Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, and the chasm between

Mirvis at anti-semitism rally

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis speaking against anti-semitism at the Royal Courts of Justice last weekend

Criticisms of Israel or Zionists, like any arguments, must be fair, proportionate, and unprejudiced.

And, though I hope this is already clear to everyone who can read this, there needs to be absolutely zero tolerance for anti-semitism in whatever holds itself to the standard of legitimate debate.

I want to go a step further than the Owen Jones article a few weeks ago. Not only should we expect those on the left, if their opposition to bigotry is sincere, to accept the widespread and growing presence of anti-semitism: they should also be expected to acknowledge the genuine problem of anti-semites who piggyback the Palestine solidarity movement. I might even contend we don’t do enough to call them out. Simply saying “we reject anti-semitism” isn’t adequate, those who conflate Judaism or all Jews/Israelis with Zionism need to be repeatedly exposed and delegitimised (as do their arguments).

If Gideon Levy is spat at on the street, and then stabbed in the back by the same group he’s hiding in his apartment for, what on Earth’s the point? Stabbed in the back may sound extreme, but I’m really not kidding. Plenty of folks still see Hamas as a solely liberatory organisation whose central concern is for the struggle (rather than as religiously authoritarian theocrats and theonomists) after one of its primary spokespeople, Osama Hamdan, refused to apologise for the statement “we all remember how Jews used to slaughter Christians in order to mix their blood in holy matzoh”. I remember eating matzoh with my family while growing up, and I can assure everybody there were no gentile fluids in them. I would laugh if blood libel wasn’t so serious.

Those who pretend plutocracy is constituted singly – even primarily – by Jews, or forget that Jewish nationalism is only as bad as many other forms of religious nationalism/theocracy (when was Dominionism, which undoubtedly played a massive part in the US militarism in West Asia post-911, last condemned as strongly and widely by the left as Zionism) that have plagued humanity, can’t be trusted to manage an issue as emotive, historically-rooted, complex, or nuanced as the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Not all Jews are Zionists, not all Zionists are Jews, and neither are all Israelis Jews or Zionists. The propagation of this mantra is looking increasingly necessary.

With the above in mind I wouldn’t trust Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis either. A man who writes in a Telegraph opinion piece that Israel’s population would be slaughtered (or allowed to be), were they to lay down their arms, can’t be taken seriously… to take him seriously would give cover to a talking point that has typically been used to obfuscate practical discussion of the occupation. This would be sufficiently awful, but Chief Rabbi Mirvis continues on to say he honestly believes the current Israeli government’s goal is to minimise Palestinian and Israeli civilian casualties. Neither of these claims are substantiated by the evidence, but then that’s never stopped the pro-war or pro-Zionist lobbies in the past.

“While criticism of Israel is legitimate and justifiable, it cannot be an excuse – in any way, shape or form – for anti-semitism.” – Tariq Ramadan


I cannot believe I still have to protest this shit

Woman protesting the Michael Brown shooting.

The photo, and the message in it, is viral for a reason.

Welcome to the 21st century, and minorities in the supposedly civilised world still have an extra reason to fear our law enforcement.

The police’s desperate attempts to smear Michael Brown with their rather delayed autopsy only further condemn them (he had weed in his system, the horror), and feed on one of the oldest racist tropes: namely that, if you barely scratch away the surface, black men are just dangerous criminals who deserve to be shot down – after the slightest transgressions – for the good of the community. On this occasion with at least 6 bullets at medium range, 2 travelling through the poor man’s skull.

So, yeah, this woman is right. It is truly unbelievable that we have to protest a growing, militarised police state, and its role in the entrenchment of oppression against historically marginalised groups, in 2014.

“Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited, and abandoned, everything is war.” – Bob Marley (quoting Haile Selassie I in “War“)

Palestine’s problems go well beyond its borders

My friend Jack reminds us why Zionists, either historically or today, were never the only thorn in the side of self-determination for indigenous Palestinians. West Asia’s Arab states also have a lot to answer for.

Mendel Politics

After nearly 100 years of conflict for Palestine, it’s time to realise that this desperate situation is the result of regional interests of many parties, and not merely the consequence of Israel’s existence.

Palestine’s lack of existence as a state, is the result of many factors, but perhaps most importantly, a lack of support from supposed neighbouring allies.

This situation is capitalised on by Israel, who are willing to do their neighbour’s ‘dirty’ work of removing the Palestinian’s last vestige of National struggle. Conveniently, Israel are willing to take the blame for it too; provided they are not seriously challenged in terms of their existence politically or militarily.

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Why is it like it is?

In the aftermath of World War One, Britain and France shaped the region. They wanted to ensure access to major trading routes via the Suez. So, with the prospect of decolonisation of the Ottoman empire, the inheritors split up the region and ensued a policy of disunity…

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Israel, Palestine, Israel-Palestine, West Bank, Gaza, Zionism, Anti-Zionism, Nationalism, Humanism, Religion

I refuse to occupy. I refuse to be occupied.

Just over a month has passed since my last piece, and no small reason for this has been the trouble I’ve had putting pen to paper. The issue of Israel and Palestine, Jews and Zionists, has been a focus of my life … much as it is for the world now and long before I was born. My aunt used the right of return and after making Aliyah from the Netherlands lived in Israel for many years, before being labelled a “goyim” (derogatory word for a non-Jew, or a Jew who’s ignorant of the Jewish religion) and insufficiently Jewish when she asked for permanent citizenship. Indignant, she invoked the memory of my family who, nearly extinguished during the Holocaust, wouldn’t stand for Israeli questioning of her identity, my identity, as a Jew. Which brings me to why my hands are typing these words, I want to tell the story of Jewish identity, Jewish liberation, and the narrative that combines these things. And, most of all, why the Jewish narrative can’t be Zionism’s.

As with all stories it’s best to start at the beginning. With technological advancements, and an ever more interconnected world, perhaps increases in Jewish migration to the Levant were inevitable. Though Jewish migration to Palestine, in the late 19th/early 20th century particularly, was of course also largely spurred on by spikes in Europe-wide persecution (waves in an always present anti-semitic sentiment are littered throughout history, the 17th century Polish king Khmelnytsky murdered a third of the Jews under his rule) and the newly formed Zionist ideology (generally considered to have been founded in the 1890s by Herzi’s Der Judenstaat).

It’s important to remember that living in the “Land of Israel” has always been encouraged as many of the Torah’s mitzvot (“religious commandments”, such as tilling the soil near Jerusalem at certain times) cannot be fulfilled unless one is in the Holy Land, in fact the Midrash halakhah’s sifre says the commandment to live in Israel is more important than the other 612 combined.

But, and oh so crucially, migration to Israel and habitation is not the same as the establishment of a nation-state. Especially not a state predicated on a religious nationalism, one that creates an underclass through the elevation of the Jewish ethno-religious group above others. The idea that Jews, because of their tribe and their religion, should have rights superior to their counterparts – naturally, enforced by government – is anathema to everything I know and feel about the faith they claim to hold so dear.

To talk of superior rights isn’t the worst of it, not every Zionist refuses to question non-Jews’ right to exist in their presence (or right to exist at all), as Jewish-only roads and 150 Jewish-only settlements demonstrate. To take an even more extreme case, the Chief Rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba, Dov Lior, described the mass-murderer and member of the Jewish supremacist group “Kach” (denounced by even right-wing Israeli members of the Knesset as an extremist organisation and eventually banned in 1994), Baruch Goldstein, as “holier than all the martyrs of the Holocaust”. Words that should, might I add, make any with a true understanding of the lessons of the Axis’ horrors sick, words that amount to the desecration of my butchered family’s graves. Dov Lior has also asked that the Bedouin be given incentives to leave Israel so they can “return to their native land”, claimed “a thousand non-Jews aren’t worth a Jew’s fingernail”, said he’d flatten Beirut if it meant he could save one Israeli soldier’s life, kill non-Jewish babies in time of war, and has described Obama as “the kushi (a Hebrew word comparable, according to some, to nigger) of the west” and Arabs as “evil camel riders”.

On the 30th September, a mere month having passed since the end of Protective Edge, Dov Lior insisted that the Israeli government “must strive to clean the entire country [of Palestinians]” and “there will never be peace” because “there is no one to make peace with”. If that wasn’t enough, he came out with the claims “this is their [Palestinians’] character, they are for war” and Arabs “know how to lead a democratic government just like I know how to deal with camels”. The man’s fixation on camels, topsy-turvily, might outstrip the apparently excessive one exhibited by those he mocks.

The earliest Jewish olim (“migrants”), it’s been argued by a massive margin, came with an unshakeable belief in the socialist, secular, and humanist ideals. One of the founders of the kibbutz movement, Joseph Baratz, famously declared: “We were happy enough working on the land, but we knew more and more certainly that the ways of the old settlements were not for us. This was not the way we hoped to settle the country – this old way with Jews on top and Arabs working for them; anyway, we thought that there shouldn’t be employers and employed at all. There must be a better way.”

There is a better way. And we can find it by living up to Hitler’s description of us and gypsies as “enemies of the race-based state”. Of the Holocaust’s 11 million victims, 6 million were Jews worked to death as slaves or murdered in what we described as the Shoah (Hebrew for “whole-burning”), and 2 million were gypsies killed in what the Romani called the Porajmos (“the devouring”). Swept up in the Nazis’ cult of death were socialists, Slavs, non-heterosexuals, and countless others. And it is important to remember the systematic slaughter of state-sponsored genocide was no more tragic than that by the Reich’s armies as they marched across Europe, Asia, and Africa killing tens of millions of innocents.

Enemies of the race-based state Jews are, and the blood-soaked walls of race are built higher than maybe any one of us could climb. But whether these walls are of the mind, or the very real apartheid that carves the Palestinian land in to fragile pieces, we should pull them apart brick by brick until the barriers of hate are but a distant nightmare.

The word for messiah comes from the Hebrew “mashiah”, and the Jews believe he will arrive to free all of humanity from the shackles of ignorance, war, and slavery. It is the Torah’s commandment for Jews to live in peace with whatever city gives them shelter, and the belief in liberation deeply instilled by the stories of Moses and the Exodus, that reminds us our love of peace must come before everything else. The scholars and teachers warned that for the Jews’ fear of oppression to truly end, we must end oppression itself. If we allow injustice, oppressor and oppressed, to exist anywhere, we abdicate our place as children of God.

And as the children of God, those who believe in the essence of Abraham’s and his spiritual descendants’ teachings, will know – this life is a test. A test to see whether we can leave those who believe in peace to live in peace, as there can be no greater gauge of our worthiness to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than our striving to create it on Earth. Whether it be to a member of Hamas who sees an Israeli civilian’s life as anything less than precious, or to a brute in Likud who sees the corpse of a Palestinian child as mere “collateral”, we should say, to take a line from the Jewish and Muslim holy texts, “to save one life is to save humankind”.

Never again. And never forget. Under the roar of war and Israeli guns is drowned not only the dreams of the Palestinian people, but the culture, history, and soul of the Jewish people as well. When we realise this, when every pilgrim can pray in silence, maybe the Holy Land will be worthy of its sacred title. As the saying goes, until all are free, we are each in chains.

This is why I support the Gazan struggle not in spite of my Jewishness, but because of it.


Shalom aleichem. As-salamu alaykum. Peace be with you.



Labour Spin [Young Greens]

Miliband, Ed Miliband, the Sun, Sun

Another henchman Murdoch can add to the list.


My first piece for the Green Party. Written for the Young Greens in the wake of the People’s Assembly demo, and as a response to Labour’s policy proposal on young people’s benefits.

Ed Miliband’s announcement that he would cut unemployment benefits for 18 to 21’s is the latest proof that the Labour establishment, despite protestations to the contrary by some of their MPs and supporters, are pushing the same pro-austerity narrative as their opponents across the aisle in parliament.

Our government will often smear those opposed to slashing essential services by saying they are “economically irresponsible”, or don’t believe in fiscal prudence on behalf of the state. Few people actually advocate spending beyond one’s means in any context, so what the Conservatives or their partners won’t add is the fact – as those with the People’s Assembly in London yesterday demonstrated – this debate boils down infinitely more to how we spend taxpayers’ money rather than whether we do or not.

Osborne’s tax cut for the highest bracket, the coalition’s utter failure to crackdown on tax havens, their continued complicity in massive domestic and international subsidies for non-renewables, their push for British intervention in Syria, just to name a few things, all point towards an abject lack of priorities on the part of the political mainstream. But, rather than call it out as enthusiastically as they should, Labour is debasing themselves by jumping on the bash-the-poor bandwagon that leads to small-fry attacks on people as irrelevant to the crash as the unemployed young.

Since graduating from Reading last summer I’ve gone from temporary work at a local restaurant, to a journalism training course in London, to volunteering at my local British Heart Foundation store in Winchester. And, in-between each of these desperate attempts at finding a living, the already paltry allowance I receive has played a key role in allowing me any kind of normal life. Were it not for the kindness of my parents, who have helped me however they can by giving me a place to stay when I needed one … I don’t know how I would have got by.

I’ve lived on the edge, and rather than pull me back from the precipice Labour would push me further in to the poverty I and countless others have had to endure.

First Aid for Bees

Saddens me that so few seem to care about such a crucial part of our biosphere and civilisation. Some estimate, as alluded to below, that a third of our food supply would be cut off without Anthophila’s pollinating.

My beautiful garden and flowers were much of the colour in what was thankfully a rather idyllic, rural childhood. But I have to ask, without bees, could any of my children enjoy the same happiness I felt? Though that question of sustainability is at the centre of most environmental and animal issues, isn’t it.

Kindness Blog

As you may already know, Bees crucial to many crops are still dying at a worrisome rate:

Over the past few years, bee populations have been dying at a rate the U.S. government says is economically unsustainable. Honey bees pollinate plants that produce about a quarter of the food consumed by Americans, including apples, almonds, watermelons and beans, according to government reports.

Redditor ‘mmiu’ shared this lovely piece of advice:

“Summer is coming. If you see a bee on the floor still, it may not be dead, it may be exhausted and need of a drink. Melt some sugar in water to help it.”

First Aid for Bees

To understand a little more about whybees are disappearing, please watch this video and share with your friends below...

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Good Luck Explaining This To Your Grandchildren

Keep Calm and Fuck UKIP

And remember to vote Green next time,  it’s good for your health.

My reaction to UKIP‘s success and victories of the far-right across Europe was mirrored nicely yesterday by Occupy London, probably good I waited to share it as I might be able to unleash a torrent of expletives on facebook but God knows who might stumble across my blog. And before anybody pipes up, the Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza), the United Left (Izquierda Unida), et al are little consolation. Advances by the left were, mostly, seen in the smaller EU states or by parties near the political centre.

Germany will be electing their first Nazi representative since the Second World War and the Front National, who require no introduction, wiped the floor with the centrist/leftist parties in France. Similar groupings to the NF did as well, or nearly as well, in places such as Austria, Hungary, Denmark, and Greece.

How long will it take for people to realise that attacking immigrants, the unemployed, refugees, or religious and ethnic minorities, take your pick, will not give them back their hope for prosperity?

We’ve been robbed, are being robbed (to an extent never seen before with TTIP and TPP) not by the people who have nothing, but by the people who have everything. As long as we allow these inherently divisive xenophobes, neoliberals, and neo-fascists to rule over us, nothing will change.

BBC News won’t tell our side of the narrative because the very people theGreen Party of England and WalesThe People’s Assembly, and so on are criticising – corporatists and the wealthy elite – also happen to be the mainstream media’s paymasters. The predominantly right-wing media will blame European immigrants and the vulnerable of all shades because they have to blame somebody, clearly, for what’s happening. But can we really be surprised they won’t level blame at the real culprits?

My Dutch Jewish grandmother barely made it through the occupation, and not everybody else in her family was so lucky. In a sense I’m a survivor, nearly unborn, so I must ask myself … does Europe need to survive another wave of this hatred? Its object may change, Muslims and migrants, rather than Jews and gypsies, but the end is always the same: pain. Until all are free no one ever will be, and, like the oppressed, the oppressor must suffer.

“I don’t believe it’s possible to be neutral. The world is already moving in certain directions. And to be neutral, to be passive, in a situation like that, is to collaborate with what is going on. And I, as a teacher, don’t want to be a collaborator.” – Howard Zinn (You Can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train)