Monday, March 20, 2006

Hamas and Antisemitism

This is the first post of a number I plan to write under my own name to flag up issues regarding antisemitism. It can be an extremely contentious subject, but anyone involved in the MEPP needs to take it into account. I for one, am massively concerned, both at the occurence and type of antisemitism in today's world and the often problematic discourse as regards the topic.

Let me be very clear here. The topic is a difficult and emotive one. For me personally, for example, even the way one writes the term has meaning. Antisemitism, rather than anti-Semitism. and from there it get's wildly complicated. But these are not the intricate musings on some technical aviation enthusiast blog. This stuff kills.

It is not a topic for which one can find a good lead-in. I will aim to foster, over a number of posts on the topic, a debate about certain issues surrounding it.

One point of note: These posts, any writings on antisemitism in fact, should not be taken as an exclusive matter. I am painfully aware of any number of other hatreds in the world, some extremely relevant in today's geopolitical climate, others no less pressing. But I cannot accept a rebuttal of my concerns about antisemitism on that basis. They are all different and they all matter. To the enquiring Jewish mind, whilst all hatred appears pressing, antisemitism naturally is of primary importance. And I am priviliged to share some of my concerns with you.

Mostly hatred is interchangeable. Though in certain aspects antisemitism is unique, an insult against a muslim/black/hindu/chinese/whatever person, should leave the Jewish observer without a doubt that it could be directed against Jews next time. Again, there is much subtelty and complexity to be navigated, but once I have flagged up my initial concerns, I will broaden the debate - with an eventual view to more concrete steps NCF can take to help the situation, not only as regards antisemitism.

For the first post, however, I will leave you with a simple excerpt from an article in the 'New Yorker' magazine entitled 'The Democracy Game' by David Remnick(Feb 27 edition)

Unfortunately it is not availiable online, but I will attempt to source it in electronic format if at all possible. You'll have to make do with my summary here, in fact, I shall only focus on the issue I seek to point to.

The article, or part thereof, centres on the Rajoub brothers. The story of the Fatah / Hamas brothers has of course been told many times. Further, I expect given the fact that I am lucky enough to be allowed to write to a specialist audience, some of you may know Jibril Rajoub as a result of diplomatic activity. However, let it be stated, that the article presents Sheikh Nayef (Jibril's brother) as the 'typical' face of Hamas, likely to dominate the next Palestinian legislature. I now quote:

"Hamas has not executed any suicide bombings in the past few months, but the Israelis do not take the lull to reflect a nascent desire for compromise. [Sheikh Nayef says:]'The conflict with Israel is not a matter of Ideology. All the Israeli slogans -the chosen people, the promised land - the basis of their state is religious. But these are religious legends, false stories. God did not give them this land as if Israelis, Jews are preffered above all other peoples on earth and all other peoples were meant to serve them.' The Sheikh went on, 'Two hundred years ago in Europe, they were conservative people, but now the fashion world, the media - it's controlled by jews. And their people are sexually open. Freud, a Jew, was the one who destroyed morals, and Marx destroyed divine ideologies. If it is not all Jews, well, they were a big part of this. And now it is the Jewish lobby in the United States that is setting policy in the world and causing the United States to wage war all over the world."

I trust that the informed reader, who knows a little about the history of Zionsim, will immediately be able to offer a debunking and mitigating discussion on the complicated nature of the relationship between Zionism and Judaism. As for the second part of the accusations, I think he said it all. And don't tell me that this is 'one voice'. Those that are - out of admirable motivation no doubt - keen to work with Hamas for peace and understanding often claim that a statement - any statement - Hamas makes represents the actual speaker only. I am in no doubt here, that the Sheikh is not alone in his viewpoint, that he did not come up with it himself, and that whoever explained the world for him in this way has done so for many others. Wake up and smell the Hummus, I mean Hamas!

All comments greatly appreciated.


William said...

Greetings Davis,
There are dangers here. For a start it is a bit ridiculous to give Jabril Rajoub's brother the honorific title "Sheikh" but it is presumably done as a backhanded way to demean him by your source. Second, we have a policy in the new media code from the International Media Council which runs "a story without a source is a source of trouble" and what we don't know from your edited highlights is whether David Remnick is interviewing Rajoub's brother himself or quoting Memri (a source which is sometimes not above a little editorialising of its own) or what. Third, is Jabril's brother actually Hamas or is he one of the "Reform Party" list that includes Hamas and a lot of other non-Hamas people that jumped onto that bandwagon. Fourth, how representative is he? I mean do the views of men like the late Meir Kahana represent the views of all Jews. I doubt it. Racists like Kahane are extremists. Fifth, this guy Gabril Rajoub's brother, is from Hebron. Do you know how rough it is for the Arabs of Hebron? How they are treated with that small handful of settlers occupying the entire town centre and taking over the tomb of the prophets and generally making their lives a misery. Do you expect objectivity from someone from Hebron? Yes, you do, and you ahve every right to. But then how much of the vote given to Jabril's brother (a relative nonentity) was an anti-Jabril vote (Mr Rajoub was the West Bank Security boss after all - and if Israel has any say in the matter he will be again). And finally, if you are going to make an issue of anti-semitism in Palestine on the MEPP blogsite, perhaps you should keep to the MEPP relevant stuff as media information belongs on the media blog. And as a postscript. I know this particular item isn't a media item . . . but am not sure where you are going with this. And last of all, watch this doesn't become an anti-Arab blog if it becomes overloaded one way. After all, there is plenty of Jewish racism about Palestinians - like the famous "Kill the Arabs" broadcasts on settler radio. Now that is true incitement. Having said all of which. Rajoub's brother is undoubtedly a pretty nasty piece of work by all accounts. The last thing I for one would want to do is defend him. Just wanted to sound a note of caution

Davis said...

Thanks for the comments. Let me address your concerns in rough order:

The title Sheikh is not to do with a 'backhanded source’. That’s what Nayef called himself - not for the first time - in this article.

Your comment is another opportunity for some entirely unfounded MEMRI bashing. Why MEMRI? I know you hold this view about them, but it is founded on very shaky grounds. I have yet to catch them ‘editorialise’. Despite all the attempts out there to slander anything that smells of Israeli connections, MEMRI is deemed to be accurate and respected, quoted by the BBC and all major news outlets. I do not know if cutting programmes from their original length into handy clips counts as editorialising, so long as the message remains clear? In any case, the author travelled to Rajoub’s house. He describes it – and his entire trip / interview – at length.

Nayef is Hamas not reform.

As regards the Kahane objection. Totally unacceptable this, William. I have mentioned it in the preamble, this is no excuse and irrelevant. We can deal with Kahane’s followers separately. They are a tiny extremist fringe. Hamas is in Power. This smacks of de-legitimising attempts by people I know to be far less broad minded than you.

As regards what you call 'true' incitement on settler radio. It is NOT state sanctioned incitement, and at times prosecuted. I will not be drawn into this, but will say: ‘true incitement’, as opposed to what? Hamas suicide summer camp?.

The insinuation of a danger of anti-Arab content I RESENT VERY VERY MUCH. You spend time attempting to explain away Rajoub’s anti-semitism and then somehow manage to be concerned that this might turn into an anti-Arab (extremely strong words) blog. Why? My post is utterly legitimate.

I am painfully aware of the unacceptable behaviour of the settlers in Hebron. I do not know what you mean by ‘taking over the tomb of prophets. The sites that Israel controls in Hebron are part of the cradle of Judaism. It is a vexed place, but holy for Judaism. This does not excuse the settlers, and believe me I am concerned at their actions. However, response is somewhat biased and out of place in this discussion.

Thank you for your comment though, it is greatly appreciated