Anti-semitism and Crying Wolf

Argus title : My fears for this event in our city

A senior Sussex police officer is likely to receive “words of advice” from his own force following criticisms of peace campaigners protesting about the 2006 Israeli bombing of Lebanon.

In a letter sent to and published by The Argus last year, Ch Supt Moore said the decision of peace campaigners to hold their protest in Palmeira Square – an area he claimed was home to a large population of Jewish people – was a “deliberate attempt to provoke and incite”.

However the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) upheld an appeal made by three of those who attended the demo that the comments were “inaccurate and inappropriate”.

News of the ruling has been welcomed by campaigners. A spokesman said: “We believe that we have been clearly vindicated. The allegations of anti-Semitism were malicious and spurious.

“Many Jewish people took part in the demonstration against bombing Lebanon and Ch Supt Moore had no reason to accuse people of anti-Semitism.
“In fact the choice of where to start, Palmeira Square, had originally been the police’s own idea for a similar demonstration in 2003.”.

At the time Mr Moore’s letter appeared, peace groups expressed outrage at his comments, stating that Palmeira Square is no more or less a “Jewish area” than any other part of the city. Several people commented that one of this city’s greatest strengths is that it is home to so many different communities yet remains socially integrated.

The IPCC ruling said that Ch Supt Moore did not set out to brand the whole demonstration anti-Semitic. However the Commission agreed that his comments effectively accused protestors of choosing Palmeira Square with the deliberate intention of stirring up ill-feeling among the Jewish community.

The ruling said: “Given the emotive subject at hand, I do not consider that it was appropriate for Ch Supt Moore to report an assumption of this nature in a letter to a local paper.”
This ruling vindicates many peace campaigners who were deeply hurt by the implication of anti-sermitism. Many have a strong track record of anti-racist campaigning.

Those who campaign for the rights of Palestinians are rightly incensed by the frequency with which they are falsely accused of “anti-semitism”. They point out that criticism of the actions of the Israeli government and the Zionists who sustain and support it, is not anti-semitic.

However, the fact that false allegations of anti-semitism are often made against those who criticise the Israeli state, does not mean that anti-Zionists are not also sometimes anti-semitic. Or that those who oppose Zionism can cease to be vigilant about the allies they choose to stand alongside.

Repeated groundless accusations of anti-Semitism may make people careless and consequently less likely to take allegations seriously – especially when they are leveled against those who do not fit the usual profile of an anti-semite. And so, just as the boy who ‘cried wolf’ eventually came face to face with a real live wolf, the same may be true about anti-Semitism.

On January 7th the Brighthelm Church & Community Centre will host a talk by Gilad Atzmon. An ex-Israeli, Atzmon is a talented jazz player who proclaims his support for the Palestinians. Unfortunately, the terms in which he does so echo much of the language of anti-semitism

He insists “there is no anti-semitism anymore”, suggesting that acts of violence against Jews should be understood as political rather than racist acts. Despite the fact that he rejects Zionism – which wrongly claims to speak for all the Jewish people – Altzmon perversely holds all Jewish people responsible for the actions of the Israeli state.

He writes “If Israel is the state of the Jewish people and the Jewish people do not stand up collectively against the crimes that are being committed on their behalf, then every Jewish person, Jewish symbol and Jewish object becomes an Israeli interest and a potential terrorist target. It is up to the Jewish people to take a stand against their (sic) Jewish state and to dissociate themselves from their (sic) zealous national movement.”.

At a talk given at the School of Oriental & African Studies, he is reported to have said “I’m not going to say whether it is right or not to burn down a synagogue, I can see that it is a rational act”. (Guardian 12 May 2005).

The idea that Jews are ‘Christ killers’ is one that is particular close to the heart of anti-Semites and was the foundation stone of the Reich Church, the pro-Nazi section of the Baptist Church in Germany in the 1930’s.

Altzmon wrote “I would suggest that perhaps we should face it once and for all: the Jews were responsible for the killing of Jesus.” He says “Why is it that the Jews who repeatedly demand that the Christian world should apologise for its involvement in previous persecutions have never thought that it is about time that they apologized for killing Jesus?”

In the same essay, Atzmon explained that “we must begin to take the accusation that Zionists are trying to control the world very seriously.”

“The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” was a forgery concocted by the pre-revolutionary Czarist secret police in Russia, but was treated by the Nazi Party as a foundation stone of their beliefs. Hitler knew it to be a forgery, but ignored this because he considered true the basic allegation that Jews were attempting to control the world. Distressingly, Atzmon seems to agree.

He points to the number of Jewish people in the Bush and Clinton administrations and asks “Is the suggestion of conspiracy really an empty accusation?” He adds “American Jewry makes any debate on whether the ‘Protocols of the elder of Zion’ are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews do try to control the world, by proxy…”

Perhaps most worrying is his statement that ”Israel’s behaviour throws some light on the persecution of the Jews throughout history.” I find it profoundly shocking that anyone who professes concern for human rights should suggest that centuries of anti-semitic pogroms and persecution by Christians were to any extent provoked by the behaviour of the people who suffered them.

To its credit, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in Brighton has apparently refused to support or sponsor the meeting, but it is nonetheless going ahead – almost certainly organized by people acting in good conscience.

Had Atzmon’s views been expressed by, for example, a member of the BNP I venture to doubt that he or she would be speaking publicly in Brighton.

It seems wrong that such views may be heard in a Christian community centre, in a city with a proud history of anti-racist organization – apparently without protest, just because the speaker claims to support the embattled Palestinian people.

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