Sunday, 24 April 2016

Explaining the Election of Malia Bouattia

What to make of the election of Malia Bouattia to the presidency of the National Union of Students? Well, the political establishment are pretty clear about the opinions every right-thinking person should have. "Malia Bouattia's election as NUS president proves deeply divisive", says The Graun. "Disaffiliation threat could leave NUS facing a financial blackhole", The HuffPo writes. And eager to stir things up, the increasingly tabloid Telegraph reckons Malia's election "sends a dark message to Jewish students". Sounds serious.

In my younger days, I was often of the view that if radicals succeeded in pissing off the centre left establishment, then it couldn't be so bad. Specifically in the case of the NUS, I do recall a sliver of hysteria greeting the election of Kat Fletcher to the NUS president's post in 2004. A position, in case we've forgotten, that has long been regarded the private property of wannabe Labour MPs in what passes for the students' movement. Well, the sky didn't fall in, Kat went on to become a Jez aide/handler, and after 2006 control returned to a succession of colourless and uninteresting mediocrities. And yes Wes, I include you in that number.

Malia is a different kettle of fish, so we are told. She has apparently denounced Birmingham University as a Zionist outpost, has claimed the media are under Zionist lock down, and she opposed a motion at a previous NUS gathering condemning ISIS. Small wonder the keepers of political hygiene are reaching for the disinfectant. Yet, when you look at matters more closely things are a little more complicated. On the matter of condemning ISIS, as this report from the AWL points out (no friend of Malia, incidentally), it appears the axis of her position hinged upon opposing the proposed bombing of targets in Syria. Because the motion contained a condemnation of ISIS it could be, and has been used to make it look like she's soft on them. This is an old trick governments pull all the time in the Commons. Tie something nice to the passage of controversial legislation, and you can pretend your opponents are opposed to free money, fluffy kittens, or whatever.

The Zionist stuff, I'd wager, is more a matter of sloppy language than anti-semitic intent. Coming on top of the panic gripping sections of the media after a few dodgy but marginal "anti-Zionists" were caught spouting racist views, there is undoubtedly a concerted effort to tar as many on the left and in Momentum with this brush as possible. As I and plenty of others have argued before, some sections of the left who identify strongly with anti-imperialist views don't help themselves when they court expressions that can easily be elided with the idiocies and conspiracies pedalled by the racist right. They open themselves to accusations of dog-whistling, for starters. It's worth noting that Malia denies any suggestion of racism, arguing, "It seems I have been misrepresented. I am extremely uncomfortable with insinuations of anti-Semitism ... I want to be clear that for me to take issue with Zionist politics is not me taking issue with being Jewish." She has also pledged to meet her critics face to face to talk through the issues they have with her. I'm inclined to take this on face value. If there was evidence of more than a couple of clumsy quotes in her record, then it would be time to think differently.

In the present febrile atmosphere, you can understand why this is getting a lot of attention. But again, there's a sense history is repeating itself. Recall how prominent members of the PLP got shirty and made lots of noise after Jeremy's election, in their indignation they didn't think about why they lost. And they still haven't given it any thought. Ditto with the NUS. As our AWL friends suggest, there has been a move to the left over a period of years within the organisation. It's not indicative of a groundswell of combative militant students seeking to transform their union into a fighting organisation, or of concerted entryism on the part of one or more micro revolutionary outfits - and in this sense it is the mirror image of the movement that put Jeremy atop the Labour Party.

How then to explain this victory? As readers may or may not know, the NUS elects on the basis of a conference delegate vote, who are in turn elected by local unions when the annual sab elections come up. And among this layer, there has certainly been some radicalisation. But the key dynamic isn't the awful policies of a government hell bent on making British HE the most expensive in the world (though these are important). I would, instead, suggest the occasional press attacks on this milieu has deepened their antipathy to establishment-friendly politics. You remember the opinion pieces and comment about student activists refusing to share platforms with, and their protests against people they deem to be transphobic, such as Peter Tatchell and Germaine Greer, and the resulting howls of outrage as the media pack descended upon these frightful upstarts. There is a sense among this milieu that they're under attack, and the commentariat's obsession with PC students is being interpreted as an attempt to weaken student unions ahead of their resistance to the next round government assault. The question from their point of view is who best to face up to this challenge - a steady-as-she-goes grey blur as per the outgoing president, or someone running on a programme of resistance who's already received (and brushed off) hostile media scrutiny?


Metatone said...

Great to read a more balanced assessment of the new NUS president. The "voted for ISIS" bit seemed particularly odd, but the newspaper coverage gave no clue to any other way of looking at that incident.

Gav M said...

I don't reckon Malia is any more antisemitic than your average Brit, but surely "sloppy language" is the sort of thing an anti-racist campaigner like her would normally be hyper-sensitive to? I'm getting a bit weary of comrades falling over themselves to explain away every whiff of anti-jewish racism.

howard fuller said...

In her case it is certainly more than just "sloppy comments" Phil. She railed against the number of Jews in Birmingham University. Says it all to me, let alone her far-right formulations such as the "Zionist" control of the media.

She doesn't stand up to racism as the placard she holds says. She is part of the problem.

Steven said...

I agree on the lack of reflection from the Labour right. I thought Wes' comments on the NUS going on the wrong direction was rich, given the NUS' appalling track record fighting for students recently.

There's been a major shift in HE, beyond base fees, that's been easy to miss if you went to university a long time ago.

I went to KCL in London in 2010, receiving the second highest loan/grant combo. It was possible because halls were £80pw, which left me around £50pw to live off during term time. I could live off this without support from my parents, never an option, finding a job by second year so I could handle my 2nd and 3rd year renting privately.

Six years on and, no joke, the cheapest halls at my uni are £145pw - and that only covers at most a couple hundred rooms. Most are between £160pw and, i'm not joking, £285pw. I'll link here a copy of the pricing list I screen-capped from the prospectus, because genuinely when the subject of pricing comes up people don't believe me:

Some rooms were expensive when I was there, but the difference was they maintained the cheaper halls. Incidentally my gf in 2011 was assigned a £200pw room in a building, designed for students, that did not even have wifi.

I'm sorry to be so long winded but I think it's really sad that, under the watch of the government and with the NUS failing the lead effective opposition, people like me who could go to any university they wanted in 2010 would not have the same choice now. Incidentally I also wish Jeremy's response to this was better, as I think scrapping fees isn't the most immediate problem.

Some people, I suspect Wes is among them, oppose the rent strikes going on at some London universities atm but I genuinely think it's the only reasonable response.

BCFG said...

Brilliant letter to the Weekly worker this week from Don Hoskins.

See here:

Ity begins like this:

"You could save reams of paper and barrels of printers ink in the endless dispute with Ian Donovan (and now Gerry Downing’s Socialist Fight too) if you were to cut to the chase and state sharply and simply that the entire so-called ‘state’ of ‘Israel’ is a giant historical lie - a deliberately created artificial cuckoo in the Middle Eastern nest that has no right to exist, and needs overturning."

It concludes with following

"This imperialist and Zionist campaign should be exposed for what it is: censorship, and a form of demonising scapegoating in itself; not battling against hatred, but deliberately whipping it up to cow the ‘left’."

I think we need a period on the left where we cut through the bullshit. stop pathetically cowering to the supporters of a terrorist and racist state.

So Zionist supporters, tell me exactly, when are you going to give the Palestinians their land back!

Anonymous said...

On the day the Germans regain Prussia and Silesia and the Poles, Vilnius, Finland Karelia and the Georgians Abkhazia, when Hungary is great again, when China leaves Tibet and the princes of Dyfed come into their rights again, on the day of the restoration of the Burgundian domains and the Iroquois confederacy and the restoration of the Kingdom of Mysore. Then.

asquith said...

So the principled resistance to "Zionism" is entirely unconnected to Jews having to flee Europe (again) because they don't feel safe, or synagogues in this country having to be under 24/7 surveillance in case of violent "protests".

The latter just happens, independently of the former, and Malia Bouattia and her comrades are entirely unconnected to it, no siree, not us!

No thanks, a fish swims in water and everyone knows "oppressed" "intersectionality" "activists" consider racism ok so long as the right people are targeted.

Alex Ross said...

This piece from Andrew Coates is useful in explaining some background...

Algeria has grave historical problems with it's treatment of Jewish people (population of 140,000 down to around 6000 - and formal nationality only granted to those with muslim parentage). It's not unlikely that Bouattia has picked up some of these nasty attitudes...rather than being the perpetual "victim" of "western imperialism".

Personally, I know many people who make very stringent and intelligent criticisms of the Israeli gov but do so using neutral, human rights based language and (also) show the same level of concern when (say) talking about Assad barrell bombing a Palestinian refugee camp...people who excitably rant and rave about "the zionists" (as if believing in Jewish self-determination makes you part of a homogenous group) and "zionist media control" are racists...pure and simple. "Sloppy language" is not the issue. No one would excuse criticism of Mugabe as a "monkey" as "sloppy language". It's racism.

stephen marks said...

She did not 'rail against the number of Jews in Birmingham University'. She identified the size of Birmingham Uni JSoc as a problem that pro-Palestine activism in Birmingham had to deal with, as its leading members were all Zionists. You may not know that all University Jewish Societies affiliated with the Union of Jewish Students are required to have advocacy for Israel written into their rules and objectives, and the UJS is affiliated to the Zionist Federation. When Jewish students at Edinburgh and elsewhere have tried to remove this requirement and leave advocacy for Israel to a seperate Israel Society they have been threatened with disaffiliation and withdrawal of funding.

There have been similar controversies over the USA equivalent of the UJS, the Hillel Foundation. “Most of Hillel's activities differ little from other mainstream campus ministries or ethnic organizations. However, some of Hillel's policies, actions, and leaders have come under criticism. Hillel's use of the motto "Wherever we stand, we stand with Israel" has been criticized as alienating to Jewish students who are critical of Israeli policies, as well as attaching political ideology to an otherwise religious group”.

This may be one of the reasons why according to the UJS’ own website, though it claims to speak for an estimated 8,500 Jewish students the actual membership of its affiliated societies is some 2,500-3,000.

So Malia’s reported remarks about the JSoc at Birmingham Uni are no more ‘racist’ than if a pro-Israel activist referred to the ‘problem’ that there was a large Arab Students Society whose members were active in support of the Palestinians. Or indeed if members of a University Conservative Club referred to the presence of a large and active Labour Club as a ‘problem’.

John said...

About that ISIS motion

It is not difficult to spot the glaring difference. It is hard to imagine how it is possible to ignore the religious aspect of Daesh’s murderous campaign against the Yazidis but Bouattia decided to do so. Rather than condemn Daesh as, for example, nothing to do with Islam, she chose to ignore the religious basis entirely.

She had the Yazidis removed from the motion. So has not to appear too critical of Islam.

levi9909 said...

Well spotted Stephen. The Birmingham Uni Jewish Society isn't simply affiliated to the clowns at the Zionist Federation (ZFUK), it is also via parent organisations, UJS and WUJS, affiliated to the World Zionist Organisation which functions as a branch of the Israeli state under Israeli law.

I thought when she responded to the presidents of some Zionist student groups she shouldn't have accepted their self-description as "Jewish students". She should have called them what I just called them since that's what they are.

Also, her description of the mainstream media as "Zionist led" suggests an intervention from outside the media outlets themselves. She could have simply said "Zionist" or "pro-Zionist".

That's it, that's all.

I'm more worried at the mo, about Momentum leader, Jon Lansman, jumping thru hoops to appease Zionist groups in and out of the Labour Party:

Igor Belanov said...

@ Anonymous

Great comment.

Alex Ross said...

Can the people using the term "Zionist" as a pejorative on this thread please explain what they mean by using that term....would be helpful!!

Zionism seems to encompass everyone from the left-wing of the peace movement in Tel Aviv (who still identify with the notion of a Jewish right to self-determination but also defend and support Palestinian rights) to the most right-wing, racist, settler tossers. It's too broad a term to be genuinely meaningful in debate.

Also, I understand that some people hate nationalism of any stripe (either from a liberal, anarchist or Marxist perspective..). I'm not big on nationalism. But do anti-Zionists get equally worked up about Turkey (a country whose borders are defined by genocide in many directions) or, for that matter, any of the successor states to the Ottoman empire (all of which are ethnically defined and (more often than not) have human rights atrocities in the cupboard).

I'm not Jewish, and certainly not a fan of the Israeli right, but can see why people who rant about "the Zionists" are often perceived as racist by Jewish/Israeli friends. It just sounds bonkers, fanatical and conspiratorial.

Lidl Janus said...

Very simply: people concerned about being antisemitic (or even just looking antisemitic) do not pull out the "Jews control the media" card, or even a card that looks slightly like it from a distance.

As for Israel/Palestine, it's the longer-running, larger-scale, dumber, bigger-budget version of Northern Ireland, and it's baffling how it's never regarded as such.

Phil said...

Again, it's worth noting none of Malia's detractors face up to the reasons why she won. Is it a question of won't or can't?

Jim Denham said...

It is true that suggestions that this person supports ISIS are untrue, but it *is* true that she opposed a motion condemning ISIS and also supporting the Kurdish struggle on the grounds that it was allegedly "Islamophobic" and "pro Imperialist"

Her absolute "anti-Zionism" is merely a crude and unsophisticated expression of the political anti-Semitism common on the left, which opposes the very existence of Israel (even behind pre-67 borders), opposes the only possible and just resolution of the Israel/Palestine conflict (two states) and demonises all Jews who express any degree of allegiance to Israel.

Speedy said...

She won Phil because most students don't give a toss about politics and don't vote, so the positions (and their cash) is up for grabbing by any political wannabees.

Everybody knows that "Zionist" is shorthand for Jew. It's quite simple - if she has a problem with Israel, she should say so - with Israeli policies, not the belief in Israel existing.

Zionism came about after 2000 years of Christian (and Muslim) oppression, when it was recognised, long before the Holocaust, that the Jews were going to continue to be fucked by everyone unless they had their own country. The Holocaust rather proved their point.

It is therefore supremely understandable for many Jews to be Zionists - as a left wing Jewish friend confided, he was "glad it was there" in case "they" (we) came for him again, and who's to say he is wrong.

Many French and Belgium Jews are already voting with their feet. If you were a Jew, would you feel supported by the left? Would you feel the need to justify your beliefs in order to win their qualified support? And would it matter to the anti-semite who is coming for you and your children, whether you live in France, England or India?

But because many Jews are therefore Zionists, Zionist comes to stand for Jew. For Christ sake, it's like calling for the US to be returned to the Native Americans, as the poster above points out.

And there's the rub - what this is is an old libel segueing with a new one - anti Americanism. But it is easier to boycott olives than Apples, and beat up Jews than Americans. The anti-Zionist is a coward: they don't really give a shit for the Palestinians, they are using them like they use the Jews, as an outlet for their impotent rage against the capitalist machine. They wouldn't dream of booking a holiday to Israel but won't shut up about their hols in Turkey or Sri Lanka. Fucking hypocrites.

Alex Ross said...

I’m more cynical about the “why” question. Having a delegate based leadership vote seems very antiquated (reminds me of my Trotskyist days!!). Would be relatively easy to have a one-member-one-vote secret ballot across the NUS membership organised over the internet. Left “Activists” – who disproportionately dominate in delegate based union mechanisms – are often prone to a conspiratorial mindset. They often have an over inflated sense of confidence in their own opinions and often interpret detracting opinions as either nefariously motivated or ideologically “distorted” rather than just simply “that person has a different opinion to me”. There is a sort of “well…obviously I’m right about everything (so no problem there) so obviously the only reason anyone disagrees with me is to do with Rupert Murdoch, capitalist ideology…and, of course, Zionist control of opinion…” mentality. Bouattia‘s politics dovetail very much with that mindset.

bernard gibbons said...

"people concerned about being antisemitic (or even just looking antisemitic) do not pull out the "Jews control the media" card, or even a card that looks slightly like it from a distance".
On the other hand, if she is a rampant anti-Semite, it's rather odd that after a few years in national student politics, the only evidence of this appears to be a couple of clumsy formulations which have to be distorted and wrenched out of context in order to be fit for purpose, isn't it? As for Zionist influence in the media (definitely not to be conflated with "Jewish control" since all the Murdoch papers are fanatically pro-Israel, for example), the treatment of Malia and indeed Corbyn would seem to rather confirm it - and isn't it also odd that claims of anti-Semitism, however vague and unsubstantiated, are always treated seriously while student concerns about any other form of racism are ignored or ridiculed? (contrast the coverage of Malia or the furore at Oxford University Labour Club with the coverage of Rhodes Must Fall, for example).

GM said...

Jim Denham says:
"Her absolute "anti-Zionism" is merely a crude and unsophisticated expression of the political anti-Semitism common on the left, which opposes the very existence of Israel (even behind pre-67 borders), opposes the only possible and just resolution of the Israel/Palestine conflict (two states) and demonises all Jews who express any degree of allegiance to Israel."

Well Jim, I think you're badly wrong there, and I'll tell you why. I grew up in South Africa, in the bad old days under Apartheid, and I regard Israel as employing the exact same system. This is inevitable and unavoidable when you declare the state to be the property of a specific ethnic group, rather than that of all its citizens. Anti-Zionism is neither "crude" nor an expression of covert anti-Semitism: it is an assertion of the basic and universal claim that the state is responsible and accountable to all those over whom it has power. Would we accept a similar law that made all Britons of non-Anglo origin into second class citizens? That's precisely how South Africa worked: it was legally a white state and so all non-whites where technically illegal immigrants with no claim to state services and to whom the state bore no responsibility.

If you are willing to defend the principle of a "Jewish state" then you have to similarly defend South African Apartheid. And lets face it, you more or less have to defend the Obvious Example too. I'm not willing to do so; Apartheid, and its kissing cousin ethnic nationalism, have to go. As long as Israel is a Jewish state, it cannot be a Democratic one, and it must be illegitimate.

And if you really think a "two state" solution is likely to work, it didn't for the "Bantustans" that South Africa created precisely to give fictitious "homelands" to the very people whose blood and sweat created the wealth that white South Africans enjoyed. They were fake, everyone knew it; they eventually sought to be re-integrated into South Africa, and were dissolved in '94.

And look, I can make this entire argument without ever once resorting to any special pleading about "the Jews". Opposition to Israel is NOT anti-Semitism; it's anti-Apartheid-ism and, face facts, just plain realism. That there is anyone on the Left who seeks to defend Israel is a crying shame and an embarrassment.

GM said...

Speedy wrote:

"Many French and Belgium Jews are already voting with their feet. If you were a Jew, would you feel supported by the left? Would you feel the need to justify your beliefs in order to win their qualified support? And would it matter to the anti-semite who is coming for you and your children, whether you live in France, England or India? "

Yes, I would feel supported by an anti-Zionist Left. Because the only protection I would have is a political movement that takes the idea of democratic universalism seriously. Anyone supporting an ideology of ethnic nationalism is not my friend; because what they are saying is that I'm not *really* Belgian or French or British; that I'm *really* an Israeli, whose loyalty is ultimately with Israel rather than Belgium or France or Britain. And that I, in turn, can therefore also be declared an "alien" in the land I and my ancestors grew up in, and be expelled, or be legally discriminated against.

And you'll excuse me, but I've seen that movie already.

Jim Denham said...

GM:All states are based upon some form of nationalism, which by definition privileges one particular ethnic group or another. The idea that Israel is an "apartheid state" is politically illiterate: apartheid was basedm upon the super-exploitation of the "native" population: Israel was based upon *not* using Arab labour at all, if possible. That may have been a bad policy ... but it was the *opposite* of apartheid.

Speedy said...

GM, Israel is not analogous to Apartheid South Africa and to suggest so is simply another attempt to delegitimise it. All Israeli citizens are equal under the law, for a start.

Shame on you.

There is actually plenty that I disagree with about Israel, and would happily see it return to its 67 borders, two state solution, etc, but the hysterical reaction of some Leftists is entirely consistent with the historic anti-semitism that led to the Zionist movement in the first place.

Alex Ross said...

GM - as noted above all the successor states to the Ottoman empire are ethnically defined - as are most European states (especially in central Europe). Algeria, where Malia is from, for example, only allows full citizenship to those from Muslim decent. I can see why some take a view that ethnic nationalism is wrong across the board (It's a position I'm sympathetic to as a liberal leaning leftist). But states without an ethnic dimension are rare - and when they do exist (e.g. the US) often they contain great ethnically based discrimination. E.G. Amartya Sen's work on life expectancy in the US demonstrated that the life expectancy of black people was more akin to Kerala (in India) than the US average for white people.
Israel is often discriminatory towards Arabs internally (although it has a more progressive rights framework and judicial system than anywhere else in the region). But nothing resembling the situation in SA...unless you want to pretty much label every country in the world as an Apartheid state (as all states have imbalances in treatment of different groups).
Obviously the situation becomes far more grave in the Occupied Territories...with Israel often acting appallingly...but this is a messy conflict situation - and ultimately requires a pragmatic political solution - with the onus on both sides.
That solution will never be a "one-state" solution - as Jews, as a regional minority, have some pretty strong reasons to fear loosing their self-determination.

levi9909 said...

What chutzpah! The apartheid analogy is limited only by overlooking the recent, current & ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Arabs which was and is necessary to establish & maintain Jewish ethnocracy behind a facade of democracy. Zionism is in many ways worse than apartheid.

What's perplexing is that for all we hear that poor Israel is singled out for condemnation, no one on the left speaks up for ethnoreligious supremacy anywhere other than Palestine. Israel is singled out to its advantage not it's detriment.

The two state solution is as racist, potentially more so, as the situation now. The idea of a state specially for Jews side by side with states specially for no Jews should disgust anyone truly on the anti-racist left or even in the centre.

bernard gibbons said...

"but this is a messy conflict situation - and ultimately requires a pragmatic political solution - with the onus on both sides".
I wonder if you would be as sanguine if millions, or indeed thousands or hundreds, of Jewish people had been living under a brutal racist military occupation for the past 50 years. Given the levels of hysteria and hurt you display about an inappropriate tweet or Facebook entry, I doubt it somehow.
"Jews, as a regional minority, have some pretty strong reasons to fear loosing their self-determination".
It might be of course, that Palestinians have some pretty strong reasons to fear living under the heel of an ethnocentric chauvinist Jewish exclusivist state bent on their dispossession - but as they are not proper human beings they will obviously have no say in the matter.

Alex Ross said...

Levi9909 –
“no one on the left speaks up for ethnoreligious supremacy anywhere other than Palestine”

There is nothing specific in terms of “ethnoreligious supremacy” that uniquely applies to Israel. As I said above, I’m not a particular fan of nationalism (although reading Benedict Anderson and EP Thompson have softened me somewhat!!) , but just don’t get why the notion of Jewish self-determination creates such a visceral reaction on large sections of the left whilst other forms of nationalism and identity politics don’t. By way of cheap analogy…I can see why a primary school teacher would want to maintain discipline – but would be very concerned if she/he only admonished black children in the class.

A small number of people are consistent and thus credible. E.g. some left bloggers speak up in favour of Kurdish groups in relation to the Turkish state….further afield you’ll find people (e.g. Peter Tatchell) attacking “ethnoreligious supremacy” in Indonesia (vis-à-vis West Papua) and discrimination against the Baloch people in Pakistan. They might not be great in number but exist.

bernard gibbons -

I’m not Jewish, as it happens (just don’t like racist conspiracy types). The I/P conflict involves multiple sources of blame (including many atrocities committed by the IDF, the invasion by Arab dictatorships of a UN recognised democratic state, the racist and expansionist settler movement , the poisonous Islamist ideology of Hamas and other groups (I could go on infinitum…)). For me it’s not really clear cut…

On the second question, polls of Arabs within the “ethnocentric chauvinist Jewish exclusivist state” actually tend to substantially support remaining within Israel – although there are reasonable demands for “Basque style” autonomy in some areas (or more radical ideas that would create democratic devolution for Arabs irrespective of geography). Having visited the “ethnocentric chauvinist Jewish exclusivist state” on a few occasions, I find it fits quite naturally (culturally) as a Middle Eastern country. Most of the pop music is Mizrahi – from Jews whose ancestry is in the MENA countries - (and virtually indistinguishable from Arab pop…apart from the language). Foodwise – often very similar to Lebanon (refined ME cuisine). And every time I try to guess whether the taxi driver is an Arab or a Jew…I get it wrong.

As for the Arab population in the Occupied Territories, they have had ample facilitation to negotiate a political solution (with the involvement of the EU, various US presidents and many representatives of the Arab world). How many other conflicts in the world get that amount of attention and opportunity cost from world leaders??? That doesn’t let Israel off the hook - but your view is very one-sided. My view would be to provide the Arab population in the OTs with the self-determination they deserve whist recognising that regional minorities (who, let’s be honest, don’t tend to fare well under Muslim majority rule) also get their self-determination.

GM said...

The claim that the comparison to South African apartheid is "politically illiterate" is appalling, and, ironically, politically illiterate.

Let's be clear here: In 2008, 34 luminaries of the anti-Apartheid struggle signed a public letter in the Citizen newspaper, in which they said: ""Apartheid is a crime against humanity. It was when it was done against South Africans; it is so when it is done against Palestinians!"

In 2009, SA's Human Sciences Research Council published a finding that "the State of Israel exercises control in the [Occupied Palestinian Territories] with the purpose of maintaining a system of domination by Jews over Palestinians and that this system constitutes a breach of the prohibition of apartheid."

There has never been any doubt on the part of those who fought Apartheid in SA that they were engaged in exactly the same struggle as the Palestinians are. If you truly do not understand that Israel is an Apartheid state, then you simply do not understand what Apartheid was and is.

GM said...

Speedy, your argument is doubly wrong.

First, it is not true that Arab citizens are equal under the law. To cite but two examples off the cuff, any Arab in Jerusalem can have their property seized for the purposes of giving it to Jewish residents. That is a clearly racist measure which privileges Jews over Arabs.

Second, Arab representatives in the Knesset are forbidden from even challenging the specifically Jewish character of Israel, and have to commit to this before taking their seat. This is a blatant restiriction of political freedoms which again privileges Jews over Arabs.

On top of this, the issue is not only that of Arab citizens, but also of Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza. Not only is Israel in breach of its responsibility for populations over whom it exercises in loco parentis under the laws of war, but the very act of enclosing them and denying them mobility turns them into precisely the sort of legally fictive Bantustan I mentioned previously.

There need be no "attempts" to de-legitimise Israel, because Israel is not legitimate.

Jim Denham said...

And now we have Naz Shah:

Instead of fixating upon a naïve new MP, the Labour Party and the left as a whole should be asking how it is that it’s considered OK for people like Livingstone to repeatedly insult Jews, and why it’s acceptable to denounce Zionism in a way that no other form of nationalism is demonised. The predominant leftist language of ‘anti-Zionism’ never recognised the anti-Semitic logic of refusing to recognise the national rights of Israelis and never asked questions about the ‘Free Palestine’, ‘From the River to the Sea’ slogans. It’s hardly surprising that someone like Naz Shah found herself going along with this sort of stuff.

Instead of scapegoating this young and in many ways quite impressive new MP, who has made an immediate and unequivocal apology with no nonsense about "I was onely attacking Zionism, not Jews", Labour and the left as a whole need to be examining the political culture which led to her making those Facebook posts in the first place.

levi9909 said...

Alex - Israel is unique in that it defines itself as the state of an ethnoreligious community most of whose members neither come from there nor live there. At the same time it denies full nationality to people most of whom either live there or who have been ethnically cleansed from there. And even without the uniqueness of Israel's racism there is no defence of comparable racism with the possible exception of Labourite support for the old Orange state of Northern Ireland.

Jim I see you've interchanged Jews and Israelis. Problem there is Israel doesn't recognise Israeli as a nationality lest it compromise or undermine Israel's "Jewish character".

BCFG said...

What the left should be addressing is this McCarthyite witch-hunt that is taking place against those who reject the racist and terrorist state of Israel.

What is also glaringly obvious is the special privilege given to Israel. We need to ask the question why they have this special privilege.

The left should ask why it is ok to denounce any other nation but when it comes to Israel a whole army of witch-hunters swing into action, picking over any and every comment and turning it into something it clearly isn't, as soon as anyone makes any negative reference to this racist, terror state.

The backdrop of this is that for the first time in Britain a majotiy of people started backing the Palestinian point of view, the hysteria we have seen from the Zionist supporters is nothing but panic in reaction to this trend.

Given the Zionists have important sections of the ruling class and the bulk of the unfree media on their side it should be noted that this campaign is likely to be successful. But we should should be aware that this with-hunt is another example of abuse of power.

Oh, and cutting through all the bullshit, when are you going to give the Palestinians their land back?

Speedy said...

GM, your first point is plainly a blatant not true.

Your second may be true (I can't be bothered to Google) however is no different to a UK Republican being obliged to make an oath to the Queen in order to take their seat.

"Israel is not legitimate"

I think that's your point in a nutshell. No space for nuance there!

Chris said...

"Your second may be true (I can't be bothered to Google)"

Oh, so this is your authority is it speedy. Go figure! Your staggering level of ignorance is explained!

You are a strange creature, a self proclaimed passionate advocate of the besieged British working class, yet such a forceful supporter of the Zionist state. It is like you are not entirely being honest with us.

I suspect you are a forceful supporter of the Zionist state but couldn't really give a shit about the besieged British working class.

Speedy said...

BCFG. I'm curious. "The left should ask why it is ok to denounce any other nation"

What other nation is more denounced than Israel?

Turkey? Sri Lanka? Russia? China? Saudi Arabia? Iran?

I don't think so - that's precisely the point - Israel is uniquely singled out for criticism.

GM said...

Speedy, my first point is quite factual. Perhaps you should read a little more about the numerous UN resolutions passed against Israel and their accompanying investigations.

Your second claim, that a necessary commitment to the specifically Jewish character of Israel, is not analogous to example of Republicanism in the UK. While it is certainly outrageous, too, it differs in several respects.

First, no Republican is, by virtue of being a Republican, turned into a second class citizen with lesser civil rights. And second, whatever a given Republican in Parliament may feel about the issue, it is not necessarily inherited by their children, because it has no racial connotation.

But both of these are true in Israel.

To branch into your other post, about why Israel is singled out for criticism, this shouldn't really need explaining, but apparently it does. For all the other nasty places in the globe, none of the ones you cite are European colonies imposed by force on an indigenous population. None of them receive vast amounts of subsidy from the West. None of them are in possession of the largest fleet of F-16 fighter-bombers outside of the US.

We in the West are directly complicit in supporting Israel and enabling its Apartheid policies. And we therefore share the responsibility to address these issues in a way we do not for other states.

bernard gibbons said...

Alex Ross
“I’m not Jewish, as it happens”
I didn’t say you were, I just speculated that you might be less “la di da, whatever” about a brutal military occupation which affected Jews.
“the invasion by Arab dictatorships of a UN recognised democratic state”
Can you tell us when you think this happened? How, in fact, does one invade a state which refuses to declare its borders?
“Having visited the “ethnocentric chauvinist Jewish exclusivist state” on a few occasions, I find it fits quite naturally (culturally) as a Middle Eastern country”.
I’ve lived there and I never met any Israeli Jew who questioned the fact that they lived in a racist state – a small minority were unhappy about that, many more were happy and most said that they didn’t really like it but thought it was necessary in the circumstances. As to the multicultural idyll that you describe, recent opinion polls paint a different picture – this one ( ) shows that 68% of Israeli Jews would refuse to live in the same apartment building as an Arab, while 46% would refuse entry of Arabs into their homes and 41% support segregation in places of recreation. They’re obviously more adept at spotting them than you are.
The idea that Palestinians (a term you seem strangely reluctant to employ, my “liberal” friend) have benefited from US “attention” on their behalf is a strange one, I have to say. The reality for Palestinians in the OT s was spelt out recently by Deputy Defence Minister Eli Ben-Dahan: “Palestinians have to understand they won’t have a state & Israel will rule over them”. That is indeed apartheid, and no amount of smug obfuscation and self-delusion about “the self-determination they deserve”, whatever that means, will obscure the fact.