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« The Smoking Socks Award - who's a 'terrorist'? | Main | It's the Jews stupid »

December 07, 2008


Joel Pollak

Congratulations to IAS for hosting this debate.

For the record, the communal leadership did not reject my offer to write, and I was satisfied with the space accorded to my views by the Cape Times.

I did not see these final questions as an opportunity for Doron and I to respond to each other, but to our readers. I am therefore disappointed that Doron felt the need to attack me in some of his answers. I could respond but will let matters rest for now, at least in this forum.

I am equally disappointed with the viciousness with which some commentators responded to Doron and to myself, sometimes without properly reading the posts. That's the hazard of a public debate, I suppose, but in a world where we actually seek to convince or at least understand each other, greater circumspection is necessary.

I am curious as to why some of those who support Doron's point of view have not responded to my answers to their questions. If they have criticisms or additional comments, I would like to hear them.

Good luck to the editors with future editions of this series.

Shmuel ben David

Anti-Semites? Who, Us?

by Steven Plaut

Say what? Anti-Semites? Who, us anti-Zionists? Us?

We have nothing against Jews as such. We just hate Zionism and Zionists. We think Israel does not have a right to exist. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such. Heavens to Mergatroyd. Marx Forbid. We are humanists. Progressives. Peace lovers.

Anti-Semitism is the hatred of Jews. Anti-Zionism is opposition to Zionism and Israeli policies. The two have nothing to do with one another. Venus and Mars. Night and day.

Trust us.

Sure, we think the only country on the earth that must be annihilated is Israel. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

Sure, we think that the only children on earth whose being blown up is okay if it serves a good cause are Jewish children. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

Sure, we think that if Palestinians have legitimate grievances this entitles them to mass murder Jews. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

Naturally, we think that the only people on earth who should never be allowed to exercise the right of self-defense are the Jews. Jews should only resolve the aggression against them through capitulation, never through self-defense. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

We only denounce racist apartheid in the one country in the Middle East that is not a racist apartheid country. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

We refuse to acknowledge the Jews as a people, and think they are only a religion. We do not have an answer as to how people who do not practice the Jewish religion can still be regarded as Jews. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

We think that all peoples have the right to self-determination, except Jews, and including even the make-pretend Palestinian "people". But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

We hate it when people blame the victim, except of course when people blame the Jews for the jihads and terrorist campaigns against them. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

We think the only country in the Middle East that is a fascist anti-democratic one is the one that has free elections. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

We demand that the only country in the Middle East with free speech, free press, or free courts be destroyed in the name of democracy. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

We oppose military aggression, except when it is directed against Israel. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

We really understand suicide bombers who murder bus loads of Jewish children and we insist that their demands be met in full. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

We think the only conflict on earth that must be solved through dismembering one of the parties to that conflict is the one involving Israel. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

We do not think that Jews have any human rights that need to be respected, and especially not the right to ride a bus or sit in a café without being murdered. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

There exist Jewish, leftist anti-Zionists and we consider this proof that anti-Zionists could not possibly be anti-Semitic; not even the ones who cheer when Jews are mass murdered. These leftist anti-Zionists and the Neturei Karta are the only Jews we think need be acknowledged or respected. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

We do not think murder proves how righteous and just the cause of the murderer is, except when it comes to murderers of Jews. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

We do not think the Jews are entitled to their own state and must submit to being a minority in a Rwanda-style "bi-national state," although no other state on earth, including the 22 Arab countries, should be similarly expected to be deprived of sovereignty. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

We think that Israel's having a Jewish majority and a six-point star on its flag makes it a racist apartheid state. We do not think any other country having an ethnic-religious majority or having crosses or crescents or "Allah Akbar" on its flag is racist or needs dismemberment. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

We only condemn the "mistreatment" of women in the country of the Middle East in which they are not mistreated. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

We only condemn the "mistreatment" of minorities in the country in the Middle East in which minorities are not brutally suppressed and mass murdered. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

We demand equal citizen rights, which is why the only country in the Middle East in need of extermination is the only one in which such rights exist. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

We have no trouble with the fact that there is no freedom of religion in any Arab countries. But we are mad as hell at Israel for violating religious freedom, and never mind that we are never quite sure where or when it does so. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

So how can you possibly say we are anti-Semites? We are simply anti-Zionists. We seek peace and justice, that's all. And surely that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.


Thanks Joel,

Apologies for getting it wrong. I have made a correction at the bottom of the post.

I agree with your reasons for disappointment.

I loved the disparities in the final answers. Practical optimism versus Idealistic pessimism.


Apart from actually avoiding the substance of the question, Doron gives over the fundamental point of his argument: "What I do know, is that staying guarantees that violence, by both sides, will never end."

Violence .. by both sides, eh? That should get the smoking sock award. Nothing like recycling the cycle of violence canard for a little afternoon's entertainment.

If the point is to do "something" to avoid inertia then substantive and targeted violence from Israel is just as good as sitting back and taking it on the chin. Perhaps better.

In other words, more than 15 years of trying to negotiate a deal and many more years prior to that of begging for peace and fighting defensive wars didn't work. A focused and sustained campaign to impose a just Israeli solution, by carrot and stick, including the use of force and incentives to population movement as well as peaceful coexistence, might work.

Hence in Doron's logic, we may just as well carpet bomb Gaza and see if that doesn't bring peace. I suggest it would. Unlike negotiated settlements ref Eastern Europe and Africa which have not worked, extreme force does work (see Hiroshima, Iraq (?)). QED.

As to Doron's duplicitous and deceitful quoting of Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Eliezer. I challenge Doron to thoroughly understand the full weltaunschauung of these two leaders, integrate their thought processes and learn too from their students. I submit that having done that it would be completely impossible for Doron to continue to push the moral equivalence, victim culture and supporting the murder and population removal of Jews in favour of supposed human rights to enter neighbouring countries and blow yourself up.

Indeed, both Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Eliezer ostensibly support the din of rodef and the Halachic injunctions in going to war. Not to mention halacha against giving away Eretz hakodesh. (I say "ostensibly" in the sense of "tsarich iyun bapratim" and suffice it to say, Hameyvin yavin)

Come Doron, man up and admit to your Kafka-esque behaviour. If you want to ingratiate yourself with evil, don't do it on someone else's account.


Joel writes
"I am equally disappointed with the viciousness with which some commentators responded to Doron and to myself, sometimes without properly reading the posts. That's the hazard of a public debate, I suppose, but in a world where we actually seek to convince or at least understand each other, greater circumspection is necessary."

oh give me a break, anyhow Joel I apologised to you for misreading a post, for mistakenly attributing something Doron wrote for something you wrote. I apologise here again.

However with that said...

As far as "practical optimism" goes Steve, well naive head in the sand denial by any other name is still naive head in the sand denial and wishful thinking.

Joel with the authority of one who can see into the future remarks "Yes, there will be peace within our lifetimes. I will even say, optimistically, within the next ten years. It will be a two-state solution, or perhaps a three-state solution "

Joel you know there are some parapsychologists in Europe and the USA who would love to test you for your precognitive powers, your ability to see into the future is a rare rare talent, good ESP subjects are very hard to come by. You should contact them, let them know you are the next Nostradamus.

As far as what Pollak refers to as the viciousness directed at Doron, one of the favs of the South African anti-Zionist pseudo-intellectual crowd, well Pollak - the fact that you find it necessary to be polite and all with a favourite (Isaacs) of these odious pseudo-liberal anti-Semitic zombies (yes anti-Semites) who pretend they are not, well all the worse for you. The likes of Isaacs and Geffen and their ilk invited the supporter of divestment from Israel Prof Esack (see my reference to Esack's talk at an Israel divestment conference at the University of Minnesota last year) and Drew Forrest of the vicious Jew nation hating M&G to be a part of what Anthony Posner rightly calls the SA anti-Zionist Delegation to the Middle-East with everything that that implies... and Pollak expects me, or feels it necessary for us to be polite to Isaacs! You have a lot of chutzpah Pollak.

Either one gets the implications of the article by Steve Plaut that Shmuel (is that Gary?) posts above, or one doesn't. Pollak doesn't seem to get it.

I can't really be bothered with Isaacs, but it is disturbing that Pollak who regurgitates so much candy-floss wishful thinking (and the whitewashing of the both the pervasiveness and depth of Islamic extremism, its very intractableness in the M-E that such wishful thinking attempts to hide from and cover up) as some kind of political analysis, is seen as the defender of Israel. The denial of both the nature and depth, the very roots of Islamic fanaticism and ipso facto the terror that threaten tiny Israel's very existence by a so-called defender of Israel is I repeat disturbing (and Joel is hardly an isolated case, hardly) in the extreme. And to the extent that Joel blathers on about some pie in the sky fantasy of a moderate Palestinian state at peace with Israel, he is in denial.

But I guess calling it as it is, being a realist about the nature of the very real threats of nothing less than another Holocaust of Jewry makes me a pessimist. Israel is surrounded and heavily outnumbered by peoples whose rhetoric on Jews, at all strata of their societies, from government circles, to their army officer corps, to their media - the newspapers, radio, TV, their mosques, their schools, the family dinner-table is indistinguishable from the outpourings of bloodlust and hate from Nazi Europe. This has its consequences, it always has in the past.
Realism is always misunderstood as pessimism by the likes of Steve and others, with their heads in the sand.

You wouldn't have a clue about the nature, the dynamics, the very roots of Islamic Jew-hatred going by Pollak's outpourings, even though I concede Pollak has many valid intelligent things to say. Ultimately Pollak though is too superficial, he doesn't go into the heart of things. If I were to rely on Pollak (I don't just mean in these debates, I mean what he writes elsewhere as well) I wouldn't know about both the deeper dynamics that drive the bloody history of Middle-East conflict these last hundred years (that is the WHY of its bloody history) and I wouldn't really know about what is REALLY going on there now, nor WHY. To be fair to Pollak (even charitable), he doesn't have the space to get into all that, both here and in newspaper articles that he writes for example - he would need a book - but I wonder, given his wishful thinking on Israel's future with her Palestinian neighbours, if he ever would, or is capable of it frankly.

Never mind that this debate between Isaacs and Pollak was naturally predicated on the Palestinian-Israel conflict, largely ignoring the far bigger intractable problem (of which the Palestinian-Israel conflict is merely one aspect) of the fact that Israel is surrounded by other nations, like Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and the rest of the Muslim Middle-East whose populations continue to have undying hostility to the Jews and seek their destruction. Even if the pie-in-the-sky fantasy of a moderate Palestinian State came to be and Hamas and Islamic Jihad members were all abducted by aliens in their UFOs and taken to their home planet orbiting the Sirius star system; what about Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood etc? Hezbollah according to Israeli military intelligence currently has forty thousand rockets, all for the goal of killing all the Jews, and that is just Hezbollah whose military capability is nothing compared to the Baathist Syrian regime, and what of Iran?

Is Hezbollah going to disband before or after Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the Al-Asqua Martyr's Brigade jihadists are abducted by the aliens from Sirius, Joel? What of Syria, Iran, and an Egypt increasingly falling prey to more and more Islamic extremism? Oh I'm sorry if by bringing up these uncomfortable facts (and I have barely gotten started), it makes me a pessimist (read realist) in your eyes Steve, but some of us live in the real world, some of us prefer fantasy.

Hey I also prefer fantasy sometimes, it's understandable. I mean I don't want to get older, I want to be able to bed twenty year old movie stars without even trying, I want my bank account to be credited by an anonymous billionaire every month for no reason at all, but I don't call these fantasies "practical optimism" Steve, I call them what they are, fantasies. Likewise I don't call the reality that I'm getting older, and that I get less and less looks from young women with every passing year "idealistic pessimism", it's simply real life.

Let's see where we are in ten years time Joel and Steve, how many jihadist terror attacks on Israel have either been carried out, and/or averted and thwarted, how many new wars (hopefully none but this is mere hope against the all too ugly reality), what of Iran in the next ten years, and their nuclear bombs in the making? What of the next year alone? How many lies about Israel and the attendant whitewashing of Islamic terror by the BBC, the M&G and the rest of the world's media in the next ten years, in the next year, and parroted by their stupid anti-Semitic zombie readers and audience in the Western world alone? The kind who adore the likes of Isaacs and his ilk.

Will Israel still be around in ten years time? I hope so, but it's not a certainty, unfortunately not, and those few of us whose minds have still not beeen hijacked by PC fantasies of the way we would like things to be, rather than the way they are, dare even ask this question.

Blathering on about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (and in the most superficial way) while ignoring the bigger picture; is kind of like blathering on about anti-Semitism in Russia and Poland back in the 1930s - the threats to the Jews from these age-old anti-Semitic quarters - whilst at the same time ignoring the fact that in the same decade Hitler ascended to power in Germany and proceeded to set in motion the ideological and industrial basis for mass murder (of the Jews and others).

Let us continue to face the facts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (or not as this debate shows), for sure; but let us not lose sight of the bigger picture, as the brief sixty year history of Israel as a modern state in hostile territory should teach us (ie the history of Israel's major and even minor wars with its neighbours bent on destroying Israel).


I have to say that I have rarely come across someone of equal arrogance to you. You portray yourself as all knowing and explode into a whilrwind of malignant offensiveness when you disagree with others.

Your tone is almost always condescending and disparaging.

I don't think Joel or Doron should ever bother replying to any of your criticisms. I certainly won't.

Blacklisted Dictator

I think that you are being too harsh re Lawrence.
Lawrence apologized to Joel (twice!) re his earlier confusion. We all make mistakes. There was no need for Joel to go on about it. We are not at school.
I should add that Joel has failed, in his conclusion, to put the Israeli/Palestinian conflict into a wider geo political context. I have to conclude that his crystal ball gazing is a bit opaque.



Doron Isaacs suggests that the first suicide bombing was a reaction to the massacre committed by Baruch Goldstein. (Yes, I know he goes to great pains to say that even 100 such massacres wouldn't justify even one suicide bombing, but that comes across as meaningless boilerplate.)

Baruch Goldstein's terror did not occur in a vacuum. Between the signing of the Oslo Accords and the time that Goldstein perpetrated the massacre, 29 Israelis were killed in terror attacks including a very good friend of Dr. Goldstein and the friend's son.

This is not to excuse the massacre, but the initial reaction to the Oslo Accords was an increase in violence, not a lessening of it. The suicide bombings in Afula and Hadera should be seen in the context of the increased Palestinian terror and almost certainly would have occurred even if Baruch Goldstein hadn't chosen to inflict his personal vengeance on Palestinians at worship.


Soccordad, you raise a great point. Here is a good link to the figures almost double the number of Israelis have does in Palestinian terrorist attacks in the 15 years since Oslo compared to the 25 years before that (1968-1993). Baruch Goldstein alone cannot be the cause of such a statistically different result.


Ppl like Achmat and Isaacs are demonizing an an etire nation ad inciting genocide.
WE need to deal with them with this in mind, and not simply engage them in friendly debate.
These ppl are inciting a second holocaust.
Achmat says 95% of Israelis are racists, to justify the mass murder of Israelis.
Dennis Davis threatened to take Mike Berger before the Equality Commission for comparing Palestinians to Nazis.
Why can't we do the same when the demonize Israelis and call Israelis names.
Surely prejudice against Israelis is no less racist than prejudice against diaspora Jews or Jews per se.
It seems even in the circles right here, hating 'just Jews in Israel' seems a lot more acceptable than traditional anti-semitism. And I cant understand why.

And no, Lawrence I m not Shmuel Ben David.


Anti-Zionism is Racism
by Judea Pearl

In the past three months, I have visited four “troubled” campuses — Duke, York (Canada), Columbia and UC Irvine — where tensions between Jewish and anti-Zionist students and professors have attracted national attention. In these visits, I have spoken to students, faculty and administrators, and I have obtained a fairly gloomy picture of the situation on those and other campuses.

Jewish students are currently subjected to an unprecedented assault on their identity as Jews. And we, the Jewish faculty on campus, have let those students down. We have failed to equip them with effective tools to fight back this assault.

We can reverse this trend.

Many condemn anti-Zionism for being a flimsy cover for anti-Semitism. I disagree. The order is wrong. I condemn anti-Semitism for being an instrument for a worse form of racism: anti-Zionism.

In other words, I submit that anti-Zionism is a form of racism more dangerous than classical anti-Semitism. Framing anti-Zionism as racism is precisely the weapon that our students need for survival on campus.

Anti-Zionism earns its racist character from denying the Jewish people what it grants to other collectives (e.g. Spanish, Palestinians), namely, the right to nationhood and self-determination.

Are Jews a nation? A collective is entitled to nationhood when its members identify with a common history and wish to share a common destiny. Palestinians have earned nationhood status by virtue of thinking like a nation, not by residing where their ancestors did (many of them are only three or four generations in Palestine). Jews, likewise, are bonded by nationhood (i.e., common history and destiny) more than they are bonded by religion.

The appeal to Jewish nationhood is necessary when we consider Israel’s insistence on remaining a “Jewish state.” By “Jewish state” Israelis mean, of course, “national Jewish state,” not “religious Jewish state” — theocratic states (like Pakistan and Iran) are incompatible with modern standards of democracy and pluralism. Anti-Zionist racists use this anti-theocracy argument repeatedly to delegitimize Israel, and I have found our students unable to defend their position with conventional ideology that views Jewishness as a religion.

Jewishness is more than just a religion. It is an intricate and intertwined mixture of ancestry, religion, history, country, culture, tradition, attitude, nationhood and ethnicity, and we need not apologize for not fitting neatly into the standard molds of textbook taxonomies — we did not choose our turbulent history.

As a form of racism, anti-Zionism is worse than anti-Semitism. It targets the most vulnerable part of the Jewish people, namely, the people of Israel, who rely on the sovereignty of their state for physical safety, national identity and personal dignity. To put it more bluntly, anti-Zionism condemns 5 million human beings, mostly refugees or children of refugees, to eternal statelessness, traumatized by historical images of persecution and genocide.

Anti-Zionism also attacks the pivotal component of our identity, the glue that bonds us together — our nationhood, our history. And while people of conscience reject anti-Semitism, anti-Zionist rhetoric has become a mark of academic sophistication and social acceptance in Europe and in some U.S. campuses.

Moreover, anti-Zionism disguises itself in the cloak of political debate, exempt from sensitivities and rules of civility that govern interreligious discourse. Religion is ferociously protected in our society — political views are not.

Just last month, a student organization on a UC campus hosted a meeting on “A World Without Israel.” Imagine the international furor that a meeting called, “A World Without Mecca,” would provoke.

So, in the name of “open political debate,” administrators would not think twice about inviting MIT linguist Noam Chomsky to speak on campus, though his anti-Zionist utterances offend the fabric of my Jewish identity deeper than any of the ugly religious insults currently shocking the media. He should be labeled for what he is: a racist.

Strategically, while accusations of anti-Semitism are worn out and have lost their punch, charging someone with racism makes people ask why anyone would deny people the right of self-determination in a sliver of land in the birthplace of their history. It shifts the frame of discourse from debating Israel’s policies to the root cause of the conflict — denying Israelis their basic rights as a nation.

Charges of “racism” highlight the inherent asymmetry between the Zionist and anti-Zionist positions. The former grants both Israelis and Palestinians the right for statehood, the latter denies that right to one, and only one side. This asymmetry is the most effective weapon our students should use in campus debates, for it puts them back on the high moral grounds of “fair and balanced” and forces their opponents to defend an ideology of one-sidedness.

For example, I have found it effective, when confronting an anti-Zionist speaker, to ask: “Are you willing to go on record and state that the Israel-Palestine conflict is a conflict between two legitimate national movements?” Western audiences adore even-handedness and abhor bias. The question above forces the racist to unveil and defend his uneven treatment of the two sides.

America prides itself on academic freedom, and academic freedom entails freedom to teach hatred and racism — we graciously accept this fact of life. However, academic freedom also entails the freedom of students to expose racism, be it white-supremacy, women-inferiority, Islamophobia or Zionophobia wherever it is spotted. Not to censor, but to expose — racists stew in their own words.

In summary, I believe the formula “Anti-Zionism = Racism” should give Jewish students the courage to both defend their identity and expose those who abuse it.

This opinion piece appeared in The New York Jewish Week.


An interesting debat yes. What was achieved? I'm not quite sure.

First I would like ti reiterate soccordads point, one which I had posed as a question myself. Every concession we have ever made has lead to a spike in violence. What is there to indicate that future concessions will change.

On that I wish to point out that although Joel's arguments were more thought out and rational than Doron's, abd whilst he did actually answer the questions posed to him, I feel he was not the right man for the debate. Joel is too leftist. This was a debate between a leftist and an anarchist - two different points on the same spectrum. It would have been more interesting to see a debate between the anarchist and a so-called rightist. Polar opposites. Joel spends much of this debate (at least in the Q and A) apologising for Israeli behaviour. The above question applies to both Joel and Doron - There is no evidence based on any event thus far to indicate that a two state solution will bring peace. Joel's idea that 2 states will bring peace is as based in reality as Doron's perception of Israel's responsibility for Arab suicide bombings.

As an aside, I'm not saying I don't think a two state solution is a bad idea in principle. I'm saying its a bad idea in reality. And since we have to live in reality (although many such as Isaacs try to avoid this) we should look for solutions in reality.

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