the destruction of the only Jewish majority state.)

In conclusion, Walker’s play possibly gives an insight into her animus towards Israel. She was rejected by her father who was a wealthy Jewish man. Ever since then she’s felt the victim but now she has spotted the opportunity to take revenge. It will get her nowhere but continue to eat her and her supporters up as Israel continues to thrive.