Jews on the Brain: European Liberals and the Israelis

From the Observer
Israel has become the main source of mystification for modern liberals. It twists them into ever-uglier contortions. It allows them to ignore secular tyranny and radical religious reaction and to revive with more relish than is seemly Europe’s oldest antisemitic tropes while they are about it. Given the dark forces which surround and exploit Israel, the urge to defend the Jewish state is close to overwhelming.

Where to begin? Perhaps with the inability of a large section of leftwing opinion and, indeed, isolationist conservative opinion to consider any foreign policy question without reverting within minutes to denunciations of a tiny country on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean. So prevalent are the evasive manoeuvres that we need an update of Godwin’s Law to describe them. Mike Godwin held in 1990 that the longer a discussion continues on the web the greater the likelihood that some fool invoking the Nazis would reduce it to absurdity. Today, reduction to Zionism has replaced reductio ad Hitlerum. It is impossible for discussions of Middle Eastern dictatorship, the rise of psychopathic Islamism or the alienation of immigrant Muslim communities in the west to continue without participants maintaining that Jewish influence is “the root cause” of the evils to hand. From the far left to the Liberal Democrats, alleged progressives have Jews on the brain.

Carry on reading

37 thoughts on “Jews on the Brain: European Liberals and the Israelis

  1. Excellent article, frankly I’m surprised the Observer printed it given the outpouring of anti-Israeli bile in the pages of the Guardian recently. The comments that have appeared so far on this are up ( ie down ) to the usual standard, equal parts abuse and rage with a top dressing of ill disguised anti-semitism. It is very depressing to see just how mainstream and acceptable this kind of stuff is becoming.

  2. I agree, Thornavis.
    I haven’t read a paper in ages, so I don’t know about that part.
    However, I once clicked on the page of a nut writing (sic) about Nick Cohen and he’d started his stuff with some personal abuse aimed at him, but went on to say why the personal abuse needed to stop!

  3. “The situation in Gaza is a gift to apologists for extreme Islam”. This sentence is ludicrous in the extreme. There are no apologists for so-called ‘extreme Islam’ that I know of, whatever the latter may be, and indeed, you’ve provided no definition, explanation or substantiation in that regard.
    ‘Unbalanced’ from the very outset by injecting not only pure bias but bandying about a two-word phrase, which in itself means absolutely nothing, as it is unqualified and utterly bereft of ny analysis.
    Firstly, if you want to discuss extremism and what it means, then gladly I will inform you that it entails no desire to understand in broad terms, maintaining a staunch fanatical stance and resorting to brutal, overwhelming indiscriminate violence. ‘Extremism’ also betrays a ‘fascist’ right-wing ideology, based on racism – religiously and racially – in addition to other facets such as ethnic cleansing, massacres, racist colonialism, racist laws and militaristic laws of suppression, denial, elimination, oppression, depriving others of civil and human rights, the mass and individual dispossession of others on a blatantly racist and religio-racist ideology of superiority and superior entitlements and rights, and the unleashing of wars to fulfil a militaristic, expansionist and geo-strategic hegemony with no regard for the well-being of others. All of it is extremism.
    Given Israel’s background, in recent times, particularly from November 1947 to the present day, the previous outlined fits Israel right down to a T. Its whole colonialist, imperialist history is replete with the above. Overwhelming violence is Israel’s hallmark. Ethnic cleasning and the devastation of neighbouring societies has been its unholy remit. Racist purifying exclusive dispossessing settlement has been its lifeblood and repugnant agend all throughout. Its creed is only Jews count; as much Arab land to grab, and as many Arab indigenous people massacred, deported, ethnically cleansed, expelled and fenced in, delegitimised, dehumanised, demonized, in addition to a plethora of venemous deceitful rhetoric.
    Take one major example; the brutal, illegal and morally reprehensible invasion and occupation of Iraq from 2003 onwards; it’s utter devastation; a society in ruins; a country of 2 million widows; the dead estimated at 1.2 million; I million wounded, injured and disable; 2.5 million external refugees; and 2 million internal refugees. All very much the doing of Israel in cahoots with the U.S. Administration. Massive lobby pressure, not only advocating the immoral war but exerting all out efforts to push the U.S. into attacking a sovereign state on a large scale. This is evil. Israel has done this sort of thing before by itself as well.
    “Hamas, around which the disputes about aid to Gaza rage, is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which fused fascist and radical Islamist ideas during the German push into the Middle East during the Second World War.” Once again we have exemplary extremism from a person who discusses “apologists for extreme Islam” when such a statement is produced, I strongly suspect out of ‘thin air’, unqualified yet again, ill-defined, unsubstantiated, but reveallingly revealling your blatant complete bias and utter ignorance of facts. You have produced no foundation to your statement, no evidence, nor references.
    Your article consists of Red-herrings and conflations, deliberately to detract and divert people’s attention from the dreadful historical record of the Israeli state over the past 62 years and its successive violations of international law, breathtakingly and brutally clear over decades, to be overlooked and ignored all because we have here a brutal evil empire called the United States who aids and abets this nasty monstrus Rottwheiler with absolutely no accountability nor any sanctions, the like of which have been suffered massively by other people.

  4. @David Sanders: So have I understood you correctly Israel was responsible for the Iraq war ? Conspiracy theory paranoia seems to be a hallmark of anti-Israelis these days.
    You want Nick Cohen to provide references, how about providing one for your claim that Israel has committed ethnic cleansing ?
    “….based on racism-religiously and racially…” yes racism is based on race, tautology is unnecessary, how exactly though does religious racism work ?

  5. “Given Israel’s background, in recent times, particularly from November 1947 to the present day,…”

    Yes, that month marked the end of Israel’s golden age, didn’t it? What a Putz!

    Great article, Nick.

  6. Nick Cohen could finish a piece with the words ‘I love the Wind in the Willows, it’s a great book.’
    And a moderator at the Observer would see people posting “Nick Cohen is a *&£*&%& Wind in the Willows hater. He is – he *£$£%$% hates it.”
    I think there’s one of them above.

  7. Ross, wouldn’t they be more likely to accuse Nick of turning a blind eye to Mr. Toad’s building Toad Hall on land stolen from the stoats and foxes?

  8. There are of course many states in the world that collectively punish women and children for the sins of their leaders, whose armies bulldoze and bomb their homes, schools and hospitals, who shoot-to-kill Red Cross and UN workers, journalists and humanitarian activists alike, and who put out streaming propaganda to suggest that anyone who sympathises with their enemies must therefore be terrorists. That one of those countries is Israel is a terrible shame. There are a great many of us, Jews included, for whom protest is not motivated by anti-semitism; people like myself, whom Nick Cohen offends to the core. I have spoken to Israelis who were ashamed by what their soldiers did last week; and spoken to many Turks who are not Islamic fundamentalists. Nick Cohen is an intelligent writer; what a shame, then, that he increasingly sounds like a pundit on Fox news. Thankfully, however, he’s in a minority on this one; and for most of us in this country, whatever paper we read, it is apologists for Israel’s brutality that should be ashamed.

  9. Dylan Potter, I’ve also spoken to a few Turks who are not Islamic fundamentalists and who are indeed ashamed of their Islamist leadership.

    Perhaps you haven’t noted the irony in saying that Israelis are ashamed with what their country did. Israel is a vibrant democracy no matter how much you and your ilk try and demonise it. Try being an Arab in Syria and ashamed of the crimes of those countries and then just pray that you don’t end up hanging from a crane or otherwise extinct.

  10. I needn’t respond to those very silly comments by Gil. But I should point out, Turkey is a democracy too, and they elected their leader, who is not, however you portray him, a fundamentalist. Sometimes we have to swallow a nation’s choices. Populations choose leaders we might not all like. Like the current Israeli government. Like Avigdor Lieberman., and the other far-righters steering a course as far from a peaceful settlement as they can. And….before you hurl another irrational accusation at me, being opposed to Israel’s brutal outrages does not make one a supporter of Hamas or fundamentalism. It means one opposes extreme violations of human rights, who ever is responsible. It’s not good to always turn a blind eye, Gil. Sometimes, when its right, we must be critical of the people or the countries we love.

  11. Perhaps Dylan should actually respond to the points that I made. I should say that Israel is not perfect but neither is any country. And Dylan probably doesn’t emote about any other country except the worlds only Jewish state. Indeed, considering that Israel has not known one day of peace since the Arab attempt to strangle it at birth, it’s a miracle that it is still a democracy and a shining beacon to oppressed minorities all over the Middle East. After all, why do so many Sudanis try and reach Israel?

    The fact that Turkey is a democracy is neither here nor there when you see the Judeophobia in such TV shows such as ‘Wolves’ the blood libels agains Jews who are accused of being behind organ theft or Kurdish terror attacks. Some ‘Democracy’. And how long will this democracy survive under a government that is best pals with Iran, Hamas and Syria?
    All right thinking people regard the antisemitism in the Muslim world with repugnance.

  12. The political editor of the staggers is fuming with Nick Cohen. It’s like he’s bitten a chili plucked straight from hell. (Peter’s given him a few jabs in reply).

  13. Thanks for making assumptions about me, Gil. I do, in fact, emote about a great deal of wrongdoing across the world, and a tiny fraction of that ’emoting’ is spent on Israel. Most days go by when I don’t give the country a thought, in fact. Last week’s incident was shocking in its brutality – but no more shocking that white phosphorous raining down on children, or UN compounds under seige, or journalists shot at piont-blank range. I shouldn’t need to list the causes I emote about for you, but I do care very much about the democracy movement in Iran, and the tyranny of the North Korean dictatorship, the assisination of human rights activists in Russia, gay rights in the USA. I think critically about my own country almost every day. I don’t believe in collective punishment for the anti-semitism of the few; I also don’t believe that anti-semitism is worse than anti-arabism; it’s all racism as far as I can see. But you stick to your guns, Gil.

  14. When I think what David Saunders would first say to people when he meets them, I can only come up with: “If I were me”.

  15. Dylan, it seems that anything and everything that Israel can do to defend itself would be ‘shocking in its barbarity’ for you. You have disregarded all the information that shows that the soldiers were under attack and that a hostage-taking situation was in danger of happening. And if you come and tell me that we don’t have all the facts, then I can say the same thing to you.

    You ignore, a prioiri, any shred, scintilla of Israeli claim because for you, Israel (and Israelis who don’t share your view) are obviously incapable of telling the truth. I also care about the situation in Iran and the atrocities there by the government, the atrocities in Turkey against Kurds etc. But I’ve never seen a scintilla of anger or protest by the Left at all this. Nada.

    For the record I demonstrated against Sharon in ’82 and I utterly object to the settlements. I’d like to see the same intellectual honesty from Israel’s opponents who have simply abandoned any reason in their ‘Israel = Nazi’ invective.

    So go on and have your daily 5 minutes of hate. Orwell would be proud.

  16. @ Dylan Potter, a neat conflation of Israel with Russia and North Korea do you really think Israel is on a par with Russia let alone N. Korea or Iran ? The difference with those places is that none of them are at war ( yet ) and the abuses that take place are the result of deliberate policies aimed at their own citizens, as Gil points out Israel has been surrounded by hostile and bellicose nations since it’s inception, it’s hardly surprising that it’s democracy is a bit frayed round the edges. As for gay rights in the USA, well you just had to get the obligatory dig at the Great Satan in there didn’t you ? If you really think that the position of Gays in the US is in any way comparable to the plight of the Gazans then you are seriously lacking in a sense of proportion.
    Again equating anti-semitism with ‘anti-Arabism’ is a Red Herring, no one in Israel or anywhere else has advocated wiping out the Palestinian people, whereas it is the avowed aim of the Iranian regime to eradicate Israel and we all know who that regime sponsors, don’t we ?

  17. I agree with what Thornavis said regarding Dylan’s seeming blind spot regarding the situation of gays in the Arab world. Actually, the spurious remark about the US shows Dylan to be an empty vessel and of no moral compass at all.

  18. I disagree, I think Dylan does have a moral compass, but like a real compass at the Magnetic North Pole, it’s spinning wildly, pointing in no particular direction and quite useless at telling him which way to head. He must be quite exhausted after all that around-the-world emoting he does.

  19. Firstly, I did not offer a “neat conflation of Israel with Russia and North Korea”; secondly I have not used the word “Nazi” nor ever would in relation to Israel; and thirdly, I do trust the voices of many Israeli people, because there is a broad spectrum of opinion and activism within its society, naturally. But I don’t, however, trust the voice of the far-right, or the Israeli military or their version of events, I’m afraid. Attacks on my having “no moral compass” are, of course, offensive, but any attempt to prove otherwise would seem impossible on this blog. I’m gay, by the way, spend a lot of time in the US, which I love and would not ever call “the great Satan”, but see gay people under attack in communities across that country, not least by the last administration and the dominant religious leaders there. There are many homophobic people, religions and cultures; this is not limited to the Arab world; and I do not base my opinion of Arab people on their views on homosexuality. And I hope the flotilla continues to raise awareness that the blockade is wrong in every sense. I hope a resolution to the Israel-Palestine scenario comes along at some point in the near future; but I, as many will agree, can’t see that the dominating forces leading Israel at the moment have any vested interest in a peaceful settlement or in a moderate Palestinian state, neither now or in the future. I firmly believe that the next generation of Palestinians, young children in their hundreds of thousands who have spent their lives bombarded and starved, with little prospect of employment or education, will grow up hating Israel. I also believe that the more those children – and the moderates in the territories – are treated with violence and hatred, the more they will turn to extremism. And that’s a huge shame, for everyone involved. Good luck with your ‘dialogue’ with one another; I look forward to the next vitriolic assumption hurled in my direction.

  20. Unfortunately, so long as Dyan’s views are promulgated there is no point in having an enquiry. After all, why have an enquiry if people have judged you in advance? So let’s be honest about this mooted ‘enquiry’. It’s an attempt to keep Turkey, that paragon of virtue, on the West’s side.

    Not a word from Dylan on the fact that that 5 ships (6 including the RC) docked safely in Israel and that the Mavi Marmara was out to cause provocation.

    The fact that Dylan again takes up space by discussing the USA rather than the treatment of gays in Gaza or Iran, speaks volumes

    Perhaps Dylan would care to comment on Vladimir Putin’s hypocritical call for an enquiry on the flotilla? I mean Putin for crying out aloud!

    Finally, Dylan should remember the topic of this thread, which is the obssession with Israel. He should read Bernard Henri-Levi to educate himself.

  21. One can’t help but be struck by how Dylan’s and David’s comments are perfect exemples of the rootless, incohate postmodern yearning that seems to control a lot of debate on the left. There is no sense of history in them, no anchoring in baseline values, not even an attempt to identify and analyze the perpectives and zeitgeists of the parties. Instead, we are treated solely to lengthy, unrelated and competing lists of bad things good people do and a lot of handwringing from safe quarters.

    One of Nick’s key points was the failure of the modern left to recgnize what anti-Semitism is and can lead to. I’ve noticed that, for many in this camp, all they have to say is that they think the Holocaust was a bad thing and they are somehow self-innoculated against a thousand year blight on the West. When Dylan says, “I also believe that the more those children – and the moderates in the territories – are treated with violence and hatred, the more they will turn to extremism”, not only is he ignoring the historically proven fact that Palestinian extremism wouldn’t be dimished at all even if every Gazan received a year’s supply of food from an Israeli Welcome Wagon, he seems to have no sense of how he is simply channelling the old trope about how Jews bring anti-Semitism on themselves by asserting their safety and rights. And he is apparently oblivious to one of the most important lessons of the 20th century, which is that when people call for genocide, one is wise to take them at their word and avoid dismissing them as the reactive rhetorical excess of a “legitimate” victim.

  22. @Dylan Potter. I am not interested in hurling Vitriol at anyone ( unlike certain men against uncovered Muslim women ) and I certainly haven’t directed any your way, neither has anyone else really, you seem a bit sensitive to criticism.

  23. I don’t profess to be an historical or political expert but something I do know is that anti-Semitism is ubiquitous these days in my group of very middle-class, educated, left-of-centre friends. Of course when challenged they don’t admit this (they wouldn’t be racist!), and that’s because there’s confusion over what anti-Semitism is. If you don’t consider it anti-Semitic to talk about the control of power/money/America by a shadowy bunch of unelected Jews (they call them “the Jewish Lobby”, cue menacing music) then what is anti-Semitic? I also consider their absolute refusal to see the historical/political context and to never put the other (rather compelling) side to this conflict, as anti-Semitic. What else would drive such bias, apart from anti-Semitism? These same people would’ve lynched any supporter of the IRA during the 70s and 80s bombing campaigns and yet they cannot even concede that the Israeli’s collective past might have made them a tad reactionary! And which group of barbarians was responsible for that?
    This whole exercise in Israeli-bashing by the liberal-left has a strange and horrible resonance.

  24. actually nick you make sense. the liberal left or whatever they are called are obviously suffering from some form of pathological disorder when it comes to israel and jews.
    what can you do?
    they are brainwashed idiots.

  25. “Mike Godwin held in 1990 that the longer a discussion continues on the web the greater the likelihood that some fool invoking the Nazis would reduce it to absurdity.”

    That’s essentially what you have done with all the questions surrounding the 911 attacks, you, the BBC and many other so called journalists have gone out of your way to create a link between people who question the events of 911 and holocaust deniers.

    Why have you never told the story of the 911 families and their fight for the 911 commission to be set up? Why do you and so many others always create the straw man argument of no Jews in the WTC?

    People of all race, religion and gender were murdered that day. Show them some respect and do your job Nick. Expose the war on terror for the sham that it is. Innocent children are dying because the media will not do its job.

  26. I am not unsympathetic to Nick’s central argument about the left’s unwillingness to face up to the horrors of the Arab world. The Baath, Islam (extreme but also moderate islam) have ruled my world and my city is in ruins.
    More importantly the left has abandoned us Iraqis since 1963. I spent years working against the sanctions and time after time I was ignored in favour of a number of people from the “Muslim community” ie a south Asian with a beard who has never been to Iraq and knows nothing about it. I have my grievances and I know this issue.
    But none of this changes Israel’s record. The Palestinians have a case. That is not antisemitism.

  27. Haidar, Nick is not denying the fact that Israel needs to be more generous with the Palestinians. I am not denying this and my own humble record speaks for itself. The point being made is that the opprobrium and the hatred generated against Israel seem utterly demented when you look at the get-out-of-jail card that so many countries get. When was Russia for example last condemned in the Security Council for its abuses?

    In addition, the discourse (it isn’t its actually a show trial but lets leave it at that) is laced with terminology that seeks to draw an utterly false comparison between Gaza and the Holocaust. And so many on the Left don’t speak out on this.

    That’s antisemitsm. Not criticism of Israel or its policies; the double standards are.

  28. Israel does not need to be generous to Palestinians any more than Saddam needed to be generous to the Kurds. I find that word “generous” to be insulting in this context. I never thought of it as a lack of generosity when tanks rampaged through kerbala.
    What Israel needs to do includes an apology, the right of return, equal rights for Arab citizens, reparations as well as getting out of Palestine. My personal hatred of Hamas is greater than Israel’s hatred of Hamas. But it is not for the rapist to make demands about how short his victims dress needs to be for him not to be provoked into raping her. It is not for Israel to tell Palestinians how to vote.

  29. Haidar, the fact is that the Arab world bar Jordan and Egypt refuse to recognise the existence of Israel. The UN called for partition in ’47. The Arabs rejected it and the Jews accepted. And you want the Jews to pay the price for the Arabs throwing their toys out of the pram?
    The rest of your post about your so called ‘hatred’ for Hamas is rubbish. You clearly accept Hamas’s agenda.

    And please tell us how your posts are relevant to this thread?

  30. I guess it is up to readers including yourself to decide whether my comments are relevant. I felt that I have something of value to add.
    As I have stated, I am more opposed to Hamas than Israel is. I will state it another way: the Mossad has more sympathy with Hamas than I do. You accuse me of accepting Hamas Agenda – yet neither you nor they have ever managed to convince me that Hamas has an agenda at all, other than the oppression of the Palestinians first and foremost. Therefore I will take your accusation as a friendly joke.
    I dont want “the jews” to pay anyone for anything. I think you have Jews (as well as Hamas) on the brain. You speak accusingly of the Arab worlds refusal to recognise Israel – which is incorrect incidentally. Why do you expect me to represent the Arab world? What makes you think I am even a Arab to start with? Not that any of this is relevant.
    Nick is talking about the tendency of the left to use Israel as an excuse for the tyrannies in the Arab world. I agree with him. I have lived with and watched friends die of the consequences of these tyrannies and as a consequence I am opposed to them. More so than Arik Sharon has ever been (I love to repeat this, its true.)
    I am pointing out the tendency and history of using the tyrannies of the Arab world as an excuse for covering the crimes of Israel.
    Yes, Hamas is awful. But this does not excuse piracy.
    Yes, the Arab world is backward. This does not excuse military occupation.
    I think my point is relevant.

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