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          Campaigns against kosher: a looming threat? James Mendelsohn

          This piece, by James Mendelsohn, was first published in Jewish News / Times of Israel.

          Following December’s General Election, many British Jews felt relief that an ‘existential threat’posed by the Labour Party had been vanquished. Two subsequent events prohibit complacency: Britain’s formal departure from the European Union, and?the appointment of George Eustice MP as the Environment Secretary. Together, they herald a new threat: namely, a British ban on?shechita?(kosher slaughter).

          Shechita?is performed by means of a single, swift cut to the neck with a very sharp knife. Importantly, and?in contrast to “non-religious” slaughter, the animal is not stunned beforehand, because,?according to Jewish religious law, this renders the animal?treif –?i.e. not?kosher –?meaning that it cannot be eaten by observant Jews. Some strands of Islam also prohibit pre-stunning in relation to?dhabiha?(halal slaughter, which is performed in a similar way).?This has?long exercised animal welfare groups, who claim that it is inhumane to slaughter animals without stunning them first.

          Shechita?and Brexit

          UK slaughter methods will, at least until the end of the Brexit transition period, remain governed by EU legislation.?This requires all animals to be stunned before slaughter, but allows member states to grant exemptions?to Jews and Muslims for the purposes of?shechita?and?dhabiha. Some EU Member States, such as?Denmark?and?Slovenia, grant no such exemptions. In such states, EU rules on free movement of goods enable Jewish communities to import kosher meat.?By contrast, the UK?does?allow Jews (and Muslims) to slaughter without pre-stunning?– and also to import?kosher?meat from abroad.

          Outside the EU, this could change significantly. The UK government could ban?shechita. It could also ban imports or, alternatively, impose high tariffs. Such changes would make it far harder – if not impossible – for British Jews to access kosher meat.

          The impact of a ban

          The worst-case scenario – a ban on both domestic production and on imports – would essentially force observant Jews to go vegetarian, or to compromise their faith, or to emigrate! Is this why?kosher?and?halal?slaughter has?long been?a?pre-occupation?of?the?far?right?

          Clearly, not all those who favour a ban are from that stable. Others include the?RSPCA, the?British Veterinary Association, and?the National Secular Society.? Nonetheless, a ban on?shechita?would criminalise an important aspect of orthodox Judaism and therefore signal to observant Jews, in the strongest possible way, that they were unwelcome in Britain. Regardless of?motive,?a ban on?shechita?would therefore – much like BDS – always have an antisemitic?effect.?Campaigns against kosher?would generate?anti-Semitic discourse: the “othering” of observant Jews as cruel, backwards people, who do not truly belong to the “nation of animal lovers” that is the “Christian” UK! It would be an unusual form of antisemitism, in that Jews would find themselves in the dock alongside Muslims; or perhaps, conversely, it would be an unusual form of Islamophobia.

          The Eustice Manifesto?

          The previous Environment Secretary, Theresa Villiers, pledged to protect?shechita. By contrast, George Eustice?has called for a free Parliamentary vote on whether to make stunning of all animals before slaughter obligatory. There is therefore a real prospect that?shechita?– and the Jews who practise it – could come under intense pressure.

          The case for the defence

          Various arguments can be made against a ban.
          The first is that the UK, as a tolerant, liberal democracy, should uphold religious freedom – including that of minorities. Those (of all faiths and none) who believe in religious liberty should call on the government to oppose a ban.

          A second argument is that campaigns to outlaw non-stun slaughter are at best highly selective and at worst hypocritical.?Modern factory farming methods inflict intense suffering upon animals throughout their lives. Against this backdrop, any pain experienced in their final few moments by a comparatively small number of animals slaughtered by Jews and Muslims, is far from the most pressing animal welfare issue of our times. Only the vegans truly have the moral high ground on this one!

          Perhaps most importantly, the scientific case against non-stun slaughter is?significantly weaker than advocates for a ban claim. What seems clear is that the British Jewish community may soon need to steel itself once again – this time, to defend the practice of?shechita.

          This piece, by James Mendelsohn, was first published in Jewish News / Times of Israel.

          ESA RN31 Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism mid term conf in Portugal, Sep 2020


          “Human Rights, Democracy and the threats of old and new populisms: Antisemitism, Racism and Xenophobia”

          Braga, 3 – 4 September 2010, University of Minho (Portugal)

          The ESA Research Network 31: Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism invites submissions of papers for its biannual Mid-Term conference. The conference will be held from 3 to 4 September 2018 at the University of Minhi, Braga, Portugal.

          This year’s Mid-Term conference will particularly focus on old and new populisms and the challenges to human rights and democracy. Against the background that in recent years proto-totalitarianism and populism have emerged with great speed and ferocity into mainstream democratic discourse, we are interested in scholarly work on the democratic state, critiques of democracy, the totalitarian contempt for democracy, the critique of truth, critique of ‘the media’ etc.

          We will hold sessions that focus on theoretical, methodological and empirical aspects of research on antisemitism and racism, also in a comparative framework. The network’s perspective is to bridge an exclusive divide between the understanding of antisemitism and of racism, exploring the correspondences and affinities, but also the differences and contrasts. Our over-arching question is to understand what are the material conditions and the social, political and historical contexts shaping variations in racism (including neglected forms like anti-Roma discrimination, “antigypsyism”, but also anti-Muslim resentment) and antisemitism (including antisemitism related to the hostility to Israel, Islamic antisemitism, antisemitism of the left as well as of the right), across time and across different European and global contexts. Our network provides a space where antisemitism, racism, and xenophobia are each understood in the context of the others.

          As we mentioned above, our over-arching question is to understand the material conditions and the social, political and historical contexts shaping variations of antisemitism and racism across time and across different European and global contexts

          In addition, we are interested in scholarly research on Iberian histories of antisemitism and the Sephardic diaspora.

          Our special concern lies in (but is not limited to) the following issues. A perspective on the gendered dimensions of all these issues is most welcome:

          • Critical Social Sciences in the face of inequalities;
          • Theoretical/conceptual and methodological approaches to the actuality of antisemitism, racism and xenophobia in the context of democracy and its critique;
          • Discourses on human rights and their relation to antisemitism and racism;
          • Theoretical and empirical studies on conspiracy ideologies and exclusive nationalisms;
          • Anti-establishment rhetorics and conceptions of the “white working class”;
          • Antisemitism and anti-Muslim resentment as political and social rhetoric in the extreme-right movement across Europe;
          • Neglected forms of racism and racialisation, including anti-Roma discrimination or “antigypsyism”;
          • The legacy of colonialism in the discourses and practices of democratic and post-colonial societies;
          • Intersection of different racisms or of racisms with other axes of difference, inequality and power.

          We particularly welcome papers that offer a comparative framing (e.g. cross-nationally or from the perspective of different European regions), papers that offer a multi or inter-disciplinary framing (e.g. drawing on history), and papers that offer theoretical and methodological innovation in studying these questions.

          During the sessions, each speaker will have 20 minutes. All presentations will be made in English. Please send an abstract including eventual institutional affiliation to the local committee of the Mid-Term conference: Maria José Casa-Nova (mjcasanova@ie.uminho.pt), Manuela Ivone Cunha (micunha2@gmail.com) and Patrícia Jerónimo Vink (ppmj@direito.uminho.pt).

          Deadline: 8 May 2020

          Words of ambivalence for Holocaust Memorial Day at Goldsmiths, University of London – David Hirsh

          I don’t like Holocaust Memorial Day

          I am conflicted and ambivalent about HMD

          I don’t want to hear speeches by Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn.? I don’t want to hear about how Vladimir Putin is using the event as an opportunity to fight with the President of Poland.

          I don’t want to see Prince Charles in a Kippa.

          I don’t want to see footballers putting out videos on facebook.

          But why not?

          Leaders should remember.

          Footballers can educate. In fact the footballers video was very good.

          Prince Charles should wear a kippa.


          I’m ambivalent.


          When a? Berlin rabbi was asked about what sort of memorial the German state should build, he replied: “That is a matter for Germany. We know how to remember our dead.”


          I am afraid on HMD, because I know that every year there are people who will mobilize the memory of the Holocaust against living Jews.

          I am afraid on HMD that people who feel competitive with Jews about the Holocaust will themselves initiate competition with Jews about the Holocaust, by accusing Jews of being competitive about the Holocaust.


          Sometimes the Holocaust is taught only as a universal lesson for mankind as a whole.

          But Auschwitz was not a learning experience.

          And still, it is true that the Holocaust taught us one reason why we should oppose racism; it showed us one possible manifestation or endpoint of antisemitism. And antisemitism is a racism, it is like other racisms. In some ways.

          But I’m afraid that sometimes the specificities of the Holocaust are completely lost, as this complex set of events is hollowed out and simplified to find a single lesson for us all.

          The Holocaust was also an event in Jewish history. It wasn’t about mankind, it was about Jews.

          Oh, do I sound competitive, already? Am I doing what I just accused others of doing?


          I don’t like HMD.


          The attempted, significantly successful, annihilation of the world’s Jews was about Jews.

          Of course others too were targeted too.

          Roma, LGBTQ people, and other ‘enemies of the people’ were herded into the gas and into the pits too.

          But it was the antisemitic notion of ‘The Jews’ which was key to Nazism.

          The eradication of ‘The Jews’ was of pre-eminent importance to the Nazi project. It was the Nazis who put the Jews first. It was the Nazis who were obsessed by Jews.


          So universal lessons about racism? Yes.

          Jewish lessons about Jewish self-defence and self-preservation? Yes too.

          But also non-Jewish lessons about the centrality of the specific phenomenon of antisemitism.? Yes.


          Antisemitism isn’t only a danger to Jews. Antisemitism is the form of appearance of anti-democratic politics.


          Antisemitism is a way of giving emotional content to the abstract idea of ‘enemies of the people’.


          The cosmopolitans, the metropolitans, the elites, the establishment, the media, liberals, finance capital, the people of nowhere (as opposed to the people of somewhere), the people who engineer the weakening of our society for their own gain, the cultural Marxists, the Zionist imperialists, the people who betray our values, the people who betray the common good for their selfish interest, the people who pretend to be in favour of liberty and justice but who in reality work for their own communal enrichment.

          These are all tempting populist narratives; they are all familiar in our time.


          What happened to non-Jewish Germans who stood up against antisemitism in the early days of Nazism?

          They were often told that the days of the Jews being special were over.

          They were told that they would be better off looking after the German working class, than the over-achieving, metropolitans from the big cities, who have had it too good for too long.


          And I was afraid to stand up and say any of this, here at Goldsmiths.

          I had resolved to tell only personal and family stories.


          I was going to tell you about my mum, who escaped from Germany as an 8 year old girl, with her mum and dad, and her sister; I was going to tell you how she never considered herself to be a victim but only to be lucky; and how that itself was a kind of denial that structured my own childhood; a childhood designed with great care and effort to be safe and privileged. And which of course, created this ambivalent me.


          I was going to tell you about how my mum’s grandad’s shop in the Bavarian town of Eichstadt was picketed by National Socialists with the slogan: “Don’t buy from the Jews”.

          I was going to tell you how Jews respond to being boycotted.

          I was going to tell you about Fela, Fishel and Rushka, three of my mum’s cousins, who, out of an extended family of hundreds, survived the concentration camps.

          I was going to tell you how Fishel, profoundly alone in the ruins of Europe, having survived the concentration camp system or four years, received a letter, through the Red Cross, from my grandad in Golders Green, telling him that two of his sisters were still alive.

          I was going to tell you how Fishel, as he told me this story in Haifa, welled up with tears as he quoted my Grandad in that letter: “You are not alone. You do not need to worry about anything more. I will look after you now”.

          I was going to tell you how when I picked up Fishel at Brussels Airport in 2001 to come to my wedding, the first thing he saw as we drove out of the car park was a Swastika = Star of David, painted on the wall. And he knew they meant him.

          I was going to tell you about How Fishel’s wife told me about her brother, who fled East from Poland to Russia; and how he survived the whole war in the Russian army; and how, when he found a boat to Palestine, they asked him what he could do. And he said he couldn’t do anything, he was a soldier. And within two weeks of landing in Palestine, he was dead, strafed by a British Imperial Spitfire.

          I was going to tell you what winning looks like.

          For Fishel, for Fela and for Rushka, and for my mum too, it meant dying in your 80s or 90s, in a warm bed, surrounded by children and grandchildren who loved you, in Haifa, Tel Aviv, Netanya or Barnet.

          And how I could go on. I could tell more stories, make more uncomfortable claims and analogies, I could row back from them, I could ram them home.

          My PhD was about crimes against humanity, I didn’t even know that I was working through my own story by researching genocide and ethnic cleansing in Rwanda and in the former Yugoslavia.? And by working out how it would never happen again but how it happens again.

          I got used to thinking about this stuff analytically and without great sadness.

          But of course every now and then one is overwhelmed by emotion.

          This HMD was worth it for me because I saw one photograph on facebook.

          It was a mother and a father and a boy. The mother and the boy were beaming, smiling brightly. The father looked a bit like my grandfather.

          And my “friend” on facebook, somebody I don’t know, wrote that their dad came to England on the kindertransport and his parents, who he left behind, were murdered.

          I could now tell you how ambivalent I am about kindertransport. It was British immigration laws, not the Nazis, that prevented the parents from coming. The parents said goodbye and put their children on the train.

          But I won’t.? I’ll just tell you what I wrote on facebook:

          “I’m usually unmoveable. But this moved me lots. It always surprises me when that happens.

          There was no need to murder these people. They look nice.”

          English original of David Hirsh’s Interview in Le Figaro

          There was an interview with David Hirsh published in Le Figaro about Labour antisemtiism in the UK. For the published version, in French, follow this web link. Here is the original in English, before it was tidied up and translated into French:

          1.???????Do you agree with rabbi Ephraim Mirvis saying Jews are justifiably anxious about the prospect of Labour forming the next government ?

          Yes, Jews are anxious. Yes, their anxiety is justifiable.

          2.???????Where does this antisemitism come from ?

          Left antisemitism has a long history, going back to people like Bruno Bauer, critiqued by Marx, who argued that Jews should not be emancipated in the state until they had emancipated themselves from their religion. August Bebel had to oppose the ‘socialism of fools’ – conspiracy fantasy which pictures the oppressors as Jewish. Much of the left at the time of Dreyfus was ambivalent, thinking this was a fight within ‘the elite’. The Stalinists made use of Jew-hatred, identifying Jews with capitalism and imperialism and they pushed hard this story that Israel is an imperialist and apartheid state.

          Today’s left antisemitism begins as furious and focused hostility to Israel, it supports the exclusion of Israelis from the life of humanity, it defines its own identity in relation to the Israeli enemy and it tolerates all kinds of antisemitic discourse and bullying which it attracts.

          Yesterday we saw the huge swirl of hostility not around Israel but around the Chief Rabbi, who is accused first of trying dishonestly to help Israel with his fake accusation of antisemitism and then is quickly also accused of being right wing and supporting the rich in trying to prevent a Labour government.

          Corbyn himself, and the faction which raised him to power, and swept into the Labour Party to support him, has a long history of jumping to the defence of antisemites against Jews.

          3.???????Is Jeremy Corbyn’s defense convincing ? Did the party take appropriate measures to fight antisemitism in its ranks ?

          Corbyn lies. First, he says that he is doing everything he can to rid the party of antisemitism, but this has been shown to be false. The Chief called it ‘mendacious speech’.? The truth is the opposite. As demonstrated by John Ware in his Panorama documentary, Corbyn, his office, and his supporters have deliberately slowed the disciplinary system, have helped out their allies.

          Corbyn also lies when he says he would like to meet the Chief Rabbi and find out why he’s so upset. The truth is that Corbyn and his people have had a number of meetings with the leadership of the Jewish community – Jewish Leadership Council, CST, BoD… he doesn’t listen and he doesn’t reassure.

          [note. I have since been told that there was in fact only one formal meeting of this kind. But the point holds I think. Corbyn has had every opportunity to understand the grievances and the Party has had every opportunity to engage with various institutions and individuals in the Jewish community. – DH]

          Corbyn himself has a long history of supporting antisemitism against Jews: he has said Hamas and Hezbollah are dedicated to fighting for peace and justice; he has presented English language propaganda for Press TV; he said the antisemitic mural should not be taken down; he defended Steven Sizer, saying he was a good critic of Israel etc etc.

          There are thousands of examples, carefully documented, of Labour antisemitism. LAAS, CAA, JLM have submitted them to the EHRC.? Look at the submissions to Chakrabarti.

          There is political antisemitism at the top; it creates institutional antisemitism; that licenses people to bully and harass.

          4.???????Do you observe such a phenomenon in other left parties in Europe or in the USA ?

          Yes. But it has not yet tainted the whole party in other democratic countries.

          [Second Email]

          1.? ? ? ? To what extent does clientelism of the Labour Party towards Muslims could threaten the English Jews?

          I don’t think the issue of Labour antisemitism is, in the first place, anything at all to do with Muslims. I think that Corbyn’s kind of antisemitism is a traditional left antisemitism, with a specific Stalinist ‘anti-imperialist’ and ‘antizionist’ heritage, and today mixing and swirling with a more traditional English antisemitism.

          It is true that there is some shared political narrative, and some history of joint political work, between Corbyn’s faction and various kinds of Islamist politics.? Corbyn has ‘celebrated’ the anniversaries of the Iranian revolution and he has been hosted by Hamas and Hezbollah; he thinks that it is imperialism that is responsible for ISIS and Al Qaeda.? But I wouldn’t want to blame the current crisis on Muslims, and not even, primarily on Islamism.
          2.? ? Why and how does antisemitism threaten Jews??

          Well, we just don’t know the answer.

          We know that many Jews feel threatened by the prospect of an antisemite in No. 10.? We know that there are many conversations about leaving Britain, most of it only conversations.? I don’t think people are planning to leave Britain in any significant numbers but I do think that people are making sure that that option is open to them – they’re getting foreign passports, thinking about what kind of work they could do abroad, etc.

          Are they justified?? I don’t know.

          There are a number of specific and concrete threats: the use of the British chair in the UN Security council; funding for security at Jewish schools and synagogues; possible moves against dual nationals or against people who have fought in the Israeli army; a rise in BDS, sanctioned and legitimised by the government.

          I think that if kids are bullied at school, for example, by being called “murdering Zionists” it will be difficult for teachers to know how to protect them – well, even the PM thinks it’s true.

          We can think of many concrete things.? But I’m more worried about the other things.

          Both Corbyn’s faction and also Brexit are conspiracy fantasies. They are populist – they divide the world into ‘the people’ and ‘enemies of the people’.

          So Labour didn’t engage with the truth of what the Chief had said, it merely smeared him as a Tory and a Zionist – as “enemy of the people”.

          We could not have this problem if there was not also a balancing problem on the right of British politics.? Johnson has done the same to the Tory Party that Corbyn has done to the Labour Party.
          So the real danger is the mainstreaming of antisemitic discourse and conspiracy fantasy.

          The result of an antisemite in no. 10 would be the rise of an antisemitic movement. Corbyn will fail and when he does, his people will blame Zionists and Jews.? Alternatively, Brexit will fail, and when it does, people will blame cosmopolitans, finance capital, globalists, the metropolitan elite.

          The danger is the rise of an antisemitic movement.

          There was an interview with David Hirsh published in Le Figaro about Labour antisemtiism in the UK. For the published version, in French, follow this web link. Here is the original in English, before it was tidied up and translated into French:

          What is populism? David Hirsh

          This piece, by David Hirsh, first appeared in the Jewish Chronicle.

          David Hirsh


          In politics, being popular is good but populism is something different, and it threatens our democracy. Left and right wing populism have a lot in common and they are both part of the same danger. Extremist ideas like racism, xenophobia and antisemitism have returned to the mainstream.

          Populism splits everything into good and bad: ‘the people’ and ‘enemies of the people’. ‘The people’ is an idea, the opposite of the material diversity of flesh and blood human beings.

          Politics is about representing people, with different tastes, opinions, values and dreams; people from different classes, genders and origins; with different interests, talents, and problems. Democracy as a whole, including Parliament, the rule of law, civil society organisations, international co-operation, democratic freedoms and cultures, is how we negotiate our differences and find ways of living together.

          Our democracy is not perfect, but it is a huge achievement nevertheless and we should build on it, not devalue it.

          But ‘the people’, as conceived by populism, has one interest, one appetite and one resentful fury. Because ‘the people’ is really an abstract idea, it cannot articulate anything; it needs a leader to understand its eternal soul and to speak with its voice.

          Populism begins with the feeling that nothing that exists now is of any value and it is driven by sentimental nostalgia for a past which never really existed.

          The populisms of the left and of the right agree that the real enemy is the ‘liberal establishment’ which is portrayed as only cunning and selfish. It is accused of pretending that society is based on freedom and democracy but secretly running everything according to its own secret self-interest.

          News, according to the populists, is lies, concocted so that we will vote how ‘the establishment’ wants us to. Politics, for the populists, is a racket, in which a ‘political class’ only pretends to look out for the good of the country.

          Populism treats science and expertise as mortally corrupted by power. Even the principle of human equality, the populists think, is sneakily transformed by those with power into a way of keeping us unequal.

          The referendum of 2016 made one day holy. An election gives representation even to the losers but a referendum sets up a new timeless truth and it prevents ongoing debate. The demagogues took ownership of the referendum result and they appropriated the right to interpret what it meant.

          Populism is utopian. Johnson does not promise to make Britain a little better but to make it the best country in the world. Corbyn does not promise to make Britain a little fairer but to abolish injustice. Populism has contempt for the rational policies that might improve things. Instead, it thunders that it will rip everything down rebuild a new world out of the ashes.

          It is easier to destroy than to create. Populism will never deliver what it promises. That is why the idea of the ‘enemy of the people’ is so important. Failure will be blamed on the cosmopolitans, the liberal elite, the people of nowhere, the people ‘without roots in the community’, the people with no culture, those who are only interested in money and in ‘the one per cent’.

          Antisemitism has evolved through many distinct species to become a ready-made emotional framework for imagining all of these enemies in one potent vision of evil.

          We have seen antisemitism emerge into the mainstream left. In its appearance as ‘criticism of Israel’ it is still plausibly, to some, deniable; yet antisemitism is ‘educating’ a whole layer of left activists that ‘Zionism’ and ‘right wing Jews’ stand between ‘us’ and socialism.

          Right populism is also structurally similar to antisemitism and it is creating fertile conditions for the emergence of its own antisemitic movement. Brexit can only be ‘betrayed’ since any Brexit which may be delivered would fall short of the fantasy.

          It will lead to crisis, people losing their jobs and to a new and deeper ‘austerity’. Right populists will look for somebody to blame. They will find ‘enemies of the people’ and some of them will picture the enemy with a big nose and a grasping cunning.

          Both of the big parties have been killed, hollowed out, and animated by hostile populist factions. This is not a crisis of the left or the right but of both. There could be no Corbyn without Brexit and there could be no Johnson without Corbyn.

          Voters will think of supporting one populist leader for fear of the other but the price of that would be to strengthen the populist culture as a whole.

          The alternative is to vote for anti-populist candidates, to maximise opposition to populism in Parliament, and to build a movement tough enough and smart enough to defend liberal democracy.

          This piece, by David Hirsh, first appeared in the Jewish Chronicle.

          To live is to fight. How the Jewish tradition prepares us to respond to the recent deadly attack on a German Synagogue – Robert Ogman

          * This article, by Robert Ogman, was first published in German in Jungle World 44/2019.

          Robert Ogman

          Just days before the deadly attack outside the Halle synagogue, bracketed between the Jewish New Year celebration Rosh Hashanah and the Day of Atonement Yom Kippur, a friend of mine wrote to me what’s become a popular motto to summarize Jewish holidays: “They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat!” The self-parodying motto, widely known in Jewish communities, refers to the triad of historical experience and social practice: doom, salvation, and affirmation of life. It recalls succinctly and humorously the permanent state of threat, the miracle of survival, and the necessity of rejoice. No holiday better encapsulates this triad as Pesach, when the story of slavery under the Pharaoh and exodus from Egypt is retold, and liberation is rejoiced over a large feast and four glasses of wine.

          Yet just days later, when a heavily-armed neo-Nazi attacked a Halle synagogue on Yom Kippur, we were quickly reminded that the motto does not refer to closed historical events of the past which we have left behind. Wie Brecht schon sagte, “Der Scho? ist fruchtbar noch, aus dem das kroch.” When in today’s ‘post-national’ Germany, 25% of the population can imagine that something like the Holocaust could repeat itself here, then we – the main Feindbild – know that the triad danger-resilience-and affirmation of life refers equally to our current reality which we have to navigate in our own times. From this, there appears no simple and final redemption – not liberal cosmopolitanism, socialist internationalism, or even Jewish self-determination.

          Yes, the Jews may have given the world the bible, broke out of the cyclical view of time, affirmed self- and societal development rather than obeying and mimicking nature – ideas taken up successively by all the monotheistic religions and secular culture alike – but for these gifts, the world has filled its libraries with lies against them.

          Society permanently updates its assault with new rationalizations: first the Jews were the Christ killers, then the poisoners of wells, next the bringers of the bubonic plague and black death, afterward the destroyers of society with money and abstract value, then the undertakers of traditional culture with the assertion of universal equality, then blamed for colonialism and “the Middle East conflict”. A broken record always adapted to the times. In the fantasy world of the murderer in a Pittsburgh synagogue one year ago, south American migrants are not fleeing poverty, war, and oppression to seek better lives in the U.S., but instead are simply pawns manipulated by Jewish conspirators to demographically and culturally undermine the white Christian majority in the U.S. for their own interests. This ideology was mimicked in the manifesto of the Halle attacker Stephan B. According to his warped mind, the Syrian and Afghani exodus from their war-torn countries is not the flight of real people seeking security and better lives. No, instead these individuals lack agency and are mere “golems” – just dust brought to life by Jewish mystics through alchemical transformation, and brought to Europe with the devious aim of displacing German Christians and installing Jewish domination. For this reason he decided against attacking a Mosque, and sought instead to “cut off the head” of the supposed “plot”, and attack Jews.

          So after we prayed, each in our own religious or secular ways, that the terror in Halle would end quickly and without any deaths or injuries, we screamed out in fury at the fascist danger. We criticized the ideology of that supposed lone wolf Stephan B., and the thousands of armed neo-Nazis throughout German society, which has infiltrated the police and security forces. We raged against the cuts to anti-racism education programs and right-wing extremism prevention projects. We criticized the intellectual instigators, the far-Right “Alternative for Germany” party, which have been called the “political wing of right-wing terrorism”. And we damned the authorities for minimizing our security concerns.

          But yet, as loud as the “Never Again!” proclamations were in the media, social media, and at public vigils, so extremely silent were the people around me. So few were the phone calls or messages from friends, colleagues, acquaintances, or self-described “comrades” in the days after the attack. So easy it was to post something stupid banner on Facebook – so difficult they must have found it to reach out and ask, “how are you holding up?” How formally correct, and how socially and emotionally removed at the same time! This too is this state of Germany amid the “outrage” after Halle.

          At our vigils we mourned the senseless loss of life, and we said the mourner’s kaddish for Jana L. and Kevin S. during services. Political commentators quarreled about whether the attack was of an antisemitic character, or directed instead against “society as a whole”. What a stupid exercise. I am reminded of Hannah Arendt’s prescient observation that totalitarianism makes all human life superfluous, and at the same time, that it has deep, critical differentiations which cannot be smoothed over – a contradictory truth we should try to keep in mind. The two unique individuals who did not belong to the Jewish community, but were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, were reduced by the fascist mind to nothing but superfluous matter, disposable objects in the mission to rid the world of Jews.

          And while mourning the senseless loss of life, we also marveled at the narrow avoidance of a massacre – yes this contradiction could not cover up the miracle of survival. Yes, they tried to kill us (again) … and yet we survived! A remnant always does. We marveled at the wonder of a simple wooden door to stop evil, to stop a massacre in the unprotected Halle synagogue.

          On the way to the hospital to be treated for shock – death narrowly escaped – the congregations’ survivors danced, and sang out “The Jewish people live on!” Upon nightfall, they congregated in the hospital cafeteria, completed the holiday prayers, blew the Shofar (the ram’s horn) signaling the end of Yom Kippur. They broke their Yom Kippur fast and drank beer.

          The struggle against antisemitism is simply the fight against the reduction of life to mere matter, to an impoverished conception of ‘nature’, ‘race’, blood, labor, and force. And so this very cause must too defend the autonomy of life over all external causes. Hence after doom and salvation, we affirm life. We reject the objectivization and projections by anti-Semites, and also those by well-meaning ‘antifascists’ alike, and assert ourselves as subjects within history, through the renewal of our traditions. This is why it made sense, following the “Tree of Life” synagoge shooting in the United States, to call “all out for Shabbat!” For it is this creative interruption of time and space – the disruption of everyday life and labor, the halt to practices that change the world (through utilization and instrumentalization), and instead the uncompromising and simple affirmation of life – which may be a necessary part of the efforts to repair the world, of Tikkun Olam, or if secular terms are preferred, to “make it whole”, in the words of Ernst Bloch. That a similar call was not made in Germany may say much about the different political cultures in these two countries, but it doesn’t call for simple mimicry. There is much to be changed, but there is also much to be disrupted and affirmed – so we proclaim and sanctify life, for to live is our struggle, so let’s eat!


          * This article, by Robert Ogman,g was first published in German in Jungle World 44/2019.

          David Hirsh in Germany – November 2019

          David Hirsh will be speaking on antisemitism, Brexit and populism.
          Follow the links for details; more details will appear here when we have them.

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          1? Kassel
          2? Düsseldorf
          3? Münster
          4? Darmstadt
          5? Tübingen
          6? Konstanz
          7? Bamberg
          8? Munich
          9? Passau

          Follow this link for David Hirsh’s Goldsmiths homepage

          Follow this link for ‘Contemporary Left Antisemitism’



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