Oi veh, Jewdas again

JVL Introduction

For those who don’t know Jewdas, now is the time to get acquainted as they reflect on the David Miller case.

This article is plagiarised, without shame, from the Jewdas website. All proofreading errors are theirs, so credit where it is due.

They may not get everything right, but impossible to fault them when they say: “It’s hard work being on the left, and being committed to building a better world out of this horrendous, imperialism-scarred, capitalist nightmare of a planet. “

This article was originally published by Jewdas on Sun 21 Feb 2021. Read the original here.

When Freedom of Speech is Under Attack, What do we do? Sit down, write a blog post

Recently, after years of extensive undercover research, Jewdas leaked a shocking expose to our social media of the shady network of organisations and individuals proposing up Jewdas in Britain.

Good reporting can sadly come with unintended consequences. As a result of tweeting this, we quickly realised we’d unwittingly created a monster we never set out to create: Twitter discourse. In particular, a war of words was sparked by some of the left wondering if maybe we weren’t quite as good Jews as they wanted us to be.

For those out of the loop, the graphic we posted took some inspiration from one created by spinwatch, a project of university lecturer David Miller.

David Miller has been facing accusations of antisemitism for a couple of years now from Jewish students at Bristol University. These have accelerated over the past couple of weeks, with the Bored of Deputies stepping in to request the university fires Miller. Several people saw our post as an endorsement of these attacks.

In response to this situation, we’ve put together an overly long, nuanced post without any concrete suggestions to improve the situation. We hope Yachad will forgive us for culturally appropriating them just this once.

The first thing to note is that David Miller is, to use the academic term, bad vibes. He is Director of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies, which has been accused of spreading conspiracy theories about the white helmets. His website Neocon Europe uncritically published the writings of a neo-Nazi. Miller’s writings on Jewish institutions contain few outright falsehoods, but they are embarrassingly conspiratorial, significantly overstating the influence and aims of various organisations.

Let’s take the above graph for example. For starters, the lack of arrows connecting the key players is poor effort; we could add in at least an extra five off the top of our head. There’s at least a 75% chance these people are all second cousins to each other. Describing the JLC as a ‘key’ Israel lobbying group, more so than the Zionist Federation, is unfairly flattering to them. All this exposition by Miller’s organisation shows is that Zionist Jews with too much time on their hands get involved in several Zionist Jewish causes. It’s tempting to blame the ills of the British government on a small, powerful group of people manipulating our politicians. But the left needs to remember that the UK isn’t pro-Israel and anti-Muslim because of a well organised Jewish lobby. The UK is pro-Israel and anti-Muslim because it’s an imperialist, racist shitstain of a country.

Yet, having said all this, it’s important to remember this is all happening in the wake of some pretty terrifying suppression of pro-Palestine and more broadly left-wing organising at UK universities. The government is threatening to cut off funding to universities which refuse to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism, and looking into plans to fine universities which don’t promote free speech in a way the government agrees with (the irony seems totally lost on them). Many opponents of Miller don’t want him fired because his lectureship is dodgy, they want him fired because he said Zionism is a racist, violent, imperialist ideology.

It is therefore incumbent on us to loudly say that Zionism is racist, violent and imperialist, and that nobody should lose their job solely for holding this belief. Some Jewish students may feel deeply uncomfortable that an ideology dear to them is being attacked, but this does not make criticising Zionism antisemitic. Now is a crucial time to defend pro-Palestinian organising on campus and to push back against the interference of a right-wing government in universities.

Whether David Miller’s writings about Jews and Zionism cross a line into outright antisemitism, whether he is an irredeemable antisemite or someone who could benefit from conversations with left-wing Jews, whether someone with his beliefs should be fired from being a university lecturer, are all questions we don’t wish to answer. We don’t all agree on what transformative justice looks like in cases of antisemitism, and we don’t know enough about this particular case.

What we do feel confident saying is that avoiding conspiracy theories is hard for the left, because a lot of them turn out to be at least partially true. Police really did go undercover to spy on vegans, America did hire Nazis to defeat communism, pharmaceutical companies did knowingly spread AIDs in Asia and Latin America, Israel did steal Mizrachi children and give them to Ashkenazi families. We’re pretty sure, but not certain, that Avril Lavigne is dead and Justin Trudeu is Fidel Castro’s son.

How then do we proceed with critically examining the information we get from state institutions and billionaire-backed media, without falling into conspiratorial fantasies? How do we protect our communities from spreading dangerous misinformation, whilst protecting freedom of speech? How can we encourage people to think critically about the role of Zionism in the Jewish community, whilst also being proportional and sensitive to the genuine fears of a people who have experienced genocide in living memory? There aren’t easy answers, but we would suggest a good start is to engage in these issues with a great deal of humility, curiosity, and empathy.

It’s hard work being on the left, and being committed to building a better world out of this horrendous, imperialism-scarred, capitalist nightmare of a planet. Paranoia, anger and tribalism are perhaps inevitable in these building conditions, but too much of them paralyses us. The good news is when we take a break from Twitter arguments and internet rabbitholes, and speak openly and compassionately with our comrades across differences, solidarity can emerge which actually sustains what we do. It’s hard work building this new world, but it’s holy work too.

Comments (14)

  • SR says:

    What can one say! Simply lovely. When I am accused by some yarmolka wearing guy with short trousers and a wife with a wig in his tow that I am not Jewish enough, all I can do just laugh. And I don’t think they misspelled anything. Actually, a word like instituation is a very good example of a neologism.

  • Naomi Wayne says:

    I don’t agree with several aspects of the Jewdas piece and I think Tony Greenstein’s response (go to the comments following the original article to see it) makes some good points. But it gave me such joy to laugh and laugh at the Jewdas text and its wonderful graphic, and then to laugh at Tony’s super-seriousness (even when he was right). Thank you for posting it, and thanks to Jewdas – and Tony too! I am so cheered up!

  • Hannah Moynehan says:

    Oh wow. Thank you.
    I am anti-racist – and try as hard as I can to actively argue against any and all racism.

    I’m white middle class, priviledged in so many ways. I am not jewish.

    I try my hardest to understand what is antisemitic, and what is not, and where the lines lie. I keep trying to understand what is anti-black racism, anti muslim, anti native american, anti korean …….. .

    What is racist nastiness and what is just descriptors of people’s skin colour and features?

    I’m so so unable to not throw myself down a hole. It all makes no sense and I’m terrified I may be supporting someone that is an evil shitstain by accident.

    Ugh.

  • Anne M says:

    Why on earth have you given airtime to this when the full force of the Zionist lobby is smelling blood in its attempt to get David Miller fired? To do so in these circumstances is not an act of solidarity but an act of treachery. Very disappointing from JVL.

  • goldbach says:

    I’m completely baffled by this. Sounds like something a 14 year-old might have written after a couple of Carlsberg Specials.
    Not sure what the reference to “conspiracy theories about the white helmets” refers to. Given that most European governments pulled their funding from the white helmets years ago because they reckoned the white helmets were associated with Al Qaeda, and that the UN investigation judged that the “Douma gas attack” was faked by the white helmets, who needs conspiracy theories?

  • Moshé Machover says:

    “…whether someone with his beliefs should be fired from being a university lecturer, are all questions we don’t wish to answer.” These are weasel words. Freedom of speech, especially in academe, must be defended!

  • James Hall says:

    Jewdas, in this rather snide piece, come rather close to McCarthyism in their assignment of guilt by association. In publishing it without making clear that it is for our amusement JVL, to their shame, come close to endorsing it. Tony Greenstein’s response has it just about right.

    Jewdas are quite refreshing in a way, and have done some good things but are essentially equivalent to the little boy who says ‘bum’ in front of his parents and their friends thinking thereby to seem tremendously daring, witty and radical.

  • DJ says:

    I am troubled by the publishing of this article. The focus should be on giving unequivocal support to David Miller against the attacks of the pro Israeli lobby. Defending his academic freedom is not a game. It is a serious matter. Local Labour Party politicians have not covered themselves in glory on this matter. We should denounce them for their cynical decision to back the witch hunters.

  • Margaret West says:

    Am baffled by the above and the comments but was inspired by them to see if an excellent BBC Radio 4 series is still available. This provides excellent material on conspiracy theories as well as on Fake News and is well worth listening to for that reason. Such theories and their ilk are intended to befuddle and as a one time educator they stand for everything I am against.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p08xs4st

    The programs feature the role of these theories in the investigation of the death of the founder of the White Helmets. This is a complex story and, as a result, the series is rather lengthy.

    (I eventually found it after a lengthy search – the BBC does not make it easy to root out their often excellent documentary/analysis programs!)

  • I am baffled by why this article is still up on JVL. It references a member of the far right, viz. Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens of the Henry Jackson Society, which is a meeting place for the Tory far-Right and neo-fascists. The HJS is part of a network of virulently Islamaphobic organisations such as the Gatestone Institute, frontpagemag.com and Breitbart.

    Would JVL host an article attacking striking workers and pass it off with an ‘oy vey’ as some sort of joke? Do you not understand the meaning of solidarity?

    the witchhunting of academics by the Zionists and the Right in this country is no joke – it is part of the attack on freedom of speech in universities and on dissident academics. It is about controlling the narrative using the crudest of weapons. David rightly called out the role of the Union of Jewish Students and is being vilified for it. Why is JVL adding to that vilification?

    This is not the first time it has happened. Indeed a Jewish academic Dr Rachel Gould suffered almost exactly the same 3 years ago from the CAA with Zionist students once again acting as informers.

    I agree with Anne, Moshe and most of the other commentators

  • goldbach says:

    I shall listen to the link Margaret posted. The death of the fellow who took the lead in setting up the White Helmets is very odd. I’m sure that it will never be properly explained. However, I think it best to take everything linked to the White helmets with a pinch of salt given that most European Governments pulled their funding long ago, suspecting the WH of being associated with Al Qaeda, and that a UN investigation concluded that the WH video of the Douma “gas attack” was a fake.

  • William Johnston says:

    I find it very hard to agree with Tony Greenstein and others who say that support for David Miller should be unconditional.

    This, as I see it, was one of the problems with those who voiced (and continue to voice) unconditional support for Jeremy Corbyn, without ever acknowledging his failings. Corbyn was ill suited to be leader; he did not understand, for the best of reasons, how to fight back effectively – his grilling by the self-righteous Phillip Schofield was a prime example. He was also inspirational and offered a genuine political alternative. I, for one, truly miss him.

    The one thing he most definitely was not was a racist, in any sense of the word. The thing is that accusations of anti-Semitism were allowed to blend into accusations of muddle. Nobody is just one thing, and it is essential to separate out the ideas from the individual who expresses them.

    It is for this reason that I find the Jewdas article utterly refreshing. David Miller may not be a very nice man, and he may espouse all sorts of ideas which are borderline contemptible. His views on Zionism are pretty much bang on the mark, even if he sets out to offend and provoke. Offence and provocation are perfectly legitimate in the context within which he works; they do not, however, necessarily help to promote discussion or consensus.

    Put bluntly, I think David Miller is a bit of a prat; and I am happy to defend most of what he has to say, regardless of his personal failings. I think, however, that unconditional support of the man, together with any thought he has ever committed to paper, is just foolish.

  • Mark Elf says:

    I was sure I did a comment at the Jewdas post but it isn’t there now. If I did leave a comment it would have been critical not deserving of a ban. I thought what Jewdas did was wrong for undermining David Miller by allowing Zionists to say, “look, even the anti-Zionists at Jewdas are saying Miller is an antisemitic conspiracy theorist”. Totally wrong.

  • Margaret West says:

    Thank you Goldbach for taking the trouble to investigate the link I provided. I must warn you though that the story is convoluted and lengthy!

    However if you want a useful summary of the Douma attack the following extra program provides one:
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p08z33bp

    It does not mention Le Mesurier and concentrates on an examination of OPCW and its work and you need to listen to the whole thing to get the full impact. However if nothing else – the journalist has conducted her investigation and collection of evidence with meticulous care.

    Evidence is challenged – which makes the conclusions stronger and the program is an exemplar. This contrasts with the shameful way the MSM sometimes operates – where evidence is taken out of context and conclusions unlikely and never challenged.

    Academics like Miller are the victims of sloppy and lazy journalism but unfortunately some students believe their reports and are quick to judge him a racist. It makes one wonder – how have these youngsters achieved so much academically and yet not developed analytical and critical skills?

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