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Responses to Michael Neumann on Israel and anti-Semitism by Jay Knott (10/30/09)       ⇌ (Zionist opposition to freedom of speech)       


Michael Neumann is a great influence. His 'The Palestinians and the Party Line' http://www.counterpunch.org/neumann11182005.html of 2005 first woke me up to the argument that the USA's unconditional support of Israeli war crimes is not a product of capitalist interests. So I started to look elsewhere for an explanation. I reached some controversial conclusions.

Neumann starts by saying Israel's defenders are increasingly besieged. If only. Neumann lives in Canada, the one country which is more pro-Israel than the USA: http://www.counterpunch.org/engler10132009.html

Canada also has a far more extensive set of laws against hate speech than the US. These facts - the Zionism and the laws against freedom - might be related (note, 24-2-10 - in fact I have found out they are related - but can't reveal how, because my source would get into trouble!). So for Neumann to worry about holocaust revisionists hiding in the left, massing for its final assault on the last bastion of Zionism, shows a misplaced perspective. Perhaps he's feeling the pressure to conform, but his strategy for dealing with 'anti-semites' is at least non-violent - he thinks we should 'unmask' them. We should point to the fact that their sympathy for the Palestinians is an afterthought, not a priority. I am tempted to ask "well, isn't that better than nothing?". How would you 'unmask' a 'anti-semite'? "That wicked fellow - he likes Palestinians, but he doesn't like Jews!"? Somehow, it doesn't sound as effective as the normal leftist approach of shouting 'Nazi' at everything that moves.

Seriously, Neumann asks us to distinguish anti-semites from 'real' opponents of Israeli crimes by asking of them "Did they rail against Jews in some other context, perhaps with dark references to Jewish ascendancy 'in Hollywood', or 'in the banks'?". The problem with this approach has been well exploited by the Israel Lobby: where do you draw the line? Sorry, Michael, but I think Jewish ascendancy in Hollywood has got something to do with America's immoral and irrational enthusiasm for the Jewish State. Another day, another Holocaust movie... Now, I didn't say this before I became interested in the Palestine question, so I guess that makes me OK. Should we really divide people on the basis of the order in which they adopted their views?

Neumann has moved some way toward the traditional leftist view that critics of Israel have to be extra-careful about the danger of 'anti-semites' lurking in their midst In fact, he expresses this fear more dramatically than usual, comparing these people to pedophiles pretending to be good child care workers. If they are so dangerous, he should give us a good method for detecting them. The term 'anti-semitism' is vaguer than 'pedophilia' - definitions range all the way from 'mild criticism of Israel' to 'hatred of all members of an ethnic group'. (The term 'pedophilia' is also subject to a creeping redefinition, amalgamating normal feelings with extremely abnormal ones - but this essay is controversial enough already without going there...).

The only examples of anti-semitism Neumann gives are holocaust revisionists Ernst Zundel and David Irving. And the site Stormfront, whose content the reader can probably guess (I won't link to it, or I'll be accused of 'having links' with it!). But what Neumann says about this site undermines his argument: 'It espoused antisemitism long before it became pro-Palestinian'. Ah. So it is pro-Palestinian then. Neumann attempts to argue that, if someone or something was anti-Jewish before it became pro-Palestinian, we should avoid it like we avoid pedophiles. I'm sorry, but I can't see why. If anti-semitism is one route to defending children (Palestinian ones), I don't see how it can be compared to harming them. 

Seriously, I don't think Stormfronters would make good allies in opposing Zionism. But this is not because this would enable Zionists to call us 'anti-semitic' - they do that anyway. Their method is unable to distinguish David Duke from Desmond Tutu. It's a tactical matter. This statement brings out fear and loathing among traditional leftists, who are normally good at opportunism in single-issue politics. As usual, I have to say what I'm NOT saying. I'm not saying less than five million Jews were killed by the Nazis. I'm not denying it was the worst crime in history. I'm not arguing for a united front with the extreme right. I am arguing for a less hysterical attitude to their ideas. I believe the left's obsession with 'white privilege' is worse than useless when it comes to opposing Jewish racism.

Back in 2002, Neumann was closer to my current position:
"We should almost never take antisemitism seriously, and maybe we should have some fun with it. I think it is particularly unimportant to the Israel-Palestine conflict, except perhaps as a diversion from the real issues." http://www.counterpunch.org/neumann0604.html

In this essay, he pointed out that the over-use of the term 'anti-semite' to denounce all critics of Israel, cheapens the currency, rendering the term meaningless. I agree, but unlike Neumann, I don't care. 'Having fun with it' for me means provoking Zionists and left-wing anti-racists into showing how close they are. I went to see David Irving with some friends. He's nowhere near as bad as they make out. He's certainly not a Nazi. I have no reason to believe his protestations of support for the Palestinians are insincere. The politically-correct left united with supporters of the Israeli Defense Forces to scream 'Nazi' at us. We have invited our anti-racist critics to join us on protests against Israel, but they apparently have better things to do - like sending threatening letters, spreading slander on the radio and threats on the internet, 'calling us out' as anti-semitic, trying to get us fired, etc.. http://wweek.com/editorial/3546/13087

I think Zundel is 'worse' than Irving, meaning his politics are even further from mine. But I believe that, like all revisionists, he should be defended against imprisonment for his ideas. It is obvious that Zionist supporters start by persecuting unpopular right-wingers, then move on to their left-wing and Muslim opponents. Isn't it? It's a classic case of 'first they came for the...' except in this case it's not communists and Jews, but holocaust revisionists. Revision is the normal procedure in historical research, with one exception. 'The' Holocaust is treated like a religion - it's a clear case of Jewish exceptionalism, of discrimination. Challenging that discrimination will help undermine the grip of Zionism and save the Palestinians from genocide. Neumann has a much better understanding of the facts of the holocaust than I do - his father was one of its leading historians. I'm not arguing about the facts - I'm arguing that the way the holocaust is presented encourages discrimination in favor of Jewish interests, in favor of Israel. I don't believe in defending revisionists because I think they've got the facts right. I believe in defending them because Zionists hate our freedoms. They hate them because they will eventually enable us to free ourselves from Zionism.


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More about Canada and the Lobby - the Jenny Peto affair (01/03/11) by Jay Knott:


I was right about Canada's anti-hate laws being used to help Israel (03/22/10) by Jay Knott:


A repy to Neumann's latest piece (03/01/10) by Jay Knott: