Thursday, July 23, 2009

Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner's Guide

So, my friend Ben wrote a book. As a result of writing this book, and of the other work he does, my friend Ben was denounced as an antisemite and a holocaust denier. To reassure you, he is certainly neither of those things. But he has written a controversial book.

I finished reading this a couple of days ago, but I need to put some thinking time in before I reviewed it. I can see why people are angry about it. I can see why it has attracted a lot of negative press. But I think you should read it. I really do.

Ben takes us through three broad sections. The first relates the history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It tells the story of the rise of Israel, and the subsequent displacement of the Palestinian people. It is a powerful story, powerfully told, using quotations from early Israeli leaders and interviews with Palestinians affected. What comes across most clearly is the awareness that the Zionist project would require the eviction of the Palestinian people if it was to succeed - and great lengths were gone to in order to ensure that it did succeed. At the end of the section, I was angry. Very angry.

The second section has to do with the current apparatus of Israeli apartheid. Ben talks us through the situation on the ground for Arabs within Israel and those in the OPT, again drawing on a wide range of sources. It is painful reading. When I got to the end of this section, I felt more or less despair. How could anything change such a system?

And so the third section, which outlined action that I could take, was great. Ben refuses to allow us to walk away because the situation is too complex, or the solutions too distant. We must do something; I must do something. Ask me in a few months what I've done - I know that I am too prone to laziness, and am likely to let this challenge pass me by.

After the final section is an excellent FAQ, which helped to answer some questions I had about the topic, and should probably be made available online if at all possible. It would by itself lend a lot of clarity to discussions of the issue.

Ben has been criticised for writing a one-sided story. It does come across as one-sided. But then, it seems pretty clear that the reality of the situation is also one-sided. The book does acknowledge Palestinian violence, and perhaps is not as clear in denouncing it as some would like. But the picture here is of an occupied people fighting against their occupiers - is that really so clear cut, so obviously morally wrong? I suspect that only those who have never experienced the situation could say so.

Ben has also been criticised for quoting innacurately. I don't know whether that's true or not; Ben has defended himself here. But it doesn't ultimately matter all that much.

Because the reason people are so angry at this book is because it makes the one critique of Israeli policy that is worth making, and that goes to the heart of the issue. Israel defines itself as a Jewish state. In other words, it defines itself in ethno-religious terms. Only Jews can be Israeli nationals; all Jews are welcome in Israel. Imagine if someone suggested that Britain should define itself in terms of a particular ethnic identity! Oh, wait, that would be the BNP - and we don't like them, right?

Ultimately, Ben argues that Israel/Palestine must be a place where Jews and Palestinians are equal under the law, and a state which exists for the good of all its citizens. This is much more radical than the two-state solution, much more difficult to move towards than even that mirage. But anything else enshrines racism as a successful nation building strategy.

The world really doesn't want to go there.


  1. The one state idea has been kicking around for a while (as has a perhaps more interesting 'no-state' solution) and you're right that no one wants to pick it up and run with it. I think that there are two reasons. First, Israel argues / fights its corner quite forcibly and no one has so far had the will to confront it. Second, the one-state solution may simply be impractical, it may simply just not happen, however 'just' it is. In that case, is it better to simply aim for a realistic solution that will end bloodshed rather than holding out for the ideal?

    With regard to Israeli 'apartheid,' I am always careful of using terms like that, the same goes for 'genocide' and 'holocaust'. In general they are inaccurate and tend to inflame the rhetoric in the argument. What I would say is that when I went to the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem I saw an exhibit about the Lodz Ghetto, where the Jews of the Polish town were forced to live in restricted areas of the city, and could only travel between them across bridges. The day before I had been in the West Bank, traveling through checkpoints, with high wire fences, and the wall. The similarity between the two situations was striking.

    The best book I've read on this issue is 'The Iron Wall' by Avi Shlaim, an Israeli historian. I would thoroughly recommend it.

  2. Hi Phil,

    I dare say you're right about the impracticality of the one-state solution - Ben is, with the best will in the world, an idealist. The problem seems to be that a realistic, bloodshed-ending solution doesn't seem likely to be a just solution. Or to put it a different way, can a pragmatic solution that doesn't deal with questions of justice really end the bloodshed?

    In the book, Ben presents a careful comparison of SA apartheid (as the bench mark, if you like) and the situation in Israel/Palestine (esp. the OT) - I find the comparison compelling. There are differences, but also a whole lot of similarities. I'm happy to use the language, precisely because it does prod people out of their indifference to the situation.

  3. If he's your friend, perhaps you can ask him about the false quotes, dubious sources etc?

    And whether he thinks Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy is a credible source?

    etc etc


  4. " Only Jews can be Israeli nationals"

    completely false - just returned from a trip to Israel and it is one of the most ethnically diverse places I have ever visited

  5. James: is Israel a Jewish state?

  6. Daniel,

    If you truly are interested in peace, then you might like to question why massive populations of Jews living in Arab countries, are not there any more?

    Any idea?

    Do you think such a book can be taken seriously when it contains reference to the work of a Holocaust denier?

    and has faked quotes as well, which coincidentally paint Jews in the worse possible light?

    Do you agree with that approach? Do you think scholars should adopt such methods?

    Do you think that being overtly hostile towards Jews achieves anything?

  7. My last comment here, because I don't think discussion like this helps anything...

    For the book: Ben has replied to his critics. I'm content to leave his defence to him. I will just point out that Ben is not 'overtly hostile to Jews', either in his book or personally, and neither am I. We are both hostile to Zionism, but clearly that is a completely different thing. For myself, I cannot see that opposition to a particular vision for a Jewish state is equal to hostility to Jews. It's a bizarre and offensive accusation.

    Look: without arguing through all the history, there are a few facts that can't really be disputed. Has Israel illegally annexed E. Jerusalem? Yes. Is Israel illegally colonizing the West Bank? Yes. Were Palestinian families evicted to make way for Jewish settlers in the last week? Yes. This sort of continued occupation is the sort of thing that would bring international intervention if it were any other country.

    And leaving aside the occupied territories for a moment: it is hard to view the evidence and fail to come to the conclusion that Israel is a state that exists for the benefit of only some of its citizens, based on ethno-religious discrimination. (I do not deny that it is possible to do well as a Palestinian citizen of Israel, or that Israel is ethnically mixed. These things are irrelevant to the debate). Nobody tries to hide the fact - Israel is a Jewish state. If I tried to define Britain in that way (as a state for 'ethnically British people'), I would be a racist. Make of that what you will.

    Look, none of this material is nearly so far out of the mainstream as you seem to want to make it by attributing it all to holocaust deniers. This is stuff I can read on the BBC; it's stuff the UN has commented on and condemned. Unless you think that mainstream news media and international organisations are all part of a huge anti-Jewish conspiracy (please tell me that isn't what you think), this is mainstream critique of Israeli policy and needs to be taken seriously.

    I am not of the brigade that holds that Israel can't do anything right and the Palestinians can't do anything wrong. God knows there's wrong on both sides. But Israel claims to want to be a liberal democratic state, and needs to act like one.

  8. Anonymous8:53 am

    But it "doesn't ultimately matter" does it if Ben's used his proper sources, does it?

    I mean, it's not like it makes a difference whether Ben Gurion said "Let's expel the Arabs" or "Let's not expel the Arabs"?

    Daniel, furthermore, why are you not concerned about the 57 states with an expressedly Muslim character? Why do you not imply that they are "like the BNP"? What do you make of Hamas' designs on a Palestinian state, i.e. one without any Jews?

    Also I'm interested in what you make of what appears to be racist theology in this book: i.e. Jews can't have their own state as God doesn't like them anymore?

    You say you don't think discussion like this "helps anything", but you've made some big claims in your review - surely you owe it to your readers to back up your claims?

    One last point, do you speak in any official capacity for UCCF?

  9. Daniel,
    Sorry to break it to you, but Ben has not in factr replied to my specific criticisms about his sources and his usew of a fake quote, even when I specifically challenged him to do so on the Liberal Conspiracies blog you linked to. Nor has he ever responded to Jonathan Hoffman's rejoinder.

    Previously, he expelled me from his Facebook group for having the temerity to post links which challenged him. Ben's tendency to delete critical comments from his own blog, and now to close down all comments altogether, has also been well-documented.

    Perhaps you want to reconsider your contention that Ben has 'replied to his critics'?

    Do you consider states like the ARAB Republic of Egypt or the
    Great Socialist People's Libyan ARAB Jamahiriya to be intrinsically racist? If not, then why do believe that of the world' one Jewish state?

    And do you yourself have the balls to answer any of the questions put to you by Mod and Seismic? After all, for someone who gives your life to persuading others to think about truth claims, you shouldn't really have anything to fear. Should you?

  10. Okay, this really is the last comment. The reason I don't think this discussion is likely to be useful, and therefore why I intend to cut it short as far as my participation goes, is that I don't think anyone here is going to change their mind, and if the outcome is predetermined the discussion is a waste of time. But I do need to clarify a few things.

    1. I am as bothered by Hamas as I am by Israel, except that Israel makes claims (to liberal democracy) that Hamas doesn't, and therefore invites the world to hold it to a higher standard.

    2. Likewise, I am unimpressed by countries which define themselves as Islamic, or in terms of any other ethnic/religious identification. Also likewise, if they were to make pretensions to liberal democracy I would be even less impressed.

    3. As far as this goes: "Jews can't have their own state as God doesn't like them anymore" - nobody has said it, were anyone to say it they would be blaspheming, and there is (as far as I can tell) no theology in Ben's book. I would argue that the Jews no longer have any inherent right to Palestine based on divine election. That doesn't affect any non-theologically based claims that might be made. My argument would be based on mainstream and historical Christian exegesis of Scripture.

    4. Obviously truth matters. In my last comment, I stated some things that are true. You haven't contradicted them, and you cannot do so. My point about "doesn't ultimately matter" was simply that even if all the critiques of Ben's book stood up (a point which I'm not for a minute conceding) my case against Israel as a Zionist entity would still be water-tight.

    5. I don't speak for my employer or anyone else. Just me.

    Gents, I'm all for free speech, but I don't intend to waste any more of mine on this comment thread. You are welcome to continue.

  11. Anonymous12:15 pm

    I take it you find it acceptable for your friend to recommend Holocaust deniers to beginners on Israel-Palestine?

  12. Daniel comes up with the breathtaking revelation that Israel is a 'Zionist entity', whilst at the same time appearing quite comfortable with White citing Holocaust deniers and using fake quotes. How convinced are we all that by his statement that "truth matters"?

    And actually Daniel, leading international jurists such as Alan Dershowitz and Julius Stone HAVE challenged the notion that the 'occupation' of the West Bank, 'annexation' of E Jerusalem and the settlements are illegal. The BBC was recently forced to revise its claim that the settlements were illegal according to everyone's interpretation of international law but Israel's. Perhaps that passed you by?

    Also, this claim of yours needs challenging:
    'This sort of continued occupation is the sort of thing that would bring international intervention if it were any other country.'

    Really? So can you point me to the international intervention into China's occupation and settlement of Tibet, or into Morocco's occupation and settlement of W Sahara?

    Once again, for someone who dedicates your life to talking about truth claims relating to first century Israel, you seem quite happy to chuck your brains out of the window when it comes to the modern version.

  13. The lvel of this discussion is really very interesting.

    Can I just point out the following:
    - Many of the Arab states are indeed racist towards their minorities
    - Many of the methods used by pro-Palestinian groups are morally wrong
    - Many Jews from Arab countries moved to Israel under the law of return
    - Arabs may be less than enlightened in terms of their views towards Israel
    - Anti-semitism exists to greater and lesser degrees in many parts of the world

    All of these of these are true to varying degrees. However, they make not a jot of difference to the point that Daniel was making.

    Israel is a Jewish state, and in a world where we value should humans whatever their race, colour, religion, sex, etc. that is a slightly backward-looking position to be in.

    That is simply compounded by the fact that Israel treats those Arabs under its jurisdiction awfully, both Arab-Israelis and Arabs under occupation in the West Bank, Golan Heights and Gaza Strip. I defy you to walk through a checkpoint and tell me it's not degrading. Or go to the Syrian villages in the Golan, speak to the villagers who haven't been able to speak to their families for over 30 years and tell me it's not degrading. Or go to Bethlehem and see the wall that cuts off people from their land and tell me it's not degrading.

    Palestinians are human beings too, and they deserve to be treated as such by Israelis.

  14. 'Palestinians are human beings too, and they deserve to be treated as such by Israelis.'

    I quite agree. Many Israeli human rights groups do as well. It should however be possible to affirm this, whilst condemning outright a writer who uses fake quotes and treats a Holocaust denier as a reliable source of information. Why does Daniel seem unable to do so?

  15. "I will just point out that Ben is not 'overtly hostile to Jews', either in his book or personally, and neither am I. We are both hostile to Zionism, but clearly that is a completely different thing."

    What a breath taking lack of self awareness.

    Can I suggest meeting a group of ordinary Jews outside of college and saying the same thing?

    Then watch the expressions on their faces.

    You simply can't imagine how *loaded* that sentence.

    I have White's book in front of me, it is dripping with contempt.

    It is not helpful.

    Bearing in mind that you are a scholar, you might re-do the above as

    "I will just point out that Fred is not 'overtly hostile to Christians', either in his book or personally, and neither am I. We are both hostile to Christianity, but clearly that is a completely different thing."

    Now what happens in the real world, in developing countries if you used that line of argumentation, do you think it would work? I somehow doubt it.

    You really need to step back and pray on this issue.

  16. Ok, a bit more systematic:

    1. Only Jews can be Israelis. The only exception are the million-odd Arabs who weren't expelled in 1948. It's true that Israel has citizens from many different countries, but they are all Jewish.

    2. Why are there no Jews in Arab countries? Well, they mostly left after 1948, some because of persecution, some because they wanted to live in Israel. For the record, most still have Jewish minorites that are extraordinarily well treated. For example, Iran (not actually Arab) constitutionally must have at least 1 Jewish member of parliament. I'm not a fan of Iran, but that is one point in its favour.

    3. The Zionism-Jews to Christianity-Christians comparison made by ModernityBlog is inaccurate. It should be either Judaism-Jews to Christianity-Christians or Zionism-Jews to Arminianism-Christianity. I personally know Jews who want little to do with the state of Israel. To claim, as is implicit in that statement, that opposition to Zionism is anti-Semitic is fatuous.

    But at bottom this is a discussion about whether Israel treats Arabs as second-class. As I said before, go to the West Bank, walk through a checkpoint, see Arabs queuing at 4am so that they can get through and be at work by 9. Then tell us that Palestinians are treated as human beings.

    By all means criticise Ben White's book. I haven't read it, and I probably won't. But it doesn't change the fact that Israel has some serious qustions to answer.

  17. To take up Blue's points:

    1. You are factually incorrect when you suggest that Israelis can only be Jews, there are many ethnicities who are Israelis including Bedouins etc

    You really should get your facts straight. This is the type of pernicious inaccuracies that circulate, like urban legend's, and shouldn't be fostered by those who have had a quality education, as they should know better.

    2. As for Jews in Arab countries, it was not a small amount, anywhere from 750,000 to one million, spread over some 20 plus countries, 20 plus Arab countries.

    But now you will hardly find any significant amount of Jews in the Middle East. And contrary to Blue's dubious point, they are not treated terribly well, at best like pets but not equals, if you want more information I would gladly supply it.

    3."The Zionism-Jews to Christianity-Christians comparison made by ModernityBlog is inaccurate."

    Of course, it was inaccurate, it was based on Daniel's fallacious original statement.

    I fully accept that there are many Jews who don't have any connection to Israel, but equally there are millions and millions who do, and Christians should remember how offensive their words can sound to others, when they don't think about the thoughts of others and how Christians are perceived.

    Again, just because you say it one way and mean it that way, does not mean that those statements are not loaded when heard by Jews. I think Christians, and particularly those who are active, should think on about how Christians are viewed, historically speaking, and how their roles are seen in that historical light by others.

    Finally, I think the point from Seismic and others is not that Israel doesn't have problems, rather that White is ill-equipped to write a balanced and considered book on the subject.

    And if you and other Christians think that books which demonize Israelis (because that's how it seems when you read White book) are helpful then I would humbly suggest that you haven't thought through the necessity for reconciliation between both the Palestinians and the Israelis, demonizing the Israelis does not aid that potential process.

    Of course, if people don't want peace in the Middle East then attacking Israelis is just par for the course, but I would hope that educated Christians are beyond that.

  18. Philip Blue: do YOU think it is acceptable for White to cite a Holocaust Denier and to use fake quotes? Because that's the way it sounds.

  19. James: I haven't read Ben White's book. I think that the issue of whether he sights a 'Holocaust Denier' isn't really the point. Much more relevant is his use of quotations and facts. I think using labels like 'Holocaust Denier' is not helpful, a bit like comparing Israel's actions to holocaust. I thnk both are a bit inflamatory to be honest.

    But you're right, if White has got his facts wrong, then I hope that will be shown to be the case. If and where he is right on some points, I hope that you'll gie him credit.

    When you say that "It should however be possible to affirm [Palestinian human rights], whilst condemning outright a writer who uses fake quotes and treats a Holocaust denier as a reliable source of information," I quite agree with you, and I would applaud you if you were to admit that the IDF has mis-treated Palestianians. On the other hand, I don't think that the way that you approached this debate in this comment area was keeping in that spirit. Rather, you seemed to launch a counter-offensive rather than addressing the crux of Daniel's post, which was to argue that since Palestinians and Israelis are equal as human beings, perhaps the best the solution is for one state. I don't personally agree with that argument, but it's out there and is what Daniel was trying to talk about.

  20. Yes of course the IDF has mistreated Palestinians.

    So I take it you do think it is acceptyable for Ben White to cite Holocaust Denier Roger Garaudy? It's approrpiate to call Garaudy a Holocaust Denier because that's what he is.

    White's lies and errors have been well-documents by Jonathan Hoffman and myself (among others), look at the links earlier in the thread.

  21. Daniel has asked if Israel is a "Jewish State". The easy answer is, "No". Israel is, according to its constitution, a secular State.

  22. ModernityBlog:

    1. I belive you may have missed the part where I said that there are about 1 million Arab Israelis. I acknowledge this fact. However, these people are not people who moved to Israel and chose to become Israelis - they are people who were living in the Palestine Mandate and did not leave their homes in 1948. This includes Bedouins (who by the way are Arabs).

    If someone wants to naturalise as a citizen of Israel today it is done on the basis of religion. Your argument is on the point of a not-very-relevant technicality.

    As for those Arab Israelis, they are systematicaly ill-treated, such as the recent temporary ban on their political parties.

    2. I concede that Jews (and Christians) in some Arab states do not have equal rights to Muslims. However, they are not as oppressed as some would have us believe. Can I ask whether you have been to an Arab country and witnessed particular abuses? While I think they mostly have some way to go (with some exceptions, such as Lebanon) in terms of treating minorities, I don't really see how it has anything to do with how Israel treats its minorities, which is a different point. I think that Ben White's book (whatever its merits) challenges you to do that, but so far you haven't addressed it, choosing instead to use a 'yes, but what about them' approach to avoiding the question.

    3. Your proposed convention that Christians should not be allowed to criticise Zionism has little merit. It appears principally to be a neat trick for neutering those with different views to yourself. For some reason Chritians talking up Zionism isn't a problem, unless you're also distressed when Pat Buchanan talks about it? Zionism must stand on its own two feet, whoever critises it. By all means tell us why opponents of Zionism are wrong, but don't disqualify people from speaking beacuse they hold a particular set of religious beliefs.

  23. Daniel still appears to have difficulties answering a very simple question

  24. James: I think that's a bit of a leap. What I think is that it's ok for Ben White to cite whoever he likes. The important question is whether that person is correct in what they say. I haven't heard of Roger Garaudy, so I can't tell you whether he's right or not. I'll leave it up to you to judge.

    If White is wrong then I'm confident he'll be discredited.

    As I said before, I think that you have taken an inflammatory approach to this discussion, which distracts from the merits of the arguments.

  25. Philip,
    Please switch your brain on, I already posted a link to Roger Garaudy which you can see for yourself. I presume you will conclude that Garaudy was wrong to deny the Holocaust?

    Here it is again:

    I'm sorry if you think it is inflammatory for me to question the merits of a writer who treats Garaudy as authoritative.

  26. Anonymous12:50 pm

    Isn't UCCF part of IFES? And doesn't IFES have an 'Israel' chapter?

    Ben White advocates boycotts of Israel, and excluding Israelis from global culture.

    Surely this would mean that IFES would have to close its Israeli chapter according to Blanche and White?

    I wonder what Blanche's UCCF overlords would have to say about this!

  27. Okay, I'll bit one last time (I know I keep saying that, but there it is).

    I'm absolutely against holocaust denial. 100%. And I honestly thought my first reflections on Ben's book came far short of a 100% endorsement of it. I like Ben, he's a mate, and I think the big point of his book is right - I honestly admitted that I didn't have the expertise to comment on the specific critiques that had been made. I'm not in the business of defending everything Ben has said - he can look after himself, go talk to him about it.

    However, none of the commenters here have engaged with the main point I've been trying to make, but have chosen instead to keep pushing the details. (The exception is Phil, who has disagreed rationally with me, hasn't thrown around any accusations of anti-semitism etc, and that's all well and good). Nobody has talked about the occupation, nobody has talked about the philosophical and ethical validity of the concept of a Jewish state. I would have enjoyed that discussion, if it could have been carried on in a civil tone. As it is, I've received nothing but hate, on this blog, other people's blogs, and now through my e-mail. It feels a lot like an intimidation campaign.

    Critique of the state of Israel is not the same as anti-semitism. I am not anti-semitic for making such a criticism, anymore than I am anti-British when I critique HM Govt. I don't want Israel destroyed or swept off the map, I just want to see them do better on a human rights front and to end their occupation/colonization of the West Bank. If those goals are bad, then I guess I'm bad, but I'm content that my conscience is clear.

  28. Unconvincing I'm afraid Daniel, you chose to repeat White's big lie that only Jews can be Israeli nationals. You encoured others to read the book. It seems pretty clear that you've not engaged with the critiques of White which have been posted here and elsewhere. You haven't engaged with Paul's point that Israel defines itself as a secular state. You seem to think it is a minor matter for White to use fake quotes. You still haven't answered my question about what you think about White citing Roger Garaudy. And, and this is the point, if White uses fake quotes, cites Holocaust Deniers and other dubious sources approvingly, then why should be taken seriously on anything else?

  29. James, that's fine. I could be in error. That's entirely possible.

    But please don't assume the worst. Assume that I'm trying to do the right thing, put me right courteously, give me the evidence.

    And for the record, I don't think it's a good idea to cite holocaust deniers. I'd never heard of Garaudy until yesterday, and I didn't spot him in the book. I see him now in the bibliography. That's certainly an error of judgement in my view. Holocaust denial is ethically offensive and historically absurd. I hope that makes that point clear.

    I don't claim to be an authority on this issue. Just someone who is concerned for what he perceives as injustice - and please note that I had formed that opinion long before I read Ben's book.

  30. Anonymous1:15 pm

    "However, none of the commenters here have engaged with the main point I've been trying to make, but have chosen instead to keep pushing the details."

    Daniel, I've dealt with your points about Israel as a Jewish majority and democratic state very extensively here. I have a point -by-point refutation of your review here.

    Please do not make out that I am not interested in discussing the points with you. I am, but I don't agree with you.

    You really should know that Ben White's book and his conduct towards Jewish people is massively controversial.

    Plenty of Jewish people have evidenced the antisemitic abuse at Ben White's book launch. One Jewish man who attended was told by one of Ben's fans "the Nazis should have finished the job." At the next meeting, the Jewish man was banned.

    The head of the Henry Jackson Society, the founder of LabourStart and New International Review, and the vice-chair of the Zionist Federation have cited Ben's book launch, his conduct and his hostilities towards the Jewish state as a clear example of modern antisemitism in Britain.

    For many people, this is hugely distressing. Please next time when you see Ben ask him about his attitude towards the Jewish community, ask him about Garaudy, ask him about antisemitism.

  31. Thanks Daniel. I commend you for finally saying that - which is far more than Ben has done.

  32. Philip Blue,

    1. You made a very specific point, when you wrote:

    "Only Jews can be Israelis."

    I would hope that an educated, professional such as yourself, would accept my previous correction with a degree of good grace :)

    2. Good, I am glad that you can concede the bleeding obvious, that's a start, but remember your original statement?

    "For the record, most still have Jewish minorites that are extraordinarily well treated."

    Whilst you are at it, you might want to list where in the 21 members of the Arab league that Jews ".. are extraordinarily well treated."

    3. you wrote:

    "Your proposed convention that Christians should not be allowed to criticise Zionism has little merit."

    You misread me, I am stating that Christians should remember that their words have a different resonance when they argue *at* Jews.

    I hate to belabour the point, but many scholars put the growth, longevity and persistence of antisemitism in the West down to the activities of, er, Christians over time.

    If you want more information on Christians and antisemitism, please let me know I will provide volumes.

    Again, I think Christians can do whatever they want, but they must realize that they are often perceived differently.

    I just want Christians to have a degree of self awareness and a historical understanding of the role of Christians towards Jews over time.

  33. James: I take it the question you are asking is whether I myself think the Holocaust didn't happen? I can assure that I do think it happened. I haven't read (and hadn't of) this man that you talk about. I therefore can't comment on him or his work.

    I'm not sure however, what the relevance of all this is to whether the one-state solution is a good one?

    Can I also ask what you think should be done regarding IDF abuses of Palestinians? Is it an endemic problem? Would two-states solve the problem?

  34. ModernityBlog: I think your selective citation is sloppy. I stand by my point. There are something like six million Israelis in Israel, 1 million of whom are not Jews. (Those 1 million are treated as second-class citizens.)

    However, to naturalise as an Israeli national, one must be Jewish. In order to become an Israeli, one must be Jewish. It is not me who is being underhand with the truth.

    The example I gave of Iran was a starter, but also Syria and Lebanon treat Jews well. In Syria they have the same rights as all other minorities, that is, a littl bit fewer than Muslims. Jews are not singled out for this, they share it with Christians and Druze.

    I was not trying to make the point that Arab countries are paragans of best-practice when it comes to treating minorities. However, I am not aware of an Arab country that has a policy of target discrimination against Jews. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

    I also marvel at the way you have changed the discussion around. It was actually meant to be about how Israel treats its minorities. The way Arab states behave may be wrong, but that doesn't change the responsibilities of Israel.

    So let me ask you, do you think that Israel treats Arabs as second-class citizens? If not, why not? If so, how? What should be done about it? Is a one-state or a two-state solution the best? Do you support the idea of a Palestinian state?

    I don't agree with you about the Christians thing. I've been to Yad Vashem and seen the exhibit. Whatever the church did in the name of Christianity in the past is in the past. If it instigated anti-Semitism, then it was wrong. God loves Jewish people, and longs for them to come to know him through Jesus the Messiah.

  35. Blue you wrote:

    "ModernityBlog: I think your selective citation is sloppy. I stand by my point. "

    1. I wasn't sloppy, I was merely referencing your statements as a method of *engaging* with them.

    Are you saying that you stand by the point:

    "For the record, most still have Jewish minorites that are extraordinarily well treated."

    Out of the 20+ Middle eastern countries you have produced, *three* that you say treat Jews "extraordinarily well"

    Do you have any evidence on other countries? Or is this to be an argument based on assertions, not facts?

    "I also marvel at the way you have changed the discussion around. It was actually meant to be about how Israel treats its minorities."

    No, the original point was concerning why there are SO few Jews in Arab countries when once there were nearly a million. Good to think on that point.

    2. You write "However, to naturalise as an Israeli national, one must be Jewish. In order to become an Israeli, one must be Jewish. It is not me who is being underhand with the truth."


    If you took the trouble to research the subject rather than accept the lazy assumptions that fly around you would see that there are several ways to become an Israeli.

    a) Nationality by residence in Israel b) Nationality by birth c) Naturalization by birth on Israeli territory in addition to 5 years immediate prior residence in Israel. d) Naturalization e) Plus service in the IDF.

    All very similar to most countries, bearing in mind a few historical pointers.

    3. You ask "So let me ask you, do you think that Israel treats Arabs as second-class citizens?"

    I believe there is discrimination in Israel, as with Britain or Germany. I think it is a product of societies not exclusive to Israel. By the same token, Israelis are discriminated across the Middle East, Jews are physically attacked in Britain, some 88 in 2008. That is 8 every month.

    I think if there was less conflict, less violent attacks on Israelis (and Jews) then tension within Israeli society would decrease. There are many Jewish organisations working towards better understanding between all parts of Israeli society. If relations with other Arab countries were normalized then I suspect pressures within Israeli society would lessen.

    I think it is a complex subject, and I'm sure there's any number of informative research papers written on it.

    Clearly, the situation is not as simplistically portrayed by Ben White, as there are counter forces within Israeli society acting against discrimination.

    Israel is a product of her environment as much as any of us are, so decades-old conflicts have produced unnecessary tensions and the stigmatization of Israelis by Europeans and others is not assisting matters.

    Therefore, if people truly wish to remove the last vestiges of discrimination in Israeli society then they should act towards normalizing relations, lessening tension, avoid provocative attacks on Israelis and certainly try not to demonize them, as Ben White in his book does.

    Me? I support whatever lessens tension and makes the possibility of a long lasting peace possible. I support 2 states.

  36. [continued to get around blogger limits]

    4. "I don't agree with you about the Christians thing"

    I'm not surprised, frankly I'm beginning to believe that the Christians here live in a bubble, unaware of how others perceive them. Unaware of the history that proceeds them, and blase about the topic.

    I'm not much into theology, you will have to look at Seismic Shock's blog he has comprehensively dealt with the theological aspects and why they are so offensive.

    Additionally, I suppose you could look at the change in the Catholic Church and how it dumped many of its previous doctrines, and then ask what were those doctrines and why did they need to be dumped?

    You could, of course, aske the harder questions on what have Christians done to others, in the name of a God, and how those that have a historical resonance, ie. People today still remember the forced conversions.

    If you e-mail me I will endeavour to provide a list of suitable books which will enlighten you on Christianity and antisemitism, it is not a pretty subject and probably why so many wish to brush it under the carpet.

  37. Dan: Please let me know if this is tiresome and I’ll stop. However, I think it’s worth persevering in rebutting these guys…


    1. If you weren’t sloppy, then I’m afraid you were distortionary. You cited a sentence that I had written, and proceeded to tell me that it was wrong by saying exactly what I had said in the following sentence. Hence you distorted the nuanced paragraph I wrote by selecting only part of it. That is distortion.

    I think the onus is on you to tell me the countries that treat Jews badly. Some Middle Eastern countries may have discriminatory laws, but I am not aware of any. Since I believe in the principle of innocent until proven guilty, I think it’s best we give the Arabs the benefit of the doubt. If there is evidence you’d like to share, why not write a post about it on your blog?

    When you say that Israelis are discriminated against throughout the Middle East, I’m not sure what you mean. Israel is at war with many of those countries, so Israelis don’t really come into contact with them. Unless you mean Jews?

    Daniel’s original point was about the way that Palestinians and Arab Israelis were treated in Israel. We can argue until we’re blue in the face about discrimination in Arab countries, but it doesn’t address the initial issue. For the record, I condemn discrimination in both Israel and Arab countries. However, this discussion is about Israel.

    2. I know what the rules are for Israeli nationality—I also have been on the relevant government websites. However, I don’t think it’s enough to state the regulations and leave it at that. (Besides, you don’t explain in your comment how naturalisation happens, and you don’t mention the law of return.) We need to ask how many of those regulations would and could be met by non-Jews. I would argue none. Moreover, how many non-Jews have naturalised as Israeli citizens? Discrimination works at second-degree levels sometimes.

    3. I’m glad that you say that there is discrimination in Israel against Arabs and Palestinians. I’m glad that you have a vision of the future of long-lasting peace. Once again I don’t see the relevance of defaming other countries. If you write a post on your blog about racism in Britain or Germany or the Arab world, we can talk about them there. Here the focus is on Israel.

    I think discrimination in Israel goes far beyond what it is in Germany or Britain. German soldiers do not shoot defenceless Austrian children playing in the streets. Britain does not have a wall preventing the Welsh from entering London. You also imply that Israel is picked on by Europeans and has been trying to make peace with its neighbours for years. I disagree with you on both. People oppose Zionism because they think it oppresses a large group of people. On the second point, I don’t think Israel has ever tried to make peace with its neighbours. It dragged its feet for over 10 years with Jordan, has rebuffed many Syrian offers. I would love to see peace, but I think Israel is holding it up more than the Arabs. [Do read Israeli historian and Oxford don Avi Shlaim’s book on the subject if you don’t believe me.]

    4. I’m really at a loss to explain this one. I have said I’m aware of some Christian roots of anti-Semitism. Christians have done things in the name of their religion that were wrong. I don’t see how that has much bearing on whether Daniel or I can be hostile to Zionism. Daniel outright said that he was not hostile to Jews. If you had made a point about being careful about hostility to Judaism, I may have conceded you a point on the basis that Christians should be careful about how they are perceived. Not with Zionism, though, as it’s a political doctrine. I acknowledge that all people have to be careful about how they are perceived (I would counsel you to ask yourself why Daniel and I have been taken aback by the outright aggression shown here and on other blogs, and how that affects our perceptions of you). However, Zionism today is oppression of the weak by the strong. That is wrong by my book, and I’ll continue to say so.

  38. 1. If you weren’t sloppy, then I’m afraid you were distortionary. "

    Well, if you are going to accuse people of arguing in bad faith then I see little purpose in continuing this exchange of views.

    But I shall leave you with my impressions:

    I am dissatisfied when highly educated Oxbridge graduates don't apply logic, reason or evidence. I had the forlorn hope that you would want to take a balanced view of the world, apparently not.

    Rarely have I come across more smug and ill informed individuals, and when corrected you barely pause for breath. Your ignorance of basic antisemitism and Christianity is astonishing, I suggest you use google and look up "Christ killers", that might add your conspicuous lack of education in this area. I could suggest numerous books but I doubt you'd read them.

    Frankly, I can see that the lessons of humility, grace and contemplation are wasted on you.

    I shall leave you with a piece of Syrian Jewry, as the picture of Syrian Jewry which you presented sounds as if it came straight from the Syrian Government's propaganda department..

    Along the way you might ask the elementary question, if Syria was so nice to Syrian Jewry then why did more than 99.97% of them leave?

    "1948 Jewish population: 30,000
    2003: Fewer than 100

    In 1944, after Syria gained independence from France, the new government prohibited Jewish immigration to Palestine, and severely restricted the teaching of Hebrew in Jewish schools. Attacks against Jews escalated, and boycotts were called against their businesses.

    When partition was declared in 1947, Arab mobs in Aleppo devastated the 2,500-year-old Jewish community. Scores of Jews were killed and more than 200 homes, shops and synagogues were destroyed. Thousands of Jews illegally fled Syria to go to Israel.1

    Shortly after, the Syrian government intensified its persecution of the Jewish population. Freedom of movement was severely restricted. Jews who attempted to flee faced either the death penalty or imprisonment at hard labor. Jews were not allowed to work for the government or banks, could not acquire telephones or driver's licenses, and were barred from buying property. Jewish bank accounts were frozen. An airport road was paved over the Jewish cemetery in Damascus; Jewish schools were closed and handed over to Muslims.

    Syria's attitude toward Jews was reflected in its sheltering of Alois Brunner, one of the most notorious Nazi war criminals. Brunner, a chief aide to Adolf Eichmann, served as an adviser to the Assad regime.

    For years, the Jews in Syria lived in extreme fear. The Jewish Quarter in Damascus was under the constant surveillance of the secret police, who were present at synagogue services, weddings, bar-mitzvahs and other Jewish gatherings. Contact with foreigners was closely monitored. Travel abroad was permitted in exceptional cases, but only if a bond of $300-$1,000 was left behind, along with family members who served as hostages. U.S. pressure applied during peace negotiations helped convince President Hafez Assad to lift these restrictions, and those prohibiting Jews from buying and selling property, in the early 1990's.

    Jews and Kurds are the only minorities not allowed to participate in the political system. In addition, "the few remaining Jews are generally barred from government employment and do not have military service obligations. They are the only minority whose passports and identity cards note their religion."

    Read the full text at

  39. Dan: I apologise that this seems to have got out of hand. Where I'm to blame for raising the temperature, I'm really sorry. Feel free to delete any comments I've made that you think were inappropriate.

    ModernityBlog: You have called me smug, ill-informed, ignorant, lacking in logic, reason, humility and grace. Some of the comments about Daniel on blogs that you comment on have been pretty nast, too. I agree that it's now best to end the discussion.

    Whenever the attack shifts from the message to the messenger then that implies that the attacker has lost any semblance of sense or argumentation with which to attack the message, and hence can find nothing to do other than attack the messenger, for if he had anything more to throw at the argument itself, he would certainly do so. For all intents and purposes, the argument about the issue itself is over, and the party that has decided to stop addressing the issue and has instead started slinging mud is obviously the party that has forfeited any claim to being correct about the argument itself.

    Whether I am smug and ill-informed or not, does not change anything about whether my arguments are right. I am sure you will agree that some of the brightest and most smug people in the world would argue that Zionism is a great thing, and many of the brightest and most smug people in the world would also argue the opposite.

    At any rate, I think it's time to end the discussion. I thank you for your time, and I'm sorry that we haven't been able to carry on respectfully.

  40. Blue you wrote:

    "I'm sorry that we haven't been able to carry on respectfully. "

    Very obviously you are not sorry.

    Because if you were and had the slightest amount of character you would have acknowledged the evidence which I presented concerning Syrian Jews.

    Again, if they were treated tremendously well, then it seems unlikely, that 99.97% would have left since 1948?

    I have no objection to disagreement on interpretations.

    I have no problem with someone criticizing the Israeli government as long as they do it without rancour or demonisation, but what I do object to is a rose tinted view of Jews treatment in the Middle East.

    If you can't get those basic facts correct then any conclusions that you draw from those facts will naturally be false.

    I shouldn't have to explain that to highly educated graduates.

    I had hoped that you were sincere Christians, wishing to be informed on the topic and prepared to debate without falsehood.

    I was mistaken.

  41. I'm tempted to delete all the comments on this post, but I won't. If I'm honest, I think an unbiased person reading through them will be able to perceive the substitution of anger and character slurs for argument that characterises many of the responses. It makes me a little sad.

    However, I have learnt some things! It has been useful to me to realise that for some people Jewish identity is so caught up with Zionism that anti-Zionism will inevitably be perceived as anti-semitism. While I can't accept the logic behind that position, I will try to speak more carefully in phrasing my criticisms in future. There have been various other illuminating points, but that one is perhaps the most useful.

    So to that extent, thanks to all commenters, even those who were, frankly, vile toward me and my friends. I urge you to consider whether you jumped to conclusions in thinking the worst of people, and I ask you to look over what you have said and think about how it reflects on your cause.

    Particular thanks to James, who did at least seem to have one particular concern and was gracious enough to acknowledge my answer to it, and to Phil, who has valiantly attempted to stem the tide of irrationality.

    This comment thread is now closed.