From the Irish Times a piece by Wendy Lyon challenging the views of TD Noel Grealish. 

The recent comments by TD Noel Grealish about a proposal to open a direct provision centre in Oughterard, Co Galway, highlighted the negative impressions many people have about those who come to Ireland as asylum seekers.

Unfortunately, they also highlight that much of the controversy around asylum seekers is driven by myths and misinformation. As a solicitor practising in this area, I regularly hear claims that I can state from both knowledge and experience are simply untrue. It’s time to explode some of these myths, and set the record straight about asylum seekers in Ireland.

Myth No 1: The high refusal rate shows that most asylum seekers are “bogus”

In order to receive a declaration of refugee status, an applicant must show that her fear of persecution stems from a Refugee Convention ground: race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership of a particular social group. A person can face a genuine threat to their life, but if it is not based on one of these categories, their claim must be refused. 

Continue reading @ The Irish Times.

Noel Grealish’s Views Of Asylum Seekers Are Based On Myth

Christopher Owens is impressed by a book examining the Left's abandonment of the Enlightenment. 

Thirty years ago, one of the greatest affronts to freedom of speech took place when the Iranian leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie for his book The Satanic Verses, which had already been publicly criticised and burnt by Saudi Arabian backed British Muslims for (in their words) insulting Islam.

This period was a demonstration of just how far people are willing to go in order to suppress anything, and saw the beginning of a new kind of censorship: self-censorship. One that is sadly all too prevalent in 2019.

It was also a turning point for Kenan Malik in that:

... It made me question my own relationship to the left and to the antiracist movement. The transformation...mirrored a wider transformation that was taking place on the left itself, a transformation from a belief in secular universalism to the defence of ethnic particularism and group rights. Once the left had been a champion of Enlightenment rationalism and humanism. It had believed in the ideas of a common humanity and universal rights, argued that everyone should be treated equally despite their racial, ethnic, religious or cultural differences and looked to social progress as a means of overcoming cultural differences. Today many on the left decry the Enlightenment as a Eurocentric project.

And so, with this in mind, From Fatwa to Jihad examines the legacy of the Rushdie affair, from the rise of multiculturalism through to the 9/11 attacks and the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

It's a fascinating tale, one that takes in the Empire Windrush through to the fight for civil liberties in the 70's, battling racists and police in the early 80's and the beginning of the policies that saw segments of the population, once united, closing themselves off and internalising their struggle.

Malik traces the beginning of multicultural policies to the aftermath of the 1981 riots that engulfed the UK. With the Scarman Report concluding that "complex political, social and economic factors" created a "disposition towards violent protest" (while avoiding to blame the police), Margaret Thatcher began to off-load money into various ethnic and community projects. While the stated intention was to unify communities and help understand and celebrate their differences, Malik correctly points out that this effectively became a bribe to keep people off the streets from protesting, and led to the creation of a professional middle class among ethnic groups, ones who could wield significant influence when it came to elections and making sure successive governments pay attention to their ideas.

Coupled with the Labour controlled councils (in the days of the 'looney left') offering cultural self-development courses and what you ended up with was separation. Suddenly people, who had never thought of themselves being anything other than British, became 'ethnic' overnight as it was a way to obtain money (for example, a leisure centre that would cater to the Muslim community).

It's a perfect example of how good intentions can link up with amoral methods to divide and conquer.

Discussing the Rushdie affair, it's amazing how the pieces slotted together to create such a moral panic (or 'clash of civilisations'). People who had, at the beginning of the 1980's, been involved with street action against the National Front and were fully integrated into English society, had become disillusioned and dispossessed by the left's embrace of identity politics and pursuit of government grants. The Satanic Verses controversy was a way of uniting and striking back.

For Malik, this has carried on throughout the last three decades through to the 7/7 bombers and the Charlie Hebdo gunmen. People who have little to no interest in Islam, but feel cut off from mainstream society because the likes of Tony Blair feels he has to speak to 'representatives of the Muslim community' (as if they are some alien species that he cannot communicate with) as well as their parent's way of life, seek solace in the most extremist violence.

Simply put, From Fatwa to Jihad is an astonishing read. Malik (a former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party) takes both the left and right to task for their failures that have led to the current global climate, as well as defending Enlightenment rationalism and universal human rights and beliefs.

Let the Rushdie affair be a lesson to us all, and let this book show us how we got there.

Kenan Malik, 2017, From Fatwa to Jihad: How the World Changed From the Satanic Verses to Charlie Hebdo. Atlantic Books ISBN-13: 978-1786491046

⏩  Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland.

From Fatwa To Jihad

A Morning Thought @ 478

Azar Majedi on challenges to the theocratic regime in Iran. 

The so-called judge of the Haft Tapeh activists trial, Moqiseh, who was one of the responsible figures of mass murder of the communist and opposition activists of the 80s, has issued prison sentences between 14-18 years and whipping for the 6 worker activists in Haft Tapeh case. These outrageous sentences enraged the society  so much so that the head of “justice” system immediately made an announcement that the sentences must be reviewed and reduced.

Iran has been in a de-facto uprising since January 2017, when more than 30 towns and cities witnessed anti-government demonstrations with radical anti-regime slogans, such as, “we don’t want Islamic Republic” “death to Khamenei” “death to Rohani” “reformists and hardliners the story is over!” The government tried to quell the unrest by arresting and murdering some of the arrestees under torture.

However, the rise of the working class protest changed the scene. Two important protests by Haft Tapeh sugarcane and Ahvaz steel plants, the last episodes of which took one month, involved workers’ families and mobilised the city behind the workers and left a deep and huge impact on the society as a whole. Esmaeil Bakhshi, a leader of the Haft Tapeh workers called workers to create their councils and demanded that the society be run by people’s councils.

It took a few months before the regime succeeded in pushing back the protest movement in these plants and arresting worker activists. Less than a year after the second arrest of Bakshi and some worker activists, Sepideh Qolyan, Sanaz Alah-yari, Amir Hossein Mohammadi fard, Amir Amir qoli and Asal Mohammadi. When the regime became confident that it has suppressed the protest movement, a short so-called trial took place. Bakhshi bravely stood up against Moqeieh, and told him that he would not tolerate humiliation of Haft Tapeh workers or his lawyer. In response to Bakhshi’s indignant reply Moqeise openly said that workers’ slogan was a communist one. The trial abruptly came to an end and a month later these harsh sentences were announced. In a separate trial Mohammad Khonifar a delegate of Haft Tapeh workers was sentence to 6 years of imprisonment and whipping.

However, the Islamic regime was deeply mistaken thinking that it has defeated the protest movement. The reaction to these sentences was so angry that immediately the head of “justice” system had to intervene. The tide has irreversibly changed. The downfall of this brutal regime is in sight.

The balance of power has enormously changed in the society. Looking back at the history of this regime one can recognise the huge change in the balance of power. This is the regime that executed around 100,000 people, including children in the 80’s, and has continued a brutal repressive rule in the country. Death, torture and acute poverty has gripped the society for too long. The fact that such heinous regime cannot imprison some activists that it openly calls communist without the fear of a revolt is very revealing.

Asar Majedi is a  Member of Hekmatist Party leadership & Chairperson of Organisation for Women’s Liberation

Iran: The Tide Has Changed The Harsh Sentences Against Haft Tapeh Activists And Its Backlash

Maryam Namazie is interviewed by Nilantha Ilangamuwa in Sri Lanka’s FT

She is energetic and outspoken. Her creativity on resistance against repressive regimes has attracted many communities around the globe. Maryam Namazie is an Iranian-born writer and activist based in London. She is the Spokesperson for Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation, One Law for All and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. She hosts a weekly television program in Persian and English called Bread and Roses. No doubt because of her activities for protecting and promoting human freedom, she is a top enemy of the country where she born.

Maryam was born in Tehran, but she left Iran with her family in 1980 after the establishment of the Islamic Republic. She then lived in India, the UK and then settled in the US where she began her university studies at the age of 17. After graduating, Maryam went to Sudan to work with Ethiopian refugees. Halfway through her stay, an Islamic government took power. She was threatened by the government for establishing a clandestine human rights organisation and had to be evacuated by her employer for her own safety.

Back in the United States, Maryam worked for various refugee and human rights organisations. She established the Committee for Humanitarian Assistance to Iranian Refugees in 1991. In 1994, she went to Turkey and produced a video documentary on the situation of Iranian refugees there.

The Islamic regime of Iran’s media outlets has called Maryam ‘immoral and corrupt’ and did an ‘exposé’ on her entitled ‘Meet this anti-religion woman’. In 2019, the Islamic regime’s intelligence service did a TV program where Maryam was featured as “anti-God”.

“No religion promotes an inclusive society. Religion is an exclusive club that sees its set of beliefs as superior to other sets of beliefs,” she said. “Inequality is a pillar of Sharia courts but this is not just the case for Sharia courts,” she added.

In this interview I have communicated with her on life in Iran, consequences of Sharia and religious courts, Easter Sunday’s bombings in Sri Lanka, and her readings on terrorism and radicalisation.

Following are excerpts from the interview:

By Nilantha Ilangamuwa

NI: Thank you for joining us Maryam! Tell us what is One Law for All initiative all about? And why is it important to have such an initiative?

MN: One Law for All was established to oppose Sharia and religious courts because they are inhuman and abuse human rights. This is the case whether the courts are in Iran and Saudi Arabia or in Britain. One’s religion or belief is a basic right and a private matter.

Religious courts, however, have nothing to do with the right to religion and are part of the Islamist project to control and manage women, minorities and dissenters. We know Sharia’s criminal code includes the death penalty for apostasy and blasphemy and stoning to death for gay sex or sex outside of marriage. It is unbelievably brutal.

In Britain, Sharia courts deal mainly with the family code, which some feel is trivial but the code is highly discriminatory against women and legitimises violence against women. For example, under Sharia’s family code, a woman’s testimony is worth half of a man’s, marital rape is not seen as a crime and child marriage and polygamy are deemed acceptable. One Law for All argues minority women from Muslim backgrounds should have the same rights in the family as other citizens.

Inequality is a pillar of Sharia courts but this is not just the case for Sharia courts. The Jewish Beth Din in the UK, for example, also puts women in limbo by refusing to grant them divorces without their husband’s permission. We know also historically about the role played by ecclesiastic courts. One Law for All argues that it is dangerous to put the rights of citizens in the hands of mullahs, priests and rabbis. Secular states, public policy and laws are the best way to ensure the rights of all citizens irrespective of background and belief.

NI: You were born in Iran and then moved to other places. Tell us about your childhood and the life in Iran till you left your motherland?

My parents are secular Muslims so I never had any religion imposed on me at home and never felt lesser for being a girl. In fact, I have always felt supported and loved even after I became an atheist.

I never really felt religion’s influence on my life until the Islamists took power in Iran.

Then things changed dramatically. There were Islamists sent to my school to separate the boys from the girls in the playground, executions on TV and the beginnings of compulsory veiling and the rest is as they say unfolding history. After living under an Islamic state, I realised very quickly though that religion in the state is heinous and why I campaign against it.

Prior to it, Iran was under the Shah’s dictatorship and for a time, the revolution gave everyone hope for real change but the Islamists took hold of it, slaughtered a generation and 40 years on, people have been living in a theocracy in the 21st century.

NI: What went wrong in Iran?

MN: If you have fundamentalists in power, things will deteriorate very quickly, even for believers, as a believer is not the same as a fundamentalist. This isn’t a theoretical discussion. We can see the effects of a theocracy on the lives of freethinkers, women, LGBT, religious minorities and especially young people in countries like Iran or Saudi Arabia but we can also see what happens when even secular societies are run by theocrats.

Look at Modi’s India where Muslims can be killed for eating beef. Look at the situation for abortion rights, for example, in the US with the rise of the Christian-Right. Or the situation of Muslims in Myanmar and so on. In Sri Lanka, too, you have extremist Sinhala Buddhist groups like Bodu Bala Sena which have had a detrimental effect on religious and other minorities and women.

Those killed in Sri Lanka could be any of us. We could be next. We must all take an unequivocal stand against all forms of fascism and hate. We must not allow the conflation of the religious-Right with ordinary believers, victim blaming, and the dehumanisation of the ‘other’ to legitimate a politics of terror and hate

This is the problem with identity politics everywhere. It reduces masses of people to just one religious or cultural identity though people are much more complex than that and have countless characteristics that define them. Identity politics reduces 21st-century citizens into warring tribes.

Which is why after the horrendous Easter Sunday terrorist attack in Sri Lanka, ordinary Muslims going about their lives are collectively blamed and we see Muslims being run out of their homes (including some ex-Muslims I know in Sri Lanka) or Muslim shops are burnt down. Also, refugees from Pakistan who have fled to Sri Lanka because of Islamist persecution become displaced again when they are run out of their homes. How can terrorising innocent people be a solution for terrorist attacks against other innocent people?

NI: Some of the reports indicated that you are ex-Muslim. Is that true?

MN: I am an ex-Muslim and work with ex-Muslims in Sri Lanka and elsewhere too. Of course, our atheism is our private affair, it’s a matter of conscience and belief, but when people can be killed for apostasy and blasphemy, we feel the need to say we are ex-Muslims publicly to challenge the status quo and defend the right to expression and conscience without fear of persecution or discrimination.

NI: Why are you against Sharia Law?

MN: As I mentioned, all religious laws are discriminatory. The problem with Sharia and other religious laws is that they are coercive.

If religion is a personal belief, then why do you need laws to enforce it? For example, some Muslims in my family fast during Ramadan and others have never fasted. This is the personal choice of adults.

However, in Iran or Saudi Arabia because of Sharia law, one will be flogged or imprisoned for eating during Ramadan. Examples abound such as in the case of compulsory veiling. If an adult doesn’t want to wear the veil, why do you need morality police to beat a woman, arrest her? Or if someone doesn’t believe in Islam, well that is their freedom of conscience.

Why must the state execute someone for atheism? Religious law is fundamentally unjust as it forces people to do not what they believe but that which the mullahs and clerics in power tell them. Coercion and violence go hand in hand with Sharia courts.

NI: Sri Lanka is the latest victim of self-proclaimed Islamic State. What is your reading on the attacks in Sri Lanka?

MN: We at Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain along with other atheist groups (including the Council of Ex-Muslims of Sri Lanka) expressed our outrage at the terrorist attacks and also mourned the many killed.

In our statement, we said:

We are outraged at the Islamist attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka. Our hearts go out to the survivors and victims – hundreds killed, including at least 45 children, and more than 500 wounded. We mourn them with the people of Sri Lanka and the world.
The terrorists claim to have killed innocent Christians and others in order to ‘avenge’ innocent Muslims killed in Christchurch; the Christchurch terrorist also feigned to kill innocent Muslim worshippers as an act of ‘vengeance’. What should by now be very clear to everyone is that these terrorist attacks have nothing to do with addressing grievances – real or imagined – and everything to do with using terror, hate, supremacy and violence as a tool to impose the ideology and dominance of the religious-Right. 
Whether Islamist or white nationalist, whether in Sri Lanka or Christchurch, these far-Right movements have no respect for human life and rights: Christian, Muslim, ex-Muslim, believer or non, white, black or brown, young or old; no amount of murder or mayhem is too heinous for their hateful cause. Always anti-those deemed ‘other’; always relying on hate, religion, violence, misogyny, homophobia, tribalism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and terrorism to sow fear and division. 
If you have fundamentalists in power, things will deteriorate very quickly, even for believers, as a believer is not the same as a fundamentalist. This isn’t a theoretical discussion. We can see the effects of a theocracy on the lives of freethinkers, women, LGBT, religious minorities and especially young people in countries like Iran or Saudi Arabia but we can also see what happens when even secular societies are run by theocrats.
For too long and still far too many continue to excuse one side over the other depending on where they stand. Some will defend the Islamists, others will defend the Christian-Right, both sides saying there are ‘legitimate grievances’ even if they claim to abhor terrorism. Many will even go so far as to blame the victims, especially in the case of apostates and blasphemers like Charlie Hebdo or the Bangladeshi bloggers. What these apologists fail to see is that there is no legitimisation for murder.
Those killed in Sri Lanka could be any of us. We could be next. We must all take an unequivocal stand against all forms of fascism and hate. We must not allow the conflation of the religious-Right with ordinary believers, victim blaming, and the dehumanisation of the ‘other’ to legitimate a politics of terror and hate.“Sooner than later, we must recognise that we are all in this together against the far-Right and in defence of our common humanity. Our lives and our rights are interlinked irrespective of our backgrounds and beliefs.
It is a matter of urgency that governments stop appeasing theocracies and the religious-Right, including via faith schools and child indoctrination, religious courts and faith-based policies. This only strengthens divisions and the religious-Right.
Defending secularism, citizenship and universal rights is the only way forward.

IS has killed Yazidis, Kurds, Syrians, Christians, Muslims, ex-Muslims, Atheists, young and old, women and men… From IS, Taliban, the Islamic regime in Iran to Boko Haram and Al Shabaab, no one is safe. From London to Madrid to NY to Colombo and Kabul no one feels safe. The whole point of terrorism is to target innocent civilians indiscriminately to instil hate and despair and fear. That is why courage and hope and love are so important for all of us. They want to divide us; we must insist on our common humanity.

NI: What are your suggestions and recommendations to prevent the IS’ influences?

MN: It is important that we treat everyone equally as citizens and not members of some religious or cultural ‘group’. That will help focus on terrorists and criminals rather than placing collective blame on everyone who is Muslim, for example. Islamism is a political far-Right movement like the white supremacists in the US. You cannot weed out white supremacist terrorists in the US by collectively blaming all Christians or all white people. It is a political movement; you need to target it politically and also ideologically.

Also, an insistence on secularism is key. Separation of religion from the state – any religion – is crucial to bringing about lasting change. We shouldn’t have religious schools, religious indoctrination in schools, religion in the law or public policy or in the state’s dealings with citizens.

Also, I think we need to look at rights from a universalist perspective – we all have inalienable rights no matter what our background. And most importantly, we all share a common humanity. We are in this together – Muslim, ex-Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, Christian, atheist… – against the fundamentalists and fascists of all stripes who kill with impunity and have no regard for human rights or lives.

NI: Would you say Islam does not promote an inclusive society?

No religion promotes an inclusive society. Religion is an exclusive club that sees its set of beliefs as superior to other sets of beliefs. In any religion, the apostates, heretics, witches and blasphemers within the religion are imprisoned and killed. Those who are not part of the religion are seen to be lesser.

To include citizens in a society, you must exclude religion to some extent from the public space. People, of course, have a right to religion and belief but it cannot be part of the state or law or public policy or the educational system if we want to ensure that religion has its rightful place in our societies and world – as a personal matter.

NI: What is your message to those who undermined and side-lined your basic rights when you were under repressive governments, as we as to those who joined and planning to join the terrorist outfit like Islamic State?

MN: My message to those who join IS or other terrorist groups and repressive governments are the same: we will never bow down. There are many more of us than there are of you. Also, hate can never kill love and hope and that is our strongest weapon against the fundamentalists of all stripes.

Keep Up With Maryam Namazie

Must Take An Unequivocal Stand Against All Forms Of Hate

A Morning Thought @ 477

Kevin Morley answers thirteen questions in a Booker's Dozen.

TPQ: What book are you currently reading?

KM: I am presently reading two books, The Irish Civil War 1922-23 by Eoin Neeson and Rebels by Peter De Rosa. The latter is an in depth account of the events leading up to the Easter Rising, Easter Week and the aftermath. This is an in depth read although it does contain some erroneous statements and what passes for fact. For example, Dr Kathleen Lynn was the MO for the Irish Citizen Army not the Irish Volunteers. She did treat volunteers obviously but De Rossa implies she was IVF before ICA which simply is not true. The two organisations were allies but never merged as many think the ICA always maintained its autonomy and ideological differences.

Best book you have ever read?

KM: My favourite read, which inspired me to write my latest book, is The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist by Robert Tressell (Noonan). A political novel of exploitation and poverty suffered by the working-class and in particular the story outlining the lives of a bunch of house painters.

TPQ: A must read before you die?

KM: I would like to read the full works of Dickens before I die.

TPQ: A preference for fact or fiction?

KM: My own preference is marginally for fact, though fact can be transmitted via fiction, if that makes sense, for example in my The Misogynous President many factual events, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Watergate. All these are in this book and the response of the wholly fictitious characters.

TPQ: Favourite female author?

KM: As a child I liked, for some reason, Enid Blyton, but in adult reading I have read several female authors works and one which struck me was The Rebel Countess a biography of Constance Markievicz by Anne Marreco. I found this a very interesting read. I can not say with any definitive clarity to have a favourite female author as there are many.

TPQ: Favourite male author?

KM: When I was at Junior school I read C.S Lewis particularly The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe a book I remember well. I have enjoyed reading the works of Charles Dickens. Like the question on my favourite female author I do not really have a preferred male author. Tim Pat Coogan has written good works, there are many. No real preference.

TPQ: First book you ever read?

KM: I read Enid Blyton’s books as a child, I cannot remember which one first. During my adolescence my only real concern in life was Matt Busby and Manchester United FC. Reading and education from about the age of ten was, to me, irrelevant. I did like writing but at my secondary school surviving the day was an achievement. I really can not remember with any clarity the first book I ever read. There was one kiddies' book about a squirrel called Rufty Tufty, Policeman Badger and Harry Hare. I would have been about four years old and can remember that, the Rufty Tufty Club. Whether this counts as a book or not is open to interpretation. Does the 1968 edition of Roy of the Rovers count? Or the 1969 Football Facts with a front cover picture of Matt Busby with the European Cup, does this count?

TPQ: Favourite childhood author?

KM: Again the one which sticks out in my memory was Enid Blyton. Her children’s books, particularly Noddy and Big Ears stories were amusing.

TPQ:  Any book you point blank refuse to read?

KM: No, I’ll read most material even if I disagree. How would I know I disagree if I don’t read the material. To be in a position to argue you must know what you are arguing against.

TPQ: Any author you point blank refuse to read?

KM:  No, not really, how can I criticise a persons work, i.e. Mein Kampf by Hitler, unless I read it?That particular book made no sense and was littered with lies, as you would expect. It exaggerated his time working on the building sites and Hitler's arguments both orally and in writing made no sense. The same rule of logic, regards my right to criticise, applies to other authors as they must retain that right to disagree with me.

TPQ: Pick a book to give somebody so that they would more fully understand you.

KM: My latest book, The Misogynous President would give the reader a clear understanding of my politics, the rich and powerful parasites, as I see them. I used poetic license when writing the book but given various statements given by numerous individuals about the real-life incumbent President, not least Michael Cohen my exaggerations are not so exaggerated. In face some may argue my fictitious analysis of bourgeois USA is in fact, in many instances understated. I would recommend this book to get clearer understanding of my perceptions of what we are pleased to call, “the real world”.

TPQ: Last book you gave as a present?

KM: I gave my dad, a former trade unionist, a copy of Striking Similarities which he is enjoying reading. The book is fact to the letter about Thatcher’s assault on the miners and the working class in general. It also, as I said above, covers the 1913/14 Dublin Lockout.

TPQ: Book you would most like to see turned into a movie?

KM: After my own book, The Misogynous President which I think would make a brilliant movie, an epic due to the years covered in the characters life, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist would make a great film. It has been performed on stage, most recently at Liberty Hall, but to my knowledge there has never been a film made. Taking preference would be my book which, I believe, is written in such a way a movie based on the book would not present a problem. Any film makers out there take a look, I think it would be a goer. The Misogynous President covering the life and downfall of a man who becomes the most powerful person in the western world is great film material.

Kevin Morley, writer, activist,  author of A Descriptive History of the  Irish Citizen Army & Striking Similarities & The Misogynous President.

Booker's Dozen @ Kevin Morley

Dieter Reinisch with a review that originally appeared in An Spréach, issue 4, April-June 2019. 

On 6 May 1882, Lord Frederick Cavendish and Thomas Henry Burke, two of the highest representatives of the British colonial administration in Ireland, were stabbed to death by a conspirative group within the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Irish National Invincibles. A new book by the late Shane Kenna sheds light on these assassinations, its circumstances, and the trials that followed this event.

The assassination of Cavendish and Burke sent shockwaves through the British Empire. The assassination is a classic example of what David Rapoport described as the first wave of political violence in the modern era. This first “anarchist wave” is characterised by individual political violence and high-profile assassinations from Tsarists Russia to the Habsburg Empire. As in the succeeding two waves, the anti-colonial struggle of Irish Republicans was at the forefront of this wave.

The Irish National Invincibles occupy a prominent role in the current mythologization of the bygone militant struggle among Republicans upholding the right to wage armed resistance in 21st century Ireland. A tight-knit, well-disciplined group of conspirators staging a high-profile “blow against the Empire”, as the late Ruairí Ó Brádaigh called it, attracts many militant Republicans today.

The 2015 publication of Heroes and Villains: The Rise and Fall of the Invincibles by Irish Freedom Press in Dublin serves as one notable example. The author, Seán Óg Ó Mórdha, is a former POW who served time in Portlaoise Prison during the 1990s for charges related to the Continuity IRA.

Earlier this year, O’Brien Press published a detailed and highly readable book on the same topic by the late Shane Kenna. Kenna sadly passed away in February 2017. At the time of his death at the age of 33, he had already established himself as one of the specialists of Fenianism and late Victorian Republicanism. His books included a study of the Irish-American Fenians and a biography of O’Donovan Rossa.

His deep knowledge of Republicanism of this period is reflected in the book. The first chapters explain the social and political context that gave rise to the Invincibles, the day of the assassination, and the investigations. The second half of the book provides a detailed account of the trials and the executions.

Readers already familiar with the subject will find new insight for Kenna provides fresh understanding, based on detailed research. He quotes lengthy from archival documents, statements, and pamphlets. The editors of the book, Liz Gillis, Gerry Shannon, and Aidan Lambert deserve praise for turning Kenna’s manuscript into this volume.

In Kenna’s contextualisation of the Invincibles lies the significance for Republican activists today. Several Republicans would consider themselves as modern Invincibles; the militant vanguard that stands in opposition to a much larger, opportunistic nationalist movement. While this may be true in terms of ideology and commitment to scarify one’s own liberty for the freedom of a nation, the Invincibles were the radical outburst during a time of social revolution. Despite the social protest in recent years – water charges, anti-eviction, etc. – Ireland faces no large-scale civil unrest comparable to the Land Wars, and no pre-revolutionary movements attract mass support as the Land League did. To be sure, while ideological continuity persists, the tactics do not reflect economic and social developments.

The Invincibles is a timely publication. The National Graves Association launched a campaign to reinter the remains of the Invincibles, currently buried in Kilmainham Gaol and give them a dignified burial in Glasnevin Cemetery. Writing in the afterword, Aidan Lambert, secretary of the Invincibles Re-internment Committee explains: 

We made a pledge that post the 2016 celebrations, we would campaign with the NGA to have the remains of Joseph Brady, Daniel Curley, Michael Fagan, Thomas Caffrey and Timothy Kelly exhumed from the prison yard where have lain since 1883.
The Irish National Invincibles were executed for being Irish Republicans. As such, they fought for the establishment of an independent Republic, as women and men did all over Europe in the 19th century, from Hungary and Italy to Poland and Russia. They understood their actions against the colonial rule as their chosen medium to communicate these aims. In that regard, they were no different from Roger Casement. However, while Casement is remembered as an early advocate of modern human rights who received a state funeral when his remains were finally repatriated in 1966, the five Irish National Invincibles are still hidden in Kilmainham Gaol almost inaccessible to their descendants and the public.

As Irishmen who were executed by a foreign ruler for their fight for the independence of their country from colonial rule, they deserve to be honoured accordingly. Shane Kenna’s book will strengthen the NGA campaign’s argument to honour the Invincibles as true anti-colonial fighters against British colonialism in Ireland.

The Invincibles: The Phoenix Park Assassinations and the Conspiracy that Shook an Empire by Shane Kenna includes a foreword by Liz Gillis and an introduction by Ruan O'Donnell. It was published in February 2019 by O’Brien Press, Dublin.

Dieter Reinisch is a historian at the Institute for Social Movements in Bochum, 
and a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Central European University, in Budapest.

The Invincibles

A Morning Thought @ 476

Sean Mallory is on Day 4 of his gruelling Camino challenge. This time the drive rather than the walk is what taxes him.

Today we head for Arzúa where our farm house lodge is 15 minutes outside the town but we have a pickup from a particular Café when we arrive. It is more showery today than yesterday and the rain not as incessant. The ponchos serve us well. It is also very warm and while walking through the woods the fragrance from the eucalyptus trees mixes with the steam rising from the woodland floor as it dries and acts as nature's very own aroma therapy balm. My feet are sore but I am able to walk. The last 3km is up hill … once again a very steep hill!

Arzúa is the town and like yesterday’s destination a working town. In the pouring rain we manage to find our café and it is packed with young people waiting on the hostel across the street opening. There is no room for us so we camp in the café next door out of the rain and wait until the café empties when the hostel opens. The rain is more persistent now and we are grateful to have missed these downpours. We relax with a cold beer and a cold glass of wine. As with all the cafés the waiter brings us nibbles along with our drinks. A large bowl of crisps and chorizo sausage in a crusty bap …  no need to buy lunch!

The hostel opens and our rendezvous café empties. We vacate one café for another to order our lift. It will be a while before they arrive and we strike up a conversation with the bar staff who, as is the usual, have learned their English while working in London. During the conversation my wife notices a bottle of Nordés gin sitting on the shelf. We soon discover that it is distilled in Galicia and after a little negotiation we purchase a 1ltr bottle of it for €18. The bar staff cannot believe how much we pay for it at home. They also inform us that the grape grown in Galicia is not good for making wine so don’t drink the local produce, in fact it is piss … their words not mine. Something to keep in store.

Our lift arrives and lo and behold it is the ban an tí of the lodge herself and a personality of that of a motherly hen. Vivian is her name and she is so friendly and can’t do enough for us. Her English is like her driving, very poor but between fits of laughter we all manage to communicate and drive. How this lady hasn’t been mangled in a road traffic accident is more than I know! It seems common road courtesy and the Highway Code are the concerns of other drivers and not for her. While on our white knuckle ride she babbles uncontrollably and titters at her own jokes which we have no idea what they are. When we arrive it takes a while for the blood pressure to return to normal. She is lovely and as we are the first to arrive she devotes quite a bit of her time to us. The lodge is amazing. It is built with local cut stone and we have the whole of the top floor for our own personal use which includes a sitting room and TV room which we don’t really avail of at all but nice to have as for your own use should you change your mind.

It is very peaceful and restful. Her husband potters in and out of the vegetable garden. Over to the right of the lodge is another of those long narrow buildings on a plinth. This one though is very ornate and is very well looked after. Alongside the Christian symbols of a crucifix are those of witches. Her son turns up and he has much better English and I ask him what those strange narrow buildings were used for.

He tells me they are for drying sweetcorn for animal feed. Fodder for pigs and hens during the winter. Once it is dried out it is no longer fit for human consumption. He also points to two fields of corn and tells me one is grown for animal fodder and the other for cooking with. Whether there is a difference in the seed or the fields have just been designated as such I don’t know. The building is placed on a plinth to prevent rats accessing and eating the corn. The plinth is not as accomplished at keeping mice out though. I enquire about the witch symbols and he explains that Galicians are very much in to their witchcraft which is a legacy of their Celtic origins. It is very much acceptable and part of their culture. He knows several witches.

Mystery is solved.

Sean Mallory is a Tyrone republican and TPQ columnist.

The Camino @ Thursday - Day 4 – 14/15Km

Barry Gilheany with the third in a series of articles on anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism.

Antisemitism: An Essentially Contested Concept? 

Anti-Semitism is objective, and is external to the subjective feelings of individuals. This means that in order to clarify the issues involved in debates around the definition of the concept, it is essential to examine how the concept is actualised in the social world in addition to the ways in which the processes of definition are played out there. What counts as a case of racism is a matter of dispute. It is the nature of these debates with all the visceral emotions they engender and the political implications and consequences that flow from them that makes clarity over the definitions of what we disagree essential (Hirsh: pp.137-38).

Antisemitism has a shape shifting, amoebic quality. Deborah Lipstadt cites the definition of anti-Semitism by the historical sociologist Helen Fine as constituting:

A persisting latent structure of hostile beliefs towards Jews as a collectivity manifested in individuals as attitudes, and in culture as myth, ideology, folklore and imagery, and in actions – social or legal discrimination, political mobilisation against Jews, and collective or state violence – which results in and/or is designed to distance, displace or destroy Jews as Jews. (Lipstadt: p.17)

This “structure” suggests an internal coherence to anti-Semitism; a coherence which did not exist for John-Paul Sartre who saw anti-Semitism as a “passion” which because it made no intellectual sense should not be dignified by the appellation of an “idea”. Likewise, Anthony Julius who, while fully recognising the historical lineage of Jew hatred, contends that antisemitism must ultimately be seen as a "discontinuous, contingent aspect of a number of distinct mentalities and milieus.” He goes on to say that antisemitism “is a heterogenous phenomenon, the site of collective hatreds, and of cultural anxieties and resentments." (Lipstadt: p.20).

It is fair to say though that most scholars, writers and activists in the sphere do recognise some degree of consistency and unity in the variegated forms of anti-Semitism that have persisted down the last two millennia. The conundrum is to find a definition that has dear as possible universal acceptance and applicability. A quest for such an automatic and uncontested formula which can instantly tell us what is and what isn’t anti-Semitic is, in the words of Hirsh ‘not going to be successful’ (Hirsh, p.139).

However, the possibility of ultimate futility of trying to find a Grand Theory of Everything type explanation of anti-Semitism does not nullify the importance of identifying, at any rate, institutional forms of anti-Semitism. Understanding whether a comment or institution is racist/sexist/disabilist or embodies any other prejudice requires a close study of and an understanding of context, of tropes and of the histories of the form of bigotry or prejudice in question. It requires consideration of intentions and discursive practices, of norms and methods of exclusion, of modes of denial. The recognition of anti-Semitism requires similar epistemological and archaeological effort (Hirsh: p.139). 

Zionism and Antizionism 

Here I discuss how antizionism, although conceptually different from intrinsic hostility towards Jews as a people and Judaism, has segued into a modern form of antisemitism.

The most essential elements of left anti-Semitism concern its interrelationship with anti-Zionism and is germane to the Labour Party’s institutional crisis. Zionism or specifically political Zionism was, in the view of its advocates historically’ the belief in establishing a Jewish state in the historic homeland known as Israel’ [1]. Its founding father was Theodore Herzl who formulated the doctrine in 1897 as a reaction to a period of intense anti-Semitism in Europe characterised by pograms in Russia and Eastern Europe and symbolised by the notorious trial in France of Alfred Dreyfus, a French Jew and army captain who was accused of selling secrets to the German Empire and which led to anti-Semitism becoming rife throughout France. Herzl laid out his idea for a Jewish homeland which he saw as the only means of guaranteeing the safety of the Jewish people in the pamphlet Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) in 1896. In it, he proclaimed that in a Jewish state “We shall live at last as free men on our own soil, and in our homes peacefully die”. In light of modern academic and political controversies over the intended scope of Zionist expansionism, Zionism crucially never specified how much of the historic land of Palestine/Israel was to become the Jewish state, just that a Jewish state should be re-established in the Middle East.[2]

It is axiomatic to Zionist supporters therefore that anti-Zionism equates to anti-Semitism. With the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, anti-Zionism changed from abstract opposition to the idea of a non-existent Jewish state into opposing ‘the existence of a country with actually existing, living, breathing inhabitants’.[3] In this account anti-Zionism in a mutation of anti-Semitism which updates traditional anti-Semitic tropes first propagated and them spread aggressively later by the Soviet Union[4]. It singles out Jewish people as some kind of anomalous group to be deprived of rights to national or regional autonomy that groups all round the world possess or aspire to possess. It also seeks to deprive Jews of their cultural and ethnic history, as it rejects their claim to be a people indigenous to the land of Israel/Palestine. Anti-Zionists describe Israel as a White European colonialist venture and frame it in the wider context of imperialism. Zionists retort by asking how can an ethnic group colonise its own historic land that it was exiled from through ethnic cleansing and genocide?[5].

Others such as Peter Beinart caution against the conflation of anti-Zionism with Jew-hatred.[6] He tries to deconstruct the three pillars on which this equation is founded as follows.

The first is the national self-determination argument; that opposing Zionism is anti-Semitic because it denies to Jews what every other people enjoy: a state of its own. Beinart points to the “dozens” of other stateless nationalities such as Kurds, Basques, Tibetans, Scots and Quebecois and asserts that:

barely anyone opposing a Kurdish or Catalan state makes you an anti-Kurdish or anti-Catalan bigot in order to bolster his argument that it is better to foster civic nationalism, a nationalism built around borders rather than ethnic nationalism built around heritage.[7] 

Many would argue that this statement betrays an astonishing ignorance of the experiences of the oppression of national minorities by centralising states such as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Turkey, China, Franco’s Spain, Modi’s India and the Iran of the mullahs in which particular ethnic and tribal groups historically held sway.

Beinart also uses arguments for civic as opposed to ethnic nationalism to critique the second pillar of the anti-Zionism=anti-Semitism synonym: that in the words of the New York Times columnist Brett Stephens that “… Antizionism proposes nothing less than the elimination of that identity and the political dispossession of those who cherish it”. While abjuring descriptions of Israel as “an apartheid state”, Beinart argues that for most of Israel’s Arab citizens (as well as for the larger Palestinian Arab diaspora) Zionism represents a form of political dispossession in that the State of Israel privileges Jewish immigration but denies the Right to Return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants[8] in order to preserve Israel as a Jewish-majority entity and that the steadily rightward direction of travel taken by the Netanyahu government as symbolised by the Nation-State Law indicates an increasingly cold house for Israel’s Arab population (to say nothing of the situation of the Palestinian Arab residents on the West Bank). But it is also important to point out that many Zionists advocate a two-state solution; that to ensure peace in the region ‘a strong and secure Palestinian state’ must ‘exist alongside a peaceful and secure Israeli state.[9] Beinart also advocates that the West Bank and Gaza become a Palestinian state alongside a ‘more inclusive’ Israel which should ‘remain a state with a special obligation to protect Jews’.[10]

The third element of the equation between antizionism and antisemitism which Beinart seeks to disprove is the practical argument that the two animosities simply go together. He points to the affinity between Netanyahu and far right European leaders such as Victor Orban, Heinz-Christian Strache of the Austrian Freedom Party and Beatrix von Storch of the Alternative for Germany who traffic blatantly in anti-Semitism while publicly championing Zionism too as well as the Christian anti-Semitic Zionism of US evangelicals such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.[11] However anti-Zionism is still a staple of anti-Semitic racists such as David Duke, Nick Griffin and Louis Farrakhan which underlines the contention that anti-Zionism is a modern variant of anti-Semitism.

Anti-Zionist Discourse

Hirsh frames the relationship between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism as follows. He uses the term ‘anti-Zionism’ as a descriptor for the multiplicity of ‘movements which coalesce’ not around opposition to Israeli policy or racist movements within Israel ‘but rather around a common orientation to the existence or legitimacy of the State of Israel itself' (Hirsh: p.184) He hypothesises that anti-Semitism is the consequence, intentional or otherwise, of anti-Zionism. For ‘although hostility to the idea, existence and policies of Israel comes from a variety of sources, and is not the same as hostility to Jews’; certain ‘manifestations of this hostility can nevertheless’ produce ‘a politics’ and aggregate ‘of practices which create a common-sense of Israel as a unique evil in the world’. They therefore can set the scene for confrontation with Jews – ‘those Jews, anyway, who prefer not to disavow Israel by defining themselves as anti-Zionist (Hirsh: p.185).

As stated above post-1948 antizionism is not a single, unitary movement but an assortment of differing strands. In the Middle East, both secular and Islamist anti-Zionist traditions have always been hostile to Jewish immigration into Palestine and the continued existence of the State of Israel; in the former Soviet bloc there was a Stalinist anti-Zionism (of which more later); right-wing and neo-Nazi anti-Semitism increasingly articulates hostility to Jews in anti-Zionist rhetoric (e.g. David Duke, David Irving and Nick Griffin) and there is also a contemporary current of anti-Zionism which openly toys with anti-Semitic rhetoric and which does not easily fall on a left-right polarity as exemplified by artists such as the jazz saxophonist Gilad Atzmon and the comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala. (Hirsh: pp.186-87).

The ‘Zionism’ of the anti-Zionists is a totalitarian movement which is equivalent to racism, Nazism or apartheid. The ‘Zionism’ of the discourses of anti-Zionism is more a signifier of evil rather than a word which signifies an actual set of changing and plural philosophies and practices. Anti-Zionism portrays itself as part of an emancipatory worldview but its demonization of Zionism often assumes darker and more totalitarian hues and is attracted to conspiratorial thinking. It does not seek peace and reconciliation in the Middle East but rather to the elimination of the evil wherever it is to be found[12] (Hirsh: p.189).

Hirsh analyses the writings of one critic of Zionism, Joseph Massad, to illustrate how anti-Zionism collapses differing ideological and historical strands to form a Zionist monolith. Massad takes as his starting point the assertion that Zionism is a colonial movement that is constituted in ideology and practice by a religio-racial epistemology. Zionism, in his view, is defined by its commitment to building a demographically exclusive Jewish state which he incorporates into the European colonial ideology of white supremacy over colonised peoples. From its inception in the 1880s to the present day therefore, Zionism constitutes a homogenous, Jewish supremacist movement. The distinctions between left and right Zionism, between secular and religious Zionists, between Labour Zionism and the Zionism of the fundamentalist settlers are thus completely nullified in order to construct a monochromic, single edifice of Jewish supremacist nationalism (Hirsh: p.190).

Massad proceeds to extrapolate from quotes and anecdotes from Herzl, Ben-Gurion and Vladimir Jabotinsky, the actualisation of this racist idea in the Naqba in 1948 right down to the lurid call by a far-right Jewish settler and Tourist Minister Benny Elon for the expulsion of the entire Arab population from Israel in February 2002 and from an article in Israel’s leading Russian language daily the previous month suggesting that the Israeli government should use the threat of castration to force Arabs to leave Israel the assertion that Zionism is a coherent body of thought; ipso facto Jewish supremacist movement. (Hirsh: pp.190-91).

He then cites Zionism as part of the European colonial project; of a white imperialist set of crimes such as the Crusades, British rule in India, the Scramble for Africa, the colonisation of the Americas, the British Mandate in Palestine; US policy in Latin America and South East Asia during the Cold War; indeed any Western colonial atrocity over the centuries one can think off (Hirsh: P.191)

This ‘whitening’ of Jews is key to the understanding of contemporary antisemitism and interrelated developments on the contemporary left. The major development is the tendency for part of the left to identify the ‘oppressed’ more in terms of nations and national movements in their ‘liberation struggles’ against the rich, powerful ‘imperialist’ and white states of the ‘North’ or ‘West’ rather than the self-liberation of the working classes, women or other minorities within the former. (Hirsh: p.145) This has led to the grotesque spectacles of some left thinkers and activists supporting movements such as Hamas, Hezbollah and regimes such as those of Bashar Al-Assad, Kim Jong-Un, the Taleban, Slobodan Milosevic and Vladimir Putin on (bogus) ‘anti-imperialist criteria.

Within this white/black binary, Jews occupy an ambivalent status. On the one hand anti-Semitism is the exemplar supreme of European racism with Auschwitz as its eternal memoriam. On the other hand, anti-Semitism has functioned as a ‘fetishized form of oppositional consciousness’ through which Jews are thought of as conspiratorially powerful and lurking behind the oppression of others. (Hirsh: p.145).

Hirsh draws upon the narrative of Karen Brodkin’s book[13] of the ‘whitening’ of American Jews to show how it fed into a new picture of Jews as part of a Judeo-Christian white elite. This narrative provides a framework for understanding the ideological transformation from Israel as a life-raft for oppressed and stateless victims of racism and pioneer of socialist practices such as the kibbutz into a pillar of the global system of white oppression of black people. The UN General Assembly 1975 resolution condemning Zionism as racism and the Durban Anti-Racist Conference of 2001 mark two milestones in this journey from the idealisation and romanticising of Israel to its demonization and delegitimisation by many on the left. As an illustration of this shift, consider this response by Seumas Milne, now Jeremy Corbyn’s Communications Chief, in his Guardian column to an anti-Semitic speech by President Ahmadinejad of Iran to the UN in 2009. He opined ‘what credibility is there in Geneva’s all-white boycott.

The ‘whitening’ of Jews and especially Israeli Jews can be seen in the narrative of ‘intersectionality’ in relation to the Palestinian struggle by US antizionists such as the Women’s March activist Tamika Mallory, Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill and the Michigan Democrat Rep Rashida Tlaib. Their tendency to define Israelis as Ashkenazi Jews or the descendants of European Jews only discounts certain demographic realities of modern Israel which are that only about 30% of Israeli Jews are Ashkenazi while the majority are Mizrahi who are of Middle East and North African descent. For centuries the Mizrahim lived without sovereignty and equality in the Muslim world; treated as “dhimmis”, an Arabic term for a protected minority whose members pay for that protection, which can be withdrawn at any time. In the aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war 850,000 Mizrahi Jews were expelled from Arab lands and took refuge in Israel[14]; an episode that conveniently escapes the notice of many anti-Zionists.

Also escaping their notice are certain salient facts about the inception of the State of Israel and its position in global politics for the early years of its existence. Israel would not have come into existence when it did had not the Soviet bloc voted for the UN Partition Resolution on 29th November 1947 and it would have been wiped out at birth had it not been armed by Stalin’s Soviet Union against a British and American arms embargo (at a time when Stalin was actively persecuting Jews at home). It was only in the early 1960s that a US-Israeli alliance began to develop and was cemented after the Six Day War in response to the Soviet shift in the 1950s towards alignment with Arab nationalist regimes. These wider geo-political factors undermine the Western colonial implant and the Israel-as-America’s-regional-police-force stories as faithfully told by left anti-Zionists. As does the fact that when America does intervene in the Middle East it relies on regional Arab or Muslim allies such as Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for support rather than Israel (Hirsh: pp.198-99).

How to interpret the transformative effect on the Shoah/Holocaust poses the greatest intellectual and practical conundrum for anti-Zionists. The prominent anti-Zionist Norman Finkelstein attributes ‘the Zionist denial of Palestinians’ rights, culminating in their expulsion’ not to ‘an unavoidable accident’ but to ‘the systematic and conscientious implementation, over many decades … of a political ideology the goal of which was to create a demographically Jewish state in Palestine’. (Hirsh: p.200) He takes issue with the former anti-Zionist Isaac Deutscher who spent his early political life in the Yiddish-speaking environment of the Jewish Left in Europe before the Holocaust and who, while never identifying as a Zionist, came round to the view that the Shoah/Holocaust had made the creation of the State of Israel a ‘historic necessity’ but that Zionist leaders had acted irrationally in refusing to ‘remove or assuage the grievance’ of Palestinian Arabs. For Finkelstein the ‘historic necessity’ argument flies in the face of ‘the Zionist movement’s massive and, in many respects, impressive exertion of will’ (Hirsh: p.200) in achieving its goal of achieving a demographically pure Jewish nation-state. He says that the Palestinians’ chief grievance was the denial of their homeland and that ‘Zionists’ could only remove this grievance by negating the ‘raison d ‘etre’, the fundamental essence of ‘Zionism’. (Hirsh: p.201).

In trying to justify his case that Israel is definitionally racist, Finkelstein refuses, like many anti-Zionists, to engage with or attribute to in any way to the materiality, the real-life transformative circumstances of the Shoah/Holocaust in the creation of the State of Israel. For the narrative of the survivors of the Final Solution being denied entry to Palestine by the then British Mandate authorities and held in ships off Cyprus in 1945-46 drives a coach-and-horses through the binary categories that constitutes anti-Zionism: white/non-white; oppressor/oppressed; good nationalism/bad nationalism; coloniser/colonised (Hirsh: p.201).

While Deutscher argues that the foundation of Israel can only be understood by the events that preceded it; Finkelstein sees Deutscher as using the Shoah/Holocaust in order to justify Israeli human rights abuses; a view which he fully expounds on in his polemic The Holocaust Industry. For Finkelstein ‘the Zionists’ were totally responsible for Palestinian sufferings or were innocent refugees in which case they should have behaved in the manner expected of innocent refugees (according to the romantic left). Deutscher, by contrast, tries to rationalise the feelings of Jewish refugees taught to be fearful, angry and distrustful through their experiences in Europe and the Middle East.

Anti-Zionist narratives, as well as some pro-Israeli ones, flatten the experiences of the Palestinians into a single perspective (and conversely those of the Israelis). No account is taken of the complexities of the relationships between the Palestinian leadership and their peoples nor between Palestinians and Arab states many of whom have refused to integrate Palestinian refugees into their societies and whose instrumentalised hostility to Zionism to deflect from their own failings. Similarly, there is near silence on the virulence of anti-Semitism in the Arab world (and parts of the wider Islamic world) and terrorist and anti-Semitic attacks on Jews are interpreted by anti-Zionism as fundamentally defensive responses to Zionism. Cosmopolitan approaches to Israel/Palestine which search for the bases for a genuine peace and which do not infantilise or deny agency to Palestinians by considering the differences in opinion, politics and choices within their society (nor which conversely demonise Israel and Israelis) threaten the purity and simplistic anti-imperialist/imperialist dualism of anti-Zionism (Hirsh: pp.202-06 (and of the post 9/11 occidental left).

How Anti-Zionism Discourse Articulates Anti-Semitism 

At key moments anti-Zionist discourse, unconsciously or consciously, reproduces two classic anti-Jewish tropes, the ‘blood libel’/Jews as Christian child killers and the global Jewish conspiracy and marries the two in the following ways.

The theme of Israel as a child-killing state is increasingly common. Any incident of an under-age Palestinian killed during the conflict is liable to be interpreted and portrayed as a feature of Israel’s essentially child-killing nature (Hirsh: p.208).

The child-killing theme is articulated viscerally in visual depictions of the Israel-Palestine conflict. For example, a poster for the BDS campaign shows a wholesome Jaffa orange cut in half, out of which blood drips. The slogan reads: ‘Boycott Israeli Goods: Don’t squeeze a Jaffa, crush the occupation.’ This comingling of Jews (or Jews as Israelis), food and non-Jewish blood sends the powerful and emotive message that if you eat the Jaffa oranges that the Zionists are trying to sell you, you will be metaphorically be drinking the blood of their victims (Hirsh: pp.206-07).

In another incendiary illustration of the would-be ‘blood libel’, the self-professed antiracist Norman Finkelstein hosted an extensive gallery on his website by the Brazilian artist ‘Latuff’ who had won second prize in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s notorious competition for cartoons illustrating Holocaust denial. One image shows a swimming pool, in the shape of the Gaza strip, filled with blood. The image shows Uncle Sam luxuriating in the blood; the then Israeli premier Ehud Olmert covered in the blood and using the Israeli flag as a towel; and a UN waiter bringing a drink of blood to the swimmers while the rest of the world is depicted standing aside uninterested. Another image shows an innocent child who is either Lebanese or is representing Lebanon itself, being doused in Israeli petrol. (Hirsh: pp.207-08)

The most persuasive explanation for such visual imagery lies not in pure coincidence or conscious hostility to Jews as a people but in the realm of the cultural unconscious whereby anti-Zionists draw unconsciously upon ancient anti-Semitic themes when devising and using emotive visual symbols to highlight alleged Israeli wrong-doing but are reluctant to reflect on the genealogy of prejudice that reside beneath these images (Hirsh: p.208) The whole domain of the cultural unconscious requires greater scholastic enquiry but it is fair to state that historical or popularly received stereotypes are drawn upon in other semi-conscious articulations of racism such as black criminality in the notorious Willie Horton video ad by the Republicans used in the 1988 US Presidential election and Norman Tebbit’s ‘cricket test’ in 1990.

Critiques of the emotive imagery used thus by anti-Zionists should never be used to exculpate proven Israeli wrong-doing (nor should the Shoah/Holocaust be used to prevent criticism of such either). But I (and it is only my personal opinion) think it worthwhile to point out that ‘child’-killing ‘ and ‘blood drinking’ cries are never used to the same degree of resonance in relation to child victims of wars in which the USA, UK and Russia are involved nor in the case of the killing of children by plastic or live bullets or other actions by state security forces in Northern Ireland.

Blood libel always accompanies anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. In the words of Anthony Julius referenced by Hirsh, if the ‘Jews’ kill children then they certainly then conspire to hide the crime. If Israel is based on child-killing or genocide then there must be a Zionist conspiracy of Israel lobby which has the power to shield the truth from the global media (Hirsh: p.208).

The most explicit and comprehensive from of global anti-Semitic conspiracy theory is the Protocol of the Learned Elders of Zion, a late 19th Tsarist Russian forgery which purported to comprise a report of the meeting of the Jewish conspiracy in Prague. The Hamas Covenant (1988) explicitly reprints and endorses this forgery as well as holding the Jewish (not merely the Zionist) ‘enemy’ for all the revolutions, wars and imperialist ventures of modern times (Hirsh: pp.208-09)

Contemporary echoes of the hoary old Jewish conspiracy theme are found in the argument that there is a Zionist lobby that possesses such huge power and influence that it is able to send the USA to war in its interests and to taint any narrative of Israel and Palestine as contrary to its own as automatically antisemitic.

Thus, the US academics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in their 2006 writings on the “Israel Lobby” found it to be responsible for the decision of the USA to go to war with the Iraq of Saddam Hussein without offering any substantial evidence (dodgy dossier, anyone!) for this claim. This claim resonates with claims made throughout history that Jews start wars such as that the Boer war was caused by a Jewish diamond lobby manipulating the British Empire; America First’s key propagandist Charles Lindberg’ s claim that the leaders of ‘both the Jewish and British people … for reasons which are not American wish to involve us in the [Second World] war; Hitler’s Reichstag speech in which he threatened that if ‘Jewish financiers .. succeed once more in hurling the peoples into a world war … the result will be… the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe right down to the conspiracy theory that Zionists were behind 9/11 (and ISIS) with reports (printed in the Lebanese Hezbollah newspaper Al-Manah) that 4,000 Jews were told not to go to work to the World Trade Centre on the day of the attacks and of Israeli agents (of ‘Dancing Israelis’ fake notoriety) seen celebrating in New Jersey as the Twin Towers collapsed (Hirsh: pp.210-11).

So also, Robert Fisk wrote a four-page piece in the Independent newspaper on 27th April 2006 headlining ‘United States of Israel?’ that was illustrated by a full-page, colour image of the Stars and Stripes with Stars of David replacing the usual stars. The piece profiles Stephen Walt a hero, speaking truth to power, who took on the ‘Lobby’ and its egregious accusations of anti-Semitism. Fisk offers no evidence that the ‘Zionists’ forced the US into starting a war not in its own interests; nor any examples of anti-Semitism accusations directed at Mearsheimer and Walt; nor any evidence for his claims that the ‘Lobby’ stopped Noam Chomsky for having a column in an American newspapers or that it prevented the showing of the play I am Rachel Corrie in New York (Hirsh: pp.214-15).

In this process of ‘slippage’, the empirical focus on the differing organisations and interests within the broad sweep of the pro-Israel lobby within Mearsheimer and Walt’s and Fisk’s works segues or ‘slips’ into the construction of a single, unvariegated, monolith motivated by bad faith and a desire to manipulate the highest reaches of American decision-making. In the course of this slippage, Jewish symbols (Stars of David) not Israeli ones are used to convey the impression that Jews, because of their loyalty to other Jews round the world, are not patriotic Americans. The device of merging Jewish stars with the American flag has long been a weapon of choice for neo-Nazis, radical Islamist and conspiracy theorists (Hirsh: p.214).

Indeed, anti-Zionists can be quite candid in the ideological and political company they keep in the cause of assailing the all-powerful “Zionist” lobby. At a conference at the University of Chicago in October 2007 on ‘academic freedom’ and to defend Norman Finkelstein who had failed to win academic tenure at De Paul University, Chicago due to the supposed influence of the Israel Lobby, the late distinguished historian and professed antiracist Tony Judt made the following statement:

If you stand up and say [as he did] … that there is an Israel lobby … that there are a set of Jewish organisations, who do work, both in front of the scenes and behind the scenes, to prevent certain kinds of conversations, certain kinds of criticisms and so on, you come very close to saying that there is a de facto conspiracy or if you like plot or collaboration to prevent certain policy from moving a particular way… – and that sounds a lot like, you know, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the conspiratorial theory of the Zionist Occupied Government and so on – well if it sounds like it’s unfortunate, but that’s just how it is. We cannot calibrate the truths that we’re willing to speak, if we think they are true, according to the idiocies of people [like David Duke who confirmed in an email to Judt that he was on the same page as him, Mearsheimer and Walt on the issue of the Israel lobby] who happen to agree with us for their own reasons. (Hirsh: p.215) 

Judt proceeds to try to give himself ideological and ethical cover by reminding his audience of:

… what Arthur Koestler said in Carnegie Hall in 1948 when he was asked ‘Why do you criticise Stalin – don’t you know that there are people in this country, Nixon an and who were not yet known as McCarthyites, who are also anti-Communists and will use your anti-Communism to their advantage. And Koestler’s response was that … you cannot help it if idiots once every 24 hours with their stopped political clock are on the same side as you… (Hirsh: p.216) 

However, the gulag did exist. The Jewish (or Zionist) conspiracy of the all-encompassing scale that anti-Zionists imagine does not. The McCarthyites were conspiracy theorists who say ‘reds under every bed’ in the form of every liberal schoolteacher, Hollywood actor and performing artist. Koestler and other anti-Stalinist leftists like Orwell, Trotsky, Arendt spoke out against the prevailing left orthodoxy of their time; that Stalin should not be criticised. Some contemporary leftists like Judt fail to speak out against a current left orthodoxy; that Israel and its Jewish supporters are uniquely evil and powerful. They are also blissfully ignorant or wilfully blind or perhaps do not care about the far-right elements that they attract to their antizionist orbit. The same can be said of the devotees of Jeremy Corbyn who bask in the Labour leader’s so frequently trumpeted antiracism and wallow in Israeli Embassy conspiracy theories or ‘bad faith’ refutations of anyone who raises the issue of anti-Semitism in the Labour movement. In spite of, or maybe because, of their self-referenced, pure ideological leftism that they fail to understand how Zionist conspiracy theories and their obsession with the perceived evils that Israel is said to embody can act as a progenitor of an unadorned anti-Semitic movement.


(1) David Hirsh (2018) Contemporary Left Antisemitism London: Routledge

(2) Deborah Lipstadt (2019) Antisemitism Here and Now London: Scribe

[1]Uncategorised p.2

[2]Ibid. p.2

[3] Ibid, p.3

[4] Ibid, p.3

[5] Ibid, p.5

[6] Peter Beinart Debunking the myth that antizionism is antisemitic

[7] Ibid: p.2

[8] Ibid: p.21

[9] Antizionism is antisemitism p.6

[10] Beinart: p.3

[11] Beinart: p.4

[12] Including the British Labour Party perhaps

[13] Karen Brodkin (1999) ‘How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says about Race in America

[14] Hen Mazzig No, Israel isn’t a country of privileged and powerful white Europeans. Los Angeles Times 20 May 2019

⏩  Barry Gilheany has joined the Jewish Labour Movement as an affiliate member and encourages fellow labour movement colleagues concerned about Labour’s anti-Semitism problem to do the same.

Labour Anti-Semitism: Is Anti-Zionism Anti-Semitic?