Monday, April 08, 2013

Antisemitism? Jews are not qualified to recognize or define it

It's been a long time since I followed the war against the Jews waged by British University Unions against their Jewish members. Here is the most recent development, as explained by David Hirsh of Engage.

The case boils down to the question of what constitutes antisemitism in the present day realities. The Tribunal determined that it has the authority to reject the definition of Antisemitism, as it is defined in the WORKING DEFINITION OF ANTISEMITISM. 

According to this definition, certain forms of anti-Zionism can be regarded as antisemitic:


Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:
  • 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.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.
Back to the Tribunal:


In paragraph 150 of its judgment, the Tribunal said
  
“It seems to us that a belief in the Zionist project or an attachment to Israel or any similar sentiment cannot amount to a protected characteristic. It is not intrinsically a part of Jewishness and, even if it was, it could not be substituted for the pleaded characteristics, which are race and religion or belief. "


I have some random thoughts about this case which I’ll just throw out here:
The Tribunal purports to define antisemitism based on its own understanding of what Judaism is. For the overwhelming majority of Jews, the love for Israel (Zion) is an integral part of their religious identity and affirmation. In every prominent prayer or ritual or ceremony, Jerusalem is mentioned. The Tribunal has got some nerve attempting to redefine Judaism by excluding this central tenet and sentiment as if they are not integral to Jewish identity. Seems to me they would favour the Nazi definition of a Jew, based on bloodlines (an accident of birth). Long before the Nazis, medieval Spaniards were checking out a Jew by the degree of his “limpieza de sangre”. It’s not the principles of the belief that matter but the racial/biological affiliation to a tribe.Unlike the Nazis and the Spaniards, however, the Tribunal appears to consider benignly this blood classification of Jewish. If you are born to Jewish parents, that makes you a Jew. The intellectual content of Judaism is of no importance or relevance to the case. Therefore it follows that if you are attacked as a Jew for your intellectual emotional attachment to Israel then the attack is not antisemitic. It’s what’s in your mind that is being attacked, not your body. Nobody attacked you by pointing out your crooked nose. That’s THEIR conception of what constitutes antisemitism. From that point onward, the self-exoneration follows naturally.
Note how neatly this type of definition excludes Jews in the same way that the Nazis’ or Spaniards’ did. The Nazis couldn’t care less about the qualitative contents of the Jewish mind. The case of Irene Nemirovsky exemplifies that. This Tribunal seems to suggest that Fraser is a born Jew and as such, and only such, is he entitled to protection against antisemitic attacks. If his home were to be sprayed by neo-Nazi antisemitic graffiti, the Tribunal would be outraged. If his home were to be sprayed by BDSers’, the Tribunal would probably condemn the vandalism of the act but would not call it an antisemitic attack. If you apply their logic, it would be just an extreme case of criticism against Israeli policies and a comment on Fraser’s own culpability for being a supporter of Israel.
What the Tribunal is doing is — artificially and irresponsibly and without a shred of historical awareness or just simple basic self-reflection– shrinking the definition of Judaism to the bare minimum. Ironically, integral to the Tribunal’s approach and a necessary concomitant element is the need to expand and stretch the definition of Apartheid and colonization, so that Zionism could fit into them, thus criminalizing Israeli identity and those who support them.
In the original Cinderella story, when one of the evil sisters could not insert her foot into the small glass sandal, she amputated her toes in order to achieve that. I’m thinking that perhaps the other evil sister, faced with the same incommensurabilty between foot and sandal, might have bribed or persuaded the prince’s servant (her hypothetical co-conspirator) to replace the small sandal with a bigger one, so that it would fit her own proportions.  If the case had been brought before this Tribunal, both these "solutions" would be deemed plausible and legitimate means by the evil sisters to pursue personal happiness, and Cinderella would find herself in the same place Fraser is: De facto accused of frivolousness, bad-faith and striving to abuse her step-sisters' human rights.


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