I post to Facebook almost every day. Sometimes I post thoughts that occur to me at that particular moment, sometimes they are spurred by a headline I’ve just read somewhere on the web and I will share a link to the article that I may or may not have fully read. Sharing an article never means that I endorse, even temporarily, what is stated in the article or the viewpoint of the author. It just means that at that moment I find it interesting. I’m not trying to proselystize for the point of view expressed. If I want to do that I will explicitly endorse that point of view – it will be clear what is my point of view and what is not.
At the beginning of this month I received a letter, by post, from the Governance and Legal Unit of the Labour Party (GLULP) saying that there had been complaints about some of my FB posts and that I was under investigation for them. The central complaint seems to have been that I had, over a period of seven years (the letter referenced posts going back to 2012) I had shared a number of links to articles written by Gilad Atzmon. There is a contention that Atzmon is ‘antisemitic’ and that as a consequence of this it is wrong to share or discuss anything he has to say. After a long discussion with my friend Dan Carter on Facebook I conceded that it was fair to say that Atzmon is antisemitic. My conclusion was and is as follows:
In questioning the assertion that Atzmon is antisemitic I have suggested that context, including motivation and intent is important. I accept that it is not important in making the assertion of antisemitism. In a court of law a crime will be judged to have occured or not occured, but the response to the crime will take motivation and intent into consideration. Similarly I take motivation and intent into consideration when responding to what I must now admit to be Atzmon’s antisemitism.
I note that Atzmon near enough explains his own antipathy and admits his antisemitism in the opening paragraph of the article we have been discussing:
> In the light of the growing discussion initiated by Israeli politicians and Zionist enthusiasts regarding the eruption of new anti-Semitism I am here to announce as loudly as I can: there is no anti-Semitism any more. In the devastating reality created by the Jewish state, anti-Semitism has been replaced by political reaction. I am not suggesting that Jewish interests are not being mutilated and vandalized. I am not saying that synagogues aren’t being attacked, that Jewish graves are not brutally smashed up. I am saying that these acts, that In the light of the growing discussion initiated by Israeli politicians and Zionist enthusiasts regarding the eruption of new anti-Semitism I am here to announce as loudly as I can: there is no anti-Semitism any more. In the devastating reality created by the Jewish state, anti-Semitism has been replaced by political reaction. I am not suggesting that Jewish interests are not being mutilated and vandalized. I am not saying that synagogues aren’t being attacked, that Jewish graves are not brutally smashed up. I am saying that these acts, that are in no way legitimate, should be seen as political responses rather than racially motivated acts or ‘irrational’ hate crimes. If Israel is the state of the Jewish people and the Jewish people themselves do not stand up collectively against the crimes that are committed on their behalf, then every Jewish person, Jewish symbol and Jewish object becomes an Israeli interest and a potential terrorist target. It is up to the Jewish people to take a stand against their Jewish state and to disassociate themselves from their zealous national movement., should be seen as political responses rather than racially motivated acts or ‘irrational’ hate crimes. If Israel is the state of the Jewish people and the Jewish people themselves do not stand up collectively against the crimes that are committed on their behalf, then every Jewish person, Jewish symbol and Jewish object becomes an Israeli interest and a potential terrorist target. It is up to the Jewish people to take a stand against their Jewish state and to disassociate themselves from their zealous national movement.<
I note that Atzmon explicitly says that acts of violence against Jews and Jewish targets ‘are in no way legitimate’ so he is not endorsing violence or what are rightly called ‘hate crimes’ for any reason. He argues that antipathy towards Jews is politically and not racially motivated. I have said earlier, and I reiterate, it is not morally legitimate to blame all members of an ethnic group for actions of some. It is not morally or logically legitimate for Atzmon to rhetorically attack and make unevidenced statements against Jews in general any more that it is legitimate to perpetrate or advocate violence against Jews in general but rhetorical attacks are not physical attacks. Do they encourage physical attacks? That is arguable and is certainly an argument (beyond general principles) for Atzmon moderating his language.
Should my admission necessarily mean that I come to the following conclusions:
1. It is wrong for anyone to read and to discuss anything that Atzmon has to say.
2. That because he has said things that are clearly unfair and incorrect about a subject that he therefore has nothing of value to say on that subject.
3. Because of what he has said it is right that individuals decide not only that they do not wish to hear him but that they should stop him speaking and to stop other individuals listening to him.
My apparent defense of Atzmon is not primarily a defense of Atzmon it is a defense of the principle of freedom of discourse. I cannot and do not defend Atzmon’s errors and excesses but in a climate where that principle is under serious threat I think it is important to think long and hard about what we are conceding if we concede the points I have just listed.
It is not morally or logically legitimate for Atzmon to rhetorically attack and make unevidenced statements against Jews in general
If the term ‘antisemitism’ denotes evident antipathy towards Jews in general or to American Jews in general then I cannot defend Atzmon against the charge of antisemitism. However I don’t consider him to be a ‘hater’ and, while he shows bias and makes erroneous assertions, nothing he says puts him beyond the margins of civilised discourse.
But it is not my intention to defend Atzmon or David Icke (who I was also charged with referencing a couple of times) or any other pundit. It is my intention to defend freedom of thought and freedom of discourse.
Curiously the color I chose (quite unintentionally) for the section headline ‘Thought Crimes’ turns out to have the hexadecimal value ‘1984b2’. Spooky or what?
Colin Monehen announced on Sunday he had been shortlisted to be the Labour candidate for Epping Forest in northeast London.
But the party emailed at 1pm on Wednesday telling him he had been removed from the shortlist “after due diligence.” They gave no specifics, Monehen told The Electronic Intifada.
Sometimes the law is a reall ass. I think that jailing this man was somewhat harsh. Were I the magistrate I would have ordered community service. Sweeping up leaves.
It’s impossible, unnecessary and undesirable for me to pay attention to everything that’s happening in our world but the situation in Syria has interested me for some time. Andrew Ashdown comments regarding the linked article:
” President Assad yesterday gave a wide-ranging interview. It is a pity that those outside the country who claim to care for the future of Syria are unlikely to listen, and that it is not likely to even be mentioned in western media, except possibly to be misquoted or twisted, which is why I share the full text here. As always, President Assad speaks with clarity and wisdom. He exhibits pragmatism about the realities on the ground and strategies for dealing with those complexities; determination to resist terrorism and restore the territorial integrity of the nation whilst recognising the need to consider the interests of different communities; appreciation for the assistance of allies, especially the vital role being played by Russia in the region; and determination to preserve the constitutional plurality of Syrian society in whatever emerges from current and future processes, in which it is Syrians who must decide the future of the nation. “
Andrew is a friend on Facebook and I met him in person once, a couple of years ago, at an ‘Imperialism on Trial’ meeting.
On the first day of the month I woke early to meet Dean Armond in Forest Gate. He had invited me to be interviewed for his ‘Drive with Dean’ show on local radio station Revive FM. It is flattering than anyone should be interested in listening to me talk so I accepted the invitation and talked.
I talked about education mostly, about being a former school teacher and then a youth worker, about retiring and the part time and occasional work that I still do with children and now with adults. I spoke also about my blogging/social media/writing ambitions.
The interview made me think that November should be a month for serious reflection.
November has of course been the month leading up to what will the most significant election of the past quarter century. I’m not going to say much about this. I’ve posted pretty constantly on the subject over the past four weeks. Despite the polls showing a substantial Tory lead I think Labour will win or or win enough seats to be able to for a coalition government with the SNP, because they offer some hope while the prospect of a Johnson led Conservative government offers only despair.
At the end of this month Boris Johnson’s father Stanley objected to his son being derided as a ‘Pinoccio’ and suggested that the great British public probably couldn’t spell ‘Pinocchio’. I wasn’t sure whether it was two n’s or two c’s myself, but we all know who Pinocchio is and what it means to call someone a Pinocchio. We know too that with the help of his conscience, Jimminy Cricket, Pinocchio stopped being a lying puppet and became a real boy. Unfortunately Boris Johnson has no chance of becoming authentic as he squelched his Jimminy Cricket long ago. No one seems to know how Jeremy Corbyn came to be called the ‘absolute boy’ but it is a sweet counterpoint to Johnson’s ‘Pinocchio’.