Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

Disappointed

Posted on: March 29, 2021

When I was fifteen, I was in love with Dostoyevsky; with Prince Myshkin, with at least two of the Karamazov brothers and even with that proto Nietzschean delinquent Raskolnikov. I remember my puzzlement and disappointment on coming across Dostoyevsky’s antisemitism. I still loved Myshkin and Alyosha but lost respect for Fyodor Mikhailovich.

That was a long time ago and I am well-accustomed to a certain kind of disappointment, most often recently when fine actors declare their antipathy to Israel. We saw it with Vanessa Redgrave and her ‘Zionist hoodlums’ speech in the 1970s but Vanessa Redgrave was well known to be involved with Gerry Healy’s Workers Revolutionary Party, so it didn’t count as a disappointment.

As for Mel Gibson – who cares what he thinks? I never watch his films; can’t even bear to hear him voicing a rooster in Chicken Run.

All the same, it is a great pity to see many of our current British actors putting their names to statements supporting the cultural boycott and signing letters to the Guardian insisting that the previous Labour leader does not have an antisemitic bone in his body.

The greatest disappointment is when rabbis back the boycott of Israel as happens occasionally in the UK and the USA or when diaspora Jews hold a seder in which they declaim ‘Fuck Israel’ – presumably amending the Passover Haggadah’s references to Zion and Jerusalem to bring them in line with this sentiment.

I am sure these critics of Israel think they have nothing in common with Dostoyevsky or with Mel Gibson, although I recall one very distinguished British actor saying that Mel Gibson only expressed what everyone thinks. I would have understood better if he had said it about Dostoyevsky.

These are disappointing times indeed. It disappoints me that the right wing has long been the dominant force in Israeli politics, partly due to the alliances enforced by proportional representation and repeated electoral deadlock. However, I am not going to countenance making a pariah of Israel any more that I would make a pariah of the United Kingdom which also tends to return Conservative goverments.

There are two new definitions of antisemitism, purporting to improve or rectify alleged faults in the IHRA definition. The one which has gained approval from some anti-Zionist quarters is the JDA, the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism. I first read of this in an article by the sociologist Keith Kahn-Harris for the project JewThink..

 …the Jerusalem Declaration, which attempts to open up a much wider space between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, is likely to produce a dominant reading as indemnifying all kinds of anti-Zionism as not antisemitic. …from my knowledge of at least some of those involved in drafting the definition, this indemnification is not what was intended (and the FAQ on their website does offer some safeguards here). But really it hardly matters what was intended, given the motivated reasoning that will make certain readings prevail.

Defining antisemitism – again, and again… – JewThink

In this paragraph, Keith Kahn-Harris anticipates the possible misuse of JDA, especially by those hostile to the IHRA definition.

Just days later, this seems to be the situation and the JDA is embraced, as one expects, by groups whose raison d’être is to oppose Israel and Zionists.

I looked closely at the signatories to the JDA and here was a disappointment substantial enough to keep me awake last night and to trigger this short blog post. There are some admirable and erudite signatories and there are one or two whose names are a signpost to extreme anti-Zionist invective. If the JDA can work for them, how can it work at all?

At worst, experts and authors of good faith have got into bed with an international lawyer castigated by UN Watch for open antisemitism. The Open Anti-Semitism on Richard Falk’s Blog – UN Watch.

At best, I am disappointed.

But how could there ever be a consensus over the definition of antisemitism? We can extrapolate, based on past experience, but there is always some new variant, hitherto unidentified, as virulent as those which have gone before.

3 Responses to "Disappointed"

Hello Gillian it’s your stalker again 😁
Re MartyMooreTaken and reporting him to Twitter. I’ve looked at his timeline and I ‘m pretty sure that he’s 2nd generation Irish in England. I’d advise that anyone using that language and linking to dissident IRA social media should be reported to the Met. Seriously.

Hi Melvyn. I thought he was in Belfast, pro IRA. Talks a lot about/against the D
UP.

He references Belfast but also Leo Varadkar among others. The language is off for a native ! As well as being demented that is.

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  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: The Conference has kicked off and the new EHRC rules have been passed, 73% - 27% I think. It's good but one thinks about the 27% who opposed them.
  • keithmarr: Familiar sentiments to me. Saddened I am too. In addition to antisemitism Starmer’s reluctance to make Labour the natural home of the Remainer is fr
  • keithmarr: Thank you once again for perspicacious comment. There is an element of social media, one’s potential anonymity perhaps, that leads to behaviour that
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