Anti-Zionist talk on campus leads to religious flashpoint

York campus became a centre of religious tension last week as Jewish students from around the country arrived to protest at a lecture given by the controversial Rabbi Aharon Cohen (left) of the anti-Zionist sect Neturei Karta, who has been accused of holocaust denial.

Cohen’s speech, entitled “Anti-Zionism is not Anti-Semitism,” contended that, according to Orthodox Jewish law, “the Zionist state known as Israel is a regime that has no right to exist,” and accused Zionists of constituting “the biggest threat to Jews and Judaism.”

Cohen, who was invited to speak on campus by Islamic Society and Amnesty Internation as part of Palestinian Awareness Week, has been widely accused of holocaust denial because of his attendance at a “Review of the holocaust” conference in Tehran, Iran last December.

Rabbi Michael Treblow (right), the Jewish student’s chaplain for Yorkshire and Humberside who attended the talk, claimed the conference was “organised by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinajad to deny or to question the holocaust, inviting world-leading anti-Semites such as David Duke, the [former] head of the Ku Klux Klan, and others.” Treblow claimed Cohen “has a track record of supporting those who have attacked his Jewish brethren.” Cohen claims charges of holocaust denial are “entirely unfair.”

York Unity and the Socialist Students societies, who were also involved in the organisation of Palestinian Awareness Week, withdrew their support from Cohen as a speaker when they were informed by York Jewish Society of the controversy surrounding his ideas.

Edward Zinkin, Secretary of York’s Jewish Society, explained that their problem with Cohen is that he “attempts to pass himself off as a representative of normative and mainstream Judaism” while also supporting Hamas and Islamic Jihad. “He represents this very minority group, and seeing as he openly supports Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah, for this man to come and represent Judaism… [is unacceptable].”

Treblow attended Cohen’s lecture accompanied by Jewish students from York J-soc, as well as from Universities in Leeds, London and Manchester. The Jewish students had preparatory sheets describing Cohen as “a nothing and a nobody.” These sheets contained copies of Cohen’s previous speeches, as well as sample questions to ask him and advice on how to react. The Jewish students reacted animatedly to Cohen’s speech, groaning and shaking their heads.

During the questions section following the speech, Jewish students attacked Cohen’s character and his right to describe himself as ‘Rabbi,’ as well as his contentious views on Israel. One student from Leeds demanded to know “with what authority” Cohen spoke, and pointed to an American rabbinical edict putting Cohen “beyond the pale.” Treblow also spoke out, publicly accusing Cohen of “falsifying the Jewish religion.”

Following the lecture, Robert Gold, an orthodox Jewish student at the University of Leeds, approached Rabbi Cohen to ask if he would like to speak to Rabbi Treblow in person. He describes how he “approached Mr. Cohen and said ‘would you be willing to speak to Rabbi Treblow?’ and he said ‘yes, of course I would…’” He continues, “the conversation was fierce in terms of Jewish terminology that, perhaps, not anyone else would have understood. But then someone interrupted and pushed Rabbi Treblow and me aside and said ‘he’s going to be late for his train,’ and then Cohen was carted off.”

Terry Gallogly, a member of the national executive of the Palestine Solidarity Committee, was responsible for Cohen’s safety. He explains, “Rabbi Cohen was ushered out because I arranged that… because on a previous occasion, at a meeting I was present at in Leeds University, there were threats of violence because he wasn’t ushered out quickly.”

When asked whether there were such threats of violence at this talk, Gallogly answers categorically “no, there wasn’t… although I understand that some of the people who were shipped in from Leeds might have been the same people. But there was much more restraint here tonight.”

Robert Gold concluded “It’s a problem. The argument doesn’t hold complete water, so when cracks start to appear – and Rabbi Treblow was cracking through it –dialogue is stopped.”

Nina Gora, the chair of the University of York’s Amnesty International society and one of the organising team behind the Palestinian Awareness week, described the conduct of Treblow and J-soc as “selfish” asserting that “this [the situation in Palestine] is a conflict far bigger than all our personal passions and is something we all need to get together and deal with, not just stand up for like our personal affiliations.”

Gora, angered by the hijacking of the Palestinian debate by religious argument, objects to “the fact that they mobilised all the way from Leeds, just to provoke him and piss him off,” asking “what’s the point? You know? Where’s the discussion if they’re just going to shout and be rude?”
A complaint was placed by Rabbi Treblow with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, who was unavailable for comment. David Garner, the University’s Press Officer, released a statement in response to enquiries as to whether the University should have allowed such a controversial talk to take place that “The University of York was founded on the principle of freedom of speech, and we do not ban any speakers as long as they remain within the law, to come and represent Judaism is unacceptable.”

Treblow attended Cohen’s lecture accompanied by Jewish students from York Jewish Society, as well as from universities in Leeds, London and Manchester. The students arrived with preparatory sheets describing Cohen as “a nothing and a nobody”, which contained copies of his previous speeches, as well as sample questions to ask him and advice on how to react. As Cohen spoke, Jewish students audibly groaned and shook their heads.

In questions following the speech, the students attacked Cohen’s character and his right to describe himself as ‘Rabbi’, as well as his contentious views on Israel. One student from Leeds pointed to an American rabbinical edict which put Cohen “beyond the pale.” Treblow also spoke out publicly, accusing Cohen of “falsifying the Jewish religion.”

Following the lecture, Robert Gold, an orthodox Jewish student at the University of Leeds, approached Rabbi Cohen to ask him to speak to Rabbi Treblow in person.

He described the conversation between the rabbis as being “fierce in terms of Jewish terminology that perhaps not anyone else would have understood.” However, the dialogue was cut short by an intervention by Terry Gallogly, a member of the national executive of the Palestine Solidarity Committee. Gallogly led Cohen away under the pretext of “needing to catch a train”.

He later explained this move had been planned in advance “because on a previous occasion, at a meeting in Leeds University, there were threats of violence because Rabbi Cohen wasn’t ushered out quickly.”

He claimed that some of the Jewish attendees from Leeds were the same who had made threats of violence at a previous talk.

Nina Gora, co-chair of the Amnesty International Society and an organiser of Palestinian Awareness Week, described the conduct of Treblow and J-soc as “selfish” saying “the situation in Palestine is far bigger than our individual passions and is something we all need to get together and deal with, rather than just defending our personal affiliations.”

Gora said she was angered by the hijacking of the Palestinian debate by religious argument, and the fact that “they mobilised all the way from Leeds, just to provoke him.” She said “What’s the point? Where’s the discussion if they’re just going to shout and be rude?”

A complaint was placed by Rabbi Treblow with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of York, Felicity Riddy. David Garner, the University’s Press Officer, said of this “The University was founded on the principle of free speech, and we do not ban any speakers as long as they remain within the law.”

10 comments

  1. The very fact that people have got so worked up about his speach, particularly Jews, just proves the point that he is making; as soon as an anti-Zionist comment is made, it is labelled as anti-Semitic.

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  2. This man is clearly a racist.

    Zionism is not inherantly racist.
    Anti-zionism is not inherantly racist.

    This man is.

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  3. 9 Mar ’07 at 1:26 pm

    George Small

    James does not know his history or prefers not to. In fact Zionism is racist and was condemned as such by the United Nations.

    Zionism’s founding fathers and then leaders in the early 1920s made it undeniably plain in their statements that there was no place for poeples already there when the Zionist State was to be set up – they were to be put on the other side of an Iron Wall.

    The pro-Israeli, pro-Zionist lobby has hijacked us all by making us live in fear of being labelled anti-Semitic if we criticise or voice concern about I sraeli policies in the Occupied Territories. Condemning the illegal construction of settllements, the ripping up of Palestinian crops, demolishing their homes, denying them freedom of speech, freedom of movement and freedom of dissent, subjugating them and victimising them, is NOT being anti-Semitic.

    The problem is that Israel and its supporters like Rabbi Treblow aren’t keen on the rest of the world knowing what’s really beng done to ordinary Palestinian families in the name of Israeli ‘security’, so they threaten us with accusations of anti-Semitism if we dare speak up for the oppressed and dispossessed of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

    Still not convinced? If Mr Cohen is so on the margins and unrepresentative, why go to all the trouble of bussing in students from off-campus with handouts etc? Could it be he had a message about the oppression of Palestinians that riles the Zionists?

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  4. 23 Mar ’07 at 10:02 am

    Sieglinda Joachim

    I am going to shout it from the roof tops -Anti-Zionism IS Anti-Semitism.

    In short, the Jewish religion is based on two basic beliefs, 1. the belief that there is one god and the belief that Jews are the people of Israel. Anyone who does not know this is ignorant about the nature of the Jewish religion.
    It is fair enough to not believe that there is one god and it is fair enough to not accept the idea that the Jewish people and the nation of Israel are one entity.

    However, to not accept that Jews have the right to believe those two concepts, which are central to their faith means that you do not accept the right of Jews to be Jewish and therefore do not believe that it is ok for Jews to exist. This is anti-semistism not simply anti-zionism. The two are inseperable.

    I accept that there is a legitimate land dispute between Palestian Arabs and Israelis. This is a fact, and there are two legitimate sides to this dispute.

    That being said any Christian English person living here in England has NO IDEA what it is like to be Jewish and therefore an “outsider” in any country other than the Jewish State of Israel and also to have people, such as English living very comfortably in their own country to resent the fact that a Jewish State even exists. Next time you are enjoying your Christmas dinner with your family, have a thought for the Jewish people that do not have the same luxury of spending their most important observances in the same way. Have athought for the Muslim people who have to fit their very strenuos Ramadan observances and fasts around a normal business scheduke and then have a chunk of time off during Christmas when it is not needed.The entire society is built around making the weeks around Christmas and easter obligation free so that time can be spent with your familys and in your Christian places of worship.

    Jewish people are often not even given the second day of Rosh Hashana off and the thought of permitting an extended time away for those who have to travel to be with family between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is usually out of the question. Why? Because this is a Christian Society! There are many very large countries in the world that Muslims are the majority and life is set up to accomodate Islam .Well fair enough, but I hope any Christians who thinks that Jewish people should not have a homeland where they are not second class citizens should choke on their upcoming Easter meal.

    o defend the right for Jewish people to believe that they are the people of Israel. I don’t have to believe in a deity to hear the number of times Israel and Jerusalem are mentioned in religious services.

    Anti-Zionist Jews that I know as well, as the Jews for Jesus, get a nice comfy reception from the non Jews, who are the majority of the world. I do not consider it an act of bravery for Jews to stand with the anti-Semites against their own people. Jews have been denying their identity in various ways for centuries. It is understandable given the perils of being Jewish, but it is NOT brave or admirable.

    I will further say that I have the utmost compassion for Muslims who are not given the respect, understanding in general and the accomodations that they deserve in order to observe Ramadan.

    It is easy for white English people to sit around criticising Israel, but take a look at yourselves. What do you do to make life better for Muslims in your own country? Do you think that holding a position that Jews do not have a right to live in Israel makes jews here in England confortable ? Or perhaps faced with the latest form of expression against Jews -Anti-Zionism more Jewish people will feel the need to go away from this hostile environment and settle in Israel?

    I as a person of Jewish faith send a message of peace to my Muslim friends and a promise to do all I can to help the British learn about and respect your culture and religious beliefs and your right to observe your religious practices here in the UK. I send a message of peace to the Jewish, Muslim and Christians in Israel to respect each other and find similar ground. Yes, there is a land dispute, but we have much in common.

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  5. I am afraid, Sieglinda, that what you have said is not entirely true, and again betrays an ignorance of the origins of the zionist movement and even of the Jewish faith. It is true that the Jewish faith does hold that they are the people of Israel (though this could of course be interpreted in a number of diferent ways) – your mistake comes from erroneously conflating the theological ‘Israel’ with the state of Israel founded in 1947 in what was then the Palestinian mandate. The leaders of the Zionist movement in the earlier part of the century had a long debate as to the whereabouts of the new Jewish state and it was only after much deliberation that the current site was chosen. It is partially for this reason that anti-zionism and anti-semitism are not the same thing, and this is borne out by the fact that Zionism has existed for little more than a century.

    In saying that anti-zionists are anti-semitic for the reasons you have done presumes that none of us have any right to question any political doctrine which is based on an interpretation of religious doctrine – an interpretation which may or may not be correct. This premise would apply equally to Sharia law, for example, and I wonder if this does not make you reconsder? Regardless, it is one thing to accept that people of the Jewish faith are the people of ‘Israel’, that is, Israel as it is presented in religious texts, it is entirely another to say that this concept justifies the military seizure of land, the systematic oppression of the Palestinian people, and the flouting of international law. It does not even justify the establishment of Israel as a nation-state, particularly not one with such an aggressive foriegn policy.

    In misinterpreting zionism, you misinterpret anti-zionism. I do not ‘think that Jews do not have a right to live in Israel’, nor does any member of the anti-zionist movement I have yet met. There have always been a relatively large number of Jewish people living in that region, and for significant periods of time there was peace between them and the others in that region. Nor do I object to people’s right to move as a result of persecution or discrimination , in fact I fully support it. But this is of course not what Zionism is. Zionism is a form of Jewish nationalism (though of course many zionists are not Jewish) which is in principle no different to that Nationalism espoused by the National Front and other racist parties, going all the way back to the German Nazi party itself – paricularly as Zionism views Jews as a racial rather than a religious grouping, we may recall the demand for a ‘homeland for the German People’. There is a significant difference between living somewhere, and being part of a movement which has systematically displaced hundreds of thousands who are to this day oppressed in order to establish a new state and borders which have been acquired and later defended by force. I would answer your question with two more: firstly, do you honestly feel that the idea of Zionism (which would have you move to Israel and in effect calls into question your right to live any where else) and the appalling and aggressive actions of an Israeli state which is wrongly conflated with the Jewish people, and so vicariously with yourself, (by you among others) makes Jews here in England any more comfortable? Secondly, why are you constraing your thoughts to the effects of zionism or anti-zionism within the boundaries of the UK? I entreat you to think of how uncomfortable it is to be living in abject poverty in a Palestian refugee camp in the west bank, slowly walled in and molested by Israeli guards at every attempt to move between towns, even to go to a hospital when in labour.

    Out of interest, as you hold that Judaism and Zionism are inextricably linked, do you then hold that anti-zionist Jews (and to some extent the millions of Jewish people – yourself included – who choose not to live in Israel, since this non-movement is in itself a criticism of zionism) are not truly Jewish?

    The discussion you have started about this country being one that is dominated by Christian conventions and being less than accomodating to people of other faiths is entirely valid, but also entirely irrelavent (and in some way your concern about should make you reconsider your position on zionism, since these inconveniences inevitably stem from the alliance of state and religion, and a Zionist state would be no more tolerant to Muslims than a Christian fundamentalist one). The lesson that should be taken away from this situation is that social reform and a larger degree of tolerance is needed, both on a national and international scale. There is however, nothing in this argument which justifies people being told where to live according to their race or religion, which is, in effect, what the zionist movement is an attempt to do. The chance or lack of it to celebrate on the appropriate religious days is of course important on a personal level, but it pales when viewed beside the issues that we should be discussing.

    You ask me what I have done to improve the lives of Muslims around me, and I can answer with some confidence that it will be more than you: a large portion of my time is dedicated to fighting racism of all descriptions. Your argument, sadly, seems to fall into this category. You view people too easily in terms of their nationality and religion. Why should my nationality and faith (you know nothing of either incidentally) determine my right to criticise the zionist ideology? Zionism itself is a racist ideology which advocates the building of a state on racial and religious lines, for the same principle equally justifies the beliefs of parties like the BNP (and again I would ask you, does this make your life in the UK as a Jewish person any more comfortable?)

    Finally, on your argument that Jewish anti-semitism is by nature neither brave nor laudable, I’m afraid that I cannot agree. WHile it may be that such people do get a warm reception from anti-zionists of other faiths, it cannot be said that this is the ‘majority of the world’. The majority of the world is, sadly, rather indifferent to and even ignorant of the concept of Zionism. Even if this were the case however, I would still view any Jewish person who manages to not cave in from the pressure of his own community, and to cope with the threat of being ostracised essentially ex-communicated from their own culture, and in the face of all of this pressure, to look at Zionism in an educated light and view it as a racist and divisive doctrine, deserves recognition.

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  6. 25 Mar ’07 at 12:24 pm

    Sieglinda Joachim

    Sophia

    The fact that the present state of Israel, which was founded in 1947, or any other state that might actually exist is not considered by you to be the ‘theological’ Israel does not invalidate it’s existance. One could as easily say that the Mecca that exists today is not the same Mecca that is mentioned in the Islamic scriptures, but that would be silly. Israel IS REAL, it is not not a theory, so what?

    Is the military seisure of land wrong? Or is it just disturbing to you when Jewish people aquire land?

    In 1974 Turkey invaded Greek Cyprus and forced Greek people off of their land and out of their homes. Turkey invaded and stole the land even though it had previously given up all claim to the land in a treaty. Today, thousands of UK citizens are buying up these properties for fun and profit. One Greek family sued the British family that bought their family home from the Turkish invaders that stole it. They wanted these Brits who bought the house, to compensate them. Cherie Blair the wife of the PM represented the British family who bought the stolen property and a UK court upheld the rights of Englishmen to buy stolen greek properties in Cyprus for fun and profit. Nobody here in the UK seems to object to this and there are many websites advertising holiday homes in the sun. Pretty disgusting!

    Seems like there is a double standard going on here. Either aquiring land through military action is right, or it is not right. Having a separate standard for Jewish people is anti-Semitic. It is not enough, by the way, to just agree that what Brits are doing in Cyprus is wrong, talk is cheap. Anyone who is actively promoting the right of return for Palestians should actively promote the right of return for Greek Cypriots. In fact it is UK citizens responsiblity to do so because hey have a say inUK policy. Without doing so, British anti-Zionists do not have a moral leg to satnd upon.

    My definition of Zionism is- an international political movement that supports a homeland for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. In my book one does not have to live in Israel or to be a Zionist or to be Jewish. I don’t accept YOUR definition. Not accepting Sophia’s definition of something does not make one ignorant, Sophia. (nice try though).

    You wrote:” Why should my nationality and faith (you know nothing of either incidentally) determine my right to criticise the zionist ideology? ”

    Yes, while I do not know what your nationality and faith are I would guess from this statement”The chance or lack of it to celebrate on the appropriate religious days is of course important on a personal level, but it pales when viewed beside the issues that we should be discussing” . That you are from a Christian background. See Sophia, you used the word “celebrate” which is how most Christians view their holidays. Nice fun celebrations with the family. Christmas presents and Turkey yummm.
    Jews and Muslims tend to see their Holy days as serious observances, that have serious obligations . Jews and Muslims feel they have OBLIGATIONS to observe in specific ways and on specific days. In the case of less religious members of either religion, not being available for observances causes serious problems for families. You seem to see this issue through Christian eyes.

    UK citizens should outlaw their own aquisition of “stolen” land and remove the “Church of England” as the official religion BEFORE turning their sights on Israel. At least then there would be less hypocrisy.
    You wrote:
    “Finally, on your argument that Jewish anti-semitism is by nature neither brave nor laudable, I’m afraid that I cannot agree.”
    Did you mean anti-Zionism? I am sure that you don’t really mean that you support Jewish anti-semitism…. or was that a Freudian slip, Sophia?

    British citizens who work to impose their ideas of what is right and what is wrong on Israel, while turning a blind eye to the wrongs of their own government, are not motivated by a desire to correct injustice. They are motivated by anti-Semitism. The days of the Jewish community sitting back and taking this lying down are over, if i can help it.
    -S

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  7. ‘Israel IS REAL, it is not not a theory, so what?’

    I think the point sophia is making is the distinction between ‘Israel’ as a religious (Zionist) symbol and ‘Israel’ the actual country. Your use of the word in the above suggests you havnt understood her. “Israel the state” is real; the aim of realizing “Israel the symbol” in reality is the Zionist aim. The methods used by “Israel the state” in its attempts to realise “Israel the symbol” is (I think) what Sophia objects to. It’s certainly what I object to.

    I would like to know whether you object to Israel’s methods too. If you dont object, then you must condone the violence Israel uses.

    I have read and think I understand your definition of Zionism:

    “an international political movement that supports a homeland for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. In my book one does not have to live in Israel or to be a Zionist or to be Jewish”

    However, you say nothing (in answer to what Sophia suggested) of the nature of the “Zionist” state. Obviously, Judaism would be the ‘Official Religion” of the Zionist state, but how far does this go?
    Would it be like the UK having the CofE as the ‘official religion’ – whilst retaining multiculturalism, secularism and overall, tolerance? Or is it more as Sophia describes… which I find abhorrent.

    Please enlighten me as to what the ‘Zionist State’ would be like.

    I personally am wary of Zionism because I sense authoritarianism and totalitarianism within it. I suppose that’s the natural path a religion-led state must take. This is the same reason I am wary of the far right Christian League and fundamentalist Islam.

    IT IS NOTHING TO DO WITH ZIONISM’S RELATION TO JUDAISM THAT MAKES ME WARY OF ZIONISM!

    I am not anti-semitic. I am anti-authoritarian. I dont care what religion someone is. What matters is how a person interacts with different people (of all beliefs, races etc).

    Thus I object to the forced removal of people from their homes – Muslim or whatever.

    As a side issue: Sieglinda, dont you think that religion IS a matter of adult choice? Obviously there are social factors… but ultimately, if a person doesnt truly believe in it, they dont HAVE to do it. Therefore the very concept of a religious state is troublesome – religion links people who have chosen their beliefs, a state links people by the geographic region of their birth.

    It’s for this reason I dont like Muslim states, and I certainly wouldnt like a state dominated by Christianity.

    … so, in answer to your comment:
    “UK citizens should … remove the “Church of England” as the official religion BEFORE turning their sights on Israel”

    The difference is, of course, that the CofE’s status DOESNT MEAN MUCH these days in multicultural and secular modern Britain. the timing of holdiays, a few traditons of our culture etc…
    On the other hand, the extent of Judaism in the Israeli govenment is comprehensive – even to the point of dictating foreign policy to run violent military operations against civilians to achieve RELIGION-BASED goals.

    I would like to point out, I am not pro-Palestinian. I think their violent methods are as abhorrent as Israel’s. I am not on either side of the debate – all I care about is a peaceful outcome where both parties can be satisfied.

    However; if for the Israelis to be ‘satisfied’ involves the setting up of a Zionist state as Sophia describes, I have to object to this.
    I invite you to describe what kind of solution/compromise you personally would be willing to accept for the middle east.

    “Jews and Muslims feel they have OBLIGATIONS to observe in specific ways and on specific days. In the case of less religious members of either religion, not being available for observances causes serious problems for families”

    I agree with you. However, wasn’t this point answered by Sophia when she said:

    “The lesson that should be taken away from this situation is that social reform and a larger degree of tolerance is needed, both on a national and international scale”

    ??? how do you respond to this?

    “Is the military seisure of land wrong? Or is it just disturbing to you when Jewish people aquire land?”

    This comment is simply immature. You insult Sophia who has written a very carefully worded and in depth critical (but fair) reply to your post.

    In case you genuinely didnt understand her, I think that the instances of Jewish land “acquisition” that sophia was disturbed by involved military seisure and violence against civilians who only wanted to carry on living in their homes, earning their livings, doing no harm.

    If you believe that these actions were justified, then please say so and explain to me how they were justified.

    I agree with you that the Turkey/Cyprus affair is disgusting.

    However,

    “Seems like there is a double standard going on here. Either aquiring land through military action is right, or it is not right. Having a separate standard for Jewish people is anti-Semitic.”
    “British citizens who work to impose their ideas of what is right and what is wrong on Israel, while turning a blind eye to the wrongs of their own government, are not motivated by a desire to correct injustice. They are motivated by anti-Semitism.”

    => These comments are ridiculous and juvenile.

    BRITS DONT HATE JEWS, SIEGLINDA!!! (and obviously, the two are not mutually exclusive)

    I think its fairly likely that most British people are simply ignorant of “the wrongs of their own government” – especially in the Turkey/Cyprus affair, which was over 30 years ago?

    And, before accusations of hypocrisy are bandied about, are YOU, Sieglinda, aware of ALL “the wrongs” of the Israeli government over the past 30+ years?
    If you are not, then you’re in the same category as most Britons.
    If you are, then do you “turn a blind eye” or do you criticise? Please answer this question for me.

    And the British people DO NOT “turn a blind eye” to the every wrong of the british government – look at the massive anti-war demos.

    I’m not condoning Turkey. I find the cyprus affair disgusting.

    Also, I’m NOT advocating a ‘right of return’ for Palestinians. I dont have a view on this.

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  8. 30 Mar ’07 at 6:35 pm

    Sieglinda Joachim

    Hi Tom,
    You wrote
    “Would it be like the UK having the CofE as the ‘official religion’ – whilst retaining multiculturalism, secularism and overall, tolerance? Or is it more as Sophia describes… which I find abhorrent.
    Please enlighten me as to what the ‘Zionist State’ would be like.”

    Tom, have you considered the possibility that if there were fewer people trying to wipe Israel off the face of the map perhaps things would be more relaxed there? So much desire for the total annihilation of Israel has made it’s population a bit jumpy especially in the context of the way the Jewish people have been treated in various parts of world throughout history. Israel is a Zionist state and it is a democracy, but it is a democracy in peril. It has unfortunately been placed in a position to have to take drastic measures in order to survive.

    “I personally am wary of Zionism because I sense authoritarianism and totalitarianism within it. I suppose that’s the natural path a religion-led state must take. This is the same reason I am wary of the far right Christian League and fundamentalist Islam.”

    The fact that you sense authoritarianism and totalitarianism in a democracy such as Israel indicates to me that you are responding to HUGE amount of anti-Israeli propeganda not to the actual entity of Israel. The huge amount of anti-Israeli propeganda is a product of anti-semitism. There is a difference between how a celebrity is portrayed in the press and the reality of who that celebrity is as a person, yet the public often confuses the two. People think they now who somebody is but they are simply responding to either good or bad PR. Does your sense of authoritarianism eminating from Israel your own anti-Jewish paronoia caused by your indoctrination by anti-semitic forces?

    How totalitarian would a Palestinian state be? How do Palestinians treat minorities in their society? Lets explore the treatment of gays for a moment.
    The abusive treatment of gay people by the Palestinian Authority–which does not differ much from the abusive treatment of gays in most Arab and Muslim societies–is irrefutably documented. Take just one story—in the May 2003 issue of Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide by Charity Crouse .
    Tarek, a young Palestinian gay man suspected of homosexuality, was sentenced to a “reeducation” camp run by Muslim clerics under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction. He said that for a period of two months he was “subjected to beatings with belts, clubs, and was forced to sit on bottles which were inserted into my rectum. I was hanged by the hands, I was deprived of sleep, and when I finally did sleep, my limbs were tied to the floor.”
    Tarek was lucky—he wasn’t executed. Stories like Tarek’s are not unusual, and help explain why a gay Palestinian underground—unfortunately, composed mostly of prostitution and other illicit activity—thrives in Israel, where so many gay Palestinians have fled. By contrast, Tel Aviv has a flourishing gay culture and Jerusalem will host the 2006 WorldPride festival in August.

    Lets get real here and put things in perspective Tom, is Israel really such a scary place?
    Certainly, I am sickened by the persecution of gays and it would be ethno-centric of me to expect Muslim people in Arab counties to have the same views as I do about gays rights and women victims of female circumcision. By the same token perhaps people living in the UK should have just a little bit of perspective on how the constant bombings might cause people in Israel to want to take measures to protect their lives. Nobody wants to build walls to separate people but perhaps a thought for the context?

    “The difference is, of course, that the CofE’s status DOESNT MEAN MUCH these days in multicultural and secular modern Britain. the timing of holdiays, a few traditons of our culture etc…”

    Ok, I agree that Brits do not take the Church of England very seriously these days. By the same token there isn’t really too much respect for other religions and cultures. As a member of a minority I have experience serious problems and witnessed serious problems by other minorities. The fact that most Brits are not too bothered by the fact that it is an officially Christian nation while being bothered by the concept of an officially Jewish nation is hypocritiacal and yes, Tom, anti-Semitic.

    Face facts, in this country blasphemy against the christian religion is an official crime which has been enforced in the past and can be enforced at any time. That is a little intimidating to me. Actually I’ll commit a crime right now. In my opinion Jesus was a gay, black, communist Jewish Rabbi. What I just wrote was my honest opinion and yes, Tom writing it was a crime. Kinda spooky huh. However saying Moses was a con artist and magician is not a crime in Israel, because it is a democracy that upholds free speech.
    You wrote that my question “Is the military seisure of land wrong? Or is it just disturbing to you when Jewish people aquire land? was somehow immature and that” I insult Sophia” by pointing out this hypocrisy. I do not think that pointing out this double standard is immature. If she,or you, or any Brit is insulted because I do not accept your unfair double standard, perhaps you should think about the reason why you are insulted. I do admit that you must not be used to, and uncomfortable with someone judging your society.

    You wrote ” case you genuinely didnt understand her, I think that the instances of Jewish land “acquisition” that sophia was disturbed by involved military seisure and violence against civilians who only wanted to carry on living in their homes, earning their livings, doing no harm.”
    Lets talk about the land, Tom. 72% of the land in Israel in the mid 40’s was owned by Turkey(3.3% by Arab residents, 8.6% by Jewish people and 16.5 % by Arabs who were absentee landlords who lived in Cairo and Beirut. Eighty percent of the people who lived in Palestine were nomads, Bedouins and very poor non-landowning peasants. Now there is nothing wrong with being a nomad or being a poor peasant. Personally I have very serious problems with individual land ownership, but most Brits would disagree.
    When Turkey was defeated in WWI England gained sovereignty and passed ownership to Israel when it became a country in 1948. So if you don’t like it make a complaint to your own government while you are complaining about the Cyprus situation.
    In 1947 the UN made a resolution to partition the land and set up a Palestinian state alongside Israel . this was rejected by the Palestinians. On May 14, 1948 five Arab nations invaded Israel in an attempt to destroy it. There are two sides to this story, Tom. You see from my point of view the Palestinians and the five invading countries were trying to steal the land from the Jews.

    Of course, I know that you are far too indoctrinated to consider that the facts I have presented before you as true. After all YOU would not trust any information coming from a Jewish source. However you will simply accept information against Israel from anti-Jewish sources. Why don’t you go to an independant source and check out the actual truth?

    I never said “Brits hate Jews”. I do, however consider the massive British anti-Zionist movement to be a function of anti-Semitism. I think fair minded Brits need to re-examine their positions.

    You wrote ” I think its fairly likely that most British people are simply ignorant of “the wrongs of their own government” – especially in the Turkey/Cyprus affair, which was over 30 years ago?’

    So answer this question WHY are most British people ignorant of the Turkey/Cyprus affair, which was over 30 years ago, when they are quite well versed about who owned land in Palestine in 1947?
    I assert that the British involvement in the Cyprus/Turkey affair was 30 years ago. Brits are buying the stolen land today, check out the websites. Oops there I go being childish again.
    -S

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  9. I’m not really sure where to start Sieglinda – I neglected to answer your previous post as Tom had already written and I felt it would be rude of me to intrude. However, I now have both of your previous posts to reply to, each of which was fairly lengthy, and so I apologise if this post seems overly long – I’ll try to answer you points in turn.

    Firstly, the importance of realising the distinction between the theological Israel which, as you observe, the Jews are the people of, and the political entity that is the current Nation-State of Israel, is precisely that opposition to one is not equal to opposition to the other, and therefore anti-zionism is not anti-semitism.

    You then asked : ‘Is the military seisure of land wrong? Or is it just disturbing to you when Jewish people aquire land?’

    My answer to this is that yes, the military seizure of land, regardlessly of the ethnicity or religion of those who seize it or those who lose it, is wrong.

    You then go on to rightly denounce the actions of Turkey in Cyprus, and the actions and complicity of the British Government in them. This is entirely right, and I agree wholeheartedly. I do not, as you accuse, have a double standard for Jewish people (a supposition you seem to base on my nationality), but if you consider it for a moment you will find that you do. If you oppose the seizure of land in Cyprus, how can you possibly support it in Palestine? Moreover, if you support the right of return in Cyprus, why do you not support it in Palestine?

    Your next point, your definition of Zionism, I don’t entirely understand how it differs from my definition of Zionism as ‘a form of Jewish Nationalism’. Aside from that though, it offers only half the picture.

    Zionism differs from, say, the pantisocratic movements that moved to set up communes in America in the 19th Century, in that by promoting a Jewish homeland in ‘the land of Israel’ (by which I take it you mean the area assigned to greater Israel, though I have already dealt with the problems with assuming that ‘Israel’ should necessarilly be where it is, I will, however, refrain from repeating myself) it inevitably implies that the majority of non-Jewish inhabitants in that area had be displaced. This was indeed the case, and to this day there are hundreds of thousands of refugees still living in camps. I’m not trying to imply that by not accepting my definition you are ignorant, but I do say that you should think through your own definition to its logical extent.

    Your next point was a rather silly one I’m afraid to say. My request was that you not judge what I have to say according to what you think may be my religious identity, and to not let any form of prejudice cloud this discussion. Your response was to attempt to use my comments to try and guess my religious identity (not correctly). [And, as an aside (since I don’t think it bears any relevance to the discussion we are having) I am fully aware of the distinctions between celebration and obligation, though personally I find it sad that you do not feel that the affirmation of your faith cannot be seen as a celebation. However, this is mere semantics, let me end by reffering back to my previous comment about the need for a greater level of tolerance]

    To deal with your final point in the first post, I assure that I DO NOT ‘turn a blind eye to the wrongs of my own government’, and I hope that you are as active as I and so many others in opposing the wrongs that the British Government are commiting even to this day.

    To Part 2 then, and although I realise you were writing in response to Tom’s comments, I hope you will forgive my addressing some of the points you have made.

    As a non-Christian I agree with what have said (and, incidentally, also with your view of Jesus – few things, to my mind, would reform the church as speedily as the second coming).

    You accuse Tom, and I assume me along with him, of being indoctrinated, and of not believing anything that comes from a Jewish source. For my part, my understanding of the situation stemmed from studying the last century of Politics in the Middle-East, an undertaking which obviously obliged me to read a great many Jewish sources, the vast majority of I believe wholeheatedly. I can also tell you that I don’t disagree with anything that you have said in your brief history. My problem with it is that it starts too late.

    Israel did not step into existence fully formed in 1947. In the decades previous to 1947 a small scale civil conflict between Jewish and Palestinian paramilitaries had been in constant tentative progress. I blame this civil tension not entirely on Zionism, but almost entirely on the British Governments of the time, who, since the First World War, had played one side off against the other (needing the support of the Arabs in case of future conflict and leading them to believe in the possibility of a Palestinian independent state, and needing the support of the Zionist lobby and the Jewish people in the Palestinian mandate at that point since they didn’t have the soldiers to spare amid a larger picture of anti-colonialist resistance). Britain did not ‘gain sovereignty’ as you say, but was entrusted with the mandate by the fledgling League of Nations for the purposes of preparing the region for independence.

    This conflict intensified in 1947 as the Jewish paramilitaries (the Irgun and Lehi) were armed by largely American investment and the Palestinian paramilitary was armed largely by Egypt and Transjordan. Various points in this clash (the massacre at Dier Yassin, for example) marked an escalation into full-scale civil war, which the British government was unable to control (particularly in the face of, arguably justified, attacks from the Irgun and Lehi) and consequently abdicated. It did not ‘transfer power’ to Israel. The conflict continued until the point at which the Jewish paramilitaries had gained control of the central part of the Palestinian mandate, when they declared themselves an independent Israeli state. The 1947 UN Partition plan never actually became a resolution, and was rejected by the Palesinian groups because it gave the majority of the land, and certainly the best industrial and agricultural areas, to the minority of the population as a result of a military conquest. (Incidentally, a significant portion of the Anti-Zionist movement are now only calling for Israel to return to the borders outlined in the partition plan.)

    I could go on, but I haven’t the time, and the same history is documented in thousands of places. My point is merely this: Israel was not an innocent victim of inexplicable Arab agrression, and the conflict with Arab neighbours over the intervening decades is not the reason for Israel’s aggressive foriegn policy. The state of Israel is one that was formed from a violent acquisition of land, and this was inevitably going to be the case given the nature of Zionism: if there is to be a Jewish homeland in the area that was the Palestinian mandate, where we the Palesitians expected to go?

    Finally, in response to Tom’s comment that ‘Brits don’t hate Jews’, I would warn that this is an easy mistake to make. There is a rising wave of racism, directed I think firstly at Muslims, but also at Jews, sweeping the country. Only this week a leading Rabbi warned of the increasing numbers of attacks on Jews in Britain, and the rise in attacks on Muslims has been almost exponential in the last 5 years. The anti-zionist movement is not responsible for this anti-semitism, it is attributable to the hysteria the British government and press, and even more seriously active and racist parties like the BNP, promote about anyone seen as ‘not British’. Regardless of our views on Israel, I would like to think that we can unite in confronting this wave of racism. In tackling this rising anti-semitism, and general racism, you have my full support Sieglinda, and I hope that I have yours.

    Sophia

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  10. 1 Apr ’07 at 12:09 pm

    Sieglinda Joachim

    Sophia,

    Thanks for your reply and especially for the very productive note with which you concluded.

    I understand that you feel that pointing out a distinction between the theological Israel and the existing nation state deflects my assertion that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism. However I maintain that the European, especially British concern with the Israel/Palestine situation in the context of what I perceive is widespread disinterest in and ignorance of the majority of recent and present day tragedies and injustices worldwide indicates deep-seated anti-Semitism. There is only one possible reason people isolate Israel of all the countries of the world to deny its right to existence. That is because Israel is the one Jewish state.
    As far as the Turkey/Cyprus situation, it must be viewed in the context of the clashes between Greek and Turkish people, over what if I am not mistaken, has been more than one thousand years. I do not know why Turkey broke the Treaty that it signed relinquishing it’s claim on Cyprus and as a non expert I can not make a definitive judgment despite my own compassion for the trauma suffered by those who lost their homes in the conflict. I would not choose to vilify the Turkish Cypriots simply because they are Muslim and it might serve the Zionist cause to show that Muslims are presently illegally occupying land somewhere in the world. Never the less, I am completely comfortable saying that it is hypocritical for British people to be outraged by what they consider to be Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land while participating in and profiting from Turkey’s occupation of Northern Cyprus.

    Of course, I acknowledge that the fact that the twenty one Arab nations occupy 650 times larger than the size of Israel makes little difference to a single Palestinian family who has lost their personally owned land. However, the fact that Israel is only twenty thousand SQ KM while the Arab states occupy almost thirteen million SQ KM does influence my perspective.

    Sophia, I am sure that you and I would certainly agree that it is unfortunate that the only Arab country to offer Palestinians citizenship is Jordan. The Palestinian people are intelligent, courageous, warm and generally admirable people. The only explanation I can think of for the twenty Arab countries to reject Palestinians is that they care more about the destruction of Israel than the welfare of Palestinians. I am also suspect that not many Brits know that the Kingdom of Jordan has made it illegal for a Jewish person to live there. Either that or they do not care. But not caring and not knowing are more than just a little bit linked .
    Anti-Semitism is not just a Jewish problem. The attitude of a society towards Jews is often an indication of how it will treat others. Capitalizing on European Anti-Semitism might meet the short term goals of Palestinians but what will the long term effect be?

    I have been shocked by the anti-Islamic actions I have witnessed here in the UK and even more shocked by the total Islamo-phobia I have seen in the US. I take no joy in the anti-Muslim sentiments I hear expressed by Brits. I would never seek to gain sympathy for Israel by capitalizing on Islamo-phobia, because that would be wrong.

    Sophia, I do not agree that the present increase in anti-Semitism is unrelated to the anti-Zionist movement, I think there is an unfortunate connection between the two.

    I will conclude by saying that the Israeli/Palestinian situation has no easy solution. I will continue to assert the right of the Jewish state to exist. I will not tolerate any double standards being applied to Israel. I thank you, Sophia, for your statement acknowledging the rise in anti-Semitism and racism in general and your promise to work against it.
    -S

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