Conspiracy theories – and what they aren’t…

David Rosenberg writes on Facebook about conspiracy theories – the secret plotting by sinister powerful groups, revealing a hidden hand.

What, he asks, has the idea that police in the US had picked up a certain potentially deadly police tactic from training sessions with Israeli counterparts got to do with conspiracy theory?

He asks Keir Starmer to explain:

  1. How Maxine Peake’s comments represent a “Jewish conspiracy theory”, rather than just asserting that they do? and
  2. Why take action against Rebecca Long Bailey when Shadow Cabinet postholder Rachel Reeves’ glowing admiration for antisemite and Hitler/Nazi supporting Nancy Astor is not even criticised?

Finally, Rosenberg reposts an article by Jeff Halper from 2017 in Haaretz on how Israel has commercialised the concept of a police state.

David Rosenberg Facebook Post

26th June 2020

Conspiracy theories are all about unearthing secret plotting by sinister powerful groups, revealing a hidden hand. Anyone who has studied the writings of fascist groups over many decades will be familiar with their antisemitic conspiracy theories, which see certain Jewish individuals or small groups as responsible for social, economic and political developments which they abhor.

Fascists, internationally, rail against mass immigration to the West. They claim to see the “hidden hand” of Jews behind this “Great Replacement”. Very right wing politicians in several countries especially Trump and Orban and Netanyahu, and certain key Tory MPs here like Rees Mogg see the hidden hand of Hungarian Jew George Soros behind protest movements and pro-migrant, pro-refugee movements.

When Keir Starmer and the Board of Deputies President, Marie Van der Zyl berated Maxine Peake’s claim that American police had learned a certain potentially deadly police tactic from training sessions with Israeli counterparts, and berated (and sacked Rebecca Long-Bailey) for sharing Peake’s interview, describing it unequivocally as a “Jewish Conspiracy Theory”, they emptied that term of all its meaning.

I commented yesterday that this particular tactic – police kneeling on the neck of an individual they are apprehending – goes back several decades in America’s policing of black communities. It precedes any cooperation with Israeli services. But her general point was sound: that Israeli units have run seminars for American counterparts. An article published in the respected liberal Israeli daily, Ha’aretz, in August 2017 reported that 24,000 American police were trained by their Israeli counterparts. There is no conspiracy here. The information is out in the open. The people leading the seminars are the Israeli National Police. Peake’s remarks, and those in the Ha’aretz article, are not a comment on Jews in general but a comment on a particular unit of the Israeli state.

If we allow the slippage that criticism of Israeli state units/office holders is “antisemitic”, then we will place off-limits any criticism of anything oppressive or discriminatory or lethal done by anyone Israeli.

My two questions to Keir Starmer are: Can you *explain* how Maxine Peake’s comments represent a “Jewish conspiracy theory”, rather than just saying that they do?
And how does Rebecca Long Bailey’s tweeting of an article which, at worst, alleges that an Israeli state unit (not Jews in general) influenced specific policing methods in America, compare with Shadow Cabinet postholder Rachel Reeves’ glowing admiration broadcast for the vociferous antisemite and Hitler/Nazi supporting Nancy Astor? You have taken no action against her, or even condemned her comments of admiration. Why?

Here is Jeff Halper’s very informative Ha’aretz article from August 2017, which illuminates Israel’s global role in Homeland Security/internal counter insurgency/methods and equipment for “pacification of troublesome populations”, and gives details of several Israeli companies that provide this. (See the paragraph that begins at “2.” in particular. My questions for Marie Van der Zyl are: which facts in Halper’s article do you disagree with? Has the American born Israeli Jew, Jeff Halper said anything antisemitic here? if so, what?

Europe Must Not Buy What Israel Is Selling to Combat Terror

Israel has managed to turn 50 years of Palestinian resistance to occupation into a cottage industry, and is now selling the concept of a police state to the world

Jeff Halper, Ha’aretz 10 August 2017

Whenever a terrorist attack happens such as the one last week in Barcelona, Israel politicians and security “experts” get on TV to criticize European navité. If only they understood terrorism as we do and took the preventive measures we do, they say, they would suffer far less attacks. Most infamous in this regard were the remarks of Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz after the Brussels bombing in March 2016, in which 34 people died.

Rather than convey his condolences in the name of the Israeli government, he scolded the Belgians in the most patronizing way possible. “If in Belgium they continue to eat chocolate, enjoy life and parade as great liberals and democrats while not taking account of the fact that some of the Muslims who are there are organizing acts of terror,” he pronounced, “they will not be able to fight against them.”

The Belgians reacted angrily, and asserted the position of most European governments: While we will continue to be vigilant and take the necessary precautions, we are not going to forsake our freedoms and political openness to become copies of Israel. For they understand that Netanyahu’s government is peddling something far more insidious than mere precautions – even more than the weapons, surveillance and security systems and models of population control that is the bread-and-butter of Israeli exports. What Israel is urging onto the Europeans – and Americans, Canadians, Indians, Mexicans, Australians and anyone else who will listen – is nothing less than an entirely new concept of a state, the Security State.

What is a Security State? Essentially, it is a state that places security above all else, certainly above democracy, due process of law and human rights, all of which it considers “liberal luxuries” in a world awash in terrorism. Israel presents itself, no less, than the model for countries of the future. You Europeans and others should not be criticizing us, say Katz and Netanyahu, you should be imitating us. For look at what we have done. We have created a vibrant democracy from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River that provides its citizens with a flourishing economy and personal security – even though half the population of that country are terrorists (i.e., non-citizen Palestinians living in isolated enclaves of the country). If we can achieve that, imagine what we can offer those of you threatened by terrorist attacks?

In a brilliant shift in imaging, Israel has managed to turn 50 years of Palestinian resistance to occupation into a cottage industry. By labeling it “terrorism,” it has not only delegitimized the Palestinian struggle but has transformed the occupied territories in a laboratory of counterinsurgency and population control, the cutting edges of both foreign wars and domestic repression. It has transformed tactics of control and their accompanying weapons of surveillance systems into marketable products. No wonder, as Netanyahu constantly reminds us, “the world” loves Israel. From China to Saudi Arabia, from India to Mexico, from Eritrea to Kazakhstan, Israel supplies the means by which repressive regimes control their restless peoples.

Israel’s vast military reach is well-documented. It extends to more than 130 countries and brought in $6.5 billion in sales in 2016. Less known but more corrosive to civil rights are Israel’s security exports. Three examples:

1. Israel harnesses foreign security agencies and police forces to lobby for Security State practices in their own countries. It scoffs at the unwillingness of Western democracies to employ ethnic and racial profiling, as Israel security and police do at Ben-Gurion International Airport and throughout the country. In specific contexts like airports profiling may indeed be efficient – Ben-Gurion is certainly one of the safest airports in the world – but it comes at the price of humiliating and delaying those targeted. When extended outward into society, however, it loses that effectiveness and almost invariably turns into a legalized method of intimidation against whatever populations a government seeks to control.

2. The Israeli national police holds dozens of training programs and conferences with police forces from around the world, with an emphasis not on domestic police tactics but rather on “internal counterinsurgency” and the pacification of troublesome populations. The Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange Center in the U.S. claims to have had 24,000 American police trained by their Israeli counterparts. Unlike other Western countries that erect a wall between their militaries that conduct operations abroad and their domestic security and police agencies charged with ensuring the security but also the civil rights of their citizens, Israel has no such internal constraints. The IDF and the police are one interlocked unit, with paramilitary forces – the Shin Beit, the Border Police, Homefront Command, Yasam and others – further connecting them. Thus in Israel the distinction between citizens with civil rights and non-citizen “suspects” and targets gets lost, and that is a distinction Israeli police try to erase in their training of foreign police as well.

3. Israel is a world leader in securing cities, mega-events and “non-governable” zones. There is a direct link between its lock-down of Palestinian neighborhoods, villages and refugee camps and the marketing of such tactics to local police to create sanitized “security zones” and “perimeter defenses” around financial cores, government districts, embassies, venues where the G-8 and NATO hold their summits meetings, oil platforms and fuel depots, conference centers in “insecure” Third World settings, tourist destinations, malls, airports and seaports, sites of mega events and the homes and travel routes of the wealthy. So involved is Israel in Trump’s border wall that is nicknamed the “Palestine-Mexico border.”

There the Israeli firm Magna BSP, which provides surveillance systems surrounding Gaza, has partnered with U.S. firms to enter the lucrative “border security” market. NICE Systems, whose technicians are graduates of the IDF’s 8200 surveillance unit. Privacy International investigated how the autocratic governments of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan managed to monitor human rights activists, journalists and other citizens within and outside their countries, revealing the most intimate details of their personal lives. “The biggest players,” concluded Human Rights Watch, “are multinationals with offices in Israel – NICE Systems and Verint.”

In its ultimate form the Security State peddled by Netanyahu and Katz is merely a form of police state whose populace is easily manipulated by an obsession with security. Israel’s model is especially invidious because it works; witness the pacification of the Palestinians. That seems like a potent selling point indeed. The problem is that that it turns a country’s own people into Palestinians without rights. It would seem that the Security State can be reconciled with democracy – after all, Israel markets itself as “the only democracy in the Middle East.” But only the world’s privileged few will enjoy the democratic protections of the Security State, as do Israeli Jews. The masses, those who resist repression and exclusion from the capitalist system, those who struggle for genuine democracy, are doomed to be global Palestinians. The Israelization of governments, militaries and security forces means the Palestinianization of most of the rest of us.

Jeff Halper is an Israeli anthropologist, the head of the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and the author of War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification (London, Pluto Books, 2015).

Comments (11)

  • RH says:

    David Rosenberg asks two questions of Kier Starmer.

    My two questions would be :

    “Do you realise how inherently antisemitic it is to assume the typification that all Jews are supporters of the notion of Israel?”


    “Do you realise how much more of antisemitic trope it is to conceive that all Jews unthinkingly support the neocolonial racism exhibited by the current nature of that apartheid state?”

    … but I guess he actually knows the answers (because they’re obvious), and just doesn’t give a ****. Such is the descent of the Labour leadership and administration into amorality and loss of direction.

  • CVA says:

    Shouldn’t we start a petition demanding the withdrawal of the Labour whip for Rachel Reeves MP?
    Nancy Astor MP wasn’t only antisemitic, it was a racist too. She was quoted saying to black US citizens something along the lines, that they owned a debt of gratitude to slavery. Charming!!

  • Mike Cohen says:

    Israel’s secret service is involved; a conspiracy is secret; therefore there has been a conspiracy. Easy!

  • Janet Watson says:

    A brilliant, terrifying article. I so fear the future – and our present. We must do our best to make people understand what is happening

  • Vera Lustig says:

    Thanks so much for this, David. Very informative — and disturbing. It underscores the irony of Keir Starmer’s (genuine, or confected for a specific audience?) outrage at Maxine Peake’s so-called “conspiracy theory”.

    The argument that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East” is so often repeated by apologists for Israel that in some quarters it has been accepted as a given. The facts belie this: democracy has to embrace everyone within the boundaries of a state, surely?

    I’m going to start following Jeff Halper on social media, and will visit Pluto Books’ site right now to see if I can buy a copy of his book.

  • It is also important to make a clear distinction between conspiracy theories and conspiracies. The former, as David says, is about the ‘hidden hand’ of powerful people influencing and controlling events and fits in very well with Jewish conspiracy theories.

    However conspiracies are rather common. For virtually every indictable offence in Britain there is a common law ‘conspiracy to commit…’ equivalent which was used to convict people when there was no evidence of the actual offence.

    The CIA/MI5 etc. are the embodiment of conspiracies. Can there be any doubt that from the moment he was elected Jeremy Corbyn was the victim of conspiracies? Indeed if you sit in a room with other people to achieve a certain objective you are conspiring.

    It this elision of words and concepts that lies at root of a narrative in which anything and everything these days is ‘antisemitic’ – except genuine antisemitism

  • Mary Davies says:

    We have to challenge the factionalism and injustice of Keir Starmer.

  • Brian Burden says:

    When one reads Starmer’s elaborate pretext for sacking a major Corbyn supporter from his Shadow Cabinet, the word “sophistry” comes to mind. I wonder which of his advisers dreamed up this excuse?

  • Beverley Howell Burns says:

    So according to Halper’s article and the US Georgia Police there is a collaboration between the US Police and the Israeli Authorities. And it extends much more than ‘just’ restraining techniques, to say the least.
    Question: Sir Keir, why is it wrong to state the proven truth; is it because Marie Van der Zhil says that the Labour Party can only have her version of what is true?

  • alan kinrade says:

    A very informative article. My only observation is that you may wish to change the photo at the top of it. The vehicle in the photo is not an Israeli design but is in fact a Super AV8 wheeled troop carrier which is made by Iveco which is an Italian company. They have teamed up with Britain’s BAE systems to make the next generation of troop carriers for the USMC United State’s Marine Corps. In fact its so new it hasn’t even been given a name yet. Your probably confusing it with the Israeli Eitan which is being built by 3 companies for the I.D.F, They are IAI, IMI & Rafael. Its an easy mistake to make as they do look similar. The Eitan is not amphibious so the USMC wouldn’t be interested in it, whereas the Iveco Super AV is.

    [JVL web – Thank you for the correction. Thsi has been done!]

  • DAVID ROGER says:

    This is extremely useful as the mainstream media narrative has suddenly become that Israel trains nobody in subjugation tactics and that they’ve never used the choke hold !

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