Guardian

Guardian contributor: diaspora Jews have a special obligation to criticize the settlements


Do non-Israeli Jews around the world have a special obligation to criticize West Bank settlements?

Yes, according to Joshua Simons, a former policy adviser to Jeremy Corbyn whose op-ed (Why Jews in Labour place little trust in Jeremy Corbyn) appeared in the Guardian on Sept. 11th.

To be fair, the bulk of his piece on antisemitism is spot-on.

In modern Britain, it is no longer true that intellectuals are ashamed of antisemitism. In the eyes of the leaders of the British far left, Israel’s occupation – for some, even Israel’s existence – offers a firm moral basis for antipathy towards Jews in Israel or, more ambitiously, towards Jews everywhere.

Simons also reports the following astonishing revelation – reportedly referring to Corbyn’s communications chief (and former Guardian associate editor) Seumas Milne:

After six months working as a policy adviser for Jeremy Corbyn, it was clear to me that the way Corbyn and those around him think about Jewish people is shaped by a frenetic anti-imperialism, focused on Israel and America. Without a hint of irony, one senior aide asked that I remove the greeting “Chag Kasher VeSameach” from Corbyn’s Passover message, for fear that Corbyn’s supporters might think the use of Hebrew “Zionist”.

He also notes how the narrative of Jews and privilege plays a role in fomenting antisemitic attitudes among the British Left.

Antisemitism among the British left continues to be about capitalism too. The familiar image endures of the Jew as the master of usury, the sedentary banker and financier, the archetypal neoliberal even. This persistent trope of Jews as the ultimate capitalists reinforces the view of those on the left who resent capitalism per se – rather than, say, unrestrained markets – and feel that Jews cannot be victims because they have money and they have Israel.

Orwell argued that antisemitism was driven by a fear that Jews were subverting the establishment. Today, antisemitism on the British left is driven by the sense that Jews are part of the establishment, not against it. That Jews are part of an elite of extractive capitalists. And, above all, that Jews are part of an imperialist elite that defends the projection of American and Israeli power.

However, despite his generally strong grasp of the nature of modern left antisemitism as it pertains to Israel, Simons evidently fails to understand the significance of his reference to the relationship between diaspora Jews and Israeli settlements.
There is one important difference between these two manifestations of antisemitism. Few on the British left, including Corbyn, will openly admit to believing in an association between Jews and money. By contrast, many will openly admit to feeling differently about Jewish people because they have a special association with Israel, no matter how critical they may be of Israel’s policies. That was exactly my experience. As a Jew, I had a special obligation to criticise Israel’s settlement policy, but when I did, it was never quite believed. 

The belief by Simons that non-Israeli Jews have a special obligation to criticize Israeli settlement policy rests on a premise that is antisemitic according to widely accepted understandings of what precisely constitutes anti-Jewish racism – that is, holding Jews around the world collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

Though his analysis of antisemitism in the Labour Party is largely accurate, by suggesting that Jews (and only Jews) must pass a special ideological purity test regarding Israel and the Palestinians to be accepted into the progressive community, Simons is singling out Jews for different treatment and thus legitimizing a fundamental element of the very racism he’s ostensibly opposing.

 

57 replies »

  1. As an individual I feel very uncomfortable when I read a piece that says ‘Jews are’ and a generalisation such as members of the establishment, or capitalists, follows.

    Part of living in Israel where being Jewish is just everyday I know that Jews are everything everyone else is. Jews are tall, short, fat thin, happy unhappy tranquil or agitated.

    Yes, there is a national character derived from our history and our current political position, consciously facing much of the rest of the world’s scrutiny but that does not change who I am and who others are, individually.

  2. All Limeys have a special obligation to criticize the illegal colonies and occupations by the UK government. They are the 2nd largest colonial empire in the world today. Second only to their Islamofascist masters.

    • Speaking as an Englishman, I can say

      As an individual I feel very uncomfortable when I read a piece that says ‘Limeys are’ and a generalisation such as members of the establishment, or capitalists, follows.

      Part of living in England where being English is just everyday I know that the English are everything everyone else is. English people are tall, short, fat thin, happy unhappy tranquil or agitated.

      Yes, there is a national character derived from our history and our current political position, consciously facing much of the rest of the world’s scrutiny but that does not change who I am and who others are, individually.

      Apply that to any group of people – and see how ridiculous the ideas of Joshua Simons are

      • Are you equally uncomfortable with “Jews are”? If not then the statement is justified and hence my reason for posting it.

        The hypocrisy of the British people knows no bounds

        • specifically addressed to gee59 but it applies to all of us.

          People, whether they are Jews or English or anybody else, are people. Good, bad and indifferent. Some are hypocritical, many are not. It is precisely the attitude that says that “all Jews are” or “all Brits are” which characterises a particular way of thinking that leads eventually to anti-Semitism.

          Saying “The hypocrisy of the Brits knows no bounds” is not really different from “the greed of the Jewish people knows no bounds”. Of course there are some greedy Jews and some hypocritical Brits, but that doesn’t mean that all Jews are greedy and all Brits are hypocritical.

          Yet there are many people who feel that all Jews or all Brits are a clump that is separate from the rest of the world. Not only are all Jews and all Brits supposed to be greedy or hypocritical, but all Jews and all Brits are responsible for what any single Jew or any single Brit does. Not only is each man his brother’s keeper, but he is responsible for all brothers all over the whole world.

          So could gee59 amend his closing remark to say that the hypocrisy of many people knows no bounds?

  3. “Do non-Israeli Jews around the world have a special obligation to criticize West Bank settlements? Yes, according to Joshua Simons,”

    I think Simons meant that his Labour Party colleagues implied that as a member of the party he had an obligation to criticize the settlements. I don’t think that it is Simons belief. This interpretation is more in line with the rest of the article.

    • It would be nice to know what Occupation means to those who criticize it. Are we talking the West Bank? Because that issue had been settled with Oslo. It’s up to the Palestinians to make a peace overture, which they have not done, and instead have chosen to, literally, stab innocent civilians and shoot missiles at school yards.

      Or is the Occupation simply all of Israel? Lots of Western geniuses seem to think so. I don’t think the Poles and New Yorkers came to live strictly in “Occupied Territory”. They came to live in cities like Jerusalem (which we’re not allowed to call our own).

      Guardian journos and screeching anti-Israel nutters have spent 7 decades providing nothing. And they sure sound damn proud.

      • Did you actually read my comment ? The question is whether Adam interpreted one sentence correctly. Do you have an opinion on that or did you always automatically shoot your mouth off with irrelevant and crude comments ? And stupid too, because my interpretation makes the Labor Party look worse; Simons is not the issue here. But that obvious point is apparently too difficult for someone of your intellect to understand..

  4. The typical As a Jew narcissist whining about anti-semitism and using the crudest anti-semitic tropes for bashing Israel. Simons is only one of a dozen – nothing special in him.

    • Did you actually read the article? Can you please point out where this “AsAJew” who is exposing the antisemitism in Labour’s upper circles is “using the crudest anti-semitic tropes” ?

      • Demanding anything to do about world events especially from Jews is the textbook example of antisemitism. But how would you know that?

  5. It appears that Adam is sliding back to his old ways: attacking pro-Israel Jews who don’t like infallible King Bibi instead of doing what this forum is supposed to do: expose bias and bigotry in the British media. The Labour Party and its antisemitism is the issue here, not Simons. What we have in this article is a gross misinterpretation of what Simon wrote, one sentence construed by Adam in a way that it is totally out of context with the rest of the article.

    I expect Adam to do what he demands of the Guardian, Independent, etc: Post a correction and an apology.

    • If you really think that Adam is “attacking Simons” you’re not so bright. He said “the bulk of his piece on antisemitism is spot-on”.

      He disagreed with one sentence only. So, if you’re so keen on apologies, issue one yourself

      • Adam wrote: “Simons is singling out Jews for different treatment and thus legitimizing a fundamental element of the very racism he’s ostensibly opposing”. If this is incorrect because of his misinterpretation of that sentence, then Adam should correct the article and apologize to Simons. This is no more than what he demands of the British media in similar circumstances.

        • As I wrote, the bulk of his analysis of British left antisemitism is spot-on. However, as I noted, his evident belief that non-Israeli Jews have a special obligation to denounce the settlements rests on a fundamentally antisemitic trope: holding Jews as a collective responsible for the actions of Israel. Btw, can you please tell me in which sentence of my post I mentioned – or even alluded to – Bibi?

          • Please explain how that sentence shows his “evident belief”? The fact that he opposes the settlements does not mean he thinks that he is “obliged” to express his opposition. My interpretation that it is his former Labour colleagues that demand that he (and other Jews) denounce them is much more logical, both within the the context of the entire article and the previous sentences.

            So we have here a former Labour Party advisor who publicly denounces the antisemitism in the Labour Party leadership. What more could you ask for? But Adam Levick has to pull out his giant magnifying class and base his entire article on one sentence (which admittedly could have been written more clearly) and denounce the writer, totally out of proportion and unrelated to the gist of his Guardian article. Isn’t that the exact reason that you often criticize Guardian articles?

            This is not the first time you have written this type of personal attack and it seems that you have still not absorbed the simple fact that there is a difference between someone who is anti-Israel and someone who is pro-Israel but disagrees with a specific policy of the current Israeli govt – hence my Bibi comment.

          • Arabs and Muslims have a special obligation to denounce an fight terrorism, committed all over the world, by fellow Arabs/Muslims.

            See 9/11, London, Paris, Mumbai, Nairobi, Orlando, Copenhagen, San Bernardino, Boston, Bali, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Allepo, Beirut, Luxor, Damascus…

            But some Eurpeons hold Arabs/Muslims to lower standards.

      • The dimness of External hardly needs further evidence to demonstrate it: we have an embarrassment of riches in the form of all his (her? its?) previous ‘not very bright’ posts.

  6. Since you refuse to respond clearly and directly to my comment, let me spell it out again. Here’s what Simons said: “As a Jew, I had a special obligation to criticise Israel’s settlement policy…”. No, Jews absolutely do NOT have a special obligation to take a specific stand on the settlements or any other matter pertaining to Israel. Demanding such ideological litmus tests for Jews – and only Jews – is inherently racist as it holds Jews to a different standard of moral behavior than non-Jews, and is deemed antisemitic according to the EUMC Working Definition. If you don’t think this is antisemitic, then say so.

    • Adam: I don’t disagree with you on the definition of antisemitism or whether this litmus test is antisemitism. It is. The question is whether he thinks Jews are “obliged” or whether his Labour Party associates think that Jews are obliged (his personal opinion on the settlements is irrelevant to this question). Rather than carrying on this futile discussion, why don’t you send an email to Mr Simons asking him to clarify that sentence? If his reply supports your interpretation, I will accept and agree totally with your opinion of him as expressed in this article. If on the other hand, he supports my interpretation, I assume you will post a correction to the article.

  7. OK so diaspora Jews must condemn the settlements as a matter of “obligation”. Then, when somebody makes an antisemitic remark we have to say “but I am Jewish and I have come out and condemned the West bank settlements” whereupon they say “Oh, we don’t mean you – we mean the others”. And then this gives rise to the question asked seemingly innocently “Are you a good Jew or a bad Jew?”

    Good cop, bad cop – good Jew, bad Jew……”we can do this the easy way or the hard way.” Well for us Jews every way is the hard way and always has been. So we might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, and tell these people to go to hell!

  8. I think you’ve gone wrong, Adam, by interpreting Simons’ point as meaning that diaspora Jews are responsible for the settlements unless they criticise them. Of course they’re not.

    But the Talmud, among many many other Jewish teachings and sources, is clear that Jews have an obligation to condemn wrongdoing (including wrongdoing by fellow Jews and by Jewish leaders). That might include everything from bad parking to genocide. The notion of a Jewish duty to criticise is an ancient and religious one.

    • Condemnation of the wrongdoing “Jews” of the Left should be easy.

      Does the Koran demand condemnation of Arabs/Muslims threatening and murdering Infidels and fellow Muslims all over the world? If so where?

    • Maybe you should point out the Talmudic requirement that especially the Jews must condemn any wrongdoings.
      Seems to me that the originally minuscule number of your brain cells didn’t change for the better Webber since your last post.

    • Webber I am not Jewish nor have I ever read the Talmud so I don’t know if your opinion about obligations is correct or not.

      But I would like to compliment you on your civic minded approach to being a good citizen.

      How often do you carry out your ‘obligation to condemn’ bad parking?
      And the supplementary question is, how often do they fish you out of the nearest river after you have carried out your obligation?

    • But the Talmud, among many many other Jewish teachings and sources, is clear that Jews have an obligation to condemn wrongdoing (including wrongdoing by fellow Jews and by Jewish leaders).

      Sounds great. Emphasis on ‘sounds’.

      Have Turkish rabbis condemned the genocide of Armenians by Turks? Please don’t ever repeat that ‘The Talmud is clear’. It is ‘as clear’ as Sharia.

        • Which Turkish Imams/Sheiks have denounced Turkey for its genocide of 1,000,000 Armenians?

          Which Imams/Sheiks/Ayatollahs have denounced the Arab/Muslim terrorism of 9/11, London’s 7/7,Charlie Hebdo, Bataclan, Nice, Boston, Orlando, San Bernardino, Mumbai, Nairobi, Syria (400K+ dead) from Arabs/Muslims killing Arabs/Muslims?

            • Depends on what you consider to be a wrong. What you consider to be a wrong, might be considered by sane people a right,

              For instance the UK bombing National Socialist Germany in WW2 – to force it to retreat and surrender, unconditionally, was a right, a response to a wrong.

    • The Talmud is clear? Are you a scholar of Talmud? But I’ll tell you what, sport, what made you think of genocide? Something conjured up by the same trendies who hold all Jews accountable for other Jews who decide to exercise their legal private property rights on lands of disputed sovereignty?
      Let’s make your idiot head spin a little. What if we look at the same set of circumstances and you believe it is a case of wrongdoing and I don’t? Am I obligated to condemn it because of what you believe?

  9. Well, Gabriel Webber, since you haven’t studied Talmud, and aren’t Jewish, possibly you have made a close study of the New Testament. There, in John 8:7, it states that “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.” Now I think that it’s good advice. Never mind the source, just consider the content.

  10. Aha, according to Gabriel Webber “The notion of a Jewish duty to criticise is an ancient and religious one” and so Gabriel Webber, who tells us he is Jewish, seems to take his duties very very seriously. I still think a close study of the New Testament, is well worth while.