Owen Jones’ 3 problems

 

By Saul Freeman

I’ll keep this brief. Partly – actually almost completely – because I’m tired. Tired of having to explain and justify. Tired of having to confront. Tired of having to witness.  

Tired of being a canary.

And I’m not the only one who’s tired. When Soupy tells you he/she is tired of the toxic brew of hate, you know we’re in trouble.

Those of you who – like me – spend too much time existing in one little corner of Twitter may have noticed that in the current climate of (welcome) interest in the long-standing phenomena of (very unwelcome) Left wing anti-Semitism, I have been an insistent voice calling out Owen Jones.

I’m not alone in this, but I am in a very small minority. Many other campaigners and voices from the anti-totalitarian Left accept Owen at his word. And Owen is good with words and has many of them to spare. After all, he is a writer.

I am not a writer; I’m just a father deeply concerned about his Jewish son.

So when Owen Jones writes (another) article on the evils of contemporary Left wing anti-Semitism, why exactly do I heckle (probably muted on Owen’s timeline) from the side-lines? Why do I not have the good grace to be thankful and to commend Owen on his well-crafted words? I don’t owe Owen an explanation, but perhaps I owe others some clarity.

Well, it’s about this thing called “responsibility”. And about another thing called “honesty”. These are not complex categories of political philosophy or post-structuralist discourse. But I do believe they are fundamental to what most of us (despite all the evidence) desire from our political agents. And Owen is a political agent.

When Owen declares that anti-Semitism has no place on the Left and should be hunted down and cast out, isn’t it a bit odd that he can’t actually locate its existence anywhere or in any person, other than those seemingly random and hapless individuals who (each week it seems) go too far and actually use the J word?

And the word “random” is important here. For Owen, there is no complex and long history of anti-Semitism on the Left, going back to the days of Kautsky and reaching on to the Workers Revolutionary Party and then the SWP and the many other factions, splinter groups and lone wolf operators of the organised hard Left. No setting out of the Jew hate of seminal Labour Party figures like Bevin. Even if we put aside Owen’s lack of historical knowledge of a subject he professes to understand and abhor, isn’t it more than a little odd that he can’t actually locate where it lives today? Right now. Here. Right in front of him.

In very close proximity to him, in fact. Up close and personal.  Because Owen was one of the prime cheerleaders of a campaign that handed over the keys of the Labour Party to the Chair of the Stop the War Coalition and his associates. And if you cannot locate the phenomena of contemporary left-wing anti-Semitism in some of the individuals, groups and actions of those that make up this loose coalition of the politically mad and the morally bad, then really – what contribution can you possibly have to make on the subject?

Stop the War has of course deleted from its website many of its more toxic statements and contributions. But you can find some of them out there at  therealstopthewar.wordpress.com

And you’ll find that this is an organisation that published a commentary on the 1973 massacre of Jewish Israelis at Munich by Alison Weir – a well documented full frontal Jew hater with links to both the racist Right in America and the European hard left.

You’ll also find at least 2 (very poor) poems by Heathcote Williams that both invoke the blood-libel. That’s the thing about Jews killing gentiles (children if at all possible).

But what you’ll also find is that as an organisation Stop the War is committed to the elimination of Israel as the world’s only Jewish State. It makes no secret of this. Indeed, it has been the secret of its success as the key nexus in the alignment of the hard Left and Islamist revolutionary cadres. It works. I’ve lost track of the number of articles and comments, demos and meetings in which Stop the War sets out this stall very, very clearly.

Now, here is not the place for a detailed exploration of the relationship between Jews and the State of Israel. Like I said – I’m tired of having to explain, to justify. But it won’t have to use up too much of my depleted reserves to point out that by any (and I mean ANY) survey, poll, analysis etc. there’s a simple equation at play. Here’s the thing:

The overwhelming majority of UK Jews are Zionists.

And Zionism is nothing more – and certainly nothing less – than the expression of the Jewish people’s right to political self-determination. You know, like everyone else.

That means (and it only means) that to (most) Jews, Israel is a part of what it means to be Jewish. We want it to be there. It’ s important that Israel is there. Those of us who go to shul (synagogue) will open a siddur (prayer book) and find reference to the land of Israel all over it. You’ll not get a detailed theology from me, but even I can grasp the meaning. And I’m half Cornish.

We want, we need Israel to exist. Right now, Jews across Europe need Israel to exist more than ever. Even if you dispense with the theology (and I do) it’s easily understood. It’s our history. It’s a lifeboat.  A “get out of jail” card. A pass to a future when some wish otherwise on Jews.  That’s why it’s there, folks.

We don’t want Stop the War’s “solution” thank you very much.  We want Israel. And most of us by the way also want a democratic and peaceable (no, not pacified) Palestinian State living alongside. In mutual peace and prosperity.

How complicated is any of this really? I’m a simple bloke and I get it.

So Owen has at least 3 problems on his hands when he wants Jews like me to be grateful for his words on the subject of Left wing anti-Semitism and to accept that they have real meaning.

Firstly, he refuses to locate the thing. And as we see above, it ain’t hard to do.  Look to your own house Owen and own your part in enabling those who propagate it to thrive. And don’t think I’m going to waste any energy on the “J word” versus the “Z word” thing. See above re Israel & Jews.

And on Corbyn – aside from his erstwhile role as Chair of the Stop the War Coalition – I’m only going on the evidence. There is of course NO evidence that Corbyn is an anti-Semite. There is a mountain of evidence that Corbyn has a lot of tolerance for those who are, or cannot see them when they are in front of him. Sometimes when they are chanting about a free Palestine “from the River to the Sea.” For those who are not clear, the State of Israel is the bit in-between.

Secondly, Owen has long campaigned for BDS against Israel. As in supporting a (extraordinarily successful and long sighted) political project to de-legitimise and penalise the State of the Jewish people. Not in Israel – but here. In the West. In Europe. In the US. Here in the UK.

Ask Owen what the (very clearly) stated objectives of BDS are and he’ll know. He may not tell you, but he’ll know. Put it this way – they are very closely related to the river and the sea thing above. Sure, there are different versions of the BDS “narrative” used at different times for different audiences. And that is of course part of its recipe for success. But 3 minutes with Google and the name Omar Barghouti will tell you what you need to know. How many of the core BDS campaign objectives Owen shares I can’t really say.

Owen Jones decries left-wing anti-Semitism yet publicly endorses a campaign whose objectives strike right at the heart of what it means to be a Jew in the UK in 2016. Not an Israeli Jew – a British Jew. BDS does not affect Jewish Israelis. It’s not designed to. No one but a madman would believe that BDS could bring the Israeli economy clattering to a halt. It’s a political, cultural and discursive tool designed to operate outside Israel and to reduce the ability of governments and civil society to align with Israel. It actually represents the type of far horizon, patient, incremental political action that few are capable of sustaining these days. It’s something to study and learn from.

But what it isn’t is something to endorse, support (even only in part) and then present back to UK Jews clutched in a hand extended in apparent understanding and empathy. It doesn’t work like that Owen.

And here we come to problem number three facing Owen.

Owen simply will not accept what I and a majority of UK Jews tell him on this. When Jews tell him that a climate of hostility (obsessive, exceptional) hostility to the Jewish State as manifested in the BDS campaign makes us feel isolated and threatened he simply will not listen. He will not allow a minority of 0.3% of the UK population (hey, I love my quant these days) to set out the nature, scope and scale of the racism that they experience. We apparently need it to be defined for them by Owen and other non-Jews. And that’s a whole other piece to write when I have more appetite for explaining myself.

But Owen has an ace up his sleeve. He’s got me stumped. I’m beat. Game over.

For Owen has found an anti-Zionist Jew who supports BDS. Who is disgusted by the very existence of Israel as it represents an aberration. An aberration from the path to Universalist emancipation through the mechanism of historical materialism for all workers of the world. An aberration of nationalist exceptionalism that denies the opportunity of Jews to rise above their category of capitalist agents and to assimilate into the great revolutionary movement.

Yep, Owen has found a teenage Trot, clutching a copy of What is to Be Done and the collected works of  Yigael Gluckstein – that’s SWP founder Tony Cliff to most of you.

In his Guardian piece last month defending the BDS campaign against the outrageous slander that it might be an intrinsic element of contemporary Left wing anti-Semitism, Owen tells it as it is and puts our minds at rest:

“The government argues such boycotts promote anti-Semitism. If that were true, we would all be gravely concerned.…..

Here it is also worth listening to Barnaby Raine from Jewish Students for Justice in Palestine. “We have to be so, so clear about Israel and Jews being separate,” he says, decrying those who suggest otherwise, ranging from Islamist fundamentalists to the far right to hardline defenders of Israeli government policies.”

Now young Barnaby (hey, I was a teenage member of the CPGB – I’m empathising) is a signatory/member of a grouping (Jews for Justice in Palestine) that represents a gathering of a massive proportion of British Jews. “How many Jews?” you ask. “Tell us the answer,” you cry. I’m a nice man so I’ll tell you:

0.75%

Yep – that’s 0.75% of the 0.3% of the UK population that are Jews. Seems like a pretty firm foundation on which to base the ethics of your argument if you are trying to persuade both UK Jews and the wider populace of the justness of your political position to support a campaign that seeks to eliminate the State of Israel as the Jewish State. I’ll buy that. Who wouldn’t?

Ok – let’s scale the figure up to allow for those UK Jews who, whilst not actually having signed up to it, may actually support the likes of Barnaby & his friends. Let’s be wildly generous, scale it up by a factor of 10 (hell, let’s go mad and multiply it by 20) and you end up with around 15%. Go crazy and then double it and you might reach 30%. Not founded in any reality but hey – I’m here to be the helpful canary, apparently.

So Owen finds a Jewish voice that represents somewhere between 0-30% of UK Jews (in reality less than 10% at most) and bases his position on that and uses it to tell Jews that he is not part of a problem? (By the way, here you might want to look up the “good Jew/bad Jew” trope).

On what moral, ethical and evidential planet are we now living on Owen? I may be a canary but I’m not a birdbrain.

So if you seek to be a credible voice in the zeitgiesty discourse around contemporary Left wing anti-Semitism, don’t come out with at least 3 glaring, huge, stinking problems around your position and expect me to take you at face value.

Responsibility and honesty, Owen.

This canary won’t settle for less.

The Diplomat of Islington North

By David Paxton

Diplomacy (noun): the work of maintaining good relations between the governments of different countries

Diplomat (noun): a person who represents his or her country’s government in a foreign country : someone whose work is diplomacy

A week ago Labour leadership hopeful Jeremy Corbyn gave a long interview to Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy. This section, on his calling Hamas ‘friends’, immediately started doing the rounds due to Corbyn’s apparent loss of temper.

By just using that single word ‘friends’ against him Guru-Murthy left available to Corbyn the defence he decided to make. He said:

I spoke at a meeting about the Middle East crises, in Parliament, and there were people there from Hezbollah and I said “I welcomed our friends from Hezbollah” to have a discussion and a debate.

Later he said:

I’m saying people I talk to, I use it in a collective way saying ‘our friends were prepared to talk’. Does it mean I agree with Hamas and what it does? No. Does it mean I agree with Hezbollah and what they do? No. What it means is, to bring about a peace process you have to talk to people with whom you may profoundly disagree.

On the surface this is almost plausible. This was indeed what a diplomat might say, it is the language of diplomacy. Political activist, satirist and comedian, Heydon Prowse seemed to agree and said:

What an idiotic line of questioning. Doesn’t c4 understand the concept of diplomacy

We had a brief discussion about his view. It didn’t go well.

In reply to Alan Johnson’s open letter to Corbyn addressing his previous praise for members of Hezbollah and Hamas, the website Left Futures carried a piece called Reactionary and Dishonest. In it is a more fleshed out version of Corbyn’s defence:

…the all too common view that anybody who supports dialogue and diplomacy with Hamas and Hezbollah must necessarily wholly endorse their politics as well.

Jeremy Corbyn was ahead of his time in recognising the need to talk to Sinn Fein and the IRA in 1984 when he invited Gerry Adams to London, and the same is true in relation to Hamas and Hezbollah. This farsighted act was subject to a furious barrage of criticism at the time, and yet now over 30 years later the importance of such acts of dialogue and goodwill in bringing an end to the Troubles could hardly be more uncontroversial.

…Corbyn also understands that peace can only be achieved through mutual respect and diplomacy.

I think it worth examining this notion that Jeremy Corbyn is a lone, extra-governmental diplomat bravely ahead of his time in seeking peace and that we cannot draw any other conclusion from his conduct.

BFFs

As mentioned, only the word ‘friends’ was brought up in the interview and without full context, Corbyn’s explanation has legs. Try this:

“We are gathered here for an important meeting of opposing views. On my right are some friends from the Black Panther Party and on my left are friends from the Ku Klux Klan. Hopefully by coming together as friends we can… etc”

That could get in under the excuse of being ‘diplomatic’.

Now try this:

“It is my pleasure and my honour to host an event where my friends from Stormfront will be speaking. I also invited friends from the Ku Klux Klan to speak but unfortunately the FBI won’t allow them to travel so it will only be friends from Stormfront. The Ku Klux Klan is an organisation dedicated towards the good of American people and bringing about long-term peace and social justice, and political justice.”

How does that sound to you? I don’t believe the latter example would be consistent with Corbyn’s claim “I use it in a collective way saying ‘our friends were prepared to talk'”. It goes well beyond standard diplomatic niceties.

Here is a video of the offending speech, see for yourself. He said exactly that about Hamas and Hezbollah and he was being very friendly indeed.

If he profoundly disagrees with them why claim the bit about social and political justice? Hamas’ form of ‘political justice’ is to execute their political opponents. Hamas’s ‘social justice’ is to murder people for being gay. Hamas’ ‘long-term peace’ includes a Charter clause calling for the destruction of Israel and the divinely ordained killing of Jews. And feeling ‘honoured’ to host holocaust deniers means either A: Corbyn thinks ‘honour’ means something it doesn’t or B: He has some fundamental problems with his morality.

To go as far in his praise as Corbyn does is grotesque and hints far more at outright support than the forced diplomatic nicety, while holding his nose, which one might tolerate or expect. Who would possibly say such a thing if they were not ‘friends’ or did in fact ‘profoundly disagree’? I think he is being deceptive in the Channel 4 interview and this should be taken into consideration by those so willing to repeat the claim that Corbyn is the straight-shooting candidate of unflinching honesty and integrity.

Who invited you anyway?

Yes, peace talks without a unconditional surrender require compromise, they require some holding of noses. After a successful peace has been forged such actions can indeed appear noble and worthy. However, this realisation can also be used to cover a multitude of sins and just talking, per se, is not necessarily a worthy and noble act.

John Major, who happened to be the actual prime minister and leader of the government, did a difficult and presumably correct thing in starting talks with the IRA. It was a careful and deliberate process that was straining against the idea that rewarding violence with power and representation might lead to more of the same. Do I have to laud Corbyn with the same praise when he invites IRA representatives to the Commons a fortnight after the Brighton bombing? This isn’t the brave and principled putting aside of grievance, this is rewarding and forgiving brutal terrorist violence directly following its most clearly anti-democratic expression by saying that the more they bomb the more they should be given a seat at the table. Imagine your young child is throwing a nasty tantrum in the supermarket because you refuse to give him sweets. Corbyn’s unilateral intervention is the equivalent of the unwelcome shop assistant butting in and saying ‘don’t be a meany, look at his little face, give him a Mars Bar.’ It’s undermining, it’s unwelcome, it’s not really his business. But these aren’t sweets in a supermarket, this is a murderous terror campaign.

This is not to say that a backbench MP cannot engage in dialogue that has little to do with his own constituents. However, in this case it is undermining the position of his own, and successive, governments at a time when its citizens were being murdered.

Corbyn’s stands on Israel and Northern Ireland require no holding of the nose and no compromise. He supports their positions. Ultimately the Northern Ireland peace process was about changing the means and agreeing to disagree on the ends. In Israel any future dealings with any groups will require the same. The difference between those outcomes and approaches and that of our renegade diplomat is that he wants an end to Israel and have it replaced with a Palestinian majority state. He also wants the reunification of Ireland. He supports the aims of these groups and doesn’t seem to think the means should exclude them from anything.

The Diplomacy of Adrian Mole Aged 66 & 1/4

Owen Jones said:

I’ve known Jeremy for years, and have shared numerous platforms with him on issues ranging from peace to social justice. He is the very antithesis of the negative caricature of an MP: he’s defined by his principles and beliefs

Great. Corbyn has taken several positions on foreign affairs and so one would expect some common themes running through these positions that can tell us what he is about. Let’s try and define him.

He met with the IRA, but fine, some will consider this just Jezza the Diplomat diplomating, as he is wont to do. But at a Troops Out meeting in 1987, Jeremy stood for a minute’s silence to “honour” eight IRA terrorists killed at Loughall. That event brought about the end of activities of an Active Service Unit from the East Tyrone Brigade that had been blowing up police stations and executing those present. What principle and belief can we deduce from that?

From Andrew Gilligan’s Telegraph piece (worth reading in full):

Jeremy Corbyn was helping Sayyed Hassan al-Sadr celebrate “the all-encompassing revolution,” the 35th anniversary of the ayatollahs’ takeover in Iran. In his talk, entitled “The Case for Iran,” he called for the immediate scrapping of sanctions on the country, which had not then promised to restrict its nuclear programme, attacked its colonial exploitation by British business and called for an end to its “demonisation” by the West.

Corbyn has repeatedly praised members of Hamas. They kill gays, deny the holocaust and speak of starting a fresh one. He calls them a force for social justice.

He praised the leadership in Venezuela while the oil-rich country was being run into bankruptcy and the freedom of the press was being eroded.

Corbyn asserts that despite the wishes of the Falklands islanders, expressed through the ballot box, and despite a fascist junta invading them causing British servicemen to fight and die, the islands should be owned by Argentina.

Corbyn wants an end to Israel, the most democratic and law-bound state in the region. The call for a single state solution with a Palestinian majority is, under present circumstances, a call not just for the end of a Jewish state but for the end to those living within it. It is conceivable that some might believe protecting the racial or religious identity of a state is in principle wrong. However, choosing to ignore the unique circumstances and history of the Jews and decide this principle cannot be bent in their case, that they cannot expect a nation where they are a majority, while wanting them to be at the mercy of those who openly call for a new genocide is, at the very best, immoral.

Corbyn believes that the 1973 Chilean coup was ‘run’ by the CIA.

In that same Jones piece he said:

he was protesting against Saddam Hussein when the west was arming him

A more cynical person than I might well consider changing the word ‘when’ to ‘because’ to add greater truth to that statement.

Taken on their own each of these could be a difference of opinion or a forgivable misjudgment. But combined as a life’s work?

So is there a theme in Corbyn’s choice to consistently side with theocrats, homophobic thugs, genocidal fascists, murderers, terrorists, demagogues, deniers of freedom and exponents of oppression? Is there a belief in evidence when he praises the people who believe his own constituents are legitimate targets for car bombs and suicide vests? I think there is: Whatever his own government (Labour or Tory) wants, he is against. Wherever The Man is represented Corbyn is sticking it to him. And this stands in contrast to the slogans and lofty ideals spouted at the rallies he is so often seen at.

This therefore isn’t the CV of a great diplomat or a campaigner for peace and human rights. Nor do his pretensions for a role in international relations add up to a statesman of value and importance. He’s not even a gifted amateur. This is merely adolescence dragged out into late middle-age. He is less Otto Von Bismark than Otto from The Simpsons. Laughable in a pub bore but fairly tragic at the forefront of a political party with a noble history. Corbyn should be seen as what he is, a 66 year old teenager using the stature of his MP status to make a bigger noise than a man of his ability otherwise could or should. If you are looking for the next Clement Attlee, keep looking.

To observe the likes of Corbyn is to see the worst of the modern Left, where being seen to fight is more important than achieving the goals congruent with their slogans. Seemingly unaware of the victories the Left have won already, the need to keep sidestepping left has meant they’ve come out the other side and are now friends, allies and enablers of facists, racists, murderers and thugs. And worst of all, they expect a halo for being so.

You Know What it Means So Why Are You Bullshitting?

By David Paxton

Did you just say something along the lines of this?

How can it be antisemitic when Palestinians are Semites?

or,

Saying one group of Semites is treating another group of Semites appallingly is not Antisemitism.

In short, have you used the ‘semite’ part of ‘Antisemitism’ to refer to all Semites and therefore discredit the word ‘antisemitism’ as normally understood and the accusation behind its use?

If so you have done something which you might believe to be insightful and clever but is, in fact, facile and ignorant. Here is why:

It was coined over 130 years ago in Germany by people specifically discussing Judenhass. In these discussions  ‘Jew’ and ‘Semite’ were considered synonyms. It quickly became understood to mean only that and is widely accepted in common parlance to mean the hatred of Jews and nobody else.

Therefore ‘antisemitism’ is a misnomer, that’s no big deal. Greenland isn’t green and the woods in one’s golf bag are not made of wood. But if you refuse to pass somebody their golf club for this reason you wouldn’t just be fired as a caddy, you would be universally considered a dick. ‘Antisemitism’ is a word that has stuck and is commonly accepted to mean something quite specific, namely Jew hatred. If you can find any regular use of ‘antisemitism’ to mean literally, anti the Semitic languages or its speakers, you might be able to make a case for the invention of a clearer term. I suggest you can’t so there is no need.

So what difference does it make that, when broken down into its constituent parts of ‘anti’, ‘Semite’ and ‘ism’, it has a different meaning? Especially when everyone knows what it denotes? Calling a stick of rhubarb an ‘aircraft carrier’ doesn’t mean you can eat an aircraft carrier or land a plane on a stick of rhubarb.

If you honestly think ‘antisemitism’ doesn’t make sense and this bothers you then simply swap it in your head for ‘anti-Jew’ or ‘Jew-hatred’ and continue the discussion. The disparity between its accepted use and its literal formulation is of no consequence and is entirely irrelevant to any discussion where it is being used.

But you already know this, surely, so why did you attempt to make it mean something other than its universally understood meaning? What purpose does your pseudo-clever interruption serve? That is a serious question and it is worth searching within yourself for an answer.

We all say stupid things due to ignorance so don’t feel too ashamed if that is what occurred. However, you have been told now and so lack the excuse of ignorance. If your mistake is repeated again it is not from ignorance but from malign intent, likely from a desire to mask your hatred and exculpate yourself or others of the offence of antisemitism by denying it exists. Be in no doubt that if you choose to do this you are an unmentionable, a four letter word, a dissembler, a liar and someone to be vilified or ignored.

You’re welcome.

The Battle of Hastings, part two

by Tom Doran (@portraitinflesh)

Twitter can be a very useful thing. Like many of you, I’ve met all sorts of people I never would have otherwise, and among them is James Vaughan, a fellow Welshman and a historian specializing in the Britain-Israel relationship. He regularly posts fascinating snippets from the archives as his work unearths them, but today, he’s surpassed himself. Found among the private papers of forgotten Labour legend – and passionate Zionist – Peter Shore MP was this clipping of a Max Hastings column, originally published in the Evening Standard on August 6th, 1980. Click the link or image below for the full-sized version, which is quite legible despite its age.

Meet the old Hastings, same as the new Hastings.

Those of you who read my last post should find all this very familiar. So much so, in fact, that my rebuttal to Hastings’ 2014 Israel-bashing applies almost in its entirety to the 1980 version, so I shan’t repeat myself. Suffice it to say that this discovery… complicates Hastings’ claim to be a stalwart ally of the Jewish state, only driven to harsh words by events. In fact, the Hastings of 1980 minces his words much less than his older self. I’d like, in particular, to draw your attention to two phrases that occur in the above clipping.

In the second paragraph, Menachem Begin is already being accused of “play[ing] the Holocaust card”. The problem here, I should stress, is not that Begin’s frequently-made analogies to Nazism, and those of the Israeli right in general, should be unchallenged. Here is Amos Oz eloquently responding to Begin on this point, and here is Leon Wieselter doing the same to his successors, twenty years later. This is all very much within the bounds of permissible debate.

What is not, and never can be, is the phrase “playing the Holocaust card”. Rather than being a critique of any specific invocation of the Nazi era, this instead sweepingly categorizes all such analogies as illegitimate and cheap. Look at those Jews, bringing up the Holocaust again, so typical… But why, on a moment’s reflection, should Israeli statesmen never mention the Shoah? Israel is one nation for which “existential threat” is not an abstract cliche, but simply a memory. It is never far from the minds of Israeli leaders, and with good reason.

This reality leads many observers of Israel to another well-meant but wrongheaded conclusion: that the behaviour they deplore in Israelis is somehow the result of collective Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In this narrative, whose seductive simplicity is warning enough, the battered, beleaguered survivors of genocide find their promised land in 1948, but are so damaged by their experiences that they almost immediately start taking it out on the poor Arabs. “Those to whom evil is done/Do evil in return”, as Auden put it, just as wrongly.

Not only is this pop-psychological approach insulting and analytically lazy, it misunderstands Zionism and its history on the most fundamental level. For one thing, the Zionist presence in the Holy Land predates the rise of Hitler by the better part of a century. Rather than spurring the creation of Israel, the Holocaust instead proved all its founders’ worst fears correct in the most horrific way imaginable. The true relevance of the Shoah to the Zionist project is best embodied, I think, by this short video:

Still images of the jets over Auschwitz adorn the office walls of many an Israeli general or politician, I am reliably informed, and the reason has nothing to do with bitterness or revenge. Put simply, Zionism is founded not, as its critics claim, on the embrace of victimhood, but its rejection. Hounded from country to country, expropriated, beaten, humiliated and killed in their thousands and millions, the Jewish people finally said, in as many words, “OK, we get it. You don’t want us, and you won’t protect us. In that case, we’ll simply have to do it ourselves”.

And so they did, and will never be forgiven for it. These are the graves you are skipping on when you throw around pat phrases like “playing the Holocaust card”. Thinking deeply and carefully before engaging in debates about Zionism and the Holocaust is the very least we owe the six million, but to Hastings and too many like him, this engagement is limited to “there they go again”. The Shoah will recede from political debate as soon as Jewish survival is no longer in question, so I shouldn’t hold my breath.

The second, much more shocking phrase occurs in the second paragraph from the end. Here we learn that the American government is “too hypnotised by its own Jewish vote” to act decisively against Israel. Yes, “hypnotised”. Anyone with the faintest knowledge of antisemitism – which apparently doesn’t include Max Hastings – should instinctively recoil from the choice of verb alone. Hypnosis, in one form or another, is precisely what Jews have long been accused of inflicting on the majority, the central indictment of Jew-hatred.

Antisemites, you see, are faced with an obvious problem in making their case: how can it be that “the Jews” so dominate human civilization when they very much appear to be a tiny and despised minority? It’s a tricky one, but resolved easily enough. Jews must somehow possess special powers of deception by which they trick Gentiles into doing their bidding. This is not always put in terms of “hypnosis”, but often has been, the most notorious example being George du Maurier’s 1894 novel Trilby (from which we derive the term “svengali”, not incidentally). My late colleague George Orwell has more on this, if you’re interested.

But the calamitous – at best – wording is only the start. Jews comprise, depending on how you count, between 1 and 3% of the population of the United States. This isn’t to say they never count in elections – just try throwing a brick in Florida without hitting an aspiring presidential candidate with an Israeli-flag pin in their lapel and a hopeful, hungry grin on their face – but this is ordinary, all-American ethnic politics. Not content with accusing the “Jewish vote” – as if that were one, monolithic thing – of hypnosis, Hastings backs it up with the ancient and familiar implication that Jews, once allowed the benefits of citizenship, will always use them to exert an excessive and unsavoury influence.

Once again, it is entirely possible Hastings intends none of this, and is simply woefully ignorant of what his words convey. But he has no excuse to be, not least as a prolific historian in his own right. This was true in 1980 and even more so today. The debate over Israel and its future is one that non-Jews can and should engage in, but not before doing our homework. Tread softly, for you tread on their ashes.