Friday, April 15, 2005

Reporting For Jewry Duty

Am goaded by the appearance in G2 of this disgraceful, inflammatory, very likely defamatory load of feculent twaddle by a Luciana Berger (who it turns out, this just in, is Euan Blair's girlfriend). Yet a-fucking-gain, the alarums are raised and the legions called up to face the menace of Anti-Semitism On University Campuses. Is it just me, or is this kind of thing happening oftener, and shriller, all the time?

Swiftly to deal with Berger's disgusting and craven insinuations (surely not outright accusations; I mean, wouldn't that be defamation?) of 'leftwing anti-semitism':
  • the SWP seeking to ban Jewish student societies in the 70s and 80s? Um, Shred One of evidence please?
  • 'spat at for being Jewish'? Details? By whom? Did the spitter say anything amounting to 'This is for being Jewish' before, during or after spitting? If so, I am happy (so to speak) to concede that this was an anti-semitic act, and of course utterly foul and reprehensible. But I'm sorry, you don't get the luxury of just throwing a statement like that out there naked of the slightest context or corroborating fact. No one does.
  • 'anti-semitic whispers rocked the NUS': again, indictment by nebulous assertion (not to mention mixed metaphor). What was whispered? By whom?
  • And, of course, the mack daddy of Zionist scare tactics, the equation of anti-Zionism with anti-semitism, here put over with even cacker hands than usual:
  • 'Many people claim that being anti-Israel/Zionist isn't being anti-semitic. But why does hatred of Israel lead them to turn a blind eye to the Protocols on a GUPS pamphlet? Furthermore, while the UJS has always preached a two-state solution and peace, time and time again we see others reject it. This is evident in the attack on a UJS peace stall at the European Social Forum. University authorities are also dismissive of these issues - look at the Israeli boycot [sic] motions put to this month's Association of University Teachers conference.'

    The logical idiocies in this passage are legion. Who connected 'hatred of Israel' with tolerance for the alleged (I think; it's unclear whether she's claiming the pamphlet actually contained the Protocols or is simply equating text characterized as 'the typical anti-semitic work' with the Protocols) appearance of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in a GUPS pamphlet (which would of course be an appalling and censureworthy act)? Only Berger. She's produced anti-Zionism out of nowhere as a whipping boy. This is even more calumnious when she elides an attack on a UJS peace stall with the AUT's (entirely nonviolent and not even very radical) Israeli boycott motions.

    It will be clear that I consider not a 'Jew-free', but a Luciana-Berger-free NUS to be an entirely good thing. But let's have a think about these ever-louder hollerings of anti-semitism. A few prime examples from recent months spring to mind:

    1. The day before December's SOAS conference on Resisting Israeli Apartheid, the Guardian reported that the Union of Jewish Students asked the university 'for extra security to ensure the safety of Jewish students on campus.' The cunning histrionics of this, the sheer absurdity of pretending to fear violence from a clutch of lefty academics d'un certain age would be laughable if it weren't so ugly. The UJS protesters who gathered outside the conference handed out leaflets so filled with patently, demonstrably untrue claims as to be surreal. No one tried to hurt them, despite the absence of visible security.

    2. In The United States of Amerikey, the months-long farrago continues at Columbia University over allegations of anti-semitism and academic oppression on the part of several professors in the Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC) department, allegations made most notoriously in the 'documentary film' Columbia Unbecoming. In the end, even the toothless and opposition-packed Ad Hoc Grievance Committee was forced to concede that there was no evidence to support any of the charges made against Joseph Massad or his accused colleagues at MEALAC. They did note, however, that 'unregistered auditors attended Professor Massad's lectures, and their frequent interruptions and hostile asides disturbed many of the students'--i.e., the only suppressive voices in Massad's classroom were Zionist plants. Nonetheless, Columbia's President Bollinger (who voiced his opposition to an earlier Israeli-divestment petition thus: 'The petition alleges human rights abuses and compares Israel to South Africa at the time of apartheid, an analogy I believe is both grotesque and offensive') has made clear from the beginning, not least by invoking the Grievance Committee at all, that he favors the accusers, and has begun making noises about 'upgrading' the faculty at MEALAC.

    On a personal note, I was a student at Columbia during the time covered in the complaints, and from my (Jewish, no less) experience, nothing in this world could be more laughable than the notion of Columbia as an atmosphere hostile to Jews.

    3. And of course, poor Ken Livingstone. Man cannot catch a break. With the fur still flying thick and fast over his utterly non-anti-semitic comments to an Evening Standard journalist, the Mayor was trashed by Jewish leaders for spending '20,000 pounds of public money' (!) on a guide to Jewish London, in which he lauds 'the enormous contributions of generation after generation of Jewish people across all fields of social, political, cultural and economic life.' What exactly do they want from the poor schmuck? Apparently a sterling, decades-long record of anti-racist activism is insufficient to inoculate him against the effects either of his possibly-inconveniently-big mouth or of his insulting munificence and immoderate praise. Damned if you do...

    As an anti-Zionist Jew, I'm perversely moved to take hope from this upsurgence of cry-wolfery. Surely they're feeling on the defensive, or they wouldn't be squawking so loudly or grasping at such very slender straws. Can it be they sense change in the wind?

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