these people sometimes seem to claim the mantle of stalin

Barbara McKenzie criticizes Jeff Halper for his typically pseudo-Left habit of expanding the supposed hunt for Nazis under the bed to universal scale – RB

Barbara McKenzie on Jeff Halper
Gilad Atzmon, Jul 6 2016

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Barbara McKenzie just published a deconstruction of Jeff Halper’s recent rant. Halper like JVP and other spectacular ‘good Jews’ are concerned primarily with anti-Semitism and other Judeocentric tribal interests. Their light opposition to Israel and Zionism should be realised in terms of controlled opposition.

Jeff Halper vs Criticising Israel
Barbara McKenzie, Jul 6 2016

Jeff Halper is an Israeli, based in Israel, and an activist for Palestinian rights, being head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. On Jun 29 he posted an article on Facebook (below – RB) on some issues facing the pro-Palestine movement. The connection between the issues is tenuous: it’s hard to see how Mahmoud Abbas can influence anti-Zionist groups in Pindostan, but this is after all Facebook, and in its way the article is ground-breaking. Halper rightly sees Mahmoud Abbas as a hurdle in terms of obtaining a just solution for Palestine. I have sympathy with anyone who criticises Mahmoud Abbas, and I view with trepidation the idea of Abbas negotiating a settlement for Palestine at Camp David with Netanyahu and Hillary Clinton. However Halper appears to be overlooking the fact that Abbas is supported by the USraeli governments: he represents those parties, not Palestine. He has to be viewed as one of many problems imposed on Palestinians, not as a symptom of Palestinian ‘failure’. As one William James Martin replied to Halper’s post:

It is easy to take out one’s frustrations on Abbas. But the problem is USrael, not the Palestinians.

It is perhaps worth noting that Halper finishes his article by suggesting:

For all the success of BDS, unless we begin advocating a vision and program of our own, we will lose.

Which invites the question, who is ‘we’? Throughout the Palestine movement there pervades a belief that a special concern of Palestinians and pro-Palestine activists should be the fight against anti-Semitism. Jeff Halper clearly subscribes to this belief, and indeed the bulk of this article is devoted to just this issue. Halper is concerned that without strong leadership “the Palestinian issue will deteriorate into crazy and, yes, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.” Bizarrely, he points to Gilad Atzmon as guilty in this regard. As Atzmon replied to Halper’s post:

I argue that there are NO Jewish conspiracies. You people do it all in the open, whether it is Goldman Sachs wiping out Greece or Jeff Halper attempting to kosher the discourse of the oppressed.

And in truth, Atzmon has never concerned himself with the theories that traditionally cause the ire of protectors of Jewish sensibilities, relating to the JFK assassination for example, or 9/11. Nor has he written about the type of ‘conspiracy theories’ that Halper is concerned with here, and which are discussed below. Atzmon’s sins lie elsewhere. The traditional position of Jewish and Israeli organisations promoting Palestinian rights and ‘the Left’ in general is that criticising Israel is not anti-Semitic, while criticising Jewish elites or Jewish communities for their support of Israel, or analysing why they support it, is exactly that. This is the primary reason for labeling Gilad Atzmon, an ex-Israeli Jew who writes about Jewish power, as an anti-Semite. Investigating conspiracy theories which implicate Israel in criminal activities abroad, such as 9/11, is also deemed to be anti-Semitic, even though this contradicts the professed view that “criticising Israel is not anti-Semitic.” One extrapolates from this that, in the view of the gate-keeping Faux Left, one may criticise Israel, but only in respect of its treatment of Palestinians, not for its wider activities.

In his article Halper extends the traditional notion of what constitutes an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. He cites a recent claim that a settler rabbi endorsed poisoning the wells of West Bank Palestinians. The veracity of the claim is under question, and Richard Silverstein, for one, has written in Tikun Olam that he believes it to be a hoax. Halper is inspired by this story to suggest that it constitutes an “anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.” He goes on to address the problem of the increasing number of “conspiracy-peddling hate groups.” Halper is not talking about hate against Jews, but hate against Israel, and his example is an organisation with the self-explanatory and fairly precise title “Americans Against Genocide in Gaza.” Now, there is substantial evidence that supports the perception that the Israeli government and sections of Israeli society are intent on eliminating Palestinians from their homeland, and if that involves physically exterminating them so be it. The actions of the government in bombing Gaza in 2014, the ongoing blockade of goods that would allow, for example, repair of the sewage system, and therefore safe drinking water, and the large number of extra-judicial shootings of young people all show a breathtaking indifference to Palestinian life. Whether or not this is technically genocide, to refer to it as such is hardly some off-the-wall anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. In the case of the discredited story of the genocidal rabbi mentioned above, Silverstein explains:

There is ample past evidence of settlers poisoning Palestinian wells by throwing dead animals and soiled diapers into them.

That one claim may be false does not prove bad faith in those who react, or overreact, to such a story, as Silverstein comments:

If true, this would be yet another outrageous, racist, even genocidal statement in a long line from such settler rabbis.

A search on Google will show that such views are commonly expressed by senior Israeli rabbis, and not just on the West Bank. Given that Palestinian concerns are valid in principle, Halper’s approach has to be seen as an attempt to stifle criticism of Israeli treatment of Palestinians. Another convention popular with the liberal Left is that although to refer to Jews or even to the Jewish lobby may be considered racist, it is acceptable to speak of Zionists or Zionist Jews: “Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism.” The mission statement of Jewish Voices for Peace stresses that being Jewish is not synonymous with Zionism. This is another assumption that Halper throws out the window. Halper takes exception to a video entitled “What Do Famous People Think of Zionist Jews?” I had as much interest in watching this as I had in watching the equivalent produced for the NO side of the Scottish independence referendum, but I trawled through it nonetheless. It turned out to be a fairly substantial production, not without interest. I was particularly moved by Louis Farrakhan’s spirited defense of Kanye West (81:07). While most statements were focused on the crimes of Israel, there were indeed one or two which struck me as racist, ie they could be read as implying that all Jews are innately bad. A number of segments would fit the standard Faux Left definition of anti-Semitism, in that the speaker talked about Jewish power, such as the influence Jews have in Hollywood, or questioned the facts of the Holocaust. It appears however that Halper himself had watched little or nothing of the video. It is difficult to understand otherwise why he sneers at the description of the participants, who include people like Nelson Mandela, Norman Finkelstein, Mel Gibson, Jeremy Corbyn and Malcom X, as ‘famous.’

The inescapable deduction therefore is that Halper is not so much concerned with anti-Semitism as usually defined by the Left, but by the very idea of campaigning so specifically against Zionism, and feels no need to inquire further. The view that it is acceptable to criticise Zionists and Zionism is no longer valid. Anti-Zionism is now anti-Semitic. Halper exemplifies the soft or anti-Zionist Zionist, in that he is involved in the Palestinian cause but puts a limit on criticism of Israel and/or the Jewish lobby, and to that end openly declares eradicating anti-Semitism as a top priority. The effect of this is to suppress criticism of external supporters of Israel. Halper’s outlook is shared by certain non-Jewish organisations and individuals in the Palestine movement, who are unkindly referred to by Gilad Atzmon as shabbos goyim. Not content with prioritising the suppression of anti-Semitism themselves, anti-Zionist Zionists and shabbos goyim use their positions in the Palestine movement to ensure that Palestine activists and Palestinians do so as well, ignoring the outrage expressed by some Palestinians. Palestinians, despite themselves, find themselves complicit in the campaign to prioritise Jewish sensibilities and to prevent criticism of the external forces dedicated to supporting and furthering the Zionist occupation of their land. What is more, Halper is taking his gatekeeping to a new level. Forget the mantra, so beloved of anti-Zionist Zionists and the faux left, that ‘criticising Israel is not anti-Semitic’. Not only is it forbidden to question the activities of Israel and its intelligence services outside of Israel, but it is now apparently unacceptable to use the word Zionist negatively, and even to question the actions of Israel against Palestinians, within Palestine itself, is anti-Semitic. Halper has closed further the narrow gap between the relative positions of hardline Zionists and the ‘soft’ Zionists of the Palestine movement: criticising Israel IS anti-Semitic.

A vision and program of our own (my title – RB)
Jeff Halper, Facebook, Jun 28 2016

Say what you will about Israel, justice for Palestinians will be achieved only after the ineffectual, downright collaborationist regime of Abbas falls, once and for all. Its time for us, left/progressive Palestinians and Israelis, to begin formulating a substantially just resolution, a way out that incorporates justice, international law and human rights, collective and individual. I have in mind a bi-national, democratic state encompassing all of Palestine/Israel (BDS4BDS), but it is up to the Palestinians to lead the way. With the PA’s effective dismantling of the PLO (about the only effective thing it has done), engendering a desperately needed intra-Palestinian discussion over where are headed, what a just peace would look like and how to advance the vision/program is a real challenge, especially because the PA itself is an integral part of the Occupation which stifles internal debate. But we who actively support the Palestinian cause no less desperately need direction from our Palestinian parters. I also got numerous Facebook posts presenting the fake “poisoning of the water” story as fact. Without leadership to move us forward, I fear that the Palestinian issue will deteriorate into crazy and, yes, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. I’m getting way too many of these, many from friends and many from people on the left, who should be far more critical. “Americans Against Genocide in Gaza” is only one of the conspiracy-peddling hate groups I receive posts from, but they are increasing. Yesterday I received a post about how zoo-keepers in the US used black children to bait alligators to come out so visitors can see them. Truly shocking and tragic by itself. But the piece was appended with: Now we know why the US supports Israel (!) Just now I got another link to a video entitled: “What Do Famous People [C-level “famous” people you’ve never heard of] Think of Zionist Jews?” C’mon, people…..

Without urgent pro-active political movement that can only be initiated and defined by Palestinian civil society itself (and certainly not by the PA, part of the problem), the Palestinian struggle is likely to descend into stupid, non-productive, hateful and ultimately anti-political, certainly anti-progressive, “Isra-Hell” language that gets us nowhere. Ali Abunimah has spoken out against the anti-Semitism of Gilad Atzmon (who has proven that Jews, too, even Israeli Jews, can be genuinely anti-Semitic). We need strong, clear, progressive Palestinian voices speaking out against the conspiracy stories that destroy the credibility of the Palestinian cause, as Abbas has finally discovered. But that must be accompanied by pro-active grass-roots Palestinian leadership. Al-Shabaka is one important venue for such intra-Palestinian discussion, but it must engage in, even lead, a more public discussion of where we are headed in Palestine/Israel. And at some stage left/progressive Israelis should be brought in, even recruited, as well. Until then, we have to contend with a repressive, ineffectual PA on the one side and increasingly anti-political, conspiracy-soaked, anti-strategic “pro-Palestinan” discourse on the other. For all the success of BDS, unless we begin advocating a vision and program of our own, we will lose.

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