A Sermon Against Sermonisers

I wrote this poem-cum-rant some years back having been somewhat insultingly condescended to by a well-meaning but profoundly insensitive Christian when talking about my depression, an illness I have fought unstintingly since childhood. Since then I have been in many disputes with evangelical and ‘born-again’ Christians who cannot understand how anybody could disagree with their view of things and yet live a fulfilled life. I respect Christians whose faith allows them to respect those who do not share that faith, just as I do Judaists and Muslims: but I do not like Christian evangelism,or any other kind of religious evangelism, and this is why:

SERMON

You tell me that you know
what is at the root of my troubles,
why I find it so difficult to deal
with my illness and pain.
You say it is because I have no faith,
because I do not believe in God.
You say
that I must learn to believe in Him,
to accept Him into my life,
to humble myself before Him, as you do,
because life can have no meaning
for those who choose to live without Him,
no direction
for those who refuse to live according to His Word;
no hope for those
who do not seek out
the kind of comfort that only He can give.
You say too,
that you will pray to God
to offer me guidance
so that one day I might see the truth of this for myself.
And then you tell me
that God is supreme over all things
and no mortal creature can ever comprehend
the true extent of His powers
or presume to know His intentions.
So can you explain:
If the contents of God’s thoughts
are as far beyond the grasp of humankind
as you say they are
then how can you know
what God wants or needs from us,
or if He wants or needs anything at all?
If the Will of God is such a profound mystery,
precisely how do you set about obeying it?
Do you yourself know God?
Has He told you all those things that you tell me
it is impossible to know?
Has He taught you the workings of the Universe
in every tiny detail?
And through knowing Him
do you also know the workings of every human Soul?
Have you searched the depths of my Soul
more intensely than I have?
Is your understanding of its complexities
more thorough than my own?
And surely you as well have been unhappy.
Even with God to help you, have you not suffered?
Have grief, anger, confusion, despair,
played no part in your life?
Are you really so content that you can instruct others
in the art of contentment?
And despite all your efforts to adhere to God’s Law,
have you never sinned against another human being,
never been cruel or mean or neglectful
or proud?
Are you so perfect that you can instruct others
in the arts of perfection?
And tell me this also:
do you really believe
that God’s compassion only extends
to those who tell Him they love Him?
Is this your idea of humility,
that our existence on Earth
is a competition
that only those who share your belief
can win?
I beg you, please, for both our sakes,
do not condemn me
simply because when I look at the world
through my eyes
I do not see what you see
when you look at it through yours.
If God exists as you say He does,
He will pass His judgment on me without your help;
and He surely will pass His judgment on you too,
when on the Last Day
He comes to weigh your actions,
and see how slight is your love for Him
when measured against your own self-love.

I Live In A Library…

…and an art-gallery too.
No, I do not live in the kind of building which is usually designated in this way. I live in a one-bedroom flat on the fifth floor of a council-owned tower-block.
But on the other hand, I have somehow managed to find space for some thousands of books – I’m not sure how many: two? three? – and a quantity of pictures and other ornaments of which I have no count.
I call my books a library and not a collection, because it resembles what is usually called a library in one crucial fashion. On the plethora of shelving in my living room, bedroom and kitchen, and in many other spaces where there is no room on the shelves, there is some representation of just about every kind of literature there is.
Lining a vast tract of the available wallspace and tucked under much of the furniture on the floor, you will find a whole world of words from across the ages: from the great mythologies which appeared at the birth of human society and human language to the fantastic folk-tales and ballads which filled the memories and imaginations of those whose struggle to live meant that they had little time for reading; from Apuleius and the Oddessey all the way to P.G. Wodehouse and J.R.R. Tolkein; from Cervantes to Dickens, from Sappho and Ovid up to T.S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas; from Aeschylus and Aristophenes all the way to George Bernard Shaw and and Bertolt Brecht; from Aristotle to Bernard Russell; from Lucretius to Stephen Hawking; from Socrates to Karl Marx.
I also possess the great religious writings of the world: the Bible of course, which includes the Torah; also the Kabalah; the Koran; the Bhagavad Ghita and the Upanishads; the Egyptian Book of the Dead; the ancient precursors to the Bible such as Gilgamesh Tao Te Ching and many others. I am not an never have been a religious man; but I do have something which might simplistically be called a spiritual life, though that is not a sufficient phrase to describe either its nature or its significance. So, althought I do not share a belief in any of the faiths these volumes represent, all of them have in some way given me an insight into my own contact with a universal force which is knowable and unknowable simultaneously; and their moral teachings have made me thoughtful of myself and the worth of my actions as no other writings have
You will find in my library many images too – and how much is covered by those simple words! What a fantastic variety of themes and styles line my shelves, ranging from such as the Lascaux cave paintings from thousands of years ago all the way through to the dadaism of the last century!
Modern publishing allows me to have so many these wonderful works, albeit in reproduced form, in my possession, and so gives me the opportunity to enjoy and to contemplate on the great anonymous artists of the ancient worlds of Egypt, Greece, Rome, China, Japan, and of the wonderful civilisations and tribal societies of Africa, of the Americas, or of Australia or the South Sea Islands as examples.I can explore the complexities of the early and mediaval illuminated manuscripts epitomised by the Books of Lindisfarne and of Kells; I can attempt to comprehend the elaboration of the baroque and the rococo; I can wander round the visit the streets and homes of the Dutch school of painters; I can join in the dramas and drolleries of Hogarth and Gillray; I can try to understand what goes in the heads of the surrealists like Ernst or Dali; I can puzzle over Piccasso’s contorted view of the world; or I can just escape into the many and varied worlds of the artists with whom I most closely associate myself: Constable, Turner, Munch, Van Gogh, Monet.
And these are not all the artists, or writers, who share my home with me. There are – I do not exaggerate – thousands: great names, lesser names, names barely remembered.
I suppose to many of the people reading this, many if not all of these I have mentioned here are just names which in themselves can give no clue as to their significance either to the world or to me. But if I tell you that the work done by these men and the men and women of so many historical eras, so many peoples and nations, addressing all the issues of science, faith and spirituality, describing the many and wonderfully varied worlds that they live in that go to make up our world, sharing all their ideas and imaginings, whether in writing or through one of the other arts, whether simply or intricately expressed, whether humorous or serious, exciting or restful, is a gift that has been given to me by history which allows me to do something glorious that I could not otherwise do.
That is because to me these are not just names: they are real human beings, who have taken their own cares and concerns and who speak to me of those through their writings and their art. They are my neghbours, my housemates, my friends and loving companions, who are there for me whenever I need them; and they do not let me wallow in my own self-regard: they are all travellers, and where they go, I may go too. They are sometimes my enemy, too, with whom I have fought, and whom, in my imagination, I have always defeated.
I have listened to the chatter of slaves and the oratory of senators in Rome; debated with wordy philosophers in Athens; stood in the crowd when a certain preacher standing on a patch of high ground spoke simple words of peace that have rung round the world ever since; wandered across plains and through rainforests with a young scientist whose discoveries changed the way humankind understood itself; stood by the elbow of a stargazer as he saw through his telescope a universe nobody had suspected was there; sat by poets as they sat in their small rooms or marched behind their ploughs working out verses which are now known by heart by millions; fought on deck alongside a mighty commander who died at the moment of his greatest victory; fought at the barricades with hungry revolutionaries in Paris or in Moscow, in the trenches or on sandblown battlefields with the British Tommy; flown alongside the Wright Brothers at Kittyhawk, Lindbergh across the Atlantic, Douglas Bader in the war-torn skies over England; lived the careless floating life in Kyoto; rolled the dice with the hoods of New York; survived the earthquake that destroyed Lisbon, the fire which burnt down San Francisco, the mighty plagues and the bombardments which murdered London, the city, my city, in which, through my books, I have lived for two thousand years.
I have travelled, too, to the bottom of the oceans, home to the strangest forms of life that can be imagined; and likewise to the outer reaches of the universe, taking in all the great marvels that fill the infinities of space between here and the endless reaches of time.
So many wonderful adventures have I had, so many wonderful sights have I seen, so many lives I have lived (what I have described here is but a fraction of what I have witnessed in the boundless reaches of my imagination) all by the simple act of every day sitting down with a book, and maybe a cup of tea, and turning the pages.
But there is a new circumstance in my life which has made such journeying very difficult now: my eyesight is failing. A combination of cataract and floaters have limited my sight to one eye, and that eye full of shapeless things that move like dark creatures swimming in a pool, always distracting me from the words on the page.
There is no remedy for this; so now my reading is severely limited to a few minutes at a time before I must stop reading, and rest till I am ready to read again. What used to be a fascination that went beyond mere pleasure has now become a pain. This grieves me especially because I am getting old, and there is still so much of my library I have not yet explored, and now maybe never will explore.
However, reading is still just about possible, and writing is still relatively easy, despite the annoyance of having these strange objects like fish in a bowl always drawing my thoughts away from where I would want them to be. So while I can continue with my voyages into the deeper and farther reaches of my own mind, it will have to be in a different way. I will have to give time to recalling as much as I can of what I have learned, and use these memories to create new and magical adventures of my own.
It will be the last major journey I make in my life (my physical health is against me venturing too far into the real world as I was once able to do), so I intend to make the best of it that I can, and see how far I can get before, the nature of life being what it is, I can go no further.

When God Plays His Fiddle…

When God plays his fiddle
We dance to his tune,
From noon till midnight,
From midnight till noon.

When God plays his fiddle
The music he plays
Will make the world dance
to the end of its days.

When God plays his fiddle
With its bitter sweet-tone,
We all dance together,
We all dance alone.

When God plays his fiddle,
We both laugh and weep;
We dance when awake.
We dance when we sleep.

When God plays his fiddle,
We dance to our fates,
While the Devil sits by
And watches, and waits.

I’m not sure what I was thinking about when I wrote this poem several years ago; but it has a sense of forboding which seems very appropriate to the times we are now living through.

I’m Done With Politics (At Least For A While)…

I’m done with politics (at least for a while).
Like so many others I’m desperately angry at what’s happening in the world, and I have been doing what little I can -and it has been I admit very little -to contribute to the various debates which are raging around the world today.
However it has become plain to me in the last few weeks that I am losing my ability to think as cooly and as rationally as I would like. In some things, I still feel I can trust my judgment, but in other things I do not. Usually when I am asked questions I cannot answer or to which I do not trust my own answers – which happens far more than some might think from the firmness with which I usually express myself – I take the time to do the research and get the answers right.
But that is becoming extremely burdensome now as my general exhaustion – mental and physical – is affecting my depression detrimentally and increasing the tortuous confusion and the unbearable anger that often arises from it.
This may seem somewhat self-indulgent to many; but I am going to enter my 77th year in a couple of weeks, and my health, shaky at best, is not improving. I need a break, I need to rest.
So now I’m going to concentrate on those things such as my music and my reading which are of no importance to any-one but me. Accordingly, I am going to ration my use of the social media and do more enjoyable things with it.
For a start, I have a lot of poetry I want to get out there, beginning with this one:

I DO NOT JUST HOPE

I do not just hope:
I know –
I will not let the past defeat me,
I will learn from it.

I do not just hope:
I know –
I will not let the present confuse me,
I will use it.

I do not just hope:
I know –
I will not let the future frighten me,
I will command it.

I do not just hope:
I know –
I will be who I ought to be.

I wrote this at a time when I trying to deal with my depression in a positive way. In it I set out to make a point, not for other people to think about, but for myself

RESISTANCE

I heard a voice in the darkness
of another sleepless night;
whether it was whispering or shouting
I could not tell,
and nor could I tell where it came from:

‘If you claim the right to kill us
because we stand in the way
of your ambitions,
then we claim the right
to to stand in your way,
even if we are killed.
If you claim the right to fight
those who would oppose you,
then we claim the right to fight
those who would enslave us.’

Thinking about Ukraine and Palestine tonight, and what their people have in common.

HONESTY IN POLITICS

1.
How can any-one tell the truth
When no-one knows what the truth is?
How can any-one sort out the lies
When no-one knows who lying?

2.
Truth is a house
with scaffolding round it;
the windows need glazing,
the door needs its flap.

Lies are pigeons
perching on the roof,
staining the tiles
with their stinking crap.

3.
So how can you possibly do what’s right,
when your masters don’t know what right is?
How can you possibly change all that’s wrong
when your masters don’t give a damn?

4.
You can only do your best,
which is always going to be tough,
because you know your best can never,
ever be enough.

You mustn’t expect to do much good;
you have to play the game,
because what you want and what’s allowed
are almost never the same.

(I think the only reasonable attitude one can adopt when trying to come to terms with contemporary political practises is cynicism, if not outright despair.)

THINK

(a poem about Boris Johnson, written during the first lockdown in 2020 when we were learning the hard way just what kind of Prime Minister Johnson was going to be).

Boris Johnson would have us think
His government is on the brink
Of doing great wonders; there will be a cease
To trouble, to strife, there will be peace
And plenty for all in the land, he claims;
But if you believe that these are his aims,
Are convinced he’s not lying, then you are like
A trout thinking he can be friends with a pike.

I wish the fundamental message of this poem had proved to be mistaken. But recent events, quite apart from the pandemic, have demonstrated that it is all too correct.


(I’ve written a fair amount of poetry over the years. A lot of it was rubbish and it’s gone from this world. But I’m reasonably pleased with the rest, and proud of some. This is one of them. There are more on the way – mostly not about politics thankfully for every-one; but I thought I’d start with this one because that’s the mood I’m in right now.)












A Hasbarist In Full Flow

Here is a comment made on Facebook in response to my open letter Keir Starmer, and the exchange that resulted from it. It is as classic a piece of Hasbarist gaslighting as I have yet come across.
My friend comes across as a rational man putting forward a halfway rational answer.
It is an answer, however, which contains many clues as to the writers true meaning, despite his eventual claim that he and I largely agree. The first clue is the first sentence; the rest I’ll leave interested readers to find. And his responses to my own comments gradually make his intention clear.
He claims towards the end that he is trying to debate with me; but what becomes plain is that his contributions with not too much subtlety are switching from discussing the issues to questioning my knowledge and understanding; he even towards the end questions my right to hold to my first opinion! He is the one who wants to debate, I, in my desire to end the increasingly pointless debate, reveal my unwillingness to acknowledge the validity of views I do not share.
I let him have the last, excruciatingly condescending word: I even let him call me ‘comrade’ without comment, since that is also a give-away. Not for the first time has a Hasbarist used this word with me to imply that we are both really on the same side, the implication being that the problem is my errors of judgment, not any deep-seated political agreement.
All part of the ‘gaslighting’ process.
I put this out as yet another, and excellent, demonstration of how the Habarists work: not just by answering argument with argument, but by attacking the character and integrity of those who dare criticise the policies of Israel’s ruling regime.

—-‘Are you saying Israel has no right to exist?
If so, that leaves you with some version of the single-state solution: a proposal for a supranational, rather than two states (the traditional socialist and communist programme) or a binational, state; for not only the political, but also the social elimination of both the Hebrew/Israeli and Palestinian/Arab identities and its replacement with a new, previously nonexistent nationality.
But even this, in all its unreality, bears only superficial resemblance to that which the Palestinian nationalist and resistance movements have in mind. They still fashion their orientation, around a secular-democratic Arab state. That is, the Palestinian solidarity movement fancies itself not merely an anti-colonial movement, seeking to free the occupied territories and Gaza. It is a movement that foundationally sees Israel as an illegitimate, hijack, imperialist imposition—a crusader state. The only case for denying Israelis the right to self-determination is by denying that they are a nation.
That is not merely the viewpoint of Hamas, of the “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea” crowd. The objective was restated clearly by Omar Barghouti, a founder of the BDS movement. “Bi-nationalism today, despite its variations, still upholds this ahistorical and morally untenable national right of the colonial-settlers.”
The secular democratic state of their imagination—the imagination of the Palestinian resistance — is an Arab chauvinist state, the chauvinism of the oppressed, in Lenin’s language, in all the same ways that a Zionist Israel, with a large Arab minority, is a Jewish chauvinist state, save one. Zionist two-staters recognise the Palestinian right to self-determination on territories exterior to the 1967 Israeli state.
The left now defers to the consensus viewpoint of the Arab people — a people whose roots are in the Arabian peninsula, not the Levant — whose fourteen hundred year old conquest and colonisation of the Mashreq and Maghreb is seen as their manifest destiny, challenged by the upstart return of an indigenous and marginalised people to the land that gave birth to them as a nation, to their language and to their religion. From a Jewish nationalist perspective, it would be like accusing the Lakota or the Cherokee nations – if they were to seize back land stolen from them by Europeans—of being racists and colonialists for daring to challenge “American” sovereignty, of being “ethnic cleansers” if they were to eject those recruited to a genocidally-imbued war against their return and for being intransigent and non-repentant in their refusal to abandon their “facile” claim to nationhood.
Zionism, in contemporary terms, is not the “national liberation movement” of the Jews. The Jews were/are not oppressed as a colony, were not exploited as a captive nation, and did not they have their resources plundered to enrich a colonial overlord. Jews experienced their oppression in exile and dispersion as a racialised “other”: hated, hunted, slaughtered and finally driven back to Palestine, the only corner of the earth they could possibly retreat to. Zionism did not create Israel, history did. Zionism kicked the door open. And it is Israel — not Gaza, not the West Bank — that remains the largest refugee camp in the world. What Zionism prematurely invoked, and what it had the desperate right to invoke, was a form of Jewish nationalism based in indigenous rights theory, the very theory that Palestinians now so obliviously subvert to the frothy joy of their left-wing amen corner.
Either way, this does not mean that socialists need bow down before any movement or any peoples’ national rights. There are higher forms of human solidarity: ones that arise out of the quest for an equal application of democracy and justice among nations; those that are based on national reconciliation and class solidarity. Rational people, who once included socialists among their ranks, understand that the attainment of these higher democratic rights necessitate a reining in of nationalist maximalism, of isolating humanity from its poisonous extremes. No nation can exercise their right to self-determination beyond the point where it precludes another nation’s equal right to self-determination.
Zionism as an indigenous rights rationale for Jewish self-determination is defensible on democratic grounds, regardless of whether it is also a necessary justification for Israel’s existence
Pre ’67 Israel consists of two nations: a majority Jewish and minority Arab nation. A Jewish democratic state — even if it were honestly implemented (which it never was) would grant Arabs as individuals complete equality,
A revolutionary and democratic alternative is the call for Hebrew and Arab self-determination within a de-Zionized Israeli state: to advocate, in other words, a state that grants Israeli Arabs an equitable distribution of state resources not only for cultural and economic development, but also to implement their full right of secession with an independent Palestinian state in the occupied territories, if they choose.’
—‘The short answer to your first question is, No, I did not say Israel has no right to exist, and nothing I say can be interpreted as meaning that.
My argument, put very simply, is that Israel must give Palestinians and Israelis together equal rights under a common law.
Somewhere within the complexities of your response there seem to be hints that the Palestinians as a people are seeking for something different.
My understanding of Palestinian attitudes is that they are mixed. Of course, some want to see the state of Israel dismantled: but this has become a minority view, and not even Hamas realistically expect that to ever happen.
The majority view is a very simple one: Israel, please stop what you are doing and give us our lives back.
Depicting Israel now as a refugee camp is clearly mistaken: it was established as a state with its own independent government and independent social institutions which was made available for Jews to move to if they wished. Of course, many did, fleeing awful circumstances; but very many did not wish, as the strong and long-standing communities of Jews in many countries through-out the world testify.
In fact, a percentage of Jews came to Israel as refugees, not because they wanted to come to Israel in particular, but because the destinations of their choice turned them away: reluctant Israelis.
And what is sure is that it is Israel who for ideological reasons is setting out to commit great violence against the Palestinians, violence which makes violent resistance inevitable.
The proposition remains: if Israel was to offer a genuine peace without preconditions, was to negotiate with the Palestinians a system of rights which allowed the Palestinians to live securely and in peace on equal terms with the Israelis, the Palestinians would not turn their back.
But Israel has never made such an offer, and clearly has no intention of ever doing so. It wants an Eretz Israel and that is all it wants.
—‘ “My argument, put very simply, is that Israel must give Palestinians and Israelis together equal rights under a common law”: agreed, then. I presume you therefore favour either a binational state (despite all the practical difficulties that would involve) or two states, the traditional socialist and communist position?’
—‘I believe that is something that should be negotiated by the two parties involved, It’s not a question that can be answered now, and it is pointless to try and answer it before Israel and Palestine have had the chance to discuss the matter freely and without prejudice.
—‘Fair enough, but wouldn’t you say the internationalist left has a responsibility to at least consider the issue and at the very least propose some workable frameworks for a just settlement? Asking a people to simply give up their right to national self-determination, for instance is obviously not an realistic proposition: no people in history have ever done it.
—‘This is not about the self-determination of the Jews. Jews know who they are where-ever they live, and manage where-ever in the world they are found to live according to the laws of the land in which they reside and to their own laws quite easily. That is as true of Israel as anywhere else, and I am not suggesting things should be different.
But the Jews of Israel should recognise that if they have the right to live according to their own customs in the framework of their own culture, then so do the Palestinians. It is the attack on the Palestinians’ right of self-determination which is in question here.
Jews through-out the Diaspora understand the value of multi-culturalism: it is those such as the Nazis who have opposed it who have been their greatest enemies. Now the Zionists are trying to create a monocultural state which goes right against the reality of their situation, explaining why they are finding it so troublesome to do without using disproportionate force.
The idea in the end is for the international community to persuade Israel to give up this pointless and disastrous drive to monoculturalism – a virtual impossibility in any country which claims to be a modern international democracy – and allow the Palestinians a real and constructive say in their own future.’
—‘I’m not sure that we disagaree that much, but I would urge you to have a long, hard think about your statement “Jews know who they are where-ever they live, and manage where-ever in the world they are found to live according to the laws of the land in which they reside and to their own laws quite easily.” Errr … do you think that statement would apply throughout the twentieth century? “Quite easily”????? Have you really thought that through, Richard?’
—‘No of course I don’t think that, and yes, of course I have! Many Jewish communities went through hell in the 20th century! But not all of them: there were places where they were relatively safe from that kind or degree of persecution, the UK and the USA being notable examples. That’s why so many European Jews sought refuge in these countries, my family among them.
And the end of the Holocaust which accompanied the defeat of the Hitler empire left behind a legacy, a desire of the great majority of the people involved in whatever capacity with the war not to be associated with Hitler’s political philosophy or its practice.
Now, the world is a safer place for Jews than it has ever been; Jews do not face any greater degree of racism than, say, the blacks or the Muslims, and in places like the UK and the USA, something less. Of course, there are Jews in the Diaspora who have faced intimidation and threat; but such instances are relatively rare: we are no longer a prime target.
In fact it has been noted by many Jews, myself included, that we are more likely to be abused for being Jewish not by the traditional anti-Semites but by people who assume that we support Israel’s own abuses in Palestine, even though so many of us don’t.
It doesn’t help that anti-Zionist Jews also receive the most horrible abuse from Zionists because as Jews we are betraying our duty to support Israel.
It also doesn’t help when we are constantly told by Israel and Israelis that we would be much safer if we moved to Israel, that by not doing so we are placing ourselves in danger from an inevitable repeat of the Holocaust. Seriously. Every time I hear this from some Israeli or other I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
This from a country where Jews live in constant fear of what their neighbours in the region might do, as no other Jew on earth does!
—‘A quite incredible degree of complacency and historical revisionism, Richard: until I read this I thought we probably had quite a lot of common ground: now I’m really not so sure. To be frank, I find the views expressed in this comment seriously worrying and dangerous. I would urge you, Richard, to have a long hard think about what you are saying.’
—‘You are so far the only individual who has chosen on this or any other page to object to what I have said, and you have chosen to make it personal. That’s called gaslighting. Why you are doing it I can’t say and don’t really need to know. What I do know is that I’m sticking to what I say because after many years of long hard thinking it’s what I believe. This debate with you is over.’
—‘I’m really sorry you’ve reacted like this: I may be the only person to object to what you’ve said, but does that make me wrong? Did you not wish people to take you up and debate with you? Is that not allowed in your world? How is anything I’ve written “personal”, comrade? I’d really suggest you need to get a grip, calm down and consider the possibility that what you call “gaslighting” (which I understand to mean a sinister form of personal stalking, with the intention of suggesting that the subject is mad – something I have most certainly not done to you) is, in fact called “political debate and disagreement”: with all due respect, you should learn to live with it, comrade.’
—‘Well, if I don’t agree with you, then obviously I think you’re wrong. But I wouldn’t condescend to you personally because I don’t share your opinion. Questioning my opinion is one thing: questioning my intelligence is quite another. I really do now have no more to say to you.’
—‘Despite that, Richard, when exactly have I questioned your intelligence? Seriously, when? Please cite an example.’
—‘ENOUGH!’
—‘Richard: you and I both are long enough in the tooth, I would have thought, to understand the basic rules of political debate, ie: you put forward a position; I disagree; you tell me why I’m wrong; I reply and tell you why I now agree with you or don’t, in which case I elucidate my disagreement further; you then come back at me … etc, etc, etc… It’s called political debate. Ideally, we try to avoid personal abuse, which I think I’ve done. What is your problem, comrade?Do you consider yourself to be above criticism or challenge? When you put forward your statement did you not expect anyone to question it? What sort of political world do you live in, comrade?’
—‘And YOU should know that when some-one wants to stop talking about something, for whatever reason, then you stop. I said what I wanted to say about this issue, and I didn’t wish to continue saying it. Now, you have now become very personal, and I recognise the pattern. This is classic trolling, and I don’t have to put up with it. When I said enough, I meant it.’
—‘Sorry Richard, I will stop now. I made the mistake of thinking you wanted political debate.: obviously not: you want uncritical endorsement of of your opinions and anything else is, apparently “gaslightiing” and “trolling”. I’m so sorry, Richard: unlike you, I come from a political tradition in which debate, disagreement and discussion, conducted in a civil manner, is considered healthy. I didn’t realise that’s not your tradition.’

OPEN LETTER TO SIR KEIR STARMER

(This is a copy of a letter I intend to send to Sir Keir Starmer. I do not expect it to have any effect on its own; but this is the only kind of action I am in a position to make before the next election. I hope that enough others with the vote are doing something like this own their own account so that in time the pressure will tell.)

Sir,


It is to the eternal shame of the United Kingdom that its political representatives in the UK Parliament, most notably yourself, are willing to give their unstinting and unwavering support to the state of Israel.

Israel claims to be, and is accepted by the UK as being, a democratic nation. However, Israel’s actions in relation to the ordinary people of Palestine and to its own Arab citizens have since its founding in 1948 run counter to every accepted definition of democracy as we understand it in the UK.

Israel also claims to be the only truly Jewish state, a characterisation which has been all too readily accepted by its sponsor nations, especially the UK and the USA.

But it cannot be a Jewish state for two reasons: one, that about 50% of its population is not Jewish, and two, that there are a significant number of Jews, both inside Israel as well as outside it, who do not agree with Israel’s attempt, fundamental to its underlying political philosophy, at dishonouring and displacing the Palestinian people.

Indeed, Israel’s ambition to be a Jewish state at the expense of the non-Jews living in the region it controls by military force is racist by its very nature.

This racism is the foundation on which it has built its particular system of apartheid in Israel, and which justifies its various and highly injurious actions in the occupied territories, including the ghettoisation of Gaza and the forced evictions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israel goes so far in its pursuit of affirming its image as the true Jewish state as to deflect all reasonable criticism of its actions by characterising such criticism, regardless of its source, as being anti-Semitic.

Anti-Semitism once upon a time was defined very simply as being Jew-hatred, i.e. a sense of enmity to all Jews and all things Jewish. Now, under pressure from Israel, there is a new definition.

This is encapsulated in the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism which the Labour Party, against all reason, has woven into its own policies and which you are using in the most arbitrary fashion as an excuse to exclude members from the party whose political convictions do not fit into the game of realpolitiks that you have chosen to play.

According to your interpretation of the IHRA definition, any-one who speaks out against the Israeli enterprise in Palestine for any reason is speaking out against the whole Jewish people, on whose behalf and with whose complete approval Israel is acting.

This blanket approach to criticism has resulted in Israel routinely accusing even its Jewish opponents of anti-Semitism, and has established a concerted campaign against its Jewish opponents which allows for the most personal and abusive terms to be used against them that cannot be used against non-Jews, because it is their Jewishness which is brought into question.

You have adapted and adopted this position to meet your own political ends.

So, because many anti-Zionist Jews believe that Israel is attacking them for their particular interpretation of Jewish history, political philosophy, and religion, it can hardly be surprising that their understanding of Israel’s response to their views, and your response likewise, is that it is in itself anti-Semitic.

In other words, the Labour Party, historically an internationalist and anti-racist party, has chosen now to stand, under your leadership, with a strongly nationalist and racist state whose claim to be a full democracy is entirely false, and is indeed carrying out its own version of the desperately unjust and demonstrably anti-Semitic campaign which Israel is waging against its opponents, opponents who are acting solely on humanitarian grounds.

That is irony enough.

But there is an added, and very bitter, irony, which is that Israel has won the support of real anti-Semites. Israel is admired round the world by far-right parties and organisations because they approve of the scope and effectiveness of Israel’s anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim discrimination, and who likewise approve for their own reasons of Israel’s message to the Jews of the world that Israel is the only safe place for Jews to be.

This inevitably feeds the rise in anti-Semitism round the world. Israel’s words and actions feed the notion that all Jews are racially antagonistic to the Palestinians because all Jews believe Palestine is theirs by natural right. Accordingly this confirms the traditional anti- Semitic stereotype which depicts Jews as thinking of themselves as a superior species of human being.

So it is that Israel finds allies among those who promote anti-Semitism in the world; and yet, Israel does not concern itself with that, so long as it benefits as a state from such alliances.

All of this seems to have passed our political masters by, as it has passed you by. And why would this be? Because of the benefits they themselves gain from Israel’s role in maintaining a balance of power in the Middle East which favours the global capitalist states of the West.

This being said, I fail to understand what earthly benefit can there be for the Labour Party in all this.

Maybe it has something to do with the existential fear shared by most of Israel’s allies, a fear of being tarred with the brush of anti-Semitism, as they do not wish to be associated in any way in the public mind with any policy that connects with Hitler’s Germany.

So it’s all about the next election. Realpolitik, no more, no less,

Or maybe it has something to do with more personal considerations, which should have no place in deciding party policy. But that’s for you to know.

In any event, the Labour Party is now an embarrassment to a significant number of its supporters – and ex-supporters – as the present membership count clearly demonstrates compared to the count when Jeremy Corbyn was leader.

Now, I do not expect this letter on its own to make any substantial difference to your way of thinking, or any difference at all

You are fully aware of the effect the punitive actions are having which you are taking against the Jews in your party who oppose Israel’s violent oppressions in Palestine and its systematic displacement of the Palestinian people from their own homes; and you are fully aware of the deleterious effect these and other actions of yours are having on the whole of your party.

You clearly have an agenda which does not include these things as matters of any importance.

Notwithstanding, I feel that I must express my personal outrage that you should lend your support to a violently oppressive, racist, militaristic, nationalist and expansionist state whose pretense that it is a democracy is nothing but a sham.

Why would you stand alongside the extreme right-wingers, the neo-Nazis and the altright, in their support for a regime which is both offering them a simple solution to the problem of where Jews should be sent to and giving them practical lessons in how to treat racial minorities? Why stand with a state which for all its claims that it is a Jewish state is severely undermining the fight against anti-Semitism in the world?

I am a Jew and proud of it. I resent the Zionists telling me that they are acting in my name and my best interests when both of these things are blatantly untrue. Also, I am English, and I love my country with all its faults. But I resent you as the leader of a party which has always opposed itself to narrow nationalism pretending that you are acting in my interests when you support a state whose brand of nationalism is creating such agony for a people whose worst crime is to be in its way.

You are a deep disappointment to those of us who expect a leader of the British Labour Party to stand up to extreme right-wing nationalists such as govern from the Knesset.

So do not read this is a plea for change. You have no intention of listening to people like me however much we protest.

However, consider that eventually you may find yourself being held to account in the court of public opinion for your failure to address one of the great humanitiarian crises of the modern world, as the opposition to the Israeli regime grows stronger each day, in the UK, in the USA, in Israel itself, and around the world, a significant part of that growing opposition being Jewish.

I for one look forward to that day.

Sincerely,
Richard A Snell.

ANSWERING ISRAEL: LIST OF WEBSITES UPDATE

(Please save this list to your computer, and share it too. It may prove to be very useful either when informing people of the issues relating to the Israel/Palestine situation or when debating those issues with Israel’s supporters.)

Israel and its followers, such as the Labour Party leadership in the UK, wish us to believe that Israel is a fully democratic state, but the Palestinians have no right to a share in that democracy.
The underlying assumption, which the more militant Zionists insist on as the indisputable truth, is that Israel lives according to civilised values, but that the Palestinians do not.
The logic of that outlook is that Israeli Jews want to be defended against the Palestinians by any means available, because the Palestinians want simply to destroy Israel.
A patient reading of these websites will surely debunk this simplistic, and ultimately dangerous, view.
Even these few sources indicate very strongly that there are a significant number of Israelis who do not see Palestine as an enemy to Israel but recognise that it is a victim of Israel’s territorial ambitions. It’s clear, too, that Israel does not have universal support from world Jewry.
It also becomes very plain that the Palestinians are a civilised people who do not routinely want Jewish blood, but are simply looking for the day when they can live in peace in their own land and according to their own custom.
Indeed, it may well be that these pages will leave people with the idea that Israel is nothing like the kind of democratic state it claims to be.
My own view is that nobody who believes in the right of each and every nation to determine for itself who governs it should accept that Israel, despite all its claims, shares in this belief.

(N.B. This list is not exhaustive and is subject to revision)


‘Days of Palestine’ reports mainly on the ongoing news from Palestine as it relates to the activities of the Israeli armed forces and on the responses to Israel’s policies regarding Palestine.

‘Medical Aid for Palestinians’ (MAP) is a British-based charity dedicated both to providing medical care in Palestine and to make known the consequences to the Palestinian people of the Israeli occupation.

https://www.map.org.uk/

‘Friends of Berzeit University’ is a Palestinian organisation campaigning for an educational system in Palestine free of disruptive and damaging Israeli pressure.
https://fobzu.org/
‘Al Haq’ is a Palestinian human rights organisation which monitors all abuses of human rights in Israel and in Palestine. Its independence is indicated by its willingness to criticise the Palestinian authorities when the occasion arises.
https://www.alhaq.org/
‘Addamir’ is a Palestinian human rights organisation dedicated to protecting the rights of Palestinians in Israeli prisons
https://www.alhaq.org/

‘Bisan’ is a Palestinian organisation dedicated to developing social and educational programmes which aim towards achieving a genuinely fair and free society in Palestine.

https://www.bisan.org/
‘The Union of Agricultural Workers Committee’ is a Palestinian organisation dedicate to devloping agricultural programmes in Palestine and countering Israel’s attempt to wreck Palestine’s rural economy.
https://www.uawc-pal.org/
‘Breaking the Silence’ consists of accounts by Israeli armed forces personnel of what they are ordered to do in Palestinian areas, and what the consequences of obeying those orders are both to them and to the Palestinians they deal with. It is an Israeli organisation.

https://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/

‘Dissent’ is an Israeli socialist magazine which, while carrying no brief for the Palestinian authorities, is highly critical of Israel’s policies towards Palestine. It is a Jewish publication.
https://www.dissentmagazine.org/

‘B’Tselem’ is an Israeli human rights organisation dedicated to defending the Palestinians’ human rights and exposing examples of those rights being violated by the Israeli government.
It is an Israeli organisation
https://www.btselem.org/

‘Refuser Solidarity Network’ (RSN) provides support for the Shministim (high school leavers refusing to be conscripted) and others who refuse to serve in the Israeli armed forces as a matter of conscience. It is an Israeli organisation.
https://www.refuser.org/who-we-are

Physicians for Human Rights’ is a world-wide humanitarian organisation dedicated to tackling issues of public health around the world, especially as those issues are caused by human rights abuses. It oppose Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
https://phr.org/
‘International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network’ (IJAN) is an international organisation protesting against Israeli Zionism in principle and against Israel’s occupation in practise. It is a Jewish organisation.
http://www.ijan.org/’

‘Jewish Voice for Peace’ is a USA-based organisation campaigning for peace between Israel and Palestine based on full recognition of Palestinian human, legal and economic rights. It’s main effort is in changing the US government’s policies as they concern Israel.
https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/faq/
‘Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights’ is a British-based organisation concerned with defending the legal right of Palestinians in the face of Israeli injustices.
https://lphr.org.uk/

The ‘Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions’ movement calls for a worldwide boycott of trade and investment with Israel and has the ultimate aim of forcing Israel to end its occupation of Palestine. It is supported by many Jews.
https://bdsmovement.net/
‘Amnesty’ is an international human rights organisation which is highly critical of Israel’s actions in Palestine.
https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2017/06/israel-occupation-50-years-of-dispossession/
The United Nations is the largest and most powerful inter-governmental agency in the world, its main function being to maintain peaceful relationships between nations despite their differences. It has a policy of strengthening human rights and has been a constant critic of Israel’s approach to human rights in Palestine.

https://www.un.org/unispal/

‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ is a Jewish socialist affiliate of the UK Labour Party, but is highly critical both of Israel’s occupation of Palestine and of the Labour Party’s current policy of giving Israel its unqualified support.
https://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/
‘Jews for Justice for Palestine’ (JJP) is a British Jewish organisation campaigning for a just peace for both Israel and Palestine based on the end of the occupation and respect for the Palestinians’ human rights.
https://jfjfp.com/
‘Palestine Solidarity Campaign’ is a worldwide organisation campaigning against Israel’s actions in Palestine. It is actively opposed to antisemitism.
https://www.palestinecampaign.org/