Community Representatives: Letting themselves and us down.

The other day, I received an email from the Zionist Federation titled ‘Hecklers removed from ZF event’. The event was intended to highlight Israel’s contribution to environmental causes. Seeing as I had seen an email from JBIG (Jews boycotting Israeli Goods) a couple of days earlier calling on members to protest outside the event and put questions to speakers inside the conference, I wasn’t too surprised to hear that something like that had happened. Now personally, I don’t really get why such groups attach such a high importance to disrupting Israeli events such as Israeli dancing workshops, and I wonder exactly what ‘spurious scientific claims’ (referred to in their email) they envisage the Zionist Federation propagating, but still that is for another article.

What woke me up from my slumber, was a statement by Alan Aziz, Director of the Zionist Federation, quoted in the ZF email, “it is pathetic that self hating Jews, who unfortunately don’t know much, try to turn these events into something they are not.” Should the director of the Zionist Federation be calling people self-hating Jews so freely? What exactly does he mean by the term? I called him to find out.

Anyway, he never got back to me, or at the very least, the person who answered the phone didn’t pass my request for an interview on, but I was going to ask him: 1) what exactly does he mean by a self hating Jew? [Alan, feel free to write us an article on the subject] 2) Does it make sense to call someone a self hating Jew just because they are critical of Israel? 3) Should the director of the ZF be using such terms so freely? 4) How was the ZF gala dinner on Sunday? 5) Is he comfortable legitimising the use of such terms within the general communal discourse?

One argument is that making an accusation that someone is a self hating Jew serves to stifle debate. For me, that is not the major issue. The issue is that such accusations feed into a community that is ever more to the right of the political spectrum, that is ever more willing to see the world in simplified ways and is ever more willing even at the level of community leaders to engage in such simplified discourse. When community representatives go around thinking and speaking in such ways this in turn legitimises such discourse, and people are thereby less likely to challenge their own similar beliefs.

I would like to say Alan Aziz’s statement is a one off. But it isn’t. In a forum on the JC, http://www.thejc.com/blogpost/british-jews-owed-apology Jonathan Hoffman called another blogger, “a lying malodorous shameless libellous trolling reptile.”

Then went on to call the blogger:

“a lying toerag, an insignificant troublemaking muckraking creep, a pathetic time-wasting nonentity, a coward who will not use his real name”

Now, the debate was about whether the ZF by asking members of the ZF to vote, was trying to skew the results of the JPR’s Israel Survey. I agree with Jonathan Hoffman – the ZF were not, they were simply encouraging people to vote, in what is an important but methodologically flawed survey (how will it be possible to judge how representative the survey is of the Jewish population as a whole?).

My point is whether the vice chair of the Zionist Federation, an organisation that represents 55,000 Jews, should enter into a slanging match where he calls someone a malodorous reptile however malodorous that person might be? Is that the level of debate we want our communal representatives to engage in? What happens when he is debating against someone who responds with sophisticated, nuanced arguments, do we have faith that our community leaders will be able to respond with sophisticated nuanced arguments of their own. Maybe one day they will come up against sophisticated and nuanced arguments. Until then, they should raise their game. It simplifies complexity. It lets themselves and us down.

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  1. BaruchTrotsky

    Does the ZF have 55,000 members? Do you have a source for that you can post?

  2. stamfordhillbilly

    http://www.zionist.org.uk/index.php?id=40

    “The Zionist Federation today represents the UK Zionist Movement more than 120 organisations, and over 50,000 affiliated members”

    I bigged them up a bit.

  3. theedgeofwhere

    After the open letter in the times endorsnig the Goldstone report – from IJV, Jews for Justice, and others – I remember the ZF issued a press release saying pretty much the same thing: that the signatories have ‘little connection’ with the Jewish world; I.e., that their not really a part of the community. I wrote about it here: http://bit.ly/9Wjoxm

    If you are perceived by the ZF to delegitimise Israel, it seems, you risk having your own Judaism delegitimised by them in turn, and that’s just not Kosher!

  4. Serge Katz

    “affiliated” – exactly the problem. They claim to represent Jewish people because they have reps from 120 organisations in their extended network but that’s not the same as actually having supporters. They’ve got more like 120 members then.

    The ZF are becoming an increasingly extreme organisation as their grip on free speech weakens. It’s fun watching them lose control.

  5. tim

    “a lying malodorous shameless libellous trolling reptile.”
    Ha ha very funny, playing right into the hands of the conspiraloons ” joos are reptiles” theory. This hoffman character should be a warm up man for nick griffen, what a prat. Who does he think he’s representing? A tiny elite of self consumed, self obsessed agronoids.
    Seriously if he wants to help the jewish cause, the best thing his like could do, would be to stand down – it’s becoming more clear that his sole purpose in life is to make the jews look like a set of ****s.
    The quicker he’s winkled out the better!
    shalom

  6. stamfordhillbilly

    Just to re-sum up the article in response to a couple of the comments, it was a request for balance and tolerance and nuance, in our attitudes, and hopefully understanding where other people are coming from, and not demonising people unecessarily.

  7. tim

    @stamfordhillbilly – soz mate for the outburst of feeling toward your friend and mine. Sometimes the fingers get a mind of their own and before you know it youve hit the ‘submit comment’ button without a second thought.
    All that said though it is pretty hard to work out where the zionists are coming from with all the nasty stuff that accompanys their victim mentality. Maybe it’s some sort of passive aggressive thing, what do you think?

  8. stamfordhillbilly

    Hey Tim, no worries

    I was partly saying that because just personally I think the more balanced and thoughtful things are on the Jewdas website, the more people will take it seriously, which can only be a good thing. Also I didn’t want to get blacklisted from any ZF gala dinners.

    Anyway explain to me what you mean by ‘where the zionists are coming from with all the nasty stuff that that accompanys their victim mentality’, just so that we are on the same page, and so then I can respond to your question properly. Which nasty stuff in particular are you referring to and which zionists?

    Zionists are a pretty disparate bunch. I’m a Zionist for instance, and there are quite a few liberal/progressive/left wing zionists out there, so bear that in mind when you group all zionists together!

  9. tim

    Haven’t got much time at the moment SHB so here’s a short piece to consider(lifted). If a modern country is starting off with the voice of it’s people (mr BG) coming out with this, it’s not very surprising there’s going to be a lot of opposition, to put it mildly.
    I don’t think you need me to point out all the nasty coming out of israel, if you do, then I may draw the conclusion that you’re very naive and sheltered or you work for the israeli intelligence agency, ha ha only kidding.

    David Ben Gurion in his own words –

    David Ben Gurion (the first Israeli Prime Minister): “If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti – Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault ? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?” Quoted by Nahum Goldmann in Le Paraddoxe Juif (The Jewish Paradox), pp121.

    Ben Gurion also warned in 1948 : “We must do everything to insure they ( the Palestinians) never do return.” Assuring his fellow Zionists that Palestinians will never come back to their homes. “The old will die and the young will forget.”

    “We should prepare to go over to the offensive. Our aim is to smash Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, and Syria. The weak point is Lebanon, for the Moslem regime is artificial and easy for us to undermine. We shall establish a Christian state there, and then we will smash the Arab Legion, eliminate Trans-Jordan; Syria will fall to us. We then bomb and move on and take Port Said, Alexandria and Sinai.” David Ben-Gurion, May 1948, to the General Staff. From Ben-Gurion, A Biography, by Michael Ben-Zohar, Delacorte, New York 1978.

    “We walked outside, Ben-Gurion accompanying us. Allon repeated his question, What is to be done with the Palestinian population?’ Ben-Gurion waved his hand in a gesture which said ‘Drive them out!’” Yitzhak Rabin, leaked censored version of Rabin memoirs, published in the New York Times, 23 October 1979.

    What are your thoughts on this dipiction of the israeli/Iran situation?
    http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2010/03/447407.html?c=on#c244641
    and this:
    http://www.tomjoad.org/Hunger.htm

    In the spirit of friendlyness, ”bon appetite” at your next zf feast.

  10. stamfordhillbilly

    Hey Tim, response part 1)

    Forgive me that I am not going to respond directly to your quotations, and if I treat them with a degree of scepticism, but more generally quotations of the type you refer to are routinely misquoted, taken out of context or just plain made up, so as I said, forgive me if I doubt their veracity. As an example of the ambiguity associated with even some of the quotations you mentioned, please check out,

    http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=2&x_outlet=62&x_article=1521

    But just as an example take the quote that came from Nytimes in 1979:
    · Firstly, there is no copy of the article on the net that I can find, so unless I go to a library that contains 1979 copies of the NY times, Im not going to have access to the primary source, and verify the voracity of the article, and whether the quotation reflects the content of the article, or even exists.
    · But then if it was a significant article or raised significant points don’t you think there might be a copy somewhere on the net, or some scholar would have referred to it in some book as something significant, that people should examine, or says something about BG or Rabin.
    · Moreover, the excerpt was from more than 30 years ago, don’t you think that the censored material would have surfaced by now? Somewhere, in Rabins private archives, in a reprinted version of the book – anywhere that would be more recent than a 1979 article.
    · As an example of context, does the quotation refer to driving out the Palestinian population generally, or a particular Palestinian population in a particular village for specific military reasons eg. PlanD http://www.mideastweb.org/pland.htm . And by ‘drive out’, does that mean carry out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against them, or does it mean make sure they leave the area. My point is, that these quotes are so open to interpretation that they are largely meaningless in the form that they are often presented.

    I just raise these points more generally, because these quotations are often used, but I have a really big problem in the way they are used for the types of reasons I have given above, and it seems to me people just pass them on and refer to them without investigating their veracity as quotations, which people should be aware about.

    Part 2)

    Anyway, I don’t really know how you expect me to reply to your question. If you want to know some of my feelings about right wing Zionism, it is said by better people here:

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1150799.html

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1155902.html

    However, my 2 pence worth: People who are Zionists are always going to say things I disagree with. Unfortunately a lot of the time at the moment it is the Israeli govt, so go ahead, critique that, but I guess what I would say is that why are these criticisms always more generally turned into critiques of Zionism as a whole and the legitimacy of Zionism? No one person represents Zionism and as I said, it is a heterogeneous ideology/movement with multiple voices and disparate viewpoints, and in my view the way towards peace is to seek common ground with progressive Zionists who want to make peace with Palestinians and strengthen the possibility of progressive Zionists, and not to constantly attack Zionism and fail to distinguish between progressive and non progressive Zionists, as by very definition you question/comment about Zionists and their victim mentality does not do.

    Take it easy dude! SHB

  11. BaruchTrotsky

    point of information, the Ben Gurion quote ‘garesh otam’ – drive them out, is covered in Benny Morris’ The Origins of the Palestinian Refugee Problem’

    Its widely accepted as accurate. Certainly it referred to a certain area, but its one of the few examples we have of a direct order to expel, rather than, as Morris puts it ‘an atmosphere of transfer in the air’. Ben Gurion was clearly responsible for fairly large scale expulsions, in terms of not allowing refugees back as much as driving them out. You can argue about whether the term ethnic cleansing is appropriate or if its anachronistic, but I don’t think this affects the moral issues in question.

    Does Zionism have an essence? Thats a whole other debate………

  12. tim

    Checked out your link SHB, a bit he said she said. I wonder whether discussing the subject of israel with zionists is of any benefit to non zionists as their dogmatic belief system seems exactly that, dogmatic.
    On the subject of dogs, maybe you could speak in defence of your fellow peace lover Arieh Eldad (http://www.thejc.com/news/israel-news/29778/mk-calls-british-dogs-over-dubai-passport-row) and his description of me as a dog. How would he feel if i called him a ….. Well we all know his response, antisemitism, when he isn’t even a semite, go figure!
    Have you seen the speech by netenyahu at Bar-Ilan University last june where he makes a big deal out of having a ring found in Palestine bearing his name? Someone in his PR gang needs to have a word, he comes across like Botch out of the Hair Bear Bunch ” Oo Oo mr Peebly, I found a ring with my name on it Oo Oo that must mean I own Wonderland zoo Oo Oo” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzIiNMj1WwI&feature=related)
    To be honest SHB it’s far more healthy for the spirit to poke fun at the zionists than engage in conversation and debate, I wish you could see that. One things for sure, it’s definatly a road to nowhere engaging in endless point scoring.
    Here’s a challenge: See if you can write 5 good things that the zionists for the Palestinians – sincerely.
    and I’ll do my best to try and find 5 good things the zionists have done for the Palestinians, good luck!

  13. tim

    Hi SHB, hope all’s well. I’m still looking. I did find this short film though and thought you’d like to see it. It’s called ”The Sun Doesn’t Shine in the Camp” (not propaganda)
    http://www.archive.org/details/balata
    Something is seriously wrong if the cost of what one wants, is what is depicted in this film. I could never align with a political belief that would create and maintain a situation like this.I’m not one for crying, but something was bubbling up inside me as I watched.
    Yeah, the jewish people can have a place to live, but not at this cost. As the gissin guy on this second link tries to justify israels actions, that said bubbling up, turns to anger:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTJvx5Y-jkY&feature=related
    A serious question SHB, how do these zionist spoke persons (dershowitz,gissin etc) make you feel? This is not some kind of emotional trap, I’d really like to know and understand how they don’t repulse you.
    Apologies if my words are clumsy – they are sincere.

  14. SHB

    Hey Tim, I don’t know what you want me to say? I already posted links to what my feelings are about right wing Zionism, so forgive me if i just assume you dont actually properly read my responses……………………..

    But even so, here is a stab to answer your question……Yes, Jews came along and established the state of Israel and comitted an injustice upon the Palestinian people that has resulted in their suffering, but this simple fact does not exist in a vacuum.

    As you yourself mentioned, the Jewish people also have some rights – as you say, “the Jewish people can have a place to live” yet if Israel had not have been established, surely a similar injustice would have befallen the Jewish People – they also would have been dispossed of any land, and who knows what would have befallen them – maybe they would still be living in DP camps in Greece or Eastern Europe, so yes a injstice was done to the Palestinians, but if the Palestinians would have triumphed, then an injustice would have been done to the jews. That is the whole essence of the conflict – competing narratives.

    Secondly, the suffering of the Palestinians does not just happen in the mode of “being the victims of Zionism”. Just as much as the Balatta refugee camp is the result of Zionism, it is also the result of decisions that the Arab and Palestinian leadership have made, for instance to reject any partition of the land and also to favour terrorism over peaceful means. I am not saying that all Palestinians are terrorists, or that all forms of Palestinian resistence are invalid, just that Palestinians have resorted to terrorism at various stages, and rejection of Jews and a Jewish state, at stages of their movement of national liberation, and at various stages have decided to favour armed conflict above nation building.

    So what I feel is that yep, whatever you want to show me is completely shit, and yep, zionism and particularly right wing zionsim has a lot of responsibility for that, but they do not bear the whole responsibility for that,

    but when you tell me that Zionism has created and maintained the Balatta refugee camp, I say, thats not really completely true is it. The Balatta refugee camp was created in the 1950s before Israel even occupied the land, so during this time, it wasnt ‘maintained’ by Israel. It was the decision of the Arab states not to grant these people citizenship.

    and when you tell me you are having an emotional response, and blaming Zionism, I say yep, have your emotional response, feel sad, distressed, angry, pissed off, whatever, and ask me to sympathise as a human being, I will say fine.

    But tell me you are having an emotional response, and that as part of your emotional response, you are blaming zionsim, I will tell you that you are having both an emotional and political response, and why would I care about a political response that basically eminates out of your emotions, and hasnt been subjected to even your own reasoning, investigation and scrutiny, that doesnt see the complexity in the situation, that doesnt look at things from both sides or seek understand the history of the situation. Thats what I would say.

  15. tim

    Hi SHB, as I’m sure you know, differences of opinion can lead to arguments and insults, or better understanding. You started this thread in which you stated the ‘community’ representatives can and are alittle offensive when dealing with ‘the community’. I agree. The problem I and others on this site have, is this idea of the zf being the community representatives. Hoffman, aziz etc have a certain political view and agenda that many jews find repugnant and very unsavoury.
    It appears you have a high tolerance or low self esteem to put up with Comreps slagging off fellow members of the ‘community’ and ignoring your sincere queries on the matter. I think aziz would have answered something like this:

    1)Any jew diagreeing with zionism
    2)Yes
    3) Whose gonna stop me?
    4) Alittle stale and greasy, but nice
    5) I legitimise settlements, so do you really think insulting people bothers me?

    You are right in your doubts about the integrity of these ‘leaders’ – they make jews look bad. But they are motivated and driven. The question I think, is what motivates and drives them. A desire to control and manipulate at all costs to the point of ostracising and insulting to the core, fellow jews?
    One of the most common critiques of the israeli/jew/zionist stance is
    ”Why are they treating the Palestinians the SAME as the way the jews were treated during WW2, you’d think they’d know better”. It would appear to be a mis-placed form of revenge. Do you think it healthy to have community ‘leaders’ with a collective psyche revolving on mis-placed revenge, corrupt on power, arrogant enough to verbally abuse inquiring minds within their own flock?
    The question to me would be, not, is it right that the leaders insult members of the community, but, why are these people even representing us?
    These psychologically damaged men and women are not reincarnated biblical heroes protecting and serving the jewish peoples, but more, usurpers with motive issues.
    With regards to your comment that we should not be demonising people and reference to the quotes I posted. I can be bothered to go to the library to look at the source:

    new statesman 25th june 1982
    ”If Hitler was sitting in a house with 20 other people, would it be correct to blow up the house?” begin

    Now lets travel forward a few decades, we’ve got the same indiscrimatory zionist thinking. Some minor resistance is shown from militants in the occupied teratories, so israel decides to annialate thousands of innocent people. I’ll make it easier:
    ”If Meir Kahane was sitting in a house, would it be correct to blow up all the jews?”
    Both questions are ridiculous, but the first one is manipulative. Emotive language to justify war crimes. Think about it.
    Talking of emotions,what’s all this about not mixing politics and emotions, when the whole zionist diatribe is propped up with ‘the suffering of the jews’ for the last 2000 years. If your stance and justification on the occupation of Palestine is based on ‘the suffering…’ I suggest you get out more and give the zf a wide berth for it is twisting your melon.
    Emotions are an integral part of the human make-up and any politcal thesis void of, or exploits emotional content should be avoided.
    As the CHILDREN of Balata refugee camp confronted an israeli tank in their own street, as it swung its GUN back and forth barking orders through a p.a., a darlek sprung to mind. Emotionless,cold,heartless,politically rigid harbinger of the zionist understanding of suffering – no joke!
    Zionism is not as you say ” a heterogeneous ideology/movement with multiple voices and disparate viewpoints..” only so far as if you can accept being called a self hating jew and ignored for having a disparate viewpoint. Any shit the zionists/israelis get, they have brought upon themselves by unwittingly following their ‘community leaders’.

    OK, so you ask me what I’d like you to say, you asked, so here goes;

    I (insert name) reject all zionist ideology and aggression. I promise to, within my power, make ammends for any ills I have caused through my mistaken aligence to zionism and may I never hunger again to feast on the crumbs from the table of the zionist federation gala Sunday dinner or stand in awe of the fake jewish community leaders. I swear never to confuse anti zionism or any persons with hitler or allow the suffering of any persons to be hijacked or exploited – so help me g*d

    take care tim x

  16. Tony Greenstein

    The point about the jibe ‘self-hater’ (& Mike Marqusee has some interesting retors – ‘not it’s you I fucking hate) is that it is thoroughly racist and has a good pedigree.

    That was how the Nazis termed anti-fascist Germans. It assumes that if you are anti-nationalist and don’t believe that race is all, then you hate your race i.e. yourself. Because in the racist pantheon the individual is but a component part of the race/nation etc.

    After all, as Lenni Brenner is fond of saying, he actually loves himself! Why then a self-hater? Because the individual and the national collective are deemed one and the same. The mentality of those who use this sneer belongs to the 1930′s.

  17. alta kocker

    Tony, that’s an interesting point about the the origins of the self-hate accusation being with the nazis. Can you sight a reference for it?

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