Daily Archives: 26 April 2006

How does deliberate misrepresentation help promote understanding?

The debate raging over anti-semitism is confusing at the best of times. Generally speaking I have quite a lot of time for the argument that it is creeping back into fashion by the back door and that we should be less tolerant of lazy rhetoric that blurs the lines between judaism, zionism and the state of Israel. This quote by Sue Blackwell taken from Hirsh’s own website illustrates the scale of the problem quite succinctly:

…increasingly these days I find myself having acrimonious exchanges, usually by email, with people whose messages start by expressing their support for my stand on Palestine and then continue with ‘I think you ought to read this.’

‘This’ often consists of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which for a document over a hundred years old has weathered remarkably well. It crops up everywhere on the internet, including the weblogs of people who claim to be campaigners for Palestinian rights. I had a graduate student in my office not long ago, a highly intelligent young man who is a member of a socialist party in the UK. He told me in all seriousness that I really ought to read this incredible exposé of a world Jewish conspiracy, which was apparently new to him.

Dave Hirsh however crosses the line into batshit craziness. I would have agreed with him if his argument about this article by Chris Davies MEP should not have made crass comparisons between Jews being burnt in Auschwitz with the Palesinian situation. Why does the fact that 6 million Jews were wiped out by the Nazi’s make it incumbant on any Jews to behave with more humanity than anyone else? There’s also a wider double standard here that sneaks into lazy thinking (which I’m not accusing Chris Davies of): the horrors of the Holocaust are supposed to have taught the Jews a lesson on how to behave, while the comparatively less horrific (though doubtless intolerable) experience of the Palestinian ghetto, according to some, lets suicide bombers off the hook.

Unfortunately though, Hirsh decides to overegg the pudding quite appallingly. Not content with a mere critique, he comes up with the extraordinary premise that if you squint a little bit, take a quotation out of context and disengage your critical faculties for a second, what Chris Davies is actually saying is that all Jews, not the state of Israel, “appear not to care that they have themselves become oppressors.” This is transparent nonsense. Whatever my doubts about the efficacy of raising the Holocaust it is quite clear that Davies is referring to Israel and not “all Jews”. In fact, he doesn’t use the word “Jews” anywhere in the article. Despite this, Hirsh puts “Jews” in quotation marks in this article a grand total of eight times. This is a wilful misinterpretation, and given this and the fact that Hirst is explicitly calling him racist, I suspect that Davies would have quite strong grounds for legal action.

How does this sort of over the top nonsense actually help anything? By all means be critical of Davies here – I have – but screaming “RACIST!!!” at the drop of a hat does nothing to help understanding on either side. It is quite simply pathetic, a partisan broadside that is intended to cause a ruckus.

In Hirsh’s commentisfree profile, he states that he “endorses the manifesto.” Yes, in Hirsh’s world, the Euston Manifesto – in less than a fortnight – has become THE manifesto, suggesting that he is not only obnoxious, intellectually dishonest and lazy, but quite unbearably pretentious as well. If this is the sort of rot that the “new left” comes up with, I don’t fancy its chances.