The Mid-Atlantic Blog

February 20, 2006

Divestment, Anti-Semitism & Israel

The divestment row rumbles on.

For previous comments on the decision of the Church of England's General Synod see here...

The story on Monday is a piece from a chap described as follows:


Paul Oestreicher was a member of the Church of England's general synod and director of the Centre for International Reconciliation, Coventry Cathedral; he is now a chaplain at the University of Sussex

Inevitably the piece is in the Guardian, and demonstrates all the sterling qualities you might expect of a piece in that paper by a chap described in that way. He tries to make the case for the motion... but let's look at the highlights.

First, a remarkable statement:

If, as some now think, today's Jews are the Muslims - hatred transferred -

What on earth is he talking about? One is a race, the other a religion. There is no systematic attempt to wipe Islam from the face of the earth outside the paranoid ramblings of some of the most extreme Islamist leaders, well on the fringes of mainstream Islam. The major campaigns undertaken by the west in the last 20 years (The Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq 1 and 2) had at least one common goal: at least in part they were about the protection of the rights of Moslems being oppressed. Not because they were Muslims, of course: just because they were people. We don't discriminate (when we actually pull our fingers out and get around to doing something).

Let's be clear about this: disagreement with the political purposes and behaviours of Islamism is not bias against Muslims, nor against Islam. There is in fact very little of the latter. There is a lot of disquiet about the political aims of Islamists but there is very little about the religion itself, or the people who follow it. Comparing the Jews over the last 2000 years (with specific reference to 1930s and 40s Germany) to current Moslems is just nonsense, and patently so.

Now we have a demonstration of what passes for political insight:
Peace cannot be made by building a wall on Palestinian land that makes the life of the miserably conquered more miserable still. A Palestinian bantustan will be a source of unrest and violence for ever

Now, I thought that the facts were that the wall had, in fact, been quite effective at cutting the current problem faced by Israel: suicide bombs. And I also thought that Israel had been in negotiation to try to create a 2 state solution - not a bantustan (but notice that he's now managed to compare Israel to both Hitler's Germany AND Apartheid South Africa without really trying. Clever, huh!), but that Arafat had continued his games throughout much of that process, having failed to fully engage in that process, and in particular refusing a settlement offer generally recognised since as being much better than could have been expected. I had thought that there was bad behaviour on both sides, and that the power balance in the region was rather complicated. Oh, and that within living memory there was an attempt to wipe Israel off the map by the surrounding countries, which failed. I must be wrong.

And then this
But the main objective of my writing today, is to nail the lie that to reject Zionism as it practised today is in effect to be anti-semitic, to be an inheritor of Hitler's racism. That argument, with the Holocaust in the background, is nothing other than moral blackmail. It is highly effective. It condemns many to silence who fear to be thought anti-semitic. They are often the very opposite. They are often people whose heart bleeds at Israel's betrayal of its true heritage.
I began with the recognition that the cancer of anti-semitism has not been cured. Tragically, Israel's policies feed it - and when world Jewry defends Israeli policies right or wrong, then anger turns not only against Israel, but against all Jews. I wish it were mere rhetoric to say that Israeli politics today make a holocaust the day after tomorrow credible. If the whole Muslim world hates Israel, that is no idle speculation. To count on Arab disunity and Muslim sectarian conflict and a permanent American shield is no recipe for long-term security.

Let's be clear. You don't have to be anti-semitic to agree with divestment. You just have to display the high quality of clear thinking demonstrated in this article. And you have to be comfortable that your actions will be seen approvingly by those who are anti-semitic. But no, you don't have to be anti-semitic, and I am quite certain (removing all irony for a moment) that the author is not, in any way, anti-semitic. He's just wrong. And badly wrong. And so are the people he is discussing. Not bad. Not anti-semitic. Just wrong.

And, by the way, the hook on which this article was hung (the Jewish Chronicle article by the Chief Rabbi, found here in the Times weblogs section) doesn't, to my reading, mention anti-semitism as the cause of the divestment motion once. Nor does much of the commentary I've seen. Some does, but only because the poor quality of the arguments in favour of divestment lead commentators to come to the conclusion that there must be something more behind it. Personally, I subscribe to the sloppy thinking argument. I'm sure some of them are anti-semites, but they're probably the tiny minority. Mostly they're just not terribly smart, or able to deal with the nuances of the arguments involved.

There is, of course, more. Look out, for example, for the cute comparison between the Israeli "peace" movement and the German resistance in WWII. (Minor difference, of course, is that one group were systematically rounded up, put in concentration camps and/or killed, while the other wasn't. Guess which is which...).

This article must be read. It comprehensively demolishes the case for divestment all by itself.
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