UNESCO is a “diplomatic version of Isis” (& “Let’s be clear: anti-Semitism is a hate apart”)

October 24, 2016



1. UNESCO is a “diplomatic version of Isis”
2. This is the third country to say they regret the way they voted. So why did they vote to deny that Judaism is intrinsically tied to Jerusalem in the first place?
3. 6000-word smear in the New York Times
4. For The New Yorker, Tel Aviv is a “ghost town”
5. An address to those European MPs who decided to attend
6. “Let’s be clear – anti-Semitism is a hate apart” (By Howard Jacobson, The Observer / Guardian, October 23, 2016)
7. “Anti-Semitic Anti-Zionism” (By Roger Cohen, New York Times, October 18, 2016)



[Notes below by Tom Gross]

Photo above: Thousands of Muslims pray in front of the Coliseum in Rome last Friday (Oct. 21, 2016).

There is a video of the Rome prayers here.

News reports said the worshippers also chanted Allahu Akhbar (Allah is the greatest) and “there is no God but Allah”.

A subscriber to this list from Rome writes:

“Pope Francis, take note, before Rome will also be declared to be an Islamic heritage site with no connection to ancient Rome or Catholicism, just as Jerusalem was declared by UNESCO last week to have no connection to Judaism or ancient Jerusalem.”

Tom Gross adds:: The director of the Israel Antiquities Authority (who is himself a Jewish refugee from Damascus) strongly criticized UNESCO for its resolution on Jerusalem last week, saying that what the UN cultural body was doing by diplomatic means to Judaism and Israel was what Islamic State jihadists had done by physical means in their destruction and looting of hundreds of archaeological sites in Syria and Iraq.



Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi called the resolution adopted by UNESCO last week, “shocking” and “inconceivable,” and said he was summoning Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni today to find out why Italy abstained instead of voting against it. “To say that the Jews have no link to Jerusalem is like saying the sun creates darkness,” Renzi told reporters on Friday.

The Mexican foreign ministry has also said it has launched an internal investigation to examine why Mexico’s UNESCO representatives voted in favor of the resolution against the instructions of the Mexican president.

A government spokesperson in Brazil, which voted in favor of the resolution, also said that Brazil now regrets the Palestinian-orchestrated vote.

Lawmakers in the Czech Parliament’s lower house condemned UNESCO, passing a resolution in Prague condemning “hateful, anti-Israel” campaign at the UN which “fuels international anti-Semitism.” Only the four members of the Communist Party voted against the motion.



Supposedly honest media are still too often engaging in smear campaigns against Israel. Note, for example, the 6,000-word piece that the New York Times Sunday magazine ran yesterday by the notorious New York-based, Israeli freelance writer Ruth Margalit, in which she uses terms like “fascist state” when writing about Israel.

Meanwhile, the actual Israel continues to do good work both at home and abroad, not that many New York Times or Guardian or Le Monde readers would know this.

For example, here:

How An Israeli NGO Is Combating Rape In South Sudan (October 21, 2016)



I have previously noted Ruth Margalit’s laughable descriptions of Israel in the New Yorker. For example in 2013, I had a lengthy email exchange with a Jewish American friend who has never been to Israel. He sent me what he called a “must read” piece by Margalit in the New Yorker, in which (among other things) Margalit alleged that Netanyahu had so deprived the Israeli economy that Tel Aviv was now a “ghost town”.

The streets of Tel Aviv were, I wrote to my friend, having been out and about in Tel Aviv all day, “literally thriving and bubbling with life, at least as much as London or New York”.

The problem is that my friend was disinclined to believe me. He prefers to believe that the New Yorker (and the New York Times, and the New York Review of Books), with its award-winning writers and editors, and its famous fact checkers, was actually interested in telling the truth about Israel. The sly anti-Semitism of the kind employed by too many journalists means otherwise reasonable and intelligent readers are taken in, just as too many people were in the last century too.

And then when there is a notable increase of anti-Semitism, as there has been for example among the leadership of the main opposition British Labour Party, some writers, such as former New York Times foreign editor and now New York Times columnist Roger Cohen (piece below) wonder why there is so much Israel-hating “new anti-Semitism” emerging among fellow leftists.

The effect of these constant falsehoods in mainstream media is that even some of my friends who are generally sympathetic to Israel, but have never been there, start to believe them.



To their credit, the very publications that have done so much to stir up this “new anti-Semitism” through their extreme exaggerations or outright lies or out of context reporting, are now publishing occasional pieces denouncing it.

Below I attach a piece from yesterday's Observer (the Sunday sister publication of the Guardian, with which it shares a website). And after that a piece by Roger Cohen from a week ago in The New York Times.

If you have time, it is also worth listening to this 20-minute address by former British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, made three weeks ago in the European Parliament.

Sacks was opening a conference on the future of Jewish communities in Europe hosted by Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament.

Sacks at times seems in some respects slightly alarmist, but most of his fundamental points are surely correct, especially what he has to say about how anti-Semites have in our era hijacked the international human rights movement, just as in the past they hijacked the scientific and medical community in Nazi Europe.

See also past articles on The New York Times and The Guardian. Among them:

* All The News That’s Fit To Print?

* New Prejudices for Old

-- Tom Gross



Let’s be clear – anti-Semitism is a hate apart
By Howard Jacobson
The Observer
October 23, 2016

To the question posed by the parliamentary committee last week, as to whether Shami Chakrabarti’s soft inquiry into antisemitism in the Labour party was a whitewash for which Corbyn brazenly rewarded her with a peerage, or evidence of a deep-seated reluctance to take the subject seriously, there is unlikely to be a satisfactory answer.

Where people are convinced of their own rectitude – and Corbyn and Chakrabarti belong to the more un-self-questioning wing of British politics – there is no separating what they know from what they don’t want to know.

The Chakrabarti inquiry didn’t fail, it was stillborn. Corbyn has always defended himself against the charge of antisemitism by protesting his freedom from all racisms – an insistence that feels like an evasion and blurs a crucial distinction – and the moment Chakrabarti widened the terms of her inquiry likewise, there was no hope for it.

To assert that antisemitism is unlike other racisms is not to claim a privilege for it. Hating a Jew is no worse than hating anyone else. But while many a prejudice is set off by particular circumstance – the rise in an immigrant population or a locally perceived threat – antisemitism is, as often as not, unprompted, exists outside time and place and doesn’t even require the presence of Jews to explain it. When Marlowe and Shakespeare responded to an appetite for anti-Jewish feeling in Elizabethan England, there had been no Jews in the country for 300 years. Jewishness, for its enemies, is as much an idea as it is anything else.

The part played by Jews in the evolution of Christianity has much to do with this. In the popular imagination, the Jew is the killer of Christ. To a philosopher like Nietzsche, the Jew is culpable not for rejecting Christianity but for inventing it. For cultures unable to make up their minds, whether they are heathen or Christian – remember those demonstrations of Teutonic paganism on the streets of Christian Germany 80 years ago – the Jew fits the bill of villain twice.

If the Jew transmogrified into the Devil for the medieval church, he retained his devilish characteristics as Christian sentiment found other places to express itself, early socialism being one of them. Weighted down with his Judas moneybags, rootless, usurous, conspiratorial and believing himself to be “chosen”, the Jew glided seamlessly into the demonology of the left. Not always, it should be said, without his own connivance. Many Jews have found one or other version of socialism compatible with their religious faith, while others have been quick to embrace a secular system in whose name they can jettison that faith altogether. The presence of a Jew in any movement no more guarantees it to be innocent of antisemitism than guilty. And that applies to anti-Zionism, too. Anti-Zionist Jews exist, but that tells one nothing about anti-Zionism.

It is here, in the matter of the existence of the state of Israel, that all the ancient superstitions about Jews find a point of confluence. We dance around this subject, afraid to confront it full on. But it has to be addressed: partly because all that has been thought about Jews in the past has a home in what we think about Israel now and partly because it is axiomatic to Labour that Zionism is a racist ideology – from which it follows that anti-Zionism cannot be called racist; we will not fix antisemitism, in the Labour party or anywhere else, until we fix Israel. I don’t mean fix its problems, I mean fix the way we talk about it.

The mantra bedevilling reasonable conversation about Israel is that the Jews have only one motive in labelling anti-Zionism antisemitic and that is to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel. This assertion defames Jews, the majority of whom, in my experience, take issue not with the idea of legitimate criticism, but with what in any given instance “legitimacy” amounts to. Criticism is not an inviolable concept. It can be moderate or extreme, truthful or mendacious, well-intentioned or malign. To complain when it is unjust is not to shut down debate. It cannot be exorbitant to argue that what will determine whether criticism of Israel is antisemitic is the nature of the criticism.

The effect of a libel is to exhaust trust. It should not be automatically assumed that, when it comes to Israel, Jews are incapable of arguing honestly, an assumption that itself edges dangerously close to the racism that is being denied. We need to separate this from that. No, “legitimate” (that is to say fair and honest) criticism of Israel as a nation among nations does not amount to antisemitism. Anti-Zionism, on the other hand – the repudiation of Israel’s right to exist – almost invariably does.

Zionism originated as a liberation movement. It grew out of an urgent concern, voiced by 19th-century Jews and gentiles alike, for the safety and wellbeing of Jews, and concluded that only if they had their own country would the deracinated Jews of Europe and elsewhere, including the Middle East, be free from discrimination and persecution. To deny its necessity, whatever its subsequent disappointments and betrayals, is to deny history. Zionism took many forms, but neither conquest nor colonial expansionism was one of them. If anything, Zionism was marked by a dreamy, not to say utopian idealism. Jews would return to the land and work hand in hand with their Arab brethren in an amity that would benefit them both.

Not all Jews believed it would work. The world didn’t need another nationalism, internationalists argued. True, Jews had suffered at the hands of everybody else’s and it was bad luck on them if lifeboats were to be declared illegitimate just as it was their turn to jump, but history can be cruel. It got a little crueller later and many a critic of Zionism was forced to eat his words when the death camps emptied.

Is that me playing the Holocaust card? Maybe Jeremy Corbyn and Baroness Chakrabarti would think so. Maybe their rooted suspicion of Jewish motives explains the paltriness of Chakrabarti’s report and the insolence of Corbyn’s refusal to take any criticism of it on board. But the more the Labour party puts its fingers in its ears, the greater the perception of its deafness will become. We need to talk about Zion.



Anti-Semitic Anti-Zionism
By Roger Cohen
Op-Ed Columnist
New York Times
October 18, 2016

The hard left meeting the hard right is an old political story, as Hitler understood in calling his party the National Socialists. So in these days of turbulence it’s no surprise that the leftist supporters of Britain’s Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn should find common cause with the rightist backers of Donald Trump.

They like Vladimir Putin’s Russia even as he flattens Aleppo; they are anti-globalism; they are anti-establishment; they oppose or are skeptical of NATO, the cornerstone of the Western alliance; and they see a conspiracy of what Trump has called “global financial powers” behind everything.

Then there’s the fact that nearly half of female Labour MPs have accused Corbyn of failing to stop “disgusting and totally unacceptable” abuse of women by his supporters.

One difference exists, however. The movement of “Corbynistas” – an alliance of young leftist dreamers and old guard Leninists who have demolished Tony Blair’s centrist “New Labour” as comprehensively as Trump has hijacked the Republican Party – embraces an ideology. It’s anti-American and anti-Western and broadly anti-capitalist, much in the mode of Cold War Soviet sympathizers.

Trumpism, by contrast, is an anger-driven, conspiracy-fueled, scapegoat-manipulating, ideology-free movement dedicated to the elevation by any means of one man, portrayed as a savior, to the most powerful office in the world.

Corbyn is not really interested in power because power involves compromise and he is a self-regarding purist of the worst kind. His Labour Party will never win an election. Britain has been left in the hands of the pound-pummeling, self-destructing Brexiters of the Conservative Party, who see how careful they should have been about what they wished for. Their cause, exit from the European Union, now requires a plan. That’s awkward because specifics are a lot less sexy than the anti-Europe lies that got them this far.

Trump is solely interested in power. For Trump, power is policy.

So when Trump succumbs to tropes with a distinctly anti-Semitic undertow about the banks and financiers plotting the “destruction of U.S. sovereignty,” these are words, not a program, chosen for some of the vilest of his supporters. He’s a New Yorker after all. But when Corbyn and his extreme left backers engage in what the British political theorist Alan Johnson has called “anti-Semitic anti-Zionism,” something far more coherent and ideological is at work.

A cross-party parliamentary committee concluded this month that Corbyn has created a “safe space” for “those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people,” and that Labour’s passivity before anti-Semitic incidents risked “lending force to allegations that elements of the Labour movement are institutionally anti-Semitic.”

Even with British understatement that’s clear enough: Corbyn’s Labour Party has given free rein to anti-Semites.

Last June, Corbyn compared Israel to “self-styled Islamic states or organizations” – an allusion his staff insisted was to Muslim nations rather than the terrorist Islamic State, although Pakistan is not “self-styled” and ISIS is. He has been largely passive as Jewish Labour MP’s, including Luciana Berger and Ruth Smeeth, have had anti-Semitic insults hurled at them either in person or online. He elevated Baroness Chakrabarti to a peerage after she whitewashed Labour in an earlier report on anti-Semitism that spoke of “unhappy incidents” (oh, yes, so awfully unhappy) – a decision that left a “damaging impression,” in the words of the latest inquiry. He has called Hamas and Hezbollah agents “of long-term peace and social justice and political justice in the whole region,” and once invited to Parliament a Palestinian Islamist, Raed Salah, who has suggested Jews were absent from the World Trade Center on 9/11. He has attended an event organized by a pro-Palestinian group founded by an avowed Holocaust denier, Paul Eisen. He has permitted the word “Zio” – an anti-Semitic term used by the Ku Klux Klan – to become the modish slur in Labour circles on campuses and elsewhere.

Corbyn has rejected the cross-party report, saying it’s biased. Last month he called anti-Semitism “an evil” that must never be permitted “to fester in our society again.” He’s expressed regret for his embrace of Hamas and Hezbollah. Nobody believes him. The Labour leader hates the West and by extension Israel as a colonial power (not in the West Bank, where the settler movement makes the charge justifiable, but in its entirety) so much that he cannot see when this hatred merges into anti-Semitism. “He’s in denial,” as Rachel Sylvester of The Times of London told me. His ideology leads to a position that Johnson expresses well: “That which the demonological Jew once was, demonological Israel now is.”

Parry Mitchell, a Jewish peer, quit the Labour Party in disgust this summer, and put the issue this way to me: “How can I, a Jew and a Zionist, remain in a party where the leadership is so clearly hostile to Israel (even to its very existence) and which also flirts with anti-Semitism.”

British and American politics have reached a new low that presents the greatest postwar challenge to the Atlantic alliance and the civilization it has sustained.


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All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.