“A vicious campaign is being waged against me and the lecture I am due to give at the Jewish Museum Berlin on Friday. The Jerusalem Post has just stoked the flames,” writes Brian Klug, a philosopher at Oxford and founder of Independent Jewish Voices in Britain.
From The Jerusalem Post:
Klug is the keynote speaker at a two-day conference scheduled for Friday and Saturday titled “Anti-Semitism in Europe Today: the Phenomena, the Conflicts.” The second day of the conference will mark 75 years since the pogrom referred to as “Kristallnacht,” in which the Nazis and ordinary Germans burned synagogues, murdered Jews and sent German Jews to concentration camps.
At the heart of the campaign is a McCarthyite “dossier” that Israel supporters have compiled to smear Klug. He describes it:
It’s a classic case of a kangaroo court. Reading it, I felt a little like Socrates at his trial: he opened his defence by saying that listening to his accusers he nearly forgot who he was.
The Times of Israel has also published some of the dossier. Here are a few of the Klug jurors, per the Post:
Elhanan Yakira, a professor for philosophy at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, said that the “Jewish Museum would rather deal with dead Jews or with a Jew à la Brian Klug” than with “the life, the feelings and thinking” of the majority of Jews in Israel and the United States.
Gerald Steinberg, a political studies professor at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, termed Klug “an immoral anti-Zionist” and accused the Jewish Museum of acting in the same immoral way by hosting Klug….
The controversy has reached Angela Merkel. From the Post:
Dr. Shimon Samuels, who heads the European office of the Wiesenthal Center, wrote an appeal on Tuesday to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the website of the European Jewish Press.
“Kristallnacht” must not be abused as an icon for those who wish to decouple the Jewish victims of Nazism from their heirs, the Jewish victims of today—whether in Israel or Diaspora. It is, indeed, so much easier to mourn for the Jewish dead of 75 years ago than for those of today.
Was the Berlin Jewish Museum created, at the cost of Germany’s taxpayers and international donations, to demonize Israel, serve as a fig leaf for antisemitism and to commit memoricide—the murder of the memory of those murdered?
Klug’s response to me:
One of the worst things about this hate campaign is that it detracts so much from the solemnity of the occasion — Kristallnacht — and the seriousness of the subject: antisemitism.
As readers’ comments show, I am now a Nazi and a total monster in the eyes of some people. I worry a little about this. We know from the history of antisemitism that hate speech leads, sooner or later, to violent acts. It’s all so incredibly ironic.
Klug is an Oxford scholar and author of Being Jewish and Doing Justice, a collection that included a superb essay that is also cited in the dossier, his piece on the absurdity of demanding of those who engage in the debate over the conflict, as a “ticket to ride,” that they affirm that “Israel has a right to exist.” Agreeing to that condition, Klug wrote, is giving a blank check to those who state that Israel is the state of the Jews. Klug refused to issue the affirmation, or its denial either, as a premise for his engagement.
He says that this JTA report is quite fair, if not entirely accurate. Excerpt:
Among the critics’ claims is that Klug denies Israel’s right to exist.
The accusation and others are false, Klug told JTA in a weekend email.
“My attorney has confirmed that the dossier is defamatory and … I am weighing my options,” said Klug, who has been active in British Jewish movements that are critical of some Israeli policies on the Palestinians.
The dossier includes a 2004 piece at The Nation, “The Myth of the New Anti-Semitism.”
German political scientist Dr. Clemens Heni told The Jerusalem Post, “Brian Klug is a bad choice as a keynote speaker at a conference on anti- Semitism because he denies that there is a new anti-Semitism. In his view this is a ‘myth,’ as he wrote in [New York-based magazine] The Nation.”..
What about that piece in the Nation? Adam Shatz of the London Review of Books writes:
Brian’s article for me when I was literary editor of The Nation, The Myth of the New Anti-Semitism, is being distorted as denial (and self-hatred, of course). The purpose of Brian’s article was to explain, not to excuse, and to argue that the attacks on Jews in Europe at the time of the Second Intifada could not be understood as the latest manifestation of ancient Jew hatred but had to be placed in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war on terrorism.
Read that piece. It includes a brilliant explanation of the ways that Israel has consecrated itself among Jews as the touchstone of Jewish identity– and the risk that this poses to Jews. Many of us have had this idea; I don’t think I’ve ever seen it expressed so logically and precisely. Klug:
In Europe, its original home, antiSemitism is an old and deeply rooted cultural trait that from time to time… has found political expression. In the Arab and Muslim world today it is, roughly speaking, the other way around: The political conflict is what comes first and goes deep, while anti-Semitism is a secondary formation, a byproduct of aspirations and grievances that have nothing to do with a priori prejudice against Jews (although such prejudice was hardly absent from the Muslim world before the creation of Israel). Foxman says that anti-Semitism is “rampant in the world of Islam” and warns against its “spread” in Europe due to the burgeoning Muslim population. But without a doubt, it would not be spreading within Muslim communities in Europe were it not for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially the current crisis that began in 2000 with the breakdown of the Oslo peace initiative and the outbreak of the second intifada…
[This] misconception goes to the heart of the complex situation in which Jews find themselves today. Israel does not regard itself as a state that just happens to be Jewish (like the medieval kingdom of the Khazars). It sees itself as (in Prime Minister Sharon’s phrase) “the Jewish collective,” the sovereign state of the Jewish people as a whole. In his speech at the Herzliya Conference in December, Sharon called the state “a national and spiritual center for all Jews of the world,” and added, “Aliyah [Jewish immigration] is the central goal of the State of Israel.” To what extent this view is reciprocated by Jews worldwide is hard to say. Many feel no particular connection to the state or strongly oppose its actions. On the other hand, in spring 2002, at the height of Israel’s Operation Defensive Shield, Jews gathered in large numbers in numerous cities to demonstrate their solidarity, as Jews, with Israel. Many Jewish community leaders, religious and secular, publicly reinforce this identification with the state. All of which is liable to give the unreflective onlooker the impression that Jews are, as it were, lumping themselves together; that Israel is indeed “the Jewish collective.”
Not that this justifies, not for one moment, a single incident where Jews are attacked for being Jewish; such attacks are repugnant. But it does provide a context within which to make sense of them without seeing a global “war against the Jews.” There is no such war. It is, in fact, as much a figment of the imagination as its mirror image: a Jewish conspiracy against the world. Jews have good reason to be concerned about growing hostility toward them. But while this includes the revival of hard-core antiSemitism, it is closer to the truth to say that anti-Zionism today takes the form of anti-Semitism rather than the other way round.