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How does Yachad solve a problem like Ben White?


Cross posted by the prolific Richard Millett

What to do about Yachad?

This UK based organisation that calls itself “pro-Israel, pro-peace” had an inauspicious start in the UK.

On October 31st last year at a panel event at UCL Yachad’s Hannah Weisfeld endorsed two of Israel’s main demonisers; Israeli human rights organisation Yesh Din and the vicious anti-Israel website +972 Magazine.

And at SOAS on January 30th this year on a panel to discuss Is BDS working?Weisfeld hinted that she just might endorse a boycott of part of Israel’s Jewish community when she said of the “settlements”:

“I think we would be having a very different conversation in this room if the BDS movement was about a targeted boycott. I am not saying that I would necessarily support it, but I think the entire debate would be different, because I think the position would be a position that does not put people on the defensive because it recognises the legitimacy of the other side to exist and I think that the level of criminality that exists inside the Green Line, over the Green Line is not distinguished…is exactly the reason BDS will not succeed in ending the occupation.”

The legality of the “settlements” is a valid argument to have in my book but not to condemn outright a boycott of Jews is unforgivable and in my book “I am not saying that I would necessarily support it” is tantamount to saying “I might support a boycott of Jews living on the West Bank”.

Seeing that Yachad calls itself “pro-Israel” and that Israel needs all the friends it can get in a time of increasing anti-Semitism not so cleverly disguised as anti-Zionism Yachad should have been given time to prove its credentials.

We’ve tried, we’ve listened but Yachad has done Israel no favours at all so far.

Yachad is pro-Israel to the extent that, unlike the Palestine Solidarity Campaign for example, it believes the Jewish state should exist. Incidentally, I have heard it put that the reason that some mainstream Jewish organisations embrace Yachad is that they see Yachad as a buffer to stopping young British Jews joining the PSC.

Some endorsement!

One of Yachad’s main arguments is that if Israel does not vacate the West Bank Israel will inevitably lose its Jewish and democratic status as the West Bank’s alleged 2.5 million Palestinians will, when added to Israel’s own Arab population, eventually outnumber Israel’s Jews.

Such a calculation has been deconstructed in this study by Bar-Ilan University which puts the number of Palestinians on the West Bank at 1.41 million.

I wanted to compare Yachad’s claim to the BIU study so I sent an email to Yachad on March 27th asking for their source. I received no response.

I did receive an invite to Yachad’s upcoming events at The Jewish Museum (June 10th), the Marjorie and Arnold Ziff Community Centre, Leeds (June 14th), Finchley Reform Synagogue (June 17th), Hampstead Synagogue (June 18th) and the London Jewish Cultural Centre (June 19th) on the proviso that we “start a conversation within UK Jewry about these issues which are at the heart of the ongoing conflict”.

First, Yachad wants these issues to be discussed amongst “UK Jewry”. What about the views of the UK’s Muslim and Christian etc. friends of Israel? Yachad may as well hang a “Only Jews welcome here” sign outside their events. And, yet, Yachad has the nerve to compare Israel to an apartheid state.

Second, is it not the height of arrogance for Yachad to presume that the democratic wishes of Israel’s electorate can be so easily overridden by “a conversation within UK Jewry”?

Supporters of Yachad could do no better than make aliyah and win hearts and minds in Israel in order to change government policy. Jews in the UK have no vote and little, if any, influence on Israeli government policy. Yachad should be having the “conversation” in Israel where it might actually count.

Supporting Yesh Din and +972 Magazine is one thing and scaremongering over the demographics of the region is another but Yachad can’t get much lower than reaching out to one of Israel’s main enemies and demonisers; Ben White.

It did just that on Twitter when on April 27th, in the name of “diversity”, it asked White to comment on their new blog and, in particular, a piece by David Landau which makes the scaremongering argument over the demographics of the region I have outlined above:

The piece, by the way, attracted just four comments.

As Yachad is all for “diversity” it is a surprise they didn’t reach out to far-right fascists because the difference between their views and some of the views of Ben White is minimal.

Like those on the extreme far-right White is a hardcore anti-Israel polemicist who wants the Jewish state destroyed. And in his book Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide White cites an essay by Roger Garaudy who was fined the equivalent of $20,000 by a French court for questioning the Holocaust.

On June 29th last year White was due to share a platform with homophobic preacher Sheikh Raed Salah at a panel discussion until Salah could not appear due to having been arrested after entering this country despite being on a banned list.

Salah eventually won his deportation case despite, inter alia, believing that homosexuality is a “great crime” which signals “the start of the collapse of every society” and laughing at the memory of taunting a Jewish teacher with a Swastika.

White has also written “I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are.”

And White tweeted this comment in light of Habima’s upcoming recent performance at The Globe:

Here is that “massive picture of Howard Jacobson’s face”:

As Joseph W writes over at Harry’s Place:

“Ben White appears to be linking Howard Jacobson – an English Jew – and Israeli Jewish Habima actors, by aesthetics and looks. If you are aware of the history of antisemitism, you will know that a great deal of attention was given to the physical appearance of Jews, who were portrayed as people whom one could legitimately hate based on how they look.”

Incidentally, for anyone looking to defend White on the basis that he might have been talking about the expression on Jacobson’s face here’s Joseph W again pointing out that White didn’t mention Jacobson’s expression, simply his face.

So, if you are going to any of those Yachad events keep in mind the sickening company Yachad keeps; all in the cause of “diversity”!

11 replies »

  1. They make common cause with anti-Semites and Israel haters.

    With friends like Yachad, Israel doesn’t need enemies.

    • Yesh Din is one of Israel’s most prestigious human rights organizations. CIF Watch;s bias against Israeli organizations is disturbing.

  2. Richard, Norman Finklestein was making much the same point recently as Weisfeld, only even he realises that the boycott’s objective is not about “illegal” settlements but part of an end game that he does not endorse at all, or at least for now.

    Jonathan Freedland also had a similar epiphany.

    http://cifwatch.com/2011/07/17/guardians-jonathan-freedland-is-mugged-by-the-reality-of-bds-movements-malevolence/

    The confusion, in all 3 cases comes with the word “illegal”. There are , it would seem cases where some settlers take up settlements on Arab privately owned land. if that is the case, then there is NO argument, the occupation of those lands is illegal. BUT people like Finklestein argue their position from the 2004 UN Advisory Opinion (not a binding decision) based on a flawed premise that the 1949 Armistice Line is Israel’s border and that ALL settlements are therefore illegal. The argument is therefore not about legality or illegality of settlement , as you have given credence to, but what the parties should or should not agree in future to be the arrangement they conclude with after negotiating a peace deal, and how to get there. That one side so far has not wanted to recognise the other’s right to exist is the real problem.

    There may be other legal issues to do with Human rights laws that apply in the interim, but that’s an entirely different to rights of sovereignty.

    You are right Richard, that instead of looking at the facts, groups like Yachad and J Street conveniently adopt the lie to pursue a political point. Ultimately these groups end up in no man’s land patting each other on the back entirely dazed and confused.And what a misuse of the word yachad! Ugh!

  3. It’s only June, but here’s an early nominee for Understatement of the Year from White:

    Hamas in Gaza, too, has not been immune to the dangers of treating power as an end in itself.

    And his comment about Jacobson is very, very dodgy.

  4. But where exactly is Yachad “anti-Zionist” – and who is Richard Millett to define such things?

  5. I didn’t say Yachad are anti-Zionist. I stated the opposite in fact; that Yachad believes Israel should exist. Their activism is just extremely naive. That’s all really.

      • Nat an interesting observation.
        “Personally it’s Richard Millet’s posts that I find extremely naive.”

        So what is it, exactly, about Richard’s posts that you find to justify branding them extremely naive?

  6. Incidentally, for anyone looking to defend White on the basis that he might have been talking about the expression on Jacobson’s face

    It’s funny, isn’t it? It’s a typical promotional photo. If I personally – when prompted – really wanted to take a negative angle, I might say the head on the hand looks a bit posey.

    But quite what Ben White sees in the photo I dread to think.

  7. I agree. The more you look at the photo the more bemused one is as to how White can make such a comment.