Sunday, November 10, 2013

Posse in pursuit of Brian Klug: It's the Thought Police!

 AMONG the signatories gathered for that Kristallnacht anniversary declaration,  warning against rising racism and scapegoating of minorities and immigrants, is Dr.Brian Klug. (above) Brian is senior  research fellow and tutor in philosophy at St Benet’s Hall, Oxford and member of the Faculty of Philosophy at Oxford University.  He has held posts in Australia and the United States, as well as being an honorary fellow of the Parkes Institute for study of Jewish/non-Jewish relations at the University of Southampton, and co-editor of the respected journal Patterns of Prejudice.  His books include Offence: The Jewish Case (2009) and Being Jewish and Doing Justice: Bringing Argument to Life. (2011).

This week Brian Klug was the guest of the Jewish Museum of Berlin, speaking at a conference they hosted on Antisemitism. The event was timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht. So it should please anyone concerned lest the lessons of history were not being learned or that antisemitism was not being treated seriously, along with other forms of racialism.

Instead the invitation to Brian Klug has aroused a furore from a pack of Israeli and American academics and "experts" assembled like yapping hounds by the Zionist huntmaster and unleashed in the pages of Israeli English-language media.

Is Brian Klug Doing Justice? International Scholars criticize an event at the Jewish Museum Berlin, Nov 8/9, 2013
 (Times of Israel)

 "Inclusion of anti-Israel speaker at Berlin conference on ways to tackle anti-Semitism sparks uproar",(Jerusalem Post).

Jewish Museum to host British professor who wrote that Zionism does not allow for a normal life. Dr. Brian Klug.

By Benjamin Weinthal, JPost
November 06, 2013

BERLIN – The Jewish Museum – and a British professor accused of rejecting Zionism – faced withering criticism for their role in a slated event to mark the 75th remembrance of Kristallnacht later this week.

A who’s who of academic and human rights critics on Tuesday blasted Berlin’s Jewish Museum for hosting a conference with Oxford philosophy professor Brian Klug because he contends that Zionism, the founding philosophy of Israel, “prevents Jews from having a normal conception of their own life.”

Klug is the keynote speaker at a two-day conference scheduled for Friday and Saturday titled “Anti-Semitism in Europe Today: the Phenomena, the Conflicts.” The second day of the conference will mark 75 years since the pogrom referred to as “Kristallnacht,” in which the Nazis and ordinary Germans burned synagogues, murdered Jews and sent German Jews to concentration camps.

Note that expression in the JPost headline "anti-Israel speaker".  Brian Klug was not invited to Berlin to speak about Israel, for or against, and nor does he dedicate his time, as a serious academic, to going around making propaganda speeches about the Zionist state. But in the way of thinking that guides headlines like these the world is divided into 100 per cent pro or anti Israel camps, and anyone, especially any Jewish person, who dares to differ or dissociate their self from anything Israel does is with "the enemy".  

The headline and the witch-hunt proclaimed against Brian Klug might put you in mind of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the heyday of Senator Joseph McCarthy, or the Daily Mail's
recent diatribes against Ed Miliband's left-wing academic father Ralph as the "Man who hated Britain".

Brian Klug is one of the editors of A Time to Speak Out, Independent Jewish Voices on Israel, Zionism and Jewish Identity, published by Verso in 2008.  He attended a counter-demonstration the following year to the Board of Deputies' rally proclaiming British Jews identification with Israel in its war on Gaza.

And that's far from all.

According to the "dossier" of charges drawn up against Dr.Klug,
"He denies that there is a new antisemitism and he affirms anti-Israel positions. He rejects Israel’s right to exist and collaborates with German anti-Israel agitators and activists (like participants on the Mavi Marmara). For Klug, antisemitism does not exist in our mainstream world. For him, antisemitism only exists in marginal neo-Nazi groups or among people who promote obvious antisemitic conspiracy myths. Brian Klug is particularly eager to use his “Jewishness” to fight the Jewish state of Israel".

German political scientist Dr. Clemens Heni told The Jerusalem Post, “Brian Klug is a bad choice as a keynote speaker at a conference on anti-Semitism because he denies that there is a new anti-Semitism. In his view this is a ‘myth,’ as he wrote in [New York-based magazine] The Nation.”*

Brian Klug has challenged the distortion of his views, and offered to send his critics a transcript of his talk at the Berlin museum.

Brian Klug has never belittled nor apologised for antisemitism. What he has disputed is the notion that the old antisemitism associated with the far right has been replaced by a supposed "new antisemitism" that expresses itself in, and explains, opposition to Israel, and is becoming a real frightening threat to Jews. In his essay  The Myth of the New Anti-Semitism published in 2004, he acknowledges that condemnation of the Israeli state can sometimes stray into hostility towards Jews, and that supposed attacks on "Zionists" have sometimes been a cover, or coded signal, for attacks on Jews. (he recalls the campaign against "Zionism" in Poland in 1957).

But Brian rejects the idea that Zionism was simply the movement for "self-determination" of an existing nation, the Jews, and points out that historically the movement to settle Jews in Palestine was seen by many Jews as jeapordising their rights in the countries where they lived, and not without reason. Balfour, of the famous declaration for a Jewish "national home", had previously brought in the Aliens Act restricting Jews fleeing Czarist tyranny from coming into Britain.

As for the Arabs, their frequent evocation of the Crusader kingdoms indicated that their opposition was to a European state being established in their midst and displacing Palestinians, and did not hinge on the new state being Jewish.

Turning to the creation of the State of Israel, in 1948, Brian pointed out that many Jews, and non-Jewish governments too, had supported it not from a conversion to Zionist ideology, but in the feeling after the Holocaust that Jews were entitled to a safe haven, which they could freely enter, and be free of persecution. If today it was not the safest place for Jews, one did not have to be an "antisemite", he argued, to envisage its future peace and security coming with ceasing to be an exclusively Jewish state, or forming part of a binational Arab and Jewish federal state.

Whereas blurring the distinction between Jews and the State of Israel, and confusing the issues of anti-Zionism and antisemitism, was neither good for the peace of Israel nor the fight against antisemitism, he concluded.  

This kind of argument will in no way satisfy the Thought Police  who are not interested in discussing what Brian Klug has to say but just want to shut him up, and stop anyone else from listening to him.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a historian and Islamic studies professor from the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, said that the “participation of Brian Klug in a conference on anti-Semitism” is highly problematic.  But Dr. Kedar, who before donning his academic robes served 25 years in the khaki of the Israeli military, as an Intelligence officer specialising in Islamic groups and Arabic media, also thinks the idea of Arab-Israeli peace is problematic.

Citing the supposed place of Jews in Islam, and the way Mohammed made a temporary peace with the city of Mecca before his army was large enough to take it, and slaughter or convert the inhabitants. This was the sort of peace with non-believers sanctioned by the Koran, he said, quoted by Rabbi Aharon Raskin. ‘The implication is clear,’ concluded the rabbi. ‘Israel’s continuing a farce of a treacherous peace can never work… Someone asked the real question later in the day: If this is the sort of peace that Muslims have in mind, how can it be that Israel continues to make treaties and give away land?’

Another of those joining the fray, Efraim Karsh,  professor of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at King’s College London, said it was outrageous that a German-Jewish institution would provide a platform for a voice that “demonizes Israel” on the 75-year remembrance of Kristallnacht.

Karsh's objectivity may be judged from a 2011 op ed he wrote in Haaretz, articulating his belief that “the tragedy befalling the Palestinian Arabs in 1948 was exclusively of their own making”.’ He has attacked those Israeli historians who take a different view, and in turn been attacked by Israeli historians for the quality of his history. Howard Sachar says Karsh is the "preeminent scholar-spokesman of the Revisionist (politically-rightist) Movement in Zionism.  This year Dr.Karsh too joined the Beigin-Sadat School for Strategic Studies.

Among the luminaries making up the rest of the pack, we find "Dr.Denis McShane", whom  I take it is former Labour MP Denis MacShane, who chaired the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, one of those bodies infected with the so-called EU "definition" of antisemitism which was notoriously the US Zionist lobby-inspired definiation, identifying it with opposition to Zionism.

I've criticised MacShane before for his unfounded accusations against his old union, the NUJ, but I underestimated his activities. In 2009 he helped set up a meeting between Tory Defence Secretary Liam Fox, accompanied by his friend Adam Werrity, and a Mossad officer, to discuss plans for Iran.
Obviously Israel's strategic aims require operations on more than one front, though MacShane's role and useful status may have been reduced due to misuse of his creative talents on expenses claims. He had to resign from the Privy Concil at the beginning of the year, and on July 11 the Crown Prosecution Service said he would be charged under the Theft Act.    

Another authority quoted is Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, described by JPost as "a Jewish human rights group in Los Angeles". Quoting the author of a book on " Demonizing Israel and the Jews", he claims that some 150 million Europeans harbor extreme anti-Israel and/or anti-Jewish attitudes.” and says “A quarter of European Jews fear being seen manifesting their Jewish identity in public. ” He says “According to media reports, Klug has said that ‘Zionism prevents Jews from having a normal conception of their life.’ ", and suggests - quite erroneously, that Brian would say the same about the Jews in the 1920s and 1930s.

 So it seems the good Rabbi not only regards anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments as interchangable, and makes no distinction between different historical periods, but he is prepared to make judgments about a genuine Jewish scholar on the basis of "media reports" about what he wrote, rather than having read Brian Klug for himself.  Perhaps that "according to media reports" was meant as a caution, but this is a poor example of rabbinical wisdom and justice.
In an email to the Post, Klug wrote, “The dossier compiled by [the Berlin International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism] is a classic example of a kangaroo court. It distorts my work, misrepresents my views and maligns my character.

Reading it, I felt a little like Socrates at his trial: he opened his defense by saying that listening to his accusers he almost forgot who he was.”

Klug added, “Rabbi Cooper refers to a comment I made about Zionism. The quote is completely out of context. If he is interested, I would gladly send him the text of the lecture I have written for Berlin (but after the event, of course) and then he can make up his own mind about whether I am an appropriate speaker. I extend the same offer to you and to your readers.”
One of my first jobs for Brent Trades Union Council, at the behest of the late Ben Rickman (a fellow member of Unite the union, but also a member of Wembley synagogue) was to write a letter to the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in response to an international campaign they had initiated branding London mayor Ken Livingston an antisemite, and blaming him for both real and imagined instances of antisemitism. They never did reply. But then nor did they reply to two letters from the Jewish community in Oslo complaining that they had circulated a quite fictitious allegation concerning antisemitism in Norway. If we poor Jews in Europe "fear" to speak up for ourselves, then Rich Uncle in the USA will look after us - whatever we say.

  Last year, Berlin’s Jewish Museum came under fire for hosting Judith Butler, a professor in the rhetoric and comparative literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley. She told a sold-out audience of 700 at the museum that she accepts a “version of a boycott” against Israel, and stressed that the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement is “non-violent resistance” against Israel. Neither Professor Butler nor the museum have been forgiven.

Dr. Shimon Samuels, who heads the European office of the Wiesenthal Center, wrote an appeal on Tuesday to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the website of the European Jewish Press. “Was the Berlin Jewish Museum created, at the cost of Germany’s taxpayers and international donations, to demonize Israel, serve as a fig leaf for anti- Semitism and to commit memoricide – the murder of the memory of those murdered?” Samuels asked.

He added, “Our center thus urges your chancellery to condemn the museum’s distortion of its role, launch an inquiry into its behavior and suspend public funding until a new management is appointed.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre has misappropriated the name of a famous Nazi hunter and now its spokesman misuses the blood of murdered Nazi victims to smear democratic institutions and demand the German authorities depose officials and shut up Jewish speakers who refuse to toe the right-wing Zionist party line. "Human rights"? You must be joking. After hearing so often that would be boycotters breached acadenic freedom we are seeing a posse of "experts", hacks and right-wing academics acting for the Thought Police!

Thanks to Jews for Justice for Palestinians for bringing this affair to my attention, and also for providing an online excerpt of what Brian Klug really said about "the new antisemitism".

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