Monday, 11 August 2014

Gaza, Stop the War Protests, George Galloway and Anti-Semitism.

Owen Jones means well but he comes across as a studenty sort who is trying to stake out the politically correct position in such a way that would ensure the anti-war protests remain nice and inclusive instead of polarising Muslims and Jews on the issue of opposition to Israel's conduct of the war in Gaza.

As a consequence, Jones produces a series of high sounding generalisations which do not address the specific content of the utterances made by those opposing Israel or why they could be construed as veering towards a dislike of Israelis because of who and what they are.
'..antisemitism needs to be treated very seriously indeed. Attempts to belittle it are dangerous, allowing the tumour to spread unchecked. But...Israel’s assault on Gaza has highlighted another danger too  It has often been debated whether the charge of antisemitism is concocted against anyone who supports Palestinian justice or criticises the actions of the Israeli state'.
Evidently, there are vested interests at stake in defending Israel no matter what it does. There are arms contracts, large volumes of trade and Britain and Israel cooperate on security projects whereby they can learn how to use sophisticated technology to contain the threat of terrorism.

As a consequence, it is convenient to accuse those criticising Israel as 'anti-semtitic'. But, then again, the word 'Islamophobia' is deployed in a similar way to mean a critic of an Islamist political movement, a person critical of Islam as a religion, or somebody who does not like Muslims.

Words and their meanings matter. To be against Israel's policy is to be anti-Israeli or, better, against Israel's policy on Gaza'. The danger of using words such as 'anti-Zionist' is that they could be taken to mean being against far right Israeli nationalism or against the existence of a Israel as a country.

The fact is that it is sometimes difficult to work out whether those 'taking a stance' against Israel are not rationalising darker motives not necessarily related to the actual situation in Gaza: a brutal but regional conflict but not the site of some cosmic battle between world historical forces.

Leaders of the Stop the War Coalition themselves are hardly paragons of peace. George Galloway's rhetoric is often violent and intemperate. His defence of Gaza and refusal to 'accept Israel' is not about anti-semitism but he likes to give his Bradford West electors the impression he rejects its right to existence.

With Galloway ( whom Jones never criticises due to the need to retain 'solidarity' no doubt ) the Gaza conflict provides an opportunity to advance a career in the doldrums after the Soviet Union fell and his attachment to Hamas and Hizbollah comes from their opposition to the US Imperialists.

This is a form of solidarity that works negatively. Hamas and Hizbollah are only aligned in opposition to Israel and so is Galloway. In fact, neither movement has much time for each other in the context of the Sunni-Shia sectarian division that have opened up over the conflict in Syria.

One reason Israelis and their Jewish supporters feel 'picked on' is that while Muslims across the Middle East are in the process of murdering one another on a large scale, there is a perception that most Muslims in the West unite on loathing Israel and that there must be a sinister agenda against them in Europe.
'One retort repeatedly offered is that Israel is itself the source of antisemitism; that its brutality towards the Palestinian people encourages hatred against the Jewish people. This is a nonsense, like rationalising anti-Muslim prejudice as the inevitable consequence of Islamist fundamentalist terror; responsibility for prejudice lies with the prejudiced. Most of us are quite capable of opposing brutality without turning into bigots. Racism needs to be eliminated, not excused'
It may well be a nonsense but it is nevertheless a rationalisation that is implicit in the sort of placard that is often held up by Islamists on anti-war marches. Jones refers to the infinite world of idealistic 'oughts' without looking at the grubby reality of what 'is' to be found on the 'anti-war left'.

One example would be the placard that reads 'Stop the Genocide of Gazan children'. The implication could be ( beyond mere hyperbole ) that if Israel is committing the genocide of the children, then maybe some genocides are better than others because they do not target only children.

Genocide talk as regards Israel, as opposed to the more obvious and provable accusation of war crimes, tends to have a sinister edge to it. If Israel is held to committing genocide, especially of children ( forget the adults then ), then, perhaps, Hitler should have finished off all Jews.

So there are no grounds for the assertion 'most of us' are able to oppose brutality without turning to racial hatred. The historical record nowhere bears that out as an absolute certainty. And if racism is considered a form of evil, then evil is an ineradicable part of human existence.

Wherever, one group so defined on the basis of ethnicity, creed, religion or race has leaders playing on unique victimhood the better to advance one set of power claims against an 'existential' rival or enemy, then aggressive instincts of hatred can, indeed, be rationalised.

So there is little purpose in mentioning the real effects of anti-semitism by pointing to the Jobbik in Hungary and by ignoring the sort of irresponsible propaganda that does inflame feelings against Israelis in Britain as opposed to their government ( not least as a great majority support it over Gaza )

So Jones focuses ( rightly) on the need of a British anti-war movement over Gaza to put pressure on the British government on arms exports and so on. But he goes on to provide his own form of deflecting attention away from intolerant forms of activism within Britain by pointing to anti-semitism elsewhere.

Hungary is a convenient choice because Jones knows that there are very few Muslims living in this Central European nation. So he can position himself as anti anti-semitic without needing to deal with its existence within Britain, even if it is bound to be exaggerated by uncritical apologists for the Israeli state

So Douglas Murray was no doubt trying to smear the entire protest march against Israel's war on Gaza as being 'anti-semitic'. The problem is unless the anti-war movement ( such as it is ) rejects intemperate demagogues such as Galloway, amongst others, it is always going to play into the hands of established interests.

The problem is that 'anti-war protest' really often means an ideological siding with Islamist forces as opposed to the more obvious point of a protest which should be focused on trying to advocate Britain is not complicit in what Israel is doing in pursuing war not diplomacy.

The 'anti-war movement' contains leading figures who, even if they may not peddle anti-semitism, do come out with absurd conspiracist ideas on geopolitics and the Middle East whether on Gaza ( or even on ISIS as being backed by Israel ) that feed a paranoid world view.

The existing 'Stop the War Coalition' is simply headed by a coterie consisting of the dregs of the communist left whose tendency to rationalise totalitarianism ( Galloway and journalist Seumas Milne being the supreme examples ) discredits anti-war causes and puts off sane conscientious people.

It is possible to be against the war crimes committed by Israel and against the insane suicidal strategy of Hamas. But in the 'Stop the War Coalition' this sort of nuance is not permitted and only those propaganda slogans that boost outrage and hatred are promoted.

It's depressing but the reality is that there is never going to be a sensible open discussion of Israel and Palestine that does not lurch into accusations of complete collective guilt and innocence on one side and counter accusations, spiralling paranoia, outrage and pyschopathological venom :i.e. pure hatred.

The real question is :Who benefits ? Clearly, those making a career from demagogy such as Galloway on Iranian funded Press TV, neurotic ex-revolutionary leftists who need a cause to glom on to in order to raise them from otherwise wholly deserved obscurity as leaders of sectarian revolutionary utopian cults.

Yet the impossibility of a sensible debate without platform posturing and soundbites from the self appointed 'anti-war' types benefits those defending Israel unconditionally as they can point to the opposition to Israel as Hamas supporting maniacs and 'extremists'.

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