by Mick Napier
Looking through some old files I saw a piece entitled For a Jewish, United Jerusalem written by one Esti Sheinberg in the June 2001 issue of the Edinburgh Star, ‘Journal of the Edinburgh Jewish Community’. Sheinberg writes that, ’The Jewish passion for Jerusalem is to rebuild and live in it. The Palestinian passion is for blood.’ Sheinberg, then teaching at Edinburgh University, also insists that, ‘…the Islam of today…because of its psychological and moral constitution…is not just capable but eager to perform acts of zealous savagery…’ This is racism, aiming to stigmatise a whole people, the Palestinians, as well as all the adherents of a religion, Islam. Such language is completely unacceptable in public discourse, especially after the BNP has made significant political advances.
The article doesn’t rise above the standard Zionist trope of superior Jewish rights to all the land that Zionists intend to take from the mainly-Muslim Palestinians. Sheinberg uses incautiously naked racism, however, to de-legitimise the obvious and compelling claims of the long-term residents: as in North America and Africa, the claims of superior rights for incoming colonists derive from their supposedly superior levels of civilisation compared to the ‘savages’ who live there. The native peoples are inevitably portrayed as inferior, often violent and irrational.
In Sheinberg’s article, rebuilding Jerusalem is a synonym for demolition of Palestinian homes. Israeli bulldozers are even now destroying Palestinian homes in Jerusalem as part of the Government’s open project of ‘Judaising’ the city. The apartheid system of Jewish supremacy can not be reconciled with universal values; it calls forth racist discourse in its defenders.
Officials of the ‘Jewish State’ cut down hundreds of thousands of olive trees in front of Palestinian farmers grief-stricken at their inability to protect the land from such barbarism. Sheinberg strives to justify this ethnic cleansing in jarring tones that would have been unremarkable in the conversation of a Rhodesian white farmer fifty years ago, or the ideological kit-bag of an official of the Indian Raj a little earlier.
This stuff has largely gone out of public fashion outside BNP circles; it has been driven underground by anti-racism legislation, but more importantly by the spread of awareness that ‘the White Man’s Burden’ was always a lie to ‘justify’ land theft and the extreme violence of the colonial project itself.
What if some bigot were to pen an article claiming that ‘The Jewish passion is for blood’? Not ‘Israeli settlers’, ‘Israeli soldiers’, ‘the Israeli Government’, or ‘ too many Israelis’, but ‘Jews’ in general. Why should Sheinberg, an Israeli who has since moved to the USA, be allowed to publish odious racist material unopposed?
Individuals committed to human rights don’t think that modern Christianity is inherently, ‘constitutionally’ driven to savagery, even when instigators of violent aggression, such very public Christians as Bush, Blair and Brown, claim divine sanction or inspiration for their murderous actions. Nor do we make the same mistake with Judaism because Israeli ethnic cleansers wave a real estate deal from Jehovah that they say trumps land title deeds issued by the Ottomans, the British Mandate or even the Israeli State itself.
There must be a line drawn here to encompass debate on the grim crisis in Israel/Palestine and the steps we can take to contribute to a resolution. Racists, all racists, should be on the outside of that line. The Edinburgh Star needs to repudiate the racist content of Sheinberg’s article and apologise to Edinburgh’s Palestinian community and Muslims for the damage it has done.
8 July 2009