Yesterday I went to Glasgow and back in a day. It was rather a tiring adventure, but that is not how the day was originally planned. At 19:00, at the University of Strathclyde, I was meant to engage Professor Henry Maitles in a debate. By the time I was contacted to stand for the motion (that Israel is not an Apartheid state), Henry Maitles had already agreed to stand against it.
Before I even left for Glasgow, I already knew that Henry Maitles had backed out. Following this I heard that ‘Scottish Friends of Palestine’ didn’t want to name a replacement. I was however told that an opponent would be found. For two days, several local anti-Israel academics were contacted and none of those wanted to, or were able, to fill the space. In the end, about five hours before the event, and on a train approaching Glasgow, I offered to stand in front of a potentially hostile audience without the procedural cover of an official debate. The impartial organisers did not want to seem biased, and the event was cancelled at the last minute (a decision that I consider a bad error of judgement). I received this notification twenty minutes after my arrival in Glasgow. Ninety minutes later I was on a train back home again.
The cowardly Henry Maitles
I have little reason to believe Henry Maitles is not a coward. Henry Maitles is also one of those Jewish people, who much like the Bundists of 1930’s Poland, look around and believe the world is rosier than it actually is. His arguments are so typical of the current crop of anti-Zionist Jews. This from an article in 2016 on antisemitism:
There were huge and fierce discussions for 50 years before the Second World War about whether Zionism was a solution to antisemitism or a capitulation; to the BUND – the Revolutionary Jewish Labour League in Lithuania, Poland and Russia – it seemed to be giving in to the racists rather than confronting them.
A position that is both accurate and absurd at the same time. Accurate as a historical statement and absurd as a legitimate position today. It is certainly one of those things that cannot be said in front of an educated audience, because it will be met with instant derision. And this gets to the heart of the problem. These arguments are not meant for an audience that contains critical thought, they are there to preach to the converted and /or fool the ignorant. The few Bundists of Lithuania, Poland and Russia, who survived the Holocaust were extremely lucky. If they eventually did run, it may well have been to the shores of British Palestine, where their grandchildren or great-grandchildren may now be serving in the Israeli defence forces.
Maitles takes a comfortable position with little risk. It allows him to be the ‘nice guy’. Yet, if worst comes to worst, you can bet your bottom dollar Maitles would be arriving at Ben Gurion airport with a sense of entitlement, along with Wimborne-Idrissi, Mike Cushman, and even the currently foaming-at-the-mouth Tony Greenstein. One would hope such a day never arrives, but in the meantime, Maitles spreads his naive vision, and misplaced ideological stance, around at will.
Henry Maitles as colonial pirate
Another beauty from the same article:
I think it entirely legitimate to argue for a democratic secular state in the area, composing the lands of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, as opposed to the current Israeli state. To think this is race hate is ridiculous.
It may not be race hate Henry, but it sure looks like a Colonial / Imperialist position to me. A person of privilege in the West, pushing modern progressive ideals of his own liking, onto people far away, who have no interest at all in what he proposes. Wrapped up in modern leftist terminology, the first sentence is the colonialist under-pinning of the entire BDS movement. It denies EVERYONE involved their rights. Neither the Palestinian, nor the Israeli get to experience self-determination and neither get to wave their own flag. It does what Sykes-Picot did in 1916, it draws lines on a map, and expects all those caught inside to conform to the norms of a modern western ideological fashion. Look around at Iraq and Syria and see how well that worked out. How regressive and utterly pathetic. There is not a single serious party on either side of the great divide who is interested. The Palestinians want to wave their flag, the Israelis theirs, and the truly liberating solution therefore is a drawing of lines between them. An answer to a border dispute.
The Henry Maitles excuse
A couple of days before the event, Maitles officially pulled out. I received a message from the organisers that stated:
‘Maitles is not happy to go ahead with the debate against you. He is not happy that it would be a fair debate (editors note – well that part is true) and is worried that your arguments will not be based on objective fact‘
At the time I received this, I was preparing, and buried deep into a fictional tale titled ‘Israeli Apartheid – a beginner’s guide’ that was penned by a rather odd, British Christian propagandist from the UK, so perhaps I should thank Maitles for providing the temporary distraction. The statement itself is outrageous on many levels. He wanted to do the debate, and suddenly he is not happy because it is me? Hundreds of academics subscribe to this blog precisely because it is highly factual in content and I am a stickler for diligent research. There is little I have not read, nor failed to made notes from, on either side of the argument. I am currently writing my own book on the conflict and on top of all this, I have years of first-hand experience that grants me abilities to help separate the fiction, from the fact when I hear people describe their opinions of the conflict.
Henry Maitles is a coward. Henry Maitles is also just one of a few Jews, who think it is their place to argue the case for Palestinians, in place of the Palestinians. Here is a fact – far more people who identify as Palestinian live in the United Kingdom, than there are politically active anti-Zionist Jews here. A fact that is difficult to believe considering the current state of affairs. Every time an anti-Zionist Jew takes the stage, a Palestinian is being denied a voice. Palestinians don’t have to live in the UK to speak here, just as Miko Peled and Max Blumenthal don’t live here. Palestinians are continually and persistently denied a platform by people who think they know better, can speak better, and argue better, than the Palestinians themselves. There are words for that.
The Henry Maitles privilege
When Ben White, or Miko Peled take a position on the stand, they are merely promoting their own careers:
Which is part of a tour promoting Ben White’s new book.
Which is part of a tour promoting Miko Peled’s new book.
If you look at almost every panel discussing the Israeli /Arab conflict that is organised by an anti-Israel society, there will be three or four participants. The first will be the ‘big name’, the person who eats the budget for the entire event. A ‘Max Blumenthal’ or ‘Miko Peled ‘. Sitting next to them will be a local academic, possibly, and preferably, Jewish. The third member will be white, British and an activist, who has spent several days, weeks or months being hand-held by an NGO in the West Bank. If the audience is lucky, there will be a Palestinian. Someone who needs to be thankful he has been given a voice at all. He is only there to perform, as evidence of the existence of a victim, not to talk politics, and he is ‘permitted’ to discuss his life experiences, which will be either from Hebron, or Gaza.
The chosen few
There are a handful of Palestinian activists who do contribute on the circuit. They are normally members of the BDS central committee, or academics, and are well-versed in promoting the colonial political position of BDS. A movement that does not represent the wishes or interests of Palestinians at all. How many Palestinians want a secular, Jewish dominated, hybrid state where their own flag is not waved? The only intent of BDS is to take away Jewish rights, it is not concerned with the real Palestinian aspirations at all.
When I went to a two-day conference at the university of Sussex, the most common complaint I heard from Palestinians in the audience, was about how they are not representing themselves. It is a complaint I hear everywhere.
The central problem is that Palestinians do not want what these ‘supremacist progressives’ need to pretend they want. The voice presented is the false one, structured for a western audience. Democratic, secular, diverse and universalist. Not a product of the Middle East at all, but a carefully constructed propaganda campaign designed to convince people to boycott Israel to make the world a better place. If you ‘allow’ Palestinians to take the stand, then the actual nature of the conflict becomes apparent and the propaganda would fail. ‘White man knows better’ and unless Palestinians are one of the few who pass the test, they cannot speak. Even if they pass the test they speak for free because the budget has all gone on ‘the White man’s’ hotel room.
The Apartheid smear
So it seems absurd that these supremacists are the ones pushing the smear that Israel is an Apartheid state. And it is nothing but a smear. To judge, to understand, and certainly if you intend to punish, then the crucial element of any situation is not just what is happening, but also how it started, and whether in all fairness, the side with the upper-hand has a choice. This isn’t a set of rules created for the Israeli-Arab conflict, but a basic pillar upon which our entire rule of law is built.
Those pushing the Apartheid smear have no interest in telling the truth about how the conflict started, because it destroys their own fairytale completely. As soon as you engage with the real history, you realise that the violence began long before Israel existed, and the notion of a ‘Jewish defence’, was created in response to Arab attacks. When you read books that seek to deconstruct Israel or Zionism, this element of the history is either entirely ignored, or totally down-played. A crucial piece of evidence is deliberately not presented.
Take Ben White’s (a rather odd, British Christian propagandist from the UK) Apartheid book. Which like all fictions of it’s type seek to move speedily through the creation of the conflict to get to the bits they seek to distort. Ben White entirely ignores the violence of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Of 1947/8 he says this:
‘far from being outnumbered, a British military intelligence assessment in 1947 had estimated that an embryonic Jewish state would defeat the Palestinian Arabs even if they were secretly helped by neighbouring Arab states’.
It is true that such an assessment existed. It is also true it was from July 1947, months before the conflict began. The assessment only talks of secret assistance from one or two Arab states (a point White distorted). It didn’t know 1000’s of foreign fighters would enter the arena. Like other assessments of the time it also contains the opinions and bias of the author. There were assessments that disagreed with the one White has used, but this isn’t the point. Ben White used Benny Morris for the source. Page 33 of ‘Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem’. This was on page 35:
The war between Israel and the Arab states was protracted and bloody (about 4,000 of the Yishuv’s 6,000 dead were killed after 14 May) and the Yishuv’s leaders recognised that they faced a mortal threat.
The entire concept of a ‘mortal threat’ is whitewashed. White needs to present the issue as overwhelming power against innocent victim, so he only provides some information. White is being deliberately selective in order to present a case that isn’t rooted in historicity.
If only the Italians had declared war on Israel
The entire Apartheid smear is built on sand in this fashion. One of the often cited resources for ‘proof’ of Israeli Apartheid, is the list of ‘discriminatory laws’ provided by an organisation called ‘Adalah‘. I went through the list in preparation for the debate. The oldest active law that is listed is from 1939. It is a British Law hastily created in September of 1939, to prohibit people trading with the enemy. It is still part of UK Law. The funniest element of the listing is the reason given as to why this law is recognised as an Israeli ‘discriminatory’ law:
This British mandatory-era law is still in use. It places a total ban on all forms of trade with “enemy nationals.” The law authorizes the Interior Minister to declare states as “enemy states.” Thus far, all “enemy states’ are Arab and/or Muslim states. As a result, the law restricts relations, including cultural and linguistic relations between the Arab Palestinians in Israel and the wider Arab and Muslim nations.
Which holds Israel responsible for the identity of the nations that declared war on it. Had Italy also invaded in 1948 and declared war on Israel, this law would not be seen as discriminatory. Yes, the list is really that absurd. Israel’s flag – discriminatory law, the Israeli official seal – discriminatory law, the use of the Hebrew calendar – discriminatory law. It is a list of anything and everything that could INDIRECTLY be taken by a minority group as discriminatory. How many crosses are there in the Union Jack? Given the very real issues minorities face in every nation, it would be possible to create a list for the UK far larger than the 63 laws Adalah currently have listed.
Stop them spreading the lies
I am not going to use this forum today as an outlet for the many arguments I had prepared for yesterday’s debate. There are 1000’s of valid and powerful ways of showing why the Apartheid smear is totally false. Those days will come. This piece is mainly to report on the cowardly actions of those that attack Israel. It is shameful that Henry Maitles ran away, and disgraceful that the ‘Friends of Palestine’ were too cowardly to put someone in his place. Israel is not an Apartheid State and if these lies are spread on campus, then they must face challenge. If they are unwilling to face a challenge, they shouldn’t be spread on campus.
The organisers of the debate (who did everything in their power to make the debate happen), eventually decided not to allow me to stand alone. I think this was a mistake. If the Apartheid smear is spread in dark corners, then a light should be shone on it. The fact these people were too scared to appear is news in itself, and those who were to attend should know why they did not hear a debate and be presented with whatever arguments were going to be put forward by those who were willing to debate. An open and robust discussion would have taken place because of the inevitable hostile questions that would have been raised by the audience. To cancel allows the opposition to ‘win’ simply by being cowards. Their arguments have still not been challenged.
Yesterday, after I arrived home, I received this message:
I am extremely gutted that your event in Glasgow was cancelled. I was hoping to be able to talk to you. As a supporter of Israel but also a sensible two-state solution, …. I was looking for some inspiration. I hope that you can get back to me so we can discuss this.’
These people are being let down. Maitles and his motley crew may not care, but I do. Because this argument isn’t about the 4-7% of Jews who may not like Israel. Nor is it about a few privileged white folk who have an issue with Jews. It is about millions of people caught in a very real and very tragic conflict, who need support in finding a solution that will only come from the people directly involved. They don’t want or need people to read the latest hate-filled rant by someone building a career on the misery of others, they just need people to start telling the truth. The cowardice of Henry Maitles certainly didn’t help anyone either.
Please help support the research
This blog is unique, and the type of investigative journalism this work requires is intense, and at times expensive. I fight antisemitism and the revisionist narrative that demonises Israel. I was recently named as one of the J100 (‘top 100 people positively influencing Jewish life’) by The Algemeiner. My work is fully independent, and your support makes much of what I do possible. This research can and does make a difference.
If you can, please consider making a donation. Either a single amount or a small monthly contribution. We need to be there to expose the hatred and the lies. We have to shine a light into the shadows and show people what is happening. Look at what we can find. Every contribution is greatly appreciated.