by Mick Napier
Chair, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign
15 July 2012
Being Jewish in Scotland, a survey of Scottish Jewish opinion funded by a Scottish Government grant of over £21,000, found that there was virtually no anti-Semitism in Scotland amidst a rise in anti-Zionist political activity across the country. The results of this survey give the lie to those Zionists who have claimed that vigorous criticism of the State of Israel can, even inadvertently, lead to an increase in anti-Semitism. Determined opposition to the crimes of the State of Israel, or to the colonial project of Zionism in its entirety, is a political position based firmly on the promotion of universal human rights, including opposition to racism in all its forms.
The Jewish Telegraph, a politically-committed Zionist weekly, reports that "Jews still feel safe and welcome in Scotland, according to findings of a major new report." According to Being Jewish in Scotland, "many people told us that there was very little or no antisemitism in Scotland".
Virtually all "respondents and focus group participants felt very positive about living in Scotland". One respondent noted in particular the healthy attitude of Scotland's mosques in helping a young man who had swallowed the notion that the crimes of the Israeli state were endorsed by Scottish Jews. "It says something good about Scotland, about the local mosque's view of the situation in the Middle East, that his views were transformed because of going to the mosque." Debby Taylor from Dundee reported that "It's been great... Scotland's a darn good place to be a Jew".*
The respondent who noted that, "There is growing intolerance regarding Israel in Scotland" confirms Scotland to be in line with broader UK and international trends over many years towards an entrenched popular view of Israel as a pariah state. The findings are welcome and I can only imagine they sit ill with those who carried out the survey, SCoJeC – the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, whose leaders have a history of whipping up often imaginary anti-Semitism, possibly to encourage emigration from Scotland to Israel/Palestine.
SCoJeC have in the past claimed that the decline in the number of Jews in Scotland was due to rising levels of anti-Semitism and the equally alarmist and equally Zionist Mark Gardner of the CST (Community Security Trust) claimed that "Statistically things are worse" in that some people "feel far worse than they felt previously" as a result of "aggressive and extreme" pro-Palestinian activity. "Clearly something worrying is happening in Scotland," agreed Martin Bright, political editor of the Jewish Chronicle.
A 2006 SCoJeC submission to a Parliamentary Committee had claimed "that Scottish society is becoming more antisemitic, and significantly raising the level of fear." After going a step too far, however, the entire run of 6,000 copies of one SCoJeC publication (susidised by the Scottish taxpayer) had to be pulped as libellous for its claim that "Jewish students have reported that they feel persecuted and insecure on campuses and that the situation has worsened in the last year. This results from publicity campaigns that demonise Jews by organisations such as the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign."
In addition to clear fabrications, one piece of real evidence was produced; SCoJeC brandished their "proof" of rising antisemitism in Scotland, "A recent example is a poster depicting Orthodox Jews comparing nuclear missiles to 'Kosher Sausages'. The offending
cartoon (see below) is clearly aimed at the cover-up of Israel's nuclear weapons. SCoJeC's cliam that this is one of the 'worst' examples of anti-Semitic materials in Scotland can be seen to inadvertently endorse the conclusion of Being Jewish in Scotland that we live in a country virtually free of anti-Semitism.
The Scottish First Minister felt compelled to dismiss such ridiculous scaremongering, saying he did not believe the Jewish community was under siege nor "that it feels itself to be under siege" as SCoJeC claimed.
The report notes some incidents of genuine anti-Semitism, though from the material published so far these seem to be the preserve of swastika scribblers working in the dark, i.e. the domain of cranks and those remnants of the extreme right who have not aligned openly with Israel.
Regrettably, SCoJeC can't resist recycling some invented calumnies that serve to promote their sinister agenda of conflating support for Palestinian human and national rights with hostility to Jews in Scotland. Such inventions are a staple of Scottish Zionist politicos: SCoJeC's leaders have been caught fabricating anti-Semitic activity, as has Zionist MSP Ken McIntosh and others.
An anonymous respondent in the survey claims that "when I lived in Edinburgh, I was harassed several times by pro-Palestinians in Edinburgh city centre...Now, I do not feel safe to publicly wear a kippah." I am very confident in asserting that this respondent is being untruthful, on the grounds that virtually all "pro-Palestinian" street activity in Edinburgh is carried out by SPSC members who would not tolerate such behaviour. If, however, he wore a kippah, a nun's outfit or a top hat to defend Ariel Sharon and the dropping of white phosphorous on Gaza civilians, then that would colour the situation somewhat.
Another respondent, claims: "I sometimes feel afraid of stating openly my background and beliefs. In the streets, I would be extra cautious to do so. I am more afraid at the university campus." Given that some Zionists complain that they feel threatened on campus by a rise in anti-Zionist political activity, or even claim that the wearing of a Keffiyeh is in itself "threatening", we need to take such "fears" with a pinch of salt. It may be no more than the usual Zionist slight of hand.
A modest degree of political awareness and commitment enables us to distinguish between the criminality of the State of Israel (or the militarism of the British State) and hostility to the citizens of that state. Some of the mass of people, however, who are increasingly enraged by Israeli ethnic cleansing and mass killings, including the killings of children, project their anger at Israeli State criminality onto Israeli citizens. George Bush, of course, labelled any opposition to US militarism as "anti-American". Thus, the report by one Israeli tourist: "In a recent stay in the Scottish Highlands when I was asked where my accent was from, when I answered, I saw the look of disgust on the man's face – a man who a second before that had chatted to me kindly about various subjects. ... Now, I sometimes say I'm Turkish or Italian rather than Israeli."
There was a time when a South African accent was something ugly, where the response to the individual was marred by association with the brutal apartheid system in force in South Africa. Some of us, of course, knew of white activists against the apartheid system and saw beyond the accent. An Israeli accent today is in much the same category South African speech used to occupy, whereas a South African today is in no way tainted in public perception by association with an evil system of racial segregation.
There will come a time when Israeli tourists the world over will no longer meet with the disgust of the man whose Highland hospitality was strained by anger at Israeli crimes.
In the meantime let us agree that the results of the Being Jewish in Scotland survey align Scottish Jewish opinion with that of the wider public as articulated by Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond: the Scottish Jewish Community should not "be judged or affected by the policies of Israel. The Jewish community is not liable for those policies. It is possible to be critical of Israel without being anti-Semitic."
Best-selling Scottish author Iain Banks spoke for many when he told his "agent to turn down any further book translation deals with Israeli publishers" and urged all in the creative arts to do "everything they can to convince Israel of its moral degradation and ethical isolation, preferably by simply having nothing more to do with this outlaw state."
The results of the Being Jewish in Scotland survey reveal Scottish Jews seeing "very little or no anti-Semitism" and "rising levels of "anti-Zionist political activity". Scottish PSC will continue to work to maintain the former and accelerate the latter. Help us.
Edinburgh, 15 July 2012
*All the more regrettable that Debby's parents left Dundee and now live in Bersheeva in the Negev, an area where Israeli ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinians is in full swing, with the JNF using bulldozers to destroy Palestinian villages in the ethnic cleansing programme that has been going on for over 60 years. From being equal citizens of Scotland , they are now citizens of a 'Jewish State' that privileges them over non-Jews
Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, told a meeting this week of the Jewish Educational Forum that opposition to the State of Israel has nothing to do with anti-Semitism and he criticised those who would link the entire Scotland Jewish community with that State.
"I don't think we should accept as a community that your position in Scottish society should be judged or affected by the policies of Israel. The Jewish community is not liable for those policies…It is possible to be critical of Israel without being antisemitic.”
Salmond himself called in April for a review of trade relations with Israel following an Israeli murder of a Palestinian resistance member in a Dubai hotel.
The Scottish Government First Minister was echoing the points made by Sheriff John Scott in his recent landmark ruling, dismissing all charges against five Scottish PSC members accused of racism charges as absurd and defending freedom of speech for campaigners for the boycott of Israel. Where Sheriff Scott made the elementary point that a state is not a person: First Minister Salmond pointed out that Israel is a foreign state, not a Scottish community.
Some of the Scottish Zionist old guard sat throughout the First Minister’s speech, not at all happy with his dismissal of claims from Zionist sources that Scottish Jews face significant and rising anti-Semitism. Facing squarely this incessant claim, that serves the agenda of getting Scots to emigrate to Israel, Salmond said:
"I don't share the analysis that the Jewish community is suffering a wave of persecution or that anti-Semitism in Scotland is rapidly growing… Scotland has never had to introduce any laws to deal with antisemitism… I don't believe that the Jewish community is under siege nor do I believe that it feels itself to be under siege.”
Salmond thus challenged the sometimes reckless claims of rising and dangerous anti-Semitism made by Scottish Zionist bodies and even whether the leaders are accurately reflecting their members’ real opinions at all. Unfounded claims made in the past by public figures in ScoJeC, the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, for example, might be contributing to what the Jewish Chronicle reported as “rivalry…over who speaks for the Scottish Jewish community”.
Hopefully some fresh voices will emerge in the Scottish Jewish community supporting Alex Salmond’s opposition to Jewish collective guilt in Israel’s crimes, a claim of collective complicity that the Scottish Zionist old guard assiduously propagates.
One Scottish Zionist who has had her fingers burnt in the past for false accusations of anti-Semitism, Leah Granat, was unhappy with the First Minister’s dismissal of Zionist attempts to portray a community under siege. Ignoring Salmond’s well-known anti-racist credentials, and commitments in his speech that all racism will be monitored and dealt with seriously, Granat said later to the Jewish Telegraph: "Even low-grade incidents…can and do cause distress…The community should be encouraged to report incidents however trivial - not disbelieved and discouraged.” Other members of the audience, however, openly disputed claims of an increase in anti-Semitism.
Leah Granat was one of the authors of 'Scotland’s Jews'. Six thousand copies of the book had to be pulped following legal action by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign over accusations that we “demonised Jews”. ScoJeC Director Borowski accused the Scottish Trade Union Congress of racism after they committed to support the Palestinian call for boycott against Israel, saying “we have no doubt whatever that this action is in breach of the [Race Relations] Act.”
SPSC welcomes the First Minister’s statements placing the issue of anti-Semitism in perspective and sharply discriminating between opposition to the brutal crimes of Israel and anti-Semitism. This is especially welcome given the UK Government’s sinister agenda of conflating opposition to the State of Israel with racism/anti-Semitism. This dangerous conflation is now encountering clear and unambiguous opposition from Scottish legal and political figures.
Scottish PSC has successfully seen off false, malicious politically-driven allegations of anti-Semitism from Scottish Zionists who seek constantly to vilify supporters of Palestinian human rights as racists. This is pretty sick coming from those who support every racist atrocity committed by Israel.
28 May 2010
Israel must unpick its ethnic myth
By Tony Judt in the Financial Times, December 8 2009
"...we can begin to understand that the country's insistence upon its exclusive claim upon Jewish identity is a significant handicap. In the first place, such an insistence reduces all non-Jewish Israeli citizens and residents to second-class status. This would be true even if the distinction were purely formal. But of course it is not: being a Muslim or a Christian - or even a Jew who does not meet the increasingly rigid specification for "Jewishness" in today's Israel - carries a price"
What exactly is "Zionism"? Its core claim was always that Jews represent a common and single people; that their millennia-long dispersion and suffering has done nothing to diminish their distinctive, collective attributes; and that the only way they can live freely as Jews - in the same way that, say, Swedes live freely as Swedes - is to dwell in a Jewish state.
Thus religion ceased in Zionist eyes to be the primary measure of Jewish identity. In the course of the late-19th century, as more and more young Jews were legally or culturally emancipated from the world of the ghetto or the shtetl , Zionism began to look to an influential minority like the only alternative to persecution, assimilation or cultural dilution. Paradoxically then, as religious separatism and practice began to retreat, a secular version of it was actively promoted.
I can certainly confirm, from personal experience, that anti-religious sentiment - often of an intensity that I found discomforting - was widespread in left-leaning Israeli circles of the 1960s. Religion, I was informed, was for the haredim and the "crazies" of Jerusalem's Mea Sharim quarter. "We" are modern and rational and "western", it was explained to me by my Zionist teachers. But what they did not say was that the Israel they wished me to join was therefore grounded, and could only be grounded, in an ethnically rigid view of Jews and Jewishness.
The story went like this. Jews, until the destruction of the Second Temple (in the First century), had been farmers in what is now Israel/Palestine. They had then been forced yet again into exile by the Romans and wandered the earth: homeless, rootless and outcast. Now at last "they" were "returning" and would once again farm the soil of their ancestors.
It is this narrative that the historian Shlomo Sand seeks to deconstruct in his controversial book The Invention of the Jewish People . His contribution, critics assert, is at best redundant. For the last century, specialists have been perfectly familiar with the sources he cites and the arguments he makes. From a purely scholarly perspective, I have no quarrel with this. Even I, dependent for the most part on second-hand information about the earlier millennia of Jewish history, can see that Prof Sand - for example in his emphasis upon the conversions and ethnic mixing that characterise the Jews in earlier times - is telling us nothing we do not already know.
The question is, who are "we"? Certainly in the US, the overwhelming majority of Jews (and perhaps non-Jews) have absolutely no acquaintance with the story Prof Sand tells. They will never have heard of most of his protagonists, but they are all too approvingly familiar with the caricatured version of Jewish history that he is seeking to discredit. If Prof Sand's popularising work does nothing more than provoke reflection and further reading among such a constituency, it will have been worthwhile.
But there is more to it than that. While there were other justifications for the state of Israel, and still are - it was not by chance that David Ben-Gurion sought, planned and choreographed the trial of Adolf Eichmann - it is clear that Prof Sand has undermined the conventional case for a Jewish state. Once we agree, in short, that Israel's uniquely "Jewish" quality is an imagined or elective affinity, how are we to proceed?
Prof Sand is himself an Israeli and the idea that his country has no "raison d'etre" would be abhorrent to him. Rightly so. States exist or they do not. Egypt or Slovakia are not justified in international law by virtue of some theory of deep "Egyptianness" or "Slovakness". Such states are recognised as international actors, with rights and status, simply by virtue of their existence and their capacity to maintain and protect themselves.
So Israel's survival does not rest on the credibility of the story it tells about its ethnic origins. If we accept this, .
Implicit in Prof Sand's book is the conclusion that Israel would do better to identify itself and learn to think of itself as . . . Israel. The perverse insistence upon identifying a universal Jewishness with one small piece of territory is dysfunctional in many ways. It is the single most important factor accounting for the failure to solve the Israel-Palestine imbroglio. It is bad for Israel and, I would suggest, bad for Jews elsewhere who are identified with its actions.
So what is to be done? Prof Sand certainly does not tell us - and in his defence we should acknowledge that the problem may be intractable. I suspect that he favours a one-state solution: if only because it is the logical upshot of his arguments. I, too, would favour such an outcome - if I were not so sure that both sides would oppose it vigorously and with force. A two-state solution might still be the best compromise, even though it would leave Israel intact in its ethno-delusions. But it is hard to be optimistic about the prospects for such a resolution, in the light of the developments of the past two years.
My own inclination, then, would be to focus elsewhere. If the Jews of Europe and North America took their distance from Israel (as many have begun to do), the assertion that Israel was "their" state would take on an absurd air. Over time, even Washington might come to see the futility of attaching American foreign policy to the delusions of one small Middle Eastern state. This, I believe, is the best thing that could possibly happen to Israel itself. It would be obliged to acknowledge its limits. It would have to make other friends, preferably among its neighbours.
We could thus hope, in time, to establish a natural distinction between people who happen to be Jews but are citizens of other countries; and people who are Israeli citizens and happen to be Jews. This could prove very helpful. There are many precedents: the Greek, Armenian, Ukrainian and Irish diasporas have all played an unhealthy role in perpetuating ethnic exclusivism and nationalist prejudice in the countries of their forebears. The civil war in Northern Ireland came to an end in part because an American president instructed the Irish emigrant community in the US to stop sending arms and cash to the Provisional IRA. If American Jews stopped associating their fate with Israel and used their charitable cheques for better purposes, something similar might happen in the Middle East.
Original article here
The writer is University Professor at New York University and director of the Remarque Institute
The struggle between Israel and the Palestinians is not unique -- whatever the news media may suggest. Lorenzo Veracini argues that the conflict is best understood in terms of colonialism. Like many other societies, Israel is a settler society. Looking in detail at the evolution of other colonial regimes -- apartheid South Africa, French Algeria and Australia -- Veracini presents a thoughtful interpretation of the dynamics of colonialism, offering a clear framework within which to understand the middle east crisis.